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Hearts Don't Break Around Here

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2 Years Ago

 

Absolutely not.” Lance says, shaking his head furiously. “ No , Keith. I’d rather live in a crack den. I’d rather sell my body on the street corner.”

Keith sighs. “It’s not that bad.” He says. “Stop being so dramatic.”

Lance and Keith have somehow managed to end up in the same city after graduation, which is awesome , because Lance was honestly terrified of the idea of not having Keith around. Of growing apart from him. And Keith is so easy to live with, plus he can help with rent, so it was really just a massive, beautiful coincidence that they are here together.

But apartment hunting has been...difficult. It’s not Lance’s fault. It’s just that all of the apartments he picks are grossly over budget and all of the houses Keith picks are just grossly gross.

“The walls and the carpet are beige. Beige, Snickers. It’s like we’re living in a haystack.”

“We can hang up stuff.” Keith retorts, crossing his arms. “It has two rooms and a kitchen and a bathroom. And it’s under budget.”

“Uh yeah because it’s decomposing .” Lance snaps back.

The poor realtor, who really didn’t know what he was signing up for when he agreed to show Lance and Keith apartments, interjects weakly. “The appliances are new.” He tries.

“New appliances, my ass.” Lance mumbles. “There are cockroaches in the fridge.”

“Those can be cleaned out.” Keith says dryly, voice getting more irritated.

“This is a home to you?”

“We have no money!” Keith says, temper finally starting to rise. “This is all we can do!”

Lance studies his face and then sighs, reaching forward to tug on a lock of Keith’s hair. His telltale “you’re freaking out again” signal. Keith’s face softens slightly.

“I’m sorry, I know you’re right.” Lance says softly. He looks around again. There are multiple beer stains on the carpet. The white, ceramic tile in the kitchen is so cracked that parts of it move when you walk on it. There are water marks littered across the ceiling. The fridge is covered in a mysterious, gray sticky substance. The window has no glass in it, and instead is just covered by a giant piece of cardboard.

“It’s close to the subway station. And the bus station. Which is great because we aren’t going to have cars for at least a year.” Keith says, sensing Lance’s horrified response. His voice is calm, like he’s already trying to comfort him. “We can deep clean the whole place once it’s ours.”

Lance’s gaze moves from a particularly concerning dead bug in the corner of the room to Keith’s consoling face. “...is this... really going to be where we live?”

Keith’s face falls slightly, sympathetically, and he gives Lance a short nod.

“I-If I may,” The realtor cuts in. “Sir, once you and your husband rent the place, the landlord will probably be able to spray for roaches and such.”

Keith sighs, rolling his eyes. “We’re not marri--

“We’ll take it.” Lance says, feeling himself smile. He knows that if he doesn’t stop Keith, he’ll probably get into a full blown argument with the poor man. “We can move in anytime within the next two weeks.”

The realtor nods. “Wonderful! Follow me for the leasing paperwork.” He says, gesturing for them to leave through the front door.

Lance takes a deep breath, taking one last look around the place. His concern must show on his face, because then Keith is squeezing his shoulder. Lance looks down at him, and Keith is grinning-- one of those huge, broad grins that he almost never sees on Keith’s face.

“It’s going to be great, Lance.” He says, like he’s holding back a laugh.

Lance frowns at him. “Better be, because working the street corner is still an option.”

“Oh, fuck off.” Keith replies, finally letting himself laugh.

 

xxx

 

Present Day

 

Keith skips the kitchen and goes straight out to the lake when he wakes up the next morning. It’s still more dawn than it is sunrise. He’s not in the mood to talk to people. ‘People’ being Lance. After the stunt he pulled last night; waking Lance up at three AM and going on a romantic fucking boat ride with him--he can’t seem to shake the feeling that he upset the waters a little bit. He messed with the delicate, yet tense balance of things. The air feels different today and he doesn’t even know why. Whatever had come over him had been purely selfish. Obviously, Lance has Olivia, and he’s happy, and all of that nonsense. But looking at Lance, underneath the fucking starlight on a fucking canoe in the middle of the night, he found himself remembering what Shiro had said the last time they talked about this.

“You make him happier.”

Lance was looking at him in a way Keith has never seen him look before. It sends chills up his spine when he thinks about it.

“You make him happier.”

Maybe I do.

Keith starts pushing a canoe off the shore and into the water, mind racing.

He can’t let himself think that, can he? He can’t let himself fall into that pit. False hope is currently the enemy. He has to watch his own back.

And yet...

“Keith. Hi.”

Keith hears a voice from behind him that doesn’t sound too familiar. He turns around, curious, and sees Olivia standing nervously in front of him, tugging at the bottom of her pajama shirt. “Going for a ride?” She asks.

“Uh.” Keith falters a little. Has he ever actually spoken to this girl? “Yeah. I know it’s early, but…” He shrugs. “I just...feel like it.”

She nods, taking a few steps towards him. “Yeah, I’m a morning person too.” She says, laughing a little awkwardly. “Mind if I tag along?”

Keith blinks at her, caught off guard by her offer. It shouldn’t confuse him as much as it does. There is a knot of bitterness in his stomach that actually hurts when he looks at her. He pauses, hands on the edge of the canoe. He doesn’t really want to hang out with her. But he knows that Lance would be happy if he saw them talking.”Oh. Uh. Sure.” He moves to the front of the canoe and climbs in, glancing to the back of it and then at Olivia, as an invitation.

She smiles shyly. “Thanks.” She says. “It’s a really nice day.”

“Yeah.” Keith agrees.

They drift along the water and Keith tries to busy himself with the view. With steering and paddling. He tries to get lost in the feel of the water swishing around him. He hears Olivia sigh, long and tired, from behind him. Suddenly, he feels as nervous as she sounds.

“I know you don’t want me to be here.” She says, a little sadly.

Keith pauses, paddle still in the air. He holds it for a moment, before letting it splash back into the water. “What makes you think that?” He tries, feeling guilt start to loosen the bitter knot in his gut.

She sighs again, but doesn’t answer. In fact, the next few minutes go by in a bit of an agonizing silence. She continues to not reply. Keith doesn’t speak either, because there’s nothing to say. The breeze shakes his bangs out of his face. Birds are chirping in the distance, as dawn turns to a full-blown sunrise.

Finally, Olivia says, “You like him, don’t you?”

The question feels like a stab in his chest. His shoulders sag, defeated. His paddle splashes back into the water. He doesn’t realize that his heart is jackhammering in his chest until the splashing noise fades and the air is quiet. He hears it, pouding in his ears.

Slowly, hesitantly, he turns around to face her. Her pretty features are screwed into a concerned frown. Not angry, just sympathetic.

You like him, don’t you?

“No.” Keith says, voice level. Her expression remains unchanged. Then, almost without thinking, he says, “I love him.”

Olivia nods slowly, a small hum escaping her lips. She turns away and squints into the sunrise. The wind blows her wild, curly hair around her cheeks. “You love him.”

Keith grips the paddle harder, looking down at his lap. Feeling vulnerable. “More than anything.” He says.

“And Hunk?” She asks.

