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A person's skin

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Well, I was the talk of the school now. Apparently ignoring Keith angered people and I was called an attention seeker.

This school is filled with so many adults

 Of course I tried to ignore this gossip and focus on gathering information on Matt Holt. That only went so far of course with Keith following me around, partnered with me to get information from other students.

We hadn’t talked since the argument. That was two days ago.

Keith left me alone. I wouldn’t call it ignoring, but we definitely avoided each other as much as two roommates could.

I refused to let my parents know about this and kept a steady smile during our latest voice chat.

“Come on, at least send us a picture of your roommate.” Chari pleaded with me.

Simultaneously scribbling my homework down as I talk, I shake my head.

“No.”

“Just one photo.”

“No.”

“Let me just see the back of his head.”

“Nooo.” I sigh. “Why do you even want to see him, anyway?” I ask, looking up and meeting her eager gaze.

“He’s got my brother all twitterpated over him. I need to see just how hot this guy is!” Chario insists.

“I am not twitterpated.” I sigh, and I mean it. Whatever I did feel for Keith before, it had dried up after what had happened recently. Chari picks up on this instantly and leans closer.

“Chari.” My father chides off screen, distracting her. “It isn’t about how hot he is; it’s about if he has money.”

I roll my eyes, “Are you serious?” I laugh when my Dad’s hand comes into the shot. He rubs his fingers together for the money sign.

“Edmund!’ My mother instantly scolds him, “That isn’t it at all! Don’t be so crude and single-minded!” she says dramatically, “It’s about if he is funny or not!”

Keith was neither funny nor very rich. So two strikes on his part.

Arlo suddenly lifts himself into a chair and comes into view. With the innocence I love from him, he smiles, “No it isn’t. It’s about his character. It’s about if he is a good person who will love Lance with alllll his heart!” he extends his arms out, as if to physically show how much love Keith needs to be putting out to win me over.

I’m touched and smile. Behind Arlo, my family seems to rise from where ever they were, their eyes teary as they stare down at my little brother.

“That was beautiful.” my father sniffles.

“It’s good to know at least someone in my family has a good head on their shoulders,” I say jokingly. Arlo grins at the praise.

 “This must be why I can’t keep a boyfriend for very long.” Chari bows to Arlo, “Teach me your ways, Sensei~”

 Arlo puffs his chest out. “I shall teach you!”

 I chuckle, recalling how Arlo had a crush on some kid in his class. He never stopped talking about them, saying how they are always paired up for class work and hung out together at the park while they did homework.

 “Kando is a lucky kid, Arlo. You’re gonna whisk them off their feet.”

Arlo pouts, blushing a little, “It’s Kanda, Lance! I’ve told you a billion times!”

 “Right right.” I laugh. “I’ll get it right next time.” I glance at the clock, “I gotta go guys. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”

They chorus with their own goodbyes as I close the laptop.

Hot, money, funny, and love. Wouldn’t that just be the perfect package? It was almost a shame that even with four things on the table for possibilities, Keith was none of them.

....Okay, he was hot. I can't take that one from him. But that is legit all he has going for him. 

 Sighing, I tug on some good pants and grab my bag. The hallways strangely felt suffocating, the itch of different pairs of eyes making the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. It was weird the entire walk to class. 

I sat at my desk and started to pull everything I needed out. I hear murmuring around me, sensing eyes on my back. I do my best to ignore them, but they aren’t exactly trying to be subtle.

“He thinks he’s all that just because he is Keith’s room mate...” One grumbled. So they were talking about me again, excellent.

I sneer at the comment. I would give anything not to be Keith’s room mate right now.

This has been going on for a while, and I had no power to stop it. A few times some girls even approached me, asking if we could hang out or something. Of course, they only wanted to if Keith would also be present in these outings, so they asked me to invite them in their place.

“Why don’t you just ask him?” I frown.

“He just seems so busy; we don’t want to bother him.” They say innocently. Translation, they had tried, and Keith shot the offer down within a heartbeat.

“We aren’t exactly the closest people,” I tell them. “I can’t help you.”

Their noses scrunch up, cheeks flushing, “What do you mean?” they demand, “You are around him all the time!”

“Not by choice.” I say quickly, but can’t elaborate past that. Our little mission to figure out what was going on with Matt was supposed to be a secret after all. “If you want to talk to Keith you have to do it on your own. Though I doubt he’ll even give you the time of day, so I really wouldn’t bother.” I meant that like how it should be taken, that Keith never hung out with anyone and if he did he was only a jerk. But these girls seemed to take that in a way that made it sound like I meant they stood no chance because of who they were.

“How dare you!” They snapped, storming away.

Why do I bother?

After a few more minutes, the girls who approached me were up to no good.

“You would think with how promiscuous they are that the school would make them switch rooms.” One not so subtly whispered across from me. My head shot up, unable to stop myself from questioning her.

“What is that supposed to mean??” I ask, a flush starting to make my cheeks burn. She turned her head, her lower lip curling indignantly.

“Don’t act innocent. Everyone already knows Keith, and you do it every night.”

