He’s not sure at what point everyone finally conditioned him to just walk into Hunk and Lance’s place without knocking and waiting for someone to open the door - Shiro adamantly insisted he raised him better, which he technically didn’t. Raise him. - but the point still stood that is was almost like assuming his place too much and he might feel the same way still. Despite the open door policy when someone was invited and they knew what time someone was going to show up.
Keith just shoved it deep, deep down because he didn’t think he could withstand another uncomfortable, pseudo-parenting talk from Lance and Hunk about how much they loved him and how much he was wanted between their whole-body shakes and poorly concealed snorts. Avoiding that at all costs was worth the price of admission, feeling like he was breaking and entering. So, he toed off his shoes, aligned them with Lance’s by the doorway and tossed his bag on the couch because he would fling himself into space before sitting through another Hunk and Lance-style intervention. He just wouldn’t ever tell Shiro.
Music pumped through the apartment and he could faintly hear Lance singing and humming the songs to himself in the kitchen.
As he walked past the large armchair in the living room, claws shot out from underneath it and latched onto his pant leg.
Keith stopped momentarily to glance down at the large blue eyes staring up at him, head lolled back as he continued to walk again, carefully dragging the cat with him. “Hey, Toast.”
He turned the corner and, sure enough, there was Lance singing and dancing his way around the kitchen between chopping vegetables and checking the various pots on the stove.
It smelled incredible and after a day spent in a stuffy university hall that smelled like stifling debt and some acidic mix of espresso and energy drinks, it pulled a pleased hum from him as he slumped down at the dining table. He didn’t even mind the tiny pin pricks of death as Toast koala’d her way up his leg and into his lap before she struck a paw against his chest to catch in his shirt.
Lance didn’t look in his direction, but he chuckled as he added seasoning into one of the pots. “Aw, long day, babe?”
Keith rolled his eyes as Lance slid across the floor to dice something else up. “You’re going to fall doing that one day and crack your skull against the floor and I won’t be able to do anything for you because I’ll be over here. Laughing. Not helping.” He huffed through his nose and and scratched down the soft fur of Toast’s nose. “And, yeah, a long day.”
This time Lance looked up at him before humming thoughtfully to himself. He shuffled his way over to the small island in the kitchen, tapping the screen of his phone to change the song. “Weeell, would it possibly make it better if I told you I was making my mom’s salsa for dinner tonight?”
“You know it just might,” Keith said as he feigned mulling the thought over to look off into another corner of the room. “Not mild, right?”
Lance gasped loudly, sending Toast shooting out of Keith’s lap into the kitchen, her claws scrabbling across the linoleum as she threw on the breaks and catapulted herself into Lance’s chest. “How dare you, of course it isn’t. We’re not animals, Keith. You better hope she doesn’t sense you saying that in the same room as her dearly beloved recipe.”
“All the way from Cuba?”
“Don’t even joke like that. You know she could.” Lance narrowed his eyes as he curled Toast protectively into him, her fluffed tail swishing against the warn denim of Lance’s jeans.
Not for the first time, embarrassingly enough, he noted the similarity in the blue of Lance and Toast’s eyes. It was incredibly hard to miss when they both seemed to just judge Keith with the same amount of open amusement. “Did you adopt Toast just because of the eyes and stuff or?”
Lance’s face went through a slow transition, his head quirked to the side and arched his eyebrows as they pulled an invisible string that caused his nose scrunch up at Keith’s weird subject change. He glanced down where the cat’s white fur matched the t-shirt he had on, minus the dusty orange (toasted) trails around her face and at the end of her tail. He laughed and smirked back up at Keith. “It’s called aesthetic, Keith. We just naturally have good fashion sense.”
“You’re just wearing a t-shirt and jeans, right now? And your bomber jacket is debatable.”
“A classic combo no one could not like though and how dare you? You just wear black literally all of the time and have probably had the same pair of black jeans since like freshmen year of high school when you heard Fall Out Boy for the first time. You’re uninvited from any salsa.”
Which was wrong.
