Chapter 1: telephone poles
after getting a late-night phone call, hunk runs out of their dorm room without saying goodbye to keith. come to find out lance is seriously injured, hunk has to start sacrificing most of his time to be at the hospital, and everything is changing.
or: this mans gets in a car accident and now momma hunk has to take care of him but isn't letting keithy boy come with
keith had already gone to sleep by the time hunk got the phone call. he could hear his roommate stir around their small dorm, searching for the source of the ringing. hunk finally picked up after finding it under what he guessed was another pile of dirty laundry, and keith found himself sighing in relief once the noise had ceased. a few seconds. a groggy "hello?", muffled by lips puffed from sleep. then, suddenly, feet against the brittle floor.
"dude. where are you going?"
no answer. more shuffling until finally, finally, hunk slammed the door behind him just as quickly as he had opened it. whatever, keith thought, the guy was probably just sneaking off to meet up with his girlfriend anyways.
by the time hunk came back later that afternoon, keith had already heard the news. a mundane greeting exchanged between the two. hunk rifling through his drawers in search of a fresh change of clothes. keith didn't dare interrupt the stale silence hanging between them. well, until he did.
"is he okay?"
a worried chuckle. hunk turned, disrupting the tears nesting in the creases of his eye sockets and setting them loose, allowing them to run down his cheeks the same way they all used to run down the beach together, hot sand between their toes and a hotter breeze carding through their hair, sopping with saltwater. keith knew before. but now he really knew.
"i don't know buddy," hunk managed, stepping towards his roommate. a tight hug. keith was seeing stars, constellations of teardrops clouding his vision as he too began to sob,
"i don't know."
they stood like that for a long time, covering each other from the reality surrounding them as they lost themselves in memories of lance. the freckles beneath his eyes instead of dark circles. the way his mouth bunched into a smile when he laughed. road trips across the state disguised as ways to get out of their dorms and "live a little for once". lance always had been so eager to live, so good at it. it pained keith to consider the idea that he might not get to anymore, shredded his ribcage and organs and left him so incredibly hollow that his heart had to get up and leave too.
hunk told him that it had been a telephone pole. told him that lance was in the passenger seat of his date's car, axca or something, and she had been punching it like she was running from the police. which she wasn't. of course, lance was probably having the time of his life. he was probably infatuated with her.
see keith, she's someone who knows how to have fun.
it made keith feel heavy, weighed down by emotions that he wasn't entitled to. hunk said she lost control, let the wheel slip right from under her fingers the same way he had let those blue eyes dipped in honey slip through his. he said she hit a telephone pole.
suddenly keith resented the wires that allowed hunk to receive the call from the hospital in the first place, hated the poles that lit the same streets they used to walk down to get to the movies and ice cream and downtown. he wanted to go to the county - the state and make sure that every last telephone pole would be buried along with lance, deep in the ground where no one would ever run into them again. he wanted to hunt axca down and bury her too, even though she was already confirmed to be dead. more ringing. hunk picked up his phone and scurried into the hallway, softly shutting the door this time. moments passed. the door slowly creaked back open and his roommate advanced cautiously as to gauge the other boy's response before it happened. keith worried this was it, that he was really dead now.
but then hunk told him that lance would be okay.
Chapter 2: high school physics
keith is finally starting to realize that no matter how emotionally unavailable he is he still misses his friend. after a long lecture about gravitational energy, keith comes to an important realization.
or: finally, homeboy is willing to admit some stuff to himself.
keith didn't go to class the next day. he couldn't be bothered with physics, especially now that lance was in the hospital. hunk told him that he was still in a coma, that he wouldn't be able to talk to or see or touch keith even if he wanted to. he still insisted on going to the hospital. polite arguing. hunk was always so polite, even when he was telling keith that he really shouldn't visit lance in the ICU quite yet. he didn't mean to be patronizing, wasn't being patronizing at all. keith still felt patronized.
"it's for the best keith," hunk said, words dripping in genuine sugar and concern, "he wouldn't want you to see him like this, trust me." and keith did. he had always trusted hunk.
keith supposed he could stay away from lance's hospital room at least until he wasn't in a coma anymore, maybe longer if lance really didn't want to see him. he promised himself that he could stay away for a little while. after all, it is what i'm good at.
boy was he wrong.
keith put up a good fight. he went back to classes, managed to resume a normal life without lance always around. he didn't like doing it but, for the sake of his friend, he did his best.
he lasted about 4 days.
4 days was exceptionally good for keith, all things considered. it was physics that finally broke him. they were being lectured on gravitational energy, of all things. his professor was explaining newton's law of gravitational attraction to some half-wit by the name of rolo, or something along those lines. a scoff. lots of coughing. it wasn't hard to tell that his peers were bored and, frankly, keith didn't blame them. this is high school physics stuff. but as the lecture picked up, keith found himself mesmerized, deep in the words of the woman standing in front of them.
