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Where the light enters you

Chapter Text

my wounds
don’t feel
like wounds
in your hands.
they feel
like beginnings,
like a chance
to make things
right again.

—Pavana Reddy

It had been four deca-phoebs since the fall of Honerva. Lance helped establish academies in Allura’s memory on Altea, and later returned to Earth to rebuild with his family; Shiro and the Holts worked on Earth’s defenses, upgrading their technology, and providing for citizens’ needs for new forms of power, long-range communications, and more; Hunk with Shay and others pursued gastronomic diplomacy throughout the galaxy with the help of Shiro and the Coalition; Keith steered the Galra down the path of representative democracy, reforming the empire for peace.

Through his efforts, Keith became the appointed representative for the Galra people for the planetary refit colony on Alaxas 9. Previously devastated under Galra rule, efforts there were well underway to rehabilitate the biosphere to support a diverse ecosystem and a predominately agricultural way of life. The planet had many miraculous properties, most of which were still not well understood.

Keith and five hundred other Galra citizens arrived on Alaxas fifteen phoebs after the war. They were part of the third wave of revitalization, carrying with them a vision that was at once grand and simple. There they were joined by similar contingents from dozens of other planets from throughout the galaxy, convening in an effort to establish a truly intergalactic, agrarian society for peace.

For the past year, Keith worked tirelessly alongside countless others to construct freshwater canals, meeting halls, plazas, gardens, bathhouses, and other public works. As a member of the council which drafted the community’s founding charter, Keith toured the Alaxan continents with other representatives offering education in civil governance, ecological design, meditation, and other matters of civic interest. The satisfaction of this work went a long way toward mending his broken heart. At the same time, his service shielded him from facing the hole left behind by the potent intimacy he had come to know with the Voltron team, and with Hunk most of all.

Hunk. Shiro. Pidge. Lance. Coran. In the early movements after Allura gave her life to stop Honerva, Keith saw his old friends frequently. Now it had been deca-phoebs since he had been in their company. Even Krolia had yet to come visit her son on Alaxas.

One day Keith was walking home from the market to his holding and overheard a Galra child playing make-believe with others his age from the village. Keith wasn’t sure of the nature of the game they played, but he was struck then the boy shouted with a particular reverence that the Black Lion would save their planet from that witch.

All at once, Keith saw Shiro’s face.

He saw him the way he looked in the moment that Allura brought him back from the Black Lion’s consciousness. Longing tugged at Keith’s heart. After fighting so hard to save Shiro, fighting together to save all of reality as they knew it, how was it that Keith had seen so little of his dearest friend in deca-pheobs? That needed to change.

Hurrying in the front door and kicking off his sandals, Keith went directly to his comm station. He recorded a simple message, erasing it twice before he felt he’d gotten it just right. He held his breath for a beat or two while he committed the message to transmit over subspace, all the way back to Earth.


+

“Hi Shiro,” Keith’s understated smile lit up Shiro’s viewscreen. Shiro found himself smiling warmly in response, a small knot of tension forming in his stomach.

“I was wondering if you’d want to come out to Alaxas for a visit. We’re making great progress here, and I have some more free time coming up. I think you’d really like to see what all we’ve done.”

Keith paused, refocusing on the lens with new conviction. “Not an official visit, though. I thought you and I could take some time. It’s been too long.”

Although he smiled again, Keith’s eyes seemed full of some emotion Shiro couldn’t articulate. Then the screen went dark.


+

“Shiro!”

He turned on the platform to see the younger man walking confidently in his direction. His half-Galran complexion was a shade or so darker from the sun and elements, a purple shade of tan. His hair still hung in his eyes but couldn’t hide his smile.

Despite the video messages they had exchanged to coordinate the trip, Keith looked older than Shiro expected. Shiro realized it was the way he moved, Keith’s body accustomed now to daily labor. Keith was still as lithe and fit as he had been as a teenager in wartime, though his shoulders now seemed built to lay flagstone and raise roofs. This was not the boy Shiro remembered.

Shiro found he could not recall the last time he’d seen the shape of Keith’s upper arms as he did now in a simple, close-fitting maroon tee. A fringe of dark hair framed his face in the same familiar way, but the now considerable length hung over his left collarbone in a single, thick braid.

Remembering himself, Shiro’s awestruck expression softened into a warm smile. He extended his arms as his friend approached. Keith stepped into the circle of his arms without hesitation and hugged him solidly. Shiro inhaled the smells of sun-warmed cloth, local flora and a hint of sweat, exhaling deeply to ground this moment in his memory. Keith would always feel like home to him, wherever they were in the universe.

Pulling back at last, their eyes met with smiles that spoke volumes. “It has been too long,” Shiro exhaled softly.

Keith nodded. “Yeah.” He glanced at the sun’s low angle on the horizon and then met Shiro’s eyes again. “Come on, it’s a little walk back to my place. I’d like to show you around before we lose the day.” He moved to Shiro’s side, shouldering his duffel bag without asking first. Keith shifted it to his far shoulder so he could walk alongside his friend.

“This way. Are you hungry?”

+++

Chapter Text

Shiro could hardly express the satisfaction he felt seeing the world Keith had helped build with these people, and the life he was building for himself there. The greetings of the people they encountered, the rolling hills that surrounded his holding, the custom of walking to and from town rather than driving, all of it struck Shiro as a brand new take on the Keith he thought he knew. Like an alternative ending to a story he thought he’d read before.

It was clear that Keith found deep meaning both in living simply in this way, and in contributing to the success of something greater than himself. The latter was perfectly familiar, given his time leading the Voltron team. The former might take some getting used to! Keith who loved to race, to fly so fast, who had been in motion constantly for as long as Shiro could remember? That same guy had found peace in a farming colony. Yet was that so surprising after all? Voltron had taken them all far from home and stoked in each of them a desire to connect, to rebuild, to put down roots. Perhaps all that motion suited a troubled kid who was running from demons of his own. Nothing like saving the universe to put the things that scare you into perspective.

Shiro also yearned for home, but had yet to find it. He ached for Adam, and the life he left behind when he left on the Kerberos mission. It all seemed so long ago, but it still stung. He had mourned for deca-phoebs that the man he loved had died defending Earth. Died fighting for all that Shiro had been gone so long trying to protect. Died without ever knowing Shiro was coming back to him, returning from beyond death, racing to his side at the very moment that Adam surrendered his life. The blow had been crushing.

And so while Shiro had worked with the Holts and others to connect Earth to the intergalactic community, he had kept his heart locked away.

Sitting with Keith on the hillside, overlooking to orchard and fields that this community stewarded, Shiro felt his heart swell in spite of himself. He stole a glace in Keith’s direction and their eyes met. Keith seemed to have been studying him. Keith did not look away.

“What’s on your mind, Shiro?”

“I was thinking how this place is incredible,” he smiled. “And how it suits you, in a way I didn’t expect.”

Keith smiled, tanned skin creasing by his eyes. “I’d like to hear about that.” He picked idly at the grass.

“You don’t even own a car, Keith. Are you sure your head’s okay?” Shiro chuckled, shaking him by the shoulder gently.

Keith just grinned, his eyes down on the field.

“And... I was thinking that Adam would have loved this. After everything that’s happened, I think this is where he would have wanted to be.” Shiro’s mouth smiled but his eyes were sad.

Keith put his hand on Shiro’s knee.

“I’m really sorry.”

“Me too,” Shiro sighed. He didn’t want to dwell in the memories, but he didn’t want to run from them either. And surely Keith understood that. For once, he let himself be comforted.

Keith brushed his thumb slowly against the rough fabric of Shiro’s work pants, feeling the warmth of him. Having him here meant so much, even if it would be over so soon. Just a week.

Shiro wouldn’t stay—and Keith wouldn’t dream of asking. This was Adam’s kind of life, that was true. But Shiro had always dreamed of stars. His work wasn’t done.

But Shiro seemed happy. Here, in this moment. In this place. Happy here with him. And maybe he would come see him again, and they could have this. Just this, as often as they could.


+

They ate a simple meal in town and walked home, laughing the whole way about all the things they’d seen and done since meeting people from so many other worlds. When you really think about it, life with aliens is super weird.

They stopped by Keith’s holding again to drop off some of the things they brought from town. Then they headed back out into the night. The air smelled sweet, and the field around them glistened softly in the light of three waxing moons.

Keith led the way down to the bank where natural hot springs fed into the river. The spring water glowed softly blue from some kind of bioluminescence as it mingled with the dark cool river water. There in the bank, the locals built improvised baths with roughly stacked stones, forming many pools of varying temperatures where spring water mixed with the river’s flow. The rings were different shades of blue, some steaming hot and bright and some cooler and dim. It was an incredible sight.

There on the bank, Keith and his neighbors had built a wooden bathhouse fed by the springs. It was meant to seat maybe a dozen people, though it was a bit warm for a soak and no one seemed to be out tonight. Steam billowed out from the roofline towards the stars as they approached.

Outside under the wide roof, Keith kicked off his sandals and handed Shiro a towel before he slipped out of his clothes, stowed them in a small cubby there, and wrapped a towel around his waist. Simple as that, Shiro thought. He was thankful for the darkness as he felt the blush in his cheeks.

Keith glanced furtively over his shoulder as Shiro pulled off his shirt. “I’ll meet you inside,” he said evenly, stepping around the corner. Shiro’s pulse sped, sensing that Keith was just a bit nervous, too.

Shiro took a moment alone to steady himself, inhaling mild night air. He always thought Keith was beautiful, more and more as he grew into the man he had become. Strong and yet tender, learning to trust. Wise from years of struggle. Sure of himself and his place in the universe.

That confidence was very attractive. Shiro wasn’t surprised by his feelings nor the heat in his face, not really.

Still, he hadn’t been fully prepared to see the curve of Keith’s ass in the moonlight. As he wrapped the towel around his waist, he shifted uncomfortably trying to hide his arousal. Did these towels have to be so damn small?

Stepping inside, Shiro was engulfed in hot steam. He stood just inside the door on a wide wooden ledge set above what looked to be a foot of glowing water that flowed over the floor. It rose from a channel on his left, the steam hottest from that direction, and seemed to flow out to the right where another channel carried the water outside and vents in the roofline released the steam. The small space glowed like the pools below, the color of quintessence, and the soft color swirled around him in the steam-filled air. Breathing it in, Shiro felt a deep calm come over him.

There were solid wood planks stretching across the water deeper into the room, which was almost completely obscured in the haze. He took a step forward on the warm, damp wood, being careful with his footing.

“Keith?”

“Here,” Keith’s voice seemed so close. Forward and to the right.

“This is bioluminescence, right?”

“It’s great, isn’t it? Tiny organisms that consume the volcanic minerals here and give off quintessence.” Shiro followed the sound of his voice and soon spotted him sitting on a wood ledge along the right wall, his feet dangling in the water.

“They’re only found on Alaxas in the whole known universe, and they’re particularly strong on this continent. This is only a tiny source—there are much larger ones all over! The quintessence they carry is bio-soluble, with incredible healing properties. We’re studying them for medicine,” Keith said proudly.

Shiro beamed. “That’s incredible. They produce more than what they need?”

“Far more. They deposit the excess in crystalline sediments along the channels deep underground, almost like tiny Balmera. I’ll show you the research, it’s very exciting.”

