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There's A Trick To These Carnival Games

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“Lance, you really don’t have to do this.”

The brunet rolls his eyes at his boyfriend’s flushed cheeks, squeezing his hand in slight amusement. “But I want to , Kashi. Besides, you already won me this big ass shark, so it’s only fair!”

Shiro opens his mouth to argue that the stuffed shark really wasn’t a big deal, but Lance quickly silences him with a kiss. As they part, he taps Shiro’s nose and smirks at his dazed expression. “We’re walking home with that giant stuffed lion whether you want it or not! Just let the sharpshooter do his thing.”

“But these things are rigged, Lance! It was a total fluke that I won that strength game, you saw it in the carni’s face! There’s no way you can win something off of the top shelf, at least not without spending more money than the prize is worth.” The worry lines on Shiro’s forehead are almost enough to keep Lance from slapping a five dollar bill onto the counter of the carnival booth.

Almost.

“Babe, hold my shark.”

Three darts are laid out before him, the booth worker droning on about the game’s instructions in a monotonous tone. Lance focuses on the three balloons he wants to pop, mentally calculating the trajectory with which he’d have to aim his shots.

“You have to pop a balloon with all three darts in order to win a prize,” the worker continues, pausing only to sniffle as a breeze tickles her nose. “Win something off of the top shelf by winning three rounds in a row. You forfeit your prize from the previous round in order to continue. The game will get harder as you go on–”

“Alright, I think I’ve got it,” Lance assures with a wink, putting the poor girl out of her misery.

She gives him an almost grateful nod before stepping back and pulling the lever. The circular boards that the balloons are plastered to begins to rotate. While he hadn’t anticipated movement of any kind, the pace is a slow enough crawl that he can factor it into his mental calculations.

After watching the balloons complete a full revolution across the boards, he picks the first dart up, rolling it between his thumb and index finger thoughtfully. Zeroing in once again on his intended target, he pinches the dart and takes aim, anticipating where the balloon will be when he releases it.

Even the booth worker is stunned at how easily he lands his first shot, the dart puncturing the small balloon dead-center. Lance can feel Shiro’s pride radiating beside him, but he doesn’t allow himself to bask in it for long. He’s a man on a mission.

He manages to pop the next two balloons with just as much ease, the darts striking their targets almost simultaneously. His success triggers the alarm bells of the booth, drawing the attention of a few carnival-goers nearby as the automated voice declares him a winner. The young woman’s smile is genuine when she offers him a prize off of the bottom shelf.

“No thanks,” he waves off with a small smirk. “I’m going straight to the top.”

The worker raises a brow. “Are you sure? Maybe you didn’t hear me when I said it gets even harder than this? I mean, you’re good, don’t get me wrong, but between you and me, no one’s ever won anything off of the top shelf here…”

“Then it’ll be my pleasure to be the first,” Lance beams, spurred on by Shiro’s bemused chuckle. He slaps another five dollar bill onto the counter, daring the attendant to challenge him.

When the booth worker turns to look at him, Shiro only presses a kiss to Lance’s temple. “That’s my boyfriend for you.”

Her look of skepticism softens then as she hands over another trio of darts. “Then I guess I can only wish you luck.”

The slowly assembling crowd applauds eagerly as she takes her place at the controls again, pulling the lever and bringing the game to life once more. The remaining balloons begin to circle on their dais again, this time at a faster pace.

Lance only grins at the challenge, taking his time to read the rhythm of the round before taking aim for his first shot. The first dart sails easily into the center of a balloon, rousing a cheer from the crowd behind him. He forces himself to tune them out, focusing again on the next two balloons.

Releasing the next dart on an exhale, he watches it embed itself deep into the board as it strikes its target. Using the same technique, he confidently fires off his last dart, popping the final balloon with a smirk.

“We have a winner!” the automated voice proclaims again, another round of applause boiling up from his audience.

“One more,” the booth attendant reminds him, “are you sure you want to go for it?”

Lance glances back at Shiro and the giant stuffed shark in his arms. His boyfriend gives him a thumbs up when he catches his gaze, bringing a determined flush to the brunet’s cheeks. He grins self-assuredly back at the booth worker, sliding another five to her. “Definitely.”

 


 

“I think I’m gonna call him ‘Finn,’” Lance snickers, petting the head of his shark affectionately. His head darts up when he hears Shiro’s chuckles, but his gaze softens when he sees him cradle the giant black lion closer to his chest.

“I think I’ll just call mine ‘Black,’” he hums, much to Lance’s chagrin. When he sees his boyfriend’s pout, he rolls his eyes. “Well it’s not like I can name him something like ‘Paw!’”

“Come on, Shiro, put a little more thought into it!” Lance whines, tugging on the sleeve of his hoodie teasingly.

