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Las Palabras de Amor

Chapter Text

The sun burned bright through the gaps at the edges of Lance’s curtains, reminding him he needed to go soon or else skip his coffee run before work.  Lance wished his roommate would at least warn him when she felt the need to disassemble their shared coffee maker to use for parts in the middle of the night, but Pidge would only respond to this frequent complaint with a cryptic, “genius waits for no-one”, and they’d have a new coffee maker the next morning.  Normally it wouldn’t matter, because Lance was usually up with plenty of time to spare in his morning routine before he had to be at work, so on the days when Pidge had torn the coffee maker to pieces, Lance would just make his stovetop brew.  Today, unfortunately, was the exception to the rule, as Lance was expected to be at the community center early to set up for the first day of his youth basketball camp.  Despite the change in schedule, Lance loved running sports camp weeks and he couldn’t wait for a fresh group of kids to congregate in his gym this morning.

As Lance wrapped up his (abridged) morning routine, there was a faint clattering noise from the other side of Lance’s wall.  It wasn’t loud enough to warrant more than a subconscious acknowledgement on Lance’s part, since his room shared a wall with the neighboring apartment and he was accustomed to strange noises.  Lance’s neighbor was an early riser – much earlier than Lance – and went on runs.  Runs.  Every morning!  At 6 am!  It paid off, obviously, because Shiro was built like Hercules from the 1997 Disney animated classic Hercules, but every time he’d invited Lance to join him, Lance was certain a little part of his soul died at the mere concept of getting up that early for physical exertion.  He’d never admit how relieved he was when Shiro found someone else who was willing to run with him.

The sound of running water rushing through the pipes still didn’t grab Lance’s attention, preoccupied as he was trying to find his shoes without admitting defeat (aka, turning the light on), but what did make Lance’s ears perk up was the singing.

“Josie’s on a vacation far away,
So come around and talk it over
So many things that I want to say
You know I like my girls a little bit older...”

There were two things Lance knew at this point:

One: The man singing in Shiro’s shower was definitely not Shiro.

Two: He was really good.

Ever since he was a kid, Lance had sung in the shower.  He sang in the shower because his parents sang in the shower, and his sisters sang in the shower, and even his abuelo sang in the shower.  Shower singing was not a science.  It wasn’t even an art, but it was something Lance loved regardless.  Lance found it telling when people sang in the shower – what music was on their mind when they were relaxing.  Lance was the first to admit that most shower singing wasn’t good – he knew his wasn’t.  The only decent shower singers he’d ever heard were his Mama and Pidge (though Pidge had threatened Lance with his ability to bear future children if he told anyone she sang Broadway show tunes in the shower).  Well, they were the only ones until now, because this guy was blowing them out of the water.

“I just wanna use your love tonight,
I don’t wanna lose your love tonight…”

Lance was so curious now.  He’d seen Shiro in the stairwell just last night.  Maybe he had company.  Maybe someone had broken into his apartment to use his shower after Shiro left for the gym!  Well, maybe not the second one.  Shiro probably just had company that he hadn’t mentioned. 

Lance found his shoe kicked halfway under his desk and perched on his bed to put on his socks.  Once they were on, he let himself lean back, head against the wall, and listen.  He hadn’t heard this song in a long time, and he couldn’t really remember what it was supposed to sound like, but he liked this guy’s version more than he remembered liking the original.

“Try to stop my hands from shaking…
But something in my mind's not making sense
It's been a while since we were all alone,
But I can't hide the way I'm feeling…”

Even though the voice was unfamiliar, Lance could tell how unguarded it was.  Even though part of him still felt like he was intruding on this guy’s privacy, the voice was comforting.  He glanced at the clock again and finished tying his shoes.  Shit, where’s my jacket?

“As you're leaving would you please close the door?
And don't forget what I told you.
Just 'cuz you're right that don't mean I'm wrong
Another shoulder to cry upon.
I just want to use your love tonight…”

Lance rifled through a stack of laundry on the floor of his closet until he caught sight of the white and blue track jacket he was looking for.  He gave it a quick sniff and deemed it acceptable for today -- though he’d probably have to do laundry sooner rather than later. 

“I don’t wanna lose your love tonight…
I don’t wanna lose your love tonight…”

Lance glanced at the clock again, cursing under his breath.  As much as he wanted to stay and hear if the mystery singer kept going, he wouldn’t be able to stop for coffee if he stayed longer.  Grabbing his keys from the hook on the closet door, Lance slipped quietly out of his apartment and headed for the stairs.  Have a good day, mystery shower man, Lance thought absently as he trotted down the stairs.  He checked his phone as he pushed his way out of the building and headed for his car.

From: Hunkules

 

(7:38 am)

>>Are you stopping by?

 

(7:41 am)

<< be there in 5 :D

Hunk’s bakery was only a few blocks over from the community center Lance worked at, and one of Lance’s favorite places in the world.  Stepping inside the warm, sunlit bakery and breathing in the scent of fresh bread and buttercream icing felt as comfortable as wrapping himself in a warm blanket.  Lance grinned as he walked up to the glass bakery case and leaned an arm casually across the top.  Hunk was focused entirely on the layer cake currently resting on his turntable, applying perfect dots of icing along the edge of the cake with a quick and precise hand.  Once he’d made a full revolution, he spun the table around again to make sure the border was even.

“Lookin’ good, big guy,” Lance said.

“Thanks,” Hunk said, bringing to cake to a stop before turning to Lance and wiping his hands on his apron.  “Excited for camp week?”

“Hell yeah, dude,” Lance said with a nod of his head.  “I always love camp.”

“Well good luck on your first day,” Hunk said, bending down to pull a paper box out from beneath the counter.  “I put together a little snack for you guys.”

“Hunk,” Lance said seriously, cracking the lid open to peek at the array of scones and muffins.  “You’re the best.”

Hunk grinned.  “You’re welcome.  And also, you forgot your thermos at my place on Friday, so I washed it and refilled it.”

Lance let out a groan as he accepted the warm container from his friend.  “What did I ever do to deserve you in my life?”

Hunk only smiled at that, mopping at a spot on the counter with a rag.  “You’d better get going.  I’m sure you’ve got a lot to do before kids start arriving.”

Lance checked the time on his phone and twisted his mouth sadly.  “Yeah, you’re right.  Thank you for everything and I love you with my entire life.”

Hunk chuckled.  “Have a good day, Lance.”

“You too, buddy!” Lance called as he exited the shop with his coffee and pastries and returned to his car.

 


 

When Lance arrived at the community center, his watch read 7:52am, yet when he pushed his way through the gym entrance on the east end of the building, the gym was not only already lit, but occupied.

“Morning, Lance,” Shiro called from across the gym, where he was inflating basketballs to their proper weight.

“What gives?” Lance asked.  “Even when I’m early, I’m late.  You guys are making me look bad.”

“That’s hardly our fault,” Allura, the community center’s director, replied.  She stood up from where she had been bent over a folding table, sorting paperwork, and crossed her arms over her chest with a teasing grin.  “You’re perfectly capable of doing that all on your own.”

Lance pressed a hand to his chest with an offended look, but he was laughing.  “You wound me, princess.  I even brought a gift.”

Allura rolled her eyes, still smiling.  “It’s not you, Lance.  It’s me.”  She paused, glancing at the bakery logo on the box he carried.  “Though I’ll take the gift.”

“That’s what they all say,” Lance said with a dismissive wave of his hand.  “Hunk sent these,” he continued, setting the box on the table and flipping it open.  Lance glanced at the paperwork Allura had been sorting as she halted for a moment to pick a raspberry scone out of the box.  “Are those the registration packets?”

Allura hummed in affirmation, holding up a hand to her mouth as she chewed.  “Yes.  It’s all sorted out, so you’ll just have to have the parents sign and check the kids in for the day.  If you need anything, Coran and I will be nearby.”

“I got this,” Lance said, casting a confident grin at Allura.  Shiro clapped him on the shoulder as he leaned in to get a blueberry muffin from the box.  “Where’s Coran?”

“The lanyards I ordered for the nametags have not arrived yet, but Coran was certain there was a box of leftovers from our spring drama camp, and he ran over to the west wing to get them.”

“Dope,” Lance said.  “Did you leave anything for me to do? You know, since it’s my actual job to set all this up?”

Allura glanced over her shoulder.  “We weren’t sure where the practice jerseys got tucked away at the end of last camp, so if you could track those down it would be wonderful.”

“Your wish is my command,” Lance said with a wink, before he turned to head for the equipment closet.  He could near Shiro snickering behind him, which had him biting down a grin.  While his advances toward Allura had at first been genuine, she’d quickly expressed her disinterest.  However, as their friendship grew over the years, the bantering became a part of their dynamic that they both appreciated – Lance faux flirting with Allura just to hear her witty retort.

Lance located the practice jerseys easily enough, having been the one who laundered and put them away after the high school basketball camp last month.  They were up in the rafters, wedged between a stack of plastic cones and a replacement backboard for the basketball hoops.  Getting up there was the tricky part.

“Need a hand, Lance?” Shiro called, after Lance lost a fight with a bag of volleyballs and they went tumbling off a shelf and across the floor.  

“Maybe one,” Lance chuckled, gathering up the volleyballs and stuffing them back into the bag.

Shiro appeared in the doorway, a smile tugging at his lips as he handed Lance a wayward volleyball.  “You find the jerseys?”

Lance pointed toward the box above his head.  "Right there.  Easy peasy, as soon as I can get the ladder close enough.”

Shiro shifted a pile of gym mats out of the way with such ease that Lance had a hard time believing (not for the first time) that Shiro wasn’t some Greek demi-god reincarnated as a good-natured war veteran in scrubs.  He fit the ladder easily into the newly freed space and held onto the rungs as Lance climbed up, tugged the box gently out of its place, and climbed back down.  “Thanks dude.”

“No problem,” Shiro replied easily.

“Boys,” Allura called as they left the equipment closet.  “I’m expecting a call from someone about renting the empty practice space in the theater wing, so I’m heading up to my office.  I trust you’ve got things in hand without me?”

“Yes ma’am,” Shiro replied confidently.

“Sure thing, sweet-cheeks,” Lance said at the same time.  Allura shook her head as she headed out of the gym toward the offices in the north wing.

“Oh hey, Shiro,” Lance said casually as Shiro returned to inflating the few final basketballs.  “Is someone staying with you this weekend?”

Shiro’s brow furrowed.  “No?  Why do you ask?”

“It sounded like there was someone in your shower this morning. You're usually gone by that time.”

Shiro pursed his lips thoughtfully.  “Are you sure it wasn’t the apartment above mine?  The pipes sound the same sometimes.”

Lance twisted his mouth.  “Maybe.  I didn’t think of that.  I was just imagining someone breaking into your apartment to shower, haha.”

“I doubt anyone would break in just to shower, so it was probably the neighbors upstairs,” Shiro said, the corners of his mouth turning up to replace his frown with a smile.  “But thanks for your concern.”

“Hello gents!” Coran’s chipper voice rang through the gym as he entered with a small cardboard box tucked under his arm.  “How are you this morning, Lance, my boy?”

“Primed and ready for camp,” Lance replied.  “Hunk sent breakfast.”

“Ooh!” Coran exclaimed, beelining for the pastry box.  “His scones are the bees knees.”

“True dish,” Lance said.  “How’re you today, Coran?”

“Quite good, my boy,” Coran said, brushing a crumb from his ginger mustache.  “I have a new DJ at the radio station to finally take over the midnight shift while Axca is out on leave.  I’m a tick too old to stay up so late, you know.”

“Good to hear you’re getting a good night’s sleep again, buddy,” Lance said with a chuckle. He tipped his thermos back for a long drink.  “I’ll never understand why I go through twice as much coffee during camp weeks than a normal one.”

“It’s only an hour earlier than you’re usually here,” Shiro pointed out.

“Says the man who gets up every day at five.”

Shiro let out a chuckle.  “Point taken.  If you need a top-off, Allura’s hoarding a fresh pot in her office.”

“I love you so fucking much right now,” Lance said.  “Pidge destroyed our coffee maker again.  That’s the third one this year.  I’m pretty sure if Walmart had a rewards card, we'd be getting a free one soon.”

“Hey Coach!”

Lance’s attention was drawn toward the gym door, where the two college students who had volunteered to help him out during camp had just come in.  He shot them a welcoming smile.  “Hey guys, glad you’re here.”

“I have to head to work,” Shiro said.  “You got it in hand?”

“Yessir,” Lance agreed.  “Have a good day!”

“See you, Lance.  Hey guys,” Shiro greeted the volunteers as he passed them, and Lance thumbed through a stack of name-tags to find Adrian and Bethany’s and attach them to their lanyards.  

“You guys excited? I know I am.”

Both students nodded in affirmation.  They had been Lance’s assistants at last month’s senior high basketball camp, and they shared his enthusiasm for the camps the center ran -- Adrian was a center for Arus University’s upper-division men’s basketball team, while Bethany was a point guard for the women’s team.  They were good kids, and both were enrolled in the sports management program at Arus.  He offered them each a pastry and ran them through the agenda for the day -- what drills and techniques Lance had lined up for the first day.  “They’re just middle schoolers, so we’ll take a little longer to warm them up than we did with the high schoolers last month,” Lance explained.  Adrian and Bethany nodded in agreement.

“The kids should be getting here any moment,” Allura said, returning from the offices with a small stack of insurance forms.  

“Your phone call come already?” Lance asked.

Allura nodded in the affirmative.  “They elected not to rent the space,” Allura said, and Lance could hear the tinge of relief in her voice.

“You know, you don’t have to rent it out so soon,” Lance murmured.  “You’re in charge.”

“I know,” Allura said.  “It just feels silly, holding onto it.  It isn’t like he’s coming back to use it.”

“It’s okay to miss Jack,” Lance told her.  “Hell, sometimes I’m halfway across the center on my way to tell him something before I remember he won’t be there.  He was our friend, Lu.  There’s not a lot we can do other than miss him.”

Allura nodded firmly.  “I know.  And maybe I’ll let it rest a while longer,” she said.  “It isn’t like we need the revenue of a single classroom space.”

“Exactly,” Lance said, patting her back comfortingly.  “It’ll be okay.”

“Are you ready?”  Allura asked, shaking herself back to the present.

“Let’s get this show on the road,” Lance said with a grin, turning away from his volunteers to close up the box from Hunk and put it to the side.  “First day of basketball camp, here we come.”

The day passed in a bit of a blur.  The middle school camps were always a bit smaller than the high school or adult camps, but that only made it easier for Lance to work with them.  Lance was in his element, running them through warm-ups and ice-breakers until they seemed comfortable enough with each other to start on some simple catching and passing drills.  Lunch passed quickly, with Allura ducking in briefly to make sure all was running smoothly.  The hours after lunch went even quicker, as the kids had continued bonding over the hour break, and when Allura walked up behind him to quietly inform him that it was a quarter after four and parents were waiting, Lance couldn’t believe the day was already over.  

“All right, kids, huddle up,” Lance called with a short burst from his whistle.  The middle schoolers congregated around Lance as he stepped onto the court, grins painted on their faces.  Lance grinned in return.  “That’s all we’ve got time for today, unfortunately.  But, we will see you all back here tomorrow morning at nine sharp, got it?  And maybe if you ask reaaally nicely, Coach Bethany and Coach Adrian might give us a little demonstration, huh?  All right, have a good evening, everyone, and we will see you tomorrow!”

The kids let out a cheer and stampeded for their duffel bags, lined up against the wall beside the gym door.  One of the kids -- a freckle-coated 12-year-old named Rhys -- hung back from the others to catch Lance’s attention.  “Sup dude?” Lance asked.

“Thanks for a great first day,” Rhys said, his expression beaming delight.  “You and coach Bethany are super cool.  And Adrian, but I wasn’t in his group.”

Lance chuckled, patting the kid’s arm.  “You’re welcome, Rhys.  I appreciate that.  See you tomorrow.”

“See you!” Rhys agreed with a vehement nod, before sprinting toward his bag and his waiting mother.  

Lance grabbed a basketball that had rolled toward the bleachers and returned it to the cart where the rest had already been lined up.  “Thanks for your help today, guys,” Lance told his assistants.  “You can head out; I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“You sure, Coach?” Adrian asked.

Lance nodded.  “I’m just gonna shove all this shit in the equipment closet since we’ll have to do it all again tomorrow.”

“Need a ride, Beth?”

Bethany shook her head, reaching back to tighten her ponytail.  “My fiancée is already waiting in the parking lot.  I might take you up on that later this week, though,” she added with a grin.  “See you tomorrow, Coach!”

“Bye Coach!”

Lance waved goodbye to his assistants and made quick work of putting away the equipment.  After he’d closed up the gym, he locked his office and headed out to the parking lot.  As he crossed the now quiet lot, he pulled out his phone.

To: Hunkules, Pidgeotto, Shirp

(4:32 pm)

<< pizza, beer, and N64 tonight?

(4:32 pm) Pidgeotto:

>> Hell yes

>> Also Matt’s coming over and he’s also in

(4:33 pm)

<< hunk u can bring shay if u want

(4:33 pm) Hunkules:

>> Shay’s at her parents’ tonight, but i’m in!

(4:33 pm) Shirp:

>> I think I’ll take a pass, guys.  

>> I’m supposed to meet my brother for dinner tonight.

(4:35 pm) Pidgeotto:

>> BRING HIM!!

(4:35 pm) Shirp:

>> Sorry, Pidge. I promised him sushi.  

(4:35 pm)

<< does everyone know this guy except me??

(4:36 pm) Pidgeotto:

>> tell the asshole the owes me a phone call shiro

>> i gotta bounce but matt and i should be home around six

(4:36 pm)

<< sounds good, i’ll grab beer on my way

(4:37 pm) Hunkules

>> I’ll be over in an hour, Lance

>> I gotta drop Shay off

(4:37 pm)

<< all good buddy, see u soon

<< have fun with ur brother shiro

(4:38 pm) Shirp:

>> Thanks, Lance. See you tomorrow.

Chapter Text

“‘ullo?”

“Keith?”

“What— ugh – what Takashi?”

“What are you doing?”

“Yoga,” Keith deadpanned into the phone, gritting his teeth with the exertion of loosening a slightly rusted bolt, his cell phone tucked between his chin and shoulder as he put his full weight into it.  “What’s up?”

“Are you working on your bike?  I can call back later.”

“Takashi, just talk.”

Keith often professed that the only thing in his life he’d ever truly loved was his motorcycle.  This was not entirely accurate, of course, as anyone who had truly known Keith would confirm.  But it was – loosely speaking – true.  Keith’s motorcycle, affectionately dubbed “Cherry Bomb”, had been built from the ground up by Keith’s own hands.  The bike, in its wonderful, mechanical form, was the only thing on which Keith fully and entirely relied to stay constant.

It was melodramatic, he knew, but nobody said his coping mechanisms had to be healthy.

Cherry Bomb had started as a project in the back corner of his dad’s auto shop the summer after Keith turned seventeen.  She was a side-project, a little hobby Keith liked to dabble in to stretch his mechanical skills.  He got a lot of help from his dad in terms of advice and a helping hand here or there, but she had always been entirely Keith’s baby.  By the time Keith dropped out of college in his junior year, she was finished.

Keith and Cherry Bomb had been a package deal for years now, despite his mother’s subtle attempts to direct Keith’s life into (what Keith thought was) more or less a replica of his brother’s.  Get a car, Keith.  Get a steady job, Keith.  Get an apartment with a lease longer than a month, Keith.  Keith and his mother had never been close, and her suggestions – while well-meaning – were grating on his nerves.  Keith’s older brother had been his hero for as long as he could remember, but Keith had never wanted to be Takashi.  His mother’s comments only solidified Keith’s resolution to remain a nomadic bachelor.

“Is something wrong with your bike?” Takashi asked over the phone.  “Do I need to come pick you up for dinner?”

“I’m fine.  Cherry Bomb is fine.  She’ll be ready in plenty of time for me to meet you at—” Keith grunts again, finally turning the bolt loose enough to unscrew it fully with his fingers.  “Where are we meeting again?”

“I’ll pick you up.”

Takashi,” Keith said, exasperation leaking into his tone.  “I’m twenty-five years old.  I don’t need you to pick me up.”

“I’ll be there at six-thirty.”

“Taka—you know what, fine,” Keith huffed.  “I’ll see you at six-thirty.  Is that why you called?”

“I called to see what time you wanted to meet.”

“Just stating for the record that you acting like my mom was annoying when we were kids, and it’s even more annoying now.”

“That’s fair.”

“For real, though.  Did you need something?”

“Not really.”

“Bye, Shiro.”  Keith said, pulling his phone away from his ear and hitting the end button with his thumb.  He wiped a bead of sweat from his forehead with the back of his forearm and watched the oil stream out the bottom of the reservoir.  Keith and Cherry Bomb had spent more than their fair share of time on the road, and now that he was back in the same well-stocked garage she’d been built in, he’d decided it was time to freshen the old girl up – starting with a nice oil change.

After replacing the drain bolt, changing the oil filter, and refilling his bike with fresh oil, Keith decided that since he still had some time before Takashi would be here, that he should make a run to the liquor store just in case he could convince his brother to loosen up with him after dinner.  Keith grabbed his well-patched leather jacket and headed downtown.

Cherry Bomb had always attracted stares.  As a loud, flashy vehicle, people often remarked to Keith on some aspect of it, whether it was a compliment or not, and he was well used to it.  So when Keith pulled into a parking space in front of the liquor store and a tall Latino man in a white and blue track jacket paused on his way into the building to lift an eyebrow and let out a smooth whistle, Keith was not startled.  “Nice bike,” the stranger said.

“Thanks,” Keith replied easily.  “Built her myself.”

“Dude, that’s so fuckin’ cool,” the stranger said excitedly.  He fell into pace beside Keith as he headed for the entrance of the store.  “How long did it take?”

Keith shrugged.  “A couple years, on and off.”

“That’s crazy dedication,” the stranger said.  Inside the store, the stranger lifted a hand in greeting to the employee behind the counter and veered off in her direction, and Keith continued on his mission for beer and Fireball.  His brother was a beer snob, but Keith wasn’t picky, so he grabbed the first six-pack of IPA that looked hipstery enough to suit Takashi’s palate.  If Shiro didn’t like it, Keith would drink it.  He then made a beeline for the whiskey aisle, grabbing a liter of Fireball off the shelf.  It might have been a while since he’d been to town, but he remembered the liquor store well enough.  Necessities in hand, Keith made his way up to the front counter, where the lanky stranger from outside was being rung up, chatting amiably with the cashier.  He stepped out of the way so the cashier could ring his purchase, and took a sidelong glance at Keith’s items.  “Good choice.”

“Huh?”

“The beer,” the stranger said, nodding toward the six pack.  “It’s a good brew.”

“Oh.  Good, maybe my brother will actually drink it, then.”

“Beer snob?”

“The worst,” Keith said.

“I have a friend who drinks that stuff, and he’s more pretentious with his beer than anyone I’ve ever met,” the stranger assured him.  “You’ll probably be safe.”

“Thanks.”

The cashier handed Keith his receipt after he turned down her offer to bag his items.  The stranger bid goodbye to the cashier and again fell into step alongside Keith as they headed back toward the parking lot.  If Keith found it weird – which he kind of did – he didn’t comment.

“I feel like we’ve met before, but I can’t place you,” the stranger admitted.  “Are you from around here?”

“I grew up here,” Keith said.  “I’ve only been back like twice in the last few years, though.”

The stranger’s eyes narrowed as he cast another quick glance at Keith, then his eyes went wide and he snapped his fingers.  “Did you know Jack Kogane?”

Keith blinked twice.  “Yeah, he was my dad.”

“I saw you at the funeral,” the stranger said, his voice softening.  “I used to work with him.  You look a lot like him.  Same eyes.”

Keith’s dad’s death was still a bit of a tender subject, so Keith wasn’t terribly keen on the comment, but the remark that he looked like his father struck a chord.  All his life, people told Keith, much to his chagrin, about his remarkable resemblance to his mother.  It lifted some part of Keith’s spirit that someone thought he looked like his father.  “Thank you.”

“Sure.  Hey, can I ask you a question?”

Keith glanced over at the stranger, one brow lifted in curiosity.   “Sure?”

“Is the mullet, like, an aesthetic choice, or did you literally time travel from 1985 upon waking up this morning?”

“Excuse me?”

“I mean, because up until now, I’d assumed mullets and hot guys were mutually exclusive, but here you are, pulling off both, and it feels a tiny bit impossible, you feel?  Or maybe you’re just the exception to the rule.”

“Uh—”

The stranger winked at Keith, flashing him a confident grin.  “Maybe I’ll see you around, Cherry Bomb.”

Keith watched in mild awe as the stranger deposited his case of beer in the trunk of his rover before pulling out of the lot.  The experience was a bit surreal.  Sure, Keith wasn’t great at flirting, but at least he could usually let it roll off without a second thought.  The stranger had just… caught him off guard, Keith decided.  Yeah.  That was it.  He’d been disarmed by friendly banter, a comment about his father, and the gorgeous, ocean blue eyes set in a tanned and attractive face had nothing to do Keith’s blood all deciding to pool in his cheeks at once.

It was fine.  He was fine.

It wasn’t like he’d ever see the guy again anyway.

 

Keith made it back to the house, and with plenty of time to kill between stashing his liquor in the fridge and the six-thirty appointment when his brother would be coming to pick him up, Keith occupied himself with sorting through the garage.

The house Keith had grown up in was in good shape, but his dad had been in the middle of renovating the bathroom when he’d passed.  Keith had literally found the pipe that was supposed to connect the shower head and the wall in the kitchen sink.  Keith figured he’d just get it done himself, though he was better under the hood of a car.  Once he’d gotten the house back in shape, Keith would tell Takashi to find a better place to hide his spare key than behind the loose 3B screwed to the outside of his apartment door.  Until then, Shiro didn’t need to know Keith had already broken into his apartment multiple times – twice to shower, and once for the jacket he’d forgotten after his shower.  Theoretically, Keith could have asked to use the shower – or anyone’s shower, for that matter, it wasn’t like his friends weren’t generously helpful – but it felt like some sort of defeat.

Keith’s phone buzzed at a quarter to six, telling him Takashi was on his way.  Shiro pulled up in his silver sedan, waving at Keith as he leaned across the passenger seat to see out the window.  Keith quickly joined him in the car, buckling his belt as Shiro backed out of the driveway.

“No Matt?” Keith asked as Shiro turned the corner at the end of the block.

“He had plans,” Shiro replied easily.  “He said he’ll make it up to you by having you over for dinner later this week.”

Keith huffed a laugh that was barely audible.  “Yeah, because I trust Matt Holt to cook anything edible.”

“If I know anything about Matt, your dinner will consist of a number ten from the Golden Monkey and a side of wontons.  Ready for sushi?”

“Takashi, if you’re buttering me up to pry open the cold, dead barrier of my emotions, it won’t work,” Keith said bluntly.  “You can just ask.”

Shiro was quiet for a moment, turning onto the main road that would bring them to the highway.  “Okay.  How are you doing?”

“I’m fine.”

“How are you really?” Shiro said, leveling Keith with a look as long as he could spare from the road.  “I mean, we spoke at the funeral, but then the next thing I know, you’re here?  No word, no warning?  It’s been two months.”

“Coran knew,” Keith said.  “I assumed that meant everyone would, to be honest.”

“I thought we were close enough that you might, hey, drop a line.  Not assume that the rumors would get back to me through the grapevine.”

“I’m sorry?”

“I just want to make sure you know that we’re here for you,” Shiro said, his voice steady.  “Me and Pidge and everyone.  Just because your dad—” Shiro cut off, clearing his throat.  “I know he was your confidant, but the rest of us love you too, and we haven’t gone anywhere.”

Keith was quiet, his eyes locked on the seam in Shiro’s dashboard.  “I know.  It hasn’t been easy, and I know I tend to worry people by keeping everything close to the chest but… I know.”

Shiro extended his arm, the cool metal of his prosthetic fingers on Keith’s knee a grounding force.  “Okay.  I just wanted to make sure.”

“Thanks, Takashi.”

 

When they arrived at the restaurant, Shiro gave the host his name for the reservation.

“Oh, the rest of your party is already here,” the host said.  “Right this way.”

Keith’s brow furrowed.  “Who else is here?”   

“Thank you,” Shiro was saying to the host as he led them into the dining room. 

Keith tugged at his brother’s artificial arm and repeated, “Takashi, who else is here?”

Before Shiro could answer, Keith saw answer to his own question and his fingers tightened around Shiro’s sleeve.  “Hi Mom,” Takashi said, bending down to hug their mother before taking a seat on the opposite side of the booth.  “Hope you weren’t waiting long.”

“I’ve only been here a few minutes,” she told him.  Her gaze turned toward Keith, still frozen a few paces from the table.  “Hello Keith.  Are you going to sit down, or stand there gaping all night?”

Keith’s gaze shot toward his brother, who was very carefully staring at the drink menu with a blank expression.  Then he took a breath, leaned down to give his mother a kiss on the cheek, and took a seat beside Takashi.  “Hi Mom.”

Emiko Kogane tipped her head to one side, studying her younger son with a curious expression.  “It’s been a while.  How have you been?”

“Good,” Keith said flatly, glancing up at his mother.  She looked more or less the same as she always had with her sharp jawline and analytical gaze – the same as she did on the half dozen or so real estate ads littered around town with her face on them.  There was a tinge of gray at the temples of her dark hair that Keith had never seen before, and he was surprised she would let it get that noticeable.  Though he resembled her strongly, Keith and his mother were not close – hadn’t been close at any point that Keith could recall.  She’d left Keith’s father when Keith was still young, deciding to abandon a second husband and son in order to “focus on herself and her career”.  She kept in touch with both her sons, but the attitude Keith harbored toward her was less than conducive to a healthy relationship than she might have hoped.  The only reason Keith still spoke to her at all was because of Takashi.  “I’m back in town for a while.”

Emiko quirked one brow.  “I noticed.  Are you putting your father’s house on the market?”

“Most likely,” Keith said.  “I was planning to call you when I’m ready to list it.”

“And then what?” she asked.  “Back to the road like a nomadic bachelor determined never to settle in one place long enough to develop attachments?”

Keith steeled himself against flinching as she hit the nail on the head, instead forcing himself to stay cool and not imagine strangling his mother in a sushi house.  “Maybe.”

“There’s a townhouse opening up in Shiro’s neighborhood this fall,” she said.  “The rent is manageable, especially if you sign a two year lease or find a roommate.  Or there is always your father’s house.  No mortgage, since he left you everything.”

“Thanks for the real estate tips, Mom, but I think I’ve got it covered,” Keith said, turning his attention back to the menu.  “The real question is, do I want tiger rolls or California rolls?”

“Get the sample platter,” Shiro advised.  “That’s what I always get.”

“Oh, good idea,” Keith said.  “I don’t like the crunchy rolls, though.”

“I’ll take your crunchy rolls if you want my sashimi,” Emiko said.

“Deal,” Keith said.  “Takashi’s buying, right?”

“I don’t remember that being part of the deal,” Shiro chuckled.

“I’ll buy,” Emiko said.  “Tell me about your new job, Keith.”

Keith glanced toward his brother, silently communicating that Takashi owed him big time for not warning him about their dinner company, before resigning himself to an evening of small talk with his mother.

Chapter Text

Lance sat at his kitchen table, nursing a cup of warm beverage that was more creamer than coffee and flipping through the pictures his older sister, Sofia, had sent him that morning of her son.  Sofia was three years older than Lance, but she had been his closest friend for as long as he could remember.  Her son, Marco, was two now, and according to Sofia, asked about his Tio Lance every day.  

Lance hit play on the video Sofia had sent him, of Marco playing with the puppy they’d adopted last week.  Marco shrieked gleefully as the tiny boxer puppy licked his face as Marco lay on the ground, too uncoordinated yet to both stop the dog and sit up.  Lance chuckled and tapped the text box to send a message back to Sofia.

 

To: Sofita

(7:07 am)
<< tell marco i love him and im gonna come visit soon

(7:08 am)
>> Marco’s gonna hold you to that if i tell him

(7:08 am)
<< someone’s gotta hold me accountable.

(7:09 am)
>> He wants to know if you’ll be here tomorrow lmao

(7:09 am)
<< sorry buddy hahaha

  (7:10 am)
>> He wants to introduce you to Neptune.
>> [Sofita sent a video]

 

Lance clicked play on the new video from Sofia.  The angle told Lance that Marco was holding the camera, his little hands shaking a bit as he tried to hold it up.  “Tio, I... I gotta puppy.  Look!”  The shaky camera pan moved to bring the tiny, gray boxer pup into view.   “Ne-tune, say hi Tio!”  Lance smiled as he heard Sofia’s bubble of laughter from somewhere out of view.

 

(7:10 am)
<< omg i just want to give him a hug
<< is neptune the name he picked out?

  (7:10 am)
>> Yup. He’s pretty dead-set on being an astronaut lately
>> Nadia taught him how to use her telescope a few weeks ago

(7:11 am)
<< of course
<< the stars r better than anything u or i have to offer

(7:12 am)
>> Nadia *was* the one who bought the puppy… 

(7:13 am)
<< that’s the spirit, sof ;)
<< listen i gotta get going, i’ll getcha later 

(7:13 am)
>> Have a good day!
>> Marco sends kisses.
>> [Sofita sent a photo]

(7:14 am)
<< XOXOX

 

Lance downed the rest of his coffee and headed to his bedroom to get dressed for work.  The sound of running water greeted him as he crossed the threshold, and the thought barely registered in Lance’s brain before the sultry sound of his mysterious shower singer rose above the rushing pipes.   

“Don't touch me now
Don't hold me now
Don't break the spell darling
Now you are near…”

Whoa, okay.  It had been ages since Lance had heard this song.  It was one of his favorite Queen songs, but not one they played on the greatest hits station by any means.  It immediately flooded Lance's mind with a feeling of security and nostalgia.

“Las palabras de amor,
Let me hear the words of love,
Despacito mi amor,
Love me slow…”

When Lance was a kid, his older brother brought home a stack of cd’s from the thrift store he worked at.  Among them was the album Hot Space by Queen, and while the rest of the world knew “Under Pressure”, Lance played “Las Palabras de Amor” over and over until anyone else would be sick of it.  Over the years, his family adopted it, and he would hear his abuelito hum it to Abuela while she hemmed his trousers, and hear his papa sing it to his mama while they danced in the kitchen late at night. 

“But while we live
We'll meet again
So then my love
We may whisper once more
It's you I adore…”

Look, Lance was just trying to get ready for work.  It wasn’t his fault that the guy above Shiro decided to take up a shower-singing habit and he didn’t need a teary trip down memory lane at 7am.

“Las palabras de amor…”

Maybe he should just go.

“Let me hear the words of love,
Despacito mi amor,
Touch me now…"

Yup, yup, definitely time to go.  Lance grabbed his track jacket hastily and escaped back out to the main room of his apartment.  The sound was fainter, but Lance could still distinguish the chorus as the stranger continued singing.  Lance shoved his jacket on and was headed out the door before he could over-think this anymore.  

“Are you leaving already?” Pidge asked as Lance grabbed the doorknob.  She was standing in the kitchen in her favorite Tweety-bird night-shirt that Lance was convinced was older than Pidge herself, pouring a cup of coffee from the new machine she had brought home the night before.  Her curly brown hair was still tied up on top of her head, where she'd put it during their N64 tournament the night before.  Lance vaguely recalled Matt flicking bottle caps at the stubby fountain of hair and cheering when one stuck.  “It’s not even seven-thirty.”

“Basketball camp, my dude.”

“That doesn’t start until nine?”

“Las palabras de amor...

Pidge’s brow furrowed as she glanced toward Lance’s room.  “Is your alarm going off?”

Lance shook his head.  “I think the upstairs neighbor forgot theirs on again.”

Pidge shrugged, taking a sip of her coffee.  “Well, whatever.  Have fun with the sports gremlins.”

“Don’t be jealous, Pidge,” Lance said with a grin.  “You’ll always be my favorite gremlin.”

Lance made it out just in time to hear a spoon clatter against the inside of the door where he’d just stood.

 

From: Pidgeotto

(7:22 am)
>> also if you’re gonna drink all the Malibu at least recycle you egg

(7:22 am)
<< as u wish gremlin-baby

(7:23 am)
>> i will cut your fucking nuts off lance

(7:23 am)
<< i knew we shouldnt have fed u after dark :(

 

The window above Lance’s head was thrown open and Pidge leaned out, glaring daggers at him as he crossed the parking lot toward his car.  “I know where you sleep, douchenozzle!”

“Love you too, Pidgeon!” Lance blew a kiss toward his roommate and slipped behind the wheel of his car.

Day two of camp was just as much of a whirlwind as day one.  Bethany’s group powered through their drills like nobody’s business and Lance was happy to see her taking charge as a leader, but he was still on his toes, correcting form and giving pointers and answering questions.  It wasn’t until the kids were filing out of the gym with their parents at the end of the day that Lance felt his brain caught up with him.  

After getting home and deciding he couldn’t let the gorgeous weather go to waste, Lance decided take a bike ride to clear his head.  He asked Pidge if she wanted to come, but she turned him down in favor of transplanting her succulents into the new pots she had bought a few days earlier. Lance was about eighty percent sure that was just an excuse for Pidge to avoid explaining to Lance that she'd disassembled her bike for parts two weeks ago.

This was how Lance found himself on the other side of town, biking through a residential suburb he only vaguely recognized.  Lance let his eyes slip closed for a moment as he soaked in the mid-summer sun.  It was peaceful out here – the chirping of birds, the faint bass of a stereo playing, and the bark of an overly excited dog.

Lance opened his eyes just in time to see said dog come barreling right for him, the tiny bull terrier angling to cut Lance off.  Lance let out a yelp and swerved hard to avoid hitting the dog.  His front tire slipped off the edge of the sidewalk and his handlebars twisted violently, throwing him off balance and sending him flying toward the pavement while his bike headed toward the grass bordering the sidewalk.  Lance instinctively braced for impact, his elbow hitting the rocky, black tarmac and absorbing most of the blow.  He felt gravel crunch against his forehead as he completed his fall and he spent a full ten seconds just lying there, processing what just happened.  The radio played on.

Thump, thump, thump

“Another one bites the dust...”

“Holy shit, are you okay?”

With those words, Lance’s hope of nobody having seen his tremendous lack of grace vanished, dashed against the street along with his dignity.  The music that had been playing cut out as damp nose nuzzled against his leg, accompanied by another bark.  Lance pushed himself into a sitting position and immediately regretted the action as he was flooded with dizziness.  “Whoa, shouldn’t’a done that,” he muttered, staring at the concrete in an effort to find focus amid a sea of swirling stars.  The little gray bull terrier entered his vision, a pink tongue hanging out of his mouth as he stared at Lance.  Then arms were wrapping around it and pulling the dog back.  

“Sit, Gunther.”  A pair of weathered blue jeans torn clean through the knees appeared as the witness to Lance’s humiliation knelt beside him.  “Sorry, he’s really good at slipping out of his leash. You okay?”

Lance looked up and blinked at the vision in front of him.  The first thing he saw was a pair of dark gray eyes, laced with concern, staring at him from under the brim of a battered red baseball cap.   It was the same cute mullet guy from the liquor store and Lance felt simultaneously blessed to see him again and mortified at the circumstances.  “Am I in heaven?”

Cherry Bomb’s brow furrowed.  “No?”

“I just assumed you were an angel,” Lance said.  “Nice to see you again, though, Cherry Bomb.”

There was a beat where Cherry Bomb just stared at him and Lance’s mental process turned to him wondering if it was too late to go back and let his neck absorb the brunt of the fall because had he really just said that to a stranger who watched him eat shit on his bicycle?

Cherry Bomb held up a finger about a foot from Lance’s nose.  “Look at me,” he said, trailing the finger up and down, then side to side.  “What’s your name?”

“Lance Fuentes,” he said easily, doing his best to follow Cherry Bomb’s finger but finding it a bit difficult.

“What’s your address, Lance?” he asked, dropping his hand and staring intently at Lance, eyes flickering back and forth between each of Lance’s pupils as he studied them.

“Um.  701 Garrison Street, apartment , uh—three? Three A.”

“I think you have a concussion.”

“Yeah, that’s what I was thinking,” Lance replied, pushing himself slowly into a seated position.  The dog was still staring intently at Lance, tongue lolling out of his mouth as casually as could be.  “At least your dog’s okay."

“My neighbor’s dog,” Cherry Bomb corrected.  He squinted at Lance, looking concerned.  “Dude, your… your head is bleeding kind of a lot.  If you wanna come inside, we can get you cleaned up.  I have a first-aid kit.”  He extended a hand toward Lance as he stood up.

“Thanks,” Lance said, letting Cherry Bomb pull him up off the ground.   He hissed as his limbs shifted and he realized his knee was bleeding as well.

“Anything broken?” Cherry Bomb asked, looking Lance up and down.  “Are you dizzy? Nauseous?”

“Kinda dizzy,” Lance said.  “The nausea is probably induced less by the head injury and more by the fact that I just ate pavement in front of a really attractive stranger.”

Cherry Bomb smiled at that, letting out a little huff of laughter.  “All right, Casanova.  Let’s get you inside and see what Gunther’s enthusiasm cost you.”

Cherry Bomb slung Lance’s good arm around his neck, tucking a warm shoulder against Lance’s armpit and bracing as much of Lance’s weight as he needed.  Lance limped slightly as they headed toward one of the nearby houses, where the sleek motorcycle was resting just outside the garage.  “It really is a damn nice bike,” Lance commented.

“Thanks again,” Cherry Bomb said.  He headed through the garage and opened the door into the house. “My bathroom’s all tore up, so take a seat,” he said, lowering Lance into one of the chairs at the kitchen table.  Cherry Bomb disappeared into another room as Lance sat back and inspected his bleeding limbs.  “Prop your foot up on the other chair, if you can,” he called from wherever he’d disappeared to.  Lance leaned forward to tug the other chair closer with his good arm, and kicked his foot up onto the seat.  The scrape on his knee stretched from the outside of his thigh, a few inches above his knee, to about half-way down his calf.  Most of it was just scraped and red, but the side of his knee was dripping slightly from a spot where the skin had been torn worse.

Cherry Bomb returned momentarily with a first-aid kit and some clean towels. His baseball cap was gone, revealing the shaggy mop of ebony hair that he had scooped back into a stubby ponytail.  Shit, he's fucking cute, Lance thought.  The ponytailed stranger flipped open the lid of the first aid kit and Lance caught sight of himself in the mirror contained on the underside of the lid and winced in response.  Most of the right side of his forehead was obscured by blood and gravel, starkly contrasting his normally soft, amber complexion.  A glance down told him that his upper arm and elbow were in slightly better shape, but a few pin-pricks of blood had seeped into the side of his pale blue muscle shirt where he’d brushed his arm against it.  “Fuck,” Lance hissed.

“Yup,” Cherry Bomb said again, lifting a damp towel toward Lance’s forehead.  Lance flinched automatically.  The stranger paused, looking up to see if he’d overstepped a boundary.

“Sorry, reflex,” Lance explained. “Go ahead.”

The stranger drew even closer and dabbed the wet towel against Lance’s forehead with careful precision.  Lance hissed a little but didn’t flinch backwards, staring determinedly at the adam’s apple bobbing along the stranger’s ivory throat. 

“Sorry,” the stranger muttered, making his movements even more gentle. Lance bowed his head to allow the stranger better access, focusing on the oil stain obscuring part of faded AC/DC logo on his shirt.


Once Cherry Bomb had cleared away most of the blood and tiny gravel pieces, he tipped his head, inspecting it.  “Doesn’t look deep now that the bleeding stopped,” he said, moving down to clean the scrape on Lance’s elbow.  The stranger got up to rinse out the towel before returning to clean the scrapes on Lance’s leg, which stretched from the outside of his lower thigh to midway down his calf.  “Did I miss any?” he asked.

Lance shook his head.  “I don’t think so.”

Finished with the task of cleaning Lance’s injuries, he sat the towel aside and dug through the first aid kit for a minute before coming up with a tube of antibiotic ointment.   “I’m out of the spray antiseptic,” he said.  “Hope you don’t mind."

“It’s fine.”

Cherry Bomb nodded in acknowledgement, squeezing a bit of ointment onto his fingertip and gently brushed it across the wound on Lance’s head.  It hurt a little less now that it was clean, but it still stung like a motherfucker.  Lance gritted his teeth and tried not to react.

“Thanks,” Lance said abruptly, trying to take his mind off the stinging wound and the gentle hand brushing his skin.  “For coming to my rescue, I guess.  And not making fun of me when I wiped out on a fucking bicycle, because you're obviously like ten times cooler than me even if you do have a mullet, so-”

“I’d’ve swerved for the dog too, dummy,” Cherry Bomb said. “And on my bike, I probably wouldn't have gotten away with some band-aids and Neosporin, so I'd say you're the lucky one.”

He went quiet again as he crouched down to treat Lance’s leg.  He rolled the hem of Lance’s shorts up a bit to keep it out of the ointment, avoiding touching the cloth with his index finger.  He treated the area as best he could, given that it was a good portion of Lance’s leg, but paid careful attention to the worst of it at the knee and the already-scabbing roadrash on his shin.

Cherry Bomb wiped his fingers on a clean corner of the towel and pulled a strip of bandages out of the kit.  He peeled open a butterfly bandage and carefully applied it to Lance’s head, pulling the wound back together so it could heal.  He grabbed a bigger bandage and fit it over the worst of the scrape on Lance’s arm.  “Do you want a bandage or, like, tape and gauze on your knee?” he asked.  “Gauze won’t restrict your motion so much, but it’s probably gonna hurt to bend it anyway.”

“Surprise me, guapo.”

Cherry Bomb deliberated for a moment before pulling out the gauze.  He pressed a thick wad against the worst of the scrape, then taped it in place around all four sides.

“You look like you’ve done this before,” Lance commented.

"I've had more than my share of run-ins with pavement," Cherry Bomb said as he finished taping up Lance’s knee.  When he had, he sat back, closing up the first-aid kid.  “There you go.  Did I miss anything?”

“Nah, I think I’m good,” Lance said.  “Unless you have something for my wounded pride.”

Cherry Bomb let out another laugh that was more air than actual laughter.  “Sorry, dude.”

“Worth a shot,” Lance said, moving to stand up.  He immediately pitched forward, dizziness overtaking his senses.  Cherry Bomb caught him quickly.

“That’s the concussion I was talking about,” he said.

“Yup, I got that,” Lance said, his eyes squeezed shut to ward off the dizziness.  “Fuck.  There goes the idea of biking home.”

“Like that was ever gonna be an option with your knee fucked up,” Cherry Bomb snorted.  His charcoal eyes surveyed Lance’s face for a moment, sober despite having just made a joke.  “Do you want me to take you to the hospital?”

“Nah. I've had enough concussions to deal with one on my own. I'll just have my roommate keep me up.”

“I can give you a ride home,” Cherry Bomb offered.

“If I had the coordination to sit on a bike, I'd ride mine,” Lance pointed out.

Cherry Bomb pouted for a second, like he was about to argue, but then deflated.  “Good point.”

Lance laughed quietly at his good samaritan.  “I’ll call my friend to come pick me up,” Lance said.  “You’ve done more than enough for me today.”

“All right,” Cherry Bomb said.  “That's fair.”

Lance pulled his phone out of his pocket and hitting Hunk’s speed dial.  The line rang twice before Hunk picked up.

“Hey Lance, what’s up?”

Lance chuckled nervously.  “Hey buddy, quick favor to ask you.  Can you come pick me up?”

“Sure.  Something wrong?”

“Mild concussion.  Long story,” Lance said quickly, hearing Hunk’s quick intake of breath.  “Anyway, my bike and I are stranded --” Lance twisted his phone away from his mouth to ask Cherry Bomb, “Where am I exactly?”

“3145 Castle Street,” Cherry Bomb said.

“Did you catch that buddy?” Lance asked.

“Castle Street, got it,” Hunk said.  “I’ll be there in five.”

“You’re the best and I love you with my entire being,” Lance said before Hunk hung up.  He looked at Cherry Bomb as he returned his phone to his pocket.  “He’ll be here soon.”

Cherry Bomb nodded, leaning back in his seat.  “So Lance.  Bike here often?”

Lance chuckled.  “No, actually.  I usually head for the park on the other side of town, but I wanted to mix it up.  And look, I found adventure -- a wild beast and a knight in shining armor…”

Cherry Bomb snorted.  “More like a leashless pet and a greasy mechanic.”

“Still pretty adventurous,” Lance said. “Even if your steed is shinier than you are.”

“If you say so.”

“I do,” Lance hummed, smiling cheekily at his hero.  Cherry Bomb just shook his head, as if trying not to betray his amusement.  “The only thing left is a happy ending,” Lance pressed on, his stomach fluttering at his own boldness.

Cherry Bomb lifted an eyebrow.  “Your friend is coming to pick you up,” he pointed out.  “That’s a pretty happy ending.”

“Mm, that’s a mediocre ending,” Lance said, tapping his fingers against the surface of the table. “An adventure this exciting needs an ending full of promise and hope.”

“Then what would make a happy ending?” Cherry Bomb indulged.

“Getting your phone number before Hunk picks me up,” Lance said, looking Cherry Bomb dead in the eye. God, he has pretty eyes.

Cherry Bomb sat still, staring at Lance with an unreadable expression for so long that Lance thought he’d been too forward.  He didn’t actually know anything about this guy, but Lance was definitely attracted to him, so he went out on a limb.  Finally -- mercifully -- Cherry Bomb shifted.  

“Okay.”

Lance’s eyes went wide.  “Seriously?”

“Unless you were kidding,” Cherry Bomb said.

“I wasn’t!” Lance exclaimed.  He pulled his phone out, swiping it to unlock the screen, and handed it to Cherry Bomb.  The man entered his number and handed the phone back.  Lance’s grin spread slowly until it overtook his face.

“See?” Lance asked, accepting his phone back.  “Happy ending.” His phone buzzed against the table, the screen lighting up to alert him to a text from Hunk.  “My friend is here.”

“That was fast,” Cherry Bomb said.

“Traffic laws do not apply to Hunk when he’s worried,” Lance replied.  Lance pushed himself into a standing position again, Cherry Bomb’s hands hovering halfway between him and Lance as a safety net.  The dizziness was present, but not overwhelming, so Lance smiled and gave Cherry Bomb a thumbs up.  The two walked back out through the driveway to where Hunk’s conversion van waited.  Cherry Bomb opened the passenger door and helped Lance in.  “Hey buddy,” Lance said with a sheepish smile.  “Great weather, huh?”

“How did you get a concussion?” Hunk asked.

“I'll tell you the whole story, buddy, be patient.  Oh wait, my bike!” Lance said, turning to get back out.  Cherry Bomb stopped him with a hand and walked back over to the sidewalk to get it.  Lance tried his best not to stare at Cherry Bomb's biceps as he carried Lance’s bicycle over one shoulder. He wasn't sure how successful he actually was. Probably not successful at all.

“You can toss it by the backseats,” Hunk called through Lance’s open window.  Cherry Bomb pulled the side door open and rolled the bike in before closing it up again.

“The frame doesn’t look bent, so hopefully it’s okay,” Cherry Bomb told Lance, taking a step back from the van.  “Feel better.”

“I will,” Lance said, smiling at his hero.  “And I’ll talk to you soon, Cherry Bomb.”

“It’s Keith, by the way,” Cherry Bomb said.

Lance wrinkled his nose playfully.  “Cherry Bomb is more mysterious.”

Cherry Bomb’s eyes rolled as he stepped back from the window.  “Bye, Lance.”

Lance watched Cherry Bomb shrink as Hunk accelerated his van down the street.  Once Hunk turned the corner and Cherry Bomb fully disappeared, Hunk spoke.  “Dude, are you okay?”

“Did that really just happen?” Lance asked, sounding absent.

“I dunno, dude, tell me what happened,” Hunk said.  “Why were you all the way over here on your bike, and who was that guy?”

“An angel,” Lance mumbled.  “Did you see him? Holy shit, isn’t he the prettiest boy you’ve ever seen in your whole life?”

Hunk cast Lance an amused look.  “Dude.”

“Okay, okay,” Lance said.  “I have a concussion though, so don’t expect this to make any sense.”

 

Chapter Text

Pidge was at Lance’s door the next morning almost as soon as his alarm went off.  Her fluffy head popped through the door as Lance was scrolling bleary-eyed through his phone, his hipster framed glasses settled on the bridge of his nose, allowing himself the indulgence of not getting up right away.  “Hey, you awake?”

“Awake is a strong term,” Lance said, his voice gravelly.

“How’s your head?” Pidge continued, pushing her way fully into the room and perching on the edge of Lance’s bed.

“Better, I think,” Lance replied, propping himself up a little on his good arm.  “However, I can feel each and every bruise on my body and would sell you to Satan for an aspirin.”

Pidge smirked, holding out two Advil in a tiny medicine cup and leaning forward to nudge the glass of water on Lance’s nightstand toward the edge where he could reach it.  Lance gratefully swallowed the pills along with most of the water.  “At least it’s you and not that poor dog,” Pidge said nonchalantly.

Lance rolled his eyes, nudging his glasses up with his middle finger in a subtle flip-off.  “Your concern for me is overwhelming, Pidge.  Please, tone it down before I start crying.”

“I’m just saying, if it was my dog, I’d have lectured you within an inch of your life,” Pidge said, the smirk on her face growing until it showed off the dimple in her cheek.  “Anyway, Allura says if you’re not up to it, she’ll have Shiro supervise your interns today.”

“Nah, I’ll live,” Lance said.  “But I’m gonna need you to tell me that our coffee maker is back in commission.”

“Brewing as we speak,” Pidge said.  “Do you need help changing your bandages?”

“Lemme peel them off so I can shower and check the damage, then I’ll let you know,” Lance said.

“All right.  Yell if you need me,” Pidge said, pushing herself off the bed.

“I always need you, Pidgeon,” Lance said.

“Don’t lie to my face, Lance,” Pidge said, patting his knee through the sheets.  “You’re better than that.”

Lance lay back on the bed as she left, just to will his aching limbs into motion.  As he did, he heard the tell-tale sound of a squeaking faucet, followed by the rush of running water.  Lance worried his bottom lip between his teeth, hope flickering through his chest as he waited to see if it was, in fact, his friendly neighborhood shower singer.  The smooth voice came pouring through the drywall, just loud enough to be heard over the rushing pipes. 

“What I like about you…
You hold me tight…
Tell me I’m the only one,

Wanna come over tonight…”

Lance’s grin split wide at the voice and the upbeat lyrics.  The shower pipes spluttered for a moment, as they sometimes did, and Lance could have sworn he heard the faint sound of the song itself playing, barely audible above the water.  It made sense, Lance thought.  He probably listened to the music while he was in the shower and sang along with it.  Lance knew lots of people who did that – himself included.

