See me after class .
Keith's heart was running a mile a minute as he stared at the giant zero at the top of his page. It was the lowest mark he'd gotten in his entire academic career, and with that note he was a millisecond away from-
"Hey, we got the same mark!"
Someone bumped his shoulder and Keith turned to see Lance at his desk, brandishing his own test with the same note. They were sitting in the back of the class at their regular seats, while Slav started his lecture and the teaching assistants handed back the remaining tests.
Frowning, he grabbed the papers from Lance and started flipping through them.
"Did you cheat?" Keith said flatly, feeling a growing mix of dread as he looked through the papers. Every single answer was identical, down to the mistakes that they had made. "Lance, what the hell?"
"Are you stupid?" Lance tried to take his test back but Keith kept it just out of arm's reach. "The answer to that by the way is yes, which is why I would never cheat off you."
"What is this then?" Keith hissed, shoving his own paper towards Lance. "They're the same!"
Lance took Keith's paper, scrunching his face as he read through his answers.
"Keith," He said slowly. "Did you cheat off my test?"
Keith smacked Lance in the back of his head, and Lance answered with his own hard punch to Keith's shoulder. Keith tried retaliating, while Lance quickly deflected him and there was a loud clearing of a throat from the front of the class. Lance's brain processed it a tenth of a second before Keith's did, and retreated fast enough to cause Keith to fall a little forward.
"Keith," Slav said from the front, and Keith felt his face go instantly red. "Do I need to move you?"
Slav pretended that he never remembered any of his student's names, so that it appeared to be a big deal when he called on someone. Keith had caught onto it fairly early on, but it didn't stop half his class turning around to stare from being any less embarrassing.
"No sir," Keith mumbled, tucking himself back into his chair and appearing as small as possible.
Allura was giving him a side-eye, but Shiro had been hunched over at another student's desk, explaining a certain part of the test to her in a concentrated whisper. All for the better because if Shiro saw this, Keith was positive he would die. As it was, it was bad enough that Shiro was the one who gave Lance and Keith their tests back, papers face down with a grimace.
"I hate you," Keith whispered to Lance as everyone turned back around and Lance stuck his tongue out.
"I can't believe you cheated off of me," Lance retorted and Keith almost reached out to smack him again.
Slav continued his lecture but Keith couldn't pay attention. The mark was a significant part of their overall grade, and Keith would be absolutely fucked if he got a zero on it. He didn't understand why Lance would cheat off his test when they were housemates and Keith could easily throttle him whenever he wanted.
His phone buzzed in his pocket and he pulled it out to see a message from Hunk.
Lance told me to tell u that he's not talking to u anymore
Keith rolled his eyes and tapped out a quick reply.
Tell him i don't care.
don't you two sit beside each other? tell him urself
tell him to tell me himself
His phone told him that Hunk had read the message, but there was no reply. He tucked his phone back in, and went through five relatively peaceful minutes before it buzzed again.
I can't believe u cheated off my test. what would shiro think?
Keith nearly cracked the screen on his phone, squeezing it hard so that he wouldn't give in to the urge to windmill Lance.
By the time Keith and Lance made it home, Keith was in somewhat of a daze while Lance whistled happily. Hunk shot them a curious look from the living room couch when they came in, and Keith shook his head.
"Are you two good now?" Hunk asked, holding out a pizza box as an offering. Lance took a slice and flopped down on the couch, while Keith drifted towards the kitchen to get a glass of water and then probably drown himself in the kitchen sink.
"I'm okay, but you should check with Keith," Lance chirped through a mouthful of pepperoni. "I'm sure he's ecstatic."
Keith managed a faint "fuck off " from the kitchen because he was still trying to process the fact that him and Lance did actually fuck up on the test, but it wasn't the end of the world (or a failed credit) for them.
In the sleep deprived haze that made up their study sessions, Keith and Lance had come across an online review to test themselves against. It didn't have an answer key, but it did have the answers of a (self-proclaimed) honours student filled in. They committed the review to memory and when the test rolled around, Keith and Lance were running on approximately an hour's worth of sleep combined.
