Shiro, at this point in time, had been single for a bit. A while. A period? A relatively-longish-not-entirely-paid-attention-to chunk of time.
And throughout that time he’d shied away from dating, or hookups, or human contact in general. He didn’t do it on purpose, per say, he just had a lot to work through that his therapist Camille was currently helping him with. Things we fine, he was FINE. He was not lonely and definitely not DESPERATE.
But if there was one thing he missed about being in a relationship it was the ability to be held by someone you cared about. Just comforted for a while. A warm body to have next to you in the cold of the night. He knew he craved that comfort but he would absolutely not admit that to anyone, especially not his best friend.
Which is why Matthew A. Holt, best friend of the year who had already figured out this information months ago, stole his cell phone and signed him up on this app that pairs you with “professional cuddlers.”
Shiro found out from the google invite Matt sent him about his upcoming ‘date’ with some man named Keith at a coffee shop down the street to discuss their ‘arrangement.’
That morning he thought nothing of not being able to find his phone. It wasn’t uncommon for him to leave it in his car or at home. When he was at work there was no service anyways, and he wasn’t a huge fan of social media. He should’ve seen the signs, especially when Matt started to maniacally laugh from his own desk.
Shiro banged his head on the wall. He wishes he was more surprised at the turn of events.
Keith, who lived on the other side of town in shitty university apartments, was what the kids would call ‘about to throw yourself in front of the campus police cars’ broke and had no time to get a real part-time job with the number of hours his PI was having him work in lab. He was trying to sign up for those transcribing websites that Romelle told him about, but he couldn’t stay awake enough to actually pass their stupid fucking typing tests.
Honestly, he was getting a bit desperate. Which is when his ‘friend’ (roommate) Lance dramatically threw himself onto his bed (uninvited) and told him about an app he used in undergrad to get money for cuddling people.
“So what, you just matched with people?”
“They asked you to come over to their house?”
“And you just...cuddled?”
Lance sighed, “Yeah, it was the most relaxing money I ever made.”
“Nah, you’re fine. Loads of people do it. And generally everyone is pretty nice. That’s how I met Hunk.”
“Hunk? Your boyfriend? On a professional cuddler app?”
“Yeah, big man wanted a little cuddle buddy, I instantly fell in love.”
Keith almost gagged at the disgusting sappy facial expression Lance had on, “Gross, nope, out out OUT. No swooning for your boyfriend on my bed."
“Stop kicking! Fine! But don’t complain when I end up being right about this!”
He’s almost annoyed enough to shut off his phone and go to sleep. Almost. He ends up downloading the app and setting up a profile, but ends up forgeting about it for a couple of weeks until one night when he’s bored and his curiosity gets the best of him.
Keith starts scrolling through the ‘people near me’ section. No one really catches his eye. Most are cute girls just looking for a friend, which he can definitely get down with. Some older men looking for companionship, which he’s definitely not opposed to. But even as he swipes right on a bunch of profiles, no one really stands out.
Right as he’s about to give up for the night, he scrolls and finds this Beautiful Sexy Hunk of a MAN. He almost spits his Mountain Dew everywhere when he sees this deity of a being that’s asking for CUDDLES on an APP.
He thinks this has to be a joke. A sick joke. He’ll probably get kidnapped or some shit but the profile seems legit enough so he can’t just IGNORE THIS OFFERING.
He clicks like and proceeds to chuck his phone on his nightstand and hide under the covers like he's committed a felony. This is too good to be true. He’s still thinking that at 8 am when he wakes up to a message from MR PERFECT HIMSELF.
It reads “Hello, read your bio and saw your pictures. You seem very sweet and are super cute. Would you like to meet for coffee this weekend?”
Yes. Double yes. Big fat heckin yes.
That’s how Shiro and Keith find themselves sitting across from each other at a very small table in the middle of a busy coffee shop both thinking “maybe I should have thought this through more.”
Shiro swallows and decides to go first “So, I’ll be honest with you, my friend signed me up for the app and set up this meeting with you. But I’m still here because maybe...he’s right that I could use a little, uh...human contact. And I’m not really opposed to it, just nervous.”
Keith stares at him for a second before saying, “well then I guess I’ll also be honest, I love cuddling but I’m also in desperate need for money. But I signed up to cuddle people so that might’ve been obvious.”
Shiro watched him physically cringe at that. Shiro considers his options for a bit before asking “would you like to come over tomorrow? Maybe we can watch a movie and just see if it’s weird? I’ll uh, pay you, for the time. Even if it doesn’t work out.”
