Appreciation (noun): [uncountable] pleasure that you have when you recognize and enjoy the good qualities of somebody/something
Shiro liked the sound of ice cubes in a tall glass of liquid. There was something about the tinkling noise of ice against glass that got him obsessed, staring into Keith’s tall coffee glass with a childish fascination whilst completely ignoring his own blended frappucino. It made Keith smile in amusement despite the bitter coffee on his tongue.
“Do you want my drink instead?” He offered Shiro, who snapped out of his haze with a shake of his head.
“No, sorry. Please, it’s yours.” He sipped on his drink and Keith did the same, quiet and barely noticeable.
It was awful - an espresso shot with a lot of water, ice, and no sugar. It tasted like dirt, but he barely reacted.
Keith didn’t even like iced coffees, but it was the cheapest drink on the menu, and people preferred not to waste money on street rats. They were just too polite to say it to Keith’s face, but Keith knew his place.
“So… how’s your application going?” Shiro asked in a lighthearted tone and a kind smile, the same one he offered every time they met ever since the very first time that Keith had met him in school. It felt trained, if a tad fake when Keith first saw it. But then he realised it wasn’t fake, and Shiro’s face was just always smiling because he genuinely wanted to smile.
Keith shrugged. “I tried. There’s not much to it though.”
“I have every confidence in you,” Shiro said. “Things will sort themselves out the way they’re meant to. Don’t stress too much.”
“That’s not nepotism you’re suggesting, is it?” Keith took another sip. Bitter, cold and terribly awakening.
“It’s not nepotism, Keith. Just a healthy amount of trust and optimism.”
Keith snorted - a fat lot Keith’s trust and optimism got him. He turned his gaze up from his drink to Shiro, who frowned at him with genuine attentiveness that he didn’t want - like pity, but so much worse because shaking off the way he yearned for anyone’s committed attention was harder than shaking off their momentary attention.
It was terrible, because Keith was getting very used to their weekly meetings, which he knew he shouldn’t because Shiro was only going to be around until the application results came out. And then when he finally sees that Keith didn’t get in, he would be gone, just like everyone else who had come into Keith’s life.
Keith tried not to hold on. But Shiro made it so hard.
“Do you like your drink?” Shiro asked instead.
Keith shrugged again. “It’s fine.”
Shiro slid his drink across the table and swapped their straws. Then he pulled Keith’s concoction back to himself. “Try this,” he said.
Keith eyed the drink warily, but Shiro looked at him expectantly and flicked his eyes to the milky caramel frappuccino with a ridiculous amount of cream on top. Keith took a sip -it tasted like someone had dumped an entire birthday cake’s worth of sugar into the drink, offset only by the slight coffee aftertaste and the creamy unsweetened dollop of whipped cream floating on the surface.
He loved it, and it showed in his expression.
Shiro smiled. “Good?”
Keith hummed and took another sip. That was evident enough. He even forgot to hide his excitement for it.
Shiro practically beamed, looking at the drink Keith had before and stirred. Then he took a sip of Keith’s drink and promptly almost spat out the entire mouthful with such an animated grimace and asked if he had any taste buds. It got Keith snorting out his own drink through his nose.
Keith would have been mortified if it weren’t for the fact that Shiro was laughing at him as well, a joyous one that shook his entire body, and Keith thought it sounded as happy as the ice clinking in the glass, taking his own breath away with how ridiculously warm it made him feel inside.
He liked sitting there. He liked how these meetings stopped reminding him of what his life was actually like, of the many foster homes, of teachers who didn’t care, of the classmates but not friends, but reminded him instead of this strange man before him who gave him his time and attention. And Keith couldn’t shake this warmth Shiro’s laugh had wrapped him in, he couldn't shake the sweetness on his tongue and the patient eyes looking at him.
He savoured the moment like the drink in his hand, and memorised the deep timbre of Shiro’s voice when he recounted the stories of his cadet days, because they wouldn’t see each other again in three months' time.
But then they did, when Keith jumped into his arms with an acceptance letter from the Garrison. For a moment, Keith clung onto him and realised there might be a place for him in the world afterall.
“He’s smitten.” Keith laughed.
“He isn’t. It’s probably an innocent crush.” Shiro groaned into his arms. To think that being older would warrant him the ability to know people’s intentions better. But alas he was never good at reading romantic intentions where they stared at him in the face.
“And he’s smitten. You can tell whenever he trips over his own feet when you walk by in the hall.”
Shiro’s face went beet red, making Keith laugh even harder before wiping his eyes for tears. “You’re still up for hoverbike racing later? I need to talk to you about something." Keith said, eager.
“Umh...” Shiro picked at his nails.
“What’s that humm supposed to mean?”
“Oh I- well… he asked me… you know...” He trailed off
“The guy from your bridge crew?”
“Yes… well he asked me out tonight… for dinner.”
“And you… agreed?”
“I… yeah. Sorry I completely forgot about…”
“Do you like him though?”
Shiro faltered. “I mean… he’s nice.”
Keith raised his eyebrows. “So you do like him?”
“As a colleague, obviously.”
“But you wouldn’t mind trying to get to know him more.”
“I-” Shiro pulled at his hair. “I guess? I don’t know, I just thought I might start trying something again since… it’s been a while, you know? Sorry, I know this kind of came up unexpectedly. I honestly forgot that-”
Keith shook his head, already a smile plastered on his face that looked much to fake for Shiro’s liking. “No. It’s alright. Go have fun. God knows you need to socialise with people outside conferences and meeting rooms.”