That's why their tired brains hadn't made the connection that the same test they used as a review was the same test Slav had presented to them, and they proceeded to both vomit out the exact same answers that they had seen on the review.
Slav was in the middle of giving them an earful, when Lance pointed out that the test Slav had presented wasn't his, or the University's. In fact, the test review came from a small university in Finland that had no association with theirs at all. The test itself had a small copyright written in the corner of the title page in the PDF. Slav sputtered a little, Allura raised her eyebrows, and Shiro continued tapping a pencil on the desk and giving Keith a concerned look.
Really, Keith was so concentrated on the look Shiro was giving him that he missed half of Lance finessing Slav out of failing them out of the course and giving them remedial work instead.
"I suppose a separate project sounds reasonable," Slav conceded finally. "But you two are going to work on it together and share the mark. It'll be worth more of your overall mark, and your participation mark will be worth less."
Lance had gagged a little but immediately straightened up when Slav shot him a warning look, and Keith kicked him under the table.
"That's not too bad," Hunk commented as Lance recounted the story. "I mean, since it was still technically your fault."
"It was absolutely not," Lance huffed. "But that's not the point. The point is that with remedial projects, we have to have regular meetings with the professors. Slav didn't want to lead us on this project, probably because he has to go hunting for tests from other obscure Nordic universities."
So Slav had told them that it was up to one of the teaching assistants to give up an hour of their day twice a week and take on the project. Keith was pretty sure that Slav was insinuating that if a TA refused, him and Lance would be shit out of luck.
Lance had turned a beaming, thousand watt smile towards Allura, who raised her hand in front of her face to avoid having to look at him. At this point, Keith had been staring at the clock behind Slav for a few minutes (and it definitely wasn't because Shiro's attention had shifted from him to Slav). Lance had asked if they got to pick which TA would help them, and Slav's eyebrows twitched magnificently.
"Sadly for me, they had the final say," Lance explained to Hunk, while they both eyed the last slice of pizza. "Do you want that?"
"I'll have it if you don't want it," Hunk replied. "So no Allura?"
"I only want it if you for sure don't want it," Lance said, not picking his eyes off the pizza. "No Allura. Guess who we have to see for mandatory meetings every week outside of class. Keith is probably doing backflips in the kitchen."
"I am absolutely not," Keith said as he materialized in front of the couch, snagging the last slice of pizza.
"How do you feel Keith? Two mandatory hours a week for the next four weeks," Lance said, grinning as he leaned back on the couch. "Nothing but you, Shiro, and me to chaperone. How sick is that?"
"Time to really focus your efforts," Hunk agreed.
"Don't ever talk to me again," Keith said, jabbing a finger at the two of them. The animosity of the statement was muffled by the pizza crust. "Don't even breathe near me."
"Better start working on that flexibility," Lance winked. "I am going to be the best wingman you ever had."
Later that evening after plowing through homework as a way to avoid thinking, Keith finally admitted to himself that this project and these mandatory meetings were definitely going to be a Thing with a capital T and he was most definitely burning on the inside.
More accurately he admitted this to Pidge, whose room he had taken camp in. Pidge, Hunk, and Lance all stayed on the top floor of the house they rented, while Keith got the entire basement suite. He paid a little more in rent and saw a little less sunlight, but it was definitely worth the privacy that he got.
The only downside to the basement was that he could hear the going-ons in the kitchen through the vents. Keith had laid in his bed and listened as Lance loudly ran lines with Hunk while they cooked dinner. Lance pretended to be both himself and Keith, and Hunk pretended to be Shiro, and they were creating the absolute worst scenarios.
Pidge had been more than accepting when Keith rapped on her door, shovelling off her textbooks from her bed to make room for him. She sat at her desk, tinkering on a small drone she had bought off Amazon, while he attempted to get some more work done. He couldn't concentrate that well, but he also couldn't hear Hunk and Lance, which was more important of the two.
