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Dating is Ruff

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Tuesday morning, Shiro finds the wolf-dog on his steps.

It’s a nice little practice, in the shell of what used to be an Arby’s. The sign that has been reconfigured to say Atlas Emergency Veterinary Hospital is still vaguely hat shaped. On very hot days, Shiro sometimes experiences an out-of-body craving for horsey sauce.

Nonetheless, it’s a nice enough part of town and unusual for someone to be waiting impatiently at five am, a full two hours before the clinic is set to open. Even more uncommon is the pet sitting patient and resigned, sans kennel, lead, or owner.

“Hello, pretty girl.” Shiro says soothingly, dropping into a crouch. The dog, fierce looking with distinct grey markings along its muzzle, looks down and away from Shiro, in the nervous way that some dogs do. Shiro simply holds out his palm, steady and unassuming and the appropriate distance away. The dog allows Shiro to approach and to run a cursory hand down along ears and back- enough for Shiro to get a closer look.

“My mistake,” Shiro says apologetically. “Good boy.” Shiro hooks the fingers of his prosthetic around the animal’s collar, drawing it up and gently away. There’s no name tag, no identifying information- but there is a slight rustling sound. Skimming beneath the collar and working around, Shiro finds a note tucked underneath.

For services rendered

-K

The paper is wrapped around four one hundred dollar bills.

“Huh.” Shiro sinks back a bit onto his heels. Now that he looks closely, he sees the injury- a gash along the wolf-dog’s flank. It will definitely need stitches and antibiotics. The wolf-dog sits, placid and even-tempered, waiting for Shiro’s direction.

He doesn’t think much of this ‘K’ for leaving such a beautiful and well trained creature on his lonesome on the steps of a veterinarian, but that is an issue for future Shiro. For now, there is an animal in his possession who requires care. ‘K’ could have left a tenner or nothing at all and Shiro would behave the same.

“After you,” Shiro motions, unlocking the door. The wolf-dog ambles inside as directed, waiting politely at Shiro’s feet as he turns on the lights, moving through the clinic room by room. Lance won’t be in to man the front desk for another hour- and that’s if he’s on time for once. Fine by Shiro; this will give him a little one-on-one time with his new patient. He’s proud of his little clinic, with its soothing lavender walls and clean white tiles courtesy of Allura. There was something to be said about having a big name interior decorator as a childhood friend willing to slum it on a budget. Still, his equipment is fairly basic, no bells or whistles. He’s prepared to risk his back by lifting the frankly enormous creature on his lonesome to set on the examination table, but the wolf-dog trots over to the ramp in the corner, pawing at it once politely. Eyebrow raised, Shiro wheels it over to rest against the edge of the examination table and the wolf-dog agreeably walks up the incline to lay on his side, leaving the wound clearly accessible.

“Aren’t you well trained,” Shiro says, reaching out to prod gently at the skin surrounding the injury. The wolf-dog breathes a little snort. “Oh, did that hurt? I’m sorry.” Shiro is used to talking, whether to nervous patients or their sometimes increasingly nervous owners, so it’s second nature to narrate his actions even if the wolf-dog won’t appreciate it.

“I’m just checking the surrounding area for any other abrasions. This looks deep- were you caught on something? Maybe barbed wire, the ends look a little jagged. I can sew this up in no time, but I’ll have to do some prep first.”

Shiro turns to the supply cabinet, rustling around in the drawer until he finds what he needs, laying the supplies out on a sterile tray.

“First,” Shiro explains soothingly, “I’ll need to clip the fur around the injury. It’ll be easier to clean the wound and make nice even stitches so you’ll heal quickly. It won’t hurt, but it’ll be a little noisy for a moment. Try to hold still, I wouldn’t want to give you a mohawk.”

The wolf-dog puts his head down on his forepaws with a huff. When Shiro cuts the trimmers on, the wolf-dog does not react. Perhaps his owner uses clippers at home, on his pet or on himself. Shiro clips the fur around the injury with neat precision, setting the trimmer aside and taking time to brush the loose fur from the area.

“I’m going to apply a topical anesthetic,” Shiro says, showing the wolf-dog the syringe of Lidocaine. “It’ll just feel like a pinch, and then I can work to fix you up without it hurting.” The wolf-dog does glance at the needle briefly, though that is probably because Shiro gives it an appealing little shake in his line of sight.

Mindful of the wolf-dog’s teeth, Shiro firmly injects the area of the wound with the anesthetic. A small line of fresh blood wells from the cut from the pressure, but the wolf-dog doesn’t so much as flinch.

