Riassunto: Shiro isn't even sure if the extended family Keith takes this monthly trips with are related to each other, let alone Keith, but he doesn't mind waiting at home for his boyfriend while he goes fishing. Only, one day, Keith comes back and, apparently, his mother has just come back.
Warning: SPOILERS S5
Shiro closes the door behind himself and puts the keys in the bowl beside it. The house it's empty as it has been for the past five days, and Shiro can admit at this point that it's starting to feel a little depressing.
He's not used to having the house completely for himself, not anymore. He and Keith had started living together two years ago, after dating for two years. It has been a long time since Shiro had to come back to an empty home.
He's glad that Keith's trip will end tonight, after having gone for two days more than usual. Maybe they can order something in. Shiro had tried in the beginning to surprise Keith with home cooked meals, but he never has the time or concentration for cooking, Every Time he tried he always forgot to put an ingredient in, or maybe just messed up the time because his mind would just start to wander over what he had to do the next day. The result, usually, went from a burned kitchen to a terrible dinner.
Instead Shiro has started to order in when Keith returns from his trips in the wilderness with his extended family. It usually had the advantage of being actually edible, and required no amount of effort on their part.
Honestly, if Shiro has to be honest with himself, he has never understood Keith's extended family. From what he knows the group of ex-cops that call themselves the Blades of Marmore aren't related to each other, let alone Keith, but it seems that after Keith's father death they had started taking care of Keith like they really were his family. They had been friends of Keith's parents from what Shiro understands.
It's a strange relationship, but Shiro tries to be as supportive as he can. He's glad that Keith seems to have a family to rely on, Shiro knows first hand how hard it is sometimes when you don't have anyone.
Still, Keith and his family usually go on a trip every couple of months. They usually go camping and fish, from what Keith tells him. He has never been invited, but he doesn't resent them. It's family time they don't do all that often and they want to enjoy it. Usually these trips last for three days at most, but this one has been prolonged to five and Shiro is starting to feel a little lonely.
So much so that Allura has asked him to eat at her place enough to become uncomfortable. He has reliably being informed that he looks like a lost puppy waiting for someone to adopt him and that he is too adorable for words.
Shiro has never been called adorable in his life and doesn't know how he feels about it.
The point of this, however, is that Keith will be home in a couple of hours finally and Shiro can't wait to kiss him and spend some time with him.
He might be a little of a lost puppy apparently.
Shiro checks his phone, still completely devoid of messages. It isn't unfortunately uncommon, some of the places they pick to go camping do not receive any camp and, most of the time, he and Keith don't talk for the entire trip. He doesn't like i, exactly, but he has learnt to accept it.
It's not like he wants Keith to feel like he's asking him to choose between Shiro and his family. He just hoped sometimes that it didn't mean he had to stay alone for days on end without no one to talk to.
Still, there is nothing to do about it, so he simply puts the phone on the sofa and settles in to watch some TV. Hopefully the time will flow quicker.
He must fall asleep because the next moment he feels something caressing his hair and his brain helpfully points out that it must be Keith's hand.
Shiro nuzzles the other's hand and encouraged Keith. He hears a laugh, but there is something strange in it, almost strained. At this point Shiro is a master in figuring out Keith's mood with just a handful of clues.
When he opens his eyes, he can see Keith looking down at him and there is something in his eyes, almost as if he's sad.
Immediately Shiro wakes up completely and sits up. "What happened?" he asks, a little worried. Even more when Keith, instead of reassuring him, just shakes his head like he doesn't want to talk about it.
The urge to hug Keith is too strong to fight off, so he does and enjoys the way Keith immediately melts against him.
Shiro is trying to think about anything that could have made Keith react this way. Is someone of the Blades hurt or ill? Still, if Keith isn't talking, then Shiro needs to give him some time to figure out how to say what he needs to say, it's usually how it works with Keith.
In the end he just pushes Keith more towards him and the couch and maneuvers them so that Keith is laying on Shiro and they are both on the couch.
"It's fine," he reassures Keith, playing with his hair, "we can just stay like this for awhile. I could tell you about my week," Shiro won't stop talking. Maybe filling the void with noise, so that Keith doesn't feel the need to say anything, will make him feel better. "It wasn't that interesting. Allura said I was moping."
Keith listens to him in silence for a while, Shiro tries to think and tell the other everything of some kind of interest that he can think of, but it has been a pretty uneventful five days, so after a while he has to resort to talking about the food at the canteen and he has no idea what he could say next.
Thankfully Keith interrupts him, and he says low enough that Shiro has to focus to hear, "I met my mother this weekend." And Shiro stops.
