Keith flopped facedown onto the couch and groaned into the cushion. Jeanne idly flipped a page in her book, and, without even looking up, said:
“Something on your mind, champ?”
Keith merely groaned again, trying to become one with the brown suede monstrosity that Jeanne had gotten from mysterious and unnamed sources. Keith tried not to question how Jeanne got a lot of things. Her usual response was “don’t worry about it”, which had the opposite of its intended effect.
Even though he couldn’t see her face, Keith just knew Jeanne was giving him the Look. As he turned his head to look at her, his suspicions were confirmed. Raised eyebrows, carefully blank face, and eyes that were looking right through them. Even without makeup, she looked like a painting of a Renaissance master’s mistress, with big blue-green eyes and a mane of long, brown hair. She was dressed in her usual jeans and a sassy tank top which read “Suns Out Puns Out” in bright red letters.
Keith rolled over to glare at the ceiling, forcing out his next words.
“I’m going to kill him.”
Jeanne rolled her eyes, clearly trying not to laugh as she set her book down. It was some trashy fantasy novel, he had no doubt. (“I’ll have you know that Percy Jackson and the Olympians is a treasure.”)
“So what did Lance do today?” she asked, tilting her head with a smug smile.
“He’s just. He’s so.” Keith flailed his arms and made some kind of attempt at a word.
“Wow, sounds awful,” Jeanne deadpanned, poking him with her foot. “Use your words, you walnut.”
“He just… he walked into class wearing a beanie and glasses, and like, who even wears beanies in September? It’s still boiling outside, and his glasses make him look so stupid, I couldn’t even look at him.”
Keith definitely was not blushing. It was just really hot outside, and Jeanne only ran the air conditioner when she was in danger of baking to death, so clearly this was all her fault.
“And he just. It’s composition class, so you’re supposed to write like, serious music, and he came with with this fucking… dubstep Gregorian chant remix? I don’t even know what it was but,” and here his words dried up. He glared at the ceiling, hoping that he could set Lance on fire with his brain from across campus.
“You loved it, didn’t you.” Jeanne said, and Keith didn’t even have to look at her to see her stupid smug ass face leering at him.
“No!” he sputtered, a little too fast and a little too loud. His voice may have cracked. Shut up.
He groaned again and covered his face with a spare pillow, hoping that he’d be able to suffocate himself before his next composition class.
All music majors, regardless of their instrument, were required to take music theory for at least two years. They offered higher levels of study for graduate students and so on, but you had to start at the bottom, so to speak, and so every music student at Voltron State University eventually ended up in Music 110, Basic Music Theory, taught by Dr. Alaric Coran, the choir director and owner of the best mustache in the Tri-State area. (He had medals to prove it.)
Keith Kogane, eighteen, cellist prodigy and son of two of the biggest names in classical music, walked into Freshman music theory expecting to be surrounded by people who took music as seriously as he did. What he was not expecting was a tall, lanky, deeply tanned boy in a snapback, baggy shorts, and fuckboy Adidas flipflops to be dancing to Shakira while a group of other freshmen cheered him on.
Keith stood in the doorway, not really sure how he was supposed to respond to this situation and wondering if this was an elaborate prank or maybe a nightmare. Perhaps both.
Snapback Fuckboy did a very smooth body roll, catching Keith’s gaze as he turned, and Shakira’s hips may not lie but this boy’s hips were filthy filthy liars and Keith suddenly needed a drink. Or a doctor. His heart was pounding and that was a sign of an imminent heart attack, right?
He couldn’t look away, and just stood there in the doorway like a useless gay until someone cleared their throat behind him and Keith jumped about three feet in the air, nearly falling over as he scrambled away from… well it had to be the professor, dressed in a smart tweed coat with leather elbow patches, neatly pressed slacks, and the largest moustache Keith had ever seen, still bright ginger despite the patches of grey at the professor’s temples. He raised one eyebrow at Keith and gave him a friendly smile.
“Didn’t mean to scare you, young freshman. Go ahead and take your seats, everyone, and we’ll do everyone’s least favorite thing, introductions!”
Almost the entire classroom groaned. It wasn’t the largest class ever, only about twenty students total, about three quarters freshmen with the rest being upperclassmen who either switched degrees or had just put it off as long as possible. Regardless of age, introductions were the worst thing ever. Keith shuffled to a seat in the fourth row, close enough to see the board and look engaged, but far enough away to not look like a total nerd.
The professor chuckled and wrote his name on the whiteboard. The marker squeaked obnoxiously as he wrote out his full title and he underlined it three times before turning back to his students.
“I’ll start us off, then. I am Dr. Alaric Coran, and I will be teaching you music theory for the next two semesters, and hopefully I will be seeing most of you in the concert choir, and even some of you in our auditioned chamber choir!” He gave everyone a warm smile and gestured to one of the students sitting in the first row.
“Alright, if you’ll tell us your name, your major instrument, and what you’d like to do once you graduate?”
The girl got up, hesitating, like she wasn’t sure if she was supposed to stand, and gave a little wave, smiling nervously.
“Um, my name is Yvonne? Peterson. Um, my instrument is voice, and I want to be a music teacher.” She sat down quickly, face turning red. Keith felt equal parts sorry for her and a little disappointed. Didn’t she have bigger dreams than that?
