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Everything hurts while he’s trying to save the universe, Keith supposes that’s why he didn’t notice before.

But now the war is over, Earth is saved, everyone has lived to see the glory of a peaceful, if chaotic, universe. They’re in the period of healing. Their bodies, their minds, and all of the universe really.

Weeks in though Keith just still… hurts. It’s in his joints, in his back, and radiating up the spine to his neck. It’s a constant pain that sticks with him no matter how he rests.

Worst of all is his upper right arm, near the shoulder. It feels tender, but not to the touch. It’s something deeper, in his bones.

Keith goes dutifully to the doctor. They scan him for everything, check his blood and genes, and when they find nothing wrong they write him a chiropractor script. Keith sighs and takes it.

The adjustments help. Kind of. They feel good in the moment, his body relaxing under the hard hands that move and press at him. Admittedly he hasn’t gotten a lot of physical contact recently, so it’s also just nice to have that. Nice to be touched.

But when he gets up to leave, he knows that the root of the problem hasn’t been solved. The adjustments had been deep and at times painful, but the relief that followed wasn’t enough. Keith can still feel that pain behind the relaxed pleasure. It was deeper still, settled into the core of him.

He tries to deal with the pain. He imagines maybe it’s just in his head, a psychic pain from all that he’d put his body through. He knows he got through the war pretty well intact, but he’s not invincible. He still shakes awake from nightmares, still jumps when someone appears too suddenly in his peripheral. He still sleeps with his blade beneath his pillow.

So maybe the pain is just that, his body making the wounds in him something physical.

It’s shitty.

Keith presses on though. He does the meetings, the clean ups, the hangs out with the paladins. He tries to ignore the way his body just aches all the time.

And then Shiro asks him to spar.

“Think we’re well enough for that?” Keith teases as they walk the hallway toward the gym.

“I’ve got a clean bill of health,” Shiro says. When Keith gives him a look, Shiro has enough shame to look chagrinned. “Relatively. Enough for this.”

Keith laughs and bumps his shoulder into Shiro’s. “Alright, but if you throw out your hip that’s not on me.”

Shiro bumps him back. “I’m not that old, you.”

They change facing away from each other in the locker room, and then head to the mat.

“Don’t go easy on me now,” Shiro says when they face off. Keith scoffs.

It starts fine. They’re a little rusty having done a truly excessive amount of sitting since the war ended, but Keith falls into the rhythm soon enough and he sees it click similarly for Shiro. At first they do more parrying, tagging and blocking each other’s blows than actual fighting. Keith’s glad for it as their first time back, it’s fun and he hasn’t been having enough of that.

Shiro grins at Keith’s next retreat, and follows trying to get under the block Keith throws up. Keith dances out of reach with the speed of his Galra nature, and throws taunts after him.

They cover a lot ground on the mat, going round and round each other, and building up a sweat. Keith’s heart thumps in exertion for the first time this week that doesn’t have to do with a nightmare, and it feels good.

Then they start landing their blows.

None of the contact is terribly hard. It’s friendly, half-pulled punches and soft kicks. There’s more than a few bumps that are more about knocking each other off balance than trying to win. It’s friendly and mostly harmless.

Except that Keith begins to really feel it. At first he assumes it’s just his own tiredness because he hasn’t been keeping up with exercise recently, and surely this amount of activity is a lot.

But then they’re still moving around each other easily, and Keith’s body just begins to hurt too much. His muscles ache and throb, and his shoulder is a hot pulse of pain with every movement. Shiro barely connects with him, in fact Keith is dealing far more blows than he takes, but his body begins to scream at him with the pain of it.

In response Keith’s reactions slow and slow, and then at one attack from Shiro he stumbles. It’s almost an elbow to his stomach for the mistake, except that Shiro catches his slip and pulls back immediately. Keith nearly collapses down onto the mat, his whole body throbbing.

“Keith? Shit, did I—“

Keith’s already shaking his head. “No, no you’re fine. Just outta shape.” He forces his head up and puts a smile on it. “As it turns out I’m the tired old man of the two of us.”

Shiro doesn’t buy it. He frowns, looking troubled, and walks over to help Keith back up onto his feet.

“Do you need the medic?”

Keith shakes his head. He knows they won’t find anything. They’d been so, so thorough. There hadn’t been anything inside him to cause such a problem. Maybe he really was just this out of shape. “I’m okay. I think I’m just not used to it. Fuck,” he can’t help then but to reach for his right shoulder and rub where the pain is red hot.

“Shoulder hurts?”

“Yeah. I’ve already gotten it checked. I think it’s just… bad sleeping, overexertion.” He gives a self-deprecating laugh.

Shiro doesn’t look convinced, but he doesn’t pry further. He’s always known when he wasn’t getting further with Keith, and Keith really appreciates that. He appreciates when Shiro knows to let things sit.

When Keith catches his breath, and the pain settles down into a tolerable level, they move back to the locker room. “I want to do this again,” Keith says as he’s pulling his change of clothing out of his locker for the showers. “I know that was kind of a bust but, we should do it again. Get back into shape.”

Shiro gives him a close look that says something Keith can’t decipher. Then he nods. “If you’re sure. I don’t want you to push yourself too much.”

“I won’t. It’ll be with you. We’ll just be more careful, right?”

“Okay,” Shiro says. They part to shower.


It gets better in some ways after that. Keith gets back into the flow of exercising. He stretches in the morning, makes sure his meals are nutrient filled and appropriate for his activity levels. He gets smoother in sparring, picking up that muscle memory where he left off.

The pain does not go away though. It’s manageable when he stretches, manageable when he does sit ups and push-ups and even some light cardio. The second he starts sparring though, the intense kind of pain comes roaring right back.

He doesn’t know what it is about sparring, but the second he and Shiro start it’s like an uphill battle against his own body not to collapse beneath the spiking pain.

And maybe that’s the worst part. Keith has known enough pain in his life to know what he can handle, but this is… something else. It’s something he can’t seem to manage, and it’s difficult in the middle of sparring to shield Shiro from seeing it. He doesn’t want Shiro to worry or fuss over him, but they’ll be five minutes in and Keith will land a hit on Shiro and feel like his entire body is quivering in pain.

On more than one occasion Keith has to bite the inside of his cheek to keep from crying out at how it twists sharp and poker hot inside him.

“Stop,” Shiro clips, catching a grimace Keith can’t cover fast enough. “This is… you’re clearly in pain.”

Keith’s got a hand on the wall nearest him and is trying to pretend he’s just winded from his last attack when he’s really trying to get a clear head from the spiraling pain.

“I’m fine.”

Shiro snorts, rubbing his own shoulder. “I’m not stupid.”

Keith deflates immediately, his body too loud in all its small and large agonies for him to fight with Shiro. It’s a relief to slide down and sit himself against that wall.

Shiro walks over and sits down beside him.

“Where’s it hurt?” Shiro asks.

It’s too much to say everywhere, so Keith says, “Back.”

Carefully, Shiro turns him and puts his hands on Keith’s sweaty back. “Specifically?”

“Between the shoulder blades.”

Shiro hums. “Ah, yeah. I get that a lot. Here.”

He proceeds then to dig his hands in, doing a very close reproduction of what the physical therapist did. It works just as well, a temporary relief that somehow doesn’t reach deep enough. Keith closes his eyes and tries not to let the fear up out of his throat. Shiro would understand, even had a body once with a degenerative condition, he would be the first person to understand the fear that’s started growing in Keith’s belly.

But Keith can’t bear to put words to it yet. He’s afraid of something being wrong with him that even sophisticated Galran and Altean medical equipment can’t pick up. He’s afraid it’s some kind of human-Galra thing that no one even knows about.

His life has been full of strange things, this wouldn’t even be that much of a stretch.  

Shiro works his hands into Keith’s muscles for a few minutes, and Keith just closes his eyes and breathes through it. It feels good in some ways, the superficial relaxing of his muscles, the buzzy energy of his nerves just from Shiro touching him. He wishes he was brave enough just to turn and bury himself in Shiro’s arms. Just to sink into the man’s strong chest and rest. Find relief. Anything.

“How’s that?” Shiro says when he finishes.

“Better,” Keith says. The word is sour, but it has enough truth to it that Shiro doesn’t call him on it.


The next strange thing that Keith notices is at dinner nearly a week later. Hunk had told him at lunch that he was making the spicy Yow-yu dish that Keith liked for the group for their weekly dinner. Keith loves spicy, has always loved it ever since he was a boy and his father would take him around to the hole in the wall cafe that served authentic Mexican.

He knows most of the team will tap out quickly from the dish, but Hunk tries to rotate who he makes food for specifically. This week is clearly for Keith and Lance.

As soon as the dish is presented Keith spots the nervous look on Pidge and Shiro’s faces. That’s almost part of the fun too, when it’s not someone’s thing. There’s always food goo as a backup of course, but for most of their meals everyone just tries to hang in. It’s family time in that way.

They all start eating, though, and immediately Keith knows something is wrong with him. Instead of being able to take the heat in stride, it starts blooming larger and larger in his mouth and down his throat. It’s hot, hotter than hot.

He coughs discreetly and reaches for his drink.

Pidge and Shiro are already gulping down their own drinks, making sounds of pain.

Keith forces the cup down and tries again. It’s… less than the first few bites, but he’s still feeling the heat from before.

“Oh c’mon guys, you don’t want Hunk to feel unappreciated do you?” Lance taunts at Shiro and Pidge. Both give back unamused looks, but Shiro valiantly picks up his fork.

Keith’s been shoveling it in while the heat has leveled off, eager to finish, but then the next bite does him dirty. Suddenly his mouth is on fire, pain like food has never given him before. It’s worse, so much worse than those first few bites. Whatever is used for the spice Keith must have just consumed a mouthful.

He clumsily grabs his glass and finishes it, eyes tearing up. Across the table Pidge has refused to touch her food, but Shiro has been picking at his own and is likewise suffering.

The attention turns toward to Keith though, Shiro isn’t known for keeping up on spicy dishes like Keith is.

“Hey,” Hunk frowns, reaching over to rub Keith’s back. “You okay?”

The water is gone, but then Hunk is offering his own glass, and Keith’s in too much pain to refuse.

“Is it that bad?” Hunk aims this question at Lance who Keith can see shake his head.

“No dude, same as always.”


Keith finishes the second water, but it’s barely helped. He’s sweating, and he knows his face is red like Shiro’s is.

“Really spicy,” Shiro pants. Lance snorts.

 Keith swallows around the intense burn. It feels like he’s breathing fire. “Just think I got a bad bite. Fuck.”

Hunk doesn’t look much satisfied by that answer, and Keith doesn’t really feel it either. He’s never ever had this kind of reaction to a dish, and this is a dish he’s had several times before. He knows Hunk wouldn’t mess it up. Hunk and Lance are almost finished with their plates, and by the look of it neither of them had any problems.

Keith doesn’t want to draw a conclusion, doesn’t want to connect it to the pain he’s been feeling in general and more specifically during sparring, but it’s hard not to. It’s hard not to see a little difference in himself now and not think that it a symptom.

He fears it’s a symptom.

Of what, he hasn’t the faintest idea. That’s the worst kind of fear.


The burn on his mouth eventually does fade, but when Keith wakes up the next morning he feels like absolute garbage. By all accounts he slept enough, well over eight hours because he’d retired early following the disastrous dinner.

He wakes though feeling like he hasn’t slept at all. His body feels heavy, sluggish, and his eyes burn as if he spent the night staring up at the ceiling. Keith rubs at his eyes on his way to the bathroom, but getting a look at himself in the mirror doesn’t reveal anything unusual. Outwardly at least nothing is wrong.

He grumbles through a shower and breakfast, and then goes half-dressed to the door when there’s a familiar knock.

Shiro standing on the other side actually does physically reflect how Keith feels. The man groans, dragging himself into Keith’s apartment and then face planting onto the couch.

“Good morning to you too,” Keith says. There’s a muffled sound from the lump that is Shiro. “Didn’t sleep well?”

Another grunt. Keith can’t help but smile and take a seat beside his head. He runs his hand over Shiro’s buzzed hair. It feels nice under his fingers, and somehow it soothes away some of his own grumpiness.

“Me either, I was dragging myself out of bed.”

Shiro’s head turns just enough that he can speak, and it gives Keith more access to the other side of his hair.

“Can we just call out today?”

Keith scritches across Shiro’s scalp, and he feels his own nerves shiver in pleasure. It’s a novelty, touching Shiro like this. Keith wishes he got to do it more often. He wishes—

“I’d love to,” Keith says.

Shiro hums, tilting his head against Keith’s leg. “So why don’t we?”

The reasons are on Keith’s tongue immediately, but then another soft wave of pleasure runs through him. They’re always, always responsible and maybe…

It’s almost funny that it’s Shiro’s suggestion to play hooky, and Keith is the one waffling. When did he become such a stiff?

“Okay,” he says instead of any of the reasons why they shouldn’t.

There’s a pause, and then Shiro’s head tilts to look up at him. “What, really?”

