Friendship is a status that sounds easy to explain on paper. It’s beings friends with another person. Sounds simply and to the point.
Then you have to think about what being a friend actually means. I can’t say I fully know what it means. A true friend, that is.
I’ve had friends, in ways. People I’ve hung out with, spent a funny night with where we goofed off, people who have relied on me and I’ve relied on them. Yeah, I’ve had friends.
Yet I never felt that I was ever truly good friends with them. I had never trusted any of them with my secret. Because of this I hid away my true feelings a lot with them. So while our friendship wasn’t fake, I felt false many times growing up. I was ashamed they could trust me with everything and I could never do the same.
Now there was Keith. A man who barely knew me, yet knew more than most every will. We were friends now, and it was a fact that hardly both of us could believe.
“So you’re sure?” Keith asked as we ate dinner. He was referring to our friendship and whether on not I was actually okay with calling it that.
“Yes.” I answer, “I’m sure.”
He accepted this answer till we returned to our dorm.
“You’re really sure it’s okay?” he inquired again, his voice so anxious I thought he might faint.
“Yes.” I repeat again, chuckling under my breath.
He asks again when we brush our teeth, our mouths full of spit and toothpaste.
I tilt my back to answer in a mumble gargle, “Oh my god, yes Keith.”
An hour later, with the lights off and us both in our respected beds, he whispers over to me.
“Keith I swear-”
“I just needs to ask something.”
“What Keith?” I sigh. There is a long pause.
“We’re friends. Right?”
I roll onto my side, looking across the space at him. He seems so small alone in his bed, “Yes.” I tell him.
I feel like I’m falling when his smoldering eyes soften.
“I’ll work hard.” he promises, because he feels like he needs to do that for some reason.
“Work hard for what?” I question him.
I heard him take a deep breath.
“Being your friend.” It wasn’t something that complicated. Friendships were simple, built through time and conversation and just being with each other. At least that is what I thought it was. Some people clicked and some didn’t. Yet, perhaps to Keith it wasn’t that kind of walk in the park? Holding a bond with someone sounded like a deep trial to him.
So I let him do whatever he needed to feel comfortable with this. Even if it meant asking a billion times if I was positive in having a friend like him.
“If I didn’t want you as a friend, I would tell you.” I assure him, rolling onto my other side. I smiled into the covers, not even sure why I felt so happy. It was just a nice change.
I woke up the next day with Keith greeting me. It was refreshing.
“Hey.” he says, lifting up a package, “You got something.”
I sit up, rubbing my eyes. “For me?” I take it from him, looking at the return address. My face beams and I quickly scramble to open it. “It’s from home!” I rip open that box as fast as I can.
Revealing its contents I gasp, lifting them slowly. “Behold!”
Keith raises his eyebrow.
“New shoes~” I cheer, lifting the box my mama had sent me. I toss them on faster than Keith could blink, cackling. The crisp squeak that followed made my day. “Listen to that,” I insist, sliding next to Keith, squeaking the entire way, “Squeaky freshness of new sneakers~”
He rolled his eyes, sinking deeper into his mattress. “You needed knew shoes?”
“My other ones were starting to get holes in them.”
Scooting around the room till I was satisfied, I returned to the box to notice something else inside. I’m surprised to lift up a red bandana.
Never got to meet him properly, but I hope Keith likes this!
I slide back over to Keith’s side. “Hey.” I nudge his leg. He looks up at me. “My Mama got you this.” he sits up and I place the bandana in his hands.
“For me?” his eyes widen.
I nod, “Sorry if it isn’t your style. She did the best of what she knows about you. If you don’t wanna wear it-” he is already slipping it over his head, wearing it like some cowboy.
“I like it.” the red color matches him well. “They didn’t have to do that.”
“My family likes you.” I tell him. “I’m sure they’ll be happy you like it.”
“I’ve never met them?” he says, puzzled.
I pause, pursing my lips, “Oh, well. I tell them about you sometimes.” all the time, but Keith didn’t need to know that.
I shrug, “Enough for them to get an idea of what kind of person you are.”
Keith tilted his head to the side, making a face that looked like he was on the brink of constipation, “Are they… good things? Or um-” he messed with the bandana. I suppose we haven’t been on the best terms lately, so it wasn’t that surprising Keith wouldn’t think I was talking smack or crying to my family about them.
“I only told them basic stuff Keith.” I assure him. “How you’re a top pilot and got some weird hobbies.”
“Right.” keeping the bandana around his neck he got up to get ready for the day.
When I got ready to go I took towards the door, already moving out to the hall. “See you later!”
“Oh hey, wait.” Keith stepped a little faster to catch up before matching my speed. “Let me walk you there.”
“Walk me to class?” I question, “Why?”
