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In His Hands Smiling LOVE Held My Burning Heart

Chapter Text

It turns out that even if you go through hell and back, become a hero known across the stars, and save the universe, you can still in fact, be a huge fucking idiot.  

Shiro seemed to be learning that lesson a lot lately.  

This last week alone was evidence of that.  

Let’s start at day one: Shiro had come back from the weekend with a massive hangover- he was never going out drinking with the rest of the paladins and Matt ever again- and made it halfway to the bridge of the Atlas before realizing he wasn’t even in uniform.  

He couldn’t even say he was at least in casual clothes to save his dignity because he was walking around in a t-shirt that had the words “Earth’s Mightiest Defender” scribbled on it with a poorly drawn picture of what he assumed was the Atlas transformed. Matt was never the world’s greatest artist, and since it was his handwriting on the shirt, it was safe to assume that this was his doing. Also, the word “Mightiest” had been crossed out and replaced with red lettering that said “HOTTEST” in Pidge’s handwriting.  

He had sort of wondered about the funny looks people were giving him, but hungover Shiro was never one to question things too hard. Figures something this embarrassing would happen to him. Nothing good came from the Holts getting drunk together- a fact he learned the hard way, the very night Pidge turned twenty-one.  

To top it all off, he’d only noticed because Veronica had crossed his path and promptly burst into poorly concealed laughter as soon as she set eyes on him.  

So, Monday hadn’t been the height of his prestigious career.  

Then on Tuesday, he’d gotten a frantic call from an unknown man that begged him to help save his son. Shiro had kindly and calmly given out instructions for CPR while he got Pidge to call 911. It should have been a proud moment to help someone in need, but then when the paramedics got there, they told Pidge they were going to have to get someone to do a psych evaluation on the man, who had apparently been trying to resuscitate a watermelon.  

It wasn’t really Shiro’s fault, but it made great teasing material for his friends.  

Wednesday had passed without preamble, but Thursday- now that was a different story.  

Thursday he almost set his apartment on fire because he was trying to make dinner while simultaneously having a conversation over the phone with Matt. He really should have known better- any conversation with Matt required full attention to deal with…. Well, Matt.  

Long story short, the cupboards above his stove had scorch marks on them now.  

Hunk had given him some new sort of alien cuisine to try out on Friday, and it tasted fine, but twenty minutes later he vomited it all over the Atlas’ controls. If that wasn’t bad enough, it turned out he was allergic to one of the ingredients, so he broke out in hives. Plus, he was so out of it he’d been inconsolably crying and trying to apologize to Atlas for making a mess and that it “was always pretty, no matter what anyone else said”.  

Also, did he mention that it was his last day as Captain? Because it was, and he was never going to live it down.  

Saturday night found him back out at the bars with everyone and then some. They were planning on going out Friday night to celebrate Shiro’s retirement, but what with the whole puking incident, they all thought it better to wait another day. And despite his earlier declaration that he wouldn’t go out drinking with Matt and Pidge again, he had made an exception.  

It was a terrible choice.  

They drunkenly thought it would be funny to steal a cop car, and somehow Shiro and the rest of the paladins had gotten arrested alongside them.  

Sunday he wasn’t even going to talk about, as he was doing his utmost best to burn it from his memory.  

This week was going a lot better though. He was already halfway through it and had mercifully avoided doing anything colossally stupid.  

He had been hesitant about taking an early retirement- he was barely in his thirties, and with his illness in his younger years he’d always been in a rush to do as much as possible in the short time he had left. But he was tired of fighting, and although they were in a far more peaceful time, that didn’t mean there weren’t battles to be had, or giant space monsters with no concept of right or wrong to stop them from wanting to smush a ship in its path.  

He’d toiled for months over the idea, guilt for even considering it nearly overtaking him until Keith came to visit Earth and sat him down for a talk after taking one look at him. Keith, never one to mince words, had promptly told him that he was being ridiculous, and that if anyone deserved an early retirement, it would be Shiro. He reassured him that he wasn’t being lazy or “abusing his privileges as a former paladin of Voltron”- he had earned his pension, and the whole universe knew it. He had died for fuck’s sake. Keith’s words, not his.  

And since Keith had never been one to do things by halves, he had been sure to let everyone else know what Shiro was thinking and make sure that they all reaffirmed his earlier statements.  

Naturally, they had all been nothing but supportive, so he stopped worrying about it after about two months of non-stop encouragement from them. 

He was actually enjoying his time off, now that it was finally here. It felt like his whole life he’d been running towards the finish line, and he only recently learned there was no time limit, or even a race involved. Even when he’d died and been absorbed into Black’s consciousness, there had always been that faint feeling that he was waiting for something to sweep him along.  

Now, he finally got a chance to just breathe and enjoy life as it was.  

Still, it wasn’t in his nature to stay inactive for too long, so he agreed to visit the Garrison and spar with Matt that day.  

As it turned out, Matt had to opt out early on the sparring because one of the cadets in his branch had somehow caused a power outage that shut down half the Garrison by accident. Pidge was out making recruitment trips to schools for the day, so Matt was the one who had to take charge of the situation.  

Shiro was about to leave to find something else to do- maybe see if anyone needed help with anything- when he turned around and nearly walked into someone.  

“Oh, excuse me,” he apologized, taking a step back.  

He got a warm chuckle in reply and a friendly hand clasped on his non-prosthetic shoulder. “Don’t worry about it, Shirogane. But what are you doing back here? I thought you were leaving us all in the dust,” the newcomer teased.  