This lasted a whole of half an hour before Pidge turned on Keith, who was slowly dozing off, and rolled her chair over to the bed. She was squinting, glasses in her hand as she wiped the lenses with her shirt.
"So what's this I hear about you and Shiro?" Pidge asked, and Keith groaned and pulled a pillow over his head.
"Lance and I fucked up," Keith replied. "We have to do an extra research project for Slav's class, and Shiro's going to be our mentor."
Shiro had volunteered for the job as soon as soon as Slav had put it up in the air, but Keith felt terrible that he was the cause of extra workload.
"And?" Pidge asked in a matter-of-fact manner. "I thought you were trying to put some solo office hours in with Shiro anyways?"
Keith turned a little red at that, because he had made it a habit to make it to whatever office hours Shiro held. But it didn't count, because there were always four or five other people clamouring for Shiro's attention as well. He regularly went to Allura's tutorials too because she always had something new and interesting to say about the course content and because Lance dragged him there, but none of his friends would acknowledge that.
"Doesn't count," He muttered and Pidge snorted.
The first time they met up outside of class, it was the beginning of the semester and Keith had emailed Slav asking for help, and Slav pointed him to one of his two teaching assistants. Keith genuinely needed help because he needed the grade but could care less about the course.
After thirty minutes of listening to Shiro outline the fundamentals during their first one-on-one, Keith still could care less about the course, but had instantly been struck by Shiro's enthusiasm for the subject and the fact that he was built like a brick house. His scar and his white tuft of hair made him look like some sort of sci-fi action hero, and Keith was here for that.
A few days after that Keith and Lance had run into Shiro at the grocery store, and Lance picked up the way Keith completely ignored his existence in favour of a two minute conversation with Shiro. Lance had badgered Keith about it and because Keith didn't really care at the time, he admitted a "yeah I guess he's hot."
When they had gotten home, Lance had snuck onto Keith's computer and emailed Shiro for another meeting from Keith's account.
Keith didn't know till the reminder popped up on his phone, when he was already halfway through his thirty minute walk home.
"Wow," Lance said as he peered over Keith's phone with a big shit-eating grin. "Don't want to be late for that."
Keith did a mad dash all the way back to the University. He swung open the door to the office with great force, and as the door knob cracked against the wall, it registered in his head that Keith had never made an appointment.
Shiro had looked at the wall, where there was a small new dent, and then looked at Keith.
"It's okay if you're five minutes late," He said, giving a small grin. "Just don't take it out on the wall."
"Uh," was all that Keith had managed to say in return, face flushed from the run and ears red from embarrassment. "Okay."
Shiro had pulled up a chair for him beside his desk, and had already pulled up Slav's latest power-point presentation. He clapped Keith's back as he sat down, asked him how his day was, and nudged him while making a lame joke about his commitment to punctuality. Shiro smelled like good cologne and coffee and Keith was officially on fire.
From there on, Keith didn't really get a chance to schedule any more one on one meetings with Shiro, partly due to the TA's popularity. Other people in the class had also taken note of their abnormally chiselled TA, and those who didn't flock to Allura made a beeline for Shiro both after class and during office hours.
But frequently, he would run into Shiro outside of the University. They seemed to run similar routes, and Lance was completely convinced Shiro lived in the vicinity but Keith completely refused to let him find out.
Each time they met was etched into his brain like a stone carving, especially since Shiro would take the time out to actually talk to him. Each incidental meeting lasted longer than the previous, and Keith would venture as far as to say that him and Shiro might even be friends, or at the least, very pleasant acquaintances.
Some of them he told the others about, like when he ran into Pidge's brother and Shiro at the campus book store and Matt wanted to say hi. Some of them he kept tucked away, like the time he had a craving at 2 a.m in the morning and went to Waffle House only to run into Shiro, who was ordering an unusually large amount of chocolate chip waffles for someone who looked like a statue. Keith had pointed that out, Shiro found it amusing, and invited him to join him. Turned out, Shiro had a lot of responsibilities for his own Master's that he had been putting off, and as he explained to Keith, would be continuing to put off.
