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Red, White, & Altean Blue

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Keith stood on the observation deck, looking out at Altea’s rings spinning above its blue atmosphere. He heard his mother’s familiar footsteps approaching and he twitched his ears at her. She chuckled and tugged at his ear teasingly. "Couldn't sleep?" 

He shook his head, and she hummed sympathetically. "Another nightmare?"

He shook his head again, and she nodded. “It's an important day today.”

Keith raised an eyebrow and she laughed, resting her hand on his shoulder. “Are you nervous?”

He shrugged. “A bit.” He chewed on his lip. “I wish I could wear my mask.”

Krolia hummed. “Unfortunately I don’t think the other diplomats would appreciate the cloak and dagger act.”

Keith snorted, shaking his head. “You’ve been watching Terran mysteries with Dad again, haven’t you?”

Krolia laughed. “You know your father. There was a reason he was willing to leave his home planet with a spy.”

Keith chuckled. “It had nothing to do with the fact that his son was born with purple skin and pointed ears?”

Krolia smiled down at him, the purple stripes on her cheeks a familiar mirror of his own. “Well, there was that.” She tugged at his ear again. “You’ll do well, kit. The hardest part is over - this is just a formality to solidify Marmora’s place in the Coalition. All you have to do is smile and make polite small talk with the other diplomats.”

“No, that’s the hardest part,” Keith groaned. “I always get stuck talking with Takashi Shirogane and he’s so boring .”

“Well, that’s what happens when you’re both war heroes - and the Blades’ star pilot,” Krolia said.

Keith’s eyebrows shot up. “Don’t let Kolivan hear you say that.”

Krolia flicked her ears. “Kolivan and I have talked about that enough for a lifetime,” she said and Keith laughed. Anonymity was imperative among the Blades, but Keith’s flying had earned him a reputation - somehow his callsign had leaked when an Altean cruiser he was escorting was ambushed by the Galra. Kolivan had been furious, but eventually he had to admit that having Keith lead Galra fighters on a wild goose chase whenever there was a skirmish was helpful.

“Besides,” Keith said. “No one knows I’m Red.”

Krolia chuckled. “Yes, poor Thace and Regris have been pestered to death about whether they’re Red, or if they know Red. It looks like you’ll be the next darling with the Alteans.” 

Keith groaned, and Krolia patted his shoulder. “Just a few more vargas,” she said, singsong, and Keith sighed, turning back to Altea, slowly growing bigger as the ship approached.

***

This wasn't the first time Keith had been to Altea, but it was the first time he'd been back in peacetime. He followed his parents down the ramp and blinked at the crowds applauding, and the flags from various planets snapping in the breeze. 

The royal family stepped up to greet them, and Keith bowed. Growing up with the Blades had given him a healthy skepticism of monarchies in general, but Alfor was beloved, and after Zarkon, Keith could only be so cynical. For now.

Alfor immediately struck up a conversation with his parents, and Princess Allura held out her hand and Keith clasped it with his own. "I'm glad to officially meet you in person," she said, her blue eyes bright and sparkling.

"The pleasure's all mine, Princess," he murmured, releasing her hand. 

She laughed softly. "You've met my brother, of course."

Keith tilted his head back to look Takashi Shirogane in the eye. "Yes."

Takashi smiled, and Keith swallowed. He hadn't just met Takashi Shirogane, he had worshipped him. Takashi had been a hero of the resistance ever since he stole a fighter jet when he was 14, evading all the empire's ships and crippling Sendak's own cruiser. 

Keith had practically been a kit at the time, just starting his Blade training, and he had listened to all the stories of Takashi's daring he could, enraptured.

"That boy is a good pilot," Kolivan had said, which was the highest praise anyone had heard him give. It inspired Keith to train harder, fly faster, so maybe he could be as good a pilot as Shirogane someday.

Which made it even worse when he finally met Takashi Shirogane in person and discovered he was just another politician.

Takashi smiled, reaching out to clasp Keith's hand. "It's a pleasure to see you again, Keith." He raised an eyebrow. "Under even more auspicious circumstances than last time."

The treaty signing . Keith forced his ears to stay still - the Marmorans had won the vote to be accepted into the coalition, but just the thought of Admiral Sanda's hour-long monologue about the supposed disloyalty of the Galra was enough to make his blood boil. The other Terran representatives had been mostly accepting of the Marmorans, but he hadn't forgiven Sanda.

Keith hadn't learned to put aside his grudges, so what must seem like an inconvenience to Takashi was enough to make Keith's ears flatten while a growl rumbled in his chest.

But he bit back the growl and gave Takashi his best politician's smile. "The pleasure's all mine," he said, bowing his head slightly, and Takashi smiled. The tips of his ears turned faintly pink.

"I think the procession will be starting soon," Allura said softly, her eyebrow raised. "Perhaps we should show our guests to their phaeton?"

"Yes!" Takashi said, with his politician's smile firmly in place. "Right this way."

He led them over to a hovercraft, with curved sides and blue interlocking rings painted along the sides. It looked slow, and Keith sighed. 

"Perhaps I should drive?" Krolia murmured, and Keith huffed out a laugh, despite himself. 

Takashi chuckled and patted the side of the phaeton. "That won't be necessary, the phaeton has been programmed to take you to your destination." 

He must have seen the resigned look on Keith's face, because he continued, "Not enough firepower to impress a Blade pilot, I'm afraid." Allura cleared her throat and he added, "Very safe, though."

Keith's lips curved upwards as he tilted his head. "Can't say I've ever been very interested in safe ," he said. 

Takashi gaped at him and Allura laughed. "Oh, you two are going to be the best of friends, I can tell already," she said.

"Yes," Krolia said, amusement in her voice, "they'll be thick as thieves, I'm sure."

Keith wrinkled his nose at her, but Allura just said, "Oh how charming, is that a Galra saying? I've never heard it before," and then Krolia and Heath started explaining Terran and Marmoran idioms. The princess seemed genuinely interested, and Keith decided he liked her.

"If you'd like to see something more interesting…" Takashi murmured softly, and Keith's ear swiveled to hear him better. "I could show you one of our new flyers tonight."

Keith's eyebrows shot up. "During the gala?"

"Er- yes," Takashi said, his ears turning pink again. "If you'd rather not -"

"Rather be in a room full of diplomats when I could be flying?" Keith said. "I'll be there." 

Shiro smiled, and Keith tried to ignore the anticipation threatening to make his heart stutter. He was going to be flying with Takashi Shirogane. It was a dream come true.

Even if he was a politician.

***

Takashi was certainly right about one thing - the phaetons were slow. Keith had half-wondered if the procession would reach the palace before nightfall, but after what felt like ages they finally arrived, and the hustle and bustle picked up in earnest. He and Krolia and Heath had to check in with Kolivan and Ulaz, who had arrived 3 quintants before, and then rush to unpack their things and get ready for the gala.

Keith fidgeted with his robes - he was used to the tight undersuit, but the loose fabric draped around his torso made him wish for his Blade mask even more. At least his arms were free, he thought to himself as he dropped into a handstand, trying to find an outlet for all his nervous energy.

"You know you'll have to retie your robes," Krolia's voice said, and he dropped his feet to the floor and stood up just in time to catch her smile. He fluffed his robes, setting them to rights, and she smiled indulgently. 

"You're a lot like me when I was your age," she said, fondly. "Always itching to be somewhere else."

He ducked his head and she tugged on his ear gently. "I have something for you." He looked up at her, and she held out a pin - the Blade symbol, in a dark metal that gleamed lilac purple in the light. 

"Mom," he murmured, and she clasped his shoulder.

"You're an official member of the Blade delegation," she said softly, pinning it to his robe, just over his heart. "Now everyone can see, mask or no."