“Because we’re friends.” he smiles with ease, as if he can relax around me. As if to him I was already so close he could open up just enough to enjoy our time together. We had known each other long enough through these last few months, I suppose.
Still, some part of me felt I didn’t deserve this side of Keith Kogane.
I hardly knew what honest friendship was to offer him what I felt he deserved. Keith already knew my secret, and I knew his, so I guess this was the closet I had ever gotten to it.
“I noticed you left a few nights ago.” I speak up within the silence, unable to just leave it be. “Where did you go?”
He has his serious conspiracist look on again. “Went out towards the desert. Heard some people saw something strange and couldn’t figure out if it was a coyote or something else.”
I smile, figuring it was something about this and took a guess, “Theorized it might be connected to the Chupacabra, right?”
Genuinely surprised I got it right, he nods, “Yeah, I did.”
“You catch a lead?”
“No.” he slumps. “But it’s out there.”
“Hey, I believe you.” I say honestly, “I mean, have you met me? If you know me, anything is possible.”
We share a laugh. It’s friendly and open.
It was really nice being able to joke about what I was and not feel bad about it afterward.
“What class you got with Pidge again?” Keith asked as we approached my classroom.
“Math. It’s after lunch.”
Opening the class door for me he motioned for me to step in. My presence caught the entire classrooms attention, their eyes boaring into my soul for answers when Keith stepped in behind me.
“See you for lunch?” he asked casually, hand in his pocket and leaning against the doorframe.
Keith surprises me when he extends his arms out for a hug of all things. He didn’t seem like the hugging type, even with his friends and family, so it was definitely suspicious.
“Dude, what?” I step back.
“Just come here.” He calls me forward with a wave of his hand when I don’t seem to move. Not even sure why I agreed I stepped into his arms, letting him pat the living daylights out of my back during the embrace.
“Um…” I step back, catching a glance of something I had never seen before now.
Keith’s eyes held a deadly stillness, piercing a dare for anyone to challenge him. As quickly as it appeared his gaze softened to something warmer when he looked at me.
A smirk as deadly as those eyes caught my heart and held it, “I’ll see you later, Lance.”
My mouth fell open for a second, “B-Bye…” I open and close my hand like a child learning to wave.
When I turned back around to figure out what the heck just happened the classroom had gone back to whatever they were doing. They seemed stiff and nervous, like they had just seen some ghost.
No one bugged me the rest of the day.
It was nice to have a breather for once. I wondered what changed?
When the class bell struck for lunch I gathered my stuff and made my way down the hall. I ran into Keith halfway there and he took my books.
“I got these.” he says, tucking them under his arms.
My hands lingers in the air, unable to decide if I should take them back or leave it be. Did friends usually carry each other’s books for each other? Of course they did. Sometimes.
It was nice to do that.
It didn’t mean anything more than being nice so I shouldn’t assume it meant anything deeper than Keith simply being kind.
“How was class?” he asked.
“Good, boring.” I say.
“Anyone bug you?” he looked ahead with a straight face, like a man on a mission.
“No, actually.” I admit, “I’m surprised no one did. I thought for sure they would after yesterday.”
“Well let’s just be glad they didn’t.” Keith ended the topic there by force and I let him do it. “What are you hungry for?”
“Depends what is on the menu.” I get in line and stare up at the board to figure out the days choices. “Spaghetti.” I hum.
“You allergic to anything?” Keith inquired out of the blue.
“Don’t think so.”
“Peanuts, dairy, gluten, none of that?”
“Nope. I’ve never had allergies before.” I tell him. “You gonna write that down in your little book? In my section?”
He was reaching into his pocket to retrieve said book, quickly shoving it back down. He turned abruptly, “You read it??” he whispered
“You shouldn’t have left it around.” I tilt my nose up. “It’s creepy to have a research journal on your friends.”
Keith opens and closes his mouth, as if he couldn’t figure out his own emotions on the topic. “Y-You- This is- Don’t read my stuff!” he turned away, scribbling the information down.
“Creeper~” I whistled.
Nudging me Keith cut in front to order first. Paying for our meal we met up with Pidge and Hunk at our regular table.
“Hey!” I greet them. “Anything new to report?”
“Not really.” Pidge grumbled, “It’s a lot harder then I realized to uncover a conspiracy. I feel like we’ve gotten nowhere.”
She wasn’t wrong.
“You two got anything?” Hunk hoped.
“Not really. There is only so much you can learn tailing a guy from several feet away.” I say.
“If we bugged his phone and computer we could learn more.” Keith says.
“How in the world would we even manage to do that without getting caught?” I question him.
“I could do it.”
“I seriously doubt that.”
“I could.” he insists. “I just need 10 minutes, access to the devices, and a cracker.”
“A cracker? Like- food cracker?” I demand.
“I need to be munching on something while I work. Helps stimulate my brain.”
“Oh my god.” I pinch the bridge of my nose.