"That doesn't sound like star student behaviour," Keith said as he stuffed his face with the remainder of his grilled cheese and Shiro snorted.
"I only look like I know what I'm doing all the time," he replied, slicing his waffles into neat little pieces. "I feel like I'm just winging it half the time."
Keith had nodded and forked his hash browns thoughtfully, trying not to look too fondly at Shiro as he ate because that would probably creep Shiro out. They had an easy conversation under the blue fluorescent lights of the diner, Shiro explaining to Keith what exactly he was doing his post-grad on, and Keith sharing stories about the gremlins he had for housemates (and Hunk).
When Keith finally couldn't hold back any of his yawns anymore, Shiro offered him a ride home which he accepted quickly. Pidge was awake working on modifying on a a set of walkie talkies when he came home. She had asked him why exactly he was getting dropped off by an all too familiar black Mustang at four in the morning. He shoved his takeaway bag in her hands and she asked no more questions.
The most prominent memory was the last time he ran into Shiro, because that was-
"Hi Keith," Pidge interrupted his reminiscing, waving a hand in front of his face. "Are you back yet?"
He frowned, swatted her hand out of the way, and rolled over on to his stomach. He felt two points of pressure as Pidge laid her feet on his back, and half-heartedly tried to wriggle out from underneath them.
"The offer to talk to Matt still stands," Pidge said, pressing down her feet into Keith's back.
"I'm not sixteen," Keith grunted. "I don't need to ask a friend to ask a friend."
"No, you just want to suffer from a distance," Pidge shrugged. "I get it. Don't use any of your resources, that's cool with me."
Keith rolled back on to his back specifically to give Pidge a Look.
"We're still in his class," He said, frowning. "But..."
Keith took a deep breath in and closed his eyes. He figured that he might as well get it off his chest now, because if he told someone, then he'd be obligated to see it through.
"I'm going to talk to him at the end of the semester," he said finally. "When he's not my TA anymore. But you can't tell anyone."
The specifically Hunk and Lance was implied. He knew Pidge would probably tell her brother, but Matt was great in keeping secrets given that he didn't care about a majority of them.
Pidge grinned widely and held a fist out for him and Keith bumped it lightly.
"Don't get your hopes up though."
"Can I be there when you do it? I wanna watch. Wait, can I come along to yours and Lance's meetings? I want to see what-"
Keith threw a pillow at Pidge, who deflected it with an evil laugh, and Keith decided he definitely needed new friends.
Their first meeting took place on a sunny Tuesday morning in Shiro's office. Technically it was Slav's office, but Slav granted Allura and Shiro full access to it because he was planning to be in it as little as possible. It was a shoebox, so Allura held her hours in Coran's office, who had fancy things like a microwave and air conditioning, while Shiro commandeered Slav's.
Lance generally tried his best to not exist before noon unless it was absolutely required. This meeting seemed to fall under that category because when Keith rolled out of bed thirteen minutes before they were supposed to leave, Lance was sitting at the dining table already, bright-eyed and already on the verge of over-caffeination.
"Are you wearing that?" Lance asked as Keith lumbered in to the kitchen in his pyjamas.
"Why do you care?" Keith asked, pulling out the orange juice from the fridge. Lance wrinkled his nose as Keith popped the lid and drank straight from the carton.
"Do you really want Shiro knowing you're a gross basement dweller?" Lance asked and Keith rolled his eyes.
"Fuck off," Keith said. "It doesn't matter what I wear. I look effortlessly cool."
(Keith had spent half an hour last night already mulling over what to wear before deciding on a standard red shirt and black jeans. Lance absolutely did not need to know that, especially since he called it ugly on the way out of the house anyways.)
Lance tried to detour them to get coffee for Shiro, insisting that they needed to get off on a good foot with Shiro if Keith was going to get off, and that was all Keith allowed Lance to say before he stuck up his middle finger, then tried to stick it in Lance's ear.
