„Hellooo there, I have a question.”
Keith’s gaze is glued to the book in his hands, and he doesn’t even think about letting someone interrupt him now. Let Shiro handle that.
“How can I help you?”
Sure enough, Shiro is more than pleased to help. This whole thing was his idea anyway, so he can do the large part of the work.
“I was wondering … are there any more services you provide?”
Keith frowns down at the words in his book. What does this guy think this is? Keith reluctantly lifts his head, a snarky remark ready on his lips — but he’s briefly stunned into silence when he’s greeted with a pair of bright blue eyes and a mischievous smile.
“What do you mean?” Shiro asks. There’s still a friendly smile on his lips, but Keith can see the same confusion on his face.
“Well,” the boy says, leaning his hip against the table, “I know you’ll accompany people who feel unsafe walking alone around campus, but …,” he pauses, and the cheeky smile on his lips gets even wider. “I’m sure everyone would be thrilled if you did more than that.” And then the guy winks.
Keith closes his book with a loud thud.
“What exactly are you implying?”
Keith has met enough people like him to know where this is going. When they first set up this booth, a lot of people came by who just wanted to use this as an excuse to get closer to Shiro.
But Shiro wouldn’t be Shiro if he didn’t manage to make it very clear that they were only trying to build a safe environment on campus for everyone. Occasionally, guys like this show up though.
Keith glares at him as ocean blue eyes turn in his direction.
“Hey, easy there! I was just kidding,” the boy laughs, hands raised in defense, and Keith is completely taken aback by this quick change of attitude.
“I really admire what you guys are doing here. It’s a great thing.”
The mischievous smile turns into a genuine one, with soft and honest eyes.
“Thank you. We’re doing our best,” Shiro says, ever so friendly as he chuckles. Keith exhales through his nose. Shiro is the most patient person he knows — even with obnoxious guys like this.
Keith sits up, ready to tell the guy to get lost if he’s not here to ask one of them to walk with him — when he sees it. Sees the quick glance the boy throws over his shoulder.
“Anyway, I’m insulted that you don’t remember me!”
Suddenly the boy’s attention is on Keith, throwing him off his guard.
“Dude, really? The name’s Lance? We were in the same statistic class first semester?”
Keith stares at him. Short brown hair, sun kissed skin,broad shoulders, legs for days — he has no idea.
“I have no idea.”
Lance blows up his cheeks at that. “Rude! We were always competing for the top of the class, how could you forge-“
“Hey, Lance. What are you doing here?”
Lance freezes, eyes going wide and every alarm in Keith’s head goes off. His gaze darts to the person who addressed Lance. He’s a head taller than Lance with dark hair and freckles dusting over his pale cheeks.
“Hey, Chad,” Lance finally says, turning towards him with a wobbly smile. “Didn’t see you there, buddy.”
Chad frowns, reading the sign they sat up in front of their table, before turning to Lance with a worried expression. “Lance, I didn’t know you felt unsafe here. If you need someone to walk with you, I’ll gladly accompany you to your bus stop.”
“Oh! Nonono,” Lance says quickly, waving his hands in front of his chest,” I was just ummm picking up my friend Keith here.”
So, Keith’s instincts were right. Something is off.
“I didn’t know you were friends,” Chad says, eyeing Keith from the side, and Keith can’t help but glare at him.
“We are. Do you have a problem with that?”
“I – No, no of course not.” Chad says, clearly surprised by Keith’s aggressiveness.
Keith pushes his chair back with a loud screech and shoulders his heavy messenger back.
“We should hurry if we want to catch that movie,” he says, not looking at Lance as he puts his book in his bag.
“Have fun,” Shiro says, a knowing look on his face.
“Yeah, we should really hurry. Sorry, Chad!” Lance says, walking backwards as he waves.
“Let’s go,” Keith says, not without throwing Chad another sharp look as he walks past him.
“So, what’s the deal with that guy.”
“Wow, right to the point, huh?” Lance asks with an awkward laugh. “I thought you guys would be more discrete.”
“Yeah, that’s more Shiro’s thing,” Keith says, grimacing. If he’s honest, he’s not all that good at this whole walking-people-around-campus thing. But Shiro asked him, and he’ll gladly feel a little awkward doing small talk when it makes someone feel safer.
Lance let’s out a long sigh, his shoulders dropping along with it. “Thank you for playing along. That guy just won’t get a clue, it’s frustrating.”
“Is he harassing you?”
Keith readjusts the bag on his shoulder. They’re walking over the crowded atrium, people hurrying past them to get to their next class. It’s sunny, but quite windy, so Lance wraps his jacket tighter around himself.
“That’s- … not really?” Lance says, wrinkling his nose. “Well, I mean he won’t stop bothering me, so-“
Keith frowns. “Spit it out already.”