The introductions continued down the line, and Keith was pretty sure he would never remember everyone’s name. He rehearsed his own introduction over and over in his head, barely paying attention to what everyone else was saying. Band teacher, broadway singer, opera singer, playing for an orchestra, composing film music, it all sort of swam together until he noticed Snapback Fuckboy standing up, grinning lazily.
“The name’s Lance. Lance McClain. I guess my main instrument is voice? I’m more focused on electronic music but they don’t really have a major for that here. I’m planning on producing music for pop stars, hip hop artists, that sort of thing, maybe even releasing some of my own stuff, so… yeah. That’s me.”
Lance gave a little salute and then slid back into his seat. Keith could barely keep himself from snorting and rolling his eyes. This guy wouldn’t last a week in the music school. He was clearly one of those people who listened to trashy pop music and thought it was wonderful and full of meaning. It would never compare to Brahms, or Dvorak, or any of the other thousands of composers who’d written far better and more moving pieces than the repetitive nonsense on the radio.
He was still scowling when he realized everyone was staring at him. Oh. It was his turn. Shit. He scrambled to his feet and tried to compose himself even as his cheeks glowed pink.
“I’m Keith Kogane. I’m a cellist, and I want to play with the New York Philharmonic after I graduate.”
He was about to sit down when Dr. Coran speaks up.
“Kogane? You wouldn’t be related to Yuuto Kogane, would you?”
Keith blinked and then nodded, feeling a little swell of pride.
“He’s my father.”
Dr. Coran beamed, twirling the end of his moustache.
“Ah, I had the honor of working with him when we were undergrads. He was a masterful violinist, put up with my mistakes quite well. Your mother must be Krolia Kogane, then?”
Keith nodded again, the pride struggling with a new rush of anxiety. Everyone was staring, and some of them knew the names being thrown around and some had no clue but they were all staring at him and he just wanted to throw himself out of the nearest window.
“You’ll have to drop by my office later,” Dr. Coran said, either noticing Keith’s obvious discomfort or realized he was taking too much time with one student. He flapped a hand at Keith, who gratefully sat down.
The next student, a dark-skinned boy with a shaved head, stood and recited his name and instrument, but Keith’s head was buzzing so loudly that he barely took it in. Of course he’d been expecting that people would know his parents, but he hadn’t been prepared for the professor to single him out like that.
He scribbled a tight, spiralling line in his notebook, trying to pay some sort of attention to Dr. Coran and regain control of his thoughts. He barely registered that they’d moved on from introductions until the squeaking of the dry erase marker signalled that Dr. Coran was writing again.
“Now we won’t be doing much today besides going over the syllabus, which you can also find online here.” He tapped on the board under the website he’d just written down before handing Yvonne a stack of crisp blue paper. “Please pass these on, my dear.”
Yvonne dutifully took a syllabus and passed the stack down.
“The goal of this class is to start establishing the basics of musical theory. You’ll learn how to read music, basic harmonization, cadences, and I’ll also be asking you to write some short pieces throughout the semester, just to see how you’re doing with these concepts.”
Keith looked down at the syllabus, putting a little star by Dr. Coran’s email and his office hours, and checking for the dates of major tests.
Dr. Coran spent a few more minutes explaining the syllabus, going over the university’s strict “No Cheating” policy, and assured some of the nervous looking freshmen that the only way to fail this course was to actively do their worst.
The class let out almost half an hour early, which left Keith with nearly two hours until his next class. He zipped up his backpack, heading towards the door when a hand grabbed his elbow.
He shook it off, not trying to be rude but he Really Didn’t Like people touching him when he wasn’t expecting it.
“Sorry, uh, Keith, right?”
Lance grinned at him, a little lopsided, and Keith blinked, slightly stunned, before nodding.
“Listen, I uh, wanted to know if you were ok? You seemed kind of upset during introductions.”
Keith curled his fingers tighter around his backpack straps. Yeah, because no one here seems to be taking this seriously, he thought with venom. Especially you.
“I just, um…” Keith cleared his throat and tried again. “I just… I take music really seriously.”
“Well yeah, we all do, that’s why we’re here.” Lance smiled again, and just. Really? Really?
“No. ‘We all’ don’t.” Keith was glaring now, he couldn’t help it, he couldn’t believe this guy, just waltzing in here like this was just a hobby, not a passion, not a life, not everything that Keith had ever known. “Some of us are focused on real music.”
The grin evaporated from Lance’s face, and it was his turn to look stunned. It lasted for about a second and a half before his face hardened, and Keith felt something cold drip into his stomach.
“Oh?” Lance asked, low and almost a growl. “And by ‘real music’ I suppose you mean something boring as hell composed a thousand years ago by some dead guy?”
“I mean something that’s actually beautiful, not some dude rapping about how much he wants to have sex with some girl.” Keith snapped back, knuckles white on his straps.
“So what, anything new is automatically bad? I bet you’ve never even listened to a song written after 1900!”
“I bet you couldn’t even name three Romantic composers!”
“You’re a fucking snob.”
It was said with such derision that it physically hurt, and Keith had never been good at keeping his mouth shut when he was angry.
“You won’t last a month here,” he hissed, leaning in close, almost nose to nose with Lance. “And I’ll be there to watch you crash and burn.”
Lance’s jaw opened, closed, and he just stared at Keith, blue eyes burning.
“You’re gonna eat those words,” he finally whispered.
That had been freshmen year, and Keith, had, in fact, eaten his words. Lance not only stuck it out for the entire year, he also got straight As in all his classes and had actually paid for an official transcript so he could rub it in Keith’s face.
