Keith wasn’t one for crowds.
They were loud, pushy, and had no concept of personal space, and it was on more than one occasion that he found himself glaring down several people who fell into those categories.
It had been better that morning, when only the early risers and keeners were out and about, sporting whatever festival merchandise they had somehow already managed to secure. T-shirts with band names in large print, flags and scarves with music quotes, and the ever abundant ball caps that were handed out willy-nilly by festival volunteers. Keith had one of the latter, but the gaudy bright colours were not really his style.
Unfortunately the others had outvoted him for their group photo, which had been posted to both Shiro’s, Matt’s, and Allura’s Instagrams. Pidge had more or less been on the same page as Keith, blatantly opposing the fluorescent pink and blue head gear with ‘Altean Summers Fest’ written on the front, but, being the younger members, had no say in the matter.
Keith remembered the exchange from that morning.
“C’mon Keith do it for your big brother!” Shiro was terrible at puppy eyes, but Allura was not, and the two of the coupled together and batting their eyelashes at him had been hard to ignore. He had tried nonetheless.
“They’re embarrassing. Can’t we take a photo without them on?”
“Can we just not take a photo at all?” Pidge piped up, glaring at her own sibling as he shoved the hat further down on her head. “Ugh Matt stop!”
“Nope, sorry sis, mom wants pics, and as the responsible older brother that I am,” Pidge snorted at that, “I have to supply.”
“But why with the hats? Let’s just take a picture by the entrance and leave it at that,” Keith proposed again, and Allura spoke up.
“The hats are a traditional article of clothing worn at all times during the festival. It is customary. I should know, since my uncle helps manage everything.” She leaned down and poked Pidge on the nose. “And this is your first time here, so you have to follow the rules.”
Keith watched her closely. Shiro had been dating Allura for a few months now, and Keith liked her well enough, but there were times when he wasn’t completely sure if she was joking or not, like now.
His thoughts must have been betrayed by his face, as Shiro and Matt began chuckling behind Allura.
Pidge rolled her eyes.
“Yeah, ok ‘tradition’,” she made air quotes with her fingers to emphasize the word. Right, so Allura had been joking. Keith ignored Shiro’s teasing wink.
“How about this,” he said, grabbing Pidge and Keith by their shoulders and turning them towards the entrance. “I’ll get you both something from one of the food carts once we’re inside. Anything you want. Okay?”
Pidge nodded eagerly, and Keith sighed after a moment of pondering.
“Fine,” he mumbled. Free food was worth the humiliation.
And it had been. Sure the photo had turned out as awful and humiliating and terrible as Keith had imagined, but at least they were all smiling, and he had managed to hide the ugly hat once everything was said and done.
It was still early, and the smells of cooking breakfast foods wafted through the air, guiding them to a light red and blue coloured truck with fries painted on the side. Keith had been hesitant at first, not entirely keen on having that form of potato for breakfast, until he spotted the menu.
It was huge! Much larger than the trucks around it, and had an array of food items that not only sounded, but smelled delicious. Pidge had agreed, and they stopped there.
Matt went first, ordering a coffee and a large waffle for himself as Pidge and Keith analyzed the menu from a few feet away.
“I didn’t know they had so much selection at these sorts of things!” Pidge said excitedly, and Keith could only agree. He had been prepared to live off hamburgers and chips for the next three days, but knowing that crepes, waffles, eggs and bacon, salads and sandwiches of all sorts, and a huge variety of foods he had never even heard of were available for purchase only added to the festival hype.
This was going to be a good weekend.
And then he spotted the guy behind the counter; good suddenly felt like an understatement.
He was gorgeous. Way too hot to be working at a food truck, hidden within its’ dark confines. His skin was a dark, even brown, and his hair short and shaggy, but in a controlled sort of way, like he purposely styled it to look untouched.
Keith couldn’t see much beyond that, his torso the only thing visible as he leaned over the counter to hand Matt his food, but it was enough. Keith was entirely overwhelmed.
The strangers eyes passed over Keith momentarily as he turned to relay Shiro and Allura’s order to whoever was in the back, and Keith felt his stomach drop.
They were the most glorious shade of blue Keith had ever seen, and he cowered behind Pidge as the eyes locked on him for a moment, suddenly shy and not wanting to get caught staring. Her short stature didn’t provide much in terms of cover, but it was better than nothing.
“What are you-” she started, looking from him to the people around them. Luckily she didn’t clue in, and turned to stare up at Keith.
He straightened, pretending to gaze at something in the distance, not daring to return his attention to the man behind the counter.
“Oh, nothing. I just thought I saw someone from school.” Pidge nodded thoughtfully, knowing that Keith had dropped out a little while ago. He exhaled, relieved beyond measure when she returned her attention to the menu. The last thing he needed was for Pidge to try and hook him up with someone.
She was always on his case about not following through with things involving crushes, and had begun quoting ‘he who hesitates is lost’ whenever he made up an excuse to not talk to people he found attractive. It was ironic really, seeing as Keith was probably the most impulsive person in their group, but the others agreed that he lacked somewhat in the dating department.
Not that it was any of their business, but the saying had stuck, and he preferred to avoid any situation that would cause them to utter the phrase. Flirting wasn’t a strong suit of his, and most people weren’t naturally drawn to him anyways, so he preferred to admire from afar.
Which is what he planned on doing now. Besides, he shouldn’t get his hopes up over the brief eye contact, no matter what feelings they stirred up within him. He had no idea if this guy was even into dudes, and wouldn’t that be a spectacular waste of time.
“Have you decided?” Shiro’s voice broke through Keith’s thoughts, but he managed to pass his startled jump off as a trip by bumping into Pidge, who shoved him back with a gruff “Hey, watch it!”
“Um, yeah,” he said, turning back to the menu to hide his face. “I’ll have the number seven with a medium coffee.” Shiro crossed his arms.
“I said I would pay for it, not order it for you. Go tell the guy up there what you want.”
Keith’s eyes widened, not wanting that form of social interaction at all, but Pidge came to his rescue.
“Um, actually I think your words were ‘I’ll get you both something’ not ‘I’ll pay but you order’.” She smirked, and Keith grinned openly. Classic Pidge and her loopholes. She could talk her way out of a murder, though Keith hoped he never had to witness that.