“Geez, fine!” Lance says with a huff. “Okay, so he asked me for a date like two weeks ago, I told him I’m not interested, buuuuut seems like he didn’t get the fucking memo.”
“So, he’s following you?”
Lance purses his lips. “I don’t think so, he just shows up and talks to me all the goddamn time. It’s annoying,” he pauses, “and a little creepy.”
“You should just tell him to fuck off again.”
Lance laughs, his eyes crinkling a little at the corner. “Thanks for the advice.”
“You’re welcome,” Keith says, a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth.
Lance’s eyes flit down to his lips for a second, his own smile growing even wider.
Lance’s voice sounds cheeky, and an uncomfortable feeling spreads in Keith’s stomach at the tone.
“Now that I finally have the opportunity to speak to you, I have to ask this.” Lance leans in, too close for comfort, and there’s a spark in his eyes that makes Keith’s heart pick up its pace. “Are the rumors true?”
“What – What rumors?”
“Is the great Keith Kogane gay?” Lance asks.
Just like that. Straightforward and without missing a beat. Keith’s lips part in surprise.
“There are rumors?”
“Oh, come on!” Lance groans, throwing his head back in exasperation “Everyone on campus who’s into guys is dying to know the answer!”
Keith snorts. “Yeah, right.”
“It’s the truth!” Lance yells, his hands grabbing both straps of his backpack as he glares at Keith. “How can you not know that?”
“Then why didn’t they just ask me?”
“Because you look like you’d kill anyone who dares to ask, dude,” Lance sighs. “With that constant frown on your face.” He points his index finger between his own eyes.
“Oh, and you’re brave enough?” Keith asks, an amused smirk stealing its way to his lips.
“Obviously, I have a death wish.”
That coaxes a real laugh out of Keith, and he turns his head to hide it. He still gets a dazzling smile in return.
“So? Is it true?”
Keith tilts his head, humming in thought. They’re already on the other side of the campus, walking straight up to the bus stop. For a second, he contemplates to just leave Lance hanging. He’s not exactly someone who shares personal stuff with strangers, but … he might make an exception.
“Not quite,” Keith says, “I’m ace. Still into guys though.”
Lance falters in his step.
“Yeah,” Keith says, reluctantly turning towards Lance as they stop by the street. Lance studies him for a second, and then he pouts.
“Oh man that’s too bad.”
Keith’s stomach churns. He shouldn’t have said anything after all. He gathers his strength, ready to tell off just another guy, when Lance continues.
“That means I’ll have to woo you with my personality, since all of this,” he gestures to his body with a flourish of his hands, jutting out his hips in a sassy manner, “won’t work.”
Keith stares at him for a solid second — then he snorts loud and ugly, earning himself an amused chuckle from Lance.
“See? It’s already working. I made you laugh,” Lance says with a grin, but he gets distracted when the bus pulls up to the curb.
“I don’t know about that,” Keith says, suddenly confident as he watches Lance pull out his ticket. “With just your looks you might have had a chance. “
Lance stops in his tracks, eyes wide in utter confusion.
“I may be ace, but I’m not blind,” Keith says, sending Lance a last smirk, before he turns on his heels. He keeps walking and laughs to himself when he hears how Lance gets yelled at for blocking the door.
Keith hums, pushing his hands into the pockets of his letterman jacket. For the very first time, Keith actually enjoyed walking someone around campus, and he really wouldn’t mind seeing Lance again.
Keith’s eyebrow twitches, his foot pressing down on the gas paddle, but the golf cart just won’t move any faster.
The shout is accompanied by loud cackling from the back-seat and Keith grabs the wheel a little tighter. He would like to close his eyes and take a deep breath like Shiro always tells him to do. He can’t exactly do that while driving though, so he just inhales deeply through his nose.
He really really could be doing something better than driving drunk students around campus in a shitty golf cart — but he needs the money. He tries to think about the parts he still has to buy for his bike, but it’s hard to focus with a bunch of drunk girls cheering behind him.
“I’m really sorry about these two,” Axca sighs, and Keith sends her a quick glance.
“Hey! You don’t have to apologize for us!” Zethrid shouts, words slurred.
“Tell her, babe!”
“With the way you two act, I do have to apologize,” Axca says, sending a glare over her shoulder.
“Oh, Come on! Keithy-boy can take it, right?”
Ezor pops up in Keith’s line of sight, her arms folded on the backrest in front of her.
“I can tolerate it.”
Ezor throws her head back, barking out a loud laugh, before she gets pulled back by her girlfriend.
“Really. Sorry,” Axca says as she faces forward again. Keith doesn’t reply. They’re not exactly what he’d call friends, but it’s not a bother to talk to her from time to time.