“You sure?” Shiro pushed slightly, testing the limits of Keith’s strange offer. But Keith did nothing but shook his head and was already making his way out of Shiro’s office.
“Yeah. Go. I’ll call up Pidge and we’ll just watch a movie or something instead. No biggie.”
Shiro wondered why he suddenly felt so disappointed, of how his stomach dreaded Keith leaving. But he tried for gratitude instead. “I’ll make it up to you.”
Keith laughed, but it was short and stilted. “You better.”
Longing (noun): a strong feeling of wanting something/somebody.
Keith wasn’t born with sharp edges and thinly veiled apathy.
He didn’t have the most conventional childhood, for he grew up without his mother, didn’t exactly have a game console, nor did he ever get to learn how to ride a bike down well-paved neighbourhoods like some of his classmates. He grew up with his father: a tall and broad shouldered man who picks him up and holds him upside down by the leg as if he was merely a caught fish, a man who wasn’t home two or three nights a week but always had the weekends free, a man who was - in all honesty - rather frightening due to his stature, but was kind, gentle and always spoke softly in his rough voice.
“Your mom loves you, Keith. Don’t ever forget that.” He would say some nights when they sit on the porch.
“Then why did she leave?”
“She didn’t want to leave. But sometimes we have to do things that are greater than all of us, so that at least you could have all the good stuff that the world has to offer.”
“Pops, you’re not making a lot of sense.”
His Pops smiled, but it was a sad sort of smile that he still didn’t understand. “You’ll get it one day, kiddo.”
Keith knew that some might find that voice rather loud and unpleasant still, but his Pops did his best. He had rough, calloused hands that always applied too much pressure when he patted Keith’s head, but it was affection nonetheless - affection in the only way he knew to give. And to toddler Keith, it was enough to let him grow up reassured and comfortable that there was a place for him in this world.
Some of the kids in the group home couldn’t quite comprehend the happiness of having parents all to themselves, and not having to share the affections of all the carers. But perhaps it might have been better like that, for they never wake up in the middle of the night from dreams of their lost families.
It was that love given to him that made him soft. It was the love taken away that sharpened his edges. And despite the thinness of his false apathy, most could not see through it as they never sought to, mistaking his behaviours for anger issues instead of the call for any sort of attention.
He missed his father’s affections terribly, and when Shiro went to Kerberos, Keith didn’t think it could feel so much the same. The sadness rose as Shiro’s arms unraveled from around Keith’s shoulders before he was sent to quarantine before the launch, even if it was promised he would return.
“Be good. I’ll be back right before your graduation so don’t you dare graduate with anything less than honours.” Shiro threatened with a charming smile that Keith so desperately wanted to kiss. But he didn’t; he only tried to remember the scent of Shiro’s clothes and the feel of his arms around him.
Keith tried to forget that weight in his stomach at the image of the rocket launching into the sky. He felt like such a baby for being emotional for merely less than two years worth of not seeing Shiro. He promised to not cry, he promised to do so well that by the time Shiro got back, Keith would have secured his very first mission.
But Shiro was a hard person to not miss. The feeling was like an easy undercurrent just beneath every other emotion Keith felt, not quite noticeable yet still there. So when Kerberos was announced a failure with Shiro taking the blame, that quiet emotion spewed across Keith’s consciousness like a tsunami - consuming, powerful, and fatalistic.
It felt even worse to lose Shiro than it did to lose his Pops, because the sharp edges began to show through, and this time, it was pricking him too, but Shiro wasn’t around to smooth them down, to make sure Keith wasn’t hurting himself. It was a terrible grief, and if Keith barely handled it when he was at the Garrison with things that could distract him, then it was unbearable when he was by himself in the desert shack.
And perhaps the worst part of it all was that he found his grandmother’s engagement band in between all his cleaning up at the shack.
There were few things in his life that Keith dared to call his own, most of them being trinkets and memorabilias too cheap for most to consider to be of any value. That, and an old beat up shack with everything in it, including the little engagement right that his Pops had stashed away in a box in his bedside drawers, hidden and unbestowed.
Keith knew it was his grandmother’s because he had asked about it once.
“It was supposed to be for my wife.” His Pops had handed it to him.
It was a dainty little thing - a simple band with a small obsidian in the metal, and white stones on each side of that. Keith wasn’t sure if it were actually diamond or simply crystals. He placed it back into his Pops’ hand. “You mean mom?”
His Pops shook his head. “She was never my wife. But I love her very much.”
“Then why did you never give it to her?”
“Because we didn’t need it to know how much we loved each other. We had you.”
“That doesn’t make any sense.” Keith pouted.
His Pops laughed. “Tell you what, one day when you get what I’m saying, I’ll give you the ring and you can decide if you want to give it to someone.”
“But… why can’t I just keep it for myself?”
His Pops laughed even harder at that. “You won’t want to keep it, trust me.”
It technically was his now, but it doesn’t feel like his. The feel of the ring on his finger now felt cold and wrong. “You were right, Pops,” Keith said under his breath and placed the ring back into the velvet box. “I don’t want to keep it.”
He closed the box, then reconsidered and slipped the ring into the ball-chain necklace. It rang that metallic sound as it hit the tags warm against his skin, holding it close to his heart. It sounded almost similar to that glass of ice Shiro kept twirling.
The ring was a tragic thing with his Pops, and Keith thought it was almost similarly tragic in Keith’s possession. For his Pops at least had the choice to give it away. But Keith didn’t, because there was only one person that he had ever wanted to give it to.