While Keith talked sometimes about his father and his childhood, Keith's mother had always been a sore spot. She had left Keith when he was very small, and he had always suffered at the idea of being abandoned. Shiro can't even start to imagine what it must have felt like.
His own experience is drastically different from Keith's. His parents had died when he was small and his grandfather had taken care of him until he couldn't anymore.
He never had to wonder why someone abandoned him, never had to wonder if it was something he did, like he knows Keith wonders sometimes.
Shiro hugs the other a little closer, and he feels the way Keith's breath becomes a little more labored. "Apparently she had to leave because of her job," Keith explains, but his voice is strangely devoid of emotions. It's like he's reading a clue card someone left him "She had to go undercover, she was the only one that still had contacts in that family and she couldn't say no."
Well, at least that explained all the cop friends who had adopted Keith when he was little. Shiro doesn't say anything, caressing the other's head and just lets Keith continue when he'll have the strength.
"She said that she had to, and they finally captured the criminals last week," Keith says after a few silent moments. "She asked Kolivan to organize the trip, and she showed up."
"Did you talk?" Shiro ask, because this whole story seems too incredible for words.
"She wanted to, said that she wants to know me better," he says, and there is obviously something incredule in his tone. It's as if he can't understand what his mother was thinking.
"Isn't that good?" Shiro tries, and the other shrugs in his arms
"Yes. No. I don't know," Keith settles for in the end, and he looks lost and a little scared.
Shiro can't even imagine how he must be feeling and he's not sure he can really help the other in this. Is there really anything he can say that can make the other feel better?
"Why don't we order a pizza," he settles in the end, "eat way too much and you distract yourself for a night. We'll figure it out tomorrow."
Keith nods after a second, and it seems that he relaxes more at the idea of not having to talk about it. "I promised I'd bring you a fish, I'm sorry..."
Shiro laughs, remembering the discussion they had before Keith left - Shiro has asked the other to catch a fish for him, since he always talked about how good the fishes were.
"It's okay," Shiro reassures him, I have what I wanted right here."
They don't do much at night, just lounge on the couch with pizza and a movie. It's obvious that Keith's mind is one thousand miles away, but Shiro doesn't mind. He tries to fill the conversation as best as he can, but at one point he just takes Keith's hands and holds them, remaining silent. It seems that Keith appreciates the gesture by the way he smiles.
All in all, when they go to bed they just sleep hugging, and Shiro tries to make the other understand that he's there for him whatever he decides or wants.
Keith continues to be silent.
By morning, Shiro wonders what he should do. He's still in bed, and it's obvious that Keith is awake by the terse line of his shoulders. Should he press?
He recognizes a delicate situation when he sees one, and as much as he knows Keith, this is a problem he never had to face before. He, himself, doesn't know how to act.
Shiro is going to say something but Keith interrupts him. he doesn't look back at him, but his voice is steady when he talks.
"I want to meet her. Talk," he says, even if he doesn't exactly seems like he's that sure of it. Still, Shiro had been sincere when he had thought that he just wants to support him in everything he does.
"Okay, if that's what you want to do," he says, and he gets a little closer, unable to help himself. The moment he touches the other's back, it's like something in Keith snaps and he turns towards Shiro fast enough to give him him whiplash.
"She's my mother," Keith says, like Shiro needed reminding. "I should meet her, hear everything she has to say. I should..."
There is something a little broken in keith's voice and Shiro aches with is, something hollow inside his soul. He knows more than most how hard Keith tries, how much he has suffered. Seeing him like this almost breaks him.
He touches Keith's, cheek, and hopes it will settle him a little. Hope it's enough to remind him that he's not alone.
"You should do what you want," he tells him, "she might be your mother, but you deserve to take the time to make this decision. If she wants to meet you, she'll understand."
Keith looks back down, and there is something in him that seems to doubt Shiro's words. "I want to meet her," Keith repeats, with no more conviction than before, "but I don't want to do it alone."
Shiro nods, even if he's not sure if keith is ready to do this. "'I'm sure Kolivan would be happy to come with you." He realizes it's a stupid thing to say the moment the other looks at him at him a little strangely.
"I want you to come with me," and it makes sense, it really does and yet Shiro's mind comes to an halt. He had never really thought about this, about meeting Keith's mother. It had never been a factor for them, being both orphans, and he remembers being scared enough when Keith had brought him to a dinner at Kolivan's house. But his mother?
Still, it's not like he would ever let Keith do this alone if he didn't want to.
"Of course," he says, with a smile, trying to hide the nervousness.
Keith smiles for him, a little more at ease since Shiro had seen him the night before, and he knows he has made the right choice.
