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#sheith thread | ASMR AU | slightly nsfw
It starts with a recommended video.

A chain of them, actually, which Keith lets play out one after another on a late night when sleep refuses to come. No matter how he stretches and turns under the covers, his aching physical exhaustion never carries him away into slumber.
His eyes glaze as he halfway watches videos of knife restoration, which segue into knife massages, and then onto a whole subset of youtube he’s never seen before. ASMR— whispers, the sounds of fingernails tapping on glass, flashlights shining across the screen.
He slips into sleep. Something about the sound filling the silence of his bedroom helps, like a TV with the volume lowered to a murmur. It works the next night, too, and the one after that. But Keith doesn’t really -get- the ASMR stuff until he sees one of Shiro’s videos.
It’s the roleplay kind. Not usually his thing-- one-on-one social interactions are unpleasant enough to sit through in person. But he’s too tired to hunt for anything else to watch. And maybe he's just a little bit curious about the masked, scrub-wearing man in the thumbnail.
From the start, this video is different. It looks like a real chair in a real dentist’s office, complete with an adjustable overhead light and cabinets probably stocked with floss. The walls feature corny motivational phrases that Keith would hate to read during a root canal.
The camera blurs as the man recording reaches up to adjust the angle, the gleaming metal of prosthetic arm coming into focus. There are muffled thumps against the mic, soft murmurs as he tries to get it settled and recording at just the right angle.
“Sorry, sorry. Still getting the hang of this,” he laughs, apologizing before the roleplay even properly starts. Then he settles on a wheeled stool beside the patient chair, scooting in nice and close.
Keith’s eyes widen at the size of those biceps, the way he fills out the charcoal grey scrubs he wears. He’s a lot to take in: two-toned hair, a striking facial scar, chiseled features, shoulders that could fill the frame of the video with ease.
“Okay. Alright. Uh, I’m Dr. Shiro, if you haven’t seen me before," he says, a little nervous, a little awkward. "So, what brings you in today?”

The acting can’t really be called... good.
‘Dr. Shiro’ has a tendency to smile whenever he looks up at the camera, blush slightly, and let his gaze slide away— like he’s still a bit shy and can’t forget that he’s performing for an audience, going through the motions with just a tiny camera rather than an actual patient.
All that vanishes when he finally pulls a surgical mask up over his nose and gets to the dental exam. His stormcloud grey eyes are expressive-- distractingly so, whatever he's saying secondary to the way he looks into the camera.
With his large, square-palmed hands held close to the camera, Dr. Shiro snaps his latex gloves on one after the other. The mic catches every tiny, rubbery squeak of the material as it tugs across tanned skin and glossy metal alike.
The exam starts and Dr. Shiro is in his element at last. He speaks and moves with the rhythm of routine, his gloved fingers hovering around the screen as he mimes his way through a thorough and attentive checkup.
Keith stares, mouth dry as he imagines himself stretched out in the chair with those strong hands moving along his jaw to feel for tenderness, the latex dragging on his skin, that soft voice asking him to open wide. It’s relaxing, even as his heart beats a little faster.
There’s something kind and soothing in the way Shiro makes approving little comments and waxes on about the importance of daily flossing. All the while, his hands go through practiced motions— a metal mirror checks back molars, a steely scaler moves like he’s picking teeth clean.
The hair along Keith’s nape rises and there’s a faint tingle under his skin, strange and pleasant. He almost forgets he’s still lying in his bed above the garage, alone and aching to fall asleep— grey eyes look at him like they’re peering through the screen, intent and caring.
And when Keith finally falls into a deep, restful slumber, it’s to the low, comforting pitch of Shiro’s voice, the faint brush of latex against latex, the muffled brush of his hands too close to the mic.
Keith works his way through Shiro’s newer videos over the next two nights. Each one is a little more polished than the last, Shiro’s comfort in front of the camera growing over the course of months. They’re more confident, more varied.
Somewhere along the way, Shiro upgraded to a better camera. A few videos later, his new binaural mic makes a debut. It makes it feel like Shiro is whispering directly into his ear as he lies awake at night, personally lulling him to sleep, close enough to make him shiver.
Most of Shiro’s channel is still dental themed— teeth whitening, dental cleanings, and one very cute Halloween video titled ‘ASMR roleplay: clueless dentist examines you, a vampire’— but in recent months he’s branched out from what’s clearly his comfort zone.
In some videos, Shiro skips the roleplaying and focuses on trying out sound triggers in his new binaural mic, happily fulfilling viewer requests for snaps, crinkling plastic, the brushing of hair.
In others, Shiro repeats positive affirmations that stick in Keith’s head for days, little bits of encouragement and kindness that he finds himself thinking of as he digs around in engine guts and deals with asshole customers at the front desk.
There are even a few videos where Shiro says nothing at all— which seems almost criminal, til Keith finds he’s just as entranced watching the concerted movements of Shiro’s hands as he slices vegetables for dinner or the flex of his fingers in new motorcycle gloves.
Shiro has a bike to go with those gloves. Keith itches to leave a comment asking what make and model, what color. To request a video of Shiro working on it, to listen to his soothing voice while watching his hands take something apart.

