Chapter 1: Boxes
Lance | Saturday, June 1
“Welp, that’s the last of the stuff!” says Hunk, dumping a stack of boxes on Lance and Keith’s new living room floor and brushing off his hands.
“Thanks buddy!” Lance says, giving his best friend an enthusiastic high five and then turning to look over his shoulder, “How goes the unpacking, guys?”
“Poorly,” Keith responds as he viciously slices open a taped-up box of kitchen utensils.
Pidge is glowering at a tower of DVDs, “Lance, how is your media collection supposed to be organized? I’ve been trying to parse your system for the past 15 minutes, and I’m as confused as I was when I started.”
“Oh, they’re organized by how much I like them!” Lance responds matter-of-factly.
Pidge groans, “I’m alphabetizing them.”
“What? No!” Lance dives at her, knocking most of the DVDs askew in the process.
“Great, now they’re even less organized than before,” Keith says flatly.
At that moment, the doorbell rings and Lance shoots upright, “I’ll get it!” He glances back down at Pidge, “If you alphabetize anything while I’m getting pizza, I swear to god…”
“Don’t worry, I’ll keep an eye on the situation!” Hunk assures him.
When Lance returns with a stack of pizzas, all three of his friends are hard at work alphabetizing his media collection.
“You had one task!” Lance screeches.
“Sorry buddy, Pidge was more compelling,” Hunk says with a shrug.
“Your organization system sucks,” Keith says bluntly.
“See if I ever invite you people into my home again!” Lance huffs as he steps around them to get to the kitchen.
“Unfortunately for you, I live here,” Keith points out.
“I’m living with a traitor!” Lance wails melodramatically, putting the back of his hand on his forehead after setting the pizzas down on the card table in the kitchen.
“I’m just so happy for you two!” says Hunk, suddenly teary with emotion, “Moving in together is such an important step in your relationship!”
Lance immediately snaps out of his melodramatic tirade and grins widely, “I know, right? I’m so psyched! College degree? Check! Steady job? Check! Finally living with the love of my life? Check check check!”
“I’m proud of you, man,” Hunk gives Lance’s back a hearty pat that almost knocks him over.
“Lance, you work at Lush,” says Pidge, less impressed than Hunk, “That’s not even related to your degree.”
“Hey, it’s a good job,” Lance shoots her an indignant look, “At least I have a degree.”
“I can’t get my degree in less than four years,” retorts Pidge, “Believe me, I checked. Unfortunately, several of the required courses conflict with each other and have to be taken during separate semesters.”
Lance fully expects his boyfriend to pipe up with some defensive remark about why he’s taking an extra year to get his degree, but Keith remains silent. Huh, that’s weird.
“Okay, let’s eat some pizza!” announces Hunk impatiently.
“Pizza time!” Lance echoes and sets to work opening the pizza boxes, “A large Hawaiian for the big guy, a small cheeseless basil atrocity for the world’s pickiest gremlin aaand a large every-pepper-on-the-menu pizza for me and Keith.” He gestures theatrically at the food and they all dig in.
Keith just seems to get quieter and surlier as the night wears on. Lance masks his concern with jokes and enthusiasm, but eventually Hunk and Pidge head home and Lance is left alone with his thoughts… and his puzzlingly sullen boyfriend. Who he now lives with.
Holy crow. This is actually happening. This is… kind of a big deal.
He wonders if Keith is as nervous as he is. Maybe that’s why he’s been so quiet? Maybe he should go talk to him...
It’s worth a try, anyways. Puffing up his chest with every ounce of courage he has, Lance struts over to the bedroom and looks in at Keith. He’s about to say something deep and sentimental, but then he sees Keith stuffing clothes into the plastic drawers he uses as a dresser and blurts out, “Wow Keith, does your entire wardrobe seriously fit in three tiny plastic drawers? We gotta take you shopping, my dude!”
“I have plenty of clothes,” Keith responds dryly, not even glancing at Lance.
Lance immediately realizes his mistake and tries desperately to pull his foot out of his mouth, “Sorry babe, I’m just… actually, I’m really nervous. About all,” he gestures vaguely, “this. Y’know? Please tell me you’re nervous, too, because that was really embarrassing to admit.”
“Oh,” Keith says. He stops loading clothes into his makeshift dresser, but he still doesn’t turn to face Lance.
“Oh?” Lance repeats, freaking out a little internally.
What on Earth is ‘oh’ supposed to mean?!
“I didn’t realize… I thought you were…” Keith stammers, “I thought I was the only one.”
Lance relaxes a little, “What? No!” He strides over and takes a seat beside his boyfriend on the floor, “Who wouldn’t be nervous right now?”
“Really?” asks Keith, finally turning to look at Lance.
“Yeah, babe,” Lance says, reaching an arm out to pull his boyfriend closer, “We’re like… living together now. That’s a big freaking deal!”
“You think Shiro and Matt are this nervous?” Keith wonders aloud, resting his head on Lance’s shoulder.
Lance laughs, “Probably!”
Matt | Sunday, June 2
Matt rolls over onto Shiro’s chest as morning light filters through the bedroom—their bedroom—window. “G’morning,” he says, smiling down at his partner’s barely-awake face.
Shiro smiles back up at him, stretching the scar across the bridge of his nose. Propping himself up slightly using his left elbow, he lifts his head for a kiss. Matt meets him halfway, parting his lips slightly to deepen the kiss. A tingle of electricity runs through his hips as he presses into Shiro.
The kiss is sleepy and short-lived, though. After a few breathless seconds, Shiro flops backwards and Matt goes back to resting his chin on his chest.
“This is nice,” Matt muses, “Being able to wake up to each other like this again. All the time. I’m excited. Are you excited?”
“Hmm, yeah,” Shiro says. The fondness in his voice is mingled with uncertainty.
Matt frowns a little, “Everything okay?”
“Yeah,” Shiro says “Yeah, I’m just… nervous, I guess. I’ll be fine.”
“Nervous about what?” Matt asks, suddenly feeling a bit anxious himself.
“I’m not sure, honestly,” Shiro admits, “I’m… glad you’re here. I’m glad we’re doing this. But I’m nervous.” He reaches his hand up to pet Matt’s hair as he talks.
“Nervous about moving in together?” asks Matt, trying to keep a level head, “It’s not like this is the first time we’ve lived together. It’s not even the first time we’ve shared a bed.”
Shiro had stayed with the Holt family for the better part of a year after the plane crash. They’d set up the sofa bed for him to stay on, but he abandoned it almost as soon as Matt was out of his leg cast. It’s just easier to sleep in the same bed when you’re both being wracked by nightmares. Especially when half the nightmares are about losing each other.
Shiro hums contemplatively, “This just feels different, I guess.”
Matt’s heart is beating in his throat, now, making it very difficult to mask the anxiety on his face, “How?”
“We’re older. We’re not in your family’s house. We’re…” Shiro pauses, “Together.”
After almost ten years of being best friends, it’s proven a challenge to update how they refer to their relationship. Somehow, ‘best friends’ still seems to fit better than anything else. Because that’s what they are at the end of the day: best friends.
Which is why Matt suspects there might be something more to Shiro’s anxiety.
“Hey,” Matt reaches out a hand and rests it against Shiro’s cheek, “We’ve been through way bigger stuff than this. We’ll be okay.”
Shiro gives Matt a warm smile, “You have a point, there.” He still sounds uncertain, though.
“Are you sure you’re not worried about something else?” Matt suggests cautiously.
Shiro scrunches up his face to think for a moment, then sighs, “Y’know… I might be.”
“Any idea what it might be?” asks Matt.
They lay in silence for a bit before Shiro finally speaks up, his voice quiet, “I worry about Keith, sometimes.”
“I know,” Matt gently headbutts his companion’s chin.
Shiro wraps his arm firmly around Matt’s torso, “It’s harder to protect him when he’s not right here in the same house.”
“It’ll be okay,” Matt assures him, “He lives walking distance from us and has a key to your apartment. He’s probably gonna barge into your… uh, our living room all the time.”
Shiro laughs a little, “You’re right. I’m sure he’ll be fine. And he’s got Lance there with him. Lance is a good kid.”
“They’re all good kids,” Matt agrees, “Keith and Pidge and Lance and Hunk. They’re a quality group of kids.”
“They are,” Shiro murmurs into Matt’s hair. A moment later, he sighs, “I miss him.”
“I know you do,” Matt whispers back.
Chapter 2: Robots Don't Bleed
Content Warnings: Cursing, self-harm, blood, vomit mention, mental illness in general is a major theme
Shiro | Thursday, June 6
Lance (7:57pm): Shiro my man, you there?
Lance (7:59pm): I could use some advice when you get the chance
Lance (8:09pm): Actually, maybe you should get back to me like… now
Lance (8:12pm): FUCK
Lance (8:12pm): Uh so acytually this might be an emergency so
Lance (8:13pm): Text me the fuck back???
Lance (8:15pm): It’s Keith-related, if that makes a difference to you
Lance (8:16pm): fuck fuck fCUK
Shiro (8:17pm): Oh god
Shiro (8:17pm): What happened?
Shiro (8:17pm): Are you at home? Should I come over?