He has been informed by many friends that he's very good with mothers. They seem to love that he is polite and that he looks like a positive influence on their children. Shiro doesn't really know what to say to that most of the time: he tries, but he knows that he survived an entire month eating nothing but cheerios and he doesn't feel like he should be considered a good influence on anyone.
Still, he has on good authority that mothers like him, which is a funny thing considering that Shiro's experience with mothers is basically 0. He has to trust that Keith's mother will like him too. And, even if she doesn't, that she'll tolerate him enough to not get angry at Keith for his choice in boyfriends.
As much as he still has his reservation on Keith's decision, he really hopes that everything goes according to plan. Keith deserves to have some closure on all of this, and if that means that he also gets his mother back? Then how could Shiro not be happy for him?
Only, he's not sure this is the best way to do it.
They had called Kolivan the moment Keith had taken his decision, and Keith had told him to tell his mother that they would have seen each other at a cafè near where they live. kolivan had seemed surprised, and probably harbored some of Shiro's own doubts at the suddenness of this all, but had complied.
Which is why they are now seating in a cafè, waiting for Keith's mother to appear. Keith is as stiff as a board, but Shiro knows this way too well. It's how Keith gets when he's vibrating with nervous energy, usually he's getting ready to explode, taking everyone else in the blast with him.
This is too fast. He knows Keith really wants to do this, and that he probably needs to show himself that he can do it, that he has put his past behind enough to be able to do this without a problem. Shiro knows it's not true.
He wonders now if really his best choice was to not say anything and let Keith make his decision. Maybe pushing him a little more to stop and think could have prevented a total disaster.
It's too late now. The door of the cafè opens and the way Keith tenses against his side tells him that the woman that enters is the one there've been waiting for. Honestly, Shiro would have realized it anyway, Keith's mom looks exactly like him, in a way his father never did.
Keith had a single picture of his father, but none of his mother, still it must be like watching himself in a mirror.
She also looks a little exhausted, but has a certain dignity to her. She carries herself with confidence, like someone who is used to go into difficult situation. She also looks like she's going to war, which might not be the best approach for this.
She arrives to their table and nods towards Keith, her expression a little gentler when she looks at him. "Keith," then she turns towards Shiro, and it's obvious she knows who he is. Kolivan might have warned her, maybe tried to make her feel less attacked by a complete stranger showing up. "You must be Shiro, my name is Krolia."
Keith doesn't say anything, so Shiro smiles and extends his hand. "It's a pleasure to meet you, have a sit."
She does, and even from up close, the likeness between her and her son is striking. Shiro has spent days watching Keith's face, loving it with every fiber of his being, and it's a strange sensation to see it on someone else's body. Krolia, however, lack the warmth and passion that Keith exudes without even trying. She seems to be more controlled, more logical than her son, who lives driven by his emotion more than he likes to admit.
Silence falls on them, and Shiro struggles to think of anything he could say, or even if saying anything is the right call. The situation is tense, and it seems like it can only get worse.
"I..." Shiro tries, and both Keith and his mom turn to look at him. Their expression is focused and intimidating, and Shiro stops talking, looking back down at the menu and pretending to be looking for something to order.
Still, it seems like his aborted try at a discussion serves as a way to break the ice.
"If you have any question," Krolia reassures them, "I'm here to answer them. I'll tell you anything you want to know. I'm here for you, Keith."
Keith gets even tenser at her words, and Shiro tries to put a hand on his back to hopefully calm him down, but it seems that he's too late.
"You're here for me? Do you think you can just decide to come in and out of my life as you want?" Keith's voice is almost an hiss, the way it gets when Keith is not only angry, but hurt. Shiro hates this tone.
"I told you, I had no choice, I..." Krolia tries, but Keith doesn't let her continue.
"You had to do your job, no one else could do it, I know. You know what no one else could do either?" Keith rises up and he looks fiery, angry, so broken, "being my mother."
Shiro knew this was too quick, that he should have told Keith to sleep on it for a few days. The shock, the hurt, the betrayal, is still too fresh now and Keith is reacting in the only way he knows: by lashing out.
Krolia stays silent, and Shiro realizes that she's harder to read than Keith. Might be because Shiro knows Keith well enough at this point, while he doesn't know Krolia, but he also thinks that the woman is used to keep things close to her chest.
Shiro tries again to touch Keith, because he doesn't think this will make it better for anyone, but the other man jumps away from his touch, like an animal.
"I don't need you now," Keith tells her, and he's out of his seat too fast for Shiro to catch. He tries anyway, but the other slips and strides out of the door before he can do anything.
Shiro is left there, sending a scared glance at Keith's mother. The woman seems to be a little shell-shocked, but she doesn't appear to be particularly offended. She might have expected Keith to react badly.