But that’s weird. It’s so fucking weird.
One lone personal update video features Shiro showing off his prosthetic and finally laying to rest the repeated questions of how he got it, along with the scar over his nose and the faded burns that peek from under the sleeves and collar of his scrubs— an accident, military.
He’s tight-lipped about it, and Keith can understand why. There’s a noticeable gap between that video and the next, months later, when Shiro returns with a new roleplay as a workout instructor.
He looks good in it. He looks good in all of them, really, but there’s a painfully targeted appeal in seeing Shiro in a stretchy white tank top, in what looks like a personal gym, murmuring encouragement in between explaining the proper form for push-ups and biceps curls.
Most recent is a video of Shiro curled on his couch, reading aloud from his favorite fantasy novel series. He’s handsome in his reading glasses and sweater, and though he’s bad at character voices— terrible, really— he’s so enthusiastic about the story that it hardly matters.
And when Shiro asks if people would be interested in seeing a roleplay from him as a paladin from the Monsters & Mana series he loves so much, Keith is part of the resounding clamor in the comments section.
Two weeks later, Keith is treated to the sight of Shiro in a suit of armor straight from a renaissance fair. Under the hood of his cloak, he's even got a delicate, silvery circlet that nearly gets lost against the white part of his hair.
After an exposition-heavy monologue about his tragic past, Shiro— Jiro, that is— valiantly acts out a whole scene of giving his viewers a quest and preparing them for it. His props include a foam sword and a ‘relic of light’ that looks like it might be a glowstick.
Keith loves that Shiro’s clearly having fun with the rp. He loves the way Shiro’s shoulders bunch as he leans forward on the table, how low his voice dips when he warns them about the coranic dragon. How he reddens when he has to push his circlet back into place for the 6th time.
Keith wonders if Shiro already owned that cosplay armor or if he bought it specifically for the video— either way, he’s unmistakably excited about showing off his paladin getup and it’s charming in the sincerest, dorkiest way imaginable.
It’s inevitable, maybe, the first time Keith’s hand slips under his waistband and touches himself, eyes closed as he focuses on the murmuring voice in his ears— Shiro talking about space while he paints a scale model of the Calypso that he put together in an earlier video.
Shiro could read his grocery list and it would still probably do things to Keith, under his skin and low in his belly. It’s the sound of him, the feeling like he’s speaking to Keith alone— like he cares, even through a screen and anonymity and untold miles.
Keith lolls his head to the side to stare at the screen, stroking himself to Shiro’s talk of distant nebulae and stardust, teeth pressed into the cushion of his bottom lip. The camera stays trained on Shiro’s hands and the delicate brush swallowed up in his grip.
Shiro wears latex gloves while he works, grey and orange paint gradually smudging over crisp white, hands impeccably steady as he handles the model craft. They accentuate every crook of his finger, strain around the breadth of his palms, stretch tight whenever he makes a fist.
Keith pictures those hands on him instead— spread expansively over his chest, dug into his hips, palming up his thighs. He imagines the feel of latex catching on his skin as they trail down his stomach and between his legs, those skillful fingers curling snug around him.
The tingle running down Keith's spine is different now, more tangible, enough to make him squirm under the covers. He thinks of the words murmured in his ear turning husky and raw, Shiro's voice deepened with the same kind of need Keith feels.

He imagines Shiro saying his name.
It’s a quick climax, intense enough to curl Keith’s toes and raise his hips off the bed. The aftermath is messy and warm, Shiro's voice still lingering as Keith practically melts into the mattress. Satisfaction doesn't usually come this easy.
Keith’s nightly routine becomes Shiro, and he’s never slept so well. He still tries other ASMR artists, still occasionally ventures through recommended videos, but Shiro is always the last thing he plays each night. The last person he sees. The last voice he hears.
As the full heat of summer settles in, it gets harder for Keith to sleep comfortably in his room above the garage. He pushes his quilt aside and sleeps under just the sheets, the ceiling fan spinning on its highest speed.
And when he wakes, it’s usually to the laptop he left open, darkened screen lighting to life with a frozen image of Shiro. Keith sighs and slaps it shut, wipes his drool away with the back of his hand, and rolls himself to the edge of the bed.
He’s not quite running late as he trots downstairs, but it’s a near thing. Kolivan’s a stickler about punctuality and being his nephew only invites more lecturing and disappointed frowns when he rolls into work late.
“Hey, hey, hey,” his dad calls from the kitchen he catches sight of Keith pulling on his work boots out in the hall. “No leaving without breakfast. Or your lunch.”

“I know,” Keith sighs as he finishes tying his laces.
Once in the kitchen, he’s handed an insulated lunch bag that must weigh five pounds and a hastily assembled breakfast burrito.

“I made it to-go for you,” his dad smiles, one hand braced against the counter and the other on his apron-covered hip.
Keith chews through scrambled eggs and sausage that are pre-slathered in hot sauce. “It’s great, dad,” he says, muffled through a full mouth. “Thanks, but I’ve got to go. You know how Kolivan is about—“

“I’ve met your uncle, yes,” his dad cuts in.
“And tell him and Antok I want my pieplate back already. It’s been two weeks. I need it for my lemon meringue.”

Keith tries not to drip hot sauce on his dad as they hug goodbye; on his way down the front steps, he shoves the last third into his mouth and pulls on his helmet.
There’s a good stretch of road between their house and the town proper. Keith glances behind himself to check for the familiar silhouette of the sheriff’s car and then opens up his bike, shooting twenty, thirty miles over the speed limit as he clears miles of empty shrubland.
He slows as buildings and other cars come into view, conscious of how much attention his cherry red bike can draw. At one of the town’s six stoplights, he waits with his boots braced on the asphalt, antsy for time, but manages to make it to the garage just shy of being late.
His face is already sheened with sweat and his hair a little damp as he trades his helmet for a ponytail, but that’s just the beginning. Even with industrial sized fans blowing air through the garage, the summer heat creeps in and simmers along the concrete pad and steel walls.
As Keith works on his first job of the day— fixing an aged Honda’s AC— the heat leaves its mark on him. Sweat darkens the fabric under his arms, over his chest, dipping down to the small of his back. It beads along his brow, only to be wiped away by the lifted hem of his shirt.
It’s nearly noon when Kolivan shows up with a clipboard and a heavier frown than usual.

