Lance watches Rolo with the same intensity of prey hiding from a predator, waiting for the right moment to make a quick escape, noting any and all present dangers. Rolo, meanwhile, stares at the door Keith has just breezed out of—the cafeteria exit. He clutches a rolled-up poster in his hand, and the sight of it sets Lance’s blood boiling. His fuse is shorter than usual when it comes to Rolo; he’s already seconds away from exploding, and Rolo hasn’t even opened his mouth yet.
The fuse grows shorter as Rolo squares his shoulders and saunters up to the lunch table. Lance slowly lowers his plastic fork, and then sets it down and picks up his phone just as Rolo shows up. In his periphery, he notes the others—Hunk, Pidge, and Shay—all with their own phones at the ready.
If anything, Rolo should be hesitant to be here. Should be afraid. Lance still can’t forget the things Rolo’s done to Keith in the past, things he’s said, aspects of Keith’s life he’s belittled. In Lance’s opinion, Rolo should be terrified to breathe in the same vicinity as him, but he’s not, and it’s all the more infuriating.
“Hi,” Rolo says, and Lance flicks his eyes down to his phone, to a text from Keith, and then back up at Rolo. Then his gaze drops again, like he hadn’t even seen him. From the corner of his eye, Lance sees Rolo frown. “Where’s Keith?”
“None of your business,” Lance answers automatically, and refrains from throwing in a now fuck off, asshat.
Rolo, somehow, doesn’t understand this very obvious cue from Lance that he can leave, because he’s not getting answers, and he’s not getting the chance to talk to Keith. As Lance types out a text to Keith and the rest of the group chat, Rolo asks another question.
“Who are you texting?”
Lance’s head snaps up at the suspicion in Rolo’s voice. His fingers tighten around his phone, and for a moment Lance wants to pretend—no, stop that, Mamá raised you better than that.
“None of your business,” Lance replies.
“Can you tell me where he is?” Rolo asks, impatience creeping into his voice. “I have something important to ask him.”
Lance hardly hears the quiet oh shit from Pidge. He sets his phone on the table, resisting the urge to make his point clear by slamming it, and turns his body toward Rolo.
“What the hell do you have to ask him?”
He steals a glance at the poster Rolo clutches, potentially the out-of-the-blue promposal that the group is expecting.
“None of your business,” Rolo says, and Lance can practically see the middle finger in Rolo’s eyes as he stalks over to the empty table next to theirs. He seats himself at the far end, against the wall, a small consolation for Lance. It gives Lance plenty of room to make commentary as he texts Keith.
“None of your business my ass,” Lance mutters through grit teeth.
“Alright. Lance, you gotta calm down a little. Stop squeezing your poor phone so hard,” Hunk says.
“I’m just angry. Who the fuck does he think he is? He hurt Keith. And now he just waltzes over here looking for him to talk to him? He’s gotta know Keith is avoiding him on purpose. What kind of jackass—”
“Lance,” Shay says, and even reaches across the table to put a hand over his, “calm down. He wants a rise out of you.”
“He can get a rise out of me when my fist rises to his—”
“Alright, Keith, settle there,” Pidge interrupts.
Lance rolls his eyes. “Whatever.”
He returns his attention to his phone, where Keith sends screenshots of an ongoing conversation with Rolo. There are only two that Keith sends, but they’re both immensely frustrating, and Lance nearly snaps at the second.
“No shit, Sherlock,” Lance grumbles, fingers flying across his keyboard.
“Uh, Lance?” Hunk asks.
Lance lifts his eyes to Hunk. “Rolo’s texting Keith saying that he should’ve treated him better. What do you think was his first fucking clue? When Keith literally had a panic attack because of him? Because I remember that. I’m still pissed. Do you know how terrified I was for him?”
“Lance, voice,” Shay warns, and cuts her eyes to the sides, making sure no one sitting at the tables around them can hear.
Lance scowls and goes back to texting Keith, who’s apparently on his way back to the lunch table after being kicked out of the bathroom for loitering, and spending too long in the snack line. Then he looks at Rolo—he’s spotted Keith.
Keith slides into his seat next to Lance and slumps forward onto the table, chin propped on crossed arms. As soon as Keith’s settled, Rolo rises, and makes his way back over to the table. Keith groans quietly, while Lance’s fuse grows even shorter. He’s used to keeping Keith in check and saving him from fights, but this time, it may need to be the other way around.
“Hi, Keith,” Rolo greets, like Lance isn’t sitting right next to him.
Keith looks up at him, face blank. “What do you want?”
Rolo smiles hesitantly. “Can we talk? In private?”
He motions to the empty lunch table with his rolled-up poster. In an alternate universe, Lance might’ve gone numb at this suggestion, but not in this one. Fresh rage tears through him, but he can’t just get up and punch Rolo in the face. He’s been in only a couple physical altercations this year, but they were a couple too many, and he hadn’t been the one to start him. He’s not screwing up his record further this late into the year. Instead, he puts an arm around Keith’s shoulders, the most passive-aggressive thing he can think of.
