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and we were stars

Chapter Text

 “Fuck.” Keith winces as another ice-cold drop of rain hits his scalp, causing a full body shudder to course through him. He pulls his hood over his head and huffs. The last thing he had expected when he’d stepped out that sunny, cloudless morning was a sudden rain shower, but he suspects the universe hates him.

He bounces on the balls of his feet, wrapping his arms around himself in an effort to stay warm. When was the bus going to arrive? The schedule said it should have been here three minutes ago. Even through his jacket and hoodie, light precipitation bites at him with the crisp autumn air. “‘Don’t take the bike, Keith,’” He mumbles under his breath, pitching his voice higher in a poor imitation of his brother’s voice. “‘It’s a little intimidating for a first date. Take the bus instead.’ Yeah, well, not like that did any good, did it, Shiro?”

He disregards the logic in the back of his mind that reminds him that even on his motorcycle he would still be exposed to the elements. So what? His blind date was a complete disaster– drab and boring and uninteresting in every way Keith can’t stand– he literally bolted the first chance he got. He’s in a terrible mood, and will blame Shiro if he wants.

“I’m never going on a date again,” Keith states in a dark voice, just as a crack of thunder shakes the ground and the skies open. Keith stills as the onslaught of precipitation crashes onto him, his expression completely blank. Fuck the universe.

Well. At least, he reasons as his hood and shoulders and his bangs begins plastering to his face, if he gets sick and dies of pneumonia, Shiro will feel terribly guilty and responsible. He’s not above finding that satisfying, especially as a car speeds by, splashing him with the muddy and freezing puddle pooling along the curb.

Keith is genuinely considering just lying on his back in the middle of the puddle like that meme Matt showed him a few weeks ago– accepting his death honorably– when there is a sudden swoosh above his head, and the pricks of rain on his skin disappear. The air is filled with the patter of raindrops on plastic, and he’s abruptly aware of a warm body carefully shifting in the space behind him. Keith turns on his heel.

A man about his age is standing about a foot away from him, hand outstretched and cautiously holding the handle of an umbrella between them. His sheepish smile twists into a crooked grin as Keith blinks up at him. He’s pretty– startling so– and Keith is so distracted by slope of his sharp nose and the twinkle of his blue eyes, that he almost doesn’t notice when the man begins speaking.

“You know, getting hypothermia probably isn’t the best way to get my attention. You could’ve just asked.” He winks, and Keith blinks once, twice, before scowling and stepping back, away from him and back into the rain.

“No, wait– shit–” the other man’s expression drops, the hand carrying the umbrella– which Keith now notices is large and a bright, obnoxious blue– following Keith so that he remains covered. “I’m sorry, that was a joke, I make jokes when I’m nervous. Please don’t get hypothermia.” He himself doesn’t move closer, seemingly afraid to spook Keith again, which leaves him exposed to the downpour.

“What are you doing?” Keith asks, because he can see the minuscule shivers running through the stranger’s body as the rain strikes him. Having already spent two minutes in the freezing rain, Keith is well aware of what a dumb idea that is. Why is he covering Keith instead of himself?

“See, I was going to let you use my umbrella with me because you were getting soaked, but then you turned around and I saw your face and I got nervous and said some dumb stuff like I always do and upset you, so now I feel like you would be happier if I just let you use my umbrella while I stand far, far away.”

He says all of this in one breath, rapidly, and Keith takes a moment to process everything that was said. He purses his lips. “Why did you get nervous when you saw my face?”

The other man pauses then huffs a laugh. “That’s what you focus on? Really?”

Keith shrugs. Umbrella Guy runs a hand through his short, now damp hair. “Let’s, just– ah– let’s change the subject. Which bus are you waiting for?”

“The A214 uptown. It’s late.”

“Yeah, that one is always late. Usually by, like, twenty minutes.” He’s still standing a distance away, shoulders and back exposed to the deluge, and though he’s shivered once or twice, he hasn’t made a move to take back his umbrella.