“This morning, your mother dropped off a motorist she found stranded on the side of the highway. I had Regris tow the car in and it’s…” He flips a page up. “Not good.”
“Antok’s already gone through and given his recommendations. I’d like you to deliver the news, though, if you don’t mind,” Kolivan says, handing off the clipboard. He sighs. “Antok already started microwaving the casserole. If I don’t get there soon, it’ll be gone.”
“Sure,” Keith shrugs, standing up and hastily cleaning off his hands on a spare rag. It’s a solid excuse to spend an extra fifteen or twenty minutes in the AC, at least. He wipes the sweat from his brow and then ducks into the lobby, skimming the page on the clipboard for a name.
Inside, there’s only one customer waiting. Tall and broad-shouldered, he stands at the far end of the lobby, facing away as he stares out the wide windows at fence-ringed fields and shrubland and clear blue sky.

“Uh, Takashi Shirogane?”
While the man makes his way over, Keith drops his gaze back to the clipboard, hurriedly reviewing the condition of the Volvo. True to Kolivan’s word, it’s not going to be a quick or easy fix, and Keith gives a little sigh at getting to be the bearer of such bad news.
A soft little rap against the countertop registers as almost… familiar. Keith glances up from the papers, unsurprised to see the set of wide shoulders and a chest covered by a taut NASA tee. He -is- surprised, however, to see a steely prosthetic extending from its right sleeve.
A metal hand gently taps out a rhythm against the counter as its owner waits on Keith. Shiny, lightweight aluminum with flexible black polymers along the joints. Keith’s seen one just like it hundreds of times before— not that it means anything. Probably standard for the VA.
Heart thumping heavy in his chest, Keith lifts his gaze up to the man’s face. He’s met with a smile, polite even after a terribly inconvenient morning that involved the town sheriff giving him a lift and hours waiting in an auto shop lobby. Polite and -instantly recognizable-.
“Sh-Shiro,” Keith cheeps out as he stares into the same grey eyes he’s looked into every night for six months at least— same scar, same two-toned hair, same pretty smile and gorgeous lashes. His knees buckle and if not for the counter, Keith’s wobble would’ve ended worse.
He can feel himself physically turning the color of a beet as he takes in the sheer size of Shiro— a head taller, twice as broad, his torso alone enough to comfortably smother Keith. He’s real, and really here, and somehow even more stunning than his nice new camera can capture.
Keith sees that as both a blessing and a curse.

“How— yeah, that’s my nickname,” Shiro replies, his bright smile faltering, turning nervous. “How do you— oh. Oh, shit. The videos?” he asks in a dropped whisper.
“Yeah,” Keith answers, nodding furiously. His grip around the clipboard tightens, viselike, the edges of the papers tearing the slightest bit. He tries— and fails, noticeably and miserably— not to stare directly at Shiro. There’s just -so much- of him, and every inch impressive.
There’s a long, stilted silence afterward where Shiro doesn’t look like he knows what to say— a paralyzed, deer-in-headlights stare while his mouth opens and shuts, nervous laughter slipping out before he apologizes and presses his lips tight together.

Keith quails.
“Sorry,” he murmurs, feeling sweatier than he was outside a few minutes ago. He stares down at the clipboard again, not reading a word of it, and prays the embarrassed heat under his skin leads to spontaneous human combustion. It’s his time to go. He can’t recover from this.
You had a coolant leak, which is why the engine overheated in the first place,” Keith explains, trying to force his way past the awkwardness of the interaction. With luck, Shiro will leave here without thinking any worse of him than he already does. An uncomfortable blip, max.
“Blown head gasket, too, which— sorry, that’s real shitty. We can do the repairs, but we’ll have to overnight the replacement part for your model. Could be Tuesday before it’s ready to drive again. Is that alright with you?”
“Yeah,” Shiro says. He smiles again, but it’s there and gone. A blush warms his cheeks, deepens the contrast with his scar. It even crowns the tips of his ears. “What’ll it run me?”
Shiro winces and whistles low when Keith gives him the estimate, but the total’s fair. Kolivan is only ever fair.

“Alright,” he says, already fishing out his wallet. “Do I need to pay anything now, or just after?”
“After.” Keith stares a moment longer, desperately wanting to do something for him. Anything to make up for gawking and chirping his name like a starstruck weirdo when Shiro’s just trying to get through a shitty morning gone awry.
He wants to fix it, to brighten Shiro’s day and make his unforeseen detour through their six-stoplight town a little less costly and miserable. He wants to lean across the counter and offer Shiro a discount, suave and cool and memorable in a -good- way.
Kolivan will kill him.

“I’ll do the labor for free,” Keith offers. This way, it’s a loss to no one but him— although he imagines Kolivan will still corner him and question as to why he’d work hours unpaid for the stranded motorist his mother happened upon.
“No,” Shiro says, his voice the firmest Keith’s ever heard it. It sends a little bite of a shiver down his spine, making him straighten up stiff. “No, it’s alright. I appreciate the gesture, but I can pay. I don’t mind paying, really.”
Keith swallows down whatever he’d been about to say— another insistence, maybe, that Shiro let him make it up to him somehow— and closes his mouth tight. He nods and starts filling out empty spaces on the form pinned to the clipboard.
“I’m sorry,” Shiro says while Keith writes, upper body edging over the counter. “About— uh, being weird. Just before. This is the first time anyone's ever recognized me. I have no idea what to say. It’s kind of mortifying,” he admits, licking his lips nervously.
“Mortifying?” Keith stops jotting down notes. “Why?”

