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a dream, aloud.

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Shiro is breathless.

This is very typical of a mission with Keith for a variety of reasons. For one, Keith is fast. Faster than he could ever be. It’s always been like this, what Keith doesn’t have in brute strength, he always makes it up by being one step of everyone. Somehow, in battle, Keith knew not only the target’s weaknesses, but also Shiro’s own weaknesses. For two, since Keith knew all of Shiro’s weaknesses, Shiro can’t help but have his breath taken away whenever Keith manages to jump in front of him and fling someone (or some thing ) across a room.

It’s only gotten worse since they got married four years ago.

Shiro hates to admit it, but hitting his thirties put a toll on him. Sure, he feels more mentally sharp than ever; and thanks to a combination of genetics plus a work out regimen of being a monster clean up crew and taking down Galra rebel fighters, he looks good. It’s just that, sometimes, he isn’t fast enough. Sometimes he’s just tired.

Hitting thirty felt like hitting a second puberty. He is constantly distracted by Keith. This isn't as bad as it could be because Keith is hyper competent in the field, he needs Shiro’s brute force to power through a fight. This becomes a problem rather quickly when he loses sight of Keith, and he darts his head around and --

The monster above Shiro roars and pins his shoulder to the ground. When it roars, it drops some mucus on his forehead, and somehow, the breath he feels hit his face smells like something that has been thoroughly charred and burnt. He doesn’t know what it is, but he knows that it’s the mother of a pack. It’s not a huge monster either, just an annoying flying lizard who breathes fire. Shiro tries not to pay attention to the smoke rising off of it’s scales.

“I hate space,” he mutters, getting ready to kick the monster away from him.

Only, before he gets a chance, Keith slides two knives down the monster’s back. The flying lizard monster goes slack against Shiro, falling against him. Its purple entrails and guts falling near (but not on , thank god) Shiro’s feet and around the area. Keith stands with his blades still drawn. He's breathing heavy and smiling from triumph, but concern is still in his eyes and voice, “Shiro, are you alright?”

There are few things in the universe that are as beautiful as Keith saving him time and time again.

Shiro pushes the monster off of him while avoiding the guts on the ground, clearing his throat once, “Thanks to you.”

Keith tilts his head once and reaches for the monster mucus, which has made a home on Shiro's cheeks. Flicking it off with his thumb, he huffs out a laugh. “There.”

Shiro snorts, “I don’t know why you did that.”

Another thing that Shiro loves about Keith, is how oblivious he could be even after four years of marriage. Keith does everything fiercely. The way he protects, the way he loves, the way he fights, and the way he feels. It makes moments like these so much more satisfying. Keith opens his mouth once to say something, but Shiro has already pulled him in for a kiss.

He even dips him, though that’s more to get the monster guts out of Keith’s hair. When Shiro props Keith up, his husband's face is pink and his nose is scrunched, “Look! I just cleaned you up and now you have monster guts all over you.”

Shiro rolls his eyes and stifles down a laugh, “Oh no, how will we ever report the culling of a dangerous creature to Queen Allura while looking like this? We should definitely wash up together and just report it to her afterwards . You know, to be presentable before the queen.”

Keith glances up and down at him once, which Shiro does laugh at. It’s like Keith can never believe the life they both led even after all these years, especially evident when Keith lets out a nice and soft, “Oh.”

They take each other’s hands before walking back to the ship.

---

Shiro and Keith’s jobs are stupidly dangerous to anyone else, including the other former paladins of Voltron. The other paladins, while always on alert if they ever have to form Voltron, have all settled down into other positions. Lance and Hunk have homes on New Altea and on Earth, they bounce between the two to visit their families for too long, but overall help Allura with all the diplomatic duties of Voltron. Pidge is the one that travels the most, she’s constantly inventing, researching, consulting, and advising. Space doesn’t even seem big enough for her natural curiosity.

Meanwhile, Shiro and Keith never looked back. They report to New Altea every few months for two days at a time, and neither of them have gone to Earth. When the Galra Empire fell, it felt like the universe was right at their fingertips, but it also felt like they still had some work to do. When the opportunity arose to capture the remaining top command of the Galra Empire, Allura initially offered them a position of command.

You’re both brilliant. Shiro, you’re a natural leader, and Keith is only second to you. If even! You’re both equal if we compare your skills as a pilot, a leader, a tactician… Paladins, I apologize for asking so much of you, but the alliance needs you.”

In another universe, a command like that would have been Shiro’s dream. In this one, however, both of them were growing weary after dedicating years of their lives to the war. They both had the urge to get away, to be alone, and to be together.

In every universe, all Shiro wants is Keith by his side.

“We are getting married, Allura,” Keith narrowed his eyes. “We don’t want a job. We want time. We want to do our own work, with no responsibility for anyone but ourselves.” Keith doesn’t add any apology or excuse. He stares at the new Queen with hardened eyes, as if she was really going to say no to her friends.