“Aren’t you going to catch hypothermia, if you keep that up?”

Umbrella Guy stares at him for a moment before breaking into a grin. “Maybe, but I’ve already committed to it.”

Keith smiles despite himself. “It’s your umbrella.”

“I’m not going to leave you out in the rain, I’m a gentleman, thank you very much. My mother raised me better than that.”

Keith takes a long look at his charming smile and the freckles that stand out on his brown skin, and finds himself speaking without thinking about it. “We can share it.”

Umbrella Guy tilts his head. Keith holds his gaze despite the heat warming his cheeks. He refuses to regret that suggestion when Umbrella Guy had intended to share in the first place. So what if he came to the decision because the guy looked really cute with raindrops on his eyelashes and his soft brown hair sticking up at random from where his hands ran through it?

“Okay,” Umbrella Guy suddenly says, and steps forward until he’s a few inches away. Both of them are now under the flashy umbrella. Keith glances at the floor and pulls his hood off. He looks back up. Umbrella Guy is staring at him.

“Do you always go around rescuing guys from rainstorms?” Keith says, if only to give himself something to distract himself with. He can smell the soft cologne and feel the warmth coming off the other man’s body, and he maybe hadn’t thought the whole “sharing an umbrella with a cute stranger” thing through very well, because it was certainly a lot.

“Only the cute ones,” Umbrella Guy quips, then makes a face. “Was that too much? Sorry. It just came out. I’m not that shallow, I help everyone out equally, I promise.” Keith can’t help but laugh.

“Does that mean I’m not cute?” Whoops. He hadn’t meant his voice to come out sounding like that, but judging by the flush on Umbrella Guy’s face it had a positive, if unintended, effect.

“No, I– you’re– I mean you’re definitely not not cute– as in you’re–” Keith bites back a smile. “What I meant to say was–” A pair of headlights cut him off, and they both turn to see one of the city buses drive up and come to a stop in front of them. It takes a quick glance to let Keith know that this is not his bus. Umbrella Guy groans. “Oh come on.”

He turns back to Keith with an apologetic expression. “This is me.” Keith feels a cold disappointment wash over him. The doors to the bus open and Umbrella Guy takes a step towards them, glancing back at the impatient looking bus driver then back at Keith. And he was going to get left out in the rain again. Dammit.

“Right. Well, thanks for sharing your umbrella with me…?”

“Lance.”

“Thanks for sharing your umbrella with me, Lance.”

Keith makes to pull his hood back up, when Lance says “Wait.” Keith blinks Lance pushes the handle of the bright blue umbrella into Keith’s hand. “What? I can’t–”

“You can, and you will. I live like a minute from my stop and your bus probably won’t be here for another ten minutes.” He steps out into the rain and jogs towards the bus, whose driver looks like he’s about to just pick up and leave without him. Keith makes as though to follow him.

“This is your umbrella, you can’t just give it to me!”

Lance shoots him a grin over his shoulder as he hops up the steps. “I just did!” Keith huffs. “And besides–” The bus doors start closing and Lance shouts so he can be heard. “Just text me if you want to get it back to me!”

“What?”

But the bus pulls away, leaving Keith confused and holding a large and obnoxious umbrella. Text him? He didn’t leave his phone number. How was Keith expected to…

Keith glances up. The corners of his mouth begin to rise. There, written on the edge of the inside of the umbrella in sharpie, was a a pair of initials and phone number.

“He writes his initials and phone number on his things.” Keith murmurs to himself. He’s still smiling. “Like a kindergartner.”

But he’s already pulling his phone out.  Maybe the universe doesn’t hate him after all.

 

Chapter Text

He barely has time to blink before the strange machine whirrs and starts moving again. From his position in the tank he can barely see anything, but he catches a glimpse of brown skin and shimmering blue scales between the netting of the machine and his heart leaps into his throat. He’s barely seen them, but he knows them, knows them like he knows the feel of that skin against his.