“There we go,” Shiro says. “You’re doing so well.” The wolf-dog huffs again, as if to say of course I am. In the few minutes it takes for the anesthetic to kick in, Shiro scratches behind the wolf-dog’s ears, who tolerates the affection coolly.

“Dogs love me,” Shiro tells him. “You just wait. We’re gonna be best friends.”

Shiro narrates the rest of the procedure, through cleaning, suturing, and bandaging the wound. He fills out the prescription for Amoxicillin, explaining how often to take the pill and that the wolf-dog should be sure to eat something light when he does. Shiro knows he’s being silly now, and all the instructions he is simultaneously writing out on the prescription pad for mysterious ‘K,’ but the wolf-dog seems to like being talked to. His tail has begun a slow almost imperceptible wag whenever Shiro speaks.

“I wonder when ‘K’ is going to pick you up,” Shiro says thoughtfully. “I hope he doesn’t leave you too long.”

A loud clattering crashing whistling sound comes in from reception- Lance, entering with all his Lance charm intact, it seems.

“I’ll tell him to send your owner along when he gets here,” Shiro tells the wolf-dog. “And to hold this cash- he’s overpaid a bit.”

Shiro shuts the door of the examination room behind him, heading back to the main room to catch Lance.

“Hey boss man!” Lance calls a greeting as he simultaneously logs into the work computer, flicks the phone redirections switch to LIVE, and takes a gulp of a coffee with a dangerously peaked tower of whipped cream.

“You’re late,” Shiro says with a sigh.

“I am, yeah. Sorry! There was this motorcycle, a downed traffic light and a goose-”

“If you skipped the Starbucks, you probably could have been on time,” Shiro interrupts skeptically.

“But if I did that, who would bring you a flat white?” Lance asks innocently, pointing his chin toward a second drink still in the holder.

Shiro hides his smile behind the lid of the coffee. He doesn’t mind, really- Lance is never late enough for it to really hurt anything and he’s as cheerful, upbeat, and unfailingly ruthless about clinic rules as Shiro could ever hope for. Plus the animals all take to Lance like a charm- Shiro privately thinks that Lance might be part golden retriever himself, on the cellular level.

“There’s a patient in Exam Room B, can you kennel him up?”

Lance raises an eyebrow. “Your first appointment wasn’t till ten. Was it an emergency visit?”

“You could say that.” Shiro shrugs. “Minor stitching. He was… ah… an unaccompanied minor.”

“What, like a kid with a stray kitten? Shiro, you have to cut down on the charity cases. You can’t really afford to be giving out freebies as often as you do. That’s not the kind of rep you want to build,” Lance lectures. Shiro nods in the way he does when he plans to do exactly what he’d planned from the beginning regardless. Recognizing this, Lance sighs and sinks back into his seat. “Well, whatever. Where’s the paperwork?”

Shiro winces.

“Shiro…”

“No, listen. There’s no kid. There’s no human.”

“You mean to say this- what is it?”

“A… dog.” Shiro says carefully.

“This dog took himself to the vet?” Lance asks, incredulous.

“He was on the steps when I got here. Owner must have dropped him off- there was a note on his collar.” Shiro reaches for it before he realizes he’s left it back in the exam room, along with his prescription pad.

“Without any kind of identifying contact information, I’ll bet.” Lance snorts. “How much is this one going to set us back?” He reaches for the form for nonpayment and write offs with a frown.

“None, actually.” Shiro says cheerfully, dropping the handful of cash on the desk. “He paid up front.”

Lance whistles appreciatively. “We could use a couple more charity cases like that,” he says agreeably.

“I’ll say. He’s overpaid actually, this ‘K’ person, probably a solid hundred over. Come get me whenever he gets in- I want to have a word about leaving an injured pet and a wad of cash unattended, even if this isn’t a high crime area.” Shiro’s expression turns a bit dark.

“Nice dog, huh?” Lance asks sympathetically.

“The nicest,” Shiro agrees fervently.

“Well, you know me- I love to meet a good boy.” Lance cracks his knuckles, heading down the hall while Shiro glances through his itinerary.

“...Shiro?” Lance calls from the hall.

“Yeah?” Shiro asks, not looking up.

“...You said Exam Room B?”

“Yeah,” Shiro agrees.

“It’s not like… a tiny dog, right?”

“No…” The words register and Shiro looks up just as Lance sticks his head back around the corner, expression grave.

