“Keith, there you are!" Hunk had never been so glad to see a mullet. Well, except for that time in the giant worm, or that time Lotor was kicking their butts and Black teleported in out of nowhere, or-- anyway. He was relieved. "Finally, I've been looking all over for you.”
Keith looked up and over his shoulder, graciously stopped to wait as Hunk jogged up the hall towards him.
“Hey man, you busy?”
“I think I've got a few minutes to spare,” Keith said dryly. “What's up?”
“Just wanted to, you know, have a little chat with you about something.” Hunk glanced up and down the corridor. “Hey uh, Shiro's not around too by any chance, is he?”
Keith's shoulders instantly straightened, attention wholly captured the way it always was at the slightest mention of the other man. If he had the big fluffy ears of some of his fellow Galra, they'd be perked straight up. Hunk had to bite his lip so he didn't grin at the thought.
“Shiro?" Keith echoed. "He's in a meeting right now with the Atlas engineers. Why? I can call him if you need him-”
“No no, no, that's fine, we don't need to bother Shiro.” Hunk let the grin slip free and patted Keith's back. “There's only one Black Paladin we wanted to see, and that's you, buddy."
Keith crossed his arms and raised a brow. “By 'we' I'm guessing you mean the other paladins.”
“Alright. What mess has Lance gotten himself into this time?”
Hunk laughed. “C'mon man, he hasn't gotten mixed up in any trouble in ages. And no, before you ask, Pidge hasn't done anything either. We just, you know, wanted your advice with a little something-something, that's all.”
Hunk looked up and down the corridor again. It was still empty, but who knew how long that would last. “Follow me," he said in a stage whisper, "and I'll explain everything.”
Keith eyed him. He didn't often look people in the eye, but when he did choose to he went about it all piercing and intense. Hunk didn't know if he did it deliberately or not, or which would be worse. But he had met Krolia. No mystery there where Keith got it from.
At the beginning of all this, before Voltron, before everything, Hunk would've found being pinned under such an intense dark stare intimidating. Now, he knew from the set of his jaw that Keith was barely hiding a smile.
And he also knew that Keith was a secret softie, far from immune to puppy-dog eyes. “Keith. Buddy. Trust me?”
“Alright, alright already.” Keith rolled his eyes a bit - and yup, there was the little laugh. “Where're you taking me, anyway?”
Hunk led him down to one of the storage rooms just off the Atlas's hangar. He rapped a pattern on the door with his knuckles, waited for the click of the lock being released, and ushered Keith inside.
This particular storage room was where Pidge had set up shop – and it looked like it, too. Keith surveyed the computers, the tools, the piles of scrap and machinery and the snack wrappers littered everywhere with an expression of mounting trepidation. Hunk couldn't blame him. He knew what all the bits and pieces were for, yet even he had trouble making sense of the order Pidge had Frankensteined it all into.
“Guess who I've found!” he called, steering Keith through the near-invisible path in the mess.
Pidge's small hand appeared, fingers wiggling over the top of a towering stack of motherboards, but it was Lance's voice that answered.
“Finally! What took you guys so long?”
“Look, he wasn't in the gym so I had to go hunting,” Hunk said, maneuvering gingerly around the stack to where Pidge, Lance and Allura were sitting on the floor, sheets of paper and markers spread out on the tiles between them. He hopped across to the space on the other side of the circle and dropped down with a sigh between Lance and Pidge. “And, might I add, he has a teleporting wolf, or did you forget that not-insignificant detail? He could've been anywhere!”
“Well it's good of you to join us, oh fearless leader,” Lance said, this time at Keith. He flashed a wide grin and fluttered his eyelashes.
“My pleasure.” Keith huffed out a laugh. “Maybe I'd've come sooner if I'd known you guys were having tea parties without me.” He crossed his arms, neck craned to read one of the sheets of paper in front of Allura. “So is one of you gonna actually tell me what's going on now, or..?”
Allura smiled up at him and patted the floor next to her. Once he'd sat cross-legged she glanced around at the rest of them and told him, “We have been... discussing Shiro.”
Keith looked up, paper immediately forgotten. “Shiro?” Hunk met eyes with a smirking Pidge and knew she was thinking the same as him – bless him, he's so predictable. “What about Shiro?”