“Keep on whispering in my ear…
Tell me all the things that I wanna hear,
‘Cuz it’s true…
That’s what I like about you…”                                                                                                                                           

Lance vaguely recalled a memory of dancing to this song with his family at Nadia and Sofia’s wedding reception.  He recalled twirling his oldest niece, Ely, until she was practically screaming with glee; could picture Sofia nearly doubled over in laughter as their sister, Camilla, and one of Nadia’s brothers tried to breakdance in their wedding clothes; could see his parents dancing hand in hand, looking as happy as Lance had ever seen them.

“What I like about you…
You really know how to dance…
When you go up, down, jump around,
Think about true romance..." 

Lance couldn’t help smiling at the memory, even as he flung back the covers and picked at the tape holding the gauze bandage in place over the side of his knee.  The prickling sensation brought back a more recent memory; that of careful fingers running across his skin, as if to sooth away the injuries with tenderness.  Warmth flooded Lance’s chest as a pair of wide, charcoal eyes flooded his memory and he gasped, remembering the phone number he’d painstakingly entered into his phone yesterday for fear of losing the bandage it was written on.  He reached for his phone, composing a message to his newest contact.

 

To: Cherry Bomb

(7:23 am)

<< I am happy to report I made it through the night
<< with at least most of my memory intact ;)

Lance bit his lip, staring at the blue text bubbles standing lonely in the text thread.  He exhaled a breath and forced himself not to stare at the phone until he got a response.  He resumed picking at the bandages on his leg, eyes flitting between his leg and the dark screen of his phone.

“Keep on whispering in my ear,
Tell me all the things that I wanna hear…”

The tape pulled away fairly easily, Lance thanking the stars that he’d shaved his legs not too long ago.  The gauze stuck a little, and Lance bit his bottom lip, trying to steadily remove it without agitating or reopening the wound.  He was mostly successful, surveying the scabbed over wound for any sign of a worse problem.  It looked like Cherry Bomb’s handiwork had done its job in assisting the healing process.

“That’s what I like about you…”

Lance breathed out a sigh as he reached up to pull the bandage off his arm.  It stung a bit more as it pulled away, catching the fine hairs that were harder to see against his tan skin.  That one hadn’t been nearly as bad as his leg – mostly smaller scrapes, rather than one big one – so he wasn’t as worried about it. 

Lance stood, heading for the full-length mirror on his closet.  He could go to the bathroom, he acknowledged, but Shower Man was still singing and as much as his conscience wavered back and forth on the topic, Lance liked listening to him.  At the mirror, he very slowly peeled back the butterfly bandage on his head, wincing as it tugged at the fresh scabs and healing skin.  It looked terrible, Lance acknowledged once the bandage was fully off.  Lance took quite a bit of pride in maintaining his appearing, and while he could deal with the other wounds, his vanity was crying a bit over the injury marring his forehead.

“What I like about you…
You keep me warm at night…
Never wanna let you go,
Know you make me feel alright…”

Oh well, Lance thought to himself.  Nothing he could do about it now, except make sure it didn’t scar.  He’d just be sure to take extra good care of it as it healed.

“Hey Lance, this was in my laundry,” Pidge said, suddenly reappearing in the doorway with a t-shirt in her hand.  She winced as Lance turned toward her and she caught sight of his unbandaged head.  “Yikes.”

“Yup,” Lance said, taking his shirt from Pidge and tossing it toward his bed. 

“Be careful in the shower,” Pidge commented.  “Getting shampoo in that will hurt like a motherfucker.”

Lance made a face, turning back to look in the mirror again.  “Yeah, good point.  Speaking of which…”

Lance shooed Pidge out of his way as he headed for the bathroom, locking the door behind him and turning the spray on hot.  It wasn’t until he was standing under the water, trying not to get shampoo on his forehead, that he realized he had forgotten to listen to the rest of Shower Man’s song.

Showering was not as terrible as it could have been, as Lance was extra careful.  The hot water soothed his sore muscles, though, and he stepped out feeling much better than he had before.  All things considered, Lance elected to skip putting in his contacts today, and instead settled his glasses back onto his nose.  He dressed in basketball shorts and an old t-shirt that he hoped was soft enough not to irritate his arm if he didn’t rebandage it.  He rebandaged his knee in the same way Cherry Bomb had done yesterday, and put a fresh butterfly bandage on his forehead.  When he grabbed his phone off his bed, he realized he had a text notification and quickly unlocked his phone to read it.

(7:38 am)
>> Lance?

(7:51 am)
<< Good morning ;)

(7:52 am)
>> Congratulations on living through the night
>> How’s your head?

(7:52 am)
<< It’s been better but I’m fine
<< I even turned down my boss’s offer of a sick day

(7:52 am)
>>  I’m glad you’re feeling ok

 

When Lance arrived at the community center, he was met by his two interns and Shiro, all of whom looked surprised and concerned to see him.

“I thought Allura texted Pidge to tell you not to come in,” Shiro said. 

“Pidge said Allura said if I wasn’t feeling well, I could not come in,” Lance corrected.  “I’m fine, so here I am.  Stop being such a Mom.”

“I am a nurse, and you have a concussion,” Shiro pointed out.  “I really think you should take it easy.”

Lance waved a dismissive hand.  “I will, I will. That’s what these two are for,” Lance said, gesturing to Adrian and Bethany.  “Right guys?”

“Sure thing, Coach,” they chorused together.

“See? I’ll be right here in case they need me, but they’re capable of taking over.”

Shiro cast a skeptic glance at his friend.  “All right, if you’re sure you’d rather be here than at home on your couch, you can stay.  But,” Shiro added, turning to stare down Adrian and Bethany with his practiced stern gaze, “If he starts acting weird, one of you come get me or Allura immediately.  Are we clear?”

“Yes sir,” Adrian said, a slight, intimidated panic on his face.

Bethany nodded.  “We got it,” she told Shiro.  “If anything goes wrong whatsoever, you’ll be the first to know.”

“Thank you,” Shiro said.  “I’ll check in a couple times today, otherwise I will be in my office.”

“Bye Shiro,” Lance called, waving him off.  Once Shiro was gone, Lance cast a smirking glance at his intern.  “Adrian, don’t look so scared.  Shiro is a giant teddy bear.”

“Mr. Shirogane is the single most intimidating person I’ve ever laid eyes on, Coach,” Adrian responded, his eyes glued to the spot where Shiro had disappeared.

“I think Director Khatri is scarier,” Bethany put in.

“Beth’s right,” Lance said.  “Allura is much scarier than Shiro.  Shiro’s only scary because he’s got that aura of… stony, authoritative war-vet around him.  Allura could and would throw Shiro across the room with one arm tied behind her back.  She’ll probably be down here to try to bully me into going home as soon as Shiro tells her I’m here.”

“That’s… not comforting,” Adrian said, glancing skeptically between Bethany and Lance.

Lance shrugged.  “It is what it is.”

To: Cherry Bomb

(9:41 am)
<< my boss just found out I came in to work
<< have u ever been lectured
<< by a TERRIFYING woman
<<  in front of 2 dozen middle schoolers?

(9:46 am)
>> yes
>> but I was also in middle school

(9:47 am)
<< my sympathies

(9:48 am)
>> are you a teacher?

(9:48 am)
<< oh no
<< I work at the community center

(9:49 am)
>> oh right you said you worked with my dad
>> Do you like it?

(9:50 am)
<< oh hell yeah
<< I love kids and I love sports so this is like
<< the dream job

(9:50 am)
>> how long have you worked there?

(9:51 am)
<< ive been here since the place opened
<< but technically ive only had *this* job for 2 years

(9:53 am)
>> you must know Allura then

(9:57 am)
<< oh of course
<< she was the lecturer 2 whom i was referring lol
<< shes not only my boss but 1 of my best friends
<< u know her?

(9:58 am)
>> we grew up on the same street

(10:00 am)
<< no way!
<< that's hella
<< by all accounts this town seems like a great place 2 grow up

(10:05 am)
>> It was nice

 

 (10:06 am)
<< hey I’m not bothering u am i?
<< bc if ur busy u can def ignore me

(10:08 am)
>> I’m working on my bike but you’re fine
>> If I don’t respond right away it’s because my hands are too gooey

(10:09 am)
<< lmaooo
<< title of ur sex tape?

Bethany and Adrian did a good job of keeping the kids on task while Lance watched from the bleachers, calling out pointers between texts to Cherry Bomb.  The kids were very curious about what had happened to his head, and he kindly explained multiple times that he’d gotten a concussion yesterday, though he stayed light on the details.  Once the kids were all sent home and Bethany and Adrian had taken off, Lance headed to the north wing to find Shiro.

The community center was split up into three major parts -- the gym, the theater, and the pool.  The gym was in the east wing, the pool was in the north, and the theater was the west.  On either side of the pool, bordering either the gym or the auditorium, there were a series of classrooms and offices used for various classes or lessons.  All the rec center’s permanent employees had offices there -- Lance included.  However, he so infrequently visited his office that he usually forgot where it even was.  Lance’s office was but a number in the labyrinth of offices on the second floor, and Lance had never once found it on his own without first stumbling through the maze for a good five to ten minutes.  He preferred to stick to the gym.  It was much easier to find.

“Heyyy Shiro,” Lance said, popping his head into the nurse’s office at the end of the hall.  Lance thought if he had an office that easy to find, he might use it more often, too.  “Do you have an estimate on how long you’ll be? No rush, just curious.”

“Almost finished, Lance,” Shiro said, glancing up from the file drawer in the corner.  “Give me two more minutes.”

“No rush,” Lance said, dropping down in one of the chairs on the opposite side of Shiro’s desk.  “I got nowhere to be.”

Shiro had asked Lance at lunch if he wouldn’t mind giving him a ride home, and Lance was happy to wait for his friend.

 

From: Pidgeotto 

(4:24 pm)
>> just reminding you that you promised to pick up peanut butter for me after work 

(4:37 pm)
<< Have u so little faith in me, my tiny baby canary?

(4:37 pm)
>> i get less faith in you every time you call me “tiny” “baby” or “canary” 

(4:38 pm)
<< u wound me pidgeon

  (4:39 pm)
>> also sorry about the dishes i left
>> i’ll do them when i get home

(4:39 pm)
<< pidge ? doing dishes??
<< who r u and what have u done with my roommate

(4:40pm)

>> ha ha lance
>> very funny coming from the man who broke the dishwasher and started buying paper plates in bulk 

(4:41 pm)
<< Listen

(4:41 pm)
>> no
>> also
>> fuck you 

(4:42 pm)
<< love u 2 p

 

“Ready?”

Lance glanced up as Shiro turned and grabbed his messenger bag from beside his desk.  Lance shoved his phone in his pocket and stood as well.  “Yeah, let’s roll.”

As Lance and Shiro exited the office, Allura appeared from down the hallway, a stack of file-folders tucked in the crook of one arm.

“Hey princess, we’re clocking out,” he told her.

“We?” she asked, tilting her head to one side.

“Yes ma’am, me and Shiro,” Lance replied.  

Allura smiled.  “Have a good evening, gentlemen.  I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“You too, guapa,” Lance said with a wink.

“Bye Allura!” Shiro called as Lance bounded down the stairs.  The pair made their way out to Lance’s car in the parking lot.

"How’s your head?” Shiro asked.

“Is that your way of asking if I’m okay to drive, because you’re the one who asked me for a ride.”

Shiro held up his hands in a gesture of innocence.  “I’m only expressing my concern for my friend’s well-being.”

“Would it make you feel better if I let you drive?” Lance asked.

“Maybe a little.”

“Fine,” Lance said, tossing Shiro his keys.  “But I have to stop and get peanut butter for Pidge.”

“Of course,” Shiro said, slipping behind the wheel and buckling his seatbelt.  “Did you guys have fun the other night? I forgot to ask yesterday.”

Lance chuckled as he settled back in the passenger seat.  “Hunk made pizza, Pidge kicked everyone’s ass in Smash Bros, and Matt made a game out of throwing bottle caps at her head.”

Shiro smiled.  “Sounds like a good time.”

“How was dinner with your brother?” Lance asked, as Shiro flicked on a blinker.

“It was great,” Shiro said.  “I’ve missed him.”

“Good, good,” Lance said sincerely.  “I’ll bet you’re glad he’s back.”

“I really am,” Shiro admitted.  “He didn’t clue anyone in on his move back.  He said it was ‘spur of the moment’, but he tends to just keep things close to the collar.  I know Pidge is angry with him, because they’ve always been close, but I can’t say I blame her.”

“It’s Pidge,” Lance said, as if that was saying enough.  Shiro nodded in agreement.  “You guys all grew up here, right?”

Shiro nodded.  “Keith grew up next door neighbors with the Holts, Allura lived a few blocks down the street, and I lived about two miles out from them.  Matt and Allura and I were all the same age, and since Keith and Pidge were in the same grade, they were basically joined at the hip.”

“I gotta meet this guy, man,” Lance said with a chuckle.  “I’m picturing some horrific cross between you and Pidge and it’s not sitting well.  Oh my god, that’s just Matt, isn’t it.  Holy fuck--”

Shiro burst out laughing, gripping the wheel a little tighter.  “Matt and Keith are nothing alike.”

“That’s still what I’m picturing, though.  Anyone who’s both related to you and that close to Pidge has to be lowkey terrifying.”

Shiro shook his head.  “Tell you what -- I know I’ve got some pictures of the two of them from when they were kids, lemme find one and you can be the judge.”

“Yesssss, blackmail on Pidge,” Lance said, raising a triumphant fist to bump against the roof of his car.  “

“But I was thinking if you aren’t too wiped Friday night after camp is over, we could get the gang together and do drinks at Teludav.”

“Will I finally get to meet your mysterious prodigal brother?”

Shiro laughed.  “Hopefully.  He doesn’t work the weekend shift, so that’ll be his first night off.”

“Then sign me up,” Lance said, grinning.  “I’m dying to meet someone who shares even half of your genes, because I’ve been fully convinced this whole time that you leapt, fully formed, out of Zeus’s womb or whatever.”

“... Like Athena?”

Lance shrugged.  “The point is, you can’t possibly be human and I need to know how there are two of you.”

“I promise you, Lance, I am very much human,” Shiro said with a laugh.  “And so is my brother.”

Lance hummed in mock suspicion as Shiro turned into the supermarket parking lot.  “All right, whatever you say, dude,” he said.  “Need anything from the store?”

“I’ll walk with you.”

The peanut butter was easily procured, and Lance picked up a bottle of orange juice while he was at it.  While they waited in the check-out line, Shiro flipped through his phone for a minute before holding it out to Lance.  “Found that picture I was talking about,” he said by way of explanation.

Lance peered at the small screen, displaying a picture of five kids.  The three in the back were obviously the oldest, their arms slung around each other and water dripping visibly from their hair.  In the front were the two younger kids, equally as soaked, and Lance had seen enough pictures of a young Pidge to recognize her instantly.  She was beaming, waist-length hair sticking to her face, showing off a dark gap where her two front teeth were missing, and clinging to the back of a boy not much older than her, with shaggy black hair and piercing dark eyes.  He was half bent over in the picture, supporting Pidge’s weight, and he wasn’t fully smiling, but he looked just as happy as the rest.  The kid on the back left was quite obviously Pidge’s older brother, Matt, which likely made the one on the right Shiro.  The girl in the middle, however, looked strangely familiar, and it took Lance a moment to place her.

“Holy shit,” Lance said, leaning in a little closer.  “Is that Allura?  I can’t believe she existed before the silver hair.”

“Yeah,” Shiro said, his voice fond.  “That was a good summer.”

Lance took another look at a young Shiro, standing tall with his arm slung around Allura’s shoulders, then glanced back at the boy in front.  “He looks nothing like you,” Lance commented.

“Well, we’re only half-brothers,” Shiro said, clicking the screen off as the cashier rang up Lance’s items.

“It’s a great picture though.  How old is it?”

Shiro hummed, thinking momentarily, and unlocked it again to take another look.  “I think Katie was about six… which would make Keith about seven and the rest of us twelve.  Must have been about eighteen years or so?”

Lance stuffed his change in his pocket and grabbed the bag from the cashier with a polite smile.  “So was he in the military too?” Lance asked as he and Shiro headed for the car.  “Is that why you both left?”

“No,” Shiro said, his voice going a bit flatter, and Lance realized he’d touched on something Shiro wasn’t keen on discussing.  “He went to college, then spent some time on the road.  Doesn’t seem much interested in settling down, but I can’t deny I’m hopeful he’ll stick around for a while.  He’s a stubborn bastard, but I love him, you know?”

“If it makes you feel better, I’m pretty sure everyone feels that way about their siblings.”

Shiro shrugged.  “Probably.”

“But hey, I guess I’ll take that as evidence.”

“Evidence?” Shiro asked, lifting a brow in curiosity.

“Of your mortal heritage,” Lance said with a wink.

Shiro was still laughing when he pulled into his parking space in front of their apartment building.

Chapter Text

Bzzt.   Bzzt.

Pidge cast a sidelong glance at Keith’s phone where it sat on the kitchen table beside him.  “Someone’s popular.”

Keith shrugged, not taking his attention off the work at hand.  Pidge had called Keith just as he’d gotten back from showering at Shiro’s that morning, asking him to come over and brings some spare bike parts and “maybe also an alternator if you have one?”  He’d shown up at Pidge’s apartment with a sack full of spare parts to find Pidge with her bicycle upside down on the kitchen table.  She wouldn’t tell him what the alternator was for, but Keith didn’t really want to know anyway.

Pidge was, and always had been, a technical genius, and in high school, she’d often coerced Keith into being her mechanical lackey.  Until he’d taught her pretty much everything she needed in order to do it on her own, that is.  It was a little refreshing to know that the spitfire he’d called his best friend for the last twenty years still needed him for some things, even if it was just fixing a bike.

Bzzt. Bzzt.

“Who is it?”

“Some guy I’ve been talking to,” Keith said, his socket wrench clicking as he spun it backward.

“Some guy?” Pidge asked, leaning further across the table see what Keith was doing.  “Are you gonna dish?”

Keith shrugged again.  “There’s not a lot to dish.  We’ve been talking for a couple days.  Getting to know each other a little.”

“Did you meet him on Grindr?”

“Liquor store, actually.”

“That’s a new one.  Is it on Android?”

“No, Pidge.  A physical liquor store.  The one on Main Street.”

“Yikes, Keith.  Meeting people IRL? Old school.” Pidge made a face.  “Is he cute?”

Keith nodded.

“Have you gone out yet?”

“Nope.”

“Are you gonna?”

“Maybe.”

“This is why you’re twenty-five and single.”

“Really?  I thought it was because I was gay and afraid of commitment,” Keith said flatly.

“You have issues.”

“You’re single too,” Keith pointed out.

“I know every girl in this town and I have no interest.”

“Maybe you just need to get out there more,” Keith teased.

“You sound like Shiro.”

“That was the reference.”

“So, does Mr. Double-Text have a name?”

“Yeah.”

“Keith I’m your best friend,” Pidge said emphatically.  “I have to live vicariously through your love life.  Well, I could live through my roommate’s, but he’s such a man-ho that it’s a little hard to keep up.”

Keith snorted.  “If we go out, then I’ll tell you his name.”

Pidge twisted her mouth into a pensive expression.  “I can accept those terms, as long as you promise I’m the first to know.  Before Shiro, before Allura, before anyone.”

“You got it.”

Pidge grinned.  “Good.”

Keith sat back, setting his wrench on the table.  “There you go.  Good as new.  I’m starving.”

“Help yourself to the fridge,” Pidge said, her head bent over her invention sketchbook.  “I think there’s still some ropa vieja in the fridge.  The white container.  My roommate only knows how to cook for, like, twelve people at a time, so we always have leftovers.”

“Oh hell yeah,” Keith said, pulling out said bowl and uncovering it. “Forks?”

“Drawer by the sink.”

Pidge kept sketching as Keith waited for the leftovers to heat up.  When they were hot enough, Keith ate them straight from the bowl.  “God this is so good,” Keith said around a mouthful of food.  “I think I’m in love with your roommate.”

“Mr. Double-Text will be devastated,” Pidge said, reaching for her phone.  “Oh fuck, is that the time?”

Keith grabbed his own phone off the table, brushing the text notification bubbles out of the lock screen.  “Three-thirty?”

“I’m supposed to meet my brother at four,” Pidge said, picking up her mechanical creation and putting it in a cardboard box.  “So I’m gonna have to kick you out.”

“I’m so hurt,” Keith said flatly, putting the empty container of pork in the sink.  “How will I ever recover from this?”

“I mean, you could stay, but my roommate might bludgeon you over the head with his gym bag,” Pidge said.  “He’s skittish sometimes.”

“Nah, I told Coran I’d come in early today anyway,” Keith said.  “Sort some of the archive albums.  Do you need a ride?”

Pidge shook her head.  “I’ll take my bike.  I’ll need it to come home after, anyway.  You wanna do lunch tomorrow?”

“Sure.  One-ish?”

“Make it half past,” Pidge said.  “I’ve got to make sure I get in contact with this guy I’m coding a robot for, and the time difference makes it fucky.”

“Works for me,” Keith said.  “You really want this alternator?”

“I’ll take two more if you have them.”

“I don’t.”

“Then I’ll make do with this one,” Pidge said, casting a cheeky smirk at Keith.  “Thanks.”

Keith rolled his eyes.  “See you tomorrow, loser.”

“Not if I see you first, loser.”

As soon as Keith had left the apartment, Pidge ran a brush through her hair, tugged on a sweatshirt and her sneakers, and navigated her bike out of the apartment and down the stairs.  The bike ride to her childhood house, which had been Matt’s ever since their mother and father decided they wanted to move further south, was only on the other side of town, but Pidge pushed it to make sure she made it on time.  She wound up pulling into Matt’s driveway, mildly out of breath, at only a few minutes past four.  Matt wasn’t even home yet.

Pidge punched in the garage code and let herself into the house.  She was greeted by a fifty pounds of enthusiastic bull terrier, nails clicking across the wood floor of the kitchen in his hurry to greet Pidge.  “Hey Gunther, baby,” Pidge said, her voice pitching in excitement.  She knelt down to greet the dog with generous belly rubs and ear scratches.  “How is my handsome boy today?”

Gunther barked twice, nosing at Pidge’s face in excitement.  Pidge placed a kiss on Gunther’s forehead and pushed herself to her feet.  “Have you been lonely all day while Matty was gone?  C’mere, boy.”  Pidge clicked her tongue as she headed for the fridge, Gunther following dutifully at her heels. 

Gunther had been the family dog since Pidge was thirteen, after their first dog, Patches, died.  Gunther was getting up there in years by now, but Pidge loved him as dearly as she had when she was thirteen.  If the apartment complex she and Lance lived in accepted dogs, Gunther would have come to live with Pidge ages ago.  Instead, she contented herself with visiting Gunther at Matt’s house a few times a week.  Pidge pulled a can of soda from the fridge and cracked it open before sitting down on the couch in the adjacent room and letting Gunther crawl into her lap.  Pidge flicked through various apps for a moment, her free hand absently scratching at Gunther’s ear, until she heard Matt’s car pull into the driveway.  Gunther’s ears perked up at the sound, but he stayed firmly in Pidge’s lap.

“Pidge-podge?”

“In here,” Pidge called back.  Matt’s footsteps came through the kitchen, and Gunther jumped down from the couch to greet him with puppy kisses on his bare feet.

“Sorry I’m late,” Matt said.  “A student caught me on my way out.”

“It’s cool,” Pidge said.  “I made Keith fix my bike today.”

“I saw,” Matt said, taking the other side of the couch.  Gunther returned to his spot between them, head resting on Pidge’s leg to prompt more pets.  “Did you walk it over here?”

“No, I made Keith come to my place so I could ride it here,” Pidge said. 

“How long until you decide you need to take it apart again to build a sentient coffee maker?”

“Probs like a week,” Pidge said.  “Only it’ll probably be an automated toilet paper dispenser.”

“I feel like that’s going to scare the shit out of Lance.”

Pidge whacked Matt in the arm.  “That was an awful joke, but actually, that’s the goal.”

Matt chuckled, rubbing one of his hands through the short gray fur on Gunther’s rump.  “How’s he doing, anyway?  Keith, I mean.  Not Lance.  How’s he doing now that he’s back in the old house?”

“Meh,” Pidge said, picking a piece of grass off of Gunther’s collar.  “He’s cagey about it.”

“Well, he’s Keith.”

“Exactly.  I mean, I don’t believe him entirely when he says he’s fine, because he’s Keith and he’d rather die than express an emotion, but I don’t think he’s as bad as Shiro thinks,” Pidge said.  “Like, obviously he’s still mourning, but I think I was expecting him to be a lot worse off.  I dunno.  I just think Keith has this way about him when he’s repressing things and I’m not picking up on that vibe when I’ve been hanging out with him.”

“It’s only been a couple months.”

“Like I said: he could be a lot worse off.  Jack’s death is still pretty fresh, so maybe he’s just continuing to process it.  All I know is I’m still gonna keep an eye on him.  He’s been talking to a guy, I guess.  Maybe a relationship will pry his emotions loose.  Or maybe he'll at least get laid and chill out a bit.”

“Here’s hoping.”

“So what’s wrong with your computer, now?”

“It’s making a weird noise.”

“Like the fan?”

Matt shrugged.  “I dunno.  It sounds like the whole thing is screaming when I open it.”

Pidge winced.  “Matt, you have a doctorate degree and you can’t even tell where the noise in your computer is coming from?”

“My doctorate degree is in rocks, not computers, and that’s what I have you for, Pidge-podge.”

“Fine.  Point me to my usefulness.  The machines call to me.”

Matt gestured toward the kitchen.  “The bag on the table.”

“Come to Daddy, precious,” Pidge said, extricating herself from beneath Gunther, who retreated into the warmth of Matt’s lap as Pidge reached for the computer.

“Never mind, I don’t need your help, I’ll just buy a new laptop.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, is Shiro the only one who can be called ‘Daddy’ in this house?”

“Katie!” Matt exclaimed, as if shocked.  His face quickly curled into a sly grin.  “I thought you knew by now it’s Shiro who calls me Daddy.”

Pidge made a face as Matt let out a cackle.  Rather than acknowledge him, Pidge set to work investigating the laptop’s mysterious screaming noise.

Chapter Text

“If I, I get to know your name...
Well if I, could trace your private number, baby…”

By Friday, Lance has begun to fear for his sanity.  He has been serenaded every morning before he leaves for work by his mystery shower singer, and he has started to entertain the thought of going upstairs and knocking just to put a name with the glorious, gorgeous voice that carries itself into Lance’s room better than any other noise in the entire apartment complex.  

“All I know is that to me,
You look like you're lots of fun...
Open up your lovin' arms,
I want some, want some…”

Lance had known since he was a kid that he caught feelings pretty easy, but goddamn, he’d never imagined he’d develop a crush on the singing voice of some guy in the shower.  Lance hadn’t skipped out early on any more of his songs, but he thought maybe he should if he was gonna start fantasizing about finding the guy.  Which wouldn’t be a great thing, because Lance was definitely really into Cherry Bomb.  They’d been texting almost constantly for the last two days, and he was not about to screw up something that was already actually happening in his life and not a stupid, imaginary love-story that probably would never come to fruition.

“I set my sights on you…
And no one else will do...
And I, I've got to have my way now, baby…” 

He usually wound up putting it mostly out of his mind by the time he got to work, which he thought was a step in the right direction.  It was the five minutes where he allowed himself to linger and listen to this stranger with Broadway-worthy pipes sing from through his wall that needed work.

“You spin me right round, baby,
Right round like a record, baby,
Right round round round…" 

Baby steps.  Right?

 

To: Cherry Bomb

(7:35 am)

<< good morning :)

Lance left early again on Friday.

The last day of basketball camp was bittersweet.  The kids all lined up at the end of the day to allow Allura to take a group photo, with Lance, Bethany, and Adrian standing behind them.  Lance had all the kids sign his camp brochure, too -- a tradition he’d started years ago.  There was a shoebox under his bed filled with old camp brochures, each one filled with signatures.

Lance is sad to see them go, but when one of the youngest kids -- an eleven year old named Bex, who had spent most of camp quietly glued to the side of her twin brother, Jeremy -- ran up to give him a hug before she left, he couldn’t stop smiling.

“That all, Coach?” Adrian asked, as he pushed the basketball cart back into the equipment closet.

“I think so,” Lance said, glancing around the gym.  “I gotta take the practice jerseys home to wash.”

“Thanks for letting us help out with camp,” Bethany said, flipping her braid over her shoulder.  “I had a great time.”

“It was a pleasure to have you,” Lance said.  “I’ll stay in touch – I’d love to have you guys come back for future camps.”

“I’d love that,” Bethany said, grinning, and Adrian nodded in agreement.

“You guys can take off, if you like,” Lance said, glancing at his watch.  “I’ve got a bit of paperwork to take up to Allura before I head out.”

“All right.  Have a good one, Coach,” Adrian said.  “You still need a ride, Beth?”

Bethany nodded.  “If you don’t mind.  And hey, if you’re not busy, you and Lucy should do drinks with Jaz and I tonight.”  

“That sounds great,” Adrian said.  “I’ll ask Lucy.”

Adrian and Bethany left the gym with a wave, and Lance took one more look around before snapping off the lights and heading for the north wing.  Lance headed straight for the open door of Allura’s office, knocking twice on the doorframe to catch her attention.  “Hey Lu, you busy?”

“Hello Lance,” Allura said, glancing up from her computer.  “How was the last day of camp?”

“It was fantastic,” Lance said, approaching Allura’s desk and making himself comfortable in a chair across from her.  “I’m sad to see it go, as always.”

“Well, I’ll give you the weekend to mourn, then on Monday we can discuss our plans for the rest of the summer,” Allura said, a smile tugging at the edges of her mouth.  “We can drown our sorrows in tequila shots and french fries.”

“Are you coming tonight?” Lance asked, perking up immediately.  Outside of work and their weekly yoga class, Lance didn’t see Allura as much as he saw the rest of his friends.  When she came with them on group outings, Lance always viewed it as a special occasion.

Allura smiled.  “The thought crossed my mind.”

“Oh my god, Lu, pleeeeeaaaseeee,” Lance said, flinging himself out of the chair and onto his knees to lean halfway across Allura’s desk, hands clasped pleadingly.  “It’s been ages!”

Allura’s grin widened, revealing a dimple near her chin.  “Unless something entirely unforseen happens, I am planning on joining you all.”

“Yessss,” Lance said, lifting a triumphant fist.  “I’m literally ten thousand times more exited now.”

“You weren’t excited before?”

Lance lifted a shoulder.  “I was, but you’re like the icing on top of an already pretty great cake.”

“So who is all coming?” Allura asked.  “Shiro mentioned you and Pidge.  Is your white knight coming along?” Allura asked, waggling her eyebrows.  “I hear you’ve been texting quite a bit.”

“We’ve only been flirting via text for a couple days, so I think it’s a little soon to introduce him to all my friends,” Lance said.  “But I think everyone else is coming. Me, Shiro, Matt, Pidge, Hunk, and Shay.  Oh, and Shiro’s brother, I think.”

Allura brightened.  “Oh! Excellent. It’s been ages since I’ve seen him.”

“Everyone seems pretty fond of this guy, I can’t wait to meet him,” Lance commented, pushing himself off his knees and back into his chair.

Allura’s smile went almost catlike all at once.  “Oh, you’ll get on splendidly, I’m sure of it.  Either that, or you’ll hate him vehemently.”

“Well that’s reassuring,” Lance said, rolling his eyes.  

Allura laughed.  “That’s what I’m here for, darling.”

Lance shook his head.  “Anyway, I did come up here for a reason.  Do you have the post-camp paperwork I need to finalize?”

“I left it in the box outside your office,” Allura said.

“Alluraaa,” Lance whined.  “You know I can never find it.”

Allura let out a huff of amusement and pointed down the hall.  “If you go left coming off the stairs, then it’s two rights and then the third door on the left.  It even has your name on it, Lance.”

Lance frowned, pushing himself out of his chair.  “Fine, fine, fine.  If I get lost, I’m calling you to come find me.”

“You do that, Lance,” Allura said, turning back to her computer.  “Bring it back when you’ve finished.”

“Aren’t you gonna head out?” Lance asked.

Allura shook her head.  “I’ll be another hour, I believe.  Then I’ll get out of here with plenty of time to get all dolled up for tonight.”

Lance grinned.  “All right, I’ll see you soon." 

After Lance tracked down his office, finished his paperwork, and returned it to Allura, he headed home.  He found Pidge nested in her coding pose -- half-buried in a pile of blankets, hair pushed back with a headband, and fingers flying furiously across the keyboard.  He knew better than to disturb her.

 

From: Cherry Bomb

(5:48 pm)

>> how was the last day of camp?

(5:48 pm)

<< exhausting… rewarding… satisfying.

(5:49 pm)

>> sounds like you’re good at your job

(5:49 pm)

<< oh I am ;)

<< what have u been up 2 all day?

(5:50 pm)

>> I had lunch with a friend

>> I’m supposed to hang with my brother tonight

(5:50 pm)

<< fun! :D

(5:51 pm)

>> hbu what are you up to?

(5:52 pm)

<< just got home and my roommate is ignoring me :( :( :(

<< but! I’m doing drinks with friends tonight so I’m pumped

<< but also lowkey exhausted

(5:52 pm)

>> maybe you should take a nap

(5:53 pm)

<< as much as I will miss talking to u…

<< that sounds like a fantastic idea

(5:53 pm)

>> sleep tight, lance

When Lance woke up from his nap, it was to a thunderous clatter coming from the kitchen.  “Motherfucker!!”

Lance rolled out of bed, tugging on a pair of sweatpants.  A glance at the clock told him it was a little after eight o’clock and he’d slept about two hours.  Pidge was in the kitchen, lighting the gas burner underneath a frying pan she must have unearthed from the bottom of the utensils cabinet.

“Ay, who are you murdering out here?” Lance asked, stretching his arms wide as he rounded the corner.

“Want a grilled cheese?” she asked in lieu of answering.

“Sure, thanks.”

Pidge nodded, taking two more slices of bread out of the bag.  “How was work?”

“Good.  Camp’s over, so that’s always sad, but it was a good week.”

“Cool.”

“How’s coding?”

Pidge made a noncommittal noise in the back of her throat.  “There’s a bug in there I can’t find and it’s pissing me off.”

“I’m sure you’ll find it,” Lance said, cocking a hip to lean against the counter beside the sink.

“I’ll find it if it’s the last thing I do,” Pidge confirmed.  “A stupid coding bug will not triumph over Kathrine Motherfucking Holt.”

“I still think it was very progressive of your parents to give you the middle name Motherfucking,” Lance teased.  Pidge poked an elbow into his ribs.  “Have you heard from Shiro today?”

“You’re the one who works with him,” Pidge pointed out.

“Just wondering if he’d talked about tonight,” Lance said.

“I didn’t talk to Shiro, but I talked to Keith earlier.  He said they’re gonna be there at nine-thirty to snag a table,” Pidge said, plopping a buttered slice of bread into the heated pan.  It sizzled as she layered cheese on top.  “Hunk and Shay said they’ll pick us up on their way and sober-cab.”

“Who?” Lance asked, his brows knitting together in confusion.  “Wait, Keith is Shiro’s brother, right?”

“Oh, right, you haven’t met yet,” Pidge said, smirking at her grilled cheese.  “Matt and I have a bet going on what you’ll think of him.  I should ask Shiro and Allura if they want in.”

“What the fuck, Pidge?” Lance asked, flicking her bare arm.  “I thought we agreed you’d stop betting on real people.”

“Listen, it’s this, or I take my gambling problem to the slot machines,” Pidge said flatly, poking at the grilled cheese with the spatula.  “And I’m already banned from the three nearest casinos.  I’d have to go out of state and that’s such a hassle.”

Lance rolled his eyes.  “Whatever.  What’s your bet?”

“Ah, now that would be telling,” Pidge said, casting a sidelong glance at her roommate.  “Gotta keep these odds fair.”

Lance scoffed and pushed off the counter, opening the fridge and pulling out a bottle of water.  “You’re not laying bets on what Hunk will think of him? I feel singled out.”

“It’d be more entertaining to lay bets on what Keith will think of Hunk,” Pidge said, scooping the first sandwich out of the pan and laying in a new slice of bread.  “That emo fuck won’t understand why a ray of sunshine like Hunk is trying to hug him within an hour of meeting him.”

“Hunk is pure sunshine and no one is comparable.”

Pidge nodded, using her spatula to cut the finished sandwich in half on a plate before handing it to Lance.  “True.”

“So what’s this guy Keith like anyway?” Lance asked around a mouthful of melted cheese.  “Shiro was vague.”

Pidge shrugged.  “I think it’s better just to let you figure him out for yourself.  He’s kind of awkward and quiet until he warms up to people.  He tends to come across as angry, but you’ll know if he’s really angry.”

“And this guy is related to Shiro?”

Pidge laughed, scooping her sandwich out of the pan and stabbing it down the middle with the spatula. “Apparently.  You wouldn’t think it just looking at them, but when they’re in the same room, there’s a certain resemblance.”

“So how long’s it been since you’ve seen him?” Lance asked.

Pidge glanced at her watch.  “Like five hours?”

“Oh.  Really?”

“We had lunch together,” Pidge said.

“I don’t know why, but I’d assumed you’d been out of contact,” Lance said, licking butter off his fingers.  “I guess it’s been, like… what, a week?”

“I tracked his ass down as soon as I found out he was back,” Pidge said flatly.  “Not like it was hard, he’s staying in his old house, which is right next door to my old house, aka Matt’s current house.”

Lance hummed, setting his plate in the sink and checking the time on his phone.  “I should get ready,” he commented.  “Hearing about this guy only makes it that much harder to assemble a mental picture.”

Pidge laughed sharply before shoving half of her sandwich into her mouth.  “You’ll see,” she said around her food.  “Go shower so I can take one after.”

Lance gave a little salute and headed for the bathroom.  He relinquished it to Pidge as soon as he was finished and retreated to his room to get ready.  He picked out a nice pair of skinny jeans and a loose, scoop-neck shirt.  Then he sat cross-legged in front of the mirror on his closet, smoothing cover-up over the still healing skin of his forehead with a careful hand.

At nine-thirty sharp, a honk sounded from the parking lot.

“Lance! Hunk and Shay are here!”

“Coming!” Lance called, wiping highlighter across his cheekbones with a delicate pinky finger.  Once he’d deemed it acceptable, he snapped the makeup shut and tossed it back in the bag on his desk.  He propped a foot up on his bed to retie his bright blue sneakers and grabbed his wallet off his desk.  “How do I look?” Lance asked his roommate as he came out of his room.

Pidge flashed a thumbs up, her ID and credit card held between her teeth as she tightened the laces on her black high-tops before slipping both cards into the shoe by her ankle.  She was in a dark green v-neck and jeans, and had let her hair curl into its natural, loose waves, and Lace could tell she was excited.  He grinned, ready for a most excellent night out.

“Let’s go,” she said, jerking her head toward the door.

Chapter Text

Lance and Pidge climbed into the back of Hunk’s old conversion van and settled into the bucket seats in the middle row.  “Hey guys,” Hunk said, smiling brightly at them through the rearview mirror as he headed out of the apartment complex’s parking lot.

“Hey buddy,” Lance said, reaching forward to clap a hand against Hunk’s shoulder.  “Hey Shay.”

Hunk’s fiancée, Shay, turned around in the passenger seat to face Lance and Pidge.  “Hello, Lance… Pidge.  How are you tonight?”

“Ready to rock,” Lance said, a confident grin painted across his face.

“I’ve got odds on Lance striking out tonight,” Pidge said, mostly toward Hunk and Shay, a sly grin painted across her face.  “Variables include how many drinks he has and how many girls he lays a line on before he gets a drink thrown in his face.”

“No more gambling on real people, Pidge,” Hunk said mildly.  “Not after The Incident.”

“You people keep bringing that up, but it wasn’t like it turned out poorly,” Pidge reminded her friend.  “We all knew Matt and Shiro were just a matter of time, and Allura and I did what we had to.”

“Gambling’s no fair when you tamper with the odds, Pidgeon,” Lance said, leaning back in the bucket seat and stretching his legs out until they hit the back of Shay’s seat.  “Especially if it involves you showing my pictures to girls in the bathroom and convincing them not to even give me a chance.”

“I already promised I wouldn’t do that anymore,” Pidge said, eyes narrowing in Lance’s direction.

“But the question is, how many times did you do it before I found out?” Lance volleyed.

Pidge let out a dramatic sigh and flopped backwards in her seat.  “See if I let you guys in on my betting pools again.”

Shay giggled delicately over the sound of Lance and Pidge’s heatless bickering.  When they made it to the bar, it was just starting to fill up with the Friday happy hour rush.  Hunk found a parking space near the side of the building and the four headed inside to find their friends.  Their attention was pulled toward the back by Allura waving an arm over her head.

Allura, Shiro, and Matt were huddled around a high-top table for eight.  Allura stood up to greet them a few paces before they reached the table, first hugging Shay, then everyone else in turn.  When it was Lance’s turn, he indicated for her to spin, and she obliged, showing off her silver mini-dress and strappy, bubblegum pink heels.  Lance wolf-whistled, watching her face light up in a beaming smile.  “Absolutely stunning, princess,” he told her.

“You’re not looking too bad yourself,” she returned cheekily, reaching out to pluck a stray thread off the shoulder of his loose v-neck.  She pulled him by the arm to come sit beside her at the table.

“Where’s Keith?” Pidge asked once they’d all settled in around the table.

“On his way.  He covered part of a shift, so he’s just getting off now.”

“Well I’m gonna drink until I can’t tell the difference between Matt and Pidge anymore,” Lance said, resting an elbow on the table.

“When we went out on his birthday, Matt drank one and a half martinis, then tried to have a conversation with a mirror because he thought his reflection was me,” Pidge commented, casting a pointed look at Lance over the top of her glasses.

“In my defense, who puts a mirror on the outside of a bathroom?” Matt asked, lifting his hands in a gesture of innocence.

“Fine, then I’m gonna drink until I can’t tell the difference between Allura and Hunk,” Lance said.

“Damn,” Pidge said mildly, looking impressed.

“I don’t think that’s healthy,” Shiro commented, though he looked more amused at the sentiment than concerned.

“Is it ten yet?” Lance asked, tapping his fingers against the side of the table.

“Two minutes,” Allura announced.  “Shall we head up and grab a round for the table? First shot is on me.”

“Does that mean we’re opening with tequila?” Pidge asked warily.

“You bet your sweet bippy it does, Pidgeon,” Lance replied sweetly, brushing his index finger quickly along the tip of Pidge’s nose.  She wrinkled the offended appendage and slapped Lance’s hand away from her face.  “Wait, who’s sober cab?” Lance asked.  “Hunk? You still good, buddy?”

Hunk nodded easily.  “Sure thing.”

“You want a soda or a virgin or anything? My treat.”

“A Shirley Temple would be great,” Hunk said.  “Thanks, dude.”

“Shay? Tequila okay?  I don’t think I’ve ever seen you do a shot,” Lance said warily.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve shot tequila, but that’s fine by me,” Shay said with a smile.  “It’ll bring back memories of college.”

“Excellent,” Allura said, tucking her hand into the crook of Lance’s arm.  “We’ll be back in a tick!”

The bar was nearing capacity, but Allura skillfully weaved her way through the mass of bodies and tugged Lance along with her.  When they reached the bar, they only had to wait a few moments before the bartender turned his attention on them.  “How’s it goin’, beautiful?” the bartender asked Allura, sounding more distracted than anything.

“Great,” Lance put in cheekily, leaning an arm against the bar.  “Is it ten yet?”

The bartender turned to check the clock on the wall behind him.  “On the dot,” he said.  “What can I getcha?”

“Six tequila shots,” Allura said.  “And a Shirley Temple.”

The bartender nodded, bending down to pull out a stack of double shot glasses.  “You wanna open a tab?”

“Two,” Lance said, handing over his credit card.  “The Shirley Temple is on mine.”

The bartender took Lance and Allura’s credit cards and turned toward the computer to open the tab.  As he did, another bartender took over pouring their shots, adding a lime wedge to the edge of each glass when she’d finished.  She handed Lance a large salt shaker and slid the shots their way.  Lance carefully picked up two of the shots and Hunk’s soda, while Allura took the other four once she’d gotten their credit cards back.  They returned to the table with their haul and passed them out.  Allura returned Lance’s credit card to him.

“Salt, shot, lime,” Lance chanted, before he licked the side of his hand and sprinkled it with salt.  He passed the salt down the table and waited until everyone had followed suit.  Hunk watched in amusement, stirring the cherry in his drink with his straw.

“Ready?” Allura asked, glancing around the table.  She was met with nods and a few dubious looks, but she pressed on regardless.  “On three.  One, two three!”

On Allura’s cue, everyone at the table licked their salted hands, tossed back their tequila shot, and then stuck the lime slice from their glass into their mouth.

Shiro’s expression made Lance laugh the hardest.  “I always forget how much I hate tequila until I drink with you two,” he said in a croaking voice, before he stuck his lime wedge back into his mouth to dull the taste of liquor.  

Pidge spat her gutted lime into her empty shot glass and licked the last of the salt from her hand.  “Shay didn’t even wince,” Pidge pointed out, leaning over with an outstretched hand.  Shay obliged them with a high five.  “Maybe she can teach you how to do a shot without looking like you’re gonna cry, Shiro.”

“Ouch,” Lance and Hunk said in unison.

“Thanks, Pidge,” Shiro said drily. 

“He may not be able to shoot tequila, but he can tell you in terminologically correct detail exactly what it’s doing to your liver as we speak,” Hunk argued on Shiro’s behalf.

“Because those who can’t, teach,” Pidge volleyed immediately.

“I’m going to get a nice, safe glass of beer and end this non-argument while I’m somehow behind,” Shiro interrupted, pushing back from the table with a smile on his face.

“Get me a margarita, babe,” Matt requested before Shiro could leave earshot.  Shiro nodded to confirm he’d heard, before disappearing toward the bar.

Pidge smacked her lips together.  “Tequila makes my tongue go numb,” she commented, before sticking out said tongue to try to inspect it with crossed eyes.  “Ah lob it.”

“What?”

Pidge sucked her tongue back in before repeating, “I love it.  Shay, come get another drink with me.”

Shay slipped off her stool and followed Pidge toward the bar.  “I need sustenance,” Lance said suddenly, all but launching himself off his stool.  “I hope you guys are ready to share with me because I’m gonna order so many fries.”

He left Matt, Hunk, and Allura behind and headed for the bar.  There were more people crowded around now, but he spotted Shiro in the crowd and sidled up next to him.  “Sup?”

“It’s busy tonight,” Shiro remarked.

Lance nodded.  “It’s Friday happy hour.  Not quite as packed as I’ve seen it in the past, though.”  Lance leaned forward a little to be heard over the din around the bar.  “Hey Nyma, how’s it goin’?”

“Hi Lance,” the bartender replied, her attention focused on the drink she was mixing.  When she’d sent it off with whoever had ordered it, she finally glanced his way.  “What can I get you?”

He looked back at Shiro briefly.  “Shiro?”

“Your house draft and a margarita, please,” Shiro said.  “Open a tab.”

“And can I get a Malibu Surfer?” Lance asked.  “I have a tab open.”

“Is that your weird, like, pineapple juice and coconut rum drink?” Nyma asked.

“With a splash of Coca-Cola.”

“Right.”  Nyma rolled her eyes.  “Coming right up.”

“Oh!” Lance exclaimed.  “And two baskets of fries.”

“Got it,” Nyma said, pouring Shiro’s beer.

Lance leaned an elbow on the bar and turned back to look at Shiro.  He was just tucking his phone back into his jeans pocket with an amused look on his face.  “Sup dude?”

“My brother texted,” he said.  “Said he’s gonna play me a song and then he’s on his way here.”

Lance let a lazy smile creep across his face.  “What is it?”

Shiro shrugged.  “I guess we’ll see.”

“Your fries’ll be out in five,” Nyma said, pushing Lance’s cocktails toward him.

“Thanks nena,” he said, winking at her.  Shiro picked up his and Matt’s drinks and followed Lance back to the table, weaving through the pressing bodies with a little more difficulty than Lance had.  By the time they got back to the table, Pidge and Shay had also made it back, and Allura had magically procured a glass of merlot.

“Lu, did someone buy you a drink already?” Lance asked as he set his cocktails on the table and climbed back into his stool.

Allura nodded, a satisfied smirk on her face.  “I unfortunately seem to have misplaced the phone number he sent with it, though,” she said, delicately wiping her fingers on a napkin with obvious writing on it.

“Fucking savage, Allura,” Pidge said.  “I respect that.”

Lance looked up, squinting hard at the speaker piping in music.  “Hang on.  Is that…”

The others followed his gaze, listening intently.

“You're wondering who I am….
(secret, secret, I've got a secret)
Machine or mannequin...
(secret,secret, I've got a secret)”

“Shiro, it’s your theme song,” Matt said with thinly-veiled glee.

“Goddamn it,” Shiro muttered, bringing his hand up to hide his face.

“Oh my god, is that the song he’s playing for you?” Lance asked, his face lighting up with the epiphany.  “You’re Mister fuckin’ Roboto.”

Pidge was flat out cackling, her phone lifted in front of her to snap a picture of Shiro with his head cradled in his artificial hand.  “He says he hopes you enjoy the song,” Pidge said, a wicked smile on her face.  “He’ll be here in ten minutes.”

“Tell him I said ‘fuck you’ and if he’s gonna play eighties music, then he could have put on some AC/DC instead of taunting me with Styx,” Shiro grumbled, but Lance was pretty sure he was smiling behind his beer glass.

Pidge shook her head, but her fingers were flying across her phone keyboard.  “At least he doesn’t play ABBA,” she pointed out.

“Hey, I love ABBA,” Lance said.

“You’re the statistical error that made ABBA famous in the first place,” Pidge returned.

“How much would it take to bribe him to play Beyonce?” Allura asked.

“More than you’re willing to sacrifice,” Shiro answered, at the same time Pidge said, “Twenty bucks and your dignity.”

“Same thing,” Allura said with a hum.  “Next time.”

 

Ten minutes later, Lance and Pidge were near the bar, each with a drink in hand.  Pidge had just watched Lance strike out with a girl, and was using the moment to taunt him about it.  Her attention, however, drifted toward the entrance when the bell above the door rang, and her face lit up in recognition.  “Lance, Lance, Lance, look!” Pidge said, using the flat palm of her hands to paw Lance’s arm.  Lance twisted to pull it out of Pidge’s reach.

“What?”

“Keith’s here!” Pidge said, grabbing Lance’s face and twisting it toward the door. 

“Keef?” Lance parroted (as best he could with his cheeks caught in Pidge’s vice grip).

“Keith!” Pidge screeched, getting another look from Nyma and drawing the attention of the young man who had just entered the bar.  As soon as he caught sight of the man standing in the dim light of the neons framing the front door, with his leather jacket and wind-tossed hair, the missing link clicked in his brain and he realized why he felt like he knew who Pidge was talking about. 

“It’s Keith, by the way."

Lance was an idiot, but he was going to blame it on the concussion.  Keith walked over at Pidge’s behest, looking vaguely confused, as Lance grinned and leaned a little harder on the bartop.

“Well hey there, Cherry Bomb,” Lance said, picking his nearly-empty drink up off the bar.

“Hey Lance.  You… know Pidge?”

"She's my roommate,” Lance said like it was obvious.  “Can I buy you a drink, guapo?  What do you like?”

“Jack and Coke?”

Lance caught Nyma’s eye as she nodded to confirm that she’d heard Keith, and set to making his drink.

“Pidge, do you know where Shiro–” Keith began, but Pidge cut him off before he could finish, holding up a hand and turning toward Lance.  “Wait— Keith is Cherry Bomb?  This is the cute concussion savior guy you haven’t shut up about?”  She glanced suspiciously toward her best friend and let her shoulders drop.  “Obviously.  God, of fucking course you are.  Jesus.”

“You okay Pidge?”  Keith asked.

“I’m just reevaluating my life,” Pidge said, waving a hand dismissively.  “Well, since you two know each other, I don’t need to bother with introductions.  Shiro and the others are over there, Keith.”

“I’ll show you!” Lance volunteered, draining his drink and leaving it on the counter at the same time as Nyma sat two Jack and Cokes on the counter.  Lance grabbed them both, handing one to Keith as he began leading him toward the table in the corner.  As they walked, Lance raised his voice so Keith could hear him over the din of the crowd and the music.  “I’m gonna go ahead and skip the uncomfortable embarrassment of us apparently having a bunch of mutual friends and go right to acceptance.”

“Sounds good to me.”                                                                                                                                                              

“Sweet,” Lance said, casting a grin over his shoulder at Keith.

 

If the others noticed that Lance and Keith were already acquainted, nobody commented.  Keith nursed the single drink Lance had bought him in an effort to stay sober enough to drive himself home afterwards.  By the end of happy hour, everyone except Keith and Hunk were quite tipsy, so when Allura suggested they go back to her house, the idea was voted in nearly unanimously.  The only objection made was from Keith, but all it took was an exaggerated pout from Lance to change his mind.

That was how Keith found himself playing Twister with Lance, Allura, Pidge, and Matt, while Shiro called out moves and Shay and Hunk laughed from the couch.  Fuck his life, honestly.

“Left hand red,” Shiro called.

“Does Keith’s face count?” Pidge asked, an evil grin on her own face.

“Shut up, Pidge,” Keith gritted out, looking for the best way to rebalance himself to move his hand without faceplanting into Lance’s ass.

“Make me, Cherry Bomb,” Pidge retorted, pulling a giggle from Lance.

“Right foot green."

Before she could blink, Keith had swung his foot out from under himself to land on the nearest green space, conveniently sweeping Pidge’s balance out from under her.  “Keith!” Pidge yelped.  “You absolute shitstain.”

“Language, Pidge-podge.”

“Fuck off, Matt,” Pidge snapped as she slid off the twister mat and sat down beside Shiro.  She plucked the spinner out of his hands and put it in her own lap, flicking the arrow to the next call.  “Left hand yellow.”

The play continued for a few more rounds until Matt slipped moving his left foot to blue and sat out as well.  Two spins later, Keith found himself staring down Allura’s cleavage.  She’d changed since the bar, but the old t-shirt she’d put on was worn enough around the collar that it didn’t leave much to the imagination.  Allura laughed when she noticed the tint coloring Keith’s cheekbones.  “Hey Keith.”

