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About Cats, Coffee, And Falling In Love

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Keith had just come back home from work and was ready to crash on the couch with a beer and some leftovers he had heated up in the microwave. With how tiring the day had been he just wanted a break, and with the ordinary proceedings of it, he didn’t expect anything to happen.

All the more was his surprise when he could hear a faint noise over the sound of his beer can opening—a sound like a cat’s meow.

Keith frowned. He didn’t have any pets, and he also didn’t know of any cat owner in his building, so how did a cat get here? On the fourth floor, no less?

There it was again.

Keith sighed, putting his beer back on the coffee table—careful to put it on the coaster, just to be sure—and stood up. He had to trace where the sound came from. He listened carefully, while his eyes checked around. Finally, he figured out that the source was the small balcony connecting his living room and bedroom, which was really odd. Sure, there was a tree right outside, but still, how did a cat make it all the way up to the fourth floor? Is that why it was on his balcony? Because it got stuck but didn’t want to stay on the tree?

Well, there was no use in just contemplating; Keith had to go and actually check for the cat to let it inside, especially with it being evening now. Even if it was nearly spring and the temperatures were nice and warm during the day, there could be rain soon. With that in mind, he walked over and opened the glass door.

He didn’t expect a white cat to suddenly dash inside and enthusiastically rub at his legs. Keith was taken by surprise. It’s not that he minded, he just wasn’t used to this kind of affection at all. He stepped back to make sure the cat would follow along and closed the door.

His dinner would get cold now, but Keith had to check the cat first. He knelt on the floor to be near the same level as the animal. To his limited knowledge, there didn’t seem to be anything wrong with it, no injuries or anything of the sort. He carefully touched the cat. It had soft, long fur, smooth and silky underneath his fingertips.

The cat nuzzled his hand—and that’s when Keith noticed a collar: bright blue, like the cat’s eyes, with a decorative bow sewn on. Keith reached for the attached heart-shaped silver charm to take a closer look, curious to see if there might be an address, but it only had one word written on it: Blue. Keith figured that must be the cat’s name.

Thankfully, the building allowed for the people living there to keep pets, so that wouldn’t be an issue while he held onto the cat until he figured out what to do. However, Keith realized that he didn’t have any cat food or anything to feed it, nor did he have any toys for the cat to play with.

He sighed. Looks like he had to make another trip. So much for relaxing on the couch with an after-work beer and dinner.

For now, he walked back to the kitchen to prepare a bowl of water. The cat followed him around, making Keith smile before he could stop himself. Once the dish was placed on the floor and Keith saw that the cat was eagerly drinking from it, he walked out into the hallway to put on his shoes, then he went to grab his wallet and phone. At the door, he removed his keys from the keyhole and checked to make sure that the cat didn’t follow him before finally leaving and locking the door behind himself.

Luckily, there was a convenience store right around the corner, so at least it wouldn’t take too long just to get some cat food to last until tomorrow when he could buy more along with some extra things.

Keith left the building and swiftly walked to the store.

When he got there, it took him a minute of walking around to find the aisle with pet food, and once he was there, he was at a loss. There were too many different kinds of cat food and treats, and he had no idea what was good and what wasn’t. In the end, though, he just picked a few dishes of wet food from a brand that sounded decent, thinking that would be okay until he could research more about how to take care of cats properly. He went to pay and then finally made his way back home.

It was only when he reached his building that he realized that he had never put his dinner and beer away from the sofa. He was not used to having to make things cat-proof, nor the fact that a cat could take an interest in meals for humans.

He unlocked his door and took off his shoes, mentally preparing himself for the worst. But when he walked back into the living room, he was relieved to see that the coffee table looked untouched, while the cat had made itself comfortable on the sofa.

Keith sighed.

He took the container with his leftover fried rice to put it in the microwave once more, and while it was heating up, he opened one of the cat food dishes to fill the contents into a flat bowl. Apparently, this alerted the cat, because not a moment later, he could hear a soft “thud” and pitter-patter on the parquet floor. Keith chuckled. The poor thing must have been hungry—who knows how long it had been out, or how far it had wandered.

He placed the bowl down on the floor next to the mewling animal. He watched with a smile while he waited for the microwave to signal with a beep that his dinner was ready again.

When he walked back to the sofa and turned on the TV, he realized that he felt a lot better compared to right after he had gotten home from the office, before the cat had shown up. Who knew that a small, furry creature like that could have such an effect? Keith would never have guessed from his neutral—or by far not as intense as this—reaction to most of the animals he had met in his life. He wouldn’t need the beer to relax now, but since he had already opened the can earlier and it was part of his usual routine, might as well drink it anyway.

Keith was rather hungry now, so he ate fast. While he was still eating, Blue returned from the kitchen, sitting on the floor and watching, waiting. The moment Keith put his empty container away, the cat let out a high-pitched “mrow” and dashed to join him, snuggling up to his side. Keith chuckled and scratched its ears with his free hand while finishing his drink.

Finally, when Keith was done and threw the can away, he grabbed his phone.

He really needed to start researching about cats and how to care for them. Sure, he knew he really shouldn’t get attached since he needed to figure out how he could get the cat back to its owner, but he had no idea how long that could take especially with how busy he was all the time. And he really wanted to make sure that the cat was doing fine.

There was also the owner’s feelings to consider—they probably would be mad if they found out that their cat was treated poorly. Keith for sure knew that if someone found his cat and treated it poorly before returning it, he would be mad.

He was also glad that he didn’t have to prepare anything for work for the next day, so this research was his only ‘homework’ for the night.

The entire time, Blue was purring away next to him, tucked tightly in between his side and his right arm.

Keith wasn’t sure what to do when it was eventually time to go to bed. He turned the TV off with the remote, then contemplated the options.

Could he just leave when the cat was still purring like that? That would be cruel, right? But Keith also really needed sleep because he had yet another busy day ahead tomorrow. Aside from that, though, what would he do if the cat followed him into the bedroom? He couldn’t just let it sleep on his bed. It’s wrong to get attached, after all.

And yet, when he gingerly moved away so he could get ready, and the cat made soft meows of protest… he could feel that it was too late; he was already attached.

 

***

 

Lance was utterly miserable. He didn’t feel like having dinner at all.

His beloved cat, Blue, was missing.

Lance had no idea how this could have happened. He was always so careful with open doors and windows, and his balcony was cat-proof, too! And Blue was always so well-behaved! How did she suddenly get away? Lance didn’t even know if she had disappeared through a window, through the front door, or through a hole in the net around the balcony.

He was worried sick. What if something had happened to her? What if she got lost in some far away part of town? What if she was found by sketchy people? What if…

He shook his head.

No, he couldn’t think like that. He had to remain positive. Surely, a kind person would find her and bring her back to him or at least bring her to a shelter where the people could track her via her chip. Plus, Blue had a collar—that would alert people to the fact that she wasn’t a stray, but rather a lost cat. Most people in the building and even their immediate neighborhood knew about him and Blue. If someone around here found her, they would surely come to him and bring her home. He had to believe in this.

But still, because you could never be sure enough, he had to put together a poster. Type up a nice text including his address and phone number and mention of a reward, even, as well as attach a photo. That way, if Blue ended up in a different area, people would be able to find Lance or contact him. And the prospect of a reward would also mobilize the more selfish type of individual. Lance didn’t want to specify an exact reward, but honestly, Blue was very precious to him. He would be willing to give a good sum or pretty much anything else, really.

He just wanted to have his beloved cat back safe and well.

Lance was willing to sacrifice his sleep. He had to make the perfect poster. He had to make sure that people would look at it, read the information, and then keep their eyes open or recognize that it’s the cat they found. Sure, he would regret this tomorrow when he was supposed to get work done, but for now, he didn’t care. And he would hang the posters all over town in the morning.

Making sure that he could be reunited with Blue was that important to him.

 

***

 

Keith woke up to something heavy on his chest. Something soft was pawing at his cheeks insistently, and high-pitched mewls reached his ear. What was going on?

Keith blinked his eyes open and was met with bright sapphire eyes staring right at him.

Oh. Right. The cat.

But how did it get inside his bedroom? Keith was sure he had closed the door properly. Had he not done it after all? Did the cat open the door somehow? Why had it come to wake him up?

Keith glanced at the bedside table to check his clock and groaned. It wasn’t too long before his alarm, so there’d be no use in trying to sleep more. Might as well get up already and figure out what the cat wanted from him. Even if it sucked because he needed his sleep and that he wasn’t actually great with mornings, especially on work days. It was ironic, as he rose early even on weekends.

He waited for the cat to leave his chest so that he could move to sit up. He took a moment to stretch first, then finally got out of bed.

The cat was already in the hallway, meowing, and he followed with a sigh. He could smell something coming from the bathroom and was hit with a sinking realization. And, sure enough, when he arrived there, he could see that the cat had done its business in the corner next to the foot-end of the bathtub.

Keith groaned.

He really couldn’t be mad at the cat—it was his own fault for not taking into account right away that the cat would need a litter box. Still, this sucked, this early in the day.

But he had no choice, he needed to clean up.

While he got to work on that, he realized that he would have to be prepared for it to happen again before he got home from work—unless he called in that he would be late. He had a high position in the company and had an excellent record of being a diligent, responsible employee. Surely, his superiors would excuse him coming in late this once, right? They were all animal-friendly, especially Allura, so surely they would understand.

But, for now, Keith really needed some coffee and breakfast once he was done.

He could figure out where the nearest pet supply shop was while sitting at the table. Or maybe he could try to make a makeshift litter box out of a regular empty container? He still had a flat plastic box of decent size that he didn’t use for anything currently. That way, he would only need to stop by the convenience store to buy cat litter and could probably also make it to work in time, if he compromised other parts of his morning routine. And besides, since the cat wasn’t his and he had to return it to its owner, it would just be a waste to buy a proper litter box when he wasn’t sure yet if he would ever adopt a cat of his own.

Coming to that conclusion, he decided he would just have to hurry with his coffee and breakfast.

When he was done cleaning up, he walked to the kitchen to start his fancy coffee maker. While it made the coffee, Keith prepared a fresh water bowl for the cat, as well as filled one of the dishes of wet cat food into the other bowl. The cat must be hungry again, he figured, and he had read that it’s always best to make sure a cat could access enough water.

Finally, he put some bread in the toaster for a quick breakfast. That would be sufficient until he could have something from the cafeteria or a snack machine at work. While he waited for the toast, he watched as the cat started attacking the food.

He smiled—then sighed.

Keith didn’t bother sitting down at the dining table, instead opting to stand at the small bar that was in his kitchen. Like this, he was able to watch the cat eat and drink.

He still couldn’t quite believe how he grew attached so fast to a cat that had an owner, somewhere. He had no intention of stealing the cat, hell no. But he wondered if it could be possible to still visit it when he found its owner. He hoped the owner was someone nice, someone who’d be understanding if he asked to visit.

On his phone, he also did another quick search to check which type of litter would be best, to make the search in the store faster.

He finished his toast and coffee quickly, then went back to his bedroom to get changed. Since he’d come back home again, he didn’t change into office attire yet; just his next best casual clothes would be enough. No need to look his best for a quick trip just to get cat litter and maybe some more cat food just to make sure.

He grabbed his wallet and phone, then put his shoes on in the hallway. He unlocked the door and, like the previous night, checked to make sure that the cat hadn’t followed him all the way to the door. When the coast was clear, he swiftly left and locked behind himself.

At least, Keith thought, this still counted as a cheap excuse of a morning workout, since he didn’t have enough time for that now. He had to put his priorities in order, and making sure the cat was cared for with the essentials was more important than his morning workout regimen. That way, he guessed, he could also save a bit more time by not needing a full shower. If he was lucky, he could even make a stop at one of the bakeries nearby to get another snack that wasn’t cafeteria food or from a vending machine. Not that those were bad, really, but still, he liked having some options.

This time, Keith found the aisle with pet food and other supplies for pets right away. He chose the smallest size available, then also picked a few more dishes of wet cat food. He hoped the cashier wouldn’t find it weird that he was buying these things this early in the day. Then again, cashiers probably saw a lot of strange things in their days or didn’t even pay any attention; though, telling himself that didn’t stop him from feeling self-conscious.

The walk back home, he realized, was now actually a bit like a workout thanks to the cat litter being heavy, so that was nice.

Once he got back home, Keith grabbed one of the empty clear plastic boxes from the supply closet and took it to the bathroom along with the bag of litter. He figured that since that was where the cat had done its business, this was likely where its owner had the litter box in their home. It seemed like a good place to put this makeshift version. He put the box where he had cleaned earlier, then he checked the instructions on the bag and filled the box accordingly.

He realized that he forgot to buy a small shovel or something, so he had to use his hands. He definitely would have to go back to the store again to buy one of those after work, because cleaning the box with his hands didn’t sound so cool. He also hoped that the cat would accept this box.

Finally, Keith went for a quick shower just to keep up his routine, then went about getting ready and dressed. He prepared a fresh bowl of food and refilled the water bowl again just to make sure that the cat would have enough while he was out at the office. He also hoped that it would be well-behaved like it seemed to have been during the night, the mishap in the bathroom aside.

Once everything was done, Keith grabbed his things, left the apartment and locked up, then made his way down to the building’s garage. Sure, he didn’t live far from the company’s premises, but he liked riding his bike to work. It was faster than walking, and always relaxing to him. On the way, he stopped by the bakery to buy a sandwich for his mid-morning break. In the end, he was later than usual, but still on time.

When he arrived at the office, Shiro looked up at him.

“You’re later than usual,” he remarked.

Allura looked up at that, studying him.

Keith shrugged.

“I found a cat last night, so I had to take care of some things this morning.”

“You found a cat?” Allura asked, curiosity in her voice.

“More like, it was suddenly on my balcony when I got home from work,” Keith replied. “Its name is apparently Blue, it’s all white with bright blue eyes and wearing a collar with a small decorative bow of the same color, and it’s really cuddly.”

Keith thought that Allura’s eyes sparked up with something like recognition briefly, but he chalked it up to imagination, as it was gone again the moment he noticed.

Allura said, “It definitely belongs to someone. You shouldn’t get attached.”

“I know!” Keith defended himself. “But I can’t just treat it without care, you know? At least until I can find the owner or find out how to find them.”

“You should look out for missing cat posters or search around online,” Shiro suggested.

“Yeah, I was gonna do that.”

Keith settled down at his desk with an inaudible sigh.

He had only just arrived, and he already wanted to go back home. It’s not that he hated his job, but sometimes, being a manager was a lot to deal with. It’s part of why he drank so much coffee and enjoyed his beer in the evening. He’d rather try to figure out how he could bring Blue back to its home, but no, he had to manage sales.

Well, at least, he thought, he worked for an automobile company, which is something he took an interest in. He loved his motorbike, he loved cars, he loved racing.

But sales, those were boring.

Sometimes, Keith wished he was good enough with engines and tech to work in Development along with Hunk and Pidge, but as it was, it was more of a hobby. Instead, he had gone following in Shiro’s footsteps by studying business and landing high positions right away, then working himself up even higher.

All things considered, though, Keith was happy working for Altea Motors, because while the company had great successes, the team was like a family. Not surprising, since it was a family company, founded by Allura’s father. Still, even as it continued growing, that familiar atmosphere never changed. Some of his co-workers also were Keith’s best friends. Events like company dinners and Christmas parties were usually great fun.

Keith listened in when Coran walked in to talk about whether to ask the usual for the next advertising campaign. Keith knew that they usually commissioned the same guy for advertising because he was really good at his job and also a friend of Allura’s. Keith was curious what he was like but had never met him, even though they apparently shared several friends. Sometimes Keith wondered why they didn’t just hire the guy to make their campaigns internally, but he wasn’t connected to that area, so he didn’t say anything. Still, though, it would be cool to meet the guy one day. Maybe there would be a chance that he would come to a company party or even a meetup of their friend group one day.

Soon enough, though, Keith had to focus on his own tasks; thoughts about the mysterious advertising guy and how to find the cat’s owner had to be put at the back of his mind.

 

***

 

Lance got up especially early to make sure he would be able to hang up the posters all over town. Waking up without Blue was rather depressing, but Lance had to be strong.

When he left in his car with all the posters in the backseat, Lance saw one of the neighbors return from the direction of the convenience store. It was the hot guy from his floor that he barely ever got to see, aside from sometimes the café he used to work at. The strangest part about that was that the guy worked at Altea Motors and was friends with all of Lance’s friends, and yet, they never so much as talked in passing.

As he drove passed, Lance thought he could see the guy carry a bag of cat litter. That was weird—did he adopt a cat recently? To Lance’s knowledge, no one else on the floor had a cat, nor many others in their building.

But he put that thought aside for now. After all, he had to focus on making sure he could bring Blue home soon. That was the top priority; the mystery of the hot neighbor could wait.

He spent most of the morning distributing the posters. By the time he returned home, it was time to prepare lunch.

Lance felt lucky that he was a freelance designer, meaning he could distribute his time like this as long as he still got his work done. His primary client was Altea Motors—meaning there were no problems with communication in general and in case he needed more time.

Just yesterday, Lance had been tasked with the new campaign. He already had the concepts, now it was just about bringing them to life and trying to ignore his worry for Blue.

Lance thought they mentioned that they wanted him to model with some of their vehicles again in the near future. He’ll have to remember to ask about that. It’ll mean a trip to the company—and maybe that could mean a chance to meet the mysterious hot guy? Either way, visiting the company was always fun because he liked some of the other employees that weren’t part of his inner friend circle, too, like Nyma who worked as an assistant in sales, and Rolo who was an engineer. There was also Pidge’s older brother, Matt, who was a friend even though Lance could never tell if he belonged to his inner circle or not.

Lance made a quick lunch that he ate at the small dining table while checking his phone for emails and messages. He tried not to get too worried about the glaring lack of messages regarding Blue. After all, he had only just put the posters out—people didn’t have a chance yet to see them and react. He needed to be patient, give it a day or two. Blue would be fine, and they would be reunited soon.

After lunch, Lance made some coffee to have while getting started on work.

Finally, Lance sat down in the corner of the living room that served as his working space. He put on a playlist of inspirational instrumental pieces to help him focus and feel good. Recently, he was really into In Love With A Ghost because their music had a certain warm cheer, yet soothing melancholy at the same time. It felt magical and was just the right thing he needed in times like this.

He kept his phone right next to him, but with the music and diving into his work, he was able to distract himself from his worries, at least for most of the afternoon.

 

***

 

The evening of the second day after meeting Blue, as well as the morning after, were spent taking care of and cuddling with Blue—which was because the cat was so snuggly and insisted on snuggling up to Keith no matter what. He hadn’t spotted any posters on the way home from work, and he felt too tired to research online about how he could try to find the owner on his own.

