It’s not that Shiro didn’t like Lance, it was just that there had never really been an opportunity for just the two of them to bond.
Strangely enough, most of the information Shiro knew about Lance’s family came from Veronica. Their stations close enough on the ATLAS to warrant casual conversation and occasional questions of ‘how are your siblings doing? Your parents?’
Logically, Shiro knew he could always just talk to Lance but it seemed too awkward to suddenly call him up and ask if his niece’s arm was feeling better or to wish one of his brothers a happy birthday. Which didn’t make sense because out of everyone on the team, Shiro should definitely know Lance better than he had within the last few years.
Especially considering the fact that Lance was fucking the closist thing Shiro had to family.
If Shiro were being honest, he'd say that he was probably the most excited out of everyone when Keith and Lance got together. He’d have celebrated for days after he figured it out, made hats (shirts too) if he could’ve.
And if Shiro were lying he’d say that he was also happy that of all the things that Keith and Lance could’ve had in common it was, apparently, their total and complete lack of shame. Because that would mean admitting to all the times he’s walked in on them (in one occasion in his own room ). And then that would mean owning up to the fact that afterwards he’d hide away in embarrassment and play a round of his favorite game, (and everyone else’s least favorite) ‘where’s shiro?’ .
But overall Shiro was good. Content to cheer Keith on from the sidelines (even if a small part, that was buried deep inside of him secretly resented Lance for teaching Keith how to fuck)
But that didn’t mean that Shiro still wasn’t taken by surprise when Lance suddenly called him up on their Paladin Exclusive Comms.
Well ‘called up’ probably wasn’t the way he should consider it especially since it wasn’t so much ‘calling’ as it was a sudden message popping up on his desktop communicator while taking his mandatory break.
Lance: ayy my man open ur door im outside <3
Shiro barely gets more than a second to read before three sharp bangs echo throughout his office. Without much of a second thought his hands move towards the correct switches on his desktop, the door sliding open soundlessly to reveal a red cheeked and grinning Lance.
Little has changed about the other paladin aside from a few inches in growth and broader shoulders. His hair usually rests against his shoulders but is instead pinned up by a shiny barrette that Shiro knows Keith agonized over gifting him.
Shiro really should’ve worked on giving better love advice when Keith was still a teen instead of focusing on sharpening his piloting skills. He could’ve saved Keith a lot of agony (then again it was always Adam that volunteered to give Keith all the special talks).
“Hey man!” Lance greets, strolling in and swiftly unbuckling the Marmora issue rifle he has strapped to his back, arms stretched out for a hug.
Why couldn’t Keith have picked up the same manners of removing weaponry before greeting someone?
“Lance, this is a surprise!”
And it was. Especially considering that the ATLAS was currently cruising through the outer edge of a ring galaxy, lightyears away from where Keith and him should’ve been on their latest extraterrestarian relief project.
“Yeah but Allura owed me a favor so I’m making a pit stop here before heading back to Earth.”
Oh, Veronica didn’t tell him about this.
“I’m gunna surprise my parents so don’t tell Veronica.”
Okay that made more sense.
Lance is settling into one of Shiro’s chairs, pushing himself closer to the desk separating them as Shiro pushes the coffee cart that’s usually tucked in the corner closer to the desk.
“Man you’re rolling deep,” Lance comments, eyes shining in what looks like interest as Shiro takes the lid off a circular dish of herbal teas. It’d been a gift from the crew when his birthday had passed but it seemed too fancy to just keep to himself. Then again he’d never had a guest to entertain so it’d sat in the corner, unused, for the most part.
The electric kettle he’d had from his old apartment that somehow went undiscarded was just beginning to heat up when Shiro sat back down, eyeing Lance who was idly tugging at his Marmora uniform.
It’s not as though the two of them had never been alone together. There was all the times they went on missions together and it was just the two of them. That time Hunk and Pidge gave themselves and everyone but them food poisoning. That time Keith was getting chewed out by Allura and Shiro was waiting in the hall with Lance and giving him a disapproving look because the two of them thought it’d be a good idea to try and hook up when their Clear Day automatronic ride broke down.
Honestly, Shiro had no idea how either of them could’ve possibly gotten into the mood, it’d be like trying to bang to ‘it’s a small world’.
“So have you talked to Keith lately?”
Lance’s voice breaks Shiro out of his reverie. Shiro blinks, clearing his mind for a second before registering the question.
Keith. Keith. Of course, Keith- a safe topic, something they both had lots of knowledge about and liked to talk about.
