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The Memories We Shared (Now Hurt More Than Ever)

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Lance paced the hallway relentlessly. Hospitals were too sterile and white, and it was setting his nerves even further on edge. The energy coursing through his body was frantic and panicked, it made him feel like tearing his skin off to get some relief. Shiro sat in one of the waiting room chairs, slumped over, eyes tracking Lance’s frantic movements. He hadn’t said anything when he arrived, he had just took a seat, and quietly waited for Lance to do or say anything other than pace. Once he had tried to get Lance to sit down but the idea seemed to put him further on edge so he hadn’t said anything else.

    The pacing wasn’t doing much to relieve Lance’s nerves, but it at least stopped them from getting worse. He had called Shiro as soon as the hospital had called him. Between his sobs, the only words he got out clearly were “Keith” and “hospital”, and that had been enough for Shiro to understand. Lance hadn’t explained what had happened yet, and he wasn’t sure when he was going to be able to. He had cried so much on the way there that his throat felt raw and he thought speaking might just tear him open from the inside out.The thought of telling Shiro exactly what had happened made Lance shudder. Saying the words would make it real and some part of him was still clinging to the hope that this was just a fever dream.

The doors to the Emergency Room waiting room slid open then, revealing two familiar faces. Shiro must’ve called them, Lance thought in the brief moment before he was enveloped in a hug from Hunk. He hadn’t thought to call anyone besides Shiro, since Shiro was basically family to Keith and therefore to Lance, too. He couldn’t think straight, to be fair. He had only called Shiro because the prospect of facing these white walls alone made him want to tear his hair out.

“How are you holding up?” Hunk asked. When Lance lifted his red eyes to meet Hunk’s, he frowned. “Right, dumb question.”

“What happened?” Pidge asked.

The knot formed in Lance’s stomach so quickly he thought he might just throw up. He wasn’t sure he would be able to actually say what happened. He wasn’t sure he could put into words the fact that he was living his worst nightmare right here and now. “Uh…” He cleared his throat, biting his lip against the tears that were welling up again. Maybe he wasn’t all out of tears after all. “T-today was the- the anniversary of our—” he broke off to take a few deep breaths. His throat ached and his eyes burned and everything felt so wrong. He wasn’t supposed to be here in this hospital waiting room. He was supposed to be out to dinner with Keith, laughing and holding hands across the table. He was supposed to be— he let out a sob. “Our first date anniversary!”

Pidge glanced at Hunk with a raised eyebrow. Hunk explained, “Lance accidentally stood Keith up on their first date so every year since then, he makes sure to take Keith out for a really nice date to make up for it.”

“Oh yeah,” Pidge says, “I remember hearing about that.”

Lance sucked in a deep breath, but it caught in his throat “We- we were supposed to go out today, like- like we always do. We were supposed to—” He dissolved into tears, then, slumping into Hunk. Everything was wrong.

He had been sitting at the counter for nearly half an hour, staring at the clock and anxiously tapping his fingertips against the smooth surface in time with each tick, counting how late Keith was. They were supposed to have left for their dinner reservations twenty minutes ago. Keith had yet to get back home. Normally Lance would just brush it off, but he had gone to great lengths to make today’s plans. Today was going to be a special day, one they would never forget.

The door finally clicked open and Lance was immediately on his feet. “Where have you been? We’re missing our reservation!”

“Hi,” Keith said casually, avoiding Lance’s question, “I’m good, how are you?”

Lance rolled his eyes, walking up to his boyfriend and stopping a step in front of him, so they could stand eye-to-eye, “I’m serious. We had big plans today!”

“I know,” Keith said, looking unusually tense. His shoulders weren’t relaxed like they usually were when he arrived back home. Instead, his leather jacket looked strained across them. “And we can still go.”

That wasn’t what Lance wanted, though. He had the entire evening planned to a T. If it was off at the start, it was only going to be off for the rest of the night. A bad omen, he thought. And tonight was too important of a night to risk like that. “No,” He snapped, sounding harsher than he intended to. Keith flinched, and Lance immediately felt a little bad. “It’s too late now, we’ll just stay in.” he said more calmly.

“Lance, seriously, it’s twenty minutes. I’ll go change and we can leave. It’s not—”

“No.” Lance interrupted firmly. “I don’t want to go now.”

“You’re being unreasonable.”

It was true, but he couldn’t quite help it. There way nothing stopping them from enjoying parts of the night the way he planned it. “Can we just stay in tonight, please?”

“No,” This time it was Keith’s turn to be firm. He crossed his arms over his chest and Lance frowned. He loved the way that leather jacket fit and he couldn’t deny that Keith looked great in it, standing across from him, arms crossed and hair disheveled. He didn’t want to fight with Keith like this.

“Let’s just go out another day. I’ll move all of our reservations.” He offered.

Keith was unmoved.

They stared at each other, clearly at odds. Lance was standing there in jeans, a button up and a blazer, looking the epitome of semi-formal. He was wearing Keith’s favorite tie; the blue one that made his eyes pop. Keith met his gaze head on, but Lance knew that he had noticed the outfit. He could see the question in Keith’s eyes.

“Clearly today was a big deal,” He said and he sounded… kind of sorry. “So, let’s go.”

They had wasted nearly ten more minutes standing there arguing. “Our reservation time has already passed. Seriously, we’ll just—”

“Listen,” Keith’s voice was rough and Lance tensed. Keith used to be stubborn and uncompromising but after two years together they had mostly figured out how to meet in the middle. Still, on occasions, he refused to back down. The tone of his voice hinted to Lance that this was going to be one of those times. “I’m still going to go. You can either join me or let me eat alone.”

With a sigh, Lance loosened the tie around his neck. He ruffled his hair a little before leaning back against the wall. He saw the tension in Keith’s jaw that meant he was trying not to be distracted by Lance. “Babe, come on, don’t be like that. I promise we’ll do it another day. Just not today, okay? I just want it to be perfect.”

“And I ruined it, right? It was going to be perfect until I ruined it.”

“What— Keith, come on, don’t do this. I’m not upset at you.”

“You seem like it!”

Lance took a deep breath and met Keith with a level gaze. “I’m not upset at you.”

Keith stared back at him, expression fierce. Suddenly he snagged his motorcycle helmet off the table where he had set it and turned back to the door. He barely tossed the words over his shoulder as he exited, “I’ll be at the restaurant. It’s up to you whether you join me or not.”

 

“I was going to go after him, I really was.” Lance was downright trembling against Hunk. It was all his fault. If he hadn’t been so stubborn, if he had just agreed and changed the main part of his plan to another day, this wouldn’t have happened. Keith left thinking Lance was upset at him and that would haunt Lance for the rest of his life.  “It all happened so quick. I went to change and take a few minutes to calm down and then the phone was ringing and—” His chest felt like it had shrunk in size, suddenly incapable of taking in a meaningful breath. He scrubbed at his face. “It was the hospital telling me he had been in an accident.” Hunk gripped his shoulder tightly. “They said he was…” the word tasted bitter on his tongue. He didn’t want to say it. He didn’t want to hear that word ever again. But the others needed to know. “Unresponsive.”

Stunned silence filled the air around him. The silence grew until it was deafening, a pressure against the inside of Lance’s head making him feel like collapsing. He both needed someone to say something and couldn’t bear hearing what any of them were going to say. It was an out of body experience, waiting for their friends to comment on the situation. He could still hear the woman’s voice telling him that they were going to keep trying and that he should come down to the hospital immediately. He hung up on her before even hearing all of what she had to say and rushed out of the house. He hadn’t heard anything else.

After what felt like the longest moments of his life— every moment since he had gotten the call from the hospital felt like the longest moment of his life— he looked up. Pidge was sitting in a chair next to Shiro, head down, shoulders shaking with silent tears. Lance assumed she was trying to hide it from him as if he didn’t understand how she felt. As if he weren’t standing here feeling like someone had ripped his heart out with their bare hands and refused to put something in its place. As if he didn’t feel like he were slowly disappearing because the only thing that ever kept him sane was down the hall in a hospital bed and he had no idea whether or not he was even alive anymore.

Hunk seemed to follow Lance’s train of thought and he pulled him closer to his side, holding up over half of his weight for him by now. Lance happily leaned into his best friend, not even trying to bear his own weight. His legs felt like jello and he was certain that he was only moments from collapsing.

The doors that led into the ER opened suddenly and a doctor walked through. His eyes landed on Lance right away and he approached carefully. “Lance McClain? For Keith?”

All eyes rushed to the doctor, but he didn’t buckle under the pressure. Lance wondered how he managed. “Y-yes,” he breathed. “That’s me.”

“Keith came to us in a serious condition, but he’s stable now. He’s lucky to be alive—”

“But he is alive?” Lance insisted, pushing off of Hunk and stepping towards the doctor earnestly.

The doctor smiled reassuringly at him. “Yes, he’s alive. He’s unconscious right now, but we’re about to wake him up.”

Lance barely heard anything the doctor was saying. Keith was alive. He had a chance to make things right, to apologize, to remind Keith that he loved him so much it hurt sometimes. Keith was alive and they would have more time together. A huge wave of relief flooded Lance and suddenly his exhaustion from crying hit him and he had to sit down.

“Can we go see him?” Shiro asked. Shiro was looking at the doctor with a serious expression that implied that he, unlike Lance, had actually listened to everything the doctor said. The expression made Lance nervous all over again. Hospitals were such a rollercoaster.

“I can let two of you in,” The doctor answered, “Anything more than that may overwhelm him for the time being. We still don’t know the full extent of his condition.”

It was no question who would be going in with the doctor. Lance and Shiro stood up simultaneously, bidding the others a quick farewell and following the doctor down the hall and into the emergency room itself. They walked past rows of rooms and Lance tried to tune out the incoherent babble and groans of pure pain. He tried to just repeat to himself over and over that Keith was alive.

“Here we are,” The doctor drew a curtain back partially to reveal Keith, unconscious, in a hospital bed. He had an arm in a sling across his chest and bandages tight around his head. There were cuts littering his face, neck and arms and Lance assumed there were more than he couldn’t see under the blanket. His breathing stopped and it felt like his world collapsed in on him then. He couldn’t feel his legs as they carried him to the side of the bed.

He climbed frantically onto the bed, gripping Keith’s unbandaged hand in his own and bringing it up to press a kiss to the back of his hand. Both Shiro and the doctor stayed at the entrance of the room, allowing Lance to have his moment. The tears were back immediately and he moved Keith’s hand to press it over his heart.

“Keith,” He cried, bowing his head forward, “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry for everything I said. I shouldn’t have—” he broke off, crying too hard to speak.

A hand landed gently on his shoulder. He looked up to see the doctor standing next to him, a somber expression on his face. “Save your words for when I wake him up. It doesn’t do him much good now.”

Lance nodded and moved to stand up but the hand on his shoulder held him in place. He settled back in, leaning over to press his forehead to Keith’s chest gently. He closed his eyes and relished in the way he could feel Keith’s chest rising and falling with each breath. It was a level of comfort Lance didn’t think he would ever be able to describe. It reminded him of the first time Keith stayed the night at his house. He had been too worked up— both nervous and excited— to fall asleep. Sometime in the middle of the night he rolled over and laid a hand on Keith’s chest, feeling him breathe. It was that rhythm that had lulled him to sleep that night.

Lance tried to match his breathing to Keith’s for no reason other than to keep himself breathing. He could hear the doctor moving around the room next to him, could hear Shiro enter the room fully, could hear the beeping of the machines. He could hear everything. But what he felt, firm underneath his fingers, was Keith.

Suddenly, Keith took a sharp breath in. Then, he stirred.

“There we go,” The doctor said quietly.

Sitting bolt upright, Lance squeezed Keith’s hand, his eyes trained on Keith’s. He held his breath, feeling like he was going to explode any second, until Keith blinked his eyes open groggily. Lance could’ve sworn that fireworks went off inside of him at the sight of those eyes he loved so much.

“Keith, babe,” He breathed through his newest wave of tears. He never ran out of them, apparently. “I love you so much. You know that, right? I’m so sorry for everything. I—” He stopped when Keith’s expression turned confused and then closed off.

“Keith,” The doctor said gently from beside them.

Lance’s insides froze over at the expression Keith was giving him. He knew Keith like the back of his hand, he could read every expression perfectly. And this one was cold and angry and very, very unwelcoming.

His eyes slid past Lance to Shiro, causing his expression to lighten slightly. From there, his gaze moved around the room, taking in his surroundings, looking perplexed. He looked down at his body, at his arm that was in a sling and pinned to his chest. He looked at his other hand, the one Lance still had a death grip on. Carefully, he pulled it back.

“Keith?” Lance’s voice wavered and he hated himself for it. He needed to be strong.

“Where am I?”

“Well, I was going to ask you that, actually.” The doctor said, cutting in smoothly. “Where do you think you are?”

“Some kind of hospital.”

“Good,” The doctor replied. “Yes, you’re in the hospital. Do you know why you’re here?”

A moment of silence passed where Keith was clearly thinking. Then, he shook his head. The motion seemed to aggravate him and he immediately pressed his free hand to his temple, flinching and closing his eyes.

“You hit your head pretty hard, I’m not surprised you have a headache. You’ll have to take it slow for right now.”

“What happened to me?” He bit out through gritted teeth.

“We’ll get to that in a moment,” The doctor replied. “I have a few more questions I need you to answer before     I can tell you anything.”

Lance reached out again, placing a hand on Keith’s leg. Keith jumped. When Keith finally opened his eyes and met Lance’s worried gaze, it wasn’t with the love and affection he was used to. It was with the kind of cool, aloof stare he used to get fixed with, two years ago, before he had won Keith’s heart. He could feel his own heart shattering in his chest at the sight.

Keith and Lance had first been friends before they started dating. But before that, Lance had seen him around on campus a lot and had always been interested in him. Keith, never feeling the need to go out of his way to be social, had always shot Lance a sort of confused, unimpressed glare when he caught him staring. Similar to the glare he was shooting Lance now, except that this glare had an undertone of a different emotion to it. Lance hated to admit it, but he recognized it immediately— Keith was hurt. Lance couldn’t blame him, he had caused them both a lot of trouble and he hated himself for it. Still. Having Keith hate him made everything ten times worse.

“Do you know what day it is today?”

“Friday?” Keith ventured.

“Close, it’s Wednesday,” The doctor correctly gently. Keith frowned. “Do you know the date?”

“May 18th.”

“Correct.”

He wasn’t sure he could withstand Keith giving him that look for any longer. He felt like his frozen insides were splintering, moments from shattering entirely and leaving him in pieces that could never be reassembled. He couldn’t handle Keith looking at him like he didn’t understand why Lance was here. Did he expect Lance to be anywhere else? Surely he knew Lance better than that, knew that he was a worried mess, pacing patterns into the carpet. Lance wanted to reach for him again, to feel that connection between them the way he had so many times in the past, but the strange feeling that was rolling off Keith stopped him.

“And what is the year?” The doctor pressed on, clearly unbothered by the crisis Lance was having.

Keith didn’t even hesitate, answering as if it were obvious. “2016.”

In one fell swoop, every hope Lance had was dashed. May 18th, 2016, the day of their first date. The one he hadn’t made. The one that caused him to almost lose Keith before he even had him. Before today, it was the worst day of his life. It nearly cost him the love of his life. And here Keith was, apparently reliving that day.

It hadn’t been Lance’s fault that he had missed the date, but it took him awhile to get ahold of Keith and explain it and earn his forgiveness. In the few days it took for Keith to answer, Lance was afraid he had lost more than just a romantic potential— he thought he had lost his best friend. Keith shutting him down would’ve been easier to bear than the silence that had come in those days, leaving him to his own desperate thoughts. He knew he had hurt Keith that day, knew that Keith had felt betrayed and played, knew that he thought Lance’s feelings were some sort of elaborate joke, and the idea that he was feeling that way again made Lance want to vault himself into the abyss.

“It’s actually 2018, but that happens sometimes. It may take you a little bit to get your bearings back .”

Lance, in sheer terror, stood from the bed and backed up a few steps. At his increasing distance, the tension on Keith’s face seemed to decrease. Lance looked at Shiro, hoping for some sort of comfort. Instead, Shiro looked equally as alarmed. Lance pressed a fist to his mouth, trying to swallow down the panic and nausea. Trying, desperately, to cling on to some sort of hope. Shiro and Lance had gotten along immediately from the moment they met and he was the only other person who understood Keith as well as Lance did. Usually Shiro was the one who would say things were okay, but that didn’t seem to be the case.

“So, you must be Lance,” Shiro opened the door, extending a hand immediately.

Lance reached out and took it without hesitation, smiling up at the man in front of him. “Shiro! I’m so happy to finally meet you. Keith is constantly gushing about you.”

They both laughed as Keith made an indignant noise from inside the house, yelling, “I am not!”

“Anyone who teases him is good in my book,” Shiro stepped aside, allowing Lance into the house.

He stepped inside, stopping briefly to kick his shoes off in the entryway. He trailed Shiro into the living room that was just off to the left and smiled when he saw Keith splayed out across one of the couches, an arm thrown across the back of it and just enough room next to him for Lance to fit. There was another person in the room who stood up then and walked over to greet Lance, opting to go straight for a hug instead of a handshake.

“I’m so glad you could make it!” He said as he rubbed along Lance’s back.

Lance decided immediately that he liked him. He always liked anyone who was in for a good hug. “Thank you for having me, Adam!”

The separated and Adam let Lance go join Keith on the couch. Shiro disappeared for a moment before returning with drinks, handing one to Lance and settling on one of the chairs next to Adam and across from the two of them.

There was a moment of silence and Lance immediately tried to fill it, “Your home is beautiful. Thank you so much for letting me join you for dinner.”

“Are you kidding?” Shiro shot a teasing glance at Keith and Lance could feel him stiffen next to him. “We’ve been begging Keith to have you over.”

“Oh?” Lance shot his own teasing look at Keith whose cheeks were flushed as he avoided Lance’s gaze. “Funny he never mentioned that.”

Shiro’s expression softened slightly, “I think he was worried about us meeting you until he knew that it was real.”

“Shiro!” Keith chided suddenly, his tone a mixture of disbelief and warning.

Adam jumped to Shiro’s defense. “What? You were. You were so heartbroken after he missed your first date. It took you weeks to believe he wasn’t going to just walk out on you.”

Lance’s heart tumbled to the pit of his stomach at the words. He had known it had been hard for Keith— he’d ignored Lance’s calls for three days— but he didn’t think it had been that hard. Keith wasn’t really one to open up about his feelings so the fact that it hurt him enough for him to go to Shiro and Adam about it made Lance feel beyond guilty.

“Don’t listen to them,” Keith said quietly in his ear, slipping his arm off the back of the couch and settling it around Lance’s shoulders instead.

Lance couldn’t do that, though. He couldn’t ignore the way he had hurt and scared Keith. He met Adam and Shiro’s gazes across the room, “I know I hurt him then and I’m very sorry. To you,” he turned to look at Keith before glancing back at the others, “And to both of you. I want you to know that I didn’t mean to hurt him and that it was never a joke. My feelings for him are very real.”

“We know that,” Shiro said, smiling fondly. “Trust me, we do. You were such a good friend to him before. We never thought you’d just abandon him like that. But it’s nice to hear, all the same. That being said,” He paused to level Lance with a serious look, “We won’t forgive you if you ever do abandon him. Just because you guys are cute together, and you make him happier than we’ve ever seen—” he broke off, pressing a hand over his mouth and looking overcome with emotion.

“I think what he’s trying to say,” Adam added quickly, reaching across the short distance to rub small circles into Shiro’s back. “Is if you hurt him, we will murder you.”

Keith groaned, leaning his head back against the couch. Lance laughed as Shiro nodded along, affirming what Adam was saying. In their time as friends, Keith had explained that he and his family were a bit dysfunctional and that he was grateful for Adam and Shiro and the way they stepped up and accepted him as a little brother with no hesitation. Now he found himself in a proper family setting with protective big brothers and he loved it.

“I promise,” Lance said, placing a hand over his heart and ignore the way Keith sighed in exasperation. “I will never hurt or abandon him. I’m here for him, always. Unfailingly.”

“I have one last question for you, and then I’ll let you do the asking.” The voice of the doctor drew Lance out of his reverie. He glanced away from Shiro, focusing his eyes on Keith and holding his breath.

Keith met the doctor’s gaze. His eyes didn’t look clouded. He didn’t look confused. He looked like he was confident in his answers. Lance wanted to rewind the clock twenty four hours. Wanted to wake up from this nightmare. Wanted, more than anything else in his entire life, some indication that this wasn’t real.

“Do you know who these people are?”

Those eyes he loved so much slid over to him and Shiro. “Yeah, that’s Shiro,” He said, gesturing. “He’s basically my brother.” His eyes moved to Lance then and Lance found himself utterly paralyzed by that gaze, waiting for the final blow. “And that’s Lance, my ex best friend who just stood me up for our date.”



Chapter Text

“Keith, no. I’m your boyfriend.” Lance took a few tentative steps forward, a hand hanging awkwardly in the air between them. “We’ve been together for almost two years!”

    The expression on Keith’s face closed off. It felt like slow motion as Lance watched Keith push him out of his heart and lock his emotions down. “I don’t know what kind of sick joke you’re trying to play on me,” Keith said, “but I’ve had enough of it. You’ve done enough damage Why are you even here? You think we can go back to being friends after what you did? We can’t, so there’s no need for you to be around .”

    It felt like the world was splintering beneath Lance’s feet, as if there were a crater about to open up and swallow him whole. Briefly, he hoped it would, because nothing could be worse than standing in front of the love of his life and getting a look of hostility in response. The guilt still ate away at him from the first time Keith had been this heartbroken over their missed date. Now he had to face it again and was expected to come out the other side? He wasn’t sure that was possible. “It’s not a joke. I’m not kidding. Keith, babe--”

    “Don’t call me that.”

    Lance swallowed thickly. He felt Shiro take a step closer to him but he didn’t turn to look. He couldn’t turn away from Keith. He couldn’t stop. He was terrified that he would lose Keith if he turned away, that somehow Keith wouldn’t be there waiting for him when he turned back. It had almost happened like that the first time and Lance’s biggest fear— one so big that it was enveloping him completely— was that he wouldn’t get Keith to listen this time. It had taken all the persistence he had to get him to listen last time and this time he seemed even more upset. Waking up in a hospital with numerous injuries and foggy memories had to be terrifying, Lance understood that. But still, there had to be a way to make him see. Something. Anything. “Keith—”

    “I think I have enough going on right now, thanks,” Keith said bitterly, breaking their gaze himself. It left Lance feeling empty and unmoored, as if he had just lost the last connection they had to each other. Fear spread through him slowly, numbing him as it went. It felt like the world was moving in slow motion around him and each breath rattled in his chest painfully. “I don’t need you here messing up more stuff. You’re not my source of comfort anymore, Lance, okay? I don’t need you. What I need is to know why I’m in the hospital.”

    The doctor cut in before Lance could respond, not that he knew what he was going to say. He pulled his hand back and pressed the back of it against his mouth, trying desperately to hold some semblance of composure. “You were in a motorcycle accident.”

    “I don’t even have a motorcycle.” Keith said, pointedly looking at the doctor and not at Lance, his voice confused.

    Lance threw his arms out to the side, “You don’t remember your—”

    “-— No ,” Keith cut in harshly. “I don’t remember and that’s clearly the problem.”

    Stunned, Lance dropped his arms to his side. Keith never snapped at him, not like that. At the very worst, his tone might get a little harsh but it was never this cold. He was more likely to ignore Lance until he collected himself and was able to express his feelings properly than he was to just snap. Lance tried to swallow against the lump forming in his throat and desperately tried to blink away the tears pooling in his eyes again. This had to be some sick nightmare. It had to be. Keith would never treat him like this. Not his Keith.

The doctor turned to him then, a frown twisting his mouth, “Lance, I’m sorry but you’re going to have to step outside right now.”

    “But—”

    The doctor shot him a firm look and Lance relented, hanging his head as he shuffled for the door. He could feel the gazes of everyone burning holes into his back as he exited the room and pulled the door shut behind him.

As the door was closing between them, Lance caught Keith murmuring, “He can show up here but he can’t show up to our date? Does he really think I’ll forgive him just like that? Does he think we can just go back to being friends like before ?”

As soon at the door clicked shut, Lance collapsed to the ground, pressing his forehead into his knees and sobbing into his lap. He knew there were other people in the hallway but he didn’t care if they saw him fall apart. He didn’t care about anything other than Keith and the fact that he had, apparently, forgotten the two years they had spent together. The two happiest years of Lance’s life. He forgot all the plans they had made for their future. The hole in his chest was so large, Lance was absolutely certain nothing could ever fill it again. He was destined to be a hollow shell of a person for eternity.

A minute or so passed before he straightened up a little, leaning his head back until he was resting against the door, still seated on the floor of the hallway. A nurse bustled by, pausing briefly to shoot him a worried look. He gave her a soft head shake and she moved on but glanced over her shoulder as she went. He wondered if he looked as desperate and shattered as he felt. With a sigh, he closed his eyes, focusing on the inside of the room and trying to tune out the sounds of the rest of the ER. Faintly he could make out voices through the door .

“Keith,” It was Shiro. His words were gentle, as if he were afraid of upsetting Keith further. Lance recognized the tone of that voice. It was the one he used when talking to cats on the street, afraid of startling them or scaring them away. “Lance isn’t lying. You guys have been dating for two years.”

“That’s impossible,” Keith said. Lance knew that agitated tone well. It was the tone he used when he refused to be reasoned with. Trying to get him to see another side of things when he was like this was hopeless. What was left of Lance’s heart shattered in his chest. “Even if I’ve forgotten the last two years, I am certain I wouldn’t have gone out with him. Not after what he did. He was my best friend , Shiro. And he stood me up like it meant nothing. I’m sure to him it did mean nothing. Some elaborate prank, no doubt. He loves that kind of thing.

“He has a good reason for why he missed that date.” Lance could hear Shiro getting slightly choked up and it made him smile a little, despite himself. He had been very lucky that Shiro and Adam had accepted him into the family so thoroughly. He knew they would always pick Keith over him but their first choice would be to pick them both, together. “I promise he does. He makes you happy, Keith. Adam and I, we—“

“I don’t want to hear it.” Lance imagined Keith was sitting there with his arm crossed stubbornly over his chest. It was his go to pose when he was upset. “There’s no excuse for what he did, Shiro. You don’t know—“ There was a pause and Lance wondered what his face looked like. He didn’t want to picture it. “You don’t know how much I like him, okay? It’s a lot, and he played me.”

Lance was going numb. It was the only thing left for him, really. His heart had shattered into so many pieces he didn’t think he’d ever be able to put it back together properly and he had cried so many tears that by now he had to be out. He was already sick to his stomach with fear and his mind was running a mile a minute replaying everything from the last two years. Really, the only thing left was to go completely numb, to sink into the depression that only this could cause.

“Clearly you have some retrograde amnesia. It’s common after an injury as severe as yours. Your head took a pretty serious beating.” The doctor was explaining, his words making Lance feel worse. “As you’ve noticed, you seem to have forgotten the last two years of your life. I know this can be confusing and hard to accept.”

Lance draped an arm over his eyes, listening to the conversation through the door, even though most of his hope had already left him.

“You said I was in a motorcycle accident, right?”

“Yes, you were.”

“How can I be in a motorcycle accident if I don’t have a motorcycle?” It was clear that Keith was firmly in denial. Lance could hear the edge to his voice that made it clear that he refused to believe anything that didn’t fit in with what memories he did have.

There was a moment of silence and Lance tried not to picture what everyone in the room was doing. He tried not to picture Keith’s face, even though he could. He would have no trouble imagining the way Keith’s eyebrows were drawn together in a mixture of confusion and annoyance, the way his lips turned down only at the corners when he was waiting impatiently for something. Lance’s heart ached so strongly and deeply that it reached all the way to his soul.

“Like Lance said, you do have a motorcycle. You got it shortly after the two of you started dating.”

Keith truly was an enigma. The more Lance got to know him, the less he was able to predict things about him. From the outside Keith was cool, aloof and completely collected. But the truth was: he was super lame. Lance loved it, of course, but it didn’t stop him from teasing Keith from time to time.

“You know, babe,” Lance was leaning against the doorway, watching Keith get ready. “You look exactly like the kind of person who would own a motorcycle.”

“Yeah?” Keith glanced into the mirror, their eyes meeting through the reflection.

“But now that I know you, I can say with absolute certainty that you're not that kind of person.” Lance was smiling a smug smile.

Keith ran his hands through his hair, pushing his bangs away from his face and turning around to settle an exasperated gaze on Lance directly. “And why not?”

“You are not cool enough for one.” Keith frowned, his eyebrows furrowing. Lance pressed on, “Don’t get me wrong, I love that about you. But you look like this super cool bad boy with your mullet and your leather jacket when you’re actually super lame. I mean, you have a stuffed animal that you still sleep with, for god’s sake!”

“I do not still sleep with it,” Keith retorted, crossing his arms over his chest. “I still have it because it’s the last thing I got from my mom before she died. Sorry I have a sentimental attachment to it.”

“I love Hippy the Hippo,” Lance couldn’t keep the grin off of his face or out of his voice at the name. In truth, he really did love Hippy, he thought it was very sweet that Keith kept it. He remembered the first time he saw Hippy and the way Keith had stammered out some excuse for why he still had it, as if Lance were going to care. Lance didn’t find it anything other than incredibly endearing, but that was true about almost everything Keith did. “I’m just saying. No biker dude still has a stuffed animal that they care about.”

“Aren’t you late for class?” Keith waved his hands in front of him, shooing Lance away.

Lance laughed and pushed off the doorframe. He stepped into the bathroom and gave Keith a quick kiss before heading out the door, slinging his backpack over his shoulder as he did so.

The following Monday he was sitting on the lawn of their apartment complex, waiting for Keith to get home. He had been busy with a school project most of the weekend and had only really seen Keith for a few minutes before bed each night. He knew Keith understood and supported him, but he still missed his boyfriend and was very excited to be having dinner with him after the days apart.

He was leaning back on his hands, face turned towards the sun when he heard the revving of an engine that he had never heard in their area before. He looked up just in time to see a motorcycle coming down their street and… stopping at their apartment building? Surprised, Lance watched as the person parked and climbed off the bike. He didn’t know any of their neighbors rode a motorcycle.

The longer he looked, though, the more he realized that he recognized that leather jacket and those ripped jeans. He knew the way that person was moving. Still, when they pulled the helmet off a few moments later, Lance could barely keep his jaw from hitting the ground.

“Hey babe,” Keith tucked the motorcycle helmet under his arm while he removed the gloves from his hands, looking at Lance with the biggest shit-eating smirk he had ever seen.

“What the—” Lance bit off the rest of his sentence, standing from the ground and walking over to Keith. He was seized by the sudden urge to reach out and touch him, just to ensure this was really happening. Keith laughed as Lance pressed his palm to his chest. “What is going on here?”

Keith looked at the bike, smiling broadly. Lance followed his gaze. He didn’t know anything about motorcycles, so he couldn’t appreciate anything other than the fact that this motorcycle was red and somehow that seemed right to him. “I just picked her up. Do you like her?”

“When did you learn to ride a motorcycle?”

“Oh, this weekend. I managed to find a class last minute that squeezed me in while you were working on your project.”

“Did you…” Lance met Keith’s gaze then. “Did you do this to get back at me for teasing you about Hippy?”

“Would I do something like that?” Keith pressed a kiss to the corner of Lance’s mouth.

After he pulled away, Lance replied without any hesitation, “Yes, you would.”

Keith laughed. “You’re right,” he conceded. “I would. And I absolutely did. But hey, I also got you a helmet so you can ride her with me!”

“You want me to get on a bike you’ve owned for all of ten minutes with you when you’ve only even known how to ride one for a day?” Lance looked skeptically between Keith and the bike. “You genuinely think that sounds like a good idea?”

Keith shrugged, “I’ve had worse ideas.”

For the first time, Lance thought about the bike—Des, as Keith had named her after some technical thing that Lance didn’t even pretend to understand—and how he assumed he would never see her again. If the accident were bad enough for Keith to land in the hospital with memory loss, it was probably bad enough to ruin Des. And if it weren’t, well, Lance certainly wouldn’t be keen on Keith going near a motorcycle ever again so he didn’t really want her back.

Pushing that thought from his mind for the time being, Lance stood up from the floor and trudged miserably towards the waiting room. He couldn’t handle listening from the outside anymore, it made his feeling of loss even greater. What he needed was to not be alone.

“Lance?” He walked through the doors and back into the waiting room where Pidge and Hunk were still seated. They stood up as he entered, both looking very worried. Hunk placed a hand on his shoulder comfortingly. “What happened?”

For what felt like the millionth time that night, Lance was overcome with emotions— mostly heartbreak— and wishing he could just disappear. When would he stop having to say these awful, terrible, life-ruining things out loud? Surely the world would have to give him a break eventually? “He… doesn’t remember the last two years .”

What? ” It was Pidge’s sharp intake of breath that cut straight to his heart.

“I mean, he- he thinks it’s May 18th, 2016.” Lance was officially out of tears, because he managed to choke the words past the lump in his throat with dry eyes. He wasn’t honestly sure if that was a good or a bad sign. “He called me his ‘ex best friend’ who stood him up for our- for our first date. He doesn’t remember…” his voice trailed off, sighing. A moment passed before he repeated himself miserably, hoping it would hurt less the second time. It didn’t.  “he doesn’t remember the last two years.”

“Oh, shit.” Hunk said, and it’s the only response he got.

Suddenly the urge to laugh overcame him. He wanted to laugh at Hunk’s reaction, at the fickle way fate was beating on him like a drum. He wanted to laugh because he could no longer cry and the situation still demanded some sort of reaction out of him. He bit the corner of his lip trying to maintain the very minimal grasp he still had on his sanity.

“He doesn’t remember any of it. Not a thing. It’s like- it’s like the last two years were for nothing.” The absurd giggle bubbled up and he had to fight against it.

“Don’t say that,” Pidge met his gaze fiercely. “They weren’t for nothing. You two were so happy together. That has to count for something. Plus, you don’t know that he won’t get his memories back.”

“He literally referred to me as the guy who stood him up . There’s nothing else there, Pidge!” The need to laugh was turning into a sort of hysteria inside of him and he launched back into pacing. It was really the only thing he could do with the anxious energy inside of him. “He remembers that we were friends. He remembers that I asked him out. And then he thinks I stood him up on purpose. He thinks I played him like some game.”

I’m sure he knows you wouldn’t stand him up on purpose.” Pidge offered but the look on Hunk’s face said otherwise. Hunk had been there with Lance for those three days where he’d been calling insistently. Hunk had heard the story. He knew what Keith thought and the frown on his face showed how serious the thought this situation was. “I’m sure he’ll find his way back to you, okay? I don’t want you to give up hope.”

The truth was, Lance didn’t want to give up hope either. And despite how bleak and impossible things seemed at the moment, he knew that he would never give up that hope. He would never willingly give up Keith. “I know,” He smiled weakly down at her. “I appreciate it. But can you do me a favor?”

“Anything.”

“Will you go in there and be with him right now?” It hurt to even ask. It should be him in there. It should be him sitting at the side of the bed, Keith’s hand in his, taking on whatever challenges they were facing together. He should be listening to the doctor’s explanations and discussing options with Keith. It was supposed to be the two of them versus the world, not the two of them versus each other. “I want him to have all the support he can get right now.”

The tears were back in Pidge’s eyes and Lance had to look away to maintain his composure. She agreed with a nod and headed towards the door to the interior of the hospital, leaving him and Hunk standing in the impersonal waiting room alone. Pidge and Keith had become friends after Lance and Keith had so he wasn’t sure how Keith would react to having her in his room. Still, knowing people cared and wanted to be there had to count for something and Lance couldn’t bear the idea of him being alone. He was sure Adam would come soon to be a support to both Keith and Shiro, but until then, he wanted Keith surrounded with as much love as he could get.

Just as she reached the doors, he added one more thing. “And Pidge? Please remind him how much I love him.”

With a second tearful nod, she disappeared through the double doors.

Hunk had spent an hour trying to get Lance to leave to no avail. Lance refused to leave until he saw someone again and got an update on Keith’s condition. Hunk had insisted, in every way he could think of phrasing it, that it was unhealthy for Lance to be obsessing like this but he wouldn’t hear it. He jumped every time the double doors opened until that time when, finally, Keith’s doctor was actually the one coming out of it.

“I thought I would still find you here,” He said as he approached Lance. Lance didn’t say anything back. “Unfortunately, his memory loss of the last two years seems to be complete. Your friends have been mentioning different things to him and he seems to remember none of them. Now, there’s no saying if it’s permanent or not. I don’t want to get your hopes up, but sometimes patients do spontaneously recover their memories.”

“And the rest of the times?”

The doctor frowned back at him. “It’s permanent.”

There were a million more questions swirling in the depths of Lance’s mind, but he honestly didn’t want to ask them. He was overwhelmed and exhausted and did not need any new information added on to it. “Can I visit him again?”

“Not tonight,” The doctor said and then quickly added, “Visiting hours are nearly over. Your other friends will have to leave soon, too. You’re welcome to come back tomorrow. But Lance?”

“Yes?”

“If he doesn’t want you there tomorrow, and I caution you that it may happen, you need to respect his choice. Right now things are very difficult to process for him and you need to let him handle it his own way.” The doctor paused and then added, “There’s clearly some raw emotion between you two. Sometimes that helps and sometimes that hurts. So you need to respect his wishes and let him figure out how to navigate this trying time. Understood?”

“Of course,” Lance said, his words as hollow as his insides. “Thank you for all you’ve done.”

The doctor shot him a worried look but didn’t say anything else. Feeling defeated and depressed, Lance nodded at Hunk who sprung from his chair. He offered his own thank you to the doctor before guiding Lance to the doors and out to the car.

