Keith is having a busy afternoon.
Above the usual noise of various activity in the garage, he hears Mr. Garrett talking to a customer while they usher a vehicle inside. It's got a loud and sputtering engine, which catches his attention. From the list of problems Keith could hear, probably a hoverbike. Whatever it was, his boss assures the customer that they'd have it looked over and diagnosed by the next day.
Keith already has a list of things that could be wrong with it, just from the sound of that engine, but Mr. Garrett calls over one of the other mechanics instead.
Okay, so not his job, then. Keith refocuses. That's good. Very good, because currently, he is elbow-deep in the engine of his fifth vehicle for the day, with three more on his plate.
There are usually more than enough hands in the repair shop. That day, however, one mechanic had called in sick, and then a priority job came in that required most of the hands on deck.
Today is supposed to be Keith's day off. He should be doing laundry, and taking Kosmo out to the park. He'd been planning to send Shiro pictures of Kosmo charming the braver neighborhood kids for pets and treats, but Mr. Garrett had called, and Keith could hardly refuse the man when he asked so desperately.
It's fine, Keith thinks. He likes the work. Mr. Garrett is a good boss, and he offered Keith two extra days off. It's fair.
For now, he wipes sweat and dirt off his face with the towel draped over his shoulder, and goes back to work.
Keith looks up and around, eyes finding another mechanic, who is perched on the hood of a truck, waving a wrench at him. She uses it to point at the messy table behind him.
"That your data-pad ringing? It's been at it for a while."
Keith whirls around and yes, that is his data-pad, loud and noisy, just about to vibrate itself off the edge of the table. He wipes his hands in his coveralls as he rushes to answer it, but he freezes when he sees the display.
It's a call, audio-only, from the Galaxy Garrison.
Keith had cut ties with the Garrison, four years ago.
During those four years, they called him once-
No. That's over now.
The Garrison has no reason to call him again, except that-
He is Shiro's emergency contact.
Keith all but breaks into the Garrison premises in his hoverbike. He would, if he had to, but the guards allow him in quickly. They know who he is, and in turn Keith still knows his way around the familiar halls. He doesn't need a guide as he rushes towards the medical wing.
He brushes past the terrified junior officer supposed to usher him as soon as he gets the room assignment, and he doesn't stop until he's outside the right door.
He braces himself for whatever's waiting for him, but before he could take another step, the door slides open and he comes face to face with a familiar gray uniform, and a familiar frowning face.
"Commander." Keith says, hating the fact that he just reflexively stood straighter.
"Ca-... Kogane." Iverson replies. He looks tired, and then ruffled - by Keith's presence or the situation, Keith doesn't know. The man just shrugs and steps aside. "We called. You don't have to run off with him this time."
Keith scowls, but says nothing as he walks past his former commanding officer and into the room.
Shiro is sitting on the bed, looking exhausted as he leans his back against a tall stack of pillows. He's sporting cuts and bruises, with bandages wrapped around his forehead. No oxygen support, but he is hooked up to an IV. His prosthetic arm is missing. His eyes light up when he sees Keith.
Keith lets out a relieved sigh. His best friend is alive, awake. "Shiro."
"Hey, Keith." Shiro says, voice rough but still full of affection, like it always does, for Keith. He raises his arm, then Keith is crossing the room and sitting on the edge of the bed, clinging to him, nose buried in his neck.
Shiro smells like antiseptic and Shiro - warmth, comfort, love, home. Keith lets out a tired groan, melting against his best friend. "What the fuck , Shiro." he says, with feeling.
Despite his injuries, Shiro sighs against the comforting weight and only laughs tiredly. Clumsy fingers thread through Keith's hair, which has mostly escaped its messy braid. "I'm okay, Keith. I'm sorry for worrying you."
"No." Keith snaps, drawing back so he could look at Shiro properly. "No. I mean, what the fuck, Shiro? What happened?! You told me this was a simple job! You were just there to supervise junior officers who were escorting a delivery. Of food supplies! For some... some fancy party or whatever! Nothing remotely dangerous, so why are you-"
He stops when Shiro's thumb swipes at something in his cheek. "Did you have to leave work?"
"Don't change the subject." Keith cuts him off, fighting a blush at their close proximity.
Yes, Keith was lucky that Mr. Garrett let him go when he said that he had a very urgent family emergency. Yes, he probably still smells of sweat and gasoline. But he also knows when Shiro is deflecting.
"Why is it that whenever you leave for months on end, you end up-"
"Abducted?" Shiro grins.
"Hurt!" Keith ignores his morbid humor in an effort to keep track. "Wait- were you abducted again-"
Shiro sees the growing horror on his best friend's face and he quickly tries to undo the damage. "No! No, Keith. I-... There was just- An incident. Okay?"