“Fuck off.”

“Enjoying the view?” Lance laughed from his disgustingly easy position at the edge of the board.

“I think I just saw Keith’s brain short-circuit,” Pidge said.

“Someone please get me out of Allura’s tits?”

“They don’t bite, Keith,” Allura snickered.

“Allura, as nice as they may be, I have already seen more of your boobs than I ever needed to see in my life.”

“I don’t think it was a coincidence that the summer Allura lost her bikini top in the lake was the same summer Keith came out,” Matt noted.

“Keith’s gay trauma origin story,” Shiro snickered.

“A lady could get a complex, Keith,” Allura teased. 

“I hate all of you,” Keith said.

“It’s okay, Keith,” Pidge said.  “I’m gay because of Allura’s boobs too.”

“Aw, thank you, Pidge!”

“Is it inappropriate to say I’m gay because of Shiro’s boobs?” Matt asked.

“Nah, Shiro’s probably got the second nicest boobs in the room,” Lance said.  “Well, out of the ones I’ve seen, so no offense, Shay.”

“None taken,” Shay giggled.

“Wait, was that the same summer we threw a party and Keith drank half a bottle of tequila and started reenacting Risky Business?”

“Let’s please forget that ever happened,” Keith said quickly.

“I still have video,” Allura hummed, absolutely diabolical grin painted across her face.

“Please send me a copy,” Pidge said.

“Me too,” Shiro added.

“Me three,” Lance agreed.

“I’m disowning all of you.  Can you please call a fucking color so we can move on with the evening?” Keith asked.

“Calm your titties, Keith,” Pidge ordered.  “Left foot yellow.”

“You didn’t even spin—”

Left. Foot. Yellow,” Pidge repeated, cutting Hunk off with a glare before he could finish his sentence.

Lance shifted to twist his left foot across his body, positioned in a crouch, while the other two shifted just enough to move Allura’s boobs out of Keith’s direct line of sight.

“Right hand blue.”

Keith put his right hand down directly behind him, leaning backwards with his left foot on yellow and his right foot on red.  He choked back a noise as Lance’s hand brushed Keith’s crotch through his worn blue jeans before setting his hand down right between Keith’s legs.  Lance winked, flashing a flirtatious smile at Keith.  “My bad.”

“Left hand yellow.”

Keith was nearly in a split at this point, focusing all his attention into not letting Allura’s hand under his right leg or Lance’s wide grin mere inches from his face throw off his balance.

“Right foot green.”

Keith’s leg caught on Allura’s arm as he tried to shift, his knees buckling in response.  He pitched forward, nearly taking down Lance in the process.

“Jesus, Keith, I can’t believe you let these two drunk bitches hand your ass to you at Twister,” Pidge commented.  “Right foot red.”

Lance winked at Keith again as Keith took a seat on the edge of the game to watch Lance and Allura duke it out.  With just the two of them, it got very cutthroat very quickly, but they still managed to last a good twenty minutes longer, contorting themselves into increasingly uncomfortable looking poses in an effort to throw the other off.  Keith could tell he was probably staring at Lance a little more than was absolutely necessary, but god, the man was bendy.  When Allura finally managed to knock Lance off balance and claim the victory, Keith learned the two did yoga together on Sundays.  That put a mental image in Keith’s head that he very quickly locked away, because that was not a place he was willing to go.  Especially not here

After Twister, Lance and Allura split a bottle of wine while the others opted for beer, but Keith decided to call it a night and head home.  He said his goodbyes and drove home, crawling straight into bed after stripping to his underwear.  Despite how tired he felt, the image of Lance playing Twister was burned into the back of Keith’s eyelids as he tried in vain to fall asleep that night.

I am so fucking screwed.

Chapter Text

 

To: Cherry Bomb

(12:49 pm)

<< good night last night?

(12:51 pm)

>> well I met this guy in a bar last night who was pretty hot

>> wound up very drunk by the end

>> he asked me for a ride and then snickered for a full minute before adding “on your motorcycle”

(12:52 pm)

<< I was abt 2 b astounded by how I missed that happening

<< but then I realized you’re probably talking about me

<< were you talking about me?

(12:53 pm)

>> yes lance

(12:53 pm)

<< oh god

(12:54 pm)

>> I’m sure it isn’t as bad as you think it was

(12:55 pm)

<< Well if apparently asking u for a ride wasnt “bad”…

<< I also have the receipt from my bar tab

<< it was real bad

(12:55 pm)

>> yeah you were pretty far gone

>> and then we got back to Allura’s…

(12:56 pm)

<< ughshgshghdhfghh

 

Lance’s hangover was not a pretty one, but he brewed a pot of coffee around one, which pulled Pidge out of her room in a surprisingly chipper mood, which Lance should have found suspicious had he not been so preoccupied with the pounding migraine in his head.  The two proceeded to drink the whole pot with only the sound of Pidge’s pencil lead against paper to break the silence.  It was only after Lance’s cup was empty for the second time that he spoke.

“Did we go to Lulu’s last night?”

“Yup.”  Pidge flashed a bright smile in Lance’s direction.  “We played Twister, and you and Allura finished off two bottles of wine on top of our happy hour haul.”

“Ugh,” Lance shuddered.  “I don’t know how she drinks that stuff all the time.  I have to be drunk before I can stomach it.”

“Allura’s probably an alien,” Pidge said, spinning her pencil between her fingers and tapping the eraser twice against the lip of her mug.  “But there were far more interesting developments happening last night than drunk Lance’s affection for room-temperature Merlot.”

“…Such as?”

“Drunk Lance’s blatant flirting with Keith,” Pidge said, a knowing look shining in her eyes.

Lance dropped his forehead to the surface of the table.  “Fuck.”

“So.  My roommate has a massive crush on my best friend.  How ‘bout them apples?”

“Pidge, I’m way too hungover to deal with your negativity right now,” Lance said.

“I’m not being negative, Lance.  I’m stating fact.”

“Are you gonna be weird about this, because I haven’t done anything other than flirt with him, I swear.”

Pidge shook her head.  “Tell me again how you met?”

Lance shrugged.  “I wiped out on my bike in front of his house.  He must have a thing for guys in compromised states of mind.”

Pidge snorted.  “You’re compromised alright.”

“Rude,” Lance said, kicking his leg out under the table to hit Pidge.

“If it makes you feel better, he too is a giant dork,” Pidge said, lightly shading part of the sketch she'd been drawing up for the last half hour.

“It does, actually,” Lance said.  “Though I’ve kind of figured that out.”

“I still can’t believe you didn’t tell me his name,” Pidge said.

“I had a concussion, Pidge!”

Pidge rolled her eyes.  “You’re dumb and you have it so bad for him.  You should ask him out.”

“I barely know him, Pidge.”

“You know him better than any of the people you hit on in bars,” Pidge pointed out.

“That’s different,” Lance said.  “If I swing and miss with any of those people, I can still rest safely in the assurance that they don’t know any of my friends and I’ll never have to see them ever again.”

“I still think you should ask him out,” Pidge hummed.  “You could cook for him.  He basically lives on ramen, so he’d probably fall in love with you just based on the fact that you can feed him actual food.”

“Okay, okay, I’ll think about it,” Lance said.  “But I think for now I’m gonna go back to bed and try to sleep off this hangover.”

“You just drank two cups of coffee that was significantly blacker than you usually drink it,” Pidge pointed out.

“Time is an illusion and surely tomorrow this hangover will be gone from my life.”

“Enjoy,” Pidge said, tossing a middle finger toward Lance as if waving goodbye.  Lance returned the salutation by kissing his middle finger and blowing it toward Pidge as he sat his mug in the sink and left the room.  Once Lance was gone, secured back in his room, Pidge brewed another pot of coffee and took a fresh cup to the living room with the torn-out sketch of her newest invention idea with her.  While it was an idea she'd show to Hunk later that evening, she was already bored with it for the moment. 

 

To: Grumpy Cat

(1:48 pm)

<< so my best friend has a massive crush on my roommate
<< what a world what a world

(1:49 pm)

>> are you going to make a big deal out of this?
>> I didn’t know he was your roommate

(1:49 pm)

<< not if you tell me what i want to know

(1:50 pm)

>> what do you want to know?

 

Pidge only waited as long as it took Keith to send that message before hitting the call button.  He answered on the second ring.

“What, Pidge?”

“Don’t give me that tone, young man,” Pidge teased.  “I just wanted to talk to my best buddy.”

“Bull.”

“You don’t trust me, and while I understand, it still stings.  How long have we been friends, Keith?”

“Since forever.”

“You have the strategic advantage of being best friends with your crush’s roommate, and I am willing to help you.  I just wanna know where you’re at.”

“… Really?”

“Scout’s honor.”

“You were not in scouts, Pidge.”

“I found the establishment sexist and I hate camping, but Matt was in scouts and I had to teach him to how to climb a tree when he was fifteen, so I think we both know which of us would have been better at it.”

“All right.  What do you want to know?”

“Scale of one to ten – ten being that you’re literally in love with him – how bad do you have it for Lance?”

“I dunno…? He’s cute.”

“He had a concussion when you met him, Keith.”

“Yeah but…”

“Seriously, Keith.  He’s my friend and I know your track record with guys.”

“It’s not a pity crush.  He’s cute.”

“Cute as in he gives you a stray puppy vibe and you want to adopt him, or cute as in you want to drown in his eyes and put your dick in his ass?”

“….”

“You are weak and natural selection is coming for you.”

“Pidge—”

“Fine, fine, I’ll accept your sexual advances toward my roommate without judgement.”

“You’re already judging me.”

“Yes, but that’s the original recipe judgement that comes standard with being friends with me.”

“Fair enough.”

“So, you guys have been talking a bit?”

“Kind of.”

“Kind of talking?”

“Texting, mostly.  He’s funny.”

“It’s one of his charms.  Do you like him?”

“Yeah.  I mean, I think so.  As much as I can like someone I’ve only known for a few days?”

“Are you gonna ask him out?  I mean, you’re not exactly great at dating.”

“Thanks, Pidge.”

“You’re welcome.  But seriously… I’ve known the guy for four years.  I know he’s very charismatic and attractive, but he can also come on kinda strong.”

“Yeah, he’s a bit forward but it’s not… a bad thing.”

“I should have known you’d be into the assertive ones.”

“I can practically hear your eyes rolling, Pidge.”

“You know me so well.”

“Has he… has he said anything about me?”

“He hasn’t shut up about you, honestly.  I mean, honestly I do not have a clue how he skipped telling me your actual name, because I swear he’s brought you up at every opportunity.  Lance is basically a puppy dog when he gets a crush.”

“You really think he has a crush on me?”

“Yes, Keith.  Which is, like, half the reason I called you to see where you’re at.  Because obviously I’m not gonna tell you who to date or what to do, but you’re really important to me and Lance is also really important to me and I want to make sure neither of you winds up hurting the other if this doesn’t work out.”

“I understand.”

“Besides, if you aren’t an awkward douchenozzle and fuck up your chances, the two you are basically perfect for each other and I call being your best man.”

“I think that’s moving a little too fast, Pidge.”

“Right, I’m just saying.  So are you gonna try and get in his pants?”

“I thought we already established the fact that natural selection is coming for me and my weak, gay sensibilities.”

“Oh right, almost forgot.”

“Any pointers?”

“For your raging gayness?”

“For… pursuing Lance.”

“Pursuing?  Keith, are you seventy-five?”

“How would you like me to phrase it, Pidge?”

“Just ask him out, dumbass.”

“I don’t know how to go from casually texting to asking him out.  How do people talk to each other every day?  What does Lance like?”

“What I’m hearing, Keith, is you asking me for help.”

“No.”

“Keith.  Ask me to help you.”

“… If I do, will you promise you will be more tactful than you were with Shiro and Matt?”

“Promise.”

Fine.”

“Ah, ah, ask nicely.”

“Pidge.”

“Keith.”

“Fine.  Help me Obi Wan, whoever the fuck you are.  You’re my only ho.”

“That’s what I like to hear, bitch.  I’m gonna let you in on a little secret, here.”

“What’s that?"

“You’ve already been talking to him for days and you haven’t run out of things to say.  Get out of your head, dude, it’s just gonna trip you up.  You just talk to him, and he talks back, and there’s a conversation.”

“Fuck you, Pidge.”

“You know I’m right.”

“Yeah, but you made me fucking jump through hoops for you to tell me what I already know.”

“Listen, Keith, you’re not as socially challenged as you like to think you are.  You know how to have a conversation.  And as far as transitioning from talking to going out, just fucking ask him, you dense motherfucker.

“Okay, yeah.  Thanks, Pidge.”

“Even if it winds up not working out, just try not to let it go so horribly south that you have to skip town.  I really like living close to you again.”

“I’ll try.”

“That’s all I ask.  That, and keep me up to date on everything.”

“So you can tamper with the odds?”

“I would never.”

“Two words: Matt and Shiro.”

“I only stepped in when I had to, Keith.  And it was Allura’s idea in the first place.  I’m not gonna push you to do this because I know you’re way more stubborn than Matt and Shiro put together.”

“The two of you have no tact.”

“This coming from the man who moved back to his hometown and FORGOT to tell his best friend.”

“Are you still mad?”

“Only kind of.”

“I’m sorry.”

“I know.  That’s why I’m only kind of mad.”

“Was there anything else you wanted?”

“An account of last Tuesday from the perspective of someone who didn’t have a concussion?”

“I mean… what do you want to know?  Gunther got off his leash while Matt was out and the next thing I know, this bicyclist is eating pavement.  I cleaned him up and he asked for my number.”

“I ask again – why did you develop a crush on a concussed person?”

“No, I—I gave him my number.  I thought he was cute, but the crush mostly came after we started talking.”

“Better.  That’s actually kind of adorable.  Why does he call you Cherry Bomb?”

“He saw it on the side of my bike.  It was—”

“Cute, yeah, got it.  Wait until you trigger his competitive streak, then we’ll see how cute you think he is.”

“I’m kind of getting mixed signals on whether you want this to happen or not, Pidge.”

“I’m trying to stay impartial until you have an actual date.”

“Impartiality does not mean swinging wildly between telling me I’ll hate him and calling dibs on wedding party position.”

“Or does it?”

“Pidge.”

“All right, I’ll stop.  I’ll let you go pace your apartment or clean your engine or wash your hair or whatever it is you do on weekends.  If you need anything, hit me up.”

“Thanks for the tips.”

“No problem.  You know I love being right.”

“Bye Pidge.”                                                    

“Bye Keith.”

Chapter Text

“Why the hell are you still in bed?”

Keith glanced away from his phone to see his best friend in the doorway of his bedroom.  “It’s Sunday.”

“It’s two pm,” Pidge volleyed.

“How did you get in?”

“I have my ways, Keith Amadeus Kogane,” Pidge said, hopping onto the edge of Keith’s mattress.

“Please tell me you didn’t break a window.”

“Stop being dramatic, the garage code hasn’t changed since 1998.  Get up, we’re going to Allura’s.” 

“Why?”

“Haircuts,” Pidge said.  “First Sunday of every month.”

“I’m not letting that woman near my head with a scissors,” Keith said, tossing the blanket over his head.

“She doesn’t cut, we just use her kitchen.  Come and sit with us,” Pidge said.  “We can watch Shiro get that sick fade.”

“Mmph.”

“I wanna try out a new hairstyle and I need you there to tell me how fantastic it looks on me.”

“…”

Lance will be there…” Pidge sang, poking at the Keith-shaped lump in the comforter.

Keith tossed back the covers, looking at Pidge with narrowed eyes.  “It’s been two days, Pidge, are you really going to play that card?”

“Of course I am,” Pidge returned with a shit-eating grin.  “I know your weak, gay ass well enough to know I can win if I use your crush as a selling point.”

“Fine, I’ll come,” Keith said.

“Do you need to shower?”

“I only wish I could shower in my bathroom,” Keith said.

“What’s wrong with your shower?”

Keith gestured toward door, the bathroom just a few feet down the hallway.  Pidge hopped up to look inside, returning momentarily making a funny face.  “Where’s the shower head?  Or like, the pipe it connects to?”

“I found it in the kitchen sink,” Keith said. 

“You could use Matt’s shower,” Pidge offered.  “He can drive us both to Allura’s.”

“Nah, I’m fine,” Keith said.  “Raincheck.”

Pidge shrugged, standing up from her place on the bed.  “Do you want the ride, though?”

“I’ll take my bike,” Keith said.  “You want to go with me or with Matt?”

“I’ll go with you,” Pidge said.  “Obviously that is so much cooler than riding in Matt’s old man Buick.”

“Cool.  Gimme two minutes.”

Pidge flashed a thumbs up and retreated from the room.  Keith stretched as he got up and headed for the dresser resting against the wall.  He donned an old t-shirt and a fresh pair of jeans – acid washed and gaping at the knees, like most of his jeans.  Leaving his bedroom, he moved to the bathroom to brush his teeth and his hair, scooping what he could back into a short ponytail and pulling it through the back of his favorite baseball cap.  He would admit his bangs could use a trim, but the others would probably try to talk him into something drastic, which he wasn’t ready for.  After rinsing his toothbrush and replacing it in its stand, Keith found Pidge seated on the kitchen counter, drinking a Capri Sun she’d found in the fridge.  “Ready?” she asked. 

“Sure,” Keith said.  He grabbed his keys off the counter and let Pidge lead the way into the garage.  He hit the button to lift the garage door and swung a leg over his bike, tossing the helmet to Pidge.  “I only have one, but I promise I won’t crash between here and Allura’s.”

Pidge cast him a skeptical look as he started to back his bike out of the garage.  She hit the button on the outside to close the garage again and clipped the helmet under her chin.  “Fine, but be careful,” she called above the roar of the engine, swinging onto the bike behind him.

“Will do,” Keith replied.  He cast a wave toward Matt as his neighbor climbed into his car in the next driveway over and pulled out behind Keith to head to Allura’s.

The ride to Allura’s was only a few miles.  She’d grown up down the street from Keith and Pidge, and that house was where Coran still lived to this day.  Allura, however, had moved a few years ago into a house halfway between her childhood home and the community center.  She loved hosting get-togethers, from casual to formal, and her house reflected her style well.  When Keith pulled up to Allura’s, there were already several cars outside.  Keith parked on the street next to the driveway, and Matt took into the empty space at the end of the driveway.  Keith held the bike steady as Pidge climbed off, unclipping her helmet with a grin on her face.  “I always forget how fun that is,” Pidge told him.  “It’s been ages.”

Keith smiled, taking the helmet from Pidge and tucking it into one of the saddlebags on the back of his bike.  “Right?”

“Hey guys,” Matt said, getting out of his car.  He spun his keys around the tip of his finger a few times before fumbling, chasing them as they fell with grabbing motions.  Pidge snickered as he grabbed the keys off the asphalt.  “You didn’t see that,” he muttered.

“Sure we didn’t,” Pidge snickered.  Matt flicked her on the arm as the trio headed toward Allura’s front door. 

The whirring of electric clippers greeted them as they let themselves into Allura’s house.  In their clear view from the door to the kitchen, they could see that Allura had pushed her dining table aside to clear room on the linoleum floor, with the breakfast bar as a barrier between the kitchen and Allura’s makeshift salon.  Coran sat straddling a dining chair, Lance standing behind him with a pair of clippers in hand.  Hunk, Allura, and Shiro sat at the kitchen table, watching Lance work.  Hunk was cooing over Allura’s fluffy white cat, who had settled herself in his lap.

“Hey guys,” Matt said as he stepped into the house, Keith and Pidge on his heels.

“Welcome to the party,” Hunk said, waving at the new arrivals.  Lance’s face absolutely lit up when he caught sight of Keith, who pretended he didn’t notice.  Matt headed for Shiro, who tipped his head up for a kiss. 

“All set, my man,” Lance said, clicking off the clippers and brushing hair off Coran’s shoulders.  Allura handed Coran a mirror so he could check his reflection.

“Wonderful as always, my boy!” Coran exclaimed.  “Thank you kindly.”

“No problemo,” Lance said, clicking his tongue and shooting a finger gun in Coran’s direction.  “Who’s next?”

“Me,” Shiro said, settling into the hot seat as Lance clicked the clippers back on and set to work on Shiro’s legendary fade.

“Well, I hate to cut and run, but I must be off,” Coran said, gathering up his sweater and glasses from where they had been resting on the table.

“Where you off to, Coran?” Pidge asked, looking up at him from where she had dropped herself to the floor.

“I’ve got a lawn to mow, oil to change, and groceries to buy,” Coran hummed.  He stepped over to Allura so he could press a kiss to her cheek.  “Dinner this evening, my dear?”

“I’ll be there,” Allura said, smiling up at her step-father.

Coran flashed a grin toward the rest of the gathered company.  “Have a good day, all!”

The rest chorused a goodbye as Coran headed for the door.  Allura’s cat leaped down from Hunk’s lap and wandered toward Pidge, nuzzling into Pidge’s leg affectionately.  “Hi Julie,” Pidge cooed, stroking her hand down the length of the white cat.

“Julie?” Keith asked, his arms crossed over his chest as he slowly gravitated toward the rest of the crowd gathered around the dining room.

“Lance said naming her ‘Queenie’ wasn’t original enough,” Allura said, glancing over from her spot at the table.  “Her full name is Dame Julia Elizabeth Andrews.  Julie for short.”

“Ahh,” Keith said, his eyes finally trailing toward Lance for confirmation.  The man in question smiled proudly even as his gaze stayed focused on the task at hand.

“Do I get to cut your hair today, Keith?” Lance asked.

“That depends,” Keith said.  “Are you going to try to convince me to cut it all off?”

“Only a little,” Lance said, smiling cheekily.  “You’d look so good with an undercut.”

“Just a trim, thanks,” Keith said.  “If you don’t mind, that is.”

“I don’t,” he said, taking a step back to check the evenness of the fade.  He clicked off his clippers and plucked a pair of scissors off the table, setting to trim the top of Shiro’s head.

Keith decided to sit down where he was, directly in front of Shiro, but a few feet back so he could still see everyone easily.  Julie Andrews lazily turned from Pidge to investigate Keith’s presence, circling him with a series of suspicious sniffs before lapping at the back of his hand with a rough pink tongue.  He let her inspect his hand before moving to pet her.  Her purr picked up immediately.  “Where was she the other night when we were playing?”

“Upstairs,” Allura said.  “She likes her beauty sleep.”

“Me too, Jules,” Lance said in an exaggerated stage whisper.  He took a few more calculated snips of Shiro’s hair before stepping back and tilting his head to one side.  “All right, Shiro, how’s that?” Lance asked, handing his subject the handheld mirror before brushing all the excess hair off of Shiro’s shoulders as best he could.

“Looks great, Lance, thanks,” Shiro said after a cursory glance, standing and moving aside.

“Who’s next?” Lance asked, one hand on his hip.

“I’ll go,” Hunk said, standing up from the table before taking a seat on the chair, backwards like Shiro and Coran had, arms folded across the back.

Lance picked his scissors back up and set to work on Hunk’s head, his hands steady.  Keith watched as much as he could without being thought staring.  Lance made a face every time he noticed Keith watching, but it wasn’t often.  He mostly kept his gaze focused on trimming Hunk’s surprisingly long mane.

“Keith, you work at the radio station, right?” Hunk asked, distracting Keith from his pattern of alternating between watching Lance and the cat.

“Yeah, I do,” Keith confirmed.  “Overnights.”

“What did you do before you got back to Arus?”

“Uh, I kinda traveled around,” Keith said.  “I guess you could call me a roadie.  Coran called me up and asked if I was interested in coming back to Arus for a bit and filling in at the station, since I worked there in high school and whenever I came home from college.”

“Coran has nothing but praise for you and your work,” Allura put in, her chin tucked down against her chest to allow Lance a better angle.

Keith chuckled.  “Well he basically groomed me for the job.  I owe it all to his tutelage.”

“So is it just filling in?” Hunk asked.  “Temporarily?”

Keith shrugged, his gaze hyperfocused on the pink collar half-obscured by Julie Andrews’ white fur.  “I dunno.  I guess we’ll see.”

“You could always teach music lessons at the community center,” Allura offered.  “Your dad had a space rented out through the end of the year.  I’d be happy to let you use it.”

“The radio station is enough for now.”

“Hunk, head down,” Lance commanded.  “Keith, have you taught music before?”

“No,” Keith answered, relinquishing the cat to Pidge’s lap.  “I don’t even know how to, honestly.”

“I’m sure you’d be great at it, Keith,” Shiro encouraged.  “Just piano or guitar.  Simple stuff.”

“No, I mean like… I know how to do it, and that’s fine when I’m playing,” Keith elaborated.  “But I’ve been playing instruments my whole life.  I don’t think about hand placement or chord progression anymore.  I just do it.”

“That’s the tough part of teaching,” Lance put in.  “But if you have the natural talent, it’s actually not as difficult to translate into teaching others as you might think.  Especially kids.  They’re like sponges.  If you just show them slowly, they’ll get the hang of it.  If Jack taught you your stuff, I’m sure you’ll be just as great with them as he was.”

“He’s right,” Matt said.  “I mean, it’s just a transfer of knowledge.  With instruments especially, a simple demonstration of the skill will go a long way toward learning the skill itself.”

“Like I said,” Keith repeated.  “We’ll see.”

“So what instruments do you play?” Hunk asked.

“Uh, piano, guitar, drums, bass,” Keith listed.  “I played saxophone a few times.”

“That sounds like a euphemism for something,” Allura chuckled.  “Like you met a nice young man who let you play his saxophone.”

“I’ve done that too,” Keith laughed.  “Both require a surprising amount of tongue control.”  Without thinking, his gaze flickered toward Lance.  Lance’s gaze was focused on cutting a lock of Hun’s hair that he had held between two fingers, a smirk painted across his tanned face.  Keith quickly looked away and found his gaze meeting Shiro’s.  Shiro’s gaze flicked back and forth between Keith and Lance before lingering on his brother with a questioning look in his eyes.  Keith shook his head almost imperceptibly, quickly finding the cat in Pidge’s lap.  Julie Andrews was safe.  Julie Andrews wouldn’t judge him.

Lance quickly finished Hunk’s hair and moved on to Matt.  Matt’s haircut took no time at all, as he just requested Lance “cut the wings off” and let Pidge take the chair.

“What can I do for you, Pidgeroo?” Lance asked.  Pidge beckoned him closer with a finger and whispered something in his ear.  Lance’s face lit up as he said something softly in return.  Pidge nodded, settling into the chair with a smug smile.

“Trying something new?” Matt asked.

“Mhm,” Pidge hummed in confirmation.  “You’ll just have to wait and see.”

Lance traced a straight line back from Pidge’s temples with a comb on either side, tying the top half of Pidge’s hair on top of her head to keep it out of the way.  He then clicked on the clippers sheared the bottom half close to her skull.

“Undercut?” Allura asked, leaning forward excitedly.

Pidge grinned in response.  Lance finished the bottom part before trimming an inch or so off of the rest to keep it healthy and out of Pidge’s eyes, scooping the bulk of the hair that was left across the top of Pidge’s head to one side in a very dramatic fashion.  “Thanks, Lance,” Pidge said after examining the cut in the mirror.  “What do you guys think?”

Hunk let out a wolf-whistle, quickly backed by enthusiastic approval from the rest of the gathered men.  Pidge grinned in satisfaction as they moved back to sit by Keith and Julie Andrews on the floor.

“Keith?” Lance asked, patting the chair.  Keith stood up, heading for the chair.  “Just a trim, right?” Lance asked kindly as Keith removed his cap and shook out his hair.  “To get your bangs out of your eyes?”

“Yes please.

“You got it,” Lance said, snipping his scissors twice in the air before setting to work.  There was a brief moment of silence, as if Lance was hesitating, and then Lance’s fingers brushed across the back of Keith’s neck, sending a shiver down his spine. “Oh my god, Keith, your hair is so soft,” Lance exclaimed incredulously.  “What kind of conditioner do you use?”

“Uh, I don’t remember,” Keith said.  “It’s the same as whatever Shiro uses.”

“As someone who actually puts effort into their beauty routine, I’m offended at how effortless you make this seem,” Lance said, gesturing vaguely at Keith’s face.  Keith wasn’t entirely sure what that meant, and as Lance set to trimming the ends of his hair, he didn’t think it was the time to ask.

As Keith let Lance cut his hair, he quietly observed the rest of the room.  Pidge had Julie Andrews in her hands, stretching her out so just her back feet touched the floor and her front half was suspended in the air, almost Simba-like in her grasp.  Hunk was on the stairs, elbows resting on his knees as he smiled in amusement at his friends.  Shiro and Matt were seated at the table, hands laced together on top of the wooden surface as Allura sat across from them, chatting about the End of Summer Open House coming up at the community center. 

He’d missed this, Keith realized all at once.  He’d missed being close to friends – to people who would just hang out in someone’s kitchen, chatting and telling goofy stories and doing something as mundane as getting their hair cut.  He’d missed Pidge’s college graduation – hadn’t been there like he’d promised when they were kids to be her roommate when she moved out of her parents’ house.  He’d missed Allura finally opening the community center – her father’s legacy realized after ages of working around the red tape and familial issues her mother and half-brother had built up around it.  He’d missed Shiro and Matt finally getting together after a decade of dancing around it.  He’d missed getting to know Lance and Hunk the way all the others had – building up the same kind of relationships Keith had spent years running from.  He’d missed the chance to say goodbye to his own goddamn father – missed the opportunity to spend those last, precious years listening to him sing from another room or swear from the garage or play his guitar late at night.

Keith looked around at the people gathered in Allura’s kitchen and wondered just how different his life would be if he hadn’t spent the last four years trying to be anywhere other than Arus.

“Keith?” Lance asked as he came around the front to trim Keith’s choppy bangs.  Keith’s mind came back from its distant revelry to meet Lance’s concerned gaze.  “You good?”

“Yeah,” Keith said.  “Yeah, I’m good.”

“You looked kind of far away,” Lance said softly.

“A little,” Keith admitted.  “It’s uh… it’s kind of weird being back here after I was away for so long.”

“Good weird or bad weird?”

“Good weird,” Keith confirmed quickly.  “I didn’t really realize how much I’d missed.”

Lance smiled warmly, brushing a stray piece of hair off the tip of Keith’s nose.  “Well, I’m glad you’re here now.”

“Me too.”

“I like your shirt, by the way,” he added.

Keith glanced down at his Prince shirt, eliciting a disapproving cluck of the tongue from Lance for moving unannounced.  “Thanks.  I’ve had it forever,” Keith said.

“Prince is one of my favorites,” Lance said.  “My sister and I practically wore out my mom’s copy of 1999 when we were in middle school.”

Keith smiled softly.  “I always had a soft spot for Controversy album.”

Lance scoffed.  “I didn’t know that album existed until I was in high school, and my abuela thought I was summoning Satan.  It was worse than the first time S&M came on the radio and she thought I had something to do with it.”

Keith snorted.  “Nice.  She didn’t like Prince?”

“She thought Prince was a bad influence,” Lance said, a fond but exasperated tone to his voice.  “She thinks I’m bi because I listened to Prince too much as a kid.”

Keith bit back a smile.  “Correlation, not causation?”

Lance shrugged.  “I mean, she could be right.  I’ll never know.  I ain’t mad, though.  I’ll stan Prince and Freddie Mercury over compulsory heterosexuality any day.”

“Classy,” Keith said, letting his lips curl up in a smile.  “What other kinds of music do you like?”

“Beyonce,” Lance said easily.  “Lady Gaga.  Rihanna.  Ariana Grande.”

Keith wrinkled his nose, eliciting a suspicious eyebrow raise from Lance.  “Don’t diss my Lady Pop Rushmore, Cherry Bomb,” Lance warned, his voice light.

“They’re just kind of… overhyped,” Keith said.

Lance gasped dramatically.  “I can’t stand here and let my ladies by slandered by a man with a mullet.  This is the twenty-first century, Keith, get with it!”

“Keith, you can’t fight with Lance on the matter of Beyonce,” Pidge said dryly.  “He takes no prisoners.”

“The gremlin is right,” Lance hummed, meeting Keith’s gaze again before one of his ocean blue eyes disappeared in a wink.  Keith couldn’t bite back his smile.

 

After everyone’s hair had been cut (including Lance, who got a quick shear with the clippers from Allura), Keith helped Lance sweep up the piles of hair that had accumulated on Allura’s kitchen floor.  “I think we could make a few friends for Julie Andrews out of all that,” Lance joked as he held open a trash bag to let Keith dispose dustpans full of shorn hair.

“That’s disgusting, Lance,” Allura said, but she was laughing nevertheless.

“So who’s driving me home now?” Pidge asked. 

 “Hunk and I are going to the drive-in, but I can stop by the apartment if you need,” Lance said.

“Shiro and I are going to his after this,” Matt said.  “You can ride with one of us.”

“Keith, what are you up to this evening?” Allura asked.

“Not much,” Keith said.  “I’ll probably be getting down and dirty trying to replace the fixtures in my shower so maybe I can use it again sometime this month.”

“I thought you were doing that a week ago.”

“I haven’t gotten around to finishing it up yet,” Keith confirmed.

“You haven’t showered in a week?” Lance asked, his nose scrunching up slightly.

“No, I—” Keith was suddenly mortified by the thought that Lance might think he was an unhygienic loser (especially after Lance had had his hands all up on Keith’s hair not twenty minutes ago) but also unready to admit he’d been breaking into Shiro’s apartment regularly.  “I shower at the gym,” he finished lamely.

“You can use my shower,” Matt offered.  “I’m usually gone by eight, most mornings, and I don’t get home until four.  Except on Tuesdays, when I leave at ten.  And on Fridays, when I get home at two.  And sometimes I go home for lunch after my noon class.”

Pidge snorted.  “You can draw up an outline for him later, Matty.”

“Thanks, but I’m good,” Keith said.  “I’m sure I’ll get it all fixed up soon enough.”

“Do you want to come to dinner at Coran’s with me tonight?” Allura asked.

“I don’t want to impose,” Keith said.  “I know you and Coran need your bonding time.”

“I feel like I’ve barely seen you since you’ve been back,” Allura said.  “And you know Coran won’t mind – he adores you.  If he had the opportunity, I’m certain he would have long ago adopted you as the son he never got to have.”

A small smile crossed Keith’s face.  “Yeah, probably.  But I’m good, really.”

“Okay,” Allura said slightly, but the look she cast toward Shiro was not lost on Keith.  He was flooded with a sudden horror that Shiro and Allura were plotting something behind his back.  He had no idea what it would be, but Shiro and Allura were a formidable pair.  They’d been scary in high school, and they were terrifying now – now that Shiro had both combat and medical training and Allura had the experience and authority derived from dealing with city officials and managing a building full of employees day in and day out.  And if Shiro and Allura were plotting something, Matt was most certainly involved as well.  He might not be as frighteningly assertive as Shiro and Allura, but he was the witty wild card of the trio.  Matt would just as soon wipe the table at a poker game as he would trip over his own shoe lace, both while telling a rambling story about his geology students at the university.

Keith’s gaze slid toward Lance, who was shaking the half-full bag of hair at Pidge in a mockingly threatening manner.  If they knew about his crush on Lance – Lance, who they had all known and loved for years; Lance, who Keith had just met a week ago for the very first time and was at a huge disadvantage with because of that – then Keith was probably screwed.

Lance let out a barking laugh as Pidge let out a shriek and rolled rapidly away as Lance nearly spilled the bag out on top of her.  Keith felt the sound skitter through his brain, sending a shiver down his spine that he quite liked.  Allura pursed her lips, dark brown eyes subtly glancing between Lance and Keith as she hid her smile.

Yup.  Definitely screwed.

 


 

Lance tossed a kernel of popcorn into his mouth, crunching on the salty, buttery snack with relish as the credits of Pretty in Pink rolled on the drive-in movie screen.  He was settled in the back of Hunk’s conversion van, the rear doors open so the boys could relax, settled shoulder to shoulder, and enjoy the classic chick-flick double-feature in the crisp, evening air.

“Do you need more soda?” Hunk asked, flipping open the cooler he had brought with them.

“Yeah, hit me with a Dr. Pepper,” Lance said.  “Should we get more popcorn before Dirty Dancing starts?”

“I think we’ll be good,” Hunk said, pulling out two Dr. Peppers and setting them on the van floor between himself and Lance.  “We’ve still got Red Vines.”

“Sweet,” Lance said, snagging a licorice whip out of the bag Hunk was holding.  “Thanks for coming out with me tonight.”

“Dude, of course,” Hunk enthused, wrapping an arm around his best friend’s shoulders.  “It’s been way too long since we’ve done this.  I love Shay, but I miss hanging out just you and me.”

Lance nodded, cracking open his Dr. Pepper.  “Same, buddy.  Gotta save some time for my best bro.”

“So what’s up with you and Keith?”

Lance coughed, nearly spewing Dr. Pepper out the back of the van.  “Excuse me?”

Hunk smiled coyly at Lance’s reaction.  “You seem like you really like him.”

Lance chuckled nervously, reaching into the bag for another handful of popcorn to buy him a moment of time.  “He’s nice.  I mean, he’s cool.”

“Cool,” Hunk repeated.

“Yeah, he’s cool,” Lance repeated, his voice slightly higher.

Hunk rolled his eyes, snapping off a piece of his licorice whip.  “Oh Keith, your hair is sooo soft,” Hunk said mockingly.

“Shut uppp,” Lance whined, shoving at Hunk’s shoulder.

“I also seem to vaguely recall you gushing about how adorable he was when I picked you up from his house that one time,” Hunk pointed out.

Lance rubbed a hand across the back of his neck.  “Yeah.”

“It’s okay, Lance,” Hunk assured him.  “Give it to me straight.”

Lance blew out a hard breath through pursed lips.  “He’s super cute and super funny and I really, really like him, Hunk.”

“That’s a good thing!”

“But I’m scared, too,” Lance said, bringing his legs up to turn his body more toward Hunk.

“Because he’s friends with Pidge and everyone?”

Lance nodded sheepishly.  “He’s really important to them, and we all know I go through relationships like nobody’s business.”

“Lance—” Hunk began, chastising.

“I know, I know,” Lance said, waving a hand.  “I shouldn’t talk about myself like that.  But I do, dude.  Like, it’s just a fact.  I haven’t had a steady relationship since Nyma and I went out in college.”

“You haven’t found the right person yet,” Hunk said, his voice comforting.

“I know,” Lance said.  “But the fact remains that I don’t have a great track record with relationships, and Keith is super important to almost all of my friends.  I don’t want to risk fucking with that.”

“You’re important to them too, Lance,” Hunk reminded him, resting an elbow on his knee as he leaned closer to Lance.  Hunk’s deep, brown eyes searched Lance’s, a reassuring feeling seeping into Lance’s soul as they did.  “Nobody’s going to hold anything against you if Keith isn’t The One.”

“I don’t want it to be weird with everyone else if we break up,” Lance said.

“It’s not like you’ve ended that many relationships with screaming matches and bad feelings,” Hunk said.  “You’re still on good terms with most of the people you’ve gone out with.”

“I’m just nervous, man,” Lance said.  “I haven’t been this nervous about the prospect of a new relationship in ages.”

“It’s just not healthy to shut something like this down before it has a chance to start just because you’re afraid you might break up.”  Hunk clapped a sympathetic hand against Lance’s shoulder.  “If it really doesn’t feel like the right thing, then you don’t have to do anything.  But if you like this guy, why not give it a shot?  I know everyone’ll be cheering for you.”

Lance shot a grateful smile up at his friend.  “Thanks, Hunk.  I think I needed that.  Oh shit, it’s starting,” he said, swinging his feet back down and leaning his shoulder heavily against Hunk’s side.  “God, I love Dirty Dancing.”

Hunk chuckled, a warm vibration against Lance’s side.  “Remember when we watched this, like, every weekend of Senior year?”

“Best year of my fucking life,” Lance responded, half laughing at the memory.  “God, seems like ages ago.”

“It was ages ago,” Hunk pointed out.

“Only three years,” Lance protested.

“Ages,” Hunk repeated, a teasing lilt to his deep voice.  “We’re old men now, Lance, yelling at kids to get off our lawns.”

Lance gasped, feigning outrage.  “Speak for yourself, papi.  I am as youthful as I was when we met.”

“I think you grew into your limbs a little bit,” Hunk joked.  “You were eighty percent leg Freshman year.”

Lance laughed at that, unable to deny that Hunk was right.  “True.  But the ladies loved Lanky Lance.”

“Nice alliteration.”

“Thanks,” Lance snorted.  “Oh shit, here comes Baby.  Be quiet for real.”

Hunk’s soft, amused chuckle rumbled against Lance’s shoulder, but their attention was turned entirely toward the film’s opening narration, setting the scene for Baby’s summer in the Catskills. 

Chapter Text

“Love is like a bomb, baby, c’mon get it on,
Livin’ like a lover with a radar phone…”

Lance’s hand went out, searching for his snooze button.  He pressed the button, but the music did not stop.  Lance cracked opened his bleary eyes to check he had the right button, and realized his alarm wasn’t set to go off for five more minutes.  He closed his eyes and rolled over.  Even though camps only lasted for a week, it took that long for Lance to get used to the luxury of sleeping in again.

“Sometime, anytime, sugar me sweet,
Little miss-ah innocent sugar me, yeah,”

Lance’s eyes cracked open again, staring at the ceiling as he came to consciousness.  His brain registered the fact that it wasn’t his alarm going off, but rather his Mystery Shower Man singing.  It’s cool.  That’s cool.  Lance grabbed his glasses, settling them onto his face before he picked up his phone, checking his messages while he listened. 

 

From: Cherry Bomb

  (2:27 am)
>> I’m assuming you fell asleep
>> good night

(7:35 am)
<< sorry I fell asleep
<< u weren’t boring, I swear :P 

“Pour some sugar on me,
Ooh, in the name of love…”

Lance scrolled up through his messages with Keith.  They’d texted late into the night, as was becoming their habit, Lance with the radio on low to discuss each of Keith’s song choices.  He’d fallen asleep mid-conversation, but scrolling back through the text thread, he couldn’t stop smiling.  Keith had good taste in music (apparently eighties rock was only the tip of the iceberg), was surprisingly witty, and was incredibly easy to talk to.  He’d told Lance stories of growing up with Pidge and Shiro and the gang, and Lance filled him in on stories of the years Lance had known them (and the years Keith had been gone, the reason for which was still a mystery to him). 

“Red light, yellow light, green light, go!
Crazy little woman in a one man show,
Mirror queen, mannequin, rhythm of love…”

Lance turned off his alarm clock before it could click on, sitting up on the edge of his bed.  Despite Hunk’s reassurances and Pidge’s less-than-subtle hints that Lance should ask him out, Lance was a little nervous to take it to that level.  He told Pidge he was still building a camaraderie with Keith – that they'd only been talking for two weeks and were still getting to know each other – but the truth was that he afraid.  He liked Keith a lot, and he’d wanted to ask him out from the get-go, but with the knowledge that Keith was so close to so many of Lance’s friends made him nervous that he’d make the wrong move and upset everyone.  Rationally, he knew it couldn’t possibly be that bad, because Keith seemed to be pretty into Lance in return, but the doubt in Lance’s brain was stronger than the rationality, thus far.  It felt safer just to be friends, but Hunk was right – if Lance really liked this guy, it was worth a shot, right?  

Lance decided it was probably a good idea to stop intentionally eavesdropping on the stranger with the handsome voice if he was going to ask Keith out in the (hopefully near) future, so he stood and left his bedroom, heading for the kitchen to start the coffee brewing.  After his late night, Lance decided it was a morning to start out with espresso.  He set the regular coffee brewing for Pidge, and for himself to take a mug to work, then pulled out his stovetop machine.  He’d learned to make Café Cubano at the ripe age of eight years old as a Mother’s Day present.  While he’d been mildly chastised for using the stove without supervision, his mother had been more than pleased and surprised with his gift of coffee, toast, and hand-drawn cards in bed.

 

From: Cherry Bomb  

(7:41 am)
>> its ok I know you get up early

(7:42 am)
<< ur up pretty early urself  

(7:42 am)
>> that’s only because I haven’t gone to bed yet

(7:43 am)
<< oh yeah
<< good point

(7:44 am)
>> is pidge still asleep  

(7:44 am)
<< I haven’t seen her so I’m going with yes  

(7:44 am)
>> I’m gonna drop something off for her before I catch some z’s
>> I can leave it outside your door

(7:45 am)
<< dude I’m literally already up
<< just knock

(7:46 am)
>> I didn’t want to rush you or anything
>> if you were getting ready or anything

(7:46 am)
<< nah I’m making café cubano
<< u want some?  

(7:48 am)
>> no thanks I’m good
>> also I’m outside

Lance only had time to glance at the notification lighting up his phone screen before there was a knock at his apartment door.  Lance pulled his espresso off the burner and headed for the door, pulling it open with a smile to see a freshly showered Keith in the hallway.  “That was quick,” Lance said.

“I was in the neighborhood.”  Keith’s gaze flicked up and down Lance’s person, and Lance suddenly realized he probably looked a sight with his bedhead, glasses, faded “Mermaids Do It Better” shirt, and blue booty shorts.  Lance blamed his still-sleep fogged brain for not registering he was still in his pajamas before inviting Keith over.  “Nice shorts.”

Deciding to lean into the freshly-out-of-bed look, Lance spun so Keith could see the gold foil letters spelling JUICY across the ass of his shorts.  “Thanks.  I call it ‘I forgot I wasn’t dressed when I told you I’d answer the door’.  It’s going to be everywhere next season.”

“I’m sure it will be,” Keith said with a chuckle, a wide smile splitting his face as he held a book out to Lance.  “Tell Pidge I said thanks.”

“Can do,” Lance said, taking the book. “Sure you don’t want a cup of coffee?”

“I’m gonna go knock out since I didn’t get much sleep yesterday, but raincheck,” he said, stuffing his hands into his pockets.

“I’ll hold you to that,” Lance hummed, cocking one hip as he leaned against the open door.

“I don’t have much to offer in return,” Keith said.  “The only thing I’m good at making is soup."

“Soup, huh?”

“My dad used to make this special chicken soup when I was sick,” Keith said.  “It’s like a comfort food now.”

Lance smiled.  “I’ll bet it’s fantastic.”

Keith shrugged, a smile still playing on his lips.  “Takashi seems to like it, anyway.”

“Well, if it has the Shiro stamp of approval, it must be good.”

“I’ll have to let you judge it for yourself sometime.”

“I look forward to it.  Oh hey, by the way, what nights do you have off?”

“Uh, I'm working all this weekend, but I have Thursday and Saturday nights off next week,” Keith said.  “Why?”

“I was thinking you could join us for our next video game night,” Lance said.  “Pizza, N64, beer, lots of death threats – mostly from Pidge and entirely innocuous.”

“That sounds fun,” Keith said.  “Text me the details.”

“Will do.”

“I should go,” Keith said, motioning toward the stairs with one of the hands still stuffed in his jacket pockets.  “Let you get ready for work while I sleep the daylight hours away.”

“Sleep well, guapo.”

“Someday I’m going to ask you what that means,” Keith said.  “Or not be too preoccupied to google it.  But not right now, because I’m too tired to retain information.”

Lance laughed, bringing his thumb up to nudge his glasses up his nose.  “All right.  Remind me sometime.”

Keith nodded.  “See you later.”

“Hasta la later, lindito.”

“That’s a new one that I’m still too tired to process.”

“Go sleep,” Lance chuckled.  “I’ll text you later.”

Keith nodded, turning to head for the stairs.  “Bye Lance.”

 


 

To: The GAYng’s all here

 

(5:02 pm)
<< decided it was time 4 a proper groupchat with every1 included
<< who's in 4 n64 night on Thursday
<< wait

Lancelot added Queen Lulu (Allura Khatri) to the chat

<< almost forgot lu
<< she’ll probably mute us anyway  

(5:02 pm) Pidgeotto:
>> duh i’m in
>> also nice chat name

(5:02 pm) Mattlock:
>> I’m down

(5:03 pm) Hunkules:
>> Clever lol
>> I’ll be there!  

(5:03 pm) Shirp:
>> sounds good
>> if you’d rather not host again we can move it to mine

(5:04 pm)
<< up 2 pidge if she wants to rehook the n64 in ur apartment
<< unless we r doing wii pizza & beer  

(5:04 pm) Pidgeotto:
>> I’m cool switching it up
>> not like it’s that far out of anyone’s way since its next door  

(5:05 pm) Cherry Bomb:
>> Thursday sounds good  

(5:05 pm) Pidgeotto:
>> ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) 

(5:05 pm) Cherry Bomb:
>> what

 (5:05 pm) Pidgeotto:
>> ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

(5:06 pm)
<< pidge stop
<< put lenny back in 2012 where he belongs

(5:06 pm) Pidgeotto:
>> ( ͡° _ʖ ͡°)

(5:06 pm) Shaykira-Shaykira
>> I’m working a double on Thursday, but have fun!

(5:07 pm) Queen Lulu:
>> What time Thursday?

(5:07 pm)
<< usually 6ish until we get tired and decide to knock out

(5:07 pm) Queen Lulu:
>> I’ll make an appearance
>> I’ll even bring the pizza

(5:08 pm)
<< YAAAAS
<< it’s a squad date
<< <3  

(5:08 pm) Pidgeotto:
>> ( ͡ᵔ ͜ʖ ͡ᵔ )

 

“Pass me a slice of pepperoni,” Allura requested as she passed her controller to Pidge.  Hunk leaned forward to oblige her. 

Allura was perched on the arm of Shiro’s couch with her feet tucked behind Pidge.  On Pidge’s other side sat Lance in the middle of the couch, and Keith on the far side.  Shiro and Matt shared the shorter couch, while Hunk had pulled in a dining chair and sat with his feet propped up on the coffee table in front of Keith.

“Who’s in for the next round?” Matt asked, holding up his controller.

“Me!” Lance and Pidge said at once.

“I’m good,” Shiro said, shaking his head.

“I’ll play,” Keith said, taking Matt’s controller.  Lance and Hunk sat forward, still geared up from the last round, and the four started another game. 

“Mario, get the fuck out of here,” Pidge shouted.

“I was here first!” Keith shouted back.  Their game avatars bumped into each other on the screen.

Allura finished her pizza, watching her friends on the couch jostle against each other as an intimidation tactic.  Her gaze flicked toward Lance, in the middle of the couch, but positioned considerably closer to Keith than to Pidge.  Or maybe it was Keith getting closer to Lance.  She leaned a little to her left to see their proximity better and pulled out her cell phone as she straightened.

 

To: Matt, Shiro

(6:27 pm)
<<Tell me I’m not going crazy
<<Tell me you are picking up on this too   

(6:27 pm) Shiro:
>>“This”?  

(6:28 pm) Matt:
>>Keith and Lance’s aggressive flirting
>>keep up Shiro  

(6:28 pm) Shiro:
>> I wouldn’t call it aggressive flirting…

(6:28 pm)
<<Then what would you call it?
<<Because during yoga last Sunday I watched Lance literally fall over when I dropped Keith’s name  

(6:29 pm) Matt:
>>yesterday Keith gave me a ten minute anecdote about Lance after I said blue was my favorite color

(6:29 pm)
<<Lance has been humming “Cherry Bomb” every time I walk past the gym this week  

(6:29 pm) Matt:
>>I heard Keith listening to Rihanna in the garage the other night
>>Keith isn’t typically a Rihanna man, but you know who is?
>>Lance

(6:29 pm)
<<They are literally sitting thigh to thigh right now
<<You two are dating and you’re not even sitting that close together  

(6:30 pm) Shiro:
>>They’re playing Mario Kart.  

(6:30 pm) Matt:
>>we play video games pretty much weekly and nobody feels the need to sit in each other’s laps

(6:30 pm)
<<Whenever one of them says something, the other is the first to respond  

(6:31 pm) Matt:
>>babe I love you but if you don’t see this you’re blind  

(6:31 pm) Shiro:
>>I didn’t say I don’t see it.

(6:32 pm)
<<You didn’t notice until we said something, though  

(6:32 pm) Shiro:
>>Maybe.  

(6:32 pm) Matt:
>>it’s cute how oblivious you are
>>but now that we’re all on the same page…
>>what are we gonna do about it?

(6:33 pm) Shiro:
>>Why would we do anything about it?  

(6:33 pm) Matt:
>>well Allura and Pidge did something about us

(6:33 pm)
<<I thought you all thought that was awful  

(6:34 pm) Shiro:
>>It was.  

(6:34 pm) Matt:
>>it wasn’t awful, I just wanted in on the plan
>>so I want in on this one to make up for it

(6:34 pm)
<<Well that changes things  

(6:35 pm) Shiro:
>>We’re not going to meddle.  

(6:35 pm) Matt:
>>but – and this is hypothetical – say we did meddle  

(6:36 pm) Shiro:
>>If we meddle, anything that’s currently happening between the two of them will end.
>>If Keith thinks he’s being pushed into something, he’ll go as far in the other direction as possible.  

(6:36 pm) Matt:
>>that is true

(6:36 pm)
<<true for Keith, but not necessarily for Lance  

(6:37 pm) Matt:
>>oh shit u right

 

“Are you guys texting each other?”

Shiro’s head shot up from his phone at Pidge’s accusation.  Matt glanced up over the rim of his glasses before glancing right back down.  “So what?”

“You’re sitting right beside each other,” Pidge pointed out.

“I’m waiting for a point, Pidge-podge.”

“Pidge-podge,” Lance echoed with a laugh.  “I’ll never get over that.”

“Shut up, loser,” Pidge said, stretching out an elbow to check Lance in the side.  The recoil from Pidge’s touch pushed Lance into Keith’s shoulder, causing his car to swerve on the track.

“Watch it,” Keith snapped.

“You watch it,” Pidge retorted.

“Both of you watch it,” Lance said from between them.  “I’m delicate.” 

“Sorry,” Keith murmured, shifting away slightly.

“It’s okay,” Lance said quickly. 

 

(6:39 pm) Shiro:
>> Just give it some time.  They’ll figure it out themselves.

(6:39 pm)
<< doubtful

(6:39 pm) Matt:
>> ok babe no plotting

(6:40 pm)
<< Matt you’re weak  

(6:40 pm) Matt:
>> he has a point

(6:41 pm)
<< I’ll give one week before I start meddling  

(6:40 pm) Matt:
>> that’s fair count me in

  (6:41 pm) Shiro:
>> I’d like to go on record as having said from the start that this is a bad idea.

(6:41 pm)
<< Screenshotted for posterity, but we can handle this without you, love

As the round came to an end and the menu screen music played, Hunk sat down his controller with a “be right back, guys, gotta check on the brownies” and headed for the door.

Pidge leaned back, her head resting on Allura’s knee.  “I want in,” she said softly, enough to not be heard over Lance’s enthusiastic crowing by anyone except Allura.