“Well, ostensibly, you’ve seen me… p-playing dress-up as a paladin, for one,” Shiro laughs, looking everywhere but at Keith. “Exercising my wide range of bad acting, for another. And that time I did that awful accent?"
“What? I really liked that one,” Keith counters, smiling at the mere memory of it. Sven had been a character request that Shiro had tried valiantly to fulfill, with... mixed results. “You looked like you were having fun with it. Struggling, maybe, but having fun.”
“I was. I was," Shiro says, eyebrows lifting. "It’s just— it’s easier to put it out there without knowing the people watching? It’s a little different to look someone in the eye and know they’ve seen me do the world’s worst novice tarot reading. Complete with sound effects.”
“I liked that one, too,” Keith tells him, tilting his head as Shiro bashfully turns aside. “I’m Keith, by the way.”

“Keith! Keith,” Shiro says, eyes wide and his metal hand immediately held out. “My apologies for not asking sooner. I just got thrown for a little bit of a loop.”
“Understandably. I’m sure it’s been a hell of a day for you so far,” Keith says, slotting his palm against Shiro's as they shake. The metal plates are warm, the black polymer soft on his skin.

“You could say that,” Shiro replies, raking his other hand through his hair.
“I’m really sorry about the car. There’s a rental place like five minutes from here if you’re in a hurry somewhere,” Keith offers.

“Nah, it’s fine. I’m on vacation, actually, so it’s not like I’m missing anything important." Shiro smiles. "Just pina coladas on the beach.”
Keith looks out the window, to the dusty plains and brambles that are so ubiquitous to their small town more or less in the middle of nowhere. “Ouch. Must be disappointing to be stuck here when you could spend those two nights on the beach.”
“It’ll be fine,” Shiro shrugs. “I’m sure there’s plenty for me to do around here, right? You’d be the one to know."

Keith braces his elbows on the counter and leans forward. This close, he can smell the copious sunscreen on Shiro; under that lies something like mint.
“Well, there’s just the one motel, so I hope you like Super 8,” Keith starts, pulling up a map on his phone. “Here’s the good McDonald’s. And this is the McDonald’s with recurring roach incidents, so…”

“Duly noted,” Shiro nods, leaning over to get a good look at Keith's screen.
“Here’s the best bar in town, but I wouldn’t try their pina coladas. Vrepit Sal's is fine. Oh, this gas station here has really good Thai food. I eat there all the time. But don’t go to this one,” Keith adds, tapping the screen, “unless you like hot dogs of questionable age.”
“Not a fan,” Shiro says, nose wrinkling, and the way he says it— the fine expressions he makes— captivate.

“Well, now you know the lay of the land,” Keith says, tucking his phone back in his pocket. “Not that there’s much to know. Pretty small town. Not a lot to do around here.”
Shiro looks at him, grey eyes thoughtful, and Keith is rooted to the spot. It's worlds more intense than meeting his gaze through a screen, living and breathing and existing in the same space together.

“So what do -you- do?” Shiro asks, unmistakably curious. About -him-. Keith.
“Me?” Shiro's expectant look is almost too much; Keith can only be honest, dull as it may be. "Nothing to write home about. I see how fast I can take my bike down the highway. I hike, I draw.”

He nibbles on his bottom lip, considering. “And I watch a lot of your videos.”
Shiro ducks his head, smiling to himself even as he plants his hands on his hips and turns a red to rival the color of Keith’s bike. He shoots Keith a furtive glance, as if uncertain of meeting his gaze head-on. “Yeah?? And you like them? Really?”
“Shiro, I— yeah, of course. They put me right to sleep.” Keith nearly trips over his own tongue as he rushes to add, “In a good way! In the -best- way, Shiro. I practically can’t sleep without you. Them. The videos.”

For all Keith’s stumbling, his words— for once— seem to work.
Shiro cracks a toothy smile and looks a little less sheepish. Like maybe he’s finally convinced that Keith thinks no less of him for his dramatic re-enactments of story passages and his whole-hearted roleplaying.
“It can’t be that much of a surprise to you,” Keith murmurs, tempted to lean in another few inches. This close, he can smell Shiro’s sunscreen, can see the flex of muscle under softspun, skin-tight cotton. “Don’t you have like 400-thousand followers?”
“Something like that,” Shiro laughs, the sound soft and wonderful and definitely a rarity to hear in his videos. “But like I said, you’re the first person who watches them that I’ve spoken to face-to-face about it. It’s, um… I’m really glad they’ve helped.”
“I’d still be up at 2 AM every night if not for you, so… yeah. And I even started flossing. Regularly, I mean. Every night now.”
“Because of me?” Shiro straightens up, looking flattered by the admission. As Keith juts his chin out and nods, Shiro lays a hand over his heart. “Dentistry compliments don’t come much higher than that.”
Keith grins. He’s tempted to tell Shiro that he’d taken up reading Monsters & Mana, too, and kept his advice in mind whenever he worked out now. But his thoughts slide back to -other- things he’s done with Shiro’s voice lingering in his ear, and suddenly Keith flusters anew.
Keith clears his throat and changes course.

“Uh, if you could fill your number in here, I’ll give you a call when the part comes in,” he hurriedly explains, handing Shiro the clipboard and a pen. “And I’ll let you know as soon as the repairs are finished.”
“Oh. Sure. Thanks, Keith,” Shiro says, expression fading to something a little more serious as he jots down a string of numbers.

