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See, the thing is, if Lance had ever expected to get turned into a vampire, the last place he would have expected it to happen is in a grocery store. Graveyards? Alleyways after dark? Hell, even the bathroom at a Mcdonald’s in the middle of the day held a more ominous vibe than the frozen food aisle at a Whole Foods.

Maybe that’s why he hadn’t seen it coming. Perhaps it was clever on the vampire’s part...

One second he was giving the pre-packaged veggie bowls a precursory once-over before putting one in his cart, and then the next his face was smushed into the glass door of a freezer full of vegan ice cream. Not exactly an ideal way of advertising, but beneath all the panic and hysteria that sets in fast, Lance can’t help but feel tempted by the mint chocolate chip staring back at him.

That mint chocolate chip is the last thing he ever sees as a living, breathing, human with a heartbeat.

“What do you know about Lotor?”

“Loto-what? I don’t know anything! I don’t even know what that is!”

“Bullshit. I saw him leaving that building a not even an hour before you.”

“What building? I don’t understand! Do you want money? I have money, I can-”

Where he’d been expecting the assailant pinning him from behind to grab his wallet and take off, or worst case scenario pull a gun on him… he gets teeth sinking into his neck. It’s a sharp stinging pain for all of a second, and then it’s just a dull discomfort. Not entirely unlike donating blood, you know, if you had to do it from your neck and into a strange homeless man’s mouth rather than a needle.

Immediately, he thinks this guy is wacked on some kind of drugs. That would be the most logical explanation for what’s happening, all things considered. Who would get bitten in a grocery store and immediately let their mind go to vampire rather than meth head? Yeah, no one.

Lance starts to struggle despite how thoroughly he’s pinned against the freezer and how heavy his limbs are starting to feel already. It’s not really any use, the guy must be built like a brick house because even though Lance has been buffing up at the gym for a few months now, he’s got nothing on him.

So, that leads us to plan B. Lance starts to scream like a banshee, sobbing and choking around his words as he begs for someone to save him from his attacker. They’re in the middle of a grocery store, for fuck’s sake, there’s no way that all of the customers chose this moment to be out of earshot. 

He gets all of a few words out before the man behind him snarls and pulls away from his neck. The amount of blood gushing from the wound is immediately apparent. It sends Lance into a panic unlike any other. It’s hot, sticky, as it slides down his neck and soaks into the worn baseball tee he’d worn for his cozy day off. A few drops drip heavily enough to hit the linoleum floor between his widespread feet, some splatters across the glass of the freezer door, and if Lance squints he can just barely make out the stranger’s face in the reflection and it’s absolutely fucking covered with red. With blood. His blood.

Oh god, did he just get his throat torn out? He’s not sure he can survive losing this much blood from such a vital area. 

But before he can fully regress into a state of useless chicken-with-its-head-cut-off panic, the man behind him grips his hair and yanks his head back to rest against his shoulder. Lance trembles in fear, wants to throw a punch or a well-aimed donkey kick to where it hurts. But the man just laughs at him.

“Submit. You want this.” The man says, evenly, with a confidence that’s really unwarranted given that Lance really does not fucking want any part of this. But then he feels his jaw go slack, his joints go loose and limber, the struggle leaving him all in one sweep. He feels drugged, as he tilts his head to the side and willingly offers up the other side of his neck to the stranger.

The man dives back in and drinks his blood with such a ferocity that soon the dim flickering light overhead is fading away into complete darkness. Lance knows that he’s probably dying, but somehow that thought doesn’t scare him as much as it should. Or at all. He might even be smiling when his heart stops beating, he’s not sure, he’s a little too out of it to tell. 

The only things that he dazedly registers is the PA system lighting up with a screaming employee, saying something about an evacuation with none of the calm reassuring tone that they’re supposed to use in these situations.

Then, when the PA crackles out… Lance has to give a tired, gurgled laugh as the absolute banger that is Tom Jones’ “What’s New Pussycat?” plays through the speakers instead.

What a way to die, really. It’s kind-of hilarious. A story for his funeral, for sure.

--

But let’s rewind a little bit, to the months before Lance’s death.

He’s just turned twenty-six, his apartment has coasters on all of the coffee tables, and he’s on a waiting list with the local rescue group for a dog. He loves his job and the people he works with. He has enough money to go home and see his family in Cuba at least three times a year. He’s gonna be an uncle again soon. And he’s pretty sure that he’s maybe met the love of his life… possibly. 

He doesn’t wanna get his hopes up, but he’s absolutely gushed about his crush to his best friend, every last one of his siblings, all of his coworkers, and both his parents. You know, keeping it lowkey.

Keith Kogane… where to begin, honestly. Lance could probably go on about him for hours, he definitely has in the past when he gets into one of his rants about the other boy. There’s just so much to him, an air of mystery and bluntness alike. Lance has to discuss it, has to try and make sense of it, but he hasn’t yet.

Keith is the most take-no-bullshit kinda guy Lance has ever met, he’s straight to the point and almost hilariously upfront about his intentions. Yet, despite spending six hours a week in his presence, Lance doesn’t actually know anything about the guy beyond the surface-level facts.

Surface-level Keith facts: 

  1. He runs and owns a gym. He took a couple courses to become a personal fitness trainer and now here he is, running his own business somehow. That must mean he’s resourceful and smart with money… or just racking up debt and living life on the edge.
  2. When you say something that Keith actually finds funny beyond the obligatory chuckle, his eyes crinkle at the corners and little dimples appear in the hollows of his cheeks. He snorts when he laughs really hard and it’s the cutest thing Lance has ever had the privilege of seeing.
  3. He’s fucking hot. Could probably throw Lance around like a bag of potatoes, over his shoulder, over a desk, down to his knees. Hell, Lance doesn’t exactly care. He’s just ready to be manhandled by those unfairly muscular arms.

At the time of his death, Lance has spent six hours a week in Keith’s presence for three months.  

And those three facts are all that Lance has really learnt about him. He has the barest understanding of Keith's family situation, and how to read his emotions that he displays so unwillingly, but that's it. It isn’t exactly the most impressive treasure trove of information, but he’s working with what he’s got. Keith is an intensely private person.

--

When Lance first walks into the tiny gym that a coworker had recommended to him, his expectations are monumentally low. The exterior of the building is rugged and unkempt, not to mention the sign for the business looks like it was hand-painted in the dark. It hardly looks like the kind of place Lance is gonna turn his life around in. 

Though, to be fair, even the most impressive of gyms wouldn’t inspire much confidence in him right now. He’s only here because he’s gained a whopping fifteen pounds since his promotion at work and he knows that his sisters and brothers will mercilessly point it out and tease him when he goes home for Christmas break. When you only see each other a few times a year, it’s easy to notice physical changes.

The interior of the gym is surprisingly nice, despite being very rugged and plain, without a decoration in sight aside from one of those little solar-powered dancing flowers sitting on the window sill next to the front desk. The front desk which hosts another hand-written sign, rather than a person. Someone really needs to offer to help this poor bastard because Lance is pretty sure he has no idea what he’s doing running this business.

The sign lets him know to head right into the gym area itself if he wants to talk to an employee. 

So he does, because he isn’t the level of uncommitted where he’s going to just walk straight back out, he has to at least convince himself he’s giving it an honest effort. You know, before inevitably never coming back for a single appointment and resigning to being fifteen pounds heavier for the rest of his life.

Lance’s first ever glimpse of the gym owner (Keith, as he’ll later learn) is from the back… and from that point on, he’s fucking sold. Sculpted thick thighs that could crush a watermelon between them, a perky little ass stretching out what are essentially glorified yoga pants, the rippling muscles of his shoulders beneath that flimsy tank top, and a fucking ponytail at the nape of his neck. Fuck.

