There was yet another wedding in the works, apparently. It was a cause for celebration and Lance was always the man to start getting excited. He loved helping his friends and family to pick out flowers and cake and to make their special days memorable. In fact, over the last few years, he had been entreated to organise the weddings for a lot of people. Which was why he had his wedding folder on the table, having been asked to organise James’s second wedding.
The people sitting across from him were not James and his fiancée, though. No, there were two very important people to Lance perched on seats across from him. First, Allura, his pseudo-sister. He had grown up with her and they’d been very good friends for practically their whole. Not quite best friends, of course, since that honour was reserved for Hunk, but they were close enough that Lance had declared her a sister more than once. She was dedicated to her numerous charity projects and was constantly travelling, but had finally thought to drop in on Lance where he lived.
The second person was Lance’s boss and the one person he was interested in at the moment. To say that Lance had a crush on Lotor was an understatement. He’d been besotted by the regal man, with his flowing hair and gorgeous smile, since he’d started working in his company, Galra Tech. When he’d been promoted to Lotor’s personal assistant, he had had to buy a special pillow just for him to yell his feelings into as soon as he got home. Lance still used it every day - Lotor was just that charming.
And now the two of them were sitting across from him, telling him about their engagement. Allura was even waving her hand in his face to show him her ring. Lance felt like he needed that pillow again and wished he was anywhere else but the park they’d agreed to meet at. Instead, he tried to push aside his devastation in order to react to the news.
“That’s great!” he exclaimed, maybe a little too high pitched. “Congratulations!”
“Thank you,” said Lotor with a fond smile. It made Lance’s heart skip a beat.
“You’ll help me organise this, won’t you? I know you always come through for everyone,” said Allura, practically glowing. That made Lance’s heart sink.
“Oh, well, I dunno…” said Lance, trying to figure out a good reason as to why he couldn’t do it. There was no way he could tell Allura that he was in love with Lotor; that would upset her and he couldn’t do that to her.
“I’m sure you would do marvelously,” Lotor chimed in, smiling at Lance.
His resistance instantly crumbled. “Oh, well, I-” Aware he was blushing, Lance ducked his head, a smile spreading across his face. “I would, obviously.” He caught sight of his folder and remembered his prior obligations. “But I can't.”
When he glanced up, Lance thought he had never seen Allura so disappointed. “But, why not?”
“I’ve got James’s to do,” Lance quickly explained, waving a hand at his folder. “I’m not sure I could do two weddings while I’m working.”
Allura immediately brightened. “Oh, don't worry about that! We’ll wait for you to be free. Won't we?” she added to Lotor.
With a besotted smile, Lotor reached out to take her hand. “Whatever you want, my love.”
Trying not to look too upset, Lance stood. “Well, uh… I better hurry up and get this wedding organised, huh?” He laughed, to show it was meant to be a joke, but he might have sounded a little hysterical. Lotor certainly frowned at him in concern.
“You don’t want to stay and chat?” Allura asked.
“Sorry. Really must dash.”
“Well, okay. I’ll come by your place later.”
Lance nodded, raised a hand in farewell and booked it out of there. His eyes were already itching with the need to cry. He bit his lip as he left the park and waved down a taxi, the urge to wail with grief strong.
Good thing he had that pillow.
“Kogane,” came a voice from behind Keith. He blinked and spun around in his chair, trying not to whack the back of it off his desk. He’d done that once - the IT guys were not happy to have to replace a monitor at short notice.
“Acxa?” he said in surprise when he noticed who it was. His editor (and boss) looked smart in her sharp suit, the matching blue trousers and jacket dark enough to suggest seriousness while not being too sombre. “Is there something wrong with my piece?”
“Come with me,” was all she said, turning to walk back into her office.
Sighing, Keith stood, glancing at the other three journalists who worked in their department. Ezor grinned wickedly, eyes twinkling with amusement. “Ooh,” she said, clearly delighted. “Looks like someone's in trouble. What didja write about?”
Keith rolled his eyes. “Another wedding. It was really just the same as usual so I may have copied and pasted some paragraphs.”