Lance (8:18pm): uh YES
Lance (8:18pm): Keith locked himself in the bedroom and wont answrr
Lance (8:18pm): idk why???? Or if he’s okay???
Shiro (8:19pm): Okay. Okay, I’m coming over. Hang on.
Lance (8:19pm): we were just talking I thought?? And he like FLPPED OUT outta nowhere
Lance (8:19pm): okay pls get here soom
Apparently Matt spotted the worry on Shiro’s face, because he frowns and rests a couple fingertips on his partner’s shoulder, “Shiro? You okay?”
“I gotta go check on Keith,” Shiro says urgently, resting his hand on Matt’s for a couple seconds before standing up from the couch and making his way to the front door, “I’m not sure when I’ll get back, but I’ll text you when I get a chance.”
“You want me to come with?” asks Matt, preparing to stand up.
Shiro shakes his head, “I’ve got it.” Then he ducks out of the house and sprints the two blocks to Keith and Lance’s new apartment. He’s sweaty and out of breath by the time he knocks on their door, but he pushes himself to stand up straight and steady his breathing.
He’s on autopilot. The same kind of autopilot he used to get through his four years in the military.
It can’t hurt if you don’t feel anything.
Lance answers the door almost immediately, “Shiro! C’mere.” He ushers Shiro down the short hallway, towards his and Keith’s shared bedroom. He knocks a couple times and calls through the closed door, “Keith, your brother’s here!”
Shiro nudges Lance aside and raps the hard plastic knuckles of his right hand against the door, “Keith?”
Still no response.
“Keith, if you don’t answer me I’m coming in,” Shiro says, vaguely aware of how eerily calm his voice must sound to Lance.
“Sorry, I owe you a new door,” Shiro murmurs to Lance before bracing himself and slamming through the door, ripping it halfway off its hinges and splintering the doorframe. He doesn’t pay attention to Lance’s reaction, just scans the room for his brother.
Keith is in the corner, sitting with his knees pulled up to his chest. His arms are caked with partially-dried blood from dozens of fresh horizontal gashes. He’s motionless aside from the Swiss army knife that he’s twirling calmly in his hands, his eyes fixed blankly on the lazy movements.
“Keith. Hey,” Shiro says, calm and gentle as he stoops down beside his brother. He wraps his arms around him and pulls his limp body close, tenderly plucking the knife out of his hands. “Hey,” he presses his cheek against the side of his brother’s head, “I’m here. I’m here.”
Lance | Thursday, June 6
The first thing Lance notices is that his boyfriend is bleeding. A lot. Like… not enough to be dangerous. But definitely enough to be alarming. Lance isn’t an idiot. He’s seen the scars on Keith’s shoulders. He knows where they came from. But this is… a lot.
The second thing Lance notices is that Shiro is the one comforting Keith. Again. As always. Figures. He feels a wave of anger rise in his gut, but he pushes is down.
Okay. Blood. Keith is bleeding. How can he help?
He fumbles for words, but all that comes out is a small, “Shiro…?”
Wow, way to go Lance. Very eloquent. You’re the most helpful boyfriend on the planet.
“What kind of first aid supplies do you have, Lance?” Shiro asks calmly, “Could you bring me a wet washcloth and some antibiotic ointment if you have any?”
How the heck is Shiro so chill in this situation?
“Uh, sure,” says Lance. He wobbles to the bathroom and returns couple minutes later with a wet washcloth and an ancient, mostly-empty tube of triple antibiotic ointment.
“Thanks Lance,” says Shiro, taking the washcloth and looking down at Keith, “Hey buddy, I’m gonna get you cleaned up, okay?”
Keith doesn’t respond, but Shiro sets to work wiping the blood off his arms anyways. Lance cringes as he watches, but Keith’s blank expression remains unchanged.
What if I’m dating a robot? What if Shiro is a robot, too? Maybe that’s why he’s not freaking out.
Except robots don’t bleed, Lance remembers with wince.
He sighs and sits down on the bed as Shiro finishes cleaning Keith’s wounds and sets to work applying the antibiotic ointment. Robotic or not, there’s something tender about the way Shiro handles his brother. Anger resurfaces in Lance’s gut and he feels his face grow warm. He crosses his arms and taps his foot, trying to contain his rising frustration.
Shiro seems oblivious to Lance’s dilemma, though. Once he finishes treating Keith’s wounds, he adjusts his brother’s position and looks him in the eye (as best he can when Keith’s eyes are still fixed on some invisible point in the distance). “Keith,” he says calmly, “Do you need to go to the hospital?”
“You can nod or shake your head,” Shiro says, then repeats, “Do we need to take you to the hospital?”
We! Lance wonders if that includes him.
Keith shakes his head.
Shiro nods seriously, then asks, “Are you in danger?”
Keith shakes his head again.
“Is Lance in danger?”
Keith shakes his head a bit more emphatically this time, and Shiro pulls him back into a hug.
Is Lance in danger? Why would he be in danger? Does Shiro know something Lance doesn’t? His foot taps faster.
After a moment, Shiro whispers, “Okay. We’re not done talking about this, but I’ll let you rest for tonight. I’m gonna go talk to Lance now.”
Keith nods and pulls away slowly.
Lance perks up as Shiro stands.
“Let’s go to the living room,” Shiro instructs, gently but firmly.
Lance glances back at Keith, concern plastered across his face.
“He’ll be okay,” Shiro assures him, “C’mon.”
Lance frowns but complies, following Shiro out to the living room.
Shiro takes a deep breath and faces Lance, “Would you mind telling me what set him off?”
Shiro’s tone is so devoid of emotion that Lance isn’t sure if this is a question or an accusation. So he responds defensively, “Uh, I don’t know? Remember? I texted you that?”
“Okay, okay,” Shiro says calmly, “Why don’t we walk through what lead up to the meltdown? What were you two talking about before this happened?”
Lance wracks his brain, “Uh… We started out talking about how nice it is to live together. Keith actually started it. I was makin’ rice and beans, and he started talking about how nice it is to have dinner together every night. Then I mentioned that I miss Hunk’s cooking, and we talked about visiting Hunk and Pidge, and then he said we need to visit you, too, and I agreed and mentioned that you’re probably… super happy to be living with Matt now… and…” he stops when he sees Shiro’s expression flicker. Lance isn’t sure what it is—fear? guilt?—but it certainly seems to disprove his robot theory.
Shiro doesn’t speak. Just sets his expression back to neutral and makes a small, thoughtful humming sound.
“…oh,” Lance says after a few moments.
Shiro gathers himself together and says seriously, “You know not to take what happened tonight personally, right?”
Lance stands up tall, “Yeah, of course! Why would I take it personally?”
(Why wouldn’t he take it personally?)
“Okay,” says Shiro, sounding a little uncertain, “You gonna be alright here tonight?”
“I got this!” Lance says, bravado suddenly pumping through his veins, “I’ve been dating Keith for almost two and a half years. I know Keith freak-outs like the back of my hand.” He casually inspects the back of his hand to illustrate his point, but internally he’s practically screaming.
(What if Keith was lying about being okay? What if he runs away? What if he hurts himself? Like… really, really hurts himself?)
Shiro raises a worried eyebrow, “Okay. If you need any help, I have my phone volume turned all the way up so you can get ahold of me.”
“Don’t worry, I got this,” Lance says with a smug grin, “Lancelot is on the job!”
Shiro puts a firm hand on his shoulder and forces a small smile, “I think Keith would prefer just regular old Lance, tonight.” Then he turns and heads for the front door.
Just before Shiro reaches the door, Lance squeaks out, “Uh, Shiro?”
“What do you do when stuff like this happens?”
The corner of Shiro’s mouth twitches up in a sad but genuine smile, “Be patient. Be gentle, but don’t take any of his nonsense. Follow your instincts. Like you said, you’ve been handling Keith freak-outs for almost two and a half years. It’s harder when you’re living together, but it’s the same thing. You’re the same people. You’ll get through it.”
“Okay, cool!” Lance gives Shiro a double thumbs up before he disappears out the door, “I can do that! No prob, Bob!”
After Shiro is gone, though, Lance’s shoulders droop. “Follow my instincts?” he mutters under his breath, “How is that even real advice? Geeze.”
But he sighs, straightening his back and making his way back to the bedroom, where he finds Keith, now sitting on their bed in pajamas. The still-visible cuts all over Keith’s arms send a pang through Lance’s heart, but he pushes that away and strolls over to the bed to sit down beside his boyfriend. “Hey babe. You okay?”
“Don’t feel like talking, tonight,” Keith says flatly.
“O-oh, uh… cool cool. I’ll just… you want me to sleep in the living room and give you some space?” Lance says, trying not to sound as crestfallen as he feels.
“Nah,” Keith shakes his head and stretches out his arms towards Lance, “Come sleep.”
Lance relaxes a little as he flicks off the light and crawls into bed with Keith, not bothering to change into his own pajamas or go through his usual skincare routine. As soon as they’re horizontal, Keith curls up with his head under Lance’s chin, pressing his forehead to the taller boy’s chest. Lance drapes an arm over him and kisses the top of his head, “G’night Keith.”