"What incident?" Keith frowns. "You were just delivering food supplies- Was it pirates? That route was supposed to be safe-"
"Not pirates. The route was safe. We got to Corudeen safely, we were able to deliver the goods in time, but... there was an incident... It's... I'm sorry, Keith. It's confidential."
Keith stares at him for a long moment before saying, "Are you kidding me?" then, before Shiro could answer, he continues, "Shiro. Are you actually pulling that bullshit with me?"
Keith stands up and takes a step back. Before Shiro could reach for his hand, he crosses his arms across his chest.
Shiro takes a deep breath. He looks at Keith, imploring. "You know how these things work."
Keith just stares back, stubborn. The Galaxy Garrison is not a government organization, it’s a private military company - but sometimes he really couldn’t tell the difference with all the red tape going on. And after everything, he’s done with all that.
Shiro tries again, sounding more exhausted this time. "I promise, I would tell you if I could."
Keith falters. "Do you mean-?"
"Keith." Shiro calls again, even softer. He reaches out. "Please."
That breaks Keith, easily. He takes Shiro's hand and lets himself be pulled close again. He doesn't sit yet, but he wraps his arms around Shiro's shoulders. "You don't know what happened to you." he says in a whisper. "And they won't tell you?"
Shiro shakes his head. "They said they're still trying to sort out all the details. All I know is that the delivery was successful. We were even invited to the event- I even managed to talk to you before going, right?"
"We were on our way back. I told you that, the contract was to escort the suppliers back to their home planet after... When we landed, it was… it was chaos in the capital. There were riots. People were fighting each other. There were fighter ships attacking. It's like... like a war zone."
"What? On Puig? That's a peaceful planet, and it's just a quadrant away- Why didn't we hear about this? This should have been on the news or something-"
Shiro shakes his head again, and this time he does lean into Keith's chest. "The thing that scares me, though... is that I don’t remember much else. First, me and my team tried to fight off the ships attacking the civilians. Then... it's all just a blur. The next thing I know, I was here. Iverson asked me questions. I told him what I remember. I asked about my team, and all he said was that all of us were injured but one of us managed to contact Garrison and they sent reinforcements to bring us back. They won't tell me what really happened on Puig."
Keith holds him tighter. "Okay." he says, more to himself. "Okay. I'm sorry for snapping. I just... I freaked out a bit. The last time this happened, it was..."
"Kerberos." Shiro finishes for him. "It's okay. You were worried."
Keith tries to compose himself, for the both of them. They rarely ever talk about Kerberos. For Keith, it was 'Pilot Error' and a year-long nightmare without his best friend. For Shiro... well, he only ever opened up about that year in his lowest moments: after nightmares and during panic attacks. It's been more than a year since then. They've both started to heal, slowly. Until this - until now - the second time in Shiro's career that he's coming back injured from what was a long but supposedly simple job.
"It's good to have you back." Keith says, voice breaking.
"It's good to be back." then he leans back to look at Keith, smiling. "Hey. I have to stay here for another day. You know how it goes, tests and... debrief. After that, Iverson told me they'll allow me to recover at home. I'll be home tomorrow, okay?"
"Okay." Keith nods. He tries to smile. "Kosmo will be happy to see you."
Shiro grins. "Is the barbeque still on? You promised."
Keith rolls his eyes. "Yes. Okay. You're getting barbeque when you get home."
"With your dad's sauce recipe?"
"That's what I promised."
"Yes!" Shiro cheers, fist pumping. "I'm so glad I didn't die!"
Keith scowls. "Shiro!"
"I'm kidding!" he laughs, and when Keith tries to turn away from him, he wraps his arm around the other to keep him close, still grinning that mischievous, shit-eating grin that always makes Keith grin right back. "Hey, no, no, Keith... Keiiiith... Don't go! What did Iverson tell you when he left? I didn't hear."
Keith huffs, but lets himself be cuddled. "He said not to break you out this time."
Shiro snorts, eyes twinkling in fond amusement. "Good times, right?"
Keith can’t look at him, smiling like that, but he risks a glance. "You planning to let me go anytime soon?"
"Do you want me to?"
He shrugs. "Just asking so I know if I should sit down or not."
Shiro scoots in the bed, making more space for Keith. "C'mere."
Keith sits himself on the bed beside him and snuggles against his side. If Shiro is uncomfortable with the weight in his injured state, he doesn't show it and only pulls him close.
Like this, if Keith could forget the hospital and the IV in Shiro's arm, it's just like normal nights in their flat, Shiro relaxing after a long day of training cadets, Keith winding down from his day in the garage. He wishes Kosmo was there too, but maybe that's asking too much.
He shifts his head slightly and notices Shiro's empty sleeve again. "Your arm... do you know what happened to it?"
