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A person's skin

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I screamed the day I turned 14.

It was high pitched, laced in confused fear that made its way to the ears of every person within the house.

My parents had rushed for the bathroom door, flinging it open and calling my name. When I turned to them, they stepped away in shock.

Then their eyes set with an understanding remorse.

"My sweet boy," despite my appearance- my sudden change- my mother embraced me.

How could she just accept this so easily? I could hardly even breath, the blood rushing to my pointed ears.

My pointed ears.

I couldn't recognize myself in the mirror. I was some elven looking stranger with blue markings below my eyes and dazzling silver hair.

"What's happening to me?" I sobbed into my Mama's arms, "Mama- what is this?"

"Mi Hijo," she tightened her grip, "We- we should have told you sooner. We should have-" she turned to my Dad for help. He bent down to a knee, gripping my shoulder tightly.

"Listen to me, Lance. This isn't going to make sense- because I still haven't worked it out myself, but I'm going to tell you something and I need you to listen. Okay? It is very important…"

Through my tears, I some how managed to nod, "Okay, Papa."

"Lance, I-" he pauses, his eyes crinkling with hesitation, "I don't know how to say this, my boy," he admits, his voice weak "You aren't- 13 years ago, we- we found you."

"What?" I frowned

"Just listen to me. We found you, and we took you in. You didn't come from your mother and me,"

I couldn't believe my ears. "No… What are you saying?" I whisper frantically, "I-Is this some kind of joke?" Some very cruel and sick joke.

"I'm afraid not, mi amado," my mother tells me.

"...You found me?" I croaked out. "I'm not… I'm not really-" I shook my head, my vision blurring. "I'm not really your son?"

My mother looked ready to break, her lower lip trembling. "No, Lance, you are our son. You always were and always will be. It is true that we may not be blood-related- but blood is not what defines a family," she cupped my face, forcing me to look into her eyes, "You are mine. My son." she says.

"...Y-You're my mom," I whisper back weakly, clinging to those words for protection.

"Yes," she nods her head frantically, "You are, and never forget that. B-But it's true that we found you at first. We aren't sure where exactly you came from…"

"What does that mean? W-Where did you find me?" I ask them. They glance at each other nervously.

"You should- follow us," My father lead us outside. Stepping through the grass, hand in hand, like I had reverted back to my five-year-old self where I would stand between them and let them swing me around, I walked with them.

I was guided to the shed that was placed far back within the yard. It was my father's shed. No one was allowed in it but him.

He had always told us it was for work and he had dangerous tools inside. All of this was true, but it wasn't till they opened it and stepped inside that I could see the other reasons.

A pod.

Or a shuttle?
Something strange was pushed back against the far wall.

"What is that?" I ask softly, almost terrified of the answer.

"Come take a look for yourself,"

Cautiously, I approached the object. My father, who had messed with it countless times, pressed a button, and it opened.

I had expected it to open like a hatch- but it didn't. The glass literally dissolved upward like some highly advanced technology, revealing the inside of the pod.

"It was crashed down a little outside of the city… we were driving by when we saw it. We almost called the police, but then we heard you crying inside. You were just a baby…" my Dad recalls.

"We don't know how this ended up there but it… it looked like it had crashed down,"

"You just found me inside?" I mumbled slowly, hesitantly.

"Yes. When he found you… well, you had these," My mother gently ran a hand up to my ears. They twitched at the touch, "You had these markings, this hair- we didn't know what to say. But when we reached in to take out, to see if you were okay, you changed. Your hair grew brown, your ears became likes ours, and the markings vanished."

"At the time we didn't really have great service to call anyone and it was late- we were both just so startled and confused that we ended up hooking this thing to the back of the truck and taking you home." My Dad confesses, leaning his weight against the wall.

"W-What did you say to the police?" I whispered cautiously.

My mother looked away for a moment then smiled, "Nothing. I… I stayed up with you that entire night, mi amor. We thought we would call the police in the morning, but when morning came around, we couldn't."

"We fell in love with you, mi hijo," my Dad said with pride. At that time, they had both wanted a son, but with each try, they had failed, leaving my sister an only child. It was just them and Chari. There weren't many children around their neighborhood and she was getting lonely.

"I thought you were a gift from the sky… I've seen movies and I know how most initially react to things that are-" she paused, "New. Different. It didn't want you to be isolated or outcasted, Lance. And you never showed signs of these traits until now so we just- we kept you. We loved you and welcomed you into our home because it felt like you belonged here."

"We should have told you, however." my Father says tightly, "It was wrong of us to keep this a secret for so long. We just- you never turned back into this, and we weren't sure how to explain it without you seeing it for yourself. So we waited."

When my knees buckled, I had to sit down to take this all in. My mind was reeling, too many thoughts and questions washing over me to think straight. What was I? Where did I come from? Why was I in a pod? How did I manage to change how I looked? Could I change back?! Was I stuck like this forever?

Deciding to take one thing at a time, I asked the questions I'm sure my parents could actually answer for me. "Does Chari know? O-Or Arlo?" I asked, wondering just how many people in my family knew about this.

"Chari does. Though she was very young at the time, she had been with us in the car. We've talked to her and she's promised to never mention it to you…Your sister loves you exactly as you are, Lance."

"W-What about Arlo?" Lance inquired, fearing what his little brother might think.

"Arlo does not," My dad adds in, "I'm sure now he is old enough to understand, but we didn't know how to tell him about this."

Sitting next to me, my parents wrapped their arms around my shoulders, giving them gentle squeezes, "Sweetheart," My mother inquires weakly, "Are you… okay?"

How could I be okay right now?

But, if I wasn't okay, how was I supposed to feel? Angry, sad, upset? What do you say when your parents tell you that they have lied to you your entire life and it turns out you are some elven baby something or whatever from outer space?

If that was even where I was from. I might have fallen from a plane or something too. It was a little bit of a reach to assume space- but with the ears and ability to change my characteristics, space seemed to make more sense.

"I don't know," I reply, my voice sounding foreign, even to myself.

"Oh, wait!" my mother suddenly slapped her forehead, "I'm so- How could I forget this! We should have given this to you first," she waved her hands around, flustered. From the way she stumbled around, I wondered how long these thoughts had tormented her. How many hours of sleep had she lost every night, wondering and fearing this day?

With the way my dad gripped my shoulder, as if he were afraid I would suddenly run and disappear from their lives forever, I assume a long time.

Taking a moment I lift my hand and pat his arm, a weak attempt to assure him. He pulled me closer, giving me a tight side hug. "Are you mad at us?" he asks as my mother tosses boxes from side to side in search of something.

"No," I tell him, and I mean it. I could never hate them. They were my parents. I didn't like that they kept this from me, but in a way, I understood. I wouldn't have wanted to know about this, and now that I do, I don't know how to handle it.

"M-Mom," I attempt to distract myself. If I keep talking, maybe I won't think about it too much, "What are you looking for?"

Rushing to the other side of the shed she lifted up a box. It seemed light from how easily she brought it to me and set it down in my arms.

Not sure what it was, I raise my eyebrow. "What is this?"

"It's yours. Everything you had on you when we found you," she tells me gently.

Not even sure if I wanted to know the contents, I open it anyway. There wasn't much, a single outfit the size of an infant, a small toy that made jingle noises, and a blanket with odd symbols woven into the fabric.

"What does this mean?" I point to it, curious.

"We aren't sure," my Dad tells me, "We tried to look for the translation, in every language we could no less, but there was never a match. We thought maybe it was a family symbol too and looked into that possibility, but we still found nothing. We're sorry we couldn't be more helpful in telling you who you are, my boy,"

"No. No, it's okay," I lift the blanket to my nose, smelling it. I'm wasn't sure why I did this, but I feel relaxed at the smell. It's familiar, like something I had forgotten long ago. Not sure what it could mean, I put the blanket back and sets the box down. "Will I- always look like this?" I motion to myself.

"We don't know," they tell me, "We don't know how you changed in the first place,"

Inhaling deeply, I nod. "...Can I not go to school tomorrow just in case?" I attempt a laugh, but it comes out broken.

My Mom doesn't hesitate to nod, "Take as long as you need, mi hijo," she tells me, kissing my forehead. Leaving the pod, the box, and my unanswered questions for another day, we return to the house to move into the living room. I sit there for a long time, talking with my parents.

We avoided the conversation of my ears by talking about my childhood- bringing up funny memories and times I would get into trouble for doing things I shouldn't.

It made me wonder if one day we would laugh about all of this too? Or would things never be the same after this? I wasn't sure. The thought scared me too much to dawdle on it.

When my 18-year-old sister, Chari- my inspiration and role model- walked into the room after returning home, I straightened my back and held my breath, waiting. Her eyes, bright with a smile, slide over our family one by one, stopping when they rested on me. Her smile fell only a small fraction, puzzled before it lit up once more.

"Pointed baby is back!" she jabbed a finger at me. "Holy shit!" she was cackling and leaping over the table to get to me.

"Chari, language, please," my mother said despite the small smile of relief pulling at her lips.

"Look at you!" she plopped down next to me and grabbed my shoulders, "You elven prince~" she said in an elegant tone.

"Y-You-" I licked his lips, startled. I wasn't sure what I was expecting, but it wasn't this, "You're okay with this?"

"My brother is a mix of Legolas and Super Man- yeah I'm okay with this! I mean, you aren't exactly Super Man, but you crashed down from space or something in a pod. I think that makes you super close to him. I've honestly just been waiting for you to show signs of super strength and heat vision." She pauses, "You haven't been hiding those from us, right? Cause now is the best time to reveal yourself. Come out of the closet and what not," she pauses, "Or is that term just for if you're gay?"

"I don't-" I sniffed a little, a broken laugh bubbling from my chest, "I don't know. I don't have super powers,"

"Aww, dang," she clicked her teeth in disappointment. "Well, I'll take what I can. You've always had this awesome aim, so we just need to get you a bow and some arrows. You could be Green Arrow!" she gasps at her own brilliance. "Mom! Dad! Where can I get that kind of stuff?"

"You aren't running off to become vigilantes," My mother chided.

"I agree with your Mother, which is why I won't tell you that they sell that kind of supplies at this hunting shop towards the end of town. Who, by the way, is having a sale this weekend on their artillery. But I wouldn't tell you that because I don't want you kids to go off and get crazy ideas into your heads."

"Edmund!" My mother scolds him, "We aren't encouraging this!"

"I'm not!' he laughs, "I'm clearly telling them not to go,"

"Hey, Dad. What's this stores address?" Chari inquires, pulling up the notes on her phone.

My father doesn't hesitate to turn to her and state it, turning around to face my Mother and say, "As a Father I'm obligated to answer my daughter honestly."

"You-" My mother grabs his ears, twisting them, "You will be the death of me yet,"

Watching them from my spot on the couch, taking in the sight, the tightness in my chest was leaving me. I still worried about when Arlo would come home in an hour, but I knew my brother. He would think this was the coolest thing since Peanuts and crackers, so I had nothing to fear.

I was grateful to have them. Grateful that I ended up in a family like this.

But- I wasn't sure how long this happiness would last.

What was I going to do about school now? Or my friends? My dreams about going to Galaxy Garrison seemed like an impossibility now….

What was I going to do?

Shifting closer to my sister, I'm surprised when she turns to me and gasped, "Oh what? No- bring them back," she commands. I'm not sure what she means and blinks at her, "You're not Legolas anymore!"

I gasp and make a grab for her phone, turning on the camera setting and turning it towards me. Realizing she was telling the truth, my hair had turned brown again, the markings were gone, and my ears rounded once more.

"Well look at that," My Dad gawks at me, "How did you do that?"

I shake my head, "I-I don't know. I was just sitting here and just- thinking?"

"What were you thinking about?" my mother inquires, pulling out her writing pad and pencil to jot down, trying to get a general idea of what to do if this happened again.

"You guys, I guess? Just- glad I have you," I tell her. My sister makes a little noise next to me, bumping our shoulders together.

"You wuv us~"

"Shut up," I hit her, grinning.

"Okay, so what were you thinking about before you transformed?" My dad asked.

"Transformed?" I question him.

"Up in the bathroom before the ears and stuff came up."

"Oh," I pause to ponder it. With everything that had happened I honestly couldn't really remember much. "I think it was something to do with school? I was stressing over my exams,"

"Stress," My mom says aloud before she writes it down, "Maybe that is what triggered it?"

"I've stressed over a lot of stuff, Mom," I tell her.

"Well, you are getting older too. Hormones and all of that make your emotions go haywire. You are a growing boy," she reminds me. "Everyone goes through it. Everyone has a rollercoaster of emotions, and mood swings. We grow, and we change, and our bodies do weird things- Everyone gets urges-"

"Mama, I'm gonna stop you right there," Chari interjects, "If this conversation is moving to 'the talk' then I'm leaving."

"No, it's not the talk," My mother rolls her eyes, "I'm just trying to throw out suggestions to why this suddenly happened. It's best to figure out what triggers your- change, and what changes you back. I'm just thinking it might be the state of your mentality or something."

"What do you mean?" I ask.

"When he's stressed he changes and when he doesn't stress he turns back," my father guessed, attempting to follow my Mother's theory.

"Yes," My mom nods, "Or it might be something else, I'm not sure. I'm just taking guesses here."

I shrug, "That could be it, yeah," I agree with her.

"Maybe we should do experiments or something to fully figure it out. Like- purposively make you stressed then calm you down and see what happens. Or make you super angry. I could go grab one of your comic books upstairs and rip it up," Chari offers.

I grab her wrist before she can move, "Don't even think about it," I warn her. Realizing she was eyeing me, but nothing happened, we both sighed, realizing irritation didn't seem to be a trigger for my… transformation.

"For now," My father concludes, "Until we can fully figure out how you can switch back and forth or anything else you might be able to do, I suggest you stay home."

"Not that I'm disagreeing with not going to school," I say slowly, "But what if it takes a while to figure out? What am I going to tell everybody?"

"For now we say you are sick. Then we can switch it some family emergency if it drags out. Summer Vacation is just around the corner, so we just have to hold out till then," he announces. We nod in agreement, the plan set.

Now all I had to do was figure out how in the world I was going to work with this and how to control it.

That was easier said than done. Especially when, two days later, after snuggling up with my cat, my entire body turned as white as her fur! I was a flipping animal suddenly- like some huge cat man! It was horrible!Chari was just cackling at me, wanting to take me for a walk and see how many people would believe I was just some big dog!

Chari was just cackling at me, wanting to take me for a walk and see how many people would believe I was just some big dog!

I couldn't drop the transformation for five hours, too freaked out to just breathe.

My family realized it wasn't just from an elf to a human that I could transform into. I could change into a lot of different things if I interacted with it or thought about it for too long.

"You're like a chameleon!" My little brother Arlo cheered. "Turn purple next!"

"Arlo, you are thinking too small," Chari tells him, "Anyone can turn purple if they just hold their breath long enough. He has to turn into something unique. Like orange! Or Aquamarine!"

"You two aren't helping!" I roar at them.

It took weeks after that to get to Summer vacation. I completely ignored my friends, but I managed to figure out a lot about myself. By the end of it, I was gearing up to head into my freshman year of high school.

With my family's help, we were able to work out the basics to my powers, or whatever you would call them. They ran off my emotions for the most part. If I was calm, I could keep my normal look.

The second I got stressed, overly angry, or really sad- any high emotion, I would change. It was hell and I wasn't sure how to stop myself from feeling.

I just had to learn how to relax and let things go. It was hard.

The more I tried to stop thinking about transforming at school the more I began to feel it wavering. I even almost slipped up in gym class, but I could hold it for the most part. Most of my time at home was me walking around with pointed ears. They were the hardest to hide.

But I was managing. Nothing was solved, but it was manageable.

I just had to work with it and get used to it, I would tell myself. It will get better eventually and things would go back to normal.

They never did. It just got worse the older I got, till it was finally the year I could enter Galaxy Garrison if I choose to. When my Mom slid the enrollment paper out to me, her eyes shining excitedly, I turned away.

She was shocked, to say the least, and tried to get me to explain why I didn't want to go.

"I'm not interested,"

"You've always been interested," She disagrees, "This is your dream."

"Well, not anymore," I said heatedly, refusing to even look at the paper.

"Mi amor," she whispers, shocked, "That can't be true."

"It is,"

"What is this suddenly about, Lance?" my mother asked softly, "You've been looking forward to going to Galaxy Garrison since you were little,"

"That was before I learned what I am, Mom!" I yell, making her jump, "Their whole programs is about exploring space and searching for alien life! If they learned that I was one somehow- or-or whatever I am, who knows what they might do!"

"Amor, you have it under control," My mother rises to her feet, "You can't let fear stop you from doing what you want to do."

"What would you know about fear, Mom?! You aren't the one who has to go through this!"

"No, but I'm your Mother!" Not often one to raise her voice, my whole body shook with shock at her tone, "I fear what might happen to you every single day, Lance! I… ever since you were little I've been afraid." She covers her mouth, her voice growing quiet, "I've been nothing but afraid. I'm your Mom after all. I don't want to lose you. Honestly, I don't want you to go to Galaxy Garrison. It is so far away, and what if something happens? But… But, Lance, my sweet baby, I know this is what you want. Being a pilot is your dream, and I know you are going to reach for the stars." when she reaches for me, my shoulders are trembling, my hair silver and my markings appearing full force. "Mi hijo," she reaches up to brush a tear from my eye.

Overwhelmed, I sniffle, "W-What if I can't control this?" I look down at my hands.

"You've controlled it for four years now, mi hijo. You'll do just fine," she tilts my head up to look her in the eyes, "I know this because I know you, Lance. You're a fighter. You are strong and brave, and so smart. You're gonna knock the socks off of those Garrison soldiers." taking the paper from the table, she holds it out to me. "If it becomes too much, you can come home. But you will always regret it if you don't at least try, Lance."

