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Singing For the End of the World

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Keith's foot tapped along to the tempo of the orchestra playing inside the concert hall, leaning against the wall next to his guitar case. Shiro told him that he'd have to wait about fifteen minutes for the orchestra to finish up their mock concert before he could have the concert hall to himself. It was going on twenty minutes now. Finally, he heard the ending notes of the song and Zarkon's booming voice declaring that practice was finished. He grabbed his guitar and slung his backpack over his shoulder, hurriedly pushing through the throng of students attempting to escape from the concert hall at the same time. Keith sped toward the stage, receiving the stink eye from Zarkon as he herded the last of the students out of the concert hall.

Another student approached him. "Hey, Schitz!" The boy, Rolo, called out to him. He dragged his violin along behind him and Keith groaned as if in pain. "Hey, fruitcake. I need twenty bucks," Rolo held out a hand, which Keith stared at.

"Why?"

"None of your damn business, ya' psychopath. Just give me the money before I have to sock your sorry ass."

Keith sighed, reaching into his backpack and pulling out a twenty.

"Thanks, lamebrain." Rolo saluted, hurriedly leaving Keith to his own devices.

Keith stepped onto the stage and pulled his amp out of this backpack and plugged it into his guitar, slinging the guitar strap over his shoulder. He stepped up toward the microphone that the orchestra had been using to help magnify their sound, adjusting it to sit at his height. He quickly tuned the guitar, double checking and triple checking to make sure the sound was perfect. He could still hear the sound of the students bumbling around outside, trying to get back to the orchestra room. He breathed out slowly before starting the soft, opening chords to his song, Kick Me . He suddenly started playing in a completely different style, pausing between beats as he sung.

He stared down at his fingers working the strings of the guitar, he didn't notice that a few students had started tricking back into the concert hall, whether by the obnoxiously loud sound of his music or that they had left their instruments is up for discussion.

The trickle of students had now turned into a steady stream as students on their lunch breaks started filtering in as well to listen to him play. It was almost like magic how he hypnotized them with his voice and his guitar. He then started stomping and dancing around the stage obliviously as he played into the chorus.

He smiled, rocking along the the music. He aggressively strummed the next section of the song as a group of band members came in, speaking in hushed tones.

"Holy shit, that guy's good."

"No kidding. Is that an original piece? No offense Lance, but he might just be better than you."

Lance frowned at his taller friend, pulling a shorter person closer to him. "You're my best friend now, Pidge. Hunk is now dead to me." Pidge shoved him. "He's not right, per se. However, this guy's music is more appealing to our generation. Than your crappy love songs." Lance gasped dramatically. "My songs aren't crappy. And the ladies love it. This guy's music is so edgy." The group of friends peered back at the stage.

"Dude, we should totally ask him to join our band," Hunk suggested, starting toward the stage. "Wait, shouldn't we see how we sound together first?" Lance smiled mischievously. "Let's get our stuff first." Pidge narrowed their eyes at him, but took him at his word as Hunk started walking out the door with the others in tow.

Keith suddenly noticed the crowd that had formed and became a little nervous, strumming with less abandon now and awkwardly sidling in front of the microphone. He sung softer now than he had during the chorus, becoming slightly more confident with each line.

Keith saw the three band members come in now, Lance with his guitar, Pidge with a folded up keyboard, and Hunk with his drumsticks (the drums were already set up behind the curtain as they usually were). They three casually walked up to the front of the steadily growing crowd as Keith continued to sing.

The crowd started to cheer along softly.

Kick me when I'm down

The song ended somewhat abruptly and Keith wiped the sweat from his brows the three charged up onto the stage, startling him and almost causing him to fall flat on his ass.

"Mind if we join you?" Lance asked cockily. Keith answered back with a smirk, adjusting his guitar and answering, "Only if you can keep up." He started playing the opening chords to another song, leaning into the mic and saying snidely, "This is about you." Hunk started up on the drums and Lance set up his guitar. Pidge adjusted their keyboard to Alto Sax, playing along to Keith's guitar.

Keith sounded much more confident now as he sung the song.

Lance started getting louder on guitar as Keith bobbed his head from side to side. He noticed the slight accent that punctuated each of Keith's sentences, making him seem more angry than he actually was, this being made obvious by the beaming smile on his face.

Pidge played a short, lilting solo on her keyboard before Keith took over the instrumental again.

Jill will leave you lonely dying in a filthy ditch

Lance scowled, strumming a slightly more difficult tune as it pulled into the chorus, making it seem as natural as breathing.

Keith hung on the last note, singing in a higher pitch. Pidge immediately moved to accommodate, turning up the volume on their keyboard and playing repeated patterns on different instruments, stacking the sounds on top of each other throughout the small portion. It actually turned out good despite the hurried improvisation and the pace at which she had to press different keys.

Keith then started laughing maniacally as he transitioned into the next monologue, surprising some of the others, who still continued despite the surprise.

"Who am I kidding? Now, let's not get overzealous here. You've always been a huge piece of shit. If I could kill you, I would. But it's frowned upon in all fifty states. Having said that, burn in hell!"

Keith hung on the last note again, his voice circling around the word like a ribbon in the wind, giving the others ample time to transition into the chorus of the song again.

They all caught their breaths for a moment as the crowd (which now occupied the whole of the concert hall being filled at this point. All the seats were occupied, some people taking to standing at the sides of the aisles. Keith spotted Acxa and Shiro waving wildly from the back of the concert hall. Shiro was the theatre teacher, so he had fourth and lunch off. Acxa had decided to have her Senior break period during fourth like Keith, since most of her friends also has Senior break during fourth. Keith waved awkwardly back at his overbearing sister and annoying cousin.

"You have any other good songs up your sleeve there?" Pidge gestured to his strangely designed leather jacket and he nodded. He strummed a short scale on his guitar in practice. "You mind starting this one for me?" Pidge nodded, starting up a slow and unsure instrumental at her keyboard's normal settings. Keith seemed to accept it though as he started singing, swinging his guitar over his shoulder for the time being as he wouldn't be using it for this particular song.

Lance sung along with him on the last duality, strumming the next part along with his singing, keeping constant background noise. Hunk quickly started up on the drums along with them.

The background music stopped abruptly, starting up again just after Keith started on the chorus.

The instrumentals quieted down again as Keith barged straight into the next portion of the song.

Unleashed, gonna get it off

Keith winked cockily at Lance, who stopped playing for a moment, a blushing mess. He started back up again quickly though, practically unnoticed.

The four fluidly played into the chorus again, ignoring the loud cheers coming from the new audience.

Keith took the mic off of it's stand, untangling the wire from it with a quick fluid motion before walking across the stage toward Pidge, turning up the volume on their keyboard and changing the settings to choir before playing a single note. Pidge, catching on quickly, started playing along to Keith's staccato accented notes through the glissando verse.

Pidge adjusted back to her original settings as Keith stalked back to the center of the stage, pressing the microphone back onto it's stand.

Pidge smirked, putting their hands on their hips. "See, I told you our experience in jazz band would be useful someday," they said haughtily. "How many other good songs do you have? I'm thinking this'll be good practice regardless of whether Lance can convince you to join the band." Keith's face screwed up into a confused expression, having not gotten the memo that they wanted him to play in their band.

"Um, I have one more song that I meant to practice." Pidge nodded and Hunk tapped the ride symbol with his drumsticks, effectively getting the attention of the two. "How about we give Lance a chance to sing one of his songs. I know he doesn't look it, but he can write some pretty edgy songs too." He jutted a thumb toward Lance, who stuck out his tongue at Hunk for ratting him out. Keith loosely held out the microphone to Lance. "How about it? Show me what you got." Lance cursed under his breath, snatching the mic and stamping to center-stage. He immediately started strumming, giving nobody else any time to catch up. Keith got his bearing a few ticks after, immediately taking over the song with his guitar.

Lance paused, hanging on the last note before aggressively strumming into the chorus, setting up a very punk-rock sound in the chorus.

Keith sung background vocals, effectively keeping the focus on Lance while harmonizing with his voice, getting used to Lance's higher pitch of voice.

Keith felt something in his chest pull at the sentiment, but he shook his head continuing to pluck the strings of his guitar.

Keith started playing an entirely new instrumental background just as Lance started screaming the next lyrics into the mic, clearly letting his emotion get the best of him even on stage.

Lance's tone immediately shifted as he sung the next line, taking the audience completely by surprise.

How come no one heard me when I said

He let the note hang for a single dramatic second before continuing into the last chorus.

Lance took a deep breath as he listened to the cheering of people in the audience. He then took the microphone and handed it back to Keith. "One more song?" Keith smiled back at him. "Sure." He took the mic in his gloved hand, walking back to the center of the stage. Keith immediately started strumming, purposefully letting his voice waver with each note, creating a slow vibrato.

And bite their tongue.

Lance laughed at the last line behind him and Keith glowered back, unamused, as he continued into the chorus. A tan girl around their age had gotten her violin out in the front row and started playing along to the group.

Hold a gun to his head and you'll know,

Keith pointed his finger at his head, pulling an imaginary trigger and jerking his head as if he'd just gotten shot in the head. It was a small gesture, but said all it needed to.

He sung the next notes as if he was actually pleading to an invisible assailant, making the song seem more meaningful and personal as he sung it.

At this point he pulled back around to the style of singing he had been doing earlier as he sung the chorus.

Pidge turned the volume up on her keyboard, playing the same volume as the violinist in the front of the audience.

Keith hung on the last note, giving it a slight vibrato before he continued into the chorus.

The bell suddenly rung, signaling that first lunch was over and students started filing out of the concert hall, the only people sticking around being the violinist, the four on stage and one shady guy hanging in the back, leaning against the wall with a smoke.

"Allura!" Lance leaped off the stage, hugging the violinist. "I haven't seen you in forever, babe." She softly kicked his leg in discomfort at being called 'babe' despite not being his girlfriend. Lance started waving his hands around wildly as he spoke. "I haven't heard your voice in forever. I missed it. I thought you'd moved to Britain." Allura waved her hands back without speaking. Keith suddenly realized they were speaking in sign language.

"What is she saying?"

Lance smiled at him. "She said that I've never heard her voice before, so there's no way I could have missed it," He laughed. He then turned to Pidge. "Allura's going to finish off her Senior year here, so you guys can go to prom together." Pidge rolled their eyes. "I could see that. I can read sign too, jackass." Allura giggled behind her fist as Lance gasped in mock offense.

Keith had already finished packing up and moved to leave, when Lance stopped him. "Hey. If you want, we practice here after school on Thursdays. Maybe you can swing by." Keith looked him up and down, searching for any sign of malintent. "Sure." He moved past him hurrying down to the exit, noticing that the shady figure had moved to walk beside him.

"Hey, fruitcake."

"Leave me be."

"Speaking of, don't think I didn't notice that you wrote an entire song about me. I'm touched, really." Rolo swooned, leaning against Keith, who shrugged him off.

"It's not about you."

"Oh? Then who's it about?"

"Someone I made up."

"Funny. This made up person sounds a lot like me."

"It's not."

"Well, don't get any ideas. You're still a weakling, Schitz. Don't forget that. I'll put you back in your place if you do and you won't like it."

"I understand."

"Good." Rolo patted him on the back before leaving him alone in the hall.

Keith sighed. It was going to be a long week.

 

Chapter Text

Why am I going to these weirdo's rehearsal, again? Keith's feet pounded up the front steps of the theatre building. Because they offered and you'd feel bad if you left them hanging, he reminded himself. Yeah, but we're practically strangers. And what if this is just some kind of trick? What if Rolo set this whole thing up? He shook his head viciously. God, I'm paranoid. He continued walking toward the concert hall, his backpack slung over his shoulder and his guitar case in hand. When he got to the doors of the concert hall, he took a deep breath before opening them, to see Hunk, Lance, Pidge, and Allura already practicing onstage. Allura now had a tambourine in her hand, though she had a stack on instrument cases sitting on one of the seats in the front row. He could tell they were hers because each case had her name engraved on it.

Keith noted the calmness of the song, contradicting the way they had played just a few days ago. He walked up to the stage, setting down his guitar case and backpack in front of the stage. Pidge jumped off the stage to greet him while the others continued to play the song.

"Yo. So if you've got any songs we can use, we'll go over them together after Lance is done practicing this song. We can edit, learn, and play each piece one at a time. We also do this during lunch and fourth, if you want to swing by then and help out. Actually, I'm getting ahead of myself. You haven't even said if you would actually join the band," They rambled, looking at him expectantly. "I guess. I mean it's not like I have anything else to do." He pulled his amp out of his backpack, setting it to the side as he pulled out a giant stack of papers.

"These are all of the decent songs that I've written. You can go through and see what's good." Keith fumbled with the sleeves of his sweater nervously.

"Cool. Let's play the first few songs here and see when slash if we're going to use them in the future." Pidge grabbed the corners of a few papers, straightening them up and hopping back onto the stage. She laid the papers over her keyboard and gestured for Keith to join them onstage.

Keith smiled softly, leaping onto the stage with his guitar in hand and stood by Pidge, looking over their shoulder.

So when you have today, say all that you have to say

They finished the song and all of them immediately turned their focus to Keith.

"Dude, you made it!"

"I didn't think you'd actually come, Mullet."

Allura tapped Lance on the shoulder, signing excitedly at him.

"She said she's glad you made it. She brought a few of her instruments in case you had some songs you wanted her to play with them."

Keith nodded. "Cool."

"Let's start with this one!" Pidge yelled, handing a packet of papers stapled together to Lance.

"Crazy=Genius. Sounds cool. What's the tempo?"

"One hundred fifteen beats per minute, 4 beats per measure, in D key," Keith listed.

"Coolio. Let's do it. Allura, I want you on trumpet." He signed at her and she raced off to grab her trumpet case, which was on the top of the pile. Everyone got to their spots on the stage, with Lance taking center stage with the packet, having let everyone else take a quick once over of it. Keith and Lance started singing the first two lines together with Hunk and Allura playing their instruments and Pidge giggling softly into the mic.

Lance sung confidently with a higher vocal range than most guys his age. Keith marveled the small grace, waiting for the chorus, as he hadn't written guitar lyrics for the rest of the song.

They both sung together now, singing higher than either of them had been singing before, almost whispering into their microphones.

Said you're just like Mike

Love but you'll never be Brian Wilson

Lance laughed at the reference, letting Keith take over the chorus, playing his guitar instead and singing background vocals.

Lance rattled off the lyrics as if he'd written them himself, not just taken a quick glance at a piece of paper for the first time and tried improvising at high speed.

Keith cut in at this point, not liking the style with which Lance sung.

Lance stuck his tongue out at Keith, taking over the chorus this time, having gotten the gist of it.

Hunk slowed down on the drums and Pidge added monkey noises in the background on their keyboard out of boredom, getting a small laugh out of it as Keith glared at them. Lance sung, letting Keith do background vocals.

Keith started playing his guitar alongside Lance, despite the fact that he'd originally only written one guitar part. He played the same pattern as Lance, but a couple notes lower.

Lance turned toward him. "I actually like that song. And what you did on guitar at the end was really good. I actually think just playing that instead of the original would be better," He suggested. "The monkey sounds were kind of funny, Pidge and would be fine to keep, but there are a few parts where I think you could use french horn music. Actually, if you'd like you could make an entire background playlist for this song." He walked toward Pidge with the papers, taking a marker out of his shirt pocket. "Mind if I write on this?" Lance mumbled with the marker in his mouth. Keith shrugged in response, stalking behind him to see what he was going to write. Lance made a few marks between paragraphs, writing the letters of the notes Keith had played before. "Nah, I think it's fine the way we played it, aside from the thing you mentioned about Keith."

She handed him another packet that they'd doodled on with colorful pens while they were playing the last song. "You can probably relate to this one," Pidge smirked. Lance squinted at the paper. "My Whole Family Thinks I'm Gay. That- that's funny." He practically threw it back in her face, getting his guitar and playing the opening chords to Fuck You by Lily Allen.

"Keith, when did you even write a song like this. It's pretty funny." Hunk held the packet now, looking at him curiously. Keith shrugged. "I did it on a dare my Sophomore year. My sister, Acxa, thought it would be funny if I wrote a song about being gay and showed it to Shiro."

"Wait, wait, wait. Shiro, like, our theatre teacher?" Lance asked, astonished.

"Yeah, he's my cousin?" Keith raised an eyebrow. Lance took a deep breath and clasped his hands together, holding them to his forehead as if he was praying. "Oh my fucking God."

"What?"

"Lance is a Shiro fanboy." Pidge smirked.

"NO!" Lance aggressively pointed a finger at them, then turned on Keith. "No," he said as if he were in physical pain. He wheezed slightly before getting a hold of himself. "Are there any other songs we can check out or do we want to move on to my song?"

Pidge sent him a withering glare before handing him another packet. "Sarcasm, huh? I can get behind that." Lance simpered, letting Keith take center stage again and getting behind him.

Keith winced. "It's not really like that, but whatever. 180 bpm for this song. Lance, stop glaring at the sheet music and give it to Allura. She's going to start out on violin. Strumming at the beginning, please." Lance glared at Keith again before begrudgingly handing them to Allura. He was very disappointed to find the lyrics of the song to be just as, if not more angsty than the rest of the songs Keith had played with them. Allura let Hunk take a short look at it before tapping out the first four beats with her toe before they started. Lance strumming on his guitar with Hunk before Allura joined in halfway with Keith playing softly underneath the layers of music. Lance's guitar, then Hunks drums, Allura's Violin, and Keith providing the background noise as he sung.

Pidge joined in with her short piano solo, with the others dropping off, aside from hunk, who shook a maraca that could be clipped back onto hi-hat stand. It was a gadget he had created using a couple slabs of metal, a rubber band, and a screw three years ago after what he would call a short burst of inspiration.

Everyone joined in with an aggressively played chorus, which would filter through the rest of the song. It started abruptly and Keith would start to take over the guitar part, playing in harsh bursts of energy, moving his body along with the music, his sharp, aggressive movements giving an overall darkened effect on the song.

Keith abruptly changed the chords he was strumming as Lance started singing the next verse over the last note that he left hanging over half of the first line.

The guitar part changed drastically again as Keith started screaming into the mic for half of the first line, Lance yelling the second half of the line into the mic as they bounced their parts back and forth. Hunk's hands sped across the drums as he played his part. Both guitars, which had been practically silenced at the beginning, now overpowered every other instrument that was played.

They adjusted back into the chorus, seeming to calm down slightly. Lance played with just as much volume as Keith now.

They played at mezzo piano for a few beats before stopping the music altogether as Lance and Keith sung the first line together. They then started playing once again.

The song calmed down for the first two lines before brushing into a vivace chorus again. Lance sung background vocals, while Keith started singing with more of a falsetto. The group started to play a staccato accelerando as they started to wrap up the song.

They all stopped playing aside from the steady beat of Hunk tapping his foot on the bass drum pedal and Pidge playing a lively bit at the end. Keith and Lance's voices began to mingle as the sung together.

If this is love I don't wanna be hanging by the neck

Before an audience of death

Lance pumped a hand in the air, his previous mood lifted again, excited for his own new song to be played. He leaped off the stage, reaching for a guitar case that had been stacked with Allura's instruments. Keith had originally assumed that the guitar belonged to Allura, but now that he looked closer, he noticed that the large pile of instruments included multiple types of guitars, orchestra instruments, marching band instruments, percussion instruments, and even what looked like something you'd find a dj using at a club. He wondered why they had so many instruments, when they most likely wouldn't play all of them. As if reading his mind, Lance lifted his acoustic guitar out of the case and explained. "We like to take all out stuff home on Thursdays because we don't practice on Fridays and we usually practice at my place on the weekends. It's just easier to have everything in one place."

Lance climbed onto the stage and strode confidently to the center of the stage. "This one's called If I'm James Dean, Then You're Audrey Hepburn." Pidge snickered, earning a glare from Lance. He strummed the acoustic experimentally before starting the song, only himself and Hunk with his maracas playing the song. Keith noted how his voice seemed naturally high when he sung, the words flowing naturally, almost like a waterfall. He sung softly and sincerely, which put Keith off kilter. He was already creating a new melody for Lance's song in his head. The way he sung the song was like a husband casually telling his wife how much she means to him in his vows at their wedding. It was strange for Keith. It seemed like it should have been a private moment, but Lance was proudly flaunting this unfaltering adoration for his Audrey Hepburn.