And then Keith turns around and time slows down, roses and hearts appear around Keith’s gorgeous face, and Lance promptly forgets his own name when Keith jogs over and asks him for it.

“Are you lost or something?” Keith asks with a quiet little chuckle, tilting his head to peer up at Lance from behind the curtain of his bangs. Lance isn’t capable of much more than a stupid smile and a quick reassurance that he’s actually here to workout, at which point Keith offers to see to him at the front desk so they can discuss potential plans in privacy.

Three hundred dollars a week for eight weeks. That’s the cheapest and most noncommittal plan that Keith offers when it comes to personal one-on-one training. Sure, Lance could just get a membership and help himself to all the gym equipment whenever he sees fit, but now that he knows being personally trained by Keith is an option…

It’s the most expensive thing Lance has ever bought. He’s not exactly the same broke college student he was a couple years ago, he has a cushy office job that gives him raises and paid vacation time, but fuck if he doesn’t flinch a little bit as the debit machine informs him that the down payment is approved. 

And Keith just looks up at him, with this coy little smirk and a flash of amethyst eyes. Immediately, Lance forgets about the money spent, it’s worth it. That gaze is dangerous , more-so than the muscles or the cute ass that Keith flaunts around. That gaze could bring soldiers to their knees.

“I look forward to working with you, Mr. McClain. I think we’re gonna have a lot of fun together.”

--

Lance does end up working off the extra fifteen pounds in record time that first month, but he’s not sure if it’s from the harsh workouts Keith puts him through... or the furious pace he beats his meat after every single session. Whatever, who is he to question the methods when they’re clearly working?

--

Two months in and they’re sort-of at that awkward stage where Lance is pretty sure Keith has clued in to the fact that there’s sexual tension between them. Every time he leans over the machine Lance is working out on, it takes all of the self-control Lance has not to pop a stiffy right then and there. 

But there’s no way Keith hasn’t noticed his struggle by now, especially because more often than not it results in a failure and Lance has to impishly excuse himself to the bathroom and will away his boner.

To Keith’s defense, he’s been pretty casual about it. He doesn’t act any differently around Lance now than he did in the beginning. On the one hand, it’s devastating because that probably means he isn’t interested, or is already taken. On the other hand, it’s a relief because Lance has genuinely been starting to enjoy going to the gym after being committed this long and he’d hate for his damn crush to ruin this for him.

His body looks better than it ever has. He’s sort-of ripped, in his own right. Sure, he’s always been a slim and fit type of guy, but he’s never been able to see this amount of muscle definition. That’s all thanks to Keith, and he couldn’t be happier with how he looks in the mirror as of late.

It’s sort-of hard to find it within himself to express his thankfulness right now though, as Keith has him doing a hundred squats while holding ten pound barbells in either hand. And the worst part is, Keith couldn’t even stick around to egg him on throughout it, another client needing help figuring out the ellipticals on the other side of the gym where people can come in to work without a trainer.

Lance pays for his undivided attention, damn it. He’d never dream of complaining though, he sort of admires Keith’s dedication to the job. Running this place and being the only employee can’t be an easy feat and if the growing amount of customers in the gym every morning is anything to go by, he’s doing a damn good job of it. Lance feels his chest swell with pride.

A good ten minutes later and Keith saunters back over to him. Lance’s entire face is screwed up with the effort he’s putting into the exercise, eyes glaring at the floor. So he doesn’t actually see Keith until he’s standing right in front of him, those ugly fitness sneakers staring back at Lance.

“How are we holding up over here, champ?” 

“Can’t feel my legs.” Lance pants out, as he brings himself back up from another squat. He hardly gives himself the chance to look at Keith before he’s lowering back down, feeling the burn through his thighs.

“Come on, it’s the same amount of squats you do everyday, just with slightly heavier barbells. I mean, if anything, you should be feeling it in your arms more.” Keith says it conversationally, then kneels in front of him to hold eye contact while Lance lifts and drops himself with practiced ease. God, this is unfair, Lance feels like a pig on a treadmill with a carrot dangled in front of his face. It’s hard not to put his 110% into everything he does when Keith is watching, invested in his progress. 

“I’m gonna die.” Lance huffs out dramatically, blowing the hair out of his eyes. Keith rolls his eyes at him, walks away to grab a yoga ball and roll it back over. Then he sits his cute ass down on it, right in front of Lance. He looks so relaxed, so leisurely, almost amused as Lance strains every muscle in his fucking body. 

“You can do it. You’re almost there.” 

“I can’t .”

“If you put as much effort into the exercise as you put into whining about it, you’d probably be done by now. Think about that, yeah?” Keith tells him, but there’s nothing professional about it. It isn’t advice, it’s something more playful than that. Lately Keith has been surprising him a little bit, playing into Lance’s terrible attempts at flirty one-liners and childish teasing.

“Yeah, well, maybe if you didn’t push me so hard I wouldn’t have to-” Lance forgets what he was about to say, nearly drops the barbells in his hands because what the fuck. Keith is reaching up behind his head with one hand, tugging on the elastic holding his hair back. Then he pulls it free, shoulder-length hair falling in loose waves at his shoulders, damp with sweat. 

Fuck. 

Lance has never seen Keith with his hair down before this moment, with his legs widespread on either side of a yoga ball, eyes trained to Lance like he’s the most fascinating thing in the entire room. And the worst part is, Keith must be able to see it on his face, how badly he’s undressing Keith’s sexy body with his eyes all over again.

If he does, he doesn’t say a word about it. Just reaches down to pick up a water bottle off the floor and crack it open. He tips it back and drinks almost hastily and Lance finds himself pausing mid-squat, forgetting about the exercise entirely to zero in on where Keith’s hasty drinking has droplets of water running down his jaw and then following the line of his throat down, down, down… disappearing between the slight divet between his pecs.

What Lance would give to get his cock right there , to frame it with Keith’s stupid muscular tits and thrust into that slick space. The line of Keith’s cleavage is always just barely visible above the neckline of those low-cut tank tops he wears and it drives Lance up the wall to see. He’d pay three thousand a week, no questions asked, even just to shove his face there and happily suffocate himself to death in Keith’s sweaty chest. The mere thought has him threatening to get hard in his joggers.

“Did I say you could take a break?” Keith asks, eyebrows furrowing together, lips twitching with the urge to smile at Lance’s expense. It’s not a genuine question, it’s too playful again. God, Keith must be feeling some type of way today because if Lance didn’t know any better, he’d almost say that he’s flirting .

Lance hastily goes back to work, lifts and drops himself, ignores the burn.

“Done.” Lance blurts out, dropping the barbells carelessly on the expensive gym floor. Keith shoots him a withering look, but even that isn’t enough to calm the racing of Lance’s heart, his pulse jumping in his neck in a way that’s not entirely due to the exertion. Damn it, he’s not gonna be able to think this one away, he’s gonna get hard again mid-workout. He’s such a fiend.

Lance straightens up and stands, stretching his arms high above his head. Keith stays where he is in front of him on that yoga ball, idly bouncing on it, looking up the line of Lance’s body. And Lance tries so hard not to think about the fact that Keith is at the perfect height level to lean forward and duck his head down between Lance’s legs, to take that rapidly filling-out cock into his mouth and-

“Here.” Keith holds out the water bottle. The one he’d been drinking from. Lance freezes and lets his eyes go comically wide, but he accepts what he’s being offered. His fingers brush against Keith’s and it feels like an electric current shooting up his arm.

“Is this for me?” Lance asks, just to be sure. He can’t really wrap his head around the idea that Keith’s lips were just wrapped around the head of the water bottle, suckling at it and coaxing the water to roll down his throat. Damn it, damn it, damn it, he’s gonna have to excuse himself to the bathroom real quick.

