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Sweet Tooth

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The thing honestly was that Lance wasn’t as irresponsible as everyone made him out to be. He was the youngest sibling in his house, sure, but he had nieces and nephews that he often times wound up entirely responsible for, and he took care of them just fine.

He knew how to change diapers, and cook for restricted diets, and help with fifth grade math equations he didn’t even remember. When he watched the kids at his siblings’ houses, he always left it cleaner than when he’d arrived, not to mention, he had his own apartment and he’d never once even been late on rent.

He cleaned it once a week and kept his sheets fresh. He bought his own groceries and ate healthy. He kept up with his assignments on top of his job, keeping his life in a pretty manageable balance.

But sometimes, he told himself, told everyone to immediately jump at the chance to call him irresponsible (mainly Pidge), things slipped through the cracks. Things like, for example, dental hygiene.

Sometimes, he insisted, shit just happens and you have to get a root canal. He was twenty-three and had never even had a cavity, for fuck’s sake, so it only made sense that he jumped straight to root canal. Of course, Pidge was having a field day teasing him and not helping him at all.

Which left Hunk, who he really should have started with, being the most reliable and trustworthy person he knew. In fact, they were even each other’s emergency contact – Lance couldn’t remember a time he didn’t answer the phone for Hunk within the first two rings.

Not related, Hunk wasn’t answering his phone today, which led to Lance banging on his apartment door for four straight minutes until he finally answered, looking half dead. “What is it, Lance?” he croaked out.

Which led to Lance, being the responsible best friend that he was, making oatmeal and hot tea for Hunk’s sore throat as he bundled back up in his bed. He even sprinkled a spoonful of sugar and a pinch of blueberries on top, just like Hunk liked, placed it on a tray and served Hunk in his bed with all the care and grandeur of a guy in need of a favor.

“Thanks, Lance,” Hunk cleared his throat as he sipped gratefully on the tea. “I’ll be fine by tomorrow, it just gets so hot in the apartment, and I fell asleep with all the fans directed at my face again.”

“Gotta stop doing that buddy,” Lance chided gently. “You’re gonna knock yourself out of commission, and I can’t have that because I need a favor from you.”

“Ah, there it is,” Hunk sighed. “What happened?”

“I need you to take me to the dentist next Tuesday and drive me home?” Lance asked. “I gotta get a root canal and they’re gonna dope me the fuck up, so I need you to take care of me. I’ll even let you record me on the condition that you don’t send anything to Pidge until I’ve sobered up.”

“Oh, that’s all?” Hunk blinked. “Yeah, no problem.”

“Oh, yeah, and one more thing, before I forget, Hunky, do not tell Keith.”

Hunk sputtered around his tea and Lance charged on.

“I’ve seen the videos, I know how this works – they’re gonna dope me up and who the fuck knows what I’m going to say, so Keith cannot be there. Do you hear me? He cannot be anywhere near me that day, he can’t even know about it. It’s literally crucial that Keith stays away from me.”

“Okay, you lunatic,” Hunk coughed out, shooting him a small glare. “No Keith allowed.”

“Good,” Lance decided after a pause. “Awesome. That’s all I ask.”

*

“Thanks so much, Keith, I owe you big time, whatever you want, you got it!”

Normally, Keith would do anything Hunk needed regardless of an IOU, but Hunk had come to him promising favors before he’d even explained what it was he needed Keith to do.

Which had, understandably, scared him a little.

The feeling didn’t dissipate when he learned that it was about Lance.

“I forgot Shay and I were supposed to be having dinner with her family tonight and I have to get ready and figure out something to bring.”

Whereas Keith had been friends with Hunk for almost four years now, it hadn’t gone quite so smoothly with Lance. For the entirety of the first two years Keith had known him, Lance had insisted on competing with him at every turn.

And Keith was, admittedly, not great with people, so he went along with it. He thought that was what Lance had wanted. It turned out, he was only making things worse, and while Keith had thought they were at least friends somewhere deep down, Lance had considered him to be purely a rival.

And hadn’t that been a nasty shock.

“It has to be perfect, and I should actually get going, like, now.”

There had been an incident two years ago, however, wherein Lance had finally beat him out for the top grade in their class. And Keith, feeling genuinely happy, knowing just how hard Lance had worked and slaved away for it, had clapped for him just like everyone else with everything he had.

And Lance hadn’t taken his eyes off him the entire time he’d been standing before the class, didn’t stop looking until the applause winded down and he could take his seat again, hadn’t stopped looking utterly gob smacked until class had ended.

Keith had waited for him after class and told him congratulations before Lance could get a word out.

And Lance smiled a lot but that was the first time he’d smiled at him.