“Maybe not as often as we used to.” Shiro offers, attention taken away when the kettle beeps in a low tone. Lance begins fiddling with his fingers on the desk, his black gloved hands making designs on the smooth grain of Shiro’s desk. The former Red Paladin’s eyes are pensive, staring at Shiro in an incomprehensible emotion as a steaming mug gets pushed into his hands.
“So like he hasn’t mentioned...anything specific? Maybe even...asked you something?”
Well now that Lance mentioned it, Shiro had noticed Keith acting a bit strangely in their most recent calls. The other boy’s face seeming permanently flushed, his eyes unable to meet Shiro’s through the entirety of their exchange.
“Keith’s always been a tough egg to crack.” Shiro shrugged, wrapping his fingers around a tightly wound pack of blue tinted tea. “I figured eventually he’d spill whatever was on his mind.”
Lance nods slowly at that, brow furrowing slightly as Shiro pushed the tin over to him.
Lance’s hand twitched slightly, fingertips skimming over the rainbow selection. His gaze was slowly growing distant, nose twitching slightly at some internal struggle.
Lance let out a long breath from his nose just as Shiro finished stirring.
“Shiro.” Lance began. “I'm just gunna cut to the chase.” He continued, laying his palm gently over Shiro’s robotic hand.
Shiro felt his brows quirk in question, beginning to raise his steaming mug up to his mouth.
“Keith and I want you to be my baby daddy.”
Shiro choked and felt his tea shoot straight down the wrong pipe.
There are three things happen in quick succession.
One, Shiro chokes on a hot liquid and passes out.
Two, Lance panics, thinking he’s killed Shiro and accidentally pushes the button for a ship wide announcement asking for one of the medics to come to the Captain’s Quarters- sending the entire ship into a panic.
Three, Shiro wakes up in the medical ward with an awful tasting paste coating the inside of his mouth and Lance eating from his dinner tray because he was ‘unconscious’ and ‘it’s not like you were gunna eat it’ and ‘sorry I almost killed you that was my bad’.
The last one is what leads to Lance pushing himself into Shiro’s gurney and the two of them waiting for Keith to pick up his communicator.
Which he does after a few rings, his brows creased in confusion when his face finally pops up on screen.
“Hey doll!” Lance greets, cheek pressed tightly against Shiro’s so both their faces can fit into the screen.
“Lance?” Keith asks with an edge of confusion. “What are you doing with Shiro? I thought you were heading back to see your parents?”
“Yeah well I made a bit of a pitstop ya’ know? I figured it’d better to ask Shiro about some stuff in person.”
At that a flash of understanding crosses Keith’s face before a bright rouge flush floods his cheeks. Obviously the other knew exactly what Lance had been referring to.
“I-I thought I was going to ask him about... that .”
In all the years Shiro’s known Keith he’s never once heard him stutter over his words- not even when he would tell Shiro bold faced lies and be immediately confronted with a contradiction.
So Shiro has a bit of sympathy for the position the other paladin must be in.
“Yeahhh about that Keithy-boy…” Lance trails off, head rolling back to Shiro’s shoulder in what looks like drawn out consideration. “I uh...I kinda already asked him?”
It’s phrased like a question.
Which is okay because Shiro is full of questions.
Keith’s eyes widen for the briefest moment, his eyes flickering down and away in the same way it always does when he’s embarrassed.
“Oh.” He says quietly, like a mouse squeaking. Shiro would coo if he didn’t think Keith would reach through the screen and hit him. “How’d uh...how’d he take it?”
Shiro doesn’t know why they don’t just ask him, he is sitting right there.
“He passed out!” Lance gleefully informs him, eyes twinkling like he’s replaying the scene in his head. Something that Shiro feels a little offended at because just a few minutes ago he’d been apologizing for almost killing him.
But apparently the sentiment is shared by Keith since the other paladin is eyeing him with the same judgemental emotion he always would whenever he’d leave Keith home alone to go on a date with Adam.
“The medic said he’d be good just that he should eat something when he woke up.”
This is news to Shiro.
“You ate my dinner.” He points out, eyes flickering to the empty tray.
“Yeah but not your dessert. I’m not heartless Shiro.”
The ‘dessert’ is a wax wrapped snickerdoodle cookie with cinnamon. Shiro hates cinnamon.
He can feel his lips begin to be pulled into a pout when Lance pipes up again.
