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It starts with a party.

Because it always starts with a party.

Thump. Thump. Thump.

The bass is pulsing. It’s one of those trendy pop songs. Meant for grinding.

Thump. Thump. Thump.

There are pretty green lights. And red. And blue. And that vodka - or was it tequila? - was definitely laced with something.

Keith wishes he could be high all the time. The world is so much prettier. So much colourful. So much… quieter.

Thump. Thump. Thump.

It’s funny, right? ‘Cause it’s a party. Parties are noisy. Everybody knows that. But tonight, the music is washing through the chatter. Hits Keith lazily, like a wave in slow motion. It feels loud, reverberating  through his bones, but all that reaches his ears are deep bass vibrations. And he feels like he’s gonna melt. He feels everything. Like one of those dreams where you have to get somewhere really fast, and you have to run, but no matter how you hard you kick your legs, you can barely move.

Everyone describes being drunk as having the world spinning around you. But for Keith it’s more like… an aquarium. Like he’s seeing the world through a thick wall of water.

Thump. Thump. Thump.

He sees Lance. Fuck, he looks gorgeous. Since when did Lance become gorgeous?

Keith can see him through the crowd, with his friends. Jumping up, and down, up, and down, up and down. Must be a good song, he looks so into it. His sweaty hair clings to his forehead. He moves in slow motion, to the blink of the strobing lights. Engulfed by an ocean of people, while something shiny dances on his neck. There’s neon on his wrists. Neon on his face. Neon on his teeth. His mouth is open wide.

And Keith is in his favourite red top, and his leggings clad softly around his thighs, and his body is swaying to the rhythm of the music.

Is Lance shouting? Keith can’t tell. Must be, he looks happy. Like he’s having a good time. Lance has always been loud.

Loud…Keith bets he would make all kinds of delicious noises.

 

BUZZ! BUZZ! BUZZ! BUZZ!

Fuck.

Curse Keith’s blaring alarm clock. He swears his head is going to split in half.

With a groan, he sits up. Kicks his sheets away. Fishes the damn phone from inside a pile of dirty clothes, tossing it across the room. It stops. He hopes he didn’t break the stupid thing, he sure as hell can’t afford a new one right now.

Sunlight blinds his eyes, making his head throb. Curse Shiro and curse his hideous curtains. What’s the point of having them if he never shuts them? Keith walks over to the window and yanks them together, finally getting rid of the offending sunlight that tainted their shared bedroom.

Blissful darkness.

Shiro is nowhere to be seen, which means he’s already up and about the house bossing hungover frat brothers around. His bed is made and everything. Keith barely makes it back to his messy one, plopping down like a sack of potatoes, before the sanctity of his hangover is disturbed again by more noise!

“Keith, are you up?” Speak of the devil.

“Can you please keep it down? It’s fucking noon, people are trying to sleep here!” he covers his ears, shouting back.

“Sure can, sleeping beauty!” Shiro yells from across the walls, not a decibel lower, “That is, if you wanna be late for work, of course!”

Shit, work…

Work!

“Why didn’t you wake me up!!”  

Keith darts across the room, grabs his toiletry bag and stumbles past a chuckling Shiro on his way out. Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit. How could he forget work? He barges into the bathroom at the end of the hallway, as his brother yells behind him one last time:

“Good morning to you too!”

He shuts the door. Tosses his bag somewhere on the sink counter.

Keith looks at himself in the mirror. Takes a moment to access whatever mess of a man last night turned him into. He looks pale, and his hair is sticking out in all kinds of weird directions, and there aren’t only bags under his eyes, but actual suitcases. He feels like there’s poison running through his veins, and the longer he stands the more he feels like he’s going to collapse. He falters, as his head spins dangerously, and holds on to the sink, just in case. Shit, he’s a wreck, there's no way he can get to work like this.

Skull pounding, he turns on the faucet, scoops some water in his hands, and drinks it. He has a serious case of cotton mouth, so he does it a couple more times before grabbing his stuff to brush his teeth. It’s okay, - he pep talks himself as his zombified body protests the effort - a clean mouth will make it better. He knows the drill already, but Sunday shifts are especially difficult. If only he could take some aspirin, get back in bed and wallow in the dark as his body recovered from his poor life choices...

Keith checks his tongue piercing for any swelling or redness after he’s done with his morning routine, last thing he needs now is having it get infected. Once he makes sure it’s safe, he gathers his breath and faces the atonement walk back to his bedroom through the hideously bright hall.

Stumbling and feeling like he’s gonna be sick, he finally makes it back. Shiro is gone again, and Keith picks up his abused phone from the carpeted floor, only to find it’s already 8:45. Yup, he’s not gonna make it. He texts Shay and asks if she can please, please stall the manager until he gets there.

Shay:

sure thing, party boy, but u owe me one

lambda kick your ass too hard last night?

Keith:

You have no idea. I think someone laced my drink?

Shay:

yikes :(

if anyone asks I’ll say you have a stomach ache or smth

but take some medicine, eat something and drink lots of water before you get here

Shay is such a precious bean. Always covering for him when he’s in bad, post-alcoholic conditions. Which is way too often for his own good, if not for his liver but for his job! He wonders how come Mr. Slav hasn’t fired his ass yet, given how many times he’s called in sick or arrived late for his Sunday shifts. Keith would ask to have it changed, he would, but with football practice, a conundrum of classes, frat duties, and his plants to tend to, Sunday is one of the only days he’s free to work. And, boy, does he need the money. Of course, he could always skip on parties more often, but… What can he say? He is a frat boy after all.