It was a very cute song, so when Keith stepped up to the mic Lance occupied and said, "May I?" Lance practically withered into a pile of ashes on the spot. "What? Not good enough for you, hot shot?" Lance answered venomously. "No. It was great. I just had an idea for an alternate version." Lance warily let him have the mic and grabbed his other guitar, which had been left haphazardly on the edge of the stage.

Keith reached around Lance, strumming the beginnings of Lance's part, which Lance continued to strum slowly, but surely as he got the hand of this new instrumental. Keith then walked across the stage toward Hunk, tapping the rhythm he wanted him to start out with in time with Lance until Hunk got the hang of it. He rifled through the pile of instruments and carefully pulled out a guitar case with Allura's name plastered on it in silver cursive. He gave it to her to take out and tune before he played a few chords, letting Allura take over quickly until they were all in sync.

He then began to strum his own part on the guitar, immediately singing the lyrics Lance had been singing before, with less of a falsetto and a rougher voice.

The song slowed for a moment before picking back up as the others figured out where the hell they were going with this.

The music swelled and burst into the chorus, where Allura added her own little flair on her guitar. It was easy to see how talented she was with the instrument, with any instrument for that matter.

Lance yelled the first, third, fourth, sixth, and seventh line, Keith singing in between the lines. Allura filled up some of the blank spaces with her higher pitched guitar, improvising after having lost what her part had originally been, but still making the song sound good.

The music abruptly changed and Hunk's pounding sounds echoed through the concert hall.

Lance was left playing by himself, until everyone else started building up upon the music.

They progressed into the chorus with practiced ease this time around. Lance sung background vocals with him.

Please stay forever with me

Lance high-fived Allura and Hunk before everyone turned their attention to the doors of the concert hall. Professor Shirogane stood with his foot holding the door open, onlooking the group with a fond smile. "Hey, guys. You mind if I take Keith home?" Pidge made an ooh noise.

"Aww. I wish my dad would pick me up after school," Lance taunted.

"He's not my dad," Keith ground through grit teeth, getting his stuff together and walking to the exit.

"See you next week, Keith!" Hunk chirped enthusiastically accompanied by a squeaking noise, almost like that of a mouse, from Allura who waved frantically. She ran toward him, almost tackling him in her attempt to give him his papers back. She shyly handed them to him. "Shee jou neksht week," She slurred, somehow still sounding elegant. He gave her a small smile and a thank you for her efforts as she skipped back to the stage. Shiro chuckled, holding the door open for Keith. "Ladies first."

Keith glowered at him, but still moved ahead, letting Shiro drag behind. As per usual, Shiro bugged him with question after question about his mental health. "Did you take your pills this morning? Are you feeling okay? You sure you don't need to take a break from school for a bit? You aren't being bullied again, are you? Should I ask the councilor to see you again?" Keith sighed exasperatedly. "I'm fine, Shiro. I'm seeing my therapist tomorrow anyways." Keith waved his hand dismissively. "Let's just go home." Shiro nodded hesitantly before going off on a tangent about a chemistry teacher he'd met in the front office (or what most people called the fish bowl because of the glass trophy cases that served as the see-through walls of it) whom he now had a crush on. Keith listened attentively hanging onto every word, despite how boring the story might have seemed to literally anyone else. Droning on and on about how adorable and perfect the guy was. How kind and nerdy he was, but still left Shiro wanting to hear more about whatever the fuck a homogeneous mixture was. And what the hell the guy meant when he kept calling him tellanylidenecopper. I wonder if I could ever find someone like that.

 

Chapter Text

Keith slammed his locker shut, shifting the weight of the books in his arms (art history required a textbook twice the size of a normal textbook and thrice it's weight, a booklet that he could write notes from his textbook in, a booklet for what they learned in class and his AMSTUD textbook, (which was in his backpack instead of in his arms) so that he could study over the weekend.

"Hey, Keith!" He spun around at the sound of his voice, deeply hoping it wasn't someone who wanted to screw with him. He saw the telltale sign of someone waving to him from behind a throng of people, who had decided to make it their job to block the entire hallway off so that no one could get to their classes. A mop of brunette hair bounced above the crowd's heads and managed to push it's way through the group of people in the form of an excited Lance. "Hey, man. We're playing a gig in Palo Verde. You should come. The place we play at gets pretty packed and we could use an extra guitar player. Our last one ditched us a couple weeks ago."

"Sure. I'll just have to ask Takashi for a ride."

"Wait, you're on a first name basis with the teacher?"

"He's my cousin."

"Yeah, but it's still weird."

"Whatever." Keith pulled his phone out of his pocket. "Here. Put your number in and I'll text you." Lance eagerly took his phone, putting his number in before saving himself as a contact and rifling through whatever else was on Keith's phone.

"Hey, I said put your number in. Not to go through all my stuff." Keith reached for the phone, but Lance held it above his head, scanning through old pictures Keith had taken.

"Seriously? Do you just take pictures of random fence posts all day?" He scrolled through image after image of random things. A fence post with tree branches hanging over it, a bike chained up to a bike rack at the side of the school, a bench decorated with flowers and a stuffed bear (probably some sort of memorial of sorts), an empty window at the front of the school.

A boy snatched the phone from Lance. "How creepy. What's up with all these photos, ya' crazy?" Rolo asked, scrolling through.

"Hey, he's not crazy," Lance sniffed. Keith snorted, "Yeah, I am. I'm schizophrenic and psychotic." Lance stared at him for a moment. "I wouldn't have guessed. But still. Crazy suggests someone who's deranged in an aggressive sort of way, which I don't think Keith is." Rolo squinted at him. "Who the hell are you?"

"I should ask you the same thing." Lance crossed his arms over his chest, standing up straighter.

"Chill, Lance." Keith placed a hand on his chest, pushing him away from Rolo. "Rolo, my phone." He held out his hand for Rolo to give him the phone. Rolo seemed to contemplate this for a moment before tossing the phone up in the air a few times, letting Keith fidget and stew in uncertainty. "Sure. Just tell me what's up with the stalker pictures." Keith's brows furrowed. "There's no one in them?" Rolo rolled his eyes, still holding the phone out of Keith's reach.

"I use it to see what's real and what isn't. Happy? Now give me my phone." Rolo hummed in acknowledgement before throwing it across the hall behind him. Keith frowned before stalking off to grab his phone before someone stepped on it. He stood up, shoving his phone back into his pocket and noticed Lance had followed him like a sad puppy. "What do you want?" Lance's face scrunched up in discomfort. "You shouldn't let people walk all over you." Keith rolled his eyes. "You stole my phone before him."

"Not the point. I know I go overboard sometimes, but people usually call me out when it's too much. Or in Pidge's case, beat the shit out of me."

Keith snickered. "It's not that big a deal." He shouldered his backpack. "Anyways, what are you guys going to play?" Keith asked, changing the topic at record speed.

"Hunk wrote a song called It Wasn't Me which is a pretty good song. Most of the other songs I wrote; Familiar, The Haunting, Don't You Dare Forget the Sun, Roger Rabbit. And Pidge wants us to play your version of If I'm James Dean, Then You're Audrey Hepburn. Is that okay?" Lance listed off. "Sure. Do you guys practice beforehand?" Keith started walking to his class in the B2 building, letting Lance trail behind despite the fact that the B2 building was far away from all the other classes and Lance probably wouldn't be able to get to class on time if he followed him to his class.

"Yeah. Sometimes we meet at my house, which is where we usually keep all our stuff since my family's got a pretty big house. We carpool, so if you want to go to that with us we meet up in the parking lot by the duck pond. Just text me. And then when we go to Palo Verde, we have about half an hour of practice before we go on." Keith nodded along. "Again, I'm going to have to ask Shiro, but yeah. Maybe I'll go. And if you want, I could bring my songs with me?" He said uncertainly. "How about you just choose a song or two that you'd like to play?" Keith nodded. "Okay. You should go to class before you're late," He said just as the bell rung signaling the one-minute warning. "It's fine. I have peer assistance, so they don't care if I'm late," Lance reassured him. "If you say so." Keith smiled, entering his classroom and sitting in the back corner of the room where he usually sat (despite the fact that the teacher changed the seating arrangement every other week, he stayed in the same spot until the teacher relented and started putting his name tag in the back corner away from all the other students). He pulled out his phone and tapped on the Naviance app before clicking out again as the teacher started droning on about the Ndop of King Mishe miShyaang.

He went to his contacts and sent Shiro a quick message of 'going to Palo Verde after school. got a ride.'

He went back to the Naviance app, where he started taking notes about the Ndop, purposefully ignoring the vibrations of Shiro texting him multiple short messages.


"Keith." Shiro sounded like he was in physical pain as he said the name just outside his classroom, letting other students filter in. Each of them side-eyed him, looking desperately uncomfortable by the schiz kid standing outside their classroom talking to their teacher. Shiro sighed, sliding his hand down his face as if to wipe off the stress that had accumulated underneath his pores. "You don't just tell me these things half an hour before last period. There has to be a plan. Your pills are going to wear off. What are you going to do then?" Keith rolled his eyes. "I can take another pill if I need to. I think you're forgetting that I've been living with this my whole life. It's not that big a deal if they wear off early. I've never had big problems with it."

"Except when you almost got run over," Shiro reminded him. Keith winced at the memory, remembering how Shiro had rescued him from death. How he lost his arm that day.

"I'll be fine, Shiro. I'm not a stupid little kid anymore. Besides, when was the last time I asked you if I could go out with some friends?" Shiro thought for a moment. "A very sad amount. You know what? This'll be good for you. Make some friends for a change."

Keith swore he got whiplash from the speed at which Shiro's attitude changed by a simple comment on his lack of friends. "I have friends..." Keith mumbled. "Your sister and I don't count."

"I'm friends with Lotor."

"No, you aren't. You hate him."

"I also hate you," Keith answered smugly.

"Shut up. You love me." Shiro ruffled Keith's hair, something which he knew annoyed the younger boy to no end. "Anyways, you're going to want to get to class before the school assumes you're skipping again. Go, go." Shiro waved him off, for which he received a playful shove for his efforts before the raven headed to class in A building for SpEd. As the one-minute bell rung, he started running through the courtyard, pushing past the occasional straggler. He ran up the stairs and toward the SpEd classroom on the opposite side of the building and managed to get there just before the bell rung. "Sorry I'm late, Olia," He shoved off his backpack, dropping it in the corner of the room. "It's fine, Keith. The other kids are still in their last class anyways. No rush. And our new peer assistant hasn't gotten here yet, either." Keith smiled sheepishly. "Sorry. I'm a little paranoid sometimes." Olia chuckled. "I'm well aware of that. And don't stress too much about truancy. You've got plenty of time to get to classes."

"Not that much time. If I'm late even 3 more times, I'll have to go to court and my foster family is going to drop me."

Olia smiled sympathetically. "If they drop you, I'll just adopt you and your sister. I've always wanted kids anyways." She straightened up, trying to make herself look more like an adult. Her short stature and her childish face didn't help much. Her freckles and short, brunette hair stood out against her tan, Israeli skin. Her doe eyes seemed to accent her other features perfectly, while making her look much younger than she was. She remembered being mistaken for a high-schooler multiple times while working at this school. At one point a student had asked if she'd gotten lost on her way to the middle school next door, though that was more likely a professionally aimed insult.

Both of them became distracted as a group of other students came into the room, herded in by a very familiar mop of brown hair. "Hey, Olia. Sorry we're late. Beezer needed a bathroom break and soon everyone else needed one as well. Oh, hey Keith." Lance waved at Keith, who'd gone to folding his arms across his chest. Olia smiled. "Keith, this is our new peer assistant, Lance. He's been helping out with the kids next door, but because he needs more credits, I'm letting him work with you during seventh period."

"What?" Keith's brows furrowed in confusion. "Shouldn't an actual teacher be working with me?" Olia nodded. "Yes, you will have a regular teacher, but Lance will be helping you if you don't understand certain things and helping you in other areas if the need arises. Lance has been taking a few advanced college classes at Estrella Mountain Community so he can take care of students with mental disabilities. So I'm perfectly confident in his abilities."

Keith groaned. "I don't need a babysitter, Olia."

"From what I've heard, you do. Should I call Shiro and have him corroborate?"

He grimaced. "Fine. Whatever."

"You can stay here for a couple minutes if you want, but you're going to have to go to Ms. Hira's room for class." Keith frowned. "It's fine. I'll just go now. Don't want to upset the General." He waved her off, leaving the classroom without bothering to see if Lance was following. Keith fidgeted, unconsciously rolling up his jacket sleeves before unrolling them again. Lance didn't mention it.

"Why did you call her the general?" Lance asked curiously.

"Because she used to be a General in the army, but after some sort of skirmish involving her trying to upgrade to commander, she was kicked out of the army. She hates it when people call her that now." Keith explained. "Why do you want to nanny a bunch of mentally ill people? Aren't there better things you could be doing? Like playing your guitar professionally? Or going to law school?" Lance chuckled. "I've got a little sister with autism, so it's more for her, but if I help other people along the way, that's fine with me. Besides, my parents need someone to help out at home while they're gone all the time," Lance chuckled. "I've got 6 siblings and four of them are already out of state and in college. So I have to babysit my younger brother and sister all the time. While my parents are out of state."

"What do your parents do that keeps them out of state?" Keith asked curiously. "Well, my mom's a model for Vogue magazines and my dad's a photographer for the same company. They make a lot of money, so if they needed to hire a nanny they could. But I'd prefer not to put the lives of my siblings in the hands of some stranger. Especially Ana."

"That's pretty cool. My sister, Axca, wants to become some sort of psychologist. She says she wants to change the world and cure mental illness. Imagine that," Keith said sarcastically with a barely visible, fond smile. "It's great to have goals. What about you? Are you going to change the world too?"

Keith scoffed. "There's nothing I really can do. Not a lot of people will hire me for any job because of my schizophrenia. Colleges definitely wouldn't. Even if I try to become some sort of public speaker or build my own business, people will automatically think I'm an unreliable source or something. The only option I really have is to rot away in some mental facility for the rest of my life. I'm lucky that I haven't been forced into one already," Keith answered, frowning as he entered Ms. Hira's classroom. It was more of a nurse's office, having facilitated some medical classes during other periods and containing meds for some of the Special Education students. The pink-haired woman frowned back at him for different reasons.

"Kogane. Sit." She gestured toward one of the hospital beds arranged around the room. The one she gestured toward happened to be the only one with a CPR dummy on it. "You, What's your name?" She pointed at Lance with a ruler as Keith sat down on the hospital bed, taking care not to move the mannequin too much. "My name is Lance and I'm a peer assistant, ma'am." He stood up straighter, his voice wavering with obvious fear for the tall, buff woman waving her ruler around. Keith snickered from his spot and Ms. Hira cast a wary glance in his direction before lowering her ruler and voicelessly permitting Lance access to her classroom. Lance warily stepped around her and stood behind Keith.

"Has your medication worn off yet?" She asked, wandering around her desk and going through her drawers. She managed to loose at least one item in her classroom every half hour. Students of hers say she would have walked off without her ass at some point if it weren't attached.

"No. It shouldn't until around 6."

"Great," She managed, pulling out a notepad and an assorted box of pills. She plopped the box down on the bed next to him. "Take the ones marked 'Friday.' Just give me a second to find my pen and I'll get you a cup of water." She rummaged through her desk until Keith cleared his throat, gesturing to a wheelchair sitting in a corner of the room where her pen, for some mysterious reason, lay in the center of it. "Right," She grabbed the pen before going off to grab a cup of water from the giant sink. She gave him the cup and he swallowed the pills and the water in one big gulp. "No problems lately with your other classes?" She asked, holding her clipboard and pen at the ready. "None," Keith agreed. "Vision problems?" She looked up from her clipboard. "The usual." She nodded. "Any bad hallucinations?"

"Not that I can't handle."

"Paranoia?"

"A little worse than usual."

"Concentration?"

"Camp." Ms. Hira smiled slightly at the joke before frowning and slapping him softly on the knee with her ruler. "Concentration?"

"Fine."

"Any speech problems?"

"Not that anyone's mentioned."

"Any deluded or confused thoughts?"

"No more than usual."

"Any tics?"

"I've been kind of jumpy lately, I guess."

"Have you gotten any pills for your catatonia?"

"I haven't even mentioned it to my therapist yet," Keith answered, rolling up his sleeves and unrolling them again.

"You should. Becoming catatonic can have serious consequences."

"I know, I know. I just... I dunno." Keith started rocking in his seat almost imperceptibly, had it not been for the stillness in the room prior. Ms. Hira put down her clipboard, putting a hand on his shoulder. "Keith, calm down. I've still got a few more things I need to check. If it makes you feel better, I could ask Shiro to bring it up with the therapist for you?" Keith grimaced at that. "I mean, it's not that big a deal..." Ms. Hira glowered at him, unimpressed. "I'll mention it to Shiro." Keith sighed in defeat.

"Have you been taking care of yourself?"

"Axca helps me remember to do stuff, but probably not as much as I should."

"How's your memory?"

"Great."

"Okay. When you go to your therapist give her this," She gave him the sheet of paper she'd been scrawling on. "Remember to tell her about your catatonia, the flat affect, jumpiness," She paused. "And mention possibly getting a caretaker if you're not going to go to a hospital."

"I don't need a babysitter," Keith complained.

"Your sister and cousin have both mentioned that you haven't been taking care of yourself unless one of them forces you to. You look like you haven't slept or eaten in days." She poked him in the stomach.

"I'm fine," He grumbled, waving her off.

"That's not for me to judge. I'm merely speculating based on everything I've been told about you." She put her papers down and kicked against the bed, rolling the chair across the room so that she was back behind her desk again. "Anyways, I'm leaving early today, so you can leave if you want. Or hang out here. Doesn't matter to me." She proceeded to ignore the two boys as they shuffled out of the room, clearly uncomfortable being around her for more than a couple minutes.

"My guitar is in Takashi's classroom, so I'm just going to run in real quick and get it," Keith said awkwardly.

"Yeah, um. I'll go get the car and pull around and pick you up when you're done," Lance answered, rubbing the back of his head as he chuckled nervously before skedaddling. Keith shrugged it off and went into the building and walked to Shiro's class without paying attention. He got so into his head that he didn't notice how the strange things he'd grown so accustomed to in his life seemed to fade away now.

 

Chapter Text

Keith sat in the passenger seat of Lance's minivan, giggling as Lance rocked out to It's Over, Isn't It? from Steven Universe. Even going so far as to riff on an imaginary guitar at the sound of a single note played by a string instrument, that instrument most definitely being a god damn violin. As soon as the song ended, it started onto a song that sounded like some sort of edgier version of techno. Keith raised an eyebrow in question.

"Pidge writes some songs. She and her brother DJ at a club in Phoenix on weekends. I think this song's called Action Winter Journey. I download all of my friend's music off spotify." Lance shrugged. "Your music style is very different from... uh, theirs?" Keith questioned, unsure of whether Pidge was trans or cis, male, female, or neither. Lance smiled at the effort. "Yeah, Pidge is a they. All of us have different styles of music. Pidge is more tech-y, I mostly write love songs, though more often than not they're kinda edgy, Hunk writes a lot of funny songs and songs about sex, despite being a precious cinnamon bun who has never had wet dreams in his life, and Allura composes country songs sometimes. We have a sort of spectrum of music. Plus all of us are studying to go into college for music, so we're pretty good." Keith nodded. "I usually write punk rock-type music, but I also write some other types of songs. But it's easier to write edgy songs, I think."

"You said you had schizophrenia?"

"Yeah."

"Catatonic schizophrenia, I mean. Does that affect your music? I don't mean to pry, but a lot of people who play with mental illness play songs that kind of reflect it. Like Pidge, who has cyclothymia. Their songs usually sound like what you might imagine they feels like at times. This song is actually pretty popular online and people call it the bipolar song because that's kind of what it is. And my ADHD may not be really bad, but it is very influential in some of my more upbeat songs, while my anxiety sort of controls the edgier songs I write," Lance explained.

"I think my depression influences my songs more than my schizophrenia does. Although Shiro says that some of my songs sound like a high person wrote them sometimes, but to me the words seem perfectly normal. I think it's really just the way I perceive things because of it. Do you usually make friends with a bunch of mentally ill people or is it just coincidence that you know so many?"

"Hunk isn't mentally ill and neither is Allura, if that's what you're saying. We never really knew that Pidge was bipolar until a couple years ago though."

"I never knew so many mentally ill people lived in this area though. It's kind of weird."