Is it possessive? Maybe. But some of the tension eases out of Keith’s muscles, and Lance knows then that no boundaries have been crossed.
“Why do you need to talk to me?” Keith asks.
Lance’s other hand rests on the cafeteria table, and Keith sits up slightly, just to shift a hand forward and place it over Lance’s, fingers wrapping loosely around it.
“Well, I wanted to make things up to you,” Rolo says. His eyes drift back to the empty cafeteria table, probably envisioning a scenario that would finally drive Lance to violence. “I was hoping to ask in private…”
Keith sits up even straighter, and holds tighter to Lance’s hand. “Whatever you have to say to me, you can say here.”
Rolo’s eyes sweep quickly over the rest of the lunch table: Hunk, with his judgmental stare, perfected over years of watching Lance’s antics; Shay, placidly staring, face void of all emotion; Pidge, thoroughly amused by all of this; and Lance, silently challenging Rolo to try something and face the consequences.
Rolo should grow more nervous. But he doesn’t. He meets Lance’s gaze for the smallest fraction of a second before setting his sights back on Keith and saying, “I was hoping we could go out sometime, just to really talk things through.”
Hunk chokes on whatever he’s chewing on.
Lance’s eye twitches, and he draws Keith further into him, ever-so-slightly. Keith squeezes his hand again, and levels steely eyes at Rolo.
Rolo blinks, like he hadn’t expected that response.
“Please,” he says, and begins unfurling his poster, “I’m not trying to start any drama. Just to apologize.”
The poster unravels fully. Where the group expected a promposal is instead an I’m sorry message.
KEITH: I AM SO SORRY. GO OUT SOMETIME? TALK IT THROUGH?
It’s got all the artsy flair of a promposal poster, and Lance wonders what the entire fucking point of the poster really is. To fool and piss off Nyma, in some passive-aggressive fight to see who can win back their ex first? To bait her into promposing to Lance, and watching her make a fool of herself? Just a ridiculous, over-the-top move?
Lance decides he doesn’t even want to know.
“Did a kindergartener draw that?” Keith asks, bored-sounding.
Pidge snorts, loudly. A look flashes quickly over Rolo’s face, and Lance pegs it as sheer indignation, where it should be fear and hurt.
“Anyway,” Keith goes on, and grabs Lance’s other hand, and pulls Lance’s arm tighter around him, “not interested. Bye.”
The indignation returns quickly. Rolo’s eyes jump from Keith to Lance, and Lance grins smugly. He lifts the hand resting on the table, Keith’s sliding off of it, and waves. Rolo opens and closes his mouth, and then finally rolls the poster back up and walks away, footsteps faster than they should be. Lance flips him the bird as he leaves.
“Serves him right,” Lance says, and then mutters, “jackass.”
“I hate him so much,” Keith agrees, and slumps forward on the table again. Lance keeps his arm around him, and Keith shoots him a grateful smile.
“That was surreal,” Shay says. “Like, what? An I’m sorry poster? That’s overkill.”
“That’s embarrassing and attention-grabbing is what it is,” Hunk remarks. “I saw people looking at us.”
Lance uses his free hand and stabs a fork into his salad. “I was this close to snapping.”
“You looked ready to kill him,” Shay says.
Lance’s fork is halfway to his mouth, and he still sets it down again. The anger won’t burn off as quickly as it usually does, and it takes everything in him to keep from shouting.
“He talked to Keith like I wasn’t even sitting here. No respect. He knew exactly what he was doing, too. He looked at me. And then he kept going!”
Lance has too many more thoughts swirling in his head, fighting over which gets to be articulated next, and it culminates in Lance huffing and setting his fork back down entirely. It’s not so much that he’s angry he was ignored—it’s more that Rolo focused in on Keith, where he had to know Keith was uncomfortable.
“You alright?” he asks, and glances down at Keith.
Keith turns his head and smiles lightly. “Yeah. Thanks for having my back. Literally.”
Lance’s expression softens, and the ends of his mouth curl up. For a brief moment, his mind juxtaposes this Keith—tired-looking, soft, affectionate, smiling—with the Keith from back at the end of November: terrified, sobbing, shaking, struggling to breathe.
Rolo did that to him. No matter what, Lance can’t forgive it.
“I’ve got you,” Lance replies, and squeezes Keith’s shoulder. “I love you.”
“Excuse me, who authorized mush?” Pidge interrupts. She waves her fork wildly at her lunch tray. “In front of my salad?”
The rest of the group breaks laughing, and the conversation devolves into everyone throwing Vine and meme references at each other. By the end of lunch, Lance’s fury has melted away, the topic of Rolo disappearing in favor of fun. Lance walks to Physics hand-in-hand with Keith, surrounded by Hunk, Shay, and Pidge, laughter raucous.