But enough with college life musing. He has shit to get together.

Keith changes and retrieves his wallet, house keys, and phone; the only three things a man needs after a night out. Then grabs the sports bag behind the door and he’s good to go.

One last look in Shiro’s mirror tells him he still looks like shit, but it’ll have to do for the day. Plus, he doubts anyone downstairs will look much better. He faces his old foe, the morning sun in the hallway, and finds it not to be as bad. Makes his way down the three flights of stairs that separate the bedrooms from the communal area, where a torrent of hungover brothers make their way through piles and piles of empty beer cans, red cups, tin foil wraps and all kinds of post-rager waste. As a good Frat Dad, Shiro always nags everyone into cleaning the morning-after mess, which makes Lambda Omega Nu one of the only half decent houses on Greek Row in terms of hygiene. Half decent , mind you.

“Ayy, why do you heathens always put the pots on the cupboards?” Lance McClain’s voice booms inside Keith’s skull the second he steps foot into the living room. Dude seems to have never heard of a thing called indoor voice. “How’s a man supposed to put the plates away?”

How’s a man supposed to power through a monster hangover with some clueless jerk yelling around, that’s the real question...

“Then where do you reckon they belong, smart-ass?”

“Inside the oven, of course. Duh.”

The unphased brother turns his back on Lance, to which he sticks out his tongue.

Standing behind the kitchen island, Lance is the perfect picture of what you’d expect to find inside a house in Greek Row. Basking in the fuck boy glory of his tank top, white shorts and snapback, he carefully removes the pots from the cupboard and places them inside the oven, where they so clearly belong. Seriously though, what need is there to wear a snapback indoors on a Sunday morning? Keith doesn’t keep his gaze on him long enough to find an answer, as he spots Shiro across the room among a group of juniors, waving his hands and making broad gestures as they wince. Dude looks pretty pissed. Keith wonders what could they have possibly done to warrant such a reaction from Mr. “Patience Yields Focus”.

His thoughts are interrupted when a certain clueless jerk takes notice of his presence.

“Ooh, good morning, mami!” Lance exclaims. Good morning who, now? “Looks like someone has finally awoken from their beauty sleep. I know your head is probably killing you right now, but you gotta help us clean this mess. Help yourself to Hunk’s French toast first, though, there are some left on the counter.”

Why is Lance talking to him like they’re friends? They’re not friends.

But eeh… Who’s he to turn down French toast?

Still confused by Lance’s sudden thoughtfulness, Keith drags himself over to the kitchen. He doesn’t see Hunk around, although he vaguely remembers a big figure with neon-clad wrists from  last night. He doesn’t know much about the dude, except that he’s always at their parties, has some hella tattoos, and is nice enough to make everyone breakfast before going back to his dorm. Keith’s fingers are soon sticky with butter and his mouth is stuffed with room-temperature French toast, and he can’t help a surge of appreciation for the guy.

Lance once again breaks into his bubble, as he places a glass of water in front of Keith with… a little more flare than necessary.  That’s when he fully registers: why the fuck is Lance being so nice?

Keith blinks.

“Figured you’d need it.” And then Lance winks at him.

He winks.

Keith stares at the creature before him. Lingers on the sight of his skin. His hair. His clothes. His eyes. He stares into those eyes that just winked at him and something rouses inside him as he finds a mischievous glint there.

Wait a second, when did Lance become so attractive?

Aaaand - Lance turns his back on him, and the moment is gone. Seriously though, was he flirting with Keith…?

See, it’s not that Keith is bad at flirting back - assuming there was anything to flirt back to. Hell, he’s a sucker for gratuitous flirting, even on a hungover morning when he’s mildly aware that he’s late for work and his brain is only half awake. But c’mon, this is Lance they’re talking about! The man has never exchanged words with him past the point of “Pass the remote” or “Get out the way, you’re blocking the keg.” Dare Keith say, there’s some unspoken animosity between them. They belong to completely different worlds. With Keith being on the football team and Lance on the soccer one... And Keith sipping vodka at the corner of parties while Lance does keg stands. And well, let’s face it - Lance being as hetero dudebro as they come and Keith being as gay as you get. Which brings him back to the baffling question at hand: Was Lance McStraight flirting with him, handing him food and water and winks and shit?

And Keith didn’t even respond. Just stared at him like a deer in the headlights, for fuck’s sake.

He has half a mind to mutter “Thanks…” under his breath before taking a sip of the water. Lance raises a thumb and chirps “Don’t mention it!” as he deals with the remaining plates. His tone is light and absent-minded, but Keith can’t shake the unexpected buzz that takes hold of his body. He finds himself chasing the feeling:

“Sooo… You wouldn’t happen to know what’s up with the drama going on over there?” He probes, taking his turn to pique Lance’s interest. If Lance really is flirting, Keith’s probably fallen prey to a move as old as time, Lance baiting him with niceness then turning away. But fuck, he can’t bring himself to pull back now.

Lance turns back, all the dishes inside the cupboard now, and follows Keith’s gaze to the group of guys under Shiro’s scrutiny.

“Oh, you mean that ? Major drama indeed, mami .” Lance trails off, clicking his tongue. There’s that word again.