Keith is asleep in a matter of minutes. Lance has no such luck. He sighs into Keith’s hair and settles in for a long night of restless thoughts and uncomfortable pants.
Matt | Thursday, June 6
Matt wakes up to the sound of retching coming from the bathroom.
Matt sits up and fumbles for his glasses, but by the time he finds them he hears the sound of running water followed by the click of a door opening, so he decides to stay put. A moment later, Shiro drags himself into the bedroom, stopping to set something small and heavy on the bedside table before slumping into bed… or more accurately, onto Matt, who falls backwards onto his pillows under the weight of his much-larger companion.
“You didn’t text,” Matt whispers, running his fingers through Shiro’s damp hair, “I was worried.”
Shiro opens his mouth like he’s about to issue some kind of explanation or apology, but all that comes out is a strangled sob. He buries his face in Matt’s chest and grips desperately at his Star Wars pajama shirt. Matt holds him close as his body quakes with silent sobs.
It’s been a while since I’ve seen you like this, buddy.
But it’s hardly the first time. There aren’t many people Shiro trusts enough to fall apart in front of, but Matt is one of them.
After a while, Shiro’s tears subside into ragged breathing and his grip on Matt’s shirt loosens. Matt whispers “hey, come up here” and helps his companion into a more comfortable position: wrapped around Matt with his chin resting against his shoulder. “So, what happened? Is Keith okay?” Matt asks softly.
Shiro takes a deep breath, “He locked himself in his room, hurt himself pretty bad. Scared the shit out of Lance, but he’s okay. They’re both okay.”
“What about you?” asks Matt, brushing Shiro’s cheek with his thumb, “Are you okay?”
Shiro is silent for a minute, then speaks with a broken voice, “It took me almost twenty minutes to respond to Lance’s texts. What if he’d been in real danger? I could have lost him just by not paying attention.”
Matt can’t think of anything particularly reassuring to say. He rarely can. But Shiro never seems to mind, so Matt simply buries his nose in the white forelock of his partner’s hair and whispers, “It’s okay. Everything’s okay.”
They stay like this, breathing softly on each other’s faces, until Matt gets a crick in his neck and rolls his head away with a slight crunch, “Ow.”
Shiro responds with a soft puff of laughter, “Was that your neck?”
“Sure was,” Matt groans, “Emphasis on the past tense.”
Shiro kisses his cheek and props himself up on an elbow, “Here, let me go change into my pajamas and take off my arm so we can get some sleep.”
“Okie doke,” says Matt with a yawn, “Don’t forget your meds.”
“Matt, you’re the one who forgets your meds several times a week,” Shiro points out as he hefts himself off the bed.
“…fair,” Matt concedes.
A few minutes later, Shiro crawls back into bed wearing a black tank top, and Matt curls up in his usual sleeping position, using Shiro’s right shoulder as a pillow.
“I love you, Matt.”
“I love you more, Takashi.”
Shiro lets out a contented hum and reaches his left hand over to cup Matt’s elbow.
Chapter 3: Spicy or Nothing
Content Warnings: Cursing, referenced self-harm, mental illness in general, some brief (non-explicit) sex-related banter
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Lance | Friday, June 7
Lance jolts awake to the sound of his phone alarm.
“Time to get ready for work?” asks Keith groggily, still huddled in his arms.
Oh, right. Work.
Lance groans and tugs Keith closer, “Ugghh I don’t wanna! You have the day off, so why can’t I?” He’s not ready to let go of his boyfriend. Not after last night.
Keith pushes himself back a bit and gives Lance a stern look, “You gotta.”
Lance pouts, “You can’t make me!”
“Wanna bet?” Keith wriggles out of Lance’s arms and sits up. Lance’s heart skips a beat when he sees the red lines littering his boyfriend’s arms.
“Babe…” Lance sits up and frowns at Keith.
Keith glowers at him for a moment, then his face softens, “You’re worried about me, aren’t you?”
Lance averts his eyes and nods.
“Well, don’t be,” Keith says definitively, “I’m fine.”
“Uh-huh,” Lance says, dripping with skepticism.
“I don’t need you to baby me,” Keith says coolly.
“Well…” Lance sets his jaw stubbornly, “Well, what if I want to!”
Something soft and sad flickers across Keith’s face for a second, but then it’s gone and he’s matching Lance’s stubborn expression, “What if I don’t want you to?”
Lance shrinks into himself, “Fine. I’ll go get ready for work. Asshole.”
“Wait…” Keith catches Lance’s sleeve as he starts to stand up, “I’m sorry. Seriously, though, I’m fine. I promise.”
Lance sighs and stoops down to kiss his boyfriend, “Don’t do anything dumb, okay? I love your stupid, self-destructive butt.”
“I promise,” says Keith, reaching up to tangle his hand in Lance’s for a moment, “Love you. Now get your ass to work.”
Shiro | Friday, June 7
Shiro feels like he’s at least half dead when he stumbles into his own workplace. The night before left him emotionally exhausted and ill-prepared to deal with a couple dozen teenage engineers, not nearly enough coworkers, and…
“Slav?” Shiro grunts, squinting sleepily at the lanky middle-aged man who appears to be vigorously rearranging the supply shelves.
What is Matt’s PhD advisor doing in Shiro’s workplace?
“Oh, don’t mind him,” Coran explains with a flourish of his hand, “He simply came to donate some old lab equipment to our program! Well, old by his standards. Top-of-the-line by ours!”
“Oh,” is all Shiro manages to say. He rubs his forehead in an attempt to wake himself up… and keep from snapping at Slav to stop messing with his organization system.
“Are you alright, Shiro?” asks Allura, “You don’t seem quite yourself, this morning.”
Shiro takes a deep breath, “Yeah, I’m fine.”
“Oh, good,” Allura responds, “because we’re going to need you to stay late tonight to catalogue our new acquisitions.”
Blood rushes to Shiro’s face. Before he can stop himself, he shouts, “Why doesn’t Slav catalogue his own damn donations!? It’s not like he has any aversion to organizing everything else in the universe!”
Then he sees the shocked expressions on everyone’s faces and blanches. He wants desperately to apologize, to take back his outburst… but he can’t breathe.
“Well,” says Coran, breaking the awkward silence, “There’s a slight hiccup in that plan. Unfortunately, Slav isn’t quite familiar with our cataloguing system, due to the fact that he doesn’t work here.”
“I know,” says Shiro, his voice cracking a bit, “I’m sorry. I… this has been a rough week, and I’m sorry for taking it out on you, Slav.”
“Apology accepted,” says Slav, shoving his hands in the pocket of his dark blue hoodie.
Allura walks over and places a hand between Shiro’s shoulder blades, “I’d be happy to stay with you and help with the cataloguing. It’s a big task for one person, and I’m sure you want to get home at a reasonable hour.”
Shiro takes a deep breath. He knows this is Allura’s way of inviting him to talk things through with her, and honestly he could use a listening ear. So after a moment of thought, he says, “I’d like that. Thanks.”
Then, quick before the teenagers start arriving, he pulls out his phone.
Shiro (7:55am): Hey Matt, I’m gonna be home pretty late. It might be a microwave meals night.
Shiro (7:55am): Allura roped me into an after-hours project, and after that I need to swing by and check on Keith.
Matt (7:56am): Okay! <3
Matt (7:56am): Don’t worry about Keith, though. I’ve got that covered.
Shiro (7:56am): You do?
Matt (7:57am): Yeah, I think uh… maybe it’s my turn to talk to him.
Matt (7:57am): He’s been pretty bent outta shape since we started being… y’know.
Matt (7:57am): And I haven’t really gotten to talk to him 1:1 about it.
Shiro (7:58am): Hmm you may have a point.
Shiro (7:58am): But please don’t stress yourself out over my brother’s well-being. He’s my responsibility, not yours.
Matt (7:58am): Trust me. I got this.
Matt (7:59am): It’s gonna be a Chinese buffet night.
Matt (7:59am): Per Shirogane-Holt tradition. (Shirogane-Holt-Kogane tradition? If we start hyphenating names into this tradition, it’s gonna get out of control fast.)
Matt (8:00am): OH. MY GOD.
Matt (8:00am): You and Keith’s surnames end in the same five letters!!!
Matt (8:00am): BROGANES
Matt (8:00am): Brogane-Holt tradition
Shiro (8:01am): The campers are here and you are a dork.
Shiro (8:01am): I love you. Text me if you need anything.
Matt (8:01am): <333
Keith | Friday, June 7
Keith jumps when the doorbell rings. He’s not sure who’s there—it’s too early for Shiro to be off work. Maybe Lance sent Hunk or Pidge to come check on him? He grumbles and pulls on his red hoodie before heading downstairs to get the door.
It’s not Hunk or Pidge. It’s Matt.
Keith scowls and crosses his arms, “Can I help you?”
“It has come to my attention that we are long overdue for a trip to the Chinese buffet!” says his brother’s boyfriend with an annoyingly optimistic grin plastered across his face.
Keith scowls harder, “Did Shiro send you?”
“Nope, this is all me,” Matt says, remaining frustratingly chipper.
