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TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 26

Being the Takashi Shirogane’s personal assistant and social media manager isn’t the greatest thing in the world.

It involves 2 a.m. Taco Bell runs when Shiro is drunk, partially so Shiro doesn’t die, but mostly so Allura doesn’t kill Keith over a drunk driving scandal. He often has to wake Shiro up before sunrise for flights and events, listen to him complain about how interviewers always ask the same questions, and make his haircut and doctor appointments. Worst of all, he has to monitor what people say about him online, scrolling through tweet after repetitive tweet about Shiro. It wouldn’t be so bad, save for the fact that every day, another fan discovers that the word ‘shit’ can be found in his username, @takashitweets.

But as Keith watches the Starbucks baristas sling fraps and make coffee, he knows he can’t complain much. He gets paid $2,500 a week to help his best friend out, while these unfortunate people are paid minimum wage to serve every snob in L.A.

It’s the type of job that Keith should have ended up with. When his mom kicked him out on his ass when he was 18, he by all means should have struggled to stay afloat. And if he hadn’t known Shiro, he would have.

“I have a Pink Drink for Keith,” one of the baristas says a little too loud for Keith’s liking, sliding the unappetizing drink onto the counter. As Keith looks up from his phone, he thinks he sees her holding back laughter, and he wants to make it clear that the drink is not for him. But he has no time to talk.

Being Shiro’s personal assistant also involves doing occasional runs for Shiro’s manager, Allura, and getting her the worst drink on the Starbucks menu. That, he can and will complain about.

Sure, okay, he’s drinking a chai. But at least he gets a shot of espresso. And nothing could be worse than coconut milk mixed with strawberry juice. He adds the cup to his tray of drinks with a huff and heads out to Shiro’s old, beat-up Toyota Camry.

Actually, he takes it back. The worst part of being Shiro’s assistant is having to drive this hand-me-down instead of his shiny, well-taken-care-of motorcycle on the days Allura asks him to pick up coffee.

Once he gets to the hotel room where WIRED is setting up for their interview, Keith runs right into Allura, nearly spilling the coffee on her. He holds his breath, tightening his grip on the tray. He is not getting fired today, and he is definitely not going to run back out to Starbucks.

“Oh, Keith, I’m so sorry,” she says, holding her hands out to steady him. She has her silver hair tied up in its usual puffy bun, and her pink pantsuit too obviously contrasts with Keith’s ripped jeans and sweatshirt. He glances at everyone milling about, doing their jobs, forever reminding him how out of place he is.

“Thank you, as always,” Allura says, taking her cup from the tray once he’s no longer at risk of dropping it. She turns on her heel, making a beeline for Shiro.

“Can’t you try something new?” Keith asks, following her. “Maybe a frappuccino? They make a strawberry one, you know.”

She always ignores his pleas, a knowing grin on her face.

“Shiro is almost done with hair and makeup, and they’re going to start filming soon,” she says, taking a sip and obnoxiously sighing in delight. “So, hurry up with the coffee.”

Despite her horrible drink choice, Keith is grateful for Allura. For being a busy talent manager with multiple clients, she’s one of the kindest people Keith has met in Hollywood. She doesn’t make Keith feel small or superfluous like most do. But at the same time, she’s focused on her job and doesn’t expect Keith to be her friend. Never is Keith asked to partake in useless small talk or forced out of the bubble he prefers to keep himself in.

That, he thinks, is the best part of his job. Well, that and the money.

“Ahh, thank you, man!” Shiro says, once Keith hands him his caffè latte. He takes a long sip, and Keith thanks whatever god is out there that it doesn’t burn his friend’s tongue. “Seriously. Don’t know what I’d do without you.”

“Fall asleep during every interview, probably,” Keith deadpans. He stands awkwardly beside Coran, Shiro’s stylist, while he runs gel through Shiro’s tuft of sleek, black hair.

“Yeah, I’d have lost my career by now if it weren’t for you,” Shiro says, grinning. “By the way, next time just get Allura a frap and say there was a mistake.”

“She’d kill me,” he says, glancing at Allura, who nods in agreement. She’s in the midst of checking emails on her phone.

“But it’d be for a good cause.”

“Ah, I’ve already tried to change Allura’s blasted ways,” Coran says as he puts the finishing touches on Shiro. He and Allura have known each other since they were kids, Keith learned as soon as he met them, and Allura recommends Coran for all of her clients. “That girl has the palate of a toddler, and the stubbornness to match!”

Coran,” Allura whines, just as a WIRED staff member, dressed in all black, approaches them. Keith has to hide his smile.

“Ready?” the woman asks, and Shiro takes another long sip of his coffee.

He clears his throat, blinking the tiredness from his eyes. He’s been awake since 6 a.m. – he had a photoshoot this morning, followed by an audition, before this. “Let’s do this.” He stands and easily puts on his heartthrob persona, crooked smile and all, as he follows her to the white backdrop.

Keith has never known how Shiro does it, smiling at everyone all the time. He works nonstop – auditioning, making TV and red-carpet appearances, photoshoots, all on top of actually acting – and he still manages to at least seem happy on a daily basis.

Keith gets exhausted any time he tries to put on a happy front for over ten minutes, and all he does is buy coffee, sort through fan mail, and post tweets that make Shiro look good.

He watches as Shiro settles into the chair, bright lights on him. He looks as natural as ever. Soon, the camera starts rolling, and Keith shoves his hands in his pockets. He still hasn’t gotten used to being around all this.

“Hi! I’m Takashi Shirogane from the CW’s Kerberos, but you can just call me Shiro.” Big, flashy smile. A smile, as some fans would say, fit for a god. “And this is the WIRED Autocomplete Interview.”