He looked up- and wasn’t that a novel surprise- and laughed. “Curtis! I thought after five years you’d know I could never stay away from this place for too long. Also, haven’t I told you before to just call me Shiro?”  

Curtis had worked on the bridge of the Atlas with him for years, and also had the honor of being one of Lance’s cousins. Well, second cousin once removed or something like that, but close enough. Honestly, they just referred to each other as cousins anyways.  

Oh, and did he mention that he’d had a massive crush on the man for at least three of the years they’d known each other? Because he definitely did.  

How could he not? Curtis was kind, funny, intelligent, and generally pleasant to be around. Not to mention, he wasn’t bad on the eyes either. If you looked up tall, dark, and handsome in the dictionary, his picture would be there beside the definition. That was not an exaggeration either. Matt had taken the liberty of stealing Shiro’s dictionary once and gluing a picture of Curtis in there just to make that joke.  

It wasn’t Shiro’s fault that Curtis was drop dead gorgeous. He couldn’t help falling for him.  

Besides, he had a thing for tall guys. Not that he’d ever admit it, but he totally did. And Curtis was even taller than he was, which was a rare find for non-alien people in Shiro’s company.  

So in short, he had it bad for him.  

“Aww, but Shirogane has such a nice way of rolling off the tongue,” he joked, slapping him lightly on the arm. “And you didn’t really answer my question,” he needled.  

Shiro huffed in mock annoyance, doing his best to ignore the way that first sentence had made his stomach flutter. “Well, if you must know, I came to spar with Matt. But there were some…. technical difficulties with the cadets, so he left to go take care of it.” 

“What a shame,” Curtis said, “But if you’re still up for a little sparring, I’d be happy to take his place.” There was a glint of challenge in his eyes that made Shiro grin wider.  

“You’re on.” 

Twenty minutes later found them still grappling on the training mats, sweaty and out of breath. Shiro had won round, and Cutis another- this was their third round for the tie-breaker.  

Shiro almost thought he had it in the bag for one second, but then the lights flickered out and Curtis rolled them so he was pinning the former paladin to the mat with his arm behind his back.  

“Getting distracted after your retirement, Shirogane?” 

Shiro wheezed out a short laugh. “What can I say? I’m an old man- I went gray years ago.” 

Curtis chuckled above him, leaning down to speak lowly in his ear. “Yield.” 

Shiro was practically ready to melt into a puddle after hearing that husky voice, so he did the only logical thing: he yielded. It was only slightly disappointing when the warm weight on his back lifted. And by slightly, he meant massively disappointing, but at least now his arm was released.  

He rolled himself over so he could lie on his back and try to catch his breath, only to find that although Curtis was no longer pinning him down, he was still hovering over him.  

His breath caught in his throat.  

The other’s blue eyes were nearly glowing from the low light coming from Shiro’s prosthetic.  

“Kind of dark in here, huh?” Curtis said softly.  

Shiro swallowed thickly. “Um, yeah. Maybe…. Maybe Matt’s having more trouble with getting the power back on,” he suggested.  

He thought he saw Curtis smile ever so slightly. “Probably. I can never tell with the Holts. They’re just on a whole different level. Can’t say I mind much, though.” It felt like his eyes were burning straight through Shiro.  

“Yeah, me neither,” he breathed out.  

His eyes started to drift shut as Curtis drew nearer, closing the distance between them.  

Then the lights flared on, and alarms started blaring, effectively giving Shiro a heart attack.  

The two of them leapt up, looking towards the exits and mentally preparing themselves for the worst until the alarms shut off suddenly, and Matt’s voice crackled on over the intercoms.  

“Sorry! Sorry! No need to panic, everyone, we were just recalibrating the systems to make sure they weren’t damaged in our little…incident, but fear not! Everything is fine, and we’ve got power back in all sectors, so go about your business! Once again, we apologize for the inconvenience!” he said before turning off the mic.  

They relaxed at that, grateful that they didn’t have to worry about fighting anyone else.  

Shiro snuck a glance at Curtis from the corner of his eye. The taller man turned to smile disarmingly at him. “Well, I guess I should get back to work. It was nice seeing you, Shiro,” he said, bending down to grab the uniform he’d discarded at the start of their sparring and waving as he walked off.  

“Right. You too,” he replied, pretending like the flush on his cheeks was from their spar and not what happened afterwards.  

It wasn’t until later that he realized Curtis had called him Shiro and not Shirogane.  

Chapter Text

Like many retired people, Shiro decided he needed to take up more hobbies.   

Before retiring, he would have politely agreed if someone else told him he’d need to find more hobbies while mentally disagreeing and saying he had plenty of hobbies, thank you very much. It turned out that while his normal hobbies had been perfectly fine to pass the time while he was captain of the Atlas, they left a little something to be desired when he was faced with significantly more free time.   

For example, jogging was nice way for him to relax and get exercise, but he certainly couldn’t do it  all day . Likewise, he couldn’t sit in bed and spend a full day watching space operas. And while he found cooking interesting, he wasn’t very talented at it. In fact, he was barely tolerable at it.   

And it wasn’t like he didn’t enjoy having more free time. He just… didn’t know what to do with it.   

So, he decided it was prime time to learn new things.   