“You’re sweating buckets, figured you should rehydrate when you stop for a break and you never think of those things. Guess I’ve gotta take care of your body in more ways than one, huh?” Keith points out, getting to his feet abruptly and giving Lance a sluggish punch to the shoulder. Lance tries to pretend his cock doesn’t give a pathetic twitch in response to the thought of Keith actually punching him. He’s so depraved at this point, he’d probably get off on being beaten up by those fists, even if Keith insists on covering them with fingerless gloves for some reason.

Keith turns to walk away, to give Lance a few minutes reprieve before they start onto the next part of the routine he’s made for Lance today. And the perfectly respectable thing to do would be to just let him go, to unscrew the water bottle and drink and rejuvenate himself. 

Instead, he stares at Keith’s ass as he walks away. He watches the way that booty shifts with each step, flexing against the smooth fabric covering it like a second skin. He’d pay three million to get his cock there, would spend the rest of his life indebted to Keith and his stupidly sexy ass.

“Buddy, you can take care of my body in as many ways as you want.” Lance mutters under his breath, tips the water bottle back to chug some down. He closes his eyes, tries not to be creepy and think about Keith’s mouth drinking from this same bottle. He’s a depraved horny bastard, yeah, but he’s not a creep.

“Yeah?” Keith’s voice startles him so much he spits out water all over himself. He whips his head around, to where Keith has turned around to look at him, hands on his hips and lips curled into a smirk that says he definitely heard Lance just now. Oh fuck. Maybe that was too forward? Lance has been trying to be casual about it, and that was anything but. He’s about to apologize for being so unprofessional about it, but then Keith winks at him. He fucking winks .

Lance is so gone for this boy. “Might have to take you up on that offer.”

Take… him up… on that offer

Is Keith saying what it sounds like he’s saying? 

Because to the untrained ear, it sounds like Keith is saying that he’d fuck him. Something in Lance’s brain absolutely short-circuits at the mere idea of his affections and desires being returned. He’d given up on that pretty early on, had tried in vain to convince himself that it was enough to keep working out and admiring Keith from afar. Sure, they chatted and joked around, they were probably more than just a client and a trainer at this point… but they weren’t on mutual flirting level. Or, at least, Lance didn’t think they were, but Keith seems to think differently.

Really ?!” 

“Twenty push-ups after this, hit the deck.” Keith deadpans. Very unsexily, if you ask Lance. It must show on his face too, his utter disappointment, because then Keith does one of those heavy laughs. You know the ones, eyes crinkled and cheeks dimpled, snorts a little bit. And Lance forgets all about how horny he is, because every part of him aside from his dick is impossibly soft . “What? I’m taking care of your body.”

“That’s so not what I meant and you know it’s not!”

“But you’re gonna do it anyway, aren’t you? You love showing off your muscles and there are a lot of women in spandex here today.” Keith steps closer, drops his voice to something quiet and personal, for only the two of them. Lance finds himself leaning subconsciously closer, into Keith's space, until he can smell the musk of sweat beneath sweet smelling deodorant. Lance's heart absolutely races as his eyes meet Keith's, dark with intent.

“Keith, what kinda guy do you take me for?” Lance rolls his eyes. 

“A promiscuous one.” Keith answers without missing a single beat, like the accusation has been on the tip of his tongue for a while now. He lifts an eyebrow and gives Lance a long, hard look that really says it all. And then he walks away, just like that, not another word on the topic and no promise that they’ll ever revisit it again.

Alright, maybe Lance has been a little bit too forward, maybe he’s made himself known as the depraved horny type of guy that checks out everyone at the gym. But he doesn’t want Keith to have that idea, to think that Lance flirts with just anyone like he flirts with him . Lance admires everyone he sees, he’s just that kinda guy, flexible like that. Does Keith seriously think that Lance isn't taking this seriously, though? Surely he has to realize that Lance doesn't see it as something fleeting and lighthearted.

He flirts with everyone, sure, but there’s no one he’d give up everything to be with like he would Keith. Keith is special

As much as Lance maybe objectifies Keith’s body, there’s so much more to it than that. He wants so much more than a quick one night stand or hasty hook-up. He doesn’t just want to use Keith to get off and then be on his merry way. In fact, he’d be perfectly happy if sex between them was never on the table. Hell, up until this very second, he’d more or less come to the understanding that it wasn’t.

And yet he still showed up to the gym every week. He can lie all he wants and say its because he likes the way it makes his body look, but he’s got a history of cancelled gym memberships dating all the way back to when he was a teenager that say otherwise. He never sticks with it. Nothing has ever made him want to stay like Keith has. 

If this is the only way he ever gets to have Keith, then he’ll happily and thankfully take it.

Because the boy is… unlike anyone else Lance has ever met. He’s sweet and awkward, harsh and serious, aloof but oh so aware, wise beyond his years, kind beyond what his hardened-look and the scar on his cheek would have you assume. Keith is an enigma, beautiful and fascinating, like a complex puzzle that’s impossible to solve. Lance loves every part of him.

It’s just easier to openly express his love for Keith’s body than it is to express love for the rest of him, because Keith makes a point not to show the rest of himself. He’s private and reserved about his personal life and his personality, whereas he shows that body off with pride (as he should! It’s a damn good body! Lance is doing the opposite of complaining about that!). 

But Lance would happily forfeit sex with Keith for the chance to get to know Keith, make no mistake.

--

If anything, it’s Keith’s fault. He was the one that went and had a full-length floor to ceiling mirror installed along one wall in the locker rooms. Seriously, what did he expect people to use that for? Just because Keith was one of those too-good-to-take-selfies types doesn’t mean all his patrons shared the same mentality. Or, more specifically, that Lance did.

There was just something about the post-workout look that Lance couldn’t replicate in any of his selfies anywhere after leaving the gym. The sheen of sweat to his tan skin, the way his hair fell out of the gel’s hold and into his eyes, and don’t even get him started on how much more pronounced his muscles looked after a workout. He’s pretty sure he’s not imagining it. Maybe Keith bought a magic mirror that makes people look hotter on purpose as incentive to keep coming back to his gym. 

Right now, Lance has one leg propped up on the bench, showing off the arch of his well-defined calves. One hand is holding the camera, the other has slid down his body to fit lewdly around the outline of his cock in his grey sweatpants. He’s shirtless, because of course he is, and he maybe got distracted halfway through changing out of his gym clothes. Whatever, he has the whole locker room to himself.

He snaps a few photos, changing his expression in all of them. Puppy dog pout, tongue lolled out, toothy smile, seductive smolder-

“You got a partner you send these to or something?” Keith’s voice is undoubtedly amused. Lance is mortified as he scrambles down from the bench and whirls around to face him, cheeks flushed in total embarrassment. Keith just gives him this lopsided smile, lets his eyes rove up and down Lance’s body, and in any other context Lance would preen under the attention but right now it feels mocking.

“Jesus, don’t sneak up on a guy like that. Post-workout selfie time at the gym is a very private ritual.”

“Mm, seems like it. You were practically eye-fucking yourself there before I interrupted.” Maybe it’s because this is the most private place they’ve interacted, but Lance doesn’t think he’s imagining the heat between them right now. Keith’s voice is definitely lower than usual, dripping with intent as he walks closer to stand beside him.

“Can you blame me?” Lance jokes to try and lighten the mood. He doesn’t look right at Keith, can’t bring himself to, so he searches out his reflection in the mirror. Keith isn’t looking at him either, he looks distracted as he stares toward the floor. Lance takes the opportunity to gesture to the whole of himself, make a spectacle of himself again. “Just look at me, I’m one hot piece of meat.”

