Of all people to catch a Narvitene orbital sickness, it had to be Shiro.
"The first four vargas are the most severe and contagious, which you've already experienced," Coran tells him within the infirmary, twirling the end of his bright orange mustache. He's no longer wearing an odd, puffy suit equipped with an fully-automated oxygen tank and thick, sterilized gloves and an additional helmet while checking Shiro's vitals. "From there, your sickness should act as a very mild human flu, up to a quintant or two. It's best you rest up in your quarters until further notice."
Shiro doesn't argue, quivering from his high temperature and dragging himself to his cot. He flops belly-first onto his sheets, dozing off peacefully within a couple of minutes.
For once, there's no violet-tinged nightmares.
Within the darkness, its own shadows morph into something more dense, lean and spry. An indigo glow-radiance, like twin jagged lightning bolts, catches Shiro's eye lidding open.
"Ss'that you, Kee…?" he mumbles out, breathy.
Shiro's cheek remains impacted on his thin pillow. Keith moves in soundlessly, lifting up his dark-colored, Blade of Marmora hood, seating himself anxiously on the edge of Shiro's cot. For an moment, Shiro entertains the lovely, tempting idea of clasping his organic hand over Keith's fingers twitching on the mattress. He would feel nice and warm right about now…
"I didn't mean to wake you up," Keith murmurs, looking over his best friend coughing loudly, shuddering heavily for air, in a deepening, frowning bemusement. "What's the matter?"
"Caught a… erm, a little bit of a space flu yesterday." Shiro pushes himself upright, thankful for the lack of dizziness, but grossed out by the layer of moist, reeking sweat plastering his tee-shirt to his bare skin. "Mnm'fine," he adds quickly. "Just… trying to sleep it off, like Coran wanted."
Keith's eyebrows furrow. Shiro recognizes the look as you should want this for yourself too.
"… You got sick on your birthday?"
When he echos the single-worded question, Keith nods, finally reaching out and grasping onto Shiro's wrist. Keith is warm. Warm and solid and moon-pale against the pulsing, Altean-blue lamps. "Got back from a mission with the Blades. I, uh, was gonna ask for your help for—"
"—alright, let's do it," Shiro cuts him off, sliding towards the cot's edge with Keith and peeling off his tee-shirt. He crumples it up, tossing the material onto the floor, and hurriedly stands.
The lamplight twirls around him, as his equilibrium dips to the right side.
"Whoa—Shiro, hey—" Keith tucks himself under Shiro's arm expertly, curling a jet black-gloved hand to Shiro's waist to stabilize him. "Maybe you shouldn't be moving around," he says, waiting patiently for Shiro to regain his footing before loosening his arm. "You're not better yet."
Shiro exhales noisily, wiping off his forehead with the back of his prosthetic hand.
"No. No, I'm good," he insists, glancing to Keith. When he notices the concern in Keith's frown, Shiro repeats gently, "I'm good, okay? You need help. Let me help you."
There's a long, quiet moment before Keith releases him, grumbling a protest and snatching up a new, maroon tee-shirt, flinging it in Shiro's direction. Shiro yanks it on with a muffled, low laugh, keeping his joggers and not bothering with socks or shoes. Out in the corridor, he can physically feel Keith gravitating nearer to him, as they walk at an easy pace, side-by-side.
Maybe it's the fever making him feel braver than usual, but Shiro leans in, comfortably slinging his forearm around Keith's shoulders and squeezes him. "I've missed you, Keith," he admits, smiling. "We all have."
Keith's face reddens under the other man's welcomed attention, but he leans into Shiro, humming.
Towards the lower bay of Allura's castleship, Shiro thinks his energy starts to wane. He allows Keith to lead him the rest of the way, as they entered the bridge's lone pathway.
As soon as the eerie, brimming silence registers, it disappears.
What appears to be hundreds of balloons and streamers cascade from above. Glimmering, rainbow-hued confetti rain onto their heads. The sheer volume and might of everybody's voices chorusing in unison rattles the piloting consoles. The first thing Shiro feels is absolute disorientation about what's going on, and then a hint of panic when a grim-faced Keith throws his arm in front of Shiro, protectively holding out his Galra blade and activating it.
Lance, wearing a white and blue polka-dotted hat, nearly drops his megaphone printed with Shiro's pleasantly encouraging face. "Jeeeeez! Keith, put that away!" he yells into the device, backing up.
Allura rushes forward, her cone-shaped birthday hat with pink polka-dots awkwardly slipping off.
"Oh goodness, we didn't mean to frighten you!"
Shiro touches Keith's elbow until the other man relaxes, tucking away his weapon. "Why is…?" he trails off, the corners of his mouth tilting up. "Is this for me?"
"Of course it is!" Pidge hollers, grinning enthusiastically.
She swings herself on one of the yellow streamers bundled from the ceiling and crash-lands herself onto Lance's upper back, hugging securely around his neck for balance as he wheeze-laughs.