“Ha! Maybe Acxa will give us your stories now that you're on the way out.”
“I’m not-” Keith began with a scowl.
“Wouldn't you like to go to a wedding?” Ezor suddenly asked Zethrid, ignoring Keith’s irritation.
The woman in question (who had been angrily clicking her mouse, a sure sign the keyboard was going to be thrown out the window in a few minutes) grunted in the affirmative. Keith thought that was all she was going to contribute when she actually spoke. “We’ll be going to Lotor’s wedding.”
Rolling his eyes, Keith left them to it, waving at Narti on his way into Acxa’s office. It was a tiny room, with just enough room for a desk, a filing cabinet and a couple of chairs. They were the smallest department for the tabloid they all worked for, since they wrote about family-friendly fluff pieces. If a dog adopted a cat in the city, they’d follow it up with photos. Charity events and children's achievements were also tossed into their laps. However, the most popular part was definitely the wedding reviews. Keith had been given the task of watching people plan them and how they turned out. Somehow, his observations had people welling up with emotion or prompted them to propose in order to see what Keith would say about them. He never understood that, since he only wrote down what he saw and, considering he never enjoyed watching couples find their happy endings, it wasn’t usually stellar reports. Still, he received plenty of fanmail, most of which he ignored until Acxa forced him to respond.
Speaking of which, Acxa was already seated behind her desk and she gestured at the seat across her desk. He dropped down onto it, folding his arms in expectation of being lectured. Sure enough, Acxa sighed and looked to her computer screen. Keith surmised that his latest article had been pulled up, waiting to be edited or sent to the printers.
“What’s wrong?” he asked, eager to get this over with.
“No doubt you already know.”
“Most of this article has been copied from your previous ones,” Acxa explained. “Why is that?”
“Because most weddings are the same,” he explained with another shrug, this time with only one shoulder. “I don’t see why I should make any more of an effort. I mean, this isn’t why I became a journalist, Acxa. There’s got to be something else I can write about.”
Acxa gave him an unimpressed look. “I know you wanted to be an investigative journalist when you came to this newspaper,” she said, as patient and firm as always. “And you know as well as I do that times are hard. That is why people need cheering up by reading about other people getting married and kitten adoption agencies and kids cleaning a graffitied wall. You knew and accepted that when you took the job. And yet…” Acxa gestured at the computer screen.
“It’s not as if anyone will notice,” Keith protested, trying not to pout.
“They already have,” said Acxa. “We’ve already gotten some complaints on your last few published articles. You’re going to have to rewrite this one.”
Keith groaned. “Fine. But I’m all out of ‘beautiful’ bride comparisons.”
“Get Ezor to help you. Maybe she could even go with you to the next assignment.”
“Is it another wedding?” asked Keith, hoping despite himself that the answer would be ‘no’.
Raising an eyebrow, Acxa picked up an envelope that had been on the desk and handed it over. “It’s of a James Griffin and his fiancée, Greta Campbell. Do you want Ezor to go with you?”
“No,” said Keith, suppressing a shudder at what would happen if Ezor became his ‘date’. “I’ll go myself. But, Acxa, this is the last time. I want something different, something more… Well, more.”
For a moment, Acxa merely looked him over, taking in his expression and posture. “Okay,” she said. “I’ll see what I can find for you.”
“Thank you,” said Keith with relief, and took the assignment.
With the reception in full swing, Lance let himself take a breath.
The wedding had gone off without a hitch. Greta had looked gorgeous in her dress, one that Lance had helped pick out, the ivory and cream material twisting around her to make her look as if she was floating on a cloud, like she was some sort of angel. Lance had only glanced at her walking up the aisle before he’d turned his attention on James: he’d watched James’s face and the pure love in his eyes, unable to keep himself from smiling at his friend’s happiness. It made all the last minute panics worth it, though, this time, it also made Lance’s heart ache, yearning for someone to look at him like that.