And that man was gone.
Keith dreamt of soft words and grey eyes, and Shiro mouthing ‘I love you’s before he floats away, out of reach and into the cold darkness of space.
But he wasn’t gone. And he was real, so real and alive in Keith’s bed, dressed in strange clothes but oh so alive.
“It’s good to have you back.” Keith said, hand gripping Shiro’s firm shoulder under his hand, not quite believing that Shiro was right there before him even with the skin and flesh in his fingers. If he had squeezed too hard, Shiro didn’t say it. Instead, he seemed to relax his shoulders instead, as if he had found himself in Keith’s presence as much as Keith was in his.
“It’s good to be back.” He said in a tired pull of his lips, staring out into the sunrise and miles of dessert before them.
The air was quiet, save for the sound of the wildlife waking up to the light on the horizon. It almost felt normal, as if it was just one of those sleepover weekends after Keith had first inherited the shack, where they stay up talking about stars and wake up absurdly early to watch the sunrise. But the fact was that he had just stolen Shiro from the Garrison only hours prior, and the fact that Shiro should be dead.
Dead, like the career path Keith told himself to give up a year ago and vowed to never remind himself of again lest the wound in his heart could tear any further than it already did, and bleed more than he could survive.
The words were on his tongue, a confession of wrongdoings, but also the confession of affections. It didn’t feel inoportuned, certainly not in the golden glow that the sunrise that bathed Shiro in a softness that made him look so utterly devastating. He wanted to say it now, because he didn’t before and he thought he had lost his chance. Now, the thought of never being able to say it scared him.
He started. “Shiro-”
They said at the same time, and Keith gestured for him to go first.
“How long have I been gone?” Shiro asked, eyes roaming over Keith’s face, observing with a melancholy that Keith knew without needing to think about: care, fondness, and guilt.
“We lost contact with you a year ago. The Garrison announced you as dead a week after that.”
Shiro nodded and looked to the horizon. “So two years since I last saw you.”
Two years since I started missing you. Two years of me regretting I never told you how I feel and how much I need you . Keith thought, but then asked instead. “Where have you been?”
For a moment, Shiro looked as if he had some secret to share too. It was that strange fondness again, but there was something else there that was so achingly tender that Keith had never seen anyone direct it towards him. The wind suddenly blew past and Keith ducked himself into his arms to avoid sand from getting into his eyes. He was surprised when he later opened his eyes to find Shiro’s figure shielding him from the wind. His arms - the prosthetic and the flesh one - wrapped around Keith’s shoulders.
This close, he could faintly feel Shiro’s warm breath on his scalp. Keith held his breath in fear that the pounding of his heart could drown out the sound of Shiro’s breath atop his head.
“It’s a long story.” Shiro finally said. And Keith swallowed the words he wanted to say.
But perhaps the longer story is what happened after, and the wait until Keith finally remembered to say the words in his heart.
The door to Shiro’s office slid open at the most inopportune time.
“Shiro do you have a min-”
Keith went quiet when he looked up from his datapad.
They must have looked like a sight: with fumbling fingers, kiss-bitten lips, and cheeks so flushed that Shiro doesn’t think he could ever be any redder.
One intrusion, two embarrassments.
“Keith!” Shiro stuttered. “Sorry, uh… Curtis was just…”
“I was just leaving.” Curtis gave him a smile that Shiro desperately hoped somehow lessened the intensity of shock and hurt on Keith’s face. In retrospect, Shiro hadn’t understood why Keith felt hurt.
Keith shook from his stupor just as Curtis moved to compose his uniform.
“Actually, uh..” Keith swallowed, an awkward cheeriness in his voice. “I’ll just… I’ll just come back later.”
The words were on his tongue before he even realised, “Keith, I’m-”
“No, really.” Keith laughed dryly. “It’s fine. I’ll talk to you later, Shiro. Sorry for interrupting.”
The door slid shut behind him, drowning his office into a deafening silence.
“You forgot to lock the door?” Curtis gave him a pained grimace.
“Don’t, Curtis. Please.” Shiro shut his eyes, willing away an impending headache as he slumped into his chair, and remained there for the following hour, staring at the door.
He hadn’t even heard Curtis leaving, for he was wondering why his heart ached so much at the angry footsteps that echoed from Keith’s departure, and how they were still ringing, and ringing, and ringing in his ears.
Adoration (noun): deep love and respect.
They had to change Shiro’s bandages before leaving. There was still a bleeding wound on the side of Shiro’s head from when he hit the floor of whatever spaceship that flew him home, and gained a massive concussion. There were other wounds too, one across his ribs that looked more like precise burn marks.
“Lasers, I think.” Shiro said, responding to Keith’s silent question.
Keith pressed a wet cloth against the wound, feeling Shiro’s entire frame tense up. He asked, “Does it still hurt?”
Shiro shook his head despite his gritting teeth. “I can handle it.”
“You know that’s not what I asked.” Keith sighed, dabbing gently.
He kept with his work, diligently and carefully cleaning at Shiro’s various wounds, biting at his lip to prevent himself from asking about every scar he sees. He had more muscles, this Keith was sure of, and while Keith tried to be professional in his work, he would still admit that something about the definition of Shiro’s muscles did things to his brain.
Keith was so focused on the task that he hadn't even noticed Shiro’s hand had tugged on the necklace around his neck to pull the dog tags from his shirt. Shiro flipped over one of the tags, reading and playing with the noise of metal hitting each other.