“But since we’re all here now I think it’s a good idea to give Shiro the low-down.” He continues, settling nicely against Shiro’s pillow (and consequently hogging most of it). Lance turns his head to look at Shiro, a few loose strands of long hair escaping their clipped up fashion.
“Shiro.” He begins slowly, gaze heavy. Shiro straightens in bed on instinct. “Keith has been shooting blanks.”
“ LANCE! ” Keith shrieks from the screen. Shiro doesn’t even have to look to see his red, blotchy face.
“Kolivan told us.”
Crashing sounds are coming from Keith’s end of the line and Shiro is absolutely certain that Keith is currently trying to make his way to them to kick both their asses. Though Shiro hopes he’ll have mercy on him, he did almost die.
“Turns out Interspecies Galran relationships are so slighted against in part because of their crossbreeding and the resulting offspring. Keith is sterile like a mule!”
Keith’s crashing suddenly dies down and the other paladin’s voice pipes up.
“Is that your way of calling me an ass?”
“What? No?” Lance says, forehead creased in confusion. “Mules are so cute Keith! Just like you! My Grandpa won one in a raffle when I was a kid- we named him Cheerio.”
“I thought you were scared of horses.” Keith comments, face finally popping back into frame. He looks like he’s in a ship hanger.
“And I am .” Lance nods. “But this was a mule, they’re only half horse.”
Shiro has no idea how they got from Keith’s sterility to Lance’s fear of equines.
“But anyway,” Lance continues, turning his eyes back to Shiro. “Keith totally like, worships the ground you walk on.”
Keith’s face disappears from the frame, a choking sound that sounds like he’s dying sounding from the audio.
“Which is rare because Keith doesn’t like a lot of things. This one time he pretended he didn’t know me when we were on Faukmeeii-69 because I wouldn’t stop making jokes.”
And Shiro can’t blame him, he’d struggle to retain his self-control if he were on a planet called that too.
“And the thing is… well you’re pretty much the only person both Keith and I would ever ask.” Lance adds, voice softening, eyes drifting to Keith who’s staring at them with an intensely devoted expression. “Keith and I...well we wanna have a family together.”
Shiro feels his breath stutter at those words.
“I’ve been taking Estrous shots since I was last home but they weren’t working.”
Shiro had no idea Lance and Keith were trying to start a family.
“The medics on the Marmora base were the ones to find out why things weren’t working.”
Then again Lance is a surprisingly private person- it makes sense that he wouldn’t have wanted to make any sort of announcement to the Paladins let alone Veronica and his family.
“So here we are- or well, here I am.” Lance continues. “Keith wanted to be the one to ask but he kept chickening out-”
“I was getting to it!”
“And I figure since I’m gunna go home, why not swing by here!” Lance adds, sitting up slightly and jostling the blanket Shiro has tucked up to his chin away. “You don’t have to give your answer right now- but think on it, okay Shiro? Think about possibly maybe helping me get knocked up.”
At this Keith chokes and Shiro imagines if he’d been drinking tea, he’d be in the medical ward too.
Lance pushes himself off Shiro’s gurney, stumbling slightly as the blankets tangle slightly around his ankles. Gently, he reaches for the communicator situated on Shiro’s bedside table. With a quick wave and mouthed goodbye, Lance began walking around the bed and in the direction of the door and presumably back to his cruiser.
Shiro hears Keith begin, his voice fading as Lance drifts farther away.
“ Please tell me you didn’t phrase it like that to Shiro.”
“What? What’s so wrong if I did?” Lance’s voice pitches with the slightest intonation of a whine.
Reluctantly, Shiro feels his lips twitch slightly upward at the sound, the noise of Keith’s bubbling chastisement disappearing as the door closed behind the other paladin. In the resulting silence Shiro felt his slight good humor dim slightly. A grumble from his stomach had him absently reaching for the wrapped cookie on his cleaned out tray, fingers deftly pulling apart the wax packaging.
An amalgamation of thoughts began swimming across his mind, half-formed and pensive going in and out like he had swiss cheese for a brain. He raised the cookie to his mouth, taking a deep bite as he breathed steadily through his nose.
Shiro immediately grimaced, all thought immediately disappearing.
Ughh. He hated cinnamon.
The thing is that Shiro actually really likes kids. Growing up they’d always been a part of his fantasy for his adultsona well that and stainless steel pans. (Though most of that had probably been because of leftover trauma from losing his own parents and getting raised through most of his adolescence by his grandparents but that usually got put into its own little box and repressed deep within his psyche just like everything else he didn’t like about himself always did.)