Taking the enrollment form into my trembling fingers, I scan over the top. Even if I enrolled, there was no guarantee I would even be accepted with how many people sign up a year. But…

"I-I'll try," I whisper.

"That's my boy," Hugging me close, I calmed myself by listening to the gentle beat of my Mother's heart. I wanted to try, at least.

Even if it ended up horrible, I wanted to try.

Chapter Text

On Tv shows, it seemed so natural for a protagonist to be able to hide their big secret. Whether that was just a crush, some hidden ability, or in my case, being some Elven Alien.

Things just worked out for them, all their problems solved in a span of 25 minutes, just to face a new less significant challenge in the next episode.

Puberty, getting good grades, trying to get into my dream school, or even just getting a date; these were the things I thought I would worry about as a high schooler.

Now those thoughts aren’t even dust in my eye.

My secret.

That was my worry. Every second, of every day, 24/7 since I turned 14. So yeah, I was just a bundle of calm.

“Lance, you ready?” My mother calls to me.

Collecting my suitcase, giving my room one last look, I take one step at a time down the stairs. As I descend, I look at the photos that cover the wall. I never realized how much I would miss seeing these, or how much I appreciated them till now.

Meeting my family downstairs, I place my bag down and stand before them. I was ready to toss myself into the world of adulthood where I would most likely be eaten alive.

“Got your sunscreen?” Chari, a beautiful young 22-year-old, asked.

“Yes.” I nod

“Your wallet?” My dad inquired

“Yes,” I nod again

“Your first aid kit I bought for you?” My mother pats my shoulders, jittery.

I pat my bag and nod, “Yes,”

“Your camera so you can take pictures for me?” Arlo, now 12, inquired.

“Wouldn’t forget it,” I assure him.

“If you see another alien, you gotta take a selfie with him,” Arlo tells me.

“I don’t think I’ll see one.” I say

“You never know,” he wiggles his finger at me, “Just promise you’ll take the picture.”

“Promise,” pinky promising, I gather my family into a hug. “I’m going to miss you guys.”

My Mother stifles a sob, “My baby boy.”

“Mom no,” Chari pleaded, her voice tight, “If you start crying, then I’m going to cry, and I’ll never get through this.”

“I’m gonna miss you!” Arlo is already in tears, sobbing loudly into my stomach.

Surrounded by tears, I lift my head to stare at my Father. He looks stoic, but I can see his lower lip quivering as he says, “You go show those Garrison boys what you’re made of.”

Swallowing thickly, I nod, “I will.”

Stepping away I took my bag and let my family lead me to the bus. 10 minutes later the bus that would take me to Galaxy Garrison arrived and we shared a few more final goodbyes.

When I stepped out, I put on my best smile, waving out the window to my family till they disappeared into the distance.

In some way, I was excited. This was my dream and I was finally going to be able to become a figher pilot.

At the same time, I was heading off from home, braving the dangers of the outside world by myself. Did all adventures feel so nerve wrecking?

With the long ride there, I took the time to work up my confidence, knowing that if I just looked at this with the right attitude, everything would be okay.

But then I tripped on the last step when we arrived and the bus was infront of an entire sea of other students so that was a thing and I wanted to die in a hole, but it was okay.

Everything was okay.

Needless to say, despite the horrible start, my first week was- well, it was a train wreck of emotions. It was absolutely terrible, but it’s okay! It was okay if I felt so nervous that I was sweating all the time. It was fine that I choked up at any given chance I had to talk and get to know my new classmates and just made them think I was weird.

It was all right. I’m fine. I’m normal just like everyone else here.

Oh, and I had changed dorms at least two times already simply because something was wrong with the list, so I had no idea who would be my roommate this year. Constant new faces, faking small talk and pleasantries- an overall nightmare that I was pushing my way through with a smile.

Enthusiasm and positivity my Father always told me. Those were the key to getting through something tough, and I was using those for all they were worth.

Hell, I was even trying to sound chipper in my thoughts to keep up the act- the deed. If I just believe I was happy, then I’ll eventually get there. Whoop whoop, enthusiasm! Whoop whoop Garrison!

The food wasn’t bad, so hey, silver lining. And of course, with every cafeteria in a learning environment, it was a war zone to find a seat and a group to sit with. Having no friends as of yet, but when is that anything new, I was awkward to approach anyone. Scanning the room to my best ability in pursuit of a good match, I shuffled between the tables with determination.

The less people the better for now until I could grow more aquianted with everything and had more confidence not to just transform in the open. Then I could take this school by storm~

Noticing a smaller boy that seemed much too young to be here seated in the corner, I took my chance.

“Hey,” I wave, hoping to put on my best smile, “This seat taken?” my voice cracked at the end.

Pushing up their rounded glasses, the Garrison student motions for me to take a seat.

Nailed it. A flawless maneuver into friendship.

Quick to sit, not sure if it was okay to start up a conversation, I test the water with a quiet question, “This your first year too?”

“Yeah,” they say

I offer my name, because my Mom drilled it into me as a child that it was the polite thing to do when meeting someone, “I’m Lance.”

“Pidge.”

Good good, this was going excellent. Time to bump it up a bit, “I uh- this has been my dream since I was little, so I’m really excited to be here.”

Pidge didn’t respond, and I panicked. I was losing them! Quick! Take action!

“You here to become a pilot too?” I swallow, pulling on the collar of my shirt, feeling unbearably hot.

Ignored for a few minutes, the boy seemed to realize I wanted, more of was desperate for, an answer and sighs, “Not really. I suppose it’s interested me before, but that isn’t why I’m here.”

“Oh.” I pale, kicking my own shin, “Well I mean- this place is great, so there are probably a lot of other things to do here other than a pilot. Like engineering and-“

This place isn’t that great,” The boy grumbles, pressing their face a little closer to their computer, “Too many lies.”

Okay, this took a weird turn. Roll with it.

I tipped my head down to inquire what he meant when two men entered the cafeteria from the side entrance, and the question flew right out of my mind.

Sweet cheese and crackers…

Many of the students copied my shock, eyeing the duo in awe.

They were simply two of the most gorgeous men I’d ever seen. Friends, brothers, gods- I couldn’t tell, but that didn’t matter as I trailed my eyes up and down their forms. They were both dressed in the Garrison uniform and powerfully built. One, the older one dressed in a soldier attire, was taller by a decent foot, with dark hair that swept upward at the top of his head and was shaved towards his lower ears. His shoulders were broad and eyes like shards of silver.

The other, who wore the orange cadet uniform, had long black hair falling in uneven masses to his shoulders- dear lord, a mullet. I had never found that hairstyle attractive till this very moment.

His eyes were a dark and swirling purple that threatened to pull me in, and I had to look away from a moment to catch my breath.

They walked in sync, caught in their own conversation. They passed the world with uncaring eyes, their magnificent bodies dripping with raw sex appeal.

I marveled at them, “Who are they?”

"Try not to gape, Lance,” Pidge rolls their eyes, “They're only human. That is Takashi Shirogane and Keith Kogane. Some of the best pilots here at the Garrison.”

“Ooh?” I try not to look at them again, but I can’t help it. That mullet was addictive eye candy. I note that Keith seemed to be around the same age as myself, “Is Keith new?”

“No, he’s been here for a year already. He’s an upperclassman who has this school wrapped around his finger. I guess he passed all his entrance tests with flying colors and got a recommendation from Shiro. He’s a big hot shot around here- pretty good pilot.”

He was hot and could fly- this guy just sounded too perfect to be true.

Drooling over him, I didn’t seem to notice a group of boys making their way over to my table. They surprised me by slamming their hands down next to me, making me jump.

They snicker at my wide eyes, looking over our food, “New meat?” They inquire to us. They must have been upperclassmen and recognizing them as bullies, having my fair share of those sorts, I inch away. “What you got for lunch?” they tease, looking over our trays

Pidge ignores them, looking down at their book with little interest. One smacks the back of his head to get his attention, almost knocking Pidge’s glasses off. We were adults here but could there be anyone more immature then these creeps?

“Hey," I bark at them, not appreciating them messing with my new kind of-ish friend.

The guy turned to me, sneering, “Got a problem lanky?” he snorts. Without another word, he tossed our trays to the floor and waited.

Waited to see if I would do anything. I didn’t, already sensing too many eyes on us. With how crowded and loud the cafeteria was, most didn’t seem to notice what was happening, but the few who did might see something they really weren’t supposed to, so I couldn’t risk it.

“Didn’t think so, you nerds.” the boys cackled, sauntering off to high five and torment someone else. 

Kneeling down to lift my soiled tray, I sigh in dismay. “Good to know bullies are always a constant. Very comforting,” I grumble

“You okay?” Pidge inquired, brushing some lettuce from their hair.

“Fine. You?”

“Used to it,” they take their glasses off, examining them for damage. Seeing none, he glanced at their food. “So much for lunch?”

“Want me to grab you something?” I asked, hating that I couldn’t do more to help Pidge out, “Like a pudding cup?”

Taken aback, Pidge takes a moment to consider that. Smiling for the first time that day, they nod, “I’d appreciate that,”

Giving them a wink and clicking my teeth I say, “I got’chu,” and run off to complete my mission. I felt lighter as I re-entered the line. Pidge was nice, in a strange kind of way, and maybe we could be friends?

Thrilled at that idea I bought myself more pudding cups than we needed, attempting to balance them all in my hands as I stumble back from the register. I barely make it five steps before I’m ramming into the shoulder of another student.

“Oh, sorry about-” my words choked up in my throat as purple irises met my eyes, narrowed and dangerous.

“Mind watching where you’re going?” None other than Keith Kogane was sneering at me, and I knew I was fucked. Stepping back, I struggle to find my thoughts.

“Oh- me? Sorry…” I glance at his plate, realizing I had knocked most of it to the floor when I bumped into him, “Oh jeez, sorry man.” I say quickly.

He scowls, “You new here?”

I nod vigorously. Not the way I would want to introduce myself and all my thoughts of “Enthusiasm” and “positivity” were evaporating- sucking me dry till I was shriveling into a little Lance grape.

“F-First week,” I say weekly.

“Well, make you watch where you are walking from now on.” He knelt down to salvage whatever he could from the floor. I scramble to help him. Handing him his milk, I struggle to meet his eyes.

Having purchased several pudding cups by pure impulse, I awkwardly handed him two.

Taking them, he eyed me strangely, “Thanks,” he notes the rest of my pudding cups and adds, “Eating just pudding isn't exactly a well balanced meal.”

“I know,” I say, pursing my lips, “This isn’t just for me. It’s for a friend too. But… yeah, this is still the only thing we’ll eat so that probably just has both of us having a really unhealthy lunch.”

“Yeah, it does.” His lip curls upward in a small smirk as he turns, taking his tray. Without another word, he is gone.

I had to admit the man looked fantastic in jeans- because that is what he was wearing and somehow getting away with it despite the school dress code. Black and skin tight, they clung to his hips and followed the long lines of some remarkable thigh muscles. And although I attempted to make a point of not checking out his rear view, my peripheral vision was having a marvelous time.

This boy screamed delinquent, and something deep inside me was loving it.

“What took you so long?” Pidge asked when I returned.

“Bumped into someone,” I say, placing the tray down. Pidge eyed the plate, smacking their lips together.

“Oh glorious mountain of pudding, bestow opon me thy wisdom,” snatching one, he opened it without another word and hummed in appreciation at the first bite. “Thank, Lance.”

Smiling, I open my own cup, content to sit there in a mutal silence. Pidge on the other hand surprised me by asking a question.

“What classes do you have this year?”

I rattled them off, watching the way they nodded. “What do you have?”
“All different ones except the first two,” he says, “Guess we’ll be classmates.”

I felt relief in those words.

I think I just made a friend.

This week went from horrible to great, and I didn’t have to fake the joy I felt in saying that.


 

000--

When I opened the door to my new dorm, hoping this would be the last time I had to change rooms, I’m surprise to find that my roommate had already made themselves comfortable, their belongings taking up most of the space. Carrying my two boxes inside, I place them in the corner, taking in the sight. It was small, like I expected, and seemed even small when I realize I only had half of it…

Which was already being taken over by my jerk roommate!

Knowing I couldn’t do anything till I saw them, I decided to unpack. Since we were required to wear the school uniform except on off days, I hadn’t brought a whole lot of clothes with me. Just stuff for the weekends.

The rest of my belongings were pictures of my family, my skin care products, and my leather bound journal.

It was an idea my Dad had given me a few years back to help with my… transition.

He said that it was therapeutic to write down my thoughts, daily events, and things I figured out that worked for me.

I didn’t write in it often, but it had been my saving grace when I needed it most.

Jotting down a few notes, I unpacked what I could and settled on my bed. Staring at my dull ceiling for a few minutes and having nothing else to do, I decided to give home a call.

Opening my computer, I turn on the facetime and call my parents.

It helped calm my nerves for me to call them, but I tried not to do it too often and worry them. At least once or twice a week, just to update them till I got more settled in.

“Lancey Lance!” My sister’s face was the first thing I could see, smooshed up as close as she could be to the screen, “How’s school??”

“It’s good,” I chuckle

“You eating okay?” My Mother inquired, pulling Chari back so she could see me.

“Fine, the food here isn’t that bad,” I could faintly hear Chari calling Arlo in the background. The sound of rushing feet echoed, and he catapulted into view.

“LANCE!”

“Hey, buddy.” I mused.

“Have you made any friends???”

I smile, proud that I get to nod, “I think so. They are a little strange, but seem cool.”

“Oh honey, that is great,” My Mother cheers.

“Well, I hope they got your room problem all taken care off,” though I couldn’t see him I could hear my Dad off screen, “Are they going to move you again or have they finally made it permanent?”

“I think this is going to be the last time. I haven’t met my roommate though, so hopefully they are nice,” I offer

My sister mumbled under her breath, “Or really weird,”

“Not helping,” I sigh. “I’ll meet them sometime today. Fingers crossed.” I cross my fingers on both hands.

“Isn’t it bad luck to cross both of your fingers?” My Mother asked. I freeze

“Is it?”

She shrugs.

“Hah! You jinxed yourself!” my sister cackled.

I quickly uncross them, pleading with the jinxing god to have mercy on me, “Knowing my luck they are going to be a serial killer.”

“Good thing I put a knife in your bag,” My Dad peeks into the screen. I frown

“Yeah, I noticed that. Can you give me a warning next time so I’m not freaking out when a large butcher knife falls out of my shirt? It almost chopped off my toes!!’ I tell him

“Sorry sorry. But you had to be prepared,”

I reach aimlessly into my bad, lifting the large knife. I could decapitate someone with this thing, “Does it really have to be this big? The Garrison might freak out if they learn I have this.” I hold it up for them to see

My Mom gasps, “That’s where my good knife went! I was trying to make steak a few days ago and I couldn't find it anyway. Harold!” she glares at my father

Note, my mother has been using this knife for years. So picture a sweet little lady just chopping things up with this bad boy like she was slicing butter. It’s terrifying.

Rolling my eyes at them, I put the knife back into my bag in case my roommate came in. What a first impression that would have been?

“I’ll mail it back to you Mom,” I tell her

She shakes her head, “Maybe you should keep it honey? Your Father is right, who knows what might happen there. Just keep it for a few weeks,”

“If I get kicked out for smuggling weapons in, I’m blaming you.” I frown. They grin innocently, accepting the terms.

“Well, we should let you go,” My Mom waves, “Call us again soon once you start getting into your classes.”

“Okay,” I tell her, blowing them all a kiss before hanging up.

Letting the conversation linger in my head, I get up to finish unpacking.

The door opens, and I realize it was my roommate. Knowing I had to put my foot down on the space we shared, I turned to give them a piece of my mind- till all the words flew out of my head.

Keith, flipping, Kogane.

I didn’t understand what he was doing here. Wasn’t he an upperclassman? Was it standard for upperclassmen and first years to share a room? Maybe they were desperate for space and were just putting people places I guess, but still!

‘K-Keith…” I swallow, and his eyes lock on my form.

“What are you doing here?” he grumbled.

“N-New… the roommate,” I gesture to myself, hating that I couldn’t even form decent sentences.

His eyes narrow, “Aren’t you the guy I ran into at the cafeteria?”

I nod meekly, “That’s me,”

“Keith Kogane,” he extends his palm, his eyes dark and challenging

“…Lance McClain,” I take his hand and shake it.

“Let’s have a good year, Lance,”

I gulp, nodding numbly, getting a distinct feeling that I wasn’t going to be able to survive two weeks in this place.

 

Chapter Text

Everyone will probably have a roommate at some point in their life. Whether you share a house with someone, share your room with a sibling, or go off to school and get one there- you will usually always experience it at least once. Sometimes it turns out great and you make a lasting friendship that will follow you through your entire life.

Or you’ll get someone like Keith, who is paranoid, and grumpy, and weird.

I tried to think that maybe it is just because he didn't know me yet and wanted to give it time, but no- hidden behind that charming face is nothing but a moody emo who has social constipation.

And that is saying something considering that I tend to go off the grid as much as possible and have two friends in counting. Who may or may not be my siblings.

Anyway, by week three, somehow managing to survive in Garrison for that long, I had begun to get used to the social norms this facility played by. If you were new, you were road kill- and if you managed to get through that and keep your head down, you might just get somewhere.

Keith was already ahead of that game and walked through the halls like he owned the place. I admit to using him to make it to my classes, trailing behind him cautiously, at just the right distance to be left alone by others or ignored because of his passing brilliance.

It wasn’t easy, but I was surviving.

I just wished I could get along with Keith more. If I were forced to share a room with him for an entire year, I’d at least like to be able to sleep at night without feeling a glare angled in my direction. My attempts were not met in equal by said mullet.