"You're kind of weird." Lance elbowed Keith, who squished his face into the window until Lance cried uncle. Keith was so busy laughing at Keith that when a tapping noise started up on the window, he jumped out of his skin only to receive choked laughter from Lance in return. He glanced out the window to see his sister, Axca, waiting patiently outside. He rolled down the window and she immediately started lecturing him.

"Keith, what have I said about warning me when you're going to have another ride home? And what about your meds? Shiro said you were leaving town tonight to play music? What if something happens and I'm not there to help you? It's decided. I'm coming with you and your douche bag friends." She opened the car door and slid into the back of the minivan without any sort of invitation.

"How many times do I need to say that I don't need a babysitter? And no one invited you to come along. I'm fine. I've got my meds and I've got Lance here. Nothing is going to happen anyways. I haven't gone catatonic in over a month and I haven't had any big issues on or off the pill in three years," Keith argued.

"I'm still coming whether you like it or not. And it's better to be safe than sorry." She settled in, pulling out her phone so she could text her girlfriend, her jet black hair falling into her face as she typed away.

Lance turned to Keith with a mischievous smile on his face. "She looks exactly like you. You guys even have the same mullet."

"It's not a mullet," Keith and Acxa said in unison. Lance smiled cheerfully. "Sure, it's not." He turned toward the school doors as the last bell rang. "Looks like that's the bell. Allura, Pidge, and Hunk should be here any moment now." And just like that, the three busted through the doors, racing toward the car. Pidge slammed the door open and yelled, "I'm Yao, king of the rock!" Hunk slid in beside her and Allura sulked as she slid into the back. "Keet-or," Allura slurred, slumping down into her seat. Pidge turned around in their seat, signing to Allura as they spoke. "It's not our fault if you're clumsy."

"Let's get this show on the road people. We're loosing daylight! Buckle up, buttercup," Lance remarked, pulling into gear and driving away without actually waiting for everyone to buckle up. "You sounded like Mushu for a second there," Pidge commented. "I'm a meme at heart, sweetie," Lance replied before turning onto the road and speeding down the street. Keith immediately grabbed the passenger assist handle (the chicken handle as Pidge and Lance liked to refer to it, which Hunk did not appreciate in the slightest) on the ceiling of the car, trying to right himself as Lance swerved into the far left lane during a right turn. Pidge leaned up behind him and whispered into his ear, "Chicken." He turned and saw his sister, calm as ever, texting on her phone. He sighed, resigning to his fate and praying that they wouldn't crash into the semi in front of them. As soon as Lance got a hold of Pidge chanting 'chicken, chicken, chicken" he joined in with her, which only made to freak Keith out more.

"Have you ever heard of a little thing called the speed limit?" Keith asked dryly, gripping the armrests with white knuckles. "Speed limit? Don't know her," Lance chuckled, still slowing down nonetheless for Keith's sake. "So where is this house of yours?" Keith asked breathlessly. "21401 West Granite Ridge Road," Lance answered quickly. "It's pretty much on the western edge of Verrado. North East of here. It's technically outside the school district, but my parents have a secondary house in Palo that's registered with the school district instead of our main house."

"How many houses do you have?"

"Five. Two here in Arizona, one in New York, one in California, and a beach house in Cuba."

"Holy shit." Keith's eyes widened at the implication of what he'd just said. "I mean, I didn't know you're parents made that much money. I've never even had a job or anything, so maybe I'm not a good source for what seems like a lot of money, but that just seems like... wow." He said hurriedly, side-eyeing Lance, who looked like he was on the verge of bursting into laughter. "Yeah. I mean, my grandfather is a congressman as well and my grandmother is a retired singer, plus my older siblings are a little all over the place. Hugo is the only one in the family that doesn't make a lot of money, but that's kind of because he likes to mooch off our parents." lance shrugged, pulling into a roundabout right next to a very large house.

"Here we are," Lance proclaimed, cutting the engine and getting out of the car with everyone else. It was a bit of a walk from the short roundabout at the side of the house to the driveway, which looked about as big as a Walmart parking lot. There were four garage doors to each side of the main entrance and a fountain on each side surrounded by palm trees with a large balcony above the large double doors that led into the house. Once inside, they were met with a second set of double doors, these being glass. An elaborate chandelier hung low over their heads and there were large potted plants erratically sorted into the small entrance. When they entered the front room, it was pristine and so clean it looked as if it had never been touched by time. Keith stood on the checkered tile, leaning against a column just outside the double doors admiring the room like a man who'd never seen wealth in his life (which wasn't true; he'd made a habit of watching the Kardashians on tv all the time).

The others, including Axca, walked onto the pure white tile covering the rest of the room. Pidge sat on the wooden table centered at one side of the room, while Hunk, Allura, and Axca settled down on the white and black couches. Axca set her muddy boots on the glass coffee table without any sort of concern continually messing with her phone. She wore a stained white tank top, skinny jeans, a red flannel which was tied around her waist, and a fur hat. She looked like she'd walked straight out of a forest in Oregon. Lance didn't seem to care that much about Axca making a mess of his house. Pidge wore a white shirt with the words "natural disaster" written on it and a pair of green shorts and sandals. Hunk wore his signature bandanna, a yellow shirt with a jersey over top, Adidas, black and white Nike pants. Allura wore a cropped sailor suit top and a long white skirt. She wore bright pink sandals which accented what she was wearing. Lance wore a dark blue tank top that had a yellow tag in the middle that said "BEST BI" in all caps. He had a light blue jacket over it and ripped jeans, which fishnet stockings could be seen through. His bright yellow sneakers popped with the outfit.

If you'd asked Keith, he would say him and his sister looked very out of place here. He wore his favorite red cropped jacket, his own pair of muddy boots, a black muscle tank, and cargo pants along with a scrappy old hat with the words "Palo Verde Fire Dept" on it. He noted that there were several antelope statues around the house and even the chandelier above the couches seemed to have been shaped to have a small resemblance of having antelope horns jutting out of the sides. Lance suddenly startled him out of his reverie by grabbing his arm and saying, "Help me bring out some snacks."

He dragged Keith back to the entrance, taking a left into a darkened room. Lance quickly flicked on the lights, revealing a kitchen with dark, brown, granite counter tops that were so clean, they served better as a mirror than a counter top despite the darkened color. The cabinets, stove and even the window linings were the same brown color with tan walls and floors and white accessories, such as the chairs, vase of flowers and bowl of fruit set up on the island. Lance immediately went to the fridge, pulling out a liter of cola, a bag of carrots, and a Tupperware case of what appeared to be blocks of cheese. He opened up the pantry next to the fridge and grabbed a couple bags of chips, shoving them into Keith's arms. He stacked up the carrots, cola, and cheese precariously on top of each other and led Keith back into the front room.

"Grab whatever and let's go upstairs."

"Already ahead of you." Pidge leapt up, snatching the carrots and racing up the stairs. "Last person to get set up pays for pizza!"

Axca looked up from her phone and grabbed the bottle of cola and ran upstairs after Pidge. "See ya' suckers!" She mock-saluted those still left downstairs. Hunk shrugged, snatching the cheese and running upstairs after everyone, while Keith stood in shock and Allura and Lance waited patiently for everyone to get ready.

"Chill, guys. Everyone knows I'm going to pay anyways," Lance said receiving a bored glare from Pidge, who hung over the gate above them. "That's boring, Lance."

Lance took a bag labeled "potato crisps" and tossed it to Allura, who fumbled with the bag for a moment before saying "dank joo" and heading upstairs with everyone else. Keith picked up his guitar case, which he'd sat next to one of the columns and handed Lance one of the bags of chips. Lance smiled mischievously for a moment before the two boys raced for the staircase. Keith managed to get there first and quickly got his guitar out of his case before Lance even got the chance to gather his bearings. "When did that staircase get so long? I feel like I just ran a marathon," Lance complained.

"Says the guy on the swim team," Pidge quarreled. Lance gave her the middle finger, popping the bag of chips in his hands and shoving a handful of chips into his mouth. "Swim team is different than track," Lance said around his mouthful of chips, careful to be extra disgusting about it, making Pidge cringe. Keith pulled out two crumpled packets of paper from his backpack, putting them in Lance's filthy hands before he could instigate the smaller person any further. Lance swallowed the chips before focusing on the packets of paper. The others circled around him, save Axca, who'd poured herself a glass of cola and was now chewing through a small block of brie, which Hunk told her was a very fine make from Wisconsin, to which she'd shrugged disinterestedly.

"This one says it requires the use of tenor and alto saxophone, as well as trombone? You do realize we don't have a marching band on hold for us, right?" Lance joked.

Keith shrugged. "I can play all three if that matters and the saxophones are switch parts, so they'd be played by the same person. If that's too much I could easily convert it to string instruments."

Lance nodded. "No, it's fine. Just wanted to double check." He made an attempt at smoothing down the papers against the leather couch near where his guitar, Allura's violin, and a doubky-necked guitar lay spread along the couch. Pidge dragged the zebra-patterned ottoman into a corner of the room by Hunk's drum set and set up their synthesizing equipment and keyboard. They kneeled down on the cheetah-patterned carpet as they plugged in some stuff, adjusting one of Hunk's stands against the glass doors that lined the wall and lead to a dark balcony so it was out of their way.

"I also like this one. Not necessarily the instrumental you've written for it though and the speed is a little slow, so I want to speed that up. Like 160 beats per minute. Is that okay?" Lance looked up for confirmation. "Sure. Whatever you want, man." Allura, seeming to have gotten the message left to bring her saxophones and Lance's euphonium. "And Pidge, do you think you could play something on your synthesizer for this instrumental part?" Pidge nodded, pressing a button that played a siren noise, to which Lance gave them a thumbs up. Axca sat criss-crossed on the floor with her phone, looking up every few minutes to make sure everyone was still there. She seemed to be doing a terrible job of keeping her twin brother in check. He passed the paper to Pidge, who immediately started cackling after they'd read the lyrics thoroughly.

"This song should be the theme for Yandere Simulator. Oh my God," They snorted at their own joke. Pidge looked at Keith and seeing the confused look on his face made them laugh even harder, rolling around on the floor in a fit of giggles. "My God, do you not know what Yandere Simulator is? You gotta play it after we're done here."

Lance rolled his eyes. "Ignore them." Everybody finally entered the room and got settled. Hunk to his drum set and Allura sitting on the couch with the double-necked guitar. Keith sat down on the couch with his guitar and Lance stayed standing with his guitar.

Pidge started her synthesizer as Lance started singing the first verse, playing soft background music.

 

Pidge played a warped version of the siren noise they'd played earlier and Keith softly sang "pretty little psycho" in the background, prompting Pidge to add another layer on synthetic music and dropping the siren before Hunk begun playing as Lance started singing again. Keith started playing on guitar as well

Hunk changed his playing slightly, as did Pidge while Keith dropped off entirely to do a pretend-cheerleading performance from the back of the group and earning a small chuckle from Hunk and a fond smile from Allura. She joined on her guitar, giving a little power to the song.

Make me, m ake me impressed

Make me, m ake me obsessed

Keith started playing again as they pulled into the chorus and practically screamed the words "pretty little psycho" along with Lance. Allura started playing along in the background along to a similar tune that Pidge was playing.

 

Pidge toned down back to how she'd been playing before with just a little bit more uppity background patterns, while Allura started playing louder to make up for it.

 

Keith did his little cheer leading shtick again, earning a disappointed slow clap from his sister, to whom he stuck his tongue out at.

 

They hurried into the chorus, getting the hang of the song and doing very well, despite it being the first time most of them were playing it.

 

Pidge and Keith stopped playing, so that it was just Hunk and Allura playing now. Allura played at piano volume while Hunk took over. Keith gave that screamo effect in the last two lines.

 

They joined back into the chorus again, amping up the energy.

 

Allura clapped enthusiastically and Pidge threw a block of cheese at her, which she caught before it hit her in the forehead. "Dude, you can't even tell what we sound like. Why are you clapping?" They signed slowly and unsurely at her, but at the same time aggressively. Allura signed back with even more force and an angry look on her face before ending with a loud and verbalized "jack ash." Lance chose to ignore them and went over to Hunk and started joking around with him about how Pidge needed to chill out and ask Allura out already. Hunk seemed genuinely distressed by his arguing comrades and was glancing between them as if waiting to see who popped their lid first so he could run in the opposite direction. Lance suddenly turned to Keith without warning, making the overwhelmed boy jump in surprise. "Who's this other song about, though? Ex-girlfriend? What was the song called again?" He glanced at Hunk, who shook his head in disappointment. "It literally says the name like a million times in the song."

"It's called She Wants Me Dead. And it's about my sister. There's only 8 lines in the song that aren't the phrase 'she wants me dead.' I don't know how you missed that." Acxa elbowed him in the ribs, to which he tasered her, which ended in a wrestling match in the middle of the room while the others conversed about the song, or in Lance's case, joked about the twin's mullets. Acxa ended up winning the short, impromptu wrestling match before getting up and heading back to the couch and leaving Keith on the floor looking like he'd just busted a lung.

"Wait, it says here 'Woke up this morning with the devil in my bed.' Do you sleep with your sister?" Lance pointed out, making a sad attempt at a lenny face.

"We share a bunk bed if that's what you're asking." Keith sat up as he spoke.

Pidge suddenly whipped their head around in his direction, scaring the hell out of everyone in the room, aside from Acxa, who was still glued to her phone. "Dude, that's gay."

Acxa snorted. "Mood."

Keith flopped down on his back again and answered, "Same," to which his sister kicked him in the arm and he grabbed her foot, pulling her down to the ground with an ungraceful yelp.

"Anyways let's get to the next song, guys, gals, and nonbinary pals." He finger-gunned at Pidge, to which they flicked him off. He already had his euphonium sitting on his lap and next to him Allura had the alto sax out and the tenor set up in its case.

"There's no guitar part for this song, so If you want I could take one of the sax parts?" Keith said uncertainly to Allura, pointing at the tenor on the floor. She signed at Lance and nodded.

"She says you need to wet a new reed though." Lance said nonchalantly. He and Allura shared instruments from time to time since it was sometimes a hassle having multiple of the same instruments in the same place all the time. They weren't exactly germaphobes, but it was common knowledge that you shouldn't share reeds. That was just gross. And it appeared that Keith was fully aware of this as he answered with a quiet, "I know," before opening a reed package and dropping it in Acxa's soda to soak for a few minutes. She stared at him incredulously, but made no move to remove the object from her drink and even going so far as to take a sip of it.

"You probably shouldn't soak your reed in coke," Hunk said, but Keith shrugged in response. "Doesn't matter. I'm only going to use it for a short amount of time. Besides, it's better than soaking it in vodka." Acxa smacked him on the back of the head for that and said, "Mom drinks sometimes. She let's him soak his reeds in her vodka because she read an article online that said it's supposed to help get rid of the lingering bacteria. And she doesn't care about drinking bacteria-infested vodka." She grimaced.

"My parents locked up the liquor room, but I'm still trying to figure out how to pick locks, so it won't be for very long," Lance said with a faux determination on his face. Pidge snorted. "Yeah, that's happening. This wimp won't even go into his parent's room because they said no. He's not walking into a room full of liquor anytime soon." Keith took the reed out of Acxa's cola and shook a few droplets onto Acxa, who grimaced and kicked him in the shin. He put it in his mouth, getting the extra moisture off it before fastening it to the mouthpiece with the golden ligature from the case. He played out a c minor scale to make sure it was tuned right before adjusting the mouthpiece and playing again.

"Ready?" Keith nodded. Allura played a small mezzo piano solo before Keith started playing the first part just as Lance starts singing. Hunk joined in shortly thereafter.

Woke up this morning with a gun to my head

Somebody help me, she wants me dead

Allura started playing a soft crescendo in the background as Lance continued. It was slightly different from the way Keith wrote it originally, lacking the trombone part and replacing it with the alto sax.

Keith stopped playing and Lance started up on trombone, Keith replacing him with vocals. Trombone and alto eventually began their circling solos, dancing around each other in melody. Pidge played dutifully on her keyboard, while also managing to synthesizing a bit just as the beat dropped.

 

Allura played a short solo before Lance started singing again and Keith played the tenor saxophone while Hunk played a steady beat behind them.

 

Allura started playing the steady trombone translation in Lance's place on alto while he continued to sing.

 

Lance started playing alongside Allura's funky rhythm and Keith stopped playing for the rest of the song. Pidge played a sound that sounded suspiciously like a gunshot at the end of the song from her synthesizer.

Lance high-fived Hunk as they finished. Allura clapped again, receiving another round of cheese being thrown at her from Pidge's direction, to which she just laughed and blocked the cheese with her forearms. Her laughter sounded distinctly like bells.

Lance rubbed his palms together and addressed Keith, "Now it's time for you to learn the songs we have planned for tonight." He grinned in anticipation. "You already know James Dean and Audrey Hepburn, so we don't have to do those songs unless you want to have extra practice, but I don't think you'll really need it. But there's a few other songs you haven't played yet, so yeah."

Keith had already taken of the reed and was now sucking on it like a pacifier, flicking it up and down in front of his face. He stared cross-eyed at it, which made him kind of look like a little kid trying to look at a bug that'd landed on it's nose. "Yeah, cool." He set the tenor sax back in it's case and laid back on the floor again, messing with the sleeve of Axca's flannel.

"You two look like you could be identical twins. I mean, aside from the boobs, you two look exactly alike," Pidge chirped. Acxa glanced at Keith, then at Pidge. "Yeah, but I'm also not a moron." She then went back to her texting and Keith punched her in the side.

"I prefer the term 'mild mental subnormality,'" Keith answered jokingly.

"More like 'mild mental retardation.'" Acxa flicked him in the forehead. "But seriously, when we were kids and before Keith's voice matured, people used to think we were the same person."

"Remember Halloween last year?" Keith commented. Acxa snapped her fingers. "Oh, yeah. We dressed like each other, but with Japanese school uniforms and we'd go up to people's doors (we were trick or treating with a few kids I was babysitting) and I remember one old lady said we both looked cute, especially Keith. So Keith, smiles and in the deepest voice he can muster says, 'thank you, ma'am.' So this old lady looks like she's about to have an aneurysm and the kids are busting a nut about it. Long story short, we were unable to leave that poor old woman's house for several long minutes."

Lance is leaning against Hunk and howling with laughter, while Pidge looks like they might asphyxiate themself in an attempt to keep from laughing. Hunk clears his throat in an attempt to stop the giggles from escaping and Allura's rolling around in mirth on the couch. "It wasn't the first time I'd managed to convince him to wear a skirt in public either. Far from it," Acxa added.

Keith shrugged. "I didn't have much dignity left in the first place. Minus well." At this point they're all choking on laughter over something that isn't even all that funny.

"I'm just trying to imagine Keith rocking a skirt and giving old ladies aneurysms," Lance chokes out between peals of laughter. Acxa dramatically snaps her fingers, giving her best impression of Regina George from Mean Girls. "That is the ugliest fucking skirt I've ever seen."

Keith rolls his eyes, giving his own impersonation of Regina George. "She's so pathetic. Let me tell you something about Janis Ian. We were best friends in middle school. I know, right? It's so embarrassing. I don't even... Whatever. So then in eighth grade, I started going out with my first boyfriend Kyle who was totally gorgeous but then he moved to Indiana, and Janis was like, weirdly jealous of him. Like, if I would blow her off to hang out with Kyle, she'd be like, 'Why didn't you call me back?' And I'd be like, 'Why are you so obsessed with me?' So then, for my birthday party, which was an all-girls pool party, I was like, 'Janis, I can't invite you, because I think you're lesbian.' I mean I couldn't have a lesbian at my party. There were gonna be girls there in their bathing suits. I mean, right? She was a LESBIAN. So then her mom called my mom and started yelling at her, it was so retarded. And then she dropped out of school because no one would talk to her, and she came back in the fall for high school, all of her hair was cut off and she was totally weird, and now I guess she's on crack."

"Oh my fucking God." Lance laid on the floor wheezing.

"Boo! You whore!" Acxa retorted, sending Pidge into a fit of giggles.

"OK, I'm going to forgive you because I'm a very Zen person. And I'm on a lot of pain medication right now," Pidge answered in their own Regina impersonation.

Keith cleared his throat before saying to Pidge, "I know she's kind of socially retarded and weird, but she's my friend… so, just promise me you won't make fun of her."

"I hate all of you," Lance wheezed from his spot on the floor, while Hunk looked down on him with disappointment.