“Well, you see...” Allura glanced at Lance, who gave her a small, encouraging smile. “Hunk, Pidge and I were talking about the Atlas, and they were asking questions about Altean alchemy and how it affects the engineering. Naturally the subject led on to Shiro, as the Atlas's captain and pilot.”
Pidge nudged up her glasses. “Yeah. I've been wanting to ask him what the mental load is like and how it manifests – you know, how different it is from the connection with the Lions, that kind of thing – but I haven't had a chance to get him alone to talk with him at all.” Her voice quieted. “He's been so busy.”
Allura nodded. “Yes. We discussed it, and we noticed that it has occurred to each of us independently how little chance to rest and recuperate he has had since we arrived here on Earth. He has taken so much on his shoulders, and while he may no longer pilot a Lion, he remains an important part of Voltron. We want to do something special for him to demonstrate how much he means to us.”
Keith was watching them all, wide-eyed. Hunk smiled at him. “If anyone deserves a break, it's Shiro," he added. "Especially when he's done so much for all of us.”
“Yeah.” That soft, gooey look had resurfaced in Keith's eyes. “Yeah. So what sort of thing were you guys thinking?”
“Something to show him our support, and our gratitude.” Allura's ears twitched with her smile, and Hunk didn't miss the way Lance's eyes followed the movement. “And something that will also let him have some fun. We're just... not entirely sure what that should entail.”
Lance leaned forward. “Which is why Hunk went to find you,” he said. “You know Shiro better than any of us. We can't do this without you, man.”
“Alright.” Keith sat up, his brow furrowing in determination. Like he would if they were planning a real mission. “Show me what you've got.”
“Some of these we've already discarded for logistical reasons,” Pidge said, tapping at her list with a marker. Lines of scribbled code were encroaching in from the margins. “It's not like we can travel very far from the Garrison without notice, or getting clearance. Plus everyone's on a tight schedule preparing for the launch of the Atlas. It's unlikely we'll be able to get more than one day or night off all at the same time.”
“Definitely not without Shiro feeling like he's skipping his responsibilities,” Keith murmured, picking up Allura's sheet. “This... this is Altean, I can't read it. Pidge, can I see yours?”
Pidge shrugged. “Look at Hunk's. If you can't read Allura's writing you'll never be able to read mine.”
“Even though yours is in English?” Pidge silently held up her sheet. Keith blinked at it. “...Right. Gotcha. Hunk?”
“On it.” Hunk brandished his list and cleared his throat with a theatrical flourish. “So, of the ideas we haven't vetoed, we have: a paintball tournament; a movie marathon; a group meal with his favorite foods (which is my personal top choice, just saying); a Monsters & Mana session where no one gets to complain about Shiro's paladin obsession the entire time; or... a day trip.”
He passed his sheet over to Keith.
“Hm. I don't know about paintball, but Shiro used to be into lasertag,” Keith said, “but I don't know if there's anywhere nearby still running it.” He scratched the scar on his cheek. “So the meal is Hunk's choice, what about the rest of you?”
“I must admit, I am interested in seeing more of your Earth movies,” said Allura. “It's so interesting how many narrative similarities there are between the stories of our cultures.”
“Watching movies isn't really special though, is it?” Pidge said. “Nor is having a meal together. We can do both those things when we're back in space.”
Lance prodded her with the point of his elbow. “We can play nerd games in space too, Pidge.”
“Yeah, maybe, but at least it's something we know Shiro's really into. The whole point of this is so he'll have a good time and enjoy himself, right?”
“Which is why I still think our best bet is a vacation,” Lance declared, slapping his sheet of paper down in front of Keith. On it was one single bulletpoint of writing; the rest was taken up by an enthusiastic, wobbly-lined drawing of Blue and Red wearing sunglasses and boardshorts. “Take him to Cuba for a Team Voltron Beach Party! Just us, the Lions, and all the garlic knots and piña coladas a stressed and overworked ship captain can ask for!”
Pidge crossed her arms. “And you're not just arguing for it because you've got relatives out there and you want to see them,” she said dourly.
“I-” Lance deflated. “Well – yeah? Sue me.”
"See, this is exactly why we needed you,” Hunk said in aside to Keith, who was frowning with his chin in his palm, gaze lost somewhere in the middle distance. “We've been going around in circles like this for ages.” Keith didn't respond. Hunk nudged his knee with his foot. “Buddy? Earth to Keith?”