“No problem,” Keith croaks back, already replaying the sound of his name in Shiro’s voice— soft and honey-sweet, personal, approving.
As Shiro hands the clipboard back, he taps the pen against the page. “You can, uh, text me. If you want.”

“Text you?” Keith tentatively questions, wondering if Shiro only means he’d rather not be called. His heart makes a racket in his chest, egging him to hope for more.
At once the blush under Shiro’s skin seems to fade, along with the rest of his color. “You don’t have to,” he whispers. “I just figured—”

“No! No, I will,” Keith promises, looking from Shiro down to the paper in his hand. Next to the number field, there’s a smiley face.
“Great! Okay. Great. Thank you.” Shiro takes a few steps backward, til his calves bump into one of the chairs arranged in the middle of the lobby. He apologizes, spins, and waves goodbye as he pushes out the front door, tugging along his suitcase as he goes.
And then it’s deafeningly quiet, aside from the mechanical ticks of the clock on the lobby wall. Still warm and giddy from meeting Shiro, Keith places the order for the Volvo’s new gasket head and is nearly done with the paperwork when the bell above the door chimes.
It’s Shiro, with his luggage in hand.

“Uh, hi. Again,” he greets, and this time he’s red-faced from bright midday sun outside. “So… I was hoping to get some lunch and head to the motel, but I’ve since realized there’s zero uber or lyft presence around here.”
“Oh. Yeah, we don’t have that,” Keith says, wondering just how long Shiro stood in the sweltering heat while reviewing his options. “But I can arrange for someone from the rental place to come pick you up, if you’re planning on renting a car.”
Shiro hums, knuckles rapping against the counter as he mulls it over.

“I was kind of hoping to avoid it, since I'll only be here a day and a half,” he says, sighing. "But maybe that’d be best. Better than walking there, anyway. I might melt.”
"Might." Keith eyes the sleek suitcase Shiro holds, polished and branded and clearly tiers above the cheap duffle bag Keith uses. Drag it across town once, over gravel and dusty earth, and it’d never be the same. “I’d offer to give you a lift, but that won’t fit on my bike.”
“A bike, huh?” Shiro asks, brightening. “What kind?”

“A Suzuki GSX-R1000, but I made it red. Very red.” He grins as Shiro whistles appreciatively, the sound going right down his spine. “I’ve always wondered what you drive, you know. Ever since you did the video with the gloves.”
“A Hayabusa, all black,” Shiro replies, beaming, and Keith can picture him bent over one with perfect ease, in all matching black. “Wanted one since I was a kid, flipping through my grandpa’s magazines. I’ll have to show it off in a video sometime so you can check it out.”
“I’d like that,” Keith says, voice drifting low as he thinks of riding snug against Shiro, of racing him. He bites his lower lip and lets it loose slow. “You know, if you don’t mind riding in the back of the sheriff’s car again, I can arrange you a free ride to the motel later.”
Shiro perks, interested, and then seems to second-guess himself. “Are you sure that won’t be an inconvenience? Sheriff Kogane’s bailed me out once today already.”
“Nah, she won’t mind,” Keith snorts, shooting his mom a quick text. “And in the meantime, I could go pick up some lunch for you? Or give you a ride, maybe to the good McDonalds? Your suitcase’d have to stay here, though.”
“Oh! No, that’s alright, I don’t want to be a bother.” Shiro turns to the sad little vending machine sitting in the lobby’s corner, stocked with the kind of candy dentists probably have nightmares about. “I’ll just… have that,” he says, already sounding disappointed.
“Shiro…” Keith’s stomach growls, minutes ticking well past his usual lunch hour, and sparks a new idea to suggest. “Hey, my dad always packs me a huge lunch— we could split it together.”
Keith grimaces as soon as the words leave his mouth; he sounds like a 10-year old in a school cafeteria. Nothing better than being 24 and broadcasting the fact that his dad still packs his lunch in front of the hottest man he’s ever seen, heard, and spoken to.
“I— Keith, no, I can’t take your lunch,” Shiro says, though the second look he shoots at the vending machine is uncertain. Reluctant. Wavering. In clear disagreement, his stomach lets out a groaning peal that leaves him blushing embarrassedly. “Sorry.”
“It’s fine, really,” Keith insists. “It’s more than I can eat alone anyway.”

That’s a lie— Keith’s never met a meal he can’t polish off, even if it never shows on his wiry, narrow frame— but he doesn’t want Shiro making himself miserable for the sake of being polite.
“I don’t want to put you out,” Shiro insists. But there’s a slight hitch in his breath before his shoulders sag a little, a sigh deflating him even as he looks hopeful. “But I would love a bite of something that isn’t pure sugar. If you really don’t mind.”
“I -really- don’t,” Keith assures just before he bolts.

It’s a quick sprint down the hall to the breakroom, Keith only slowing as he passes the office where Kolivan and Antok sit eating their casserole. He weaves through extended family and fishes his bag from the fridge.
By the time he darts back to the lobby, Shiro is already seated on the couch, a paper cup filled with lemon water on the coffee table in front of him. Keith perches on the edge of a cushion at the far end, trying to give Shiro a comfortable amount of space.
He unzips the insulated bag and prays that his dad didn’t have the time to make one of those cutesy lunches he loves to post to his instagram. Something simple, like leftover pasta salad, hummus and veggies, chicken wraps.
As he peels off the lid of the large plastic container inside, Keith’s lips thin.

