.

.

During one of his rounds on the far eastern sector, Shiro overhears multiple voices bellowing and grunting down another corridor, as well as a fist being thrown violently against exposed skin.

"—why dontyoucry about it, orphan—"

From there, what sounds like more shuffling and rage-yelling and bones impacting bones.

He runs towards the source, catching the tail-end of a brawl between a younger group of male cadets. Three against one. The loner, with dark red splattering his burnt-orange collar, jerks out of a clumsy, weaker punch, spitting a mouthful of saliva and blood into his attacker's face and uniform.

One of the other boys cuffs Keith across the head, and Shiro's gut twists. "Hey, hey!" he shouts, putting himself between the others and an infuriated, bleeding Keith. "Cool it! Everybody, right now!"

"He's the one who started it," one of them insists, but practically sneering.

Shiro narrows his eyes and frowns, shaking his head. "That's enough, you all need to get back to your living quarters," he orders. When nobody steps back, Shiro adds dully, "That wasn't a request, Aidan."

The same taller boy, wincing and scrubbing off Keith's bloody spit from his cheeks, turns flush-red.

"He said—"

"I heard what was said," Shiro cuts him off, glaring unblinkingly and lowering his voice to a warning pitch of a rumble. "You feel like taking it up with Sergeant Vince… or should I?"

As far as the members of the garrison know, there's a stricter policy on bullying and physical assault than walking around past curfew. Aidan slams his bruise-dark knuckles against a corridor's wall, leading the way out with his two friends, muttering and swearing and flinging back empty, nasty threats.

Shiro inhales sharply, finally glancing around. He doesn't say anything, jerking at the edge of Keith's rolled-up, white sleeve and tilting his head faintly towards the nearby classroom.

The bleak, florescent lights hum on, as they both step inside. Keith leans on a desk, waiting patiently for Shiro to locate the first-aid kit behind a teacher's desk. There's a layer of gleaming, fresh blood under Keith's nostrils, and his left cheek seems scraped raw, darkening in color.

"How bad is it?" Keith murmurs, as his oldest friend opens up the kit, half-examining him.

A faint, amused noise.

"You'll live," Shiro tells him. His mouth lifts up encouragingly, as he hands Keith a couple of antiseptic wipes to use on his facial injuries. "Mind telling me what happened back there?"

"… They ambushed me." Keith's expression grows sour, as he mutters, "Didn't know until it was happening."

In a way, Shiro gets why the disappointment and anger. In a fair fight against these bullies, Keith would have won easily. Unfortunately, it's not how their lives have worked out. Keith crumples up the stainless antiseptic wipes in his hand and continues to brood, only snapping out of it with a grimace. Shiro's fingertips lightly touch over his swelling, reddened nose.

"On the list of things you cannot be caught doing—"

Keith shoves Shiro's hand out of his face, grumbling, "Whatever, I didn't start this—"

"—getting into it with other cadets is what you're gonna be expelled for," Shiro says flatly, raising his eyebrows when the other boy makes a show of rolling his eyes. "I mean it this time."

At the stretch of tensing, deliberate silence, Shiro slips the wipes out of Keith's fingers.

"Listen, I know this wasn't your fault. I just want you to be more careful," he explains, smiling softly and benevolently until Keith's eyes wander down his face. "You belong here, Keith, alright? You love piloting. You're a good fighter too, but you also are intelligent and skilled enough to make the commands for your team. Maybe you could let yourself embrace a leadership role once in a while."

Keith furrows his brows, appearing confused. "You're the leader, Shiro. That's what you do."

"I can lead, but…" Shiro takes the moistened corner of a wipe, pressing it gently onto the split-open wound to Keith's bottom lip. "I would also follow you anywhere, so there's that," he admits, whisper-quiet. It's too-shy and vulnerable of a confession passing Shiro's lips.

It's way too much, and Shiro wants to apologize to Keith, and he finds himself going motionless — Keith's pale, thin hand reaches up, grasping loosely and warmly over Shiro's own fingers.

"Me too," Keith whispers back, starting to grin.

He's still covered in bruises and blood, and it shouldn't be attractive like this, but Shiro neglects his judgement for a short, tender moment. He cups the back of Keith's neck one-handed and leans down, melding their mouths together for a kiss, tasting Keith's saliva and a hint of blah-bland coffee.

Keith groans out, grabbing onto Shiro's dark gray uniform and pulling him in. It's more blood inside Keith's mouth, coating his tongue when Shiro echoes Keith's noise and licks inside.

After another moment, Keith leans out. "Ow…" he complains, dabbing his newly bleeding mouth.

Crap.

Shiro's neck burns hotly, traveling up to his ears. "That was—um, I'm sorry," he says breathlessly, laughing awkwardly and rubbing his palms over his trousers. "You okay, Keith?"

A solemn, wordless nod.

He quickly passes the first-aid kit closer to Keith, rushing for the classroom's door and exiting, ignoring it as a baffled Keith calls out his name. Once he's out and a good distance away, Shiro blows out air between his lips loudly and thumps his forehead against a wall, shutting his eyes.

Out of all the people he thought about for his first kiss… Shiro didn't expect his very first choice.

And tasting Keith's blood in the process.

And liking it.

"Crap," Shiro murmurs, wiping at his own lips with his fingertips.

.

.


Voltron isn't mine. I really really really wanted to try something before they were paladins, and this kinda just spawned to life without my permission lmao. Hope all of the Sheith fans out there like this (I mean who doesn't love these nerds?) and any thoughts/comments are deeply appreciated!