Keith thinks “ there’s no fucking way this Adonis wants to pay me to come sit on his couch and wrap an arm around him ” but Shiro looks so sincere so he agrees on the spot.
Shiro also pays for his coffee. And a muffin.
Shiro apparently has some financial stability.
When Keith shows up to Shiro’s house the next day (after showering 3 times and brushing his teeth twice because he was NERVOUS okay) the door is opened to the man of the hour looking like complete garbage.
Sure, yesterday Keith could see the small bags under his eyes, the hair the maybe needed a better brushing, the nails that clearly had been picked for a long time - but before him was a man that looked like he hadn’t absorbed vitamin D in 3 decades and needed some melatonin pumped directly into his brain stat. Besides all that, he still greeted Keith with his soft and absolutely adorable smile he received yesterday and welcomed him into his home.
“I pulled my Netflix up, I’m not picky so feel free to choose whatever. Want anything to drink?”
Keith responded that he was ‘fine, thanks’ as he took in the ridiculously comfy looking couch and giant TV in the center of a cozy but clearly lightly-used living space. “When was the last time you relaxed in here?” He asked as he plopped on the couch and made himself comfy.
“Too long ago.” Shiro handed him the remote as he brought an assortment of blankets over.
He stood there looking around nervously when he finished stalling with whatever task possible, “So uh, how do you. Uhm.” Then gestured wildly in the vicinity of the couch and Keith.
“Well, since you’re paying me why don’t you tell me how you usually like to cuddle and we’ll work from there?”
Shiro nodded and then continued to stand in place. Keith sighed then leaned back against the couch and rested his feet on the table. He patted the seat next to him and when Shiro finally settled in he threw a blanket over both of their legs. They were sitting shoulder to shoulder, but it’ll work for now if Shiro was still this nervous.
“Okay?” Keith asked.
“Yeah, good starting place. I think.”
“Alright, feel free to take the lead on whatever feels right.” And with that Keith started playing a random episode of B99. “This okay?”
“Yeah, I love this show but never have time to watch.”
So they settled in, Keith was weirdly comfortable about the entire scenario even if he was in an attractive (practically a) strangers home with said stranger slowly leaning more and more on him. All the while being paid to do so.
He might actually have to thank Lance for this.
Halfway through the episode he finally felt Shiro’s head settle against his shoulder. Until then he could feel Shiro trying to fight to pull of a nap and Keith was happy he finally gave in. He didn’t know much about Shiro but he did know he deserved this.
Keith continued watching while enjoying the delicate snores Shiro was breathing out again his shoulder, slowly moving closer to his collarbone as he continued to shift more onto Keith. At one point Shiro finally moved onto him enough that he could sneak his arm out to wrap around his shoulder. As Shiro continued sleeping he starting rubbing his neck, somehow ending up with his fingers threaded through the back of Shiro’s hair. Keith may be getting paid for this but he could confirm that he too was THRIVING in this beautiful moment in time.
He currently had the sweetest, and most attractive person in existence, currently rubbing his cheek against his chest and threading one of his legs with Keith’s. It was so weird but so nice, and he internally fought through his legs falling asleep and having to pee to make sure he did not wake the sleeping angel currently nestled in his arms.
He might be going crazy , he didn’t know this man, but he would stay and hold him for however long he needed.
Several hours later, and after a very very good nap, Shiro finally started to stir in his arms. He was a little upset, but also thankful because he did not want to accidentally pee on Shiro’s very expensive couch.
Shiro was clearly disoriented when he woke up, not entirely remembering where he was or why he was in someone’s arms. Keith tried to calm his panic by continuing to run his fingers through his hair and hold his waist with the other.
Keith started to panic though when Shiro began to cry.
Oh no. Oh no oh no. What did he do?!
“Shiro? Hey, it’s okay. You’re okay. What’s wrong? Did I do something wrong?”
Shiro didn’t respond, just kept crying, but Keith relaxed once he realized Shiro wasn’t moving from where he was rested against his chest. He actually felt the arm Shiro worked around his middle hold on tighter as Shiro continued to sob into his shirt.
“I’m sorry,” Shiro whispered once he started to calm down.
“Hey no, you don’t need to be sorry. Just let me know what’s happening, why are you upset?”
“I’m not upset,” he sniffed, “I’m sorry, it’s so dumb. I’m making a giant fool of myself.”
Keith was confused and getting out what was going through Shiro’s head was becoming harder than getting Kosmo to take a bath. He ran his hand up and down Shiro’s back as he got the rest of his sobs out. Keith wasn’t usually the best at comforting people, but he did his best.