I sputtered in shock, “E-Every-?? We do not!” If I wasn't blushing before, I was now. I knew some people theorized Keith and I were like that, but I didn’t think everyone did.

“Hah. Don’t give him that much credit. The only reason he’s top of the class is because of Keith. Trying to get in good with the teacher's favorite pilot.” A guy snickered.

“I am not!” I rise to my feet. I should just ignore them. Talking back would only spur them on

“Well, you sure as hell aren’t dating.” The guy folds his arms. “So he can bang ya but can’t take you out to dinner?”

“Shut your mouth!!” I roar.  My blood ran cold as all the heat in my body rushed to my face. I was pissed. I was humiliated. I couldn’t seem to go anywhere without Keith’s influence making my life more complicated.

When I first got here I had put him on such a pedestal. Similar to these students I saw him as this untouchable god, beautiful and skilled with no faults. Yet time and time again he’s brought nothing but misery to my life.

Well, I suppose that is saying too much. He wasn’t that bad, but being around him tended to give me unwanted attention. Which is something I personally tried to avoid.

For this exact reason! Everyone was staring at me, accusing me of such terrible things and mocking me.

I could feel my ears peeking, so close to revealing themselves. I started to panic, moving around to the door.

“Oh come on, where are you going?” a student stepped in front of me, sticking an arm out to block my path. “We’re just teasing~”

“Yeah~” They echo, their voices sneering and cruel. I attempt to push back, hand shoving me back before I got far.

I feel like I’m sinking, surrounded and unable to get away. I wasn’t able to hold it. Everyone was going to see.

This was it. The end of my story.

As the class blinked, their brains not fully registering what they were seeing, a jacket fell on top of my face. Hands were gripping the collar of my shirt, tugging me back, fierce and dangerous. I fought it, calling out in a panic until I caught a flash of raven hair and shimmering eyes underneath the jacket.

A red jacket. Dammit...

“You aren’t ditching on this assignment this time, McClain!” Keith called, purposively loud, for everyone to hear.

My heart is pounding, stumbling back against his chest. His arm tightened around my waist, and I couldn’t seem to remember how to breathe. 

The class was shocked, forgetting for a moment of what had just happened at the sight of Garrison's super star.

“Keith?” many girls swooned. He barely batted an eye their way.

“We have an important assignment, and you aren’t leaving all the work to me! Come on!” he is dragging me.

“W-Wait-” I stumble, my torso caught under his arm and pressed against his side.

It was unbearably hot.

Dragged away, leaving everyone to think it was for some mysterious assignment, I found myself yanked into a  utility closet and panting heavily.

“H-How-?” I peeked out from the below the jacket, my pulsing raging, “How did you-?”

“You gotta be more careful!” Keith snapped at me, reaching over to steal back his jacket, throwing it over his own shoulders. Taking a moment to stare, running his gaze across my blue markings, pointed ears and white hair, he hits my shoulder. “You almost got caught, you idiot. Look how deep this transformation is. There is no way you could have played this off as some joke without everyone getting suspicious”

“I…” I lower my gaze, too flustered to really argue, because he was right. I was just so caught off guard that he even showed up to help me. Keith never gave a care in the world before when I almost revealed my secret in public. This was a new and very unexpected twist I didn’t know how to prepare for.

“Sorry…”

Keith scratches his head. “Why didn’t you tell me they were saying that crap to you?” A deep look crossed his eyes. How much of that conversation with the other students had he heard?

My cheeks burned, half embarrassment, half anger. “Why would I tell you? It was my problem…”

“They aren’t just talking about you, Lance. So it’s my problem too.”

I can find the voice to argue, my words tumble over each other. “We haven’t been exactly talking to each other, so I just couldn’t. They thought we were- lovers. It was kind of awkward to mention.”

Keith folds his arms, “So? Shiro thinks we are too.”

“You told him that lie though. Everyone else is just assuming cause you hang out with me.”

“You are the only one I could stand to be around.” Keith pauses, giving me a quick look to see how I would react to that. Maybe he was trying to be conscious of how he said things or something because he quickly added, “C-Cause you are cool about my conspiracy stuff...”

“Oh.” I nod, sitting on the floor and leaning against the wall. I let out a deep sigh. “This is all just one big mess.”

Keith nods. “Remind me how we got caught up in all of this again?”

“Well I would say it started with Pidge and her brother issues, but it probably actually starts with me and my over emotional wiggle worm self.”

“Wiggle worm?” he chuckles.

“Cause my emotions wiggle like worms, y’know?” I nod. “Can’t control them. Can’t stop them. And the possibility of me being revealed is getting worse with each day. Can’t even handle getting water splashed on me-”

"Don't" he breathed, cutting me off. "Don't even say it. That wasn’t your fault.”

The recall of that moment had me sinking into the wall, “Oh…”

A silence falls between us. Very awkward might I add, making me pull my knees to my chest.

“I um…” Keith clears his throat. I glance up at him, feeling hopeful for something I wasn’t sure. “I didn’t realize I was making you upset.”

This felt like Deja Vu.