It’s stuffed with vegetables sliced into stars and flowers, boiled egg hippos, hot dog octopi, two sandwiches sliced into cat shapes, and a generous slice of apple pie for dessert.
“Wow. This is— wow. It’s so cute,” Shiro says, grinning as he draws a leg up onto the couch and scoots closer. He marvels at each element, gingerly picking up a radish cut like a rose. “Your dad made all this?”
Shiro smiles at that, quietly thanking Keith as he’s handed a cat-shaped sandwich and a pickle decorated like a crocodile. “It’s almost too adorable to eat,” he says before taking a hungry bite anyway.
Keith eats slow for once, savoring the extension of his time with Shiro and glad that he seems to be enjoying the homemade meal. What would’ve taken Keith all of ten minutes to devour alone, they manage to stretch over half an hour.
It’s a slow work day, and for that Keith is grateful. They remain the only two people in the lobby as they split the slice of pie and talk about their bikes, their favorite foods, the sunny beach vacation Shiro’s meant to be on— his first time off since starting his practice.
While Shiro shows him pics of the airbnb he’d booked, Keith crosses his arms tight and curbs a frown. That’s where Shiro should be by now, flopped on a plush bed with white linens and a seaside view, surrounded by luxury and upscale seafood places. It’s where he -deserves- to be.
Instead, he’s here— saddled with an unexpected $2,000 auto bill, sharing lunch with a stranger, and destined for a one-star motel with cheap, rough sheets.

The disparity bothers Keith more than it does good-natured Shiro, maybe.
As Shiro smilingly talks about his plans to visit the local maritime history museum and explore tide pools, Keith finds himself wondering when the new Volvo part will arrive, how late he’d have to work to finish the job in a single day. How soon he’ll need to say goodbye...
“Thanks for taking such good care of me. Never been to an auto shop where they offered me lunch,” Shiro sighs as he settles back into the couch cushions, noticeably more at ease. “It was way better than McDonalds, by the way.”

“My dad’ll be thrilled to hear that,” Keith laughs.
“And I’m happy to help, honestly. It’s the least I can do for you.”

“The least you can do?” Elbow propped on the back of the couch and his chin in his palm, Shiro searches him with deep grey eyes. “This morning, I was upset. Miserable, even. But you turned my day around, Keith.”
Keith’s heart flutters, a full-body tingle running under his skin. It’s something about the way Shiro looks at him, head tilted fondly and his handsome face plain in its concern. It’s the way he gives praise, sincere and encouraging, that makes Keith ache to earn more.
A notification across Keith’s phone screen catches his eye. He picks it up and finds it’s one of his mom’s characteristically brief texts. He sinks into the cushion, already mourning Shiro’s departure. “Looks like the sheriff’s gonna be here to pick you up in a minute.”
“Oh. Oh, that’s good,” Shiro says, sitting up straight and wrapping prosthetic fingers around the handle of his luggage. “I can finally get out of your hair for a while, huh? Been tying you up too long.”

“No, I like it,” Keith hurries to tell him. “You can tie me up anytime.”
There’s a beat of silence in which Keith shuts his mouth with a quiet click of his teeth and Shiro only stares, his cheeks bright.

“There’s the car,” Keith breathes as soon as he sees the familiar tan and brown of his mother’s cruiser pull up outside, never happier to see her.
Keith wipes his palms down his thighs as he rises, nervous sweat making him clammy all over. He darts to the door and holds it open for Shiro, who nods and squeezes past— but not before appraising him with another long, thoughtful look.
Once outside, the afternoon heat hits like the opening of an oven. Light glares off of pavement and white-bricked buildings, the soles of Keith’s boots almost sticky against the poured concrete. He shields his eyes with a hand as the passenger window of the cruiser rolls down.
“Nice to see you again, Mr. Shirogane,” Keith’s mom calls from the driver’s seat, leaning over to better view the two of them through the open window. Even with the dark-tinted sunglasses, Keith can feel when her stare slides over to him. “I see you’ve met Keith.”
“Yes, ma’am. He’s been a real a lifesaver,” Shiro tells her, smiling broadly at Keith before he wheels his suitcase around the back of the cruiser, stowing it in the trunk.
As soon as Shiro’s out of earshot, Krolia lifts her aviators a scant inch just to shoot Keith a witheringly knowing look. She smiles, equal parts sly and sympathetic, her gaze briefly flitting up to the rear view mirror. “You got your good taste from me, you know.”
“Mom, don’t. Please,” Keith sighs, leaning into the open window; the running AC feels like heaven on his feverish skin. The car bounces lightly as Shiro closes the trunk, and already Keith doubts the wisdom in letting his mother be alone with him. She knows too much.
But there’s no time to back out now, with Shiro already sliding into the backseat and buckling himself in. So Keith takes a breath and sticks most of his upper body through the window, eyes only for Shiro. “Um, if you need a ride anywhere in the next day or so, just let me know.”
“Thanks, Keith. I’ll probably have to take you up on that.” Shiro’s smile is soft, almost shy, and he hesitates before adding, “I, uh, won’t have your number until you text me first, though.”
“I will as soon as I get back inside,” Keith promises, heart leaping in his chest as Shiro grins. He looks to his mom, who’s watching him with her chin in her hand and a wry smile on her lips, and pats the car. “Drive safe, Sheriff.”
He waves goodbye as the brown and tan cruiser pulls out, leaving him alone under the boiling sun, and watches til the car disappears around a corner.

