“Have you heard about the charity week?” Pidge asked as soon as she’d stepped through the door of the garage’s shop.
Keith raised an eyebrow. “Hello, Pidge. How was your day?” he said, pointedly.
“Answer the question, Kogane. You know how my day went.” She stopped at the counter that Keith stood behind and dropped her bag down at her feet, raising her own eyebrow.
“I’ve seen the posters,” Keith told her. “It’s some sort of thing for the clubs and fraternities and stuff to drum up more members and to raise money for charities at the same time. Right?”
“Exactly. The Gaming Club is gonna do something for it!”
“You seem pretty excited,” Keith commented, leaning forward on the counter and putting his chin in his hand.
“It’s run during the day, so you’ll be able to actually meet my friends instead of” - Pidge paused for a moment, glowering at the interior of the shop, her gaze catching on the door to the garage space beyond - “working.”
“I doubt I’ll have the time-” Keith began.
“You’ll make time,” said Pidge, pointing at him. “I want you to see what we’re doing. It’s genius.”
“Oh? What’re you doing?”
Pidge gave him a calculated look. “You know Lance, right?”
Resisting the urge to make a flustered denial, Keith shrugged a shoulder. “Since you pointed him out to me once, I’ve seen him around. Usually in class. Same Literature class, remember?”
There was more to it than that, though. Keith had seen Lance before Pidge had told Keith about him. He’d spotted him in class and found him rather attractive. However, since he’d already been surrounded by a gaggle of girls and boys, Keith had never taken the gumption to approach him, not even after the brief introduction that Pidge had managed to extract from Lance before he had had to hurry off to meet his sister. Since then, with Lance’s name locked in his memory, Keith had watched Lance more, noticing his bright laugh and sweet smile. Keith still went unnoticed.
“Yeah,” said Pidge. There was something in the way she said it that made Keith think she could see his crush written plainly on his face.
“What about him?”
“He came up with this amazing idea that we’re going to use. He’s also gonna be heading it up. He’ll only be gone from the booth when he has to go to class and stuff.”
“What booth?” asked Keith, trying not to think of an insane plan to approach him at the charity event and attempt to start some sort of conversation.
“A kissing booth.”
Keith’s mind went blank, stuck on the word ‘kissing’. After a few seconds of silent staring, Keith realised that Pidge looked equal parts amused and smug. He scrambled to find a response, his brain still stuck on kissing Lance. “Wha-? Why? What’s that got to do with gaming?”
“That’s the genius part,” Pidge told him. “He’s gonna do it as if it’s a dating sim.”
“‘Dating sim’?” Keith echoed. “You mean… those games that’re like a Choose Your Own story?”
Pidge raised an eyebrow. “Wow. I didn’t think you were so caught up with the times, Keith. And here I was, thinking that I’d have to educate you in visual novels.”
“I know what visual novels are, Pidge,” said Keith, rolling his eyes.
“I’m still surprised. Anyway, what do you think? Isn’t it a cool idea?”
“I… suppose.” Keith glanced away, still trying to get the image of leaning over the booth to kiss Lance out of his mind. “Why’re you telling me, though?”
For a moment, Pidge just smirked at him. “Just wanna make sure you at least turn up to give us some money.”
Keith’s cheeks reddened. “What?! N-No. I can’t-”
“Why not? I only want the money for our charity,” Pidge said. “You don’t have to do the actual kissing. I don’t know why you think I would want you to do that…” She grinned at Keith, a mischievous glint in her eye.
At that moment, the door to the garage opened and Kolivan entered. “Keith?” he said, raising a thick eyebrow. “What are you doing?”
“Ah, uh, nothing. Working,” said Keith, still flustered from Pidge’s teasing.
Kolivan looked at Pidge. She smiled innocently back at him. “I just came in to see how Keith was doing. I’ll be going now.” Pidge turned back to Keith and pointed a finger at him. “You’d better be there next week. We want your money, Keith!”