Keith sighs. “It’s a...slightly exaggerated...relationship.” He admits. Not really sure why. Not really knowing why he’s saying any of this at all, especially to a virtual stranger. It hurts to say it. It also feels uncomfortable. Like he never realized his lies could be detected by other people, and now he’s scrambling. Caught in the act.  

Olivia nods again, wrapping her arms around herself. She tucks her cold hands underneath her armpits. “Yeah.” She says, gently.

Keith finally looks at her fully, lifting his gaze. “How did you know?” He asks, curiosity eating away at him.

Olivia visibly swallows. “Well, you were staring. A lot. All night.” She says. “You have a very unnerving stare, by the way.”

Keith feels the corner of his lip twitch upwards. “I’ve been told.” He says. “That’s it? My staring?”

Olivia shrugs. “I don’t know, really. Just, the way you look at him. And talk to him. The fact that we’ve never actually spoken to each other.”

Keith hums, not knowing what to say.

The silence stretches between them. Keith returns his gaze to the shore. He wonders if everyone is awake know, eating breakfast without them.

“Are you going to...do anything about it?” She asks, sounding careful.

Keith doesn’t look at her. “No.” He rubs his eyes, suddenly feeling the weight of his lack of sleep. “It’d be idiotic.”

Out of all things Olivia could have said to that, what she actually says is the last possible thing he was expecting. “How so?” She asks.

Keith frowns at her. “What do you mean?”

“Why would it be idiotic?”

Keith continues looking at her, confused expression unchanging. “Why do you want to know?” He asks, accusingly. Her frown deepens slightly, like she wasn’t expecting his tone. He sighs. “You don’t have anything to worry about.”

Her brow furrows. “That’s not why I asked.” She says.

Keith scoffs, shaking his head and studying the paddle in his hand.

“Keith.” Olivia says, as if to say look at me.

Keith looks up.

“I was awake, last night. When you came in to get Lance.” She admits.

“So what?”

“He just...went. With you.”

Keith stares. “Okay. So? He always does that.”

Exactly .” She breathes. Then she shrugs. “And he always will.”

“You’re being dramatic.” Keith says, a little apathetically. “He’s dating you, not me. That’s enough evidence.”

Olivia, surprisingly, smiles at him. It looks a little sad, but it’s still a very pretty smile. “Keith, I met Lance in a diner. I was excited, because I’d never like, randomly asked someone out before. He was super cute and super charming and it was just really fun.”

Why are you telling me this?” Keith interjects, feeling the scowl on his face. “I don’t want to know.”

“My point is, it was fun. But it’s been a couple months now, and I…” She leans back and shrugs.

“You what? You don’t like him?” He snaps, feeling protective.

“I do. Of course I do.” She says. “But, I don’t know anything about him. I just found out about his sexuality last night. When he was talking about college, and that Dylan guy. And there’s probably much more to that story that I don’t know, either. I feel like that’s something I should’ve known a while ago. Right?”

Keith blinks at her.

“Anyway, it doesn’t matter. I still really like him, either way. But, when I asked him out I didn’t think that, like, he had a…” She scans Keith up and down, looking a little distraught. “A you .”

“What does that even mean.” Keith asks emotionlessly, wanting this conversation to be over. The discomfort of being “figured out” is causing his chest to feel like it’s caving in on itself. He starts paddling towards the direction of shore.

“He has you , Keith. How the hell am I supposed to compete?”

“That’s a stupid thing to say.”

“Oh, please. I’m a girl he hit it off with in a diner. I gave him my number on a crumpled napkin. You are his whole life .”

“Well, he doesn’t agree. So. ” Keith says. “Thanks for the vote of confidence but, it doesn’t change anything.”

She sighs defeatedly. “Don’t be difficult.”

Keith flat out scowls at her. “Are you asking me to make a move on your boyfriend?” He asks, frustrated. The last thing he needs is one more complicated factor in all of this shit. “Do you not realize how weird this is? How disrespectful it is, to Lance?”

Olivia looks at him for a moment, trying to figure out what to say. “I’m not...asking you to make a move on Lance.” She says slowly. “I guess I’m asking...why you haven’t yet.”

Keith blinks down at the water, a little shaken by the question. “Well, for starters, he’s dating you.”

“Only for two months.” Olivia adds. “Not much compared to fifteen years.”

Keith frowns at her. “It’s really none of your business.”

She shrugs. “I know. I’m just curious.”

Keith sighs. Dammit, she’s being completely honest. It’s really hard to be mean to this girl. He looks back up at her and tries to weigh his options. Tries to consider telling the truth , for once in his life. But Olivia has honest eyes. A kind smile. And for all the shit that Keith has been putting Lance through, he feels like he at least owes her an explanation. Even if it is a shitty one.

“He doesn’t feel the same way.” Keith finds himself saying, before he can think about it properly. “I somehow got Hunk to be my fake boyfriend , which I lied about, because I wanted Lance to feel the same way. I told Lance I was going on a date with a dude from a biker gang, but it was really some sharply dressed, buff version of Lance that made me feel like I was...I don’t know. So I lied about that , too. And then I told him to go on that first date with you , even when…” Keith glances up at her and then back down at his lap. “Well, I lied about that too. So I’ve just been stacking on all of the lies. Lies on top of lies. And I don’t lie.” Keith swallows. “And I did that all because I thought that there was a chance. But he doesn’t feel the same way, even after everything.” He shrugs, sniffing.

“So that’s it?” Olivia asks.

Keith chuckles a little bitterly. “I somehow managed to be horrible friend to him while simultaneously being in love with him.” He says quietly. “So isn’t that proof enough?”

“Proof of what?”

“That someday, I’ll love him so much that I’ll lose him.” At this moment, Keith kind of wishes he had a cigarette. He’s never smoked in his life, but it seems like the perfect moment to start. Saying that sentence out loud felt like an actual slap in the face. “I’ve already started driving a wedge between us, ya know? It’s only a matter of time at this point. We’re not even together and I’m already ruining our relationship.”

Olivia hums. “So let me get this straight. You haven’t made a move because you love him too much?

Keith shrugs. “He deserves better. Lance has had a...spotty past, with relationships. He deserves someone who will make sure he doesn’t get hurt.” Then he turns his body towards her, fully, and gives her an earnest look. “Don’t leave him.” He says quietly. “Not because of me.”

Olivia frowns at him, looking caught off guard. “I think I should be telling you that.” She says.

“What do you mean?”

She levels him with worried eyes. “You keep pushing him away? Soon you’re going to be the one leaving him. Feelings be damned.”

Keith swallows, trying to drown out her words with naive denial. But the panic that floods his chest is enough to tell him that she’s right. Keith is losing Lance. It’s the same scared feeling that plagued him years ago, in college, when Lance didn’t come home for months.

He’s losing him. And this time, it’s completely his fault.

 

xxx

 

Lance, Hunk, and Pidge join them in the kitchen about an hour later for breakfast. Keith is anxious to see Lance again. He knows that hanging out in the middle of the night is something they always do, but it felt different last night. He wonders if Lance felt it too. It’s probably insane, but he still wonders. Because a small part of him still has not stopped daydreaming about it.