He’s smiling, even with the worn circles under his eyes. It makes something bloom big and bright in Keith’s own chest.

“Yeah, why not? Surely this place can do without us for a day.” He looks out at the apartment, an idea beginning to take shape. “And we could have a lazy day. Chill on the couch, watch some movies. Maybe if we’re rested by the evening, we could take the bikes out.”

The idea sprawls large in Keith’s mind’s eye. He wants it suddenly with an intense covetness he isn’t used to. He wants… them, here. He wants to rest and watch something dumb on the telescreen with his best friend and not have to think about any of the numerous things he should be worrying about.

“Sounds perfect,” Shiro says.

The emails go out one behind the other. They both request a personal day because Shiro isn’t about to say that they’re both sick. It will be obvious to anyone looking at these, noticing they’re both out, but that idea gives Keith it’s own bit of pleasure.

When the business is done, Shiro shuffles back down on the couch, practically dumping his head in Keith’s lap. Keith’s still on his datapad, wordlessly ordering lunch for later so he won’t have to think about it. He hands the telescreen remote to Shiro.

“Pick something.”

For once the morning passes without a peep from either of their devices. Shiro stays in Keith’s lap and lets Keith card through his hair while they watch nature documentaries one after another. There’s idle comments about some of the more alien creatures, both otherwise they settle into silence.

The tiredness doesn’t just go away, but Keith does feel a certain kind of pleasure playing with Shiro’s hair, cocooned in their own little space. Some niggling anxiety he didn’t even know was there fades away, and he slowly but surely relaxes into the couch cushion.

Lunch comes at some point, and when Keith brings it back to the coffee table Shiro is seated upright with a blanket wrapped around his shoulders. He’s so big the blanket barely covers his breadth, and it’s stupidly charming.

They eat lunch shoulder to shoulder watching some pitrrew from the planet Quitly go about their day savaging. They’re cute little things, sort of like birds or bats, but they make sounds like wind chimes. They debate whether they’re more like birds or bats while idly working their way through the food.

“Your turn,” Shiro says when they’ve stuffed themselves to bursting. Keith turns to look, and the man is patting his lap. He has a soft smile aimed at Keith.

Keith feels himself flush, but he turns away and lays down, head in Shiro’s lap. “If you insist.”

There’s a whuff of a laugh from Shiro, and then hand settle in Keith’s hair. “I do.”

Keith takes a steadying breath at the first intense pet of pleasure that spreads through him. It radiates down from his skull and through his whole body. He swears his own fingers tingle.

He focuses on the show, but finds more than once his eyes start slipping closed from how good it feels. Shiro’s careful but meticulous as he works through his hair. He untangles a few knots near the back gently one at a time, and then skims nails across the back of Keith’s neck. It’s all Keith can do not to croon at the sensation.

It goes on and on, and before long Keith’s eyes really are falling shut and his mind is sinking. He’s warm, bundled now in Shiro’s blanket with the rhythmic petting of Shiro’s hand through his hair. It’s so absolutely perfect he doesn’t even really notice when he slips off to sleep.

It’s only when he wakes overwarm that he realizes he’s dozed off. He blinks his eyes open to his own living room. There’s another show on, and the light through the far window is vastly different. When Keith turns his head to look up he spies Shiro, also asleep, head tilted up against the cushion. He looks half content, but seeing the angle of his neck makes Keith’s own neck ache. He reaches up and tugs gently at Shiro’s shirt.

“Hey. Wake up.”

“Hmm?” Shiro’s voice is soft, kind of gruff. Keith smiles to hear it.

“Your neck.”

“Ah,” Shiro rubs at it, “Yeah. Thanks.”

Keith pushes himself up out of Shiro’s lap, rubbing at his own neck that’s a bit stiff too. “This was a good idea,” he says stretching, “I feel way better.” He does, surprisingly. That nap seemingly has done more for his exhaustion than the eight hours he’d gotten last night.

“Yeah,” Shiro says. “Me too, surprisingly.”

Keith turns to look at the lighting on the floor, and deciding that it’s definitely late evening. When he looks back at Shiro the man already has a look of expectation.

“Hover bikes?” Keith asks.

“Hover bikes,” Shiro says with a smile.


It’s… a little better after that. Keith doesn’t know why, maybe he really did need the break, but the following week he feels almost buoyant. He sleeps through the night, runs into no food problems, and stays away from sparring just so he won’t ruin the streak. He missed feeling this good, and he’s afraid it’s only a temporary respite.

Still, James finds him at the end of that week since he’d been skipping out of not only the gym but the cadet flight classes they both assist with. That wasn’t intentional on Keith’s part, just a conflict of meeting times.

“A personal day?” James sidles up beside him as Keith’s walking to the chow hall.

“Uh huh.”

“Dude you left me with Berkins. He’s impossible, and I had absolutely no backup when he started on about his dad, and my dad told me you’re supposed to do it this way.”

Keith chuckles. Berkins has been a problem student for them for the whole quarter. “Can’t handle one cadet for a day without me?”

James huffs. “Multiple days now. And you know he doesn’t respect me. He only listens to you because you’re a paladin,” James makes air quotes at the last word.

“Sorry man, I think I’m back on Monday. This week the meetings have been back to back so all the negotiations could get done before the Jurian Festival.”

James waves him off. “Still. Sucked.” They walk into the chow hall, and James stays with him, getting into the food line. “You gonna make it up to me?”

Keith casts him a side glance to find that James is wagging his eyebrows.


“Aww come on!” The line moves fast, and they each pick off items and add them to their tray.

“Come on what? I’m busy enough as it is.” Keith offers his badge at the end of the line and it pings as his food is tallied and charged. James does the same and follows Keith to a table.

“Dinner,” James says sliding in across from Keith. “You said—“

“No, you said I owed you dinner. I disagreed.”

“It’s one dinner, come on. How do you know if you won’t give me a chance?”

Keith’s eyes flicker up to James. “I know.”


“I’m busy.”

“You have to eat!”

“I’m eating right now,” Keith says digging into his food.

“Dinner. One dinner. C’mon you owe me,” James reaches across the table and puts a hand on Keith’s. Keith looks up, but James’ eyes have already moved on from him and to up over Keith’s shoulder.

“Owe you what?” Comes Shiro’s clipped tone.

Keith feels the heat of that tone. The food in Keith’s mouth tastes suddenly bitter. The hand on his pulls away, and Keith feels an intense annoyance follow.

“Uh, nothing.”

Shiro’s hand lands on Keith’s shoulder. “Keith?”

Keith swallows, but it doesn’t help. There’s anger creeping up his throat, and he can’t figure out exactly why. “Nothing. James was just being annoying.”

“He pressuring you?”

Keith almost, almost rolls his eyes. The compulsion is shocking, he wasn’t this upset just a minute ago. Now every nerve in him is buzzing. “He is not.”

“Nope! Just—ah, work stuff.”

“Over dinner?” Shiro asks. His tone is deeply unfriendly, and Keith has a front row seat to see how it hits James dead on.

“Just, you know, if Keith was interested.”

“He’s not.”

“I’m not.”

They say it simultaneously. The blistering anger in Keith’s gut makes him want to stand and fight or flee, but why he doesn’t know. Shiro’s hand on him is the only grounding force, so he tries to focus on that and breathe.  

The acidic heat solidifies then. Keith knows, with a strange sudden clarity what he wants. He wants James to leave. Now.

This is fortunate because already James is picking up his tray and babbling. “Right, um yeah, so I just remembered I have a lab. I should go—“

Neither of them offer him the slightest bit of rescue. James gets up and flees. Keith’s sure when he’s not so full of inexplicable rage that he’ll feel bad about it. For now it’s satisfying to watch him run. Shiro settles into the seat beside him.

“What was that all about?” Shiro asks him.

Keith shakes his head. “He’s gotten it into his head if I go to dinner with him, I’ll realize we have secret untapped chemistry.” Keith says it offhanded because that’s how it’s meant to be, something silly and meaningless.

But the words when they come out have anxiety spiking up through him. The wild swing of his mood almost makes him sick.


“It’s not a thing,” Keith says.

“You sure?”

Keith turns to look at Shiro, and the man’s face is intentionally blank. “Uh yeah. It’s James. There’s no secret anything, I think mostly he just does it to be annoying at this point.”

Shiro turns away then. “Alright. Just didn’t want him bothering you.”

At this Keith snorts. “I had it handled Shiro,” he says, “But thanks for the intimidation, it was kind of funny to watch him stumble over himself to escape.”

The blankness falls away and then Shiro’s smiling somewhat bashfully. “Sorry that was probably… too much.”

Keith grins. “Maybe. But ludicrously effective.”

Shiro laughs. “…I should apologize later.”

“Maybe,” Keith pushes his tray away. The feelings aren’t so close they’re choking him anymore, but they’ve definitely put him off his food. “But anyway, wanna get out of here? I’ve got a free evening.”

“No dinner with Griffin?”

Keith elbows him before getting up. “No, so I think that means you owe me a free meal.”

Something bright and sparkly lights up Shiro’s face then. “Yeah! Of course. Dinner’s on me.”

Keith dumps his food and they exit together, that same bright spark making its way into Keith’s chest.


Keith rolls over in bed. There’s a niggling heat that has him restless, which is annoying after the long day he’s had. He needs to sleep for the early meeting.

But every time he closes his eyes he starts to feel…

Horny if he’s honest with himself. It’s been… maybe a little too long since he’s gotten a hand on himself. There’s been work and the weird pain in his body. Even now his right shoulder is like a constantly radiating pain. It hasn’t made him particularly in the mood.

Except right now though his body clearly has other ideas. There’s arousal like a buzz just under his skin. He knows if he reached down he’d be half hard in his sleep pants.

Still he doesn’t really want to go through the effort. He tosses and turns, but there doesn’t seem to be relief. If anything it seems to be growing. He might now have a choice if he wants to sleep.

Keith sighs and turns onto his back, pushing the sheets halfway down. His fingers fiddle with the hem of his pants, and even that is turning him on. It’s kind of like the pain when he spars, but turned in the opposite direction. Instead of his body tuned into pain, his nerves are sliding the other way, filling with pleasure.

His hand slides up his stomach, and he almost gasps at how good it feels. He’s sensitive, so sensitive.

He closes his eyes and lets himself sink into it. He hasn’t wanted to tune into his body when it was pain he was feeling, had had even tried his best to actively block it out, but this—

Keith trails his fingers up his chest, bypassing his nipples as first. He touches his collarbone and then throat. He doesn't know why he does, other than it feels right. There’s something that guides him up to touching the length of his throat, then the sharpness of his own jaw. When his fingers slide across his own lips he does gasp. Then those fingers dip inside, pressing down on his tongue.

It’s strange, almost lewd to do it to himself. He pulls his fingers out and lets them trail saliva across his cheek.

The guiding force then has his hand skimming back down, stopping to touch his ears and then throat again. His body shifts in the sheets as he teases himself around his nipples, not touching yet, but the promise of it is electric. It’s never felt like this, like him and not him at the same time.

It’s so disorienting he doesn’t even notice when his thumb moved to catch across his nipple. He moans, full throated into the darkness, body arching up as his nerves light up. It feels so good, so much more intense than it should. His fingers pinch then at the bud, and his hips thrust his now hard cock against the fabric. He wants so badly just to take a hand to himself, to stroke himself to a fast and intense finish, but his hands don’t do that. It feels… out of his control. Or maybe it’s just hotter to think that. Hotter to follow this ghost sensation through his body.

Next he plays with the other nipple until it peaks, making sounds he can’t possibly contain.

“Fuck,” he whispers when his hand finally starts to move back down. When it hits the sleep pants, he lifts up and easily the fabric slips off.

His cock bounces up against his belly, the wet tip oozing against his hot skin. Keith doesn’t even look, his eyes are still closed but it’s clear as day in his head.

Beautiful. It’s a voice in his ear, whispered.

Keith gasps as his hand slides down and circles the base of him. He squirms a little at how bad he wants it, at how his whole body buzzes with potential.

And then finally, finally, his hand wraps around his cock.

“Sh—“ He cuts off the word, but the damage has been done. In his mind everything shifts. And then Shiro’s there with him. He’s so clear in Keith’s mind, Keith can feel the hand around him is not his anymore, but Shiro’s.

And its Shiro’s voice that says, let me.

The first stroke has Keith moaning at how it washes over him. He feels in in his whole body, and he moves with it, fucking up into the fist.

There’s a clever twist of the hand at his tip. Keith curses, and then the hand does it again and again. The other hand moves down further and touches his balls. Keith pants at the way it all blurs and burns inside him.

You like that, Shiro’s voice says. Its low, like it’s been spoken right into his ear.

“Yes,” Keith says.

On the next stroke the hand stops at the tip to thumb over the wetness, smearing it down beneath the head where he’s most sensitive.

Look at you, dripping for me.


The hand slides back down, jerking him off with slow but steady pressure. The other hand slips further under, and Keith immediately widens his legs. He’s burning, stifled under the pleasure but he doesn’t want it to stop. The finger touches between his legs, the little bit of skin there, and Keith’s whole body shivers.