He learned how to crochet for starters, and while it was a simple process, it did keep his hands busy. All he could really make at this point was scarves, but at least it was  something . He was going to make one for every member of the old Voltron team. And also some other people as well- like Coran, and Matt, and some of their coalition buddies. Veronica probably. Other people….  

He really ought to learn how to make something more complicated, but he had plenty of time for that later.   

So crocheting was nice. And while it yielded results, it was all perfectly manageable. Unlike one of his other new hobbies.   

Shiro may not have much skill with cooking, but he thought gardening would go better for him. After all, it wasn’t nearly as easy to set something on fire while you were gardening versus when you were cooking. He was hardly going to burn his crops just because he turned his attention away for two minutes to explain to Matt that injecting Redbull straight into your veins was not at all a medically advised endeavor just because he wanted to know if it would give him super speed.  

He’d asked Lance for advice on what was a good thing to plant for beginners, and the former paladin had promptly gifted him with zucchini seeds. He told him that they were very easy to grow and care for, and that it would be fairly difficult for him to fuck them up, and told him to just start there and see how he liked it.   

It was very generous of him, and Shiro made sure to thank him profusely for it.   

And true to Lance’s word, they had been exceptionally easy for Shiro to handle. So really, it shouldn’t have been a problem at all. But of course there was a problem, because what was Shiro’s life without those?  

The issue was that Lance had forgotten to mention one very tiny detail to Shiro, who had never seen zucchini growing off the vine in his entire life. He had no idea how many  zucchinis  one plant would yield. He thought maybe it would give him two or three per plant. So he planted five of them.   

And now that they were ready to harvest, he discovered that they yielded significantly more than he initially expected. At least five times as much. He was positively  swimming  in zucchini at home. It was like every time he stepped outside there were a hundred more of them for him to pick.   

He was going to die young  again  because these things were absolutely going to be the death of him.   

He lamented his problem to Veronica over the phone, and she laughed so hard that he was pretty sure he heard her fall out of her chair. She broke into some rapid fire Spanish  afterwards , so she was probably telling someone else about all of his embarrassing life choices.   

“You’re not going to laugh at me all  day  are you?” he whined. “I’m new at this! And please,  please  tell me you’re going to take some off my hands. There’s really only so much I can do with my limited cooking  abilities  in the first place- and I’ve already tried to make zucchini bread eight times with no success.”  

She guffawed loudly into the phone. “Ay, Dios mío, Shiro- how have you survived on your own this long? Don’t worry, I’m sending someone over to help. If you ask nicely, maybe he’ll even teach you how to make zucchini bread without destroying your oven.” And with that, she hung up.   

He sighed and resigned himself to endless teasing in the future. He wondered which unfortunate cadet she was sending to help him. Hopefully not someone that practically worshipped the ground he walked on. That would be so awkward.   

He had some time to kill in the meantime though, and he didn’t want to go outside and face his zucchini invasion just yet, so he pulled out his laptop and started searching for more zucchini recipes. One of them would have to work for him eventually, right?  

He was reading about zucchini fries when a knock sounded on his door.   

Time to find out who Veronica had wrangled into cleaning up after his mess. Maybe it was one of her younger cousins- Valerie had recently joined the garrison, and she liked him well enough that she might agree to visit him. She’d probably scold him for his lack of gardening knowledge, but that was fine.   

It came as quite a shock to him when he opened his door and found a very familiar, but very different cousin of Veronica’s in front of him.   

“Hey, Shirogane. Heard you have a zucchini problem,” Curtis smirked.   

Shiro promptly wished he would burst into flames so he could have an excuse for how hot his cheeks suddenly felt.   

“Um….” he replied intelligently. Was it too late to move  off-world  into the far reaches of the galaxy where no one would ever find him? He’d have to look into it. If he didn’t die of embarrassment first.   

Curtis smiled sunnily down at him, and he swore the last of his brain cells died right then. “May I come in?”  

“Wh- oh! Yes, of course, let me just, um, maybe I should- wait, that doesn’t make sense- I mean yes!” he stuttered out. He didn’t think it was possible for him to blush any harder. Curse Veronica for putting him into this situation. And curse zucchini too while he was at it.   

At least Curtis didn’t seem put off by it. But then again, Curtis had worked with him for years and seen him in plenty of undignified situations. His last day as captain of the Atlas, for example.   

Not that he wanted to think about that right now. No sir, he was not going to think about that ordeal.   

They made their way out back to look at Shiro’s garden, and Curtis let out a slow whistle at the sight. “Well, at least we know your gardening skills are better than your cooking.” He flashed him a wicked smile and a quick wink.   

Shiro punched him lightly in the arm. “Hey! My cooking’s not that bad!”   

A blatant lie. His cooking was terrible, and Curtis knew it. He’d heard far too much about Shiro’s disastrous cooking attempts from Lance and Veronica to believe that.   

He laughed at the mock outrage on Shiro’s face, slapping a friendly hand on his back. “Yeah, I’m sure those eight times you tried to make zucchini bread were just a coincidence.”  

“I shouldn’t have told her about that,” he grumbled to himself, although he couldn’t help but smile at the other’s infectious laughter.   

There was a sparkle in his eyes as he smiled down at Shiro, and the midday sun lit him up from behind, so he looked like he was practically glowing. It made Shiro’s heart flutter in his chest, and he briefly forgot that breathing was a necessity if he didn’t want to end up in his grave.   

“Well, our family is pretty self-sustained from the farm vegetable wise, but I’m sure there are plenty of people back at the garrison who would be glad to take some of these off your hands. Especially when they hear they were grown by the great Takashi Shirogane,” he said, winking again.   

