Keith bites down on his bottom lip, sharp teeth digging in as he cranes his head, watching the shore path. There's a smaller group of rocks closer in that he could potentially hide behind.
Keith surfaces behind the grouping of rocks. They're smaller than the ones he usually shelters
"No, Matt, I'm fine." The man's familiar voice, deep and smooth, announces his presence.
He comes around the bend in the path and Keith watches with wide eyes. He can see the man so much better from this spot.
But from here... he can see the definition of muscles in his arm and his legs, the sharp cut of his jaw.
The man pulls the device away from his ear and holds it in his hand as he shrugs the bag off his shoulder. He kneels down and puts the device inside and pulls out a large piece of fabric that he
He reaches behind him and grabs the collar of his shirt and pulls it off, dropping it on top of his bag. Keith bites his lip again as he eyes the defined planes of his chest.
He wades until the water is up to his hips and then dips forward into the gentle waves and starts to swim.
Keith dares to lift his head a little bit, wanting a better view
In a panic, he dives down below the waterline and takes off as fast as he can towards the open ocean, powerful strokes of his tail
He gets a brief impression of wide purple eyes and dark hair before whoever it is disappears with a splash. He spies a glimpse of something
"No way," he mutters when he finally manages words. "I did not just see a mermaid. Mermaids aren't real."
/You saw something/, his brain insists.
There's no trace of anyone around the boulders and nowhere someone could have swam to except the shore - which Shiro would've seen - or out to sea - which is insane.
Today's already going to be long with Matt and Pidge coming over to work on his prosthetic and this swim being longer than normal.
Shiro makes his way back to shore, stopping a few times to rest. He dries off quickly and slips his shirt back on before hiking back out of the secluded cove and back into town and his apartment.
Pidge shrugs, not looking up. "I don't see why they couldn't," she says. "I believe in aliens and the ocean is as fucking weird as space. Why?"
"No reason," Shiro hedges. "Just thinking about
"Well, if you run into a merperson ask them if they'd be willing to talk to me. I have questions." She taps on the metal of arm with her screwdriver. "All done. How's it feel?"
Shiro rotates his shoulder. "Heavy but fine."
Shiro lets Pidge put him through his paces and then has a beer with her and Matt before they leave and he collapses back on the couch. He resists the urge to unhook his arm, but the Holts need him to keep it on longer for more data.
He feels so free in the water. It's easier to forget how unbalanced so often these days with his prosthetic back in his apartment and
Shiro takes a deep breath and turns over, eyes straying back to the rocks where he'd seen the person last time.
He's not really expecting to see violet eyes staring back at him. But they are.
When the man turns over, Keith once again doesn't duck fast enough and his eyes lock
He's about to flee again when the man calls out.
"Wait!" The man calls out. "Don't go."
Keith freezes and slowly looks back over to the man, heart pounding.
"I'm not going to..." he seems to struggle for words, "hurt you or anything."
"Okay," the man whispers, obviously not realizing that Keith can still hear him. "Okay. So, you were here the other day to," he says to Keith again.
Keith bites his lip, wondering if this is a hint that the man doesn't want him here.
The man laughs and shakes his hair out of his face. "You seem to be quiet too."
"What's your name?" Keith asks, voice rough with disuse. Talking above water is weird.
The merman nods, still watching him warily and staying behind the rocks.
"I'm Shiro," he says. "Well, it's a nickname but that's what everyone calls me."
"Yeah, like a shortened version of a name," he explains. He pauses. "Can I ask your name?"
"Sure," he says.
It takes Shiro a second but he laughs as his jab sinks in. "What's your name?"
"I'm Keith," he says.
"You too," Keith says, trying not to stumble over his words. He knows English,
"Are- are you actually a merperson?" Shiro asks, curiosity and awe in his voice.
Keith nods carefully.
"Could I come over to your rocks?" Shiro asks. I'm getting a little tired floating here and could use something to hold onto."
Shiro is a little taken aback. "How long have you been watching me?"
"Okay," Shiro says, not as weirded out as he thought he might be.
"Okay? You want help?" Keith asks earnestly. "Here or do you want to go back to shore?"
"Okay," Keith says.
Shiro swims over to Keith's rocks as quickly as he can manage and clings to the rocks, opposite Keith.
Shiro feels the tension that had built in his shoulders st the beginning of that sentence release with the last word. He was too used to strangers commenting on his arm.
Shiro watches him flounder for a word. "Efficient?" He offers.
Keith's mouth quirks in a smile. "Yes."
"Had to learn to be more efficient after I lost my arm," Shiro admits.
Silence stretches between them and Shiro takes the opportunity to study Keith up close. His hair is inky black and tied back in a braid that he cant see the end of and his skin looks impossibly smooth and pale.
This is definitely an apex predator.
Keith drags his eyes up from where he'd been looking at Shiro's hands (big and strong, even if lacking claws).
"It was an accident the first time," he says slowly. "Then I found you interesting so I came back."
"I am, but you're the first one I've talked to," Keith admits.
His tail twitches in annoyance. "I listen," he snaps. "Places where humans talk but dont look at the water too closely."
He watches fear cause Keith eyes to slit and the merman draws back. "No others," he says. "Dangerous."
He watches Keith relax slightly but his claws still scrape against the rock and his eyes aren't back to what Shiro would consider normal yet.
But he wonders... "Why are you talking to me?"
Shiro's known him for all of ten minutes but he can read the hurt rolling off him in waves.
"Course I do," he assures him, smiling softly. "Just... why me?"
The words "I trust you" hide between syllables and beats of his heart. They feel true but Keith holds onto them. Not earned yet.
He sees the tips of Keith's fangs dig into his lip as the merman nods.
"So being close to the shore and surface is dangerous?" Shiro asks.
Shiro nods. That's completely fair. "But not you," he says.
Keith takes a deep breath and is glad Shiro can't see the way his tail fin twitches with his nerves.
The elders of the pod he'd grown up in had lectured on it often enough and it was cited in the decision to expel him from the community.
Shiro flashes him another smile, something that feels soft and makes his insides squirm. "I'm glad your curiosity led you here," he says. "Meeting you is.... it's good."
Shiro thinks there's a pleased tilt to his lips. He's trying to come up with another line of conversation when Keith's head whips towards shore.
"What is it?" Shiro asks, squinting at the rocky beach that still looks empty.
"Might be my phone," Shiro offers. "I left it on vibrate."
Keith turns to look at him. "Phone?" he says carefully. "Is that... the device you talk into sometimes?"