Oh, baby.

Keith fucks into the next stroke and the other finger finally dips low enough to touch his rim.

Would you like that?

Keith swallows a gasp, stretched thin between the sensations. Everything is so much and yet—

He wants. He can’t imagine what it would feel like when he’s like this, but he wants.

“Plea— fuck— ah—“

There’s a low, amused hum, and the hand on him speeds up. Maybe next time…

And then Keith is arching, gasping at the tight and slick grip on his cock. His orgasm crests all at once and it’s a spangled, white thing. He moans as it crashes into him, wave after wave. It feels resplendent, filling up his whole body. He can hear Shiro as he comes, soft words and curses.

Keith fucks his fist, spilling messy gobs of come across his belly, dripping down his fist. It’s everywhere, but he’s so floored by the pleasure thrumming through him he can’t even think about it.

He’s never had an orgasm that intense. Never felt anything, really, like that.

When he comes down he just lies there in the sheets unmoving. His heart is battering, lungs burning for air. Every bit of him is sticky either in come or sweat.


When he finally opens his eyes to the darkened room, he’s alone. There is no Shiro.

It was just—

Keith groans.

It’s one thing to have feelings for Shiro, and another entirely to do… that. Fantasies happen, but what he’d just done had felt like so much more. He’d imagined Shiro was here, that Shiro—

The worst part is that it had felt so real. Uncomfortably real.


Keith hauls himself up out of the bed and heads for the shower. He tries not to think about what he just did in the shower, but beneath the hot water he can almost feel that ghost sensation traveling down his body, washing him just as thoroughly as Keith’s own hands do.

And as the ache in his shoulder steadily begins to return, he considers… another doctor’s appointment.

Chapter Text

Shiro assumes it’s the new body at first. It's the obvious conclusion, because surely having his soul ripped out and then stuffed back in a physical vessel is going to leave him… a little messed up for a while. He just doesn’t expect it to keep getting worse.

But it is somehow. It's everything all the time. The lights are too bright, the sounds too sharp and loud, and the smells just drown him.

That’s not to mention how it feels to touch. Shiro tries to block it out at first, tries to keep his lights low and stay home when they finally get back to a peaceful Earth. But then there’s Keith. Keith who needs him, Keith who would only blame himself if Shiro complained about his bodily issues. Shiro knows well enough now Keith’s grief. He knows Keith is too good, and shoulders undue responsibility for what happened to Shiro. He shouldn’t, but he does. 

So Shiro comes out of his self imposed hiding before it becomes too suspicious, and he comes up with the idea to start sparring. They’re both out of shape, so he figures it’s a good activity that can get them back on track. He just doesn’t anticipate how that will feel.

Even now, weeks into it, Shiro finds it difficult to concentrate. He gets… signals, too many all at once, alerting him of where Keith’s going to strike milliseconds before he does. It’s a weird sense, the hyper-alertness, like his body reading the situation and reacting before he can even think of it. It’s good in the way that it’s carrying him along, but the chaos in his head is almost too much. He can feel the air like a weight, smell the scent of Keith and sweat and even people who used the gym before them.

Sometimes Shiro even imagines he can hear Keith’s heart beat when he dips in closer trying to get in under a block. There’s a thumping echo in his mind that catches his attention, has him nearly faltering as he turns his head to get a better read.

And if all of that wasn’t bad enough, when it gets hand to hand or down onto the mat, the feeling of Keith’s skin against his is…


Keith hisses now as Shiro blocks a blow on his metal arm. He feels it reverberate up to his shoulder, and there’s the normal pain of where the port attaches to his body, but he pushes it side. More presently is Keith gritting his teeth and slipping around Shiro to get his backside. Shiro’s body knows what’s happening and turns with it, but then Keith’s pushing on his knees and driving him down, down onto the mat.

Shiro can feel so acutely where they're touching, and it sends a cascade of sensory information through him. His brain fuzzes trying to handle it all, and he ends up landing hard on his shoulder. He groans, but it’s Keith’s horrid gasp as he lands beside Shiro that gets Shiro’s attention.

“Keith?” He pushes up at once, trying to clear his head. If he focuses he can just push the sensations far enough away to function. Keith’s sprawled on the mat, eyes closed and face in an expression of pain. He’s grabbing at his shoulder, clearly the source.

“Keith? Fuck!” Shiro knew they should stop this, should have stopped weeks ago at the first indication of Keith’s pain. Shiro just didn’t want to hurt Keith. He didn’t want to be the person to put limits on Keith, he knows, acutely, how that feels. Keith was always the person who always believed in Shiro, even when his own body was failing him. Shiro just wants to return the kindness.

But clearly there’s been something going on with Keith, and Shiro’s let it slide too long.

“S’fine,” Keith gets out. The sound of his voice is wildly unconvincing.

“It’s not. It hasn’t been for weeks. We need to go to the medic—“

“I have!” Keith cuts him off. “I’ve been and there’s nothing wrong with me.”

“Nothing wrong?”

“They checked. Checked everything. I even went for physical therapy, it didn’t make a difference.”

Shiro frowns. He doesn’t like the sound of that. But then again, he knows how his own disease went, it took lots of trial and error to find things that worked.

“Well let’s try again, but this time I’ll come with. We’ll double check.”

Keith sighs, heavy. His arm falls from where it was curled around his injured shoulder.

“Shiro, I don’t think…” He’s not looking at Shiro now, but Shiro can practically feel the discomfort seeping off him. Shiro’s own stomach swoops cold with fear.

He takes a deep breath and sits up, pulling his own optimism close. “C’mon. If there’s nothing on the scans we can just go and get massages, relax a little. All we’ve been doing is sparring, maybe we both just need more rest.”

Keith’s eyes flicker up to him then, uncertain, but seemingly buoyed by Shiro’s confidence.

“More hooky?”

Shiro grins, “If that’s what the doctor orders.” He stands then, ignoring his own aches and reaches for Keith’s uninjured arm. The touch isn’t all that unusual, and yet it warms Shiro through when Keith takes his hand. They go to the medic.

Once there it’s much like Keith said, none of the scanners, bloodwork or biopsies turn up anything unusual. The doctor skirts around the suggestion of PTSD and trauma, but Shiro is quick to cut her off when he notices Keith wilting at his side. They all know well the haunts of the brain, especially with what they've gone through. It still doesn't make it easier to hear, that your body hurts because of your brain. Because of your trauma.

He gets Keith out of there, and as a distraction, Shiro guides them toward the chow hall. It’s late, there won’t be time to book massages this evening, but as they sit down to eat Shiro pulls out his datapad and starts looking at availabilities.

“What about Friday evening?” Shiro asks. It’s two days from now, but—

“Uh, sure. I get off at 4.” Keith’s still pretty quiet. Not even the cookie Shiro shoved onto his plate from the desert cart has gotten a smile out of him.

But Shiro’s brain is working hard on that already. He clicks on the open time slot and books them both for an hour, throwing in every expensive thing the spa offers. It’s less therapy and more indulgence as Shiro swipes through checkout, but if anyone deserves it, it’s Keith.

“Yeah, and that way we can get the weekend started off right.”

This catches Keith’s attention. “The weekend?”

“Yup!” Shiro smiles and then stashes his datapad away. “Not busy are you?”

Something un-grumpy begins to curl at the edges of Keith’s mouth. “No…?”

“Great! So how about you pack a bag, we’ll have a sleepover, do a whole weekend. If we need more rest, then we'll do more rest."

Shiro watches Keith’s face do something difficult, cycling through a few expressions before landing on cautious interest. “Pack a bag? Shiro my apartment is down the hall from yours.”

Now that Keith’s showing interest and the dark cloud of his mood is beginning to recede, Shiro digs his teeth in. He doesn’t have any problem being foolish if it means Keith will smile. “Yeah but that’s not an experience,” he says. “We’re doing a whole weekend, you have to pack a bag.”

Keith smiles at this. “And who will feed Kosmo?”

“Oh Kosmo comes with, you’re a package deal.”

There’s something lovely then about Keith, a shift that Shiro can’t put words to, but he feels it. It’s warm and fizzy, and fills Shiro up as Keith’s eyes meet his. Shiro’s plans only expand under that gaze.

“Okay. I guess.”

Shiro beams. “Perfect,” he says, nodding more to himself than anything. He reaches across the table and prods the cookie closer to Keith. “Now eat your cookie, I heard from a little pitrrew that chocolate chip are your favorite.”

Keith snorts then, but picks up the sweet. “You’re so stupid,” he says, but Shiro feels what he means, and it’s that soft affection that makes it all worth it.


The next morning, Thursday morning, Shiro wakes with a blaring headache. He groans up at the darkened ceiling. It’s early, too early to be awake but—

The dream he'd just been having comes back all at once. It had been about Keith, laid out in the bed, ass tilted up as he clawed into the sheets with pleasure. The cock had pressed in and in, and Keith moaned for it, gorgeous.


Except above him had been James fucking Griffin.

Shiro breathes out a hard breath and turns over. The prickly feeling of that still lingers hot and heavy under his skin. There’s jealousy but there’s also just… arousal. In his mind he can still see Keith, so beautiful and lost to pleasure as he took a cock just perfectly. He’s a fucking dream. Literal, figurative.

Shiro just hates that even in his own dreams somehow it isn’t him fucking Keith. Or rather it had been him and not him, the way that dreams do. He’d touched Keith, felt the build of them coming together, how hot and tight he was.

And then it had shifted, and Shiro was just watching, helpless as Keith was fucked hard. Keith moaned and panted and shifted up onto his knees to get the angle. Keith's cock beneath him was hard, rubbing against a pillow as the cock inside him thrust faster and faster.

At least toward the end it had become more disembodied. No James. It had been just a cock fucking into Keith. Just Keith enjoying himself.

Shiro reaches down into his boxers now, remembering just that part. The swell of arousal had been so sweet then, and it’s all too easy to reach for it again. Similar to the other night when it overcame him, the sensation is all at once heavy and almost drowning. The other night he had slipped into a Keith fantasy, and it had been so shamefully real in the moment.

Shiro pushes into the tight circle of his own hand.

“Keith,” he mumbles into the bedding. He shouldn’t, shouldn’t be letting these fantasies run free like this… but it just feels so good. It feels so real in these few moments, and Shiro’s a weak man. He wishes so badly it were real, that Keith were under him, offering up his lips to be kissed, his skin to be caressed.

He swears, moving his hips faster. The pleasure is piling quickly, pushing away the pain in his head and filling it instead with Keith. Keith sleepy and rumpled from last night’s romp, spreading his legs carelessly for Shiro to slip back inside him.

“So wet,” he groans. He can feel it almost, that slick heat around his cock. Keith mumbles still half asleep, but it sounds pleased. Shiro would lean down and press a kiss to his shoulder, then up to his neck, tucking his dark hair out of the way.

“Want you just like this,” Shiro says. “Soft and open. Just perfect.”

There’s a hot pulse in the bottom of Shiro’s belly, something sweet and lovely. It almost makes him shiver as it runs through him. His orgasm rolls closer at speed as he fucks in, in—

Please, comes Keith’s soft voice. Shiro gasps at how real it sounds, at how it lights him all up.

He fucks into the tightness, and then falls apart under the crush of the resulting pleasure. He groans Keith’s name, spilling into his fist, into the sheets. His hips work automatically as he comes and it feels good, so fucking good.

And then, just like any other dream, it falls away. It leaves Shiro, sweaty and heaving, into the sheets. There’s no Keith with him, it’s just him and his cramping hand, and the strange, strange feeling of being untethered.


The day doesn’t improve after that. Once out of bed and showered, the headache comes roaring back. The water is at first too hot and then too cold, and then it’s just too much. It’s as if Shiro can feel every molecule hitting his skin, and it’s so fucking loud.

Then it’s loud too at the chow hall for breakfast. There’s eggs and pancakes, and they should smell good to Shiro, but mostly the smell is overwhelming and irritating. Shiro grabs an apple, a banana, and a granola bar and books it out of there.

He ends up back behind one of the Garrison buildings that overlooks the desert landscape. It’s quiet there with just the wind, and that’s helpful. The sun is maybe a touch bright for this early, but the nothingness of the desert helps to balance that. Shiro eats his breakfast, trying to ignore the headache.

Next there are meetings and emails to answer. Shiro loathes the former but for once actually cherishes the later. Emails he gets to do alone in his office, his office that comes with a locked door where he can turn down the lights and exist in silence. It’s also where he goes ahead and takes several painkillers for the relentless pounding in his head.

By the time Shiro gets back to the chow hall and sees James and Keith side by side having lunch, he is more than a little done. He knows what Keith said, even believes Keith that there’s nothing going on between them, but—

The dream image is too present in Shiro’s mind. James is saying something, and as he does so he loops an arm around Keith’s shoulders to squeeze and Shiro just… snaps.

He stalks over, dropping down into the seat right beside James. He’s radiating bad vibes, he knows he is, but he can’t seem to rein it in.

