It wasn't until high school that Lance really learned what it meant to find your own family. Don't get him wrong, he loved his real family, he loved them to the moon and back, but finding your own family was a different kind of love. Finding your own family in the people around you who don't have to love you but decide to? That was a feeling that Lance truly adored. It started with Hunk in middle school. When Lance's dad got a promotion and they moved to a whole new town, a whole new school and Lance sat alone during lunch and during free block for a month. And then Hunk asked him where he got his star wars shirt and a friendship blossomed between them.
Lance was happy with just having one friend but that changed in high school when he made so many more, when he finally found a family of his own. It started with Hunk befriending Pidge who was friends with Keith. Lance and Keith didn't always get along, not by a long shot, maybe it started with Lance's jealousy and the way Keith and Hunk seemed to click. With their dumb gloves, affinity for crop top jackets and their god awful fanny packs. Regardless, it seemed like Lance and Keith were always at each others necks until Keith and Pidge's brothers had an accident.
And suddenly Lance was at the hospital every day with Keith while they waited for Shiro to get better or just wake up. Pidge's brother, Matt, got out of the accident with a broken leg and a few scars but it was nothing compared to Shiro. An amputated arm, several scars, possible memory loss... if he even woke up. Most days Lance walked Keith to the hospital and they worked on homework in Shiro's hospital room until the sun began to set and Lance would head home. Some days Pidge and Hunk would join them and every day Shiro's friend Allura would call.
Keith had called her that once but when Lance asked she denied it. She hadn't even met him in person. That was her argument. They're pen pals but they like each other a lot. Keith had replied and the subject was dropped. Allura was a friend from a few states over who Shiro had been talking to for years and even though Lance had only known about her for a month he knew they were meant for each other. It was one of those obvious things that everybody saw coming from a hundred miles away.
And it was only confirmed when Shiro finally woke up three months after his accident and the first thing he spoke was 'Allura is gonna kill me.' of course, he denied ever saying that afterwards.
The months after Shiro's accident were filled with flowers, homework, movies, get well notes and friends at the Shirogane house every day. Lance was over the most and that was how he overheard Keith's parents arguing about the cost of a prosthetic arm for Shiro and how they just wouldn't be able to afford it.
My family can pay.
Not only had Keith been quick to turn him down but he'd also threatened to stop talking to Lance if he so much as even mentioned it to his parents. That didn't stop Lance though. His parents were well off, so well off, his dad owned a hotel, he made more than enough and Lance knew it but the Shirogane's didn't.
“You really care about this boy don't you?” Hector, Lance's dad had questioned over dinner when Lance had brought up Shiro's accident.
“Keith is my best friend and Shiro is his brother, of course I care about them.” Lance confirmed around a spoonful of rice. “I heard their parents argue about not being able to help their own son and I... I thought maybe...”
“We could help?” it was Lance's mother who finished the question but Lance quickly nodded, eyes flickering between his parents, his siblings unusually quiet.
“I think we can definitely work something out, I'll look into it.”
It took an entire two weeks before Hector called Keith and Shiro's parents and explained the entire idea and process to them. Hector had a friend who worked for the Limb Loss Association and after pulling some strings and cashing in some long overdue favors, Hector got Shiro pushed to the front of the waiting list. A few tests would be run, measurements taken and questions asked then Shiro would be set up with a minimum use prosthetic arm, free of charge.
The whole process had taken a month after that, the Shirogane's had cried several times and Keith had tried his best to be angry with Lance. But when Shiro got his new arm and the first thing he did was pull Lance into a choke hold and give him a noogie, Keith seemed to let his anger go. Things seemed to get better from there, Shiro and Matt started eleventh grade while Lance, Keith, Hunk and Pidge started tenth grade and everything seemed fine. Especially when Allura began talking to all of them, forming friendships and even bringing up the idea of going to college where they all planned to go.
That's how Lance got the idea to roadtrip it to Allura's house.
Their parents had all been slightly reluctant but by the end of the school year they were all crammed into two different cars and driving ten hours to surprise visit Allura. Half way through the trip they stopped at a gas station and a McDonald's for a small break. Lance had been given the task of going inside to order while everybody else stretched their legs. And that was when Lance noticed the girl with nicely dyed white hair and stunning blue eyes.
“I was beginning to wonder why the sky looked cloudy today, it seems like you stole all the blue of the sky and put it in your eyes.”
“What? I—wait, Allura?!”
They sent each others names back and forth several more times in different confused and shocked tones before the others finally came in and Shiro was the first to recognize Allura
It was maybe an hour before they all cleared up exactly had happened. Allura had planned to surprise visit them as well, coincidentally on the same day, at the same time. It was truly amusing how things had worked out to Lance. After that they all decided to still head to Allura's house for the week.