“I’m so sorry to just spring this on you like this, but I really appreciate it and he will too.”

Ever since, Lance had called them friends. He was still overly competitive and Keith fell easily to the bait, but he called them friends, though Lance didn’t consider him anything nearly as close as Hunk. In fact, if anything, after that day, Lance had become strangely distant at intermittent intervals Keith had never been able to fully decode.

But Keith was determined. He’d never wanted to be rivals with Lance. He’d always wanted them to be friends. And sometimes friends did things like pick each other up from the dentist when one of them was fucking out of it.

“Just head out as soon as you can, they should be done with him soon enough.”

Keith found Lance sitting in the waiting room, head lolled over onto his own shoulder as he held an ice pack to his face. He was blinking slowly at the ground as if entranced, as if trying desperately not to fall asleep. Keith cleared his throat and he snapped his head up.

“Keef?!” Lance slurred out, unsteady.

“Just remember not to take your bike, he will fall off and die.”

“Yeah,” Keith managed, taken aback by… all of this. He stepped forward, reaching out for Lance’s arm, started to pull. “Come on, get up, Lance. I’m going to take you home, okay?”

“No, nooooo, you’re not supposed to be here,” Lance whined, leaning heavily against Keith’s side.

“Well, I’m sorry, but something came up and Hunk couldn’t be here, so he asked me to help you,” Keith explained, trying to haul Lance toward the door, but he was really digging his feet in the floor.

Ugh,” Lance groaned, dramatic and loud and directly into Keith’s ear. “Hunk is a backstabbing bitch!” And now everyone in the waiting room was looking at them and the receptionist was coming.

“Ah, sorry everyone,” Keith murmured, finally managing to haul Lance out the door. They wound up leaving the ice pack behind in all the commotion, but Lance wasn’t complaining and Keith wasn’t going back.

“All you have to do is take him home and he’ll sleep it right off. Easy, right?”

Keith sure hoped Hunk was enjoying his day with Shay because he owed Keith a lifetime of favors. He’d had to buckle Lance into his own seatbelt while he drooled everywhere.

“Your hands are warm,” Lance mumbled.

“Uh,” Keith blurted, quickly withdrawing said hands. “Thanks.” He slammed Lance’s door and hurried around to his own. “Actually,” Keith started, taking a moment to look at Lance struggling to let down his window. “I think I’ll bring you back to my place. I don’t trust you not to kill yourself in yours.”

“I would be just fine in my place,” Lance argued predictably, “but you taking care of me is a nice alt – alerna – altera–!” Lance groaned.

Alternative?” Keith squeaked. Was that what Lance was trying to say?!

“Yeah, that’s the one!” Lance grinned, jolting dramatically as Keith started the car. “I love this song!” Lance yelled, reaching out and turning the volume all the way up. Of course, Keith knew Lance loved this song. It was always on the radio and Lance was always putting lyrics of it in his snapchat selfies. “I’m cold,” he whined out just as suddenly.

“I’ll turn the air down,” Keith told him, reaching for the dial, but Lance stopped his hand.

“No!” He shouted. “Then I’ll – I’ll get too hot, Keith! Your hands are warm. Let me just hold one.”

“What?!” Keith glanced over to see Lance looking at him with an expression so warm, he could feel it. He hadn’t even seen Lance look at Allura like that. Lance looking at Allura was more like a peasant looking at royalty. Lance quirked an eyebrow and Keith realized he’d been staring. He snapped his eyes back to the road.

“You know how,” Lance slurred out, slowly, but confidently, “when it’s cold outside? And it’s – it’s so nice, but you’re cold. So you want a blanket. You don’t want it to not be cold, but you don’t want to be cold so you go get a blanket. Your hands are like a blanket, Keef!”

“Lance, what are you on?!” Keith screamed, nearly running a red light.

“This stuff!” Lance answered proudly, clumsily procuring a prescription bottle from his pocket. “I have to take three of these every four hours. Remember that, Keefy, you have to take care of me.”

No, what Keith had to do was keep his eyes on the road. “I need you to stop talking, now, Lance.”

“Okay,” Lance nodded dutifully, then blurted out, like he’d forgotten to say earlier: “Your face is really red, Keith!”

Keith felt himself curling up into as much of a ball as he could and still drive. “Thanks, Lance.”

“Any time, Keef.”

*

Lance was like a kid in a toy store when Keith pulled up to his apartment. He fidgeted and fumbled with his seatbelt uselessly for a while before Keith gave up and reached over to undo it for him, which of course, was unwise, because Lance pounced on the opportunity to seize his hands.