There’s a clicking, then a splash and he’s squeezing his eyes shut against the onslaught of water that crashes over his head as something heavy is dropped into the tank. No, not something. Someone.

“Lance,” he breathes, the first thing he’s said in hours. His eyes rake in the sight hungrily, his worry abating slightly. Lance twists under the water, and even in the refraction of the water Keith can see his blue, blue eyes, taking him in as well. He vaguely hears his heart monitor speed up. He can’t find it in him to care too much.

The merman slowly swims up, breaking the surface. “Keith,” Lance whispers. It’s timid, afraid. Nothing like his usual, happy, boisterous tone. Keith can’t seem to stop staring. The powerful glistening tail thrashing the water below. The scales peppering his waist, his shoulders. The delicate gills on the very neck Keith had pressed his lips to only a day before.

Under Keith’s gaze, Lance seems to draw back, guilt painting his expression. Keith wants to say something to wipe it away, anything, but words seem to be stuck in his throat. Beautiful, his mind helpfully supplies. It’s not what he’s looking for. He can’t deny it’s true though.

Lance wraps his arms around himself, gaze flickering between Keith, and the floor of the tank, and the machines surrounding them. “They—” he forces out, a pained smile appearing on his face. “I guess they thought you might. Y’know. Be one.”

Come on, Keith, he thinks angrily. Lance isn’t looking at him anymore.

“I tried—I was trying to tell you. You were supposed to know, but not like this, I—I didn’t want you to find out like this. I’m sorry—Keith, I—”

He cuts off with a gasp. It takes Keith a moment to figure out why.

He doesn’t remember moving, but suddenly he’s directly in front of Lance. The wires attached to his body tug, but he ignores them. He gently cups Lance’s face in his, staring intently into the deep blue eyes flickering between his own. “Are you okay?” He asks, hoarse. That’s all that matters. Not the secret Lance had been hiding, not his own twelve-hour long imprisonment in this laboratory. Just that Lance was okay, unhurt, safe despite all the probing from the scientists.

“Yeah,” Lance’s flusters, breathless. “Yeah. Keith, I’m so sorr—”

Keith shakes his head, cutting him off before he can finish. He wants to kiss him. The feeling of the scientists’ eyes on them through the glass partitioning stops him. There is a brush against his legs, and he feels the wiry, powerful tail wind around him, gently. “It’s going to be fine. I promise, okay? You’re going to be fine.”

Lance’s hands reach up to wrap around his, still cupping his face. He doesn’t say anything. Keith leans forward, forehead pressing against Lance’s and closes his eyes. I’ll get you out, Keith’s mind whispers. Voices break their silence as people in coats march into the room. There is one of them barking commands, the machine that dropped Lance into the tank is whirring again. Lance grips his hands more tightly.

Keith is suddenly being hauled back, Lance torn from his grip. There is splashing as Lance struggles against the hands pulling him back, dragging him out of the tank. Keith pulls against the arms restraining him. “Lance!” He cries out. There is a keen that pierces Keith right in the heart. He sees the panic in Lance’s eyes as he’s thrown back onto the netted gurney. Keith jerks again. One of the scientists, a bulky man with a glass eye he’s seen snarling orders into the comms for the thirteen hours they’ve been testing on him, looks at him with disinterest. “Don’t bother with that, boy. We’ve got plans for that creature. You, on the other hand?” He leers. “Too human for our work. They’ve ordered you to be sent home. Consider yourself lucky.”

Keith is breathless as he, too, is hauled out of the talk, his suit from last night thrown at him haphazardly. He doesn’t take his eyes away from the door Lance had been pulled through.

 I’ll get you out, Lance. I promise.

Chapter Text

Lance has some qualms with airline companies.