The bomber jacket was ridiculously comfortable the one time Lance loaned it to him and the extra long sleeves combined with the amount of pocket space in them were perfect to completely cover his hands.
And he didn’t always wear black, it was just better for his job, and Shiro had bought him several different colored things in the past - even if they still leaned toward the darker shades of red or green and gray. Not to mention, Lance had personally seen to it that his wardrobe had seen some ‘color resuscitation’ through birthdays and Christmases. The back-and-forth was familiar and had warmed into something else entirely from its original start as a genuine petty argument they’d gotten themselves into early on.
Lance pointed his nose up and sniffed before looking down to scratch underneath Toast’s chin. She stretched her neck and appreciatively set her paw against Lance’s chest. Keith could hear her purr from where he sat as her eyes drooped in pure bliss.
“Besides, no one can say no to those baby blues.”
Hammer meet nail head.
“Clearly. She obviously runs the house.”
“Well, yeah. Why do you think we were in the cat market in the first place?”
The song that had been pulsing through the room cut out as an alarm went off on Lance’s phone, spurring Toast out of his hold as Lance reached to silence it. She disappeared with a tail flick down the hall into the one of the bedrooms. Without missing a beat - literally, since Lance insisted on shimmying his way around the kitchen in half formed dance moves - he put the lid over a pot and swayed comically towards the fridge to pull out more food.
He had seen Lance in the middle of other domestic duties, but his focus on cleaning bordered on scary and laundry day usually ended up tossed around the room if he had company. Keith and Lance weren’t really allowed to be at the apartment by themselves for that reason. It had taken an embarrassingly long amount of time to get a sock off of the ceiling fan in the living room after one particular sock ball war. The ceiling was weirdly high in there. The Final Straw had been when Hunk came across a missing pair of Lance’s underwear that had been lost in the scramble and overlooked where it landed on top of the fridge towards the back corner.
The time he had to give Toast a bath was iconic. Keith had never laughed so hard in his life and he prided himself to this day on managing to bite back a sound when Lance grabbed the back of his soaking wet t-shirt to haul it off and the smooth planes of his back were just there. Keith had never noticed the dusted constellations of freckles across Lance’s shoulders or the cluster that dipped down his back, following the line of his spine before curling toward his hip.
He did all of it with music in the background, but none of the other chores really gave him the freedom of moving through practiced dips and if there was a wait for a timer to go off, he had the habit of pulling whoever he had by him into a dance. Lance had valiantly tried to teach Keith a very simplified version of salsa while one of Hunk’s casserole’s was in the oven and even if he had made it incredibly clumsy in comparison to Lance’s practiced ease and natural ability, it was nice and had the stress of finals sliding off of their shoulders - if only for a moment. Not that this was solely something he waited for with baited breath - that would be…incredibly solid blackmail material for Pidge.
But to this day, the one pasta night Lance and Hunk had improvised a very impassioned ballroom number that took them through almost every room of the apartment while Keith and Pidge just trailed after them with their mouths hanging open remained immortalized.
The songs that played now were slower, definitely one of those reflection ‘relationship vibe’ playlist holes Lance tended to fall into on an app.
A lot of them Keith would never admit to secretly recording pieces of specific songs to search for later.
The comfortable silence relaxed him further as Lance started to sing under his breath. If he stayed quiet and didn’t make any sudden movements the moment wouldn’t break. For all of his show and shower performance encores and over-acted karaoke nights, Lance had a nice voice. Keith had thoroughly dug himself into a hole early on in their misplaced irritability by griping about Lance’s singing following another one of Lance’s tirades about Keith’s hair. The shot was cheap and even Pidge had even given him her trademark ‘what-the-hell’ look.
It was a different time and Keith, who was horrible with words, managed to still string residual word vomit into a barbed comment about all of the singing and wanting quiet and he was just really dumb, okay? Old arguments were only brought back up to lightheartedly tease each other, but the singing thing still sort of stuck. If Keith was around, Lance would do his best to sound as much like Scuttle as he could without completely wrecking his vocal chords. It made Keith laugh, Lance’s usual goal anyways.