James stiffens up and turns to see Shiro. At once his hand jumps off of Keith.

“Oh! Captain Shirogane!”


Beyond him Keith looks a little too pleased. There’s a warmth suddenly to him, the way he leans against the table to get a look at Shiro.

“Afternoon Shiro, bad day?”

Shiro grins, and he knows it’s a shade too toothy. “Getting worse by the moment.”

James shoots up in his seat. “I just remembered— gotta—“

He gestures vaguely, but Shiro’s pleased as punch that Keith’s eyes don’t move off him.

“’Kay,” Keith says, looking steadily at Shiro. “See you later.”

Then James is gone.

“What’s later?” Shiro can’t stop his mouth from asking the question.

“I said I’d help him with the new flight module Matt created.”

Shiro slides into the vacated seat, practically looming over Keith. The smile on Keith’s face only cracks wider. He looks good today, smells even better. “Oh yeah?”

“Uh huh. Wanna tell me what’s got you so upset?”

“Slept wrong.”

“Been sleeping wrong a lot lately, hm?”

It’s a little too close to the truth. The dream is almost tangible there in the air between them. It’s an uncomfortable overlay, Keith gasping in pleasure and this Keith, lips curved and watching Shiro with avid interest. Shiro straightens up when he realizes he’s leaning in too much.

“Just a lot on my mind.”

“Anything I can help with?”

“Depends…” Shiro gets an idea then. It’s a little too hamfisted, no doubt Keith will see right through him, but he almost doesn’t care. “Can you cancel your later?”

Keith snorts then, turning away to bump Shiro’s shoulder.

“You really don’t like James, do you?”

“I don’t like how liberal he is with you. If you’re not interested he should respect that.”

Keith’s fingers tap on the table then in thought. “Well you’re certainly sending a message.” There’s a moment of silence where Shiro thinks of several responses and discards each. Then, “Alright. If I cancel, you gonna make it worth my while?”

Shiro doesn’t know how this has gotten all turned around to him entertaining Keith, but he’s certainly not going to backtrack now. “Of course,” he says, meeting those vivid purple eyes.

They spend the evening, then, racing in the desert. It’s a far cry from the kind of resting he’d been advocating for just yesterday for Keith, but Shiro finds it hard to regret the choice. For the first time all day his mind is light and empty, and the pain in his temples has finally receded. The air is warm, the landscape clean, and beside him Keith is grinning as the wind whips past them. Something wondrous fills Shiro’s chest as they race up one dune and down the other. There’s a rightness to the evening, a rightness to he and Keith here and now. Keith pulls ahead after a sharp turn, but Shiro doesn’t even care, something between them has bloomed large, and it pulls him in. He grins at Keith’s whoop of victory as he flies past the single dead tree marking their finish line.

When Keith slows and turns to look at Shiro, his hair is a mess and his cheeks are pink. Looking at him haloed by the setting sunlight all Shiro can think is, stars, I love you.


That evening when Shiro lays in bed, it’s far too easy to conjure up the way Keith had looked winning their race. He re-imagines it now, except instead of just gazing, he acts.

He swings a leg over his bike, and stalks over to where Keith is breathless and still seated. Shiro imagines himself bending, cupping Keith’s jaw and just kissing him. Ah, a caught sound from Keith’s mouth, but it’s surprise and not alarm. Quickly following is Keith’s own hand circling the back of Shiro’s neck and all but pulling him down to sit on the bike.

It’s so real, just like all the times before, and Shiro lets himself indulge in this strange thing. He keeps thoughts away from James, and focuses only on kissing Keith, on touching him. He smells of sweat and hot desert air, and Shiro wants.

Shiro, Keith says when they break to breathe. Would it be like this?

“If I were braver. If I thought you—“

He’s cut off by Keith dragging him back in for a searing kiss.

But I do. I always have.

They’re words Shiro’s always wanted to hear, and he’s immediately carried off by them. He leans into Keith, pulling him almost into Shiro’s lap. Shiro’s hard already, and he reaches down beneath his sheets and takes a hand to himself.

The pleasure is there instantly, and it begins to double on itself the moment Keith starts to grind on his lap. Shiro’s hands fall to his hips guiding them just so.

Feels so…

“I know.”

There are more kisses then as they move. They’re half breaths, off centered and occasionally messy. It doesn’t matter because everything, absolutely everything feels good. It’s intense like before, but Shiro doesn’t fight it. He pushes toward the feeling, grabbing the cords of pleasure and letting them wrap around him. It mounts, sharper and more intense.

He can taste on Keith’s lips the oranges they had out in the desert watching the last of the sun set. It’s sweet, acidic, and then behind it there’s something that’s Keith. Shiro always assumed that was a myth, that kissing anyone had a them taste. He gets it now though. It’s a sharp and strange taste, but Shiro can’t get enough.

And the smell of him. When he moves off Keith’s mouth, it’s only to bury his face in his neck and breathe in. It’s masculine, sweaty. Keith’s showered since they got back, so there’s the smell of water and shampoo, but there’s also just Keith. It’s good, so good. Shiro just wants to roll in it.


Their hips are moving faster now, building as they clutch at each other.

“You smell so fucking good.”

Keith hums, his nails rake up the back of Shiro’s neck and send splinter shivers through him. It feels amazing.

They build and build like that. It’s a push and pull, like waves that instead of cresting only topple on top of each other.

Shiro, ah—

“Yeah, baby, just—“

It’s somehow more than the times before. Words gather in Shiro’s throat, but they get tangled beneath the weight of the sensations. Everything is just Keith, Keith—

Keith cries out, and then before Shiro can do anything there’s a tug, a blast of feeling and –

White nothingness.

Shiro bites down on Keith’s throat, overwhelmed by the sensation as he begins to come. Keith is there with him, moaning and grinding against him. His body is there and not, lost in the pulsing, crashing pleasure. It goes on for too long, his whole body heaving and prickling with the sensation that begins to slide into over-sensitivity.

And then it recedes like before. It washes out, pulling out of him. It’s a loss, but Shiro’s too flattened to try to stop it.

He comes back to himself in bed, hand around his cock, a mess of come everywhere. His fingers and toes are tingling, and on his tongue he swears he can taste oranges.



Friday Shiro wakes with a renewed sense of purpose. There’s a lingering headache just in the back of his head, but the plans for the day get him up out of bed early. They allow him to breeze through the chow hall and grab breakfast without falling into a mood at how the noise grates him.

The work day flies by in a similar manner. Shiro throws himself into it with an efficiency and enthusiasm he hasn’t felt for this job in a long time. It’s easy to do knowing that he has something worthwhile at the end.

And then it really is over, and he’s sending the last email and shutting off his computer. He’s fixed it with Pidge that there will be absolutely no interruptions between now and Monday morning save an Actual Galactic Emergency.

So now, it’s almost time for their spa appointment.

Shiro heads out of his office, sending Keith a message as he walks toward the on-site spa. Technically it’s a part of the physical therapy suite, but Shiro’s glad some words were had about expanding their services, considering the Garrison is the only real place to get anything done in the area.

When he arrives Keith is already there looking worn, but he smiles when he spots Shiro.

“After you,” Shiro says holding open the door.

Shiro booked it as a couples thing, and he tries not to feel awkward about it now as they’re lead to the changing area and given directions on where to go once they’ve been de-robed. Initially he had thought it would be helpful in supporting Keith in case the massage didn’t go well, or some other issue came up with it. The way Keith had acted when it had come up in the gym had troubled Shiro, and he intends to keep his word on sticking with Keith.

Keith makes no comment on it, they strip down to underwear each and then fold up their clothing and put them in the designated area. Shiro does his best not to look as Keith moves up onto his table and lays down. They’ve seen each other naked plenty of times before, hard not to with the Garrison and then the war, but here in peacetime it’s markedly different. Different too because of the fantasies Shiro’s been having.

Keith lays down, sighing into it.

“Long week?” Shiro lays down himself head turned them to look at Keith. Keith’s likewise facing him.

“Hmm, was it? Maybe a long year.”

Shiro laughs. They chat about nothing of importance for a few more minutes, and then there’s a knock at the door. The therapists that come in are both men, and they run through a brief spiel and ask them each about problem areas and relevant medical history. Keith brings up his shoulder, but also the constant ache in his back. When it’s Shiro’s turn it’s… harder to put into words. He’s spent a lifetime of ignoring the pain of his body and pushing through it. It’s so normal to him now that he doesn’t even know which areas are areas of concern for him.

If anyone notices that he sort of copies Keith’s answer, no one says anything.

It is strange though when the man starts touching him. He hasn’t had anyone really work on him since before Kerberos. It used to be something he had to regularly attend to with his disease, but once the Galra had fixed it, Shiro hadn’t considered going back.

The man starts just warming up his muscles, moving lightly up and down his back. Shiro shuts his eyes and swallows the first noise that wants to rise out of his throat. Even this light touch is… a lot. It has that same intensity that Shiro’s been fighting with all his senses, and its quick to highlight just how tense and twisted up his muscles are.

He opens his eyes briefly to look at Keith. Keith’s eyes are closed as the man works his neck and down to his shoulder. There’s a bunching between Keith’s eyebrows as if he’s in pain. It makes Shiro ache to see it.

“How’s the shoulder?” Shiro’s therapist asks. His hands rest just shy of the port. Shiro hadn’t even considered mentioning it in that pre-interview.


The man makes a neutral sound and then his hands press a little further down.

All at once the pain blooms up, sharp and immediately present. Keith gasps.

“A lot of stiffness here,” the man says to Shiro. His hands press into the shoulder, and then drag back to Shiro’s spine. “And you pull on this side, maybe overcompensating for the weight of the prosthetic. Do you feel this?”

There’s a quick press and then something in Shiro’s back cracks. It feels at once extremely painful and then pleasant. Keith’s therapist is talking to him too, voice low as he works him over, but it’s hard to concentrate. The sensations are rising once more and they’re so loud in Shiro’s head.

“Hurts,” Shiro says.

“No kidding. When was the last time you got this adjusted?” The man moves around, shifting Shiro’s body and forcing it into several manipulations that crack painfully, and then release a tension he didn’t realize had been there.

“Uh. I haven’t.”

There’s a sound from the man that sounds chiding, and then another adjustment. Shiro just catches a hard exhale from Keith, and Keith’s therapist saying, pain here? You’re not that stiff. Hmm.

“You need to,” the man’s voice pulls him back. “If you’re going to keep using this prosthetic.” He lifts it and then Shiro’s other arm. “The weight seems fine, but maybe the size is subconsciously making you hold it differently. It’s causing problems all the way down,” The man illustrates by then getting a pop out of Shiro’s lower back. Stars it feels amazing.

It goes on like that. Equal parts pain and then pleasure, but ultimately the man releases a pressure in Shiro’s body he hadn’t even been aware of. At the end of the hour Shiro feels bruised but relaxed, whole body heavy. The sensations are still clouding his head a little, but overall he feels markedly improved.

“There. Feel free to take your time getting up and dressed. I see you ordered the package, so the pool and hot tub are open to you if you’d like to do that.

Shiro doesn’t move until the two men exit, and then he slowly, carefully sits up. He usually has to repress the groan of his body as he moves, but for once the stiffness is missing. He has a dull soreness from the manipulations, but he feels…

“Wow,” Keith says, likewise sitting up. Shiro’s attention shifts completely to him.


“Yeah,” Keith’s smiling a little soft, he looks as though he was almost asleep. “Finally. I don’t know what he did, but that worked way better than the first time.”

Shiro smiles, elated. “I’m so glad.” He pushes himself to the edge and stands, offering Keith a hand. “What do you think, wanna use the hot tub or go for dinner?”

Keith gets up, but holds Shiro’s hand a moment longer. There’s a spritely energy to him that Shiro can see now has been missing. How he’s let this go on so long is frankly shameful. He has to be better. He will be.

“Hmm, how much was the package you bought?”

Shiro puts on his most innocent face. “Doesn’t matter, it’s all the Garrison’s guilt money. Spa or food, both are my treat.”

At that Keith laughs but gives him a narrow-eyed playful look. “That’ll be three dinners on your tab Shiro.”

He shrugs, “Guilt money.”

“Fine,” Keith says. “In that case both. Let’s take a quick dip and then food.”

It sounds like an excellent plan to Shiro

They do some soaking and then decide to drive out of the Garrison and get food. It’s fun and novel to leave the Garrison, but by the time they’re walking back to Keith’s apartment to get his packed bag they’re both wiped. Shiro's almost tempted to have Kosmo just poof them all back to Shiro's apartment.

There was more Shiro wanted to do tonight, but for the moment Shiro shelves those plans. There’s a whole weekend ahead of them, and it'll be much more enjoyable when they're both well-slept.

In Shiro's apartment do the bare minimum of teeth brushing and dressing for sleep. Kosmo is given the couch, and then he and Keith both fall into bed. There's a mumbling of good nights as the lights dim and then Shiro slips off to sleep.