The next morning, Keith decided to walk to work rather than take his motorbike or car. He had skipped his actual morning workout again thanks to Blue being so cuddly, so he thought that was the least he could do.

In hindsight, he couldn’t tell if it was fate or mere coincidence because this decision led to a particular discovery.

He walked from his own neighborhood into the block where the company headquarters was, when his gaze fell on a small poster board that people could use for lost and found and the like—and spotted a familiar sight.

Keith walked up to the board to have a closer look at the “lost cat” poster and indeed—it was Blue on the picture. He could recognize her fur and her striking eyes, even if it hadn’t been for the collar. But what stunned him, was the fact that it must be a picture with the owner; a guy with a very cute dimpled smile, copper-dust freckles on bronze skin and inky blue eyes as striking as the cat’s.

Keith tore his eyes away from the picture to study the information and nearly did another double-take. Right there, in the text, next to a phone number—was the address of Keith’s apartment building.

Talk about coincidences.

Keith took the poster. He figured that wouldn’t make a difference, since he knew for sure that the cat was safe in his apartment, waiting for him to contact its owner. Having the poster in hand instead of taking a picture would be more convenient for shooting a message. It totally wasn’t so he could keep looking at the cute guy in the photo together with Blue, nope, who would ever say that.

Through the description, Keith learned that Blue was apparently a girl. The poster also mentioned a reward but no further details, so Keith didn’t give much thought to that. He would deal with that topic once he actually met the guy.

He continued his walk to the company building. Once he was in his office shared with Allura and Shiro, he made his way to his desk to sit down. He immediately took the poster out again, putting it down on his desk, then took out his phone. He ignored Allura and Shiro’s looks as he opened a new message. He wanted to take care of this right away.

Hello, I got your number from the missing cat poster I found. I just wanted to let you know that I found your cat the other day and that she is safe with me. We could arrange a meet up for tonight. —K

Finally, he looked up at Shiro and Allura’s raised eyebrows and shrugged.

He said, “I saw a missing cat poster on my walk here, and it’s the cat I found, so I had to take care of that. Don’t want to keep the guy hanging too much when he’s missing his cat.”

“I see,” Allura said. “In that case, I’ll let the distraction slide.”

“Thank you for making an exception for this cat emergency,” Keith joked. “But for real, I’m glad that I found the poster so I can reunite the guy with his cat. Even though I’m getting really used to how cuddly she is.”

“Yeah, he will probably be thrilled to have his cat again,” Shiro said, to which Allura nodded.

Keith couldn’t help but feel like there was more to their reactions, but he dismissed the thought when his phone vibrated from an incoming message.

OMG really?! Thank god, I’ve been worried sick! When and where could I come pick her up? My schedule is flexible, so just let me know! —L

Keith typed up his next reply.

I work until late afternoon, so how about 6-6:30? As to where, I actually live in the same building as you, number 44. You can just ring my bell at any point around 6, I should definitely be home by then. —K

He started working, keeping an eye on his phone for more replies. After another short time, there came a confirmation.

Sure, sounds fine to me! And whoa, we even live on the same floor?! I’m in number 41 :o but anyway, I’ll be there! Thank you so much for taking my cat in and contacting me! —L

Keith typed a short “sure, no problem” type of message, then put his phone aside to focus on work. The more he focused, the sooner the day would end—or at least he told himself that. He was very curious about what the cute guy was like, if he’d be even cuter in person than in the picture.

That day, Keith anticipated quitting time more than on any regular day.

 

***

 

Lance was overjoyed when he received the text from an unknown number, telling him that Blue was safe and could be picked up that same day. Not long after, it made way for a mixture of surprise and disbelief.

Number 44.

Lance knew that’s where Hot Guy lived. How could it be mere coincidence, that it just so happened that Hot Guy was the one who had found Blue? This had to be some kind of fate, Lance was sure of it.

Now, he was not only giddy with excitement and relief that he would be reunited with his beloved cat soon, but he would also finally have an opportunity to talk to Hot Guy. In fact, it was inevitable! There would have to be a conversation when Lance went to his apartment to pick Blue up. And Lance already had his number now—maybe he would also be able to get his name, aside from knowing now that it started with the letter K. This was his chance to finally make a connection.

Lance found it hard to concentrate on his art today. He had to make sure that he looked his best when he went over later tonight. He should do a face mask, just to be sure, maybe have a fresh shower, and pick a good outfit that wouldn’t be over the top, but definitely leave a good impression. He really had to leave a good impression, even if he had no idea if Hot Guy was into guys or what, let alone guys like him.

Suddenly, Lance regretted that he’d been slacking off with workouts recently.

It’s not that he looked bad or like a lazy bum or anything, Lance had just always been self-conscious about how he looked to others; it was a side-effect of being trans. He would probably look a lot cooler if he worked out properly, but all he did these days was yoga to relax, and dance around his apartment and play darts when he was hit with restless energy while working.

There was also playing with Blue, but he guessed that hardly counted.

Lance wished that time would hurry up and just jump to evening. Usually, he really loved his work because it was creative and fun, but he just couldn’t wait to meet Hot Guy and have Blue back. He needed some high-energy music that would keep him occupied and focused, and that would also work well for dancing when the need for it arose. Artists like Owl City and Walk the Moon—that was exactly what he needed now.

He would work until lunchtime, then, after lunch, he would take care of making sure he was in the best state he could be on such short notice. Maybe he should also make sure to think of some cool pickup lines, though he had a feeling he would probably end up feeling shy; but still, it’s better to be prepared for all cases. He would put on his brightest smile and bring out his finger guns and take Hot Guy’s breath away, he had to tell himself it would all work out.

Despite his excitement, he managed to get the work done.

He made a quick lunch of leftovers from the previous night, fried in the pan. When he was done eating, he made some coffee to get another chunk of work done before applying a face mask and taking a nice, hot shower with one of his favorite fruity scents and coconut-vanilla shampoo and conditioner.

Finally, after doing some more designs, it was almost 6 PM.

Lance went to change out of his sweatpants and sleeveless hoodie to instead wear blue jeans and a gray t-shirt and blue plaid shirt combo. Looking into the wardrobe mirror, he made sure that his hair fell the right way before he put his phone in his pocket, put on flats in the hallway, then grabbed his keys.

The walk to number 44 was short, and Lance hesitated in front of the door for a moment. But, finally, he took a deep breath and raised his arm to press the button next to the door frame.

As the bell sounded, Lance could hear a clinking sound and muffled curse before a gravelly voice called out, “Just a moment!”

Lance felt like dying on the spot. So not only was he about to meet Hot Guy, now Lance discovered that he also had a rather attractive voice.

Lance wanted to pretend he was absolutely composed when the door opened at last, but just one look at the guy killed his cool.

It was evident that he wore his black hair slicked back and tied in a low ponytail for the office, but now, the front was messed up with gelled strands falling into his face, while in the back, his hair curled wildly above his shoulders. The first two buttons of his neat white dress shirt were undone, and his dark red and black striped tie was loose, as well. Lance had to tear his eyes away from the visibly toned chest and broad shoulders. But looking at his face wasn’t much better because the guy’s dark gray eyes were intense and seemed to shine indigo in the light.

God, Lance hoped that he wasn’t obvious with how much he was checking the guy out.

He opened his mouth, wanting to say a cool line, but instead, in an embarrassingly high-pitched voice, he said, “Hey, I’m here to pick up my cat!”

At least, his smile should be as dazzling as always.

When there was a lack of right away response, Lance realized that the guy seemed to be checking him out too. Oh no, Lance hoped the guy didn’t hate what he saw.

After another second or two, the guy’s eyes moved up to look at Lance’s face, just staring wordlessly, lips slightly parted. Lance raised an eyebrow in his nervosity, prompting the guy to say something.

Finally, the guy took the hint.

“Uh, right, yes. Sure.” He cleared his throat, though that didn’t stop his voice from being just as gravelly. “Come on in, then.”

The guy stepped back to make room for Lance to enter. Lance walked in, and he could hear the door clicking shut behind him.

He looked around.

The layout of the apartment was similar to his own, though he could already tell that it had one room more. As the guy led him into the living room, Lance observed that the furniture was of fancy minimalist style; obviously of higher price, but not too showy. The color scheme was red, black and white throughout; white walls, while the furniture was black with red accents. Lance liked it here.

He turned to the guy and asked, “Where is Blue?”

The man opened his mouth to answer, but before he could get a word out, he was interrupted by a high-pitched meow and the sound of paws pittering at high speed over the parquet floor.

Lance couldn’t stop the delighted squeal from leaving him when he saw Blue run into his line of sight.

“Blue!” He bent down so he could pick her up once she had reached him. “God, I missed you! How did you even get away?”

Blue, naturally, just stared up at him, purring.

The guy spoke up, “She was on my balcony the other night.”

“Really?” Lance raised his brows, then frowned down at Blue. “Well, if that’s the case, no more balcony for you for a while, young lady.”

The guy chuckled at that. Lance found he really liked that sound.

Lance felt the urge to introduce himself, and so he did.

“The name’s Lance, by the way,” he said. “It’s nice to meet you!”

“Nice to meet you, Lance. I’m Keith.” Keith smiled, just a tug upwards at the corner of his lips, but it was enough to make Lance’s heart stutter. “I’ve never had a cat before, but I took care of her as best as I could while she was with me. I did research and stuff to make sure I didn’t do anything wrong.”

“Oh! Right, yesterday I saw you come back from the convenience store with cat litter—now it makes sense, knowing that Blue was with you.”

“Yeah, uh, there had been an incident in the bathroom the first night, so I thought it would be best to have a makeshift litter box.” Keith pulled a hand through his hair, chuckling a little nervously. “But it’s all good, Blue was really well behaved. Actually, she was really cuddly—is she always like that?”

“Well…” Lance clicked his tongue. “She’s really friendly and certainly cuddly with me … but hearing that she’s cuddly with a stranger right away is interesting.” He tilted his head and looked at Keith. “You must have some kind of special aura or something to attract her like that.”

Keith hummed thoughtfully, and for a while, there was silence.

“So, uh…”

“Ah, you want to ask about the reward?” Lance prompted.

“Actually... I wanted to ask if I could come visit from time to time? Because I kind of… took a liking to Blue.” Keith paused. “And, well… I really wouldn’t mind getting to know you better, either.”

“O-oh.” Lance blinked. “Yeah, sure! That would be cool! I’d love to get to know you better, too!”

“Cool.” Keith smiled. “I always work until late afternoon, so for me, it’s only possible in the evening and on weekends.”

“That’s fine for me. I have a flexible schedule.”

“Great. So, uh—see you soon, then? We could stay in touch via text.”

“Sounds fantastic!”

Lance beamed.

Keith accompanied him back to the door of his apartment. “It was nice meeting you, Lance.”

“Likewise,” Lance replied when Keith opened the door for him. “I can’t wait to see you again, and thank you so much again for taking care of Blue!”

Blue mewed, making both Keith and Lance chuckle. Keith gave her a quick scratch behind the ears, then waved as Lance left.

Lance felt utterly giddy when he was back in his own apartment. Not only was Blue back and well, but now he would also get to be closer with Hot Guy—aka Keith. He couldn’t wait for their next meeting, nor their text conversations.

 

***

 

The Saturday after meeting for the first time, Keith and Lance wanted to go out for coffee together. Of course, it was just an outing to get to know each other better—not a date or anything like that. Afterward, Keith would accompany Lance to his apartment to meet Blue again.

The fact that it wasn’t a date didn’t stop Keith from being nervous, though. He wanted to impress Lance, so he needed to find an outfit that was cool.

He stood in front of his closet for non-business wear in just his boxers and socks, contemplating his options. Sure, he had a lot of similar pieces and most of them in black, gray and red, but there were different ways they could be matched up.

With his fingers, he combed through his hair that was still damp from the shower, while his gaze flickered back and forth. In the end, he decided to go for black jeans, dark gray v-neck and a casual red button-down shirt with white cuffs and collar. He’d also put on a leather belt and his favorite black fingerless gloves.

Keith got dressed and then made his way to the bathroom to dry his hair. Thanks to his position as manager, he was used to styling his hair neatly, but in his free time, he liked just letting it fall freely, combing merely his bangs into place.

He hoped that Lance would still find him attractive like that.

He hadn’t missed out on the way Lance had checked him out, and if Lance’s raised eyebrow had been any indication, Lance had noticed that Keith had checked him out, as well. That was a good sign, right? Keith hoped so. Striking a friendship would be cool already, but he sure wouldn’t mind if more would come along the way.

Checking the time, Keith noticed that he was a bit early, but he might as well already make his way to Lance’s apartment to pick him up. With that decision made, he made sure he had his wallet and phone, then put on his red sneakers and left the apartment, locking the door behind himself.

Lance’s apartment was nearer to the elevator and stairs, which is why they agreed that Keith would come to pick him up. The distance wasn’t far at all, but Keith had never really put much thought into who his neighbors were. He would never have guessed that he would find someone as cute as Lance just a few numbers over. He certainly wouldn’t have expected to meet him through an incident like Lance’s cat jumping the balconies across the building, until eventually reaching Keith’s. It almost seemed like fate, that Blue had ended up on his balcony out of the others on the floor.

Once he reached Lance’s door, Keith didn’t hesitate to ring the bell. He could hear footsteps as well as a cat’s pitter-patter from where he stood in the hallway.

Keith couldn’t hold back the chuckle when he heard Lance say in a chastising tone, “No, Blue, I’m going out now—stay put, we’ll be home later.” Accompanied by Blue’s familiar high pitched meows.

Not a moment later, the door opened and Keith stepped back to let Lance step out.

“Hi,” Lance said with a smile. “Good thing I was done early, wouldn’t want to keep you waiting.”

“That would’ve been no problem,” Keith said. He watched Lance lock up. “I don’t mind waiting. Plus, it’s my own decision I showed up early.”

“Still.” Lance put his keys away, and they started making their way to the stairs together.

Stealing a glance to the side, Keith discovered that Lance had been looking at him, too. At being caught, Lance hastily looked away, but Keith let his gaze linger just a fraction longer.

Lance looked really good in the blue t-shirt, brown vintage jacket and beige jeans he was wearing. Looking down at their feet, Keith noticed that the seams of his pants were tucked into the high-tops of his sneakers. Keith didn’t know why, but he filed that little detail away in his brain.

By the time they left the building, Lance had turned to look at Keith again.

Lance asked, “Did you have a place in mind?”

Keith replied, “I was thinking maybe that café around the block.”

“You mean the Three Mermaids ?”

“Yeah.” Keith nodded. “You know it?”

“It’s one of my favorites!” Lance said as they started walking in the right direction. “Actually, I used to work there, while I was still in uni and before I could establish myself as a freelancer.”

“Really? Huh, I don’t remember ever seeing you there.” Keith had been a customer there for ages, but he really couldn’t recall seeing Lance before. Still, though, it was nice, finding out these little things about the other.

Lance looked sheepish, even nervous, when he offered, “Oh, uh, I guess you just never showed up during my shift.”

Keith’s eyebrows creased ever so slightly. He wanted to know why Lance seemed to be nervous about this, but he wouldn’t push. Maybe sometime, he could ask if there was more to it.

They walked in a comfortable tempo until they reached the popular but cozy café with the mermaid logo and ocean-themed paintings on the walls. Keith held the door open for Lance like it had become a habit for him to do for people at work. Lance smiled and entered, and Keith followed behind.

He followed Lance to the counter and watched as Lance greeted the barista—Plaxum—cheerfully before ordering a milky coffee and a vanilla cream cheese cupcake. After Lance had paid, Keith ordered his own coffee and a chocolate-filled donut.

He tried not to feel jealous at how familiar Lance and Plaxum were chatting while the young woman prepared their orders to place them on trays. After all, they had been colleagues, and Lance seemed to be a natural when it came to social interaction. Still, it wasn’t easy for Keith, when he had always wished to be someone like that, and also because he wanted to be that close to Lance.

When both of their orders were done, Keith grabbed a packet of sugar to place next to his cup, and they walked to a corner table together. They sat down across from each other. Keith first added the sugar to his cup and stirred before taking the first sip. The coffee in this place was always excellent, which is why Keith still liked going here every now and then.

Across the table, Lance took a sip as well.

“So…” Lance started. “Your style is really different when you’re off work.”

“Well, I can’t wear those fancy suits all the time,” Keith said. “It gets boring and annoying.”

“That's a shame. Not that there’s anything wrong with your current style.” He looked down at Keith’s hand that was resting on the table. “Though… what’s with the gloves?”

“What about them?” Keith raised an eyebrow. “They’re like my trademark, you know? If I could, I’d never take them off, but apparently, they’re not proper office etiquette. Always a pain to take them off again whenever I take my motorbike to work.”

“Really? You’d never take them off?” Lance asked with cocked eyebrows. “Even when you sleep or do… other things?”

“No matter what it is,” Keith said. He couldn’t tell if that last part was supposed to be an innuendo or something. But, well, it was true—Keith would wear his gloves for anything.

“Hmmm… Interesting.”

Lance took a sip, then took a bite of his cupcake.

Keith asked, “How long has Blue been with you?”

“A year this summer,” Lance replied. “I’d been feeling really down for a while back then, and then some time after I moved into my current place… well, I thought having a pet couldn’t hurt. I’ve always loved cats, so I decided to get a kitten. Blue was still tiny when I got her.”

“I only looked after her for about two days, and I can already see why having a cat is so wonderful,” Keith said with a nod.

“Is that why you asked if you could come by for visits instead of asking for a reward?”

“Yeah, I guess. She kinda took my heart in a storm.” Keith chuckled. “Did you get better after you adopted her?”

Lance nodded.

“By then, I’d been doing fine career-wise, that’s how I was able to afford the apartment. But otherwise, I’d been struggling a lot, with feeling kinda lonely on my own, among other things. Having Blue with me helped a ton.”

Keith smiled.

“That’s good to hear.”

Lance returned the smile.

He continued, “You might have noticed in your brief time with Blue, but a cat’s purring is really therapeutic. Just feeling the soft warmth next to you is amazing, but when the cat purrs? That’s magic right there.”

“Yeah, I really noticed that, with how cuddly Blue was.” Keith thought back to how nice those cuddle-sessions had been. “I wonder if a cat could've helped me when I was younger. I was a bit of a… troublesome case.

Lance hummed. “Maybe it could’ve helped. You could still always adopt a cat now.”