The wolf-dog is gone. So is the prescription sheet.

“Fuck,” Shiro says.

“Fuck,” Lance agrees. “Do you think his owner came in the back?”

Shiro shakes his head. “It’s locked from the inside like always, and there’s no way anyone snuck in past us at reception. I could have sworn I shut the door behind me- let’s check the tapes.”

Shiro’s office has a few monitors hooked up, courtesy of the Holts. Friendship with self-starter tech geniuses also had its perks. Shiro’s a lucky guy- platonically, anyway. It only takes a moment to locate the right timestamp.

“Holy shit,” Lance says, incredulous. “Shiro, that’s a wolf.

Before Shiro can respond, he watches the wolf dog step neatly down the ramp. He jumps up to reach the counter, wincing a little as he puts weight on the injured leg. Delicately, he holds the prescription pad down with his right forepaw, tearing the top sheet free with his teeth. He walks over to the door next, rearing back on his legs and bringing his front paws together. One, two passes and he catches the latch, opening the door. The wolf-dog steps through into the hallway, keeping his back leg in the doorway until the door closes slowly with practically no noise.

“Lassie,” Lance says decisively. “Lassie the wolf.”

The wolf-dog glances both ways before trotting to the back exit, where he jumps up, shoulder checking the emergency exit bar and opening the door. Then he’s gone.

“He must have been trained to do that,” Shiro says, baffled.

“What, like this ‘K’ guy is some kinda, I dunno, escape artist? Working with the circus, maybe?” Lance asks, equal part intrigued and skeptical.

“It’s weird,” Shiro agrees. “But don’t worry about it. We’ll probably never see that dog again.” He tries hard to sound only a little sad about it.

~~

Famous last words, Shiro thinks distantly, as he approaches the familiar figure sitting on the front steps. The wolf-dog wags his tail politely at Shiro in greeting. The four weeks since he’s seen the dog last have not been kind to the animal- his fur is messy and there are several bites and scratches visible along his shoulder. Shiro’s mouth tightens with anger. Is this ‘K’ using the animal in dog fights? He’s big and sturdily built, clearly well trained- an ideal creature for that kind of thing, if you were a monster.

There’s another five hundred tucked under his collar.

Keep the change.

K

Shiro bites back a growl, not wanting to startle the animal. What kind of heartless-

Well.

Shiro disinfects and bandages the wounds with a little butterfly tape.

“You won’t need stitches this time, luckily,” Shiro explains. “But you really must try not to reopen these while they heal. Dog bites are prone to infection.” He tousels the wolf-dogs’s ears. “Your owner is an idiot,” he says with feeling. “But that’s something I can change, maybe.”

This time Shiro walks the wolf-dog over to the kennels himself and though the wolf-dog balks at the door, he allows himself to be coaxed into the container where he sleeps the day away.

“What are you gonna do?” Lance asks. “If you call animal control they’ll definitely have him put down. He’s too wolf for a shelter and too dog for a wildlife rehabilitation group.”

Shiro frowns. “I can’t just let him go back to his owner. He’s clearly not in a good place.”

“You can’t adopt a wolf-dog,” Lance tells him firmly. “You live in a one room flat. He’ll destroy the place and he’ll be miserable.”

“I’ll figure something out,” Shiro promises. He’s still puzzling out a solution while cleaning up the exam room when he hears the shout. He hurries into the holding area to see Lance cursing up a storm.

“I turned my back for one second!

“What happened?” Shiro asks, leaning down to scoop up a renegade shitzu making a mad dash for freedom.

“I don’t know!” Lance’s hair sticks up a bit wildly and his eyes are wide. “I was taking the overnighters for their walk before locking up and they staged some kind of coup! First they went left, then they went right, then the next thing I knew I was on my ass and they scattered.”

“Weird,” Shiro says. “They’re all regulars except-”

“Except your damn wolf,” Lance agrees. “I’m sure he was behind it.”

Shiro rolls his eyes. “You’re being ridiculous. Here, I’ll help you get them back into the kennels.”

One golden, a dachshund mix, a Great Dane, and the rebellious shitzu later, Shiro has a realization.

The wolf-dog is gone.

They check the tapes. As soon as Lance goes down, the wolf-dog darts into the reception area, hiding behind a chair until Shiro goes to investigate. Then he trots down the now-empty hall to the back exit once again.

“I knew it,” Lance screeches.

~~

The next time the wolf-dog comes by his fur is thick with burrs. Shiro brings the wolf-dog inside, spending half an hour brushing out the thick undercoat growing in from the changing weather.