“Cool, then my brother won’t be offended when I say ‘no thanks’ and march right back upstairs,” Keith says savagely, beginning to close the door.
To his immense irritation, Matt catches the door and squeezes into the entryway before Keith can lock him out, “Seriously, we really do need to chat. We haven’t had a chance to talk in private since Shiro and I started, y’know…”
“Dating?” Keith raises an eyebrow.
“No… that’s weird,” Matt retorts, “You don’t really date someone you’ve been best friends with for like a decade. We kinda skipped the dating phase.”
“Fucking?” Keith grins wickedly.
“What? No!” Matt exclaims, flustered.
“Liar,” Keith accuses, though at the back of his head he realizes Matt’s claim may well be true, considering Shiro’s history. But it’s entirely too satisfying to harass his brother’s embarrassed partner.
Matt sputters, then manages to calm down enough to ask, “So, are you joining me for questionable buffet food or not?”
Keith looks Matt straight in the eye and says, “Compromise: I go out to eat with you, but we go somewhere with actual spicy options.”
Matt begins to protest, “There are plenty of spicy things at the—”
“Nope,” Keith taps his foot impatiently, “Last offer. Spicy or nothing.”
Matt sighs in defeat, “Okay, okay. Where do you wanna eat?”
“Thai,” Keith says with a smug grin, stooping down to put his boots on.
“You’re gonna melt outside in that,” Matt points out casually, gesturing at Keith’s hoodie and black jeans.
Keith is well aware of this fact, but he’s not about to admit it. He shoots Matt a challenging glare and responds, “At least I won’t freeze my stubby little stick legs off in the restaurant air conditioning.”
Matt shrugs, “Suit yourself.”
Twenty minutes later, Keith finds himself sitting across from Matt in the town’s only Thai restaurant. Matt swears up and down that he’s been here a dozen times, but it’s clear he’s accustomed to having Shiro order for him. He has no idea what anything on the menu is.
“Could you hurry up and decide?” Keith growls impatiently after Matt sends the waiter away without ordering for the third time, “I’ve known what I’m getting since the car ride over.”
“I can’t remember if I usually get the Thai fried rice or the pineapple fried rice,” Matt frets.
“Well, does what you normally get have pineapples in it?” asks Keith sardonically.
“I think so?” Matt says hesitantly.
“Do you like pineapples?” Keith asks.
“Yeah!” Matt nods enthusiastically.
“Then get the damn pineapple rice,” Keith growls.
Matt flags down their waiter (not hard since there’s only one other customer present) and announces that he’d like the pineapple fried rice.
“Would you like that mild, medium, spicy or Thai spicy?” asks their waiter.
“What’s Thai spicy?” asks Matt.
“He wants mild,” Keith interjects.
The waiter makes a note, then asks, “What protein would you like?”
“What do you have?” asks Matt. Keith slides down into his chair a bit, pretty sure his soul is going to leave his body if this takes much longer.
“Chicken, beef, pork, tofu…”
“Chicken!” Matt announces.
“Will that be all for you?”
“Yep!” Matt nods, “Keith, your turn.”
Keith wastes no time rattling off his usual order, “Pad Kee Mao. Thai spicy. Beef. And a Thai iced coffee.”
“What’s Thai iced coffee?” asks Matt, wide-eyed.
“Two Thai iced coffees,” Keith says with a roll of his eyes.
“If that’s all, your food will be out in a few minutes,” their waiter promises before walking off.
Matt turns to Keith, “So… time to talk?”
Keith shrugs, “Talk away.”
“I, uh…” Matt stammers, glancing around the room. Sweat beads on his forehead.
“Any time, now,” Keith prompts.
“I… actually have no idea what I was gonna say when I got here,” Matt admits nervously.
“Seriously?” Keith says, his voice halfway between scathing and sympathetic.
“Yeah, uh…” Matt absentmindedly unwraps his silverware from his napkin, “I guess I forgot to plan past ‘make sure Keith actually comes to the restaurant with me’?”
“How unfortunate for me,” Keith drawls sarcastically, but the edge has left his voice.
“A-and then I was so nervous I forgot my meds, and now they’re at home and I’m here and…” now Matt is staring downwards and quietly clapping his cupped hands together, like he’s balling up a chunk of clay.
After a moment, Keith realizes he recognizes the clapping motion. Pidge does it when she’s thinking, sometimes. She must have picked it up from her brother, or vice-versa.
“You have the same stims,” Keith blurts out, then clarifies after-the-fact, “You and Pidge, I mean.”
“Wha—” Matt blinks up at Keith, then glances back down at his hands, “Oh, this?” He claps a few more times to demonstrate, then drops his hands to his lap.
“Uh… yeah,” Keith says, suddenly embarrassed for pointing it out.
But Matt just chuckles, “Pidge got like all her stims from me.”
“Really?” asks Keith. He knows Matt and Pidge are siblings. They look practically identical. But somehow it had never quite sunk in how close they were.
“Yeah,” Matt smiles, suddenly at ease, “She’s my baby sister. Mom calls us ‘two sides of the same coin’.”
A wave of sadness floods over Keith, mixing with the remnants his rapidly-fading anger, “I wonder what it’d be like if I’d grown up with Shiro.”
Matt’s smile turns bittersweet, “If I hadn’t known Shiro before he met you, I woulda sworn you two did grow up together.”
“You’re lying,” Keith accuses.
“Nope,” Matt shakes his head, “Seriously, I wish I still had some of the texts he sent me during your first few months at his house. He fell head-over-heals in familial love with you. It was super mushy and ridiculous. I’m never gonna let him live it down.”
“Seriously?” the corner of Keith’s mouth ticks up cautiously.
“He’s ditched me for you on numerous occasions,” Matt says, “It’s pretty cute, honestly. Stressful as heck, but cute. It’s one of the things I like—er, love most about him.”
A reluctant smile spreads across Keith’s face. He opens his mouth to respond, but he’s interrupted by the waiter returning with their food.
By the time they finish eating, their conversation has shifted to a debate about caffeinated beverages. But even as he drags Matt up one side and down the other about his love of Java Monster, Keith has a mischievous-but-genuine smile on his face.
Shiro | Friday, June 7
While Matt is out eating with Keith, Shiro is sitting on the floor of a supply closet with Allura.
“Do you know what this thing is?” Shiro asks, holding up an unfamiliar gadget.
Allura squints, then shrugs, “No clue. Put it in the Ask Slav pile.”
The Ask Slav pile seems to be growing faster than the Successfully Catalogued pile. Shiro is seriously starting to wonder how useful these tools are to anyone without at least a Master’s degree in aerospace engineering.
“So,” says Allura, setting to work cataloguing a pile of software, “Let’s talk about your week. Didn’t Matt move in with you last weekend?”
“He did,” Shiro responds, “And Keith moved in with Lance a couple blocks away. It’s been… eventful.”
“Are you happy?” she asks.
“With Matt? Absolutely,” the corner of Shiro’s mouth quirks up a bit. He’s pretty sure he’s blushing, “He’s good. He’s so good.”
“So you’re worried about Keith, then,” Allura observes.
“Very astute,” Shiro says with a wry smile.
“Let me guess,” says Allura, “He’s still out of sorts over you and Matt?”
“Sounds about right,” Shiro sighs, “He seems to think he’s suddenly less important to me than Matt is, and nothing I say will convince him otherwise.”
“Sounds like Keith, alright.”
Shiro lowers his eyes, voice wavering, “He scared us all pretty bad last night.”
“Ah,” Allura says with an understanding frown. Shiro’s glad she doesn’t pressure him for details.
They sit together in silence for a few minutes, clacking away at their laptop keys. Then Shiro speaks up sheepishly, “Can I tell you something horrible?”
“I’m sure it’s not horrible,” Allura assures him, “But yes, please share.”
“Sometimes I don’t want to be The Responsible Adult,” Shiro admits, “Sometimes I just want to disappear off the grid for one goddamn weekend and go lounge around with Matt, watching Netflix and eating cereal in our pajamas.”
“That’s not horrible,” Allura assures him, setting down her laptop so she can place a comforting hand on his knee, “If I didn’t have weekends off, I’d probably be in prison for assaulting a teenager with engineering equipment. No one should have to be in charge all the time. Not even us.”
“Says the woman who just volunteered both of us to work late on a Friday night,” Shiro teases.
“Honestly, though,” Shiro says with a tired half-smile, “I want the best for Keith, but sometimes I just want a nap.”
“Unfortunately, I don’t have a solution for you,” Allura responds, shooting her friend a sympathetic look, “but I’m here if you need me. You don’t have to do this all on your own.”
“Thanks Allura,” Shiro smiles over at her before looking down at the mysterious piece of equipment he’s holding, “Okay, what the hell is this?”
Allura shakes her head and shrugs, so Shiro places the mystery item in the ever-growing Ask Slav pile.
Keith | Friday, June 7
“Thanks for humoring me,” says Matt, stepping out of his car to bid farewell to Keith, “And for helping me order something edible.”
“No problem,” Keith responds, reaching out a hand for Matt to shake. Matt takes his hand, but pulls him into a hug instead. Keith’s eyes widen in surprise, but after a moment he relaxes his muscles and returns the hug with a stiff pat on the back.