“I’d like to see that,” Shiro said, settling in against the back wall in the same corner, their knees inches from touching. There was plenty of space to spread out, only he… wanted to be close. If Keith would let him.

Shiro looked at Keith’s feet in the water, his own still balanced on the plank. “Isn’t that hot?”

“Yeah, but... I like it. It’s not too much, here on the right side. Over there it’ll skald your feet off. The Olkari are the only people I’ve met who like it that hot,” he smiled.

Shiro dipped in his heel, wincing but not giving up. “Well, that’ll take some getting used to,” he laughed.

Keith was looking at him, Shiro could feel it. He didn’t meet his eyes at first. He wanted to let him look. He toyed with his heel in the water a bit more, eventually easing his right foot into the water, working on the left.

It felt good to be seen this way. He’d stayed in shape, running training drills back at the Garrison with much younger men. Exercising helped his mood, when he felt lonely, when he missed his friends.

He remembered training with Keith, their bodies clashing in combat with an intimacy that neither would admit. They’d gotten to a point where Shiro could come at Keith with everything he had for a full varga, and longer sometimes. Shiro still bested him most of the time, but Keith would never back down. And then there were those times when he took Shiro down with a ferocity that was stunning, and frankly sexy as hell.

Shiro looked up to see Keith’s face, just in time to see him swallow as his eyes traced just below Shiro’s waist. Shiro felt his arousal throb as Keith’s eyes brushed over him like a gentle touch.

Keith met his eyes, not hiding from him. After a moment, he smiled broadly. “You’ve stayed in shape, old man.”

Shiro laughed loudly, enjoying Keith’s boldness. “You bet. Can’t have you getting a leg up on me.”

“We should train sometime while you’re here. Like old times.”

Shiro smiled. “I’d like that.” Shiro shifted his weight, bringing his feet back out of the water onto the plank again. Keith did the same, shaking water from his toes.

Shiro rolled his shoulders, feeling surprisingly free of tension. “Good grief, the water here… I feel like it’s adding ten years to my life.”

“Good,” Keith laughed, “making up for all the years Voltron took off. You know all that dying can’t be that good for your health,” he mocked, though he couldn’t hide his protectiveness.

“Yeah, ahem, that,” Shiro chuckled. He truly felt like a younger man tonight, buoyant and powerful and full of hope. “You know I didn’t do it on purpose!” They both laughed freely. Shiro wiped at his eyes.

“I wouldn’t trade it, you know,” Shiro continued. “We made a difference, and you all became my family,” Shiro’s smile brought heat to Keith’s face. “And through it all, you held me together. In, like, every imaginable way. Keith, I really wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you. Thank you.”

Shiro reached for Keith’s hand. Keith offered his palm, twining their fingers. Could it be this easy? Keith squeezed his hand softly.

“I’ll always be here for you, Shiro,” Keith replied.

Shiro soaked in the meaning in his eyes, feeling the invitation that went unsaid. Shiro wanted to taste his lips. Maybe, just maybe, Keith wanted that too.

Keith slid his hand away to adjust his hair. He pulled out his ponytail and retied it a bit tighter, brushing back his hair now dripping from the steam. Shiro sensed the moment passing.

“Hey, you want to head back?”

Shiro nodded. Stepping into the cooler night air, Keith unwrapped his towel, wrung it out and mopped his face, letting Shiro see him completely. They took their time gathering their things.

By the time they reached Keith’s place, Shiro’s cooling body was more than ready to sleep. They said goodnight simply, still pulsing with excitement from being so near each other, on the verge of something new. The invitation was there, that was more and more clear. But Shiro wouldn’t rush. They had time.

Keith had shown him around earlier, and bedding arrangements were settled. Keith had laid out a low futon on the floor where he was planning to sleep in his Japanese-style sitting room. He’d insisted on Shiro taking his bedroom. He retired there alone, sliding the paper screen closed.

Laying in the dark with his shirt off, Keith enjoyed feeling his skin cooling and sleep closing in. His mind drifted to that steam-filled room, spring water and sweat dripping slowly from Shiro’s sculpted chest toward the unmistakable bulge in Shiro’s lap. Keith drifted to sleep aching for Shiro’s hands.


+

Shiro dug in his bag in the low light for a couple of things: his pajama pants, slippers, the book he was reading, his reading glasses.

Removing his shirt and stretching his shoulders, he marveled at the vitality he felt. This trip was good for him, in so many ways.

He stowed his bag under the bed and carried some clothes over to the top dresser drawer Keith had offered him. He pulled open the second drawer, too, just for curiosity’s sake. Everything Keith owned was there, neatly folded piles of uniform black, dark red, and gray. Shiro ran his fingers over the faded red fabric of a well-worn hoodie, not one Shiro had seen before—Keith had long outgrown those few things he’d taken from Earth. Still red, though. Some things never change.

Sliding open the last drawer, Shiro didn’t expect to find it full of neat coils of red rope. Shiro’s eyes went wide. It was unmistakable: this was shibari rope, specifically suited for erotic bondage. There was more than enough here for suspension work. Also in the drawer he found several large squares of a soft black fabric, not unlike silk, and a couple of thick wooden dowels running the length of the drawer. Shiro’s head swam with questions. Where did he learn all this? With who?

Shiro turned and looked up to find small, pivoting metal rings set in the ceiling, some over the bed, others over the open floor between the bed and the door. Hardpoints, suitable for shibari suspension.

He turned and closed the drawer softly, suddenly feeling bad for invading Keith’s privacy.

And yet, he couldn't unsee it... and he wouldn't have wanted to. What have you been up to, Keith?

He switched off the lamp. Climbing in bed, Shiro’s eyes fixed overhead where he could still see one of the rings in the moonlight. He fell asleep imagining tying knots against Keith’s moonlit skin.

 

+++

Chapter Text

Shiro made his way to the washroom when he woke, rinsing his face and running his wet fingers through his hair. He pulled a fresh shirt on over his head and studied himself in the mirror. All his thoughts slipped back to the hard knot of desire in his belly, and pieces of his dreams that lingered still.

He dreamed of a lover he could bend to his will. He saw Keith’s violet eyes.

He used to love to hold Adam down, feel the man’s trust in his palm like a trembling bird, and squeeze. He would caress the back of his neck with his lips, kissing a line to his shoulder, and then sink his teeth deeply into the muscles there. He would not harm him, no, but oh he wanted to hurt him. He wanted to hear him suffer. Needed to feel Adam ready to give himself up, to break open for him, rather than fight or flee.

Shiro used to spend long nights picking him apart, and hours more holding him and easing him back together again. Their love was complicated and sacred, brutal and sweet.

He’d never found that before, nor since.

Shiro thought he’d seen something like that in Keith’s eyes, many times over the years. An aching understanding, desire despite his innocence. Shiro had always denied it, fought it down, locked it away. Keith deserved better from this life, from the man he’d accepted as his big brother. Keith deserved a kind, giving lover of his own age.

That was why he was happy for Keith when he began seeing Hunk. So good and so pure, there was no one better for the boy Shiro loved most. That had ended years ago, but the two young men had remained friends. The spark was still there, although dim with time.  

But even when nothing happened between them, Shiro saw that look. Like a trunk of secret hope.

Shiro saw it last night as Keith’s eyes swam with starlight. All that was defiant in Keith stood right there, ready to be released, to be surrendered to a man he respected and trusted completely. It was a connection that threaded throughout their friendship, one that reached beyond sex—though Shiro would be lying to claim it wasn’t sex that he wanted now. It was.

Shiro didn’t want to hold back anymore.

Keith was a man now, after all. He’d been with men before; he’d been with Hunk, and surely others since then. He wasn’t so innocent as he once was. He had a drawer full of bondage rope, for Christ’s sake! He had to have learned that somewhere. And if Keith still looked at him that way, who was Shiro to deny what they could be together. Keith could decide for himself.

Shiro felt brave for a moment. It was time.


+

Keith was already in the kitchen, making breakfast for the two of them. He handed Shiro a strong cup of coffee.

“Black, right?”

“Right,” Shiro beamed at him past wet, touseled hair.

Keith could so easily get lost in that smile. He turned, trying to focus on his task. He felt Shiro’s eyes on him and liked it.  

“How’d you sleep?”

“Never better in my life. The bathhouse…”

Keith grinned. “That place keeps us all coming back.” Keith thought of wandering down there with Shiro in his arms, necking like teenagers in the pools. He felt hungry, and not for food.

He plated some eggs and toast, handing one to Shiro. “Mind if we sit on the porch?”

“Sounds perfect.”

They sat on the stoop, clanged forks, and dug into their plates. The food was alright, Keith thought. It was nothing special—nothing like what Hunk would have made, let alone for a 'special occasion,' but no one expected that from him. Shiro devoured his breakfast happily, set aside his plate, and stretched until he was lying flat on his back. It was so… childlike and carefree, it made Keith laugh.

“Am I funny?” Shiro smirked, unbothered.

“Yeah, you are,” Keith checkled. “I guess I’ve just never seen you so… relaxed.”

“Old habits die hard,” he replied. “But I think I could get used to this.”

Keith’s heart raced. He wanted to know what this was. Here? Us? He couldn’t think up a sly way to ask, so he sipped his coffee and looked out over the fields.


+

Keith took Shiro to several key sites around the settlement, introduced him to many of the leaders of the council, and finally took him to the labs where they were studying the bioluminescent organisms found in Alaxan springs. Shiro loved all of it, but the labs most of all. They talked for vargas about the implications of the research. These creatures’ ability to store stable, biosoluble infusions of quintessence could be the secret to unlocking degenerative disease. Eventually, it could help billions of people on countless worlds extend the length and quality of their lives.

Keith tried not to get too personal about it. It was, after all, something the universe needed as a whole. But it mattered to him that Shiro happened to need it, too.

He sensed something in Shiro shift, some obstacle that stood in the way of hope. Never getting too close, too comfortable.

But what if he could?

They shared a light meal and tea at a low table in Keith’s sitting room as the sun went down, screens open to the view. After the meal, Shiro insisted on helping with the dishes despite Keith’s protests. In the end, Shiro washed and Keith dried.

Shiro was busy complimenting Keith on his attractive home and comfortable rooms, which made Keith feel proud. He also felt pangs of guilt, seeing as how Shiro still hadn’t figured out where home was, now that Adam, Keith, and basically everyone else he’d ever been close to had left Earth behind.

That wasn’t what Shiro was thinking about.

“I noticed you have hardpoints in the bedroom,” Shiro mentioned it gently, expecting Keith might feel embarrassed. Instead, Keith’s eyes met his with quiet curiosity. “And a drawer full of rope,” Shiro smirked over his shoulder.  

Keith wasn’t accustomed to people being familiar enough with shibari to recognize these things. If Shiro was familiar, that led to other questions. But Shiro beat him to it. “So are you a rigger these days?”

Keith breathed out a laugh as he reached for another bowl to dry. “Something like that.”

Shiro arched an eyebrow, awaiting a more complete answer. He soaped another dish. Keith swallowed.

“I, uh, started self-tying a few years ago. I like the way it feels, the deep pressure. You know that about me,” he fidgeted. “I picked it back up here on Alaxas when I realized I had the space I’d needed to really experiment. But I, uh, needed people to tie with. You can only get so far, tying yourself. I started taking clients, for receiving and even teaching some basics. It can be really therapeutic,” Keith scratched his head as Shiro eyed him sideways. He was well aware that Shiro could see right through him.