Pidge scooped up her bag. “I’ll drag you there myself if I have to,” she said as her parting comment, hurrying out the door.
Keith grimaced but decided to push away his thoughts about the booth, Lance and kissing. He turned to Kolivan once he was sure he was in control of himself again. “Was there something you needed, sir?”
“Thace and Ulaz are going on their break together. Again.” Kolivan rolled his eyes. “I need your help in the garage, so put the sign up and come on through.”
“Yes, sir,” said Keith as his boss turned back the way he’d come. He went to the shop’s door, thinking of Thace and Ulaz and their lunch dates. Then he tried very hard not to think of him and Lance doing the same, cursing Pidge for her brief visit.
“I told you I’d drag you to it if you didn’t show up!” Pidge said as she tugged on Keith’s wrist.
“I didn’t think you meant literally!” Keith protested, trying to dig his heels in. Unfortunately, from experience, Keith knew that Pidge was stronger than she looked and he was reduced to stumbling after her. Quite a few students were watching them go, all of them snickering at his expense.
“Well, if someone had just turned up, I wouldn’t be dragging you here today,” Pidge retorted. “It’s the last day of this, so suck it up!”
Keith sighed. He’d been avoiding the kissing booth as much as possible. He’d seen it every day that week as he’d had to pass by it on his way from his dorm to the lecture halls. Other stalls and events had been happening throughout the week as well, and he’d at least supported some of them. Shiro had even dragged him to a talent contest that had gotten worse with each drink the contestants had while waiting. It had been okay, but Keith had only wanted to go back to his room, wondering all the while whether Lance was still around. Now it was Saturday, the last day of the events, and he had successfully avoided Lance and his charitable challenge.
Unfortunately for Keith, Pidge was the president of the club and ever active in her recruitment and activities. So, when Keith had finished his early morning shift in the garage, Pidge had popped up there and, without waiting for him to get home and changed out of his overalls, had grabbed his hand and pulled him along after her.
“Ah, I knew I’d got the times right,” Pidge declared, gesturing ahead with her other hand. Standing there, was the booth, a bright, gaudy, pink thing decorated with red hearts. On the bit above the table was blocky lettering that said, CAN YOU KISS ME? Standing behind it was Lance, wearing a sky blue hoodie that contrasted with the booth so much that Keith’s eyes were drawn to him. His heart stopped.
“Wait. Pidge. I-I’m not ready. I need to-”
“Too late. You had your chance.”
The distance closed too fast and, suddenly, Keith was standing in front of the booth, trying not to squint at how bright it was. Pidge dropped his hand and leaned on the booth, staring up at Lance who grinned back at her. Keith tried to stay still, hoping Lance wouldn’t notice him, or that he’d say that Keith could just donate and go home.
“Heya, Pidgeon!” Lance said, cheerfully. “What’s crackalacking?”
“Please, Lance.” Pidge sounded like she was in pain. Keith figured she deserved it. “How’s this going?”
“Pretty good!” Grinning, Lance lifted a donation tin that had been attached to the wooden frame of the booth. With a shake, they could hear the heavy rattling from within. “Most people come up outta curiosity but don’t wanna try, so they put something in here. Those that try sometimes try twice as well, so this other box is doing good, too.” He lifted a plastic box to show off the notes and coins that had been left there. Some of them were crumpled, others smooth, all of them pointing to a hefty haul. “Today’s been pretty slow, though. I think most people have already come here. Maybe we should’ve moved this around?”
“Couldn’t,” said Pidge, waving a hand with a curled lip. “We were all assigned certain patches of campus ground. This here’s our turf, and we can’t move unless we want a fight.”
“We could always add a fighting scene to our dating sim,” Lance suggested with a cheeky grin. “But, I suppose you know what’s what, boss.” Suddenly, Lance’s attention shifted from Pidge to Keith, his eyes locking onto him. “Is this another unsuspecting victim- I mean, donor?”
“Donor doesn’t make it sound any better,” Pidge pointed out.