Shiro groaned loudly at that. While he was glad to get rid of them, he certainly didn’t need any reminders about the weird hero worship he got back at the garrison. Granted, he still got it occasionally from civilians too, but less often.   

“I suppose it can’t be helped. At least they’ll be put to good use,” he sighed. Better use than his pathetic attempts at cooking them himself anyway.  

“Aww, don’t feel bad, Shirogane. We all have skills we’re lacking.” A warm arm was thrown around his shoulder, and he leant into it on instinct. He realized a half second later what he was doing, but by then it would have been awkward to lean away- what if Cutis thought that Shiro thought he smelled or something- so he pretended like there was nothing unusual about the situation at all. But of course it was, because despite all their years together on the Atlas, the only time he’d ever leaned into any of the crew’s arms was when he was injured or sick. Despite Shiro’s reputation for being friendly and welcoming, he was not very good at instigating or accepting physical intimacy.   

He was fine with handshakes, a pat on the shoulder, someone brushing something off his uniform- quick, fleeting touches. Sparring and fighting didn’t count at all. Hugs and cuddling were okay if he was really close to the person he was with- like the other paladins. It would have been sort of odd if he couldn’t handle that much after they spent so much time in each other’s heads.   

With everyone else though? Well, that was more complicated. Even friends from his days on the Atlas were trickier for Shiro to determine whether or not he was comfortable with having prolonged physical contact with. It wasn’t a secret either. It wasn’t like he shrugged away from them or anything, but apparently there was just enough tension in his frame for them to notice it, so they’d all politely learned not to do it with him  unless  he instigated it. Which was basically never.   

Okay, there had been a couple times he had, but they’d been after rather awful situations. The last time he’d been cuddled up to Veronica was because he’d watched four children get eaten by this horrifying space monster without being able to save them in time. She had smothered him in a thick blanket, plopped him down in her quarters, and hugged him until he stopped shaking and drifted off to sleep. That had been over a year ago.   

He supposed the illness he’d spent most of his life with was a large factor in it. When he was a little  kid  he’d spent so much time in hospitals being prodded by doctors that he got kind of tired of people touching him. And then when he’d gotten older, the ever-present knowledge of his own mortality had loomed over his head. He had craved contact, craved permanence, but couldn’t bring himself to get  too  close to people when he knew he was going to die so much sooner than them. It seemed cruel to cling to people when he knew they’d have to let him go so soon.   

Of course, there had been people who wheedled their way into his life anyway. Matt, Keith…. and Adam.   

He never thought he’d have the opportunity to get what he had with Adam. To open himself up enough that they’d actually get engaged- it was almost surreal to think about at times.   

But Adam had been nothing if not persistent- don’t let that calm exterior fool you. When Adam made decisions he had been just as stubborn as Keith. The difference was that Keith was all fire and fuel, while Adam had been like a cold bucket of water dumped on your head.   

It still hurt sometimes to think about him. Especially when they left things off the way they had. Back when they first formed Voltron Shiro had always thought that when he finally returned to Earth he would try and reconcile with his former  fiancé . Maybe they wouldn’t rekindle their relationship, but he had hoped he’d at least get to  talk  to him again. Instead he found out that Adam had died in the initial invasion, and he’d ever get to see him-much less speak with him- ever again.   

But he moved on. Maybe he’d never get the kind of closure he wanted, but he accepted the way life was. Adam wouldn’t have wanted him to wallow over it anyway. He certainly wouldn’t have wanted Shiro to spend the rest of his life thinking he was better off alone than finding someone else to let in again.   

So he tried very hard not to panic when he’d first realized his not-so-platonic feelings for Curtis. He had failed miserably, but luckily for him Matt had been nearby when he figured out that he had a crush on the other man, so there had been plenty of moral support. He had kindly and firmly reminded Shiro that Adam would have told him to take any unkindly thoughts about feeling guilty about falling for someone else and to shove them where the sun didn’t shine.   

And then he’d gotten Shiro absolutely plastered, but that was neither here nor there.   

The point was, although he wasn’t usually comfortable with physical contact he hadn’t instigated, he actually didn’t mind it at all when Curtis started it.   

Oh boy, he was so screwed.   

“Vero said I should teach you how to make edible zucchini bread while I was here. Care to give it a go?”   

He was sure if his face got any redder it would combust. “Sure,” he blurted out, “I mean, if you really want to. I mean, um, yeah. As long as you think that’s…possible.”  

He wasn’t positive, but he was pretty sure Curtis was trying not to laugh at him. “Well, I guess we won’t know ‘til we try.”  

And thus started the most harrowing two hours of Shiro’s life.   

It was really quite lovely- Curtis was patient, explained things clearly and concisely, and kept up pleasant conversation while they worked. The only problem was that Curtis was a very hands-on teacher. And it was only a problem because every time Curtis put his hands on his, Shiro thought his heart was going to beat straight out of his chest.   

At one point while he’d been mixing the batter together, Curtis had come up behind him and reached both arms around to assist him. His warm breath on Shiro’s ear as he told him that he was doing well nearly gave him an aneurism.   

He tried not to appear downtrodden when he pulled away.   

When everything was said and done, they had two absolutely perfect loaves of zucchini bread cooling on the counter. Shiro had insisted that they make two so that Curtis could take one with him.   