“I get it, Lance, believe me, but I don't think it's fair to have a vacation with your family and no one else's,” Pidge was saying. “If we get your family involved, all our families should be involved – and that starts adding up to a lot of people. It makes the logistics complicated before we even go anywhere. And what if there's an emergency and no one can reach us?”
“Red can get back here from the Caribbean in thirty seconds, that's no problem. Just 'cause you're scared of a little sun and sand-”
“Sand gets everywhere! And getting pink and itchy from sunburn doesn't sound like my idea of a good time!”
Lance rolled his eyes. He leant over Allura's knees to poke at Keith. “Come on, man, one short day can't hurt. Like I said, it'll take no time in the Lions to hop over there and come back, and if we stay and do something here, what's to stop Shiro getting distracted if something comes up? Like, something non-essential that he doesn't have to deal with personally, but he feels like he should anyway, you know, 'cause he's Shiro and that's what he does.” He narrowed his eyes at Keith. “Not that you're much better.”
“I agree,” said Keith.
“You–” Lance stopped, blinked. “Wait, what? You do?”
“Well. Partially.” Keith looked up. “We could combine ideas and do a compromise? A party, with a meal, and games and music and, you know, party stuff.” He shrugged. “We could ask Iverson to use one of the Garrison teaching halls for a night. Hunk, Pidge, your families are already here, as is most of yours, Lance. And my mom. We could do something with all of them. Besides, I think if we make it more of a communal, family thing, that might take some of the pressure of the spotlight off Shiro, too. He'd prefer that, I think.”
Hunk exchanged looks with Lance and Pidge, both lit up with the idea. “Sounds good, man."
Keith seemed buoyed by their excitement. “His birthday's coming up soon,” he said. “We could do it then.”
Everyone stared at him in silence.
“...What? What did I say?”
“I didn't know when his birthday is,” Lance said in a voice hushed with awe to be let in on such a secret. “Do any of you guys know his birthday?”
In unison they all shook their heads.
“Keith.” Lance clasped his hands together. “Grant us your forbidden knowledge. When is Shiro's birthday?”
“You seriously don't know?” At the second round of headshaking and expectant looks, Keith pulled a strange face, like he was wincing. “I mean, it's no big deal? I'm pretty sure it's public record, but, um. It's February twenty-ninth.”
Lance gaped. “Wait. Waaait wait wait. February twenty-ninth? As in, leap year day? The leap year is Feb twenty-ninth, right? Keith. Keith. Are you telling us Shiro is a Leap Year Baby?”
“What's a Leap Year?” Allura asked. Pidge leaned across to explain it to her as Lance warmed to his theme.
“Keith! Why didn't you tell us this before! How could you keep this to yourself! So that makes this his, what, sixth actual birthday?”
“Seventh,” Pidge corrected.
“Seventh! Shiro's only seven years old! Haha, oh man, that's priceless...!”
“Guys, he's gonna be twenty eight...”
Keith was drowned out by Lance's cackling. “Come on, man, we can't not tease him about this!”
“Alright, alright.” If anything Keith seemed baffled by Lance's glee, but he still quirked a small grin. “Just go easy on him, yeah? Whatever jokes you come up with, he's heard them all before. Trust me.” He carried on before anyone could continue arguing. “Anyway, so are we all agreed on the party thing?”
“Show of hands, who's down for a paladin party?” Hunk said, raising his own hand high in the air. The others all followed suit. “Alright, awesome!”
“Oh, I'm so excited!” Allura said giddily. “It's been so long since I've been able to plan a party! But it has occured to me, what about Shiro's family? Our families are here and able to attend a gathering, but where is his? If they live far away we must be prompt with invitations.”
They all fell quiet.
"Come to think of it, I don't think he's ever mentioned his family,” said Hunk, soft with the realization. “Then, he doesn't really talk about himself much at all, does he?”
Pidge fidgeted with the marker in her hand. “I don't remember anyone being there at the Kerberos launch,” she said, thick, like she'd chewed on it. “Apart from me and mom, only you were there, Keith.”