“Yeah, yeah,” said Lance, dismissively. He smiled at Keith; Keith nearly died on the spot. “You’re Keith, right?”
He’d remembered his name? Keith hoped he wasn’t blushing as he nodded. “Uh, yeah. Pidge had been going on about this… So I thought I’d come check it out.”
“Cool. You gonna just donate or actually play the game?”
“He’ll play that game,” sang Pidge, grinning evilly.
Lance rolled his eyes. “Shush, you. You don’t actually need to do it,” Lance added, tapping at the donation tin.
“I… don’t think I’d be good at this game. Pidge has explained it to me, and it doesn’t seem like something I could actually win.”
“You should listen to the official explanation, though,” Pidge said, gesturing at Lance.
“Right!” Lance cleared his throat, stood a little straighter and gave Keith a smile so bright that he wished he had shades. “Once you’ve paid, I’ll start us off. Your responses will be weighed against the possible responses I’ve got noted down here. If they’re closer to the good response rather than the bad one, we’ll go down that particular good path. There’s three different outcomes: bad, where I’ll cut the session short and tell you to go - you don’t actually have to, it’s just the ‘ending’,” Lance assured Keith. “Then, uh, good, where it’ll be, like, the friends option.”
“So you’ll be friendzoned,” Pidge told Keith.
“It’s not that bad,” protested Lance. “It just means that we have a good laugh and move on. The best one, of course, is the ending where you get to kiss me!” Lance winked at Keith, who struggled not to melt at the thought.
“Is that really the best ending?” Keith said, in lieu of asking Lance just to skip all that and kiss him already.
Lance raised his eyebrows, looking a little amused. “Well, it’s the whole point of the booth. Wouldn’t you feel as if you'd missed out if you didn't get a kiss?”
Keith had to resist saying yes, since his answer had nothing to do with whether it was money well spent or not. “Whatever. I’m only here to donate, since I’m not allowed to use my hard earned wages on myself, apparently.” He sent a glare in Pidge’s direction.
“Oh, come on, dude,” said Lance, leaning forward, hands braced on the table. “It’s only five dollars. You can spare that, right?”
Gaze darting between Lance and Pidge, Keith tried to think of a good excuse. “I’d probably get told to leave right away. I’ve never actually played a dating sim.”
“It’s pretty easy,” Lance insisted. “All you gotta do is say something you’d think I’d like to hear. You can even copy movies or something if you’re stuck.”
“Don’t be a wuss,” Pidge added.
“I’m not a-” Keith began.
“Really?” said Lance, picking up the box and shaking it under Keith’s nose.
Staying stock still, Keith debated whether he should stick his money into the box and accept his fate or stick it in the tin and run off. When he glanced up at Lance, however, Keith could see the smug, teasing smirk he had on his face. Somehow, it got under Keith’s skin, making him grow irritated with both him and Pidge, as well as infuriated that the questioning of his cowardice was pushing him towards the former option. Gritting his teeth, Keith caved and fished for his wallet. Once he’d pulled out the appropriate bill, he dropped it into the box.
“Fine,” he said, determinedly not looking at either of them. “What now?”
“Now, I’m gonna have to go,” Pidge said. Keith’s head snapped up and he looked over at her in shock. “I’ve got a project to work on and I need to meet up with my group.”
“Cool,” said Lance, giving her a quick salute with his free hand as he set down the box of money. “Godspeed.”
Shaking her head, Pidge turned to go, raising a hand to wave at them. Keith twisted to stare after her, his eyes wide. “Wait-!”
“See you, Keith. Let me know how it goes.”
And, before Keith could say or do anything else, Pidge was hurrying off, walking so quickly that she was halfway down the path before Keith had even turned completely. He stared after her, unable to believe that Pidge had abandoned him with Lance to attempt to flirt with him for a kiss. His heart wasn’t sure whether it wanted to stop or start thumping faster. Keith was sure that he was blushing, the panic making all thoughts fly from his head. What was he meant to do now that he was on his own?