“Excuse me?” Allura replied in the same tone.

“I can sense you plotting against Thing One and Thing Two over here,” Pidge said.  “I’m assuming Shiro’s against it, but Matt’s got his excited face on, so I want in too.”

“I welcome your input,” Allura said, her lips curling into a grin.  "Though I promised Shiro I'd wait a week to see if they cave themselves."

"Ugh," Pidge said.  "Fine, but once it's on, I'm in."

"Glad to have you aboard, darling."

Chapter Text

From: UNKNOWN

(7:08pm)
>> Keith, it’s Allura
>> I’ve decided we must have lunch this week
>> say Wednesday?

(7:15pm)
<< how can I say no?

(7:16pm)
>> you can’t
>> I won’t accept it

(7:17pm)
<< then i guess i’ll see you wednesday

 

 

 


 

“You wanted to see me, boss?”

“Oh, Lance,” Allura said, glancing back to see him standing in her office doorway.  “I didn’t expect you to come immediately.”

“I wasn’t busy,” Lance replied, tossing the apple he held up into the air and catching it in the same hand.  “What’d you need?”

Allura resumed thumbing through her filing cabinet as she spoke.  “I’ve got the finished fall schedule.  I just wanted you to take a look at it and make sure it doesn’t need any further tweaks. Should be right on top there.”

“Baller,” Lance said, approaching the desk.  He grabbed the calendar Allura used to draft out schedules and paged through the upcoming months.  “Football camp, fuck yeah.”

“Are you sure you want to try hockey this year?” Allura asked.

Lance nodded.  “What’s the worst that could happen?”

“With middle school hockey? A lot of things,” Allura pointed out.

“They’re sixth graders,” Lance said flatly.  “I’m pumped for it.”

Allura tipped her head to one side as she continued to search through her files.  “All right then.”

“This schedule looks good, Lu,” Lance said.  “I’m excited.”

“All right.  Let’s get started on drafting up those brochures for the open house, then.”

“Can do, Princess,” Lance said.  “Which way is my office again?”

Allura rolled her eyes, closing her cabinet and turning toward Lance.  “You’re incorrigible.  Work on it at home if it’s so difficult.”

“I don’t get paid at home.”

“You’re on salary, Lance,” Allura said.  “You can either spend two hours in your office here, or you can go home after your Zumba class, it makes no difference to me.”

 “You’re so smart, Lu,” Lance said, taking another enormous bite out of his apple.

“I try.  I am going to have to shoo you out of my office, though, darling, I have a lunch appointment.”

“With your boyfriiiiends?” Lance asked, a shit-eating grin on his face.

“I'm meeting an investor, actually," Allura responded curtly.  "And they’re not my boyfriends.  They’re boys I occasionally have sex with.”

“They’re basically your boyfriends.  Aren’t you going with them to that anniversary party this weekend?”

“No, I’m staying here.  I’ve got far too much on my plate and besides, it’s family only.”

“You’re family, Lu.  You grew up together.”

“Our arrangement suits all three of us just fine without adding any unnecessary titles to it.”

“Oh to be a fly on the wall of your bedroom…”

Allura whacked Lance’s shoulder with her file folder, but she was grinning despite it.  “Stop it, Lance, we’re at work.  It’s inappropriate.”

“Fine, then I will ask you how good the sex is on a scale of one to ten when we’re not at work.”

“Outside of work, I will happily confirm that it breaks your meager ten point scale quite heartily.”

“Ooh, now we’re getting somewhere,” Lance said, shifting to rest his free hand on Allura’s desk, casually inspecting his apple in the other.  “Who’s got the better dick?”

“Some things are better left unsaid, even between close friends,” Allura said coyly, placing her file back in its designated spot in her filing cabinet and letting the drawer roll shut.  “Don’t you have a Zumba class to teach?”

“I’ve still got fifteen,” Lance said.

“Hm, all right.  By the way, I was going mention.  Since Pidge and Shiro will both be gone this weekend, I thought maybe you might consider inviting Keith out to do something."

Lance’s expression perked up at the mention.  “Keith?”

Allura nodded.  “If I know anything about that boy, he’ll spend his whole weekend off sitting in his garage or something alone.  And if I know anything about you, you'll spend all weekend pestering Hunk, despite knowing his weekends are packed.  I think it'd be good for the both of you. ”

Lance narrowed his eyes.  “Is this you telling me to ask Keith out?”

Allura shrugged one shoulder, a picture of innocence.  “Don’t you want to?”

“Well, duh, it’s Keith,” Lance said, rolling his eyes.  “But also it’s Keith.”

“I’m not seeing the difference.”

“He’s Keith!” Lance exclaimed, waving an arm in the air.  “He’s gorgeous and mysterious and super hot, but he’s also Keith and he’s basically your little brother and he’s actually Shiro’s little brother, and pretty much everyone I know has an attachment to him that so far exceeds mine that if I so much as breathe at him wrong, I’m done for.”

"Lance, don't be so dramatic," Allura said. "There’s no attachment we have to Keith that outweighs the attachment we have to you, and all any of us want is to see the both of you happy.  Whether that’s together or apart.  There’s absolutely nothing either one of you could do that would cause us to view you differently.  We are your friends, Lance, and we love you.”

“Have you been comparing notes with Hunk?” Lance mumbled, attempting to deflect the serious moment.

“I don’t need to, darling,” Allura said,  gently resting her hand on Lance’s shoulder.  “It’s simply proof that I’m right.”

“You really think I should ask him out?” Lance asked, hope and fear mingling in his expression.

“What I think is beside the point,” Allura said.  “I think you want to ask him out.  So if you don’t, you’ll have to live with the what ifs and regret forever.”

“Yeah, I guess so.”

“Did I overstep?”

Lance shook his head.  “No, I think I needed to hear it.  Again.”

“Good,” Allura said, smiling gently.  “And you don't have to make this weekend a date, by any means.  Just make some plans.  But now I really do have to go, Lance, or I’ll be late,” Allura said, shooing Lance out of her office and closing it behind her.  “I’ll be back in an hour or so, I assume.  Please call only if the center is on fire.  And even then, perhaps call Shiro instead.”

“Yes ma’am,” Lance said, shooting finger guns at Allura.  “Have fun!"

 


 

 

Keith stumbled out of his room with sleep-crusted eyes and into the kitchen, pulling open the fridge like he was on auto-pilot and grabbing the carton of orange juice.  He took a swig straight from the carton and twisted the cap back on, his gaze pulled around the corner to the large window looking out onto the street.  Through the gap in the curtains, he could see Mrs. Fisher from across the street staring hard in his direction.  Keith frowned, tilting his head to one side as he eyed her for a moment.  She kept coming across the street while he worked on his bike to try and gossip with him, asking where he’d been for the last few years and lowkey guilt-tripping him about not being there for his dad.  It was annoying, to say the very least, and seeing her at home made Keith reluctant to work on his bike today like he’d planned.  He guessed he could stay inside and work on the bathroom, but he just wasn’t feeling it.  He preferred being outside, which was why he liked automotive work better than household renovation.

Keith stuck his juice back in the fridge and went to find something to eat.  Just as he was debating between Honey Nut Cheerios and Fruit Loops, Keith’s phone vibrated from its place tucked in the waistband of his pajama pants.

 From: Lance 

(11:28 am)
>> god bless sundays honestly

(11:28 am)
<< hear hear  

(11:29 am)
>> I woke up this morning with a mad craving 4 croquetas

(11:29 am)
<< whats that?  

(11:29 am)
>> holy shit
>> keith

(11:29 am)
<< ??  

(11:30 am)
>> come over

(11:30 am)
<< why?  

(11:30 am)
>> I’m making u croquetas
>> and pastelitos
>> I know u don’t have work tonite
>> so come over right now and let me feed u magic

 

(11:31 am)
<< are you serious?  

(11:31 am)
>> I’ve never been more serious in my life, Keith.
>> get ur perky little ass over here

(11:31 am)
<< uh  

(11:31 am)
>> u have 30 minutes

Keith stared at his phone in a state of mild disbelief as he processed the invitation.  Well, it was more of a command, but the fact remained that Lance wanted him to come over.

Keith headed upstairs to get dressed, tossing on a flannel and a pair of ripped blue jeans.  Keith wasn’t sure how serious Lance was being about that thirty minute time limit, but he assumed he wouldn’t have time to shower at Takashi’s before it was up, so Keith simply pulled his hair back into his standard ponytail to keep it out of the way.  There was some tiny part of his brain screaming at him that this might be a date, but Keith shoved it back and didn’t let himself overthink something as simple as getting dressed.  He sat down on the edge of his bed to lace up his boots, and before he stood up he pulled his phone out.

To: Takashi

 (11:38 am)
<< hey you around today?  

(11:39 am)
>> No, sorry.  This is the weekend I’m going out of town.
>> Did you need something?

(11:39 am)
<< no just curious

Keith pushed himself off the bed, pocketed his phone, and headed out to the garage.  He backed his bike out and closed the garage door.  Mrs. Fisher watched him peel past her house toward the end of the street, and while he didn’t look back to confirm, he could practically picture her shaking her head at him disapprovingly.

The trip to Lance’s apartment complex was not a long one.  While it was the route to Takashi’s apartment that Keith was quite familiar with, Lance and Pidge’s was right next door, which was close enough.  Keith lifted his hand to rap three times, very firmly, on the door to Lance’s apartment.

“Come in!”

Keith twisted the knob, slowly opening the door to let himself in.  The first thing he saw was Lance standing in the kitchen, mostly turned away from him.   He turned over his shoulder to flash his wide, white grin at Keith as his guest entered and took a moment to unlace his boots before crossing the distance to join Lance in the kitchen.  

“Hey Cherry Bomb!  I’m glad you’re here!”

“You sounded a little bit threatening over text,” Keith said.  “I figured it was in my best interests to get here as soon as I could.”

“A wise choice,” Lance grinned, rolling the croquetas in the oil to brown them on the other side.  “You’re just in time, too.  The croquetas are almost ready, and dessert is in the oven.”

“So are you going to tell me what these things are that you’re feeding me?”

“You’ll just have to wait and see!” Lance said.  “They’re good, I swear.  Ask Pidge.  Or Shiro!  Hunk’s the real cook of the squad, but I’ve been cooking for my family since I was old enough to use a stove, so I can hold my own.”

“It smells fantastic.”

“I promise you it tastes even better.”

“I’m gonna hold you to that.”

Lance gently lifted the croquetas out of the oil and placed them on a nearby plate which he had layered with paper towels.  “Help yourself, dude.  They’ll be super hot, but they’re better that way.  There’s plates in the cupboard over there and forks in the drawer next to the sink.”

Keith moved toward the cupboard Lance directed him and pulled out two plates, then two forks from the proper drawer.  He put one croqueta on each plate and sat them both on the table.

“Seriously, dig in while it’s hot,” Lance said.  “I’m gonna pull this batch out and freeze the rest for later.”

Keith nodded and took a seat at the kitchen table, picking up his fork and prodding the fried food on his plate.  He used the side of his fork to cut a bite off and put it in his mouth after blowing on it for just a moment.  Lance watched his face intently for his reaction.  “That’s really good, Lance,” Keith said as soon as he’d swallowed, cutting off another bite immediately.

Lance’s beaming smile burst across his face immediately at the compliment.  “I told you! Cuban magic!  It’s my mom’s recipe.  She taught me pretty much everything I know.  The pastelitos are a special recipe that’s been in my family since, like, my abuela’s abuela.  They are time-tested to be the best pastelitos you will ever taste in your life.”

Keith finished his croqueta and hummed in thanks when Lance deposited a hot one on his plate before sitting down across from him at the kitchen table to eat his own.  “Do you have a really big family?”

“The biggest,” Lance said.  “My family owns this huge farm property a few hours from here.  My parents live in the big ranch house and my grandparents live in a little bit smaller house on the same property.”

“Holy shit.  How many siblings do you have?”

“Six.  They’re all older than me, and married with kids.  Family holidays get wild.”

“Jesus Christ.”

“It was kind of a crazy environment to grow up in, but I love it,” Lance said, his voice fond.  “Sometimes I miss the sheer volume of home because Pidge can get super quiet when they’re focusing.”

“How’d you end up here?”

“Came for college and decided to stay.  The community center is pretty much the best job I could ask for.  I wish I could go home more, but my sister, Sofia, lives about half an hour away, and I was always closest to her anyway.”

“That’s really cool.”

“Real talk, though.  Did I pull you away from anything important?” Lance asked as he got up to pull the pastries out of the oven.  “I know I can be kind of pushy.”

“I was staring down a box of cereal and avoiding the nosy old lady who lives across the street,” Keith said.  “I’m pretty sure your pushiness rescued me.”

Lance laughed, the sound coming straight from his belly and pulling a smile onto Keith’s face.  “You’re welcome then.”

“Where’s Pidge?” Keith asked.

“Oh, I see.  Ulterior motives in coming here,” Lance teased.  “Me and my fantastic cooking aren’t enough for you.”

“No that’s—” Keith’s face flushed lightly.  “That’s not what I meant.  I just wasn’t sure if I should keep it down in case what she was sleeping.”

“I’m just yankin’ your chain, dude,” Lance chuckled.  “Nah, Pidge and Matt went out of town this weekend.  It’s their parents’ anniversary.  I think Shiro went too?”

“Oh, yeah,” Keith said.  “I forgot about that.”

“So it’s just you and me and these gorgeous croquetas,” Lance said with a wink.  “And after they cool, these magnificent pastelitos.”

“What are those?” Keith asked.

“Dessert,” Lance said simply.  “Do you like guava?”

“I don’t really have an opinion on guava.”

“Well you will after this,” Lance said confidently.  When they’d finished eating, he took their empty plates and put them in the dishwasher, tidying up a bit.  As he did so, his cell phone rang, blasting a burst of Salsa music from the tinny speaker.  “Ah shit,” Lance muttered, pulling out his phone.  “It’s my mom.  Do you mind?”

“Not at all,” Keith replied.

Lance hit the answer button and the ringtone immediately cut out.  “Hola Mami,” Lance said, tucking his phone into the crook of his neck under his shoulder.  The rapidfire Spanish from the other end of the line was muffled, not that Keith would have understood it anyway, and Lance easily responded in kind.  In the nearly two weeks they’d been talking, Keith had learned that Lance was immensely proud of his Cuban heritage and especially fond of his first language.  Lance’s expression was relaxed, his eyes revealing his happiness toward whatever was being said on the other end of the line, and Keith felt like this was Lance in his element.

He was adorable.

Keith stood from the table and lifted himself up to sit on the counter beside where Lance stood at the stove.  The extra inches of height gave him a different perspective of Lance and Keith couldn't help but stare at his smooth skin and the way his lips pursed when he stopped to listen to his mom on the other end of the line and the way his laugh started deep in his throat and shook his shoulders almost before it even reached his lips.  Without thinking, he leaned over to run his hand through Lance’s soft, brown hair.  Startling himself with the gesture, Keith quickly recovered by pushing the hair back from Lance’s forehead and inspecting the healing wound on his forehead.  It was barely noticeable anymore – just a speckling of scabs that looked nearly fully healed.  Lance’s stream of Spanish continued to pour uninterrupted into the receiver of his phone, but he cast a beaming smile up at Keith.  After only a few more moment, Lance was hanging up the phone and returning it to his pocket.

“That was short,” Keith said.

 “I told her I was cooking,” Lance said.  “She can talk forever if I don’t stop her.  My whole family can, really.”

“Hey Lance?”

“Yeah?”

“Is this a date?”

Lance stilled, glancing up at Keith as if to read his sincerity.  Keith couldn’t quite read whether the look was panic or something else, so he decided it would be best to elaborate.  “It feels like we’ve been dancing around something bigger here, so I wasn’t quite sure if this was intended to be a date or not.  And either way is okay, I just want to know what your intentions were.”

“I, uh… I mean I have been wanting to ask you on a date,” Lance admitted, bringing a hand up to rub at the back of his neck.  “I guess I didn’t really think about it when I invited you over, but now that I think about it, this definitely could be interpreted as a date.”

Keith smiled.  “A little bit.”

“Did you want it to be a date?” Lance asked, a tiny, careful bit of hope radiating from his expression.

Keith shrugged before nodding.  “Yeah, I did.”

“Well,” Lance said, his gaze not quite meeting Keith’s, “Then I guess this is a date.”

“Good to know,” Keith said, just the edges of his lips turning up in the hint of a smile.  “So you told your parents about me?”

“Well, not yet,” Lance said.  “I just said you were a friend, and that was the first I’d brought you up.  I did tell Sofia, because I tell Sofia everything.  She thinks you sound cute.  And I may or may not have led her to that conclusion by saying ‘he’s really cute’, but eh,” Lance shrugged.  “She’s smart, so she’d have figured that out either way.”

A smile crept across Keith’s face.  “Oh yeah?”

Lance nodded, leaning forward just a bit until he was looking up at Keith, his hands braced on the counter on either side of Keith’s legs.  “Yeah.”

“Sweet,” Keith said, letting his smile stretch fully across his face.  The butterflies in Lance’s stomach doubled in number.

I am so fucked.

 


 

 

From: Grumpy Cat  

(6:35 pm)
>> so I kind of just…
>> had a date
>> with Lance

(6:35 pm)
<< YOU FUCKING W H A T NOW
<< TELL ME EVERYTHING KEITH AMADEUS KOGANE
<< DON’T SPARE A SINGLE DETAIL  

(6:36 pm)
>> well he texted me this morning
>> he invited me over because he was making food
>> so I went over to the apartment and we were hanging out
>> and then ?? I asked if it was a date
>> and he kind of freaked out for a second before he said yes

(6:37 pm)
<< HOLY FUCK I’M L I V I N G
<< I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU MADE YOUR MOVE AND I’M NOT EVEN THERE  

(6:37 pm)
>> I mean that’s part of the reason  

(6:37 pm)
<< fair point
<< so what did you do after you decided it was a date?  

(6:38 pm)
>> I mean we just kept chilling
>> it was lowkey
>> we watched Netflix and just talked and stuff  

(6:38 pm)
<< did you kiss??????  

(6:38 pm)
>> no

(6:38 pm)
<< ok well
<< are you going out again
<< like on an official date  

(6:39 pm)
>> we didn’t talk about it but...

(6:39 pm)
<< im so excited keith honestly im screaming
<< youre gonna be the best thing that ever happened to lance fuentes
<< mark my words  

(6:41 pm)
>> are you going to make this big a deal out of it the whole time we’re involved?

(6:41 pm)
<< no because honestly i dont have that kind of energy
<< but seeing two of my best friends happy and together is my jam so im living
<< have you told anyone else

  (6:42 pm)
>> I promised I wouldn’t  

(6:42 pm)
<< im love you keith
<< youre the best best friend anyone could ask for  

(6:42 pm)
>> if you could keep this on the dl for a while that would be cool
>> I mean obviously it’s going to get out eventually
>> I’d just like to have an official, planned date under my belt before everyone freaks out

(6:43 pm)
<< keith i respect your desire for privacy
<< but you know as well as i do that youre friends with the nosiest people alive
<< also your new beau is loud and cuban and id stake my life on the fact that allura and hunk both already know
<< and his sister sofia who is adorable and badass
<< shes my favorite fuentes  

(6:43 pm)
>> shit

 


 

To: Hunkules

(6:30 pm)
<< H U NK
<< MAYDAY
<< I’M OFFICIALLY FREAKING TF OUT
<< H U N K  

(6:33 pm)
>> What? Are you dying? What’s wrong?

(6:34 pm)
<< I JUST HAD A DATE WITH KEITH  

(6:34 pm )
>> Dude?! Why didn’t you tell me?  

(6:34 pm)
<< beCAUSE I’M RECKLESSLY IMPULSIVE AND I DON’T PLAN THINGS WELL
<< IT JUST SORT OF
<< HAPPENED
<< LIKE I WAS JUST INVITING HIM OVER FOR LUNCH AND SUDDENLY HE ASKED IF IT WAS A DATE
<< AND I PANICKED AND SAID YES?
<< AND HE WAS OKAY WITH THAT!!
<< LIKE HE TOTALLY ROLLED WITH IT
<< IS HE EVEN REAL HUNK IS THIS MAN FOR REAL  

(6:36 pm )
>> I’m really happy for you bro
>> So is this a thing now?
>> Like you and Keith going out?

(6:37 pm)
<< that might be lowkey presumptuous like we didnt even kiss but
<< hes so perfect hunk im legit dying
<< i thought i was going 2 die right on the sofa from how cute he is
<< hes so passionate about 80s movies hunk i think this man is my soulmate  

(6:38 pm )
>> That’s incredible, Lance.

(6:38 pm)
<< im in so over my head but i dont care
<< like i dont
<< this could all go belly up in a week but im on cloud fuckin nine  

(6:39 pm)
>> Lance, buddy, I’m seriously over the moon right now
>> But I’m actually just about to have dinner with my family
>> Text me later and fill me in on the rest?

(6:40 pm)
<< oh shit dude ofc
<< tell everyone i said hi  

(6:40 pm)
>> I will :)
>> And for real Lance, I’m so excited for you.

 

(6:41 pm)
<< thanks buddy <3

 


 

To: Sofita

(6:30 pm)
<< SOFI
<< SOFI I NEED YOU
<< SOFI I SWEAR TO GOD
<< I KNOW YOU HAVE A BABY AND A WIFE TO DEAL WITH BUT
<< I JUST HAD A DATE WITH KEITH
<< IM THREE SECONDS AWAY FROM SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION

 

(6:38 pm)
>> el chivo incidente Keith?
>> Cherry Bomb?  

(6:39 pm)
<< Y E A H  

(6:39 pm)
>> you didn’t tell me you asked him out!? what the hell?!!

(6:40 pm)
<< i didnt ask him out i just invited him over for lunch and suddenly were agreeing it’s a date
<< ay sofi hes so great i cant do this
<< hes too perfect im out of my league  

(6:41 pm)
>> First of all, nobody is perfect
>> Second, you are a Fuentes and if anyone is out of anyone’s league, you’re out of his
>> Third, DISH PUTA

(6:41 pm)
<< well I invited him over bcs i was making food
<< and then in the middle of it mami called and i had 2 get her off the phone
<< and suddenly he asked if this was a date
<< and I said no but it could be?
<< it ended up being really chill??
<< like we ate and then we just hung out watching old movies
<< it was the best day ive had in ages
<< and it was a d a t e
<< WITH K E I T H  

(6:43 pm)
>> I haven’t seen you like this in ages, Lancito
>> You’re so smitten with this boy
>> When do I get to meet him  

(6:44 pm)
<< idk
<< soon i hope?
<< i don’t want 2 overwhelm him tho
<< meeting family is like a big step
<< even if i just start with u, nadia and marco
<< we should probably have a **real** date b4 I introduce him 2 every1  

(6:45 pm)
>> Probably best to take it slow
>> But I’m proud of you!!
>> I know you were nervous about making that leap, but you’ve got this
>> And tbh I’ve been talking to Hunk and he says that all of your friends are in your corner
>> Literally all of them
>> So just do what makes you happy, okay?

(6:46 pm)
<< asdfghjkhgf
<< they keep telling me that and i think it’s finally sinking into my thick skull  

(6:46 pm)
>> As long as it gets through ;)

(6:46 pm)
<< ily sofi  

(6:47 pm).
>> ily lancito

 


 

To: Partner In Crime

(6:45 pm)
<< you didnt hear this from me but
<< laith is go  

(6:45 pm)
>> That is absolutely NOT the name we are giving them
>> AND W H A T

(6:46 pm)
<< you heard me
<< i just talked to keith
<< who just got back from a DATE with LANCE
<< he told me to keep it lowkey but honestly he knows better
<< matt and i are sitting here screaming while shiro looks vaguely nauseous
<< i knew those assholes couldnt hold out long
<< we didnt even have to meddle or anything

 

(6:47 pm)
>> I may have given Lance a nudge but I was NOT expecting this from it
>> Pidge, tell me everything and tell me now

 


 

To: Takashi

(7:00 pm)
<< so
<< i just came to the realization that i told Pidge something
<< and Pidge is currently with you and Matt both
<< so I’m guessing what I have to say is not news to you  

(7:01 pm)
>> That would be a fair assumption.
>> You and Lance, huh?\

(7:02 pm)
<< I hope you’re not offended that I didn’t tell you first
<< I promised Pidge  

(7:03 pm)
>> I’m not offended.
>> I’m a little bewildered by the fact that I didn’t notice until Allura and Matt said something.

(7:03 pm)
<< I was really hoping nobody would make a big deal out of it
<< that kind of went to shit when we were all hanging out the other night

(7:04 pm)
>> For the record, I told them not to interfere.

(7:04 pm)
<< oh god
<< they didn’t force lance into this, did they?  

(7:05 pm)
>> Oh no!
>> He really likes you, Keith.
>> It might have taken me a bit to notice, but I can tell.
>> And I can tell you already care about him, too.

(7:06 pm)
<< I really do
<< I’ve never made friends easily, you kno
<< but lance makes it seem effortless  

(7:07 pm)
>> I know.  He might be good for you.
>> And I definitely think you’ll be good for him.
>> All this to say, I guess, that you have my blessing?
>> Not that you need it, because you’re an adult.

(7:08 pm)
<< It still means a lot
<< I know you guys have all known lance a long time
<< so the fact that you think we’ll be good together is actually reassuring

(7:09 pm)
>> We just want you to be happy, Keith.  You and Lance both.

(7:09 pm )
<< also I’m just going to assume everyone knows at this point
<< between pidge and lance, anyway

(7:10 pm)
>> Allura might pretend she doesn’t, but yes. 
>> Everyone’s very excited for you.

(7:10 pm)
<< pressure’s on then

 

(7:11 pm)
>> Don’t sweat it too much, okay, Keith?
>> I know they can get out of hand and a bit overwhelming.
>> It just means they care about your happiness.
>> They won’t be upset if it doesn’t work out.

(7:12 pm)
<< well I kind of hope it does work out
<<  I like him a lot takashi

(7:12 pm)
>> Then I have every confidence in the two of you.
>> Good luck

(7:13 pm)
<< Thanks

Chapter Text

 For the third (count it, third) day in a row, Keith found himself seated in Lance’s apartment.  He was perched on the countertop again, watching Lance make hamburgers on the stove top.  After Sunday’s date, Lance had again invited Keith over for an innocuous hangout.  They’d discussed Lance’s comic book collection until Pidge arrived home, then sat all three of them down to watch a movie together.  Keith had left for work after that, with a slightly awkward goodbye to Lance that made Keith feel like there was a canyon between the two of them for all they were connecting. 

Today, they’d been in the midst of a game of Go Fish, and Keith was overwhelmed by the urge to taste the laughter as it left Lance’s lips, but before he could do a thing, there was Pidge at the door with an armful of groceries.  By the time he and Lance had helped her put them away, Keith’s courage had cowered away into the corner.  Even though Pidge had retreated to her room, Keith couldn’t help but feel they were being supervised.  He wanted to say something to Lance, but the words stuck in his throat – lodged there by the anxiety of saying something vulnerable to an audience larger than just Lance.

“You want cheese?”

“Sure.”

“Pidge! Cheese?”

“Yes, please!” came the distant reply, and with it, the last of Keith’s courage receded. 

 


 

 

In the midst of a lunch between him and Allura on Wednesday, Keith was struck by the notion that Allura had aged very gracefully.  Not to say that she was old, because she was barely in her thirties, but the picture of Allura that Keith had held in his mind was that of high school aged Allura.  Allura the cheerleader, the student body president, and the head of the yearbook committee.  Allura who was a straight-A student but still brought Keith to his first college party when he was still in high school.

“Well, anyway, enough about me,” Allura said, tossing her hair.  “How’s the bathroom renovation going?”

“It’s… not,” Keith said, running his finger through the condensation gathering on the outside of his glass.  “I still haven't made any headway on it.”

“Isn’t it inconvenient to not be able to shower in your own house?”

“Yeah, but Shiro’s apartment is right between the station and my house, so it’s not like it’s out of my way.”

Allura covered a grin with her hand.  “You’ve been showering at Shiro’s for almost a month?”

Keith nodded.  “Don’t tell him.”

“Like he’d care?”

Keith shrugged.  “He’ll move his spare key.”

Allura rolled her eyes.  “Darling, I’ll make you a copy.  Why don’t you shower at Matt’s?  It’s a bit more conveniently located.”

“Matt’s harder to avoid than Shiro is,” Keith.  “Shiro’s predictable in a way the Holts could never be.”

“That’s fair enough, I suppose,” Allura hummed.  “And more nights than not, Shiro sleeps at Matt’s.”

“Didn’t really think about that aspect,” Keith said.  "I was kind of wondering why I have yet to walk in on Matt or something."

“Shiro refuses to upgrade to a queen size bed, so Matt won’t sleep at his apartment,” Allura said with a laugh.

“Why don’t they just move in together already?”

“They’re discussing it,” Allura said.  “Shiro’s lease isn’t up for a while yet, but Matt says his house is too big for just him, anyway.”

“Oh yeah?”

Allura shrugged.  “You didn’t hear it from me, but he was thinking about offering it to Pidge.  That way she’d have more workspace, and she's always talking about how much she wishes she could have the dog back.”

“So they’d move into Shiro’s?”

“Perhaps,” Allura said, running a delicate finger around the lip of her glass.  “This is all speculative for the moment, though.”

  “Huh.”

“You and Pidge could be neighbors again,” Allura offered lightly, though Keith could feel her scrutinizing his reaction.

“Maybe.”

“Depending on how long you stick around.”

“Yeah.”

“Do you really like the nomadic lifestyle that much?” Allura asked.  “Do forgive me if I’m overstepping my bounds, but it seems incredibly lonely.”

“It is,” Keith agreed.  “I’m kind of used to it, though.”

“Kind of seems a bit vague.  You've had four years to get used to it.”

Keith shrugged, not meeting Allura’s piercing gaze.  “I thought I was used to it.”

“But?”

“I came home,” Keith said.  “And everything is different yet exactly the same and it took no time at all to get used to having people around again.”

“Humans are social creatures, Keith,” Allura reminded him.  “We’re not built to be alone.”

Keith rolled his eyes.  “I know.  But at the same time, things are different.  It’s not the same place I remember it being, and you aren’t the same people I remember you as.  Like you!  How long have you had your white hair?”

Allura shrugged a shoulder.  “Since I opened the center, at least.”

“When I picture you in my head, you’ve still got box braids,” Keith said.  “And Shiro's still got his arm and Matt's still got his stupid coke-bottle glasses.  I only left four years ago, but I still picture everyone like they were almost a decade ago.”

Allura shrugged.  “It doesn’t seem that out of the ordinary, darling.  It has been a while since you left, so naturally you’d recall the strongest memories.”

“I have more recent memories than high school,” Keith argued.

“Happy ones?” Allura asked.  When Keith didn’t respond, she sighed lightly and leaned forward over the table.  “You left because you were unhappy, Keith.  You didn’t like college and you didn’t like the pressure your mother was putting on you to stay there, so to be quite honest, nobody was surprised when you just disappeared.  Shiro and your father least of all.  We were concerned, certainly, and I say honestly that Shiro in particular felt guilty that he didn’t take a stance to let you know that despite what your mother said, we would all still support you no matter what you chose to do.”

“But I already knew that,” Keith said.  “Mom was the only one telling me I needed to get my degree.  I knew you guys would have my back.”

“But we didn’t say as much,” Allura said, her expression pained with a look of regret.  “And sometimes you need to hear the words before you really know how much someone cares.”

“I never blamed any of you,” Keith said.

“I know,” Allura said.  “But you also didn’t keep in touch.”

“That’s just because I’m a shitty friend,” Keith huffed.

“Not true,” Allura said, taking up Keith’s hand from where it rested on the table and giving it a squeeze.  “You’re such a compassionate and loyal person, Keith.  You never have been, nor will you ever be, a shitty friend.  I understand if it's frightening, Keith.  I'm sure it's much easier just to worry about yourself, rather than keeping up half a dozen long-distance relationships."

Keith nodded, thumbing at his nose with his free hand, not seeming to feel the need to pull away from Allura just yet.

"But that said, what do you picture when you think of home?"

"Here," Keith said quietly.  "My dad.  You and Shiro and everyone."

Allura nodded, falling quiet to let Keith process his own admission.

"I miss my dad," Keith said after a moment.

"I know," Allura said, squeezing Keith's hand again.

"I miss singing."

"It's never too late to start again," Allura said.

"It was our thing.  It feels weird without him."

"Maybe someday it won't be weird anymore," Allura offered.  "But it may take time to get there."

Keith took a deep breath and released it slowly.  "You're right.  Why are you always right?"

Allura shrugged a shoulder.  "Natural born talent."

Keith chuckled at that, sitting back and withdrawing from Allura's grasp.  "Let's talk about something less depressing."

Allura settled back as well, crossing her arms in her lap.  "Such as?"

"I don't know? Whatever we were talking about before you decided you wanted to talk about me?"

"We were talking about my step-brother," Allura reminded him.  "Not really my favorite topic to linger on."

"I guess that's fair," Keith conceded.  "What do you do for fun these days?"

"I work," Allura laughed.  "It's a pity, but I still love my job enough to consider it fun."

"Lame," Keith said, wrinkling his nose.  "What do you do outside of work?"

"Mostly I’ve been trying to keep Coran out of his own head," Allura said.  "I think the quiet in that house is beginning to get to him."

"He misses Alfor," Keith said, not a question but a statement.

"We all do," Allura said.  "I'm better at keeping busy.  Coran works for me, but he goes home in the evening and he's only got his cat.  I know he’s lonely."

"You don't get lonely when you go home?" Keith asked.

Allura arched one eyebrow.  "I know where to find adequate company when necessary."

Keith snorted.  “So why don’t both of them just move in with you?” Keith asked.  “Your house is pretty big for just you, too.”

Allura shook her head, lifting her water glass to her lips.  “I could never impose myself on their relationship that way.  Our arrangement is fairly delicate as is.  I’d be more comfortable stepping out of it than suggesting a step like that.”

“What if they suggested it?” Keith asked.

“They won’t,” Allura said.

“Hypothetically.”

“Hypothetically, I’d consider it,” Allura said easily.  “But they want to get married, have two-point-five kids and a dog.  They want suburban bliss.”

“They can’t have you too?”

“It doesn’t work like that,” Allura began, but Keith sat forward, shaking his head.

“Fuck how it ‘works’, Allura,” Keith said hotly.  “If you can sit here and tell me that it’s okay to want to come home, then I’m returning the favor and I’m telling you that if you three are happy all together, then fuck what anyone else thinks.  Your two-point-five kids can have two dads and a mom.”

“We’re not even dating,” Allura responded, her tone sharpening.  “Pidge and I set the two of them up and they’re happy together.  Yes, I sleep with them, but it’s insulting to Matt and Shiro for me to think it’s anything else.”

Keith held up his hands in a gesture of surrender.  “Okay, okay.  Claws back in, Allura.”

“Sorry,” Allura said, straightening in her seat.  “I’m realizing now that it might be a bit of a touchy subject.”

“Wonder why,” Keith mused softly.

"I didn't mean to take that out on you," Allura apologized.  "It's just been a bit heavy on my mind ever since they started discussing moving."

“Maybe you should talk to Matt and Shiro,” Keith suggested.  “If you’re feeling like you’re too invested, maybe it’s time to change the arrangement.”

“I don’t want to end it,” Allura said sadly.  “But I’m starting to feel like I must.”

“Being on the same page might help,” Keith said.  “Or so I hear.”

Allura’s lips curled back into a small smile.  “Oh really? Mr. Shoot First, Ask Questions Later doesn’t typically take his own sage advice?”

Keith shrugged.  “I’ve got a lot of time to hone my good advice when I’m alone in the desert with no one to test it out on.”

Allura laughed.  “Well, then I suppose we’ll see.  But I really do think you should… what did you say? Get on the same page?”

“With who?” Keith asked.

Allura rolled her eyes.  “You know who I mean, Keith.  What are you and Lance?  What even happened on that so-called 'date'?  It’s been days.”

"I don't know what we are," Keith sighed. 

“What do you want to be?”

“What do you mean?”

“Do you want to hold his hand and tell him he’s pretty, or do you want to fuck him into the mattress until the only thing he can remember is your name?”

“I just want him to kiss me, Allura.  I can’t fucking stop thinking about it.”

“What’s the hang up, then?  You two have already established that you’re interested.”

Keith waved his hands in a vague and helpless gesture.  “We’ve been hanging out every day but there’s nothing.  He won’t say anything, and I feel like I can’t say anything because right as I’m about to, Pidge walks in and it’s difficult enough to say it without an audience.”

“So you just need to get him alone,” Allura concluded.  “That’s easy.”

“I just told you, Pidge is always there or about to be there.”

Allura leveled Keith with a flat look.  “Really Keith?  You’re worried about Lance’s roommate when you live alone in a big, empty house?”

Keith blinked.

“Oh my god,” Allura groaned, slumping gracefully over the table.  “Keith, darling, I love you.  I really, truly do, you’re the little brother I never had, but you are monumentally dense.”

“No, I—”

“Invite him over,” Allura said, holding a finger in the air.  She added a second before continuing.  “Reestabish your interest.”  Allura added a third finger.  “Mutual orgasms.”

“I feel like there are probably more steps in there.”

Allura shrugged.  “The hand holding stuff is more Hunk’s area of expertise.”

“Maybe I should talk to Hunk then.”

“Oh, most definitely, he’s a delight,” Allura said before taking a sip of water.

“It’s just… a lot.”

“Trust me, Keith. You’ve made it this far, you can’t give up now.  It’s worth a shot, isn’t it?”

 


 

 

“Look at me now, will I ever learn?
I don't know how but I suddenly lose control…
There's a fire within my soul…”

“Oh my god.”

“Just one look and I can hear a bell ring,
One more look and I forget everything, w-o-o-o-oh…”

“Please no." 

“Mamma mia, here I go again!
My my, how can I resist you?”

Keith threw his head back against the sofa as Lance danced around the living room, ABBA blaring from the stereo.  Keith had taken Allura’s advice, swallowed his anxiety, and invited Lance over to his house.  Somehow they’d wound up here – the two of them sitting on the floor of Keith’s living room as Lance went through the stack of cassette tapes lining the wall around the stereo.  If Keith had been harboring any ulterior motives with his invitation, they'd long since fallen by the wayside as he and Lance goofed around with the Kogane music collection.

 
"Mamma mia, does it show again?
My my, just how much I've missed you!”

Lance swung his hips and elbows wildly, switching between various strange dance moves quickly and without pattern.  While Keith from memories of that night they’d all gone out to the bar that Lance was definitely a good dancer when he wanted to be, here in Keith’s living room he was terrible and he knew it.  Keith couldn’t stop himself from laughing as Lance wiggled and did some strange pointing in Keith’s direction before plugging his nose with one hand and tossing the other in the air in a scuba diver impression.

“You’re such a dork, oh my god!”

“Feel the beat, Keith! Feel the passion!" 

“Mamma mia, even if I say,
Bye bye, leave me now or never…
Mamma mia, it's a game we play,
Bye bye doesn’t mean forever…”

“You’re ridiculous and ABBA is terrible.”

You’re ridiculous and your face is terrible,” Lance sassed in return.  Keith laughed as Lance made a face and added, “I didn’t mean that, but if you can’t love ABBA, you can’t love yourself.”

“I can love myself just fine, thanks, Lance.”

“Dance with me, Keith!”

Keith shook his head, still grinning at Lance’s silly antics.  “Not gonna happen.”

“Please?”

“I don’t even know how to Cabbage Patch, Lance, I’d never keep up with you.”

Lance pouted for a moment, pausing to fish his phone out of the pocket of his sweatpants and check his messages.  "Oh hey, I promised Hunk I'd help him test out his new scone recipes today.  You wanna come to the bakery with me?  Hunk's scones are the best, I promise."

Keith nodded readily.  "Sure, that sounds fun."

Lance grinned, stretching a hand down to help Keith off the floor.  "You're cute," Lance said, a half-cocked smile gracing his lips.

"You're still a dork," Keith said, turning toward the stereo to turn off the ABBA tape and hide his flushing face at the same time.   "Who's driving?"

Lance lifted a brow.  "Keith, you drive a motorcycle."

"I know," Keith responded, quirking an eyebrow.  "You want a ride?"

"Uh, hell yes I do," Lance said.  "I thought you'd never ask."

"It's been, like, two weeks since we met."

"Uh, it's been three weeks, Keith, and they've been three weeks of pure torture for me as I wonder what more I could possibly do to elicit an invitation from the very cute boy I've been pestering to take a ride on his very sexy motorcycle with him."

"I mean, you could have asked?"

"Keith, that is not the point," Lance said, draping himself across the other man.  "The point was to get you to offer."

Keith rolled his eyes, pushing Lance off of him and into a more upright position.  "You make things very difficult."

"It's what I do," Lance said with a shrug.

Keith grabbed his jacket and followed a very enthusiastic Lance out to the garage, hitting the button for the door opener as he entered.  Lance bounced around the bike, jumping in circles with his legs bent and spread wide like he was performing some strange, ritual dance before they embarked.  Keith let out a snort, barely audible over the grinding of the garage door opener.  "What are you doing?"

"I'm excited, Keith.  Haven't you heard of excitement?"

"I meant the jumping thing."

"Let me live, Keithy-boy," Lance said, catching the helmet Keith tossed his way.  "Where's yours?"

"I've only got one," Keith said.  "Don't worry, I'm a good driver."

"It's still not safe," Lance said, buckling the safety strap under his chin.  "But I'm too excited that you finally invited me to care."

"Didn't I offer to drive you home after you crashed your bike?"

Lance paused for a moment, thinking back through hazy concussion memories.  "It doesn't count if I had to turn it down due to circumstances out of my control."

"Mm, I think it does," Keith teased, unfolding a pair of sunglasses and dropping them onto his face.  "This is your second invitation."

"Boo you, whore," Lance said, before both of them burst into giggles.

Keith swung a leg over his bike and backed the bike out of the garage, Lance hitting the button to shut the garage from the outside.  Lance hesitated a moment, sizing up the best way to get on the bike behind Keith, but settled in easily, fitting snug against Keith's backside.

“Where the hell do I even put my hands?”

“Wherever they’re comfortable,” Keith said.  “Around my waist is probably easiest, since I need my arms free.”

“Got it,” Lance said, settling his hands loosely around Keith’s midsection.

For all of fifteen seconds, anyway.

As soon as the front tire of the bike dropped over the curb between the driveway and the street, Lance’s grip on Keith tightened exponentially.  Keith couldn’t help but let out a laugh, accelerating down the street.  After a few blocks, the grip itself relaxed, but Lance stayed a comfortable weight pressed tight against Keith’s back, his arms wrapped all the way around Keith’s torso.  Every time Keith revved the engine a bit or took a wide turn, the grip tightened up again and made Keith grin.  He would never admit to driving just a little faster than he normally did with a passenger just to make Lance hold on a little tighter.

They pulled into the parking lot of Hunk’s bakery without incident, and Keith held the bike steady while Lance climbed off, looking a little wobbly but grinning as he pulled off his helmet.  “That was so awesome.”

“You weren’t scared?”

Lance playfully shoved at Keith’s shoulder as they headed inside.  “I was trying to keep my balance, asshole.”

“I think you just like holding me,” Keith teased.

Balance, Keith.”

“Hey guys,” Hunk’s friendly voice exclaimed as they entered the store.  The man was standing behind the counter, wiping down the top of the bakery case.  “I was wondering if I’d see you today, Lance.”

“Told you I’d make it, buddy,” Lance said, approaching the counter to greet Hunk with a semi-elaborate handshake.  “Hope it’s okay I brought Keith.”

“Of course! The more the merrier,” Hunk said.  “I’ve got a test batch coming out in a couple minutes, so you’re just in time.  Let me grab you guys some coffee while you wait.”

“Thanks, man,” Keith said.

“Shay at work?” Lance asked.

“Just got off,” Hunk replied, his back turned while he grabbed the pot of coffee.  He poured it into the two cups he’d set out and slid one toward each of his friends.  “She’s in the back.”

Lance stood on his tiptoes to better see the back room behind the counter.  “HI SHAY!”

“Hi Lance!” came the distant reply, followed shortly by Shay herself.  “Oh, hi Keith,” she said, smiling warmly.  “Nice to see you again.”

“Yeah, you too,” Keith said.

“They’re here to test my new scones,” Hunk said.

“Ooh, the peanut butter ones?”

Hunk nodded in affirmation.  “You’re not allergic to nuts, are you Keith?”

Keith stifled a laugh.  “Nope.  Allergic to cats, though.”

Lance started snickering, which prompted Hunk to roll his eyes.  “I guess I set myself up for that one.”

“You did, honey,” Shay confirmed, patting Hunk on the shoulder in sympathy.  “Now, I’ve got to make an appointment at the auto shop to figure out the weird clicking noise my car is making.”

“What kind of clicking?” Keith asked.

“When I’m sitting at a stop light, there’s kind of a faint clicking sound in the engine.”

“It’s probably your oil pressure,” Keith said, crossing his arms over his chest.  “When did you last have it changed?”

Shay shrugged.  “I bought it used about six months ago.”

“It’s probably due,” Keith said.  “Mind if I take a look?”

Shay gestured toward the front door.  “Be my guest.”

As Shay and Keith headed outside, Hunk leaned his forearms against the counter.  “So how you doin’, buddy?”

“I’m good,” Lance said, his gaze tracking Keith through the large windows lining the front side of the bakery as he pulled up the hood of Shay’s car and fiddled with something Lance had no idea the name of. 

“How’s your thing with Keith going?”

“Really, really good,” Lance said, finally turning his head to look toward Hunk.  “I think we’ve got something here.  He’s so much fun to hang out with.  He just invited me over to chill before he goes to work.”

“So you’re going to his place after here?”

“No, that’s where we came from,” Lance said.  “We were chilling and I remembered I had told you I’d come over.”

Hunk pursed his lips slightly.  “So Keith invited you to hang out at his house, and then you came here?”

“Yeah.”

“What were you guys doing?”

“Just playing some of his dad’s old tapes and stuff.  Goofing off.”

“That’s it? Then you came here?”

“Yeeaaahh? Why?”

Hunk shrugged.  “I dunno.  Do you think Keith had any kind of ulterior motive in asking you over?”

Lance furrowed his brow.  “No? What do you mean?”

Hunk cast an amused expression in Lance’s direction.  “Don’t think maybe he invited you over so the two of you could have some alone time together?”

“Well, yeah, that—”  Lance froze as Hunk’s line of questioning sunk in.  “Holy shit, that was a booty call.”

Hunk chuckled, standing up straight and adjusting his apron.  “Nothing gets past you, huh man?”

Hunk, what the fuck?” Lance whispered, his eyes wide.  “How the hell did I MISS THAT?”

Hunk shrugged.  “Maybe I’m the one reading into this,” he suggested.  “Maybe he really did just want to hang out.”

Lance dropped his head, resting it on top of his forearms on the counter.  “Hunk, I wore sweatpants to a booty call.  And then I danced to ABBA, made a fool of myself, and then made him come here with me before he could seduce me!”

“Seduce you?”

“Can I tell you a secret, Hunk?” Lance asked, lifting his head to look his best friend dead in the eye.

“Of course.”

“We haven’t kissed yet.”

“What? Dude, you've been hanging out non-stop for a week.

“I know! I know!” Lance exclaimed, his head whipping back toward the windows to make sure Keith wasn’t on his way back in yet.  “But ninety percent of the times we’ve hung out, Pidge has been right there and the, like, one time that she wasn’t, I chickened out and now I’m terrified that he thinks I don’t want to kiss him, which I actually really do want to, but I don’t know how to tell him that and I don’t know how to make the first move because it’s been a whole week and neither of us have even said anything.”

Hunk pursed his lips again, thinking for a moment.  “Maybe it’s because you haven’t been on a real date.”

“Our first date was me cooking for him, Hunk.”

“Yeah, but it wasn’t a real date.  Something you ask for, plan out, and go on.  You invited him over and then decided halfway through that it was a date.  So maybe it doesn’t feel like you’re dating, because you haven’t actually asked him out.”

Lance blew out a long breath.  “You think so?”

Hunk shrugged.  “It’s worth a shot, dude.”

“You’re so wise.  What would I do without you?”

“Probably spend eternity pining over what’s literally right in front of you,” Hunk said, glancing out the window to where Keith was wiping the oil dipstick from Shay’s car on his shirt.  “That, or be completely reliant on Allura for romantic advice.  Or worse – Pidge.”

“What kind of date should I take him on?” Lance asked.  “Dinner seems lame at this point.  I already cooked for him.”

“There’s tons of things you could do," Hunk said.  “Just focus more on the gesture than the actual events.  Make sure he knows you want to go out with him.  Ask him for his time and make it fun for both of you.”

Lance nodded slowly.  “I think I’ve got an idea.”

Chapter Text

From: Lance

 

(8:22 am)
>> hey do you want to go out tonight?

(8:23 am)
<< sure

(8:26 am)
>> I’ll pick you up at 6
>> wear something comfy ;)

(8:27 am)
<<I don’t get to know what we’re doing?  

(8:28 am)
>> nope :P
>> youll see

(8:28 am)
<< see you at 6 then

(8:29 am)
>> it’s a date! 

Keith bit his lip to hold back a grin and plugged his phone into the charger.  He had been planning to catch some shut-eye, but now his mind was racing with ideas of what Lance was up to.  Despite his attempt to get Lance alone getting him nowhere, Keith wasn’t ready to give up on this.  The butterflies in his stomach when he thought about Lance were too exhilarating to abandon.  And also too distracting to allow Keith any sleep.  After about thirty minutes, Keith decided he needed to keep his hands busy instead, heading for the hardware store on a whim of being productive.

 

By the time Lance pulled into his driveway that evening, Keith had only gotten about two hours of sleep, but that was okay.  Keith was waiting for him in his nicest pair of jeans and a red flannel that was probably the newest and least hole-filled item of clothing he owned.

Keith slipped out of the front door, checking that it was locked behind him as Lance came around the side of his rover and opened the passenger door for Keith.  Lance was in dress pants and a pressed baby blue dress shirt.

"What a gentleman," Keith teased as he approached Lance.  "You sure do know how to make a guy feel special."

Lance waggled his eyebrows at Keith.  "That's just the beginning, guapo."

Lance carefully closed the car door once Keith was inside and raced back around to the driver's side.  Keith suddenly had no idea what to do with his hands.

 "Tell me what that means," Keith said.

"What?"

"You always call me 'guapo' and you've never told me what it means."

"You still haven't looked that up?  Google Translate is free, and while I'd normally never recommend trusting it, it can't fuck up one word that badly."

"I've been preoccupied."

"Maybe you just want to keep the mystery alive," Lance returned.

"Fine, don't tell me," Keith said, but he was grinning.  "But if I find out that it's an insult, I'll be very hurt."

"I would never," Lance promised, bringing a hand up to his heart.

Keith settled back in his seat.  "So where are you taking me, Mr. Mysterious?"

"Keith, my whole thing here is mystery," Lance joked.  "You really wanna know all my secrets?

Keith shrugged.  "I'm just curious." 

"Okay, well, I wasn't gonna tell you because I wasn't sure if you dance or not and I really didn't want you to say no, but there's this great spot in Altea City with live music and a huge dance floor, and I really wanted to take you.  If you're really not into the dancing, we can just enjoy the music and they have a bar and food and stuff, too, I just --"

"Lance," Keith interrupted, before Lance's rambling could go any further.  "It's okay.  It sounds fun, actually."

Lance's face lit up like a Christmas tree and Keith felt like his chest filled with helium.  "Awesome, cool, yes.  It's super fun, I promise.  Sometimes I go with my sister and her wife and it's always the best, and Nadia doesn't even really like dancing but she always comes with and has fun anyway.  I promise I'll get you back in time for work."

"I trust you," Keith said.

 

The half-hour-ish drive out to Altea City passed in easy conversation between the two, so much so that Keith was almost disappointed when Lance pulled into a parking space and shut off the engine.  Lance hopped out of the car and rushed around to the other side by the time Keith had stepped out himself.  “Ready?” Lance asked, practically bouncing with excitement right there on the sidewalk. 

“Ready,” Keith agreed.

Lance reached down and grabbed Keith’s hand in his own, pulling him toward the building.  As they headed inside, Keith rearranged their fingers to fit more comfortably together and noted that Lance’s face was suddenly redder than it had been earlier.

Lance took charge to get them in the doors and settled into a booth against one wall.  As Lance had said, most of room was dominated by a smooth dance floor.  Against the back wall was a stage a few feet above the dance floor, where a band was already performing.  The dance floor was occupied by several scattered couples and a few larger groups, while others were settled into booths around the perimeter like Lance and Keith were.

A waitress appeared as Lance and Keith were just settling in and took their drink orders with a promise to be back momentarily.  Lance watched as Keith looked around, acclimating himself to the atmosphere inside the dance club.  “What do you think?”

“It’s cozy,” Keith responded.  “You come here a lot?”

Lance shrugged.  “Not a lot.  Maybe once a month or so.  The menu is pretty small, but it’s all good.  Most people come for the dancing.  They’ll usually have two or three bands in a night and they mix genres pretty well, so there’s something for pretty much everyone, and a lot of the bands come back regularly, so if there’s someone you like, you can come hear them again.”

“These guys sound pretty good.”

“Wanna order first, or get your feet wet on the dance floor?”

Keith hesitated just a moment before scooting himself out of the booth.  “Let’s give it a shot.”

Lance beamed, standing himself and taking Keith’s hand in his again.  The band was playing a smooth, upbeat song Lance wasn’t familiar with, but it had a simple rhythm that wasn’t hard to fall into.  Keith looked like he had no idea what to do with himself, so Lance knew he’d be taking the lead here.  He started with a simple side-to-side step, easing Keith into the rhythm and letting him get more comfortable with it.  “Have you ever danced before?”

“I’m not much of a dancer,” Keith said.

“I absolutely refuse to believe that,” Lance said.  “You told me you’ve been listening to Prince since you were in diapers and you can’t come out of that kind of upbringing without knowing how to move.”

“Dancing in the garage is different than dancing in a club.  And way, way different than dancing at a bar in Texas.  Bars in Texas don't care if you have two left feet as long as you’re mostly in rhythm, because everyone around you is already too drunk to notice.”

Lance let out a hearty chuckle as he let go of one of Keith’s hands and spun him before settling back into their simple rhythm.  “Keith, are you a country boy?”

“No,” Keith said firmly.  “But my father is from Texas, and every family reunion I’ve ever been to involves a god-awful amount of line-dancing.”