“See?” Lance exclaimed, like his mouth wasn’t directly near Keith’s ear. He struggled to retrieve his own hand, but it was like Lance didn’t even register it. “You’re so warm! And your hands are so tiny compared to mine,” he continued, running one of his long, slender fingers along Keith’s more average-sized ones. “Cute,” Lance concluded. He visibly pouted when Keith snatched his hand back.

Keith sputtered meaninglessly, emotionally flailing as he scrambled out of the car to help Lance out. “Come on, Lance,” he huffed, hauling Lance’s arm over his shoulder, heavier than he’d expected, even though he knew Lance was half a head taller. “And please, please be quiet.”

“Why are you always telling me to be quiet, Keef?” Lance whined in return stumbling all the way to the apartment doors. “You always act like I’m such a pain, and that really hurts my feelings because I wish I could talk to you more.”

“You don’t even know what you’re saying right now,” Keith grumbled, steering Lance toward the elevators. The stairs would have been suicide. Then again, so was this entire situation. At least as far as his nerves were concerned, lest he even mention his emotions. “You hate talking to me. Just you wait,” he huffed, weary as he dragged the other boy beside him into the elevators and hit the second floor. “The second those pills wear off, you’re going to let me have it. The last thing sober you is going to want to see anywhere near you is me.”

Lance clicked his tongue. “You always think the worst of me,” he pouted in response.

“Well, it’s not like I want to,” Keith’s mouth blurted without him. “You just only show me the worst of you,” he muttered.

“That was – that was kind of pretty what you just said there just now,” Lance stuttered out. Keith tried to pull him out of the elevator as the doors dinged open, but suddenly, he wouldn’t budge.

A jam was forming as a couple of his neighbors tried to catch the elevator and Lance wouldn’t cooperate in getting out of the damn thing. “Come on, Lance, why are you being so difficult?!”

“Because you hate me!” Lance whined, affronted.

“No, no, Lance, please don’t do this now,” Keith begged. His neighbors were giving him the stank eye and trying to shove inside and Keith just wanted out of the spotlight, but who was Lance if not in the spotlight?

“You hate me, so I can’t stay with you!” Lance yelled louder, and fuck, were his eyes watering?!

“Lance, I don’t hate you, I’m promise!” Keith hissed through gritted teeth, tightening his grip on Lance’s arm. “Please, if you please, please come with me, I will make it up to you, just please get the fuck out of this elevator, please.”

Lance paused, his presence in the doorway the only thing keeping the doors from closing as Keith’s neighbors grumbled around them. “You really like me, Keef? You promise?” And he aimed the saddest, most innocent-looking baby blue eyes at him and he felt like he’d just been shot in the heart.

“Yes, Lance, of course I like you,” Keith said very, very truthfully. “Now, come out of the elevator or my neighbors are going to kill me and – and I won’t like you anymore.”

“If they touch you, they’ll pay!” Lance decided loudly, and in very obvious earshot of everyone around, but obediently exited the elevator per Keith’s desperate instructions. “I’m glad you like me, Keith,” he breezed, walking airily beside Keith, completely oblivious to his other neighbors who had cracked their doors open to see what all the commotion was about. “That makes all this so much easier!”

“Makes all what easier?” Keith mumbled, trying to hurry Lance along, but Lance with his long ass legs always had to fucking stroll everywhere.

“Making you love me, dummy!” Lance exclaimed, like it was the most obvious thing in the world, which, okay yeah, it was not and Keith will admit he nearly choked on his own saliva. Even if Lance did have the very depressing personality of a celebrity in that, life was meaningless unless the general public was obsessed with him, it was getting more and more difficult not to take it personally. “Oh!” Lance exclaimed suddenly, “can I carry you bridal style through the door?”

Keith heard snickering and glanced up to see Rolo from next door hanging out into the hall, amused as he watched them. He felt his face hearing up. “No!” He hissed out, trying to speed Lance up even more. Just four more doors

Aw,” Lance whined out, posture slacking so much Keith was afraid he might drop him. Keith used every bit of strength he had to haul him the rest of the way down the hall to his door. “Well, how else am I supposed to sweep you off your feet?!”

At that, Rolo let out a loud guffaw as Keith fumbled with his keys.

He forced the door open. “Lance, get your ass in this door, right now,” he ordered, levelling him his most steady glare.

And Lance grinned, “Feisty Keef,” before stepping confidently inside.

Rolo sent a whistle down his way and Keith groaned. “Fuck off, Rolo,” he bit out, watching the lecherous smirk spread across his dumb, smug face as he slammed and locked the door behind them.

