It was a sunny day in Creek, but Lance could see the threatening rain clouds on the morning horizon. A foreboding wind blew through the Creek Train Station sending a chill up Lance’s spine. He cursed himself for not taking the jacket his mother offered. As he rubbed his sleep filled eyes, he also cursed Pidge, a friend he and Hunk had made online; she had kept the two of them up late playing Overwatch last night. Lance and Hunk agreed that Pidge probably lived in another time zone, obviously, no one would stay up that late willingly.
Lance had been standing idly by the tracks with his eyes resting closed. Feeling the hum of the train getting closer, he lifted his heavy eyelids open. As the train came to a screeching halt, Lance decided that today was going to suck. He boarded the train with the rest of the passengers and yawned as the doors slid closed.
“What happened to you? You look awful.” An amused voice spoke up from the seat next to the door. Lance eyed the kid, “Gee, thanks, Keith... everyone wants to hear that first thing in the morning.” Lance begrudgingly took the seat next to Keith, who had taken out one of his earbuds to signal that he was going to talk to Lance.
Keith was a prep school student who had rescued Lance from some... unsavory characters a few weeks back. Ever since then Keith had become Lance’s train friend. Lance didn’t know what to expect from a prep school student, but Keith was not what he had imagined; he was way better. Lance didn’t know if Keith knew how entertaining he was, he gave off the impression that he was dangerous, but as Lance got to know him he just seemed awkward. He wasn’t awkward in the sense that made talking to him a pain, god no, Keith just didn’t get Lance’s jokes or certain social queues. Lance found it endearing.
“Did you stay up with that one girl from Overwatch again?” Keith asked, looking more concerned than amused now. He watched Lance’s eyes flicker open at the question.
Lance hugged his school bag and replied with a quiet “Mmhmmm...yeah…” The train was quieter than normal this morning, but the jostling car made it hard for him to drift off to dreamland.
“Staying up that late is gonna wreck your day, man.” Keith watched Lance nod slowly in response. Keith sighed in disappointment, he was actually looking forward to Lance’s upbeat attitude this morning, because he had also stayed up way too late last night. Lance had become his morning cup of coffee, after talking with him Keith had enough energy to get through half of his entire school day. This was the first time Keith had seen Lance so dead, so he decided he’d try to be the peppy one this morning and keep the conversation going. That’s when Lance decided to lean on him.
Lance was slumped snug against his shoulder. They’ve sat close on the packed train before, so it’s not a new feeling, Keith just didn’t think they were at that level of train friendship yet.
But Lance was warm and the train was cold, so it was fine.
Keith tried again to continue their dying conversation, “What’s her name again? The girl you play with online.” Lance shifted his head and dipped it toward the floor as he hugged his school bag against his chest.
“...mmm...Pidge.” Lance mumbled, eyes desperately trying to close for good, “She doesn’t know the meaning of sleep. She’s either from another time zone or another planet.”
Pidge, huh . “That name sounds familiar,” Keith says aloud, he doesn’t remember where he’s heard it, but he could swear he knows this person. Is it an alias or her real name?
“Hey, Keith…?” Lance groggily whines. Keith snapped out his “deep thinking” to look at Lance. Big mistake. Lance was hugging his bag as if it were a blanket or stuffed animal. His head was on Keith’s shoulder and he was looking up at him through half-lidded eyes. Their noses were mere inches apart.
Keith managed to squeak out a rather quiet, “Yeah, man?”
“Can you wake me when we get to my stop? I don't think I’m gonna make it without a nap.” Lance asked in a hushed voice before breaking into a yawn.
“Yeah, we won’t be there for another few stops, so make yourself comfortable.” Lance gave him a small tired smile before he settled back on Keith’s shoulder. He watched Lance finally relax, his shoulders slumped and the grip on his bag loosened. His breathing slowed and soon he was out cold. Keith watched him for another moment before realizing he probably looked like a creep.
The train jostled and Lance was not conscience to balance himself and almost slid off the seat. Keith felt his instincts kick in and carefully moved the arm Lance was leaning on. He wrapped it around Lance’s limp shoulders. He’d act as his seatbelt for the rest of the trip. Feeling triumphant Keith leaned back to relax too, they had at least half an hour before they reach Lance’s stop.
