It first starts off when Shiro takes Keith to the garrison. Keith is still bitter, still angry, and he won’t ever stop being bitter at the world about losing his dad. About his mom leaving. Shiro is nice to him, though, even though he stole his car and is rude to him sometimes. But it doesn’t fix Keith, when you’re young and fire is running in your veins nothing can stop it.
Lance is happy. Carefree. He smiles with Hunk, and talks to his mami about finally being able to go to the garrison rapidly in spanish. She laughs and tells him “Soon, mijo, soon.” There’s a small burning in his heart, though, about moving so far away and he hugs her constantly. She tells him that he’s a firecracker. He smiles happily.
Then he arrives and he’s so scared and he wants to run right back into his mama’s arms. The building is big, loud, imposing. It’s not like the small streets he grew up on, not like the small houses around him where he tried to make friends with every kid on the block.
Keith is excited. He knows he’s good at flying, Shiro told him so, that he’s extremely adept at it for his age. Keith smiles just a bit. Then the feeling is over and the fire is burning brighter than ever, and all he wants to do is move.
They first see eachother while in line, when Iverson is about to put them in the flying simulator and Lance is practically beaming. He learns soon he should control his emotions.
Keith sees him, head jumbled and waiting for the lecture to be over to fly, and doesn’t smile. He thinks the boy is annoying. He knows he’s loud, just from that smile on his face.
Lance sees him, thinking that he’s too grim and he thinks he should smile more. It would suit him, Lance thinks, and then shakes his head.
Then, they start flying and they dislike eachother even more.
“Kogane, get into line.” Iverson says to Keith, and Keith gets back into the flying formation.
“We’re going too slow. I needed to speed up,” He replies, with a nonchalant face and Lance gapes at the conversation he’s hearing. He openly argues with an adult? How weird!
Keith doesn’t care. He just wants to go fast, to distract him from the anger he feels and he wants to move. Get it all out.
They’re standing in line, Lance only standing a few ways away from Keith, when he hears James mutter something to Keith. He can’t hear what, exactly, but then suddenly there’s a crack, James is on the ground, and Keith is rearing up for another punch. His eyes are a little more yellow than most, and he’s not sure but he swears he can see fangs.
He hears Keith doesn’t get expelled, all because of Shiro saving him, and envies him. He’s close to Shiro, much closer than he is.
Then, as they grow up, Keith calms down more. He still gets in fights and arguments, but less than he used to. His tricks grow increasingly trickier as he goes on, and Lance can’t figure them out for the life of him. He also hears that Keith sneaks out at night, to move around on his hoverbike.
He also hears a rumour that Keith sneaks out and dances, but he brushes it off. His rival would never do that.
And as Keith calms down? Lance grows more angry. Well, not exactly angry, just bitter. He has to work so hard to do anything he does, and then Keith does it so easily. He hates it, and declares him his rival. It’s the only way he knows how to extinguish the fire growing.
He runs up to Keith, one day, and yells at him.
“Hey! You’re my rival now! Got it?!” Keith only blinks at him, and turns away.
Keith doesn’t know why he doesn’t get angry, but he doesn’t dwell on it. He still thinks that Taylor is very annoying. But he likes his eyes.
He walks to his room and huffs, not dwelling on it long. He grabs his bag and jacket, casually walking out. He tells Shiro that he’s going to practice.
He’s not lying about that, atleast.
Chapter 2: when you said you hated me
turns out he's not that bad
It’s after a bad simulation that Lance says he can forgive his rival for one thing.
It’s when Iverson is yelling at him, and he’s digging his fingernails in his palm, holding back tears, telling himself to think of Hunk, Katie, Shiro, Keith, Hunk, Keith, Keith, Keith- as his nails start drawing blood.
Iverson is screaming at him about how he needs to practice more, that he can’t slip up, what if this was a real mission, you’re not doing good enough in front of the class when he hears a familiar voice speak up.
“Hey. Fuck off, you’ve embarrassed him enough already.” Iverson stops, and turns around to face Keith. Lance stares at him, jaw dropped and fingernails no longer pressing into his palms. A drop of blood hits the floor again when Keith speaks again.
“What did you say, Kogane?” Keith walks forward in front of him, hands in his pockets and Lance sees it again. Those fangs. He knows he’s right.
“I said, fuck off.” Keith stares at him without any fear.
“My office. Now.” Iverson turns towards Lance while Keith saunters off casually to his office.
“McClain, practice more. Get out of my sight now.” He salutes and quickly walks off, hiding the blood dripping and ignoring the whispers that pass him. He knows Hunk won’t tell anyone, and neither will Katie.
He doesn’t say anything about what Iverson says, and Hunk quietly wraps his hand in bandage. There’s an unspoken agreement that tomorrow everything will be normal, and that it’ll just be another day of Hunk discussing his latest recipes, Katie murmuring over her homework with the occasional smile, and Lance talking to them both about his latest adventures in his favourite game.