"Badly damaged when I got here. They said it was beyond repair, so they just had it removed."
"I can… I can get your spare from home, if you want."
Shiro shakes his head. "It can wait. I just... want to get home as soon as I can, wear comfortable clothes, cuddle Kosmo, and eat your cooking again."
"Right. Then I really have to finish laundry because I might have worn your comfiest hoodie this week. The orange and white one?"
Shiro chuckles. "Forgiven." Then he frowns. "Were you nesting? You don't always do that. Are you okay?"
Keith bites his lip. Shiro knows him too well. Keith is half-Galran, and while he's never been raised in the culture, he still has some instincts ingrained in him. And Shiro knows about them.
"Don't worry about it." Keith assures him. "It was just a couple of off-days. I had Kosmo and I called Pops. I'm okay now."
"Is it someone from work?"
"No. Work’s good. Just… someone at the grocery store gave me shit for being half-Galra. The usual." Keith shrugs. When Shiro lets out a frustrated huff, he smiles. "I told you. I'm okay now. You're the one in the medical wing, old-timer."
"Hey, ouch.” Shiro whines, pouting. “I’m injured. Be nicer to me.”
Keith makes a non-committal sound as he feels Shiro lean his head on his shoulder. He can’t help but smile. “You’re injured. You should go rest. I’ll stay until you’re asleep. How ‘bout it, you big baby?”
“M’kay.” Shiro smothers a yawn against his shoulder. “Yer’an angel.”
He dozes off like that, in a weird position, fingers still loosely tangled in Keith’s hair. Keith eases him down on the bed and tucks him snugly under the covers. He sits by the bedside for a while, stroking Shiro’s hair before his hand moves to cup the other man’s cheek. Shiro feels warm, his breathing is steady. Keith sighs. This is too familiar. He’d been here before.
But Shiro is home. Shiro is alive - that’s what matters. Shiro promised he’ll come back, and he did. That’s enough.
Keith wipes the tears siding his eyes and shakes his head. He’s fine. He’s had a bit of a scare, that’s all. For now, he has things to do. He should go home and… do laundry. Prepare that barbeque sauce. Yes. That’s what he’ll do.
Keith finally gathers himself, and after a moment of hesitation, he leans down and presses a kiss to Shiro’s forehead. “You’ll be the death of me, Shirogane.”
With a last lingering look, he turns around and leaves.
Keith always does good on his word.
“Mmmm.” Shiro moans, almost sobs, and makes sure to chew thoroughly before he swallows. He also licks his fingers, for emphasis. Then he says, to the room in general, “Keith, please, please marry me.”
Across the table filled with sumptuous warm home-cooked food, Keith snorts as he lays down a plate of steak for a very excited Kosmo. “I already cook for you everyday, what else do you want from me, Shirogane?”
“It’s so good...” Shiro whines, popping another slice of saucy meat in his mouth. His eyes widen when Keith walks over and places more barbecue on his plate. “Oh! My love…!”
“Careful, the mac ‘n cheese will get jealous.” Keith sniggers, ruffling his hair before he goes to the fridge to fetch some drinks.
Shiro gasps. “There’s mac ‘n cheese?!”
“Tomorrow.” he answers with a grin, placing a tall glass of water beside Shiro’s plate. “For breakfast.”
“Keith!!!” - Shiro screeches, without any sort of attempt at dignity whatsoever - “What’s your ring size?!”
Keith chuckles, shaking his head as he picks up Shiro’s napkin and wipes sauce off the side of his lips. “Nope. I mean, look at you. I don’t wanna marry a messy eater.”
“I’m only messy because I have just one arm. Will you marry me if I get a new one and wipe my own face?”
“Still no. You’re still messy even with two arms.” Keith huffs.
That’s when Kosmo trots up to them, carrying his plate, empty and licked clean. Keith’s jaw drops. “Already?”
Shiro sniggers, nodding approvingly at the wolf’s plate. “Mood.”
Keith shoves him and just takes the plate to fill it again. “Fine. Just for tonight, because Shiro’s back.”
Kosmo yips happily, laying his head on Shiro’s lap as he waits.
When they’ve all had their fill, Keith’s data-pad chimes and he picks it up. “Hey, Shiro, Pops wants to talk to you.”
“Really?” Shiro blinks.
“Here.” Keith taps the call button for his dad and then hands over the data-pad to his best friend and housemate. “Tell him you’re alive and well so he’ll stop bugging me about it.”
Shiro accepts it awkwardly. “Okay. Um. How do I look? Sauce on my face? Is my hair okay?”
“You look fine for someone who just got discharged from the hospital.” Keith assures him. “And you hair is not okay, it’s not going to be okay until the bandages come off. You just have to live with that.”
