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Hearts Don't Break Around Here

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xxx

 

Present Day

 

Nobody believes Keith when he tells them that Lance's hair used to be wild when he was younger. Like, crazy wild. The curls were untamable. They fell into his face and bounced and tangled and grew at an alarmingly fast pace. They were more golden than brown, more frizzy than tight, and got caught in his eyelashes. Keith's hair was always short and choppy, cropped very close to his hairline, so he was fascinated by the creature that seemed to be sitting atop Lance's tiny head. Lance was always self conscious about his hair. One time, when he was six, he gave his older sister twelve cents to straighten the curls down, and was thoroughly disappointed when it didn't turn out how he wanted it to. It stuck out in every direction and completely covered his eyes like a shaggy carpet.

Keith remembers it like it was yesterday. The constant struggle with that wild, bushy mane of hair. Of course as Lance grew older, the hair eventually straightened out. He got it cut differently throughout the years, naturally. And now, Keith is scrolling through his phone and sitting on his bed while Lance runs a comb through his short, wispy brown hair for the thirtieth time, nervously biting his lip and trying to get it into place.

“Lance.” Keith says, throwing his phone to the side and watching Lance's worried face in the mirror. “Lance, your hair looks fine.”

“No! It doesn't!” Lance pouts. “It always looks the worst when I have somewhere important to go! God, I hate it.”

“I'm telling you it looks fine.”

“Well I don't believe you.” Lance snaps back. “And besides, even if it did look good, which it doesn't , I still wouldn't be worthy of this girl.” He groans frustratedly and chucks his comb. It clatters as it hits the mirror and falls to the counter.

“She's not that hot.” Keith says. “You guys are like, both eights.” A pause. “Eight point fives.”

“Eight point--did you see her?” Lance whirls around, flabbergasted. “I accept that I'm an eight but her ? I don't even know why she agreed to go out with me! I can't screw it up.”

“You won't. You literally never do. There has been a girl here, like, every weekend for the past year.” Keith says, rolling his eyes.

Yes, he lives with Lance. He wishes he could say that it was a complete coincidence, ending up in the same city after college. But it wasn't completely a coincidence, because Keith deliberately applied to jobs where Lance would likely be. Lance doesn't know this, of course, because even after all these years of being best friends, Keith will never admit to him that he is one of the most important people in Keith's life. It's just that Lance has so many...friends. So many important people. But Keith really only has Lance. So, it's not something that he likes to advertise, his complete dependence on this stupid, annoyingly charming boy. But yes, they share an apartment, and yes, they have never gone more than three months without being in the same place. But that's just how it is between them, how it always has been. And there's never been a problem with it before.

Their apartment isn’t anything to write home about. They did just graduate from college after all, and both of them have entry-level jobs with little pay, so it’s not like they were expecting royal treatment. Keith loved it just as it was when they moved in two years ago; white walls and beige carpet and dim lights with very little room for anything else. Lance, however, was horrified by it, and spent the first six months of their time re-painting the entire living room and buying cheap prints from Target to hang on the walls. He once visited a thrift store and came back with a rug to “dress up the space” that ended up being infested with bed bugs. They had to live at Lance’s parent’s place while their entire apartment was quarantined and cleaned out.

Needless to say, Lance was not as happy about the apartment as Keith was, because Lance has always been somewhat of an ‘extra’ person. Beige is his sworn enemy. It’s been almost two years now and their apartment barely looks anything like it did when they moved in, thanks to all of Lance’s obnoxiously hard work. But the bare bones of the shitty architecture are still there; a tiny kitchen with cracked, ceramic tile, a living room with space for only one fold-out futon and a coffee table that used to be a cardboard box. A cramped, musty bathroom and two very pathetic bedrooms. Keith actually thinks his room is supposed to be a closet, but his bed fits in there just fine. He doesn’t need any extra stuff anyway. Besides, in college, their shared dorm room was much, much worse.

Lance lifts the tip of his nose with his finger and examines his nostrils in the dirty mirror. “Ew. Look at all of my gross nose hair. Do you think I should get it waxed?”

“What? No. Ew, Lance. Stop.”

“But it's so gross!” He leans closer into the mirror. “Oh my god! Ewww.”

“Would you stop looking at it please?”

“I'm making an appointment.”

