The folder on top of his kitchen table demands his attention. It’s nearly impossible to ignore the bright purple logo of Marmora Services on faded black, but Shiro does it anyway in favor of pressing the buttons of his microwave to get it working. He already knows what’s in there waiting for him, knows his boss won’t like it if he doesn’t review his new employer before he shows up for work.
Shiro turns to make himself a cup of tea instead.
It’s been a long, long day and he wants the chance to wind down before he’s reminded that he’ll have to leave his apartment for an indefinite period of time. At least his best friend is also his neighbour, who promised to come around and water his plants, so the apartment won’t lie abandoned until Shiro returns from this epic journey. Plus, this job pays better than previous ones given the circumstances, so he’s paying Matt to look after his cat, creatively named Black, given that neither human or cat is a fan of one another, but Shiro can’t take his pet with him.
After making his tea and sipping it while looking at nothing in particular for fifteen minutes, Shiro retrieves his meal from the microwave, picks the folder up and heads to the living room.
He briefly entertains the idea of watching some silly cartoon on Netflix, and then daydreams of a hot shower, his bed and a peaceful night of sleep, all of which last about fifty seconds before the responsible side of his brain kicks in and decides he’s ignored it for far too long. So with a resigned sigh, Shiro balances the folder on a thigh and flips it open.
KEITH KOGANE (22, M)
Below, his address in Beverly Hills is stated along with some personal info. To the right, a picture of Shiro’s employer in question, printed so finely he can almost see the specks of color in Keith’s eyes and the tint of lipstick on his mouth.
He’s heard of Keith before, but not from other employers or the press. Shiro tends to avoid tabloids and anything that runs on gossip, the chit chatting of two people sitting in a studio, discussing and dissing celebrities as they wish is too inhumane in his opinion. In addition, his previous jobs as a bouncer and a security guard in events didn’t grant him with the opportunity to get acquainted with every famous face there is out there. He can probably name one or two of his favorite action and rom-com actors on a good day.
Rather, he’s heard of Keith at the Marmora HQ, when both his superiors are in the same room and the older of the two is looking particularly stressed, face pinched more so than usual. And Thace will ask Keith? to which Kolivan will only reply with a grunt, and his brother will laugh and shake his head and recite some old memory of when Keith was much younger.
Shiro never pays too much attention to these bits of information, but he’s heard enough to know that Keith Kogane is part of their family, son of their youngest and only sister, a fashion mogul named Krolia. If Shiro’s being honest with himself, he feels some pride that Kolivan picked him of all people to look after his nephew.
The bright side of moving into Keith Kogane’s house as his bodyguard, Shiro muses as he stabs a soggy broccoli, is that he won’t have to rely on his pathetic meal prepping anymore.
He reads the profile once again only to find that he knows most of it by heart. Thace made sure that Shiro would leave HQ that day being able to recite Keith’s entire psychological and behavioral description, and Kolivan had to actually tutor him in the arts of being a bodyguard, because he simply to follow some random minor YouTube celebrity around the few times he had been assigned as bodyguard before.
Now, protecting the son of a renowned fashion icon really is something else, and it makes him hesitant. Shiro can’t say he’s qualified for this job and sometimes he wonders if he should’ve turned it down, but Kolivan said he has the most required trait for this task: patience.
With his meal done and dishes washed and put away, Shiro goes to his bedroom to pack his bags.
Like any other house in Beverly Hills, Keith Kogane’s mansion is a display of wealth and power. Shiro has seen bigger mansions with an useless fountain on the front, full of guest bedrooms that would never be used all at once and other pointless rooms, but this house is on a different level. It’s all sleek lines and glass, neatly trimmed bushes, each piece of vegetation carefully chosen and placed. He got a nice view of an infinity pool as his taxi drove closer, and he’s glad he left his sedan at home. It would look ancient close to the gates alone, and sorely out of place in the garage likely filled with sports cars.
After a few seconds of waiting, the man speaking with him through the intercom confirms with Kolivan that yes, Shiro indeed is a new employee, and the gate opens smoothly to an entrance portico. The quartz stepping stones reflect his shoes, but his attention is caught by the running water feature cascading from the ceiling, trickling down a silver wall.
The familiar, yet not so friendly face of his boss Kolivan appears from behind the black tempered glass door. He steps aside to allow a butler to fetch Shiro’s bags and retreat quickly, his steps barely echoing as he walks through the ground floor and up floating walnut stairs. He’s gone before Shiro can even see his face.
An open floor plan, a dynamic mix of textures and neutral colors, and incredible fleetwood windows that make it seem there is nothing standing between outside and inside. This mansion is truly something else. Shiro quickly turns his attention to Kolivan, who’s watching him as serious and grave as ever.
“Thank you for being so prompt as ever, Shiro.” He follows Kolivan through various sitting and dining areas until he settles for one. “Krolia is ready to meet you.”
“I hope she hasn’t waited for too long.”
“Not at all.” Kolivan sweeps a hand towards a laptop perched at the head of the dining table, so shiny and thin Shiro wouldn’t have said it was an actual device. “As you have been informed, she’s currently in Milan. The event she was attending to just wrapped up, so you may speak with her now.”
With a tap of his finger, Kolivan starts a video call and it’s answered shortly after. The setting sun paints Krolia golden, the feed made slightly blurry due to the moving car she’s in. He can spot every trait Keith inherited from her just from looking at that picture in the folder provided by Marmora Services, from the purposefully messy hair, to the shape of her eyes and face. Without even seeing them side by side, Shiro can tell Keith is almost a perfect copy of his mother, with few traces taken from a father Shiro never heard of.
She smiles at him warmly, and he’s dumbstruck for a second, having expected to be met with the same stone-faced seriousness Kolivan wears on a daily basis.
“Good evening. Oh, it must be morning to you.” From her voice alone, it’s clear Krolia is a fierce woman. “You must be Shiro, right?”
“Yes, ma’am. Nice to meet you.” Under Kolivan’s observant gaze, Shiro dips his head in greeting.
“Thank you so much for accepting the job.” She continues, lights and shadows dancing across her face as the sun sinks lower, the cityscape of Milan moving behind her. “I’m hardly ever home and I’m a mother, so it’s only natural that I worry for my only son.”
“I’ll take good care of him, Mrs. Kogane.”
Her gaze softens, the love she feels for her son displayed clearly in her blue eyes. “If anything were to happen to him, I’d never forgive myself.” She pauses, closing her eyes briefly. A bejeweled hand comes up to play with the pendant hanging from her neck, indiscernible in the blurry feed. “He can be a bit of a handful, but I hope you two become comfortable enough around each other, and maybe then he will…”
She leaves it at that, swallowing down and dropping her hand as her eyes open. He wonders what she meant to say, but Krolia quickly changes topics and tells him to make himself at home, listing off various places and activities he can enjoy within the mansion’s premises. All the while, Kolivan is watching and gauging his behavior, and Shiro feels a little like a lab rat. It doesn’t help with his nerves at all.
“I’m afraid I’ll have to disconnect now. I just got to the hotel.” The dim glow of streetlights just barely illuminates her shape as Krolia reaches for something to her left. “Please, keep him safe, Shiro. And Kolivan, you know the drill. Call me if anything happens, emergency or not, at any time of the day, anywhere.”
With a quickly goodbye, Krolia ends the video call, and Shiro gingerly turns the laptop around, only slightly afraid it’ll snap under his touch. Having expected to hardly - if ever - see or hear of her at all, he’s impressed that she made some time to talk to him, and that Krolia clearly cares for her son. He doesn’t know why he had thought Keith would be another case of a neglected kid - er, young adult, especially when both his uncles expressed concern within the walls of Marmora Services .
Kolivan takes the laptop in hand, flips the screen around until it turns into a tablet, and speaks over the quick, soft taps of his fingers over the screen. “We have to register your fingerprints in the house’s biometric security system. That’s the only way you’ll be able to interact with the gates, the front door, and the garage.” A small device taken from his pocket is connected to the tablet. Kolivan sets it down in front of Shiro again. “All ten fingerprints.”
“I’m right handed.” He replies, staring down at the red light of the fingerprint reader. “Wouldn’t the right hand only suffice?”
“All ten fingerprints, Shiro.” Kolivan repeats and points a finger at the small device for good measure. “We never know what might happen.”
That sounds ominous to say the least, but still Shiro presses his fingerprints to the reader until the picture on the screen turns green, and does it again when Kolivan isn’t satisfied with the accuracy percentage. His boss opens up a floorplan of the house, talks him through every bit of security, from cameras that can be easily spotted outside to hidden ones in every room. Kolivan teaches him how to use the security application on the laptop to monitor the entire house in case Keith decides to throw a party, which he does sporadically, and walks him to a kitchen that can easily belong in an interior design magazine.
“We have a panic button.” As requested, Shiro runs his fingers along the underside of the caesarstone countertop until he feels the metallic coolness and circular volume of said button. “It sends a warning to my phone, Thace’s and Krolia’s, plus another one directly to Marmora HQ. They will hack into the cameras and call the police if they deem necessary. Only use this for emergencies and situations you can’t control by yourself.”
Other buttons are located around the house, shown in green on the floorplan that Kolivan lets him analyze. Shiro gets to keep the laptop during the time he stays here as Keith’s bodyguard and follows his boss around as he gives him a quick tour of the ground floor. Kolivan mentions that the butler can do it thoroughly once he leaves.
The mansion is fully automated. Shiro can control all 11,000 square feet of it from his laptop-slash-tablet, plus his own phone that Kolivan now returns after having left it on Marmora HQ the day before. Windows open and close at will, lights can be turned on and off in whichever room he wants, the brightness of the bulbs can be set to fit the desired atmosphere he wishes to achieve. It feels like the pinnacle of technology is here just within his reach.
“Tell me Xi didn’t wake me up for this.”
Shiro and Kolivan turn as one to face the floating staircase. Standing there on the landing, Keith Kogane glares down at them, hair tousled and skin marked by his bedsheets, sleeping mask still hanging around his neck. His pajamas - if it can be called that - is as flimsy as it looks silky and likely worth the sedan left back home. Beside him, a dark Siberian husky watches them with cool light blue eyes before it darts down the staircase to sniff at Shiro’s ankles, likely catching the lingering scent of Black.
“It’s almost eleven in the morning, Keith.” Only months of working with Kolivan allow Shiro to catch how his voice softens in the tiniest bit, though the hard lines on his face and rigid set of his shoulders stay the same.
Keith only bats a hand dismissively as he climbs down the steps. “What are you doing here? And who's this fine specimen of a human being?”
Shiro is used to appreciative glances people shoot him as bouncer, but there's something almost predatory in the way Keith's gaze roams up and down his body. He tries not to squirm, the hairs on his arms standing the more Keith watches him hungrily. It all vanishes when Keith's blue eyes settle on the nametag pinned to his suit jacket, his name written in purple on black to match the aesthetic of Marmora Services.
“No.” He says as he comes down to the bottom floor, right foot stomping down. “No.”
Kolivan ignores his protest entirely. “Keith, this is your bodyguard, Shiro.”
“No!” Like a petulant, spoiled child, he stomps his foot down again. “I don't need a bodyguard.”
“You know how much your mother worries.”
“Yes,” Keith hisses the word as he stalks closer. “I am aware of that, but this-” he makes a wide gesture in Shiro’s direction “-is ridiculous.”
“Just last week you were groped in public, Keith.”
“I can protect myself, thank you very much.” He counters back with a sniff, sticking his nose high in the air.
Shiro doesn’t know Kolivan well enough, but he can’t fathom the man admitting this kind of treatment and behavior from anyone, but maybe Keith is the only exception there is, being the man’s nephew and all. Kolivan would have already reprimanded anyone that disagreed with him, but seems he hardly bothered by it at all. Given that he doesn’t get exasperated, Shiro guesses he’s used to this kind of thing. And Shiro will have to get used to it, too.
“You can’t go around punching people, Keith. We’ve talked about this already.” Kolivan fixes him with a look. “If you won’t do it for your own image, then do it for your mother’s sake. She doesn’t want you to get hurt. Moreover, you won’t stain her name by punching fans and paparazzi.”
Keith snaps his mouth shut with an audible click of his teeth. They stare at each other for a long time, long enough that Shiro wonders if he should leave them alone and go to one of the other many sitting rooms so they can sort it out by themselves.
“Low blow, Kolivan.” Keith says at last and, oh, mentioning Krolia is the one thing that gets him to behave. Shiro wonders if it’ll work if he uses that in the future. Keith deadpans, “Alright, then. I got a bodyguard now. How exciting.”
He steps right into Shiro’s space, peering up at him with that same hunger in his eyes again. Shiro holds himself still as Keith’s hands wander up the length of his arms, squeezing his biceps and humming in appreciation, fingers gliding and working on the few buttons of his suit jacket. He had never thought he’d find the sight of lithe fingers popping buttons open with practiced ease to be sexy, and it leaves Shiro mildly concerned for his own mental health.
Keith opens the jacket and splays his hands on Shiro’s taut stomach. Shiro wonders if he’s imagining the way his pupils dilate, and Keith licks his lips, catching the bottom one between his teeth as his fingers map every dip and curve of the muscles beneath the pressed shirt and, holy shit Keith’s hands are so warm even through the fabric.
“How exciting indeed,” Keith murmurs, purrs really, pushing himself on his toes and closer to Shiro’s face. His hands brush over solid pecs, over nipples that harden under his touch and Shiro can’t quite keep his shiver to himself this time. “I’ll admit. You have good taste, Kol.”
“Please, don’t grope your bodyguard.” Kolivan chides gently and Keith pouts before pulling away entirely. Shiro clears his throat and tries to button his jacket closed as smoothly as possible, thoroughly embarrassed that he let Keith feel him up right in front of his boss.
Keith waves him off again as he returns upstairs. “I’ll send Xi to speak with you. I don’t have time to tell you the rules.” The husky follows him dutifully, trotting away as elegantly as the way Keith climbs every step.
They wait until they hear the distant noise of a door closing before moving again. Shiro tugs at his jacket, and Kolivan clasps his hands tightly behind his back. “That went well.” He can’t really say if Kolivan is being truthful or not. “I have spent too much time away from HQ. Should anything happen, you can call me.”
Kolivan pauses his walk to the front door to wish him “Good luck, Shiro”, and he watches in silence as his boss leaves the house for good. Alone on the ground floor of the mansion, Shiro comes to some conclusions:
Firstly, he’ll need all the patience he can get.
Secondly, Keith is prettier in person.
Thirdly, if Keith doesn’t keep his hands to himself, Shiro will be fucked.
Xi is the only butler of the Kogane Mansion. He keeps his silver hair tied back on a low ponytail at the base of his skull, his skin crinkles around his eyes and shows his age, and he’s easily half Shiro’s size in height and one third in bulk, but he’s a nice man that smiles at Shiro easily, pats him in the arm gently and calls him “son” within two minutes of being formally introduced to one another.
Shiro decides he likes this man, and if he’s still working for Keith and hasn’t gone insane yet, then Shiro has hope.
The ground floor is mostly sitting and dining areas, the kitchen and an adjoining ensuite bedroom that works as a home office. An elevator encased in a sophisticated resin chamber can be found too, though it’s an unnecessary item in a house that has only three floors. So far, the most eye-catching thing is the infinity pool, plus a glass-enclosed fire pit in one of the lounges.
Entertainment is held on the bottom floor. A fully equipped home theater with plush, velvet seats, a large screen and soft yellow lightning. A sitting room with elegant mobilia and a beautiful living green wall. The wine cellar has more bottles than he can care to count, some of which seem suspended in the air by a see-through support that he nearly overlooks, and the bar has a drinks selection just as expansive, a pool table set nearby. The wellness center is everything Shiro wishes his gym was, with equipment ranging from pilates to a sparring mat, and an adjacent sauna. A room where they keep power generators and equipment for pool maintenance, among other things.
Last but not least, the garage. Sports cars of blacks and reds parked on both sides, shining brightly under the artificial lights, tires reflected on the polished dark floor. A beautiful matte black Ferrari is the center of attention, easily Shiro’s favorite car in the room. Xi taps at the screen of his own tablet, and as the lights flicker and change colors, Shiro learns the room can be turned into your own private night club.
The top floor is reserved for sleeping quarters, five of them. Xi informs him that the master suite is Keith’s, and Krolia sleeps in the second biggest room whenever she’s around. He leads Shiro to his own bedroom, ridiculously large for a guest room, complete with a walk-in closet and his own bathroom. From the balcony he can see the infinity pool below plus the sprawling sight of Los Angeles and, further ahead, the ocean. It’s a beautiful sight. If Keith really wakes up around noon every day, Shiro can take the time to sip coffee on the balcony and appreciate the sight to start his day.
“I am so glad Mrs. Krolia has finally hired a bodyguard for Mr. Keith,” Xi says, depositing some hangers on the bed. Shiro, kneeling by his bags and taking out his suits before they wrinkle further, asks him why. “I work for them for years, you see, and Mrs. Kogane never required me to stay the night. So Mr. Kogane spends the nights alone. Sometimes I offer to stay with him, but he declines. Even with all the cutting edge security, sleeping alone in a house this big feels unsafe.”
It’s only Keith, his dog, and his live-out butler in a mansion during the day, and only Keith and the dog at night. Not only does it feels unsafe, but the house will be horribly empty. Doesn’t he ever feel lonely, locked here with no one else to live with? Maybe not if his uncles visit frequently, but having so much space for a family with only two people and a dog and their occasional employees is a waste.
“Don’t worry about it, Mr. Xi. I’ll make sure he stays safe.”