“What if I dive deep?”
Things were getting better with them all of the time though.
“Will you come in after me?”
They were closer now and pieces of their defenses they hid behind humor were continually dropping.
“Would you share your flaws with me?”
Even Hunk had divulged to him that he thought Lance and Keith had made leaps and bounds in their relationship. Hunk approval was always nice to have, especially when it involved Lance. They stopped calling each other out on stupid shit and their friends had shown to be a lot more relaxed since Lance and Keith ‘found their chill.’
So, if he wanted to keep hearing Lance and didn’t want to admit things he was in no way ever ready to admit, he had to disappear off of Lance’s radar. Keith slunk further into his chair as Lance’s gentle croon slowly got louder, even enchanting Toast to come back into the room and flop down lazily onto the dining table beside Keith’s arm where she happily thumped her tail.
Keith exhaled slowly and felt his eyelids grow heavy.
It seemed like seconds later a hand was pressing a warm brand into his shoulder blade.
He blinked, trying to make sense of who he even was as he saw a bolt of white fur zoom off of the cool surface he was resting on.
Lance laughed, “Man, that class must have been terrible for you to actually take a nap awkwardly scrunched over our table like that. Your back is going to kill you.”
It was that sound that brought him back into the land of living. The warm reverberation deep in Lance’s chest that Keith could swear he felt come down through his arm where it bloomed against Keith’s shoulder. “I’m awake.”
“I’m glad my singing didn’t derail your beauty nap.”
Keith’s head shot up, causing Lance’s hand to fall from where it rested. His skin tingled where Lance’s warm fingertips ghosted down the side of his back. He tried in vain to fight a yawn that threatened to yank his soul out his body and only managed a delirious jumble of words. “Idonn’ hay’re singing. Nnnce.”
He was still too locked in the land between sleep and awake to decipher the look that passed over Lance’s face as his eyes got larger and his brow did this funny thing Keith doesn’t ever remember it doing. Whatever he could have seen or learned when Lance opened his mouth to answer in the moment was broken when another alarm cut off the soft beat of music and startled Lance away from him. Keith stood up and stretched, he closed his eyes when his back popped satisfyingly, missing the look Lance shot him when he groaned under his breath.
“I’ve almost got things wrapped up here, all that’s left is the stuff Hunk’s fixing when he gets here. He texted me that they were in line at the grocery store a few minutes ago. Which means you can’t go back to sleep because Pidge is going to be here soon. I’m saving you from being at her mercy since she’s still out for blood from the last time.”
“Okay, that was all you. You threw me under the bus for what you did.”
“Anyways, don’t go back to sleep. I don’t think I could explain to Shiro why you have to go to the doctor because your hand got glued to your face or something. So, you won’t need to do anything but just like chill on the couch and watch TV or something. You know, the usual make-yourself-at-home bit. I’ve gotta jump in the shower.”
“Why? You look fine to me.”
Lance cleared his throat. “Well, I kind of have a date tonight, so I need to get cleaned up.”
Keith scrubbed his hands over his eyes to make sure he heard Lance right. “A date?”
“On dinner night?” Wait, Keith had this right, right? It was Thursday when he fell asleep. God, what if they had just let him sleep there and he’s having one of those ‘What year is it?!?!’ panics. What if this was Pidge and Lance working together to prank him for falling asleep in the first place. “Lance, you’re the one that made such a big deal about finding a solid friend tradition and insisted on keeping to it. Do you not remember that one time I had the flu and said I might not be better in time to make it?”
“Yes, Keith. I remem-,“ Lance huffed and threw his arms down to his sides.
“Dude, you monologued in Spanish at me for seven minutes while I was out of it on medicine and just sat through it sadly eating saltines waiting on you to breathe. You said something about no exceptions or substitutions or something like that.”