“Do you want to stay at my place tonight?” Hunk offered as they buckled their seatbelts.

“No,” Lance said quietly. “I need- I need to be around our stuff.”

“Okay, but I’m staying the night with you.” Hunk said, leaving no room for argument and Lance was incredibly grateful. The thought of being somewhere that wasn’t home made him feel anxious but the thought of being at home with all of Keith’s belongings but no Keith made him feel like throwing up. There was no winning.

The apartment was bare save for a few knick knacks the previous owners hadn’t taken with them, but it didn’t matter. Lance was standing in the middle of what was now their living room, beaming.

“Can you believe we get to live here?” Lance turned his smile onto his boyfriend. “Can you believe we get to live together?”

Keith walked into the room too, stopping next to Lance. “We get to live together,” he echoed, his own soft smile on his lips.

“I think we should put the couch over there, and…” Lance began describing exactly how he pictured the apartment laid out, incredibly giddy about the whole thing. He knew the reason he was so excited was because it was their apartment, not just his. He had lived in apartments on his own before and it was never as thrilling as this moment. He knew Keith wasn’t paying much attention to what he was saying about furniture placement, but when he glanced back, Keith was staring at him with the fondest smile.

“I get to sleep next to you every night,” He said, his expression tender.

“I get to wake you up every night because you stole all the blankets and I need some back,” Lance teased, leaning into Keith.

Keith laughed and threw his arms around Lance’s shoulders, “We really ought to look into having two comforters on our bed.”

“Why? So you can steal them both from me?”

Keith leaned in, their noses brushing gently. “You can’t blame me for wanting to be warm.”

“How about this?” Lance pretended to muse, “You can sleep on the couch out here and I get the bed all to myself.”

“That would last all of one night,” Keith replied, their eyes locking. “You can’t sleep without me, remember?”

Lance shoved him playfully then, pouting. “Well I guess I’m just going to have to prove it.”

Keith reached for him, hands finding Lance’s shoulders again and pulling him into a sweet kiss. Lance melted into it and Keith could feel the smile on his lips. As they pulled apart, Keith let out a sigh. “Don’t,” he said gently, “because I can’t sleep without you, either.”

It took a few minutes of standing outside his door, key poised in front of the lock, before Lance was finally able to take the plunge and let them in. Hunk had stood by quietly the entire time, waiting for Lance to be ready. He knew he wouldn’t ever be completely ready, of course, but some things just had to be done.

They entered the house, kicking their shoes off just inside the door before treading down the little hallway that opened up into their living room. Lance stopped in the living room, taking deep breaths to try and keep himself calm. It wasn’t working.

“Lance?” Hunk took a tentative step towards him but didn’t touch him. He had been Lance’s friend for years and had seen him through every up and down the world had thrown at him. It gave him the ability to recognize what kind of mental state Lance was in and the experience to know how to handle it. Hunk had watched Lance fall apart two years ago, so he had a baseline idea of what to do. But this was worse, infinitely worse, and even Lance wasn’t sure what he wanted in way of comfort. Still, he appreciated Hunk trying. “Talk to me.”

“He should be here.” Lance choked out, looking around the room. “He should be here with me right now. He should be happy with me, here, not in some hospital room thinking I stood him up and nursing a broken heart. Hunk, he’s nursing a broken heart from two years ago and I don’t know if I can fix it this time. .”

“I know he should be here right now,” Hunk agreed gently. “I know, things seem bad and I can’t promise that it’ll work out. You know I want to and I really think it will, but only time will tell. Still, Lance, I’m going to get you through this, okay? He’ll be here when he can be. And until then, you’ve got me.

“But he should be here now ! ” Lance threw his arms out, gesturing vaguely to their entire apartment. There were pictures of them together on nearly all of the shelves in the apartment. Keith’s favorite blanket was draped over the back of the couch. Everywhere Lance looked, there were reminders of Keith. Because this was their apartment, it was where they had shared their life. “He should be here ,” his voice broke as he plopped down onto the couch.

“Let’s just try for getting some sleep tonight, okay? We can go back first thing in the morning and see how he’s doing then. But you won’t be any use to him if you don’t get some sleep.” That line always worked on Lance and Hunk knew it. Making his personal wellbeing in some way beneficial to Keith was the only thing that could get him to even attempt to take care of himself last time .

Lance relented, “Fine, but we’re sleeping out here,” he gestured to the couches. There was no way he was going to sleep in that bed alone. There was absolutely no way his heart could handle laying in it without Keith keeping the other half warm. He wasn’t sure he could even look at it. “And I need you to get my pajamas out of my room. I don’t— I can’t go in there right now.”

Before Keith and Lance had moved in together during their senior year of college, Lance and Hunk had been roommates. So Hunk knew the way Lance organized his items and had no trouble fishing out a pair of pajama pants and a t shirt from the dresser on Lance’s side of the room. He also snagged his toothbrush from the bathroom and brought it back out with a tube of toothpaste.

Lance set up the couches while Hunk was gone. Keith and Lance both slept with two to three pillows each, so when they moved in together, they had an abundance of pillows. They kept their favorites on their bed and the rest they just threw on the couches for added comfort. Lance was grateful for it currently because it meant he could get the couches ready for sleeping on without having to go into his bedroom. He lifted the two blankets off the back of the couch— they were the exact same blanket but his was blue while Keith’s was red— and hesitated.

Hunk walked back into the room to see Lance standing there, frozen, with the blankets pressed to his chest. “Lance?”

Startled, Lance turned around, shaking his head to try and clear his mind. “Sorry,” He said.”I think- I think I’ll take Keith’s blanket tonight.”

“Of course,” Hunk traded the supplies he had grabbed for the blue blanket and went to settle down onto his couch.

Lance carefully set the red blanket down and headed to the bathroom just off of the living room. Under the harsh bathroom lights he looked paler than normal, and his eyes were obviously red and puffy. He brushed his teeth quickly, wanting out of the bathroom. His reflection looked ghostly and seemed to match the emptiness he was feeling. It unnerved him and he rushed through changing too so he could leave.

When he entered the living room again, Hunk had turned the tv on and the lights off. He had put on the first Harry Potter movie— something Hunk knew Lance didn’t associate with Keith— and laid down on his couch. Lance deposited his old clothes on the ground at the foot of the couch and hopped up, covering himself in the red blanket.

“Thank you for being here, Hunk.” Lance focused on the movie and not on the way Keith’s blanket was soft and warm and smelled like him. “Thank you for staying the night.”

“I’ve got your back,” Hunk answered, adjusting his position on his bed. “I’ll stay here as long as you need me to, just don’t hesitate to ask, okay?”

“Okay,” Lance said and they lapsed into silence. Despite his discomfort with the situation, he was exhausted, mentally and physically, from everything he had been through that day and was able to fall relatively quickly into a luckily dreamless sleep.

Chapter Text

At first he hadn’t felt the pain. It had been mostly just confusion and unanswered questions and a lot of annoyance. Things had been overwhelming and vague and his mind wasn’t working correctly— it felt like his brain was a cloud and any attempt to catch a solid train of thought was like trying to pin down smoke. He didn't remember the accident, but the bandages, sling and road rash suggested that it had actually happened.

The not remembering bothered him. Of course it bothered him. But what bothered him more was the pity laced into the words of everyone except the doctor. They all spoke slowly to him, as if his ability to understand them were also suddenly impaired. The only person who visited him and spoke to him like a normal person was Lance, but Keith kept kicking him out.

It was clear to him now, despite the pounding headache that was apparently a sign of his concussion, that his memory of the last two years had gone. This only served to make Lance's presence harder for Keith. He wanted to believe Lance, to think that they had spent two happy years together, but he was heartbroken. He had been crushing on Lance so hard and for so long that it was nothing short of devastating when Lance didn't show up to their date. He didn't even call. It was just silence.  And yet, Lance had the audacity to be there when he first woke up, staring down at him with tears trailing freely down his cheeks. Keith wanted to believe that he had given Lance another chance, but he didn’t know how he could have. The way his heart felt as raw and open as his wounds made it impossible for Keith to believe he would’ve given Lance another chance. He wouldn’t willingly get his heart broken again.

“I'm sure you're going to kick me out again,” It was Lance, hovering in the doorway. “But I had to come by anyways just in case today is the day you let me stay.”

Keith didn't say anything.

That was all the invitation Lance needed. He crossed into the room and sat down tentatively on the edge of the chair at Keith's bedside. “How are you feeling today?”

“My head is throbbing, my arm feels like it's being stabbed and the nurse came to clean the wounds on my legs this morning.” He bit out. He wasn’t sure how to talk to Lance. They had been best friends for long enough that he had become the person Keith told everything. But things were turned on their head and Keith’s head pounded as painfully as his heart, making it hard for him to sort anything out clearly.

Lance didn't flinch. He frowned, but it was a concerned frown. It clawed at Keith’s heart. He could read the worry in every line of Lance’s face, could see the apprehension in his eyes. He hated it, but he didn’t know what to do about it. “I can't imagine how much that sucks. Does the pain medicine help at all?”

Keith glowered, looking past Lance's shoulder and out the window. The tenderness in Lance's voice cut straight through him. “Why are you here? What do you want from me?”

Lance sighed in resignation. He propped his chin in his hand, leveling his gaze with Keith's. He looked like he had been expecting this, and he probably had. “I don't want anything from you.” He said and his voice was low. Keith briefly wondered if he were doing that to accommodate his headache. It wouldn’t surprise him. Lance was always thinking about other people, putting them first and doing everything he could to help them feel more comfortable.  “I want you to get better so you can come home.”

“Come home?” He echoed.

“We live together,” Lance ventured carefully, his expression unsure. There was a clear undertone of hesitancy in his voice and Keith could understand why. He knew that this problem— this unspoke thing between them— would eventually have to be addressed, but he couldn’t deal with it now. He couldn’t deal with his broken heart, with Lance, on top of everything else that was happening. His entire life had been turned upside down— he couldn’t even remember some of it— and he needed to settle that before he could handle anything else.

“No.” Keith felt like his world was splintering beneath him. He lived with Lance? That was undoubtedly a huge life event and he could only imagine what that was like. That frustrated him though, that he had to imagine it instead of just remembering it.  How was it possible to forget so many important things about his life? “No, I'm not going home with you. That's what you want, isn't it? You don't get a second chance!”

To his credit, Lance didn't rise to Keith's level. His expression remained unsure, but that was the only indication that he was uncomfortable. He responded calmly, his gaze staying steady with Keith’s. It wasn’t surprising to Keith— they had gotten to know each other incredibly well over the months they had been friends and if what Lance said about them dating was true, it could only mean they had gotten even closer. So Lance was well equipped to handle Keith and any mood he threw at him. “I told you, I just want you to get better. That's all I care about right now.”

“Get out.” Keith thrust a finger through the air, pointing it at the door. Lance straightened up, shaking his head, but he didn't say anything or move to actually leave. “Go and don't come back.” He paused, the next words poised on his tongue. He knew they would hurt Lance and he didn’t want to hurt Lance, but he needed to keep him away. He needed to keep space between them until things levelled out in his life a little bit, until he felt ready to deal with all of the complicated emotions that came along with Lance. He needed to heal his body before he could heal his mind and heart and he felt like he couldn’t do that with Lance showing up every day, opening the wound he was constantly trying to close. He took a deep, steadying breath. “ I need to get over you and I can't do that with you here.”

The tears were instantly in Lance's eyes. He clenched and unclenched his fists in his lap repeatedly. Keith refused to meet his gaze, but he could see how broken he looked out of the corner of his eye.  “Please don't. I don't want you to ever get over of me. I-”

“Out.” A lump was forming in Keith's throat at the look on Lance's face. He swallowed thickly against it, doing his best to remain firm. He wanted Lance to leave but he also wanted Lance to stay. The conflicting feelings were adding to his overall unwell feeling and he wished that he could just disappear from existence for a few days. Just until things settled down. Long enough for him to shake the image of a tearful Lance from his head, if it were even possible to shake it from his mind.

“Keith,” Lance's voice broke, barely above a whisper. The way he said Keith's name was so intimate. As if he had said it a thousand times, in a thousand different ways. He said it like Keith's name was written across his heart in permanent marker. It wasn't hard for Keith to imagine how he fell in love with Lance when he heard his name spoken like that.   

His hand was still in the air pointing towards the door. Lance was trying to meet his gaze, but Keith was looking down. He knew he would lose it if he met those watery blue eyes. He knew he would crumble. The last thing he needed right now was to attempt to navigate his questionable relationship with Lance. He had other problems to deal with and a whole life to adjust to. He had two years worth of memories to recover. And, in the worst case scenario where he didn't recover those memories, he had to learn how to live his own life again. There was too much going on for him to trust Lance with his heart again.

Even if he knew that a part of his heart would always belong to Lance and there was nothing he could do to get it back.

Lance stood from the chair finally, shuffling quietly towards the door, gaze directed at his feet. Keith watched him go, his stomach twisting into knots. He wondered how much of his dread was from his residual crush on Lance, how much was from the solid foundation of friendship that crush was built on,  and how much was from the two years they apparently spent together. His brain may not remember but that didn't mean that his heart forgot.

As he reached the door, Lance paused. He glanced over his shoulder, but his eyes still didn't meet Keith's. “I'll wait for you.”

He disappeared through the door leaving Keith with those words and he wasn't sure if he hoped they were true or untrue.

It only took a few days for the doctor to release Keith from the hospital. He had to go back for regular check ups on his head and he had a list of doctors to make appointments with, but he no longer needed hospital level care. The doctor had discharged his sling. It turned out he had only needed it to ensure that his shoulder didn’t dislocate until they were sure of his condition. It was nice to have his arm back. The road rash on his legs had started to heal, although it still stung a lot of the time. The bandages came off his head, but there was a long scratch along is right cheek that he assumed would scar.

Lance hadn't come back since that day and Keith had tried his best not to think about it. He had done fairly well until the doctor had started talking to him about discharge plans. Apparently Lance was listed on his medical record as his emergency contact and his address was, undeniably, the same as Lance's. That meant, unless he could get someone to take him, he was to be released back into Lance's care. If he hadn’t been ready to face Lance and deal with those emotions before, he certainly wasn’t ready to do it after he purposely cut Lance down like that. Instead, he had pulled some strings and gone to the one person he knew would never let him down.

The door to his room was open so he almost didn't notice when Shiro walked in. “Ready to go?”

Shiro, like Lance, had come to visit Keith every single day without fail, most days bringing Adam with him. The only difference was that he hadn't kicked Shiro out. They had been friends for so long that Keith thought of him as an older brother instead of a friend. There was no doubt in his mind that Shiro would take him in and sure enough, Shiro had answered on the first ring and showed up that same day ready to go.

“Thank you for coming for me.”

Keith's concussion had settled somewhat since the initial injury and, while he still had a slight underlying headache, he no longer struggled with light or sound. All the nurses and the doctor had told him over and over again that he was lucky to even be alive and he agreed. A little physical pain was worth keeping his life and being given the chance to get things back on track.

“Of course,” Shiro gripped Keith's hand and helped hoist him out of bed. He'd gotten out of the hospital bed a few times a day every day, but that was nothing compare to every day life so his legs still felt a little stiff from inactivity. “But you'll definitely have to thank Adam.”

“Right, because he's so put out to have to share a room with you.” Keith teased. Shiro laughed.

Back in his freshman year of college, Adam had been his chemistry TA. From day one, Keith had known that Adam was exactly Shiro's type so when they ran into Adam when out to grab a bite one evening, Keith had been quick to disappear and leave them alone. He tried to hide his grin when Shiro mentioned later that he and Adam had an official date set up for two days later. In truth, he loved Adam. He was like another brother and his personality fit Shiro’s perfectly. They worked well as a team, they had opposite strengths and they both made each other happy, which was most important to Keith. Adam had opened up to him quickly and Keith had found it irresistible, engulfing him into their family immediately.

“You can joke all you want,” Shiro placed a hand on Keith's shoulder to help steady him. “But he always complains about sleeping next to me.”

“That's because you kick him in your sleep.”

Shiro shrugged. “He knows that and keeps agreeing to it. He shouldn't get to complain if he knowingly enters into it.”

Keith smiled weakly. He and Shiro had gone back and forth on this topic so many times before. “It's nice to know some things never change.” he said quietly.

“I'm sorry,” Shiro drew back, frowning. “I didn't mean to-”

“Don't apologize. I want to be treated normally.”

It was all he wanted, actually. He wanted people to stop handling him with kid gloves and acting like he was going to fall apart any second. He didn't want them to not tell him things just because it plays up his memory loss. He needed to get back to living his life eventually and he couldn't do that if everyone tiptoed around him. The thought floated to the front of his mind unbidden: Lance had never talked down to him. Lance had showed up every day and talked to him normally, as if he were the same Keith he’d always been. With a sigh, he pushed the thought aside, trying to ignore the pinching feeling in his chest.

They moved carefully towards the door, Shiro carrying what few things he had gained while he was in the hospital. Pidge had brought him a balloon and a card which was sweet but a little strange. To his memory, he and Pidge had just started talking, but she was nice and he appreciated her concern. A few other people dropped things off but none of it was particuarly important. He was dressed in a pair of jeans and a T shirt that the nurse had brought in for him earlier in the day, saying someone had dropped them off for him. He didn't bother asking who. His original clothes had been taken when he arrived at the hospital and Shiro had said that they had been discarded as they were too shredded to keep.

The nurses bid him farewell as they slowly made their way towards the door. He thanked the ones he knew for their help in his recovery as he passed. Shiro opened the car door for him and he slowly and clumsily managed to plop into the passenger seat and draw his legs in. The door shut a moment later and Shiro walked around the car, climbing into the driver's seat and tossing the bag of Keith's stuff into the back seat.

The drive to Shiro’s house was silent but only slightly uncomfortable. He imagined it was hard to be the people in his life who no longer knew how to talk to him. It was hard for him too, feeling like there was this big rift between them. He had so many questions but he didn't want to ask them because he should know the answer. A week ago, he probably did know the answer. But that was all gone now. It was an incredibly strange feeling to be surrounded by people who genuinely knew him better than he knew himself.

He knew Shiro would answer all of his questions without any annoyance, but that could only ask for so long. Eventually Shiro would get sick of filling him in on every detail of his life. Plus, the idea of having to ask the basic facts of his life made Keith’s skin crawl. He was independent and self sufficient and his pride made it hard for him to admit that, right now, he couldn’t do anything on his own. He was confused and scared and the idea of facing the upcoming days filled him with so much dread, it practically paralyzed him.

“You're welcome to Adam's room for as long as you want.” Shiro said as they pulled into the driveway.

“Thank you,” Keith said with all the sincerity in the world. He wasn't sure he could express to Shiro the comfort it gave him to know that he could rely on him unwaveringly after all this time.

Adam was standing in the driveway, arms crossed over his chest but a gentle smile on his face. He walked to the drivers side and gave Shiro a quick kiss while Keith struggled his way out of the passenger side. Once he was standing, he hobbled carefully to the front of the car, leaning briefly against the hood. The road rash on his legs was starting to sting under his jeans. He’d been in nothing but a hospital gown for a week, leaving the wounds exposed. The sudden feeling of the fabric against it was jarring and uncomfortable and making it hard for him to walk.

“Well,” Adam looked him up and down, “You look like shit.”

Keith let out a genuine laugh, smacking Adam gently on the arm.

“Hey now, be nice.” Shiro chided but Adam shooed him away.

He helped pull Keith up and walked slowly alongside him into the house. He didn’t ask how Keith was feeling or comment on his memory loss, which Keith was incredibly grateful for. Adam had done it a few times in the hospital but had picked up very quickly on the way it clearly made Keith uncomfortable. From then on, he stopped asking Keith about the status of his injuries unless they seemed to be explicitly bothering him. Instead, he just talked to him about normal things, like he would’ve done on a normal day if Keith had stopped by for dinner. It gave him a moment to feel like a whole person again, instead of one that was fractured and broken, leaving the people around him just as shattered.

“You’re welcome to my room as long as you want.” Adam held the door open for him and stepped to the side so he could enter. “I’m willingly sharing a bed with Shiro, that’s how you know I love you.”

“I know, I’m a real inconvenience. How dare I make you sleep with your boyfriend?” Adam laughed, shaking his head when Shiro made an indignant noise in the next room. Keith smiled to himself, cherishing how normal that sort of thing felt. How right.

Keith moved carefully through their house, relieved to see that it was set up exactly the same as the last time he remembered being there. Adam and Shiro stopped in the family room, talking to themselves but Keith continued on to Adam's room. He pushed open the door and looked at the room, momentarily confused.

It wasn't the biggest room in the world, but it didn't need to be. It was his and he had been allowed to set it up however he wanted. He had his bed centered on the wall opposite the door, red and black comforter a stark contrast to the soft gray walls. There was a nightstand on either side of his bed, each with a lamp positioned in the middle.

Across from his bed, on the wall next to the door, a dresser stood, a TV perched on top. A chair was shoved into the corner next to the dresser and the closet took up most of the right wall, while the left wall was mostly windows. The bed was piled high with pillows— half of the comforter was covered by pillows.

On each night stand by the lamps there was a picture frame, each holding a picture…

The room he was looking at was various shades of beige. The walls, comforter, furniture… all just different shades of brown. Keith shook his head, trying to get the image of the gray and red room out of his mind and trying to shirk the odd sense of familiarity that came with it.

He treaded carefully into Adam's room and sat gently on the bed before sinking back into the pillows. There were fewer pillows than he liked, but he absolutely wouldn't complain. They were doing him such a favor by letting him stay with them. And Shiro had been kind enough to not even mention Lance or the apartment they apparently shared. Plus, this room was miles ahead of the hospital room he had been staying in for a week.

When Keith closed his eyes, it was neither the beige room nor the red and gray room that he saw. Instead it was a room with one royal blue wall while the others were white. It was a room that also had too many pillows littering the bed. He frowned.

A brief knock sounded on the already open door of the room. “Hey, what do you want for dinner?”

“I'm not hungry.”

Shiro frowned from the doorway. “You have to eat. The doctor said you weren't eating much in the hospital and I was hoping that would change once you were home.”

Keith tried to ignore the clear undertone of worry in Shiro’s voice. He knew he was being difficult, but he just wanted to be alone for a bit. The doctor had warned him that mood swings could be a side effect of his injury but he hadn’t believed him. Suddenly, though, as he sat there feeling unnecessarily stubborn, he understood what the doctor was talking about. “I'm just tired. I'm sure I'll be hungrier tomorrow.”

Shiro disappeared from the doorway but he didn't go far. Faintly Keith could hear him talking to Adam in the family room. He couldn't make out everything they were saying, but he caught a few things.

“Call him.” It was Adam's voice. “He'll know what to do.”

“You're right,” Shiro agreed. A moment of silence passed and then, “Hey, I have a quick question for you about— about Keith.”

Instead of listening to Shiro badgering who Keith could only assume was his doctor, he flipped on the TV Adam had mounted on the wall, drowning out whatever conversation was happening outside. He flipped channels idly, never staying on one for too long. Another side effect he had been warned about was the inability for something to keep his attention for a long time and that he had seen from the beginning. He must've cycled through the entire channel list three times by the time Adam and Shiro came in the room, their hands full.

Immediately the smell of Chinese food filled the room. Keith, despite his disinterest in eating, couldn't stop his mouth from watering. Chinese was his favorite food. It was the only thing he would eat no matter what. It didn't matter what mood he was in, chinese always sounded good. He didn't think anyone Shiro or Adam knew that about him, though.

“We ordered you some just in case you changed your mind.” Shiro plopped down on one side of him on the bed.

Adam immediately plopped down on the other side. “And we got a movie. A romcom, your favorite.”

Keith smiled at the teasing tone and sat up straighter in bed. He could feel his bad mood and stubbornness dissipating almost immediately. With a small sigh, he relented. “Alright, that smells great. I will eat some.”

He didn't miss the relieved smile on Shiro’s face or the knowing look he shared with Adam as he handed the carton of Chinese food over. Keith opened it and took a bite gratefully, realizing for the first time just how hungry he was. Adam popped the movie in and settled back in and together the three of them ate, watched a movie and just laughed. For the first time in almost a week Keith felt like there was a chance that maybe, just maybe, he could go back to being happy again.


Chapter Text

    Work had been the only thing keeping Lance sane. It was the only thing that gave him any reprieve from the constant heartbreak. When he was anywhere but work, the Keith-shaped hole in his life swallowed him up. If he was at their apartment, he felt like he was crumbling to dust, ready to be blown away in the wind. There were so many things in the apartment that reminded him of Keith and yet there was also a distinct lack of Keith, too. It was strange to look around and see his blanket, or his posters on the wall— things that wouldn’t be there if Keith hadn’t made this his home. If Keith hadn’t lived here and shared his life with Lance, there wouldn’t be his handwriting scrawled on the notepad that was stuck to the fridge or pictures of them littering every surface. But at the same time, there were dishes in the sink— because Lance always cooked and Keith always washed the dishes. But he wasn’t here to wash the dishes. He wasn’t here to add extra laundry to the laundry basket. It had already been a week and Lance hadn’t done laundry yet because he only had half the amount to do.

     The apartment was simultaneously so full of Keith and completely devoid of Keith and that, Lance thought, was a perfect representation of how he felt.

     “Hey, you okay?” Lance glanced to his left where Hunk was standing. It took him a long moment to realize that he was standing in front of the stove, pan in hand, half cooked chicken inside.

     “Yeah,” He replied weakly, lowering the pan so the chicken could finish cooking. “Just zoned out for a second.”

     Hunk and Lance had become friends in college when they both entered the culinary program. Their friendship quickly progressed to one outside of class and suddenly they were best friends. They had lived together for the second and third year of college, only separating when Keith and Lance moved in together. Even still, Hunk was over at their place a lot, working through new recipes with Lance. Keith loved it because he always got delicious, restaurant quality food and he was helping out people he cared about. Then, it was nothing short of a miracle when, upon graduation, they not only ended up in the same city,  but working as chefs at the same restaurant. It meant that he got to see his best friend nearly every day at work. It also meant that there was someone there to help keep him on track currently.

     Their boss, Kolivan, had been kind enough to give Lance “as much time off as necessary” in response to Keith’s accident. After all, Kolivan knew Keith well. It wasn’t uncommon for Keith to stop in after a day of work to see Lance. Plus, Lance had brought him to every company event. Kolivan had even sent flowers to Keith’s hospital room. Lance was really appreciative, but he couldn’t handle taking the time off of work.

     Even if he didn’t stay at home, he wouldn’t be able to escape the memories. He could go to the coffee shop around the corner, but he had already tried that and it took the barista asking who the second drink was for to get Lance to realize that he had accidentally ordered Keith’s drink too, purely out of habit. He had told her he was meeting someone, taken the drinks and rushed out the door, crying the whole way home.

     He thought once about going to the park near their house, but immediately shot that idea down. That was part of his elaborate plan for the date they never got to go on. Plus, it was a special place for them in general— there was no way he would be able to go there and leave in one piece.

     It wasn’t even that work was devoid of memories of Keith, because Keith had come here all the time. It wasn’t hard for Lance to picture Keith seated in the corner of the kitchen— because Kolivan was kind enough to let him back so he could chat with Hunk and Lance— munching on whatever extra food Lance had provided him with when he arrived. He could picture Keith helping sweep out the restaurant at closing time because he was just a kind person and he wanted to help. Keith was everywhere. He was so ingrained in Lance’s soul that it was impossible to separate him. Work just kept him busy and required his focus and that was the only break he got.

     “Lance!” Hunk cried suddenly, yanking Lance backwards. It only took a second for the burning to register. “Your hand!”

     Lance glanced down at his hand. It was an angry sort of red and it stung . He looked back at the stove where he must have been resting his hand while lost in thought. Hunk grabbed his shoulders when he didn’t immediately react and rushed him across the kitchen and shoved his hand under some running water.

     “What are you doing? You have to be careful!” Hunk was scolding, holding firm on Lance’s wrist and refusing to let him take it out of the water. “You just put your hand on the stove!”

     “I—” Lance wasn’t even sure what to say in response to that. Hunk was, obviously, right. But it wasn’t like he had put his hand there on purpose. “I didn’t mean to.”

     “I know,” Hunk sighed, sinking against the counter, his grip loosening slightly. “ I know , but I’m already constantly worried about you and then you go and do this ? I mean, Lance, come on.”

     “I didn’t mean to,” Lance repeated feebly.

     The doors to the kitchen opened and Kolivan walked in. It wasn’t unusual for him to be around, talking to the guests, checking on the staff, just generally being available to everyone. Lance loved him as a boss because he was so kind and involved. And very, very forgiving.

     “What happened?” He approached the boys at the sink, eyeing Lance’s red hand in the stream of cold water. “Are you okay?”

     “I just wasn’t paying attention and accidentally set my hand on the stove,” Lance replied, hoping his voice sounded steadier than he felt.

     Kolivan was looking at him in a way that made Lance glance away. Kolivan was doing more than just looking at Lance, he was seeing him, seeing through him, even. He could tell Kolivan was taking note of all his broken pieces and the way he didn’t fit together quite right at the moment. He could feel Kolivan assessing his broken heart and the way it bled into everything he did. “Lance,”

     “Please, Kolivan.” Lance fought to keep his voice steady but he could feel the sob building up in his throat. He could feel the ache in his gut that was so familiar to him now. “I can’t— I can’t be home without him.”

     A hand appeared on his shoulder, but Lance still didn’t look up. He could feel the gentle squeeze and he knew it was Kolivan’s hand— Hunk’s were bigger and not quite as delicate. The rest of the kitchen staff was doing their best to keep busy and to finish the food that Hunk and Lance had abandoned. He could hear the quiet murmur of everyone talking amongst themselves and he knew they were doing their best not to eavesdrop. Everyone already knew his situation and they had all seen him break down in tears more than once, but he still appreciated their attempt to act like he was a whole being.

     “Lance,” Kolivan repeated, and his voice was so gentle it made Lance feel like he was falling apart all over again. Eventually he wouldn’t be able to fall apart anymore, he reasoned. Eventually he would be broken into such small pieces, there would be no more he could break. He figured that day was coming soon. “You have to take care of yourself. I know it’s hard, but you have to take care of yourself. How else can you be any help to him?”

     The thing about Kolivan was that he was very fatherly. With Lance’s own family on the other side of the country, it was nice to feel like he had someone to talk to and confide it. It was nice to have Kolivan looking over him and guiding him, never making him feel like a burden. He knew Kolivan would be there to laugh with him, to kindly critique his new dishes, and to help hold him together when he was ripping at the seams.

     The other thing about Kolivan was that he was usually right. Lance knew he was right now, too, but he didn’t like it. He knew running from the situation and from his feelings wasn’t healthy. He knew that eventually he would have to face his own demons, but he wasn’t ready to do that yet. “I just—”

     “Go, take the weekend off. I’ll let you come back to work Monday if you take the weekend to take care of yourself.” The hand on his shoulder squeezed again and Kolivan ducked his head so he could meet Lance’s eyes. “And I mean take care of your hand and take care of your heart, okay?”

     Slowly Lance raised his eyes to meet Kolivan’s gaze. “Okay,” he agreed.

     The smile he got in response was genuine but a little sad. It made Lance feel like his heart was splitting open a little wider. He knew that he had been overflowing sadness for an entire week but he hadn’t paused to think about whether it had drowned the others the way it was drowning him. The look on Kolivan’s face suggested that it had. He sighed miserably.

     “Thank you,” He added as he pulled his hand out from under the water and began to dry it off.

     Kolivan smiled at him one more time. “Have Hunk bandage that up before you go.”

     Hunk moved across the kitchen to the office there, pulling out the bandage. Kolivan gave one more pat on Lance’s shoulder before exiting back out into the main part of the restaurant. Lance trailed Hunk into the office, offering his hand up for bandaging. It wasn’t the first time he had burned himself— it probably wasn’t even the millionth time he had done it— but it looked like it was the worst he had ever burned himself. His entire hand, palm all the way to fingertips, was red and stinging.

     “This is going to be a bitch to heal,” Hunk said and Lance couldn’t help but crack a smile. Hunk was so sweet and soft spoken, it always made Lance laugh when he heard him curse. “You might want to go get it checked out.”

     “Nah,” Lance leaned against the wall, letting his head fall to the side. “I’ve burned myself enough to know how to handle it.”

     “Yeah,” Hunk glanced up from his hand and the bandage, “You can be pretty careless.”

     They lapsed into silence while Hunk continued wrapping his hand up, taking care to cover his fingers,  but not wrap them so tightly that they were forced together. Lance tried not to let his mind wander again, but it was nearly impossible, especially when Hunk was too focused on his own task to distract Lance.

 

     “You burned your entire forearm?” Keith was standing incredulously in the kitchen, arms thrown out to the side, palms up in exasperation. It was his go to pose. “How do you even do that?”

     Lance was leaning against the counter, a cold cloth pressed to his forearm, “I was reaching into the oven.”

     “And you just, what? Decided to rest your arm for a second on the scalding hot rack?” Keith crossed his arms.

     Lance smiled despite himself. Keith only got like this when he was really concerned for Lance. Or when he thought Lance was being particularly stupid. This seemed to be a combination of both. “Yeah, that’s exactly it. The dish needed a few more minutes and I just thought ‘man, holding my arm up for the next five minutes would be really hard’ so I just took a break by resting it on the rack in the oven.”

     “That’s not funny.” Keith sounded as exasperated as he looked.

     “You’re the one who suggested it!” Lance replied, trying not to laugh. “It was your dumb idea!”

     “Lance.” Keith’s tone was stern, but not unkind. It was never unkind when he spoke to Lance.

     “I’m fine, babe.” Lance pressed off the counter and crossed the kitchen to where Keith was standing, pressing a kiss to his lips. “I’m really fine.”

     “Yeah?” Keith smiled a little, teasing. “You don’t need me to do everything for you while you recover from this injury?”

     “You know what? On second thought I’m definitely not fine. I need to be waited on hand and foot.” Lance grinned back.

     Keith rolled his eyes as Lance crossed back to the sink and carefully pulled the cloth off of his forearm and inspected it. He tenderly pressed his fingertips to the red skin, testing how severe the burn.

     “Does it hurt?” Keith asked as he, too, crossed the room and stood at the sink. “I mean to touch. Obviously it hurts.”

     The skin was warm under his fingers, but not particularly tender to the touch. “No, not really.” Lance looked up.

     Keith was looking at him with a soft expression, all of his exasperation over Lance’s carelessness melted away. He reached out gently and cupped Lance’s arm, careful to avoid pressing on any of the burn. Their eyes locked for a moment before Keith leaned down, planting feather light kisses along the length of Lance’s burn, making sure to kiss every part of it. Lance didn’t even try to fight the fond smile that covered his lips as Keith moved his kisses up the length of his arm, up his neck, across his cheek and finally to his lips.

 

     “There,” Hunk straightened up in front of Lance, letting go of his hand and drawing Lance back to the present. “That should be good. Now you just need to let it heal.”

     “Thanks, man.” Lance replied, drawing his hand back to his side.

     It was clear by the look on his face that Hunk wanted to say something else but wasn’t sure if he should. Lance offered him an encouraging smile. A beat passed and then Hunk sighed. “I really am worried about you. Do you want me to come by tonight?”

     Despite how hard it was, Lance had been refusing to stay anywhere but his own apartment at night. It was just another thing on his list of confusing feelings— not wanting to be in the apartment without Keith and not willing to be anywhere else because he needed those memories of Keith to help him sleep. Still, he hadn’t managed to sleep in their bed yet, only the couch. “Yeah,” he answered finally, “I would appreciate that.”

     “Do you want me to call Pidge, too?” Hunk asked. “We can go out or stay in, whatever you want. And then if you want me to stay the night I will. But I know Pidge is worried about you, too.”

     Lance couldn’t fight the sad smile that crossed his lips. His poor friends, having to deal with their own grief over Keith and then also having to try and keep Lance functioning. They truly were godsends. “I would love that.”

     “Great!” Hunk seemed a little relieved. “I’ll call her. Say we’ll be by around 8?”

     “Perfect.”

     And it was perfect— or as close to it as anything could be in this situation. Lance left, feeling grateful for his friends and a little bit braver than he had felt in the past week.

 

—  

 

     Lance had driven to Shiro’s house so many times that he would be able to do it in his sleep. Still, as he drove to Shiro’s house this time, his nerves were alive and jittery. He had called Shiro to let him know that he was coming over and Shiro had sounded almost relieved. Lance tried not to think about how things were going. He tried not to think about the fact that Keith was there with them— that Keith had chosen Shiro and Adam over Lance.

     The house came into view and Lance had to consciously tell himself to keep breathing. He wasn’t planning on seeing Keith while he was here— not unless Keith wanted to see him, which he doubted— but just knowing that Keith was going to be just on the other side of the wall made his heart ache.

    Shiro was waiting on the front porch, which was something he always did, and yet it cut straight to Lance’s core. He parked the car in the driveway, taking a moment to collect himself before climbing out of the car. “Hey,” He called to Shiro as he opened the back door to the car and grabbed the bag that had been sitting on the back seat. “How are you?”

    “I’m alright,” Shiro said, his voice resigned. He watched as Lance climbed up onto the porch and plopped down onto one of the other chairs. “How are you?”

    “Great,” Lance replied, holding up his bandaged hand. “Really, my life is just going swell .”

    Shiro’s smile was sad but fond. “What happened?”

    Lance sighed, sinking down further in his chair. He settled his injured had comfortably in his lap before ruffling his hair with his uninjured one. “I set it down on the grill at work.”

    “You’re still working?” Shiro prompted, sounding surprised.