Xi smiles as he pats down some button up shirts. “Mr. Keith is a good boy. I hope he opens up to you soon.”
“I have no doubts that he is a good man.” The first impression is that Keith looks a lot more like a child crying in a shopping mall because his mom doesn’t want to get him a new toy, but Shiro’s not going to tell Xi that.
They finish hanging his clothes quickly, sorted by color and type, filling the closet with mostly blacks, whites, blues and greys. Shiro takes his toiletries to the bathroom and leaves them on the marble counter to set aside at a later time. He spies inside the shower quickly and comes to the conclusion he’ll have to learn how to use so many faucets.
“I will explain our usual schedule now.” Xi says from where he's occupying the only armchair in the room. Shiro sits on the edge of his bed and unlocks his tablet too. “The cleaning ladies come twice a week, more if we need to. Miss Florona and Miss Plaxum are in charge of the entourage. You can tell them apart from the others by their navy blue uniform.” The calendar shows Monday and Friday marked in blue.
“Mister Hunk is our cook. Celebrity chef, they call him, works for renowned Chef Sal. He's a really nice man that's always making guest appearances in MasterChef Junior. The kids love him.” Xi laughs gently, likely tapping the same yellow spot Shiro is eyeing now. “He should be arriving soon. And finally, Mr. Keith's personal trainer and his yoga teacher, Miss Zethrid and Miss Ezor, respectively.”
Shiro perks up. “Zethrid as in - the Zethrid, everyone's favorite fitness trainer?” He's hopeless when it comes to fashion icons and movie stars, but damn if Shiro doesn't know the name and faces of his role models and inspirations, and she’s got some abs to die for.
“The one and only.” Xi gently taps the screen with his stylus. “They come five days a week, usually from three to five in the afternoon. If there are any changes, I'll update the schedule and you'll know.” He stands up, the soft clicking noise of the screen being locked sounding in the bedroom.
“By the way, Mr. Xi.” Shiro begins before the man can leave, rising to his feet as well. “Mr. Kogane mentioned something about rules?”
Xi looks confused for a moment, then his face lightens up and he chuckles softly like Shiro just said a joke. “House rules are: one, wait for Mr. Keith to invite you into his bedroom. If after the third time you knocked he hasn’t answered yet, leave him alone.” He lifts a second finger in the air. “And two, Kosmo is allowed on the furniture.”
With a pat to his bicep, Xi takes his leave, closing the door in his wake. Shiro is left alone again in this foreign house and he stands there wringing his hands, feeling much like he’s in a room full of strangers, all of them looking at him. He should probably visit all the rooms again and look for the hidden cameras, get used to this new place. For now, though, he retrieves his phone from his pocket and checks the few new messages he got. Under a picture of Black glaring at his friend’s phone, Matt wishes him good luck in his new job. Shiro smiles and types a quick reply, skims over other texts and emails, but nothing does a good job in distracting him.
He turns to the doors leading to the balcony, certainly a beautiful sight at nighttime with all the city lights glimmering. A press to the button beside the door and it opens smoothly, the gentle breeze playing with the rich fabric of the beddings.
Shiro leans onto the glass railing, allows himself to appreciate the view before he tackles on his duties. To his far right there’s a sitting area, connected to the room belonging to Krolia as stated on the digital floorplan. To his left, the balcony connects to the living room of Keith’s master suite, and the balcony of his bedroom is only accessible from the inside.
Keith is there, he realizes, curled up on a chair with sunglasses perched on his nose bridge, each tiny jewel on the studded frame reflecting the sunlight. A good deal of naked skin is displayed, from his thighs to his arms, as he looks down at the tablet in his hand, seemingly unimpressed that what he sees. Kosmo - the dog, Shiro thinks - is tucked beneath the chair, sleeping.
“Why don’t you snap a picture, Shiro?” Keith asks, and Shiro realizes he’d been staring for longer than acceptable. Even worse, he couldn’t even tell Keith had noticed because of the sunglasses. “That way you can look at me all day long.” He does lift his head then to blow him a kiss, lowering the glasses to add a wink.
“Apologies, Mr. Kogane.” Shiro straightens and turns fully in his direction. “I did not mean to stare.”
“Aw, look at you being all polite and stuff. Don’t give me that Mr. Kogane shit, though, it makes me feel old, ugh.” His voice is so overly sweet and mocking it makes Shiro’s mood sink. “But I do like the idea of posing for a picture. Just for you.” Keith taps his fingers on the arm rest to punctuate the last words, a flirty smirk on his lips. “Maybe it could fuel some fantasy, don’t you think?”
Shiro looks away as Keith unfurls from the chair, catching a glimpse of a strappy sleeve and shapely collarbones before his eyes settle on a tall building in the distance. “Please, don’t say things like that, Mr. Keith. It’s highly inappropriate.”
Keith clicks his tongue and huffs. “You looking like that is inappropriate. You’re a walking wet dream.”
From the corner of his eye, Shiro watches as Keith retreats into his room and Kosmo scrambles to follow him, nails scratching on the ground. He tilts his head back and squeezes his eyes shut before going inside to do what he was hired for. This job will be one major test of strength. His friends say he’s got the patience of a saint, so maybe Shiro can make it through.
Check out this awesome piece by mikoriin based on this chapter! Thank you!
Chapter 2: the life of the rich and famous
At eleven-thirty sharp, the doorbell rings. Xi checks in the intercom who it is, and Shiro trails after him to the front door. Keith is still holed up in his bedroom, and with so few people in the house, Shiro’s services aren’t really necessary.
On the other side of the door stands a man armed with cooler bags. Shiro would probably have to look through them all had Xi not been familiar with the man Hunk - their cook - so he only smiles politely and offers to carry some of the bags. He gladly accepts the help and squeezes Shiro’s hand firmly in greeting.
Hunk has a kind smile and kinder eyes, and black hair that he ties back with a bandana the moment they get in the kitchen. Xi and Shiro unpack the ingredients for today’s lunch as Hunk looks through cabinets and drawers for utensils, all the while keeping a steady conversation flowing.
“So you said you’re Keith’s bodyguard?”
Shiro is looking at the assortment of condiments he can barely recognize as he replies. “Yes, I just started today.”
“How are you liking it here so far?” He asks as he arranges the items on the counter in some particular order only Hunk knows. “Beautiful house, isn’t it? The tech nerd in me is dying to learn how it all works.”
Matt’s little sister would love it too, Shiro muses. Matt too, actually, even if he’s been spending the last few years researching the stars with his dad. “It’s beautiful indeed. I really like the view from here.”
Hunk whistles, flipping a knife in the air and scrolling through his recipe on his phone simultaneously. Shiro winces even when Hunk catches the knife by the hilt. “One of the best views, in my opinion, and I’ve been to a lot of houses here in Beverly Hills, among other places. At night it’s really something else. No wonder Keith likes eating outside.”
Xi makes a noise of agreement from where he’s getting items to set up one of the tables by the poolside for Keith. Feeling rather useless as he’s not needed anywhere, Shiro slides onto a nearby stool and watches Hunk cook. Sure he could offer to help, but taking in consideration how simple and plain his meal prep is, it’s best to stand aside and let the man do the work.
Besides, Hunk’s hands fly over the ingredients too fast, peeling and chopping vegetables so expertly it puts anyone to shame. Wild rice is poured in hot water to cook and he gathers ingredients for a sauce. With quick movements, he has some shallots diced in perfect cubes, and in the next second he’s chopped five cloves of garlic. Shiro watches silently, aware that one of the salmon fillets in the tupperware is for him.
Goodbye, soggy vegetables and dry chicken.
Soon the house becomes fragrant with the smell of cooking shallots and garlic, and as Hunk adds grated ginger to the mix, Keith emerges from his room with Kosmo in tow. Still dressed in that short, revealing little thing, but now with a silky black robe on top that fans out with every purposeful step, he joins them in the kitchen, snuggly pressing his front to Hunk’s side to peer at the pots on the cooktop.
“Well, good morning, Hunk.” Keith drops his chin to the cook’s shoulder. “I see you’ve already met my insanely gorgeous bodyguard.” He lifts his gaze up to Shiro, and he feels pinned to the spot as Keith slowly bares him with his eyes alone. Shiro doesn’t think he’ll ever get used to it.
Hunk, on his part, merely grins at Keith and remains unaffected by his proximity, never ceasing his working hands. Shiro wishes he had that composure. Maybe it’s a matter of time. “Good morning, Keith. Yeah, he seems like a cool guy from the few things we spoke about.”
Keith hums thoughtfully, and Shiro can imagine what goes through his head when his eyes settle on his broad chest. “Oh, yes. A cool guy. Very fine too.” Hunk laughs like Keith isn’t undressing Shiro in his mind, and Keith turns his attention back to the cook, all traces of sexual hunger disappearing from his face as he twirls the end of the bandana around an index finger. “Tell me what you’re cooking for me today?”
Just like that, they forget Shiro is in the same room with them as Hunk goes over every ingredient and quantity used in this meal. The most surprising thing is that Keith is listening with rapt attention, nodding and asking things accordingly, still perched on Hunk’s shoulder as the man tends to the pots. Shiro would find it cute, endearing even, if Keith were acting more like a real person than an actress portraying the annoying rich girl in a teen movie, annoying voice and all.
At least, it’s good to know he’s got interests in something other than designer clothes and hitting on Shiro.
Keith peels himself away to get a water bottle from the fridge, and Hunk deems it’s finally time to cook the marinated salmon. On his way to the pool, Keith lets his fingers trace the width of Shiro’s shoulders, slipping above the collar of his suit to tease his hairline on the back of his neck. Shiro can’t keep from jumping, and Keith laughs as he walks away. Hunk is trying to bite back a smile and failing.
Thankfully, the man doesn’t say anything and instead turns to talk to the dog lingering by his feet, looking up at him with icy blue eyes and hoping for a treat. Kosmo only earns a smile and a promise to be petted later, and then he’s sauntering after his owner with his tail high in air.
Dogs really do take after their owners.
Xi returns when Hunk is plating the food. He places fine cutlery and crystal glasses on the counter, claiming the other stool as his own and thanking Hunk for the food. The cook sets both plates in front of them and leaves to personally deliver Keith his own, leaving bodyguard and butler alone in the kitchen. Given the familiarity displayed earlier, it’s easy to see that they’re close, and Shiro is honestly glad that a man like Keith has someone like Hunk in his life. Having so much money in your possession surely attracts all kinds of wrong people, and it must be hard to have real friends. So if Hunk considers himself Keith's friend, Shiro is honestly happy for his charge.
Once Xi lifts his head after finishing his silent prayer, Shiro decides it's now acceptable to take his first bite. Cutting a piece of the fillet and placing it in his mouth, he has to bite his tongue to keep from humming. It's an explosion of flavors that melt in his mouth and makes his taste buds sing. The fish is tender, the sauce is the perfect balance of sweet and spicy, and the wild rice can hardly be compared to anything else he's eaten in his life. In this moment he knows he'll miss the food more than anything else when he returns home.
Bless Hunk for having such talented hands.
As they load the dirty dishes in the dishwasher, Hunk and Keith return from the poolside where they’ve been chatting in private. “Try not to give Shiro a hard time, Keith.” Hunk says as he gathers his things, watching as Keith leans a hip against the counter and quirks an eyebrow.
“If giving him a hard time is what I got to do to feel those massive muscles wrapping protectively around me, Hunk, then that’s what I’ll do.”
Shiro doesn’t find it hard to believe Keith would go that far.
The house is quiet. It isn’t all that surprising that the neighborhood is too. Sometimes he can hear the distant, obnoxious purr of a sports cars driving down the roads of Beverly Hills, but it does little to disrupt the silence. Keith retreated to the home theater after lunch, Xi is... Somewhere, and Kosmo is trained well enough that the most noise he makes is the little whine when he was begging Hunk for food.
Shiro isn’t used to the quiet, though.
Los Angeles is a big city, and Marmora Services doesn’t limit its work to L.A. alone, extending it to neighboring cities and even other states, which means Shiro is always on the move. Whether he’s overseeing an event and keeping it orderly, or he’s been assigned as a designated driver while one of his more seasoned coworkers slip into the role of bodyguard for the day, he’s always surrounded by noise, be it pounding music or an incessant chatter coming from around the room or the backseat.
And if he’s got free time on his hands, then he’s working or jogging, earphones in place to push him through his workout. Or meeting with friends, talking over a movie or the video game they’re playing, or he’s got his TV turned up just enough so he can hear it as he cleans his apartment and tends to his meal prep.
This much stillness leaves him floundering, sitting on one of the many plush seats on the ground floor with not much to do. His work is really only required when Keith leaves his home, but Shiro can understand it’s easier for him to move here than to come and go as Keith needs. After all he might just decide to leave in the last minute - precisely why Shiro can’t simply go to the wellness center and work a sweat now, or any other time he’s felt restless.
He considers texting his friends, because he misses them already, misses the time spent with Matt and Katie in their living room eating pizza as he zones out when they get too excited about matters he doesn’t understand. Matt is working now, actually enjoying his time in the lab with his dad as they work together and research. Katie is in class or studying at home, and he doesn’t want to be the one to break her concentration - a hard feat to do, but not impossible. Shiro doesn’t want to be responsible for making a Holt anything less than spectacular.
And then there’s Lance, but they met only a few times and Shiro doesn’t really know what to talk to him about.
His list of friends is pretty lame.
Shiro changes seats, picks one where he won’t be caught by surprise if anyone enters the room or sneaks up on him. After an unnecessary glance around to make sure he’s truly alone, he gets comfortable and opens up the web browser to do some research. The file provided by Marmora Services had some information about Keith - sassy, temperamental, has troubles with discipline and rules, will stop at nothing to get what he wants - but Shiro figures he should know their family history since he’s now working closely for the sole heir of the Kogane fashion empire.
It is weird and maybe even creepy to google information on both Krolia and Keith, and ideally he knows he shouldn’t go poking around. Shiro doesn’t feel quite like a stalker or an overzealous fan as he can excuse this search in the anonymous tab as him doing everything in his reach to better perform in his job. Wikipedia seems like a good place to start.
Krolia’s page lacks information about her personal and past life. All it says is that she was married to an unnamed husband, they had Keith, and she is now a widower. Shiro can respect that they don’t disclose this to the press as it probably is one of the few things they can keep private when they’re so exposed to the media.
It explains in great detail her climb to the top, from her first job working for Galra to her internship at Juniberry, to other places she worked afterwards as she built her fashion empire from the ground up, solidifying the name of her brand, Kogane. There are few pictures of her from before she became famous, and there’s one from her first important fashion show that includes Keith in it.
As a teen, Keith barely reaches her shoulders. He’s small and lithe, forever the spitting image of her. They wear matching smiles as they look at the camera, and Keith holds himself much differently, more withdrawn, unused to the fame.
Keith’s page, if possible, is smaller than hers. There isn’t much to say here, though Shiro has a feeling that if he types Keith Kogane in the search bar, it will yield many gossipy results. It mentions Keith isn’t enrolled in the business, that he’s what one would call an it-girl , and includes various pictures of him with other celebrities, most of which Shiro never heard of.
Now that he knows a little more about Krolia, he closes the tab and decides to not look for more details about the Kogane family, suddenly feeling guilty. If they’re keeping it quiet about their early life, he knows better than to go digging around against their wish. Perhaps one day they’ll tell him everything, but if they never do, he can respect that. Everyone has things they don’t like to share.
The elevator hums as Xi comes to the ground floor of the mansion, smiling bright the moment he spots Shiro sitting alone on the chaise longue. “Miss Zethrid and Miss Ezor are on their way now for Mr. Keith’s classes. He’s already waiting for them in the wellness center.”
Shiro tucks his tablet away and stands. “I’ve been meaning to ask about your schedule, Mr. Xi.”
“Mine?” The man hums and taps his chin lightly with his fingertips. “I come at eight in the morning and leave shortly after the misses are gone, if they happen to come over.”
“Does Mr. Hunk come later for dinner?” Shiro asks, having noticed the yellow bar on the schedule is only shown at midday.
“Oh, no. Mr. Keith usually goes out for dinner, or he orders something instead.” Shiro tries to imagine Keith, of all people, eating chinese take-out in his couch and pajamas, but the mental image is too ludicrous. “Mr. Hunk works with at Vrepit Sal at night. If he were available, I do believe he would come. They are good friends.”
The doorbell rings and Shiro bites back his following question as he follows Xi to the door. On the small screen of the intercom they see two figures outside, the distinguishable form of Zethrid crowding over a smaller, slimmer form of who Shiro guesses is Ezor. She flashes a brilliant smile at the camera when Xi unlocks the gate and saunters ahead of Zethrid, looping her arms around Xi to give him an exaggerated kiss on the cheek, leaving a bright pink smear on his skin. Shiro catches a strong scent of flowers as her high ponytail whips about.
Zethrid is more subdued in comparison and is the first to notice Shiro standing there. She shakes his hand, firm and strong, and he squeezes just as tightly, marveled that he’s meeting her in person. “I don’t think we’ve met?”
“I’m Mr. Keith’s bodyguard. You can call me Shiro.” Ezor steps close to him for a handshake. Her hand is small and much smoother, nails painted pale pink.
“I can’t believe Krolia finally convinced Keith to hire a bodyguard.” She chats amiably, fixing the straps over her shoulders. “Had I known, I’d brought another yoga mat.”
Shiro eyes the three mats in question behind her back, red and purple and pink. “I won’t be joining his training session, but thank you.”
Zethrid snorts and clamps a strong hand on his shoulder as she passes. “Like Keith won’t drag you into it. You’re just his type.”