“You snatched these from Adam?” He asked, a sad curiosity underlying his tone. Keith recognised it immediately - the longing, the ache that somehow persists despite time.
During the year that Shiro was on his way to Kerberos, Adam had handed it to Keith along with some leftover trinkets that Shiro had left at their old apartment.
“I can’t be around anything of his. Thought you could do me a favour and keep these for him.” Adam shoved the box into Keith’s hand and walked off without waiting to even hear Keith’s response.
“He thought I’d be better keepers of your stuff.” Keith responded, applying a paste to Shiro’s torso.
Shiro nodded, then lifted the ring beside the tags to examine it. “Is this yours?”
Keith paused for a moment before regaining his composure. “My grandmother’s, actually. Gave them to my dad but he never ended up marrying.”
Shiro nodded again, turning it over in his hand. “Thought about giving it to anyone yet?” He said it with mirth, but emotions builded up in Keith’s throat regardless.
You , Keith thought. Because of your laugh, because of the glint of mischief in your eyes, your patience, your heart and love. Because I have loved you for so long that it hurts to look at you sometimes . I want to give it to you, because it’s you .
But he held his tongue and played off his silence as embarrassment instead. “Bit early for me to be thinking about marriage, don’t you think?”
“Was that also a dig at my age?” Shiro raised an eyebrow.
Keith snorted. “Maybe. Maybe not. Take it however you like, old-timer.”
He heard a faint chuckle before hearing the smack of Shiro’s finger on his forehead as he flicked it, sending Keith backwards.
“What did I do?” Keith hissed, rubbing at his forehead. Shiro used to do this whenever Keith used to snoop too close to his macaroni. It was all pretense, of course - Shiro always got second servings for him if Keith had wanted more.
“Nothing.” Shiro responded with a grin, pulling his shirt over the well bandaged wounds. “Just miss your scowling.”
Keith snorted again. “Abducted by aliens for a year and the first thing to miss is my scowl?”
Shiro’s face twisted slightly though a smile remained on his face. It looked fake, and it made Keith ache to touch the scar across his nose, to examine it with tender fingers, and to find the secret to Shiro’s happiness in those eyes.
“Would you prefer it if I had missed Adam instead?”
Keith held his breath, feeling a nasty emotion stir in his stomach. Despite that, he shrugged. Adam had been Shiro’s ex-fiance after all. It wasn’t some trivial relationship one could get over easily.
Adam had also cried a lot when the Kerberos crew were declared lost.
“Did you miss him?” Keith asked.
Shiro stared out the small window in the room. “Not as much as I thought I would, but I did.”
Then, “Do you miss him, still?”
There was an underlying offer in Keith’s question, an offer to step back and call for the one other person who knows Shiro just as much - if not more - than Keith did, to soothe whatever pain that Shiro needed soothing, even if Adam wasn’t someone Keith was particularly fond of.
“A little.” Shiro fidgeted with the joints of his metal hand, then lightly chuckled. “A lot, actually.”
They had been together for five years, after all, friends for even longer. The excuse didn’t make Keith feel any less jealous.
“But he’s the past,” Shiro looked at Keith, smiling sadly. “I can’t keep turning to him whenever I’m scared of what’s to come or when things go wrong and I want to hide from the world. I need to keep going.”
Keith bit his lip, unsure of what to say. Instead, he crossed the room in two strides and placed a hand on Shiro’s shoulder, gripping slightly, enough for Shiro to ground himself in this shared space of theirs.
“If you’re ever afraid, I’m here.” Keith said, low and just loud enough to not disturb the delicate air.
Shiro gave him a grateful look as he placed a hand atop Keith’s on his shoulder, squeezing, taking Keith’s breath away slightly.
“Thank you, Keith.”
“What flowers do you think he’d like?”
“Really. You’re asking me that? The person who can’t even tell the difference between a daisy and a rose?” Keith laughed, bending down to smell and pick at various flowers in the shop.
“Yeah. I mean… I don’t want to accidentally get him a funeral bouquet or something.”
“Even worse, how about a bridal bouquet.” Keith turned around with a white bunch of carnations and soft pink roses, a crooked smile on his face. It was funny… cute even.
Shiro reached out to take the bundle of flowers, a blush bloomed across his face.
“Would that be so bad? A bridal bouquet?”
There was a long silence as Shiro examined the flowers in his hand. When he looked at Keith, the man looked more confused than anything.
“What?” He asked.
“Nothing.” Keith said. “There’s nothing wrong with a bridal bouquet. But is that what you’re looking for?”
Shiro stared back down at the bundle in his hand. It was the process, wasn't it? Attraction, dating, then marriage. It had been long enough, he was allowed to propose now, wasn’t he?
“Yeah.” He said. Somehow it felt more hollow than he expected.
Keith nodded and turned away, telling him that he’d go ask the staff for some suggestions for flower arrangements, then promptly tripped himself over a glass vase that shattered loudly on the floor. Somehow, that described the expression on Keith’s face more than Shiro would admit.
Fear (noun): a feeling of anxiety concerning the outcome of something or the safety and well-being of someone.
Sometime between their departure from the shack to their arrival at the Castle of Lions, Keith realised that his necklace had snapped and he had lost the dog tags along with his grandmother’s ring.
But Keith had little time to worry about that when he was busy worrying about Shiro’s recklessness and idiocy that followed them into battles like miasmas. For as smart and tactful as Shiro was, he was incredibly self-sacrificing when the team was involved. Keith loathed it.
Though, perhaps Keith should also start telling himself those same words.