He threw his arms around her waist and she hummed, reaching up and running her fingers through his hair soothingly.

“Now, come on,” she said, smiling down at him. “We have an alliance to celebrate.”

***

Even Keith could admit that the gala was nice, with the laughter and music and colorful dresses all around. It was the first real celebration since the war had officially ended, and there was a giddiness in the air as people from all over the universe mingled and chatted and danced. Keith’s parents disappeared almost immediately and Keith avoided the dance floor - he’d seen enough of his father’s ridiculous Terran dance moves to last a lifetime.

He bumped into Regris at one of the tables full of food - pies and cakes and cheeses and some sort of grilled tentacled snack Keith didn’t recognize. Regris smiled down at him. “Enjoying yourself, Red?”

“Don’t let Kolivan hear you call me that,” Keith warned with a smirk, leaning over to pick up a shiny green fruit. He popped it into his mouth and it burst on his tongue, bright and tart. 

“Forget Kolivan,” Regris teased. “I’m saying it for anyone who’ll listen. Fame is exhausting,” he said, leaning on Keith with a put-upon sigh. 

“Are you sure that’s not my fault?” Thace asked, materializing next to Keith with two glasses of sparkling wine.

“Well, that might be part of it,” Regris conceded, and Keith rolled his eyes. 

“Are you two mated? I was wondering, but I wasn’t sure,” he teased, and Regris laughed. 

“Just wait till you meet your mate. Then we’ll see who’s laughing,” Regris said with a knowing smirk.

“In fact, I think I see a potential suitor coming this way,” Thace said, taking a long sip from his glass. 

Keith frowned up at him, confused, and then he felt a heavy hand rest on his shoulder. “Hello everyone,” Takashi said, smiling politely. “I hope you’re all enjoying yourselves.”

“We are,” Regris said, toasting Shiro with his glass. “Everything seems to be going well.”

Takashi sighed. “Good. We had a close call with an Arusian who almost got swept away on the dance floor, but luckily we were able to retrieve him.” He chuckled. “Hardly the stuff of Blade missions, I’m sure.”

“Well, we’re new to diplomacy,” Keith offered politely. “If the Blades held a peace gala I’m sure a wrestling match would’ve broken out by now.”

“The night’s still young,” Regris said, and Thace shot a look his way.

“You are not challenging Antok again.”

“It’s just a friendly rematch!” Regris protested, and Thace shook his head. 

“Speaking of a friendly competition,” Takashi said. “Would you mind if I stole Keith away for a moment?”

“Not at all,” Regris said, smug as anything, and Keith felt his cheeks flush. “I actually wanted to... catch up with Kolivan.” His tail wound around Thace’s wrist, and Thace bit back a smile. 

“Alright, have fun, see you later,” Keith said, catching Takashi’s arm and leading him away. 

“Did I say something wrong?” Takashi whispered, and Keith shook his head.

“No, but they’re insufferably in love with each other and they don’t have many qualms about privacy,” Keith said, leading Shiro towards the gardens.

“Ah,” Takashi said delicately, and to Keith’s surprise, he laughed.

“You get used to it,” he said. “You walk in on them doing ‘ship inspections’ enough times…”

Takashi laughed. “Well, speaking of ships…” He caught Keith’s wrist, guiding them toward a small hallway at the far end of the room. “I believe I promised to show you a new flyer.”

Keith’s brow furrowed thoughtfully. “You know, I think you did.”

Takashi smiled back. “I can hardly disappoint the delegate from our newest alliance, now can I?”

Keith laughed again, letting Takashi lead him all the way down to the hangar. Takashi keyed in the code and the doors slid open silently, revealing rows and rows of Altean ships, gleaming in the moonlight from the wall of windows lining the room. 

Takashi walked forward and Keith followed behind, trying not to get too caught up in looking at all the Altean fighters. 

“Here we are,” Takashi said, waving toward a line of flyers, painted the palest blue and wickedly fast, even at rest. 

“They’re beautiful,” Keith murmured, and Takashi beamed. 

“Well, come on,” he said, tugging Keith forward. “Let’s see how an old, washed-up Altean pilot compares to the Blades.”

Keith raised an eyebrow as he jumped up onto the pilot’s seat, making a show of testing all the controls. “You’re not going to fool me that easily,” he said. “I saw you fly at Naxzela.” 

Takashi’s eyebrows shot up. “You did?”

“Mhmmm,” Keith said, settling back in the seat. “You flew circles around the rest of us.”

Takashi blushed up to his ears, and Keith smirked. “Which is how I know not to let you get a head start.”

He revved the engine and took off, laughing at the shock and outrage on Takashi’s face. He heard Takashi’s flyer coming up on him fast, and Keith smiled, banking to the left. All that time studying a map of Altea turned out to be useful as he raced with Shiro all around the city, taking every shortcut he could think of. The flyer was like a dream - the handling was even better than the Blade Vipers, and Keith crowed, relishing the way the wind whipped at his hair and robes.

They’d almost passed through the city gates when Takashi whipped around, headed back to the palace, and Keith laughed, rushing to catch up with him. 

When they approached the castle, Keith noticed people milling around outside. He glanced over at Takashi. “Do you know why people are outside?”

Takashi shook his head - and then a voice came over the comms. “Unauthorized hovercraft, state your purpose.”

“This is Takashi Shirogane,” Takashi said in a rush. “I was giving a flight demonstration to the delegate from the Blade of Marmora.”

The comms crackled. “Those flyers aren’t authorized for flight yet.”

Takashi winced. “I know.” He glanced at Keith. “My mistake entirely.”

There was a silence, and then a very pained voice said. “Very well. You’re free to land.”

Keith let out a sigh of relief, and dropped down to prepare to land. He saw a crowd of diplomats watching in the gardens - including his parents, and Kolivan. Kolivan’s face was even more blank than usual, and his mother looked disappointed as he whipped past. 

He landed the flyer next to Shiro’s, jumping down just in time for the door to burst open, with the Royal family storming into the room with their steward and Keith’s parents and Kolivan in their wake. 

“Takashi,” Melenor said. “What were you thinking ?”

Takashi bowed his head, and Keith bit his lip guiltily. “Keith,” Kolivan said, deadly serious. “Thank stars you’re both alright.”

Krolia stepped forward, clutching Keith’s shoulders in her shaking hands. “I’m so glad you’re alright,” she murmured. “When I think what might have happened -”

Takashi looked horrified. “I can promise the flyers are perfectly safe, I would have never risked -”

But Coran, the king's steward, shook his head. “When we saw unauthorized craft flying away from the palace, we feared a kidnapping. Or worse.”

Krolia looked down at Keith, her eyes stormy, and Keith’s heart sank down to his boots. “The Alliance,” he whispered. “If anyone thought I was trying to hurt Takashi - so soon after the war...”

Kolivan nodded sharply and Keith’s shoulders curled in as he realized - he could have destroyed the whole Alliance, he could have ruined everything

“No,” Takashi said, his voice sharp and sure. “This was all my doing. I was the one who wanted to show Keith the flyer.” He caught Keith’s eye. “He can’t be held responsible for my recklessness.”

Keith shot a grateful look his way, but Melenor said simply, “I think we can all understand two old friends from the war reconnecting after so long apart, don’t you, Krolia?”

“Yes,” Krolia said, her eyes brooking no argument. “In fact it wouldn’t surprise me if they were inseparable for the remainder of the summit.”

Keith and Takashi looked at each other, and Melenor smiled beatifically at Krolia. “I was thinking the same thing.”

“Do we understand each other?” Kolivan asked, and Takashi and Keith both nodded. Keith chanced a glance at Takashi, trying to ignore his nerves.