“Line-dancing is the best,” Lance said.  “Once in a while, they’ll have a country band here and Sof and I go hog-wild.  My moves were all atrocious until Sofi started bringing me here.”

Keith laughed.  “Why do I get the feeling that Line-Dance-Lance is completely in his element?”

“Because you’re a very good judge of character,” Lance said with a laugh. 

When the song ended, the pair retreated to their booth to their waiting sodas.  They chatted a bit more and enjoyed the rest of the set the band was playing from the sidelines.  They’d just put in their dinner orders when the second band took the stage, and though Lance wasn’t paying much attention to their look, their twangy sound immediately perked his ears.

“Keith!”

Keith looked startled at Lance’s sudden exclamation, but quickly realized the source of his excitement.  “Oh no.”

Lance twisted in his seat to angle himself more toward the stage, where a slender blonde in a cowboy hat and boots swung her hips to the beat.  “Keith, please.”

Keith let out a half-incredulous laugh and shook his head, pulling himself out of the booth at the same time.  He grabbed Lance’s hand and pulled him out to the middle of the floor where most of the other people on the floor had already formed into lines.

“Shake it for the young bucks sittin' in the honky-tonks,

For the rednecks rockin' 'til the break of dawn,

For the DJ spinnin' that country song,

Come on, come on, come on…”

 

Lance fell into step beside Keith, who settled his thumbs into his belt loops, and Lance could immediately picture him in cowboy boots and a hat.  Not a country boy, his ass, Lance thought. 

“Shake it for the birds, shake it for the bees

Shake it for the catfish swimming down deep in the creek

For the crickets and the critters and the squirrels

Shake it to the moon, shake it for me girl, aww…”

Keith glanced over toward Lance, who flashed him a grin.  Keith stumbled then, but Lance caught him before he could do more than stumble and pulled him back into the rhythm.  He wasn't the most fluid dancer, but he was grinning regardless and Lance couldn't stop watching him.  Then the line turned and suddenly Lance had an eyeful of Keith’s ass.

“Country girl, shake it for me girl,

Shake it for me girl, shake it for me…”

Lance was not complaining.

 

They ended up dancing through the whole second band’s set, scarfing down their food in the intermission, and getting back on the floor as quickly as possible.  Even once they’d decided it was time for them to go, they spent most of the car ride back to Arus with the music cranked and heads bobbing, like they just couldn’t stop dancing.  When Lance pulled into Keith’s driveway, Keith was once again remorseful that the trip was over.  In such a short amount of time, he’d grown incredibly fond of the vibrant, wonderful personality that was Lance Fuentes. 

“I had a really, really good time tonight,” Keith said.

“I’m glad,” Lance said, grinning.  “I did too.”

“We should go again some time,” Keith suggested.  “Maybe with your sister.”

“I’m sure Sofia would love that,” Lance agreed.  “In fact, I—"

“Are we dating?” Keith burst out.  “Because it kind of feels like we’re dating, but we haven’t talked about it since that day we said was a date and we haven’t even kissed and I just want to make sure you haven’t changed your mind in the last week.”

Lance blinked a few times, his brain catching up with the words coming out of Keith’s mouth.  Usually he was the nervous blurter, but apparently Keith could do it too.  It made Lance smile to realize Keith had been just as nervous about this whole thing as he was.  “Do you want me to kiss you, Keith?”

Keith blew out a deep breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding and nodded.

Lance unclipped his seatbelt and pushed up the armrest separating them before gently placing his hand around the back of Keith’s neck and slotting their mouths together like he’d done it a hundred times before.  Keith absolutely melted into it.  If he'd been thinking about the evening he'd just had, or the overnight shift ahead of him, or even whatever the hell their relationship actually was, all those thoughts had instantly been replaced by one, singular focus – kissing Lance as much as humanly possible. 

Lance – god bless his soul – Lance finally pulled away with one final kiss to the corner of Keith’s mouth.  “You’re gonna be late for work, Cherry Bomb.”

Keith groaned low in his throat, surging back toward Lance’s lips on instinct.  “Fuck that.”

Lance laughed against Keith’s mouth, his head tipping up toward the ceiling of the SUV.  “Same.  I’ll text you, though.”

Keith leaned forward to press one more kiss to Lance’s lips.  “Okay.  Talk to you later.”

“Hey Keith?”

“Yeah?”

“Will you be my boyfriend?”

Keith immediately broke into a smile that permanently etched itself in Lance’s memory on the spot.  “Yes.”

Lance grinned in response.  “Awesome.  Good night, guapo.

Lance waited until Keith had successfully unlocked his door before pulling out of the driveway and down the street.  Keith spent a good five minutes getting his bearings back, leaning against the front door and rehashing the last few moments over again in his mind before pulling his phone out of his pocket and pulling up Google Translate.

 


 

 

Keith was tossing on a different shirt for work when he heard the front door open.  “Keith? Are you home?”

“Pidge? Is that you?”  Keith moved into the kitchen, pulling a t-shirt over his head.

Pidge nodded.  “I was at Matt’s, saw your light turn on.  Why do you have such a stupid smile on your face?  Wait, don’t tell me.  Lance.”

“I like him a lot, Pidge.”

“Duh, noticed that,” she said, rolling her eyes.  “Where’d you go?”

“We went dancing in Altea City.”

“You? Dancing?”

“Shut up, it was fun.”

“You’re weak and gay, Keith; please continue.”  Pidge hoisted herself up onto the kitchen counter and pulled a bag of fruit snacks out of the cupboard to her left.  “You get any action?”

“I have to work, so there wasn’t really time for that, Pidge.”

Pidge made a face.  “Don’t take your blue balls out on me, Kogane.  I meant like, did you feel each other up on the dance floor?”

“No, we just danced,” Keith said.  “One of the bands was doing country covers.”

“Oh my god, no wonder.”

Before Keith could answer, Pidge’s phone rang.  She put it on speaker.

“Yullo.”

“Pidge, where the hell are you, I have to scream.”

“I’ll take that to mean your second date went just as well as the first?” Pidge asked, her eyes locked onto Keith’s with a wicked grin as they spoke into the receiver.

“So well. Oh my god, P, he’s- he’s fucking fantastic.”

“I told you you’d be perfect for each other, moron,” Pidge replied heatlessly. “What happened? What’d you do?”

We went dancing and then… ’I kissed a boy and I liked it,” Lance’s voice sang through the speaker. Keith felt his cheeks begin burn even stronger. “The taste of his cherry chapstick…”

“You kissed?!” Pidge squawked, and Keith suddenly couldn’t tell who she was yelling at.

“A gentleman doesn’t kiss and tell,” Lance said.

“You’re not a gentleman.”

“I know! We totally made out and it was fucking awesome and then I asked him to be my boyfriend and he said yes. He’s fucking awesome and I’m super, super into him, it’s kind of ridiculous.”

Keith was certain his face would never be the same after all the blood in his cheeks, when Pidge mercifully said, “Well dude, I’m really happy for you, and you should definitely continue to climb my best friend like a tree, but full disclosure, I’m currently sitting here in your boyfriend’s kitchen with you on speakerphone, and I'm slightly afraid if I let you continue, his cheeks will actually spontaneously combust. I’ll be home in fifteen minutes, and you can fill me in on the rest then, okay?”

“Wh- Pidge!! You couldn’t warn me that he was there?!?!”

“You didn’t preface your gushing phone call, so how was I supposed to know?”

“Pidge, I’m gonna kill you!”

“Don’t worry, asshole, he likes you just as much. See you later, bye!”

“Pidge, I’m gonna kill you,” Keith said, echoing Lance’s words from seconds ago.

“No you won’t, you have to go to work!”

Keith let out a weak noise and walked back toward his room, arms folded on top of his head to resist the urge to strangle his best friend.

Chapter Text

 "We’re no strangers to love…
You know the rules and so do I…
A full commitment’s what I’m thinking of…
You wouldn’t get this from any other guy…”

Lance stretched lazily, reaching to make sure his actual alarm was turned off before remembering that it was Saturday.  He smiled as his brain caught him up on the events of the previous night and the curve of Keith’s smile as he’d agreed to be Lance’s boyfriend.  God, I’m gone for that boy, Lance thought as he rolled to his side to check his text messages, pleased as punch to see that Keith had been texting him even after Lance had fallen asleep with his phone in hand.  Most of the messages were Keith’s scattershot thoughts, kept separate by the timestamps on each and not requiring a response.

"I just wanna tell you how I’m feeling…
Gotta make you understand…”

 

From: Cherry Bomb

(1:42 am)
<< I know you're asleep but work is boring tonight

(2:03 am)
<< there’s no distinguishable difference between any ABBA song

(2:36 am)
<< stevie nicks will never die while i still draw breath

(2:57 am)
<< i just had the most startling moment of clarity
<< did you know that ‘never gonna give you up’ is a love song?
<< memes have ruined it

(3:43 am)
<< I’m about to just play an entire panic! album
<< 4am is emo hour

(4:13 am)
<< i hate

(6:54 am)
<< Text me when you wake up?

(7:30 am)
>> stop talking shit about ABBA while i’m too unconscious to defend them
>> good morning!!

 

Lance sat his phone back on the nightstand while he sat up and stretched, then headed out to the kitchen.  Pidge was already there (or still there? Lance could never be sure with her), casting him a smug look over the lip of her coffee mug.  “Good morning, loverboy.”

Lance only grinned in response, pouring himself a glass of water from the tap.  “Good morning, Pidge.”

Pidge raised one eyebrow.  “Given the fact that I know you went to bed alone last night, you look way too happy for a Saturday morning.”

“I can’t be happy?”

Pidge shrugged.  “You also usually sleep in.”

“What can I say, Pidge? I’m well rested.”

“I don’t know her.”

“Maybe if you went to bed once in a while, you would meet her,” Lance replied.

“How’s your boyfriend?” Pidge deflected.  “He’s asked me like three times when you usually get up on weekends.”

“What’d you say?”

“Told him to go work his sexual frustration off at the gym.”

Lance shoved gently at Pidge’s shoulder.  “You’re glad we’re dating.”

“Yes I am,” Pidge said.  “But as Keith’s lifelong best friend and your roommate, I’m obligated to give you both shit about your sappy, gay, beginning-of-relationship giddiness.”

“I appreciate the support.”

“I’m just glad you’re official,” Pidge said.  “Every time I came home last week, I thought I was gonna find you two fucking on the couch.”

Lance choked on his water.  “What?”

“I don’t care if y'all fuck in the apartment, just keep it in your room, okay?”

“We literally kissed for the first time last night.”

“Don’t use the condoms in the medicine cabinet because I’m pretty sure they’re expired.”

“…Who’s condoms are in the medicine cabinet?”

“Yours.”

“That’s not where I put my condoms.”

“Well I didn’t put them there,” Pidge said.

“That’s why I asked who’s they are,” Lance said, then shook his head abruptly as he put his empty water glass in the sink.  “Whatever,” he said, walking away from the kitchen.  “This isn’t a conversation I wanted to have before coffee on a Saturday.”

“Throw the condoms away if you’re going in there anyway,” Pidge called after him.

Lance returned to his room just as his phone lit up with a text.

From: Cherry Bomb

(7:36 am)
<< want to get breakfast?

(7:36 am)
>> aren’t you gonna go to sleep?

(7:36 am)
<< I still have to eat, Lance

(7:37 am)
>> then i’d love to :)
>> meet you at the diner in 30?

(7:37 am)
<< it’s a date

 

When Lance pulled into the parking lot of the diner half an hour later, he immediately recognized Keith’s motorcycle parked at the edge of the sidewalk.  Once inside, Lance glanced through the dining room to see where Keith was seated.  The man in question flagged Lance down from a booth in the back corner.  As Lance approached, he couldn’t stop his smile from growing.  “Good morning.”

“Good morning,” Keith replied, smiling back just as easily.  He looked pretty exhausted, but his hair was pulled back from his face in a half-up style that looked freshly washed and it was all Lance could do to keep from swooning.  “Sleep well?”

Lance nodded, sliding into the booth across from Keith.  “Yeah I did.  You sounded like you had a pretty long night, though.”

Keith shrugged.  “Couldn’t really top that date, so everything else was lame.”

“I’m honored.”

Keith stifled a yawn before reaching for his coffee cup.  “Sorry.”

“You sure you don’t need to go to bed?”

Keith shook his head.  “I do, but I wanted to have breakfast with you.”

Lance brought a hand up to his chest.  “That’s literally the gayest thing I’ve heard all day.”

Keith let out a bark of sharp, genuine laughter.  “Yeah, well, I’m not getting any less gay so jot that one down.”

“It’s okay, I like it,” Lance said, leaning his forearms on the table.  “You really didn’t know ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ is a lovesong?”

“I knew,” Keith defended.  “It’s just been so memefied that you don’t really think about it until you’re on a graveyard shift running on like two hours of sleep in the last thirty-six and your fourteenth cup of coffee grants you all the clarity of a monk who’s dedicated his life to meditating in silence on top of some mountain in Tibet and you realize that Rick Astley was cheated out of a reputation as one of the true romantic bards of the eighties because the only song anyone knows by him has been bastardized by internet trolls.”

“The Rickroll is an art form, Keith, I don’t think Rick Astley could have asked for a more honorable legacy.”

“I concede your point, partly because I’m too exhausted to argue.”

At that moment, the waitress approached their table.  “What can I get you to drink, honey?”

“Coffee, please.”

“Milk and sugar?”

“Milk, please.”

The waitress nodded and walked away.

“You work tonight?”

Keith nodded.

“What even is your schedule? I can’t nail it down.”

“It’s flexible,” Keith said, shrugging.  “I work every other weekend, so I’ll have the next one off.  During the week, though, it switches up.”

“And you like being nocturnal?”

“I don’t hate it,” Keith said.  “It’s just while Coran’s night DJ is out on maternity leave.”

“And then what?”

“I haven’t really planned that far out,” Keith said, fiddling with the handle of his coffee cup.

“What did you do before you came back here?” Lance asked.  “I don’t think you’ve ever told me.”

“This and that,” Keith said.  “I moved around a lot and watched the local papers for temporary workers.  Did stints in garages while mechanics were out for whatever reasons, or worked construction for a couple months until I decided it was time to move on again.”

“Sounds pretty not permanent.”

“I’m not very good at permanent.”

Lance pursed his lips, reflecting on that statement.  Keith, through oblivion or exhaustion, didn’t seem to notice Lance’s reaction to his words.  The waitress chose that moment to return with Lance’s coffee and a refill for Keith.

“Decaf?”

“I am planning to sleep, so…”

Lance shook his head.  “Decaf coffee is an oxymoron.”

“You’re an oxymoron,” Keith volleyed, before locking eyes with Lance and taking a deep drink from his cup.

“And you drink it black.  Are you human?”

“Debatable,” Keith said, setting his coffee cup back down on the table.  “Why, how do you take your coffee?”

“With milk, like a civilized person.”

Keith made a face.  “Why?”

“Because I don’t hate myself?  Why wouldn’t you put milk in your coffee?

“Milk doesn’t keep in the desert.”

Lance lifted his eyebrows at the blunt response.  “That is a very valid point.”

"Were you boys ready to order?" The waitress paused as she passed by the table again, one hand positioned over the order pad in her apron pocket.

"An everything omlette," Keith said.  "And hashbrowns."

"I'll take a short stack, please."

The waitress nodded once and left them again to their own devices.

"So apparently, through all of last week, Pidge thought she was going to walk in on us banging."

Keith snorted inelegantly, bringing a hand up to save coffee from spewing out of his mouth.  "We didn't even kiss until yesterday!"

"That's what I said!"

"I mean, I might have been pretty thirsty, but that doesn't mean it's that easy."

"Wait, what?"

Keith's brow scrunched in confusion.  "What?"

"What'd you say?"

"It's not that easy."

"Before that."

Keith lifted one brow, realizing where Lance was going with this line of questioning.  "Sounds like you heard me."

Lance leaned in close, eyes half lidded and a lazy smirk painted across his face.  The expression sent a shiver down Keith's spine.  "You want a piece of this?"

Keith rolled his eyes.  "What tipped you off?  I thought maybe it was the part where I agreed to be your boyfriend."

"You think I'm gooorgeous," Lance half-sang, just loud enough for Keith's ears.  "You want to kiiiiiss me..."

Keith lifted himself out of his seat just far enough to meet Lance where he leaned halfway across the table and pressed their lips together.  Lance's eyes rounded in surprise before quickly falling shut, allowing Keith to continue as he pleased.  After a moment, Keith let himself drop back into the booth with a thud.  "You were saying?"

Lance hung frozen for a moment, his expression slightly dazed.  Then he sat back, grinning even more cheekily.  "I could get used to that."

Keith shook his head, bemused, and reached for his coffee.  "If I weren't dead on my feet, I definitely would have invited you for breakfast at my house."

"I thought you said you can't cook."

"Who said anything about cooking?"

Lance lifted a brow.  "Guess this is technically our third date.”

“What’s that got to do with anything?”

“You’ve never heard of the third date rule?”

“No?”

“The rule that says you gotta wait ‘til the third date to have sex?”

Keith’s brow furrowed.  “People do that?”

Lance shrugged.  “Some people.”

“Wouldn’t it seem forced if there’s rules behind it?”

“So I take it you don’t wanna head to the bathroom for a quickie?”

Keith’s lips curled into a smile.  “Classy.”

 A lazy smile drifted across Lance’s face.  “I’ve always been more of a ‘see where the moment takes us’ kind of guy.”

Keith tilted his head to one side, a sly glint reflecting in his tired expression.  “I can work with that.”

Once the waitress brought their food, they ate with minimal conversation.  At one point, Lance caught Keith staring at him with such studious intent that it was a little unsettling.  “What, do I have food on my face?”

Keith shook his head, his eyes flicking up to meet Lance’s.  “No.”

“Whatcha lookin’ at, then?”

Keith’s gaze dropped to the remnants of his hashbrowns.  “Nothin’.”

“You sure?”

Keith nodded, shoving a final forkful of potatoes into his mouth.  “I’m sure.”

“You wanna head home, then?  You look beat.”

“I guess,” Keith said.  “This was nice, though.”

Lance smiled warmly.  “I agree.  Thanks for the invite.”

“Walk me to my bike?”

“Of course.”

Keith slid out of the booth, grabbing his jacket as he did, and left a few bills on top of the ticket the waitress had left.  Lance followed a pace behind until they reached the edge of the sidewalk where Keith had parked his motorcycle.  Keith slipped into his jacket before turning toward Lance, his fingers reaching out to grasp the edges of Lance’s sweatshirt.  “Sorry I’m so out of it,” Keith apologized.  “Normally I wouldn’t be headed to bed quite so quickly.”

“Hey, don’t even sweat it,” Lance said, his hands coming up to Keith’s shoulders, giving an affectionate squeeze.  “You need your rest.”

“I was considering inviting you over for a nap date,” Keith admitted, his gaze pinned somewhere to the front of Lance’s shirt.  “But to be honest, I’m at the point of exhaustion where that wouldn’t even be a little fun.”

“You make everything fun,” Lance replied, bringing one hand up to brush his thumb along Keith’s jaw.  “But hey, I’ll take a raincheck on that nap date, for sure.”

Keith looked up, smiling softly.  “All right, I’ll keep that in mind.”

“Can I kiss you goodbye?”

Keith nodded, already leaning forward, head tilting gently to one side.  Lance met him halfway, eyes already slipping closed before they even touched.  It was soft, almost reflecting Keith’s sleepy state, but that was okay.  As Keith pulled away, Lance brushed over his jaw again with a tender touch and gave him a fond smile.  “Sleep well.”

“I will.”

“Text me when you wake up.”

“You know it.”

Lance shoved his hands deep into his pockets as Keith stepped back to put on his helmet and sling himself over his bike.  He waited until Keith had started his engine and pulled out of the parking lot before heading to his own car. 

To: Hunkules

(8:46 am)
<< can I come bug you

(8:47 am)
>> only if you’re okay taking coffee orders

(8:47 am)
<< I’ll be there in five

Chapter Text

It was absurdly easy being Lance’s boyfriend, Keith thought as he set his phone on Shiro’s bathroom counter and started up the shower.  His phone sang out a selection from Keith’s favorite playlist, and Keith sang along as he always did as he let the warm spray from the shower run down his body.  Singing had been a bit of a hang up for Keith for a long time, but here in the privacy of his own (or rather, Shiro’s) bathroom, he was able to escape the more emotional hang-ups he had regarding his singing career (or rather, lackthereof).

Today, however, he wasn’t in his usual “get in, get clean, get out” headspace.  No, he was still thinking about how dating Lance had come almost too easily.  Keith had never actually dated anyone before, but from everything he’d heard, it was supposed to be harder than this.  Maybe.  He wasn’t actually that sure, but he did know that good things didn’t come easy and his relationship with Lance was a really, really good thing and Keith was a little bit worried he was screwing it up somehow.

It wasn’t that Keith thought anything was wrong.  On the contrary – dating Lance was perfect.  Their schedules synced up weirdly well, for one, despite being nearly the exact opposite of one another.  Lance woke up shortly after Keith got off work, and they had found themselves having breakfast together most of those mornings before Lance headed to work.  Keith would sleep into the afternoon, and by the time he woke up, it was almost time for Lance to get off work.  There was also no shortage of conversation between the two of them, whether Lance was loitering around Keith’s house/garage while Keith worked his way through projects or whether Keith was chilling in the apartment with Lance and sometimes Pidge or Hunk while Lance went through registration forms for the upcoming sports camps at the center.  They’d been boyfriends for almost three full weeks now and being with Lance came as naturally as breathing. It was… nice.  Domestic.  Keith was absolutely out of his depth.

He probably just needed to calm down, he tells himself as he scrubs shampoo through his hair.  Just because he’s never been in a steady relationship doesn’t automatically mean he’s doing it wrong.  If the way Lance’s face lights up every time Keith walks into the room is any indication, he’s doing just fine.  Keith leans into the spray to rinse out the soap and recalls Lance’s expression last night after they’d kissed goodbye.  Yeah, Keith was probably fine.

On the other hand, kissing was the furthest they’d gone.  Keith definitely wasn’t about to push Lance into anything, and since he thought he’d been pretty clear about his attraction to Lance, he had kind of waiting for Lance to make the next move.  He wasn’t sure if he was being too subtle, or if Lance just wasn’t ready.  Keith didn’t mind being patient, but it took a lot of effort for Keith not to let himself wonder if there was something about him that Lance didn’t like.  Also riding a motorcycle home after a long makeout session wasn’t the most fantastic time Keith had ever had.  Keith decided he was going to bring it up to Lance tonight – no room for misinterpretation. (And if he was really lucky, maybe tonight would be the night they finally got it on.)

Keith shut off the shower and slicked back his hair, squeezing out the excess water.  His phone was louder without the water, but the last verse of “Don’t You” by Simple Minds was winding down anyway, so Keith reached out a hand to pause his music and toweled himself off.  The worst part about showering at Shiro’s was having to get redressed in the same clothes he’d worn all night at work.  If he’d just get his ass in gear and finish his own bathroom, this wouldn’t be an issue, Keith told himself as he slid into his ripped blue jeans.

His phone lit up with a text as Keith was just buttoning his pants.  The message preview gave away its contents and brought an instant smile to Keith’s face.  Yeah, dating Lance was doing something good for Keith, too.  Any kind of attention from Lance whatsoever made Keith’s insides turn to goo, and that had never happened with anyone else.

From: Lance

(7:35 am)
<< good morning gorgeous ;)

(7:35 am)
>> do you always wish yourself a good morning?

(7:35 am)
<< SHDFGHJKEITH
<< good morning TO MY GORGEOUS BOYFRIEND KEITH

(7:36 am)
>> see if you’d said that in the first place I wouldn’t have been so confused

(7:36 am)
<< you’re the worst
<< <3

(7:37 am)
>> I know <3

 

Keith grinned as he tugged his shirt over his head and made sure he was leaving Shiro’s apartment as he’d found it.  He bounded down the stairs to the parking lot, singing “Don’t you…. Forget about me…” under his breath as he started up his bike.

If Keith had been thinking about it, he would have considered it remarkable that just thinking about Lance could distract him enough that he didn’t even think twice about singing aloud outside of the privacy of Shiro’s empty apartment.

 

 


 

 

From: Cherry Bomb

(4:24 pm)
<< you want to come over after work?

(4:32 pm)
>> i’m babysitting marco tonight

(4:34 pm)
<< oh okay
<< have fun

(4:35 pm)
>> do you want to come with me?

(4:36 pm)
<< you want me to come with to babysit your nephew?

(4:37 pm)
>> yeah! he’d love it.  I promise he’s a super chill kid

(4:48 pm)
<< kids don’t usually like me

(4:48 pm)
>> seems fake but ok
>> I mean you don’t have to come
>> but marco will probably fall asleep hella early and then what am I gonna do?

(4:50 pm)
<< okay I’ll come

(4:50 pm)
>> REALLY?? :D

(4:50 pm)
<< yeah
<< if you’re sure its ok

(4:51 pm)
>> it is!
>> i’ll pick you up in thirty?

(4:52 pm)
<< i’ll be ready

(4:52 pm)
>> yessssssssss

 

When Keith slid into the passenger seat, he immediately turned to Lance.  “Are you sure it’s okay for me to come with?”

“Dude, of course.  I already cleared it with Sofi.  You’re gonna love Marco, trust me.”

Keith cast a slightly dubious look at Lance.  “I’m not that great with kids, Lance.”

“So you’ve said,” Lance said.  “And if you’re really not comfortable with it, you don’t have to come.  I promise you though, I won’t make you touch a diaper or clean anything.  In fact, he’s so tiny that he’ll knock out super early, and then we can watch Netflix and make out on my sister’s couch until they come home.”

“Okay,” Keith said, settling back in his seat.  “But if he looks at me and starts crying, I’m gonna say I told you so.”

 

The drive to Sofia and Nadia’s house was about half an hour, which Lance and Keith filled with casual chatter.  When Lance pulled into the driveway, the sound of a high-pitched barking sounded from the house.  Lance laced his fingers through Keith’s as they walked up the sidewalk to the front door.  Lance waggled the fingers of his free hand at the tiny toddler and the young boxer puppy both pressed up against the glass window bordering the front door.  Keith’s grip tightened slightly around Lance’s fingers.

A woman in square-framed glasses picked up the puppy before answering the door, using her leg to gently prod her son back from the door.  “Tioooo~!” the boy sang out, waving furiously up at his uncle with a beaming smile on his food-smudged face.

“Hi Lance,” the woman said, pulling Lance into a one-armed hug even as the dog furiously scrambled to lick his guest’s face in greeting.  Before she even stepped away, Marco had wrapped both of his chubby arms around Lance’s leg.  “Marco, go finish your dinner.”

Marco twisted his head to look up at his mother without loosening his grip on Lance’s leg.  “Tioooo is here.”

Lance bent, picking Marco up easily.  “Hey, papito!  We are gonna do so much fun stuff tonight, little man, but you gotta listen to your mom and finish your dinner first, okay?”

Marco nodded, pressing a messy kiss to Lance’s cheek before squirming to be let down.  The woman shook her head fondly as Marco scurried back to the dining room.  “That boy, I swear.  Anyway.  You must be Keith,” she said, turning back to her company, still standing in the doorway.  She held out her hand to greet Keith.  “I’m Nadia.  I’m sure you deduced that the tiny tornado was Marco.  It’s nice to finally meet you.”

“Nice to meet you, too,” Keith replied, hoping he didn’t sound as stilted as he felt.

“Where’s Sofi?” Lance asked, looping an arm casually around Keith’s shoulders.  Keith relaxed into the touch, feeling less anxious with the knowledge that Lance was right beside him.

“Upstairs,” Nadia said, stepping back to let Lance and Keith further into the house.  Keith followed Lance’s lead in kicking off his shoes and padding across the carpet in stocking feet.  “I’m gonna run up and finish getting ready, and I’ll let Sofia know you’re here.”

“Cool, cool,” Lance said as Nadia headed up the stairs.  The puppy nosed at Keith’s feet before standing up, his front paws against Keith’s leg.  “That’s Neptune,” Lance said, kneeling down to pet the dog.  Neptune’s attention was quickly diverted from Keith to Lance at the first sign of attention, practically jumping into Lance’s arms to get closer.  Lance stood back up with the puppy in his arms, letting him lick the underside of his chin.  Keith reached up to rub the dog’s ears gently.

“Tioooo~!” Marco called from somewhere out of sight.  “Tiooooo~!”

Lance let the puppy down and wove his fingers back through Keith’s, tugging him toward the dining room.  Marco sat at the dining table, tiny legs kicking wildly in the air underneath his chair.  He shot a wide, cheesy grin at his uncle as soon as he was in sight, and Keith was struck by the incredible resemblatnce family resemblance between Marco and Lance.  “Tiooo~!”

Que bola, papito?” Lance said, sitting down in the chair beside Marco.

Marco answered with a string of chattering Spanish and a grin that scrunched up the rest of his face, revealing a series of tiny white teeth.  Lance tugged Keith closer, maneuvering him to sit perched on his knee, the hand that was still entwined with Keith’s coming around his waist to hold him in place.  “Marco, I want to introduce you to my friend, Keith.”

“Keef,” Marco said brightly, turning his grin on the stranger.  “Hi!”

“Hi,” Keith replied, uncertain how else to respond.

“I’m this many,” Marco said, holding up his thumb and index finger.  “How many are you?”

“Keith is twenty-five – the same age as Tio,” Lance offered, as Keith was starting to look a bit like a deer in headlights.  “This many,” Lance said, flashing ten fingers twice and then adding another five.

“Is that bigger than seven?”

Lance chuckled.  “Much bigger than seven, papi.”

“Wow.”

“Are you done eating?” Lance asked.  Marco nodded in the affirmative, twisting around in his chair to lower himself to the ground and taking his plate to the kitchen.  Keith stood up to let Lance follow the boy.  Lance picked Marco up to sit him on the counter and wash his hands and face, chattering quietly in a mix of English and Spanish, as Keith watched from the doorway behind them. 

“Hey!”  The chipper voice behind Keith startled him slightly, but he managed not to jump – simply turning to see a woman who very much looked like a more feminine version of his boyfriend, with long, wavy brown hair, and the same smooth brown skin and bright blue eyes.  “You must be the notorious Keith.  I’m Sofia.”

“Yeah, hi,” Keith said, shaking the hand Sofia offered him.  “Nice to meet you.”

Sofia smiled, casting a quick glance toward her brother before looking back toward Keith.  “Lance was right.  You are super cute.”

“Uh, thanks,” Keith said, slightly flustered.

“You’re embarrassing him, Sofita,” Lance reprimanded.

“He’s dating you, that’s embarrassing enough,” Sofia teased.

“I’m wounded, Sofi.”

“Suck it up, hermanito,” she replied, sticking her tongue out briefly.

Lance’s hand came up to cover Marco’s eyes.  “There are tiny, impressionable eyes in the room, Sofia.  Watch it.”

“That’s why you’re here,” Sofia said, smiling.  “So my wife and I can have a few hours alone to make as many crass gestures as we like.”

“Well, don’t go too crazy,” Lance said.  “You’ll be in public.”

“I’d flip you the bird if my son wouldn’t immediately copy it,” Sofia said, smiling serenely.

“Sofi, are you ready to go?” Nadia asked, approaching the kitchen as well, looking through the shoulder bag in her hands.  She’d applied a bit of makeup and let her curly, black hair down around her shoulders.  She glanced toward Lance as he dried Marco’s hands with a paper towel.   “So, Marco has eaten, but his nap wasn’t very long today, so B-E-D-T-I-M-E might come early if he’s being a stinker,” Nadia said, spelling out the sensitive topic to avoid a premature complaint from her son.  “Neptune is getting good at crate training, and make sure you let him out if he starts to get antsy.  If you need anything, you have both our numbers.  Help yourself to the fridge and the pantry and the TV.  We’ll be back around midnight.”

“We got this,” Lance said, lifting Marco from the counter to the floor.  “Go have fun.”

Sofia and Nadia knelt down to kiss Marco goodbye.  “Be good for Lance and Keith, mijo” Sofia told him as they stood to leave.

“Bye-bye,” Marco said, bending his fingers in a wave.  Sofia and Nadia headed out, leaving Lance and Keith alone with a baby and a half-trained puppy.

As it turned out, Lance meant it when he said they had this.  As soon as his moms had left, Marco had dragged Lance (who was naturally followed by Keith) to the room which seemed to hold all of Marco’s toys.  Marco immediately assigned Keith and Lance each a toy robot shaped like a lion, and told them they had to build a castle for the princess (which was a Barbie doll with long platinum hair).  Lance enthusiastically rolled with whatever Marco brought his way, and Keith did his best to keep pace.  Keith was pretty sure Lance was just agreeing with whatever Marco came up with – the two-year-old was surprisingly creative in terms of worldbuilding.

“Th’ princess needs help,” Marco told them.  “Help from th’ lions.”

“Does she need saving?” Lance asked, puffing out his chest as he zoomed his lion toward the Barbie doll for a landing.

“No, she needs to tell e’rybody what to do,” Marco said firmly.  Keith snickered.

“More power to her,” Lance said with a shrug, sharing a quick grin with Lance.  “The damsel in distress trope gets old real fast, yeah papito?

“Yeah,” Marco agreed, nodding very seriously.  “The lions save the world for the—for the princess.”

“Sounds like a tall order,” Lance said.  “Who saves the lions?”

“Um,” Marco said, contemplating this question as he arranged the other colors of lions around the castle like sentinels.  “Keef can save you, Tio.”

Keith grinned at Lance.  “Yeah, I can save you, Lance.”

“You’ve proven yourself in the past,” Lance murmured.  “What about Keith?  Who saves Keith?”

Marco shrugged.  “No sé.  Um, yellow,” he decided after a moment, holding up the yellow robot lion. 

Lance shrugged.  “All right.  Papito’s got a hierarchy in place.”

“Keef tried an’—Keef save the princess one time but, but she got mad,” Marco explained.  “She doesn’t need saved.  She tells the lions how to fly an’ save the world.”

“The princess is a strong, independent woman who don’t need no saving,” Lance summed up.  “Sound good, Keith?”

“Works for me,” Keith replied.

This adventure lost Marco’s attention after an hour or so, and Lance put on a cartoon for him.  Marco started out the cartoon seated in Lance’s lap, but managed within the first ten minutes to gravitate into Keith’s.  Keith assumed the boy was squirmy enough to get bored with him quickly, but Marco sat very contentedly with his back pressed up against Keith’s chest and his fluffy brown hair brushing the underside of Keith’s chin.  Occasionally, Marco would giggle or point at the screen, reaching out to tug on his uncle’s arm, but he never stirred from Keith’s lap.

“He likes you,” Lance hummed in Keith’s ear, leaning closer with his arm slung around Keith’s shoulders.  “You okay?”

Keith nodded, careful not to jostle Marco too much.  “Kind of surprised.  Kids don’t like me.”

“This one does,” Lance said, nuzzling the shell of Keith’s ear with his nose.  “Must run in the family.”

“Tio, space!” Marco exclaimed, turning suddenly to make sure Lance could see the animated galaxy of stars on the tv screen.

“Yeah, dude, it sure is!” Lance said enthusiastically.  Marco settled back against Keith, wiggling his shoulders a bit as if settling as far into Keith as he could.  He let out a full body yawn, a tiny fist coming up to scrub at one bright, blue eye.  “Oooh, looks like someone’s getting ready to conk out,” Lance said quietly, watching Marco squirm a bit to find a comfier position against Keith, turning so his arm and head were resting against Keith’s chest and his back was supported by Keith’s arm.  “Gotta admit, the little dude has the best spot in the house.”

“Should we put him to bed, or…?” Keith trailed off, hoping Lance would fill in the blanks.

“At the end of this episode, I’ll take him to his room,” Lance said.  “It’s just about his bedtime, anyway.”

By the time the credits began to roll, Marco had fallen asleep, his head lolling forward on Keith’s chest.  “Do you want me to take him?” Lance asked softly, shifting carefully on the couch.

“Uh, I can carry him,” Keith said hesitantly.  “Show me where?”

Lance nodded silently, watching Keith carefully scoop his arm beneath Marco’s legs to get a grip on him before standing up.  He led Keith up the stairs and into the first bedroom, lowering the side of the crib so that Keith could lay him down easier.  Lance adjusted Marco’s limbs after Keith put him down, making sure his favorite stuffed toy was tucked beside him before putting the side of the crib back up and ushering Keith out of the room.  Once the door was shut behind them, Lance turned to Keith with a grin, taking Keith’s hand in his own and pressing a kiss to his knuckles before leading him down the stairs.

“That wasn’t so bad, was it babe?” Lance asked once they had returned to the couch.  Lance was navigating the Netflix menu, looking for something suitably amusing.

“No, it wasn’t,” Keith confirmed.  “He’s cute.”

“Right?” Lance asked, grinning.  “Runs in the family.”

Keith snorted.

“You don’t believe me?” Lance asked, turning toward Keith with wide, too-innocent eyes.

“He definitely takes after Sofia,” Keith said.  “If your nephew looks that much like you, I can’t imagine what the rest of your family looks like.”

“Technically,” Lance said, dragging out the vowels a bit as he clicked through Netflix titles.  “He’s not just my nephew.”

“What do you mean?” Keith asked.

“Well, Sofi and Nadia couldn’t exactly have a kid all on their own, so I was their sperm donor.  It just made sense.  I was more than happy to help them out.”

“Oh,” Keith said softly, his gaze traveling toward the stairs where they’d left the sleeping baby.  The events of the past two hours flashed through Keith’s memory, slightly altered with the knowledge that Lance had been playing with his biological son.

“Most people who didn’t know them while Nadia was pregnant assume he’s Sofia’s,” Lance said easily.  “Which is totally fine.  I’m sure when he’s older they’ll tell him my role in it, but I’m perfectly content just being his Tio.  As much as I love the little guy, I’m absolutely not ready to have kids of my own.”

“You’re so good with them, though,” Keith said, a bit surprised at the declaration.

“Don’t get me wrong, I love kids,” Lance said.  “I grew up babysitting for all my siblings kids, and I love working with the kids at work, but… I was sitting there.  Twenty-two years old, about to jack off into a cup, thinking about exactly what I’m doing, and I realized that there’s a big difference between being a coach or an uncle, and being a dad.  I’m perfectly happy entertaining the kids all day, and then sending them home to their parents for the hard stuff,” Lance said, an amused smile spreading across his face.  “It’s easier to stay the cool adult that way.  But kids of my own?  I have to be super, super sure I’m ready for that, and I have to be with someone who’s super, super sure that’s what they want.  And if I’m just the cool uncle forever – well, I’m okay with that.”

Keith’s own smile slowly spread to match Lance’s own.  “Yeah, okay.  That makes sense.”

Lance nudged Keith’s arm with his elbow.  “Sorry if that was weird.  I know we haven’t been dating that long, so if I made this weird by talking about kids, you can forget it ever happened.  Actually, we haven’t even had sex yet, so I definitely, definitely made this weird, please ignore everything I’ve said in the last ten minutes.”

“No, it’s fine,” Keith assured him, leaning a bit closer to settle in against Lance’s side.  “Thanks for telling me.”

“Sure thing,” Lance said lightly, curling his arm around Keith’s shoulders.  “Did they take Bob’s Burgers off of Netflix?”

“Yeah.”

“Fuck.”

“Right?”

Stranger Things or Great British Baking Show?”

“We could watch The Good Place,” Keith suggested.

“I like the way you think, Cherry Bomb,” Lance hummed.  “But we have to watch an episode you’ve seen before, because I have been high-key dying to kiss you all night long.”

“Good thing I’ve seen them all, then.”

“Perfect,” Lance said with a grin. He hit play on the first episode that came up and tossed the remote aside, reaching immediately to turn Keith’s face toward him with a soft hand. He leaned in for a kiss, making no effort to conceal the grin on his face as he did so.  Keith responded easily, bringing a hand up to fist in Lance’s shirt, his kisses teasing and playful but eventually turning slow and languid.

After who-knew how long, a sharp bark distracted them from their intimate acquaintances with each other’s mouths, and Lance pulled away with a soft kiss to the tip of Keith’s nose to let the dog outside.  When he returned, Keith shifted to curl his body weight against Lance’s, pressed side to side to watch their show.  They chatted a bit, but were content to soak in the other’s presence.  By the time Sofia and Nadia slipped in the front door, Keith had fallen asleep, his face half-buried in Lance’s shirt.  Nadia headed up the stairs to check on Marco, while Sofia stayed, tilting her head to one side as she cast a knowing smile at Lance.  Lance carefully slipped out from under Keith, leaving him to nap on the couch while he filled Sofia in on their evening with Marco.

“How was your date?” Lance asked softly after they’d moved into the kitchen to avoid waking anyone.

“It was wonderful,” Sofia said.  “How was Marco?”

“A gem,” Lance said.  “We played for a while, then watched a cartoon, and he fell asleep on Keith’s lap around eight-thirty, so we put him to bed.  Also, I took Neptune out at about ten.  He was good too.”

“And how did Keith do?” Sofia asked, arching a brow in curiosity.  “You said he doesn’t like kids.”

“He warmed up pretty fast,” Lance said, a fond smile making its way onto Lance’s face.  “Marco really took a shining to him, which helped a lot.”

“Good,” Sofia said.  “So are you and Keith getting serious?”

Lance shrugged.  “Kind of?  I don’t know.  I really, really like him, Sofita.  It’s only been a few weeks, but I feel like I’ve known him my whole life.”

“That’s a good sign,” Sofia said, a trace of amusement lining her voice.  “So maybe this isn’t a one-and-done kind of thing?  Not that those are bad,” she added quickly.  “It’s just been a while since you’ve had a long-term relationship.”

“I hope it is,” Lance said, his lower lip gravitating between his teeth.  “I can see myself being with him for a long time.”

“I’m glad,” Sofia said, reaching up to squeeze Lance’s shoulder.  “Are you gonna bring him to Ely’s quinces?”

“I don’t know,” Lance said.  “I was thinking about it.”

“But?”

“But introducing Keith to my adorable nephew is one thing, and it is another thing entirely to introduce him to my huge, obnoxious Cuban family, including my parents, my half-crazy abuelo, and my entirely crazy, super Catholic abuela.”

“Abuelo will love Keith, first of all,” Sofia said, planting one hand on her hip.  “But that’s fair.  Maybe just talk to him about it.  See if he’s ready.”

“Yeah okay,” Lance said, glancing back toward the living room.  “I’ll think about it.”

 


 

Lance gently woke Keith so they could head home.  Lance smiled fondly at his boyfriend, slumped back sleepily against the headrest as Lance pulled out of the driveway and headed home.  “You can sleep, Cherry Bomb,” Lance said quietly.  “I don’t mind.”

Keith shook his head stubbornly.  “Nope.  Already fell asleep on you once tonight.”

Lance scoffed.  “Like I minded having an adorable man asleep in my lap.”

Keith smiled ever so slightly, barely noticeable in the dark of the car.  “It was fun though.  Marco is pretty cute.”

“Told you.”

“Hey Lance?”

“Sup?”

“Thanks for letting me come with you.”

Lance smiled.  “I’m glad you came with.  I can’t think of a better night.”

Keith settled back into the seat, lifting his head so he could more comfortably angle it toward Lance.  “I mean, I texted you hoping to get laid tonight, but I guess this was fun, too.”

Lance choked, swerving slightly in his lane.  “You what?!”

Keith smirked in the dark.  “I was gonna be casual about it.”

“Oh okay,” Lance said, his voice several octaves higher than usual as he kept his wide-eyed gaze locked on the dark highway in front of him.  “As long as you were gonna be casual—KEITH.  YOU CAN’T JUST SAY THAT.”

“I know we haven’t really talked about it at all, but… earlier you mentioned it and I thought maybe it was time to actually talk about it.  Because either I’m too subtle to get my point across, or you’re not ready for that, and that’s okay if that’s the case. I’d just like to know, so that I don’t overstep any boundaries.”

Lance’s face felt hotter than fire but he couldn’t help but laugh.  He grabbed for Keith’s hand in the dark and wove their fingers together, pressing a kiss to the back of Keith’s hand.  “You’re not overstepping.  I’ll admit, I’ve been holding back because I wasn’t sure you were ready for that.  I don’t want to move too fast and screw this up.”

“So we were both on the same page, but waiting for the other one to turn it,” Keith said.  “Sounds like us.”

“Yeah we seem to be good at that.  But at least we’re on the same page now,” Lance pointed out. 

Keith ran his thumb over the back of Lance’s hand reverently.  “So do you want to sleep over tonight?”

“In a sexy way or in a sleepy way? Because tomorrow is the open house and Allura will kill me if I’m not at a hundred percent.”

“I’d need a redbull for the sexy way, anyway,” Keith chuckled.  “So sleep for tonight, and then maybe after the open house, we can see about the sexy way.”

Lance laughed, shifting his elbow against the middle console.  “Sounds like a plan.”

Chapter Text

Consciousness found Lance with an arm draped heavy around his waist, a warm nose pressed against his chest, and a mop of soft, dark hair nestled against his shoulder.  Lance blinked the sleep from his eyes as he smiled lazily at the body snuggled up against his own, much closer now than when Lance had fallen asleep.  The knowledge that Keith was a cuddler filled Lance with endless delight for some reason he couldn’t quite put his finger on.  Lance shifted to wrap the arm that wasn’t trapped beneath Keith to rest on the arm that Keith had slung across Lance’s stomach.

Keith stirred at the motion.  His charcoal eyes appeared from beneath their halo of dark lashes, blinking sleepily as he processed his surroundings.  He glanced up at Lance, flashed what might have been a smile, and burrowed his face back into Lance’s chest.  He mumbled something there, the vibrations of his husky morning voice reverberating and bringing a laugh to Lance’s lips.  “What was that?”

“Good morning,” Keith said, turning his head just enough to allow himself to be heard.  He pulled Lance just a tiny bit closer with the arm still around his waist.  “You’re comfy.”

“I think you’re the comfy one,” Lance said.  “My arm’s asleep.”

“Sorry,” Keith said, but took his time in peeling himself away from Lance’s side and sitting up in bed, the comforter pooling around his waist.  He stretched his arms over his head, the sunlight filtering through the gray curtains behind him to frame his profile, and cocked his head just a bit, observing Lance with a soft expression on his face.  At the risk of sounding sappy, Lance would have called him breathtaking.

Keith leaned down to press a kiss to Lance’s mouth, and Lance brought a hand up to loop around the back of Keith’s neck.  Keith smiled against Lance’s lips when he tried to deepen the kiss.  “I taste bad.”

“I don’t mind.”

“You probably taste just as bad.”

“You don’t mind.”

“I think I might,” Keith argued, but he was laughing.  He sat up as Lance’s hand followed, trailing down from the back of his neck to his chest as Lance refused to sit up yet.  “I’ll reconsider my stance on kissing with tongue once we’ve both brushed our teeth.”

“Unfair, but this is your house so I will play by your rules,” Lance teased.

“That’s what I thought,” Keith returned, pushing back the covers and climbing out of bed.  Lance watched him head for the bathroom and had no complains about the eyeful of Keith’s ass he got.  The boxer briefs and t-shirt left very little to the imagination, and the conversation from last night reverberated in Lance’s skull like a gong.  Maybe after the open house, we can see about the sexy way.

“So are we showering together, or do we have to fuck first?” Lance called loudly enough that Keith would be able to hear him from the bathroom.

Keith appeared back in the bedroom doorway, toothbrush in hand and eyebrow raised high.  “If you wanted to shower, we should have gone to your place.”

“Aw fuck, I forgot your shower’s broke,” Lance said.  He lifted an arm to sniff his own BO.  “We’re stopping by my place before the open house.”

“Sounds good,” Keith said, heading back to the bathroom.

“You’re gonna have to fix that shower though, my dude,” Lance said, rounding the corner to join Keith in the bathroom.  “I like post-coital joint showering too much to give that up.”

“The bathtub works just fine, you know,” Keith said as Lance leaned over him to get the deodorant out of the medicine cabinet.

“Oh yeah, ‘cuz I want to sit and soak in the jizz and sweat of two different dudes.”

Keith shook his head as he swished mouthwash.  After he’d spit, he caught Lance’s eye in the mirror.  “You’re the worst.”

“I know,” Lance said, leaning forward to press a kiss to Keith’s temple.  “Do you still have that spare toothbrush from last time?”

“All yours,” Keith said, gesturing to the second toothbrush in question.

  


 

 

Lance twined his fingers through Keith’s as they walked side by side through the parking lot and around the side of the community center to the large, grassy lawn on the south side of the building.  Though it was still early, it was plain to see that the staff had been hard at work preparing for the open house.  Coran stood near the grill, wearing sunglasses and a gaudy Hawaiian shirt with tiny pugs on it, organizing and preparing for his afternoon as grill master.  Shiro was setting up folding tables on the lawn, lining them up for use as the buffet later on.  Allura, in a pale pink sundress, was shading her eyes from the sun as she observed Matt and Adrian hanging a banner from the side of the building.  “A little higher, Adrian?  Right—yes right there.  Perfect.”  As Keith and Lance approached, Allura turned toward them and clapped her hands together, delighted.  “Ahh, wonderful to see you, gentlemen.  I was just needing a few more sets of hands.”

“Just say the word, princess, I’m on the job,” Lance said.

“Right, well, we need basketballs and volleyballs,” Allura began.  “You know what to do.”

Lance nodded as he released Keith’s hand, heading toward the door that propped open, leading into the gym.  Allura turned to Keith as Lance left.

“I know you aren’t on my list of volunteers, darling, but would you mind manning the sign-up booth for a bit?  I had Beth in that slot, but she just texted that she won’t be here until around one-thirty.”

“What do I have to do?”

“Just hand out brochures and make sure they sign the right clipboard,” Allura said, gesturing toward a table set up a few feet away from Coran.  “Nothing too intensive.  Flag one of the staff down if someone starts asking questions you don’t know, but it’s all in the brochures.”

“I can do that,” Keith agreed.

“Wonderful, darling,” Allura said, patting Keith’s cheek with a slender hand.

Allura kept her staff buzzing until the scheduled start time of the open house.  As soon as noon hit, members of the community began to trickle in.  A lot of them seemed familiar with Allura and the rest of the center’s staff, but there also seemed to be a few who were unfamiliar – which Keith supposed was the point of the open house.  Keith kept to his assigned station, offering brochures to anyone who wandered close and keeping tabs on which programs seemed to be filling up faster than others.  There were a few people who seemed curious about how the center ran, so Keith waved Shiro over to help explain some of the programs.

After about two hours, Bethany arrived to relieve Keith from his station.  He gratefully accepted the break and took a moment to stretch his legs.  He wandered toward the other side of the lawn, where Lance was in the midst of a volleyball game with half a dozen high-school aged kids.  With his height, Keith was sure he’d serve a mean spike, but he seemed content to hang toward the back of the pack, diving to catch the balls that strayed further back from the net.  He caught Keith’s eye as he was brushing the sand off his shorts, offering Keith a glimpse of his wide grin and a wink before returning his attention to the game.

“Hungry, my boy?” Coran asked, pulling Keith’s attention away from the volleyball court.  “We’ve got plenty of hot dogs!”

“I’ll grab one in a minute,” Keith said.  “Gonna use the bathroom.”

Coran saluted with the same hand that was holding his grill tongs.  Keith headed for the door, blinking as he stepped inside to adjust his eyes to the indoor lighting.  The squeak of shoes on the floor drew Keith’s eye to where a group of kids were playing pick-up basketball, smiles on all their faces.  Keith skirted around the edge of the court and headed toward the main lobby of the center.

After taking care of business, Keith glanced down the opposite hallway.  He could still hear the chatter of voices and squeaking of shoes coming from the direction of the gym, but decided to take a walk down to the theater wing.  He had never actually explored the community center since it had opened – he’d walked through the building in its previous state before Allura officially opened it as a community center, and she’d done a lot to update it in the time since.  The hallway was lined with doors, each classroom numbered on a neat plaque at eye level.

One door in particular caught Keith’s eye and made him pause.  “Classroom 3” the placard read.  The door itself was littered with hand-drawn music notes and cut-out pictures of rock stars of the 70s and 80s.  The window in the room was covered up by a sheet of paper, preventing Keith from seeing inside.  In the middle of the door was a hand lettered sign reading “Mr. Kogane’s Classroom”.  The “Mr. Kogane” part had been X’d out with purple marker and replaced with a simple “Jack” in an all-capitals handwriting that Keith immediately recognized.

Keith reached for the door handle on impulse, surprised to find it unlocked.  The room inside was just as well-decorated as the door.  It seemed that Jack’s students had taken it upon themselves to help him spice up the otherwise bland, white classroom, and Keith had to smile at the image his brain provided of his father taping up drawings provided by his young students.  There was an upright piano against one wall, and two folding chairs leaning against another.  The door fell shut behind Keith as he was drawn toward the piano, his fingers skimming across the keys lightly.  The sheet music on the stand was familiar – Aerosmith.  One of Jack’s favorites to play, even if his singing voice was a bit too deep to hit the high notes.

Keith was hit by a wall of memories, standing here in his father’s music classroom.  Growing up, his house was never quiet – always filled with music or singing of some kind, and the Kogane patriarch was a natural-born teacher.  The Kogane cassette tape collection was impressive, but Jack used to tell Keith that it was nothing compared to the music flowing through their veins.  Keith could play every instrument his father owned by the time he hit high school, and there was a stack of notebooks in the corner of the living room filled with original songs.  Some of them were drafts of songs later recorded by Jack’s band.  Others had never been heard outside the Kogane living room, written down either in Keith’s chicken-scratch scrawl or Jack’s bold all-caps print.  His father had taken pride in teaching Keith everything he knew and in watching Keith turn that knowledge into ambition of his own.  It didn’t take Keith much effort to imagine his dad grinning down at some young kid seated on this very piano bench, a reassuring hand on their shoulder.

Keith inhaled a shaky breath and tried to blink back the tears pricking at his eyelids, sitting down on the piano bench in an effort to hide his shaking knees from himself.  He wished his dad was here.  He wished he hadn’t spent the last four years running away from this place.  He wished he’d been here, writing music with his dad, spending time with his friends, volunteering for Allura, and getting to know Lance.  On some fundamental level, he knew it was pointless to speculate about things he could not change, but Keith couldn’t help but wonder how much different his life would be if he hadn’t left Arus.  He wondered if he’d have been happy here, or if he would still itch deep down for a change of scenery.  Keith didn’t regret travelling, per se, but in his time on the road, he’d allowed part of himself that hated opening up to take over his whole being.  The longer Keith stayed in Arus, the less he felt he could stomach leaving, but at the same time, Keith didn’t know how to make his stay permanent.  Permanent had always seemed like a fairy tale to Keith; staying wasn’t in his vocabulary.

