"I mentioned Lance was also going to be here this week, right?"
Keith rolled his eyes and continued to stare out the window from the back seat of Shiro's car, forced to give up shotgun to Matt when they'd stopped to pick up the Holt siblings earlier for this trip up into the mountains.
"You waited to tell him until we were literally parking the car in front of this middle of nowhere cabin?" Pidge asked, honest to goodness awe in her voice. "I didn't know you were capable of that sort of deviousness, Shiro."
"I'm sure it's not that big a deal," Matt said, twisting in the front seat to glance at Keith as if to weigh the honesty in his own words. "They only wanted to kill each other a little bit when they met over the summer, right?"
"Which was months ago," Shiro added as he put the car into park and turned with a warning look aimed at Keith, despite Keith's determination to not look at any of them. "I'm sure they've both matured immensely since then, and will do their best not to ruin fall break for the rest of us."
Keith sighed and pushed open his door without responding. But he froze before shutting it when he glanced up at the cabin's front porch and spotted Lance.
Lance, who went to the same university as Shiro, Matt, and now even Pidge. Lance who Keith had met over the summer because Shiro — who had been home for the summer and therefore had had a front row seat to Keith's pathetic social life — had dragged Keith out for a day with his friends. Lance whose striking good looks had been accentuated by the boardwalk lights and sea breeze that day. Lance with his stupidly bright blue eyes and easy smiles.
Lance who had bickered and argued with him the entire day the group had spent on the beach.
"Right, Keith?" Shiro had stepped out of the car as well and pulled Keith from his thoughts of that summer day by tossing the loaded question over the roof of the car.
Keith's eyes locked onto Lance's then, and he watched Lance stop in his own tracks and return the gaze so intensely that Keith felt his heart start to beat faster.
"I'm sure you'll agree that a stare-down is a great start, Shiro!" Pidge said cheerfully as she slammed her door shut, and once again Keith's attention was pulled away from Lance as he scowled and finally shut his own door.
"Ah, found them!" Allura announced from where she stood on the porch with Lance, Hunk, and Shay. She jingled the keys that had been trying to hide in the bottom of her enormous shoulder bag as she beamed at the rest of the group.
"Whose cabin is this, anyway?" Keith asked. He'd already pulled his bag from the trunk, but was stalling as Shiro and Matt were still working on retrieving theirs.
"It belongs to Allura and Lance's Uncle Coran," Pidge threw over her shoulder as she headed to the now vacant front porch. "I wasn't thrilled when Matt said we were spending fall break out here in the middle of, well, this —" Keith watched her gesture to the endless trees and mountains surrounding them. "But then he said we'd be staying in Coran's cabin."
She shot a mischievous grin back at Keith, who was finally moving in the direction of the cabin after a minor shoulder shove from Shiro.
"Okay, fine," he finally said when it was clear she was waiting for him to bite. "What's so cool about this cabin?"
With Shiro and Matt constantly hanging out — cause they were good friends, Keith, just good friends, Shiro insisted — Keith and Pidge had spent enough time together to form a pretty solid friendship as well. She was like the annoying little sister he'd never known he needed. Being around Pidge led to equal amounts of amusement and irritation when she went into tech talk, as well as a fondness that led to a fierce protectiveness towards the little shits who had picked on her back in high school last year.
Those kids had only ever done that once, especially after Keith — who had been away at his own college at the time — had driven the three hours home (missing a day of his own classes), and then posted himself outside of Pidge's classroom so that he could have a discussion with the offenders.
And he'd managed the discussion without making anyone bleed, without getting caught by the school officials, and without Pidge knowing he'd even been there. He was pretty sure Matt and Shiro had their suspicions, but nothing could be proven.
"I'm glad you asked!" Pidge dropped her suitcase just inside the door and grabbed Keith's hand, forcing him to abandon his own bag before he was dragged away from the front entrance, which led directly into a large kitchen where Lance, Allura, Hunk, and Shay were currently located, and straight back to a large living room which featured floor to ceiling windows along the entire back wall of the cabin.
"Whoa," Keith breathed out when he caught sight of the view — an expanse of rolling trees, thanks to the mountain, all decorated in autumn colors, giving them an eyeful of reds, oranges, and yellows as far as he could see.
"Keith, please, you've seen trees before," Pidge said with a roll of her eyes as she nudged her shoulder into his own and forced him to turn away from the windows. "This is what I'm talking about."
"Right?" Pidge said happily as she sighed happily up at the largest television screen Keith had ever seen. "And he's got —" she pulled open a couple of the drawers under the screen and Keith glanced in at the different game systems and games lining the insides.
"Not that we're spending the entire week in this room playing video games," Matt stated as he plopped down on one of the couches behind them.
"Of course not," Pidge said with a flip of her hand and a grin before opening another drawer. "Its October, we've got to watch some scary movies as well!"
Matt grinned back at her in response, and Keith watched as Matt's face softened when Shiro entered the room and took a seat next to him.
Like, sixteen other seating options in this room, but sure, Shiro, go for the one right next to your friend.
Keith sighed and sent a flat look to Pidge. Pidge sent him a small grin in return. Keith had twenty bucks riding on Shiro and Matt leaving this cabin as boyfriends by the end of the week. Pidge thought otherwise.
While Pidge began to cheerfully dig through the games, Keith sent a few subtle glances back towards the kitchen. Allura was on her cell phone on one side of the center island, maneuvering back and forth to dodge Lance's grabby hands as he leaned his long body — good Lord that boy was still all long limbs — across the wide island in an attempt to grab the phone from her.
"Fine, here!" Allura said with a laugh as she finally relinquished the phone to Lance.
"Uncle Coran, your closest neighbors are like 500 miles from here!" Keith could hear Lance say dramatically into the phone. There was a moment of silence before he spoke again. "I just don't get how it's a neighborhood decorating contest when no one will see it?"
Keith glanced over at Hunk and Shay while Lance continued to listen to whatever his uncle was saying. Their group had brought a large cooler and Hunk was currently filling their fridge and freezer as he unpacked it, while Shay had found a blender in one of the cabinets and was happily plugging it in.
"I'm on it, you can totally trust me," Lance was saying into the phone when Keith turned his attention back to him. And for some reason, the way Lance's lips were pulled into a smirk told Keith that the last thing Lance's uncle should do was trust him.
Lance straightened from where he'd been leaning on the island. "O-kay!" he announced as he straddled the line between the kitchen and the living room and drew everyone's attention to him. "So, Uncle Coran's one condition on letting us stay here all week was that he expects us to decorate the cabin's front porch for some neighborhood fall decorating contest." Lance offered a shrug before tossing Allura's phone back to her.
"Wait," Hunk spoke up, turning away from whatever he was adding to the blender, "fall decorations or Halloween decorations?"
Keith watched another mischievous smirk pull at Lance's lips, and the way it lit up his face made Keith turn away and force himself to focus on the game Pidge was setting up. He'd settled on the floor, with his back leaned up against one of the free couches, and Pidge quickly dove onto the couch behind him.
"When he says fall decorating contest, he probably doesn't mean like skeletons or ghosts, right?" Hunk continued. "Cause, I mean, I can handle like a wreath made of fall colors. In fact, I'll even stick around and work on it while you guys head to the haunted house!"
"You promised, Hunk!" Lance exclaimed, his voice suddenly much closer than Keith was expecting as he realized Lance was taking a seat next to him on the floor and motioning to Pidge to hand over a controller as he continued to call out to his friend. "You're not backing out on me this year!"
Hunk's only reply was to pout in Lance's direction while simultaneously putting the lid on the blender and turning it on.
Then Keith's vision was filled with bright blue eyes as Lance leaned into his space with an elbow and grin.
"Keith, what are your thoughts on haunted houses? I think my best friend is about to wimp out on me again."
"Depends on what kind of experience you want to have," Shiro piped in.
"Like, do I want to laugh my ass off as he shrieks and tries to cling to me through the whole thing, oooor…?"
"Or do you want to walk through with someone who will point out every jump scare right before it happens?" Shiro finished for Lance.
"I call dibs on walking through with Keith!" Hunk called from the kitchen.
Shay giggled and wrapped an arm around Hunk's waist. "Just stick with me, Hunk. I'll get you through the scary parts."
"Aww, babe." Hunk leaned down to meet Shay's lips for a kiss.
Keith glanced over at Lance and found him staring flatly at his friends in the kitchen. "I said the same thing to you, Hunk!"
"Yeah, but you weren't this cute when you said it." Hunk managed to respond while still nuzzling his face into Shay's hair.
An outraged squeak escaped the boy next to him and at this point Keith couldn't keep his eyes off Lance if he tried. Long arms waved in protest as Lance continued to yell out at Hunk. "Excuse you, I am always that cute! Keith, tell him!"
"Do not drag me into this."
"Pretty sure he's the last one who'll defend you, Lance," Pidge said with a smirk.
Lance flopped back down on his spot on the floor, and Keith wondered if he noticed that his knee was now digging into Keith's thigh.
"I'm feeling attacked," Lance muttered.
But he didn't say anything else as he joined in on the race that Pidge had set up. Keith realized quickly that Lance leaned and twisted in his seat in a mimic of what his racecar was doing, which resulted in his pointy elbows poking Keith a few times. Which led to Keith elbowing him back. Which led to a slight shoving war. Which also led to loud sighs from Shiro's direction.
When Pidge had both of them beat, Keith tossed the controller down and stretched his arms above his head. Hunk and Shay had made drinks for everyone and he took a moment to sip his before he pushed himself to his feet.
"I'm going to put my suitcase in my room," he said.
"I'll show you which one it is," Lance announced.
And Keith figured that made sense, since Lance and Allura were probably the technical hosts this week. Keith grabbed his bag and waited for Lance to do the same before he followed him upstairs.
"So, uh, since my best buddy has been stolen away into boyfriend land, no offense to Shay, and obviously Shiro and Matt want to room together, you know, cause they're such good friends, that just leaves two rooms, which, uh, means that either you and I room together, or we're each stuck essentially rooming with our sisters. I mean, I know Pidge isn't technically your sister, but the way she talks about you makes me think she thinks of you as a brother. But anyway —" Lance cut himself off as he pushed open a door at the end of the hallway.
Keith followed him into a room that housed two double beds and windows that were as equally impressive as the ones lining the family room downstairs. He pushed the door shut behind him and watched Lance toss his own bag on the floor near a dresser before turning to face Keith somewhat nervously.
"You're not saying anything and I can't tell with your broody face if sharing is okay or not," Lance continued with a sigh.
Keith dropped his own bag on the floor and took the four or five steps required to reach Lance. And thankfully, Lance seemed to be on the same page because as soon as he was close enough, Lance's hands went to his waist to pull him, as Keith's arms went around Lance's neck to do the same. Their mouths met, both equally insistent to not waste another second by not kissing.
One of Keith's hands moved up to card through Lance's hair, and when he was rewarded with a soft noise from Lance's throat, he pressed himself closer to Lance with a soft noise of his own.
Lance dropped his forehead to Keith's when they broke the kiss, and he sent him a small grin.
"Hi," Lance whispered.
"You been okay?" Keith asked.
Lance nodded. "You?"
Keith shrugged. He wasn't about to say that he himself had been doing okay, although a single hour in Lance's company had already cheered him up considerably.
"Shiro mentioned that he might drag you out here with us," Lance continued to whisper as his fingers snuck up the back of Keith's shirt, leading Keith to shiver against him.
He and Lance hadn't swapped numbers or any other way to keep in contact after that day on the boardwalk, so he'd been left with the memories of soft lips and roaming hands as they'd exchanged secret kisses in a dark corner of some boardwalk arcade. He and Lance hadn't had any further privacy that night, and exchanged only a few meaningful glances before they'd all separated to go home.
And Keith may have complained a few times about getting dragged along with his big brother and his brother's friends on this cabin trip to get a rise out of Shiro, but he'd known the answer was yes the second Shiro invited him.
"Were you hoping I'd come?"
"I am hoping you'll come, yes," Lance whispered in his ear as his flattened one of his large hands against Keith's back, pulling him even closer to him.
Keith dropped his arms off of Lance so that they hung at his sides and sent Lance a flat look.
Lance only giggled — outright giggled — and nuzzled his face into Keith's neck. And Keith, well, he was obviously weak for this boy, because he fought a smile and allowed his hands to find their place back on Lance's arms.
"Dammit, you still smell good," Lance whispered. "I was kinda hoping that was, like, a side effect of the ocean or something that day."
"Why were you hoping that?" Keith murmured.
Lance sighed against him, sending his breath against Keith's neck and a spark down his spine.
"Well, I didn't think your ridiculously handsome face was gonna change, so I was hoping you'd, like, I don't know, smell bad or something. Force me to keep my hands off you."
Keith once again pulled his hands off of Lance and jerked his head back, doing his best to force Lance out of his hiding spot so he could see his face. Presumably the loss of Keith's hands captured his attention, because Lance lifted his head to meet his gaze.
"I'm sorry," Keith tried not to stumble over the words. "I just, I just kissed you without thinking that maybe you wouldn't want a repeat of —"
Lance leaned forward and kissed him, eyes squeezing shut and fingers pressing harder against the skin of Keith's back.
"Pretty sure we kissed each other," Lance finally whispered a moment later. "But before we got here, I just wasn't sure if you'd still be into kissing me. Cause maybe you'd already forgotten all about it, or wanted to forget all about it?"
Up until that moment, Keith had been okay with not having a way to reach Lance after that day on the boardwalk. He knew he could've asked Shiro or Matt or Pidge for Lance's number, even though it would've meant answering questions about why he wanted it. And honestly, Lance could've done the same. But Keith's life was …in a weird state of limbo that didn't currently have space for a cute boy who could irritate him and kiss the breath out of him all in the span of five minutes. He'd told himself Lance was better off not dealing with his personal shit, and had just thought of that day as a bright spot in the span of many dark months.
But facing Lance now, and seeing the uncertainly in Lance's face, as he realized Lance has thought maybe he wasn't worth remembering? That was unacceptable.
"I've been thinking about kissing you since Shiro mentioned this trip," Keith responded, his lips brushing against Lance's as he spoke.
"Yeah? Good," Lance said with a quick relief-filled smile before he pressed their lips together again.
"So, these really don't scare you?"
Although the two of them had ridden in separate cars on the way to the haunted house, Lance sidled up next to him the moment they all reconvened in the parking lot.
Keith lifted one shoulder in a shrug as they followed the others to the ticket booths. "I mean, it's hard to be scared when you can pick out where each guy is about to appear next. And some of the costumes are ridiculous."
"But part of the fun is to pretend," Lance argued back.
"And most of it is just not realistic enough to be scary," Keith continued. "I mean, you know it's not really a guy with a chainsaw coming after you at the end, right?"
Keith fought a smile. If he couldn't be kissing Lance right now, then riling him up was just as fun, especially if Lance was going to say his name like that.
"Well, if this doesn't do it, then I'm gonna have to work to get a scare out of you this week."
"I really don't think —"
"Halloween!" Lance stated, as if that explained it all.
Then Lance's attention was taken away as he patted a very nervous looking Hunk's shoulder a few times as they moved through the line to purchase their tickets. So Keith turned to Shiro to quietly ask if was going to protect Matt through the haunted house, a sentence he didn't even get to finish before Shiro was shoving him out of the line.
"Hey, Keith, thanks for letting Lance cling to you," Shiro said as they pulled out of the haunted house parking lot. "I know you don't really know him, but he's a good kid, and —"
"Shiro?" Keith asked from his spot in the backseat.
Shiro cut himself off for a moment before deciding to continue. "I just know you don't normally like people hanging on you, or whatever, and Lance is obviously a pretty physical person, so —"
"So it was real nice of you not to punch him or push him away," Matt finished for him as twisted in his seat with a grin. "Good pep talk," he directed at Shiro.
"Thanks, dads," Keith replied in the most sarcastic tone he could pull off as Shiro and Matt high-fived each other. He shared an eye roll with Pidge before she turned back to her phone.
He thought about telling them that he didn't need a pep talk to be nice to Lance. In fact, that was the first haunted house experience he'd actually enjoyed. And it had everything to do with the fact that Lance had started out by sticking close to him, which evolved into fisting the back of Keith's shirt, before grabbing his elbow, and eventually pressing himself into Keith's entire side.
But as he watched the two front seat idiots joke back and forth about kids these days and how Keith was growing up so fast, he decided it would be more fun not to tell them about his great desire to spend the week kissing Lance's face.
"Listen, Keith, real talk, okay?" Shiro said as he shot Keith a look in the rearview mirror, "I think you and Lance could get along really well if you tried. Alright?"
"I don't know, Shiro," Keith replied in a flat voice. "Sounds like you're asking an awful lot of me."
"Are you seriously going to be okay rooming with Keith this week?" Hunk asked from where he was cuddled up against Shay in the backseat of Allura's car.
Lance twisted in the shotgun seat to raise an eyebrow at Hunk's tone. "Well, it's either Keith, Pidge, or my sister." He jerked a thumb in Allura's direction while she stuck her tongue out at him. "Besides, under that broody exterior is probably a pretty cool dude."
Then he grinned to himself, because he'd kept his kisses with Keith a secret last summer, something private to pull up when he was feeling crappy or stressed. But if he was going to be spending an entire week with Keith, it would likely become pretty obvious that he enjoyed kissing him.
"Yeah, we can all see that you think he seems like a cool dude," Allura murmured.
Lance frowned over at her, not that she noticed as she kept her eyes on the dark, winding mountain road, before he glanced back at Hunk, who had on his sorry-but-I-agree-with-your-sister expression.
"What? You guys got all huffy with me that day last summer for picking on Shiro's little brother, and now I'm not allowed to think he's cool?"
"We're not saying that, Lance," Allura said. "But…" she glanced into the rearview mirror towards Hunk.
"You tend to…." Hunk scratched his cheek thoughtfully with one finger, "well, you tend to fall pretty hard, pretty fast. And since Keith is Shiro's little brother —"
"Plus, we don't even know when we'll see him again after this week," Allura interjected.
"— so, this could get a little messy, and we're all just a little…."
"Worried," Shay finished for them as Allura pulled into the cabin's driveway.