Chapter Text

The morning blooms slow. Keith’s cozy and warm. For the first time in a long time his bodily pains have abandoned him. He comes to awareness a little at a time, enjoying it. There’s a weight over his hip, an arm. He breathes in and can smell a masculine scent he would recognize anywhere.


He remembers then the night, them dragging themselves back to Shiro’s, crashing into bed. It had been a good night, something that felt more in line with the old days. Better ending though, with how they’re so obviously curled together now. Keith sighs it out, trying to linger. He knows if he opens his eyes he’ll have to move. He’s curled in Shiro’s arms, and that’s fine for sleeping, fine as an unconscious choice but…

He wishes he were more selfish, that he could just nuzzle in and let himself enjoy it. He wishes for a great many things in that moment.

But like all the best moments, it’s over too soon. Keith’s eyes peek open and confirm exactly where he is, pressed against Shiro’s chest. The rhythmic whuff of breath that just barely tickles Keith’s cheek is Shiro’s. The man looks perfect in the early morning light. His hair’s a mess, and there’s drool just at the corner of his mouth, and it makes Keith’s heart throb. He wants this all to mean something-- the banter, Shiro’s clear dislike of James. In the fantasies Keith's been having Shiro’s words and actions hold a specific meaning…

But Keith knows sometimes reality isn’t like that. Plenty of people are nice for no reason, flirt with no reason, are effusive with their affection, and it doesn’t mean they want to kiss you. Keith is so afraid of falling in too deep and misreading it all. Better to keep boundaries until something more concrete comes along.

With that he reaches back and uncoils Shiro’s arm from his waist. Shiro grumbles and moves a little.

“Ke?” His sleep soft voice is barely the one syllable. Keith respectfully shuffles back just enough to maintain proper distance between them.


Shiro smiles even before he opens his eyes. It’s so cute Keith’s breath catches.

“So what’s on the agenda for today Captain?”

At that Shiro’s eyes pop open, and his face is suddenly so bright and excited that Keith feels it sizzle through him. How anyone is expected to not fall in love with Shiro at close range is absolutely beyond him.

“Ah, but it’s a surprise! First thing first though, breakfast.” He gets up then and crawls out of bed. Keith’s eyes go automatically to his ass and the cling of Shiro’s briefs. Before the man turns back around, Keith averts his eyes. Barely. Everything about Shiro is unfair.

“But you stay,” Shiro says, just as Keith begins to push away the covers.


“Yeah. It’s a breakfast in bed morning. Will you?”

He looks so happy, so earnest then. Butterflies burst into being in Keith’s stomach. “Okay. Sure.”

And then Shiro grins and is gone. A few minutes later Kosmo slinks into the room like a consolation prize. He hops up into Shiro’s vacated space, and Keith buries his face in the wolf’s electric blue mane.

“What’s he up to out there, hm?” Keith asks conspiratorially. The wolf only huffs and then flops over, offering his belly for scratches. Keith laughs and obliges.

It’s almost half an hour before Shiro returns. From the kitchen the smells of breakfast begin to waft in, and Kosmo gets distracted enough that he begins to try and squirm out of Keith’s hold.

“Oh no you don’t, you let him cook in peace,” Keith says, laying more completely on top of Kosmo. The wolf continues to squirm, eyes on the door, and Keith laughs keeping hold of him. That’s how Shiro finds them when he walks in with a tray of food.

“Are my best boys ready for breakfast?” It’s a tease, but Keith still gets a rush of heat through him. He sits up and Kosmo dutifully does the same, tail beginning to wack Keith in the side.

“Alright off you big doofus, you eat when we’re done!” Keith shoves at the big lump of wolf who turns to give him and then Shiro puppy eyes.

Shiro’s now to the bed with the tray. “Whatever Keith says goes,” he adds.

Mournfully Kosmo hops down. Shiro carefully climbs back into the bed and Keith helpfully piles the pillows at the headboard so they can both lean back comfortably. He looks over the breakfast tray. There’s eggs, French toast, fruit, and something that looks surprisingly like Galran yev-il.

“Shiro, this looks amazing. Is that yev-il?”

Shiro preens. “Of course, it’s your favorite.”

Keith doesn’t know what to say to that that wouldn’t be horrifically embarrassing, so he just picks up a fork. Together they work through most of the breakfast platter together, offering the leftover French toast to the wolf when they’re done.

“That was amazing,” Keith sighs back against the headboard. The relaxation from the massage must still be lingering, because he feels so, so good. There’s happiness just under his ribs, practically pushing up out of his skin.

“Glad you enjoyed. Had to kick the lazy weekend off right.”

“You certainly, certainly did.”

There’s a yip from the side of the bed, and they both look to see Kosmo sitting there expectantly. Shiro moves the tray off to the side table and then settles back into the headboard beside Keith.

“Alright,” Shiro says, “Can saddest boy in the world come back up?”

Keith snorts, shouldering Shiro affectionately. “Oh fine.”

Before the words are even completely out, there’s a mass of blue space wolf plopping down on their laps and curling over to offer his belly. Keith hates how right it all feels.


When it’s been far, far too long, they do look at getting out of bed. Shiro takes up the tray, nodding at Keith and his bag beside the dresser.

“Why don’t you shower, and I’ll clean up.”

“This is already starting to feel very one-sided,” Keith says even as he bends to pick out some clothes for the day.

“Indulge me,” Shiro says, “You’ve literally saved my life, there’s so little I’ve ever been able to do to repay that.” Keith scoffs at that, as if Shiro wasn’t the one to save him first. Before he can open his mouth though, Shiro is smiling wide at him. “Indulge me. Please.”

The sincerity gets him. Keith flushes and turns away. “Fine,” He grumbles. The warmth in his chest swells.

In the shower Keith takes his time. He needs it, if the status of his cock is any indication. Shiro is just so…

Good. So good. Between last night and this morning, Keith feels as if he’s floating. He hasn’t felt this good in so long, and he just wants to sink into it. There’s a niggling guilt that Shiro is doing too much for him, but he also just likes it. Likes being treated like he’s special. Likes he means something.

Keith presses his forehead against the shower tile. The soap and shampoo he’s used smell like Shiro, and it’s a lot to guard himself against. He shouldn’t, here in Shiro’s shower, but also…

Better here than an inappropriate erection the next time Shiro so much as touches him.

Keith reaches down for his cock that’s filling quickly now. He breathes hot puffs of air as he begins to stroke. It’s slow, just as indulgent as everything has been today so far. The pleasure still builds quick as it has before. Keith doesn’t know why, what’s changed, but he doesn’t fight it. He imagines it’s Shiro’s hand, large and calloused on his cock. Shiro stepping up behind him, crushing him in the best way against the tiled wall. He would wrap his strong arms around Keith, kiss his neck, and stroke Keith just like this.

I can’t… I shouldn’t be thinking about you like this. Not now.

Keith only hums, baring his neck. There are more kisses, and the interrupted gasps as Shiro takes him apart. It makes it better, the pleasure deeper, imagining Shiro enjoying even just this. Shiro getting pleasure just from watching Keith, from touching him.

You like touching me, Keith thinks. Says, in the fantasy.

Of course I do.

Shiro’s hand begins to move faster, and Keith sighs, feeling his orgasm approach.

It’s almost soft when it overcomes him. The hand stays on him as he shudders, gasping low enough the shower spray covers the sound. He comes, and it’s washed away, even as the pleasure of it leaves him dazed.

The fantasy falls away as he comes down, and then it’s just him, alone in the shower. Keith takes a steadying breath and rinses. He takes his time trying to gather himself back together. Then he turns the water off. In the bathroom he dresses, brushes his teeth, and tries to make sure he looks presentable in the mirror. He tries to look like someone who didn’t just jerk off in his best friends shower to a fantasy of said best friend.

It works, sort of. It works until he comes out of the bathroom and Shiro’s in the bedroom getting clothes out of his own dresser. He’s shirtless. Keith flushes hot and looks away.


“Ah, sorry,” Keith says.

“No. Uh. No worries. Just gonna… jump in the shower. Um. Can you wait?”


“Here. Um. There’s a surprise in the living room and I want to show you, I just need to shower real quick.” Shiro’s got his clothing bundled in front of him, and he looks markedly off-center. Keith notices that the bedroom door has indeed been shut.

But he’s been so wonderful, Keith’s hardly about to argue or poke at him.  “Okay. Sure. I’ll check my messages.”

“Great!” Shiro grins, but it too is a little off. He looks sort of nervous? It’s weird on him. “I’ll be quick.”

Keith walks over to the bed and plops back down on it. On the bedside table is his data pad. The shower clicks on and Keith keeps his mind off of it. Even when that dangerous heat creeps back into his belly he ignores it.

Shiro’s shower is one thing, his bed is entirely another.


To his word, Shiro doesn’t take long. Keith’s barely read through all his new emails before the shower is switching off. It makes Keith think then of the living room. Of the surprise. He has no idea what it could be. More food? He sort of hopes not, considering Kosmo is not in here with him. If it is food, the wolf has been left alone with it, and the odds are not great the food is still in tact.

Shiro comes out in a waft of steam, hair wet but fully dressed. He’s a bit pink from the heat, and it’s a good look. Keith closes out of his email and puts the datapad down.

“Sorry for making you wait,” Shiro says. The nerves are gone now, and he looks more himself now, even a little excited.

Keith shakes his head. “No worries.”

“Okay c’mon.” Shiro drags a towel over his head and then chucks it into the laundry bin on the way to the door. He smells heavily of soap and Keith does not think about it. Instead he follows Shiro to the door and then out into the darkened living room.

A living room that’s been truly transformed since last night. The lights are off, but with the dim lighting Keith can see there’s a tent, or a sheet, strung up to the ceiling lighting. It blocks most of the living room from view.


Shiro walks around to an opening, ushering Keith in. As soon as Keith sees inside, he knows what it is.

“Thought we could have a proper blanket fort,” Shiro says.

The coffee table has been moved out, and the space between the couches and TV has been layered with blankets and cushions. The sheets hung from the light above service as the tent top and walls, enclosing the space. The one wall uncovered faces the TV for proper viewing. There’s even some little string lights along the edges of the floor to give the space a soft ambiance. Kosmo is in the middle of the blanket pile, sprawled out and cozy.

Shiro crawls in, gently shoving at Kosmo. “Hey you, make some space for us.”

Keith looks and looks. His heart is pounding, practically quivering in his chest. This is— it’s—

He swallows hard as Shiro flops down into an opening space and looks back at Keith, grinning. He’s haloed in the soft light of the tent.

“Coming in?”

Keith bends and crawls in. “This is so much Shiro,” he says. He means it to come off casual, but there’s a stiffness that comes through.

“Cool, right?” Shiro says. Keith takes a seat next to him, then lays down as Shiro shuffles to give him a little more room. “I used to make them as a kid. Pretended I was camping in alien territory as I scouted the galaxy.”

That startles as laugh out of Keith. “I think this is infinitely more cozy.”

Shiro laughs. “As it turns out, roughing it on alien worlds is significantly less fun in real life.”

There’s a beat of silence, then the wolf getting up to he can better sprawl across their legs. “Wow, Shiro. This is…”

“Do you like it?”

Keith’s face feels hot, he can’t even look at Shiro. “Yeah. Of course. It’s cool.”

“Good,” Shiro rolls over and grabs the remote for the TV. “Wanna choose what we watch first?”

Keith sifts through a bunch of human and alien movies before finding something that looks interesting. It’s a romcom, subtitled, but the ratings on it are too good to ignore. He puts it on and they settle in.

Thirty minutes later Keith is laughing, both at the movie and at Shiro’s running commentary. It’s… fun. Strange to be having so much fun with so little effort. Before, at the Garrison, they’d spent plenty of evenings like this, just hanging out. Now Keith experiences it as a strange novelty. He’s aware so acutely then of exactly how much he has been working. Enough to find himself a little squirmy from just a few hours of non-productivity.

He doesn’t like it. He’s ambitious for sure, he cares a lot about the universe and about rebuilding now in a time of peace, but he never wanted to be a workaholic. He never wanted to sacrifice himself wholly to a job. He’d seen Shiro headed that direction before Kerberos, and had worried about it, about how it would break him down.

Keith doesn’t want it for either of them.


“Oh they’re going to drink the w-bhu! No don’t do it!” Shiro cries out at the screen. Keith’s eyes flicker to him, and his grin is wide, crinkling the corners of his eyes as he watches. It makes Keith smile in return.

No, he doesn’t want it just to be work for either of them.


After the first movie, they break to just chat. It’s not a spoken thing, the screen just lapses into darkness as they talk. They’re shoulder to shoulder by then, having somehow scooted closer over time, and Keith doesn’t really want to move. He stares up at the soft shadows cast on the sheets by the string lights, listening to Shiro tell an amusing story, and just… lets himself be.

It’s easy in the end. It’s Shiro, so their conversation winds round and round, without effort. Talk about the movie becomes talk about the actors, their planet, their society. There are things they could surely look up on the datapad, but it’s kind of more fun to speculate. They discuss the strangeness of some alien societies, how strange humans must be to them in return.