Shiro quirked an eyebrow as he looked down at the girl.
“Oh, are we royalty now? And what does her highness want?”
“Highness?” Allura appeared at his side suddenly, placing a delicate hand on her hip. “I thought I was your only highness!” she teased, and Shiro grabbed at her hand, bringing it to his lips for a quick peck.
“You are Princess,” he murmured, and both Keith and Pidge groaned. Allura giggled, and kissed his cheek in reply. Shiro turned back to them in defeat, his cheeks a light pink.
“Fine, alright. What do you want then, since apparently I’ve indoctrinated myself into being your slave through the twisting of words.”
Pidge smirked proudly. “I want whatever Matt got,” she said, pointing over to where her brother was devouring a waffle at a nearby picnic table. “That looks delicious. And a small hot chocolate.”
Shiro bowed dramatically before turning to Keith.
“And for you sir?”
Keith rolled his eyes, “I already told you. Number seven and a medium coffee.”
“You don’t drink coffee,” Shiro retorted.
“I do when someone decides to wake me up at six in the morning because he heard a bird chirping and wanted to take a picture of it to impress his girlfriend.” Shiro paled at that, and Allura laughed heartily.
“Aweh Shiro that’s so cute!” She kissed his cheek again and he blushed. Keith grimaced. These two were way too lovey-dovey. “Can I see?” she continued, but Shiro shook his head.
“We didn’t find it. Someone kept tripping over roots and cursing like a sailor. It was horrendous. I’ve never heard so many atrocities in one sentence.” It was Keith’s turn to go red.
“Hey at least I went with you! You were scared to go by yourself because of bears and ‘strange old men’ that could ‘sell you on craigslist for three dollars’.” Pidge guffawed loudly, and even Allura cracked a smile as Shiro’s face contorted into a grouchy frown.
“Ok, wow. Rude. That was told to you in confidence,” Shiro pouted, and even Keith couldn’t hold back his grin. “Do you want your coffee black, like your heart?”
Keith smirked; “two cream, three sugar, and a dash of cinnamon.”
“What the heck, that’s not even an option!”
“It is if you ask nicely,” he shooed Shiro away with both hands, and Pidge joined him. Shiro rolled his eyes and took Allura by the arm gently, returning to the counter to place their order.
Keith watched them go, noticing for the first time that the handsome stranger behind the counter had been observing them intently the whole time. He wore a small smile as he locked eyes with Keith once again, but glanced away in order to take Shiro’s order.
Keith was almost jealous of his brother being able to converse with the man, but he didn’t have the nerve to go up and start a conversation, much less place a food order. Besides, if he had been listening to their previous exchange he would have heard about Keith falling in the woods, and that was much too embarrassing to risk coming up.
So instead he followed Pidge to the table Matt was sitting at, and waited for Shiro to return with their food. The wait wasn’t long, seeing as barely anyone else was around, and it was the most delicious breakfast Keith had ever had. His coffee, which Shiro had gifted to him with a mock bow, was the perfect temperature and sweetness, complete with cinnamon and all, but it wasn’t the caffeine that got his heart racing as he finished it.
He had been about to throw away the cup when he noticed the black sharpie markings near the bottom, where the fine print was located. The usual warning of ‘caution, the contents in this cup you are about to drink can be extremely hot, please handle with care’ had been modified to read ‘caution, you are extremely hot’. Keith blinked a few times as he read it over. Had that guy done this? It was adorable, and made his cheeks warm, until he realized that he hadn’t been the one to order the drink.
Shiro and Allura had been the ones at the counter, so the server probably thought it was for them. Hell, anyone would write that if two people like Shiro and Allura approached them ordering strange drinks and a bunch of food.
Sure, he could pretend the message had been for him, but what was the point? What did he hope to gain from it? A date? A burning hot romance that lasted the three days of the festival, filled with passionate make-outs and steamy tent sessions?
Keith shook his head of the visuals with a sigh. No, those things were improbable; day dreams of a hopeless romantic too socially anxious to act on his feelings.
He who hesitates is lost...
Oh well, the coffee had been good, and it did nothing to dwell on what ifs. There was an entire festival to explore with his friends. And who knows, maybe he would run into the guy again, and actually have the nerve to say something.
Keith tossed the cup in the recycling bin and ran to join the others.
“Hunk, I know what I said before, but you were right. This was a great idea.”
The man working the stove paused what he was doing, glancing back to the lanky server leaning against the counter of his food truck.
“Hold on, what was that?”
Lance shrugged nonchalantly.
“You heard me,” he said with a grin.
Hunk folded his arms in front of him and regarded his friend.
“Actually the fan back here is pretty loud. If I could just get you to repeat that, maybe into my phone so I have a recording for later...” he trailed off as Lance smacked him with the towel he had been using to wipe down the counter.
“Nuh uh chef. One time thing. Cherish it forever.”
“I’ll write it on my grave,” Hunk replied, rolling his eyes and returning to the scrambled eggs he had been preparing.
“No, but seriously,” Lance continued, “this is actually pretty fun. Who knew cooking at a festival could be so awesome?”
“I knew, and I told you.” He turned back towards his friend, placing the eggs on a plate next to a couple strips of bacon and two slices of toast. He handed it to Lance to give to the customer. “In fact, I distinctly remember telling you that exact thing. I recall you putting up a huge fuss about it being ‘too warm’ and ‘too boring’ and having ‘an upsetting lack of babes’.”
“That hardly sounds like me,” Lance scoffed, thanking the customer as they left and gazing out at the festival grounds. He wasn’t searching for anything in particular, but found himself disappointed when nothing caught his attention.
Nothing and no one.
Hunk was watching him intently as he turned back, a knowing look on his face.
“So what made you change your mind? The air conditioning? The constant flow of music and interesting people?” he grinned mischievously at Lance. “Or maybe the surprising abundance of babes?”
Lance felt his face redden.
Sure, Hunk had been right on all those points, but admitting them out loud was not something Lance wanted to do. Still, he knew Hunk had seen him scratch out the words on that coffee cup after the two strangers placed their order, and had been watching him watch them with a slight smile on his face.