When Lance comes downstairs, all ruffled hair and sleepy eyes, Keith feels like the oxygen has been sucked out of the room. It’s not fair , how pretty he is. He pecks Olivia on the cheek and Keith feels guilt and a little something else, gnawing away at his insides. Then Lance is sliding up next to him and throwing an arm over his shoulder.

“Mornin, Snickers.” He says casually, through a yawn. “What’s for breakfast?”

Keith crumbles inwardly. Of course Lance is super casual about everything. Of course the heavy flurry of emotions, hanging over their heads at three AM last night, is untraceable in Lance’s morning demeanor.

Keith feels like a fucking idiot.

Of course their strangely romantic night together had absolutely no effect on Lance whatsoever.

He needs to grow the fuck up. What was he thinking?

“Scrambled eggs?” Keith asks Hunk.

“Oh, yeah!” Lance says excitedly, dropping his arm from Keith’s shoulders. Keith wants to pull him close again. “Except, like, with green peppers! And ham!”

Keith shakes his head. ‘Green eggs and ham’ never fails.  

Hunk laughs, raising an eyebrow. “Uh, sure? I’ll see if I have the ingredients.” He says, starting to search through his fridge.

Lance turns to Keith. Keith catches a whiff of his cupcake body wash. Did Lance seriously bring his own body wash to this place? Jesus.

“Let me guess. You woke up at the asscrack of dawn.” Lance deadpans. “Why? You went to bed so late last night.”

Keith frowns. So did you, you asshole. You were with me, remember? “You know I’m a morning person.” He says instead.

Lance hums. “More like a masochist.”

Keith rolls his eyes, heart thrumming painfully as Lance’s sweet smell curls around him.

He can’t help but notice the ugly feeling of resentment, spreading from his gut and into every single one of his veins. It feels like it’s taking over him, like a virus. Everything that he loves about Lance makes it hurt to be around him. Keith doesn't know how much more he can take. If he can’t even stand to be around Lance anymore, how the hell is their friendship going to survive?

He remembers what Shiro and Allura said, about his feelings festering. Getting uglier. And uglier. And Keith sees it now, plain as day. He feels himself getting further and further away from Lance, purley because of his own feelings. His own feelings that will never be returned.

Maybe instead of the painful process of drifting apart over time, Keith can just rip it off like a band aid.

A newfound anger bubbles within him that has him pushing himself away form the counter and walking towards the stairs. “Bathroom.” He mumbles, feeling Lance’s eyes on him.

He never knew that love could manifest itself is such drastically different ways. But the frustration, and the anger,and bitterness  just keep boiling and boiling and they are close to the surface now. Anger at himself for being so desperate. For dating a fake boyfriend and for chasing down Kevin at clubs. Anger at Lance for not seeing him --not opening his fucking eyes and looking at what he’s doing to his best friend’s heart. For not loving him back even though there’s so many reasons why he shouldn’t. Anger at Olivia for being a smart ass. For dangling something in front of his face and making him feel like an idiot anyway.

This festering has somehow managed to taint his feelings about everyone he knows. And he never realized how brutally pissed off he was until this very moment. He never realized how hopeless the situation actually is. You can’t just make someone be in love with you. And that’s all Keith has been trying to do. What a waste of time. He’s overwhelmed. He’s exhausted . Hurt, and exhausted.

Before he realizes it, Keith is stuffing all of his shirts back into his suitcase.

He needs to get out of here.

He paces the room a couple of times, trying to gather his bearings, but then he is packing again.

He can’t be around Lance right now.

Strangely enough, Olivia telling him to get his shit together is actually having the opposite effect on him. Because fuck Olivia. Fuck everything. He has officially made a mess of everything in his head, and he needs to leave.

He can probably take an Uber to the airport. He can probably buy a ticket at the counter, He’s got some money on his card.

He hears somebody coming up the stairs and recognizes Hunk’s footsteps. “ Woah , buddy. What’s going on in here?” Hunk says, padding into the room and eyeing Keith’s bag. “Are you... packing ?”

“Got called into work.” Keith lies, folding his pants.

“Work?”

“Yeah. Some sort of mix up with vacation days.” He pushes past Hunk and walks into the bathroom, grabbing his toothbrush. He tosses it into his bag.

“You’re working today ?”

“Yep. They got me a flight and everything.” Another lie. Wow, he’s really just a stand up guy today.

“Keith.”

“What?”

“It’s a Saturday.”

Keith pauses, fingers curling into the fabric of his duffel bag. Fuck .

“Where are you actually going?” Hunk tries again, crossing his arms over his chest.

Keith sighs. “Look, I just think it’ll be better if I go home early. It’s not a big deal, okay? Don’t make it a big deal.”

“We just got here.”

“And it was a really fun night!” Keith amends. “But I’m...in really deep, man. And I need to leave.”

Hunk frowns in confusion. “You talkin’ about Lance ? You guys seemed chill this morning. I don’t get it.”

“We’re fine.”

“Then what’s the problem?”

Keith zips up his bag. “I don’t really know, okay?” He says evenly. “There are a lot of...conflicting things happening.”

“You are literally running away from your problems.” Hunk deadpans, eyeing the bag again. “Literally.”

Keith takes a  deep breath. “You know...that super corny quote? About like, loving something and setting it free? Or letting it go or whatever?”

Hunk snorts. “You can’t be serious. Come on , man--”

“Well this is me letting it go.” Keith hoists the bag over his shoulder. “Before it lets go of me first.”

“Don’t you think you’re overreacting?” Hunk asks carefully. “Maybe just a little bit?”

Keith shrugs. “Does it matter?”

“Um. Yes?”

Keith swallows. “It’s a losing battle, Hunk.” He says in a quiet voice. “If I stick around, I’ll lose him. If I leave, I’ll lose him.”

“Sounds a little dramatic.” Hunk mumbles.

“Maybe to you.” Keith starts walking out of the room. “This is just how I do things. Lance knows it, too.”

“What, by avoiding them? You think fifteen years of friendship will suddenly not matter if you just avoid him?”

Keith doesn’t answer.

“It’s cowardly. It’s impulsive. ” Hunk adds, sounding a little irritated. Keith keeps walking. “Hey! What the hell? You really think Lance is going to be cool with this? What do you expect me to tell people?”

Keith refuses to look back at him. “I don’t know. We got into a fight. We broke up. I left crying.”

“That doesn’t seem fair.” Keith can hear the scowl in Hunk’s voice.

“Then, I got sick.”

The side-door is in view now and Keith’s got Uber open on his phone and his heart kind of feels like it’s breaking but he also feels relief at the thought of being separated from everyone. Unable to mess anything up.

“Keith!” Hunk calls again. “Are you freaking kidding me?”

But Keith pushes past the door and doesn’t stop walking.

 

xxx

 

2 Years Ago

 

“What do you think?” Lance asks, sticking his tongue out and closing one eye. He tilts his head to the side, staring at the painting on the wall. “Yes? No? Maybe?” He looks over at Keith, who is staring blankly at it. “Does it make your heart want to sing? Does it make your fingertips tingle with glee?”

Keith levels him with a very unamused stare. “It’s a mug filled with coffee.” He says.

“So, you love it! I knew you would.” Lance says, grinning. “It’s homey, isn’t it? I feel like it’s homey.”