    “What else am I supposed to do, Shiro? Sit in our empty home and cry? Don’t worry, I still have time to do that every night.” Lance hadn’t meant for his words to come out as bitterly as they did. He sighed, dropping his good hand into his lap too and closing his eyes. “I need to work. It’s the only thing keeping me sane.”

    “I’m not sure sane with a burned hand is really better than insane,” Shiro said thoughtfully.

    A silence fell around them then, but it was sort of like a comfortable blanket wrapping them up. It was the first time in a week that Lance didn’t feel alone in his grief. If anyone could even come close to understanding how he was feeling, it was Shiro. Keith and Shiro had been so close for so long that they literally referred to each other as their brother, despite the lack of any blood relation between them. Shiro had been the person Lance went to in the beginning when he was trying to win Keith’s heart for the first time. Shiro was hands down the person who was equally as upset as Lance, even if for different reasons.

    “And how are you doing with—” Shiro broke off, frowning, “That’s a dumb question, isn’t it?”

    “Probably the dumbest one you’ve ever asked me.” Lance aimed for lighthearted and teasing, but his words were weak and feeble. Still, the corner of Shiro’s mouth tilted up, so Lance knew he understood. “But, uh, about as awfully as you’d expect.”

    The small smile that had been on Shiro’s lips immediately disappeared. “Anything I can do to help?”

    “Unless you can fill the void, I don’t think so.” Shiro raised an eyebrow at him, prompting him to continue. “You know, the Keith-shaped void in my life. The way he’s supposed to be in the apartment but isn’t. The way there’s no longer a second set of footsteps crunching through the leaves. I mean, he’s supposed to be everywhere and yet he’s nowhere . So unless you can fix that—”

    Leaning forward, Shiro put a hand on Lance’s heaving shoulders. “Lance—”

    “Please,” Lance closed his eyes and sucked in a deep breath, trying to steady himself. “Please don’t make me talk about it. You know I’m not okay and that I’m not going to be okay. Please, please—”    

    Shiro was silent for a moment, clearly trying to decide how to respond. Finally he changed the subject with a sigh, sitting back in his chair and letting his hand fall from Lance’s shoulder. “Thanks for the tip about the chinese. It’s the only way I’ve been able to get him to eat.”

    “Of course. I’m glad it was helpful. It was always my go to whenever he was upset. He can’t resist the smell of it. He—” Lance cut himself off, the lump forming in his throat again. He knew that lump too well.

    The air was cool outside and the breeze that blew by lifted Lance’s hair off of his forehead. This was his favorite time of year— he loved being able to wear jackets and hoodies comfortably. He loved being able to be cozy all throughout the day. It was also the best hand-holding weather, but he pushed that thought from his mind.

     Instead, he closed his eyes against the breeze and used the cool air to help him steel himself as he finally, finally asked,  “How is he?”

    Lance had been avoiding the question for a week. Every day he picked up his phone, ready to dial Shiro’s number and get an update, and every day he put his phone down instead of calling. He wasn’t sure he was ready to hear the answer, but leaving him alone to his thoughts wasn’t good either.

    “He’s… getting there.” Shiro replied slowly, his voice purposefully steady. “He was a bit rough for the first few days, but the doctor warned us that might happen.”

    “Yeah, he told me that behavioral changes are common when you suffer an injury like this,” Lance could still picture the doctor’s face the day Keith kicked him out for good. He had this soft, sad smile on his face as he tried to offer Lance whatever reasonable hope he could. “He said that he might be a bit rash for a few days.”

    “Well, he was. He basically locked himself inside Adam’s room and refused to come out.” Shiro sighed, sinking his chin into his hand. “He’s more reasonable now though. I think the shock of the whole thing was hard on him.”

    Lance wasn’t sure how to respond to that. Of course the whole thing had been hard on Keith, he understood. He didn’t find Keith’s actions unreasonable at all, even if they cut him to his very core. He could only imagine how he would feel if suddenly everyone around him knew more about him than he knew about himself. It was just hard— harder than Lance thought anything could ever be— to watch the person he loved more than anything sit there in need of comfort, knowing that he couldn’t provide that comfort. It made him want to tear his hair out and scream.

    “Do you want to go in and see him?” Shiro’s voice was quiet, tentative. “I think he might be okay with that.”

    Ignoring the pinching in his chest that made Lance feel like his heart was slowly being dissected, he shook his head. “I just wanted to drop off some of his stuff. Toothbrush, pajamas, some extra clothes… Hippy.” Shiro let out a short laugh. “Just things I know will help him feel more like himself again.”

    “Lance…”

    “Don’t say it,” Lance looked down at his hands in his lap. “I know what you’re going to say and please, just… don’t.”

    He couldn’t bear hearing that it would be okay. He didn’t want to be told that he was a good boyfriend or that he knew Keith well. He didn’t want Shiro to say that it was sweet of him. The truth was, Lance already knew most of these things. He was very aware of how well he knew Keith; he had dedicated two years to ensuring that he knew everything about him. He knew this was a kind gesture, but that’s what love is. It is kind and forgiving, but more than that it is unwavering. He doesn’t deserve applause for what he’s doing because he knows he should be doing more, trying harder, fighting, fighting, fighting for his other half.

    “Don’t-don’t tell him that I brought this stuff, okay?” Lance asked quietly.

    Shiro tried to hide his frown, “He’s going to know. How else did it get here?”

    Lance shrugged, trying to look casual. It was funny how often he found himself trying to look casual now. He doubted he was getting any better at it, despite his practice. “Let him think whatever he wants. I just know he wants space right now and I want to give it to him. He’ll do better if you let him believe whatever he wants.”

    “And if he asks how it got here?” Shiro prodded.

    “He won’t.” There was no way Keith would ask, of that Lance was certain. He knew Keith inside and out, he had every inch of Keith ingrained in his soul, and he was positive that Keith would accept the clothes with no comment. Of course Keith would know how the clothes got there, there was only one option. But he would deny it— would convince himself that Shiro had stopped by the apartment to get them himself. As much as Lance wanted to kick the door down and sprint into Adam’s room, tackle Keith into a hug and never ever let go, he knew Keith needed time. If he were ever going to get Keith back, he had to give Keith the chance to decide that he wanted to come back.

    Defeated, Shiro swiped a hand down his face. “If he asks, I’m telling him. Otherwise I won’t say anything.”

    “Thank you.” Lance bent over and lifted the bag off the ground. He needed to hand it over to Shiro, he knew that. Keith needed these things. And yet he found it very hard for him to let go of the bag. It felt like he was losing even more of Keith— like the hole in his chest was yawning open so wide, it would finally swallow him completely and he would cease to exist. Maybe that would be less painful.

    Gently, Shiro pried the bag from Lance’s closed fist, setting it in his lap. In the two years that Lance and Keith had been dating, Shiro had managed to secure a spot as Lance’s adopted older brother, too. He was looking at Lance with that expression that said he was always there for him, but Lance couldn’t bring himself to meet it. He knew Shiro would always be there for him, even if things with Keith did crumble completely, but he couldn’t let himself acknowledge that. He couldn’t let himself consider the possibility that things wouldn’t work.

    “Shiro?” Lance spoke to his lap, his voice soft he wasn’t sure Shiro had heard him until he hummed in response. “If he does ask, will you remind him that I love him?”

    A breath whooshed out of Shiro then, pushing Lance over the edge. The tears were pooling in his eyes, blurring his vision as he waited for a response. To his surprise, he heard a choked breath come from Shiro. Glancing up, Lance could see tears pooling in Shiro’s eyes. The sight made Lance want to get up and run and never look back.

    “Of course I will.” Shiro choked out his voice wavering. “But Lance? He already knows. Even if he doesn’t say it, he knows.”

 

 

    Keith had heard the car pull into the driveway just minutes after Shiro had gone to sit out on the porch. He didn’t ask who it was, it didn’t matter. Adam had tried to get him to eat while Shiro was out front, but Keith refused to open the door. Something in his gut was twisting and he knew who it was sitting on the porch with Shiro. It was a mix of relief and sadness when Shiro came in the house later, alone.

    “Keith, I’ve got some stuff for you.” Shiro knocked on the door to his borrowed room.

    A moment passed where he debated not answering, the way he hadn’t answered Adam, but he knew he had to. He stood up from the bed slowly, giving his pounding head time to adjust. The doctor hadn’t been able to give a clear answer on when the headache would go away and it both annoyed and disappointed Keith. He was so sick of feeling like someone else— someone who couldn’t think clearly, someone with no memories, someone just generally lesser . More than anything else, he just wanted to feel like Keith again. He would deal with his injury and he would learn to live his life again, those things didn’t worry him. What worried him was never fully getting himself back.

    The door opened silently, revealing Shiro standing on the other side, a bag in his hands. He offered no real explanation as he handed the bag to Keith, letting him sift through the contents on his own. Keith balanced the bag in one hand, rummaging around with the other. Inside were his red plaid pajama pants and his favorite tshirt--a faded, partially ripped red one that he had managed to hold on to for far more years than necessary. Honestly, he was a little surprised to see it in the bag because it had been on its last legs two years ago. Aside from that was his favorite pair of jeans, his toothbrush, a few more tshirts and even…

    “Hippy?” He pulled the purple stuffed hippo out of the bag, fighting to not get choked up at the sight. “You brought me Hippy?”

    A strange expression passed across Shiro’s face before he smiled weakly and said, “Yeah. I hope he’s comforting to you.”

     “Can I… can I just have a few minutes?” Keith asked. Shiro looked skeptical. Keith was well aware that he had been closed off the past few days and he knew it was hurting Shiro. He knew he needed to make an effort and he wanted to , but it had been hard. But having this bag of his possessions made him feel like he might actually be able to pull off a relatively normal evening with them. “I promise I’ll come out after. I’ll even eat dinner with you and Adam.”

     “I’m holding you to that,” Shiro replied, looking relieved.

     Keith stepped back into Adam’s room and shut the door, eager to change into his own clothes. For the past week he had only been in a hospital gown or extra clothes from Shiro and Adam. He had been sent home from the hospital with a bag of his stuff, but those clothes were bloody and torn and definitively unwearable. It was so kind of them, along with everything else, to share their clothes and Keith appreciated it but he just wanted some semblance of normalcy and these pajamas offered that opportunity.

     After placing Hippy carefully on the bed, he changed quickly, slipping on his pajamas and practically sighing in relief at the feel of them. Adam and Shiro were both taller and larger than him, so he had been swimming in their clothes for the past week. His pajama pants were soft and they hit exactly at his hips and just barely skimmed the ground. His tshirt clung closer to his body and felt like a sort of anchor to him. Here he was, wearing this shirt that he had owned for years . As small of a thing as it was, it made him feel like there was a chance that things hadn’t changed too much in the two years he had forgotten. Never had he thought he would be so grateful for a bag of his own clothes.

     When he opened the door, Adam and Shiro were talking in the kitchen. Keith followed the sounds of their voices to find them happily working around each other at the counter. Adam was chopping something, telling Shiro a story. Shiro was laughing, brushing his hand gently against Adam’s shoulder as he stirred a pot on the stove.

     “Hey! I know you!” Adam said, turning to smile at Keith as he walked in the room. “You look like yourself again!”

     Keith couldn’t help but smile a little, “I feel like myself again.” He took a seat at one of the barstools in the kitchen, watching them work.

     “Honestly, of all the things to wear after a week in someone else’s clothes, you go for the rattiest shirt on the face of the earth?” Shiro chided, but he, too, was smiling. The relief was visible— his shoulders were finally relaxed and he looked like he was breathing easier for the first time in days.

     Shrugging, Keith settled himself more comfortably into the chair, propping his feet on the counter and grinning and the dirty look Shiro sent him. “This shirt is tried and true, what can I say?”

     “I think he looks great.” Adam laughed, shooting a conspiratory smile at Keith. “Maybe you should get a shirt like that sometime, Takashi. You two could match!”

     “Why must you guys always gang up on me?” Shiro groaned.

     Keith feigned a frown, “You don’t want to match your little brother? Honestly Shiro, how could you?”

    “You know,” Shiro turned around and pointed the spoon he was using to stir at Keith, “I think I liked you better when you were quiet and mopey.”

    A beat passed where Shiro watched Keith intently. Keith knew he was reading his reaction, looking for any indication that he had crossed the line. Keith had been incredibly sensitive to any mention of his injury in the past few days so he knew Shiro had every reason to anticipate a bad reaction. But being in his own clothes made him feel a little better, a little more connected to himself. This shirt that Shiro hated was an indicator that Keith’s taste hadn’t changed. Suddenly he felt like the Keith who had lived the past two years of his life wasn’t such a stranger— like they might still have a few things in common. He laughed in response to Shiro’s jab, allowing himself to enjoy the way Shiro visible relaxed in response.

    The headache was back with a vengeance, causing Keith to clutch at the side of his head. He may feel like the Keith of old, but he wasn’t. The realization was sobering and the laugh died in his chest. He tried to force the thought out of his head because Adam and Shiro deserved a good night and he was going to do everything he could to give it to them.

    “What’s for dinner?” He asked, his voice gentler in an attempt to quell the pounding.

    Shiro was standing over the sink, pouring the contents of his pot into a strainer. Instead of answering, they made him wait a few moments and then presented him with a plate of spaghetti and broccoli. They set two more plates down on the counter around him before filling up glasses with milk. Adam passed Keith is glass while Shiro passed him the medicine he was required to take. The medicine dictated that it be taken with food and Keith had been avoiding eating for the majority of the time he had been discharged. It had been a sore spot between him and Shiro the entire time.

    He took the pill quietly and popped it in his mouth, gulping it down with a few sips of milk before digging into his spaghetti. The doctor had warned him that his days would be up and down and that his mood would shift back and forth as his brain continued to heal. While he felt fine now— almost happy even— he knew that it wasn’t guaranteed to bleed into the upcoming days so he was going to do his best to make the most of it while he could.

 

 

     The tears had started falling the minute Lance slammed the driver’s door shut. He had waved briefly to Shiro as he drove off, but he didn’t look as he did so. He was sure Shiro watched him go, sad expression masking his features. Lance had needed to stop on the way home from crying too hard. He had pulled into the nearest gas station, sent a quick text to Hunk cancelling their plans for the night and explaining why and then he had hunched over into his steering wheel and cried. Lance was continuously surprised by his capacity to cry.

     Eventually he had composed himself enough to drive the rest of the way home. He walked into their apartment, feeling completely hollowed out. Somehow just the knowledge that some of Keith’s stuff was no longer in the apartment made it feel emptier— less homey. Lance honestly wasn’t sure if this place would ever feel okay again. Maybe, if he did manage to win Keith back, they would buy a new place and start all over, leaving this in the past.

     That thought captured him and he didn’t notice where he was walking until it was too late. Suddenly he was standing in their bedroom, face to face with their bed. He had been in here earlier in the day, just long enough to bag up the belongings he had taken to Shiro. Each item he had placed in that bag felt hurt so bad it was like Lance were ripping them directly off of his own being. Still, he had done it anyways. Because he loved Keith and he knew this was something Keith needed. If he had to cause himself some pain in order to give Keith relief, it was worth it. He had packed everything he thought Keith could want or need. Everything but one thing.

     There, on the bed, staring back at him, was Keith’s red jacket. It was Lance’s favorite of Keith’s jackets— the one with the most sentimental memories attached to it— and Lance had been unable to part with it. He already felt like all the traces of Keith were disappearing from the apartment, he couldn’t lose this too.

     Hesitantly, Lance crossed the room and sat down on Keith’s side of the bed, gripping the jacket to his chest. He closed his eyes, pressing it firmly against him, as if he could absorb the jacket into himself— as if it could meld into the Keith-shaped hole in his heart.


     The sun was setting, just kissing the horizon and painting the sky beautiful colors. Lance trailed behind Keith, trying not to shiver against the cooling air. Keith lead them confidently through a nearby park, only stopping when they had reached a particular bench right on the shore of a small pond.

     “So,” He said as he sat down, glancing up at Lance.

     Lance sat down next to him, a reasonable amount of distance between the two of them. His heart was hammering in his chest and he could feel his breaths getting away from him. “Thank you so much for giving me another chance,” he said quietly, not meeting Keith’s eyes. “I promise I didn’t stand you up last time. Well, I-I mean, I guess I did but I didn’t mean to.” He was rambling and he knew it. He smoothed his hands across the top of his jeans, trying to get his train of thought back under control. “I was on my way to meet you when I got jumped. They took my phone, my wallet, roughed me up a bit.”

     Keith scooted closer to him, then, reaching a gentle hand out to touch his shoulder, “Oh my god.” he breathed, “I’m so sorry. Are you— I mean you’re here so you must be alright?”

     “I called you as soon as I could,” Lance barely even registered that Keith had responded, his nerves taking control. “I had to get a new phone and then have Hunk get your number from Pidge— it was a process. But I called you as soon as I could, I swear.”

     “Lance,” Keith tried.

     Lance plowed on. “I was really so excited. I had picked out the perfect outfit, I had all my lines planned so I could woo you—”

     “Lance!” Keith was firmer this time, his hand squeezing Lance’s shoulder for emphasis. Finally Lance sucked in an uneven breath and raised his eyes to Keith. “I forgive you,” Keith said simply. “You can stop beating yourself up over it.”

     “Really?” Lance nearly dove into Keith’s lap in relief.

     Keith smiled a little, “If you really didn’t want to see me, you wouldn’t have gone to all of this effort to make it up to me. I believe you.”

     At the sight of that slight smile, Lance allowed himself to reach out and place his hand on one of Keith’s, his heart beating in his throat. He really had been so excited for their date. He had been crushing on Keith practically since the day he had met him months before. The day Keith asked him out, Lance had nearly jumped into his arms as he exclaimed an exuberant yes. Keith had laughed, they had set the plans, and then Lance was left to count down the minutes.

     “Are you cold?” Keith was looking at Lance’s shivering shoulders, a bemused smile on the edges of his lips.

     Lance considered trying to hide it, but he new it wouldn’t work. “A little,” he admitted after a moment.

     Before anything else could be said, Keith was stripping out of his jacket and draping it over Lance’s shoulders. “No, wait!” Lance protested, looking at Keith who was now in a simple— but very attractive, Lance noted— black tee and jeans. “You’re going to get cold now!”

     “I don’t get cold very easily.” Keith replied with a casual shrug, “Plus, red looks good on you.”

     A blush dusted Lance’s face immediately after the words. Surprisingly, a blush also dusted Keith’s cheeks. Lance smiled at the side, flustered and flattered simultaneously. He wasn’t sure how he had been lucky enough to get Keith to ask him out once— but twice? After completely botching the first attempt? Lance slipped his arms into the sleeves of the red jacket, noting the way it was already warm. He felt cozy and comfortable and completely and utterly lovestruck.

     “Thank you,” Lance murmured, trying his best not to get sidetracked by the way Keith’s jacket smelled like sandalwood and fresh air. “I promise I’ll give it back before we head home tonight.”

     “No, don’t.” Keith said, standing up from the bench. Lance stood up too, waiting to be directed to their next location. “If you take it home with you, that means you have to see me at least one more time.”

     “Keith,” Lance met his eyes, ignoring the way his pulse fluttered in his throat, “I can already tell you that I want to see you a million more times, not just one.”


     Lance had seen Keith a lot since then, but not a million times. And even if he had seen Keith a million times, he wanted to see him a million more. And a million more than that. There was no such thing as too much Keith, only too little and that had become his everyday life suddenly.

     The jacket was cold as Lance slipped it on over his shirt and the tears were cold as the slipped down his cheeks. He buried his head into Keith’s also cold pillow and let the sobs wrack his body until he was too tired to fight anymore.

Chapter Text

Knock. Knock. Knock.

Lance stirred in bed rubbing at his eyes. He pressed up into a sitting position, groaning. His entire body ached and his head was pounding— a sure sign that he had spent the evening before crying. Blearily he looked around, only to remember what had happened the last night. He pulled his hand away from his face and looked down at the red sleeve— he was still wearing Keith’s jacket. A feeling of dread rose up his throat.

Knock. Knock. Knock.

Lance jolted, standing from the bed. He slid Keith’s jacket off quickly and tossed it gently towards the closet before heading towards the door to his apartment. He could faintly hear voices on the other side of the door, murmuring back and forth to each other. He reached the door and took a deep breath before opening it. One of the only things he didn’t like about the apartment was that there was no way for him to see who was on the other side of the door before opening it. Because of this, Keith typically was in charge of that.

“Hey!” Pidge cried as soon as Lance opened the door, pushing into the apartment, a box of donuts in her hands. “Did we wake you?”

Hunk trailed after her, a tray of coffee cups in his hands and a smile on his face. Lance stepped aside and let them in, shutting the door behind them. Just the smell of the coffee alone made Lance feel like his headache was decreasing.

“Uh, yeah, actually.” Lance replied as he trailed them into the kitchen. Hunk shot him a worried look, opening his mouth to say something but Lance cut him off. “No, no, it’s totally okay. I needed to be up. Plus, it looks like you came prepared!”

Hunk was Lance’s best friend and Pidge was Keith’s. Shiro was more of a brother to Keith than anything else, so Lance felt comfortable designating Pidge as his best friend. Once the two of them had started dating, Pidge and Hunk had become an inseparable part of their relationship and Lance wouldn’t have it any other way. The two had accepted each other without any sort of hesitation and they were both there unfailingly. There were no favorites between them— Lance could feel just as comfortable going to Pidge for something as he felt going to Hunk and he knew she would always support him. It was like his heart had grown when he met Keith, but it grew even further when Pidge opened her arms to him and never let go. Lance knew Keith felt the same about Hunk and the ease they all had with each other was something Lance had always dreamed of having.

“Well, after your text last night, I figured you could use a bit of a pick-me-up.” Hunk shrugged, trying to look casual.  Lance knew Hunk was just trying to judge his mental state and he couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of gratefulness that he was surrounded by such kind and caring people. “Do you want to talk about it?”

And for the first time since the accident, Lance found that he did want to talk about it. He had been trying to keep it in, trying to present a strong face, trying so hard to act like he could get through it. It was exhausting. And the truth was, he wasn’t completely sure that he could get through it. The thought of Keith never remembering him— never giving him a second chance— terrified him beyond words. If there was one thing Lance had been sure of since the day they met, it was that he needed Keith in his life. Once they had met, Lance had never considered a possibility that they would ever be separated. When you know, you know, as they say.

 

 

Lance was a mixture of nervousness and excitement. He and Keith had been talking for a few months and were incredibly close friends. They had hit it off instantaneously the day they had bumped into each other at the coffee shop on campus, both wanting the final muffin. They had agreed to split it and by the time they were done sipping their drinks and eating their half of the muffin, crowded around one of the tiny tables in the shop, they were already friends. They had switched numbers then and there and were already hanging out the next day. From there, they had essentially been inseparable.

“I want to ruin our friendship!” Lance finally blurted.

Keith looked up from his textbook at Lance, an eyebrow raised. “What?”

“I want to ruin our friendship,” Lance repeated slower, enunciating each word a little more clearly. His nerves were buzzing and his pulse was thundering in his ears. He could barely even register the way Keith was looking back at him, hurt.

Slowly, Keith lowered his pencil, tucking it into the crease in the center of his textbook and levelling Lance with a look. “Did I do something to upset you…? Why don’t you want to be friends anymore?”

“What?” This time Lance raised an eyebrow. “That’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying— I- I think we should just be lovers instead.”

“Are you—” A smile was spreading across Keith’s lips. He bit his bottom lip in an attempt to stop it from forming. “Are you asking me out?”

The smile on Keith’s face finally took over and he ducked his head, letting his bangs cover his eyes. Lance could feel a sort of relief washing over him at that smile. “Yes,” He said, breathless, nearly laughing at himself. “That’s exactly what I’m going for.”

He could see Keith’s shoulders shaking with silent laughter but he wasn’t offended. A moment passed and Keith composed himself, finally lifting his gaze back up to meet Lance’s, “Yes,” He reached across the table and grabbed Lance’s free hand, “I will go out with you.”

Lance could feel his own face break out into a large grin. “You will?”

“Yeah,” Keith repeated, giving his head a squeeze. “But not until after this big test that I need to study for. Fair?”

“Isn’t your test in, like, three hours?” Lance asked.

“Sure is.” Keith pulled his hand back, picking up his pencil again. “So you have to wait until tonight. Do you think you can do that?”

“I’m honestly not sure,” Lance laughed, turning back to his own textbook, knowing full well that he wouldn’t be able to focus anytime soon.

 

 

Hunk cleared his throat, drawing Lance out of his memory. Lance shook his head before reaching for the coffee cup that Hunk was offering. Pidge was on the other side of the counter opening the box of donuts and pushing it so it was in between all of them. Lance took a sip of his coffee and launched into a recap of the night before. Pidge and Hunk listened attentively the whole time, only speaking when he finally finished and took a bite of a donut.

“Well, I mean, Shiro knows him best.” Pidge said, looking at Lance with her head tilted a little to the side. “If he says Keith would be open to seeing you, I trust him.”

“He said he thinks Keith might be open to it.” Lance emphasized, swinging his donut around for punctuation, “That’s not exactly a confidence builder.”

“What’s the harm in calling him?” Hunk reached for a donut of his own, settling finally onto the barstool next to Lance. “I mean the worst he can do is say no.”

“He’s already said no, like, five times.” Lance replied bitterly, “The worst he can do now is request that I never speak to him ever again. And I’m pretty sure we’re headed that way if I keep annoying him.”

“Lance,” Pidge was looking at him with an uncharacteristically serious expression. It wasn’t that Pidge wasn’t normally serious— she always had a serious edge to the things she did— but it was usually lighthearted. This felt heavy. Just the look she was giving him told Lance that whatever she was going to say would be important. “I’ve known Keith a long time, so I think I have the right to say this. No matter what happens, he will always find his way back to you. I’ve never seen him connect with someone like he has with you. I literally cannot imagine him not making his way back to you.”

“Yeah, well, I thought that too,” Lance replied, setting his coffee cup down. “But clearly I was wrong.”


    “ Lance, ” Pidge’s voice was sharper. Lance glanced away from her strong gaze. “I’m not wrong. Do you know how many nights I had to stay up listening to him gush about you? Yes, Keith used to gush about you. Hard to believe, right? That shows you how much he loves you. He will find his way back to you, but you can’t give up on him.”

Lance could feel his resolve deteriorating further. He could feel the weak grip he had on his emotions failing. “I would never give up on him, Pidge. You know I wouldn’t. If I walk away, it’s because I think that’s what’s right for him. I am only doing what I think is best for him!”

“You’re what’s best for him!” Pidge cried loudly. She took a breath and repeated herself more quietly. “You’re what’s best for him. You’ve always brought out the best in him. You’ve always been there to get him through his worst times, even when he didn’t want you there. Why is this any different?”

He doesn’t remember any of that ,” Lance stands abruptly from the barstool, the words rushing out of him before he can think it through. He feels like he’s deflating. He feels like these thoughts and feelings have been the only thing keeping him going for days now and letting them out successfully renders him incapable of continuing. “He doesn’t know that I’d never walk out on him. He doesn’t know that my leaving is because I love him. You know that, Hunk knows that, I know that, sure. But that means nothing to him, Pidge. I mean nothing to him .”

Silence filled the apartment after his words and it was deafening. On one hand, Lance wished someone would say something just so he could breathe again, but on the other hand, he didn’t want either of them to acknowledge what he said. Maybe, if nobody addressed it, he could pretend it wasn’t true. Maybe he could go back to believing there was a slim chance of things turning out okay.

“That’s it,” It was Hunk who spoke this time. Both Pidge and Lance looked at him, surprised. “You’re calling him.”

“Hunk—” Lance started

Hunk raised a hand, cutting him off. “I will not listen to you talk like that, Lance. I won’t. I can’t. You are not allowed to give up on Keith until you talk to him again.”

“I don’t want to.” His voice was weak, quiet. Lance sighed. Pidge and Hunk were both staring at him in disbelief and he knew he deserved it. Ever since the day Keith had kicked him out of the hospital room for good, Lance had wanted nothing more than to talk to Keith. He was used to coming home each night and talking to Keith about his day. He was used to texting him about funny things he saw during the day. He was used to Keith being there— being everywhere— whenever he wanted or needed him. He was just used to Keith . He amended, “I want to talk to him.”

“Call him,” Hunk urged, gentler than Pidge. “Just try talking to him, that’s it. You can do that.”

“Call him,” Pidge echoes.

Sighing, Lance walked back into his room where he had, miraculously, managed to plug his phone in before falling asleep the night before. He purposely didn’t look towards the closet where he knew Keith’s jacket was a heap on the floor as he walked out. He trained his eyes on the ground, hustling out of the room as quickly as possible. He could feel the weight of his phone in his hand— the weight of what he was about to do and the fear that came with it.

Pidge had finally moved around the counter and took a seat on one of the barstools. Lance slid back into his original spot, now situated between both Hunk and Pidge. He placed his phone on the counter in front of him and the three of them stared at it for a long, silent, few seconds.

“You know,” Pidge said after a moment, shifting her gaze to Lance, “It won’t call him on it’s own. You have to actually dial.”

Lance swiped the phone indignantly off the counter, “I know that!” He cried, instinctively typing Keith’s number into his phone. He hesitated for the length of one breath before forcing himself to press the call button before he could back out. “It’s ringing.”

“That tends to happen.” Pidge whispered in response.

Lance swatted at her, pressing the phone to his ear. He could feel his heartbeat in his throat, making him feel like he was going to choke on every shaky breath he took. The line rang one, twice, three times and then—

“Hello?”

Out of sheer fear, Lance nearly slammed the phone down. He looked at Hunk with wide eyes who gestured kindly for him to actually speak. “Uh, Keith, hey. It-It’s Lance.”

“Yeah, I know.” Keith’s voice came through the speaker loud and clear.

Lance was immediately awash with a bunch of conflicting emotions. On one hand he was relieved to hear Keith’s voice— to feel, for the first time in over a week, like Keith was still around and accessible to him. On the other hand, he was completely and utterly terrified which was something he wasn’t used to feeling around Keith. On top of that, he could hear an underlying tone in Keith’s voice that made him hesitant.

“I was, uh— I was hoping we could, you know, talk? Or something?” Lance closed his eyes, taking a deep breath in and holding it in an attempt to get his nerves under control. He certainly wasn’t going to win Keith over with half coherent sentences.

He could hear Keith breathing on the other end, jagged. “Why?”

“Why?” Lance repeated, dumbfounded. He looked between Hunk and Pidge before finally putting the phone down on the counter and turning it on speaker phone. He couldn’t face this situation entirely alone, he needed them to witness. “Because, well, there’s a lot to say. And I just want to be sure you’re okay. Are you okay? I’m just worried, you know?”

“And you’re actually going to show up this time?” Keith’s voice was sharp, an edge that Lance wasn’t used to accompanied his words. Keith had always had a bit of a temper but it had never— never — been directly harshly at Lance. Even when they fought, Keith never spoke down to him, never spoke cruelly to him.

“Keith,” His name tumbled out of Lance’s mouth on instinct alone and Lance nearly winced at how it sounded on his lips. Despite it all, he could hear the affection in his voice and he was sure that Keith heard it too. “I told you, I had a reason for missing. And I did show up to our second date. Just let me explain—”

“I don’t believe you.” There was a moment of static and Lance could tell that Keith was shifting positions. “I don’t believe I would’ve given you another chance. If you know me so well, you know that I don’t like wasting my time .”

A hand appeared on Lance’s shoulder. Hunk was gripping it tightly in response to Keith’s words. Lance was staring steadfastly at Keith’s name printed on the screen of his phone, trying desperately to picture Keith, to imagine what he was feeling, to regain their connection. “I was mugged! I don’t know what you expect of me! Was I supposed to stop the mugger really quick and explain that I had to call my date before he continued? I mean, come on, be reasonable.”

Keith didn’t respond. The silence filled the apartment again and Lance wondered how many times he would feel like he was suffocating before he finally would — he nearly wished for it at this point. The tension in the room was high and he was certain Pidge and Hunk were both holding their breath. Still, Lance couldn’t bring himself to look at them. He couldn’t bring himself to break the silence. He felt paralyzed, sitting at the counter with no control over his future. He felt like everything he had planned for his life was slipping through his fingers like smoke. As the silence stretched on, Lance felt as if he were being pulled apart bone-by-bone, his heart crumbling agonizingly slowly.

Finally, finally Keith spoke, but it wasn’t what Lance wanted to hear. “It doesn’t matter. I would never give you another chance.”

“You did, though. You did.” Lance’s voice was barely a whisper and he could hear the thickness of tears in his voice. He could feel the disappointment welling up in his chest, pressing his rib cage open and shredding him from the inside out.

“Lance,” Keith’s voice is raw and Lance recognizes it. He recognizes all the emotions reflected there. He can hear the pain— the agony — in Keith’s words as he talks. He can hear Keith’s regret as he shatters the already small pieces of Lance’s heart one more time. “I don’t know what you want me to say. I don’t know a lot right now, but I do know myself and I know that I never would’ve given you a second chance. And I never would have fallen in love with you.”

His words are punctuated by the distinct click of the phone line going dead and Lance is left staring at his reflection— at the reflection of a man who has nothing left to fight for.

 

 

The teardrops fell onto his phone and Keith wasn’t even surprised to find that he was crying. He clutched the phone tightly between his hands, staring at the screen that had said Lance’s name only moments before. His heart hurt— worse than his head has been hurting, in fact. Suddenly the injuries from his accident were the least of his worries and all he could think about was Lance.

He may not remember the past two years as clearly as he would like to— a few blurry memories had come up here or there but that didn’t help much— but he could still hear the honesty in Lance’s voice. He could hear what little hope Lance had left slowly fade out with each word he spoke. He was certain that Lance was telling the truth about everything— the mugging, the second date, the two years they had spent together, all of it. Keith could feel it deep in his bones.

Lifting the phone up and pressing it to his heart, Keith fought to stifle a sob. Lance had always been a good guy, and that remained true. After everything Keith had put him through he was still fighting for him. It was more than Keith deserved. And Keith was no longer the kind of man Lance deserved— or maybe he never was? He didn’t know much about how he’d been the last two years, but he hadn’t exactly felt like he deserved Lance before that, either.

“Keith?’ The door cracked open and he could just make out a sliver of Adam’s face on the other side. “What’s going on?”

Swiping at the tears on his cheeks, Keith replied, “Nothing.”

The door opened all the way then and Adam leaned against the door frame, looking at Keith from behind his glasses. “I heard what you just said to Lance, so don’t even try pulling that.”

“Eavesdropping is—” Keith began.

Adam cut him off sharply. “Keith.”

A beat passed and Keith sighed. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

It was deeper than that, though. He didn’t want to talk about it, that was true, but he wasn’t sure how to talk about it either. How was he supposed to express that he was intentionally pushing away the one person who was approaching him with even more unconditional love than Shiro? How was he supposed to tell Adam that he didn’t think Lance would love him anymore? He didn’t know much about the man he had been the past two years, but he knew the man he was since the accident. That man was angry most of the time, constantly lashing out and pushing people away. That man wasn’t worthy of love from someone like Lance— someone who was sunshine personified. Even if Keith didn’t remember their two years together, he remembered their months of friendship before their first date.

He could still hear Lance’s laugh as he leaned across their favorite table in the coffee shop, doodling something upside down on the top of Keith’s notes. He could remember Lance pressing against him on the park bench where they often ate their lunch. He could remember everything from those months— the texting from morning until night, spending every day together… falling for each other. He took a shaky breath, facing the lie he had just told Lance. Of course he knew he had been in love with Lance for the last two years— he’d been in love with him practically from the day they met. He had been in love with him long before they had even talked about going out on a date. His heart still ached for Lance.

But he didn’t think he was the man Lance used to love and his biggest fear— bigger than never getting his memories back— was finding out that the accident had turned him into a man that Lance could no longer love. It was painful to cut him off like this, but it had to be less painful than finding out that he was right; that he was no longer good enough.

Adam pressed off the door frame and came fully into the room, sitting on the edge of the bed. Keith knew Adam could see his red eyes but he didn’t care. He met Adam’s gaze head on, hoping to look more pulled together than he felt. “Well, too bad. Because I want to know why you said those things to him.”

“Because they’re true?” He ventured cautiously.

Unsurprisingly, Adam didn’t buy it. “No, they’re not. Try again.”

The good thing about Adam was that he was unfailingly patient. He had never rushed Keith to speak, never tried to finish his thoughts for him. It was one of the reasons he was perfect for Shiro. Sometimes Shiro got jumbled up in his head or stumbled over too many ideas at once but Adam was always willing to wait for him to straighten it out and he never made anyone feel like a burden because of it. It was typically a good thing— unless Keith was trying to get out of talking about something. There was no getting Adam to give up.

“I don’t know what to say, Adam. I just— I needed to do that.”

Adam settled his gaze on Keith, “Fine, don’t talk.” He sighed. “Just listen, okay?” Keith nodded, not meeting Adam’s eyes. “Whatever you’re doing, you need to stop. You may think you’re doing Lance some sort of favor, but you’re not. Trust me, you’re only making it worse for him. Lance is capable of making his own decisions and you don’t have the right to take that away from him.”

“I’m not—” Keith wasn’t really even sure what to say.

“You are, though.” Adam cut in smoothly, placing his hands on Keith’s shoulders. “By refusing to see him, you’re taking away his choice. He gets to decide if he wants to keep fighting for you. And I’ll tell you this— he’s already chosen.”

Keith looked up then, finally meeting Adam’s eyes. He was surprised to see that Adam looked both stern and sad. “What?”

“Those movies you’ve been watching and loving? Lance suggested them for you. Your clothes? Lance brought them over. He was the one who told us that you’d eat the chinese food. Everything that’s happened to make you feel more comfortable or at home has been Lance’s idea. I’d like to say that we thought of it, but we didn’t. He is the one who knows you inside and out, he is the one who has been working behind the scenes this entire time to help you recover.” Adam’s gaze was unwavering. “If he wanted to walk away, he would’ve done it by now. He doesn’t want to leave, Keith, he just wants you.”