And Keith does look at him. Again. His eyes explore the entire expanse of Lance’s bare chest with the help of the mirror. His gaze is hungry, especially when that pink tongue darts out to wet his lips.

Keith sits down on the bench Lance had just been using as a prop. He pats the space next to him and Lance reluctantly sits down, ready for the hazing and the teasing that’s probably coming his way. He knows he gets a little bit too into it sometimes, has been told more than once that he’s too obsessed with himself. 

What he’s not expecting is for Keith to go along with it like he does.

“Let’s take one together. I’ll put it on the company Instagram page.”

“The one you only post on like once a month?” Lance asks, genuinely confused that maybe he’s been following the wrong page this whole time because as far as he knows, Keith never posts photos of himself on that page. And he knows pretty well, considering how extensively he scoured the entire profile looking for just one photo of Keith that he could show his best friend Hunk, so he had a face to associate with the hottie trainer that Lance goes to see.

“Shut-up. I’m a fitness trainer, I’m not a social media manager and I can’t afford to hire one.” Keith snaps back at him, but it’s lighthearted. Lance rolls his eyes fondly, but he doesn’t say another word before holding his phone up and snapping a quick unexpected picture of them in the mirror. He’s not one to look a gift horse in the mouth. He’s been wanting a photo of Keith for months now, if it can be a photo of them together then that’s even better.

“I wasn’t even looking!” Keith hisses, snatching his phone out of his hand. Lance doesn’t bother fighting him on it, just laughs and leans back on the bench. Keith is delightfully bad at taking photos, tries in vain to get the absolute perfect shot rather than taking a slew of photos and hoping one turns out decent. 

Lance fits an arm around his shoulders, grabs the phone back and switches it around to the front facing camera so they can both look up at it together. Keith looks… delightfully bashful, cheeks flushed a cute shade of pink that Lance can hardly resist staring at even as the camera takes a few pictures.

Then, for good measure, Lance takes a couple in the mirror as well. He gestures for Keith to get to his feet and then strikes a few Johnny Bravo-esque poses to lighten the mood, flexing his muscles so hard they strain. Keith rolls his eyes, assumes a more casual stance but smiles into the mirror all the same.

By the end of it, as they’re standing side-by-side and looking through the gallery worth of photos, there’s at least a handful of them that are acceptable to post on a business page. Keith seems overly pleased by them, possibly because he’s never taken a good selfie in his life. He hums and haws over which one is best to post and Lance can absolutely tell it’s only because he has no idea what criteria he’s looking for.

“I’ll do it for you.” Lance tells him gently, giving him a lazy grin. He'd made up his mind pretty much the moment Keith admitted that that was, in fact, his company business page that only got posted to once a month. The dude needs Lance's help and Lance is more than happy to give it. Keith seems a little bit distracted, eyes still glued to the screen of Lance’s phone, admiring them together. He doesn't realize what Lance is saying at first, gives a halfhearted hum of intrigue. “Manage your business account, if you want. It’s kinda my thing, I work at a marketing firm.”

That grabs Keith’s attention much faster.

“Seriously?” He asks, turning to Lance with wide hopeful eyes. 

“It only makes sense, I’m here three times a week anyway and I know the regulars almost as well as you do. I think I’d be good at it.” Lance feels indescribably nervous all the sudden, now that he’s finally got Keith looking at him like that. There’s not even anything flirty or sexually tense about it, it’s just straight up adoration. Keith looks like Lance just offered him the world on a silver platter and it’s a little much to wrap his head around. He doesn’t feel like he’s earned such a soft expression. 

In typical Lance fashion, he panics and ruins the good things he’s given in life. He takes a step backward, adjusts the phone in his hands, gets that bodacious booty in frame, and snaps a photo. Keith whips around to stare at him. Lance gives a sleazy wink. “Plus, I know all your best assets to advertise.”

“Did you just take a photo of my ass?”

“I’m a generous guy, Keith, but I’m no saint. I never said I’d work for free.” Lance drawls, pocketing his phone with a shrug. He half expects Keith to punch him, he doesn’t exactly seem like the kind of guy who has a lot of patience for pervy bullshit. At the very least, he expects Keith to wrench his phone out of his hands and delete the photo to prove a point.

He does neither of those things.

Keith draws a heavy breath, shakes his head with a smile on his lips that’s only fond. He walks away. He turns and walks past Lance, giving him a friendly pat on the chest as he goes. Hell, if Lance isn’t mistaken, he might even honk on the titty a little bit. Squeezing Lance’s pec just barely enough to feel it before heading for the door. The ass photo thoroughly not mentioned.

“I’ll text you the log-in information.” Keith calls back to him. “Have a nice night, Lance.”

“Y-Yeah, you too.”

What the hell was that about?!

--

Lance is leaning back against the wall next to the locker rooms after his workout, lingering around in hopes of getting the chance to say goodbye to Keith. He’s freshly-showered, smells like fucking peaches and cream, all fruity and tropical. He’s got his gym bag slung over his shoulder, a juice box hanging limply between his teeth, and his phone resting in the palm of his hand as he idly scrolls through his socials. 

Now it’s just a matter of waiting to see how long it takes Keith to notice him.

He hunkers down on the benches, prepared for a good long wait because today is a Wednesday and Keith always has a private client lined up right after he’s finished with Lance. 

She’s a pretty girl, Keith’s other Wednesday morning client. Long, blonde hair and bright blue eyes, she’s giggly and excitable, eager to go along with anything Keith directs her to do. He’s good about it, always the professional one given how seriously he takes his work, but at this point Lance prides himself in knowing Keith at least well enough to know that he’s not enjoying himself. 

Keith looks almost uncomfortable, the more glances Lance sneaks away from his phone and in their direction. More than once, Lance catches him hiding a grimace or a scowl behind his arm. The girl seems oblivious to it though, making conversation throughout her entire appointment. At one point, Keith attempts to give her a demonstration of how to use the weight-lifting machine and she reaches out and honest to god caresses his bicep.

Even from across the room, Lance can see the tense vein bulging in Keith’s neck as he struggles to keep from physically reacting in repulsion. And that’s the moment Lance finally feels comfortable in assuming that Keith is more than likely gay. Or taken.

Nevermind after that, when she leans over him mid-crunch and he nearly face-plants into her breasts only to launch backward a solid four feet to put space between them.

And then she takes her top off to reveal the expensive sports bra underneath, under the guise of being too hot, and Keith looks like he’s about to combust as he politely looks the other way.

Before Lance realizes, he’s sat through her entire appointment watching the way they interact and drawing subtle comparisons to his own time with Keith. As much as he doesn’t want to get his hopes up or get a bigger ego than he already has, he can’t deny that Keith definitely seems happier when they’re together. He may be hard to read most of the time, but this has really put it into perspective for Lance.

By the end of it, Lance is stifling laughter and hiding his smile behind the sleeve of his sweater, as he watches Keith bend the girl over and guide her body into cool-down stretches against the soft mats covering the floor. She seems all too happy to lie back and let Keith manhandle her body into place, to push her thighs back and work the sore muscles there.

There’s no denying the relief on Keith’s face when she finally bids him farewell and then heads toward the locker rooms. Lance feels a little bit bad when she offers him a wide smile on her way past, so he gives her a flirty wink and hopes it makes her day. Maybe she’s totally barking up the wrong tree with Keith, but that’s not her fault, she seems like a lovely lady.

She nearly trips over her workout sneakers in surprise, but then gives Lance a shy wave before disappearing into the locker rooms. It’s definitely cute, Lance decides as he grins after her.

“What are you still doing here?” Lance jumps in surprise when Keith’s boot lands heavily on the bench next to him, shaking the entire thing. He looks up at Keith, watches him bite into an apple and chew with all the grace of a horse, eyes trained on Lance’s face in what could be mistaken as a glare.