Shiro nods. "Communication device that I can use to talk to other people
"Better hearing than humans," he says, staring back at shore, brows furrowed. "Better underwater too." After a moment, the tension drains back out of him. "It stopped," he says.
Keith nods. "Yeah. Took a bit to figure out that you couldn't hear as well so I didn't have to be silent myself."
"What-" Keith cuts himself off with another glance at shore. "It's doing it again."
"Shit," Shiro swears under his breath. "I probably need to go
"Do you..." Keith pauses. "Do you want me to take you to shore? It would be faster."
Shiro considers for a moment. Keith's not offering because he thinks Shiro /can't/ do it,
Plus, if he lets Keith help, he'll probably get to actually catch a glimpse of Keith's tail.
"You wouldn't mind?" Shiro asks.
"You did," Shiro says with a smile. "Okay, you can take me back to shore."
Keith smiles back, sharp teeth flashing for a moment before he disappears below the water. Shiro knows a brief moment of fear before Keith breaches the water right
Shiro goes breathless as he sees the water bead on Keith's face. His skin must be different than human, he thinks. He glances down and takes in the toned chest before dragging his eyes back up.
"Ready?" Keith asks, looking amused.
Keith wraps an arm around Shiro's waist and tells him to hold on. Shiro mirrors the movement and finds Keith's skin to be cool and smooth to the touch, the texture somehow different than what he's accustomed to.
Incredible, he thinks.
Shiro takes a deep breath and sits in the water, just staring at Keith. From this angle he can see that his braid reaches
"Thank you," he stutters out.
The fin of Keith's tail, iridescent black, flips out of the water for a second.
"It was incredible," Shiro breathes. "Thanks."
Keith blushes and it creeps down his neck. The water ripples by his tail again.
"You should get that," Keith says. "Someone needs you and I should go."
Shiro hesitates. "Will you be here tomorrow?"
"I can be."
"Meet me here tomorrow morning," Shiro says. "I'd like to talk to you more."
"Okay," Keith says. "I'll be here." He pauses. "You're not... bringing anyone? You don't usually... come here two days in a row."
"I'll see you tomorrow, then," Shiro says, standing up, water streaming down his form.
Shiro stares after him until the insistent buzz of his phone demands his attention.
"What's going on?" He says in lieu on a greeting.
"Why the fuck weren't you answering your phone?" Matt shoots back.
Shiro relaxes a little. Matt wouldn't sound annoyed if
"I was swimming," he says. "You know, like I do frequently."
"Right," Matt says, sounding abashed. "I didn't think about that."
"So, why did I drag myself out of the water to answer your sixth call of the morning?"
"Spit it out, Holt," Shiro says. "I'm standing here dripping because I can't dry off and hold the phone at the same time." He could use his shoulder to hold the phone but... it's wet too.
"And that was urgent enough for /six/ phonecalls?"
"Well, after the second one I was just concerned that you weren't answering like you usually do."
"Dude, you were spacey the last couple days. I worry." Matt sounds sincere and Shiro feels a pang of guilt.
"Sorry," he says. "Just got caught up in my head. Nothing bad or arm-related," their shorthand for
Matt makes a considering sound. "Does somebody have a crush?" He singsongs.
Shiro flushes bright red and is glad that this is a phone conversation. "I'm sure somebody does," he retorts evenly.
"I'll consider it and text you when I get home," Shiro decides. He'll go to Pidge's science dinner, but Matt deserves to sweat it out a little.
"Insulting the person you're asking for a favor is not smart."
"Same to you," Shiro replies with a laugh. "Hanging up now. Talk to you later."
He ends the call without waiting for an answer and trades his phone for his towel to dry off.
"I'll see you tomorrow," he calls out, just in case, after putting in his shirt and shouldering his bag.
He doesn't think he imagines the flip of a tail fin out in the mouth of the cove.
Keith swims around the cove as he waits for the sun to climb to the position it usually sits in when Shiro shows up.
Keith has time to second guess his decision to give a gift several times before he hears Shiro on the shore.
"Hello," Keith says, an almost shy look on his face. His eyes drop down to the silver prosthetic and stay there for a second.
"Hello," he echoes with a smile. He lifts his right arm a little. "Can't swim since I'm wearing my arm today."
"Too heavy," Shiro admits. "And we're not sure how it would affect the mechanics of it if I submerged it in ocean water."
Keith hums, not moving yet.
"It's fine," Keith says. "I'll come up there."
Shiro smiles. "Does that mean I finally get to see what your tail looks like?"
"I'm so sorry, that was probably rude," he stutters out. "I'm just curious and my mouth got ahead of me and..." He shuts his mouth with a click, face aflame.
At least he's finding new and interesting ways to do so. A refreshing change from his usual ineptness when talking to human guys he finds attractive.
"It's fine," Keith says after a moment. "I didn't understand everything you just said. Too fast, I think."
Shiro nods and steps back a little so he can sit in the shallow water.
When he's about an armslength away, he flips over and sits up, leaning back on his arms and looking out towards the cove.
"Hi," Shiro says, trying not to immediately let his eyes down to what he can see of his tail.
Shiro smiles and he knows his face is a bright pink at this point. He trails his eyes down Keith's torso, admiring the wiry strength obvious there and lingering where skin starts to give way
The water is starting to clear and Shiro can see the long length of Keith's tail in full.
He swallows hard and drags his eyes back up to Keith's,
"Beautiful," Shiro breathes, offering another smile. It feels a little sappy and smitten but he has no chance of changing that. It's almost refreshing to be dealing with a crush after everything else.
"I have something for you," Keith says. He holds out his hand, revealing a large shell. The spirals are perfectly formed and
Shiro takes the shell, fingertips brushing against Keith's palm as he does. "Thank you, Keith," Shiro says. "I'll treasure it. It's beautiful."
They sit in silence for a minute before Keith asks if he can look at Shiro's arm. Shiro figures that he got to stare at Keith's tail and this is more than fair.
Shiro bites back a shiver as Keith trails one hand up his arm, almost to the join between
Keith glances up at his face and catches the dumbstruck look there. He glances back down at his hands and then Shiro's face. "Can you feel this?"
"It's fine," Shiro tells him and he /sounds/ sincere. "I would've told you if it wasn't."
He studies Shiro's face and finds nothing but open honesty. "Okay."
"Most people who have a prosthetic," he moves his arm to let him know what the likely unfamiliar word means, "can't feel anything with it. Mine's a bit experimental. Perk of having science-y friends."