He’s not new to flying: he’s been flying around since he was a kid, visiting cousins and aunts, grandparents and older siblings, everyone in between. Since college, he’s had to fly even more. He’s used to the entire process, from check in the night before to getting through security, to hours of lolling around looking for a phone charger at the gate. He knows how they work, knows the experience like the back of his hand.

The airlines—they clearly know what they’re doing, too. They teach you how to click on and tighten a basic seatbelt clasp, how to safely put on and activate an oxygen mask, how to find and inflate life vests under your sear in case of an emergency crash landing into the flipping ocean. All these emergency scenarios, wholly unlikely, a one in eleven million chance, Lance feels prepared for.

So why, why, wasn’t he prepared for this?

“Oh my God,” Lance squeaks.

The shoulder beneath his cheek shifts ever so slightly under the jostle of the turbulence that woke him. Lance jerks up, narrowly avoiding clipping a chin with his head, and makes eye contact with the owner of said chin—and shoulder—as he blinks the sleep out of his eyes. “Oh my God,” he says again, higher pitched and somewhat more frantic.

“Good morning,” comes the amused greeting, in what is quite possibly the sexiest voice Lance’s has ever heard in his entire life, from the mouth of arguably the most attractive guy he’s literally ever seen. Ever. His eyes twinkle—honest to God twinkle, like they’re fucking projecting starlight or some shoujo anime nonsense—under a set of dark, perfect eyebrows and shiny, raven-black bangs falling from a haphazard ponytail, and Lance wants to jump out of this godforsaken airplane immediately, vacation-be-damned.

Oh my God.

The guy just raises one of his stupidly perfect brows. Lance wonders if he can make it out of an emergency exit window before he spontaneously combusts.

“I’m so sorry,” Lance finally manages. “Oh my God, that’s embarrassing.” He hadn’t meant to say that out loud, and he flinches at himself.  The guy snorts.

“Don’t worry about it,” he says, waving Lance off and giving him an easy smirk. It rivals Lance’s usual smug grin and does things to Lance’s stomach. “I’m not usually touchy with strangers, but your hair does make a pretty nice pillow. I was out like a light.”

“Oh God,” Lance groans, and covers his face with his hands. The guy lets out a chuckle next to him. “I swear, I don’t usually fall asleep on people like that.”

“I hope not,” he says. “I thought I was special.”

Lance chokes on his inhale.

The guy seems to smirk a little wider. He keeps his gaze to the front as Lance gapes at him. Lance shoves back his embarrassment and musters a grin. “What, you don’t want to be another notch on the impromptu pillow bedpost?”

“After napping together? Ouch.”

Okay, yeah, he’s really cute. Lance is officially dead. Christ, what if he’d made that really unattractive sleeping-on-an-airplane face people always made, all gaping mouthed and lolling with their heads leaned back onto the stiff seats? Oh God, what if he’d drooled? Did he drool? Lance tries to glance surreptitiously at the guy’s shoulder to check but he’s wearing a black t-shirt, and Lance finds himself distracted by the flex of his arms as he shifts in his chair.

Lance rips his gaze away from the guy’s arms and meets his eyes again. He still looks amused-- and hot, unfortunately. Fortunately? Whatever.

 “My name’s Keith, by the way,” Hot Stranger says casually, pulling Lance out of his internal sulking.

“I—” Lance starts, then stops and squints in suspicion. “I’m Lance?”

Keith’s mouth quirks into a smile. “Are you not sure about that?”

“What—no, I— yes, my--” Lance huffs, indignant, earlier embarrassment momentarily forgotten. “My name is Lance.”

“Nice to formally meet you, Lance.” Keith’s lip is still curled up slightly, giving his grin somewhat of a wolfish look.

 “Nice to meet you, too,” Lance mutters. He drums his fingers onto his thigh. “I really am sorry about that.”

“You really are fine,” Keith says. “But…” He trails off. Lance look up, curious.

