The scent woke him up.
It was unmistakably the smell of a distress emitting from the omega cuddled up next to him in the nest.
A nightmare, perhaps.
No, he knew the exact scent Keith gave off during a nightmare. This wasn’t it. That scent was bitter, like pure one hundred percent chocolate on the tongue. This was sweeter, almost like a sugary candy. It reminded him of the candy stores his father took him to when he was young.
He’d never smelled this one before.
He reached over his mate’s sleeping form, feeling around for their other mate in the darkness of their nest.
He needed to shake Kuron awake, in case there was something wrong with Keith. He needed a second opinion.
Instead, his flesh hand fumbled arounded, feeling cozy blankets and pillows piled on top of them.
Kuron was gone.
He bolted up from the nest, careful not to wake Keith, covering him with a spare blanket to replace the warmth he was getting from cuddling up to Shiro.
He rubbed his eyes as he exited the bedroom, being exposed to the harsh lights shining above the stove top in the kitchen, the rest of the lights shut off and leaving the rest of the apartment cloaked in darkness.
Smokey gray eyes were filled with disappointment as Kuron held a spoon above a bowl, dark brown liquid dripping down the dull, rusting silver.
Those same eyes landed on him with a frown on his boyfriend’s lips.
If you just heard that Shiro’s second mate was a clone of himself, it would sound incredibly egotistical. However, Kuron was different than Shiro. Sure, he was a clone, but somewhere in Haggar’s process she altered his personality. He was quieter than Shiro, shyer and much more impulsive. He wasn’t mean, but he could get snappy- not by his fault, it was a result of the purpose he was made for, to get rid of Keith.
He was disgusted every time the fight or his original reason for existing were bought up. He didn't want to remember it.
The past is the past, but the future is still our choice, Shiro would argue whenever Kuron was scolded for walking out of meetings when he felt his emotions bubble up.
It was a miracle Kuron survived the fight, another miracle being that the black lion came across another clone in a pod- arm injured, perhaps a failed version from the attempts to replicate the arm Shiro had been given by the druids.
Allura was able to transfer his soul into that clone, while Kuron was still in a coma-like state for much of their journey back to Earth- after they returned to Earth, he helped on the Atlas crew while he was recovering in the medical bay.
Now, a year after Sendak’s death, he was bonded to both him and Keith. And he wouldn’t want it any other way.
Kuron kept his hair long, he liked it like that way, while Shiro couldn’t handle it even a few inches longer than his usual. The Garrison officers and cadets were able to tell the Captain and the Commander apart that way, plus the hair color difference of pure white to a stripe mixed in with black, as well as the floating Altean arm versus the Galra one.
Kuron may be a clone of him, but they’re far different than one would think.
“I tried to melt chocolate for strawberries.” Kuron confessed, placing the metal bowl down with a sharp sound that pierced through Shiro's ears.
Shiro raised an eyebrow.
“Any particular reason?” Shiro asked, a smirk gracing his lips as Kuron folded his arms across the thin fabric of the tank top he used for sleepwear. However, he and Shiro both knew it was really just an excuse to Keith to snuggle up and absorb the warmth from his chest while they were in the nest.
“I-uh...well, you see, it was like, uh…” Kuron stumbled over his words, throwing the metal spoon into the sink.
“Alpha instinct?” Shiro knew the feeling right away
It was a controlling force. You lose all emotion, all ability to stop your actions. Your brain convinced you that only one thing was important.
Keeping your omega safe and happy.
“Yeah, I guess.” He spoke softly, distressing emitting from his body like heatwaves. He may be an Alpha, but he's still bonded to Shiro. Shiro's mind knows something is wrong.
It's all about scent with your mates, truthfully. Alpha, Omega, or Beta, if there's a bite mark caused by them on your scent gland, you can sense any emotion almost instantly.
“My body just wants to...make him feel better? I...don't know.” Kuron constantly trailed off, not quite sure if he should continue talking and what he's supposed to say if he does.
Right, Shiro didn't mention Kuron is more scatterbrained than Shiro. Which really was an impressive feat.
He nearly tripped over himself every time Keith walked out of the bedroom. To be fair, Keith could look at them with his hair a tangled, greasy mess and looking like a character straight from corpse bride, cursed with sleep deprivation, and his mates would nearly faint because of his beauty.
People think the Alpha is the well put together partner, preparing perfect dates while the Omega is always a terrible, rabbid mess swooning with every touch their Alpha gives them.
In Shiro's experience, that couldn't be farther from the truth.
“It's Valentine's day, maybe your body wanted you to celebrate that.” Shiro suggested with a shrug.