After they pull apart, Matt returns to his car and waves enthusiastically, shouting “Have a good night!” out the window as he drives away. Once he’s gone, Keith pulls out his phone.
Keith (6:15pm): Hey lance
Keith (6:15pm): Just got back from dinner with matt
Keith (6:15pm): I need to clear my head, so I’m going for a ride
Keith (6:16pm): Maybe I’ll hang out in the park or something
Keith (6:16pm): Be back before bedtime, tho
Without waiting for a reply, he stuffs his phone back into his pocket and heads over to his motorcycle.
Matt | Friday, June 7
The first thing Matt sees when he arrives home is Shiro, practically passed out on the couch with a half-eaten microwave meal laying abandoned on his lap.
As soon as his shoes are off, Matt flops down next to his exhausted partner and rests his chin on his shoulder, “Hey ‘Kashi. How long’ve you been home?”
Shiro grunts, “I dunno, about 15 minutes?”
“What did Allura have you do? You look like a murder victim.”
“We acquired some… equipment from your advisor, today,” Shiro groans, not even bothering to open his eyes, “Allura and I stayed late trying to catalogue it. Emphasis on trying.”
“Ohhh, Slav was involved,” Matt laughs, “That’s always an adventure.” He adores his advisor, but he knows Shiro doesn’t exactly share that sentiment. For whatever reason, Slav’s anxiety always seems to send Shiro’s anxiety skyrocketing.
“I yelled at him,” Shiro says repentantly, “I still feel bad.”
“I haven’t seen you this stressed out in a while,” Matt observes, giving his companion’s cheek a soft kiss.
“Mmm no kidding,” Shiro mumbles. Then he cracks one eye open, “How were things with Keith?”
Matt’s face spreads into a wide grin as he delivers the news, “It went great, actually! Despite the fact that I forgot my meds and kind of freaked out a little. And also your brother tried to lock me out of his house. But then we got Thai food! And he helped me order! I mean, he mostly helped me because I was too busy freaking out to order and he wanted to eat but. Anyways. We had a good talk about me and Pidge and you and him and siblings and stuff? And then we argued about coffee.”
Shiro closes his eyes and wraps an arm around Matt’s waist, smiling contentedly, “You still haven’t taken your meds, have you?”
“I had coffee?” Matt grins into Shiro’s cheek. Not that it matters now that he’s home for the night. Shiro seems to be able to follow his train of thought no matter how scattered it gets.
Shiro chuckles. Then in one fluid motion, he moves his abandoned food to the coffee table and rotates to kiss Matt, cupping his jaw with both hands.
Matt giggles when their lips separate, “What was that for?”
“I love you,” Shiro says with a lopsided smile, then adds, “Thank you for talking to my brother.”
Matt stretches upwards to rest his forehead against the bridge of Shiro’s nose, “Love you, too.” Shiro’s weight against him is just a little too heavy, and his breathing is starting to sound more and more like snoring. Matt snorts, “Let’s get you to bed before you literally fall asleep on my face, doofus.”
The real reason Matt likes buffets: he doesn't have to deal with the darn MENU! (Me too, Matt. Me too.)
Chapter 4: One More Time with Feeling
Content Warnings: Cursing, reference to self-harm, general mental illness themes
Keith | Saturday, June 8
Keith is too restless to sleep. He made an honest effort, he really did. But within a few hours, he’s wide awake again. After what seems like an eternity of staring up at the ceiling with one hand tangled in Lance’s hair, he sighs and checks his phone. It’s just shy of 6am, which explains why the room is getting lighter and lighter. Lance probably won’t be up for at least a couple more hours, but Keith can’t stay in bed any longer. Slowly and carefully, he works to free himself from the bed without disturbing his boyfriend’s beauty sleep.
Once he’s up, he’s not sure what to do with himself. He wanders past what remains of the bedroom door (seriously, Shiro?) and begins to pace around the living room. After a bit, he decides he needs coffee and sets to work brewing a pot. He imagines Shiro would be scolding him right about now for having coffee without breakfast, so he fumbles around the mostly-empty cabinets for something edible.
Then he has an idea.
Lance is still pretty shaken, and Keith feels bad. He’s never been good with apologies. But this is Lance. He knows Lance. Lance loves mushy romantic shit. So what if…
What if Keith makes him breakfast?
An apology breakfast. It seems like exactly the kind of ridiculous romantic gesture Lance would swoon over. Keith is positively delighted with himself.
He digs through the cabinets with renewed vigor, managing to unearth a box of pancake mix and a bag of potatoes. Pancakes and potatoes are a thing people eat for breakfast, right?
He starts with the potatoes, because he’s pretty sure they’ll take longer. He chops them into something vaguely resembling cubes (which would be easier if they weren’t, well… potato shaped) and tosses them into a sauce pan. He would use the frying pan, but he needs that for the pancakes. He throws in a generous amount of salt, pepper, chili powder and cumin and turns up the heat. Then he sets to work making the pancake batter.
2 cups Pancake Mix
1 cup Milk
Easy. Well, it would be easier if they had any eggs. Oh well, he’ll just have to improvise. Didn’t Hunk say butter could be used as an egg substitute? Or was it buttermilk… Keith shrugs and adds half a stick of butter to his eggless batter.
Maybe he should’ve melted the butter first. He tries unsuccessfully to mix the butter in for a minute or two before just popping the whole mixing bowl in the microwave.
It comes out boiling.
That’s fine. It’s about to go in a hot frying pan, anyways, so what harm can a little boiling do? He shrugs it off and returns to stirring.
Just as he begins pouring his pancake batter into the frying pan, he smells burning. He sets down the mixing bowl and turns to his potatoes which are… on fire?! Before he can react, the fire alarm starts wailing. He quickly claps a lid over the burning potatoes and scrambles to dismantle the alarm.
Unfortunately, the commotion is more than enough to drag Lance out of bed. Just as Keith rips the batteries out of the fire alarm, his boyfriend comes stumbling out of their bedroom in a blue bathrobe, the remnants of last night’s face mask still lingering. He looks positively livid.
“Hi Lance,” Keith says sheepishly, “I uh… I’m making breakfast.”
“No. Nope. No-no-no-no-no,” Lance holds up a hands to stop him, “I’m pissed.”
Keith balls his fists at his sides, suddenly defensive, “I’m trying to apologize!”
“Well, you’re doing a fan-fucking-tastic job of it!” Lance snarls, slamming the bathroom door behind him.
Keith wilts and sullenly returns to the kitchen to see if any of his cooking is salvageable (it’s not).
A few minutes later, Lance emerges fully dressed and storms out the front door.
Keith winces and scowls down at his greasy pancake batter.
Pidge | Saturday, June 8
Pidge (7:17am): Your boyfriend is here. He’s loud and angry. Why?
Keith (7:18am): MY boyfriend?
Keith (7:18am): He was YOUR friend before he was MY boyfriend
Pidge (7:18am): I refuse to claim him when he’s behaving in such an absurd manner.
Keith (7:19am): Cool, that makes two of us
Pidge (7:19am): Seriously, though, what happened?
Keith (7:19am): No fucking clue
Pidge (7:19am): He seems to think he’s been grievously wronged. Which, I mean… He frequently thinks he’s been grievously wronged. But this time he’s flipping out in the actually upset way, not the “how dare you alphabetize my DVDs” way.
Keith (7:20am): I made him breakfast?
Keith (7:20am): It caught on fire but
Keith (7:20am): I ATTEMPTED a grand romantic gesture
Keith (7:20am): And THIS is how I’m repaid!
Pidge (7:20am): Wow, okay.
Pidge blinks down at her phone. She’s genuinely concerned for Keith and Lance, but it’s way too early in the morning for other people’s relationship problems. (It’s always too early in the morning for other people’s relationship problems. 10pm is too early in the morning for other people’s relationship problems.) Besides, what could she even say in this situation? This is more Hunk and Shiro’s domain.
Ultimately, she decides on changing the subject.
Pidge (7:25am): So, I hear you had dinner with my brother last night. Apparently he “thought of me,” but he refuses to divulge further details. Clarify?
After a moment of waiting for a reply, Pidge sets down her phone and pulls her headphones on so she can drown out the sound of Lance’s ranting with some music. She clicks on her default playlist—an assortment of songs with complex beats and forgettable lyrics—and taps her fingers along to the rhythm until her phone buzzes with Keith’s response.
Keith (7:29am): Oh that
Keith (7:30am): He showed up out of the blue and dragged me to dinner because “we need to chat” about his thing with Shiro
Pidge (7:30am): I’m having a hard time imagining anyone “dragging” you into anything. That sounds like the kind of thing that would end in a broken nose on their end, and Matt didn’t say anything about enduring bodily harm.
Keith (7:31am): Okay, there might have been some bargaining
Keith (7:31am): I got free thai out of the deal
Keith (7:31am): Worth it
Pidge (7:32am): What did you guys even talk about? What even is there to talk about? Their relationship is romantic instead of platonic, now. Big whoop.
Keith (7:33am): I mean
Keith (7:33am): I guess he had a point
Keith (7:33am): Kinda
Pidge (7:33am): How?
