He looked out the window as his younger sister drove. It had only been a few months that he had been across the country at college, but Lance’s home town seemed so different. Different businesses on the main strip, people he didn’t know glancing at the car as it passed. Lance used to think he knew everyone, not anymore though.
“I have to ask, are you seeing anyone at school?” His sister asked, just as they passed a house that had been sitting abandoned for almost three years.
Lance glanced over at her and sighed. “I was seeing someone for a while, but it didn’t work out. She was a little…”
“There were a few others that I just hooked up with, but I’m sure you don’t want details on that.” He grinned at her and she wrinkled her nose in disgust. It was a lie, but she didn’t need to know that he said it just to see that disgusted look on her face.
His eyes went to the house again though, sighing as his grin faded.
“Oh, so you’re still not over him, huh?” Her eyes were filled with pity and he hated it. “He’s been gone for what, four years? You need to move on.”
“I know.” Lance looked at her again. “What about you, are you seeing anyone?”
“I’m your big brother. I have to give them some kind of threatening speech about respecting you or something.” Lance’s smile had returned and his sister just scoffed before talking about a girl she had a crush on at school.
Once they got home, Lance’s two other sisters ran in to hug him tightly. He let out a choked sound as they squeezed him hard enough to knock the air out of him. His mother laughed as she came into the entryway.
“Let your brother go! He’s had a long flight!” She yelled at her daughters, who pouted as they let him go.
As their mother pulled Lance into a hug, his sisters whined. “No fair, you just wanted him for yourself!”
“It’s good to see you sweetheart.” His mother was smiling at him brightly. “I’m making your favorite for dinner.”
“I missed you mama, and it smells great.” He took a big sniff as he smiled back at her.
She pulled him in for another hug then went back to the kitchen without another word. Lance looked at the oldest of his sisters, who just shrugged.
“He’s been working a lot of overtime lately, he should be home soon though.”
The other two jumped at him again, grabbing him and pulling him into the living room to tell them all about what they had been up to while Lance was away at college. The oldest girl laughed at the sight, shaking her head when Lance looked at her hoping that she would save him.
His sisters were still rambling on when his father came into the house about an hour later. He greeted his son with a tired smile as he plopped down in his armchair. Lance smiled at him, but turned back to his sisters when they complained he wasn’t paying attention.
Over dinner, Lance got to ramble on about his new friends, his roommate, his classes, his clubs. His entire family looked at him fondly as he went on and on about all the stupid stuff he had caught his roommate doing around campus or how much of an asshole his calculus professor was.
His mother hugged him for a long time before she went to bed, which he was confused by. The look on his father’s face when he said goodnight confused him more. Lance shook off the odd feeling as he went into his room, pulling up his computer to message his best friends from high school to try to hang out sometime in the next few days. They agreed to meet Friday afternoon at Lance’s house.
The weird feeling continued as the week went on. His mother was being overly affectionate and his father was being uncharacteristically distant. There was a sticky note on the fridge every day that he found when he finally got out of bed. The little heart at the end made him uneasy. Lance’s sisters didn’t seem to notice, so Lance thought that maybe it was just because his parents weren’t used to having him home anymore.
There was a knock on the door Friday afternoon and Lance opened it. A smile spread across his face when Hunk and Pidge were standing on his porch, looking exactly like he remembered them. Hunk smiled back at him and pulled him into a bon breaking hug. Lance hugged him back.
Pidge looked at him, adjusting her glasses. “It’s good to see you Lance.”
“You too!” Lance moved out of the doorway once Hunk finally released him so they could come inside.
Hunk talked mostly about his new girlfriend, Shay, and his cooking club. Pidge talked about her engineering classes, calling them easy. Lance told them about everything. They were all smiling and laughing as they listened intently to each other’s account of the last few months. The three of them skyped and texted occasionally, but it wasn’t the same as sitting in Lance’s room and pushing each other over.
They were laughing about a memory from high school when the front door opened. Lance’s mom was home. Lance let out a sigh and the other two looked at him strangely. In high school Lance always ran out of the room to greet his mother cheerfully when she came home from work.