“Alright, I’ve got my car pulled around front, so we might as well fill it up with some of your excess crop while we wait for the bread to cool.”   

Thank goodness the two of them had plenty of muscle to spare because Shiro’s crop had plenty of excess.   

All in all, it was a nice day. Shiro had a brief reprieve from his zucchini invasion, and he got to spend time with a super hot guy that he was head over heels for. Also, he finally got his fucking zucchini bread.   

“Until next time, Shirogane,” Curtis called from the rolled down window of his vehicle.   

“It’s just Shiro!” he called back- it came out whinier than he intended, but Curtis only grinned.   

“Okay, until next time,  Shiro .”  

He spent the next hour trying not to squeal into his pillow at the way his name had sounded on the other’s lips.  


Chapter Text

“Yo, Curtis! Did you- what are you doing, man?”  

He startled, nearly falling out of his chair and scrambling to remain upright. “What? Nothing,” he said, feigning nonchalance. The look Matt Holt gave him was deeply unbelieving. He pasted a smile on his face- the kind that Veronica said made him look like a fucking idiot because it was so clearly fake.   

“Uh huh. So you weren’t just leaning out the window to say… look for someone who runs by here every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday right around this time?”  

“What? No, of course not. I have no idea what you’re talking about,” he said, peeking over at his open window again.   

Just as Matt predicted however, Shiro came jogging around the bend, running shorts and tank top and all, right on the dot.   

Curtis leaned back in his seat casually, and rested his chin on one hand to make it look like he hadn’t been doing anything. Which he hadn’t, but he wanted to make it look less like he was being called out and more like he was having an offhand conversation instead. It’s not like the former Atlas captain had to know that Curtis waited for him to pass by and wave at him at exactly nine o’clock three days a week. Or that he had bribed one of the junior officers to trade desks with him so he could do so.   

Shiro caught his eye and waved, as he always did, before his eyes landed on Matt, and he changed the trajectory of his usual course. That sent Curtis’s heart racing as if he was the one doing physical exercise. He resisted the urge to check if his hair looked alright or brush imaginary dust off his uniform.   

“Hi guys!” Shiro chirped as he approached the window. Curtis thanked anyone listening out there that they were on the first floor, and that this moment existed. He’d never been so excited for the Atlas to be grounded. “Matt, I was gonna call you when I got home- don’t you dare put me down as a confirmed guest for your poker game. I am not going through that again, especially if you’ve invited Pidge. The two of you gambling and drinking is a combination I will not survive through again,” he said, waving his index finger in the science officer’s face.   

Matt huffed. “Oh come on, last time wasn’t  that  bad.”  

“I was chained to a yupper while their owner threw treats around the room to chase.”  

“I don’t see the problem here.”  

“I hate you.”  

“Love you too. So, you’ll bring chips and dip, right?”  

Curtis stifled a laugh in his hand, but couldn’t keep from smiling at the image of poor Shiro running around attached to a giant space dog. His former captain pouted, jutting his lip out when he noticed Curtis’s amusement. “It was awful.”  

“Poor baby,” he cooed, delighting in the way it made the other’s cheeks flush a light pink. He really was going to have to ask him out someday. He was just too cute to resist. The only reason he hadn’t yet was because before Shiro had been his superior, and he didn’t think it was appropriate to get involved like that. And after Shiro retired, well, he didn’t want to spring anything unexpected on the guy. He had to give him time to adjust.  

Plus, he was a huge chicken according to Veronica.   

She wasn’t totally wrong. Shiro just did things to him that made it so he was physically incapable of using his higher brain functions. He could spout as much garrison related crap as he wanted- crush or no, he was a professional and knew how to do his work. And casual flirting was fine because he could just pretend like he was only being friendly. But actually giving in to the mortifying ordeal of being known and asking him to dinner? Nope. Whenever he tried, his brain slammed the doors shut and hung up a sign on the windows that said to come back in three to five business days and try again.   

It didn’t help that Shiro was so breathtakingly hot. Seriously, how was he supposed to form a coherent sentence when the man was leaning over his windowsill like that? Toned muscles under a light sheen of sweat, hair slightly mussed, and those little crinkles around his eyes when he smiled… Oh, he was way too hot to be real. Curtis had clearly died and gone to heaven.  

Matt and Shiro argued about the latter attending for a few more minutes before coming to a standstill. Apparently they were going to hash everything out later when Matt wasn’t on the clock. He waved lazily as Shiro sprinted off to continue his morning routine, and ignored the way Matt stared at him.  

Matt was not one to be ignored for long though.   

“So, want to talk about your adorable little pining procedure?” he asked, leaning against the desk and raising an eyebrow.   

Curtis took a deep breath and wished the ground would open up and swallow him. It was bad enough that Vero teased him all the time, but now he had to deal with Matt? That was totally unfair. What had he done to deserve this? “How about I pay you fifty bucks to never mention it again?” he said instead.   

“How do you know I won’t just take your fifty bucks and tell Shiro about it anyway?”  

“Because if you do I’ll tell your parents, and they’ll be severely disappointed that you’re accepting bribes from your fellow officers about your friend’s love life,” he replied.   

Matt’s face scrunched up in distaste. He could practically hear the lecture in his mind. “Well, then I’ll just tell your parents about how you’re bribing other officers.”  