Keith (7:33am): I dunno
Pidge (7:34am): Eloquent.
Keith (7:34am): Shut up
Pidge (7:34am): Shut what? I’m not talking. I’m typing. And this isn’t a flip phone (what am I, a Neanderthal?), so I can’t shut that either.
Keith (7:34am): I cannot believe
Pidge (7:35am): So. My brother kind of had a point. Care to share with the class?
Keith (7:35am): I dunno
Pidge (7:35am): You already said that.
Keith (7:35am): LET ME FINISH
Pidge (7:35am): Then stop hitting send before you’re done typing!!
Keith (7:36am): WHY ARE YOU LIKE THIS
Pidge (7:36am): I should ask the same!!!
Pidge (7:36am): Now, please continue. Regarding my brother and his point that he kind of had. I need to know whether I should be proud of him or ashamed of you both.
Keith (7:37am): I guess sometimes I just forget that my brother can care about more than one person
Keith (7:38am): Y’know that feeling where you’re not sure if you’re as important to someone as they are to you?
Pidge (7:38am): No I… think that’s a you-specific problem.
Pidge (7:39am): Or something. Sometimes I have a hard time telling the difference between Keith-specific problems, BPD-specific problems and ‘people-who-aren’t-me’-specific problems. But regardless: no, I do not know that feeling.
She remembers belatedly that Keith is touchy about explicit mentions of his diagnosis (whoops) and hopes he didn’t do something like fling his phone across the room again. He does that a lot. Pidge has never met anyone with such little regard for the wellbeing of innocent electronic devices. To her relief, though, he does eventually text back.
Keith (7:43am): Do you ever get jealous of Shiro because he’s so close to your brother?
Pidge (7:43am): Again: no.
Pidge (7:45am): But, I mean… objectively I can see why you might feel that way. Sharing is hard. I don’t like sharing my equipment with Hunk. It’s one thing when we’re pooling our equipment for a collaborative project, but when he wants to borrow my stuff for one of his own projects? I die a little inside. I still share it, because Hunk is my friend and I trust him, but I definitely die a little inside.
Keith (7:45am): Did you just compare siblings to equipment?
Pidge (7:45am): Yes.
Keith (7:46am): You’re weird
Pidge (7:46am): You’re weirder.
Keith (7:46am): Good talk
Pidge (7:47am): I have literally no idea whether you’re being sarcastic or not, but okay.
Keith (7:47am): I… was
Keith (7:48am): But then I changed my mind
Keith (7:48am): So I guess I’m being sincere now
Pidge (7:48am): Cool. Glad I could help.
Pidge is entirely uncertain what Keith found helpful about that exchange, but… hey, she’ll take it.
Hunk | Saturday, June 8
Hunk startles awake at the sound of furious knocking at his bedroom door. “Huh? Wha? Didja set somethin’ on fire again, Pidge?” he mumbles as he crawls out of bed. He can’t think of any other reason Pidge would be this frantic at 7am.
“No, but my butthead of a boyfriend did!” shouts definitely-not-Pidge from the other side of the door.
Hunk perks up, “Lance?” He shuffles over and opens the door to reveal Pidge and Lance standing side-by-side and looking equally disgruntled.
“Idiot delivery,” says Pidge gruffly, gesturing at Lance and then turning on her heels to return to her own room.
Hunk frowns sleepily, “You okay, buddy?”
“Okay?” Lance throws his arms in the air, “Okay? Is this the face of a man who’s okay?!” He leans forward, pointing to his face with an exaggerated scowl.
“Uh… not really,” Hunk leans backwards a little, his frown deepening, “You wanna come in and talk about it?” He ushers his friend into his room.
Lance stands up tall and struts over to Hunk’s bed, smoothing the blankets out before taking a seat. He straightens his back and crosses his arms, holding his chin up with a dignified pout.
Hunk follows with a sigh, plopping down beside his best friend and throwing a comforting arm over his shoulders, “What happened, dude?”
Lance flings his arms in the air again, nearly smacking Hunk’s face in the process, “This whole week’s been apples and bananas! I know Keith’s got his issues, but this is just… bonkers!” Then his arms drop into his lap and he slumps down, looking defeated.
“Okay. Okay, buddy,” Hunk massages his friend’s shoulder, “Is this about what happened the other night? When he… y’know.” His stomach turns a little at the mental image of Keith all covered in blood. He’s kind of relieved he didn’t have to see that, but he does wish he could’ve been there for Lance.
“That’s just the beginning!” Lance scoffs, “You wanna know what he did last night?”
Hunk winces, trying not to imagine the worst. Lance said something about fire, didn’t he? Hunk gulps, “Oh nooo… Lance. Did he… is he hurt? Are you hurt? If… if he did something to hurt you—y’know, like on purpose—I’ll… I’ll kick his butt into outer space!”
“What?!” Lance sits bolt upright, “He wouldn’t… he didn’t… don’t be ridiculous! Geeze, Hunk, way to jump to the darkest possible scenario.”
Hunk releases his pent-up breath, “Oh good, ‘cause I’m not sure I could actually kick Keith’s butt into outer space. B-but, you know you can always sleep here if you ever, ever don’t feel safe! You know that, right? I got your back, buddy.” He gives his friend’s back a hearty thump to emphasize his point.
“I appreciate the concern, but no,” Lance assures, “He’s just a run-of-the-mill idiot who thinks he can solve all our problems by making freaking breakfast!”
“I dunno, making breakfast sounds like a perfect conversation-starter to me,” Hunk muses, “Meals are a great time to discuss your feelings.”
“What about burning breakfast at 6:45 in the morning, thereby interrupting my much-needed beauty sleep with a fire alarm! How’s that for a conversation starter?” Lance rants.
“Oh,” Hunk frowns, “Right. This is Keith we’re talking about. Well, at least it sounds like he was trying! It’s kinda sweet that he tried to make you breakfast even though he’s a literal kitchen disaster.”
Lance snorts, “Oh yeah? Well then, where was he last night when I needed to talk about the day before, huh? I’ll tell you where! He was taking a flippin’ joyride around town! Hanging out in the park until after dark! Talk about too little, too late. And the worst part? The worst part?” he takes a breath and puffs out his chest, “He talked to Matt about it, but couldn’t be bothered to talk to me! Pidge’s freaking brother! Unbelievable!”
Hunk’s brow furrows as he tries to take inventory of the situation, “Okay, so… Keith wasn’t home when you got home from work, right?”
“Noooope,” Lance shakes his head.
“He was out talking with Matt, and then he went for a ride on his bike?” Hunk checks.
“Yuuuuup,” Lance confirms.
“And you guys didn’t get a chance to talk at all?” Hunk frowns.
“He came home just in time to take a shower and crash,” Lance strikes his palms together like flint and steel.
“Hmmmm,” Hunk furrows his brow, “He told where he was going, though, right?”
Lance shrugs, “He texted me. Some hogwash about needing to clear his head or whatever.”
“Uh, Lance?” Hunk says, “Have you considered that maybe—and this is just a thought—but maybe Keith actually did need to get some space and clear his head? Some people are weird like that.”
“Whose side are you on, here?!” Lance explodes, his voice squeaky.
Hunk flinches, “No no no, what I’m saying is… maybe there aren’t sides at all. Maybe you’re on the same side and you just had a big misunderstanding!”
Lance squints at him, considering, and then says suspiciously, “Okay, I’m listening.”
Hunk lets out a sigh of relief, “Okay, so… you said he had a talk with Matt, right? D’you know what they talked about?”
Lance scoffs, “Heck if I know! Does it matter? Doesn’t change the fact that he talked to his brother’s boyfriend before his own.”
“Okay, buddy. Caaalm down. It’s gonna be oookay,” Hunk rubs soothing circles over his friend’s back, “Are you sure it was Keith’s idea to talk to Matt first? ‘Cause uh… I’m gonna be real with you here: I’m pretty sure Matt is the last person Keith wants to have a heart-to-heart with, especially this week.”
Lance’s brow furrows, “I mean, Keith does have kind of a weird beef with Matt…”
“Yeah, he’s pretty jealous,” Hunk says, “Kinda like you’re jealous of Shiro.”
Lance splutters, “Wait, what?! I am not!”
“Uhhhh, buddy…” Hunk says slowly, “Have I got some news for you.”
“Why would I be jealous of Shiro?!” Lance protests.
“I dunno, maybe because you’re afraid he’s more important to Keith than you are? Maybe because you’re afraid Shiro is better at taking care of Keith? Probably a little of bit of both,” Hunk says as if it’s the most obvious thing in the world. Which, to him, it is.
“Ouch,” says Lance, slapping a dramatic hand over his heart.
“I’m not wrong, though,” Hunk say, “Am I?”
Lance sets his jaw and groans, “I hate when you’re right.”
Hunk just beams, his smile as sunny as his yellow pajamas.
Lance flops against his friend’s side and moans, “I hate everything.”
Hunk engulfs Lance in a hug, resting his cheek on his friend’s head, “Hey. It’s gonna be okay, friend. Everybody feels jealous, sometimes. But man… you guys really gotta talk this one out.”