“Yep! He’ll love to see you hot and bothered, doing yoga all sweaty.” Ezor brushes past him, loops her arms around one of Zethrid’s and calls out. “Go change!”
Shiro is embarrassed at first, but then becomes mortified when Xi chuckles, cheeks flaming in response. He resists the urge to groan and bury his face in his hands, and instead takes deep breaths counting to ten.
“You can go, Shiro.” Xi says, soft and gentle and aware of Shiro’s embarrassment. “He will make you join, so you might as well save yourself the trouble of trying to change his mind.”
When he was younger, Shiro dreamed of being an astronaut, of being accepted in the Garrison or NASA and flying a spaceship to the moon or another celestial body. It’s a dream he entertains sometimes when he’s trying to fall asleep, of being among the stars and being one of the first men to get to the edge of the Solar system, but it’s not a dream he wants to pursue anymore. Now, one of his dreams is to have a training session with Zethrid, and Matt hates him for it. A stupid dream, his friend says, but Shiro has been called a gym rat since his teens for a reason.
He’d love nothing more than to join them, but the one thing holding him back is his own professionalism. He shouldn’t do it. Keith is his employer, he’s Kolivan and Thace’s nephew for God’s sake, the two people that hired him in the first place back then. And even if Keith weren’t, or were he anyone else, Shiro can’t really hop on the treadmill like he’s a friend and not an employee.
As he meets Xi’s gaze and the man nods once more, Shiro can’t help but feel some kind of defeat as he droops his shoulders and accepts his fate. He won’t fully enjoy having Zethrid training him when he knows he was never supposed to be there in the first place. Still, he changes quickly, not in the mood to have Keith whining and trying to force him into workout gear. He tugs at the waistband of his shorts. Is it possible to be underdressed for a workout?
Laughter reaches him as soon as he gets to the bottom step of the stairs. In the wellness center, Ezor is perched on a pull-up bar, hanging upside down, face red. She sticks her hand out and Keith leans forward, taking it delicately to peer at the ring she’s showing off. At the far end of the room, Zethrid is picking the correct equipment for today’s workout.
“This is absolutely stunning.” Shiro can almost see the stars in Keith’s eyes as he strokes the jewel with the pad of his thumb. “The round cut is such a classic. You really outdid yourself, Zethrid.”
Keith releases her hand and Ezor flips around to lower herself back on the ground with a laugh. “Acxa helped her pick, but I don’t love her any less for it.”
“I’m not well versed in diamonds.” Zethrid gestures to the simple silver band tied around her neck by a chain, and that’s explanation enough for them. Then, addressing Shiro, she says. “You’ve decided to join us, after all.”
With the three of them looking at him, and hyper aware of Keith studying him again, Shiro wants to return to the safety of his suit. “Yes. I- ah, I’m a big fan of your work.”
“I could tell you go to the gym, but I didn’t know you were built like a brick house.” She gives him a thumbs up and walks over to the treadmills. “Let’s begin, then.”
Shiro isn’t having the time of his life.
Zethrid is good at what she does and comes up with a routine for him on the spot, tailored to his needs. He doesn’t quite feel like an outsider, mostly because Ezor and Zethrid talk to him through the workout and make him feel welcomed, but Keith won’t stop looking. Shiro catches him staring from time to time, eyes molten and lips parted, following beads of sweat trailing down his neck and face. Keith will make eye contact and lick his lips occasionally, and it’s only sheer self control and professionalism that keeps Shiro from choking.
It’s the longest hour of his life, and every time they walk past each other on their ways to a different equipment and Keith finds a way to touch him, the minutes drag for longer. At least, Keith is brushing his arms and shoulders. Shiro would be more troubled if he went for his chest again.
Xi is waiting for them outside with refreshments and cut up fruit once they’re done. Ezor pops some grapes into her mouth and moves away to place the yoga mats by the poolside, and Zethrid makes herself comfortable in a chair with a glass of lime and mint infused water. Shiro is finishing his bottle of plain water when his gaze locks with Keith’s, the man’s mouth wrapped around a striped red and white straw as he sucks his own drink deliberately. Shiro looks the other way, grateful for the flush from exertion on his cheeks that makes his blush less obvious.
Keith releases the straw with a sinful little sigh, and it’s only Shiro’s trademark speech about patience and focus that leaves him mostly unaffected by the sounds and sights. And Matt has the gall to say it doesn’t work.
Zethrid didn’t miss the exchange, though, and she’s smirking at him rather sinisterly when she reclines on the chair and tells him to join Ezor and Keith in their usual yoga routine. Despite his protests that he isn’t all that flexible for yoga, it goes unheard and Ezor takes his wrist to haul him over to the mats, where Keith is already waiting and looking at him from over his shoulder.
Remind Shiro to never underestimate Ezor again. She’s lithe and all, but she’s engaged to a massive personal trainer, so he should’ve expected she’d be able to manhandle him wherever she wanted.
He can follow through the initial stretch well enough, but can hardly keep up with Ezor as she twists this way and that like her bones aren’t solid. His legs only go so far and his back doesn’t let him bend himself fully in half to hugs his calves, but she cheers him on and he keeps trying anyway.
And then he learns Keith is just as flexible as her, sticking his ass high in the air to perform a downward facing dog, wiggling his hips and winking when he catches Shiro looking. The knowledge that he can easily flow from one pose to another without a hitch and perform them perfectly worms itself in Shiro’s brain and he glares up at the sky in half cobra. When he was chosen for this, was Kolivan aware of the things Keith would put him through?
Shiro doesn’t look Keith’s way again and focuses on the poses. He’s a man in his thirties and hasn’t been a teenager laden by hormones for a long time now. Keith is beautiful and enticing and could probably get a younger Shiro going easily, but now he’s a grown man that can control his urges and he can handle this, easy. Keith will have as much influence over him as Shiro lets him, and he’s here to work, not to mess around with him.
He makes it through the yoga session and even finds himself relaxed by the end of it.
Keith seems peeved that he hadn’t managed to maintain Shiro’s focus on him and so he sinks down on a chair to sulk as he eats most of the mango slices on the fruit platter. Xi sees both women off, and Shiro hides in the kitchen to drink more water and debate whether or not he can help himself to one of the premade, store bought protein shakes in the fridge.
After Xi emphasises to make himself at home and offers to stay the night in case Shiro is having trouble to adapt to the new environment, the man takes his leave too after thanking Shiro, who holds the car door of the Uber open for him and watches it drive away. He makes sure the gates are properly locked and closes the front door behind him silently. He’s now officially alone in the Kogane Mansion with Keith.
Lord help him.
A rattling sound catches his attention and he turns just in time to see Kosmo hurrying to Keith’s side, a red leash caught between his teeth and dragging across the floor. The man scratches behind the dog’s ears before taking the leash away and securing the harness around his torso.
“Come on, handsome.” Keith calls out, and Shiro belatedly realizes he’s being talked to. “We have to take Kosmo out for his daily walk.”
The keys are hidden in a black crystal bowl by the door. Shiro snatches them as he passes, dutifully following Keith after checking everything once more and setting up the alarm with the key fob. Taking the dog out for a walk seems harmless and innocent enough, but he’s a quick learner and knows better than to expect Keith to keep his distance. As it is, he’s walking ahead, strutting like a model on the catwalk, and Kosmo mimics the movement like before.
Shiro doesn’t really know why he’s here right now working as his bodyguard - not that he’s going to complain, because he’s getting a better pay and can make use of anything he wants in the mansion (i.e. the gym), but Keith doesn’t seem in immediate danger. He looks like the kind of person to get shitfaced in parties and maybe have some questionable one-night stands, but he doesn’t seem to be the type that people would want to harm. Though, Shiro supposes, he is the only son of a fashion mogul that lives in a thirty million dollar mansion practically by himself. He can be an easy target to kidnap.
Krolia is right to worry for him, to want someone to trail his every step. It might make her sleep better at night.
Houses here are grand, of various styles that he could spend hours admiring for their beauty. Keith’s home apparently is one of the few that doesn’t fit the stereotypical Hollywood mansion look of blue-tiled roofs and white walls, and it certainly stands out among his neighbors. Shiro can’t spare them more than a few seconds of his attention and keeps his eyes and ears open for anything that might be suspicious.
Shiro stops as he catches up with Keith, looks down at the man peering up at him with a look he can’t begin to decipher. Keith expresses desire openly on his face, and sadly that’s something Shiro has already learned to read. Other emotions are still a mystery and he waits for Keith to elaborate.
“I’m impressed.” He says at last, angling his body to face Shiro properly. “You’re being quite the challenge.”
“With all due respect, sir, I’m not here to fool around.”
Keith hums, reaching out to smooth the tight fabric pulled across Shiro’s chest. The pec he touches twitches involuntarily and he smirks, biting his lip. “Yes, yes, but I can imagine following someone around all day long is quite boring, don’t you think? Fooling around would make it much more interesting.”
Shiro chooses not to say anything, curling his hands into fists when Keith purposefully sweeps his thumb over a nipple again. Patience yields focus and all that. Kosmo watches them curiously and flicks his ear when Shiro finally steps back and away from Keith’s reach.
“Please, sir. Allow me to do my job.”
Keith isn’t done. He releases the leash - Kosmo stays put - and strides up to Shiro, plastering their chests together. He’s shorter and smaller compared to Shiro and something in his brain short-circuits, but he isn’t stunned for long. “Your iron will is admirable, Shiro, but it’s an annoyance.” Keith catches Shiro’s chin between two fingers and angles his face down to better look him in the eyes as he whispers, voice silky and sultry. “How long can you keep it together until you crack, I wonder? How long until you break and fall right into my bed?”
Patting Shiro’s cheek, Keith pulls away, bending down to retrieve the forgotten leash. “Well, let’s head back. I really want to take off these nasty clothes and soak for a good hour before dinner. What do you feel like eating?”
Shiro isn’t imagining the way Keith squeezes his own ass when he proposes dinner and has to swallow down a sudden knot in his throat. Keith switched from one topic to the next so fast Shiro nearly got a whiplash, and he’s aware he’s staring rather dumbly at Keith’s triumphant face as he tries to make sense of the words. Worse than that, Keith sounds hot when drops his voice, and this bit of knowledge is going to haunt him for the rest of the day.
Keith agrees, and Shiro is looking forward to showering and burying under the covers of the bed as he stuffs his face with greasy pizza and exchanges messages with Matt as his favorite cartoon plays on the background. Matt and Katie are going to be his last threads of sanity and he needs to cling to them more than ever now.
He’d been expecting pepperoni or a simple margherita, but what he gets is parma ham and arugula, and gorgonzola and thinly sliced pears.
I gotta say that last bit of walking Kosmo and their conversation in that moment is my fav. You're gonna see a lot more of teasing Keith as I build it up, because I don't want to rush this, but fear not because Keith will stop at nothing to get what he wants. And yes that was some foreshadowing... of sorts.
As it's holiday season and I'm participating in Secret Santas and other events, the next update will probably be up on the second week of January. But we'll see. I like updating when the following chapter is done, so if I manage to finish the fourth, I can update earlier.
Next: they're going shopping babey
Thank you all for your lovely comments and support, and until next time!
Chapter 3: saw you twice at the pop show
The first few days in the Kogane mansion are surprisingly uneventful. Keith only ever leaves to walk Kosmo in the late afternoons, and new faces only appear when Friday comes around and a group of six women shows up to clean the house. Were Shiro not making use of the gym facility in the mornings and joining Keith's workout in the afternoons, he'd be filled to the brim with nervous energy.
Not used to sitting around for so long, he tries to be useful when he isn't following Keith around, but there is little he can do to aid Xi in house chores when the man himself doesn’t do much. Xi’s role in the house, aside from sorting mail, preparing snacks and putting the dishes away, is simply to keep Keith company during the day.
Being a bodyguard isn’t so bad when it’s supposed to last for just a few hours, but the last three days are already getting to him. Shiro misses his home, his double sized bed and simple cotton sheets. He misses his cat sleeping on his pillow by his head in the mornings and then sitting by the coffee machine, tail flicking as he went about fixing his breakfast. This big house isn't really his style.
Xi messages him at night saying he will need to resolve some family issues in the morning, so he won't be able to come and introduce Shiro to the cleaning crew, but he already contacted their company and warned them to wear their IDs in visible places. Shiro wakes up even earlier for that, hits the gym and showers, and confirms their identities with the help of a detailed email sent to him by Ms. Luxia,owner of the cleaning company. Kosmo jumps around the women’s legs and bask in the attention they give him, then the dog follows Shiro to the kitchen once he begins looking through the fridge for his breakfast, tail high in the air.
Shiro retrieves ingredients for a simple omelet and gets the coffee brewing, stepping around Kosmo who sits right in the middle of the kitchen and twists his neck around to follow Shiro with his alert gaze. If there's one thing Black and Kosmo have in common is that they both wait for him to drop something tasty. Usually he will slip Black a bit of ham, but Kosmo isn’t really his and he doesn’t want to risk it.
“Good morning, Shiro.” He turns to see Keith join him in the kitchen, dressed in a lacy nightdress and a pastel pink satin robe. Shiro glances at the clock to make sure it's indeed nine in the morning when Keith purrs again. “Make me breakfast?”
He's not that great of a cook and most his attempts in the kitchen are simple things that are decent just enough to be eaten, so he's not really qualified to cook food for a man like Keith - but does he have another choice? Not really. “Good morning, Mr. Keith. What would you like to eat?”
Keith leans onto the counter, chin resting on his palm, and hums whilst his eyes trail up and down Shiro's body.
“Avocado toast and sunny-side up eggs?” Keith blinks up at him innocently, and Shiro can feel a shiver crawling down his arms.
Not bothering to reply verbally, Shiro turns to the pantry to prepare Keith’s breakfast. At least it’s something relatively easy that he can do, and it’s just his luck that he knows how to cook sunny-side ups perfectly. Katie hates them, but Matt and Shiro like adding one on top of fried rice when they order takeout. He whisks the ingredients of his own omelet together so he can use the frying pan right after Keith’s food is done.
Shiro sets the plate on the table mat placed before Keith on the counter. “Would you like anything else, sir?”
“Coffee. Oh, and non-dairy creamer, the hazelnut one.”
Shiro hesitates and settles down on a stool, keeping the seat right beside Keith’s empty. It’s odd enough as it is to have a meal together, he doesn’t need to make it weirder by sitting too close. Keith eats in silence, browsing his phone and tapping messages in between bites, and Shiro manages to have his breakfast without choking at some potential risque thing Keith could say.
“May I ask why you’re awake so early, Mr. Keith?”
Keith turns around on the stool to face him, smiling. “I thought we could do something fun today.”
Shiro waits for him to elaborate, but Keith doesn’t say anything else. “May I ask what?”
“Surely.” He claps his hands together and places them on his thighs to lean forward. “So my friend Troye is performing tonight at the Greek Theatre and of course I’m going, so I thought I should bring him a nice little gift.” Shiro wonders how expensive this nice little gift will cost. “Plus, you’re not going looking like that .”
Shiro lifts a brow. Given the way Keith oggles him on a daily basis, Shiro is pretty sure he looks good in suits, not that he didn’t know it before he was assigned as his bodyguard. “What about it?”
“You’ll stand out.”
“I brought casual clothes in my bag.”
“Do you think I’ll let you close to Troye wearing anything less than Giorgio Armani?” Keith scoffs and hops off the stool, swiping at the longer strands of hair on his neck in an attempted sassy hair sweep. “I sent a message to Kolivan. Our driver will be here in an hour. Get ready, you’ll be carrying all of my bags.”
The idea of finally leaving the house to do anything is so appealing Shiro doesn't even mind carrying more than a dozen shopping bags. He doesn't like leaving the house unattended, however. Xi answers the call and reassures him it's okay to leave the girls by themselves and that he will soon arrive. Satisfied with that, he looks for either Florona or Plaxum to warn them they're about to leave, and tries to kill time as best as he can until Keith is ready to go. He spends a good time looking at Black's pictures again and rewatching the videos he recorded weeks prior.
His phone pings with a notification that Regris is already outside waiting for them, and Shiro doesn't even need to call for Keith. The man shows up at the top of the stairs just as Shiro is walking towards them, dressed in yet another overly short piece. Either the skirt of this dress is the size of a belt or it's actually just a long sweater, Shiro can’t tell, but rides up Keith’s thighs with every step. Shiro keeps his eyes dutifully turned away.
He knows better than to say anything, so he only leads Keith outside and opens the door of the black BMW for him - and closes it before Keith can try to get Shiro to join him on the backseat.
“Good morning, Regris.” Keith reaches over the driver's seat to pat the man on the shoulder. “Take me to my favorite place, will you?”
Like most people that work for Marmora Services, Regris isn’t a man of many words, so he pulls away and doesn’t say anything for the duration of the ride. Being charismatic to talk to their clients isn’t part of the job, but it doesn’t stop Keith from pointing out places he likes to visit, places Shiro surely will have to go with him at some point. He even connects his phone to the car via Bluetooth and blasts some songs with questionable lyrics.
Regris is one of the best drivers at Mamora, skilled in evasive driving in a way Shiro wishes he was, and of course Kolivan would assign him to drive Keith wherever he wants. He's probably used to it, too, because he doesn't even ask for an address and knows what streets to take to reach a big shopping mall as quickly as possible.
From the outside, the mall looks like a place Shiro would have to pay to breathe its air. Inside, it's full of brand-name stores left and right, and crowded with people dressed in expensive outfits walking equally expensive looking dogs, their furs trimmed just the right way so they look more fake than real. Kosmo doesn't look like a rich person’s dog close to all these Pomeranians wearing shiny collars. Shiro's not the only personal bodyguard here, and many nannies dressed in white are looking after babies and small kids.