"Boo, you whore!" The three of them yelled at Lance together, high-fiving each other.

They were going to have a great night.

 

Chapter Text

Keith strummed his guitar softly, humming along to a song in his head. Axca laid her head on his lap and had her feet on top of Hunk's lap, where he sat contentedly watching the TV screen in front of him as Lance agitatedly avoided an untimely death via Pidge and their sub-machine gun that they'd been chasing Lance around the video game with. Allura had her arms around Pidge and was silently cheering them on.

"An hour 'till we leave, guys," Hunk commented with his eyes still glued to the screen.

"Okay," Lance answered right before screaming at the screen as his in-game character died. He collapsed backwards on the floor before mumbling a few curses and handing Hunk the controller to Hunk. "Avenge me, Hunk. Avenge me!" He cried rather dramatically. He scooted back to sit with Keith and Axca while Hunk aggressively pounded buttons on the controller in a futile attempt to beat Pidge. After a few seconds of watching the screen, Lance got bored and started watching Keith play, messing up a note every few minutes and starting the song over again. He had a guitar pick in the corner of his mouth that he chewed on instead of using it to play with. He squinted at the strings as if he were reading a book from a distance.

"What're you playing?" Lance int interrupted him.

"Killer In the Mirror," Keith mumbled. "I've got the lyrics down, I'm just trying to compose the guitar chords."

"Why don't you sing it out loud? I'm sure that might help. Maybe I can help. See how the chords go along with the lyrics and such," Lance offered.

"Fine." Keith let out a breath and started out the first chords on his guitar, staring down in a haze before he started singing the first verse. Lance hummed along to his singing, closing his eyes and listening closely to the song.

 

 

He started singing faster and more poignant.

 

He paused for a moment in thought before playing a prolonged note, then 2 more higher ones without singing the chorus along with it. He stopped, playing it again and slamming his hand down on the strings in frustration.

"You should inverse those notes, then play them again," Lance commented, opening his eyes now. "Like this." He reached up and strummed the same notes, but playing it backwards. He then played the 3 notes Keith had played again. "Rinse and repeat."

"Right." He started playing again, steadily becoming more absorbed in the music and singing with more vitality.

Hunk unconsciously started tapping a beat against the side of the game controller with his pointer and middle finger, making a soft pitapat, pitapat, pitapat.

 

Keith started playing softer again and singing with more control over his words.

 

He sung faster, nearly stumbling over his words and Lance nodded along to the beat.

 

As he transitioned into the chorus, his voice went from the hard as steel singing from before to a sweeter and less staccato version.

 

Keith's words became harsh and he seemed almost angry as he sung through gritted teeth.

 

He paused for a moment for effect before starting up the chorus again.

 

Hunk stopped tapping on his controller and glanced back at the three of them just in time to loose to Pidge, who celebrated their victory rather loudly.

 

Allura gave Pidge a kiss on the cheek for their victory before the two turned their attention to Keith.

"Dude, can we play that song instead of the She Wants Me Dead one? I've got, like, ideas. " Pidge said, making jazz hands as they said the word 'ideas.' "And I would also prefer not to be crammed in the back with your saxophones if we're being honest here." Allura giggled at that, punching them in the arm softly. "It's a work in progress, but I think we can make something out of it."

Keith shrugged (he notes that he has seemed to make a habit of this every time someone asks him a yes or no question). "Yeah, sure. Doesn't matter to me."

Hunk raised his hand shyly from behind Pidge. "Yes, Hunk. Speak now or forever hold your peace," Lance pointed at him.

"Until we leave, can we maybe do a competition, sort of? Like, each of us play a song, ones we've written ourselves, until we run out of songs to play or run out of time." Hunk twiddled his fingers nervously.

"Sounds like a great idea, Hunk! Who all wants to play?" Pidge answered enthusiastically, saving the soft boy from his own nervousness. Lance and Keith cheered in approval while Allura signed at them, one-handedly. "She says she'll just play one song. It's not going to be one that she wrote, though." Hunk smiled, nodding at Allura in confirmation.

"Then I guess that means you can start, Allura." She smiled and got up. She walked around the couch and reappeared with a fiddle in front of the group.

"Oh, this is going to be good," Pidge whispered right before Allura started with a sick and familiar solo. Everyone cheered and joined together to sing (more like cheered) the first verse. During the first verse, she played her own made up solo, making Pidge cheer for her amazing skill (truth be told she'd played the song so many times she'd written her own fiddle part were there was none years ago).

 

Everyone became more enthusiastic at the chorus (mostly because they knew the words to that part better than the rest).

She played another solo, to which everyone cheered before the next verse came up.

 

She played a broken sound on her fiddle before pointing her bow at Keith in a silent gesture to start playing the next guitar part, to which he obliged, playing what he remembered from the song. Lance leaped behind the couch, grabbing his own guitar and joining in. Then Allura started playing as well, playing to a point.

 

She played the solo with such ease, it looked like magic to the others who watched in awe.

 

Allura quickly and effectively played the last part of the piece amazingly, before finishing with a flourish, sweat beading her brow. Pidge practically tackled her to the ground, giving her praises on her performance aloud and signing one-handedly. Hunk managed to sneak himself into the hug and Lance followed, urging Keith to follow. Keith shook his head, though smiling and leaned away when Lance made an attempt at pulling him into the group hug.

They eventually pulled apart, laughing and congratulating Allura. They'd seen her play much harder songs, but they all still felt in awe every time she played an instrument with such expertise like she always did. Lance was especially aware of how hard it had been for her to loose her hearing after having been there for her the whole time she'd been suffering. He'd been the first to jump on the let's-all-learn-to-speak-sign-language-for-Allura train. They'd all been quick to (aside from Allura, who'd been in denial about it until her hearing was almost completely gone).

"Hunk, you go next since it was your idea," Pidge ordered. "Why is it always me?" Hunk whined, to which the entire group (even Axca) started chanting his name. Lance at one point broke off and started chanting 'peer pressure,' to which everyone joined in heartily until Hunk obliged to their wishes.

"Fine, um, I guess I'll play Lone Digger. Should I play it on the drums or...?" Hunk asked uncertainly. "Whatever you want, bro. Just get 'er done," Pidge said, glaring at Lance when he started giggling at their strange way of speaking.

It took a little while, but Hunk managed to move the drum set into the large game room so that he could play. "I'm gonna add a metric modulation to the song," Hunk added as an afterthought before he started playing. He wasn't the best singer out there, but it was clear that he had some skill. Pidge added an extra beat in the background as Hunk played to make the song a little more interesting.

 

Hunk applied the metric modulation to the next verse, his speed going up 20 bpm as he rapped through the chorus in eighth notes.

 

Hunk rocked out for a few beats before slowing down again. Allura took up her fiddle and started playing a soft background.

 

Pidge played some flute sounds on her keyboard before the chorus started up again, boosting in speed.

 

Pidge, Allura, and Hunk all played a soft and calm instrumental on their respective instruments before they started up the chorus again.

 

Acxa, Keith, and Lance cheered them on and Hunk gave a mock bow from his seat. "Dude, I wonder what your moms would say to a song like that," Pidge commented.

"Nene would probably start making horrible jokes about the song," Hunk sighed in embarrassment. "Makuahine would probably shake her head in disappointment at the both of us." He laughed. "Okay, you get to go next since you put me on the spot."

Pidge put a hand over their heart in mock-offense, before they resigned themself to their fate. "M'kay. I guess I'll play Everybody Gets High, since it's a great song."

"Don't start acting all high and mighty, pipsqueak," Lance taunted, earning him a harsh kick in the shin from said pipsqueak.

Pidge started playing their synthesizer, setting it to continue the same pattern until they decided to change it up. Which they did often throughout the song. They were an even worse singer than Hunk, but they sung well enough that it was bearable.

 

They were so concentrated on the song, they didn't notice the smiles of the people around them. They jumped whenever everyone started cheering at the end of the song.

"Dude, I wonder what your mom would say to a song like that," Lance mimicked Pidge's earlier comment.

"Dude, my mom looks like she's a hardcore druggie. I've never seen her smoke in her life though," Pidge answered all seriousness. "You go next, Lance."

Lance groaned in defeat. "Let's see," He put his hand to his chin, stroking an invisible beard. "Even If It's a Lie," He quickly decided. "Actually, I'm going to play this on the piano up in the other room, if everyone's willing to get off their asses.

Everyone groaned in unison, but continued to get up, collecting trash and instruments and moving to the room they'd been practicing in before. Keith and Axca immediately plopped down on the tile in front of the fireplace, Hunk, Pidge, and Allura settled on the couch. Lance went for the piano that sat against the wall that led to the hallway. He uncovered the notes and started playing softly and gently, but with undertones of power. He sung calmly and confidently with some sadness lacing the notes.

He sung the chorus loudly as if in anguish over the preceding events he sung of.

 

He seemed to calm himself before singing the next verse aloud for a moment.

The way that you'd put up your golden hair

 

His voice seemed to strain slightly at his attempt to keep his emotions out of his voice.

 

Lance hummed along to the piano as he played expertly until moving on to the chorus again.

 

He sung the last line a little dejectedly, letting the last notes of the piano hang in the air as if to a life-line.

Everyone was quiet for a moment until Keith stood up and sat on the bench next to Lance at the piano. "My turn."

Lance hummed in agreement, moving aside and walking away to the ottoman and sitting cross-legged.

"Um, this one's called How Could You Leave Us. I've never actually played in in front of anybody before and it's been a while since I played it at all, so I might be a little rusty," Keith rattled on nervously.

"Just play it, loser," Pidge teased, lightening the mood again so that Allura and Hunk could gain the sense back to give Lance a pat on the back for his efforts.

"Okay," He breathed, tentatively playing the first notes of the song and singing shortly after, voice wavering slightly.

 

Acxa gasped in recognition to the events Keith sung about, covering her mouth as if to cover her own reaction. Keith played slowly, but sung loudly, covering the sound of Acxa's quiet whimpers. To her, it felt like each line was another knife reminding her of their past. With their birth mother who was barely there, who was a drug abuser, and who died a long time ago. 

 

He was obviously having as much trouble with the song as Acxa was, his voice breaking as he sung with difficulty.

 

He angrily sung the next verse, his demeanor completely changing from how it had been before. He sung about the lack of a relationship with his mother. 

 

He paused, his voice cutting off on the last note in anguish, but he continued diligently. He became so engrossed, he missed the soft sobs that escaped from Axca. His sister who, like him, often hid her emotions under layers of sarcasm and anger.

 

He ignored the cool drops of tears, falling onto his knuckles and the piano keys, choosing instead to pour his anger into his voice instead of the pain. He sung about his last conversation with his mom and her death. 

You gave everything you had plus your life to them pill bottles

Don't know if you hear me or not, but if you still watching why

His voice continued to waver over the last lines of the song until his voice became so broken, he didn't even seem to be singing anymore, but just speaking to someone who was beyond help.

 

"Sometimes I think about, like, sometimes I think about things like, you know, when I have kids, I'm like," He choked on his words, pausing before starting again.

"You won't be there, you know? You won't be there for any of that. And I'll never get to see you again. Sometimes I wish I would have just called you. I wish I would have just picked up the phone. I wish you were here. You shoulda' been there for us. You shoulda' been here. Pills got you, right? Them pills got you, right? I wish you were here."

He finished the song and Acxa stumbled over to the piano, crashing into him and hugging him as if her life depended on it, sobbing her eyes out. She clung to him and he hugged her back, nuzzling into her shoulder to hide his own tears. Hunk leaped toward them, tears in his eyes as well. He hugged the two, picking them both up off the bench and squeezing them tightly. "That was so sad. I can't begin to imagine how difficult that must have been," Hunk said between sobs, earning chuckles from the twins. The other three joined them in a big group hug, which eventually led to a tickle fight, in which everyone lost.

"Dude, I'm not going to be able to top that. Can I just tap out?" Pidge asked and everyone still in the game cheered a big yes at their defeat. "Imma tap out as well," Hunk added to the joy of Keith and Lance.

"Time for a celebratory song, since half of the competitors just resigned," Lance said, grabbing his guitar and immediately starting on a peppy tune. "This one's called I Like It because I do, in fact, like it. Losers," Lance taunted, earning another kick in the shin.

Now I like dollars, I like diamonds

I like stunting, I like shining

 

Hunk and Pidge hummed along to the song, knowing it pretty well from Lance playing it constantly, trying to perfect it.

 

Lance started singing faster in the next verse. The others were unable to discern what he was saying, having not known Spanish, let alone well enough to tell what words are what when they were being sung so quickly.

 

The others cheered, without a single clue as to what he was saying, but impressed that he could speak so fast in a language they were unfamiliar with.

 

He started singing in Spanish and smiled as Pidge made a terrible attempt at trying to keep up.

They cheered again, still impressed by the little things.

Everyone cheered in approval, giving him thumbs up or pats on the back (or in Hunk's case a giant bear hug).

"Your turn, Keith," Lance smirked. Keith returned the gesture, grabbing his guitar as his sister continued to cling to him. "Warning, this song's a little creepy. It's called Tag, You're It. " Pidge played an alien sound on her synthesizer in joking response, earning a couple laughs from the group.

Keith strummed his guitar before singing the first lines and receiving a few grimaces from the others, who were already effectively creeped out by the song.

 

"I'll cut you up and make you dinner

You've reached the end, you are the winner"

 

The beat picked up from here and Keith even shivered at the implications of the song. He remembered as a kid being deathly afraid of strangers, thinking of every time his mother had told her kids about the dangers that lie beyond their bedroom windows. He was still afraid of something like that happening to him.

 

His voice became husky as he sung the next verse, a small amount of fear leaking into his voice.

 

He paused for effect before continuing into the chorus, his voice becoming soft and high in pitch.

 

His voice became tinny in a way that made the song all the more creepy.

The beat picked up once again and Keith let more of that fear push into his voice as he sang

 

He started playing in a way that sounded warped, like a broken music box. The group sat in silence, thoroughly creeped out.

"Man, that's fucking creepy. Please don't tell me that one's from personal experience too," Pidge said. Keith shook his head. "No, it more based on my paranoia. Since I was a kid I was paranoid about that kind of thing."

"Yeah," Acxa piped up. "I remember all the times you called mom to take us home from school because you thought someone was stalking you." Keith sniffed at that, genuinely offended that she wasn't taking him seriously. "I thought I saw someone," He mumbled dejectedly, earning a laugh from the rest of the group.

"You were hallucinating, dear brother of mine. 'Admit your faults to one another and pray to each other so that you may be healed.'" She quoted. She'd become obsessed with religion a few years ago and with her perfect memory, she'd memorized a lot of verses from different religious books, her favorite being the bible. Keith didn't quite agree with her views of the world though. "Shut your stupid mouth," Keith stammered, pouting in utter defeat. "I'm pretty sure praying about it isn't gonna do shit to make it go away," He muttered.

"Can I play my song, now?" Lance asked excitedly, receiving the thumbs up from Keith.

"'Kay. I'm gonna play a song called Youth. "

He started strumming as he sung the first lines. He sung softly, blending his voice and the sound of his guitar beautifully.

 

He slowed down during the next verse, singing more powerfully.

 

Lance played a short solo on his guitar before starting on the next verse.

 

He thrummed slowly and distantly with his guitar, singing with a smile.

And if you're still bleeding, you're the lucky ones

'Cause most of our feelings, they are dead and they are gone

 

 

He played his guitar, effectively demonstrating his skill on guitar.

The beat slowed down as Lance continued singing.

The group cheered for Lance, who smiled and pulled Pidge into a hug, who struggled as if their life depended on it. Hunk checked his watch. "Guys, we have time left for about two songs. Then we gotta leave."

"Well, then let's hurry this up then," Keith said, raising up his guitar and playing a hardcore rock guitar chord.

The secret side of me, I never let you see

I keep it caged but I can't control it

 

He stood and started rocking out on his guitar, giving the performance of a lifetime in Lance's living room. He yelled the lyrics enthusiastically and the others (excluding Lance, Allura, and Acxa, who'd become glued to her phone once again) tried to sing along as best they could.

He calmed his volume down, slowly gaining volume through the verse.

 

He started rocking out again, pulling out all the stops to make sure that he not only played more than Lance, but played better than him, smirking as if he'd already won.

 

He started singing a few notes lower and more monotone than he had been before, but just as powerfully.

 

He toned down on his guitar during the next verse, lowering his voice as low as he could on the last half of the second line effectively making his voice sound almost demonic.

 

He slung his guitar over his shoulder, practically oozing confidence as he smirked at Lance, who quickly rose in challenge.

"Okay, this one's A Sadness Runs Through Him," Lance said, adjusting his guitar strap and played the upbeat, opening chords to the song at 170 bpm.

 

Lance sung enchantingly with bittersweet tinges. He sung a very beautiful tenor, surprising the twins, but being completely expected by the others. Lance tended to prefer singing in higher pitch than most men who sang in choir whom they knew and he did it perfectly and with flair.

 

Lance started singing an even higher falsetto practically every other syllable. Hunk hooted in approval, having no such vocal skill.

 

Keith started playing his own guitar softly in the background, going completely unnoticed by Lance, who continued nonetheless.

He changed his pattern on the guitar and Keith hummed along, harmonizing with him.

 

He finished the song, receiving applause all around. "Hey, guys. We gotta leave now if we don't want to be late," Hunk reminded him. The group made random noises of acknowledgement and everyone started packing up their stuff.

"Let's have some fun tonight!" Lance cheered, receiving answers of 'yeah!' and one 'hear!' from Pidge.

Chapter Text

The group stood in a circle around Shiro, who'd called them in early on the Monday (much to their dismay) a week after their little performance. It was also the first of a new month and nobody was happy about that. "So there's a talent contest coming up and I think you guys should perform," Shiro said, hands on his hips and confidence practically bursting. "The band that wins gets to perform during halftime at the biggest game of the year, where a couple record scouts will be watching." Everyone's eyes practically burst out of their skulls.

"Holy crap. Of course we'll go! That sounds like an amazing opportunity, right guys?" Lance said. Everyone else nodded in assent.

"Thing is, the show is in two weeks and you have to have something picked out by the end of this week," Shiro cut in. The group groaned, but Lance seemed to be a never-ending spout of enthusiasm. "We can do this, guys. It can't be that hard to pick a song. We'll just need to pool in all our effort and music. I'm sure we'll be able to come up with something by the end of the week."

Shiro nodded. "I know you guys can do it."


Keith slumped against the side of the stage, his head on top of a pile of papers. The others were in no better condition. Allura laid on the floor staring blearily at a piece of paper, looking as if she'd never read before. Lance was slumped in a chair, covered in paper from head to toe. Hunk was asleep on the ground, the paper over his face floating up as he snored. Pidge was staring at a couple pieces of paper strewn over their keyboard and playing the same note over and over every time they flipped a page. Lance suddenly stood up, waving paper off him and threw his arms in the air. "I give up."

Keith rolled his eyes. "Dude, it's only been half an hour." Lance waved his arms around wildly. "I can't stay still for more than that. I need to do something before I go crazy. No offense." Keith rolled his eyes again. "Just go walk around the halls for a couple minutes or something."

"Can't we just write a new song or something?" Lance asked. "Could we actually finish a song like that in a week?" Pidge asked. Lance shrugged. "Worth a shot."

Keith shook his head. "Well you can do that. I haven't really been able to write shit lately, so I probably won't be any help."

"Cool." Lance toed the papers into a small pile. "Everybody okay with meeting up after school to practice?" Everyone gave an affirmative, aside from Keith who had something to do after school involving his step-dad and step-mom.

"Wait so are your step-mom and step-dad married?" Lance asked in confusion. "No, they're just dating. After my mom killed herself, my dad remarried my step-mom, Krolia. She's really nice, but she has shit taste in men. My step-dad is really just her boyfriend. She's been dating shitty guy after shitty guy and drinking all the time since dad died," Keith explained. "Which is why I choose to live with my foster parents. It's kind of temporary though. They're probably going to kick me out soon anyways and I'll have to live with my step-parents again. Although I still have to go and visit them every so often."

"Sounds pretty shitty. Pun intended," Pidge yelled from her spot onstage. Keith shrugged. "Pretty much."

He seemed much more tired than usual, black circles under his eyes as if he hadn't slept in weeks. The bell rang, causing the raven-haired boy to jump in fright as if a bomb had just gone off beneath his feet. "Chill out, Keith. We'd better get to fifth period before we're late." Pidge gathered up her stuff.

