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circumnavigation

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It starts with an accidental bump of shoulders down the hall. Keith’s worksheets flutter down and fan around him across the floor, and his shoulders collapse then. He turns behind him to eye the perpetrator, only to meet the apologetic smile of Takashi Shirogane, half his body swivelled around as he jogged away. His apology of being really late to class hung on edge of his crisp, clean smile, and Keith just sighs, grimaces just a little bit once he’s out of sight. No one helps him pick his papers up, but it’s okay. He can manage it just fine.

There’s another shoulder bump, this time as purposeful as it can be. When he shifts a little to accommodate the movement, he realizes that it’s him.

“Shiro, by the way,” he introduces himself, a small smile playing around the corners of his mouth. They side step a little further down the lunch line, sliding their garish orange trays along the shiny metal beams. “Sorry about the last time.”

Keith is boring holes into his tray in an attempt to avoid looking directly at him. Almost as if Shiro is as blindingly brilliant as the sun, or maybe because he really is . Today’s mystery meat looks especially appetizing. Good.

He has trouble ignoring the consistent press of the side of Shiro’s arm against his shoulder, his warmth seeping into his bones, setting his heart aflutter. They fit together somehow, an awkward meld of Keith’s elbow at Shiro’s waist, and when they come apart at the end of the line Keith feels like he’s missing a limb or two.

And it continues like this, painfully edging on; the both of them skirting around each other like the orbits of Neptune and Pluto, navigating its gentle curves ever so slightly such that they never intersect. Just barely, but just not close enough. Pluto’s orbit is tilted a rebellious seventeen degrees away from the plane on which Neptune and rest of the planets travel. Just enough to let Neptune slip by.

Shiro inches into his life, little by little, occupying the spaces in between his classes, the spaces between twilight and dawn, and Keith – he’s a little selfish, and very impatient. He thinks about Shiro’s hand lingering on the crook of his elbow, the first flower of spring unfurling in his chest. He thinks about his own fingers, wiry and delicate, around Shiro’s wrist. When they sit, they sit side to side, knees to knees, like they know nothing about personal space . It’s their thing. It’s always been their thing.

But if it’s always been their thing, is has to mean something, doesn’t it?

Again, Neptune slides past, easily out of Pluto’s reach. Shiro heads off to Kerberos, Pluto’s fourth moon, and Keith thinks, his rueful smile painfully apparent on his face as he bids Shiro goodbye on the flight deck, that maybe Neptune and Pluto do get to meet, one way or another.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The nights are lonely in Shiro’s absence. The sun doesn’t reach him in his room due to the absence of a window. There’s no longer a need for him a slip out after curfew, and trainings are indoors anyway, so the days kind of just merge together, long and dreadful.

A few months down the road, just as he’s burned the memory of Shiro’s touch into the back of his head, news of the Kerberos mission gone wrong echoes down the hallways of the Garrison. It passes through the mouths of many but the message comes out the same. Shiro is dead .

Keith’s fist is shaking, and he’s breaking out into a cold sweat. He comes out onto the roof, the memory of two imperfect bodies fitting against each other perfectly, and almost cries. He’s angry, he’s stupid , and he desperately wants to shout. But then again, it’s not like they were anything to begin with. Someone from the control tower’s going to spot him eventually and call the guards on the Garrison’s problem child.

The moon, previously caught behind the dense clouds, suddenly emerged, casting a long streak of light down the concrete roof.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the end, Keith gets thrown out of Garrison Academy. Oh fucking well. What is a little extra distance to someone who’s never coming back?

Keith finds a new home in an abandoned desert shack, and gifts himself with a hoverbike looted from the Garrison docking bay. If he has to vacate the premises with all his belongings, he might as well take his mattress too, even if it isn’t his to begin with. Sometimes he laces his fingers with his own, thinking of the would-have-beens if he had been bolder, if he had been courageous enough. He still thinks he’s stupid, but his sixteen-year-old self dumber.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shiro returns a year later, his spacecraft piercing through the sky as bright as the sun. Had Keith known it was him, he would have laughed at how uncanny it had been – for Shiro to re-enter his life again like that, the same way he did years before. He doesn’t think much when he breaks into the secure facility to find out what had landed. It could have been a monster, or scrap metal from space. But when his eyes land on Shiro, eyes closed and body limp under the restraints, Keith feels himself collapse under his skin. Everything he had tried to forget and suppress into his core sprung up on him again like a geyser. The hand on Shiro’s jaw was shaking in disbelief.

A lot of things happen in between, and Keith is glad for this distraction. It keeps his mind off many things, including the sound of Shiro’s voice ringing in his ears and the sight of Shrio himself, his body more built and his hair a stress-induced white.

It’s only after they form Voltron for the first time do they get to really talk.

“Things are going to get rough from here on,” Shiro remarks as he sinks into the couch, his side pressing right against Keith’s.

It’s clumsy, how their bodies don’t fit together like they used to. Keith doesn’t want to cry. At least, not in front of Shiro.

Tipping his head back, Shiro jokes, “I never seem to catch a break.”

Keith reaches out to place his palm on Shiro’s kneecap, and uses it as leverage to push himself up.

“You should really get some rest, Shiro,” he says, throat tight, and excuses himself to his room.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It continues still, the fleeting touches and the inevitability of falling together. Shiro would casually drape an arm around Keith’s shoulder while they’re watching TV, and there is never a moment when his body is not plastered to Keith’s side. And Keith returns this infuriating favor; he stays on top of Shiro for a beat longer after he’s pinned him down in a spar, just to feel the tension of Shiro’s muscles under his own. He slouches against Shiro on the couch, bad posture galore, just for kicks. Because that’s what they’ve always been, always stuck in a frustrating game of negotiation.

That is, until one night, when Shiro’s fingers trail down the inside of his thigh innocuously, and Keith feels his brain combust.

As Shiro draws closer, Keith gets pulled into Shiro’s own gravity. The thing about gravitational resonance is that once Neptune and Pluto approach, one of them speeds up while the other slows down, ejecting each other away and further apart.

But you know what? Keith thinks, fuck Neptune.

He pushes himself further up into his seat, pressing his chest into Shiro’s side. The action catches Shiro by surprise, and his hands snake their way around Keith’s sides to catch him.

“You bastard,” Keith breathes, still angry and impatient like the child he was all those years ago, and he inches forward to press his lips against Shiro’s.

Shiro has the audacity to run his hands up Keith’s sides, and Keith can’t help but melt. It is neither an extravagant display nor a deafening collision. A few pieces at a time, Keith comes apart.

When they part, Keith finds himself in Shiro’s lap, and the weird thing is that it isn’t weird at all. It is a practiced fit of bodies, coming together, as they’ve always had.

Shiro’s lips quirk up into a smile and he chokes up a laugh in relief.

Keith scoffs then, and narrows his eyes at Shiro’s apologetic grin. He leans forward again, his vision narrowing until he sees nothing but the flutter of Shiro’s eyelashes, and closes the distance.