Keith turns a corner, and now he can hear the loud sounds of a party in the distance. Probably just another frat-party. Not that he’s ever been to one of these. Or any party. The thing is that he’s not exactly good at socializing. He gets along with the old guys in the workshop, but people his age? Difficult.
That’s why the encounter form last week just won’t leave his mind. Lance, the cheerful boy with bright blue eyes. A small smile steals its way to Keith’s lips at the memory of him. It’s been a while since he had such a fun conversation with someone that isn’t Shiro, Adam or an old guy who knows a lot about motorbikes.
Keith saw him on campus a few times last week, and two times Lance noticed him too, grinning and waving. Keith would never admit it out loud, but he had hoped that Lance would come over and talk to him. He didn’t though.
Keith pulls up at the curb in front of a three-story building and a lawn full of drunk students.
“Here we are,” Keith says flatly as he watches how a boy crashes down with a broken folding chair.
“Sweet! Thanks, Keithy-boy!” Ezor sing-songs, trying to not fall on her face as she clumsily gets out of the cart.
“Careful, sweetheart.” Zethrid is right behind her though, a large hand on her back. Keith has to admit that they might be annoying drunks, but they’re still a sweet couple.
“Thank you. Have a nice evening,” Acxa says in that polite and cautious manner of hers. Keith only nods in acknowledgment. He watches the three of them as they walk over the crowded lawn, greeting people left and right. Must be exhausting.
Keith pulls out his phone and the app for the night shuttle service. His next pick-up should be close, he got the request fifteen minutes ago.
“Guyyyyys, that’s my ride! Don’t miss me too much!”
Keith lifts his gaze from his phone when a familiar voice sounds over the loud bass of the music and the chatter of too many people.
“Get home safe!”
“Don’t stay up too late, honeyyyy.”
“Shut up, Pidge. Hunk, make sure she behaves.”
“I don’t need a babysitter, Lance!”
“I’m counting on you, Hunk!”
Keith still has his phone in his hands when someone walks up to his cart, leaning down to look at him.
“Good evening, Mr. Driver -oh!”
Keith is greeted with a wide and dazzling smile.
“Keith, my man! I didn’t know you’re a driver!”
Lance hops into the cart, turning towards him with an excited glint in his eyes that catches Keith off guard.
“Oh, um yeah, I am,” Keith says, still staring at Lance like an idiot. Lance however doesn’t seem to mind.
“That’s so cool! I never saw you around before, and I use this service like every week,” Lance laughs, getting comfortable in the passenger seat.
“I don’t have that many shifts,” Keith says, finally putting his phone away.
“Man, that’s a shame, we could’ve seen each other every week.” Lance says, a playful smile on his lips, and suddenly Keith remembers the stupid, flirty things he said the last time they met. He feels heat creep onto his face, so he quickly averts his gaze.
“So, where should I take you?”
“Oh, right. All the other ones already know where I live,” Lance chuckles. “We have to go alllll the way over to the Balmera dorm.”
“Really?” Keith asks, “That’s on the other side of the campus.”
“Ugh, yeah I know. It sucks, but it’s cheap, so.” Lance shrugs, a sheepish smile on his face. “I mean, if it’s too far for you, I can-“
“No, that’s fine,” Keith says quickly, looking over his shoulder as he pulls away from the curb.
“Alright then,” Lance says with a snort, and Keith wonders if he’s always in a good mood. He can’t imagine Lance without that smile.
Keith watches him from the corner of his eye as he leans back into the seat, his upper-body tilted in Keith’s direction.
“So, tell me, Keith. Are you like the patron of this campus?”
“Well, I mean you walk students around campus, you drive them around campus. You must have a protective streak in you.”
“No, not really,” Keith says, looking at Lance when he stops at a crossroad. “I do this because it’s easy and I need the money, and I only help out at the booth from time to time because Shiro asked me too.”
Lance smiles, wrapping his jacket tighter around his frame as he leans his cheek against the headrest. “Shiro, huh? You guys are friends?”
“And roommates,” Keith says, accelerating again.
“So … you ever had a crush on him?”
Keith pulls a face. “Oh god, no.”
“What, that’s a valid question,” Lance says, laughter bubbling out of his mouth.
“It’s really not.”
“Dude, Shiro is hot.”
Keith slows down, sending a glare in Lance’s direction which is only met with another wide grin.
“Don’t even think about it.”
“Woah, I wasn’t thinking anything!” Lance says, trying to sound honest, but Keith can still hear that smile.
“You would just get hurt. Shiro has been with Adam since they were thirteen. You don’t have a chance.”
“Oh man,” Lance whines, dramatically flopping back in his seat. “Sexy and gay.”
“And taken,” Keith adds, sending Lance another pointed look when he stops at a crossing, letting a bunch of laughing students pass the street.
“Well, luckily he has a cute roommate.”
Lance winks at him, and Keith needs a solid minute until the words reach his brain. Then his heart does something funny in his chest, sending searing heat to his cheeks.