“Keith.”

“Yes.”

“I promise, you can tell me.”

Keith met his eyes. “I thought by tying and… putting it out there like that, I might eventually meet people who were, uh, kinky I guess. I wanted to find a lover to play with in that way, but so far it hasn’t been like that.” Keith bit his lip momentarily and tucked more dishes into his cupboard.

“You usually like to top?”

Now Keith blushed crimson. “Oh, I, uh… yeah, I can top with rope. But rearly I like being more of a... bottom,” he blurted, wanting suddenly to crawl right out of his own skin. He studied the glass he was drying.

Shiro turned and gazed at him, blood rushing behind his ears while he dried his hands. He waited patiently until Keith managed to meet his eyes again.

“Right answer.”

Keith’s eyes widened an almost imperceptible amount, but it was enough for Shiro to hang his hopes on. Keith didn’t breathe for a few long moments, steadying himself against the counter.

“Do you tie?” Keith managed.

Shiro smiled to himself, crossing his arms and leaning against the sink. “I do, a bit. It can be very pleasurable to share that with someone. But I haven’t usually had to tie a man down to ensure his submission.” When Shiro raised his eyes again, they were smoldering behind his gentle smile.

Keith blinked slowly, keeping his face as neutral as he could. “Tell me more.”

Shiro chuckled softly. “What would you like to know? I’ll tell you anything.”

A million questions raced through Keith’s mind, and he bit his lip to keep them from all tumbling out at once. He wanted to know everything. He wanted to feel everything. The silence stretched on.

“Do you ever think about seeing someone again?” Keith asked quietly.

Shiro felt like a key in a lock, feeling Keith open to him. He chose his words with care.

“I do. It has taken me a long time to feel like myself again. It was awful, losing Adam; even after so long, the finality of it was brutal. And the Voltron team had been everything to me for years. It left such a hole in my life, not seeing you all the time.”

Keith chewed on each word. Not seeing you. You all? Or was it you… just you.

“Have you been seeing anyone new?”

“I- uh- I want to,” Keith rolled his shoulders, working at the tension he felt creeping into his chest. “But it’s hard to want to get close to... someone new.” Keith looked out the window as he said it.

“I know what you mean.”

Keith glanced back. “You do?”

“Yeah.” Shiro’s voice was barely above a whisper.

“I think about you, Keith. All the time. I think you’re the one for me,” Shiro said tenderly, “and somehow with everything that happened, I missed my chance. For a while, I thought that door would never reopen. But being here now,” Shiro’s eyes glimmered, “I wonder if it’s not too late.”

The words hung in the air for a moment, Keith’s chest tightening with emotion.

“It’s not too late.”

“Keith—”

“Kiss me, Shiro.”

The distance between them seemed to collapse. With a single fluid step, Shiro was pressed against Keith’s body with his left hand at the nape of his neck, bringing their lips together. Shiro drank of that kiss like a man dying of thirst, his mech hand pulling at the small of Keith’s back. Keith moaned against Shiro’s mouth in spite of himself, lost in the feeling.

He dug his fingertips into Shiro’s back as their lips parted and he felt the tip of Shiro’s tongue caressing his. He shuddered, leaning harder into the embrace.

Panting already, Shiro released his mouth and pressed their foreheads together. “Keith, I want to take you to bed.”

Keith shivered. “Please yes.”

He led the way, pulling Shiro behind him by the hand. The soft light of dusk still flooded his rooms, including the bedroom ahead. Just before the threshold, Shiro pulled him back around and pressed him solidly against the sliding door. Keith met his eyes, swooning.

“Keith, I don’t want to rush with you. I want everything all at once,” he panted, “but there’s time for that, isn’t there?”

“Yes,” Keith breathed.

Shiro kissed his jawline, below his ear, working his way down his neck. “I want to know how everything feels.” His tongue lingered at Keith’s collarbone as Shiro’s thigh pressed between Keith’s legs. Keith moaned softly, open-mouthed. “Is that a yes?”

Keith licked his lips. “Yes.”

Now Shiro led the way, sliding the door closed behind them and steering Keith to stand at the foot of the bed.

Shiro took a step back from him to meet his eyes. “I want you to take your clothes off.”

Keith felt heat rush to his face.

He used to love the way Hunk would guide him by asking. Always an invitation, never a demand, and in those early days that was what he needed. Now he loved hearing the command in Shiro’s voice. He could say no if he ever needed to, he felt sure, but the risk was that might break the spell. He wanted to say yes.

Keith pulled his shirt off over his head, his braid swinging down the center of his back. He kept his eyes on Shiro as he unbuttoned the fly of his black jeans. Shiro drank him in, the awe in his eyes softening his features for a moment, while his eyes traced the lines of Keith’s body as he pushed his pants and briefs down from his hips.

When he stood again, naked down to his toes, Keith slowly took a breath. His cock was already hard and the tip was slick with precum. He had never felt more exposed, longing for Shiro to touch him again. But the look in Shiro’s eyes held him frozen there.

“Please, Shiro.”

Shiro waited for him to say it.

“P-please. Touch me.”

Shiro pulled his own shirt off roughly and stepped into Keith’s arms, hitting him like a wall of heat. Their mouths tangled hungrily as Shiro popped his pants open and let them fall. He kissed down Keith’s body to toy with each nipple while he lowered his underwear, leaning Keith’s ass against the foot of the tall bed. Then he sunk his teeth into the pectoral muscle.

Keith gasped, threw his head back and clamped his eyes shut. The breathy moan that followed encouraged Shiro to take another bite.

“You like biting,” Shiro observed softly.

“Ngh- I-I like you biting me.”

Shiro smiled and nibbled his way back up, varying from soft to harsh. The last hard bite elicited a whimper, a sound Keith hadn’t heard from his own mouth in a long, long time.

“I’m going to suck your cock,” Shiro said softly at his ear. Keith shivered, tightening their embrace. “I’m going to bring you to the edge of coming five times. You’re going to count for me.” Shiro pulled back far enough to look in Keith’s eyes.

Keith gazed at him, nodding. Yes. I want this.

Shiro gripped his cock at the base and kissed Keith’s parted lips. He kissed down his body to his lap, licking up the shaft while he met Keith’s eyes. Keith steadied himself on the edge of the bed as Shiro’s tongue stroked circles around the head.

Keith’s head swam as Shiro pulled him into his mouth.

The warmth, the pressure, the feel of Shiro’s tongue stroking in a slow, steady rhythm. All of this sensation hit him like a towering wave. He panted, already making soft, low sounds.

Oh god, it felt so good. Had he forgotten how it felt? Had it ever felt like this before?

Keith gripped the sheets as Shiro built him up, easily, to that shimmering edge of orgasm. He fought it down, not wanting to show how close he was already, but it was no use. Shiro’s lips, his tongue, had him barreling toward that edge. Keith strained hard.

“Nnghn- One!” Keith moaned.

Shiro’s mouth slowed and let up just in time. Teasingly, he licked down the shaft and caressed his balls with his tongue, sucking them into his mouth slowly. Keith’s heart raced unbelievably fast. He was coming back down, that was clear, but everything Shiro did was so deliberately intoxicating.

Keith had started to catch his breath. Shiro nuzzled his cock with his face, teasing the tip with his tongue, and then he began sliding his cock against his tongue deep inside, his mouth opened wide, cool grey eyes looking up at him. Keith watched his cock slide in and out and moaned at the intensity of seeing and feeling what Shiro was doing to him.

When Shiro closed his lips and began to suck gently, Keith was so desperately sensitive that he moaned loudly. He was almost afraid he’d come uncorked and spill without warning. But this time Shiro built him up slowly, a luxurious ride. It wasn’t until Keith felt himself slide into the tight passage of Shiro’s throat that he realized with a start how close he was to cumming.

“Two! Oh, two,” he blurted, shuddering. That was too close.

As the moment passed, Shiro took him inside again, this time using his hand to stroke his shaft in time with his mouth. Keith was getting unfocused, still riding the last wave while the next one began. He was suddenly overcome with the notion that he wasn’t just having the most mind-blowing sex of his life, but that it was Shiro, his Shiro, who was so thoroughly rocking his world.

He watched Shiro’s white forelock bob up and down in his lap as he pulsed with sensation, and reached out to touch his hair. As soon as Shiro felt his hand, he caught it with all the strength of his mech hand's grip and yanked it harshly away to the mattress. He didn’t change his pace at all, but something about that show of strength made Keith tremble and jolted him toward the edge again.

“Three,” he gasped. Keith’s hips bucked helplessly once or twice before Shiro managed to immobilize his hips again.

Shiro picked him up and laid him out on the bed. “Keith, hold on to the headboard.”

Keith licked his lips. “Okay.”

“You are not to let go. Do you hear me?”

“Yes, Sir,” he sighed. He said it without thinking.

“Oh, I like that,” Shiro smiled. Then he threw Keith’s legs over his shoulders and bent his knees back to his chest as he began sucking and stroking again. Only this time, his hand continued to stroke, while his mouth worked its way further down.

All at once, Keith tensed, picking up on what Shiro was about to do. He wasn’t sure he was ready, anxious that he wasn't clean enough. Shiro felt the change.

“Are you still with me, Keith?” He asked softly. “You can tell me if you don’t want to be touched there. I just wanted to taste you.”

Keith hummed, split almost in two, nervous and wanting at once.

“I- you- ah- Yes, only if you swear you want to.”

“Oh, I swear,” Shiro smiled. He started again how he began, sucking Keith’s head and stroking the length with his fist. When he felt Keith relax into the sensation again, he pressed his hips forward further and licked down past his balls toward the tender pucker of his entrance. Shiro’s tongue massaged him gently as Keith writhed, stroking and circling and driving him crazy with his tongue and his stroking hand. That was before he started to press his tongue just gently inside.

“AH! Hmmmh,” Keith whimpered helplessly. He was lost now. Only, he didn’t want Shiro to get concerned about his reaction and stop—anything but that. Panting, he muttered, pleading now, “Yes, please...” Gasping for air, he whimpered more loudly, “hmmh! Oh- Yes!”

Shiro ate at him hungrily, reaching inside as far as he could go, aching to feel Keith from the inside now—with his fingers, with his cock. Oh god, he wanted that. But no, there would be time. Right now he wanted to show Keith exactly what he promised. This was only a taste.

Keith was gasping again now, reaching his limit.

“F-Four,” he strained.

Shiro released his cock but lingered at his entrance a moment longer, tracing circles there. “Mm,” Shiro hummed. He couldn’t resist.

He thought he saw Keith smile.

Shifting his position, Shiro eyed Keith’s cock, stiff and swollen. He wanted to drink his cum, and this time he would. He took Keith’s cock down his throat to the hilt. Keith rewarded him with a desperate moan. 

Keith kept managing to be surprised when Shiro did something incredible he hadn’t really expected. He laid there pinned, Shiro’s throat hot and heavy all around him, desperate for release and also aching to stay caught in this ride of disbelief.

Shiro wants me. He... he loves me. 