He slowly approaches the counter where Keith’s seated, almost like… a lion stalking its prey. It occurs to Keith that he ’s the prey. Wow. Not cliché at all. But he kinda likes the anticipation building in his stomach, so he allows Lance to proceed with his theatrics. He finally leans over the counter, crossing his arms and dropping his head into Keith’s personal space, like they’re sharing a top secret conversation.

Keith’s eyes catch on the small cross that dangles from Lance’s neck with a clinking sound. He’s  aware of how dubiously close the other is, enough that Keith can now see that there are freckles dusting his shoulders, and boy, is he confused by how breathtaking he finds them. It’s just freckles, for fuck’s sake. But then the freckles turn his attention to the soft curve of Lance’s biceps, and to the sharpness of his collarbones, and Keith has to turn his gaze right back to Lance’s face before his thoughts lead him somewhere dangerous.

“So?” Keith lifts one eyebrow, upon finding Lance’s eyes pinned to him.

“Oh yeah. Shiro said the Juniors crushed some E on the vodka last night.” His face grows loomy, and he nods over to Shiro, who’s still lecturing the group.  “Dangerous shit, you can send someone to the hospital.”

Oh.

Keith had the vodka.

Lance grimaces in sympathy as realisation probably washes over his face. So someone had fucked up his drink.

“Yup. That’s why I figured you needed the extra sleep and water.” His lips curl in a genuine smile, intense drama giving way to casual banter. “Big bad boss over there wanted to go wake you up an hour ago, but I said he should pro’lly let you sleep in. Trust me, alcohol and molly? Been there, done that. You spend the entire day after feeling like your brain was slowly ground in a coffee machine. Not the kind of experience you wanna have twice.” Lance offers him a giggle.

Keith laughs along, and finds the sudden blabber quite endearing. Would you look at that, who’d have thought he would end up discussing the effects of poor recreational drug choices with this guy Lance? Keith.... likes it. They chatter for a bit about their stupid, reckless frat brothers, and possible hangover remedies. Lance pokes Keith on the arm a couple times.

Then Shiro finally makes his way back, nostrils still flaring, but calm otherwise. It’s not common for him to lose his temper, but even when he does he still manages to keep his shit together. Still a little taken aback by all the unexpected interaction with Lance, Keith says his goodbyes and heads over to Shiro.

“Hey, there. Lance said you were scolding those guys for lacing the alcohol with drugs last night, what’s with all that?”

“Ugh, don’t even get me started. Those little punks are getting out of control, it’s the second time they’ve done that. They’re putting heavy stuff in unsuspecting people’s drinks, we could all get in big trouble. Told them they’ll probably get suspended, and might face expulsion from the frat if they pull this shit again. I can’t believe this is some people’s idea of a joke.” Shiro vents, pinching the bridge of his nose. “By the way, I heard you were one of the victims?”

Keith snorts. One of the victims.

“Holy shit, don’t make it sound like they jumped me in the back of an alley. It was pretty intense, but I think I’m okay now.”

“You sure? I heard this kind of thing can take quite a toll on your body.” Shiro eyes him suspiciously, and Keith almost expects him to put a hand to his forehead and check for his temperature.

“Relaaax, I’m good. Survived worse, actually... My head still hurts and I’m feeling kinda sluggish, now that I think about it.” No joke, though. Now that the adrenaline from his hectic start of a morning is wearing off, he’s back to feeling like all energy has left his body. “It was probably good that you let me sleep in…”

“Yeah, I was gonna wake you up for work. Speaking of which…” Shiro’s tired face suddenly lights up in a sly grin “I saw you over there chit-chatting with our hangover expert.”

“What? Who, Lance?” Keith tries to shake his jelly brain awake “Oh yeah, crazy right? He was talking to me like we’re long time friends. Had no idea he even knew so much about the effects of mixing drugs and shit…”

“You seemed to know him well enough, last time I checked...” His smile has gone full-on Cheshire cat now. Keith has officially lost control of whatever the fuck is going on in this conversation.

“Last time…?” Wait.

It suddenly occurs to Keith that, aside from a big blob of neon lights, he doesn’t remember most of last night.

“Shiro” he gives the man a warning glare “Shiro, what the fuck are you talking about?”

“Nothing, nothing…” the Frat President throws his hands up, feigning innocence. “Look, if you don’t remember, I ain’t gonna be the one to break the news to you!”

What? What the fuck happened last night, Shiro? Tell me right now!”

Keith stomps closer to Shiro, to which the asshole backs down with a beaming smile like he’s having the time of his life.

“Relax, man, it’s no big deal…” he snickers, which means it’s obviously a big deal. “Hey, weren’t you late for work?”

Fuck.

Work...!



Keith tumbles down from his skateboard, halting just before his face gets a chance to get chummy with the concrete sidewalk.

His phone says it’s 9:51. Not horrible, he guesses.

He looks inside the big windows of the bookshop. Shay is at the cashier, beaming warmly at a customer while she bags their books. Keith would never understand how she could be so bubbly and ask to hear about the day of every single costumer and not go insane. But there she is, clearly enjoying the social interaction. Extroverts, go figure... Mr. Slav’s stumpy figure is nowhere to be seen, which means he’s probably in his office taking inventory or something - and fretting over the book lists being sorted alphabetically and not chronologically, no doubt. Maybe Keith has a chance to get inside unnoticed and pretend like he’s been here all morning.

He takes a deep breath and walks in.

Shay shoots him a sassy glare the second she spots him. He tries his best to shrug apologetically, and opts for going in the back to leave his stuff and get changed.