Keith nods. "I've seen a few. The ones who can feel things with it are created by powerful druids, though. It's usually not worth the price."
"Price? Like, monetary?"
Keith shakes his head. "We don't usually use money. It's a trade of services and favors usually."
Shiro feels like this is something he shouldn't pry into yet, but the shell Keith gifted him with suddenly feels more significant.
"Magic always comes at a steep price," Keith says slowly, obviously trying to pick the right words. "Especially when you ask a druid for something. They always want... something of you."
Shiro shudders. "Definitely doesn't sound worth the cost."
Keith cocks his head to the side. "Do humans not have druids?"
"Do you? Believe in magic?"
Normally, Shiro would shrug and shake his head but he pauses, really thinking about it. Two days ago, he didn't know merpeople existed. The world obviously holds
"Haven't thought about it much," Shiro says. "But I don't not believe in it." /In you,/ he thinks. It's a gut feeling that Keith won't lie to him. He trusts him.
Shiro laughs and tells him about his job with the Garrison and what he does when he's not working and answers as many of Keith's questions as he can.
Shiro has questions of his own and tosses them at Keith whenever he can.
Shiro wants to ask why Keith seems to not actually be part of the pod or mention any family but he lets it lie for now. The sun is getting high and his consulting is on his own schedule these days,
"I need to go," he tells Keith. "I have to work today."
It's painful to watch the small smile drop off of Keith's face. "Yeah, I probably should get going too."
"I'll be here," Keith promises. He ducks his head, mostly dry bangs obscuring his eyes. "I like talking to you."
The wonder in Keith's purple eyes almost undoes him. He wishes he didn't look so surprised at such a simple indication of friendship, of being liked.
"Yeah, yeah, I'll see you then," Keith says. He starts edging further into the water. "Until tomorrow, Shiro."
He flashes a quick smile, sharp teeth glinting, and then disappears into the waves.
Shiro's put up a little shelf in his bedroom that holds the tiny treasures Keith gifts him occasionally. In addition to that first shell,
Two months in, Shiro thinks to snap a picture of the shelf on his phone to show Keith. In fact, he films a quick video tour of his apartment.
As soon as the water is in sight, he calls out. "Hey Keith, got some stuff to show you!"
There's a couple seconds of silence where
"Beach day?" Keith asks, guessing from Shiro's words and the fact that his prosthetic is on.
"Yeah, I want to show you something on my phone."
Shiro tosses him the extra towel and watches Keith dry off his hands and arms so he can use Shiro's phone.
"Is it more cat videos?" Keith asks, looking at Shiro with a sly smirk.
Shiro blushes. "No, but I can pull more up if you want."
"It might be boring, but I realized that I haven't actually shown you where I live so I filmed a little video tour."
Keith's eyes light up. "Your apartment? Really?"
Keith makes a face and then holds out a hand for Shiro's phone. Shiro pulls up the video and then hands it to him, letting his fingers drag against the webbing on Keith's hands.
"Sorry," Shiro apologizes immediately.
"It's fine," Keith says. "Just a sensitive spot."
Shiro bites his tongue before he can ask what else is a sensitive spot. He can't help but wonder, though. His fingers still itch to find out what Keith's tail feels like.
Keith is rapt as he goes through the living room and kitchen.
"I don't actually cook much," he admits. "I can make a few things but I'm not very good at it."
Keith nudges him in the ribs. "You can cook better than me."
"Mine's actually one of the bigger ones," Shiro says. "The standard ones aren't as wide or deep."
Shiro eyes his tail. "It'd be a tight fit," he admits.
Keith hits play once more, claw clacking against the screen.
The video heads into Shiro's bedroom. It's pretty basic, not that different than the guest room really, except...
"Are those..." he trails off, voice thready.
"Yeah," Shiro says. He reaches for the phone and navigates to his gallery to show the pictures of the shelf he'd taken.
Maybe these warm feelings Shiro inspires in him aren't as one sided as he thought.
"Yeah," Keith says with a nod, voice hoarse. "It's perfect."
Shiro doesn't entirely know how to interpret the expression on Keith's face.
"I love it," Keith says. He reaches out and touches the screen of the phone lightly, right over where the first shell is in the photo. He swallows hard and then pulls his hand back.
"Tell me about it?" Shiro asks. "I brought sandwiches again if you want to eat and talk."
"The PB&J you liked last time and a ham and cheese."
"I'll try the new one first," he says. Shiro pulls half out of the bag and hands it to him, quickly listing off the ingredients.
Keith chews thoughtfully and then swallows. Shiro watches the bob of his throat before lifting his eyes back up. "Like it?" he asks.
"So, what's your cave like?" He asks.
"Small," Keith says after swallowing another bite. "Well-hidden, which it has to be since I'm on my own."
Keith freezes for a second and then nods. "I used to be part of a pod further south," he says. The words are stilted in a way they haven't been lately, like the subject matter makes Keith less
"They took care of me, but I was never family to any of them. Made it easier for them to exile me from the pod when
"They just kicked you out?" Shiro asks, not bothering to stifle his outrage. "How old were you?"
Keith shrugs. "Seventeen. Old enough to keep myself alive."
"It's fine, Shiro," Keith says, moving to rest a hand on Shiro's thigh. "It was a long time ago."
"It's not fine," Shiro argues. "What they did isn't right. Seventeen isn't even an
"On the edge for mers, too," Keith admits. "We live longer than humans but you have to grow up fast to survive in the ocean."
"How old are you?" Shiro asks out of curiosity.
"Twenty-five. I think." Keith tilts his head up. "How old are you?"
"I... don't understand," Keith says after a moment.
Shiro chuckles and leans his cheek against the top of Keith's head. "I'll explain leap day another time, promise."
"So, why didn't you join another pod? You said before that you trade with a local one?"
Keith sighs and Shiro feels his cool breath through his shirt. "Didn't see the point. Was going to be an outsider
Shiro rubs his thumb in soothing circles just above where his scales start. He knows that feeling too. It's lonely.
His hand edges down a little bit until his pinky is brushing against scales.
Keith sucks in a breath.
Keith nods against him. "You've just never touched my tail before," he says slowly. "I thought it must freak you out or something."
"No!" Shiro blurts out. "I just didn't know if it was rude but I wanted to."
"It's fine, Shiro. You can touch if you want to." Keith pulls away from where they've been sitting
Keith's tail is heavy in his lap, pure muscle Shiro thinks. He hesitates, stealing a look at Keith to make sure it's really okay
"Careful," Keith rasps out.