Hunk was no fool.
“Did he notice?” he asked, and Lance knew to what and who he was referring to. He had elbowed Hunk in the side when the group had approached their food truck, excited to have more customers, but it wasn’t until he spotted the boy with longer black hair and unorthodox red coat that his heart had really begun to race. No one had any right being that pretty.
Lance shrugged, rearranging the condiments on the corner of the counter to keep his hands busy.
“I don’t think so.” He had been too busy to watch them eat, in a totally non creepy way, but had turned just in time to see the boy throw his drink into the recycling bin near their truck, his heart falling as quickly as the cup.
“Maybe you had the wrong one?” Hunk offered, and Lance put his hands on his hips in defiance.
“Ok, first of all, I’m a professional barista, so even the thought of that offends me,” he proclaimed loudly, and Hunk rolled his eyes. His best friend had a flare for the dramatic. “Second of all,” Lance continued, “two cream, three sugar and a dash of cinnamon is the strangest request I’ve ever had for a plain coffee. I think I would know which cup to write on.”
“You mean vandalize.”
“It’s not vandalism if it’s complimenting someone,” Lance retorted. “In fact, they call it Canadian graffiti.”
“Do they now,” Hunk mused, tidying up the kitchen before the noon hour rush. The festival would bring in a lot of customers, especially since the main focus was music.
Music equated to dancing, which lead to hunger, which lead to food. And Hunk’s truck had just that.
Well, not his truck per say...it belonged to his parents, who ran a restaurant back home. The food truck was a way to get their recipes and ideas out on the streets, and it had been Hunk’s idea to sign-up as one of the vendors for the Altean Summers Fest.
Not only would his family's business grow, but Hunk would get to enjoy a weekend of cooking with good music and tons of different foods to try. Convincing Lance to help him out had been a bit of a struggle, until he mentioned that they got free access to the festival, and that working the counter would allow him to talk with and meet a variety of different folks.
People were always more talkative when they were hungry, and Lance loved to chat.
“Do you doubt me Hunk? Buddy? My bestest friend in the entire world?” Lance placed a hand to his chest, over his heart, still going on about the cup incident. “Would I lie to you?!”
Hunk chuckled at his friend’s antics.
“I believe you, chill. You’ll just have to make it more obvious next time.”
Lance pouted, leaning against the counter again and staring up at the ceiling.
“I was hoping he would come up to the counter. Not that those other two weren’t hot, but I saw them kiss so they’re both off the table.”
“You watched them kiss? That’s creepy dude, even for you.”
Lance’s mouth fell open in a gasp.
“Creepy!? Well now I’m just offended. You cut me deep Hunk. You cut me deep.”
“Dude, you were eaves dropping on their conversation earlier in hopes of catching his name. That’s a little bit creepy if you ask me.”
“I’m wounded! My own best friend! My one true love-”
Someone cleared their throat at the window, and Lance whirled, having momentarily forgotten his role as server.
“What can I get for-” he started, then cut off as he realized who it was. “Oh, what’s up Coran?”
“The sky I imagine,” the older man replied, and Hunk bit back a grin. To anyone else it would come across as sarcasm, but Hunk and Lance knew Coran well enough to know that he was genuinely answering the question. Some of the things he would say were so preposterous that Hunk had begun writing them down. “Why do you ask?”
Lance shook his head, grinning.
“No reason,” he replied. “Need anything?”
“Nothing really, just wanted to know how things were. The festival is beginning to fill up, and I felt I should warn you of the noon hour rush.”
Hunk moved to stand at the counter with Lance, to better converse with the man. Coran was one of the people responsible for the Altean Summers Fest, and had been the one to recommend Hunk’s food truck to the board. It was surprising to actually see him out and about however, seeing as there were a million responsibilities when it came to running a music festival, especially on the first day.
“Everything is great so far, and don’t worry,” Hunk said as he leaned back proudly, “this isn’t my first rodeo.”
Coran looked mildly confused.
“That may be true lad, but this is a music festival. Much different crowd.” Lance stifled a laugh as Hunk’s face fell, the expression completely going over Coran’s head.
“Um...right,” Hunk managed, elbowing Lance in the side. He knew he wouldn’t hear the end of this for a while.
“Well anyways,” Coran went on, oblivious, “just be timely and efficient, whilst not sacrificing quality. Though, that shouldn’t be a problem for you. I’ve heard only good things so far.” He winked, and Hunk flushed with pride. “Also, if you see my niece would you let me know? I wanted to see her before things got too wild.”
Lance straightened at that, leaning on the counter to stare down at Coran.
“Niece? What’s her name? Age? Star sign?”
Coran eyed him incredulously.
“Her name is Allura, and she’s already in a loving relationship.” Hunk chuckled as Lance crossed his arms melodramatically.
“Coran, I was merely asking for curiosities sake! No need to assume!”
“Besides,” Hunk chimed in, “Lance already has his eyes on someone here, so no need to worry.”
Coran nodded, before waving goodbye and joining the growing crowd.
“Uncool Hunk!” Lance exclaimed once Coran was out of ear shot, and smacked his friend with the towel again. Hunk giggled.
“What! You do!”
“Not really,” Lance sighed, smile fading from his face as he stared out at the throng of people. “He probably didn’t even notice me.”
“Well, we’ll just have to go find him once the truck closes for the night.” Lance perked up at that, and Hunk flashed him a large grin. “Besides, we forgot to ask Coran what Allura looks like, so I’ll have to track him down later.”
“I doubt she’ll be hard to find. Just look for girl with bright orange hair and bushy mustache.”
“Lance! Rude!” Hunk gave him a disapproving look, but chuckled despite himself. Coran did have an impressive amount of facial hair. “Oh hey, big group of teens coming this way, time to form up.”
Lance winked at him, throwing the towel over his shoulder and stretching his arms theatrically.
“Don’t worry,” he teased, “this isn’t my first rodeo.”
Hunk groaned loudly as Lance laughed at his own joke. This was going to be a long three days.
The line was longer this time, but that was to be expected as more people flooded into the field where the festival was being held.
Keith wasn’t even sure why he was in it, seeing as his hunger wasn’t too intense, and Shiro had packed water bottles for them all to ward against the sun’s heat. Keith had taunted him at first, saying that they already had a dad, but as the day warmed, he found himself more than grateful to have the extra fluid on hand.