"Shiro doesn't drink coffee," Keith added belatedly.
"Shiro doesn't drink coffee," Lance mimicked, voice high as he cupped his ear. "Can't you just say so next time?"
When they arrived at Shiro's office five minutes late, they presented him with a super sugary latte with foam hearts. Shiro took it with a wide smile, before dumping a paper booklet in front of them.
"First step is to fill this out," He said. "That's the goal of this week, so we can lay a concrete foundation for the project."
Keith flipped open the booklet, and instantly grimaced. There were a list of pre-approved topics for the project, and each of them were fucking hard .
"I thought we got to choose?" Keith said. "Slav said we could."
"I know," Shiro replied, giving a sympathetic look. "Slav forgot, and now insists he said something else. I think he also might have forgotten why you guys are doing this in the first place, but he already let the department head know about this. So."
"What the fuck," Lance breathed as he looked over Keith's shoulder, and Keith found himself agreeing. "We're too stupid to do any of these."
"You guys aren't stupid," Shiro frowned. "Keith is the top of the class, and you're a close second, right?"
"Wanna know what else Keith wants to be on top of?" Lance started, and Keith drove his heel into Lance’s foot. He kept the pressure there, as Shiro looked at them with a confused expression.
"All his other classes," Lance wheezed, and Keith lifted his foot off. "Which is why I was just as surprised as everyone else when he was caught cheating."
"I didn't cheat!" Keith grumbled and Lance stuck out his tongue. "You were caught too!"
"Mistakes happen," Shiro interrupted, glancing at the two. "You guys will be fine. And if you're not, there's a reason I'm here, yeah?"
He smiled at Keith as he spoke, and Keith's knee jerk reaction was to give a small smile and a soft "Yeah" in return. Keith could practically hear Lance's mental file drawers clanging as he stored this moment away to be analyzed and discussed with the rest of their housemates at a later date.
For the better part of the hour Keith and Lance argued loudly at Shiro's desk about what topic to pick, while Shiro marked quizzes. Keith recognized them as the ones that Slav said he had almost finished marking two months ago. Lance insisted on working on one topic because it looked like the easiest out of all of them, while Keith insisted that option number #13 would get them better marks.
It devolved into an insult match, as Keith and Lance's conversations generally did. Shiro, for his part, worked away diligently at marking. When he wrote a bright red 78 on the last quiz, Shiro cleared his throat, interrupting Lance's explanation as to why Keith was a cave-dweller incapable of making decisions.
"Why don't you two flip a coin?" He suggested, and Lance and Keith both made a face. "We only have five minutes left anyways."
"Fine," They said in unison. "I call heads. Wait."
"I called heads first," Lance insisted and Keith shook his head.
"No, I did." Keith said and Lance scoffed.
"You guys should arm wrestle for it," Shiro suggested jokingly but before he could finish his sentence, Lance had already cleared off the desk and Keith had propped up his arm. "Oh, that was fast."
They clasped hands, and Shiro shrugged and placed his hand on top of theirs. Keith tried to not concentrate on how big and warm it was, because it would be broadcasted across his face.
"On my count," Shiro said. "One, two, three...go!"
Keith pressed forward with all his might as Lance did the same. Though Lance had a couple of inches on Keith, him and Lance were pretty evenly matched in both strength and stubbornness. The last person Keith had arm-wrestled was Hunk, and he managed to resist for more than three seconds before Hunk mercifully put him down so he was pretty confident in his ability to win.
His biceps burned as he managed to get the smallest lead over Lance but—
"Wow Keith," Shiro commented idly. "You're a lot stronger than you look."
Keith died a little on the inside and Lance immediately took advantage of his falter to slam his hand on to the desk before yelling Ha! in his face.
"Looks like we're going with Lance's choice," Shiro grinned. "Just, uh, don't tell Slav how you chose this."
Lance opened his mouth, possibly to gloat, but was cut off by Shiro's phone ringing. Shiro looked at the phone, saw Slav's name, and audibly groaned.