Still, Shiro doesn't have time to analyze her, he has to reach his boyfriend and see what he might do for him. "I'm sorry, I have to..." he motions to the door and hope it's enough of an explanation.
Before he can get out of his seat, however, the woman shakes his head. "No, please, stay." Shiro looks at her shocked. What does she think? He has to get to Keith, make sure he's fine. The moment she notices his glance, she smiles, a brittle thing. "We both know he needs time to calm down."
And Shiro does know that, but he also knows that Keith doesn't like being alone, even when he's in this mood. He wants to tell her that he knows Keith, has spent five years of his life getting to know him, can she say the same? But Shiro has never been a cruel person, and he doesn't want to start now.
It's obvious that Krolia is trying, even if it's too late.
He looks at the door again, and hesitates a second. He sits back down and looks at the woman. Shiro won't stay long, he promises that to himself, but he thinks that maybe Keith's mother deserves someone to give her a possibility.
"I won't convince Keith to do something he doesn't want to do," he informs her, because he doesn't want to make her think that he'll ever go behind Keith's back, "if he doesn't want to see you again, it's his choice to make."
Krolia watches him for a second before she smiles at him. It's strangely approving. "When I decided to go, I knew that there was the possibility that I could never come back. Sometimes I think it would have been easier," her voice is tired, and Shiro thinks that she might not have had many possibilities for comfort and rest in these years. She comes back and her husband is dead, and her son is angry.
"He was so small when I left," she continues, "and I knew he wouldn't have understood. I knew that he could never see why I had to do it. I couldn't even take a photo, it was too dangerous."
Shiro stays silent, unsure of what to say. It's not a choice he can understand, he thinks. And while rationally he knows why she made it, he can't help being angry with her. Shiro had worked hard at breaking the walls that Keith had created around himself because of her, and he doesn't want them to come back up.
Krolia doesn't seem to require an answer for Shiro before she continues, "His hand was... I remember the morning before I left, he had latched out to my finger and for a while I thought that maybe he had realized that I was going away. I just want you to know, that I never stopped thinking about him."
Shiro nods at her, because he doesn't doubt that. Still, that's not something that will magically fix anything. "I understand," he assures her, rising again, "but these are not things you should be telling me."
Krolia looks at him surprised for a second before her face softens. She looks older when she lets some of her own walls down. "I'm glad he wasn't alone."
Shiro debates telling her about the years Keith did spend alone, about how angry Keith sometimes got. How he had kept himself away from people, sometimes, in fear of being abandoned again. In the end, he lets it go.
Whatever her fault might have been, she doesn't deserve his anger.
"He'll come around, I think," he tells her, even if he's not sure.
She smiles at him again, more amused than anything else. "You're kind," she tells him, almost as if it's a surprise. "You know, when Kolivan told me about you, I thought you would have hated me. He described you as protective."
Shiro blinks at her, surprised, and he shrugs. "I don't think you're a bad person," he tells her, "I think you made a choice and you'll have to live with the consequences. I will always be on Keith's side, however." She nods, every mirth living her face. It's obvious she has a life of regret ahead of her, and she'll have to work hard to make it up to Keith.
Shiro nods at her, and leaves the cafè in search of Keith. He leaves a tip at the waitress, feeling a little guilty about not having consumed anything.
He takes out his cellphone, ready to call Keith anc ask him where he is, when he notices that the other has just gone to the other side of the street and he's sitting on a bench. He looks like a lost cat and Shiro smiles at him, starting to walk in his direction.
Keith doesn't even move when Shiro reaches him and Shiro just sits beside him, waiting for the other to say something.
"What did she tell you?" he asks, after a couple of seconds, and Shiro debates what he should tell him. He doesn't want to keep the conversation a secret, but he had been serious when he had told her that she should have said those things to Keith directly.
"She wanted to explain herself, I think," he settles for in the end, "I told her she had to say that to you."
Keith nods, looking at his own hands, "I'm sorry I left you in there."
Shiro shrugs with a little smile, "You know what Matt says, I'm great with mothers. It's okay."
Keith smiles at him, but not for long. He's lost in thought, and Shiro is in no hurry.
"I thought I was ready," Keith tells him, and he seems to be angry at himself. Shiro hesitates a second before he puts an hand on Keith's neck.
"There is no a right way to do this. This is a strange situation, you have the right to take your time," he smiles at the other and he sees Keith relax under his touch, "if you never want to forgive her, that's fine too. If you need more time, that's okay. If you want to scream at her? I'll block her and force her to listen."
Keith finally laughs and Shiro feels accomplished.