So no, he didn’t really need anything from the red and blue food truck from that morning, but he wanted something. Or, at least, he thought he did. The idea of the stranger behind the counter had been on his mind all day, and he knew that he wouldn’t be able to enjoy the festival fully until he faced his fear and spoke with him. Sure it was dumb, and stupid, and way too high school chick flick movie for his tastes, but Keith was tired of hesitating.
Besides, this weekend was about fun, and trying new things, and the food here was good anyways, so why not?
He glanced around at the people in the surrounding area. A good majority of them were sporting the tacky Altean Summer Fest hats, complete with brightly coloured clothing and fake tattoos of feathers and arrows. Keith had jokingly asked Pidge where hers were and received a solid punch in the arm in reply. He was still rubbing at it when she spoke.
“Matt just texted me. It says ‘code pink’,” she started chuckling as she typed a reply and Keith turned his attention away from the food truck that stood a little ways ahead. The crowd was too thick to see anyone at the counter anyways.
“What’s code pink?”
Pidge didn’t look up from her phone.
“It basically means Shiro and Allura are being over the top love birds and it’s cute but mildly uncomfortable. I asked him to send a picture.”
“Wait, you guys have codes for them?”
Pidge nodded enthusiastically.
“We have codes for everything. You want in? I can send you the master list.”
“Yeah I want in! You know how often I have to listen to Shiro go on and on about Allura? I could tell you what sort of conditioner she uses if you want, or where she buys her favourite protein powder.” Pidge grimaced in reply, and Keith nodded sagely. “Exactly.”
His phone buzzed a moment later, and he opened up the text from Pidge.
“Hey, what the heck? This has my name at the top!”
Pidge’s eyes widened as she reopened her phone to check the message she had just sent.
“Oh crap, uh...I meant to send you theirs but got confused and pressed ‘Keith’s’ instead. Here,” she made to grab for his phone, but he held it up and out of her reach.
“You have codes for me?! I thought we were friends!” Keith read a few of the bullet points off his phone and groaned. “Code red? Really? ‘Cute guy alert, Keith too shy to act’?”
Pidge tried jumping to reach his cell but didn’t get very far. She gave up with a guilty shrug.
“We use that one a lot.”
“Wow, okay rude!” Keith scanned the list briefly, before groaning again and tucking his phone back in his pocket. “Does Shiro know about this?”
The expression on Pidge’s face was enough of a response.
“Oh, super. Just dandy.”
“Do you still want theirs?” she asked tentatively, and Keith huffed.
“Yes,” he mumbled grumpily after a moment, ignoring the sly smile that crept onto his friends’ face. If Shiro was sending Pidge and Matt secret messages about him then of course Keith wanted payback. That was only fair.
He didn’t bother checking his phone as it buzzed the second time.
“Actually,” Pidge went on, “speaking of which, Matt just texted me code black.”
“Let me guess...kissing in public? Holding hands?”
Pidge shook her head in remorse. “Pet names.”
Keith cringed. Allura and Shiro were adorable together, don’t get that wrong, but the pet names they used were atrocious. He felt an immense amount of pity for Matt, who had elected to stay with the two and secure decent seats for the next round of performers while Keith and Pidge went to find more food. It was around three in the afternoon, so their request had seemed reasonable.
There was no way Keith was going to admit that his apparent hunger wasn’t for food. He just couldn’t get those blue eyes out of his head.
“Where are we anyways,” Pidge stood on her tip toes to try and get a better vantage point, but it did absolutely nothing. Keith chuckled at her, and got a glare in return.
“We’re at the same place as this morning,” he said, and Pidge made a face halfway between a scowl and a pout.
“What? Why! There are so many food trucks I want to try something different!” She made to step out of line but Keith was quicker, grabbing her arm to secure her in place.
“Hey! Keith what the heck man!”
“We’ve been standing here for a while now, and we’re almost at the front.”
“So, look around. Everywhere else will be just as long a wait. It would be pointless if we left now.”
Pidge pouted, but luckily Keith’s excuse made sense....for the most part anyways. Sure, the lines were just as long everywhere else, except for maybe the salad bar, but the wait wouldn’t have been that long had they decided to switch. Thankfully Pidge was distracted by her phone again, and giggled as she held it up for him to see.
“Oh my god. Matt just sent this.” Keith welcomed the change in subject, and lowered his head to get a better view. The picture was of Shiro and Allura holding hands and gazing lovingly into each other’s eyes, and looked pretty cute overall.
Or would have anyways, if Matt’s face hadn’t been in the frame. He was in the foreground, the photo having been a selfie, and wore a bored expression with heavily lidded eyes. The caption that ran along the bottom of the screen wrote ‘hello darkness my old friend’. Keith snorted, and Pidge cracked up.
“Oh god I feel so bad for him,” she broke off in another fit of giggles. “Well, actually, no I don’t. He knew this would happen.”
“Tell him we’ll only be a few more minutes.” Keith checked their progress in the line. They were getting closer now, edging slowly towards the front where the food truck from that morning was. He was getting a bit hungrier as the different smells wafted through the air, but as they neared the counter panic seized him.
What was he going to say?!
You’re going to order food.
But what food?!
There’s a menu! Read it!
What if he tries to make conversation?!
Then answer him like a normal human being.
But what if, what if-
What if what! He’s just a guy. A hot one. Who has nice eyes. You’re allowed to admire that. Now quit being such a wimp!
Pidge elbowed him in the side roughly, and Keith looked down with a yelp, his mental pep talk abandoned.
“Ouch, what was that for!” Pidge gave him an incredulous look and pointed with a finger.
“She asked you what you wanted like, three times. You zoned out.”
Keith blinked, realizing that while his mind had been wandering a group of people had left the line ahead of them, leaving him and Pidge at the front. A kind looking girl was staring down at him with a soft smile, her hair cut short to frame her face.
“Oh, um...” Keith took a few steps back to check if they were at the right place, but the truck was the same as the one they had been to that morning. He scratched the back of his neck nervously.
“Sorry, I uh- I thought someone else would be working.” Where was he?!