The lump was back in his throat and he could feel the tears in the corners of his eyes. He wasn’t accustomed to crying, it wasn’t something he normally did. The doctor had warned him that the head trauma could affect his emotions but, as much as he would like to blame it on that, he knew it was just straight heartbreak. Swallowing thickly, Keith thought back to Lance. He knew Lance and he could only imagine how many tears he had cried in the last week. The thought made the hole in his chest open up wider.

“He deserves better than me,” Keith choked out.

Adam squeezed his shoulder comfortingly, “Love isn’t about that, Keith. Love is about choosing someone over and over, every day, despite their shortcomings. Love is fighting for someone even on their bad days. If you can’t see that Lance loves you—”

“I know he does,” The words are raw, scratching his throat as he says them, leaving him feeling like he’s now empty. “I’m just afraid.”

With the words now out in the open, Keith feels like he’s a house of cards collapsing in on itself. There’s nothing left to support him. The tears fall from his eyes again and he ducks his head. Adam’s hand moves to rub small circles on his shoulder.

“I understand that. And Keith?” Adam leaned down to try and catch his eye. “Lance will understand that, too.” Adam took his other hand and placed it over Keith’s hand— and over the phone he was still holding. A clear message. “I have never seen two people more perfect for each other. Don’t throw it away because you’re afraid. Everyone gets scared sometimes. I’m sure Lance has been scared every day since— “ He paused and took a deep breath. “I’m sure Lance has been scared, but he hasn’t given up. You shouldn’t either.”

“You know,” Keith replied shakily, the tears still on his cheeks. “When I introduced you to Shiro, I didn’t realize I was just getting a second person to lecture me.”

Adam huffed out a laugh, withdrawing his hands from Keith. “Maybe if you listened to my advice, I could cut the number of lectures I give you in half.”

This time it was Keith who let out a shaky laugh as Adam rose from the bed. He didn’t say anything else as he exited the room, pulling the door shut behind him. Keith knew Adam was right— Adam was always right. Adam was one of those people who didn’t speak on a topic unless he was thoroughly educated on it. Keith sighed.

He had assumed that Lance was the reason for his clothes, but hearing that he was the reason behind all the other things that had brought him so much comfort in the past week made something in his chest stir. It was incredible, how well Lance knew him. More incredible was the way that Lance was able to apply that knowledge to this new situation. He knew Keith so thoroughly that he could predict how Keith was feeling when faced with a situation for the first time— that was love.

Keith pulled the phone away from his chest and looked down at it.

 

 

“Well, that’s that, I guess.” Lance’s voice is calm, too calm. It’s eerie, even to his own ears.

Pidge starts to speak but clearly isn’t sure what to say. She gives up. Hunk steps up instead, “I’m sure he didn’t mean that. He’s just confused or—”

“There’s no other possibility!” Lance cried, shoving his phone across the counter. “There’s no other way he could have meant that and we all know it. There’s no point denying it.”

“This is just one of your fights,” Hunk tried.

Lance wasn’t hearing it. He wasn’t going to be talked down. He wasn’t going to get his hopes up again. They had been shot down too many times. “This is not one of our fights. Our fights never get this cruel. And they always end happily.”

 

 

The bedroom door slammed as Keith stormed out. Lance trailed after him, throwing the door open and yelling at his retreating back. “That’s great! Just run away from our problems, that’s healthy.”

Keith’s figure didn’t stop. “It’s not running away when you’re shoved out the door!”

“You’re right, I shoved you out the door.” Lance exited the bedroom, taking the hallway in large, quick steps. “It’s always my fault, isn’t it? Everything you do is because I made you do it.”

“That’s not what I said.” Keith whirled around to face him and Lance stopped abruptly, barely managing to avoid crashing directly into Keith. “Though there’s no denying some of this is your fault.”

Lance looks at Keith— really looks at him. He notes the angry red flush to his face and the way his hair is disheveled from Keith running his hands through it angrily. He notices the way Keith’s bottom lip is swollen slightly from him biting it in frustration. Briefly he thinks that he’d like that lip to be swollen from kisses instead, but he banishes that thought. He had sworn a long time ago not to solve arguments that way. Their argument could only end when they had talked it out and actually solved the issue.

“Also,” Keith drew him out of his thoughts, his tone softer, almost defensive. “I got the day off.”

“What?” Lance’s eyes shot up to meet Keith’s. Their entire argument had been because Keith had forgotten to ask the day off so he could attend a big work event with Lance. “When?”

“Today. I explained it to Coran and he understood.” Keith was focusing his gaze just over Lance’s shoulder.

“Why didn’t you tell me? We could’ve avoided all of this!” All of Lance’s anger rushed out of him.

Keith’s tone was level but Lance could detect the slight annoyance still in it. “Well you jumped down my throat the moment I walked in the door. You didn’t really give me a chance to tell you.”

All the anger that had just rushed out of Lance was replaced with guilt. “Babe, I’m sorry. I— “ Lance swallowed and reached for Keith. “I’m sorry.”

A half hearted shrug was all Keith offered as a response.

Lance wanted to say something more, but he wasn’t sure exactly what. It wasn’t uncommon that his big mouth got him in trouble like this. Before he could figure out exactly what else to say, Keith turned around and continued into their living room, pulling his blanket off the back of the couch and rearranging the pillows. Lance’s heart sunk.

“Please don’t sleep on the couch tonight.” He trailed Keith into the living room.

It was too late, Keith was already climbing onto the couch and tucking himself in under his red blanket. “Just for tonight, okay? Just so we can calm down.”

“I am calm.” Lance tried, but it did no good.

Keith bid him goodnight and Lance slowly walked back into their room, partially closing the door behind him. He laid down in their bed and tried to sleep, but he wouldn’t be able to sleep without Keith next to him. He couldn’t sleep without Keith if Keith were near him. He managed if for some reason they were completely separated but if they were in the same building, there was no way Lance would be able to calm down enough to get any amount of worthwhile sleep.

Sighing, he climbed back out of bed and padded back into the hallway. As he approached the living room, he could hear the soft, even breathing that meant Keith had fallen asleep. Lance approached with no hesitation, pulling his blanket back enough so that he could slide underneath it too, pillowing his head on Keith’s chest and falling asleep almost instantly.

 

Keith stirred the next morning, the action waking Lance. He blinked up at his boyfriend, smiling. “Good morning.”

The look Keith shot him in response was exasperated, but fond. “Good morning. Why are we crammed onto one tiny couch together?”

“This time it really is your fault,” Lance said lightheartedly and Keith rolled his eyes in response, leaning down to capture Lance’s lips in a soft, forgiving kiss.

 

 

Lance stands up abruptly and begins walking around the kitchen. Pidge and Hunk glance at each other with a worried expression but neither says anything. At this point it’s obvious to Lance that nobody knows what to think or feel. The realization that they are as lost as he is pushes him over the edge and his emotions rise up in a tidal wave, sweeping him out to sea.

“I guess I’m really going to give up. I know I said that before but we all knew that I couldn’t let him go. But now? I mean… now I have no choice.” The words sting, but he presses on. “Why would I fight for someone who has outright said they could never fall in love with me?”

For once, he hoped Pidge or Hunk had something to say. He hoped they could offer him words of comfort but wasn’t surprised to find that they couldn’t. Because nothing could be said to repair his heart. The damage was done and all Lance could do was hope that it wasn’t permanent.

The sharp ringtone of Lance’s phone startled all of them and Lance actually jumped. He crossed the kitchen back to his phone and picked it up, shocked to see the name Keith scrawled across the screen. Closing his eyes, he forced himself to ignore the call, placing his phone back on the counter. A few seconds later, it rang again. He silenced it a second time. He could feel Pidge and Hunk both looking at it, reading the name on the screen.

When it rang the third time, Pidge cleared her throat. “Why don’t you answer it?”

“I don’t really feel up for a round two,” Lance replied tersely.

He ignored the call again and then unlocked his phone, turning the volume off completely. Lance made sure to put the phone face down on the counter so that way he wouldn’t see if Keith called again. His mind was running a mile a minute trying to figure out why Keith could be calling. Would he really call back to say more hurtful things? Sure the accident had affected him, but Lance was sure it hadn’t changed him that much.

Hunk stood from his barstool and moved around the counter. “Lance…”

“No,” Lance took a step back, leaving his phone where it was on the counter. “I just got done saying I’m giving up and I mean it. I can’t imagine any reason he’d call besides to yell at me more and I don’t think I can handle that. I’m already—” Lance shuddered, wrapping his arms around himself. “I’m already hurt enough, I don’t need anything else added to it.”

This time it was Hunk’s ringtone that broke the silence. Hunk reached into his pocket, fishing his phone out. He looked down at the screen and then back at Lance, his eyebrows drawn together. “It’s Keith.”

Lance felt his heart skip a beat. He replied as steadily as he could. “Go ahead and answer it if you want, he’s your friend, too. There’s no reason for you to ignore him.”

Hunk lifts the phone to his ear, answering as he walks into the other room. Lance is grateful for the distance because he’s not sure he even wants to know what the phone call is about. Faintly he can hear Hunk responding in the other room but it’s mostly just “yeah’s” and “okay’s”.

“What do you think he wants?” Pidge asks, glancing at Lance.

Lance looks back at her, his tone coming out sharper than he intended. “How should I know?”

“You do know him best.” She replied.

Lance countered. “No, I used to know him best.”

Luckily, Pidge didn’t argue. The look on her face made it clear that she disagreed, but she could at least understand that he didn’t want to talk about it right now. He didn’t want to talk about anything, really. He wanted to curl into a ball on the couch and never get off of it.

A few moments passed by and Hunk reappeared, his phone safely back in his pocket. “He wants to meet.”

“Are you going to meet him?” Lance could hear the slight edge of bitterness in his voice and he frowned at himself. Hunk and Pidge didn’t deserve his sharp edges— they had done nothing but try to comfort him.

“He wants to meet you .” Hunk amended.

Lance felt his head snap around as he read Hunk’s expression for any sign of a lie. There were none. “What?”

“Yeah, he said that he does want to talk. He was going to go by Shelly’s later this afternoon and wanted me to tell you so you could join him if you want.” Hunk’s shrug was a failed attempt at casual.

Shelly’s was their favorite bar, just around the corner from the apartment. Neither one of them drank, really, but it had the best mozzarella sticks and those were Keith’s favorite appetizer. It was another go to meal for him on a bad day. They had been there so much that Shelly knew who they were and knew their orders by heart.

“And if I don’t want to meet him?” Lance ventured. He could already feel the hope rising back up inside of him and he hated it.

“He said he’d understand.” Hunk looked like he wanted to cross over to Lance but was restraining himself.

Lance wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. Of course his heart was screaming for him to take the opportunity to see Keith again, but his mind was replaying Keith’s words. Normally when conflicted like this, he would listen to his gut. But since his entire soul was intertwined with Keith, he couldn’t trust his gut. Of course it was screaming for him to go.

Pidge sipped her now cold coffee and set the cup loudly on the counter. “You said yourself you wouldn’t give up on him. Clearly he doesn’t want you to give up.”

“I don’t think that’s very clear at all,” Lance bit out, “You did hear everything he said earlier.”

“He had a change of heart!” She replied.

Lance barked out a dry laugh. “Keith doesn’t change his mind, he’s too stubborn.”

Pidge groaned, resting her elbows on the counter. “We could argue this all day. You know you’ll kick yourself if you don’t go and find out what he wants. You know you have to go.”

It was true. Despite everything, he had to go. He would never forgive himself if he didn’t hear Keith out. He tried to reign his hopes in, telling himself that he had to use this opportunity as a chance to say his final goodbye.

“What time is he going there?” Lance asked, frowning.

Hunk was quick to answer. “He said he’d be there in about three hours. So why don’t we watch a movie to distract you until it’s time to go?”

Lance agreed and together they piled into the living room, all squishing onto one couch. Pidge flipped through channels, looking for what they wanted to watch as Lance and Hunk settled in. Lance leaned his head back on the couch, wishing with all his might that the next few hours would fly by.

Chapter Text

Shelly’s was a hole-in-the-wall bar. It was understated with poor lighting and the kind of homey feel that made you feel more comfortable than you thought possible at a bar. Keith, honestly, didn’t remember the bar at all. It must’ve been something he and Lance had discovered after they started dating. Adam had told him that this was their favorite spot and he had run with it, thinking there was no better place for him to try and reconcile things with Lance.

Keith’s leg jiggled nervously below the table and he had to fight the urge to wring his hands in his lap. He had no idea if Lance would show and he wasn’t sure what he would do if he didn’t. He wasn’t sure what he would do if Lance did show, for that matter. The entire thing was him following his gut. In the past, his gut had always been right but a head trauma made it difficult for Keith to trust anything about himself.

The bell over the door jingled as someone walked in. Keith looked up, deflating when he realized that it wasn’t Lance. He tried to calm himself down— to remind himself that he had only been here for a few minutes and it was too soon to feel dejected. He kept replaying what Adam had said over and over, reminding himself that he couldn’t give up, even if he were scared— and he was definitely scared.

A feeling of unease had settled in his stomach making him feel shaky. Keith took a moment to run his hands through his hair and down his face, forcing himself not to look when the bell above the door dinged again. He fought to keep his heart from mourning, to keep his brain from believing Lance wouldn’t come. It was too soon to give up. Just because—

“Hey.”

Dropping his hands to the table with a thump , Keith raised his eyes to meet Lance’s blue gaze. “You came,” The words were out of his mouth in disbelief before he could even think about them. “You actually came.”

“Well yeah,” Lance looked uncomfortable and unsure. “Was I not supposed to?”

“No, no.” Keith rushed through his words, stumbling in an attempt to say anything coherent. His concussion already made it slightly difficult for him to find the words he was looking for and it appeared to be tripled with his nerves over Lance. “ No, I mean— I’m glad you came. I wanted you to come.”

“Right,” Lance dragged out the word, looking down at his feet. “So…”

“Are you gonna sit? You should sit.” Keith tried not to cringe at how awkward he sounded. He repeated Adam’s words again. No running. No running. No running.

No running. Not even when Lance is sliding into the booth looking stiff and fearful. No running. Not even when Lance refocuses those blue eyes on him and Keith can just feel him trying to read his train of thought. No running. Not even when Lance clears his throat, prompting Keith to say something, anything.

“So, uh, you wanted to talk?” Keith tries. He goes for aloof, or calm and collected, or really anything other than feeble. He thinks he succeeds.

“And you didn’t want to.” Lance replies. His tone isn’t sharp, but it cuts Keith anyways.

Keith wasn’t sure what to do. He’s not prepared for this situation. How do you go about interacting with someone who knows more about you than you do? How do you talk to someone who has hundreds of memories involving you— hundreds of memories that you no longer have?

“Hey boys,” A woman walked up to the table, smiling at them. “Long time no see! How’ve you been?”

Lance smiled up at the woman and Keith was jealous at how easily his smile came. “Hey Shelly! Sorry we haven’t been around lately, we’ve had a lot of… personal stuff going on.”

“Uh oh. Does it have anything to do with that?” Shelly gestured towards Lance’s hands that were resting on the table. Keith followed her gaze to find one of his hands wrapped in a bandage.

“Oh this?” Lance raised the bandaged hand up, waving it around as if to dismiss worry. “Just another burn.”

Shelly shook her head fondly at Lance, “I swear you come in with a new burn every week.”

Lance’s cheeks flushed but he was still smiling. Keith was glancing between the two, wondering if he had ever been a part of easy conversations like this. Had he ever been here while Lance had one of his other burns? Had he ever watched Shelly lecture him? Not knowing the answer was incredibly unsettling.

“What can I say, I’m clumsy.” The laugh Lance responded with was light and airy and something inside Keith’s gut stirred.

“That you are,” Shelly was still looking fondly at Lance. “Anyways, the usual for you boys?”

Lance finally dragged his eyes away and settled them back on Keith. Immediately Keith could feel the weight of Lance’s gaze. He tried to meet it head on, but the pressure was overwhelming.

Lance’s eyes softened slightly and his voice was soft as he spoke to Keith. “Are you hungry?”

“Not very,” Keith answered. It was an honest answer, too. It wasn’t like all the times he had told Shiro he wasn’t hungry out of sheer stubbornness. He really wasn’t very hungry— mostly he was just sick to his stomach with nerves.

“I think we’ll just do two Pepsi’s and a big order of the mozzarella sticks.” Lance didn’t look away from Keith as he spoke.

Mozzarella sticks were Keith’s favorite appetizer. He loved them so much that they almost made it onto his list of favorite meals all together. He remembered the first time he had told Lance that and he remembered the way Lance had lit up at learning something new about him. Lance had personally never loved mozzarella sticks— he liked them fine and would eat one or two, but they weren’t his go to choice for appetizer. Keith could only assume that Lance was ordering them now for him and he couldn’t deny that he was a little touched.

“Sure thing, loves. Be back in a bit.” Shelly shot them both a smile before heading back towards the bar and slipping behind it.

As Keith turned back to Lance, he couldn’t shake the feeling that he had been through this with him before. It was clear that he had been— Shelly recognized them instantly— but it was still a strange feeling for him. To feel like he had done something, to know he had done something, but to not be able to remember it clearly. As he looked around the bar, he got small flashes, but nothing concrete.

 

 —

 

Lance laughed, pressing closer to Keith’s side. Keith slid his hand out of his lap and onto Lance’s thigh, smiling to himself as Lance dropped his head onto Keith’s shoulder, nuzzling into his neck. An overwhelming feeling of happiness filled Keith, bubbling up and overflowing until he was sure the entire world was just as happy.

 

 —

 

Keith sighed miserably as the fragment of a memory slipped away. Lance had settled comfortably into his seat across from Keith and he was staring at him with a steady gaze. Again, Keith could feel Lance searching his face, reading his expression and puzzling out his thoughts.

“Can you stop trying to read my mind?” He asked, feeling defeated. He barely knew what was going on in his head, the last thing he needed was Lance trying to figure it out, too. That was just a recipe for a miscommunication which was something Keith was actually trying to avoid.

“Sorry,” Lance glanced away. “I’m used to having access to your thoughts. I’ll stop.”

Keith wasn’t sure that Lance would stop, but he could tell it wasn’t malicious or ill intended. Lance really was just used to having Keith fully accessible to him. That’s the way they had been as friends so Keith could only imagine that they had gotten even closer during their time together. Lance sighed, then, drawing all of Keith’s attention.

Keith took a moment to look at Lance— really look at him. His eyes were shrouded in dark circles and he looked paler. Keith could only assume it was from the crying. Lance’s blue shirt hung a little looser on his frame and Keith could distinctly tell that Lance had lost weight. His gut twisted. On top of that, there was just a weariness about Lance, as if he were worn out, or spread too thin. Lance seemed to notice Keith taking in his appearance so he offered him a smile in response, but it was weak and didn’t reach his eyes. Keith frowned.

“So,” He broke the silence finally, averting his gaze and trying to ignore the thread of guilt that was uncoiling in his gut. “Tell me again what happened.”

It had been obvious from the moment he arrived at the table that Lance was unsure and weary of Keith and Keith couldn’t blame him. But still, it didn’t prepare him for the way Lance’s voice sounded like it was one word away from breaking as he spoke. “I was walking to our coffee shop because that’s where we’d agreed to meet.” Lance was looking at Keith as he spoke, but he was definitely not seeing Keith. His mind had drifted back to the moment he was describing. “I was only a few blocks away when I got pulled into an alley. The guy had his hood up and a knife out and he told me to put all my things on the ground, so I did.”

A frown found its way onto Lance’s lips as he spoke and Keith recognized it. It was the kind of frown Lance always gave when studying something that he didn’t think was worth his time. It was a frown Lance gave when things didn’t quite add up to him and Keith wondered what about this story made him feel that way. He took a sip from the glass of water Shelly had dropped off as soon as he had arrived, listening as Lance continued.

“I was hoping that he would just take the things and go and that would allow me to still make our date, but of course, that isn’t what happened. He bent down to grab the stuff and when he stood up, the hood fell back and I saw his face.” Lance let out a shaky breath, focusing back on Keith. That alone was enough to tell Keith how painful the rest of the memory was. “And of course, he couldn’t let me go having seen his face. So, he kicked the shit out of me, to put it kindly. I was lucky to make it out with just a broken wrist and some bruises.”

Lance sipped his own water after he finished talking, and Keith wasn’t really sure what to say. He had no words, but he certainly had a lot of feelings. He felt like the world’s biggest asshole, to be frank.The guilt that had been uncoiling in his gut before sprung open and flooded through him. He had been pushing Lance away out of fear, not doubt. Because he knew Lance, and he knew Lance wouldn’t lie to him about something like that. He also knew that he would give Lance a second chance— and a third, a fourth, a millionth. He had said those things as an attempt to create distance between them, but Lance didn’t know that.

All Lance knew was that Keith had lashed out at him and discredited him without even hearing his side of things. Lance, who had never walked out on Keith, had spent the last week thinking that Keith considered him a liar. That realization just ate away at Keith, making him feel like the scum of the earth. Lance had never in his life done something to deserve the way Keith had been treating him. He hadn’t deserved any of what had happened to him— the mugging, watching Keith lose his memories, the way Keith reacted to him, any of it.

Keith raised his eyes to meet Lance’s shaky expression, hoping Lance could see the sincerity on his face as he said “I’m sorry.” Lance’s eyebrows rose in surprise and Keith pressed on. “I should never have said the terrible things I said to you. I didn’t mean any of them and the fact that I said them anyways is inexcusable. I am genuinely sorry.”

“It’s okay,” Lance replied quietly.

Keith shook his head. “No, it’s not. It’s not okay. I have my reasons but that doesn’t make it okay. I may have forgotten the last two years, but that’s it. I still know you, Lance.” Keith paused, realizing how bittersweet Lance’s name tasted on his tongue. He longed to say it again but didn’t feel like he had the right. “I know the way you dog ear the pages of your books, even though it makes you a monster.” Lance’s lips curled into a slight smile. “I know that you jot notes on the back of your hand so you don’t forget them. I know that you forget them anyways.”

Lance was looking back at Keith, teary eyed. Keith could feel a lump forming in his own throat, but he couldn’t stop. Lance was his closest person, that was true before they dated. From the day they had met, Keith’s soul had ached for Lance, it had reached out to him, seeking a home in Lance’s chest. Keith had known from the very first day that Lance was someone he needed in his life, someone who would understand him and challenge him to be better, but someone who would be there, even if he failed. More than anything, Keith needed to walk out of this bar certain that he wasn’t going to lose Lance completely.

He stumbled on. “I know that you have strong feelings about hot chocolate and that you think anyone who makes it with water is a heathen. I know that you sleep with the tv on because it’s the only thing that helps you sleep. I know all of your different laughs and what each one means. I know you , Lance. I know you. And I know that you wouldn’t have just ditched me.”

Lance reached across the table then, gripping one of Keith’s hands in his own. His voice was shaky and barely above a whisper as he spoke, but Keith could hear it clearly. He could always hear Lance— could always find him in a crowd. He was always aware of everything about Lance. “I understand, Keith. I get it. You went through something traumatic, you’re scared. I understand and I forgive you.”

You’re scared.

It figured that Lance would know, even without Keith saying it. Because even with half of his memories gone, Keith knew Lance like the back of his hand, so of course Lance knew Keith just as well. Hearing the words out in the open made him feel a little better. He didn’t forgive himself for the terrible things he had said, but hearing that Lance forgave him still lifted a load off his chest.

Keith gripped Lance’s hand back, giving it a squeeze. He could feel the knot in his chest unwinding.

 

 

Lance looked at Keith across the table, trying to hold it together when he felt Keith squeeze his hand in response. He couldn’t have said what he was expecting when he came, but it certainly wasn’t this. He didn’t think he would ever get an apology from Keith. It wasn’t that Keith was unwilling to admit when he was wrong— he was typically very forthcoming in accepting his faults and was quick to make amends— but this wasn’t a typical situation so Lance didn’t think typical rules applied to it.

“Delivery,” Shelly approached the table, laying the plate of mozzarella sticks between them and setting their glasses down in front of them. She smiled at the boys, providing them with napkins and tiny plates for each of them before disappearing again.

Keith used the hand Lance wasn’t holding to pick up a mozzarella stick, biting into it without any sauce. Lance had always thought that was odd, but it was one of the odd things that made Keith the man he was— the man Lance was in love with. The normalcy of the moment made Lance’s heart swell in his chest. He watched Keith eat the mozzarella stick in a few quick bites, reaching immediately for another one and he could feel his broken pieces mending. An overwhelming urge to tell Keith how much he loved him overtook Lance, but he fought it. It was true, but he knew it wasn’t the time. Things were better than he expected, but they were fragile and shaky and he had no idea how long they’d last.

“So,” Keith looked up at him then, his expression slightly guarded. Lance recognized the expression immediately. It was the one Keith made when he was afraid to say whatever he was about to say. Immediately Lance’s heart sunk again. “Tell me what I missed.”

“What?” Lance could hear the incredulous tone to his voice.

“The last two years,” Keith clarified slightly, grabbing his third mozzarella stick off the plate. “Give me the highlights at least.”

Lance hesitated. He wanted to tell Keith everything in the hopes that it would jog his memory but he was equally afraid to tell him anything because it could overwhelm him and cause him to shut down. “Are you sure? That’s not— it’s not too soon?”

“Just the highlights.” Keith paused, looking between his hand which was full of food, his hand that was in Lance’s and his cup.

Lance smiled, drawing his hand back and grabbing his own mozzarella stick. Keith used his newly freed hand to grab his glass and take a sip. “Well,” Lance took a bite, thinking. “Our first real date, the one that I showed up for, was here, actually.”

Keith glanced up at him and then looked around the bar as if trying to remember.

 

 

The boys had stumbled around the city, hands bumping and cheeks turning red for nearly twenty minutes. Lance was cozy in Keith’s jacket and Keith was constantly shooting little glances his way. The entire time, Lance had felt like his entire body was aflame and a new wave of electricity shot through his arm every time Keith’s shoulder brushed his, or their hands touched.

“What about here?” Keith pointed to the little bar that they had nearly walked by.

Lance looked at the sign above the door. “Shelly’s, huh?” He glanced through the window and smiled. He had always loved little insider places like this— the kinds of places that only the locals knew. “Looks perfect!”

They walked through the door and were immediately greeted by Shelly herself, who led them to their table, chatting the entire time. Lance couldn’t help the small smile on his lips as he watched Keith slide into the booth, responding to everything Shelly threw at him. Lance slipped into his own side of the booth, looking fondly at Keith across the table.

It was a strange experience, being there with Keith. They had hung out nearly every day for months so it wasn’t like he was unaccustomed to grabbing food with Keith. It wasn’t like they hadn’t sat across each other in booths hundreds of times, stealing fries off of each other’s plates and sipping each other’s drinks. But this was the first time it had officially been something more. Sure, Lance had been crushing on Keith for a long time now, but this was still their first date. The smile on his face grew at the thought.

Suddenly Shelly was thanking them and walking away. Lance glanced across the table at Keith.

“I ordered for you. I hope that’s okay?” Keith was sipping at the glass of water Shelly had left for them.

Lance bit his lip for lack of a better thing to do. His smile couldn’t grow any larger. “Totally fine. What did you order me?”

“You only eat one thing.” Keith responded, wearing his own smile.

Lance balled his straw wrapper up and threw it across the table at Keith, hitting him on the cheek. “That is not true. I eat at least, like, three things.”

Keith picked up the straw wrapper and tossed it back. Lance leaned to the side so it missed him, tumbling down the seat and onto the floor under the table. “That’s fair. You only eat one thing at restaurants.” Keith amended.

Scoffing, Lance turned away, feigning a frown. “How dare you.”

“You’re an idiot,” Keith’s response was fond, and Lance couldn’t stop from turning to look at him again.

“Yeah,” He said, his own voice fond. “But I’m your idiot.”

The moment the words were out of his mouth, Lance could feel his jaw drop towards the ground. That was definitely not what he meant to say. They were on a date but that didn’t make anything official. They hadn’t talked about that and Lance honestly hadn’t even been planning to talk about it on their date. He opened his mouth to backpedal, but never got the chance.

Keith was grinning at him, the kind of smug grin that he only got when he was amused with Lance embarrassing himself. It was perfectly fitting for this situation. “That you are.”

“I am? I mean, I am, but—” Lance was looking at Keith, the wheels in his mind turning. “Does that mean—?”

Keith didn’t reply immediately because Shelly was back, their food in her hands. She slid the burger in front of Lance and the chicken tenders in front of Keith. Lance couldn’t stifle the laugh at the absurdity of it all. Here they were on their first official date, at a new restaurant, and they were eating like picky twelve-year-olds. Keith seemed to follow his train of thought, his shoulders shaking slightly with laughter as he thanked Shelly. She looked briefly between the two of them, a large smile on her face before slipping away.

“We’re both idiots,” Lance amended his previous statement, snagging a fry off of Keith’s plate immediately and dipping it in his ranch.

“But we are each other’s idiots,” Keith finished before adding, “And yes, that does mean we’re official. I assume that’s what you were asking?”

“You know me too well,” Lance bit into the fry, smiling at Keith.

There was a faint pink dusting on Keith’s cheeks and Lance tried to not openly stare at it. He tried not to get flustered over the thought that he had caused that color to spread. Instead, he bit into his burger, chatting idly around his food. Keith ate his chicken nuggets, responding when necessary to Lance. It was how their meals usually went— one of them telling stories while the other ate and then switching.

Once their food was done, Lance took the last sip of his drink and set his glass back on the table. He was feeling giddy— overwhelmed with happiness. He didn’t think he would ever get the chance to go on an actual date with Keith, especially not after he had missed their first date. And yet, here he was, having one of the most fun evenings of his life.

Feeling bold, Lance stood from his side of the booth and slipped back into Keith’s side, scooting all the way until they were touching, pressed together from shoulder to knee. The pink flush was back on Keith’s cheeks and Lance loved it even more up close. He reached up and brushed a piece of hair away from Keith’s eyes so he could see his expression a little clearer.

Keith lowered his gaze, but he was smiling. “Playing with my hair?”

“I’ve wanted to for awhile,” Lance breathed into the space between them, not really thinking.

“You can’t just say stuff like that!” Keith flushed a shade darker.

Lance laughed, dropping his hand to his side and scooting even closer to Keith. The laugh was warm as it bubbled up in his chest and spilled over, it made him feel comfortable. He took a breath and then leaned his head down onto Keith’s shoulder, nuzzling slightly into his neck. It was Lance’s turn to flush a moment later when Keith shifted, moving his hand to rest on Lance’s thigh.

They stayed like that for awhile, whispering to each other and laughing. The entire time Lance thought about how lucky he was and how happy he was. He thought about the fact that he was living a dream and he hoped, if it really were a dream, that he would never wake up.

 

 

Keith was looking back at Lance with a certain wistfulness that Lance couldn’t quite place, but he didn’t question it. Instead, he pressed on with the explanation of their relationship. “We moved in together at the start of senior year in the dorms. When we graduated, we moved to an apartment just around the corner from here. I am a chef with Hunk and you got your degree in graphic design and a job just downtown. You really love it.”

A silence followed his words and Lance used that time to eat the mozzarella stick he had been holding the entire time he talked. He studied Keith’s face while he ate, watching closely as it crumpled. The miserable expression he had been sporting earlier was back and Lance could feel the cracks in his heart spreading.

“I wish—” Keith paused, dropping his gaze into his lap. “I wish I could remember any of that.”

More than anything, Lance wished that, too. He would never say that, of course. Keith had no control over his memories and saying that would just be cruel and unnecessary. He would never say something that would hurt Keith. Instead, he replied quietly. “It’s okay. We can just make new memories.”

“We shouldn’t have to make new memories,” Keith rasped, still not meeting Lance’s gaze. “We shouldn’t be in this position. I should remember our relationship, I shouldn’t have to be told about it. I—”

“Keith,” Lance leaned down, catching his eye. “Keith, you can’t blame yourself for this. The accident was a tragedy but it wasn’t your fault.”

“We don’t know that!” Keith replied too loudly, throwing his arms out to the side. His voice was steadily rising. “How would we know that? The only person who was there was me and I certainly don’t remember it. It could be my fault, Lance. There’s no way of knowing!”

A series of thoughts rushed through Lance’s mind but he couldn’t quite catch any of them. He knew he needed to calm Keith down, but he wasn’t sure how. This was totally uncharted territory and it was an incredibly sensitive topic. Lance’s response had to be just right because it had the potential of going very wrong very quickly.

“Kogane, is that you?” Lance whipped his head around to find the source of the voice, recognizing it immediately and groaning. Keith followed his gaze and together they watched another man approach their table, a smug grin on his lips and a swagger in his walk. “Oh, and you’re here with darling little McClain. Good to see you, Lancey.”

“Go away, Griffin.” Lance’s tone was terse as he looked at the other man.

James Griffin had managed to become the enemy of both Keith and Lance. He had notoriously had a crush on Keith, but Keith had rejected him. Despite how a lot of the world perceived Keith, he was actually all soft edges and blurred lines. He was warm blankets and fairy lights. Griffin, on the other hand, was loud and boastful. He was constantly forcing his thoughts and opinions on everyone else, insisting that he was right. He was unwilling at best to listen to what anyone else had to say to him.

In short, James Griffin thought he was God’s gift to the world and he had a problem with anyone who disagreed. Keith and Lance both disagreed.

“Aw, come on, Lance, what’s the problem? You afraid of sharing Kogane’s attention here?” Now that Griffin was closer, Lance could smell the alcohol on his breath. “I’ve been willing to share his attention with you all this time.”

“Get out of here, Griffin.” Keith jumped in, standing up from his side of the table to square off with James. “Just go before you turn this into something it doesn’t need to be.”

Griffin was undeterred. “Oh, am I crashing your date ? That’s cute. How much longer until you get bored of this guy, huh, Kogane? I can’t wait for you forever.”

“Then stop waiting,” Keith replied. His shoulders were tense and Lance could see him opening and closing his fists at his side. “Find someone else to harass.”

“Would you recommend I harass little Lancey here?” James staggered slightly towards Lance. “I tried that once, it wasn’t as satisfying as I thought it would be.”

Keith was immediately looking between Lance and Griffin. Lance could see the thoughts running through his mind, could see Keith trying to fill in the blanks without having to ask Griffin for information. Lance was suddenly up and next to Keith, a hand gripping his arm and tugging him towards the door. He was willing to fill those blanks in for Keith but he wanted to do it somewhere that it was just them. Not here. Not now. He didn’t want Griffin to have the satisfaction.

“Oh, didn’t little Lancey tell you, Kogane?” Griffin placed a hand on Lance’s shoulder and Lance steeled himself against the contact. “That reason he missed your first date? That was because of me.”

Griffin wasn’t the smartest person when he was fully functional, but he at least wasn’t stupid enough to admit that to Keith directly. The alcohol must’ve lowered his inhibitions enough to make him think this was a feat worth bragging over. Keith, of course, didn’t see it that way. Lance stumbled as Keith shoved him to the side, his back coming in contact with the table behind him. A moment later, Keith swung at Griffin and he went crashing to the ground.

“What the hell man?” Griffin swiped at his lip, checking the back of his hand for blood. There was none. “I did you a favor! I was trying to save you from wasting your time on this— this— ” He gestured wildly towards Lance, clearly too inebriated to think of a proper description. “I did it for you .”

Keith had two levels of angry. He had the kind of angry that Lance always saw and it was short answers, rolled eyes and slammed doors. That kind of anger was fine and easy enough for Lance to deal with. It dissipated over time, slowly tempering into something reasonable and then he would be willing to listen and things would resolve. His other form of anger was blind rage. Lance had only seen it one other time and it was terrifying. When Keith went into blind rage, nothing could stop him until his anger was sated.

“Get out.” Keith repeated, thrusting a finger towards the door.

Shelly was rushing around the counter, coming to a stop next to Lance and watching the scene unfold in front of them. Her hand gripped Lance’s forearm and he shifted to stand slightly in front of her. He didn’t anticipate Griffin going after her, but if a brawl started, there was no saying where the boys would be and Lance just wanted to be sure that Shelly was safe.

Griffin stood from the ground, swiping a hand across his lip for a second time. He rolled his shoulders as he met Keith’s gaze head on. “Why don’t you go? Why don’t you take Lancey here on home. Or if you want, there’s a nice alleyway just a few blocks from here. I’m sure Lance can show you where it is. I’m sure he remembers—”

This time, Keith didn’t just deck Griffin. Instead, he tackled Griffin straight to the ground, landing on top of him and swinging. James responded pretty quickly, throwing one hand up to block Keith’s hits and using the other hand to throw him off. Lance surged forward as Keith toppled to the side, yelling out his name. The last thing any of them needed was for Keith to hit his head again .

“Stop it!” He rushed forward, but neither man listened to him.

James followed Keith, throwing his own punches on the way down. Keith had slid to a stop amongst some chairs at a nearby table. He kicked a chair towards James, scrambling to his feet. The rest of the patrons at the bar were starting to circle around them. Lance tried to get to the two of them, but they were stumbling unevenly around the bar, throwing punches, elbows and kicks. They were tripping and bumping into things, their hands fisted in each other’s shirts. Even if Lance could get to them, he wouldn’t be able to separate them.

“Why are you fighting for him?” Griffin ground out, his words punctuated by a grunt as his back came in contact with a table.