See, as blunt and unimpressed as that sounds, after spending nearly three months in Keith’s presence Lance can confidently say that he’s 75% sure Keith is actually happy to see him and just doing a poor job of showing it. He’s not exactly the type for mushy gushy feelings, and even expressing the barest hint of positivity toward someone’s presence seems to border too close to affection for him.

Besides, maybe Keith caught him staring at the blonde cutie and is feeling jealous ?

“Pretty sure that poor girl almost creamed her pants when you stretched her legs out above her head, talk about a low blow. I mean, damn, you really need to work on controlling all of that.”

“Controlling all of what ?” 

“You know, the untamed raw sex appeal thing.” Lance gestures vaguely to the whole of Keith, gives a little indifferent shrug. Keith’s bushy eyebrows are hiking up toward his hairline and Lance is starting to wonder if maybe he said too much. He’s not trying to reveal his own feelings, thank-you very much.

“Oh?” Keith muses, lips quirking. “This is news to me. Please, feel free to elaborate.”

“You know what I’m talking about, don’t play dumb. Hot guy with muscles, wearing tight fitting clothing, always kinda sweaty? The long hair and the pretty face is just the icing on the cake.” Lance explains it as objectively as he can, tries desperately not to show how affected he is by that same untamed raw sex appeal he’s mocking right now. This whole argument is counterproductive and way too damning for his liking, but he doesn’t know how to stop it now that he’s started so Lance just keeps right on rambling his way into a corner. “To be honest, I’m pretty sure half your customers are only here because they think they have a shot at getting in your pants.”

Keith’s eyes widen just the slightest bit where he’s been staring blankly at Lance this entire time. He’s not one for big reactions, or even visible reactions whatsoever, so that’s how Lance knows that he’s definitely gone too far this time. He’s crossed some invisible boundary between them, pushed Keith’s buttons a little bit too hard and now they’ve stuck in place.

Was that rude? Offensive maybe? An insult to Keith’s skill as a trainer?

Lance wishes he could take it back and unsay it, but he doesn’t think it’s possible to backtrack on that.

“So, tell me which half you fall under?”

Lance blinks owlishly at Keith as he processes the question.

“M-Me?” He asks innocently, receiving a bored look in response. Keith isn’t a fan of bullshit, or mind games, or beating around the bush. He says and does everything exactly how he pleases. “Keith, how many times do I have to tell you? I’m dedicated to the health and physical well-being of my body, first and foremost. Our relationship is strictly formal.”

“Yeah?” Keith doesn’t look convinced. In fact, Keith looks uncharacteristically mischievous, which can’t be a good sign at all, no matter how aesthetically good it looks. “Maybe next time I’ll lay you out on the mats like that too, huh? Stretch your thighs out, get you nice and loose before you go home. Get you so hot that you have to start taking your clothes off.”

“Is that a threat or a promise?” Lance croaks out, incapable of much else as he imagines exactly what Keith is describing to him. It must show too, because then Keith is stepping closer and leaning over him, hand braced on the wall overhead. An embarrassing peep leaves Lance’s lips before he can help it, as he tilts his head back to look up at Keith .

“You’re paying for me, Lance, all you have to do is tell me what you want.”

“Don’t say it like that , Jesus Christ.” Lance breathes, a full-body shiver jolting through him. Keith doesn’t even give him the reprieve of pretending not to notice it either. He openly acknowledges Lance’s reaction this time, gaze dropping to stare at his lap, almost expectant. If Lance had any doubt before that Keith’s somehow not noticed the chronic boner situation, now he knows.

Lance has never slammed his legs closed so very fast in his life. “This is exactly what I’m talking about! Untamed raw sex appeal!”

“Hm. Interesting. Well, if it keeps getting me customers then I’m gonna keep playing into it.” Keith breathes out, reaching up to brush his hair back from his eyes. He gives Lance a final nod of acknowledgement and then turns to leave, sauntering off in the direction of the front desk. Lance watches him leave in a daze, only blinking himself back to reality when Keith is nearly out of sight around the corner.

“Oh, so now you’re aware of it? I see how it is. The aloof act only goes so far, Kogane!” Lance shouts after him stubbornly, only to receive nothing in response. He feels oddly affronted, like Keith just took a page out of Lance’s book and played the same game, only to do it so much better. 

How does Keith always do that anyway? Lance will say something quick-witted and flirty, and Keith will instantly come back with something that leaves him flustered to the point of stuttering over his words.

--

It’s not exactly the most responsible thing Lance has ever done, swinging by the gym when he’s already running so late for plans he’d made weeks ago. He tries to convince himself that he’ll only be a couple minutes at most, but that’s a thinly-veiled lie and he knows it. Now that him and Keith are on friendship terms and they actually talk beyond flirting, all of Lance’s one minute visits turn into one hour visits.

He’s not complaining, oh boy, is he ever not complaining. 

Lance is a little bit surprised to see that Keith hasn’t turned the open sign around yet, despite it being a good ten minutes past. He slips inside out of the cool weather and turns it around for him, ensures that they won’t end up being interrupted. The gym is cozy, with a clean Earthy smell about it and quiet rock music playing from the outdated stereo on the welcome desk. Lance rolls his eyes as he shrugs his coat off and hangs it up. Typical Keith, nothing says welcome to my gym and make yourself at home quite like “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns N’ Roses.

He heads through the wide-open doors and into the gym itself, rather than the welcome area. It’s delightfully quiet, not a single person around. Sadly, that includes Keith, which leaves a lot of questions unanswered. For Keith to leave the place open and unlocked, but not be around to watch it? That’s more than a little out of character for him.

Lance heads toward the locker rooms, the last possible room he could be in.

There are quiet voices from inside and Lance immediately goes quiet, wonders if he’s intruding on something he shouldn’t be. Luckily, he has decades of experience when it comes to sneaking around and eavesdropping, being the meddling younger sibling that he is.

He ducks around the corner of the door and flattens himself against the wall, stays perfectly silent as he tunes in to the conversation happening. One of the voices is definitely Keith’s, he immediately recognizes it. But it’s different than he’s used to. It’s not calm and composed, so impassive that it could be mistaken as disinterested. No, instead it’s pitchy and panicked, and Keith is obviously frazzled by something.

“Look, I’m doing all that I can! The bastards aren’t exactly easy to track down when they don’t wanna be found. It’s not like they’re gonna come to me and I can’t spend every waking hour scanning the city. We need to come up with a better strategy. Soon.”

“Fine. This isn’t the place to discuss it, though.” The other voice replies in a quiet hush and now that Lance is close enough to make it out clearer, he hears a posh British accent behind the words. He can’t remember Keith ever having a customer with an accent like that, he definitely would have remembered it. Lance can’t even see the guy, but he sounds hot.

Sadly, he doesn’t get to hear him anymore. Everything is unsettlingly silent and Lance is starting to wonder if they’ve maybe left the room somehow through the back exit of the building. He’s about ready to politely excuse himself back to the waiting area, or maybe forgo the visit altogether and go to the party he’d been supposed to be at half an hour ago.

But then someone walks around the corner and Lance promptly forgets his plans of leaving, forgets he has the ability to move at all. He’s never seen a more beautiful man in his life, with dark skin and long flowing white hair, sharp features to match. He gives Lance a tense smile, but then he turns back to where he came from. “You have a customer.”

“Hey, I’m really sorry for any inconveniences, but we’re actually closed for the evening n-” Keith comes walking around the corner after the man next, a hand pushing the hair back from his face as he comes into view. He looks exhausted. His hair is a mess, likely post-workout and post-ponytail if the fluffy waves are anything to go by. His thick eyebrows are scrunched together in deep thought, lips curled down into a scowl, eyes dark and distracted. 