***

After a long, sleepless night, Keith fell asleep just as day was breaking, so he stumbled into the common room with wild hair and sleep lines on his face. Krolia nodded at him when he collapsed into the chair across from her. "Thankfully Melenor was able to smooth over everything," she said, tapping her PADD. "She said it was just a late night joyride and Takashi forgot to notify anyone that he was checking out the flyers."

"That's exactly what happened," Keith grumbled, and Krolia raised an eyebrow.

"Well, Melenor neglected to mention that the flyers are experimental, so that's something to be thankful for."

Keith's shoulders drooped, and she ruffled his hair. 

"Cheer up," Heath said kindly, passing him a cup of the spiced Terran tea he liked so much. "You get to be best friends with a prince." He smirked into his cup. "As far as punishments go, it seems like a pretty fun one."

"And you already have so much in common," his mother said, trading an amused glance with his father, and Keith sighed, doing his best to resign himself to his fate.

***

A few days later, Keith had to admit that pretending to be the Prince's friend wasn't so bad. They would have been attending the same meetings and dinners anyway, but now Coran made sure their place cards were always side by side. Always.

Which would be fine, all things considered, if Takashi wasn't such a distraction. At their first meeting, Takashi passed him a note with a scribbled, very unflattering portrait of Sanda, and Keith almost burst out laughing in the middle of her speech. He bit his lip and wrote back, Are you trying to cause another intergalactic incident?

Takashi pretended to be studiously taking notes and wrote Anything to get out of this meeting . And Keith smiled. It almost made Sanda's speech bearable, knowing he wasn't the only one longing to escape. 

Takashi continued to surprise him, over and over again, whether it was helping an Unilau ambassador when his tech didn't want to cooperate with the Altean tech, or letting one of the Arusian delegates ride on his shoulder as he climbed a long flight of stairs.

Takashi was unfailingly kind and gentle - except when Sanda made a snide comment about the Marmorans being allowed in a meeting about security protocols. Takashi snapped that they had contributed more to the war effort than she ever had, shutting her up and officially making him Thace and Regris' favorite person. 

"Did you see her face?" Regris said in a stage whisper, grinning at Sanda's back as she stormed off after the meeting.

Thace patted Takashi's hand. "I approve of your friend, Keith," he said, making them both blush. 

When they went to plant a juniberry tree to commemorate the new peace, Keith expected Takashi to shovel the last scoop of dirt just for the pictures, but he dug the hole all by himself, and even jumped down to help Allura set the tree in place and make sure none of the roots were crushed. 

Takashi climbed back out, brushing off his hands and sending a smile Keith's way, and Keith had to admit that even with dirt on his face, the prince was infuriatingly handsome.

***

After two weeks of sitting through meeting after meeting after meeting, Keith was ready to burst with extra energy. Takashi had come to join him and Regris and Thace for lunch, and Keith was struggling to follow the conversation. His leg was bouncing under the table, and Thace raised an eyebrow. “Is everything alright?”

Keith shrugged. “Just fed up with all the sitting,” he said, and Takashi brightened. 

“There’s a training hall just across from the hangar,” he said. “I could give you a tour.”

“Do you have a sparring ring?” Regris asked with a shit eating grin. “Keith needs to get some practice if he wants to win our next sparring match.”

Keith raised an eyebrow. “I won that match, you big lummox.” Regris, gasped, outraged and Thace and Takashi laughed.

“There is a sparring ring,” Takashi said. “Perfectly adequate for training for any grudge matches.”

Keith laughed. “Sounds perfect.” 

All too soon they were called away to a lecture about import and export bans, and Keith had to fight to keep from fidgeting. Maybe a spar would be good for him.

He had some doubts later, when his hair was sticking to his forehead and the back of his neck, while Takashi looked infuriatingly perfect, as usual. The Altean fighting style was different than the Marmoran style Keith was used to. Takashi was strong and fierce but surprisingly quick on his feet, and they were more evenly matched than Keith would like to admit.

“Is that all you’ve got?” Takashi teased and Keith grinned. He might as well make it fun.

They ducked back and forth, rising and falling together, and it was like a dance. Keith’s claws grazed Takashi’s metal arm, and Takashi laughed. “You would give Red a run for their money,” he said, and Keith smirked.

He kicked out, swiping Takashi’s legs out from under him, and pinned him to the mat. “I am Red,” he whispered. 

Takashi went lax and pliant underneath him, and Keith cooed at him. “Are you yielding already?”

“You - you’re Red?” Takashi whispered. 

Keith flinched. “Quiznak, I wasn’t supposed to say that.” He backed away, already dreading Kolivan’s wrath.

“Wait!” Takashi pleaded, grabbing at his arm. Keith paused for a moment, ready to flee, when Takashi whispered. “You saved my life at Naxzela.”

Keith blinked at him. “You remember that?” 

Takashi’s eyebrows shot up. “Remember it? You took a shot that was meant for me." Keith shook his head and Takashi continued, "My compressor shorted, I was never going to make it in time.” 

“I just did what anyone would have done,” Keith whispered. “I couldn’t let you die .”

Takashi breathed, “ Keith …”

Keith huffed. “Well, you saved me at the siege of Balmera.” He gave Takashi a stubborn look. “We saved each other.”

Takashi chuckled. “Yeah, I guess we did.”

Keith stared down at his hands, and Takashi stood up and held out his hand. “Want to try for round two?”

Keith smiled and took his hand, letting Takashi lift him back up to his feet. “I’m not going to go easy on you,” he warned, and Takashi laughed.

“I would expect nothing less,” he said, ducking down to catch Keith around his waist, forcing Keith to skip back. 

***

Before Keith knew it, he was getting dressed for the celebration for the Altean new year, scowling down at the white robes. They were pretty, with the pale lilac trim and the belt nipping in at his waist. But it felt wrong to go out in something so eye-catching, and he wished for the thousandth time that he could wear his Blade uniform.

The brooch from his mother made him feel slightly better, but the silky fabric swishing around his legs as he walked was very distracting.

He walked out to the common room and found Thace and Regris in their own white robes, sprawled across the chairs with their legs dangling off. Altean furniture was not made for Galra. 

"You look nice," Thace said, and Keith frowned.

"I'm going to ruin this in about half a dobosh," he grumbled, fidgeting with the slippery fabric. 

Regris grinned. "But it's very important, Kit, there's a lot of symbolism in that fancy outfit."

Keith snorted. "If you know what it symbolizes, I'll deep clean your speeder."

Regris sat bolt upright, jostling Thace. He tapped his fingers together, trying to remember the briefing binder. "It means…it means…" He leaned over and hissed in a stage whisper, "Thace, what does it mean?"

"New beginnings," Thace said with a laugh. "The juniberry blossoms bloom white, and then turn purple before they fall." He flicked Regris' ear. "And you'd know that if you read the briefing."

Regris shrugged, unrepentant. "I read the important parts."

Keith raised an eyebrow, and Regris grinned. "Don't worry about ruining your robes. I think everyone will be too drunk to notice if it's ruined."

Keith sighed. "Hopefully."

***

Half an hour later, after a glass of sparkling juniberry wine, Keith was feeling much less worried about ripping or staining his robes in front of the entire coalition. The ballroom was full of flickering lights, and the music was just loud enough that he could get lost in it, without having to worry about small talk with some dignitary from a planet he couldn't remember.

He skipped along, sipping from a second glass of wine, looking for Regris or Thace, when he almost bumped into Allura. "I'm so sorry," he shouted in her ear, and she laughed and shook her head. 

"It's alright," she said. She looked down at his robes. "You look very dashing." She raised an eyebrow and nodded toward an Olkarian magistrate lingering nearby. "You seem to have an admirer."