Immediately, Shiro maps all exits in his head and calculates possible escape routes whilst trailing after Keith as the man starts his shopping trip with some harmless window shopping. He takes notice of staircases and elevators, cameras, and security guards scouting the area on segways. So far no one seems to recognize Keith, and Shiro hopes they won't have to make a hasty retreat, because Keith told Regris to not wait for them on the parking lot.
“I’m going to start with Troye’s gift.”
Shiro barely catches the name of the store before he finds himself surrounded by diamonds and gold. A beautiful chandelier hangs from the ceiling right above a circular display table that Keith immediately bee-lines to, peering through the glass at the jewelry laying there on satin. Shiro keeps few paces behind him, turned to the door to watch incomers as a woman dressed in uniform comes to Keith offering help, her tone as sugary as Keith’s as she talks to him like they’re old friends. He can’t help but look over his shoulder at Keith a handful of times to make sure he’s okay.
“Shiro,” Keith calls out, waving a hand to beckon him closer. “Help me pick a gift.”
He stares down at three different necklaces placed on display stands, all three too much alike for him to pick. One silver with white stones on the pendant, another rose gold with pink gems, and the last one would be a rather simple band were it not studded with diamonds in its entirety.
The attendant and Keith are looking intently at him, waiting for his answer. “I, uh... I’m sorry, I don’t know.”
Keith looks up at the ceiling. “Ugh, men.” The woman laughs, and Shiro tries not to frown. “They’re from three different collections.” He turns back to the necklaces, observes them for a little longer and looks back at Shiro, pointing at the last one. “Is thirty thousand dollars an overkill?”
If Shiro had recurring health problems in his lineage, he’d probably die of cardiac arrest right now. Keith is looking at him expectantly, genuinely interested in what he has to say, and he doesn’t dare look at the attendant because she wants Keith to take this one home, and more. He clears his throat. “Perhaps something... Simpler?”
Keith raises his eyebrows at him like he can’t believe he’s hearing these words. He probably can’t.
“What I mean is,” Shiro hurries to explain, “he’s a singer, right? He’s always performing and dressing up for shows, so maybe something that wouldn’t get on his way and would... Match with most things he owns?” Keith nods slowly, and Shiro can almost see the gears turning in his head as he looks around in search of a good item, walking them over to it. “Like this? Simple but... Tasteful?”
Does Shiro even know what he’s talking about?
Keith analyzes the necklace with some kind of severity Shiro has never seen on him before, reading along the description as he ponders it over. White gold, six diamonds, 0.16 carats - and the number in the pricetag is much friendlier in Shiro’s opinion, although it’s still way out of his budget. He’s doing Krolia a favor, really, but he still feels bad for her bank account.
“We’ll take this one,” Keith says with finality, and Shiro can feel the woman burning a hole on the back of his head.
He carries the parcel with care wherever they go, then his attention has to be split between watching their surroundings and tending to the steadily growing pile of purchases. Soon he's balancing boxes on top of one another and at least three bags are hanging from the crook of his elbow. Keith is far from done spending so much money, and Shiro wonders if he can find something like a shopping cart to make this easier.
With two new additional bags in his care, he looks at Keith and freezes. “Where'd you get that?”
Keith turns to him, blinking slowly, and takes the lollipop out of his mouth with a wet pop that has Shiro's guts twisting too pleasantly. “I have a secret stash in my bedroom.” Keith opens his tiny purse to show the colored wrappings inside, but Shiro is too busy looking at the glossy red tint the candy left on his lips. “Do you want one?”
“No, thank you.” Shiro replies quickly, averting his eyes, not looking at Keith to gauge if he has seen his reaction or not.
Keith merely shrugs like he doesn't care and brings the lollipop to his mouth again, tongue swirling around it in a display that leaves Shiro almost weak at the knees. Shiro has to wrench his eyes away again and focus on anything else, literally anything. Keith stands there checking his notifications again, occasionally making slurping sounds that won’t leave Shiro alone for days to come.
He's calmed down enough when Keith laughs and Shiro turns to him on instinct. “Wow, Paris Hilton just followed me on Twitter!” Keith twirls the lollipop and keeps scrolling. “I love her, she's so iconic.”
Shiro's brain, still fried from the earlier display, prompts dumbly. “Um… Who?”
Keith halts halfway through returning the candy to his mouth. Shiro thanks God for small mercies. “You know, Paris Hilton? The one that wore the ‘stop being poor’ shirt? ‘Can I have five more of these little blonde bitches?’ No?” Keith sucks the lollipop so loudly it's a wonder Shiro doesn't react outwardly. That thing about thanking God? He's going to rethink it “You're hopeless.”
Keith gets tired of trying to explain and flips a dismissive hand. All Shiro can do now is wait for Keith to decide what he wants to do. That is until both their phones ping simultaneously, but with both his hands occupied, he can only hope that Keith will want to sit down somewhere since it might be important.
“Oh look, it's us.”
Keith brings his phone close to Shiro’s face. The first thing Shiro sees is that Thace is the sender of the message, a purple heart placed after his name. The second and last, and most important thing, is a series of pictures of Keith and Shiro earlier in the parking lot, grainy in a way that indicates the photographer was far away. Surely it will be all over the tabloids by the end of the day.
“Imagine having this much free time and using it to stalk people.” Keith locks and pockets his phone with a roll of his eyes, and throws the lollipop stick in the first trash can they find. “Anyways, I'm thirsty. Let's get something.”
Shiro almost hates himself for suggesting a drink with a straw, but it might be exactly the kind of thing Keith likes. “How about a milkshake or frappuccino?”
“Hmm, as much as I'd like to, I have to watch my figure.” Keith runs his hand down his side and cocks his hips to he right. “What's the skinniest thing they sell at Starbucks? I don't really go there, it's not really my style.”
What's the equivalent of Starbucks for rich people, if there even is one? “I think you've earned a drink.” Shiro says sincerely, because living on a restrict diet isn't really living. “You workout a lot.”
Keith clearly likes what he hears, looking up at Shiro through his lashes. “Why, thank you. Obviously, I don't workout as much as you do, you walking sex god.” He steps closer; if it weren't for the multitude of bags, he'd probably glue himself to Shiro's front. Still, he pats Shiro’s pecs twice. “Let's go get something then.”
Instead of looking through the menu to choose something to order, Keith spends ten minutes looking at the merch on display, twirling all cups and mugs in his hands and poking at the coffee bean bags. Starbucks is just a place Shiro frequents sometimes when he needs a strong cup of coffee to push through a shift, or a place that’s casual enough for the rare date he goes to, so he can’t really recommend anything to Keith that isn’t just coffee or a simple latte. He scopes out a vacant table on the court and keeps his eyes on it as Keith finally steps in line.
Keith approaches the cashier, “Hi, what drink would you recommend?”
The girl gapes at him from behind the counter, her wide brown eyes blinking rapidly. “Holy shit, you’re Keith Kogane.”
“The one and only.” Shiro sees Keith smiling at her. The teen behind the counter nearly melts.
“Can-” she looks around at her coworkers preparing drinks “-can you take a selfie with me?”
“Of course,why not.” He extends a hand and she places her phone on it, and Shiro has to watch as Keith makes kissy faces and winks at the camera and the girl smiles so wide it’s blinding.
They share a few more words he tunes out, and before Shiro and Keith head for a table, Keith slips a hundred in the tip jar on the counter, which earns him a squeak and an excited wave from the cashier. Shiro finally gets a chance to set down the bags and rest his arms, kneading at the muscles with a soft sigh. Keith sits down primly and takes his phone from his bag.
“That was very nice of you, Mr. Keith.”
“I wasn’t raised in the jungle, so I know how to be nice to fans that aren’t assholes.” He shrugs a shoulder, but doesn’t look up. “Besides, I’m a rich bitch. I leave good tips if I can.”
He isn’t as kind to people that have wronged him in some way, or people that get too much into his personal space - Kolivan told Shiro as much. At first, Shiro had expected Keith to be the snotty kind of individual that thinks he’s above everyone else, so he’s pleasantly surprised that Keith knows how to appreciate a fan - a well behaved fan. When you’re enrolled in Shiro’s line of work, you see many things on a daily basis, and he was dreading having to witness these cases from up close.
Many heads turn when the barista calls out Keith’s full name. Shiro bites back a curse and stands to retrieve the order. Paparazzi already know they’re here and Keith exposes himself on top of it all. At least Thace is already aware of the situation, so Regris will probably bring backup with him when it’s time to go back to the mansion.
He glares at anyone that points their phones in Keith’s direction until they put it back down. Shiro sips both drinks, making direct eye contact with barista until the young man is squirming. Satisfied that the drinks taste fine and don’t seem to be tampered with, he backtracks to the table and reclaims his seat.
Keith takes the taller drink, the one with a straw (of course), but eyes the white cup Shiro placed in front of him. “I got you the hot chocolate for you. Can I try it?”
He sips it, makes a show of smacking his lips and pushes the cup away. “Hmm, doesn’t taste like Belgian hot chocolate.”
Shiro nearly snorts. Their realities are too far apart. “Thank you for getting me a drink.”
“Anything for my favorite bodyguard.” Keith swirls his frappuccino and takes an experimental sip. Aware of what is to happen this time, Shiro keeps his eyes trained far from Keith’s face. “Tell me what you used to do before Marmora hired you.”
“Nothing special. I joined the Air Force after graduating high school.”
“Oooh, that’s exciting.” Keith shifts, bumping his foot on Shiro’s shin when he crosses his legs. “What else?”
“That's pretty much it. Stayed in active duty, piloted in national events, and all that.” Thankfully was never sent to fight a war or did something he’d regret for the rest of his life. “Then I left.”
Keith tilts his head, speaking around the straw. “Why'd you leave? Not that I'm complaining to have you around me all day long, of course.”
Shiro can’t hold back his chuckle this time. Keith’s grin widens in response. “I wanted to do something else. Flying was fun, but it wasn't fulfilling enough.”
“Are you satisfied now?”
He shrugs. Does anyone ever feel satisfied with where they're at in life? “I'm still finding my place.”
Keith grows quiet, drinking his frappuccino, staring at nothing in deep contemplation. Shiro doesn’t let himself read too much into his silence, unconvinced that this small exchange could have prompted Keith into questioning his life choices, and drains his cup, grateful for the chance to rest his feet and arms.
A few minutes later, Keith pushes away his half finished frappuccino, muttering something about calorie bomb , and stands up with a sniff. “Let’s make sure you find your place in this world well dressed then.”
Shiro scrambles to gather all the bags and follow Keith. “Excuse me?”
“I’m not letting you close to Troye wearing nothing less than Armani, remember? Let’s go.”
He tries to protest, but Keith chooses to ignore him. Shiro has no use for expensive clothes when the ones he owns work just fine, and he doesn’t want Keith spending money on him either. Buying him a drink is one thing, buying designer clothes is another, and if Kolivan or Thace ever find out Shiro is be doomed.
The floor of the shop is so white and polished Shiro can see his own face. It reflects the shiny black furniture and the poster of a model hanging on the wall, and Keith’s shoes squeak obnoxiously as he saunters up to an attendant. The man recognizes him, shakes his hand and turns to Shiro when Keith makes a grand gesture his way with a proclamation that they’re here for a makeover. Another attendant comes and whisks the bags away, and the one helping them - Haxus, the name tag says - eyes him critically.
Haxus sets some shirts on a glass counter, smoothes the fine fabric with his hands and talks about the composition and description of each piece he picked especially for him. Shiro doesn’t even bother to listen, only tries to protest when Keith turns to ask if he’s liked anything, but his charge brushes him off and puts aside a shirt and a pair of jeans.
“Please, sir. This isn’t necessary.” Keith’s only response is to shove the clothes into his chest and point a finger to the changing rooms.
Shiro closes the black curtains and kneads his temple. Okay, maybe he can repay this somehow, find a way to make his money end up in Krolia’s bank account. Kolivan can help him if he asks. Shiro turns the price tag over to check the number and feels his soul leaving his body. Okay, okay, so he’ll have trouble to repay it. Perhaps she’ll let him pay back little by little? How can anyone even pay this much for a plain black shirt?
With a deep breath, he takes off his suit and hangs it to carefully put on the clothes offered by Keith. Haxus guessed his size just by looking at him. Shiro turns this way and that, looking at the mirror. They look good, that he has to admit. The outfit hugs every curve of his body snugly and doesn't feel too tight at all.
“What's taking you so long?”
Keith barges into the dressing room, and Shiro nearly knocks the mirror off the wall in his haste to put distance between them. His hands twitch to cover himself, feeling naked under the heat and weight of Keith’s gaze. His tongue pokes out to lick his lips, glazed red again from another lollip. Shiro tries to straighten himself and strengthen his will, but isn’t very successful.
“Oh,” Keith purrs, stepping as close as the tiny space will let him. “Looks good. Very, very good.”
It's like the first day in the mansion all over again. Shiro stays frozen as Keith runs his fingers over his arms and chest, squeezing at his biceps and pecs. He doesn't even pretend to be feeling the material, humming and making soft noises with every squeeze and touch.
“These fit very well,” he says hoarsely, gaze locked down below Shiro's belt.
Shiro watches in stunned silence as Keith drops to his knees to feel his legs instead, caressing all the way from his calves to his thighs, tracing the firm lines of his quads with his thumbs. Fingers twitching by his sides, Shiro has a momentary vision of black hair caught in his hand, something else in Keith's mouth, and he halts that dangerous train of thought.
With a curse, Shiro grabs Keith by the shoulders and hauls him on his feet like a doll. “Sir, please.” Keith smirks victoriously at his strained tone and taps a fingertip on the underside of his chin before taking his leave, effectively leaving Shiro bothered in more ways than one.
God, what a mess. Shiro digs the heels of his hands into his eyes until he sees spots and resists the urge to bash his head against the wall. He repeats the same old mantra in his head until his blood stops thrumming and redresses in his suit, ready to go back to the mansion more than ever now.
Outside the changing room, Keith is speaking to Haxus like he had never gotten himself in a suggestive position less than five minutes ago. His eyes are dancing when he looks at Shiro, and Shiro makes a point of looking solely at the attendant. “They fit.”
Haxus folds the clothes again. “Anything else, sir?” The question is directed at Keith, who's clearly in charge of this shopping trip.
“Shoes, of course.”
Helplessly, Shiro follows him to the designed shelves, mourning his bank account in silence. There's nothing special looking about the shoes that makes them worth the price, yet Keith takes a moment to inspect them thoroughly like any of them could clash with the black shirt and dark wash jeans he picked. Shiro knows protesting won't get him anywhere.
With a whispered aha and a snap of his fingers, Keith bends forward to pick up the chosen pair-
And Shiro gets an eyeful of black lace.
Haxus gives him an unimpressed look when he whips his face the other way. Keith - wears lingerie. That's not an information Shiro needed to know about him.
What did Kolivan get him into?
Shiro begins recollecting his scattered thoughts the moment he gets inside the car. Thankfully they don’t have to deal with nosy paparazzi as Regris waited for them in the car close to the automatic doors, and upon arrival at the mansion Keith expresses the need of a good, long soak in his best bath bombs before the show that night. Thace calls to go over details for the show, talks about the small team that will accompany them to ensure the security of the box suit before Keith is allowed in there.
As the hours pass, Shiro’s lizard brain refuses to let go of the image of Keith bent over, pert ass covered in fine black lace, and red glossed lips. It make him twitch if he thinks about it for too long and he doesn’t want to deal with this kind of thing if Keith is involved. More than anything else, it makes him annoyed that the memory won’t leave him alone. In the end, Shiro vents his frustration on the punching bag in the wellness center until the image is pushed to the back of his mind.
Antok is on the passenger seat beside Regris, and Keith greets him with an excited little wave and a high hey uncle as he slides into the backseat. Shiro has no choice but to follow. Thankfully, his charge is too occupied tweeting to try to do anything with yet another superior around them. A black SUV packed with other Blades follows their Mercedes closely.
Traffic is hell near the premises of the Greek Theater and people stand in long lines waiting to head inside. Due to having VIP seats, Keith also gets exclusive parking and they don’t have to wander around trying to find the best place to drop them off. Antok and Regris accompany them to the backstage door before leaving to check the elite seats with the team, and the guard outside let them in without a fuss upon spotting the bright green wristbands.
Shiro worked a few jobs securing shows before, so he’s no stranger to the rush of people backstage in the final hour left. He follows Keith through it like the man knows here as well as his own house, sidestepping roadies and musicians, his chest thrumming to the beat of the songs playing to keep the fans entertained.
In a more quiet area they find a young man sitting on a black couch. Dressed in plain colors, he scrolls through his phone, the white of his sleeveless shirt and bleached hair standing out in the in dark colors of the place. Keith approaches with a spring on his step, Tiffany & Co. bag dangling from the crook of his elbow, and Troye jumps to his feet to greet him warmly. Shiro gets a wide smile and a greeting his way, and nods politely as he turns his attention elsewhere and lets them catch up, tuning out their conversation.
Keith leaves the backstage fifteen minutes before Troye is set to go on stage. Shiro doesn’t need help from other guards to take Keith to the elite seats as the path is safe and relatively empty. The crowd is screaming as the start of the show approaches, deafening squeals and chanting of Troye’s name, effectively drowning out the upbeat pop song.