But, she understood.

Keith and Shiro elope on a desert planet that is appealing to no two people but themselves.

Their ceremony is on a cliff side overlooking the sunset that their friends, surprisingly, agreed was actually romantic. There are no cameras or intergalactic paparazzi; only their closest, most trusted allies are invited to the ceremony. Immediately after officializing their marriage, they go into one of the only towns on the planet and buy two hoverbikes, dedicating themselves to racing across  the arid terrain on their honeymoon. They rent a cabin in the outskirts of the town, reminisce about high school ( of all things) and get a ton of Earth food imported in advance, just because they could .

They’ve been inseparable ever since. They returned from their honeymoon to find the remaining top, Galra commanders that the rest of the coalition couldn’t. Afterward, they moved onto stopping  illegal quintessence trades, with help from the Blade of Marmora. Lately though, as things have finally started to calm down in the universe, they’ve acceded to helping Queen Allura out by slaying  monsters to make more space for refugees on currently uninhabited planets.

It’s been eight years since Shiro came back from the Kerberos mission, and here Shiro is: a glorified bounty hunter, chasing down creatures on the space equivalent of Australia.

Allura clears her throat on the screen above them, “Thank you for your help, Paladins. Things have been quite busy as we try to find new homes for those whose planets were destroyed by the Empire, so I cannot thank you enough for aiding the coalition in speeding up the process.”

“Always happy to help, Princess,” Shiro responds with a smile, more out of habit than anything.  Allura has not been a princess in quite some time.

He expects Allura to sign off after that, but instead, she remains silent for a moment as she glances between the two of them. While Shiro can’t see it,  the way she’s biting the corner of her lip makes him think that she’s standing with a hand on her hip.  “Keith," She finally says, sighing and breaking the silence. "Have you told Shiro about the new position I’ve offered you two?”

Allura! ” Keith hisses out as Shiro processes what Allura just told them. It’s weird to think that Keith would hide anything from him, but maybe it’s something that Keith really wanted to do that would temporarily relocate and separate them. While Keith does a lot of things impulsively and immediately, it doesn't mean he does things thoughtlessly .

Shiro frowns. This must be eating at him.

Allura doesn’t seem as concerned as Shiro feels, though. She nods her goodbye at them and carries on as usual, “I’ll leave you two be. You don't need to make your decision immediately, but I do want to make sure you’re both on the same page. Goodbye Keith! Bye Shiro!”

After the screen goes black, Shiro doesn’t say anything for a minute. It's only when  he watches Keith sink deeper and lower into his chair, that he decides to say something. He reaches out and places a hand on Keith’s shoulder, “We don’t have to talk about it.”

“We do,” Keith insists but doesn’t elaborate on. Shiro can never gauge how talks go with Keith usually. Most talks between them are initiated by Shiro, and Keith is good at listening and getting his own emotions out there. He has always been more of a feedback person than someone who starts the conversations, and he’s always been a natural at comforting Shiro.

It’s why Shiro isn’t mad that Keith hasn’t told him any concerns sooner. He is surprised when Keith walks over to the next room over and starts the electric tea kettle up.

“What do you want?” Keith asks when he comes back, but it comes out in a mutter, clearly more ashamed by all of this than Shiro could ever be.

Shiro raises a brow, “This is big.”

“Sure is,” Keith replies, slumping back down in his chair. Shiro can’t tell if the darkness that crosses his eyes is from anxiety or weariness. That eats at him.

“You don’t have to be scared of telling me something.”

That makes Keith snap and brings him down to earth, “I’m not scared of telling you , Shiro. If I wanted to have this conversation with anyone, it would be you, every time.” Keith crosses his arms and doesn’t move his eyes away from Shiro. They both remain silent for a some awkward minutes.

Eventually, Shiro ends up getting up to get their tea ready for them. He can feel Keith's anxiety even from the other room. Shiro tries not to mind or worry for Keith's sake.

When Shiro hands Keith his coffee mug in the shape of a black cat, to match Shiro’s white cat mug, he sees a flash of guilt cross Keith’s eyes. His cheeks turn slightly pink, as if he’s reminded that the two of them are very domestic , underneath it all. “This isn’t about the job on Earth. Well-- I mean, it is. Partially.” Keith looks down at his mug, but doesn’t sip. Just keeps talking, “I... want to go.”

Shiro is surprised to hear that, only because they’ve had this conversation before when Lance and Hunk bought vacation homes on Earth for their families. Shiro was open to the idea, but Keith was adamantly against it. “There isn’t anything for either of us down there. We can visit. I just... don’t want a home there.”

They haven’t talked about it since. It's never been a point of contention for them, anyway, because Keith is right . There isn’t anything for them down there. The rest of the Paladins of Voltron left something behind when they were taken away by the Blue Lion, but they didn’t. Space is the thing that brought them together.