"you see, rolo, each object in the universe has a gravitational pull, an attraction, on every other object scattered throughout the cosmos. isn't that fascinating, astonishing that at this very moment you are both attracting and being attracted to everything within, and beyond, the scientific understanding of mankind?"
rolo didn't seem to get it. if keith was being completely honest, he didn't think that the imbecile at the front of the lecture hall deserved her words. honestly, keith didn't think he deserved those words either.
those words were selfish. made him think that maybe in some mixed-up scientific way he and lance were drawn to each other. along with everything else, of course. her words pushed him into thought, nearly persuaded him that somehow, someway, he and lance in a hospital bed and hunk spending his nights in the ICU so his best friend wouldn't have to be alone and his brother shiro who he never has the chance to see anymore and that headass axca who's sleeping six feet under now and everyone and everything else he knew all belonged to him, if only for a moment. that they all belonged to each other and, for once, keith felt connected to the cosmos.
he really needed to get out of this class.
but he specifically really needed to get out of this class to see lance. the gravitational attraction between them, pulsing like the heartbeat keith had thought disappeared yesterday afternoon. no matter how small, it made keith a little more at peace to know that if nothing else, at least science was on his side for this one.
Chapter 3: golden boy
keith begins to cope with lance being in the hospital and how it's affecting him while still trying to be a functional human, and we as the reader learn a little bit more about what lance is really like. also, after days of begging, hunk might just budge.
or: keef morphs into his truest emo form and some random narrator exposes lance for the sadboy he really is. hunk is also weak.
keith felt lance's disappearance more than he'd like anyone to know. it hurt, pained him even. no bright smiles returned with scowls in the hallway between classes, no weekend plans theoretically all mapped out but in reality wide open for wherever the night took them. he felt the hole lance left in his life wherever he went. but keith knew that he'd feel this way if any of his friends ended up in the hospital. right? this was normal. he sure hoped it was normal to miss someone with this much ache, this much longing. keith felt like a kid with a cavity (too much of a good thing had rotted him, ruined him for anything but what he had grown so fond of, and now life would have to take it away).
hunk understood why his roommate would want to visit lance so badly, he really did. but he also knew lance. lance, the golden boy. lance, the one who planned their outings and was untouchable on the dancefloor of any party. lance, who would never want anyone to know how badly he himself was truly hurting. he couldn't betray his best friend like that. especially if the person he was letting see lance's hurt was keith. no way would that go over well.
he really was a golden boy: lance, untouchable lance
astonishing, wonderful, immaculate lance.
lance, anxiety-ridden and hurting lance. lance who often times couldn't sleep at night because panic flooded his mind and his mother always told him to not fall asleep with the water running. lance who loved deeply and fully and unconditionally unless someone gave him reason not to. the golden boy that would crumble in fear if anyone got close enough to really touch, really see him.
he couldn't let keith see him. shouldn't let keith see him until at very least he was awake. but as much of a friend to lance hunk was, he was also a friend to keith. the same keith that he found drifting aimlessly around campus whenever he was around. the guy who now stared at the walls of their dorm like they were picassos or kahlos, searching for something that hunk feared he was actively keeping him from. he really couldn't let keith see lance. really really couldn't.
until one day he began to think he could.
it was raining the day hunk finally broke. he had gotten back late from the hospital in search of a phone charger and fresh clothes and keith noticed how quietly he opened the door to their room, as if not to shatter the silence he was soaking in all this time.
"how is he?' keith asked, shattering the silence for himself. a sigh, intended to be discreet but made almost unbearably clear by the brief quiet between them.
"better. still not awake." keith felt himself fall.
"so no visit?" he prompted gently, providing his best puppy-dog eyes paired with a pitiful frown.
"i don't think now is the right time." the pain, the restraint in hunks voice dripped from his words, bleeding with the desire to allow his roommate some closure.
more silence. keith was getting sick of all the silence around his dorm, like a virus festering between the four walls he was supposed to be sharing. hunk was like a ghost, barely around and barely sharing anything like the way he used to. he gave all of his time, all of his attention and effort to lance's betterment and, though keith didn't blame him, the loneliness enclosing him quickly became overwhelming. keith didn't have much of anyone anymore besides hunk, now that lance was in the hospital. (it didn't help that pidge never went outside or socialized and shiro and matt lived a thousand miles away, or something that felt like that, and allura was studying abroad and everything was different now.)
"you sure?" keith hoped that hunk knew he was half gone already, not having enough words to express the way he needed to see lance and not having the courage to express them even if he did.
a longer pause. more sighing. keith could practically hear hunk's thoughts running around in his mind, warring over betraying his best friends wishes or denying his roommate the visit he so desired. hunk turned back to him and keith realized that at some point he must of not noticed him turning away in the first place.
"i really shouldn't let you keith," he said, "i'm sure you can tell how hard this is for me. i don't like keeping you away from him, you know." it sure didn't feel that way.
keith refused to look up, worried that he would be met with more rejection. but when he finally did the amber eyes that bore back into his were clouded with guilt, with sadness. and then with something different, a golden light rushing forth like something previously holding it back snapped in the soul within those irises.