When Shiro finally finished crying he sat up next to Keith and pulled his knees to his chest. He was embarrassed and Keith hated it because he obviously needed to get whatever that was out and should never feel ashamed of that. Keith tentatively placed his hand on Shiro’s should and felt him tense but he didn’t shy away.
“I know we just met, but I promise you can tell me and I won’t judge.”
“You didn’t do anything wrong. I uh, I think Matt was right. I had a...bad breakup years ago. Developed some trust issues and became uncomfortable with any dating or uh...any form of intimacy I guess.”
“Was this too much?”
Shiro started picking at a string in his socks, “No, the opposite I think. I was kind of nervous about all of this it but when I woke up in your arms...I felt really warm, and comfortable, and uhm, safe in a way I haven’t felt in a long time and I guess it just really caught me off guard, ya know? I’m sorry I started crying, I just couldn’t control it. It just all started coming out.”
“I’m sorry you had to go through that, Shiro. But it sounded like this helped? Which I’m glad.”
Shiro finally turned to him and gave him a small smile. Keith realized in that moment he would do anything for that smile.
Shiro started to blush, “Does that mean you’d be open to doing this again? I don’t think I’ve slept that well in months.”
“Yeah, I'd like to. Unfortunately, right now I have to go do some homework but text me and we can talk about schedules and stuff.”
He walked him to the door and Keith was caught off guard with a giant bear hug, “Thanks Keith, I really appreciated this.”
Keith smiled, Shiro had no idea how much he appreciated this too.
They went on like that for a while, Shiro would have Keith come over to watch TV and 20 minutes in Shiro would fall asleep on Keith for a couple of hours. It was still a weird arrangement grand scheme of things but they were both enjoying their time together, even if one was being paid. Keith did feel bad about taking Shiro’s money for comfort he was also enjoying, but he needed it and Shiro never seemed to stop venmoing him more than what was originally agreed upon anyway.
About a month in Shiro texted him late on a Thursday night, unusual since Shiro never really contacted him past 5 pm if he wanted a last minute snuggle session.
The text just read SOS and that he’d pay double if he could come over right away. Keith was already throwing on clothes before he read the end of the message.
Keith got to Shiro’s in record time and the door was flung open before Keith had time to knock. He hadn’t seen Shiro in almost a week because of a work trip, and he looked even worse than when they started.
Shiro tried to laugh but failed miserably, “Come on in. I’m so sorry to drag you out close to midnight but I’ve barely slept all week and I’m starting to go crazy.”
Keith looked over the bags under his eyes and the wild state of his hair, Shiro looked desperate and he was glad he called. He pulled Shiro into a hug, “Of course, I’m always here for you. Let’s get some sleep okay?”
“You’d be okay with staying the night?”
Keith nodded, “Yeah, it’s clear you need more than a nap and I brought a change of clothes for class tomorrow.”
“And uh, would you be okay with sleeping in my bed instead of the couch?”
That question made Keith pause. Shiro wanted him to sleepover , called him to come snuggle , and wants to do it in his BED ? Keith just hopes the 4 times he got off the day before would help him make it though.
Keith got settled in Shiro’s very soft, very large bed while he went to go shut off the lights and grab some water. Keith was a little nervous but also selfishly excited to get to REALLY cuddle with Shiro for the night. A dream come true, if you will.
Shiro finally walked in and stood at the other side of the bed. Keith was reminded of their first time cuddling together on the couch. He took the lead again and pulled down the covers for Shiro to slide in next to him.
“How do you want to be held?”
Shiro blushed, “I....”
Keith giggled and poked his arm, “Come on Shiro, tell me what you want.”
He pulled the covers over his face so Keith barely made out the “Can I be the little spoon?”
Of fucking COURSE you can be you big soft man.
Keith dragged the covers off him and motioned his finger in a circle to get him to turn over. After Shiro got comfortable he scooted up behind him and placed a gentle hand on his waist.
“Yeah, this is good. This is. Great. Fine. Good. Yes.”
Keith tried to hold in his laugh this time, “Do you want me to come closer?” He felt Shiro take a deep breathe, “If you want, that’d be nice.”
Keith scooted in closer, wrapped his arm around Shiro’s middle, but still left a little bit of space between them. Enough for Shiro to still feel his body heat but not feel overwhelmed.
He heard a pleasant hum, “Goodnight, Keith. Thank you for this.”
And like all the times they laid together on the couch, Shiro was out like a light and slept peacefully in Keith’s embrace.