He blushed, shaking his head. "Everyone here is looking at you," he said.

She smiled, reaching up to touch the jewels braided into her hair. "Already the consummate diplomat," she teased. "Flattery will get you everywhere here."

Keith barked out a laugh, and she grinned. "I wonder where Takashi went, he was supposed to be here by now… Oh, there he is!"

Keith looked over his shoulder and saw Takashi talking to one of the Terran scientists - Matt or Pidge, he was still struggling to tell them apart, with their glasses and pale hair. But then Takashi looked his way and Keith swallowed, his mouth suddenly dry, and he plucked a second glass of wine from a nearby table. 

Takashi's tunic was white, with a sash in the royal family's signature pale blue. He smiled, and Keith knew his cheeks were blushing a deep purple. It must be the juniberry wine.

Takashi patted the human's shoulder, and made his way over to them. "You look wonderful," he says, his eyes on Keith. 

"Thank you," Keith whispered, and Allura smiled.

"I was just thinking I wanted to go dance," she said, grabbing Keith's hand. "Come on!"

"I don't know the steps," Keith said, panicked. 

"Takashi and I can show you," she said, and Keith took one last sip of wine (for courage or an excuse for clumsiness, he wasn't sure) and followed. 

The dance floor was overflowing with beings from every corner of the galaxy, and Keith took a deep breath. A phoeb ago he could never have imagined that he would be here, celebrating a new year without the Galra empire. Maybe it was the wine, but he let himself breathe it in - that giddiness in the air, the hope for a better year.

The song changed, and he dodged one of the other dancers as they spun, sending him straight into Takashi's arms. "I'm sorry," he murmured, blushing again, but Takashi just smiled down at him.

"Allura and I can teach you the steps," he said, holding Keith's hand and stepping back so Keith could watch him.

"I'll never remember that," Keith laughed, but soon he was spinning with the others. The music was infectious, and he smiled, watching Allura and her perfect steps, and Takashi, surprisingly graceful for someone so tall. Regris and Thace danced by, doing their own dance, and he saw his parents, standing hand in hand and whispering together. 

He didn't know how long he danced, but eventually Allura slipped away, leaving him alone with Takashi. The song changed again, and all the other dancers intertwined their fingers with their partners and spun. 

Takashi held out his hand, smiling softly, and Keith took it, letting Takashi lead him through the steps, spinning faster and faster. When they finally slowed, Takashi squeezed his hand and Keith's cheeks heated. 

And of course Takashi noticed his flush. "Are you too warm?" he asked, his brow furrowed with concern. "Do you need to get some air?"

Keith nodded, not trusting his voice, and Takashi took his hand. "Come with me, I have an idea."

Takashi  led him out to one of the gardens, and Keith took a deep breath. The sweet scent of juniberry flowers filled the air, and the tree branches fluttered above them. “Better?” Takashi asked, and Keith nodded. The sound of running water from the fountain in the center of the courtyard was calming, and he felt himself sighing as the breeze ruffled his hair.

“It is a bit much sometimes,” Takashi said.

Keith laughed. “Even for the scion of the royal family?”

Takashi chuckled, shoving at Keith’s shoulder. “We can’t all be rebel pilots, Red.”

Keith smirked. “Please, I’m surprised you even talk to me, I’m not even one of your lowly subjects.”

“It is quite a burden,” Takashi said with a long suffering sigh, and Keith snorted.

“I will push you in the fountain and ruin your fancy clothes,” he warned, and Takashi held up his hands in surrender, still smirking.

 “I’d just pull you in with me,” he said with a wicked grin.

“That’s exactly what I need,” Keith said. “To slosh out in front of all the diplomats in a see through white robe.”

“I hear it’s the latest fashion,” Takashi said, his eyes teasing.

Keith laughed. “I think I’ll skip the high fashion look. I feel out of place enough already.” He sat down in the grass, looking up at the juniberry branches. “Put me in a flyer in front of a squadron of Galra fighters and I know exactly what to do, but this? I have no idea.” Takashi sat down next to him, almost close enough for their knees to touch.

“I don’t think any of us do, really, Red,” Takashi said, diplomatic as always. “If it’s any consolation, at my first summit I accidentally challenged the delegate from Puig to trial by combat because I bungled my pronunciation of ‘Welcome.’”

Keith snorted. “Well, I did almost cause one intergalactic incident, so…”

Takashi flushed. “That was my fault. You’re a good ambassador for Marmora, Keith.”

Keith smiled weakly. “That must mean I’ve improved a lot, since you were so surprised when we met at the first summit.” Takashi stared at him, confused, and Keith shrugged. “At the first meeting for the Coalition, I heard you say ‘ That’s the Blade delegate?’”

Takashi put a hand on his shoulder. “Oh, Keith.”

Keith stared down at his hands so he wouldn’t have to face Shiro. “I had worshipped you before that, and to finally meet you and know you found me lacking...”

“Keith, no,” Takashi said, tilting his chin up, making Keith’s breathing go shallow as he finally met Takashi’s storm-gray eyes. “I promise, that was the last thing on my mind.”

Keith shook his head. “You don’t have to try to make me feel better,” he murmured. “I - I know I’m small for a Galra, I’m used to people wondering how I made it into the Blades…”

“Keith,” Takashi said insistently. “I was staring because I thought you were beautiful!”

The world went suddenly silent. Keith blinked up at him. “W-what?”

“You walked into the room, and when you took off your mask, I couldn’t believe it,” Takashi murmured desperately. “You were the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen, and I, I just wanted -”

Keith was shaking now. “Takashi, you don’t - you really don’t have to -”

“You don’t believe me?” Shiro murmured, low and soft. “Let me prove it.”

He tilted Keith’s chin up again and leaned in slowly, so slowly, giving Keith the chance to run or push him away. But Keith stayed, trembling like a leaf in Takashi’s arms when he felt Takashi’s lips brush against his, soft and warm and gentle. 

Takashi pillowed his lips to Keith’s, and Keith reached out, clutching at Shiro’s arms to hold himself upright. Takashi’s tongue swiped along his bottom lip and Keith fell into the kiss, letting himself get swept up in Takashi’s touch, his breath. His head was spinning but he leaned in closer, his fangs teasing at Shiro’s bottom lip...

And then Takashi gasped and pulled away. Keith blinked up at him, still reaching out for him, and Takashi breathed out. “Keith, I - I’m sorry.” And then he ran, leaving Keith all alone in the garden.

***

Keith went looking for Takashi, but he was nowhere to be found, so he eventually returned to his own quarters, falling back onto the bed in a heap. He ran his fingers over his lips, remembering the way it had felt when Takashi kissed him, like…

He rolled over onto his stomach. He had never had a sweetheart before. Caught up in a war that had started long before he was born, he had never had the time to imagine a life, a partner. He had kissed Acxa, but that was when they were practically kits, brand new Blade recruits - idealistic and stubborn with too many hormones. 

And then there had been Regris, he thought, his face flushing when he remembered Regris passing his trials when he was still a recruit - how they had gotten drunk on too much Nunvil and Regris had kissed him and kissed him, how he had touched himself while Keith watched, and talked Keith through his own orgasm. Keith swallowed. Regris had been his friend, his closest friend - but maybe it wasn’t just the liquor and the prospect of Regris leaving that had Keith so desperate. 

He buried his face in his arms. He could still feel the ghost of Takashi’s touch on his skin, and he shuddered. He thought back to all the articles he read about Takashi’s exploits - the image of Shiro standing next to his ship when he was just 14, a streak of silver in his dark hair, beaming up at the camera. How he had begged Kolivan and Ulaz and Antok to tell him stories about Takashi’s flying, how he had wanted to be like him, so much, but…

Maybe he had had a crush on Takashi all along...