Keith inhaled deeply, settling a bit more into the firm wood of the piano bench and letting his fingers skim across the keys again.  His gaze rested again on that page of sheet music as he let his muscle memory take over.

 


 

Lance ducked inside the building, narrowly avoiding crashing into a middle-schooler who was darting past in the opposite direction.  “Coach, come play with us!” one of the kids called from the middle of the basketball court.

“In a minute, Andre!” Lance called back.  “Duty calls!”

Lance quickly headed for the bathroom, taking a moment afterwards to rinse the sand from his forearms and brush off what still clung to his clothes.  While he liked volleyball and the sand reminded him of the beach, he didn’t want to cover the basketball court in it.  Once he deemed himself clean enough, he headed out of the bathroom.  His steps faltered as he passed through the lobby and he caught the faint sound of a piano coming from down the hallway.  As Lance drifted a bit further down the hallway, he caught singing as well, and immediately recognized the voice.

“Sing with me, sing for the years,
Sing for the laughter, sing for the tears,
Sing with me if it’s just for today,
Maybe tomorrow, the good Lord’ll take you away…”

Shower Man!! Here!! In his community center!!

Lance moved ever closer, unsure if he was being drawn by curiosity or intrigue or just attraction to that incredible singing voice.  The piano accompaniment was beautiful as well, and Lance was itching to know the identity of this all-too talented stranger.

“Dream on, dream on,
Dream until your dreams come true….”

Lance continued moving closer but kept it slow.  He wasn’t sure if his shoes squeaking against the linoleum would startle Shower Man into stopping.

“Dream on, dream on, dream on,
Ooooooooon…”

The high note hit perfectly, the breath in Lance’s lungs stilling in awe.  He was face to face with the door of Jack Kogane’s old classroom, the window papered over but the door cracked ever so slightly.  The piano music continued, bringing the song toward its end, and Lance stretched out his hand, trying to decide between knocking and just entering.

“Coach!”

Lance started, whirling toward the gym, where Andre stood with a basketball under his arm.  He cast a quick look toward the classroom door, where the piano music had gone silent.  Lance retracted his hand and headed quickly back down the hallway toward the gym on silent feet.  What would opening that door even done?  Sated Lance’s curiosity, maybe, but then he’d be met with the awkward conversation of telling a stranger he’d been listening to them shower nearly every day for the last month.

Maybe it was better this way.

 


 

 

Rainclouds started moving in around late afternoon.  The first droplets hit as the staff and volunteers were packing up the last of the equipment and quickly turned into a downpour.  They worked as quickly as they could to move the remains of the open house into the building.  Lance took a moment as everyone headed inside to turn his face up to the sky and grin, arms spread like he was soaking in energy from the raindrops.  “Hey,” Keith called from the doorway, “What’re you doing?”

Lance turned his grinning face on Keith and took his sweet time in heading for shelter.  “I just love rain, man,” Lance said.  “I don’t know what else to tell you.”

“You’re soaked,” Keith observed.

“C’mere, baby,” Lance said, lifting his wet arms menacingly at Keith.  “Gimme a kiss.”

“No!” Keith shouted, dodging Lance’s damp noodle arms around equipment and other people.

“Boys,” Allura said sternly, but she was smiling.  “Go home and get dry.  Thank you for your help today.”

“Yes ma’am,” Lance said.  He managed to get close enough to Keith to twine their fingers together.  Keith let him, still feigning wariness.  “You want me to pull the car up, Keith?”

Keith shook his head.  “Nah, let’s just run for it.”

Lance took Keith’s hand as they headed out the front door of the community center.  One of them nodded and they sprinted across the parking lot through the downpour, headed for Lance’s car a few dozen yards away.  Keith broke off to head for the passenger door but found it locked.  “Lance!” he yelled, turning only to find Lance hadn’t gone around the other side of the car.  “It’s locked, you asshole,” Keith said.

Lance leaned in close.  “Ask nicely,” he said, a sly smile painted across his face.

Keith rolled his eyes, leaning against the wet car as Lance pinned him in.  “Did you plan this, or do you just have a thing for rainstorms?”

“The second one,” Lance chuckled, brushing his lips against Keith’s. 

“I know your last couple relationships were with girls, but you know you don’t have to get me soaking wet before you can get it in, right?”

Lance choked, bowing his head against Keith’s shoulder as a wave of laughter rolled over him.  “Yeah, I know.”

“Okay, just checking,” Keith said, biting down a grin as he took the initiative to fist his hand in Lance’s soaked t-shirt, the other hand curled gently around Lance’s jaw.  Lance kissed back hungrily, pressing closer to Keith, before a loud crack of thunder startled them apart.  “Maybe we should go now,” Lance suggested.

“Oh yeah?” Keith asked, sarcasm dripping from his voice.  “Should we go now?”

“Yeah, I think so.”  Lance reached into his pocket and the car locks clicked open.

Once they got back to Lance’s apartment, Lance dug out a couple towels so they could dry off.  Lance borrowed Keith some clothes and went to throw all their clothes in the dryer.

Lance came in the door and called, “Yo Keith, should we order a--” but trailed off as he saw Keith in only a pair of very low-slung sweatpants and his hair tied up high on his head, thumbs tucked into the waistband of his pants, standing in the doorway of Lance’s bedroom.

“Pizza?” Keith supplied.  “We can.  Are you hungry?”

“Uh, not… really,” Lance said, suddenly very distracted by Keith, shirtless and in the proximity of his bedroom.

“Wanna see if we can work up an appetite?” Keith asked, a suggestive smile slowly creeping across his face.

“I thought you’d never ask,” Lance said, already pulling his t-shirt over his head and surging forward.  Keith’s pealing laughter was silenced by Lance’s lips as he met Keith in the doorway.  Lance’s hands went straight to Keith’s hips, pulling him close before sliding around to sink his fingers into Keith’s firm, round ass.  Keith gasped into Lance’s mouth at the touch, hips pushing forward as he wrapped one arm around Lance’s shoulders to steady himself.  His other hand slid down Lance’s bare chest, eager to touch as much of his boyfriend as he could.  Their kissing was sloppy, both of them a bit too eager for the touch, but neither one minded at all.  It took no time at all before they were panting for breath, so Keith broke away from Lance’s mouth to press hot, open-mouthed kisses down the side of his neck.

Lance let out a low moan at the sensation of Keith’s teeth scraping against the spot at the base of his throat.  “Bed,” he panted, pushing Keith backward toward it.  Keith followed easily, turning them so that Lance laid down on the bed first before crawling over him and returning his attention to the hickey he’d been sucking into Lance’s skin.  After a few minutes, Keith drew back to survey his work, brushing his fingers gently over the already dark bruise.  Lance pulled him almost immediately back into a fervent kiss, licking into Keith’s mouth like it would solve all the world’s problems.

Keith broke the kiss when he couldn’t postpone breathing any longer, panting heavily against Lance’s lips.  “Can I blow you?”

Lance wheezed, only able to nod fervently because god Keith’s bluntness was going to be the death of him.-

Keith’s lips curled in a smile and he pressed one more fierce kiss to Lance’s lips before pushing himself up and off the bed, pressing sloppy kisses down Lance’s stomach as he went.  Lance took a deep breath and then another, trying to get himself together.  He wasn’t a virgin but goddamn it seemed like forever since he’d had sex and he didn’t want to lose it before Keith even got started.  He pushed himself up on his elbows to watch, because Keith was hot enough as it was and Lance was pretty much dying to see him with his cock in his mouth.

Keith wasted no time in pulling Lance’s sweatpants down, leaving Lance bare and waiting. Lance’s anticipation was evident as Keith ran his hands lightly up Lance’s thighs, his cock twitching before Keith could even get his hands on it.  Once he did, he was rewarded a sharp gasp from Lance, his head dropping back for a moment at the touch.  Keith ran his hand over it experimentally, acclimating himself to the size and feel before wrapping his lips around the tip.

Lance’s eyes slid closed at the sensation of Keith’s mouth, one hand moving down to settle on top of Keith’s head just because Lance didn’t want to stop touching him.  Keith bobbed his head, steadily taking Lance further and further in with each motion until Lance could feel the back of Keith’s throat against the head of his dick, while Keith’s hand wrapped firmly around the base.  “Oh my god Keith, that’s so good.”

Keith hummed in acknowledgement, movements growing sloppier and more enthusiastic as he sucked.  He pulled up just long enough to glance up at Lance and say, “You can pull,” in reference to the hand Lance had so earnestly been trying not to thread through Keith’s hair, before he took Lance back in almost to the hilt.  Permission given, Lance’s fingers wove through the silky black strands and he gave a tiny, experimental tug at the ponytail at the crown of Keith’s head.  Keith groaned low in his throat, the vibrations sending a shiver up Lance’s spine.  Keith used his free hand to pull out his own needy cock, palming it just enough to relieve a bit of the ache.  Lance tugged at Keith’s hair again, pulling a louder moan from the man on his knees, but Lance shook his head.  “Babe, I—”

Keith pulled up briefly, the flat of his tongue coming out to lick at the precum beading at the tip of Lance’s dick.  “How long before you can get it up again if you come?”

Lance blinked, trying to both process Keith’s question and come up with an answer.  “Not long.”

“Then come for me,” he said, breathless and a bit hoarse, before leaning back in to take Lance all the way into his throat.  Lance brought a hand up to his mouth, stifling something embarrassingly loud as he came deep in Keith’s throat, his other hand twisting tight in Keith’s hair.  Keith swallowed around Lance’s cock, working Lance through his orgasm before slowing pulling off, licking it clean. 

Lance eagerly pulled Keith up off his knees and into another lingering kiss.  Keith had to pull back after a moment, overwhelmed with sensation.  After a moment, he shoved his borrowed sweatpants down and climbed back up onto the bed, settling against the pillows.  “You got lube?”

Lance nodded, reaching for the top drawer of his nightstand where he’d stashed his freshly purchased lube and condoms.  “How’re we doing this?”

“First I’m gonna finger myself open,” Keith said, taking the bottle from Lance’s hand and popping the cap open.  “Once you’ve got your erection back, we can figure out the next part.”

“Oh, it’s on it’s way,” Lance said, his cock already twitching at the sight of Keith pressing two fingers inside himself right off the bat.  “Can I help?”

Keith nodded, his eyes closed as he worked himself open.  He heard the sound of Lance opening the lube and felt a warm finger breech his entrance alongside his own.  He allowed Lance to take over, working on steading his breathing instead.  Lance worked him carefully, the slow drag of his fingers inside of Keith was torturous in the most wonderful way.  Keith’s back arched sharply when Lance curled his fingers inside and brushed against Keith’s prostate, flooding Keith’s veins with the sweetest pleasure.  He didn’t linger on the sweet spot, though, focusing on working Keith open instead of trying to make him come.  After several minutes, Keith was panting and writhing against the pillows, his untouched cock throbbing.  “Are you ready yet?” he asked, breathless and impatient.

Lance glanced down.  “Yeah, just about,” he said, and pulled his fingers out of Keith, who let out a low whine at the loss.  Lance reached over for a condom and after a few fumbling attempts, handed it to Keith, who tore it open voraciously and pushed himself up to his knees to roll it over Lance’s dick.

“Lay back,” Keith ordered, and Lance was quick to obey.  Keith moved to straddle his boyfriend’s hips, using his hand to line himself up with Lance’s erection.  Keith did nothing to hide the moan that escaped his throat as he sank down on Lance’s cock, his head tilting backwards in pleasure as Lance’s thick length stretched and filled him.  Lance was beneath him, letting out little punched-out moans as he forced himself to hold still until Keith had acclimated to the stretch.  

It was only a few seconds before Keith started to roll his hips forward, slowly dragging himself up Lance’s length about halfway before pushing back down again.  Lance’s hands slid up Keith’s thighs and settled around his hips, helping Keith lift up and drop back down, even as Lance began thrusting up to meet him.  Keith let out a shout as Lance again brushed against Keith’s prostate, then angled himself so as to keep hitting it.  “Ohgod,” Keith choked out, reaching out for the headboard to steady himself.  “Oh fuck, Lance…”

“God, Keith,” Lance breathed in response, bracing his feet against the mattress for better leverage.  “Keith, you’re so good.  You look so good like this, baby.”

“I’m so close,” Keith panted.  “I’m sorry, I—”

“You’re okay, you’re so good, fuck, Keith,” Lance murmured, reassuring Keith by wrapping his hand around his purpling cock as it bounced against Lance’s own stomach.  “Come on, baby, it’s okay.”

Keith couldn’t restrain any of the sounds pouring from his mouth as he rushed closer to the edge.  He dropped his hand from the headboard, bracing both hands on either side of Lance’s head as he tried to make himself last as long as possible.  Lance thrust up forcefully against Keith’s sweet spot, squeezing his length tight in hand at the same time, and Keith was gone, screaming Lance’s name as his vision went white.  Lance wasn’t far behind, shoving himself deep into Keith’s tight heat and releasing into the condom.  It took a moment before Keith could breathe again, and he settled his face into Lance’s neck, breathing heavily as he came down from his high.  Lance swore.

“How was that?” Keith asked, laughing breathlessly.

Lance sucked in a deep breath as he waited for his heart rate to slow back down.  “Keith, you sucked my soul out through my dick and then turned around and rode it like you were trying to win a bet at rodeo camp.  It was fucking fantastic and please do it again at your earliest convenience.”

Keith snorted, turning to press a kiss to the spot where Lance’s shoulder met his neck.  “What can I say, it’s a nice dick.”

Lance ran the tips of his fingers across the softening dick he still held in his hand, eliciting a whimper from Keith.  “Yours is pretty.”

“It’s pretty?”

“It’s a very pretty dick.”

“You’re a pretty—” Keith began, before Lance playfully shoved him away.  Keith rolled to the side, still trying to pace his breathing as Lance stood up from the bed.  He returned with a damp towel to wipe Keith’s now-flaccid dick clean.

“Thanks,” Keith said as Lance flopped back down beside him on the bed.  “You wanna go again?”

Lance turned his head to press his face to Keith’s arm and groaned low in his throat.  “I just came twice in one round.  You’re killin’ me, Cherry Bomb.”

Keith grinned as, thumbing across the mark he’d left on Lance’s throat.  “I know.  But this morning you said something about ‘post-coital showering’ and I’m just letting you know I’m down for whatever.  Also you said something about pizza and I think we should really move that thought into reality pretty soon.”

Lance pushed himself up to hover over Keith and move in for a kiss.  “Killing. Me.”

Chapter Text

To: Cherry Bomb

(4:56 pm)
<< what’s up hot stuff

(4:58 pm)
>> you off work?

(4:58 pm)
<< yep

(4:59 pm)
>> i’m changing takashi’s oil

(4:59 pm)
<< mr roboto??

(5:00 pm)
>> no in his car
>> you need an oil change?

(5:00 pm)
<< i genuinely have no idea how u tell

(5:01 pm)
>> well i’ll do yours if you want
>> doesn’t have to be now either

(5:01 pm)
<< perks of dating a mechanic…? :P

(5:02pm)
>> yep
>> also you should come over

 (5:02 pm)
<< want me to bring food?

(5:03 pm)
>> chinese

(5:04 pm)
<< sure thing babe

 

Lance made a beeline to the good Chinese place on the east end of town, and once he’d obtained their food, he headed for Keith’s house, driving with all the windows down and the music turned up.  He pulled up outside of Keith’s and parked on the street.  He could see Shiro’s sedan parked in the open garage, but it wasn’t until Lance got a bit closer that he noticed the pair of legs in ripped up jeans poking out from beneath the car.  Lance tapped the bottom of Keith’s boot with his own foot.  “Hey mister grease-monkey, you haven’t seen my boyfriend around here, have you?”

Keith rolled out from beneath the car on his little mechanic rollie board that Lance had no idea the actual name of and smirked up at Lance with a grease-streaked face.  “I dunno, what’s he look like?”

“Oh about yea high,” Lance said, waving vaguely in the air.  “Dark hair, pretty eyes, fantastic ass.”

“Hm, haven’t seen him,” Keith said, sliding back under the car.

“Oh, that’s a shame,” Lance said, leaning against the car door.  “I guess I’ll have to eat all this sesame chicken by myself.”

The slide of caster wheels on the garage floor pulled a snicker from Lance’s throat and suddenly Keith was on his feet right in front of him, leaning in with a grin.  “Oh look at that, I found your boyfriend.”

“I can’t believe you’d choose sesame chicken over me,” Lance said.  “I’m hurt.”

“You called me a grease monkey.”

“You are a grease monkey.”

“Watch it, buddy,” Keith threatened, leaning in close until his lips were inches from Lance’s.

“Or what?” Lance challenged, squaring his shoulders and meeting Keith’s charcoal gaze dead on.

“Or I might just have to get that pretty face of yours a little dirty,” Keith said, bringing a hand up to thumb at Lance’s cheekbone. 

“First of all, motor oil is terrible for my pores, so when I break out tomorrow, that’s your fault,” Lance said, his voice low.  “Second of all, are you gonna kiss me, or just stand there being infuriatingly pretty?”

Keith chuckled, sliding his hand down to Lance’s jaw and delicately pulling him into a slow, soft kiss.  Lance let out a little helpless noise as he sagged back against the car and melted into Keith’s grasp.

“Okay, I underestimated the degree to which this might be A Thing,” Lance said, pulling away from Keith’s mouth to suck in a deep breath.  “I should move before my mind starts to run with the idea of you fucking me up against this car.”

“I mean I like the sound of it,” Keith said.  “But I don’t think Takashi would.”

“Maybe when you do my car, we can close the garage door,” Lance suggested, running his fingers on the exposed patch of skin between Keith’s jeans and the ridden-up hem of his shirt.

“This really is A Thing for you, isn’t it?” Keith questioned, amusement lighting up his features.

“Let’s just say the oil on your face is weirdly doing it for me.”

Keith pressed a kiss to Lance’s cheek and stepped back with a laugh.  “Give me five minutes to finish up,” Keith said as he ducked under the open hood of Shiro’s car to set in a fresh oil filter.  “You can head inside.”

Lance pushed himself off the car and took a seat on the concrete step that led up into the house.  “I’ll wait for you.”

Keith glanced over his shoulder.  “You just like the view.”

“Yes, I do,” Lance said, beaming.

Keith shook his ass exaggeratedly, which Lance responded to with a loud wolf-whistle, before turning his attention back to the car.  It didn’t even take a full five minutes for Keith to refill Shiro’s car with fresh oil, and when he’d finished, they both headed inside.  Keith stopped at the laundry room to use the utility sink to scrub the oil from his hands and forearms.  He stripped off his oil-stained shirt and tossed it in the washing machine before finally heading out to find Lance.

“It smells great,” Keith said, finding Lance arranging all the take-out boxes on the coffee table.

“Hell yeah it does,” Lance crowed, opening up a box of egg rolls before turning to face Keith.  When he did, his eyes widened a bit.  “Hey!”

Keith lifted an eyebrow as he snagged a wonton and dropped down to sit on the sofa.  “What?”

“What business do you have being that hot?” Lance asked, distress lacing his tone as he stared intently at Keith’s bare torso.

Keith snorted.  “Whatever.”

“I’m dead serious, Keith, I literally can’t focus on anything else.”

“Eat your chicken.”

“How can I eat this now that you’re on the menu?”

“You’re the horniest person I’ve ever met,” Keith teased, laughing.

“Only ‘cuz you’re the hottest person I’ve ever met,” Lance whined.

“We’ve had more sex in the last week than I’ve had in the last four years.”

“It’s not my fault you dropped out of college to become a cryptid, Keith,” Lance said, dropping to the couch beside Keith and pressing a kiss to his collarbone.

“For real though, Takashi’s gonna walk in any minute to get his keys and I’d rather not give him a show,” Keith said.

Lance let out a longsuffering sigh that he didn’t really mean and sat up, handing Keith a box of sesame chicken.  “Yeah, I guess.  How was your day?  Have you been in the garage all day?”

Keith shrugged, waiting until he’d swallowed his mouthful of chicken to respond.  “Since about three,” he said.  “Were you late to work?”

“Yeeeeup.  Lu was waiting for me at the door like my abuela the one time I missed curfew.  I could hear her manicure clicking with impatience from a mile away.”

“Yikes. Sorry.”

“Baby don’t even apologize for that,” Lance said.  “She forgave me, obvs, and we were talking over lunch, and we decided that we need to all go out again,” Lance said.  “The Teludav is having a karaoke night on Friday.”

Keith wrinkled his nose.  “Karaoke?”

“Nose wrinkling at the idea of karaoke is strictly prohibited, Keith,” Lance announced.  “Singing is not required, but what is required is a good attitude and willingness to cheer when your boyfriend makes a fool of himself singing Shakira for the eighty-seventh time that night.”

Keith grinned.  “I think I can get behind that.”

“Good, because Lu and I are gonna get dru-huuuuuunk and I’m gonna convince somebody to do a duet with me.  Ideally Shiro because he’s the toughest nut to crack.”

“I might have a couple ideas to help you get under his defenses,” Keith said.

Lance’s face lit up.  “Oh my god, yes please.”

 

To: The GAYng’s All Here

(6:38 pm)
<< KARAOKE. DRINKS. TELADOV.  FRIDAY.
<< WHO’S IN

Pidgeotto (6:38 pm)
>> hell fucking yes

Hunkules (6:39 pm)
>> me and shay!

(6:39 pm)
<< KEITH REFUSES TO RESPOND TO THE CHAT WHILE HE’S SITTING BESIDE ME
<< BUT HE IS IN

Queen Lulu (6:42 pm)
>> obviously!!

Mattlock (6:43 pm)
>> yes!! we haven’t gone to karaoke in ages!

(6:44 pm)
<< one more…

Shirp (6:45 pm)
>> Count me in as well.

(6:46 pm)
<< HELL YEAH SEE YOU ALL FRIDAY

 

Lance grinned, stomping his feet against the floor.  “I’m so excited!”

Keith smiled, shifting to more comfortably rest on Lance’s arm, as he’d been reading the chat over his shoulder.  The “refusal” to respond on his own phone was more an excuse to lean up against his boyfriend.  “Why do you have all those weird names for everyone?”

“Long stories,” Lance said.  “Funny stories.  I’ll tell you sometime.”

“I look forward to it,” Keith said, turning his head to press a kiss to Lance’s bicep.

Lance hummed contentedly.  “What time do you have to work?”

“Ten.”

Lance rested his chin on the top of Keith’s head.  “Nap time?”

“Are you tired?”

“No, but you’re comfy,” Lance said, slinging a leg over Keith’s lap for emphasis.

Keith snickered, letting his boyfriend snuggle up against him without complaint.  It was only a moment later that there was a knock at the door, followed by Shiro’s deep voice calling out.  “Keith?”

“Living room,” Keith yelled without moving.

Shiro appeared momentarily, stifling a grin at the sight of his brother tangled up in Lance’s long limbs.  “Don’t mind me, I just need my keys.  You’re done with the car, right?”

“Yeah, one sec,” Keith said, shifting to gain access to his back pocket where Shiro’s keys were.  “Actually, Lance, I need to show Takashi something, can you scoot?”

Lance huffed a disappointed noise, but moved so that Keith could stand and head to the garage with his brother.  He occupied himself texting Hunk for a few minutes, listening to the faint clank of tools out in the garage, before he stood to put away the food and wash the few dishes they’d used.  He’d just shut off the water and was drying the last dish when a pair of warm hands slid around his waist and a familiar pair of lips pressed against the skin below Lance’s ear.  “I didn’t hear you come in.”

“The water was on,” Keith said, his voice low and gravelly against the back of Lance’s neck.  “I have a surprise for you.”

“Oh?

“Yeah.  C’mere.”

Lance turned as Keith wove their fingers together and led him out of the kitchen.  Lance lifted a brow as Keith came to a halt in front of the bathroom and flicked on the light.  “Babe?”

Keith released Lance’s hand and stepped into the bathroom, reaching to turn the shower on.

It took a second for Lance to realize what was happening.

“Oh my god, you fixed the shower!” Lance shouted, tossing his fists in the air victoriously.  “I can’t believe it!”

Keith rolled his eyes, biting down a smile.  “You complained enough about not being able to shower here that I decided I’d better just finish the job.”

“Aw, for me?” Lance stepped into the bathroom and slid his arms around Keith’s neck.  “Best boyfriend ever.”  Keith smiled as Lance pulled him in for a kiss.  “We should test it out,” Lance suggested when he pulled back, waggling his eyebrows flirtatiously.

“Be my guest,” Keith said, gesturing toward the still-running spray.

Together, Keith.”

“I thought the grease did it for you,” Keith teased.

“The only thing better than a greasy Keith is a soaking wet Keith,” Lance said, dropping one of his arms from around Keith’s neck to drop down and slap his ass.  “Get that perky little bubble butt in the shower, grease monkey.”

“So bossy,” Keith said, but he was quick to drop his jeans to the floor and turn around to adjust the temperature of the water.  One hand was stuck under the spray while the other tugged his underwear down until they joined Keith’s jeans on the floor. 

Lance made a strangled noise and pulled his shirt up over his head.  “Keith, have I mentioned lately that I love your ass?”

Keith glanced over his shoulder with a smirk.  “Not in the last ten seconds.”

“Well I fucking love it,” Lance said, shedding the last of his clothes and stepping closer to Keith.  “It’s the best butt I’ve ever seen in my life.”

“Am I supposed to take that as a compliment?” Keith asked as he stepped into the shower, “Or am I supposed to be jealous of the implication that you’ve seen a lot of butts in your life?”

“Both,” Lance hummed with a grin as he followed Keith into the shower.

“Point of contention, though,” Keith said.  “You say mine is the best you’ve ever seen, but have you seen your own?  That’s a fantastic ass.”

Lance giggled.  “Please, sir, tell me more.”

“I thought about your ass for a very long time after seeing it in those goddamn booty shorts.  Like genuinely could not sleep because I was thinking about it.  It was a lifechanging experience.”

Lance lifted his brows, his expression a mixture of delighted and scandalized.  “The JUICY ones?”

“Those ones,” Keith confirmed.  “Ruined my goddamn life.”

“Best eight bucks I ever spent, then,” Lance laughed.  He shifted their positions until Keith was standing directly under the spray.  “Good job on the shower.”

“Thanks,” Keith said, spitting water away from his lips as it ran straight down his face.  “It took me three fucking days.”

“Yeah, and you definitely could have gotten those three days out of the way a long time ago.”

“Touche.”

There was a moment of quiet as Lance reached for the bottle of shampoo sitting on the ledge and lathered soap into Keith’s hair, gently rubbing the grease off of his face before nudging him backward into the spray to rinse off.  “But since we’re here anyway,” Lance hummed casually, pouring more shampoo into his hand, “And you got your ass – the beautiful, fantastic ass that I’ve mentioned I’m obsessed with – in gear to make me happy, I guess I’ll say thank you.”

“You’re welc—oh.”  Keith’s response was cut off as Lance reached low and wrapped his soapy hand around Keith’s length.  “That kind of thank you.”

Chapter Text

“So what are you wearing tonight?”

Keith glanced down at the ripped jeans he’d been wearing for the last twenty four hours and black t-shirt.  “This.”

Pidge’s lip curled in disgust.  “No.”

“Why not?”

“Keith.  There’s oil on your shirt.”

“It’s black, you can’t see it.”

“I can see it.”

“Fine, I’ll change my shirt.”

“Nope, unacceptable,” Pidge said .  “Lance will be dressed up, so don’t you want to make him proud to be seen with you?”

“I’m pretty sure Lance doesn’t care what I wear.”

“You’re such a garbage gay, Keith,” Pidge said.  “And that’s coming from me.  Of course Lance doesn’t care what you wear.”

“So what’s the big deal?”

Pidge clicked her tongue against the roof of her mouth and shoved herself up off the sofa.  “Bitch.”

“Where are you going?”

“To see what I’m working with here.”

Keith moved to follow Pidge into his bedroom, taking a seat on the edge of the bed while she disappeared into his closet.

After a few seconds, her curly head popped out.  “You have a whole bag of clothes that still have tags on them.”

“My mom left them there.”

“When was your mom here?”

“The week after I got to town.”

“Jesus, Keith.”  The sound of the bag rustling filled the room for a minute.  “Damn, Emiko has good taste.  You’re gonna knock Lance flat on his ass tonight.”

“I don’t want to wear the clothes my mom bought me, Pidge.”

“Just wear these jeans,” Pidge said, tossing a wad of black denim at Keith’s head.  “They don’t have holes in them, at least.”

“Jeans with holes in them mean they’ve already reached maximum comfort.”

“We’re not going for comfort tonight, Keith, we’re going for Lance’s dick.”

“We’re already sleeping together.”

“Which will make the effect that much better,” Pidge said, surfacing with one of Keith’s best-loved shirts.  “Do you have any scissors?”

“What are you doing to my shirt?”

“Improving it.”

Keith stared suspiciously at Pidge for a moment before nodding once.  “Proceed.”


 

To: Hunk

(7:28 pm)
<< hey could you pick keith and i up from his house?
<< Matt’s not home

(7:29 pm)
>> of course!! we will be there at 8!

 


 

Hunk's conversion van pulled up in front of Keith's house right on time.  A few moments after the honk sounded, Pidge came barreling out the door, followed momentarily by Keith, and Lance couldn't stop his jaw from hitting the floor.  He knew his boyfriend was the most gorgeous man to ever grace the planet but this outfit was going to kill Lance dead.  Goodbye world and all who inhabit it, Keith was too sexy to handle.

He was wearing a new pair of jeans, which Lance knew were new because they had no holes or fading whatsoever.  As Keith turned toward the door to lock up, Lance got a clear view of his new favorite pair of jeans.  These jeans – these jeans, Lance would pray to these jeans from now on just for the sole fact that Keith’s ass was the alter at which Lance worshiped and these jeans made it look better than any other pair of jeans had ever done – were skinny and hugged Keith’s hips so very right, bunching ever so slightly at his ankles where the hem tucked perfectly into Keith’s combat boots.  The shirt was not new – in fact, it was the shirt Keith had worn the day Lance had cut his hair, but it was newly cropped and the barest hint of midrift that peeked out from beneath the cut-off was enough to halt Lance’s breath in his lungs.  Over the crop-top was a denim jacket that did not look familiar to Lance, but was covered in so many patches related to Keith’s niche interests that he knew Keith must have been sitting on that bad boy for years now.  His hair was tied back in that short little ponytail with just a few strands falling around his face, and Lance was simultaneously the most blessed man in the universe as well as cursed because he knew he was about to sit next to Keith all night long and had to behave himself and god was this going to be a long night.  Lance started mentally tallying how long they would reasonably have to stay at the bar before excusing themselves so that Lance could get Keith into bed and start peeling those jeans off.

Pidge climbed into the van and slid her hand under his chin and nudged it shut with a sharp click of his teeth.  “I told him the jeans would kill you.”

“Oh really? You told him the jeans would kill me? What about the rest of it, Pidge, did you tell him the rest of it would kill me too?  Where were you when he was cutting the bottom half of his shirt off because that’s goddamn killing me.”

“I did that,” Pidge said.  “I told him he needed a wardrobe refresh.”

“You refreshed it right out of the realm of Looks Lance Can Handle, Katherine!!”

Pidge threw her head back, laughing loudly.  “Please refrain from nutting in your pants until I don’t have to sit next to you anymore.”

Lance shoved her head back toward her headrest playfully, not taking his eyes off his drop-dead gorgeous boyfriend who was approaching them looking like sex in-fucking-carnate.

“The jeans killed him, Keith,” Pidge informed him as Keith ducked into the backseat with her and Lance.

Keith glanced at Lance with a sly smile on his face.  “Oh yeah?”

“Yeah,” Lance agreed with an eager nod, face still a bit red even as he grinned slyly at his boyfriend.

“Good,” Keith hummed, sounding satisfied as all get out.  “I like this,” he added, hooking his finger in the loose neckline of Lance’s muscle tank, leaning in for a kiss.

“No more PDA until we are out of the confined space, please,” Pidge said as they kissed, prompting Keith to lean back with a snicker and Lance to roll his eyes.  “I blessed you with the visage of Keith’s awesome outfit and I can take it away.”

“I think we need to get you a girlfriend so you can lay off, P,” Lance said.

“I still wouldn’t want to watch you try to eat Keith’s face when you’re a foot away from me.  You don’t see Hunk and Shay all up in each other’s business when there’s other people around.”

“I don’t really want to be put in the middle of this argument,” Hunk said from the front seat.

“Point taken, Pidge,” Lance said.  “I’ll try to tone it down tonight.”

“Famous last words,” Keith hummed under his breath, only for Lance’s ears.  Lance whacked him with the back of his hand.

 


 

At the bar, Matt and Allura were already holding a booth for all of them, having come early since karaoke night was a popular event.  Allura stood as the others slid into the booth, grabbing Lance by the wrist.  “Help me carry the first round.”

“Sure, Princess,” Lance said easily, following Allura up to the bar.

“Six tequila shots, a merlot, and a Coca-Cola, please,” Allura asked the bartender, handing him her credit card.  “Open a tab.”  The bartender took her card and started setting up the shots.  Allura rested her hip against the bar and turned toward Lance.  “So.”

“So?”

“I hear Keith fixed his shower for you.”

Lance grinned.  “Yep, and then I immediately almost broke it.”

“I’m going to hear that story after a few more drinks,” Allura laughed as they headed back to their table.

“Aw, you got me a Coke?” Hunk cooed as Allura handed him his soft drink.  “Thanks!”

“Anything for the best sober cab I’ve ever known,” Allura replied with a smile.

“The fuck is this?” Keith asked as Lance sat a shot on the table in front of him.

“Tequila,” Lance said brightly, distributing the shots around the table.

“I don’t drink tequila, Lance,” Keith said, flatly.

“First time for everything!”

“I didn’t say I’ve never drunk tequila,” Keith corrected. "I said I don't."

“Keith, I thought you loved tequila,” Allura said, lifting an eyebrow.

“Tequila and I have a bad history together,” Keith said.  “Tequila hates me.  Last time I drank tequila, I’m pretty sure I went streaking.”

“Oh holy shit, I forgot about that!” Pidge yelled, reaching to pull one of the shots toward her.  “You drank the whole bottle and were convinced you were going to be abducted by aliens until you threw up on the hood of Lotor’s Ferrari.”

Keith nodded, casting a pointed look at his boyfriend.  “That’s what happens.  I hallucinate aliens and throw up on my friends’ brothers’ expensive foreign cars.”

“Come on, babe,” Lance needled.  “It’s tradition!  When Allura comes out with us, she buys everyone a tequila shot and we kick off the night in style.”

Keith glanced around the booth to confirm.  “It is kind of an unofficial tradition,” Matt assured him.  “Not that you have to drink it.  I’m sure Lance or Allura will gladly do two.”

“He’s right,” Allura said.  “But I still think you should do a shot with us, Keith.”

“Okay, I’ll do it,” Keith said, picking up the salt shaker.  “But please don’t let me do anything embarrassing.”

Lance laughed.  “I mean, it’s karaoke night, so there’s nothing more embarrassing than that.  But I gotchu, babe.  No worries.”

“Everyone ready?” Allura asked after the salt had made its way around the table.  There were a series of nods in affirmation.  “Go!”

In unison, the whole party did their tequila shots smoothly, nursing the lime chasers to varying degrees.  “That wasn’t so bad, right?” Lance asked his boyfriend as Keith sucked lime juice off his fingers.

“Yeah, I guess,” Keith said.

“I wanna sing something,” Lance said.  “Come do a duet with me, Keith.”

Keith shook his head resolutely.  “I’ll get us drinks while you sing, though.”

“What should I sing?” Lance asked.  “Wait, no! I’m gonna surprise you,” he said with a grin.  He pecked Keith on the cheek and slid out of the booth.  “I’ll dedicate it to you, babe.”

“You do that,” Keith chuckled, sliding out after Lance and making his way to the bar.  He ordered that Malibu drink he knew Lance liked (the bartender knew the one) and a Fireball and Vanilla Coke for himself.  By the time he came back, Shiro had joined them from his late shift at the VA hospital.  Keith greeted his brother, but the rest of the table was quick to point his attention to the stage, where Lance was up next to sing.  He picked his song very quickly and turned toward the audience with a bright grin, wrapping his hand around the microphone on the stage.

“This one goes out to the cutest boyfriend in the whole world,” Lance said, his eyes locking on Keith as the song Lance had selected started to play over the speakers.

“Oh my god,” Keith said, recognizing the beat immediately.  Lance had been asking him to play it during his shifts at the station for a week straight.

“Ooh, don’t we look good together?
There’s a reason why they watch all night long…
Yeah, I know we’ll turn heads forever,
So tonight I’m gonna show you off…”

Pidge snorted from her place across from Keith.  “Allura, you owe me ten bucks.”

“I can’t believe he didn’t pick Gaga,” Allura grumbled, pulling her wallet out of her bag.  “I don’t have cash, can I just buy you a drink?”

“Make it two shots and a chaser and you’ve got a deal.

“When I’m walkin’ with you,
 I watch the whole room change,
Baby, that’s what you do…”

Keith, having promised he’d watch, didn’t tear his eyes away from Lance, but he could feel the flush burning across his cheeks.  Lance wasn’t the most phenomenal singer in the world, but he was on key and clearly enjoying himself, and people seemed to be very into his performance.  Lance danced a little in place, making some smooth, rhythmic motion that didn’t move him from his place in front of the mic but set his hips to circling in a hypnotic fashion.  His gaze never strayed far from Keith, either.

“We out here drippin’ in finesse,
 It don’t make no sense…
Out here drippin’ in finesse,
You know it, you know it…”

“Keith, your gay is showing,” Pidge told him.

“Leave him alone, he’s enjoying it,” Allura said, flashing Keith a grin over the rim of her wine glass.  “Aren’t you Keith?”

“Please don’t pop a boner under the table,” Matt said, which Keith responded to with a whack in the chest.

“Oh jeez,” Shiro said, which prompted Pidge to nearly spit take and double over in laughter.

“Fuck off, Matt,” Keith said heatlessly.  “Shiro, don’t start.”

“Don’t turn this on me when it’s clearly time for teasing you,” Shiro said, sipping his draft beer innocently.  “He looks like he’s having fun flirting with you from across the room.”

“He’s Lance,” Pidge said.  “He’s eating up the fact that he’s the center of attention.”

“Looks like the only attention he cares about is Keith’s,” Allura noted.

“And he’s definitely got it,” Matt snickered.  Keith smacked him in the chest again.  “Ow, stop that.”

“Stop being a dick,” Keith said, the tips of his ears burning half from embarrassment of being the subject of conversation and half from the alcohol starting to buzz through his veins.  "I need another shot."

Pidge snickered, passing Keith a shot he didn't realize was tequila until it had already hit the back of his throat.  He kept his eyes on the stage as Lance quirked a brow, the hand not holding the mic coming straight out in front of him to point at Keith, who was blushing madly between both the alcohol and the attention.  His friends around the table were laughing at him, Keith knew, but he didn’t mind all that much because his boyfriend was really cute and also the best.

Lance finished his song and relinquished the mic with a bow.  He received scattered applause and a few wolf whistles from the crowd as he jumped off the platform and returned to his seat beside Keith.

“How’d I do?” Lance asked, mildly breathless.

“You were great,” Keith said quickly.  “Really good.”

Pidge and Matt snickered at that, which prompted Lance to lift a brow in suspicion.  “Did I miss something?”

“Just watch your elbows, because there’s probably a puddle of drool in front of Keith,” Pidge said.  Lance turned a grin to his blushing boyfriend.

“Aw, babe.  I’m flattered.”

Keith’s face burned bright red.  “It was nice.  I liked it.”

Lance slung an arm around Keith’s shoulder and planted a kiss on his temple.  “Thank you.  And thanks for the drink, too.”

“Well, I’m going to get in line,” Allura said.  “I want to do Beyonce.”

“Yesss, girl, work it,” Lance said, reaching across the table to high-five Allura as she stood.

They passed a bit more time, drinking and conversing, with the odd pause where a member of their party decided they wanted to try their hand at karaoke.  Some were very good (Allura) and some were very bad (Shiro) and some were just… strangely loud (Matt), but they applauded each as thunderously as the other because the sheer bravery in even getting up there was impressive. 

Eventually, Keith shed his denim jacket to reveal the hem of his shirt wasn’t the only thing Pidge had done away with, and Lance spent a good minute trying to improvise slam poetry dedicated to Keith’s shoulders as displayed by the cut-off sleeves of his t-shirt.  Pidge called him gay, and then Lance called her gay, and then Pidge asked why they were stating facts when they could be drinking.

Lance did, in fact, convince an inebriated Shiro to do a duet with him, and they did a strikingly poor rendition of “Under Pressure”, which Keith and Pidge assured them would have been enough to make both David Bowie and Freddie Mercury roll over in their graves.  Lance called it the highlight of his entire life, and refused to apologize when Keith feigned offense.

Between rounds of karaoke, Lance challenged the table to a contest that resulted in him and Keith each double fisting a pair of Little Dragons and proceeding to chug them.  It wasn't until Keith had won and Lance was trying to make the room stop spinning that either of them thought to ask what the hell was in one.  (Spoiler alert: tequila, beer, and a lot of hot sauce.)

At some point, significantly more buzzed than he’d realized he’d become, Lance stood to get another round for himself and Keith.  Allura stood beside him, ignoring a man who was far more interested in her than she was in him in favor of ordering another glass of merlot.  It was a lull in the volume, as someone’s turn on the mic had just ended, and then a familiar voice came over the speakers in the bar.   It was a voice that Lance had many, many times heard through his bedroom wall, accompanied not by a musical track, but by water pouring from a showerhead.

“The clock strikes upon the hour,
And the sun begins to fade…
Still enough time to figure out,
How to chase my blues away…”

Lance whirled around the moment he recognized the voice, locking eyes with his incredibly inebriated boyfriend, holding the mic like was born to do it.  He knew his jaw was hanging open, but he didn’t care.  He was still processing the fact that Mystery Shower Man’s silky, sultry voice was pouring out of Keith’s mouth and wondering how he hadn’t put two and two together before.

“Oh! I wanna dance with somebody,
I wanna feel the heat with somebody,
 Yeah, I wanna dance with somebody….
With somebody who loves me…”

 “He’s good, right?” Allura asked from her spot beside Lance.  He’d nearly forgotten she was even there.  “Keith and music go together better than peanut butter and chocolate.”

“I had no idea he could sing,” Lance said, his voice finally coming back to him.  “I mean, I knew Jack did music at the center and with his band but I didn’t really think about the connection…”

“Oh yeah,” Allura said.  “Keith pretty much grew up as the bonus member of Marmora.  He can play, like, five different instruments better than most people can play one, all while singing like an angel.”

“Jesus,” Lance breathed, his eyes still fixated on Keith.  He was throwing his entire body into the performance as the music built to the chorus, rocking the mic like nobody’s business.  Lance was becoming very convinced that karaoke night was the miracle he’d never knew he needed in his life.  The crop top didn’t hurt, either.

“I need a man who’ll take a chance,
On a love that burns hot enough to last…”

Keith’s gaze locked onto Lance’s and he winked…. Right then that Lance knew he was absolutely, without a doubt, 100% gone for this boy.

“It’s okay, Lance,” Allura said, jolting Lance as he realized he’d said his last thought aloud.  “Love happens to the best of us.”

“Don’tcha wanna dance,
say you wanna dance,
don’tcha wanna dance?
With somebody who loves me…”

Lance let out a low whine in the back of his throat that was mostly swallowed up by the music as Keith finished out his song and stumbled back toward their booth.  Lance and Allura returned with their drinks, Lance having thought better of the tequila and returned with two beers.  He slid into the booth and leaned forward to steal a kiss from his boyfriend.  When their lips parted, Keith looked surprised by the action.  Lance just smiled and slid one of the beers toward him.  “You’re a fantastic singer.”

Keith smiled softly at the open mouth of his beer bottle, the tips of his ears pink, then leaned over against Lance’s shoulder.  “Thanks.”

 


 

It was nearly one am when Hunk parked his van in front of the apartment complex and herded his drunk friends upstairs to their apartment.  Pidge led the way and unlocked the door, heading to the kitchen to drink a glass of water.  Keith had been the drunkest of the bunch, and out of concern, Hunk held him steady with a hand on either shoulder.  “You good, man?”

Keith nodded, swaying only slightly.  “Yep.  All good.  Never better.”

“I think you’ve maybe been better,” Hunk disagreed gently.  He watched Keith with an eagle eye as the man took a few shaky steps into the apartment.

“I got him,” Lance said, wrapping an arm around his boyfriend.  “We’ll be good.  Thanks, buddy.”

“Okay,” Hunk said.  “Follow Pidge’s lead and drink some water before you go to bed.  I’ll talk to you guys tomorrow.”

The apartment’s residents (and Keith) bid Hunk goodbye and Lance locked the door after him.  Pidge came out of the kitchen with two glasses of water.  “Drink up, boys.”

They obeyed, standing in the hallway to drink their water and sober up slightly under Pidge’s supervision.  When they’d finished, she took the glasses back to the kitchen and bid them goodnight.  Lance led Keith to his bedroom and helped him strip out of his jeans.  “Jeez, babe, nice jockstrap,” Lance snorted.

“Pidge was trying to help me get in your pants tonight,” Keith said.  He looped two fingers around one of Lance’s front beltloops with the dexterity of a man who hadn’t helped to run up a triple digit bar tab in a few short hours.  “I told her I could get in them without her help.”

“Well you’re right,” Lance said, steering Keith toward the edge of the mattress and sitting him down.  “But she’s got pretty damn good taste.  I was like super turned on all night.”

“Knew it,” Keith whispered fervently, turning and laying down on his side.  Lance shucked off his own jeans and crawled in beside Keith, lying down to face him.  They stared at each other in the dark for a moment before Lance cracked a smile.

“Hi.”

“Hey,” Keith hummed sleepily, his eyes heavy.

A thousand thoughts flew through Lance’s brain, all wanting to come out at once.  He wanted to tell Keith exactly how he felt about him but wasn’t sure if he even knew what those feelings were.  He wanted to tell Keith how glad he was to know him – to be with him – but all of it felt wrong in that moment.

“I can’t believe I did karaoke for you,” Keith said, breaking Lance out of his thoughts.

"For me?  Keith, that performance was a gift to the world, Lance snickered, tracing his fingers along the collar of Keith’s shirt.

"No, it was for you," Keith said.  "Wouldn't have done it if you weren't there."

"Wow, I'm flattered," Lance said, and then hesitated, unsure if he should confess his prior knowledge of Keith’s vocal talents.  Before he could decide, Keith spoke.

“It’s still kind of weird for me,” Keith said quietly.  “Singing in public.”

“Why’s that?” Lance asked innocently.  Keith went silent for so long that Lance wasn’t sure if he’d fallen asleep.  “Babe?”

“My dad was a musician,” Keith said, his voice edged with some emotion Lance couldn’t quite place.  “You knew that.  Obviously.”

“Yeah, he was great,” Lance agreed.

Keith nodded in the dark, the pale yellow of the streetlamp outside filtering through the curtains framing his face ever so gently.  “When I was a kid, I could always tell where he was because I’d just follow the sound of music.  He taught me literally everything, but music always felt like an extra special thing -- like the one thing he really, truly loved to do and that made him happy all the time.  The only thing I ever wanted to do with my life was make him proud, and so I made music with him, but…”

“But?” Lance prompted softly.

“I left,” Keith said flatly.  “I dropped my whole life and ran away from home like some kid convinced he was gonna join the circus.”

“I thought you dropped out because your mom was pressuring you to change your degree,” Lance said.

Keith shook his head.  “No.  It wasn’t my mom.  I know everyone thinks it was her, but it wasn’t.  My dad and I had a fight,” Keith confessed.  “He had pulled some strings; arranged for me to record at his old record label.  For a minute he sounded just like my mom - saying they knew what was best for my life and how I should live it - and I know he never meant to do that or sound like her, but I panicked and I got out of there as fast as I could.  I didn’t mean to cut him out,” Keith said, his voice cracking with emotion.  “I always meant to come back, but then he was gone and I never even got to say goodbye.”

“Oh, Keith,” Lance said, his voice gentle and quiet, his heart shattering as he tightened his hold on his boyfriend. 

“I haven’t sang in public since I left,” Keith continued.  “I miss being comfortable enough to sing around people.”

Lance couldn’t find words to respond to Keith’s confession.  Suddenly, every time he’d listened to Keith sing through the apartment wall felt like an incredible intrusion of privacy.  He wanted to confess -- to apologize profusely for stealing any precious private part of Keith’s life -- but he couldn’t seem form the words. 

Before Lance could come up with a suitable response, Keith swallowed thickly and rolled halfway over to bury his face in Lance’s chest.  “I’ve never told anyone that,” Keith said, his breath warm against Lance’s sternum.  “Not even Shiro.”

“Why me?” Lance breathed before he could stop himself.  “Why are you telling me?”

“Because I wanted to,” Keith said after a moment.  “Because I trust you.”

Lance pressed a kiss to the top of Keith’s head, his throat too thick with emotion to even consider responding.  They stayed there, content to breathe in the other’s warm presence in reverent silence until they gradually drifted to sleep.

Chapter Text

Consciousness rewarded Keith with the gift of a bitching hangover and an intact but out of focus memory of the night before.  Keith groaned at the sunlight filtering through the curtains behind him and rolled to bury his face in the nearest soft surface.

The surface laughed.  A familiar, warm, inviting laugh that Keith would have cherished at any other moment.  Not at this one, though.  This moment was for continuing to sleep until the migraine thumping at the inside of his skull went away.  “Good morning, Cherry Bomb.”

“No.  It’s not.”

Lance chuckled again, leaning in close to nuzzle against Keith’s ear.  “So tequila really is your kryptonite, huh?”

“I tried to tell you.  I’m just weak.”

“We all have our weaknesses, babe.” Lance sat up, leaving Keith buried in the pillows.  “You gonna go back to sleep?”

“Yeah.”

“I’ll leave your breakfast in the microwave so you can reheat it when you’re ready,” Lance offered, smoothing Keith’s hair down with a gentle hand.

“Where are you going?”

“I’ve got a meeting,” Lance said.  “Today was the only day that worked for everyone.  I’ll be back by eleven.  Pidge is still here if you need her.”

Keith hummed in acknowledgement as the bed shifted and Lance left the room.  He pulled the blanket up over his head and went back to sleep.

 


 

Lance’s meeting was not a long one, but it was a productive one.  Once they’d finished the business at hand, most of the attendees filed out of the conference room and mingled around the lobby, nursing the coffee and snacks Allura had provided.  Shiro looked about twice as dead inside as he usually did, which amused Lance greatly.  “Have a bit too much fun last night, old man?” Lance asked.

“How are you not hungover?” Shiro mumbled around the lip of his coffee cup.  “You drank twice as much as I did.  And I only drank beer.”

“Lady Fortune smiled on her favorite son this morning,” Lance said, grinning widely.  “Also I heaved like an hour after I tried to go to bed, so that sped up the sobering process a little.”

Shiro tilted his head in concession and took another drink of his coffee.

“Ahh, there are two of my favorite young men!” Coran exclaimed, patting Lance’s shoulder with a firm hand.  “How goes it? I heard you all had quite a rip-roaring night on the town last night!”

Lance chuckled, taking a sip of his coffee.  “Yeah, it was really fun.”

“It was fun,” Shiro agreed.  “But also a rude awakening to the fact that I’m officially too old to binge drink anymore.”

“We all hit that point, lad,” Coran said with a chuckle.  “The best thing to do is know you can still have fun without the liquid courage.”

“Yeah, Keith claimed he’s swearing off tequila,” Lance said.

“He says that every time,” Shiro said.  “Yet it remains his favorite drink.”

“Speaking of Keith,” Coran said, turning to Lance with a waggle of his eyebrows.  “How’s life with your beau?  You sure did manage to snag a flighty one.”

“Keith’s good,” Lance said, smiling warmly.  “He was sleeping when I left.  We’re doing good, though.  He’s really a great guy.”

“That he is!” Coran agreed.  “That reminds me, I should stop in and see him at the station.  Axca is coming back to work next week.  She sent me the baby pictures! Her little tyke looks just like his mom!”

“Remind me who that is again?” Shiro asked.

“The DJ Keith was filling in for,” Coran said.  “I had to beg him for the favor, honestly.  Swore up and down it wouldn’t be a day over twelve weeks.  Axca’s such a lovely girl, but truth be told, there’s no one I trust with my station more than Keith.  The boy practically grew up sorting records on my watch, you know—”

Coran was still rambling, but Lance was suddenly a hundred miles away.  He’d all but forgotten the reason why Keith had come to town in the first place.  He was in Arus as a favor.  Lance’s brain helpfully supplied a snippet from their third date, when a sleep-deprived Keith had declared, “I’m not very good at permanent.”

It had filled Lance’s stomach with unease then, and it grew into full-fledged dread now as Lance entertained the very real possibility that Keith was going to leave Arus – going to leave Lance.  He might have only known Keith for twelve weeks (was it really only twelve weeks? It felt like a lifetime) but if Lance was really, truly honest with himself… he was in love.  He’d been trying not to think about it like that – trying not to use that word – but Allura had spoken it out loud last night and broken the dam of Lance’s emotions.  He loved Keith.  He was in love with Keith.  And he had absolutely no idea if Keith felt the same way.

“—need to get back there again,” Coran was saying, as Lance tried his best to tune back into the conversation and stave off churning feeling in his stomach.  “Such a beautiful country, really.”

“I’m sure,” Lance said, nodding as if he had any idea which country Coran was talking about.  How much conversation had he missed?  Shiro was eyeing him with a look that indicated he might have noticed Lance’s sudden change of demeanor.

“You look a bit sick, my boy,” Coran said, tipping his head to one side in concern.  “Maybe last night’s catching up with you, eh?”

“Could be,” Lance said, forcing a chuckle.

“Well, go on, then,” Coran said, his mustache twitching to the left as it did when he was trying not to laugh.  “Go back home to your beau and see if you can’t catch up on some beauty rest.  I’ve got to see if I can steal a moment of time from our dear madame director.”

Lance looked down as Coran excused himself to go find Allura, wondering if anyone else could hear his heart pounding against the back of his chest.  He drained the rest of his coffee in one go.

“Lance, you okay?” Shiro asked, his brows furrowed in concern.

“Yeah, great, never better,” Lance said, tossing his coffee cup toward the nearest trash can.  “It’s not like I was just suddenly and violently reminded how flighty my boyfriend is and how he only came back to town as a temporary favor that is almost over.  Nope, nothing like that.”

“Lance,” Shiro began, a concerned crease between his eyebrows.