Though most of the Blades have left, some wait by the boxes, none of which he has personally met, but Antok and Thace have approved of them and Shiro trusts their judgement. Box number two is prepared for them, a lavish table of snacks and food, fresh fruits, cubed cheese and cold cuts, breads and spreads. An inox bucket filled with ice and drinks, beer, water and fine champagne. Shiro rechecks the space for his own piece of mind as Keith pops open a bottle and pours the frizzy rose liquid into two tall glasses.
“Sit back and have fun, Shiro.” Keith thrusts a glass into his hands and sips his own. “Enjoy the show. Troye is so talented.”
Shiro sets the glass aside, unwilling to drink during working hours. Keith claims it as his own and knocks it back like it’s plain water. The lights on the stage dim, and Keith grips the railing, leaning forward to scream with the crowd, wiggling in place excitedly. After a brief intro of a light show and the band playing a melody Shiro doesn’t recognize, Troye steps on stage, illuminated by a beacon of light and making the entire theater roar and applaud.
As the show progresses, Shiro finds out he doesn’t mind the music much. Troye truly is talented and some of his songs are catchy enough that he knows at least one of them will be stuck in his head for a couple of days. Keith dances alone, swaying his hips and waving his glass in the air, cheeks flushed both from the alcohol and happiness. It doesn’t matter how many times Shiro gives him a glass of water to counterbalance the alcohol, Keith is soon drinking champagne again, water glass discarded to the side. He tries to make Keith snack on fruits and nuts instead, but it doesn’t work.
If it works, Keith doesn’t act like it.
Shiro finds his charge pressed up against him, dancing and grinding and singing oh my my my . Hand cupping the back of Shiro’s neck, Keith keeps him close as he rubs his ass on Shiro’s crotch and snaps a shot of the stage to post on his Instagram story. Keith’s eyes are shining, face painted colors from the lights, and he looks so beautiful it’s unreal. Try as he might to push him away, Keith steps into his space again, singing lyrics that are far too romantic for their relationship.
From there on Keith gets progressively wasted, refuses to leave his side, and the show is far from being over. His outfit rides up his thighs so frequently that Keith stops bothering trying to fix it at some point. Shiro ignores it and pushes glasses of water to his Keith’s lips in between verses, presses grapes and dried apricots to his mouth, and Keith more often than not licks and sucks on Shiro’s fingertips as he takes the food into his mouth.
The sight is certainly something that could fuel dirty fantasies for weeks to come, but he is more worried about the consequences of taking a drunk Keith home knowing that Kolivan and Thace, and even Krolia, will certainly hear about it. It feels a lot like babysitting, but he’s under the impression that a toddler would be less of a handful.
Shiro’s demise truly begins when a song with obvious sexual connotations plays. Instead of screaming the lyrics towards the stage as he had been doing up until now, Keith sings them against his skin instead, face tucked into Shiro’s neck, lips moist with water and warm breath caressing him, fingers curled tightly around the belt loops of Shiro’s jeans or roaming the expanse of his back. Despite the loudness of the music and the chorus of the crowd, Shiro can hear Keith’s voice with clarity close to his ear singing baby, play me like a love song .
By the time that number over, Shiro’s half-hard in his pants, firm hands on Keith’s waist holding him away at scant safe distance, brain playing on loop I get this sweet desire in his charge’s voice. Keith nips his chin and peels himself away, well on his way to being drunk as he tries to drink water and ends up dropping most of it.
He learns his lesson. Shiro keeps his distance on the second half of the show and eats most of the cubed cheese and sliced salami as Keith jams a few feet away with his water bottle, skin tight outfit plastered to his body, skink pink and glistening with sweat. That image coupled with his lips on Shiro’s neck and the view he got earlier in the day combine together to form a scenario that is trying to burrow itself into Shiro’s brain. Shiro drains a water bottle in one gulp and sticks to a corner of the booth, shoving grapes into his mouth and glaring at the door just in case.
The show finally ends, and with it Keith’s energy leaves his body. Drunk, he sinks down on the couch and refuses to budge, groaning when Shiro tries to get him up and whining when Shiro picks him up to carry Keith back to the car. His arms are made of lead, slipping from Shiro’s shoulders to hang limply. The guards standing outside accompany them to the parking lot.
Regris is already waiting for them outside the same black Mercedes. He gives Shiro a solemn nod, which means the man might understand what he’s going through, and pulls open the door to the backseat when they approach.
“No,” Keith whines, clinging to his bare arms, nails digging into the skin as Shiro tries to buckle in his seatbelt. “Come with me.”
“Mr. Keith, please.” How many times does he have to ask to get Keith to cooperate? “Behave so we can go home.”
“Nooo!” He pouts, tightening his grip on Shiro’s biceps.
Shiro gives Regris a look to which he earns another nod, and he climbs into the backseat reluctantly. Keith is too tired to try to do anything, and curls up to Shiro’s side, mushes his cheek on Shiro’s shoulder, and is asleep before they leave the parking lot. The ride is silent and Keith only stirs a few times to get more comfortable. Shiro keeps an arm around his shoulders so he won’t be jostled around.
Regris helps them into the house. He opens the car door and follows Shiro to the front door, helping him balance Keith as Shiro swipes his digitals to get inside, and then they’re alone. Shiro takes the elevator to the upper floor, walks into Keith’s room, looking at nothing but the large bed. Kosmo comes running from a dark corner, yipping and sniffing at his ankles, hopping onto the mattress when Shiro places Keith down as gently as he can. Keith wrinkles his nose when Kosmo shoves his snout into his face and makes a half-hearted attempt to push him away, but doesn’t wake up.
Shiro doesn’t stall or stare, though absently he admits that Keith looks almost too good when he’s sleeping peacefully like this. He removes Keith’s shoes, loosening the straps one by one, rubbing his thumb along the red lines they left on his skin and flexing Keith’s ankle to ensure blood’s flowing right. He covers his charge with the plush duvet and pets Kosmo before taking his leave. Leaving aspirins on the bedside table would be a nice gesture, but Shiro doesn’t know where they’re kept in Keith’s master suite, or the house as a whole for that matter.
He strips, steps into the bathroom for a quick shower, stepping out as soon as he recalls sounds and sights from the past hours. Shiro slips under the covers of his bed, hair damp and frown etched on his face, staring up the dark ceiling as his mind provides him with images of Keith dancing and singing you like it just as much as me.
[EDIT] Check out this flirty piece by Storm based on this chapter! Thank you my friend!
I thought I should update because it's been a while, even if the fourth chapter isn't done yet. Troye had just performed in LA when I started writing the fic, so I thought - why not add him? Shiro looking at the pricetags and almost dying is me btw
Jol shared a doc on her twitter with some facts about this AU and I was very, very surprised to find that most of what I planned for this story follows along her own canon timeline so hmmm as Yuu said, somehow we're on the same wavelength. Wow amazing
Next we're meeting some characters that were both mentioned by Jolti and not mentioned at all, and I still gotta pick from my list what else will happen afkhak
Thank you all for your lovely comments and support, and see you soon!
Shiro gets used to living in the Kogane mansion, but it doesn’t mean he is fine with sitting around being unproductive for most of the day, so he makes his own routine to make up for it.
The alarm goes off at six-thirty in the morning, unless they had gone somewhere the night before and got home long past midnight. Either way, he’s awake before the clock strikes eight. If he can, Shiro lingers in bed for a while, stretching languidly under the covers and looking through his phone to answer some texts. Sometimes he manages to speak shortly with Matt before his friend leaves for work, sometimes Katie is pulling another all-nighter. Every morning he checks their group chat and huffs silent chuckles at the memes Lance sent the night before. Matt sends him pictures and videos of Black daily, and Shiro spends a long time looking at those. He misses his girl.
Once he’s done, or if he isn’t allowed leisure time, he peels himself from his bed and changes into workout clothes, wandering downstairs for a little snack that will power him through his workout. Shiro lifts weights until Xi arrives, then goes out on a run around the neighborhood - great for observing the area around the mansion and for diminishing the feeling of living cooped up indoors.
A quick shower later and he cooks an easy breakfast, eats it sitting by the counter whilst catching up on emails and messages sent to him by Marmora Services. If required, he writes a report detailing the previous night and sends it off to Kolivan and Thace. Hunk arrives shortly after, and Shiro accepts the distraction gladly, having turned good friends with the cook mere days after his arrival. And then it’s all free time until Ezor and Zethrid arrive or Keith decides he wants to do something.
Today isn’t one of these days.
The calendar on his tablet doesn’t show the usual yellow dot that indicates Hunk will come over, or the pink one that represents Keith’s personal trainer and yoga teacher. “Mr. Xi, do you know if Mr. Keith has plans for today?”
Xi, watering a new potted plant he purchased yesterday, hums thoughtfully. “I’m afraid I’m not aware of any changes to his schedule, Mr. Shiro.” The creeping inch plant on the windowsill is beautiful, but Shiro can’t decide if it goes along with the aesthetic of the house or not. “It’s likely that he made plans late last night and hasn’t told us yet.”
Shiro chews on a bite of omelette instead of sighing deeply. Keith may not have a consistent routine, but he’s also unpredictable as hell. He can never tell when his charge will decide to go somewhere or do something, because Keith always acts on whims, and Shiro has to scramble to follow. Bodyguards are usually aware of where they are supposed to go hours prior, who they’ll have to deal with and what they’ll have to do. Shiro isn’t afforded that luxury; he’s adaptable but also inexperienced. Guarding Keith is harder than it should be.
His charge shows up in the kitchen a few hours later, a bright pink handbag with him and tortoiseshell sunglasses perched on his nose. “I finally found you, my favorite bodyguard in the world.” Shiro glances at him. Though Keith is wearing pants for once, his top is the shimmery, strappy, low cut type. “We’ve got places to be. Let’s get going.”
Another reason why Shiro can’t afford to lounge in casual clothes: he hardly ever gets a forewarning they’ll be going somewhere. “Where to?”
“Altea Fashion,” Keith says like that explains everything. “I’m meeting up with friends and I can’t be late. You’re driving, so just-” he makes a vague gesture with his hand, hips cocked to the side, “pick the car you want to drive and let’s go.”
Xi bids them goodbye with a warning to be careful, and Shiro follows Keith to the underground garage. Meeting up with friends means Shiro might have to drive them somewhere, so he chooses one of the cars with decent back seats, unlocking it with a click of a button and holding the door open for Keith. He’s got another lollipop in his mouth, murmurs a “why, thank you” around the candy and brushes much too close past Shiro to get into the car. His top slips down his shoulder when he reaches down to fiddle with his booties, so Shiro keeps his eyes trained on the hood of the car.
If it weren’t for the GPS, they would have gotten lost in L.A. Keith talks mostly to himself on the backseat during the ride, sucking on his lollipop and tapping texts with lightning-quick speed. Phone synced to the bluetooth, Ariana Grande’s voice fills the space inside of the car, and Shiro is forced to listen to her latest single many times in a row because Keith keeps replaying it to record videos using funny filters on Snapchat.
Altea Fashion is a tall white building with blue tinged windows, a big fountain at the front surrounded by lush gardens, a stylized metallic letter A suspended just out of reach of the water spurts. The security guard standing at the gates of the parking lot asks for clearance before letting them in, which happens to be a wiggle of Keith’s fingers from the backseat.
White greets them inside the building, grays and black bringing contrast to the brightness, electronic displays showcasing covers of Voltron Magazine released in the past year and footage of models on runways dressed in flowing fabrics or well fitted outfits. The air smells of some floral freshener, and the girl on the reception counter greets them brightly as Keith struts towards the elevator like he owns the place. Pop music replaces the usual jazzy songs, the same Ariana Grande’s single - again. Keith decides to dance too close to Shiro even if there’s plenty of room left in the elevator, fluffing up his hair and blowing kisses at his own reflection with every swish of his hips.
Shiro just clasps his hands tight in front of his body and stares at the numbers as the elevator goes up and up.
The top floor is much like the reception area: spacious, wide and mostly white, divided into sitting and office areas. Pastel pink and blue are sprinkled around in the form of throw blankets, pillows, vases filled with beautiful white blooms, and wall decor. A fuzzy rug under the coffee table. Floor-to-ceiling windows grant them a view of most of Los Angeles and some of the coastline. In front of the wall with the logo of Altea Fashion displayed in an elegant writing and polished silver, two young women sit behind two glass top desks equipped with high-end computers, partially hidden by the large monitor.
One of them lifts her head, silky hair pinned away from her face and flowing down her back in a golden waterfall. Her eyes glimmer when they land on Keith, and she springs up from her seat abruptly, startling the other woman. “Keith!”
“Hi, Romelle!” Her heels click as she rushes towards Keith, lips smacking loudly as they greet one another with kisses to the cheek.
The other woman stands, the peach shade of her dress complimenting her skin and the color of her eyes, platinum hair tied up in a high bum. She approaches Keith more quietly, but greets him no less excitedly, and turns her attention to Shiro. Both women stand so regal and well dressed he must look like a mere commoner dressed in rags. With three rich people in the same room, Shiro feels as small as a flea.
“I believe we haven’t been introduced yet.” The one with silver hair says in a thick accent, extending her hand to greet him. “I’m Allura Altea.”
“I’m Romelle Fallolmi.” The other one says, shaking his hand once he turns to her. “And you are?”
“I’m Shiro, Mr. Keith’s bodyguard.” Both their hands are soft and dainty, manicured nails painted pastel colors.
They share glances, eyebrows drawn up to their hairline, then look at Keith for an explanation. “Mom did it behind my back,” he drawls out, twirling a pink lollipop between a thumb and forefinger. “Kolivan picked him. He did a nice job, I think. I certainly don’t mind looking at him all day long. Shiro’s got a Greek god body, after all.”
Allura snickers, and Romelle’s giggles grow louder when Shiro tugs at his cuffs after clearing his throat. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Shiro.” Allura says at last, recomposing herself and returning to their workspace to gather their purses.
“Please, just Shiro is fine, Miss Altea.”
“As you wish, Shiro. But no Miss Altea, please. Or Miss Fallolmi.”
Romelle winks at him before pushing cateye sunglasses up the bridge of her nose. “It’s only fair.”
Keith is watching on in amused silence. He pops the candy back into his mouth and smirks around the plastic stick when Shiro looks at him, then swivels around on the balls of his feet to follow the girls back to the elevator. Shiro doesn’t like not knowing what they’re about to do, but asking Keith about it earlier had given him no answers. He likes to believe he’s prepared to deal with anything, though, so he doesn’t ask again.
Shiro stands at the back of the elevator as they chat animatedly about something he doesn’t quite catch. Fashion, it seems, given the way Romelle is gesturing to different parts of her body trying to demonstrate the way some piece is supposed to fit. It’s cut short as they arrive to the reception area again, heading out towards a waiting white Range Rover parked outside the front doors. The driver holds the door open for them, Keith being the last one to slip into the backseat, and Shiro claims the passenger seat for the ride.
Trayling, Allura’s chauffeur, has greying hair and an impressive beard that decorates his serious face. With a tight line for his lips and a severe knit of his brows, he gives Shiro the answers he seeks by revealing the location of a restaurant they’re going for Keith’s brunch date. Allura commands the music queue in the twenty minute drive to Downtown L.A., songs from their teenagehood blasting through the speakers. Keith and Allura aren’t good singers, while Romelle surprisingly sings in tune - but most importantly, they’re having fun and that’s enough for Shiro. He’s happy for Keith, truly. It must be hard to have real friends when you’re famous and filthy rich.
A tower waits for them at the end of the ride, a building enclosed with reflective glass in varying shades of blue and gray, its pattern and colors providing a glittering, rich appearance. Shiro is quick to open the backdoor so the trio can step out onto the sidewalk. They look like they belong in a movie, or a red carpet event. They cross automatic door, escaping the sweltering heat of L.A. by stepping into the cooler entrance lobby that belongs to an overpriced coffee shop. With plush seats all around and the smell of ground coffee beans heavy in the air, they walk past clients and employees alike on their way to the elevators.
The button to the twenty fourth floor is pressed by a delicate finger, bracelets jingling on Romelle’s wrist. It’s a slow ascent as it stops every once in a while to let people out on different floors, some instrumental tune filling in the silence. With fifty-four stories, Shiro wonders what this building has to offer.
The restaurant picked for this brunch date is beautiful and lavish, as to be expected, with a spacious dining room and lounge. Floor to ceiling windows provide a stunning view of the Los Angeles skyline, allowing in a stream of bright sunlight. Shiro takes note of dark tables, semi-circular leather seats and the many light fixtures hanging from the ceiling as he observes their surroundings, and comes to the conclusion that the only ways out are through the elevator and the emergency stairwell. Not ideal, but he can work with it, even if he has two extra people as his charges for now.
“Good morning.” A hostess greets them from behind a reception desk. “Do you have reservations?”
Allura provides her name with a kind smile, nodding in thanks as the hostess checks it off and takes them to one of the tables by the windows.
After insisting that he should sit with them and not by himself at the bar, Shiro takes the last chair left, and it’s awkward at best to be included in their affairs. At least, he has a full view of the room with his back turned to the outside, so he can observe everything and tune them out to give them some semblance of privacy. A waiter comes by with menus, sets a copy down on the table before each of them and fills tall glasses with water before excusing himself. Shiro takes his time to check the options available, being the last one to take the menu in hand.
As far as brunches go, Shiro thinks the norm is to have eggs benedicts, waffles, pancakes, refreshing salads and toasts on the menu. He recognizes only half of the names, and spends most of the time reading the description of every dish and drink, mentally calculating how much his meal will cost him. The others are talking over their booklets, eventually setting them down. They probably know it by heart, anyway.