"Alright guys, just fill that out and bring it in next time. I have to look it over before you start anything. I'll email you to set up our next session, okay?"
Lance shrugged and Keith nodded as they both stood up, swinging their backpacks over their shoulder. Lance stepped out of the room first and swivelled on his heel to start speaking, but something caught his eye over Keith's shoulder. Lance made himself scarce so fast Keith would think he vanished if he couldn't hear the loud flapping of his flip flops against the floor.
A hand clapped on his shoulder and Keith spun around quickly, coming face to face with Shiro.
"Sorry, didn't mean to scare you," Shiro said, holding his hands up. He was still holding his phone, and Keith could see the 2 missed calls on the screen.
"That's cool," Keith replied, shifting his weight on to one foot. "What's up?"
"Just wanted to see how you're doing," Shiro said, giving him a small smile. "I know this isn't exactly ideal."
"Yeah well," Keith shrugged and scratched the back of his head. "Shit happens, right? As long as I'm not failing out, I'm good."
"Hey, don't be too hard on yourself. You're doing extremely well for someone who didn't know what the course was even called till a couple of weeks in."
Keith rolled his eyes but he couldn't help but match Shiro's smile with his own crooked one. "I think a few more weeks, and I might even know who's teaching the class."
"Haha," Shiro replied dryly, and stepped back till he was leaning on against the desk. He took a pause before he spoke again. "There's something else I have to talk to you about."
Keith's heart leapt a little, but he kept steady and nodded slowly as he took a step in from the doorway. Suddenly, he was hoping that Shiro wanted to talk about school work or extra credit or something mundane, but he had a feeling it wasn't any of those things.
"Yeah?" He said tentatively anyways, and from the look Shiro had he could tell the conversation was definitely not going to be school related. His stomach started to drop as the other man's face grew a little more serious, but it was broken by a loud rapping against the door behind him.
A near comedic mix of annoyance and fear crossed Shiro's face and Keith turned around to see who was knocking on the door. Looking back at him was Slav, face pressed up against the glass window with an extremely angry expression.
"You should go," Shiro said and Keith nodded furiously and hauled ass up and out. Slav looked like he wanted to stop Keith but thankfully he didn't. Keith threw one last look over his shoulder as the door closed behind him, watching with a small amount of fondness as Slav flailed his hands and Shiro looked more and more exasperated.
"Wow Keith, you're so strong."
"That's some strength. So strong."
"So much stronger than you look."
Keith rolled his eyes and set down the bags he was carrying into the kitchen. Hunk and him had gone for groceries, and they would rather fall into a void than take two trips from Hunk's garishly yellow pickup to the inside of the house. So they armed themselves with all their shopping bags to make the trek, regardless of whether it was a good idea or not.
The commentary was provided via Pidge and Lance who were sprawled unhelpfully across the couch, trying to throw grapes into each other's mouths because Pidge had a summative she didn't feel like doing and Lance was everyone's enabler.
"Guys, stop bugging Keith," Hunk called out from the doorway where he was trying to make it through with a large box of frozen chicken and grocery bags hanging from each hand.
Hunk had made a pretty decent business out of meal prepping for local body builders and richer college kids, so their house was always stocked with good food. That was the one broke college kid stereotype Keith was eternally grateful they didn't live up to, because on his own he was pretty sure that all he would be able to manage in terms of motivation would be organizing takeout menus.
Keith went to help Hunk, grabbing the large box from his hands. They tilted precariously for a moment, Keith trying to grasp the box while Hunk tried to keep a hold on all the bags cutting into his arms. Keith managed to get a decent enough grip on the box and stepped back, pivoting on his heel and pretending he didn't hear Hunk go " Wow Keith, you're a lot stronger than you look."
Keith was really tempted to leave the groceries out and retreat to his basement, but he also didn't know where Hunk had put the M&Ms and wouldn't find out till he unloaded the food, so. Priorities.