Shiro huffs and buries his face thoughtfully into the lion’s mane. “‘Leo?’”

Lance stares into the slate eyes glittering hopefully at him atop the lion’s head. He can visualize the accompanying pout, hidden behind the stuffed animal, an expression almost exclusively reserved for him.

He rolls his eyes and grasps one of the lion’s front paws, tugging it aside to kiss his cheek. “I think Leo’s an adorable name,” he agrees, lacing the fingers of his right hand with those of Shiro’s left.

The group in front of them boards the ride, allowing them to approach the gate. The ride operator steps up to his platform and brings the next car down painfully slowly, the car rocking in place when he stops it.

Shiro squeezes Lance’s hand anxiously as the operator turns to let the occupants of the car out. “Are you sure you want to ride this? It seems a little… rickety.”

Lance snorts, waving Shiro’s concerns off with a flap of Finn’s dorsal fin. “Relax old man, I’m sure it’s safe.”

Shiro blows a raspberry against Lance’s temple in retaliation. “I’m the old man? You spend the weekends watching Spanish soap operas with your mom over Skype!”

“Excuse you! They’re called telenovelas, you heathen, and if you’d just sit and watch one with us–”

“Nope, not gonna happen,” Shiro guffaws, the idea alone enough to make him roll around on the floor in laughter. The ride operator waves them over, Shiro leading Lance into the car and allowing the door to be locked firmly behind them before continuing, “I’d be completely lost one sentence in!”

“I could turn the captions on!” Lance offers, eyes twinkling enthusiastically, “and Mama and I could explain everything to you! They’re really not that long, either.”

Shiro’s grin widens as he listens to Lance rave about the newest show that his mother introduced him to. The car slowly begins to move beneath them, mechanics audibly whirring to life. They can feel themselves begin to ascend as the ferris wheel picks up speed.

Lance finally stops talking, smiling shyly at the enamored expression Shiro continues to aim at him. “What?”

“You’ve convinced me,” the larger man sighs with a dopey grin, leaning back into the bench. “I’ll give the show a shot. But you and your mom can’t go off on your own tangents without including me!”

Lance’s expression lights up. “We won’t, I promise!” He’s practically bouncing in his seat as he retrieves his phone from his pocket. “Mama and I have been waiting for this moment for months!”

“Months?”

“Months.”

Serious cerulean eyes meet skeptical slate before the couple bursts into laughter simultaneously, cuddling their stuffed animals to their chests.

“God, first she insists on cooking lessons, and now we’re watching telenovelas! I already feel like your mom’s taken me under her wing.”

Lance wrinkles his nose at that. “Speaking of cooking lessons, you’re well overdue for one… Don’t think she’s forgotten your promise to cook dinner for her next visit.”

Shiro’s groan is entirely fond, Lance can tell from the light blush tinting his cheeks. “ Please tell me that she likes mac and cheese.”

“Only if you’ve learned how to boil the macaroni without burning the water,” the brunet shoots back cheekily.

A giggle bubbles up past Lance’s lips as Shiro pulls him close, peppering kisses across his cheeks. He slides along the round bench until he’s practically in his boyfriend’s lap, curling up into his side as the fairgrounds get smaller and smaller below them. They sit in silence together, enjoying the slight sway of the car and each other’s warmth.

“You know, I’m glad you won this for me,” Shiro declares when they reach the top.

Lance turns to give him an amused look. “Why?”

“Because you looked fucking impressive throwing those darts.” The brunet snorts at the explanation, but Shiro’s fingers brushing against his cheek draw his attention again. “And also… because naming him made me think.”

His voice is quiet, Lance leaning in to hear him over the wind. His cheeks flush when he catches Shiro’s words, though, heart beating wildly in his chest. “Oh yeah?”

His boyfriend’s smile warms him to his toes. “Yeah.” Shiro’s free hand finds his again, thumb trailing over the back soothingly. “It doesn’t have to be now, and this definitely isn’t a proposal, but… I’d like to start a family with you someday.”

Lance is certain that the tears pricking at his eyes aren’t due to the wind. He can’t even manage a response, throwing his arms around Shiro’s neck and kissing him feverishly. Shiro meets the kiss with just as much love and enthusiasm, cradling his cheek affectionately.

They remain close, even as their lips finally part. Lance’s azure eyes slowly open to meet the fond gaze of Shiro’s grey ones.

“Maybe we can start with a puppy,” he hums, laying his head on Shiro’s chest. He feels Shiro nod above him, fingers carding delicately through his hair.

“We could call him ‘Lance Jr.,’” he offers with a slight chuckle.

Lance shrugs noncommittally, angling his head so he can meet Shiro’s eyes again. A small grin stretches his lips when Shiro raises a brow at him. “I don’t know, I think Leo’s an adorable name.”