“Oh my god.” Keith rolls his eyes. “You are ridiculous.”

What if Nyma leans it to kiss me and then sees my nose whiskers and runs off?”

“They're not whiskers .”

“They're long enough to be!”

“I can't even see them.”

“You don't pay enough attention , Snickers. I bet you have disgustingly long nose hair too.”

You'd think that after 20 years, stupid and childish nicknames would be obsolete. But not with Lance. He's been calling Keith ‘Snickers’ since third grade. The reason isn't even a cute one either. Their class had gone on a field trip to the Natural History Museum and Keith bought a Snickers bar at the gift shop. He had left it in the back pocket of his khakis and forgotten about it, and by the time they got back to the school it had melted all over the back of his pants, making it look like he...for lack of a better term, shit himself. Lance had laughed so hard that Pepsi squirted out of his nose. “Snickers!” He had shouted. “You have Snickers on your butt !” The rest, evidently, is history. At first, it annoyed Keith to death, but now it's so natural he barely even notices it.

“Oh my god she's going to be here in twelve minutes. Help me!”

“You don't need help. You're going to have a good time.”

Lance sighs and plants himself on the edge of the bed, next to Keith. He’s looking dapper in a light blue button-up and dark wash jeans. Whenever Lance wears blue, it really enhances all of his good features. That's why Keith has noticed he only wears blue on dates, no matter what. He barely wears it in his day to day life, but for dates? He's got a whole closet of blue shirts. Keith had told him once, in high school, that blue brought out his eyes. Apparently that's not something friends say to each other, because Lance had blushed furiously and frowned at him, saying “that's weird , man!” But since then, without fail, Lance has worn blue on every single date. Keith is much better with social cues now than he was in high school, thank god, and hasn't really said anything embarrassing since then.

Lance runs a hand through his hair, effectively destroying all of the effort he put into it. “Where should I take her?”

“You don't have a plan yet?”

Lance shoots him a worried look. “No, I usually do something spontaneous! But now I'm too nervous.” He says defensively.

Keith sighs. “Well it's a Saturday night so...you probably need to make a reservation.”

“Fuck.”

“You could do the deep dish pizza place next to the park?”

“Deep dish isn't sexy, Snickers.”

“Does it have to be sexy?”

“Of course .”

“But it was so good . She'll associate delicious food with your face.”

“I don't think it works that way.” Lance laughs. “Also wasn't that the place where the waiter gave you his number?”

Keith smiles. “Maybe.”

“Well then obviously you're biased!” Lance shoves him. “We’re going to the new seafood place. It's decided.”

“Have fun spending way too much money.”

“Oh I will.”

Lance's phone chimes and he yelps. “Ah! She's early! Dammit!”

“Have fun.” Keith teases unenthusiastically, standing up and pushing Lance out of his room. “Use protection. Goodbye now.”

“I fucking hate y--”

Keith shuts the door in his face but can hear Lance chuckling softly on the other side.

 

xxx

 

1st Grade

 

Keith's face is sticky with tears as he clings onto his mother’s skirt. “Please no, mommy.” He mumbles, tugging helplessly. “I wanna go home.”

The classroom is large and daunting, far too threatening for Keith's tiny brain to comprehend, and he just clings tighter to his mother when he sees another woman approaching.

“Hello, Mrs. Kogane!” The woman introduces herself and Keith shrinks further into the ground. “I'm Mrs. Patty, and this must be Keith!” She turns her gaze downwards and her smile is toothy and wide. Keith wrinkles his nose.

“Mommy…” He croaks, tears filling his eyes again.

“He’s a little nervous.” His Mom says gently. “He was like this at his kindergarten as well.”

“Well we’re going to have so much fun, Keith!” Mrs. Patty assures. “Don't be scared!”

Keith scowls at this, letting go of his mother's skirt. “M’not scared .” He squeaks through clenched teeth.

“Well great! You're already so brave! Come on, let's meet the other kids.” Mrs. Patty says. And Keith isn't sure why he does it, but he lets go of his mother's skirt, rather reluctantly, and follows his new teacher.

His mother says goodbye to him and he is suddenly standing in front of a circle of other kids, looking at him with wide eyes and raised eyebrows. Keith pouts at all of the unfamiliar faces, but he already told Mrs. Patty that he wasn’t scared so he can’t act scared anymore. He clenches his tiny fists and faces the class, tugging at the bottom of his worn, old t-shirt.