Keith takes an unnecessary step back, awkwardly looking behind him to ensure he doesn’t trip on any cords. Another staff member, the one directing this whole thing, tells Shiro to comment on what he thinks might show up on Google’s autocomplete. A blush creeps up onto his face, but his smile never falters.

Just over a year ago, Shiro made a YouTube video announcing his role on Kerberos. He built up to it on his social media, talking all about how he had something huge to share with his fans. In that same video, he came out to the world as gay.

His fear over the public’s response to it was part of the reason he added running his social media to Keith’s job description. It’s not that Shiro is ashamed; he’s been out, privately, for years and was visibly relieved when the video went live. In the video itself, he says it happily – “My character in the show is gay, which is perfect because, well, so am I.” – and he looks right at the camera as he says it.

But he’s still getting used to the whole world looking at him, writing articles about him, and having opinions on who he is without actually knowing him. He hated reading what people had to say, especially when it came in real time as responses to his tweets or comments on his Instagram. The world often has a very different opinion than the ones who love you do. So, he turned the responsibility over to Keith.

“I’m a little scared, actually,” Shiro chuckles his way through it, his voice barely breaking. This very well might be his first time ‘Googling’ himself in over a year, but Keith wouldn’t expect Shiro to handle it any differently. With a wink, Shiro adds, “I don’t want to give away too much about me.”

The staff member who first approached them hands him a small poster board; it has parts of Google autocomplete questions covered up for him to reveal. They’re starting with “Is Takashi Shirogane…” and Keith’s stomach rolls in anxious anticipation for Shiro.

“’Is Shiro…’” he says, pulling off the white strip of paper covering the rest of the question, “…’gay?’” Of course, that would be the first one. Red creeps up Shiro’s neck again, but he still smiles, tilting his head. “Yes. As gay as they come.”

Shiro continues, pulling the next off, and he gets even more agitated at this one. “’…Dating Adam from Kerberos?’”

He shifts in his seat, clearing his throat, and Keith watches as Allura purses her lips, as if uncertain of the answer herself and waiting for confirmation. Keith just shakes his head. It would be obvious if they were – Shiro isn’t the best at keeping secrets, even his own.

“Nope, ah, no. Just in the show,” he says, and Allura is visibly relieved.

“’…Chinese?’ Nope. 100% Japanese, ma’am.”

“’…In Crazy Rich Asians?’” His eyes crinkle at the sides from laughter. “I wish! I would have loved to work with anyone in that amazing cast.”

Keith’s eyes break away from the action, which is no longer flooding him with anticipation. He’s heard each of these questions in one form or the other, and in real life, it’s Allura’s job to make sure Shiro doesn’t say anything stupid.

He walks back over to Coran, who is busy packing up his hair and makeup products, and puts his earbuds in. He blocks out the sound of the interview and, with it, the feeling like he doesn’t belong.

In front of him are two perfect photo-ops for Twitter: Shiro’s Starbucks cup and the WIRED makeup chair. A small grin on his face, he opens up his phone’s camera. Cup in hand after pulling off his fingerless glove, he kneels down so the mirror isn’t in the photo and holds the cup up in front of the WIRED logo.

As he snaps the photo, Coran says, loud enough so he can hear over the music, “Well, don’t you have an eye for that.”

He takes an earbud out. “Not really,” he says sheepishly, almost immediately putting his earbud back in. Coran grins at him and says no more, just continuing to wrap the cord around his straightening iron.

Keith opens up Twitter, typing “super excited about this one, even if I’m also super tired” before attaching the photo and sending the tweet to 2 million followers. Not even a second passes before his notifications blow up with “yaaaaaas,” “what do you get at starbucks king,” and “AUTOCOMPLETE INTERVIEW????”

Keith laughs, liking the Starbucks question. As he clicks to reply, he almost types “chai with a shot,” but backspaces to write Shiro's truth: “caffè latte on a good day, cold brew if I lowkey wanna die.”

At first, the idea of tweeting as Shiro made Keith uneasy. He begged Shiro to take a hiatus or just delete his social media altogether – plenty of celebrities don’t have social media. But he (and Allura) insisted; he already had a strong following and he’d still want to post sometimes. He was just too busy to keep up with it, and he also didn’t want to sift through all of the bad comments to read the good ones anymore.

The first few weeks of his new position ate away at Keith and he had a hard time sleeping, as embarrassing as it is to admit. Shiro’s shoes are a hard thing to fill, even digitally. Everything about him is just so objectively dreamy and perfect, from his looks to his demeanor.

Keith didn’t think he could live up to that, not really. He’s the complete opposite of Shiro, and he’s not a big fan of actively deceiving people. Especially when those people think the person talking is someone they idolize, when in fact, it’s just Keith.

But it turns out fans of Kerberos are pretty smart, and they know ‘management’ plays some kind of a role in Shiro’s social media presence. As soon as Keith saw some theories about how to tell when it’s Shiro and when it’s someone else, he relaxed a little bit. It’s normal, it’s a thing that happens, and they know it.

When he was able to relax, he began to have fun with it. He takes photos from Shiro’s point of view and reads through tweets about Shiro, enjoying it almost as much as Shiro would. He tweets and writes captions easily, trusting that he knows Shiro well enough to do him justice.

When he feels out of place in situations like these, he’s able to escape himself, to become someone who belongs in a room in Hollywood while an interview is being filmed. He becomes a person who excels at their craft and has 2 million people who care about what they have to say, even if he’s not even close to being that person in real life.