“Hmm… maybe. For now, I’ll wait and see how things will go. I’m already happy knowing that I can come visit you and Blue.”

All Lance did in reply to that was smile.

Keith took a sip from his coffee and finally started eating his donut. For a while, they just sat in comfortable silence eating and drinking. Lance finished his cupcake first, and when Keith looked at his face, he noticed that there was a small blob of cream on Lance’s cheek.

“Uh, you have some cream on your cheek,” Keith said, raising his right hand to point.

“Huh? O-oh…”

Lance tried to wipe it away, but he missed.

On impulse, Keith said, “Wait, let me.” Without waiting for a reply, he reached his arm across the table to wipe it away with his thumb. Instead of removing it with a napkin, he licked the cream. “Huh. Maybe next time I should try this one, this doesn’t taste too bad.”

When Lance was oddly silent, Keith looked up to the sight of a heavily flushed face, mouth slightly open in a surprised “oh” shape.

Oh.

Looks like Keith had made a bold move without planning to. He cleared his throat. He had to try to dispel the awkward air somehow.

“Uh, anyway, now it’s gone from your face.”

Lance squeaked out, “Th-thanks.” He cleared his throat. “You know, now it would only be fair if you give me a bit from your donut, in return,” he said.

Keith looked down at his half-finished donut, then looked up at Lance.

“Sure.” He picked up the donut and held it out in front of Lance’s mouth. “Take a bite.”

“I—I was joking, you know!” Lance squeaked. “But if you insist…” He took a tentative bite.

Keith pulled his hand back and put the donut back on his plate. He took a sip of coffee; he had to hurry and finish before it got cold. He studied Lance’s face.

“How’s the taste?” he asked.

Lance finished chewing and swallowed. “Not bad,” he said. “I actually never tried this type before. Huh. Guess I missed out.”

“Not a fan of chocolate?”

“Yes, of course I am! I just have a love for vanilla, I guess.”

“We’re opposites, then. I usually go for chocolate, though I don’t have anything against vanilla."

Lance laughed.

“So, what if they were combined? That would be like the ideal Keith and Lance taste.”

Keith snorted.

“Sure, sounds ideal.”

The way Lance looked proud of himself for the idea was endearing to Keith. He couldn’t help but smile.

They finished, back to comfortable silence. They brought their trays back to the counter, then left the café. It was a pleasant afternoon, so they walked at an easygoing pace, enjoying the sunshine and gentle, warm breeze. When they reached their building, Keith let Lance lead the way, considering they were going back to Lance’s apartment.

Lance unlocked the door and stepped in, Keith followed right behind. Lance stepped next to the door so he could close it once Keith had entered, then put the keys into the inside keyhole.

Keith waited, unsure what to do next. It didn’t often happen that he visited the place of someone he was still unfamiliar with.

“You can take your shoes off here,” Lance said while he proceeded to take off his own shoes at the hall stand and shoe rack in the hallway, where he also hung up his jacket.

Keith followed suit and put his sneakers on the floor right by the shoe rack.

As he followed Lance, he looked around.

The layout seemed to be smaller than his own apartment, with one room less. When following Lance into the living room, Keith could see that the walls were painted in scenes of the beach. Keith wondered how long that must have taken.

The furniture had a vintage look, of darker woods, like in the hallway. Lance had picture frames on the wall and on shelves, along with various trinkets, but nothing seemed too much or out of place. Keith noticed that even with one room less, Lance made good use of what he had; in one corner of the living room, he had arranged a working space. In another corner, there was a cat tower with multiple layers and opportunities for Blue to hide and nap in.

“Hey, Blue, we’re home!” Lance called out.

Instantly, there was a response—Blue came racing down the hallway from where she must have been in another room. Blue came to greet Lance by rubbing against his legs. To Keith’s surprise—and, he had to admit, delight—Blue also welcomed him in the same way.

Keith chuckled. “Hello, Blue. It’s good to see you again.”

“She’s always extra-cuddly whenever I’ve gone out,” Lance explained. “Let’s sit down on the sofa and let her cuddle to her heart’s content before we try for play time.”

“Sounds good to me.”

They sat down on the sofa, a small distance apart, and Blue immediately jumped up to be in between them. She was purring up a storm and looking expectantly back and forth between them.

Both men chuckled. Lance started scratching Blue’s ear, and Keith began to pet her soft fur as well, despite still wearing his gloves. Along the cuddle-the-cat session, their fingertips touched, but neither of them pulled away. The contact made Keith’s skin tingle. Eventually, though, the moment was broken when Blue turned around to butt her head in between them, effectively breaking their fingers apart. Keith missed the feel of Lance’s skin immediately.

Lance laughed softly. He turned to Keith.

“Do you want to play with her?”

“How?” Keith asked. “I, uh, never played with Blue while she was with me.”

Lance hummed. “Well, there’s a bunch of toys to pick from,” he explained. “Like that thing that’s kinda like a fishing rod but with these fake feathers at the end, or balls, or these small fish, or mice that you throw for her. And then, of course, there’s the classic laser pointer. Any of these strike your fancy?”

Keith thought for a moment.

“Can I try with the fishing rod?”

“Sure!” Lance shot a grin. “It should be in the basket over there. You can get it, and Blue will probably come running once she realizes it’s playtime.”

“Okay.”

Keith stood and made his way to the direction Lance pointed. He looked into the basket, and once he spotted the right item, he grabbed the pole with colorful feathers attached to a string. He turned back around to the sofa in time to see Blue jump down and run over to him.

From the couch, Lance instructed, “Now hold it up over her head”—Keith raised his arm—“yes, like that. And go up and down with your arm to give her a chance to try to catch the feathers. Let her hold and bite them, or she’ll lose fun.”

Keith tried his best to follow the instructions. He waved his arm up and down above and in front of Blue’s head, watching as she wiggled her butt, preparing to pounce, then leaped forward. It caught him by surprise, stilling his movement, so when she grabbed onto the feathers, he nearly dropped the pole.

“Now try to pull it away from her, but not with too much force,” Lance said from the background.

Keith tried to comply and succeeded in pulling the pole away from Blue. The game started anew. Keith’s eyebrows drew together in focus, as he was still new to this and had to figure out how to do it right.

Lance laughed softly.

“It’s not a serious task, Keith. Try to stay relaxed, it’s supposed to be fun.”

“I am relaxed,” Keith muttered, “I just, I don’t want to mess up. I want Blue to have fun playing.”

“She’s having a lot of fun, as far as I can see,” Lance reassured him.

The next time Blue grabbed the feathers, Keith did lose hold of the pole, and it fell to the ground. As a result, Blue gave a startled meow and jumped away.

“Shit!” Keith cursed under his breath. “I’m sorry, Blue. Guess I’m really not good at this, huh?”

Lance stood from the sofa and walked up to him to put a hand on Keith’s shoulder.

“Don’t worry about it. I’ve been with Blue for months, and that still happens to me sometimes. That’s just how it is. Next time, it’ll go better.”

“You’ll let me play with her again?” Keith asked.

“Of course! Why wouldn’t I?” Lance raised an eyebrow. “She obviously likes you, and you like her as well. It’d be stupid not to let you play. It was really nice to watch, too. Usually, I don’t get to watch Blue play from the backseat like that, unless she plays on her own. But it’s just something different to watch another person play with a cat. It’s nice.”

“Do I get to watch you play with her too, then?”

“Sure, if you’re sure that it’s not boring for you.”

“We’ll see,” Keith said, though he was sure that nothing Lance could do would bore him. But he didn’t say that. Not at this point, at least, he wouldn’t say it.

“I guess for now she’s hiding for a bit, though.” Lance clicked his tongue. “I’d offer coffee, but we literally just got back from the café.” He laughed sheepishly. “So, uh, if you’d like anything else, just tell me.”

“Actually, I’ll take the coffee,” Keith said.

Lance raised an eyebrow. “Really? Even though you just had some?”

“Yeah, uh, I drink a lot of coffee in the day. Kind of comes with the job in management.” Keith laughed. “Even on the weekend, it’s just part of my rhythm.”

Lance hummed. “Hmm… Yeah, I guess. I have to admit, I’m not that much better, actually. I think I’ll have another coffee too, then, in that case.” He clapped his hands. “Let’s go to the kitchen, then? I have a little coffee bar.”

Keith raised an eyebrow.

“Do I get a private show of Lance the barista, now?”

“Maybe,” Lance said with a grin. “Now come on, or you’ll miss it.”

“Alright, alright. No need to be pushy.” Keith chuckled. He bent down to pick up the cat toy and put it back into the basket, before following Lance to the kitchen.

The kitchen, Keith observed, was similar to his own, but held in light colors, unlike his shiny black kitchen. The walls were painted in warm browns with creamy clouds, like a latte sky. Keith liked it here.

He followed Lance to the bar and took a seat on the stool on the left side. Lance did indeed have equipment that resembled the kinds present in the foodservice industry.

“I assume you want it black with just a bit of sugar again?” Lance asked.

“Yeah, I guess,” Keith replied. “Though I wouldn’t mind trying options with milk if you make them.”

Lance smiled.

“Maybe next time, then.”

“Sure.”

Keith watched as Lance first made the black coffee for Keith, then a cappuccino for himself. Warmth spread inside Keith when he saw that Lance had not only remembered how Keith usually took his coffee, from just their one visit at the café together, but also added the sugar for Keith.

Finally, Lance placed the drinks on the bar and joined on the stool to Keith’s right.

“There you go!” Lance said cheerily. “Hope you like it!”

“I’m sure I will.” Keith first breathed in the lovely scent of the freshly made drink, then took the first sip. It was fantastic. “Yep, you did a great job.”

“Heh, of course.” Lance straightened his back and puffed out his chest, looking proud. “There’s a reason why they didn’t want to let me go at the café.”

“It’s too bad I don’t remember seeing you before.”

Lance’s face fell at that, for just a moment. But then his grin was back, and he said, “Well, you know me now, and that’s what matters!”

Keith wanted to know why Lance reacted like that, but he wouldn’t push. Instead, he smiled back and said, “Yeah, and I’m glad we met.”

“Me too.”

Keith took another sip from the blue ceramic cup with a cat design. He wanted to savor the taste, because the fact that the coffee was made for him by Lance made it special in his eyes. He also liked to pretend that Lance had made it with love, no matter how self-indulgent and kitschy that was.

Lance took a sip as well.

Keith noticed that Lance’s cup was a similar design, but with a red background. That’s odd—Keith would have expected Lance to take the blue cup, and give the red one to Keith. Not that Keith minded, personally; he loved the color blue, actually. He just chose to wear mostly red, because he felt it suited and matched him best. He wondered if this was what it was like for Lance in opposite.

They sat in comfortable silence at first, until Keith spoke up. “I am curious, what exactly is your work?”

“Well, I’m a freelance artist,” Lance answered. “Somehow, I ended up sort of specializing in layouting and the media field, but I love doing illustrations and concept art as well. I can do all kinds of things.”

“Really? That sounds interesting. All I do is manage sales for Altea Motors.”

“I mean, you have a high position already at a young age, and a secure income is something, too. Meanwhile, I model as a side job.”

Lance as a model? Keith could picture it, he could picture it well. That’s why he blurted out, “Well, you have the looks for it. I’d pay to have your photo.”

In reaction, Lance nearly choked on the sip of cappuccino he had just taken. In between coughs, he said, “Oh my god, Keith, you can’t just say that, god.”

“What? I’m just saying it how it is.”

“Keith!” Lance whined. “Do you want me to combust?”

“Nah, because then I wouldn’t get to hang out with you anymore.” Keith grinned. “But seeing you flustered is fun.”

“I want you to know that if this were a text conversation, this would be where I just key smash all over the place. Because you leave me without a comeback, damn it.”

“Mission accomplished, then.”

“So you do want me to combust. You’re terrible!”

Keith burst into laughter, and Lance followed suit not a moment later.

They sat in comfortable silence for a moment, just enjoying their coffee.

Then, Lance spoke again. “I’ve been thinking about getting a kitty leash for Blue—to take her out for walks and stuff. Maybe that would be good for her.”

Keith hummed. “Sounds like an idea.”

“Yeah, that way she can get some fresh air without the risk of her getting away. Cause I’m there with her and all.” Lance paused. “Would you like to come along, too?”

Keith replied without thinking, “If it’s in the morning, the evening, or on the weekend, sure. Actually, in the morning sounds fun. Two dudes taking a cat for a walk like she’s a dog.”

Lance laughed softly. “Maybe I’ll already go buy one later, then we could start tomorrow.”

“In that case, I’ll have to re-arrange my usual schedule and have my workout at night,” Keith said.

“I should’ve guessed you work out, with those muscles of yours,” Lance observed. “Those muscles are illegal.”

Keith raised an eyebrow. “You haven’t even seen them in action.”

“I have my imagination, and that’s enough to know,” Lance said with a serious face.

“Uh-huh.” Keith kept his eyebrow raised a moment longer. He asked, “What about you? You don’t work out?”

“I used to swim,” Lance replied. “But, uh, stuff came up, so I stopped.”

Again, Keith felt like there was more to it, but he wouldn’t push if Lance wasn’t ready to talk on his own.

He blew out a breath, considering his next words. “Well, not everyone has to work out like I do. I’ve done it since I was a teen because it helps me relax and cool down. Get rid of my tension and frustration in a deliberate way, you know?”

“Hmm… makes sense.”

Back to silence, they finished their coffees. Lance placed their cups in the dishwasher, and they walked back to the living room.

Keith sat down on the sofa as Lance coaxed Blue out from her hiding place. They had another cuddle session with the cat. Lance told stories of funny and cute things Blue had done in the time she had been with Lance so far. Keith listened with a smile and laughed at all the appropriate places. Lance was smiling the whole time, as well.

When Keith left for his own apartment, he felt happy and warm.

His spacious rooms suddenly felt empty and lonely.

 

The morning after, Lance showed up as promised, holding Blue in his arms. Keith took note of the leash on Blue.

He asked Lance to come in and wait in the living room while he got dressed properly. (He had answered the door wearing nothing but sweatpants; he had been too lazy to pick a t-shirt, also because he would have lifted some weights in his personal gym-at-home if Lance hadn’t shown up right then. Keith thought he saw a blush on Lance’s face as his eyes lingered on Keith’s naked chest and stomach, his toned abs in plain sight.)

Finally, Keith was ready, and they left.

Once outside, Lance let Blue down. Blue was nervous at first, walking carefully and eyes darting around at the noises of the streets. But soon, she walked happily, eager to explore.

The two men laughed softly and fell into conversation as they walked around the block, taking turns in holding the leash.

People gave them odd looks, but they didn’t care. It was a fun, relaxed way to spend the morning. When they returned home, they made a date for walking again the next evening. Keith felt in good spirits for the rest of the day.

 

It became like a habit: walking Lance’s cat together every other day, sometimes in the morning, sometimes in the evening, and getting to know each other better along the way through easy chatter.

One time, they were out on a Sunday afternoon. The sky was mostly cloudy, but it didn’t rain. With the sun breaking through every now and then, it was still a nice day.

Suddenly, Blue meowed when they passed by an alley and wanted to walk into it. Keith and Lance looked at each other and followed her.

What they found was a ginger cat, about Blue’s size, sitting between trash cans, looking beat up and wary. Blue wanted to approach the other cat, but Lance picked her up.

“We should bring the cat to the shelter,” Lance said. “It might be a stray, or maybe a missing cat.”

“I don’t see a collar,” Keith said.

“Still,” Lance said. “Can you pick it up and carry it back home?”

“Sure.”

Keith approached the cat, slowly. It didn’t run away, but picking it up was not an easy feat, either. If Keith didn’t wear his gloves, his hands would be scratched up for sure. Somehow, they managed to make it back to their building just fine, though; the strange cat didn’t try to escape Keith’s hold.

Once at Lance’s apartment, Lance asked Keith to put it in the cat carrier while Lance removed the leash from Blue. Keith did as told. Blue kept meowing and wanting to approach the carrier, but Lance held her back, seemingly worried about a possible fight; though the strange cat seemed to be just as curious about Blue, as its posture wasn’t as wary when looking at her direction or hearing her meows.

When they finally arrived at the shelter, it turned out that the cat was a boy, about one year old, and most likely a stray.

Without thinking, Keith said, “I’ll take him.”

And so it came that Keith adopted a cat of his own.

Once the people at the shelter had assessed that the cat was good to go and had given him a bath, they were free to leave for home. Lance offered to help Keith buy toys and supplies for his new pet, and Keith agreed gratefully.

By the end of the afternoon, Keith’s apartment became a realm housing a cat. Now, he had a full stash of cat food and treats in the cabinet, proper food and water bowls, a real cat litter box, and a variety of toys. Lance helped Keith cat-proof the balcony, and they assembled the cat tower together.

“What are you gonna name him?” Lance asked.

“Red,” Keith replied after a brief moment of consideration.

It was short, but it was fitting because the cat had reddish fur—and it matched with Blue.

Lance laughed softly. “Now our cats match.”

“Yup.”

“Maybe we can have playdates with them, with how curious Blue was.”

“Sure, why not? I think Red was curious too.”

“It’s a date, then! We could start next weekend.”

Lance beamed.

Keith smiled.

“It’s a date.”

 

The next morning, Keith was tired.

Red had kept him awake a good part of the night, running around, meowing and playing. He assumed that it was because of being in a new home so suddenly, and with such different surroundings, so he couldn’t be mad at his cat. It would be unfair. Still, he was tired and felt cranky.

He really needed his morning coffee now and would drink a lot more at the office.

Speaking of, he hoped that work wouldn’t be too stressful. He didn’t know how much he could deal with when he was tired like this.

Keith had his coffee, then he blew off some steam by lifting some weights. Finally, after taking a shower, he felt a little better, though still drained. He didn’t feel up for making breakfast, so he just made a quick protein shake. That would be enough until he could buy something.

Red was now sleeping in one of the caves on the cat tower. Keith reckoned maybe he had a nocturnal rhythm going. Hopefully, that would change, for the sake of Keith’s sleep and sanity. Not that Keith could blame him, really, what with having been a stray cat until just the previous afternoon.

While getting ready for the office, Keith decided he would walk. Hopefully, that would help energize him a little, with the fresh air and everything. When he left, he made sure that no window was open and that nothing could easily be tossed off a surface, and that Red was still sleeping in the cat tower. On the walk, Keith stopped by the nearest bakery to buy a sandwich.

Once he arrived at the company, whenever he passed a colleague, they would comment on how tired he looked.

When he got to his office shared with Shiro and Allura, he said, irritation in his voice, “Please don’t comment on how tired I look.”