“Don’t run off this time,” Shiro tells the dog firmly, feeling a little foolish. The wolf-dog obediently stays in the kennel for the day. Lance gives the animal a wide berth.

“Nuh-uh, the big bad wolf is your project now,” he says before leaving exactly on time.

Shiro walks into the holding room. They’re closed on Sundays so the wolf-dog is the only animal in the kennel. Shiro drops down into a crouch in front of the cage. The man and the wolf-dog look at each other through the wire cage.

“I don’t know what to do with you,” Shiro says helplessly. “But I hate seeing you mistreated.”

The wolf-dog’s tail wags appreciatively.

“You can’t stay here, can you?” Shiro asks wistfully. The wolf-dog’s tail stops wagging. His eyes are puppy large and luminous. Shiro, feeling foolish, opens the cage door. The wolf-dog steps out carefully, pushing close and tucking his muzzle between Shiro’s arm and side. Shiro, rocked back by the force, lands on his ass, arms full of wolf-dog.

“What a good boy.” Shiro tells him. “A good, good boy.”

This time he tucks a note under the wolf-dog’s collar. It’s short and succinct- an admonishment to take better care of this beautiful animal. An offer of help, in a way. He wraps it around the money, returning every penny. Anything to keep the animal safe and happy.

He lets the wolf-dog out the front door. He does at least make sure no one else is looking before he waves good bye.

~~

“Damn damn double damn,” Lance gripes at the front door.

“What’s the problem?” Shiro asks, letting him in. “Where’s your key?” Lance glumly jerks a thumb over his shoulder back toward the parking lot. “Locked them inside, huh? Need to call triple A?”

Lance snorts. “Roadside service is for the elites. No, I’ve got a spare, now I just gotta sweet talk Keth into bringing it by.” Lance pulls out his phone and scrolls through the contact, hitting the call button.

“Is that the roommate?” Shiro asks with polite interest. “You don’t talk about him much.”

“What’s to talk about? He’s a grumpy jerk with a mullet. Oh, hey, Keith.” Lance continues, not missing a beat. “Huh. He hung up on me.”

“Imagine that,” Shiro says dryly.

Lance must have managed to get his message across one way or another because when Shiro comes out later looking for the bloodwork on the 3 o’clock pomsky, Lance is no longer alone. The roommate is on the shorter side and slender but with good shoulders and fluff shag hair that manages to suit his face, balanced between cute and striking with those violet eyes. He is also rather pale in the face and swaying slightly. Lance, chattering on a mile a minute, does not seem to have noticed.

“-and really you should be thanking me for helping to keep you on a regular waking schedule, I mean your skin would probably be amazing if you weren’t out all hours of the night and not hydrating-”

Ah, Shiro knows that face. The valiantly-trying-not-to-snap-at-a-well-meaning Lance face. Classic.

“Lance,” Shiro interrupts, taking pity on them both. Lance stop mid-word. “I’m feeling burgers. Up for a quick lunch run? My treat.” Shiro tosses him his wallet. “Get your friend something too, as thanks for the delivery.”

Keith opens his mouth as if to object but something in Shiro’s calm, friendly expression makes him relax. He looks at Shiro from the side, as though guilty for looking. The white hair, maybe. Or the scar or the arm. There’s a lot about Shiro that’s unnerving, he knows. Too bad, Keith’s a stunner. Just his type, maybe a hundred years ago or so, when Shiro was, well… Better this way, maybe.

Lance flips the sign from open to closed for lunch hour on his way out with his spare key. Shiro gestures at the waiting room chairs. Keith shakes his head.

“Come on,” Shiro says gently. “You look all in.”

Keith sighs then folds into a chair. “You can tell?” He asks, voice muffled as he buries his face in his folded arms propped on the back of the chair.

“I’m a doctor,” Shiro says lightly. Keith snorts. “Okay, so maybe this isn’t my specialty. I can still recognize iron deficiency and dehydration when I see it.”

Keith stiffens.

“I’m not going to pry.” Shiro continues, leaning down to the mini fridge behind reception and grabbing two bottles of water. He sits down, leaving a chair between himself and Keith where he puts one bottle down, nonchalant as he cracks the other and drinks. “It’s nothing some liquids and a prime steakburger combo won’t fix.”

When he chances a glance over, Keith has shifted so that he can peer up at Shiro, only a sliver of his face visible between the curtain of hair and crossed arms.

“So you’re nice to people too,” Keith says quietly.