The other man is once again staring straight ahead, the smirk faded and replaced with a faint blush on his cheeks. He suddenly looks as nervous and mildly embarrassed as Lance felt not two minutes ago. Well, maybe not quite as embarrassed. As Lance watches, his eyes flick to the side, meeting Lance’s before settling resolutely ahead. “If you want, to maybe make it up to me? We, uh, slept through the in-flight service. And I’m hungry, so… maybe when the plane lands we can, uh—”

“Sure.”

Keith turns back to him. He still looks somewhat flushed, but his expression is pleased. “I didn’t even finish asking.”

“Didn’t have to,” Lance says. He fidgets, but can’t hide the growing smile on his face. “We napped together, remember? Bonded for life, practically, at this point.”

Keith snorts—legitimately lets out the cutest little snorting sound Lance has ever heard in his life. Lance preens in response. Keith’s faint blush has almost disappeared, his amused smugness returning to his features. “Right. Of course.

 

Chapter Text

Garrison couches are absurdly comfortable.

 

That’s the only coherent thought that passes through Lance’s head as he burrows a little more into the crook of his elbow, slumped over the arm of the orange cushioned sofa of the staff room. Murmuring voices from the hall drift through the doorway, but Lance is too tired to pay them any attention. He wavers in and out of sleep, limbs heavy with exhaustion, as random sentences from today’s meetings echo in his brain. Outreach program to Puig… Exploration mission to Astox…

 

Somehow all that does is sink him even more into sleep.

 

He’s so out of it, he doesn’t hear the footsteps quietly entering the room, though the near silent stride is as familiar to him as the freckles on his hand. They stop in front of him, and the low, throaty chuckle that sounds above his head is just enough to make his brow twitch. He grunts.

 

“You have a perfectly good bed in the East wing, you know.”

 

Lance huffs instead of formulating an answer, because that takes more energy and motivation than he currently possesses. Another chuckle, closer to him, and something brushes Lance’s hair away from his eyes. Lance instinctively turns his head into the touch. The hand falters a moment, then returns with more confidence, cupping the side of Lance’s face. Lance sighs.

 

“You’re ridiculous,” comes the whisper, low and impossibly fond. This is enough to make Lance’s eyes flutter open, only slightly, squinting against the brightness of the room. They narrow on a strong jawline, marred only by a smooth, reddish scar on one cheek; dark hair falling into grey-violet eyes that are crinkled in the corners with a smile. Lance lets his eyes fall shut again, mumbling incoherently and pressing into Keith’s hand even more. He’s too tired to defend himself.

 

“I wanted to thank you,” Keith says in that same, soft voice as before. A thumb brushes over Lance’s cheek, almost reverently. His hands, though cool against Lance’s skin, fill Lance with warmth. “I almost lost my patience back there, with the Bhuldar ambassador. I dunno what would’ve happened if you hadn’t stepped in.”

 

Lance grumbles again, reaching up with his own hand to hold Keith’s to his cheek as he sinks deeper into the Garrison couch cushion. “Hm,” he hums. “Par’ners.” He’s too comfortable like this, Keith’s thumb stroking his cheek, the rest of Keith’s fingers toying with the hairs at the nape of his neck. It’s like a dream. He doesn’t want to move, doesn’t want to wake.

 

“Yeah,” Keith murmurs. He might understand, because he lets Lance hold him there. Lance is in that odd place between sleep and wakefulness where time seems to inch like molasses. He’s almost completely nodded off, hand slipping off of Keith’s to drop onto his chest. Lance is vaguely aware of the hand on his jaw sliding ever so little, gentle thumb brushing over his lower lip. “I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

 

Lance hums a little. A press of lips against his forehead, then both the hand and the lips disappear. The light footsteps make their way towards the door. The room is silent.

 

Five seconds later, Lance jolts upright, heart pounding, sleep evaporated as the memory of Keith’s lips on his skin send shivers wracking through his body. It wasn’t a dream. “Wait a second—Keith—wait!”