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Keith runs gentle fingers through Shiro’s hair. The bright neon outside paints the soft white strands in pinks and reds and blues; the flashing signs cycling through colors in a familiar pattern. The beat of the music emanating from the nearby clubs settles into Keith’s bones.

Shiro’s hair has gotten long, falling down to his shoulders now. Keith has taken to brushing it for him whenever he gets the chance, whenever Shiro asks. Fingercombing it while Shiro is asleep on his chest is new though.

Shiro being asleep on his chest is new, period.

They’d moved into this apartment four months ago when they’d run into each other again under the neon and amidst the drunken stragglers leaving the clubs at closing time. It’d been three years of absence and a whole host of personal tragedies since they last saw each other.

Keith had been walking home in the cold; cropped jacket and leather shorts and barely-there shirt doing nothing to keep him warm. He’d been hoping to find someone willing to take him home for the night so he didn’t have to go back to the overcrowded apartment he was crashing in at the time, but no dice.

He was about two blocks from the club when someone had called out to him. Keith had snarled something back about not being open for business, having had this interaction before when out and minding his own business. 

But then… “Keith?”

Keith had frozen in his tracks. It couldn’t be… “Shiro?”

Shiro had moved back to the city and was looking at a place nearby and wanted to see what the area looked like at night, had called out to Keith because he was lost and needed directions.

It was a wonder they recognized each other, Keith thinks now. Keith was thinner, sharper than he’d been when Shiro left, and he’d sure as hell never been decked out in clubwear in front of his friend. Shiro’s hair was white instead of the black Keith remembered, was wearing a metal arm and a couple visible scars and none of the easy confidence he used to have.

Shiro had offered to take him back to the friend’s place he was staying at if he needed a couch to crash on. Keith accepted — it was better than a pile of blankets on the floor — and it wasn’t until the noon sun swept across his face that he woke up.

They’d shared snippets of their past over mugs of too-strong coffee and then Shiro offered to take him along to the next apartment viewing, if he was also looking for a new place.

They had only been able to afford this apartment with it’s two bedrooms and big windows because the building was next to the clubs and those windows faced a multitude of flashing neon signs and let in the thrumming bass lines of the club music. 

They were great roommates for each other, neither of them sticking to a normal schedule or a stranger to nightmares. Their jagged edges fit together.

Shiro didn’t ask about the careful way Keith ate or why he’d been essentially homeless when they reconnected. Keith didn’t ask about the metal arm that everyone looked at distrustfully or the scars that covered Shiro’s body.

Usually they stayed in their own bedrooms. Best friends again. Platonic except for the ways that Keith dreamed.

Tonight though, Shiro had crawled into Keith’s bed after waking from a nightmare shaking. Keith had pulled him into his arms, still half asleep himself, and held him until they reached the now, with Shiro asleep on top of him and Keith’s hands in his hair.

He wants this every night, Keith realizes. Not the nightmares, but Shiro’s presence here with him. He wants the safety of Shiro’s weight pressing him down.

He wants .

Keith’s been in love with Shiro since long before they parted ways, knew that he would always love Shiro in some way. Laying here in bed with him, their legs tangled together, feels like the barest taste of his favorite dreams.

He bites his lip against the shuddering sob that escapes him. He can’t do this now and wake Shiro up again.

Keith pulls in a measured breath and lets it out slow. Repeats the exercise. Again. Again. His fingers stroke through Shiro’s hair in time with his breaths, venture down to trace over his spine and the raised scars that cross it. When his eyes don’t sting anymore, he leans down and presses the softest kiss to the crown of Shiro’s head.

Shiro stirs. His eyes flutter open, expressive gray pinning Keith in place even though Shiro’s gaze is soft and sleepy and full of affection.

“Keith?”

He doesn’t know if it’s the position they’re in or the time of night or the hypnotic influence of the lights and the throbbing music, but words Keith’s locked in his heart come tripping off his tongue for no reason other than they’re true.

“I love you.”

Shiro is pressed so close that Keith can feel the way his heart trips over itself. He blinks once, twice, and then smiles .

“I love you too,” he says, like it’s easy, like Keith hasn’t been dreaming, aching to hear those words from him for months, for years.

“Go back to sleep, Shiro,” Keith tells him. The tears are back in his eyes and his smile feels shaky. They can see what this means for them in the soft light of morning.

Shiro pouts. “Do I not get another kiss?”

Keith huffs out a laugh. They’re going to be fine, he thinks. He leans down to Shiro’s upturned face and presses a kiss against his forehead. “Sleep. I’ll make you pancakes in the morning.”

I love you, I love you, I love you , he doesn’t say, but it’s imbued in every word and maybe Shiro will be able to hear it now.

“You spoil me.” Shiro nuzzles into Keith’s chest. The lights flash pink, blue, red; paint Shiro in a rainbow of colors as he kisses right over Keith’s heart.

I love you , Shiro doesn’t say. Keith hears it anyways.

He tightens his arm around Shiro’s waist, continues pulling his fingers through Shiro’s hair and waits for the love of his life to drift back to sleep, safely ensconced in his arms. Keith follows him, by his side in this as well.

 

(Keith wakes to Shiro next to him in bed and a steaming mug of too-strong coffee waiting for him on the third-hand nightstand. Shiro puts down his phone as soon as he sees Keith is awake and leans over to press a kiss to his temple. Easy. Soft. Loving

Keith is almost afraid that he’s still asleep, that the dream will shatter soon.

Shiro is golden in the soft morning sun. “I believe I was promised pancakes,” he says.

Keith leans over and kisses him full on the mouth. Soft. Easy. Loving . A first that doesn’t feel like it as he threads his fingers into Shiro’s hair.

He laughs against Shiro’s mouth when his fingers hit a tangle, when their teeth knock together accidentally. This is no dream. 

It’s so much better.)