“Oh?” The girl turned to someone in the back of the truck, and a larger man with impressively muscled arms approached the counter. Uh oh...
“Hey, I’m Hunk. Can I help you with something?” Keith was momentarily taken aback by the kindness of this guy’s voice. He had been expecting something deep and gruff to match his appearance, but he supposed there was lesson to be learned there about not judging people based on looks.
“No, sorry, um...” Keith shook his head to help clear it. He hadn’t been expecting the hot server to not be there. He hadn’t prepared for that scenario, and now he looked like a complete fool. “I’ll just have a burger and fries please, with an orange pop.” God this was embarrassing.
The man, Hunk, shared a look with the girl behind the counter, before leaning across it to better speak with Keith.
“I’m the chef here, but Shay can take your order if you want.” He winked, and Keith felt his face redden in humiliation. Oh god...why was he being so stupid!
“Right, sorry about that,” he mumbled, ignoring the obvious smirk Pidge was shooting his way.
“Hey, no worries man. Festival air, am I right?” Hunk gestured around them, and Keith nodded, grateful for an excuse.
“Yeah that’s...yeah.” Wow. Convincing.
“So, that was a burger and fries, and an orange pop?” the girl, Shay, asked politely, drawing their attention back to the task at hand. Keith nodded once, before changing his mind.
“Actually, can I grab a coffee instead? My mind needs to wake up.”
“Sure thing,” Shay smiled and typed in his order.
“And can I get it with two creams, three sugar and a dash of cinnamon please?”
Hunk, who had turned and was moving to the back of the truck, paused suddenly. He slowly twisted to glance back down at Keith, and a strange look passed over his face.
“If that’s ok with you,” Keith started, but trailed off as a large grin broke out on Hunk’s face. He moved back toward the counter, winking at Shay as he did.
“Not a problem at all! Just unique. Dash of cinnamon you say?”
“Yeah,” Keith nodded, “it boosts the flavour.”
“You sure that’s not just all the sugar?” Pidge interjected, giving him a bored look. Keith stuck his tongue out in reply.
“No, I’ve heard that too actually,” Hunk was saying, taking a cup from the stack and grabbing a marker from his apron. “Can I get a name?”
Keith was taken aback by the request, but provided nonetheless. He supposed the truck was busy enough to be asking people their names for food and drinks. It was odd, but this was a festival. Besides, he wasn’t about to deny the chef anything, seeing as his burger had yet to be made.
After paying they moved to the side and waited for their food, Pidge teasing him about being weird and making fun of his coffee preferences, but Keith didn’t mind. He deserved it really, after making a fool of himself in front of the strangers. At least the hot one hadn’t been there.
That would have been a total mess.
When they got their order and left Pidge watched him take a sip of his drink, and her eyebrows furrowed.
“Hey, didn’t he write your name on the cup?”
Keith frowned in reply, turning the beverage around to see what she meant, and his own eyebrows dropped in confusion.
There, written in black loopy letters, was a name. But it wasn’t his.
“Mooorrningg,” Hunk cooed as Lance entered the food truck. It was the second day of the festival, and the gates had yet to open. Hunk had already prepped his truck for the day however, and had been eagerly awaiting his best friend to show up.
“Sup,” Lance replied with a quick wave, removing his jacket and hanging it in the back. “Sorry about yesterday, mom said the sitter cancelled. Something about a flu, but I’m thinking the girl ended up here instead. Not that I blame her, the music is awesome.”
“No worries, Shay was more than happy to come in.”
Lance gave him a sly look. “Oh I’m sure she was.”
“Shut it,” Hunk blushed.
“So, did I miss anything? Impromptu dance sessions? Food truck fight? Super models searching for a hot, single guy to take them out?” Lance went on, leaning against the counter and stealing a piece of bacon from one of the bins. Hunk grinned.
“Something along those lines. I have something for you.” He reached under the counter and emerged with a paper cup, identical to the ones stacked in the corner near the coffee pots. Lance frowned.
“Do I look that tired?” he said, taking the cup from his friend. “You know I don’t drink that crap-” he trailed off, noticing that a name had been messily scribbled on it in sharpie. Lance examined it closer.
Hunk was nodding knowingly, and Lance tilted his head in confusion.
“Hey Hunk, this may come as a shock to you, since we’ve been friends for years, but my name is actually Lance.” He extended a hand in mock introduction, “nice to meet you.” Hunk flicked it away.
“Ha. Hilarious. But you won’t be laughing once you realize who that is.” Lance quirked an eyebrow, flipping the cup between his hands distractedly.
“You going to tell me or...”
“I’ll give you a hint.” Hunk leaned against the stove and folded his arms smugly, letting the suspense build before speaking. “Two cream, three sugar, and a dash of cinnamon.”
Lance’s eyes widened comically, and he rushed forward to grab Hunk by the shoulders, cup still in hand.
“No way!” he exclaimed, mouth agape. “How, when-wait...” he stepped back to stare at the cup. “Explain.”
Hunk chuckled. “He came back to the truck a few hours after you had to leave, and I didn’t realize who it was until he ordered that same drink. He was super awkward but in a cute sort of way. Shay and I couldn’t stop talking about it. She said-”
Lance held up a finger to stop him.
“Hold on, how do you know it was him? Anyone could have ordered that same drink. And you never saw him that morning!”
“You described him pretty well, in a disturbing amount of detail I might add,” Hunk replied, rolling his eyes. Lance wasn’t convinced.
“Yeah but I’m sure there are a ton of guys here that match his description!”
“Lance chill. I know it was him. He asked about you.” The lanky boy’s eyes grew wider in a display of shock and joy.
“Really? What did he say?!”
“Well, he came up to the counter sort of out of it, asking about another server when Shay tried to talk to him. Then I came to the front, thinking we had a trouble maker, and he was super awkward and blushy. It wasn’t until he ordered that drink that I knew for sure though.” Hunk adjusted the apron around his waist, briefly checking the time as Lance processed the new information.
“Ok wait,” he asked, eyes fixed on the cup, “he asked for me specifically? He knew my name?”
“Well, no...” Hunk went on, “but he will now.” He winked at his friend, who looked even more confused than ever. Then realization dawned on his face and Hunk beamed.