Shiro freezes and looks over at Keith, taking in his blush and trying to ascertain if he made him uncomfortable.
"The edges can be sharp going that way," he says. "Don't want you to get cut."
"It's good," Keith says.
And it's so good. Keith is fighting down his reactions to having someone touch him. It's been so long since someone's touched his tail just because they could.
He closes his eyes and tries to memorize the way Shiro's careful, curious fingers feel against his scales.
"Sorry!" Keith feels his face going fully red.
"It's fine. Ticklish?"
"Something like that," Keith mumbles, not wanting to own up to the fact that a few innocent touches have him tingling.
"It's not a common color," Keith admits. "Mostly makes sure that every pod can mark me as an outsider on sight."
He's so close to just telling Keith that he thinks he's gorgeous just in general. All of him. But he bites his tongue.
"Well, they're all blind," he declares. He remembers something else he stashed in his bag the other day all of a sudden. "Oh! I almost forgot."
"Let me up real quick?" Shiro asks, tapping on Keith's tail. "I saw something that reminded me of you a few days ago."
Keith is staring at him, wide-eyed. Shiro opens his hand before he can start second-guessing himself.
Shiro smiles, a soft, pleased thing. "Yeah. It reminded me of you, like I said. I thought you might like it."
"You got me a gift," he breathes.
Keith tilts forward and presses his lips to Shiro's. It's a quick kiss, a little firm and a little colder than Shiro's used to.
This is real and happening and so much better than his dreams and imaginings.
"Thank you," he whispers, voice wavering and rough and so sincere that it burrows straight into Shiro's heart.
Keith opens his eyes. They look so otherworldly from this close. Shiro wants to drown in them. "You mean that?"
"Yeah, Keith," he breathes. "I do."
"No one's given me a gift since my dad disappeared," Keith admits. "There wasn't anyone who would...want to."
He makes a choked noise and Shiro leans forward and kisses him again, chaste and soft.
Shiro chuckles and pulls back a little to look at Keith properly. "Well, you haven't actually accepted this gift yet."
Keith rolls his eyes and twists so Shiro can see the back of his neck. "Put it on me?" He asks.
"There we go," he says.
Keith turns back to him with the softest smile on his face, long fingers already fiddling with the red pendant. It looks beautiful on him.
"Of course," Shiro replies. He leans forward and kisses Keith again, soft and slow and sweet.
"I really like you," Shiro admits when he pulls back, forehead resting against Keith's. "A lot."
Shiro grins, sappy and delighted. "That's good."
Keith huffs out a laugh and rolls his eyes. "Yeah. It is."
Shiro growls which just makes Keith laugh, even though he'd been giving the device a murderous glare of his own.
"They could have better timing," Shiro grumbles.
"They could," Keith agrees, barely holding back laughter at this point.
"I have hunting to do today," Keith says. "So I should go, anyways."
"I'll see you tomorrow?" Shiro asks.
"Of course," he replies with a smile.
Shiro leans in and kisses him quickly.
His phone starts ringing again and Keith laughs against his lips.
"Until tomorrow," Shiro agrees. He ducks his head and looks at Keith through his lashes. "I'm glad you like the necklace."
Keith wraps his fingers around the pendant. "I love it, Shiro."
"See you later, Shiro." Keith presses one last kiss to Shiro's cheek and then brushes the spot with his fingers before turning and disappearing into the water.
By the time the end of the day rolls around, Shiro's dead tired and his shoulder's sore from the weight of his prosthetic. He wants food, a shower, and bed. Preferably in that order.
He walks into his apartment and finds the Holt siblings instead.
"We brought you takeout from that Thai place you like," Pidge says through a mouthful of food.
"I did!" They both claim in unison before turning to glare at each other.
"Well, I was going to forgive one of you for invading my apartment but..." he trails off and flops down in his armchair. "One of you bring me my food."
"That kind of day?" Matt asks sympathetically.
He opens the to-go container and inhales the rich sent of spices. His mouth waters immediately.
"I'd go insane if I didn't have work to do sometimes," Shiro argues. "As long as they don't /keep/ doing this, it's fine."
Matt hums. "They probably will."
"Not hard to do," Shiro says with a laugh. "But you don't have planes."
"Does the Garrison actually let you fly their planes?"
"Fuck them," Matt spits out. "I know the arm's not perfect but it's a damn sight better than anything they've provided people."
Pidge's eyes flash behind her glasses. "Bothering you today?"
"Just been on for a long time today. The weight is getting to me more than anything else."
The trio eats in relative silence for a couple minutes before Shiro remembers that he didn't actually invite them over. "Why are you two here, anyways? I mean, I appreciate the food but..."
Shiro flushes, shame crawling up his throat. He hadn't realized he'd pulled away from his friends so much.
Matt and Pidge give him matching disbelieving looks.
"Yeah, that wasn't my best," Shiro admits, dragging a hand over his face.
"If you're seeing someone, you can just tell us," Matt says. "Whoever it is is making you happy. Even though you've been spacey lately, you've been smiling more."
"We'll automatically like him more than Adam," Pidge puts in.
"Damn right we are," Matt says, narrowing his eyes. "Someone has to and you're not."
Pidge puts her food down and rests her elbows on her knees, studying Shiro. "So, spill. Who's the mystery boy you're mooning over?"
Shiro shoves a bite of food in his mouth, but he feels his face turning red and he knows the Holts won't let that slide.
"Please don't tell me it's that guy from the communications department at the Garrison," Matt pleads. "He came to lunch with us once and I almost died."
"A person can only listen to so many stories about houseplants, Shiro."
"Spill," Pidge orders. "Who is the crush?"
"I'm not mooning over anyone," Shiro says primly.
"You are," Pidge tells him.
Shiro thinks back to this morning and how Keith had been so excited to see the video of his apartment, so touched by the shelf housing his gifts.
"Definitely mooning," Matt cuts in.
"Okay fine, I'm... not /exactly/ crushing on someone," Shiro says.
"Oh?" Pidge raises her eyebrows.
"I'm kinda seeing someone."
"And you haven't TOLD us?" Matt exclaims. "Haven't told ME?"
"Have we met him?" Pidge demands.
"No. He's shy and a very private person," Shiro tells them.
"Plus this thing is really new for us and we're taking it slow," Shiro continues. He watches them both open their mouths to pepper him with questions. "I'm not telling you anything more right now. I want to respect his desire for privacy."
"No." Shiro takes another bite of food.
"How long have you been together?" Pidge asks.