And then Keith darts back inside to rifle through Shiro’s paperwork, eagerly saving the number into his phone.
It takes minutes to compose a text, his sweaty thumbs hovering over the screen as he types, then deletes, then types again. He tries to sound clever, to sound cool. Maybe cute, even. He even considers just sending a decent selfie in lieu of writing anything at all.
But in the end, he commits to a simple and failproof, ‘hey, it’s keith.’

As Regris and Antok start buzzing around, Keith surreptitiously pockets his phone and tries to get back to work. Tries, because his thoughts keep turning back to Shiro no matter how busy his hands become.
There’s a heat inside of him now that has nothing to do with summer breathing down his back. It burns at the memory of his hand in Shiro’s, his name on his lips, eyes with the prettiest lashes Keith’s ever noticed fixed on him like he’s something worth looking twice at.
He’s even better in person— less composed than he is in his videos, maybe, but better— and how the -fuck- is that possible? Keith still can’t fathom the existence of a man that handsome, that wonderfully made, that charming and interesting and sweet-voiced.
And Keith met him. Knows him. Has his number.

It’s too much to contemplate while trying to replace an old timing belt that’s ready to give way any day now, and Keith goes through the motions of his work with a dreamy slowness that doesn’t go unnoticed by the rest of the garage.
“Keith,” Kolivan sighs as he takes him aside near closing time. “When I asked you to talk to the owner of the Volvo, I didn’t think it would render you essentially useless for the rest of the afternoon.”
“I’ll make it up to you,” Keith promises. A quick glance down at his phone shows a text back from Shiro's number— a smiley face and a 'Hey Keith,' sent not long after they'd parted ways. “Let me work on the Volvo tomorrow. Please. I plan on staying late, even.”
Amber eyes narrow at him, his uncle’s stern brow furrowing even more than usual. “Why?”

“So he can leave bright and early on Tuesday. Or head out overnight, if he wants. He said he's on vacation and I hate to think about him being stuck here with nothing to do.”
“-You- somehow manage to find plenty to do,” Kolivan reminds him. But his expression softens, albeit by a measure that anyone unfamiliar with him would likely miss. “Fine. I’ll let Antok know. And Keith— don’t overwork yourself.”
Keith figures that if it’s for Shiro, he could probably work til midnight without a peep of complaint. It’d be worth it for his gratitude, for his happiness. It’s still the least he can do, really, for all that Shiro’s done for him— even without knowing it.
The ride home is still blisteringly hot, the sun not yet set. Bent low over his bike, Keith hurtles across shimmering pavement and down their dusty drive. After parking his bike under the lonesome tree in their front yard, he bounds up the stairs and pushes through the door.
The smell of cooking rice and sizzling meat wafts out of the kitchen; inside, his dad works a knife through a stack of green onions, chopping with swift purpose. He looks up at the sound of Keith’s footsteps, grinning and welcoming him home. “Hey, kiddo. Dinner’ll be ready soon.”
“Do I have time to shower?”

His dad flashes him a thumbs up, so Keith hurries upstairs. He strips down and leaps under the spray while it’s still cold, furiously scrubbing the day away. Sweat, dust, and engine grease disappear down the drain with his cinnamon-scented lather.
Keith hurries back down the stairs in sweatpants and a tank top, his hair still dripping and a towel looped around his shoulders. The smell from the kitchen is even more appetizing than fifteen minutes ago, and his mom must be home now, too, because he can hear her voice—
And someone else’s. A voice he'd know anywhere.

Keith feels a preemptive blush building as he peeks inside. He spies Shiro and his mom already sitting down at the table, his dad still in his apron as he sets out plates piled high with lettuce and rice and thinly sliced steak.
“Keith!” his dad says, immediately alerting everyone to his skulking presence as he waves Keith into the kitchen-dining room. “Dinner's ready, come sit down. And look, your mother brought a guest for dinner. Ain’t that something?”
“It sure is,” Keith mutters as he awkwardly discards his towel in the hallway, out of sight, and then slinks to the empty seat beside Shiro.

He's cleaned up too, by the looks of it, wearing a soft-looking button down with the sleeves rolled up. Fresh-faced and damp haired.
“I passed him as he was walking over to Vrepit Sal’s,” his mom says, her chin resting on laced fingers, “and I knew we could do him one better with a home-cooked meal by the best chef in town.”
Keith’s parents proceed to make flirty eyes at each other. Right there, in front of him and Shiro. Unashamed. His dad is still blushing under his tan as he sets out the last few dishes and then fishes another beer from the fridge for Keith.
“You never mentioned that you’re the sheriff’s son,” Shiro whispers as Keith settles in. His eyes twinkle as he takes a sip of his beer, though, more amused than anything else. And he still smiles at Keith like he’s something special, someone worth looking twice at.
“I was hoping to keep it less awkward. For both of us.” Keith smoothes back his wet hair, suddenly acutely aware that his worn tank top has a number of holes around the collar and a tendency to ride up and bare his midriff. “And see how well it's worked out?”
Shiro laughs into his drink, looking pretty and rosy-cheeked. “Well. -I’m- enjoying myself, at least,” he teases, gentle. He sobers slightly and adds, “But I don’t want you to be uncomfortable with my being here,” under his breath.
“I’m not. I’m— I’d rather you see me like this than all gross, I guess,” Keith shrugs, looking down at his faded sweats. It could’ve been worse, honestly. He’d almost opted for his sleeping shorts with the hippo print.
“Doubt you looked gross,” Shiro softly scoffs before taking another drink. And whether it’s the alcohol or his growing familiarity with the Kogane family, he seems more relaxed, even as his cheeks burn brighter.
“We don’t really much stand on formality around here, Shiro,” his dad says as he scoots his chair in. He gestured to the spread. “Help yourself, alright? And don’t be shy about getting seconds.”
As soon as Shiro is done filling his plate, it begins— a gentle grilling, both of Keith’s parents curious about who Shiro is and what he does, what brought him through town, how he’s enjoying his unexpected stay.
Keith mostly stays quiet, piling rice and meat and peppery sauce onto lettuce leaves, rolling them tight, and shoving them into his mouth whole. But he listens attentively as Shiro describes his brief military service, his decision to go back to school,
and the fledgling dental practice he runs with a friend from school. Some of it Keith already knew, passively absorbing the scattered details of Shiro’s life from his videos. But some of it is brand new. Private. Shared not to 400k followers, but just them.
He doesn’t mention the accident or offer any details on his gleaming prosthetic arm, and Keith’s parents don’t ask.