They've been living in their apartment for three months and Lance can’t say it’s horrible . They deep cleaned the place and bought some mediocre furniture and it all, very slowly, started becoming less horrible. Lance even bought a Glade wall plug-in the get rid of the smell of whoever died in here before they moved in. Everything's coming together, really.

But the one thing Lance can’t get over is the fucking blankness of everything. No colors. No decorations. It’s madness. It must be what the inside of Keith’s head looks like.

In order to solve their problem, Lance went on a slightly concerning shopping bender and spent an asinine amount of money on cheesy prints and paintings that say things like “don't talk to me until I’ve had my coffee” and “Home is where the food is”. Keith, of course, almost vomited upon seeing them. But Lance doesn’t care, because it’s his apartment too. So he has some say in the matter, okay?

“How much did you pay for this?” Keith asks, like he’s afraid to hear the answer.

“If it’s my paycheck, it doesn’t concern you.” Lance says, still grinning. “Oh! I also bought some colorful rugs!”

“Rugs?” Keith wrinkles in nose. “It’s a carpeted apartment, Lance. The whole floor is a rug.”

“Uh, no . Snickers.” Lance digs through some of the Bed Bath & Beyond bags littered in the corner of the room until he finds the rug he’s looking for. “Our floor is hotbed for disease. It’s probably got bodily fluids from various different people so deeply ingrained in the fibers that we are inhaling toxic waste right now. We’ll most likely die at thirty.”

“And a rug will help us how ?”

Lance spreads out the dark red, shaggy rug and place it on the floor in front of him. “Ta-da! We’ll die in style , now!”

Keith looks at the rug. Then back up at Lance. “It’s red.” He says.

“Yeah!” Lance nods. “Good job, Keith!”

Keith frowns. “You hate red.” He says.

“Yeah. But you love red! And you hate rugs, and I love rugs! Compromise, Snickers. It’s a compromise.”

Keith hard, emotionless expression fades slowly. A pleased, happy smile spreads across his face. “That’s oddly sweet of you.”

“I try, I try.” Lance says, shrugging. He turns towards the bathroom. “How do you feel about a Finding Nemo shower curtain?” He asks, trying to sound like he hasn’t already bought one.

“I hate it.” Keith says.

“Oh, that’s going to be a problem.”

“You bought a Finding Nemo shower curtain? Are you serious?”

“It was on sale!” Lance defends. “And it’s so cute!”

“What the hell am I going to do with you?”

“It was a good investment.” Lance says. “And I’m going to put it up right now!”

“No you’re not .” Keith says, disbelieving. But Lance is already snatching up a target bag and sprinting into the bathroom.

“Lance! Wait ! Come on!” Lance hears Keith calling from behind him. And to his surprise, it’s followed by Keith’s laughter. “You’re not putting it up!”

“I am! We need a new curtain, Snickers! And it’s okay if this one gets wet! Nemo loves the water.”

Keith emerges into the bathroom, chuckling. “You somehow just managed to make it weirder than it already was.”

“Can you please try being supportive of my artistic decisions?” Lance jokes, standing on the ledge of the tub and snapping a few hooks onto the shower bar. “I’m thinking about the greater good of this establishment,”

“Oh my god. Dory is on there, too?” Keith asks incredulously, looking down at the picture on the package. “Ellen Degeneres is going to watch me shower?”

Lance giggles. “Kinky.”

“How old are you?”

“Twelve, I think.”

Keith sighs, shaking his head and climbing onto the toilet. He stands up at roughly the same height as Lance. “Okay. Fine. Let me help, at least. You look like you’re about to fall over.”

Lance gasps, looking down at him. “Oh my god! Really? Thanks, man!” He says excitedly. He tosses Keith a couple of hooks. “What a caring and artistically passionate roommate I have.”

“I need you to know I’m still 100% against this idea.” Keith deadpans. “In its entirety.”

Lance hums. “And yet you’re up here, anyway.” He says, sending Keith a smile and a wink. “Looks like I can be pretty damn convincing.”

 

xxx

 

Present Day

 

“Keith is leaving.”

Lance’s gaze shoots up from his scrambled eggs and falls onto a very angry looking Hunk, walking downstairs.

“What?” Olivia asks, from the seat beside Lance. “Leaving where? To get breakfast?”

“No. Like, he’s leaving . Apparently he just called an Uber. He’s waiting in the driveway.”

Lance is out of his chair in a heartbeat, standing up on alert. “ What ?”

“I couldn’t talk him out of it, but you should go try.” Hunk urges, and there is something very pleading in his eyes. There is something that he’s not saying.

“What did you do to him?” Lance snaps, seeing Hunk’s flat expression and suddenly feeling way too protective. “Did you say something?”

Hunk holds his hands up in surrender. “It was just a little argument!”

“What did you do ?” Lance repeats angirly, this time grabbing his shoes and shoving them on. “The fuck , man?”

“I didn’t think he’d leave .” Hunk responds earnestly. “It was just a stupid fight!”

Lance swears under his breath and bursts out the front door. His heart pounds as he books it out into the driveway. What the fuck ? Keith is leaving? Without telling anyone? If Hunk hurt him, Lance is going to throw a fucking fit .

When he gets to the top of the driveway, he sees Keith. A very pitiful Keith, with sagging shoulders and his face turned towards the floor. A packed suitcase sits at his feet. Lance’s legs are shaking from sprinting so fast. He takes an uneven breath, feeling bombarded with too many emotions at once. “Hey! Snickers!” He shouts, sounding much angrier than he intended to. Keith’s gaze snaps up and locks with his. His eyes widen with panic. Lance scoffs, jogging up to get closer to him. Keith just watches him as he approaches, not saying a word. Just staring.

Lance is panting when he’s finally in front of Keith. “Where are you going?” He asks between breaths. “What gives ? What did he do to you? Are you okay?”

Keith blinks at him with those wide, violet eyes.

“I, uh…” Keith speaks, voice cracking a little. “No, Hunk didn’t do anything...I’m not feeling too hot. Think I need to see a doctor or something.”

Lance raises an eyebrow. “What? You felt fine and hour ago. Look, if he said something--” He starts.

“It’s not Hunk.” Keith says again. Lance still doesn’t believe him. “I just don’t feel good. And I don’t want to ruin the weekend so...you should go back inside.”

Lance scowls, taking a step in closer to Keith. “Come on , Keith. You think I’m an idiot ?” He asks, lowering his voice. “I know what you’re doing. It’s what you always do. Your special brand of ‘dealing with your problems.” Lance says accusingly. “What could you possibly be trying to avoid right now?”

A million emotions flash across Keith’s gorgeous eyes. Lance can barely even catch one of them. Keith’s whole face looks like it’s an inch from crumbling to pieces. His eyebrows twitch like he’s trying to hold his blank expression. His jaw clenches and unclenches. “I’m sorry. I just really need to go home and rest.”

Why ?”

Keith shrugs. “I told you, I’m not feeling well.” He says, voice trembling.

“Hey…” Lance says softly, stepping in closer. “Keith, please tell me--”

Keith puts hand on his chest, stopping him. He frowns, shaking his head and looking away slightly. “I really want you to have fun this weekend.” Keith says. “Just stay, okay?”