"if you promise to never tell him," he muttered quietly, almost too quick to catch, "i might consider taking you with me tomorrow."
what? were keith's ears working properly?
"excuse me?" he asked, hopes soaring high at the mention of being reunited with his friend.
oh. his ears definitely did not deceive him.
"okay," he said confidently, honestly and fully, "i promise."
Chapter 4: hunk's prius
the day for keith to visit lance finally arrives! its cold, hunk is worried, and keithyboy is still doing his best to be as emo as possible.
or: my boys take a trip to the hospital in hunk's prius and simultaneously have aneurysms because that's the kind of friends they are.
keith slept better that night than he had in weeks. which was strange, considering today was the day he would finally see lance again. (he expected to be repulsed by the idea of sleeping, too excited to close his eyes and too fearful that the opportunity to see lance would slip away if he did). he woke up, showered, dressed and found hunk on his way to the parking lot where they agreed to meet.
"good morning, sunshine." a chuckle. okay, so maybe keith definitely looked like he just woke up from the best sleep in the world: hair tousled by his extra-fluffy pillow and groggy eyes aggravated by the january sunlight, shivering at the loss of his spiderman bedsheets in the brisk air separating them from hunk's prius. but he wasn't bitter.
"hello to you too." okay maybe he was, just a little bit. a smile. hunk seemed to light up whenever he was happy. seemed to be lit from within by his joy, skin drenched in a golden extract so pure it radiated goodness onto everyone around him. even keith. even after being oh-so rudely woken up by his phone alarm blasting 'damn regret' from what just happened to be the best night's sleep of his life. (but he still wasn't bitter).
it was hard to be bitter with someone like hunk.
hard to deny that he always had nothing but the best intentions drilled into his heart, kindness branded into the flesh and blood that composed him. nearly impossible to ignore someone so genuine, so pure.
so overwhelmingly taxing on oneself to stay mad at someone with this much light, this much good, seeping through his cracks and faults and slip-ups.
no one stood a chance, not even keith.
hunk wasn't going to lie, he knew bringing keith to see lance was a bad idea. a very very bad idea. not to mention, lance was going to be pissed off at him for at least the next ten thousand years. but the faint upturn of keith's lips that were chapped raw, the lightness in their conversation for the first time in weeks. the subtle hurry in keith's stride replacing the way he lingered and drifted around campus in days prior. hunk told himself it was worth it. told himself that the ease and happiness it brought keith, no matter how little, was worth an eternity of lance's frustration.
it wasn't like lance could hold a grudge anyway.
they finally stepped into his car, rolled the windows down and back up again. tuned the radio to a station that wasn't currently playing ads. hunk finally felt himself breathe. worry fled his body like smoke from the lips of a cigarette and he realized that he was doing this right. told himself that for what felt like the first time in a long time he had everything under control, right where he wanted it to be.
"hey, keith?" the turn of a head, inky black hair swirling around keith's pale canvas.
"yeah." for a second hunk believed all the emotion, all the joy was sucked out of his roommate like some evil vacuum cleaner had gotten to him. but hunk knew better.
keith is just really good at being incredibly emotionally unavailable.
"i just want to say that i really appreciate this. you coming with me, i mean."
"no problem man." his tone was almost lifeless. but hunk could pick out the slight elation in his voice.
"and even though at first it might not seem like it, i know lance will too." silence. they fell back into the rhythm hunk had done his best to break for weeks now.
that really seemed to do it.
"yeah, i really hope so." almost too quiet to catch, too genuine to be from those worn lips. the slamming of the prius doors. hunk was trapped. with nothing else to stall their departure, he started the car. pulled out of the parking lot outside their dorm building and most of all hoped that lance wouldn't be awake by the time they got to him.
Chapter 5: uneasy
hunk and keith finally arrive at the hospital to see lance. keith doesn't think he's ready.
or: baby keef is nervous but doesn't want hunk to think he's a wuss.
uneasy. as keith drifted through the parking garage, streams of dense winter sunlight illuminating his icy skin, he did his best to feel excited. keith wasn't excited. he was just uneasy.
he knew he should be grateful. more than grateful even. hunk was letting him in to see lance today. now. not when he came back home, not when he resumed classes or stopping by after late nights for pizza rolls and a movie they had all seen a thousand times anyway. but when he looked inside himself keith couldn't find any anticipation, any excitement or gratitude. just worry.
and as he approached the hospital doors, for the first time in a long time, keith felt like he should go home.
keith wouldn't stop fidgeting. sat next to hunk, in the crowded hospital waiting room, keith's foot bounced up and down and back up again. and back up again. over and over. hunk knew this wasn't going to be easy for him. but this, he didn't expect. never thought that keith would be so rattled over seeing his friend, especially after he had begged to come along for so many days.
"keith, buddy," he said, placing a hand on the shoulder of the boy sitting next to him. he could feel the pulse of keith's foot against the tile floor, almost like a heartbeat. "it's all good."
"sorry," a glance. then his eyes fell back on the floor, back on his foot again, "sorry for freaking out."