As he puts on his apron, he is finally left alone with his thoughts long enough to contemplate this morning’s events. His interaction with Lance, in particular. It might have been a little while since… he’s been with anyone. Maybe long enough for him to be imagining things...

He huffs.

Keith has no time for castle-building.

When he makes his way back, Shay is already done with the customer. He wishes he hadn’t left in such a hurry, having time to grab a cup of coffee before having to interact with human beings would have made his life so much easier.

“Hey there, Mr. Frat Boy.”

“Hey, Shay! Thanks for covering up for me, I was a wreck this morning! Still kinda am, to be honest”

“Don’t mention it, honey! Did you put some fuel in that body of yours before showing up here?”

“Yes, ma’am! Seriously though, I owe you big time.”

“Yeah, right. Add that to the huge list of favors you already owe me for stalling Slav. Lucky for you, he’s been going bananas over the new order that came in last week… Said it’s unacceptable that they didn’t come sorted by color.” She rambles, while sorting through a cart of books by the counter.

“Speaking of which, sweetie, you could totally put these returns back for me, couldn’t you?”

“Sure! I mean, you could ask me to eat a swarm of bees and I’d have to do it, given how indebted to you I am…”

“Wonderful! Then could you organise the shelves in section B while you’re at it? Plaxum was meant to do that yesterday, but I think she left early.”

“Uugh… Yeah, why not?” He couldn’t go back on his word now. Customers had a shitty habit of putting books back all out of whack, instead of leaving them on the return baskets, or even trying to remember the right spot before grabbing one. Spotting the mess and putting everything back in order was tedious work, but Keith can’t complain. He is trying to stay in Shay’s good graces afterall. Plus, she’s a darling, but a chatterbox nevertheless. With the pounding in his head, he can use some alone time in section B.

And it’s good having work to put his mind off from circling around possible meanings for what happened this morning. It’s good to keep his hands busy and his mind clear.

And for a while, he manages to stick to the mechanical task of grabbing a book from the cart, putting it on the shelf. Pick a book from the cart, put it back on the shelf. Pick a book from the cart, and seriously though, was Lance flirting with him this morning or not, goddamnit?

Shit, there he goes.

Okay, he can’t say the sudden attention didn’t stroke his ego. Life has been so hectic with his overloaded schedule, he’d almost forgotten what it was like to feel that tingle …! He’d been baffled, sure , but  everytime he thinks about it, the less shocked he is and the more... The more flustered he is, okay? Keith is a healthy young man, with a perfectly functioning biology, it’s only natural that he would take interest when a member of the same sex fucking winks at him. He was flirting. He had to be.

There was no way Lance was flirting with him. Fucking Lance McClain, I mean, look at the guy! He oozed straightness. And everyone knows about his reputation. Lance, the lover boy. Lance, the womanizer. Lance, who always came back from his bedroom with a different girl at the wee hours of the night. Keith had been there himself to witness the aftermatch of his extracurricular activities a couple times, when he’d be down by the living room riding out a night of insomnia, and Lance would come downstairs muss-haired with a chick making the walk of shame back to her dorm.

Sure, his face wasn’t half bad to look at. And the subtle sway of his hips when he walked around the house in slacks, now that Keith thinks about it, is pretty charming. And he had that air of confidence that all guys who get with a lot of chicks have. Keith is a sucker for that. Even though he knows it’s a certain recipe for disaster. But the cock of those eyebrows, the twist of his smirk, the way he had come to Keith unprovoked, completely out of nowhere, had caught him by surprise and left him absolutely astonished. Fuck, fuck fuck. He’s probably imagining things. Keith has gotten with Straight Dudes™ before. The curious ones who want to experiment behind closed walls but still wanna hold on to their masculinity and reputation, because “it’s only gay if the balls touch”, and no homo bro, and all that shit. And he sure doesn’t fancy a trip down memory lane. Either he’s imagining things and Lance was just a friendly guy extending his extroversion towards Keith, or he was flirting, despite being so unabashedly obvious about being into women. And Keith doesn’t know which is worse. Because maybe, just maybe , there’s a part of Keith that stubbornly hopes it’s not the first option.

But wait, fuck, wasn’t he meant to keep his mind off Lance...?

And before Keith notices, he’s gone through three entire sections and it’s been 40 minutes since he started putting the books away. He is almost done with the business section when his phone - which was not allowed to be in his pocket - rings with Pidge’s tone. Startled, he mutes it before opening up her text.

Pidge: Yo. How’s my favourite emo doing?

Keith looks both ways to make sure no one is around to see him neglect work even more, then quickly taps his response:

Keith:

Hungover af

You?

Pidge:

Figured haha

Same old, working on an algorithm for mapping out possible anomalies in non-coding RNAs

Keith has no idea what that means. But his phone buzzes again.

Pidge:

Haven’t seen your ugly mug in a while, wanna go get coffee at the usual place after your shift?

Keith:

Hahaha sure, short stuff

Gotta be quick tho, I got football today

Meet you there after my shift?

Pidge:

You know it.

Awesome. He hasn’t seen Pidge in a bit. If he’s lucky, she’ll have some insightful input on the odd behaviour of you average straight male. Or, in this case, your average Lance male. Pidge’s friendly with him, isn’t she? Through Hunk or something.