At lunch, things are normal, except one thing. Keith is sitting at their table. Not near them, of course, but he’s still there. He usually vanishes during lunch, going to eat with Shiro or flying out into the canyon.
But he’s there. At their table.
“Hey, uh… Thanks. For yesterday. Do you wanna sit with us?” Keith freezes and the gears in his head turn, working as hard as they possibly can with a cute boy in front of him, and he rolls for charisma in his head. It’s still a solid zero, as all social interactions turn out with.
“Uh. I- Th.. Fuck off.” That’s what Keith says, and quickly sprints away before any of them can say anything, and Lance doesn’t admit it, but he’s a little discouraged. It’s not like he wanted his rival to sit with them anyway. He can go do whatever he wants.
Lance isn’t sad at all, he convinces himself. The bandages on his hand and the tears on his pillow speak otherwise.
He’s fine. But he keeps his fire burning low, at the depths of his heart, using the water running in his vein. He thinks of his mama, how she called him a firework, and his family sitting on the beach eating garlic knots.
Keith is still as angry as ever, seeing James taunt him about his parents. He pulls on his fire, rips it from his heart, and holds it in his hands. He spits out blood as he hits again, letting James lay on the ground. He doesn’t notice his eyes or his teeth. He doesn’t notice his heightened senses, his faster reaction time, or any of that. He just needs to let it out.
He picks his bag up, ignoring the bruises on his face or his aching body, and gets on his bike for practice. He’s gotten stronger, he notices. He think he’ll try something new today.
Water pools in the bottom of his heart, the smallest bit of calm he has, and he has it reserved for his hobbies and a few specific people. A certain star-faced and ocean-eyed boy makes it onto that list.
Chapter 3: dance your fear away
the universe takes more from keith again.
Things are fine, Lance thinks. Things are normal. He barely ever interacts with Keith, except for flight training, and he refuses to let himself think that he’s just a bit calm. He’s his rival.
It all goes wrong.
He’s talking with Hunk casually, saying how water types are obviously the best kind of pokemon, with the t.v playing in the background.
He hears the name Shiro, and excitedly turns around. He didn’t notice the mournful tone as she calls off the names.
He shuts the t.v and goes to bed, refusing to believe it. It didn’t happen. He doesn’t think it’s real.
He wakes up, and feels the mournfulness in the halls. He stops himself from crying, blocks emotions, and feels numb that day. They’re gone.
He hears later that Keith started screaming and crying at Iverson, shrieking that Shiro would never fail, that they’re not gone, that he wants proof. He doesn’t say anything, and the next he sees Iverson, he’s wearing an eyepatch. Keith is gone.
Then Katie? She watches the scene over and over, and next thing he knows, she’s booted too. He’s lost too many people. He calls his mama and starts to talk, but his words catch in his throat and the tears in his eyes threaten to spill.
She talks him through, and doesn’t judge him. He calms the fire in his heart.
But Keith? He lets the water evaporate, he takes everything out on Iverson. He doesn’t regret it, he’s angry, he’s bitter, and so angry at the universe for taking more people from him. He can’t stand it.
His instructors know when he shows up, scowling and angry, that he needs something else today. He tries not to get too upset with them, he knows that they’re being nice.
After practice, he goes right back to where he still smells the smoke, the burned wood, and everything else that wasn’t managed to be saved. He keeps telling himself that it’s over, it’s done now, you don’t have to be scared. He walks into the small shack, the only last remnant of the fire, and sets his bag down.
He doesn’t try and go back to the garrison.
He sleeps in the shack that night, and wakes up sweating and screaming, remembering the heat so close to him and the smoke in his lungs, he remembers his dad hugging him and getting him out, he remembers-
Ah. Keith hits his head, tries to clear his mind, and he knows just the way to do that. He grabs his bandana, and starts going out into the town.
Lance convinces Hunk to sneak out with him, so they can go to town and dance at that one club. The place knows mostly teenagers go there, so they don’t sell alcohol. Lance wants to go there and dance, however bad is skills are.
They manage to make it to the town, and Lance walks in, ready to dance and move and then-
There’s a crowd growing and cheering around someone, and Lance grins and tries to run towards the front.
In front of him? Keith. Moving like he depends on it, body snapping and moving. He pulls of a particularly cool trick where he spins on his head and then flips up onto his feet.
Lance doesn’t admit it, but he’s impressed. The rivalry he made with Keith is gone when he’s watching him move, and he thinks yeah, he might be a little cute.
Then Keith notices him out of the corner of his eye, and stumbles a little bit. It’s not very noticeable, of course, but people watching very intently could notice. He keeps going, sweat pouring off of him, and the fire burning in him dims. He feels better.
He lets the water pool in his heart again.
Once he finishes off, people clap, throw a tip in a hat he has, and he pulls his bandana up and practically sprints out of the club.
Lance goes there again and again, wanting to see him dance, but he doesn’t show up again.
He’s okay with it.
Chapter 4: not easily forgiven
lance tries to forgive and keith tries to sing.