“Class, this is Keith, our newest friend! He just moved here all the way from Texas. That is so far! Let's be on our best behavior for him today, okay?”

A course of nods moves through the circle and Keith lifts his arms to hug himself, feeling very nervous. Texas is so far away, and he misses his old room. And his neighbors. And his kindergarten teacher. The tears are filling his eyes and he feels silly because he’s embarrassing himself, but his mommy always tells him that it's okay to cry. He looks down at his shoes to stop the tears, but then sees a movement from out in front of him and snaps his head back up again. There is a thin, tiny boy with his hand in the air, waving it back and forth. He's got a mop of curly hair and darker skin than Keith's, and on his face is a large, crooked grin with a few missing teeth.

“Yes, Lance?” Mrs. Patty asks.

The boy, Lance, looks at Keith, “I like your shirt, Keith!” He says is a squeaky voice.

Keith looks down and sees his red Pikachu shirt looking back at him. “Oh.” He says. “Thank you.”

“Is Pikachu the same in Texas? Or does he wear a cowboy hat?”

Mrs. Patty laughs. “Lance, that's a good question. But we have to start our reading circle! You should talk to Keith during recess!”

Lance pouts and Keith sends him a small smile, which makes his face light up again.

 

 

x

They spend all of recess on the swings talking about Texas and Lance smiles so big Keith doesn't even feel sad about it.

 

xxx

 

Present Day

 

The door bursts open and Lance tumbles in, face flushed with what appears to be the after effects of alcohol. He's giggling wildly to himself and Keith startles at his grand entrance, nearly falling off the couch. It's way too late for Keith to be up, but the last time Keith fell asleep while Lance was out, Lance had to go to the emergency room because he cut his hand on a rusty nail in a shady bar and had to get stitches. This was before the days of Uber, so Lance had nobody to call and slept in the hospital overnight. Keith had felt incredibly guilty, and since then, he doesn't like falling asleep until Lance gets home. His father says that Keith inherited this anxiety from his mother. But Keith has never really thought of himself as an anxious person.

Lance’s eyes go wide when he sees Keith sitting on the couch in their living room. “You're still awake , Snickers?” He hisses loudly, clearly not sober. “Don't you have work tomorrow?”

Keith chuckles. “Couldn't sleep.” He sits up, fixing his ruffled hair.

“Was it the cheese ‘n the pasta? I told you not to eat it! Your tiny, lactose intolerant tummy cannot handle it!” Lance slurs, shaking a scolding finger in front of Keith's face. “Don’ worry, ‘ve got Tums in my room.”

Keith shakes his head. “No, I feel fine. Why don’t you--” Lance stands still for a moment and then sways as if he’s about to fall over. Keith stumbles forward to catch him. They end up crashing onto the carpet in a painful, messy pile. Keith groans. “Get off of me, Lance.”

Lance sighs fondly and wraps his arms around Keith’s waist, head falling onto his chest. He is typically this cuddly when he's drunk. Sometimes he even goes as far as to wake up Keith when he comes home drunk just so that he has someone to cuddle with. Keith, being quite shy, took a while to get used to how touchy Lance is. But now he doesn't mind it anymore.

“I think I’m in love.” Lance says dreamily into Keith’s shirt. Keith rolls his eyes.

“You said that last week.”

“But this time I mean it.”

“Oh yeah?”

He feels Lance swallow. “She beat me in a drinking contest.”

“I can see that.” Keith chuckles, finally letting his hands fall onto Lance’s waist. No use trying to lift him off right now. “Is she still alive?”

“We went to a club.” Lance says, completely ignoring Keith’s question. “We wen’ to a club n’ danced n’ shit. Then she kissed me first. Like, she did the firt...firs’ move…” A confused pause. “Made the first move.”

Keith nods slowly. “Sounds sexy.” He deadpans, lip twitching into a smirk. Lance whines into his chest.

“She was so hot. Our kids are gunna be so hot.”

“I think it’s time for you to sleep.”

“Snickers we’re gonna get married n’ you’ll be my bes’ men. Best man. The Best man. You will be.”