Earth is what kept them apart in the first place.

Besides -- it’s always been more romantic when it’s just the two of them traversing through an endless expanse of space. Both of them against the universe; nothing to pull them apart again.

He used to always understanding Keith’s feelings, but now he can’t understand what caused him to change his mind. Maybe it's something simple, like the passage of time. Space is endless and mostly empty. Shiro understands this also makes it tiring.

The explanation is still tumbling out of Keith, “Allura says we’ll be ambassadors. We'll help the refugees from the coalition over there. Make the transition smooth for other aliens. Earth has a lot of space and resources. It’s just… since the invasion --” Keith suddenly cuts himself off, deciding to take a sip of his tea. Shiro realizes he's seen Keith like this before. He saw it seven years ago when Allura had discovered Keith’s heritage, and, for once, Keith didn’t fight her on it.

Finally, Keith breathes, “I want to help.”

Shiro nods, reaching out to hold both of his shoulders. He's tempted to pull him in for a hug, but Keith is still holding his drink. “I get that, Keith. I want to help, too. We never thought about what happened to Earth, not as much as everyone else did.”

“It’s not just that. I knew you would agree to come. You go anywhere I go, but…” Keith pauses, taking a deep breath. “I haven’t gotten to the part that’s going to freak you out.”

Shiro laughs uneasily, just once, “Nothing freaks me out.”

Keith squints at him for a full 10 seconds, which is the longest Keith could possibly ever be mad at him, before softening, “Just listen. I’ve been thinking. Since the Galra invaded Earth, there are a lot more kids like me... Like us , who don’t have anyone. I think we have the time, we have the capability, we’ll have the room , and I think it would be nice.”

Shiro tries not let himself pale. He tries not to let his brain go in the direction that he thinks it’s going, but his grip tightens on one of Keith’s shoulders, anyway. He doesn’t know why he even asks, but he goes for it either way, “What would be nice?”

Keith sucks in a deep breath and grabs one of the hands on his shoulders, as if he's the one that needs to be talking Shiro down. Considering the subject matter, maybe that's true. “I've been thinking about adoption, or maybe fostering, if you're not comfortable with the commitment. It makes sense.”

Shiro is breathless, and he also doesn’t know what to feel. They’ve never discussed children at length before, Keith asked him one day late at night, curled up next to him in bed and breathing him in. Shiro didn’t even have to think about it all that much.  A family with Keith was a nice thought. But a family with Keith could also be him, Keith, and a dog -- and that would be perfectly fine, too. It wasn’t a deal breaker, and Shiro always thought of childrearing as something that was far away.

He forgot the part about being in his thirties and loving Keith for nearly a decade.

“I don’t want to spring this on you. We don’t have to--”

“Yes,” Shiro says before he can let himself think anymore. The thought of having a family with Keith sounded like home. Sounded like what they both needed and were avoiding. “I just wish there was a way to know for sure that we’re capable.”

Keith smiles softly, places a hand on his cheek and kisses him on the lips.

When Shiro confessed to him before driving his bayard into Zarkon’s heart, Keith pulled him in and never pulled away. It was as intense as Keith usually was, as intense as the war they just ended was, and Shiro couldn’t even appreciate it fully until after it was over. When they got married, he didn’t give Keith the chance. He tilted his head up and kissed him the way they deserved the first time. They both were like that when it came to love, sometimes a bit too much.

This kiss, though, makes Shiro want to melt into the ground. His stomach flips, and Shiro is so grateful to have something as rare and beautiful as Keith.

Husband ,” Keith says when he pulls away with a click of his tongue. Shiro doesn’t even attempt to hide the blush or the grin that comes with whenever Keith calls him that. Keith laughs, something that gets more and more common every day they’re together, “You are always capable. You are one of the most capable men alive. You throw your whole self into everything.”

“So do you.”

“Yeah, but you’re a bit of a perfectionist.”

Shiro sighs and drapes himself over Keith again, undoing the ponytail so he can run his hands through his hair. “It’s hard when your husband is naturally good at everything he does. You just make me look bad Keith, just like you probably will with parenting.”

Keith rolls his eyes at that, especially when Shiro starts kissing his forehead, his cheek, his neck -- “Okay, okay. Just, take me bed already.”

And so Shiro does, gladly .

---

Moving to Earth is easy. Being Paladins of Voltron and best friends with literally the Queen of the Universe had its perks. They go down to the house that Allura had gotten for them, and Hunk and Lance are already there moving their furniture.

“We didn’t need to be bought or brought furniture...” Keith murmurs, but mostly because he’s amazed, not actually ungrateful.