The week is fun and filled with morning swims, picnics in the park, movie nights, games of hide and seek in Allura's house and the fair on their last night there. Really, the fair was like something straight out of movie, the way Allura and Shiro kissed at the top of the Ferris Wheel, it was almost too cheesy for Lance.
Allura visits them for Christmas during Shiro and Matt's senior year of high school and she visits again for their graduation. They all head to her town right afterwards for her graduation and that's when she tells them she's going to college in their home town. She's moving.
The summer before Lance's senior year of high school is them going back and forth from their town to Allura's to help her move into her dorm on the campus. They spend the fourth of July together and on the last day of summer they all camp out in Lance's backyard.
Senior year goes by in a blur, spirit week is filled with a bunch of different costumes that Lance designs himself for everybody. He makes sure to always give Keith the silliest one. Halloween they take Lance's younger brothers and sister trick-or-treating and all get a bag of candy for themselves in the process. For Thanksgiving Lance leaves town with his family but for Christmas he stays in town to spend it with everybody. They do a little secret santa exchange and when he unwraps a charm bracelet with six different flower petals on it he's a little confused.
“Because flowers hold so much meaning and beauty.” Allura explains, lifting the bracelet from the box to point at each flower. “Seven, one for each of us. Hunk got a delphinium for big-heartedness. Shiro got a purple iris for wisdom, Pidge got a bird of paradise for joyfulness. Matt has a bouvardia double for enthusiasm, Keith has a gladiolus flower for strength of character. My flower is a calla lily for magnificence and beauty and a blue iris for faith, for you Lance.”
It was a deeply thought out gift, he'd give her that. Taking the charm bracelet back into his hands, he looked over each charm, noticing the little initials on the back of each flower. “I love it.” And he did, he really did, he wore it every day after that. He never left the house without the charm bracelet even if it didn't exactly match his outfit of the day. Allura became something of a big sister for him after that.
High school graduation was something Lance would never forget. Most of his relatives had come to town and his house was packed, Keith, Pidge and Hunk all inviting their families to Lance's house to celebrate. Lance isn't sure how but at some point in the night they all sneak out to go bowling. Lance brags the whole way there about being the best at bowling and everybody seems to brush it off until Lance gets three strikes in a row. He wins by nearly eighty points, Hunk coming in second followed by Allura, Shiro, Pidge, Matt and Keith in dead last with a total of ten points.
“It was rigged, you rigged it.”
“You're a sore loser.” Lance laughs, maneuvering Keith into the arcade area of the building.
“Come on you big baby, you can beat me at something like...”
“A shooting game maybe?” Keith quickly supplies, pointing to a nearby one.
“No, no, I have a great aim, that's why I'm good at bowling and you suck. You'll lose that too.”
Keith doesn't seem too happy with that response but he lets it go. “What about air hockey?”
Lance loses. Badly. Ten to zero and Keith almost looks smug about it until Lance reminds him he got a grand total of ten points at bowling too. They end the night with pancakes at the local diner and well into the night they all finally head home.
It's a month before college starts when Lance is told his aunt has the Hanahaki Disease.
“What even is that?” he asks over the group call, about to look it up when an answer is given to him.
“A disease in the respiratory system, flowers bloom in your lungs and build up until you choke. It's because of unrequited love, there's medication for it but you can also get a surgery to remove the flowers.” it's Keith. Keith gives him the answer and Lance frowns at what he's told.
“So she's dying because she's in love?”
“You guys ever heard that saying that love and beauty go hand in hand? That's kind of an ironic saying now that I think of it. Because flowers are beautiful and these killer flowers are technically beautiful.”
“It's poetically morbid.” Allura chimes in, Hunk and Pidge mumbling in agreement.
“I think if I ever coughed up petals I'd be at the hospital to remove those feelings a few minutes later. Like, 'cut me up doc, I didn't sign up for a greenhouse in my lungs' you know?” Lance notes, most of the others agreeing. Most.
“You lose your feelings for the person forever.” Keith's tone is almost accusing. “You'd give that up?”
“If it's unrequited then yeah. Why bother, right?”
Keith doesn't answer, instead he excuses himself and the topic isn't brought up again after that.
A week before classes actually start, they're all helping each other move into the dorms. They're all in the same co-ed building. Pidge rooms with a girl named Shay on the first floor while Lance and Keith share a room on the second floor. Hunk rooms with another STEM major (Lance can't remember if the kid was Computer Engineering or just a math major) on the second floor, a few rooms down from Keith and Lance. Shiro, Allura and Matt all get an apartment a few blocks away from the school but still help the rest of them move into the dorm rooms.