The rest of his shift goes by swiftly. Shay even tries to keep him off any overly-social tasks, like handling the cashier, since she knows his aversion to strangers is particularly bad on Sundays. Bless her soul. Soon Plaxum shows up to replace him, and he yanks his apron off, grabs his stuff, and pedals off on his skateboard to go meet Pidge.

 

She’s already waiting for him, waving on the sidewalk in front of the café. She crashes against him the second he stops, wrapping her arms around Keith like she’s trying to strangle him to death. For a little midget, she sure packs some strength in those arms, wow!

“Keef! It’s been ages, man” She chirps, using that ancient nickname Keith had definitely outgrown by now.

“It’s been literally two weeks!” He cackles, messing up her fringe while he’s at it. “And only because a certain someone is always too busy with a new nerd project to see me.”

“Drama queen.” They make their way inside, and the smell of coffee invades their nostrils “I mean, I am taking 21 credits this semester. What was I thinking when I enrolled for that many classes, my social life is spiralling into the gutter…”

“Just pay for my coffee when you’re rich from cracking the code for human cloning and we’ll call it even.”

“Yeah, yeah. I’ll go grab a seat, you get our drinks?”

“Sure thing. One cappuccino, two shots of espresso?”

“You know me so well!” she beams, making her way to the sitting area while Keith heads for the counters.

When he’s back, Pidge has already picked a table and broke out The Laptop from her bag. She’s typing furiously, oblivious to the rest of the world. Typical Pidge, inviting him for coffee only to bury her nose in some latest project, exactly like she could have if she stayed alone in her dorm. Keith loves her.

“So…” he breaks the ice, settling on the spot across her and sliding her the coffee. “How’re your algorithms going?”

“Not so well. I’m working on this group project, and my partner’s essay is all over the place. Girl can’t even color code, how am I supposed to write my part if I gotta keep going back to hers to fix her inconsistencies?”

Keith doesn’t respond. He’s not even sure what’s the issue here.

He’s already used to Pidge’s antics. Years and years of friendship taught him that sometimes she just needs to work through whatever stream of numbers and theories is going on in her head, too fast for her mouth to translate.

But then again, Keith has a stream of uncertainties flowing through his own brain today. He’s trying hard not to think about him. He is. This is Pidge time, his best friend, the only person in the world aside from Shiro with whom he can sit for hours in comfortable silence. Or discuss trivialities, or cryptid theories, or watch bad 90’s movies, and a million other little things that make his time with her treasurable. He’s not about to ruin the solace of her company by obsessing, and inevitably ranting, over the latest male related dilemma he’s facing. Pidge has dealt with his confused shit all through high school. He won’t think about Lance. Because if he thinks about Lance he’ll end up talking about Lance, and there’s an infinity of possible subjects other than -

“You’re awfully quiet.” Pidge cuts off her tap tap tap for a second to give him a piercing look and take a sip from the coffee.

“I’ve… had a lot to process today.” He trails off, not sure if he wants to make a big deal out of something so small.

“Humor me. Your talking helps me set up a pace.” She goes back to typing immediately afterwards. “Plus, I can practically see the engines turning in your brain. Spit it out.”

Well, he does have a lot to process. There were the Juniors who laced the alcohol and could have sent someone to the hospital, there’s the headache that’s finally starting to subside after the coffee, there was Shay covering up for his late, hungover ass, there’s football practice he has to get to after this… There are literally a million things that should be on his mind besides -

“Lance McClain is suddenly flirting with me.” Keith blurts out.

Lance, Lance? You know he flirts with everyone, right?” Pidge deadpans, eyes still glued to her laptop screen

“Yeah, but he’s never flirted with… me before” Lance has never flirted with guys before.

“Oh dear me, I wonder if it has anything to do with your recent... fraternal activities.” She snickers, frantically typing now.

“You mean Lambda? Fuck, yeah I was rolling balls last night, now that you mention it.” Keith rubs his temples, fighting back the ghost headache at the memory. He doesn’t think he’s ever repeating the experience. “Shiro said the Juniors are making a habit out of lacing the liquor with heavier stuff and not telling anybody...”

“Wait, so you don’t actually remember?” She giggles, finally stopping the typing and glaring at him. Oh shit. Keith had forgotten he’d had a similar conversation with Shiro. “You and Lance were grinding so. hard. last night. Apparently it was quite the show, I almost wish I had been there to see it.”

Keith gasps.

What?” No, no, no. That’s clearly wrong because he would never grind on Lance . “ I would never grind on Lance!” He doesn’t even grind. On people. What the fuck. “How do you even know that?”

Okay, he does. But not on Lance, obviously.

“Ho-ho, my friend, do I got some news for you.” She fishes her phone out of her bag, taps the screen rapidly as Keith’s heart speeds up. When she shows it to him, his stomach sinks.

Shit. He’s grinding on Lance, alright. Like, hips slotted together and everything. And the song playing is so fucking obscene, for crying out loud! Do they even play music like that at the parties? Well, they do, but - fuck, it’s even worse when it’s background noise to him and some random guy practically dry humping on the floor! He even barely recognises himself. Sure, he knows he got the moves, and he knows he dresses like that to parties fully intending to look like a snack, but holy shit. He’s dancing with such abandon, he looks so loose. Like he’s having so much fun.

“Oh, no. Who else’s seen this?” What if it’s gone viral? What if this is how Pidge knows? Oh dear, the whole campus must have already seen it. And Keith is sitting here, sipping coffee like his dignity isn’t about to plummet into the hole of slut-shaming.