Shiro fucked him hard with his throat. It was wet and sloppy, spit coating his balls as Shiro massaged him there, too. He felt and heard Shiro gagging forcefully and keep going, Shiro himself moaning now as he worked Keith up one last time. He gripped the headboard til his hands hurt. It was so fucking hot, Keith couldn’t last.

“Five—” he panted.

And Shiro continued, driving the head of his cock over and over into that tight, raw passage of his throat. Keith convulsed, his grip suddenly weak. He shimmered on the edge for a long moment before the wave crashed. He came forcefully at the back of Shiro’s throat.

Shiro made a sound that was more purr than moan, swallowing and licking his lips.

Keith blinked at the ceiling, open-mouthed. “Thank you, Sir,” he breathed quietly.

Shiro crawled up into his arms, melting into his body in a warm embrace.

“Oh, Keith,” kissing him. “I do like the way that sounds. But you can call me Takashi.”

 

+++

Chapter Text

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

—Mary Oliver, “Wild Geese”

 

Keith stirred, feeling someone nearby. It was a peculiar feeling, and more than a little alarming. But then he remembered—the touch of Shiro’s body, his mouth.

And there he was, leaning down to kiss his face as Keith blinked himself awake. Keith exhaled.

“My god. It wasn’t a dream.”

“Nope,” Shiro smiled. Keith blinked again and squinted up at him.

“You- you have glasses?”

“Uh, yeah. They’re for reading. Go ahead, say it. Old Man,” Shiro chuckled. His good humor and ease sent currents of warmth through Keith’s body. Not to mention the way the thin black frames accented his strong nose and square jaw… the effect was dashing. Keith bit his tongue. He could not use that word, out loud, and live to tell the tale.

“What, is it too early to roast me?” Shiro leaned down and kissed Keith’s lips, nuzzling their noses together softly. Keith thought he might die of happiness, cracking just a hint of a smile. Shiro straightened again and picked up his coffee cup, taking a sip.

“I like it,” Keith blurted finally, as though the words had been lodged in his throat.

For a moment it looked like Shiro might choke on his coffee, but he recovered. He licked his lips, collecting himself. “Oh?” He was clearly amused, and only slightly blushing.

“I like the way they look. And… I like seeing you like this. Like, at home. In private. I don’t know how to put it, but… It’s sexy as hell,” he admitted. He rubbed his eyes, muttering, “I think you might need to pinch me.”

“I would love to pinch you,” Shiro beamed. “Provided that’s the invitation I think it is.”

Keith bit his lip as he stretched, feeling his muscles coming alive, taking it all in. Shiro is flirting with me. For real. He scooted up to lean against the pillows. “Maybe some coffee first.”

“Good call.” Shiro handed him a cup from the nightstand. “Black, right?” Keith heard the echo of his own words from the day before, familiar and warm. Yet that already felt like the distant past, so much had changed.

Keith smiled to himself, staring into his cup. “Right.”

Shiro swung his legs around and settled in next to him against the headboard, pulling Keith close until he was leaning against Shiro’s chest, their bent knees tangled together under the edge of the sheets. He set his glasses aside, reached for his own cup and sighed. Shiro stroked his fingers through Keith’s hair slowly.

“I would bottle this moment if I could.”

Keith gripped his knee. “Yeah.”

They drank their coffee slowly, eventually setting their cups down, idly touching each other in the early morning light. Exploring how it felt to be close. Keith wasn’t used to sitting totally naked with someone, even with a lover, and even with a corner of the sheet in his lap. But he liked the soft cotton of Shiro’s black pajama pants against his skin, and Shiro’s muscled chest pressed into his back, his arm wrapped around him… well, it was worth getting a bit sweaty where their skin touched. He could handle that, for this.

“Keith. Can we talk about... how we want to be together?”

“Uh. Yeah.”

Shiro seemed to hesitate, not knowing where to begin.

“I- I dreamed about being with you like that, like last night. Or... rougher still. I don’t know if you knew that about me, before,” Shiro fidgeted with his hair, a blush rising to his cheeks. “Being with you was sweeter than I ever even imagined. Feeling your submission...” Keith tensed suddenly, Shiro feeling his pulse speed at the word.

“It felt so right to me, Keith,” Shiro continued carefully. “How did it feel to you?”

He hesitated.

“It’s okay, Keith. You can tell me.”

He thought for a moment. “I loved it when- when you took control. It felt… exactly right. Only, I feel funny about it when I think about it. Submission. It’s hard to describe, I- I just don’t see myself that way. I mean, passive. Weak.”

Shiro shook his head. “You aren’t at all. You’re one of the strongest men I’ve ever known.”

He thought about this quietly, feeling tightness creep into his chest.

“That’s why your surrender is so sweet,” Shiro trailed his fingertips down Keith’s bare arm, raising goosebumps there. “When you yield your power to me, that means something. It’s not because you can’t match me. You can. No, it’s… it’s that you’re making a choice to give me something that is not easy to give.”

Keith turned to look at him, eyes so soft and wide Shiro could tumble into them. “That… that sounds like how it feels.” He placed his hand on Shiro’s heart and nuzzled into his chest, resting the bridge of his nose against Shiro’s neck. 

He'd tried to explain it to Hunk, towards the end. Hunk tried so hard to understand, generous to a fault, but... well, it wasn't the only think that just got away from them at the end there. Keith still felt bad about the misunderstanding. 

“I- I never imagined anyone would... get that,” Keith breathed.

“I do,” Shiro held him close. “And I will always honor that gift. I know exactly what it means. And I will show you what I can do with that power you give me. I’ll push you, but only if you want that, too. Is that what you want?”

Keith pressed into his chest, gripping him tightly. “Yes. Nn- I want that. So much.”

Shiro kissed Keith’s temple through his hair, unable to suppress a smile.

“You need a safe word. Something you can say that will break the spell when it gets to be too much. I’ll come to you then, give you your power back, and ask you what you need.”

“I… have one," Keith said cautiously. "Altea.” 

Shiro smiled, wondering at the story behind that. Later. “Good. Altea will be here for you, whenever you need it to be. There is no shame in using it, Keith. It might happen without warning, and that’s okay. Nothing you can do is wrong.”

Keith nodded, pondering.

“Shiro, have you ever used a safe word like that?”

“Oh yes. Plenty of times. In fact, I’ll use yours, if I need to.”

“Wait, as the top?”

“Uh huh. If I’m in distress, or if I think you are and you haven’t said it,” he was pensive. “I don’t just mean that you’re proud. Sometimes, the things we do together… it can make you forget that you have a choice. But you always do. I’ll have my eye on you the whole time.”

Keith turned this over in his mind.

“When you’re in control, how do you end up in distress?” There were no barbs in the question. Keith just wanted to understand. Shiro always appreciated when Keith was direct like this; it happened mostly when Keith was working hard at something, determined to crack the code on a new skill, to overcome whatever obstacle he might find in his… in their… way. Shiro relished the thought of Keith learning their play like he'd once learned to fly. And if he was half that talented at it, Shiro was clearly done for. 

Shiro took his time responding. Even now he felt the darkness at the edges of his mind, the nightmares he mostly managed to keep at bay.

“Well. Easier than I’d like to admit. I was a prisoner of the Empire, twice,” Shiro trailed off. He often avoided talking about his cloned body, and Kuron’s memories which he'd somehow absorbed as his own. “If I’m being particularly ruthless, I can get flashbacks to times like that. Things they did to me, things I watched them do to innocent people. Things I did to you,” Shiro’s jaw tensed.

“If I start to feel like a monster, I might have to stop. So that you can… remind me that I’m not.”

Keith was looking at him now, openly concerned. His jaw set. “Of course.”

“Using your safe word keeps us both safe, okay? I will trust you to use it when you know you need it. I will do the same.”

“Okay. I understand.” His eyes were warm and resolute.

Keith thought of another question. “When should I call you Takashi?” He felt butterflies in his stomach, saying the name out loud. Somehow it burned even brighter on his tongue in the light of day.

Shiro smiled. “That is my private name. When you say it, I’m going to want to ravish you. Use it accordingly.” He brushed Keith’s hair back with mechanical fingers, placing a feather-light kiss at his temple. Keith leaned into it. 

“Takashi.”

A low growl escaped Shiro’s throat as he rolled Keith onto the mattress. The world spun. Keith landed on his stomach with Shiro sprawled on top of him. “You better not be testing me,” he spoke softly in Keith’s ear while he held his naked body prone there.

Keith trembled with excitement. “I’m not, I swear. I want this.”

Shiro ground his hips into Keith, already hard and ready. He was just reaching for his own waistband when there was a chime coming from the other room.

Keith froze. “Fuck. Shiro, we’ve got to get dressed.”

“Uh, is that the door?” Shiro raised an eyebrow.

“Yeah. It’s the Head of the Council. I, uh, invited him for for a meal today… I meant lunch,” Keith cringed. It was half past the 8th varga, far too early in the morning for company.

Shiro rasped a laugh. “You’re gonna be in big trouble. Later,” nipping at his jawline while also rolling off of him, resigned to their fate.

Keith immediately sprang into action, getting dressed in a flash and tying back his hair. He honestly looked perfect, already, with just that much effort. Shiro thought with a laugh that he probably got up like this every day and he wouldn’t have known.

He looked down at his lap, straining against his pajama pants.

“Um, Keith, I need a cold shower.”

Keith blushed. “Right. Of course. Uh… I’ll get the door and cover you so you can sneak to the washroom,” he said hurriedly, already leaving the room.

Right.

Shiro grabbed his clothes and listened for his moment. When Keith had their guest engaged on the porch, he darted across the hall to the washroom undetected.

Closing the door, he laughed freely. Nothing like a couple of old war pals to know how to create a diversion and cover one another. If he’d known as a cadet even half of what he knew now, he might not have acquired quite the reputation he had back at the Garrison.

He’d tried not to make too much trouble, or at least not more trouble than his grades and piloting skills could save him from. But he’d certainly woken up more than his share of school mornings in a classmate’s bed.

Shiro washed quickly, preparing himself for company. Warm memories from years ago washed over him the whole time. All those years with Keith so near, within reach, yet untouchable.

Keith’s go-to plan this morning felt just like old times, a familiar taste of adventure, figuring it out side by side. Together.

Just like old times. Only, this adventure was entirely new.

He felt his heart wobbling in his chest.

As much as he was aching to hold Keith down on the bed and take possession of him, Shiro found he was enjoying sitting with that feeling. The anticipation settled into his core, a comfortable hum of wanting and trusting. His contentment ran deep.

After so long not knowing, not daring... here, in this place, they could take their time. All the time he had, it was theirs. For once, it felt like it could be enough.

 

+

When Shiro emerged from the washroom, he heard delightled laughter from the other room, felt the warmth of it in the air—something like his childhood home, or at least how he remembered that time. He turned toward its source, drawn in. Just inside the kitchen he could see Keith standing almost nose to nose with a richly tanned and bearded elder, Keith an inch or so taller, their hands on one another's upper arms. They seemed to be sharing great joy over some news they shared between them, speaking animatedly in hushed tones. The alien man embraced Keith with deep feeling and, admittedly to Shiro’s surprise, Keith hugged him back just as fondly.

Shiro hung back a tic, enjoying the moment that lingered and not wanting to interrupt. Then the man’s deep voice intoned rather loudly in his direction, “Well, what are you waiting for?”