Lance lifted a hand before Shiro could continue.  “Please don’t tell me that I’m jumping to conclusions because I know I am but I just need like a minute to process this.”

“Okay,” Shiro said, nodding slowly.  “I just think you should talk to Keith before you panic.”

“I’m not panicking,” Lance snapped, because he was panicking and his throat was growing thick and he really was not about to start crying in front of Shiro.  “I just need a minute, okay?”

Lance was already halfway down the corridor toward the gym before Shiro could respond.

 


 

To: Lance

(11:39 am)
<< did your meeting run long?

(12:27 pm)
<< pidge and i are going to get lunch if you want to come

(2:12 pm)
<< not to be that guy, but I’m kind of worried about you
<< did something happen?

 

Keith tossed his phone down and crossed his arms over his chest.  “He’s not answering any of my messages,” Keith said.

“I’m sure he’s fine,” Pidge said, putting her feet up on the coffee table.  “I’ll bet you anything he made plans and then forgot his phone at the center or something.”

“He said he’d be home by eleven.”

“I’m trying not to let you worry about this, Keith,” Pidge said, slouching low on the sofa.  “Would you rather I told you to start calling the hospital and the county jail?”

“Kind of?”

Pidge held out her phone to Keith in offering.

“I’m not actually gonna,” Keith said, reaching to grab his own phone from where he’d thrown it.  He huffed in annoyance when he saw there were no new notifications.

“Fine, then let’s get out of here,” Pidge said, pushing herself off the sofa and grabbing Keith by both wrists.  “We’re going to Matt’s.”

“What for?”

“My dog is there and Matt just texted that he’s grilling steaks tonight.  It is a combo guaranteed to distract you from whatever it is you think your boyfriend is doing without you.  I never took you for the clingy type and it’s kind of freaking me out.”

“Please stop calling me clingy.”

“Give me your phone.”

“Why?”

“So you stop looking at it every three seconds,” Pidge said.  “I’ll tell you if Lance texts, I promise.”

Keith reluctantly handed over his phone.  Pidge took it, tucking it into the pocket of her shorts, then resumed her efforts to pull Keith up off of the sofa.  “You’re still coming with me, though.”

“For Matt’s cooking?”

“For Matt’s grilling,” Pidge corrected.  “Somehow the man has managed to almost master the art of cooking over an open fire.  So let’s go, you’re my ride.”

“I didn’t bring my second helmet,” Keith said, finally allowing Pidge to pull him to his feet.

“You bought a second helmet?”

“Yeah.”

“When?”

“Last week.”

Pidge crossed her arms, studying Keith with a strange expression.  “For Lance?”

“For passengers.”

“But specifically for Lance.”

Keith shrugged.  “I guess.”

Pidge’s strange expression melted into something akin to realization.  “You’re actually really serious about him, aren’t you?”

“He’s my boyfriend.”

“No, but you’re like… in love with him.  Aren’t you?”

“I genuinely don’t know how to answer that.”

Pidge narrowed her eyes.  “You don’t have to.  But I know.”

“How can you know if I don’t even know?”

“I’m smarter than you are.”

Keith shoved at Pidge’s arm as they headed out the door.

 


 

Pidge let out a blood-curdling shriek as she ripped the motorcycle helmet off her head and sprinted across the front lawn, collapsing on the grass just before colliding with Gunther, who corrected course in a blink to leap into Pidge’s outstretched arms.  The dog’s ass waved wildly back and forth as Pidge chanted, “Who’s a good boy?”  

Matt, standing on the porch in front of the lit barbeque, rolled his eyes.  “He never gets that excited when I come home.”

“It’s because he likes me more than you, Matty,” Pidge yelled, still showering her childhood dog in affection.

“Yeah, yeah, so you’ve told me,” Matt said, waving off the comment good-naturedly.  He lifted a hand in greeting as his neighbor followed across the lawn at a more reasonable pace.  “Hey Keith!”

“Hey,” Keith responded, skirting around Pidge and Gunther at a good distance.  “Smells great.”

“Hell yeah it does,” Matt said.  “It’ll be a few.  There’s beer in the cooler on the porch, you can help yourself.  Shiro should be home soon with Lu and Coran.”

“You need anything?” Keith asked as he opened the top of the cooler and pulled out a bottle of cold beer.  He used the bottle opener from his keyring to crack it open.

“You can grab me another beer, but other than that, I’m good,” Matt said with a grin.  Keith chuckled and grabbed a second beer out of the cooler before closing it up.  He handed it to Matt and opened it for him before taking a seat on the porch steps a few paces away.

“Nice shirt.”

“Thank you!” Matt exclaimed, plucking at the gauzy green fabric of the shirt he was wearing.  “It’s breezy.”

“Don’t lie to that Kermit the Frog ass lookin’ mother fucker, Keith,” Pidge said, making a beeline for the cooler.  “His shirt’s ugly and he needs to donate it back to the Goodwill that it came from.”

“Why are you mean?” Matt asked, squinting at his sister.

Pidge shrugged, cracking the top off her beer against the porch railing.  “I call it like I see it.”

“Keith calls it like he sees it, too, and yet he refrains from outright offending people.”

“Are we talking about the same Keith?” Pidge asked skeptically, settling onto the porch step beside Keith and letting Gunther settle on the sidewalk between her legs, his snout settled comfortably on her knee.

“I have to go with Pidge on that one,” Keith said, shrugging a shoulder.  “I’m not exactly known for my tact.”

“Still better than Pidge,” Matt said.

“I mean honestly, you’re right,” Pidge shrugged.  She took a swig of her drink and watched as Shiro’s sedan pulled into the driveway, followed closely by Coran’s vintage station wagon.  Gunther lifted his head and let out a welcoming bark as their company made their way close, not moving from his spot beside Pidge.

“Hey everyone,” Matt called, waving his tongs in the air.  “Five minutes to food!”

“Let’s get everything set, then,” Shiro said.  “Allura, potato salad and condiments in the fridge; Pidge, tableware in the kitchen; Coran, buns and chips in the backseat of my car; Keith, would you mind helping me in the garage?”

The group fanned out, accepting their assigned asks easily.  Keith followed his brother toward the garage and helped haul out a few lawn chairs in addition to the big folding table Shiro unearthed from the corner.  They set the table up first so Pidge and Allura could finish their tasks, then arranged the lawn chairs in a circle.

By the time Keith and Shiro had finished, the food was ready, and they gathered around to fill their plates before taking their seats.  Gunther found his way back to lay well-behaved at Pidge’s feet. 

“Keith my boy!” Coran exclaimed, settling into a chair across from Keith.  “Just the man I needed to speak to.  Where’s your beau?”

Keith’s expression soured, and Pidge leaned it.  “Lance forgot to tell Keith when he made whatever other plans he had for today, so Keith’s a little miffed.”

“Oh!” Coran exclaimed.  “Sorry lad.”

Keith shook his head.  “It’s fine.  What did you need to talk to me about?”

“I was working on the schedule today, and I needed to talk to you.  Axca’s coming back next week, so I’ve got to get all my ducks in a row, so to speak.”

“I thought Axca was going to be out twelve weeks?” Keith asked, his brow furrowing.

“She was,” Coran chuckled.  “Times flies, eh?  Oh cripes, I’ve forgotten the ketchup.  Hold that thought, lad.”

“Jesus,” Keith said in surprise, mentally counting back the weeks since he’d arrived back in Arus.  It added up, it just didn’t seem real.  It also reminded him that with Axca back, he was out of a job.  That was… unfortunate.

“Hey guys,” Shiro said, taking a seat between Pidge and Keith.  “Where’s Lance?”

“Dunno,” Pidge said.  “Keith’s big worried about it.”

“I am not!” Keith snapped.

“He is.”

“You haven’t heard from him?” Shiro asked, his expression tightening in concern.

Keith shook his head.  “Not since he left for the meeting this morning.”

Shiro traded glances with Allura, who seemed equally as concerned.  Keith frowned at the exchange.  “Do you guys know something I don’t?”

“I wouldn’t advise crowding him,” Allura said.  “But Shiro said he was pretty upset when he left the meeting this morning.”

“Did something happen?”

“I think it’s better if I let him tell you what’s wrong,” Shiro said.  He put a reassuring hand on Keith’s shoulder.  “He’ll turn up, Keith.  I’m sure he just needed to be alone with his thoughts for a while.”

Keith glanced skeptically between his brother and Allura.  “That’s not comforting.”

“I’m sorry Keith.”

Keith sighed, settling down further in his chair.

“Yo,” Pidge said, pointing to the street.  Keith turned to see a familiar Rover turning into his driveway.  “Speak of the devil and he will appear.”

Keith was already on his feet. 

Chapter Text

Lance let out a slow exhale as he shifted his rover into park in Keith’s driveway.  He could see the Holts and their company seated in the front lawn, Keith among them.  Lance couldn’t help the way his chest grew light at the sight of Keith, despite the way he’d spent most of his day.  He wasn’t sure he was ready to talk to Keith about his feelings but he also felt way worse about letting Keith dangle as long as he had.  That, and Sofia had threatened Lance with everything in the book if he tried to skip out on this conversation.

So he was going to talk to Keith and even though he’d had all day and the drive home from Sofia’s to decide what to say, he had no idea what was about to come out of his mouth.

Lance stepped out of his car just as Keith was crossing the lawn toward him.  Keith looked apprehensive, and given that he’d been with Shiro, Allura, and Coran all just moments ago, Lance was sure he had at least some idea of the conversation he was walking into.

Keith stopped at the edge of the driveway like he was approaching a wild animal.  “Hey.  You okay?”

Lance shrugged, shutting his car door and stuffing his hands deep into his jacket pocket, feeling his knuckle dig into the hole that was forming in the seam due to this very habit.   “Can we go inside and talk?”

Keith nodded, taking a few steps in that direction before he even fully turned to walk inside.  Lance followed quietly, trying to ignore the way he could feel Pidge’s stare burning into him from across the lawn.  Keith didn’t turn around until he was in the living room, giving Lance a wide berth just in case.  Lance took a seat in one of the dining room chairs, staring at his hands between his knees.

“I need to know what’s going to happen,” Lance said abruptly, not looking up from his hands.  “I need to know where our relationship is going.”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

Lance slid his palms down the rough fabric of his jeans, finally glancing up at Keith.  “If this is short term, I need to know now.”

“Where is this coming from?” Keith asked, taking a hesitant step closer.  “What are you talking about?”

Lance let out a short, frustrated noise, tipping his head back to stare at the ceiling.  “Are you leaving?”

“This is my house?”

“Are you leaving Arus?” Lance shouted.  Keith took a startled step back, looking as if he’d been shocked.  “It’s been twelve weeks, and you don’t have any more obligation to stay, so are you leaving?”

Keith floundered for a moment, mouth opening and closing a few times as he tried to formulate a good response, but he just didn't know.  He hadn’t thought about what happened after his temp job was up.  He hadn’t planned on staying any longer than he was needed.

He hadn’t planned on Lance.

Lance was… very probably the best thing that had ever happened to Keith, but his happiness was shuttered by the fear that it was too good to last.  Keith, in his experience, wasn’t allowed happy things.  Something inevitably would go wrong.  Lance would find Keith too clingy or too distant.  Maybe Lance’s family would end up hating Keith.  Maybe they’d have a fight, or maybe they’d date for a while before realizing it just wasn’t working out – the number of scenarios Keith’s brain was currently supplying was too numerous to keep up with.  Lance was miles out of his league, and Keith knew himself too well to delude himself otherwise.

“I don’t… I don’t know.”

“You were never planning to stay.”  Whether Lance intended for the words to sound as accusatory as they did, neither man could tell.  It didn’t matter anyway – it was true.  “This was always temporary.”

“Well… yeah.  You knew that.  Why are you freaking out about this?”

“Why am I freaking out?” Lance repeated incredulously.  “Keith.  For real?”

“I thought we were, you know,” Keith waved his hand noncommittally between himself and Lance.  “I thought this was going good.”

“Well, I thought so too,” Lance answered, his voice hard.  “But then I started thinking about how you’ve had years to perfect the art of not getting attached to people you always planned on leaving, so who am I to think I’m any different?”

Keith blinked, the words stinging like a deep cut.  “Lance.”

“Tell me I’m wrong,” Lance challenged, his eyes narrow.

“You know the reasons why I left in the first place,” Keith bit back.  “I told you last night.  You think that kind of trust comes easily for me?”

Lance threw his hands in the air.  “That’s my fucking point, Keith.  This isn’t easy for me either.  I don’t exactly have a great track record with relationships, so forgive me for wanting to spare my own feelings if the guy I’ve spent three months getting to really like decides to up and leave without a word of warning.”

“I wouldn’t do that,” Keith said.

“How do I know that?” Lance shouted.  “How do I know you won’t hit that point again where you get too scared too fast and just bolt?”

This was it.  This was the moment Keith had been so terrified of.  The moment when he couldn’t think fast enough to stop his whole world from crumbling in front of him.  As he stood there letting Lance use Keith’s own vulnerable confessions against him, he wanted so badly to lash back at Lance – to return the hard and fast volley of cruel words until Lance had no more doubt in his mind that he should never for a minute have trusted Keith Kogane – but the emotions welling in his chest tied a knot in his throat.

“This is why I didn’t want to fix the shower.”

Lance’s harsh expression faltered for a moment, fumbling into confusion.  “What?”

“This, Lance.  This is what I was afraid of.”

“What does that mean?”

“I put off fixing the shower because I was afraid of putting down roots.”

Lance looked more lost than ever.  “What?”

Keith swallowed hard, crossing his arms over his chest.  “You’re right.  When I came back to Arus, I had absolutely no intention of staying.”  Lance winced immediately, but Keith pressed on.  “I was supposed to go through my dad’s stuff, get the house ready to sell, and leave when Acxa came back.  End of story.  I had almost convinced myself that I didn’t miss this place, but then I was back and I knew exactly how much it meant to me.  How much it still means to me. 

“So I didn’t want to let myself get comfortable.  I didn’t unpack because I wanted this to be another stop along the road.  I spent every spare moment working on Cherry Bomb because I told myself I wouldn’t have the chance soon.  I showered at Takashi’s because it’s inconvenient and because if I fixed the shower in my own goddamn house, I’d have one less excuse to leave at the end of those twelve weeks.  Staying was not an option.”

Lance stared at Keith, expression flickering through so many emotions it was nearly unreadable.  “Was?”

“Pidge and Shiro were one thing,” Keith said.  “They’d ask me to stay and I probably could have said no.  But then I met you.  And I’ve never done the whole ‘boyfriend’ thing before and I know that I’m probably not good at it and that I’m definitely going to fuck it up somehow, but I’m trying not to because the more I learn about you the more I want to learn about you.  The more I think that if you were the one who asked me to stay, I’d never step foot outside of Arus again.  And that is terrifying to me, Lance, because I’ve never wanted something like that before.  I’ve never wanted anything that permanent before.”

Keith’s hands were visibly shaking as he pulled one of the dining chairs closer and sank down into it.  “I want to stay so badly, Lance,” Keith said, his voice soft and wavering ever so slightly.  “But I am so afraid of fucking this up.”

Lance’s chest immediately flooded with regret for approaching this topic with such aggression.  After working himself up for hours, he’d been so sure of the outcome.  He’d brought confrontation to the table to try and shield himself from further heartache, only to find he’d been all wrong.  He stood up, his hands automatically twitching forward to find Keith, comfort Keith, touch Keith, but he stayed rooted to the ground.

Keith’s chest rose as he drew in a deep breath in an effort to steady himself.  “If you don’t trust me, I understand,” Keith continued.  “There are a lot of ways this could go wrong, and if you’d prefer to spare yourself the future pain, I would not blame you for a second.”

“Hey,” Lance said softly, all traces of anger gone.  He sank to his knees in front of Keith’s chair and rested a careful hand on top of Keith’s as it rested on his knee.  Keith did not hesitate to twist it so he could twine his fingers with Lance’s.  “I’m sorry I got so upset.”

Keith shook his head immediately, opening his mouth to protest, but Lance didn’t give him the chance.  “Really.  I shouldn’t have done that.  I shouldn’t have come in here trying to fight with you.  I should have texted you back this morning.  I should have listened to Shiro when he told me to talk to you before I had a panic attack.”

“You had a panic attack?”

“Almost,” Lance said, looking down at Keith’s hand in his.  “I drove to Sofi’s instead.  Hard to have a panic attack when there’s a toddler asking ‘why’ every three seconds.”

“I’m glad you’re okay,” Keith said softly.  His thumb rubbed gently over the side of Lance’s hand.  His forehead was still creased in worry.  “I don’t want you to think I’d just leave without talking to you about it.”

“I don’t,” Lance said.  “If you say you won’t, then I trust you.”

“I think there’s a few things that have to be sorted out before we can really resolve this,” Keith said.

Lance nodded.  “Agreed.”

“Should we talk about this again in a week?  Like, sit down after we’ve had some time to formulate actual thoughts on the matter and really talk about it?”

“Yeah, I think that’s a good idea.  For now, we’ll just take some time to breathe.”  An unbidden phrase found itself on the tip of Lance’s tongue, and he could barely keep it from reaching his lips.  Not the time, Lance told himself.  Instead, Lance brought their entwined fingers up so he could brush his lips over Keith’s knuckles.  “We’ll revisit this next weekend.”

“Should we go back outside?”

“Are you okay?”

Lance nodded.  “If you are.”

 


 

Outside, everyone still gathered in Matt’s front lawn was visibly concerned and trying not to look like they were as Keith and Lance rejoined them.  Shiro caught Keith’s eye, silently asking if everything was okay.  Keith nodded almost imperceptibly.  Shiro smiled.  “I’ll grab you a chair if you’re staying, Lance,” Shiro offered.

“Yeah, thanks Shiro.”

Shiro headed for the garage as Matt stood to refill his plate.  “Hungry Lance? There’s plenty of food.”

“I put another plate over yours to keep the bugs away, Keith,” Coran noted, gesturing toward the seat where Keith had been sitting before Lance had arrived.

“Thanks Coran,” Keith said, his gaze trailing toward where Lance was filling a plate of his own.  Pidge leaned over to flick him on the arm.

“You okay?” Pidge asked softly.

“Yeah.”

Shiro returned with a chair for Lance, and with a bit of effort, the uncomfortable atmosphere dissolved into their usual, loud chatter.  Keith’s hand found Lance’s somewhere between their lawn chairs, and they stayed with their fingers interlocked for most of the evening.

Chapter Text

Sunday morning, Lance woke to his phone shaking itself off his nightstand.  He barely cracked his eyes open enough to grab at the offending object and swipe to answer it.  “Hello?”

“Sorry to wake you, hermanito, but this is an emergency.”

Lance sat bolt upright in bed.  “What’s wrong?”

Sofia’s voice was laced with worry from the other end of the line.  “Remember Nadia was sick when you were over yesterday?”

“Yeah. She okay?”

“Well, her temperature spiked and she can’t catch her breath.  I’m taking her to the hospital.  One of the neighbors is watching Marco, but would you mind going over and relieving her? Marco doesn’t do well waking up to people he isn’t familiar with.”

“Of course,” Lance said, already swinging himself out of bed and pulling on yesterday’s pants.  “I’m on my way.  Keep me posted, alright?”

“I will,” Sofia said. 

Lance was out the door without a second thought, disregarding the posted speed limits between him and his nephew.  The neighbor saw him coming and met him at the door with a sympathetic smile.  Marco was clinging to her leg, but the moment he saw Lance, he squirmed and reached out for his uncle.  Lance scooped him willingly into his arms.  “Hey papi, are you tired?”

Marco shook his head, burrowing his face into Lance’s neck and clinging tightly to Lance’s t-shirt with his tiny hands.  “Where’s Mama?”

“Your mama’s not feeling very good today, papi,” Lance said gently, rubbing comforting circles into Marco’s back.  “But good news: you get to hang out with me today!”  Lance turned his attention to the neighbor and thanked her for watching Marco.  He tried to give her something for her trouble, but she refused the money with a shake of her head.

“It’s no problem at all,” she told Lance.  “That sweet boy is never any trouble.”

Lance thanked her again as she headed back to her own house.  As the neighbor disappeared, Lance bounced Marco in his arms.  “You hungry, buddy?”

“Pop Tart, please.”

“You know your Mami doesn’t let you have Pop Tarts, buddy.”

Marco gave Lance a look that was some wholly disarming combination of “My Mami isn’t here” and “Don’t you love me, Tio?” and Lance simply could not find it in his heart to argue with the boy.

“All right, let’s go get Pop Tarts.”

 


 

Since they had to leave the house anyway (because Sofia really was a stickler about the no-Pop-Tarts rule), Lance decided to just take Marco back to his own apartment instead of hanging out at his sister’s house.  He knew Nadia had pretty much imposed her own self-quarantine when she’d started feeling sick, but he figured it was better safe than sorry.  Sofi didn’t need a sick baby on her hands on top of whatever was wrong with Nadia.  He let Marco pick out his box of Pop Tarts and what kind of juice he wanted, and headed back to the apartment.

Lance and Marco headed up the stairs and found Pidge and Keith chatting on the threshold of the apartment.  The sight of Keith’s wet, brushed back hair sent a sharp pang through Lance’s chest and just knew that he’d showered at Shiro’s this morning after work.  It felt like a step backwards in light of what Keith had said last night.

“Keef!” Marco shrieked, increasing his pace up the stairs as best he could without falling completely flat on his face.  “Tio Keef!”

Keith looked a bit shocked at Marco’s nickname for him, glancing quickly between the toddler and Lance for a reaction.  Marco reached the top of the stairs and ran toward Keith’s legs and full speed, wrapping his arms tightly around him.  “Pop Tarts!”

“You… had Pop Tarts for breakfast?” Keith tried to extrapolate.  Marco nodded earnestly, pointing to Lance, holding his grocery bag of Pop Tarts and juice.

“Yep, and we’re not gonna tell your moms, remember buddy?”

Marco nodded, smiling happily.  “More Pop Tarts, please?”

“Let’s go inside first, okay papi?”

“Hey Marco!” Pidge greeted, reaching out to high five the little boy.  Marco eagerly slapped her hand, not releasing the death grip on Keith’s jeans that he had in his other hand.  Keith looked a little lost for what to do with that.

“Yo papi, are you gonna let go of Keith?” Lance asked, barely containing his laughter.

Marco looked offended at the idea.  “No.”

“Why not?”

“We have Pop Tarts.”

“Did you ask Keith if he wants to have Pop Tarts with you?”

Marco frowned, looking pensive for a moment before looking up at Keith.  “Pop Tarts?”

“…Okay.”

Marco’s expression immediately melted into a grin.  He glanced over at Pidge.  “Pidge wan’ Pop Tarts?”

“Sure dude.”

Marco turned back to Lance with a satisfied expression.  “Everybody wan’ Pop tarts, Tio.”

“All right, boss man,” Lance chuckled.  “Let’s go have some pop tarts.”

 

Marco insisted on sitting in Keith’s lap, and Lance was making his best effort not to keel over at the sight of his favorite nephew sitting comfortably in the dip of his boyfriend’s crossed legs, each with their own frosted cherry Pop Tart in hand.  He managed to snap a picture while Keith wasn’t paying attention, though Marco caught on and grinned cheesily around his Pop Tart.  Lance immediately made it his phone wallpaper.  They hung out in the living room for a few hours, Lance pulling out the stash of toys he kept in his closet just for when his nieces and nephews came over to keep Marco entertained.  As Pidge taught Marco how to do something morally questionable to the Nerf darts before loading them into the shooter, Lance took a moment to take the empty Pop Tart wrappers to the kitchen and dispose of them.

“Hey.”

Lance glanced up, not having heard Keith follow him to the kitchen but not surprised by his presence.  “Sup?”

“I didn’t know you had Marco today,” Keith said, his voice low enough not to carry to the living room.

“Last minute thing,” Lance said, putting the Pop Tarts that they hadn’t devoured into the pantry near the cereal.  “Sofi had to take Nadia to the hospital and that’s obviously a kind of stressful place without a baby on top of it.”

“Is Nadia okay?”

Lance shrugged.  “Sofi said they’re thinking pneumonia, but they want to keep an eye on her for a little bit before they decide if it’s bad enough to stay overnight.”

Keith nodded, staring vacantly at one of the cabinets with a slight furrow between his brows.  Lance tipped his own head to one side.  “Are you okay?”

Keith blinked, pulling his gaze back to Lance.  “Yeah, fine.”

“You don’t seem particularly fine.”

“Maybe I’m just out of it because I haven’t slept yet,” Keith said.

“You should go nap,” Lance said, letting his voice soften a bit.  “Those evening shifts catch up with you sooner or later, you know.”

“Unfortunately,” Keith agreed.  “I stopped by because I wanted to see you though.”

Lance cocked a hip to rest against the counter.  “Here I am, in the flesh.”

Keith took a step closer, mirroring Lance’s posture.  “I don’t want things to be weird because of last night.”

“They’re gonna be a little weird until we work it all out.”

“I know that, but…” The furrow between Keith’s brows was back, and Lance was struck by the urge to kiss it away.  Despite the hurricane of emotions he’d gone through in the last twenty-four hours regarding Keith Kogane, Lance still wanted nothing more than to be close to him.  “I know,” Keith repeated lamely.  “Would you rather we keep our distance until we figure all this shit out?”

Lance bit his lower lip, taking a moment to run a few potential scenarios.  On the one hand, Lance wanted to grab Keith right now and kiss him breathless – plead into Keith’s mouth for him to stay here with Lance as long as he was willing to.  He wanted to let Keith know that if it was up to Lance, they wouldn’t even be taking this week to think about their relationship.  Lance knew what he wanted, and it was standing here in his kitchen in his stocking feet while his damp hair dripped dark spots into an already dark gray t-shirt.  He wanted to tell Keith that he was in love with him and keeping his distance was the last thing on Lance’s mind.

But.

Lance absolutely could not bring himself to play his hand.  Whether for fear of being somehow manipulative or just not being reciprocated in his blossoming feelings, the words stuck in Lance’s throat even as they tried to come out.  The dark, shadowy part of Lance’s psyche that told him he wasn’t good enough for this gorgeous, wonderful, amazing man held him back – whispered that Keith was already taking a step back and that Lance needed to follow suit.  If Keith was showering at his brother’s, it meant he was still trying to stay unattached to Arus.  If Keith needed this week to decide whether or not to stay, Lance needed to respect that and give him his time to think.  Lance needed the time to brace himself for the worst.

“Maybe,” Lance said, his gaze falling to the countertop he was leaning against.  “That was kind of the whole idea in taking the week to think about this, wasn’t it?”  Lance brought his gaze up just enough to peer at Keith through his lashes.  Keith wasn’t looking at him, either.

“I guess so.”

“So.”

Keith straightened, lifting his chin in a way that made some part of Lance’s heart sink for a reason he couldn’t quite put a finger on.  “Okay.  I’m gonna head home and get some sleep.”

Lance nodded, keeping his eyes on Keith’s expression, hoping he could glean some kind of insight as to which way Keith might be leaning.  He really didn’t want to take the showering thing as an indication of bad news, but he couldn’t see anything in Keith’s expression to tell him otherwise.  Maybe it’s too soon, Lance thought.  Or maybe you just don’t know him that well.

Keith turned and headed into the living room.  Lance took a few steps toward the doorway, just far enough to peer around the corner and see Keith crouching down to say goodbye to Marco.  Marco wrapped his chubby arms around Keith’s neck in a hug and asked Keith if he would come back for more Pop Tarts later.  Keith smiled and said they would have to wait and see about that.

As the door closed behind Keith, there was a moment of quiet as Lance stared after him, thinking about how they’d gone from sheer bliss to uncomfortably distant in twenty-four hours.

“You look like you think you’re never gonna see him again,” Pidge said, though there was a flat tone to her voice that hit a little closer to home than Lance cared for.  “If you want to talk to him, just go talk to him.”

“We agreed to talk about it this weekend,” Lance said.  “It’s not something that’s going to solve itself overnight.”

Pidge shrugged, handing Marco another handful of modified Nerf darts.  “Whatever, dude. Just know that if you knowingly pass up your own happiness just because you think you don’t deserve it, that I’m going to kick your ass.”

“Kick your ass,” Marco echoed, sending Pidge into a fit of laughter.

“Sofia’s going to kill you if he starts saying ‘ass’ now,” Lance said, biting back his own smile.

“Ass,” Marco repeated, devolving into his own fit of giggles since Pidge was doing it.  “Kick your ass.”

“You’ve soiled my sweet nephew, Pidgeon,” Lance said, but even he couldn’t hold back his laughter at Marco, now jumping up and down chanting “kick your ass” over and over.  He’d figure out a way to explain the whole ‘bad word’ thing to Marco later.  For now, Lance accepted the humorous moment for what it was – a distraction.

 


 

Keith did not go home right away.

He wound up at Hunk’s bakery, tucked away in a corner booth after ordering a decaf coffee from the high school kid at the counter.  He was fighting with his own brain, because that whole conversation with Lance did not go how he’d wanted it to.  “Stupid,” Keith muttered into his own coffee, glaring down at the steaming black liquid.

“That’s pretty harsh, man.  Did Plax make it wrong?”

Keith glanced up, a bit startled at the intrusion.  Hunk stood beside his booth in a stained apron, watching Keith with laughter in his expression.  “The coffee’s fine,” Keith said, slumping backwards in his seat.  “I’m the stupid one.”

“Still kinda harsh,” Hunk said, sliding into the booth across from Keith without waiting for an invitation.  It was his establishment, Keith supposed, and he didn’t mind the larger man’s presence anyway.  “You wanna talk about it?”

Keith shrugged.

“Unless you’d prefer to keep glaring daggers into your coffee.  I’ll tell you now though, if you trigger your secret heat ray vision while doing that, the coffee’s never gonna be cool enough to drink.”

Keith’s eyebrows twitched, almost laughing at the sentiment.  “Fair point.”

“Is it about Lance?”

“Is it that obvious?”

Hunk shrugged.  “It was a guess until you just confirmed it.  So what’s wrong?”

“We kind of… fought?  I don’t know if it was an actual fight or not.  He was mad, though.  He doesn’t trust that I’m not going to take off without warning.”

“Are you going to?”

“It is kind of my modus operandi,” Keith conceded.  “I wasn’t really thinking about it until he brought it up, though.”

“Why are you thinking about it now?”

Keith shrugged.

“Well, there’s got to be a reason.  If there wasn’t, you’d have told him there was nothing to worry about and that would have been the end of it, right?”

“I guess.”

“So why is it creating a rift?”

“I’ve never had a boyfriend before,” Keith said after a long pause.  “I’ve always kind of avoided it.”

“Any particular reason there?”

“Yeah, I have no idea what I’m doing and it fucking terrifies me,” Keith huffed, prompting a short chuckle from Hunk.  “What?” Keith asked, looking up skeptically at the man across from him.

“You make it sound like relationships aren’t inherently terrifying,” Hunk said.

“Well… no?” Keith asked.  “Everyone else makes it look easy.”

Hunk scoffed, leaning forward on his elbows.  “Nope.  No way.  Not even close.”

“…Really?”

“Can I let you in on a little secret, Keith?” Hunk asked.  Keith nodded eagerly.  Hunk glanced behind him before leaning in toward Keith conspiratorially.  “There’s no formula for dating,” he said.  “There’s no rulebook or guidelines that everyone else knows about except you.  All we have to go on is common sense and courtesy, and our feelings.”

“Sounds like a nightmare,” Keith said, his brows furrowing deeply as he took a drink of his coffee.

“Kind of,” Hunk agreed.  “But sometimes you find one that makes you more happy than you are terrified.  And those ones are the reason why we all keep putting ourselves through the hell of not knowing what the fuck we’re doing.”

Keith’s expression was painted in skepticism.  “How do you know it’s worth it?”

“You don’t,” Hunk said.  “I mean, there’s no way to know one hundred percent.  That’s where the trust kicks in.”

“If I don’t even trust myself, how can I expect him to trust me?”

Hunk smiled sympathetically.  “Fortunately, Keith, the people around us don’t see us in the same light as we see ourselves.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that you don’t trust yourself because you’ve had your whole life to form a very specific opinion of yourself,” Hunk said.  “But other people aren’t as harsh a critic as yourself.”

“I still don’t think he should trust me.”

“Lance has never been one to do what he’s told,” Hunk said.  “Sometimes it takes him a bit to read a person, but once he does, he’s a good judge of character.”

“I can tell,” Keith said quietly. 

“But I don’t think that’s the issue here,” Hunk said.  “You said you were terrified of being in a relationship.”

“I mean… yeah. But you said that's not unusual.”

“Is there something in particular you’re afraid of?”

“I don’t want to hurt him, Hunk,” Keith said, his voice soft because he didn’t trust it not to break.  “Lance is so… he’s such a good person.  He brings so much happiness and joy and he puts so much faith in everyone that it’s impossible not to smile around him.  He makes people feel like he really cares about them because he does.  I don’t understand how he can be that vulnerable all the time, but it makes me so scared that I’m going to fuck it up and hurt him beyond repair.”

Hunk twisted his mouth thoughtfully, his expression sympathetic.  “Can I be honest with you here, Keith?”

Keith nodded.

“You’re probably going to hurt him.”

Keith’s expression fell instantly, his worst fears verbalized by an outside source.  But Hunk didn’t let him spiral far before he was continuing.

“And he’s probably going to hurt you.  Relationships – worthwhile relationships – are not easy, and that fight that you had is not the last one, I promise you.  Not wanting to hurt him is a great stance to start from, but in the heat of an argument, sometimes people say things they don’t mean.  If and when that happens, you have to be willing to put in the effort to fix it if you step too far over the line, and trust that he’ll do the same thing.  You have to decide in the beginning that you’re not going to bail when it gets tough.”

Keith blew out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding and hunched his shoulders over his coffee cup.  “That’s a lot of trust.”

“It’s kind of a big thing for relationships.”

“I’m not very good at trust.”

“I know,” Hunk said lightly.  “But speaking from experience, it’s worth the risk.”

Chapter Text

“You’re a moron.”

Keith glanced toward Pidge, who was standing on Keith’s kitchen counter, inspecting the top of his cupboards with distain.  “You said that already.”

“I’m just reminding you.”

“Why?”

“You know why.”

“Not really?”

Pidge rolled her eyes, shutting one cabinet and opening the next.  “Yes you do.”

“Pidge, you’re not even being helpful, why are you here?”

“To tell you that you’re a moron.”

Keith sighed, opening a box from a stack in the corner.  “Then leave.”

“It’ll be a cold day in hell when you kick me out of your house, Keith Kogane,” Pidge said.  “I’m your best friend.”

“I’m considering opening up applications,” Keith said dryly, relidding the box and adding it to the growing stack beside the garage door.

“Bull.”

“Try me, Pidge.”

Pidge stuck her tongue out at Keith and sat down on the counter.  “What are you even doing?”

“I’m cleaning.”

“Why?”

“Because my dad died before he could do it himself.”

Pidge winced, wrapping her arms around one knee.  “You’ve had weeks to clean this place out.”

“And I’ve been doing this for weeks,” Keith said.  “These boxes are all going out to the garage.”

“What for?”

“Mostly Goodwill,” Keith said.  “I haven’t quite decided on the rest.  Maybe I should rent a storage unit.”

“Because you think you’re leaving,” Pidge said, one disdainful brown brow wedging its way up her forehead.

“Because I need to store things, Pidge.”

“Fine,” Pidge said, pushing herself off the counter.  “What can I do to help?”

Keith looked over his shoulder at her, gauging her seriousness.  “Really?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay, well.  Everything with an X on top is being picked up tomorrow morning,” Keith said.  “Everything else we can stack against the wall.”

“Why didn’t you ask Shiro to help you with the manual labor?”

“I didn’t even ask you.  You volunteered yourself after calling me a moron twice.”

“Whatever.”

Keith’s phone rang from its spot on the kitchen table.  Keith was halfway out the garage door with two boxes stacked in his arms.  “Grab that for me?” he requested before disappearing into the garage.

Pidge picked up the phone and answered it.  “Hi Keith’s mom.”

“Who is this?”

“Pidge.  Katie Holt.  Keith’s friend?”

“I recall.  Is Keith nearby, dear?”

“He’s in the garage.”

“He won’t answer my text messages about listing the house,” Emiko said.  “He refuses to give me a straight answer about what he’s going to do with it.”

“He’s just a moron,” Pidge said.  “He doesn’t want to list it.”

“Oh, I know that, darling. Did he say that?”

“No, but I know.”

“I suppose I’ll still have to wait to hear it from him.”

“He’s always the last one to figure out his own shit,” Pidge said.  “Do you want to talk to him?”

“Tell him to answer his mother when she texts him,” Emiko said.

“That I can definitely do.”

“You were always my favorite of Keith’s friends,” Emiko said, and Pidge grinned at the compliment.

“Not that he had many to choose from.”

Emiko hummed from the other end of the line.  “I’m headed into a meeting, Pidge.  Tell Keith I called.

“Bye Emiko.”

Keith returned from the garage as Pidge hung up the phone.  “Who was it?”

“Your mom,” Pidge said.  “I know you hate her but, like, if you text her back, she’d probably leave you alone.”

“She’s so impatient,” Keith said.  “It’s my house, I’ll list it when I want to.”

“You’re a moron,” Pidge said.  “Just tell her you want to keep it.”

“I don’t know that yet.”

Pidge’s head fell back, a loud, annoyed groan escaping her throat.  “Of course you know.”

“I don’t even have a job after this week,” Keith said.  “And honestly, do I even have a reason to keep this place besides the fact that it’s the safe option?”

“It’s your house, Keith.  Do you know how many people your age would kill for free real estate?”

“Too soon, Pidge.”

Pidge tipped her head, conceding the point.  “Sorry.  But it makes sense, Keith.  You grew up here.”

“Yeah, but it feels like my dad’s house still.  Like it’s all his stuff.”

“So get new stuff.”

Keith turned away in an effort to stop the conversation.  “I’m still working through some stuff, Pidge.  I have to talk to Lance this weekend and who knows how that will go.”

Literally everyone,” Pidge said.  “Or at least we know how it should go if you two pull your heads out of your asses.”

“Pidge, I know you encouraged this relationship in the first place, but that doesn’t mean you have a say in what’s happening here,” Keith said.

“You know he’s in love with you, too, right?” Pidge asked.  “Like, all of this turmoil you’re putting yourself through would be over if you just went and talked to him right now and were one-hundred-percent honest about how you feel.”

“You can’t just say stuff like that, Pidge,” Keith said hotly.  “This is about me and Lance.  Stop assuming you know everything about what I want.”

Pidge rolled her eyes.  “And yet again, I will keep my incredible wisdom to myself until the Most Stubborn Man In The World decides for himself that I’m right.”

Keith sucked in a sharp breath, counting to ten in his head to avoid losing his temper with her.  He knew Pidge was incredibly perceptive in reading people, and that he and Lance were probably two of the people she was closest to in her life, but she was also someone who was easily stuck in her convictions, whether or not those convictions were grounded in reality.  They’d had a very similar argument about aliens in high school.  Pidge still got heated when the topic came up.  “Pidge.  Seriously.  Cut it out.”

“Fine,” Pidge snapped, hefting a box and heading for the garage.  “But you’re still a moron and if you actually wait until Saturday to tell him how you feel, then you’re a bigger one than I thought.”

 


 

 

Lance dragged a hand across the back of his neck as the last of his kids filed out the front door with their parents.  He was knee deep in football camp, and while he loved working with his kids and teaching them about the sport, his heart wasn’t in it this time around and he hated that.  Sure, if he acted happy enough to see the kids for long enough, he started to feel it, but there was an undeniable undertone of Lance being too distracted to fully enjoy this sports camp.  He hated to admit it, but he was really glad that his two new student volunteers had easily taken the reins with the kids.  At least of he was acting out of it, the kids wouldn’t suffer too much.

“Lance.”

Lance spun on a heel, watching Allura approach from the theater wing.  He pasted on a smile he didn’t feel and tucked his hands in the pockets of his joggers.  “Hey Princess.  To what do I owe the pleasure?”

“Taylor said you’ve been acting a bit strangely this week,” Allura said.  Lance paled a bit at the stern look on her face, knowing a lecture when he saw one coming.  “I understand you’re going through a difficult time right now, but I can’t have this affecting your students.”

“I’m sorry, Lu,” Lance said immediately, ready to take full responsibility.  “There’s no excuse.  I’ll—”

“I didn’t come down here to lecture you, Lance,” Allura interrupted.  Her face softened a bit at Lance’s surprised expression, and she stretched out a hand to rest on his shoulder.  “I just came to tell you that Taylor and Alex have volunteered to run camp tomorrow if you need to take a day to sort yourself out.  I’d be more than happy to supervise them myself.”

“No, no, I’m fine,” Lance said emphatically.  “I’m just gonna go for a run tonight and clear my head.  I’ll be on my A game in the morning.”

“Lance, you hate running,” Allura said flatly, looking at him with a distinctly unconvinced expression.  “The last time Shiro asked you to go running with him, you started crying.”

“I did not cry!”

“It’s okay, Shiro’s intense with his routine.”

“You can keep up with him.”

“I’m intense about pretty much everything,” Allura pointed out.  “It’s why we keep Matt around to mellow us out.  And to make sure he never goes more than a week without doing laundry again.”

The first genuine smile Lance had felt in days worked its way to his face.  “Yeah, I guess that’s why you work well together.”

Allura rubbed her thumb against Lance’s shoulder.  “It’s okay to be upset about this, Lance,” she said gently.  “And it’s okay to talk to Keith about the way you feel.  I’ll be the first to admit it isn’t my strong point, so don’t take this advice as hypocritical, but that’s the whole point of relationships.”

“We’re talking on Saturday,” Lance said firmly.

“Today is Wednesday, and you’re a mess,” Allura pointed out.  “Are you going to make it to Saturday?”

“I went my whole life without Keith up to this point, I think I can go five days without talking to him,” Lance said harshly.

Allura arched a brow high onto her forehead.  “I thought the whole reason you fought was because you’ve finally realized that you can’t.”

Lance jerked back like he’d been stung, Allura’s words hitting a soft spot he hadn’t quite realized he had.  “No, we—I didn’t—”

“Lance.  I’m not trying to poke fun here.  I’m genuinely concerned about you.  You can’t push off talking to him.”

“Listen, Allura,” Lance said, his voice edged in steel.  “I get it.  Everyone has these ideas of what’s best for me and Keith and we’re the two stupid bastards who can’t wrap their brains around whatever the hell that is.  But I have wrapped my brain around it.  I have never felt this way about anyone in my life, and in trying to actually confront those feelings, I might have pushed him too far.  So I am waiting until he is ready, because I literally cannot risk putting that final nail in the coffin by saying something stupid.  I am waiting until he comes to me, so that if he decides to tell me that he’s leaving, then I can try to piece myself back together knowing it was his choice.”

Allura’s expression looked shattered at Lance’s words, but as she opened her mouth to say something – comfort him, maybe refute him, something – Lance stepped back.

“I have to go,” Lance said.  “I really would prefer not to talk about this anymore.”

 


 

 

From: Pidge

(5:31 pm)
>> youre a moron

(5:31 pm)
<< stop that

(5:32 pm)
>> stop being a moron and i might stop telling you
>> when are you going to talk to lance
>> aka moron #2

(5:34 pm)
<< its only thursday
<< he said we should keep our distance until this weekend

(5:35 pm)
>> youre a fucking moron

(5:36 pm)
<< i’m respecting his wishes

(5:37 pm)
>>no youre a moron

(5:38 pm)
<< are you saying i shouldn’t do the thing he specifically said we should do

(5:38 pm)
>> im saying youre both absolute morons
>> he only said that bcs he thought you wanted that
>> and you suggested it because you thought HE did
>> youre both miserable
>> who came up with the one week time frame anyway
>> are you actually dense enough to think you havent already decided
>> you decided weeks ago moron
>> why are you dragging this out and making all of us suffer with you
>> youre so dense why am i friends with you

(5:40 pm)
<<  i think youre making a bigger deal out of this than you need to

(5:41 pm)
>> you dont live with him
>> you havent seen him moping for the last three days
>> hes in the middle of a kids camp week which he LIVES for
>> and he hasnt said a word about his kids
>> hes just staring at his phone
>> and sighing
>> so much sighing
>> he wants you to call him
>> lance isnt a ‘distance’ person
>> hes never needed space in his life
>> hes clingy and needs constant attention
>> and the person he wants it from wont talk to him
>> because youre both morons
>> and you both think that not speaking for a week is what the other one wants
>> when it CLEARLY is not
>> so please for the love of god pull your head out of your ass and
>> TALK
>> TO
>> YOUR
>> BOYFRIEND
>> before i throw him out the fucking window

(5:45 pm)
<< okay

(5:45 pm)
>> you better not just be saying that
>> because i kicked him out 15 minutes ago and im not letting him back in until this is resolved
>> so talk to him or he sleeps in the stairwell until saturday

 

Chapter Text

Lance sat in the stairwell, knees pulled up to his chest and phone clutched tightly in his right hand.  He’d spent a good portion of the last four days staring at his phone, watching for a notification that didn’t come.  The picture he’d set as his wallpaper only days ago – of Keith with Marco seated comfortably in his lap – was burned into his brain, yet Lance couldn’t stop looking at it.  He dedicated the soft curves and sharp lines of Keith’s face to memory – the way his damp hair curled gently around his neck; the way his lips turned up in an almost smile as he looked toward Pidge out of frame; the way one of his hands was curled protectively around Marco’s middle, as if unconsciously trying to keep the boy there.  Not that it was difficult – Marco had clearly claimed Keith as his favorite place to sit, despite only having met him a couple of times.  Lance was wholly convinced of this being a hereditary trait.  The phone screen went dark with inactivity and Lance let his head drop back against the wall.

He was so stupid.  This whole thing was stupid and it was all his fault for blowing it up in the first place.  If he hadn’t flipped out about the possibility of Keith leaving, none of this would be happening and he’d probably be with Keith right now instead of locked out of his own apartment for sulking.  He was starting to convince himself that agreeing to keep his distance this week was the wrong choice.  That even if Keith was leaving, it would have been better to spend this time with him despite it possibly becoming that much harder to let him go.  He was so stupid.

“Lance?”

Lance brought his head away from the wall to find his neighbor staring down at him from the top of the stairs.  “Oh, hey Shiro.”

Shiro stopped in front of Lance, setting his paper grocery bag at his feet.  “You okay?”

Lance shrugged, hunching a little further in on himself.  “Fine.”

“Are you locked out?”

“There’s a key above the doorframe,” Lance mumbled.  “But Pidge is sick of me, so I’m letting her have this.”

Shiro chuckled, lowering himself to sit down beside Lance.  “Why do you think she’s sick of you?”

“Because she said ‘I’m sick of you, moron’ and pushed me out the door.”

Shiro nodded once.  “I guess that’s a pretty clear signal.”

Lance sighed, letting his head drop back against the wall behind him.  “Why do I suck?”

Shiro clicked his tongue reproachfully.  “Lance, you don’t suck.”

“Then why am I sitting here?”

“Because your roommate is a drama queen.”  Shiro shifted to cross his legs in front of him at the ankles.  “Do you want to talk about what’s really bothering you?”

“It’s stupid.”

“He’s my brother, Lance, I’d prefer you didn’t call him that.”

Lance rolled his head to look at Shiro, too miserable to even laugh at the joke.  “How’d you know?”

“I can just tell.”

“How though?”

Shiro shrugged.  “I know that look.”

“This sucks,” Lance said, tapping his head against the wall.  “Why is this so hard?”

“Nothing worth having is easy.”

“I dunno, ordering pizza is pretty easy.”

Shiro laughed at that.  “You know what I mean, Lance.”

“It still sucks.”

“I know.”

“We’re supposed to talk about it on Saturday, but that’s so far away.”

“Why don’t you just talk about it now?”

“Because I know what I want, but I don’t know if he does yet.”

“He knows,” Shiro said.  “He’s just scared.”

Lance glanced toward Shiro with his eyes narrowed.  “How do you know? Did he tell you?”

“I’ve known him his whole life, Lance,” Shiro chuckled.  “He knows what he wants, he just doesn’t think he deserves to have it.”

“That’s stupid,” Lance huffed, wrapping his arms tighter around his legs.  “He deserves the whole world on a string.  And I’ll fucking do anything to give him that.”

Shiro nudged Lance’s knee.  “Good, he needs it.”

“I really want him to stay, Shiro,” Lance said quietly.  “I want it more than anything.”

“Have you told him?”

“I don’t want to make him feel like he has to stay.  I don’t want to pressure him.”

“And that is what will make him want to stay.  Beyond the reasons he already has, that is.”

“You think so?”

Shiro shrugged.  “I know my brother, Lance.”

“I need to talk to him,” Lance said, banging his head against the wall once more.  “Is it Saturday yet?”

“Looks like it might have come early,” Shiro said, nudging Lance’s leg and nodding toward the stairs.

Lance lifted his gaze to meet Keith’s as he jogged up the stairs, slowing when he spotted Lance and Shiro seated on the landing.  “Keith.”

“Hey,” Keith responded, coming to a full stop at the top of the stairs.  “You got a minute, Lance?”

“I’ll be inside if you need me,” Shiro said, pushing himself off the ground and retrieving his groceries.

Once Shiro was inside, Keith dropped into the spot where he had been sitting, leaning back against the wall with his hands between his slightly bent knees.  “I don’t think I can wait for Saturday, Lance.”

“Me either,” Lance said.  “Listen, I –”

“Wait, just—let me go first?”

Lance bit his lower lip, nodding reluctantly.

Keith took a deep breath.  “So I’ve been talking to Hunk.”

“You’ve been talking to Hunk?”

“Don’t make fun of me, he’s really smart.”

“Bitch, I know that, he’s my best friend,” Lance said, faux indignation in his voice. Remembering the gravity of the situation he was in, he quickly softened his tone.  “But okay.  You’ve been talking to Hunk?”

“Yeah.  He definitely helped me figure a few things out,” Keith said.  “And I’ve realized that I really don’t like small towns.  On the road, they were the places I stopped just long enough to refuel.  Small towns are full of nosy, intrusive people and I after I grew up here, I basically had no interest in letting anyone into my business ever again.  So I stuck to the bigger cities and kept my head down and if I found somebody trying to get a little too cozy with me, I’d bounce.”

Lance only nodded, his chest feeling numb as he listened to Keith speak.  Please, please, please, Lance’s soul chanted.  Please let there be a but.

“I also realized that the reason I’m not comfortable getting close to people because a lot of the people I’ve trusted in the past have let me down,” Keith continued, his gaze fixed firmly on his hands, interlocked between his knees.  “And I know that’s kind of stupid, because not everyone is my mom and going to abandon me at the drop of a hat, and I definitely have a few people who have stuck it out this long, but it’s what I’ve spent my whole life being afraid of and I can’t change that overnight.”

“I understand,” Lance said softly as Keith paused for a moment.

“So I spent a long time telling Hunk that I’m a distrusting person and that because of that, I’m not very trustworthy, and that I’m basically a ticking time bomb and nobody should get comfortable around me because I’m gonna explode sooner or later.”

Lance opened his mouth to object but caught himself as Keith pressed on.

“And Hunk gave me this lecture that I think was his version of calling me a dumbass,” Keith said, a wry smile playing on his lips.  “I can’t really do it justice, but it got the point across.  And that, along with Pidge calling me a moron for the last four days, helped me realize that my decision was already made.  I’ve missed this place so much, and I’ve always wanted to come back.  I was just holding my breath because I never imagined I could actually deserve someone like you. Someone who genuinely cares about me.  I was holding back because I didn’t want you to realize that you’re crazy out of my league and I wanted to hold onto that as long as I could.  I’ve been so afraid of fucking this up that I almost gave up the best thing that ever happened to me just to try to avoid it happening to me first.”

Lance’s breath caught in his throat.  “I’m the best thing that ever happened to you?”

Keith nodded, his expression so painfully open and vulnerable that Lance wanted to cry.  “No contest.”

“So… you’re staying?”

“Yeah,” Keith breathed.  “Yeah, I’m staying. I don’t… I don’t know what will happen, and maybe somewhere along the line, we’ll find out this isn’t permanent, but any amount of time that I get to be with you is worth it, I think.”

“You do?” Lance said, looking a bit awestruck.

“I do.”

Lance broke into a grin.  “Thank god, because I was literally about to beg you to stay.”

“Really?”

“The only reason I didn’t do it sooner was that I didn’t want you to feel like I was trying to force you to stay.”

“You could never make me feel like that,” Keith said.

“I really, really want this to work out,” Lance said.  “Just you and me, hand in hand, in it for the long run. I was afraid of you leaving because I have this great track record of people bailing right when I start to catch feelings in a relationship, but…  I trust you to be up front with me about where you’re at.  And you’re worth the risk.”

Keith shook his head, his gaze scanning Lance’s face and finding only sheer honesty.  “I don’t deserve you,” he said incredulously.

“Hey,” Lance said, reaching up to place a hand on either side of Keith’s face.  “You deserve everything you’ve ever wanted.  And I’m going to make sure you get it.”

“I want you to kiss me,” Keith said, lips curling up in a smile.

Lance’s grin was almost blinding in its intensity.  “As you wish.”

 


 

To: RoboNurse

(6:25 pm)
<< are they still making out in the hallway?

(6:26 pm)
>> I’ve been trying not to check.

(6:26 pm)
<< you have a better vantage point than i do without opening the door

(6:27 pm)
>> Fine.
>> Yes they are.

(6:28 pm)
<< i was relieved for the first eight minutes but this is getting ridiculous
<< do you think theyre gonna fuck in the hallway

(6:29 pm)
>> No.

(6:30 pm)
<< shiro.

(6:31 pm)
>> They are not going to have sex in the hallway.

(6:31 pm)
<< Shiro.

(6:32 pm)
>> I’m calling Matt.

(6:33 pm)
<< ah yes good plan
<< you know that oblivious dumbass will walk right past them and not even notice
<< hed sidestep their naked asses and not blink

(6:34 pm)
>> Hey, that’s my boyfriend you’re talking about.

(6:35 pm)
<< first of all sibling trumps boyfriend
<< second of all i’m NOT WRONG and you know it

(6:36 pm)
>> I’m just going to tell him to come over and casually snap them out of it.

(6:37 pm)
<< i have a better idea
<< please record this

(6:38pm)
>> What are you doing?
>> I am not going to record anything.
>> Pidge?

 


 

Keith walked into the radio station like he was floating on air.  It was his last shift in the radio station rotation, and Axca would take over the air tomorrow night, but he’d spent the last three hours with Lance’s arms wrapped around him like a vice and he couldn’t even bring himself to mourn the end of his temp job.  He’d felt so much instant relief in telling Lance he wanted to stay that he knew he made the right choice, even if he’d taken his sweet-ass time in realizing it.