“Relax, son.” Pidge dismisses him with a wave of her hand, shoving the phone in her pocket “Your scholarship is safe, and so is your reputation as a respectable football captain. No one else has videotaped proof of your drunken debauchery other than me, Hunk and Shiro.”

Shiro?!”

“Mm-hmm.” Her eyes sparkle with mischief. “He’s the one who recorded it. Such a proud daddy, says he’s been hoping ages for this to happen.”

“Say what, now?” Keith’s mouth falls agape. What a betrayal! His own brother! “Wait a minute, nothing in the history of the world has suggested Lance and I were anywhere near happening!”

“Oh, bullshit!” Pidge lets out a hearty laugh, apparently getting the shits and giggles from the downfall of his integrity. “Everyone’s seen you two bicker and bump against each other, especially if there’s alcohol involved. I once saw you cut him off on that skateboard of yours and everything!”

“That was one time! And he was blocking the sidewalk, I would have done it to anyone!”

“Bullshit and you know it. Admit it, there’s been some sexual tension building around you guys.”

Okay. Maybe there was, more than Keith had even realised, now that he thinks about it.

“Never. You’re reading too much into this.” He mumbles, stubbornly. “Can’t believe Shiro recorded that shit… I’ll kill him.”

Things make much more sense now. Shiro acting all smug, Lance’s sudden attention, Keith’s weird pull towards him, the tension between them. And that means Lance was flirting with him this morning! Ha!

And then there’s the nagging thought in the back of his mind: if his intoxicated self had been so quick to throw himself at Lance, how long had he been harbouring this subconscious attraction to him? And, on top of all that, he’s not even sure he was the one to make the first move. Maybe Lance had come on to him, and he just played along. He doesn’t know which is worse.  

“Hey, what’s the big deal?” Pidge snaps her fingers, pulling him back. “You’re both young and hormonal, there was a lot of sweat and alcohol, and lots of people getting crazy around you. And yeah, Lance has a rep, but you were just rubbing your ass on his dick. Don’t mean you gotta marry him!”

“Whoa, keep it down! Jeez, you make it sound so crude…”

“Sorry. But you get my point! Cut yourself some slack, it’s not that deep. You were both at a party, you were high, shit happens.” Her eyes suddenly turn wicked. “Hey, if you two are frat brothers, does this count as incest?”

“Pidge!”

She burst out in laughter.

“You’re horrible. For someone who’s not into sex, I’ve never seen anyone talk more innapropriate shit...”

“Eh, probably because I don’t care about it, I get to say all the awkward things everyone’s thinking and watch you hypocrites get all flustered.”

“Alright, you little monster. I gotta get to practice. Weird commentary aside, it was nice talking to you.” Keith gets up and ruffles Pidge’s head one more time.

“You go ahead, I’ll stay a little longer and work on this. I think I finally got the best way to color code this atrocity of an essay. And Keith?” She takes her eyes off from the computer one last time. “Try not to fret too much over this, okay? You’re a college boy. You’re allowed to fuck up and do stupid, regular frat boy stuff every once in a while.”

He rolls his eyes, but smiles anyway.

“Thanks, Pidge. I think I needed that.”

 

Keith shuts the door behind him, leaning against it for a minute and dropping his bag. Football practice mowed his ass so hard, it feels like his bones have crumbled into dust. He’s never doing sports on a bad hangover day like this ever again.

He quickly puts himself together again, and makes his way inside the house. The promise of his bed upstairs seems so welcoming, he’ll just take a quick shower and pass right out.

But when he reaches the living room, he finds the boys watching TV. Lance is among them. Exerting his muscles pass breaking point had put his mind off the madness of this weekend, but seeing the cause of his troubles brings everything back at once. Resenting the guy for his very existence, Keith ghosts past the room, trying to look small behind his sports bag. He fails.

“Yo, Adam is here!” The warning shout reaches his ears. More miffed by the fact that Lance is talking to him like they’re buds, Keith brushes past the words and just climbs up the stairs.

It’s not until he’s made his way through three flights of stairs, and reached the end of the hallway of the top floor, that he realises what “Adam is here” means.

There’s a sock on the door.

Keith stares at it incredulously. Of course. He couldn’t have the small, simple pleasure of getting clean and jumping into bed after practice. The universe wouldn’t let him have it. He can’t even shower, all his stuff is inside! Fuck, he knew he should have showered in the gym.

Humiliated, he drags himself back down to wait out Shiro’s extracurricular activities. On the bright side, at least he didn’t her any noise, right? That would have been the cherry on top of the most embarrassing day of his life.

Annoyed and reeking of sweat and grass, Keith allows himself a deep breath, and scans the room to see if anyone’s noticed his dejected presence. Thankfully, whatever’s on TV seems to be more interesting than his up and down shenanigans, so nobody pays him any mind. He absolutely does not look for Lance, but it just so happens that he’s somehow exited the room while Keith was gone. Not that he took notice of his absence, duh. Also, there’s a dozen brothers spread on the seats and on the floor, and some of them look just as nasty as his football-playing ass. It’s amazing, the lack of care for personal hygiene displayed by some straight, white, college males. But Hunk is here too, because when is Hunk ever not here? And Keith fondly remembers the french toast from this morning, so he makes his way to an empty couch next to the big guy’s chair, drops his stuff and sags down.