"it's really okay," eye contact. this was good. hunk knew this was good, right? it was a good thing that keith wanted to stop tapping, wanted to look hunk in the eye and have a conversation with him. "i know it can be hard seeing someone you care about in pain."
"he's not in pain, is he?" concern.
"no no, of course not," hunk assured, "all i mean is that he's in the hospital and sometimes that can be hard to see."
"oh." a breath. "right."
finally, after what seemed like days, the nurse called them back. their ID badge read 'elliot'.
"that's us!" hunk confirmed, greeting elliot with a friendly fist-bump. they must have met when hunk was here before. keith did his best to keep up, following the nurse's platinum blonde head through the maze of hospital hallways and corridors.
eventually, they arrived at lance's hallway. elliot paused, letting them collcet themselves. keith felt like they were waiting for something, felt like he wasn't ready to see lance again.
"wanna head down?" he nodded. all keith could manage at this point was a nod.
hunk could hear keith's heart beating against the walls of his chest from across the hallway. a shaky breath.
"i'm sure he'll be thrilled to see you."
"if he's awake, that is" keith muttered, low and light under his breath.
footsteps. they walked down the polished hall of the ICU, dripping with bleach and frantic nurses. they got to the room. room 18. hunk grabbed keith's hand, squeezed gently, let go. they stepped in.
Chapter 6: something of his own
keith finally arrives at lance's hospital room and reflects on what their relationship really means
its (kind of ) gay hoes, you're welcome :)
until he didn't.
hunk felt the warmth beside him slip away. in an instant keith was gone. he was dazed. hunk stood frozen in the doorway leading to lance's comatose body. a gentle rise and fall. shallow breaths visibly filled his lungs and when hunk turned around again he understood why keith ran.
white tiles blurred together as hunk hurried back down the hall. nurses rushing in and out of hallways. concerned looks.
to an outsider, hunk thought, something must look very wrong.
you couldn't blame him for running. he was just laying there. lance: the loverboy, the goofball, the soccer player, the family man, the boy in a coma. keith refused to see him like that. he looked sick. he was sick. (glowing skin dulled by fluorescent lights, eyes on the verge of tearing open, body shaking and then lying still again.)
but he looked so peaceful.
keith hated himself for thinking that.
but his mind couldn't help covering up the image of lance, frail and immobile in his hospital bed with lance laying on hunk's basement floor. lance sprawled out on his towel at the beach. lance rocketing down a slip and slide at his family's annual get-togethers. lance, in a field of unkept wildflowers long after dark, on a road trip to escape final exams even though they had taken place earlier that day.
it was too hard to see lance.
but it had always been too hard to see lance, to see that beautiful sunkissed boy without being able to call him his own.
Chapter 7: her
its nice of you to finally show up...
or: lancey lance may just make an apperance, finally
it was dark. warm.
no thoughts, no dreams. silence. blackness, then light. fluorescent lights, to be exact. annoying, blueish screaming lights surrounding his head and body. lance was tired. tired, but mostly confused.
where am i?
a limp hospital gown hung off of his shoulders, the papery garment mingling with the sweat on his neck and dripping down his back. after a quick look around the room, lance became extremely aware of exactly where he was. he tried not to think about it too hard, not let it fully sink in. it didn't work. no matter how hard he tried, lance would still open his eyes to find a hospital room with his name on the door. but why? that was the million dollar question.
a moment to think. another moment, and another.
it came back to him, ramming into his pulsing brain like a swerving car until he remembered. he remembered her.
Chapter 8: shatter
lance waited a few days. got himself out of bed and to a phone, called his sister veronica. asked her to come pick him up, to take him away from his old life for a few days, at least until he fully recovered.
no one visited.
the hospital still discharged him. lance picked up his few belongings, folding them neatly into the plastic bag they gave him and waited for the nurse to make it official. and when veronica's familiar blue nissan pulled into the parking lot beneath his window, lance almost cried.
it had been too long since he'd seen anyone. lance had always been a social person, that was fair to say. but being cooped up in that room alone, waiting for the doctors to let him go, it felt like eternal solitude. it was depressing, frankly. his door creaked open and lance was suddenly thrown from his thoughts.
"oh my god," she said, slowly walking towards him. "oh my god." veronica reached out and slowly touched lance's face, brushing way a stray tear. she touched him like he was going to break in her fingertips, like he would shatter.
"hi," he managed, crumbling into her arms, "it's really good to see you."
Chapter 9: desperate
keith hadn't heard anything about lance in days. all he knew was that hunk didn't go to the hospital anymore, said there was no point in it now. said that lance had been checked out six days ago.