Once again Keith was pinned under their expectant gazes. He tapped his pen on his knee, licked his dry lips. “Shiro… Shiro was raised by his grandparents. By the time I met him they were both gone.”
Lance shifted, brows curved in an unhappy arch. “He doesn't have any aunts, or cousins or anything like that? Not even over in Japan?”
Keith shrugged. “Second cousins, maybe. I don't know. If he does he's never told me about them. They weren't in his will.”
This time the silence fell heavy and awkward. Pidge scratched the tile grout with the cap of her pen, then cringed and stopped when the noise seemed to grate too loud. Hunk's eyes were already pricking with tears. No family? No one at all? No wonder Shiro was so focused on his work. Beyond his team, beyond Keith, what else did he have?
Keith seemed to droop from the weight of their sadness. “It's okay,” he urged. His voice cracked with that roughness it always got when he was dealing with strong emotion. “He's told me about his grandparents and they were great people. They loved him. They got to see him go into space, saw him achieve his dreams.” He looked around at them, imploring from under the dark fall of his hair. “And anyway, he's not alone. He's got all of us. We're his family. Yeah?”
“Of course we are,” Allura said softly, her smile kind. Hunk echoed her with his own heartfelt agreement, and then came Pidge's, determined, and finally Lance sniffed, his eyelashes damp and shining.
“Hell yes. We're gonna be the best quiznacking family Shiro's ever had,” he vowed. “And we're gonna throw him the best welcome home party this universe has ever seen!”
In the end it was a team effort.
Allura (and an enthusiastic Coran, who invited himself to help) organized the logistics and the invitations, Pidge sorted out the lights and sound systems, Lance handled the games and decorating, and Hunk, of course, put himself in charge of the catering. Even Iverson granted them use of an old officer's lounge with its attached kitchen, provided he was guaranteed an invitation for him and his husband.
As for Keith – at first he felt kinda useless, not knowing what he could do to help, but as it turned out, everyone kept coming to him and asking for his opinion on whether Shiro would like this choice or that. "You're the overseer," Coran told him. "It's a vital role! And you, young Paladin, have perhaps the most important task of all: making sure our hardworking Captain shows up on the night!"
And then everything was ready, and all there was left was to wait for the day itself to arrive.
Hunk found himself waiting in the dark with his fellow paladins, his mom and dad close by in the whispering crowd behind them.
Pidge's phone bleeped. “Okay, that's Keith's signal. ETA twenty seconds! Everyone quiet!”
The room fell hushed. Soon there came a faint murmur of voices outside in the hall, a scrape of booted footsteps outside the door. The handle twisted.
Pidge hit the lights.
The crowd cheered. Lance and his siblings pulled some party poppers over Keith and Shiro's heads.
Shiro stood wide-eyed and blinking. He scraped the colorful paper string off his face and laughed.
“Should have known you were planning something,” he said, nudging Keith, who was grinning in a sheepish kind of way at his side. He turned back to the gathered group and ran his hand over his hair. Laughed again. “Oh, wow. Hey, everyone."
Allura took his hand, smiling beatifically. "Shiro, welcome to our Paladin family party! Hopefully the first of many. We're all so glad you could join us tonight."
"Well, I was just going to work tonight," Shiro admitted, "but Keith here dragged me away from the office. And I'm glad he did! Look at all this - how long have you guys been planning this?"
"That's irrelevant," Pidge told him. "There's only one thing you need to know about this party, and that's the rules: First, and most important, is No Work Allowed." She held out her hand and chirped, "If you can't trust yourself to keep that rule, then, phone, please."
Shiro shook his head a little but fished the slim device from his pants pocket and handed it to her. "Please at least keep the OS understandable for an old timer like me," he pleaded.
"No promises. Okay, second rule is easy. Have fun!"
Hunk slid a glass of champagne into Shiro's empty hand. Shiro grinned and raised it at him. "Shouldn't be too hard. This is much better than paperwork already."
"Whoa whoa, hold up, Shiro's also not allowed to have any drinks!" Lance cried. "He's only seven years old!"
"Oh boy, here we go," Shiro groaned.