The distance only grew between us with the territory tape line that cut our room in half. Keith had put it there around day three, marking what side of the room was his and what side was mine. I did this once with my sister back when we shared a room. If history proved anything to me, it is that this line thing does not work.

I couldn't exactly go against it however with the way Keith pointed at it, stating clearly that if I ever crossed into his side, I was road kill.

This guy was such a jerk!

I wish I could say this to his face every second of the day, but getting all emotional and angry wouldn't help keep my secret hidden. So I stayed friendly, despite how much I didn't want to.

“Morning Keith,” I offered a smile, only to have a scowl returned in my favor. Roughly shoved to the side so Keith could pass, I stumble, running right into the wall, “Hey!” I call to him. He doesn’t respond, already closing the bathroom door before I could stop him. The jerk. He thought he was sooo great, didn't he?

I swear one of these days I'm going to knock him off this pedestal he's put himself on. Being top in the school didn't mean you could just do whatever you wanted and treat people like crap! I never messed with him, so he had no reason to dislike me!

We never talked outside of the dorm, and even then, our conversations were limited to “Move your junk” and “Turn off your stupid alarm before I break it.”

So everything was going great. Can you hear my sarcasm? And if that wasn’t enough… I’m pretty sure my roommate is a serial killer or something.

My proof? Exhibit A!

His wall.

For the fifth time since discovering Keith was my roomie, I stare at his strange covered up little secret. Saying I'm curious to what could be on the other side of it is an understatement.

A black sheet took up the entire span of his side of the room. It was constantly covered, like perhaps he had done something to the wall and tried to cover it up. I would have accepted this, but one time, in the middle of the night, I saw Keith move it a little to reveal something like pictures.

There was something legit and strange behind that sheet.

When I had questioned him about it, he downright threatened to rip my head off if I so much as peeked at it. Which did not help dissuade my interest by any means. He seemed serious about it, so I dropped the subject, and I knew it was in my best interest to just leave the wall alone.

But something deep inside pulled me in the direction of that sheet, begging me to reveal the secret content hidden behind it. Perfect little Keith had something he wanted to protect and keep hidden, and by the stars in the sky, I was going to figure out what it was.

I merely had to be sneaky about it and look when Keith wasn’t in the dorms- which was hard considering we both tended to have similar schedules and always returned back at the same time.

If I wanted to look at it, I would need to wait for the weekend, when Keith would disappear to do who knows what. For our three weeks together, I have to come to learn that Keith spends his Saturday mornings training with Shiro or honing his piloting skills.

Then, when the afternoon rolls around, he runs off to do who knows what. I’ve never bothered to follow him to see where but… he always comes back at precisely 8 P.M sweaty, covered in mud, and muttering strange things. He straight up looks like he had just wandered out of a horror film, so I never ask what he was up to.

And Sunday was a bust cause that is when I’m doing all my stuff, so if I was going to do it, it had to be on a Saturday.

When Saturday rolled around, I went about my day, making sure not to act suspiciously. Keith's instincts were pretty spot on, so he tended to know when people were up to something.

Making sure to leave around the same time he did in the morning, I figured my best bet to look under the sheet was when Keith went on his afternoon outing.

I went to my training, took a stroll around campus, got in some time at the library- which was boring, and then I went to eat.

Once lunch was over, I just hung around, wasting time until it was later. When it was mid-afternoon, I headed back to the dorm. When I arrived Keith shoved his way past me, all in his usual gear. He grunted something about being back later.

“Well excuse you!” I snapped at him. He didn’t even spare me a glance. I felt like giggling like a Disney villain, everything going according to plan~

Waiting a few minutes to make sure Keith was gone, I stepped up to the tape. I suddenly felt nervous as I looked up at the sheeted wall. It made my heart beat faster. What if he had wanted posters or something under there? Or people on his hit list? The thought made me shiver.

For all I know I could be roommates with a serial killer. I didn't think Keith was capable of any of that, but my mind tended to think of the worse when confronted with things like this.

I took a deep breath and set my backpack and other items on the ground, noting Keith’s boots were on my side of the room again. I grumbled, annoyed how I followed Keith's tape rule but he didn't have the courtesy to do the same. Ignoring them for now, I stepped up to the sheet. With trembling hands, I grabbed the ends of it.

Inhaling sharply, I gave a quick count to three and yanked it down, exposing what was underneath.

It was a giant cork board, covered in pictures with red strings attached here and there. I gawked at the photos, the newspaper clippings, magazine articles and- a Crazy Cryptid membership card? There were fuzzy pictures of bigfoot?

I had come to realize something I could never forget, not in a million years.

Keith fucking Kogane… was a conspiracy nerd.

I put my hands together and took a deep breath, letting it all settle in. There was so much to look at that I didn't know where to start.

He had messy written notes scattered with maps pinned up. There were even sighting records of Mothman. I didn’t know how long I looked at that board.

I started to laugh, and I wondered if I even had the right to judge Keith for his strange hobby he hid from the world when I myself have a secret just as insane as the rest of this stuff.

I didn't have time to figure that out before I heard something.

With a massive creaking sound, the door swung open behind me. A dark figure stood in the hallway, peering in. Turning, going pale, I drop the sheet. I swallow, facing my death.

“Keith…” I greet, my voice calmer than I expected. “You're back early.”

“I forgot my flashlight.” His voice was livid, “What do you think you’re doing?” He was glaring at me, covered in mud. I smirked at him.

“You nerd,” I said with a teasing smile. Keith flinches, eyes growing wide. He suddenly looked furious, storming over to me. I ‘eeped’ and jumped out of his line of reach.

He grumbled, snatching the sheet from the floor. Returning it to the wall where it was supposed to be, Keith says, “Stay on your side of the room, McClain,”

“Then keep your stuff on your side, Kogane,” I challenge, kicking his boots back over the line. “Where do you even go? Cryptid hunting?”

“Shut it.” He snapped too quickly, and I knew I was right. This was just getting better and better. I was unable to hold myself back from poking fun at him.

“Ooo, what are you gonna do? Hit me with your bigfoot tracker?” I sneered. Keith’s face was turning red.

“Shut. Up.” He growled. I snickered, stopping and getting into bed. Ok, maybe teasing was a little harsh. But seriously? A conspiracy theorist? Jeez.

It was nice to know that even Keith had a kind of cute side to him.

Keith didn’t leave again after that, most likely not trusting me to keep my hands to myself. I was surprised he seemed to let it go so easily too. I thought for sure I would have a black eye by now, but Keith didn't do anything. So we went to bed in silence, Keith’s eyes digging into my skull as the hours grew late.

When morning arrived, still amazingly unharmed, Keith gruffly snapped, “Don’t touch my stuff,” and left. I roll my eyes.

“Don't touch my stuuuff~.” I mocked his words to myself as I packed my bag. Throwing it over my shoulder, I take a second to look over at Keith's sheet. I smile and turn to head to class, expecting it to be just like any other day.

Then something change. An event that would affect everything.

His name was Hunk.

He was new, transferred in a little late to the start of the year. He was a big burly kind of guy with warm eyes and a bright smile. He seemed shy as the teacher had him stand at the front of the room to introduce himself.

“Hello. My name’s Hunk Garret.” He said, fiddling with the hem of his uniform.

“Well, Hunk, tell us something about yourself.” The teacher urged him on. Hunk nodded.

“I'm an engineer, and I like to bake.” He kept his words short, nervous.

The teacher smiles. “Alright, take your seat next to Lance. Lance, raise your hand.” My hand shot up, waving at Hunk and showing him the empty desk to my right. He nodded and sat next to me.

I glance at him a couple of .times before finding the courage to speak.

“Hey. I'm Lance.” I say, holding my hand out for him to shake with an easy smile. Hunk took it, smiling.

“Hunk.”

Not expecting our first greeting to go so well it only continued as the class carried out. Our shared assignment with the chemistry set in front of us surprisingly did not implode. Despite his large form, Hunk was delicate with his hands.

He murmured softly to me, explaining how he was nervous for his first couple days here in Garrison and didn’t have any friends. I complied, agreeing with him that it was very intimidating here.

“I get gassy when I’m nervous. So no one hangs out with me.” Hunk admits. He flushed the second he did, realizing that might sound embarrassing.

“No one hangs out with me either,” I tell him, smiling. He seemed reassured.

“And here I thought it was just my ‘Gassy humor’ that had everyone running away.” When he chuckled at his own joke, I felt this flutter of hope for a new found friendship.

“We need to hang out. You want to have lunch with me?” My fun side was stepping up, eager to make a friend. Hunk smiled with a nod.

“That sounds awesome.”

We hit it off right away. We had most of our classes together, spending our lunch outside. Hunk was super cool! He wasn't lying when he said he knew how to bake. His chocolate chip cookies were to die for.

I took a large bite of one, groaning in ecstasy. “Ohhhh my goooddd… these are so good!” I exclaimed. 

Hunk chuckled, “They're easy to make, man. No biggie.”

“Shush! They’re amazing!” I say.

Hunk gave me a bashful smile, his face lighting up with the praise. “I tried to give some to my roommate, but he didn’t seem interested. What about your roommate? Think he wants some?” Hunk asked.

“He's too busy sucking face with a Mothman pillow,” I grumble. Hunk chuckled.

“He's into that?”

“Yup. Pretty sure he goes cryptid hunting every night.” I took another bite of my cookie. “Keith fucking Kogane. Bigfoot hunter.” That made me laugh. Hunk laughed too.

“Is that the guy who's really popular?” Hunk asked.

“Yeah. All the girls are after him. Even a few guys.” I sat up and swallowed my cookie. Of course, I wasn’t included in that list, despite my thoughts on Keith’s gorgeous appearance. I’m an alien creature boy after all- so obviously I don’t count.

Hunk snorted.

“He seemed pretty cool to me,” he said, handing me a small bag of cookies. “Give him some of these. From me, because I made too many.”

“Thanks, I'll try. See you tomorrow, yeah?” I stretched, noticing the time. 7:15. “I gotta head back and deal with mister grumpy pants,” I grumbled, already dreading it. Hunk stood and clapped a firm hand on my shoulder.

“Good luck, man. See you tomorrow.” He said, waving as he left. I waved, heading back to my dorm. 

I feel fluttery, this wave of acceptance washing over me. I hadn't felt nervous at all talking to Hunk. He was so approachable and easy to talk to. The idea of making a new friend felt kind of childish to be excited for, but I couldn't help it. 

Giggling to myself, I pause at my door to see heavy mud tracks leading inside. I sighed aggravated. Taking a deep breath, cookies on hand, I walked in.

“Hey, Keith?” I asked as I opened the door. The sight I was met with made me stall, swallowing my tongue.

My roommate stood in his full natural glory in the middle of the room. Meaning he was bare ass naked!

 Water dripped down his smooth skin, pooling in all sorts of lovely ways. His towel had been cast to the side, his boxers held in his hand like he was just about to change into them before I came in.

Keith’s cheeks flushed brightly, his eyebrows narrowing to bark at me to get out.

I stumbled back, struggling to find where the door was again. My eyes are unable to peel away from those rippling muscles, smooth stomach, thick thighs!

My chest constricted painfully, shooting a mile a minute from embarrassment and pure attraction from this goldy boy in front of me. Hitting the wall, my heart stutters a warning, and I realize what is about to happen. I reach upward, feeling my marks appear on my cheeks and my ears point out just before I managed to cover them.

It’s too late.

I can see the way Keith's eyes lock in on the movement, puzzled at what he just witnessed. Before he can question me, and knowing I wouldn’t be able to hold the rest of the transformation with him butt naked in front of me, I turned and fled. 

I shoot down the hall, desperate to get away, dropping the cookies without looking back.

I was so screwed!!

Chapter Text

Chapter 4

My life seems to have spiraled down to a bottomless pit, leaving me with nothing better to do than get Denny’s at 2 in the morning alone, still in my Garrison uniform and having the worst mental breakdown of my existence.

The prolonged sip I took of my milk seemed to only mock me for trying to act like nothing was wrong- That I was just a young adult who couldn’t sleep and decided to get some early breakfast. Nothing was normal about me and that was a fact.

At least I had Denny’s to comfort me in these lonely hours.

 This 24/7 pancake house had been a home away from home for many years with my family. Countless times we found ourselves stumbling in here like the dead during the unholy hours of the night, craving multi-layered pancakes and coffee that tended to be 50/50 at times in quality.

Denny’s was a sort of safe haven to me. A lot of varying people show up here late at night, so I didn’t have to worry about not fitting in.

“Can I get you anything else, sir?” the waitress asked, oddly peppy for it being this early. I shook my head no, but thanked her. Paying the bill, making sure to get out of there before she could really question what a Garrison student was doing out an about, especially past curfew, I scurried outside. I wandered around for a while till dawn eventually broke over the horizon.

No sleep, no shower, no chance in returning to my dorm. My day was starting off great and it wasn’t even 8 A.M. yet. The cadets were buzzling, talking without a care in the world. I wished I could be like them and not worry about anything.

In fact, here came one of my biggest anxieties yet.

Keith was storming down the halls, uniform tidy and hair combed back nicely. It was such a contrast to his usually untidy mullet, but definitely not unwelcomed.

Shiro was trailing behind him, most likely having to be the one to wake Keith since I wasn’t there to that for himself. Something about Keith was off today, like he was some beast on the prowl.

I soon realized by the way he was looking down the halls and behind students that he was looking for someone. And I’m positive that person is meant to be me.

I duck to the right, running down the hall. Making a break for my class, I slide next to Hunk with a little sigh. He turns to me, raising an eyebrow.

“You okay, man?”

I rub my eyes, nodding. “Yeah, I’m fine. Just a weird night,” giving him a small smile, I tilt my head. “Do I smell?”

He leans over to take a whiff, “Nah, not really.”

Relieved to hear that I smile, “Can I borrow a pencil and paper?”

“Where is all your stuff?” Hunk handed the requested supplies with a puzzled frown.

“At my dorm.”

“You forget them?”

I purse my lips, “Kind off…” it was kind of hard to grab my stuff when your retina’s are being engulfed by the essence known as Keith. “I didn’t have time to go back and grab them either. Thanks.” I lifted the pen with a salute towards him. He grins, shrugged.

Oddly happy when class started, I was grateful for something to distract my thoughts. I took Hunks spaceship designed pencil, which was the cutest thing ever, and started to write down some notes. Halfway through class, my mind wandered for a moment, thinking back to the night before. Back to Keith.

His wonderfully sculpted form, his hair still wet and dripping onto his shoulders. Bi thoughts, how you madden me~

Tapping the end of the pencil to my chin, I don’t even realize how I sigh, sounding love struck. I shouldn’t be, though… Keith was hot as hell, no one could deny that. His personality was the problem. He was sour, a jerk, and wanted nothing to do with anybody.

Which was a shame, if I was honest, because I think he could get along well with a lot of people if he merely gave them a chance.

This thought upset me through the rest of my classes. I think it was because we were both very similar that it bugged me so much. We both had little interactions with the people around us, and that was because we pushed others away. The difference was, I didn’t have a choice about that. Keith did, and he still decided to keep a distance. That made me feel jealous of him, which in turned made me angry with him. He had everything I wanted but still tossed it aside.

I’m not saying the guy has to be a social butterfly, but it would make me feel a little better if he at least tried to put himself out there and make friends. It just felt like a waste to close himself off the way he does.

When the final bell rang, Hunk leaned over to me. “You sure you’re okay, man?”

I nod my head, tired. “I’m okay. I should go get some lunch.”

“Wanna borrow my notebook?” he holds it out to me. “I won’t use it the rest of the day.”

Definitely knowing I wouldn’t remember my next classes without some notes, I take it gratefully. “Thanks.” I get up and tuck the notebook under my arm. With a grin at Hunk I walked towards the door. Just as I gripped the door handle, the second door on the other side of the room swung open.

It hit the wall with a heavy bang, catching the attention of everyone in the room. I felt the blood drain from my face when I realized it was Keith. His eyes were narrowed, scanning the room.

“Where is Lance??” He took a few steps in before he spotted me. He lifted a finger. “Don’t you dare move!” he commanded. Like anyone in their right mind would actually listen to him! I was booking it out of there the second the words left his lips. “Hey!!” Keith was in hot pursuit after me.

Students ducked out of my way when I screamed in terror. Keith wasn’t far behind, losing ground from the advantage of my longer legs. Taking a sharp left turn, I attempted to escape through the more abandoned hallways. Of course this felt like a bad idea by just how empty it was, leaving me in the open for Keith’s eyes to lock to track my every move.

Knowing I need to get out of his line of sight, I ducked around another corner. I could hear his footsteps barreling after me, getting closer with each passing second. Taking a chance, I reached for the nearest locker. Since hardly any classes were down here, all the lockers were unlocked.

Tossing the door open, I stuffed myself into it, glad it was one of the more full body lockers. It gave me this severe sense of deja vu, except usually I was unwillingly being stuffed into one of these. Ah high school, good times.

Wait, what was I doing? I had no time to be recalling terrible childhood memories. I had a psycho on my tail!

Making sure to stay perfectly still, I covered my mouth to still my breathing. Keith came running by a moment later, his black hair flashing through the slight cuts into the locker door.

A few more steps and he stopped, as if he were confused he had lost me so easily. I could hear him panting, his voice heavy. It was kind of enticing to hear him so out of breath.

“Lance!!” he called down the hall. As if he expected me to reply like some idiot, he clicked his teeth when he heard nothing. The seconds passed agonizingly slow, and for a moment I was worried Keith would be able to hear my heartbeat through the locker.

When he didn’t, he turned and eventually sauntered back to the main hall, giving up the search for now. When I knew he was gone, I slouched back against the far wall of locker, exhaling. Did he seriously come to my class to look for me?? I hadn’t even realized he knew what classes I had!