"i don't know," he had said, "they couldn't tell me."
his worry grew more and more with each passing hour and, suddenly, keith felt himself longing for lance. aching for him.
he didn't let go of veronica until the nurse had come back with his release papers, until he was sure that this wasn't a dream. that was six days ago.
six days since lance had broken down at the smell of his sister's familiar nissan, since he had watched the hospital disappear in the rearview mirror behind him as they drove into the night. lance promised himself he wouldn't turn around. at least, not yet.
when veronica saw lance, she had to hold back tears of her own. he looked strung out, tired and bruised. he had been shaking. and as she held him there, in the middle of his cramped hospital room, she swore she would never leave him again.
she took him home, her home. out of the city and into the next town over, where things would quiet down and he could rest. lance looked like he needed rest. desperately.
and as veronica looked at her brother, really looked at him, she promised herself she would make things right.
"lance?" she said, "where's your phone?"
Chapter 10: author's note
should i continue this fic? please honestly let me know...
Chapter 11: pick up
the first thing she did was delete axca's contact. she figured once lance realized what had happened, seeing her name on that little blue screen would be too painful. she looked through his notifications; the posts and texts and everything he had missed while being away.
there were 182 missed calls in total. about a dozen from a variety of people, sixty or so from hunk, another fifty from their parents.
and 71 missed calls from a keith kogane.
well then, she thought, that would be a good place to start.
before veronica could remind him which one it was, lance singled out the zebra-print key to her townhouse and stumbled up the concrete steps. he didn't wait for her to get out of the car before opening the door, a familiar smell of linen-scented candles and cloves filling his lungs.
and when veronica finally joined him at the entrance of her home, he did his best to choke back the tears. memories flooded down his face with each droplet: birthday cakes and movie marathons and family dinners and post-breakup tubs of ice cream resurfaced in his mind.
He had missed this.
keith hadn't meant to be needy. but judging by the text he had gotten from lance, he had been more clingy than welcome.
"stop calling, i'm okay"
so, he decided to stop.
Chapter 12: vacancy
it was hard to step out of, no, be shoved out of lance's life. but keith couldn't find another intent behind his text:
stop calling, i'm okay.
it haunted him. kept him up at night when he should have been dreaming of blue skies, of happier days and the way things used to be. things couldn't go back to the way they were. keith knew that. well, at least he thought he did.
lance didn't want him around anymore. whatever had happened that night in axca's car, in the hospital room, on his path to freedom, had distanced them. lance didn't want him there. at least, that's the way it seemed.
keith became distant. hunk watched as he slipped away, unsure of a way to stop the loss before it happened. lance was gone, keith was gone. it was as simple as that.
hunk waited for keith to come around, to be shaken out of his funk. but he wasn't. days went by before keith would leave the dorm. he wouldn't eat. he wouldn't sleep either. and, if hunk was being selfish, he couldn't handle it. losing his best friend and his roommate (more like his brother) in the same night was too much for him to take.
"keith," he said, sterner than ever, "we need to talk."
Chapter 13: see shells
during the day, lance was distant. veronica would catch him wandering the halls, making coffee just to dump it down the drain, doing nothing at all. he sat. and stared. and sat and stared some more.
she was worried. veronica watched lance become more and more removed with each passing day, watched him leave behind the person he was for a sterile shell.
veronica wanted to step in, needed to step in. but she knew she couldn't.
it was hard for lance to remember things. his past would reappear in fragments: strawberry chapstick, the holes in her converse, a broken seashell.
lance sat on his floor for hours. turned the memories over in his mind until a new one would surface, only to disappear again. he couldn't focus. after leaving the hospital, lance felt like he couldn't breathe.
he had to get home.
Chapter 14: two and two
he knew he had to be gentle about it. these kinds of things always had to be handled carefully, otherwise the mess would get everywhere it wasn't already too.
people's feelings were always messy. now, that's not to say keith definitely did (or definitely didn't) have feelings for lance. but that also wasn't to say that hunk was an idiot. i mean, for god's sake, he had eyes. anything with a pulse could put two and two together. specifically those two.
"i know things have been rough lately," hunk started, promising himself that he would keep things as light as he could, "but please don't hide from me."
"i'm not hiding," keith said, muffled by the excess amount of blankets and sheets wound around his body. hunk chuckled.
"you literally are. literally." a drawn-out sign. "please just come out from underneath the covers and talk to me..."
"no." silence. "i like it better down here." the idea of having an actual conversation with keith seemed more far-fetched by the second.
"alright," hunk said, fed up with the futile back and forth, "stay down there then. but there's no room service down there, not even for cookies." a rustle. hunk could hear keith's ears perk up at the word. his cookies were notoriously a fan favorite.
"cookies?" he asked, meekly.
"not for you," hunk taunted, eager to get his roommate out of bed in whatever way possible. "at least not while you're all the way under there." more silence. a huff. then keith's head appeared, puffy and jostled from sleeping and crying and waiting.
"okay," he said, "okay okay."
Chapter 15: his spare toothbrush
being back in veronica's arms felt different than it used to. no matter how many times he hugged her, how many times he tried making things the way they used to be, he couldn't.
they told lance he would have to be careful. that after coming out of his coma, he should take it easy for a while. but leaving his old life behind was not an option. he needed to go out and live, really live. lance refused to continue sitting around in his sister's living room all day with the blinds drawn, no matter how good for him it may be. he had to leave.
he had decided that last night.