Lance rolls his eyes at that, “Listen, me and Hunk wanted you to be settled in as soon as possible so we can take you to get some good Earth food. I mean, I know you miss Hunk’s cooking, Shiro. And I know Keith is tired of cooking.”

Keith doesn’t say anything as a rebuttal, for once.

Hunk pops out from behind Lance, holding a small white dresser. “Also, Allura told us you’re trying to adopt.”

Shiro laughs and Keith sighs. Keith turns to Shiro and holds his head in his hands, “Look, she was very excited when I told her. I think this is why the yard is big, and why we have all this extra furniture. I mean, we haven’t even met with the case worker yet.”

Lance places a hand on Keith’s shoulder as he moves closer to him, “Listen man, as Voltron’s power couple, you have an obligation to get a child who’s at least young enough to think of us as cool.”

Hunk is again, the only one moving furniture, when he chimes in, “What Lance is trying to say, is that our nieces and nephews think of us as lame now.”

Lance takes his hands off of Keith and stands with his hands on his hips. “We’re the Paladins of Voltron! It’s insane! They’re teenagers and suddenly it’s like, Uncle Laaaaaaance nobody cares . Like, who does that?”

Hunk hangs his head down solemnly, putting a hand on Lance’s shoulder once he sets down a box of kitchen utensils for them, “It’s alright, buddy. I’m lame, too.”

Lance sighs again, ignoring the fact that Shiro and Keith have begun moving boxes and furniture themselves. “You know who isn’t lame to them, Hunk? Those two. I swear my niece thinks Shiro is the greatest, and I mean, he’s great , but I’m her uncle.”

Keith places a box next to Lance and cocks a brow, “Lance, I can think of several reasons why your niece thinks Shiro is... the greatest.”

Hunk nods, “He has muscles, dude.”

“He’s super hot,” Keith adds with a shrug.

Shiro hides the red forming on his cheeks with a box, but is grinning like an idiot behind it. Moving to Earth is easy when you have friends like these, and maybe raising a child could be easy, too.

---

Adopting a child is mostly a lot of paperwork. Their case worker said that since the Galra invasion, there were a lot more kids, but it still usually took some time to get a match. Shiro did all the paperwork, and Keith is the one that glares at everyone when everybody stares at them too hard in their parenting workshops. Shiro is the one who anxiety cleans their house during their home study, while Keith is the one who anxiety bakes sugar cookies. Shiro didn't even know Keith baked, but he's still reeling from when he learned Keith could cook almost a decade ago.

The months feel like blurs when one is as old as they are now. They both settle into their new jobs. They both pretend they aren’t checking their missed call logs every day, just in case. Now they are here, at their new daughter’s last foster home.

The case worker had said to them. “She doesn’t have any family to go back to. It’s like both of her parents just disappeared from the face of the Earth.”

Shiro has to force himself not to reach out to Keith, who’s eyes went wide and his jaw went slack. He remembers Keith telling him one night at the Garrison, that his parents didn’t die, they just disappeared. He has navigated Keith’s abandonment issues throughout their whole marriage, shoved down the guilt about leaving him time and time again.

Keith’s voice is soft and wavering when he asks the question, “How old is she?”

“She’s 10-years-old, Mr. Shirogane.”

Shiro watches Keith’s eyes darken, then brighten at the same time. He knows that’s the age Keith’s parents also disappeared from him, and he also knows that Keith won’t waver from this. He wouldn’t have wavered from any other call for a child, but this was more than enough. His eyes grow hard and determined and Shiro falls in love with him again, every time he does that. “We’ll do it. Of course we’ll do it.”

Social workers and case workers are trained to be supportive, but also trained to have a poker face. Shiro hopes that the case worker is hiding a smile as she goes over their new daughter’s file with them. Keith’s leg won’t stop shaking from how fast he’s tapping the floor, Shiro just holds one hand on his knee, hoping it calms down his jitters.   

Keith takes one long breath, “We are doing it,” he eventually repeats, full of conviction .

Shiro is jealous that he could never be as sure as Keith. He drums his hands against the wheel of their car and asks for the third time that hour, “What if she hates me?”

Keith doesn’t roll his eyes at him when he’s like this. Instead he stares, eyes just as hard and determined as they were in that office. “Nobody hates you. You’re Takashi Shirogane, my husband.”

It’s funny how Keith knew that the most important thing to Shiro was being his husband.

Shiro gets out of the car then, waits for Keith before walking up to the front door, “What are we going to do first?”

Keith thinks to himself, “I think we give her that choice. We're only here for a first visit. I think going to eat is a safe bet. It lets her talk. It won't be too nerve wracking or overwhelming.” Keith says that and Shiro knows that he didn’t make a choice just for their daughter.

Shiro nods, “We let her pick then.”

“Right.”

They don’t notice the girl come out of the front door. Though Keith caught her peeking through the window earlier. Her foster parent, a girl with tired eyes and light brown hair in a bun, pauses at the door frame. Her eyes widen when she notices them, while their daughter perks up considerably as she looks up at them.