“Oh, Keith, you look sooo tired today,” Allura said just to annoy him.

Keith groaned.

“You really do. What’s wrong?” Shiro asked.

A sigh. “My cat kept me up all night.”

“Since when do you have a cat?” Allura wanted to know.

“Since yesterday,” Keith replied. “I can tell the story later.”

Allura sighed. “You’re right, we have to focus on work. But you better tell it at lunch.”

“Alright, alright.”

 

Somehow, with plenty of coffee, Keith made it through the morning. At lunch, he told about how he found Red, though he left out most of the details. He didn’t really feel like talking much, but Allura was eager to know, so he had to at least give the basic story.

After lunch, Keith got more coffee so he could make it through the rest of the day, as well. But some time in the early afternoon, he was met with a surprise.

Someone knocked at the door. This wasn’t too unusual, so Keith didn’t look up from his work as Allura called for them to enter.

However, that changed when the person spoke up.

“Hey, I just thought I’d drop in while I was already here for the photos.”

Keith’s head snapped up, and his jaw dropped.

There, in the door, stood Lance, looking more beautiful than ever, if that was even possible.

Before he could stop himself, Keith blurted out, “Lance? What are you doing here?”

Everyone turned to him. Lance raised an eyebrow.

“I’m here for the ads.”

“Wait—you’re advertising guy?”

“That’s a creative name.” Lance laughed. “But yes, that’s me. I’m surprised you didn’t figure it out until just now.”

“O-oh…”

Now that Lance said it, Keith really should have guessed it, after all their conversations so far. Yet somehow, he hadn’t.

Lance studied him.

“You look terrible. Let me guess—Red kept you up?”

Keith sighed. “Yeah.”

On the other end of the room, Keith could see Allura raise her eyebrows, already sensing now that Keith had left parts of the story out. Well, looks like he would have to tell more, later, after all.

Lance gave an understanding nod.

“I’m sure it will get better soon.” He glanced at Keith’s coffee cup. “Don’t drink too much coffee.”

Keith smiled faintly.

“Sure, sure.”

He took a brief break from work to listen to Lance chat with Allura. He couldn’t stop the smile from staying on his face the whole time Lance was in the office. Even when Lance left, Keith couldn’t shake the smile from his face as he turned back to work.

Suddenly, things weren’t as dreary anymore.

 

Later in the evening, Keith sat on the couch with his beer and microwaved dinner. Red was napping on the floor. Keith was taking a sip of beer when the door rang. He sighed and stood to open the door.

It was Lance, with Blue in his arms, smiling when Keith opened the door.

“Hey, sorry to drop in unannounced,” he said, “I just thought I’d check how you and Red are doing and brought Blue along while I’m at it.”

“Sure, that’s okay,” Keith said and let him in.

It was then that Keith realized that, like the first time, he had yet to actually get changed, as was usual for his evenings. Hopefully, Lance wouldn’t mind the undone tie and half-undone shirt.

When they got to the living room, Lance let Blue down. She greeted Keith with a meow and rubbing against his legs, then went to approach Red, who had woken up at the noise.

Lance pointed at Keith’s beer and dinner on the couch table.

“I’m sorry if I disturbed you.”

“It’s fine,” Keith said. “Though I hope you don’t mind if I continue with my dinner.”

“That’s perfectly fine with me, you probably need it.”

They both sat down. Keith switched off the TV, took another sip of beer, then put the can on the table again to pick up his dinner.

They sat in silence for a moment, watching as Blue shyly approached Red with soft meows, while Red didn’t make a sound, but didn’t reject her, either. Eventually, Blue curled up next to Red, and the two cats just stole glances at each other. Lance laughed softly, Keith smiled silently as he finished dinner.

Finally, when Keith set his food container down and downed the rest of his beer, Lance said, voice low, “Since you revealed earlier how you referred to me before we met… do you want to know how I called you before we met?”

“Uh, sure.”

“In my head, I called you… the hot guy,” Lance said, voice lower still.

Keith’s eyes widened. He knew that there was a mutual attraction between both of them, but he didn’t expect Lance would say something outright like that. He was trying to come up with what to say in relation, mouth opening and closing without anything coming out. Lance was just gazing at him. Keith hadn’t noticed how close they had moved. He took a breath. Lance was so close, it would be so easy to lean in and—

The moment was broken when there were meows from two cats and the sound of the toy box being tossed over.

Keith groaned. Both because he really didn’t want to have to put everything back into place, and he felt disappointed.

He was sure they had been about to kiss, and Keith really had wanted that to happen. Not just because he had been attracted to Lance from the start, but because he had become fond of the other as they had become closer. Keith wouldn’t mind if things got physical, or if they outright started dating, as long as it was also what Lance wanted. He just wanted to have something with Lance.

Lance’s gaze lingered on Keith a moment longer, and there was something—disappointment? regret?—in it, but it was gone as he turned to look at the cats. The cats were stepping through the pile of scattered toys. Lance sighed.

He turned to Keith again and suggested, “Maybe a good session of play time could help to make Red tired so he will sleep at night.”

Keith tried to suppress another groan as he said, “I don’t know if I’m up for the task right now.”

Lance smiled.

“Good thing I’m here, huh? You can just lean back and watch me play with both of them.”

He stood, not waiting for a reply.

Keith settled comfortably in the cushions and watched as Lance first put each toy back into the box, then picked up the laser pointer he had helped Keith pick. He let the small spotlight wander through the room for the cats to chase eagerly. Before he knew it, Keith was smiling, both at the cats’ enthusiastic playing and Lance’s happy face.

He felt so relaxed and content himself watching Lance and the cats that he didn’t notice the time passing. But eventually, Red and Blue were tired out, and Lance put the laser pointer away before joining Keith again. Keith smiled up at him, and Lance smiled back.

“Here’s hoping that it will help.”

“Thanks.”

The smile didn’t leave Keith’s lips.

Lance hesitated for a moment.

“I should go back home,” he said but sounded reluctant, like he rather wanted to stay.

Keith nodded. “Okay.”

He stood so he could lead Lance to the door. Lance picked Blue up, who meowed in protest but didn’t struggle. Red looked up and meowed as well, whether in protest of Blue being taken away or in farewell, Keith didn’t know.

They stood in the open doorway for a moment, both unsure what to do. Finally, Lance smiled again, though it was less bright than usual, tinted with a hint of sadness.

“I’ll see you soon?”

“Yeah, see you soon. Have a good night, Lance.”

“You too, Keith. I hope you sleep well, tonight.”

Keith smiled.

“Thanks. Hope you have sweet dreams when you sleep.”

Lance smiled and finally left. Keith waited until he was out of sight, then closed the door with a sigh.

He still had Red, and he was happy about that, no doubt. But without Lance, it felt like everything was duller.

 

***

 

Lance couldn’t stop thinking about that almost-kiss. At least, he believed they had been about to kiss.

It was clear that there was attraction on both sides. It was also clear that they had been forming a bond, were growing closer still. Was it so wrong for Lance to hope there could be room for more in addition to friendship?

Not that Lance minded what they had now; he loved bonding over Blue, and now also Red. He loved the easy, casual friendship. But he really wouldn’t say no if things got physical or, preferably, if they also started dating.

And with Keith, Lance already knew that there would be no issues with his beloved cat, quite the contrary, which was a relief.

Now all he needed was to come out, to make sure Keith would accept him as he is.

Lance frowned down at his meal.

Keith didn’t seem at all like someone who’d reject him for being trans, but Lance was still anxious. Coming out was always a challenge, a battle with nerves. With people he met face to face, it wasn’t like the internet, where he could just put it as part of his description, mention it casually, or display the flag colors somewhere. Some people just didn’t need to know, at the point he was at now. But when there was a personal connection at hand, sooner or later, he had to do it.

He would try to be casual about it, but also talk about how his transition was fairly recent. That way, more awkwardness about avoiding talk of past events could be prevented.

With a sigh, Lance shook the thoughts away. He had to focus on work.

 

An opportunity appeared a few short weeks later.

It was a rainy Saturday afternoon, so there was no chance to go for a walk with the cats. Instead, Lance went over to Keith’s place with Blue. While the cats chased small toy balls on their own, the two sat on the couch, watching them and talking.

When there was a lull in the conversation, Lance took a breath. The mood was relaxed. He could do it while he was relaxed, get it off his chest. He turned to look at Keith.

“There’s something I need to tell you.”

Keith looked at him, blinking, but attention focused on Lance, waiting for him to continue.

“I’m trans. I didn’t transition until the recent past so you couldn’t have recognized me if you saw me in the café before.” Lance took another breath. “I felt it was best to tell you soon since we’ve been growing closer and… yeah.”

For a moment, Keith didn’t say anything, waiting if Lance had more to say. Then, he smiled reassuringly and took Lance’s hand, squeezing it.

“I’m happy you trust me enough to tell me. I won’t bring up your past anymore if it makes you uncomfortable.”

Lance was thankful for the gesture, but he was burning to know if this would change anything. This whole situation would have been awkward no matter what—even more so because of the mutual attraction. It’s weird to talk about it in connection to Lance’s gender, but it had to be out in the open somehow, and this was the only way Lance could think of.

Keith seemed to sense the unspoken question, or maybe he just thought to continue speaking.

“It won’t change anything, if you’re worried about that.” He took a breath, then let it out. “I’m attracted to you no matter what.”

Lance took a shuddering breath. Hearing the words spoken out like that—that sure was different than feeling the attraction between them with each interaction. Keith’s bluntness made his head swirl.

In the end, he blurted out, “I’m attracted to you, too.”

Keith was still smiling, drawing idle circles on Lance’s hand with his thumb. He wasn’t wearing his gloves so Lance could feel the skin of his whole palm. It was rougher compared to his own smooth, well-maintained skin. Lance liked the feeling.

Their gazes were locked and they inched closer, like in slow motion.

Just as their lips were about to meet, there was a crash from the kitchen.

Keith leaned back with a groan, and Lance could see the disappointment plain on his face. Lance felt the same way. His own face probably showed it, too.

Keith stood.

“I’d better check what they were up to.”

Lance followed suit.

“I’m coming too.”

They walked together to the kitchen. As it turned out, Red had somehow managed to crash a bag of dry food from the counter, right onto the food and water dishes. Red was still sitting on the counter, looking like he did nothing wrong, while Blue was pawing at the bag.

Keith groaned again.

“I guess this is my lesson to always put things away right away.” He picked Red up and scowled. “Bad boy.”

Lance watched as Keith carried Red out into the hallway, Blue taking the hint and following. In the meantime, Lance started to clean up the mess.

When Keith came back, he said, “You didn’t have to.”

Lance finished the task, anyway.

“But I wanted to, and it’s too late to stop me.”

Keith laughed softly. “Thanks, I guess.”

Lance smiled. When he was done, he joked, “Your cat is a bad influence on my cat.”

“Sorry about that. Red isn’t always like that, I swear.”

“Shhh, it’s okay. Maybe he thinks he has to impress Blue.”

Keith laughed. “Maybe that’s it.” He paused. “While we’re already in the kitchen, want some coffee or something?”

“Sure, coffee sounds great!”

Lance smiled.

“Cool. I only have a regular fancy coffee maker though, not barista-type fancy.”

Lance snorted. “I just have those because I liked doing the job. No need to worry about quality differences or stuff like that.”

“If you say so.” Keith took two mugs from the cabinet. They were just plain black. Lance wondered if all of Keith’s ceramics were minimalist like that, like his furniture. “Is regular coffee okay? You can add milk from the fridge.”

“That’s fine.”

Keith’s lips tugged up in response before he turned for the coffee maker.

Lance watched as Keith started the machine. When it was done, Keith handed over the first cup, and Lance accepted it with a smile and a, “Thank you.” He turned to the fridge, opening to get out the milk and pouring some in his cup before putting it back.

When Keith had his own drink as well, they walked back to the living room. They sat back down on the couch. The cats were hanging out on the cat tower. The two men went back to chatting about this and that while sipping their coffee.

By the time Lance and Blue were leaving again, there hadn’t been another opportunity for a kiss. Lance was lamenting that fact, but on the other hand, he knew that it’s okay to wait for the next chance to come on its own. He would go with the flow, no matter how fast or how slow.

Keith’s hand was lingering on Lance’s shoulder a moment longer than necessary, but Lance enjoyed the contact. They both smiled as they said farewell.

The sensation of Keith’s touch stayed with Lance for the rest of the night.

 

The next day, the rain was gone, but the ground was still wet with puddles here and there. That didn’t stop Keith and Lance from going for a walk with their cats somewhere between breakfast and lunch. It didn’t matter that it might later cause dirtiness for their apartments.

Lance laughed as Blue approached a puddle full of curiosity, pawing at it and even touching her nose to it. She didn’t seem to mind the water at all. Then again, she had also always loved jumping in the bathtub, demanding Lance to let some water run for her.

Red seemed indifferent to the puddles, neither hating nor loving them. As a former stray, he was probably used to them. He didn’t seem to mind when Blue splashed water at him when he decided to take a drink from one of the puddles.

Like most of the time, they received stares from people here and there. Jeez, as if it’s that unusual to take your cat out for a walk. These people didn’t go with the times, clearly.

Lance watched as Keith patiently waited for Red to be done drinking, and for Blue to be done playing. Sometimes, Lance felt a bit guilty for making Keith stop frequently on their walks because of how the cats decided to check things out at random. Lance didn’t mind, but he knew that Keith liked it fast-paced. One time, Lance brought it up, yet Keith just smiled and said he didn’t mind. But still.

Eventually, they continued walking and reached the neighborhood playground. A couple of children were playing, but when they spotted the cats, they came running, asking if they could pet them. Blue, naturally, loved the attention and allowed the kids to pet her. Red, on the other hand, wagged his tail in warning and stepped behind Keith.

Keith smiled apologetically at the children.

“Sorry. He’s a bit shy with strangers. Maybe next time, he’ll let you pet him.”

Lance couldn’t help but smile at the way Keith said that, promising the kids a ‘next time’ instead of just leaving them to be frustrated. Then again, Blue was so enthusiastic, the children soon focused their attention on her.

Finally, they were able to coax the children away from Blue and back to their playing, so that he and Keith could continue their walk. They finished their usual round around the block, returning to their building near midday.

At Lance’s door, they said their farewells. Lance was a bit sad about that, wishing he could maybe have lunch with Keith together. But you couldn’t always have your wishes. As much as Lance would love it, they couldn’t have ‘dates’ like that all the time.

But maybe someday they could go on a real date.

 

***

 

Keith was growing tired of being interrupted and waiting for the next chance. And as much as he loved the cats, there were only so many interruptions he could take. It’s as if Red and Blue loved torturing him by butting in just when he and Lance were about to kiss.

He had to make his own chance, and it was with that resolve in mind that he made a reservation at a nice restaurant. Now he just had to ask Lance out. He didn’t pay any mind to the option that it might go wrong and Lance would say no. He was sure it would go right, and if it didn’t, well, he would cross that bridge when he gets there.

On their next cat-walk, he took the opportunity.

“Are you free Saturday night?” he asked.

“Sure!” Lance replied. “Why are you asking?”

“I was wondering if you’d like to go out with me. You know, go out to eat. Like a date.”

Keith continued walking with Red until he noticed that Lance wasn’t next to him anymore. He stopped and turned, only to find Lance several steps behind, gaping at Keith, with Blue staring at Lance with her head tilted. Red had stopped as well, and Keith fiddled with the leash, waiting for a reply.

Finally, Lance unfroze from his stupor and caught back up with Keith.

He said, “I would love that.”

They continued walking. Keith smiled.

“Cool. I, uh, made reservations already.”

“O-oh. Uh, will I need specific attire?” Lance asked.

“It’s a fancy restaurant, but you don’t have to dress up fully. Just a dress shirt and suit jacket or something will be enough.”

“Still, I don’t want to end up underdressed if you wear one of your fancy office suits.”

“I don’t think you can be underdressed next to me. It’s more likely that I’ll look pale next to you, fancy suit or not.”

“Uh-huh, sure. Says the hot guy.”

“You’re the hot one if you ask me.”

“Definitely not as hot as you.”

“Uh-huh, sure.”

Lance laughed. “I can’t believe we’re having this conversation while on a walk with our cats.”

Keith chuckled. “Sometimes it just happens that way.” After a moment of pause, he said, “Anyway, Saturday night, I’ll come pick you up around seven fifteen.”

“I’m looking forward to it.” Lance beamed.

Keith smiled in return.

“Yeah, I can’t wait either.”

 

Saturday night finally arrived. Keith was nervous and excited. He was finally going on a date with Lance, a real date. In a fancy restaurant. And Keith planned to treat Lance.

Keith adjusted his tie. Of course, he was used to wearing suits to work every day, but it was always different to wear them outside of the company. Especially when it was an occasion like this. He was pretty sure that Lance liked it when he wore suits, but still, Keith hoped Lance would like him tonight, too. And he couldn’t wait to see Lance.

He made sure that Red had enough food and water and that nothing was out in the open that Red could bump down—just in case. Once he had his necessary items, he left and locked the door, then made his way to Lance’s door. He rang the bell.

From inside, there was Blue’s meow and Lance’s voice. Keith imagined that Blue had followed him into the hallway.

“No, Blue, I told you—this is my date. You stay put. I’ll be back later,” Keith heard Lance say through the door.

Finally, Lance stepped out, smiling at Keith, and Keith took a moment to admire him thoroughly.

He was wearing a suit in light blue, with a white dress shirt and navy blue bow tie. His hair was gelled back similarly to how Keith styled his bangs for the office. In Keith’s humble opinion, Lance looked absolutely stunning.

So stunning that Keith had to tell Lance. Then, he added, “I didn’t know if flowers were proper first date etiquette, so I didn’t buy you any.”

“That’s perfectly alright, I don’t need flowers when I have your company. And you look amazing, as well.” Lance locked his door before they walked down the stairs. “Although, I feel a little out of place with my choice of color next to your classic gray-white-red combo… but this was pretty much the only option I had.”

“I don’t see anything wrong with that. You look stunning, and I only have my options from the office, as well.”

“Still… I will probably feel a little self-conscious, at least once we get to the restaurant.”

“It will be fine,” Keith reassured him. “And if anyone has a problem, that’s their issue. You’re my date, and I say you’re fantastic, so everything’s good.”

Lance only smiled in response.

They made their way to the garage. As it was Keith’s invitation, they were taking Keith’s car (an Altea car, of course). The drive was spent mostly in silence, radio aside. Keith smiled at the road when he heard Lance hum along to the music. God, he was so fond of Lance.

Keith stopped in the parking lot of a skyscraper.