“Who’s Rolo?” Lance asked, throwing himself down onto Keith’s couch like he owned the place. If Lance wasn’t so fucking high right now, Keith would yell at him, but he was sitting there, shoes off, thrown about his living room and one of his socks was on his hand.

“My asshole neighbor,” Keith sighed out, noting that Lance had placed his pill bottle on the coffee table.

Do you like him more than me?!” Lance demanded then, glare of righteous fury taking up residence on his face.

“Are you gonna cry again?!” Keith fretted.

No!” Lance exclaimed, definitely starting to cry again. “Oh no,” Lance whined when he realized, “I’m crying! I hate crying, it’s always so wet and that makes me so mad!”

“I don’t!” Keith yelled quickly, hands held out in front of him as if it would calm Lance down. “I don’t like him more than you, I promise!”

“Even though I’m crying?”

“Yeah, even though you’re crying, I promise I still like you better!” Keith insisted.

Lance took a moment to mull it over, decided Keith had given a satisfactory answer. “That’s really nice, you’re always so nice, Keef. And, really nice and really cute and nice, also, too.”

Keith dropped his eyes to the floor so he couldn’t see Lance looking at him with his big, dumb-looking blue eyes like the sun shone through him. He felt his fingernails biting into his palms. “Are you hungry?” He managed.

“You’re going to cook for me?” Lance asked, voice sounding touched. “I always used to imagine what it’d be like if we, like, took care of each other and – and ate food! Together!”

“Well, there’s not a whole lot you can eat right now,” Keith mused, trying to focus on being responsible instead of flustered, instead of confused. “I can make ramen. You don’t have to chew that.”

“Keef, I love ramen,” Lance announced. “It’s gonna be so much better this time, though ‘cause you’re gonna make it for me! With love!”

“S-sure.”

And he regretted it almost immediately. While he stood over his stove watching dry noodles boil in a pot, Lance stood against his back, fading in and out of reality against his shoulder.

“Keith,” he would say suddenly, like he’d just remembered something detrimental to their plans. “Do you know you’re really, really warm?”

“Yeah, Lance,” Keith would sigh, suffering, and continue manning the ramen. “You mentioned it.”

“Good.” Then a minute would pass before: “Keith! Do you know–?”

And he insisted on speaking right into Keith’s skin, breathing into his neck every time he mentioned how warm he was and Keith thought Lance had no room to talk about warm, holy shit. And when he finally finished cooking ramen, something that should have taken literally three minutes, in a solid fifteen because he couldn’t move, he had the thought that he needed help.

And of course, Hunk was out. Shiro could never know about this, which cancelled out both Allura and Coran, and that left….

Fuck.

“Hey, Lance?” Keith started, patting his pockets for his phone.

“Yes, Keefy?” He asked sweetly – honestly, so sweetly, Christ – from Keith’s small dining room table. He had a noodle hanging out the side of his mouth down his chin and his eyes were so bright as they rested on him.

Focus. “I have to make a phone call, okay?” He pushed himself off his kitchen counter, cellphone clutched probably too tightly in hand. “I’ll be right back, okay? It’ll take two minutes.”

“Okay, two minutes, buddy,” Lance called as Keith disappeared down the hall.

Keith’s hands were shaking so bad he’d hit the wrong contact twice and nearly called Shiro’s grandfather. “Pidge,” he hissed the moment she picked up.

“Hey, what’s got you sounding like that?” She said, though her voice, as usual, held no real concern.

“Pidge, I need – I need help!”

“With what?” Pidge asked, voice innocent, but Keith knew better. “What’s going on?”

“Stop fucking acting like Hunk didn’t tell you everything!” Keith hissed back. “There is something… wrong! I know he’s all hopped up on these meds, but there’s something else, too and I don’t know–!”

“Keefy!” Lance yelled from the dining room, making Keith groan. “Has it been two minutes yet?”

“Listen to this,” Keith ordered, putting his phone on speaker as he extending it toward the dining room.

“Keef, come back already!” Lance whined as Pidge snickered. “I miss you! Oh my gosh, you’re gonna come back right? Oh no, are you mad at me? Did I make you mad at me?! I didn’t mean to make you mad at me, I didn’t mean it, I didn’t mean it, I didn’t–!”

Pidge lost it, cackling so loud, he was surprised Lance didn’t hear it. “Oh, my God!” She yelled. “Oh, my God!”

“Stop laughing and get over here!” Keith hissed.

“Keith, come back!” Lance yelled, like he was in pain, like he was suffering. “I miss your face, Keef! I miss your eyes and your dumb hair and your pretty skin and your cute nose!” Pidge guffawed all over again.

I need you!” Keith begged into the phone desperately. “Jesus, does he talk to you guys like this?!”