And when he’d met Adam it felt like everything had finally fallen into place. He was with a person he loved, doing a job he adored, living in a house they bought together. But when it’d been brought up- the possibility of starting a family. It’d been a no (actually it’d been an ‘ew’ but the sentiment was the same).
And for the most part Shiro was okay with that. And maybe even briefly shared Adam’s perspective when Keith came along and he and Adam had one day come home to the sight of Keith lighting a fire in their backyard for his Garrison Summer Scout ‘Campfire Safety’ badge. (One he, unfortunately, never received).
But the difference between the then and the now hinged on one thing. Adam.
Shiro wasn’t ready for anyone if they weren’t Adam. A fact that had been the breaking point for many of his attempts to move on (Shiro silently sent a mental apology to both Roy and Curtis).
But this- this wasn’t that . Not really. It’s more like he was stepping in to help out two of his closest friends.
It’s not as though this was something he would’ve been adamantly against had Adam still been around- he’d have still considered it then as well.
Which is all Lance had asked him to do- to just consider .
This wasn’t like with Curtis or with Roy, there was no pressure for serious commitment- it was just thinking about it .
Shiro finds himself looking up omegan health when they’re in port at a planet struggling with piracy of their trade routes.
Adam had never shared much of his omega biology with Shiro, which he understood- everything about dynamics in the Garrison had been very hush-hush and closed door, write questions on a flash card and I’ll pick them out of the box and answer them.
‘Estrous shots’ Are the first thing he looks up in the ATLAS’s Earth database. Of course they’re exactly what he recalls from his cadet health classes. Fertility shots especially meant for those struggling with pregnancy and commonly prescribed to male omegas.
He recalls Adam having taken sugar-pill derivatives of it to help clear up his teen acne but beyond that has little idea about what it had actually been doing to help Keith and Lance along.
‘Side Effects: weight loss, joint pain, lethargy, hair loss, mood changes, kidney dis…’ The list continues for awhile and Shiro tries to bring up a mental picture of the Lance he’d seen a week ago. There’s been a constantly present flush he’d noticed and a slight fullness to his cheeks but not much else beyond it.
Shiro’s fingers fly across the keyboard once more
‘pack bond behavior’...
‘in vitro fertilization’...
‘alpha/omega mating effects’....
‘newborn scent recognition’
By the time he’s done most of the crew has returned and the MFE’s are looking to begin investigating the reported air space trade violations.
Shiro leaves his office with a head filled with unanswered questions and returns hours later with a newly filled prison deck to be transported back to New Altea.
The thing is that it never really occurred to Shiro that Adam would ever die. Mainly because the first time Shiro ever met Adam they’d been cadets and the other boy had just finished calling Iverson a bitch to his face (to his face) .
Adam of course got in trouble for saying it and Shiro got in trouble for not muffling his laughter fast enough. The two of them had found a kindred spirit in each other and so the five hours of drills they were forced to run together didn’t end up being so bad.
Besides Adam had barely blinked when he’d first brought Keith home after the younger boy had stolen his car. Sure he’d mistaken him for a homeless teen and tried to fist fight him when he found out Keith dug through his half of the freezer and ate the last of banana fudge bomb pops- but Adam always seemed to have a kind of fondness for the young boy.
Maybe in a way he’d taken Keith under his wing just as Shiro had.
“Adam used to call me baby dick when you weren’t around.” Keith says converationally from where he’s sitting at the top of a tool shed in Lance’s backyard.
“Oh, I’m sure that he was just playing.” Shiro offers even though he knows for a fact that Adam calling Keith mocking names was exactly his brand. One of Kaltenecker’s newborn calves is chewing at Shiro’s ATLAS uniform. Shiro is trying to tug it out of their drool filled mouth by pushing gently on their pink nose but they’re persistent. Keith scoffs from where he’s sitting, his new red jacket Lance had sewn for him tied tightly around his waist and pulled away from the edge.
“Careful,” Keith warns as the baby cow keeps taking more of Shiro’s jacket into her little mouth. “You let her eat that and she’ll get sick. She gets sick and Lance’ll be worried.”
Shiro thinks it’s a bit unfair that he’s carrying all that responsibility when it’s the cow that won’t let go. With a final hard tug with his robotic arm, Shiro wrenches his jacket free.
“You should train these better.” Shiro protests, climbing onto a stack of wooden boxes as the calf pursues him. Shiro climbs up alongside a smug Keith as they both stare down at the young cow circling the shed like a wolf waiting for its prey to come down.