He does light up slightly when he follows the stranger’s line of sight back to Lance though, and that does funny things to Lance’s heart. “ Lance ?”

“Heya, tall buff and brooding, what’s up?” Lance greets him as casually as he can, painstakingly aware of the stranger glancing back and forth between them, spectating silently and passing judgment. Keith doesn’t seem to mind, he’s completely zoned in on Lance, attention thoroughly hoarded. 

“What are you doing here?” 

“I know, you don’t usually get to see my handsome self on the weekends. You’ve truly been blessed.” He jokes, giving a little coy shrug of his shoulders. The stranger gives a quiet chuckle at that, amusement shining through in those otherwise unreadable eyes. At least he has a sense of humor because up until now, Lance had been under the impression this guy hated him. He’s too composed, carries himself with an air of indifference that feels almost condescending. He’s definitely rich, even though he’s dressed in baggy workout gear and not wearing anything visibly expensive, Lance can just tell .

“A blessing or a curse, depending on how you look at it.” Keith jokes dryly, but even as he says it he steps closer and slings an arm around Lance’s shoulders. It’s not that it’s particularly monumental for them, Keith has definitely done it a dozen times over to support him after a harsh workout. It just feels different for Keith to do it in front of someone else that he knows personally. Lance can’t help but let his eyes drift back to the stranger, feeling maybe the slightest bit smug as he shows off his relationship with Keith like it's something to brag about. 

But… the guy doesn’t look bothered by it, he doesn’t look judgmental or jealous or anything of the sort.

He’s not smiling, but Lance is starting to gather that that’s a rare sight to see anyway.

“I should get going.” The stranger announces to no one in particular, tucking a long strand of hair behind his ear. Keith’s gaze whips back around to him, seemingly disappointed by the development. His arm around Lance’s shoulders tenses slightly, pulls him in closer subconsciously.

“You can stay if you want, I’ve just gotta close up and then we could get dinner or something.” Keith is hopeful about it, a little smile worming its way across his face. Lance looks between the two of them curiously, desperately trying to pinpoint the nature of their relationship. He doesn’t think it’s romantic, at least not right now, but maybe they’re exes...

“Unfortunately, I have business to attend to. I’ll take a raincheck on dinner though.” The man actually does smile then and Lance is blindsided by the pearly white teeth, the kindness in his eyes. Alright, if this is the dude Keith’s banging then Lance can’t even be mad, he gets it. He understands, as much as it’ll break his heart into a million pieces.

They catch each other’s gaze and the man gives Lance a subtle nod, eyes shifting implicatively toward Keith before darting back to Lance’s blue ones. He could swear that he’s looking at a smirk . “And invite your friend next time, Keith. I’d love to get to know him better. I fear I may have come off as rude.”

There's something about the way he says it, even though his expression doesn't give away a damn thing, Lance can just tell this guy is teasing Keith. 

And it helps that Keith's reaction isn't nearly as controlled and impassive, his face lighting up in a blush that's practically neon. 

Huh... maybe Lance had this all wrong, maybe him and hot British guy are on the same side here, both rooting for the same team. Maybe he isn't a rival after all.

After that, Keith is very quick to urge the man to leave, the time of begging him to stay long gone. He practically shoves him out of the locker room, muttering quietly under his breath to the point that Lance can't even make out what they're saying. He figures he might have an idea though, and the thought has him grinning like a damn idiot even after he's left alone in the locker room. Is it possible that Keith's mentioned him before? Hm?

He follows after them a few seconds later, when his patience wanes and he can't bear not to any longer.

Lance steps into the room just in time to watch the stranger leave. He can't tear his eyes away, his mind working overtime. He's not even checking him out really, just admiring the graceful way he seems to float through the room. He’s so… posh. Lance has never met anyone like him in his life and it’s the last kind of person he would have expected Keith to be friends with. Clearly, he knows even less about Keith than he thought.

“Who was that guy?” Lance asks dumbly, approaching Keith where he's standing in the middle of the gym floor. Keith startles a little bit at the sound of his voice, but quickly relaxes when he turns to look at Lance. He shrugs his shoulders, completely casual about it. Lance watches him closely for even the slightest hint of agitation, any sign that maybe this is a topic that should be awkward for them, that maybe there's tension there that they should avoid breaching... but there's nothing. Keith seems genuinely at ease, even uncharacteristically warm.

“An old friend. We don’t see each other much anymore, but we used to be really close.” 

“He seems nice.” Lance observes impassively, begging Keith to give him more to work with without having to come out and ask for it. Keith moves around the gym, starts rolling up yoga mats while Lance follows him like a little lost puppy. He can't help it. He's always been curious by nature. But especially now. He's never seen or heard Keith talk about anyone in his private life, this feels like something pivotal. A key to understanding Keith better.

“He can be." Keith answers eventually, getting to his feet and brushing his hands off on his pants. "He comes across as a bit of a douche at first, so don't worry if he gave you that impression. I hated him when we first met, thought he was a pompous asshole. He grows on you though, and he has his reasons for being standoffish. Besides, I'm hardly the poster child for making good first impressions. I guess we sort-of bonded over our social ineptitude, weirdly enough."

“Huh.” Lance breathes out, leaning back against one of the treadmills and tilting his head back to think on it. Keith sounds fond, yeah, but with an obvious undertone of exasperation. More like Lance talks about his brother than an ex lover. So maybe it isn’t romantic at all?

“Did you need me for something?”

“Oh. I nearly forgot!” Lance exclaims, digging his phone out of his pocket. If he’d forgotten about why he was here, then he’d definitely forgotten why he was supposed to be rushing. He’s very late to the party at this point, but he has to show Keith now that he’s here. He opens up Instagram and then the gym’s account messages, shoving the phone toward Keith. “I’m here to talk about a business opportunity.”

“For the last time, I don’t need any shirtless hot guys to stand outside my gym and lure people in.”

“I mentioned that one time ! As a joke!” Lance hisses, grabbing Keith’s hand (it’s so big it dwarfs his in a warm embrace, Lance really doesn’t wanna let go) and shoving the phone right into his palm. Keith begrudgingly lifts it up and starts to scan the messages. 

Lance is brimming with excitement as Keith reads, can hardly contain himself from blabbering on and explaining what the text on screen is already saying. “We’ve got out first potential sponsor! They wanna pay us to use their work-out machines and review them publicly. They’re gonna send you one free of charge. Totally free, Keith!”

“You’re kidding.” Keith breathes, a wide smile invading his face, so achingly genuine that it hurts. Lance has never felt pride quite like this, at getting Keith to smile so unabashedly. Ooh , look at those dimples!

“I did a little bit of digging and they seem like the real deal, they’re just new to the business and need help advertising. Thanks to my excellent photography and marketing skills, our page is picking up quite a lot of traffic. Even with people that aren’t from around here and just want to admire from afar.”

“Yeah, I mean, if you can arrange something I’m down to try it.”

“Awesome.” Lance grins as he takes the phone back and starts typing up a formal response. Keith just stares at him for a long moment, pride swelling in his eyes, before turning back to his work. When Lance eventually finishes and looks up, Keith has grabbed a broom and is meticulously sweeping the entire gym. He looks sort-of adorably out of place, ripped muscular guy handling a dainty little plastic broom with care. 

Lance can’t help but smile as he walks over and settles a hand on his lower back, his touch fleeting as it quickly drifts away on his walk toward the door. “Okay, that’s really all I needed to know, so I’ll get out of your hair now.”