"Guess I'll see you in seventh, Lance," Keith said, gathering up his stuff much to the surprised looks of everyone but Lance, who apparently didn't know the two had any classes together.


"Just sit over there and have Keith describe these to you," Ms. Hira said flippantly, handing Lance a stack of pictures of random things. They didn't seem to have a particular theme. They all seemed rather random. One was a picture of a lobster lounging in a bed of sand, one was a picture of a fence post, another was of a little girl holding a green balloon.

Lance walked over to a small desk in the corner of the room with Keith and they started going over the pictures, Keith describing each one as having things that weren't there. Little things. Like the lobster being the color red, a green apple being red, and a cat sitting on the fence post in one of the pictures. Keith started to become more and more frustrated as Lance told him his mistakes. All of this frustration seemed to come to a tipping point at the last picture, which just showed a hospital room.

"There's nothing there," Keith snatched the picture turning it over, looking for where the actual picture might be. "So you don't see anything?" Keith shook his head.

Ms. Hira peeked from behind her computer. "Have you been taking your medicine, Keith?" Keith looked a little shocked at the accusation. "Y-yeah. Of course I have," Keith answered defensively. Ms. Hira sniffed. "Well, then I'm going to have to ask your therapist to look into getting you a higher dosage, since you seem to be getting worse even on your medicine," She picked up her phone, before Keith let out a panicked squeak. "You can't do that!" He seemed to notice the abruptness and anxiousness of his little outburst. "I mean, my family can barely afford what I'm getting now and dad'll be really angry if he has to get a new prescription. He's been really pissed off lately and I don't want to make to worse. Besides, I'll survive on the dosage I'm on now." Ms. Hira's face seemed to soften slightly, but she still didn't put the phone down. "You may want to ask him about getting benefits. Or better healthcare. I'm sure your step-father would be much more pissed off if you ended up getting suspended for one of your little outbursts because you didn't get that dosage upped."

Keith scowled, but made no more objections.

"Now if you're done throwing a fit, go ahead and get on a computer so you can finish your test," She said, pointing at the computer cart against the wall. Keith sighed, grabbing a laptop and logging on.

"Once you're finished, you can go ahead and go home early." Keith didn't answer, merely clicking the touchpad every so often as he slowly finished the online test.


Keith tapped a rhythm out an the dashboard as Lance drove into a trailer park off the side of a highway. Lance sighed as he pulled up next to one of the trailers. The one that Keith and his sister apparently lived in with their step parents. The thing didn't look like it could hold two people, let alone four.

"See you tomorrow," Keith said before getting out of the van. He clambered up the steps of the trailer opening it to see his step-father in a zombie-like haze on the couch. He scowled at the man before going off into the small kitchen where Krolia was. The whole family knew what a drug addict he was, but nobody chose to do anything about it.

When Krolia saw Keith, she moved away from the sink, knowing better by now than to stop the raven-haired boy from helping out. She got out some frozen meals for dinner (only three, so he assumed Acxa was going to be out again) and put them in the microwave one at a time.

"I don't know what Ran is on, but he's been out of it all day. It's kind of a relief," Krolia sighed, the stress easily showing on her face as she pulled out a bottle of vodka out of the fridge as well. For a moment Keith briefly felt guilty, but he quickly reminded himself that it wasn't his fault. It wasn't his fault his mother dated assholes. It wasn't his fault that one of those assholes stole his goddamn pills so he could get high. It definitely wasn't his fault that said asshole had beaten the crap out of him when he'd tried to stop him. He managed to not get any punches to the face, but he could definitely still feel the bruises on his back. It wasn't his fault that his father had died, giving way to these monsters living in his old home.

It still felt like his fault though.

"Hopefully he doesn't come off it any time soon," Keith mumbled, earning a playful swat from Krolia.

He noticed the bottle of dish soap was empty, so he tossed it into the cardboard box on the counter where all the trash went. He proceeded to search under the sink for another bottle of soap, coming up with a couple bottles of cleansing spray and a shoe box placed in the back of the cabinet.

While Krolia was busy getting the frozen dinner out, he pulled the box forward and opened it. His eyes widened at seeing what was in the box, immediately assuming that the object was Ran's since he knew for a fact it didn't belong to his step-mom. He slid it into the pocket of his baggy jacket and put the empty box where he'd found it, hoping to God Krolia didn't notice before slipping out to the room he and his sister shared.

He pulled the object out of his jacket and slid it into a giant slit in the mattress, which had bits of cotton and wire sticking out. He'd cut it open a while ago to hide random stuff which had never been noticed, so he hoped nobody would come snooping now. But the more he thought about it, the more paranoid he got. He decided that in the morning it would be put somewhere else just in case.

But he definitely didn't want to leave a gun in the hands of his step-father.


"You brought a fucking gun to school?!" Acxa stage whispered, staring at Keith like he was crazy. Well, she wasn't wrong there. She was also slightly concerned by his apparel, being a long black jacket that looked like the sort of thing a school shooter would wear. Further pushing her point that this boy should not be walking around with a gun and even further scaring the shit out of her.

Hell, he was her brother. She knew him better than anybody else on this plane of existence knew him. And while she liked to think her brother wouldn't do something stupid like shoot up the school, she'd found him to be very unpredictable. Especially after their father died. First had been the small fire he'd set in the boiler room of their elementary school, then it had been beating the crap out of anyone who dared to even speak to him, and the last straw had been running out in the middle of the street after seeing an apparition of a person he had claimed to never have cared about. She knew that a Keith off his medication was not a Keith you really wanted to mess with. Of course she knew about what their step-father did. She may not visit a lot, but their step-mom always calls.

Plus he was already doing one stupid thing, who was to say he wouldn't go the full nine yards? Keith shushed her, despite the halls being empty aside from them. "I'm just keeping it on me until I find a place to get rid of it," Keith defended. "You shouldn't have it on you in the first place!" She threw her hands in the air in exasperation. "What are you going to do if they do one of those random searches again? Huh? Can't hide a gun from a bullet-sniffing hound!" Keith sighed with equal exasperation. "I'll just drop it in some other kid's backpack before they herd us out of class." He shrugged. "Plus they rarely do that kind of thing. And there was one last week, so it's extremely unlikely to happen again in the near future."

Acxa stared at him in bewilderment. "How much have you thought about this?" Keith shrugged again. "Not enough, I think. I mean, I still haven't found a place to put the damn thing." Acxa rolled her eyes. "No matter how much I don't trust Ranveig to have a gun on him, I don't think I really trust you much more than I do him." Keith laughed at that. "No offense," She added, not really seeming to mean it.

"Don't worry. It's not like I'm going to shoot anybody. Probably," He answered in a joking tone, obviously not making Acxa any less on edge. He sighed. "I'll get rid of it, Acxa. Just trust me. I'm the one that still has to live with that asshole every other week. And Krolia is still living with him too. I just don't want anyone to get hurt."

Acxa gave an exasperated sigh. "Fine, but make sure it's gone by the end of the day. I know you don't want to hurt anybody, but I know you have a habit of doing it anyways." Keith gave a sheepish smile. Well at least he's aware of it. Acxa gave a firm nod. "Now shoo. I don't want to be seen with your creepy ass," She waved her hand. "Whatever. You love me," Keith gave her a cheeky smile. "Yeah, I do. Now get out of here. We've still got class." She laughed, walking away from her twin, who also decided it was a great time to leave.


Lance hummed, strumming his guitar, his feet swinging forward and backward and hitting the side of the stage. He had a basic rhythm down and a chorus, but he didn't have much of an actual song. He was a little agitated by the fact that Keith wasn't there today. He had been in class earlier, but he seemed to be avoiding everyone in the band for some odd reason.

Far beyond t he universe

We find o ur minds i nside ourselves

It wasn't much of a chorus, but it was something. He groaned, thinking of how much work this was going to take and how little time they had.

He heard the sound of the concert hall doors opening and looked up to see Nyma leaning against one of the doors. "Oh, hey babe," He called across the concert hall, receiving a beckoning finger from the blonde. He set aside his guitar and ran up to meet her. She gave him a side hug and a kiss on the cheek. "Hey, babe. We need to talk." She led him outside, making him a little nervous, thinking she was about to break up with him. Outside he saw two of her friends, Rolo and Beezer, outside and leaning against the wall. She took his hand and they started walking down the halls, Beezer and Rolo following close behind.

"So there's a talent show coming up and I want you to join our band for it!" Nyma exclaimed, excitement in her voice as she clung to his arm. "See, Rolo plays drums and Beezer plays keyboard and I sing. So we needed a guitar player and I thought, 'Hey, I've got a boyfriend who is amazing on guitar! I'm sure he'd be happy to help us out.'" Lance looked a little bewildered by the sudden announcement.

"But I-"

"Tut, tut. Before you say anything, consider that your band already has another guitarist, so they'll be able to do fine without you. And if they fail without you, it's really their fault. They shouldn't rely so heavily on you. I know how hard you've been working on that song for your band, but you shouldn't have to! They're stealing all your talent for themselves, babe. And you're definitely not getting the opportunities you deserve with them. Daddy works for a record label, I'm sure if you join us, he can put in a good word for you. And our band has real talent, unlike those burnouts! We can get you to the places you want to go and you won't have to stress so much, babe." Lance obviously looked conflicted at this point and Nyma smiled in triumph before that smile turned into a frown as Lance shook his head.

"Nyma, I can't. I can't do that. Those are my friends. I have a commitment to them and if you can't understand that, then I can't go out with you."

Nyma slapped him hard. She turned away from him and grouped up with her posse. "No. You don't break up with me. And you will do as I say. Even at the cost of those skanks," She replied angrily. "I'm the one in charge of here, Lance. Unless you'd like to be a social outcast like that- that psycho chi-chi!" She practically screamed at him, stomping her foot and marching toward him aggressively to poke him in the chest.

"I-"

"And, since music seems to be the only language you speak, with the help of some real artists, I've written a song to tell you exactly what I think of you," Nyma said, with an aggressive glower. Beezer started playing a recording on his phone as Nyma stepped closer to him, grabbing him by the collar and pulling him close as she poked him in the chest threateningly.

"Are we gonna have a problem? You got a bone to pick? You've come so far. Why now are you pulling on my dick? I'd normally slap your face off. And everyone here could watch. But I'm feeling nice. Here's some advice. Listen up, biotch!"

The trio sung the first two words venomously.

I like!

Beezer and Rolo suddenly stopped singing, while Nyma continued.

Rolo and Beezer sung backup to Nyma and came closer, dragging him by his sleeves and backing Lance against a wall.

Nyma let go of Lance's collar as Beezer and Rolo kept him pinned to the wall.

Rolo and Beezer continued singing as Nyma turned, flipping her hair over her shoulder and hitting Lance in the face with said blonde hair.

She took a few steps away before doubling back and the two boys let go of Lance.

Nyma grabbed him by the collar roughly and pecked him on the lips before grabbing his wrist and pulling him along behind her toward the cafeteria. Rolo and Beezer continued singing behind the two.

Nyma ran a hand down her body, displaying the obviously expensive shirt and skirt she wore along with an assortment of expensive jewelry.

As the three passed through the hallways, they spotted a straggler and Rolo kicked the kid in the face, like as if his head was a soccer ball. He then kicked the kid in the stomach and walked away laughing. Lance preferred to pretend like the kid hadn't been there at all, hating every second of this one-sided exchange.

Nyma's voice became taunting as she sang, but she still sounded amazing.

Rolo and Beezer laughed and one of them (he suspected Rolo) threw their lunch bag at him.

Nyma stopped suddenly, pulling him close with a scary look on her face. Lance gulped, taking a sandwich from the bag that had been thrown at him and took a big bite, getting it immediately snatched away by (you guessed it) Rolo as they approached the staircase leading to the cafeteria.

Nyma let go of his collar and grouped up with Rolo and Beezer at the head of the stairs, each of them walking upstairs to the beat of the song. And even better, they did it backwards, watching Lance the entire time they ascended the stairs.

Nyma ran down the stairs again in her tall heels and pulled Lance up the stairs with her as they continued to sing, though far below Rolo and Beezer.

Nyma turned and walked ahead of him, still holding his hand in hers. Rolo stopped ahead on the stairs, standing to the right of the stairway.

Nyma and Lance caught up to Rolo, who leaned toward Lance and with an evil smile sung his line. Beezer himself stopped at the left of the stairway now.

The three sung together as Rolo and Nyma approached Beezer, leaving Lance behind a couple steps down.

The two finally caught up to Beezer as he sung his line.

Nyma twirled her finger through her hair while crossing her eyes and sticking out her tongue, twirling and letting her skirt fly a little above where a teacher would have preferred it to be, but a horny teenage boy would loved to have seen (not that Lance was one of those, considering he felt a little nauseous at the moment).

Say goodbye to cuckoo

Rolo, Nyma, and Beezer sung together, once again climbing the stairs, but with more hip-swaying now. Lance got the feeling that this entire ordeal had been completely planned.

Rolo sung by himself, his voice naturally taunting as he jumped down the stairs and got a little too far into Lance's personal space.

The two who were further up the stairs sung loudly and aggressively.

Beezer piped up again, moving between Nyma and Rolo.

The trio were perfectly aligned on the stairs making a tilted, vertical line.

Rolo got up in Lance's space again, his facial expression easily visible.

Beezer and Nyma added their own short vocals for a single word (if you could call it that).

Rolo leaned back, giving Lance room to breath, but making Lance uneasy still with the malicious look on his face.

Beezer held up his car keys as he sung.

Nyma then grabbed Beezer's hand, starting a chain of hand-holding and Lance was pulled further up the stairs.

The trio finally joined up at the top of the stairs, where a wide balcony lay for them to spread out and move around as much as they wanted to.

Nyma pulled Lance toward her, spinning him around.

The two boys stood aside with wide, vile grins on their faces.

Nyma then dipped Lance, effectively scaring the shit out of the tan boy, who scrambled to gain his footing again.

The two boys leaned to one side, putting their hands on their hips, reminding Lance of a scene from Mean Girls.

Nyma continued to hold hands with Lance, dancing with him.

Rolo and Beezer approached the couple as they sang.

Nyma's face suddenly turned dark and she growled the next lyric at him.

The trio points at a window that looks inward to the cafeteria, where Lance curiously put his face to it.

Lance glanced through the window, looking around to see Keith sitting by himself in a dark corner of the cafeteria, without even the presence of his sister. Even the tables around the general area were completely empty. The raven-haired teen looked like a classic emo-nobody that ended up shooting up the school at the end of a bad movie.

Beezer stood next to the staircase and sung dramatically and with flair before being cut off mid-line.

Nyma suddenly pushed Beezer down the stairs and yelled at him before riffing a single line much better than Beezer could ever hope to. "Shut up, Beezer!"

Beezer climbed up the stairs with a bruise on his forehead and sung with Rolo and Nyma.

Lance tentatively grabbed the hand Nyma held out to him. She hummed in clear approval. "That's what I thought." She turns from the cafeteria with Lance still in her grip. Beezer and Rolo quickly surround the two of them semi-threateningly. "Now, we won't be having anymore problems like that again, capisce? Besides, you're my date to the prom and we've already bought tickets. Wouldn't want those to go to waste. And forget about that Peer Assistance class too. Wouldn't want you spending too much time with those lunatics. We'll use your free periods for dates now. That includes senior release and lunch, babe. No more hanging out with those pussies. If you want to play some music, you'll be playing with us," She smiled darkly. Lance nodded, despite desperately wanting to rip his hand away from her.

Where did the Lance go that would've done the right thing? The one that loved doing the right thing? He supposed he was back in that cafeteria.

Chapter Text

"Dude, I can't! I don't think you realize what a shitfest it would be if I continued with the band right now. You play guitar, so they'll be fine without me," Lance protested. Keith frowned. He was slightly confused as to how Lance found him (although he hadn't chosen the greatest hiding place, he didn't think anyone would actually go looking for him). And he also didn't know why this was happening so suddenly (he personally thought this was the worst timing). He took a bite of his sandwich and frowned. "No, I really don't realize what a shitfest it could be. Why don't you tell me all about how fucking scary your girlfriend is," Keith answered sarcastically, thinking about the heavy weight of the gun in his jacket.

"Don't talk with your mouth full." Keith glowered at Lance. "And I know you're being sarcastic, but I'm being serious. Nobody messes with Nyma. She'd fucking slaughter me if she knew. And she'd do even worse to Pidge, Hunk, and Allura. And you." Keith nodded as if he were listening, when in fact he'd tuned Lance out by now. "Why are you even dating her anyways?" Keith chewed around another mouthful of food.

Lance sighed. "She wasn't always like this. She used to be very sweet when we started dating. And I still care for her, despite how she is. And I know she cares too. She just shows it differently." Keith rolled his eyes. "Sounds like she's a control freak."

Lance shook his head. "She just wants what she thinks is best. For both of us. She usually gets over this sort of thing at some point though. Mood swings or something like that."

"Anyways, if you wanted to," Lance said, quickly changing the topic. "You could use the little bit of song that I've been writing or just pick something you've already written." Keith shook his head. "Hey, I never said I was going to do it. And I already told you that I can't write music right now."

"Doesn't matter. You can still find some older song you've written, but I seriously need you to do this for me. I wouldn't be asking you if I weren't totally serious and sure that you could do it."

"Fine, but you owe me." Lance practically squealed in glee (he would forever deny it though). "And I'm not going to guarantee that any song I choose is even going to be good." Lance snorted. "Well, you guys can still come to my place on Fridays. You just need to get a ride from someone else. There are some things I can still hide from Nyma." Keith found Lance's smirk insufferable, so he decided it would be a great time to get up and throw his trash away so he didn't have to look at the other boy's ugly mug anymore.

"But unfortunately I won't be seeing you in seventh period anymore," Lance said, following behind Keith, who only groaned at Lance's insistence. "Why's that? Your girlfriend say you couldn't hang out with me anymore?" Lance bristled at that.

"She wants to spend more time together," Lance answered instead.

Keith turned to Lance, pushing the cafeteria doors open with his back. Lance noticed how most of the people stared at them and seemed to lean back whenever Keith came anywhere near them. He shook his head and continued after Keith.

"Sure. Because the reason she wants you to quit the band is definitely not because of me. That would be too much of a coincidence considering I've only been hanging out with you for what? Two weeks? And her not wanting you to go to seventh definitely isn't because she doesn't want you anywhere near me or anybody else in SpEd. Because that really wouldn't be embarrassing for her to explain to her friends why her boyfriend has a habit of hanging out with the crazy kids," Keith answered spitefully. He shifted his backpack on his shoulders, walking ahead of Lance, who frowned. "It's not that..." Lance muttered.

Keith rounded on him. "What is it, then? It's not that hard to figure out that everyone here hates me. I mean, why wouldn't they? They might not know the whole story, but they know enough to rightly say that I'm not someone they should befriend. So why do you and your friends keep persisting?" He looked honestly confused by the thought. "And stop following me!" Keith turned and stormed off, but Lance still followed him.

"Dude, I don't care what other people are saying about you. From what I know, you're a decent enough guy who's a great guitar-player and has the capability of being a great friend. You just don't seem to want to." Keith bristled. "I've never had real friends before, Lance. I don't know how to do this and I really don't want to screw it up. But I can't. I always screw things up. So I'd really rather not try." The raven whirled on his heel and left the tan boy staring after him, rooted to the spot.


"Finally decided to join us, huh?" Pidge said sarcastically from their spot on the stage. Keith bristled, walking up to the stage and laying his guitar in front of it. "Sorry," He mumbled.

"Lance said you were going to be here earlier in the week and you didn't come," Hunk commented, referring to the fact that it was Friday and they had very little time to pick a song. "I know, but I've been busy."

Pidge rolled their eyes. "Doing what? Sitting on your ass in the cafeteria?" Keith bristled. "Writing a song for the talent show," He stated, pulling a packet of paper from his backpack. Pidge took the paper and skimmed through it.

"I'm a Kamikaze?" Pidge stared at him with a raised brow. "Not to be racist, but like-" They stopped and waved their hand at him, obviously referring to his Asian heritage. "I'm Korean, not Japanese." He rolled his eyes. "Oh." They looked over the paper again. "Well, it's a good song, I guess. It seems a little different from the type of songs you usually write though..."