"VERY new," Matt exclaims. "I guess we can give you a pass on not introducing the boyfriend yet, then."
Shiro weighs his options for a moment and then decides not giving a name would be highly suspicious. Besides, it's not like it's an uncommon name.
"Last name?" Pidge asks, voice syrupy sweet as her hand reaches for her phone.
"No," Shiro answers. "You're not looking him up. No last name." Again, not a lie. He doesn't know if Keith has one.
"Spoilsport," she mumbles.
Eventually, Pidge turns to Matt's love life instead.
He dreams of Keith.
Pidge and Matt mostly leave him alone about Keith other than occasionally ribbing him for having a mystery boyfriend.
Things with Keith are going great. They still talk and swim and now spend
He keeps bringing Keith whatever little trinkets he thinks might survive underwater for at least a bit. Keith looks stunned and smitten every time Shiro hands him a gift.
Shiro's shelf gains a few more items too.
"They expect me to just drop everything and come in whenever they call," Shiro complains. He and Keith are hanging out at the grouping of rocks where they'd met.
"Last time I told them that I couldn't because I already had a commitment elsewhere they reminded me that I signed a contract with them."
Keith frowns. "They don't own you."
"And they threatened to terminate my contract entirely if I can't be available more often."
"I keep hoping they'll let me fly again," Shiro admits. "It's like... maybe if I show them that I'm still competent, they'll forget about my arm."
Shiro turns his head to kiss Keith's palm. "Thanks baby."
"I mean it, Shiro," Keith presses, wanting to make sure Shiro believes him.
Keith doesn't understand why Shiro still works
Keith feels like that about the human world.
"Yeah, this afternoon," Shiro confirms.
Thunder rumbles, far enough out that only Keith hears it.
"Storm's coming in," he says. "Want a ride to shore?"
Keith moves to carefully touch the circle under Shiro's right eye. "Get some rest tonight," he says. "I can go a day without seeing you if it means you get the sleep you need."
Keith leans in and kisses him before wrapping an arm around his waist. "Come on, strilkia."
Shiro holds onto Keith and enjoys the feeling of rocketing through the water.
"If you keep doing that, I'm not going to let you leave in time for work," Keith warns.
Keith squeezes Shiro's hips. "You'll be upset with yourself if you skip."
Shiro bites down again, worrying at the skin. It's hard to raise a bruise on Keith's skin, but Shiro's determined.
Shiro lets up, pulling back to look at Keith. His eyes are slitted like they get whenever strong feelings get ahold of him.
"What does that mean?" Shiro asks. "Stril-" he stumbles over the unfamiliar word. "You've said it a few times lately."
Keith flushes. "Strilkia," he says slower. "It's... something you call someone you care for."
"Good," Keith says, cheeks going fully red now. "I might like it when you call me baby, too."
Shiro grins. "Good."
Keith shoves at his shoulder. "Go. Before you have to walk back in the rain."
Shiro steals a lingering kiss before he listens.
He wonders what it actually translates to.
His dreams are twisty, dark things and he awakes on a strangled scream a full hour before his alarm, feeling more tired than he was before sleeping.
He might even catch the sunrise if he hurries.
Everything is still damp and dreary after the storms yesterday afternoon. Shiro picks his way down the path and emerges on the empty beach.
Keith doesn't appear, but Shiro knows he's far earlier than normal.
He pulls a blanket out of his bag and finds a spot to sit and wait.
The sky has brightened to blue and Shiro's ignored three calls from the Garrison by the time he accepts that Keith isn't here today.
He throws one more worried glance towards the ocean before leaving, anxiety heavy in his stomach. He needs work to distract him.
He's too busy worrying about Keith to pay much attention. The moment he's done with his work,
Darkness is starting to settle as Shiro heads down the familiar path,
He sweeps his light across the rocky beach, heading towards where he'd left his thermos.
Something whimpers and Shiro freezes. "Hello?" he tries, stepping towards the sound. It came from near the rocks at the far side of the beach, by where he left the thermos of coffee.
The voice is weak but Shiro recognizes it instantly, shock rocking through him. He almost drops his phone as he scrambles forward. "Keith! Keith I'm coming, hold on."
The left side of his ribs are a sickly purple color and there's a deep gash bleeding sluggishly
A cut slashes across his right cheek, dangerously close to his eye and another bruise blooms high on the opposite cheekbone.
He carefully cups the uncut side of Keith's face. "Keith? Oh my god."
Keith cracks his eyes open.
"Shiro," Keith breathes, relief in his voice. His fangs look longer than usual. "You're here."
"Course I am, baby," Shiro manages. Panic is threading through his veins.
Keith reaches out with one hand, blindly looking for Shiro's other hand. Shiro catches it with his metal hand and feels Keith press something into his palm.
Shiro looks down and finds the necklace he gave Keith in his hand,
Shiro sweeps his eyes over him, seeing a few cuts in his tail too. He is in no way qualified for
"Keith, baby," he starts, "how long can you be out of the water like this?"
"Keith, please focus, just for a bit, please sweetheart. How long?"
"Twelve hours or so? Don't know how long I've been up already or if all this will..." he trails off, tail fin thrashing. Shiro can read the pain on his face.
"Okay," Shiro whispers. He trails his hand
Shiro quickly digs his sweatshirt out of his bag. "Can I help you sit up? I've got something to help warm you up."
"I'll get blood on it," Keith protests weakly.
Slowly, he helps Keith sit up, supporting him through it and trying to ignore his little sounds of pain. Keith's back is scraped up too, but it looks mostly superficial.
"There," he says, "should at least keep you warm for now."
Keith slumps against him. "Don't feel good." His words are slurring together.
"I know. Is there someone you know that can help patch you up?"
"I don't know enough to patch all this, Keith," he admits, pained. He bites down on his lip. "I know someone who is though."
"Baby, I know, but you need medical attention. You know your safety is the most important thing to me and that means keeping you /alive/."
"Dangerous," Keith whimpers, echoing what he said upon their first meeting.
"Trust you," Keith slurs out before going still.
Shiro tries to rouse him with no luck.
Shiro quickly dials and impatiently waits for an answer. As soon as the call picks up he starts talking.
"Pidge, I need your help."
"I'm fine," Shiro says quickly. "How much do you remember from your med classes?"
"...you're not making me think you're fine."
"Enough to treat most physical injuries that don't need surgery," she says. "But if you're hurt, please just go to the hospital. I'll drive you."
Shiro tightens his hold on Keith. "No hospitals," he says.
"Then why ar-"
"You took some courses in marine biology, too, right?"
