Okay, so it turns out Keith wasted more time worrying what they'd all think about the part-Galran thing than anyone actually spends commenting on it.
Except for Lance. Who remains endlessly entertained by the topic.
At breakfast, before Keith has managed even one sip of coffee: “What does it feel like?”
“What does what feel like?”
“You know,” Lance stage-whispers. “Being half alien.”
“Okay, first of all—” Keith sets down his mug a little too hard, and coffee splashes onto the table. Everyone else is looking at them. Great. “If you ask Allura, you're an alien. And for another thing, nobody knows if I’m half or one-eighth or oh-point-oh-oh-oh-two percent Galran. And—”
“All right, all right. I was just curious if you can, like, tell.” At least Lance appears somewhat subdued now.
“I feel the same as I always have,” Keith says, more quietly. “I wouldn’t know if it feels any different. I’m still just. Me.”
Lance bumps his shoulder against Keith’s. “Hell yeah you are, dude!” And that would have been the end of it, if Lance had let it go, but his inane questions keep on popping up at the randomest of times.
During a practice mission out to a nearby gas planet and back: Lance wants to know if Keith has any superpowers. “Other than the ability to kick your ass any time, day or night, not that I know of,” Keith shoots back. Over the radio, he can hear Shiro laughing.
“Hey!” Lance yelps, and promptly challenges Keith to a match in the training room when they return. Which Keith wins.
Walking back to their rooms to get some sleep: “No, but for real, man.” Lance cuts his eyes up and down the corridor, but it’s just the two of them. “I gotta ask. Do you feel like you could ever be, you know, interested in a Galran? Like is that even a possibility?”
“Interested,” Keith repeats. “What the fuck does that mean.” He’s pretty sure he knows what it means, and he’s so, so glad that they’re alone. Bless Shiro’s insistence on staying awake too long plotting courses with Allura and Coran. Also bless Hunk and Pidge holing up somewhere to work on some kind of enchanted computer thing that will no doubt help them take out a whole battleship. Keith wishes very much that he too were anywhere else right now.
“Like a crush!” Lance explains. He narrows his eyes at Keith, considering him. “Somewhere along the way, someone in your family had the hots for a fuzzy purple alien, so it’s not like it’d be weird if you—”
Keith is certainly not interested in the end of that sentence. “Yes, it would be weird, and I am beyond done talking about this. Stop asking stupid questions and go to bed, would you?”
“I’m just saying I wouldn’t judge you if you ever wanted to stop by the old homeworld and—”
“Goodnight, Lance.” Keith ducks into his room and uses every bit of effort he can muster not to slam the door hard in Lance’s face.
He slams it gently instead.
“He just won’t let it go!” Keith complains. He’s lying in Shiro’s bed late at night, his head’s in Shiro’s lap, Shiro’s hands are in his hair, and this is a fantastic state of affairs.
Shiro hums acknowledgement, rubbing little circles into Keith’s scalp.
Keith lets his eyes drop closed and presses his head harder into Shiro’s touch. “God, that’s good. Lance is such an ass. I can’t believe he thought I’d wanna fuck our literal mortal enemy.”
“Well, you’re not our mortal enemy,” Shiro reminds him. “And recent events have proven they’re not all on Zarkon’s side, so…”
Keith opens his eyes so he can glare properly. “What, do you want to sleep with a Galran or something?”
“I mean, technically—” Shiro’s mouth twitches. “I already do?”
“I look human!” Keith bursts out. “I am human, Shiro, come on.”
“You are.” Shiro tightens his grip on Keith’s hair. The resulting prickles of pain send chills skittering through Keith’s body, all the way to his fingers and toes, and he shivers. “You are human, Keith, and you are Galran too, and I love every part of you.”
It feels like Keith’s doing backflips in Red, the way his insides twist. “When did you know you loved me?” It’s a wonder his voice is so even.
“Way before Kerberos. It struck me one night, up on the roof with you—remember, I was helping you work on a star map?”
Shiro’s eyes had reflected the sky, burning with distant light; he’d been so lost in thought, Keith had worried Shiro didn’t really want to be there at all. “Yeah, I remember,” Keith says.