"10 minutes and he'd be out the door."
it had only taken him eight to grab the little stuff veronica had brought for him: an old hoodie, tennis shoes, a spare toothbrush. an extra three to grab his sister's car keys, zero to leave a note he forgot to write explaining where he was going.
he just hoped she would understand.
Chapter 16: double vision
the cookies had tided him over for about 35 minutes. eating out his feelings, keith realized, was a whole lot less effective than he thought it would be. regardless of how good hunk's double chocolate chip cookies are.
he hadn't heard from lance in weeks. ever since that last next, it was like the air had run stale between them. he couldn't get it out of his head:
stop calling, i'm okay.
keith didn't trust his eyes for days. thought that his vision must have deceived him but, when it didn't disappear, he decided that it must have been real. lance didn't want anything to do with him anymore. and no matter how many times keith tried to move on, no matter how much he restrained himself from wanting to call or text or worry, he refused to be pushed out of lance's life that easily.
not like he had much of a choice, anyways.
keith had to realize that lance had moved on. that things weren't going to be the way they used to, no more late nights or happy memories. lance was gone.
lance was gone.
Chapter 17: nowhere, everywhere
he didn't know where else to go.
she looked for him everywhere.
lance was gone. he hadn't even left a note. veronica couldn't help but blame herself, she must have done something to upset him. she should have cared for him more, should have done better.
she called hunk.
at first, he didn't know who was on the other side of the phone. he hadn't spoken to veronica in what felt like years. her contact was still in his phone.
hunk did his best to slow her down. it was like veronica was speaking at a hundred miles a minute. he couldn't hear a word she was saying.
"woah woah woah, what?" he asked, begging her to calm down, "say that again..."
"he's gone," she sobbed, "he's gone." a moment of panic. hunk took a deep breath.
"who's gone, veronica?"
"lance," she replied, shaking, "he's gone."
keith hadn't heard hunk move that fast since the night lance was hospitalized. it was two in the morning.
"hunk," he called, "where are you going?"
lance didn't mean to end up here. he didn't have a choice. as he pulled veronica's car into the driveway and walked to the door he could feel his heart racing out of his chest. this was it. there was no turning back now.
he rang the doorbell. he waited.
Chapter 18: tinder boy
he had been putting away groceries. it was a tuesday night, criminal minds had been playing in the living room.
shiro had no idea why lance still had his address. they had met on tinder, a long time ago. maybe five months. it was shocking, to say the least, when his cousin had recognized the boy as someone he went to school with. in shiro's opinion, keith recognized him a little too quickly from the blurry profile picture.
they had decided to just be friends. not that they weren't compatible, but he had to agree it was better that way. shiro was still shocked when he opened the door to find lance's blue eyes staring back at him.
"what are you doing here?" no response. "well," he said, unsure at first, "come on in."
lance walked passed him, kept his eyes on the hardwood floors. shiro followed him down the hallway into the kitchen, filled a glass of water for him and waited for conversation to start. it didn't.
after what felt like forever, lance started to cry. he had never seen someone cry the way lance was now: sobbing and tearing at the seams. he didn't know what to do.
"hey," he said gently, attempting eye contact, "tell me what's going on."
"i..." lance started, trying to compose himself, "i don't even know anymore."
Chapter 19: can you hear me?
the familiar buzz of his ringtone had woken him up. it was late on a tuesday night, keith had fallen asleep on his open notebook for the third time this week. midterms really were starting to get to him.
he almost decided to ignore the call altogether, too sleepy to hold a conversation. but shiro hadn't called him in months. that's how he knew it must've been important.
"hello?" he answered, voice still tired and froggy.
"keith? can you hear me?" shiro sounded more frantic than usual, worked up by something happening on the other side of the phone.
"yeah..." keith caught himself nodding off, "yeah i can hear you."
"okay good," shiro said quietly, "this is kind of important..."
keith was not very good at keeping quiet. usually, it happened because of a knocked over soda or stubbed toe. but tonight, hunk woke up to keith screaming.
"what?!" and then,
"oh thank god!" another pause.
"thank god he's alive."
Chapter 20: 45
to be honest, lance had no idea how he ended up on shiro's doorstep. one minute he was sleeping in his sister's spare bedroom and, the next, he was on the couch of a previous tinder date gone wrong. well, not wrong. but he and shiro were definitely nothing more than friends, acquaintances even.
which is part of the reason why lance was so confused. mostly with himself.
his best guess was that it was because he had nowhere else to go. it's not like he didn't have any friends, but none of them seemed to care in the way he needed them to. no one would take him in, even if he was begging. it sure felt that way.
so he turned to shiro. miraculously, lance still had his address jotted down in his notes. and, to be fair, he only lived 20 minutes away from veronica. maybe 45 at most to walk.
he figured no one would notice that he was gone except for her. and from the way it seemed, no one had.
lance was right, no one cared about him after all.