Murmurs were spreading through the bar as everyone was starting to call out to the boys fighting. Lance stepped forward again. Griffin’s grip on Keith’s shirt had loosened when they hit the table and Lance recognized his opening. He finally reached them, pulling Keith back by the shoulder. Keith stumbled away, allowing himself to be guided by Lance’s hands. Lance backs him up enough so that he is able to step in between the two of them, preventing them from fighting any more. Lance starts to survey Keith when he hears Griffin pushing off the table behind him, some other nonsense tumbling off his tongue.

“Griffin just—” Lance turned around only to take a fist directly to the face. He fell backwards, hitting the ground hard .

“Oh, shit, Mcclain—” Griffin was standing over him for a long second before turning on his heel and booking it out of the bar.

Keith was glaring daggers after him, but let him leave. Instead, he dropped to the ground, reaching for Lance, the anger still clear in the tension in his shoulders. He gathered Lance, pulling him close to his chest and leaning in to inspect his face. Lance stilled in his arms, looking up at Keith. It had been too long since they had been this close. They were so close. Close enough that Lance could lean in if he wanted to and just—

 

 

Fall had always been Lance’s favorite season. He loved the way the cool air nipped at his cheeks, making him feel awake and alive. He loved spending his breaks between classes walking the trails on campus with Keith during the fall. It was the perfect way to clear his mind and get him ready to focus in his next class.

The trails on campus were beautiful. They were narrow dirt trails that wove through the trees on the edge of campus. During the fall, they were covered in fallen leaves, making each step a satisfying crunch as they walked side by side, hands interlocked between them. Lance was rambling on about something from class that day and he knew Keith was listening, but there was a distinct difference in Keith’s behavior.

“You okay?” He paused along the trail, turning to look at Keith.

Instead of meeting his gaze, Keith was glancing up and down the trail, looking for other people. “Yeah, fine.”

A moment passed before Keith finished checking their surroundings and finally looked back at Lance. Lance frowned at him. “Okay that’s clearly a lie. What’s up?”

Keith didn’t respond. Instead, he stepped towards Lance, forcing him back a few steps until his back hit the tree behind him. Keith followed immediately, closing the distance between them in one fell swoop and capturing Lance’s lips in a kiss.

Lance was certain that his heart was exploding in his chest. He’d been thinking about kissing Keith for awhile but had never found exactly the right moment for it. In his head it had to be this huge spectacle because it was special and he wanted Keith to know it was special. Now, however, pressed spontaneously against a tree and kissing the boy he was so in love with it hurt, he realized that it didn’t have to be anything huge to be special. What made it special was the fact that it was with Keith.

A moment later, Keith pulled away, his eyes immediately searching Lance’s for some sort of reaction to the kiss. “I— That was okay, right?”

“Why did you leave?” Lance grinned cheekily in response, tugging on Keith’s jacket. “I’ve still got an hour before I have to be in class again.”

Keith laughed, leaning forward until their foreheads were touching. “An hour, huh? I’m not sure that’s enough time.”

“No?” Lance slipped a hand around the back of Keith’s neck, drawing him down again. “Then you better stop wasting time.”

 

 

“Are you okay?” Keith’s voice and the gentle brush of his fingers drew Lance back.

He could feel his lip throbbing and reached up to wipe it, glancing at his hand the way Griffin had. This time, however, there was blood on it. “I’m fine.”

Lance went to push himself into a more comfortable sitting position but Keith was right there, doting over him. “I’m sorry, I know I shouldn’t have hit him. I just— I really hate that guy. That much I remember.”

“I hate him too,” Lance smiled wryly. “I don’t give a shit if you want to beat him up but in the future, don’t do it when you already have a head injury, okay?”

“Yeah,” Keith agreed, “Not my smartest idea.”

Lance pulled the sleeve of his shirt over his hand, pressing it to the split in his lip and hissing at the sting. “Does this split lip match my burn?” He asked, trying to lighten the mood.

Keith smiled a little, “They do match but they don’t really suit you. Hate to break it to ya.”

“You wound me, Kogane.” Lance replied as Keith hauled him off the ground finally.

Shelly was immediately crowding them, fussing over Lance’s bleeding lip and the bruise that was rapidly appearing on Keith’s cheek. She rushed them to the bar, filling a bag with some ice and pressing it to Keith’s cheek and giving Lance a napkin to absorb the blood with. As they settled in, each taking care of their respective injuries, Shelly launched into a lecture but Lance wasn’t listening. He glanced at Keith, relieved to see the tension finally gone from his shoulders.

“Honestly, you two are so reckless .” Shelly finished, her eyes settling on Keith. “But it was nice to see you defend Lance.” With that, she glanced between them and left to usher all the other customers back to their spots and to clean up the mess they had made.

Lance pulled the napkin away from his mouth. “You didn’t need to do that.”

“Is it true? That he was the one who—?” Keith was looking at Lance earnestly.

“Yeah, it’s true. But it was two years ago, it’s fine.” Keith opened his mouth to say something else but Lance held up a hand. “It’s really fine. He did it because you had turned him down but you didn’t turn me down. It was a one time thing.”

“He broke your wrist!” Keith cried.

Lance smiled softly, “Yeah and you probably broke his jaw tonight, I think we’re all even.”  He fidgeted with the napkin in his hand. “You didn’t need to do that,” he repeated before adding, “But thank you for it.”

Keith lowered the ice from his face, setting it on the counter. He turned in his chair so he was facing Lance fully. Lance willed his breath not to be taken away as their eyes locked. Keith’s expression was open and vulnerable and the sight made Lance feel like he was being cracked wide open. “Listen, I don’t know how this works with my memories and all that. It’s going to be hard, that’s for sure. But if you’re willing I—” Keith took a shaky breath. “I’d like to try and make this— us— work.”

Lance couldn’t do anything to stop the grin that spread across his face. He could feel happy tears in the corners of his eyes and he did his best to blink them back. He wanted to close the gap between them and envelop Keith in a hug. He wanted to press their lips together. He wanted to cry, declaring is undying love for Keith. He wanted to do a lot of things that he knew would be too much for Keith right now, so he took a steadying breath instead and replied with a simple “I’m definitely willing.”

“Great,” Keith said and he managed a smile, too. It was slightly more hesitant, but Lance didn’t care. He had walked in here tonight expecting to say his final goodbye to Keith and instead he got an apology, got to witness Keith get into a fight on his behalf and got a second chance. It was more than he ever could have asked for. “Let’s agree to meet up tomorrow then? We’ll both go home now and clean ourselves up and tomorrow we can do something?”

“Yes,” Lance said and he wanted to scream it from a rooftop. Yes, yes, a million times yes.

They thanked Shelly, apologizing for the mess they made and paying for their dinner before heading their separate ways, agreeing to talk in the morning and figure out their plans. It was the first night in awhile Lance didn’t completely dread walking into his apartment.

Chapter Text

Lance tried not to be too hopeful as he walked out of his apartment the next morning. He locked the door and shoved the keys deep in his pocket, trying to keep his hands from shaking. He was going to meet Keith at a local bookstore. It wasn’t anything special or official but Lance was still over the moon with just the prospect of being able to spend time with him. Keith had called him early in the morning— typical Keith, Lance had thought with a wry smile, always up before the sun— and he had nearly dropped his phone in excitement. He could tell that Keith was nervous and more than anything he wanted to make him feel at ease when they were together so he’d said he had a few errands to run and invited Keith to join. The relief in his voice had almost been tangible.

The bookstore was only a few blocks away and Lance had so much anxious energy buzzing around inside of him that he opted to walk the short distance instead of driving. It was a beautiful day outside; the kind of day that looked warmer than it actually was. The sky was a cloudless blue and the sun was shining brightly, but the breeze still nipped at his exposed skin. The sharp feeling of it made him feel awake and clear minded as he hustled the few blocks to the bookstore. As he rounded the last corner he came to a stop, his breath caught in his throat as he saw Keith there, leaning against the brick exterior of the store.

Lance hadn’t dropped too many outfits off at Shiro’s for a series of reasons: he didn’t want the closet in their apartment to look empty, he didn’t have that big of a bag to pack everything in and secretly he was hoping that it might somehow persuade Keith to come home. Still, the outfits he had packed were his favorites and now, looking at Keith, he both loved and hated himself for that. Keith had on a pair of ripped jeans that hung just a little low on his hips and a black t shirt underneath an unbuttoned red flannel. He had his hands jammed into his pockets as he looked off into the distance and Lance’s heart constricted. Lance had always described this look as the perfect combination of cool and hot and Keith would roll his eyes, even though Lance knew he was secretly eating it up.

“Hey!” He called, waving a hand over his head as he approached.

Keith glanced up from where he was positioned, his expression lighting up slightly at the sight of Lance. In response, Lance could feel his heart flip-flopping in his chest. “Hey.”

He tried his best not to look too eager as Keith pressed off of the wall and ran a hand through is hair. It was a habit he had of doing when he wasn’t sure what was expected of him and it reminded Lance of just how serious the situation was. As much as he wanted to just be spending the day with his boyfriend, that wasn’t the case. He was spending his day with a man who barely remembered him and they were trying to make new memories and that was a lot of responsibility.

“Thanks for joining me,” Lance said, holding the door open. Keith stepped through the door and waited on the other side for Lance to follow. “I’ve been meaning to come here for awhile because there’s a book out that I really want.”

Keith didn’t say anything, but he met Lance’s gaze with a soft smile. Lance could see the bruise on his cheek, a stark contrast to his pale skin. It looked like it hurt. He began to lift his hand to touch it, caught himself, and then forced his hands into his pockets. He still had his hand bandaged, even though the burn was past the point of hurting. The wrapping made it an awkward fit in his pocket, but he ignored that.

“Does that hurt?” Lance nodded vaguely towards the bruise and Keith instinctively raised a hand to touch it.

“A little,” He answered after a moment. “How’s your lip?”

Lance’s lip was swollen more than he thought it would be and it was more annoying than anything else. “I keep accidentally biting it,” He replied, frowning. “Which means it’s never going to get better.”

Keith lowered his hand from his cheek but his gaze was still fixed on Lance’s split lip. Lance could see the guilt in his expression before he said, “I’m sorry. That shouldn’t have happened to you.”

“Don’t be,” Lance said, shrugging, and he meant it. Because he was there for Keith unconditionally. If that meant taking a punch for him, fine. It didn’t matter what happened or how bad things got, he was always, unwaveringly, in Keith’s corner and nothing could ever change that.

Silence followed as Keith didn’t seem to know what to say. Lance understood because he wasn’t really sure how to follow that up, he just knew that he wanted Keith to understand that he wasn’t at fault for anything. Things were weird, at best, with their given situation and Lance understood that. He didn’t like it by any means, but he could acknowledge that things were out of their control so he had to be patient and let them happen.

A moment passed and Keith nodded stiffly as if he just needed to do something to conclude the conversation. Lance laughed a little, taking off deeper into the store. Keith flushed slightly at the sound but he followed Lance closely through the aisles, occasionally pausing to look at a shelf. Lance knew the bookstore like the back of his hand and could weave through the shelves to get exactly where he wanted in no time, but he didn’t. Instead he lingered, watching Keith’s eyes skip over different books, his brows furrowed.

“I don’t really like reading,” Keith said finally, trailing his fingers along the spines of the books. Lance suppressed a smile. “But I guess you already know that about me.”

It was true, Lance did know that about Keith but he would never say that. Lance couldn’t imagine exactly how Keith was feeling but he could imagine how he would feel in that situation. He could imagine how annoyed he would be, constantly having people fill in the blanks for him. He could easily imagine how frustrating it would be to have people spoon feeding him bits of his life that he couldn’t remember. He wouldn’t do that to Keith, no matter what. It didn’t matter if he had to listen to Keith tell him the same story a million times, he would not ever try to force information on Keith.

Instead, he smiled softly at Keith, leaning into the closest bookshelf. “There’s a lot of things I don’t know about you. And there’s a lot of things you don’t know about me!”

A moment passed where Keith looked incredibly surprised. Eventually he collected himself, schooling his expression back into something more neutral but Lance was still smiling. “Yeah? Like what? What don’t I know about you?”

Tipping his head from side to side, Lance considered the question. Given the fact that Keith had lost most of his memories of Lance it would be really easy to answer that question with something common. It would be really easy for him to just throw something out there because right now, Keith didn’t know most things about him. But Lance wasn’t going to play the game that way. Keith was still the man he was in love with and he wasn’t going to treat him any differently because of this.

Finally, something stuck in his head. “Okay,” He said, his eyes landing on Keith’s. “When I was younger, I used to let my sisters practice makeup and hairstyles on me.”

A smile was quickly spreading over Keith’s face but he bit his lip to try and stop it. Before they were dating, Keith had met one of Lance’s sisters. It had been a brief meeting— she had needed to pick something up from Lance and had met them at their usual coffee shop to get it— but it had been long enough for Veronica to thoroughly embarrass him. He had barely been able to rush her out the door before she started telling every awkward story from his childhood.

Lance knew Keith could picture it perfectly and he knew how that image looked. His heart stuttered, watching Keith try to suppress the smile. He had never told anybody about that, although he was sure plenty of people had heard about it from Veronica.

“That’s…” Keith clearly wasn’t sure how to finish that sentence.

“Embarrassing,” Lance finished for him, “I know.”

“I was going to say cute,” Keith replied.

“No you weren’t,” Lance laughed.

Keith chucked with him. “No, I wasn’t.”

They started walking through the store again and Lance could feel a change in Keith. He seemed less anxious and cautious and more at ease. Lance wasn’t sure if it was the story from his past or the bookstore and he didn’t really care, he was just happy to feel a little better. It was nice to be able to be at Keith’s side again and feel no pressure. It had felt like Lance was suffocating for over a week now— like he had to calculate every move he made to ensure that it was exactly the right one. And finally he was able to just be with Keith and to enjoy his presence. Finally Lance felt like he could breathe again.

As the continued on, a book on the next shelf caught his eye. Lance paused, picking it up. “You should give this a shot.”

Keith glanced at the book in his hands and then back up to his face. “I just said that I don’t like to read.”

“I know,” Lance extended the book towards him, “But I think you might find that this book changes your mind. I’ve heard a lot about it and I just think you’d really like it.”

A skeptical expression settled on Keith’s face as he looked between the book and Lance more than once. “Let me guess, this is just like the movies.”

“The movies?” Lance echoed.

Keith made no move to reach for the book, but he didn’t look away from it either. “Adam told me that all the movies I’ve been watching were ones you dropped off. They’re apparently once I’ve seen and loved before which is how you knew I’d like them this time.”

Immediately, Lance could feel his heart plummet to his feet. He had never explicitly asked Adam not to tell Keith so he couldn’t be mad, but it felt like that had just undone all the good he was trying to do. The reason he hadn’t told Adam was because he had assumed that it was an obvious, albeit unspoken, rule. He and Shiro had discussed it and agreed that Keith not know until he were feeling better and more receptive. Lance had assumed this extended to Adam but was clearly incorrect.

Lance wasn’t sure how to respond to that without sounding cold or callous, but he knew he had to try. He wanted to try and explain to Keith that he had never been trying to impose on him, or to force anything on him. He was just trying to make Keith feel more like himself, trying to give him a way to distract himself. His intentions had always been good, but they didn’t sound good when Keith said it like that.

Taking a deep breath, Lance said the only thing he could really even think of. “You’ve never read this book before, I swear. I just thought you might like it, but I can put it back.”

True to his word, Lance began to put the book back on the shelf but Keith caught at his wrist. Lance was struck by the feeling of his fingers on the sensitive skin of his wrists but tried not to show it. He tried not to let memories fill him off all the times Keith had done things like this before. Without a word, Keith took the book from Lance. His expression was still a little sour as he took off down the aisles again.

Lance trailed behind him quietly, trying to think of something to say. He didn’t want Keith to think that he was keeping secrets from him, or that he had any sort of ulterior motive, because neither of those things were true. He wanted to express to Keith that all he wanted was to spend time with him, but he could feel how wrong that would go, too. So, Lance just kept quietly to himself and trailed behind Keith, looking for the book he wanted.

A few shelves down and he found it. Stopping, he said a quiet, “Here it is.”

He didn’t look back at Keith as he crouched down to the bottom shelf where his book was. He just pulled the book off the shelf, sitting fully on the ground and flipping it open, scanning the first page. A moment passed and suddenly Keith plopped down on the ground next to him. They stayed silent, but Lance realized he was holding his breath, waiting for Keith to say something. Keith didn’t speak, but he did flip open his own book and start reading the blurb on the inside cover. Once he finished that, he moved to scanning the first few pages.

Lance looked up from his own book and just watched Keith. He could see the interest in Keith’s expression and it made him smile. Lance hadn’t lied when he had said Keith had never read this book, but the reason he had suggested it was because Keith had expressed interest in it. It was written by the only author Keith would ever read, and he hadn’t released a book in years. A seed of happiness bloomed in Lance’s chest. Bookstores were one of his favorite places— he could easily lose himself in one for an entire day— and sharing it with Keith made him feel like his life was complete. They had been through some hard times, sure, but they were still here, together, and that was enough for Lance.

“Alright,” Keith said finally, looking up so his eyes met Lance’s gaze. “I’ll admit it, this does sound good.”

Lance couldn’t stop the smile that spread across his face. Keith smiled back at him, a smaller smile but still genuine. “Yeah?”

“I’m sorry for before, I—” Keith frowned.

Lance cut him off, “I understand. Trust me, it’s okay. Just know, I’m not ever trying to make you feel uncomfortable, okay? Tell me if I do.”

Keith paused, looking at him. Lance could see the wheels turning in his head, but he couldn’t tell exactly where the thoughts were taking him. He waited, quietly, for Keith to be ready to talk. With a deep breath, Keith visibly steeled himself and said, “You don’t talk to me any different.”

Surprised, Lance put down the book he was holding. “Am I supposed to?”

“No, it’s just—” Keith sighed, “Everyone keeps talking gently to me, as if I’m going to break. I’m not.”

“Keith,” Lance was surprised to find that his answer came easily to him. “Of course I’m not talking differently to you, because you’re not different. You might not remember everything, but you’re not a different person, you’re still—” The words My Keith died on his tongue. He swallowed. “—you. So I’m going to talk to you the way I’ve always talked to you.”

He wanted to express more than that, but the words failed him. He wanted to drive into Keith’s head that he would always treat Keith the same because he loved Keith for who he was, not what he could remember, and nothing could change who he was deep inside. He wasn’t sure how to explain to Keith that he knew him inside and out and that he couldn’t treat Keith differently if his tried because Keith was so ingrained in him.

Lance frowned, realizing that he was constantly wanting to express things to Keith but not knowing how. Normally he was just ramble, his words a messy jumble, and Keith would put together the point he was trying to make. That was part of why they worked— they could understand each other no matter what. Lance was confident that Keith would still be able to figure out his nonsense, but he didn’t feel like they were close enough for him to ask that of Keith. He wondered when they would get that way again— or if  they even would.

“The way you’ve always treated me, huh?” Keith echoed, his smile turning wry. “If that’s the case then you have been treating me differently.” Lance’s face fell until Keith continued. “Because you usually can’t go this long without teasing me about something.”

Lance laughed. “You know what? You’re right, that’s my bad. I’ll be sure to change that.”

Keith shook his head and stood up from the ground, extending a hand down to Lance. Lance took it, allowing himself to be hauled to his feet. They looked at each other for a minute before Lance reached out, taking the book back out of Keith’s grasp.

With both books in his hands, Lance asked, “Are you hungry? I am. I was gonna go get food after this.”

Keith seemed momentarily startled at Lance taking the book, as if he had expected Lance to do something else. Of course, Lance wanted to do something else, but he refrained. He attempted an encouraging smile at Keith.

“Yeah,” Keith said, “I could go for some food.”

“Great, let me just go check out and we can go. There’s a food truck around the corner, just by the river. Is that fine?” Lance headed towards the counter and Keith followed him, humming in response.

Lance checked out quickly, thanking the lady and taking his bag. He led Keith back outside and across the street, heading for the river. Another one of Lance’s favorite things was the river that ran through the middle of the town because it was peaceful and beautiful. He had often gone to sit there on a beautiful afternoon, book in hand. And then, as he and Keith got closer, he started taking Keith there as a place to study or hang out and it had sort of become their spot.

The food truck that was always parked right by the river had the best street tacos in town and it was a favorite spot of theirs. As the two fell in step next to each other, walking along the length of the river, Lance couldn’t help the mix of emotions swirling in his stomach. On one hand he wanted to smile at how normal it felt because they had done this so many times, but on the other hand, he felt a sharp spike of dread. This area— their spot, their bench — had been a part of his big plans the night of Keith’s accident and he was terrified to see it again. He swallowed against the lump forming in his throat and tried to shove the panic down, instead choosing to focus on and remember their good times there.

 

 

Lance had been insisting that they try the food truck for awhile. They came to the park next to the river at least once a week during the nice months of the year at Lance’s insistence. It was perhaps his favorite place in the city and Keith had no problem accompanying him. They often came here to study, though they had learned to do it on less breezy days after spending one afternoon chasing their notes through the park.

“I’m so excited for tacos,” Lance said, bouncing on the balls of his feet as they waited in line for the food.

The line was long which could only be a testament to how good the food was. They had both heard about this food truck from different people and both had sworn by it, so they had decided to finally go. Lance loved tacos, perhaps more than he loved life itself, and considered himself a little bit of a taco connoisseur. As a chef-in-training, Lance took all food very seriously— often he would walk out of a restaurant with a million ideas for new recipes to make at home— but he was especially serious when it came to tacos.

He insisted that tacos were the food of the soul and making the right taco was a feat that few could accomplish. Keith had eaten more tacos in the time he had dated Lance than he’d eaten in his entire life previous to that, but it didn’t bother him.

Finally the line thinned and they were in front of the food truck, ordering. Lance continued to bounce from foot to foot as he repeated what they wanted to the man. They paid quickly and moved to stand at the other end of the truck with the rest of the people.

“I’m so excited,” Lance cried, throwing an arm around Keith’s shoulders.

The two stumbled for a moment, “I know,” Keith’s voice was fond as he smiled up at Lance, “But you have to wait for the food to be done.”

“I don’t wanna,” Lance cried dramatically, “I’m so hungry I could die!”

“You literally ate breakfast, like, three hours ago.” Keith replied.

Lance glanced sideways at his boyfriend, smiling. Keith always put up with his shenanigans with nothing more than mild— but fond— exasperation. “So I’m three hours closer to starving to death!”

“That doesn’t even make sense,” Keith said.

Lance pulled out the most exaggerated pout he could, turning away from Keith. He could hear Keith sigh next to him, and Lance had to fight to keep the smile from taking over his lips instead. Keith untangled Lance’s arm from around his shoulders and then gave him a slight shove and Lance burst out into laughter.

“Lance!” The guy at the food truck called.

Excited, Lance hustled forward and accepted the two paper trays of tacos. Keith followed him, reaching over his shoulders to grab their pop cans. Together they walked to one of the picnic tables they usually studied at and took a seat, distributing the food between them. Their knees brushed under the table and Lance leaned into Keith’s shoulder as he lifted his taco up to his mouth.

One bite in and Lance regretted his decision. His tacos were incredibly spicy. Lance may be a culinary student and a foodie, but he could never handle hot. It was the only thing related to food that he avoided. He chewed the bite quickly, swallowing it down and immediately reaching for his drink, popping it open and taking a large sip.

Keith was looking at him with an eyebrow raised and a smirk on his lips. “Is it good?”

“Yeah,” Lance answered automatically, refusing to admit that he couldn’t handle it. Keith knew he didn’t like spicy food, but Lance still didn’t want to embarrass himself by saying he couldn’t handle the food from the place he, specifically, had requested to eat.

Unconvinced, Keith reached over and picked up Lance’s taco, taking his own bite of it. “Wow,” he said as he chewed, “This is way hotter than you can handle.”

“I can handle it just fine!” Lance tried to snatch his taco back from Keith, but Keith pulled away.

Keith started laughing, then, and Lance couldn’t help the indignant smile that sprung to his face. Keith continued laughing, nearly doubling over the table. His shoulders shook as the laughter wracked through him but Lance couldn’t bring himself to be upset by it. It wasn’t rare that he got Keith to laugh, but it was rare that he got him to laugh so hard. A minute passed and his laughter died down, but he still had to take a few deep breaths to collect himself.

“Babe,” Keith was looking at him with that bemused expression again. “You hate hot food.”

Before Lance had a chance to say anything back, Keith was switching their plates of food, a smile still on his face. Lance started to protest but Keith shot him a look that silenced it before he could get the words out. Lance knew it was fine because Keith actually liked spicy food. He hadn’t even taken a sip of his drink since taking that bite of Lance’s taco, whereas Lance was considering downing the rest of his drink because his mouth was still on fire.

“There,” Keith nodded slightly to himself, satisfied with the switch. Without any hesitation, he resumed eating Lance’s tacos, not even flinching at the heat.

Lance picked up one of Keith’s tacos, biting into it and almost letting out a sigh of relief when he’s met with a mouthful of delicious flavor and no spice. After the first bit he pauses, planting a soft kiss on Keith’s cheek. “Thanks, babe.”

 

 

Lance straddled the seat of the bench, watching as Keith carried their food over to him at the table. Keith set the trays down and took a seat opposite of Lance. Lance tried not to think too much of it, tried not to mourn the empty spot next to him where he was used to Keith sitting. He reminded himself for what had to be the millionth time to just be happy that Keith was there at all. If this was the way things were going to be in the future, he could live with that because it meant that he had a future with Keith still.

He had his back towards the bench they normally sat it— the one right along the riverbend, close enough that they could dip their feet into the water when it had rained a lot. Keith didn’t even glance at the bench, which both broke Lance’s heart and allowed him to breathe out a sigh of relief.

“So,” Keith broke the silence, but he sounded nervous. He smashed his straw against the table to get the wrapper off, but Lance could see the way his hands were shaking slightly. “This seems kind of… familiar? I’m guessing we’ve been here a lot?”

Lance tried to ignore his pulse roaring in his ears, “Well, we came here once after we first met.”

He had his taco in his hand but he couldn’t bring himself to take a bite of it. Keith was looking at him with a gaze that could see straight into his heart. He could see the way Keith was reading his expression, it was something he had done from day one. Part of why Lance managed to get the courage up to ask Keith out was because he knew Keith would figure it out in no time anyways and he wanted to hold onto what dignity he could by asking instead of trying to hide it.

“But?” Keith prompted.

From the outside, Keith looked cool and collected. He took a bite of his own tacos and watched Lance fumble for an answer. He looked unconcerned, but Lance could see otherwise. Keith— the real Keith— was hidden in all the small gestures. The world saw him as one person, but Lance and everyone else who knew him well, saw him for the person he really was. It was the way he wouldn’t put his taco down because he didn’t want his hands to shake again, the way he had his legs crossed underneath him on the bench instead of on the ground. From the outside, he looked fine, but Lance could clearly read the nerves in his actions.

Lance sighed, picking up his own taco. “But yes, we came here a lot.”

The response he got was a quiet hum from Keith as he took another bite of taco. Lance finally managed to take a bite of his own food, chewing it slowly and watching Keith’s expression closely. Keith, seeming to realize that Lance would be doing exactly that, was clearly doing his best to try and maintain a neutral expression. But, like with everything else, Lance could read the answer in Keith’s unconscious movements and postures.

Lance didn’t press or pry, but he could feel worry setting in the longer it took Keith to respond. Keith was typically very quick with responses. He only really took the time to think out a response when he wanted it to be worded in a very particular way so as to avoid Lance mistaking his meaning. This was usually the case when he was about to say something Lance wouldn’t like.

Keith had finished his first taco and paused, looking in Lance’s direction but not at Lance specifically. “That doesn’t bother you?” He asked, finally, and then added, “Be honest.”

“What is this , exactly?” Lance tried to catch his eye but Keith refused to meet his gaze.

Keith did, however, roll his eyes at Lance. “All of it. Having to put up with me not remembering anything. Having to worry about me getting into fights. Thinking about my concussion. The mood changes. Everything.”

Lance, trying for lighthearted, cracked a weak smile. “Are you planning on getting into more fights? Because I wasn’t worried about that before.”

Lance .” It wasn’t harsh, but it was clearly Keith indicating that he needed Lance to take this seriously.

“It doesn’t… bother me,” Lance finally said, setting his taco back on the tray, appetite suddenly gone. “It’s not ideal, of course. But it’s not like I’m mad at you for it or something.”

He wondered how many times Keith would need him to reassure him that it was okay. How many times he would have to assure Keith that he meant it when he said his love was unwavering— not that he had said it yet, but he knew he would if things continued the way they were going.

“And what happens when you get sick of reminding me of things? When you get sick of having me tell you that I don’t remember? What happens then?” Keith fiddled with his straw in his glass, stirring it idly through the ice.

“First of all, it’s not when , because that’s never going to happen.” Lance corrected firmly. He placed his hand on the table in between the two of them, the motion finally drawing Keith’s gaze. “And second of all, you could get your memories back so you don’t even know that it’ll always be like this.”

A strange look crossed Keith’s face, but Lance couldn’t quite place it. “I guess you’re right,” Keith said hastily before he stopped saying anything at all. They finished their tacos in silence, an uncomfortable feeling settling in the pit of Lance’s stomach.

 

 

Upon discharge, the doctor had insisted that Keith take a script for a therapist. Keith had refused but Shiro had taken it anyways and mentioned it almost relentlessly until Keith had agreed to go. He had been hesitant, at best, but figured going once would get Shiro off of his back. In actuality, he had really enjoyed his first session and had agreed to continue coming back. As he walked into the office for his fourth appointment, he could feel a sort of anticipation building up inside of him.

This therapist, Allura, was a really wonderful woman. She had a way of allowing Keith the time he needed to think of exactly what he wanted to say without making him feel pressured. He also really liked her because she never asked about his accident. Mostly she focused on his relationships and his view on himself and how those were impacted by his memory loss. The doctor had made it sound like she would sit there and validate him— assure him that he was still worthwhile despite his accident. Keith hadn’t wanted that because he had felt frustrated , sure, but he had never felt in need of validation. Keith was beyond thankful that wasn’t the case.

The receptionist nodded to him, a signal to head back to the room. Keith stood from his chair and headed towards the back of the building, pausing at the fridge just outside to grab a bottle of water. The bottle was cold in his hand as he entered the room and he enjoyed it.

“Keith,” Allura looked up from her chair and smiled at him. “Good to see you.”

As he crossed the room and sat down on the sofa across from her, she clicked the laptop in her lap shut and gave her full attention to him. She was a beautiful woman with long blondish silver hair and striking eyes. Keith could acknowledge her looks, but he was never captivated by them. Instead, whenever he looked at her brilliant eyes, another pair of gorgeous eyes popped into his head instead.

“How have you been doing?” She asked after a moment.

Keith popped the top off of his water bottle and took a sip before responding. “Well, thanks. How are you?”

“I was hoping to surprise Lotor this weekend,” She said, sighing as she leaned back in her chair. “But I can’t think of anything good.”

Instantly the words were out of his mouth. “There’s a really good food truck along the river. I was just there with Lance. It’s a really nice spot to go if you’re not looking for something fancy.”

He was going to tell her about Lance, of course he was, but he had planned on diving into the topic differently. He saw the small smile spread across her lips at the mention of his name, but she didn’t comment on it immediately. That was why he liked Allura so much, she got him to talk but she let him do it in his time. It made him feel comfortable and safe around her and that was something he needed. Plus, the fact that she had no preexisting memories of him helped.

“That sounds really nice, actually. You’ll have to write down the location before you go.” She smiled at him, “Thanks for the idea.”

There was a momentary silence where Allura was giving him the opportunity to choose their next topic. He knew that she would want to know about Lance eventually, but she wasn’t going to make him start there. Still, that’s where he wanted to start because it was the most important thing going on in his life. It was really the only thing that had changed in his life since he last saw her, but it would still be most important even if he had a million things going on.

“I’ve been hanging out with Lance,” Keith dove in with no preamble. He watched as Allura raised her eyebrows, looking somewhere between pleased and impressed. “And I’ve… really enjoyed it.”

“Yeah?” She prompted casually.

A lot of things flashed through Keith’s mind but he couldn’t quite make sense of it all. He started to catch her up on the things that had happened between them, trying to shove his feelings aside for the moment. He would work through them with her in a moment, but first he needed her to understand everything that had happened so she had context for his feelings. It felt strange for him to gush to someone like this, but it was cathartic.

“That explains the bruise,” She said after he had finished talking. “I was going to ask about it eventually.”

Keith sighed, letting the emotions come back in so he could start addressing them. He started with the easiest. “I hate that guy.”

“I can tell,” Allura replied with a laugh.

There was something stirring in his stomach and he couldn’t quite place it. “The fact that he did that to Lance—” He wrung his hands together in his lap, “I want to punch him again, harder this time.”

“I can understand being upset that he did something so terrible but this seems to go beyond that.” She replied levelly.

Keith knew what she was trying to get him to say. It was obvious what she was hinting at and he knew she was right. If it had been anyone else he would’ve thrown a wall up and denied it. But this wasn’t someone else, this was Allura and, yeah, it was her job to care, but Keith could tell that she genuinely cared and really wanted to help and she had yet to make him feel bad about a single thing. So he took a breath in and conceded the point she was looking for. “It’s because it was Lance that he hurt. I know you haven’t met Lance yet, but he is literally sunshine.”

It felt strange to say that out loud, Keith realized. Allura was looking at him as if she knew what he was thinking and she probably did. Still, she prompted him further. “Tell me more about him.”

All the feelings Keith had been struggling to sort out were warring for attention. He took a moment to try and settle them before answering her question, hoping to answer some of his own questions in the process. “He’s the kindest person I’ve ever met. I mean, I obviously don’t remember the last two years with him, but I remember everything from before then. He was always there for me, always. He would notice my bad days and show up at my door with some movies and brownies and spend the night making me laugh. He’s the only person I tell everything to because he’s so observant he’ll see it anyways. Plus, I just want to be close to him. He makes me feel—”

Silence filled the room and Keith took another sip from his water bottle, nervously fiddling with the cap between his fingers. He could feel Allura looking at him, seeing him, seeing through him. He could feel the way she was reading his body language and trying to figure out how it reflected the things hidden in his heart. A lump started to form in his throat.

“You know,” He rambled on, needing to get this idea off of his chest. “Lance isn’t the first person I’ve dated. But he’s the only one I remember. I mean—” He shook his head, a few strands of hair falling into his eyes, “I remember them, but just kind of as a general idea, you know? I don’t remember their favorite color or what they liked to do on the weekends. I don’t really know what they were like anymore.”

It was the idea he wanted to express, but just the bones of it. There was more there that he wanted to say, more he wanted to expand upon, but he felt like he was tripping and stumbling over his words. It felt like his brain was thinking one thing but his mouth was saying another and he wasn’t sure how to fix that connection. He gulped down a few mouthfuls of water in an attempt to allow his brain to settle down and his mouth to catch up.

Allura was looking at him with an interested expression. It looked like she had an idea of what he was trying to say, but even she wasn’t sure where he was going with it. He felt oddly pleased at that thought because thus far she had always been able to see where he was headed with his thoughts. It was nice to feel, briefly, like he wasn’t just some open book to be read by anyone.

Keith capped his water bottle and tried to flush his thought out a little more— to build on top of the bones he had already laid. He wanted it to become a living, breathing idea of its own. “I gave so much of my life to each of them, you know? Years to some of them. And here I am, all this time later, and they’re inconsequential. I’ve forgotten them as time has gone on and that doesn’t bother me. Maybe it should, but it doesn’t. But Lance?” His throat constricted at the name. “I have been forced to forget Lance and still, I feel like I know him. It’s like—” He knew what he wanted to say but the words sounded silly in his head. He paused to think for a moment but no better way to express himself crossed his mind so he just went for it. “It’s like he’s ingrained in me. Like I can’t forget him, no matter what happens. Not completely.”

“I—” Allura started to say.

But Keith couldn’t stop. Words were pouring out of him and he felt like he were laying himself bare. He felt like he were taking his heart and cutting it open so she could see what was inside. And honestly, the only thing in his heart was Lance. In every corner of his heart, with every beat, Lance lived. He could pour his heart out for days, months, years and he would still find himself talking about Lance. “And I know I did forget him, to some extent, but that’s not what I mean. Because I feel like I know him, you know? I have two years worth of blank spaces in my mind and yet, when I’m with him, that gap seems to disappear completely. I feel like I can still be myself around him. He doesn’t hold anything against me and for once I don’t feel like a burden. I don’t feel like I’m a chore to him. He just… he just wants to be with me. And I—” He had to say it. He had to and he knew it. Still, his heart was thundering in his chest as the words sprung to his tongue. “I want to be with him.”

Suddenly it felt like the world had shrunk around him. His words hung in the air between them for a long moment and Keith could barely breathe. He felt incredibly vulnerable and exposed so he picked up one of the pillows from the couch and pressed it to his chest, hoping it would make him feel a little steadier. Ever since he had been told that he and Lance had been together, his chest had felt like it was splitting open, like it was splintering and ready to collapse at any second. And now, with the words out in the open for the first time, it felt like the weight that had been crushing him was gone.

Allura looked taken aback— but pleased— at everything he had just said. In their previous sessions he had opened up to her but never to this extent. He wasn’t sure there was anyone on earth besides Lance that he had ever truly opened up to. It figured that Lance would be the topic that got him to react this way with someone else. Something about Lance managed to creep it’s way into every single aspect of Keith’s live but honestly he loved it. It was a comfort to him, to always have a piece of Lance tucked away with him.

“That’s… quite a lot to unpack.” Allura said finally.

Keith let out a short, startled laugh. “You’re telling me.”

Allura seemed to think about everything he had said and the silence allowed Keith to reflect on his own words. Everything he had said was true and he felt it from the very bottom of his heart. He wasn’t sure what Allura would make of it, but he knew what it was implying.