Keith sips his chai and starts to scroll through Shiro’s timeline, liking a few tweets talking about how much Shiro means to the fan that posted it or about how excited they are for season two of Kerberos to start production.

He makes a point to scroll directly past the tweets describing how they want Shiro to punch them in the face, among other less safe for work desires.

Then, he comes across a tweet from someone named Lance, his name typed in a script font. It’s a video with the caption “HAPPY (ALMOST) BIRTHDAY, TAKASHI! From over 100 of your fans, to you.” It’s been retweeted onto his timeline by someone whose name is ‘THANK YOU SHIRO!’ and it already has thousands of likes and retweets.

Clearly, the fans want Shiro to see this.

When Keith clicks on the video, a song by Shiro’s favorite band, Moon Taxi, starts playing. Clips of him from season one and different interviews are spliced surprisingly well to the music, with birthday wishes from fans shown throughout.

It’s actually…impressively made. He can tell the fan spent hours on it, syncing the clips to the music and seamlessly transitioning to the birthday messages. They definitely didn’t use iMovie.

Without hesitation, he likes the tweet, and he bookmarks it to show Shiro on his actual birthday. And for good measure, because he knows exactly what Shiro will say, he replies, “omg thank you! I’m showing this to my mom,” and clicks onto the fan’s account to follow them.

--

Lance (@thesoftshiro): if shiro is really doing the autocomplete interview im gonna shriek

Lance (@thesoftshiro): except no shiro interview can top the buzzfeed one with the PUPPIES

Lance (@thesoftshiro): speaking of puppies I think shiro’s hair looks as soft as a golden retrievers but we knew that already

“Pay attention, buddy,” Lance’s twin sister, Rachel, says as Lance narrowly steps out of the way of a display of Chips Ahoy cookies. She doesn’t stop pushing the cart, resting her elbows on the handle as she walks. “That’s the third thing you’ve almost run into.”

Lance walks quickly to keep up with her but never takes his eyes off his phone. “Shiro just tweeted,” he says, voice a pitch higher than normal.

She looks back at him, and he doesn’t have to look up to see that she’s trying not to seem annoyed. He’ll tell anyone and anything about Shiro if given the chance. “What’d he say?”

“He’s doing something with WIRED.” He can’t even try to wipe the smile off his face.

“And that means?”

“WIRED!” Lance finally looks up at his sister. “The Autocomplete Interview!”

“Oh,” Rachel says, and she looks forward again. “Well, come on. What were you planning to make for your turn on dinner this week?”

“Uhh, I don’t know,” Lance says absentmindedly, staring back down at his Twitter timeline. He nearly trips as Rachel turns into an aisle, not looking up as he follows her. “Probably spaghetti or something.”

He scrolls through tweet after tweet about Shiro, Kerberos, and Kerberos’s other cast members, which are far more entertaining than grocery shopping. He comes across his favorite photo of Shiro, posted by another fan account. It’s an old one Adam took of Shiro on set, where Shiro’s holding his nose up with his finger and sticking his tongue out.

Lance quote tweets it, adding the comment: “Can you believe this is the guy I stan”

His notifications are already at 20+ again, so he taps back into them. Lance has been in the Shiro fandom for years now, and he considers himself one of the OG fans. Everyone else does too, he’s sure. Most of his tweets get at least 50 retweets and 100 likes. At least.

If it’s possible to be famous within a fandom for another famous person, that’s what he is.

Some of the notifications are for his most recent tweets, but most are for the birthday video he posted for Shiro last night – er, morning. Those are what he’s known for on Twitter, and sometimes they go a bit viral. No flex or anything.

As soon as Lance got home from work last night, he jumped into bed and started putting the final touches on the video. He couldn’t stop until it was done at 4 a.m., and although he knew he should post it in a few days, on Shiro’s birthday, he just had to post it right then. It’s his best edit yet.

And since then, it’s gotten 2,549 retweets and 10.5k likes. It started with all of the people who sent him birthday wishes for it retweeting it, and then it just took off from there. The only other video he’s made that’s done better is the edit of Shiro and Adam he did when their characters finally got together at the end of season one.

“My video is nearing 3k retweets,” he tells Rachel, and this time she finally looks intrigued.

“Really? Holy shit!” she says. “You should really start filming your own videos to edit, you know.”

“Yeah,” Lance shrugs. “Maybe. I don’t know.”

“It’s worth a shot,” Rachel says, but Lance wrote that idea off last year. He barely has any time to edit footage that already exists, let alone shoot his own. Plus, he’s made it a point not to even post selfies on his account, so no one would care about any video he edits that doesn’t feature a Kerberos star.

He looks back down at his notifications, pulling down to refresh them. More and more retweets and likes come in. along with comments about how much Shiro needs to see it. All of the attention makes Lance giddy, and despite the voice in his brain telling him that it’s not possible, he thinks this might be what finally gets Shiro to notice him.

“Anyway, I’m going to make stir fry,” he thinks he hears Rachel say as he refreshes his notifications again. “—split up?”

“Huh?” he asks, and he’s too distracted to stop Rachel from plucking his phone out of his hands. “Wh—”

She pockets his phone, crossing her arms in front of her chest. “I said I’m going to make stir fry, so let’s split up. Meet at the registers in 20?”

“How am I going to know when 20 minutes is up?” he asks, crossing his own arms to mimic her.

“You’re Lance McClain, you can do anything.”

“Okay, true, but—”

Before Lance can finish, Rachel is speeding away with his phone and the cart with all of their snacks. She’s rounds a corner quickly, and knowing her, she’s going to take detours to get him off her tail.

Shiro hasn’t done a livestream in months, but Lance is prepared to fully blame Rachel if he misses one.