“Hunk what did you do!?”
“A favour!” Hunk answered, laughing as Lance tossed the cup at his head, where it bounced off lightly. “Don’t worry about it! You’ll just have a conversation topic for when he comes back!”
“If he comes back. You probably scared him off,” Lance grumbled, bending to retrieve the coffee cup.
“Me? Scare someone? I’m the most non-threatening person!”
Lance cocked an eyebrow as he tucked the gift in his coat pocket.
“Maybe to friends, but you look like The Rock’s cousin to strangers. All arms and chest and smelling like grilled meat, approaching them from the dark confines of this creepy truck. Bet you were holding a knife as well.”
Hunk pouted, folding his arms across his chest. “I was chopping tomatoes!”
Lance grinned, flashing a brilliant set of teeth at his best friend. Teasing Hunk was fun, but Lance was genuinely grateful to know someone as kind as him. Who else would make the effort of finding out the name of a guy he found cute? Someone he hadn’t even spoken to yet!
That was pure wholesomeness.
“Well,” he said, bumping his fist against Hunk’s shoulder lightly, “here’s to hoping this Keith guy shows up again.”
“Cheers to that!”
Shiro was in a mood.
Not a bad one, per say, quite the contrary. He was all smiles and good humour, and had been freely giving out hugs to their group all morning, Allura especially.
Keith almost felt bad for her, but she didn’t seem to mind the extra affection she was receiving from her boyfriend at all. And it wasn’t like there was anything wrong with Shiro being cheerful, the positivity oozing off him and starting to affect even Keith, except for the fact that he was staying in the same tent as Matt and him, and that meant another early start for no reason at all.
Keith had grumbled about wanting to sleep longer, seeing as they had been out late last night listening to the different performers and partying with new friends, and the ground wasn’t the most comfortable thing to pass out on, even with a sleeping bag.
So no, he hadn’t exactly shared in his brother’s outward enthusiasm about going on an early morning hike. At least Matt had been in relatively the same boat, having drank much more than the others, and suffering a vicious hangover as a result, but they were the only two not thrilled about the whole thing.
Even Pidge had been up and ready to go, jabbering on about getting better reception at the top of the mountain.
But Keith’s mood had shifted after a while, the light breeze and heat from the sun making him feel alive and refreshed. He had always liked the outdoors, and the trail to the top of the cliff overlooking the valley was easy to navigate; the view from the summit worth the early start.
And yes, they had all wanted more photos, but at least there were no hats this time.
Keith knew he would remember those moments with his friends for a long time, and they would one day become cherished memories, but now that it was nearing mid-afternoon he was lamenting his choice. He was exhausted, and the festival was just getting underway, so there was no chance to sneak away for a quick nap.
“Shiro, can we just find a place to sit and relax for a bit?” They had been wandering around the festival, checking out vendors and the like. Allura and Pidge had gone to the bathrooms, which had allowed Keith the opportunity to drag Shiro and Matt to a picnic table near the food trucks and wait.
“What? We’ve been relaxing all day!”
Keith gave him an incredulous look. “Are you serious?”
“Yeah Keith,” Matt chimed in, “hiking at seven in the morning is the height of relaxation! Especially after a night of partying!” Keith smirked at the sarcasm, but Shiro didn’t catch on, or else pretended not to notice.
“Exactly!” he beamed, and Matt rolled his eyes, resting his head in his hands as he groaned softly.
“I’m never drinking again,” he mumbled. The statement sobered Shiro somewhat, concern replacing his previous jubilee. Keith smiled to himself at the instant shift to Dad Mode.
“We should get you more water. And some food.” He looked around, eyes scanning the various options. He stood abruptly, and Keith glanced up to see what had caught his attention.
“They had good stuff, let’s go there,” he said, pointing to a familiar red and blue truck not three tables down. Keith felt his stomach drop.
Pidge had been relentless with teasing him after the awkward exchange there yesterday, but the name on the cup had distracted her enough to keep her from mentioning the whole thing to the others.
Keith on the other hand, had pondered it thoroughly, and had come to a rather outrageous conclusion.
Lance was the name of that server. The one with the blue eyes. The one he had been so prepared to talk with yesterday.
But Shiro and Matt were already standing, so he had to think quickly.
“You guys go ahead. I’m not that hungry.”
Shiro gave him a quizzical look, crossing his arms in disbelief.
“You? Not hungry? Absurd.”
“All my energy is being spent trying to keep myself awake. There’s nothing left for hunger,” Keith retorted, and his brother relented with a grin.
“It’s good for you, but fine. We’ll be right back.”
Keith sighed in relief and watched them go. The last thing he needed was for his happy-go-lucky brother to embarrass him in front of some cute guy. And yeah, maybe he was reverting back to the whole admiring from afar and ‘he who hesitates is lost’ crap, but it had taken him a while to build up the nerve to introduce himself yesterday, and Keith just didn’t have the energy to spare.
He turned his eyes back to the food truck where Shiro and Matt were now ordering. He could see with a jolt that the guy was back, leaning over the counter with arms folded loosely as he listened to what Shiro wanted. Keith watched him tuck a loose strand of hair behind his ear in what could only be interpreted as a flirty gesture, and felt his face heat.
Was he jealous of his brother? Or was he angry at this Lance guy for being so frivolous with his actions. Both were obscene, but Keith couldn’t help but feel a bit betrayed by both parties.
He had called dibs already....in his head.
Plus Shiro was dating someone! So what the heck!
Keith shook his head in an effort to rid himself of the ridiculous thoughts. What was he thinking? He had no right to be envious of anyone. He hadn’t even spoken to this guy yet! All he had was a name; a name that he was not even one hundred percent certain belonged to the handsome stranger.
It was pitiful really.
Keith was brought out of his dismal thoughts by a cup smacking down on the table in front of him. He jumped at the sudden intrusion, and was met with a pair of sly smirks worn by Matt and Shiro.
“What...” Keith began, but broke off when his brother winked at his friend, waving his eyebrows theatrically.
“Oh nothing,” he said, sitting down across from him and leaning forward with a mischievous grin. “Someone just thought you could use a coffee.”