“Go right ahead. Nothing you say could be worse than anything they’ve heard about me before- benefit to having so many cousins. They’re always ratting you out for whatever little thing you do and blowing it way out of proportion. My Abuelita Consuelo still hasn’t forgiven me for the time I convinced Lance that I was going to curse him into turning into a frog after he ate my jelly beans when he was four. Bribing you is inconsequential,” he said breezily.   

Matt didn’t have a rebuttal for that. He and Pidge may have been a force to be reckoned with nowadays, but they had nothing on the McClain’s when it came to childhood shenanigans. They’d been oddly obedient when they were younger. He hadn’t believed it when Samuel Holt had first told him that, but came to terms with it eventually. It was still weird to think about though. Everything about Kerberos and what happened afterward really just drove the two of them bananas. Gone were the smart but quiet and witty Holt children, replaced with the loud, brash, riotous Holt children. Ah well, at least they were happy.   

“You want the fifty bucks or not, Holt?” he asked with a smirk. He knew by the squinting of Matt’s eyes that he had won this round. He didn’t know how many more rounds they would have about this topic, but for now, he’d take his victory, thank you very much.   

Matt snatched the money from his hands as soon as he pulled it from his wallet, giving him the stink eye the whole time. “We’re talking about you and Shiro soon, McClain. You mark my words,” he said before briskly walking away.   

He sighed, knowing that his days of peace were numbered. His younger cousin Valerie passed Matt on his way out the door, and she eyed the cash in his hands warily. She may have been relatively new to the garrison, but she had learned about the Holt’s reputation long before she applied. No doubt she was imaging all the ways the man could use fifty dollars to concoct his schemes. She wisely gave him as wide a berth as she could as she walked over to Curtis.   

She gave him a meaningful look when she noticed he was slipping his wallet back into his pocket.   

“What? I’m just investing in a good cause,” he said, giving her an innocent look.  

She snorted delicately but let it slide, handing over a stack paperwork for him to complete. The size of the pile was enough to make him mourn for the loss of what should have been a relatively easy day, but he steeled his resolve. And if he got through it by imagining former Captain Shirogane pinned beneath him on the training mats or positioned between his arms as they made zucchini bread, well, nobody had to know about that.   

He had to admit, being back on Earth when it wasn’t under occupation by hostile alien forces was pretty nice. Rebuilding took less time with the help of friendly alien forces and  technological  advancements, and things were going well. It was different from how it used to be- in the past, there was no way he’d be walking past creatures twice his size and exchanging pleasantries with them- but that didn’t have to be bad. It was actually pretty great in his opinion. And although he loved his time on the Atlas, their recent grounding the past couple months was quite refreshing.   

To be honest, most of his desire for grand adventure and space exploration had dulled. Not that he didn’t still enjoy it- but he was starting to think it would be nice to hang around on his home planet more often. His non-garrison family members were thrilled whenever he came around, and he did miss them terribly when he was gone. The whole of space really did seem insignificant in comparison to spending time with his family.   

That probably sounded cheesy, but it was the truth.   

Yes, deep down- or perhaps not so deep down, if anyone spent more than ten minutes talking to him- Curtis wanted nothing more than that sappy American dream of having a white picket fence and a family to go with it. Okay, perhaps not  exactly  that.   

His dream involved less of that staged suburban life, and more of an actual homey vibe. He wanted dumb knick knacks from his travels spotted around his house, and a flourishing garden that wrapped around it. He wanted it to be full of people- for his family and friends to all come by at least once a week for dinner- maybe a barbecue or something. He would keep a bowl of candy out for people to snack on when they dropped by, and one of those tacky little welcome mats o his front door, but it would be so worn out by people coming through that you couldn’t read it anymore. He wanted it to smell like fresh baked goodies whenever people showed up, like his Abuelita Nina’s always did. He also wanted  at least  two dogs, but he could be flexible on that.   

So, yeah, maybe not quite the American apple pie dream life that showcased white people from the fifties, but it was something. Also, there was that little detail where he wanted his house to be full of people visiting but didn’t actually want any children for himself- that definitely was not American Dream approved. And he was super duper gay, which was super duper not approved either. But hey, times were changing. This was his version of the dream, and he could do whatever he damn pleased with it.  

Despite his many adventures and all the wonderful things he’d seen, he couldn’t imagine himself settling down anywhere else. Earth was always going to be his home.   

Space travel was always going to call to him though, but maybe he could trade it from work for vacation. That would be nice. Probably less running for his life involved, which would be awesome. There were only so many killer non-sentient species he could deal with.   

He’d been thinking of transferring from the Atlas to the base more often lately, and it grew more tempting every day. He hadn’t even considered it when they first landed. The whole crew had to adjust to being grounded for an undetermined amount of time until a new captain for the Atlas was chosen. There were obvious candidates for the crew, but the real trick was getting the ship itself to cooperate. It had a mind of its own after all, and the only one to captain her to that point was Shiro, so finding a replacement was a little trickier.   

Not that anyone begrudged Shiro for retiring- how could they? He was like the poster boy for the garrison. Plus, he had literally  died  to save the universe. Not many people could boast about that. Not that Shiro was the boasting type, but the other paladins certainly had no issue doing it for him.   

Honestly, it was nice to see Shiro finally relax and learn to enjoy a normal life. Even if he did fumble a bit.   

The memory of his small garden being overtaken by zucchini blossomed in his mind, and the way he’d spent the afternoon sputtering and blushing made a smile curl on his lips. Who would have expected the garrison golden boy to be so adorably flustered over something so silly.   