 

He ends up meeting her at the checkout 15 minutes too late, hands full of spaghetti, sauce, and ground meat. Even as they’re paying, Rachel refuses to give Lance his phone back. It isn’t until they’re in her car, bags of food in the trunk, that she places it in his hands.

“You’re lucky I didn’t get kidnapped,” he says as she backs out of the parking lot. “I could have died and had no way to contact you.”

“Don’t you always say you could take anyone who tried to fuck with you?”

“Yeah, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t worry,” Lance scoffs. His phone vibrates and lights up in his hands before he even gets a chance to unlock it.

“Those video notifications went off the whole time I was shopping,” Rachel says. “It was so annoying, I almost shut it off.”

“Serves you right.”

And that’s exactly what he’s expecting: likes and retweets from fans trying to help him, or just fans commending his work. That is until he sees that he has hundreds of missed messages from his group chat with his friends from high school, Hunk, Pidge, and Matt, and all of the other Twitter notifications include tweets in all caps, most with his name or some form of the word “congratulations” in them.

Lance sits upright. If he wasn’t buckled into a car, he would fall over. As soon as he sees the first “congrats Lance!” he begins shaking, his eyes wide, and he scrolls as fast as he can through the notifications.

He doesn’t want to get his hopes up too high before screaming: Adam and Romelle from Kerberos already follow him, so one of them could’ve just liked his tweet. They’ve done it before.

And he could have easily just missed an in-depth conversation in his group chat about something stupid. That’s happened before too.

But then he sees it, and his breath catches. “SHIRO followed you back!” “SHIRO replied to your tweet: omg thank you! I’m showing this to my mom” “SHIRO liked: HAPPY (ALMOST) BIRTHDAY TAKASHI…”

When Lance pictured this day, he really thought he would scream. But now that he sees it, the notifications staring back at him, he actually feels like crying. He might even feel a tear slip down his cheek. He wipes it away quickly and takes a screenshot of the notifications on his lock screen.

“R-Rachel,” he chokes, reaching over to slap her shoulder. He’s full-on crying now, and he nearly drops his phone. “Shirolikedmytweet, RACHEL!”

“Who did what now?”

“Shiro,” he takes a deep breath, sniffling. “Shiro liked my tweet. The video! And he followed me and-and said he was going to show his mom.”

Rachel has to slam on the breaks, almost rear-ending the Jeep in front of them at a red light. “Shiro? Like the actual Takashi Shirogane? Your hero, Shiro? The love of your—”

“YES!” He takes another deep breath, trying to contain himself. “Oh, my god.”

“That’s so fucking crazy.”

Listen, he loves Kerberos. It’s like Riverdale but better written. Or Gossip Girl but more diverse. He screamed when Adam and Romelle followed him, and when season one came out, he live-tweeted it every Tuesday night at 9. Now, he’s seen it four times. And in the very little free time he has, he makes video edits of the characters.

But even more than Kerberos, he loves Shiro. He’s been following Shiro’s career since his tiny, yet amazing role in Spider-Man: Homecoming. A few years later, he jumped up and danced around when he found out Shiro was simply nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

He’s been there since the beginning, watching as Shiro grew in popularity, learning everything there is to know about him. And over time, he became a motivating and inspiring force for Lance.

Then last year, when he didn’t think he could love Shiro more, Shiro came out to the internet in a heartwarming YouTube video. Because of that, Lance began to come to terms with his bisexuality instead of completely avoiding it.

So, he doesn’t just love Takashi Shirogane. He adores him. Yes, he’ll even admit, he’s pretty much obsessed with Shiro. Shiro means something to him in a way that Lance can’t even begin to describe.

And Shiro just liked, replied to, and followed Lance. Holy shit.

Lance pulls open his group chat to find that his friends have been talking about him for the last half hour.

pidgeon (@shiroganes)

> LANCE are you seein this??

h (@kerberostrash)

> he probably passed out again
> he stayed up all night working on that thing

matt holt (@mattholt)

> [photo of dog peeing on bed]

pidgeon (@shiroganes)

> [photo of dog hanging onto tree for dear life]

h (@kerberostrash)

> lance please wake up theyre sending the dog memes again

matt holt (@mattholt)

> shiro just replied too
> omg lance is gonna shit himself
> ahahahha
> mama shirogane is gonna see his work!!

pidgeon (@shiroganes)

> so the like wasn’t an accident
> he definitely saw our birthday messages hunk!!!!!

matt holt (@mattholt)

> katie please stop yelling
> omg he just followed him???

h (@kerberostrash)

> NO
> HOLY SHIT

pidgeon (@shiroganes)

> WIG
> It FLEW!

matt holt (@mattholt)

> lance has got to wake up

pidgeon (@shiroganes)

> does this mean we can add shiro to this gc

h (@kerberostrash)

> if we add shiro were adding romelle and adam too

matt holt (@mattholt)

> pls

The rest of the messages were just the three of them sending various emojis and “wake up lancey lance” in order to make his phone buzz like Rachel said it did.

Lance (@thesoftshiro)

> Wait guys
> Ive been awake I was at the store and
> Rachel took
> My phone she took my phone and hsiro followed me im and full on sobbing htanks
> Omg
> Help
> I cant see

h (@kerberostrash)

> lance im so happy for you omg

pidgeon (@shiroganes)

> shiro obviously loves you and wants to marry you

matt holt (@mattholt)

> pidge is living vicariously through you
> js

Lance (@thesoftshiro)

> he knows I exist im shaking

 

Lance stares at Shiro’s profile, seeing the ‘follows you’ but not believing his eyes. He’s wanted this for so damn long and was really starting to give up hope.