Hunk marches over to their group, wearing a standard kitchen apron and oven-mitts, but with Shiro's face also printed on them. He gazes critically between two huge, silvered trays lifted in his hands. "I slaved over a hot oven all day to make you six types of birthday cakes, and you'll have to tell me which one you like best, because I personally love one using the food goo—"
At the mention of goo, Shiro visibly winces, clapping a hand to his stomach.
"Will you knock it off!" Keith snaps, his jaw tightening. "Shiro's still sick!"
The rest of the paladins widen their eyes and gasp. "You are?" Allura gathers her hands together, appearing horrified. "But… Coran was supposed to bring you here when you were well again…"
"What's all this hullabaloo?"
By chance, the Altean man peers inquisitively inside the bridge, and glances to Shiro — fatigued and woozy and with a runny nose, covered from head to foot with paper-mache, colorful streamers.
"Oh…" Coran's nose wrinkles. "Oh, quiznak."
The surprise may be ruined, but Shiro enjoys the party regardless — despite it being short-lived when Keith leads him out into another corridor. He feels embarrassed mostly, by the multiple apologies and the fact Shiro's entire body still reeks like his ongoing, now lowered fever.
"Did you know about this?" he asks, observing as Keith turns his head, shrugging noncommittal.
"No…? I wasn't here for it."
That makes sense, Shiro guesses. It's not very Keith to volunteer for something like that.
Eventually, they approach one of the gigantic holo-simulators and he tunes into Keith's mumbly explanation about counter-fluxes and high ranging syntho-transmissors and not being able to override the loaded interface. It sounds exactly like a problem Shiro ran into while living in the garrison, modifying one of the older training decks for various, artificial scenarios.
"Why not ask Pidge to help out?" Shiro announces, checking the wall-panel and typing in the reverse-coding digits, sniffling and blinking rapidly. "Or Hunk? They can both do this faster than me."
A soft, snorting noise. "You know how to do it," Keith deadpans. "I wanted your help."
That's… somehow that's the exact answer he wanted to hear.
Shiro bites on his lower lip, unable to repress his slow-mounting grin.
"That's very flattering actually…"
His thumb misses and presses onto another button, and that's when the holo-simulator kicks in, purging their surroundings into a immense, galactic void-dark. Shiro hears the whirring of the nano-drones, flickering brightly to life as they go airborne, circling Keith and lifting him up.
Shiro's pulse quickens. "Keith!" he shouts, prying himself away from the wall. "KEITH!"
"It's alright!" Keith calls out, awestruck at the visual engulfing him. And for a blindingly enthralled moment, Shiro sees it happen too. The nano-drones are like pure, white starlight, twinkling and dancing around Keith, sheltering him from a thirty-foot drop to the ground.
Keith is a part of Shiro's universe like this, his Malmora uniform and his hair blending into the simulator's perma-darkness, while the rest of him floats and glows and smiles.
As beautiful and memorizing as it is, Shiro re-focuses determinedly, going back to the panel.
The nano-drones cluster, whirring louder as he finishes deprogramming them. Keith hovers down, stiffening up but not resisting. Shiro opens up his arms, feeling Keith's body lowered against him, cradling his arms under him and holding him tightly. Keith's hands brace to the top of his shoulders, as both men stare into each other's eyes, breathing raggedly.
"You okay?" Shiro whispers, nervously laughing when Keith's cheeks pinken.
Thank god he's already too flushed from being sick and exerting himself for Keith to notice he's also blushing. It's really really unfair how badly Shiro wants to kiss him.
He doesn't have to give into any kind of temptation, when Keith's mouth curls into a eager, roguish smile, pressing it down faintly against Shiro's lips. "Mm'good," Keith replies. His eyelashes flutter shut when Shiro helps him to his feet, weighting his mouth to Keith's forehead.
Another hour passes, and Shiro finds the results less disastrous. The holo-simulator ends up properly fixed. Nobody asks him to clean up after the food-goo. His temperature is back to normal.
He flops back into his cot with a heavily cushioned thump!, groaning wholeheartedly into a pillow.
To his surprise, Keith doesn't head for the door immediately, stripping off his armor and most of his underclothes. Shiro rolls over, facing Keith as the other man climbs over the sheets to him, kissing Shiro's mouth, hot and messy, pulling away when Shiro's groan rises in protest.
"I don't want you to get sick…"
"Me being half Galra is probably why I don't ever get sick," Keith points out, lying down next to him, Shiro's prosthetic arm draping casually over him. "Just trust me, Shiro."
He does. He does always, and Shiro nestles up to Keith's warmth, smiling against his temple.
Birthdays never meant much to him — and this one, well, ends as best it possibly can.
Voltron isn't mine. THIS IS MY FIRST VOLTRON EXCHANGE ATTEMPT! I sign up for Shiro's Birthday Exchange for pitch hitters and I ended up with crazywordsmoustache (Tumblr) / QueenofCheese (AO3) who asked for a couple different things but I'll have an excuse to write some soft sweet Sheith. I truly hope this made anyone reading feel happy and gooey on the inside because that's totally what I was going for! Any thoughts/comments are soooooo appreciated!