The waiter returns before Shiro has chosen his order. In the end, Keith orders him the same thing as the others, a nine-course tasting menu with wine pairings. He gives Shiro a smile that’s more honest than it is teasing, and he’s thrown for a loop as Keith turns to the girls and they engage in another conversation.
He really should be watching their surroundings, but Shiro pays attention to his charge instead, because Keith, for once, isn’t talking with that annoying lilt to his voice. In fact, his eyes are shining, and his smile is wide and genuine. He gestures as he speaks, flashes pearly white teeth whenever he laughs, rests his chin on his hand to listen with rapt attention to some tale told by Romelle.
Keith looks comfortable in a way Shiro has never seen before, not even at the mansion.
Allura and Romelle try to include him in the conversation, but Shiro only ends up talking when addressed. In the times when Keith talks to him, he doesn’t flirt or tease, and his usual smirk is absent, replaced by lip corners that curl upwards softly. It’s a side of him Shiro didn’t know existed and he’s curious to know more of this Keith.
Their meal is excellent. For being a tasting menu the dishes are small, but there are plenty to keep him satisfied. The wine served is the sweetest Shiro has had in his life, but he allows himself only a tiny sip of each, working hours and all. He looks at the labels and memorizes the names of his favorites. They’re probably more expensive than he thinks, but one of them would be a great gift to the Holts when they invite him over to their dinner parties. They deserve it.
By the end of two hours, the bill is split in four, but Keith pays for two. Trayling waits for them just outside the front doors of the building and drives them back to Altea Fashion, unbothered by the songs from Romelle’s playlist, most of which remind Shiro of Barbie Girl . Shiro patiently waits outside as they say their goodbyes, stretching the moment for as long as they can. The white Range Rover slowly drives away, back to its designated parking spot, only to be replaced some minutes later by a sleek silver Lexus that rolls to a gentle stop beside them.
From the driver’s side emerges a head full of platinum hair that shimmers under the sunlight. Black aviators rest on the bridge of a straight nose, a finely pressed navy suit fitting the man’s figure like a glove. He loops one of the buttons of his blazer through a hole as he approaches, hair fluttering like he belongs in a commercial studio and not out under the scorching sun. A smile forms on his lips as he walks towards Allura and dips down to kiss the corner of her lips. Allura, pressing up on the tip of her toes, meets him halfway.
“Hello, dear.” Shiro lightly arches a brow. They look good together, almost too good with matching hair color and model stances. Straightening, the man turns his attention to the others. “Hello, Romelle.” He says with an incline of his head, and then looks at Keith. “And Keith. It’s been a while.”
There’s something in his tone when he addresses Keith that Shiro can’t pinpoint. It’s not unfriendly, but it’s not pleasant either. “Lotor.” Keith replies, lips curling in an overly sweet smile. Forced, tight. “It has, hasn’t it?”
“I wish it could have stayed that way.”
“You took the words right out of my mouth.”
“Boys, please.” Allura intervenes, exasperation lacing her tone. “Keep it civil.”
They both step down, and it’s a relief. Shiro doesn’t know who this man is, but he isn’t looking forward to stopping a fight between his charge and Allura’s partner, regardless if it’s the verbal or physical kind. Besides, something tells him Keith wouldn’t appreciate it if he stepped in when Keith is having an argument with someone he has a bone to pick.
Lotor takes a step forward after a moment of tense silence, and it takes Shiro a moment to realize the hand he offers is for him to take. “I’m Lotor.”
“Shiro.” Lotor’s hand is soft like Allura’s, but his grip is strong. “I’m Mr. Keith’s bodyguard.”
One perfect eyebrow lifts in curiosity. “I see. It’s a pleasure meeting you.”
Keith tugs on Shiro’s jacket, drawing his arm back and breaking the handshake. “No touching what isn’t yours, Lottie. Shoo.” He waves Lotor away like he’s swatting an annoying, stubborn fly, or trying to dismiss an unwanted guest, which is closer to the truth.
“And is he yours, by any chance?” Lotor parries back, arm settling around Allura’s shoulders.
“He’s my bodyguard, so I get a free pass.” Keith sniffs and clings Shiro’s elbow, nose high in the air. “Anyways, we were just about to leave. Call me later to give me more details, Romelle.”
Keith says nothing else, only whirls them around unexpectedly. Shiro stumbles and bids them a hasty goodbye before Keith tugs him away to the parking lot.
Fresh out of shower, Shiro finds Keith in one of the many living rooms after the day is done, fluffy towel wrapped around his head and a mask smeared on his face. The TV is turned on and providing background noise, but he isn’t paying any attention to it, hunched over and painting his toenails black, a concentrated frown on his brow.
Kosmo is lying close to the couch, and lifts his head when Shiro approaches, tail thumping on the rich, fluffy rug and tongue lolling out the side of his mouth. Keith looks from his dog to Shiro, and this isn’t the first time Shiro finds his charge to be this void of emotion.
“Apologies, Mr. Keith.” He says after they have been there staring at each other for a moment too long. “I’ll go somewhere else.”
With a slight shrug of his shoulders, Keith returns his attention to his toes. “It’s fine, you can stay.”
Shiro hesitates for a beat. It’s not the idea of sharing the same space that bothers him, but rather the flat cadence of Keith’s voice, teetering on the verge of bored, but mostly sounding tired. Keith has always been lively at all times of the day, speaking animatedly to Shiro or Kosmo or anyone that called him. Perhaps that brief encounter with Lotor drained him, perhaps it’s something else.
He sinks into the armchair and unlocks his tablet to go over the new files Thace sent him. Before diving into work, Shiro sends his boss a message regarding Keith’s current mood, doing so more out of concern than obligation. Ah, I see he’s gotten tired, Thace says, and never replies to Shiro’s tired of what?
It’s hard not to turn these few words around in his head, but Shiro pushes them aside with some effort and focuses on his job. More pictures of Keith with him, and links to articles speculating about his life. Fishing his phone out of his pocket for the first time since early morning, he finds several texts from Matt and Katie freaking out over the tabloids, and a few from Lance squealing over his apparent new celebrity status.
Shiro would rather not be noticed at all, but that’s impossible when you’re following Keith Kogane all day everywhere he goes. This can make things more complicated from now on, but he has faith in his abilities to deal with whatever comes his way. His only hope is that the media won’t snoop around his life to much, or worse, go looking for his friends.
On the couch, Keith wiggles his toes and moves on to the other foot. It’s quiet. It’s never too quiet around Keith, a man always so full of energy to strut wherever he goes like he was born on a catwalk, that winks and blow kisses to his own reflection, and checks his own ass out in mirrored walls of elevators. He’s gotten tired, Thace had said, but Shiro has witnessed more eventful days in which Keith could have gone partying at eleven in the night after spending all day out and about.
Suppressing a sigh as he closes another gossip page spewing nonsense about Keith and himself, Shiro checks his schedule and plans a night out with his friends on his next weekend off. Matt is dying to catch up in person, and Katie is excited to have him test the new computer game she’s been developing.
Keith stretches his legs out when he’s done, sets the nail polish aside and rubs a cotton pad over his nails, wet with nail polish remover. The cotton becomes black quickly, and he spares his nails a few glances, now paying attention to what Shiro thinks is Keeping Up with the Kardashians . It’s all well until they go into break and one of the commercials features a very familiar head of straight platinum hair.
Keith straight up boos and tosses a cotton pad at the screen, only for it to float pathetically to the ground, falling by his foot. He sniffs in irritation and turns his face away from the TV, crossing his arms.
“You really hate him, don’t you?” Shiro only realizes he’s spoken aloud once it’s too late to stop. He flounders under Keith’s gaze, opening and snapping his mouth shut, coming up blank with any decent excuse. He shouldn’t pry, Keith is his charge after all.
But Keith only blinks at him twice before laughing, and Shiro feels marginally better for seeing him smiling again. Kosmo hops onto the couch when Keith pats the cushions invitingly, and rests his big head on Keith’s lap. “I don’t really hate Lotor. I just strongly dislike him.”
Shiro debates if he should carry on this topic, lips pressed together tightly. Keith is watching him, head tilted to the side, and if his open body language means anything it is that he’s okay with talking about it. “Where do you know him from?”
“He’s my... First cousin once removed or something,” Keith flaps his hand, dismissive, but he’s done the same gesture with more effort before.
“I see. Some relatives are a joy.”
“Tell me about it.” He rolls his eyes and picks at the bits of black polish that remain on his fingernails. “Zarkon is my mom’s cousin. She used to model for his brand, Galra, a long time ago. Always been pretty good at it, too, the media loved to see her in fashion shows wearing Honerva’s designs.”
Shiro places his tablet and phone down on his thighs, curious to hear about this and aware that it’s none of his business, but no one ever mentioned anything about Keith’s past, not Kolivan or Thace or the Wikipedia page Shiro read a while ago.
“So we were in Zarkon’s house one night for a family dinner to celebrate whatever. Maybe it was a new campaign, I don’t know, I was like five. Lotor and I were playing in the living room and both our parents were chatting.” This is the first time Keith mentions his dad. Shiro keeps quiet. “We were making some collage cards as gifts to our moms, and Lotor wouldn’t stop bragging that his was better. And well, I did have a pair of scissors in my hand, and his hair has always been long for his age.”
Shiro gasps softly, mouth falling open in a mix of disbelief and amusement. “You didn’t.”
“I did!” Keith says it with a big grin, no hint of remorse or shame on his face or voice. “Grabbed him by the hair and snapped off a good chunk of it.”
If he were to do it in the present time, Shiro would be worried, would stop him if possible, but the idea of a tiny Keith jumping on his cousin to defend the honor of his collage card is too in character and hilarious to keep quiet. He snorts and tries to smother down his bubbling laughter, but it spills out anyways and Shiro is left to clutch at the armrest as he wheezes for breath.
Keith joins him, and his joy makes Kosmo stand and shove his snout into Keith’s face, trying to understand what got him so agitated, and it only makes them laugh harder. “So we had to - go home, and my parents were really trying to scold me, but they wouldn’t stop snickering.” He places a hand over his mouth like he can stop laughing with that simple action. “It was pretty late already, but Zarkon called her at like three in the morning like-”
He looks around the couch, shoving some pillows out of the way. Shiro guesses Keith is looking for his phone and offers his own, and his charge quickly puts it up to his ear to imitate his uncle as best as he can. “Cousin, I’m sorry but you can’t work for Galra anymore. I talked to Alfor and we’ll transfer you to Juniberry. I can’t fucking sleep. Lotor is being a fucking bitch, I mean, it’s just some hair, but he’s screaming off the walls.”
Shiro chuckles into his fist. “He didn’t really call Lotor a bitch, did he?”
“Nah, but it adds spice to my retelling.” Keith winks and returns the phone, settles back against the pillows once more. “Lotor hates me for it since. He plays it cool but he gets as much under my skin as I do to him, so we’re even.”
Before Shiro can think of something to say, an alarm goes off somewhere in the living room. Keith finally finds his phone on the floor, previously hidden under Kosmo’s large frame, and whisks it to halt the ringing. “Why don’t you order some food while I wash this off?”
Shiro makes an inquisitive noise in the back of his throat. “What would you like to have?”
Keith shrugs, collecting his nail supplies from the couch. “I don’t know, whatever you eat with your friends, I guess.”
“It’s cheap and greasy,” Shiro warns so Keith will have the chance to back off if he doesn’t want it. “Are you sure about it?”
His charge flashes a grin from over his shoulder, “I didn’t always eat fancy, you know,” and saunters away.
Shiro sits still for a full minute before taking his phone and calling his favorite chinese takeout place. The owner knows him by name, and can recognize his and his friends’ voices without much trouble at all, and Shiro knows the menu by heart too. So he orders egg rolls, fried rice and noodles, and opts for picking it up from the establishment. Keith will probably appreciate going out for some fresh air and a night ride, and Shiro won’t even mind if he puts Ariana Grande’s single on repeat again.
None of the cars in Keith’s garage are discreet enough for picking up Chinese takeout, but Shiro guesses that their neighborhood has seen stranger things, and that it might not be so unusual for rich people to order cheap takeout after all. Moreover, that is the last place the paparazzi will think of finding Keith, and if Shiro notices they’re being followed, he’ll write down the plate number and contact Kolivan for further instructions.
Keith is dressed in something horrendous when he returns downstairs. Space sweatpants, cartoon T-shirt, and crocs. Shiro has to do a double take, but yes that really is Keith, tying up his hair in a short ponytail. At least, he looks comfortable. Does Keith being tired equate to bad fashion choices?
Like predicted, Keith plays 7 rings on loop as Shiro drives them around L.A. He still fumbles with some lyrics, and dances on his seat like he doesn’t mind embarrassing himself in front of Shiro. Kosmo is in the backseat, head stuck out the window. It must be nice not to have to worry about fur on leather seats, something Shiro can’t relate to when Black gets inside his sedan. Or on his couch. Or his bed. Or when she rubs herself on his legs right before he has to leave for work.
He finds a parking spot a few paces away from the Chinese establishment, and Keith insists on going with him. Shiro doesn’t think Keith is too recognizable like this; dressed down as he is, people might just overlook him, but still he checks the street before letting him out of the car, and keeps close as they walk to the restaurant. It’s mostly a delivery business with few tables pushed against the walls for some patrons that might want to eat here. Keith watches his surroundings, hands shoved in his pockets, bouncing back and forth on his heels. Shiro wonders if he finds this place alien.
Kosmo sticks his head between the front seats to sniff at the takeout bags in Keith’s grasp. “How about we eat outside?” Keith suggests, and Shiro gives him a quick glance before driving away.
“What do you mean outside?”
“Dunno, just go to the beach to eat this, maybe.”
Shiro considers it. In theory, it’s a harmless idea. He faces traffic head on when Matt and Katie want to eat ice cream while strolling along Santa Monica, toes digging into the sand and salty wind blowing their hair. But Keith isn’t Matt or Katie, Keith is popular, Keith is famous . Letting him go into a Chinese restaurant tucked in some less prestigious neighborhood is one thing, letting him out of the car somewhere more open where he can be spotted is another.
He wants to say no, but doesn’t want to deprive Keith of simple things either. In the end, he agrees with Keith's idea and drives them to Will Rogers State Beach, as it should be mostly empty at this time of the night. Better make use of this period of relative quietness before the media gets too interested in them and everything becomes overwhelming.
Just south of the intersection of Entrada Drive and Pacific Coast Highway, Shiro parks their ride for the night, a shiny black Aston Martin, and Keith unleashes Kosmo upon the beach. He kicks up sand on his way to the ocean, steps into the water until it’s brushing the underside of his belly. A few surfers are brave enough to face the waves in the dark, and Shiro can hear their excited whoops from the sidewalk whenever one of them does a trick. Keith finds a grassy spot to have their dinner and they sit quietly for a moment, enjoying the sound of the waves and the sea breeze.
The food isn’t as hot, but it’s warm enough still, and Shiro has to control himself or else he’ll shove all the fried rice in his mouth at once. The last time he ate had been on Keith’s brunch date, and he hadn’t realized how hungry he was until the food touched his tongue. Beside him, Keith is being less graceful, fighting to eat his noodles with chopsticks, picking up only bits of meat and vegetables from the box.
He hums after managing to slurp some noodles successfully. “This is great.”
“Yep.” Shiro has many fond memories of ordering from that place. “It’s Katie’s favorite.”
“A friend of yours?”
“Hmm yeah, Katie and Matt are my best friends.” Kosmo comes running back, sits by Keith’s feet and stares at the box in his hand. “Can’t wait to see them again.”
Keith gently pushes Kosmo away when he tries to inch closer. “It’s nice to meet close friends once in a while.”
“We used to be neighbors. Technically, we still are, but my apartment is empty right now.” And that is why moving into the Kogane’s mansion was so hard, because Matt and Katie used to spend hours in his apartment, or he would go to theirs. Matt used to joke about opening up a new door to link both apartments, if only they didn’t live across one another.
Shiro can’t really say he’s used to the distance yet.
Keith is quiet, digging through his dinner and sighing when all he finds are noodles he can’t seem to grasp. He leans closer to Shiro then, tries to take some of his fried rice, but fails. “Hey, why don’t you feed me some of that?”
Shiro chokes on his mouthful of food, clasping a hand over his mouth and trying not to cough or force rice down the wrong pipe. Keith sticks his tongue out and winks, and leaves Shiro’s personal space. Remembering the box of egg rolls, Keith takes one and bites, the golden crust crunching between his teeth. “I’m kidding.” He breaks off a piece to feed it to Kosmo. “But I wouldn’t be opposed to it if you wanted to.”
“This is a bad time to have declined the complimentary soda can.” Shiro is sure he can feel some grain of rice stuck in his throat, but it isn’t leaving anytime soon. Keith is laughing at him, cheeks puffed out from another bite. “I believe you’re old enough to feed yourself, Mr. Keith.”
“Not with chopsticks, I can’t.” He waves his half eaten egg roll in Shiro’s direction. “Bigger, solid pieces I can deal with, but rice and noodles? Tiny and slippery.”
“I’ll bring a fork for you next time.”
“So there’s going to be a next time?”
Shiro stops chewing his food and looks at Keith. It’s one of those rare times when his charge’s face betrays nothing, carefully neutral. Keith is usually very expressive, flamboyant if you will, smirking and blowing kisses, winking and flirting and getting too much into Shiro’s personal space. He doesn’t know how to handle it well, or what to think of it, when Keith has these quiet moments. He used to think he was probably pissed off at something, but after tonight, Shiro isn’t sure anymore.
“Maybe. If you behave.”
Keith scoffs and makes to flip his hair over his shoulder, even if it’s all tied up. “I behave well enough.”