He woke up the next morning still in his white robes, with a dull headache threatening to cave his head. His PADD kept vibrating on the bed next to him, and he fumbled to pick it up, blinking at the screen. It was a message from Regris, inviting him to breakfast, and he sighed, trying to ignore the nerves in his belly as he got up to get dressed for the day. 

***

Regris and Thace looked slightly the worse for wear when he walked in, but they smiled and waved when they saw him. Keith returned it weakly, and Regris’ face fell when Keith slumped into his seat. “Keith, what’s wrong?”

“Ummm,” Keith said, glancing at Thace. “Do you remember the night before you left for your first Blade mission?”

Regris cocked his head, confused. “Of course I do, kit.”

Keith nodded, fiddling with his fork. “Well… Takashi kissed me…” Regris and Thace beamed at each other, thrilled, and Keith laughed, burying his face in his hands. “And I kind of realized that maybe I liked him this whole time and maybe I should have known that because of the night I spent with you and I don’t know what to do,” he mumbled.

“Oh Keith,” Thace said kindly, wrapping an arm around his shoulders. “It’s alright. You don’t have to do anything. You can just be.” Keith blinked up at him and Thace smiled. “There are no trials for this. You just have to listen to this.” He tapped Keith’s chest, right over his heart, and Keith sniffled, falling into him. 

“You don’t think I’m silly for not realizing?” he whispered.

“Never,” Regris said firmly. “I’m sorry if I rushed you…”

“No,” Keith said, sitting back up. “I wanted to, it - it felt right.” Regris scooped him up and held him to his chest, and Keith went pliant in his arms, burying his face in Regris’ neck.

“So where is Takashi, then?” Regris asked, and Keith froze.

“Oh, he - he left,” Keith whispered against Regris’ throat.

“He WHAT?” Regris growled, and Thace shushed him.

“Maybe he had the same realization as Keith,” he said charitably. “Did he say anything?”

“He said I was beautiful,” Keith said, squeezing his eyes shut. “And then he said he was sorry…”

Regris growled again. “Do you want me to talk to him, kit?”

Keith laughed, despite himself. “No, you’ll get us thrown out of the coalition for sure if you threaten the prince.” He sat up and scrubbed at his face. “I can do it. I fought at Naxzela, how hard can it be?”

Thace chuckled. “I don’t think you’re the one who should be worried, kit,” and Keith smiled. 

One of the Unilau delegates gave them a confused look as he walked by the table, and Keith was sure it looked odd to see one of the Marmoran delegates sitting in another delegate’s lap. But right now he didn’t care at all.

“Thace is right, kit,” Regris said, running his hand up Keith’s back soothingly. “You could have that boy wrapped around your little finger in no time at all.”

Keith scoffed, ducking his head to hide his blush. “I mean it,” Regris said. “He was ready to show you top secret tech that hadn’t even been released yet. I think he’s gone for you already.”

Keith shrugged. “Maybe.”

It was Thace’s turn to laugh. “I know that face,” he teased. “Takashi had better watch out when you’re scheming.”

Keith laughed and shook his head, but he slipped off Regris’ lap and into his own seat, suddenly ravenous. 

***

Keith waited for the chance to talk to Takashi alone. They were both so busy with the summit, and while Takashi had been as unfailingly polite as ever, he was always tied up in some lengthy discussion with one of the other representatives when Keith tried to steal him away.

But Keith could feel his eyes on him whenever they were in the same room. It sent a thrill through him, to know Takashi was watching, to wonder if Takashi was thinking about the kiss as much as he was. 

Finally, he caught Takashi’s arm after a long meeting about trade routes, and murmured, “Would you like to spar tonight?”

Takashi blinked at him. “Spar? Tonight?”

Keith smiled up at him. “Regris and Thace are too busy, and I haven’t had anyone to spar with.” He tilted his head. “So I was wondering if you’d mind.”

Takashi stared at him for a moment, lost in thought, and then he blushed. “Er- yes, that would be - I think I have some time to spare tonight.”

Keith grinned, all fang. “Perfect.” He patted Takashi’s chest gently and turned to leave. “See you tonight, Takashi.”

***

Keith wore his tightest undersuit, and was immediately rewarded when Takashi’s jaw dropped as soon as he walked into the training room. He felt a surge of confidence rush through him as he leisurely did some stretches, fully aware of Takashi’s eyes on him the whole time. 

Takashi blushed when Keith stood up and caught him looking, and Keith smirked, letting his gaze sweep over Takashi’s broad chest, the training suit clinging to his thighs. It looked like they’d both been trying to make an impression. 

The spar started out friendly enough - they circled each other, throwing out a light jab here and there, but mostly waiting for the other to make the first move. 

He ducked around Takashi, moving quick, hoping to distract him - but Takashi met him at every turn, forcing Keith to spin out of reach before Takashi could pin him. He was panting for breath by the time he finally saw his chance. Takashi reached out just a bit too far and Keith caught his arm and jumped up, catching Takashi’s shoulder with his thigh and slamming him into the mat. 

Takashi blinked up at him, winded, and Keith squirmed down to straddle his hips, pinning his arms above his head. “Do you yield?”

“Yes. Red, that was - ” Takashi breathed, and then Keith crushed their mouths together, drinking him in.

For a moment Takashi was frozen underneath him, and Keith started to pull away, afraid he had gotten it wrong. But then Takashi moaned and wound his fingers through Keith’s hair, letting his legs fall open so he could pull Keith closer.

Keith went willingly, keening when Takashi nipped at his lip. It sent a shiver down his spine, and Keith reached up to drag his fingers through Takashi’s hair, letting his claws trace along his scalp and Takashi shuddered. Keith kissed him and kissed him - and then he felt Takashi pressing up hard against him, and he ground against him, making Takashi gasp.

“Keith... Keith ,” Takashi pleaded, and Keith sat up, looking down at Takashi spread out underneath him, breathless and wanting.

“After the dinner tonight,” Keith said, tracing a claw idly across Takashi’s chest, “you’re going to come to my room and I’m going to take care of you.” He ran his hand along Takashi’s cock, which was straining against his leggings, and Takashi gasped, bucking up for more friction. 

Keith leaned forward and pressed a kiss to the corner of his mouth. “And if you try to avoid me again, I’m going to cause another intergalactic incident.” Takashi stared at him, eyes wide and hungry, and Keith preened. “Do we have a deal?”

Takashi nodded. “Yes,” he murmured, his voice low and rough, and Keith smiled. 

“Good,” he said, standing up and offering Takashi a hand. Takashi took it, and when he was on his own feet again his hand slid down to the small of Keith’s back, pulling him close. 

Keith smirked up at him, standing on tiptoe to whisper, “Don’t forget.” He pressed a kiss to the hinge of Takashi’s jaw before walking away, with one last lingering look as he walked out the door.

***

Keith stalked around the empty common area - he had pretended to read the briefing for the next day's meeting, waiting for Regris and Thace and his parents to drift off to their rooms for bed. When Kolivan finally wished him a good night, he tossed his PADD to the side in favor of pacing. And compiling a list of all the reasons this was a terrible idea.

He was just beginning to wonder if Takashi wasn’t coming after all when he heard a soft knock on the door. 

He let out the breath he’d been holding and ran to the door, punching in the code. Takashi stood there with a nervous smile, and Keith put a finger to his lips and grabbed his hand, leading him back to his room. Takashi locked the door behind him and Keith wrapped his arms around his neck, tilting his chin up for a kiss.

Takashi bent to meet him, twining his metal fingers in Keith’s hair while his other hand drifted down to the small of Keith’s back. 