“Like my body is going to know and care about a holiday made by and for humans.” He responded dryly.
“Maybe it adjusted over time.” Shiro just shrugged again, unable to offer a satisfactory answer that Kuron would believe and agree with.
“Highly unlikely.” Kuron protested, exactly like Shiro knew he would.
Shiro was about to open his mouth again when a gentle click invaded his ears, and the rest of the kitchen and living area flooded with a bright glow of the overhead lights.
Keith leaned up against the door frame to their bedroom, eyes fluttering open and closed quickly, definitely in some sort of pattern Shiro was too tired to pick up on.
“Uhm.” Keith muttered, voice cracking. “What's...going on here?” He said with a puzzled look, the pieces clearly not clicking into place and forming the full picture.
“Nothing! Nothing at all!” He exclaimed quickly, fiddling with his hands and flinching when the chill of the metal hit his bare skin.
“Are…” Keith turned his view to the counter behind Kuron, seeing a package of fresh strawberries sitting out with the lid open. “Are you sure?”
That's when it hit Shiro like a freight train going eighty miles per hour on an old hickory track.
The scent Keith was giving off wasn't a nightmare, wasn't stress or worry. It wasn't anything close to that.
His mate's skin was pale, the color drained out of his previously violet eyes that used to shimmer like the stars in the night sky. The tip of his nose was starting to grow red and angry, and his lips were cracked and chapped.
Keith was sick on Valentine's day.
It seemed it hit Kuron at the same moment as it hit Shiro. In only a few ticks, Kuron was abandoning the mess of burned chocolate and strawberry juice on the counter in favor of wrapping Keith in a warm hug.
“Keith…” Shiro whispered as he approached his mates, joining in on the bear hug like they would all die without it.
“Let's get you back to the nest.” Kuron said softly as Keith reached out to run his fingers through Kuron's hair.
Keith muttered a sigh of approval, before letting Kuron pick him up off his feet and hold him in a bridal position. Shiro pushed ebony bangs back to plant a kiss on Keith's forehead as he snuggled into the warmth of Kuron's chest.
“I'll get some medicine. You settle him into the nest.” Shiro looked to Kuron, who only nodded with the intent of fulfilling the new order.
“Please don't get the grape one.” Keith muttered into the flimsy fabric of Kuron's tank top.
“Don't worry, baby. We've got plenty of bubblegum stacked up.” Shiro assured.
Keith let out a weak “yay” as Kuron started to carry him back into the bedroom.
When Shiro returned to the bedroom with a bottle of light pink cold medicine, Kuron was already hard at work arranging all the blankets and pillows in a way that that would support Keith's back, neck and legs.
Pillows were piled high on top of each other, fuzzy blankets in all colors covering them like a cushion.
Keith was sitting upright, a dark red blanket made of one hundred percent cotton resting on his lap as Kuron held a thermometer to his lips.
“Ninety-nine point five.” Kuron reported as he threw the thermometer to the ground.
“Baby…” Shiro whispered with a frown as he kneeled next to Keith.
“Feelin’ fine.” Keith slurred as Shiro started to pour the liquid into the cap, measuring the amount needed by the indicators on the side.
“You just say that because you don't want to have to take the medicine.” Shiro teased back as Kuron left to go rummage in the closet.
Keith pouted and stuck his bottom lip out when Shiro placed the measured cup of medicine in front of his face.
“For me?” Shiro plead with puppy dog eyes as Keith continued to give him the death glare.
“C'mon, honeybear…” Kuron returned with a stuffed Yelmor plush Krolia had given Keith for his birthday last year, placing in on his mate's lap.
“It's bubblegum!” Shiro tried again to convince.
Keith made another pouting glance before snatching the cup out of Shiro's hand and downing it in one gulp.
Shiro and Kuron shared a victory glance.
“Happy now?” Keith winced as the taste lingered on his tongue.
“Very.” Kuron responded, unscrewing the cap of a cold water bottle and handing it to Keith, who eagerly gulped it down to wash the medicine taste out of his mouth.
They spent the rest of the day in the nest, cuddling Keith as he slept the cold away.
They called off every meeting they had today.
And at night, once Keith was feeling better, and they cuddled on the couch, feeding each other chocolate covered strawberries from the Garrison’s room service and watching stupid rom coms and forcing one more round of medicine down Keith's throat.
His temperature was ninety-eight point four by the end of the day, when they were all cuddled up in the nest, not tired at all after they spent the day napping away.
Instead, they just savored the smell and warmth of their mates.
It wasn't the ideal first Valentine's day together, but it was still perfect in every way.