"Let's go home," he tells Keith, and the other just nods, closing his eyes.
For two days their life goes back to normal. They don't talk about Krolia, or what to do about her. Keith is a little more silent than usual, but Shiro leaves him his space.
Still, he doesn't expect this to last long and he's not really surprised when Keith, on the third day, sits down beside him on the sofa and tells him: "I think I want to meet her again."
Shiro doesn't even look at him while he nods. "Okay, do you want me to come again?"
Keith hesitates for a second before he says, "I think I should say no, but..."
"If you want me there," Shiro's voice doesn't leave any room for argument, "I'll be there. She will have to get used to me anyway. I've heard some rumors that it seems like our relationship is going to last."
Keith laughs, startled by Shiro's attempt at humor. "I also have to call Kolivan," Keith says, looking a little dejected, "I told him some things I didn't exactly think last time. I was... angry."
"I think Kolivan knows you enough to understand," Shiro reassures him, thinking about the bulky man that was always a little too rough around the edges, who lived his life following a strict set of rules but seemed to make exceptions only for Keith.
He always had the impression that Kolivan didn't really like him that much, but Keith always told him it was his imagination.
"It's just... they had all known. All this time," Keith whispers, and Shiro finally looks at him. The other is hugging his own legs, in an unusual show of weakness. "They knew," Keith repeats a little more infervorated.
He wants to say something comforting, that they were doing what they thought was right. But he's sure Keith knows that, he's also sure that this anger will blow over soon if it hasn't already. This is not a Keith in search of a fight, it's a Keith that wants to have someone comfort him.
Shiro is, as always, happy to be the one Keith comes to when he is in this kind of mood. It's a privilege he had fought long and hard for, and that fills his entire body with warmth.
He cups Keith's face with his hands and he kisses him on the mouth, just a little peck, and he enjoys the way Keith melts against him.
It's his way of saying that he's here for him, whatever Keith needs, and he hopes the other understands his intentions. The way Keith climbs into his lap, deepening the kiss, makes him think he does.
"Whatever you decide to do," Shiro whispers, "I'll be on your side. But... you deserve to have a family, Keith. And it seems like it's what she's offering."
Keith looks at him, serious, and there is something very deep shining in his eyes "I want to hear her out, but I think you're mistaken," he tells him. After a second it's Keith who is holding Shiro's face in his hands, with a care that surprises him. It's like, in a second, it's Keith that's comforting him. "I already have a family."
Shiro stops, almost out of breath. In a moment he reaches for Keith's hair and he pushes the other forward to kiss him again. He's almost overwhelmed at the idea.
It's not like Shiro hadn't been considering them a family: he knows that he wants to spend the rest of his life with Keith, but it's completely different hearing it out loud. He hasn't had a family in years and years and it feels like something he had given up about somewhere along the way.
He's forever grateful that he met Keith, and that Keith decided to give Shiro a chance. That he gets to have this.
Keith choses the exact same cafè to meet Krolia again, and Shiro wants to tell him that it might not be the best choice, but Keith silences him with a glare.
This time, when they arrive, Keith's mother is already seated and she's sipping a coffee. She doesn't notice them immediately, and Keith studies her for a couple of seconds.
Shiro doesn't know what he's searching, if he's trying to spot what are the similarities that prove that they are related. Or maybe he's focusing on what makes them different, on the single things that make Keith his own person. Shiro has already done this the first time they had met her, and it only reminded him of the reason he loves Keith so much.
He's almost surprised when Keith takes his hand and holds it while he walks forward. He strides towards their table with a certainty he had lacked five days before.
Shiro doesn't know if Keith is really ready yet, but he's getting there.
Krolia smiles at them when she finally notices their presence, and Shiro responds in kind. Keith is less welcoming, but it's nothing unusual for someone who knows him. He's not sure if Krolia is among those people.
They sit down and Keith looks focused. "Shiro says you had something to tell me," his voice doesn't drop. He looks sure of himself. "So. I'm here to listen."
Krolia nods and looks back at Shiro. She smiles at him, grateful, and Shiro wants to tell her that he didn't do much, that this was all Keith, but he doesn't think it's the moment for it.
He lets them talk, and his presence it's not really required, but Keith had asked for him and he will stay here for the whole day if he needs to.
They seem to completely forget about him most of the time, but every once in a while when Keith gets to angry he takes Shiro's hand, almost as if he needs some energy. Krolia looks towards him when she's going to say something that's going to make the situation even worse, almost as if she trusted Shiro to tell her if it was too much.
He doesn't say much, thinks they are doing actually not that bad on their own, and smiles. It seems he's actually really good with mothers, Matt was right.