“Hey, man. Thanks for the food you always leave. Pretty nice of you.” He tries to make small talk, realising he’s never showed enough appreciation for that.

Hunk finally seems to notice him, and offers him a beaming smile:

“Hey! Keith, right? My pleasure! Figured you guys could use the sugar after all the alcohol, lots of people I know try to kill off hangovers with instant noodles or something. Not smart, mixing dehydration with all that sodium.” he trails off and goes back to paying attention to the TV.

Damn. Dude talked like it was a no brainer, leaving a family sized portion of baked goods for a bunch of guys he’s barely friends with.

Suddenly, however, a solid figure collapses right beside him, claiming the empty spot. Fuck.

“Hey, there.” Lance greets him. There’s the distant sound of the toilet flush refilling with water. Figures. He was so stupid, taking a seat next to Hunk that probably belonged to Lance before he went to the bathroom.

Keith now realises his body must remember last night a lot more than his mind, since there’s an immediate rise in his body temperature and heart rate. Fuck, fuck, fuck. Why does Lance smell so good? He’s never smelled of anything before, when did this happen? And why is Keith so terrified, and so very excited at the same time? Is he really that attracted to this guy?

“Hey.” Keith nods, thanking the gods that his voice came out normal.

The silence lingers between them.

Keith wonders if he should try to make small talk, like he did with Hunk? He feels he should say something. It’ll be awkward if none of them say anything for much longer. Fuck Lance for fucking with his brain.

“So, guess somebody was kicked out of the penthouse, huh?” Lance snickers under his breath. “Tsk, tsk. Didn’t even listen to my friendly advice, I’m offended.”

“Ugh, practice destroyed me. Barely even registered what you said…” he groans, still a little irked at Lance’s attempts at flirting, now that he knows that’s what they really are. But… oh, fuck it. Who’s he kidding? “I mean, you could have been more clear, saved me the trouble”

“Excuse you! I was trying to help a bro out!” Lance fakes a melodramatic gasp. “What was I expected to do? Yell ‘Ay yo, Kogane! Better not go upstairs if you don’t wanna get an eyeful of ass!’ for a room full of twelve year olds to hear? ”

“Drama queen…” Keith rolls his eyes, but still chuckles. “Alright, guess it couldn’t be helped. You were only trying to preserve the dignity of our Mr. Frat President.”

“Right? I was keeping it classy. You’re very welcome.” Lance bows, gesturing broadly with his hands, and Keith chuckles again.

They don’t say anything after that.

Every now and then something happens on TV and they offer each other some commentary, but it doesn’t extend much and Keith can’t help but feel somewhat awkward. Something about Lance makes him want to run away as fast as possible. But something about him also makes Keith want to come close and chase that adrenaline.

The evening elapses like that, as he tries to stay in control of the buzzing energy building up inside. Then, one by one, the boys start saying their good nights and going upstairs. Until there’s only him and Lance in the room. Oh, and Hunk. Once again, Keith is hyper aware of the fact of Lance’s presence. Right next to him. They’re not touching, but he can feel the guy’s warmth. And smell his cologne. Damn, it smells really good, how come he hadn’t noticed that before? Lance McClain is sitting right next to him, and Keith feels so impossibly drawn to him, he feels like he’ll die intoxicated.

It’s terrifying.

Every sense in him is screaming for him to go away. Away. Anywhere, as fast as he can. This is dangerous, and he’s playing with fire. But fuck, does Keith love fire.

No, shit, no! He’s been over this.

Keith peers around the room once more. There’s some bad, late night show on, and, other than the sound of the TV, the house is eerily quiet. Shitty Sunday evenings. And there’s Hunk, who’s probably hella third-wheeling, watching TV peacefully, unaware of the mental battle Keith’s facing against his raging hormones. And fuck knows what’s going on inside Lance’s mind, because he’s awfully quiet too.

Does he remember last night? Keith certainly doesn’t. What if Lance remembers everything, and thinks that, were it not for Hunk’s presence, it’d be open season for them to get their freak on? Like, on the couch?? Keith never okayed that, Lance should fucking ask him first.

He snaps back into reality when he hears footsteps. Shiro and Adam finally come downstairs, and Adam chimes in with a polite “Hello!”.

They look like they’ve had sex.

Okay, maybe they don’t. But the messy hair and the linked hands are enough to remind Keith that everyone is getting some, except for him. Plus, they have that glowy bullshit going on, that walking-on-cloud-nine air people get afterwards. Especially when you do it with someone you care about… It’s literally been ages since Keith’s had any action. That can’t be healthy, right? For a boy his age. Maybe he should just download Grindr again. It’s no shame. Certainly doesn’t hurt anyone - not if you use lube - and it’s worked in the past, hasn’t it?

Shiro interrupts his gay reveries and announces he’ll take Adam back to his apartment.

Which will probably be the death of him, because Hunk takes that as his cue to leave and Keith wants to yell at him to sit the fuck down and keep being the third wheel. He doesn’t, obviously, and soon the three of them make their way out, leaving him all alone to fight his overbearing libido on his own.

Keith is alone with Lance.

And he has less than a split second to wonder whether someone’ll make a move - given his lack of impulse control, that someone might very well be him -, before Lance claps his hand around Keith’s thigh.

And it lingers there.

“Well, mullet, guess it’s time for good children to be in bed. See you tomorrow?” They make eye contact, and Keith would try to make sense of what the hell is going on - if all his blood hadn’t flood out of his brain. He swears he can feel a slight pressure at the tip of Lance’s fingers.