Keith shivered in his arms, kissing him harder. Takashi gasped into his mouth and Keith smiled, knotting his hands in Takashi’s tunic. He pulled Takashi along with him until they both tumbled back into the bed. Takashi reached out and cupped Keith’s cock over his leggings and Keith bit back a whimper. 

Takashi smiled. “How do you want me?” he whispered, and Keith swallowed.

“Like this,” Keith murmured, dropping to his knees by the bed.

Takashi swallowed, nodding when Keith ran his hand up his thigh, eyebrow raised. Keith rested his cheek against Takashi’s thigh, nuzzling against his cock. “Keith…” Takashi whispered, sounding wrecked already, and Keith bit his lip.

“I’ve never done this before,” he admitted, and Takashi’s eyes softened, and he reached out to trace a metal finger along Keith’s cheekbone. 

“You don’t have to -” he said, but Keith shook his head. 

“I want to,”he said, smiling when he felt Takashi’s cock throb. “Just, tell me if you don’t like it.”

“I can’t imagine I’ll have any complaints,” Takashi said faintly and Keith turned his head to kiss his wrist before working to undo Takashi’s pants.

Takashi’s cock was hard, flushing a pretty pink and already dripping. Keith’s mouth watered at the sight, and he stared for a moment, taking a note of the knot at the base, shivering when he imagined the way it would feel inside him. He leaned in to taste him, and Takashi let out a punched-out moan. 

Keith smiled, pillowing his lips around the tip, and slowly taking in more and more. He was hesitant at first, but Takashi was so responsive, moaning Keith’s name and tugging gently on his hair. His hips and thighs trembled with the effort of staying still and Keith pinned his hips to the bed, taking Takashi in deep and breathing in hard through his nose.

Takashi swore, gripping Keith’s hair tighter, and Keith moaned around his mouthful of cock. His jaw was starting to ache, but he sucked harder, chasing Takashi’s little moans and gasps.

But much too soon Takashi was tugging Keith up. “What’s wrong?” he asked, his voice raw, and Takashi moaned, pulling him in to kiss him. 

“You were going to make me come,” he admitted. “And I haven’t even gotten to see you naked yet.”

Keith blushed and his fingers shook as he helped Takashi pull his shirt over his head and unlaced his leggings. He held his breath, watching Takashi's face as he stared.

Takashi reached out and traced the stripes crisscrossing over Keith's hips and down his thighs, but he stared at Keith's cock, which gave an embarrassing throb. 

Takashi wrapped his hand around it and twisted gently, making Keith see stars. "So many ridges," he whispered, almost to himself, and Keith blushed.

"Is it ok?" He whispered, and Takashi looked up at him, his eyes blown out and desperate. 

"Ok?" He asked, his voice rough. "Keith, I -" he took Keith's hand and brought it to where he was hard and dripping. "I'm so wet for you already," he murmured, and Keith keened.

" Takashi ," he pleaded, and Takashi took mercy on him and tightened his grip, twisting his hand on each upstroke.

"So pretty," Takashi whispered, dropping to his knees and watching Keith's face as he pressed a kiss to the tip. Keith's hips bucked up and Takashi smiled, wrapping his lips around Keith's cock, moaning as his tongue traced along the first ridge.

"Fuck," Keith breathed, watching Takashi's eyelashes flutter as he swallowed him down. That sweet, searing pleasure washed over him, and he moaned, cupping the back of Takashi's head. Takashi hummed, bobbing his head, and Keith whimpered, running his fingers through Takashi's hair. Takashi groaned, deep in his chest, nodding up at Keith. 

He tugged a little harder and Takashi's body went lax against his leg, and he blinked up at Keith, his eyes hazy and dark. Keith whispered, "So pretty, baby ," and Takashi gasped around his cock.

Keith threw his head back, overwhelmed by Takashi's touch, by his mouth . He could feel the pleasure build, and he cupped Takashi's cheek, groaning when he felt his jaw working, swallowing him down. His breath kissed his cock, so hot, so wet, and Keith swore he could see Oriande when he cried, " Takashi , I - I'm -" and spilled down his throat.

Keith fell back onto the bed, and was vaguely aware of Takashi climbing onto the bed next to him, pressing kisses to his heated skin. He laughed, tilting Takashi's chin up to kiss him. He tasted himself on Takashi's tongue and he purred, pressing closer and closer. 

He flipped Takashi onto his back, leaning over him, and Takashi stared up at him, his mouth forming a small oh. 

"You're still hard," he whispered, reaching out to trace Keith's cock, making him shiver. 

Keith shrugged. "I'm half Galra, so…" Takashi blinked up at him, and Keith paused, biting his lip. "Is that…"

"A good thing? Yes," Takashi said, practically purring as he dragged Keith down to kiss him. Keith fell into his arms, kissing his lips, his jaw, his throat. "Could you fuck me?" Takashi whispered, looking up at Keith through his eyelashes.

Keith's cock throbbed , and he keened. "Takashi..."

Takashi gave him a knowing grin. "I want your cock," he whispered, bucking his hips to make his point, and Keith's breath went shallow. 

He reached out to trace Takashi's hole, but frowned down at his claws. Takashi crooned at him, moving Keith’s hand up to cup his cock. "I can…" he whispered, reaching down with his metal fingers. His jaw dropped as his fingers pressed inside and Keith flinched.

"Do you need…" But he looked down at Takashi's face, lax with pleasure, and whimpered. 

"I don't need it," Takashi whispered, guiding Keith's hand so that he could feel the slick dripping down his thighs. Takashi laughed, breathless. "I told you I was already wet for you."

Keith almost bit his own tongue at the sight of Takashi, hard and dripping and wanting, and he leaned forward, sucking marks on Takashi's chest while his hand worked over his cock.

" Keith, " Takashi whined, so needy already, and Keith pushed himself up, stacking the pillows so Takashi was sinking into a plush nest. Keith straddled his hips, running a claw along Takashi's thigh, preening at the way he shuddered at the touch. 

"Are you ready, sweetheart?" he asked, leaning in to nip at Takashi's collarbone.

" Yes ," Takashi gasped, his fingers buried inside up to the hilt, and Keith crooned at him, taking Takashi's hand and kissing his palm while he lined himself up.

He pressed in slowly, so slowly, and his mind went totally, blissfully blank, overwhelmed by his closeness to Takashi, the shared heat between them reaching a new height.

Takashi's head fell back into the pillows, muttering something that sounded like ridges . Keith froze for a moment, trembling over him, until Takashi nodded and Keith pulled out, swiveling his hips as he pressed back in.

Takashi swore under his breath and Keith surged forward, swallowing up Takashi's whimpers as he fucked into him, picking up speed with every needy little groan and gasp. He nuzzled in close, laving his tongue over Takashi's pulse point. Takashi keened, baring his throat, and Keith left open mouthed kissed down his throat, across his chest, as he did his best to wring a cry from Takashi. 

Takashi wrapped his legs around Keith's waist, clenching down on Keith's cock, and his breath caught in his chest. He buried his head in the crook of Takashi's shoulder, panting against his skin as the pleasure caught him in its wake, dragging him along in its current.

Takashi collapsed deeper into the pillows as he clenched down again on Keith's cock. "Keith, Keith!" he cried, spilling across his belly.

Keith felt Takashi's body shaking in his arms, while he clenched down, tight and warm and divine, and he fell apart, falling down to meet Takashi. 

He collapsed on Takashi's chest, luxuriating in the rush of his heartbeat slowing down to a steady ba bump, ba bump, ba bump . Takashi hummed, reaching up to trace one of Keith's ears. Keith flicked his ear at him, earning a laugh from Takashi, and he smiled against Takashi’s skin. 