“I’m not letting you leave without knowing why.” Lance says, a little too urgently. “What was the fight about? What happened?” He feels like he’s scrambling a little. “Why can’t you tell me what’s wrong? You tell me everything .”

Suddenly, Keith’s eyes turn glassy. It happens in a split second. Faster than Lance has ever seen it happen before. “That’s not true.” Keith says.

“What? Of course it is.” Lance replies, frowning. “There isn’t one thing about you that I don’t know. Hello? That’s how it’s always been. You can talk to me.”  

Keith just blinks at the ground. To Lance’s horror, a small tear streaks down his face.

Lance stares, completely dumbfounded. He’s only seen Keith cry two other times in his life . Both times happened in sophomore year and both times were under much, much different circumstances. “Keith, you’re freaking me out. Seriously, what’s going on ?”

The sound of a car engine rumbles in the distance, getting closer. Keith looks up at the road, and wipes a tear from underneath his eye. He sniffles a little, holding his shirt sleeve to his nose. Then he looks back at Lance, with bloodshot eyes and a pink nose. He still looks breathtaking, all things considering. His ink-black hair whips around his pale face as the breeze gets stronger. Lance’s heart feels like it’s folding in on itself, painfully and unnaturally. He doesn’t think he’s ever loved anyone more in his life.

“I followed you to Providence.” Keith says with a shaky voice.

The Uber pulls into the driveway.

“What?” Lance asks, barely processing what he just heard.

“I followed you to fucking Providence , Lance.” Keith says again, reaching down and extending the handlebar of his suitcase. “I applied to sixty jobs there. And nowhere else. I talked to my fucking academic advisor about it. And I followed you there. It wasn’t a coincidence. It was my choice.”

Lance’s heart climbs into his throat, suffocating him. “I’m--”

“So that’s one thing.” Keith says, and his voice sounds bitter all of a sudden. Empty. “That’s one thing you don’t know about me.” And just like that, he climbs into the car and slams the door. He looks up at Lance through the window with a pained expression on his face, and then looks away.

The engine roars. The car lurches in reverse. It backs out of the driveway. Lance watches as it speeds down the road, getting smaller and smaller and disappearing around the corner.

Lance stands in silence; stunned at how quickly the entire morning unraveled. His hands are trembling. His heartbeat is reeling. All of his nerve endings feel like they could be on fire. He doesn’t know what’s going on. He doesn’t know how to process what is happening.

“It wasn’t a coincidence. It was my choice.”

His chest aches in a brand new way.

 

xxx

 

Olivia’s voice rings in Keith’s ears as he watches the road zip by through the window.

“You keep pushing him away? Soon you’re going to be the one leaving him.”

He clenches his fists tightly in his lap. It was a good prediction. A solid one. Reasonable, and true, and logical.

Doesn’t make it any less shitty.




xxx

 

2 Years Ago

 

Keith gets home from work early and pours himself a cup of tea. His new job is a lot busier than he thought it was going to be, but he doesn’t hate it. He feels like he’s got what it takes to handle it, and seeing as he wasn’t even expecting to get a job in his field, he’s pretty thrilled. The pay isn’t half bad, either.

He usually wakes up earlier than Lance and gets back a little earlier, so when he hears shuffling coming from near Lance’s room, he pauses. He looks around the kitchen, but can’t seem to find Lance’s keys anywhere.

The shuffling continues, fast and frantic. Then a loud bang. Keith nearly jumps out of his skin. “Lance?” He calls, trying not to let his panic show.

The noise stops abruptly. “ Snickers ?” Lance whisper-yells. “Oh my god , you’re home . Thank God.”

Keith walks towards the direction of his voice and sees Lance crowded up against the entrance to the bathroom, back against the door. He looks like an absolute mess. There are giant combat boots on his feet, covered in mud; probably the one’s Keith borrowed from Shiro a few months ago. Lance is still in his pajamas. His worn out, light blue pants that he always wears are slightly torn right next to his hip. His oversized shirt is falling off one of his shoulders and his hair is a disheveled mess. There are dark bags sunken underneath his eyes and he is looking at Keith with what appears to be a manic look in his eyes. A substance that bears an uncanny resemblance to peanut butter is smeared all over Lance’s face, as well as his shirt. He is clutching a large salad bowl close to his chest. “Don’t go in there!” He shouts, clutching the bowl closer. “Don’t ever use the bathroom again!”

Keith raises an eyebrow. “What are you--? Have you been here all day?”

“I couldn't take a shower this morning so I called in sick! I can’t go to work without brushing my teeth!” Lance exclaims, sounding a little insane.

“What is going on ?” Keith asks, stepping forward and placing his hand on the door handle. Lance lets out an unholy shriek and tackles him to the floor.
“Jesus fuck , Lance! What the hell?” Keith struggles to get up but Lance climbs over him, holding him down. He grabs Keith by the chin and glares at him. Keith can smell the peanut butter now. Then in a low, quiet voice, Lance goes, “Listen to me. It can hear us .”

What can hear us?” Keith growls, frustratedly.

“The fucking spider , Snickers. It can hear us.

Keith groans. Lance makes a noise of protest when Keith finally pushes him off. “A spider ? Are you serious , Lance?”

“It’s not just a spider! It’s a fucking mutant!” Lance’s voice cracks. “It’s an alien! It’s going to crawl into my ear, and lay eggs in my brain! I’ll be eaten alive from the inside out, slowly and painfully over a period of decades! It has a plan .”

Keith blinks at him. “It’s a fucking spider, Lance.”

“A huge spider! It’s as big as your face! And it’s all hairy!”

Keith sighs, long and slow. “ Okay . Alright. Well, we can’t just never go in our bathroom again.”

“We’re making money now! We can have a new one made.”

“We’re not building a new bathroom because of a spider .” Keith says sternly. The he pushes past Lance and walks towards the bathroom. “Let’s just see what we’re dealing with here.”

“Don’t you dare open the door!” Lance shrieks. “Keith! Keith , no!”

Keith rolls his eyes and cracks the door open and glances around the small room. There is peanut butter smeared all over the floor. “What’s up with the peanut butter?” He asks.

“WikiHow said that peanut butter can trap spiders if they try to crawl over it!” Lance screams. “And it hasn’t tried to crawl over it !”

Keith blinks down at it, very confused. Then he looks back up. It doesn’t take him very long to spot the thing, and when he does, he physically recoils , gasping. “ Shit .” He whispers.

This spider is enormous . It is currently stationed in the upper right-hand corner of the shower, virtually unreachable unless Keith stands on something. Not to mention, this thing looks closer in size to a chipmunk than it does to any kind of bug. Keith immediately shuts the door. “Fucking shit.”

Right ? How did it get in here?” Lance screams, voice shrill. “Did it walk through the fucking front door?” He huddles himself behind Keith, using him as a human shield.

“We’ve gotta get it out somehow. Without squashing it.” Keith sighs, rubbing his hands down his face.

“I am not going anywhere near that thing!” Lance retorts.

“We gotta try , Lance.”

“Let’s call Shiro.”

