Keith flits through the computer at his work desk. He doesn’t have anything in particular he’s searching for, but he’s hoping that standing at the computer will make him look busy enough that customers will choose to not bother him. It’s afternoon during a weekday and the living rooms department is quiet. The huge air conditioners chug away in an effort to cool the entire store. They are barely succeeding. It’s beginning to sweat where his hair touches his neck, and Keith hates to imagine how wet his socks are going to be after this shift. He needs a break. Badly. But he’s only just taken one. He sighs and wanders over to a couch they have on sale, pretending to fluff its cushions. It also happens to be right under an air vent.
“No, no, my pleasure.”
An unfamiliar voice rings out. It’s low and pleasant, with that air of retail professionalism Keith recognizes. His ears prick up, trying to identify who it is.
“Toilets are just next to the restaurant on your left.” The helpful voice guides again. Keith’s brows scrunch. He’s worked at the store for three years now and is familiar with everyone who works on his floor, yet he can’t place this voice. Curiosity gets the better of him. He stops his half hearted couch cushion fluffing and walks around the corner. He sees the host desk at the store’s entrance, and the young man working at it, greeting customers and directing them as they enter the large labyrinth of departments. He looks no older then Keith, but he’s taller… slimmer. His broad shoulders fill out his uniform nicely, and his tan skin makes his new work shirt look an even brighter yellow. Keith would definitely remember meeting him.
“Yes,” The boy turns a dazzling smile onto the new customer. It’s an older woman with a shaky grip on her cane.
“I’m looking for shoe horns. Is there a short way there?” She asks.
“Of course,” The boy chuckles. “Shoe horns are in the laundry department downstairs. You can get there faster if you take the stairs down from the restaurant and then take the shortcut on the right hand side in linens.”
Keith’s eyebrows shoot up. This should be a new guy, but his knowledge of the store is way too good. Shoe horns are a niche product, how the hell does he know where those are already? And he explains the shortcuts like he’s walked them a million times.
“Delivery can be organized with the deliveries desk on the left hand side of the checkouts.” The stranger explains to another customer.
“Prices start at $59, but for most suburbs the price will be $89.”
Not even Keith knows that. He always has to check the prices on the website when a customer asks about delivery. He stares in disbelief at the boy in front of him. Had they just never met? Was he some kind of furniture/homewares retail genius? Maybe he’s transferred from a department downstairs?
Someone Keith does recognize ascends the stairs. His face is weary, and he walks by Keith with heavy footsteps. Keith snaps his hand out.
“Shiro!” Without taking his eyes off the host, he grabs Shiro by the forearm. Shiro jumps a bit.
“Him. Who is he?” Keith nods in the direction of the stranger. Shiro turns his exhausted head. His eyes light up when he realizes who his brother is talking about.
“Oh, Lance.” He smiles.
“Lance. He’s transferred from the store down south. He’s moved for university and wanted to work closer. He’s Hunk and Pidge’s friend. They’ve mentioned him.”
“They have?” Keith relaxes and crosses his arms. He has no recollection of anyone called Lance.
“What department is he in?” He asks. Shiro’s smile widens.
“Yours.” He chuckles. “He’ll be hosting mostly. We were told that’s what his position was at the other store, and his manager said he was pretty decent at it.”
“Pretty decent.” Keith exhales. That seemed like underwhelming praise for someone who was clearly great at their job.
“He’s living with Hunk too, so you’re probably gonna see a lot of him.” Shiro leans back and sinks his hands into his pockets. Keith hums with acknowledgement. He continues to watch …. Lance. How he easily strikes up conversations with customers and walks away leaving them smiling. Keith misses the mischievous smirk that Shiro wears as he leans in close.
“… He’s cute, right?” He whispers. Keith jumps back like he’s been electrocuted.
“Stop.” He hisses. Shiro’s loud laughter is beginning to draw attention.
“Just go home already! Your shift ended an hour ago!”
“Alright, alright, I was just on my way to clock out.”
“Just on your way to harass me.” Keith pouts.
“Meeee? Harass my sweet baby brother!” Shiro fakes like he’s scandalized. He wears a shit eating grin and jogs off. Keith makes a mental note to put extra jalapenos in his dinner.
“Uh, I’m not 100% sure. Let me help you find someone who would know.”
Keith is pulled out of his glowering by the sound of Lance’s voice coming closer. He turns to see him approaching fast, a young couple close on his heels. Lance makes an effort to reach Keith before they do.
“You work living rooms?” He asks quietly. Keith nods.
“Oh thank god.” He mumbles before turning to address the couple. “I’ll leave you with my good friend…” His eyes dart to the nametag on Keith’s lanyard. “Keith! He’s the expert on these kinds of things.”