"That's because Lance helped me write it," Keith stated simply. Pidge seemed a little astonished by this. "Oh, cool. But, um. Do you think we can actually win with this?" Keith smirked. "Well we're going to be going to Lance's place today and we'll work on it then. Plus a, um, friend from my old school is coming. He has a side job for a recording company right now and he's going to be transferring here next week just in time to sign up for the show. He's pretty good and he can help out." Pidge's eyes widened. "Are you sure about this? I mean, we'll be competing against him, so he might try to sabotage us." Keith shrugged.

"Not really. He's a little shit, but he doesn't pull that crap. And I don't think he's really taking it seriously anyways," Keith answered. "Anyways, I heard you finally asked Allura out," Keith grinned, leaning his elbows over the stage and pointing at the blonde girl. Pidge blushed furiously. "Y-yeah. I did." They shook their head furiously. "But that's not the point! We should have been able to practice this week, but neither of you were here. And we rely pretty heavily on you two. You're our guitar players and our best song writers. You two make playing more fun and you weren't here. I don't really give a shit what your excuse is, just don't let it happen again when we really need you. Okay?" Pidge held out a pinky to him, to which they received a 'Really?' look. Keith still linked pinkies with them. "Fine."

"Oh, yeah! We're back in business!" Hunk yelled, slamming his drumsticks onto the drums in quick succession. Pidge smiled and signed 'Guitar' at Allura, looking like she was playing an invisible guitar and the tan girl practically squealed in glee before hopping off the stage and grabbing a guitar case. She hugged it to her chest, her bright pink sweater clashing with the black of the case.

Pidge wore a matching lime-green sweater, playing a couple notes on her keyboard, giving everyone else a chance to get ready.

Keith grinned, getting his own guitar out and joining everyone onstage.

This is what he lived for.


"So you got expelled from a military school?" Keith nodded. "Yep. My step-dad insisted that it would help if I went to a military school to enforce discipline. That didn't work out so well. I got kicked out after severely wounding a Commander. Mom was really pissed about that." The rest of them stared in awe. "What did you do? Stab him in the eye?" Lance asked sarcastically, only to receive a stiff nod from the dark-haired boy. "Luckily I didn't get arrested for it or anything because it was considered self-defense."

"What did he do to you?"

"He got really pissed at me one day and tried to strangle me." Keith actually looked proud of himself, remembering how much of a nuisance he'd been. "How'd you manage to piss someone off that much?" Pidge asked with a mischievous glint in her eyes. "A combination of the fact that he was never able to prove I'd done anything and that I literally never did what was asked of me." Keith shrugged. "And after accidentally coming across some blackmail, I guess I used the information against him so much he finally snapped."

Pidge cackled at that. "What a weakling! What exactly did he do?" Keith shrugged again. "He was having an affair with one of his students. I didn't actually see anything, but I got into his computer after class trying to get an answer key to the test and I found some emails between him and this girl."

They all startled as the doorbell rang and Lance got up mumbling, "That must be James."

Soon enough he was back with another kid, who had his hair combed to the side and wore a Peppa Pig shirt, holding a guitar case at his side. The boy saluted halfheartedly and said, "Cadet Kogane. Been awhile. Can't say it's good to see you again." Keith rolled his eyes. "Whatever, Jimbo." James cringed at the usage of the dumb nickname.

"Don't be an asshole." James pulled off his backpack and set his guitar down. "Anyways, for all you people I don't know, my name's James Griffin and you shouldn't believe anything this guy says about me." He jerked his thumb at Keith. The rest of them told him their names and they all started to pull out their instruments.

Keith got out the packet of paper and handed it to James. "Nice. I've heard the songs that everyone else is playing for the show, but this is still pretty good. You'll at least be in the top five," James said a little sarcastically.

"I mean, you go to a school that's known for it's musical programs, there's going to be a bunch of people playing some amazing music. It's good, but don't expect to win with this," He commented on the piece.

"What are you planning on playing, then?" Keith asked, curiously. James rolled his eyes. "I honestly don't care, so it's only going to be an older song of mine. You know, Boy in the Bubble, the one I wrote the year before last?" Keith nodded.

"I want to hear it," Hunk said nervously. He seemed to have caught on to the fact that James and Keith weren't really 'friends' as they'd called each other, but more like rivals that knew they couldn't outmatch each other and that had a silent truce in act between them. James smiled at Hunk. "Sure." He got his guitar out of his case strumming the guitar experimentally and singing rapid-fire.

 

The guitar part got lower and he started singing more fermata than before.

 

He stopped for a long moment before continuing into the chorus.

 

He started singing rapid-fire again and played a little more calmly now. The way he played was robotic.

 

He started singing with longer notes as he transitioned into the chorus.

 

The way he played the song seemed a little wrong, like the song itself was begging for some sort of freedom.

 

The way he sung the next part of the song seemed a little more empathetic, switching between ideas and opinions. The same way he'd sung for Keith over a year ago. He'd taken to not playing at all during this portion.

 

"Put down those bubbles and that belt buckle

"In this broken bubble"

He seemed to sing a little differently, although the robotic pattern of his fingers continued as he finished the song.

Keith had a blank look on his face as James finished the song and Hunk looked at the boy with teary eyes.

"That was amazing!" Hunk cheered.

"Meh," Pidge waved their hand. "I've seen better. So you better get off your pedestal, Mister High-And-Mighty." Keith laughed at that, giving his wholehearted agreement. James gave them the stink-eye. "I was just making a point. I mean, Lance, Nyma, Rolo, and Beezer are going to be playing an amazing song. I've heard it already and I'm pretty sure she got some help from people who are actually qualified to be put on a record label. Plus there's plenty of other people there who are going to have amazing songs as well."

Lance raised his eyebrows. "When did you hear the song we're playing?" James shrugged. "I work for the same record label Nyma's dad owns. Word gets around fast there. Plus I've heard all about the other competitors from some sources, who will remain unnamed for now."

Pidge leaned forward intrigued. "Who all are we up against?"

"Well, there's Romelle and her brother, Brandor. They're playing a pop song together that's pretty good. Plaxium, Luxia, Blumfump, and Swern are playing a rap song that's also good. Lotor and his crew are going to play an upbeat song that I personally like. I got to listen to that one too and it's called Get Ready to Die. It's pretty awesome." James grinned, while Keith groaned. Knowing James it was probably some sort of metal-esque song. The boy liked listening to metal, but didn't have the knack for writing it.

"Klaizap is playing a long song called The Devil's Train and Florona is playing a shorter song called Lifeboat. There might be other people who might sign up, but those are the main people you want to watch out for." James brushed some dust off his shoulder. "Although the likely winners are more likely to be along the lines of Nyma's group, Romelle's group, Plaxium, and Florona. Klaizap is kind of a joke and Lotor's group is really only playing for the shits and giggles."

"I heard that Florona has kind of been exiled from the Mers," Lance commented, referring to the absurd band name. He personally liked the name he'd come up with a couple years ago for their band: Voltron. Although the rest of the group had never shown the same enthusiasm for the name. Lotor had come up with the name for his band that everyone in the school thought was the dumbest name; Lotor's Angels. Romelle and Brandor didn't really have a band name. And Nyma's group was called The Coalition, which Keith thought was a little rigid.

"Yeah. Apparently Luxia screwed something up and shoved the blame on Florona, so they haven't been talking to her lately," James answered. "But I think she's probably going to do better than them, so they'll figure out sooner or later. Her song's really good. And I don't even like that type of music." He shrugged.

"She really shows how great of a singer she is in that song. And she doesn't even need a band to do it with because she's already got a track recorded. All she has to do is sing along. Really, she could win with just her voice. That's how amazing she's been doing without them. It's kind of a shame they had her singing backup." Everyone nodded. Although people rarely got a chance to hear her voice alone, most people knew she was a good singer, if not the exact extent to how amazing that downgraded voice could be.

"So Florona is going to be someone you want to look out for. Even if she doesn't win, she's probably going to be able to get a deal from the record label."

"My question is how they have time for their band when they're also in cheerleading. Doesn't that take up a lot of time?" Hunk asked. "I'm not in cheerleading, so how should I know?" James answered. Pidge smirked. "You seem to know a lot about them, so why not?" James rolled his eyes.

"Anyways, Shiro told me that the schedule they have set up right now is pretty flexible, but the order they're planning on going in currently is Florona, Klaizap, me, Romelle and Brandor, The Mers, Lotor's Angels, The Coalition, and lastly, Voltron." Pidge cursed. "If we end up going last, we won't have a chance. Everyone will be tired of watching bands play their songs by the time we roll around." James nodded. "So Keith's going to have to ask for an earlier slot, preferably after Klaizap so that the expectations aren't too high. Although, Nyma's probably going to react by asking for a slot either before or after you. You're probably just going to have to play really well and hope for the best." James shrugged.

Keith rolled his eyes. "Well that doesn't help much."

"It's not that big a deal if you loose, you'll still have the opportunity." Pidge rolled their eyes. "But we wanna beat everyone's asses and show those popular assholes who is boss!" They jumped up, pumping their arms in the air and accidentally punching out a light from a low-hanging chandelier. They shrieked, cradling their slightly bloodied hand to their chest. Keith quickly rushed them out of the room to get some first aid, which he knew about only because he'd been to Lance's house on numerous occasions over the week and Lance had mentioned it after he stubbed his toe once. Lance started brushing the glass into a pile and scooped it up, throwing it in a small trashcan under a coffee table.

James snorted. He already liked Pidge's spunk, even if they proved to be annoying at times. Lance was quick to ask what Keith was like at his old school and Hunk even quicker to jump on the Lets-Gossip-About-Our-Friend-That's-Just-Outside-The-Room train. And James was much quicker to sell Keith out.

"Keith's a total asshole. Which is probably why we hated each other when we first met. He always called me a teacher's-pet and we'd fight a lot. And at some point I went a little too far with one of my insults and he beat the shit out of me for it. I guarantee you've never seen him as upset as he was that day. He can be scary as shit when he wants to. And immediately after, he started smiling, acting like nothing happened. I've honestly never been as scared in my life as I was in that moment. But he called for a truce and so we stopped being really nasty to each other. We started hanging out more, even though it was pretty obvious we hated each other. We still hate each other, but I think it's not as much as we used to. He used to get in fights all the time back then. And he's a really good liar. Probably how he got out of trouble so much."

At some point during James' rambling, Keith and Pidge had gotten back. One stifled their laughter behind their hand, while the other looked slightly amused, but mostly annoyed. Lance and Hunk had noticed the two and it took everything in them to keep their faces straight. Keith slunk behind him and roughly grabbed James' shoulder, earning a yelp from the boy. "Have a nice time talking shit about me?" Keith smiled, but the irritation was clearly visible on his face. James gulped. "How long have you been standing behind me?" Keith laughed. "Since the part where I beat the crap outta you. Hey, you want to relive that moment again?" James scrambled away with a clear, "No!" Keith snorted. "Thought so."

"Did you do stuff like that at your old school a lot?" Lance asked. Keith rolled his eyes. "Only if someone pissed me off. And normally I'd save that crap for after school. A lot of kids I fought just wanted to fight because they wanted to prove themselves to their friends. So yeah, I guess I did. But I don't really do that now. Mostly because I'd get my ass kicked out if I made them think there was any chance that I might step out of line." James seemed to make a 'see this menace?' gesture.

"Anyways, are we going to practice or not? We don't have forever to get ready for this contest," Keith cracked his knuckles, receiving wholehearted agreement from the others.

Chapter Text

The band hall was filled with people either practicing instruments or talking about the talent show, which was taking place in the concert hall. Even a couple theater kids had joined in on the fun and were going to sing a song from a musical they were doing in the Spring (something about promoting the venue). Most people were there to play though. Although a girl named Moontow was planning on doing a comedic routine at some point.

The show opened with the school marching band and orchestra playing a ten minute long piece called Three Illusions For Orchestra, which they were doing at the moment, much to the distaste of most students, who chose to wait it out in the halls. Outside, the sound was still very loud, if somewhat annoying. Keith personally found the sound very grating as different instruments seemed to be playing at random. It didn't particularly sound like a song and more like an average marching band practice. The only sound that seemed rehearsed was the orchestra's in sync sound, which also occasionally came out of sync.

Every student in the band hall hoped and prayed that the grating sound would end soon. All except Pidge, who seemed to be bopping their head to the beat (which was very hard to discern from the song and seemed so all over the place it was hard to tell when the actual practice had ended and the song had started). Some people stared in astonishment at the girl, wondering how anyone could enjoy music like that.

Thankfully the ten minutes went quickly, with Florona being quick to go onstage to help the orchestra and marching band pack up and get off the stage. The music teacher, Zarkon, even thanked her. Imagine that. The other bands were extremely off-put by this, since the orchestra teacher was known for being rude and hateful.

After some gossip between competitors and an audience that was still filtering back into the concert hall, it was made known that Florona actually took one-on-one after school classes with Zarkon, who had nothing bad to say about her voice. Which was a first. Even the Mers seemed surprised by this information.

Once the band and orchestra was all packed up, she gave her phone to one of the theater techies who were working on the sound-works. The art teacher, Coran took the stage to introduce the show and Florona.

"First up is Florona, who will be singing to an original song called Lifeboat. Everybody give your undivided attention and- You five in the back! Turn off your cell phones! Kids these days. Anyways, give it up for Florona!" Coran left the stage, making toward the kids who still had their phones on and Florona took center-stage with a microphone in her hands as the crowd cheered. She wore a peach colored miniskirt with a white tank-top and a peach blazer with white GUESS tennis shoes. Her golden bracelets and headband accented the entire outfit.

She twisted a strand of strawberry blonde hair behind her ear nervously before the sound of an acoustic guitar being strung sounded over the speakers. As she sung the first words, everyone stared in silence, her voice being quiet, nervous, and overall emotional. It felt to them as if she was pouring her soul straight into the air with her voice.

The melody of the guitar changed and a soft piano joined in the background, making the audience feel as if they were stranded in that same ocean. The hopelessness of the situation enveloping the words of the song.

The music changed, abruptly becoming loud and aggressive as an ensemble of band instruments joined in. They accentuated her voice, making it sound like a true hurricane of sound. Her voice truly showed through, emotion and beauty clearly visible through her voice. Everything she felt, was carried through the sound. She was that hurricane.

She hung on the last note before continuing onto the next section of song, her voice raw and vulnerable. She seemed rebellious at first, but quickly became resigned. Violins started playing background, accentuating her plight and making her voice sound even sadder as she sung, ending with a soft cymbal roll.

The tiniest lifeboat

Full of people I know

The audience was silent for a moment, their shock and awe apparent to everyone except the nervous young girl onstage, who shifted from foot to foot. Then everyone was suddenly on their feet, cheering. Other competitors cursed, knowing how impossible it would be to compete with that. James nudged Keith with a knowing look on his face.

As Florona nervously left the stage, she was immediately met with congratulatory remarks. Klaizap, who was next, seemed a little unnerved. He was now regretting having asked to go second. He had long, curly dark hair, that was put up in a man bun. He tugged at the collar of his yellow shirt, his green jacket hanging low over his shoulders.

He nervously went onstage with his phone held out for a techie to take and his head held high, making his short stature seem just a little taller. Coran joined him, giving him an encouraging pat on the back. "Thank you, Florona. Now next is Klaizap, who is going to tell a story about his grandfather through song called The Devil's Train. Give it up for him everybody!" Coran left the stage and the uppity music started, Klaizap nervously rapping along to the lyrics.

His voice suddenly became softer as he seemed to whisper the lyrics into the mic.

He started rapping again, the lilting tune starting again.

He started up on the chorus again, the crowd seeming less than thrilled to be listening in.

As he sung the next portion of the song, he changed his voice to mimic different characters in the song.

The crowd cheered politely, but nobody was particularly impressed. Coran, however, had gotten teary-eyed and stood, clapping louder than the entirety of the concert hall. Klaizap smiled, proud that he'd at least made one person happy before he left the stage.

Nyma walked up to Voltron, giving a disgusted look, Lance trailing sheepishly after her and her friends giving even more menacing looks toward the group. "Good luck, losers. After our performance, nobody's going to want to stay and watch you." She flipped her hair over her shoulder, slapping Keith in the face with said hair.

Lance shrugged helplessly and James rolled his eyes as the group went onstage. Nyma handed one of the techies her phone, proceeding then to lather her hands in hand sanitizer before they went onstage. The only people who had an instrument were Lance and Beezer, who was on drums. Rolo was serving as a beatboxer and Lance would sing background vocals for Nyma.

"Everyone welcome the Coalition to the stage!" The crowd cheered, one person even professing his love for Nyma overly loudly, which earned the teen a harsh glare from the blonde. "Today they will be playing an original song called Life Afraid. Give it up everyone!" They received another cheer from the audience before the sound of a violin over the speakers was heard, triggering the start of the song. Nobody played their instruments yet.

Lance and Beezer started playing their instruments through the duration of the chorus.

They quieted again as they sung the next verse.

They started playing their instruments again as a couple people in the crowd started holding up their phones with the flashlight on, waving them around. Coran seemed very annoyed by this as he raced around the hall trying to stop them.

Everyone in the band started singing together, hyping up the crowd even more.

Ladies! Hey!  Go!

The girls in the crowd cheered back.

Fellas! Oh, oh, oh!

Nyma smiled proudly as all the boys cheered back. She signaled Lance to come closer to her and he did, playing into the chorus perfectly.

The crowd cheered loudly, clearly enthused by their performance. As they walked offstage, Lance shot Team Voltron a thumbs up, while Nyma glared haughtily at them.

The group did their best to psych themselves up as Coran came onstage to introduce them.

"Now we have Voltron here to play a song called I'm a Kamikaze, so everyone give them some applause!" They breathed out together before going onstage. One techie asked if they had anything on a phone for them, but Pidge shook their head. "That's what I'm here for," They smirked, pointing a thumb at themself. They had a lot of equipment, which took some help from Hunk to bring onstage while Allura and Keith stood at the front of the stage with their guitars. The song started out with Keith strumming his guitar and Allura clapping along. Soon Pidge was building sound upon it and Hunk was pounding the bass to the beat of the song, while Keith started singing, taking a deep, calming breath before doing so.

Hunk started really playing now and Allura joined in on guitar as Keith's singing sped up into the chorus. Keith sung more enthusiastically, smiling as he played.

Allura sung softly along to the next two lines, her voice lacking her usual slur from unuse after having practiced those words for a long time. It was hard for her to learn how to sing again. She'd loved singing before she lost her hearing, but now she just felt nervous. Her voice was still as sweet as if had been before though.

Keith sung by himself now, playing a sick guitar solo between the end of the chorus and the next verse.

Pidge cheered, pulling the melody back into the next verse.

They all pooled their efforts into the chorus, Keith singing perfectly. It gave off the same sort of vibe the last song had, making it seem like they had been the ones playing the entire time. Like as if the last band hadn't gone offstage at all. They seemed to be riding off the vibes of the last song. At least if we can't make a song better than theirs, we can match them to a T. Keith smirked as he reached the chorus.

You can tell everybody

Mama I'm a kamikaze

Keith played his guitar solo again and let out a cheer like a real rock star.

The group slid into the chorus again, showing just as much enthusiasm as they'd shown throughout the song. Keith seemed to sing with a new edge laced into has voice.

The crowd cheered just as loudly as they had for the Coalition, even though they hadn't directly provoked the audience and were generally disliked by them, they still cheered like they had for the group they preferred. Voltron smiled proudly before taking their leave. Nyma sneered at them, believing she had won, while James elbowed Keith in the ribs. "My turn's next. Hopefully all the extra work you guys had to put in-in the moment gives you extra points. Wish me luck." James looked a little stuffy and sweaty in his light blue sweater with a white-collared shirt underneath.

"LUCK!" The group shouted at once, startling James and a couple people around them. He smiled in startled surprise and gave them a thumbs up.

He went onstage with his guitar, adjusting his collar. "And here's James Griffin, the new kid on the block here to show everyone what he can do! Give it up for him and his song, Boy In the Bubble!" The crowd cheered again and James started playing immediately.

He started strumming the guitar experimentally and singing rapid-fire.

He stopped for a long moment before continuing into the chorus.

He started singing rapid-fire again and played a little more calmly now. The way he played was robotic.

He started singing with longer notes as he transitioned into the chorus.

The way he played the song seemed a little wrong, like the song itself was begging for some sort of freedom.

The way he sung the next part of the song seemed a little more empathetic, switching between ideas and opinions. The same way he'd sung for Keith over a year ago. He'd taken to not playing at all during this portion.

"Put down those bubbles and that belt buckle

"In this broken bubble"

He seemed to sing a little differently, although the robotic pattern of his fingers continued as he finished the song.