Not one of Keith’s proudest moments.
They were now in their junior year and Lance was still one of the top students. If it had been a larger school, maybe Keith would have been able to avoid him. But it wasn’t, and nearly all of Keith’s music classes were tainted by Lance’s presence.
He’d be able to handle it if he had even one friend in his classes, but Jeanne was technically a musical theatre student (even if the music department loved her and she was in nearly every opera they’d put on), so she didn’t need to take the higher level music classes.
Technically, he’d met Jeanne during the freshmen orientation, but that had been a blur of names and faces and honestly he didn’t remember 95% of those people anyway.
Officially, he met Jeanne about a month into his first semester. His workstudy was in the fine arts office, located on the top floor of one of the older buildings. Most of the music faculty had their offices somewhere in the building, so it wasn’t uncommon to hear people in the middle of their private lessons. On this particular day, Keith was laboring up the final flight of stairs (and really, fuck stairs) when he heard the voice of an angel.
He didn’t use the term lightly. It was, perhaps, one of the most beautiful voices he’d ever heard. The only word that came to mind was gorgeous, and Keith stood on the final step, gasping for air while listening to the angel.
Finally the song came to an end and he found himself drawn to the door without actually giving his feet the order to move. He turned the handle and peeked into the room, sure his face was betraying his absolute awe.
He was met with the sight of a girl in a baggy t shirt and jeans, brown hair pulled into a ponytail and her eyes big with shock.
“Sorry,” he managed to get out, still slightly breathless from the stairs, “but that was just… really great. I wanted to let you know.”
The girl turned pink, twisting the hem of her shirt and giving him a smile.
Her speaking voice was almost comically low, such a stark contrast from the high, lilting soprano he’d just heard, but it had the same sweet quality to it.
Her professor looked at him with a sort of fond exasperation, so Keith waved awkwardly, sliding out of sight.
“Okay well I just wanted to let you know that you sound really good okay bye.”
His face burned as he trotted back to the fine arts office. The secretary, Nora, gave him a smile and directed him to the files he needed to scan and copy and put in their proper places. Keith normally enjoyed the almost mechanical process, but he kept looking at the door with the singer. He didn’t know her name, but he wanted to, and it wasn’t like, romantic or anything but he just really wanted to know her and he couldn’t really explain it. The songs kept coming, and he kind of lost himself in the music, enjoying the sweet sound. He recognized a few opera pieces, and he found himself miming the fingerings for the cello part during one.
Eventually, her lesson ended and the girl stepped out of the office, backpack slung over one shoulder.
“I’ll see you later,” she told her professor, and Keith was suddenly standing without really thinking about it. She looked at him and turned pink again, giving him a smile and a wave.
“I’m Keith,” he blurted out, and the smile turned into a grin.
“Yeah, I know, we’ve got freshman theory together.”
Shit. Now he had to admit that he didn’t know her name. She seemed to sense his sudden panic and stepped towards him, holding out a hand.
Keith nearly cried in relief, oh thank GOD she wasn’t being a dick about how he couldn’t remember people’s names or faces unless he was constantly bombarded with them. He shook her hand and she shook his and everything was nice and normal.
“So what was that song you were singing?” He asked, genuinely curious. He’d never heard it before, it must have been from a new opera or something.
“You mean before you stuck your head in?” They were both still kind of embarrassed about it, but Jeanne’s eyes twinkled with mischief, not malice, so he didn’t turn too red. “Uh, it was ‘It Roars’, from Mean Girls.”
There was a pause. A long pause. Keith was still holding her hand and normally he’d be beyond embarrassed but it felt like he missed something.
“Like… an… opera?” He managed to ask, hoping there was an opera called Mean Girls and she wasn’t referring to that one movie he may or may not have watched fifty times in one weekend.
“No, like the new Broadway musical based on the Mean Girls movie.” She watched him with this look in her eyes, a challenge, and Keith couldn’t reconcile this.
He couldn’t reconcile that gorgeous voice with… showtunes. That voice belonged in the Met singing Vivaldi and Mozart and Puccini, not in some dingy theatre belting out mindless musical theatre.
He’d… he’d liked it though. He hated admitting it but denying it would make him a hypocrite and honestly he didn’t like the way Jeanne was looking at him, like she was waiting for him to put her down.
“I… uh… okay?” He finally let go of her hand to scratch the back of his neck. “I… don’t listen to a lot of musical theatre.”
Jeanne shifted, frowned, hefted the backpack a little higher on her back.
“Because you don’t like it or because you think it’s below you?”
She didn’t fuck around.
Keith opened his mouth and then closed it again, carefully weighing his words. He wanted her to like him, but then again he wanted everyone to like him. Despite his harsh exterior and solitary nature he really hated it when people didn’t like him.
“I liked hearing you sing,” he said, which was true. “But I… well… my parents never listened to musical theatre? And I guess I… inherited their tastes.”
Which was technically true. Jeanne blinked at him like she could see straight through his bullshit.
“Did you know that there’s actually a lot of overlap between opera and musical theatre?” She said, changing the subject except not really.
Keith blinked and he could feel the face he was making even as he fought to stop it.
“Lots of opera singers end up singing both opera and on Broadway. While opera does have a longer history, it’s come to the point where really, the only difference between opera and musical theatre is the age of the pieces and the language that’s used.”
Although Jeanne was tearing apart Keith’s carefully constructed world view, her eyes sparkled and she gestured animatedly with her hands as she launched into the history of musical theatre.