Lance twisted in his seat so he could face front again. Shiro's car was already parked in the driveway, and he watched as Keith climbed out of the backseat. Keith was nearly as tall as him, with a little tiny waist, and long, black hair that framed his pretty face and those big expressive eyes, and —
And, yeah, those were the same thoughts he'd had when he'd first been introduced to Keith a few months ago. And yeah, the others might have a point. But he was allowed to think someone was attractive, right? And kiss their face as long as it was consensual. And Keith seemed plenty into kissing his face in return, so, really, what was the problem here?
He climbed out of Allura's car after she parked and watched as Keith turned to meet his eyes over the car's hood. Then a small, half smile was being aimed directly at him before Keith rubbed the back of his neck and turned shyly away to follow Shiro into the cabin.
Lance's cheeks warmed, and he was thankful for the darkness to hide it from his friend as Hunk patted him on the back.
"I'm not saying don't get along with him this week, cause I'm sure Shiro would like it if you two made it through the week without fighting." Hunk's voice was low, even though Keith, and nearly everyone else, was already inside. "I'm just worried about what your expectations might be by the end of it."
"You're a good friend, Hunk," Lance said with a pat back to his friend's shoulders before he took off for the front door.
Hunk moved slower than Lance as he walked around the front of the car where Shay was waiting with a hand out. He laced their fingers together and gave her a small shrug.
"I have a feeling we'll have a mess to clean up by the end of this week."
"Have a little faith," Shay said as they walked towards the front porch together. "Cause I have a feeling they'll be fine."
Lance had gone straight up to their bedroom when they'd returned to the cabin, and after making apologies to Pidge, the only person trying to stay up late and watch a horror flick, Keith managed to get upstairs and into their room as well.
The bathroom door was shut, but Lance reentered their room a few moments later, right as Keith was in the middle of getting changed, catching Keith in only a pair of boxer briefs and in the middle of pulling off his sweater. Lance visibly stuttered at the sight — with widened eyes and a mouth that opened and shut a few times — before dropping himself face first on one of the beds.
That left Keith, at least, to privately ogle Lance in his pajamas, a t-shirt and boxers that showed off those long legs Keith remembered from last summer. He jerked his eyes away and finished pulling his sweater off as Lance shifted in order to get under the covers. Then he rolled to his back and folded his hands behind his head as he returned his gaze to Keith again.
"So, you work out, huh?" Lance was doing his best to sound bored, but Keith didn't miss the way Lance's eyes were currently trailing over him.
"Well," Keith said with a shrug. "I have a lot of free time."
"Why is that?" Lance asked. "I mean, uh, Shiro said you used to go to college but that you dropped out? He didn't really say anything more about it, or anything about what you do now?"
"Now I go to the gym a lot," Keith muttered, not wanting to spoil his time with Lance with the story of his failed college attempt. He turned his back to Lance and bent over purposefully as he dug through his suitcase for a sleep shirt.
"Oh my god."
Lance's voice was suddenly hoarse, and Keith forced his mouth not to grin as he peeked behind him and found Lance gaping at his bent form. He straightened when he found his shirt and pulled it over his head before turning back to Lance.
"You say something?" he asked as he walked over to stand next to the bed Lance was currently sprawled across.
Lance quickly shook his head.
"Your face is a little red. Is it too warm in here for you?"
Lance's eyes narrowed and he grabbed Keith's wrist in order to pull him onto the bed and under the blankets with him.
"Jackass," Lance muttered. But it didn't stop him from wrapping a long leg around Keith's hip in order to pull him in close. And he didn't hesitate to run his fingers right up the front of Keith's shirt in order to trail his fingertips over the muscles he'd just been admiring.
And once again, Keith found he didn't mind the touching. Everything with Lance seemed easy and comfortable and somehow familiar. He ran his own fingers through Lance's hair before letting his hand slide down his neck and across his broad shoulders.
"So, Shiro suggested on the way back here that I try to be nice to you this week, cause he thinks we'd get along great."
Lance snorted as he glanced down at the way their bodies were currently tangled around each other.
"And I thought it'd be fun not to mention that we seem to do fine when we're alone."
"So, you don't want to tell him —" Lance cut himself off before he could say the words about us, because there wasn't really an us. A few kisses and now some bedsharing didn't make them an actual couple.
"I mean, we can if you want to," Keith said. "I just thought it'd be funny."
Lance nodded slowly, the conversation he'd had in the car ride back with the others — about him always falling too hard too fast — echoing in head. Maybe keeping this between just the two of them would be best.
"Yeah, actually, it would be funny."
Keith's eyes traveled across Lance's face. Lance was nodding in agreement, but his smile wasn't reaching his eyes, leading Keith to wonder what he was really thinking.
"It really doesn't have to be a secret," Keith insisted.
But Lance only shifted himself down a few inches so he could press his lips to Keith's neck, and Keith let himself fall into Lance's distraction.
Rays of sun beaming into their bedroom window and directly onto Keith's face woke him the next morning. While Lance, with his back to the windows and his face buried in Keith's neck, since he'd fallen asleep while still making Keith squirm as he moved his mouth across the skin there, was spared from the brightness. It was nice, Keith decided, to wake up to someone warm tucked against him. He'd never slept in the same bed with someone before, and instead of feeling cramped or suffocated, as he'd previously imagined, he felt comfortable. And safe.
Comfy and safe or not, he needed to use the restroom. So, he slowly edged his way out of Lance's arms, and even gave the other boy a pillow to hug instead, grabbed a few things from his suitcase, and then crept into their attached bathroom.
And when he reemerged a few moments later in his running clothes, he froze in the bathroom doorway when he found Lance sitting on the edge of the bed tying up his own running shoes. Lance raised his head to say good morning and seemed to freeze for a moment as well when he caught sight of how Keith was dressed. But then a smile spread across his face as he stood.
"Give me a second," Lance said, his voice still full of sleep as he kissed Keith's cheek and then side-stepped him to enter the bathroom.
As the bathroom door shut behind him, Keith moved to pull his own running shoes from his bag. He was laced up by the time Lance rejoined him, and then paused at the bedroom door as he watched Lance muss up the bedding of the room's second bed. They shared a small grin at the deception, before they silently moved downstairs. Keith quietly closed the front door behind them, catching a quick glimpse of a sleeping Pidge out on one of the sofas of the back room.
They did a few stretches in comfortable silence on the front porch before Lance led the way down the stairs and over to a trail in the woods.
"I love the chance to run on a trail when we come out to Uncle Coran's cabin," Lance said. "Do you do a lot of trail running?"
Keith shook his head, but since he was currently behind Lance, he also opened his mouth to respond. "No, never. It's mainly sidewalks where I live or the treadmill at the gym when the weather sucks."
Lance shot him a cheeky grin over his shoulder. "So I get to be here for your first time, huh?"
Keith swung an arm out to swipe at him and Lance only laughed as he took off down the trail, leaving Keith no choice but to take off in a run after him. The mountain air was fairly cool, something Keith barely noticed as he was forced to keep his attention on the trail so he didn't trip over anything, while also trying to keep his eyes off Lance's ass in front of him. Surely, this was punishment for teasing Lance with his own ass the night before…
He and Shiro sometimes went running together, and Keith found this to be just as comfortable as those occasions. Lance sometimes pointed out something interesting, but mostly they were both quiet as they ran, leaving them to listen to their deep breathing and the sounds of their feet hitting the ground.
According to Keith's watch, they'd gone about two miles, steadily uphill, when they stopped at a creek that cut through their path. Lance leaned down to stick his fingers in the water and then promptly flicked some droplets in Keith's direction. Keith shoved him slightly and lifted the front of his shirt to dry off his face.
"Water's freezing," Keith muttered, before choosing to respond to the strangled noise Lance made over his exposed stomach with only a smirk.
Lance rubbed his hand over his running shorts to dry it and turned away from Keith with a small scowl. "Yeah, well, the water comes from the higher elevation where it's even colder. But it's the perfect temperature to swim in during the spring and summer."
"You came here a lot growing up?"
Lance nodded, but instead of expanding on the topic, he simply reached over and tugged lightly on Keith's ponytail. "This isn't playing fair."
Keith lifted his hand, but his typical instinct to swat someone's hand away from his hair faltered and he linked their hands together instead. And it just didn't take much more than that for the air between them to shift from two guys out for a morning jog to two guys who were kissing each other senseless as their hands roamed to further explore new favorite spots.
"Your shorts aren't playing fair," Keith murmured against Lance's lips, and then watched as Lance's face seemed to darken even moreso than the flush caused by their run. It was cute, he decided, that Lance could be so easily surprised or flustered by a compliment. Then, purely to prove his point, he let his hand slide down from Lance's waist to squeeze some of the flesh he'd been staring at for the entirely of their run.
The squeeze pulled Lance closer to him, and Lance didn't seem to care as he eagerly slid himself against Keith with a low groan. Keith needed no further encouragement to squeeze again, and then reveled in the next groan from Lance.
"Hey, Keith?" Lance whispered as his hands suddenly stilled on Keith's waist. Keith hummed in response before Lance continued. "Fastest one gets dibs on the first shower."
Then he took off, leaving Keith to catch himself since he'd been leaning heavily on Lance just a moment before.
He stood panting for a moment, the return to reality a hard crash, before yelling out a, "Lance!" and chasing after the long-limbed boy.
The amount of shoving and yelping that went on between the two of them as they fought their way up the cabin's front porch steps and practically fell through the front door would've woken the entire house, had the rest of its occupants not already been congregated in the kitchen sipping on coffees, while Hunk cheerfully whistled over the breakfast he was cooking.
"I won!" Lance cheered as he let his hands fall to his knees and bent at the waist to try to avoid hyperventilation.
"No, no way," Keith panted next to him, his own arms crossed around the back of his head as he tried to catch his breath. His morning runs were typically just about waking his body up. He never really pushed himself this hard, especially over such an uneven and root-covered terrain. They were both lucky they hadn't twisted their ankles.
"It's too early for this, guys," Shiro said with a half-glare in their direction.
"First one through the door gets the shower first," Lance insisted to their friends. "Who was first though? Shay? Come on, you wont play favorites."
"You're going to let Keith shower first, because he's the guest, you terrible host," Allura stated plainly, wagging a finger in her little brother's direction.
"Sounds like I won," Keith murmured before he took off for the stairs before Lance could argue.
When Keith left the bathroom, showered and fully dressed, he found Lance back in the room, holding two mugs as he sipped from one and stared out the windows overlooking the trees. And as Keith went to stand next to him, Lance wordlessly handed him the second mug. Keith took a small sip before turning back to Lance.
"Did Shiro make this?"
"No, I did."
"How'd you know how I like my coffee?" he asked, because that whiff of cinnamon couldn't be a coincidence.
"I asked Shiro."
Keith only hummed in response to that, and did his best to hide a small, pleased smile behind the rim of his mug.
"I'm gonna shower now, too," Lance said, moving to his suitcase. He began tossing clothes out of his bag and onto the spare bed. "Sounds like we're going down to town to some fall festival."
Keith nodded and then moved into Lance's space. He watched Lance side-eye his approach, but Lance didn't make a move towards the bathroom, only allowed Keith to sidle up next to him. Keith leaned his face towards Lance, looking for all intents like he was about to kiss him. But then he ducked his face and whispered into Lance's ear, "You have a leaf in your hair." He pulled the leaf free and showed it to Lance before dropping it on the bed and leaving before Lance could react.
Lance let himself exhale again as soon as Keith was gone from the room. He thought about how he'd cut off their kiss in the woods, and chuckled at Keith's teasing response. But he'd had to stop that kiss. With Keith all flushed, and his damn hair in that ponytail, and those roaming fingers, and that ass grab. Holy shit, any further and he'd have actually begun grinding himself against Keith.
He picked up the bright red leaf and ran his fingers over it, the color somehow reminding him of Keith. Then he pulled his wallet and stuck the leaf inside to sit among his cash.
"I'm pretty sure that thing is for kids," Shiro attempted to say as everyone else raced up the side of the large bouncy pillow and began to jump. He still didn't kick off his shoes to join them, but he did smile as he watched Matt bounce his way over to Pidge and try to knock her off balance.
"You know, I bet I'm naturally going higher cause I'm so much taller than you," Lance said to Keith as they jumped. Keith's hair was flying in the air with every jump and it was… as unfair as the ponytail, to be honest. Apparently, Lance was screwed no matter what Keith's hair was doing.
"Pretty sure height has nothing to do with it," Keith responded as he worked to put more emphasis into his jumps to go higher than Lance.
"That's enough, I'm out," Hunk said, interrupting their contest as he attempted to walk slowly over the constantly moving pillow towards an edge so he could slide down. "My stomach is not made for this."
"Oh, Hunk! Do you want me to —"
"Nope, you have fun," Hunk tossed over his shoulder to Shay, who watched him with sympathy until he was down on the unmoving ground with Shiro, before she grinned back at Allura and began jumping with her again.
Since Hunk's interruption had left Keith distracted, Lance decided to take the opportunity to knock Keith off balance. He threw his weight down into the pillow for the next jump, and aimed to land directly next to Keith. Unfortunately, he wasn't expecting Keith to twist around and face him at the last minute. And he wasn't expecting Keith to grab his arm as he landed. And as Keith lost his balance and began to go over the side of the pillow, he definitely wasn't expecting to be dragged down the whole way with him.
They rolled together until they hit the sand, with Keith landing harshly on top of Lance, not that he was about to complain, especially with Keith's face tucked into his neck. Lance let his head fall back and openly laughed, relishing in the fact that although Keith was silent, Lance could feel him laughing as well.
"Jerk," Lance wheezed as he nudged his face into the side of Keith's head.
"You!" It was the only word Keith managed as he finally lifted his head to grin down at Lance.
"Keith and Lance." Shiro's exasperated voice reached them from the other side of the large bouncy pillow, and Keith reluctantly rolled off of Lance before Shiro came into view after circling the area. "Considering we're in public, could you two please try to get along out here?"
Lance pushed himself to his feet and offered a hand to Keith, which the other accepted while humor swirled in those purple eyes. Then Lance sent his best smile in Shiro's direction. "Sure thing, Shiro." Then, in an over-dramatic gesture, he wrapped an arm around Keith's shoulders and pulled him close. "Consider us best buddies already."
Shiro raised an eyebrow at Keith, clearly expecting a similar appeasing answer from him as well, and Keith snuck a hand up the back of Lance's shirt and let his fingers dance over Lance's side, enough to cause him to jerk.
"Still sounds like a lot of work, but okay," Keith finally said.
"Thanks," Shiro said, looking honestly relieved. "I think you'll see we'll all have more fun if you two aren't fighting."
"You got it, Shiro," Lance said with a salute. Keith tickled him again, and Lance was forced to wait for Shiro to turn away from them before his hands were on the move, digging into Keith's sides to try to tickle him back.
But Keith didn't even flinch, merely stared flatly back at Lance, although there was a hint of amusement in his expression.
"You're going down," Lance whispered harshly to him, still trying to find a sensitive spot on Keith's sides.
Keith grabbed both his hands and cuffed them in front of him with a smirk. "I believe I won the jumping contest, so I'm pretty sure you're the one going down."
Lance's eyes widened as the world's biggest smirk pulled at his lips. Keith, however, seemed to realize exactly what he'd just implied, and dropped Lance's hands before he began scurrying up the side of the pillow.
Lance caught up to him easily, though, and nudged him enough as they climbed to get Keith to openly grin at him before shoving his shoulder, which sent Lance toppling down the side again. He sat at the bottom and laughed for a moment until Keith slid down next to him and pulled him to stand again. His face was still adorably pink and he wasn't meeting Lance's eyes. All of which was making it so very hard for Lance not to fall for this boy.
They finally rejoined the group at the top and bounced until their legs began to ache, forcing them off to find something new to explore.
The weather was gorgeous, with a cool breeze that made Lance glad for the sweater he'd worn. The streets of the town were all decorated with fall colors and Hunk pointed out that they should be taking notes for ideas for the cabin's front porch. They grabbed lunch from a food stand and Lance ended up sitting on the curb next to Keith as they ate. He stole kettle corn from Keith's bag until Keith finally handed the bag over to him.
They ended up in a street fair full of games and Lance lit up and dragged the group over to watch him win a small stuffed hippo as he used a small BB gun to hit multiple moving targets. He grinned at everyone when he was finished, but told himself that Keith definitely looked impressed.
"What game do you want to try, Keith?"
"Didn't you see what his specialty was back at that arcade last summer?" Matt asked as they walked down the sidewalk.
Um, no. No he did not. He'd only pulled Keith into that arcade because it was the first place on the boardwalk that looked like it had dark corners and he'd desperately needed to kiss this boy at the time.
His eyes met Keith's briefly before they both looked away. Keith was chewing on his bottom lip, but Lance was pretty sure it was in an effort not to grin. Either way, when neither of them answered Matt's question, Shiro spoke up.
"Keith is good at… hitting things," Shiro said with a grin.
"Makes me jealous, really," Matt added.
"Why?" Lance asked, even though he could already tell that Shiro and Matt were setting up for a well-rehearsed joke, reinforced by the fact that Keith was already glaring at both of them.
"No! Matt, no!" Keith yanked on Lance's arm in an attempt to drag him away, and Lance was laughing before Matt even opened his mouth.
"Cause he gets to walk around and say, 'I'd hit that'," Matt said, so unphased by Keith's outburst that he still managed to say the line with the tone of a man who was deeply jealous.
Shiro snickered, Keith hissed out a "Traitor" in his direction, and Lance completely lost it as he bent at the waist, his entire body shaking with his laughter. When he stood upright again his arm went right around Keith's shoulders and he pulled the pouting boy in close, while his free hand wiped away actual wetness from his eyes.
"Now I'm jealous, too," Lance managed to say through his laughter.
"I hate all of you," Keith said, crossing his arms over his chest and glaring at the three of them.
But Lance didn't fail to notice the way Keith wasn't pushing his arm off. Or the way Keith was leaning into his side.
Lance let his chuckles die down enough to allow him to whisper as he leaned in close to Keith's ear. "I need to see you in action." And since he had Keith pulled in close to his side, he felt Keith's body shiver against him, and heard the sharp exhale through his nose.