“Oh hello,” Keith tugs Shiro’s hand towards the porch, “You must be Veronica.”

“Roni!” Their daughter exclaims, scrunching her nose up as Keith says the name Veronica. “Call me Roni. I don’t care how important you two are.”

Her foster mom laughs uneasily, “I’m sorry, I tried explaining to her how important this was. You can just call me Sam.”

Keith’s eyes harden at that and Shiro tries not to sink to the ground. Instead he focuses on Roni, who’s currently gripping her backpack like a lifeline. It’s a plain clear backpack and Shiro can see a notebook, pencils, a pack of colored pencils, and a sketchbook. Their daughter has dark brown eyes and black hair that frizzes almost everywhere in the humidity. She is also holding up an old smartphone and taking a picture of them.

Keith breaks the silence, “She’s fine. Roni can have preferences, Samantha.”

Sam stutters for a moment, before nodding her head, “Anyway it’s an honor to have the paladins of Voltron--”

“Please, don’t do that,” Shiro sighs before giving her a soft smile. Sam looks bewildered by the request, blinking rapidly and trying to stutter out some kind of apology. Shiro holds one hand up and continues, “We’re just like everyone else. We’re excited to be here.”

“I get two Dads,” Roni whispers to herself too loudly. Shiro chuckles, and it makes Roni brighten up immediately. She approaches them both cautiously, tugging at Keith’s pant leg. “Is it okay if I call you by your names? I already know them. Since you’re both, like, famous .”

Shiro bites back the disappointment he feels at the thought of not being called Dad or any other variation and smiles, “Of course you can, sweetheart.”

Roni lets out a loud snort, “ Yeaaaaaaaah , don’t call me that.”

Keith laughs way too loudly, and Shiro doesn’t know whether to smile or be disappointed in himself.

Either way, it’s the start of something.

---

Getting to know Roni is a daunting task. Sacrificing whole weekends and realizing this is your life now, needless to say, it’s humbling .

Shiro learns several things about the 10 year old: she’s fierce, always ready to throw herself head first into anything. She also has a lot of opinions and in general didn’t seem to care about what she said to either of them. It’s refreshing, since most people in their town are always unsure what to do or say around them.

When Sam explains that she’s had discipline issues in the past, Shiro bristles, while Keith just smiles sweetly, too politely. Roni’s also very solitary like them both, which is a relief. While she draws, Shiro colors next to her and she comments how boring his colors are. When she reads, Keith buys the same book and reads with her. When they do house visits, the only time all of them yelled and screamed at each other was when they played Mario Kart. 

Finally, according to Roni, Shiro’s “boring”. Plus, he’s “old” and didn’t look like he did in the posters anymore. The night after Mario Kart, Shiro offered to make her some breakfast the next morning. Roni immediately started laughing, “I’ll just wait for Keith to wake up.”

He didn’t blame her for that actually. Still, Shiro can’t help but notice how much Keith and her clicked. It makes Shiro rack his brain for what he’s doing wrong. He thinks he’s being supportive. He’s used to guiding people in the right direction, being a mentor and a leader is now something that’s stuck with him for life. He thought that being a father would come easier to him.

Keith shrugs when Shiro voices his concerns the night before they bring her home, “She’ll warm up to you.”

“You think so?”

Keith lets out a small smile and reaches for Shiro’s hand, “I mean, I warmed up to you.” He even winks then which makes Shiro’s ears turn pink.

Shiro squeezes his hand back, “Keith, you make everything look so effortless, even child rearing.”

Keith rolls his eyes, “It’s just luck that we found the only kid in the universe that finds me cooler than you.”

When Keith stands up to grab his keys, Shiro tenses. Even though they’ve visited Roni plenty of times, it's different now that she's coming home with them. He bites his lip and Keith leans up towards him, “Remember when we first met? I didn't warm up to you until I realized how good you were. I thought you were just like everyone else.”

“If I'm not like everyone else--”

Keith puts a finger on Shiro's mouth and shakes his head, “You're better than them. Especially when you're trying this hard. Even when you don't believe my compliments and even, if I have to save you over and over.” Keith smiles, but Shiro sees the determination in his eyes. It’s a reminder that ultimately, their devotion to each other is what saved the universe many years ago.

It’s how they found a home in each other.

And now, they were about to bring their daughter home.

“I believe you.” Shiro whispers before pulling his husband in for a kiss. They stand by the door frame for awhile, Shiro's hands cradling Keith’s face. Kissing Keith makes Shiro notice how nervous his husband is. It's not just about raising a kid, it's another layer in their relationship. He realizes that scares Keith more than an idea of a kid. Keith has been that kid before, he could guess and work around those mistakes and difficulties.