They got out of the car and Keith led the way to the building, then inside to the elevator. The restaurant was located on the top floor, with a beautiful view of the city, especially around sunset, like now, and merging into the darkness of night time. Keith knew the place well since this was where they often had company dinners, but he hoped that Lance would like it, as well.

At the reception, the woman instantly greeted Keith. He was known already, after all, so he didn’t even have to say his name. They were led to their reserved table by the glass front, and Keith could hear Lance take in an awed breath. Keith smiled, taking it as a sign that it would go well.

They sat down and studied the menu before giving their orders. Along with it, Keith ordered a bottle of wine. While waiting for their meals, they started chatting about work, though Keith preferred listening to Lance talk about his projects, as he didn’t have much interesting to tell about managing.

Even as their food arrived and they started to eat, they continued to talk about this and that, anything that came to mind, things they hadn’t talked about yet like family, and stories with their shared friends.

Keith was enjoying himself so much, watching Lance speak with the city skyline lit up beneath them, that he barely noticed time passing, nor that he had finished his meal and that they had finished the wine.

He was enjoying his night with Lance so much that he didn’t want it to end.

They both decided to go for desserts to finish their time at the restaurant, just a simple serving of creme brulee for each of them. But, eventually, it came time to pay and leave. Lance didn’t argue about the bill, but he appeared flustered. Keith gave a decent tip as he always did. He noticed that Lance took a last glance out of the window before they left.

The ride home was spent much like earlier, with just the radio playing and Lance softly singing along. Keith’s heart was beating fast. He didn’t want the night to end, but could he end it with a kiss?

Much earlier than Keith would have liked, they arrived back home and made their way up to the fourth floor. When they stood at Lance’s door, they both hesitated.

Lance smiled softly.

“Thank you for tonight. I had a lot of fun.”

Keith smiled back.

“Me too. I didn’t want it to end.” He still didn’t. He hesitated. Then he thought, to hell with it. He raised a hand to cup Lance’s face, then asked, “Can I kiss you?”

Lance took in a breath and let it out in a soft laugh. “God, yes.”

Keith laughed softly, as well. Then, finally, he leaned in to kiss Lance, and Lance wrapped his arms around Keith’s neck as he eagerly kissed back. It was a clumsy kiss, but it didn’t matter—he was finally kissing Lance, and Lance was kissing him.

When they parted, Lance’s face was flushed. Keith probably looked red as well, as his face felt warm. He smiled warmly at Lance, and Lance beamed in return.

“Have a good night, Lance.”

“You too, Keith.”

Keith waited until Lance was inside, then made his way to his own apartment. He felt happy and warm all over.

 

The next week, Lance asked, “Want to go out for lunch on Saturday? There’s this place I like and want to show you.”

Keith didn’t even think before he replied, “Yeah, sure. I’d love to.”

And so, Keith found himself at Balmera, a small diner, together with Lance. Keith could see why Lance loved the place: it had a cozy, homey vibe, with paintings on the walls, colorful cushions on the seats, and small flower vases on the tables. He liked it here right away.

They walked to a table in the back, sitting down in opposite seats. Keith flipped open the menu.

“Anything you recommend here?” he asked.

“Hmm… I really love the pizzas. The hamburgers with fries are also great. Also, the milkshakes are heavenly.”

“Maybe I’ll have a burger and fries,” Keith mused.

“Hey, I was thinking the same thing!” Lance laughed. “Now we just need matching milkshakes.”

“I was thinking of getting coffee.”

“Nuh-uh, you drink too much of that stuff. And you haven’t lived until you try one of the milkshakes here.”

Keith shook his head but laughed. “Alright, fine, if you put it that way, I’ll have chocolate.”

“Cool, I’m getting strawberry.”

Lance called over the waitress, a tall young woman with large hoop earrings. She had a friendly smile and greeted them warmly before taking their orders.

“That’s Shay,” Lance said after she had left for the kitchen. “She’s a good friend of Hunk’s. If he wasn’t an engineer at Altea, he’d probably work here in the kitchen. I think he’s even helped out from time to time.”

Keith nodded along. “Yeah, that sounds like something he’d do. Sometimes he’s this close to taking over the canteen, even though he already works full-time.”

“Yeah, he’s just as passionate about cooking as he is about machines and science.”

They continued chatting about this and that all the way until Shay came back with their meals. Even when they started eating, they talked in between. Keith had just as much fun as the last time. Sure, the place was leagues different than the fancy restaurant, but the food was delicious, and the atmosphere was comfortable.

“We should go here more often,” Keith said. “If you want to, that is.”

Lance grinned. “Of course! It’s a date.”

“Don’t you mean many dates?” Keith raised an eyebrow.

“Sure, that works too.”

As they had milkshakes along with their food, they decided not to have extra desserts. When it came to paying the bill, Lance insisted on paying this time as it was his invitation. Keith didn’t argue.

After they left, they walked around the area.

They had come by foot, as the weather was sunny and warm. Keith took in the surroundings, taking note that Balmera was both close to his company and their apartment building. It would be easy to go here instead of the canteen if he took a longer lunch break at work.

Their hands kept brushing, and eventually, Keith couldn’t stop himself from linking their fingers. He was relieved when Lance neither pulled back nor said anything against holding hands.

 

It was after several more of these ‘proper’ dates to cafés and restaurants—and even more playdates with their cats—that they decided to officially be boyfriends.

 

One day at work, Allura said, “Keith, don’t forget about the three-day conference next week.”

Keith held back a groan. “I actually forgot about that.”

“Well, good thing I’m here to remind you,” Allura said. “Since you’re usually diligent, I’ll let it slide.”

“Thanks. I still need to tell Lance that I’ll be gone.”

“Awww, someone’s gonna miss his boyfriend.”

Keith huffed but didn’t deny it. Instead, he said, “He’ll have to look after Red for me, too.”

“You’re already spending time together with your cats all the time, aren’t you?” Allura asked.

“Yeah, but Red can be difficult sometimes,” Keith replied, thinking back to all the times Red had kept him awake or on his toes. Then again, it got better the more time passed. Red still liked to play-fight a lot, though. Thankfully, though, he never had any fights with Blue. Keith sure hoped it would stay that way.

“I’m sure it will be fine. Remember, Lance is good with cats.”

“I know. I guess I’m just a bit worried. I don’t want to cause Lance any trouble.”

It’s true that Keith would miss seeing Lance. But he would also miss Red. At least with Lance, they had yet to share the night together. But his cat was around at all the times he was home, and was often around on his bed when he slept at night. It would be weird now, sleeping in a hotel and not have his cat around, even though he had been used to these conferences and business trips before. At least, he thought, it was only for two nights.

That night when Keith got home, he got changed, then picked up Red from the floor. He was going over to Lance’s place to have a home-cooked dinner together.

When Lance opened for him and Keith stepped in, he could already smell the delicious scent of lasagna. Keith set Red down on the floor so he could take off his shoes. Red walked off like it was his own home, heading straight for the living room, likely to look for Blue.

Keith followed Lance into the kitchen.

“Anything I can help with?” he asked, unsure what else to do.

“You could set the table,” Lance replied.

“Sure.”

Keith set the table while Lance got the lasagna from the oven. Before Lance came to join Keith, he went to get something from the fridge. He came back with two cans, placing one down in front of Keith before he sat down in the seat across.

Looking at the can, Keith saw it was the type of beer he always bought. He raised a quizzical eyebrow.

Lance explained, “Since you always drink a can of beer after work, I thought I’d provide it for you even when you’re having dinner at my place. I even got the brand you always have.”

“You didn’t have to,” Keith said. The thought that Lance went out of his way like this just to make sure Keith would still have his evening ritual, made Keith feel warm inside.

“But I wanted to, so there.” Lance smiled. “I hope you enjoy the meal!”

Keith smiled back. “Thanks. I’m sure I will.”

When Keith took the first bite, he thought ‘enjoy’ was an understatement.

Lance’s cooking was excellent. Sure, he might not be a five-star cook, but he didn’t have to be for Keith to know that Lance’s cooking was his favorite. Just the simple fact that it was home cooked by his boyfriend, for him, was enough to make it priceless to Keith.

They spent dinner talking about their day, though Keith left out the business trip.

He knew he had to bring it up eventually, but he didn’t want to do it yet. He couldn’t remember the last time he had a dinner like this, a dinner at home. He had never had a real family, and never had someone like Lance, someone he was so close with and wanted to share his life with. He wanted to revel in it before bringing up something so serious. Even though, well—he knew that it wasn’t like it was the end of the world or anything. It was just a business trip. And yet, Keith wanted to avoid the topic for as long as he could.

After they were done eating, Lance put the leftovers in containers while Keith started doing the dishes.

They had had a small argument over this—but Keith won, arguing that since Lance was already the one cooking, Keith should be the one to take care of the cleaning. He also added that if they lived together, that’s how the tasks should be divided. This led Lance to agree with a huff and, “Well, at least we won’t have any problem dividing tasks at all if we ever move in together.”

Move in together.

Of course, they hadn’t been together for long yet, but Keith loved the sound of that. Even though he also knew that it was already nearly that way, what with living just a few doors over. It would be nice to live together in one space, the two of them and their cats. A nice, large apartment that had enough room for both their needs—Keith’s space for working out at home, and an entire room for Lance to work in rather than just a corner. Keith certainly knew they would be able to afford a luxurious apartment with his own income alone.

At home, Keith usually used the dishwasher only. He was just too tired to deal with doing it at the sink. But even this, he felt he could get used to if it was together, with Lance humming soft tunes next to him.

Without meaning to, Keith found himself lost in a fantasy of coming home from work in the evening and greeting his boyfriend with a hug from behind as he was cooking dinner. He especially loved the idea of softly kissing the skin at the back of Lance’s neck, below his hair, while holding his waist.

He only returned to the present when the plate he was drying off nearly slipped from his fingers. Thank god it didn’t. Ruining his boyfriend’s tableware sure wasn’t something he wanted to do, especially a set as beautiful as this one, with delicate cat illustrations all around it. It was so Lance—and such a contrast to Keith’s own minimalistic white set (even if it had been really expensive).

Eventually, they were sitting on the couch, watching the cats play. Keith didn’t want to leave anytime soon; he’d rather keep hugging Lance like this. They were sitting in silence for a while. Keith knew he had to bring up the conference.

“Hey, Lance.”

“Hmm?”

“So, uh, there’s this conference next week, and it goes for three days. So I’ll be gone during that time. And I’ll need someone to look after Red for me.”

“I’ll be happy to do that,” Lance said.

“Are you sure it’s not a bother?” Keith asked.

He turned to look at Lance.

“Of course it’s not a bother!” Lance turned to face him. “I already know Red, and he gets along well with Blue. I’m sure everything will be just fine.”

“I will miss you. You and the cats,” Keith said before he could stop himself.

Lance smiled softly.

“I’ll miss seeing you, too. But it’s not like you’re gone forever, right? We can still text while you’re on break and you’ll be back in no time.”

“Yeah. Of course.”

There were so many things on Keith’s mind, but he didn’t have the right words to express any of them, so he didn’t say any more. He returned Lance’s smile, and they went back to cuddling wordlessly.

But eventually, Keith had to go back over to his own apartment. They shared a soft kiss before Keith went to pick Red up, much to the cat’s protest, and with Blue mewling along. But Keith managed to carry him home.

 

The night before leaving for the conference, Keith ended up sleeping over at Lance’s place, having his suitcase all packed and with him. The initial idea had been that Red would already stay the night there so that Keith would have less stress in the morning—but then Lance had blurted out the question if Keith wanted to stay over and sleep with him.

It was strange, brushing his teeth in a bathroom that was neither his own nor in a hotel. It was so new to him, the both of them undressing together in Lance’s bedroom. It left his heart beating wildly. He caught a glimpse of the scars on Lance’s chest, caught the flustered shyness plain on his face despite showing himself so openly. Keith gave him a smile, hoping it was reassuring, hoping it held all the affection he felt for Lance.

When they slipped under the covers, they laid there facing each other for a moment before Keith hesitantly wrapped an arm around Lance. They continued to hold gazes. Keith raised one hand and gently cupped Lance’s cheek. He had always loved how Lance’s features were sharp but seemed to hold a certain softness to them. Then, of course, there was Lance’s smooth, soft skin. Keith loved feeling it underneath his fingertips.

Lance nuzzled into the touch and smiled.

“What about a good night kiss?”

Keith chuckled. “Of course. Since you’re asking so nicely.”

He leaned forward to capture Lance’s lips in a soft kiss. At least, that’s what it was supposed to be. But when Lance licked against his lips, Keith found he really couldn’t say no to that. He opened up and Lance’s tongue slipped in, eagerly exploring Keith’s mouth. Keith happily let him, until a switch flipped in his brain and he rolled them over so that Lance was on his back and Keith was on top, his tongue now pushing into Lance’s mouth, hips grinding down. Lance didn’t seem to mind the switch; his arms wrapped around Keith, one hand playing with his hair, the other feeling Keith’s muscles through his pajama top—his shoulders and back.

Keith had to smile into the kiss, despite how heated it was getting. Lance’s fixation with his muscles and hair at all times was endearing.

He badly wanted to touch Lance, but he wasn’t sure if that was okay. He had never been with anyone before Lance, so even though he had imagined getting intimate with Lance when jerking off, all he had was his instincts. Despite the innuendos here and there, though, they had never talked directly about sex and turn ons, and Keith didn’t want to overstep any boundaries right in the first night together.

Lance seemed to sense his hesitation. He separated from the kiss and looked Keith in the eyes.

“You can touch me, Keith,” he murmured. “I’d like that, actually.”

“How? Where?” Keith asked. “I, uh…” Keith cleared his throat. “I’ve never been with anyone before, so I have no idea what I’m doing.”

“It’s fine. I… I don’t have much experience with other people, either,” Lance admitted. He smiled encouragingly. “We can figure it out together.”

He let go of Keith’s hair to take one of his hands, guiding it down to his lower regions, into his pajama pants.

“Touch my clit,” Lance instructed.

Under Lance’s guidance, Keith rubbed and pushed on the sensitive area through his underwear. Keith watched as Lance closed his eyes, took in the way he reacted with soft moans and exclamations of, “Yes!” and “Like that!”

Keith wondered if there were ways to make Lance even more vocal, louder in volume, but there would still be more opportunities to explore.

Lance’s legs opened and Keith slipped in between, rubbing his growing erection against him and continuing to touch Lance. Keith didn’t mind that his dick didn’t get any attention from Lance’s hands; in this moment, what was important to him was to give pleasure to his boyfriend.

They were kissing again now, wet and open-mouthed, their sounds muffled between each other. Lance’s hand returned to Keith’s hair, tugging and lightly scratching at his scalp. Keith was surprised at his own long moan.

Lance parted from the kiss, apologetic look on his face. “Sorry. Was that… was that bad?”

“No, no,” Keith hurried to reassure. “I liked that. I really liked that.”

Lance smiled and murmured, “That’s good to know… because I really love playing with your hair.”

They went back to kissing and Lance continued to play with Keith’s hair. With each tug, Keith bucked forward, felt encouraged to rub and push harder with his fingers. Eventually, Keith came in his boxer briefs with a low groan. He continued to touch Lance until his legs trembled around him and he gave a long moan. Keith hoped this meant he had brought him to orgasm.

When they parted, they were both out of breath. They exchanged blissful, sleepy smiles.

“Let’s do this again when you’re back home,” Lance said with a lazy grin.

Keith smirked as he said, “Of course.” After a pause, he added, “If we don’t get changed, we’re gonna regret that in the morning.”

Lance shrugged. “We can deal with that tomorrow. Also that’s what the shower and fresh underwear are for.”

“I guess you’re right. I’m too lazy to get up now even if it feels gross, anyway.”

They exchanged another kiss, slow and soft this time. When they parted, they smiled fondly.

“Good night, Keith. I hope you sleep well.”

“Good night, Lance. Sweet dreams.”

When the light was off, Lance’s breathing slowly evened out, but Keith was lying awake for a while longer. Carefully, he pulled Lance closer. Their bodies fit together nicely.

Keith blew out a silent breath.

He loved this. He loved holding Lance in his arms. He loved being so close, so vulnerable and intimate around each other. He had never had anything like this before.

But so much for never having shared the bed yet. And on top of that, they had been sexual with each other for the first time.

Now, Keith knew for sure that he would have a hard time adjusting to the lonely hotel room, and even to being in his own apartment again, without Lance. He had to remind himself that it was just for two nights, then they could be together again.

Finally, Keith fell asleep when Red and Blue joined them, curling up at their feet.

 

When he woke up the next morning, Keith felt warm. He didn’t want to leave this pleasant cocoon wrapped in soft sheets and with Lance in his arms. But he knew that he had to get up eventually to prepare to travel to the conference. He knew that Lance had work to get done, as well.

Slowly, Keith opened his eyes.

Soft light was coming in through the blinds, falling on their faces. Lance’s features looked soft and peaceful. Keith smiled. He raised a hand to cup Lance’s cheek, gently rubbing his thumb over the impossibly smooth skin in slow circles. Keith couldn’t decide what he wanted to do more—memorizing Lance’s sleeping face in the morning light, or lean in to feather a gentle kiss to his forehead. Both sounded like such sweet things.

Finally, the alarm sounded and Lance let out a sleepy noise, squeezing his eyes shut further and gripping at Keith’s shirt before blinking his eyes open.

Keith smirked at him.

“Good morning, sleeping beauty,” he said.

“Morning,” Lance mumbled. He raised a hand to rub his eyes, stifling a yawn. “Did you sleep well?”

“Yeah,” Keith replied. “Yeah, not bad, I guess.”

“That’s good.” Lance smiled. “Any wishes for breakfast?”

Keith thought for a moment before he said, “Anything is good for me.”

“Alright.”

Keith watched as Lance stretched his arms before sitting up. He imitated the action.

Lance pulled back the sheets and one after the other swung his feet over the edge and on the ground. “You can take the shower first, while I make breakfast. I just need to use the toilet first.”

“If that’s okay for you,” Keith said.

He got up as well.

“Of course! You’re my boyfriend, and if we lived together, we’d be sharing the shower every day.” Lance paused for what felt like a solid minute until he backpedaled, “Uh, I mean—not—not share like that—we’d share the shower itself, because it’s the only one available and we’d take turns like that! Not that I wouldn’t mind showering together but that’s not—”

Lance was visibly flustered. Keith couldn’t help but chuckle at the display. His boyfriend was just too cute. Though the mental images weren’t what he needed right now. He shook them away by asking, “And you don’t mind cooking for me again?”