After a delicious dinner, paid for by the married couple’s family, Lance had arranged for a local band to play, all of whom were wearing the turquoise colour scheme in shirts and handkerchiefs and accessories. Blue hydrangeas, blue irises and the purest white roses that Lance could find were arranged with peacock feathers in elegant displays on all the tables and woven into hanging baskets, all of which he’d personally put up that morning. Fairy lights had been twined around them and looped around the tables, though Lance had made sure to secure them so they wouldn’t trip anyone up - hopefully. A fountain sat in the corner, a cheap thing decorated with flowers and topped by a handmade topper that Greta’s mother had made: originally for the cake, it looked much better where it had been placed and the woman had even thanked Lance for insisting upon it.
People were mingling, standing at the bar, chatting, dancing. Lance watched them all from the edge of the room, smiling as he saw some of the married couples he had helped with their weddings. He took a sip of his champagne, savouring the taste. When he lowered the glass, he swirled the liquid around and found himself thinking of the next wedding he would have to organise.
He wasn’t sure how he was going to manage it. It took all of his self-control not to lose himself in Lotor’s eyes or to swoon when Lotor touched his arm every day. If he had to watch him get married, he wasn’t sure that he would be able to keep his tears from falling. Yet, he had to do this for Allura’s sake. Feeling his despair well up again, he downed the rest of his drink and let the empty glass dangle from his fingers.
“Are you bored, too?”
“What?” said Lance, turning to the voice, startled. Somehow, he hadn’t seen whoever it was approaching his little isolated section of the ballroom, and his eyes were wide with surprise as he looked over.
A man stood nearby, wearing a cheap suit. Either he hadn’t gotten the memo about the colour scheme or he’d deliberately ignored it, for the suit was black with a faded white shirt. Instead of a bowtie like Lance had, the man wore a black, pin-striped tie, slightly skewed. His shoes were clunky and black; Lance could see scuff marks on them. Apparently, the man had never seen a comb since his black hair was a mess, falling to his shoulders and getting into his eyes. Those eyes were dark and uninterested as they surveyed the room. When they met Lance’s gaze again, the man raised an eyebrow.
“There doesn’t seem to be anything interesting happening now,” he said.
Frowning, Lance gestured to the room with his glass. “There’s an entire party going on, dude.”
Tilting his head, the man said, “You’re over here, too.”
“Yeah, well, I just need a breather before I get back to having awesome fun.” Lance gave the man another once over. “Who are you, anyway? I’m the one who finalised the guest list and who’d be at the reception and I’m sure I don’t remember you.” Then again, something about him seemed vaguely familiar...
“Uh, last minute addition.” With a wince, the mystery man added, “I mean, I’m, uh, her plus one.” He gestured vaguely at the dance floor: when Lance looked, he saw a whole group of women dancing together rather badly and couldn’t tell which one he meant. “Her date couldn’t make it.”
“Right,” said Lance, hoping the guy could hear how suspicious he was. If this was some sort of wedding crasher, he was definitely going to have him thrown out. He was so not in the mood for people ruining this wedding.
“So, uh, you know the groom?”
“What gave it away?” Lance asked, glancing down at himself. The tuxedo he wore was closer to navy than black. His shirt was turquoise, as was the handkerchief that stuck out of his breast pocket. To keep with the theme, he’d also painstakingly used the same colour eyeliner at the very corner of his eyes and had made sure every other member of the wedding party had that done at the very least. He was also covered in glitter from the copious amount of confetti that had exploded from the machines as they burst out of the chapel.
“You’re wearing a suit rather than a dress,” the man quipped, his mouth twitching with the hint of a smile.
“That doesn’t mean anything,” Lance protested, thinking of Plaxum’s wedding. She had insisted on wearing a suit but that Lance and Swirn had to wear dresses. It had made for a unique and fun wedding. Lance had enjoyed himself, amping up his dramatics much to Hunk and Pidge’s dismay. But Plaxum had been happy and that was definitely the main thing. Realising that his thoughts had made him smile fondly, he blinked and glanced up at the man who was still watching him. “Was there something you wanted to ask me or something?”