"Shiro, you're not making /sense/."
"Yes and I helped Hunk study for vet exams. Why?"
"You can't tell /anyone/ about this," Shiro stresses. "Not even Matt."
"I'll explain as soon as you get here. Can you pick me up at the cove? In the car? Bring whatever medical supplies you can pull together."
"Seriously, are you hurt?" Pidge asks.
"No, but someone else is and I need help."
Pidge lets out a long breath. "I'll be there as soon as I can."
Shiro is as careful as he can manage as he picks Keith up, hoisting him bridal style. He's heavy, all that muscle mass
Shiro remembers that the blanket from this morning is rolled up in his bag and he digs it out.
"This isn't exactly how I'd hoped you'd meet Pidge one day, but here we go, Keith," he whispers as he rounds the
Pidge's green hatchback is in the dirt pull off that serves as an access point to the cove. Her eyes are wide behind her glasses as she sees him and puts down her phone.
She's out of the car in a flash. "Who is this?"
Pidge leans back into the car and hits the hatch release. She quickly moves a couple bags from the cargo space into the backseat and Shiro sets Keith down gently. He's still a little scrunched up but it's not
"Shiro. Who is this?"
Shiro tears his eyes away from Keith to look at his friend, worry and concern written all over her face. She's also already eyeing the way that the blanket drapes over Keith's tail. "This is Keith."
Shiro rubs at the back of his neck. "Yeah."
"What the hell happened to him?"
"Don't know. Haven't asked yet. Kinda more focused on making sure he's okay."
Shiro nods, looking back over at Keith. He's too pale and his face is cut and bruised and his heart squeezes. "I promise I'll explain but we need to get him back to my apartment."
Shiro nods. He closes the hatch and then squeezes himself into the overly small backseat of Pidge's car. She's silent as she books it to Shiro's building.
"Not very and it's a weird time," Shiro says. "Can you go ahead of us and get the doors unlocked?"
She nods and cuts the engine. She pops the back and grabs her bags from the backseat.
"Yeah," Shiro chokes out, "I really am."
"He's going to be okay," Pidge promises. "You know we take care of our own."
"Save it for later," she says before heading towards the building.
Shiro takes a deep breath and then leans down to pick up Keith, still worryingly unconscious.
Keith doesn't stir.
"Where are we going?" she asks.
"My bathroom," he says. "Tub's a little bigger than the guest bedroom."
"And that matters because..."
"Keith's a merman," Shiro says, walking past her.
"Seriously? Is this why you asked about my marine biology knowledge? Because your boyfriend is a merman?" She asks poking him in the back.
Shiro ignores her and focuses on lowering Keith into the tub.
"I mean it when I say you can't tell anyone," Shiro says as he drops the bloodstained blanket on the floor.
Pidge rests a hand on his shoulder. "You're just trying to take care of him. I'm not going to snitch."
He reaches out and cups Keith's cheek,
"He's not looking good, Shiro," Pidge says.
"And we will," Pidge assures him. "I'll go get the bucket. Is fresh water going to be okay?
"I think freshwater will be fine while we treat his wounds," Shiro guesses. "Hopefully he'll wake up soon and we can ask him. Clean water of any sort is better than none."
She disappears to get the requested bucket and Shiro just keeps looking at Keith. "Please don't hate me for this," he whispers.
He turns on the tap, letting the water run cool over Keith's tail.
When she comes back with those, they work together to carefully clean most of the blood off Keith so they can see his wounds.
"He doesn't bruise easily," Shiro says absently, ghosting his fingertips over the purple area. "I don't know what could have caused this."
She moves onto his tail, examining the wound closely. "Anything you can tell me about his tail?"
"Okay, I'm just going to clean this as best I can and leave it. Keith can tell us more of what to do when he wakes."
"I want to get him underwater soon," Shiro says.
Pidge stands. "I'm going to run to the store for bandages. Once we get those on we can try to submerge him."
"Good call," she says, already heading out of the bathroom. "I'll be back in ten minutes max."
"Okay, we'll be waiting."
He gently strokes Keith's hair before getting to his feet and finding the brush stashed in one of his bathroom drawers, a leftover from when he grew his hair out.
Shiro unknots Keith's long strands of hair as gently as possible and brushes it smooth. It's not until he's at the end of a clumsy braid
The braid's not tight enough to stay in on its own so Shiro holds onto the end as he thinks. Finally he remembers the necklace Keith pressed into his hand earlier.
Shiro fumbles it out of his pocket one handed and lets gravity pull the pendant off. He stashes it back in his pocket and uses the thin leather cord to tie the end of the braid.
Shiro strokes the top of Keith's head. "Need you to be okay, baby."
"Keith?" He cranes his neck to look at Keith's face.
"Yeah it's me," he says, tears welling up in his eyes. "How are you feeling?"
"Not good," Keith manages. He cracks his eyes open. The sclera are still golden. "Where...?"
"Need to..." he swallows hard.
"Be under the water?"
"I'm waiting to finish bandaging you up and then I'll fill the tub for you."
"Is freshwater okay or do I need to make it salt water?" He remembers to ask.
"Fresh is fine, I can breathe it," Keith manages. His eyes are slipping shut
"Woah, hey, you're going to make your injuries worse if-"
"Someone's coming," Keith rasps out, eyes fixed on the wall that faces back towards the front door.
Shiro hears the lock disengage a second later.
"I can't," he sinks lower in the tub, tail twitching again, "Shiro I can't..."
"I promise I'll protect you if it comes down to it but it's okay, Keith." He hesitates. "Trust me? Please?"
"Pidge wait!" Shiro tries to yell, wanting more time to explain to Keith.
The bathroom door swings open.
Shiro's never seen him like this before.
Pidge freezes in the doorway.
Keith growls louder.
"Keith," Shiro pleads, reaching down to squeeze his hand. "She's helping. She has medical training."
"I'm Pidge, by the way," she says. "Shiro might've mentioned me at some point. Presumably he's not as secretive
"Boyfriend?" Keith asks, glancing over at Shiro. Shiro can feel his face heat. They've never actually talked terminology.
"Oh shit," Pidge whispers.
"Yeah, I told them you were my boyfriend," Shiro admits. "That okay?"
Shiro grins. "Is /that/ what that means?"
"Not exactly," Keith hedges.
"You two are adorable," Pidge cuts in, "but I've got to finish wrapping your injuries so you can get
Keith looks confused.
"She means water," Shiro whispers.