Allura straightened up in her chair before leaning forward and propping her head in her hands as she looked at him with a grin. That was the other reason Keith enjoyed her so much— she talked to him like she was a friend, not like she was someone who was simply paid to let him talk at her for an hour. “So,” She said and he could hear the glee in her voice. “You want to be with him?”

“Yeah,” The word rushed out of him, “I— I do.”

“And you feel like you remember him?” She continued.

“I feel like I don’t need to remember him,” Keith amended. “LIke, yes, I do remember him. I remember everything I’ve ever learned about him. But I also feel like I can be with him despite my memory loss. I feel like he’ll give me the chance to learn him again.”

“That’s…” Allura’s smile had turned soft and she bit the corner of her lip. It was an expression Keith had learned to recognize and it meant that she was feeling incredibly touched by his words. She only ever made this face when he talked about Lance. “Incredibly sweet. You do realize that, don’t you?”

“I do.” He said. He paused and then added, “But I don’t know how to tell him that.”

“I have to imagine he would receive it incredibly well. You said it yourself, he just wants to be with you.” Allura reached across the space between them and grabbed the pillow out of Keith’s lap, leaving him feeling exposed again. “He just wants you , Keith.”

“Why does everyone keep saying that to me?” Keith wondered aloud.

Allura touched his hand gently. “If everyone is saying it, don’t you think there has to be some truth to it?”

Keith wasn’t sure how to respond to that. It made sense, of course, and Lance had expressed similar ideas, but he didn’t want to get his hopes up. Even if Lance didn’t think he was damaged, Keith knew that he was. Lance insisted that he would never give up, never get sick of reminding Keith over and over again of things they’d done, but Keith couldn’t believe that no matter how much he wanted to. Just because he didn’t feel like a burden to Lance didn’t mean that he wasn’t one. All the reasons he had tried to push Lance away in the beginning still seemed true but now there were other feelings warring against them.

This was why he had refused to go home with Lance— he knew that these feelings would come rushing back. His feelings for Lance were a well and he had yet to ever see the bottom. He knew that being around Lance was intoxicating and exhilarating and that once he got close he would never want to leave again. But that’s not what Lance deserved. Lance didn’t deserve to wake up each day wondering what he would have to remind Keith of. He didn’t deserve to deal with his fluctuating moods as he continued to recover. And he absolutely didn’t deserve to give all of his love to someone who might never be whole again.

Keith had cared deeply about Lance from the day they had met and that had only grown over the months they were friends before their first date. He knew Lance well enough by that point to know that Lance would never give up on something he cared about. The way Lance had reacted since he had woken up in the hospital had proven that fact. That was why it was up to Keith to give up or to walk away. It was up to Keith to free Lance from the burden, even though he didn’t want to. He knew he should, but he didn’t think he could .

“Let’s try it this way,” Allura leaned away from him, taking the pillow into her own lap. “Why do you think Lance has done all the things he’s done? Why was he in your hospital room? Why did he drop off those movies for you? Why does he keep coming back?”

That overwhelming feeling stirred in his gut again and he tried to lighten the mood slightly. Suddenly everything felt serious and he could feel a slight panic rising in his chest. “Because he’s crazy?”

Allura laughed smoothly. “You’re really going to make me be cliche?” When Keith looked at her quizzically she smiled and responded, “He’s crazy about you.”

Keith groaned in response, covering his face with his hands and Allura laughed again. “You did not just say that out loud.”

“What are you afraid of, Keith?” Her expression settled into something more somber as she looked at him. He could feel her trying to read him again and it made him feel the need to sit a little straighter on the couch. “What do you think is going to happen?”

“I’m afraid of him leaving.” Keith answered.

Allura was unmoved, immediately contradicting him. “If that were the case, you would be clinging onto him, not pushing him away. What’s the real reason?”

It was weird to feel so seen. “I’m afraid of him wanting to leave. Of not being good enough for him. I’m afraid that he won’t want me anymore.”

Every time he had said that to someone else, they had immediately jumped to assuring him that he was good enough and that he would always be good enough. So, he was surprised with Allura responded differently. “And you feel that way because you’ve lost your memories? You feel lesser now than you did before? Or did you always feel like you weren’t good enough for him?”

The words cut straight to his heart and he leaned back into the cushions of the couch, allowing himself to slump. “It’s not that I never felt good enough, it’s that I never was good enough. I never will be. He’s— he’s out of my league, for sure.”

“But before you were willing to be with him. So what is it standing in your way this time? Because you have no memories of him? Is that it?” Keith hadn’t known Allura for that long but she had never shied away from the tough questions and this was no exception.

“Well, that would be it, except that I do, actually, have some memories of him.” Keith replied quietly.

Allura pressed on. “From before, yes of course, but I mean—”

“No,” Keith cut her off, “No, I mean, I’ve regained some memories. Of him.”

Her eyebrows shot up immediately, “When were you going to tell me this?”

“Now?” Keith offered weakly.

“When did this start? What did you remember?” She prodded earnestly before seeming to consciously calm herself down.

“They started… a few days after I came home, I guess? None of them are whole memories, I don’t think, just flashes. But they’re all of him.” Keith thought back. The first one had been of a room that he had eventually realized was Lance’s. After that…

“Well,” Allura said, “If you want to share them, I would love to hear them.”

He paused for a moment, thinking of where to begin. Finally, he dove in. “Well, I remember having a motorcycle…”

 

 

The light in front of them turned green and Keith twisted the throttle of his bike, lifting his foot off the ground in time to shift into a higher gear. As the bike took off, he could feel a pair of hands around his middle pulling against him, clinging tight enough to ensure they didn’t get thrown off the back of the bike.

Faintly he could hear Lance’s voice. Over the wind he couldn’t make out the words, but it didn’t matter. His tone was unmistakably happy and euphoric. His legs squeezed Keith’s hips as he shifted gears again, taking some of the pressure off of his middle. He could feel the warmth of Lance’s chest pressed against his back, could feel Lance lean with the bike as they sped around a turn, could feel his own heartbeat racing in his chest, equally as happy as Lance’s voice had been.

 

 

Sharing the memories out loud made his chest ache anew, but he pressed on. “I remember staying the night in his dorm…”

 

 

Lance slept with infinitely more blankets than Keith liked on his bed, but he found that he didn’t care. Lance was pressed to his side, an arm thrown across his chest and his head comfortably resting on Keith’s shoulder. Keith felt like he was melting, hotter than he had probably ever been in his life, but the seed of happiness in his chest was blooming, snaking tendrils into every inch of him and making it worth it.

He reached a hand up and threaded it through Lance’s hair, brushing it away from his forehead and planting a kiss there. Lance stirred, blinking sleepily up at him.

“Hey,” He murmured, words shrouded in sleepiness. “You’re supposed to be sleeping.”

“So are you,” Keith whispered in response.

Lance hummed quietly, planting a kiss against the side of Keith’s neck and closing his eyes again. Keith closed his own eyes, tightening his arm around Lance’s shoulders and drifting off to a blissful sleep.

 

 

Allura was looking at him with that expression again, biting the edge of her lip. He pressed on, glancing away from her eyes. “I even remember silly, mundane things.”

 

 

Keith was standing at the kitchen counter chopping peppers as Lance wandered around behind him, clanging pots and pans. Lance was humming to himself as he went, moving things around the kitchen in a way that seemed totally arbitrary to Keith, but he didn’t question it.

“Peppers are done,” He set his knife down, scooping the peppers into his hand and then depositing them into a bowl next to the cutting board.

Lance approached him, humming as he did so. The song was a song Lance loved— he had deemed it their song— and he often hummed it while he cooked. As he moved around Keith to stand by the bowl, he trailed his fingers across the small of Keith’s back, whispering a quiet, “Thanks, babe,” in his ear.

 

 

The room filled with silence and Keith felt like he was coming out of a dream. With each memory came a strong sense of happiness and a feeling of belonging. Allura was blinking back at him, clearly trying to hold back the smile that was threatening to erupt on her lips. Keith shook his head again before running his fingers through his own hair and pushing his bangs out of his face. It felt like there were three Lances in his life— the Lance he remembered from before they were dating, the Lance he was starting to remember in snippets, and the Lance he knew now.

On one hand they were all the same Lance, but on the other hand he felt like they were three distinct people that he was trying to reconcile into one. “So, yeah.” He said quietly. “It’s not a lot but it’s more than I had before.”

“Keith,” Allura breathed his name and Keith could immediately hear his name in Lance’s voice. He could hear the way Lance said his name as if it were the most natural thing in the world. His heart flipped in his chest. “I always had faith that you’d get your memories back, but this is quicker than I expected. Then again, the brain works in mysterious ways.”

“Do you—?” Keith wasn’t sure he wanted to ask the question. He was afraid of the answer. “Do you think I’ll get more memories back?”

She didn’t even hesitate to answer. “I do.” Allura stood up then, tossing a strand of her long hair over her shoulder. She crossed over and sat down next to Keith, resting a hand on his knee. “Memories with strong emotional connections are always the first to come back. And your memories with Lance, well, I think we all know that there’s a lot of emotion there.”

Keith could feel the flush that spread across his cheeks at the words. “How long do you think it’ll take?”

“There’s no way I can answer that.” She sounded a little sad as she replied. “The brain is unpredictable and everyone heals differently. There’s just no way for me or anyone to predict how quickly your memories will return. And I must warn you— even though some of your memories have returned, it doesn’t mean they all will. I am encouraged and I still expect you to have a full recovery, but I can’t guarantee it.”

A knot formed in Keith’s stomach at her words. He had been told that exact thing by the doctor numerous times and he understood, but he still hated it. The most frustrating part of the entire thing was not knowing what to expect. Every day was a new adventure. He never knew what he was going to feel like, what he would or would not remember or how much he could handle when he woke up in the morning.

He glanced up at the clock that was hung on the wall above Allura’s desk and noticed that his session was up. Allura hadn’t gotten much of a chance to say anything to him, but that was okay. He was certain she would address it all eventually but he could wait. What he had needed today was to get it off his chest, not to get it analyzed. Still, as he expressed this to her and stood to leave, one more thing nestled in his chest begged to be expressed.

“Allura?” He turned to look at her only to find that she was already watching him. “One more thing.”

“Of course,” She smiled encouraging at him.

“All those memories I have, the ones that came back, I know what their common element is.” The feeling in his chest unfurled, preparing to be spoken. “It was the feeling. Each of them leave me feeling really, really in love with him.”

Allura let out a soft audible breath at his words. “You’re sure it’s love? I mean, I’m not doubting that you know what love feels like, but—”

“I’m confident.” He said firmly. “I do know what being in love is like but more than that, I know what being in love with Lance is like.” He lowered his eyes. “I was in love with him before we started dating. God , I loved him so much, that’s why I was so heartbroken when he missed our first date.”

“Keith,” Allura, despite being the professional, had a hand covering her mouth as he spoke.

His hands were trembling at his sides but he pressed on. “I remember what it’s like to be in love with him. But more than that I—” He raised his eyes to meet hers head on, “It’s not just memories. I’m in love with him right now. Of course I am. How could I not be? So those memories? The feeling of love in them? I’m positive it’s love because it’s what I felt earlier sitting across from him eating those tacos. It’s what I felt when he ordered those mozzarella sticks for me, knowing i loved them. I was in love with him then, I’m in love with him now and I really think I’ll always be in love with him.”

Even from across the room, Keith could see the tears in Allura’s eyes. “Then you’re not going to give up on him. You can’t. Keith, you can’t.”

“I don’t want to,” He said. “Because everyone keeps telling me that all Lance wants is me, but the truth is that all I want is Lance.”

 

Chapter Text

The car was unreasonably warm as Shiro drove Keith to his old job. Old job? Current job? He wasn’t really sure what to expect. Fall had just begun but Shiro had the unbelievable ability to be cold even in the mildest of temperatures so he had the heat blasting. Adam had teased them on their way out the door that morning, saying that it was Keith’s turn to suffer what he suffered on a daily basis. Both Shiro and Adam taught at one of the universities nearby, but Shiro didn’t have any classes until later in the day so he was able to drive Keith around in the morning.

“Are you nervous?” Shiro asked as he pulled up to one of the glass paneled buildings downtown. The fall sun reflected off the building, making it look almost ethereal.

Keith unbuckled his seatbelt but didn’t get out immediately. “I don’t know, really.” He said after a moment. “I don’t remember anything about this place, so I’m not sure how to feel.”

Shiro smiled encouragingly at him. “I only met Coran once, but he seemed like a really nice guy. You always said good things about him. So I’m sure it’ll be fine.”

There was no reason to assume it would be anything other than fine, honestly. He had received a few texts from Coran during the few weeks he’d been recovering and the man had been nothing but super caring. Still, it was weird to go in, seeking information on the fate of a job he didn’t even remember having. It was something he knew that he needed to do, however, so he took a deep breath and gripped the handle of the door, glancing over his shoulder at Shiro.

“Only one way to find out.” He opened the door to the car and got out, not missing the proud smile on Shiro’s face as he slammed the door shut and gave him a slight wave. Shiro had the uncanny ability to be proud of Keith for even the tiniest of things, but he appreciated it. Especially now. It reminded him that even the small things could be big victories and he needed to remember that as he continued through his recovery.

Shiro backed out of his parking spot and headed back towards home with a quick wave to Keith as he went. Keith watched until he was out of sight, taking the time to collect himself. He walked into the building and the girl behind the front desk smiled and greeted him by name, giving him a floor number and pointing towards the elevators. It was unnerving, the way she greeted him like they had shared multiple conversations— but they probably had. Keith sighed and took off towards the elevators, feeling, for the millionth time, like he didn’t fit in his own life anymore.

The elevator doors opened the moment he pressed the button and he walked in, jamming his finger into the button for his desired floor.  The inside of the elevator was all mirrored so he spent the short ride staring at himself and trying to school his expression into something neutral or confident. In the end he settled on just looking like he wasn’t completely out of his element and lost. It was the best he could hope for. The elevator stopped and the doors slid open, revealing an open floor with desks arranged in neat rows. There was art hung on the wall— different logos, he realized as he looked closer— and the entire place felt modern and cool. He liked it immediately.

“Keith, my boy!” A man came darting across the room. Keith barely had time to register his orange hair and matching mustache before he was pulled into a crushing hug. “So good to see you! Look at you,” The man loosened his grip and held Keith at an arm’s length to get a better view of him, “You hardly look any worse for wear!”

An awkward laughed filled him but he fought against it, clearing his throat instead. “Ah, yeah. Just this,” he pointed to the scar that was forming on his right cheek, “And in here,” he knocked jokingly on his head.

The man— he had to assume it was Coran— laughed uproariously at his joke and clasped him on the shoulder. Shiro had been right, he was incredibly friendly and outgoing. He was chattering away about how the company had been as he steered Keith through the sea of desks before stopping at one in particular.

“Ah,” Coran said, giving his shoulder a squeeze. “Here we are.”

Keith looked down at the desk to see that it was his, indicated by a framed picture of him and Lance in the corner. The rest of the desk was relative bare, save for office supplies which seemed very like him.. A smile crossed his lips as he picked up the picture and looked at it. In the picture the two of them were sitting in a giant pile of leaves, looking at each other and smiling. Well, Lance was outright laughing, but his eyes were crinkled in the corner in what looked like pure happiness as he gazed at Keith. Keith, for his part, was smiling a small smile back at Lance but it was fond. Just looking at the picture made Keith feel a warmth flood his chest.

He placed the picture back down and looked at the rest of his stuff. A sticky note was taped to the corner of his computer screen and he recognized Lance’s handwriting instantly. In college, Lance had doodled endlessly on Keith’s notes as well as lent him study materials, so Keith was very familiar with his script. He bent over to read the note, a flush blooming across his cheeks as he did so.

‘Work hard and hurry home to me. I miss you. I love you.’

Coran had been watching silently as Keith scanned his things, but that seemed to draw a response out of him. “How is Lance doing?”

“Well,” Keith straightened up and met Coran’s gaze. Clearly Coran knew who Lance was, but it was still weird for him to talk about it because he couldn’t remember them ever meeting. “He’s, uh, he’s been really great through all of this. He’s helped me a lot with my recovery.”

“I know,” Coran said and Keith’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. Coran fitted him with a confused look in response. “Who did you think was updating me on your condition?”

“Oh,” Keith said dumbly, “I didn’t know anyone was updating you on it.”

“Of course, dear boy!” His gaze softened along with his voice. “I know you don’t remember a lot, but we were close and Lance knows I’m concerned about you.”

“That’s very kind of you,” Keith said, offering Coran a smile. He wasn’t sure what else to say but Coran was looking at him in a way that suggested he expected more. So, Keith tried to address what he thought Coran was looking for. “And Lance has really put up with a lot. He’s gone out of his way to make everything as easy as he can on me.”

“That sounds like Lance,” Coran agreed.

“I really am not sure how to express how much I appreciate him.” Keith finished off, feeling a little awkward still.

Coran leaned back against Keith’s desk, one hand finding and twirling the ends of his mustache. “Just make sure you tell him that, okay? He’ll never ask for a thank you, but he deserves one.”

That was perhaps the most accurate thing Keith had ever heard anyone say. Lance was the kindest person he knew and he would never expect or seek a thank you for doing the right thing. Still, as Coran had said, he deserved a thank you. He deserved more than that. He deserved the world. The thought made a knot form in Keith’s stomach. He’d been feeling better about things with Lance, but he still felt inferior and unworthy of such a sweet guy.

“I will.”

There was a moment of silence before Coran clapped his hands together. “Right!” He exclaimed, startling Keith. “You didn’t come here to get all sentimental.” Keith let out a weak laugh at that. “You came here to talk about your job! I only have one thing to say on that matter.”

“And that is?” Keith prompted when Coran didn’t immediately finish his thought.

“It’ll be here waiting for you when you’re ready to come back, no matter how long it takes.”

There was an overwhelming feeling of gratitude that swirled in Keith’s stomach at the words. He had tried to think ahead to the future but it had been just as much of a question as his past. For the past few weeks the only thing he had known was the present and it was getting hard to live his life like that. The relief of knowing his future had a shape was honestly tangible.

“Thank you so much,” Keith could hear the relief in his own voice. “I really appreciate that. I—”

Coran waved a hand gently in the air between them, “No thanks necessary, my boy. This is a family,” he gestured to the floor as a whole and a few people looked up and smiled at him as Coran did so. “And the family wouldn’t be complete without you in it. We’re more than happy to wait.”

There were only 3 people Keith hugged consistently— and it should be noted that he only initiated those hugs about forty percent of the time— and Coran was certainly not one of them. They were Lance, Shiro and Adam in that order and he liked to keep it that way. But still, he gave out the occasional hug here or there and this seemed like one of the times for an occasional hug. Without much thought he stepped forward and embraced Coran, the other man returning the hug in kind, squeezing him in a way that was both painful and comforting and Keith laughed into it.

They separated a moment later and Coran smiled encouragingly at him again. “Keep me updated on how you’re doing, okay? And say hi to Lance for me.”

“I will do both of those things.” Keith promised.

With another brief pat on the shoulder, Coran left Keith to his own devices. He didn’t have any other reason to stay at the office so he started to leave but paused. He turned back to his desk, looking at the picture of him and Lance again. That uneasiness settled in his stomach once more at the look on Lance’s face. He loved it, loved how happy Lance looked. He wanted to give Lance that kind of happiness again but he wasn’t sure he’d be able to. He brushed his fingers against the glass covering the picture once before turning and heading out of the office.

He took the elevator down and waved to the girl at the front desk on his way out. She smiled and waved back as she answered the phone. He pushed through the front doors and out into the cool fall air, relishing in the way it ruffled his hair and cleared his head. He tried to force away the unsettled feeling and focus on the fact that a piece of his future had just become clear and it was a large stressor off of his plate.

Out of instinct or habit, Keith wasn’t sure, he reached for his phone and dialed Lance’s number.

The phone only rang once before Lance picked it up. “Hey!”

“Hey,” Keith replied as he walked down the sidewalk and towards the main road. Shiro had offered to come back and pick him up but he wasn’t ready to go home yet. He wanted to enjoy the fall air a little more. “Guess what.”

“Hm,” Lance hummed as he pretended to think. “You… finally adopted that puppy I’ve been begging you for since, like, the day we met?”

“No,” Keith laughed, the sound coming much easier to him now than it had with Coran. “You can barely keep yourself alive, I’m not trusting you with a puppy.”
    “I resent that. I am still alive and kicking despite you not being around lately,” Lance said it as airily as he could. Keith could hear the way he was trying to make light of the situation.

“Yeah?” Keith kept his own tone light to show Lance that he didn’t mind the teasing. It helped to be teased about it. It made the whole thing feel less significant than it was, which he just needed sometimes. “Nobody has been checking in on you? Not Pidge or Hunk?”

“You know what? I’m going to hang up on you.”

Keith laughed again. “No, no, don’t do that. I called for a reason. Two reasons, actually.”

Lance’s voice filled his ear immediately and he could hear the smile in it. “Was one of them to bully me?”

“Oh, you’re right. Three reasons.” Another breeze blew by, lifting Keith’s hood off his back and brushing his hair away from his shoulders. He turned the corner, content to just walk a few laps around the block to enjoy the outdoors.

In the background of Lance’s side of the conversation, Keith could hear some clanging. It sounded like he was in the kitchen. “You’ve got three seconds to tell me what you want, Kogane, or I’m hanging up on you.”

“Someone is sensitive today.”

“One—” Lance’s voice was a playful warning on the other end.

Keith shoved his free hand into his pocket. “Honestly, you treat me like this when I call you just to chat?”

“Two—”

“Okay,” Keith let out an exaggerated sigh into the receiver and was rewarded with a laugh from Lance. “I just left my meeting with Coran.”

“Oh yeah? How’d it go?” Something clattered in the background and Lance let out a low curse under his breath.

Keith stopped at the corner, waiting for the crosswalk to turn so he could continue along. “Really well. He said my job would be waiting for me no matter how long it took me to be ready to come back.”

“That’s great!” Lance replied instantly. “I’m not surprised though, he’s really a great guy.”

“Yeah, so I’ve gathered.”

A beat of silence passed before Lance let out another low curse. “Not to rush you off because you know I love talking to you, but I’m about to be late to work.”

“Oh, you definitely should go then.” Keith replied.

Before he had a chance to say the goodbye that was poised on his tongue, Lance said, “Not until you tell me what the other thing is!”

Keith faltered as he finally got the cross signal and headed to the other side of the street. He had to dodge a few other people who were also crossing but he didn’t mind. He liked being out in society on his own again instead of holding himself up in Adam’s room and avoiding the world. “Well, I was gonna see if you wanted to do something later but you have to work so that’s obviously a no.”

“It is not,” Lance retorted. He sounded like he had put Keith on speaker phone. “You’ll just have to come by the restaurant. But I’d love that if you’re up for it.”

“Really?”

“Keith just assume that I always want you around, okay?” He could hear the phone being picked up and then suddenly Lance’s voice was louder, confirming that he had, indeed, just been on speaker phone. “You never have to ask if I want to hang out, my answer is always yes.”

The breeze was no match for the warmth that flooded Keith’s cheeks at those words. “Okay,” He said quietly and he knew Lance could hear the grin in his voice. “I’ll come by the restaurant later, then. I’ll text you when I’m on my way?”

“Sounds perfect, I can’t wait. Everyone will be thrilled to see you again, especially Kolivan.” Lance laughed. “Oh god, he’s practically gonna tackle you when you come in the door. Be warned.”

“Wear a helmet, got it.” Lance laughed on the other end and Keith paused his walking just to listen to it. “Hey what do I own that matches a helmet? I still want to look good, you know?”

“You’re an idiot,” Lance’s voice was so fond that Keith could barely handle it. “I’ll see you in a few hours.”

“In a few hours,” Keith confirmed. “Bye.”

Lance murmured a goodbye, still laughing to himself and then the phone line went dead. Keith stared at his phone for a moment before sending a quick text to Shiro requesting a pickup in ten minutes and then shoving it into his pocket and finishing his lap around the block, a smile on his face the whole time.

 

 

Lance had come into work practically bouncing from one foot to the next with excitement, biting back a large grin as he hummed quietly to himself while cooking. Hunk was stationed on the stove next to him, glancing sideways at him on occasion and trying to hold back a large smile of his own. It wasn’t hard to tell that Hunk knew exactly what Lance’s mood was about— they were best friends after all and could reach each other with the utmost ease. Still, Hunk held his tongue and waited for Lance to say it before making any comments.

Lance held out as long as he could, he really did. But as long as he could just wasn’t very long. He’d only been at work for fifteen minutes before turning to Hunk and exclaiming, “Keith is coming by the restaurant tonight! And it was his idea!”

Like the good friend he was, Hunk beamed back at Lance, “I knew it!” He laughed, nudging Lance gently with his shoulder. “I’m so happy to hear that. Gosh, it feels like it wasn’t that long ago that you were this excited telling me about your first few dates with him.”

The memories were fond, but Lance tried not to dwell on them often. Still, he couldn’t stop the smile that controlled his lips at Hunk’s words. “It has that same kind of thrill now, honestly.” He replied after a moment. “Even though it’s not the first time—”

“Or the second, or third, or forth…” Hunk added in with a laugh.

Lance swatted playfully at him with his spatula before flipping the burger on the stove. “Even though it’s not the first time,” he repeated with emphasis, “It still kind of feels that way. I have butterflies, Hunk! Butterflies!”

The door to the kitchen opens and one of the waitresses comes back to pick up her order. Hunk and Lance both fall quiet as she does so. The entire restaurant knew about Keith— hell, the entire world probably knew how much Lance loved Keith— but still he didn’t necessarily enjoy divulging his feelings to everyone. Hunk was an exception, and he’d tell Hunk absolutely anything. At any time of day. Hunk had no escape from Lance and his feelings, not that he wanted one. But he didn’t like the idea of other ears listening to him gush about being nervous to see his boyfriend of two years.

Once she was gone and it was back to just the two of them in their corner of the kitchen, Lance resumed his train of thought. “I mean, it feels so normal for him to be coming here and that kind of… terrifies me?”

“Of course it does,” Hunk replied reasonably, stepping off to the side to begin chopping some peppers. “You haven’t had anything feel normal for a while and the idea should scare you. But,” Hunk paused in his chopping and glanced up at Lance. “I like seeing you like this. You seem happy again.”

There was a moment of silence where Lance let the fondness wash over him. His life had been turned upside down the day of that accident and he had never been more terrified, but he had persevered and found his way back to Keith. Or maybe Keith had found his way back to Lance. Either way, they were together again and Lance was once again able to talk to Hunk about everything and god had he missed his life feeling like this.

“I am,” He could hear the happiness in his own voice and his heart swelled with it. He was so grateful for everything he had and he swore to never take it for granted ever again.

“You know,” Hunk said with a mischievous glint in his eyes. Lance looked away and resumed cooking the food on the grill, knowing that expression all too well. “It’s kind of like watching you two fall in love all over again.”

Immediately Lance could feel his cheeks flush with heat but he wasn’t sure why. He did love Keith, more than anything else in the world, and he’d never made a secret of it. Still, he didn’t want to presume how Keith was feeling, especially after everything he’d gone through. And with everything feeling new and fresh all over again, it felt like a first confession, The butterflies erupted in his stomach and he could feel them taking flight through his veins, traveling all the way to the tips of his fingers and toes.

“Don’t just say shit like that!” He cried, ducking his head and pulling the collar of his apron up simultaneously to try and cover his flush. “Plus, Keith’s been through a lot, there’s no way of knowing how he feels!”

“Lance, I love you man, but you’re an idiot.” Hunk said with a fond roll of his eyes.

Before Lance had a chance to retort, he noticed Kolivan standing in the entrance of the kitchen, watching the two of them with his eyebrows raised. “Did someone mention Keith?”

“Oh, yeah, he’s stopping by later. I don’t know how long he’s going to stay though.” Lance replied, smiling at the way Kolivan’s eyes immediately lit up.

He practically clapped his hands together in excitement as he entered the room fully, crossing to stand just between Lance and Hunk. “He is? That’s excellent news! When is he coming?”

Hunk was hiding a grin over Kolivan’s shoulder but Lance didn’t mind. He liked that Kolivan liked Keith, welcomed Keith into the family that was their staff. He liked that Kolivan followed Keith’s condition and missed him when he wasn’t around enough. Because Kolivan was more than a boss to Lance, he was a friend, a member of his chosen family. And Keith was everything to Lance— more than everything, if that were possible— so it meant the world to him to have Keith so warmly accepted and welcomed.

“He should be here pretty soon, actually.” Lance glanced at the clock that hung over the door to the main dining area of the restaurant.

“Does he—?” Kolivan didn’t have to finish his sentence for Lance to know what it was going to be. ‘ Does he remember me? ’.

“I don’t— I don’t think so.” It was hard for Lance to say but it was the truth.

Instead of looking disappointed like Lance expected, Kolivan smiled. “Ah, a second chance to make a first impression. This time, I swear I won’t embarrass you.”

 

 

All of Lance’s closest friends had met Keith and his parents and siblings had video chatted with him on more than one occasion. It was finally time for Lance to introduce Keith to the next set of important people in his life— his second family, his work family. He’d been raving about Keith around them for so long and constantly gushing about how happy he was. It was only right that they met him. Especially since Lance spent so much of his time at work and Keith had offered on multiple occasions to come and pick him up from work.

It wasn’t that Lance hadn’t wanted them to meet— the exact opposite, really— but that he’d wanted their meeting to be official. He wanted to introduce Keith to everyone properly, not have him stroll in randomly one afternoon with no warning or explanation.

“So,” Kolivan was leaning over the bar in the restaurant, a grin on his face. “You’re the boy Lance won’t stop talking about.”

Hunk erupted into laughter next to Lance who was turning a million shades of red. Keith, for his part, was grinning slyly as he glanced at Lance, raising his eyebrows suggestively.

“Can’t stop talking about me, huh?” Keith teased, looking back at Kolivan. “That sounds like Lance.”

“Oh yes,” There was a clear air of teasing on Kolivan’s voice, but it didn’t stop it from being mortifying anyways. “He’s constantly going on about you and how amazing you are.”

“Well, I am pretty amazing,” Keith was clearly eating it up, purposely not looking at Lance and pretending he was engrossed in a serious conversation. “And very handsome, too.”

“Oh, I’ve heard lots about how handsome you are,” To his credit, Kolivan was at least able to keep a serious expression, even if it was obviously all a joke. “I think he gave you a 12.”

“A 12?”

“On a 10 point scale.”

“So what you’re saying is that I’m 120% handsome?” By this point, Keith was leaning on the counter, too and the two of them looked as if they were conspiring. Which, essentially, they were.

“At least,” Kolivan looked Keith over before smiling, “Maybe more.”

“I hate you both. So much.” Lance dropped his face into his hands, getting no relief when Hunk rubbed an encouraging hand along his spine.

With a satisfied smile, Kolivan extended a hand to Keith, “I’m Kolivan, Lance’s boss.”

“I’m Keith,” He replied, still smiling smugly and shaking Kolivan’s hand, “Lance’s handsome boyfriend. It’s very nice to meet you.”

“I really have heard great things about you,” Kolivan continued as if he hadn’t just managed to shoot Lance down in one sentence. “And I have been looking forward to meeting you.”

This time it was Keith’s turn to flush a few shades of red. He stumbled over his words as he replied, “Ah that’s very kind of you. I’ve been looking forward to meeting you as well. I know Lance loves working for you.”

“He’s a good guy, that one.” Kolivan smiled at Lance who was still hunched forward at one of the tables in the dining room. “Someone you need to try your hardest to hold on to.”

Most of the wait staff had already met Keith because Kolivan had been on the phone when he’d arrived. They’d said their hellos and their goodbyes and gone for the day. Lance was honestly thankful for that because Kolivan seemed to be making a sport of saying embarrassing things. Still, seeing the smile that lit up Keith’s face and watching his eyes search the room until they landed on Lance was worth it.

“Yeah,” Keith said as he held Lance’s gaze, “He definitely is that.”

Straightening up, Kolivan stepped around the bar and clapped Keith on the shoulder. “I think we’re going to get along very well.”

“Are you going to keep trying to embarass Lance?” Keith asked.

“Trying?” Kolivan sounded affronted, “I am succeeding at embarrassing him. And yes, I’m absolutely going to continue to do so.”

With an uproarious laugh, one that Lance barely ever got to hear, Keith clapped Kolivan on the shoulder back. “I am certain we are going to get along then.”

 

 

“You know,” Lance smiled fondly at Kolivan who was watching his expression closely. For all his jokes and his humor, Kolivan was a really good-hearted, solid person and he was constantly thinking of Lance’s best interest. “It wasn’t so bad. Feel free to embarrass me again.”

“Be careful giving me that freedom,” Kolivan warned, smiling at Lance before turning back towards the door. “You never know how far I’ll run with it.”

“You don’t scare me!” Lance called playfully after his retreating back. Once Kolivan was gone, he turned to Hunk with feigned concern. “Do you think I have to warn him not to tackle Keith?”

The way Hunk was looking at Lance made him pause in the midst of cooking. It wasn’t a bad look. It was a good look, actually. A look that was soft and fond and made Lance realize exactly where this moment was leading him. It made him realize that he was happy and giddy and that he’d gotten back everything he felt like he’d lost. He smiled back at Hunk, his best friend, the one person who had picked him up— literally, in some cases— more times than Lance could count.

“Have I ever thanked you for everything you’ve done for me?” He asked after a moment.

“You don’t need to thank me for being your best friend, Lance.” Hunk looked like he had never been happier, like watching his best friend live his dreams was more than he could ever want in life. “But yes, you have. A whole bunch of times.”

With a smile, Lance turned back to the stove and resumed cooking. They worked in silence for a few minutes, Hunk chopping things up and tossing them onto the grill and Lance cooking and plating. The two of them had always worked well as a team and they found it fun to work together. Lance was absorbed in his thoughts of Keith and the trials and tribulations they’d gone through, working mostly on auto pilot. Once he caught himself with his hand lagging, getting too close to the surface of the stove for comfort. He yanked his hand away, preventing another burn to his hand and glanced at Hunk who was already looking at him.

“You really are an idiot sometimes,” He said in a way that had no bite. Hunk would never insult anyone genuinely, Lance knew. He was such a kind and caring person that he didn’t even jokingly say things that could be hurtful unless he knew that person very well and was absolutely certain that they would understand he was teasing.

“You said that earlier,” Lance remarked, sneering playfully.

“I said it earlier because you can’t see what’s right in front of your face. I’m saying it now because you really almost burned your same hand a second time.” With a shake of his head, Hunk resumed chopping but Lance could feel him keeping tabs on Lance’s actions as he did so.

Lance rolled his eyes before dishing up another dinner and placing it on the table behind him for the server to come grab. He could hear the other kitchen members chatting amongst themselves as they worked in their respective parts of the kitchen, but he couldn’t quite make out what any of them were saying, If he listened really closely, he’d likely be able to piece together enough information to understand what they were going on about, but he wasn’t that interested. Instead, he was interested in Hunk’s words.

“Can’t see what’s right in front of me?”

To that, Hunk put down his knife and turned to face Lance fully. “C’mon, Lance, seriously? Keith is still as in love with you as he’s ever been. I mean, everything you’ve told me has made it completely obvious.”

Struck and overwhelmed by Hunk’s words, Lance sucked in a sharp breath. “I’m just saying, he has a lot going on and a lot to figure out. I’m sure he hasn’t spared much thought to his feelings for the guy from his forgotten past.”

“You are his future, Lance. Not his past.”

“Just—” Lance turned away quickly, feeling the blush burn all the way to the tips of his ears. He wanted more than anything for Hunk to be right but he wasn’t willing to let himself think like that yet, Things were just starting to level out and he wasn’t about to risk ruining it. He’d been lucky enough to get a second chance and he was absolutely not about to mess it up by being presumptuous or moving too fast. “Just finish chopping!”

Hunk laughed next to him, picking his knife back up.

 

 

“This is ridiculous.” Shiro was sitting in the driver’s seat, staring at Keith who had a petrified hand frozen on the door handle. “You’ve done this a million times. You don’t need to be nervous.”

Keith flexed his hand on the handle a few times. He was sure that Shiro was absolutely correct. Plus, things with Lance had been going so well that he had no trouble believing that Lance would, indeed, be thrilled to see him. Still, that seed of worry was growing slowly in the back of his mind, sprouting until it filled him completely with shreds of doubt. Not doubt that Lance wanted him and certainly not doubt that he wanted Lance, but doubt about whether or not this was the right thing to be doing.

“Anyways,” Shiro gave him a slight shove towards the door. “Will you bring Adam and I home the usual? Just ask Lance for that and he’ll know what we want.”

Before he had a chance to hesitate any more, Keith pushed open the door and climbed out, confirming with Shiro that he would bring home their food. Shiro pulled away quickly, almost as if he wanted to prevent Keith from losing his nerve and getting back in the car. Keith watched as he pulled out of the parking lot and headed down the street, his back to the restaurant. Logically he knew this wasn’t a big deal, but that didn’t stop his emotions from swirling around wildly in the pit of his stomach.

“Keith?” He heard the door open a moment before he heard his name being spoken.

Keith spun on his heel to look at the person addressing him, surprised to find that he vaguely recognized him. “Kolivan?”

“Aren’t you going to come in?” Kolivan stepped outside fully, holding the door open so Keith could enter. With nothing left to do and no way out, Keith stepped through the door with a soft thanks and waited just inside for Kolivan to follow. “How have you been?”

“Well,” Keith shuffled a little to the side, slipping his hands in his pockets for lack of something better to do. “I’ve been worse.”

There was something gentle in the way Kolivan was looking at him that made Keith feel like he was about to crack, “You’ve been better, too.”