“See, the thing is that nowadays it’s actually quite rare to have a musical that has long stretches of dialogue between songs. Some of them, like Les Mis, have barely any spoken dialogue at all, which is basically the same as an opera.”
“Les Mis?” He was entirely lost by now. Jeanne looked scandalized.
“You haven’t even heard of Les Miserables?” She hissed at him. He shook his head, feeling slightly intimidated.
Immediately she launched into what he assumed was one of the songs from the musical.
“I dreamed a dream in time gone by, when hope was high and life worth living,” she sang, and Keith briefly thought that if all musical theatre songs were sung by people with voices as pretty as Jeanne’s, then maybe he misjudged the genre.
But then he thought, wait a second, this is musical theatre, not… real music. Even as he thought it, it felt weak. He was nothing if not stubborn, though, so he pushed all thoughts about musical theatre out of his head, finally noticing Nora squinting at him from her desk.
“I uh… I gotta get back to work.” He pointed over his shoulder at the papers he still needed to file and Jeanne blinked before nodding, giving him a lopsided smile.
“Yeah, and I should probably eat something before my next class.” She turned to go, and then turned back, her smile a little softer. “It was nice to meet you, Keith.”
“It was nice to meet you too,” he smiled back at her, honestly surprised. He’d thought he’d ruined it when he admitted he didn’t even like musical theatre.
“Next time I’ll get you to listen to the whole soundtrack of Les Mis,” she smirked, giving him a little wave as she headed to the stairs. “And you’re going to like it!”
Keith laughed despite himself, shaking his head as he went back to his filing. He highly doubted she’d remember this, and doubted that she’d go through with it.
(She did, on both counts. Keith, much to his chagrin, loved Les Mis.)
Now, almost two and a half years later, Keith couldn’t quite believe that he almost missed out one of the best friendships he’s ever had because he was too stubborn to admit that musical theatre was real music.
That’s not to say that he liked all of it. Some of it was just too weird for him, and Jeanne respected that even though she still kicked him when he made a face at the pieces she rehearsed.
Even though he could admit that his tastes had… broadened somewhat, there were still some genres he couldn’t stand. Rap music, in general, still made him want to tear his ears off. Pop music was inane and used the same four chords over and over.
But Lance… Lance…
The music Lance wrote pulled at something inside of Keith, even if he smashed together Gregorian chants and EDM beats and the first eight notes of Beethoven’s 5th symphony. He couldn’t explain it and when Jeanne finally kicked him out of the apartment because he’d been moping for the past four hours and she needed to get to rehearsal, he found himself at Shiro’s place.
Takashi Shirogane, known to most as Shiro, had been Keith’s best (and for a long time only) friend since they were children. Although Shiro was a few years older, their parents were friends and they usually ended up sticking close at the fancy parties they were dragged to.
It forged a certain kind of friendship, that feeling of “us against the world”, and they’d been like brothers ever since.
Keith knocked on the door and heard a distant “Coming!” from somewhere in the depths of the apartment. Shiro cracked the door open and a warm smile lit up his face, the long scar across the bridge of his nose wrinkling a little.
“Keith! Come in.” He stepped aside and Keith shuffled in, kicking off his shoes. Shiro locked the door behind them and gestured for Keith to sit down, that warm smile still on his face.
“What’s up?” He always seemed to know when something was bothering Keith, a product of all those years spent together, but Keith didn’t know how to frame it yet, so he didn’t say anything, just shrugged, slumping into the cushions.
“You’ve been quiet in class.” Shiro said, not accusing, but Keith’s face still twisted up, sending a glare at him.
Shiro was a grad student, getting his master’s degree in Music Education, which meant he got to teach Composition 101, which further meant that he got to watch Keith and Lance bicker every Tuesday and Thursday at nine am, which further meant he got to watch Keith’s very obvious crush grow with every passing class. Well. It was obvious to Shiro. Both Keith and Lance were about as oblivious as two bricks. It was like watching Keith in third grade all over again.
“It’s composition, not conversation.” Keith quipped, crossing his arms even tighter. “Even though some people don’t understand that.”
Shiro had the sudden urge to roll his eyes into oblivion. Instead he stood, picking up his coffee mug.
“Do you want some coffee? Or maybe some tea. You seem kind of tense.”
“Tea, please,” Keith mumbled petulantly, unwinding from the couch to pad after Shiro. Shiro hummed and went to his electric kettle, switching it on and pulling a mug down from the cupboard.
“Do you still have that chamomile kind I like?” Keith asked, already poking through the pantry.
“It’s behind the oatmeal,” Shiro told him, refilling his coffee. The last word turned into a yawn and Shiro tried to hide it in his shoulder. Keith frowned and plunked a tea bag into the empty mug, looking up at Shiro.
“Did I come at a bad time? You seem really tired.”
“I’m a grad student, Keith. Tired is just part of my personality by now,” Shiro chuckled, taking a sip of his coffee.
Keith rolled his eyes as the kettle began to scream.
“I meant more tired than usual.” He poured the hot water into his mug and glared as the tea started to seep out, turning it a pale yellow. “Are you taking care of yourself?”
Shiro set his mug down to ruffle Keith’s hair, a big grin spreading over his face.
“Aw, are you worried about me?”
Keith sputtered, cheeks turning pink.
“I- Shiro, quit it!”
Shiro laughed, giving Keith’s head one more pat.