"Chemical formula for water," Pidge explains. She kneels next to the tub and meets Keith's eyes. "Will you let me wrap your ribs and shoulder or do I need to talk Shiro through it?"
"If you're okay with Pidge doing it you can hold my hands the whole time," Shiro offers.
Keith nods. "You can, Pidge." Her name is strangely accented when he says it, like the combination on consonants is close enough to his language to cause confusion.
"Ringing endorsement if I ever heard one," Pidge says with a grin.
Shiro squeezes Keith's hand. He laces their fingers together, the fit odd with the webbing between Keith's fingers, but
"Thank you," Shiro whispers once Pidge directs them into position to wrap Keith's ribs. "I know it's dangerous for someone else to see you, but it was the only way I could make sure you'd be okay.
Keith rubs his forehead against Shiro's shoulder. "I understand."
"If it helps, Shiro swore me to absolute secrecy. Even from Matt," Pidge says. "And that was before he would tell me where he was and who was hurt. Didn't let on about you being a mer until we were
"Pidge can keep a secret," Shiro swears.
"I do have five million questions for you, Keith, but they can wait until you're feeling better." She finishes wrapping his ribs and sits back.
Keith looks a little bewildered and a lot tired. Less wary, though.
Pidge laughs. "It's probably an exaggeration," she assures him, pushing up her glasses. "Probably."
Shiro snorts. "You can ask Pidge all about human stuff too," he says. "Fair's fair."
Keith definitely looks interested in that.
"You're doing great, baby," Shiro soothes. "As soon as she's done we'll take the gauze off your face and fill the tub so you can breathe."
"Did you know your eyes have gone all gold and yellow?" Shiro asks.
"Figured it was a stress response from the pain," Shiro offers.
"Deep sea mers have yellow eyes." He swallows. "And druids."
"Interesting," Shiro says carefully. He knows Keith doesn't have the best
"Does... does it bother you?" Keith asks. "My eyes being different?"
"Nope." Shiro leans forward and steals the quickest kiss. "Still beautiful."
"Now that you two have /completely/ forgotten I'm here...
Shiro and Keith both startle when she starts talking. Pidge looks smug as hell.
"Thanks Pidge," Shiro says, sheepish.
"Usually packed with um... seaweed? And..." he's struggling for the words he wants, "medicinal plants? To keep out infection and help healing."
"Thank you," Keith tells her. The words sound formal and weighty in his mouth, undeniably earnest.
"Of course," she says, embarrassed. "You're part of the
"Thanks," Shiro quips.
"Anytime. Now, I'm going to raid your kitchen and start researching. See you later, Keith. Nice to
Pidge breezes out of the bathroom and Shiro just laughs.
"Did... your friend just give us her blessing?"
"She did," Shiro says. "Not that we needed it but it's nice." He smiles. "She's your friend now too."
"Yup. Okay, lemme get this gauze off your face so you can get under the water." He starts peeling off the tape. "I can make the water warmer, if you want, but it might take a bit," Shiro offers.
Keith shifts his tail. "No, feels nice."
"Okay," Keith echoes. "Think I'm going to fall
"That's okay, you need rest to heal." He pulls the gauze off and sets it aside. "Will you tell me what happened when you wake back up?"
Keith hesitates and then nods. "It was humans," he said quietly. "They saw me."
"You're safe now," he reiterates. "We can wait to talk about it when you're feeling a little better."
Shiro traps Keith's hand against his face, leaning into it. He doesn't know how Keith can read him so well but he's grateful.
"How's the water feel?"
Keith sinks lower into it.
"Can't have that," Shiro says with a fond smile.
"Stay until I fall asleep?" Keith asks. "Don't want to be alone."
"Of course, Keith," Shiro says. "And if you wake up and I'm not here for some reason, just call out and I'll be
"S'fine," Keith murmurs. "Thank you."
"Anything for you," Shiro whispers back, brushing his hand over Keith's hair.
Keith dips low enough that the water slips over his gills and his whole
He shivers at the thought of what could have happened if he hadn't gone back this evening.
She's sitting crosslegged on his couch, laptop in her lap. Light glints off her glasses as she looks up at him.
"He's sleeping," Shiro tells her. "Which means now is the only time you have to ask things without
"Good hearing then?" Pidge asks.
"He heard you coming up the stairs towards the apartment. He can be out near the mouth of the cove and clearly hear me talking if I'm just slightly
"Impressive," Pidge says. She closes her laptop. "Are you okay?"
Shiro was not expecting that one. "Yeah."
She just stares at him. "You're not. You're all tense and your boyfriend is beat up in your bathtub."
Pidge is entirely unimpressed. Shiro sinks down onto the couch next to her, still holding onto his clothes and soap.
"He was attacked by humans. I don't know more than that but... that's enough."
"Shiro, I've known him for less than thirty minutes of consciousness and I can already tell that he loves you. Of course he came to you. Don't be an idiot."
"Oh my god, you're a disaster."
"You knew this already," he mumbles. "Are you really not going to ask me a million questions about mers?"
"Nah, I'm going to pester Keith when he feels better." She pushes her glasses up.
"Yeah. That was right after the first time I caught a glimpse of him. Hadn't even talked to him yet." He pulls in a breath. "Knowing you at least were open to their existence made it easier to call today."
"I have to keep him safe," Shiro whispers. "As much as I can."
"I know. But hopefully I'll be able to ask Keith if he's willing to meet him."
Shiro laughs quietly. "Me too." He stands. "Thanks Pidge."
"Yeah, of course." She flashes a half smile before going back to her research.
He dries off enough to pull his sweatpants and sweater and then ventures back out into the main area. Pidge doesn't even look up.
"Any progress with the research?" He asks.
"Yeah. I'm gonna head to get supplies soon," Pidge replies, still not looking up.
"Think it'll raise questions?"
"You're the best, Pidge."
He quietly opens the door to the bathroom and finds Keith still sleeping, face tense with pain. Shiro sets the plate of sandwiches on the counter and the cushion next to the tup before nipping
Maybe they can watch a movie or something when he's awake and inevitably gets bored.
Shiro immediately puts down his phone. "I'm here."
"How are you feeling?" Shiro asks quietly.
"Hurts," Keith admits.
Keith nods, sitting up more. "Haven't eaten in a while."
"I'll make something different next time, but I wanted to be here when you woke up."
"One PB&J, one ham and cheese, again," he says. "You're welcome to both."
Keith devours both sandwiches quickly as Shiro sets about draining the tub and refilling it with fresh water.
Keith swallows. There's a little more color in his face now that he's eaten. "Okay."