Lance clasped at his heart dramatically. "Shiro, buddy, I can't believe you didn't tell us! Didn't tell me! So much prime teasing opportunity, wasted--" He grabbed hold of Shiro's shoulder and steered him into the crowd. "As penance you have to come hang out with my family first…"
Their families had all met before, at the hospital when the paladins were recuperating from their fight with the strange Altean mech, but this was a happier circumstance for all involved. For one, Hunk could actually move around without worrying about aggravating his head injury and making himself nauseous. Those few weeks had been hell.
Now Earth was galvanising in its regained freedom. Spirits were high, and the music was turned up loud.
Veronica and Matt ended up joint winners of a truly vicious round of musical chairs. Krolia showed Kolivan and the few other Blades present how to play pin the tail on the donkey, and they were all unnervingly good at it. Hunk, meanwhile, toured the room with his parents, making sure everyone knew exactly what these two amazing people were to him.
"I thought you said this was going to be a family gathering, not about me," Hunk overheard Shiro mutter to Keith as they sat down to eat.
"It is," Keith whispered back. "But seeing as it's actually your birthday for once, it seemed a shame not to acknowledge it. You don't mind, right?"
"Of course not," Shiro reassured. "As long as you guys don't make me give a speech."
"Don't worry, we got that covered."
The meal was a resounding success, if Hunk may say so himself. He had spent the past two days preparing a variety of delicious dishes from all over the galaxy, to give their mostly human families a little taste of the many places Voltron had visited. ...And yes, there was also plenty of Garrison-style mac and cheese to satisfy Shiro's tragic tastes.
When the room was full of contented faces and empty plates Lance stood, and tapped his fork on his wine glass. "Ladies, gentlemen, and genderless gentlefolk, if I could have your attention – I think it's time for a speech, don't you? So please allow me to pass you lovely people over to our fearless leader, Mister Keith Yorak Kogane."
Keith cast him an exasperated look as he got up from his chair. “Thanks, Lance – I guess. Um, hi.”
Sitting down again Lance whooped loudly, causing a smattering of laughter across the room. The nervous stiffness eased from Keith's shoulders. “I'll keep this quick," he said, "'cause I'm no good at speeches, but – it really is an honor to stand up here in front of you all tonight. I think I speak for all of us, when I say how glad – how grateful – I am, to be able to stand here and see all of you here with me. These last few years… they've been tough. It's been hard and painful, and we've lost people we care for. But we the lucky ones. We're here, all together. We have each other. I know how lucky I feel to have found a place with you. So…" He raised his glass. "Here's to us."
After everyone had toasted Keith cleared his throat. "But that's not all," he said. "We made this happen tonight because – not only so we could unite our families all in one place, to share in this together, but also... well, the other Paladins and I wanted do something nice for one person here in particular. I promised him we wouldn't make a big deal of his birthday, but…” He turned to his side. “Shiro?”
Shiro blinked, going wide eyed and straight in his chair like he was honestly startled. Keith smiled at him – that one smile unique for Shiro, that he never gave anyone else.
“Shiro. You've done so much for us; been our mentor and our leader, our confidant and our friend. We never would have made it here without you. You've changed all our lives for the better, and we wanted to say thank you, and... tell you how much you mean to all of us. So we put together a little something for you.”
He reached down and pulled out a large, stuffed envelope from under the table. "It's kind of a thank you note. At first it was meant to be just from Team Voltron but I guess word got around; by now there must be something from half the Garrison in there."
Shiro took the envelope gingerly, with awed, reverent fingers.
"There's a lot of people who admire you," Keith said quietly. "Don't worry, I won't make you open it now.”
"I – I don't know what to say." Shiro's voice cracked. He held his hand to his mouth for a moment, composing himself, then managed a wobbly little laugh. “You guys know it was a team effort, right? All the way.”
Hunk's eyes started stinging – and yep, yeah, here came the tears. He's a sympathy crier, damn it! But Lance was sniffling too, as was Pidge, and Allura was also misty eyed. Coran was openly weeping into a hanky.
"Group hug!" Lance called, shooting up from his seat again and wrapping his arms around both Keith and Shiro's shoulders. The rest of them followed suit, half laughing and half crying, crowding Shiro and Keith between the crush of their bodies. Through his tears Hunk caught Keith's eye, pressed up against Shiro under the curve of his arm.
“I think there's cake too,” Keith said. “Right Hunk?”
“Right! Shiro, how does six tiers of your favorite flavors sound?”