He had accompanied Hunk on the grocery run, part because grocery runs with Hunk were always an adventure in and of themselves and part because the almost-conversation with Shiro the day before had left him slightly on edge. He didn't want to talk to Pidge or Lance about it, because then he'd have to explain why Shiro wanted to have that conversation in the first place.
If Pidge found out what happened last time he informally met Shiro, her scheming would rack up over a hundred miles per hour and she would take full control of Keith's destiny. If Lance found out, Lance would probably try to roundhouse Keith like he successfully did with the weird guy that kept stalking Pidge home last year.
So Hunk was the one Keith went to. Keith knew that Hunk wasn't exactly the best keeper of secrets, but talking to him always made him feel better, especially because Hunk was the only one who judged lovingly .
Hunk was also with him the last time he ran into Shiro, albeit so drunk that he remembered more what he heard than what he saw. Everyone that night was so drunk, except for Keith, who was saddled with both designated driver duties and the burden of remembering everything . As Hunk examined a stack of plantains, Keith had told him about Shiro keeping him back.
"Doesn't sound like it couldn't have been school related," Hunk had said, handing a cloth bag to Keith who dutifully held it open. "How do you know that's what he wanted to talk about?"
"I could tell from his face," Keith replied, shifting a hand underneath the bag to support the plantains Hunk was piling in. "He definitely wasn't going to talk about school, y'know?"
"Can't relate," Hunk said easily. "Not all of us are well versed in Shiro's face, and I thought you said he probably didn't remember. Do you want boliche today?"
"Whatever you want to cook," Keith shrugged and placed the cloth bag in his cart. "I thought so too, but I'm pretty sure he does remember something."
"Wouldn't that work in your favour?" Hunk asked, directing them to the cantaloupes. There were three left on the stand, and each one of them made Hunk grimace. "I thought it'd make asking him out that much easier?"
Keith's face went through a series of visible contortions as he tried to process his reasoning for Hunk, and Hunk looked on bemusedly.
"If he remembers. But, he's trying to address it with a serious face and in private," Keith had said slowly, contemplatively. "I think maybe he's trying to gently tell me that we can't happen."
Hunk had squinted slightly at Keith, as if what Keith was saying didn't make any sense. But Keith was pretty sure it did. Like, ninety percent sure.
"You deserve having Lance as a wingman," Hunk said flatly, and that had been the end of that. Even though Hunk's mouth was a straight line, Keith had been able to see a look of great amusement in his eyes, and somehow, that had made him feel better.
After most of the groceries were put away, Keith finally managed to dig out the bag of M&M's that seemed to have been a little too strategically wedged in between three cartons of eggs. By that time, Pidge had migrated back to her room, while Lance had joined Hunk in the kitchen to get started on dinner. Before Keith could escape, Hunk put him on and Lance on chopping duty.
Lance and Keith's phone pinged simultaneously, and Keith unlocked his to see that Shiro had emailed them both about their next meeting, and if they could have it Friday morning at around eight.
"That's so fucking early," Lance groaned as Keith read it out loud. "Ask him if we can have it later."
"Yeah sure," Keith said as he typed out a Lance and I are good with that and hit send.
"What do these words say?" Shiro said, squinting at the paper as he pointed at the margins.
"Those are our names," Lance said, leaning over to what Shiro was pointing at. "Beside which sections we'll cover."
"Okay," Shiro said. "Why is this hand written?"
"Is there a problem?"
"Your handwriting is shit," Keith supplied, causing Shiro to let out a short laugh.
"Yeah, but atleast I took the initiative to write it out," Lance huffed and Keith looked away because yeah.
Lance and Keith had completely forgotten about the package until Lance woke up at 5 A.M in a cold sweat and charged down to the basement, eyes wild and paper falling everywhere. His entire body did a violent twitch when Keith told him their meeting was actually for 8 A.M (he originally wanted to tell Lance by waking him up at five minutes before they had to leave and asking him why he wasn't ready yet), but he got over it fast enough and they got to work.