Keith is full-on grinning now, standing up and pulling Lance up with him. “Well, I’m glad you had fun. But we both have work tomorrow. And you’re gonna hate yourself.”

“Oh, Keith. Love takes sacf--sacrifs…..” Lance groans frustratedly, leaning all of his weight against Keith. “Sac-ri-fice!” He says loudly.

“It sure does.” Keith replies.

“I need to wash my face.”

“I think you should just get in bed.”

“Mmkay.” They make it to Lance's room and he flops noisily onto the bed. Keith sighs, fixing his shirt that Lance almost tugged off. He watches as Lance burrows himself into his covers, smushing his face into the pillow. Lance is going to kill him tomorrow for letting him go to bed without doing his “absolutely necessary” evening ritual; one which involves about three different lotions and two more serums. Lance takes his skincare very seriously, and never fails to let Keith know when he’s having a “bad skin day”. Tomorrow...Lance is probably going to have a bad skin day. And Keith is going to have to suffer through the consequences. He sighs.

“Goodnight, Lance.”

“Mmm. You leavin’ me?”

Keith smiles. “It’s almost three AM. I don’t like you that much.” He jokes.

A soft chuckle comes muffled from the covers. “Goodnight, Snickers.”

 

***

 

“I think I’m dead.” Lance says, trudging into the kitchen with messed up hair and disheveled work clothes on. “I think this is what dying is.”

Keith has already worked out, showered, and made coffee. He glances up from his phone when Lance clumsily falls into the chair across from him. Lance looks devastatingly exhausted--the bags under his eyes are almost black and his typically smooth skin is covered with creases from the pillow. He rubs his eyes rather aggressively and groans in frustration. “You didn’t make me put my lotions on last night! Now look at me! I’m a dull, dry mess!”

“I’m sorry ,” Keith says, fighting to roll him eyes. “You couldn’t even walk to your bed alone.”

“How many times have we talked about this, Snickers?” Lance runs his hands down his face. “You know I need my night time routine!”

Keith wants to laugh but bites his lip because he knows how serious this is to Lance. “You don’t look...that bad.” He tries. Then he promptly gives up, a laugh bursting out of his mouth.

Lance scowls at him, looking mildly shocked. “You’re laughing at me? This is your fault!”

“You’re the one that got wasted last night!”

Lance hums. “It was so worth it though.” His nose twitches as he tries to suppress another yawn, but the tears in his eyes give him away. A small, tired whine escapes his mouth. Keith sighs.

“I made you breakfast.”

“What?”

“I made you breakfast because I knew you’d feel like shit. It’s on the counter.”

Lance looks at him with wide, happy eyes. “Wait, really? Is it--”

“Green eggs and ham? Yes.”

“Ah! Oh my god! I love you!” Lance scrambles out of his chair and runs up to the counter.

Keith laughs. “Green eggs and ham” has been Lance’s favorite breakfast concoction since he was fifteen. It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Well, sort of. The eggs aren’t green but they’re scrambled with chopped up green peppers. And ham, obviously. Lance had started calling it green eggs and ham a few years ago because “why miss out on such an amazing opportunity to immortalize the legacy of Dr. Suess?”.

Keith hates green peppers but Lance can’t eat pizza without them. They always used to fight about it, until they decided to just never order pizza together or else their friendship would eventually fall apart. It was an executive decision and they’ve gotten along much better since then, so the sacrifice was worth it.

“Dude, you make it even better than my mom does.” Lance says appreciatively, sitting back down with the plate in hand. “I don’t know how you do it.”

“It’s like the easiest thing in the world.”

“I always burn it.” Lance shovels a forkful into his mouth. “I get too distracted.”

Keith smiles a little to himself. “Yeah, I know.”

“What time is-- fuck. Holy fuck I’m late.” Lance shoots backwards and stands up, throwing his coat on even though it’s probably seventy degrees outside. He’s literally always cold. “Allura is going to kill me. But like, actually kill me this time.”

“Probably. But Isn’t she getting married in like, four seconds? She has other things to worry about.”