“I’m fine. Adam just called last night, I stayed up a little too late talking to him.”
Keith’s frown finally smoothed out, a little smirk taking its place.
“Oh? Were you talking or talking?” He wiggled his eyebrows for emphasis.
“Is that what the kids are calling it these days?” Shiro asked drily. Keith missed the time when he could embarrass Shiro by implying he was having phone sex with his fiance.
“How do you even handle a long distance relationship? I mean he’s practically on the other side of the world.”
“He’s in Canada.”
“My point still stands. Isn’t it hard?” Keith dropped a dollop of honey into his tea and stirred it, flicking his eyes up to Shiro’s face.
Shiro tilted his head and smiled, gaze distant.
“Well, yeah. It’s really hard. I miss him pretty much all the time. But I know that this internship is really important to him, and I can handle a little loneliness if it means he’s happy.”
“God, you’re so in love. It’s gross.” Keith grimaced to hide his smile. “Hey, by the way, where’s Matt? I thought it was unusually quiet in here.”
Shiro shrugged and made the “I don’t know” noise.
“He’s probably holed up in the computer lab, honestly. He’s got a project due and he gets kind of spacey about the real world when he’s in the zone.”
“Should we be worried?”
“Nah. Pidge’ll let me know if it gets to critical levels.”
Keith wasn’t really sure what counted as “critical levels” but he wasn’t sure if he wanted to find out.
“Speaking of Pidge though,” Shiro said, and he frowned a little, taking another sip of coffee, “they seem kind of… weird, this semester. They’ve been that way ever since you dragged them to the musical.”
Keith had a vivid flashback to Pidge, their hair in about five hundred pigtails, the glow of the computer making them look like a rabid raccoon, honest to god hissing at him when he opened the door to the computer lab in search of a working printer. He hadn’t gone back since.
“Isn’t Pidge always weird?” Keith said, hiding behind his mug of tea.
“Well yeah,” Shiro snorted. “I just mean they seem… distracted? I don’t know if that’s even the right word for it, they just seem off recently.”
“I’m sure they’re fine. Jeanne would have set up a group chat if it was a real problem.”
Shiro snorted again, this time actually choking on his coffee. He struggled to breathe for a good minute and a half before regaining control of his bodily functions.
“Oh god that went up my nose,” he coughed out, rubbing his chest. Keith felt like he was missing out on a joke, but he knew all of Shiro’s jokes, so he wasn’t really sure what was happening here.
“You good?” Keith asked, taking a long swig of tea and regretting it immediately. It was still practically boiling and he could feel the skin peeling off the back of his throat. He was definitely not crying.
“We’re two functional adults, I swear,” Shiro quipped, grinning.
Operation Get Two Oblivious Idiots Together
ShiroTheHero: guys keith might know about the group chat
QemeJ: the fuck shiro this is supposed to be a secret operation
QemeJ: tho this might be for the best
QemeJ: if i have to listen to him talk about lances “stupid blue eyes and stupid perfect teeth” one more time im gonna lock them in one of the practice rooms until they kiss
xXPidgeonXx: lance isnt much better tbh
xXPidgeonXx: hunk says lance got mad because
xXPidgeonXx: and i quote
xXPidgeonXx: “who the fuck even has violet eyes, some pretentious pretty boy in a bad teen romance novel, that’s who”
QemeJ: good god theres two of them
QemeJ: as much as i enjoy being part of what is clearly a b grade fanfiction
QemeJ: This has been going on for THREE YEARS NOW AND I ONLY HAVE SO MUCH PATIENCE, TAKASHI.
QemeJ: I AM GOING TO MAKE A WAFFLE AND EAT IT OUT OF ANGER
xXPidgeonXx: ooh all caps
xXPidgeonXx: u kno thats my kink
ShiroTheHero: maybe we should add Hunk to the group chat already, he’s been lowkey helping us out for a while
QemeJ: YES LETS DO THAT
QemeJ added Hunkinator to the chat
Hunkinator: hey shiro whats up
ShiroTheHero: oh you know
ShiroTheHero: the sky
ShiroTheHero: my heart now that ive talked to my fiance
xXPidgeonXx: shiro i say this with love
xXPidgeonXx: but thats super gay dude
QemeJ: shiro i dont know how to tell u this but thats pretty gay
QemeJ: HEY WAIT U BEAT ME TO IT PIDGE
xXPidgeonXx: all caps…….. HNH
Hunkinator: pidge ur like the gayest one here
xXPidgeonXx: shit u rite
xXPidgeonXx: wait were off topic again
xXPidgeonXx: how are we gonna get klance together
Hunkinator: oh is that the ship name now i thought we were going with mckogane
QemeJ: get with the program hunk geez
QemeJ: klance is the superior ship name
QemeJ: more importantly
QemeJ: how do we get them to stop sniping at each other long enough to realize theyre in love
Hunkinator: why are you so quiet shiro
ShiroTheHero: do u guys know how hard it is to type with one hand
ShiroTheHero: give me time to catch up
xXPidgeonXx: are we moving too fast for you old man
ShiroTheHero: respect ur elders goddammit
xXPidgeonXx: u responded to that pretty fast
QemeJ: almost instantaneous
ShiroTheHero: fuck you guys im going to bed
ShiroTheHero has left the chat
QemeJ: oops we scared him off
xXPidgeonXx: hey wait where tf is zach hes been suspiciously quiet
ZigZach: oh hey i’m here i’ve just been balls deep in matt for the past 45 min
Hunkinator: ok i’m sitting next to pidge and they literally just slid onto the floor and into the fetal position
QemeJ: press f to pay respects
xXPidgeonXx: ffffffFUCK OFF
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
As he struggled to find a comfortable position on the hard plastic, someone slid into the seat next to him, rummaged in their bag for a moment, and then slammed down a six-pack of Monster on the desk. They opened one can and drained it in about six seconds, letting out a huge burp afterward. Keith was both scared and slightly aroused.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Spring semester of freshman year, at eight am on a Tuesday morning, Keith found himself inside of a classroom halfway between modern and ancient, with three chalkboards along one wall and a state-of-the-art smartboard on another. The desks were all on wheels and had rotating arms with desk parts, and Keith despised them with a burning passion. They had a habit of moving whenever he tried to slide into his seat.