Keith finally decides at some point that he needs to learn to communicate with other people better. He also needs to talk more, he decides, or else his voice will grow gravelly from not using it enough.
He decides that instead of going to therapy, which is way too expensive and it’s weird talking to strangers, he pulls up a voice lesson on Youtube. It’s better than nothing, he thinks, when he starts to sing and his voice is messed up.
But he’ll be damned before he can quit what he wants to do.
Lance continues to carry on with his days, feeling better and better about getting into fighter class, and he warms up to Pidge more.
Pidge reminds him of Katie, both smart as hell and never stepping down from a challenge. It’s also that they look a bit similar, but who knows.
It isn’t until Iverson is chewing him and his team out again that he wishes Keith would saunter in again and tell him to fuck off. He’s too scared to do it, his mama always told him to respect adults, and he needs to keep Pidge in line too.
He hums a melody that he always hears his mama sing while falling asleep, and the fire inside him is calmer than ever.
But then, the next day when he sees James passing in the hallway and watches him lean towards his friends and murmur something, the fire flares up and it takes him all he can to ignore him.
He hates James. Not just for picking on him, but on Keith too. He asked Hunk months ago about what he said to Keith, and Lance pales when he hears the answer. He feels bad. Now he can’t stop thinking, why is Keith so angry, what happened to his parents?
He thinks he already knows the answer, but never dwells on it long. He doesn’t like thinking about it.
He wishes his rival had a better life.
He may be bitter that Keith does everything so easily, bitter that girls are fawning over him more, bitter that he’s so unafraid to do what he wants. But no matter that, he wishes the best for him. His mama told him to wish people better.
He hopes his mama knows he’s trying to do that with Iverson too, but it’s hard. He tries to do it with James too.
Those tasks are more difficult.
He tries to forgive them, tries to tell himself that it’s okay and they probably have a reason for all that, that they get it out in the only way how.
He keeps wishing and wishing until he finally remembers something Shiro said to a class he was in.
“It’s hard to forgive someone. That’s okay. Sometimes you just need to love yourself more and then finally remember that you can’t forgive everyone for what they’ve done.”
The tear stains on his pillow are gone when he wakes up.
Chapter 5: i'll do the job yours didn't do
oh how she wants to protect him
The instructors are first to notice that Keith has thrown himself into dancing and comes in more often. They’re concerned, of course, but they don’t wanna overstep any boundaries. They’ll wait for a bit and then ask him whats wrong.
They also think he’s improved a lot. Good enough to teach someone. They know he isn’t the best at interacting with people but it’s worth a try, right?
“Hey, Keith, would you give us a moment?” He pauses the song and wipes the sweat off of his brow. They know his mannerisms; he’s listening.
“So we thought that you should try and teach someone. You’re getting really good, and we think it would also help you with interacting with people.” He freezes and stares at them for a moment.
“Obviously, you don’t have to, It’s just an offer-”
“Sure.” They’re a bit surprised at his offer, but smile anyway.
“Okay, we have a student that’s struggling on something. Mind helping them?” He just sighs and walks off to whatever direction they point him to.
They learn quickly that he should not be allowed to teach.
They leave for 5 minutes, and quickly hear yelling.
“You’re terrible! Try and actually fucking teach me what to do! Use your words!” They cringe, and start walking over to the room, opening the door and seeing Keith along with another student screaming at eachother.
Keith lets out a frustrated groan and points his finger at the kid.
“You’re not watching! It’s not that hard! It’s a simple move! It’s just a fucking jump, spin, and a body roll. How is that hard?! I shouldn’t have to use my words!” He yells back, eyebrows furrowed and feet ready like he’s about to pounce.
The teachers quickly step in and separate them, sighing. Keith tenses up for just a moment when she puts her hands on his shoulders and then relaxes just a bit, turning his head to the side and grumbling.
She takes him outside the practice room and sits down next to him.
“Hey, what happened?” He fidgets with his hands, eyes downturned but still burning.
“He’s not paying attention. He blamed ME for not being able to teach but HE’S not even TRYING to work!” She can see him getting riled up again and she puts a hand on his shoulder.
“Hey, it’s alright. Some people just don’t learn through seeing things though, right?” She smiles warmly at him, something close to a motherly smile.
He nods, hands still fidgeting. “Maybe you can try teaching another time.” He mumbles out a ‘thank you’ before leaving to his practice room.
She sits on the bench and thinks about him for a bit. She thinks about how he pays for his own lessons, and then they started saying no to his money because he made one comment about not being able to buy cereal at the store.
He came in when he was young, snapping at everyone and not paying much attention. He had an adult with him, she can remember that.
Then he started growing up, not being as angry and just wanting to learn. The adult stopped coming in.
Then. They remember seeing that he started paying for himself and they asked him about it.
She tries her hardest to be kind to him, and she offered him that he could stay at her house if he ever needed to.
The more she thinks about it, the more she realizes she sees him as a son.
Now, she never actually had any children. But she just wants to protect him as her own.
And she’ll be a mother to him, because no one else will do that job.