“I call the top bunk!” Lance immediately calls out, tossing his coat onto the top bed and turning to grin at Keith.
“Alright...” Keith frowns with a shrug. “At least I don't have to climb up and down a ladder every morning and night.” that's when Lance's smile falls and he turns his gaze to the bunk beds.
The first week before classes officially start are spent arguing about how to decorate their dorm room. Lance wants Christmas lights hanging around the room while Keith absolutely refuses. They finally settle and agree to place some on the bunk beds and light them when they watch movies or late in the afternoons. The futon they buy is split fifty-fifty and Lance wants a blue one while Keith wants a black one. Again, they compromise, a black futon with a blue throw blanket and blue throw pillows. Lance wants stars on the ceiling but Keith thinks the idea is childish. But no matter how much Keith argues against it Lance still decorates the small area above his bed with stars.
Finally, when classes start they see each other less. Lance has afternoon classes every day. He's usually in class starting at twelve and done by six. Keith has morning classes, starting at seven thirty and he's done by one, Tuesday and Thursday though he has one night class at seven. Sometimes they meet up for a late breakfast (if Lance can manage to pull himself out of bed in time).
Dinner is the best part of Lance's day. Six is when everybody is either done with class or has enough time to sit down and eat with everybody. Lance is always the last to get to the dining hall and Keith is always the first to leave. They get a little less than an hour all together to catch up.
A month into the school year Lance is laying on the futon when Keith gets back to the dorm later than usual. Sitting up, Lance frowns at the way Keith mumbles to himself and drops his backpack roughly. “You okay?”
Keith pauses at the offer, “Don't you have homework to do?”
“No, last class got canceled so I had an extra hour to do my homework. I'm pretty far ahead actually. So movie night?” Lance repeats, sitting up on the futon and patting the spot beside him. Keith seems to mull it over before nodding and kicking his sneakers off. “What are you in the mood for? Horror? Comedy? Romcom? Documentaries?”
“You hate documentaries.” Keith scuffs.
“I don't hate the mermaid one or the aliens one.” Lance quickly defends while waiting for the Netflix screen to load on their tv.
“A comedy is fine. I'm not in the mood to think.” A few minutes go by before the movie starts playing and Keith lets out a soft laugh. “Lance this is Lilo and Stitch.”
“Yeah but it's funny.” Lance quickly explains, setting the remote down as far from Keith as possible. “Just shut up and watch it.”
They're maybe half way through the movie when Lance realizes he isn't paying attention at all. He's actually not sure what exactly he's been thinking about but he tries to focus on what's happening on the tv. Then it happens. Keith's head presses against his shoulder and suddenly Lance is very aware of how close Keith is sitting. Keith's hair tickles at his cheek and he can faintly smell Keith's shampoo.
He's not sure why such a simple gesture makes his heart race or his mind ignore the movie even more than before. But by the time he hears faint snoring the movie is over and Lance is blinking several times over. “Keith?”
His only response is a slight jolt from Keith and then his almost silent snoring picks up again. Lance's first regret is not having his phone close enough to grab and record Keith snoring and most likely drooling on him. His second regret is realizing he doesn't want to move Keith to his bed. His third regret is jostling the boy awake.
“You fell asleep, you must be really worn out.” Lance laughs, hand resting on Keith's shoulder to keep him from swaying to side to side.
“Yeah I... haven't been sleeping much lately.” Keith nods, stretching his arms above his head with a groan. “I'm gonna go shower.” and with that, Keith leaves the futon. Lance watches him as he walks around the room to grab his shower things then leaves.
“I'm fucked.” Lance whispers once the door shuts behind Keith.
Lance tries for a full week to convince himself the only reason he thought he had feelings for Keith was because of the cute little snoring he did. He tells himself maybe it was because they'd been spending so much time together. Maybe it was just a fluke crush, nothing serious.
But nothing convinces his heart to stop skipping a beat when Keith laughs or lays a hand on Lance's shoulder. Nothing makes that blush leave his cheeks when Keith cracks a terrible joke or smiles so faintly you'd have to be staring long enough to realize he was smiling. Nothing stops Lance from falling absolutely in love with Keith Kogane.
Maybe nothing stops Lance from falling in love but something does stop him from telling Keith how he feels.
“So you have a date?” Lance questions from his spot on the top bunk.
Keith is moving around, laying shirt after shirt across the futon. “Yeah.” he mutters, tossing another shirt into a pile Lance can only assume is the reject pile.