“There was a moment—I saw a falling star over your shoulder. And it occurred to me, so quiet in the back of my mind I almost didn’t notice. I loved you. I’d loved you for a long time already. But I never found the right time to tell you. And then I went to Kerberos.”
“Oh,” Keith says, faintly.
“All that happened is you learned more about yourself, and that’s never a bad thing.” Shiro starts combing his fingers through Keith’s hair in long, slow strokes. Then his voice drops into a low, teasing tone; and here comes that weird sensation of heat in Keith’s belly that only Shiro can inspire.
“Besides—” Shiro laughs softly— “I think you’d be pretty cute with those fluffy ears of theirs.” He scratches lightly behind Keith’s decidedly non-fluffy ears, and Keith makes a sound he’s never heard come out of him before. “Wow,” Shiro says. “That’s new.”
Keith’s face feels like it’s on fire; he must be so red there’s no way Shiro can miss it even in the dim light. Shiro’s hands are back on his hair, petting gently. It’s so good.
“Is that something you like?” Shiro whispers. “Because I could keep going, I could ask you to bite me with your sharp little fangs, I could let you get your claws in me—”
“I can’t—Shiro, I’m not going to play Galran while we’re having sex, what the fuck—” Yet, undeniably, he’s reacting to this—the hot flush of shame blooming into a desire for something he’d never known he needed.
“Mm, wouldn’t have to be Galran. You could just be, you know. A space…cat.”
Keith’s brain has abandoned him, here in this time of direst need, and although he tries moving his lips, absolutely no words come to mind. Instead, he makes that noise again.
Shiro’s dropping tiny kisses on his eyebrows, his cheekbones, the corners of his mouth. Shiro’s nuzzling at his jaw. “My space cat,” Shiro says. One hand holds Keith by the hair, keeping him still; the other pushes up the hem of Keith’s shirt. He skims his palm in broad circles over Keith’s stomach, letting his fingertips dip into Keith’s navel. “What do you think of that idea?”
Keith puts his hand around the back of Shiro’s head and pulls him down into something that’s more biting than kissing, until Keith isn’t the only one breathing hard anymore. “I guess I’d have to say…” Keith takes a deep breath. “Meow?”
Shiro stares at him, astonished, then bursts out laughing and hides his face against Keith’s chest while his shoulders shake. “You’re something else,” he says, when he’s able to speak. “I can’t believe I found you.”
“I can’t believe you’re into catboys,” Keith retorts, which sets Shiro off again.
What Keith really can’t believe is this: that he’s laughing in the dark before falling asleep, being loved so hard it’s better than flying. Before Kerberos, he’d never bothered letting himself want it, because people like him didn’t get stuff like that. Now, it feels like Shiro’s plugged into his bloodstream, a vital organ to protect at all costs. Which is fucking amazing. And also fucking terrifying. If Keith were to lose him again—but he won’t. He won’t. He’ll make sure of it.
“I have something to show you,” Shiro says.
They’ve just finished eating lunch, and there’s no pressing work to be done, so everyone’s taking a couple of hours to decompress. Shiro had asked Keith to come to his room, so here they are.
“But you have to close your eyes. It’s a surprise.”
Keith does so. Shiro takes his hand, he hears the door slide open, and then Shiro’s pulling him across the threshold. It feels much warmer in Shiro’s room than usual, and there’s a sound like birds chirping, but that can’t be right. A few steps into the room, his feet catch on something on the floor and he stumbles, but Shiro holds him fast so he doesn’t fall.
“Lie down here,” Shiro tells him, and eases him to the floor where soft fabric and large squashy pillows meet his hands and knees.
He can feel Shiro curling up next to him; he can’t help the smile that spreads across his lips. The kind of smile that if you accused him of it, he’d deny as firmly as he would a crime. The kind of smile only Shiro gets to see.
“You can look now,” Shiro breathes into his ear.
They’re surrounded by gauzy white curtains hung from the ceiling, rippling in something like a light breeze. Light glows through the translucent fabric, and yes, it’s definitely birds Keith hears. He can pick out a robin and a chickadee for sure, and there’s a barely-detectable scent of wet grass and fresh flowers in the air. After months of breathing recycled air and the constant low hum of the ship, this feels like overload. “What is this?” he asks, his voice cracking.