“So, you ready?” asked Lance. Keith turned to find Lance smiling at him.
“Uh… I suppose,” said Keith, slowly.
“Cool. So, just to make it easier, I’ll be going first in this, okay?”
“Well, then.” Lance cleared his throat. Then he spread his arms and grinned brightly at Keith - it was as if his entire demeanour had shifted, as if Keith had stepped into a slightly different reality. Looking straight at him, Lance said, “Hiya! My name’s Lance. Welcome to my booth.”
“Um, hi,” said Keith, hesitantly.
Lance bit his lip, clearly trying not to laugh. “What’s your name, man?”
“Nice to meetcha, Keith.” Lance leaned forward. “I’m glad you came over here. I’ve been lonely here, all by myself.”
Blinking, Keith glanced around, noting the other students who were passing by. None of them were paying them the least bit of attention and there weren’t many around. He looked back to Lance who had stilled where he was leaning on the booth, waiting for Keith to reply. “Ah, yeah. That’s a shame. You look… like…” He stopped, grimacing, unable to decide what to finish that with. Eventually he settled on, “Like you could use- my company?”
Lance’s eyebrows raised momentarily. “Really? And what does your company have to offer?”
“Uhh…” Keith didn’t really know what to say to that. Was he supposed to flirt some more? Should he simply answer the question? “I can… tell you how to fix a car…?”
“Oh? Anything else?”
“Um, cryptids.” Lance’s mouth twitched, as if he was fighting down an amused grin. Quickly, Keith added, “And we're both in the same Literature class, so we could talk about books, if you'd like.”
Smiling in what Keith hoped was delight, Lance nodded. “Yeah, man. I mean, I should definitely read more. Got any good ones to recommend?”
“Depends on what you're into,” Keith replied, relieved. With this, he was on safer ground, and he wasn’t likely to offend Lance by putting his foot in it.
“Sci-fi. Fantasy, I suppose.”
Keith thought for a moment, wondering if there were any he could mention that Lance was unlikely to have heard of. “Hm, have you heard of the Discworld books?”
“Yeah, of course!” Lance replied with a dismissive wave of his hand. “I've just… never read any - I don’t know where to start.”
“I could lend you some. And there's a series called Remembrance of Earth's Past that I really liked.”
“Wow, that sounds interesting!”
“It really is. It’s about an alien invasion that gets thwarted.”
“Cool. Maybe you could read it to me,” Lance said, giving Keith a wink.
Quickly glancing away, Keith tried to keep himself calm. “Er, if you want me to? I mean, I don’t think you’d like me droning on…”
“But I like your voice,” Lance protested.
Keith blinked at him, his cheeks a little heated. “Is that really one of the options in this dating sim?”
“Technically, the options are what you say. But I gave it a little leeway, since it was too awkward to have massive bits of cardboard to pick a line from,” Lance explained with a shrug. “That question doesn’t really help me move on, so…”
“So, I need to say something in response to… uh…?” Keith grimaced, scrambling in his memory of what he’d heard barely a minute ago.”
“But I like your voice,” Lance said, in the exact same tone as before.
“Oh! Uh. Yours is smoother,” Keith told him. It was true: Lance’s voice was something that Keith would want to listen to for the rest of the day, maybe longer.
Lance blinked before his eyes widened. Keith swore he saw a red tinge to his cheeks. Ducking his head, Lance smiled a little, almost shyly. It was a little alarming, but Lance eventually straightened again. “You flatter me. But, if you keep me company, I’m sure I can put up with it. For your sake, I mean.”
“So you want me to keep giving you compliments?” Keith asked, raising an eyebrow.
“I accept compliments any time of the day,” Lance said with a devastating smirk.
“Then, I should tell you that you’re gorgeous,” Keith told him without thinking. When the words caught up with him, he had to bite his lip from letting out an agonised groan. He couldn’t believe he’d said that!
“You really think so?” Lance looked surprised when Keith chanced a glance at him, as if he hadn’t honestly thought that Keith would say so.