“Rachel, am I dreaming?” he asks, and she reaches over to pinch him. Hard.

“Ow! Okay.”

No, it’s real. Shiro saw his tweet. He saw his hours of work and he REPLIED.

Shit. He replied.

Lance clicks on ‘tweets and replies’ on Shiro’s profile, and it turns out Lance is still the last person he replied to. He types “I hope she likes it!! Thanks Shiro!” and lets out a breath.

This is really happening. After years of trying and believing it could happen, it finally did. Takashi Shirogane noticed him.

h (@kerberostrash)

> LanCE! You should do a face reveal now!

Lance (@thesoftshiro)

> Idk…
> should i?

matt holt (@mattholt)

> YES
> Show the world your face

pidgeon (@shiroganes)

> (and shiro)

Lance (@thesoftshiro)

> I mean
> God that’s fucking terrifying
> But I guess it’s only fair
> To everyone who helped me

h (@kerberostrash)

> I fully support this!!

Lance swallows down the lump forming in his throat.

He doesn’t know what it is about Shiro, but he consistently makes him want to do things he’s afraid of. He’s the reason Lance is here with his sister, in L.A., following his dreams of being a filmmaker.

But if there’s anything Lance is afraid of, it’s showing his face on this hellsite.

It’s gotten to a point where he loves the anonymity. It’s safe and makes him feel at ease to be who he truly is. He’s pretty sure that anonymity is what allowed him to gain the following he has, and not a day goes by that he doesn’t wonder if anyone would still follow him if he showed his face.

But now Shiro knows he exists – him – and he saw Lance’s unabashed passion in the form of his Adobe Premiere skills. That, to Lance, is as vulnerable as showing his face, maybe more. And he liked it. So maybe doing a face reveal isn’t the worst idea in the world.

He knows it’s going to take him days to take the perfect selfie, one that is worthy of gracing Shiro’s timeline. But in that moment, it seems like the best way to celebrate. Eventually, all 57,263 of his followers, who probably picture Shiro with a drawn-on cat face when they think of Lance, are going to know what he actually looks like. It’s scary and exciting all at once.

 

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 28

Shiro and Keith have flung themselves on the couches in Shiro’s apartment, alcohol coursing through their veins. It’s not technically Shiro’s birthday, but his actual birthday only comes around once every four years, so they have to celebrate it sometime. The fans always pick today, so they have, too.

They usually spend it with a few of Shiro’s friends during the day, but by 7 p.m., they’re back at Shiro’s apartment and in their pajamas. It’s one of few days Shiro (and, thus, Keith) actually kind of has off.

Per tradition, today, they’ve played their annual drinking game. They scrolled through the search of Shiro’s name on twitter, looking through all of the birthday wishes sent from fans across the world. Every time they saw any form of the word “son” or “dad,” they’d take a drink of their wine. They ended up drinking a few bottles by the end of it.

“How can I be their son and their dad?” Shiro always asks by his fourth glass.

Now, their stomachs are full of alcohol and cake, and the walls are spinning.

“Can I tell you a secret?” Shiro asks.

Keith, face down on a pillow, peaks at him. What a weird thing to say. “Um,” he mumbles into the pillow. “Sure.”

“I—” he barely starts before a series of hiccup-filled giggles. “Don’t tweet it!”

Keith sits up, rubbing his eyes, and starts to laugh too. “I’m not going to tweet your secret, Takashi.”

“Breaking out the first name,” Shiro keeps giggling.

“Just tell me.”

“Okay,” he breathes out, containing his laughter. “I have a crush on Adam.”

“A crush,” Keith nods, a smile plastered on his face at the ridiculousness of it all. He feels like he’s at a seventh-grade sleepover party. “On your co-star. Is he a good kisser or something?”

He has to admit, he’s not exactly surprised. There were seven people at lunch today, but Keith is pretty sure Shiro only talked to Adam. And looked at Adam. Keith doesn’t know if Shiro was even aware other people were there.

“Well, yeah. But we’ve known that,” Shiro says. “I don’t know. It’s probably nothing.”

“Do you think Allura will be happy about that?” Keith asks, still smiling.

“After that fling with Curtis on the Lineman set? Probably not,” Shiro says. Then, he stops and points lazily at nothing in particular before turning to Keith. “It could be pretty good PR though.”

Keith nods drunkenly fast. Shiro and Adam’s characters are dating in Kerberos, and they’re basically the power couple of the entire show. Naturally, a lot of the fans ship them in real life, and Keith sees enough of the “Adashi” tweets to ship them a little bit himself.

They kiss all the time and have had some pretty emotional scenes. It only makes sense that one of them would eventually develop feelings for the other.

“Plus, you weren’t out when that stuff with Curtis happened,” Keith says. “And he was kind of a dick about it.”

Shiro grins. “You’re right,” he says. “Also, it’s not like Allura doesn’t blush whenever Romelle happens to brush by her. Which wouldn’t exactly be great if it ended poorly, either.”

“Ahh, so many gays,” Keith sighs, letting his head fall back down against the pillow. His stomach is warm, and everything still spins when he closes his eyes.

Shiro laughs way too much at this, then sighs. It’s silent between them for a moment, before Shiro asks, “I know my life is basically your life, but how have you been?”

“Huh?” Keith asks, opening his eyes. “Oh, fine.”

He knows exactly what Shiro’s asking, based on where in the conversation they just came from. Keith and Shiro have been out to each other for a long time, basically since they met. But unlike Shiro, Keith has a bit more trouble letting people in enough to know that he’s gay, or to date him, or anything of that nature.