Lance sighs into Hunk’s shoulder, “I guess.”
Hunk rocks side to side, Lance still wrapped in his arms, “You wanna stay here for a few hours? I can make you some not-burnt breakfast. Maybe even some not-burnt lunch!”
“Yeah,” Lance says with a little sniffle. His voice is watery.
“I got you, buddy,” Hunk coos, “I got you.”
Lance | Saturday, June 8
“Hi honey, I’m hooo-ome!” Lance calls as he opens the door to his and Keith’s apartment.
“Thought you were pissed at me?” Keith says wryly, looking up from his laptop at their foldable dining table.
“Uh, I am,” Lance responds bluntly, “but that doesn’t mean I don’t love you. Can we like… sit down and talk about this clustermess of a week?”
Keith shrugs and closes his laptop, “Sure, I guess.”
That was easier than Lance expected. He squints suspiciously and makes his way over to the table, taking a seat across from his boyfriend. “Have you uh… had dinner yet? I hear meals are a great time for discussing feelings.”
“You realize that’s what I was trying to do this morning, right?” Keith points out, expressionless.
“Yeah, but you—” Lance cuts himself off, “Never mind, I’m taking the high road. I’m not letting you drag me into a fight.” He holds his chin up proudly.
“I’m not trying to fight,” Keith retorts, sounding distinctly like fighting is exactly what he’s trying to do.
Lance doesn’t take the bait, “So, have you?”
“Have I what?”
Keith shrugs, “I had oatmeal a couple hours ago.”
“Sooo… that’s a no,” says Lance, “I’m making grilled cheese. You want the usual on yours?”
“Sure,” Keith shrugs again, so Lance gets up and sets to work preparing dinner. Keith pulls his laptop back out and doesn’t talk as Lance cooks. Which is fine. Lance could use a few minutes to gather his thoughts before diving into this conversation.
About ten minutes later, Lance returns to the table and slides a jalapeño grilled cheese and strawberry-kiwi Capri Sun towards his boyfriend before sitting down with his own dinner.
Keith grunts in thanks and shoves his laptop away.
“So,” says Lance, taking a bite of his avocado grilled cheese and chewing before continuing, “Guess I should start by telling you why I’m pissed instead of just making you guess.”
“Great conversation starter,” drawls Keith, stabbing the straw into his Capri Sun a bit more aggressively than he needs to, “By all means, tell me everything I’ve done to wrong you.”
“That’s not what I meant!” huffs Lance. Well, it is a little bit what he meant. But only a little bit. And he’s not about to admit that out loud.
“So what do you mean, then?” Keith growls.
“I mean…” Lance fumbles for words, “Yesterday you really hurt me! You went off gallivanting around town on your motorcycle, and we never got a chance to talk about… y’know. Everything that happened the other night.” He pouts across the table at his boyfriend.
“Oh, so… exactly like you did to me today,” Keith says dryly.
“Excuse you,” Lance crosses his arms, “I don’t have a motorcycle.”
“You know what a mean.”
Lance wilts a little, “Okay. Yeah. I guess maaaybe what I did this morning was a liiittle bit the same.”
Keith snorts bitterly around a mouthful of grilled cheese.
“I’m sorry, okay!” Lance blurts out, his tone a little more hostile than he was trying for, “I’m sorry. I was mad. I just needed… space…” His voice trails off as the weight of his own hypocrisy hits him like a truck. Maybe Keith just won’t… notice?
“Uh-huh,” Keith raises an eyebrow.
Nope, he definitely noticed.
It’s clearly too late to save face, so Lance just oozes down until his chin is resting pathetically on the table, “I said I’m sorry! What more do you want from me?”
“Well, we’re talking now, right?” Keith says gruffly, “Isn’t that what both of us wanted?”
Lance whines, “Yeah, but all we’re doing is fighting! This is dumb.”
“Why don’t you just tell me what you wanted to tell me yesterday?” suggests Keith, “I’m all ears.”
It’s at this point that Lance realizes he’s not quite sure what he wanted to tell Keith. Clearly the issue is unresolved, but… what’s he supposed to say to resolve it? He’s not sure, but he knows he has to say something. And fast. So he thinks back to his conversation with Hunk and blurts out less-than-eloquently, “You miss living with Shiro! He’s better at this than I am and… and… and I feel like you hate living with me!”
“What?” Keith says, incredulous, “I don’t hate living with you.”
“But you miss living with Shiro,” Lance sulks.
“That’s not the same as—” Keith makes an exasperated noise, “Okay, listen. I’m only gonna say this once.”
Lance’s brow furrows, “I’m listening.”
“In case you’ve forgotten, I’m mentally ill,” Keith says, “I have a personality disorder. I know I don’t talk about that a lot, but we’re living together now so maybe we should be talking about it. So… here goes. Sometimes my brain does stupid shit. Like hating someone just because my brother pays too much attention to them. Or breaking things when I’m mad. Or turning myself into bloody confetti because I don’t know how to deal with my goddamn emotions. And sometimes it’s gonna scare you. Sometimes it’s gonna piss you off. Sometimes I’m a fucking wreck, and y’know what? I’m as scared and pissed off as you are. So I don’t blame you if you ever decide it’s too much and want out.”
Lance knows a lot of this from experience and the rest from Shiro and Pidge, but this is the first he’s heard more than a few scarce words on the topic from Keith himself. He sits back up and blinks across the table at his boyfriend, a little stunned. Keith looks like he’s about to either cry, pass out or smash something, and Lance decides he should probably reply promptly before any of those things happen. So he cracks a weak smile and says, “It’ll take a lot more than that to get rid of me.”
Keith looks visibly relieved, “Sorry about… this week.”
Lance shrugs, “It was a dumb week. I call for a do-over.”
The corner of Keith’s mouth twitches up, “Yeah. Do-over.”
Lance glances down at the soggy, lukewarm remains of his sandwich and then back up at Keith, “Okay, all this serious stuff is bummin’ me out. Can we go snuggle, now?”
Keith’s smile grows as he shoves away his own abandoned food, “Yeah. Let’s do that. We can take care of the dishes tomorrow.”
“Uh, no,” Lance shakes his head, “Nope. We’re doing dishes first. This is a dishes-before-bed kind of household, thank you very much.”
Keith rolls his eyes, “Fine. Dishes and then cuddles.”
Lance stands up with his plate, stooping to kiss his boyfriend’s cheek on his way over to the sink, “Dishes and then cuddles.”
Chapter 5: Through Hell and High Water
Keith | Sunday, June 9
Lance is taking a probably-impromptu nap on the couch when Keith comes home from his shift at the bike shop. He smiles to himself and strolls over to the couch, leaning down to plant a kiss on his sleeping boyfriend’s lips.
Lance wakes with a start, nearly flinging himself off the couch, “Wha?! Oh, hey babe.” He reaches up and pulls Keith’s face back down for a proper kiss, “How was work?”
“Not bad,” says Keith, taking a seat on the arm of the couch, “How was your nap?”
Lance sits up, looking sheepish, “It was great! And totally intentional.”
Keith laughs, “Hey, can I run an idea by you?”
“Sure, hit me!” Lance grins.
“Remember a few days ago, we talked about missing Hunk and Pidge and Shiro?” Keith says.
“Oh, yeah,” says Lance, a cryptic expression creeping onto his face, “Right before you, uh…”
“…yeah,” Keith confirms, “Anyways, I had an idea. What if we had some kind of weekly family dinner thing?”
Lance’s face lights up, “That’s… actually brilliant!?”
Keith smiles proudly, “So, you wanna try it?”
“Yeah!” Lance nods, “I’ll text Hunk and Pidge. You wanna text Shiro? We can make plans for next weekend!”
Keith smirks, “Actually, I was thinking maybe we could surprise Shiro and Matt.”
“Surprise them?” Lance blinks.
“Yeah, just show up with Hunk and Pidge and dinner,” Keith says nonchalantly.
“When?” Lance asks.
“Tonight?” Keith shrugs.
Lance’s eyes widen, “Are you… sure?”
“Why not?” says Keith, “I know for a fact they’re both free on Sundays, and Shiro says I’m welcome any time.”
Lance looks unconvinced, “We’re not even gonna text them first?”
“What’s the worst that could happen?” asks Keith, “We live two blocks away. If Shiro and Matt are busy, we can just bring Hunk and Pidge back here for dinner.”
Lance still looks skeptical, but he shrugs in defeat, “I’ll text Pidge and Hunk if you take care of ordering pizza. Hunk’s a culinary genius, but he’s not The Flash. I doubt he can whip up a whole meal on this short of notice.”
“I’m on it,” Keith grins.
Shiro | Sunday, June 9
Matt wanders into their shared office space and stops, staring around like he’s looking for something. Or like he’s lost track of reality. Maybe both.
“You okay?” asks Shiro, turning around in his desk chair.
“Huh? Oh,” Matt turns and blinks at Shiro, “Yeah, I’m peachy. What did I come in here for, again?”
“Is that a rhetorical question, or are you actually asking me?” Shiro raises an eyebrow.
“I mean… if you know the answer, please feel free to share!” Matt replies with a cheeky grin.