The crowd cheered, albeit not as loudly as they had for the last couple bands. He left the stage with a smile though and high-fived Keith just as Lotor and his crew showed up (they never practiced out in the open, so they'd rented a practice room). Keith high-fived his sister and fist-bumped Lotor as they approached. The group was a little more partial toward Keith since he was Acxa's brother and because of what they'd heard about him from his last school.

"I didn't hear much from your performance, but from what I did, I'd say you did very well," Lotor commented. Zethrid had her blue and pink hair in a partial-high ponytail and wore green lipstick, green tennis shoes, and a pink and blue jumpsuit. Ezor had her now (she dyed her hair a lot) bright pink hair in a ponytail and wore a light pink crop top, white flats, and a long, white skirt that went down to her knees. Narti wore a dark blue hijab, a black sweatshirt with a cat on it, blue tennis shoes, and jeans. Lotor had giant earrings all over his ears and sunglasses. He wore a black bomber jacket over a grey shirt that said 'Haters make me famous.' He was taller than everyone in the general area (except for Zethrid, who had the height of a skyscraper) so everyone had to literally look up to him.

"Here's to hoping we're not at the bottom of the list though," Pidge commented. Lotor nodded. "Hopefully we don't all make fools of ourselves. I don't plan on winning this thing, but it would at least be nice to not be in last place," Lotor hummed thoughtfully.

James laughed. "I think Klaizap's already keeping last place nice and cozy. You'll be fine." Lotor nodded his head thoughtfully. "Well, thank you for the encouragement, but I believe our turn is coming up and I wouldn't want to leave everyone waiting." Everyone yelled 'LUCK' again before Lotor and his crew entered the stage, also choosing not to use the techies to add background music.

"And here is Lotor's Angels here to play another song called Get Ready To Die." Coran double-checked his note cards, making sure that that was in fact the name of the song before shrugging. "Lets give a round of applause for them!" The crowd cheered and Acxa almost immediately started playing on guitar, Zethrid following up on drums. Lotor started singing in a rather deep voice, seeming to belong to a metal singer and not the fashionably cult-ish guy it came from.

Narti added another layer of guitar and Zethrid started going crazy on the drums.

The guitar sounds started to build and develop through this phrase.

The guitars started playing together again, making an enthusiastic and uppity beat for the chorus again.

The crowd cheered as the group left the stage. They immediately started mingling with the other band members. Despite the rumors about them, they seemed to have a great quality about them that made everyone want to talk to them, even if they were competitors.

Keith noticed the Mers talking to Florona (it looked more like they were harassing her, but whatever) near the emergency exit. The girls and Blumfump seemed to want her back, but Florona kept denying them over and over again. Romelle and Bandor were already going onstage, so he quickly lost interest in favor of the next performance.

"Here we have brother and sister, Romelle and Brandor who are going to play a song called I'm a Mess. Please give it up for these guys!"

Bandor gave the techies his phone as he walked to the center of the stage with his sister. His sister held a microphone in her hands and Bandor brandished a shiny, dark blue guitar, which matched his t-shirt. The shirt that had a picture of a yellow cat, the same color as his sister's crop top, which she wore with a navy skirt and jandals. As he played his guitar, she sang in perfect harmony.

As she transitioned into the chorus, he started singing backup, the two sharing the mic.

Romelle started clapping with the mic in her hands as she transitioned into the chorus.

The beat calmed down as they went and Romelle started snapping her fingers to the beat.

Bandor started singing backup again, their voices harmonizing and sounding perfect together.

The track from Bandor's phone held up a nice drum roll as the song proceeded into the chorus.

Bandor started singing now as Romelle sung backup.

They once again switched back to Romelle leading and Bandor following.

The crowd cheered loudly as the siblings rushed offstage, met by congratulations. They smiled widely, but never replied to the comments, not feeling like they's done their very best or as if they could amount to what everyone else had shaped up to be. Voltron started chatting amongst each other, arguing over their chances of getting second place (everyone agreed that Florona was a force to be reckoned with and there was no chance they could win against that).

"Okay. Bet. Twenty dollars says the order in which we win is Florona, Voltron, Coalition, Romelle and Brandor, Lotor's Angels, James, the Mers, and Klaizap," Pidge proclaimed. "Okay. Thirty says the order is Florona, Coalition, Voltron, Romelle and Brandor, James, the Mers, Lotor's Angels, and Klaizap." Hunk held his hand out to Pidge, who shook it with a death grip. "Fifty says the Mers get disqualified before they can perform and the order will be Florona, Voltron, Coalition, James, Romelle and Brandor, Lotor's Angels, and Klaizap," Keith said distractedly. The two glanced at each other before eagerly taking him on that bet.

Keith was busy watching as the Mers continued to harass Florona. Didn't they know their turn was up? Apparently not. Voltron seemed to notice the drama coming from the Mers as Luxia growled at Florona and grabbed the girl by the hair, starting a fight between the five. Tufts of Luxia's blue weave started flying everywhere as Florona fought back with just as much power. Swirn, Blumfump, and Plaxum tried to pry the angered girl off the blonde. Florona scratched her face, leaving dark red lines across her dark skin. People started crowding them, chanting 'Fight! Fight! Fight!' Soon enough Coran, Shiro, and Zarkon were intervening and pulling the girls apart.

"What is the meaning of this?!" Zarkon boomed. Everyone was silent for a moment before Plaxum broke the silence. "Luxia attacked Florona because she wouldn't join our band again." Luxia growled and lunged for the snitching girl before Shiro lifted her off the ground. "In that case, the Mers will be unable to compete in this competition." Luxia screeched in distaste and the other Mers hung their heads in shame.

"Florona's performance will still count in the competition because she was only protecting herself from Luxia," Zarkon proclaimed, turning toward the theater geeks. "You all better get onstage. Your turn is coming up." The nervous theater people quickly skedaddled. Pidge stared at Keith in awe. "Dude, why didn't you tell us you were a friggin' wizard?" Keith bristled. "I'm not. I just could tell shit was gonna go down." Pidge chuckled, before getting lost in conversation with Allura and Hunk.

Everyone who'd already performed chose to ignore the theater group, choosing instead to gossip about what happened with the Mers or just talking about who would win. There was an unspoken agreement that Florona was definitely going to win first place. There was no doubt about it from anyone in the audience or the performers.

When the theater kids were finally done with their little performance, all eyes went to the stage, where Coran walked to the center of it with a small white envelope and a microphone.

"All right. Congratulations to everyone who performed here today! Let's give everyone one last round of applause!" The audience roared with applause for a couple minutes before quieting down again. Coran cleared his throat. "I hope you've all had a great night and made some amazing memories here tonight. Now, for the moment you all have been waiting for: The winners of this year's talent contest!" Everyone clapped, eagerly awaiting the results. Performers leaned forward in interest (Klaizap leaned forward a little too far and fell flat on his face).

"In first place, with her amazing, show-stopping performance, we have Florona!" A loud cheer erupted from the audience as Florona abashedly shuffled onstage. She smiled at Coran, who gave her a warm hug. She quietly whispered into Coran's ear before pulling away, the red-headed man holding a surprised expression on his face. He turned to the audience. "And in second place, the group that will be taking the prize originally meant for first place-" A murmur spread through the crowd like wildfire and the Coalition stepped in front of Voltron, obstructing their view of the stage.

Nyma smirked. "Better make way, losers. We're taking second place." Pidge rolled her eyes, peering around Nyma to watch as Coran finished his sentence.

"We have Voltron! Congratulations!" Pidge smirked, pushing past an open-mouthed Nyma. Allura, Hunk, and Keith followed close behind. Lance smiled softly at his friends, while his girlfriend scoffed, ranting about how 'those assholes don't deserve second place!'

"And in third place we have the Coalition! Let's give them a round of applause, everyone!" Coran moved on cheerfully. The Coalition walked onstage beside Voltron and Florona. The rest of the performers started making their way onstage behind the major 3 as Coran called them.

"In fourth we have James Griffin, in fifth we have Romelle and Brandor, in sixth we have Lotor's Angels, and in last place we have Klaizap. Everyone give them a round of applause!" There was a cheer and Pidge stared at Keith in awe. "How the fuck?" They gaped at Keith, who just smirked slightly in reply.

"You guys owe me." Pidge gasped. "I have no idea what you're talking about." Allura elbowed them in the ribs with a soft smile.

"Congratulations, Voltron on getting the opportunity to play at the biggest game of the year! I hope to see you all there next Friday! Go Lions!" Coran cheered enthusiastically, leaving the stage as rowdy teenagers started hooting and hollering about the game and everyone started to disperse.

Chapter Text

"Yo! We got a yes from the band teacher! Moontow is all about the idea you had, Keith. And y'know, because of the Halloween thing, they're talking about getting all the marching band-people to dress up in their Halloween costumes," Lance rambled, not seeming to mind much as Keith seemingly ignored him in favor of playing clarinet. "I thought maybe we could do something like that."

Keith glanced at him curiously. "I thought Nyma wasn't letting you play with us?" Lance shrugged. "She doesn't care as much now that the talent show is over. Plus it's just one show."

"You and Nyma gonna dress up together for Halloween?" Keith asked, taking to practicing again. "Nah. Hunk said that we should do group costumes as a band or something." Lance shrugged. "Do you really think you'll be able to write lyrics for the entire marching band by the game? It's less than a week away." Keith paused.

"Yeah. I mean, I've already written up a page for the first clarinets. All I need to do is water that down for the second and third clarinets, then write similar lyrics for the other wooden instruments. I've started on brass already too and Hunk says he's going to do percussion. And I've been able to find time during some of my classes to work on it. So I've got plenty of time to finish. Plus the band is really good, so I have no doubt they'll be able to figure it out quickly. Especially with two hour practices before school, their classes, and four hour practices after school. And then the pre-game practices. And Moontow will probably let them use their liars for this performance," Keith said, gesturing to the metal instrument attached to the clarinet. He snatched a black pen from an assortment of writing utensils lying around the floor and started writing on the small binder-like object attached to the liar.

"Sometimes I think the band instructors overwork their kids." Keith laughed. "Well, maybe, but look at them. They look like the fucking football players with all that muscle." Lance raised his eyebrows at that. "That's hella gay." Keith punched him in the shoulder. "I'm hella gay." The two boys laughed at the simple joke.

"Florona said she's going to make this big galaxy cloth that's supposed to encompass the whole field for halftime. I guess it's supposed to go with the theme of the last song. She's talking about getting a bunch of people from colorguard to dress up as aliens." Lance raised his eyebrows. "Wow. Everyone's going to be so busy for the game," Lance commented. Keith nodded. "Yep. Everything's coming together pretty well though, despite the short time slot." Lance snorted. "All thanks to the student council prez. I'm surprised she hasn't passed out from all the work she's been doing on her own."

"When are the others gonna get here? It's been, like," Keith checked his phone. "Half an hour since they were supposed to be here." Lance shrugged. "I think Pidge mentioned the car breaking down or something. I don't fucking know." Keith snorted at that, while Lance punched him in the shoulder, an unamused look on his face.

Keith glanced behind Lance, seeing obviously unreal shadow people snaking toward the two boys, the veil keeping them within visibility so thin it was almost non-existent. Keith coughed, reminding himself that it wasn't real. Just his stress messing with him. He could go a couple weeks without his meds. He could tell the difference between reality and hallucinations. Couldn't he?

The answer was no, no he couldn't. His mind was racing a mile a minute and yet he couldn't grasp a single grounding thought. Why did this always have to happen at the most inconvenient times? He groaned, slumping over the couch cushion and laying his instrument down on the ground. Lance flopped onto his back beside him, completely oblivious to Keith's inner turmoil. Keith hated how things like this always happened so suddenly. Hated how his mood could flip from okay-ish to horrible in seconds. He decided to ignore the voices in his head in favor of trying to write the musical accompaniment for clarinet. But it was extremely difficult as the voices started to get louder.

You're such a failure.

You're a pussy.

No one cares about you.

You're clingy.

An asshole.

Abomination.

Disgusting.

Stupid.

Violent.

Hated.

Crazy.

Pushy.

Showoff.

You have no future.

Everyone will leave you.

Why don't you leave them first?

Keith stood in a daze, the shadows closing in on him. "Um, where's your bathroom?" Lance pointed toward a hall and mumbled, "First to the left." He noticed how Lance had a strange look on his face. It made him uncomfortable. Almost as if the Cuban boy could see right through him. Keith nodded and strode toward the first door on the left with purpose, his demons following close behind.


Keith stood in front of the bathroom mirror, hating the tears that flowed freely down his face, almost as if burning through his skin like acid. He double checked to make sure the bathroom door was locked before opening the side mirror and snatching a random bottle of prescription pills from the cabinet.

Keith twisted at the medicine cap, gave up, and attempting to pry it open the bottle with his teeth, tears flooding his vision and shadows invading his thoughts. "Stupid childproof caps!" He growled, groaning in frustration as the cap refused to budge. Suddenly a very feminine and familiar voice spoke from the mirror of the bathroom.

Keith looked up, seeing a shadow-encased version of his sister in the mirror instead of himself and suddenly he was surrounded by the mocking faces of his friends. Acxa crawled out of the mirror, her dark, menacing, red eyes boring into his soul. Her short, dark hair framed her face in shadows and an abnormally wide and cruel smile covered her face. She wore the same school-girl outfit she'd convinced him to wear that one Halloween night years ago when he was just starting to get better, reminding him of how screwed up his head was now. It seemed kind of odd though, but he wasn't in the right state of mind to think too much about it.

Pidge gripped his shoulder, their wide smile deeply unsettling. They didn't seem to mind the look of abject horror plain on his face, simply spinning him to face Allura. "Why not kill yourself?" Allura asked with a slur from her spot, sitting on the toilet. Acxa slid a finger along her neck as if to slit it as Allura spoke. "Here have a sedative!" Acxa tapped the lid of the bottle of pills Keith was trying so desperately to open, which popped open just as she did. His hands shook so much, causing the pills to rattle in the bottle and a couple fell to the floor. The others cried in a lilting rhythm, Lance grabbing his other shoulder and staring him in the face with a disappointed, yet hateful look on his face. He looked in the mirror, away from Lance, seeing Hunk, Lance, and Pidge glaring hatefully at him from behind Acxa. Acxa gripped his chin, her threatening gaze poring over his face, the disgust evident on her face, despite the shadows overlaying her figure. He heard someone banging on the door, but the sound was drowned out by the sounds of the hatred surrounding him. He gripped his head, strands of hair coming loose as he did.

Acxa crawled off the counter, her plaid skirt falling mid-thigh as her polished shoes tapped on the tile. She grabbed him by the throat, choking him and his vision swam, having already been extremely deprived of oxygen. His hiccups died on his lips. The banging on the door became even louder and he thought he could hear Lance yelling through the door.

But that couldn't be right. Lance was standing right next to him, grinning spitefully.

Acxa screamed at him, dropping his limp form. He collapsed to the floor, heaving for breath on his knees. The others started chanting the word 'whine' over and over, driving him mad.

Lance circled around him like a lion eyeing its prey. The word team seemed so much darker in tone now than when Lance usually said it, smiling brightly as he would cheer 'go, team Voltron.' His sister circled behind him, counter to Lance's clockwise, leaving a lingering touch against his shoulder as she passed. Pidge let go of his shoulder, circling next to Lance, their eye-bags becoming apparent against their already shadowed skin-tone. The lights seemed to flicker above him, until he was left in almost complete darkness, the shadowed forms of his friends and sisters sitting abstractly against the darkness. Hunk proclaimed against his ear, everyone grouping up in front of him to glare in disgust down at him. Acxa leaned forward and pointed at him as everyone started chanting 'die alone' together over and over. Keith tilted the bottle past his lips, taking every single pill into his mouth, the taste bitter against his tongue.

The door suddenly burst open, swinging off its hinges and Lance was there, gathering Keith into his arms. The shadows suddenly dissipated in thin air and the lights were on and they were so bright. "Spit those out!" Lance squished the boy's cheeks, to which Keith shook his head, no.

"Why are you like this?" Lance sighed exasperatedly. "You can't just decide to off yourself. If you were happy every day of your life you wouldn't be a human being. You'd be a game-show host." Keith let out a hiccup of a laugh, tears still soaking his face and refusing to spit out a single pill.

Lance groaned at Keith's stubbornness. "You have people who care about you. And I personally don't want to see you die like this." Keith's lips wobbled as more tears threatened to pour out of him. "Suicide is a private thing, you know," Keith mumbled around the pills in his mouth. "You're throwing your life away to become a statistic on U. S. fucking A. Today; that's about the least private thing I can think of." Lance held his hand to Keith's mouth, silently begging him to spit out the pills.

Which he did. Right into Lance's hand. Now that Lance thought about it, that was kind of disgusting. Lance dumped the pills into the small trash can beside the toilet, getting up to wash his hands.

Keith wiped his face with his sleeve. "That was actually pretty gross." Lance sighed and rolled his eyes. "Yeah. I noticed." Keith laughed. "Shut up," Lance mumbled, splashing Keith with some water from the sink. Keith sniffled.

"It hurts," He clutched at his chest, staring down at the tile. The reflection of the shiny white showed the red eyes of his sister. Although, that wasn't right. His sister had dark eyes like his. And this realization seemed to make those menacing eyes disappear.

Lance leaned over him again. "What hurts? You didn't actually swallow any of those pills, did you?" The panic in Lance's voice was evident. Keith shook his head.

"Why can't I just die? I don't deserve to live!" Keith sobbed into his hands again. Lance gathered the sobbing boy in his arms. "I'm pathetic," Keith mumbled into Lance's chest. "I'm a mess. I'm a waste of space. I don't deserve to live. I don't deserve to dream. Everyone's going to leave me someday. Why can't I leave first?" He gripped his raven locks, pulling as the shadows started to reappear.

The voices started again and Keith looked up to see another Lance behind his Lance. The shadow boy lunged for him and pushed him away from the real Lance. But that couldn't be right. The Lance staring down menacingly felt so real. The real Lance peered from behind the shadowy one. "Keith!"

Keith heaved for air, the shadow-Lance pressing down on his chest and peering down hatefully. The tan boy leaned in so close his breath could be felt against the raven's cheek. This can't be right. Stop.

He whimpered beneath the tan boy as he whispered in his ear. "You don't deserve me. You can't possibly think you can go on pretending like everything's okay. I hate you. Soon everyone will know what a mess you are and nobody will want to be anywhere near you. You're a waste of space. You're a waste of pills." The tan boy grinned spitefully down at him. And suddenly the dark boy dissipated and was replaced with the concerned expression of his friend. Keith started sobbing uncontrollably.

"Keith, I need you to calm down. Don't listen to the voices in your head. They're not real." Lance sighed, cradling Keith's head as he started singing a soft lullaby. Keith's breathing started to even out and Lance seemed to visibly relax. "And suddenly I see that all is new. You are not alone." Lance brushed the stray strands of hair out of Keith's face.

Lance sighed. "What happened up here? You seemed perfectly fine before and then suddenly you're trying to kill yourself." Keith shrugged. "When I get stressed, I start to hallucinate more that usual," Keith shrugged as if that was a valid excuse for what he'd just done. Lance stared at him, waiting for more of an explanation. Keith stared at the tile at his feet.

Finally, he spoke. "My dad's been taking my medication. That's not really an excuse, but it's what keeps me in control. I'm not like normal people, Lance. No matter how hard I pretend, I'm just not. I do stupid impulsive things for reasons I don't even understand. My brain doesn't work right and I can't help feeling hopeless all the time. I'm never okay and I never will be." Lance nodded, moving the conversation from all those depressing thoughts. "Why has your dad been taking your medication?"

Keith shrugged happlessly. "He's a drug addict and he decided taking my pills might help him get high. And he said he's been spending too much money on pills for me."

"Well, it's your call if you want to call the cops on him. But maybe you should let somebody else help you write your music. Cuz, y'know, we kinda need you alive for our performance on Halloween. Plus, who else would I dress up for Halloween with? I'm thinking you could be a demon and I could be an angel." Lance grinned. Keith giggled at the sheer ridiculousness of the situation. "Who said I wanted to do a fucking couples costume with you, ya' jerk?"


Keith bounced from his heels to his toes anxiously as half-time neared. He honestly had no idea what was going on with the game, not bothering to cheer with the crowd as one of the linebackers passed the goal with a victory dance.