“They’ve been acting weird since I’ve been home.” Lance shrugged, not looked at his friends.
“I mean, they’re parents, it’s kind of what they do.” Pidge shrugged, her eyes closing as she took a deep breath. “Mine have been surprisingly chill. Dad didn’t even ask where I was going when I left today. All through the semester they were constantly calling me. I don’t think I went a day before fall break without talking to my mom. It’s weird.”
Lance glanced at Pidge and nodded slightly. “They were just worried about you.”
“I know, I know.” Pidge adjusted her glasses again. “I understand that they’re scared of losing me, like they lost Matt.”
Hunk put a hand on her shoulder and Lance closed his eyes. “The case isn’t closed. They’re still looking for him, and the Shiroganes.”
There was a lump in his throat at the second mention. The Shirogane siblings, orphaned then lost. Keith disappeared first and then his older brother disappeared with Matt while they were looking for him. It had been years.
“Keith…” He’d been one of their friends. Temperamental, always getting into trouble, had stupid hair. Lance wished they had gotten a chance to go on at least one date with him. He wished more that he knew what had happened to him.
Before any of them could say anything else, they all jumped at the loud, angry knocking on the front door. There were frantic footsteps going to the door and the banging didn’t stop until the door opened.
The three couldn’t make out the words, but two different male voices were saying something, and his mother sounded pitiful as she tried interrupting them. Lance’s heart was jumping into his throat as he stood up. He glanced at his friends, who shook their heads at him as he left the room.
When he walked down the stairs, he saw two men in purple suits crowding his mother against the door. The words coming out of their mouths made his blood boil.
“Excuse me, what are you doing?” The anger in his voice was obvious as he gripped the railing of the staircase tightly.
The two men turned to look at him, grins on their faces. Lance’s eyes went to the symbol embroidered on their ties. The Galra gang, one of the most powerful and elusive gangs in the country. They had a large presence in their little town, which was only a few minutes from the main city they operated out of. He started shaking in fear as one of them started walking towards him.
“Boss said you took the loan out to put a brat through college, this him?” The one was standing at the bottom of the stairs, looking into Lance’s eyes. Lance’s eyes went to his mother who looked away with shame. “I asked you a question ma’am.”
“Yes.” Her voice quivered as the other man moved even closer to her.
“Stay away from her.” Lance’s words came out as a whisper instead of with the threatening tone he had hoped for. He tensed when both just laughed at him.
“Your parents made a deal kid, and they’ve been late on their payments for two months in a row.” The one in front of him tsked, shaking his head. “And they agreed that if they couldn’t pay us back with cash, they’d have to work it off.”
Lance was still staring at his mother. “Mama? Why…”
She glanced up at him, tears in her eyes. “We wanted you to go to college, have a better life, but we didn’t have the money…”
He looked away, tears coming to his eyes. His parents were so stupid.
“Come on missus, you better come with us, or else the next people the boss sends won’t be as nice.” The man licked her face and she whimpered slightly.
“Don’t, she’s not going anywhere.” Lance looked at the man in front of him, the fire back in his voice. The man opened his mouth to say something. “Take me, I’ll work off the debt.”
His mother shouted, repeatedly telling him no and swearing in Spanish. The man took his chin, turning his face to appraise him. “Okay. You’ll probably be more popular with the clientele than the old slut you call a mother.”
Lance instinctively swiped the man’s hand off of him. The man glared at him before slapping him hard enough to send Lance falling back against the stairs.
“You better check that attitude, kid.” The man grabbed his arm, pulling him up roughly. “Now, say goodbye to your mother. It’s going to be a while before you see her again.”
“Lance, you can’t do this!” His mother ran towards him as soon as the other man was out of her space. She was crying. Lance didn’t say anything as he hugged her.
Once he let her go, he looked at the two men. There was a hand gripping his arm again as they left the house. Lance didn’t turn to look back at the house, but he hoped that his friends would understand. And that he’d see them and his little sisters again soon.