He smiled when Keith met his eyes then, not the big, flirty grins he usually wore, but a small, private smile just for Keith. He watched Keith consider him for a moment before he allowed an equally small and private smile to pull at his own lips in response. Then Lance's arm sadly dropped off Keith's shoulders as they moved to follow Shiro and Matt, neither of whom seemed to notice the moment Keith and Lance had just shared as they were busy laughing together ahead of them.
Next they let Allura herd them up on a hay ride that would lead them to a pumpkin patch. He sat between Hunk and Keith on the hay ride and twisted himself around a few times in order to take as many selfies as he could manage to get everyone in at least one.
And if he managed to get a picture of just him and Keith only, well that was just because Keith was right beside him. And if he linked his pinky with Keith's on the ride, no one was the wiser with their hands hidden in the hay.
The "pumpkin patch" turned out to be a small field with pumpkins tossed across its grass, but Keith watched Lance happily flit from one pumpkin to the next in his search for the perfect one. And compared to the cardboard box at the grocery store where he usually pumpkin shopped, Keith had to admit this place had a nice feel to it.
Not that he was teasing Lance for being picky. He was actually pretty choosy himself when it came to finding the perfect pumpkin to carve. He and Shiro always carved pumpkins together, with the exception of last year when they'd been away at their separate colleges. But it was something they usually did every year on Keith's birthday, and was typically Keith's favorite part.
In fact, he was one of the last ones to make a decision, leaving only Shiro and Matt behind, the two of them arguing over the merits of a tall pumpkin versus a short pumpkin — honestly Keith wondered if they could hear themselves argue like an old married couple — as he climbed back up into the hay and sat next to Lance again.
"What are you arguing about?" he asked, interrupting an apparently heated discussion between Lance and Hunk.
"Is it fo-lage or foil-age?" Lance asked, the deep concentration on his face too cute to be fair when he and his best friend were arguing over the pronunciation of a word.
"Fol-i-age?" Hunk added.
"What do you think, Keith?"
"I think you're both pronouncing leaves" — despite his purposefully dry tone, he still put heavy emphasis on the L sound at the beginning of the word, as if that was the articulation issue — "incorrectly."
Hunk threw his head back with his laughter, and Keith actually smiled at the sight. He glanced at Lance next and while Lance had released a quick laugh initially, he now sat smiling fondly at Keith.
Keith's own grin grew softer as he smiled back.
Keith sat on an island stool in the middle of the busy kitchen. They'd spread out newspapers across the island, as well as a spot on the floor, and the group was scattered about gutting their pumpkins so they could carve them. He'd been going through the motions of emptying his own pumpkin, but stalled as he glanced around at everyone else.
His brother had found himself a good group of friends, and Keith realized he'd never asked how they'd all connected with each other. But Keith was happy for his brother, and Matt and Pidge as well, to have such a group.
It reminded him, though, that he was a guest here in this group this week, and that he did not have such a group. That the group he'd been a part of at his own college had been …not what he'd been expecting.
Plus, he couldn't get that hayride smile from Lance to stop playing in a constant loop in his head. He was having more fun than he'd imagined here this week. More fun than he'd had in practically a year. And while the rest of Shiro's group had been nothing but friendly to him all week, he knew the happiness he had going on all came back to Lance.
He glanced over to where Lance was perched on another island stool. His tongue stuck out adorably between his lips as he concentrated on whatever pattern he was drawing on the front of his pumpkin.
He wanted to keep Lance. But, Lance would go back to his normal college life soon, and Keith didn't really think he needed someone like Keith around to drag him down.
So what was Keith doing with him this week? He didn't think he was the sort of person to toy with someone else. But, it wasn't like he and Lance were dating. Or had talked at all about what they were doing this week. So, it seemed like Lance was okay with all this as it was. Plus, they already had a track record of kissing last summer and then not speaking during those few months before this trip. Maybe that was a routine Lance would be comfortable with? Meaning maybe the next time Keith saw Lance would include Keith waiting around to see if Shiro invited him along to anything his group did over winter break?
That thought hurt more than Keith was expecting.
"Hey," Shiro said, nudging his shoulder and peering at him in a way that told Keith he wasn't hiding his inner turmoil from his older brother. "You're sure you're okay with this? Carving today, I mean?"
Keith glanced around, hoping no one else was paying attention, but noticed that Lance's head had already popped up in their direction.
"What's wrong with today?" Lance asked.
"Nothing," Keith said, shooting a small glare up at Shiro who responded with a questioning look of his own, clearly unsure why Keith wouldn't want to share.
"Do you two usually wait to carve on Halloween or something?" Allura asked from her own island stool.
Keith glanced down at Matt and Pidge, who were both seated on the floor. They both had their eyes pinned on Keith, and he was relieved that they were at least not jumping in right now.
But Hunk was eyeing him with his head tilted and his eyes narrowed. "No, wait, Shiro said something last year when we all carved pumpkins."
"Keith!" Lance actually sprung from his seat, practically knocking the stool over as he stood. "Your birthday! Shiro said you two always carve on your birthday!"
Keith slowly turned his head to stare at Shiro. Shiro merely grinned and shrugged in response.
"What? It's true," Shiro said innocently.
"When's your birthday?" Lance asked.
"No, I don't — I don't want to make a big deal out of it." He wasn't even supposed to be here. This was their fall break trip.
"Cough — its tomorrow — cough," Matt said.
Shiro laughed fondly from his spot by Keith and not for the first time that day, Keith felt like killing both of them.
"Alright, lets pack it up," Lance said, already putting the lid back on his pumpkin and scooping up the newspaper covered in pumpkin guts from the island.
And, to Keith's horror, everyone else immediately began doing the same. Without question.
"No, wait, stop," Keith attempted. "We already started?"
"Sorry, Keith," Shay said, putting the lid back on his pumpkin. "Birthdays are a pretty big deal in this group, and we don't mess with tradition." She patted him on the back and then carried his pumpkin off to the back porch to join the others while Keith was left to sit gaping after them.
Lance was the first to return inside and he headed for the fridge to pull a bottle of water. He glanced out the back windows where he could see everyone else on the deck before turning his full attention on Keith.
"Were you going to tell me about your birthday?" he asked quietly.
Keith glanced at the deck as well before answering. "I'm already having a good time this week, Lance. It's not a big deal."
Lance eyed for him a minute, but he began speaking just as the back door opened. "We're gonna do something fun tomorrow."
On the morning of his birthday, the sun woke Keith once again. He found Lance huddled into his side, smartly hiding his face in Keith's shoulder and away from the sun, likely a learned behavior if Lance came here often growing up.
After putting away their pumpkins — some half-carved — last night, they'd all eaten dinner and then settled on the couches to watch Pidge's pick, a horror flick that had Keith chuckling a few times at the absurdity. Of course, it also had Lance leaning into him in the darkened room, pressing further and further into Keith's side with every jump from fright. Keith's favorite part of the movie night was probably when he'd covered Lance's hand with his own and ran his thumb over Lance's knuckles, resulting in a soft sigh from Lance.
Everyone went to bed after the movie, including making sure Pidge went upstairs to a real bed this time. And as Keith had pulled his sleeping shirt out of his bag, the small stuffed hippo Lance had won earlier that day fell out as well. He'd turned towards the bathroom where he could hear Lance humming as he brushed his teeth before focusing on the toy again. It was blue, a pretty close match to Lance's eyes if he was being honest, and his favorite color if he was being really honest. It was also his favorite animal, a fact he was pretty sure Lance did not know, no matter how big a mouth Shiro had.
And now it was his. Because Lance won it and Lance wanted him to have it.
When he'd come out of the bathroom last night, Keith had tackled him onto the bed and kissed him until Lance had laughed and forced him to shift enough to allow them to get under the blankets. Then he'd retangled their legs together and kissed him some more.
Now this morning he glanced down and found one of Lance's hands fisted in his shirt, maybe to hold Keith in place as they slept. As if Keith wanted to go anywhere. In fact, the best birthday present might just be staying here all day with Lance cuddled next to him. Or beneath him. Or on top of him. He really wasn't picky as long as Lance was —
A noise outside the door had him jumping out of bed, startling Lance awake as the other boy jerked himself into an immediate upright position and swore at Keith.
"What?" Lance asked, eyes still wide in shock from the rude wake up as he watched Keith dive under the blankets of the other bed.
Keith merely pointed aggressively at Lance's pillow and Lance continued to stare in shock until their bedroom door actually began to swing open. Then he dropped his head back to his pillow with a speed that Keith found frankly impressive.
"Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday to Ke-eith. Happy birthday to you."
"Shiro," Keith grumbled as he flipped to his back and faced not only his brother, but Matt, Pidge, Hunk, Shay, and Allura all grinning at him while Shiro held out a tray in offering. So, he sat up and allowed Shiro to set the tray — covered in strawberry pancakes — in his lap. He rubbed at his eyes, even though he hadn't exactly just woken up, and said a sincere thank you.
Then they all filed out to allow him to eat his breakfast, and Keith let his gaze slide over to Lance, who at some point had sat himself upright again. He looked sleep rumpled and soft and —
He sent him an apologetic look. "Sorry about that."
Half of Lance's mouth quirked up in a grin before he shook his head and stretched his arms over his head. "I honestly should've seen that coming with this group."
"Come over here?"
Another small grin from Lance before he shifted off their original bed and climbed into the second next to Keith, who lifted the tray enough that the blanket could be shifted over Lance's legs as well. Then Lance let his head fall to Keith's shoulder as he yawned.
"Happy birthday, Keith."
"Thanks, Lance." He lifted a forkful of pancake in Lance's direction and smiled as Lance hummed happily as he accepted the offer.
"You've got to be mcfluffing kidding me."
"Did you make that word up?"
"I was sure you were an intricate pattern pumpkin carver," Lance said, eyeing the simple pumpkin face Keith had carved. "Or even, like, one of those guys who can shave a design on the side of a pumpkin?"
Keith laughed at that, the sound actually drawing the attention of Shiro and Pidge from where they were currently sitting on the front porch, and shook his head.
"Keith doesn't believe in getting all crazy when the original pumpkin face works just fine," Shiro said, clearly quoting past Keith.
Keith shrugged in agreement as he set his pumpkin on one of the front porch steps next to some of the others.
"Did you carve a pumpkin last year on your birthday, Keith?" Shay asked.
And it was an innocent question, but Lance watched Keith visibly shrink in front them, something he seemed to do any time anyone had a question for him that involved his freshman year of college.
"Hey, Keith!" Lance waited till Keith turned towards him before throwing a huge pile of leaves in his face.
"Lance!" Keith growled before scooping up a pile of leaves himself and chasing after him as he sprinted away. Keith caught him and dumped leaves over him as well, before they grinned at each other and took off to throw leaves at everyone else.
And by the time they were finished, Keith seemed to have completely forgotten Shay's question, as well as whatever dark thoughts it had prompted. He watched Keith shake his head — like a mcfluffing puppy — to get the leaf bits out of his hair. Then he nudged Hunk and told him to get his camera ready, before sliding up behind Keith and holding two leaves up behind his head.
"What are you doing?" Keith asked.
"I wanted to see if you could pull off leaf ears," Lance murmured. "Smile at Hunk."
"What? No!" Keith said, but Lance was off of him two seconds later to scoot to Hunk's side and coo over the picture.
Once everyone's pumpkins were lining the front steps, they piled into their cars, with Lance offering Pidge the shotgun seat in Allura's car before climbing into the back of Shiro's with Keith.
And whether Keith complained or not, Lance was sure he enjoyed having the restaurant wait staff and a few surrounding tables sing Happy birthday to him. Though, it did earn him a few grumpy scowls from Keith afterwards, and Keith refused to share any of the complimentary slice of birthday cake their waiter brought him.
Unfortunately, when they left the restaurant, Lance was pulled off by Allura to help her buy decorations for Coran's front porch, and he was left sadly glancing behind him as Keith was led in the other direction down the sidewalk by the rest of the group.
"Here," Pidge said, handing Keith an envelope as they walked through town.
"Hmmm." Keith shook the envelope. "I thought we said no presents this year?"
"Just open it," Pidge said, unphased by his frown. They were trailing behind the others, letting Hunk lead since he'd heard about a nearby candy shop where you could actually watch them pull taffy.
Keith slid open the envelope and pulled out what looked like a handmade coupon. He shot a questioning look at Pidge.
She shrugged. "It's a get out of jail free card," she said. "I know you did something with those kids who were teasing me last year. And I'd like to repay the favor if you ever need it."
"Who said I did anything?" Keith asked, fighting with the corner of his mouth that wanted to pull into a smirk.
"No one did," she said with an eyeroll.
"Thanks, Pidge," Keith said. "Though, I know I can count on you for stuff. I probably don't need a coupon."
"Keith, please," Pidge said with a wave of her hand. "I don't have time to bail you out of every fiasco."
He grinned at her again, but didn't call her out on the obvious lie.
"You've been smiling a lot this week," Shiro said, falling into step beside him. "I'm glad you've been comfortable with this group. The group I hang out with at college."
"Shiro, maybe your birthday present to me could be not bugging me about transferring to your college?"
"Wow, easy and inexpensive. Sold."
"Do you think he did that on purpose?" Keith asked Pidge as Shiro took a few extra long steps to catch back up to Matt.
They finally reached the old fashioned candy shop Hunk had been looking for, and collectively stared into the front window display where a man pulled and looped taffy over and over. It was pretty mesmerizing and Keith let his mind wander and, not surprisingly, think about Lance.
He wasn't sure what this week meant to Lance. But Keith didn't really feel like Lance was just fooling around with him. Of course, Keith wasn't sure what this week meant to himself, either. And he could hardly go asking Lance when he wouldn't have an answer in return.
Personally, he knew he wasn't in the best place in his life to be starting a real relationship, at least not the kind of relationship that Lance would deserve. But…he also knew that he didn't feel like such a disaster of a person when he was with Lance. Lance teased and competed with him, but he also listened when Keith spoke, and touched Keith with a softness that Keith wanted to melt into. Keith realized he was beginning to feel more like his old self with Lance beside him.
He wasn't sure, though, that those feelings made what they were doing okay. They'd be separating in a few days, driving away in separate cars, as Shiro would make a quick stop to drop Keith at home before he drove himself, Matt, and Pidge back to their university. And, for the first time in months, Keith wished that he had somewhere important to go as well. He wished he had a purpose again. Something to be proud of.
Wished he had something to offer that Lance would be impressed with.
It was practically dark when they arrived back at the cabin that night, and while Matt and Pidge argued over which movie to watch, Lance disappeared upstairs. He changed quickly and then slipped quietly back downstairs, doing his best not to draw attention to himself.
After all, he didn't want everyone's attention, just one dark-haired boy's attention. He paused at the front door, and when Keith glanced over at him, he nodded towards the door and then slipped outside. He made a run for Uncle Coran's shed to grab something, and when he returned, he found Keith looking curious on the front porch.
"Come on," Lance whispered. "I borrowed Allura's car keys."
"Why are you wearing all black?"
"We have a mission, Keith. Get in the car." Lance slid into the driver's seat and waited for Keith to finally join him.
"Luckily, you're already wearing all black," Lance said as he backed out of the driveway and began to take them down the mountain.
"What is this mission?"
"We need a couple more things to decorate Uncle Coran's front porch."
"So, we're going shopping?"
"That doesn't sound very promising."
Lance grinned over at him, and took a moment to enjoy the sight of Keith in the passenger seat while he drove. For a moment he even let himself think about driving Keith out on a date. Not that what they were about to do was exactly a date activity.
He didn't say anything further, just turned up the radio and sang along. He glanced at Keith a few more times, secretly pleased any time he found Keith's eyes already on him. Until finally he pulled the car to the side of the road and jumped out.
"Uh, Lance?" Keith asked as he stepped out of the car. "This is the middle of nowhere?"
"I know, it's perfect." Lance pulled the hacksaw he'd grabbed from Coran's shed earlier from the floor of the backseat and began marching into the rows of corn he'd parked next to. The farmhouse was a ways off, and there didn't seem to be a lot of traffic on this road.
He heard Keith follow him into the cornfield and grinned to himself before dropping to a crouch to begin to cut down the first cornstalk.
"Lance," Keith whispered harshly behind him. "Are you stealing cornstalks for decorations?"
"These cornstalks are all dead," Lance said in a normal tone as the first cornstalk fell.
Keith continued in a whisper. "The farmer probably still uses them for something, Lance! Like animal feed or something."
"Why are you whispering?" Lance asked as he cut down a second stalk. "Scared about all these ears hearing you?" He chuckled at his own joke as he tossed an ear of corn in Keith's direction.
Lance grinned as he glanced up at Keith. And really, for as outraged as Keith was trying to sound, the boy was smiling. Like there were actual dimples showing up there in his pretty face.
"We're only taking like six," Lance said. "Or eight? Do you think three on each bottom post would be cool? Or four?"
"You know they sell these in stores."
"Keith, please," Lance said, getting back to work. "These are authentic. No way fake cornstalks are going to win the decorating contest. Now, maybe be helpful and carry the ones I already cut back to the car?"
Keith huffed at him, but still lifted the four ready cornstalks and carried them off while Lance worked on cutting down more. When he had enough, he collected them himself and headed in the direction of the car, which unfortunately was at the same moment that he heard someone from the direction of the farmhouse begin to yell.
"Hey! Who's out there!"
"Shit!" Lance yelped as he did his best not drop any cornstalks or injure himself with the hacksaw as he began to run. He sprinted through the rows of corn as best as he could until he managed to run right into a solid figure. The two of them toppled to the ground, and only when they'd landed did he realize that he had just plowed down Keith.
"Hey," he managed to whisper from his spot on top of Keith. "Come here often?"
"You're ridiculous," Keith whispered back.
But Keith looked, well he looked — content. Knocked on his ass in the middle of a stranger's cornfield, with Lance sprawled out on top of him, Keith didn't look like he was in any hurry to move.
Lance smiled fondly down at him, a warmth blooming in his chest because this boy was perfectly happy to just stay here with him. And how did he get so lucky to be given such a gift?
"You scared yet?" Lance suddenly whispered, unable to resist the grin that pulled at his lips. He didn't intend to have them chased down by a farmer tonight, but he couldn't help feeling slightly pleased to have Keith experience a real scare this week.