But maybe Curtis shouldn’t talk- after all, he’d paid someone fifty bucks not to mention how he purposely waited beside his window just to wave at Shiro as he ran by on his morning jogs.   

It wasn’t his fault! Shiro was just unfairly hot- ask anyone! Even Ina agreed, and she was a raging lesbian. As in, she would not touch a man romantically or sexually if you put a gun to her head, but hey if you paid her a million dollars, and she had to, she’d pick Shiro. He was just that amazing.   

Great body, stunning good looks, pure white hair that didn’t make him look like an old man no matter how much he claimed it did, incredibly skilled in multiple fields, intelligent, and a personality that could melt the coldest of hearts? Yeah, he was Earth’s Most Wanted Bachelor, for sure.   

In fact, he was probably one of the universe’s most wanted bachelors now that he thought about it.   

Oh, he was so far out of Curtis’s league.   

Good thing Curtis didn’t give a rat’s ass about that. His mother always said to shoot for the stars, and since he’d already accomplished that, he might as well aim higher while he was at it.   

“He’s like… a one hundred out of ten, Curtis. He could have anyone he wanted in the galaxy. You’re never gonna end up with him,” one of his least favorite cousins, Stephanie, told him one night. She was in an extra uncharitable mood because she’d been dumped earlier that week.   

“Well, not with that kind of attitude,” he replied flippantly, waving her off. Her rotten attitude wasn’t going to deter him. Besides, he couldn’t tell her to shove it because one, he was eight years older than her and supposed to be more mature, and two, his mother had told him very clearly that he had to play nice with her due to her recent break up. And he was not going to risk his mother’s wrath just because Stephanie was being a little shit.   

She sure wasn’t making it easy though. “God, you are so desperate,” she scoffed, crossing her arms over her chest as she sneered down at him. He had been  relaxing  quite peacefully, sprawled out on his grandparents’ back lawn until she until she had strolled over to talk smack to his face.   

His little brother Alberto’s motto was “talk shit, get hit,” but as stated before- his mother would have killed him if he tried. Not that he would actually hit her- more like a good  noogie  to ruin that perfectly styled hair she obsessed over. Still, he was on strict orders to behave like the  thirty-year-old  adult that he was, so he was just going to have to ignore her. Although he couldn’t help but think that his mother wouldn’t have put up with Stephanie saying crap like this to  her , but that didn’t seem to matter.   

Fortunately for him, Stephanie’s tirade was interrupted by Lance’s arrival. He couldn’t actually see his cousin yet, but he could hear the excited greetings from everyone else. It also sounded like he brought a couple of friends, which would be a welcome distraction.   

Stephanie had shut up abruptly when she caught sight of the new arrivals, and now he was especially curious to see who it was. He craned his neck to try and get a better view, but being seated on the ground when there were so many people walking around didn’t really give him a great vantage point.   

“Who’d Lance bring around this time?” he asked, raising an eyebrow at the slightly constipated look on her face.   

She didn’t answer, but it turned out to be moot as Lance dragged his companions over in their direction anyway.   

“Oh hey, there you are, Curt! Veronica said you needed rescuing, so I brought along the cavalry,” his cousin said, winking at the affronted look on Stephanie’s face. “Hey, Steph, how’s it hanging? Still bringing storm clouds and misery to the world?” he added wryly.   

She sputtered, face turning beet red as she stomped off.   

Curtis chuckled, feeling the weight of her visit lift off his shoulders. “You should be nicer, Lance. She just got dumped, you know.” Not that he really cared, since she probably deserved it. She was usually pretty mean to her boyfriends.   

“Eh, she’ll get over it. Besides, she’s just mad because he was the one to break it off with her instead of the other way around.” Which was true. She didn’t seem that torn up about losing the guy, other than the fact that it had wounded her ego, and she wouldn’t get to dangle him around anymore.   

“Well, watch out if you’re near the parents. Mom already told me that if I upset Stephanie, she’s going to string me up by my toes to the telephone wires.”  

“That does sound rough,” Lance agreed. “But fear not- I will take full blame if anyone comes asking. In the meantime, I’m going to get something to eat. I’m starving! You guys want anything?” he asked, turning to his  companions  

The former paladins of Voltron made varying responses. Hunk enthusiastically agreed to grab food with him, hurrying off before he finished his sentence. Pidge said she might get something to nibble on in a little bit, but she was more preoccupied with visiting his younger cousins. Keith followed Hunk and Lance at a more sedate pace, promising to bring Shiro something too despite the other’s protests that he wasn’t hungry.   

This of course left Shiro on his own, shuffling his feet awkwardly in the grass where he’d been left behind.   

Curtis beamed up at the other, and patted the ground next to him. “Pop a squat, Shiro. I promise I don’t bite,” he said.  

“You’re finally saying my name,” the other said, smiling a little as he took a seat. It was still a little jarring to see him out of uniform. Curtis had gotten used to seeing him in workout clothes, but not in everyday casual wear. He looked good though- as if it were possible for him to look otherwise. He was wearing a beige sweater vest over a white shirt, which shouldn’t have been so cute considering that it ought to have made him look like someone’s grandpa at a distance. Seriously, no wonder the guy thought people were going to mistake him for being elderly- he was just giving them reasons now. But no, instead of looking like some nerdy old man, he looked like an endearing but ultra hot professor. The glasses he had acquired recently only added to the effect.   