Lance works at an event planning company. He’s always had a knack for the dramatic and manages to pull together the most beautiful, unique celebrations for people. Keith has no idea what goes on in that boy’s brain, but his parties aren’t ever really just parties, they’re experiences. And Keith only knows this because he’s been to a few of them. Lance has only been in the field for a short time but he has very quickly caught people’s attention. He studied hospitality in college and worked as the receptionist at a hotel for about a year. Then he somehow scored an entry level position at Altea Event Planning, which is where he is now. His boss, Allura, is quite terrifying. But in a powerful, admirable way. She wears pencil skirts and high heels and her voice never wavers and she takes bullshit from no one. Keith would genuinely fear her if he didn’t meet her on a more personal level when she started dating his older brother, Shiro, four years ago. Now, there are only about three months until the wedding, and the entire company is in chaos.

“Why did I agree to help plan this wedding?” Lance asks incredulously. “It’s more stressful than all of my work combined and I’m not even getting paid for it!”

“Oh come on, I know she’s your boss, but she’s also a friend. Plus you’ve known Shiro literally your entire life? He’s practically your brother too.” Keith says. “You’d probably ask them to do the same for you.”

“You kiddin’ me? I want full control over planning my wedding. It’s going to be my most epic creation.”

“Okay, Lance. You should probably go.”

Lance grabs his bag from the ground next to the door. “See ya, Snickers! Thanks for the breakfast.”

Keith chuckles. “Anytime.”

The door slams shut and Keith shakes his head. Will there ever be a day when Lance isn’t a hot mess?

Eh. Doesn’t matter. It works for him.

 

3rd Grade

 

“This is it! This is it!” Lance bounces excitedly, walking into the thick bushes behind his house. Keith stands, dumbfounded, arms crossed over his tiny chest.

“What? It’s just the woods.”

“No! It’s adventure island!”

Keith pouts. “No it isn’t! It’s your yard.”

Lance rolls his eyes, scoffing. “Come on, Snickers. At least try to use your imagination?”

Keith clenches his fist, watching a dandelion puff land in Lance’s short, frizzy hair. When the curls grew out, they didn’t really grow out all the way. They left a thick, frizzy mess in their place. “I don’t get it, it’s just a bunch of trees.”

“Nope!” Lance’s thin, scrawny hand grabs Keith’s wrist, pulling him into the woods. “This is where the aliens crash landed! And we’re going to have to find them and see if they’ll help us off the island. We’re stuck, by the way.”

“How did we get stuck?” Keith asks, genuinely curious.

“Well, our parents wanted us to clean, so we had to sneak out of our houses to get away. And then we were kidnapped!”

“Kidnapped?”

“By the president!”

“Why?”

“We have something super secret.”

“Well, what is it?”

Lance shrugs. “I don’t know. You think of this one!”

They stop walking and stand in a small opening in the forest, trees towering over them and blocking the sunlight. A spot of bright sunlight still hits Lance’s face though, and he squints through it at Keith’s confused expression. The sounds of bugs and birds are floating through the air around them. The smell of dirt and mud is strong and makes Keith wrinkle his nose.

“I don’t know. A vase?”

“A top secret vase! It contains all of the world's secrets!” Lance finishes dramatically.

“It doesn’t have any secrets.” Keith grumbles.

“What? Yes it does, Snickers!”

“No, it’s just a vase.”

“Well then why does the president want it?”

“I don’t know!” Keith responds, starting to get frustrated.

“It’s just a game, jeeeeez. Let play, come on.”

“Fine.”

Lance jumps, excited again. “Okay! So we’ve been kidnapped. Here, you carry the vase.” He holds an empty hand out to Keith. Keith stares down at it.

“Uh. Okay.” He says, grabbing the nothingness very nervously. “Like this?”

“Right! And now we have to run! The president is chasing us!” Lance shrieks, grabbing Keith’s wrist and bursting into a sprint. Keith yelps and trails behind him, tripping over his ripped sneakers and feeling mud splash all over his ankles.

“Lance! Slow down!”

“No way, Snickers! The president will catch us! We gotta make it to Rossway Cliff!”

“What? Rossway Cliff? Why?” Keith shouts, suddenly panicking. He’s technically not allowed to go to Rossway Cliff without his parents permission, and he’s only ever heard stories about it. But it’s very high up, above a creek, and according to his parents, very dangerous. Shiro hasn’t even gone there, and he’s almost a teenager. But Lance is still running, and he doesn’t even look scared. Lance doesn’t even slow down. He speeds up.