“Yeah, I do,” Keith admitted.
“Wow, you’re such a charmer,” Lance said, grinning despite his growing blush.
“Isn’t that you? You’re the one with the kissing booth.”
“Hm, you’re probably right,” Lance agreed. His smile slipped until he looked more sombre. “Do you think that makes me seem… a little frivolous? Like, that I’d just give out kisses to anyone, that I don’t care who it is, or something. Some people have been-”
“Don’t listen to them!” Keith snapped, stepping closer to the booth. He placed his hand on the covered table to lean towards Lance. “That’s not right at all! You’re- You’re not like that at all!”
“But, I am doing that,” Lance protested, his mouth twitching as he suppressed a smile or a grimace. “Giving out kisses like it’s nothi-”
“You’re doing this for charity!” Keith frowned at Lance, trying to work out if this was part of the game or if he was being serious. He couldn’t tell - but maybe he didn’t need to. If Lance had written this into the game, maybe this was him voicing his own misgivings about what this booth meant for him. Keith shuffled still closer, staring into Lance’s wide eyes. “Not everyone can say that. I mean, the people who came up here, looking for one, probably weren’t interested in the charity. And giving up your time for this means that you’re- that you’re kinder than most people. You’re amazing.”
Lance seemed surprised, staring at Keith for so long that Keith was sure he’d have to find Pidge to help Keith revive him. Then, with a jolt, Lance ducked his head. There was the rustling of papers and Lance’s eyes darted to and fro. Then, with a smile, Lance looked up again. “You speak as if you know me. Who’s to say I don’t want to be kissed by loads of people?”
“Um. I know it’s not that.”
“I think you’d have to know me better to be able to say that,” Lance insisted.
“I’d like to get to know you better,” Keith immediately responded.
There was rustling again. “Then you’d better stick around, I guess,” Lance said. “But it won’t be interesting just standing here.”
“It’s interesting with you here.” Keith glanced down at the table, catching a glimpse of some sheets of paper. He looked back up at Lance. “I won’t leave you on your own.”
“Thank you,” said Lance, looking genuinely relieved. “I’m glad. But I should probably do something more interesting, anyway. You did give me some money, after all…”
“Like what?” asked Keith. “I mean, you don’t have to do anything, but…”
“Well,” said Lance, leaning further forward. Their faces were now only a few scant inches apart, and Keith swallowed, forcing himself to take a deep breath through his nose, to stay still. “I could always give you a kiss,” Lance murmured, his lashes fluttering.
“Do you… Do you really want to?”
“The game doesn’t really give me a choice, you know. It’s written into the code and whatever.”
“But I’m not going to force you,” Keith told him, still trying to keep himself from moving. “If you don’t want to kiss me, you don’t need to.”
“Oh, I want to,” Lance replied, voice barely above a whisper. “I mean, you’ve hit all the right answers. My, uh, love meter is nearly filled.”
Keith couldn’t help himself; he snorted in amusement. “‘Love meter’? Really?”
Pouting, Lance shifted back, sulking. “You know what I mean,” he grumbled. “You just need to say one more thing, and you’ll get a kiss.” Lance’s mood suddenly shifted and he grinned, throwing a wink in Keith’s direction. “I’ll even make it a good one.”
“So, I say something close to what you wrote down on those sheets of paper and I get a kiss?” Keith confirmed.
“Yeah. If you say it, you’ll have beaten the game.”
“I… don’t really know what I’m supposed to say,” Keith admitted. “What’s the last thing you should’ve said?”
“‘Oh, I want to’,” Lance repeated, smiling wide. His eyes were lidded, his eyelashes looking rather long. They were quite pretty, just like the rest of them, and they made Keith feel entranced.
“Then, kiss me,” Keith murmured, his eyes flicking down to Lance’s lips. They were pink and full and parted a little, as if Lance was waiting for a kiss.
“Well done,” whispered Lance. “You won.”