But then how similar too. How they could watch an alien romcom, and still understand a lot of the jokes, understand the plot and themes, how similarly a story is constructed even in societies completely estranged from their own. There’s something nice about that, how different and how the same.

“It’s like you and me,” Shiro says. “I know in the beginning you didn’t think so, but when I saw you ace those flight scores, then heard how that teacher talked about you… I just knew we were the same. But different? Uh. I’m not explaining it well.”

“I get it,” Keith says. “And you’re right. I remember resenting you at first until I got it. The whole Golden Boy thing.” Shiro scoffs. “I know, but you know how they put you in this box. I would ignore what you said back then because I just thought, oh he doesn’t get it. He’s nothing like me.”

“What changed your mind?” Shiro rolls onto his side to look at Keith.

Keith mirrors it, trying not to think of how close they are, how close it all feels inside this tented place. “Admiral Fritz.” Shiro makes a face of disgust, that face, tongue poking out and everything, and Keith laughs. “Yes! Exactly! It was that propaganda pep rally—“

“It wasn’t a pep—“

“It was,” Keith says. “And you were seated up front in this super important position, and Admiral Fritz started spewing all that trash about—“

Shiro groans, pained. “Please don’t remind me.”

Keith grins. “Yeah. And mid speech I look over and you’re making the most disgusted face. I don’t even think you knew you were doing it because everyone could easily see you, and it was just so funny. So not The Golden Boy. You were just some guy, just as disgusted as me by some of the Garrison stuff, and it was just refreshing. A room full of stiffs, but I looked at you and you’re practically gagging.”

Shiro laughs. “He was the worst!”

“He was. Whatever happened to him?”

“Hopefully early retirement,” Shiro says lowly.

“Ugh,” Keith says. “Why are we even still working with the Garrison?”

“Waiting for better offers?”

Keith flops back onto his back. “Are we? We’re not just going to keep doing this forever are we?”

“What would you want to do instead?”

That gives Keith pause. He can still feel Shiro’s eyes on him, but he keeps his own on the tent top. “I dunno. I didn’t really think past finishing the Garrison, getting to pilot. I didn’t think past anything during the war.”

“And now?”

“I guess I’d like to think about something else. There’s a whole universe, I don’t know…”

“Can I make a request?”

Keith turns his head to look at Shiro, his expression softened by the low lighting. He’s close enough that if Keith leaned up—


“Include me,” Shiro says. “I don’t know either, but I don’t want to stay here.”

Keith knows he only wishes there was an unspoken without you, at the end of that, but it still aches through him nonetheless. The idea of leaving also suddenly feels so possible. Shiro would come with if Keith left. He even actively wants to. It tears down a barrier Keith hadn’t even gotten to yet. The fantasy of it sprawls out instead, him and Shiro flying through the stars, maybe helping the Blades or distant star systems. Maybe just exploring…

It unfolds into infinite possibilities that Keith feels like soap bubbles full of joy inside his chest.

“Okay,” he says. “I will.”

Shiro’s smile is radiant, almost difficult to look at. “Good. Now, how about some lunch, and then we’ll start another movie?”

Keith nods, almost grateful for the change in topic. They’re too close, and it’s all too much. The possibility and hope are crowding in with them, and Keith doesn’t know how he’s supposed to hold on to objective reality. But then Shiro gets up and leaves the tent, taking some of that sunshine fizzle with him. Keith takes a long, deep breath.

He’s so, so doomed.

“Grilled cheese okay?” Shiro calls.


Shiro starts rustling around in the kitchen and Keith just works on relaxing. He’s still thrumming with that Do Something energy, but now it’s mixed in with a happier, excited sort of energy. He lets himself feel it in his body, a quivering urge to get up and make something happen.

Keith could, in a universe where he was braver. He imagines himself getting up, going to the kitchen. Shiro would be focused on the stove, he can just hear the butter beginning to sizzle in the pan. It would so easy just to walk up, to slide his arms around Shiro’s waist. Keith could hook his chin over Shiro’s shoulders and say, hey, lets not wait. If neither of us want to be here at the Garrison, why are we? Lets run away to the stars.

And Shiro would smile and say something responsible. But Keith we have meetings. Projects we’re both in the middle of.

So?  Keith would squeeze Shiro, press his lips to Shiro’s shoulder. Accidental or intention, Keith would offer both just to see what Shiro would do.

Keith. It’s soft, questioning. Keith’s heart leaps at the possibility. He nuzzles Shiro’s shoulder and—


It’s Shiro who shouts, but Keith gasps at a sudden, viscous pain in his left hand. He ignores it, scrambling up and out of the tent. Kosmo follows, ears up and alert.

“Shiro? You okay?”

Shiro is in the kitchen, face pinched in pain, looking at his hand.

“Ah, yeah. Just burned myself.” He walks to the sink and turns the water on, putting his hand under. Keith gets up, ignoring the way pain throbs through him.

“How bad?” The stove is still on, butter sizzling away. Keith turns the heat off on his way past to Shiro.

“S’fine,” Shiro says. “Hurts worse than it is.”

Keith takes his hand out of the spray anyway to look. There’s a red line already blooming just on the back of Shiro’s thumb from the edge of the frying pan. Keith tilts his hand, scrutinizing it to make sure it doesn’t require more aggressive treatment—

And that’s when his eye catches on his own hand. His hand that is radiating a burn like pain in the exact same place.


Keith steps back, letting go. “Where’s your first aid kit?”

Shiro directs him, and Keith goes. As he does, his mind keeps circling an inkling of an idea. An impossible idea. It can’t— it’s too— and yet Keith’s hand burns.

In the first aid kit he finds the burn gel, and brings it back to the kitchen. Shiro dries his hand and offers it up. Keith takes a breath, and then squeezes out some of the gel onto the burn.

“So grateful for Galra medicine,” Shiro sighs out a moment later. Keith rubs it over the redness, knowing how fast acting it is. He tries not to notice how immediate the relief of his own pain is. How suddenly his hand is no longer throbbing.

Keith drops the gel and steps back. In his head, a dozen little impossible things are slotting into place. It feels shocking, impossible.

And yet not the most impossible thing that’s ever happened to him.


Keith bumps the counter. He knows he’s acting strange, standing there wide-eyed and gaping. He can’t help it. They— he— but—

But it’s hard to deny then. The coincidence too large. Keith’s used to looking at the details, picking out the smallest clues that could mean friend or foe, life or death. Now his mind is racing, snapping all those things he’d seen but not understood together. Because he’d felt Shiro’s pain. Felt it.

And his relief of it.

“Keith, what’s wrong?”

The words won’t come. Keith raises his arm instead, his left one, and reaches with his other hand to pinch the more tender skin of his forearm. He pinches hard, and gets a clear sting of pain. He watches Shiro’s arm twitch, the man pulling his hand up instantly to inquire at the source of the pain on himself.

The conclusion ripples between them then. Shiro looks at his arm, then at Keith’s, then at Keith’s face. His own expression is shock.


“I felt your burn,” Keith blurts. He turns his hand over to indicate just where Shiro was burned. “I felt the pain.” Keith reaches up and grabs his hair, he tugs it hard to get a jolt of pain.

“Ow! Hey! Stop!” Shiro steps forward, but then stops. Keith lets go of his hair.

“I can feel your pain,” Keith says. "You can feel mine."

Shiro still looks flabbergasted. “Uh. Okay. Um. Can we… sit? I need to sit down.”

That’s fair, Keith also feels markedly wrong-footed. They leave the kitchen and end up back in the living room. With the setup, the couch isn’t useable, so they crawl back inside the tent and sit in the nest of blankets.

“Okay,” Shiro says after a moment. “So I can feel your pain, and you can feel mine.”

“Seems like it.”


That’s a good question. Keith casts his mind back, but there’s been nothing recently that could account for it. Instead he tries to think about the sensations, about the pain he’s been experiencing that he didn’t have a reason for.

“I don’t know. I’ve been…” The realization is there suddenly and it’s awful to know. “My pain in sparring, it’s your pain.”

Shiro frowns. “What?”

Keith laughs, but it’s a bitter thing. “I’ve been having so much pain when we spar, but nowhere else. Because it wasn’t me. It was you.” There’s a dawning horror in his voice. “Shiro what the fuck?!” Keith had barely been able to stand at points of their sparring, but Shiro hadn’t even seemed tired. “Does it feel like that for you every time?”

“I— what?”

Fucking stars Shiro, why aren’t you getting treatment?”

“It’s… not that bad.”

Keith scoffs. “I felt it. I could barely keep on my feet Shiro. Fuck!” Keith crawls forward without thinking, hand going gently to Shiro’s shoulder where the port connects. “I feel this all the time. My shoulder’s been aching for weeks.”

“I don’t—“ Shiro looks so lost, so horrified by what Keith’s saying.

“You don’t even notice.” The answer is obvious as it falls form Keith’s mouth. It’s obvious and awful. “You’re in so much pain and you’re just used to it.”

Shiro’s eyes flicker away then, and Keith doesn’t blame him. “I’m sorry you’re hurting,” Shiro says eventually.

Keith shakes his head. He draws Shiro’s eyes back to him with fingertips under Shiro’s chin. “It’s fine. I’m more concerned about you.” He pauses, another memory coming back. “And of course that second massage made me feel better because it was you who actually needed it.”

Shiro flushes. “Ah.” Then his eyes narrow. “Wait. What about you?”

“What about me?”

“I’ve been… everything’s been really intense? Sounds and smells and touch. I thought it was something with this new body.”


“That’s you, isn’t it?” Shiro asks, “You’re… it’s like that for you?”

It’s Keith’s turn to frown. “Oh. Uh. I don’t know? I mean, how would I know?”

Shiro nods. “Yeah. Yeah. Wow.”


They sit there for a beat just looking at each other.

“So not just pain then?” Keith asks. There’s something else, something his brain is pulling forth. “Because the massage felt good to me too. And… you can sense me? Or like adapt the way I feel things?” He remembers then the spicy food, the spicy food he almost couldn’t stand to eat. “Fuck, the food.”

Shiro turns to look at the kitchen, “Oh the stove, I—“

Before he can get up, Keith grabs his metal hand. “No. I turned off the stove. Not that. The spicy food. I could barely eat it, it burned so much.”

“Oh. Oh.” Shiro laughs. “So I guess sensation both ways huh, I’ve got no stomach for the spice.”

Keith snorts. “No kidding, wow.”

“So what you’re saying is…” Shiro reaches over then and slides his metal hand through the side of Keith’s hair. It’s a soft kind of raking against his scalp, and sends a sparkle of pleasure right down Keith’s spine. “Oh,” Shiro says in a breath.

Keith feels his cheeks flush just from that much. “Did you feel that?”

“Yeah. It’s faint. I was paying attention though, so I could notice it? Pain is louder, I think that’s why we noticed that first.”

Keith reaches over and does the same to Shiro, running his blunt nails up the back of his undercut, scratching at the shorn hair. He watches Shiro’s lashes flutter and then… yes, an echo of sensation in his own body. It’s smaller, and Keith only catches it because he’s looking for it.

“So the more intense, the more it comes across?” Keith asks.

“Please no more experiments involving pain,” Shiro says at once.

But that’s not where Keith’s mind was going. They’re nearly in each other’s laps in the tent, hands on each other’s shoulders where they’ve fallen, and Keith’s mind goes immediately to a different kind of intensity. The kind they shared during the massage—

That thought from before appears then, fully formed. The fantasies. The fantasies he’s been having recently with intense, indulgent orgasms. If they’re sharing sensations somehow, if they have been for weeks or longer—

Keith’s heart kicks up in his chest. He remembers every one of them, how real Shiro had felt, how all-encompassing the pleasure had been.

Have they…?

He doesn’t want to think it, let alone say it. Shiro’s blinking at him though in question, so Keith knows his face must be doing something.

“Why did you burn your hand?” Keith asks.

“What? It was an accident, wasn’t paying attention.”

“Were you… feeling anything? Before that?”

Shiro leans back instantly, taking his hands back, creating space. “I was thinking about lunch.”

It’s a lie. Shiro doesn’t lie often, and especially not to Keith, but Keith sees it so clearly as it comes out of his mouth. He doesn’t meet Keith’s gaze.

“I wasn’t.” Keith says. Shiro’s eyes snap to him. "I wasn't thinking about lunch."

He sees it dawn, can practically feel the weight of it between them.

“I wasn’t either,” Shiro confesses. “I was thinking about you.”

They’re staring at each other, riveted. “I was thinking about walking into the kitchen,” Keith says.

“You said, lets run away,” Shiro says.

Keith swallows hard. “And you said, but Keith we have meetings.”

There’s a long moment, full of every possible thing, every outcome. It’s nearly choking.

“That’s… not a sensation,” Shiro says.


“That’s… we… fuck.”

Keith knows Shiro means it as a curse, but it’s so apropos he can’t help the startled laugh.  

“We did. Fuck.”

Shiro looks shocked, then embarrassed. There’s a flush on his cheeks, but the eyes that meet Keith’s are dark. There’s as shift in the mood.  