He wasn’t sure how long they laid there, curled around each other, but finally Takashi said, “So unfortunately I don’t know the etiquette for trysts with intergalactic spies…” and Keith chuckled. 

“You don’t have to leave now, but… it probably would be easier if you left before morning,” he admitted. “I’m not sure how I would smuggle you out once the others are awake.”

Takashi nodded. “I would prefer not to have to sneak out the third story window,” and Keith laughed, propping himself up on one elbow. Takashi smiled up at him, reaching up to twirl a lock of Keith’s hair around his finger. “Can I kiss you before I go?”

Keith snorted. “I mean, your cock was in my mouth earlier, so…”

Takashi laughed and tugged Keith down to meet him, kissing him slow and sweet, like they had all night. Keith purred, draping himself over Takashi’s chest. Takashi squeezed his hip, and Keith ran his fingers through Shiro’s hair just to make him shiver. 

When they finally did get up, Keith tried to ignore the sinking feeling in his chest, instead reaching out to straighten Takashi’s coat. Takashi smiled his thanks, leaning in for a quick kiss, and Keith let himself go lax in his arms, if only for a moment.

Keith peeked out into the common room, just to make sure no one was awake, and snuck Shiro back out to the door. He crooned at Shiro, standing on tiptoe to steal one last kiss. Takashi smiled. “Goodnight, Keith.”

“Goodnight, Takashi,” he whispered. 

And then Takashi stepped back, letting the door slide shut between them, and Keith sighed, going back to his room and collapsing into his bed, which still smelled like Takashi. 

***

After that, Keith took every chance he could to slip away with Takashi. On sleepless nights he would meet Takashi for a late night hover bike ride, which usually ended with his lips around Takashi's cock, or Takashi in his lap.

One night Takashi climbed into his lap in the flight simulator after Keith managed to break Takashi's record. It took all of Keith's self control not to shred Takashi's clothes with his claws as Takashi took him apart with devastating accuracy.

On one especially memorable night, Keith sucked his cock in the empty hangar, preening at every muffled moan and curse he managed to wring out of Takashi. After Takashi came, Keith licked his lips with a wicked smirk and Takashi dragged Keith to his feet, spinning him around and teasing Keith's hole with his tongue until Keith was moaning into his own fingers.  

Afterward, Takashi kissed his temple, draping himself over Keith's back and whispering how perfect and good he was.

Keith smiled, trying to remember that this was temporary - that after the summit he would be going home to Daibazaal. 

But Takashi begged for kisses while Keith was buried inside him, and wrote silly notes to Keith in meetings, and Keith's walls were crumbling. 

They usually went back to their own rooms afterward, but one night Keith forgot - and he woke up in Takashi's bed to sunlight streaming through the window. He blinked up at the ceiling in shock, achingly aware of Takashi's arm around his waist.

"Good morning," Takashi whispered, leaning in to kiss him.

Keith sat bolt upright. "The meeting with the Balmerans!" he gasped, about to scramble out of bed to get dressed.

Takashi squeezed his hip. "It was delayed." He smiled gently. "The Balmerans ambassador was 'indisposed' this morning, so I wanted to let you sleep."

Keith's shoulders sagged with relief. "My Mom will notice I'm not there," he said, already dreading Regris and Thace's teasing, but Takashi shook his head. 

"You joined me for an early morning sparring session, and I sprained my wrist." He ran a finger over Keith's bare belly. "You made sure to wait for me to come out of the healing pods."

Keith collapsed into the pillows, breathless with relief. "I can't believe I slept so long," he said with a laugh. "No bad dreams."

Takashi's face softened. "I get them too," he said and Keith nodded. They had grown up surrounded by war - how could they not be haunted by the same ghosts?

Keith pulled Takashi close to kiss him, moaning into his mouth when he felt his cock pressing against his hip. "Takashi," he whispered, letting his legs fall open.

Takashi blushed, reaching up to card his fingers through Keith's hair. "Are you sure?"

Keith nodded, looking up at Takashi through his eyelashes. Takashi bit his lip, reaching over to fumble for a bottle on the shelf over the bed, which Keith hadn't noticed the night before. "I thought you didn't need it?" Keith asked, and Takashi chuckled.

"I don't, but I thought… I was hoping…" he said, shy, and Keith's cheeks heated. 

" Oh ," he breathed, and Takashi's ears turned pink. Keith dragged Takashi down to meet him, guiding his metal hand down between his legs. 

Takashi almost dropped the bottle in his haste to open it, and when Keith felt his slick fingers tracing over his skin he shivered, already desperate.

Takashi opened him up so slowly, and Keith felt almost unbearably full just from his fingers, so when Takashi's cockhead caught on his rim he keened, his feet scrambling for purchase against the sheets. 

Takashi slid inside, inch by inch, and Keith shuddered. "Sweetheart, are you alright?" Takashi asked, reaching up to cup his cheeks. 

Keith nodded, blinking away the tears that were threatening to spill. "I'm just full ," he murmured, running a hand over his belly. "It's just so much ."

"I know," Takashi soothed, kissing away his tears and stroking his cock. Keith whimpered, willing himself to relax. Takashi's hips ground down against his, catching just right, and Keith moaned, bucking his hips up for more.

Takashi cooed at him. "So pretty," he whispered. "Just look at you, so perfect."

Keith groaned. "Takashi, please. "

Takashi moaned, gradually picking up speed, and Keith clutched at his shoulders. "Baby," he whispered. "Baby, you feel so good."

Takashi's hips stuttered and he ducked down to steal the whimpers from Keith's lips. 

Keith felt transcendent, like his belly was full of sparkling juniberry wine, and he moaned. He reached up to  cup Takashi's cheek, just taking the chance to look - at the cute little furrow of concentration in his brow, his eyelashes fanning across his cheeks, his blue Altean markings. Takashi's eyes met his, and he smiled, boyish and sweet, and Keith's heart thudded in his chest. 

He knew there was no coming back from this, and even if there was, he wouldn't want to. 

He felt Takashi's knot pressing at his rim and he gasped. "I can-" Takashi murmured, starting to pull away, but Keith wrapped his legs around his waist.

"Don't," he whispered. "Please."

Takashi swore. "You're the prettiest thing I've ever seen," he whispered, and Keith laughed, tilting his chin up for a kiss.

Takashi bent down to meet him, and the new angle caught Keith by surprise. "Oh - Takashi!" he keened, starting to shake in Takashi's arms.

Takashi murmured against his skin. "That's it, sweetheart," and Keith wailed, caught in a wave of pleasure so strong that it promised to ruin him.

Then he felt Takashi's knot swell as he spilled, with Keith's name on his lips, and the pleasure spiked, so devastatingly sweet that he surrendered to it, helpless to do anything but let it wash over him.

Takashi collapsed into the bed next to him, reaching out to drape Keith over his chest, and Keith nuzzled into his throat, blissful and sated. The warm, honey sweet feeling of love in his chest, so big and strong that he was sure it would overflow.

There were so many reasons not to - so many reasons they shouldn't have done this in the first place - but Takashi smiled up at him and traceys a finger along his ear, and none of it mattered. 

"I love you," he whispered, and Takashi blinked up at him blankly. For an instant, Keith was terrified, that he had ruined everything, that he should have known better. But then Takashi smiled, brighter than all the stars in the universe, and Keith smiled, small and hopeful.

Takashi kissed him - barely a kiss, just a press of lips. "I love you too," he murmured, and Keith laughed, teary eyed all over again as he rolled back onto the bed, pulling Takashi on top of him.

He brushed his nose against Takashi's and Takashi laughed, tilting his head to kiss him.

They laid tangled up in each other, kissing softly until Keith had forgotten everything that wasn't Takashi's smile, his laugh, his hands.