No , we’re adults. We gotta do this ourselves.”

Fuck you.” Lance spits, clearly very stressed.

Keith sighs defeatedly, reaching down and grabbing the salad bowl from Lance’s hands. “Okay...we can swat it down with a broom. And then when it falls, we trap it under this thing.”

Lance blinks owlishly at him. “Are you insane ?”

“You got a better idea?” Keith snaps back.

Lance groans frustratedly. “ Fine , and then what?”

Keith looks around at their surroundings. “We’ll just...slip a cutting board or something underneath it. Carry it outside and let it go.”

Lance still looks like he’s on the verge of a panic attack, but he nods slowly. “...Okay.”

“Okay? You good?”

Lance swallows. “Yeah...I’m good.”

“Okay.” Keith says gently. “Now let’s do this.”

 

x

 

After what is the most stressful twenty-two minutes of Keith’s life, they have the spider trapped underneath the bowl. The cutting board has been successfully inserted where it needs to be. Lance and Keith collapse against the nearest wall, sliding down until they are both on the floor.

“Fuck me.” Keith says, exasperated. “I feel like I just aged twenty years.”

“We still have to get rid of it.” Lance responds quietly.

They both stare at the bowl, unmoving.

“I think I can hear it.” Lance whispers.
“I think you need to get out of this apartment before you lose your mind.”

Keith hears a thud as Lance’s head falls back against the wall. “What a day.” He says.

Then Keith is chuckling, a little hysterically, before he can stop himself. “I can’t believe you skipped work .” Lance hums in annoyance and swats at his shoulder.

A comfortable silence falls over them, calm and settling. For a moment, Keith actually thinks Lance might have fallen asleep. But then he takes a deep breath, and turns slightly to face Keith. “I don’t know how the fuck we both ended up in Providence...” He says, laughing. “But holy shit , I’m glad you’re here.”

Keith laughs a little nervously, trying to forget that he knows full well how he ended up here. “I’m glad to be here. Otherwise, you would’ve died.”

That is a fact.”

They both laugh quietly as the exhaustion takes hold. The bowl remains on the floor, unmoving. After a while, Lance sighs, pointing his chin in it’s direction. “Shall we?”

Keith groans, rubbing his eyes. “Yeah.” He says. “Guess so.”

 

xxx

 

Present Day


It only takes Lance seven minutes to realize that he needs to follow Keith.

He charges into the house and completely bypasses the kitchen. He ignores Hunk, asking what happened. He ignores Pidge, who just woke up and grunts groggily at him. He dashes up the stairs, heart about to explode, and bursts into his room. He doesn’t even bother to fold his clothes. He doesn’t dry his toothbrush. He starts stuffing miscellaneous objects into his suitcase that don’t even belong there, because his brain is scrambled and his head is pounding and everything around him just brings him back to Keith’s stupidly sad face. His stupid pink nose, rubbed raw. His red rimmed eyes. Fuck , Lance still doesn't know what happened. He still doesn’t know what’s wrong. But he is not letting it go. He is not letting Keith go.

Keith may not feel the same way; may never feel the same way. But it doesn’t matter. It is what it is, and Lance refuses to lose him. He loses every single person he ever starts to care about, but this time it’s the most important person. And he isn’t going to let Keith slip through his fingers like everybody else managed to.

“I take it he’s gone?”

Lance jumps like he’s been shocked and whirls around, seeing Olivia leaning against the doorframe. Guilt knots itself up, tight and unforgiving in Lance’s stomach and he nods. “He fucking left.” Lance says, shrugging and trying to play it off. “Said he...doesn’t feel well.”

Olivia wrinkles her nose, looking confused. “That seems very unlike him.”

Lance scoffs. “On the contrary. Keith is a master at becoming an emotionally unavailable prick whenever it’s convenient for him.” He says, voice cold. “He’s pulled stunts like this before. Just not...to this degree.”

“Do you think he’s going home?” Olivia asks.

Lance swallows. “Not likely. Too much of a chance that he’ll run into someone he knows there.” Lance looks down at his messy pile of clothes. “He’s the most impulsive person I know. Probably got a flight to India or something. Won’t be…” Lance sighs shakily. “Probably won’t be back home for a while. But I... god . He’s such a gigantic pain in my ass .” Lance finds himself saying angrily. “Why does he do this? Sometimes I honestly think he’s still ten years old.”

Silence falls over the room, for a moment. The words hang in the air a little uncomfortably. Then Olivia clears his throat. “And you are...going home too?” She asks, eyeing Lances bag.

Lance looks up and meets her gaze, suddenly faltering. “I...don’t know.” He says, taking a few clear steps backwards and realizing that he is about to leave his girlfriend in a different state with two people she barely knows. “It doesn’t make sense for me to. I mean, I’m not going to cut my vacation short because he’s being a mopey asshole somewhere. I couldn't care less.”

Oh man, he could care less. He could care a lot less. He cares so much that he feels physically nauseous. And it’s probably all over his face, now. It’s probably so obvious.

Olivia sighs, twirling a long piece of hair around her finger and picking at the ends of it. “Yeah, it would make sense for you to stay.” She says. “But...it’s understandable if you want to check on him. Being in love with someone makes you have this like, inherent need to make sure they’re okay.”

Lance hums, picturing Keith’s glassy eyes. “Yeah, you’re right about that.” He answers back, not really thinking. The words just fall out. Then he pauses, heart stuttering to a complete stop in his chest. He looks up frantically at Olivia, who is smirking at him. “Wait. W-wait , shit--”

“Too late Lance. You already admitted it.”

Lance blanches. “ Shit , Olivia. No , I’m… It’s not--

“It is .” She says, sighing. “It definitely is.” Her expression softens, just enough for all the wind to be knocked from Lance’s lungs. “And it’s kind of a shame, too. Because are really cute. And I really do like you.” Then she takes a few steps into the room, closer to Lance. “To be honest, I was kind of hoping you’d tell me I was wrong.” She says, a little sadly.

“Oh my god.” Lance muffles into his hands, which are now covering his face. “Oh my god I’m so sorry.” He mumbles brokenly.

He wants to put his head through a wall. How could he be such an idiot ? Just admitting it like that? Without even warning her first? This is not how it was supposed to happen. “I don’t know what the fuck is going on.” He says, a little hoarsely, before he can think to say anything else. He hates how desperate he sounds. “I just...the feeling wasn’t there. It wasn’t. And then it... was .”

She nods, reaching forward and busying herself with his clothes. He waits for her to fight him about it. To start crying. To do anything , really. But her sad expression just kind of sits there, stagnant, on her face. She starts neatly folding one of his worn out, old gym shirts that he sleeps in. “So... now what?” She asks.

Lance snorts bitterly, deflating as he sits on the edge of the bed. “Well...I’m guessing you break up with me.”

Olivia pauses and gives him an unamused look. “You know what I mean.”

“What?”

“What are you going to do about Keith , Lance.”

Lance frowns, completely thrown off guard. “Keith has a boyfriend . What is this, a romantic comedy from the nineties? I’m not going to do anything.”

“Do you know why he left?” She asks.