Keith hasn't had a family though, not for a very long time. Shiro knows that as much as Keith wants this, he also knows he's very afraid.

If anything could hinder them, it definitely wasn’t fear, not when they’re together like this.

---

The rest of the month goes pretty smoothly, despite such an overwhelming transition. Shiro tries not to be upset that Roni listens to Keith’s stories about Voltron like he hung the sky. One, he knew that Keith is better at retelling Voltron anyway. Two, he also looks at Keith like he hung the sky, so it’s nice to see someone on the same page as him.

They try to spend family time together every weekend. The first weekend, they tried the amusement park. Only Shiro figured out that Keith and him had very different opinions on roller coasters that nearly caused their 10th huge fight since marriage. They eventually left because Roni pointed out that she was too short to ride most of the rides anyway.

Now, every weekend they break out every game system they have and eat a lot of pizza. It turns out that they all like to spend quality time the same way: not outside, not interacting with others, and with Keith kicking all of their asses at every respective video game. Eventually they would decompress with a movie, all scrunched together on their tiny couch that neither of them wanted to replace yet.

Even after every weekend, Roni still doesn’t pay much attention to Shiro. All the while, she clings to Keith.

For instance, when Keith comes home from work, Roni rushes towards him to talk about her day before Shiro gets the chance. She shows him all her drawings, babbles about school, and only gives Shiro sarcastic remarks. Shiro feels like he’s being avoided, even though he’s the one that takes her to and from school. He’s the one that she spends all her time with. But every time Shiro attempts to reach out, she just rolls her eyes, “You’re hovering , Shiro.”

After dropping off Roni off to school, he spent two hours looking through the easiest cookie recipes. It makes him want to stick to mug brownies, but he doesn’t want to replace the microwave again after his last experiment.

When he gets the call from school he’s wandering in the grocery store with all the other bored parents on a Tuesday at 11am.

“Am I speaking to Mr. Shirogane?” The woman on the other line sounds like she was struggling to keep her composure reading the contact information. Most people were like that, wondering why paladins of Voltron picked an unremarkable suburb to live in.

Shiro puts on his best professional voice possible but can’t help the panic bubbling in his throat, “This is he. Do I need to call my husband? Is Roni okay? Oh I knew she wasn’t faking the fever--”

The woman on the other line hesitates, before clearing her throat and attempting to speak louder, “Mr. Shirogane, Veronica has been suspended. We...need you to pick her up, and we need to go through the details with you.”  

Oh, he saw why she was flustered. It must be hard telling the savior of the universe that their daughter was in trouble. Shiro immediately reverts back to being calm though, putting away the cookie dough he just grabbed off the shelf, “Can you tell me what she did?”

---

Roni is silent when Shiro goes to pick her up from the office, and he isn’t sure what to do when he sees her. He knows some parents are intimidating, he knows others probably ask how they’re doing, but Shiro doesn’t know what to say to her. Roni doesn’t even look at him, or make a single retort as the administration tells him what happened.

Apparently she had gotten in a fight with a kid and wouldn’t say why. They had been questioning them both all day, they even had the counselor try to speak to her, but Roni didn’t speak. She also didn’t cry or yell. That’s when they decided to call Shiro.

Shiro glances at his daughter. She’s slumped in her chair, tapping both of her feet either out of boredom or anxiety, but she doesn’t even look angry. If anything, she looks tired, just the same as this morning.

He frowns as the principal speaks to him, “We think suspension is best in this case, give her a break from the classroom. Maybe she can tell you what went on.”

Shiro doesn’t say much when they went into the car, he does remind her before driving off, “When you’re ready to talk we can.” He sees a flicker of surprise across her features, and he breathes a sigh of relief. He must have said the right thing for once.

Roni’s quiet until they get to the driveway of their home. "I punched a kid today," she announces, as if Shiro wasn’t there with her in the principal’s office.

"They told me."

"... Do you care about why?” She snaps. She reminds him of Keith in that split instant. It’s something that always manages to hurt, so he doesn’t even try to conceal his frown. She doesn’t scream exactly, just spits out questions coldly and thoughtlessly. “Do you care at all? Are you going to ground me?"

"Roni, of course I care.” He waits for her in case she wants to say anything else, but she just balls her hands into fists and curls up in her chair. He tries to make the next part stern, but clearly fails, “...you are probably going to grounded though.”

She snaps her head up and yells, "You don't understand!"

Shiro uses a voice he hasn’t used in a long time. It’s a voice he used when he first met Keith when he broke into the simulator, then a week later he stole his hoverbike. It’s also a voice he used when he was the leader of Voltron; when they had to trust Lotor, when he had to convince Keith he was an integral part of this mission, and when they couldn’t believe they were winning. “I’m not arguing with you. Regardless of your reasons Roni--”

"They called me a liar!” She shrieks, kicking her legs down below the chair and takes a deep breath, trying to calm herself down. Shiro makes a mental note that at least she’s already better than Keith at controlling her emotions, “When I told him that you and Keith were my parents, Timothy made all of the 4th grade call me a liar! He didn’t believe me, none of them believed me! Why would anyone adopt you, anyway ?”