“Oh my god, did that work?” Lance asks, laughing as he leans forward, but Keith averts his gaze. “Maybe I can woo you with my personality after all.”
So, he didn’t forget their conversation. Keith is about ready to die.
“Sorry, man. I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable,” Lance suddenly says, voice soft but still amused. “Sometimes, I just talk too much.”
He rubs the back of his neck, an apologetic expression on his face.
“No, It’s – it’s fine,” Keith says awkwardly, his eyes focused on the road again.
“Good,” Lance says, and then faces forward. Silence settles between them — and around them. The campus is eerily empty, just a few people passing by. It’s almost two a.m. on a weekday after all. The only sound disrupting the silence is the soft whirring coming from the electric golf cart. Usually, Keith isn’t bothered by silence, but right now it feels suffocating.
He’s known Lance for — maybe two hours in total — but he has the feeling that being quiet is not something that comes natural to Lance. Keith adjusts his grip on the wheel. His hands are a little sweaty, his heart is beating a little too fast, a queasy feeling slowly but surely spreads in his stomach. He wets his lips, ready to say something, anythingwhen Lance speaks up.
“Soooo, you’re ace?”
“Um,” Keith says hesitantly, confused by the sudden change of topic. “Yeah?”
“But not aromantic, right?”
“I, well – no?”
Keith sends another quick glance Lance’s way and sees a tiny smile on his lips.
“You know, you’re the first person who didn’t give me shit for being ace.”
The words are out of Keith’s mouth before he has the chance to think. His throat closes; he has no idea why he said that.
Keith hears how Lance shifts again, the soft rustling of the light blue windbreaker he’s wearing.
“Yeah, I mean most people don’t even know it’s a thing, but I swear to god if someone asks me if I’m a plant one more time, I’m gonna rip someone’s throat out.”
Lance laughs so hard he rocks back into the seat and hits his head. “Dude, oh my god,” he wheezes. “Did someone really say that?”
Keith grins, risking a look at Lance whose eyes are brimming with tears from laughter.
“Yeah. Trust me, I couldn’t believe it either.”
“What did you do?”
“I turned around and left.”
Lance snorts. “Good response. I’m bi, so I hear shit like that all the time too.”
Keith perks up at that but doesn’t know what to say.
“Seriously, it’s so annoying!” Lance chimes in with a groan,” I mean just because I like both girls and boys, doesn’t mean I’m a – a whore! Or that I’ll just date anyone! Some people really need to get a clue!”
“People like that guy last time? What was his name? James?”
“Wow. You’re really bad with names.”
“Yeah, sorry,” Keith says, grimacing.
“His name is Chad, but I really don’t feel like talking about him right now,” Lance says, crossing his arms with a huff.
Keith leaves it at that, although he is curious if that guy had the guts to chat Lance up again. Judging by Lance’s reaction, he still didn’t learn his lesson.
Keith turns a corner, leading the golf cart away from the main building and onto the road to the remote dorms. It’s getting darker around them, the street in front only illuminated by the faint orange light of the street lamps.
A small smile spreads on Keith’s lips. This is part of the charm of Voltron university — there’s a huge park right in the middle between the different buildings. It’s a quiet oasis in the chaotic college world, and every time Keith passes by, he thinks that he has to come here more often.
“I really like this place,” Lance says, his voice hushed, but not quite a whisper. Keith looks at him, sees the way his eyes melt into a soft expression as he watches the trees they pass. Keith slows the cart down.
Silence settles between them again, but this time it’s nice. Somehow, Keith quickly finds himself feeling comfortable around Lance. He glances to the side. Lance seems just as comfortable, huddled into his jacket, arms slung around him. A small smile steals its way onto Keith’s lips, along with a giddy feeling in his gut.
He trains his eyes back on the road as they reach another crossroad. His favorite one.
Now some people might think it’s weird to have a favorite crossroad, but right there, in the middle is a huge tree. It’s old and fascinating, looming high above everything else. Keith has no idea what kind of tree it is, but for some reason, he always felt a serene air around it.
Keith flinches, almost yanking the wheel with him, when Lance sits up with a yell.
“I’m the navigator, so turn left!” Lance says again, leaning forward to stretch his arm across Keith’s field of view to point to the left.
“Wha- but that way is longer!” Keith protests, slowing down the cart in front of the tree to look at Lance.
Lance is still leaning close, and Keith can see the playful glint in his eyes when a wide grin spreads on his lips.
Keith parts his lips, ready to say something — but suddenly there’s no air left in his lungs when Lance only grins wider, wiggling his eyebrows.
Keith faces forward again, his heart beating a mile per minute as he steers the wheel without another word. When he turns left in front of the tree and hears Lance cheer, he feels like he revealed more than he intended to.