“So far, yes, but we have to take into consideration the media too.” Shiro sets down his empty box and pushes the last egg roll towards Keith. “Come on, eat this so we can go home.”
“What’s so great about stalking and snapping pics of people all day?” Keith grumbles and stuffs the roll into his mouth. “We’re just regular people.”
“I guess they think your life is more interesting because you’re, well, rich.” Shiro stands up from the grassy patch, dusts sand away from his backside and collects their trash. Kosmo watches intently as he tosses the box of noodles in a plastic bag and presses his snout to it. Shiro quickly lifts it out of his reach.
Keith is up as well, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. “I share everything on social media. Ugh.”
Shiro has a feeling Keith’s had this conversation before with his uncles and mother, so he lets it drop. “Why don’t we watch a rerun of your favorite fashion show when we get back?”
Keith seems to find that a good idea, and doesn’t need to be told twice to get in the car. Shiro tries not to feel like he ruined the mood.
Happy Valentine's Day, guys! My gift for you isn't romantic or explicit, but it's important, plot-wise.
Since the initial planning stages, I had seen Keith as having two personalities, kind of: his public persona, that's just his diva side amplified to the max, and who he really is around people he's friends with. The doc provided by Joltik somewhat confirmed this could be the case asfkafl so now that Keith's gotten tired of keeping up appearances, and meeting Lotor soured his mood, Shiro knows Keith isn't the air head he makes himself to be.
They should grow closer as friends now, and though we're one step closer to what we all wanna see, I have to keep the pace flowing well, so patience, my young Paladin. Think of this as a slow burn in which they have sex before they get together romantically.
idk if I mentioned this before, but I've never been to L.A., and so I do some research. Aside from places that are references to the VLD universe, most locations I mention really exist, or are at least based on a real place. The brunch restaurant is based on WP24 by Wolfgang Puck. It seems they rotate the brunch menu, but I happened to find part of a menu with prices and picked the most expensive. Does it fit a brunch menu? Probably not, but it's not like Keith cares lmao
As for Will Rogers State Beach, that specific spot they parked at (south of Pacific Coast Highway and Entrada Drive) is popular among the LGBT community, also known as Ginger Rogers Beach, and considered by some to be the unofficial gay beach of Los Angeles. I couldn't not add it tbh
Also, many thanks to my friend Mari for coming up with what I like to call The Bitch Speech! The Ariana single Keith was supposed to listen to was "thank u, next" at first, but "7 rings" fits the narrative better.
Wrapping up this lengthy author's note, next chapter we get to meet Shiro's friends and cat because he's been a good bean and deserves a break, plus someone special shows up. Hope you enjoyed, and see ya!
Keith has a fitting session scheduled that Friday afternoon. It’s not supposed to take too long, yet Shiro makes himself comfortable on a chair and follows his charge with his eyes wherever Keith goes. No point in following him around in a moderate sized room with only one entrance. If anyone tries to do anything, there’s nowhere to hide but the changing room, and no one goes in there with Keith.
He steps out from behind the curtains after every change of outfit. Before the stylist can check measurements and slip pins into the fabric in spots that need to be fixed, Keith waltzes over to Shiro to ask for his input, as if Shiro has anything to say about it that could be valuable, but Keith is content just flaunting the pieces and accepting the simple “looks good” and “I like it” Shiro says as feedback. Sometimes it’s easy to make Keith happy.
Since that take-out night, Shiro is still surprised to see a new side of Keith. He now understands why Xi - or better yet, Kolivan doesn’t seem too bothered by his flamboyant personality. Keith could be just a normal guy if he didn’t have his diva episodes, which Shiro suspects don’t happen as frequently around his family and close friends.
Keith’s bland side, as Keith himself calls it, is much more approachable. And interesting. Every action and reaction of his seem more genuine when Keith’s wearing something hideous, his smiles are bigger and his eyes are brighter. He rolls on the living room floor with Kosmo, and loses every endless two-player game of monopoly he insists on playing. He helps Hunk cook some days, and lets Zethrid do squats while holding him around her shoulders like a potato sack. Keith slips back sometimes, though, and it’s natural the way he shifts into a petulant brat in two seconds flat, even when he’s talking about haute couture whilst wearing an appalling minion shirt.
Shiro kind of wants to burn that shirt.
“This jacket is so nice, Shiro.” Keith purrs, smoothing his hand down on the burnt red leather of the piece he’s wearing. He’s not wearing an undershirt.
“It looks great.” And yeah, it does. Everything Keith’s shown him so far is something Shiro would consider wearing if they weren’t as tight or worth the price of his rent.
“Check this out.” He pulls at the lapels to reveal the inner lining. “I think it’s sheep fur, it’s sooo soft!”
But Shiro isn’t looking at the jacket anymore. A metallic glint catches his eyes, and it doesn’t take long to pinpoint the source as a silver piercing on Keith’s left nipple, cradling a perky, rosy bud between two round studs.
It’s not something Shiro would have guessed that Keith liked. Keith likes lacy underwear, as proven time and time again, each time making Shiro more bothered than the last. He likes heels and short pieces, anything to compliment his long legs; sheer fabric and tight fitting outfits. Shiro can safely say he doesn’t look at Keith’s chest area much, and admits it’s because he keeps his gaze trained on Keith’s face or, shamefully, because it keeps flicking down to stare at Keith’s ass when his charge is walking ahead of him.
Well, now he has more material to add to his Must Try To Ignore folder.
Involuntarily, Shiro’s tongue rolls around his mouth, seeking out for the buds. He bites down on it, hard.
“That’s very cool.” But Keith has already walked over to the stylist, and Shiro doesn’t dare look at his face to see if Keith noticed him staring. His eyes keep seeking out the same metallic glint as well, which is not good.
Not good at all.
Shiro only feels comfortable again when they’re inside the car with Keith wearing a shirt that hides all evidence that a nipple piercing exists. His lips are wrapped around a bright pink lollipop, though, and at this point, Shiro feels like some higher force is doing this just to spite him. The noises don’t help much, but he can block most of it out by keeping his eyes on the road and paying attention to the songs on the radio. Either the hype for Ariana’s new single died, or Keith got bored of listening to it on repeat for the past days, so now they get to listen to other songs.
There are more important things on Shiro’s mind aside from a pair of shapely legs and a nipple piercing.
It’s his weekend off. Shiro only gets one of them per month, and it’s not really ideal, but the job pays extremely well and he does spend most of his days killing time in the Kogane mansion. The only downside is that he doesn’t get to see his cat and friends as much anymore. His weekend off officially starts at six in the evening on Friday (a.k.a. pretty soon), and ends at the same time on Sunday when he has to go back to the mansion. In the meantime, Keith stays with one of his uncles.
“I love this song!” Keith reaches for the console and fiddles with the volume until the pop song is blasting through the speakers and possibly ruining Shiro’s hearing forever. It doesn’t sound like Ariana’s last single at all. “This is such a bop. Definitely my song!”
And yeah, Shiro can see now that this song possibly helped shape Keith’s character. Singing about wanting it all, wanting to be the number one. Keith falls well into the role of prima donna when he’s in the right mood for it.
The bright pink lollipop, Keith’s mock microphone, is shoved into Shiro’s face. “Would you do anything for me?” He sings along to the feminine voice of the singer. “Buy a big diamond ring for me?”
Shiro pushes Keith’s hand away with a chuckle. “You can buy the ring yourself.”
“Buying a diamond ring sure is fun,” Keith pauses to roll the lollipop around on his mouth. Shiro thinks of some tech talk the Holts are going to drag him into tonight. “But it’s much better when someone gives it to you. Especially if it’s a hot guy, such as yourself.”
“I don’t know if I could afford giving you a sterling silver ring.” Shiro explains, reaches over to the console to turn down the volume a little. Keith doesn’t complain, watching him. “A plain one, yeah, maybe, but the kinds you like? From your favorite brands? Full of gems? Definitely not.”
“But you would buy me a ring, then?”
The car slows down at a red light, and Shiro uses the moment to look at Keith, who’s sitting sideways on the leather seat, left leg bent. He looks curious; hopeful, if Shiro dares say so. “Maybe for your birthday.” He concedes, and Keith lets out a gleeful yes! “But only if you behave.”
“Aw, you’re so funny.” Keith’s voice is overly saccharine, dripping with sarcasm. He rolls his eyes and sits properly, legs crossed. “Can’t wait to get rid of you for a weekend.”
Shiro rolls his eyes without malice and resumes driving. Keith doesn’t mean it, as they both know, and were Matt or Katie here in the car with him, he would have replied with a classic but you love me . This could backfire spectacularly, so Shiro is going to spare himself from having to deal with a flirty Keith on the way home.
He checks the hour every few minutes. It’s not that Shiro wants to dump Keith in someone else’s hands as soon as possible, but he’s looking forward to finally be meeting up his friends again. Spotting Thace’s car parked just outside the house does nothing to make him any less excited for his weekend off. Keith crunches the last bit of candy between his teeth and leaves the car, making a show of pointedly not looking at Shiro.
Xi and Thace are waiting for them in the kitchen, having a conversation over steaming cups of coffee. Xi notices them first and smiles, and Shiro doesn’t understand why the action seems odd until they get close. His eyes are more crinkled than usual, smile big and straining. Xi is amused, holding in his laugh.
Thace, unlike Kolivan, had always worked a nine-to-five job, never joined the military, and thus doesn’t look quite as scary. That’s not to say he doesn’t know how to scare or intimidate people when needed, but much like Krolia, he deceives others by appearing to be quite harmless with slicked back hair and warm green eyes. He’s probably one of the few people Shiro knows that can rock a goatee.
Drinking the last of his coffee, Thace stands up from the bar stool, tablet in hand. “How did the fitting go?”
“It was awesome! I really want that red leather jacket.” Keith slips onto the seat his uncle had been occupying, reaching for one of the sugar cookies on a plate. Shiro is reminded of the nipple piercing and nearly chokes.
“Excellent.” Thace smiles at his nephew before turning to Shiro. “Right. I have a new tabloid article for you to read, Shiro. It’s a few days old, but we took some time to find it.”
Xi makes a funny noise where he’s standing by the counter, lifting his cup of coffee to his smiling lips. Shiro looks away from him just in time to take the tablet he’s being offered, and Keith rushes to his side to read the article as well.
At the top, big bold letters read: “ Kogane’s bodyguard borrows car and dog to woo mysterious boo on beach date.” At the bottom, a grainy picture of Keith’s black Aston Martin, Shiro holding open the door for his mysterious boo , which just happens to be Keith wearing the physical manifestation of terrible choices, with his back turned to the camera (thank god). Kosmo has his head stuck out the back window.
Keith bursts out laughing before Shiro gets to read the tagline, doubling over and clutching his stomach like he’s just watched the best stand-up comedy show of the century. Xi joins in with his quieter, husky laugh, and Thace continues to watch on in amusement. As for himself, Shiro feels his soul leaving his body, and Thace takes the tablet away before his fingers can get too slack, waving off the apology Shiro is about to spill.
“For whatever reason, paparazzi think you alone are worthy of their time, too.” He explains, locking the screen and setting the device away. “I don’t think they’re going to bother you too much, but we should be careful just in case.”
How is he supposed to enjoy his free time now? Shiro won’t be able to get coffee on the café across the street without looking over his shoulder twice. “Yes, sir. I’ll keep it in mind.”
Nodding, Thace glances at his shiny wristwatch. “Why don’t you take an early leave, Shiro? Surprise your friends by arriving earlier than they expect.”
“Would that be okay?”
“Certainly.” He reaches over to sling an arm around Keith’s shoulder and addresses him. “Acxa will like to have you over. She’s been wanting to watch a new TV series with you.”
Keith leans into his uncle’s side easily. The day when Shiro sees the same happening with Kolivan is the day Earth will implode. “It’s not another medical series, is it?”
“You know it is.” Keith’s face turns sour, and Thace pushes him towards the staircase, laughing. “What did you expect from someone that wants to be a surgeon like her other father?”
“I expected better,” Keith calls from over his shoulders as he climbs up the steps. Thace rolls his eyes fondly and signals Shiro’s dismissal with a nod. Shiro heads upstairs to pack a few belongings before taking his leave.
He looks up at his apartment building as his Uber drives away, the same old peach color chipped at some areas, the shrubs in vases by the gates are more alive than he’d last seen. The gatekeeper lets him inside, waving from behind the darkened glasses of his work space, and Shiro goes up some flights of stairs, foregoing the elevator. His keys jingle in his hand, but he isn’t about to make use of them now.
Stopping before room 32, he whirls around on the heels of his feet to face door 31 instead. It almost feels like too long has passed since he stood here in this hallway to ring the doorbell in three quick successions, their little code to know who’s waiting outside. Shiro pockets the keys as two pairs of feet race on the other side. From the apartment, a muffled curse rings out when one of them collides with a piece of furniture. Again.
Katie opens the door, all tousled hair and wide eyes behind round lenses she stole from her brother, and launches herself onto him, jumping up to wrap her arms around his neck. Shiro is quick to support her, circling her middle with both arms. “Hey, Katie.”
“We missed you!” She wiggles until he puts her down. Katie is only a few months shy of turning twenty, but she’s as tall as she was at fifteen.
She drags him inside. It’s when he sees Matt limping his way to the door, hands clutching at the shin he certainly bumped on some edge. They insist on competing to see who will be the first to greet him when he arrives, even if they end up with at least one bruise from their little stunt. Shiro decides to cut his friend some slack and approaches him.
“Finally decided to show your face around, Shirogane?” Matt grips his hand tight and pulls him into a hug, thumping him heartily on the back. “We’re forgetting what it’s like to have you as neighbor.”
“My supplies of instant noodles are lasting much longer now that you don’t come here to eat them all.” Katie mockingly wipes a tear away from the corner of her eyes with a loud sniff.
“You’re both awful,” he deadpans. “I’m only here to see my little girl anyway.”
Matt lets out a loud wow! when Shiro pulls away and moves to the windowsill of the living room where Black is curled up, napping and clearly ignoring any of the Holts’ antics. Katie is saying something about betrayal and only remembers we exist when he needs something , but Shiro only has eyes for his pet cat whom he missed so much. She peeks a golden eye open and stands up to stretch languidly, purring when he scratches her under the chin.
“Are you seeing this, Pidge?” Matt bemoans, exaggerated. “He uses us to look after his cat.”
Shiro rolls his eyes and picks Black up. “You two are too dramatic. What were you two watching?” He asks, reffering to the discarded laptops on the coffee table.
“Robotic videos,” Matt promptly answers at the same time Katie says, “Conspiracy theories.”
“Sounds exciting.” Shiro comments with the flattest tone he can pull off.
“Okay, smartass, why don’t we open up a beer and you can tell us your great bodyguard adventures?” Katie barely lifts up her fist when Matt adds, halfway to the kitchen, “And a coke for Pidge!”
“Oh, come on!”
Shiro’s really missed this. The bantering, the teasing, the impromptu pillow fights at random to settle an argument. Things have gotten better at the Kogane mansion after Keith’s grown tired of keeping the diva appearance twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, but Shiro is nowhere to be close and familiar with him the way he is with the Holts.
He sinks down on the couch, bottle in hand, and Black claims a spot by his side as her own. Katie sits on the ground cross-legged, glaring at her brother as he sets a can of coke in the coffee table before sitting down on the armchair like it’s his throne. Matt takes a loud sip of his beer and smacks his lips, eyeing the bottle like it’s the sweetest, fanciest wine. Katie flips him off.
“So, Shiro,” Matt says, casual, middle finger up and directed at his sister. “How’s your job treating you?”
“Same as always,” he replies with a shrug. “Thankfully things have been quiet so far, so I haven’t had to deal with nosy fans and paparazzi.”
“We’ve been seeing your face on the news sometimes. Pictures provided by Lance.”
Ah yes. Lance transferred to Katie’s high school on the second half of the last year, and they attend the same college. Though Shiro has met him only a handful of times, he’s a cool guy with an endless supply of gossips from his many acquaintances. He doesn’t know how Lance didn’t hear about the mysterious boo article until now, and Shiro would like it if things remained this way.
“And how’s been work and college for the both of you?”
He wants to know more of their lives than he wants to talk about his own. Katie is well on her way to receiving the official Nerd Holt status, getting only the highest grades and doing the best projects. She’s more of a tech savvy than a scientist like the rest of her family, but all Holts have many skills and knowledge on countless things. Matt can get the best results out of an experiment just as easily as he can put together a computer made out of scrap parts. The result sits on a work desk pushed to the side on his bedroom, fully functional and faster than Shiro’s three year old laptop.
Shiro listens to things Matt has been doing in the lab, the new research he’s been helping his dad with, examining samples of cosmic dust sent to them by a space research facility located in Arizona. Matt can’t say much about their findings, but says that the man that had delivered the samples was as intimidating as Kolivan at first glance - and second, and third, and all subsequent glances.
“Dad invited him to have dinner with us,” Matt continues, picking at the label of his beer. “He did a hundred-eighty when he saw Bae Bae. Dude loves dogs.”
Shiro doesn’t know this man, Iverson, but he thinks he’d like Kosmo.
“Talking about dinner,” Katie begins as she stands up from the ground. “We should probably eat.”
“Hmm? What’s for dinner?”
“Your favorite.” She grins wide. “Shitty Kraft mac and cheese.”
Shiro loves his best friends.
Black is curled on the pillow beside his when he wakes up, looking more like a black bagel than a cat. He reaches out to pet her, and smiles at her little sigh, ears flicking but eyes still closed. Shiro had missed this, his room, his bed, his cat, though he doesn’t like to admit his body isn’t as used to his mattress anymore.