Her breathing is heavy and fast, and he can tell she’s trying not to cry. Shiro unbuckles his seat belt, but hesitates since he doesn’t know if she even wants him to hold her. Finally she hides her face in her knees, mumbling, “That’s what he said to me."

Shiro grips the knuckles on the steering wheel tightly, he wonders if his knuckles are white underneath the gloves. He doesn’t want to play the role he’s used to, the role that she needs. Shiro wants to drive the car around and punch this kid in the face . He wants to make some kind of public service announcement to the world: it’s not outlandish that all you want after a war is a family tucked away somewhere quiet.

"...Shiro?" Her voice is small and Shiro deflates, because she might be thinking that he is mad at her.

That’s when he becomes what she needs, all with the magic of a gentle smile, "Roni, do you know who you remind me of?"

She rolls her eyes and crosses her arms, becoming defensive again, "Are you not good at yelling so you do this instead?"

"Keith.” Roni doesn’t seem shocked, but she does fidget slightly in her chair and look at him--it’s progress. He continues, “The way your foster mom talked about you is the way everybody talked about Keith when I met him. The way those kids single you out like that…it's the way Keith used to be."

He tries not to sound too wistful, especially when Roni scrunches up her nose and stares him down, "Then why did you talk to him?"

Shiro tilts his head, "What's wrong with me talking to him?"

She huffs, "You're no fun. My teachers always love you. You always do the paperwork and the hard stuff, Keith told me that. You're a big dork, but somehow super popular for it."

He shrugs, "It's part of being a military brat, I've always followed the rules.” He almost leaves it at that, but Roni has retreated back to crossing her arms and avoiding his gaze. Shiro clears his throat then, “I...don't always though. I didn't believe Keith was a lost cause or a trouble maker."

For awhile Roni is quiet, she unbuckles her seat belt so she could turn to face him, "What did you think?"

Shiro smiles and ruffles her hair, she’s frowning at him, "I've always thought that he was amazing, just like you're amazing."

She smiles wide then, but glances away. Although Shiro can hear she’s close to laughing and rolling her eyes again, "I'm not a pilot or a savior of the universe like you guys though."

"Yeah, but you're smart, talented, and punched a boy in the face and he's the one worst off.” The laugh comes out from his daughter then and he wants to hug her, but instead he leans over the seat of his car and places a hand on her shoulder. “Listen, the reason me and Keith did what we did is because people like you are worth saving. You're worth the whole universe. We're family now, and we always will be. Anyone who wants to come in between that has to go through me and Keith, and we both know who's scarier, but a lot of other people don't.”

Shiro brushes some of hair out of her eyes and huffs. He wants to make sure that she believes what he says next, “Don't listen to what those other kids think or believe, at the end of the day, you know the truth. Besides, we could always invite them over for some snacks.”

Roni’s face twists up at that, she opens her mouth to surely say something about how she didn't need friends before Shiro whispers, “I'll let you beat me at Mario Kart.”

She goes quiet again.

In fact, Shiro think he lost her because she moves to get out of the car to go inside. As he follows after her to unlock the door, she whips her head back around, “You have to promise that Keith will make the snacks.”

---

When Roni gets inside, Shiro tries to avoid the topic of lunch as much as possible, but he finds Roni with some pancake mix when he gets out of the bathroom.

He sneaks up behind her as she struggles to reach for the oven dial. Shiro clears his throat and tries to do an authoritative parent stance with his arms at his hips, “...you're not using an oven, at least not when I can't watch you.”

She huffs then, attempting to hold the pancake mix above her as high as she could, “What do you know about making pancakes? You can barely cook eggs.”

He snatches the box from her while she pouts and looks at the back of the box, and hums once, “Well we have to mix the pancake mix first.” Roni reaches down to grab a mixing bowl, some milk, and eggs before Shiro motions to the blender instead. “We could mix it faster in there.”

Roni tilts her head first, skeptically, before cracking an egg over the blender and grinning. “You're so smart, Shiro.”

He beams as they pour the rest of the mixture into the blender. He clears his throat and looks at the buttons below the blender, “Which one is the highest one you think?”

His daughter leans over the counter and presses a button without thinking about it, and well, Shiro didn’t bother to cover the blender. He didn’t even know he had to. He hasn’t made a protein shake in years, but here he is, just watching as pancake mix stains his entire kitchen. He doesn’t think to turn it off during those precious seconds.

It’s not until he hears Roni laughing at him that he turns the blender off, eyes wide and trying his hardest not to glare at her.