Keith wondered where Lance went to school; they’ve only really talked about their friends and favorite video games. It’s funny really, they see each other every morning but neither one of them has asked where the other went to school. Well, Keith supposed his jacket was a bit of a giveaway, considering the Altea Academy crest is sewn on the right breast pocket. He made a mental note to ask Lance later.
While thinking of conversation topics, Keith felt a shiver of warmth run down his spine. Lance was not leaning on his shoulder anymore because of how Keith was holding him. Instead, Lance’s head was now buried in the crook of Keith’s neck, and his warm ghosting breathes on Keith’s collarbone were giving him chills.
Keith turned his head slightly, his cheek touched Lance’s hair. He could smell the strawberry shampoo Lance used and a hint of something like hay or grass. He smelled like home. Keith lived on the farthest edge of Creek, where the houses are scarce and the farmland is plenty. He let his cheek rest atop Lance’s head and felt his own late night catching up to him. Soon they were both sound asleep, the bumpy ride of the train did not disturb them and the cold temperature only solidified their hold on each other.
On and on the train traveled, and Keith’s forgotten earbud left in his right ear suddenly erupted with a loud alarm. He felt his heart race as his eyes flipped open. His sudden move to look at his phone stirred Lance. Keith was staring at his screen spewing cuss words under his breath. He knew that alarm, he set it every morning before boarding the train. It was a fifteen-minute warning telling him he was close to his stop. His stop.
They had slept through Lance’s stop and were now two whole hours away from Lance’s school. As Keith continued to silently panic, hoping he would come up with a way to fix this, Lance was opening his eyes.
At first, he wondered how the train could be this warm and comfortable. He breathed in and smelled men’s body wash and autumn leaves. He blinked in confusion; from his angle, he could see Keith’s lap and his gloved hand using his phone to text somebody. Oh . Lance was comfortably snuggled into the crook of Keith’s neck. He immediately tried to sit up, but he was blocked by Keith’s arm still wrapped around his shoulders. OH.
Lance processed the obvious fact that Keith not only let him sleep on him but held him while he slept too. He was still processing this when Keith pulled him from his seat and practically dragged him out the train doors. He was finally shaken from his thoughts when he realized this was not the station he usually stops at, and Keith never walked him to school. This couldn’t really be considered walking either; Keith had a firm grip on his left wrist and was quickly jogging out of the station and onto the street. Oh no. They were in downtown Finch.
Lance focused on Keith. His mouth was moving, but Lance hadn’t heard a word since they left the station. They stopped on the corner of a street due to a red light, and Keith turned to look Lance in the eye but couldn’t. In a quick and panicked voiced he sputtered, “I’m sorry, okay! I’ll say it a million more times, but like I said I fell asleep too and I feel awful about it, so please don’t give me the silent treatment when I’m trying to fix this.” Keith wasn’t angry. He looked more upset than angry.
Lance got the gist of it, it was an honest flub and it’s not like he has a horrible attendance record, he could be late. Lance was far from upset and he wanted to tell Keith that, the boy looked like he was having a panic attack, avoiding eye contact by looking desperately at the street light. The crosswalk sign changed from a red hand to a walking person before Lance had the chance to speak. Keith resumed his hurried jog to their mystery location.
They seemed to be making a beeline for the gated building right across the street. Beyond the gate was a large lawn filled with trees and flowers, and a huge ornate complex. The wrought iron lettering mounted in an arch above the gate entrance read Altea Academy . The two of them passed right under it.
On this brief tour of Keith’s huge ass campus, Lance saw other kids with the same uniforms as Keith: Black suit jackets, black slacks or jeans, and black skirts for the girls. There were some kids in sports jackets too, a black and gold lion stitched on their backs. A few of the boys in said sports jackets looked over and waved at Keith.
“Late again Kogane? Maybe they’ll finally kick you out!” shouted a tall guy with messy black hair. Lance couldn’t tell if he was joking or not.
“Shut up, Sendak! I’ll make you eat those words at practice!” Keith shouted back, an unkind smirk playing on his lips. Lance couldn’t tell if they were friends or enemies, and he didn’t have time to ask either because they were now throwing open the front doors and sprinting down the halls.
After a few turns, Keith stopped abruptly at a closed door and swung it open. The students inside looked like they were having homeroom. Most of them were sitting on desks or fooling around, but now all eyes were on Keith. Some of the students could see Lance from the edge of the door frame, and they stared at him with confused curiosity. He tried his best to hide behind Keith, suddenly aware he was in an unfamiliar place with people he did not know.