But then Keith shivered beneath him and Lance actually felt the mood shift as Keith slowly lifted a hand to Lance's face and dragged his thumb across Lance's cheekbone. He nodded slowly up at Lance, and Lance's breath caught as all the hope in his bones swelled up because maybe Keith was feeling the same things he was feeling.
"Me too," Lance replied in a continued whisper, eyes darting back and forth over Keith's face before he couldn't resist the urge to kiss him any longer. And maybe he was a romantic who fell too hard too fast, but he'd never really believed that this sort of instant connection was something that happened outside of movies. It certainly wasn't something that he thought would ever happen for him.
He forgot about the farmer and the cornstalks and just relaxed on top of Keith as he kissed him. After all, there were soft noises coming from Keith's throat and one of Keith's hands carding through his hair to focus on.
Unfortunately, as he heard a "You kids get out of here!" he was forced to separate his mouth from where it fit oh so perfectly against Keith's mouth, and quickly jump to his feet. He pulled Keith up too before grabbing Coran's hacksaw and a couple cornstalks, with Keith grabbing the others.
Then they sprinted back to Allura's car and took off after shoving the stalks into the backseat (that was a mess Allura definitely would not be happy about, but it was future Lance's problem).
When they returned to the cabin, Keith helped him tie the cornstalks to the posts at the bottom of the porch steps. Then he wrapped an arm around Keith's shoulders and pulled him into his side to admire their handiwork.
"Uncle Coran's definitely winning this thing now."
"You know this is going down as the time you almost had me arrested on my birthday, right?"
He laughed into Keith's hair before kissing him again.
"Hey, did you bring a swimsuit?"
"On this fall trip into the mountains?"
"Sarcasm, one, Lance, zero," Lance murmured as he threw a pillow off the spare bed in Keith's direction. They didn't think anyone had noticed them sneaking back in after their trip to the cornfield, and had decided to skip movie night and just slip upstairs to their room.
"Alright, underwear it is, then," Lance replied, leaving Keith to gape slightly at him as he pulled off his shirt and then kicked off his pants before heading into the bathroom. "Come on."
He heard Lance turn on the water in the tub, but remained where he'd been lounging in their bed for a moment, unsure how serious Lance was being right now.
"Keith, get your cute little butt in here!"
So Keith pulled off his own shirt and pants, hoping the dumb blush he could feel on his cheeks would be gone by the time he made it into the bathroom. Then he found that it didn't matter once he was in the bathroom, because Lance had the bathroom light off, the only light coming from candles situated on the sink countertop.
"What, um, what are we doing?" Keith asked.
"Well, despite Uncle Coran's resistance to adding a hot tub to this whole cabin experience, he did have these tubs added to the bathrooms a few years ago." He hit a button on the side of the tub and the small room was filled with the bubbling noise of a Jacuzzi tub. "And we're gonna enjoy it. Get in here with me."
Then Lance stepped over the side of the tub and sat down. There was a small sigh of contentment as he relaxed into the water, before he focused on Keith and held out a hand to him.
And this was way too irresistible for anyone to refuse, let alone someone who was already pretty gone for this beautiful boy in the tub. So Keith stepped forward and let Lance help him into the pleasantly hot water.
"Plus, I thought it might Pretty Woman your problems away, my dude."
And before Keith could even ask what that meant, Lance pulled him back to lean his bare back against Lance's bare chest, and then wrapped his legs around Keith's waist.
Keith was sure he'd just died. Like, somewhere between stepping into the tub and now, he obviously slipped, hit his head, and drowned, because why — how — what was happening?
"So my leg is —"
Lance paused to eye his legs through the bubbling water, not that Keith noticed. The only thing he noticed was heat. It was so hot in here. The water was hot, his face was hot, the skin on his back, which was currently pressed to Lance's skin, was hot, the top of his thighs where Lance's legs were currently resting were hot. If he had died, this was a strange sort of hell. Or maybe heaven was also a hot place? He resisted the urge to fan himself as Lance continued talking.
"— about 44 inches from hip to toe, which means you've got 88 inches of therapy wrapped around you, ready and waiting to listen if you want to talk."
Therapy. Well, that cooled Keith right the fuck down.
He stiffened where he sat, which thankfully put some blessed space between his back and Lance's chest, before twisting so that he could shoot a hard look at Lance.
"What?" he asked.
"Its just, anytime anyone asks you about your college experience, or what you're up to now, you immediately brush it off. And I can tell its bothering you. And maybe you'd feel better if you talked to someone?"
"Why do you care?"
There was a flash of hurt on Lance's face — and for a moment Keith felt that hurt in his own chest — but it slipped away quickly and was replaced by a softer look on Lance's face.
"I care because I can tell it upsets you, and I don't like it."
His eyes stayed locked with Keith's and Keith wondered if it could really be that simple. Could he really just tell Lance what happened, and feel better?
"Although, if you don't want to tell me, I can grab a couple of the stalks from out front. They have some ears they can lend you."
He leaned in and kissed Lance to wipe that self-satisfied smile off his face, but mainly to keep himself from laughing at the dumb joke.
Then he turned again and tentatively let himself lean back into Lance's chest. His hands landed on Lance's thighs where his fingers immediately twisted the fabric of his boxers, and he practically sighed as Lance's fingers began to slide slowly up and down his arms. It wasn't the heat of before, but it was warm and safe in this dark room. And with Lance behind him, where he couldn't see Keith's face, it was the best scenario he could think of if he planned on talking. Something, Keith realized, Lance likely knew.
He sighed after a few quiet moments of internally arguing with himself about it before saying, "It's dumb."
"I won't think it's dumb," Lance's voice was quiet near his ear and Keith automatically sank further back into his chest.
"Its just, um, one of the few things I knew about my mom was that she was a member of this group when she was in college, and I always thought it sounded like a good cause. So I joined the group on my campus when I started last fall."
He paused, waiting for questions from Lance, but Lance remained silent behind him. Instead, he just continued trailing his fingers over Keith's arms, leaving wet streaks over his biceps and shoulders. His own fingers continued to bunch up Lance's boxers before smoothing them out, only to bunch them again as he spoke.
"I guess it's dumb to try to feel closer to someone by following in their footsteps when they're not even there and they won't see you do it, but…." His voice trailed off as he tried to swallow past his disappointment. He felt Lance shift, not only pulling Keith closer, but also pulling Keith's attention away from his spiraling thoughts. Then Lance's head dipped forward so that he could rest the side of his head against Keith's temple.
Keith didn't turn to look at Lance, but he did decide to continue. "So, this group was one of those Boys and Girls Clubs, you know, where you work with kids?" — Lance's fingers stalled for a moment, but he still didn't say anything — "But we were already three months into the fall semester and hadn't done a single thing. So I asked the group's president about it and he said we needed to organize some fundraisers first, so that we'd have the money to plan events for the kids."
Lance exhaled harshly — Keith could feel it in the way Lance's chest pressed against his back and the way his breath puffed against his neck — it seemed like Lance had something to say, but he continued to remain silent behind Keith.
"So, I talked to some of the other people in the group, and we organized a couple small fundraisers. That part was — actually kinda fun. Its pretty cool how many people will come out to a 5K, some dressed in crazy outfits, if you tell them the registration money is going to a good cause."
Lance made a humming noise of agreement behind him as his fingers began to move away from Keith's arms in order to explore his collarbones.
"But the fall semester ended and we still hadn't done a single activity with the local kids' group we had been assigned to. So I asked again at the start of the spring semester, and was told that we still needed to raise more funds."
His voice was beginning to turn bitter, a sharp contrast to the comfort he was receiving, so he tried to press himself even further into Lance. He slipped a little on the bottom of the tub, but Lance tightened his legs around him and helped keep him in place.
"Did you set up another fundraiser?" Lance asked quietly when a few moments of silence passed between them.
Keith shook his head, bumping his head against Lance's as he did so, not that Lance seemed to mind. "I started digging for information, and found out that we didn't actually need any funds to go play with the kids. And that the money we'd raised had all been spent to throw some party at the president's frat house."
"Bastards," Lance actually growled, his voice only slightly raised as he pulled his face away far enough to actually meet Keith's eyes. "What did you do? Cause I'm betting you didn't sit back and do nothing."
Such faith, Keith thought, as Lance resituated them and then resumed his fingers' exploration over Keith's chest, ready and waiting to hear more.
"I reported them," Keith said quietly. "The president was expelled, but … then the university shut the whole Boys and Girls program down."
"That's a shame," Lance whispered.
"Yeah," Keith responded.
He fell silent again and could feel his skin begin to overheat. And not for the fun reasons that included Lance's body pressed against him from before. But now the shame he'd been carrying around hit him full force. He'd joined as a way to feel closer to his mother, and had wanted to do something he'd been told she loved doing. And instead, he'd managed to kill the entire thing. And while that hadn't been his intention, it'd still led him to his current situation as a college dropout who had moved back in with his dad and was drifting through life without much purpose.
Both of Lance's large hands flattened against his chest, one directly over where his heart was pounding away, and Keith wondered if Lance could sense the downward shift, because he pressed his lips to Keith's ear before asking the big question.
"Why did you leave your college?"
Keith swallowed hard and let go of Lance's boxers in order to squeeze the muscle of Lance's thighs directly for support.
"It was an anonymous report, but, um, everyone knew it was from me. And the expelled guy's frat brothers weren't too happy with me." Lance's hands slid to his sides, enclosing him in a long limbed hug. "They sliced the tires of my bike and keyed her sides."
"Oh, Keith," Lance whispered. "Did they ever confront you in person?"
Keith shook his head, touched at Lance's concern, which was a better feeling than the anger he felt when it seemed like people were pitying him.
"No. They just pulled other shit. There was a paint bomb rigged to my dorm room's doorway, which…" Keith sighed again, he hadn't even told Shiro about that little incident. "Well, it destroyed my favorite jacket, which I had been wearing when I opened the door, and a bunch of stuff in my room. Plus, my roommate's stuff got hit too, so he wasn't a huge fan of me after that, either. I just — I just decided to get out of there."
"Fuck, I'm glad." Lance used his hold around Keith to twist him slightly so he could meet his eyes again. "I mean, I kinda want to storm that frat house and — but I am glad you got out of that situation."
And Keith was once again warmed for all the good reasons when he saw the protectiveness in Lance's eyes and heard the sincerity in his tone of voice. And damn if he didn't actually feel lighter, like a weight had been lifted off his shoulders now that he'd spilled his story to Lance. He twisted himself further, forcing Lance's legs to release him, but Lance didn't complain when the end result was Keith straddling his lap and kissing him.
And Keith kept himself in check for the first few moments, but Lance was a damn good kisser, and Lance's hands had wandered down to cup and then squeeze his ass, so that was really all it took before Keith found himself grinding down into Lance's lap.
"Oh, shit." Lance let his head fall back but squeezed his hands tighter against Keith's rear end, which only encouraged him to keep moving. "Why did I suggest we keep the underwear?"
Keith had already moved his mouth down to Lance's neck, but stopped kissing only long enough to respond, "Probably being chivalrous."
"I'm really hating past Lance right now."
Keith let one of his hands slide down Lance's pretty chest before he gave a slight tug on the waistband of Lance's boxers. "I don't know, there's something nice about opening a present."
That had Lance's blue eyes lighting up as his grin turned sly. He released the hold he had on Keith's ass and let one finger slide up the hard length he found straining against Keith's boxer briefs. "Have I wished you a happy birthday today?" Lance murmured as Keith shuddered against him from that one small touch.
He wrapped his arms around Lance's shoulders for support, but still managed to chuckle and nod before he leaned in to kiss Lance again. He thrust his hips forward again, towards Lance's hand and Lance's own hard dick, and that was the last straw for Lance as well, it seemed, because then Lance was pulling them both free from their pesky underwear, and wrapping one of those blessedly large hands around them.
Keith gasped and then groaned into Lance's neck. He heard the sound echo off the bathroom tiles, even over the continuous noise from the Jacuzzi, but couldn't bite back the sounds as Lance stroked them slow and then fast and then slow again, as if his main purpose was to tease Keith right now. Keith's hips picked up the pace when Lance slowed, pulling groans from Lance's throat that filled the air beautifully and kept Keith writhing in his lap.
Keith pulled his face from Lance's neck in order to meet his eyes. Lance's blue eyes were hazy, but he focused them enough to meet Keith's gaze before he offered a small smile. Keith's grip on his shoulders tightened, because he felt safe here with that soft smile. With this boy who seemed to intrinsically know what he needed, and who seemed happy to provide it. He only hoped that he could give just as much back.
He smiled into the next kiss, but pulled his mouth away when he came in order to gasp into Lance's neck. Then he batted Lance's hand away from both of them and began stroking Lance by himself. Lance let himself curl into Keith, with his hands wrapped around Keith's hips and his face tucked into Keith's neck before he finished with a curse only a few strokes later.
Keith let himself collapse against Lance's chest when he felt Lance relax beneath him. Lance's arms came up to circle his lower back and several moments passed with just the sounds of bubbling water and their breathing filling the room before Keith spoke.
"Hey, do you want to go for a run with me in the morning?'
"Only if I can feel my legs again by then." An aftershock seemed to hit him as his entire body shuddered beneath Keith.
"And then after our run, will you go into town with me?"
Lance nodded. "Anywhere you want," he panted with a wave of his hand.
"Whoa," Lance said, stopping on the sidewalk when he saw the large building they were headed towards. "Are we going to the aquarium?"
"Yup," Keith answered before bypassing the ticket stands and heading straight for the main entrance.
Lance hurried to catch up and openly stared when Keith pulled two tickets out of his wallet.
"Wait, when did you buy the tickets?"
"Uh." Keith handed over a ticket for each of them to the attendant who scanned them both before handing them back. "I picked them up when we were walking around down here yesterday."
"You randomly bought two aquarium tickets?" Lance had to walk fast again to keep up with Keith until Keith stopped at the large cylindrical tank that sat near the entrance. He watched as Keith stared intently at the fish swimming within it, doing his best not to meet Lance's eyes. "Wait, are we — did you plan a date for us?"
Finally, Keith turned and looked at him, and Lance could see actual nervousness there. Keith — adorable, beautiful, funny Keith — had planned a date for him and was nervous about it.
"Well, I — yeah, I did. You mentioned last summer that you liked aquariums and when I saw the aquarium yesterday, I just thought —"
Lance cut him off with a kiss, because there was no way he could not kiss the boy who'd remembered what he'd said months ago, back when they'd practically been strangers, and then planned out a date for him based off his random musing.
And kissing Keith now was still like it'd been on that day they'd met last summer. Exciting and all-consuming in a way that made him want to pull Keith in as close as possible, even if they were standing in the entrance of a family friendly establishment.
"Keith," he whispered out a moment later, the thumbs of both his hands rubbing circles over Keith's hip bones.
He knew what he wanted to say, which included words like 'This is the nicest fucking thing anyone's ever done for me' or 'Please say this week wont be the end of us'.
What he ended up with was, "No one's ever planned a date for me before." And that worked for now, because Keith grinned up at him before taking his hand and pulling him towards the first dark hallway of exhibits.
"Hey, Keith. Keith," Lance said with the widest grin Keith had ever seen on him. It was making it hard for Keith to not immediately smile as he raised an eyebrow in response. "This one looks like you," Lance said, pointing at a pouty looking fish.
Keith rolled his eyes and immediately pointed out a clown fish. "Yeah, well that one looks like you."
"Ooh, pretty." Lance wrapped his arms around Keith's waist from behind and dropped his chin to Keith's shoulder. "Tell me what you really think of me."
They were on a moving walkway that was slowly carrying them through an underwater tunnel, and Keith let himself relax back against Lance's chest.
"You really want me to tell you what I think of you?" Keith asked quietly, digging up as much courage as he could muster.
Lance hummed in the affirmative against his neck before dropping a light kiss there.
"I think you're amazing." He felt Lance stiffen behind him, and stilled for a moment himself. He was hoping that reaction meant Lance just hadn't been expecting a serious answer, and not that Lance was uncomfortable because he thought Keith was taking their week together too seriously. Keith wanted the serious, though. He turned his head as much as Lance's head would allow, doing his best to look at him. And without thinking further, continued talking. "You know, Shiro keeps saying I should transfer to his school."
Lance's sharp exhale, as if he'd just begun breathing again, hit Keith's neck before he finally spoke, "You mean my school?"
"Oh, do you go there?" Keith teased.
Lance released him only so he turn Keith around to face him, and being face to face, Keith was pretty sure he could see hope in Lance's eyes as Lance stared at him. Keith wondered if Lance even realized he'd left his hands to fidget over Keith's shoulders.
"You're really thinking about transferring to my school? Like I could see you every day?"
And, yeah, that was definitely hope in Lance's tone of voice.
Keith pulled Lance's hands down from his shoulders and interlaced their fingers. "Well, I've seen you in the sand in the summer. And I've seen you covered in leaves." Keith paused for a moment and moved a little closer to Lance. "I'd kind of like to see you in the snow. And on more early morning runs."
Lance's mouth had dropped open, and his eyes darted back and forth across Keith's face. But when he didn't say anything, Keith continued.
"I'd like to see what you look like when you're stressed out for finals. Or how relaxed I can get you if we had a day when we didn't have any real plans. Maybe come back here for spring break and swim in that creek we found. And then head back to the beach next summer."
"That's a lot of future activities," Lance breathed out, letting go of one of Keith's hands only so he could wrap that arm around Keith's back and pull him in closer. "You sure you want to plan that far out with me?"
Keith hummed happily as he wrapped his newly freed arm around Lance's shoulders and then tucked his face into Lance's neck with a sigh. "I'll take as far as I can get with you."
"Oh my god, come here," Lance said in a quick exhale. He pulled Keith off the moving walkway and then pressed him into the first dark corner he could find before kissing him.
"Is that a yes?" Keith managed to ask between kisses.
"That's a mcfluffing yes, Keith."
When they returned to the cabin, Keith seated himself next to Shiro at the kitchen island while Lance leaned against the counters to chat with Hunk.
"Listen, Shiro, I've been talking about it with my boyfriend, and I think I'm ready to put in for a transfer to your college for next spring."
Shiro dropped the hand of cards he'd been holding for the game he'd been playing with Matt and Allura, and then turned slowly to face Keith.
