It’s Sam Holt’s words that guide him to sliding a note under Keith’s dorm room in between classes.
“ Even with all the advancements in space travel and technology, there’s never a 100 percent probability of return. You need to make sure you leave with all your loose ends tied up. No regrets left behind. ”
Shiro nervously checks his watch. It’s halfway through dinner time. Keith’s usually done and on his way back to his room around this time.
He’s probably on his way to his room right now. I wonder if he’s seen my note yet.
It’s hard to resist the urge to turn around and check the rooftop access door again, just in case he’s missed hearing the creaky old thing open. But Shiro manages to stop himself. Instead, he continues to pace in between the solar panels, weaving his way between them in a poor attempt to walk his nerves off.
He checks the time again. Less than two minutes have passed his he last checked his watch. Annoyed, Shiro holds his wrist up to his ear and wonders if the damn thing is broken. Over the sound of the second hand ticking forward, Shiro hears the low, tell-tale creak of the access door opening.
And just like that, the butterflies in his stomach start to swarm again. They make the corners of his smile go wobbly with nerves. Hurrying forward, Shiro comes to a halt in the pathway dividing the lines of solar panels into two. Right in Keith’s line of sight.
He’s in his civies, black shirt, black jeans, and red jacket. The night wind blows a couple of strands across his mouth. Shiro years for his fingers to be the one to push those strands of hair back into place. But Keith disregards them, smiling at him as he approaches. “Hey Shiro. What’s up? Your note said you wanted to talk.”
I can’t do this. I gotta do this. I can’t tell him. I can’t leave without telling him.
Shiro’s brain swings wildly between his two avenues. He could either follow through and tell Keith about his feelings or act like he wanted some alone time with his best friend before he left for the final stretch of preparations for the Kerberos mission.
No regrets remember? What if you don’t make it back.
Keith’s smile wanes, turning into confusion the longer Shiro stays silent.
But it’s not fair to him. It’s selfish.
Shiro opens his mouth, reaches into the well of the deadpan humor he enjoys dipping into when it’s just him and Keith and comes up dry.
It’s okay to be selfish sometimes.
“Shiro?” Keith asks, brows furrowing in concern. His boots scrape against the concrete as he takes a few steps forward. He peers up at him, eyes seeking out the cause of Shiro’s worries. “Is something wrong?”
If I tell him. If I cross this line. Things are going to be changed forever between us .
Shaking his head, Shiro realizes he wants things to change. He’s tired of hiding his feelings for Keith. And while he knows that Keith doesn’t feel the same way about him, Shiro still wants Keith to know. He doesn’t dare linger on the positive outcomes of his confession. He doesn’t want to get his hopes up only for them to be dashed.
No. Shiro lets go of all his expectations, letting them float away like helium balloons before exhaling. “There’s something I wanted to tell you before I left for Kerberos.”
Keith continues to frown at him, worry coming off him in waves. Shiro finds himself staring at the deep lines on Keith’s forehead and is inexplicably charmed. How is it that he finds every other thing about Keith so attractive?
With the smallest, fondest head shake, Shiro presses his thumb against the lines and gently rubs them out. “You keep making that face, you’re gonna get stuck with it.”
“Come on!” Keith laughs, grabbing Shiro’s wrist to make him stop. “What’s bothering you? What’s got you so worried?”
He turns his hand around in Keith’s grip, turning it inward so that he can link their fingers between them. The move causes a soft jolt to run through Keith, whose eyes widen. They dart between their hands and Shiro, who feels his heart skip a beat at the soft, questioning, “Shiro?” Keith lets out.
Before he knows it, Shiro’s giving into the urge to lean down the few inches between them and press their lips together in a brief but sweet kiss. It lasts for less than five seconds and yet, it has seared itself into Shiro’s soul. As he pulls away, he knows he’ll never forget the way Keith’s surprised inhale felt away his lips. Or how soft Keith’s lips were.
He stares helplessly at Keith, taking in his pink cheeks and startled expression before confessing, “I like you.”
Keith stares at him, shock deepening. That’s what Shiro expected. But what’s heartening is the fact that Keith doesn’t appear disgusted or any other negative emotion.
It gives Shiro the courage to continue, tightening his grip. “I’ve liked you for a while now. And I don’t mean as just as a friend. I like you romantically. I want to date you, kiss you, hold your hand, all of that.”
He cuts Keith off, shaking his head firmly. “Don’t. You don’t have to say anything. I just. I couldn’t leave without you knowing how much you meant to me.” Shiro swallows at this point, eyes lowering to stare at their hands. He can’t help but sweep his thumb across Keith’s gloved knuckles, smiling sadly. “I know you don’t think of me like that. And it’s okay. You don’t have to tell me that.”
Shiro’s more than aware that he’s an important person in Keith’s life. As close as family. But Keith’s never seen him in the romantic light. And that’s okay. Shiro’d come to terms with that a long time ago. He peeks up at Keith, who is also staring down at the space between them. The hang dog expression on his face makes Shiro inquire, “What is it?”
The last thing he expects his soft question to lead too, is a sudden hug from Keith. Staggering a few steps back, Shiro’s arms come up around Keith as best they can because Keith’s thrown his arms around Shiro’s body rather than under his arms. So all he can do is press his palms against Keith’s lower back.
Hope bursts into life in his chest and is just as quickly extinguished when he hears Keith whisper, “I’m sorry. You mean so much to me but I never...”
“Hey, hey,” Shiro soothes him, more for his own sake because he’s not sure he can take hearing that whole sentence. “It’s okay. I told you didn’t I? I know how you feel.”
Keith’s arms tighten around him for a second before relaxing. He feels cold from the inside out when Keith takes a step back, arms crossed across his chest. The silence that follows is awkward and heavy. It almost makes Shiro regret his actions. In fact, he’s changing his stance towards completely regretting being so brash when he realizes Keith’s avoiding his gaze.
A rare kind of weariness settles on his shoulders, weighing his heart and body down. But Shiro forces his lips up as he begins to move. Presses his palm on Keith’s shoulder and gives it a quick squeeze. “Thanks for hearing me out. Come on. I’ll walk you back to your room.”
This is what you wanted , Shiro reminds himself as he heads towards the door. He pushes his shoulders back and stands tall. I wanted Keith to know. This isn’t going to change anything between us even when I get back. Oh .
He stops. Turns around on his heel and stares intently at Keith, who blinks up at him. “You know this isn’t going to change things right? I mean, when I come back, we’re still going to be best friends.”
“Is that what you want?” There’s a confused edge to Keith’s tone. One which implies he didn’t expect Shiro’s statement.
“Well. I’m not gonna lie. If you figure out during my time away that you like me back and wanna date me I’ll be really happy but...” Shiro tries not to let his sadness show through his smile. He’s not sure he succeeds given the stricken look that flashes through Keith’s eyes. “Yeah. I still want us to be friends. You’re my best friend Keith. Nothing’s going to change that.”
That finally earns him a tentative smile. It’s not much but Shiro will take it. So he nods towards the door, feeling a little better than he did a minute ago.