He shook the thoughts off, doing his best to make it seem like he was not about to start drooling over the other’s appearance. “Oh, my bad. I meant to call you Captain Shirogane,” he said. Immediately, he burst into laughter at the disgruntled expression on Shiro’s face.   

It was too cute how  dead set  he was to get Curtis to call him by his nickname.   

“Don’t laugh at me,” Shiro whined, but gave him a friendly punch on the shoulder. “And I’m not a captain anymore. I’m just…me.” The light dusting of pink across his cheeks suggested that he didn’t find the outcome all that impressive.   

And well, that wouldn’t do.   

“Well, that’s more than enough, isn’t it?” he said lightly, reaching over to give his non-prosthetic shoulder a squeeze. The shy smile he got in response warmed him straight down to his toes. Which was quite a long ways, considering how tall he was.   

Conversation moved on to lighter topics after that small blip, and he was pleased to find that they could still chat like they used to on the Atlas. It’s not like he thought they’d suddenly turn into strangers after Shiro retired, but things happened, you know? Drifting apart was a lot more common than people liked to admit. Like hell he was going to let that happen between them.   

The other paladins drifted in and out of their spot on the grass, joining in when they felt like it, and stuffing their faces when they didn’t. Shiro begrudgingly accepted the plate Keith pushed in his hands, and he warmed up to the idea of eating once he tried one of Aunt Ana Sofia’s famous empanadas.   

While the other paladins chose to mingle with the rest of the McClain clan throughout the gathering, Shiro seemed content to spend the whole evening with Curtis. He tried not to preen when he realized this, but he saw some of his family members shoot him knowing looks now and then anyway.   

It was a well established fact in the family that he was head over heels for Shiro. They were all sworn to secrecy, of course- couldn’t have that little detail getting out where a certain white haired former captain might hear it.   

Honestly, he was surprised no one had spilled the beans yet. Especially Vero or Lance. He loved them, but they did not care a lick for his sanity when it came to his love life. He still remembered when they were in high school, and Vero had told his first boyfriend that Curtis didn’t like the way he did his eyeliner, prompting the boy to blow up at him and break up in the hallway between classes. The kid had taken all the notes they’d passed each other in class and set them on fire right then and there, and the stunt had set off the fire alarms because he was standing right below one of the sprinklers. The building had to be evacuated because the teachers didn’t learn what happened until they were all outside. It had not been a good day for him. In hindsight though, it was for the best that they broke up.   

Then there was the time Lance had told his boyfriend Fernando that Curtis’s mom thought he was a schmuck who was going to drag her son down. That had ruined their relationship before it even had a chance to develop beyond hand holding, since Fernando refused to be in his mom’s presence, and Curtis spent so much time with his family.   

There were countless stories that he could think of- almost all of his break ups involved Lance or Veronica. He didn’t hold it against them because, well, there was really no point. After all, each time it was more of the boyfriend reacting poorly to whatever they had said and refusing to see any other viewpoint than actual sabotage on the other two’s part.   

Maybe he was just shit at picking out boyfriends.   

Actually, yeah, that was almost definitely it.  

Shiro was another story however. He knew everyone approved of him- which had not really happened unanimously for any of his previous paramours. The rest of them had always received mixed reviews, but that was not the case for Shiro.   

If anything, his family seemed like they were already a signed deal. Despite the fact that he hadn’t even asked him out yet, or even hung out as friends. He swore he overheard his aunts planning his future wedding the other night, but they’d zipped their lips as soon as they saw him.   

The only one who wasn’t rooting for him to get with Shiro was Stephanie, and well, she didn’t count.   

As the night wound down and more and more people left, he was forced to admit that they couldn’t stay there forever. He would very much have liked to freeze that moment in time and continue talking to Shiro while the sky grew dark, but  sadly it  was not within his power to do so.   

“Curt, would you mind giving Shiro a lift home? I’m dropping off everyone else, but since his house is on the way to your place…” Lance trailed off. His puppy eyes were very convincing- convincing in that he knew Lance was faking that he needed the favor. He had clearly set this up, so the two of them could spend more time together. Man, he loved his cousin so much sometimes.   

He stood up, brushing the grass from his pants as he stretched out his legs. “Sure, no problem. I do know where it is, after all. It would be easy to find anyway, what with all that zucchini,” he joked, stifling a laugh when Shiro pouted at him.   

The other paladins had no such reservations, laughing outright at the mention of Shiro’s gardening adventures. Even Keith was chuckling softly, although he tried to hide it behind Shiro’s back.   

They said their goodbyes, Shiro promised to come visit Abuelita Nina whenever he got a craving for Cuban cuisine, and Curtis got some not so subtle suggestions to hurry up and nab himself a new boyfriend that they actually approved of. This was mainly done through sweeping gestures from people whenever Shiro’s back was turned to them. He wished they would let him do things at his own pace- if he did it at  their  pace, he would have been married as soon as he walked through the door.   

The ride home was quiet, but comfortably so, and when he dropped Shiro off at his house they exchanged friendly farewells. For an incredibly brief moment, he entertained the idea of giving him a good night kiss, but that would have been totally insane, so he didn’t do that.   

He definitely imagine it on his way home though, and he couldn’t quite help himself from making a joke about it to Shiro.   

It may have been dark, but he could still see the way it made the other’s cheeks burn, and it certainly didn’t keep him from hearing the startled- but pleased- little laugh it got from him either. It was enough to keep him smiling the whole drive back to his apartment- on the other side of town.