“No, but I’m pretty sure it has something to do with Hunk.” Lance says lowly, anger stirring dangerously in his chest.

Olivia takes a breath, like she’s preparing herself to give a lecture. “ Uh ...Actually...Lance--”

Loud footsteps on the stairs interrupt her. They get louder and louder and then suddenly Hunk is in the room, looking around at all the piles of random objects littering the floor. “What is going on? Jesus , not again.” He mumbles. Then he looks up at Lance. “Oh shit. You leaving now, too?”

Lance stands up, feeling even more irritated at the comment. “ Yes , I am. It’s not my fault you ran Keith out of the fucking house.” He snaps, scowl deepening on his face.

Hunk blinks at him, like he genuinely doesn’t know what Lance is talking about, which makes Lance even angrier. “What?”

“I wonder why Keith left!” Oh man, Lance is feeling it now. He’s pissed. “Maybe we should ask the last person he talked to .”

“Are you serious , man?” Hunk asks, sounding exasperated.

“What did you do to him?”

Nothing .”

“You had to have done something ! I swear to god if you hurt him--”

“He wanted to leave, okay? It had nothing to do with me. Did he tell you it was me?” Hunk asks, sounding very confused.

“He said it wasn’t, but he always lies when he’s pissed.” Lance says lowly, crossing his arms. “I don’t believe him.”

Hunk sighs. “Look, I think you just need to talk to him, alright? Not me.”

Or you could just admit you fucked up.” Lance spits.

“I didn’t.”

“You hurt him and he booked it. Just fucking tell the truth!”

“I didn’t hurt him.”

“You did!”

“ I didn’t! I would never hurt Keith!” Hunk shouts, finally starting to pick up on the mood of the argument.

Hunk ,” Olivia says calmly, trying to settle him down. “Maybe you should tell--”

“He left crying !’ Lance interrupts, jealousy and protectiveness stirring together in a very unpleasant way, somewhere deep in his gut. “Because of you !”

“It wasn’t me.”

“Yes it was!”

“Oh my god , Lance. We aren’t even dating !” Hunk yells, waving his hands wildly around his head. “Okay? We are not together ! So it couldn’t have been me!”

“Ah- hah !” Lance shouts, pointing accusingly. “So you broke up with him!”

“No! We were never dating! It was a fluke, alright ?”

Silence.

Complete silence.

The tension in the room sits like bricks on Lance’s shoulders. The air stops moving. One second becomes two. Two becomes three.

And then a high pitched ringing, filling Lance’s ears. Static, white noise. He blinks, lowering his hand. He blinks again. Hunk’s chest rises and falls, reeling from the shouting. Lance’s arms fall to his sides, floppy and useless.

“What?” He squeaks.

Hunk visibly swallows. “We...lied.” He says. “It was just...for fun.”

“Oh boy.” Olivia says under her breath, but Lance ignores her.

“You what ?” He manages to choke out again, voice small.

“Don’t make me say it again, man.” Hunk says sadly, expression falling slightly. “I know you heard me.”

Lance stares blankly over his shoulder, trying to process what the fuck he just heard. He doesn’t look away from a small hole in the wall behind Hunk, where a thumbtack used to be. “You were faking it?” He asks, a little blankly.

“...yeah.”

“Does Keith know that?” Lance asks angrily. “Because he really likes you--”

“Keith knew.” Hunk says, swallowing again and nodding. “He was...in on it.”

“In on it?” Lance scoffs, turning around frantically and running a hand through his hair. “ In on it?

“Look, Lance--”

“It’s been two months .”

“I know that.”

“Why would you lie to me? Do you know what you put me through?” He didn’t mean to say the last part. Shit, he didn’t mean to admit that. But he can’t seem to find any semblance of self control and his mouth is processing his feelings much, much faster than the rational parts of his brain.

Hunk is looking at the floor now, scratching the back of his neck nervously. “Look, you just...you have to hear the whole story--”

Fuck you, man.” Lance says, shaking his head furiously. And he can hear how much he’s overreacting. He can hear how crazy he sounds. But he doesn’t want to hear a fucking explanation. He doesn't want to know why his best friend for fifteen fucking years would lie about liking someone. About dating someone. Did he really think Lance was that stupid? Did he really think it would just be something fun to do, to prank him because he’s so fucking gullible? What was he going to do when Lance found out? Just laugh? Just say, “ Hah! Gotcha! It was a joke the whole time! See Hunk? Told you he’d fall for it.”

Why would Keith do something like this? And why was Hunk a part of it?

Lance pushes past both of them and storms out of the room, feeling like everything around him is spectacularly crumbling to pieces. This is not how the weekend was supposed to go. He was not supposed to ever fall in love with Keith. None of this was supposed to happen. It’s all his fault, and yet he still feels bad for himself. Tears fill his eyes and he hears Hunk calling after him. He hears Olivia trying to calm him down, telling him to just let Lance go.

Oh god, Olivia. What a mess. What a fucking mess.

What a fucking mess.

Just like that, he doesn’t want to go find Keith anymore. He doesn’t want to go back to that apartment, and just sit there by himself while Keith’s room is busy not being lived in. He doesn’t know where he wants to go, but he knows the fury boiling in his chest and he knows he needs to get away from this. At least until he gets his head on straight. So for now, he just keeps walking until he’s on the shore, breathing in the fresh lake air and trying to calm his angry heartbeat.

 

x

 

x

 

x

 

xxx

 

2 Days Later

 

Keith watches the condensation drip down the side of his glass. It’s been doing that for an hour now. There’s no way the drink is still cold. He sighs. Why the fuck did he order beer? He doesn’t even like beer.

There are fewer things more depressing than sitting at a bar with only three bar stools, in a shitty Motel 7 right next to the highway. It’s even more depressing when you are alone, and may or may not have just decided to let go of someone you love. He is the literal personification of a bad cliche.

At this point, Keith doesn’t even know what he’s upset about. Now that he’s had time to cool down and actually think, he can’t really place a solid reason for why he did what he did. And he’s not sure if that makes it better or worse. Because on one hand, he is hyper aware of the gaping, Lance-shaped hole in his heart where a significant amount of his happiness used to be. But on the other hand, he is shocked with himself, because he actually just got into an Uber and left almost every single person he cares about in order to sit at a shit-hole motel bar in the middle of bumfuck nowhere Michigan and drink warm, stale beer.

“Blueberry pie?” An unfamiliar voice says from somewhere in front of him. Keith looks up and sees the bartender, or waitress, for that matter, raises a bored eyebrow at him and holding out a plate. She’s short and chubby, probably in her late fifties. Keith furrows his brow.

“Huh?” He glances at the plate and studies the piece of pie sitting on the surface of it. It’s covered in large sugar crystals and glistening with buttery crust. “I didn’t order pie.”

“Nah.” She says, smiling. “But you look like y’need it.”

Keith frowns at it, confused. The waitress sighs. “Look, kid. My mother made it. I brought it today for someone's birthday and there was a piece left over. You want it or not?”

Keith purses his lips at her, and then sighs. “Yes.” He says begrudgingly. He takes the pie. “Thanks.”

“What got you all pissy, anyway? You shouldn’t be staying in a dump like this.” She says, picking up his beer glass and wiping down the counter underneath it.