“Of course not! We both need breakfast anyway. And besides, no offense, but I know you’re not exactly the best in the kitchen.” Lance put a silky dressing gown over his pajamas while talking. He also got out fresh underwear and an ensemble of gray sweatpants and a blue t-shirt to change into later, when he took his own shower. Keith had come to learn that Lance liked wearing these clothes at home to relax, and before getting ready for the day properly. “Seriously, what do you even eat and how can you still stay so fit like that.”

“Hey, it’s not like I eat some cheap fast food, the takeout and delivery food I get is high-class.”

“Then what about the instant noodles and microwave meals in your cupboard?” Lance pointed out.

“Well, I can’t just order fancy food every time I’m hungry,” Keith countered. “Or, well, I can but you know what I mean.”

Lance opened his mouth to say something, but then he breathed a soft laugh. “Why are we even arguing about your food choices this early in the day?”

“Because we’re ridiculous?” Keith offered.

“Yeah, probably.” Lance laughed again. “Now grab your stuff while I go pee and then off to the shower you go so I can have breakfast ready by the time you’re done.”

“Alright, alright.”

Keith watched as Lance left the bedroom before he went to his suitcase to grab fresh underwear and a white t-shirt, as he often wore one underneath his white dress shirts. He wouldn’t put on his suit until it was time to leave, to ensure that it would stay neat. Not that he was a messy eater, but with these things, it was better to be safe than sorry. While waiting for the the toilet to flush and Lance’s footsteps to head for the kitchen, Keith carefully put the suit and tie on a chair for when he got finished getting ready later.

Finally, he walked to the bathroom—briefly bending down to scratch Blue’s ear as he passed her in the hallway—, closed the door behind himself and placed the clothes on the chair in the corner, then stripped down.

Once he stepped into the tub and let the water run, Keith realized that he would have to use Lance’s body wash. After his many business trips, he knew that hotels supplied everything he needed to clean his body and hair, so he never bothered to pack his own products, even if sometimes it happened that he had to suffer scents he didn’t like.

Keith sighed as the hot water washed over his skin, then reached for what he assumed was body wash (what did Lance even do with this many products in his shower?) to open it. He briefly wrinkled his nose as he held the bottle up to his face.

Usually, Keith hated perfumed products, the only types he tolerated being fresh, typically ‘manly’ scents and products for athletes. But on the other hand, he loved the way this same fruity scent smelled on Lance, so he would be fine this once.

With that in mind, he poured some of it into his hand to wash his body. When that was done, he pondered for a moment before grabbing the bottle again to wash his hair.

After rinsing his hair, Keith let the water run down on him for a little while longer, but finally, he turned it off so he could step out. He dried off, rubbing the towel through his hair several times to make sure it wouldn’t drip all over the place, then put on the red boxer briefs and white t-shirt. Before he left the bathroom, he put a small towel around his shoulders just to make sure his hair wouldn’t soak the fabric.

Finally, he went to join Lance in the kitchen.

Already in the hallway, he could smell the delicious aroma of eggs and bacon. When Keith entered, Lance was just setting the table. Lance smiled when he noticed Keith’s presence. Unlike before they got together, Lance wasn’t as visibly flustered about seeing Keith in such little clothing. Though Lance was adorable when flustered, Keith figured it was a good sign that Lance got used to the sight (though he hoped that when they got even more intimate, he would still be able to excite Lance).

When Lance sat down across from him, he was still smiling.

“I hope you like it,” he said.

Keith took a sip of coffee before he said, “Considering I loved dinner the other day, I’m sure I’ll love this too.” Then, he took a bite. “Yep. Best breakfast I ever had.”

“Jeez, you’re exaggerating.”

“Maybe I am, maybe I’m not. Either way, I’m loving it.”

“Well, I guess I did a really great job.”

They ate in silence after that, aside from the radio running softly in the background. Keith didn’t mind in the slightest. After all, he was not exactly a morning person. Still, he loved this, loved sharing the morning together with Lance. He hoped they could have many more mornings like this.

When they were done and clearing the table, Lance said, tone a mock-scolding, “Don’t even think about wanting to do the dishes. I’ll take care of that later. You have to prepare for your trip.”

“Fine.” Keith huffed. “But I insist on kissing you instead.”

Lance pretended to think before he said, “Alright. I guess that’s only fair.”

And so, they had their first kiss of the day in the middle of the kitchen.

As much as Keith would have loved to keep kissing Lance, he had to get dressed and get to the airport. As he didn’t want to inconvenience Lance with his design workload and housework, Keith called for a taxi to take him there. And, well, he thought it would probably be better to say goodbye here at home rather than at the airport, where anyone could watch. Not that Keith cared if anyone saw them, but he knew that Allura and Shiro—especially Allura—wouldn’t stop teasing him.

Keith put on his suit, making sure his tie was neatly in place. Then, he went back to the bathroom to style his hair and when he came back to the bedroom, he checked if he had everything packed before closing his suitcase.

Finally, it was time to head out. He gave both cats ear scratches, careful not to get any fur on him—white cat hair and even Red’s orange very obviously stood out on black fabric. While the cats remained curled up on the sofa, Lance accompanied Keith to the door.

For a moment, they stood there silently, looking at each other. Lance was fidgeting, biting the corner of his lip.

Finally, he breathed a sigh and said, “Have a safe trip.”

Keith inhaled and exhaled.

“Take care. Call me if something happens.”

“Can I call you if everything’s alright, too?” Lance asked, eyebrow raised.

“Yeah, of course.” Keith chuckled. “But, I mean it. If something’s wrong, call me and I’ll call back as soon as I can.”

“Well, let’s hope that I won’t need to call you except to say good night.”

“I mean, I sure wouldn’t mind getting to hear your voice in between the conference, but I guess, yeah. Let’s hope you won’t have to.”

“I’ve said it before, but I’m sure everything’s gonna be alright.”

Lance smiled.

Keith smiled back.

He hesitated, before he reached out with one hand to cup Lance’s cheek, then he leaned in to capture his lips in a kiss. He knew he couldn’t make it last as long as he would like to, but Keith hoped that it conveyed everything he felt at that moment: how fond he was of the other, how much he wished to stay and be with him.

Lance had his hands on Keith’s shoulder. After the many kisses they had shared, Keith knew that usually, Lance loved carding his hands through Keith’s hair—but this time, he must’ve held himself back so he wouldn’t ruin Keith’s carefully gelled back ponytail for his proper business appearance. Keith smiled into the kiss at the thought of how considerate and cute his boyfriend was, as well as remembering the previous night.

When they parted, they gazed at each other, smiling.

“I’m gonna miss you,” Keith murmured.

“I’m gonna miss you too,” Lance replied. “But before you know it, you’ll be back home and we’ll be all together again.”

“Yeah. You’re right. And when I’m back, we can go on walks with the cats again and play.”

“Play with the cats or in other ways?” Lance asked suggestively.

“How about first the cats, then in the bedroom?” Keith answered with a smirk.

Despite being the one who had started it, Lance’s face flushed. He let go of Keith’s shoulder and reached out to open the door, clearing his throat.

“Well, off you go, there’s a taxi coming for you. Text me when you get there safely!”

“Will do. See ya, Lance. Take care.”

“You too, Keith. See ya.”

Keith stepped out, suitcase in hand. When he started walking down the stairs, he turned back around. Lance was still standing at the open door, waiting until he was out of sight. Keith smiled and waved, waiting for Lance to smile and wave back before he finally descended.

He had only just left, but he already missed Lance.

 

That night, in his hotel suite, Keith had trouble falling asleep without the warmth of his boyfriend in his arms and the comfortable weight of the cats by his feet. The luxurious king-size bed seemed much too large and lonely on his own.

Hoping to release tension and get more tired that way, he touched himself. As he pumped his cock, he imagined all the different kinds of ways he could have sex with his boyfriend right here in the silken sheets of the hotel bed, pictured the noises Lance would make along with his own grunts.

When he finally came, it was with Lance’s name on his lips.

He stared up at the ceiling as he regained his breath. Then, he sighed into the empty room, rolled over and buried himself in the heavy blanket, hugging the spare pillow to his chest.

Keith really wished he was home.

 

The conference went as these events always did.

Sure, there was a lot of coffee and even snacks supplied by the hotel they were staying at, but all the long sitting and endless talking and listening was tiring for Keith. It was even worse than his job normally was, as in the office, at least he could stand up and walk around every so often, and wasn’t constantly surrounded by this many people at once, even if he did have to deal with customer calls.

From the outside, Keith appeared calm and collected, immersed in the topic and tasks. But those who knew him well could tell that he would rather be anywhere else—preferably out on the road with his motorbike or his car, or blowing off steam in the gym… or, Keith thought wistfully, at home with his boyfriend and their cats. Every so often, Keith found himself drifting off in his mind, wondering what Lance was doing right now, if Red was behaving well, if Blue got all the cuddles she wanted. Whenever Keith caught himself, he blinked to shake the thoughts away, hoping that no one had noticed.

The second day was especially tiring. There was a lot of non-stop discussing after lunch. When there was finally a break again in the late afternoon, Keith held back a sigh. He took out his phone, thinking he’d just browse around mindlessly to distract his mind while keeping his hands occupied.

Then he saw the notification for several missed calls from Lance and a message to call back as soon as he could.

Abruptly, Keith stood, resulting in his chair toppling over. He ignored it as well as the questioning looks from Shiro and Allura and some other attendees as he hurried out to find a secluded corner, already dialing Lance’s number and holding his phone up to his ear as he ran.

Finally, he reached the end of the hallway and thankfully, no one was around. Just when he stopped, Lance answered the phone.

“Hey, Keith,” Lance’s voice sounded in Keith’s ear.

Keith didn’t waste any time with greetings and asked, “What’s wrong? Did something happen?”

He could hear Lance take a breath before he replied in a soft voice, “We’re gonna be parents.”

“W-what?”

Keith’s mind went into overdrive. He knew that Lance could bear children, Lance had talked about that before, but—they hadn’t had proper sex yet. At least Keith thought they hadn’t gone that far yet. Did he miss something? What was going on?

“Not—I mean—the cats. The cats are gonna be parents.”

Keith let go of the breath he didn’t know he was holding.

“Oh.”

After a brief moment of silence, Lance started talking again. “Red and Blue suddenly started doing it while I was working on a design and I guess I kind of freaked out so I tried to call you. I’m sorry for making you worry.”

“Hey, it’s okay. I probably would’ve reacted like that too. And I’m sorry. This is my fault. I didn’t think about how Red could get a female cat pregnant.”

“No, it’s my fault, too. I never gave a thought to that either, and I didn’t—I didn’t notice that Blue was going into heating. I always thought I didn’t have to research into that so I thought everything was alright.”

“Looks like we both didn’t pay attention, huh?”

“Yeah. I’ve always loved cats but I never owned one before Blue, and I guess I should’ve studied more thoroughly.”

“Well, I guess now we know. We can figure out what to do later.” Just in that moment, Keith heard Coran call for him down the hallway. Keith hadn’t noticed how long the call had lasted, and break was apparently over. He sighed. “Coran’s calling that break is over, I have to get back to the conference. I’ll call back when I’m in my room later, okay?”

“Okay. Sorry for taking break away from you like that.”

“Hey, it’s okay. It was good hearing your voice. I’m just glad that nothing more serious happened.”

“Yeah, me too. I’m calmer now, too.” Lance laughed softly. Keith wished he could hear it properly, not just through the speaker. “Good luck for the rest of the conference. I’m looking forward to that call later.”

“Me too. I’ll hear you later.”

The call ended. Keith gave the briefest smile when he saw his wallpaper—a selfie of the both of them with their cats. Then, he put his phone back in his pocket and walked back to the conference room with a sigh.

When he got there, he saw that his chair was back in place. He gave an apologetic smile when he sat down.

“Sorry about that display earlier. I had to call back my boyfriend because something happened with our cats.”

“Is everything alright?” Allura asked.

“Yeah, they’re fine. They’re gonna have kittens, but they’re fine.” Keith cleared his throat. “Anyway, we’re about to continue, right?”

And with that cue, the talking started anew.

Keith tried to keep his thoughts focused on the present and not stray back to his boyfriend and their cats, and how because of a brief misunderstanding, suddenly he wondered what if he and Lance really were the ones to have children?

 

Finally, already late in the evening, the meeting was dismissed. Keith was tired, but it was etiquette that he joined his colleagues in the restaurant. As they got comfortable, Keith took a look at the menu and ordered a simple pizza, not wanting to bother with deciding on anything more fancy like he would usually do. Well, he nearly ordered a lasagna instead, purely because it reminded him of the home-cooked dinner he’d had with Lance. Then again, he would probably end up missing Lance even more because he just knew that the restaurant, in his eyes, wouldn’t compare to Lance’s cooking.

Keith tried to eat as fast as he could while remaining socially acceptable as possible. He listened to the conversations rather than contributing. He was tired. He just wanted to be alone in his room and talk to Lance, or even have a video call and be able to see Red and Blue, as well. He had a feeling that his friends could sense his eagerness to leave, because Shiro kept trying to engage him into the conversation.

At last, after what felt like much too long, Keith was able to excuse himself and head off to his room.

He locked the room behind himself and stepped inside with a sigh. Keith decided to first get changed into his sleep wear. Then, he walked into the bathroom to comb through his hair with his fingers, splash some water in his face, and brush his teeth while he was already at it.

Finally, he walked back into the bedroom and got comfortable on the armchair with his phone in hand. He put the TV on, volume low, just to have something in the background. Next, he sent a message to Lance.

Are you still awake? —K

A moment later, there was a reply.

Just did my skincare routine, but still awake! —L

Keith typed up his reply immediately.

Cool. I’m gonna call now. —K

He didn’t wait for a reply, connecting the call right away. He tapped his fingers as he listened to the tooting in his ear.

Finally, Lance’s voice sounded through the speaker. “Hey.”

“Hey,” Keith said. “How are things?”

“Fine, I guess,” Lance said with a soft laugh. “The cats finally called it a day at some point. I tried to do some research on how to take care of pregnant cats. Apparently, it’s important to give her rest especially later on, same for more food from what I found.”

“So no more walks except for Red,” Keith concluded. “But that’s good to hear.”

“Hmmm. Though we’ll have to figure out what to do with the kittens, as much as I’d love to, I don’t think we can just keep them all, depending on how many there are gonna be.”

Keith suggested, “We could ask our friends if they’re interested, or I could ask around in the company.”

“Sounds like a good plan.” There was a pause. “So how was your day?”

“Tiring.” Keith sighed. “So much talking and a room full of people. Thank god tomorrow it’s gonna be over.”

“I can imagine that it’d be hell for you, even if you have tons of coffee,” Lance said with sympathetic voice.

“You can say that again. The coffee was essential for survival.”

A soft laugh sounded through the speaker. Even though Keith couldn’t see Lance, he could just picture him smiling.

Lance said, “You can make it through tomorrow, too.”

“Yeah. Thankfully, tomorrow is shorter, too. I’ll be home by nighttime.”

“Will you go right to your place or drop by mine?” Lance asked.

“I’m not sure,” Keith said slowly.

“You’re welcome to stay over again.” Lance’s voice was so quiet Keith almost thought he had just imagined it.

And yet, Keith smiled into the empty room.

“I’d love that. Because it’s gonna be the weekend, I can take it slow. No need to change out of my pajamas when it’s just you.”

“Uh-huh.” Lance laughed again. “But speaking of, I think it’s time for sleep.”

Keith sighed. “I guess you’re right. I do have a full schedule in the morning.”

“Sleep well, then. And have a good day tomorrow.”

“You too, Lance. Have sweet dreams.”

“Good night, Keith.”

The call ended, and Keith remained sitting like this for another minute or two, gazing wistfully at his phone. Finally, though, he stood, turned off the TV, and put his phone down on the nightstand before he settled down under the covers.

That night, falling asleep was easier, just a little.

 

Despite not being a full day, the final day of the conference seemed to drag on. The flight, as well, felt like it took much longer than it actually did. But finally, Keith’s taxi stopped in front of his building. Keith paid the driver, then got out and retrieved his suitcase.

He fumbled for his keys, then made his way inside. When he reached the fourth floor, though, he stopped in front of Lance’s door and rang the bell. He didn’t have to wait long for the door to open and Lance to greet him with a beaming smile. Keith’s own lips tugged up despite how tired he felt.

“Hey,” Keith said.

“Welcome home,” Lance said.

Keith leaned in to peck a quick kiss to Lance’s lips before he walked in. He took off his shoes while Lance closed the door.

“You don’t mind if I get changed first, right?”

“I mean, I’m certainly not complaining about your suit, but I’m also not complaining about anything else you wear or don’t wear,” Lance replied with a grin.

“Uh-huh,” Keith said, amused. “Maybe I’ll go without pajamas tonight, then. Just run around in my t-shirt and underwear.”

“If that’s what you want, I won’t stop you.” Lance stopped at the kitchen door. “Anything you want? A beer? Warmed up dinner?”

“Both sound good.”

Lance smiled.

“Alright, I’m gonna take care of that while you get changed, then.”

“Thanks.”

Keith kissed Lance’s cheek before he walked off to the bedroom.

He put the suitcase down on the floor and stripped out of his suit, putting it away neatly when he was done. He thought for a moment, then he decided, heck, why not go through with it and stay in just the white t-shirt and red boxer briefs? He had done the same the morning before leaving for the conference, Lance had said he didn’t mind, and Keith did it at home every so often, too.

With that decision made, Keith left for the kitchen. When he got there, Lance was just getting a container of food from the microwave. A closer look when Lance took off the lid revealed that it was soup with mixed vegetables. It smelled good.

Keith sat down at the table as he watched Lance fill the soup into a bowl. He smiled when Lance joined him with the bowl and a spoon.

“Thanks,” Keith said.

“My pleasure,” Lance said with a smile. “I hope you like it.”

“If it tastes anything like it smells, it’s gonna be fantastic,” Keith said and without waiting any longer, he took the spoon and started to dig in.

“Do you want your beer already now or wait? Fresh from the fridge or should I get it out now?” Lance asked.

Keith replied, “You can get it out already, but I’m gonna finish the soup first.”

“Sure.”

While Lance went to retrieve the beer, Keith continued eating.

After a moment, he asked, “Where are Red and Blue?”

“Last I saw them, they were sleeping in the living room,” Lance replied.

Keith joked, “I’m offended they didn’t come to greet me.”

Lance raised an eyebrow. “Maybe they’re offended that you didn’t come to greet them.”

“Touché.”