Though if I think about it, it probably wasn’t because Keith paid attention to me, but rather that all first years had to take the same courses. So he probably just recalled what he took the year before and went off of that to locate me.

Which was great, and if that wasn’t enough, now the whole school knows that their star student is out for my blood! That didn’t help me in trying to stay low. I was gonna be the talk of the school!

The only question though, was what exactly was Keith hunting me down for? Was it the fact that I barged into him dressing and he wants to beat me up for it? Or was it to question how my ears had pointed up the other night? As terrible as it sounded, for me that is, I hoped it was the first option.

I’m half tempted to just stay inside this locker forever. It could be my new dorm. It fit me well, and yeah I couldn’t move around that much, but I could probably learn how to sleep standing up. This could be my life now. Lance the upright bat. I’ll just change my skin color, change my wardrobe to black, and get those toy vampire teeth to fit the image.

No, that wouldn’t do. As easy as it could be to just stay here forever, my Father’s words echoed in my head. ‘Never run from fear. Face it head on!”

Of course that sounded a lot more encouraging as a child. I definitely didn’t want to be Lance the bat. I was exhausted, and wanted to sleep in my actual bed. If this was just about Keith being pissed about seeing him nude, then I could take it. If it was about the other thing, well, I’ll make something up. Tell him I don’t know what he is talking about and say he is crazy.

That would work. Probably. Or I would die. I would probably die.

I let several hours pass before I even dared to return to my dorm room. With some serious mental discussion, I came to terms with the fact that today would be my last day in this world. My life was over, as far as I could tell.

Keith would either kill me or dissect me. Wait that is both technically just offing me, so no matter what happened, I was dead.

I wrote my Will on a napkin I took from the cafeteria. It felt rather classy and poetic despite the mustard stain on the corner. My clothes would go to my brother to grow into. My hair products would also go to my brother, including my facial cream. Honestly, most of my things were going to my brother, but I left my sister with my old music player.

It is probably the only thing she would take an interest in any way.

With a death march back to my dorm, I stood before the door for a long time. Taking in a deep breath, I turned the door handle and braced myself. When I stepped inside, the reaper was already waiting for me.

Keith was there and turned towards me. He blinked once, then twice, each flutter of those long eyelashes doing horrible things to my heart.

“Get your crap out of my space,” he kicked my shirt over the line. Going about his business, he ignored me. Wait, wasn’t he mad?

“Um…” I cleared my throat. He doesn’t even glance at me, ignoring me as he always did. I took this as a sign to enter, cautiously moving to my bed. I changed into my pajamas, brushed my teeth- it was just a normal night.

Perhaps I had overreacted? Even if he had somehow managed to see my ears point and make sense that they had done that, what would he have even done?

So death was something to be set for another day? Was I saved?

Keith made a move to his small desks pushed to the side of the wall. I watched him, noting how he reached for his binder. Then, he surprised me when he suddenly snagged his hand out to the door, locking it. He dropped his hand and turned to me, eyes steely.

“I have some questions about earlier, Lance.” his plan is revealed. It was a trap!! I was played!

Officially busted, he had cornered me, luring me in with a false sense of security. It was both brilliant and cruel.

“Q-Questions?” I ask him, my voice at an octave that was not helping me in the long run. “Oh you mean about walking in without knocking? That was my bad. I didn’t see anything though! I mean, I saw a lot- you could say I saw literally everything, but you don’t have to worry I won’t bring it up. And you have a great body! I mean- not that I would know. You just seem like you do. Do you work out?”

“Lance, shut up.” Keith grumbled, cutting off my babbling. I promptly closed my mouth, nodding. “I don’t care about that. I’m talking about what happened with your ears.”

“My ears?” I laugh nervously, “Nothing happened with them. Why would you ask that? That is a strange thing to ask.” My stomach felt like it was lodged in my throat, stopping me from breathing.

 “They changed.” he continues, unwavering in his goal to uncover the truth. “They pointed outward.”

 I’m shaking my head, “That would be super weird. They didn’t do that. Aren’t you weird? Super weird. I’m going to go to bed now.” I even knew my voice sounded like I was avoiding the topic. This only spurred Keith on more, stepping over the line and onto my side of the room. I began to panic as he got closer to my bed.

When he set his knee down on the mattress, crawling towards me, I scrambled backward. My back hit the wall, but Keith kept coming. Closer and closer, dangerously close in my personal space.

I could smell him. He had just recently taken a shower. The smell of the soap was so intense. Then there were his eyes~ They were almost purple, a deep violet color that had me spiraling.

“D-Dude, what are you doing?” I stammer.

I inhaled sharply when he leaned in, his hand slamming against the wall by the side of my head. My mind was working into overdrive. My own thoughts shot back a forth; Keith, my secret, Keith is super close, stay normal, Keith’s muscles, don’t change, he smells amazing, he’ll think you’re weird!

By reflex, my hands shot up to cover my secret, the stress of the situation making them creep forth. Keith leaped at the action, grabbing my wrists.

“Let me see!”

“No!” I shrieked. It was too late and my hands were forcefully ripped from my head and held outward. Keith was the first outside my family that night to bare witness to my change. My ears pointed, my hair changed silver, and the marks traced my body.

His mouth falls open, and he gasps, “What the….?!” whatever he had expected to see, this wasn’t it. I suddenly felt terrified, wanting to cry, or bury myself under a rock to never be seen again.

“Please,” I beg him, delirious with fear, “Please keep this a secret!”

“What even are you?” he questions me, his voice so soft that I almost didn’t hear the question. Slowly he retracts his hands from my wrists and sits back on his heels. He takes in the sight, noting every detail. I expected disgust or repulsion but, he stared at me with nothing but curiosity and amazement.

I pant harshly, not sure how to answer,

“I-I don’t know,” I admit. Seeing an excited spark in his eyes, he leans forward to ask a few questions.

“Do you always do this? How do you do it? Does your hair always change colors like that??” his eyes fill with this childlike wonder and his cheeks flushed.

I was dumbfounded, not even sure where to begin. “K-Kind of?”

“But your ears change. Your hair too! What are these?” his finger graze the mark under my eye. I reel back, the touch making my cheeks flame. 

“T….They are the only things that do that.” I pause, “Wait no- I mean, I can change colors.”

“You can change colors?!” he repeats, officially hooked. Keith had never taken such an interest in me before, and I would have felt embarrassed at the attention, if it didn't’ feel more like I was just some strange creature to him than a person. He looked like he had just found the cryptid he had so desperately been searching his entire life for.

“Yes….” I nod.

“How many?!”

 I shrug, nibbling my lower lip. “I-I dunno, I’ve never tried to figure that out.” I honestly assumed I could turn into any color so long as I had the look of it clear in my mind.

“This- This is incredible!” Keith ran a hand through his hair. He scrambled backward to grab a journal he kept under his pillow. Flipping to a clean page he clicked open his pen and looked up at me, ready for… something.

To talk, I suppose. He wanted me to just explain to him every little weird thing about me. I admit to feeling lost, having expected so many different types of reactions to someone discovering my secret. So I told him whatever I could.

The following hours were filled with questions, asking about what I could do, how far my abilities went, and if there were others like me.

“Where did you come from?” It was drawing late into the night, and Keith showed no signs of stopping.

I already felt exhausted. I’m struggling through this interrogation. Two all-nighters were not good for my complexion. Aware of this, I push through, afraid that at any moment Keith could decide to go reveal to the entire Garrison what I am.

“I don’t know,” I tell him.

“You don’t?”

“No, I don’t. Is that everything you wanted to ask?” I grumbled, rubbing my eyes tiredly.

“What about your family? Can they all do this?”

“No.”

“Then just you?”

“Just me.” I nod.

“That’s weird.” He writes it down regardless. “Some strange genetic fluctuation during pregnancy…?” he mutters to himself. I stare at him, the scribbling of his pencil make anger boil in my stomach. “Did your Mom come into contact with any kind of radiation or something? Do drugs?”

“Geez, Keith. No, she didn’t.”

“Then how is this like this?” he looks at me, curious, but pushing it. “How did you end up like this?”

“I don’t know,” I say each word slowly, my teeth grinding together.

“There is no way you couldn’t know! You are the one like this, aren’t you??” he demands.

“That’s like asking why you have black hair, Keith!” I raise my voice a little, “It’s black because it just is. I’m like this because I just am.”

“That doesn’t make any sense.” he shakes his head. “You have to be this way for a reason. I just want to know the reason for how you became like this!”

“I don’t know!!” I yell, my patience wearing thin and my ears popping out before I can stop them, “I don’t know anything, Keith. I was just born this way. My parents found me on the side of the road with no family, no explanation- just questions. Questions and questions about who I am, why I’m here- why I was just left on the side of the road!? Who are my real parents?! Where are they now?! Did they mean to lose me??? Did they…” I cut off when tears prick my eyes and turn away.

For the first time that night, Keith was at a loss for words. He lowers the journal in his hands “I…” he swallows. Eyes larger than I had ever seen them, they filled with emotion. He looked away for a moment. “You were adopted…? Your family isn’t-” he motioned to the picture of them on my bedside table. I take it into my hands, and sigh. I hand it to him to look at and nod.

“I look a lot like them, right?” I say, my voice weak. “They said when they found me, I changed to look that way. Maybe to protect myself or something. I don’t even know if this color-” I motion to my skin, “Hell, I might normally be purple or something and my body is just staying this color to protect itself like some animal. Or maybe I don’t even have a normal color to be??” the thought hadn’t crossed my mind till then. It was hard to even admit.  

Keith’s eyes meet mine. His gaze softens, and it hurts to look at. Hurts to see him somehow understand how I feel. Not that anyone could, not really. Not able to stare long, I glance at the clock. It’s 5 Am. We were up all night talking about this crap, and it was way too late to go to bed. Classes started in two hours.

“Hey,” Keith says. When I look at him he falters. It was strange, seeing Keith Kogane of all people struggle to find the right words. He settles with, “Do you want to get breakfast?”

Not expecting him to offer, I nod slowly, “Breakfast sounds great,” The walk down to the cafeteria was suffocating and silent. I could feel Keith's eyes peek at me now and then. When we walked in, no one else was there.

The workers who made the food didn’t even seem to be in yet. I sigh, falling back on my heels. “So much for that.”

“Well don’t give up just like that.” Keith shakes his head. He leads me out of the cafeteria and right off of campus. We don’t walk far before the familiar glow of Denny’s comes into view. I look at Keith in surprise when he opens the door for me.

“You come here a lot…?”

His smile is small, but there, “When I need to think or be alone.” We got a table for two and sat towards the back, away from the other early birds that had come there that morning.

We were painfully quiet, staring at everything but each other. I stab my food when it arrives, feeling less hungry now that we were here.

Keith seemed to be working up the nerve to say something and eventually met my gaze.

“Sorry if I stepped too far.” his voice is too gentle, and I almost can’t believe it’s him.

Never expecting him to apologize, I swallow, “Oh…”

“I just got excited. This kind of thing, as you know, is what I obsess over.” he sniffs, rubbing his nose, “I didn’t know about your parents...” I don’t say anything, so he continues, “I understand. I um… I lost my dad when I was young. I went from foster home to foster home for a long time till Shiro’s family took me in. I never got to meet my Mom so…”

I wasn’t sure if I should tell him I was sorry to hear that or just keep my mouth shut.

It was strange seeing the gentle and understanding side of him. He never talked about himself, and this felt like a very intimate kind of thing to tell someone. From what I could tell, especially with the way he brushed his thumb against his fingers. like he was self comforting himself, Keith probably hasn’t told anyone about this.

“Didn’t mean to make you upset.” he finished, voice gruff.

Twirling my fork, I lean back. Taking a second to think this over, I tell him, “It’s okay.” When he lifts his eyebrows, as if surprised I forgave him, I add, “My family are the only ones who know about my secret. It’s kind of this big relief to finally tell someone about it, you know? I just wasn’t expecting so many questions so fast. I still have no idea if you are even going to tell people.”

He nods, “I’m no snitch. You don’t have to worry about me telling anyone.”

“Really?” I gasp.

“We all got our own shit going on. This is just your version of it.” he lifts his gaze, smirking, “But you gotta answer my questions honestly,”

“You still got more? After Seven hours you still have more questions.” I couldn’t believe him. He nods, and I know he is serious. We ended up talking for a while longer, even as the pancake house started to fill up with for their normal breakfast times. We must have been there for a while.

“We should head back.” Keith glanced at the time. Paying for the food himself, we walked back side by side, the chatter small between us, but it was at least something. Perhaps I wasn’t exactly correct before.

Keith could be a jerk, but there was a sweet side to him under all of that.

“Keith?”

“Yeah?”

I smile, “Thanks.”

Before he can reply, there is a loud voice booming ahead of us.

“Keith!” Turning, I was surprised to see Takashi Shirogane coming our way….THE TAKASHI SHIROGANE!?!?! My eyes widened like saucers as he drew closer, my heart racing.

He approaches us when we get close to the classrooms, patting Keith on the back. His smile is bright and caring. “You ready for the Southern course today in the simulator? I heard you are first up to try it.”

Keith nods, smiling, “It’ll be a piece of cake.”

Shiro laughs. It’s sweet, like the kind of laugh that warmed the hearts of anyone who heard it. I felt my own heart melting, my anxiety washing away and covered with this security blanket. I felt like I was listening to my own Father laugh.

“Um…” Not meaning to speak up, I tensed when Shiro turned my way. His eyes trailed me up and down before he titled his head.

“Who’s this?” Shiro inquired, motioning to me. I pale, swallowing thickly. Tongue tied, I struggle to answer.

Keith answered for me, “This is Lance, my roommate.”

“Oh! Your roommate.” he smiles. 

“N-Nice to meet you! S-Sir! You- I-” the nervous laughter that bubbled from my chest was very unwelcomed. Shiro chuckled, taking my hand and giving it a good shake.

“Nice to meet you, Lance. You enjoying Garrison?”

I stammer, probably looking like a tomato, “Yes sir.”

“Glad to hear that! Hope Keith here isn’t causing you too much trouble.” he ruffles Keith’s hair. He grumbles, knocking his hand away and glancing at me.

“We’re managing,” I say, because that felt like the truth. I couldn’t call us friends, even after what happened recently, but I think we were at least a little closer than we were before.

Shiro nods then does something I do not expect, especially from someone like him.

“Please take care of my brother,” Shiro bows to me respectively. I tense, every eye in the area looking in my direction like I was some great spectacle. Takashi Shirogane was bowing to me after all.

Keith is groaning and pleading him to stop, “You are so embarrassing.”

“It’s called being respectful,” Shiro corrects, standing straight. He gives me another assuring smile. “Well, I have to get going. I’ll see you both around.”

Keith waves casually and I attempt to do the same, or even give a charming smile back, but I end up just snorting and laughing awkwardly, wiggling my fingers at him. My grumpy roommate rolled his eyes in response.

“Can you not do that? You’d think you worshiped the guy or something.”

 Heck, I just might!!

 With a chuckle, I turn to look at Keith. I felt a little lighter, like this Garrison thing wasn’t going to be as bad as I thought. “I should probably get going.”

He nods, “Me too. See you later…?”

“Yeah.” I smile. “I still have to answer your questions.”

The smirk he gives makes my knees buckle, “Hell ya you do.”

Stumbling away, running into a trash can, I laugh nervously. Keith watches me, looking confused but amused as I fuddle my way out of the conversation. "B-Byeeee." Drawing that out longer than necessary, I scrambled to my next class, once again without my school supplies. When I sit down, Hunk is grabbing my shoulders, looking worried. 

"Did he do anything to you???"

Confused, I tilt my head, "Huh?"

"Keith!" Hunk says, turning me around to check for injuries. "He came screaming after you yesterday and I didn't see you the rest of the day to make sure you were okay." worry pooled in his eye. "Is he bullying you?? Is he being mean??" he tightened his grip. It felt... protective. "If he is, you just say the word and I'll make him stop."

I gawk at this teddy bear, "You'll make him stop?"

He falters for a moment, "Well, I mean, I'll try. No, no, I will! I won't let him mess with my friend." he assured me. 

Touched, I smile at him, patting his hands. "It's okay, buddy," I tell him. I felt so happy to have a friend looking out for me like this. "We talked and worked it out. There is nothing to worry about."

"You sure?"

I nod. "Yup! But uh-" I grin sheepishly, "I do need to borrow a pencil and paper again~"

"Again?" he snorts, handing me the supplies. "I think you need to glue your supplies to your back, Lance."

"I'll take that into consideration."

Chapter Text

“That the guy?” Hunk whispered, peeking over my head and leaning into the Library.

I nod.

“That’s the guy.”

“You sure he can help us pass our French test?” Hunk twiddled his thumbs, moving back and forth on his toes.

“Yes, I’m positive.” I thought it was dumb in the first place that we had to take a foreign language in a space program, but hey, who knows? Maybe one day we’ll meet an alien who magically speaks French?

…..Wait….

Would I be that alien if I learned French? Of course I still haven’t confirmed I’m an alien, but if I am, am I proving that the Garrison teaching us French might actually be valid?

Shit.

Well now I gotta do good in this class and that just pisses me off! Either way, I was good in Spanish and English. French however, was not my forte. I tried to ask Keith for help, but he just turned his head away from me and said no. I was persistent about it for a few days till Keith finally admitted that he barely passed his French. He would be little help. Which meant I needed someone else who could help teach me.

Being in the same boat, Hunk tagged along. Cutting across the seated students, we moved around a few chairs to stand before our salvation.

“Hey~” we inched towards Pidge with caution, putting on our best smiles.

Pushing up their glasses, Pidge gave us both a side glance, then greets us, “Lance. Other guy.”

 “Hunk.” he waves a little. “Nice to meet you.”

“Yeah, sure. Nice to meet you.” he nods, looking bored, “Do you two need anything?”