“They’re cows Shiro.” Keith counters. “You can’t train them- Lance said so.”
“Yes. Lance.” Shiro says breathing out slowly. “How’s he been?”
Such a conversation ending question because of course Shiro knows how Lance has been- the two of them try to talk at least twice a week on their comms whenever they can.
Keith’s face softens immediately, eyes immediately besotted as they trail over to the light blue farmhouse in the distance.
“He’s good. Happier since he’s been back. When I finish up a couple of things with the new Galra Government and Blade of Marmora merging I’m gunna come back here.”
That Shiro knows is a relief for everyone.
Lots of trials of various Galra warlords led to a significant portion of the old regime getting imprisoned- it certainly hadn’t helped them that Lotor had also condemned them from his own cell on New Altea. If Shiro recalled, with all the names Lotor had given Allura, his sentence should be cut short at least a few decades. Not that it would make any difference to him- the quintessence field had thoroughly messed with his mind. Shiro was certain the only reason he was allowed to freely roam New Altea was partially out of pity and partially out of just how harmless he had become.
Of course that didn’t stop his ex-Generals from following him around on his walks through the juniberry fields to ensure both his and others’ safety. Or at least that’s what Veronica had told him when she returned from visiting Acxa.
“So you and Lance are going to move in with his family?”
Shiro knew that was common, especially for young mated couples that were looking to start families of their own. That they’d move in with the larger of the two families and raise their pups communally. It’s not something that ever would’ve worked out for him and Adam- both Shiro’s grandparents having passed away just before he graduated and Adam having been raised by a single father.
But Lance had a big family, one with lots of siblings, nieces and nephews, cousins, and doting grandparents. It was the one thing Shiro had always felt slightly envious about both him and Hunk.
Big families were, after all, a sign of loving mates.
Maybe if Shiro’s parents had, had the opportunity he could’ve had a family just like Lance’s.
“We’re gunna move into his grandparent’s old house.” Keith answers, bringing Shiro’s attention back to him. “They used to live down the road before moving into the family’s main house in their older age.”
Shiro recalls driving past that building. It’d been a stout log cabin like house with a balcony and a porch that wrapped around the front. The road leading up to it had been gravel and Shiro was able to see it’d been in dire need of some repair.
It’d been exactly the kind of thing he could imagine Lance and Keith raising their family in.
“Lance and I are fixing it up- his brothers and dad come around to help with some of the heavy lifting but it’s mostly the two of us.”
That would explain why Lance had been taking a break from recovery missions lately. Shiro had noticed but hadn’t wanted to pry in all the times the two talked together.
But now that he did-
“Do you guys want any help?”
Keith looks up at him, surprise flickering across his face.
“I’m on break until the repair crew have the ATLAS up and running again. But with no Coran or Pidge It’ll probably take awhile.”
A smiles stretches across Keith’s face.
“You can’t paint to save your life but I’m sure Lance’ll be able to find you a nice job hammering nails into the wall, old man.”
Shiro’s brow twitches slightly at the ‘old’ jibe but lets it slide like water off a duck’s back.
“Alright. If you say so baby dick.”
Okay maybe not so much.
Keith scowls and immediately kicks him off the shed’s roof and into the waiting hooves of an over eager jacket-eating calf.
If there’s one thing that Shiro has learned about Lance- it’s that he loves color coordinating things.
Shiro can only imagine that the Lion switch must’ve really killed him.
“I was thinking of painting our room purple.” Lance happily informs him and Keith, briefly looking up from the handmade blueprints laid out in front of them. “Ya know? Because Red and Blue makes purple?”
“But I’m the Black Paladin.” Keith points out. “And you’re the Red Paladin.”
“Keith why are you so afraid to love me?”
Shiro watches an argument where Lance demolishes Keith.
A sight that reminds him fondly of him and Adam (of course he was Keith in this scenario).
Pretty soon it’s just the two Black Paladins heading to the local hardware store to buy the requested purple paint.
Keith spends a full twenty minutes staring at the endless collection of paint swatches, eyes flickering nervously over the stacks of ‘spangle’, ‘euphoric lilac’, and ‘vigorous violet’.
Shiro’s eyes land a can of paint that remind him heavily of the purple that would shine on Black’s dashboard. He picks it up with his robotic arm, the mechanical arm rising up through the shelves and swiftly picking the can up from where it was resting on the top shelf.
Keith’s eyes flicker to the can before shifting back to meet his. The other paladin’s tensed shoulders relaxed. It’s when they walk over to the counter to pay that Shiro learns something else about Keith.