At this point, it was an instinct to jump into the lines of fire to guard Shiro’s back, to give cover, and to jolt awake in the middle of the night to find Shiro tossing and screaming at the monsters in his dreams.
Keith grabbed Shiro’s shoulders to shake him awake, and narrowly missed a hook to the face.
“Keith?” Shiro said in the dim lighting of his room, panting. “What are you-”
“I couldn’t sleep, took a walk, then heard you screaming when I came pass.” He lied. He was woken by the Lions, their rumbling filled his sleep and pushed him out of slumber and into Shiro’s room. Keith almost thought an intruder had gotten into the Castleship.
“You alright? Do you need me to get you anything?”
“No.” Shiro croaked, his voice hoarse and wet as he placed an arm over his eyes. “Sorry for-” he took a shuddering breath. “Sorry for waking you up.”
“I was already up, don’t worry about it.” He sat on the floor at Shiro’s bedside, fumbling with his thumb as Shiro tried to regain his breath.
“Do you want to talk about it?” He asked.
Shiro shook his head. “Not really.”
“Okay.” Keith swallowed. He has never had to deal with helping someone through bad dreams. He only knew enough from his own experience, which included remedies like long walks in the night, and staring out the window of his room and into the night.
But then he had a thought. “You mind if I try something?”
Shiro slowly lifted his arm, turning over to Keith in question. “Like what?”
Keith raised his right hand to first touch against Shiro’s forehead, then weaved his fingers through the white locks there to pull them back. Then he repeated, stroking at his head in rhythm.
Shiro looked at him in confusion, as if waiting for an explanation. And under the intensity of Shiro’s gaze and silence, Keith started to ramble.
“I used to have dreams about the night my dad died.” He started. “I wasn’t actually there, in real life, but… I would dream of him running into a burning building, and I would be waiting outside, waiting for him to come back out and for the fire to stop.” He shook his head. “But neither would happen. The building kept burning and burning, and I would wake up when I tried to follow him into the fire.”
His stroking fingers have turned to make rhythmic soft pats on Shiro’s head at this point, though he wasn’t entirely aware of it with the dream playing itself in his mind.
Suddenly, Shiro’s cold metal fingers took hold of his wrist, and Shiro was staring at him with pinched brows. Keith almost thought he had overstepped, and he was going to be sent back to his room. But then Shiro pulled his hand downwards and placed it between his chest and the metal hand atop.
“I’m sorry.” Shiro said, barely above a whisper.
Keith shook his head and turned his body towards Shiro, as to rest his elbows on the bed and continued to pat at Shiro’s head with his other hand. “It’s okay. I was never actually there.”
“Still. I think you might have felt like you were.”
Sometimes it did. Sometimes he thought it might have made a difference, that if he had been there that night, then maybe his dad might have been less reckless because staring at him before he runs back into that house would be his child, wide eyed and alone. But he knew that wouldn’t be the case.
“Sometimes, after I had those dreams, I would sit by the window of the room at my group home. It looked out into the desert, you know, right into the direction where the Garrison would be. And then I’d dream again, of my dad, walking back from that horizon to say he’s sorry, just stroking my head like this.” He placed his fingers on Shiro’s forehead, then dragged it slowly up and into his hairline.
“I know they’re just dreams, but… I think if he had been alive, he would have done the same.”
Shiro had calmed down since his ramble, but he was still staring at Keith, bewildered for some reason, like he couldn't quite believe that Keith was there.
“Keep doing it, please.” Shiro said.
It almost sounded like a confession. And he wondered, then, if Shiro knew the confession in Keith’s actions.
He hoped he did.
Keith continued the motion until Shiro’s breathing evened out and he fell into deep slumber, all whilst his hand held Keith’s loosely in its grasp. Keith ran over the silhouette of Shiro’s face with his eyes, tracing over the rise and dips of his brows, nose and mouths. He looked at peace, for once, so different from his expression every day that it surprised Keith.
“Goodnight , Shiro,” he whispered. And like the ghost of his father that appeared in his own dreams some nights, he left as quietly as he came, with a promise pressed to Shiro’s forehead. I’ll protect you from all your monsters and your nightmares.
A cacophony of gasps echoed through the room, “What?!”
Lance’s face contorted in confusion “You? With- with-”
“Curtis. Lieutenant Johnson, yes.” Shiro chuckled.
“You’re getting married?!”
There were shocked faces and quiet gasps, and one impassive expression, staring at Shiro across the dining table.
“Come one, it can’t be that surprising, guys. I was almost married once.” Shiro rubbed the back of his neck, embarrassed at the attention.
“Yeah. But we thought that Keith-”
“Lance!” A warning glare was sent across the table that made Lance shrivel.
“What about Keith?” Shiro asked, perplexed.
“It’s nothing, Shiro. Lance just can’t tell the difference between gossip and the truth sometimes.”
An awkward silence ensued with side glances that Shiro didn’t quite understand.
Keith cleared his throat then, and stood up with his glass raised. “A toast then, for the soon-to-be newlywed.”
“Keith-” Shiro started.
“Congratulations, Shiro, really. We’re all happy for you.”
A white lie. Shiro could tell. He wished Keith would cut the bullshit, but he couldn’t say it.
They clinked their glasses against each others’, but there was no cheer to it - only wary and confused thoughts. And strange dreams that kept Shiro from sleeping until the next morning.
Resignation (noun): an accepting, unresisting attitude, state, etc.; submission; acquiescence.
The next day, Shiro thanked him, and it was business as usual.