Keith frowned, glancing down at the beverage in front of him. Steam rose up from the cup towards him, enticing him with the promise of caffeine. And, wait...was that cinnamon he smelled?
“Oh!” Keith brightened, “you didn’t have to get me anything, but thanks-” he broke off as Matt started giggling, his own mouth filled with sandwich. He nudged Shiro’s shoulder and waved his own eyebrows, which made Keith suddenly very suspicious of the drink in front of him.
“What did you guys do to my coffee?” he asked, previous gratitude flushed down the drain.
“Who, us?” Shiro asked in mock confusion. “We,” he emphasized the word, gesturing between himself and Matt, “didn’t do anything.”
“Then why do you look like that.” Keith eyed the cup warily.
“Look like what?” Matt joined in, his voice high pitched and dramatic. They were terrible actors.
“What, did you put salt in it or something? I’m not really in the mood for this-”
“Just look at the cup Keith,” Shiro interrupted, and Keith sighed.
“You guys are so dumb...” he trailed off, noticing several black squiggles decorating the outside of the coffee cup. He turned it to read properly, careful not to spill any liquid, and felt his face turn three shades of red.
There, written in messy letters, was a simple message of ‘I don’t bite’, followed by a winky face. Keith knew immediately who had done it.
“What-why,” he managed, looking up at Shiro for answers. His brother was beaming.
“The guy behind the counter noticed you sitting by yourself, and asked why you hadn’t come up to order anything. We told him you weren’t hungry, but then he pointed out how tired you looked, and gave us a coffee on the house.” He shared a look with Matt, who was stuffing his face with food again. “For you.”
Keith gulped, his mouth dry and palms uncomfortably clammy. Oh god...this was embarrassing! But also very cute?! He looked behind Shiro towards the food truck, and the server, Lance, was watching him. He gave a slight wave when he noticed Keith staring.
Keith ducked down, hoping his brother’s bulk would hide him.
“Oh god, oh god,” he whined.
“What, do you not like him?” Shiro asked, concern dampening the teasing tones. “Should I tell him to back off?”
“No!” Keith exclaimed, a bit louder than he had wanted, and quickly amended. “Don’t. I, uh...I’ll just,” he groaned, unable to formulate a proper reply. What would he do? He had no plan for this...this callout! ‘I don’t bite’? With a winky face? What was that?!
“Uh oh,” Matt mumbled to Shiro. “Code Red.”
“Okay wow!” Keith said, knowing now the meaning behind the ‘secret’ message. “Uncalled for!”
Matt looked taken aback. “Wait, how did you find out!” then, after a moment, “Pidge!”
“Yeah, she accidently texted me the wrong list. So nice try.”
Shiro, who had been smiling throughout the whole exchange, turned to Matt suddenly.
“Wait, is there another list? Wait,” he grabbed his friend by the arm, “Matt, do you have code names for me?!”
Matt was silent, choosing to bite into his sandwich instead of answer, and Shiro gasped loudly.
“My own best friend! I’m wounded!” Shiro leaned dramatically across the table, clutching his chest as Matt fought a grin.
“Matt, what did you do to my boyfriend?” Keith turned at the sound of Allura’s voice, Pidge following beside her. Oh perfect.
“He has secret codes about me!” Shiro said pathetically, reaching his arms out to grab at Allura’s hands. She rolled her eyes at this theatrics.
“Who told you!” Pidge exclaimed, punching Keith in the arm for no reason.
“It was Keith,” Matt said at the same time, “but only because you let it slip! Bad Pidge, all your fault.” He took another bite of sandwich to avoid her glare.
“Hey! You guys were the ones who brought it up!” Keith said in his defense, but they ignored him, Shiro turning to his girlfriend and scooting down on the bench for her to sit.
“Anyways, we have a code red on our hands,” he said, and everyone nodded knowingly, all eyes on Keith. He was appalled.
“Are you joking me?! You guys are all in that?” They nodded, and Keith let his head fall to the table with a heavy thunk.
"Who is it?" Allura asked, and Shiro gestured to the server at the food truck.
“Oh!” Pidge exclaimed, clapping her hands together in epiphany. “That’s who Lance is, isn’t it!” she shook his shoulder, but Keith preferred the cold embrace of death. Oh god...
“Who?” Matt asked, and Pidge went on to explain, in horrifying detail, the exchange from yesterday. He kept his head on the table the entire time, willing his body to merge with the wood.
“Aw Keith! That’s so cute! You have to go say hi,” Allura cooed, and he whimpered in reply. Not. Happening.
“Yeah Keith c’mon,” Pidge started, “he who hesitates-” He groaned louder this time, and she broke off with a laugh. There was no way out of this. Well, not without running off and getting lost in the crowd, but Keith didn’t think he had the energy or nerve to do that.
He stood, keeping his head lowered and glaring at the cup in front of him.
He could do this.
Just go up, say hi, and thank him for the coffee.
The others were quiet, not wanting to distract him, or else holding their breath to see what he would do. It was funny really, since in most scenarios he was all fight over flight. But with crushes? Dating? No way. Flight all the way.
Keith was an excellent flier.
But not this time.
“Ok,” he said, determination filling his voice. He grabbed the cup and, with a deep breath, approached the food truck.
“Oh my god,” Hunk whispered excitedly, grabbing Lance by the arm and jumping up and down. “Here he comes!”
“I can see that! Hunk,” he turned to his best friend, suddenly, inexplicably, nervous. “Hunk what do I do!?”
“What do you mean? You wanted this right?”
“Yeah, but like...I didn’t think it would work! No one ever responds to my flirts!” His eyes went wide in panic. “Oh god Hunk, what if he’s mad! What if he hates me! Hunk!” He moved to hide behind his friend, who rolled his eyes and easily held him in place.
“Lance, listen to me. This is good. This is a good thing.” Lance was chewing his lower lip; a nervous habit. Poor guy. “And if things go wrong, I’ll be right here with my knife.”
“Hunk!” Lance cried, but he was smiling now, so Hunk took that as good sign. “Now calm down and be the confident, flirty guy I know you can be!” He flipped Lance around and gently nudged him towards the counter, just in time for Keith to approach. There was a beat of absolute silence.
“Um,” the boy murmured, then in a louder voice, “hi.”