The man at the register is older, about Mr. McClain’s age if Shiro had to guess. He smiles at Keith, eyes bright like he recognizes him. Given that Lance and Keith were probably frequent customers of the hardware store it made sense.
He scans the can of paint without much of a word, putting it inside the tightly woven cloth bag Keith had brought with him. As Keith goes to pay, he starts talking in spanish- the words rolling off his tongue in a thick accent.
Shiro watches in surprise, as the cashier smiles widely, his words quick and jovial as Keith slowly sounds out words, his cheeks lightly flushed.
Shiro is so stunned he doesn’t say anything until they’re back in his cruiser.
“You can speak spanish?” He asks just as Keith is backing them out of the parking lot. Keith flushes deeper.
“I’m...learning.” He offers. “Lance and his family are teaching me- I figure since I’m gunna live here it’d probably be a good idea if I can talk to people.”
Keith’s cheeks turn a deeper red the longer he speaks and Shiro can just tell that it’s killing him to admit that he has a heart.
“Plus,” Keith continues. “I wanna be able to understand Grandma when she’s talking shit about the ladies in town.”
At that Shiro snorts, his chuckling filling the cruiser as they drive through the packed streets of the town and back home.
It’s probably the twentieth morning that Shiro wakes up that he realizes that something’s up.
Maybe it’s the fact that he doesn’t hesitate to walk into the bathroom to use the toilet while Lance is in the shower. Or that Keith wanders down one morning wearing Shiro’s clothes because he hasn’t done his own laundry in days and Lance has gotten tired of him using up all his clean shirts. Or that Lance pushes a mug of tea into his hands that tastes better than anything he could’ve made- before he had a chance to realize he was still groggy from sleep.
Their whole dynamic, the way the three of them move around each other- it’s familiar in a way Shiro feels like he’s forgotten. An element of familial affection is present, sure. But it’s the anticipation that draws him in- like Lance and Keith both know what he needs before he does.
Like they’re a unit.
Like they’re a fami-
Shiro notices that he’s filled with relief when he notices something about Lance as they’re working on staining the hardwood of the second floor with a fruitwood polish.
His hair has been cut short recently and he’s using his barrette to clip back his bangs on one side of his face. His cheeks have filled out more and more over the last few weeks. Something that Keith is visibly happy at, and though he may not show it- Shiro is too. Estrous shot symptoms have the tendency to manifest differently in omegas and for Lance it manifested in his appetite- putting him through periods where he ate everything at once and then nothing at all.
Keith has been gone most of the morning, helping out at another farm down the road that’s having an ‘animal problem’ (It’s Cosmo that keeps warping into the other family's garden to steal pumpkins and bring them back to Lance as pseudo offerings).
The sound of the front door has them both perking their heads up and Lance peeking around the corner at the top of the stairs.
“Hey!” Lance yells out. “Dickbag! Help us finish staining the floor!”
“I’m right here! I can hear you just fine!”
Shiro hears an out-of-sight Keith yell back and apparently remain completely unaware of the hypocrisy of his own yelling.
Lance snickers and glances back at Shiro with a wide smile. The blue eyed boy opens his mouth again, presumably to yell out something else-probably about moving the rest of the furniture up stairs.
Shiro has learned to mostly tune it out, the sound of the occasional back and forth filling up the silence that would normally be there.
Shiro didn’t ever think it’d be something he could get used to.
The first time the three of them go out together it’s to Lance’s niece’s birthday party. She’s turning eleven and Lance is the one who’s bringing the cake while Shiro and Keith juggle their presents- or well, Shiro is juggling his and Lance’s. Keith has a card tucked into his pocket and all the assurance of someone who thought giving a gift card to a hardware shop to an eleven year old was a good idea.
The three of them take Shiro’s cruiser and arrive just on time where the flood of guests covers Lance well enough to sneak the cake into the fridge and away from little Nadia’s prying eyes.
Before Shiro realizes, he’s mingling and brushing elbows with more McClain’s than he’s ever seen in one place. Keith is situated comfortably beside a grey haired old woman that has her eyes closed to the party and is presumably Lance’s shit-talking grandma that Keith adores so much.
Given the wide grin on his face, Shiro is sure that the other paladin is fine where he is.
Which leaves Shiro to be the one to follow Lance around like a lost puppy. Lance is ecstatic with the company, introducing Shiro individually to each of his cousins, and aunts, and uncles. He’s already thoroughly familiar with the rest of Lance’s sibling and is able to sneak away for a moment when he spots Veronica walking around with Acxa following her like a shadow.