Shiro laughed. “Sounds like heaven, Hunk. Especially if you had a hand in baking it.”
“Oh, you flatterer. Just for that I'll make sure your slices are extra large."
"Nothing's wrong. I just haven't seen Shiro in a while." Keith shook his head. "It doesn't matter. He's probably fine."
His mother gave him a look that made him feel entirely transparent.
"Why don't you go find him?" she suggested.
"Yeah, I could, but – shouldn't I be around to keep doing the whole chatting and mingling thing? You know, at least pretend to be sociable?"
Krolia laughed. Even Kolivan beside her cracked a tiny smile. "This isn't a diplomatic function," she reminded him. "You don't have to be the Black Paladin right now. Just be Keith." She patted him on the back and gave him a little push. "Go on. Go find your friend, I'm sure he's missing you."
Keith searched through the lounge, the attached kitchen, the bathroom down the hall, but there was no sign of Shiro. It wasn't until he heard voices on the balcony outside that he had any luck.
He pushed the sliding doors open and stepped out.
Shiro was indeed out here, with his arms wrapped around Colleen Holt, who was stroking his hair.
They both looked up at the noise.
Keith took a step back.
Shiro's eyes were wet, shining in the light coming out through the window.
"Sorry," Keith said, "I didn't mean to interrupt-"
"Nonsense," Colleen said. She let go of Shiro, who turned away slightly and wiped at his face. "It's lovely to see you again, Keith. Goodness, look at you! Haven't you grown!”
When Keith had met her for the first time at the launch of the Kerberos mission, he'd had to look up to speak to her; he was taller than her, now. Could see over the top of her head.
He shrugged, smiled awkwardly. His cheeks felt flushed. “It's been a long time.”
“You're telling me. Keith, you must come over soon – I was just telling Shiro. You should both come. ” She rested one hand on Keith's back and patted Shiro's arm with the other. “Like I said, the two of you are always welcome at the Holt family table.”
“Thanks, Colleen,” Shiro said, his smile wobbling.
She patted him again then let go of them both. “Now, Keith, do you know where your mother is? I'd like to talk to her more, she seems like a woman with her head in the right place.”
“Oh, um.” Keith glanced back inside and pointed. “Yeah, last I saw she was trying to convince Kolivan to try the coffee cake.”
“Wonderful. Maybe I'll go aid her. You boys have fun now.”
Colleen left them with a little wave. Keith shifted into the gap she'd left, closer to Shiro's side.
“Why do I find the idea of your mom and Colleen being friends vaguely terrifying?” Shiro murmured.
“The Universe won't know what's hit it,” Keith agreed. His smile softened when Shiro laughed wetly. “Hey. You doing okay? I know tonight's been kind of a lot.”
“I – yeah.” Shiro let out a deep breath and looked up into the night sky. It was clear, the stars shining bright and inviting above them. “Yeah, it's been a lot, but in a good way. Keith, you... You and the others, you didn't have to go to all this trouble.”
“It wasn't trouble. And we did it 'cause we wanted to, not 'cause we had to.” Keith touched his shoulder. “Anyway. It's been good for all of us, I think. To touch base, remind us why we're doing all this, you know?”
Shiro covered his slim hand with his own broader one. His skin was warm. For a moment his jaw tensed, as if he was battling with his words, then he said quietly, “Thank you.”
Keith squeezed his shoulder and linked their fingers together.
He spied the envelope - open, now - and a few sheets of paper on the chair under Shiro's jacket. He nodded his chin at it and joked, "So, how'd you like the fan mail?"
Shiro hiccuped an odd laugh. "It's great," he croaked. Then his face crumpled, and fresh tears spilled from his squeezed-shut eyes, slipping down his cheeks.
Keith curled his arms around him. He cradled him as close as he could, and let Shiro weep quietly into his hair.
After a couple of minutes Shiro pulled back, ears and cheeks pink. “Sorry about that,” he muttered, wiping his eyes again with the back of his hand.
"Nothing to apologize for,” Keith told him. He didn't let him pull back too far, and after a moment Shiro relaxed back into his hold.
The party hadn't been a mistake, Keith knew – much as he might want to keep Shiro and Shiro's attention to himself, this wasn't about him. It was about all of them. Shiro wasn't his to steal away.
That didn't mean they had to stay hanging around all night.