Lance leaned against the counter, folding his arms beneath him in a relaxed pose.
“Hey,” he said, and Keith took a visible breath. Another moment of quiet fell upon them, and Lance felt an awkwardness descend. Luckily he was saved from having to fill it.
“I’m Keith by the way,” the boy said, extending a hand for Lance to shake. He took it with a wide smile.
“The names Lance, but I think we already knew that about each other,” he made a pointed glance towards Hunk, who was trying, and failing, to look busy.
Keith nodded quickly.
“Just wanted to make it official.” He looked up after a moment, dark eyes staring into Lance's soul. “Thank you,” he continued, “for the coffee,” he held it up to show Lance, who chuckled softly.
“No problem, it looked like you needed it.”
“Gee, thanks,” Keith mumbled, and Lance snorted.
“I mean that in the best possible way.”
Keith smiled shyly, staring at the cup thoughtfully.
“My brother, Shiro, likes to get up with the birds,” he said after a moment, and Lance hummed. The boy glanced up at that, as if checking to see if Lance was still interested in the conversation. He smiled in encouragement, causing Keith’s ears to turn pink. Lance felt entirely smitten.
“Your brother is Bangs McGee over there?” he asked, and Keith nodded, looking amused at the nickname.
“Sleeping in isn’t a concept he’s familiar with,” Keith went on, “so I’ve been subjected to torture these past few days.”
“Not a morning person?” Lance asked, and Keith shrugged.
“I like being up early, I just don’t like getting up early, if that makes sense.” Lance’s eyes widened in excitement.
“Oh my god you put it into words!” he turned to the back, where Hunk was watching them intently, all efforts for secrecy gone. “See Hunk, I told you I wasn’t the only one who thought that way. I think you owe me an apology.” His friend chuckled warmly.
“Guess I was wrong. There are people as weird as you,” he paused, turning to stare at Keith with a look of panic. “Didn’t mean it like that! You aren’t weird, you’re normal. Well, unless you are weird, I don’t know you, but I could, if you want to be friends-”
“Hunk, buddy,” Lance interrupted, placing a hand on his friend’s shoulder. “Chill.”
“Right, yeah, I’m just going to go back to making chilli. Don’t mind me.” Hunk disappeared further into the truck, and Lance’s attention was back on Keith in an instant, dark eyes staring up at him brightly. Lance nearly choked.
This guy was way too pretty to be real.
“That’s Hunk, my main man, but I get the feeling you already met.” Lance smiled coyly, and saw Keith’s face flush red.
“Uh, yeah about that...” he trailed off, then suddenly: “how did you know I liked my coffee this way?” He placed it on the counter in front of him, and Lance blinked, having completely forgotten about the drink. He felt his own cheeks redden and hoped the shadows from the truck would make it less obvious. He felt no reason to lie though, and raised one eyebrow teasingly.
“I always remember the orders of cute customers,” he added a wink for good measure, and Keith’s face turned a lovely shade of pink. Mission accomplished.
“Um...thanks,” he managed, and Lance chuckled at his bashfulness. It was then he noticed the group of people that Keith had been with all staring at them with their phones out a few tables away. He cleared his throat and leaned forward, speaking in hushed tones. “I think your friends are taking photos of us.”
Keith’s face was struck with horror, and he whirled, flipping the group off as they all laughed heartily. Lance decided he like them.
“I should let you get back to them,” he sighed, “you guys are missing the festival.” Keith turned back to him quickly, a look of disappointment briefly flashing across his face. He nodded though, staring at the coffee still sitting between them.
“I guess,” his voice was low, and Lance detected a hint of hesitation in it. Too cute.
“But you know,” he went on, and Keith glanced up hopefully. “I’m here all day. And tomorrow. And, in case you forgot,” he dropped his voice so Keith had to lean forward to hear the rest, “the food trucks all close down at around eight, so...” he trailed off, hoping the boy would get the hint.
He did, and a brilliant smile appeared on his face, lighting up his eyes and causing Lance’s heart to soar.
“Right, well, I tend to get hungry around that time, so maybe we can come to an arrangement...”
Lance grinned, shaking his head at the sudden nerve of this guy.
“I’ll bring fries,” he said, and Keith crossed his arms, raising one eyebrow in defiance.
“Burgers, and an orange pop.”
They both stood grinning at each other for another moment, then Keith grabbed his coffee from off the counter and took a few steps backwards. He glanced back up at Lance through his long bangs, and lifted his free hand in a wave.
“See you around then,” he said, and Lance blew a kiss so as not to be one-upped. Keith blushed again, chuckling as he turned to rejoin his group of friends. The girl with long white hair and dark brown skin was clapping, which was hilarious, and the guy beside her, Keith’s brother, wiped a fake tear from his eye. The other two, who looked eerily similar, were pointing at their phone screens, most likely reviewing the pictures they had managed to take.
Lance couldn’t wait to meet them.
“Good job buddy!” Hunk slapped him on the back, and Lance exhaled shakily. He was smiling though, giddy with the turn of events.
“I can’t believe that just happened,” he squealed, grabbing Hunks arms and jumping up and down excitedly.
When he turned to look back at the group they were all surrounding Keith, chatting enthusiastically and smiling widely. His heart warmed to see such a supportive group of friends, knowing how wonderful they could be.
He rested an elbow on the counter, letting his head rest in his hand as he watched the exchange. Keith was really cute, arguing with his brother with his face almost as red as his jacket. It was charming.
And he had agreed to a date. Had made it a date! Lance was over the moon.
The group started moving away, towards the grounds where the music performers were, but Keith hesitated. Lance watched him urge the others ahead, then slowly turn to look back at him. Lance tilted his head questioningly, and a wicked smirk appeared on the other boy’s face.
He pointed to the message Lance had written on the cup, which he hadn’t anticipated would work the way it had, then to himself, and mouthed the words ‘I do’. He ran off with a wink, leaving Lance captivated, if a little confused.
And then sudden realization hit him, and he felt his face flush, pulse rising as he grasped what Keith was saying, and bit back the urge to call out after him. Since when was this guy so smooth?! And kinky! Oh god what had he gotten himself into...
He couldn’t wait for tonight.