From that night on Keith slept over 3-4 times a week. Shiro stopped getting embarrassed about all the ways he wanted to be held, and Keith actively tried to ignore Lance’s concerned look every time he left the apartment for Shiro’s place.
Someone he definitely did not have feelings for, Lance.
Keith knew what Lance wanted to talk to him about, but he wasn’t ready to admit that maybe he felt more than platonically for Shiro. But how could you not? He was so absolutely perfect. Basically everything he’s ever wanted. And he ENJOYED being held and comforted by him.
He didn’t want to ruin everything they had going. But when he woke up the next morning in Shiro’s arms this time, because he finally got the courage to ask if HE could be the big spoon, he knew he needed to confront what was going on in his heart.
He cornered Lance after he got home from a study session, “Okay, fine. You’re right. I..like Shiro.”
He snorted, “Took you long enough to figure it out. So, you gonna tell him?”
Keith looked at him like he was crazy, “Tell him? He’s PAYING me to cuddle with him!”
“Yeah, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have feelings for you too.”
Keith shoves Lance over to sit on the couch next to him, “I don’t know, Lance. He hasn’t dated in years and has really bad trust issues. I don’t want him to think I have other motives for why I’m doing this.”
“So you don’t want to tell him because you think he’ll think bad of you but did you consider if you don’t tell him, and he finds out, he’ll just think you were using him because you have feelings.”
Keith groaned, “Both options are bad options. But I guess telling him might be the lesser of two evils.” He watched Lance nod, “Fuck, I’m going to ruin everything with my stupid feelings, huh?”
Lance flicked his ear, “Won’t know if it’s ruined until you tell him.”
It took three nights of preparation but Keith finally thought he was ready to sit Shiro down and let him know that he couldn’t continue this without getting his feelings out in the open. He deserved to know.
God this was going to be AWFUL.
Shiro welcomed him at the door and they both made their way into the living room. It was a Saturday afternoon, which worked in Keith’s favor because if he had to try and do this while Shiro was just in his boxers and a T-shirt ready to hop into his king size bed he’d probably combust.
They settled on the couch in their usual spots, Shiro a little closer than when they began. Keith was trying to get up the nerve to say something to Shiro when he felt a finger start to thread through a stay strand of his hair.
He jolted up, probably not the best course of action, but he grabbed for the remote, paused the show, and then turned to face a stunned and confused Shiro.
“Did I do something wrong? I thought you liked when I played with your hair?”
Keith sighed, “No, sorry, you did nothing wrong. I just need to talk to you first.”
The look Shiro had on his face was devastating so he quickly added, “No no, nothing bad, I promise."
Shiro still took his hands away and Keith could see him putting up his walls brick by brick. Fuck. He needed to act quickly.
“I wanted to talk about what we have going on.”
Shiro didn’t respond, just nodded. God, he was too respectful and patient sometimes.
“I’m so glad Lance signed me up for that stupid app, I’m so glad I got to meet you, and I’m so happy that I’ve gotten to spend time with you. You’re so wonderful, Shiro, but I…I can’t keep doing this for money. I…"
Shiro cut him off, “It’s fine. You don’t need to explain. Just do what’s best for you, it’s alright.”
Oh, oh no.
“Shiro, no I don’t want to end this.” Shiro looked at him finally, clearly confused, “I just..I can’t keep doing this for money because I,” Okay deep breath Keith.“I like you. I, at some point, I started to really, really care about you and I can’t keep doing this without you knowing that. This isn’t about the money for me. I want to be here, I want to hold you while you sleep and make sure that you always feel safe. I, I want you, Shiro."
Shiro just stared back at him, clearly not expecting what Keith said AT ALL.
“I like you too, Keith.”
“Yeah, I never thought you’d feel the same way so I just tried to ignore my feelings, I guess. But yeah, this past month and a half has been so great and I really, really want to continue this with you."
“Okay. Okay, great. Then, would you like to go on a date with me? Tomorrow night? We can go get dinner or something. No movies, I know you like to fall asleep during them.”
Shiro smiled, “Yeah, I’d love too.”
At this point, they were both blushing, “Cool. That’s great. Uhm, feel free to say no but, would it be too soon to ask if I could kiss you?"
Somehow, Shiro blushed more as he nodded.
Keith leaned in to place a gentle kiss on Shiro’s lips. It lasted no more than 7 seconds but he’s pretty sure in that moment he met God.
They both smiled and giggled as the pulled back, feeling like teenagers experiencing their first kiss again.
“So,” Shiro finally spoke up, “Want to cuddle and watch a movie?”
“Yeah, I’d like that. Did you know I’m a professional cuddler?"