It was the first time someone had acknowledged all that had happened to him in a way that didn’t make him feel like a burden. Kolivan wasn’t putting any expectations on him, wasn’t asking for an explanation, he was simply acknowledging all that had happened to Keith in the kindest way he knew how.  Suddenly Keith was cracking, feeling for the first time like it was okay to fall apart. Not that anyone else had made him feel like he couldn’t, but he hadn’t wanted to fall apart around anyone else. He wanted to be strong for them so that they could be weak.

“Yeah,” He said quietly, his gaze directed at the ground. “I’ve been better before.” Kolivan was nodding at him, encouraging him to continue. “It’s just— I don’t know how to be myself anymore.”

“What makes you think you can be anyone else?” Kolivan adjusted so he was standing in front of Keith and, even though Keith wasn’t looking up at him, he could feel Kolivan’s strong gaze. “Keith, I’ve known you long enough now to say with absolute confidence that no matter what happens, you’ll always be the same person. In here,” he tapped a gentle finger over Keith’s heart, “Things don’t change.”

He had spent weeks since his accident wishing he remembered everything from those two years and still the ache of that missing knowledge overwhelmed him in a rush. He recognized Kolivan to an extent, but that was about it. He didn’t remember anything about him— it was more of just a feeling of familiarity. But the way Kolivan talked about him made him realize, yet again, that he’d had a life for those two years and suddenly it had been ripped from his mind.

“I wish it felt that way. I really do. But instead I’m stuck wishing I remembered more. Or remembered anything at all, really. I feel like—” He paused, unsure of whether or not he should  say his next thought.

Allura had explained this to him once. She said that sometimes a situation will bring forward a thought and he’ll feel the need to acknowledge it, even if it’s out of place or with someone he would normally never talk to. She said those are the powerful thoughts, the ones that really matter to him and if it ever happens, he should say whatever it is out loud. And then later he was supposed to think about it and figure out why that thought had gripped him. This time, however, he didn’t need to put any extra thought into it. He knew exactly where this was coming from and why he was saying it.

“I feel like I’m letting a lot of people in my life down. I feel like they deserve better. You, Shiro, Adam, Lance, everyone. I feel like everyone deserves better.” The words rushed out of him, making him feel deflated.

And suddenly the weight was off his chest, making him feel like he could collapse in on himself. For the last few weeks, Lance and sheer denial had been holding Keith together and getting him through each day. And suddenly the denial was gone. It was a relief, even if it left him feeling empty.

“Well, technically speaking,” Kolivan stepped back just enough for Keith to be able to look up into his face. His expression was gentle and open, “I can’t actually speak for anyone other than myself. But I can say that you aren’t letting me down. And I’m willing to bet you aren’t letting anyone else down either.”

The restaurant was full of people who were eating happily and chatting amongst themselves. Keith took a minute to look around at everyone and recognize the way their lives were moving on normally, as if nothing were out of place. To them, nothing was out of place. “It feels that way.”

“Well, the only way to prove that isn’t the case is to ask. So next time you feel like you’re letting, say, Lance down, just ask him. I think you’ll be surprised by his response.” Kolivan sidestepped so he could throw an arm around Keith’s shoulders and pull him into a half hug. “Don’t be so hard on yourself. Nobody else is being that hard on you.”

Keith returned the half hug, feeling better than he had been earlier. “Thank you.”

“It’s nothing but the truth. Remember that.”

With a smile, Kolivan gestured to one of the waiters who ducked into the back. A moment later, Lance appeared through the door on the back wall.

“Hey ba—” He paused, clearing his throat and offering a sheepish smile. “Keith. Hey, Keith.”

With a chuckle under his breath and a sharp look from Lance, Kolivan let go of Keith and stepped away. “Well, I think you’re busy for the rest of the evening. Let me know if you need anything. And Keith?” Kolivan turned to meet his eyes for a brief moment before going, “It’s really good to see you again. We’ve missed you around here.”

He disappeared before Keith got a chance to thank him again but he left Keith with a soft smile as Lance approached. “Are you sure it’s okay that I’m here?”

“Absolutely! Come on back, Hunk is looking forward to seeing you!” Lance tugged gently on his arm, holding his wrist loosely as he guided him towards the back.

It was strange for Keith, who definitely did not work there, to step into the back with the rest of the staff. But everyone smiled at him as he entered and was led to a small table in the corner by the stove. A few people even greeted him by name.

“Keith! It’s nice to see you out and about!” Hunk waved to him from his spot near the stove. “And in some real clothes,” He joked.

“You didn’t like my hospital gown?” He feigned offense, “I was the height of fashion in that.”

That surprised a laugh out of Hunk, “Same old Keith,” He murmured.

Lance was glancing between the two of them with an expression that could only be described as awe. It looked like he’d never seen something he liked as much as this moment and that thought made Keith’s heart triple in size.

Still, he couldn’t resist taking a jab at Lance. “Don’t you have a job to do?”

“Listen here, Kogane,” Lance was pulling an apron over his head and then tying it in the back. He looked silly but in a way that was completely endearing. “If you’re gonna be like that, I’m not going to give you the food I made you.”

“You made me food?”

In lieu of an answer, Lance turned around and plucked a plate of delicious looking food off the counter, holding it out for Keith. It appeared to be chicken and vegetables, arranged beautifully on a simple pale yellow plate. Lance handed the plate over before turning around and grabbing some silverware and offering that to Keith, as well. As if on cue, he could feel his stomach rumbling. He hadn’t been eating particularly well— though it had been getting better as time passed— since his accident and he knew it has been worrying Shiro and Adam. It figures that they’d express this to Lance.

“Are you—” He began to double check but Lance cut him off immediately.

“Just eat. It’s your favorite.”

Normally Keith hated when people told him things about himself. But this was okay because chicken and veggies had been his favorite dish his entire life and he even remembered telling Lance about it one night in the library when they were both delusional from studying. Somehow they had gone from preparing for finals to discussing their favorite late night snack, which eventually turned into favorite dinner. It could’ve been excused if Lance were in any sort of culinary class at the time, but he hadn’t been, he was just taking his gen eds.

Coran’s words suddenly flashed through Keith’s mind as he lifted the fork and knife and began cutting into the food. He glanced up at Lance, sincerely and properly saying, “Thank you.”

Lance looked over at him from his place by the counter and suddenly Keith felt like he’d done this a million times before. He had, he knew, but this was the first time he could feel it. The first time he felt that level of comfort, familiarity and just… belonging. He smiled as he took a bite of his chicken, relishing in how great it tasted.

 

 

Lance and Hunk were both doubled over in laughter while Keith sat smugly in his chair, legs drawn up to his chest and arms wrapped around them. He was smiling proudly at the joke he’d made that had rendered the other two temporarily incapable of continuing with their work. In front of him was an empty plate that had once held his favorite meal, made specially for him by the man he loved.

A moment passed where Keith just watched the two of them laughing, feeling overwhelmed with happiness. He knew that this moment was perfect— the kind of moment he would want to relive when having a bad day. It was the kind of moment that left a mark on his soul, making it forever a part of who he was.

As if understanding exactly how he was feeling, Lance straightened up and crossed the room. Suddenly there was a hand on the back of Keith’s chair and another hand on the table next to him. Lance was looming over him, smile still on his lips. Keith was seized by the urge to feel that smile, to taste it against his lips. He reached up, gentle brushing his fingers across Lance’s cheek until they were tangled in the hair at the base of his neck, drawing him down, down, down…

 

 

Keith snapped back to reality, his cheeks flaming. He attempted to duck his head and eat his plate of food quietly, but Hunk caught his eye with a big grin. Clearing his throat, Keith took a bite and pretended to be casual, despite feeling anything but.

“This is delicious,” He said after he swallowed. “Oh! That reminds me, Shiro asked me to bring home the usual for him and Adam? He said you’d know what that means.”

“Can do!” Lance said, immediately wandering over to the fridge and pulling out some ingredients.

Hunk, too, seemed to understand what was happening and began pulling out different bowls and pans and setting them out for Lance to use. They worked quickly, talking to each other and making sure to include Keith when he could talk. He mostly sat and ate his food, enjoying how good it tasted and just relishing in the company. He hadn’t been around too many people lately and the hustle of the fast paced kitchen was a really nice change for him.

After a little while, Kolivan popped into the back, smiling when his eyes landed on Keith, “It’s so nice to see you at that table again.”

“I agree.” Lance replied with a smile that could take Keith’s breath away any time.

“Lance,” Kolivan turned his attention back to the boy suddenly, “You are welcome to leave whenever you want,”

“We’re cooking for Shiro and Adam, but I might take off after that if you’re sure you’re fine.” He replied.

“You’ve put in more than enough hours lately, I promise we can manage.” Kolivan didn’t look at Keith on his way out, but Keith understood all the same.

Keith watched the exchange silently, but he got the clear impression that it was his fault Lance had been working so much. It didn’t surprise him if he were being honest with himself. Lance was the kind of person who always needed to stay busy and that was especially true when he had something he was trying to cope with. He thought again to the time Lance had arrived with his hand bandaged and wondered if that, too, had been indirectly his fault. The weariness from before bubbled up again, settling into the pit of his stomach and fighting with the delicious meal he’d just eaten.

“Hey,” Lance was suddenly standing above him, nudging his leg gently with his knee. “I know that face. Don’t think like that, okay? I just had a lot of free time to fill.”

Keith glanced away, “Can you stop reading my mind?”

Gently, Lance reached a hand out and threaded it through his hair. Keith tried his best not to lean into the touch, not to close his eyes in contentment or let out a soft sigh. “I absolutely will not stop doing that.” Lance laughed as his thumb traced a pattern against the skin of his cheek. “Why would I ever give up my best advantage?”

“It’s not fair,” Keith murmured quietly.

“Oh, it is. I think you’d find that you can read my mind if you really tried.” Lance gently removed his hand, looking like he missed the contact as much as Keith did. “But the food will be done any minute. Do you need a ride home?”

Keith glanced at the clock over the door, surprised to find that a couple of hours had already passed. They’d been so lost in work and idle conversation that he hadn’t even noticed. “That’d be great.”

“Okay, once I box up the food, we can go.”

“How much do I owe you for it?” Keith asked, straightening up in his chair slightly.

Lance chuckled to himself as he began to dish the food into styrofoam carry out boxes. “Nothing. Family doesn’t pay for food from here.”

“What? But Kolivan must want people to pay for his food.”

This time it was Hunk who laughed. “You’d offend Kolivan if you tried to pay, trust me. Family gets food free and all three of you definitely count as family to us.”

Touched, Keith smiled slightly and waited for Lance to finish boxing up the food. Once he was done, he bid a farewell to Hunk and the other staff who was waving to him. He stopped on the way out the door specifically to thank Kolivan one more time and found that he couldn’t leave without a hug. He had committed Kolivan’s words to heart and swore to himself that he was going to live up to them. After that, he followed Lance to the door.

Lance burst into laughter as they walked out of the restaurant, throwing his arms out to the side. Rain was pouring down on them. Keith pulled the plastic bag full of Adam and Shiro’s dinner close to his body and tied the top shut, hoping to keep as much rain out as possible. His hair was already sticking to his forehead and neck, but he hardly noticed. Lance turned to face him then, running a hand through his own hair and slicking it back. Keith’s mouth instantly went dry at the look.

“Can you believe this rain?” Lance had to yell to be heard over the sound of the drops pounding against the pavement. His grin was so wide it practically split his face open.

Keith had to will his breath not to be stolen from him. He had always been attracted to Lance, even before they started dating, when they were just friends. From the moment he had run into Lance in that coffee shop, he hadn’t been able to stop thinking about him. Practically everyday after that they were together which meant that Keith had to spend every day looking at Lance’s lips and wondering how they tasted. He had to fight himself on a daily basis to not reach out and thread his fingers into Lance’s hair. And when Lance leaned in for a hug, he had to let go at a reasonable time instead of pulling Lance even closer, feeling the way their bodies fit together.

The most unfortunate part of the two missing years of memories was the fact that there were a lot in there— apparently, at least— that he would kill to have. He remembered looking at Lance every day, dreaming of pinning him to the nearest wall, muffling any argument with a kiss. He had thought endlessly about what Lance’s lips would feel like, parting underneath his, sharing a breath with him. And apparently he knew what that was like, he just couldn’t remember. The thought killed him.

“C’mon,” Lance was waving a hand through the air, “I parked across the street. We gotta get going or we’re going to get soaked!”

“We’re already soaked!” Keith called back, falling into step behind Lance.

The street lights shone off the wet ground, illuminating Lance in a way that made him glow. The lights outlined Lance just so, and made him look more beautiful than he had ever looked. He looked soft and gentle and Keith knew he was, but he wouldn’t break. Lance would meet Keith’s fierce kiss and needy fingers with a breathless laugh, Keith knew. Keith could press Lance up against the wall and all Lance would do is draw him in closer. He knew that anything he threw at Lance he would be able to handle and give back twofold. But that didn’t mean that he should act on these desires.

Keith watched Lance’s back as they hustled towards the road, looking at the way his shoulders moved under his shirt. Lance’s clothes were plastered to his body, leaving nothing to the imagination and Keith couldn’t stop himself from staring. To be honest, he wasn’t even trying. He followed the curve of Lance’s spine, the rise of and fall of his hips as he jogged up to the street. He watched with greedy eyes as Lance turned to wave him on, his shirt riding up slightly and revealing a thin strip of skin.

Lance paused at the road and looked both ways. Keith could see the drops of water sliding down his cheeks and neck and he had to swallow. The sudden urge to lean forward and kiss those drops off his neck seized Keith and he had to suppress a groan as he tore his eyes away. Except, there wasn’t anywhere he could look that didn’t kill him. Lance’s dripping hair was curling at the base of his neck and slicked off his forehead and Keith wanted nothing more than to run his fingers through it, getting to the back of Lance’s head and pulling him into a crushing kiss. He had never wanted Lance as badly as he did right now and it was physically painful.

The ache in his gut was deep and all encompassing. He could feel the desire pulsing through his veins, spreading to every part of his body. It was a jittery sort of sensation that made him feel like he was buzzing. All this energy was pooling in his fingertips and he had to get it out somehow. He wanted to get it out by fisting his fingers into Lance’s shirt and pulling him hard to his own chest. He wanted to use that energy on Lance, their tongues swirling and hands roving. He wanted Lance to be the outlet, but he knew that he shouldn’t let it be.

Keith tried to distract himself with the feeling of the rain on his back, but it didn’t work. He knew that Lance loved rain. Lance had always loved rain. He would always say something about it being soothing and washing away sins. Keith couldn’t possibly disagree more. As he stood there, watching Lance dart across the street, one hand holding his loose black work pants up as he ran, he had never felt more worked up. His biggest sin was the fact that he was holding on to Lance, despite the fact that he was holding him back. The rain wasn’t doing anything to soothe that, either. If anything, it made him want to hold onto Lance tighter, to bring him closer until they were no longer two separate people. Lance glanced back at him, his blue eyes flashing in the bright lights of the street lamps and Keith forced himself to follow.

The entire walk to the car Keith was telling himself repeatedly to just keep his hands to himself. Things with Lance were good right now and he was incredibly lucky for that. After everything that had happened, he was lucky to have Lance around at all. There was no reason he should push it. It didn’t matter that Lance was licking the rain off his lips, making Keith wish he were the one doing it. It didn’t matter that Lance was rummaging in his pocket for his car keys, accidentally pushing his pants even lower on his hips. Keith had to turn his face away to hide the red that he knew was coating his cheeks. He shoved his free hand deep into his own pocket, balling it into a tight fist and trying to get control of himself.

The lights on the car flashed as Lance unlocked it and Keith took the chance to step closer to the car and further from Lance. He hated himself for these uncontrolled feelings. He hated that he was so close to the edge, just a moment from toppling over and free falling. He knew Lance would meet him in the middle, Lance always met him in the middle, but he had already given Lance enough to deal with. It wasn’t fair to pile more on. Plus, Lance hadn’t made a single move on him since they had agreed to try and make things work so there was no reason for him to assume Lance even wanted anything like this.

Lance stepped up to his side again, reaching past him for the door. Keith refused to look at him still. He wondered if they had experienced anything like this in the two years he had forgotten. Is that why it wasn’t killing Lance? Because he had already experienced it? Keith sighed.

“Here,” Lance pulled open the back door and Keith quickly put the food inside to stop it from getting any colder.

Lance slammed the back passenger door shut and turned to look at Keith, positioned between him and the car. The rain was icy against his skin, but Keith had never felt more hot. They looked at each other for a long moment, their eyes locked and their breath mingling. There was a flicker of something in Lance’s eyes that made what little self control Keith had left crumble a little further. He watched as Lance’s eyes flicked down to his lips, trying to ignore the heat pooling in his stomach. He could feel his breath being stolen when Lance bit the corner of his own lip, raising his eyes to meet Keith’s again. There was an unspoken question in his gaze.

Lance reached up gently to push a few stray pieces of hair out of Keith’s eyes and that was the breaking point. Keith didn’t even think twice. He reached up and cupped the back of Lance’s head, pulling him down into a fierce kiss. Lance responded immediately, his one hand resting on Keith’s shoulder and the other giving his belt loop a tug until they were flush against each other. Keith couldn’t suppress the groan that rose in his throat at the feeling of Lance’s warm chest pressed against him, a stark contrast to their freezing atmosphere. He stepped forward boldly, Lance taking a large step back in kind. He felt the moment Lance’s back came in contact with the car and leaned even further in, bending the boy backwards until Lance was pressed firmly against the car and he was pressed firmly against Lance.

They moved in sync, shifting their heads so their lips fit together easier. Lance released Keith’s belt loop and slipped his hand up the back of Keith’s shirt, pressing his fingers hard into the muscles of Keith’s back and eliciting another groan. Keith nipped gently at Lance’s bottom lip, slipping his tongue in easily when Lance let out a soft gasp. He took a moment to appreciate how sweet Lance tasted, feeling smugly satisfied with that fact. He had always thought that Lance would taste as sweet as his smile and he was right.

Keith’s mind seemed to stop working as they kept kissing. He lost himself in the way Lance stepped a little wider, giving Keith space to move further in. His whole body was humming with excitement and desire and it took him a few moments to realize that he was getting lightheaded. Reluctantly, Keith pulled away, gasping slightly for air. Lance was looking back at him, lips parted and cheeks flushed.

“Do you know,” Lance said as he panted for breath, “how long I’ve been waiting for you to do that?”

There was no stopping the smile that spread to Keith’s lips. “How long?”

Lance leaned forward to rest his forehead against Keith’s, only partially answering the question. “The other day when you were leaning against the wall outside the bookstore? Killed me.”

“Yeah?” Keith glanced between Lance’s eyes, overwhelmed by the sincerity there.

Instead of responding right away, Lance pressed off the car. Keith took a surprised step back but he didn’t get far before Lance was gripping him by the waist and spinning him around. He barely had a moment to register the car behind his back before Lance was hovering over him, just a hairsbreadth between their lips. “Yeah.”

Keith leaned up to capture Lance’s lips, but Lance leaned back slightly with a playful smile on his lips. A shiver wracked Keith’s body but he knew it was the anticipation, not the rain, causing it. “And how long are you going to make me wait?”

The smile on Lance’s lips changed to a grin as he leaned down and barely pecked the corner of Keith’s mouth, humming as if he were trying to decide on a response. He moved to kiss the middle of Keith’s cheek, then the edge of his jaw. One of his hands reached up to grab the hair at the base of Keith’s neck and tug his head back. Once his neck was exposed, Lance began to kiss gently there, never lingering long enough to satisfy Keith.

The moment was like one directly out of a movie— Keith pressed to the car, the love of his life draped over him, rain cascading down around them, drowning out the rest of the world. He thought about Lance’s words as they finally kissed again. He thought about the way Lance had wanted this, but waited. He was always putting Keith first, always thinking about what he wanted or what would be best for him, no matter what it cost him. Keith knew he didn’t deserve an angel such as Lance, but that didn’t stop him from rising up on his toes to kiss Lance harder.

They parted again after a few more kisses and Lance cupped his cheek gently. “As much as I’m enjoying this, I’m freezing.” He laughed.

Keith was anything but freezing but he smiled gently up at Lance and released where his hands had fisted in his shirt, giving the other boy a chance to leave. Lance leaned down and gave him one more swift kiss before moving around the car and hopping into the driver’s seat, swiftly turning on the car. Keith took a moment to try and calm his heart rate down before climbing into the car himself, soaking wet.

The heat was already blasting but it wasn’t warm yet. Lance was actively shivering in the driver’s seat but he smiled over at Keith anyways. Keith had a moment of feeling like he needed to break the silence between them, needed to acknowledge what happened, before realizing how silly that thought was. This was Lance . He had spent hours at Lance’s side, never saying a word. In what memories he had of Lance, he knew that their company of each other was enough sometimes. They didn’t feel the need to make a big fuss about things, so Keith simply buckled his seatbelt and glanced out the window.

Lance put the car in drive and took off. It wasn’t until they were a few streets away that he finally spoke. “I hope Adam and Shiro’s food is still warm by the time it makes it to them.”

Keith couldn’t stop the laugh that rose in his throat at the thought of explaining to them why their food wasn’t hot. “I don’t think they’ll mind.”

Chapter Text

Keith had been awake for hours, but it didn't feel like it. There was still that dreamy sort of sleepiness wrapped around him, making the world seem hazy and beautiful. He'd slept better than he'd slept in a long time, the euphoria that came with kissing Lance bleeding into his dreams and allowing the moment to last even longer. But his dreams could never accurately capture just how soft Lance's lips were, or the warmth of his chest through his rain soaked shirt. His dreams were great, amazing, indescribable, but the only way to truly capture the feeling was to kiss Lance again. 

And again. 

And again. 

Keith bit his lip, pulling his covers over his head. He was alone in his room but somehow he still felt exposed. He traced a thumb over hip lips, sinking back into the feeling of kissing Lance and thinking about how excited he was to kiss him again. Because he was excited. In fact, it felt to him like it'd be the only thing he'd be able to think about for awhile. 

Finally a knock on the door startled him out from under the covers and he could immediately feel the flush flooding his cheeks at the idea of being caught fantasizing about Lance, even though he knew that they couldn't see him daydreaming. 

“Are you still sleeping?” Shiro's voice floated through the door. 

“No, I'm—” Keith cleared his throat, burying his face back into his covers. “awake,” he finished lamely. 

That seemed to be all the permission Shiro needed and suddenly he was opening the door. “Well then get your lazy ass up, we're making breakfast.”

“I'll be there in a minute.” Keith's response was muffled through the comforter but it was enough for Shiro who retreated to the kitchen, leaving the door wide open. 

With a huff, Keith got out of bed, clicking the door shut for a moment. He wasn’t about to change out of his pajamas, so he didn’t really need to stay in his room, but he did need a moment to get his blush under control and to lock the images and fantasies of kissing Lance to the back of his mind. He was going to tell Shiro and Adam— he’d dated Lance for two years, apparently, so they must know everything about him and their relationship. He was sure they would take it well, really. But somehow, deep inside, he felt like a schoolgirl who had her first crush and it made him want to groan at himself. 

Finally, knowing that he wasn’t going to pull himself together any more than he already had, Keith headed out of his room and into the kitchen. Adam was humming away in the kitchen, handling four different pans of things at once with absolute ease. It was something Keith remembered about him. Adam didn’t like cooking, unless it was breakfast. Shiro was seated at the counter, flipping idly through the TV channels because he just liked to have background noise wherever he was. The food smelled amazing and, not for the first time, Keith felt like this was the kind of life he could get used to living.

He assumed his life with Lance had been much the same as this. Keith had picked up Shiro’s habit of needing the TV on in every room he went, and Lance was a professional chef for a living. Keith could only assume that they’d had a lot of mornings like this. There was a warm ache of nostalgia in his chest as he thought about it. His memories had been coming back slightly, slowly, but this one still eluded him. But he could feel how right he was, like his body remembered it even if his mind didn’t yet. And maybe that’d been the thing the entire time— muscle memory, almost. His body still loved Lance, even when his mind was confused. Otherwise— how else could Lance have swept him off his feet so thoroughly in such a short time?

It wasn’t like Lance was ridiculously charming or anything. And Lance definitely didn’t have the biggest heart of gold of anyone on Earth. Lance wasn’t doing stupidly generous things either, like going around and remembering everything that mattered to Keith, making sure he had everything to ensure a comfortable recovery and respecting every single boundary of his— even ones he hadn’t explicitly stated. Seriously— Keith definitely couldn’t see any other reasons he’d fallen for Lance so quickly. 

    “What are you thinking about?” Shiro nudged Keith in the ribs as he took a seat next to him at the counter. “You’re smiling.”

    Keith bit back the smile immediately, but it was too late and he knew it. Still, he didn’t want to be that schoolgirl gushing over his crush so he paused, looking for a more tactful way to answer that question. When the silence seemed to have stretched on too long, Keith couldn’t stop himself from accidentally blurting, “I kissed Lance last night.”

    Adam stopped what he was doing at the stove and spun around to stare at Keith, spatula still gripped in hand. Shiro was biting at his lip next to Keith, obviously trying to stop himself from smiling too largely. It wasn’t even working a little bit. “Oh,” Shiro replied after a moment, “So that’s why you’re all red.”

    Keith didn’t think he’d been red before, but he was definitely red right after that comment. He could feel the heat rising up his cheeks and to the tips of his ears. He swatted at Shiro indignantly. “It’s not like that , okay? It was just one kiss!”

    “Just one ?” Adam prompted, glancing back briefly to make sure none of the food was burning.

    The blush was spreading down Keith’s neck and he knew it. At this point there was no point denying it. His face made it obvious enough already. “Okay.” He admitted quietly, “a couple.”

    “When did this happen?” Shiro asked, lounging on the counter, propping his head in his hand and looking at Keith like this was going to be the most delicious part of his day. 

    It was a struggle for Keith to maintain his eye contact, but he tried, valiantly. And mostly succeeded, honestly. He only glanced away at the last second. “Last night right before he drove me home.”

    “In the rain ?” Shiro cried, looking at Adam who also had eyes as wide as saucers and a smile to match.

    Adam pointed his spatula at Keith with emphasis. “ That is romcom material right there.”

    “My life is not a romcom,” Keith groaned, rolling his head back on his shoulders and pinching his eyes shut. “I resent that.”

    “If you don’t want your life to be a romcom,” Adam turned back to the food finally, flipping what appeared to be pancakes in one of the pans, “Don’t go around kissing people in the rain.”

    “He has a point, you know.” Shiro agreed, reaching out to whack Keith gently on the arm.

    “You make it sound like I’ve made a habit of this. It was one time and one person.” Keith grumbled, swatting blindly back at Shiro. “It was Lance.”

    “That makes it even more of a romcom!” Adam cried.

    Shiro laughed quietly to himself before adding, “It really does though. True love conquers all.”

    Keith was absolutely certain he was as red as a tomato, but he didn’t honestly care. This kind of teasing— this was what family was about. And yeah, it was embarrassing and ridiculous and they were blowing it way out of proportion, but Keith knew it was only because they really cared. So, despite how much he wanted to shrivel up in a ball or slink back to his room and hide under the covers again, he didn’t. He smiled fondly and rolled his eyes, nudging Shiro again and tossing a wadded up paper towel at Adam.

    Shiro was smiling back at him, his smile big and open and warm and Keith could easily ready how happy he was. Happy for Keith . Happy to see him happy again. One glance at Adam revealed the same thing and Keith’s heart was overflowing with love and appreciation for his family. His family who had taken him in with no questions when he’d lost all his memories— his family who had taken things at his pace and done what they could to help him recover. His family who sat with him when he was down and celebrated every triumph with him.

    In this moment, Keith was simply overwhelmed with the feeling of family. Because this is what a family really was. A family didn’t have to be blood— it had to be people who cared for each other, never gave up on each other and encouraged each other. A family was more than just a birth assignment— it was a selection of the people you want to have around and the people who want to have you around. It was much, much deeper. And Keith found himself feeling truly lucky to have found it.

    “Really, though,” Shiro said after a few moments of silence, “You should invite Lance over for dinner some day. We’d like to see him again.”

    “Haven’t you been seeing him this whole time?” Keith asked. He’d never outright questioned some things, but he knew now that everything had come from Lance— his clothes, the movies, his favorite foods. How any of that could’ve happened without Shiro seeing Lance was beyond Keith.

    But, surprisingly, Shiro shook his head, “I haven’t seen him since the day he dropped your clothes off and you refused to see him.”

    That stung a little bit, but Keith knew he deserved it. He certainly hadn’t handled things well in the beginning. Truth be told, he still wasn’t sure he was handling things well. There was a nagging feeling in his gut telling him that Lance deserved better. But he’d been ignoring it the last few days. And he chose to continue ignoring it when he said, “What about today? I’m sure he’d love to see you guys, too.”

    It felt weird to talk about Lance’s feelings like that— to assume what he’d want. But Keith was certain, deep down, that Lance would love to see them. Still, the intimacy of that knowledge made Keith feel a little jittery. 

    “We were going to go to the pumpkin patch today and then maybe a haunted house this evening.” Adam replied, finally dishing out the food he’d been working on. “We hadn’t told you yet, but you’re absolutely invited.”

    “Oh,” was all Keith could think to say.

    “Lance is absolutely invited, too,” Adam was quick to add.

    “Yes,” Shiro agreed, “He’s come with us the last two years. He’s definitely invited! We just didn’t invite him because— well—”

    “You didn’t know if I’d want to be around him,” Keith finished for Shiro. It was still strange to him, how big of an impact his injury had on other people. He understood it, of course. But typically when he thought of people with injuries, he thought of all the things they couldn’t do. He never stopped to think about all the things the people around them couldn’t do, or had to do for them. He never stopped to think about the implications this sort of thing had on other people. But he could see it clear as day now that it was happening to him and everyone around him. 

    Shiro smiled a little sheepishly at Keith, as if he were embarrassed at being caught. Keith couldn’t imagine why, he hadn’t done anything wrong. He was being considerate— he was being a big brother. “Yeah, basically.”

    Keith wasn’t sure he’d ever be able to find the words to truly express how grateful he was, but he knew he had to at least try. Just like Lance deserved a thank you for all that he had done, Shiro and Adam deserved one, too. More than one. One hundred. One million. Far more than Keith could ever give, but he wasn’t going to let that get in his way. “I appreciate that. But, uh, we’re on good terms. And I’m willing to see him.”

    “Oh, is that what we’re calling making out in the rain now?” Adam laughed over his shoulder, his whole face alight with happiness. “ ‘ on good terms ’?”

    “You know,” Keith retorted, glaring half heartedly at Adam as he started dishing up the food, “I was going to thank you for all you’ve done for me. But I take it back.”

    Shiro laughed then, finally standing up from the counter and heading over to get drinks out of the fridge and help Adam. “Neither of us would’ve believed you, anyways.”

    “You guys are the worst,” Keith grumbled. The absolute worst in the best possible way. He propped his head in his hand and watched them work in silence. Watched the way they moved around each other with ease— as if they could predict what the other was going to do or where they were going to be. They moved as if they were two halves of one whole, as if they were infinitely better together than apart. Keith smiled.

    Shiro glanced at him briefly as he set a glass of milk down in front of Keith, a small but equally fond smile on his face. “Yeah, yeah, just call your boyfriend and invite him while Adam finishes serving.”

 


 

Lance was already awake when his phone rang, but he was still under Keith’s blanket on the couch. He’d considered trying to sleep in their bed last night— it was the first night he’d even come close to thinking that he’d be able to handle it— but had eventually decided against it.  Things had been going remarkably good and part of him worried that sleeping in their bed would ruin it. He wasn’t sure if it would upset God or jinx them— he wasn’t really superstitious but this absolutely was not the time to test it and find out if Karma was real. So instead he’d curled up on the couch, letting the scent of Keith’s blanket lull him to sleep as he pretended it was Keith himself again, pressed firmly against him as the rain cascaded down.

“Good morning,” Lance murmured into the phone, feeling as if it were somehow intimate to be talking to Keith this early in the morning, still in his pajamas and chasing the trails of a dream that tasted like Keith’s lips.

On the other end of the line Keith sounded wide awake, but his voice was gentle and equally intimate and it made Lance feel warm all over. “Good morning to you, too. How did you sleep?”

“Well,” Lance answered honestly, surprised at how true it was. He adjusted his position in bed and stretched his limbs and realized that he felt like he actually had some energy for the first time in weeks . “Really well, actually. You?”

“Same, actually. I had a really nice dream.” Lance could hear the shy smile in Keith’s voice and he couldn’t stop himself from smiling in response.

Lance recognized the tone of Keith’s voice— he remembered it from when they had first started dating. It was unsure, as if he were venturing carefully into new territory and afraid of being shot down. Keith should’ve known then— and should definitely know now— that Lance would never shut him down. But still, the soft whisper of his voice, the delicacy of his words— as if they were capable of breaking at any moment— reminded Lance of the night before and the way he had told Hunk about the butterflies. The fact that Keith, too, seemed to be feeling the same jitters, the same excitement and thrill, made every nerve ending in Lance’s body feel as if it were alive.

“Yeah? What was this dream about?” He prompted, biting at his lip to try and hold it together.

“Well,” Keith began slowly and then paused for a moment. There was a brief sound of shuffling and Lance got the distinct impression that he was moving further into the house to get some privacy. Lance’s heart rate spiked. “It was about this guy.”

Oh ,” Lance teased, “It was that kind of dream.”

Lance, ” Keith warned from the other end of the phone and the embarrassment was clear in his voice. Lance laughed. “ Anyways , it was about this guy. And it was pouring rain and we were walking to the car.”

“And—?” Lance provoked, pulling the blanket up higher and tucking it under his chin. “Did you and this guy do anything?”

“You know, I can’t really remember,” Keith replied mildly.

Lance laughed low into the phone, flipping onto his side and burying his face into the pillow. “No?” his voice was muffled but he trusted that Keith could understand it anyways. “Not a very interesting dream, then.”

“It was a great dream, actually. One I’d— “ Keith took an audible breath, “One I’d love to have again.”

“Weirdly enough,” Lance replied and he could feel his face burning as he buried it deeper into the pillow, “I had a very similar dream and I also quite enjoyed it.”

A silence filled the line between them then, but it wasn’t uncomfortable. In fact, it was the opposite of uncomfortable— it was filled with unspoken words and an electric sort of anticipation that made Lance feel alive. He could practically feel the possibilities hanging in the air between them— low hanging fruit that he just had to reach out and grab. And boy, did he ever want to grab them. He wanted to grab all of them, to stack them up in his arms, one on top of the next, taking absolutely anything and everything he could get. But he’d been good thus far about allowing Keith to make the first move and he wasn’t going to spoil it now.

To say he’d been shocked when Keith had kissed him last night would be an understatement. To say he’d been thrilled when Keith had kissed him would be a massive understatement. There were a million different ways he could’ve pictured last night going and that scenario was not high on the list of his expectations. But he was absolutely delighted that it had happened. Not only had it given him back something he’d missed— god, had Keith always felt that good against him? — but it had also validated his efforts. It had shown him that he was doing the right thing by giving Keith space and letting him take things at his own pace. Afterall, if he had his way, he’d have eternity with Keith. So spending a few weeks back behind some borders wasn’t going to kill him.

So, he waited. He pressed his face into the pillow and tried not to combust into flames on the spot. Not that it mattered, he knew he’d be like a phoenix— rising from the ashes just to burn down at Keith’s hands again.

“I have an idea, then.” Keith finally whispered into the phone. With his eyes closed, it was easy for Lance to imagine that Keith was back in the apartment, sprawled out on his couch a few feet away, whispering into the silence between them conspiratorially, as if nothing else mattered in the world besides the two of them. “Shiro and Adam are going to a pumpkin patch and then a haunted house later and we are invited to join them. If you say yes— well, who knows? Maybe the end of the day could end up similar to that, ah, that dream?”

We . The way Keith said it— as if his going depended on Lance’s going, as if they were a packaged deal, not separate people— pushed Lance over the edge and then he was officially burning. He was absolutely aflame, ready to bring the whole world down with him. The butterflies that he’d been harboring for awhile now proved impervious to the flames, taking flight and making him feel distinctly alive. It took him a few purposeful breaths to compose himself before he was able to even consider responding to Keith’s implied questions. 

When he finally regained himself enough, he managed to croak out a hoarse, “Yes. To all of that. Just— god , yes.”

Keith coughed on the other end and Lance knew it was a distraction, or a way to try and cover up how he was feeling. Lance suspected that he, too, was absolutely aflame. “Great, how fast can you get over here?”

“That depends,” Lance was already throwing his blanket off and standing from the couch, ready to dart straight to the bathroom and get ready. “Do I need to have pants on?”

Lance ,” Keith groaned on the other end of the line, but it was clearly incredibly fond. And maybe just a touch exasperated.

“Right, right.” Lance laughed as he pulled open a dresser drawer, “You said it wasn’t that kind of dream, my bad.”

Keith’s answering sigh was long and loud, but he was definitely stifling laughter when he said “I’ll see you soon then.”

Lance confirmed this before hanging up and hastily changing clothes.

 


 

The plan had originally been for Lance to head to Shiro’s and drive to the apple orchard with the rest of them, but he’d called Keith back and changed it right as he was leaving. He was still worried about pressing Keith or crossing one of his boundaries and he wanted to be sure he had the ability to leave if things went south. He didn’t expect them to— certainly hoped that they wouldn’t— but he wanted to be prepared. He couldn’t imagine much worse than being stuck in a car with the three of them if Keith decided once again to push him away. He wasn’t sure any other silence could ever be more awkward than that would be. So, he’d thrown two jackets into the car and headed to the orchard.