"I don't think I understand some of the words you just said."
Then Lance was there with an arm slung around Keith's shoulders and a hip pressed into his side.
"I've sort of been kissing your brother at every single opportunity, Shiro," Lance stated with a grin. "Including last summer on the boardwalk, and we decided to become real boyfriends during our date today. I'm assuming that's the confusing part?"
"You've been — kissing?"
Lance nodded and waggled his eyebrows while saying, "Sometimes more than kissing." He laughed as Keith elbowed him. "Plus, we've been —"
"Nope, stop. I got it. Just stop," Shiro said as he squeezed his eyes shut and raised his hand in protest.
"Also, I'll accept cash or other shiny presents for luring him to our school."
Keith rolled his eyes. "Why do I like you so much?"
"I'm not sure, either. Come closer so I can distract with you my lips before you think about it too hard."
Keith chuckled and fisted Lance's shirt in order to pull him into a kiss.
"I think your plan to introduce Lance and Keith backfired on you a bit," Pidge said.
"No," Shiro said quietly as he watched the two with a small smile. "I think it worked out just fine." He glanced over at Matt, and he knew Matt well enough to recognize a mixture of happiness and envy in his friend's eyes.
He was going to have to take Lance and Keith's bravery as an example, and do something about Matt.
Meanwhile, Hunk lifted Lance off the ground in a teary hug, happy to see his best friend in a real relationship, especially since he'd had a chance to get to know Keith himself these past few days. Even Allura left her seat to give her brother a congratulatory hug and to ruffle Keith's hair.
When they were finished, Lance returned his arm to Keith's shoulders and squeezed for a moment before say, "Hey, Shiro?"
Shiro forced his attention to Lance and away from Matt, his head spinning a bit as he had begun to try to think about how to tell his best friend that he'd like it if they could please start kissing each other's faces and then move in together.
"Did you ever tell Keith how we all met?"
Keith glanced between Lance and Shiro, both of whom now looked a little nervous. Then Shiro shook his head and met Keith's eye.
"No, I hadn't."
"So?" How?" Keith asked.
"Lance is the president of the university's Boys and Girls Club," Shiro said.
"I thought your college didn't have one of those?" Keith said slowly.
"They didn't until Lance arrived and immediately petitioned, as a freshman last year, to open a chapter. We all met at the first meeting."
"Yeah, we hang out with kids at least twice a month," Pidge said.
"Sometimes they need help with homework, but sometimes we just play basketball or something," Hunk added.
"And we could always use another member," Lance murmured into his ear.
And then, "Keith you should definitely join us," became the general consensus from everyone else around the kitchen island.
Keith swallowed hard and nodded before locking his gaze with Lance's. He hoped what he wanted to say was being conveyed in his eyes, because there were absolutely no words for the gratefulness he could feel for being pulled into this group. He'd probably have to thank Shiro later as well, but for now, he just pulled Lance into another kiss, and smiled when Lance smiled into it.
I don’t know, but maybe after S4, I just wanted a “Keith goes off in the wrong direction (for the right reasons), but then hits a downward spiral before falling in love with Lance and joining the group he’s meant to be with” story.
Also, while I was in the middle of writing this story, this really cute fall-based Keith and Lance artwork came across my Tumblr dash and the cozy outfits and adorable leaf ears made me smile. And after speaking with the artist, who graciously said I could link the artwork here, I can tell you that this definitely prompted a scene in this story. Thanks again for the inspiration, kabaszo!
And thank you, Kat for bringing up your charts and best guesses as I tried to come up with a reasonable number of inches for the length of Lance’s legs (which, after all that work, turned out to be the exact same number of inches Vivian uses in Pretty Woman. Go figure.)
Also, VulpesVulpes713 added cinnamon to Keith’s coffee in this cute story and I thought it was adorable and stole the idea :D
So, did my mother make us dress in black, creep into dark and spooky cornfields, and then cut down cornstalks for her fall decorations?
In her defense, this was before stores began selling them. Although, I really think the people who buy them are missing out.
Not that I condone stealing from other people.
But, like, the cornstalks were all dead, so …
Doesn’t matter. Don’t steal, kids.
Chapter 2: Klancemas Prompts
December, 2017 Update: When I originally wrote this story, I had not planned on continuing in this AU past what you see in the first chapter. However, I really adored this setting, and when I saw the prompts for Klancemas week this year, I thought it would be a fun excuse to write some Klance Christmas fluff, while also getting a chance to write in the 'Break My Fall' world again.
Prompt 1 - Decoration
"Hmm, what is that those creatures are eating?"
"I don't think they're eating anything. Let's move along, kids!" Lance waved his hands in the air, doing his best to keep the group going.
"No, no, they're definitely eating something."
Lance nudged his shoulder into Keith's, but Keith's feet were planted on the concrete path as he continued to tilt his head innocently in order to stare into this particular zoo pen.
Also working against Lance was the fact that all the kids they currently had out on this zoo trip adored Keith, and as such, were eager to see exactly what had captured his attention.
"Its corn stalks!" one of the boys exclaimed.
"Interesting," Keith said with a nod and a tone of voice that implied that this was indeed the most interesting thing he'd ever witnessed.
Lance groaned internally.
"So they bring in the dead cornstalks and give them to the" — Keith paused as he leaned over to read the sign outside the exhibit — "chacoan peccary to entertain them. That's so interesting. Isn't that interesting, kids? How they reuse —"
"Bip bip bip. No, nope. That doesn't sound interesting at all!" Lance pulled both of Keith's arms behind his back and looped his own around them as he peered at the kids over Keith's shoulder. "Who wants a lesson on recycling? No one?" Lance spoke quickly before the kids could even respond. "Great! Let's move on!"
He used his hold on Keith's arms, while noting that Keith was definitely doing that adorable silent laughter thing that shook his shoulders, to finally get his boyfriend moving away from the chacoan peccary — who were all still happily munching on several dead corn stalks.
Hunk and Pidge stared after them in confusion, but sent the kids encouraging smiles. It wasn't entirely necessary. Their group — which had included Keith since his return to college life — volunteered with these kids on a regular basis, which meant the kids were well versed in Keith's and Lance's behavior.
The next exhibit included a large plastic tunnel that ran through a prairie dog exhibit, and Lance grinned as the kids dove into it. Shiro and Matt headed to the other end so someone from their group was at the exit to keep watch as the kids crawled out, allowing Keith and Lance to just hang out by the entrance, providing further supervision as each kid sprinted back towards them in order to repeat the whole experience.
Lance had released Keith's arms, but still had one of his hands within his own. He gave it a squeeze and smiled when he had Keith's attention.
"You ready to head up to the cabin after this? Just the two of us?" Eyebrows may have waggled in this moment, but Lance regularly claimed he had no control over their movements.
Keith smiled anyway and squeezed his fingers in return. "You're sure your Uncle Coran is okay with us staying there for a few days?"
Keith already knew Lance's uncle was okay with it, he'd even had a chance to meet Coran during a cabin trip last summer. But he still felt like covering all his bases. He didn't want anything to disrupt this trip or change their plans. He'd been back to college for two full semesters, plus he'd taken two classes over the summer, just doing his best to try to catch up to where he'd been before he dropped out. And the finals they'd finished only yesterday had taken a heavy toll on their sleep and sanity. He was really looking forward to getting away from everything.
Away from everything but Lance, that was. They'd celebrated their one year anniversary over a month ago, and while it had been fun being back at the cabin with everyone else over fall break this year, this would be their first time back alone. And Lance had made it pretty clear that they were going to squeeze in as many holiday traditions as possible in the few days they had before they had to split up and spend Christmas apart with their own families.
But for now, Keith felt his own grin widen as he watched Lance nod his head.
"Uncle Coran doesn't mind at all. With all his world traveling, I think he likes knowing someone is at the cabin from time to time."
Keith turned his attention back to the kids, and watched as they entered the tunnel for what was likely the third or fourth trip through. He wasn't going to stop them — Shiro and Matt were at the exit after all, it was up to them to break the kids' hearts when it was time to move on. He smirked across the tunnel at his brother, and got a pout in return — Shiro had likely realized exactly what Keith was thinking.
Matt seemed to notice Shiro's pout as well, because then he had a hand around the back of Shiro's neck and he was pulling him in for a —
Okay, time to focus on Lance again, cause as much as Keith had wanted Shiro to just admit to his feelings for Matt, he didn't need to see them kissing. It was bad enough living with the two of them in an off-campus apartment. He enjoyed the mornings when he woke and found Lance cooking breakfast for them in the kitchen. He did not enjoy the mornings he found Shiro and Matt making out against one of the kitchen counters.
"I may have forgotten to mention, there's another request from Uncle Coran for this visit."
Keith raised an eyebrow in question.
"Apparently they have a Christmas decorating contest."
Keith's eyes widened. "Is that why you organized this zoo trip with the kids? I'm not stealing a reindeer, Lance!"
"Keith, please," Lance scoffed. "We're going to need way more than just one reindeer to make the Santa on the front lawn believable."
Prompt 2: Lights
"Too tall. You wouldn't be able to help me decorate the top branches."
Keith rolled his eyes, but couldn't keep up a glare when one of Lance's arms wrapped around his shoulders and pulled him in close.
They'd almost made it to the cabin when Lance had spotted the tree lot and begged Keith to pull the car over. Keith didn't really think they needed a live tree, especially since they'd only be staying at the cabin for a few days. But then Lance had called him a heathen and he'd laughed but parked the car.
Now he watched as Lance surveyed each tree, particularly fascinated with Lance's process. Keith and Shiro had grown up with a fake tree every year, so he had no experience in choosing a real tree, and he had no idea what specific qualities his boyfriend was looking for. Each tree they passed looked…the same to Keith?
When Lance stopped to examine yet another tree option, Keith reached over and tightened Lance's scarf for him. It was definitely colder up in the mountains than it had been back on their campus, and while Lance was pretty cute with rosy cheeks and a red nose, he didn't want Lance to freeze. Plus, his boyfriend had a tendency to sneak ice cold fingers up Keith's shirt to help warm himself up…
"Keith! This one!" Lance finally declared and Keith tilted his head in confusion as he eyed Lance's choice. It was a pretty green and from what Keith could see, had full branches. But it also barely came up to Keith's waist.
"Is this like a Charlie Brown tree thing?" Keith asked. "Picking out the tree no one else is going to choose?"
"Shhh! The tree will hear you!"
Lance lifted the tree by its small stand and carried it off towards the register, all while speaking sweetly to it, to make up for Keith's transgression. And Keith could only smile at the sight, because for the next few days at least, that boy was all his.
When they reached the cabin, Keith pulled the tree from the backseat of his jeep, while admitting only to himself that the small size certainly made it easy to transport. He followed Lance into the cabin, and then went directly to the back room, where he deposited the tree before pausing to look out the windows. Even with all of the colorful fall leaves missing from the trees, he couldn't get over the sight of the picturesque mountains.
"It's your second favorite view, huh, babe?"
Lance's arms wrapped tight around his middle from behind before his chin tucked into Keith's neck. In return, Keith's hands landed on Lance's arms and he leaned his weight back into Lance's chest before deciding to humor Lance.
"So you think you know what my favorite view is, huh?" he teased.
Lance chuckled into Keith's neck. "Maybe that overpass downtown with the phrase, 'Give me back my stapler' spray painted in red?"
"That speedo guy who gave us a show when he wiped out on his surfboard at the beach last summer?"
"No, oh my god!" Keith twisted in Lance's hold and went for his lips, kissing him hard despite Lance's continued laughter making the whole thing messy and uncoordinated. He gave up and dropped his head to Lance's shoulder when he felt his own laughter bubble up.
Lance rested his head on top of Keith's hair and rocked them back and forth for a moment, a smile still plastered on his face because he was one of the few (outside of the kids they volunteered with) who could make Keith soft and smiley. Then he remembered what he'd brought for Keith and quickly let go him so he could dig through his bag.
"Here!" Lance pulled out a wrapped present, which he tossed to Keith. "Open that while I grab the Christmas ornaments from the attic."
"You want me to open this now?" Keith called after him, but Lance only sent him a quick grin before he disappeared up the stairs.
Keith tore open the wrapping paper and carefully pulled free a likely handmade red knit sweater. And when Keith held it up so he could clearly see the Christmas tree stitched on the front, his eyes jumped from ornament to ornament, doing his best to take in every little detail that Lance had added to the tree. It was wonderful and soft and looked like it would fit him perfectly. And he was caught smiling stupidly at it when Lance bounded back down the stairs with his arms full of boxes.
"We can't decorate the tree without our tree trimming sweaters on," Lance stated with a small grin as he placed the ornament boxes near their small tree.
"Our?" Keith asked. But he didn't have to wait long for an explanation, because Lance immediately dug a second sweater (this one was a blue that matched Lance's eyes and was covered in small green Christmas trees) out of his bag.
"My mamá made this for me years ago — she made them for each of us, actually — and always makes us wear them when we decorate the tree."
"And you made one for me," Keith uttered softly as he looked back at his new sweater with a sweet reverence.
"Its McClain family tradition," Lance replied, his own face filled with adoration as he watched Keith pull off his hoodie and replace it with the red sweater. The sleeves were a little long on him, and Keith's hair floofed out adorably when his head popped through the top.
Keith had long ago become Lance's favorite view, but this boy kept upping the ante.
He quickly followed and pulled on his own tree sweater. And when his own head was free, he found Keith directly in front of him, waiting for his face to reappear so he could kiss him in thanks.
"It looks really nice," Lance murmured between kisses.
"Thank you, Lance."
Lance smiled in return (he was always smiling around Keith), and then pulled him over to the boxes. They pulled out red ribbon that was long enough to be wrapped around their small tree several times, and Keith was working on that while Lance untangled a string of lights.
"Hey, Keith, do you know what would make your sweater look even better?"
Keith was kneeling in front of their tree, doing his best to get the ribbon wrapped evenly through the branches. He glanced down at his sweater in confusion, quite sure that nothing could improve it.
Keith had his back to him, and when Lance saw Keith's head bow to look at his sweater, he took advantage of the distraction, and dropped one end of the Christmas lights on Keith's shoulder before he quickly began to loop the string of lights around his boyfriend's shoulders.
"Lance!" Keith said with a laugh as he fell back to sit with his feet tucked under him.
"Arms up," Lance instructed, and then continued his work until Keith's torso (with his arms free — Lance wasn't decorating the rest of the tree by himself) was completely wrapped up in lights. He couldn't help his own beaming smile as he plugged the lights in and was met with the sight of a slightly blushy Keith adorned in beautiful white twinkle lights.
"You're ridiculous," Keith said, although his soft tone made it clear to Lance that he really didn't mind.
"No," Lance said, with a small shake of his head as his eyes continued to roam over Keith. "What I am is a very lucky man."
"Bip, bip, bip!" Lance threw a hand up when he saw Keith begin to rise from his seated position. "Listen, babe, I'm gonna need you to spend the rest of our time up here within two feet of that electrical outlet so the lights will stayed turned on."
"Lance," Keith repeated, eyes already darkening as he scooted closer to where Lance sat beside him. "We don't need an electrical outlet for you to turn me on, babe."
Keith's play on his own words made his breath stutter for a second, but it was the only moment of hesitation Lance had before he dove forward and kissed Keith again.
Later, when Keith and Shiro were at their dad's house to celebrate Christmas, Keith may have scoffed when his dad tried to pull down their fake tree from the attic. And instead, he proudly set up his and Lance's small tree in the living room, especially after Lance had admitted he'd chosen a small one because he wanted Keith to take it home with him.
He watered it daily. And maybe spoke to it a few times, but he also ended up bribing Shiro to never mention that little fact to anyone. Ever.
Plus, it was always purposefully sitting in the background whenever he and Lance Skyped.
And if he was never going to be able to look at Christmas tree lights again without thinking about Lance, he was okay with that.
Prompt 3: Cuddle
When Keith returned to college last January, he'd decided to forgo the dorms and take up Shiro's offer to move in with him in an off campus apartment.
Well, move in with him and Matt. Cause once Matt and Shiro had finally admitted to liking each other, they had decided to also move in together. Immediately. Which might've been fast to an outsider, but made perfect sense to their group, who had all watched the two of them dance around each other over the past few years.
And while living with Matt and Shiro was better than being randomly placed with a roommate in the dorms, sometimes it meant that Keith walked in on Matt and his brother making out in areas of the apartment deemed shared spaces (Shiro was the one who came up with the phrase after he'd walked in on Keith and Lance one time — and yet Shiro conveniently forgot about all the rules that applied to shared spaces whenever Matt was within two feet).
Overall, though, the past year had been a great experience. Any moments of shame he felt now were rare, and usually stemmed from knowing that he'd been pretty close to never trying college again, all because of a few assholes on his former campus.
He was thankful that meeting Lance had inspired him to return to school. And that Lance had been right next to him as he'd registered for classes. That'd he'd stepped foot on a new college campus with his own personal tour guide in the form of his very own tall, lanky, and beautiful boyfriend. Plus, when he joined Lance, Shiro, and the rest of their group at the first Boys and Girls club meeting of the semester, the meeting location was at an actual middle school. And they'd all jumped right into helping with homework or offering an ear to kids who needed one.
Lance remained on campus, sharing a small, upperclassman apartment-like space with Hunk. But he was often found at Keith's place, with books spread out across the kitchen table with Keith as they worked on homework side by side. Or pressed into Keith's side when they had everyone over to watch movies. Or in Keith's bed, blinky and sleep tousled first thing in the morning when Keith begrudgingly had to wake him for class.
There were no roommates or classes to worry about today, however. And Keith snuggled deeper under their blanket and then pulled Lance even closer to him. The sun had woken him, as it did every time they spent the night in the cabin. But, Keith was too in love with the mountain view right outside their window to complain about the lack of curtains. And Lance was smart enough to always burrow into Keith's side with his back to the windows, so he was never bothered by the early morning light.
"Can we stay right here today?" Lance murmured, his face currently pressed into Keith's neck. He shifted himself against Keith, further trapping Keith as he slung a long leg across Keith's own lower limbs.
Keith thought of the list Lance had created that included all the activities he wanted them to accomplish that day, which meant there was a slim to none chance that they'd actually stay in bed together all day. Still, he hummed in the affirmative and trailed his fingertips over the skin of Lance's back.