Eventually they did have to get out of bed and get dressed, their best attempts to straighten their hair and look presentable held up by Keith stealing kisses. 

Takashi kissed him at the door, languorous and sweet, and the promise carried Keith through the rest of the day, even through a torturous lecture about the best ecological locations for harvesting algae for food goo.

***

Keith walked out of his room to raised voices. "You can't be serious!" Krolia growled just as Keith stepped out into the sitting room. Suddenly five pairs of eyes were fixed on him and Keith blinked. "What's wrong?"

Kolivan pursed his lips. Oh no. "This is." He sent his PADD sliding across the table & Keith saw a photo of him and Shiro - kissing - and the headline Favoritism at the Summit?

The ground seemed to tilt up to meet him until Thace caught his arm and guided him down into a chair. “It’s alright, Keith,” he murmured.

"It is not alright ," Kolivan snapped. "This could ruin our place in the coalition! It could jeopardize the whole alliance!'' Keith buried his face in his hands, trying to breathe, trying not to throw up.

"Shut up, Kolivan!" Heath said and the room went silent. Keith braved a glance at his father - he had never raised his voice with Kolivan before. His father knelt down in front of him. “Hey, Kiddo."

Keith buried his face in his hands again. "It's ok," his father said gently. But Keith shook his head.

"We were so careful, I knew it would be bad for an alliance -”

"But you did it anyway," Kolivan said and Krolia growled.

"Keith did nothing wrong," she said, glaring at Kolivan. "Whoever took these pictures is to blame.”

Kolivan bristled, "But he's put everything at risk-"

"Say one more word about my son," Krolia snarled, drawing herself to her full height and even Kolivan looked sheepish.

But Keith wasn't listening. He was looking at the picture of him & Takashi, kissing by the door. "This was taken here," he said, swiping through the other photos. One in the garden, one in the hangar, one in - "This is Takashi's room," he whispered and Krolia’s eyes went wide.

"You’re sure?"

Keith nodded, "It was the day he -”

“He what?” his father asked.

“He said he loved me,” Keith whispered, staring down at the PADD.

“But who would dare to bug the prince’s room?” Thace asked.

“And who would be able to access our quarters?” Kolivan growled.

“Who else could it be?” Krolia scoffed. “It’s Sanda.”

Keith looked up just as Heath muttered, “That miserable vulture -”

“What does this mean for us?” Keith asked.

“Well, the Alteans won’t be pleased that they’ve been spied on…” Kolivan admitted.

“I don’t understand how they did it.” Regris said. “I checked the room myself when we arrived! And that was a quintant before the Terran delegation even landed!”

Keith looked at the picture and then turned, frowning. “It was taken over there…” he said, and then his eyes landed on the frilly plant, wilting innocently on the shelf. “Dad, didn’t Colleen give you that plant?”

“Colleen? But I’ve known her for years, she would never -”

Keith stood up and picked up the plant, dumping it out with all its dirt onto the table, and sure enough, there was a camera.

“I didn’t think to check a gift,” Kolivan said, resigned, and Heath’s face turned a dark red. 

“I’m going to have some words with the Terran delegation,” he muttered to Krolia. “I don’t think Colleen will take kindly to Sanda using her work to spy on us.”

“But what do we do about the favoritism accusations?” Keith asked. “People will still talk.”

Krolia rested a hand on his shoulder. “Do you love this boy?” Keith swallowed and nodded. She tilted her head. “Did you start seeing him before the treaty was signed?” He shook his head, and she smiled. “Than they can go fuck themselves.”

Despite everything, Keith laughed (mostly at Kolivan’s shock at the earth saying) and Regris cleared his throat.

“If it helps, Sanda’s not the only one with a secret.” Keith’s brow furrowed, and Regris grinned. “Maybe it’s time Red gets his big debut.”

“No!” Kolivan barked.

“That’s not a bad idea,” Heath said, trading a look with Krolia. 

Kolivan made a sulky pout, and Keith laughed again - just when there was a knock on the door. “Who the quiznak -”

Tace went to the door and it slid open to reveal Takashi, standing in the doorway. “Oh,” he murmured, looking up at Thace. But then he looked over Thace’s shoulder, and saw Keith. “Keith!”

Keith felt the tension drain away as he ran forward. “Takashi!” 

“I’m so sorry,” Takashi said. “I don’t know what happened, but Coran is on the warpath , I won’t let this ruin the alliance -”

Keith threw his arms around his shoulders, pressing a kiss to his lips. Takashi froze for a second, and then he sighed out, wrapping his arms around Keith’s waist and scooping him up so that his feet dangled above the ground.

“Awwww,” Thace said behind them, and Takashi pulled away, giving Keith a frantic look. 

“I figured they’ve already seen the photos,” Keith stage-whispered, and Takashi huffed out a laugh. 

“Everything’s going to be fine, Kolivan,” Regris said. “You’d have to have a heart of stone to not be smitten with Red and the Black Lion falling in love.”

Takashi’s eyebrows shot up. “You’re telling everyone you’re Red?” he asked.

“He knew ?” Kolivan exclaimed, outraged, and Takashi froze.

“Calm down, Kolivan,” Heath said. “You always were a stick in the mud.”

Kolivan let out a long-suffering sigh. “He certainly is his mother’s son.”

Krolia and Heath burst out laughing, and Keith shook his head, ducking down to press a quick kiss to Takashi’s lips.

***

Regris was waiting for Takashi and Keith when they came back from a hoverbike race. He gave them a wicked grin and Keith rolled his eyes. “Do I even want to know?”

Regris laughed, holding out his PADD. “I don’t know, I wasn’t sure if the famous Red would even speak to a lowly Blade member like me…”

“You’re insufferable,” Keith huffed, picking up the PADD. More gossip columns about him and Takashi - including an exclusive interview?! “I never gave an interview!” Keith protested, and Takashi sighed.

“Sorry, Red,” he said, twining his fingers with Keith’s.

“I wonder what you said this time?” Keith teased. “That the rebel pilot wore down your royal sensibilities with his wiles?”

“You kind of did, baby,” Takashi whispered, and Keith ducked his head to hide his blush.

“I think today’s story is that your eyes met in the middle of a firefight, and the rest was history,” Regris said helpfully, and Keith scoffed. 

He scrolled past a small blurb about one of the Terran diplomats returning to Earth in disgrace, and smiled to himself. “As if anyone has time for lengthy eye contact during a firefight,” he said to Regris, handing back the PADD. 

“You’re going to start getting more questions, kit,” Regris said sagely. “You’re officially courting now, so everyone wants to know when the wedding’s going to be.”

Takashi blushed up to his ears, but Keith just smirked. “Right after your and Thace’s anniversary, actually. Isn’t that coming up?”

Regris’ tail drooped. “Quiznak,” he mumbled, scooping up his PADD and fleeing the room. 

“Poor Regris,” Takashi laughed, and Keith winked.

“His anniversary is four phoebs away,” he said. “He’ll be fine.”

Takashi laughed, wrapping an arm around Keith’s waist to pull him close. “You’re so mean,” he teased, nuzzling down in Keith’s hair.

“You seem to like it,” Keith quipped, and to his surprise Takashi blushed again. “ Oh,” he whispered, grinning up at Takashi as he tried to hide behind his hands. 

“Don’t look at me,” he said dramatically. “The long line of Altean kings ends with a prince who likes it when a hot shot Galran pilot is mean to him.”

“I suppose that means Allura will have to be the one to uphold the family legacy,” Keith said, and Takashi smiled.

“I suppose we’ll have to make our own legacy,” he said softly.

“Guess so,” Keith murmured, pulling him down for a kiss.