Lance started laughing, and Keith joined in. Eventually, Lance started talking about things that happened while Keith was away, about his projects and more things the cats did. Keith listened intently while finishing his soup and, soon after, drinking his beer.

Eventually, they moved to the living room. Keith finally greeted the cats—of course with plenty of ear-scratches and with Blue rubbing his leg extensively—before they sat down on the couch. They were sitting comfortably, leaning into each other with their arms wrapped around the other. They had the TV running at first, some random show without really watching. Soon, the cats joined them, draping over their legs and wanting to be cuddled, and eventually, Lance switched off the TV.

They were sitting in silence, until Lance said, “You know, since our cats are gonna have kittens, we should do the responsible thing. They should get married.”

Lance’s tone was lighthearted, but with an air of played-seriousness. Indulging him, prompting him to go on, Keith said, “Uh-huh.”

“I could make a small veil for Blue, and a black bowtie to attach to Red’s collar,” Lance continued. “We’d hold a ceremony for them, maybe with our friends there. We’d take some pictures, then we’d all have food while the cats do what they always do.”

“Sounds like you thought a lot about this. You have an entire plan.”

“I may or may not have thought a lot about it.”

Keith turned to look at Lance’s face, taking in his expression, how it was obvious that despite how silly or ridiculous it might seem, this was something that would bring Lance joy. Finally, Keith shrugged.

“Sure, why not?”

The bright grin he got in response was worth it. And hey, who knew, maybe Keith would end up getting really into it when it happened, too?

 

~~~

 

As the weeks passed, not much changed.

Blue didn’t show obvious signs of being different during pregnancy, but both Lance and Keith treated her with extra care, worried of hurting her. Playtime with the cats was cut down to when Keith was alone with Red in his own apartment. During that time, Red was also the only one to go on walks with.

Sometimes, they had sleepovers over the weekend at Lance’s place, where they explored each other’s bodies before falling asleep in loving embrace. Keith would have loved if Lance stayed at his place instead from time to time, but because of Blue, that wish had to be postponed for now.

One Saturday afternoon, Lance and Keith had invited their close friends to Lance’s place for “The big cat wedding,” as Lance had dubbed it. Pidge pretended to be a flower maiden, while Allura played the role of officiating the ceremony.

Behind the cats—Blue in a tiny veil, while Red had a black bowtie attached to his dark red collar—stood Lance and Keith. Lance made a huge show of being a proud parent, dramatically shedding a tear, while Keith tried to remain serious; not an easy feat with his boyfriend being ridiculous right next to him.

Shiro and Hunk took photos and when it was all done, they sat down having snacks and talking while the cats ran off to hide somewhere.

“Any clue when it’s gonna happen?” Allura asked.

“According to what I found out and doing the math, it could be anytime in the next two weeks,” Lance replied.

“Are you sure that you doing the math is a good idea?” Keith teased. “You should leave it to Pidge.”

Lance stuck his tongue out at him, which only led Keith to smirk more.

“Anyway, it’s a good thing I’m working from home,” Lance said. “I can keep an eye on Blue that way.”

“No way to know how many kittens it’s gonna be, right?” Pidge asked.

“Nope, that’s gonna be a surprise.”

“I wouldn’t mind taking one,” Pidge said. “A girl would be sweet, if there’s any girls in the bunch.”

“I’d take one too,” Hunk added.

“I’d love to have one, but I have to see first if it works out with my mice,” Allura said.

“I already have Blackie, so I’m not sure I could take a kitten in,” Shiro said.

Lance assured, “That’s fine. We have to see first how many there’re gonna be, anyway.”

Keith took a sip of coffee before he commented, “Knowing my luck, it’ll probably happen while I’m at the office.”

“But look at the bright side, you’ll be able to come home to cute kittens.”

“I guess that’s true.” Keith looked at Lance. “Are you gonna tell me if it happens while I’m out, or are you gonna keep it a surprise?”

“I figured I’d tell you,” Lance replied. “I need somewhere to let the excitement out, after all. What better way than spamming my boyfriend with messages?” He grinned.

Keith smiled. “Of course.”

 

Finally, one warm summer day, Keith was having lunch when he received an excited text.

The kittens are coming!!

The afternoon couldn’t end soon enough but finally, after what felt like an eternity, Keith could leave work and drive home. He didn’t waste much time, ringing at Lance’s door right away.

When Lance opened the door for him, Keith only leaned in for the briefest kiss in greeting before he walked to the living room, where he knew Lance had prepared a cozy box for Blue to give birth in.

The sight was heartwarming. Blue, happily purring in the box, while four tiny, tiny kittens sucked at her. He couldn’t help the warm smile from spreading on his lips.

Lance stepped next to him, an equal smile on his face and audible in his voice as he said, “It’s the cutest thing in the world, right? Wait until you hear their tiny little voices. I was barely able to work the whole time.”

“I can imagine,” Keith said. “It was already hard enough for me to get through the afternoon, and I hadn’t even seen them yet.”

They sat down on the floor next to the box, watching the kittens, while Blue blinked up at them contentedly.

After a moment, Keith asked, “Will it still be good to bring Red over for visits?”

“I think so,” Lance replied. “I mean, if we lived together, he would be around, too.”

“You’re right. If something were to happen, I’d just take him home again.” Keith paused. “Tomorrow, then?”

“Sure.”

At some point, Lance left to heat up some leftover noodles in the microwave. They stayed like this for a while, having dinner on the floor while watching the cats, even if all the kittens did was drink and sleep in a pile, nestled up to their mother. It sounds boring, but it was fascinating and magical.

Eventually, though, Keith had to go home to his own apartment; he had to take care of Red, after all. When he got home, he greeted Red, refilled the food and water dishes, then he got changed out of his suit into gym shorts and a tank top, as it was still warm.

Keith decided to have some play time with Red. He went for the laser pointer, letting the dot of light dance all over the empty spaces of the living room for Red to chase, the way he had watched Lance do with both of their cats, so many weeks ago.

He played until Red was tired out. Strangely enough, watching the cat play made Keith want to work out himself. And so, he hit the treadmill while blasting music from the stereo. He ran until his muscles felt comfortably sore, had a protein shake, then took a quick shower to rinse off the sweat before getting ready for bed.

Finally, he fell asleep wishing that Lance was here, and looking forward to seeing the kittens again.

 

The next evening after work, Keith went home to get changed into more comfortable clothes and picked up Red to go to Lance’s place. When Lance opened the door for him, Keith walked in and set Red down before giving Lance the obligatory kiss of greeting (which, this time, ended up being a bit longer than planned).

By the time they entered the living room, Red was already there, sitting by the box, sniffing curiously. When they walked up to the cats, Red turned to look up at them with a look as if to say, “I dare you to do anything funny,” while Blue was purring away, grooming her kittens.

Lance laughed softly while Keith gave a smile of his own, and they walked up to join them. This time, Keith noted, Lance had prepared pillows for them to sit on.

“Did you have dinner yet?” Lance asked.

“No, I thought I’d come here sooner rather than later,” Keith replied.

“You should’ve told me,” Lance scolded. “I could have already tossed noodles into the pan to fry them.”

“You don’t have to, but if you’re offering…”

“Oh I am absolutely offering and I wouldn’t have taken no for an answer, anyway,” Lance said, already rising again to head to the kitchen.

Keith remained seated, watching Blue and the kittens, and watching Red watch them, as well. He chuckled and reached out to scratch Red’s head. Red didn’t turn to look at him, but he could feel the faint purring on his fingertips, so he knew that Red enjoyed it.

After a short while, Lance returned with two plates that he set down on the coffee table.

“Let’s sit on the sofa to eat this time. Don’t wanna end up having Red be all over our dinner,” he explained.

“Good call,” Keith said and stood so he could join Lance.

They ate in silence, the kittens’ soft mewling their only background sound. Once again, Keith found himself wishing this was his constant reality, that he could always come home to Lance without eventually having to go back to his own, empty apartment.

For some time, Keith had had the urge to speak up about it, to ask if Lance would like to find a nice, big apartment together. But he always held himself back. What if Lance didn’t want to move in together? What if it was still too early to think about taking that step? They had only been together for about three months, but Keith just… knew. He knew that he wanted to spend his life with Lance—or however long Lance wanted to be with him. Though, he tried to keep that little voice in his head at bay. He knew that not everyone was out to abandon him in the end. He knew that eventually, he would find someone who would stay by his side. He had to listen to the other voice, his gut instinct, telling him that Lance could be the one.

And yet, Keith remained silent about the topic, not knowing how to bring it up.

Keith didn’t know how long he was sitting like this. It felt like just a short second to him, so when he suddenly heard Lance’s voice and saw a hand waving in front of his face, he was taken by surprise. He turned to face Lance, blinking at him. Lance’s features were drawn in a worried frown.

“Everything okay?” Lance asked. “I’ve been trying to get your attention for a bit now and you were just sitting there staring into space with your fork half raised.”

Keith hadn’t noticed that he had been in the middle of taking a bite when he spaced out. That could’ve ended badly. He let his hand sink and cleared his throat.

“Yeah, I’m okay. Just, uh, spaced out I guess. Had some stuff on my mind.”

“Wanna talk about it?” Lance offered. “You don’t have to, of course, but I’m here to listen if it’d help you.”

“I’m not sure,” Keith started. Now would be an opportunity to bring it up, but would it be a good one? He had to test the waters. “For the past two months, I’ve had these… fantasies.”

“Fantasies?” Lance raised an eyebrow. “You mean like…?”

“No,” Keith said. “Well, I mean, I definitely have those too, but I’m talking about something else. It’s… kind of domestic fantasies?” He took a breath to gather his thoughts. “Like… waking up together, having breakfast together, me coming home from work while you’re cooking and I’d hug you from behind and kiss your neck, then doing the dishes together, going to sleep together, and the cats with us the whole time… that kind of thing.”

“Oh,” Lance said. “We’ve done some of these already.”

“I know, but… I just keep thinking about how nice it would be if we lived together. Whenever I go back to my own apartment, it feels empty and lonely.”

“It does sound nice. Living together.”

“You wouldn’t mind it?”

“Hell no, I wouldn’t. I mean, we also made remarks like that before, didn’t we?”

“We could have a nice, big apartment, with several rooms. Enough space that you could have a proper office to work in, and for all our other needs,” Keith said softly. “Money wouldn’t be an issue. I can cover most of the cost.”

“Maybe when the kittens are old enough and found new homes, we can look into it.”

“You’re right. The kittens are first.”

Still, it was a relief, knowing that Lance wanted to move in together too, someday. Even if it was still a couple of months before they’d make plans, that was all Keith needed right now. Knowing that he wasn’t alone in his wishes.

They finished eating, back to comfortable silence. They put the dishes away, then went back to the cushions on the floor, talking while watching the cats, until it was time for Keith and Red to go back home.

That night, Keith nestled himself into the covers knowing that one day, he’d be able to fall asleep with Lance in his arms every night.

 

A short time after the kittens were born, their friends came over to Lance’s place again to meet them. There was much cooing. Everyone crowded around the box, their faces looking as if they had had too much sugar as they looked down at Blue and the kittens, while the mother cat purred away as always. Keith stood in the background with amusement, wondering that if Red was there, he would be grumpy with everyone’s presence so near the cat family.

Pidge and Hunk called dibs on the tabbies, while Allura liked the one white kitten. Shiro didn’t express an interest, though like the others, he smiled happily down at the box.

 

Watching the kittens grow was a great joy. Time seemed to pass like a blur and before Keith knew it, they opened their eyes, took their first clumsy steps in Lance’s apartment, and were taught how to fight and hunt (with what was available when there was no real prey).

Of course, Keith had to work for most of the time, but Lance enthusiastically recorded videos and took pictures, sometimes sending them to Keith during the day if he couldn’t wait to show them. It wasn’t rare during those weeks for Keith to smile down at his screen, and then showing the video to all his colleagues, whether they wanted to see or not.

Much too soon, they were old enough to leave the nest, and Pidge, Hunk and Allura prepared their places to take in their new furry friends. Keith was there when they came to pick them up, and he would later deny it, but there were wistful tears prickling at the corner of his eyes. He knew that he would still be able to visit them, but somehow, it felt like part of his family was leaving.

Keith and Lance had decided to keep the black and white kitten. He was staying with Lance for the time being, until they moved in together.

Things started to go back to normal, after that. They had appointments to get Red and Blue neutered. Keith insisted to at least pay part of the surgery for Blue, to take responsibility for his part of the incident happening. They had playdates with their cats as usual, though it felt a little weird without each of the tiny ones, and soon could go on walks with both of them again, Little Black eventually being introduced to the outdoors as well.

Because they had been so preoccupied with Blue’s pregnancy and later the kittens, they had barely found the time to go on dates. All they’d done was go to the convenience store together to buy supplies, and sometimes make a brief trip to the Three Mermaids or the Balmera for a change of scenery and to socialize with acquaintances while having fantastic coffee and delicious snacks.

Finally, Keith’s fingers were itching again for a real date and so, much like for their first date, he made a reservation before asking Lance. Luckily, Lance didn’t say no. They went to the same restaurant they had gone to all those months ago, as it was so familiar to Keith, and Lance had liked it there. It was a clear autumn night, with a full moon in the sky while the city’s skyline was lit brightly below them.

When they had their wine, while still waiting for their main course to be served, Keith spoke up. There were two things on his mind.

“Do you remember the conversation we had when the kittens were born?”

“We had a lot of conversations,” Lance pointed out with a small smile. “But I’m guessing you mean the one about moving together?”

Keith nodded. “I kinda… started looking already and found some nice options we could look at together.”

“Did you call for appointments already like you do for our dates?” Lance asked, a hint of teasing in his voice.

Keith shook his head. “No, for this I wanted to hear your okay first.”

Lance didn’t say anything at first. It was then that their food was served. Finally, when the waiter had left, Lance said, “You have my okay, then.”

“Really?”

Lance nodded with a smile. “It would be nice, looking at apartments together. If we find a nice one and can score it, that would be even nicer.”

Keith breathed a relieved laugh. “I’m pretty sure none of them would reject me.”

“Whatever.” Lance took a bite. “They’re pet-friendly, right?”

“Of course.”

“Just making sure. Anything else of note?”

“They’re in a nice neighborhood, have plenty of space, and either balconies or roof terraces. Some are high up. All are high-class.”

“Sounds fancy.”

“I mean, it’s expected with my job that I’d have an apartment like that, I just didn’t go that far yet. And you deserve fancy things.”

“Aw, how sweet.”

“There's another thing, but maybe we should wait a little to get to that.”

Lance raised an eyebrow. “You're gonna make me die from curiosity if you don't tell me.”

“I guess I could tell you, but I can’t give it yet,” Keith said. “Since we’ve been together for six months now…”

“You remembered?” Lance asked with a smile.

“Of course! That's why I picked today for our date.”

“I’ve been wondering about that, but I thought maybe it's just coincidence so I didn't say anything.”

“You need to give me more credit, I can be very romantic and attentive.” Keith huffed.

“I know, I know, jeez. You're extremely attentive, in truth. And I love it.”

Keith tried to hold back a smile.

“Anyway, I got you a surprise, but maybe we should wait until we’re done.”

“You're killing me with the suspense! Let me at least do some guesses. It's not a ring, is it?”

“Nope, though that would have been tempting. It's similar, though.”

“So it's not a ring, but some kind of jewelry?” Lance asked. “I can't come up with more guesses, so I guess now I'll die until you show me.”

Keith chuckled. “Don't be so dramatic. Let's just eat, okay?”

Fine,” Lance said with a pout, but it was visible that it was just for play.

They continued to talk while eating, just idle chatter broken up by moments of comfortable silence. When they finished, they ordered gelato for dessert.

Now that the table was cleared again, Keith reached into his pocket to pull out a small, flat box with a jewelry shop logo. He handed it over to Lance and watched as he opened it carefully. When the delicate silver bracelet with two tiny gemstones—ruby and sapphire—was revealed, there was a small gasp. Keith took that as a good sign.

“It’s beautiful,” Lance murmured. “And it’s for me?”

Keith nodded. “That’s why I gave it to you.”

Lance smiled. “It’s beautiful. Thank you.”

A smile spread on Keith’s face as he watched Lance put it on.

He pulled out another box and said, “I got a matching one for me. Well, almost matching. It’s a black leather cord instead of silver, but the same gemstones.” He opened the box, revealing the bracelet, and mirrored Lance, putting it on.

What Keith didn’t say: the bracelets weren’t just for their 6-months anniversary. They were a symbol that they were connected, that they belonged together, that they would share many more moments. The two matching gemstones were a symbol for that. Judging by Lance’s smile, and the aura he radiated, Keith had a feeling that maybe the message came across nonetheless.

As they ate their gelato, Keith couldn’t take his eyes away from Lance, even less than before. The way the soft candle light of their table seemed to dance on his skin, the way he smiled brighter and more beautiful than the moon and the skyline combined, the way the bracelet gleamed on his wrist, the silver in contrast on his brown skin.

Attraction and affection had morphed into something more, something hard to grasp but so warm and marvelous, warming him to the core and spreading throughout each fiber of his body. It made him feel like he was bathed in soft light, banishing the darkness he had known all his life. Keith had never thought that he could find love like this, but this, the word ‘love,’ was the only way he could think of to describe the feeling.

Keith knew he never wanted to let go of Lance.

Later that night, Lance laid back in the sheets while Keith worshipped his entire body, kissing every inch and stroking him gently before giving pleasure with his lips and tongue. He didn’t stop until Lance was a shivering, moaning mess, face full of bliss. Lance then returned the favor by sucking him off slowly and deliberately, while Keith continued to give vocal praise.

As they fell asleep, Keith kissed the skin by Lance’s ear and whispered, “I love you.”

Lance squeezed Keith’s hand and whispered back, “I love you too.”

 

The following weeks were spent looking at apartments in the evenings and on the weekends. They were certainly nice, and Keith knew what it was like to stay in a high-class apartment like this from visiting Allura or Shiro and even crashing at their places before, but it had to be perfect. It had to fit all the criteria, but also feel right, feel like they could call it home.

Finally, they found one they liked: an apartment at the top of a tower with generous space spread over two levels, with high windows giving plenty of natural light for Lance to work in, and a balcony as well as a rooftop terrace. There were five rooms, meaning that next to their bedroom and living room, they could have a workout and hobby room, an office, as well as a guest room.

Keith couldn’t wait to move in after the turn of the new year.

They spent the holidays together at Keith’s apartment, while New Year’s Eve was spent at the Altea company party. For the first time, Keith had someone to share a kiss with for the new year. It was nice.

Before they started to move their things, Lance spent an entire weekend painting the walls in their new apartment. He kept it a secret, but when Keith finally got to see his work, he was in awe.

It was similar to how Lance’s apartment was painted, with different motifs and scenery for each room. Keith noted that the kitchen—a latte sky—and bathroom—like an underwater world—were very similar to Lance’s place. The living room was a clear blue sky with soft clouds, while the office was a dreamy sunrise, the workout room a sunset, and the guest room pastel gradients. Keith loved them all, but his favorite part was their bedroom: a beautiful galaxy, with small glow-in-the-dark effects throughout. It was stunning. Keith couldn’t wait to live in these works of art every day.

They had decided to keep most of their furniture, even if it might’ve seemed a little mismatched, which meant they could avoid bickering over what to buy. What they bought new, though, was a bed: a queen-size bed so they could share comfortably.

Finally, the time had come: all their things had been moved and arranged, and most of the boxes unpacked. While the cats discovered their new spaces, Keith and Lance had some coffee. It was a cold winter day, but that didn’t stop them from enjoying the afternoon on the balcony; wrapped up in blankets and snuggling close, delicious hot drinks in their hands, gazing out at the horizon and down at the city stretched out beneath them. Keith found that like this, his favorite drink tasted even better. He looked forward to more moments like this throughout the seasons.

Later that night, they christened their new bed.

Over time, they had stopped bothering to change into sleep wear when they spent the night together. This time, they stripped down completely before settling down in the sheets, kissing and hands starting to roam. Lance was stroking Keith’s dick, as if coaxing it to grow hard. Meanwhile, Keith’s finger found Lance’s clit.

Lance spread his legs with a moan and Keith’s fingers wandering downwards, finding the entrance between Lance’s folds. Keith’s finger slipped inside Lance’s vagina. Already, there was wetness.

Keith had fingered him before, but that’s as far as penetration went, aside from eating him out. So far, they had enjoyed other options—getting each other off with their hands and lips and tongue alone. Sometimes, Keith was wearing fingerless leather gloves when he touched Lance, true to the conversation they had at their first ‘date’ in the café, so long go. It turned out that Lance indeed had a glove kink, so it became a regular treat.

While he often pictured other options as well, Keith was fine with this. He wanted Lance to be comfortable above all else, so he never brought up the topic of penetrating with his cock, or even buying a strap-on if that's what Lance wanted to try. Keith would be fine with anything and everything Lance liked, so he waited for Lance to voice his wishes.

They continued to kiss open-mouthed while touching each other, sounds muffled between their lips. Keith added a second finger, pushing in and out while rubbing his clit with his thumb. Lance moaned and pulled away from the kiss.

“Keith, I… I want you to fuck me,” Lance said.

“You mean…? Are you sure?”

Lance nodded and looked Keith in the eyes before he murmured, “I want to feel you inside of me.”

“If that’s what you wish, yes, of course.”

Keith reached for the bedside table. They had lube and condoms, to be prepared for any situations. It had been Keith who had bought them. He grabbed for the box first, fumbling for a condom packet. When he had fished it out, he hesitated for a moment.

“Should I get the lube, too?” he asked.

“I’m… I’m not sure,” Lance replied sheepishly. “I never… I never went farther than fingers, and never had a proper toy either so I’m not sure how lubricated I am for something that big, after hormones.”

“We’ll go for the lube, then,” Keith concluded. “Better to be over-prepared.”

Lance laughed softly while Keith got to work on rolling the condom over his cock, then lubing up.

“Once again, you’re so attentive,” Lance said softly. “What did I do to deserve always being spoiled like this?”

“You’re here with me. That’s all the reason I need,” Keith gave back in a murmur.

When Keith was ready, Lance settled back in the sheets, leaning comfortably against the pillow. Keith settled between his spread legs, aligning himself with Lance’s entrance. He had his hands on either side of Lance and sought for eye contact.

“Are you really sure?” he asked. “Are you ready?”

With one hand, Lance sought for Keith’s hand, their fingers intertwining. With his other hand, he reached out to tug a stray strand of hair behind Keith’s ear, then cupped his face gently. Keith leaned into the touch.

With a smile, Lance whispered, “Yes. I love you, Keith. I trust you. I want you.”

Keith smiled back and whispered, “I love you too, Lance. And I want you, as well.”

He leaned forward to press a brief kiss on Lance’s still smiling lips before finally, he pushed in, slowly. Lance moaned at the stretch, eyes falling shut, his hand now moving to grab at Keith’s shoulder. Keith stilled his movement to let Lance adjust. He feathered a kiss to Lance’s lips and squeezed Lance’s fingers of their joined hands beside his head. Lance squeezed  back.

Lance opened his eyes again and with a smile, whispered, “Move.”

And so, Keith did, but his tempo remained slow. While in some of his fantasies, he fucked Lance roughly while Lance begged for it, tonight, their first time like this, he wanted to make love beneath the glow-in-the-dark stars of the galaxy that was their bedroom. Savor it slowly as their bodies were joined together. Judging by Lance’s soft smiles throughout, he wanted this, as well.

They continued to hold hands and kissed softly as Keith pushed in and out. While Keith liked it when Lance was vocal in bed, he also loved the softer sounds he was making now. He wanted to drink them all in, commit them to memory, treasure them. Sometimes, he faintly wondered what Lance thought about his own grunts and groans. Keith hadn’t asked before.

As much as Keith tried to make it last, eventually, Keith came at a deep thrust. His low groan was stifled as he deepened the kiss. Lance squeezed his hand, the other gripping at Keith’s shoulder. His legs trembled around Keith.

They remained like this, kissing and holding hands, until their orgasms subsided. When Keith was spent, he pulled out and pulled away to marvel at the sight of Lance below him: brown skin glistening with sweat, hair tousled, lips curled up in a blissful smile, love shining in his eyes. He was always the most beautiful man in Keith’s eyes, but especially in this moment.

He leaned in again, feathering a kiss to Lance’s forehead.

“I’ll be back in a moment,” Keith murmured.

He rolled off the condom and tied it before standing to toss it away. He checked to see if the door was open a crack so that Red, Blue and Little Black could slip in when they wanted.

Finally, he joined Lance on the bed again, leaning over him for a kiss, then pulling the blanket over them both. Lance giggled when Keith wrapped his arms around him, pulling him close and kissing his face.

“You’re always so cuddly,” Lance whispered, still giggly with affection.

“Is that a bad thing?” Keith asked, raising an eyebrow.

Lance looked up at him, grinning and replied, “Nope. I love it.” He leaned in for a kiss. “The spooning, any other sleepy cuddles, post-sex cuddles… I love them all.” A pause for another kiss. “Actually, I’d really love those post-sex cuddles right now.”

“Well, then…” Keith peppered more kisses all over Lance’s face and softly stroked down Lance’s back, feeling the soft skin beneath his fingertips, until he reached his waist. He let his hands rest there, massaging Lance’s lower back gently. “Let me deliver more of that, then.”

Lance kissed the side of Keith’s neck. Keith could feel the smile on his lips against his skin. He kissed up to Keith’s ear.

“I love you, Keith,” Lance whispered.

“I love you, Lance,” Keith whispered back. He kissed the side of Lance’s head. “So much. You have no idea how much.”

“I have a pretty good idea with how much you spoiled me again.” Another smile against his skin. “Though I also very much love you .”

Keith smiled, as well. He continued to softly massage Lance’s back.

“I bet I love you more, though.”

“Are you sure?” Lance asked. There was a challenge in his voice.

“Yeah. I’m sure. I’ve never loved anyone before. Never loved anyone as much as I love you.”

“I’ve never loved anyone like this, either. And I’m still sure I love you more.”

“Well, I’m still sure I love you most.”

“Are we seriously having this argument after we just had some really amazing sex?”

“Looks like it. Guess we really are this ridiculous.”

Lance broke into giggles. Keith soon joined in.

“Seriously, I love you so much.”

“I love you too. So much.”

Lance snuggled close to Keith, holding onto him. Keith held him closer still.

After a moment, Keith reluctantly said, “As much as I love cuddling like this, we should go use the bathroom and have a shower, though. And get clean sheets.”

Lance made a whiny noise before he asked, “Can we shower together, though? And do we have to get dressed when we’re done?”

“I mean, I’m definitely not gonna say no to either of that.”

“Good. So we’re doing both.” Lance looked up at him with a mischievous grin. “And you take care of the sheets.”

“Alright, alright, jeez. You’re a spoiled prince.” Despite his words, Keith couldn’t hold back the soft laughter, nor his fond smile. He really was gone for his boyfriend.

“You love it. You love me,” Lance said, still grinning, now played innocent.

“Yeah, I can’t argue against that. You’re my spoiled prince and I love you.”

Keith laughed at Lance’s suddenly flustered noises of protest because, “That’s not how to play it, Keith.” He would never get tired of making Lance flustered.

He kissed Lance’s forehead before he said, “Come on, let’s get cleaned up. Or do I have to carry you?”

“I mean, if you’re already offering…”

“Alright, then.” Keith didn’t lose much time to pull Lance securely into his arms as he sat up, then stood, carrying Lance bridal style. “Like that?”

Jesus, you’re so strong,” Lance breathed. “You definitely have to make full use of that the next time we have sex.”

“Oh? Is that the kind of thing you fantasized about my muscles being in use this entire time?” Keith asked, raising an eyebrow.

“...yes.”

“Interesting.”

Keith carried Lance to the bathroom—avoiding a sneak attack from Red and Little Black on the way—where they took turns using the toilet before getting into the shower. The shower took them longer than usual because they kept sneaking touches, and Lance insisted on washing his hair properly even if he stole Keith’s body wash. The whole time, he complained about how Keith’s hair is always so perfect despite the fact he only ever uses 2-in-1 shower and hair products. Keith just let him complain with an amused smile because it was a known fact that Lance really loved Keith’s hair.

When they were done, they dried off—without getting dressed—and returned to their bedroom. Keith changed the sheets while Lance watched from the armchair in the corner. But finally, they were back in bed, tucked in comfortably and holding each other.

Keith had always loved being so close to Lance, right from the first night they had shared together. He really loved the feeling of their bare skin against each other, their entire bodies touching. He revelled in this feeling of closeness, hoping for this to happen again and again, night after night, morning for morning.

They fell asleep blissfully, full of love. The first morning in their new bed, as well, was to continue in bliss.

 

Usually, Keith struggled adjusting to change. But when it came to his life together with Lance, in their shared apartment, it came easy to him. Maybe it was because he had yearned for it for months, maybe it was because it was just so easy with Lance, or maybe because he had his cats, he couldn’t tell.

Everything else stayed the same. Lance continued working as a freelance designer, sometimes doing photoshoots as a model for Altea Motors and other local companies. Keith continued being Altea Motor’s sales manager like before, though he received a pay-raise thanks to the great successes of the company.

All of Keith’s fantasies came true—the domestic kind and others alike, and it was hard to tell for him which type was his favorite.

They continued to go on regular walks with their cats, glad that their new neighborhood wasn’t in an area with too much terrible traffic, and that there was a park nearby. They didn’t care if anyone gave them weird looks. The kids hanging around on the playground in the park were always delighted to meet the cats, and even Red slowly started to get used to the attention and would accept ear scratches from the children.

Valentine’s day was celebrated with a bouquet of roses given to each other by both of them, and a date to watch a play in the theater in the evening. Sure, it wasn’t a traditional fancy date, but it was still an excuse to dress fancy, and they were sitting in fancy seats too. The performance was great, so they had a really nice evening. They decided to go out like this more often in the future.

With their one year anniversary coming closer, they started talking about more serious things, like how Lance had always wanted to have a family of his own. Keith, as well, had secretly wished to have a family one day, though he had kept quiet about that wish through the years, convinced that it would never be possible. But now that he had found Lance, he felt like it could come true. Having each other and their three cats was already sweet, but having children would make the picture perfect.

Lance confessed that he wished to conceive children of his own rather than adopt, so they decided that eventually, they would try to go for it and let nature do its course.

Another thing on Keith’s mind was how he wanted to take the next step—that is, propose to Lance. He spent his time after work and during lunch break looking at window displays of jewelry shops, scoping out if there was anything meeting his standards. He asked his friends for advice, making them swear to keep it a secret. Eventually, he found a ring that really caught his eye: a delicate silver band with three subtle gemstones, amethyst surrounded by ruby and sapphire. It was perfect.

He didn’t make the purchase until close to the date, knowing that he had to keep it a secret from Lance while he wasn’t the greatest at lying.

As the day of their anniversary fell in the middle of the week, they decided to spend the night at home rather than go out. Lance prepared a candle-light dinner at the small dining table on their terrace for the time Keith came home and they dressed up fancy just to keep up the illusion.

Even if it was at home, this dinner date went much like their other dates, in a relaxed atmosphere. In Keith’s eyes, it was a nice change to pretend a fancy date in the comfort of their own home, with the gentle breeze around them and Lance’s cooking making it special.

The whole time, the small box containing the ring weighed heavily in his pocket, reminding him of what he was planning. Chickening out was not an option, hell no, especially because Keith was not one to accept defeat. Still, he was nervous, anticipating Lance’s reaction to when he popped the question.

After finishing their dinner, they carried everything inside, but decided they would go outside again to sit together on the sofa, enjoying the fresh but still warm spring air. That’s when Keith decided, now was the right time.

He waited until they were sitting comfortably for a moment, before he said, “Hey, Lance?”

“Hmm?”

“Remember the conversation we had half a year ago?”

“We had many conversations,” Lance said. “How about you jog my memory?”

“Gladly. I’m talking about when I gave you the matching bracelet.”

“What about it?”

“Well… I have another surprise.” Keith stood, then turned so he could go down on one knee in front of Lance, and pulled out the box. He looked up in his boyfriend’s wide eyes and asked, “Lance, will you marry me?”

Keith was prepared for anything; for waiting a while for a reply, for a cheesy comeback, for (his favorite) a very flustered Lance barely being able to get out his “Yes,” even—god forbid—the chance that Lance would say “No.” But he wasn’t prepared for what happened.

He had barely finished the question when Lance gasped, falling forward to wrap his arms around Keith’s neck, and say “Yes” over and over in a teary voice. Keith couldn’t stop the happy laughter from escaping him, though tears pricked in his own eyes.

Finally, Lance let go of him so that Keith could put the ring on his finger and join him on the couch again.

They shared a loving kiss beneath the moonlight, full of joy about their new title: fiancés.

 