There was a faint groan of appreciation from Lance in response before Lance's fingers landed in his hair and began to card through the strands, occasionally stopping to scratch at his scalp.
"I know you think I'm kidding, but I'm having serious thoughts about how to convince you to stay here and cuddle with me all day." Lance's lips moved against the skin of his neck as he spoke, which was followed by actual neck kisses that made Keith squirm.
"Consider me convinced," Keith whispered, the shivers racing up and down his spine from Lance's kisses were already driving him insane. He used a grip on Lance's hip to push him to his back so that he could tower over him for a moment. Bright blue mischievous eyes met his gaze immediately. "Do you remember on our first date, when I said I'd like to see how relaxed I could get you on a day when we didn't have any plans?"
Lance's eyes widened in excited response as his breathing quickened noticeably.
"Is this my Christmas present?" Lance asked.
"Nope." Keith's mouth dropped to Lance's chest to leave a trail of kisses, and he reveled in the way Lance arched off the mattress. "Just a boyfriend bonus."
"Boyfriend bonus," Lance whispered as his fingers tightened in Keith's hair for a moment. "I wish we could wake up like this every day."
Keith paused at that, and settled himself on top of Lance, resting his chin gently on Lance's chest as he stared curiously up at him.
"We could if we lived together."
Lance chewed on his lower lip, a behavior Keith recognized that came from nerves. He tipped his head, and wondered if he'd gone too far. He hadn't intended to make Lance uncomfortable.
"I — you'd — you'd want to live with me?" Lance finally said. "All the time?"
Keith pushed himself forward and met Lance's lips, relieved that Lance wasn't feeling discomfort by the suggestion, but was merely surprised. He'd seen this side of Lance before, and while he didn't understand how someone as warm and wonderful as Lance could ever doubt how lovable he was, Keith was determined to prove him wrong every single time.
Keith felt Lance's arms wrap tightly around his back, and a moment later their kiss was interrupted by excited laughter bubbling out of Lance.
"Did — did we just agree to move in together?" Lance asked.
And Keith took a moment to smile down at him, determined to cement Lance's happy expression — the bright blue eyes, wide grin, and flushed cheeks — into his mind before he nodded.
"That's a mcfluffing yes, Lance."
Lance laughed again and pulled Keith's face back to him for another kiss. "We're definitely staying in bed to cuddle today, then. That's the best kind of celebration."
Free Day, Self-Prompt: Ice
Keith accepted the small paper cup of hot chocolate from Lance without taking his eyes off the magical spectacle in front of him (not Keith's words, but judging by Keith's captivated expression, it was how Lance was going to describe it to their friends later).
There was a murmured "Thanks" from Keith as Lance dug out the cookies he'd wrapped in a napkin from his coat pocket. Since he hadn't been able to pry Keith away from this event to help him get their refreshments, he'd been stuck carrying it all himself.
He took a bite of his cookie as his eyes moved lazily from Keith's face to the roped off area where the competition was ongoing. Based on his boyfriend's unchanged expression, Keith clearly had no plans to leave anytime soon.
"Do you want the cookie I got you?"
To which Keith responded with: "Are you seeing this?"
Lance turned back to the display in front of them. "Uh, yeah?"
"Why didn't I know this was an acceptable knife hobby?" Keith asked, his eyes still pinned on the men and women who were participating in the small mountain town's annual ice sculpture competition.
Lance bit off another piece of cookie and chewed slowly as he eyed Keith and wondered if his boyfriend was going to begin stocking the freezer in their future shared apartment with giant blocks of ice.
"Lance, we should do this next year," Keith whispered in earnest as his eyes finally focused back on Lance's face for a short moment.
Keith nodded, his attention already back on the competitors. "Look at the size of the knife she's using over there."
"Looks a little more involved than just cutting ice with knives, Keith."
"I know, that guy has a saw," Keith whispered in awe. "Plus, you can help fill in on the non-knife parts. That girl's partner has been melting down small sections with a hair dryer."
"So, a year from now, you want us to be competing here together?" Lance watched Keith's gaze return to him, and froze a little when Keith's eyes narrowed in thought.
"You don't think we'll be together a year from now?"
And dammit if Keith didn't hit the mcfluffing nail on the head. Lance did his best not to let his doubts — which had nothing to do with Keith, and everything to do with his worry that Keith would get bored with him — show outwardly where Keith could see them. He didn't want Keith to ever worry that Lance didn't want to be with him.
"Of course I do," Lance responded.
But, it was like Keith had some built-in Lance McClain self-deprecation sensor. Lance couldn't complain about the kiss that Keith would plant on him as one of his first lines of attack. Or the assurances from Keith that usually followed. If these thoughts about Keith wanting to leave him one day were going to appear, he was grateful they were never allowed to fester.
He received a kiss from Keith now, and only felt slightly guilty that his doubts were taking Keith's attention away from the ice-cutting knife show in front of them.
"We should get going," Lance said next, eager to put this small moment where he'd forced Keith to reassure him behind them. "I've still got at least eight more stops for us down here in town."
But Keith didn't move, and Lance watched as Keith continued to regard him closely.
"You keep us pretty busy," Keith finally said, slowly. "You don't have to, you know. I'm not going to get bored with you, or whatever reason you've got to try to keep me so occupied when we have time together."
Mcfluffing. Nail. On. The. Head.
Lance shifted on his feet and fidgeted with his hot chocolate cup, sure that he appeared nervous and awkward and guilty, but unable to stop himself.
"Why do you always fill our schedule?" Keith's head tilted as he asked the question.
"When have I ever done that?" Lance avoided Keith's eyes, and suddenly found great interest in the ice sculpture work in front of them.
"Random weeknights. Every weekend. Spring break. Those two weeks we had off last June between the end of the spring semester and when I began my summer classes. The —"
"I'm still surprised you agreed to a day in bed yesterday, although, you certainly kept me entertained there as well."
While he couldn't seem to stop his fidgeting, Lance also couldn't stop the small smile from pulling at his lips when he caught Keith in his peripheral, purposefully adjusting the scarf he'd been forced to wear to hide all the marks Lance had given him.
"It's just, Lance," — and Lance finally turned back to him and met Keith's steady gaze — "I just have to be with you. If I'm with you, then I'm happy. You've had that effect on me since the start, you know?"
Keith wrapped his free arm around Lance's waist and Lance let himself be pulled in closer while he was busy rubbing a suspicious wet substance away from his eyes. Likely ice scraping cast-offs or something.
"As far as I can get with you," Keith whispered into his ear.
Words that had Lance falling even more in love with this boy every time he heard them. And, yup — okay, those were definitely tears escaping his eyes. He dropped his forehead to Keith's and sniffed before whispering, "I love you, too."
Keith beamed at him, his wide smile an image that Lance wanted to keep in his memories forever. Keith made it so easy to believe the reassurances. So, Lance took a deep breath, wiped away the last of the tears, and returned a grateful smile to Keith.
"So, we're going to take up ice sculpting, huh?"
Keith's attention returned to the competition, happy enough with Lance's response to be finished with the issue. He leaned more of his weight into Lance's side and nudged him before asking, "Do you think that guy would mind me asking where he got the big knife?"
"No one should look this mcfluffing adorable while talking about knives, Keith, seriously. Do you know what you do to me?"
"You spouted out thirty-six shark facts — yes, I counted — when I took you to that shark exhibit last summer. So, yeah. I know."
"I just cancelled all of today's plans," Lance said, quickly. His insides were beginning to buzz as he tightened his own grip around Keith. "I say we just return to the cabin. Go back to bed."
"Agreed. As soon as this is over."
Lance could see Keith's grin, even if his focus was still forward on the competition. He laughed into Keith's hair and kissed his forehead before saying, "Of course. Wouldn't want to miss what is sure to be an exciting conclusion here."
Prompt 5: Music
"Since you're faster than me —"
"You only admit I'm faster than you when it suits your purpose."
"— you'll do the drop, and I'll keep the getaway car running."
"Please stop calling it the getaway car."
"Keith, focus. We have to time this right."
Keith sighed, but he climbed out of his jeep and grabbed the bag from the backseat while Lance scooted over to sit in the driver's seat.
Lance rolled the window down and said, "He just went out back, so we should have a few minutes before he returns. Now's our chance."
"My chance," Keith mumbled, since he was doing all the leg work. He huffed out a breath before beginning a slow walk up to the farmhouse.
However, he stopped and whirled around a few seconds later when he heard music from the direction of his car. The hand that held the phone out the window — which was currently blaring the Mission Impossible theme song — was shaking from the force of Lance's laughter, as was the rest of Lance, who now sat hunched over the steering wheel, his face an unnatural red color as he wheezed with laughter.
"Lance!" Keith hissed, while he also pleaded with his face to not smile right now, dammit.
"Babe," Lance was very much chortling now as he leaned half his body out the window. "Hurry! We don't have all day!"
Keith spun on his heel away from his ridiculous but oh-so-hilarious boyfriend, and sped towards the farmhouse. He was mere seconds from depositing the bag on the front porch and making a run for it back to the jeep when the front door swung open and Keith suddenly found himself face to face with an adorable, tiny grandmother of a lady.
"Oh, hello young man." She had an easy smile, seemingly unperturbed at finding a stranger on her porch. "What do you have there?"
Keith froze for a few seconds before jerking his arm out towards the woman, offering up the gift bag in his hand. "Its, um, a neighborhood secret santa," he said, hoping that he sounded believable and that she couldn't somehow read between the lines to hear: My boyfriend and I felt guilty for stealing some of your dead cornstalks, so we thought we'd secretly leave a present on your porch.
The woman's smile widened, and although she accepted the bag, Keith found himself still frozen on her porch. How was he supposed to get out of this?
"Oh dear, I've ruined the surprise then, haven't I?" she said with a chuckle as she peeked in the bag.
"You sure did!" Lance said as he appeared suddenly by Keith's side. He slung an arm around Keith's shoulders and Keith gratefully let himself be pulled in close. "We better get moving though, more stops to make!"
"Well, Merry Christmas to you both!"
"Merry Christmas to you as well!" Lance replied cheerfully as he pulled Keith down the porch steps with him. Lance waited till she was back inside before hitting play on the Mission Impossible music again. Then he laughed and sprinted ahead, buying himself a few seconds before Keith caught him.
Prompt 6: Fireplace
"I want you to think very carefully about what you're about to do, Kogane."
Keith's head tipped innocently to the side, and Lance's eyes narrowed in suspicious response.
"I mean it, Keith. I don't think you want to mess with — "
An undignified squawk escaped Lance's mouth next as a snowball smacked him in the face. And as far as Lance was concerned, it didn't matter how much he loved this boy, all bets were off after that.
He ducked low enough for his hand to skim the ground's surface, allowing him to scoop up snow in his own gloved fingers, while also running for the tree line. Then he packed the snow between his palms, all while watching Keith's mischievous grin while he mimicked the actions.
They both used the trees for cover, and Keith's aim was pretty good, but Lance still managed to get several solid hits in. He dodged behind a particularly wide tree, and crouched in the snow in order to quickly begin making a small snowball arsenal. He assumed he'd hear Keith's feet crunching through the snow if Keith tried to get near him.
He didn't count on Keith's apparent cat-like ability to move through snow without any sound whatsoever.
Keith didn't just pelt him with snowballs this time, either. He tackled Lance from the side, and Lance suddenly found himself crushed into the snow with Keith grinning over him. The late afternoon sun broke through the trees to halo Keith's head, and Lance forgot about the snowball he was still holding in his own hand as his eyes admired Keith's pretty, flushed face.
He yanked Keith down by the front of his jacket until their lips met, and eventually forgot about the snowball fight in favor of wrapping his arms around Keith in order to pull him closer. Keith's lips moved perfectly against his own, and Lance let himself get lost in the warm feeling that always filled his chest when he kissed Keith.
He'd kissed Keith in many different places, but here — in the stillness of the winter forest, where the only noticeable sounds were the small noises coming from the two of them — was quickly becoming one of his favorite settings.
Keith was a warm weight on top of him, but eventually the snow beneath him caused him to shiver, and he reluctantly let Keith pull him up out of the snow to lead him inside.
"Wait, you were serious?" Keith straightened his pajama shirt — Lance had insisted they both change out of their snow-dampened clothes and into warm pajamas as soon as they'd come back inside. Lance had changed quickly and sped back downstairs, and now Keith found him crouched in front of the fireplace.
Lance's head turned enough so that he could see Keith over his shoulder. "What'd you expect?"
"I don't know, like, a fake fire on the TV?"
Lance laughed as he added more paper around the logs he had in the fireplace, encouraging the fire to take and spread. "Seriously?"
"Well," Keith tucked his feet up on the couch where he sat, "yeah. That's what Shiro does." He continued when he got a questioning look from Lance. "On Christmas morning, Shiro pulls up one of those fake fireplace apps on TV."
"That's so sad." Lance shook his head slowly, although he was keeping his eyes on the flames. The logs were finally burning, so he added a bit more paper. "So, you've never had a night in front of a fireplace before?" Somewhere in the back of his subconscious, he was aware that his eyebrows were waggling.
"Have you?" Keith asked flatly.
Lance replaced the fireplace screen and jumped up, deciding to ignore Keith's question as his eyes darted around the room. "Okay, we're doing this right!"
"What are we doing?"
"I mean, I don't have a bearskin rug —"
"Oh my god."
" — but I'll be right back."
Lance raced up the stairs and returned a few minutes later, arms full of as many blankets and pillows as he could carry. He began to spread the bedding out on the floor in front of the fireplace (well, sort of in front — fireplace embers were a thing and he didn't think Keith would be too impressed if he was randomly burned throughout the night).
He stood back and surveyed the temporary bed he'd created, one finger tapping his chin. "Okay, you settle in over here, pick out a movie, and I'll grab snacks."
He rushed off to the kitchen, and completely missed the soft look on Keith's face as he surveyed the fireside sleeping arrangement Lance had created for them.
Lance returned a few minutes later, placing a tray with glasses of cider off to the side as he asked, "What movie are we watching?"
"Elf," Keith replied as he pulled the bowl of popcorn from Lance's hands.
"My favorite," Lance said with a grin as he scooted into Keith's side when Keith lifted an inviting arm that helped pull him close.
"I know," Keith murmured into Lance's hair. "Cause smiling is your favorite." He smiled himself when he heard Lance chuckle in response.
Their small decorated tree stood beside them where they sat propped up on pillows. Keith was content, being warmed by an actual fire his boyfriend had built for him. And as he felt his limbs relax, he knew the two of them were likely going to spend the night right here in this spot.
"Hey, babe," Lance said — and his playful tone of voice told Keith he was about to be teased — "make sure you pay close attention to the snowball fight scene. Get some pointers."
Keith used the arm he had around Lance to pull him down into the bedding before swinging a leg over Lance's lap so that he was effectively sitting on him in under ten seconds.
"I won the snowball fight!"
Lance couldn't keep the shock off his face over their new positions. Nor could he keep his eyes from roaming over his stronger-than-he-looks boyfriend. But he still managed a trademark smirk as his hands found their place on Keith's waist.
"Noope. Don't remember. Didn't happen."
Prompt 7: Presents
Keith breathed out a sigh when he woke the next morning. He could hear a low crackling from the fireplace, and while it wasn't the large flames from the night before, he could still see orange swelling in the log that remained. Lance had pulled away from him at least once last night to feed the fire, something Keith wanted to learn to do so that he could help on future nights like this.
They had to leave today, and it would be at least a week before he got to wake up to Lance's face again. He shifted to his side in their nest of blankets, and even in his own continued sleep, Lance readjusted himself so that he remained huddled into Keith's side. Lance's head rested on one of Keith's arms, and Keith tightened the arm he had around Lance's back to help keep him close. He loved how Lance curled into him, leaving him to feel as though Lance trusted Keith to keep him safe as he slept.
"Merry Christmas," Lance said, voice raspy with sleep and eyes still closed.
Lance pressed himself even closer so that he could nuzzle his face into Keith's neck, and Keith smiled as he returned the sentiment, going along with Lance's idea to treat this morning like their own private Christmas.
"I'm gonna make you blueberry pancakes for breakfast," Lance murmured. "But first, I want you to open your present. I can't wait anymore to give it to you."
Keith's fingers instinctually skimmed along the waistband of Lance's boxers. "Is this an actual present? Or am I unwrapping something else?" he couldn't help but ask as Lance's lips began to trail over his neck. It was his weakest spot, and Lance knew it.
Sadly, Lance pulled away from him then in order to sit upright, but he did chuckle at Keith's pout before pulling him to sit as well. Then he leaned over to their small tree and pulled an envelope that he'd stuck in its branches. Keith did the same, pulling a small wrapped box from under the tree and depositing it in Lance's lap. Then he watched Lance run his finger across the top of the envelope he held before handing it over to Keith without a word.
Keith thought about how Lance was being uncharacteristically quiet, and noticed that Lance was chewing on his lip nervously again. So he accepted the envelope with a small smile and enthusiastically opened the tab so he could pull out the contents: a brochure and a formal-looking letter with his name on it.
Although, reading the letter over a few times still didn't make it make sense in his head.
"L-Lance, what is this?" he finally asked in a whisper.
Lance released a breath he'd apparently been holding before the words began tumbling out of his mouth so fast that Keith had a hard time keeping up.
"Okay, so I know you aren't exactly happy with the writing program at our university, especially since your professor only shows up, like, half the time. So I thought maybe you'd like to go to one of those writing workshop weekends? And, um, this one," — Lance pointed to the brochure in Keith's now slightly trembling hand — "is going to have your favorite writer as the guest author that weekend. I mean —"
"Lance." Keith was sure he was about to combust. What had Lance done for him?
"— I think he's your favorite writer? You have all his books in your room, so I sort of assumed. I guess if you buy all his books but secretly hate him, you don't have to go? Or…oh shit, what if someone else bought you all those books and you just kept them, cause you're nice like that? Oh man, Shiro bought them for you, didn't he? And of course you'd keep them, cause obviously your brother would notice if you —"
Keith lunged across the small space between them and wrapped his arms around Lance's neck before kissing him hard — his overwhelming gratitude leaving him speechless and unable to do anything else. Thankfully, Lance stopped talking (and stopped digging himself into a hole of worry) and melted against him in the kiss, softening it instantly by curling a hand around Keith's neck.