“And that was… okay?” The distance between them is shrinking, has shrunk while Keith wasn’t noticing. No longer is Shiro leaned away, but curled forward. Keith’s heart pounds in his chest. There’s suddenly not enough air, not enough words.

“Okay. Good. Amazing.”

“Amazing,” Shiro says. "Oh." It’s a full lean now, one that causes Keith to tilt back, to steady his weight on a hand behind him. Shiro’s so close. “We should definitely… ask Allura about this.”

“Yeah. Right away,” Keith licks his lips, watches as Shiro’s eyes dip to the motion.

“Uh huh.” Shiro’s hand lands on Keith’s knee, and it feels like a brand. “Definitely shouldn’t waste time…”

“Shouldn’t…” Keith trails off. Shiro’s mouth is so close now, just the barest bit of space. The anticipation is a live wire between them. “Maybe... we should test it?”

Shiro’s nose nudges Keith’s. His heart skips. “Oh?”

The word is so soft, practically against Keith’s lips. Everything in him feels hot, tuned toward Shiro. Keith can feel it so clearly then, how different this arousal is, how much more it is.

Because some of it is Shiro’s.

Keith’s lips part to speak the name, to demand or plea or something, but before the sound can culminate, Shiro leans in and the space between them vanishes. Shiro kisses him.



>>>>>> <<<<<<



Shiro would say it’s like an explosion, but there’s no outward motion, there’s no gap between combustion and sensation. When Shiro’s lips meet Keith’s there’s just… pleasure. It’s an inward pull, the same inward pull that’s had him since he started to understand what Keith was saying. That all the feelings he’s had, the fantasies…

Those had been real. They’d been real, he and Keith had—

Even just the thought of it gets to him. He’d known what the fantasy was in the kitchen, what it had been about. He’d been making lunch and his mind had wandered. He’d had a sudden imagining of Keith wrapping arms around his middle, finally breaching the barrier between them in the most careful way possible. Offering Shiro a future together, an offer to run away together. A plausible deniability if that’s not what he wanted.

Shiro did want. He wanted so much.

But it wasn’t just a fantasy, he knows that now. In the kitchen, that had been Keith’s thoughts too. A strange combination of their thoughts. A conversation had, but unspoken.

It's dizzying to think on, almost impossible for him to believe. It feels too good to be true.

This kiss though, this kiss is real. Tangible. Undeniable.

Shiro kisses him and kisses him, letting himself fall into the shared sensation of it. It's the same shade of pleasure it’s been for weeks, an intensity of arousal Shiro hasn’t been able to find reason for. Now he knows. He knows that it's this intense because of Keith, because of both of them sharing in it.

He leans further into Keith, curling a hand over the back of Keith’s head to lower him down into the sheets. Keith goes easy, hand even grabbing at Shiro’s shirt to keep their lips together. As if Shiro would stop. As if he could.

It’s heady, feeling that much pleasure, knowing it’s reciprocal. There’s a surety of it, of being able to feel Keith’s desire directly, to know just how much he wants it. Keith’s mouth opens as Shiro licks in, and he feels the reverberation of that, of how it feels for Keith.

Intense. Always so intense.

Good though, so good.

He descends on Keith, hand sliding into his hair as he kisses him deep. Keith’s knees come up to his hips, making space for Shiro. The kisses are waves, a push and pull of pleasure Shiro feels through his whole body. It gets louder in his head as they kiss, and Shiro lets himself sink in, tunes into that, into Keith.

His body grows clumsier in return. It feels stranger, unwieldy. He would cast it aside completely, except that with every kiss it makes the feeling in his body exponential.

“Shi—“ Keith’s voice is soft when they break to breathe. Shiro pulls back just enough to take him in, tousled and gorgeous. His hair is splayed across some of the twinkling lights that line the tent, and it looks like a star field. Shiro is struck by the image, struck by the intensity of his desire, his love.

He wanted this weekend for Keith, as a gift or a balm to how hard Keith’s been working. He’d wanted to show Keith just how much he cared, how much Keith was loved, but he hadn’t ever dared to dream something like this.

Oh,” Keith’s voice is soft. Shiro gazes down at him, unable to look away. “You love me?”

“Yes.” There’s nothing else to say. Even without this sensation sharing Shiro thinks it would be painfully clear. The sparkle of Keith’s surprise in the back of Shiro’s head though is almost funny. “Keith, I made you a blanket fort.”

Keith turns his head again, as if taking it in for the first time. “I thought it was platonic.”

Shiro can’t fault him there. Shiro had mostly platonic intentions. It had been about care. He hadn’t done it trying to woo Keith. Looking at it now though sheds new light even for him. Shiro bends to hide his face in Keith’s neck. “Oh stars, so did I.”

Keith’s arms wrap around him, and they both laugh. It feels ridiculous, bubbly across the link.

“I love you too, just for the record,” Keith whispers into his ear.

Shiro knows it’s true, has felt it to be true, but hearing the words is different. He pulls back just enough to kiss Keith again, deep and searing.


>>>>> <<<<<


The next kiss is harder, hungry. It’s a pour of lava directly into Keith’s veins. It reminds him of the far less innocent fantasies, the ones that had Keith squirming in his sheets.

A burst of want knocks into him. Shiro’s want. It’s easier, this close and paying attention, to pick out what is his and what is Shiro’s. Shiro’s leaning into him, both literally and… sensationally. Keith can feel him press in, and he welcomes it. Shiro’s a softening presence. It must be true that Keith experiences things more intensely, because as Shiro pours into him, there’s a dulling. Not that he dampens Keith’s pleasure, but instead he takes the spines out somehow. Keith doesn’t feel as though he’s too near an edge and about to crash painfully. He feels… safe.

So he lets Shiro. He opens, in some intangible way, and lets Shiro in. Lets him sooth and stoke in the same hand. They move into each other’s space in every possible way. Shiro’s weight settles more completely on him and they both gasp as their hips come together. There’s too much clothing, but Keith gets twin sensations of Shiro’s arousal, the hardness in his pants and the building desire in his head.

“Keith,” Shiro says against his lips. Want to…

An image presses in then, a gauzy, lewd image of Keith, spread out and nude. It’s… a little inaccurate, physically, which is what really cues Keith in that it’s not from his own head. It’s Shiro’s. Shiro’s imaginings of them.

And that’s—


“Yes,” Keith says immediately. He closes his eyes just a moment and tries to return the same, conjuring this time a memory of himself in bed, touching himself to thoughts of Shiro. He focuses and tries to project it at Shiro.

Shiro curses, his metal hand sliding up under Keith’s shirt, touching Keith’s skin as if he needs something to ground him. “Keith… how?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know, but I want… too.” Shiro meets his eyes. Keith’s never seen such hunger on his face. He likes it. “Do you?”

Shiro leans and kisses the answer into his mouth.

Then it’s a little of a frenzy. Shiro tugs up Keith’s shirt, and they part just enough to pull it over his head. Before Shiro can snag another kiss, Keith lifts the hem of Shiro’s shirt. It goes as well, and then when Shiro returns, his kisses land on Keith's throat in sucking bites that have Keith immediately crying out. His thighs tighten around Shiro’s hips, and he rolls his body up, seeking friction.

“Fuck, you feel…”

Keith can’t describe it, but he’s beginning to sense that it’s a closed circuit. When Shiro sucks at the sensitive skin, the feeling runs through him and then into Shiro and back. Keith feels it like waves in a pool, ripping out and out and causing more as they crest into each other. He thinks ardently then of them both naked, all their skin pressed together. Of how good that would feel, how much he’s always wanted it.

Shiro bites hard at the juncture of his neck. “You’re going to kill me with that,” Shiro groans.

Keith’s nails scrape up the back of Shiro’s neck. “No dying yet Shirogane, not until we see how it feels to have sex like this.”

And then Shiro’s hands are sliding down his body, undoing the button. “You want…?”

Keith knocks a knee into Shiro’s side. “You know I do, can’t you feel it?”

“Yeah,” Shiro’s head comes up, and he touches his forehead to Keith’s. “It’s just… it’s you. I want to do it right.”

Keith kisses him and then, “It’s you, there’s no wrong way it could be.”


>>>> <<<<


Shiro’s heart is thumping hard. Everything is… so much. He can feel Keith and smell him and practically hear the thrum of his body beneath Shiro’s. When he kisses down Keith’s throat the taste is more, so much more than just skin. He gets it now, the bleed of Keith’s mind into his. He can see the jagged lines of it as he sinks himself in. It’s so much, but it’s all Keith and that makes it perfect. It means he can appreciate this moment so much more, and for that Shiro is grateful.

“I love you,” he says, just because he can, just because he has to with all that Keith is giving him. Keith’s returning smile is so sweet.

“And I love you. Now can we get naked?”

It startles a laugh out of Shiro. “Anything you want, baby.”

There’s a quivering of pleasantness that Shiro feels at that, Keith’s own pleasure at the word. Keith likes it. Likes being called that. Shiro smiles and undoes the zip on Keith’s pants. They have to part then to fumble with the tight clothing, but it only takes a few seconds to jointly get Keith's pants off. At the eyebrow raise from Keith, Shiro shucks his own.

It’s… strange. Stranger when they’re pulled apart. Shiro still feels Keith, feels him so presently, as if they’re still tucked against one another. And stranger still to kick off his pants and underwear and feel a pour of heat into him that has sharp edges. When he turns back to look at Keith, reclined in the sheets, Keith is looking at him appreciatingly.

Shiro does his own looking in turn. Keith’s slender but strong, absolutely stunning in the low light. He’s seen most parts of Keith before via the gym and showers and just close quarters, but now he’s actually allowed to look. Allowed to drink in the taut muscles, the trail of hair down his belly, the trio of freckles against his rib cage. Shiro memorizes it all in this moment, and then his eyes drift down to Keith’s cock. It’s hard and curved a little to the right, lying against Keith’s belly. Shiro wants.

He crawls over Keith, drawn by that half smile, by the way his hair spreads back against the sheets as Keith reclines down. This time when Keith’s legs come up around his hips it’s skin against skin. There’s a shock of it between them.

“Better?” Shiro can’t help asking. He holds himself up on the prosthetic and uses his other hand to cup Keith’s face. Keith gazes up at him and Shiro knows he must look utterly besotted.

“Yeah,” Keith says, and then pulls him in.

They kiss, and it’s lush. The warmth pools between them, in turns comforting and exciting. Shiro comes down onto his elbow, hips meeting Keith’s once more.

They sigh into the next kiss. What do you want?  Shiro tries to push that at Keith. He doesn’t know how this thing between them works, but if he could do it accidentally, then surely he can do it intentionally.

Just this, comes Keith’s reply. Just want to feel you.

And that’s easy enough. Shiro’s hand slides back into Keith’s hair, then trails down. As they kiss he caresses down Keith’s throat to his chest. Keith’s hands in return start at his neck and then map down his back. Keith uses a firmer hand, dragging deep lines of sensation while Shiro is just grazing. Shiro decides to copy him. Down Keith’s side he tries a heavier hand, ending with blunt nails at Keith’s hipbone.

In his head he feels the spike of pleasure, and in his body he feels Keith arch into him, a half-caught cry on his lips.



So Shiro goes for the kill then, hand sliding in, wrapping around Keith’s cock in the space left between them. He wraps around the plummy head and—


>>> <<<


Keith moans, loud and wanton. He knows his tooth grazes Shiro’s lip, but he can’t help it, the way their pleasure is wrapping around each other is pulling him apart entirely too fast. Shiro’s hand is just resting on his cock, hasn’t really done anything, but he can hear the staggered breathing from Shiro, can feel the way that Keith’s sensations are knocking into him too.

“Shiro,” It’s the only word he has, everything else in his head is a sudden tangle.

Yeah. Yeah. Wow. You’re so sensitive.”

A finger rubs just beneath Keith’s cockhead, and they both shudder. Keith gets a hand on Shiro’s hip, claws scraping. He wants more and less and—

Shiro shifts, head tucking in beside Keith’s. Keith blinks his eyes open, seeing the tent above, the soft smear of shadows and lights. A gentle kiss is pressed to his ear. Shiro’s hand unwinds and his hips move to—

Keith tilts his head to look, catching just a glimpse of their cocks being pushed together. It’s an image that will stay with him, one that’s already passing between them. Shiro huffs a breath against his ear, and sends a minds-image back that’s so lewd Keith’s heart skips. He closes his eye just to see it again, their cockheads slippery with precome, rubbing against each other. They’re drippy, flushed, ready to burst. The fantasy comes with Shiro’s dark and heady pleasure, how hot he finds it to rub himself off like this against Keith.

Then Shiro wraps his hand around both of their cocks. “You like that?” He whispers.

Keith’s nails scrape helplessly across Shiro’s ass.

“Yeah,” it’s more breath than words.

Shiro strokes them both, root to tip, a little too soft to be helpful, more of a tease than anything else. Still, when he gets to the tips he massages them together, gathering the precome there to make it slick. Keith can feel it, his own and Shiro’s pleasure all twined together. It’s sublime.