Shiro cocks his head to the side, a little confused as to the meaning. Keith shakes his head and sits up, reaching for the water.

“Thanks,” Keith says sincerely.

“You’re welcome.” Shiro says, glancing away. He’s a little embarrassed at Keith’s sincerity. He gets the feeling that maybe Keith isn’t used to much unprompted kindness in his life. It’s a bit dangerous- makes Shiro want to offer all kinds of things. “So… have you lived with Lance long?”

Keith rolls his eyes but smiles a little. “No. Maybe four months? I travel a lot for work though, so I’m hardly there.”

“Super spy?” Shiro jokes.

“Jewel smuggler,” Keith corrects. “Very hush hush.”

“Of course.” Shiro agrees, smitten.

“So… you must see a lot of dogs.” Keith’s voice is fake casual.

“Are you a dog person?” Shiro asks with a grin.

“You could say that,” Keith says, amused.

“Well, I do. Here, we have an album of some of the cutest ones-” Shiro digs in Lance’s desk for the mini-album, pausing when he comes across one of ‘K’’s crumpled notes. He frowns.

“Hey. You okay?” Keith asks, eyes warm with concern.

“Yeah, of course. I just-” Shiro bites his lip. “It’s dumb.”

“Try me,” Keith offers.

And then Shiro is telling him all about his mysterious wolf-dog visitor, and about all his worries.

“What if that note tipped him off? What if he went to another vet- or what if he isn’t getting the dog help at all anymore?” Shiro frets.

“What if he took the note seriously?” Keith counters. “What if… what if he’s being more careful now, knowing that he’s got someone else worried?”

“You think maybe the dog’s okay?” Shiro asks imploringly.

“I think that if he needed help, he knows where to go now.” Keith says firmly. “Animals know the people who love them.”

Then Lance is back with lunch, so the talk turns to other things.

The next week, Lance is down with a very human flu. Unfortunately, Shiro needs his keycard to get into the pharmaceutical cupboard.

“Hi,” Shiro says sheepishly when Keith opens the door.

“Oh! Hi. Yeah.” Keith lets him in awkwardly. The apartment is nice, inexpensive furniture and tasteful enough knicknacks from Ikea and the Home Goods store.

“Lance said you’d be by,” he says apologetically. “He’s out like a light.”

“Poor guy,” Shiro says sympathetically.

“Nah,” Keith waves his hand dismissively. “Nothing that mainlining Nyquil for a day or three won’t fix.”

Shiro sputters a little laugh. “Very sympathetic and caring,” he teases. “I bet you made him homemade soup and everything.”

“Hey, that’s your line, Doc.” Keith smirks.

“Shiro,” Shiro says softly.

“Shiro,” Keith repeats, just as soft. “Oh. The keycard, here-” He holds it out and Shiro takes it but he doesn’t move toward the door.

“You wouldn’t want to-” Shiro stops halfway.

“To?” Keith repeats.

“Coffee?” Shiro offers.

“Oh.” Keith dims a bit. “I…”

“It doesn’t have to be coffee.” Shiro adds. “It doesn’t have to be anything.”

“I like coffee.” Keith interrupts. “I like... you.”

“But?” Shiro prompts.

“But I don’t think I’d want just coffee.” Keith admits.

“And that’s… bad.” Shiro guesses.

“It’s complicated.” Keith frowns at the ground.

“Doesn’t have to be.” Shiro says. “It could just be coffee. If you wanted.” Keith looks conflicted. “Or not. No pressure. But you know where to find me if you want me.”

The sad way that Keith looks at him as he leaves makes Shiro feel strange. Like he’s seen that look before somewhere. He can’t put his finger on it, but he also can’t shake the feeling for the rest of the day.

~~

The wolf-dog is on the front steps of his apartment when Shiro wakes up. His paw pads are open and raw, as if he’d run across sharp stones for much of the night. Bloody paw prints lead across the hall. Shiro wraps the injuries up in his bathroom before going out to run his swiffer wetjet across the mess. It’s his off day, so he spends it in his apartment, patting the wolf-dog and thinking.

“What if you stayed?” Shiro asks. “You could, if you wanted to.” The wolf-dog ducks his head, letting out a soft whine. “I even think you want to. You just won’t for some reason. Not good at taking things you want, I think.”

The dog looks at him sadly, with unusual violet eyes. “Hm. You remind me of someone.” Shiro muses.

~~

When Lance’s car won’t start, he calls Keith for a ride. Shiro waves at him from the back. Slowly, shyly, Keith waves back. The palms of his hands are wrapped in white gauze.