"So you like it?" Lance whispered.
"Oh my god, Lance," Keith whispered back before sitting upright again to stare down at the brochure. "This is amazing. I don't even — I mean, this is probably the best gift I've ever received. Thank you."
Lance leaned in to kiss him again, practically beaming in his relief and happiness.
"And he is your favorite author?"
"Yes." Keith couldn't do anything about how wide his smile surely was. "I'm going to bring every book I own of his with me."
Lance laughed as he said, "Well, leave some space in your suitcase for clothes, and maybe for me too. I might stow away with you for the weekend."
"Deal," Keith replied before leaning in to kiss Lance once again.
When Lance sat upright again, he lifted the box Keith had left in his lap and gave it a quick shake. "My turn?"
"No, wait," — Keith tried to pull the box away from Lance. "Mine is dumb after — after this." He nodded towards the brochure he'd dropped.
"I won't think it's dumb."
Lance's soft tone brought Keith's mind back to a whirlpool bath where that same soft tone had kept Keith safe as he opened up to Lance about his past. So, he slowly released his hold on the box and Lance rewarded him with a grin before he tore into the wrapping paper.
"Whoa." Lance's voice was now soft in awe as he pushed aside the paper and then ran his fingertips over the tree that was etched into the lid of the wooden box. He turned the box around in his hands slowly, and Keith watched as Lance seemed to admire the way the tree's leaf-covered branches extended to every side.
Then Keith's eyes fell to his lap, but he distinctly heard a gasp when Lance had likely found the place on the tree where Keith had carved their initials together.
"I just," Keith rubbed a hand across the back of his neck as he paused for a moment. "I know you keep all kinds of things from our dates, and —"
"Well, you've got that leaf in your wallet from the first time we went on a run together." Keith finally chanced a look at Lance and watched the pretty brown skin on his face begin to darken with a blush. "I guess that wasn't really a date, but you do keep all those ticket stubs from movies or aquarium trips. And I know you stole a menu from —"
"You can't steal a paper take-out menu!"
Keith's shoulders relaxed and he let himself grin at Lance's indignant tone. "Plus, I know you have a piece of corn husk somewhere in your dorm… And I thought maybe you'd like to keep it all in one place?"
"I would like that, yes," Lance said as he pulled Keith in close and used the shoulder of Keith's pajama shirt to wipe his suddenly wet eyes. "Who knew you could be so sappy?" he whispered into Keith's neck.
Keith pushed the box to the side so he could pull Lance into his lap. "Shut up," he responded with a laugh into Lance's hair.
"I'm not ready to say goodbye to you yet," Lance murmured while squeezing Keith's fingers within his own. Keith had parked his jeep in the parking lot outside of Lance's dorm, where Lance's own car sat waiting for him. But so far, Lance hadn't budged from the passenger seat.
"I'd try to make you feel better by saying its only a couple days till we see each other again for New Year's Eve, but — this does suck."
Lance studied Keith's fingers within his own and chewed on his lip in thought. "Well, what if…" He paused and glanced up at Keith's face. Keith was watching him with interest, and Lance was reminded of how easy things always seemed to be between them. "I mean, it's too late to arrange for this year, but what if we don't separate next year for Christmas? Like, I'll spend a few days with you at your dad's and then you come spend a few days with me at my parents' house?"
Keith responded by using their joined hands to pull Lance towards him for a kiss before saying, "As long as we get a few days to ourselves again, I'm in."
"Oh, definitely," Lance said with a nod and a serious expression. "We should definitely cushion all family trips with a few days to ourselves."
Keith chuckled as he watched Lance's face transform into a smile as well.
Chapter 3: The Prequel Chapter: Waves in the Sand
My one author note for this chapter is that I’m not sure Keith’s backstory will make sense if you haven't read “Break My Fall”
Other than that, I hope you enjoy this little prequel chapter!
The beach was his happy place. Sun. Waves. Salt in the air. A variety of revealing bathing suits.
Lance was sure that if there was a soul mate out there for him, he'd meet them right here in the sand of his favorite beach.
He didn't know it yet, but he was exactly right.
Keith scowled out the back window of Shiro's car, forced out of the front seat by Matt (like usual) after they'd picked up the Holt siblings on this forced trip out to the beach with Shiro and his college friends.
When Shiro had mentioned the beach trip a few days ago, Keith had nodded along absentmindedly, although he'd made eye contact and did his best to show Shiro he was listening to him, while he was actually just hoping to be left alone again so he could focus on the movie he'd found. Ever since Shiro had come home for the summer, he'd been pretty invested in getting Keith out of the house. Plus, Keith just knew Shiro was waiting for the full story of what had happened during Keith's spring semester that had led to him to dropping out.
Apparently, Keith should've actually listened to Shiro's latest attempt to drag him from his comfortable homebound mope-fest, because he'd been actually carried out to Shiro's car that morning after Shiro had literally dragged him out of bed and tossed swimwear, a beach towel, and a bottle of sunblock at him. Apparently he was going to the beach today. Apparently he was going to be paraded in front of his brother's friends like a loser who didn't have his own friends.
Keith sagged down further in the backseat as he remembered that he was a loser who didn't have his own friends.
The sand that collected in his flip flops with each step burned his feet, and the strong wind was also blowing the sand at his calves, stinging the skin. They were barely five minutes out of the air conditioned car and he was already sweating and desperate to pull his hair up off his neck, although it would have to wait since his arms were currently weighed down by three beach chairs and what he was sure was everyone's towels. He scowled at Matt's back as he watched Matt saunter through the sand carrying absolutely nothing.
Although, it wasn't exactly Matt's fault that he had nothing to carry. Shiro was the one who had loaded Keith's arms up while shooing Matt off towards the sand. Apparently he didn't want his good friend to be uncomfortable, while having zero qualms with Keith being uncomfortable.
Shiro had taken on the task of carrying their overloaded cooler, but Keith began walking backwards just so he could turn the full effect of his glare in Shiro's direction. Shiro just grinned back at him, before his mouth dropped open to call a warning out to Keith.
Too late, though, Keith's heel hit something in the sand and he toppled backwards, dropping the towels but having the mind to at least toss the chairs to the side as he landed on whatever he'd tripped over.
Apparently he didn't trip over something, but someone. Keith fell further into this guy's lap as the other pushed himself to sit upright from where he'd been napping on his towel. Keith's mouth fell open as he found his face mere inches away from beautiful blue eyes, a cute upturned nose, and soft brown hair.
"How did you not see me?" the other boy asked, although Keith was more focused on the way his mouth was twisting into a small pout while his eyebrows raised in question.
Keith was at a loss for a moment, too distracted by soft brown skin that covered broad shoulders and a bare chest to understand what was being asked of him.
Right. Keith had just tripped over this guy and was now sitting in his lap.
Suddenly Shiro was there, yanking Keith back to his feet. "Sorry about that, Lance," Shiro said.
And wasn't that just perfect? The beautiful boy he'd just embarrassed himself in front of was one of Shiro's friends. Someone he was supposed to hang out with all day.
The hits were just going to keep on coming this year. Awesome.
Lance stood once Keith had been pulled off of him, and stared at Keith with a small glare. And now Shiro was definitely giving Keith a look that was meant to remind Keith about manners.
"I'm sorry I fell on you," Keith murmured in Lance's direction.
"This is your brother?" Lance asked, eyes trailing over Keith in a way that had Keith wishing he'd paid a bit more attention to which swimsuit Shiro had tossed at him to wear earlier.
Whether or not Lance was currently checking him out was secondary, however, to Lance's irritated tone of voice and the way his eyebrows furrowed in continued offense.
Keith's arms crossed across his own bare chest and he scowled in response.
"Yes, Lance, this is my brother, Keith, and Keith, this is one of my friends from school, Lance."
While Lance continued to glare at him, Keith forced his eyes away as Shiro continued to introduce the other people sprawled across the sand in this area, including Hunk, Shay, and Lance's sister, Allura. Keith offered the others a small wave and then bent to begin gathering up the towels he'd dropped.
There was a loud scoffing noise behind him and when he stood upright again, he found Lance in the same spot as before, still glaring in his direction. Keith frowned in return and turned away from him to toss Pidge and Matt their towels before bending to pick up the last beach chair that hadn't been claimed yet — so that the last of his embarrassing entrance into this relaxing day on the beach was finally cleaned up.
"I'm glad you decided to come out with us today."
"Decide is a pretty strong word."
At the sound of Keith's voice, Lance shifted his head slightly to try to peer at where Keith and Pidge sat. He'd declined Hunk's invite to go swimming to instead sunbathe on his towel, which he'd happened to relocate near where Keith had planted himself in a chair.
"Shiro fireman carried me to the car."
"Yeah, I figured you were going to be a toddler about it, dude. Who do you think gave him the idea?"
"Pidge! I thought we had agreed to never team up with Shiro or Matt against each other?"
"I haven't seen you all summer!"
"We have an oath!"
"You've been moping for months. I evoked the 'Drastic Measures' clause."
"We don't have a drastic measures clause," Keith growled.
Lance tried to bite back a smile as he listened to the two of them go back and forth. He'd heard of Pidge from Matt's stories, but he'd only just met her that morning as well. And while he didn't know much about Keith or Pidge (yet), it was clear from listening to the two of them that they were close friends.
Although, his interest was piqued by their conversation as well, as he wondered what could've upset Keith to the extent that it would've kept him from spending time with his friends the past few months. Shiro had spoken highly of his brother (although none of those stories had included what Keith looked like and Lance felt like he needed to have words with Shiro about giving him literally no notice about how attractive his brother was, like what the hell, Shiro). And then, Lance remembered, Shiro mentioned that Keith had dropped out of college, which seemed to have left Shiro… worried.
"You should also know we have a 'Pidge gets to institute any clause she wants at any time to the no banding together with big brothers oath' clause."
"You're ridiculous. Why am I friends with you?"
"Because I'm about to institute the 'Get Keith laid' clause. Keep your eyes open for those Italian ice guys."
"You're twelve, don't talk that way."
"Shut it. I'm not twelve."
"Who are the Italian ice guys?"
"They walk the beach pushing small coolers on wheels and sell Italian ice, keep up Keith."
"Why am I looking for them?"
"They're usually college guys. Without shirts. Today's mission will be to get you a phone number."
"Understood. Also, that's not today's mission. And also, I still can't handle you talking like this."
"Excuse. I'm starting college in a few short weeks and I'm sure I'll hear way worse…"
Lance had felt a frown growing since the first moment Pidge had suggested this new plan of hers. But, this new, odd silence between the good friends left him feeling tense. He resisted the urge to fully turn his head to look at their faces, and instead focused on the way Keith's fingers were currently tightening around the arm of his chair.
"Uh, I'm sorry, Keith."
"Its fine, Pidge," Keith said after a moment, and maybe the wind was distorting Keith's voice, but he suddenly sounded off to Lance's ears.
"There's one of those Italian ice guys now. Guess I'll get started on your plan."
Lance watched Keith jump to his feet and begin to walk away.
Lance briefly thought about sitting up to see if Pidge was okay. Even though he didn't know her at all, he knew she'd be at their campus in the fall and he had a feeling she was about to become a good friend.
However, there was something pulling his attention away from her right now in the form of a broody, dark-haired, dark-eyed pretty boy who was currently headed towards a random shirtless dude in the sand.
Lance was on his feet before he knew it, stalking after the boy with the unruly hair (that Lance was fairly certain had nothing to do with the wind blowing across the beach).
Keith knew sooner or later his friends were going to call him out for hiding away, and that this forced day on the beach had been a first step in that. He'd just expected Shiro to corner him first, not Pidge.
He bypassed the Italian ice vendor guy and continued down the beach, moving himself into the surf so that the waves wrapped around his calves as he walked, the first relief from the heat he'd felt all day. Then he remembered his hair tie and began to pull up the hair that was sticking uncomfortably to the back of his neck.
"Wow, so that ponytail is a thing, huh."
"Huh?" Keith asked, turning to find Lance falling in step next to him. Lance looked as surprised by Keith's question as Keith had been by hearing Lance's voice out of nowhere. Pidge's comments were immediately forgotten as Keith fought a smirk when he realized that Lance likely hadn't meant to say that out loud.
"Come on, hit the water with me." Lance pushed past the embarrassment and strode into the water, all while hoping that Keith would follow him.
He smiled when he finally turned to check, and promptly leaned down to splash some of the surf towards Keith's shins. Keith's eyes narrowed in threat, but Lance could see the playful glint Keith was trying to hide. He'd made it far enough out that the waves were crashing against his back now, making it even easier to splash Keith again. Keith retaliated quickly, sending a wave of water towards Lance. Lance dove under the next wave to avoid it, and managed not to laugh until he resurfaced on the other side.
"Be careful, these waves are choppy enough as it is right now!" Shiro called over to them right as Lance got a faceful of salt water thanks to Keith.
"Keith started it!" Lance yelled in response, grin wide as he tried to splash Keith again.
"Hey!" Keith yelled.
Lance heard Matt tell Shiro to 'let the kids play' before spinning to dodge another spray of water from Keith. He laughed as he tried to splash Keith again, and reveled in the sound of Keith's laugh, quiet as it was. Maybe they had had a rough start earlier, but Keith wore a small grin now, and actually looked like he was having fun. And Lance couldn't help but stare at the way the sun shone off his dark hair and made his eyes appear almost purple in color.
A larger wave, rougher than the others had been today, curved up towards them unexpectedly, but Lance instinctually dove beneath it. He resurfaced on the other side, and prepared himself for another attack from Keith. But Keith wasn't waiting for him this time, instead Keith was still underwater, popping up only a moment later, coughing and sputtering as his hands rubbed at his throat.
That wave had not only knocked Keith off his feet, but pulled him under and tossed him around. His mouth had dropped open at the surprise, and he regretted it instantly as he began to choke on salt water.
When the wave finally passed and his feet found the ground, allowing him to push himself back to the surface, he resurfaced coughing so severely that he was sure his throat was going to hurt as much from this abuse as from the salt water.
"Dude, hang on."
It was Lance's voice in his ear and Lance's arm around his waist, helping back to shore where so he could bend at the waist and cough without the waves shoving him around.
"I didn't see that one," Keith sputtered around the burn in his throat.
"They can be pretty tricky."
Lance's hand pat Keith's shoulder a few times, more in camaraderie than an attempt to help him expel the water he'd swallowed, but considering how Lance had been picking at him since they met, he was grateful that Lance wasn't teasing him now for being taken down by that wave. Instead, Lance looked genuinely concerned, and when Keith stood upright again, Lance's hand remained on his shoulder, allowing Keith to lean into it for a moment.
"Hey, do you want one of those Italian ices?" Keith asked. His throat burned from the salt water and another cart was coming their way.
"Those guys are everywhere," Lance mumbled.
The corner of Keith's mouth lifted in amusement. He wasn't sure what about Italian ice frustrated Lance, he just knew the way Lance's mouth twisted in a pout was pretty cute.
"So that's a no?"
"You know, I had a job with one of those pushcarts on this beach the summer after I graduated high school," Lance responded instead.
And then Keith couldn't help the small smile on his face as he watched Lance straighten to his full height (good Lord this boy's legs were long) and drop both hands to his hips, putting his broad shoulders on full display. Without realizing it, Keith's eyes trailed over smooth brown skin, toned muscles, and really long legs, before he caught himself and pulled his eyes back up to Lance's face.
The only thing that kept him from being embarrassed about blatantly checking Lance out? The fact that he caught Lance blatantly checking him out at that same moment. Although, when Lance's bright blue eyes made it back up to his face, there wasn't a hint of embarrassment from Lance, just a wide, confident smile.
Keith let his own smile grow.
"You two doing okay?" Shiro asked, his apprehension on their ability to hang out civilly after their rough start earlier clear in his tone.
"Yes, Shiro," Keith sighed.
"Great, well I'm here to steal Keith for a minute."
"Why?" Keith asked, arms immediately crossed and frown in place.
"Tell your eyebrows to calm down," Shiro joked as he slung an arm around Keith's shoulders and began to pull him down the beach. "I just want to talk." He turned to yell over his shoulder to where Lance still stood. "Tell the others we'll be back in a while."
Keith managed to shove Shiro's arm off and twist enough to glance behind them. When he saw that Lance was already walking back towards where everyone else sat, he held back a sigh.
"Talk about what?"
"I just want to know how you're doing?" Shiro began to walk again, and Keith reluctantly began to walk with him.
"I'm fine, Shiro."
"Okay. You're not, though," Shiro said, exasperation clear in his brother's tone, which was pretty telling to Keith, since Shiro was the most patient person Keith knew. "You dropped out of college, Keith. That's a huge deal. And I haven't pushed you to tell me why before because I thought once I was home for the summer… you'd just tell me in person. But you haven't."
Keith felt his own breathing slow as he stopped walking and stared out at the ocean. His skin suddenly felt too tight and his stomach too heavy.
"Keith," Shiro's voice was quiet but firm, "if I need to go onto that campus and kick some asses, I will. But I need to know who and why first."
Keith huffed out an involuntary laugh. "You're not kicking any asses, you old timer."
He watched Shiro smile in response, but his brother remained silent after that, willing to wait Keith out. Always willing to wait Keith out.
"Okay, I'll tell you," Keith finally said. He began walking again, needing more distance between this conversation and the rest of their friend group.
Lance grinned when he finally spotted the two men he'd been watching for come back into view. Although, his eyes narrowed as he watched Shiro alternate between sending worried glances in Keith's direction and glaring angrily out towards the ocean.
Lance had never seen Shiro angry before. That was… well he wouldn't want to meet angry Shiro in a dark alley, that was for sure.
Lance turned towards where Matt sat nearby, and caught Matt's confused expression as he caught sight of Shiro as well. Matt hopped to his feet and walked to meet the brothers, allowing Keith to escape Shiro's side as Matt began pushing Shiro into the water under the guise of wanting to swim.
Lance turned his attention back to Keith, who had just collapsed into his low beach chair (Lance had made sure his towel was still situated next to it) and dropped his head to the back so he could stare up at the sky.
"Later, Pidge?" Keith pleaded without looking at her.