Not that Keith had expected any different. His dad has his own messy scars, reminders of the fire that had nearly killed him when Keith was only 8,
and he doesn’t like talking on it, either.

It’s not an embarrassingly bad dinner, even. Shiro seems to enjoy the food, the drinks, the company. And Keith’s happy to see him happy— happier than he would’ve been with Vrepit Sal’s meatloaf and TV in his motel room, certainly.
“Thank you all for having me for dinner,” Shiro says once their plates sit clean, the meal winding to a close. His hands fold in his lap, and only Keith can see the nervous rub of his fingers. “It was delicious, Tex. Especially the steak. I’d love that recipe before I go.”
His dad glows, transparently flattered. “Well, we’re not done yet. I was going to make a pie,” he sighs as he gets up and pulls a tub of ice cream from the freezer, “but this’ll have to do. You like butter pecan, Shiro?”

“Uh, yes. Butter pecan’s great.”
“Then let’s get you boys a couple scoops,” his dad murmurs, spooning ice cream into four separate mugs. He passes Keith and Shiro theirs first. “It’s cooled off pretty well outside. You two might wanna eat on the porch.”
It’s a hint. A nudge, judging by the way Krolia smiles at her husband. When he thinks no one is looking, Keith’s dad winks back at her.

It’s mortifying, even if Keith’s in love with the idea. Fortunately, Shiro— apparently very excited to have ice cream— doesn’t notice.
It -is- pleasantly cool outside, now that the sun’s finally set and the stars have begun to come out. A breeze blows steady across the flats, rustling through nearby bushes and the lonesome tree, its tire swing slowly turning.
“I’m… so sorry. About them,” Keith says as soon as the door is shut. He gestures for Shiro to sit down on the porch swing first, trying to be polite, and then settles down beside him, holding his ice cream mug in his lap.
“No, no,” Shiro counters in between bites, getting comfortable on the bench swing. “You don’t have to apologize, Keith. It’s been… kind of amazing, really. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so welcomed so quickly. I— I’ve had a really good day, actually. Thanks to you.”

“Yeah. Of course.” Shiro takes another bite of his ice cream and looks out at the horizon. It’s a cloudless, starfull night, the Milky Way streaking across the sky the way it rarely does anywhere else anymore, it seems, with light pollution encroaching everywhere.
“Wow. You don’t see the stars like this in the city.”

“Nope,” Keith agrees. They’re quiet for a time, enjoying the taste of butter pecan, the beautiful sprawl of the sky, and each other’s nearby presence. Or Keith is, at least, basking in this extra time spent with Shiro.
Shiro’s videos have always been comforting, calming, entrancing— as intended, Keith knows. But it’s a wonder that the man himself is just the same even when he isn’t in front of the camera, just as much a tether of reassurance for Keith when he isn’t even trying.
He breaks the silence first. “Can I ask you something?”

“Yeah. Anything,” Shiro says, eyes turned on him with a soft, tentative smile.

Keith draws his legs up onto the swing, arms looped tight around them. “How did you get into ASMR stuff in the first place?”
“Oh, that?” Shiro laughs. “I first stumbled onto ASMR while I was, uh, going through some stuff. After this happened,” Shiro says, tapping his metal fist against the swing's wooden slats. “Had a hard time sleeping, so I’d stay up and— well, I just stayed up. A lot.”
Keith can sympathize with nights spent tossing, turning, staring at the walls and ceiling for hours on end, worn down by perpetual tiredness. But his frown is more for what Shiro’d gone through to wind up in such a weary place, lingering on the slow flex of his prosthetic hand.
“Yeah. Know that feeling.”

Shiro gives him a smile, then sighs. “I don’t know which was worse, honestly— the nightmares or the insomnia. And I hated the sleeping meds they gave me. Made me feel like shit, fucked with my memory… but I didn’t really know what else to do?”
He runs his metal hand down his face. “Anyway, I started out watching videos of people getting massages— not like, in a creepy way, just... to feel it vicariously? At the time, taking off my shirt around anyone else was out of the question. But watching… I could watch.”
“It helped me relax before bed. During the day sometimes, too, if I was extra stressed. Which was most of dental school, if I’m honest,” he says, smiling in a way that makes the corners of his eyes crinkle. “I could unwind a little. Get out of my own head.”
“It’s, uh… kind of silly, I guess,” Shiro hedges, looking out at the stars, half his face masked in shadow. When he does look at Keith, it’s sidelong and sheepish. Self-conscious, maybe. “Haircut roleplay videos helping with my PTSD and all.”
“It’s not,” Keith says, thinking of the little ways his father had changed after the fire that nearly killed him, and the hobbies— like cooking— he’d picked up to help occupy his hands and mind. “It really isn’t, Shiro. And I’m glad you found something that helped.”
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