“Are you actually stupid?!” Pidge cackled.

“Pidge–!”

But he was answered by the dial tone. Keith wasn’t surprised, more like frustrated and lost and so, so confused. Resigned, he pocketed his phone and walked back out into the dining room where Lance was watching the hallway like he might miss something if he even blinked. His face lit up when he saw Keith, and Keith’s heart was trying to jump out his throat.

“Oh, my God, Keith, you’re so fucking pretty,” Lance gushed out, spoon falling into his bowl of ramen. “I didn’t see you for two minutes and I felt like I was dying! It felt like forever, Keef! Next time you make a phone call, can I come? I won’t – I won’t listen, I’ll just – just look at you.”

“Why are you doing this to me?” Keith squeaked, eyes determinedly down. His phone vibrated in his pocket and he lunged for the distraction.

Try seeing if he’ll go to sleep,” Pidge had texted. “He can’t talk if he’s asleep.”

Well, it wasn’t a bad idea. Keith didn’t know how much more he could take of Lance talking.

“Why aren’t you dating anyone?” Lance blinked. “You’re so gor-gorgeous, I can’t believe you’re not dating anyone. No, wait, that’s good news! Will you date me, Keef? I’ll make you so happy, I promise. I’ll do anything you want.”

“Lance, you look tired, are you tired?” Keith asked instead. “I’ll – like you a lot more if you’re tired.”

“I’ll be tired if you’ll like me more,” Lance beamed.

“Great,” Keith nodded, fighting against the heat on his own face. “I’m gonna get you some blankets from my room. You can go to sleep on the couch, and when you wake up, we’ll get your medicine taken care of.”

“Oh, I wanna go!” Lance decided, standing from his chair on wobbly legs. “I’ve never been in your room before.”

“Well, yeah,” Keith agreed slowly, realizing he couldn’t remember the last time Lance had been here, or even why. Usually, they hung out at Hunk’s place. “I can count on one hand the number of times you’ve been here since we’ve known each other.”

“Aw, man,” Lance whined. “Why don’t I come here more?” He looked up, sent Keith a grin. “It’s fun here. You live here. I love it here.”

“I told you,” Keith answered, ducking down the hall, knowing Lance would follow. “You don’t really like me very much when you’re not hopped up on drugs.”

“Keith, you’re not listening, yes I do!” Lance insisted, voice aggravated. He flopped down onto Keith’s bed like he’d done it a hundred times. Keith tried not to have an opinion on Lance making himself at home there. “You’re the one that doesn’t like me, even though I like you so much! So, you should totally go out with me, so I can change your mind!” he nodded, grinning like he’d solved the case, like he’d saved the day.

Keith could fall over. He looked down, waiting for Lance to point out how red his face was again, a small mercy occurring when he never did. “We’ll see about that when the pills wear off, Lance.”

“But I don’t want them to wear off!” Lance protested. “I’ll go back to being weird and mean around you and I hate when I’m like that! Normal me never knows how to talk to you, because – ‘cause, no matter how hard I try when I’m normal, I always embarrass myself, but right now I’m not, and it’s – it’s the fucking tits, Keef!”

Keith chuckled, unsure of how else to feel. He closed the distance between his bed and the doorway, deciding it would be easier if Lance just slept there. He helped Lance get situated underneath the comforter rather than on top of it. “I’m… I’m glad you’re so happy right now, Lance.”

Lance’s eyes stayed trained on him as he situated the pillows, made sure he was secure. He grabbed Keith’s hand before he could pull it away, used it to tug Keith down into sitting on the edge. “Do you believe me?” he asked suddenly.

“About what, Lance?” Keith asked softly.

“That I like you?”

Keith brought his eyes up from his patterned comforter to see Lance’s face closer than he expected. He was leaning back, comfy and content on his fluffed-up pillows, but his grip on his hand kept Keith from pulling any farther away. Keith didn’t have much fight in him left, anyway. “Sure, Lance,” he answered.

“You don’t sound so sure,” Lance sing-songed before turning back serious. “This is important, so you have to believe me.”

He really wanted to. He’d savor all this until Lance woke up pissed at him. “I believe you, Lance.”

“You keep saying my name,” Lance grinned, lopsided and goofy as he brought Keith’s hand up to his face. “I like when you say my name.”

“I–” Keith sputtered. Lance was warm like a furnace, warm like his smiles and his laugh and his eyes and Keith liked saying his name just as much as high Lance liked hearing it, and the skin under Keith’s hand felt like it was heating up and heating up and – “You should go to sleep, now, okay?”

“No!” Lance gasped, looking worried. “If I go to sleep, you’re not going to be here when I wake up.”