On cue, Shiro padded quietly into the kitchen, blushing only slightly.

Keith turned to see him, and Shiro would never have believed his expression had he not seen it with his own eyes. Already smiling in the company of his friend, the sight of Shiro walking towards him seemed to settle over Keith’s features like sunlight caressing his face on a crisp spring day, warm and bright. He couldn’t imagine feeling more flattered than he did seeing himself through Keith’s eyes.

Keith blinked softly, stepping to the elder man’s side with his arm across his back ushering him forward. “Shiro, this is the Alaxan Head Councillor, Vigmorus Ooar, and my good friend.”

The Councillor fetched the soft green hat from his head revealing his small round horns at each temple as he gently bowed. The horns and the squarish markings on the man’s cheeks and tip of his nose indicated he was most likely Puigian, early Coalition members. The man’s eyes sparkled as he reached for Shiro’s right hand with both of his own.

“Please, call me Vig. It is an honor to shake your hand, Shiro of Voltron,” he grinned deeply, squinting his eyes. It was always nice to find when someone didn’t flinch at the touch of his mech hand. If Vig noticed at all, he certainly didn’t hesitate over it. “I say, I still remember when the Paladins came to our aid liberating Puig from the Empire. I was a far younger man then, I say,” he reminisced.

“It is good to meet you, Vig,” Shiro smiled.

“And what brings you to Alaxas, I say, our humble corner of the universe?” Vig inquired, his smile only slightly conspiratorial.

“Just visiting a dear old friend,” Shiro couldn’t keep his eyes from Keith’s face.

Vig’s smile turned sly, appreciating the lack of pretense in his reply. “Ah yes, our dark star. Where we would be without this one, I say…”

Shiro felt a tug at his heart, and realized it was pride. “Do tell,” he beamed. Keith’s expression was studiously neutral, trying hard to ignore how transparently Shiro was eating this up.

“I shan’t embarrass the boy, no,” their guest chuckled heartily, turning and reaching an arm out for Keith in an affectionate gesture. Again, Shiro almost started when Keith stepped willingly into Vig’s half embrace. “Just doing his civic duty for the universe, he’d say. Ah, but we all know better. He’s too much good for this world, though he’s never wanted anyone to know.”

“Oh, I know,” Shiro smiled, sipping at another cup of coffee.

Keith cringed and blushed at that, finally, but sank even further into Vig’s shoulder. Like family, Shiro thought. He’s found family here.

“Did you two meet here, on the council?”

“Well before, I say. I’ve known this one for many years,” Vig smiled. Keith took this opportunity to slip away to the stove. Vig settled in on a stool and continued his tale while Shiro leaned against the counter nearby.

“It was early days after the war, with word of the Black Paladin of Voltron, a half-Galran human, already guiding a new path for the Galra Empire. This was good news, I say, for Puig and for my family. You see, my eldest son, Jax, had a terrible, progressive illness. Puig is not known for our medicine. Jax had suffered under this ailment many years, eventually losing the use of his limbs. We were heartbroken. The war over, I saw my opportunity, I say, something I never thought possible in my lifetime. I sought aid for Jax from the new Galran council. Several leaders met our diplomatic envoy, the famed Paladin among them. And just a boy, weren't you, then?" Vig scoffed.

"I mean, kind of. Yes," Keith shrugged. "Fate of the universe, you know..."

"Easy to forget how we were hardly more than kids," Shiro mused.

"Yes, I say!" Vig agreed, his eyes scrunched closed by his smile. "Well, I for one was heartened to be reminded of the faith we much put in our younger generation. And they are equal to it, I tell you. Every bit of it."

Shiro nodded. He knew that better than most.

"Well, my story is a small thing to all that. But you asked! See, Keith personally set me with an apartment, brought us to the doctors who would take my son under their care. I was there for many phoebs, far from my partner and our village, but Keith visited us often. He was a great comfort to my son, and to me. I like to think he was there to comfort an old man, but I do realize he and Jax had become friends.”

Keith kept his focus on the frying pan. Something about the subtle tension in his body told Shiro there was more to that story—more than friendship. Shiro liked the thought, even if he regretted all the gaps in his knowledge of Keith's life in recent years. He had lost time to make up for. But that mystery could wait for another time.

Vig continued, looking somewhat past Shiro now, out the window or much further than that.

“The doctors, well, they did all they could for my boy. But even with all of the scientific advancement within the reaches of the former Empire, they could not save Jax from his affliction,” Vig winced, and Shiro could see Keith from the corner of his eye, peeking up at Vig with concern. “He succumbed to the disease.”

“I’m sorry.”

“As am I, Shiro,” Vig cleared his throat. “I felt great regret that the intervention began so late. Too late, I say, but alas. They- they told me that besides making him more comfortable for more years, the end would have been the same. They simply didn’t have a cure. And that is why I came here.”

Shiro’s brows knit then, forming a question he didn’t need to ask out loud. Vig nodded at him.

“Puig are a simple people, I say. There have been no great Puigian scientists, ha no. However, some of us believe that through scientific advancement, it is possible to unlock many mysteries, perhaps times of untold plenty. Puig who feel as I do have ventured here to Alaxas to help, to dedicate our lives to the advancement of knowledge in at least some small way.”

Keith spoke over his shoulder from the stove. “Vig has been instrumental in supporting research into the bioluminescent creatures here.”

“Yes, the Balmotes!”

That did nothing to clear up the puzzled look on Shiro’s face.

“Oh,” Vig chuckled to himself. “That’s just what I call the little motes. It’s not very scientific, but I won’t bore you with their proper classification. I say, if the Great Designer saw fit to provide microscopic Balmera-kin in the very waters of this world, I say I’m not passing up an opportunity to call it as I see it.” He grinned until his eyes were just slits.

Shiro was endlessly charmed. He must mean the bioluminescent organisms from the hot springs, the ones that were manufacturing a stable, solid form of bio-soluble quintessence.

“What we are learning from the Balmotes will change everything, Shiro. We are unlocking more secrets every day. We can feed more people, I say, in greater harmony with our environment. We can cure diseases,” Vig’s voice broke with emotion, “and give our families the chance for a long, full life.”

Shiro let the conviction of it wash over him, the true meaning of the work Keith was involved in here.

Micro-infusions of quintessence on a cellular level.

A groundbreaking therapy to repair, to... overcome, the effects of degenerative disease.

Shiro had fallen silent. He looked at Keith’s back as he plated their food, certain that he must feel Shiro’s eyes boring into him.

Out of all the star systems, all the potential causes where Keith’s talents could be needed, Shiro had wondered what brought Keith to this place. Alaxas was in many ways a manifestation of the Coalition’s efforts towards lasting peace across the galaxy, and certainly Keith would always have a place in that.

But now Shiro felt sure that the answer lie in the search for answers, for a cure, and the many threads that connected this search to his heart. People he loved, people he’d lost. People he’d never been willing to lose.

The war was over, everyone could rest, but not Keith. Here he was, in the trenches even now. Shiro felt the blood pounding in his ears. He hadn’t seen it until now.

Vig was quiet, drawing Shiro’s eyes back to him. When their eyes met, there was a knowing look. This man knew. Probably not everything, probably not in detail, but there was no question Vig knew that Keith’s being here led straight back to Shiro, to the connection they shared, one way or another.

Vig smiled gently, mirthless but still a comfort. He nodded slowly, clearing his throat.

“Losing Jax, my partner and I wondered if we would find hope, find healing, ever again. It seemed impossible then. Nothing can replace my child, but I believe he can see what we are doing here, and that he is loving us, loving us all through these miracles. Sometimes I imagine that he himself is lighting our way.”

Shiro felt his features forming a matching, sad smile. “I’m sure that he is.”

Keith was carrying plates into the sitting room then, with no intention of letting anyone help him. Vig slid from his stool, reaching for a cane that leaned nearby.

Shiro started filling water glasses, unasked. He couldn’t help it, always preferring to be of use. When he returned for the last plate and the utensils, Keith smirked at him and nodded. He’d allow that much.

“Breakfast is ready,” Keith gestured with his full hands for Vig and Shiro to follow him.

 

+

Keith wasn’t much of a cook, still, but thanks to Hunk he had learned to hold it together. What were meant to be omelets had quickly become egg scrambles, but that was okay. The toast came out alright, it was pretty hard to ruin toast, and the chunky green salsa—admittedly one of Hunk’s creations, spooned from one of the last remaining jars—really made it all come together. He thought it maybe even impressed Shiro a little bit. He was never a fussy eater, always grateful and complimentary, but he had devoured his meal and very nearly licked his plate.

The whole time that he cooked and listened to Vig catching Shiro up on their history, Keith’s attention drifted, divided between this remarkable, peaceful morning and the many memories he felt stirring. 

There were the memories of cooking breakfast with Hunk, both of them bleary-eyes and in their underwear, smiling and sharing intimate touches all while Hunk tried so patiently to help Keith manage even the most basic culinary tasks. He’d gotten a lot better, if Keith was any judge, or at least he wasn’t quite the lost cause that he'd once imagined himself to be. Hunk, to his credit, was nothing but encouraging and never seemed to mind. They’d had a number of visits like that after the war, trying to hold on to the miraculous thing they’d started on Earth despite the new distance. It just got to be so hard, the little misunderstandings and so many more not-being-there-when-I-needed-yous that quietly tugged them apart. But while it lasted, Keith gave it everything he had. No one knew him like Hunk did after what they’d shared, honestly not even Shiro—not yet. Keith's heart ached long after the split, the wound long-since mended but never completely healed.

Then there were the memories of Jax, stirred by Vig’s tale of that time. Jax smiling when Keith would come to visit, always seeming in those moments to forget how sick he really was. It was reward enough; Keith would visit just as often as he could, taking him on walks pushing his chair around the medical office’s busy plaza or up on the terrace for the view, just to give him that—that escape, the chance to roam. He hated seeing anyone cooped up like that, and cringed imagining the corded-off life Shiro might have led if Adam gotten his way. 

Then there were Jax's warm brown eyes creasing at the corners as he told some story of his home, ushering Keith into his life like he belonged there, fitting him there as though there was already a place there marked out just for him. Keith remembered the way his darker complexion didn't quite hide his blush when Keith got up the nerve to hold his hand. It’d been years since Jax could control his armsthey’d betrayed him years before his legs hadbut his grip trembled as he tried in vain to squeeze Keith’s hand back. Keith just pressed harder.

It was often like that with Keith, ever since Hunk showed him a whole language of touch. It came naturally to him, once he'd started, so long as he gave himself a chance to adapt. Actually, Keith often felt like he knew better how to press his feelings into someone’s skin than he ever knew how to find the right words. But Hunk also taught him that people deserved to hear those words.

And oh, the way Jax coaxed secrets from Keith, pulled truths from his heart about the family he’d always wanted and could finally imagine having, in Krolia and Kolivan, and Vig too, more and more; truths about the men he’d loved, his secret hopes, and the fears he carried still. Fears of being not enough, of being left behind, even after everything they’d fought for.

Keith let himself wander through his memories while listened to Vig and Shiro, weighing in about this and that. Bringing Shiro into his world felt right. He’d wanted him to know about Vig and Jax, and the many things that brought him to Alaxas. He hadn’t found the words, but the desire was there. Vig made that easy. Vig, so like his son, knew the right words.