2:06

Pidge cackled at their friend's nervousness. "Chill, dude. We'll be fine." They adjusted the collar of their weird, silver space suit, some of the green paint they were covered in fading as their hand brushed against their face. Allura smiled at Keith reassuringly. She had a unique costume, which didn't even seem to be a costume at all. He had on a futuristic space-suit that was white with pink accents, she wore purple crystal earrings and her silver hair in a bun, a gold crown with a triangular gem in the front, and she had sparkly, blue marks on her face.

They hadn't seen Coran, but Allura assured them her uncle had a getup that was just as similar and strange as hers. Hunk looked like Korg from Thor of Ragnarok, which is enough explanation on his part. A bunch of the colorguard also wore alien-like outfits and held neon green flags. Lance and Keith on the other hand seemed to be the odd ones out, with Keith dressed up as an angel, with his white jeans, t-shirt, and a leather jacket with silver wings imprinted on the back, as well as a thin silver ring that acted as a headpiece. He even wore a set of white, fingerless gloves (as per Lance's request, after the taller boy had taunted him about the fact that he wore fingerless gloves all the time first). Lance wore a black t-shirt and ripped jeans, a red leather jacket with a pentagram on the back in black, red and black tennis shoes, a set of gold rings, and a dumb devil's horns headband.

1:36

Keith groaned. "I feel a little out of place since Lance and I are, like, the only people in the fucking stadium not wearing weird alien costumes." Pidge sighed. "See I had faith in you when you started using correct grammar with the 'Lance and I' crap, then you said 'like' and I stopped listening to you." Keith rolled his eyes. "I need your support, not your sass, Pidge." They snorted. "You're fine, bro. Nobody gives a shit." Keith gave her an uncertain look, but shrugged nonetheless. Lance nudged Keith. "Besides, we look way cooler than all of these geeks here, right Allura?" Allura signed an affirmative.

0:26

Pidge suddenly leaned over the metal railing separating them from the football field. "Yes, Rolo! Kick their motherfucking asses, you bitch!" They yelled, cupping their hands around their mouth. Rolo stumbled on the field, almost landing a face-full of dirt and barely managed to not get tackled by another player. He landed the little gremlin a short glare before he turned his focus back on the game.

0:06

He ran as fast as he could, much to the chagrin of the opposing players, whom he managed to dodge gracefully. Just as the buzzer rang, he managed to score the Lions another point. Everyone on the Lions' side of the stadium cheered loudly as the colorguard started rolling a large black cloth with glow-in-the-dark stars on it across the field. The marching band started to line up on the side of the field, already ready for action. As the colorguard finished with the cloth, they brought a small, black stage (with the help of some percussionists) to the center of the field.

The group made their way from the bleachers toward the field just as two percussionists rolled Hunk's drum set out onto the field. Everyone got set up and it took less than a minute for the group to get onstage, the marching band to take their places perfectly in sync, and for the colorguard to finally make their way onto the field as well after having helped the percussionists in the 'pit' set up. Everyone was silent for a solid 4 beats before Pidge started playing a pre-recorded soundtrack, consisting only of random voices they'd recorded in the hallway mere minutes before school had ended that day. Lance, being the lovable idiot he was, pulled out a pair of sunglasses from his jacket pocket and put them off, trying and failing to look like some sort of badass.

After a couple beats Allura joined in on violin, soon joined in by the marching percussionists at the very back of the field. Lance started singing the opening lines after that was set off, leaving his guitar hanging over his shoulder in unuse.

Hunk started playing on drums and Keith started singing with him in the background with a small smile. The entire marching band had joined in, playing a loud and upbeat, brass sound that boomed through the stadium.

Keith started playing guitar, shortly and simply, playing simple staccato notes between beats as the marching band quieted, but continued to play along.

The marching band joined in again with more ferocity, everyone playing in sync and perfectly.

The crowd cheered in approval as the marching band settles off to the sides of the field again and the colorguard took their places on the field. Keith took up center stage, while Lance moved backward to accompany Keith and Hunk started pounding the beat on the bass drum. Keith softly started singing the first lines in a sort of monotone.

Lance started clapping his hands to the beat, encouraging the crowd to clap along and they did. He smiled encouragingly at Keith, singing the background vocals. Lance softly played guitar behind the raven. Pidge played softly on their keyboard, barely heard above the noise.

Hunk started playing a more adverse beat on the drums, not soft, but also not loud either.

Hunk started playing loudly on his drum set, impressively maneuvering around the drums skillfully. Lance started playing anew with Keith, accompanying sound and Keith sung louder, gaining a little more confidence. On the last lines of the chorus, Lance sung background vocals.

Lance and Hunk still played as Keith sung, though softer and slower than they had in the chorus, Lance playing a whole new tune on his guitar.

Lance sung below Keith continuing to play his guitar as Pidge played alien-sounding noises, from there into the chorus again.

Lance played a new tune again into the chorus as Keith sung confidently, letting Lance sing in the background.

Pidge played a single note to a beat, which made it sound like a heart beat monitor measuring the heartbeat of a dying person as the song ended.

The crowd cheered yet again as they continued into the third song, which Lance sung. Pidge, Hunk, and Keith accompanied him with their own instruments. A couple marching band members played an opener into the song from the sidelines. Keith played low sounds, his guitar sounding like how he had played in The Devil Went Down to Georgia as he played the Devil's 'fiddle' part. He sung background vocals behind Lance. Pidge played a pre-recording of lightning strikes at random throughout the song, along with other 'spoopy sounds' as they'd called them.

Allura quickly strummed the same note over and over on her violin until the chorus officially started.

Lance started singing the notes louder, while the only instrumental change seemed to be that of the marching band playing again from the sidelines.

The marching band started playing softer and fewer in between.

Allura played her violin again for a few notes before she was drowned out again by the burst of sound from everyone else.

Keith started singing alongside Lance as Allura played her violin in a lilting rhythm. Allura was the only one that played at this point.

There was a short pause before the chorus started up again with Keith singing background and everyone playing yet again.

The crowd cheered again, more emphatically for their last song as the colorguard lined up in front of the group. Pidge started playing piano, switching it off to Lance as he played short notes on his guitar. Hunk started playing as Keith sung the opening lines. This song was much calmer than the previous song.

Hunk started playing louder while Lance sung along with Keith during the chorus.

Hunk calmed down on the drums as they transitioned.

Hunk started playing louder on the drums again as Lance sang alongside Keith during the chorus.

Hunk stopped playing entirely, while Allura's notes changed to something different, but similar, while Pidge played on dutifully.

They played into the chorus, Lance singing opposing lyrics to each long note that Keith sung, each one hanging in the air.

The crowd cheered again as the halftime buzzer went off again and everyone quickly left the field, giving space to the football players. Pidge and Lance both smiled at Keith encouragingly. "See, I told you it'd be fine."

 

Chapter Text

Keith growled at his phone as he read the message on the screen for the gazillionth time. His teacher didn't seem to notice or didn't care that he had his phone out in class. Though the teacher might have been overlooking it since class was almost over.

And there was the bell.

Keith hurriedly packed his stuff up and shuffled past people in the hall, looking for the person in question who had sent him the text message mentioned above. He finally spotted him in the upper west B hall and he groaned in frustration as he saw the sea of students moving at a snail's pace around each other. He shoved his way through the crowd with extreme difficulty as others pushed him around and shoved past him in turn.

"She cheated on you?" Keith asked incredulously, giving Lance a look that said 'why the fuck do you do these things to yourself?' Lance merely shrugged in response like as if it wasn't a big deal that Nyma had done this. There seemed to be a lot of things he was tolerating from the blonde. It made Keith frustrated to know that Lance was just laying down like a little bitch for Nyma while she yanked him around with no semblance of remorse for him.

Keith tried to dodge around people to keep up with Lance, who was walking very quickly, but people kept bumping into him and jostling him around the hall. He hated the west upper B hall. It was always so busy and filled to the brim with students, despite being the widest hall in the building.

"Why haven't you broken up with her yet? Why haven't you talked to her about it? Or something. Why are you still with her?" Keith asked, his frustration edging into his words. Lance shrugged again. "It's not exactly the first time. And it's not that big a deal anyways." Keith fell back a step as people weaved between him and Lance.

Keith growled. "I swear to God," He hissed unhelpfully. "That makes it worse. She shouldn't be cheating on you and you shouldn't be tolerating that shit."

"Look, just drop it. Nyma's going to be sticking around while we practice and I don't want to argue about this in front of her," Lance demanded. Keith hummed noncommittally as Lance glared at him. "Look, I've got it under control. I'm not a little kid. I know what I'm doing. So stop." Lance then started walking faster and managed to disappear into the crowd, leaving Keith standing in the middle of the hall, festering in his irritation while the sea of students continued to jostle past him.


Keith sat at the back of the stage, strumming his guitar and mumbling lyrics under his breath. Allura, Pidge, and Hunk were busy gossiping on the right side of the stage. While Lance was sitting on the edge of the stage with his guitar, happily chatting with Nyma, who was sitting in the front row of the concert hall. Of course he still hasn't said anything. Nyma probably thinks that Lance has no idea too.

Keith strummed roughly and loudly, grabbing the attention of Pidge, who shot him a worried look. He just shrugged in response before standing and joining the three.

"Hey, maybe we should get to practicing now?" He said unsurely and the three glanced at each other and nodded in agreement.

"Well, what exactly do we have planned for today?" Pidge asked. Keith shrugged. And turned to them, and said quietly, "How about NME?" Pidge nodded with a sly smile and everyone got to their spots without drawing the attention of Nyma or Lance. Allura quickly grabbed her violin and stood at attention.

Pidge started playing and creepily singing without grabbing the attention of the couple at the front of the stage.

After doing this once, Keith suddenly broke in with a loud 'ha' as he started playing his guitar, which startled the two. Lance sent Keith a glare at the interruption, then as he realized what song they were playing, he growled lowly.

Keith smirked in response as he started singing with anger in his voice.

There was more emphasis put on the sound of the violin in a as it slowly went into the chorus and Keith's voice became sweet instead of coarse and angry.

He started playing his guitar, making his own voice sound even more coarse. Hunk played drums harshly, adding fuel to the fire.

As Keith sung the next verse, he sounded more like he was just talking, though this effect made him seem much more frustrated as he tauntingly sung. He tilted his head from side to side as if the extra movement would help get that overwhelming irritation out of his system. And it did help some as he moved his feet occasionally in a sort of stomping motion.

"OK we get it, you're both a happy couple.  Why else go through the trouble of posting it ten times a day?"

Allura played alone on the violin as Keith sung his transition part, receiving a glare from Lance. Nyma, however, seemed oblivious to the silent argument going on.

Everyone joined into the lilting, yet grinding rhythm in the chorus, playing their silent agreement about the matter through song. The song oozed of frustration and anger, the lyrics only adding to the flames, which flared huge and fearsome throughout the concert hall.

The song slowed down with only Allura and Pidge playing while Keith sung, slowly adding back into that grating rhythm that the chorus had.

Everyone quieted as Pidge asked for any objections to a fake marriage and Keith objected, leading everyone into the chorus again.

Unlike the other choruses, Pidge started singing her lilting tune and the lilting rhythm was just as loud as the grating part, the sound competing for the attention of the audience.

The two rhythms combined and were played harmoniously together in an angry, frustrated beat with the lilt getting louder for a moment before the drums effectively brought it back down until the sounds were equal.

Lance stood from the edge of the stage and walked toward Keith, sending him a 'what the fuck was that?' with his eyes. Keith pretended to not have seen the look in his eyes as the Latino took up center stage, forcing Keith to step aside for him. Keith smirked as Lance glared.

"Let's do 'Don't You Dare Forget the Sun.'" Lance made a twirling motion with his finger, indicating that they start from the beginning. Keith scowled as Lance suggested the usage of one of his songs. But everyone else was cooperating.

They started with Hunk on drums and Keith playing a fast guitar solo. As Lance started singing, Allura played on violin and Hnk continued to play in a calmer rhythm. Eventually the guitar parts joined in and Pidge started playing with Allura.

Keith hated how Lance twisted a song about a bad relationship to be about Keith and his shortcomings. He jabbed at every insecurity Keith held inside himself, while making fun of the fact that he thought he was right about their argument. Taunting him by sarcastically building up his ego and telling him to fuck off immediately after. Telling him that he won't be proud of himself for winning the argument.

They continued to play and Keith festered in his anger as Lance continued to sing, not letting any of his anger or frustration show, which only served to frustrate Keith even more.

As he sung, he seemed to jab at Keith, who recoiled at having his thoughts said out loud for him, then being told not to forget the sun, like it was that easy. Lance pushed the idea that all Keith was doing was ruining things between them. Warning him that nothing good would come from this argument.

Lance continued to prod at Keith's insecurities about his mental health. While Keith had argued and tried to change Lance's mind passive aggressively, Lance attacked Keith, insulting him and pushing him to back down.

Lance sung the last portion of the chorus, trying to tell Keith to stop trying to fix him. That he didn't know him fully and that he needed to stop treating him like he did. That he needed to stop looking down on him and let him fix his own problems.

"Did I wreck this broken home?"

Lance looked back as if asking Keith if he went too far and receiving no acknowledgement from the boy in question. He sighed as he sung in exasperation.

Lance sung with less gusto than he had in the beginning as if he was walking on glass, waiting for Keith's reaction.

Lance continued to sing in exasperation as Keith showed no sign of acknowledging him or being bothered in the slightest.

Keith smirked, having already thought of another song as he moved to center stage, motioning for Lance to move back, which he did reluctantly. "'Sweet But Psycho,'"

Keith said monotonously and Pidge smirked, thoroughly enjoying the performance. Lance scowled, seeing how Keith had done the same thing as him by choosing to use one of Lance's songs against him.

Keith started singing as Pidge played a slow rhythm with him.

Keith sung as he started strumming a soft and sweet melody with Pidge as Hunk played with them and Allura played softly, almost inaudibly.

Keith sung with less anger. His voice was soft and sweet as he sung, as if mocking the way that Lance spoke about Nyma like it was fine for her to treat him the way she did.

Lance sung along with him, his voice more like honey than Keith's. It was obvious that Keith was not used to singing songs like this that were meant to be sung sweetly and without anger.

Lance smirked slightly, amused by how much trouble Keith was having singing the song how it was meant to be sung.

Lance started singing louder, attempting to take over for Keith, but he refused to back down, only singing with even more edge than he'd originally been singing with.

On the last word, Keith sung loudly, while Lance sung for a longer time, singing a high-pitched riff. They sounded off-beat, yet melodious at the same time, despite how polar the two were in their singing.

The two sung together, each taking turns to sing softly or loudly during each half of every line and competing to sing the main vocals for the last two lines, though both sung very differently throughout.

Lance finally backed off, realizing that Keith didn't want his help to finish the song, though still smiling in amusement regardless as Keith struggled to finish the song.

As Keith finished the song, Lance made up his mind for the next song to sing and signaled everyone that he had with his finger. "'idontwannabeyouanymore.'" Everyone started getting ready for the song as Nyma smiled up at Lance. Keith scoffed at the soft looks they were giving each other.

It started with just piano and Lance singing softly, before Lance started on guitar and Hunk played drums. He sung softly, with a hint of sadness in his voice. The lyrics didn't seem to say a lot regarding their argument, but the sound of his voice and their instruments said enough.

Keith started on guitar, slightly off-put by the sound of the song and its lyrics. It sounded accusing and cold, but not just toward Keith this time, and not Nyma, but the whole world. Blaming the world for having expectations for all of them. For people breaking each other apart. For making people hurt.

Nyma clasped her hands as if telling him to stop singing. Her hands shook, though she gave no other warning that she was uncomfortable with the song as they continued with the song.

Lance sung slowly, accusingly, but at the same time with just as much forgiveness. Singing about the hurt that people cause them. About the shit that gets thrown at them. How it's hard to stay, but that he needs to. How it hurts him to be what he isn't, but it's even worse to be a plastic girl.

"I don't wanna be you.  I don't wanna be you, anymore."

Lance rolled his shoulders in exhaustion. "We done here?" Everyone else nodded silently and Lance nodded back as he hopped off the stage. "Well, I'm off. See you guys later."

Chapter Text

Lance tapped his fingers against the edge of the open car window to the rhythm of the bass as he pulled the car into park. Today he wore a thick, woolen, blue poncho sweater with white jeans and his favorite, matching blue Guess shoes. Keith opened the truck door before the vehicle was fully stopped as he ran with the truck toward one of the freshly white painted storage units. He was quickly able to unlock the door and swing it up, revealing all of the dusty, old instruments within.

For a kid who lived in an rv park, he sure could afford a lot of instruments. Lance laughed as Keith picked up an old, acoustic guitar with a beaming smile. He couldn't remember ever seeing the emo-teen holding an acoustic guitar and it seemed ridiculous to see him with one, especially when the boy was wearing his leather biker jacket, red, heart-shaped sunglasses, fingerless gloves, and ripped black jeans, looking like some badass biker punk that just walked out of a gay bar.

He strummed an upbeat tune on the acoustic guitar as he walked back toward the truck. "Where the hell did you get all this?" Lance asked with a laugh as Keith shifted the bridge of the glasses down near the tip of his nose to show off his gorgeous, violet eyes.

"My dad, my biological one that is, was a band nerd and he left all of his instruments to Acxa and I when he died. The rest of it is shit I scavenged from garage sales and Goodwill with the little money he and mom left us," He gave Lance a wicked smile as he started to sing beautifully, stomping and bouncing across the cement as he did.

His smile brightened as he leaned up against the driver-side door, his soft, melodious voice carrying through the open space between them.

Lance laughed in amusement as Keith slowed his playing to strumming twice per 'mind' that was sung and jokingly blew him a kiss.

He loved when Keith was this up, which hardly ever happened. So when it did, Lance always tried to enjoy it as much as he could. His friend meant a lot to him.

Keith started strumming frequently and uppity as he had in the beginning and Lance could almost see the bubbles of happiness that floated up with every step Keith took. Or maybe those were real. He wondered if Keith could see them too.

Keith laughed as he continued to strum and the music on the radio seemed to shift by the sheer force of Keith's will to match and accompany his playing.

Keith stopped strumming, to place a suggestive hand on Lance's shoulder before spinning away to dance on his own as he sung, and, oh, it was raining now too.

But the sky was blue and everything was perfect despite that lingering, dark ambiance that always seemed to hang like a veil behind Keith. And the music seemed to reflect it too.

The only words he could hear were Keith's, but the radio was playing along to Keith's whim as if it knew what he was thinking. Even as sirens started to ring in the distance, happiness bubbled out of every movement Keith made. The world could stop just for him.

Keith winked and Lance felt laughter bubbling out of his throat, but he couldn't hear it. The only sound that came out was that of the music. The music that would determine everything he ever did for the rest of his life if only he could stay by that beautiful boy's side and protect him.

Keith tramped around in the puddles of rain like a child as he sung the lyrics so loudly, he was surprised nobody yelled for them to stop. He smiled lovingly at the childish, yet broken raven-haired boy.

Keith seemed to realize how soaked he was and reached into the car window to grab a bright, yellow raincoat (when had that gotten there?) that was draped over the passenger seat.

And all he could see was bright yellow like the sun (not the kind that stung your eyes in the morning as you drove to school, but like that happy watercolor paint that you'd stick your fingers in as a kid and drag the color over the walls until the world wasn't so grey) and ocean blue (like the clear shallows he played in as a child in Varadero, not the dark blue waters where he'd go swimming at night with some lover that meant nothing to him now, but heartbreak) and piercing violet (the kind that reflected only in the clearest of starry nights and only in the most beautiful and colorful of galaxies that he'd obsessed over as a child) and beautifully intense red (not like blood, or even the fire that reflected in Keith's eyes, but like autumn leaves and like strawberries picked fresh and sweet), swirling through the air like water paint on a canvas. It was beautiful, it was everything, and Lance wanted so bad for the colors to bleed into him, to be his, to be him. (Maybe it's in the colors where I'll meet my lover)

Lance could see the way the rain (no, those were tears, weren't they?) clung to Keith's eyelashes as he stared up at the cloudless, blue sky (but why was it raining?) with nothing less than the most hopeful expression he'd ever seen on the sullen boy.

Then there was a ringing in his ears and the color started to seep away and flood into stark black as Lance opened his eyes to see bright white numbers on a phone screen that had a picture of him and Nyma on it saying 6:25 and he realized it had been a dream.

Lance sighed as he cradled his face in his hands.

"Shit."