Chapter 21: 2160 minutes
keith definitely cared that lance was missing. well, not missing anymore. but still. not to rat him out or anything, but hunk saw him happy-crying in the bathroom after his phone call with shiro.
shiro was keith's cousin, he was pretty sure. and when his cousin had called and said "that one kid" from their school had ended up sleeping on his couch last night, somehow keith immediately knew exactly who he was talking about.
and, because hunk was the one with a car, he didn't stop hearing about it for the rest of the night. and the next day, until finally, hunk broke.
"fineeeeeee, i'll take you to go pick him up." keith's face lit up like an overpriced christmas tree.
keith could hardly believe his ears. for the past 36 hours, he had bitching about going to pick lance up. well, maybe not bitching. more like asking hunk over and over and over again to drive him out to his cousin's house where, coincidentally, lance had ended up the night before.
honestly, hunk lasted longer than keith thought he would. he thought for sure within the first couple hours they would be on their way. but he had lasted a day and a half before giving in. keith was pretty sure that was a new record.
"yeah," hunk replied, "for real."
"okay," keith chirped, trying to mask the excitement in his voice, "okay, okay... i'll google maps it."
shiro's house was 41 minutes away.
41 minutes until he could see lance again.
Chapter 22: author's note v.2.
how are y'all enjoying this shitshow so far?
so i've been thinking more about the plot lately and, as of right now, i think i've come to a conclusion on the conclusion
its probably coming sooner than some of you want it to, but maybe not
let me know how much father y'all want this to go
Chapter 23: nervous wreck
he was almost positive the drive to shiro's house had gotten longer since last time. honestly, it was fair to say that it was one of the longest 41 minutes of his life.
hunk tried to pass the time. he was a good friend, too good if you asked keith. he played all of his favorite songs, early 2000's emo included. that's how he knew hunk was taking this seriously, and keith couldn't have been more thankful.
to everyone else, driving to see lance wouldn't have been a priority. it was strange to drive for miles and miles to see someone you barely talk to when you aren't even sure they'll still be there. but here they were, driving down the highway keith had known all his life to see a boy he didn't know he was waiting for.
keith wouldn't stop twitching the whole car ride, not that it was bothering him or anything.
hunk was worried. he'd never seen his roommate like this, even during finals season. and that's saying something. keith's usually a nervous wreck. but this, this was different. and hunk didn't want to admit he knew why.
he decided to park the car around the corner when they got close. hunk figured that it would make things easier, not just for himself.
honestly, he didn't know what keith was expecting out of this whole thing. that lance was going to come back with them? probably not, though hunk isn't one for pessimism. it just doesn't seem very likely... after all this time of hiding and covering his tracks, why would lance want to come back now? his own sister didn't even know where he was until days after he left. it all just seemed too unlikely.
but they were already here. and as hunk rolled the car to a stop on the street next to shiro's house, he could feel keith's heart beating out of his chest.
keith watched hunk take the car around the block before moving away from the curb. he was nervous. but he felt like he had a right to be.
what would lance think? probably that he was a crack head.
what would he say? god, at this point? keith didn't know what to expect. frankly, he was shocked that he had the balls to make it as far as he already had.
even more shocked when his feet found their way up the sidewalk and to his cousin's doorstep.
Chapter 25: opening doors
shiro was worried about lance. it had been almost a week since he showed up at his door, and things didn't seem like they were getting much better. hence the bag of open Doritos draped across lance's sleeping body, out like a light even though it was only 8:15.
that's why shiro was so worried. from what he knew, this wasn't usual behavior from lance. he should be out partying, or on a date. anything would be better than passing out on the couch before sundown cuddling his empty bag of snacks.
shiro had known something was up long before his cousin showed up at the door, (let's be honest, the Doritos say it all). but when he opened the door to keith's shining face, tainted with worry, everything seemed to get a little better.
maybe he didn't know what was going on. maybe he was worried and confused at what to do next, sure. but shiro knew as long as lance had people like hunk and keith to look after him, to drive across the city for him, to be his friend, lance would turn out all right.
"hey," he said, holding the door open, "come on in."
Chapter 26: blue Doritos
"where is h-- oh." hunk got about a step and a half inside before seeing lance's body sprawled out on shiro's couch, spooning an empty bag of blue Doritos. lance had always had a preference for Doritos, especially blue ones. but he never sat around with a party-sized bag all to himself unless something was really wrong.
not that hunk understood it anyways (he was more of a classic lays man himself).
"how long has he been out?" hunk peeled his eyes from the couch in front of him, turning to look directly at shiro for the first time that night.
"a little less than 40 minutes, i think."
it was 8:25.
for as long as he had known lance, which, admittedly, wasn't that long but still, he had never gone to bed before 10:45 on any given night. but he trusted shiro, even if his cousin had just implied lance hit the hay at 7:40 pm.
honestly, keith was just happy to be here.
the number of hoops he'd had to jump through (emotionally, not physically. though that would've been funny) had been far more than he needed to justify a visit to lance. and now that he was here, things felt different. not like they felt in the hospital when he got scared and ran away and hated himself for days and days afterward.
for once keith felt good. he felt confident. at least, that was until lance woke up.