Keith didn’t seem to realize a lot of things about me, or anyone for that matter. “Sure.” I snapped, a little irritated. Keith suddenly squatted in front of me, a strange look in his eye that made my stomach flutter.

“I mean it.” he says, “I’m not-” he pauses, his shoulders slouching, “Good at this. At talking to people, I mean. What you said before was the truth. I didn’t look at you like a person. What I did a few nights ago with the water wasn’t right...”

“No kidding.” I roll my eyes.

“I’m sorry.”  he says it so honestly that it catches me off guard. “I probably would be pissed too if someone did that to me just to know whether we were friends or not.”

My anger bubbles down, replaced with a kind of sadness, “Why were you so insistent on knowing if we were anyway?”

He shrugs his shoulder, a hesitant to answer. When I continued to stare, wanting an answer, he sighs, “I’ve never had friends before…. I thought maybe you were going to be the first.” his cheeks darken.

The idea sounded unbelievable. Sure Keith was, well, Keith, but he had to have friends. “What about Shiro and Matt?”

“Shiro is my brother and Matt is my brother’s boyfriend-not boyfriend….”

I let that settle in, “Then, you wanted to know that badly because… you were hoping we would be friends?”

His blush worsens, trying to mask his embarrassment with anger, “Don’t read too deep into it, okay? It was just an in the moment kind of thing that isn’t relevant to now and- stop looking at me like that!”

My lips are curling into a smile, grinning like a fool. “You were that desperate to figure out if I thought of you as a friend~” I tease.

“I wasn’t desperate!” he argues.

“So says the bucket of water that was dumped on my head. If it wasn’t that big of a deal, you could have waited to ask me in the morning, but you didn’t.”

“Shut up!’ He snaps, “Okay! Fine! You’re right.” he looks away, “I just really wanted to know.”

I cackle. Not to say his actions were okay, but it was kind of cute. “Well, so long as you never do it again, I’ll forgive you.”

He perks up, “Really?”

I nod, “We’re friends after all.” The expression of shock that crossed his face was priceless. He stuttered, then looks teary-eyed. I gawk at him, “Dude, are you about to cry?”

He shifts his entire body the opposite way. His voice cracks, “No!”

“You totally are! What the heck, Keith!?” I couldn't help but laugh. He whirled and glared at me.

“Shut up!” He snapped. I just laughed harder, his eyes puffy. Keith pouted, punching me playfully on the arm. “It's not funny.”

“It’s kind of funny!” And unbelievably sweet. I lean forward and tease him more, going till his entire face turned red. I knew I was pushing it when he lifted his hand again and quickly apologized in a squeaky voice, pleading that he didn’t hit me in the face.

What he did instead surprised me.

He lifted a hand - hesitated, and then brushed back a strand of hair that had fallen across my face. His callused fingers scraped against my cheekbone, then caressed the shell of my ear. I inhaled, then held that breathe, afraid Keith would hear the sputtering of my raging heart.

It was foolish to even start down this road. Keith was my friend, and the only one to know my secret besides my family. Relationships further than friendship, when they ended, could end in disaster. I could assure if we stayed friends that Keith would never reveal my secret, but if things escalated past that- I had no control.

But the tender glittering that was in Keith’s gaze set my heart ablaze, "When we get back," he says slowly, "We gotta work on controlling your emotions. You’re too open about them."

I lifted an eyebrow. "O-oh?" I said, voice shaking. He gave him a sly smile that made thinking impossible.

"I’ve noticed your transformations go off of them a little too much, and have only been getting worse. The more you think about it, the more likely it will happen"- his eyes flickered once to my mouth for a brief moment, but I might have imagined it- "The more you feel the higher the chance.”

Not feeling was legit impossible for me right now. “Easier said than done.” I can’t help but reach up and grip Keith’s wrist, leaning into his warm touch, letting it comfort me.

“We’ll work on it,” he assures me, “I’ll help you,”

“The moody emo guy is going to teach me about emotion control?” I can’t help but tease, secretly thrilled at the idea of more chances to be alone with Keith

“I may have a temper, but you’d be surprised how good I am at covering everything else up,”

I knew that all too well. I had spent the last few weeks trying to tear down those walls, sometimes feeling as though that it was pointless to even to try. “I noticed, mullet.”

“So,” he clears his throat, shifting awkwardly, “Are we cool?”

I nod. “Yeah. Sorry for snapping at you the other day.”

“It’s fine,” he shrugs, blindsiding me with a cheeky smile that showed off his stupidly pretty white teeth. “I deserved it, if anything.”

I swallow. Oh god….

Pulling back slowly, his finger grazing the side of my mouth as his hand lowered, I nod. “Fine,” I say softly, my voice weak. “You can teach me emotion control.”

“We’ll start tomorrow.” Keith nods, “For now, let’s get out of here.” He stood up, dusting his knees off. There was a small pause, “Wanna get lunch?”

“T-Together?" I sputter. 

He nods, “Well… we’re friends after all.” He says that with this prideful tone. “Taco’s sound good?”

I feel my cheeks burn, “Oh uh, s-sure thing...Pal.” Was it foolish of me to have a little hope in this?