He lingers around in bed, looks through his inbox just in case. It’s his weekend off, and Kolivan and Thace make sure to never send him anything on those days, but he checks anyway. What if something happened overnight? What if they left an important message?
However, there’s nothing new waiting for him, so Shiro rolls on his side to pet Black a little longer before getting up for the day. Out on a morning run he goes, but catches himself watching his surroundings more out of wariness than any real desire to appreciate the view. His earphones were left at home so that maybe he’d hear footsteps if someone were following him or a camera shutter going off. No such thing happens by the time Shiro makes it back to the building, and he feels more stressed than he had before leaving.
Nothing a warm shower and good breakfast won’t fix. Black is meowing and purring before he even opens the door, tangling herself between his legs until he deposits food in her bowl on the kitchen floor, and then he’s forgotten as she eats. Shiro can’t even be mad at her. He hops into the spray of water for a shower, and fixes his usual breakfast with ingredients he snuck from the Holts. Then he’s left to kill time until they meet with Lance for lunch.
Time passes slowly, as it does everyday in the Kogane Mansion, but this feels different. Being bored in his own home is something that hardly happened before, if ever. The Holts were always around, or he was over in their apartment, or Shiro would busy himself with rewatching his favorite TV series.
Now he’s a bit restless, bouncing his leg in place, Black sleeping on the arm of the couch, unperturbed. He fiddles with his phone until he can’t ignore it anymore and shoots Thace a quick message, receiving a isn’t this your time off? a few minutes later. The brief wait only made him more anxious. Shiro presses his boss for more details, but the man only tells him everything is fine, and takes longer and longer to reply each time.
Finally, Matt knocks on his door when it’s time to leave for lunch. Both the Holts have their hairs looking like a rat’s nest; the knowledge that hairbrushes exist is something that skipped this generation. Katie’s face is still mussed up from sleep, a wrinkle left on her cheek by her beddings, eyes barely open behind round lenses. Matt looks like he’s on his fifth cup of coffee, which might just be true.
They take Shiro’s sedan to the diner. He’s driving it for the first time in weeks, and he doesn’t like it that he’s getting unused to driving his own car. The steering wheel feels weird in his hands, and the seats aren’t right. Shiro spends the ten minute drive with his jaw clenched hard enough to spark his migraine back to life.
Lance is waiting for them in a booth by the windows, waves even though they can clearly see him as the place is empty save for them. The establishment is one of their many findings, along with that Chinese restaurant, of places they ran into at some odd hour of the night when they’re going home famished. Good food for a cheap price, and the checkered floor really adds to the overall aesthetic.
“Shiro, my man, it’s been a while!” Lance flashes him a big grin after greeting the Holts, and scoots to the side to let Katie sit. “Heard you’re working as a full time bodyguard now.”
“You’ve known for a while.” He accepts the menu offered by the waitress, giving her a polite smile. “I told you that, actually.”
“Who are you working for again?”
“Keith Kogane,” he answers without missing a beat, eyes perusing the options in the burger section. Shiro really is looking forward to stuffing his face with some greasy food high in calories and unhealthy fats before he goes back to the mansion. Maybe some fries are in order too. And a tall glass of milkshake.
Across the table, Lance makes a noise of disgust. “That brat?”
Shiro flickers his gaze up at him. “What.” Matt whistles low, knowing from Shiro’s sole word alone that it was the wrong thing to say.
“He’s a snob,” Lance says with a sniff, and Shiro would have agreed with him if he didn’t know better. “Not really mature.”
Katie snorts, still looking at her menu. “Yeah, because you’re real mature.”
“Excuse me, I don’t go around hitting paparazzi with my Vivenchy bag. That kid is a total airhead. Totally the opposite of that other guy,” Lance snaps his fingers a couple of times as he tries to jog his memory. “Lotor! But he’s unbearable too. A stuck up, and just as snob.”
“First off, maybe you shouldn’t judge people before you get to know them.” Shiro says evenly. “Secondly, it’s Givenchy .”
“Oh my God, they got you too.” He whispers in mock horror, eyes bugging wide. Katie lets out a long suffering sigh. “It’s like the Devil Wears Prada in real life.” That’s one of Keith’s favorite movies, but Shiro isn’t looking forward to extending this conversation. Lance goes on. “But I am a good judge of character. Wanna know who’s absolutely perfect and flawless?”
“Here we go,” the Holts mutter in unison a second before Lance lets out a dreamy, starstruck: “Allura Altea.”
Shiro just arches an eyebrow at Lance. He looks like these teenage girls with celebrity crushes, all starry eyed with a dopey smile on his face. If he were to look at Lance’s phone right now, Shiro would bet that Allura is in his lockscreen. He probably has some posters with her face in his bedroom too.
They order their food, and Lance uses every little opportunity to bring Allura up again. Shiro can’t tell if he’s like this on a daily basis or if he’s trying to hint that he wants to know if Shiro got to meet her; either way, he’s going to keep his mouth shut. At least Keith isn’t mentioned again, and that’s a relief. Shiro eats his burger and fries, and drinks all of his milkshake, tuning out most of Lance’s blabbering and focusing instead on the taste of the food. This place isn’t really Keith’s style, but Shiro thinks he’d appreciate the food.
A trip to the movies comes after their lunch. There’s a new superhero movie to watch and the Holts are excited for it, They talk about all cool scenes in the trailers that they can’t wait to see on the big screen, and more details that come from comic books. Shiro can’t begin to understand half of what they are saying, his knowledge of everything superhero being limited to movies only, having never really found the time or will to keep up with comics the way they do. But he enjoys a good action movie every once in a while, and he’s got a soft spot for rom-coms - which they hate.
An arcade nearby is their next destination. Thrumming with excitement from the movie, they play some classic games before heading off to the supermarket to buy a lot of junk food for their movie night. Shiro strolls the cart around; he’s muscular and stronger than his friends, so that’s his official role whenever they go to grocery shopping. They dump frozen pizza and chicken nuggets by the armfulls in the cart. Soda and beer, and if Katie is lucky she’ll get to have some alcohol tonight, then ice cream and chocolate.
Shiro stops by the candy aisle, eyeing the bags of sweet treats on the shelves as Lance and Pidge fight over which cookies to take home. He snatches two bags and makes a mental note to set these aside when they get back to the Holts’ apartment. They aren’t meant to be eaten tonight.
“All right!” Lance bellows once they’re inside the apartment, holding up two bottles of flavored vodka. “Time to party!”
Matt tosses a paper ball at his head. “You say that as if we’re doing more than sitting in the living room all night playing Mario Kart or watching a movie.”
“Speaking of which, what movie are we watching?” Katie already has the oven preheating as she tucks the ice cream containers in the freezer. “Shiro still hasn’t watched Spider-verse.”
“Again? You watched that movie like three times when it came out.”
“Yeah, and you were there in the movie theater with me, Lance. All three times.” She shoots back, and Matt snorts.
“We can watch it after we catch up some more and play some games.” Matt decides. “We all know Shiro falls asleep during movies.”
“Can’t help it,” Shiro says from behind his beer bottle. “My work schedule used to be hectic.”
Lance perches himself up on the counter, scooting sideways when Katie swats his side. “Oh yeah, tell us more about your new bodyguard job.”
There isn’t much Shiro can tell that he hasn’t already told them. He signed a contract and sworn to protect his charge’s private life. Shiro is unsure if he can say that Lotor and Keith are actually related, and chooses not to mention Allura at all to save himself from another half-hour of gushing on Lance’s part, so he settles for talking about Kosmo, shares vague details about the inside of Keith’s home, and talks about Xi without ever mentioning his name. That seems to be enough to keep Lance entertained.
The group relocates to the living room, where Matt puts on a game of Mario Kart, followed by Smash Bros. Shiro wins a few rounds of the racing game, grinning at everyone when Baby Peach crosses the finish line in her pink kart, but loses spectacularly in the other game, the joy-cons much too small for his hands. The siblings enjoy watching him struggle instead of letting him use their pro controller.
With food and drinks crammed up on the coffee table, they sit on the ground and put the games on pause. Lance starts a game of truth or dare around a mouthful of chicken nuggets, but it doesn’t last long because no one picks dare. “Bo-riiiiing. You guys suck.”
“Yeah, we know you’ll ask us to send Allura a DM on Twitter from your account.” Matt shoves the last bite of pizza in his mouth and reaches for Lance’s phone. “I can do it if you want for free, though.”
“Keep your nasty, greasy hands away from my phone!”
Shiro is happy to sink into the worn out cushions of the couch, belly full and warm. Pidge puts on the movie and flops down on a pile of pillows, Matt sits to Shiro’s left, digging his toes into his thigh, and Lance occupies the armchair. It’s a good movie. Shiro can appreciate the effort put behind animations, and Spider-Man is one of his favorite superheroes anyway.
Despite watching it many times before, Pidge looks at the screen with rapt attention, and even Lance, who had complained, hardly blinks as the movie goes on. Matt alternates between checking his notifications and watching, and Shiro is enthralled by the story until his phone vibrates in his pocket.
A tiny spark of panic shoots through him as he hurries to check the message, fearing it can be Kolivan or Thace bearing bad news. The message is from Keith himself, which only makes Shiro prepare to bolt out the door.
An IMG file waits for him. It’s a picture of a girl sitting in a restaurant decorated with paper lanterns, most of her dark hair brushed back, except for a stray lock that falls in her face. She’s eating noodles from a bowl, head tilted down, but eyes looking up at the camera. Beside her, part of Thace is visible, hand cradling a tiny cup of sake.
Keith is safe. Tension seeps out of Shiro’s body.
The caption reads: Acxa is rubbing in my face that she knows how to use chopsticks! He chuckles at the unexpectedness of it, brushing off Matt’s inquisitive stare before he types a reply.
[Ask her to teach you]
[She won’t teach me]
[I’m sure she’s not so bad. She’s your cousin, right?]
[Yeah, but she’s also like a sister since I have no actual siblings, so - you know]
[Did you even ask her to teach you?]
[Of course not! I don’t wanna give her more ammo to torture me]
[She made me watch five episodes of Grey’s Anatomy yesterday]
[And six more today!]
[Save me, Shiro]
Shiro looks up when Lance gasps at the movie. Spider-Man and... Another Spider-Man are flitting through the trees, when yet another Spider-Man - no, Spider-Woman, joins them. What! He forgets all about the messages, leaning back to see how they’ll escape from their pursuers. The phone buzzes minutes later when the trio is standing outside Aunt May’s house. It’s another picture of Acxa, chopsticks halfway to her mouth, rice caught at the end.
[This is ridiculous]
[I’ll teach you how to eat rice and noodles with chopsticks next time]
[You can’t come pick me up right now, can you]
[I don’t wanna watch more Grey’s Anatomy]
[You know I can’t]
[What are you doing]
[We’re watching the new Spider-Man movie]
“I can’t believe Shiro isn’t asleep and is instead texting someone!” A pillow hits him square in the face. He looks at Katie, narrowing his eyes at another pillow caught in her hand. The movie is on pause. “Have some respect for Spider-Man!”
“It’s from work!” He protests, and she rolls her eyes.
“Wow your bosses are really chatty, huh.”
“I didn’t call you out when you had earphones on earlier when Lance was rambling about his crush on Allura.”
“She WHAT!” Lance squawks, face red from the alcohol or something else.
Katie gives Shiro a thanks a lot kind of glare. “It’s boring and getting old, Lance.”
“You need a new hobby, pal.” Matt agrees, reaching out to give him a pitiful pat on the shoulder. As a minor argument starts, Shiro slinks away to the bathroom to save himself.
[I wanted to watch that one, but couldn’t]
[Too many people in the mall recognized me so we had to leave]
That’s... Sad. Not being able to do regular things because fans won’t leave you alone. Shiro doesn’t stop to think before he’s saying they’ll watch it together someday.
[That would be nice!]
[I’ve seen a lot of spoilers, tho]
When Shiro returns to the living room, Lance has his arms crossed, refusing to look at the siblings as they continue to tease him over something Shiro missed. He sits down on his previous spot, puts away his phone before Matt decides to take it from him, and they finish the movie without a hitch.
Later in his apartment, Shiro opens the messaging app to see all the texts and pictures Keith sent. A cone of chocolate ice cream; Thace and his husband entering the backseat of the car; a short video of Keith singing to Lady Gaga, Acxa driving them home, looking completely stoic behind him; a picture of another Grey’s Anatomy episode, and then a picture of an episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians.
Shiro can’t imagine how much Acxa hates having Keith over right now, but Keith ends up not watching much of it. They text until Shiro falls asleep.
Sunday seems to come around much too soon and, strangely, not soon enough. He’s always been too much of a workaholic for his own good, and though he knows Keith is fine, Shiro feels like he can’t rest until he sees it with his own two eyes.
The last string of texts from his charge depicts the show after Shiro had fallen asleep, plus a picture of him and Acxa digging into a carton of ice cream at some ungodly hour, sitting at the edge of a pool. Kosmo is in the picture (unsurprising that Keith would take him along) and Acxa is giving the camera a tentative smile. She looks like Thace a lot, but seems to have taken after his husband when it comes to personalities.
He shoots back a simple reply and prepares for his last day with his friends. Matt, only half awake, is burning toast in the kitchen when Shiro arrives, and Lance is nursing a hangover on the kitchen’s table. He’s a lightweight, anything more than two beers is enough to have him drunk. The shower is running, so Katie must be in the bathroom. Shiro turns off the toaster before the bread can burn to a crisp.
“Good morning, kind sir,” Matt slurs, skin still wrinkled from planting facefirst in bed last night. “Brunch today is bread, eggs... More bread. Wait, do we actually have eggs?”
“We bought more yesterday.” Shiro supplies, turning on the coffee maker.
Matt points to the fridge. “We have leftover pizza and nuggets as well.”
“Oh sweet, sweet pizza, come to papa.” Lance struggles to stand and inches his way to the fridge, snatching a slice from the tupperware and eating it cold. “Fuck yeah.”
“Breakfast of the champions,” Katie shows up fresh out of shower and pushes him aside to get her share.
Matt wrinkles his nose, eyes clearer now. “You two disgust me.”
Shiro helps himself to buttered, not-quite-charcoal-but-almost-there toast and a large serving of eggs, listening to the usual (not so) early morning bickering of Lance and Katie. Matt gives him a suggestive look, with wiggling brows and all, but Shiro isn’t one to shove his nose in other people’s business, especially if one of them is Katie.
They hit the closest beach after. Katie isn’t a fan of sand, sun and open spaces, so she refuses to budge from under the beach umbrella, trying to read a coding book. Lance heads off to flirt with any girl who gives him the time of the day, probably, and Shiro and Matt wander into the sea, the waves lapping up at their waists.
“Be serious now,” Matt says, squinted eyes trained on him. “How’s the job treating you?”
“Not so bad.” It’s the truth. “I miss seeing you guys and Black a lot, but in overall, it’s fine.” If Shiro could see them more often, maybe he wouldn’t feel so homesick, and now that he and Keith are actually getting along, staying at the Kogane mansion all day doesn’t sound as bad as it used to.
Lance shows up two hours later sporting a bad sunburn. Katie helps him with the aloe lotion before they herd him into the car and drive back to the apartment. The last few hours with his friends are spent playing some Mario game as Shiro mentally prepares for another month away from them. Black seems to sense it, and curls up close to him for most of the afternoon.
Hugs are shared when it’s time to go. Lance promises to send him the best memes, and Matt and Katie wish him good luck. Shiro presses a kiss to the top of Black’s head and promises to see her again as soon as possible. Her mewl in response tears his heart in two.
The Kogane Mansion is quiet when he returns. Thace’s car is parked outside, and Kosmo runs to the front door to greet him. Shiro pets the dog, gives him a good scratch behind the ear, and straightens up when hurried steps reach his ears. Keith appears from around the corner, dressed again in that appalling Minion shirt.
“Hey,” he smiles, offering him a plastic bag. “I got this for you.”
Curious, Keith steps forward and takes it, peering into the bag. “Hah!” He laughs, pulling out a bag of Ring Pops and Haribo Rings. “You did get me a ring. Lots of them.”
“I did.” These I can afford , he doesn’t say, but the joke gift serves its purpose and makes Keith grin wide.
“Come on.” keith takes hold of his wrist and tugs. “Thace and Acxa are here. Kolivan should arrive soon. And there’s someone I want you to meet.”
In the sitting area by the pool, Shiro spots Acxa first, the red frames of her cateye sunglasses catching his attention. Thace sits by her side, calf resting on a bent knee, swirling some amber drink in a glass. He’s chuckling from some joke neither Shiro or Keith got to hear.
The third party stands when he comes closer, her messy hair resembling a controlled bedhead, lips pulling into a familiar smile he’s been seeing a lot lately. When she pushes her sunglasses up, Shiro knows he’s looked into eyes of the same color every day for the past weeks. He’s known who she is since he set eyes on her, can recognize her even though he’s seen her just once.
“Pleased to meet you, Shiro.” She extends her hand. “I’m Krolia.”
He takes it in a firm handshake. “Madam.”
Keith looks a lot like her, and they have a lot in common. For example, she’s wearing a matching Minion shirt.
Shiro’s hand itches to burn this one, too.
nghng yes, this is.. super late. Apologies for that, I got stuck at some point of the chapter. It took a while before I could figure it out. I actually don't have much to say this time around, only that life is getting hectic, so I'll do my best to update at least once a month.
Considering I haven't started the next chapter yet, all I can tell you is that Shiro will get to talk properly to Krolia.