And so Keith let them talk, eventually tangling his fingers with Shiro’s where their hands rested on the floor mat between them. The touch sunk into him, chasing some of the sting out of the hard memories, polishing the tender memories bright like a star.

Not long after polishing off the last bite, Vig looked at his watch and mumbled something about how he really best be headed back to town. Keith slid out of Shiro’s grasp and hurried over to his side, just in time to help Vig up from his low cushion. He was always trying to do everything for himself, as though he forgot constantly about his bad knee! Vig grunted and grinned reluctantly at the help.

Shiro stood to say his goodbyes, reaching to shake Vig’s hand, who was honestly having none of that this time. They were past handshakes. He embraced Shiro like he always did Keith, like another adopted son, and Keith felt his stomach wobble, too full of queasy hope.

“Very, very glad to know you, Shiro.”

“The honor is mine, Vig. Truly.” Shiro said it with feeling.

Pulling back, Vig laughed, shaking his head a bit. “No, no, mine. I insist! Keith is very important to me, you may have gathered,” the elder man’s gaze swept over Keith as he said it. Keith was used to all of Vig’s warmth, his effortless candor, but even for him this intimacy with Shiro seemed remarkable, immediate and iron-clad. 

Vig reached a hand to Shiro's right shoulder, the gesture so like Shiro's old standby. Keith stayed very still, watching, hanging on Vig's words.

“I've long wanted to thank you, actually, for keeping Keith safe. I bet you think it was the other way around, and I’m sure that’s true, I say! But I- I thank you, Shiro. I needed this one, our dark star,” Vig’s eyes glittered at his favorite endearment. “He saved my family—not from death, not from grief, but from- from loss of hope.”

Keith gulped helplessly, the threat of tears pricking his eyes.

“He believed in me, in gifts I didn’t know I had. He reminded me not just to believe but to act. Imagine, an old man like me, I say, becoming a scientist!” Vig chuckled, lighting up the room, before turning to Shiro again seriously. “You know he credits you for believing in him, once. And all the difference that made.”

Shiro was speechless again, but so was Keith. The look they exchanged then was almost too much.

Luckily, Vig seemed to expect nothing in response. He walked to the door without another word. Keith trailed helplessly behind him, finally wrenching his eyes from Shiro’s lest he trip right out his own front door.

Keith followed Vig out onto the porch, breathing deeply to collect himself. The day was warm already, though it was early enough that the shadows across the landscape were still long and lazy. They embraced on the porch, the angled sun striking them at the waist, both things warm and welcome.

Vig reminded Keith once more that he must come by the lab and see the latest results for himself. “This changes everything, I say!” Vig beamed.

Keith smiled. “I- I know it does. I will try to come by tomorrow. I’d rather not bring Shiro just yet. I don’t want to- to get his hopes up,” Keith tried to keep his face even.

“If you insist, of course, only… remember not hold him at arm’s length. We must let the people we love in. Hold him close to your heart.”

“You’re right, of course,” he muttered with a self-deprecating wince. Vig patted his shoulder, smiling conspiratorially, and stepped off the porch onto the path with a little wave.

Keith looked after him for a minute, mindful of his breath. Slowly in, even more slowly out. When he ducked back inside, Shiro was reclining on the futon in the sitting room. He smiled as Keith shut the door, already reaching for him.

“Come, sit with me.”

Keith complied with a contented sigh.

“Vig is just lovely,” Shiro kissed Keith’s head as he snuggled into his chest. “You seem to have a close relationship.”

“Yeah. He’s kind of infectious, you know? I almost couldn’t help it.”

Shiro squeezed him a bit. “Good. I’m glad you have someone like him in your life. He felt like- like family. You deserve that.”

Keith’s heart swelled. He didn’t know what to say.

“You were friends with his son.”

“Yeah, I was,” Keith idly stroked Shiro’s arm, letting memories wash over him. Shiro was quiet, waiting for more. “He was so open and friendly, just like his dad. It just… happened. Jax was always thinking of others before himself, even when the outlook was grim. Someone else in his shoes might have been bitter, defensive, and I wouldn’t have blamed him. I- I think he reminded me of Hunk, in that way,” Keith felt his chest tightening, the truth of it almost catching him off guard. “Not Hunk’s humor but just... his sincerity.”

Keith bit his lip, grateful Shiro couldn’t see. Keith went on touching him softly, stroking through the fabric of his shirt, his head full more of feelings than of coherent thoughts.

“Jax just saw the best in everybody. He knew he was dying, but he wasn’t about to stop living. I admired that.”

Shiro stayed quiet for a few moments longer. “Were you more than friends?”

Keith thought for a moment. “Yes and no. He was so sick, it wasn’t like we were... dating. I always knew I was going to lose him and that scared me. But I loved him, and he knew that much.”

“I’m so sorry I never knew him.”

“Me too. You would have liked him.” Keith sat up and shifted so he could see Shiro’s eyes. “It’s strange... Jax couldn’t remember a time when he could just be a kid. He’d been sick his whole life. It shaped every choice he ever made. I…” Keith hesitated.

Shiro settled a hand on his upper arm, encouraging him with a nod.

Keith met Shiro’s eyes. “I thought about when you found out about your disease; how I was so mad that you hadn’t told me, furious that you would keep something like that from me. It was really selfish of me. I really don’t think I could understand what you were going through, facing that and choosing to not live any differently.”

Shiro was looking at him softly with an emotion Keith couldn’t quite place.

“And- almost daring anyone to try and hold you back.” Keith cracked the smallest smile.

“Yeah, fair,” Shiro smiled. “I guess I always felt like I would run out of time, if I didn’t just keep moving forward. I couldn’t let it catch up to me before- before I was ready. It was a long while before I admitted I couldn’t imagine what being ‘ready’ would even mean. I still can’t.”

“Don’t.”

“Don’t what?”

“Don’t try to imagine it, what would be enough. You- you deserve every day of a long life,” Keith pressed into his chest. “Don’t you dare settle for less.”

Shiro chuckled. “Okay. Deal,” he gripped Keith tightly. He couldn’t help but feel that it was dishonest, just a little bit. He knew he'd always catch himself weighing and measuring, adding to the list of all that he had to do and to prove before his disease caught up with him, reaching for that inexorable point where it might, just might, feel like enough. He'd outrun it so long, but the disease was still there. And yet how could he deny Keith such a simple request? He didn't ask him to cheat death, just to promise not to go making deals with death.

And for all he knew, Vig and his team here were really onto something. Keith managed not to look haunted most of the time, but since being here Keith seemed genuinely hopeful. Keith had shown him some preliminary findings, but what else had they learned?

Just then Keith had an incoming call. Keith grumbled slightly before extracting himself from Shiro’s arms. He walked to his console and accepted it. Soon Krolia’s face filled the viewscreen.

He smiled. “Hi mom.”

Keith could just make out Kosmo in the background, reclining against a console. He missed that wolf, but he was glad he was keeping an eye on his mother.

“Good morning, Keith.” She didn’t smile, not really, but Keith could tell from the corners of her eyes when she was happy. “I wanted to come and visit you on Alaxas.”

“I would love that. When can you come?”

“I will be there tomorrow.”

Keith pulled up short, his stomach flipped.

“Oh! Mom, um, that’s… too soon. This isn’t a good time? Really not a good time. Are you… already on your way?”

Shame hit him full in the face. How could he say no to his mom like that? He wanted to crawl into a hole.

But his mom coming around this week made him want to crawl into that hole and never come out. It was selfish, definitely, but he and Shiro were just starting to explore what was possible between them. There was so much to work out, and after this week… well, Keith didn’t know what would happen then. The short time and impending distance seemed suffocating, and his stomach twisted just thinking of it.

He choked back his panic along with the guilt he felt at saying no. He couldn’t sacrifice this precious time, and he needed her to understand that somehow. But how?

Her disappointment was plain as day, although her expression didn’t change. It was the stiffness in her shoulders, like looking in a mirror. “Oh. I see. I am sorry, I should have contacted you sooner—”

“—It’s okay, mom, really, just—”

“—I will be passing relatively near the Al’Alax system in twenty-three vargas, but it is no difficulty. I will make other arrangements.”

“Damn, mom, I’m- I’m sorry. Could you… visit on your way back?” he cringed as he asked, hope in his voice. His mom’s expression warmed again, almost imperceptibly. Good, he thought. I can recover this.

“I would be really excited to have you over, mom. I’ve been wanting you to visit! There’s so much to show you. This is just… I already have company right now.” Here we go.

Krolia’s head tilted a degree to the right. She was still mulling this when Shiro walked into the recording frame and stood just behind Keith. He placed a hand tenderly on Keith’s shoulder. Keith felt the warmth of it throughout his body, his stomach already somersaulting with happy, nervous tension.

“Hi, Krolia. How are you?” Shiro addressed the viewscreen.

This time, she smiled.

“Shiro. It’s been a long time.”

“Too long,” he replied.

Keith felt his stomach twist again with filial guilt, tangled with the giddy feeling of his mom knowing, unmistakably, that this visit was exactly what it probably looked like.

It'd been a long time since Shiro had seen Krolia, too, and they’d definitely gotten pretty close by the end of the war; what if this was their only chance for a long while, too? Damn, fuck it. He cleared his throat.

“Hey, uh, mom? How long were you going to stay?”

“Not long. I hoped we could share a mid-day meal tomorrow before I continue on to Olkarion.”

Keith let out a breath he didn’t know he was holding. Leave it to his mom to cross galaxies for a quick lunch. But he was many times more relieved that he could actually say yes.

Keith looked back at Shiro, who nodded, then turned back to his screen. “We’d love to see you.”

We.

 

+++

Chapter Text

A felled branch reveals the wound
That smells of comfort and wisdom
Your knots are like the eyes of God
Scrutinizing my every intentions

I feel at ease as I rest in your strong arms
And think—
If I had a choice for a final resting place
It would be under your majestic feet

—John K Trainer, "Cedars of Lebanon" 

 

Keith ended the call with Krolia and sighed. Shiro rubbed his shoulders.

“Well. That happened,” Keith laughed weakly.

Shiro’s thoughts were racing. He decided that if he spoke just then, something was going to come tumbling out when he wasn’t ready—maybe everything, all at once. Instead he massaged tension from the long muscles of Keith’s neck and back, nuzzling behind his ear with his nose.

Keith’s eyes fell shut, back arching slightly as he leaned back into Shiro’s touch.

Krolia understood, and Shiro was relieved that he hadn’t miscalculated. Keith had seemed to want to tell her, worried he’d disappoint her if he couldn’t explain, and Shiro took a gamble.

Krolia knew what this meant, too, in ways that the two of them hadn’t even begun to unravel. It meant that gravities were shifting, orbits collapsing or combining. And now they had until tomorrow to think about what they might say to any motherly questions.

Shiro wondered if Keith felt nervous about that, but he didn’t seem to. Keith and Krolia were so similar, despite him growing up without her. They communicated so much with so few words.

“Mm Shiro. You are, uh, rapidly reducing any chance that we’re going to leave the house today,” Keith smirked.

Shiro breathed into his ear at that. “No objections.”

Keith shuddered. “No one is really expecting us in town. I just- thought- you,” Keith’s voice faltered as Shiro’s hands grabbed at his chest and his hips, “might like- to get out. Sometime today.”