“Again, yes. I remember.” Lance then did the three things that meant he was very nervous and genuinely struggled to read how something might play out in a given situation. A reaction Keith understood as Lance feeling like he was backed into a corner. Lance scuffed his toe against the floor, nervously scratched the back of his head, and worked to clear his throat twice. “I- uh, you know we’re not official yet and this was the night we’re both not in class or working and I want to do that. To take that next step. I want to ask him if he maybe wants to take it there. Like official. Exclusive, y’know?
“And like I get it’s probably not a big deal and I don’t need to make it a Thing. I could just as easily slide into his DMs all smooth-“
“Please don’t say that sentence ever again.”
“And be all, ‘hey so I really like talking with you and doing outings, so like maybe we can date date. I haven’t really been talking to anyone else and I’m interested to see where this could go’ and use those emoji finger guns, but you know me, Keith. You know timing is everything and you know I’m extra and a hopeless romantic so it has to be more than that.”
Keith smirked. “Hopeless is definitely a good word for it.”
It seemed to do the trick to break Lance out of his reeling headspace enough to get him to smile and cross the space between them to cuff Keith on the shoulder. “Dude.”
Keith counted it as a point for him. “But it’s fine.”
“Yes, Lance. We just won’t promise leftovers.”
“You’re a merciless heathen.”
“It’s going to go well, though.”
“The date. You guys have been talking and doing that not a date date thing for awhile. Even if I have no idea how that makes sense or what the difference is. From what I haven’t asked to hear, yet you regale with vivid detail, you guys are on the same page.” He definitely shouldn’t be the one to give Lance advice. Especially if he was basing it on his personal track record. What he did say sounded safe, to him at least. He and Lance weren’t exactly known for just telling the other what they wanted to hear.
Lance himself seemed to be mulling the same thing over as he crossed his arms and leaned his head back, considering Keith. “You’re being oddly supportive.”
Keith shrugged. “I’d do just about anything for salsa.”
“You’re the worst, mullet. But - uh- thanks.”
Lance huffed through his nose and went back to setting out the rest of the ingredients and pans Hunk would need when he got here. Hunk most likely already knew, which meant Keith and Pidge were his anomalies. At least with Keith it was mostly promised not to involve with a projectile. So - two down, Pidge and his impending death to go. Keith did not envy him in this moment.
Snapchat from Lancelot 👑
so this is a thing
Hunk glanced up at Pidge checking out the register aisle candy before he looked back down and tapped the screen to open the next snap. It was a picture of Keith sitting at their table with one arm crossed in front of him and the other holding his head up, asleep.
To Lancelot 👑
okay, that’s adorable
please tell me you haven’t pranked him
and didn’t send this to pidge
From Lancelot 👑
no, i don’t feel like dying today thanks
and also no? i’m gonna wake him up in a minute. we’ve finally gotten to this good place where we’re cool
and i don’t want him to expect me to mess with him every time you’re not here to stop me
To Lancelot 👑
i feel like i should call your mom and tell her how much you’ve grown lol
From Lancelot 👑
besides a professional knows timing is key
a good prank only happens when their guard is down
To Lancelot 👑
aaand there it is
Like he said, he didn’t envy Lance.
Keith knew for a fact that he told Hunk first, obviously, because Hunk was reason and Lance probably had the most to make up to him for willingly passing up Hunk’s cooking and that he, Keith, was second because Keith ultimately would let Lance do whatever, just with a healthy dose of revenge nagging for the flu incident and any other Best Friend Treaties Lance had locked them into without legal council present. So, he figured - look, Lance was smart. Incredibly adept at strategizing anything from get togethers to using physics and engineering to make fun little at home crafts. Again, Keith figured, Lance was operating on some sort of strategy to tell Pidge last.
If Hunk was reason and Keith was neutrality, Pidge was chaos.
Lance, unfortunately, was also a ‘fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants’ kind of guy.
He figured Lance would hustle to time his date night routine around the ETA of Pidge in a way that wouldn’t immediately implicate him and give him some time to get in her good graces. Keith couldn’t very well express his concern or tell him to hurry the fuck up because the pigeon has landed when the bane of his existence insisted on leisurely strolling around the apartment shirtless in his good jeans gently patting the water from his hair and neck, lest Keith say something incredibly stupid.