Keith’s heart clenched in his chest so hard he flinched and for a second, he thought Lance felt it, too. “I’ll be here when you wake up. This is my house, remember? I’ll be sitting over there,” he pointed at the beanbag chair in the corner. He hadn’t planned on staying in here once Lance fell asleep. It would be weird and he planned on calling Pidge back to cuss her out anyway, but now… if it kept Lance looking like that….

“Promise?” Lance pressed, smiling when Keith nodded helplessly. “Okay. Say my name again?”

“Lance–” Keith started to protest, then sighed when he caught himself.

Lance beamed up at him, still holding his hand captive as he sat up. “I’ll go to sleep if you kiss me.”

“What?” Keith whispered. He hid his face in his hands. This was it. He was dead. They had never made it home from the dentist, they had died in a fiery car crash and he was dead. He was dead and this was his permanent afterlife – some kind of perpetual heavenly torture. “Lance, I can’t – I can’t kiss you, you don’t want me to kiss you, you’re just–”

“Please?” Lance interrupted gently. Keith felt Lance hands circle his wrists, felt Lance tug his hands away from his face until all he could see was deep, endless cerulean blue. “Keith, please?” he pressed, voice lower and hypnotic just like his eyes. The eyes that kept getting closer. The eyes that kept jumping down to his lips. “Just once? I’ll pro-bab – proba – prob–”

“Probably.”

“Yeah,” Lance smiled, staring a long time at Keith’s lips before dragging his eyes back up. “I’ll probably never have the guts to ask you again–”

In the second that Keith’s mind went fully blank, he pushed forward. His hands were still clutched in Lance’s, who released them only to bring his own hands carefully up to hold Keith’s face. He hooked his fingers over Keith’s ears, squishing his palms into Keith’s cheeks as he pulled him further and further into him, taking control, kissing him so deeply, Keith didn’t know how to stop it, didn’t know how to stop adding and adding, couldn’t stop it building and building into something neither of them could tame.

And it became a competition, Keith felt like, the longer it went on – a competition for who could hold their breath the longest because even breathing wasn’t enough to make them stop, and Keith was more than willing to pass out for this, finally this.

But it was Lance who lost, using his hold on Keith’s face to pull him back, though he continued to press smaller kisses to Keith’s lips again and again until finally, he pulled himself away completely.

Keith couldn’t focus his vision. Lance was zoning in and out and he couldn’t regulate his breathing or his heartbeat or make his brain think thoughts with real words. He stared at Lance until he came into focus, a mile-wide grin stretched along his face, blue eyes locked right on him, the pure picture of bliss.

And he cleared his throat, and opened his mouth to address Keith with: “…Awesome.” Then he promptly passed out.

*

When Lance woke up, Keith had admittedly gone a little overboard on cleaning. He had cleaned just about anything in his apartment there was to clean – things that Shiro had been nagging him about for two years that suddenly mattered a lot more now that his cluttered mind was all the “cluttered” he could take.

He had washed the dishes he used in the kitchen and finished what was left of Lance’s cold ramen, was in the middle of scrubbing down his dining room table with a dish towel when Lance ambled in.

He froze, the towel slipping out of his hand and slopping in a wet, soapy heap onto the table as he stared. Stared at Lance looking right back at him with carefully blank eyes and a firm mouth before he winced, bringing a hand up to rub softly into his jaw. Keith snapped out of it, rushed into the living room for Lance’s pills, keeping his eyes down as he turned back around for the kitchen to get a glass of water.

Lance watched carefully as Keith brought out the water and the pills, he watched Keith dump three capsules out into his hand like the bottle instructed and he silently held out his own hand for Keith to drop them into. He stared as Keith quickly handed over the water, and stared as he dutifully downed his pills, expression still blank, still controlled, still utterly unreadable and how long was Lance going to torture him?

“Do you–?” Keith blurted out, arms flying up to cross over his chest. He cleared his throat, forced himself to look Lance in the eye. “Do you want anything else? Can you have – coffee? I can make that, I’ll go make coffee–”

“Keith, come on stop,” Lance said softly, finally. He reached out to grab his arm before he could scurry off anywhere else. “I’m kind of dizzy and you’re not helping.”

Keith couldn’t take his eyes off the warm hand around his wrist, felt his face heating up and started to hate himself as much as Lance probably did. “Sorry,” he managed, uselessly.

“I,” Lance hesitated, face turning thoughtful as he sighed. “I have a lot of explaining to do,” he settled on.

“Oh,” Keith said, lost.