“Shiro!” Veronica greets, wide smile on her face when she spots him. Expression slightly startled but not surprised.
“Veronica.” Shiro nods in greeting, offering a friendly wave to Acxa who nodded in acknowledgement.
“I didn’t expect to see you so quickly.” Veronica adds, brows furrowing slightly. “I figured I’d see you back at the launch.”
At that Shiro feels his earlier happiness still.
“Launch?” He asks.
“Yeah.” Veronica says, not noticing his shift in mood. “The ATLAS launch. Sam sent out a message a few days ago saying they were finalizing a few of the repairs but that we should be good for launch in a week.”
Shiro feels his smile slip away.
He hadn’t gotten any message.
Then again he also hadn’t checked any of his incoming messages in the last week- he’d been helping Lance with arranging furniture and building bedside tables.
Shiro mumbled out a quick excuse, his eyes flickering over to the crowd of party guests, scanning for Lance’s familiar face. He catches sight of his back slipping in the direction of the backyard.
Shiro quickly, follows after him, a strange ache in his chest blooming the longer the thought of the launch lingered in his mind.
Shiro manages to catch up to Lance where he’s bringing out a tray of meats out to the grill in the backyard where the younger children are all running around, chasing each other with all the shrieks and giggles of youth.
“Lance.” Shiro says, voice in some tone he can’t identify.
Lance startles slightly but places down the tray beside where Mr. McClain is grilling with Lance’s uncles.
“Shiro!” Lance says, smiling widely as he starts to turn around. “What’s up-”
Lance’s smile slips away. Shiro can only imagine it’s because of what he sees on his face.
The three of them don’t get to talk until the party is over and they’re back home.
When did Shiro start to think of it as their home?
Lance walks in with slow steps, like he has lead boots attached to his feet. Keith watches them both with a confused furrow in his brow, his gaze bouncing back and forth between the two of them.
Lance falls down into the purple loveseat Shiro found and nearly lost an arm to at an antique store (if there’s one thing Shiro’s learned it’s that mothers-in-law looking for wedding presents are vicious ).
Keith sits down on the grey couch, staring up at him and glancing back to Lance with an air that’s growing steadily more concerned the longer Shiro goes without speaking.
So he does.
“Veronica told me that the ATLAS should be ready for launch in about a week.” His voice is thicker than he remembers but that might be because of how tight his throat feels as he chokes the words out.
Lance’s head flicks up his eyes widened as Keith’s mouth fell open slightly in surprise.
The silence stretches for awhile.
“So-” Keith begins.
“You’re leaving.” Lance finishes quietly.
Shiro swallows, hesitating.
Lance bites down on his lip, brows furrowing as his mouth open and closed in unvoiced protest. Keith similarly frowned, lips tilting down like he was displeased- not at Shiro, but at... something .
“But…” Shiro continued, almost as quickly cutting himself off. His heart was beating a mile a minute in his chest, the beats thumping loud enough that he could hear them in his ears.
Shiro didn’t know why he was hesitating- he’d never had a problem with saying exactly what was on his mind before.
But somehow, now he was.
“But…” He tried again, speaking slowly like his mouth might betray him. “But I...I don’t want to go.”
There. There it was.
Would they think it was weird that he didn’t want to leave their house?
But Shiro felt something- something for both of them when it was just the three of them either toiling away at repairs or gathering around the screen of one of their phones and trying to watch a movie.
It felt important. Like something he’d forgotten about and was just beginning to remember. Even if it wasn’t what like what the two had with each other where Shiro would go on walks only to return and find the two of them sweaty and out of breath with their clothes ruffled out of place.
Even if it wasn’t like that.
In Shiro’s chest- it felt like that.
And from the looks the two were shooting him- it felt like maybe they felt like that too.
It’s not often that Shiro visit’s the Garrison Memorial.
Launch is in a few hours and both Lance and Keith had gotten up extra early to go with him to see him off.
The memorial is a couple hundred paces away from the Garrison, clearly visible from the roof but with no footpath leading to it.
But Shiro doesn’t need a footpath to know exactly where it is. Keith drives the cruiser to the spot and Shiro helps Lance hop out from his seat.
The memorial is as long as it is wide- a fact that never fails to settle a weight in Shiro’s chest. He knew a lot of the names carved into it, been a cadet and graduated with many of them.