Shiro pretended to give this some thought, going still. He leaned in to answer, “Not right this second.”

Keith hummed, grinding back into him.

“Takashi,” he purred. “I want you.”

Shiro smiled to himself. Keith would have to learn to be more specific about what he wanted. Shiro had many desires, not all of them sex.

Without a word, Shiro led Keith to the bedroom, the sheets and their sleep clothes in a tangle there from when they’d rallied in a hurry. It was a pleasant sort of disarray.

He led Keith to the foot of the bed and circled behind him, yanking Keith’s shirt off overhead followed by his. Shiro pulled out his ponytail, letting his hair fall loose around his shoulders, and efficiently stripped away Keith’s pants and underwear and also his own.

Shiro gathered Keith’s hair high over his head into his mech hand, and made a fist. He started pulling, not too hard, but enough for him the feel the threat of it. Keith elongated his neck, acquiescing. Shiro licked his lips.

With one fistful of hair and his human hand at the back of his neck, he pulled Keith roughly onto the bed, first on all fours before stretching him out long, face down against the tangle of sheets.

“Ngnn,” Keith purred even before he pressed his body into his backside, groaning from the feeling of Shiro’s hardness against the cleft of his ass.

Shiro kissed the nape of his neck, and Keith moaned so softly he almost couldn’t hear it, such a delicate sound. He trailed his lips and the tip of his tongue down the length of Keith’s neck to his right shoulder, leaving hot, wet kisses there. Keith arched back into his body needily but didn’t make a sound.

Shiro wanted to hear him. He dragged his teeth against Keith’s skin toward the point of his shoulder, firm but not harsh, angled to feel sharp. His efforts were rewarded with a sharp sucking sound. He dragged his teeth back the other way as he leaned into Keith’s body, this time drawing a short, high moan from him as he exhaled.

Shiro opened his mouth and sank his teeth into the meat of his shoulder near the neck. Gently at first, then more and more as he felt Keith tense and gasp softly. Shiro’s vision tinted red. Oh he wanted to hurt him.

He took a deep bite behind Keith’s shoulder blade. Shiro kept Keith prone, his grip in his hair like a vice. He stretched him out long when he tried to recoil to resist. Keith winced and then when it didn’t let up he whimpered softly, his pride faltering. Shiro’s reward.

Before long, Keith was moaning and gasping with every marking bite, his heart thrashing in his ribcage. Some bites were easier to take than the others—and some were much, much worse.

Shiro relished his struggle.

When Keith fought down his naked cries, determined to take the pain, Shiro ripped them out of him mercilessly. He kept his hair pulled taught, Keith’s wails muffled in the sheets.

When he was more frayed, crying out openly and flinching in anticipation, the bites would be sharp and quick. It was meant as a kind of reprieve, to keep him together until he could really hurt him again. Around and around they went like this.

Shiro worked his way down with his teeth, marking Keith’s full back, bruises blossoming over his tender sides over and below his ribs, the backs of his thighs, and the firm curve of his ass. Every time he felt Keith try to endure it quietly, he would bear down until he relented again.

His soft whimpers and loader moans were incessant now. The back of his body was stained everywhere with dark, mouth-shaped rings. Keeping his head and shoulders down against the bed, Shiro lifted him up by his hips onto his knees. He kept marking him even as he began stroking Keith’s cock slowly from behind. Keith called out helplessly.

“Ah! Mngh- ah!”

Shiro kept biting, bruising teeth marks studding a rising wave of pleasure in the pit of Keith’s stomach.

Shiro stroked more forcefully, high on the taste of Keith’s sweat and the pained moans he wrung out of him.

“Takashi,” Keith’s voice shook.

Shiro slowed his stroke to listen but didn’t reply. He let up the tension on his hair, but Keith didn’t turn to look at him.

“I-I’m all yours.”

“You want me inside,” Shiro guessed, still stroking Keith’s hard cock slowly.

“Yes—”

“Then say it.” He needed to hear it.

Keith swallowed. “Take me. Fuck me,” he panted, his voice strained as Shiro took another bite out of him. “Ngh- Please.”

Please.

You’re my brother.

I love you.

The memory hit hard. It was all Shiro had ever wanted to hear, and it haunted him. He felt her rage behind his own eyes as Keith pleaded for him to remember, begged him to come back, desperate for the spell to break. Keith would never give up—he would die trying to save him. And still nothing stirred in him through Honerva’s blinding rage. No remorse.

Shiro felt weightless, pulled inside out.

He let him go, both of his hands sliding lightly to Keith’s hips, his forehead bowed and pressed gently against Keith’s lower back.

“Keith, I-I—”

“—Altea.”

It was over.

Shiro stretched onto his side beside where Keith knelt, reaching for Keith’s shoulder stiffly. Shiro wanted to touch him; he needed to know that it was okay.

Keith was on him in an instant, a soothing hand on his chest, his eyes wide with concern. “It’s okay. I’m here. I felt the... shift. I knew something was wrong.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t expect the memories,” he swallowed, “not like that.”

“I know. Can I... hold you?”

“Yes,” Shiro shuddered, gulping hard for air. He pulled Keith to his heart. Keith’s fingers gripped into him even harder as he heard Shiro’s breath catch in a tearless sob, so quiet and so heavy, like thunder that you feel instead of hear. Keith folded into his body, pressing his thigh between Shiro’s legs just to be closer.

Since waking, Keith had found himself many time wanting to freeze time, to feel just like this forever. Until Shiro seemed to come apart at the seams—then Keith was grateful for the impartial march of time.

Just as the joy had overwhelmed Keith’s senses, so could the pain. He was no stranger to grief and regret. You learn to live with it, most of the time. Shiro’s remorse was profound, in ways Keith understood better than anyone else could. The violence Honerva did to him through Kuron’s hands, well, those actions weren’t Shiro’s, and yet… they were. It wasn’t Shiro holding a burning sword to Keith’s throat, and yet… it was.

Nothing could change what had happened on that platform; the memory would always burn. But they didn’t have to stay there.

Each breath in each others’ arms drove the darkness away. He sighed as the thrum of Shiro’s heartbeat slowed, his breathing becoming steady.

So many years had passed since that fight at the clone facility, and Keith had never regretted professing, pleading, nor fighting for both of their lives with every ounce of his strength. He didn't have to choose. He couldn't. It wasn’t even a question; he would always do whatever it may take.

It had taken Keith years more to finally recognize the hunger he felt for what it was—to finally see Shiro as more than his best friend, more than the brother he’d never had but so desperately needed in his life. Only when Keith didn’t need Shiro anymore could he finally see how he wanted him.

Keith felt the tension in Shiro’s shoulders soften as he slumped further against him, slowly coming back down.

It was Keith’s turn to take the lead; he would guide them back, and let Shiro know there was nothing wrong, nothing to fix. Everything was as it should be.

Keith stroked Shiro’s back in a soothing circular motion.

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m- feeling better.”

“Should we… debrief?”

Keith felt Shiro crack a smile where his jaw pressed against Keith’s forehead. “Yeah, that’s a good idea.”

“Okay, I’ll start,” Keith spoke confidently. For once, the words came easily; there was so much he wanted him to know about the way Shiro made him feel. “First, the things you do with your mouth are going to be my undoing,” Keith groaned pleasurably. “I mean. Fuck. It really, really hurt. Brutal,” Keith shivered, feeling his arousal start again. “But it was never too much. I felt like you were really getting inside my head.”

Shiro smiled, unsure if Keith realized that his flexing shoulders and arching back, his whimpers and cries, transmitted everything he needed to know. “I like it inside your mind,” Shiro snuggled into him.

“I want it again. You, pushing me as far as I can take for, like, longer than I can imagine. Holding me just at the breaking point,” Keith shuddered, and Shiro held him even more strongly, breathing in Keith’s pleasure and the reassurance of hearing how it had moved him.

“Getting emotional felt good. You making me beg for it—well, it shocked me, and it was so, so good.” Keith paused. “I’m sorry that was the trigger. I heard it in my voice, too.”

Shiro inhaled carefully.

“The emotion in your voice sounded… so raw. Devastated. I didn’t realize that I would hear your voice from the platform. It guts me everytime, that memory. I know you know.”

“I do.” Keith thought for a moment, pulling away to see Shiro’s face. “I- I think we need to create new memories. Memories where you can hear that in my voice and you know that it’s safe between us. Safe to- to feel that much,” Keith bit his lip, suddenly not sure how to say what he needed to say.

Shiro was enrapt. “Please, baby. Go on.”

Keith’s expression softened, and Shiro found himself swimming in Keith’s eyes. They seemed to glisten.

“You can devastate me with love, Shiro,” he smiled softly. “Sometimes it’s too much to hold. And that’s exactly when I want you to go on. Maybe not now, not yet, but… when you feel like you can. I want you to push me there, because I want that between us.”

Shiro swallowed hard, his throat tight with feeling even as his body responded like a mirror of Keith’s desires. He wanted that, too.

Keith touched his face, placing the softest kiss at the corner of Shiro’s mouth. “It might break both our hearts, in a way, but it I think it can help heal them, too.”

Shiro nodded, and Keith settled back into Shiro’s arms.

After a few more quiet moments, Keith chuckled quietly.

“I feel like I either need you to fuck me, or fight me,” he admitted. “My body is wound so tightly right now. Which is more my problem than yours, honestly, I’m just saying.”

Shiro laughed. He appreciated knowing that Keith wasn’t about to start handling him with kid gloves. He’d never want that. “Well, I’m not out of commission, Keith. Maybe we’ll just save begging for it for another day?”

“Deal.”

Shiro thought for a second, feeling the midday sun filtering in through the window. His body wanted to move.

“Hey, is there anywhere we can go?”

Keith’s smile was sly.

“I think I know just the place, if you don’t mind a hike. Come on."

 

+

They rambled through fields and over streams on rough-hewn footbridges for the better part of an hour, Keith leading the way. Shiro carried a mostly empty pack with some water and supplies. It was so easy between them, minutes filled with conversation and others steeped in comfortable silence.

They were gaining elevation now, heading up into the rocky hills that surrounded the valley. There were lots of people about along the valley trails, less as they started to climb. By the time they looked out over the valley from the ridge, they hadn’t come across anyone in a while.

“Wow,” Shiro breathed as he looked out over the landscape, his hair whipping past his eyes in the wind.

“You just wait.” He felt Keith press into him from behind, arms encircling his waist, and he smiled.

Wordlessly, Keith stepped away down the trail, pulling Shiro by the hand. Shiro found himself fondly stroking the back of Keith’s hand with his thumb. Such a simple thing, one that he’d narrowly stopped himself from doing many times.

The trail curved past a rock face to the left, then curved back the other way. They snaked along between trees and brush to their left and the golden brown layered rock to their right. Shiro could hear rushing water somewhere nearby.

The trail passed near a narrow cave entrance, something like a doorway, and to Shiro’s surprise that was where Keith headed. The sound of water was louder now, the rock below their feet somewhat damp.

“Watch your step, okay?”

“Okay,” Shiro nodded. “Did you bring a torch?”

“I did, in the bag, but we probably won’t need it. Just let your eyes adjust.”

Shiro stepped with care down some sloping natural stairs worn into the rock, starting to see the soft blue glow. It was coming from some mineral between the cracks in the rock, from puddles where water pooled, ribbon-thin sources all around them bringing the small space into dazzling relief.