Shiro grumbles, but then the holo-call comes through and he sits up straight and smiles his parent-winning smile when he sees Keith’s father’s face. “Hello, good evening, Mr. Kogane!”
To the side, Keith watches his father grin widely at Shiro, even though his brows were furrowed in concern. “Shiro! Well, you look like hell, son. Keith told me what happened. How are you?”
“I’m doing much better, sir. I feel sore, mostly, but I swear Keith’s cooking healed half of my injuries.”
“Just half?” Tex clicks his tongue. “He’s losing touch.”
“He held out on the mac ‘n cheese…” Shiro fake sniffs.
“Keith, I know you’re in there, give the man his mac ‘n cheese.”
Keith rolls his eyes and pops his head beside Shiro’s in the call. “He’s getting too spoiled, Pops. Don’t encourage him.”
While Tex and Shiro are talking, Keith starts cleaning up the table. He feels much better today. It feels like Shiro had never left, like it’s just another dinner, with Tex calling to check up on them afterwards. He hears them laughing, and when looks over, he sees that Shiro is now pointing the data-pad on Kosmo, drooling and kicking in his sleep.
The call ends just as Keith is starting to wash the dishes. Shiro asks him if it’s okay to check the news on his data-pad and he agrees absentmindedly.
Not long afterwards, he hears Shiro whisper, “Oh, God.”
Keith turns to ask what’s the matter, but Shiro has already brought up a projection of a news report. He reads the headline first and freezes.
‘285 DEAD, OVER 3000 INJURED IN CONCERT RIOT’
Keith rinses his hands and dries them as he stands beside Shiro’s chair. They watch the broadcast in silence.
“-witnesses stated that the fights started outside the venue, before the concert audience also turned against each other and started getting violent for no apparent reason inside the open air stadium that has a capacity of about fifty thousand. The riot lasted for several minutes only, but damages were still severe due to the sheer number of people involved. Later accounts seem to indicate that most concert-goers were said to have a lapse in memory and have all claimed to not know what happened, nor what they had done-”
There is footage of a large sea of various species of concert-goers fighting - nobody had weapons, but they all punched, bit, kicked… Beside the footage is a photo of a famous idol-
“Renowned inter-galaxy pop star Allura Altea was able to safely leave the premises, thanks to her security unit. Neither she nor her representatives could be reached for comments at the moment.”
“All those people…” Shiro whispers. Keith reaches out to lay a hand on his shoulder, both to comfort his friend and to ground himself.
“The local officials have yet to issue an official statement. However, accounts from eyewitnesses and found footage of a group of spacecraft of unknown origin hovering over the city proper during the event are sparking theories that this may be a targeted attack.”
“Wait.” Shiro blinks, hurrying to pause the feed. He swipes at the display to zoom in at the footage. “Those… those were the same ships were tried to fight off in Puig.”
Keith’s hand on his shoulder tightens. “Shiro… are you sure?”
Shiro stares at the ship for a long moment. “Yes.”
Keith feels weak. “Those are Galra.”
“What?” Shiro turns to look at him. Keith’s eyes doesn’t leave the ship, and this time it’s Shiro’s turn to ask, “Are you sure?”
Keith’s chuckle is low, bitter. “Want me to name the model? Give you the specs? Because I can. I’ve been in one of them.”
“Before you ask - no. It’s not a Blade ship.”
Across the room, on the working table, Shiro’s data-pad rings. Keith walks over to get it, and he’s not surprised to find that it’s a call from the Garrison. He hands it to Shiro, who looks reluctant to leave the room to answer it. Keith gives him a small smile and nods. “Go.”
Shiro leaves the room. Keith closes the broadcast. After regaining himself, he goes back to washing the dishes.
When Shiro comes back, he stands beside Keith and wordlessly runs his fingers through Keith’s long hair, keeping it out of his eyes.
Keith doesn’t look up from his task. “When are you going back to work?”
Shiro sighs. “Tomorrow.”
Keith turns to him sharply. “But you just- You’ve barely recovered!”
“It’s just a meeting, Keith. A few hours. Three, four hours at most. They just need me for a meeting, and I’m going back home. Then I can work from here afterwards.”
That calms him down slightly. “Okay.” When he finally looks at Shiro, he attempts a smile. “What time? Do I have to pack the mac ‘n cheese or not?”
Shiro looks back at him, eyes wide, then softening fondly. He leans down and bumps his head against the shorter man’s. “Are you sure I can’t get you to marry me?”
His answer comes in the form of water and soap suds to his face, and after some indignant spluttering, he sticks his hand under the faucet and flicks water back at Keith.
They wake Kosmo up with their laughter as they run around the kitchen, throwing water and suds at each other. For a minute, the wolf watches them with lazy eyes, then simply huffs and goes back to sleep.
It would be a long while before they have a normal night like this again.