“It’s spring.” Shiro’s gaze is focused on him, watching him break open. Keith’s eyes begin to sting and he has to blink fast. “I thought we could take a nap in a little patch of sunlight.”
“Oh my god,” Keith groans. “Is this about the cat thing again?”
“Maybe a little.” Shiro nestles closer, getting his arms around Keith and tugging at him until he’s lying half on Shiro’s chest. This way, he can hear Shiro’s breathing, blending with the distant birdsong.
Keith shuts his eyes. In here, the walls soundproofed for better sleep quality, the ship’s engines can’t disturb the illusion. Maybe they could have this one day, for real, back home when it’s all over. A house instead of a shack; a bedroom overlooking the woods instead of one made up like a movie set. “How did you do this?” he asks.
“A lot of scrounging. Pidge found some lightbulbs in a storage bay that look like Earth sunlight. Lance had the recording of birds, said it helps him sleep. Allura let me borrow the curtains—she has this canopy over her bed—”
“Lance helped you with this?” Keith waits for humiliation to strike, but instead there’s just a lump in his throat he can’t knock loose.
“I didn’t mention the cat thing,” Shiro says quickly. “Just said I was making a present for you. He yelled that we’re adorable, his word, and went tearing off to find the recording.”
Sleep is beginning to pull Keith under. “I guess that’s all right.”
“Sleep, beautiful,” Shiro murmurs. “When you wake up, I’ll make us tuna sandwiches.”
“Fuck off,” Keith murmurs, just as lovingly.
The cat thing, as they’re calling it, remains subtle for awhile. Just little jokes between the two of them, maybe a slight increase in teeth and nails when they’re in bed, nothing much.
Until a night comes when it’s not subtle anymore. “Hey, space cat,” Shiro says. “You look like you’re gonna start purring any second now.”
“Am not,” Keith mumbles. The two of them are naked on Shiro’s bed, and Keith is on his back, floating dizzily in a golden haze. Shiro’s been running his hands all over Keith’s body for what feels like hours. All over, except where Keith needs it the worst.
Shiro scratches a gentle line up the inside of Keith’s thigh, stringing him tighter. “I think I’d like it if you purred for me.”
“Is that right?” Keith grits out. Shiro’s a heatwave, Keith’s self-restraint evaporating in his wake.
“Oh, yeah.” Shiro smiles at him, so sweet Keith’s heart aches, and slides down his body before Keith registers what’s happening. “Let me hear you, kitty.”
Silence isn’t an option, not with Shiro’s relentless mouth dragging these breathless cries from him. Shiro keeps his eyes fastened on Keith’s throughout, and when he’s panting “Shiro, Shiro, I can’t, I’m gonna,” Shiro draws back to allow him a reprieve.
Once Keith has caught his breath, Shiro pulls him on top of him, sliding slick fingers into him until Keith is reduced to broken whimpers. “Good kitty,” Shiro whispers. “Are you ready?”
Keith nods and reaches back to guide Shiro, rolling his hips down slow to take Shiro all the way inside. Lost in a flood of emotions he can’t begin to name, he fixes his gaze on Shiro, open-mouthed but speechless.
Even so, Shiro seems to know what Keith’s feeling. “I’m yours,” Shiro gasps. “Take what you need, Keith, please.”
Keith grips Shiro’s jaw and presses his thumb into Shiro’s mouth. Shiro closes his lips and sucks, licking at the pad of Keith’s thumb until some kind of crazy dynamite fuse goes fizzing down Keith’s arm and straight into his belly. Shiro grabs for his other hand and hangs on tight while Keith shakes apart into pieces.
Shiro moves in him a few moments longer; then, one last shuddering thrust and he sighs, his hand trembling in Keith’s.
Carefully, Keith separates himself and collapses next to Shiro, nuzzling at his throat. If he were ever scattered across the universe, he thinks as his eyes begin to close, Shiro would travel from galaxy to galaxy just to rebuild him. Only Shiro can shatter him open like this; only Shiro makes it safe.