Keith spoke in a huff from running all the way here in under 20 minutes, “S-Shiro, I need you and your car.”
Lance followed Keith’s gaze, the person Lance assumed was “Shiro” nodded and politely excuse himself from a couple more guys wearing sports jackets. The class settled back into normalcy as if this was a common occurrence. Shiro made his way over to the door, spinning a set of car keys on his prosthetic finger.
He looked amused, “Did you forget something at home ...again…?” His question trailed off as he finally took notice of Lance. His friendly smile did not falter, “Hi there! I don’t think we’ve met,” Shiro looked over Lance from head to toe, “and I don't think you go here.”
Lance shook his head no, “No I don’t. My name is Lance, I’m a student at West Creek High.” Lance laughed nervously to himself.
“West Creek High?!” Both Shiro and Keith exclaimed, equally surprised. This only made Lance more nervous.
“Oh jeez, that’s almost two hours away,” Shiro said, concern lacing his voice. “What are you doing here?” he asked, eyeing Keith with suspicion.
Lance gulped. Shiro was tall and built like a boxer. He had a lip piercing, a couple of earrings, and an eyebrow piercing, not to mention his undercut with white fringe. Shiro looked like the definition of intimidating.
Keith was brave enough to answer, “We both fell asleep on the Train ride over and missed his stop.”
Shiro raised his pierced eyebrow. “The train? Then...this is the Lance. Train Lance!” Somehow Shiro’s smile got bigger. He swung a muscular arm around Lance’s shoulders. “Keith has told me so much about you.” He looked downright giddy, eye shown with intense interest. The intimidation shattered.
“Shiro,” Keith growled. “Please, I need to know if you can drive him to his school.” Keith looked sternly at Shiro, “It was my fault he didn’t wake up for his train stop, so I have to do something. Please.” Lance wanted to tell him that he wasn’t angry or mad, but Shiro had turned them away from Keith and they were suddenly strolling away.
“Sure thing. I can make it back before the lunch bell.” Guiding Lance down the hall, Shiro spun his keys casually and peeked his head over his shoulder to smirk at Keith, “On the drive over, maybe Lance can fill me in on how you guys met.”
Lance didn’t turn around to look at Keith’s expression, he didn’t need to. He could hear the annoyed groan from down the hall. “Just text me when you’re on your way back.” Shiro nodded, and a friendly smile once again graced his features.
The ride to Creek was slow but with any luck, Lance would make it to third period.
They made small talk on the drive over, mostly about friends and classes. Lance got some useful information out of Shiro. Turns out he was captain and quarterback of the Altea Black Lions, and Keith was on the team as well. Lance expressed how out of character that was for a guy like him and Shiro laughed. He confessed to forcing Keith to join so he would have another hobby other than binging horror movies at home alone. They had gotten on the subject of history class and stories about wacky teachers when Shiro pulled over; they were in front of the entrance to West Creek. Lance gathered his bag and reached for the door, but a prosthetic hand on Lance’s shoulder stopped him.
“Hey Lance,” Shiro’s tone was solemn, “Thank you.”
Lance let go of the door handle and turned to look back at Shiro. “For what? Wasting your gas?”
Shiro chuckled and gripped the wheel before he looked Lance in the eyes, “Thanks for befriending Keith. He hates cars and refused to let me drive him to school.” Shiro turned away and gazed out the front window. “I was worried about him taking the train alone, but I was happily surprised a few weeks ago when he mentioned you.”
Lance was quiet. Shiro had been giving off this big brother vibe the whole ride up, and now Lance was bathing in it.
Shiro continued, “Keith doesn’t make friends easily, so you must have made quite the impression on him. He’s been much more “lively” in the mornings.” Shiro’s expression softened, “Thanks for being friends with him, you’re a good kid.” Lance didn’t know what to say.
“No problem, we just kinda clicked.” Lance shrugged, “He’s not as threatening as he looks.” They shared a laugh before Shiro shooed him out of his car, urging him to get to class. Lance waved goodbye as Shiro’s old black Chevy turned a corner out of sight.
Just wait till tomorrow Kogane, I have so much dirt on you now . Lance laughed to himself before sprinting to class.
Hunk and Allura had been watching him from the second-floor window. Lance had a lot of explaining to do.
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