“Wha-? Uh. Yeah. Is this your first wedding? You just looked kinda… bored, I suppose, like you’d seen it all before.”
“Of course I haven’t,” said Lance with a scoff. “Not every wedding’s the same.”
For some reason, that made the man scoff. “Sure. I’ve been to enough to know they essentially are.”
Eyes narrowed, Lance turned his body towards him, pointing at him with his glass. “Listen. This is my twenty-sixth wedding and-”
“Twenty-six?!” the man exclaimed. “What-? Is one of them your own?”
“What? No.” Lance lifted his left hand and waved it and its distinct lack of a wedding ring in the man’s face. “I’ve just been a groomsman. Or bridesman.”
“Twenty-six times?” The man still sounded incredulous and his raised eyebrows irritated Lance.
“What’s wrong with that?” Lance demanded.
“I’ve just… never met someone who’s been to that many weddings. Unless they work at them.”
“Well, I just like to see my friends and family happy.”
The man’s eyes flicked over Lance’s body, taking him in. There was something almost knowing in his gaze, like he could see down to where Lance had shoved so many things he didn’t want to see the light of day. Like his feelings for Lotor and… other things. Finally, the man spoke. “Really? So, you’re like the epitome of ‘always the bridesmaid, never the bride’.”
Lance rolled his eyes. “I don’t care about me . Weddings are all about the bride and groom and their love for each other. I love watching them get their happy ending.”
“Not all weddings are a happy ending.”
Frowning, Lance shot the guy a look. “That’s kinda dark, dude. And not all marriages go sour. My parents are still very much in love.”
“I suppose… Still, weddings are a waste of time.”
“What?!” exclaimed Lance, stepping closer to him. He wasn’t sure whether he was shocked, horrified or annoyed.
The guy shrugged a shoulder. “I mean, they’re just for showing off, right? It’s like waving money around and saying, ‘Look how much we can afford to waste this on’. It’s basically trapping all your friends and family in a room for a day to force them all to applaud the fact that you’re tying yourself down to someone.”
“Weddings are a celebration of love,” Lance snapped, using his free hand to poke the man in the chest. He looked startled that Lance was now so close to him and that Lance was touching him. Ignoring that, Lance put his hand on his hip. “This is to show everyone how happy they are so that they can… can be happy for them. It’s-It’s the one day in everyone’s life where everything is perfect, when they don’t have to worry about anything else or the future-” He broke off then, the sudden thought of his own loveless future hitting him once more. Trying to hide a grimace, Lance backed off, turning his head to watch his friends spinning around in giddy circles or gyrating to the song that was playing.
“I thought that’s what weddings are supposed to be about,” the man commented, apparently unaware of Lance’s crisis. “Not that any of the ones I’ve been to have been anything but a party to show off-”
Unable to stand it any longer - the argument, everyone else’s happiness, Lotor - Lance interrupted him. “You know what, forget it.” He glared at the man and waved his glass at him. “Just because you’ve never been loved, doesn’t mean you should rain on everybody else’s weddings. I don’t get why you’re crashing this one, anyway.”
“What-? I am not-!” Something must have broken through that disinterested façade, because the man was frowning with his dark eyebrows, hair falling further into his eyes. Somehow, the idea that he’d somehow affected this man made Lance thrilled. He ignored that, though, too incensed and upset to wonder at it.
“I said, forget it!” Lance snapped. He strode away, forcing a smile so that he could get through all the guests. Along the way, he dropped off his glass and he ignored Allura - he had invited her along and she was technically his ‘date’, but he didn’t want her concern. She couldn’t know about everything bothering him so he couldn’t confide in her tonight. Instead, he trusted that everything would continue as smoothly as it had already and got out to the street, hailing a cab. Only when he was on his way home, did he think back on the mystery man, wondering about him and his strange attitude to weddings.
It stopped him from thinking about Lotor, at the very least.