Chapter 27: one more second
that was the second thing that popped into lance's head after waking up on shiro's couch again, followed only by 'wow, i need to pee.'
but he couldn't bring himself to stand up, let alone walk to the bathroom across the hallway. yeah, he was kind of in shock. startled, to say the very least. how the hell did hunk and keith track him down?
knowing what little he did about hunk, he suspected that following lance here wasn't exactly his genius idea.
well, more like knowing what he did about his cousin, and having the ability to use a basic process of elimination, shiro knew this was all keith. it had his name written all over it. and even now, standing in the same room as the boy he worked so hard to find again, keith still didn't say a word.
it was because he was shy. or, at least, that's the explanation keith gave himself.
he'd always been more of a recluse, even after going off to college and getting a say in his social life and all that. not that that had anything to do with the reason keith was burning holes in the floor with his eyes. but he'd be damned if he was the first to admit that his crush on lance had gotten this out of control.
even when lance couldn't look keith in the eyes either, moving up from the couch and down the hall without as much as raising his head in keith's general direction.
"um," he managed while slipping past shiro, "... i'll be back in a second."
'well,' keith thought, 'i've gotten this far...'
Chapter 28: but why?
why did he care so much that hunk and keith had shown up to get him? why did it even matter that much? pacing back and forth in shiro's bathroom, lance tried to rack his brain.
okay. things he knew:
he was going out with nyma. hunk didn't like nyma. keith really didn't like nyma.
nyma had road rage. and was excited to have lance in her car. and was going way too fast that night.
lance was in a car crash. he went to the hospital, he thinks for a long time. maybe about a week. nyma didn't. they didn't have to take her to the hospital to know.
lance was scared. he didn't want to go back to school. he didn't want to go home or to his dorm. and he certainly didn't want to talk to anyone about it.
so he went to veronica's house. and then he went to shiro's house. and now he was in the bathroom hiding from his best friend and his roommate. great.
and the things he didn't know:
why does he care so much that hunk and keith came to find him? no no no, that keith came to find him. why did that matter this much?
maybe it was because he liked him. honestly, keith was still trying to figure out why he came all this way. why chase lance around all this time to just end up here speechless?
okay, it was definitely because keith had a crush on lance. a big, giant, supermassive crush on lance... sure. but it could also just be because it's a normal thing to be worried about. hunk was here, right? and hunk didn't have a crush on lance, that's for sure.
oh, who is he kidding? keith is freaking whipped.
keith is utterly and completely whipped for this boy. that's the only reason why hunk agreed to come along, really.
because, if not for him, who would make sure keith didn't totally scare him off or something?
hunk's only question was, what is keith waiting for?
Chapter 29: that one goddamned horror movie
things were awkward while lance was in the bathroom. like, really awkward. and that's saying something, they were in his house after all.
eventually, hunk took a seat across the living room. keith, of course, stayed lurking in the corner where they had come in. but shiro kind of expected that, especially because lance couldn't hide in the bathroom forever. and if shiro knew anything about his cousin, he knew that keith had it bad for this boy.
it was pretty obvious, to be honest. keith knew that lance was hiding out in the bathroom to try and get away from him. okay, maybe not just him. but hunk and himself.
and even though keith knew lance couldn't stay in the bathroom forever, he still hoped it could happen. because the amount of embarrassment bubbling up inside his chest was getting to a point of no return; to a point that maybe he'd just have to out and say it.
i like you. the three words that had taunted keith for months now. hunk knew they were making him burst at the seams like a pot-pie ready to come out of the oven. but, unlike pot-pie, he just didn't know how to help get them out already.
it really had been months. months of keith pining after lance and lance doing whatever he did with his free time. (to be honest, hunk didn't want to have to think about it). but now, as they sat in shiro's living room waiting for lance to come down the hall, hunk felt it.
keith couldn't wait any longer. not another day, not another minute.
the doorknob turned. hunk could feel the room buzzing with electricity, with anticipation. in the corner of his eye, keith's hand twitched. the door opened. it was like something out of a goddamned horror movie.
he was right.
keith didn't have another second to waste.
Chapter 30: suspish
lance didn't even get a single word out. the doorknob turned and keith pounced like a lion, rushing towards the door.
in all honesty, it was just about the smoothest hunk had ever seen him.
it looked effortless.
shiro couldn't believe it. the same boy that had been pining after lance for months, the one that followed his tracks for days on end and stood awkwardly in the corner once they'd found him, his cousin, keith, had been smooth.
he had no idea what he was doing.
it felt awkward and forced, and all the things that keith felt like it shouldn't have. but when keith rushed towards the bathroom door, he knew there was no going back.
lance told himself he wasn't going back into the bathroom. that he was going to come out and face keith and hunk like a normal person would, instead of hiding out down the hall. he told himself he wouldn't leave again until they were gone.
yet here he was. back in the bathroom, with keith's hand still around his wrist.