He wrangled one into submission and shoved his backpack under the seat. As he struggled to find a comfortable position on the hard plastic, someone slid into the seat next to him, rummaged in their bag for a moment, and then slammed down a six-pack of Monster on the desk. They opened one can and drained it in about six seconds, letting out a huge burp afterward. Keith was both scared and slightly aroused.
The person next to him turned to him, squinting through their huge round glasses, the bags under their eyes large enough to carry home a week’s worth of groceries, and held out a hand.
Keith blinked and shook their hand.
Pidge nodded and cracked open another can of Monster, taking three huge gulps. It was literally the second day of the semester, what the fuck.
“Are you… okay?” Keith managed to ask, and Pidge made a face that was somewhere between a grimace and a maniacal grin.
“Nope!” They said cheerfully, giving Keith a thumbs-up.
“Um.” Keith said intelligently, entirely unsure how to respond. At that moment the professor entered the room, a bit too peppy for eight am in the morning, and started to explain that this class was Philosophy of Religion, and that they’d be reading a lot of books and blah blah blah.
Honestly, Keith was too transfixed by the clearly eldritch being next to him to pay much attention to the professor. His new religion might be whatever appeased the unholy demigod currently downing their third can of Monster in a row.
As it turned out, Pidge took excellent notes and basically saved Keith’s ass when he missed a week of school for the orchestra tour. He pledged eternal fealty to them which earned him a kick in the shins and a shy grin. So far Pidge hasn’t cashed in the favor he owes them, but it’s only a matter of time.
Somehow they’ve been in the same generals for three years, which is weird because their majors are so vastly different. Keith’s generals have to be shoved in around his music ensembles and private lessons and rehearsal times and his other music classes, while Pidge is actually a creature from another dimension who is triple(yes, triple)-majoring in Computer Science, Robotics, and Mathematics.
When Keith found this out he’d only managed to splutter out a helpless “why??” while Pidge shrugged, going back to the lines of code on their laptop and sipping from their ever-present Monster.
“There’s something I want to do,” they said, pushing their glasses further up their nose.
“And you plan on killing yourself before graduation to do it?”
Pidge just laughed in that slightly unhinged way of theirs, and shook their head.
“If you think I’m that easy to kill then you’re going to be sorely disappointed.”
How did Pidge always manage to sound like the villain of a bad action flick? Probably because they were the villain of a bad action flick, but that wasn’t the point.
The point was, Pidge was literally a bonafide genius and for some reason they were in this little midwestern town redefining artificial intelligence. They’d already upgraded their roomba so that it responded to outside stimuli, lighting up with little emoji faces when you petted it or spoke to it. Of course, being mature and responsible adults, they’d taped a knife to it and let it roam Pidge’s dorm suite. It had already claimed several ankles.
(Not to be dramatic but Keith would die for Stabby.)
While their class schedules synched up eerily well, Keith found that he and Pidge rarely had time to interact outside of school related activities. He had rehearsal almost every night and Pidge was usually elbow deep in some new science project. But they did make efforts to go to each others’ events. Pidge came to the orchestra concerts and Keith tagged along whenever there was a guest lecturer Pidge wanted to listen to.
Coincidentally, they were both free on one of the nights of the musical. Jeanne had pestered Keith into ushering and Pidge, having nothing better to do, volunteered as well.
“So wait, this is based off that one weird movie about high school kids killing each other?” Pidge asked, squinting at the program for Heathers: The Musical.
“I guess? I’ve never seen it.” Keith scanned the tickets for an elderly couple, and wondered if they were going to make it through half of the play. According to Jeanne it was probably not going to be popular with anyone over 30.
“I guess we’ll both find out tonight, huh?” Pidge handed the couple their programs and grins at Keith. “Is your roommate any good?”
Keith feels an irrational surge of irritation at the implication that Jeanne was anything but amazing, but like, Pidge had never met Jeanne so he couldn’t really blame them.
“She’s great. I don’t even like most musical theatre but she’s just… really good.”
“If I didn’t already know you were ultra gay I’d think you had a crush on her,” Pidge smirked, wiggling their eyebrows.
Keith shoved at their arm, ears turning pink as he makes a face. Look, just because he lived with a girl, it didn’t mean he was in love with her. He was secure in his identity and his friendship with Jeanne, but he still didn’t like it when people made assumptions.
“Shut up,” he mumbled, glancing up as the lights flash overhead, signalling the show was about to start.
“We’d better close the doors. If there’s any empty seats we can sit down, but if not then we can hang out in the back.” He’d done this before, not just for theatre activities but for a few guest concerts that he didn’t have to play in.