“Are you sure?” Shiro asks.

“Yeah, definitely.”

“I feel like I’m the only one you ever see,” Shiro’s voice gets softer. “You deserve to know people other than me, Keith. You deserve to go on dates and have friends.”

“I have Red.”

Shiro raises his eyebrows at him. “Your motorcycle can’t take you out on dates.”

“You underestimate him.”

“It’d just suck if you sabotaged your life forever,” Shiro says, and Keith takes the pillow out from under his head to cover his face again. “I’m just saying.”

Shiro is essentially Keith’s big brother. That’s how they met, anyway – in the Big Brother program when Keith was 11 and Shiro was 17. Keith was always getting into fights at school, snapping at kids for bumping into him or disagreeing with him. He never did his homework or made any effort in any area of his life. He was just too damn angry and bitter at nothing in particular.

So, his mom, who had raised him alone for years after his dad died, enrolled him in the program. She thought maybe the source of his anger was the loss of his dad, and that a male role model could help him more than she could. Or maybe she was just tired of Keith – that’s the explanation Keith chooses to believe.

He put up a fight at first, yelling at and trying to hit Shiro just like anyone else. But Shiro always stayed calm in the face of Keith’s fire. He never once reciprocated his anger or rose his voice, not like his mom did. He just let Keith be mad until he got tired.

And eventually he did get tired, and Shiro was still there to help him with his dumbass math homework. Then, weeks later, he was getting Keith to play soccer with him after school to get his anger out. And eventually it just became this thing where Shiro gives a shit and worries about Keith all the time.

Which, like, is fine. But sometimes it gets annoying. Like now, when Keith is drunk and doesn’t want to think about anything, let alone his problems.

“I could set you up with Curtis,” Shiro jokes, sensing Keith’s mood change. “I think I still have his number. He’s a nice guy.”

“Ugh, please don’t,” Keith says, tossing the pillow in Shiro’s direction but missing entirely. Then, to make it clear the conversation is over, he pulls out his phone.

A seamless transition, Shiro pulls his own out too and makes too much noise while squirming around in his seat. Keith turns to look at him just as he takes a selfie with his eyes crossed and his mouth in this weird tight, drunk smile, the front flash unnecessarily going off. “Thanks for all the birthday wishes,” Shiro slowly says as he types.

“As your social media manager, I won’t let you post that.”

“As your boss, I’m posting it,” Shiro says, and Keith makes no move to stop him. Shiro’s phone dings, and he gasps. “Ah! My mom watched the video!”

Yes, Keith showed him the video edit by that fan this morning, and Shiro reacted exactly how he thought he would. His eyes lit up at the sound of “Morocco” by Moon Taxi, and he watched through the entire three minutes in gleeful awe. Then, he sent it to his mom and proceeded to watch it several times throughout the day.

Shiro’s phone starts to buzz, and he stands, clearing his throat in an attempt to sound sober before he answers it. “Isn’t it great?” he says to his mom, his voice still a bit too high pitched.

He walks into the kitchen, mindlessly fiddling around with the drawers and cupboards, and continues the conversation there. Keith brings his attention back to his phone, opening his own Twitter.

He blinks heavily, trying to focus on the words on his screen, but it’s not very easy. Every so often, he’ll make out a funny tweet and laugh a little too hard at it, but most of the time he’ll just be able to focus on a few words. Most of what he sees, of course, is “Shiro,” “Shiro,” “Shiro.”

Keith follows too many fans, even on his own account. Shiro’s life is pretty much his life.

He scrolls past Shiro’s dumb selfie, which already has over 20,000 retweets, and past all of the happy birthday wishes. Past all of the people complaining about some kind of celebrity drama. But then he stops on someone else’s selfie.

It’s a selfie that Keith, in that moment, would describe as, well, godlike. He’s tan, Hispanic, with a mess of brown hair and blue eyes. He’s got this tiny little grin, his cheeks flushed.

Maybe it’s the conversation he and Shiro just had, or maybe the alcohol is finally starting to wear off, but Keith can finally focus, 100%, 20/20, on that photo. And his stomach goes ‘whoosh.’

So, he does what he always does in situations like these: he likes the selfie and hopes for the best, while simultaneously hoping (and knowing) that nothing will ever come from it.

As he reads the guy’s name on twitter – HAPPY BDAY SHIROOOOO! – that latter part gets a little stronger. Yeah, he definitely follows way too many fans. At least they’re cute ones.

But then, Keith’s stomach does another somersault. Not even two minutes later, he gets a notification: HAPPY BDAY SHIROOOOO! has sent you a message.

Okay. So. That has never happened before.

HAPPY BDAY SHIROOOOO! (@thesoftshiro)

> so idk if you meant to like my selfie or if it was an accident but if it wasn’t I just wanted to let you know that I am free on friday and would like to hang out on friday when I am free

Keith chuckles, shaking his head. He has no idea what’s going on, so he clicks on the guy’s profile. Apparently, HAPPY BDAY SHIROOOOO! already follows him back. And right there, in his bio, it says, “21, bicon, would do anything to eat garlic knots with takashi shirogane.”

He ignores the last part and focuses in on the first two facts – the guy is Keith’s age and…well, Keith thinks he’s bi. That’s what that means, right? That’s not a typo for bitcoin?

No, that wouldn’t make sense.

SHIRO (@takashitweets)

> It was a good selfie

Keith makes a mental note to find where Steve Jobs is buried and kiss his gravestone – autocorrect is saving his ass right now. He mistypes almost every word, but somehow Apple knows exactly what he means.

