Keith wouldn’t exactly say that he’s a weak cook. True, he might not be able to go full chef-mode like Hunk, who is in his science class and he still hasn’t figured out what he’s doing there, but he still knows more about cooking than Lance. He knows how to make eggs, and something that might remember a weirdly sticky pasta. When he’s really feeling like cooking he can make mac and cheese.
So he thinks, for a college student he knows how to survive.
And truth to be told, he is good. No one makes mac and cheese as good as his.
Which is why he can’t fully understand how the microwave catched fire.
To Keith’s defense, it’s been a long day. First he’s been told that he’s been fired, and it’s not like it’s that much of a problem considered by itself, but if you add that to the newly broken fridge and the low score in his last exam then it starts to have a toll.
As all college students, Chinese take-out leftovers had seemed the right decision.
Keith isn’t sure how he managed to set the microwave on fire. Really, it’s way out of his knowledge. Later, with a clearer mind, he thinks that he might have left the metal handle of the container. He also thinks that now he needs not only a new fridge, but also a new microwave, and now that he’s unemployed he doesn’t have the money.
But right now, with the whole kitchen filled with smoke and fire coming out of the oven, he doesn’t really worry about money.
«Shit,» Keith mutters under his breath, throwing away the blanket he had used to try and suffocate the fire, with no success. Even opening the windows has been useless, making the flames only grow bigger. He sighs and kicks the cabinet, eyeing the burning microwave.
He can hear a big brouhaha coming from outside the building, probably someone who noticed the fire and called for help. He faintly hears the sirens of police cars getting louder and louder as they approach. Keith can only hope that they won’t reprimand him a lot. After such a day, he just wants to lie down in his bed (if he still has one after the fire, that is) and sleep for a week.
But he’s not going to give up now, no sir. He’s gonna fight fire with fire, or a pan, or whatever he finds that can be used to kill that bitch.
«C’mon!» he half-yells, hitting the burning oven with another blanket. The fire twirls in the air and seems to mock him, the poor idiot. Keith cringes and coughs into his palm, and when he tries to reach for a pan to fill with water (water kills fire, right? Pokémon taught him that much) the front door opens with a slam, startling him and causing all the pans and pots to fall to the ground.
«Is anyone there?» someone yells, and Keith just grunts and coughs again, pressing a hand against his mouth.
With foggy eyes he looks the door and sees a firefighter walking straight towards him, and shakes his head. «I’m okay. All under control» he says through his teeth, and the firefighter shakes his head. «You clearly aren’t, sir. I’m going to take you out of here, please comply.»
Keith tries to shake the firefighter’s hand off his arm, but he’s strong, too much for his liking, and he gets him out of the house in the matter of a few seconds.
It's only when he's out in the street that he realizes that he's just in his boxers and a ruined shirt.
Great, Keith thinks when he spots Lance looking at him and shaking his head among the crowd that gathered around his building. This is where my public life dies.
Thinking about it better, after two firefighters, Lance, Hunk, even his colleagues from college and their mothers have told him that no, you do not put metal inside the microwave oven, Keith realizes that after all, maybe he’s not that great of a cook. And maybe, seeing how he handled the whole fire situation, he’s probably not that great at college student life either. Even the excuse that it’s been a long day has Lance’s eyebrows jump to the sky and he just pushes him around, almost strangling him with the blanket he’s been given.
«You look like the ugly, Halloween version of a pupa in its cocoon now.»
«It’s a shock blanket, you asshole.»
«Ugh, with that mouth of yours you’re definitely not shocked.»
Keith pouts and looks over, where the firefighters have just now finished extinguishing the fire. He only hopes the damage has been limited to the kitchen. God knows when he’s going to find the time and the money to whitewash the walls.
The firemen start coming out of the building, and everyone in the crowd takes a sigh of relief when they see that no one was injured. Between a firefighter’s hands, Keith recognizes what once upon a time was his oven, his partner-in-crime, the one who started it all by setting itself on fire.
The firefighter comes closer and Keith recognizes the man who dragged him outside in the shape of his large shoulders and thin waist. He pointedly raises his chin and shoots daggers at him with his eyes. «I had everything under control» he repeats, and the firefighter chuckles, carefully lowering that pyromaniac weapon to the floor. «Yeah, I could see that, especially in the three burnt blankets and the destroyed oven» he replies, and moves to take off his helmet.
Keith coughs in his fist and tries to find a snarky reply to that –the blankets were already there. I was cold. The windows were open and the wind just smashed the blankets atop of the burning oven-, but all words fail him when he sees the firefighter’s face.
He's young, and handsome. A scar cuts his face horizontally, under his eyes and across his nose, but that just adds to his charm.
And his eyes. Keith starts thinking that he's inhaled too much smoke, because he can't avoid those grey irises to the color of the stormy sky.
«Are you okay?»