Pidge nodded and kicked at the doorstop, slipping inside the theatre as it swung closed, with Keith not far behind. They managed to snag two seats near the back, sitting down just as the lights started to dim and the dull buzz of the crowd fell silent.
Keith felt that moment, the moment just before something starts, when the air hangs heavy around you with the weight of the crowd’s expectations, and then-
Lights up on a girl, center stage, holding a leatherbound journal.
“September first, 1989. Dear Diary…”
The hit of a synth, and the musical swung into motion, the stage full of lights and color and sound, with Jeanne in her element as Veronica Sawyer.
It was a weird one, Keith couldn’t deny that, but everyone did a fantastic job and pulled the audience into the web of murder, lies, and intrigue. When the final song started and everyone came together in a song of hope for the future, Keith couldn’t help but grin.
He was the first one on his feet when the cast lined up for bows, and he faintly registered Pidge whooping next to him, clapping like a crazed seal.
Jeanne and the lead boy (Greg or something, he can’t remember) bowed together, and after one final company bow, they left the stage, waving to the crowd and blowing kisses here and there.
Keith couldn’t help but laugh, turning to Pidge, who had a slightly stunned expression on their face.
“So?” He nudged them, still grinning.
“That was. Wow.” Pidge breathed. “You were so right. Your roommate is great. I mean the whole thing was great, but like. She’s really good. I really believed it was real for a second.”
Even though he had nothing to do with it Keith still felt smug.
Apparently he’d opened Pidge’s eyes to the joys of theatre because they end up volunteering to usher for the rest of the weekend. (And it’s kind of weird how happy that makes Keith because Keith isn’t even a theatre person, but there it is.)
See, the thing is, Keith does not actually know that much about theatre. He knows that it’s literally Jeanne’s entire reason for existence (and she’s really, really good at it) and that the theatre department is even more eccentric than the music department, but other than that he has no idea what happens backstage.
Which is why he got kind of curious when Jeanne texted him to bring her some food and he somehow ended up backstage looking for her while carrying a Wendy’s bag (Jeanne, for some godforsaken reason, loved Wendy’s).
He didn’t know much, so when he saw the table covered in objects, each in its own carefully taped square, he wandered over to take a look. There was a heavy-looking pocket watch on a chain, and Keith picked it up, turning it over in his hands and popping it open.
Instantly, he felt a cold shiver run down his spine, like a curse had been placed on him as well as all of the future and past generations of his family. Slowly, he rotated on the spot to find the source of the mysterious malevolence and very nearly shat himself at the sight of the tall, lanky boy not two inches from his face.
“What. The fuck. Do you think. You’re doing.” Each word was quiet but laced with the venom of at least twelve-thousand cobras. Keith began to fear for his life and tried to stall for time by taking in the full appearance of this imposing beanpole.
He was wearing skinny jeans. That right there set off Keith’s gaydar. If his tight pants didn’t do a good enough job of broadcasting his sexuality, he was wearing the goddamn gay boy shirt. And his hair was purple. God, what a fucking gay power move.
Maybe this functional gay would take pity on Keith’s disaster ass.
“Well?” Or maybe not, if his narrowed eyes and crossed arms were any indication.
Keith scrambled for something, anything, even a single word, but all that came out was a distressingly high-pitched squeak.
Functional Gay snatched the pocket watch from Keith’s clammy hands and set it back in its square before turning his furious gaze back to Keith. (Who did not flinch, ok, shut up)
“Do not. Touch. The props.” He hissed, towering over Keith by at least four inches.
“Sorry,” Keith squeaked, holding up the Wendy’s bag like a shield. The scent of mediocre fries filled his nose and he wondered if he could suffocate himself with the bag or if it would just make him smell like second-rate fast food for the rest of the week.
“Zach! Where the fuck is my umbrella?”
The heavens opened and his foul-mouthed angel descended, brown hair in a ponytail and eyeliner sharp enough to kill a man.
Jeanne took one look at the scene and strode over to claim her dinner, bumping Zach out of the way with her hip.
“Quit terrorizing my roommate, Zach.” She opened the bag and shoved some fries into her mouth, chewing furiously before addressing Keith. “And don’t touch the props. Zach gets anal about it.”
Zach looked like he was about to make an anal sex joke but then thought better of it.
“I mean it’s for good reason, some of these things are borrowed and if we break them…” Jeanne made the “we gonna die” face and shoved more fries into her mouth. “Hey where’s my drink?”
Keith made a face and picked up the drink from the shitty choir room chair that was just sitting randomly in the middle of the floor. They were all over the fine arts building. No one physically moved them from the choir room but they just appeared in the most unexpected and inconvenient places, like inside a stall of the male bathroom. Or on top of the roof. It was one of the great mysteries of the college.
“I still can’t believe you willingly eat at Wendy’s.”
“Look, they’ve got that four for four deal and I’m broke as shit,” Jeanne mumbled around a mouthful of cheeseburger.
“Well. That’s fair,” Keith admitted, temporarily relaxing as the events of literally three minutes ago began to fade from his mind. The panic returned almost immediately as he noticed Zach watching him.
“So,” Zach began, drawing the word out like it was a full sentence. “You’re Keith.”
Keith nodded jerkily, feeling like he was suddenly under a microscope.
