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It’s raining.

It’s always raining.

He feels it on his eyelashes first, looking up and inviting the diminutive raindrops onto his face. His hair’s wet and so is the shirt on his torso - he doesn’t mind, not at all, but he has groceries and he needs to get to his car. Except Keith can’t help but fall for the sky every time it weeps; it’s become a big – nay – important part of his life. It was, after all, one of the main reasons he was so inclined to move to New Orleans, because of the fact that it was monsoon here practically all year. All the more reason for him to stay in. All the more reason for him to – God, finally - buy a car and get rid of his old Harley Davidson Freewheeler. And yet, he couldn’t help but remain old school, deciding to drive a 2018 Ford Mustang GT with fervor. Driving was integral. He’d be unstable without it.

But none of that really mattered when he got kicked out of the Atlas Institute of Fine Arts for… his discernible behavior, to put it lightly. Despite being kicked out, though, he never felt the need to go back. He was doing more than just okay financially, given his exquisite talent. He was a renowned artist, albeit not among people that would fall in his age or interest group. But despite the ‘bright’ aspects of life, he had a mind that insisted he remained unhappy.

He didn’t really have a say in it, and so the rain eventually became his friend. It would cry with him and wouldn’t judge him for doing it... But it only came second to hash. Weed, hash, cannabis, dope, hemp – whatever you wanna call it, was essential. No hash, no ‘fervor’. The spiraling would begin. He couldn’t even sleep it off, given his chronic insomnia, and he didn’t believe in his meds. His therapist could only do so much, but the rest was up to him – or rather, to the tiny bundle of joints pressed against his thigh in his jean pocket.

He began walking a little faster towards his car. It was around one in the moring, a common time for him to wander about looking for spots with enough aesthetic potential to paint and sell. He was presently in the parking lot of a musty 24/7 grocery store, except it wasn’t just him – a couple of Junior jocks he recognized from the Atlas were a few spots away, mildly intoxicated and laughing brashly about whatever jargon alcohol made them spew at this time of the night.

Except… among them was a boy he’d never seen before. He wished he’d seen him sooner, much sooner and under different circumstances, because this boy was perhaps the most beautiful individual Keith had laid his eyes on in a long, long time.

But… what was the point anyway?

He didn’t care enough to linger and stare, though, and instead kept progressing towards his car. He’d managed to make the slightest, most careful eye contact with the boy, but he didn’t think it was anything enough for him to have noticed. He set his groceries down in the trunk of his car and stood under the shade of a bus stop right next to the lamp post near his parking spot. Lighting a joint, he leaned against the tacky, glowing advertisement for ceramic braces, and closed his eyes, breathing in the petrichor and breathing out his predicaments.

He heard the obnoxious laughter die down after some time, and soon enough, he was all alone in the lot. He didn’t want to stay any longer, anyway - driving was much better.

He heard footsteps sound around him, and, refusing to open his eyes, he simply continued minding his business when he heard someone’s dulcet tones sound right next to him. “Hey,” he said, while Keith opened his eyes and glanced to his right, towards the source of the voice. It was the pretty boy. Keith couldn’t figure for the life of him what he’d want from him –

“Could I light one?” – oh.

Keith raised his eyebrow in question but nevertheless pulled one out, handing it to him. Before he could offer his lighter, the slightly taller boy was already lighting it with his own and puffing his first smoke. Keith had begun to feel the distant tingle of the high in his nerve-ends, and he embraced the numb that arrived, losing about twenty five percent of his coherent thinking. That was okay. That was normal.

The boy next to him was starting to look even prettier with every passing moment. After several moments passed, Keith began to wondering why this random – though, undoubtedly, extremely attractive – guy was standing next to him in such a close proximity at almost two in the morning in an empty parking lot.

It almost made him uneasy.
He let the relieving waves of the herb wash over him, all the while sneaking glances at the boy next to him. His skin was dark, completely smooth, coppery and beautiful. His hair was dark too, short, only a couple strands framing his forehead. He wondered what his name was, what his story was. He wanted to know him. And then –

“Your ride back there? Pretty goddamn sleek.” Keith could only nod in response, too unsure of himself to speak yet.

“If you wouldn’t mind,” a puff of smoke leaving his mouth, “Could I hitch a ride?”
Keith didn't really know what to make of this, except he knew letting a total stranger in his car this late was a terrible idea. But then again... what really could go wrong?
It was almost as if the other boy read his mildly panicked expression.

“Oh, uh, I go to the same college as you. The Atlas, right?”
A pause. When Keith still hesitated to answer, “You can drop me off wherever you like..?” he said, and Keith gave in. It's just a few minutes. Nothing could go wrong. If luck was on his side, some things might just go right.

Soon they were walking towards Keith’s car. As both of them climbed in, the boy asked, “Would you mind music?” Keith shook his head no. As he turned on the engine, the player blasted Chlorine by Twenty Øne Piløts, mid-song.

“You like 'em too?!” the boy exclaimed, looking at Keith wide-eyed. His eyes, oh god, his eyes were beautiful. It was dark and Keith could only see them under the light shone on them by the streetlights. He hadn't managed to get a good look at them before, but now they were definitely blue, and intense and… tired? This boy didn't look like he'd slept in a long while, specially now given that it was 2 in the morning. Why was he still out? Keith never came across anyone who'd stay up as late as him for no apparent reason.

“They're easily my favorite band out there. Have been for a couple years now. I don't usually come across people who like them as much as me though…” Keith spoke, for the first time. “You can change it to whatever.”

“No no, no, I love them too. I… grew up with them, more or less.” The boy started humming along to the song. He was really good. Only a few moments later he was singing along, to Chlorine and the next song and the next… Keith couldn't say he minded it at all because he could listen to him sing all night. He wasn't a good singer himself, but soon found himself humming along to Legend while his shotgun sang every lyric perfectly. The moment Keith began humming, the boy whipped his head towards him, giving him the brightest toothed grin. It made Keith want to brush his fingers against the boy’s cheeks, so plump and flushed. He was also aching to ask him for his name, but he wasn't sure he wanted anything else to do with him yet.

“Where are you headed?” Keith asked after about an hour had passed, turning the music down a little. They'd been driving endlessly and neither of them really seemed to mind. The boy was actually enjoying himself, just like Keith. They'd ended up singing Smithereens together, Keith was grateful for the darkness because of which the other couldn't see his blush darkening.
“Like I said, anywhere you want. But we're right next to my street, so if you wouldn't mind…?” he asked sheepishly, flinching as if bracing for a harsh rejection.
Keith shook his head, “I don't mind. It's late, you don't need to walk around at this hour.”
The boy only smiled gratefully in response. Keith stored the sweet smile in his head for later.

They were soon pulling up at the front of the boy's house. As he got off, he thanked Keith. “This was… actually really fun. I don't really get much sleep, so this was a good way to spend my time. Unfortunately, I don't have a car, but I understand why you do this,” he said, gesturing his hands towards the steering wheel and the player. “I get it.” he smiled again. A knowing smile. As he walked to the other side, Keith rolled down his window, “Hey! What's your name?”

“Lance,” He stopped to turn around and walk to Keith's window. Leaning down to his level, he asked him, “and you're…?” with a genuinely curious look in his eyes. Keith can only grin at this point, “Does it matter? Maybe you'll find out if we do this again.” Pleased with himself, he didn't even wait for Lance to stand up straight before driving off, watching the boy lose his balance behind him and flip Keith off in his rearview mirror. But at least Lance was grinning too.

Keith really did want to see him again.