Pidge had broken up their “kiss and make up” makeout session by bursting out the front door and pelting them both with Nerf darts, not relenting until Shiro came out his own front door to stop her.  Keith hadn’t had a Nerf gun since he was in middle school, but he was pretty sure the semi-automatic feature was not an option Nerf offered.  It took Lance almost ten minutes to stop laughing at the sight of Shiro being unable to wrest the weapon away from Pidge and instead throwing her over his shoulder and hauling her downstairs.  When they came back, Pidge’s hands noticeably empty, Shiro volunteered to order pizza for all of them and gave Lance a wink that Keith did not question.

Keith had been tempted to call in sick but knew he would miss the station enough that he knew he needed to give it a proper goodbye.

Keith ran his hand along the glass outside the broadcast booth, giving a wave to the DJ he’d be taking over for in about fifteen minutes, and headed for Axca’s office.  Since he was only a temp, he hadn’t taken Coran up on the offer to clean out the spare office that had been doubling as a storage room for at least a year, and instead had used Axca’s office for doing the paper-pushing duties that came hand in hand with on-air responsibilities.  He’d done his best to make sure he left it the way he’d found it, which was pretty easy considering Axca seemed to keep it pretty simple.

Keith was just double-checking he hadn’t left any stray paperwork in the office when a knock sounded from behind him.  “Fancy meeting you here, my boy,” Coran’s jovial voice sounded from the doorway. 

Keith turned to smile at the mustachioed ginger in the doorway.  “Hey Coran.”

“Last night, eh?”

Keith nodded, taking a seat on the edge of the desk.  “Yep.”

“Axca’s raring to be back,” Coran said, leaning casually against the doorframe.  “Came in for a bit this morning to do some paperwork.”

“I was wondering why there was a new box of pens on the desk,” Keith said.  “Good, I’m glad she’s excited.”

“So what’s next for the great Keith Kogane, eh?  Off to some new, exciting sights?  There’s got to be some desert highway you haven’t explored yet, hasn’t there?”

Keith laughed, shaking his head gently.  “Nah, I think I’m gonna stick around, actually.”

Coran’s brows lifted in surprise.  “Really?  Thought you weren’t much for settling down.  Took me more than one bargaining chip to get you back here in the first place.”

Keith shrugged, unable to stop the smile on his face.  “I guess I changed my mind.”

“I’m glad you’ve found something to make you happy, my boy,” Coran said, a knowing smile on his face.  “I think the two of you make quite a pair.”

“I have you to thank, in part,” Keith said.  “I never would have met him if you hadn’t asked me to come back.”

Coran waved a hand.  “To be an unwitting pawn in fate’s master plan is hardly thankworthy.”

“Still.  I owe a lot to you and this radio station.  Not just these last twelve weeks.”

“You know, if you’re staying in Arus anyway, I could use you around here,” Coran said.  “I’d have retired as station manager a long time ago if I had someone I trusted enough with my pride and joy.”

Keith blinked at the implication.  “What?”

Coran shrugged, crossing his arms over his chest.  “Allura’s grown and doesn’t need me holding her hand anymore.  Of course, I’d never wander too far out of her life, but there are a few spots in the world I’d love to see again.  Maybe spend some more time exploring the spots Alfor took me during our long and wonderful courtship.  If you’re interested in learning how to run the place, I’d certainly rest assured my station is in good hands.”

“Are you serious, Coran?”

“Deadly,” Coran responded easily.  “You’ve always shown an incredible knack for radio in the time you’ve worked for me, and I know you love the station nearly as much as I do.  It’d be full time, and not easy work by any stretch, but hell, I’ve practically groomed you for this job, my boy.  There’s no one in the world better equipped to run this place.”

“I’d love that,” Keith said emphatically.  “If you really think I’d be well suited for it, I’d love to keep working here.”

Coran grinned, obviously pleased by the response.  “I’ll tear up your exit paperwork, then,” he chuckled.  “And I’ll see you Monday morning for your first day as Station Manager.”  Coran stuck out a hand to shake, making the deal official.

Keith stepped forward to shake Coran’s offered hand, head still reeling a bit from the unexpected turn of events.  “I thought unemployment would be a bit more of a bitch,” Keith said with a breathless laugh.

“I am a firm believer in doing what I can to grant good things to good people, Keith,” Coran said starkly.  “And trust me when I say that you’re one of the most deserving young men I’ve met.”

“That means a lot,” Keith said.  “Holy shit, I have to tell Lance.”

Coran chuckled, patting Keith on the shoulder.  “You’ve still got a few minutes before you have to be on air, my boy.  Go tell your beau the good news.”

Coran left the office, and Keith took a step back, letting the desk beside him ground him for a moment.  He pulled his phone out of his pocket and quickly found Lance’s number.

“Hey baby, you miss me that much?” Lance’s voice was laced with teasing. 

“I got a job,” Keith said, blurting out the news without hesitation.  “Coran’s going to teach me how to manage the radio station.”

“Holy shit, what?!” Lance’s immediate increase in volume made Keith grin helplessly.  “Keith, that’s amazing! Oh my god, Coran always coming in clutch!”

“He said there’s no one he’d trust with this place more than me,” Keith said, still trying to wrap his brain around it.  This whole week had been an exercise in allowing himself to accept the fact that other people trusted him.  He was starting to be very, very glad that they did.

“Well, duh! Of course he does! You’re the bomb, baby!”

“I have to go on air,” Keith said.  “I’ll text you.”

“Have a great not-last-night,” Lance said.  “I’ll see you tomorrow.  We’ll invite everyone over and celebrate with more Korean barbeque than you’ve ever seen in your life.”

“I think I want it to be just you and me,” Keith said, almost surprising himself.  “We can tell everyone else later.”

“All right, baby,” Lance said, his voice curling like smoke into Keith’s ear and making a shiver run down his spine.  “Just you, me, and eight pounds of barbeque pork.”

“That is a lot of barbeque,” Keith laughed.  “But that sounds perfect.”

He disconnected with Lance and headed for the broadcast booth, trying to wrap his head around the day he’d had and unable to wipe the smile off his face.

Chapter Text

It rained on Friday.

Fortunately, it only started an hour before the end of camp, so Lance brought all the kids inside to spend their final moments together playing games on the gym floor.  The kids were in high spirits when their parents came to pick them up, and Lance waved goodbye with a familiar wave of bittersweet emotion rolling through his chest.  He filed his closing paperwork quickly, said goodbye to Allura, and made a beeline for the door.  He stretched his arms out as he walked through the doors, grinning up at the dark, gray sky.

Ever since he was a kid, Lance had loved the rain.  His mami thought it was crazy that he’d be even happier to see the sky turn black and pour rain, keeping him mostly indoors and away from the beach.  He loved the feel of water on his skin – whether it was the ocean outside his great-uncle’s house in Cuba, the stream running along the south edge of his family’s ranch, or the sprinkler on his front lawn.  Still, there was a certain spot in Lance’s heart that grew joyful with the promise of a torrential rainstorm, and try as he might, he could never pinpoint exactly why he loved the rain so much.

Lance took his time walking to his car and drove to Keith’s with the window cracked so he could smell the rain-washed air as he drove.

When Lance pulled into Keith’s driveway, he found his boyfriend hard at work on his motorcycle.  Instead of working in the driveway, as he usually did, he was tucked under the protective shelter of the garage, with the door lifted to let in what light it could through the cloud-filled sky.  Keith looked up at the sight of Lance’s headlights and lifted a wrench in greeting.

Lance greeted Keith by bending over his crouching figure for a kiss.  “Why are you wet?” Keith asked, wrinkling his nose as he pulled back. 

“I don’t know if you noticed, Mr. Big-Shot-Radio-Station-Manager, but it’s raining,” Lance said, the sound of a laugh that hadn’t quite bubbled to the surface hidden beneath his tone. 

"I did notice, but I didn't realize it was raining that hard," Keith said.  "Unless you've been jumping in puddles."

"I can neither confirm nor deny my involvement in any puddle-jumping, Keith," Lance said in mock seriousness.  "I'm a grown man who is allowed to have secrets."

Keith rolled his eyes, turning back to his bike.  “‘M almost finished.  Two minutes, I swear.”

“No rush, babe,” Lance hummed, wandering over to the radio Keith kept in his garage.  The stack of cassette tapes beside the ancient boombox had all been Jack’s, collected from garage sales and thrift shops over the course of twenty some odd years, Keith had told him.  He had even more inside, which Lance had perused at length.  Lance flicked through them and pulled out an Elton John tape, pressing the button to eject the Stevie Nicks album that had been playing.

“I was listening to that,” Keith complained, though he didn’t sound terribly put out as Lance switched out the cassette.  “That better not be ABBA.”

“Calm your sweet titties, Keith,” Lance said, nothing but affection lacing his tone.  “There isn’t even an ABBA tape in this stack.”

“They must all be inside,” Keith said.  “Dad liked to listen to those while he wrote in the evenings.”

“Your dad was a man after my own heart,” Lance said. 

Keith glanced up and flashed a small smile in Lance’s direction.  “Yup.”

The tape Lance had put in the deck crackled for a moment after he hit play, then started playing an upbeat tune that Keith recognized almost immediately.

Don't go breaking my heart…” Lance crooned along with Elton John, grinning cheesily at Keith the way he always did when he was trying to make Keith smile.  “I couldn't if I tried,” Lance continued in a pitched falsetto, imitating the second half of the duet himself.  “Oh honey if I get restless… Baby you're not that kind~” 

Keith, for his part, was trying his best not to react, but there was a tell-tale smile tugging at his lips, so Lance decided to pull out all the stops, despite his inability to quite reach the correct key while singing both halves of the duet at once. 

“You’re such a ham,” Keith said, pushing himself off his knees and moving toward his worktable for a rag to wipe his hands with.

Lance let out a dramatic gasp.  “And here I thought you loved me, Keith.”  Lance’s eyes went a little wide, not having intended to say that.  Keith didn’t react, so Lance pressed on, determined to play it cool.  “Come dance with me, Mr. Sourpuss."

He didn’t resist when Lance grabbed him by the hands and tugged him toward the middle of the garage, where the floor was clear.  He stole Keith’s baseball cap off his head, tugging it over his own hair cheekily before he wound their fingers together in one hand and rested the other around the back of Keith’s neck, beginning to sway back and forth as casually as a breeze.  Lance made a pleased noise in his throat when Keith’s free hand settled on Lance’s hip like a reflex.  “Why am I a sourpuss?”

Instead of answering Keith’s question, Lance kept singing.  “Oh honey when you knock on my door...Ooh I gave you my key…”

“Woo ooh, nobody knows it…”  Lance grinned madly when Keith quietly joined in on the chorus, voice smooth and oh-so-familiar.

“But when I was down…”

“I was your clown,” Keith sang in response, his arms tightening slightly around Lance’s waist.

“Right from the start…”

“I gave you my heart, ohhh oh...”  Lance’s heart skipped a beat when Keith didn’t break eye contact, those eyes the same color as the stormy sky outside piercing into Lance’s soul as Keith the note with ease.  “I gave you my heart.”

Lance cleared his throat, wavering a little on his next, “So don't go breaking my heart…”

Keith tucked his forehead into the crook of Lance’s neck.  “I won't go breaking your heart.”

Elton and Kiki kept singing, but Lance was too busy pulling Keith’s face away from his shoulder and kissing him senseless.  Keith responded instantly, reaching up to pull the hat off Lance’s head and toss it to the side.  Keith kissed him with such easy familiarity Lance had no idea how they’d only been doing this for a few months.  He had no idea how he’d ever lived a day in his life without it.

I’m in love, I’m in love, I’m so fucking in love with you, Lance wanted to say.  He wanted to shout it from the highest building in town and tell everyone how he felt about Keith Kogane.  He wanted to take him home to his parents and his grandparents and let all his nieces and nephews adore Keith just as much as Marco did.  He wanted to wrap himself around Keith like a vice and never let him go, not even for a second.  He felt like he’d known Keith forever -- like Keith was the piece of his soul he’d never known was missing until he encountered it for the first time – but he had no idea how to even begin to express the sheer volume of feelings he had for Keith.  So instead of that, standing in the open garage with the rain pouring down outside, Lance kissed Keith with all the burning intensity of the unspoken words inside of him.

Keith seemed to understand.  He didn’t ask questions; simply kissed Lance fiercely in return and eventually broke away only to tug him inside the house.  They made it to the doorway of Keith’s bedroom before Lance pulled Keith in again, pushing him up against the doorframe and melting into the touch of his lips.  They hadn’t done this since their fight – what with being apart for four days and then each of them having to work their opposite shifts at work. 

He’d missed it.  Missed touching Keith like this.  Missed the way that Keith’s breath hitched in his chest when Lance pressed their hips together just right.  Missed the way Keith ran his fingertips across Lance’s skin, leaving lightning in their wake.  Their hands scrabbled for more skin as they licked into each other’s mouths like it was the only thing keeping them alive.

Lance pushed Keith backwards, keeping his fingers looped into the waistband of Keith’s briefs as he pressed him into the room and onto the foot of his bed.  “Hang on, I’ve definitely got grease on my jeans,” Keith said, breaking away long enough to glance down and undo his fly.  Lance shoved his hands away, kneeling down as he pulled Keith’s jeans away from his hips and pressing his open mouth against the growing bulge in Keith’s underwear.  Lance’s eyes slid shut at the sound of Keith’s sharp inhale, teasing at the bulge with his hot breath before standing back up and pulling Keith’s shirt up and over his head.

Lance paused and took a moment observe the way Keith was gorgeously displayed for Lance’s viewing pleasure.  Keith fell backwards on the bed, catching himself on his elbows.  He licked his lips, watching Lance with a thunderstorm in his eyes before reaching up to pull Lance down toward him.  “I missed you,” Keith hummed, tilting his head to one side as Lance crawled up over him, a leg on either side of Keith’s lap and his nose running softly along Keith’s jawline as he trailed kisses across the skin.

“I missed you too,” Lance said, licking down the porcelain column of Keith’s throat before latching onto the tender spot along his collar bone that he knew drove Keith crazy.  “Fighting sucks, let’s never do it again.”

Keith chuckled, though the sound broke into a moan as Lance sucked hard on his collar bone.  “Sounds great,” Keith said.  “Unrealistic, maybe, but great.”

“Shh, let’s just go with it,” Lance said, reaching up to card his fingers through Keith’s hair.  “I have so much repressed sexual tension within me right now.  I’m telling you right now for posterity that a week without fucking is way too long.  Like, way too long.”

“That’s what jerking off is for,” Keith pointed out, his voice hitching as Lance moved to leave another hickey a few inches from the first.

“I was too sad to jerk off,” Lance said, licking over the spots as he admired his own handiwork.  It was a bit depressing subject matter, but now that they’d been honest with each other and their feelings – now that Lance was here, sitting in the lap of a mostly naked Keith and sucking hickeys into his pale skin – it seemed like a faint memory.  “You’ve ruined me, Keith.”

“Is that a good thing or a bad thing?”

“Absolutely the best thing in the world.  Except when I thought you might leave.  That was the worst.”

“I’m sorry,” Keith said, brushing his thumb gently over Lance’s cheekbone.  “But now you know that you’re not getting rid of me quite so easily.”

“Good,” Lance hummed, leaning in to nip at the first hickey he’d made on Keith’s neck.  “Now please fuck me into next week or I might actually explode.”

Keith hummed a low sound from so deep in his throat Lance swore he could feel it in his own stomach.  “Gladly.”

Keith’s hands gripped Lance’s thighs tightly as he flipped their positions.  Lance’s breath left him as his head hit the mattress, sinking into the plush surface.  His hands fell to Keith’s thighs – the only thing he could reach with Keith sitting up so far above him – kneading his thumbs into the soft flesh just to remind himself that Keith was tangible and here with him.  Keith was watching him with a delicious look in his storm gray eyes and Lance had absolutely no doubt that Keith was about to give him exactly what he had asked for and his body was very quickly catching on.

Keith leaned back on his haunches, using an elastic Lance hadn’t noticed on his wrist to tie his hair up on top of his head before he leaned in to capture Lance’s lips with his own once again.  The slow, luxurious slide of their lips together felt like heaven in a bottle, Lance thought.  There was no more perfect match in the universe than the two of them together and with every lick of Keith’s tongue into his mouth, Lance grew more convinced.  Lance arched up, greedy for the touch and the attention that Keith was lavishing on him.

“Babe,” Lance panted, pushing Keith back gently.  “Babe, pants. Off.”

Keith nodded, blinking to clear the haze of lust from his expression and helping Lance pull his pants down and threw them somewhere behind him.  He traced his thumb along waistband of Lance’s underwear, teasing through his happy trail.  Lance waggled his eyebrows, drawing Keith’s attention up to his face.  “You missed something,” Lance said.

“What’s what?”

“I’m still wearing underwear.”

Keith tapped his hand against the side of Lance’s ribcage, a tiny smile crossing his lips.  “Patience, Lance.”

“You sound like Shiro,” Lance said, smirking.  He brought his index finger up to his face, crooking it across the bridge of his nose in imitation of Shiro’s distinctive scar.  “Patience yields focus, Keith.”

Keith smacked Lance’s ribs a bit harder, still not too aggressive but more reprimanding.  “Don’t talk about my brother when we’re about to do it.”

“Don’t call it ‘it’,” Lance volleyed.  “We’re adults and we refer to the act as ‘diddling’.”

Keith laughed, his shoulders shaking amusement.  “Stop it.”

“Stop diddling.”

“That’s not even the same context!”

“Don’t be afraid of the diddle, Keith,” Lance said, unable to keep his expression as neutral as he was hoping.  His gaze flicked to all corners of Keith’s expression, studying – memorizing – the breathtaking smile on his boyfriend’s face.  He looked so genuinely happy in that moment – even just laughing at some stupid joke Lance was making – and Lance wanted to keep that smile going forever.

“You’re ridiculous,” Keith chuckled, bracing his hands on either side of Lance’s head.

“And yet here you are,” Lance said, still grinning.  “Straddling your ridiculous, sexy boyfriend who is very good at destroying the mood.”

“You haven’t destroyed it,” Keith said, rolling his hips a bit and emphasizing the fact that they were both still very in the mood.

“That sounds like a challenge, Keith,” Lance laughed, bucking his hips up a bit to test Keith’s willpower.

“Thought you wanted me to fuck you into next week,” Keith reminded him.

“You’re the one who told me to be patient,” Lance said, huffing as Keith lifted his hips up and out of Lance’s reach.  “So I’m getting some mixed signals here.  We’re still wearing underwear, for fuck’s sake.”

“You could ask,” Keith hummed, lifting a dark eyebrow.  “We’re working on our communication skills, remember?”

Lance pushed himself up into a sitting position, grabbing Keith’s face between both hands.  “Keith Amadeus Kogane,” he said, his voice low and sultry as Lance funneled all his self-control into not breaking into laughter preemptively.  “Please rip the rest of my clothes off and diddle me into next week.”

Lance pinpointed and would forever cherish the exact moment that Keith’s expression cracked, his chest hitching as he tried for a moment to resist the laughter welling up.  It didn’t last long before Keith had completely crumbled, shoulders shaking as Lance’s favorite laugh in the whole world spilled out of him.  Keith rolled off of Lance, trying to compose himself but still hiccupping with laughter for a few more minutes. 

“I literally had to,” Lance giggled, pressing his forehead into Keith’s shoulder.  “It was too perfect.”

Keith shook his head, and the grin he was still wearing was audible in his voice.  “I love you, Lance.”

Lance blinked, his face still pressed against Keith’s arm.  He couldn’t quite process the words he’d just heard, almost certain he’d imagined them entirely.  He glanced up to see Keith watching him, those pretty, charcoal eyes trained on him like they were waiting for a reaction.  “You—” Lance trailed off, trying to formulate a reaction.  “I—”

“Since we were, you know, being honest and talking about things we realized this week,” Keith continued, still a little breathless from laughing too hard but with the most beautiful, apprehensive, vulnerable expression on his face.  “I figured I’d get that out in the open too.  That I’m kind of definitely in love with you.”

“Keith, I—”

“Don’t feel obligated to say it back,” Keith said quickly, his gaze flicking toward the ceiling before returning to Lance.  “I just… really wanted you to know that I don’t want to hold anything back anymore.  And I hope that’s okay because I don’t want it to be too much pressure, and—”

“Keith.” Lance propped himself up and brushed his hand over Keith’s collar bone, over the still darkening bruises Lance had bit into his skin.  “Please let me respond?”

Keith nodded, his eyes back on Lance as he slid his hand up the side of Keith’s neck to his jaw.  He brushed his thumb gently across Keith’s lower lip before moving to cup his face earnestly.

“Part of why I reacted so poorly to the idea of you leaving is because I realized that I love you, too,” Lance said, his voice soft.  “I’m so fucking in love with you and the idea of losing you scared the absolute shit out of me.  And it means so much to me that you found the ability to say it out loud because I’ve been sitting here screaming it in my head and kicking myself for not being brave enough to just fucking tell you like I’ve wanted to so badly.”

“We’re very good at making everything harder than it needs to be,” Keith said, mixture of fondness and joy painting his expression.  “Pidge was right.  We are morons.”

“Let’s never tell her that,” Lance agreed, still brushing his thumb across the sharp angles of Keith’s face.  “I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

Lance’s lips curled into a delighted grin.  “Say it again.”

Keith quirked a brow.  “I love you.”

“Again.”

“I love you.”

Lance hummed, resting his head on Keith’s shoulder.  “I like that. Feels like butterflies.”

“I like when you say it.”

“I love you, Keith.”

Keith rolled to his side, pulling Lance’s face close and kissing him sweetly.  He was clinging to this sweet sensation – to this amazing, wonderful, gorgeous man who loved him back for whatever reason that Keith couldn’t fully comprehend.  Clinging to the overwhelming feeling of being so completely vulnerable with Lance but being trusted in return with the same vulnerability.  Clinging to Lance and the way those three words tasted coming off his lips.  He wanted to spend the rest of his life showing Lance exactly how much he meant those words.

Keith shifted them both until Lance was once again on his back, Keith hovering above him with one knee between Lance’s legs.  Keith bent to nose his way down Lance’s stomach, kissing the beauty mark near Lance’s belly button and feeling Lance twitch beneath his touch.  He dipped his fingers beneath the waistband of Lance’s briefs, pulling them down and off Lance’s legs in one smooth, slow motion.  Lance whined softly, shifting his bare hips against the sheets in a way that Keith was certain could quite easily drive him crazy.

“Can I tell you why?” Keith asked, almost before he’d even registered the thought.

“What?” Lance asked, sounding breathless and distracted.  It probably had something to do with the fact that Keith’s face was currently in very close proximity to Lance’s cock, and that his fingers were ghosting along the insides of Lance’s thighs.

“Can I tell you why I love you?” Keith repeated, before pressing an open mouthed kiss to the head of Lance’s dick.  He slid down a bit further, dragging the tips of his fingers down Lance’s sack until they were teasing at his entrance.

Lance gasped at the sensation, nodding rapidly.  “Yeah.  Tell me.”

“You radiate love,” Keith said, keeping his voice low and gentle as he continued his slow, teasing exploration of Lance’s skin.  “Just sheer, unbridled affection for the people around you.”

Lance’s expression twitched, uncertain how to react to the words, but Keith continued before Lance could even think of responding, and as he did, continued brushed his thumb in a firm circle around Lance’s puckered hole.  “You show them each affection in the way they most need to receive it,” Keith said. “It’s like your sixth sense.”

“That’s why you love me?” Lance asked, unable to keep from rolling his hips ever so slightly into Keith’s touch.  He felt his face heat just a bit at the sentiment.

“It’s one of the reasons,” Keith said, before taking a moment to run the tip of his tongue down over his twitching hole.

“Why else?”

Keith smirked, glancing up over the flat plane of Lance’s trembling stomach to meet his gaze.  “You’re gorgeous,” he said, and for a second, Lance wasn’t certain if that was the second reason or an unrelated statement.  “The moment I saw you in that liquor store parking lot, I knew you were probably the most beautiful man I’d ever seen in my life.”

“Naturally,” Lance said, but unable to keep the rising blush from spreading down his chest.  Keith ducked down again, lavishing attention on Lance’s entrance.  Lance couldn’t stop the moans building in his chest as Keith prepared him, slowly kissing and licking his way in, loosening Lance ever so gently.

“I didn’t stop thinking about you after you crashed your bike,” Keith said when he came up for air after a few moments.  There was a faint click, and Lance wondered when Keith had taken the time to grab the lube.  The spot vacated so recently by his tongue was quickly occupied by a single finger, pushing into Lance and curling just right against his walls.  “Your skin was so soft and your eyes were so blue.  Couldn’t believe you asked for my number.”

“I couldn’t believe you gave it to me,” Lance panted, one of his hands palming lightly over his desperate cock.  “You’re so hot.  Leather jacket hot.  Motorcycle hot.”

Keith added a second finger, beginning to spread and scissor them carefully.  He used his free hand to nudge Lance’s hand away from his dick, bending to press another kiss to the base.  Lance whimpered and Keith could see his hands curling in the sheets already.  He had a bit of an idea already that Lance was into praise, but it was even better to confirm it like this – to watch Lance fall apart on his fingers under the soft compliments Keith was more than happy to shower him in.

“Your laugh is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever heard,” Keith continued, feeling Lance’s entrance squeeze around his fingers.  “Your sense of humor is the best.  I’ve never met anyone who can make me smile as easily as you can.”

Keith,” Lance moaned, his eyes squeezing shut. His hips bucked into a particularly satisfying curl of Keith’s fingers. “Ah, Keith!”

“You’re so good with kids, too,” Keith said.  He swallowed, noticing the gravel in his own voice.  “Watching you with Marco is amazing to me.  Like he’s a whole tiny person that you helped make out of sheer generosity.”

 “More,” Lance panted, bringing a hand up to grasp the arm Keith had planted near Lance’s hip for balance.  “Please, more.”

“More fingers, or more compliments?”

“Both,” Lance whined, shivering at the idea.  “Please, baby.”

Keith hummed, adding another lubed up finger to the others currently curling inside of Lance.  “Relax,” Keith said, rubbing circles into Lance’s thigh with his thumb.  “That’s it, honey,” Keith said, and Lance nearly fell apart at the term of endearment itself.  Keith had never used a pet name on him before and Lance was living for it.  “You look so good right now.  Fuck, you’re so handsome.  You’re so good stretched out on my fingers.”

Lance gasped, arching as Keith’s fingers nudged against his prostate.  “Oh god, right there, baby, please!”

“Tell me what you want, Lance,” Keith breathed.

“I want you,” Lance said, his voice pitched in oh-so perfect desperation.  “Please Keith, please.”

“What do you want? Do you want me to fuck you just like this? Nice and slow until you fall apart on my cock?”

“Please,” Lance keened, his hands grasping at whatever part of Keith he could reach.  “Please, please, yes.”

Keith flexed his fingers a few more times, making sure Lance was nice and loose before slipping them all out at once.  He stood for a moment, shimmying out of his underwear before climbing back up onto the bed.  Lance stretched out his hands, reaching for Keith’s face and pulling him in for a deep, needy kiss.  Lance’s hands splayed out, one across the side of his neck and one across his chest, nearly spanning half of Keith’s chest with his long, slender fingers. 

Lance broke the kiss long enough to glance down, watching as Keith steadied himself with a hand and brought the tip of his erection to Lance’s ready entrance.  Lance’s hazy, unfocused gaze pointed toward the ceiling for a moment, his jaw going slack at the sensation of Keith sliding thick and hot inside of him.

“You all right?” Keith asked, his voice already sounding fucked out.

“Yeah,” Lance said with a nod, working to relax his entrance. The discomfort of the stretch faded after a few moments, and Lance squeezed the back of Keith’s neck.  “Yeah, I’m good.”

Keith pulled out a few inches before thrusting back in again, building up to a harder pace slowly to allow Lance time to acclimate.  Lance quickly grew impatient, bucking his hips up to meet Keith halfway.  “Keith, fuck—C’mon, baby.  Fuck me like you mean it.”

“Oh, I fuckin’ mean it,” Keith said, his voice hitting its absolute basement, pure sex and gravel in Lance’s ear.  Lance couldn’t stop the shudder of arousal that went through him as he felt the vibration of Keith’s voice echo through his spine.  Keith’s hand slid down, hefting one of Lance’s legs up over his shoulder as he thrust in hard, making Lance nearly scream with pleasure at the new angle.  Lance’s flexibility had melted Keith’s brain on more than one occasion, and this one was no exception.  Keith’s gaze flicked to all points of Lance’s body, splayed out beneath him.  “I can’t believe I get to have you,” Keith panted, turning his head to press a kiss to the inside of Lance’s knee.  “I can’t believe you’re mine.”

Lance nodded fervently, his eyes squeezing shut as Keith’s cock slid heavy across his prostate.  “All yours,” he gasped, clutching tighter at Keith’s neck.  “I love you so much, Keith.”

Keith’s pace wasn’t fast, but it was deep and steady and enough to make Lance’s hands start to shake with how good he felt.  With his eyes closed, his whole world narrowed down to this moment – to the delicious drag of Keith inside of him and against his prostate, to the fire under Lance’s skin at each point where Keith’s skin met his own, to the gorgeous, soft grunts Keith was making with every deep thrust.  Tears welled up at the corners of Lance’s eyes and he forced himself to open them so he could take in this moment.  Keith looked so beautiful, his dark brows drawn together in concentration and his lower lip tucked tight between his teeth.  Lance brought his free hand up to rub his thumb across Keith’s lip, loosening it from its vice grip. 

“You make me feel so good, baby,” Lance said, watching Keith lean into the touch of Lance’s hand against his cheek.  “I always feel so good when you’re around.”

“You’re good for me,” Keith breathed, kissing Lance’s palm.  “You’re the most amazing creature I’ve ever laid eyes on.”

Lance’s eyes fluttered shut, his back arching with a particularly satisfying thrust and aided by the compliment.  “Fuck, you’re so good.  Fuck, c’mon baby, please touch me.  I can tell you’re close.”

Keith huffed out something that was probably an agreement, his jaw tightening in a way that might have been the single most arousing thing Lance had ever seen in his life.  Then again, Keith Kogane being naked and making sweet, satisfying love to him only moments after they had mutually confessed their love for each other made everything seem a little more attractive. 

Keith’s hand wrapped around Lance’s cock, which had been lying untouched against Lance’s stomach and dribbling pre-come onto the surface.  He pumped the shaft a few times and rubbed his thumb under the head the way he knew Lance liked.

Lance realized at some point he was just rambling – words spilling out of his mouth between whatever desperate noises he couldn’t control.  It was like being so open and vulnerable with Keith had erased his filter, and Lance was unable to stop himself from vocalizing his pleasure.  It felt good to let Keith see him fall apart like this.  It felt good to fall apart under Keith’s touch.

Ahh, please, Keith, baby, I’m so close,” Lance whined, his leg sliding down off Keith’s shoulder as his hips jerked in search of much-needed release.  He was a bit surprised he’d lasted even this long – he’d been serious about being too sad to jerk off all week.  “Please!”

Keith gripped tight around Lance’s hips, his fingers digging into the plushness of Lance’s ass.  Lance could tell he was losing his composure as he grew closer, the one hand he had around Lance’s cock speeding up as he squeezed around the head before sliding back down to stroke at the shaft.  “You can do it, honey,” Keith said, his voice winding around Lance’s overstimulated senses like melted chocolate.  “Come for me.”

With a few more strokes of Keith’s skilled hand, Lance arched, his thighs gripping Keith’s hips like a vice as he spilled over Keith’s fingers.  Keith worked him through it, gently milking Lance’s orgasm for all he could.  Once Lance started to come down from his high and twitch from overstimulation, Keith pulled out and with a few tugs of his own cock, came hard across Lance’s chest.  Satisfied, Keith breathed out a sigh and collapsed on the bed beside Lance.

Lance hummed in satisfaction, turning to nuzzle against Keith’s neck and press a kiss to the warm skin there.  “I love you.”

“Love you too, Lance,” Keith said, his arm curling gently around the man lying beside him.  “So much.”

Lance lifted his head to kiss Keith properly, lazy in the wake of their orgasms but so in love that he couldn’t help himself.  He rested his forehead against Keith’s cheek as he made an effort to fully regain control of his lungs.  “Shower?”

“Mm,” Keith said, which was not an answer, but also was not followed by an adequate one. 

“Keith.  Shower time,” Lance repeated.

“To get clean, or for round two?”

Lance snorted.  “Okay, and you call me the horny one.”

“I know after sex showers turn you on,” Keith chuckled.  “I just want to know what I’m getting up for.”

“You’re getting it up for me and how much you love my sexy brown ass,” Lance said, rolling away from Keith to sit upright on the edge of the bed.  He winced a little at the motion, his ass still aching from the very thorough pounding it just received.  Lance already wanted another one.

“It’s working,” Keith said, and Lance didn’t have to turn to know Keith was staring at said ass.  It filled some vain part of Lance to know how attractive Keith found him, and he didn’t quite mind admitting that.  He would certainly be utilizing it a lot in the future.  “Plus, I really don’t think it’s that absurd to want more than one orgasm in a row when I’ve got such a handsome man in my bed.”

“Baby, I’m gonna give you as many orgasms as your pretty little heart desires,” Lance said, turning his head to wink at Keith.

“That might be a bigger number than you have in mind,” Keith warned playfully, pushing himself into an upright position so he could reach Lance’s lips with his own.

“We’ve got all the time in the world now, don’t we?” Lance responded, indulging Keith with a tender brush of their lips before he stood, pulling Keith up and off the bed with him.  Keith followed easily, hands brushing whatever part of Lance’s skin was closest available, and Lance grinned, tugging him toward the bathroom.  “So let’s get started.”

Chapter Text

“Don’t touch me now,
Don’t hold me now,
Don’t break the spell darling,
Now you are near…”

Lance stretched luxuriously, deeply inhaling the calming and familiar scent on the pillow beneath his head.  The bed was distinctly empty of boyfriend, but the gentle piano music swirling through the house let Lance know that Keith was finally home from work.

“Look in my eyes,
And speak to me,
Those special promises,
I long to hear…”

Lance rolled out of bed, scratching a spot on his exposed midriff as he crossed to the slightly ajar bedroom door and out into the hall.  The living room at the other end was a wide, open space dotted only with a few pieces of furniture Keith had insisted Lance help him pick out before they’d even discussed the concept of living together.  Keith had largely redone the house after deciding to stay in Arus, claiming the space as his own rather than simply existing in his father’s, and asked Lance’s opinion on every decision he’d made.  They had painted every room, torn up half the flooring, and bought new furniture, and every room was now full of new memories that they had made together.  There were a few scattered pieces of Jack Kogane’s memory throughout, but the house no longer felt like his.  They’d made it into a home of their very own.

Lance found his boyfriend exactly where he’d expected, seated at the piano with his fingers brushing elegantly over the smooth keys of the instrument.

“Las palabras de amor…
Let me hear the words of love…
Despacito, mi amor,
Touch me now…”

Lance rounded the room to approach from the side, not wanting to startle Keith with his approach.  Keith stopped singing as Lance settled beside him on the piano bench, his fingers falling still as he leaned in to claim a kiss.  “Hi.  Did I wake you?”

“I wasn’t sleeping very hard,” Lance said, settling his head on Keith’s shoulder.  “How was work?”

“Good,” Keith hummed, winding one arm around Lance’s back to balance them both on the sturdy piano bench.  “Coran’s back from Latvia next week.  We’re hiring a few more interns, because Axca’s going on maternity leave again this fall.  Twins this time.”

“Good for her,” Lance said.

“How was your day?”

“Wonderful,” Lance said.  “Allura said I can do hockey camp again this year.”

“I thought she vowed to never let you do hockey camp again,” Keith said.  “Let me guess, she just can’t resist your silver tongue?”

“And I also promised to move all her old files into storage in exchange.”

“Sounds more like it.”

Lance huffed a laugh into the soft fabric of Keith’s t-shirt.  “Will you keep playing?” Lance asked.  “You know that’s my favorite.”

“Of course,” Keith said, pulling his arm away from Lance’s back so he could play again.  Lance sighed happily as Keith’s fingers moved perfectly across the keys and he resumed singing in that strong, smooth voice Lance had so easily come to adore.

“One foolish world, so many souls,
Senselessly hurled through the never ending cold…
And all for fear and all for greed,
 Speak any tongue but for God’s sake we need…”

Keith’s fingers continued the chords for the verse, but he ducked his head to sing the chorus softly into Lance’s ear.

“Las palabras de amor…
Let me hear the words of love…
Despacito, mi amor, let me know…
This night and evermore…”

Lance smiled, watching Keith sing with helpless adoration in his expression as Keith sang to him without missing a single chord.

“So then my love, we may whisper once more…
It’s you I adore…”

Lance wrapped one arm around Keith’s shoulders, his nose practically resting along the shell of Keith’s ear.  “Las palabras de amor,” he hummed along with Keith.  Lance could almost feel the goosebumps rising along Keith’s neck from the proximity of his breath and smiled, loving the way Keith still reacted so physically to Lance being so close.  “Despacito, mi amor… Touch me now...”  Lance tilted his chin up just enough that he could grab Keith’s earlobe between his teeth, tugging gently before releasing and pressing a kiss to the offended skin.  It had the intended result, Keith’s voice hitching in his throat immediately even if his fingers didn’t stop moving across the keys.  Lance relished in the feeling of Keith’s stomach trembling beneath his shirt as he skated his warm fingers over the surface, far enough to curl around the far side of Keith’s ribs.  “Touch me, mi amor,” Lance repeated, no longer singing, his voice low and husky in Keith’s ear.

“We’re going to be late if I do that,” Keith said, his voice shaky and delightfully affected.

“They’ll get over it,” Lance said, before Keith’s hands immediately abandoned the piano and found their way to Lance’s bare midriff.

“You’re wearing my shirt.”

“Mhm.”

“My favorite shirt.”

“It’s my favorite too,” Lance said, his hands winding their way around the back of Keith’s neck, one trailing up into his hair.  He worked his fingers up under the ponytail Keith was wearing, scratching at his scalp the way Lance knew he loved.  “It’s comfy.  Reminds me of you.”

“You’ve got the real thing now,” Keith said, nosing along Lance’s neck.  “What’re you gonna do with me?”

“I’m gonna tear you apart,” Lance said, his voice so low it bordered on a whisper as he slung one of his legs over the piano bench so he could sit facing Keith.  “And I’m gonna put you back together again.”

Keith let out a desperate noise that was swallowed by Lance as he crushed their lips together, Lance licking eagerly into Keith’s mouth.  As he did, he trailed one of his hands down Keith’s chest until he reached the silver button on the front of Keith’s jeans.  They were old – no amount of coercing and gifts of new pants could pry the old, torn-up denim out of Keith’s wardrobe – but they easily came unbuttoned under Lance’s dexterous fingers so that he could reach his prize.  Keith gasped into Lance’s mouth as his hand slid into Keith’s underwear to pull out his erection.  As Lance stroked him, Keith moved to do the same to Lance, pulling him free of the loose shorts he loved to nap in.

“Did I ever tell you about the first time I heard you sing, baby?” Lance asked.

“Karaoke,” Keith rasped as they stroked each other.

Lance shook his head, twisting his fingers a bit to elicit a louder noise from Keith.  He rubbed his thumb easily over the slit of Keith’s cock, the precum gathering there making the slide deliciously satisfying.  “Nope.  Remember how you used to shower at Shiro’s?

“…Yeah?”

“Shiro’s bathroom shared a wall with my bedroom,” Lance said, licking up the shell of Keith’s ear.  “So every morning around seven-thirty, I woke up to your voice.” 

Keith’s eyes widened as the realization set in.  “You—what?”

“I think I fell in love then and there, before I had any idea who you were,” Lance hummed.  “Listening to that sinfully attractive voice croon out a different eighties song every morning.”

“Oh my god,” Keith panted, half mortified by the revelation but distracted by the way Lance just kept touching him.  “I can’t believe this.  I can’t believe you didn’t tell me.”

“I almost had a heart attack at karaoke,” Lance chuckled, biting his lip as Keith slid his thumb around the crown of his cock.  “The amazing voice that I’d been fantasizing about coming out of your gorgeous mouth.  You were wearing this shirt, too.  God, Keith, how did I get so lucky?”

Fuck, Lance,” Keith grit out, squeezing around Lance’s cock.  “Shit, I—”

Lance captured his lips again before he could go on, keeping the pace of his hand steady as Keith spilled into his hand and swallowing the groan that fell from his throat.  Keith panted, speeding up his own hand around Lance’s length until he followed suit a few moments later, gasping out Keith’s name as he did.  Soft kisses peppered softer skin as they both took a few moments to breathe and recover.

“Do you have any idea how much I love you, Keith Kogane?”

“If it’s anywhere near how much I love you, Lance Fuentes, I have a pretty damn good idea.”

“I’m gonna marry the hell out of you someday,” Lance hummed pleasantly.

Keith responded familiarly, second nature by now.  “Not if I marry the hell out of you first.”

Lance grinned and kissed his boyfriend soundly once more before dragging him toward the bathroom to clean up.

 


 

 

Keith and Lance walked hand in hand into their favorite dance spot in Altea City at a quarter after seven that evening – only fifteen minutes after they were supposed to be there.  They were greeted by an unimpressed look from Allura.

“How are you late for your own party, Lance?”

Lance shrugged, a satisfied grin on his face.  “It’s my birthday and I had something to do first.”

Allura rolled her eyes.  “You mean someone?

“Yeah that,” Lance answered, his expression absolutely shameless.

Allura shook her head good naturedly and leaned in to hug him.  “Well, we’re glad you decided to join us, darling.  Happy birthday!”

“Thanks, Lu,” Lance chuckled, accepting the hug she wrapped him in graciously.  “Jeez, full house, huh?”

Allura shrugged, turning to survey her handiwork.  Keith had suggested the party itself, and Allura had taken over the planning portion readily.  They hadn’t rented out the venue, but she’d sought out management permission to stake out one corner as their own and decorated with streamers and a “Happy 28th Birthday Lance!” banner. 

“It’s practically a holiday, darling.  Come say hello to everyone!”

Lance followed Allura easily over to the corner, keeping his fingers entwined with Keith’s so as not to lose track of him.  They’d pushed a few tables up to their favorite corner booth, ensuring there was plenty of room for them all to sit.  All of Lance’s friends were there, as well as a few of his family members who lived close enough to come.  Lance greeted them all enthusiastically.

Keith watched fondly as Lance’s attention bounced all around the table, giving each person the same level of exuberant attention as the last.  One of his hands slipped into his jacket pocket, fingers twisting around a soft velvet box.  His stomach had been in knots for weeks as he’d made trip after trip to the jewelry store.  In three years of ups and downs, he and Lance had discussed the idea of getting married more than once.  Keith knew Lance wanted an outdoor wedding – something small but traditional.  Just friends and family and the two of them.  He knew Lance hated most men’s rings – too square and boxy for Lance’s tastes.  He knew Lance pretty damn well, and while he wasn’t really afraid of the reaction, it was the presentation that terrified him.

He knew Lance would accept if Keith made a private proposal.  Keith could have asked any lazy Sunday morning, or any late night spent dancing in the kitchen, or anywhere, really.  Keith just wanted to make the proposal as special to Lance as Lance was to him, and that meant asking here – at their favorite date spot, surrounded by Lance’s family and best friends. 

Plus, Lance was starting to use their joking “I’m gonna marry the hell out of you” call and response more frequently, and Keith had started to think maybe Lance was gearing up to propose.  He couldn’t have that.  Obviously it wasn’t that much different – who asked who – in the whole course of spending their lives together, but Keith needed to be the one to ask.  It was a gesture Keith needed to make to let Lance know that this was it: this was what he wanted forever.

From across the table, Sofia gave him a knowing look.  Keith brought his hand out of his pocket and up to his lips, silently giving Sofia the universal signal to keep quiet.  Keith felt like he was going to throw up.

Lance, in his mission to catch up with every person who had come to celebrate his birthday, did eventually venture away from Keith’s side.  He spoke animatedly with his brother and Hunk, both of whom had deep belly laughs that practically shook the whole table when they sounded.  The spot Lance vacated was quickly occupied by Sofia, and Keith wasn’t surprised.

“Tonight’s the night?”

“Maybe,” Keith said, exhaling a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding.  “If I can summon the courage.”

“You’ve always had it,” Sofia said, carding a hand through her long, brown hair to push it away from her face.  “You have absolutely nothing to worry about.”

“It’s still pretty big,” Keith said.  “Like, I’m literally asking him to give me the rest of his life.”

“And he won’t even think twice about giving it to you, Kogane,” Sofia laughed.  “Seriously.  I’ve never seen my little brother happier than when he’s with you.”

Keith blew out a breath, encouraged by Sofia’s words.  Lance’s entire family had been nothing but supportive and kind since the very first moment they’d met Keith, but Sofia had a way about her that still marked her as Keith’s favorite.  “Can I ask you a question?”

“Of course,” Sofia said.

“Did you propose to Nadia, or did she propose to you?”

“I proposed,” Sofia said.  “And even though there was no doubt in my mind that she was and is my soulmate, I was still terrified.”

“That makes me feel a little better.”

“Like you said, it’s a big step,” Sofia said.  “But you know what you want.”

“I do,” Keith nodded, squaring his shoulders resolutely.  “I really do.”

Sofia grinned, patting Keith on the shoulder.  “I’m proud of you, Keith,” she said, before leaning in conspiratorially.  “Plus, I have to tell you – engagement night sex is literally the hottest thing you will experience in your life.”

Keith broke into laughter, Sofia’s expression wickedly amused.  Lance chose that moment to return to Keith’s side.  “What’s so funny over here?”

Sofia shrugged lightly.  “Just giving Keith some life advice, but I don’t think he’s taking me seriously.”

“Then I’ve taught him well,” Lance teased, wrapping his arms around Keith’s neck from behind.  “Why didn’t you bring the kids, though?”

“We contemplated bringing Marco, but since we were paying for a sitter for Hana, we decided to just make this a grown-up night.”

“That’s fair I guess,” Lance conceded.  “Tell the babies their tio loves them.”

Sofia moved down a chair, so Lance could retake his place beside Keith, their fingers once again coming together between them and lacing together like they were made for it.

The ring of a spoon on the side of a glass brought the raucous conversation around their table to quiet.  The music in the bar continued, but everyone at the table had their attention on Pidge as she stood up on her chair.  “Okay, Allura said she wanted people to give toasts so I guess I’ll kick it off with a bang,” Pidge said.  “Lance was my roommate for the longest two years of my life.  He’s pretty much everything you don’t look for in a roommate – loud, kind of obnoxious, has sex on the sofa without putting a sock on the door…”

“That was one time!” Lance objected, but he was laughing.

But,” Pidge continued, looking down into her glass.  “He’s also one of my best friends in the whole world.  He might be loud, but it just means he’s excited.  He might be obnoxious, but it’s just because he cares about me or some bullshit.  So maybe I’ll cut him some slack for his not-so-secret exhibitionist kink, but only because friends like Lance are hard to find and I’m really glad he’s one of mine.”

Lance brought a hand up to his chest, sincerely honored by Pidge’s words.  Pidge swiped angrily at her eyes, pushing her glasses out of the way in the process.  “Anyway, happy birthday, dumbass.  I love you, or something, I guess.”

“I love you too, Pidgeon!” Lance called as the rest of the table clapped.

A few other toasts followed – one of Lance’s brothers giving an anecdote about the time when Lance was fifteen and convinced he was going to be a professional skateboarder when he grew up; Allura with a story about how well Lance had done at the community center all these years; Hunk with the story of how he and Lance had become inseparable friends back in college.  Finally, Keith braced himself and stood up as the applause faded from Hunk’s toast.  Lance looked up at him, one brow quirked in amusement and expectation.

“I’m not… as good at speeches as everyone else,” Keith began, receiving a few chuckles and a soft “you got this, buddy” from his brother.  Keith took a deep breath and slid his damp palms down the sides of his jeans.  “I haven’t known Lance as long as most of you, obviously,” he said, his gaze flitting around to Lance’s closest family and long-time friends.  “But I’ve known him for a while, and I guess he’s an alright guy.”

This drew snickers from around the table, including from Lance, who smacked Keith’s ass with a smirk.

“I’m pretty sure everyone here knows the story of how Lance and I got together,” Keith went on.  “A lot of you were crying over how stupid we were, actually.  We were both too stubborn and too scared to actually trust each other until we had no other option.  Well, I guess the other option would have been breaking up, but it wasn’t an actual option.”

Keith cast a quick look down at Lance, who mouthed the words I love you, and gave Keith the courage to keep going.

 “For our second date, Lance brought me here,” Keith said.  “He didn’t tell me we were going dancing until he already had me in the car, and honestly, that was probably smart of him, because I was this close to bailing the second he did.  The only reason I didn’t jump out of that moving car, honestly, was because I had this humongous crush on the guy and even though I knew I was going to look so stupid trying to dance in public, I just thought… fuck it.  It’s worth it if I get to stand that close to him for a few hours.”

There was a wave of coos and awws from around the table, and Pidge made a gagging noise for which Lance flipped her off with a laugh.

“After the best night I’d had in twenty-five years of living,” Keith said, “He drove me home.  I had an overnight shift to get to and he didn’t once complain about the fact that I had to cut out at ten pm.”  Keith glanced down at Lance, reaching out to take Lance’s hand in his own.  “That was the night he asked me to be his boyfriend.”

Lance grinned up at him, expression fond and nostalgic at the memory.

“Lance,” Keith said, no longer really addressing the group at large.  “The last three years haven’t been easy.  That stubbornness and that fear and those communication issues that plagued us in the beginning didn’t go away overnight, and honestly, they maybe never will.  But they’re the things we worked hardest on, and we’ve come a really long way.  And in spite of the difficulties, and in spite of arguments, and in spite of everything, these last three years have been the most amazing three years of my life, because I’ve shared them with such an incredible, caring, wonderful man.  You have taught me so much about myself and about love and every day that I get to share with you is the new best day of my life.”

Lance’s hand squeezed tightly around Keith’s fingers, his eyes rimmed with soft tears at Keith’s toast.  Keith shifted, bending down – no, kneeling – and Lance’s eyes went wide as Keith drew a blue velvet box out of his jacket pocket.  His jaw dropped when Keith opened the box to reveal a gorgeous silver engagement band. 

“I fell in love with you at twenty-five, and every single day since then, I’ve fallen even more in love with you. Three years ago, you asked me to be your boyfriend. Tonight, I’d like to ask you to upgrade that title.”

“Keith…” Lance whispered, astonished tears rolling down his cheeks.  One of his hands was still laced in Keith’s, but the other was pressed to his mouth as he tried to contain his emotions.  Just when he thought he couldn’t be more in love with Keith, he went and did something stupidly perfect.  Lance couldn’t fathom how he’d gotten so lucky in life, but he thanked the stars and the entire universe for sending him a man like Keith Kogane.

“Lance Fuentes,” Keith said, his voice quiet but perfectly steady as he watched Lance’s face intently.  “Will you marry me?”

“Yes!” Lance responded immediately, his voice cracking with emotion as he lunged forward to throw his arms around Keith’s neck in a tight hug.  Keith wasted no time in wrapping his own around Lance’s midsection, embracing him tightly in return.  “Yes, of course I’ll marry you,” Lance repeated, his voice thick as he choked back the happiest tears he’d ever felt in his life.  “Oh my god, Keith, I love you so much.”

When Lance pulled back, he caught a glimpse of the tears welling in Keith’s stormy, charcoal eyes as well as the biggest grin he’d ever seen on Keith’s face.  Keith quickly glanced down, clearing his throat and removing the ring from the box.  “May I?”

Lance nodded eagerly, letting Keith gently slide the ring onto Lance’s left hand.  The silver band was narrower than most men’s rings, but it was inlaid with a narrow strip of opal, flicking red and blue in the low lighting of the venue.  “It’s gorgeous,” Lance whispered reverently.

“You’re never getting rid of me now,” Keith teased, but when he glanced up at Lance, there was a hint of vulnerability that Lance recognized instantly.  “I’m yours forever.”

“That’s the best thing anyone’s ever said to me,” Lance said, bringing both hands up to cup Keith’s face between them.  “I love you.”

“I love you too,” Keith replied earnestly, letting Lance pull him in for a sweet, chaste kiss.

The wolf whistles and cheering around them brought Lance out of his dazed reverie.  His face flushed red as he recalled their audience, laughing a little even as he buried his face in Keith’s shoulder.  Even those who weren’t seated at their table had taken notice of the proposal, and it seemed like the whole ballroom was applauding them.  He brought his head back up a few seconds later as a wild thought sprang to mind.  “Did you guys know about this? All of you?”

“Pretty much,” Sofia said with a grin.  “Keith’s been planning this for a while now.”

“I can’t believe no one told me!” Lance whined petulantly, which prompted laughter from the rest of the party.

“That would have ruined the whole surprise,” Pidge pointed out.  “And you’re a slut for romantic declarations.”

Lance rolled his eyes but couldn’t stop smiling.  He let his gaze drift back to his fiancé.  Holy shit, his fiancé!  Lance loved this new phrase immediately.  The tears Lance had spied immediately after the proposal had disappeared, but the grin hadn’t faded whatsoever.  Lance couldn’t help himself leaning over to kiss Keith’s cheek because he just loved this man so goddamn much.

“I’m so happy for you, Lancito,” Sofia said quietly from her spot beside Lance.  “Mami and Papi are, too.  They said to call them when you get the chance.”

“They know, too?” Lance asked, blinking in surprise.  He glanced back toward Keith, who shrugged a bit.

“I know their blessing is important to you,” Keith said quietly.  “I wanted to make sure I had it.”

Lance’s heart squeezed in his chest, feeling like it was going to overflow with the emotion of the evening.  “You are the single most incredible man in the universe,” Lance said.  “I’m gonna marry the hell out of you.”

“Not if I marry the hell out of you first,” Keith responded playfully.

“I think you guys have gotten even grosser in the last three years,” Pidge barked from across the table.  “Now are we all gonna stand here crying, or are we gonna fuckin’ celebrate?”

“We’re definitely celebrating,” Lance declared, the volume of his voice rising for the first time since the toasts started.  “And I’m gonna dance with my motherfucking fiancé!

Keith grinned at the declaration.

The nerves and the nausea he'd been fending off earlier had vanished.  Now, with Lance’s hand on his hip, guiding him around the dance floor, the knots were gone: replaced by a sense of giddy satisfaction.  For once, Keith wasn’t afraid of what his future held, because with Lance’s hand entwined in his, the light catching the ring on Lance’s finger, he was happy.

He was home.