But Keith made a promise, and he only had his actions to say the things he means. So he kept trying, in the late night talks after their bad dreams, in the almost sacrifice at Naxzela, in the race after Shiro as they battled at the clone facility.
The grief in losing him over and over was almost unbearable. Though perhaps what was more unbearable now was watching Shiro kiss his soon-to-be husband, to see him pick out the floral arrangements, and argue over the table settings for the wedding where Keith was to be best man.
Keith doesn't know where it went wrong. He had a lot of hope when the war first ended.
Between the camaraderie of fighting alongside each other at the frontlines of an intergalactic war, the friendship that started even before that, and the love confessions shouted at their dying breaths, Keith thought that Shiro might have seen through at least some emotion - some affections - that Keith had reserved only for him. And he thought that he had in his confessions in the night, in their jokes and in their closeness with each other. Keith had thought that he could turn to Shiro one day and take his hand, and Shiro wouldn’t even question how much it made sense.
He thought they made sense.
He couldn’t make sense of this wedding venue and the man standing there discussing the table settings again for the nth time despite the wedding being tomorrow.
Keith wanted to ask. He wanted to grab Shiro by the collar of his shirt and shake him and cry and ask so many questions.
What did I do?
Where did we go wrong?
Why don’t you love me?
And, did you ever see me at all?
“We’re going to be here for the rest of the day if you’re going to keep fussing over the table settings, Shiro.” He said, unable to look at the white and gold plates - they were pretty, he hated them. They had to pick up their suits, too. And Keith needed to stop by Lance’s for moral support, though Shiro didn’t know exactly what that entailed.
“Be right there!” Shiro called back.
Keith shook his head and left ahead, having given up on waiting. He all but had to stop himself from smacking his head into the steering wheel of the car as he sat and waited.
Shiro gave him a pitying look when he got in. “You okay?”
“Didn’t sleep well.” Keith waved him off and started the engine. He hasn’t slept well for a month. He would always wake up in the middle of the night from Shiro’s voice calling for him in his dream, as if he was still stuck in the astral plane. But then sometimes, there were moans and cut off gasps from as he dreamed of Shiro looking utterly debauched, lips red and swollen as he called Keith’s name.
Keith would wake up to the darkness alone, remembering that Shiro was in someone else’s bed, in someone else’s arms, because he chose someone else.
“I’ll drive, then. You can take a nap or something in the meantime. Sounds good?” Shiro offered.
Keith was too tired to question it.
In fact, he had spent so long asking Shiro at the beginning of this whole ordeal if he had truly wanted to marry Curtis because of love. Shiro had snapped at him, stating that he wanted to get married to Curtis and it would make him happy.
And who was Keith to deprive him of his happiness, however confusing it was to the rest of them?
“I was thinking,” Shiro started as they drove off. “Maybe after my honeymoon, we can go hiking. Just you and me, like old times. What do you think?”
Keith snorted, an offending headache was building behind his eyelids so he rested his head against the window. “Trying to bribe me into doing something for you?”
“No? Just- thought I should do something to make it up to you for, you know, dragging you all over the place for the wedding.”
Keith closed his eyes. If you had cared for me at all, then you would have known better to invite me to the wedding .
“What was that?” Shiro blinked. Keith hadn’t realised that he was mumbling.
Keith straightened himself suddenly, licking his lips to figure out how to keep himself together. He was almost there. The wedding will be over soon, and Shiro… will be out of his life.
“I think you’re going to have to postpone that plan for a while, Shiro.”
Shiro turned to him, confused. “Why?”
Keith took a deep breath. “I’m leaving. After your wedding.”
“Leaving? Where are you going?”
Anywhere but here . “Off-planet. New mission popped up, high priority too. I'm heading out with mom after the reception."
There was no mission. But Shiro didn’t know that.
“Oh.” Shiro dejectedly said. “Well, you’ll be back a few weeks after that, right?”
Keith shrugged. “I don’t know.”
The car stopped at a red light. Shiro tucked his head into his chest, hurt by the secrecy. Then he looked at Keith.
Somehow, Keith had never imagined that he would be on the receiving end of Shiro’s glare, but there he was, shriveling slightly in his seat.
“Were you going to tell me about this any time soon?”
Keith dropped his head back against the seat. His eyes pulsed from the afternoon daylight. He was so tired. “Maybe.”
“Did I do something?”
He shook his head.
Shiro clicked his tongue. “You’ve been pulling away, Keith. From everyone, actually. I know I’ve probably been pretty obnoxious because of the wedding literally happening tomorrow, and I have tried to check in with you to see if you’re okay with everything but-”
“And I am okay with everything.”
“No, you’re not.”
“How would you know?”
“Because I heard from Lance that last week, you drank until you threw up three times, and he found you sleeping in your car because you couldn’t drive home!”
Lance and his tattling mouth had too much business in Keith's life sometimes. Keith shook his head. “Would you prefer it if I said I wasn’t fine?”
“Yes!” Shiro yelled just as the light turned green. But he made no move to step on the gas, even as the cars behind them honked loudly.
Keith felt the hurt rising in his chest, but today, if any, was a terrible day to let it all out. “You should go. We’ll talk about this later.” He turned away and out the window.
His endurance and patience had been running so low lately that Lance even offered to take the job of best man for him on the day if he wanted. But Keith owed Shiro this, at least, to be the final puzzle in Shiro’s picture perfect wedding before he disappeared to the other side of the universe to heal the gaping wound in his chest. At least, he told himself this every day to make it more bearable.