He wondered if Hunk would forgive him for chucking the nice accent wall clock he found at a yard sale at Lance’s thick head.
The clear lack of plan there came down to that -
There had been no one to catch the collar of Pidge’s shirt when she and Hunk came through the door since Keith had offered to take the groceries out of her hands and some of Hunk’s. It was like a scene out of Planet Earth where the predator caught site of its prey and it’s a whole circle of life thing, it’s natural. It was just the way things went and it wasn’t meant to be cruel, but you still root for the prey to see another day even if you realize the predator is just hungry and doing what its instincts tell it to do.
That’s what it was like as they could only watch Pidge lock onto the smell of Lance’s body wash and Date Lance™ innocently walking out of his bedroom, offhandedly asking if he wore the one navy blue t-shirt too many times on dates as he pulled it down to his waist. He wasn’t paying attention to his surroundings. She was gone with a huff and sinister gleam on her glasses.
Lance must have seen the movement out of the corner of his eye because he froze and made a shocked hiccup as she jumped and flung her arms around his shoulders. It was a creative stunt. Not one Lance would have been used to (he adapted to the blind jumps where she stuck herself like velcro to his back or the side tackles disguised as hugs. Keith was impressed, with the sheer force she propelled herself at him with and at Lance for managing to remain upright with Pidge’s dead weight hanging off of him.
He hoped the guy Lance was seeing liked statement jewelry because the Pidge necklace wasn’t coming off anytime soon.
“Pidge,” Lance wheezed, “Did you pack on 20 pounds or an industrial magnet or something?”
Pidge adjusted her hold and glared. “You’re wearing that boy cologne crap Matt told you about and you’re wearing the date shirt.”
“In this house, we respect your brother’s glow up.”
“Unbelievable.” Keith tore his eyes from Pidge and Lance to look at Hunk. Hunk shook his head and greeted Keith. “Hello, dear. Isn’t it great seeing the kids get along so well?”
Keith laughed and followed him into the kitchen, sparing a glance in Lance’s direction. He narrowly dodged Pidge’s the swing of Pidge’s tennis shoes when he made his way past them, accidentally meeting Lance’s pleading gaze over the untamable mess of Pidge’s hair. “Uh, sorry. Hands are full.”
Lance wrapped his arms around Pidge’s waist and attempted to follow after them. He really only managed a lurch that nearly pitched him and Pidge face first into the floor. “You traitors.”
Pidge jostled her weight against him to bring his attention back to her. As if he could forget the whole person currently bent on prematurely stooping his neck. It earned her another feeble wheeze. “What’s your game, McClain? You hype up dinner night for two years. Through severe weather and sickness and now, you blow us off to go on some date?”
Keith laid down the grocery bags on the counter and went back into the open room to watch as they grappled with each other and muttered increasingly rude things at each other. Lance worked to pry her fingers apart, then settled into holding her out as far as he could hoping her shorter wing span would fall short.
“If you already know, why are you asking?”
“Because I demand you be man enough to look me in the eye and admit it.”
“It doesn’t make a difference!”
Hunk stood beside him and nudged him in the ribs. “It’s better to just look a way, man.”
“I can’t. It’s like the chase scene where the iguana is trying to wrestle his away from all of those snakes. It demands to be watched.”
“Friendly reminder, I still hate you both. No one will have salsa.” Lance groaned when Pidge’s knees knocked against his side. “Pidge, gremlin of my nightmares, ruler of all things that go bump in the night. Can we please have a normal conversation like adults and you not actively trying to snap my neck?”
“You know what? Fine.” Lance bent and swooped his arm under her knees while supporting Pidge’s back. He carried he to the catch, throwing himself and her into the cushions, making sure not to land on her arm. She landed comfortably beside him with an ‘oof’. “We’ll talk. I have a date to tonight.”