“But realistically,” he continued, eyes dropping down to the carpet, “I’ve probably got about three minutes before I go all loopy again, so why don’t you just go on that date with me and we’ll talk about it then?”

Keith looked up to see Lance alternating between looking at the ground and looking at him. “You–” Lance’s alternating glances became a heavy stare right at him, searching and probing and the air got caught in his throat. “What?”

“C-come on, Keith, I already asked you out twice now, right?” Lance’s eyes were just as smoldering as always and his smirk was back full force, but his voice quivered. “I remember that and I was high as shit.”

“But – you–”

“And I also told you I meant it,” Lance pressed, voice stronger. “I meant it then, and I definitely mean it now. I’ll write it out in a contract if it’ll convince you, but at some point, you’re just going to have to believe me. So. What do you say? Figure this all out together on that date?”

Keith coughed out a nervous chuckle, nodded until he could speak. “Um – yeah, Lance. Yes.”

“Good,” Lance grinned, half joy, half relief. Keith felt his stomach flip. Lance had been just as nervous as Keith was. “Good, I’m glad. I’m glad you said – yes. We can go on a date to beat the shit out of Hunk for setting me up,” he joked.

“Oh, my God,” Keith breathed out as it clicked. The last-minute detrimental favor from Hunk, who was never last-minute about anything, much less Lance, much less Shay, who he would never forget having made arrangements with. And the first thing Lance had said when Keith had walked into the waiting room to get him was that he wasn’t supposed to be there.

Thus… Hunk being a backstabbing bitch.

Come to think of it, Pidge had been pretty unhelpful throughout all of this as well. Pretty cryptic, too. Fuck.

“Okay,” Keith agreed, face burning. “We can… we can kick Pidge’s ass, too.”

“Ugh, that little shit,” Lance chuckled sardonically, “of course she was involved in this. Wonder how far up the chain of command this goes. Think we’ll have to fight Coran?” He asked, thumb rubbing against the inside of Keith’s wrist.

Keith glanced down at their hands, tongue locked up as Lance’s thumb continued to move and his face continued to burn.

“By the way,” Lance started, ducking down a bit to capture Keith’s attention, “while I still have the brain to jump out ahead of this, I’m sorry in advance for any unwanted advances made by Loopy Lance.”

Keith shook his head, embarrassed, but determined not to be outdone by someone who had just called himself Loopy Lance. “They’re not exactly unwanted,” he admitted, raising a taunting brow.

And Lance’s lips curved up into that slow smile – the one he gave him two years ago, the first smile he ever made just for Keith. “Good to know.”

*

The thing honestly was that Lance wasn’t as irresponsible as everyone made him out to be. Keith, on the other hand, was surprisingly irresponsible and Lance thanked God every day that he hadn’t let Keith kill him over a root canal.

As it turned out, Keith just about only knew how to make ramen, he ran on about four hours of sleep, he barely kept his apartment clean, hardly anything was organized, and he often forgot to lock his door at night.

Which was where Lance came in.

Taking care of Keith was both somehow like taking care of his nieces and nephews, and a cantankerous old man. Even so, Lance didn’t have it in him to complain about something he, admittedly, loved doing.

Though admittedly, in comparison, he preferred taking care of Keith. His niece, for example, was currently trying to trying to scale his kitchen counter to reach the cereal in the cupboards.

The last he’d seen his nephew was ten minutes ago, and that was when he’d asked to go to the bathroom so there was no way that was going well. Then, to top that off, just as he’d scooped his niece off the counter, the doorbell rang, and she jumped down from his arms for the front door.

Fuck,” Lance hissed, “Robby, you gotta get out of the bathroom, okay buddy?” He hollered, chasing after Esther. “You can’t answer the door, E,” Lance chided, picking her back up as she reached for the handle. “You know you’re too little.”

“No, I’m not,” she protested predictably. Lance withheld a comment about how she couldn’t even reach the handle as he pulled the door open, expecting to see his brother there, finally, but instead seeing Keith, standing opposite him in his red leather jacket and a black beanie, shuffling from foot to foot and looking at him like he was nervous. Exactly how he would be looking for their first date which wasn’t for another couple of hours.

“Keith?” Lance squawked, the weight of Esther in his arms feeling heavier than usual. “What are you doing here?” He fished around his pocket for his phone. “You’re not supposed to be here ‘til eight–” Right there on his phone read eight on the dot. Fuck. “I… oh God, Keith, I’m so sorry. My brother was supposed to be here hours ago and I don’t know what’s holding him, I promise I didn’t forget, it’s just that it’s been–”

“Do you want help?”

“What?”

“It’s just… you look really stressed and, I mean… you know, I’m already here. I don’t have anything else to do,” Keith explained, shrugging, awkward and adorable. Lance didn’t deserve him.