Lance begins to walk away. Keith barely has a chance to register what is happening before the couple is hammering him with complicated questions. Something about sofa beds and different mattresses and replaceable covers. He has to blink several times before their questions all sink in.
Keith is standing at the computer again after assisting the young couple, an elderly woman in need of an armchair, and a university student wanting to know if any items were going on sale soon. He stares at the screen and breathes a sigh of relief that he’ll be able to take his last break soon. Just 30 more minutes.
He jumps. His head whips around to see Lance standing next to him.
“I’m sorry about earlier. Sometimes customers just ask really specific questions that I can’t answer properly. Were they ok?”
“Oh… uh…” Keith breathes. He has cute ears… what? He shakes his head.
“Yeah, yeah, they were fine. No problem.”
“Ah good. They seemed like they could be high maintenance.” Lance smiles. Keith notices he has very white teeth.
“I’m Lance by the way.” He sticks out his hand. Keith hesitantly takes it. It’s warm and he has long fingers.
“I’ll be working in here from now on…. Well when I’m not hosting I mean.” He laughs. “I hope you can show me the ropes.”
“You seem to have a pretty good grip on things.”
“Eh,” Lance shrugs. “But I don’t know our full range, or who to call if…”
“Sorry,” A customer forces their way into their conversation. They look sweaty and frustrated. They huff with irritation.
“Just how do I get out of this place?”
“Go that way.” Keith tersely answers. He points down the main path, but offers no other guidance. The customer stomps off. Lance quirks an eyebrow.
“You uh… you ok?” He asks.
“Yeah, why?” Keith looks at him with innocent confusion.
“You don’t…” Think that was rude? Lance wants to finish, but this is his first day. He really shouldn’t pick fights with his coworkers.
“Do you like working here?” He changes direction. Keith shrugs.
“It’s alright. I like the people I work with. I’m not too good with customers though.”
“Really,” Lance laughs a bit. He tries not to sound too patronizing. “How’d you get the job then?”
“My older brother helped. He’s a manager sooooo….” Keith nervously scratches his arm “Nepotism I guess?”
“Brutally honest.” Lance shakes his head. “Remind me to not piss you off. I feel like you could seriously hurt my feelings.”
“I’m kidding.” Lance grins and the panic bubbling in Keith’s chest subsides. He turns back to his emails. Something about flooding in the staff parking lot.
“Who’s your brother then?”
“Your brother. The one who works here?” Lance leans on the desk. Too close.
“Shiro!” Lance exclaims. He pushes back and beams.
“Aw man, you’re Shiro’s brother? He was at my interview! I had to build a desk with him. Dude moves like a machine, it was crazy. I’ve never seen someone move an allen key like that. He seemed really cool.” Lance fawns. Keith exhales. He’s used to this reaction, but it doesn’t stop hurting just a bit. Shiro is charming, extroverted and talented in every way. Keith is… reclusive and finds it difficult just to make friends. He loves his brother, but did he just have to be so damn perfect?
“Yeah uh… he’s really something.”
“I’m sure he gets jealous of you.”
Keith’s eyes widen. Now that’s a new reaction.
“Seems like you beat him in the genetic lottery.” Lance smiles coyly. Keith stares like a dead fish.
“Ah damn, people are at my desk.” Lance peeks at the line starting to form at his work station.
“I’ll catch you around, Keith.” He waggles some finger guns and jogs back to his station. Keith’s eyes narrow.
… did he just call me hot?
Keith’s next break arrives mercifully soon. He sits in the coworker restaurant with a slice of carrot cake and a tall glass of cold water. He’s flicking through his phone when Lance enters the break area. He doesn’t notice Keith. He quietly walks up to the door that leads to the kitchen and knocks on it. He shuffles impatiently until a dish washer shows up, drying her hands on a towel.
“Is Hunk around?”
The girl looks confused, but nods all the same. She slips behind the door. The next person to open the door is Hunk, his chef jacket covered in grease and marinara sauce. He wipes his hands on his apron. A huge smile erupts on his face when he sees Lance.
“Hey! Happy first day!”
“Ah thanks, can you come on break yet?” Lance looks at his friend hopefully.
“Oh yeah, hang on.” Hunk steps into the kitchen.
“Hey Coran! I’m going on my last break if that’s ok!”
“Righto!” His manager answers.
Hunk begins to step into the break area when Lance places his hand on his chest.
“Whoa whoa, hold up.” He drops his voice. “Smuggle me some princess cake. I know we’re not out.”
“Jeez, Lance. I could get in…”
But Lance turns the puppy dog eyes on him. He presses his hands together pleadingly.
“Ah jeeez,” Hunk knows he’s lost. He disappears back into the kitchen. When he reemerges he looks around to make sure no one is watching him, and pulls out a small plate with a pink frosted cake on it.