Keith looked back at him, his eyes catching and scattering the light. Shiro’s face must have been full of wonder. Keith looked delighted.

“Where are you taking me?”

“My favorite place.”

“I’ll say!”

“You’ll see,” Keith said. “Oh, and, uh, we’re going to get pretty wet. Forgot to mention that.”

“You really don’t do anything by halves, do you?” Shiro chuckled.

Keith shrugged. “I guess not.”

The ribbons of light in the rock fanned out and gathered again, swirling in organic patterns etched into the rock. Shiro felt the patterns dancing around him as he relaxed his eyes and his mind. The air was humid, cooler than outside but nowhere near cold. It was getting warmer again as they walked.

The sound of fast-moving water was getting louder. Shiro felt his excitement building.

Rounding a corner, the source of the sound came into view. A waterfall completely blocked their way forward, water shimmering with blue light falling in a sheet across the tunnel ahead.

“Incredible,” Shiro shouted over the din.

Keith turned to him. “Anything you want to keep dry, the bag will handle it.” He seemed to consider for a second, and then peeled his shirt off, followed by his shoes and his pants. Shiro followed his example, trying not to let the field of bruises on Keith’s back distract him too much, at least not yet.

Standing in their underwear, they stuffed their clothes and shoes into the pack and sealed it up. Keith met Shiro’s eyes, his excitement palpable.

“Stay close, okay? There are a few falls to get through but it shouldn’t be too slick.”

“Right behind you,” Shiro confirmed.

And at that, Keith shouldered the bag and stepped through the wall of water.

The water was warm and pleasant as it rushed over Shiro’s body. It wasn’t a harsh feeling, it was rather smooth actually, but there was just a lot of water. It pummeled into his shoulders and back for only a couple of moments before he was on the other side, standing in a bit of water to his calves, blinking his eyes clear.

He gasped.

The passage had widened a bit, almost twice the size of the passage before. Here there was aquamarine light filling the space, emanating both from the water flowing at their feet and from the intricate, lace-like patterns etched into the rock in all directions.

Shiro felt himself lingering, slowing. He just wanted to take it in.

Keith looked at him sincerely. “Don’t worry, there’s more.”

“Wha- what is this place?”

“These tunnels are natural, carved by the water over millennia. We know ancient Alaxans came here. Experts have studied the signs they left, but we don’t know what this place was to them.” Keith looked at Shiro, watching him marvel.

“It- feels like a sacred place. Don’t you think?”

“Yeah, that’s what I think.”

Meeting Keith’s eyes, Shiro swooned. Water dripped from Keith’s hair down the bridge of his nose, droplets beading down from his shoulders and tracing the lines of his bare chest, his muscles, his scars. His body and his eyes glittered with aquamarine. He’d never seen such a beautiful sight—of that he was sure. But it was the love in Keith’s eyes that took his breath away.

His heart leapt as Keith reached for his hand, entwining their fingers. He pulled Shiro to the next falls, stepping through while their fingers were still laced. Shiro let himself be pulled.

Blinking past the water this time, he opened his eyes to see Keith already pulling him through the next sheet of water. Then another. The flow felt gentler each time, the path snaking downward. Shiro wondered, how far did this maze of passages and falls and warm pools go?

He blinked his eyes open into a wider, quieter space. The water barely lapped at their ankles now but it rushed, falling down a gentle slope toward a wider stream ahead. Off to the left the rock sloped up out of the water in smooth, sloping curves and broad plateaus. Keith walked to the edge of that higher ground, setting the bag down somewhere dry.

When he turned to look at Shiro, there was electricity in his eyes.

Shiro stepped closer, aching for him. Keith reached out to grip Shiro’s upper arm, his right hand coming up to touch his jaw as they leaned into the kiss. Keith made a delicate, needy sound.

It took all of Shiro’s strength to temper the full force of his hunger. He launched into Keith with probably too much force, forcing him back until his heels and then his ass struck the hip high curve of rock behind them. Keith gasped from the impact, knocking into their pack as he clawed at the edge of the rock, then groaned sharply as Shiro ground against him, devouring his lips.

Shiro panted into Keith’s mouth. “I- need you- now- Keith,” he managed, incoherent with lust. He was peeling Keith’s wet underwear away, his own next.

“Yes- yes,” Keith purred back, fumbling blindly for the bag’s side pocket where he’d stashed the bottle of lube. Shiro sucked at his mouth, his tongue, his neck as though he was trying in vain to get enough air. He ground their cocks together, a dizzying tease. It left them both gasping.

“Here,” Keith pushed the bottle into his hands like it would burn him to hold it. He got lost in the beautiful storm in Shiro’s eyes. When Shiro spun him roughly against the rock, he hadn’t even seen it coming.

Shiro bent him forward against the rock, Keith’s hands landing beneath his shoulders, gripping the coarse-grained surface. He nudged Keith’s feet a bit further apart and reached around, starting to stroke his cock. The tip was weeping, smoothing Shiro’s rough grip.

Shiro clawed at Keith’s back with his mech fingers, the skin there already swirling with dark nebulas of pain and pleasure. The sharp pressure brought Keith up sharply, flinching as he arched his back.

Keith felt Shiro’s hard cock nudge his thigh and groaned. God, he hoped he was ready after all. It had been sort of a long time. Shiro’s sharp fingertips still stung his back, though he felt it less keenly through the haze of anticipation and the reeling sensation of Shiro’s hand steadily tugging at him. He arched his back as a shudder passed over him.

Shiro crouched down, spreading him with both hands, and started licking his ass, probing his tongue inside.

“Mgh!” Keith whimpered instantly, high and sharp, shocked at the force of his reaction as it echoed around the cavern. Shiro moaned with pleasure, tasting him hungrily and plying his entrance open with each wet, probing stroke. Keith felt revulsion and pleasure, and shame for feeling both. It tormented him. Shiro’s tongue on him, inside him, was honestly the most vulnerable thing they’d shared and Keith was struggling hard with it. He’d let Hunk rim him with a barrier, just so that Keith could feel clean, but he liked other things better. He’d choose fucking anyday.

And yet… god, it was so hot and chaotic and felt insanely good. Shockingly good. He just couldn’t understand what Shiro could like about eating his ass raw—tasting him. But confusingly, confoundingly, Shiro did like it. Wanted it. Keith’s whimpers became intoxicated moans as he felt the resistance leave his body, his entrance relaxing more and more for Shiro’s tongue.

Shiro pulled back and smoothed his hands over Keith’s firm ass before he squeezed some of the bottle into his hand, and teased his pucker with two fingers. Keith’s mouth hung open silently as he prepared himself to be entered.

Shiro slid a finger inside, carefully, which Keith accepted easily. Right away, Shiro switched to two, which had Keith gasping and gripping the rockface with pleasure. Good boy, Shiro thought. Three fingers stretched him, but Keith still only moaned gladly, bucking his hips back against Shiro’s hand. Shiro applied more lube, massaging it inside, feeling Keith open right up for him. He was so ready.

“Mmm,” Shiro hummed approvingly as he pulled out and lubed his throbbing cock. He brought both hands to steady Keith’s hips. Keith turned partway over his shoulder, looking intoxicated, a deep blush evident on his cheeks even in the otherworldly light.

“Takashi,” he whispered, his breath trembling. “Show me that I’m yours.”

Shiro caressed his entrance with the tip of his cock, slick and hard. Keith bucked his hips slightly, wanting. He slipped inside slowly, Keith’s body yielding to him, stretching to take him.

Keith felt the sting and the pleasure all at once. He moaned in deep gratification as he felt Shiro bottom out, feeling his full length inside as his thighs pressed into the rock. Shiro kissed his back, raising him upright and holding Keith’s back pressed against his body as he began moving inside him slowly, gently. His tenderness was breathtaking. Keith arched back into his cock and his soft kisses.

“Takashi—” his voice rasped.

Shiro built up his motion slowly. He wanted to fuck him hard. He also wanted Keith to feel his love, to know it in his body.

He lowered Keith back onto his hands, thrusting in a steady rhythm. Keith moaned and sighed, gripping the unforgiving rock until his hands hurt.

Shiro thrust harder, fingertips digging into Keith’s hips. He felt him wince in his grip even while Keith’s body opened to him more.

“Ah! Yes. Yes,” he gasped, “there, right there!” The cant of Shiro’s hips was perfectly directed at the spot inside him that made him unravel. He was shaking already from the mounting pleasure, the movement inside him driving them both to distraction.

“Keith, I feel. I feel—”

“I know,” Keith bit his lip.

“You’re perfect,” Shiro rumbled softly. “Perfect and rare- and you’re mine,” he panted, his voice gritty.

Keith trembled and moaned, lost in the ways his body was transforming, his heart reconfiguring to hold it all.

Keith’s skin glistened with sweat, reflecting tiny points of light from every direction, so like a starfield that he held in his hands. Shiro dropped wet kisses along his spine as he filled Keith with his full length, grinding each time against the spot that trembled deep inside.

“Ah! Mngh- ah!”

“Tell me what you want, Keith.”

“Harder,” he groaned.

Shiro slammed into him now, over and over. Keith was dizzy from panting so hard for so long. It couldn’t last. His muscles were clenching down rhythmically around each thrust, beyond his control. “I’m- I’m so close. Oh—”

“I’m going to come inside you, Keith—”

“Ah! Yes!”

So close now, that release they both craved. He could almost taste it. Shiro slammed his full length into him and groaned as he came deep inside. He kept his rhythm going a few moments longer as he pushed Keith over the edge.

“Ah- ah! AH!” Keith cried. “AH—”

Keith called out in ecstasy, falling forward until his cheek settled against the flat top of rock that held him up. Shiro bent over him, embracing the full length of Keith’s body. He held him, deep inside him, through the aftershocks, spent and softening. Keith hummed softly.

“Baby?”

“I- should sit down- before- I fall down,” Keith laughed weakly.

Shiro let him stand but then scooped him up, carrying him several paces to where shallow, warm water lapped at his ankles from time to time. Keith curled into his chest, perfectly happy to be taken care of right now. There weren’t many people Keith would let take care of him, but Shiro was one of them.

There was a hollow in the floor a few meters ahead, a kind of kidney-shaped pool glowing brighter than everywhere else. He set Keith down in the shallows at the edge while Shiro stepped down inside, testing the depth and the temperature. He looked at Keith who was looking at him hazily with a soft smile.

“Perfect, isn’t it?”

Shiro leaned in between Keith’s knees raising himself up on his palms until he was pressed into him, tasting Keith’s lips teasingly.

“So perfect,” he confirmed. Then he scooped Keith up again, rolling him until he supported Keith’s weight, sliding them both down into the gently warm water. They sighed in unison, and hardly mustered the energy to chuckle about that.

Keith nuzzled into Shiro’s chest and neck, nearly stopping Shiro’s heart. Joy welled up so potently that he wanted to laugh or maybe cry. He hugged him to his body, gazing at the swirling luminescent haze of the water that lapped all around them.

Breathing felt easier than it had in years, his body languid and already feeling rested, restored.

"Shiro?"

"Hm."

"Let's stay here a while."

Shiro held him tight. "I wouldn't want to be anywhere else."

 

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