“How come you're only just now telling me about it?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean a date is usually planned right? Like a week in advance or something? But you're only telling me the day of.” Lance points out, sprawling across the mattress on his stomach.
“Oh. No, he asked me out this morning during chem class.” Keith answers after a short pause. “What do you think? This shirt?” he asks holding up a dark gray button down.
“With what? The black jeans you're wearing?”
“Yeah, you'll look pretty h—uh, pretty.” Lance nods. Keith frowns at the response and tosses the shirt back to the futon.
“I'm not going for pretty.”
“It's just a figure of speech, you'll look pretty hot is what I meant.” Lance sighs, head falling to rest on his forearms and legs swinging up behind him. “When are you leaving?”
The thirty minutes before Keith leaves go by too fast for Lance's tastes. He tries to think up a few excuses for Keith to not go but nothing seems plausible. He could admit his feelings but the whole ordeal convinces Lance that Keith is going on a date because he likes that guy.
The three hours that Keith is gone go by too slow for Lance's sanity. He does several things to pass the time. He scrolls through his phone for maybe an hour. He tries to watch several different movies but nothing catches his attention. He attempts homework but he can't seem to focus. He's laying on the floor, staring at the ceiling when he hears the doorknob rattle. He doesn't move, but he does listen, he hears Keith's muffled words, a second voice and.... and was that Keith giggling? Lance didn't know Keith had a laugh that wasn't either sarcastic or sounded like a hyena. The soft giggling only made Lance's stomach twist because he wasn't the one making him laugh like that.
“Goodnight.” the door finally opens all the way and Lance tilts his head up to look at an upside down Keith. “Lance?”
“How's the weather up there?”
“I hate you.” Lance breathes, Keith rolling his eyes and stepping around Lance's body. “How was the date?”
“Fantastic.” Keith shrugs.
“Where'd you guys go?”
“Dinner. He took me to his dad's restaurant.” Keith answers quickly changing into his night clothes.
“No Lance, it was a first date. Why are you asking a million and one questions?”
“Just looking out for my buddy Keith, my man, my dude, you know?” Lance laughs. Keith only hums in acknowledgment before moving to sit on the futon. Netflix is already on the screen so he just starts scrolling through.
“Scandalous.” Lance laughs, pushing up into a sitting position on the floor.
“You just came home from a date and you're already planning a movie night with a different guy? Keith you dog.” Lance cackles.
“Oh shut up!” Keith groans, grabbing the nearest pillow and pelting Lance in the face with it.
The next two months are a struggle for Lance. His grades seem to slip but when anybody asks he says he's just peachy. He's fantastic, better than ever. Keith goes on several more dates but never gives much detail on them when Lance asks. Lance is truly surprised nobody picks up on how badly Lance is crashing, especially Hunk.
He starts to skip their nightly dinners in favor of sitting in the library. Of course, with midterms just around the corner nobody seems to question it as long as Lance tells them he did grab a lunch on the way to the library. And nobody seems to notice when Lance starts skipping classes. Nobody seems to notice anything and it only serves to make Lance feel worse.
He knows he can't blame his friends, not when he tells them he's alright, not when he puts on a fake mask when anybody questions him. And no matter how much time he spends away from Keith Lance can't seem to get him off his mind. His feelings are stupid, they're only a fluke, he'd get over them. He had to.
“We'll be back Monday night.” Keith reminds Lance on Friday morning, bag in hand.
“Mm. Have fun in Seattle. Bring me back something.” Lance nods from his desk.
“I'll try. Probably just some cookies or something though. Mom likes to make those for my friends.” Keith answers, heading to the door. His hand is gripping the doorknob when he pauses and turns to frown at Lance.
“What?” Lance questions when he catches Keith frowning at him.
“Nothing, just don't destroy the room while I'm gone?” it's a stupid thing to say in Lance's opinion but that doesn't stop him from laughing.
“I'll try, now go or Shiro is gonna blame me if you guys miss your flight because you wouldn't leave the dorm room.”
Once Keith is gone Lance isn't sure what to do. Keith and Shiro were going home for the long weekend to visit their parents who had moved back to Seattle once they both started college. Keith's family had moved to Santa Monica when Shiro started high school and then their parents moved back to Seattle five years later when Keith finished high school. It still baffled Lance as to why they had moved down to California for a high school. But every time Lance questioned it he didn't get a straight forward answer from either Keith or Shiro. So eventually Lance gave up on the idea of figuring out why.