“No rush. I was just packing up anyway. Company might be nice.” Keith calls after him. It’s not really urgent, nothing Keith does ever gives that impression, but the fact he said it at all means something substantial. Lance catches himself smirking and has to wipe the expression from his face completely before he turns back around, lest Keith think he’s being teased for being needy.

“Yeah?” Lance says with an even voice, somehow managing to conceal how overjoyed he is that Keith is actively asking for his company. He rolls an exercise ball over because that’s the only form of seating Keith has in this goddamn place, makes himself comfortable while Keith works around him. He’s never been great with exercise balls, the whole sitting still thing is not his forte, but he manages to only roll around and fall off once while Keith is sweeping. “Busy day?”

“Business is booming. As much as I want to believe it’s a sudden influx of people committed to getting healthy and fit, I think it has more to do with the questionable photos you keep posting of me.”

“Oh? So you’re addressing that all your patrons wanna fuck you now?” Lance grins wolfishly, relishes the exasperated glare Keith shoots his way. It’s a common game of back and forth at this point, Keith never takes well to blatant reminders about how attractive he is. But he secretly loves it, Lance knows that he does, even if the body language says otherwise. Keith has never told him to stop and Keith is a pretty straightforward kinda guy. “Also, they’re not questionable, they’re literally just photos of you at work, doing your job. It’s not my fault if they all look sexual, that’s just how you naturally look. Untamed raw sex appeal, remember?”

“How could I forget?” Keith mutters under his breath.

“No one’s being creepy about it, are they?” Lance asks suddenly, a jolt of sudden concern washing over him. Just because Keith doesn’t mind Lance calling him attractive and drawing attention to it doesn’t mean he’s okay with everyone else sexualizing him like that. “‘Cause like I know you can fight your own battles, I’m a twig in comparison to you, but if you ever need me to say something to one of th-”

“What makes you think you’re so different from all the other creepy guys, huh?” Keith jabs back at him, folding his hands atop the broom handle and resting his chin on them, his gaze completely glued to Lance. It's more than a little bit overwhelming, but Lance does his best to meet it, to look into those deep considering eyes.

“I mean, you don’t invite them inside after closing time, do you?” Lance asks, bouncing back and forth on the exercise ball between his legs, a shit-eating grin stretching across his face. Keith just gives him this look, total annoyance and adoration wrapped up in one. Lance decides to push his luck a little further, to attempt to weasel his way into some answers when Keith is obviously in a good mood. “Well, aside from that guy that was here when I arrived…”

“Am I sensing some jealousy from Lancey Lance? Worried your title of favorite client is at risk?” Keith replies, with that level of bluntness than never ceases to be a little bit jarring. Lance isn't used to being called out on his bullshit so outright, usually people at least attempt to be subtle back at him. Whatever, he can roll with it, if it means he'll get the answers he wants. 

“Aw, Keith , you never told me I was your favorite!” Lance squeals exaggeratedly, fluttering his eyelashes and framing his face with his hands. Keith gives him a quiet huff of begrudged acknowledgement, but then he’s turning to head back to the supplies closet and Lance panics. He doesn’t want the topic to be over just yet. They're nowhere near where he needs them to be. He needs it spelled out for him, in plain terms, a black or white answer. Yes or no. Does he have a chance or not?

But Keith is walking away and Lance is panicking and...

Before he can talk any sense into himself, he blurts what he really wants to ask. “So, is he like an ex of yours?”

A long beat of silence follows the question. More than long enough for Lance to regret asking, to start brainstorming ways to take it back.

“You’re ridiculous.” Keith says eventually, turning around to face him. He gives him a look, eyebrows raised expectantly, and Lance immediately wants to apologize for even asking. It’s not his place, he knows it isn’t. He just desperately wants to know. It'll keep him up at night if he doesn't get any answers. He'll second guess everything they have going together, if he thinks Keith might not be single. He'll find a way to convince himself that Keith isn't really flirting back out of genuine interest, is just pitying him or incapable of rejecting him or-

And, thank the heavens, he doesn’t have to ask again because Keith supplies it all on his own. He settles on the floor a few feet away from Lance, folds his knees underneath himself and gets comfortable. There's a hint of tension there now, but it's customary for any time Keith is forced to share something about himself. He always looks like this, like every word is being torn out of his throat. “It’s nothing like that. He really is just a friend. We went through a lot together a few years ago, the guy’s like a brother to me even if I’m not involved in the same circles anymore. He’s not in town much so we try to get together whenever we can to catch up.”

There they are. All of the answers Lance was searching for. And yet the weight doesn't lift from his chest, the relief never comes.

Keith looks so... distraught. More outwardly emotional than Lance has ever had the pleasure of seeing him, for better or for worse. 

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to hit a nerve.” Lance tells him gently, kicking his foot out to gently brush it against Keith’s knee. It's an offering of a truce, an out in case Keith needs one and wants to drop the subject altogether. Keith hums thoughtfully, shoves his foot away and leans back against the palms of his hands for support.

“You didn’t.” Keith deadpans, not offering much in terms of an explanation. Lance’s expression must plainly state that the two word response leaves much to be desired, because Keith is awkwardly continuing even as he visibly struggles to find the right words. “It’s fine. Things are just a little tense between us right now. I’m worried about him and he keeps brushing me off.”

“Wanna… talk about it?” Lance ventures carefully, not wanting to spook him. Keith grimaces just the same though, curling in on himself slightly. He looks off-put by the idea, like he can’t even fathom why he’d talk to Lance about his emotions. Maybe they haven’t made nearly as much progress as Lance thought, or maybe this is the way things will always be with Keith, held at an arm’s distance. He hopes not, but he can't help but expect the worst when they've made so little progress after months of knowing each other.

“Thanks, but no. It’s pretty complicated and I don’t want to put that weight on your shoulders.”

“You’re really not gonna share a single thing about yourself until I pry it out of you, huh?” Lance says it mostly to himself. He really doesn’t want to put any expectations onto Keith, especially if he isn’t comfortable sharing. That’s the last thing he wants. He just feels… dejected. He wishes Keith trusted him enough to be a part of his life in more intimate ways than just business partners. “Pretty sure you can name all my siblings off by heart at this point and I don’t even know if you have any.”

“One. A brother.” Keith says finally, in one quiet exhale. It looks like he’s struggling to say even that much though and Lance can’t help but feel guilty for pressuring him into it. He doesn’t want that, he doesn’t want the information, not really, not as much as he just wants Keith to trust him enough to give it. “He’s not biological. I don’t… I don’t have any biological family. I was an orphan.”

“Oh.” Lance goes completely still where he’d been bouncing on the exercise ball for almost twenty minutes. He flounders slightly, at a total loss for how to approach the situation.  Suddenly, another piece of the puzzle slots into place. Things are starting to make a little more sense. “Shit, Keith, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t go sticking my nose where it doesn’t belong, I just-”

“Wanna get to know me. I know.” Keith cuts him off, but his tone is gentle. He understands, he knows that Lance is lost as to how to respond to that. Keith has probably had to struggle his way through explaining his history hundreds of times before, to people that overreacted or underreacted, to people that said hurtful things without realizing. He doubts it’s an easy subject to breach for the first time and Lance still can’t help but feel like he pressured him too much. “I wanna get to know you too. You think I’d listen to all of your rants about your family as closely as I do if that wasn’t the case?”

Lance smiles, but it's bittersweet. A compliment laced with something equally hurtful. 

“So… you wanna know me, but you don’t want me to know you?”

“There isn’t much to know.” Keith says gently. “The more questions you ask the more answers like that one you’re gonna get. I don’t have fun stories or memories to recount, I don’t really have hobbies because all I’ve ever done is work. Besides, my past is in the past for a reason. I don’t want to revisit it.”