“Actually,” I slowly raise our French vocabulary sheets, giving Pidge the biggest puppy dog eyes I could muster. “We were wondering-”

 “If you weren’t busy-” Hunk quickly added in.

“Right, if you weren’t busy, could you possibly help us with our French?”

There was a slight wrinkle to his nose. “You want me to help you study?”

“We heard you have an A in the class.” I nod vigorously.

“That may or may not be the case.” Pidge danced around the question, “How did you get the information on it? I require names.”

Unable to sell out the nice girl who sat behind me in French, fearful of what Pidge might do to her in return for spreading information on him, I shake my head. “Can’t do that.”

Pidge frowned, “So be it. I’ll discover them eventually. Tell me though, why are you two so insistent on passing this class?”

“I really don’t want to repeat the class, and the better grades I have the better chances I have of getting in good with the teachers.” I explain.

“I have a low C, and if it drops down to a D my Mom is gonna- she’s gonna-” Hunk’s lower lip trembled at the thought. “She is not gonna be a happy Mama, that is what she is gonna be.” he concludes, looking to terrified to go into details.

Pidge lowered their book with a sigh, “So what’s in it for me?”

“Our unwavering gratitude and respect?” Hunk asked.

I shake my head, “No enough, Buddy. I figured you’d want something in return, so I came prepared.” Pulling my backpack off, I unzipped it to reveal its contents. Pidge’s eyes doubled in size as I dumped a mountain full of pudding onto his lap.

He covered his mouth, a soft gasp slipping from their lips. Mesmerized, he quickly recalled the situation and composed himself.

“This will do.” he cleared his throat. “You may sit at my table.” Eager to get this over with, we pulled out our chairs and got to work.

Pidge, despite seeming unwilling to get to know us at first, didn’t seem to mind our company after a while. It had been our routine to meet up in the library or at Lunch. Pidge kept our interactions strictly educational, but through time he had started drifting to Hunk and me just a little more often.

He joined us for lunch, talking about more than just homework. He mentioned a few of his hobbies and how he liked to build things. He partnered up with us in class, and even offered to let us copy from his homework- so I considered us friends.

However, during any off time, there was virtually no contact between us, so I was very unsure of how far that friendship went.

“Alright, cough them up.” Pidge stood before us like a Judge, his tiny fingers opening and closing for us to hand over the evidence. Hunk and me gulped, slowly releasing our latest test reports to him.

He eyed them carefully, noting every mistake like he would hold it against us for years. Peering over the papers at us for a moment, just to make us feel tense, he looked back down. He clicked his teeth, “Your scores have both improved by 30%.”

Hunk’s voice was soft, “Is that good?”

Holding back from answering immediately, drawing out the suspense, Pidge nodded.

“It’s very good.” he smiles, looking very proud of both of us.

“YES!” we leap into the air and high five.

The horror was over with, for now, and we could relax. I had enough things to worry about as it was with Keith breathing down my back. In fact, one day during lunch, while I was doodling in my notebooks instead of actually doing an assignment, Hunk and I started discussing our roommates. Pidge could care less about the conversation, but took enough interest to input something from time to time.

“You don’t get it,” I groan, “Living with the guy is torture.” I think back to the last couple of days and sigh. Keith’s endless questions, his endless theories to what I might be and what strange creature I could be some descendent off. Just this morning I awoke to a flashlight being shined in my eyes because it was apparently a full moon and Keith was checking for any werewolf tendencies.

“He leaves his stuff everywhere, takes up the entire room, is super weird, a show off-” I could go on and on, but decide to spare my friend my grumbling.

“My roommate kind of smells funny,” Hunk shrugs, “So that is about it. What about you, Pidge?”

 “We have completely different schedules so I only ever see them if I wake up for a late night snack and see them in bed,” Pidge states, their eyes never lifting from their book.

“Lucky.” I sigh. Though, I kind of wish Keith and me could be close. That maybe we could talk about more than just how strange I am. Maybe go get some pizza and just be two normal guys for once.

“Maybe next year we can try to get rooms together.” Hunk offered. I perk up, the idea sounding amazing. I feel like even with my secret, I wouldn’t have to worry about Hunk finding out. He was just so open- I never felt uneasy talking to him. Honestly, I actually feel like I could tell him about my secret and he would be perfectly cool with it. That is how much I like and trust this guy.

“Cadets!”

My thoughts of joyus friendship were interrupted by our head commander, Iverson, coming by to snap at us. He motioned to our table. “Your table is filthy. We are not pigs, Gentleman. So clean up after yourselves!”

I quickly lowered my head, my chest constricting tight at the scold. “Y-Yes, sir.”

“Good!” As Iverson passes, my eye catches with Pidge. I shiver at the look he has across his face. It was cold, calculated- like Pidge had some unspoken vendetta to the guy. He followed every step Iverson took, eyeing him like a hawk all the way out of the Cafeteria. Like myself, Hunk quickly caught on, and looked worried.

“You okay?” He asked

Pidge pushed up their glasses, tearing their eyes away, “Huh?”

 “You had a real… death glare, going on.” Hunk explains.

I nod, “You were freaking us out.”

“Oh,” Pidge looks away, “It was nothing, I just uh- that guy rubs me the wrong way.”

 “Well he is a little intimidating,” Hunk shrugs in agreement, “I always thought that was just his way of teaching.”

“That is a scary way of teaching,” I tell him.

“That’s what I always thought!” Hunk smiles. Pidge rolls his eyes at us.

“Listen, I gotta get going. I’ll see you two dummies around.” with a playful smile, he waves to us. We wave back, barking insults about Pidge’s height the entire time he left. Stopping only when he left the room, and I lean back into my chair, looking upward.

“I start my first piloting class tomorrow.” I announced. Hunk smiles at me.

“That’s great.”

“I’m kind of nervous about it.”

He shakes his head, patting my shoulder, “You’ll do great, Lance.”

I wanted to believe him, but the worry still ate away at me. The deeper I got into my piloting classes, the more eyes seemed to train on me. I felt self conscious, jittery with each task they threw my way. I know that this was to prepare me for an emergency, or to be calm in the face of something unexpected- but I was freaking out.

At least two different times during just one class I thought I felt my transformation almost slip up. I usually had it under control, but stress was my worse enemy. The more stressed or pressured I felt in a class, the higher the chance of revealing myself grew. It almost made me consider dropping out of the classes till I could get a better grasp on Garrison as a learning facility and got used to their always screaming teachers.

The problem with that is that I know my parents are keeping track of the classes I take. If they suddenly saw me drop from all the main classes I wanted to take, they would get worried. I hated worrying them, and it would be hard to explain why I would drop a class without telling them I felt overwhelmed. It was hard enough just making them think it was actually fun being Keith’s roommate.

It’s cool that the guy knows my secret and isn’t telling anyone… but he does things that push the limit of my patience.
Like yesterday….

I woke up to Keith holding a bucket over my head. I don’t even blink before saying.

“Do it and I’m telling Shiro how you sneak off every saturday night to go Gremlin hunting.”

Keith’s hand stilled and he backed up, retreating to his bed to glare at me from behind his pillows. “It was just water.”

 “Still doesn’t give you a reason to dump it on my head.”

“I wanted to see if you would transform when spooked.”

 “Of course I do.” I roll my eyes,

“Every time?”

“Well- no, not every time. My sister scared me enough when I was younger for me to get a little bit of a grasp on it. My transformation goes off of any really intense emotion; fear, love, joy, sadness, anger, shock- stuff like that.”

“For an emotional person like yourself, that can’t be easy.” Keith notes

I frown at him, “What is that supposed to mean?”

He turns, “Nothing.”

I frown at him. “I ponder how your brother managed to survive your strange cryptid ways.”

“Tracker chip.” he answered it so bluntly that I rolled onto my side to gawk at him.

“You serious?”

 “In my phone.” he lifted it. “It’s why I leave my phone here when I go out on my expeditions.”

“Expeditions.” I repeat, rolling my tongue. “Is that what you call it?”

“Yes.”

“Your poor brother.” I chuckle. “A beautiful piece of artwork such as he, dealing with a crazy brother such as you~”

Keith doesn’t say anything for a bit, eventually voicing a question. “Beautiful piece of artwork? Shiro?”

“Duh. That boy is gorgeous.” I nod. “Haven’t you noticed?”

He scowls, “Of course not. He’s my brother. It’s weird that you find him… attractive.”

“It really isn’t.” I disagree. “Many would agree with me that he is fine~”

“Don’t say that.” he stuck out his tongue.

“Sure sure. Well-” I roll from my bed and get dressed, “I’m leaving you alone to your bucket. I’ll see you later.”

“You seem in a grumpy mood.” he doesn’t look at me when he says this
It makes me pause, and I scratch my head.

“Do I?” I sigh, “Sorry. I’m just tired and stressed. I thought already knowing two languages would make learning French easier, but it’s very different from the two I know.”

“You should get a tutor then.” Keith says.

I shrug, “I kind of did? They are pretty smart. I think I can get through it. I just have to worry about the other classes. They are the worse.”

 Keith doesn’t ask me why this is so I don’t elaborate and just leave. His concern for me only tended to go so far after all, like most people. Despite my thoughts that maybe we had gotten closer after he discovered my secret, in truth, he kept me at a very long arms reach. I think I’m a closer step than most others, but that was solely because he found me interesting.

Take away the weird transformation nonsense and we would be strangers.
The thought was kind of depressing, but that was just one more thing to add to my list of things I mope about daily. I just had to focus on my piloting. Forget Keith, forget my anxiety, and focus on getting better. I would take any chance I could to get some practice in, signing up for almost every open spot available. The woman who ran the check in even began to recognize my face and would wave to me when I got there.

It was a routine that I could keep up with and stay calm. Being friends with Pidge and Hunk seemed to help my anxiety immensely too. It wasn’t perfect, but I was managing.
Of course, that all changed on the 3rd Tuesday of November. That day I had woken up late and was going to miss roll call to my first class. Yelling at Keith for not waking me up I scrambled to get my stuff together. I grabbed my three books, glaring at him.

Keith shrugged, watching as I ran out the door. I didn’t stop, taking a turn too quickly. Bumping into someone when I rounded the corner, I stepped back to rub my nose.

“Oh, sorry!” they say quickly. Squinting my eyes open, I’m surprised to see Pidge.

“It’s okay, Pid-” I trail off, noting how tall they seemed to be. They had Pidge’s face but… this wasn’t them. They were different, their face a little older and eyes not as big. The biggest clue I got was the color of their uniform. Trainees wore orange, but this guy wore gray- the color of those who had already graduated and were working for Garrison for full time missions. “Who are you?” I ask them

He seems to be my senior and holds out his hand, flustered.

“S-Sorry, Matt Holt.” This wasn’t Pidge, but man the resemblance was striking. I had never bothered to ask for Pidge’s last name, so maybe they were related.

He was very similar to Pidge in his hairstyle, eye color, heck everything seemed to match- the both even wore glasses! Of course, there seemed to be something off about Matt compared to Pidge.

He was tense, like someone was pinching his shoulder blades and had put hot coals below his feet. He shifted his weight constantly, his eyes shifting back and forth, large bags below them from lack of sleep. I wanted to ask if they were okay, but his phone buzzed. Glancing down to it the Pidge look alike paled. “S-Sorry again uh-”

 “Lance,” I tell him.

“Lance,” he nods, “But I h-have to go,” There is something in his eyes that I knew very well. Too well.

It was fear. Fear from hiding something.

It didn’t involve me, but I couldn’t help but think that Matt had a secret as he passed by me, rushing down the hall.
Still, it was none of my business, so I carried on.

Chapter Text

I chuckle as my brother shows me his latest art project from school through our video chats. He had gotten into drawing Giraffes lately and was bringing a new picture of them daily to show me.

Chari appeared on the screen a couple of times, eating a sandwich. “What’s up, Buttercup?” she plopped down next to Arlo, waving. “What’s the sitch? What’s the Hap’s? What’s the dealio~?”

I chuckle, “Same old stuff as yesterday. School, flying, hiding my secret.” I hadn’t found the courage to tell my family that my roommate had discovered my other side. They were already on my case enough about him.

I guess I… talk, about Keith a lot. I didn’t realize I did, but my family has confirmed that I always bring up Keith in some way. I think Chari is starting to get suspicious that it’s more than just annoyance on my part.

“What about you?” I ask. “How is your degree going?” Chari had gone to college close to home and had been staying with my parents to save up some money to move out afterward.

“One more year, then I’m free from the chains of education! I can see the light at the end of the tunnel~” she wiggles her fingers.

“Doesn’t that usually mean death?” Arlo inquired.

Chari looks at him, pursing her lips, “Adult life is death, little brother.”

“Chari, don’t tell him that. He’ll be afraid to grow up!” My mother scolds off-screen.

“I don’t want to grow up anyway! I want to stay a kid!” Arlo whined.

“Oh, look what you did.” My mothers sighs, coming into view. She leans over to smile at me, “Hola, Lance!” she waves. “How are you, love?”

“I’m great, Mom.” I smile. “Made some new friends. Classes are going good, and I-” I trail off as the door opens. Peeking over my computer screen, I watch Keith enter. He is dragging a cart behind him. It’s stacked high with candles and jars of salt? “...am doing fine.” I frown, squinting my eyes at the sight.

He doesn’t even look up as he opens his closet and begins to stash away the supplies.

I nod a few times as Chari started to talk about something, but my attention is still on Keith, watching him.

Dusting off his hands, he closes the closet. Taking off his jacket, which is covered in this black soot, he stuffs it into his hamper. He hid the coat from view by covering it with another shirt. 

Not suspicious at all. 

If that wasn't enough, my eyes were having an adventure! Keith was dressed in this crop top! Crop top, crop top, crop top, stomach line, belly button; ooh boy my thoughts just went south real fast!

Maybe I was just over imagining the shine to Keith’s skin, but sweet Garrison did it sparkle. How did someone like him exist? It wasn't fair to have to share a room with a being of such raw sexual attraction. 

“Lance, you listening?” my mother asked.

“Huh?” my eyes snapped back to the screen. “What was that?”

“Nope, he wasn’t listening.” Chari chuckles. “I hear moving around. Is Keith there?? Let us say Hi!”

“No,” I say instantly. I fear what Keith might ask if he were to suddenly engage my family in conversation.

“You’re no fun. You should let us meet him.” Chari insists. “After all, he is the guy you have a crush on, isn’t he?” she smiles smugly.

My eyes widen in horror.

“What?!” Arlo gasps. “LANCE! YOU HAVE A CRUSH ON-” I slam the computer close and lift my head to look at Keith. He has his headphones on.

Thank goodness, I was saved by his complete lack of interest in my personal life!

For once….

Noticing I was staring at him, he takes out one of the earbuds. “Yeah?”

I blush, “N-Nothing.” I was half tempted to ask what Keith was doing with all those candles and salt, but figured it was best to leave it be. I didn't want to get dragged into whatever their function was for.

Deciding I would call my family again tomorrow, when Keith wasn't in the room, I finished up my homework and went to bed.

My beauty sleep was disturbed a few hours later. 

I tried to ignore it, but it didn't seem to want to go away. It sounded like strange mumbling.

Rolling over, I rub my eyes. Realizing there was light in the room, but not from the lamps, I frown at the candles placed on the floor. From their light, shadows were dancing along the walls, caused by Keith’s form sitting in the center of the bizarre display.

He was mumbling some incantation, moving his hands around in strange gestures.

I know I would regret this, but I spoke up to question him. “Keith?”

His head turns to me, his purple eyes seemingly glowing in the dark. “Yes?”

I swallow, not liking the black garb he dressed himself in, “It’s two in the morning.” I motion to the clock, wondering why I even bothered sometimes.

He tilts his head, “Yeah, so?”

“I’m trying to sleep!”

“Oh.” he nods in understanding, “I’ll be quiet.” Looking back ahead, he continued to mumble. Knowing there is no way I could sleep now that I knew something was up, I pulled my blanket off. Sitting up, I toss my legs over the side of my mattress and gawk at the strange summoning circle that Keith had drawn into the room using salt.

“Uh, Keith??? What are you doing?” I inquired cautiously. I felt like I had just entered some cultist’s chambers!

“Delving into another realm of the unknown. I’ve done all I can do with the creatures that might be around Garrison, and you refuse to answer questions unless I give you exactly eight hours of sleep a night, so now I must take a peek into the spiritual world.” He turned his head, eyes wide and innocent. “Shiro doesn’t approve of me calling upon black magic and the dark arts of this book I got from this man in an alley, so I’d appreciate it if you didn’t say anything to him.”

“Black magic?? Keith this isn’t even conspiracies anymore.” I tell him, dumbfounded. “How is this- you didn’t even draw the pentagram right!” I get up and move around it.

He looks down at it. Lifting his book, he taps his chin, muttering, “Hmm, seems I didn’t.” he got up to grab a small broom to clean up the salt and start over, hoping to draw the symbol correctly.  

“What are you redrawing it?!”

“It’s not complicated, Lance. If I drew it wrong, I make it right.” Sprinkling the salt back on the ground, one of the biggest wastes I’ve ever seen, he moved back into the center and sat down. Lifting the book into his lap he began to read the incantation aloud.

He paused to light another candle.

After a few seconds, he stops again, struggling with one word in particular. “What is that word?” he holds it up for me to read.

I cover my eyes, “I’m not reading that.”

“Lance, the ghosts are not patient. I’ve gathered their presence and just need to give them physical form.” he insists.

“Yeahhhhh.” I rub my temple, “Listen, I’m not super into ghosts, or this conversation, so I’m going back to bed.”

“Lance. Lance~ Lance~!!” he calls my name repeatedly as I trudge back to bed. Plopping down, I cover my head with my pillow to drown out the noise. “Fine,” Keith grumbled. He thankfully gave up an hour later, unable to pronounce a few words and insisting the spiritual presence had left.