"You still hungry?"
Keith hesitates before nodding.
Shiro scrambles for his phone and answers as soon as he sees that it's Pidge calling.
"I swear you're a mind reader sometimes," Shiro retorts.
"Yeah, yeah. What does Keith eat? Pretty much only fast food options open."
Keith considers. Shiro's told him about both and he's heard other humans talk about them. "Burger," he decides.
"Pick a burger place and get Keith like... three big burgers. I'll pay you back."
Shiro sets his phone down and then turns off the water, giving Keith the gentlest look.
"I wish I could do more," Shiro says. "I know a tub in my apartment can't be where you really want to be. I don't even know if I can give you anything to help with the pain and..." he trails off. "I just..."
Keith squeezes his hand. "You're /here/, Shiro. You saved me. That's more than I could've asked for."
"You can ask me for anything."
"I mean it, though," Shiro insists, earnest as anything.
Keith doesn't know what he ever did to deserve someone like Shiro looking at him like this, to have him accept gifts
"Can I..." The sharp points of his teeth dig into his lip. "Can I ask for a kiss?"
Shiro's smile is a beautiful thing. "You can always ask me for that," he says, leaning in. "I always want to."
"Fangs," Keith whispers when Shiro whines at him. "Don't want to hurt you."
Keith nods. "Feels weird."
"Anything else different? Or just teeth, eyes, and these." He picks up Keith's hand and runs a careful thumb over a sharp claw that is indeed longer.
"Do you want to see?"
Keith nods and Shiro squeezes his hand before standing to dig through a drawer. He comes back with a mirror and hands it to Keith.
"They're less gold than they were before your nap," Shiro offers.
The color is far too close to the hue of druids' eyes for Keith's comfort and he shoves
"You're still gorgeous," Shiro says as he puts the mirror down.
Keith offers a shaky smile. "I look like shit, Shiro."
"Beautiful," he insists. "I will only accept criticism on your braid because I'm not very good yet."
"I know you don't like it being messy," Shiro says, ducking his head. His cheeks are pink. "It's still kind of messy but..."
"Thank you," Keith cuts him off. He's willing down his own blush.
He thinks, most of the time, that Shiro loves him too, and he won't begrudge Keith reveling in some mer traditions.
He only wants Shiro anyways.
"Okay," Keith answers, more than willing to let Shiro braid his hair while he's conscious.
"I don't know how long we have until Pidge comes back with food and will want to change your
"Not tired," Keith insists. He eyes the larger electronic that Shiro had motioned to. "Movie?"
"Much better than when we've tried to watch on
Keith watches closely as Shiro sets up his laptop and opens Net//flix - which he recognizes from Shiro's phone - and picks something to watch.
Keith gets sucked in quickly, charmed by the look of what Shiro calls animation and the way Shiro hums along with the music.
They both come back into the bathroom bearing many bags.
"Sleep helped," he says, still a little wary of her. "The water, too."
"Good. I brought back like... a ton of food. Eat first and then we'll see about that cut on your tail and checking everything."
"So, burgers a hit with you?" Pidge says as she cleans up the wrappers and stuffs them into a bag.
"And you got enough?" Shiro asks.
Keith nods and then squirms.
Pidge's eyes narrow at the motion. "How's the pain?"
"Okay, I'm going to drain the tub and change your bandages. I got some stuff to pack your tail wound, too. All safe for aquatic life and have healing properties so, should be fine."
Pidge ignores him and sets the tub to drain.
Shiro holds Keith's hand while Pidge efficiently cleans and rewraps his injuries, weathering his tight grip and the prick of claws with aplomb.
Keith's eyes follow Pidge's retreat from the bathroom before snapping back to Shiro. "Hi."
"Doing okay with everything? You're starting to drift a little."
"Tired," Keith says after the silence stretches a little too long. "Hurts."
He'd started to look better while he was awake with Shiro while Pidge was out, but it'd taken a lot out of him.
"Doing okay?" She asks, pausing in the doorway.
"Okay. I'll get this mixture whipped up as fast as I can so we can fill the tub again."
Shiro hums in acknowledgement and watches as she dumps things he doesn't recognize in the bowl and mash it all together.
Keith mutters something in the oddly lyrical and harsh sounds of his native language.
"What was that?" Shiro asks.
"The smell. Don't know your word for it," he slurs out, half asleep.
Keith nods and Pidge's shoulders relax. "Okay, good. Almost done and then I'm going to mix it with seaweed and pack the wound."
Keith's tail convulses, pushing Pidge away.
Pidge quickly smooths a hand over the gash, making sure everything looks okay before retreating.
She plugs the drain and starts the water running before gathering up the detritus of her work and slipping out of the bathroom after giving Shiro an understanding look.
"Keith, she's gone. It's just me. Are you okay?"
"Keith, sweetheart," Shiro starts, voice wavering.
"It's okay. I'm okay," Keith assures.
"It stings," Keith says softly, using his uninjured arm to scrub away the rest of his tears, "a lot. Tail injuries are..." he grimaces. "The water helps."
"Okay. That's good." Shiro feels so out of his depth here. He just wants to help and he doesn't know how.
"As long as you want," Shiro promises.
Keith mumbles something in his language again and is asleep before Shiro can ask what it means, before the water even makes it up to his gills.
"He sleeping," Shiro says, sitting down. "Passed out, essentially. The packing stings, he said, but he didn't seem concerned about it so I assume it always does."
"Can't be comfortable," Pidge agrees.
"You're not going to," she says, confident. "You know the basics of injury care and you have me and you know to listen to him. It'll be fine."
"I'm not the one in love with the injured mer in the bathtub," she says, pushing up her glasses. "Also my anxiety manifests very differently than yours."
"Fair." Shiro yawns, exhaustion feeling bone deep at this point.
Pidge raises an eyebrow. "I'll head home for the night but I'll be back tomorrow."
"Sounds good. Thanks for all your help," Shiro says with a tired smile.
Shiro snorts. "Let me go get my wallet." He goes back into his bedroom to get his wallet off the dresser and listens carefully for any movement from the bathroom before
"Here," he says, handing over a credit card. "Thank you."
"I know you're not going to want to leave him here and I feel like delivery people would just stress him out," she says, tucking the card into her pocket.
"Yeah," he agrees.
"I won't," he protests.
Pidge gives him a sharp glance and he wilts. "I'll get at least a little bit of sleep."
"Good enough," she decides.
Shiro sighs into the heavy silence of his apartment then steals the rest of the couch cushions for the bathroom.