Keith sounded absolutely drained and Lance's eyes flickered between Keith and where Shiro was standing solidly in the waves with Matthew. Although, while the waves bumped Matt around a bit, it seemed like Shiro's pure fury was keeping him solidly planted in the sand. What the hell had happened on their walk?
"Okay," Pidge said slowly as she also glanced out to where Shiro was speaking to Matt in the water.
Whatever Shiro was saying, with that hard expression that continued to radiate anger, had Matt's eyes widening in dismay. Then Matt began pushing at Shiro's shoulder, something that took a few attempts before Shiro allowed himself to be moved. Matt glanced up at the group on the beach, taking in Keith's sad form before he led the two of them away, likely for a more private location for the discussion.
Matt was a self-proclaimed dork, but he was a dork who was going to do his best to soothe his best friend and protect Keith's privacy.
And maybe Lance didn't really know Keith well, but no one should look that upset on his beach. He leaned over and flicked Keith in the shoulder.
"Ow!" Keith gasped, shooting into an upright position as he turned an angry glare in Lance's direction.
"You're burning," Lance said simply. "You didn't put any sunblock on, did you?"
Keith's hand rubbed over the spot where Lance's fingers had landed and his mouth twisted into an adorable pout as he tried to eye his red shoulders himself.
"Come here," Lance said, crossing his legs beneath him to make room on the towel in front of him. He pat the empty spot a few times while waggling his eyebrows at Keith. "I can get your back."
Keith stared at him in disbelief for a moment, then glanced at his red shoulders again, and then turned to look towards Pidge.
"Well, I'm not doing it," Pidge scoffed before turning her attention back to her book.
Keith slowly pushed himself out of his chair and to his knees before twisting so that he could sit in front of Lance. Lance wore a wide smile, pleased that Keith was actually going along with this.
"We'll chase off those melanoma cells right now, dude," Lance said cheerfully before visibly cringing. What was he saying? He'd always wanted to apply sunblock to some hot babe on the beach and here was his chance and he'd decided to open up with a joke about cancer? …He was so very thankful Keith couldn't see his face right now.
He squeezed some sunblock into his palm, and then… paused. Applying sunblock had been a good idea a few seconds ago, since it was a decent beach distraction and Keith was actually burning under the sun. But, actually applying sunblock…
Lance jerked into action when he saw Keith's head begin to turn back towards him. Thankfully, he managed to avoid slapping his palm onto Keith's burnt skin, and instead slid his palm across the top of Keith's back, leaving the lotion behind so that he could then begin using both palms to spread it evenly. Keith's head quickly swung back towards the ocean at the first touch, and Lance smiled as his palms slid over the soft skin of Keith's shoulders. He did his best to keep the touch gentle, sure that the red skin was already sensitive, but he lingered over those shoulders, and felt them relax as he kept up the light massage. He moved to Keith's exposed neck before regretfully pulling his hands away in order to add more sunblock to his palm.
After Keith's reaction to the shoulder treatment, Lance felt free to massage the sunblock into Keith's back as well. And as his hands moved down Keith's back, impressive muscles shifting under his fingertips, he swore he heard a soft sigh from the pretty boy in front of him.
With Keith finally relaxed in the sand with him, Lance knew his smile was wider than ever. And he was once again thankful Keith couldn't see his face.
Keith's mouth dropped open as the frisbee he was supposed to be catching landed a good ten feet away from where he stood in the ocean.
"How are you so terrible at this?"
"Keith, be nice," Shiro sighed as he waded close enough to grab the frisbee and throw it towards Matt, who caught it and threw it towards Pidge. Pidge's throw landed in Hunk's hands, who once again threw it to Lance. Lance glared down at the plastic circle like it offended him, before he did his best to throw it to Keith again.
"That's… that's really sad, Lance."
Shiro was scolding Keith again, but Lance couldn't find it in himself to be offended when he could see fondness in Keith's eyes as he teased him. Keith swam towards him then, grabbing the frisbee on the way, and then announced that he couldn't let Lance go on being hopeless like this forever.
Which apparently meant wrapping himself around Lance with instructions on how to play frisbee. Lance is pretty sure that's what Keith was trying to explain. It was hard to tell with so much heat pressed up against his back. Plus, Keith's hand was wrapped around his own as he tried to show him how flick his wrist properly as he released the frisbee and that just shouldn't have been as hot as it was. Together they threw the frisbee, and Lance did his best to jump in excitement in the rolling waters when it actually reached Shiro, even if it did hit him in the chest since he wasn't paying attention.
Lance twisted, which sadly led to Keith releasing him and taking a step back, but he still thanked him with a bright smile and then admired the way Keith's skin was flushed from his chest all the way up to his ears.
"Um, excuse me."
Lance turned at the sound of an unfamiliar voice and found a girl about their age behind him. Her blonde hair was pulled into a long braid that curved around one shoulder, although there were curly wisps trying to escape that framed her small heart-shaped face.
"Do you know how to use one of these?" Her large brown eyes were full of hope as she bit her bottom lip and lifted the boogie board she held as she spoke. "Do you think you could teach me?"
Lance sort of wished fifteen-year old Lance was here to witness this moment, just to give the kid some hope that there would come a day when a pretty girl in a tiny bathing suit would actually approach him instead of the other way around all the time. And, also, the girl would have had a better chance with a pre-Keith Lance.
"Oh, sorry," Lance said as he wrapped an arm around Keith's waist and tugged him into his side. "I'd love to, but I really can't leave this one unsupervised."
"Hey!" Keith complained, although he was doing nothing to escape Lance's hold. As another wave rolled past them, Keith even wrapped an arm around Lance to help keep them steady.
"Yeah, he really wiped out earlier," Lance continued to tease.
"I was caught off guard!"
The girl giggled as she watched the two of them. "I understand."
"My sister could probably help you, though," Lance said with a smile, pointing behind the girl where Allura stood in the water, eyes trained on the frisbee currently sailing towards her from Shay's latest toss.
"Sweet, thanks," the girl said before she began swimming over to Allura.
"You — you could've helped, if you wanted." Keith's voice was quiet and he was staring out to sea instead of looking at Lance.
"And risk leaving you to be swallowed by the ocean?" Lance asked with a grin.
"Lance, I can swim," Keith said flatly.
"Besides," Lance continued before Keith could say more, "I'd rather stay here and float with you. Come on, these are perfect floating waves."
Not only was the water calmer than it had been earlier, they were also far enough out that they could float over the waves instead of worrying about any crashing on them. Lance enjoyed feeling weightless and listening to the sounds of the ocean and their friends nearby.
But he really enjoyed glancing to his side and seeing Keith floating beside him. Keith had his eyes closed, which allowed Lance the opportunity to just admire how sweet his dark lashes looked against his skin. Plus, he still wore the same small smile that had appeared when Lance had insisted that he just wanted to float here with him.
"Is this your favorite place?" Keith asked without opening his eyes.
"Yeah," Lance sighed as he turned his gaze back towards the sky. "I grew up just a couple blocks away. We were here all the time. It was pretty hard to leave it when I went to college this past year."
When Keith didn't respond, Lance glanced over the waves at him, and found Keith's mouth in a thin line and his eyebrows furrowed. It was the same tense expression Lance had been trying to avoid seeing on Keith's face all day.
"Of course there's an aquarium near our college campus, so I would drag Hunk or Allura over there just about once a month. It's not the same, obviously, but it's the next best thing. Plus, you can get up close to some of the animals in a way I don't think I'd enjoy out here." He'd floated close enough to Keith now that he could duck his hand beneath the other boy's floating body and quickly pinch near his shoulder blade.
Keith yelped in surprise, eyes widened as he jumped to his feet and eyed the water suspiciously. Lance pushed himself to his own feet, laughter so intense that it was initially silent before it finally fell out of his mouth in loud bursts.
"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry." Although, he had to admit the apology didn't sound as sincere as he would like since he couldn't get the laughter under control. "See, that's why aquariums are better," he said, hands raised in defense as Keith stalked towards him through the water. "Nothing would attack you in an aq—"
They both went under as Keith pounced on him.
Have enacted proper revenge for the pinching stunt (Keith had seriously thought a fish or a crab or a freakin shark had nipped him), he and Lance were back to floating, which was one of the most relaxing things Keith had done probably ever in his entire life.
The beautiful boy who kept making him smile and had just grabbed his hand so the waves couldn't push them away from each other as they floated didn't hurt, either.
"You're starting to look a little red again," Lance said. "We should reapply sunblock before you turn into a lobster."
Keith made a small noise of agreement, but still took a few more moment to float before he began to drag himself out of the water after Lance. They both did their best to dry off before Keith accepted the sunblock bottle from Lance and began to cover his face and chest as he watched Lance do the same.
"You want me to get your back?" Keith's voice was more hoarse than he would've liked, but Lance had helped him out earlier, so it made sense to offer.
Still, Lance glanced at him in pleased surprise before nodding and sitting himself down on his towel. Keith took the spot behind him and was grateful for the privacy they currently had, since all their friends remained in the water. He wasn't sure if this felt as good to Lance as Lance's fingers had felt on his own back earlier, but he did his best to take his time so the lotion spread evenly over Lance's skin. There were adorable freckles everywhere, although they were grouped in bunches up on Lance's shoulders. Keith sort of wanted to kiss them, but settled for brushing his thumbs over them, which had Lance ducking his head forward as Keith heard a heavy exhale. Quite a different reaction from the yelp and giggle he heard when he ran his fingers over Lance's sides.
"Your turn," Lance said, swiping the bottle back from Keith as he tried to glare for the tickling.
Keith tried to hide his grin as he began to turn on the towel, but a hand on his shoulder stopped him.
"Why don't you lie down on your towel?"
"Lie down?" Keith could feel his face heating up again.
"Yeah," Lance said with an easy smile. "I think I can get more of your back that way."
Keith nodded, he supposed that made sense, and then shifted onto his towel and got comfortable. Lance's fingers were an immediate welcome pressure against his back. He pressed deep into Keith's muscles as he worked, starting with his shoulders and moving down one side of his back before he focused on the other. Keith couldn't hold back several tiny groans that escaped him under Lance's talented hands.
He had a moment of disappointment when Lance's hands left him, and he realized his entire back had received attention. But then Lance's hands were back, just fingertips this time that drew small patterns over his skin and made him shiver.
Forget floating in the water. This type of floating was the most relaxing thing Keith had ever experienced in his entire life.
It took him a few moments to remember where he was and what had happened the next time his eyes opened. The sun wasn't as high or bright as it had been earlier, although all the people having fun nearby were still just as loud as before.
He swallowed a few times as he realized he had been napping through the noise and activity since Lance's sunblock application technique had put him right to sleep. He rubbed his cheek against his towel before turning his head in the other direction, which brought him face to face with a sleeping Lance. Lance was also sprawled out on his stomach, and was using his crossed arms as a pillow. He looked so peaceful and beautiful in the late afternoon sun. It was the best view Keith could imagine waking up to.
Lance groaned and stretched then, long legs going taut and muscles shifting across his back, before his eyelids revealed those blue eyes again. He focused on Keith and then smiled. "That's a nice view to wake up to," he murmured as he stretched his arms out in front himself. Then he froze, likely realizing that he'd once again just spoke his thoughts out loud. He glanced back at Keith, "Um —"
"You're finally awake," Shiro said, nudging his foot into one of Keith's ankles. "Matt and I are gonna run the chairs and cooler and stuff to the car, then we'll pick a restaurant for dinner with everyone. That okay with you?"
"Yeah," Keith murmured, only half listening as he replayed Lance's words in his head.
"Good, get up. I need your towel. Here's your shirt."
"Hey, Keith, I bet I can make it to the Quiet Storm before you."
Keith's eyes narrowed as he stared down the row of brightly lit boardwalk stores. He couldn't even see the one Lance was referring to from here.
"Lance," Allura began, "you are not racing down this boardwalk like a —"
"Go!" Lance yelled before taking off, long legs moving gracefully as he darted around the people ahead of them.
Keith didn't even give a second thought to giving chase and using his own impressive coordination to dive around the other tourists so that he not only caught up to Lance, but was about to leave him behind. At least, he would've if Lance hadn't grabbed his wrist and dragged him into an arcade. It was like entering a dark cave after the brightness of the boardwalk, and Keith let Lance lead him deep into the game center, trusting Lance not to walk him into anything while his eyes adjusted.
"What are we doing in here?" Keith asked when they reached a corner quiet enough so that he would be heard. "Is there a game in here you want to —"
He stopped speaking when his back hit the side of a large game and Lance stepped into his space, no longer touching, but close enough for Keith to admire the freckles on Lance's nose. He hadn't noticed them earlier, and maybe they'd just needed a day in the sun to really stand out against Lance's beautiful skin.
"I want to kiss you, Keith."
Keith nodded without hesitation and felt his eyes close just as Lance's mouth landed on his own. Keith had experienced a few awkward kisses in the past, but with Lance, there was no bumping noses or rough presses that resulted in clanking teeth. Lance's soft lips moved perfectly against his own lips and Keith could only wrap his arms around Lance's neck to pull him in closer.
Lance's hands had landed on his hips, and he squeezed Keith's sides as he leaned his weight into Keith. A pleased sound rolled up Keith's throat, because although his knees felt slightly weak, he was safely squeezed tight between this arcade game and Lance's warm body. He shivered as one of Lance's hands found its way under the hem of his shirt to press long fingers against his skin, and Keith let the fingers of one of his own hands wander up into Lance's hair in order to card through the soft strands.
Lance's continued eagerness was evident in the way he deepened the kiss, soft lips pulling at Keith's bottom lip for a moment before he released it, and when Keith's mouth fell open with the action, Lance didn't hesitate to slide his tongue into Keith's mouth.
"What?" Keith managed to say when he heard Lance chuckle into the kiss.
"You sort of taste like salt water."
"Shut up," Keith said with his own chuckle before pressing forward to claim Lance's smile for himself.
"I was pissed when we met because you were so hot," Lance murmured between kisses.
"So you weren't mad at me for tripping over you?" Keith's voice was slightly breathless, but he persisted in the teasing, enjoying the ability to tease and kiss someone at the same time. The smile on his face had felt strange all day, like a muscle he hadn't used in a while, but he was getting used to it with Lance around.
"One hundred percent certain it's against the law to be mad when a pretty boy literally falls into your lap."
Keith chuckled and shook his head, barely aware of the Mission Impossible theme song coming from the game at his back.
"You're the beautiful one, Lance," Keith said softly.
There was a spark of disbelief in Lance's eyes, quickly chased away by one of Keith's eyebrows raised in a challenge. Then Lance squeezed his sides once more, a beaming smile on his face before he pressed in close and kissed Keith again. That smile made the kissing difficult, but Lance persisted, dropping a kiss to the tip of Keith's nose before trailing kisses over to one of his ears. It was when Lance's teeth tugged on Keith's earlobe, and Keith found himself arching against him, that Keith seemed to remember where they were.
His new groan was of frustration as he dropped his head to Lance's shoulder. Lance chuckled, even as his hands fell from Keith's waist, feeling the shift in the mood between them.
Keith missed those hands already. And the free access he'd had to Lance's mouth just a few seconds ago.
"The others are probably looking for us," Keith murmured as he lifted his head and let his eyes sweep over Lance's just been kissed face. The pretty blue of his eyes was almost difficult to see with how dilated his pupils were. His lips were a darker pink, as were his cheeks. Keith allowed his fingers to slide through Lance's hair again, although now his purpose was to try to tame some of the strands sticking out in ridiculous directions thanks to Keith's previous roaming fingers.
Lance's eyes flickered between Keith's eyes and his mouth a few times. He was still breathing quickly, but then he swallowed quickly and pulled his phone from his pocket. "Uh, yeah. Either that or left us behind completely…" Lance checked his phone screen and made a few quick clicking noises with his tongue as he read a text from Hunk. "Yeah, they're already grabbing a table, but the restaurant is nearby." He glanced up at Keith again. "I guess we hurry and get over there?"
His eyes dropped to Keith's mouth again and Keith accepted the silent invitation to kiss him again, hands gentle against Lance's face because Lance was the best thing to happen to him in a really long time.
But at that thought, the pain of the past few months returned, and he ducked his face, separating their mouths. Lance wrapped him in a tight hug and kissed the tip of his ear before he whispered a resigned, "Alright". He led the two of them out of the arcade and down the wooden planks of the too-bright boardwalk to the seafood place the others had chosen.
Allura made a comment about how nice it was for the two of them to stop competing with each other and join them for dinner, and since they were the last to arrive, they were stuck with whatever seats were left — which were not next to each other. Keith tried not to be bummed about it as he did his best to talk to Pidge beside him, while also watching Lance as Lance told stories with his hands and let his laugh fill the space at their table.
It was when they were paying the bill that Keith realized Shiro was already saying his goodbyes to the half of the group that hadn't ridden to the beach in his brother's car. And when he searched out Lance across the table again, he found Lance's eyes already intently locked onto him. Keith's eyes darted around the restaurant, but there wasn't a single visible reason for him to leave the table and hope that Lance would follow so they could have at least one more moment alone.
"Let's go." Shiro nudged Keith's shoulder as he stood from the table.
Keith pushed his chair back and stood slowly before he glanced at Lance again. Lance was still seated, one around wrapped around the back of his chair. Those blue eyes were still pinned on Keith, and Keith could read the disappointment in them easily. It disappeared in the next moment, though, as half of Lance's mouth curved into a small smile and he lifted one shoulder in a small shrug.
Shiro was hugging Allura goodbye and Keith thought of the way he'd been wrapped up safe in Lance's arms at the arcade and desperately wanted another hug from Lance. Except, everyone here thought they'd spent the day annoying each other, so a public goodbye hug would likely be a bit strange.
When he didn't immediately begin to follow their group, Shiro tugged on his arm (which, ouch — he was definitely going to be hurting from his earlier sunburn over the next few days), forcing him to move. He worked to catch up so he could walk next to Pidge.
He only looked back once, before they were too far away and before there were too many boardwalk people in between them to hide Lance from view. Thankfully, Lance had stood by then as well, making him easier to see. He sent that same small smile in Keith's direction before raising his eyebrows in a silent question.
Keith turned away and kept walking. Lance deserved better than his mess right now.