“You’re Jeanne’s roommate then? I’m surprised we haven’t met yet.” Zach tilted his head and gave Keith the gay once over, looking him up and down and sizing him up as a potential… what? Threat? Meal? Sacrifice to the theatre gods? Keith swallowed hard and shrugged, not really sure what to say.
“I uh… I’m a lot more active in the music department?” Why the fuck had he phrased it like a question? “I play cello in the symphony orchestra.”
“Right, Jeanne’s mentioned that. She said you were a bit of a music snob.”
Jeanne smacked Zach in the side, glaring at him.
“I never said snob.”
Keith would be lying if he wasn’t a little hurt. I mean, it was accurate, sure, but hearing that Jeanne thought he was a snob stung.
Jeanne, sensing his distress like the fucking psychic vampire she was, lowered her drink and touched his arm.
“I don’t think you’re a snob. Zach’s just being an asshole.”
Well, she sounded sincere, and that helped soothe the sting a little bit, but he couldn’t quite dislodge the words from his mind.
“So uh…” he coughed, looking around, taking in the half-finished set and the brightly colored tape on the stage floor. “What show are you guys doing?”
“Mary Poppins,” Jeanne said, licking salt off of her fingers.
“Oh, cool, like the Disney movie?” Now that Keith was looking, he recognized the parrot head umbrella and “magic” carpet bag. He grinned at Jeanne. “You’re Mary Poppins, I’m assuming?”
“Mmhmm~” Jeanne hummed happily, her whole face glowing with sheer joy. “Zach is Bert.”
“Cool.” Keith nodded awkwardly at Zach, who gave him a lopsided smile. Was that a good thing? Keith just didn’t know.
They fell into a slightly oppressive silence, punctuating by the sounds of Jeanne literally inhaling her dinner. Keith was both impressed and terrified. Finally he could take his own awkward fidgeting no more and forced himself to talk.
“Um so. Uh. Are you guys rehearsing now, or…?”
Jeanne’s mouth was full so she poked at Zach until he answered.
“No. Today’s a work day.”
“Work day? So like… you guys get… paid?” Keith stumbled across the finish line of his sentence, limping and shirtless. How was he allowed to interact with other humans.
Jeanne made a noise that could’ve been a laugh but could have also been a fry lodging in her trachea. Zach seemed unfazed by it, whacking her between the shoulder blades and ignoring her whine.
“I wish. It’s just what they call the days where we help build the set. If we were like, a professional theatre they’d have a whole staff to do it, but they just have us.”
“Oh. Ok. Uh… when does the show open?”
Instantly a feeling of doom settled over the two actors, and Keith actually felt the room get darker.
“In a week,” Jeanne said, deadpan, the life gone from her eyes.
Keith took another look at the set, and then at them, and then back to the set, and finally patted Jeanne on the shoulder in what he hoped was a soothing manner. He didn’t dare touch Zach.
“Well… good luck?”
Keith wanted to stab whoever invented this composing program. He’d been sitting here for an hour trying to get the harmonies right and this damn computer kept screwing it up. He ripped the headphones off of his head and set them down as hard as he dared (which, considering how expensive these computers were, was not very hard). Running both of his hands through his hair, he glowered at the screen, mentally calculating how many hours he had left before they closed down the building.
The voice, right next to his ear, barely registered as familiar, his heart leaping into his throat as he flung himself away, biting back a curse.
“What the fu- Can you not do that?” He spat at Lance, who seemed sadistically amused by his flailing.
“Didn’t think you’d freak the fuck out, but sorry, man.” Lance smirked, hip cocked to the side, his hair carefully styled out of his face in that way that made Keith want to mess it up. “You seem kind of stressed.”
Keith snorted, turning back to the screen and adjusting the oboe line. Maybe if he added french horn to this section, it would finally sound like music and not a train wreck.
“It’s too top heavy.”
Keith inhaled deeply through his nose, praying to the music gods to give him strength.
“What?” He asked quietly, in the sort of tone that was supposed to convey “shut the fuck up” but apparently came across as “how fascinating, please continue talking”.
Lance leaned forward, tank top gaping open and displaying his tanned chest (which Keith did NOT look at, thank you very much), pointing at the top few lines of music.
“You’ve got all these high voices fighting for dominance here, and they’re drowning out the lower and middle parts. You’ve gotta trim it down a bit or it’s gonna sound like mud.”
The scowl on Keith’s face was basically instinct at this point and he fixed Lance with his most unimpressed stare.
“I didn’t ask for your opinion.”
Lance stared right back, face missing his usual smirk.
“Yeah, well I didn’t ask to sit through you groaning at your computer for the past hour but here we are.” He gave Keith a thin, humorless smile and strolled back to his own desk, pulling his headphones over his ears and ignoring Keith entirely.
Which was fine. Great. Fantastic, even. In fact Keith would prefer it if Lance always ignored him, instead of constantly irritating him with his face and voice and inane pop music.
Keith put on his own headphones and turned his attention back to his music, glaring at the entirety of it.
Keith deleted several of the top lines and brought out the lower brass and woodwinds, and when he pressed play this time, the piece sang exactly the way he’d envisioned it.
Goddammit, he was right.
He definitely did not look at Lance as he saved the piece and put it on his flash drive.
(He got an A on the piece, and so did Lance’s remix of bird calls to the tune of All Star. Goddammit.)
Well here's part two. It's mostly just character introductions for now, I've got a lot of disconnected scenes that I'm trying to string together and I hope I'm not confusing you all too terribly. Thank you for reading! Please leave a kudos/comment if you liked it!