They managed to vomit out enough words, Keith cross-checking their textbooks furiously as Lance wrote it down. By the time Keith's alarm had gone off, they had met the bare minimum for the outline.
"Is this all?" Shiro frowned, and both Keith and Lance's eyebrows twitched. "Are you going to be able to meet the word count for the paper with this?"
"The what?" Keith asked. "Isn't it the same as all of Slav's other essays?"
Shiro gave them the biggest look of pity, and Lance and Keith's souls simultaneously left their bodies because they knew exactly what that look meant.
"How much do we have to write?" Keith groaned, and Shiro grimaced. "Shiro, how much?"
"Well, there's two of you, so..." Shiro flipped the booklet over to reveal the guidelines on the back. Keith and Lance had skimmed it, and since it looked exactly like all of Slav's other rubrics, they didn't read the full thing. They especially did not catch the number Shiro was highlighting for them, that had been stacked in between paragraphs.
"I want to die," Lance whimpered as Shiro handed back the papers with a sympathetic face. "Shiro, you have big hands. Just wrap them around my neck and squeeze as hard as you can. Actually no, do Keith first. He's into that."
Keith had no energy to retort, and just covered his face with his hands. On top of all his other courses, this project was actually going to kill him. Both him and Lance, who was staring blankly at the desk trying to process the new information through his sleep deprived brain, missed the small blush that crossed Shiro's face when Lance had spoken.
Eventually after the initial shock and frustration wore off, Lance, Keith, and Shiro managed to get to work.
"You guys have great ideas," Shiro had said finally, folding his hands in front of him. "And you two are smart. But as I said before, I'm here to help, not just to monitor."
Shiro walked them through where they could expand their outline, while Keith's (also very sleep deprived) brain was on the verge of packing up it's bags and running away. Lance was so deflated that he wasn't able to sneak in any side comments, just nodding along with whatever Shiro said and jotting it down in his chicken scratch.
Lance and Keith ended their session feeling empty on the inside, staring down at their significantly enlarged workload. As he saw them out, Shiro tried to offer them encouraging words, thumping Keith on the shoulder and telling them that they had this in the bag. Lance honed in on the contact but was too exhausted, while Keith just gave a weak smile in return.
On the inside he really regretted studying at all for the test- he should have just winged it like a normal university student.
"If you want, we can meet up again before the next session, and I can help you guys make some more headway," Shiro said at the end of their hour, scratching the back of his head. "I feel kind of bad for you two."
Both of them gave a half hearted shrug, so Shiro continued. "I have to be on campus Sunday, what about then?"
"Sunday?" Lance asked, perking up a little. "What time?"
"I'll be finished sometime around the afternoon, but I'm not quite sure. Probably around three? I can text you?"
"Sounds good," Lance said. "Keith, does that sound good to you?"
Keith knew damn well that Lance wouldn't be able to make it, because Sundays were always "Hunk and Lance take the pickup two hours out of town to go visit Lance's abuela for the day" days and there was no way in hell Lance was ever skipping that that.
"Yeah, I'm good for Sunday," Keith confirmed as Lance did a terrible job of hiding his sly grin.
"There's no point in texting me because I ignore most of my messages. Do you want Keith's number instead?"
That was a lie because Lance was unashamedly a quadruple texter but Keith crossed his arms and looked straight forward at nothing, because-
"No worries," Shiro replied. "I already have Keith's number."
"Do you?" Lance said, fully turning on Keith. "That's so convenient. "
Shiro gave them a questioning look, and Keith closed his eyes. Shiro had leant him a book for extra reading a couple of weeks ago, and Keith just needed to know when and where to return it. Retrospectively, in class was the obvious answer, but Shiro had been more than amicable in exchanging numbers so that Keith could drop it off at Shiro's place. Which was, in fact, not too far from where Keith lived.
(Shiro hadn't been home, so Keith awkwardly balanced the book on top of the door frame. The thanks :) he got in return was still saved on his phone)
Lance was going to give him shit when they got home.