Pidge seemed to catch on to our mood changes rather quickly. “You two seem to be in better spirits with each other.” she smiles.
Keith lights up, “Lance and I are friends now.” he says proudly.
Pidge and Hunk share a look, eyes wide, “Oh?”
I smile sheepishly, nodding. “Yeah, we are. We talked things over and we’re cool now.”
“Cool.” Keith agreed. He looked at me, giving me a wary look before he pounded his fist against his chest and gave me a peace sign. “Cool~”
I bite my lower lip, motioning in Keith’s blind spot for Pidge and Hunk to shut up and not laugh, which they were desperately trying not to.
He was trying for pete’s sake, don’t discourage his efforts!
“Cool.” I mimick him, which he was very pleased with. “Anyway, back to the stalking thing. Us following Matt isn’t really working out.”
”Maybe we should switch.” Hunk offered
”Follow Iverson instead?”
I paled, “That sounds like banishment just waiting to happen.”
”It’s called suspension, Lance. Not Banishment.” Pidge corrects
“Same difference. We’d get in major trouble if he realized.”
”Then we just don’t get caught.” Keith concludes
”Easier said then done. What happens when he goes into his office? Or a part of the base we don’t have access to?”
”What else do you suggest then? Like you said, we aren’t getting much from Matt. So it is either we follow Iverson or go with my plan on bugging his phone.” Keith folded his arms
At the end of the day, we decided to follow Iverson. It was dumb and stressful but hey, here we are.
Matt had been a piece of cake, but following this guy was a completely different ball game. All that had happened is that he walked around the halls.
He had at least two meetings, but we couldn’t exactly hear what was discussed during them. It was a waste of time! We really needed to rethink our battle strategy here...
“We aren’t accomplishing much through this.” Keith admits quietly, peeking around the corner.
“I told you.” I griped, “ I bet his computer would hold some information though.”
“And that is exactly what I told you.” Keith huffed at me. “Like I offered before, we could bug his computer.”
“Even if we agreed to that, how would we get to his computer. Or even on it?” I question him.
He shrugs, “I’m not much of a hacker.”
“Hacking has to be Pidge’s job, I can’t do it.” I agree quickly. “Maybe if we can learn his schedule everyday we can figure out a good time to get Pidge to the computer.”
Keith smirks over his shoulder at me, “Got some good thinking there.” he praised.
I try not to laugh like some little kid who just got a piece of candy, “N-Not really.”
As Iverson turned the corner we followed, keeping a calm pace as we walked past another teacher. When we managed to get around them we quickly pressed to the wall and peeked around to see where Iverson was headed next. He had paused to check something on his phone.
His eyes were narrowed, a grim expression on his face, “Can’t you fools do anything right?” he grumbled, texting something back.
“Think we could snatch his phone?” Keith whispered to me
“Um, not unless you are a good pickpocket.” I tell him. He doesn’t reply, a smug expression pulling at his lips. I gawk at him.
There was no way he had good looks, was smart, could fly, and could pickpocket. Yet with that glint in his eyes, I had a feeling I would be proven wrong.
“Unbelievable….” I stepped forward a little to peer more around the corner.
My foot squeaked against the ground, echoing. I cursed the squeaky freshness of new sneakers.
Normally it wasn’t a big deal, but it was dead silent in these halls. Iverson was alone, so it was obvious he heard it when he lifted his head. He must have thought it was strange to to hear such a crisp squeak of shoes and was turning around to investigate.
We quickly ducked our heads back around the corner and I could hear him approaching.
My heart leaped to my throat in a panic, because there we no way to hide and I new we were going to get caught. What could we possibly tell him? We had no reason to be over here!!
Ready for my death, I mentally say my goodbyes to everyone I loved.
Keith on the other hand turned, slamming his hands on both sides of my head, pinning me to the wall. He glared, and for a moment I thought he was going to kill me for blowing our cover.
Instead, he does something I’ll never be able to forget for the rest of my life.
He kissed me.
Not innocently, like a tease. It was hot, fiery, passionate and demanding. I want to pull away, or slap him for acting out, to do anything!! I did nothing...
In this minty moment, my senses have been seduced and I can no longer think straight. I should have known Keith would have been an amazing kisser. I never had a chance of resisting.
Not realizing just how desperately I wanted this, I lift my hands to grip Keith's sleeves.
He is reaching up, taking a curl of my hair between his fingers. He is close enough that I could feel the warmth of his body, smell the soap on his skin and the shampoo in his hair.
Unexpectedly, his hand drifted to my hip. It settled there and pulled me closer. I inhaled sharply.
I was against his warm chest, chiseled to perfection. How could one human being be so perfect? How was I supposed to fight this?
I gave a feeble attempt and splayed my hand against his chest, intending to push him away, but instead I left it there.