“Nothing.”

She hums. “Ah, I see.” She says sarcastically.

Keith scowls even further. “It’s none of your business.” He says.

She holds her hands up in surrender. “Alright, alright . My bad for wanting to start a conversation.”

“This isn’t an afterschool sitcom. You can’t just get me to talk about my problems like some...sad, lonely guy at a bar.”

She sighs tiredly. “Yeah, yeah. Whatever.”

Keith leans back slightly, picking up his fork and stuffing a bite of pie into his mouth. It’s actually really fucking incredible. Or maybe he’s just starving. Suddenly, he feels guilty for snapping. “Sorry.” He mumbles, mouth full. “Shitty couple of days.”

“I can tell.”

Keith sniffs. “Might’ve really fucked things up with someone.”

She grunts, reaching over to wipe down the corner. “Someone who?”

Keith takes another bite. “Someone I love. A lot.”

She hums, dropping the towel and starting to stack a few glasses. “We’ve all been there.”

“No, but like... really screwed it up. Repeatedly. For months.”

“Again.” She says. “We’ve all been there.”

Keith pokes at a blueberry. “Not really sure what to do right now.” He admits, honestly. “I feel like I’ve already lost him.”

She snorts. “Oh, honey.” She says condescendingly. “Trust me, if it were that easy to lose people, the world would be a much simpler place.”

Keith puts his fork down. “How so?”

“Well, you guys fought, right? Or somethin’ of the sort.” She pauses, wiping her forehead, and then leans forward to support herself on the bar. “He probably shouted stuff, or you shouted stuff. Or you stormed out. Or he stormed out.” She counts the options out on her fingers as she says them.

Keith crosses his arms. “Yeah? So?”

“The world would be so much easier if fighting with someone, or lying to someone, meant that you were done with each other. But it’s never quite like that.”

“And what makes you think that?” Keith snaps, disbelieving.

The bartender laughs. It comes out like a bit of an unattractive snort. “Kid, half the reason people do that is because they give a shit. ” She shrugs, wiping her hands on her dishtowel.

“Not always.” Keith counters.

“No. But in the terms of ‘sad, lonely men’ in my bar? Always.”

Keith feels his frown softening, despite his better judgement.

“When people start givin’ a shit, everything starts to get messy.” She says pointedly. “And that’s just how it is.”

Keith falters, put off by the rawness of her answer. He looks down at his pie, which is messy ; smeared blueberry syrup and crumbled, soggy crust. Messy , but still pretty fucking delicious.

And that’s just how it is.



xxx

 

Despite how angry Lance is at Keith, the apartment sucks more than it ever has before because Keith’s not in it.

Lance promised himself he wouldn’t come home. He knew that Keith wouldn’t be here. But after the whirlwind that consisted of trying to get Olivia a flight back (so she wouldn’t have to ride eleven hours in a car with a perfect stranger), trying to get out of the cabin and avoiding conversations with Pidge or Hunk on the way out, and finding an Uber who was willing to drive them an unnecessarily long way to the airport, Lance was so exhausted that by the time he and Olivia made it to the airport, the only idea he could stomach was just going home and sleeping in his own bed.

And now it’s been almost four days and he hasn’t heard a word from Keith. He hasn’t spoken to Hunk or Pidge. Of course he hasn’t spoken to Olivia, because he fucked that up colossally. Shiro even called him this morning, asking what Keith was up to, completely oblivious. Lance lied and said Keith was sick in bed. He doesn’t even know why he lied. Four days doesn’t seem like a long time, but the heaviness in Lance’s chest has made it feel like a fucking eternity.

The apartment is getting messy. It makes Lance realize that Keith is usually the one who cleans. Not that he cares, because he’s so crazy pissed at Keith that it hurts to think about him. It also hurts  because he misses him, but he doesn’t want to tell himself that.

He picks up his phone and dials Keith’s number. He doesn’t want to talk to Keith, but he dials it anyway. It’s just what his fingers are used to doing when there is a phone around. It’s muscle memory.

Just like the twelve other times Lance has called, it goes straight to voicemail. Lance actually snarls when he hears Keith stupid, monotone voicemail greeting. “Hey, it’s Keith. Lemme know why you called. Okay... bye.” He curls his hands into fists and waits for the beep.

Hey , Keith.” He bites into the phone. “What should I choose? Laptop, doorknob, or curry chicken? Oh wait, don’t even bother! Because they’re all the same!” Lance laughs bitterly. “For me to punch you in the fucking face! Asswipe !”

He slams the phone down onto the couch in a spectacle that may be a little too dramatic. Okay, so that wasn’t his finest moment. He’s had better moments in his life, collectively. And maybe he already regrets it.

He dials Keith’s number again. Waits for the beep.

“Look, okay fine, that last one was a little mean. But I’m still pissed at you. And maybe I do want to punch you. But I shouldn’t have told you, I mean that’s not cool. Ya know?” He pauses. “Oh, wanna know what else is not cool? Lying about your boyfriend! And then leaving and not telling me where you are ! Fucking shithead !”

Well, second attempt at reconciliation clearly failed.

Lance sighs, stuffing his face into the smelly futon as tears burn in his eyes. God, he feels crazy. It’s only been three days, but he feels crazy. Keith makes him crazy. Why does it have to hurt so much? How do all of these people write songs about being in love, and make it sound so wonderful? So fulfilling? Lance has never felt more empty. Love is a trick. It’s a fucking joke . It’s--

His phone vibrates and he nearly jumps out of his skin.

Snickers Kogane .

His heartbeat quickens. Should he answer? Should he? He’s mad at Keith. Furious . But…

He grabs the phone, hands shaking.

“Hello?” He squeaks.

Lance .” Keith’s gravelly voice carries over the phone line, low raspy and comforting, like a bowl of hot soup on a cold day. “I’m alive, alright? You can stop with the phone calls.” He sounds hollow. Like a watered down version of himself.

“What phone calls? I haven’t been calling you.” Lance lies frantically. “I’m mad at you.”

“Never would’ve guessed.”

Static noise fills Lance’s ear, indicating Keith’s silence. It remains that way for more than a comfortable amount of time. The sound alone is enough to have tears welling in his eyes again. He wants to keep yelling. He wants to ask Keith a million questions. To tear him a new one. To scream at him for lying and to ask him why all of this is happening .

But all he finds himself asking is, “Where are you?” His voice trembles and he hates himself for it.

He hears Keith sigh, long and sad. Then the line goes dead.

“W-what?” Lance sputters, looking at the “Call Ended” screen in absolute horror. “Are you kidding me?” He shrieks at no one. “Fucking asshole !”

He wants to chuck his phone across the room but decides against it. He groans frustratedly, grabbing at his hair.

And then when his anger fades, even just for a moment, he hears Keith’s voice in his head.

“I followed you to Providence.”

Lance looks down at his hands. Almost like the universe is laughing at him, he absurdly feels heat in his cheeks. He’s fucking blushing . Like despite everything, the idea of Keith doing that for him makes his heart all bubbly, like a thirteen year old with a fucking crush.

“I followed you to Providence.”

Lance sighs shakily.

Please come back home.