Keith startles at the voice and raises his head like an antelope in the headlights. The firefighter is looking at him and tilts his head to a side, uncertain. «Do you need to go to the hospital?»
«No!» Keith squeals, and flaps his arms under the blanket. «I'm just… shocked. Yeah. See, I got the blanket.»
«That you do.»
The firefighter smiles and shakes his head, looking at him. Keith still can't find the words. Or air to breathe. His head suddenly feels to light. «I don't feel so well» he murmurs, his vision going foggy. The last thing he sees before he blacks out, is the face of that hot firefighter.
Smoke inhalation. That's what the doctors told him when he woke up in the hospital a few hours later. Keith is allowed to leave only a couple days later, once it's sure that his lungs are clean.
When he returns to his building, however, he finds out the bad news aren't over. The kitchen has been destroyed by the fire and the water of the firefighters' pumps, and the owner of the building has revoked his rent, meaning that now he also has to find a new place to live at. Luckily Lance has a big enough apartment for the both of them «As long as you pay for food and help with the cleaning» he says, poking Keith's chest with his finger.
Keith makes sure to flip him off once he's sure that he's gonna stay there.
Life with Lance isn't that bad, he thinks. Sure, he can't get closer to the kitchen and he has to eat in the living room, and Lance's mac and cheese isn't as good as his, but he has a roof over his head.
However, something he can't avoid resenting, are his lungs. His dumb, useless lungs, which caused him to faint at such an important moment. Keith was so out of it, that when he woke up in the hospital he thought he'd seen the hot firefighter's face.
Keith doesn't even know his name, but he swears on Lance's favorite shoes that he's gonna find it out.
«I need your help» he proclaims one day, slapping his open hands over the kitchen table. Pidge just raises an eyebrow and turns her attention to her phone, unimpressed. «You can say that without destroying my table, thank you very much.»
Keith huffs and rolls his eyes, leaning back against the chair. Everyone seems to be trying to keep him as far as possible from kitchens and microwave ovens, and well, he can understand them, but again, he's not going to set another room on fire. He learns from his mistakes.
«Katie,» he calls again, and Pidge huffs again. «What do you want, Keef. I'm busy.»
«I need your help to find a person.»
«I don't work for Missing, you know that, don't you?»
Pidge puts down her phone and crosses her legs, looking at him annoyed. «What do you want? Who do you have to find?»
Keith grins and tilts his head to the side. «You probably know him. He's a firefighter, he probably works with your brother. Tall, built, more handsome than Brad Pitt when Troy was still a thing.»
«Oh my God your comparisons are the worse.»
«Listen to me, I need to find him. I owe him one.»
«Oh? Wait, wasn't he the one who saved you?»
«Oooh, I sense some Little Mermaid vibes. What are you gonna do now, sing him a song about his pecs and beautiful face?»
«Might as well.»
«Good,» Pidge checks her phone and grins. «Matt and your prince Eric are coming home.»
Keith tries to stand but his leg gets tangled in the chair, and he falls to the ground. Pidge laughs and covers her mouth, with no pity whatsoever for him. «Oh, this will be great. Can I record it? Please, let me record it.»
«Pidge I swear to God-»
«Ah, they're back!»
Keith hears the door opening, and he tries to stand as fast as he can. Pidge, the betrayer, slips a socked feet under his leg and makes him fall again, snickering.
Keith can pinpoint the exact moment when he feels whatever is left of his dignity leave his body. It's the moment when Matt and the hot firefighter step inside the kitchen and Pidge starts playing "Kiss the Girl" on her phone. Then the hot firefighter looks down at him, still on the floor, and Keith begs for the floor to open and swallow him whole.
«Keith, this is Shiro» Pidge says, kicking his shin and grinning. «Shiro, this is Keith. I heard you saved his life.»
After a year and two months, Keith once again is sure that he's not that bad of a cook. Not when he discovers that Shiro -Shiro, the God on Earth, the firefighter- is able to burn a tablecloth by putting a scorching pot onto it. Not when he discovers that the content of the pot is actually half cooked chicken, forgotten in the fridge for God knows how long.
«Well, this was an interesting first date» he comments hours later, watching as Shiro pokes the ruined tablecloth with the saddest expression on his face.
Shiro raises his head and pouts, looking at him. «You are not allowed to talk» he mutters. Keith grins and pats his head. «Are you sulking?»
«Yes you are. What a meanie, bringing up my oven accident so easily. You know that's why we were able to meet in the first place, right?»
Shiro huffs and tilts his head against his hand, looking at him under his thick lashes. Then he smiles, and the smile grows into a grin. «We could say it was… a hot first meeting.»
Keith sighs, eyeing the hole left by the pot on the tablecloth. «We don't have any food left. Are you up for instant noodles?»
Shiro laughs and kisses his cheek, nuzzling against his temple. «As long as you don't set my oven on fire.»