Keith lowered the camera, watching Lance making ridiculous poses. He was smiling wide and Keith couldn’t help but smile as well. There was something infectious about Lance’s smile. All of the pictures that Keith had taken, even the ones that were blurry because Lance had moved, made him look gorgeous. It was kind of strange how good he looked in all of these horrible tuxedos. Even the pink one he was wearing at that moment looked good on him.
“I can’t believe your sister made you wear that,” Keith commented.
“Hey!” Lance exclaimed. “It’s not that bad. I mean, just because you’re scared of wearing pink…”
“I have a pink shirt,” Keith protested. He decided not to mention that it was lying at the bottom of his wardrobe, unopened.
“Hmm.” There was a distinct lack of belief in Lance’s tone; Keith rolled his eyes at him. “Well, whatever,” Lance continued, waving his hand at him. “I bet I still pull off pink better than you.”
“Probably,” muttered Keith, hoping Lance wouldn’t hear him. He didn’t want to admit that he thought that Lance was attractive.
“Is that enough photos?” Lance asked. “I mean, you can’t put in photos of all the outfits in your article.”
A sharp pang of guilt shot through Keith and he quickly shoved it away. He’d told Lance that he was writing an article about how weddings are perceived by those closest to the brides and grooms. Really, he was going to write an article all about Lance and how he had been suckered into organising all these weddings. The weird and horrible outfits he’d been forced to wear were just a lucky addition to what Keith would write. Then, with a new take on weddings, Acxa might actually consider him for different assignments. Maybe he’d even be put into a different department. So guilt was out of the question. He had to focus on the prize, not Lance.
“You’ve shown me… what, ten outfits? Why not show me all of them?”
Lance shifted on his feet, looking doubtful. “I dunno… I’ve got a lot of things to do for Allura and Lotor…”
“This won’t take all that long, will it?”
Keith tried not to frown. Lance’s obsession with this latest wedding was a little concerning. He had watched Lance, Lotor and Allura interacting, all together and separately. To his eyes, it looked as though he dearly loved Allura like a sister, just as he had claimed. But Keith had also noticed the way that Lance was flustered in front of Lotor and tense when all three of them sat down to talk over wedding options. Lance’s smile always grew a little tighter, a little more forced: Keith couldn’t understand why the other two hadn’t noticed.
“Look, if you want, I can help you out with whatever you’re doing today if you put on the rest of them,” Keith suggested.
Blinking, Lance stared at him. Then, a sweet smile crossed his face, making Keith want to squirm. “Okay,” Lance said, turning back to the special closet he had for all of his wedding outfits. He plucked one out and spun to show it to Keith. “Wanna see this one?” he asked, shaking the pale yellow tuxedo at him.
“Holy hell,” said Keith, eyes wide.
Laughing, Lance headed to the bathroom to get changed. “My brother’s first wife wanted to have a wedding on a beach and she wanted everyone to look sunny.”
“Did it work out?”
“Nope.” Lance laughed again, stopping in the doorway to turn to Keith. “The weather was bad, so I had to transfer everything to a hall my parents had rented just in case. Of course, Laura was upset, but I had people help me scoop up some sand from the beach to take inside. She cried when she saw that.”
“I hope you cleaned up after yourself.”
Lance huffed and folded his arms. “Of course I did.” Shaking his head, Lance turned. “I’ll be right back.”
Once the door had closed behind him, Keith shifted on his spot on Lance’s bed. There was something about Lance that was getting to him. But all he had to do was keep to his story, get the pictures, get out of there and write up what he’d found out so far. Keith glanced up at the open closet, his eyes running over all the strange colours, designs and extra bits on all of the fancy suits Lance owned. With them all tucked away like that, Keith thought it looked a little sad: it was someone’s entire experience of love, tucked away and out of sight.
It would make for a great photo.
With a glance at the bathroom door, Keith made his way over to get a closer look and a better picture. It wasn’t until he’d already taken a couple at different angles that he realised that something was out of place. Frowning, he reached out to something blue, pressed flat and stuck in a dry cleaning bag. When he pulled it out, he stared for a moment, then turned to the bathroom door.
“Lance?” he called out, wondering if Lance would hear him.