We didn’t say anything to each other when my alarm went off a few hours later, and we got ready for school.

I could tell he was giving me the stink eye. He could do it the entire year for all I care, but I refuse to have the Poltergeist go down in my room! I want my sleep!

When lunch rolled around, my body felt sluggish from constant interruptions to my beauty sleep.

“My life is nothing but the bizarre,” I conclude as I sit down at my table. Hunk takes a bite of his sandwich and stares at me.

“Go on.”

“Well, I’ll tell you this much. I was awake at 2 in the morning today because my roommate was summoning ghosts.”

“Hah.” Pidge snorted at me. “That’s cool.”

“It’s really not….” I pause when Pidge pushed up her glasses, reminded of the boy I had seen the other day. “Oh, hey there was this guy I saw earlier-”

“Males do exist, Lance,” Pidge informs me

“Haha, very funny. Let me finish.” I swallow, “He looked just like you,”

Pidge’s hand freezes, his eyes flickering to meet mine before he looks back at his food, “Oh?”

“Yeah, just like you. Same hair, eyes, glasses- I thought you two were twins.”

“Do you have a  twin?” Hunk gasps, “Why didn’t you tell us?”

“Because I don’t have a twin,” Pidge says abruptly, “I don’t have any siblings.”

“Oh,” Hunk glances at me, “Then that really is bizarre.”

As one who has had to keep a secret for a good chunk of my life, I prided myself on being able to know when others were lying. I became a very good one myself… I had to. I knew the signs when someone was trying to pull the wool over my eyes.

So I hated to see that lying look in Pidge’s eyes. I didn’t want to believe that he was lying to me about something like this. Having a sibling or something wasn’t anything to be ashamed of.

Or perhaps it wasn’t like that, and that Matt guy was someone else to him? Like a Father or something? A really young looking Father?

I tried not to let it bother me and just forget about it, yet the thought persisted every time I saw Pidge.

He suddenly was avoiding meeting my eyes. As if I had started to catch on to something about that Matt guy that Pidge didn't want me to.

The denying of it just made me more curious.

I couldn’t seem to bring it up or call Pidge out on the lie. It just didn’t feel like the right time to. Even if I did, what proof did I have other than saying I know the signs of lying?

If I did, Pidge might just deny it further and get mad to avoid the topic.

So I left it be for a few more days.

In that time I got no closer to figuring out what was up with those two. I was almost willing to drop it till a few bullies came our way.

They were teasing us, getting in my face and sneering. I recognized one from my class, about two spots below me on the chart during our flying test. He had boasted about himself at the beginning of the year, yet wasn’t even close to the top spot a quarter through.

They especially seemed fond of teasing Pidge, making fun of his height. He hardly batted an eye to them, most likely use to the attention of jerks.

“Leave him alone.” Hunk told them.

“Or what?” one gave Hunk a shove. The collision seemed to cause the bully to stumble back more than Hunk, being larger than them, but it pissed Pidge and me off regardless that he tried.

“Hey!” Pidge snapped, “Don’t mess with him.”

“The midget actually talks!” the other snorted. With a sharp tug, they tear Pidge’s backpack from his shoulders. He leaps around to stop him, just to get knocked back into me. “Give that back!”

The bully is opening his bag and going through Pidge's belongings, rolling his eyes. “A bunch of worthless junk.” he lifted up what seemed like a spare part. In fact, Pidge's backpack was filled with pieces, ample books, and pencils. If the bully was looking for money, Pidge didn’t keep it there.

“Chuck it!” one howled.

“No!” Pidge pleaded.

“Dude, seriously, give it back.” Hunk narrows his eyes.

“Yeah, that doesn’t belong to you.” I agree, feeling courage with my friends here.

“Should I?” the bully doesn’t seem sure and steps back towards the railing. We were on the second floor, the cafeteria down below.

“Don’t you dare!” Hunk yells.

The bully tosses Pidge’s bag over the side without another word.

Pidge yelled, reaching out too late to catch it. Running over to the railing he stares down in dismay, "My parts!" he quickly rushed to the steps. Pushing past the jerks, who snicker and call taunts our way, we follow Pidge to help.

His belongings had practically exploded from the back, tossed out onto the tables like garbage.

We scrambled to grab scattered papers, salvaging whatever we could from the parts that had broken or cracked from the impact.

“At least your computer wasn’t in there.” I offer weakly. Pidge sighs and nods.

“I was hoping to upgrade my computer with some of these.” he looks at what seemed to be a chip, crushed and unusable now. He tosses it into the trash, frustrated. “How can the people here be considered adults when they still do stuff like that?” he hissed.

Hunk shrugs, “Some people just never grow up.”

“You got that right.” I agree. I kneel down to grab Pidge’s textbook. There is something along the lines of a photo sticking out of it.

I lift up the photo, scrutinizing it.

A girl, who kind of looked like Pidge, stood with a boy a little taller than herself. They seemed to be close, pressed together and smiling wildly.

One was dressed in the Garrison uniform.

If I didn’t know any better, I would say it was just Pidge and some girl, but it was different.

The hair and smile were a little off.

It was that guy I had seen earlier; Matt!

Taking the photo and the other belongings I managed to grab, I head back. Still clutching the picture, I looked down at my friend.  

“You okay?” I ask

“Yeah,” Pidge opens their bag, letting us dump the belongings inside, “Thanks, guys,”

“Those people were jerks,” Hunk shakes his head, “Shouldn’t we tell a teacher?”

“I uh- don’t think that is a good idea,” Pidge says, “I’d rather stay below the teacher’s radars as much as possible,” he says it like a joke, and maybe it was, but something inside compelled me to ask what had been bugging me all day.

“Why is that, Pidge?”

“Huh?” they glance at me

“What do you have to hide?”

His eyes widen, their mouth forming a thin line, as if I had just caught them with their hand in the cookie jar. “W-What do you mean?”

To answer them, I lift up the picture, “I found this.”

“Hey!” he attempts to snatch it, clicking his teeth when I hold it a tad out of his small reach. “That’s mine! Give it back.”

“Sure, if you tell me which one is you.”

Pidge falters, swallowing, “T-That one.” he motions to the one wearing the Garrison uniform.

“Is it? Or is it Matt?”

“Matt?” Hunk steps into this conversation, very lost and confused, “The guy you mentioned earlier?”

“Lance,” Pidge says quietly, almost pleading with me, “Just give me the photo back.”

I lower my hand, placing it into his palm. The one in the uniform is Matt, I was 100 % positive of that. Which meant, and I hoped I was right about this, that the other person had to be Pidge. Why else would he have that photo?

Pidge was a girl. Or liked to crossdress. Either one.

Some part of me thought that if Pidge had a secret, it might have been best just to leave it be. Yet something felt weird about this. Something I felt this urge to figure out. 

I was starting to sound like Keith. Geez....

Anyway, I had a reason to hide who I was and what I could do.

I understood some wishing to keep their gender a secret, which was fine. The weird thing was if Pidge and Matt were related, why was Pidge hiding this?

Taking a deep breath, I brace myself, “Are you a girl, Pidge?”

There it was, out in the open.

The second I say it, all the blood drains from my friend’s face. He, or she, step back, clutching their bag to their chest.

Hunk is just as dumbfounded, looking back and forth with wide eyes. “....I knew it!” he suddenly exclaimed.

Pidge and I almost fall over, “What do you mean you knew it??” I demand.

“It’s obvious she’s a girl! I just thought you were going through a gender change or something.” Hunk says quickly, waving his hands back and forth.

“Dude!” my jaw drops. "Why didn't you tell me!?"

"I repeat, I thought it was obvious."

"It definitely was not obvious." I shake my head. Or was it? Was I just blind to these kinds of things?

“Will both of you shut up?” Pidge hissed, stepping forward. Grabbing our ears, he- she- they, tugged us down to eye level. “Listen to me; you can’t tell anyone about this. Not a soul.” there is a dangerous look in Pidge’s eye. A threat that would be an endless torture if we did not comply.

We both nod vigorously, fearing our lives. “We won't,” we promise.

“B-But, why didn’t you tell us?” Hunk inquired, looking nervous. “Why are you hiding this?”

Our small friend released our ears and stepped back. "I-I couldn't." their voice cracks. "My brother-"  Pidge abruptly cut off, scanning the area. With a nervous swallow, they mumble,  “Tomorrow. In the back of the training rooms. I’ll tell you then.”

Agreeing to that, Pidge ran off before we could stop him. Or- her. This was gonna take some time to get used to.

Glancing at Hunk, the big guy simply shrugged.

“Guess we’ll find out tomorrow.”

“Yeah,” I say. Tomorrow was Saturday, so we didn’t have to worry about classes. I had a feeling though this wasn’t just going to be something small that we could just laugh off.

I felt like a storm was coming.

Which meant, I had to ensure that Keith never, EVER, figured out about any of this. 

Chapter Text

Taken to the back of the training rooms, which were usually abandoned on Saturday morning, Pidge sat us down to talk.

“Okay.” she clears her throat. “Before we begin, you both must promise to never speak about this to anyone. Especially any of the teachers who work at Garrison.” she met our gaze, eyes serious and vowed to steal our very souls should we reveal this secret.

Hunk and I share a look, then nod. “We promise.”

She slowly pulls out a few pictures. Holding out one, I realize it is Matt. “Matt,” I say.

“My brother,” she confirms. “He graduated Garrison and is now helping them work on their latest shuttles to head out into space. He loves his work, and has excelled in all his classes.” the heavy atmosphere seems to lighten as Pidge talks about her brother. She smiles, proudly telling us the many accomplishments and skills her brother possessed, “Engineering, coding algorithms, work in advanced technology, hacking- he practically a communication specialist and is even helping the Garrison with their communication network.”

“Whoa.” Hunk blinks a few times. “Sounds like an impressive guy.”

“He is!”

“Then why keep everyone in the dark about knowing he is your brother?” I ask, puzzled.

Pidge’s smile falls, “Well... “ she sighs, “Lately, all of that seems to have changed. Matt used to love the Garrison and always told me how much he loved working here. Lately, though, something wasn’t right. The problem is, I don’t know exactly what.”

 “Still not following,” I admit.

“All I know is that Matt has been involved in a top-secret project lately. He isn’t allowed to tell me anything, but he seemed nervous about it. At first, he just seemed apprehensive about it and said he wanted to quit his job and move back into the things he likes. He was requested personally for the job by Commander Iverson.”

“Commander Iverson?” Hunk gasps, “It has to be a big deal if he requested Matt.”

“My thoughts exactly. I was positive Matt was going to quit the job with how much he seemed to dislike it. However, one day, he completely stopped talking about it, but is still doing the job.”

“Which means…?” I trail off.

“I think my brother intended to quit, but they convinced him not to.” she narrowed her eyes, “I think they forced him not to.

“You think they are blackmailing your brother or something?” Hunk looked pale.

Pidge nodded solemnly, “I have no full proof, but there is no other explanation. When Matt decides something, he sticks with it till the end. He’s afraid of something and is too scared to bring it up to us. He even did everything he could to try and convince me not to go to Garrison.”

“Why was that weird?” I tilt my head.

 “Because all he ever talked about was Garrison and how I should go there, and then just flipped a complete 180 saying I shouldn’t.”

“So then… you came to Garrison anyway under a fake name?” I wondered.

“Fake everything, basically. I wanted to make sure Iverson had no idea I was Matt’s sister. I changed my name, forged a fake birth certificate, high school degree- everything.”

 “Hold old are you then?” Hunk murmured.

Pidge pushed up their glasses, “15,” they smirk.

“I knew you looked too young to be 18!” I jab a finger at her,

Her smirk widens before she continues, “I planned to quietly gather some evidence on my brother without letting him know I was here. If he figured it out, he would send me home, and my family will never figure out what is wrong. I know Iverson is up to something. I can- I can feel it in my gut,”

I shake my head, trying to wrap my brain around it, “Geez… Have you figured anything out yet?”

“Not much. It’s been hard to get information without letting them know I’m here. I’ve been following Matt around, but I’ve only confirmed something is wrong. He avoids his friends so they don't realize anything is wrong, but it’s only a matter of time before they figure it out too.”

“Is that what this is about?” The room froze. None of us had said that. I could feel the hair stand straight on the back of my neck. 

Someone else was in the room!

My heart leaped into my throat when a voice spoke from a shadowy corner.

I held my breath in fear, a chill running up my spine as we turned to confront the person eavesdropping. Thinking it was perhaps a teacher, or even Iverson himself, I felt relieved to recognize a very familiar looking mullet.

“Keith?” I gasp at him. He folds his arms, stepping into the light. “You creeper.” I scold him, feeling like laughing, “What are you doing standing in a dark corner like that?”

“I walked in a few minutes ago,” he shrugs, “You guys just aren’t very observant.”

“Oh.” Hunk paled.

“What are you doing here?” Pidge gasped at him, eyes darting left and right nervously, ready to bolt.

“I always come here to train on Saturday morning.”

 I curse my memory, knowing this was a fact but just spacing it at the moment. “Keith you- please, you can’t tell anyone.”

He folds his arm, sweat from his work out still kissing his skin. I watch a droplet of it slide down his neck to pool around his collarbone- yup, I’m off track. Is he talking right now?

“You know how I am with secrets, Lance,” he smirks, and my face feels too hot to be normal.

“What does that mean?” Hunk asked, confused.

“Nothing,” he says innocently. “Listen, I wouldn’t gain anything from spilling your secret to the world.”

“You won’t tell anyone?” Pidge frowned suspiciously.

“No,” he shakes his head, “In fact, I’m going to join you,”

“What?” we gawk at him.

“You say Iverson had some secret agenda and is blackmailing people? That is a conspiracy theory at its best,” his eyes sparkle, “I’m in.”

“My god,” I pinch the bridge of my nose, wondering why I expected any different.

“Plus,” we glance at him, “Matt Holt is my brother’s best friend. I’ve known Matt for a while myself, and he is a good guy. If something is messing with him, I want to know about it.”

“You don't have to do this, Keith,” I tell him.

“I want to. Plus, I'm bored. Which I wouldn't be if a certain someone would be cooperative during my sèances.”

I groan, “For the last time, Keith. I am not helping you summon ghosts and demons into our room!”

He snorts and looks away like I was some party pooper. “Whatever. Here, follow me. I’ll show you what I know.”

Glancing at each other, skeptical, we follow Keith all the way back to our dorm. Opening the door, he pulled out a folder from under his bed. There were many folders under there; each labeled with something different. No doubt each a conspiracy of some sort.

“This is the dirt I’ve gathered on Iverson so far.” Keith lays it out on the table for us to look at.

Impressed by the amount of information I say, “You work fast.”

Keith smirks a little as if pleased by the praise. “I do what I can.”

“Which is an unreal and almost creepy amount.” Pidge lifts up a few papers to look them over. “You gathered all of this in just one day?”

He shakes his head, “No, I’ve been strategically gathering that for months now when the opportunities arrive.”

We stare at him, blinking. I decide to step forward and ask, saving Pidge and Hunk from doing it themselves, “You know what I’m going to ask.” I sigh, placing my hands on my hips. He nods.

“I would prefer you ask it anyway.”

I purse my lips, tilting my head back before asking the question we were all thinking, “Why do you have this?”

“Iverson is a man of power and people who have power hold secrets,” he says with a small flip of his hair.

“So without even knowing what those secrets might be, or even confirming that he had any, you began to stalk him,” I conclude.

“Yes.” he motions to the stack, “And as we can all see, I have now just confirmed he has a secret, so my time was not wasted.”

“Once out of every other time, it was not wasted, congratulations.” I shake my head at him.

“I’m not complaining.” Pidge sat down to go through the pile more thoroughly. “This information will help me out a lot.”

“Even if we got this, what exactly is the plan here? How are we gonna prove Iverson is blackmailing your brother? Are you sure it is even him that is doing it?” Hunk spoke up, nervous

“I’m positive it is him. He coordinates all projects in the Garrison. As for how we do it, we gotta learn my brother’s and Iverson’s schedules first. Perhaps if we could figure out what my brother is even working on it could help us figure out what Iverson is using to blackmail him.”

“Does Shiro know?” I turn to Keith.

He shakes his head, “From what Shiro has told me he’s been in the dark about what Matt’s been up to for months. They meet up, but Matt doesn’t talk about work anymore.”

“Not even with Shiro…” Pidge shakes her head. “That definitely proves something is up. Not enough, of course, to go to someone about it, but enough for us to figure it out.”

“So we're tailing Matt?” I conclude.

“Not all of us.” Pidge shakes her head. “We need to plan this out. If Matt finds out what we’re doing, it’s all over.”

Taking a deep breath, I think this through. I was getting into a dangerous kind of situation here. Stalking two higher ups in the Garrison and trying to uncover top-secret intel… I could get expelled for all of that.

But Pidge was my friend; I couldn’t just abandon her.

“Okay.” I sigh, “I think we can all agree we’re on board for this, but we gotta be super careful.”

Pidge nods, motioning for us to sit down so we could figure this out.

And that is how I got caught up in some weird investigation with a 15-year-old, my good friend Hunk, and Keith the conspiracy theorist. 

For the next week we would break into teams in a sort of divide and conquer kind of strategy. We would switch objectives during each of our free time, either to follow Iverson or Matt, gathering whatever information we could throughout Garrison

Keith and I were partners in this. Keith was the popular one, and I was that chatterbox, as Pidge placed it.

People would be open to talking with Keith, but since he was socially constipated, I was in charge of gathering the info. I tried to convince Pidge to chance up the teams, saying that Keith and me never really got along. 

She wouldn't hear it. 

"Lance, you get along with Keith way better than Hunk and I do. I'm surprised you are even complaining. This just gives you the chance to hang out with him more."

