lysapadin: pen & ink painting of bamboo against a full moon (Default)
[personal profile] lysapadin
Title: At Hand
Characters/Pairings: Keith and Shiro
Summary: Everyone handles it a little differently.
Notes: Charlie asked for some Keith comforting traumatized Space Dad, so here we have 1077 words of fluffy character study.

~~~~~~~~~~


At Hand

They all know the signs by now: when Shiro goes still and his gaze goes blank, he's gone somewhere else inside his head. It's never anywhere good.

But then, why would it be?

Everyone handles these moments in their own way. Hunk fusses, makes Shiro drink some water or eat something once he resurfaces, preferably both, hovering over him until Shiro's breathing slows and his hands unclench themselves.

Pidge talks him through it, bombarding him with technobabble that the rest of them, except Hunk, only understand about half of, if that. Pidge fills the air while Shiro gets a grip on himself and doesn't shut up until Shiro frowns and asks, "But why do you think we need jetpacks? The paladin armor already has a propulsion system."

At which point Pidge gives him an exasperated look and argues that jetpacks—or hoverboards—or antigravity boots—are their own excuse for being.

Lance handles Shiro's episodes by finding a way to make an ass of himself, generally in the most ridiculous way possible, so that the moment Shiro snaps out of it, he has an immediate distraction to scold.

Keith used to think that this wasn't a strategy at all, just Lance unable to control himself, until the day he caught the moment of calculation before Lance flipped from serious planning session mode to sleazy charmer mode. Shiro spent a lot of time yelling at him for disrupting their strategy session to ask Allura whether she was wearing space pants. By the time he'd finished with that, the sweat had dried on his skin and he'd forgotten whatever had set him off to begin with.

When the three of them are around, Keith stands back and lets them get on with it, since they've all demonstrated that they know what they're doing, that what they're doing works.

When they're not around… Keith has his own approach.

Sometimes there's no saying what's triggered an episode—it just comes out of nowhere, unheralded by any discussion of the Galra, unprovoked by any sense memory that the rest of them can see. It makes Keith wish he'd paid more attention to those units on mental health back when he'd still been at the Garrison. (He's pretty sure they all wish that.)

For instance, right now: it's just him and Shiro alone in the room that the team's come to treat as a sort of public common area. It's late; it's been a long day of training and planning, and for now everything is quiet in that comfortable, well-earned exhaustion kind of way.

Lance has already turned in for the night, claiming to need his beauty sleep, and Hunk wasn't too far behind him—"Not that I'm ever going to pretend it's not because I'm beat," according to him, which had actually made Shiro chuckle, well done Hunk. Pidge is probably holed up in the lab and will likely attempt to stay there all night, though Shiro isn't going to stand for that, so it's just Keith and Shiro and the companionable silence.

Keith is stretched out on one of the couches, halfway to dozing, when he catches the change in Shiro's breathing—just a faint stutter in its steady rhythm, enough to catch his attention with its wrongness. When he pries his eyes open and sits up, Shiro is staring into the distance, the tablet he's been working from forgotten in his hands, and he's breathing too fast, with a sheen of sweat already on his forehead. So it looks like it might be a bad one.

Keith utters a silent curse on all the Galra and switches couches, sitting within arm's length of Shiro, on his off-hand side, and no closer. Sometimes it's okay to be touching Shiro when he comes back, but sometimes it isn't.

It's not a long one, but the hair at Shiro's temples is dark with sweat before he draws a deeper breath and exhales, raggedly.

Keith clears his throat. "Hey," he says, which makes Shiro startle—it's only in the way his shoulders tighten, the way he turns to look sharply at Keith—but then, Keith knows what he's looking for. "Back with me?"

Shiro inhales through his nose, exhales through his mouth. "Yeah. I'm fine."

Keith snorts at that manifest dishonesty, but it's Shiro's way. "Good." He scoots across the remaining distance and leans against Shiro's side.

Shiro tenses briefly, then relaxes, taking another of those deliberately slow breaths. Keith lays his hand against the back of Shiro's neck and finds that it's clammy with sweat, the muscles tight under his fingers. He squeezes them anyway, though they feel like steel cables, and Shiro glances at him sidelong. "Really, I'm fine."

"Of course you are," Keith replies, working his thumb up and down Shiro's nape, following one of the muscles with the least give in it.

Shiro could move away if he wants, it's not as though Keith has him pinned or anything, but he stays right where he is. "Honestly—"

Keith finds a knot and presses his thumb against it. He feels the moment that it gives way, and Shiro actually swears. "Shit!"

Keith rubs his thumb back and forth over that spot, feeling the muscles there beginning to warm, and works his way back up Shiro's nape. One loosened knot begins a chain reaction; for a little while, Shiro can't say anything at all while Keith is kneading his neck. He just breathes, the staccato rhythm of an attack smoothing out again, the warmth returning to his skin and the color to his face, which is good. He's got his eyes closed, so Keith can watch him, evaluating his handiwork, and finds it good enough to keep going even after Shiro has evened out, just for the way the lines around Shiro's mouth have eased.

When the aching muscles in his hand and arm force him to stop, he leaves his hand right where it is.

It takes a minute or two after that for Shiro to open his eyes. "You're awfully good at that."

"I learned from the best," Keith says, since he can still remember the days before, the way the Garrison walls would seem to close in around him, and the way Shiro's hand on the back of his neck could help keep them at bay.

Shiro huffs a laugh. "Punk."

"Yep," Keith says, and stays right there with him until he's ready to call it a night.

end

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