HAPPY BDAY SHIROOOOO! (@thesoftshiro)

> I was a little scared to post it tbh

SHIRO (@takashitweets)

> Why?

HAPPY BDAY SHIROOOOO! (@thesoftshiro)

> Well it was my first time posting a selfie on here
> Kind of like a face reveal thingy

SHIRO (@takashitweets)

> So before this no one knew what you looked like?
> How does that work?

“Ah,” Shiro sighs as he plops back down on the couch. He hiccups before saying, “My mom says hi, by the way.”

Keith’s eyelids droop while he watches the typing bubble appear and disappear. He’s so tired, but so invested. He’s never talked this much to someone so cute – never allowed himself to even try – and he can’t believe the guy is still replying.

“Keith.”

“Huh?” he looks up. “Oh, yeah. Tell her I said hey, and that I miss her.”

HAPPY BDAY SHIROOOOO! (@thesoftshiro)

> It’s the internet u can be anything

SHIRO (@takashitweets)

> Fair enough

HAPPY BDAY SHIROOOOO! (@thesoftshiro)

> idk I guess I just…I liked being sort of invisible
> it’s kinda cool not to entirely be yourself sometimes

SHIRO (@takashitweets)

> But who are you if you’re not yourself

Keith honestly has no clue what he’s saying, but he thinks it makes sense. He can’t tell if it’s his nerves, his sleepiness, or the alcohol that is making his brain feel so much like mush.

“I think I’m going to go to sleep,” he tells Shiro around a yawn. Shiro, his own eyes drooping, nods.

“First table read tomorrow,” he says.

“I’m the one that’s supposed to be reminding you, Takashi.”

“Twice in one night!”

Keith rolls his eyes, “Table read tomorrow, Shiro.

Shiro gets up to get a glass of water, saluting Keith on his way there. “See you then.”

Keith taps his pockets to make sure he has everything before heading out of Shiro’s apartment. The two of them really should just live together, considering they see each other all of the time. But Keith loves having his own space, even if it’s just down the hall. His apartment, along with his husky Kosmo and his motorcycle, are the only things that are really his.

He keeps his eyes on his phone as he walks.

HAPPY BDAY SHIROOOOO! (@thesoftshiro)

> That’s deep af

SHIRO (@takashitweets)

> I’m actually pretty intoxicated so obviously that’s making me smarter

HAPPY BDAY SHIROOOOO! (@thesoftshiro)
> Hahah
> How was your day?

Keith trips a little and stops in the middle of the hallway, staring at his phone. He tries to think of the last time someone that wasn’t Shiro asked him that. Honestly, he spends so much time with Shiro, it’s probably been a while since even he asked it.

He keeps walking, shaking his head and pulling his keys from his pocket as he types.

SHIRO (@takashitweets)

> Pretty good actually, went to lunch with my best friend, then went back and had lots of cake and wine

HAPPY BDAY SHIROOOOO! (@thesoftshiro)

> Cake sounds so good right now
> Have u drank water?? Make sure you wash your face before bed!

Keith slides his phone into his pocket so he can unlock the door to his apartment. Ugh, his messy apartment he hasn’t cleaned in weeks. Still, even with that thought, he has a permanent smile on his face that he can’t help.

He kicks his shoes off and drags his feet across the linoleum, not bothering to turn the lights on until he gets to his room. Kosmo is curled up on his unmade bed.

“Shit,” he says, and Kosmo lifts his head. “Are you hungry?”

Kosmo immediately jumps up and scampers into the kitchen. Keith had remembered to take him out when they got back from lunch but feeding him completely slipped his mind.

He opens up his phone as he follows the dog down the hallway.

SHIRO (@takashitweets)

> I literally have never washed my face before bed in my life
> But you’re right I should probably drink water

HAPPY BDAY SHIROOOOO! (@thesoftshiro)

> NO WAY don’t you have a six step skin care routin wtf
> Routine**
> Also UGHHH now you’ve made me crave cake

Keith chuckles, filling up Kosmo’s dish with food before getting himself a glass of water. Kosmo has to whine over his own water dish before he remembers fills up that too. For now, he’ll blame it on his intoxication.

SHIRO (@takashitweets)

> It was just grocery store cake
> No should I?? you seem knowledgeable

HAPPY BDAY SHIROOOOO! (@thesoftshiro)

> That’s arguably the BEST KIND OF CAKE
> And YES!!!!! You should omg the fact that you even have to ask dude…
> Fuck this is crazy
> ive always wanted to talk to you like this

Keith blinks. Him?

SHIRO (@takashitweets)

> Me???

This cute guy has wanted to talk to him. Like he’s just been waiting for a reason to DM him or something.

Kosmo follows him back to his room, and Keith tosses his phone onto his bed before lazily changing out of his jeans and into pajama pants. He doesn’t have the energy to change out of his shirt. He just wants to get in bed and keep talking to this boy until he falls asleep.

But once he flops down under the covers, he’s wide awake, and he has an immediate revelation. It’s like being in his own space has cleared his head and sobered him up.

He nearly drops his phone as he fumbles to unlock it, and he leaves his conversation with guy-he-still-doesn’t-know-the-name-of to return to his Twitter timeline.

Sure enough, at the top, left-hand corner, it’s Shiro’s icon. He’s been on Shiro’s account this whole time.

To make matters worse, another notification banner slides across the screen to show that the guy has replied.

HAPPY BDAY SHIROOOOO! (@thesoftshiro)

> Yes! You!
> Sorry ugh I don’t mean to fanboy or anything I just
> Ive looked up to you for so long
> And I’m really glad you had a good birthday

Keith’s phone clicks as he locks it again, and he stares off at the blank, white wall opposite him. No wonder this guy’s been replying so quickly, so excited to talk to him.