After a short pause, the door opened and Lance stuck his head out, blinking at Keith. “Yeah?”
“Is this a dress?” Keith asked, shaking the bag.
Nodding, Lance said, “Ah, yeah. That was for Plaxum’s wedding. She and Clarna were in suits and she made her maids wear suits, too, but, since I was in her wedding party, she said I should wear a dress. Swirn, too. I think it was meant to be a joke, but I agreed, just to make her laugh, and…” He made a motion as if he was shrugging a shoulder. “One thing led to another.”
“So you wore a dress? To a wedding?”
“Hey.” Lance scowled at him and Keith suddenly realised what that sounded like. Before he could even think of opening his mouth, Lance continued. “I rocked that dress, okay? The wedding photos were gorgeous and Plaxum was happy, so. That’s what matters, Keith.”
“Yeah, I- Um…” Keith looked to the dress, trying to imagine Lance wearing something other than a tuxedo or a suit or his fashionable clothes. A sudden desire struck Keith and he looked back up at Lance. “Will you put it on?”
“Wha-? Huh?!” Lance stared at him, wide-eyed and pink in the face. “Why-? I’m in the middle of- Are you gonna put it in your article?”
“I don’t know,” Keith lied, already thinking of how he could spin it. “I mean, it’s clear evidence of your dedication.” And how easy it was for people getting married to take advantage of their friends.
For a few moments, Lance chewed on his lip, thinking. “Okay, fine,” he said, sighing. “Pass it over - carefully.”
Keith obliged, slipping his camera into his pocket so he could lift it with both hands. It was heavier than he’d expected and he thought of Lance’s broad shoulders. He peered down at it as he stepped over to the door, trying to work out what kind of dress it was. The way it was hung over the hanger made it difficult for Keith to make it out, so he resigned himself to waiting. Lance took it off him awkwardly, still trying to keep the door mostly closed. Once he’d taken it, he retreated once more and Keith went back to his spot, trying to keep patient.
Eventually, the door opened and Lance emerged. Keith quickly took out his camera and began to hold it up. Then he caught sight of Lance confidently striding to the front of his large closet, head held high and smirk firmly in place. Keith could only stare, his heart pounding in his chest.
The dress had a bodice meant to hold itself up, possibly on a woman’s bust, but this one had been altered somehow to stay around Lance’s chest. Flimsy, pale blue material curved over his shoulders, almost hugging him to the dress. When he shifted, Keith could see the lighter blue stars that had been stitched into the dark blue material. At his hips, the dress flared out and dropped to just under his knees. Lance’s legs were revealed, smooth and long. Somehow, despite his feet being proportional, they managed to look dainty as they were also bared, his toes wiggling against the cream carpet.
It took Keith a while to realise what he was doing and dragged his stare up to Lance’s face. His smirk had widened; he must have noticed Keith’s intense gaze. “Well?” Lance said, spreading his arms. “What do you think?”
“Uh, yeah,” Keith managed to force out. “Looks… better than I thought it would.”
“Right?” said Lance. “Watch this.” And, before Keith could react, Lance spun on the spot, going around a full 360°. The dress twisted with him, flaring out so much that Keith could briefly see his thighs before the skirt twisted around his knees. Once it had settled, Lance grinned at Keith. “It’s pretty cool. Makes me feel like a Disney princess.”
Keith struggled to think of a response. His heart was still thundering at too fast a pace, his eyes still wide. Lance was handsome in general, something he had noticed the first time they’d met; now, he was utterly gorgeous and ethereal. It took everything within himself for Keith to calm down. When Lance tilted his head in obvious question, Keith shoved whatever he was feeling aside. It was just an attraction - it had to be, since Lance would never see him in that light. Lance was far too hung up on Lotor. Keith couldn’t let himself give in to whatever he felt: he would get what he wanted for his article, leave, and never have to see Lance again.
Lifting his camera, Keith flashed a smile that didn’t feel real. Hopefully, Lance wouldn’t notice the difference. “It’s perfect,” he said, taking the picture with a sense of finality.