~~~

 

About a year after their engagement, Keith was on another business trip.

Sure, there had been more trips and conferences in the time since then. But like the first time, with each new trip, Keith couldn’t wait to be back home with his boyfriend—now husband—and their cats.

This time, Keith was in another country halfway across the globe, so while he would fly back tomorrow, it would still be some time till he was reunited with Lance, taking the long distance into account. He couldn’t wait to be back home, for another reason as well.

Just before Keith had to leave, Lance had started to be really sick, throwing up frequently. Keith had been all ready to ditch the trip and stay home with his husband to take care of him, but Lance had convinced him that he would be fine and Keith really had to focus on his job. Still, that didn’t stop Keith from worrying the whole time and sending concerned messages whenever he could, making sure that Lance was fine, telling him to get rest and see the doctor if it didn’t get better.

There was a break between a session of talks in the afternoon. Keith pulled out his phone. There was a missed call and a message from Lance.

Call me back when you can.

Immediately, Keith stood and walked out of the room to find a secluded corner, not paying any mind to the looks he received. At least, unlike at the conference that seemed so long ago, he didn’t cause his chair to topple over. He had learned to try to remain calm on the outside, even if his worry was spiking to hell inside.

It was still morning over there, so he wondered what could be the matter. He hoped Lance didn’t get worse.

Finally, he came to a halt and hit the call button.

Listening to the toot-toot in his ear felt like it dragged on for forever, but finally, Lance answered.

“Hey, darling,” he greeted.

Keith relaxed at hearing his voice. He sounded just like always, even though he spoke softly.

“What’s wrong, babe?” Keith asked. “Did something happen? Are you alright?”

“I’m fine,” Lance replied. Keith could hear a smile in his voice. “I was at the doctor’s, and I would’ve waited to tell you until you’re back home, but since you’ve been so worried…” He trailed off and paused. The silence seemed to drag on forever. Keith didn’t dare breathe. Finally, Lance continued, voice softer still but smile still audible, “We’re gonna be parents.”

“W-what?” Keith asked, stunned. He knew for a fact that it couldn’t be Blue this time. He also knew for a fact that in the past year, he had penetrated Lance plenty of times, had come inside of him nearly as many times, as they had stopped using condoms long ago in their attempts to have children. And yet, it took him a moment to process Lance’s words. “You mean…?”

“Yes. I’m pregnant, Keith.”

The words finally hit him. He laughed, a breathy sound. He felt light and happy. If he had been with Lance, he would have had to repress the urge to pick Lance up and spin him around.

“That’s—wow. That’s amazing,” he finally managed to say. “Fantastic news. The best I’ve ever heard.”

He could hear a soft laugh through the speaker. The sound made Keith’s smile grow ever brighter.

“Yeah. After all this time, it finally worked out,” Lance said. “I still can’t believe it.”

“I can’t wait to be back home,” Keith said. “You’ll let me stroke and kiss all over your belly, right?”

Lance laughed again as he replied, “Should’ve known that you wouldn’t pass by an opportunity like that. We’re lucky that your urge to worship my body matches up with my praise kink. Of course I’ll let you do all of that to your heart’s content.”

Keith grinned.

“Match made in heaven. Perfect. I can’t wait to worship every inch.” He glanced towards the end of the hallway, seeing others stream back into the room. A look at his watch told him it was about to resume. “I have to go back. We can talk again later tonight. Well, tonight for me. Take care, okay? I love you, babe.”

“Of course. Love you, darling. Don’t drink too much coffee.”

Keith chuckled. With a final “I love you”—just because he could—he ended the call and walked back. The bright grin never left his face even as he sat back down at the table.

Everyone gave him looks of curiosity. Most of the people present were either colleagues-slash-friends from Altea Motors, or close business partners that could almost be called friends. Either way, Keith couldn’t have held back his excitement over the news.

He cleared his throat.

“A call from my husband,” he explained. “We’re gonna be parents. He just got the news earlier that he’s pregnant.”

There was a chorus of “Congratulations,” and smiling faces at the news.

Even if the talking would continue for another while and the next morning, he had to get through a long flight until he was finally back home, Keith could make it through the remaining time with a light feeling, a surge of new energy.

He couldn’t wait to be back home with the cats, his husband, and their unborn child, growing in his husband’s belly.

What they had thought had been a strange coincidence so many months ago, had led to their greatest happiness.