Keith grabs onto Lance’s wrist for dear life and they weave through the trees together, moving higher and higher as the flat ground turns into a hill and the hill gets steeper and steeper. Lance is shouting things like “Oh no, Mr. President, you’ve got the wrong guys!” and Keith is lost, but doesn’t let go. He wonders how on earth Lance isn’t even being careful as they move further and further from ground level. He sees the sign-- a big, red, wooden sign with peeling paint that says “Rossway Cliff” in a very pretty, cursive font.

“Almost there!” Lance shouts giddily, and Keith holds his breath, seeing the trees open up to a small patch of grass and then beyond the grass there is the sky, and nothing else, and they are running closer and closer to the edge of it and--

“Lance!” Keith yells, panicked, as he yanks out of Lance’s death grip. “We can’t!”

Lance stops running and turns around, face coated with sweat and flushed a deep pink. He’s panting and looking at Keith with offended eyes. “What’s the problem?”

“We were about to go over the cliff!”

Lance scoffs, rolling his eyes. “I was gonna stop . Duh.”

Keith shakes his head. “I don’t wanna play this anymore.”

Lance’s face falls, and he looks down at his hands, picking at his bitten down nails. “There’s nothing to be scared of.” He mumbles.

“What?”

“I said, it’s not scary. I’ve been here before.” He holds out a hand. “Come on. Trust me.”

Keith looks at his hand like it’s a monster. “No.”

“Please?” Lance whines.

Keith takes a breath, rolling his eyes. His heart thuds as Lance pulls him a little further up the hill, closer and closer to the edge of the cliff. He can see where the grass starts to disappear over the end of it.

“Lance...Lance! We’re really high up!”

“Calm down.” Lance says, but he doesn’t sound angry. “It’s cool, trust me.”

Keith tries to pull back but Lance pulls him forward, and before he can try to get away again, they are standing on the edge.

And Keith...has never seen anything like this before.

The small creek below is shimmering and the grass is bright, growing wildly long on the rolling hills. The trees surrounding the water are tall but they are so high up that Keith can see the tops of them. He’s never...seen the top of a tree before. It looks like broccoli.

“Isn’t is pretty?” Lance says, bringing Keith back to reality. Their hands are still clasped tightly between them-- neither one wanting to let go because they could fall.

“Yeah. It is.” Keith says quietly.

“See?” Lance bumps their shoulders together. “You can trust me, Snickers.”

Keith nods, heart rate finally starting to slow down. “Yeah.” He says. “And the best part is that...the President can’t even reach us up here so...the secret vase is safe.”

Lance’s face breaks into a grin, crooked teeth and all. “Now you’re getting it!”

 

Present Day

 

Lance is swamped. He’s never had this much work to do in one day. It’s true that he loves Allura to death and would probably die for Shiro, but this is a little too much for three months. Allura had said, “You can do it, Lance. I believe in you!” and planted a sloppy kiss on his cheek. But Lance doesn’t agree. He really doesn’t think he can do it. Because on top of Allura’s wedding he is also planning two more-- and then a quinciñera. All in the same time frame.

Lance wrings his hands anxiously in his lap. He tries not to let his brain fall into that dangerous place where the stress causes his head to spin. He’s been better about it lately, but sometimes the stress gets to be too much. He closes his eyes and takes a deep breath, counting to ten. It’s something Keith taught him when they were in college. Well, Shiro technically taught to it Keith first. Keith uses it to get his temper under control but Lance uses it when he starts getting too anxious. Nine times out of ten, it calms him down.  He lets his eyes flutter open and looks back down at the mess of receipts and papers on his desk. He has to order from four different catering companies today but he lost the notes he took about what they want. He knows one of them doesn’t want meat. He doesn’t remember which one. The mess on his desk is really starting to get on his nerves, but he doesn’t have time to clean it.

“Lance!” Allura’s voice startles him.

“Hm?” He turns around, facing her. She looks stunning, as usual. All soft curves and dark skin and shimmering hair. Curse Shiro and his godlike good looks or else maybe Lance would’ve at least had a shot. But alas, Shiro’s perfect jawline and exquisite personality were bound to beat out his sarcastic, lanky ass any day. “All good?” He asks her.