“You want to help me? You sure you don’t want to punch me? I mean, come on this is a disaster, you should hate me right now,” Lance babbled.

“Lance, I don’t want to punch you,” Keith shook his head, smiling diminutively. “And of course I’ll help you. I don’t know if you know this, but there’s a kid running around back there throwing toilet paper everywhere?”

“Awesome,” Lance sighed as Esther giggled in his ear.

The thing was, Lance loved his family with every bone in his body, but at the present moment, he sincerely wanted to fight them. He should have known better than to think things would turn out alright when Danny was involved. Danny had dropped Esther and Robby off at three, claiming he’d be back by six, leaving Lance plenty of time to get himself and his apartment in order for his and Keith’s first date, and yet.

Here they were at nine-fifteen with no word from Danny aside from his wife’s steady stream of drunken Facebook updates. Lance was wearing his comfy sweats, the ones with the mysterious blue stain in the crotch and his hair was atrocious. He had two kids passed out on his couch, where he had planned on making out with Keith later, Robby had overflooded the bathtub, and his bathroom floor was covered in wet toilet paper.

And on top of it all, Keith was, miraculously, still here, and Lance couldn’t leave well enough alone.

“I had so many plans, you know,” Lance lamented, dragging a mop over the bathroom tile as Keith stood in the doorway, dropping sopping toilet paper into a trash bag. “I was gonna make dinner. Actual dinner, not just ramen.”

“You loved my ramen,” Keith interjected.

“And you would have loved my shrimp scampi linguini!” Lance countered, and Keith snickered. “Shut up! You would have! I had dinner planned out and I was gonna light candles, Keith! On the dinner table, it was gonna be romantic as fuck! And I have fancy ass ice cream in my freezer and we were going to eat it and watch Mean Girls because you haven’t seen it and I wanted to share it with you! And I had so many blankets folded up by the couch so we could cuddle and maybe make out a little, but I don’t know where Esther hid them all!”

“I saw them,” Keith informed him. “They’re still in the living room, just… not quite so folded up anymore. But we can fix that, Lance, it’s really not a big deal.”

“Dude, yes it is!” Lance insisted, arms flinging out and accidentally flinging his mop against the wall. “This wasn’t just another first date for me, dude, this was – it was the first date, okay? I’ve liked you forever and I really wanted this to go well, so maybe you’d want to actually be with me, but instead, here you are helping me clean up my bathroom because my niece and nephew are adorable little monsters, and now they’re passed out on the couch and I don’t know where my brother is, but he ruins everything, so I’m going to have to kill him,” Lance sighed.

Keith went tight-lipped then, shoving his last handful of toilet paper into the trash bag and dropping it out into the hall. He turned to Lance, face hard with determination. “Lance, you should know that I was really nervous about this, okay? I thought I was going to ruin everything,” he explained, walking forward until he’d backed Lance against the sink counter. “So I’m really glad you ruined everything.”

“Oh, Jesus, Keith.”

“Lance, I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t already like you, dumbass,” Keith told him. Small smile in place just like the one he showed when Lance’s pills had work off and he still asked him out. “I think you’re sweet, and you’re funny, and you were really cute with those kids earlier. I would have appreciated all the planning you put into this, but this is fine, too. I just wanted to hang out with you. Okay?”

Feeling all the pent-up stress and anxiety drain out of his system, he nodded. “Okay,” he responded. He knew he was looking at Keith with his dopey grin, but Keith didn’t seem to mind. “Okay. I, uh, I haven’t eaten yet. Does pizza sound good? I have been cleared by my dentist to go back to eating shitty, normal food,” he explained, shooting finger guns at Keith and smirking when he rolled his eyes. “So I’m pretty excited for shitty, normal pizza.”

Keith huffed out a small laugh, leaned up to press his lips to Lance’s like it was nothing, then it was over before Lance could kiss him back. “Glad you’re back to your shitty, normal jokes.” He quirked a teasing brow.

“You’re an asshole,” Lance grinned. His lips were tingling like he was twelve. “Make yourself useful and go find the blankets Esther hid somewhere. I’ll put the kids in my room so we can have the couch.”

“Oh, is Mean Girls back on?” Keith asked, looking like he was trying not to smile, and that wouldn’t do.

Lance schooled his own expression, watching Keith carefully. “That depends, is uh,” he paused, flashing Keith his most dangerous smirk, “is cuddling and making out back on?”

Keith turned away then, but Lance still caught the red blooming across his face, heated and dangerous like a wildfire as he left the bathroom. “If I like the movie.”

*

Keith liked the movie.