Neither of them moved for a moment, both looking at each other, their eyes fluttering. Keith’s heart was pounding at the sudden realisation that he was about to get a kiss - a kiss from Lance. He was sure he’d stopped breathing entirely and he couldn’t tear his gaze away from Lance’s beautiful eyes, his smooth skin, those eyelashes. There could have been a crowd watching them and Keith wouldn’t have known about it.
Then, finally, both of them pressed forward, ignoring the table between them, craning to reach each other. Keith’s own eyes fluttered as he attempted to keep them open, to watch Lance kissing him. However, when they both instinctively tilted their heads to avoid bumping noses, Keith found his eyes sliding closed.
Something brushed against Keith’s lips - Lance’s, searching for Keith. Delighted, Keith pressed forward. Their mouths slotted together perfectly in a chaste kiss. Tingles went through Keith’s body, electrifying him. He wanted more, and even raised his hand to cup Lance’s face. For some reason, that made Lance moan into the kiss, moving his lips against Keith’s as they deepened the kiss.
A hand landed on Keith’s curved elbow some time later, almost as if Lance was trying to pull them both closer. Another hand ended up in Keith’s hair; Keith opened his mouth in a gasp. As if he had been waiting for that, as if it was an invitation, Lance’s tongue swept over Keith’s lower lip and into Keith’s mouth. Startled, Keith pushed back with his own until they were pushing and pushing, twining their tongues around each other’s, the kiss growing deeper and wetter and hotter. When Keith faintly realised that he was beginning to feel it in his crotch, he remembered where he was - and found he didn’t care, not as much as he would have thought. Instead, he pressed further against Lance till he had conceded and let Keith’s tongue push Lance’s back into his mouth. He relished in the feeling of licking into Lance’s mouth as the other boy groaned in need.
Suddenly, Lance pulled away, his hands disentangling themselves from Keith. Surprised and, without thinking, Keith tried to follow him, tried to capture Lance’s lips once again. However, Lance quickly put his hand between them, pressing his palm against Keith’s mouth, even as he licked his lips. “Woah there, hotshot,” Lance said between his heavy breathing. “I’m only giving out one kiss per person. You only get more if you’re gonna pay up - or if you’ll take me on a date.”
Keith raised an eyebrow. Using the hand that had cupped Lance’s face, Keith took hold of Lance’s wrist and pushed his hand away from his face. “Are you free tonight?” Keith asked.
Lance’s eyes widened. He chuckled, whether from nerves or amusement, Keith couldn’t say. “Wow. You’re eager,” Lance said. “Unfortunately…” He grimaced. “I’ve got work in a few minutes, and then I’m going home for the weekend. I’ll be back for my lectures in the afternoon on Monday. So, if you’re not busy on Monday, I could meet up on Monday night?” Lance’s cheeks were a little red as he ducked his head a little. “If you want to, that is.”
“I’ll make the time,” Keith promised.
The way Lance’s face lit up made Keith’s heart thump harder. “Okay, cool. Uh…” Lance’s eyes flicked to the side; Keith didn’t bother to look. “That’s my relief and…” Lance pulled out his phone from the back pocket of his pants, clicking a button and grimacing. “And I need to run or I’ll be late to work. But! I’ll get your number from Pidge, yeah? And text you later, okay?”
“Sure,” said Keith, smiling at him. “Unless I do the same and text you first, anyway.”
Beaming, Lance nodded. “Whichever you want. I can’t wait to get to know you.”
“Cool. Then… I’ll see you later.”
Waving to him, Lance left him in the company of a bemused girl with blonde hair and gold earrings. Still feeling rather dazed and warm, Keith watched him go. When he turned back to the girl, she grinned at him. “What?” he asked, floating on the fact that he had a date with Lance.
“That’s the first time he’s actually kissed someone at this booth,” the girl told him. “You must be something special.”
Keith resisted commenting on how Lance was the one who was special and was quick to leave. He had to find Pidge, after all - there was no way he could wait two days before talking to Lance after that kiss. And he should probably thank her, after all.