They don't talk about it for the rest of the ride, and Shiro dropped him off at Lance’s with a lackluster wave.
“Something wrong with Shiro?” Lance raised his eyebrow.
“I told him I was leaving.”
Lance hissed, sympathetic. “Thought you said you were gonna keep that under wraps until you get out there, then play it off as being busy.”
Keith shrugged, already pulling out the chilled bottle of wine from the fridge. “I slipped.”
Lance only sighed and patted him on the back. Then he promptly started shouting at Keith for taking a swig straight from the bottle.
“He’s still staying at your place today, right?” He asked, and Keith nodded, taking another swig. Shiro was staying over at Keith’s, as per the wedding tradition that dictates for the couple to be separated before the ceremony. So Shiro asked to stay over at Keith’s instead. It made sense, considering Keith had a spacious penthouse with extra bedrooms.
It was a great idea in concept, terrible idea in practice.
By the end of the night, Keith was very not sober, but neither was Lance so he wasn’t allowed to shit on Keith about it. He walked slowly up to his apartment as to hopefully somehow sober up from the five to ten minutes between getting off the taxi and seeing Shiro.
It was late. Shiro was probably asleep anyways. Why should Keith care? Keith laughed at himself.
Shiro was on the balcony with a glass of whiskey and cigarettes stubbed out on the glass tray that he must have taken from Keith’s stash. He looked cross when Keith awkwardly waved, having been caught like a teenager sneaking into the house after curfew.
“You’re out late with Lance.” Shiro said, stepping back into the apartment.
Keith pretended to not hear the ice in his tone. He made his way into the kitchen to grab a glass of water instead. “Long talk.” He answered.
Shiro suddenly crowded into his space and took a sniff. “Are you drunk?”
Keith pressed closer, and took a sniff of Shiro’s breath. He smelled like stale cigarettes and whiskey.
Shiro leaned back abruptly, and Keith sardonically grinned, “Guess I wasn’t the only one drinking.” He pushed past Shiro to sit at the counter, pouring himself a glass of water.
“Keith, what’s wrong?” Shiro followed him around the apartment.
“If it’s nothing, then why were you drinking yourself to death? And why are you pulling away from me?” Shiro almost begged, the desperation showed in his eyes. Keith would have liked to see that very much in a different context.
“I’m not.” Keith responded, not looking up. He took a gulp of water to prevent himself from talking.
“You are. And you’re hiding it. Badly.”
“Because you really do not want to hear the answer to your question, Shiro.” He snapped.
“Really? Because I’ve been sitting around all night, waiting for you to come back with the answer.” Shiro snorted, pacing slightly. “What’s your problem?”
Keith stayed silent.
“What’s your problem , Keith?” Shiro repeated, stressing his words. “Because you're just brushing me off, and it's so unlike you! I’ve been listening and I’ve been paying attention, but you’re not making any sort of sense.”
Keith poured himself another glass of water, still drinking it.
“Is it because of the wedding?” Shiro asked, calmer this time. “Is it Curtis? Do you hate him that much?”
“Who said I hated him?”
Shiro snorted mockingly. “Anybody with eyes can tell that you hate him.”
“Yeah. That doesn’t mean you have to be a bitch about my choices, though.”
They were both really not sober enough to be having this conversation, and neither of them really realised it.
“Well if you have eyes as you claimed to have, then you would know my problem isn’t with Curtis.” Keith huffed.
“Really, now, I never would have guessed.”
“Stop mocking me.”
“You're not making any sense.” Shiro aggressively pulled out the seat next to Keith to sit down. “You know what your problem is, Keith? Your problem is that you can’t deal with other people not following your orders.”
“What the fuck, Shiro.”
“You hate Curtis and you hate that I didn’t listen to you about him.”
“I don’t hate Curtis. And is that what you think I feel?”
“Yes. You’re just like Adam. You take and take-”
“You know what my fucking problem is, Shiro?” Keith placed his glass down, almost slamming it on the counter.
“-and when I can’t give myself to your or your demands anymore, then you give me attitude and tell me to reconsider every single one of my choices like I’m a fucking child.” Shiro sneered
“But you think you’re so much better than me because of what? Because you found a husband and therefore everyone has to bend over backwards for you because you’re getting married?”
“I never said that!”
“You know what my fucking problem is, Shiro?” Keith snapped, jumping off his seat and glaring at the man before him. “My fucking problem is you.”
“Right, of course. Me, I’m the problem.” Shiro repeated sarcastically.
“Yeah, you and your complete disregard for anybody’s feelings. Sure, you’re so diplomatic and tactful, but you pay the barest attention to the rest of us if it doesn’t concern the fate of the universe or you. You forgot Pidge’s birthday, and you left Allura’s farewell party early because of what? Shit that isn’t even urgent! I don’t even recognise you anymore!”
“That’s low coming from you.”
“Is it? Because I can’t remember if you even asked me if it was okay for me to be your best man. You just assumed that I would be!”
“I asked my best friend to be my best man and you didn’t say anything when I did. If I had known then-”
“I couldn’t say anything because I don’t want to be your best man!” Keith cried, tears brimming at his eyes. “I don’t want to be your best man! I don’t even want to be at this wedding!”
Shiro stared at him, eyes wide and hurt. His mouth hung open as if at a loss for words. “What?”
Keith had his hands on his hips, trying to will his tears and emotions back as if he hadn't already crossed that line at least ten lines before this. “I’ve been in love with you for as long as I’ve known you, Shiro.” He finally said. “I thought you knew; everyone fucking knew, except you!”