They move together like that, tangled but in sync. Keith’s body is a burn he can’t seem to stop as Shiro begins to stroke them with a little more pressure. There’s a slickening, a, fuck, you’re so wet, thought from Shiro. Keith bites at his lip, and on the next stroke Shiro twists his hand at the tip.

Keith moans at how good it feels. He can barely think about his body, but it’s taught, arched to press more fully against Shiro.

All the pain of sharing Shiro’s mind is gone now, all there is left is the wondrous pleasure. Shiro’s love and awe and arousal are quickly drowning Keith, but he doesn’t mind. He stays open, lets himself get lost in the pour of Shiro into him. It’s like nothing else has ever been, and he doesn’t want to miss a second of it.

He’s always wanted to be closer to Shiro, and now he is, as close as they were in Black’s consciousness. Closer. Keith gasps at the next stroke and the next. It’s like a direct stoking, not just of his flesh but of him. Shiro wants his pleasure, loves it. Keith can feel it so clearly.

You feel so, Keith pushes at him. There’s no words after that, just a burst of whatever the feeling is that’s blooming inside him.

>> <<

Shiro strokes faster, trying to hold on to something tangible in the blurry mess between them. He feels so clumsy in his own body, the majority of his attention is pulled into just how Keith feels. Intense, so intense.

But good too. Shiro can hardly stand it. It’s like he’s… inside Keith. A part of him. He can feel the vastness, the heat of him. He can feel just how ardently Keith feels about him. It’s…

Everything. Keith is absolutely everything.

They’re winding up toward something. It feels paltry to say orgasm, it feels larger than that, more significant. He can feel how Keith is, how his moans come from deep inside, from the sparkle of feeling running through his nerves. It’s as though Shiro can almost see it even as his eyes are closed, breathing ragged against Keith’s ear. Keith is an electrical map just aflame in color and energy moving against him. His sounds taste sweet and then sharp, there’s a slice of copper from Keith biting his own lip that Shiro feels. His cock against Shiro’s is dripping, and Shiro’s hand glides on them. It’s so hot, having Keith like this, having him moan and fuck up against him.

And then Keith says, you feel so… and something knocks hard into Shiro with an explosive dazzle of fire and pleasure. Shiro fumbles, almost loses all control of his body as he shivers through it. It’s Keith’s, Keith’s pleasure all compressed and pushed into him. An intangible thing, but Shiro still feels it like a stone in his belly. His cock’s never been harder.

He does the only thing that feels right. He gathers it up, stroking their cocks faster. He imagines it in his mind as a bundle, and folds in his own pleasure. He folds in how perfect Keith feels beneath him, how gorgeous and talented and amazing he is. How much Shiro loves him, has always loved him.

Then Shiro takes it and pushes back at Keith.

> <

Keith shudders at what comes back to him. It’s his pleasure, but more. Compounded with thoughts and images that run through him too fast to pull apart and inspect. His legs shake from the intensity of it, and he digs his claws into Shiro. He feels unmoored from his body in a strange way, but safe within Shiro. He’s losing himself, but it’s not scary, it’s thrilling.

Come on baby, Shiro says. His hand is still wrapped around their cocks, but Keith can barely feel it now. Or he can feel it, but it’s so much smaller than the thing happening intangibly between them. So much less important.

Keith gathers up the thing Shiro's pressed into him, and he rolls in just how good it feels to be here, finally, with Shiro. How Shiro makes him feel, a confusion of burning passion and calm placidity. Alive in a way that nothing else even in the far reaches of the universe has ever done.

It’s just Shiro for him. Always. Endlessly.

He pushes it back and—


It’s like a sudden slip underwater. Feet on steady ground, then gone. Tumbling. Breath and then a plunge. Blistering heat.



He moves, presses up. They roll. A blind flurry of hands, mouths.

The thing turns end over end. He tastes salt, sweet, electricity. They rut against each other hard, desperate. Wet. Filthy.



There’s no push, no pull, it spins. Pleasure grows, gaining mass, gravity. Kisses sloppy, tongue and slick, teeth clatter.

Cocks fucking through the tight ring of his hand. Needy, cresting.

He moans, groans. Consonants stutter and fall to pieces.

Expand and expand, slick sounds of lips and frot.

He whines, desperate. Needing the end, needing the cliff of the endless build. Plea— need—



It pulls in. Implosion like a collapsing star. Tumble helpless over the horizon, pleasure smattering and infinite. Endlessly. Consuming.

Heavy panted cries, heat and sticky spill. Come across bellies. Hand. 

He tries to breathe. It's flattened and buzzing in pleaure. A burn down to the core, ash and smoke. He breathes against sheets, sweaty, disembodied.

There is nothing. There is everything.

Love. Thick, pouring like honey. Dripping cream.


A slow unpeeling. Tide receding in languid bliss, washing out and out.

Lovely sigh. Soft night. Warmth.





Shiro becomes aware of his body in stages. The lungs are first, then the ache in his hand. He becomes aware of the weight of a body on top of his. He blinks his eyes open, his vision swimming before it settles.

He’s on his back, the tent above, and Keith is collapsed on him, head tucked into Shiro’s neck. Keith’s breathing is soft, his skin is damp with sweat and—

It all comes filing back into Shiro’s head. A lot of it doesn’t make any more sense than when he was experiencing it. Especially the parts toward the end.

“Sh’ro?” Keith’s voice is grated. Shiro hums in the response. “Wha' was that?”

“I think it was sex,” Shiro’s own voice sounds rough too.

Keith snorts. He pushes up then onto his forearms and looks down at Shiro. His hair is an absolute riot, his mouth is red and swollen, but his cheeks are ravishingly pink. “I think it was m—“

“I love you,” Shiro blurts.

Keith’s face bursts into a radiant smile. “I love you too." There's a beat of silence, of Keith's mind working. Shiro can see it so clearly. "Um. And not to kill the afterglow, but we should definitely ask Allura about that…”

Leave it to Keith to cut straight to the issue at hand. Not that Shiro blames him. What just happened was… something. A wonderful, amazing, spectacular something, but still a very un-human something all the same. It requires answers before anything else. Probably it required an answer before they.. did that. But.

Well they've always been a touch more reckless than other people.

Shiro nods. “I can send her a message, see if she’s free?”

Keith pushes up off of him, and their sticky bellies come apart with a very lewd sound. “Yeah. Send her a message, then join me in the shower, okay?”

Keith gets up, turning to leave the tent, and Shiro can’t help how his eyes trail down Keith’s lean figure, catch on his ass. When he disappears from view then there’s only Kosmo standing at the entrance of the tent, staring.

It’s by far the most offended look that the wolf has ever given him, and it startles a laugh out of Shiro. 

“Hope you weren’t there the whole time,” Shiro says with a too cheerful grin. Kosmo snorts and turns away with swish of his tail. Shiro laughs and pushes his own body up, aching from the strenuous workout, to go find one of their datapads.


The water feels heavenly on Keith’s skin, and it improves some minutes later when Shiro pulls back and curtain and joins him. The man steps directly up to Keith, wrapping his hands around Keith from behind, dropping a kiss onto Keith’s shoulder.

Keith sighs happily. It’s all too easy to do this now, it doesn’t at all feel too new or skittish. They’re not so mind-wrapped in one another right now, but Shiro still feels close. He feels like Keith’s in a way that Keith can’t articulate. Something so much deeper than some I love yous.

“Send it?”

“Yeah,” Shiro says.

They don’t speak much then. The mood is quiet but content, and Keith just settles into it. They help each other wash, and that too is easy. Relaxing.

When there’s several sounds from the datapad on the bathroom sink, they rinse off and get out. They help each other dry, and then Keith goes and fetches clothes as Shiro deals with whatever Allura sent back. By the time they’re dressed, Allura’s agreed to meet them at one of the medical centers on the base. They go.

Shiro’s explained much of it via text, but they go over it again when they arrive. Allura is there with another Altean who is dressed in a white coat. There’s some physical and mental tests then, some scans. Keith yawns halfway through from just how quickly his energy is dropping. It’s been a day even if it's only now dinnertime.

They end with Allura pouring over a screen that’s compiled all their scans and workup.

“Honestly I can’t see anything amiss. I can feel your energies are… intertwined, true, but there’s nothing physically wrong. And you don’t know when it started?”

They’ve tried to pick at this a few times now, but haven’t managed to come to a conclusion. Keith’s been feeling Shiro’s pain for a long time, and possibly even during the war, he just… didn’t have the space to notice.

“Why would it be getting more intense now?” Shiro asks.

Allura looks from Shiro to Keith and back. “Well if we are considering this similar to your time in Black’s consciousness, and the tethering feels very similar, it could just be a natural progression of your bond. You both piloted Black, both connected with her deeply. You know how the bond with Black grew over time, it could just be that. Also, Shiro, you spent so much time in Black’s consciousness, and I did the best I could to pull you out, but I certainly could have done an imperfect job at it. I could have pulled too much out, pulled a connection with Keith and…” Allura gestures vaguely. “I’m not certain, I’m sorry. I wish I had better answers.”

Keith stands and stretches. “That’s okay, thanks for looking. You think it’ll be fine?” Beside him Shiro stands, hand coming up to just touch the small of Keith’s back. It’s a nice touch, just what Keith wanted without having to ask.

“If it’s not hurting, then I think it’s fine. There’s indeed nothing on any of the tests that shows a negative reaction. If you like I can try to sever it, but I honestly couldn’t guarantee if it would work, or if it would hurt or damage either of you.”

Keith turns to look at Shiro, but he already knows the answer.

“That’s alright,” Shiro says for both of them. “I think we’ll just let it be for now.”

“Apologies I couldn’t give you more.”

Shiro shakes his head. “That was enough. Thank you. We’ll let you know if anything changes.”

They bid Allura good evening, and then Shiro guides them back to his apartment. Keith goes by the guiding hand, exhaustion growing by the second.

By unspoken agreement, they crawl into the pillow fort once again, shedding clothing as they go. Keith keeps his underwear on, but pulls the rest off as he flops into the sheets. Shiro when he lays down beside Keith is likewise dressed. They’re both on their sides facing one another.

“How’re you feeling baby?” Shiro says then, tucking a lock of hair behind Keith’s ear.

Keith blinks at him sleepily, already his eyes are drifting closed, body taking the cue from his reclined position. “Good. Sleepy…”

“You should sleep then. And when you wake up we'll have dinner.”

Something pops into Keith’s head then. He forces his eyes open, reaching a hand out to poke at Shiro’s shoulder. “Don’t think I’ve forgotten about you and your shoulder Mr. Pain-What-Pain.” Keith does his best approximation of a glare as he forces himself to stay awake a few seconds longer. “We’re gonna talk about that. All of that. Can’t be… you gotta treat yourself better Sh…”

A heavy hand slides over his hair. “Of course,” Shiro says, voice a low whisper. “And we’ll talk about your sensory issues that you are clearly not addressing.”

Keith tries to huff at that, but it’s more of a sleepy sigh.

“But sleep now love. I’ll be here when you wake.”

Keith tries to say something, anything, but the soothing feel of a hand petting at him just lulls him right down and into sleep.


Shiro can tell the moment that Keith slips off. There’s a quieting in the back of his head, a settling of the buzzy energy that he now recognizes as Keith. It’s almost silly, but Shiro misses it as it goes dormant.

There will be much to discuss when Keith wakes, but it doesn’t worry Shiro. He feels strangely comfortable with everything that’s happened. Shiro had felt his feelings, had felt Keith's heart. It had been something beyond language, something without expectation or pretense.

In the end it was perfectly them. Keith’s always been the exception to all Shiro’s rules, the person who fit so easily into his life as though he’d always been there.

This was just another step in their strange, miraculous lives.

Shiro watches Keith’s breath slow, the string lights just behind him like a halo of stars. He's so beautiful. So wonderful.

Shiro feels so incredibly lucky in this moment. He's so madly, deeply in love with this man, and Keith feels the same. Lucky.

Time sifts slow as Shiro just watches him sleep. It’s just him and Keith, as it’s always been. As it always will be. He thinks of their earlier discussion, of leaving the Garrison, traveling the stars. He hadn't been able to say earlier, don't go without me, but he knows Keith must have heard it, must have felt it through their connection.

Whatever this connection is, they’ll figure it out together. Shiro knows they will, he's not afraid.

Least of all considering the... perks of such a connection.

Kosmo slinks back into the tent then, and when Shiro turns his head, the wolf is giving him a look of judgement. Shiro grins and slides his arm around Keith’s middle. Keith comes easily, snuggling closer and letting Shiro enfold him. The wolf steps into the warm leftover space on Keith’s other side. They have a wordless conversation of just looks, and then the wolf huffs and settles down.

Shiro presses a kiss into Keith’s hair while pushing a soft bundle of love into Keith’s sleepy mind. There’s a small sound of pleasure as Keith sleeps on, and it makes Shiro smile foolish and lovesick. For some things, there aren’t words.