Adam’s is right in the center, the metal glinting in the sun as Shiro steps closer, careful not to step on the bouquets of flowers propped up against the floor. Bright as day, Shiro can see his name standing out above the rest.
There’s no way Adam would’ve accepted anything less.
Keith slows to a stop beside him, his presence speaking volumes even with the slightest curl of his lip that Shiro can see no matter how much the other tries to hide it.
Keith knows better than to speak ill of the dead but Shiro is at least partially sure that it’s also out of fear that Adam would rise from the grave and try to kick Keith’s ass (and Shiro was certain Keith was not willing to risk that ).
Shiro let a quiet chuckle out as Keith kept a respectful distance- like getting too close would cause him to erupt into flames. Shiro could remember the first words the two ever said to each other with perfect recall.
‘Why do you look like you crawled out from under an overpass?’
‘What are you a cop? Mind your own business.’
Adam always did have such a way about him that could make anyone in the world despise him in less than a minute.
Shiro loved that about him.
Even with Keith standing back and putting his fingers in front of each other to form a cross (because he thought Shiro couldn’t see him) Lance continued to step forward with Shiro, loosely gripping his wrist in a way that felt comforting.
The two of them stand in silence for a moment before Shiro manages to muster enough of himself to speak.
“I...never wanted anyone unless it was Adam.” Shiro began. “I mean for awhile I tried to make it work but none of it ever... clicked .”
Lance kept his gaze ahead but Shiro felt his grip tighten, thumb stroking slightly at the back of Shiro’s hand.
“They pushed too hard or...maybe I didn’t push hard enough.” He continued. “I...I wanted a family...or maybe to just be part of one.”
Shiro took a shaky breath through his mouth, chest stuttering.
“I guess I just didn’t want him...to think that I gave up on him too quickly...that I moved on...too quickly.”
Shiro feels himself blink, lids heavy with something that didn’t feel like sleep.
Lance laced their fingers together, their hands swinging slightly between them.
“If Adam were here.” Lance began slowly, blue eyes pensive as he stared up at the cloudless sky. “What do you think he’d say?”
Shiro’s brain worked faster than his mouth. Because he knew there was only one thing that Adam would care about- especially with Lance’s recent doctor’s appointment still fresh in his mind.
‘Oh so you’re taking the cowards way out huh, Takashi?’ Shiro could practically hear him mock ‘ You can’t do it the way the Gods intended, huh?’
“He’d be excited.” Shiro answered.
‘I always knew your dick would be the first of you to go...Pussy.’
“Yeah.” He continued. “He’d be really happy for me.”
Lance smiles at him widely, eyes glittering like the lights of a ferris wheel.
With a last lingering look on the plaque, Shiro turned; walking with Lance back in the direction of their cruiser where Keith was waiting. As they slowed, Lance slowly began filling the silence between the three of them.
“Keith’s only suggested really shit names this entire time-”
“-not now, baby. So have you thought of any good names?” Lance asks, huffing slightly as he tries to lift his leg over the side of the cruiser.
Shiro recalls coming across a small notebook in his parent’s side dresser when he’d been gathering up his things to make the move to his grandparent’s home.
It’d been a list- all filled with baby names. Boy baby names.
At the time Shiro hadn’t liked to think about what that would have meant. He’d thrown out the notebook first chance he got. But one of the names had always stuck in the back of his mind, the one at the very top of the list.
“Ryou.” Shiro offers. “I like Ryou.”
“Huh. Ryou.” Lance says, testing the sound out in his mouth. A small smile tugging at his lips. “That’s cute, I like that- Ryou, Ryou, Ryou~ ”
“It’s nice.” Keith offers, lifting one of his hands to push Lance the rest of the way into the cruiser.
Shiro climbs in behind Lance, settling beside him as Keith crawled into the pilot’s seat.
The drive back to the ATLAS is quiet, save for the quiet murmuring of different names under Lance’s breath. Through the glare of the sun, Shiro is still able to see the softened line of Keith’s brow, eyes relaxed as a content smile tugged slightly at his lips.
At the sight of the ship growing bigger and bigger the closer they got, Shiro felt any remaining tension he’d had at seeing it slowly wash away.
Shiro could see the orange of the ATLAS personnel swathed in a sea of normal-clothed civilians. Friends, family- all coming to wish their final goodbyes.
In all the launches Shiro had been through, he’d never had a family member to wish him goodbye. He’d never had one to do it.
Shiro glanced at Keith’s peaceful, calm expression, at Lance mumbling under his breath.
Now he had two .