“I won’t make you.” Lance tells him hurriedly, desperate to reassure. But Keith still looks indescribably uncomfortable, like Lance has brought things to the forefront of his mind that are normally kept locked away in the shadows. He wishes he knew how to fix it, to get Keith back to his usual self, detached and unreachable, a little bit cocky.

“I’m sorta trying to reinvent myself, with the gym and everything. I don’t really… know who I am right now. So how am I supposed to tell you ?”

It makes a lot more sense all of the sudden, the lack of sense everything has made up until this point. Keith doesn't have anything to share besides what Lance already knows, because what you see really is what you get. Keith has turned his back on his past and only has the future to look to. And as much as it pains Lance that he might never get to know who Keith used to be, isn't it a privilege in itself that he knows this new stage of Keith's life? That he gets to be right there beside him as he embarks on it? He's been here since the gym really started to pick up traffic, has helped Keith along the way as much as he can.

He knows Keith. He knows all that matters, anyway. That's enough. This is enough for him.

“Well, let me help you out and fill you in on what I’ve learned so far.” Lance suggests warmly, taking another step closer and wrapping his arms tightly around Keith’s middle. Keith reacts to the hug much like a cat would, squirming and shifting around like he’s simply a being never meant to be contained in any way shape or form. But when Lance lets his grip go slack, slack enough that Keith could easily pull away, the other boy stays.

Keith is the opposite of relaxed, he’s tense and rigid as a board, body unmoving and unforgiving against Lance’s chest where it’s tucked in so close. But he doesn’t try to pull away, so Lance takes that as the closest thing to approval he may very well get. So he continues, chin tucked over Keith’s shoulder because he’s pretty sure distant and detached Keith Kogane would have a heart attack if he was forced to look Lance in the eye while he said nice things about him. 

“First of all, you’re kind, almost to a fault when you let customers walk all over you and you give way more than you’re getting paid to.”

“I don’t-”

“You’re smart. A fucking genius in your own right. I can’t imagine all the paperwork and math and shit that goes into keeping this place running. Not to mention you’re too cheap to hire repair people so you figure out how to fix any machine that breaks all on your own, like some kinda tech whiz. You’re the most hardworking and resourceful person I know.” Lance takes a breather, feels Keith relax ever so slightly against him. 

“You don’t need to say all this, I’m not… some insecure kid looking for reassurance.” Keith doesn’t have to say it. Lance hears the unspoken “ not anymore ” loud and clear. He wishes he could have been there to provide reassurance when Keith did need it, before he found a way to make do and look inwardly for it. It must have been a lonely road to get to this point. But Lance is here now, and he has to keep reminding himself of that, to not take for granted what he's been given here. It's enough to be a part of the next chapter of Keith's story.

“I want to.” Lance insists, because it’s the genuine truth. He loves talking about Keith, he’s chatted everyone else’s ears off talking about him. If anything, it’s even better to finally talk about Keith to Keith and to cherish his reactions. “You love bad jokes and terrible flirting. You pretend you’re above it, but it’s the easiest and only guaranteed way to get you to laugh. And your laugh is so adorable, it’s worth every joke that doesn’t land or goes right over your head.”

“Ever think that maybe I really hate the terrible flirting and I just like you ?” Keith's voice is barely above a whisper, just on the edge of audible even with how closely they're pressed together. He doesn't sound uncertain though, not in the slightest.

It’s Lance’s turn to tense into the hug, not even daring to breathe in case it ruins the moment.

“I have thought about it, but I always managed to convince myself it was wishful thinking.”

“Well, maybe it’s not.” Keith backs up slowly, out of the hug but not far enough that he leaves Lance’s outstretched arms. And then they’re looking at each other and Lance doesn’t even have the sense about him to wipe the shocked dumbstruck expression off his face. He just stands there gaping like a fish out of water, blushing the deepest shade of red physically possible. Can anyone blame him though? This is a lot to comprehend considering mere moments ago he thought they were never going to breach any of these topics, and now here they are barreling through them one after the other. It's all new territory.

Keith smiles at him, doesn’t answer any of the thousand questions swimming around in Lance’s head, but somehow that soft expression alone is enough to calm him down. “My apartment’s over the gym.”

“Wow, that’s one more fact to the tally of things I know about Keith, thanks.” Lance blurts stupidly, and Keith looks like he wants to hit him suddenly. In hindsight, almost immediately after speaking Lance realizes where he went wrong, but then he’s shocked into silence by the actual realization of why Keith brought it up.

Surely that wasn’t… an invitation ?

“No, you idiot, I’m asking you if you wanna come upstairs.” Keith clarifies. “To my apartment. With me.”

It’s happening. Oh god, it’s finally happening. Lance has prepared meticulously for this moment and yet, he doesn’t have a single idea on how to respond right now.

He doesn’t wanna come on too strong, make Keith think he has any sort-of expectations for what’s going to happen. But he also doesn’t wanna seem too aloof, like he isn’t interested at all in anything more than a platonic hang-out sesh. Because he is very, very, very interested. He’s supremely interested. He’s-

They both startle at the sound of Lance’s phone ringing. He quickly digs it out and hangs up on whoever is calling him, decides it can definitely wait until later. But only after he’s hung up does he notice the name on the screen and remember where he’s supposed to be right now.

Shit.

“I want to. I really do. God, I would love to, but…” Lance flinches as he reluctantly trails off, wishing with all his might that he hadn’t promised to go to this stupid baby shower. Sure, he loves kids. Sure, he loves those party games where he has to pin safety pin diapers to his shirt whenever someone in the room crosses their legs. But damn it, being the office’s certified little brother figure has never been so directly inconvenient to him. “My favorite coworker is having this baby shower and I haven’t seen her in weeks because she’s off on maternity leave, and I only planned on stopping by for a couple minutes to let you know about the deal, so I really-”

“It’s fine, Lance.” Keith chuckles, shaking his head fondly. He takes a step back, puts a few feet between them. Lance immediately misses the closeness, wonders when he’ll get another chance to have it. He hopes this isn’t a first and a last for them, that Keith doesn’t take this rejection as something more permanent than it is.

“Another time. We’ll get takeout and make a night of it.” Lance promises him, clapping him on the shoulder good-naturedly. Keith leans into the touch, then just as quickly pulls away and starts heading toward the front doors. Lance follows closely behind him, grins slightly when Keith automatically grabs his jacket off the rack and hands it to him.

“I’ll see you Monday? For training?” Keith asks, watching him scramble to get ready. Lance nods eagerly, looking up at him through his lashes. Keith is leaning against the wall, arms crossed over his stomach, hair down and falling in his face, and he just looks so… warm. Like Lance could forgo the jacket entirely and just trudge out into the autumn weather with only Keith’s affection to block out the cold.

Lance feels tempted to kiss him. To take that final step between them and demolish it, to close the space that's been between them for so long and claim it as his own. He’s pretty sure it would be a positive reaction at this point, they aren’t exactly playing the subtle game anymore. Still… now isn’t the right time.

When Lance kisses Keith, he wants their schedules to be clear indefinitely afterward, because he isn’t sure he’ll be able to stop once he starts.

So, instead he reaches down between them to grab Keith’s hand and give it a soft squeeze.

Their gazes meet and linger. 

Lance smiles softly, holds his hand just a little bit tighter before pulling away.

“Wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

--

Except he does miss it. 

Because the next day… he decides to go to Whole Foods for some lazy Sunday grocery shopping, which leads him to the frozen food section. And I think we all know what happens there. Clean up on aisle four, Lancey-Lance just got his throat ripped out to the soulful melodies of What's New Pussycat.

He doesn’t show up at 8am on Monday because he’s a little bit busy being dead in a dumpster somewhere.

--

At about 8pm on Monday, however, he wakes up in said dumpster.

Still dead.

But... awake.