“I’m probably crazy,” Shiro tells himself. Lance squawks with indignation when Keith tests the engine and it roars to life. Well of course it does- Shiro had reconnected the battery as soon as Lance had made the call for help.

~~

The low scratching at the window wakes Shiro. He crosses the room to the fire escape where the wolf-dog sits outside the window, whining in a low steady litany. Shiro opens the window and helps him through.

“Couldn’t wait to see me, huh?” Shiro jokes, but his smile falls when he sees the unnatural way the animal’s leg is twisted. Even without being able to sedate the animal he holds still and trusting while Shiro works the joint back into place, stabilizing it as best he can with the limited first aid he keeps around the apartment.

“This is serious,” he says, turning his back to the animal and washing the blood from his hands. “You need to go to a hospital.”

The wolf-dog snorts where he’s lying on a towel on the bed, just around the open doorway.

“Not me. Not a vet. A real human hospital, Keith.”

Shiro cuts off the sink and dries his hands carefully on the towel. When he turns back around, a decidedly human Keith sits on the bed, towel pulled into his lap for modesty’s sake.

“You knew?” Keith asks in a whisper.

“I guessed,” Shiro concedes. “Now I know.”

Keith shakes his head. “I’m sorry. I hid it…”

“What were you supposed to say? Sorry, Shiro, I’m not an abusive owner, I just don’t take good care of myself when I’m a werewolf.”

Keith’s face goes pink. “I guess that sounds crazy.”

“It is crazy. All this is crazy.” Shiro gestures.

“It doesn’t matter now.” Keith bristles a little. “I won’t bother you again, okay?”

“What if you get hurt?” Shiro asks.

“I won’t. Not like that.” Keith looks away, that same sad look coming over again. “I won’t change anymore.”

“Why not?” Shiro moves casually into the room, leaning against the dresser. He’s close enough to see Keith swallow nervously.

“You know now.” Keith crosses his arms over his bare chest. “I can’t transform any more- not with the moon and not on purpose. Not if you know my true name and my true form.”

“No one can ever know?” Shiro asks sympathetically. “That’s so lonely.” Keith tenses but doesn’t reply. After a moment, Shiro digs in the dresser until he finds some pajamas. He tosses them at Keith. “Put those on and I’ll drive you.”

“Drive me?” Keith asks, confused.

“To the ER.” Shiro clarifies. “Do jewel smugglers have health insurance?”

“Probably not,” Keith says, amused. “But diamond transport does.”

Shiro blinks.

“It’s a good gig for people like me. Pays well, and who wants to mug a werewolf? Besides other werewolves in the biz.” Keith pulls on the shirt. “Healthcare is decent.”

“Then why did you end up at a vet?” Shiro asks, confused.

“I’m full wolf the entire day of the full moon. That cut wouldn’t stop bleeding and I heard about your place from Lance. It made sense at the time. I kept coming back after that because I’m in love with you. Obviously.” Keith shrugs.

“Obviously.” Shiro echoes incredulously. His heart beat thunders in his throat.

“It’s fine, I can find another job.” Keith says flatly. “I’ll have to. Can’t change so long as I’m cursed.”

“Curses can be broken,” Shiro says tentatively. He glances away while Keith wriggles into the pajama pants.

“Sometimes,” Keith temporizes.

“Can this one?” Shiro asks.

“Theoretically.”

“Keith.” Shiro says firmly.

Keith sighs. “It’s a kiss.”

“A kiss?” Shiro sits on the edge of the bed, careful not the jar Keith’s injured leg.

“I guess it shows, I dunno. Acceptance of the beast or something.” Keith’s face is red.

“If I kiss you, you can transform again,” Shiro clarifies. Keith nods. “Well.” Shiro leans back. “Then I won’t be doing that.” Keith wilts. “You really should look for a new job- one that doesn’t get you injured in… jewel smuggling dog fights. Which is, wow. Not a sentence I thought I’d ever be saying.”

“Okay,” Keith says in a small voice.

Shiro continues. “That leg is going to need proper setting, maybe even minor surgery. You cannot go wolf, not for weeks.”

“Oh?” Keith says, looking up with cautious hope.

“And anyway I don’t kiss before the first date.” Shiro shrugs.

“That coffee?” Keith asks, eyes brightening.

“Caffeine isn’t good for dogs. How about a walk in the park?” Shiro asks innocently. He doesn’t even duck when Keith throws a pillow at his face.