He thought he was talking to Shiro.

A bitter taste fills Keith’s mouth. He drops his phone, throws the covers off of him, and runs straight to the bathroom to throw up.

--

Lance can’t sleep, and it’s all Shiro’s fault. He’s interacted with him more in the last week than he ever dreamed of, and his entire body is jittering.

Right as he was about to go to bed, late like usual, Shiro liked his tweet. Then he just stayed awake, somehow talking to him, and now he can’t stop thinking about it.

They had a whole conversation! The only times that’s happened with Takashi Shirogane have been in his dreams, while reading self-insert fics, and that one time Shiro’s character on Kerberos kept being stupid and Lance yelled at the TV.

He woke Rachel up as soon as Shiro replied to his DM. He just couldn’t contain himself, and he gave her a play-by-play of the interaction while she lied in her bed in their shared room and tried to keep her eyes open.

And now, despite the fact that they both have to be awake early tomorrow, they’re sat in the kitchen of their apartment, sipping on tea.

“Are you seriously sure it’s even him?” Rachel asks.

Lance woke her up partially because it’s already 4 a.m. on the East Coast and all of his friends are asleep, but also because he’s nervous to tell them about it. He knows as soon as they find out Shiro could actually reply, they’ll want him to add Shiro to the group chat, and he just wants to keep this special and between them.

But now he wants to tell literally anyone else, because Rachel is being insufferable. This is the third time she’s asked this.

“Yes, Rachel. No seas estúpida. God,” Lance says. She looks up at him over her cup of tea, eyes narrowed. “It’s his verified account!”

“Okay, okay,” she says, setting her cup down. “As long as he’s not going to ask you for money or something.”

“Do I look like I have money to give him?”

“You’d give Takashi Shirogane your last dollar.”

“Okay, whatever,” Lance kicks Rachel’s foot under the table and sips on his tea. It’s a green tea blend with candy pieces in it – the closest thing he could get to cake at this hour. “It’s definitely Shiro.”

Rachel still has an uncertain look on her face, and Lance can see right through her. It isn’t any kind of secret that she worries about her twin brother more often than not.

What’s more of a secret – to everyone but Rachel – is that this apartment was supposed to belong to Lance and his ex-girlfriend Nyma. Well, kind of. He was so excited to move out of the dorms at LMU and into his own place, and they’d planned to do it together.

But Lance figures she wasn’t actually planning along with him, because she broke up with him before they could sign the lease together. She was overwhelmed by all of his obsessions – Kerberos, tea, filmmaking – and he was so excited about everything all the time, she claimed, that she just couldn’t handle it anymore. He was too much, too obnoxious.

So, he cried. And cried and cried. He’d heard that before, from literally everyone in his life. “Chill out, Lance.” But he thought Nyma was different.

Rachel swooped in and decided to fill her place at the apartment when they were figuring out housing for this year. There was no way she’d let Lance live in a dorm again just because of Nyma, she’d told him.

Since then, she’s been more protective than usual, especially when Lance jumped right back into the dating pool only a few months after the breakup. He’ll admit, he’s been a tad girl and guy crazy as of late and has only gotten himself more hurt in the process.

He’ll go into it claiming even to himself that he isn’t looking for anything serious, but then he’ll fall in love with the girl’s eyes or the guy’s sense of humor. Then, after a one-night stand with them, he ends up heartbroken.

She must think he wants to date Shiro and assumes it’s going somewhere now that he’s talked to him. Yeah, right. Not even he can fool himself into thinking that could happen.

And even if that was a possibility, he’s sick of getting heartbroken. He’d rather not get his heart torn to shreds by his hero, thank you very much.

“I don’t think Shiro sees me as anything more than a fan, Rach,” he assures her, and she raises her eyebrow at him. “I’m serious! I’m just excited to be talking to him.”

“Just,” she sighs, closing her eyes. “Don’t expect him to keep talking to you or anything. You know he’s super busy.”

Lance sinks in his seat, taking another sip of his own tea.

“I’m just saying, he has a lot of fans trying to talk to him on there and he honestly probably works way more than he should,” Rachel says, worry lines creasing her forehead. “Didn’t you say today was the only day he lets himself have off? If his schedule allows it?”

“Still,” he says, sitting back up. “He talked to me. Can’t I be happy about that?”

“Of course,” Rachel looks down. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to put it like that.”

“It’s fine,” Lance says, and then he perks up. “I can’t believe he said it was a good selfie! And that I seem knowledgeable. Knowledgeable. I didn’t know that was a compliment I wanted to hear until now.”

“I can’t believe it either,” she laughs. “But you are knowledgeable. In a lot of things.”

“Yeah, it’s not the same when you say it,” he says, causing her to giggle more.

The two sit there for a moment, Lance reveling in the moment yet again and his sister probably continuing to worry about him. She’s stopped laughing now and is staring down at her mug, biting her lip.

As she finishes her tea, Rachel stands from her seat. “Okay, time for bed,” she says, taking Lance’s cup from him. He groans, trying to snatch it back from her. He wasn’t done. “Don’t you have an 8 a.m.?”

“Who cares about production sound theory when Takashi Shirogane knows you exist?”

Rachel gives him another look and he rolls his eyes.

“I’ll go to class,” he says, standing too.

He’s still not tired, and he’s definitely skipping class tomorrow. Especially now that he’s decided he’s going to have to tell Hunk, Pidge, and Matt. This just isn’t something he can keep from them, or anyone, for long.

He’ll probably tell every person he sees tomorrow.