She was correct about that, but I would prefer to try and hand out with Keith in a typical setting. Not in some quiet investigation where Keith would take things too far. Which I knew he would because he was Keith. 

A silver lining, I got to hang out with him. 

Which was also a problem all in itself. 

 To say everyone stared would be an understatement. One stroll around Garrison together and suddenly I was the talk of the school.

Who was I? How did I know Keith? Were we friends? Were we something else…?
I could hear girls gossiping about their theories on what we were together. Half of them seemed to assume I was just some side fling for Keith to keep himself busy.

Kind of a low blow, but it was better to just ignore those kind of people.

“Got word from Pidge that Matt has his schedule set for the week. She’ll send it over in a second.” Keith announced, handing me a binder.

“What’s this?” I ask, opening it.

“A full documented plan to take down Iverson.”

I eye the 30-page binder, color coordinated and alphabetical, “When did you make this?”

“I stayed up last night to complete it.”

I skim over it. “Keith, this sounds more like a “take out the guy for good” plan then a simple discover what he is up to kind of thing.”

“I don’t like people messing with my friends.” Keith said simply.

Oh, so Matt was considered a friend in Keith’s eyes. That was nice to know.

“Okay, so you figure out where Matt will be tomorrow?” I ask. When I turn to Keith, he flashes a light in my eyes. I blink rapidly at the sudden attack on my poor irises. “What the-”

“Pupils seem to react normally to light,” Keith mumbled, jotting something down.

I groaned at him, “Seriously? You are still on this?” Once again I was forced to be part of Keith’s strange experiments. It felt like a sense of my own blackmail considering I couldn’t exactly say no to him without the fear of him telling someone about me. I mean, I want to hope Keith wouldn’t be that kind of guy- but there was no way I could take that chance.

“My investigation can’t end until I figure out what you are Lance. Or at least something close to it. Obviously, you are some new type of species to human, but I can’t exactly give that species a name until I know everything they can do.”

I rub my eyes, ignoring the little jab I felt at the reminder that I am in fact not human, “What does that mean? You want to name me…?”

“Shouldn’t the person who discovers a new species get to name it?”

I lower my hands, “Keith, you weren’t the one to discover me. If anyone should get to decide the name, it should be my parents.” I felt annoyed at this conversation. Just like I did with every other discussion I had with Keith about what I was. It wasn’t like it was with my family. With them, it was playful teases and pokes, nothing to upset me because they knew how much it hurt to think about this…

Keith didn’t seem to get that. His actions weren’t intentionally mean, but his thoughts on me weren’t exactly warm either. I was just like any other animal for him to look at. If I was in a more bitter mood, I might just snap at him for continuing this. However, I wanted to focus on Pidge’s brother.

“If you think so.” he rolls his eyes and grabs his bag. “Okay, let’s go.”

We passed by Shiro a few times, and Keith often had to cancel previous plans with the older student to follow up on a lead with Matt. I think that Keith wanted to trust Shiro with this information, but he had insisted that he knew Shiro too well.

He would take it straight to Iverson if he learned about this and confront him.

“You never just confront the villain, Lance,” Keith tells me, having watched hours of Criminal minds, NSIC, and a large assortment of detective and lawyer shows. “You have to gather evidence to prove what you say is true, or else they can just walk away and destroy that evidence later.”

“But didn’t you say Matt was his best friend? Wouldn’t he want to know?”

“He is but…” Keith shrugs, “Shiro kind of gets blindsided when things that involve Matt?”

“What do you mean?”

Keith stops, glances around, and leans a little closer. Like an elementary student about to be told a little secret, I eagerly lean in, “Let’s just say, those two have always been a little closer than just friends.”

I blink once, twice, then gasp, covering my mouth at such amazingly juicy information, “No.”

“Yes.” he nods.

“Are you serious?”

“Completely.” he rolls his eyes like the thought of relationships was some joke to him. “Shiro’s a love-stricken fool over him.”

“I had no idea.” I feel myself smiling. Now that I knew, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The strong and well built Shiro with a small and nerdy Matt… It was cute! “Aww.”

“No, not “Aww’.” Keith mimics me, shaking his head. “They are so lovey-dovey it’s sickening. They dance around each other and flirt with no consideration to who is around them. I can’t hang out with them anymore without being some third wheel.”

“Oh come on, you can’t mean that.” I chuckle, “Aren’t you happy for Shiro?”

 He looks away, “Of course I am. And I want him to be with Matt. I just-” there is hesitation in his eyes, something I don’t often see from him. “I just don’t want him getting hurt when it turns sour. I don’t want either of them getting hurt...”

“You make it sound like it’s inevitable.” I stare at him, following him down the hall.

With a cold look, he stops, “Because it is. Romantic relationships only lead to heartache, Lance. It would probably be best for you to remember that.”

Caught off guard, I stand alone in the hall, watching Keith walk ahead of me. Remembering we had something to do I stumble after him, his words heavy on my mind. What did he even mean by that?

I didn’t have much time to think about it before we found our target.

Following Matt into town, having never felt more like a stalker in my life, we tailed him for a good hour before he stopped in a little cafe. Through this hour, I was squished on the back of Keith’s bike, my arms awkwardly wrapped around his waist.

His warm, strong back.

Yeah, it was a pretty awesome hour.

I felt sad when the ride was put to an end so we could follow Matt into the cafe.

Shuffling in, sitting a few seats away from him but still within earshot, we pressed the menus to our faces, waiting to see who he was here to meet up with.

When the door opened a little while later, we hear Matt call out, “Hey!” and he waves.

“Who is it?”

“It’s Shiro,” I inform Keith. He tenses, sinking a little deeper into his seat.

He whispers, “What day is it again?”

“Wednesday?”

Keith curses himself, “They always meet up on Wednesday.”

“But Pidge says Matt doesn’t hang out with Shiro that much anymore,” I say

“I know,” Keith mumbles, “Shiro’s been worried about Matt for a while because he’s been missing their meetup times. He says Matt’s been acting strange but insists it’s just because he’s been taking longer shifts.”

“At least they can meet up today for their date.” I smile over Keith’s shoulder, admiring the two. Matt, who had been gloomy moments before lit up when Shiro came into sight.

Color returned to his cheeks, almost flaming when Shiro pushed in his chair for him. It was super cute

“I wouldn’t call it a date to them.” Keith snorts

“Huh?”

“They are more than friends, but they aren’t exactly dating. Yet.” he shrugs, “They are both super awkward about it, and neither of them has confessed yet.”

That sounded like a crime, “But it is so obvious.”

Keith nods, “Welcome to my world.”

“So they aren’t together…” I trail off.

“Yes. They dance around each other and avoid it because they don’t want to ruin their friendship.” he keeps his eyes on the menu. “They should just get it over with.”

I’m puzzled, “So you want them to get together because it is obvious, but you also don’t want them to get together because you think they’ll get hurt?”

Keith’s hand twitches and he meets my gaze, eyes narrowed. “It’s complicated.”

I snort, “Apparently.”

“You don’t get it, okay?” Anger touched his voice, “Maybe in your world everyone gets a happy ever after, but that isn’t how it goes for most people.”

I frown, “I didn’t say it was. I just don’t see the problem with liking someone and wanting to be with someone. If you like someone and they like you back, isn’t it natural to date and fall in love?”

Keith makes a small noise of irritation like I wasn’t getting the point he was trying to make. “Forget it. Can we just talk about something else? Or better yet, not talk at all?”

Pissed off, I glare at him. “Fine.”

After a few minutes, Keith lowers his menu, “We should order something so we don’t look weird,” he informs me. “Here,” he slides his arm over the table and holds his hand out to me. I hand him a 10 dollar bill for my food. He hands it back, frowning.

“No, idiot, give me your hand,”

For some reason, jumping to the conclusion that Keith wanted this so he could chop it off to see if it regrows like a lizard’s tail, I quickly hid them below the table, “Why?” I frown

“To play the role.” he huffs, agitated

“What role?”

“Lance, this is a cafe known for dates.” he informs me as a matter of factly, “It’s weird for the two of us to come in here unless it’s a date or something close to it.”

My brain stops working. “A what?” I whisper

“A date.” he reached over to grab my arm, forcing my hand back to the table to hold it.

And- yup, there it is. I’m officially holding hands with Keith.

My brain began to kick into overdrive, locking back and forth with Keith’s hand, to his eyes darting around the menu, indifferent to this whole thing. His thumb moved over my knuckles in an affectionate way, yet his eyes held nothing to the motion. He didn’t care about any of this, just keeping his ears to the conversation Shiro and Matt were having.

To him, this was nothing more than acting, a role to play to get information. It meant nothing to him, so it should mean nothing to me.

However…

“What are you going to order?”

I feel like I’m about to explode and I must have looked like it too because Keith inhales sharply when he sees my red face. I’m not kidding; it turned full red- my arms too. If there were ever a moment to curse my unknown heritage, right now would be the time.

Keith is at a loss for words, making an incoherent noise to question what my problem was.
I start screaming a moment later because I can feel them...

My ears, growing pointed at the rushing tightens in my chest. I scramble to grab a large napkin, tossing it over my head.

It covers my ears, which had come out to say Hi because my heart was currently going through palpitations.

Ducking down, knowing the entire cafe was probably looking at us from that outburst, I desperately hide below that napkin, forcing myself to breathe.

Forget everything else. Just breathe. They aren’t there, and I’m alone. 

Breathe.

When I feel safe enough, I peek out, quite chatter echoing around me.

The first thing I see is Keith. He’s angry, and he probably has every right to be since I blew our cover. His priorities were on the mission after all, not on me almost getting revealed in front of dozens of people.

I don’t know why I thought for even a moment he would be worried about me in that way.

“What is wrong with you?” he hissed darkly.

“I-I’m sorry.” I stammer. Before I could continue my apology, a voice spoke up.

“Keith?”

Keith choked on his own spit, realizing that Shiro has spotted us. He got up from his chair to approach us, checking to make sure everything is okay. “Hey little brother.” he pats his head.

Keith visibly relaxes under the touch, putting on a smile. “Hey.”

“What are you doing here?”

“Just thought we’d get some lunch,” Keith says without missing a beat. Shiro’s eyes trail over to me. I quickly take the napkin off my head, smiling nervously.

“You are-” he pauses, forgetting my name.

“Lance,”Keith answers for him.

“Your roommate,” he recalls. He lowers his hand, eyeing Keith curiously, “I’m surprised to see you both here. Is he…?” he trails off

“I-I’m-” I stammer, realizing we were about to get caught.

“My boyfriend.” Keith’s voice cuts through the silence too fast for me to even properly realize what he said. After a few seconds, it clicks.

“Huh?!”

“Your boyfriend?” Shiro looks just as shocked as I am. I’m jumping to correct him since I’m definitely not his boyfriend.

Keith steps on my toes under the table, giving me a little look that said “if you don’t go along with this, I’ll kill you," So with the most considerable mental debate I’ve ever had in my life, I complied.

“Keith,” Shiro smiles like he is so proud, “I’m happy to see you getting out there again.” he puts a hand on his shoulder, squeezing. “ I know how you can get through, so make sure you treat Lance nicely,” he instructs.

Oh god, I think I’m going to faint. Someone, please, get me- get me some oxygen, stat!

“Shiro.” Keith sighs

“You want to join us over here? I’m sure Matt would like to meet Lance too.” Shiro smiles sweetly.

“Thanks, Shiro, but we were just leaving. Lance just recalled he had an assignment he needed to do and was freaking out about it.” Keith gets up and motions for me to do the same.

“Oh. Right.” I nod slowly. “An assignment.”

“We should get going.” Taking my hand, the warmth of his fingers sending a tingling sensation up my arm, I hold my breath.

Playing the role like a pro, Keith turns, squeezes my hand and says, “Let’s go,”

I nod numbly, unable to form words and just following obediently.

Once we were safely out of hearing and seeing distance, he drops my hand and stuffs his own back into his pocket. “Great.” he sounds pissed. “Way to blow our cover.”

Anger boils into my gut, “Excuse me for freaking out because you stink at communicating!”

“I told you we were acting!” he whirls around. “You are the one who got weird.”

“Because you said we were- on a date! And then you were the one who told Shiro we were dating!” I accused him. He points back, furious.

“It would have been too suspicious if we were there as just friends!”

“So you just instantly tell Shiro we’re dating?”

He turns away, pinching the bridge of his nose. Taking a deep breath, he concludes, “It isn’t a big deal, Lance.”

I lower my gaze, my chest aching. “It is to me.”

“What was that?” he grumbles over his shoulder. I wave it off.

“Nothing.” I sigh. Because my thoughts didn’t matter, right? As long as Keith got to do what he wants everything was just fine! Keep me up late into the hours, worry me when he stays out super late, always reminding me of how messed up I am….

Keith wasn’t a bad guy to me, not even close. I just wish he had some respect for me. He finds me amusing, and sometimes we can talk and be nice to each other, but that wasn’t what I wanted. 

To be seen as a person with thoughts and feelings to him would be nice.

It would be the best thing in the world, actually.

We don’t have to be friends, or anything past that if he didn’t want to. Just an understanding that I was like him and not like something up on his wall.

“Sorry I screwed up.” I tell him gently.

Accepting that, we have no choice but to return to Keith’s bike and head back to the Garrison.

“I can’t believe Shiro even bought that.”

Keith didn’t turn around to ask, “Bought what?”

“That we’re a couple?” I say awkwardly.

“Isn’t that hard to believe.” he shrugs, taking his helmet off his bike to put it on, “He knows I have a thing for blue eyes.”

He has what now?! Holy shit, was that some news that I needed to know. My color blue in particular? So it wasn’t that surprising that Shiro would believe Keith would date someone like me?

Is that good or bad???

Shit, I'm supposed to be mad at this guy right now, and my heart won’t shut up.

“Here.” When Keith turns, he gets to witness my face going through some serious mental struggles. My skin flickered like lights to all sorts of different colors. It settled on a crimson hue, a not very subtle blush.

Stammering, which is something he never did, Keith demanded, “W-What are you blushing for?”

“Y-You- You surprised me!” I insist desperately, already feeling my ears starting to peek out.

“What about that is surprising??”

 “Just- stop talking!”

I scramble for the hood on my jacket to cover myself, taking a few minutes to breathe before I’m ready to head back to the Garrison.

“You are so weird.” Keith shakes his head. “Guess I can add red to the colors you can turn into.”

“Shut up,” I grumble. The ride wasn’t as nice one the way back.

“Do we uh- have to pretend to be dating every time we see Shiro now?” I ask when we get into our dorms. Keith stops, groans, and slaps his forehead, cursing his stupid idea.

“Yes. I don’t just date anyone, so we gotta make this seem legit or he’ll get suspicious,”

I nod meekly, rubbing my arm. I hated to admit that the idea of dating Keith, even if just pretend, was enticing. “What should we do then?”

“I’ll just ‘break up with you’ in a few weeks, maybe a month. I’ll say you just wanted attention and didn’t actually care about me or something,” he shrugs, tossing on his pajama shirt

I gawk at him over my shoulder, “I would never date someone for that shallow of a reason. Why are you making me the bad guy in this?”

Keith doesn’t look at me as he fluffs his pillow, “Because that’s why I’ve broken up with any relationship I’ve had,” he explains, his voice void of any indication of feeling to this information.

I’m not sure what to say for a few minutes, finding myself weakly asking, “Really? Every time?”

“Don’t make a big deal about it. Just know Shiro would believe it. And does it really matter what I tell him? We aren’t actually dating. We aren’t even friends.”

The nonchalant admittance of that is more painful than I expected it to be. 

So even Keith felt that we weren’t friends.

“Oh.” my voice drops. Catching onto it, Keith turns to look at me.

There is hesitance, “Did you think we were?” He asks me.

Desperate to hide the hurt I knew would show on my face, I turn away. I go to my side of the room, turn off my light, and crawl into bed. I can feel Keith’s eyes on me. He calls to me once, then twice.

“I asked you a question.” he is in front of my bed. I ignore him, burying myself into the safety of my sheets. “I’m serious.” his voice grows softer. “Am I a friend to you?”

I didn’t even know anymore.

Chapter Text

Keith is like a child.

I don’t mean this in a bad or good way; it’s just a fact. He’s that kid who isn’t a bully by purpose but is just too enveloped in his own little world to really think of anyone else.

When Keith had asked me if we were friends, despite explicitly stating a bit before that we weren’t, I never answered. He annoyed me for two hours after that, but I never answered him.

I have no idea how long he stood there after I went to bed, frustrated that I wouldn’t give him what he wanted. I guess he is just the kind of guy who needs closure to things to be happy. Not answering was very frustrating in his mind.

From what I can tell, instead of just going to bed, Keith stayed up for a long time, unable to sleep. He wanted an answer to his question because for some reason it was that important to him, so he took the matter of getting it into his own hands.

Do you know what it’s like to wake up with freezing water being dumped over your head?

It's paralyzing.

I bolted upright with a scream, the cold seeping all the way to my bones. My ears shot up and tingled, burning like how they did whenever I was out in the snow too long during winter.

Sputtering some incoherent words, I rub the water out of my eyes. Keith was standing over me, the bucket handle hanging from his arm as he jotted something down in his notepad.

That stupid notepad he wrote in whenever I did something. Whenever something happened.

I have never felt such hatred towards an inanimate object before. I wanted to take it and throw it in a ditch, drown it in the ocean, send it off into space, burn it to ashes and spread its incriminating pieces over Keith's side of the room.  

And what did Keith do? Stand there, staring down at me. His eyes that generally made my heart race made me feel cold. 

Fuck him. 

It would have been better if he had never discovered my secret. I would have at least been a normal nobody to him.  Me, the biggest experimental freak show he had the chance to see. 