The rest of Friday night goes by slowly and is filled with movie after movie. Finally, he settles on Lilo and Stitch and lays back against the throw pillows, blankets wrapped around himself. He's ten minutes into the film when he gets a tickle in the back of his throat. Clearing his throat doesn't seem to help at all and then the coughing starts. He's quick to sit up and panic swells in his chest when he can't stop to catch his breath.
He stumbles to his desk and grabs the nearest water bottle but he can't stop long enough to take a sip. Finally, the reason for his sudden coughing fit comes up and it doesn't calm him, in fact it sends him into a worse panic.
Purple flower petals.
“Fuck. No fuck, no, no, fuck, no fuck!” Lance cries out, petal slipping from his hand. He quickly moves to the front of his desk, shoving his chair aside and powering up his laptop. His hands move across the keys shakily, several typos slipping in but he still gets the result he was looking for. The Hanahaki Disease.
Is a disease that was first founded in Japan. It's caused when a fungi (Aihato) and body induced chemicals mix, causing a reaction. Due to the high levels of dopamine and oxytocin (from love) mixing with high levels of cortisol and epinephrine (from heart break) they cause a new chemical to form: burekophrine, if traces of the Aihato fungi are in the body. Due to unsanitary trading, the fungi spread from Japan to other continents and countries in the early 1700's. A cure was found by Isayama Hiroshi and Alexander Smith in the early 1900's. The disease has become well known but due to the possibility to cure it now it has lost some of its original craze. Even to this day millions are affected by the disease year round but the death toll has significantly dropped to a few hundred thousand a year.
Stage one, sprouts. Can go unnoticed but cause difficulty breathing when around the cause of them. This stage can last anywhere from one month to four months.
Stage two, petals. Flowers have begun to bloom in the respiratory system and petals that come loose will cause choking and difficulty breathing. This stage can last anywhere from one month to three months.
Stage three, withering. This is the last and final stage, when the flowers have fully bloomed and begin to wither away. Will cause rips in the pulmonary lining as well as begin to detach themselves and cause choking as the lungs attempt to remove them through coughing fits. This stage can last one to two months.
Stage one: medication to prevent the flowers from blooming, if the medication is taken for a long period of time it can cause complications or the flowers can adapt. Eventually blooming despite the medication.
Stage two: surgery. Once the flowers have bloomed medication will have no affect. The procedure is performed often enough that there is little to no risk to the patient. However, if the surgery is successful the body builds an immunity to it and the patient never runs the risk of getting Hanahaki again.
Stage three: terminal. Once the last and final stage begins there is no cure, surgery will only prolong the patients life but the flowers will rebloom at a faster rate each time.
Stage one: medication can cause heavy mood swings due to the change in hormone levels.
Stage two: surgery will cause memory loss of the source of the flowers as well as the 10% possibility of loosing any and all emotions. 10% of all patients have reported losing all emotions but regaining them later on in life. Only 2% of patients report never feeling any kind of emotion ever again.
Stage three: terminal.
Lance was fucked.
That was his first thought after reading the medical page on it and glancing to the petal on the floor. He was dead, done for, he was coughing up petals already. He could always go get checked, could see if he could get that surgery could—could lose his feelings and memories of Keith forever. He could even run the risk of losing all his emotions if he needed that surgery.
Lance wanted to cry.
That was the gist of what he was feeling. Other ways he could describe it were: overwhelmed, terrified, angry, upset, hurt... the list went on. He was in a panic. He was already in stage two and if the petals were coming off how long did he have? A month? Maybe two? He had to make a decision quick. That's when he remembered that one chat in high school, when his aunt had told them she had the disease. He had told Keith and all his friends that he would give up his feelings for the person in a heartbeat, especially if they were unrequited.
He had lied.
He didn't want to forget Keith, didn't want to lose him. Even if he could technically rebuild their friendship it wasn't ideally what Lance wanted. He didn't want Keith to not know either. Maybe it was stupid, poetically stupid but Lance would die with the disease. He would die loving Keith. Not just that but he'd die with his emotions. The chances of him losing them were slim to nothing but they were still there and Lance preferred not to lose that. He was an emotional person, he experienced almost every emotion ever named each and every day.
Love, joy, excitement, anger, jealousy, boredom, fear, curiosity, fear, panic, amusement, frustration, he felt anything and everything. He couldn't imagine having to go day to day not feeling anything, not feeling the need to laugh at stupid jokes, not having the urge to shout at his history teacher for testing him on something he hadn't learned. He couldn't imagine feeling absolutely nothing, just the thought made him feel afraid.
So Lance decided he would die with his emotional roller coaster and loving Keith until the end of it.