“Hey. Do you wanna get out of here? Go out on the hoverbikes, just us and the desert. Like old times."
Shiro smiled wide and looked down at him, dark gray eyes soft. “You know, that sounds great. Maybe in an hour or so. I'm fine, I swear,” he said to Keith's dubious look. "I break down in inexplicable tears all the time, this is a normal Saturday thing for me."
“You don't, though, you keep everything bottled up. That's kind of your problem.” Keith dropped his eyes. “Not that I'm one to talk.”
Shiro nudged him gently. “I'm okay, Keith. I am. I... I actually feel really good.”
“Yeah. It's just – you know, it's hit me all over again how lucky I am to be here.” His arms slipped further around Keith's waist and tightened. “To be here with you.”
Gazing up into his eyes, a sense of calm inevitability came over Keith. “I know exactly how you feel.”
Shiro puffed a little laugh. “We make a pair, don't we?”
Keith smiled. His hands had of their own accord traveled up into Shiro's hair; he pushed lightly, coaxing Shiro's head down.
His breath whispered warm over Keith's lips. Their foreheads touched.
Keith leaned in, and closed the last inch between them.
Hunk smiled and slipped away from the balcony doors. His friends had gathered back at their table; he weaved his way over to them.
“Got some more cocktails up for grabs,” he said as he approached, setting the tray down on the table. “Their intended recipients are, ah, otherwise engaged. Allura?”
“Oh, yes, I'd like to try one. Thank you, Hunk.”
“You're absolutely welcome. Pidge?”
She didn't look up from her screen. “No thanks. Had my fill.”
Lance swooped in and plucked the glass from Hunk's hand. “More for me. Thanks, man.” He took a sip and squinted down at Pidge, who was sitting on the floor leaning back against the chairlegs, clacking away on her laptop. “Back at the tech already, huh? Couldn't even last the whole party?”
“Parties are meant to be fun. Tech is fun.”
“Whatever works, I guess. What're you doing, anyhow?”
“Oh, you know, just running a loop over the the balcony camera feed,” Pidge said blithely. “I don't think anyone needs to see what's going on out there.”
Allura perked up from examining the apparently strange and exotic bits of real raspberry in her raspberry fizz. “Keith went out looking for Shiro. Are they..?”
Hunk grinned and nodded. Allura's free hand flew to her mouth, the gentlest, most dignified squeal Hunk had ever heard escaping from behind the tips of her fingers.
Lance glanced between them. “Are they what?”
“Yeah, that's why I didn't go out,” said Hunk. “Figured they'd appreciate the privacy.”
“Based on what little I saw, you figured right,” Pidge commented from the floor.
Lance blinked. “Okay, I don't get it. Why would they need privacy?”
Hunk sighed. “They were kissing, Lance.”
Lance went still. From the floor Pidge muttered, Here we go, before Lance exclaimed, “What?!”
Hunk held up one fist. “Keith.” Held up the other. “Shiro.” He jerked a thumb over his shoulder, “Outside,” and bumped his hands together. “Kissing.”
“No no no, wait, hold on – Keith and Shiro? Keith and Shiro?"
Allura giggled. She must have decided the raspberries were to her liking; her drink was half gone already. “I think it's sweet, don't you?”
“Wha- I--” Lance deflated. “Well, yeah, but – I mean I knew they were close, but... I guess I'm just surprised.” His brow knotted. “Though now that I'm thinking about it I'm not really sure why... Huh.”
Allura sighed, a little wistful, and pressed her fingers to her chest. “I'm so glad. After all they've been through, it's good that they can find happiness together.”
Hunk watched as Lance's blue eyes melted, his whole expression softening in contemplation. “Yeah, you're right,” he said quietly. His gaze never left Allura's face.
Hunk glanced at Pidge and raised his brows. She grinned indulgently and shook her head.
Hunk took the last drink for himself. The taste burst cool and crisp on his tongue, refreshing and comforting all in one. Lance was gonna get there eventually, he knew, and meanwhile his friends and family were all safe and happy and sharing delicious food and drink together. There was still a universe out there that needed defending, but right here, right now, Hunk was just a son, and a friend. He couldn't ask for anything more.
He was home. He felt like hugging his mom. So he patted Lance on the back, and went to do just that.