“What the hell!” I roared at him, stumbling out of bed. My pajamas were soaked, making me shiver within the crisp air of our room. My teeth clattered too much for my words to make too much sense. 

“You never answered.” 

“What?!” I demand, not understanding. 

“My question I asked." he batted those dark eyelashes. Long and alluring, drawing you right into the cold pit of his chest. "You never answered.”

My jaw falls open, “Are you-” my words start to mix, stumbling from my anger, “Are you serious!?”

He eyed me duly, “Your skin is turning blue.” he notes.

Like how a mode ring changes color, my body faded to a heavy blue, matching the cold tingling of my skin. Small droplets of water stuck to the hair on my arms, which were upright from my goosebumps. 

It was so cold. So fucking cold!

“Is that why you did that??” I had warned him a few nights ago not even to try it. Not to say my siblings hadn’t done this to me before, but that was in good fun. That was a prank and a joke to mock their sibling.

Not to get an answer. Not to see the results of what my body would do and write it down like some logbook!

Keith shifts his weight. “You didn’t answer my question.” he looks me up and down, “Did you know chameleons are cold-blooded?” he says, getting off track like he always did. Because he was oblivious to my boiling rage. “You can blend in and change colors as they can, so I wonder whether or not you might be some subspecies of them. Perhaps your genes are correlated to theirs?” he turned, mumbling.

I brush my bangs out of my face, feeling like the water was already freezing over, sticking to my skin. “That doesn’t make it okay to do that!”

“It’s not a big deal, Lance.” he shakes his head.

“Not a big deal?" My anger subsides for a moment. Only a moment. I'm dumbfounded. 

How could someone be so dense? Be so oblivious to the feelings of others, especially when they seem like such an emotional person deep down? I couldn't fathom it.  

"Not a big deal?!” I repeat, demanding Keith stand for his actions. Enough was enough. My patience had broken the second that bucket tipped and it was coming in hot. “Don’t fuck with me Kogane!” Like a flash, my hair spiked white, my eyes nearly glowing in the darkness of our room. 

Keith turns on the balls of his feet, eyes wide. Startled, he steps back when I move closer.

“I’m not some freak you can just poke and prod and treat like some lab rat! I kept this secret because I wanted to avoid people doing this to me!”

“I…” he shakes his head slowly, clutching his notepad to his chest. It pissed me off. I snatched it out of his hands and tossed it to the side, pressing closer. My height allowed me to loom over him, backing him up to the wall.

He looked so small suddenly, guiding my anger further, allowing it to come out with this sense of power. I was in control at this moment, and goddammit Keith was going to listen to me this time. 

“Do you have any idea what it is like to wake up and realize that everything you knew was a lie?? That on any given day, I could be taken away from my family, or-or worse!? Hell, I thought it was scary just trying to admit to a few friends that I was Bi! But that is the least of my problems!!”

Keith was unmoving, the blood drained from his cheeks and his eyes uncharacteristically full.

“Do you even understand, Keith?” I choked, “I go to school every day, terrified! I can’t even go out anymore without fearing I might just change in front of everyone. My life could be over in less than a second! Oh, but what do you care? You have no problem reminding me every single day that I’m different and bizarre. You just pin me up there with your monsters and mythical creatures like I’m not even a fucking person to you! Cause that’s it, I’m not. And the worst of it, the only reason we even talk, the only reason I can even consider you as a friend, is because I’m a freak. Otherwise, you would have given me the cold shoulder like everyone else! You would never have even tried to get to know me. That is what sucks about this Keith! Because I like that you're my friend. But you don’t!" I take a breath, the quiet of the room making my heart hurt. 

I can't stand it and quickly fill it with my voice. 

"ARE YOU HAPPY NOW? You are a friend to me! At least… At least you were.” my voice chokes off at that last part.

“Lance…”

I don't let him speak, ranting on and on for who knows how long. Saying things I knew I would regret later. It felt right to finally say it though, so I didn't stop. 

“Do you know that you are the first person I’ve ever told about this outside my family? I could hardly breathe when you figured out, but man Keith- the relief. I thought for a moment that maybe, maybe I found someone who could truly see me for me, and I was so excited. I was so happy, Keith. But that’s the thing; you don’t see me for me. You see this,” 

I extend my arms out, making sure he saw my ears,  every marking, every string of silver hair. “This is all you see and that- that hurts,” I lower my arms and back away.

I felt so drained suddenly. I felt glad I said it all, but now I just felt empty. A glass with nothing in it.

Stepping away, leaving Keith braced to the wall, I turn around. I don’t want to be here anymore.

Seeing me getting my shoes, Keith seemed to break from his shocked trance, “W-Where are you going?”

“Out.”

I collect my jacket, toss on my hood and storm to the door. I pause, feeling Keith’s stare.

He tenses when our eyes meet, like a child knowing they were going to get another scolding from a parent. 

"Everyone here calls you an uncaring ass who doesn’t give a shit about anything. I didn’t think that. I thought you were just someone who lost a lot of things important to him. But you know, maybe they were right? Maybe that is exactly what you are, Kogane,” without another word, I leave, slamming the door ruthlessly behind me.

I wonder the base for who knows how long till class starts again. I don’t talk to Hunk when I sit down, and that seems to worry him.

“Are you okay?” he asks when the bells rang. I shrug but can’t seem to say anything else. He walks me to my next class, trying to start up some light-hearted conversations to lift up my spirits. It works a little, and I find myself smiling by the third period.

Then I see Keith. He is walking down the hall, his eyes shifting left and right slowly. He is trying to be subtle about it, but I know he is looking for me.

When his eyes trail over me, he stops, like a deer in headlights.

I get closer, and he opens his mouth. I barely give him a blink before I’m shoving past him. The interaction didn’t go unnoticed by the overly observant student body. It was the talk of the day that I dare ignore and lightly shove Keith Kogane.

How dare I~

At lunch, I met up with Hunk and Pidge. Hunk seemed to have gossiped to Pidge about my mood and they interrogated me promptly after.

“So what happened?”

“It’s nothing guys.” 

“We’re on a mission here, Lance.” Pidge jabbed a finger at me. “We have to be top of our game here. So spill so we can help you through it.” there is a trace of care there that I can’t help but be drawn to.

“I had a fight with Keith. We just- a lot of stuff has happened and I finally blew up at him for all the things he does.”

“Oh.” Hunk nods knowingly. “I’m sorry, Lance.”

“I’m not.” Pidge snorted. “Someone needed to knock that guy off his high horse.”

I chuckle a little, smiling at her, “Thanks. But now I just feel empty. And kind of bad? I wish I could take it all back just so I don’t have to go back to the dorms and feel awkward when I see him. But I also don’t want to take it back.”

“Fights are usually like that.” Hunk nods, “Maybe it’s a good thing? Now that Keith knows how you feel he’ll be more considerate.”

I snort, “Doubt that, but here is to hoping I guess.” I lift my milk. “We followed Matt yesterday. He met up with Shiro but we didn’t really learn anything.”

“Figured. He probably won’t say anything to Shiro. We’ll have to try and get an ear on him talking to another higher up. Won’t be easy though.” Pidge says.

“Right.” we agree.

After a good lunch, I feel better about what happened with Keith. I’m grateful to have friends like these two.

“Gotta head to my next class.” Hunk tells me.

“Me too.” Pidge grabs their large backpack, “Meet up with you two later to go over more of the plan.”

“Roger that. I’ll see you both later.” I wave to them. Moving to throw my lunch away I pause when I see a familiar looking notepad below a table. Having seen it from a distance, I kneeled next to the table to pick it up.

It was Keith’s cryptid notepad. 

It no doubt had things about me in here. How could that idiot just leave it lying around?

Half tempted to throw it away, I stop myself. Even if I was mad at him, I couldn’t get rid of something he cherished so much.

Keeping it on my person instead, I read it in my next class. Since it was more of a study hall, I got away with it.

Keith was very detailed in his research; I’ll give him that. From Bigfoot to the Kraken, he had it all. I seem to be his latest entry. I learned a lot about Keith from his little notepad.

For starters, his writing was beautiful. I felt like I was reading a novel with how clear and crisp the voice of the words were.

His penmanship was easy to read too, unlike my chicken scratch.

If that wasn’t enough, Keith just proved he was a prodigy once again by his incredible artistic talents! This boy could draw, and it was very unfair! I guess his perfect appearance was cursed by his sour personality. 

Oh look, he even drew a picture of me towards the back. It was in my natural form of course, but the details were spot on.

Lance McClain

Species: Unknown

Known to transform from Human to an elven looking creature of unknown origin. Hair becomes a brilliant silver with his ears sharpening to a point. Eyes remain an alluring ocean blue.

His birth parents and family are unknown. (Don’t bring this up. He gets upset about it)

 That seemed to be more to a note to himself than something for a book. I continued to read.

 Recent discoveries show he can change his skin color. A chameleon-like trait, but it’s uncertain how far this goes. Can he perhaps change how his very body looks? Grow smaller and taller?

 I had never really tried that, honestly. 

His transformation seems to draw off of his emotions. Being tender-hearted the change happens more often.

Very family oriented however despite everything. Most bodily functions follow human beings, such as the need to blink, breathe, sleep and eat. Has a very insistent urge to be clean but I think that is a matter of choice and not due to his genetics.

As of now, I am the only one to know his real true identity in the base. He answers all of my questions efficiently. Or does he just feel obligated to because I know his secret?

Attaches to others a lot.

Easy to talk to. I find myself saying more to him than I usually do to others.

Likes things like hair products, sappy movies, and some weird green face paint he puts on his face before bed. Something about his pores.

It smells awful, yet seems to make his skin shine. I attempted to apply some of it myself while he was out and it got in my eyes. It burned and was slimy. I'm never doing it again.

Oh, I totally knew he stole some of my face mask cream!

A lot of things after that seemed to be scratched out recently. Almost a whole page’s worth! I flip the page to see if there is anything else. Below the black scratch out are a few words.

I seem to have angered him. This book alone is a big cause of it. I didn’t realize.

He talks so easily with others despite claiming he struggles to. I wish I knew how to speak to him.

His eyes lose their shine when he is sad or angry.

I don’t like that.

Closing the book, only now realizing it was probably a breach of privacy, I lean my head against my palm. Keith wrote his thoughts so clearly on paper but seemed to struggle to convey them out loud.

His words held a voice that I never really thought him having till now. He felt sincere and sweet.

That side of him only showed when he was off trying to hunt down a mythical creature.

Honestly, to me, I found his love for the unexplained to be very endearing. He was so passionate about something so strange, dressing up in ridiculous clothes, going nuts over silly articles- it was beyond cute to me.

What wasn’t cute, was how I was compared on the same level as lizardmen and green Martians.

At least he seemed to realize and understand what I was talking about.

The question is whether he would change and learn from it.


 

----Keith----

When Shiro found Keith sitting towards the back of the school, knees tucked up to his chest and alone, he approached him cautiously.

“Keith?”

He looked up, as if expecting to see someone else, and partially disappointed to find out it was Shiro.

“Expecting someone else?” Shiro smiles. Keith looks away, shrugging meekly. 

“Maybe.”

“What are you doing out here alone?” Shiro takes a seat next to him.

“Thinking."

“About what?”

Keith sighs. “Just a lot happened today.”

“Like?”

“I- just a lot? Bad sleep, bad class- I lost my notepad with all my stuff in it!” he growls, pissed about that. Shiro nods, knowing how important Keith’s cryptid hunts were. He kept all his notes about them in that notepad.

“I’m sure it’ll show up.”

“Maybe. And if that isn’t anything, then the thing with Lance-” he cuts off, shaking his head. “Nevermind.”

“Lance?” Shiro frowns, fearing the worse, “Did he do something?”

“No. No, it wasn’t him. It was me… I think,” Keith sighs, “Forget it.”

“You can tell me, Keith.”

After a moment of hesitation, Keith says, “We had a fight.”

“Lance and you?”

Keith nods, “Now he won’t talk to me.”

Keith hadn’t dated that often, perhaps 3 or 4 times, but Shiro had come to realize that once Keith started to let something into his life, he quickly grew attached to whatever that was. It was his Achilles heel, so to speak.

Most never realized this, but Keith loved very easily,

He put up so many walls to avoid the heartbreak, which came too often to him. Keith had been doing this since he was younger, when they first adopted him. It took a very long time to open Keith’s heart up to them, but when they did, they quickly realized just how deeply previous families and friends had hurt him.

Getting into high school, Keith was very influenced by movies of all genre, including books. These seemed to convince him that a partner, or lover, would fill that gap he had in his heart. After all, in books, the story typically ended with a happy ending and the two love interests finding peace with each other. 

 Keith yearned for that.

For someone to fill his gap.

As much as Shiro tried, he couldn’t mend every wound and understood Keith’s need to fill that loneliness in his heart.

However, his good looks and skill attracted several crowds, some not so good, and Keith had been hurt one too many times by others who sought him out purely for his popularity and not for who he truly was.

So, everyone had to understand just how shocking it was for Shiro to be approached by his brother by a problem he had caused. Keith was very respectful to whoever he dated, and while it was true he hadn’t dated for a while, Shiro assumed that Keith would still do the same.

Lance seemed like a sweet boy and he hoped he wouldn’t have to worry about what previous ex’s did to Keith with Lance. But for them to fight already??

“What happened?”

“I dunno, he just- he said I wasn’t really seeing him for him,” Keith mutters, “Maybe I was,” he shrugs, unsure. “I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong. That was just how we were and he was-” Keith frowns. “Long story short, we got in a fight and he ran off, and we're roommates, so I have to see him sooner or later. The problem is, I don’t know what to say when I do.”

Shiro blinked. Keith had never had a problem with pissing someone off/arguing with them and seeing their face the next day. In fact, giving people the cold shoulder was almost his specialty.

Keith never often had to apologize either, genuinely believing in his words and following them through to the end. For this to bother him enough to admits this to Shiro- well, it made him realize that maybe his younger brother was truly growing up.

That he really cared for Lance.

“Perhaps the best thing then is to apologize. Just because you argue one time doesn’t mean the relationship is over, Keith. Couples fight sometimes, and they can’t always get along. That is okay.”

“What?” Keith looked puzzled for a second. Realizing something a second later he cleared his throat, “I mean, yeah. Couples. Lance and me are a couple.” he trails off, sounding unsure.

"You told me you were." Shiro reminded him. 

Keith nods quickly, "Y-Yeah, I did. And we are!" he says quickly. “I know that couples fight too, but-” Keith folds his arms, “It’s complicated.”

Shiro chuckles, “Most things are.”

Keith sighs, tired, “I’m not good with people.”

“I noticed.” Shiro pats his back, “That is okay. Just tell Lance how you feel, and listen to him on how he feels. Don’t push him to tell you what he is thinking about, but listen when he does manage to say it.”

Keith nods, “Okay. Thanks, Shiro.”

“Of course.” After a few minutes of cloud gazing, Shiro suddenly frowns. “Wait, you are dating Lance, but you are also roommates?”

Keith pauses, “Yes.” he curses himself once again for telling Shiro this lie.

“Roommates. Dating. Dating roommate.” Shiro repeats these words. Suddenly he grabs Keith’s shoulders and turns him around. “Keith, we need to talk.”

Keith blinked, “I thought we were?” confused to why Shiro was putting on his is “Protective brotherly” face, he tilted his head.

“Listen, I know since you are roommates, you might get some… urges. But you have to keep things Pg-13, okay?”

“What are you talking about?” Keith frowned.

“B-But if you do um- you know, go there, you have to make sure you use protection! I want both of you to stay healthy and safe, and practicing safe sex is important-”

“WHOA!” Keith cut this conversation off and jumped to his feet. He pants, his cheeks red, “No. No no no. NO.” he shakes his head, backing up. “We are not having this conversation.”

“I know it’s awkward but Keith-” when Shiro starts to get up Keith makes a break for the door.

“Not doing this!”

Later, when Keith returned to his room, he was both grateful and let down that Lance wasn’t there. He seemed to have showered then headed out to hang out with Pidge and Hunk. He supposed he could go looking for them, but something on his bed distracted him.

It was his notepad with a note attached to it.

He rushed to grab it, hugging it close to his chest before reading what it said. Or at least attempting since it handwriting was hard to decipher.

Found this during Lunch. Keep better track of this!

It’s important to you, isn’t it?

-Lance-

Sitting down on his bed, Keith stared at the note for a long time. Lance could have easily tossed this since he was mad, and Keith probably would have deserved it. 

Yet he kept it instead, returning it.

Plucking the letter off his notepad, he instead placed it inside at the very start of Lance’s section within it; to hold onto and remember this moment.

Returning this was a sign of friendship to him. Something Keith didn’t get to feel often with others. He cherished that.

When Lance returned later that night, Keith pretended to be asleep to avoid talking to him. He hadn't found the right words to say just yet and hoped Lance didn’t mind waiting a bit for him to gather his thoughts and apologize appropriately.

When Lance turned off his lights, Keith peeked an eye open to stare at him.

To stare at everything.

He never realized it till now, but Lance had star lights hanging on his side of the rooms.

There were pictures of art hanging on the walls. A child drew a lot of them, most likely a younger sibling of his. There was even a weird giant butcher knife on his desk- he’d have to ask why Lance had that later.

How bizarre. 

He had been living with Lance for weeks yet only know noticed these things. Hadn’t seen them for what they were…

With that thought, he closed his eyes and went to bed, making sure to be quiet when he woke up the next morning, so Lance could have his full eight hours of sleep, just how he liked it.

Chapter Text

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?

Chapter Text

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.

“Hey.”

“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!
-Mama-

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.

“You do?”

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.”

“Got it.”

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.

“Yeah, sure.”

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 

“Switch?”

”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 

I sigh. 


 

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

“My transformation?”

“Yeah.”

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…”

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?”

“Indeed.”

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. 

I.

Was.

Screwed.