He was just parking his car when the three others pulled in next to him, Adam waving embarrassingly through the window. Lance couldn’t stop himself from laughing out loud as he climbed out of his car and headed around to grab the jackets from the passenger seat and giving Adam and Keith room to climb out of the car. The doors to Shiro’s car opened and everyone seemed to clamber out at once. Lance was just straightening up, slamming his own car door shut when he was suddenly enveloped— tackled might be a more appropriate word. He stumbled, laughing the whole time his legs tangled with both Adam’s and Shiro’s as they held him tightly, pulling him into the biggest bear hug he’d ever received.

Finally they managed to collectively get their feet underneath them and Lance couldn’t stop grinning. “I missed you guys, too.” He murmured.

Adam and Shiro let go of him at about the same time and he felt briefly unstable without their support. They were absolutely beaming back at him and Lance didn’t have to try hard to imagine how they were feeling. This was a tradition they’d had for years and when Lance joined the picture, they hadn’t even hesitated to add him to it. 

I have missed you,” Adam said with fake accusation, glancing between Shiro and Lance, “Since you never bothered to come in and say hi to me when you stopped by. Playing favorites over there, only visiting Shiro.”

“Yeah, you’ve got me there,” Lance laughed, sliding up to Shiro’s side and nudging him, “Shiro’s definitely my favorite of you three. Only reason I come to anything anymore.”

“I knew it,” Adam mumbled before bursting out laughing and whacking Lance on the shoulder. Shiro rolled his eyes and stepped away, practically dragging Adam with him and leaving Keith and Lance to lag a few steps behind.

Once the others were actually a few steps ahead, Keith stepped up to Lance and slid his arm around Lance’s waist, pulling him into a hug. Lance didn’t hesitate to return in— it took all his willpower to not immediately cling on to Keith and hold on for dear life. He settled his head comfortably onto Keith’s shoulder for a moment and wrapped his arms around Keith’s shoulders, splaying his hands out against each shoulder blade and just feeling the fact that Keith was actually there, real and solid underneath his fingertips. After everything they’d been through, every awful word they’d said to each other, every time they’d pushed each other away, they were still together— they still found their way back to each other.

Tears jumped to the back of Lance’s eyes at the thought and he almost wanted to laugh at himself. It had been a few days since he’d last cried and he was proud of that track record. He’d never fully run out of tears and he was starting to truly believe that he never would. But these weren’t sad tears— they weren’t the tears of a man who’d just watch the love of his life pull as far away from him as possible. They were the tears of a man who had been handed the best gift the world could possibly offer. They were tears of happiness, tears of gratefulness, tears of stunned— but elated— disbelief. 

A moment passed and they pulled apart but Lance couldn’t even bring himself to feel lost because Keith’s hand never fully left his waist. They were still connected— still together, exactly as it should be.

“I, uh,” Lance had to take a moment to pull himself back together before holding up the jackets in his hands, “I brought your jacket.”

He’d grabbed Keith’s red jacket and his own blue hoodie on the way out of the door. Things had been going so well lately that he felt like he was finally ready to part with Keith’s red jacket. Not that it had done much other than lay on the bed and taunt Lance, anyways. But still, it was the jacket he pictured Keith in whenever someone said his name— that was the image that came to Lance’s mind. So giving it back to Keith was a big leap of faith— it was a prayer that he’d get to see more of Keith, that Keith himself would replace the jacket and then he wouldn’t need it anymore because he’d have the real thing.

Keith glanced down at both jackets in Lance’s hands and smiled a little to himself. “Thanks,” he said a moment before reaching out and taking Lance’s blue hoodie from his hand and slinging it around his shoulders.

Alright, so Keith was absolutely determined to kill Lance, it seemed. Well, it was working. Lance could feel the inferno in his heart growing as Keith slipped his hands through the sleeves, adjusting it so it sat properly on his shoulders. And then— and then he had the audacity to pull it tightly around him, bunching it up around his face as if he were nuzzling into it, sinking deeper into comfort and refusing to leave. Lance’s heart stuttered in his chest and he wasn’t honestly sure that it was going to be capable of regaining a normal rhythm again. 

Keith, completely aware of what he was doing as evidenced by his smug smile, nodded towards Shiro and Adam in a clear indicator that they should follow along and catch up. Lance cleared his throat, ignoring the way Keith’s grin grew as they took off and he slipped his own arms into Keith’s jacket.

The apple orchard was more than just an apple orchard. It had a pumpkin patch attached as well as a corn maze. It was one of Lance’s favorite places because they could go from picking their pumpkins for the year to sitting outside and enjoying the perfect weather while eating delicious donuts and drinking cider. Plus, the day they spent here every year was always one of Lance’s favorite days of the year because it was such a fun, family-centric event. It was the kind of thing he would’ve done with his family if they hadn’t been so far away. And it filled his heart with insurmountable love to know that he’d found a family for himself here that still did those familial things with him.

Shiro and Adam were waiting by the wooden fence that surrounded the pumpkin patch, watching the two of them with warm smiles as they approached. This was Lance’s third time coming with the three of them but this felt, by far and away, like the most special one. He paused, halfway to the others, to commit this moment to memory. He stopped dead in his tracks, allowing Keith to continue on forward without him and just watched. He made sure to note the way the cool fall breeze twirled the hair by Keith’s ear. He noted the way Keith had his hands shoved in the hoodie pockets instead of his jean pockets and the way that it just looked somehow cozier. He took a moment to memorize the smiles on Shiro and Adam’s faces and to really, truly feel the happiness that was overflowing his heart. This was a moment he absolutely did not want to ever forget and he was doing everything he could to make sure that he didn’t lose it. 

Lance only moved again when Keith turned to look at him, raising a questioning eyebrow. And when Lance just sort of shrugged in response, Keith rolled his eyes with a soft smile and extended a hand out to Lance. And Lance was more than happy to take it, to thread their fingers together and to let Keith pull him forward. Because that’s how his life was always supposed to be— following Keith into the future. 

 


 

The sun was starting to dip lower in the sky by the time the four of them had successfully chosen their pumpkins. Keith was starting to feel it, to feel the fatigue of being out and active for such a long period of time. He’d been such a homebody the last few weeks that it was straining for him to be on his feet for so long, but the good kind of straining. His feet ached and he was happy about it— it was a reminder of the fun day they’d had running through the pumpkin patch, Lance inspecting each pumpkin and making up ridiculous reasons as to why they weren’t good enough. He seemed to have some personal pumpkin grading scale that was anything but consistent, but it was funny for Keith to watch Lance puzzle his way to the perfect pumpkin.  

The thing about Lance, Keith knew, was that he was ruled by emotion. Objectively a pumpkin could look perfectly fine but it wouldn’t strike Lance’s fancy for inexplicable reasons and therefore it wouldn’t be good enough. The moment Lance had laid eyes on his pumpkin, he’d simply lit up and there was no doubt that he had to have that pumpkin. Keith, on the other hand, was very practical. He compared pumpkin sizes, shapes and colors. He actively looked for one with a flattened surface so it would be easier to carve an intricate design. By the time they’d both selected their pumpkins, he was fairly certain that, between the two of them, they’d looked at every single pumpkin in the patch. 

On the other hand, Adam and Shiro didn’t put much thought into their pumpkins, selecting ones that were big enough to carve on and not completely misshapen. And then they followed Keith and Lance around, offering their opinions on the respective pumpkins and just enjoying the fall sunshine. 

Finally, everyone was satisfied with their pumpkins and they’d moved on. Lance and Keith were sitting at one of the picnic tables guarding their pumpkin army while Shiro and Adam waited in line for cider and donuts. Keith was thankful for the opportunity to sit down and rest, thankful for the chance to listen to Lance chatter away while noting the way the sunlight made his hair shine. Lance’s eyes shone, too, but that was from the happiness. And that thought alone made Keith feel invincible. He felt like there wasn’t a single thing in the universe— known or unknown— that could ever ruin this moment. 

“There was this show I tried to get you to watch,” Lance was rambling, sitting next to Keith at the picnic table, so close that their knees were bumping as he animated his story with his hands. “You wouldn’t watch it though— stubborn jerk ,” at that, Keith laughed and Lance smiled as he continued on. “But the logo from it is really cool and I think that’s what I’m going to carve on my pumpkin this year.”

Lance launched into some long explanation about the show but Keith’s mind had snagged and he glanced between Lance and his pumpkin. 

 


 

“No peeking!” Lance chastised, pulling his pumpkin to his chest and tearing some of the newspaper underneath in the process. 

Keith sighed and leaned back onto his heels “I wasn’t peeking! I was reaching for the tiny knife so I could work on my own pumpkin.”

“Likely story, Kogane,” After a long, skeptical glance, Lance handed the smaller pumpkin carving knife over to Keith, being sure to keep his design well outside of Keith’s line of sight as he did so.

“Why would I even need to see yours anyways?” Keith asked as he took the plastic knife from Lance’s outstretched hand. “Mine’s going to win.”

The affronted noise Lance made barely registered to Keith before a handful of pumpkin seeds was flying at him, hitting him in the face and chest and scattering all over his workspace. He looked up at Lance incredulously, wiping the seeds out of his lap and onto the wood floor at his feet. Lance held his gaze, even if he was seconds away from breaking out into a full grin.

“Take that back,” Lance warmed, hand hovering near the bowl of seeds they’d just finished cooking half an hour earlier. 

“I won’t,” Keith replied before snatching the bowl out from under Lance’s grasp and pulling it to his chest. 

Lance didn’t even have a chance to yelp before Keith was throwing multiple handfuls at him, his pace relentless. He only conceded when Lance all but tackled him to the ground, pinning him down and laughing into his neck, his breath warm and comforting. 

 


 

Keith startled out of his reverie when Shiro dropped a bag of fresh donuts on the table in front of him. He glanced up at Shiro and Adam before looking back to Lance who was staring at him with a smile tilting the edge of his lips, At a quick glance, he looked amused— bemused , maybe, at the way Keith had clearly zoned out of whatever he was saying— but closer inspection showed that his eyebrows were drawn together in confusion. It was as if he could see what Keith had been thinking about, as if he, too, had been remembering the same moment. 

He hadn’t told Lance that he was starting to get his memories back and he wasn’t sure when he was going to. For awhile he wasn’t sure that he was going to do it at all, but he knew he had to. He was just so afraid of getting Lance’s hopes up, of giving him the idea that he was going to make a full recovery when, in truth, Keith couldn’t guarantee that. He couldn’t be sure of anything and he didn’t want to let Lance down. But after how wonderful Lance had been to him, how patient, kind and loving , he knew that Lance deserved to know. But he wasn’t sure how to bring it up, how to say ‘ hey I think I remember some parts of our life together, but not enough to be a worthwhile boyfriend again ’.

“Thanks,” Keith muttered to Shiro, who was looking with a raised eyebrow between Keith and Lance.

Lance, to his credit, didn’t say anything, didn’t ask any questions. He just reached over and snagged the bag off of the table in front of Keith and opened it, letting out a content groan as the smell of the warm donuts reached him. He practically dove into the bag, grabbing two donuts immediately and handing one over to Keith. Shiro and Adam had their own bag of donuts— they were so good, it was impossible to have any less than six— and each had half a gallon of cider. Keith took the donut from Lance’s hand and bit into it gratefully, the taste familiar and grounding to him.

It had only been two years since Lance had joined them on their yearly trip here, but Keith had joined Adam and Shiro on it somewhere closer to six years ago. He had many memories of sitting at this exact picnic table, laughing with his brothers and downing an entire dozen donuts by himself. He closed his eyes and allowed himself a moment to just taste the donuts, to listen to the quiet murmur of Shiro and Adam talking to each other and to feel alright again.

“So,” Shiro said around a mouthful of donut, “As great as these are, we need to actually eat dinner. What are you guys planning for dinner?”

“Oh,” Lance said and even with his eyes still closed, Keith could feel the way Lance glanced at him in uncertainty, it was clear as day in his voice. “I was just planning on going home and cooking something there.”

“You could cook something at their place,” Keith offered, finally opening his eyes and popping the last bite of his first donut into his mouth. Lance tried to suppress a grin. “I’m certain these two wouldn’t mind having some decent food in their house for once.”

Adam tossed a wadded up napkin at Keith before turning to Lance, “As rude as he is, you are more than welcome over for dinner. You don’t need to be the one cooking, though.”

“I’d love to cook, actually.” Lance reached into the bag and grabbed another donut, wordlessly handing a second one to Keith, too. “I have a new recipe that I want to show Kolivan but I could use some taste-testers for it first.”

“Sold!” Shiro cried, raising his cup up as if to cheers that statement and everyone around the table laughed.

They chatted while they finished eating, Lance explaining that he needed to run to the store and stop at home first to get all the ingredients and the proper pots and pans, but that he would be over immediately after. Adam and Shiro discussed the recipe with him— as much as Lance was willing to share ahead of time, anyways— to see if there was anything they could do to help but Lance just smiled and waved them off politely.

Once they had collectively downed two dozen donuts and nearly a gallon of cider, everyone hoisted their pumpkins up and headed off to the car. As they went, Shiro lagged intentionally behind, nudging Keith gently on the shoulder as he went to indicate that he wanted to talk about something. So, Keith slowed his pace slightly too, half a step slower than everyone else until they were both far enough behind to be able to talk with anyone else hearing. 

“You’re fine with him coming over for dinner, right?” Shiro murmured to him, trying to look as if they weren’t talking at all.

Keith couldn’t stop a slight eye roll, nudging Shiro with his elbow, “It was my idea.”

“I know,” Shiro replied, glancing sideways at him, “But I just wanted to make sure you wanted him to come and didn’t just feel like it was polite to invite him.”

“First of all, have you ever known me to do something I don’t want to do?” Keith chuckled lightly at his own self-deprecating joke. “And secondly, have you ever known me to be polite?”

“Point taken,” Shiro laughed. “Are you alright if I offer to keep his pumpkin at our place so he can carve it with us or would you rather I don’t say anything?”

“That’d be fine,” Keith slowed as they approached the car, glancing up at Shiro one more time, “But really, thank you for your consideration.”

“I just don’t want to deal with you moping in your room again for days on end,” Shiro fished into his pockets for the car keys, tossing them to Adam gracefully. “But you’re welcome. And I’m happy for you.”

“I know you are.” Keith smiled down at his feet, “And I appreciate that, too.”

Instead of saying anything in response, Shiro hustled over to the car, slipping his pumpkin into the backseat and stopping Lance before he could go and put his in his own car. He explained briefly to Lance who glanced at Keith for confirmation and relented, allowing Shiro to take his pumpkin once Keith gave him a slight nod. It was clear that Lance was trying to bite down a smile, but he was failing terribly and that sight made Keith happy. Finally, once everyone else had settled their pumpkins into the car, Keith stepped up and handed his over, allowing it to be gently placed into the trunk.

“Alright,” Lance said after a moment of silence, “I’m going to head to the store and stop by ou—” he coughed, catching himself, “my place to get that pan I need and then I’ll be over to start cooking dinner.”

“Sounds good,” Shiro agreed, stepping around to the driver’s side of the car and opening his door. When Keith didn’t move, Shiro glanced at him, “C’mon, Keith.”

“Actually,” Keith said, moving so he was standing behind Lance’s car instead of behind Shiro’s, “I’m going to go with Lance. I’ll see you guys in a bit?”

And then everyone was beaming back at him, smiling so broadly he figured it had to be contagious because he, too, was smiling as he climbed into Lance’s passenger seat and pulled the door shut.

 


 

Autumn was the most beautiful season in Lance’s opinion. He’d never get tired of driving through the city, looking at the changing leaves on the trees that lined the road. It was magical and peaceful at the same time, but this time it was amplified by the way Keith was looking at him from the passenger seat, reaching his arm across the center console and setting his hand gently on Lance’s knee. It wasn’t suggestive, didn’t have the same electricity as the rain kiss did, but it was comforting and right

The grocery store came into view and Lance pulled into the parking lot, slipping the car into a space with ease. He tried not to mourn the loss of Keith’s hand as he pulled it back before hopping out of the car all together. Lance took a moment to collect himself, to remind himself of the situation because he could feel himself slipping into comfort. He could feel himself forgetting that this situation was dire, that this wasn’t just a normal afternoon trip to the store with Keith— this wasn’t the same as the trips they’d been making together for the last two years.

When he and Keith were together, it was so easy to forget about the accident. It was easy just to fall into old routines— to banter and bicker, to be pulled to each other over and over again, continuously, like cosmic magnets that couldn’t ever be separated. And while it might be true that they were two halves of the same whole, two people who were forever better together than apart, it didn’t serve him well to dwell on that and forget the situation. He needed to remember himself, to remember his boundaries. Once he took a moment to shake himself out of his euphoric buzz and plant his feet firmly on the ground, he opened his car door and stepped out into the fall air.

He was surprised, upon standing up, to find Keith standing in front of him, wedged in the space between his car and the one they’d parked next to. “What—” Lance started to ask, but the words never made it past his lips. 

Before he could finish his question, it was muffled by Keith’s lips on his, warm and gentle as Keith reached over to place a hand back on his waist and pull them flush together. Lance didn’t even consider fighting it, would never consider fighting it, and allowed himself to press against Keith, catching his teeth gently against Keith’s lower lip. Keith smiled into the kiss and it made Lance feel like he was on cloud nine. No, that wasn’t even a strong enough description. He was on cloud nine hundred . Nine million . He was in the midst of contemplating this when Keith’s hand found its way into the hair at the nape of his neck and tugged every so slightly.

And then every thought Lance had ever had was washed from his brain.

Fortunately— but also unfortunately— for Lance, Keith managed to keep enough of his head about him to remember that they were, in fact, in a public parking lot. After a few more brief kisses, he pulled away finally, regretfully, and smiled at Lance, glancing up at him through his lashes. His cheeks were pink as he pulled his hands back to his sides, stuffing them into the pockets of the hoodie again. And for a moment, Lance found himself at a complete loss for words, his throat dry from the moment.

“Sorry,” The mumbled word was almost inaudible to Lance, but he had trained himself over the years to hear Keith in any and every situation, so it didn’t go unheard.

“Sorry?” Lance spluttered, trying to regain himself and failing at keeping his fingers from tracing his lips. “Promise me now you’ll never apologize for kissing me again.” When Keith laughed, Lance tried to fix him with his firmest stare, “ Promise.”

“I promise, jeez.” Keith replied, taking one hand out of his pocket again and reaching out to grab Lances before turning and finally heading towards the grocery store. “I just know we talked about that dream and the night ending like this and, well, if we’re going to be with Shiro and Adam for the rest of the night, I wasn’t sure we’d get another opportunity.”

“Are you saying we’re not going to be making out on their couch tonight?” Lance teased as the doors to the grocery store slid open in front of them. “You’re just out here ruining my evening plans, huh? Inconsiderate.”

Keith pushed a laughing Lance away from him as he reached for a grocery cart, refusing to deign that comment with an actual response. Lance recovered, still laughing to himself, and slid back up to Keith’s side. Keith made an exaggerated gesture towards the shopping cart, indicating that it was up to Lance to be in control. It only made sense, Keith had no idea what they needed at the store. So Lance shot him one last grin and took off.

Their shopping trip was quick and relatively uneventful. Unless, of course, they took into consideration the kisses between the clothes racks and the way Keith stood on the shopping cart, whooping and hollering as Lance pushed him around the store. By the time they were in the check out line, Lance was leaning into Keith’s side, practically delirious with happiness. They checked out quickly, Keith never moving far enough away that he was no longer able to support Lance’s weight and then, before Lance knew it they were back in the car and headed to the apartment. 

The nerves were real and all encompassing as they got closer and closer to the apartment and not even the feeling of Keith’s hand on his thigh was enough to make the situation feel better. All at once he was crashing down from cloud nine, realizing that he was about to walk into their shared apartment with Keith. Or with Keith outside. Either way, this was the closest Keith was going to be to the apartment since the accident. Lance had been figuring out how to be in the apartment without Keith and, while he didn’t like it, he’d figured out how to make it works so that he could do whatever he needed to do without falling apart to tiny, microscopic shards. But this— this was entirely different. This made the reality of their situation come crashing down on him, crushing him under the weight again.

Lance pulled into their apartment complex, navigating to their building with ease. He could feel the tension rolling off of Keith and it made him feel like he was suffocating. After all those miserable weeks, he’d finally been given a good day and now, here he was, feeling like he was trembling to his very core. They parked in front of their building and a long silence stretched between them, Lance wasn’t sure if he was supposed to invite Keith in, if there was any reason to invite Keith in. Keith had been in an exceptionally good mood the last few days, willing to step what Lance could only assume was very far out of his comfort zone and the last thing Lance wanted to do was push it. They might be headed out of the woods, but they weren’t completely there yet and he was confident that they still ran the risk of Keith’s shifting moods and drastic mood swings. 

So, instead of offering Keith to come in, he just offered him a smile that he hoped wasn’t strained and said, “I’ll be in and out in two minutes, I promise.” before hopping out of the car and running into the apartment with the engine still running.

 


 

Hauling the groceries into Shiro’s house was a big relief for Keith who had begun to feel really anxious and pent up inside the car. Sitting outside Lance’s apartment— supposedly their apartment— had been a strange experience. Lance had been kind enough to not ask him to go in, which he was grateful for because he wasn’t sure what he would have said. He didn’t think he was ready to go into the apartment, didn’t think he could handle it. Things with Lance were great— amazing, wonderful, spectacular— but they still felt really new. It still felt like a developing relationship and no new relationship was ready for something like moving in together. 

But it was so easy for Keith to picture Lance’s face, to picture the way his eyes lit up with hope. He knew that it’d have been hard for him to say no to Lance. Honestly, if Lance had asked, he likely would’ve trailed him into the house, feeling like a kicked puppy and doing his best to be as small as possible. Honestly, if Lance had asked, he would’ve gone into the house but Keith thinks, truthfully, from his very bones, that it would’ve damaged things between them. It would’ve forced him to be face to face with the realities of his last two years. It would’ve made him acknowledge all the memories that Lance had and he didn’t. It likely would’ve been the final nail in the coffin of their relationship, and he wasn’t willing to let that happen. Not when things between them were going so well. Not when he was so happy and was feeling like he might actually be able to piece back some semblance of a life.

The drive from the apartment to Shiro’s house had been quiet, which led to Keith feeling anxious to get out of the car. So he’d practically broken down Shiro and Adam’s door in an attempt to get inside with his armful of groceries. He hadn’t missed the look Shiro had shot to Lance over his head as he rushed into the kitchen to deposit his treasures onto the counter. If Lance had made an expression or said anything in response, Keith hadn’t been around to see it and he was happy to keep it that way.

As soon as his arms were free, he’d practically hightailed it into the room he was borrowing, suddenly in need of some space. He closed the door quietly behind himself and shucked Lance’s jacket off of his shoulders, taking a few deep breaths. Things had gone from good to real incredibly fast and while he was still in support of that, he needed a few moments to try and collect himself. Keith set Lance’s jacket gently on the bed, still not planning on returning it to him. He didn’t want things to end between them, didn’t want to stop seeing him and didn’t want to give up a chance at having whatever kind of future laid in that apartment. He just needed to sort himself out a little before he could have those things.

He remembered talking to Allura, remembered admitting that he didn’t feel like he was good enough for Lance and it was true. It was, perhaps, the truest thing he’d ever said. He wasn’t good enough for Lance. And yeah, he’d really enjoyed the last few days, he’d enjoyed kissing Lance and lacing their fingers together, had enjoyed the feeling of Lance’s fingers around his hips as he pushed the grocery cart through the store. He’d loved every moment they had spent together. And he’d found it really easy to lose himself in those moments— to forget about the past. To pretend that they didn’t have a past, that they were living this for the first time together. But they weren’t, and it wasn’t fair to Lance for him to act like they were.

Every time he thought about it, he came to the same conclusion: the only fair thing for Lance was to take a step back and let him have his life. To give him a chance to find happiness with someone else— someone who wouldn’t forget him, wouldn’t pull away from him, wouldn’t sit there pretending things didn’t exist between them. Lance, above absolutely anything else, deserved happiness. And that fact alone was the one thing that let Keith continue to hold on when he knew he shouldn’t. Because he seemed to make Lance happy. Despite everything, against all odds, Lance seemed happiest when they were together.

Okay, so that fact wasn’t the only reason Keith was holding on. There was also the fact that he simply didn’t want to let go, didn’t think he could.

He didn’t remember their two years together, but he remembered their time as friends. And his heart seemed to remember those years, it was as if they were written into the seams of his soul, holding him together, keeping him going. His mind didn’t remember, but every other part of him did and that made it impossible for him to let go. He didn’t know how he was supposed to even consider facing a future that didn’t have Lance in it. That thought made him want to shrink into a ball and disappear.

In the end, he took a deep breath and forced his conflicting thoughts away. As much as he didn’t want to, he knew this was a topic he had to discuss with Lance. He remembered Adam’s words, remembered the lecture he was given about not making choices for Lance. He hated the idea of bringing this up to Lance because it meant admitting his weaknesses, it meant bearing a part of himself that he wasn’t even completely familiar with yet. He didn’t know how to explain his conflicting feelings to Lance because he still hadn’t really been able to sort them out and put them into words. But he had to try. He couldn’t run, not again. He’d reached his limit of running from situations.

So, after a few minutes, he carefully opened the door to Adam’s bedroom and slowly emerged, heading carefully down the hall and trying to get his racing heart under control. He could hear Shiro, Adam and Lance laughing in the kitchen as pots and pans clanged and it eased his nerves a little bit. He tried to remind himself, not for the first time, that Lance had been excellent so far with his boundaries. So far, Keith had been the one to kiss Lance . Twice. And if the fervent way Lance kissed him in response was any indicator, Lance had certainly been wanting to kiss him. 

Plus, he had known that Lance needed to stop by the apartment on their way back and he’d chosen to go with him anyways. He’d volunteered to go with Lance, Lance hadn’t even asked. So rightfully, he didn’t get to feel the way he was feeling. But if there was anything this head injury had taught him, it was that feelings were a funny and fickle thing and they often had minds of their own. Feelings, as it turned out, didn’t follow any sort of rhyme or reason and Keith certainly wasn’t in control of them. They had the wheel and he was just an unwilling passenger at their disposal, incapable of doing anything but bending to their whims.

“Perfect timing,” Lance glanced at him as he walked into the kitchen. If it weren’t for the crease of worry between his brows, he would’ve looked perfectly at ease, as if nothing were amiss. Keith wasn’t sure if he was glad or upset that he was able to read the uneasiness in Lance’s expression. “I need the potatoes to be cut and you do it best.”

It was a simple request, it didn’t demand anything. It didn’t ask anything of him that wasn’t being asked of the others. A quick glance around the kitchen showed that Shiro was stirring a pot of ingredients— he was relatively terrible at cooking so that was the most anyone could safely trust him with— while Adam washed a series of different vegetables and Lance was working with what appeared to be chicken. Lance was simply including him in the task at hand, not asking him to do anything above and beyond, not asking him for anything he couldn't reasonably give,

And yet, for reasons Keith couldn’t list, his throat constricted as he reached out for the cutting board. 

He didn’t meet Lance’s eyes as he accepted the cutting board and the knife, but he noticed the way Lance was careful to keep his hand on the opposite end of the board, fingers curled as much as possible so as to ensure that they avoided touching. So, Lance was reading his mind again. A spike of guilt filled him, intertwined messily with an equal spike of relief. 

“Any special way you want ‘em?” He asked as he stepped across the room to the other area of counter space they had.

“No,” Lance replied, turning back to his chicken. “Whatever you see fit is fine, as long as they’re bite-sized.”

The relief Keith had felt a moment before waned and he was left with nothing but guilt. He understood, logically, that he had no reason to suddenly be pulling away from Lance. He knew it was hurtig Lance, could only imagine how it was making him feel after he’d spent weeks doing exactly this. It was like he’d dangled a treat in front of Lance and pulled it away at the last second and it made him feel cruel and miserable. He chopped his potatoes in silence, focusing as hard as possible on the task at hand and drowning out the conversation the others were having.

For the first time since his accident, he found himself wishing he were alone with Lance so he could discuss their situation and explain himself. He knew Shiro and Adam would respect him if he asked for space or for a chance to talk to Lance but that felt like it raised the stakes too high, put too much pressure on him. He was rebuilding himself from the ground up and his foundation wasn’t yet strong enough to withstand something like that and that thought hurt.

He found his mind drifting back to their time in college, to the person he was then. He was confident, borderline cocky if he were being honest. He was the kind of person who wouldn’t shy away from anything, least of all the person he knew best. He thought back to the bar a few days prior, to the way he’d sucker punched Griffin without any hesitation. That was more the kind of person he’d always been— fearless and headstrong, act first, ask questions later. This quiet, reclusive, weak side was a side of himself he hadn’t known before and suddenly he was being forced to become all too acquainted with it.

“Keith? Keith?” It was Shiro’s voice that snapped him back to the present and he realized for the first time that he had finished chopping the potatoes. “Can I take those?”

“Oh,” He acknowledged dumbly, setting the knife down and blinking a few times to focus on the present. “Yeah, sorry, I’m done with them.”

Shiro took the cutting board from in front of him and crossed the kitchen again, listening to Lance’s instructions on what to do with them. Keith watched as Lance leaned in close to Shiro, helping him slide all the potatoes into the correct pan and his heart ached in his chest so painfully he thought it might pull apart at the seams— undo the stitches holding it together one by one, as slowly as possible to ensure that he felt each and every moment of it.

 


 

Their kitchen wasn’t big, but it was big enough for the two of them and Lance’s endless cooking supplies. It was big enough for them to be able to work on a dish together, but small enough that they were constantly bumping elbows and fighting for counter space. Keith stood next to the stove, chopping potatoes into small cubes while Lance was next to him, flipping a piece of meat on a cookie sheet before stowing it back in the oven.

“Just a few minutes left on the fish.” Lance murmured half to himself as he closed the oven door.

“Potatoes are done,” Keith set his knife down and picked up the cutting board immediately, holding it over the designated pan. 

The cutting board was significantly wider than the small pan so Lance stepped up to help immediately, gently guiding the chunks of potato off the cutting board and into the pan, ensuring that none of them fell onto the stove while Keith just held the cutting board steady. Once they had successfully transferred all of them, Lance picked up the spatula and began stirring, adding a series of spices at his own discretion, not bothering to measure anything before mixing it in. Keith put as much space between them as he could— which wasn’t much— to allow Lance to have the room to work and move freely, to reach for all of his ingredients without risk of bumping into Keith. 

It was always a fun experience to watch Lance cook. He really was a natural at it, the way he could tell exactly which spice was missing or exactly how much longer something needed to cook. It all came to him easily and the dishes he created were never anything short of delicious. So Keith leaned back against the sink and watched him work, smiling a little to himself as Lance hummed a tune under his breath.

Finally appearing to be satisfied with what he had created, Lance straightened up and put the spatula back down, turning to face Keith. “There, now we have to let everything cook for like ten more minutes. That’s the perfect amount of time to do the dishes.”

“It is,” Keith agreed as he pushed off of the sink and moved over to Lance, “but it’s also the perfect amount of time for something else.”

“Is it?” The answering smile Lance gave him was both coy and confident and it was the kind of mixture that only Lance could ever pull off correctly. “Why don’t you tell me what that other thing is?”

“Why don’t I show you instead?” Keith whispered, pulling Lance just to the side of the stove before pressing him up against the counter and kissing away any witty response he could possibly have.

 


 

Once it became apparent that Keith couldn’t be useful in the kitchen anymore, he moved around the counter and took a seat at one of the barstools, content to just watch everyone else work. Part of him felt isolated, but he knew it was his own doing. Adam was the one to send him repeated worried looks, trying to gesture with subtle nods that Keith could easily still be included in what they were doing. He only gave up when Keith finally shook his head before turning his eyes away pointedly. 

It wasn’t too long before dinner was served and everyone moved to sit together around the kitchen table that honestly hardly got any use. It was nice, to end the day the way Keith had begun it: feeling like  a part of a family. As they all ate, Keith made a point to join the conversation as much as possible, hoping to dispel everyone’s concerns. He was feeling a little better— the food helped— and he wanted everyone to know. Plus, he had already resolved to talk to Lance the next time they were alone and, until then, there wasn’t really anything he could do. So there was no point in putting everyone else on the edge while he waited for the right time to come.

By the time dinner was over, Keith was feeling almost back to the way he’d been feeling at the apple orchard and the grocery store. He’d almost been able to fully shake off the feeling of sitting outside of an apartment that apparently belonged to him while having no actual memories of it. He’d spent the few minutes Lance was in the building looking around, dismayed to find that none of it looked even a little bit familiar. True, the sun had been setting and everything looked different in dim light, but he didn’t feel as if he had ever been there before and that had felt like a slap to the face.

“Thank you for dinner, it was delicious,” He remarked as he began picking the empty plates up off the table. Lance moved to help him but he stopped him in his tracks with a look and Lance sank back down into his chair. “The chef doesn’t do the cleaning.”

A strange look crossed Lance’s face at his comment but he didn’t say anything. Instead he just nodded jerkily, almost appearing stiff, and avoided Keith’s eyes all together. Keith had to bite back on another sigh, trying to stop himself from wondering for the millionth time when things would be normal again. He had long since given up even trying to define ‘normal’ because he had no idea where or how his life would settle out.

“Adam and I were talking about putting a movie in, you guys down?” Shiro was standing at the counter, setting the glasses next to the sink for Keith to load into the dishwasher.

“Thank you for the offer,” Lance was standing again, the anxious energy that was rolling off of him was palpable. He looked like he was a quarter of a second away from putting his shoes back on and darting straight out the door. “But I really should be getting home. I’ve taken up enough of your time.”

The formality in his tone was enough for everyone to know how uncomfortable he had become. He’d gone from laughing and joking with them to speaking as if they were doing him some huge favor by allowing him in their presence— as if he weren’t just a part of their mismatched family. Keith’s heart sunk and he decided he absolutely couldn’t stand it.

“You don’t work tomorrow, do you?” He asked in a tone that he hoped was mild and unassuming. 

Lance paused, hands gripping the back of his chair and looked across the kitchen at Keith. Their eyes met and for a minute Keith forgot to breathe. “...No, I don’t.” Lance answered finally.

“So stay and watch the movie with us.” After putting the last of the dishes in the dishwasher, Keith straightened up fully, never taking his eyes off of Lance. “You don’t have to, of course, but I’d really like it if you did.”

“You… would?” The smile Lance gave was more disbelieving than anything else, but it was a smile nonetheless and Keith would take what he could get. 

“I would,” He confirmed, his heart beating so fast it felt like it was threatening to break right out of his ribcage and fall to the ground at his feet. When the silence stretched between them for so long it felt like it was freezing time all together, Keith finally glanced at Shiro. “What movie?”

Shiro, to his credit, rose to the role and answered as if he weren’t a part of the clearly awkward situation unfolding around him. “Why don’t we all go in the other room and pick?”

Adam was the first to lead the way, standing from his chair and heading into the other room. Shiro exited the kitchen and began to follow him, Lance moving once Shiro passed him and falling into step with him. Keith pulled up the rear, mentally kicking himself for making a mess of what was an otherwise perfect day. 

The three others sorted their way through the movie collection, making different piles until they all finally agreed on one movie. Keith himself didn’t particularly care at all which one it was, he just wanted one more chance to end the night on a high note. 

Once the movie had been selected and put into the DVD player, Adam headed off to the bathroom and to grab blankets while Shiro moved back to the kitchen to make popcorn. Keith saw his opportunity as soon as it was presented to him and jumped to it, “I’m sorry,” He said, rushing on to get the rest of his words out before Lance could interject, undoubtedly about to tell him that it was fine and nothing to worry about. “I promise to explain it all next time we’re together, okay? I promise. But just know that I really am glad you’re here. And that we’re okay. Okay?”

“Okay,” Lance breathed in response, offering Keith an encouraging smile. 

Keith felt as if he could deflate from relief on the spot because he could see the way the stress and tension dissipated from Lance’s shoulders and he felt like maybe, just maybe, he hadn’t messed things up as seriously as he thought he had. He smiled back at Lance, reaching out to give his hand an encouraging squeeze right as Adam reappeared, tossing a blanket on top of both of their heads. Lance broke out into a laughing fit as he dug his way out from underneath the blanket, wrapping it around his shoulders instead and sneering playfully at Keith who was forced to find and cover himself with a separate blanket.

Shortly thereafter Shiro reappeared, doling out dishes of popcorn before flicking out the lights and sitting down. Lance and Keith shared a couch, sitting close enough to each other that they could touch if they wanted to, but they didn’t. Adam and Shiro each had their own armchair that they sat in, the chairs pushed close together so they could whisper into the space between them without disturbing the others which Keith was grateful for. Shiro had a bad tendency to be that person who asked a million obvious questions as a movie progressed. Adam’s ability to put up with it patiently was another reason on the long list of reasons that he and Shiro were perfect together. 

The movie droned on in front of him but Keith couldn’t bring himself to really focus on it like he’d like to. His eyes started to feel heavy and the events of the day seemed to catch up with him all at once. Suddenly he went from feeling guilty, jittery and anxious to completely and utterly exhausted, He fought to keep his eyes open, to continue to hold his head up, but it appeared to be a losing battle. He felt like he did nothing more than blink and abruptly he found his head pillowed on Lance’s shoulder and the movie at a completely different scene than the one he’d just been struggling to watch. With a yawn, he sat himself upright, rubbing at his eyes to try and wake himself up a little bit, but it didn’t work.

What felt like only a few more seconds passed before he found his head back on Lance’s shoulder, eyes slipping shut. He was just about to readjust himself again, to try and force himself to wake up and finish the movie when he felt Lance turn and tenderly kiss the top of his head. And then, just like that, he decided that this was absolutely the perfect position and decided to allow himself to drift to sleep, feeling comfortable and warm and knowing that Lance was willing to give him the chance to explain his behavior next time they were together.

It was the best he’d slept since his accident.