He returns Matt’s playful smile, “How would I know, doofus? What were you doing before you came in here?”
Matt shrugs, “Stuff.”
“Helpful,” Shiro rolls his eyes.
"Y'know. Stuff. Unpacking boxes, etcetera," Matt clarifies. He steps forward to dig directionlessly through his desk drawers, and Shiro notices he's walking with a limp.
"Your leg is acting up," he observes, "You should take a break."
Matt stands up, face bright, and announces victoriously, "Aspercreme!"
Shiro snorts, "You came to the office to look for Aspercreme? Out of the five rooms in this apartment, this one is probably the least likely to contain arthritis cream."
"Excuse you, I think the kitchen holds that title," Matt objects.
"Have you forgotten that Keith lived here until a week ago? There's a fully-stocked first aid kit in the kitchen," Shiro points out.
Before Matt can retort, they're interrupted by a sharp knock at the front door. Shiro recognizes it immediately and beams fondly, "Speak of the devil."
"You can recognize his knocking? The mushiness of your brotherhood never ceases to astound me," Matt teases.
"Hello pot, I'm kettle. You and Pidge have a literal secret knocking code," Shiro smirks as he gets up from his chair, "I'm gonna go get the door. You go Aspercreme your knee. There's a tube in the bedside table."
Matt salutes him and hobbles towards the bedroom as Shiro makes his way to the front door, which he opens to reveal Keith and Lance.
“Surprise!” announces Lance, enthusiastically lofting a stack of pizza boxes above his head.
“Stop that, you’re going to drop them,” says Keith, reaching a hand up to steady the pizza boxes.
“Hunk and Pidge are on their way,” Lance says, grinning as he lowers the pizzas.
“That’s great, but… why?” asks Shiro, blinking. He’s puzzled but not particularly surprised. Keith has approximately zero impulse control, and Lance is only marginally better. He’s used to it.
“New tradition,” says Keith.
“Family dinner night!” Lance beams.
Shiro chuckles fondly, “I see. Well, come on in.” He ushers them in, then calls back to Matt, “Matt, apparently it’s family dinner night and your sister will be here shortly!”
Matt pokes his head out of the bedroom, “Why is this the first I’m hearing about this?”
“Because Keith came up with the idea less than an hour ago,” Lance clarifies, setting the stack of pizza down on the coffee table.
“No, I told you about the idea less than an hour ago,” Keith corrects, “I came up with it like five hours ago, while I was at work.”
Matt limps out to the living room, “I’d apologize for all the boxes, but you two probably have way more boxes laying around than I do.”
Lance glances around, “Yeah, you’re not wrong.”
“Most of them are Lance’s,” Keith clarifies.
“That’s because I actually have belongings, unlike a certain boyfriend of mine!” Lance retorts, “Shiro, how did you let this happen?”
Shiro shrugs, “I tried to get him stuff. He didn’t want it.”
“Unbelievable!” Lance throws his arms in the air.
“Sooo, is this pizza for us?” Matt waggles his eyebrows.
“Yeah, but not until Hunk and Pidge arrive,” Keith says, “Which should be any—”
As if on cue, there’s a hearty knock on the door. Matt perks up, but Shiro puts a hand on his shoulder, “You sit. I’ll get it.”
Matt pouts and sits down on the couch as Shiro goes and opens to door, revealing Hunk and Pidge.
“Heyo! I hear pizza and bonding are happening tonight,” Hunk greets cheerily.
Pidge just leans in through the door and waves enthusiastically at Matt.
Shiro chuckles, “Come on in. Welcome to the newly-established family dinner night.”
They all pile into the living room, helping themselves to pizza and making themselves comfy: Matt, Shiro and Hunk on the couch. Pidge cross-legged on the floor at Matt’s feet. Lance in the armchair, and Keith on the floor in front of him with his boyfriend’s legs draped over his shoulders.
“Would anyone like something to drink with their pizza?” asks Shiro.
“Yeah! What d’you have?” responds Hunk.
“Ginger ale, milk, Hawaiian Punch because Matt is a weirdo… hot tea or coffee if you love insomnia and don’t mind waiting a few minutes,” Shiro says.
He’s met with a cacophony of requests, so he goes to the kitchen and comes back with a 2-liter of ginger ale, a jug of Hawaiian punch and a stack of plastic cups, “Serve yourselves.”
Shiro pours himself a cup of ginger ale and watches in mild horror as everyone else in the room pours a half-and-half mix of ginger ale and Hawaiian Punch. Minus Keith, who makes a beeline for the coffee maker.
“So,” says Shiro, once everyone is served and seated, “Family, huh? I like the sound of that.”
“I mean, that’s basically what we are, right?” says Lance, “Me and Keith are a couple. You and Matt are a couple. Keith and Pidge are you guys’ siblings. And now that me and Hunk’s moms are married, he’s technically my brother. So yep, family!”
Keith smiles into his coffee and reaches up to caress Lance’s calf.
“So are we gonna like… do this every week from now on?” asks Hunk around a mouthful of pizza, “Because pizza is great and all, but you know I’m always down for cooking.”
“Yesss!” Lance declares, “Petition for Hunk to be our official family dinner chef.”
“I second that movement,” says Matt, “Hunk’s cooking is to die for!”
“Plus, no one is better at accommodating dietary restrictions than Hunk,” Pidge adds matter-of-factly before taking a bite of her cheeseless pizza.
“Sounds good to me,” says Shiro, then he hums softly and says, “Hey, can I invite Allura along next week? I think she could use a little family in her life.”
“Yeah!” Hunk exclaims, “She can be the honorary big sister! Allura’s the best.”
Shiro turns to Keith and Lance, “You guys okay with that? This was your idea, after all.”
Keith looks pensive for a moment, then nods cautiously, “Yeah. Yeah, we can do that.”
Lance is less hesitant. He throws his fists in the air and whoops, “The more the merrier!”
“Tell her to bring her rats,” Pidge pipes up from the floor.
Shiro laughs, “Will do.”
Several hours later, Shiro watches fondly as his pieced-together family bids each other farewell for the night. Pidge smooshes her face to her brother’s shoulder as they hug goodbye, and Hunk engulfs Lance and Keith in a bone-crushing group hug.
Before they leave, Hunk and Pidge both make their way over and simultaneously wrap Shiro in a hug. He blinks in surprise, then returns the gesture. He’s secretly grateful that Pidge is on his right side, because he’s much more comfortable hugging her with his right arm—she did help build it, after all.
“Bye guys,” Shiro says softly, “Thanks for coming over.”
“Of course!” says Hunk, “It’s so nice to have everybody in the same place. I love you guys!”
After Hunk and Pidge leave, Shiro puts his hand on Keith’s shoulder, “Hey, can we talk before you go home? Just the four of us?”
“Oh. Sure,” Keith nods.
Lance blinks and points at himself, “Four of us?”
Shiro chuckles, “Yes. Four of us. That includes you.”
“Will we all fit on the couch, or should we move to the table or something?” asks Matt, “It seems weird to have an Important Discussion (TM) while sitting all the way across the room from each other, y’know?”
Keith perks up, “Can we sit on the bed?”
A wide smile spreads across Shiro’s face, “Of course, kiddo. That sounds perfect.” Just because Keith moved out doesn’t mean they have to stop sitting around chatting on Shiro’s bed.
Keith’s face lights up. His shoulders relax like a weight has been lifted off his back.
“To the bed, then!” says Matt, pointing dramatically towards the bedroom.
“To the bed!” Lance echoes, leading the way to their destination.
Shiro’s queen-sized bed wasn’t exactly made to hold four people, but this is hardly the first time they’ve tried and succeeded. Shiro and Matt lean back against the wall at the head of the bed, their shoulders pressed together. Keith leans against the other wall, perpendicular to Shiro, with Lance reclined in his lap.
“So,” says Shiro once everyone is settled, “How was your first week of cohabitation?”
“We called for a do-over,” says Lance, so matter-of-factly that Matt lets out a snort of laughter.
“Yeah, it was a total disaster,” says Keith, running his gloved hands through his boyfriend’s short hair.
Shiro smiles softly, “Looks like you got through it alright, though.”
A tiny smile shows on Keith’s face, “Yeah. Yeah, I guess we did.” He leans down to kiss the top of Lance’s head.
“How ‘bout you guys?” Lance asks, “Was your first week as bananas as ours?”
Shiro and Matt exchange a glance, then Matt says, “Yeah, we had a tough time too.”
It’s not entirely the truth and they all know it, but Lance and Keith both seem comforted anyways. They all sit in thoughtful silence for a few moments before Shiro nudges Keith with his foot and says, “I’ve missed this.”
Keith smiles softly, “I’ve missed this, too.”
“Oh my god, you guys. It’s only been a week!” Matt says, bumping his shoulder against Shiro’s repeatedly as he speaks.
“It’s been a long week, okay,” Shiro shoves back with his own shoulder, sending Matt sprawling onto the bed with a startled yelp.
They all laugh (Matt included), and Shiro smiles to himself as he sees Keith wrap his arms around Lance, laughing into his hair.
They’re gonna be alright.
They’re all gonna be alright.