Shiro was silent.
“I tried showing my feelings to you in every way I know how - fuck, I followed you to the edge of the fucking universe, Shiro! And yet- I don’t know how else I could have made you see all the fucking shit I feel for you!” His voice finally broke, and he was crying now, hiccuping between his breaths and wiping at his eyes with the sleeve of his shirt. “So yeah. I’m not happy. I got problems with Curtis, with you, and this entire fucking wedding.”
The air was just the hum of electricity above them, and Keith’s sobs echoing in the apartment that now felt too small, too claustrophobic because Shiro was in it. Keith needed to get out. He couldn't be in the same space as him any longer lest he screams even more.
Then he heard the chair scraping against the floor as Shiro stood up, crowding into his space again. He stood right before Keith, brows pinched with red rimmed eyes and tear streaks beneath it. He looked so distraught that it surprised Keith.
“You never said anything.”
“Did I have to?” Keith all but yelled the words at him. He was done. He thought he could stand back and keep supporting Shiro but he couldn’t. He had his limits; the limit was this.
He shook his head. “Forget it. I’m done with all this. Lance can do the best man speech for you tomorrow. I can’t do this anymore.”
He tried to side step past him and beelines for the bathroom, but then a sharp tug on his arm spun him around and straight into Shiro’s arms. Then there were lips pressed against his, the smell of alcohol and cigarettes mixing on his tongue.
This is wrong , he thought, but made no move to push Shiro away. Then Shiro deepened the kiss, pushing him closer and his tongue was sliding into Keith’s mouth, and his hands roaming all over Keith’s overheated body. Keith lost his thoughts then, too drunk on the feeling.
He let himself be carried away, and drowned in Shiro's presence.
Keith was aggressive, clawing at every bit of skin he could get his hands on. And he was loud, yelling without shame as Shiro slid into him.
The crack in his voice did things to Shiro’s dick, and Shiro groaned as he finally bottoms out, stopping to let Keith get used to him as Keith’s hole squeezed around the intrusion. Shiro wasn’t small by any definition, and Keith was shaking beautifully beneath him, and he was so warm and so tight that a sober Shiro would probably half question if they had prepped enough.
Keith was reaching for him, pulling him down into messy kisses. His hips grinded up into Shiro’s stomach for the delicious friction against his dick, causing Shiro to pull out slightly, dragging at the inner walls of his hole. Keith gasped into the kiss, tears trailing down his face.
He kissed and fucked like he was in battle: rushed, unrelenting and eager. Shiro had to press his hips down to stop him from grinding.
“This isn’t a sprint, you know.” Shiro murmured, pressing kisses down his neck as Keith writhed beneath him. His hand reached down to massage over Keith’s nipples, causing him to shudder all over.
Keith trembled, breath warm against the crown of Shiro’s head. The fog of alcohol in their mind and the acrid taste of it against their tongue poured out in every breath as Shiro pulled out slightly and began to shallowly thrust back in.
“Shiro.” Keith gasped as Shiro picked up his pace in earnest. The squelching noise of their fucking was obscene. Their skin slapped against each other, the room was resounded with their shortening breaths and Keith had to grab onto the headboard to prevent himself from being pushed any further up the bed.
The pressure was building up, and Shiro kept at it, throwing himself into Keith’s mouth to lick, suck, and pull out delicious sounds from him. Keith’s eyes were screwed shut and his brows were pinched, riding high on pleasure.
“Open your eyes.” Shiro said, his hand trailed down Keith’s neck, chest, to his stomach, playing at the tension in his muscles there. Keith seemed to have not heard him, instead he tucked his head into his arm still holding the headboard.
Shiro’s metal hand reached down to Keith’s dick. Keith jolted, groaning at the sudden coldness and Shiro stroking him. God that was hot.
“Open your eyes, Keith.” Shiro said again, starting to pump Keith in his hand.
Keith pant as violet eyes opened. There was so much trust and love in his gaze that compelled Shiro to dive in for a bruising kiss. Shiro let his other hand grab hold of Keith’s waist - he felt so small that Shiro was getting riled up at the thought of how much Keith must be stretching to accommodate him. And he was so beautiful that Shiro wondered why he had never said it to him.
“God, you’re so fucking pretty.” He thrusted, pushing Keith and his cock into Shiro’s hand, over and over.
Keith took hiccupping breaths, wrapping an arm around Shiro’s neck to draw him closer as they chased their releases. Shiro watched as Keith’s face began to scrunch up as a precise thrust finally had him closing his eyes, letting go. Come spurted onto his stomach, and he moaned as Shiro wrung him dry with his hand.
Keith went limp at his release, but Shiro was not close enough. He continued pounding, his thrusts more shallow and off kilter now as he tried to reach his finish. He felt Keith bear down and sqeeze around him, his dick twitched as he whined at the oversensitivity that was becoming uncomfortable. He pushed weakly at Shiro's chest.
“Just a little more, baby.” The words slipped out without him realising. Shiro delivered a final thrust that was just enough before he quickly pulled out, and pumped himself fervently until he came spilling onto Keith’s stomach.
He collapsed onto the bed as both of them took heavy breaths. He grinned in the afterglow, but it disappeared quickly when Shiro looked over. Keith was looking at him, so sad and hurt that Shiro had to reach out to pull him into his chest, then cooed and whispered sweet nothings into his hair until his breathing quieted and he fell asleep.
When Shiro woke up, it was to Lance’s yelling and grumbling as he rushed him to get ready. The other side of the bed was cold, and Keith was gone.