Keith took the courtesy of lifting my hood as we kiss. I realize that my ears are out, and for the first time in my life, I don’t care.
Barely noticing the approaching footsteps, Iverson turns the corner to investigate.
“Cadets!” he gasps, eyes widened, “This is a school environment, not some dance club!”
Keith pulls away, fanning shocked innocence, “Sorry sir,” he bows his head apologetically.
I stood, mouth agape in shock, my cheeks rosy red. It would seem like I was acting the role of the blushing boyfriend perfectly and could have gotten a flipping emi for this performance… if it was actually acting.
“Do those kind of things in your own time!” he snapped, stepping close. He looked over the both of us, eyes narrowed dangerously, “Not in a public hallway!” he snaps his fingers forward, “Get back to your classrooms!”
“Yes sir.” Keith grasps my hand, tugging me forward. “Won’t happen again, sir.” dragging me down the hall we booked it out of there. We ran as fast as we could and as far as we could before escaping into the nearest room.
Stumbling into a closet to collect our barings I ram into the wall. My knees buckled below my weight and I slide downward. Hitting the ground, I put a hand to my chest and breathe.
“You almost gave away your secret!” Keith says after a while.
“You surprised me.” I growl at him, “You can’t just- k-kiss me out of nowhere!”
”It got us out of there didn’t it??”
”That big brain of yours couldn’t think of anything else??” I demand
“What else was I supposed to do?” he paced back and forth, “I’m really sorry, but Iverson was right there!”
“I don’t know but-” I sigh, my heart rate getting too high, “Forget it,” I huff, returning to my breathing exercises, “It doesn’t matter anyway.”
Watching me, Keith slowly sits down across from me. Just two dudes sitting in a dark closet together.
Nothing strange about that alright.
As the moments tick by, I feel Keith staring at me. He clears his throat, “Did you eat something sweet earlier?”
I was puzzled at the question, “No, why?”
“Nothing,” he looks away, brushing his thumb to his lips. His cheeks darkening for reasons I didn’t understand, “Forget it.” Another few minutes pass and I’m tempted to just get up and leave, because we had to exit the closet everntualy.
Keith stops me by calling my name.
“What?” I ask.
“Are we still uh- cool?”
“Huh?” I frown.
“Are you mad at me?” his voice was so quiet, his eyes searching mine for any sign of hatred. He was afraid I would be mad at him again?
“No.” I shake my head, watching in awe as his shoulder’s relax. “You just surprised me. I’m bad at handling surprising things.”
“I noticed…” he pauses, “How in the world did you manage to keep it a secret this long?” he shakes his head
I shrug, “Beats me… luck, probably. I controlled it a lot better in high school.” Everything got worse after I met Keith, but I didn’t really want to admit that.
“You just need to learn how to control your reactions and inner emotion.” Keith says, like it would be as easy as cutting butter.
“Be emo,” I nod, “Gotcha.”
“No,” he frowns, “Control.”
“Why are you even telling me this?” I sigh.
“I told you I would work with you on this, so I will. Consider it training. I’ll do it at random when the moment arrives to get you used to it,”
“What are you talking about?”
Keith lifted his eyes, dark and challenging, “You’re beautiful,”
My cheek’s flamed, my ears shooting to a point, “W-What?” I stammered.
“There,” he points to me, objective, “You got a little embarrassed and your ears went pointy. You gotta learn how to control those or one compliment from an instructor and you’re gonna get caught by the end of the week.”
Oh, was all I could say, really. Keith hadn’t really meant that just now, it was just an example to show that I get embarrassed easily at compliments. But, that was the thing, Keith wasn’t an instructor. Keith was on a whole different level than anyone at Garrison could ever be.
It almost made me upset how easily he could stir my heart and not even notice or care that he did so.
“So you’re just going to randomly do stuff like that?” I question him.
“As your friend it is my duty to help you, so yes, I will.” he says in this cheeky tone.
I puff my cheeks, “This does not bode well for either of us, you know that right?”
Despite it all, I find myself smirking, “I will physically fight you Kogane.” I say teasingly. “With me karate~” I do a weird pose, expecting an eye roll or a glare but instead Keith laughs.
His laugh dragged me down, clouding my mind and infecting my thoughts.
I was so screwed.
”W-Well...!” I dust my knees off, desperate to get out of there. “Better go tell Pidge we failed miserably.”
”Did we?” Keith mused. “I thought it went well.” He reaches into his pocket
“Yeah, very funny. We completely bombed- what is that?” I point to the phone Keith lifted upwards.
“Iverson’s phone.” He smirks.
I gawk at him. “You pickpocketed Iverson?”
“And you looked at me with doubt.” He flipped it back into his pocket, patting it. As he opened the door he reached out and took my chin between his fingers. “You’ll catch flies in your mouth looking like that.” He pushed my chin up to close my open mouth.