“I may need you to run an errand for me.” Allura says. “It’s nothing too crazy. I was going to do it myself but I just got called into a meeting. Do you have time?”

Lance glances down at the mess of papers on his desk, hesitating to answer. “Uh…” Breathe, Lance. Calm down. “Yeah. I should...have time.” He lies.

“Great! Thank you so much. I just need you to go to this address and ask for Jared. Tell him I sent you. He just needs to give you a price quote for some flower arrangements. Okay?”

“Should be fine.” Lance lies again. Vague instructions are probably his worst nightmare. They leave so much room for things to go wrong. But he gives Allura his most charming smile and says, “Anything else?”

She smiles back gratefully. “No, that’s it. Thank you Lance.”

“It’s not a problem. Good luck in your meeting.” He says, waving goodbye as she scurries out of his tiny cubicle-like area. Sighing, he turns back to his desk. Maybe it was the blonde lady who wanted the veggie menu. Wasn’t her son a vegetarian or something? No, that can’t be right. There’s no way that’s right.

Lance gathers some of his things, along with the paper Allura gave him, and gets in the elevator.

He attempts to go through some of his recent phone conversations in his head. Alexa and James wanted the chocolate cake. Rose and Alena wanted to make sure that the fish was cooked with pesto, not marinara. And that blonde lady...that blonde lady wanted only veggies. He’s sure of it. Why does it feel incorrect?

As he climbs into his car, he finds himself punching in Keith’s number purely out of reflex. He typically doesn’t like to call Keith while he’s at work, but sometimes he slips up. Keith works in human resources for a small, local corporation-- which pretty much means he’s a recruiter. He looks for new people to hire for the company, and gets to go through hundreds of job applications every week, making the final decisions about whether or not they should be hired. Keith probably sends out twenty rejection emails every day. Lance can see why they picked him as the decision maker-- he’s blunt, straight to the point, and confident in all of his decisions. He has no problem telling someone they suck. He also has no problem telling someone they are a perfect fit. It’s gotta be something in his blood. His genetics. Because Lance has known him for more than fifteen years and he still doesn’t understand it.

Whether or not he understands it isn’t important right now, because Lance needs help making a decision. And as usual, he knows the best person to call is Keith.

“Hello?” Keith's deeply unamused voice sounds in his ear. 

“Hey Snickers.” Lance says. “Apples, potatoes, or pesto?”

“Potatoes.” Keith says, not missing a beat.

“Cool, so the blonde lady. I was right.” Lance says. “Thanks.”

“Yep.”

“Bye now.”

“See ya.”

The phone clicks shut. Amazing. Keith is right every single time.

Of course this call was one of many, many others. Lance makes calls like this to Keith all the time. It started in junior year of high school, when Lance had to make a very difficult decision about who to take to prom. Three girls had asked him and he didn’t tell Keith about it. He didn’t really know how, and it didn’t seem like a problem Keith would bother himself with. After driving himself crazy with his own loud, intrusive thoughts, he still hadn’t come to a decision, and he was sick of torturing himself over it. He already tortured himself about everything else that he did, and he refused to let this make him miserable too. So as they got into Keith’s car, ready to drive home, Lance randomly asked, “Hey Keith. Sharpie, chair, or stuffed animal?” Without pausing, Keith just immediately said “Sharpie.” He never even asked for an explanation. He never even explained his own choice. It was all very random but yet seemed to make perfect sense to both of them. Lance ended up taking the girl equivalent to “Sharpie”, and it was an amazing, carefree night. It may not have been the most respectable way to make a decision, but hey. They were high school boys. They didn’t know any better.

“Chair” girl ended up hitting her date with her car. “Stuffed animal” girl ended up ditching her date and making out with another guy in the back hallway.

Lance still doesn’t know how Keith manages to make the right decision, without wavering, without fault, every single time. It may have something to do with confidence. It may have something to do with luck. But whatever it is, Keith has always had it. And damn, Lance loves that about him.

He turns the corner into the crowded parking lot where apparently this florist, Jared, works. He parks in one of the only available spaces, taking a moment to collect himself like he always does before he has to meet new people. He glances at his scared eyes in the rearview mirror and takes a deep breath, forcing a smile onto his face and fighting down the urge to flee.

He can do this. It’s just a florist, after all. He’s made it through worse.