Pidge hummed and adjusted her legs next to his as she laid down on her side. It was like a switch with them. One that Keith, admittedly, sometimes had trouble keeping up with. He was close to Pidge - really close, actually. He had known her long before he knew Hunk and Lance. She was ultimately the one that dragged him into the first face-to-face introduction with them outside of a classroom. Keith had been taken aback, knowing what he knew of Pidge and knowing what he knew within two minutes of meeting Lance, he couldn’t for the life of him see how they were friends. At first, he figured it had to do with a healthy dose of Hunk playing the buffer and some back-burner plot in Pidge’s path to this universe’s overlord.
Until he saw Lance and Pidge have their own moments completely unsupervised by Hunk. That was two years ago and he was still surprised, to this day, how they could go from how someone would assume personalities like Lance and Pidge interacted compared to this.
This moment where she let him idly brush his fingers through her bangs to watch them fall right back into a haphazard place as Lance told her about the boy and that he really wanted this because he wanted to introduce them. Keith had yet to see this particular look on Lance as he started to absentmindedly braid parts of her hair and smile as he talked more about this person that had started to become fractionally more important to him. Keith didn’t even remember Lance’s date-maybe-date-date’s name.
He was brought back out of thought when Hunk nudged him more meaningfully and nodded his head back in the direction of the kitchen. “That’s our cue. Also, I could use another set of hands in here to get the rest of the food started.”
Keith grinned. “Do you guys still have that fire extinguisher around?”
“Keith, I refuse to believe anyone is that bad in a kitchen.” Hunk started to move foods into their prep places.
Keith had been around long enough now for falling into Hunk’s step was muscle memory. He opened cabinets and drawers, meticulously placing clean bowls and plans strategically by the food and fished out the neon orange spatula Lance had bought for Hunk their freshmen year of collage. “I have microwave pizza bagels down to a science.”
“We all have to start somewhere, dude.”
“That’s oddly inspiring.”
Hunk turned to clap Keith on the shoulder and handed Keith a ponytail holder to pull his hair back. “The only way my mom said I could ever disappoint her was if I ever gave up on someone or let them go on thinking they’re stuck with microwave pizza bagels for the rest of their life.”
“I still don’t think I’m ready to attempt your guac recipe.”
“Oh, no no no no. Nobody said anything anything about you starting off with guac. Which you will not try to prepare - yet. You’re going to start off with frying the meat and asking everyone how many tacos they want and hard or soft shell, the works.”
Keith huffed amusedly as he mumbled a ‘got it’ around the ponytail holder between his teeth. He tied the elastic in his hair, tucking the longer parts of his bangs that fell loose behind his ear. He moved to the sink to wash his hands, when long, long arms were suddenly draped around Keith’s middle and an unmistakable bony chin hooked over his shoulder, a lanky body melding to his back. “You’re still going to save me leftovers, right?”
“We agreed to no such thing.”
“Keeeeeith.” Lance dug his chin into the juncture between his shoulder and neck, squirming his fingers into Keith’s side for good measure.
“I’m supposed to ask everyone how many tacos they want and which kind of shells.”
“Two, one hard and one soft? A decent side of guac? To not make it look suspect? Like you could easily be taking leftovers to Shiro? I don’t have to have any salsa or the cheese dip.”
Keith ducked out from Lance and the sink to get a towel to dry his hands. “Mayb-”
Hunk whirled around with a spatula in his hand. Keith’s voice broke as threw up his hands and Lance anchored himself back to Keith, one leg in the air around Keith’s side like it was going to thwart whatever trouble they were vulnerable to. Hunk leaned further to the side and raised his eyebrows. Keith moved slowly, still not convinced it wasn’t him and Lance that were on the receiving end of Hunk’s wrath. He slid his eyes to the side and slowly turned his head to look behind them.
Where Pidge was standing with a palm to her mouth.
Lance shrieked. “Dude, I braided your hair and you were still going to sabotage mine?! We had a moment, pigeon.”
Pidge dropped her hand and shrugged before passing by them into the kitchen and hoisting herself up onto a counter. “It was worth a shot.”