“Keith is going to kill you ,” she cackles. Shiro groans, only to spend 30 minutes too long to try and get Roni to help him clean. By the time he starts cleaning, the pancake mix is dry enough that it’s a struggle to get off. It’s to no avail though, no matter how good at cleaning Shiro is, he can’t hide the fact that they suddenly need a new blender.

Keith doesn’t say anything as Shiro explains the whole day to him, sheepishly rubbing his head and averting his eyes away from him. Keith doesn’t frown, doesn’t glare, doesn’t even cross his arms. He just watches them both with almost empty eyes, before he finally sighs and says in a flat voice, “I trusted both of you.”

Shiro and Roni are both quiet for awhile, they glance at each other then back at Keith, and Shiro opens his mouth to say something but Roni rushes to Keith’s side, giving him an awkward side hug. “...how about me and my Dads just...we hug it out, call it a day?”

Shiro gasps, his eyes a bit misty as he whispers, “You called us Dads.”

Keith meanwhile is trying his hardest not to smile. Eventually, he ends up smiling anyway, if only to lessen the blow of his next sentence, “You’re still grounded.”

Roni moves from Keith’s side and latches onto Shiro’s, “I like this Dad better.”

Shiro looks down at her and ruffles her hair, “That’s great, but...yeah, you’re still grounded. No video games or TV for the week, you can make some new drawings for me and your Dad, you know Keith has them all hanging by his desk--”

Their daughter has already stomped away to her room, and both of them cringe just slightly when she slams the door. Keith runs a hand through his hair, “You tried babe.”

Shiro shrugs before saying this for the first time and means it, “We’ll get it. We can’t always be the good guys.”

Keith nods, “She’ll get over it. She’ll probably tell me everything over dinner again like always.” Shiro nods back and goes to the fridge to suggest things for them to eat, but Keith is already latched onto his back, nuzzling his face into Shiro. He breathes him in with a sigh and Shiro wants to melt into the ground, Keith sounding so content always did things to him. “You did good today,” Keith mumbles, still nuzzling his back.

Shiro closes the fridge door and turns himself around to kiss his husband. He places a thumb to his cheeks before pulling away, “You’re getting your freckles back, it’s like when we got married all over again.”

Keith raises a brow and slaps his hand away before Shiro can cup his face anymore, “You’re ignoring my praise.”

“I just think I could do better, that’s all.”

Keith leans up and attempts to give him a kiss on his nose, but falls back on his tiptoes too quickly for it to be more than a light peck, “You’re gonna be better at this than me. You’re the one that stays at home with her after school. You’re the one that has to be the bad guy. You gotta reel me in when I try to be the fun parent… Or the angry parent that’s driven away all the other parents on the block.”

Shiro laughs, “You’ve already done the latter. I have to visit all of them individually now to be a good neighbor.”

Again , you’re good at this. We have different strengths.” Keith leans in and gives him another kiss, this one lingers longer than the last one. Keith’s breath smells like the gum he finished chewing on the way home. Meanwhile, Shiro can tell he’s trying not to laugh that Shiro just tastes like ruined pancake mix, or at the fact that he actually ate some of it. “We’re going to get it.”

Shiro stares at his husband then. Keith’s eyes are wide and reassuring, the kind of looks and moments reserved for him only. He sees that Keith has the smallest smile on his face, as if he’s still dazed every time they kiss, every time they both remember this is their life.

Shiro brushes the hairs off of Keith’s forehead to give him a kiss, “I believe you, I love you.”

Keith mumbles his I love you too and squeezes his hand before he pulls away to make him dinner. Shiro asks Keith about his day at work, which Keith just scrunches his nose and mentions his boss ( Lance , only because he’s technically been there longer than him) just made him do more paperwork again. When the smell of Keith’s cooking reaches Roni’s room, that’s when she comes out, sitting next to Shiro and putting a book in his hands. “You can both read to me since I don’t have TV. Maybe I’ll get so bored, I’ll fall asleep faster.”

Keith doesn’t bother to contain his small laugh, but Shiro takes this in stride and reminisces, “I used to do the Voltron show you know, I make a pretty good protagonist.”

It’s one of the only times he’s gotten Roni to laugh, Shiro tries not to take too much pride in that. “Well, since you’re reading to me, maybe you can keep up with me and Keith enough to know what we’re talking about with these books.”

“If I can’t keep up with you then, I have serious problems,” he mutters.

The rest of the night goes as smoothly as it can, they eat dinner, resist playing Mario Kart for their daughter’s sake, and read a single chapter before Roni gets bored of them.

When Shiro and Keith turn on the TV and curl up for the night, he’s already falling asleep hours before he knows Keith will. Keith runs some fingers through his hair, “How did I become the luckiest person in the universe?”

Shiro mumbles back before he falls asleep, “I think we deserve it.”