And then, as abruptly as it had landed, Lance’s hand is gone. And so is its owner, sautering off towards the stairs while Keith stays planted on the couch while the heat quickly pools in his lower stomach.

He is too fucking turned on.

Keith stares at his thigh, dumbfounded, and wonders if he imagined the whole thing. Like… One second Lance was right beside him, squeezing his thigh, for fuck’s sake! And then he was gone. Just like that! Gone, and Keith still feels the ghost warmth on the skin below his clothes… Is his brain still on drugs?

“What, disappointed?” Keith snaps his neck around to find the little shit is back, standing perky at the foot of the stairs with a impish grin plastered on his face. Did he see Keith’s ridiculous state…? “Were you expecting me to try anything?”

The nerve…!

Bewildered, Keith opens his mouth to retort, but Lance breaks out in laughter and turns around, this time for good.

“Good night, mami!” He shouts, and Keith has half an impulse to dart after him. But the fucker sleeps on the first floor, and soon he hears the door banging. His boisterous voice is still echoing in Keith’s ears.

He wants to punch that stupid face so bad.

“Asshole…” he huffs, rubbing his thighs together.

Keith is still on the couch. Stays for a while longer, trying to process the madness that just took place. He fails. His mind is swirling so fast, it feels like a fan spinning too fast for you to actually see the blades. So he just… blanks. And tries to ignore the growing pressure in his crotch. Something in the back of his head worries that Shiro might come back to find him sitting here, and then he’ll have to explain himself. But there’s not enough blood in his brain to pay that enough mind.

So he just sits and stares at the floor. For a long, long time. Maybe he’s finally lost it. Maybe the drugs did more damage to his brain than he accounted for...

Okay. That’s it. Time to get some dignity, Kogane. Get the fuck up.

He gets the fuck up.

There’s no ignoring the tent in his pants now. In fact, it throbs stubbornly, like it’s trying to prove a point. Keith eyes it furiously, because he’s starting to think his dick has a personal vendetta against him. He has no time for this bullshit.

He has class tomorrow! For fuck’s sake!

Keith finally gets up, arousal mixing with anger and frustration. He stomps the floorboards and stairs forcefully as he goes up, trying to work out some of the tension through the exersion in his leg muscles. He finally reaches his door, and vaguely remembers the activities that were being performed inside earlier. May the room please not smell of sex, or so help him, that’s the last thing he needs.

He walks in to find his prayers have been answered. Shiro is a pretty tidy roommate, bless him. His bed is somehow made! There’s no sign that any sex was had here whatsoever. And the sight of his shitty curtains, plus Keith’s bed as messy as he left it, and his plants, and posters, and books in his little corner of the room, they’re all enough to soothe his anger a bit. Maybe he’s just tired…

Well, however easy on his temper the familiar sight of his bedroom might have been, it sure didn’t make him any less horny. Almost in pain, Keith groans and strides over to his bed, dropping his shit somewhere on the corner. He should shower, really, but at this point he just wants this mess of a weekend to be over as soon as possible. Maybe the urgency of paying attention in class will clear his mind. He topples on top of the mattress, clothed and disgusting and everything.

Hopefully exhaustion will take over and he’ll just black out. If he’s still horny tomorrow… well, at least there’s more dignity in a morning boner than in a desperate midnight wank over some dude sleeping downstairs. This is the one humiliation he’ll spare himself.

And then he waits. And waits. And waits.

And sleep never comes.

Fuck exhaustion for being so incompetent, you had one job!

He turns around in bed, trying to find a more comfortable position. Maybe sleeping on his stomach just wasn’t the smartest idea. But soon he changes positions again. And again. And soon he’s tossing and turning and his mind is doing that crazy fan thing again, and maybe it’s time he admits insomnia has decided tonight will be one of the nights. Yeah, he can’t sleep.

Resigned, he lays flat on his back and stares at the ceiling. He’s frustrated, he is. But… there’s a tiny portion of him that’s a little excited to be here, in this situation. It’s been so long since he’s allowed himself to fuck up. High school had been such a mess, with all the table kicking and fight picking. Now he was football captain, and still hadn’t declared his major, so he was trying so hard to do things right this time. And everything about Lance screams trouble, but still…

Ah, screw it. He giggles, reluctant, and shakes his head. What’s a man to do? It’s the thrill of the chase. Keith had almost forgotten how good it felt, the adrenaline rush, the want, the frustration, yes, but this building electricity, the anticipation! The promise of payback. Lance knew exactly what he was doing. He had invited Keith to his little game, and he’d be dead before he backed out of a challenge. Touching him like that, then running away, holy shit...

And then he remembers the smell of Lance, what it had done to entice him. The squeeze of his fingers, the naughty gleam in his eyes, the stupid cross on his neck . And it does nothing to calm down the building volume in his pants. In fact, his breath hitches, and his stomach knots, and he can’t help but squirm in bed. He really, really needs to sleep. Shouldn’t be here, thrashing against his sheets to the memory of this ridiculously attractive dude who’s suddenly become so tempting. But he’s losing his grip, and if only he could reach down, and get some relief from this need…

No. Okay, c’mon, he’s not thirteen anymore. Keith kicks the sheets away and gets up in surrender, then heads for the bathroom. Fuck if he’s ever needed a cold shower in his life.

He swears this guy Lance will be the death of him.