“I’m not doing this all the time.” He warns.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, just hand that baby over.” Lance enthusiastically takes the plate and picks up a fork. Hunk starts to untie and pull off his apron. He scans the room for a place to sit. He spies Keith huddled in the corner, trying to ignore the chatter around him with his nose buried in his phone. Hunk smiles.
“Keith,” He begins to walk over. Lance is on his heels, but hesitates when he sees where they are headed. Keith looks up in surprise.
“Can we sit here?” Hunk throws his apron over a chair. Keith wordlessly nods. He pulls himself up so he isn’t slouched over his chair as much. Hunk pushes out a chair for his friend, but Lance pauses.
“You guys know each other?”
Hunk’s eyes flit between Lance and Keith.
“Oh! You’ve met already.” He laughs. “Yeah, yeah, Keith and I go to school together. We take the same physics and maths classes.”
“Oh…ok.” Lance sits. “You must be pretty smart then.” He smirks.
“Not as good as Hunk.” Keith clarifies.
“Smarter then me though.” Lance mumbles.
“What was tha…?” But Keith drops his question when he sees Shiro walk in. He shuffles over to the lunch bar and pulls out a ready made sandwich. He turns over his shoulder to meet Keith’s disappointed glare.
“You said you were going home! You’ve been here since 5am!” He chides. Shiro deflates when he sits down next to him.
“I know, I know.”
“You said you were all done.”
“And yet… here I am.”
“Shiro…” Keith shakes his head. He chews on his bottom lip.
“I’m leaving soon. I promise.” Shiro bumps him with his shoulder.
“You better.” Keith glowers.
Shiro looks up from his sandwich to see Lance is watching him.
“Ah! Lance! Welcome aboard. I see you’ve met my overbearing little brother.”
Lance tries to hide his smile. Keith pouts.
“Yes, we’ve met.”
“How’s your first day treating you?”
“Pretty good. It feels like business as usual. Just a slightly different…”
Lance jumps at the interruption. A tall girl bursts into the break room. Her fair hair is pulled into a messy bun on top of her head, and her blue eyes are striking against her dark skin. Her elegant face is pulled into a grimace. She throws her water bottle down on the table and flops next to Shiro.
“I just had a customer try to return a product we haven’t stocked in five years. Five years! And when I explained that all of our products had a one year limit on returns, not to mention we didn’t even supply his product anymore, he just kept screaming that it was only a few months ago. That there was noooo waaay it could have been five years ago. I asked if he had a receipt, which of course he didn’t because it was five years ago! But then, amazingly, I was able to search his credit card in our system and pull up his purchase history, and OH SHIT GUESS WHAT?! He absolutely did buy that product not five, but SIX years ago. I didn’t even work here then!” The woman takes a big gulp from her water bottle then slams it down again. Shiro chews his food unfazed.
“I showed him and he threw a fit. Said he wanted to see the store manager and demand we refund his money. I told him it was her day off.”
“Is it?” Hunk wonders.
“Of course not. But I wasn’t going to enable that guy anymore. He yelled at me about how awful I was and said he would never shop here again. I thought I was gonna have to call security on him!”
The girl places her head in her hands. The group at the table is quiet.
“That guy must have some nerves of steel to look at a woman as beautiful as you and still feel angry.” Lance leans forward and practically purrs. Allura looks up in cautious disgust. Lance’s smile falters. He realizes Keith and Hunk are both looking at him with wide eyes.
“She’s the customer relations manager, dude.” Hunk whispers, but everyone hears.
“Oh, manager!” Lance’s confident façade shatters. He pedals back hard. “Sorry I…. yikes.” He slumps.
“She’s also my girlfriend.” Shiro smiles lazily in between bites. Lance swallows.
Hunk rolls his eyes and claps his friend on the back.
“Allura, this idiot is my best friend, Lance. Lance, this is Allura. She deserves your respect and admiration.”
“I didn’t mean to… I’m sorry about…”
“It’s fine. Really.” Allura smiles good naturedly.
Something resembling disappointment flutters in Keith’s stomach.
Thankfully the tension is broken when Lance spies someone he recognizes enters the break room. Her steps are heavy and her hair is matted with sweat around her neck and temples. Her glasses sit askew in front of tired, half lidded eyes. She fills a mug with one, two, three shots of espresso.
“Here comes trouble,” Lance chuckles under his breath. Pidge turns over her shoulder to see the group crowded around the table in the corner. She smiles lazily when she sees Lance.
“Happy first day.” She holds out her fist and Lance bumps it with his. She takes a huge gulp of her coffee. Unsweetened. No milk. Still scalding. Lance shudders.
“Rough day?” He asks.
“Rough life.” Is her grim reply. She pulls up a seat. “Where they got you working?”
“Hosting. And living rooms.”
Pidge’s eyes sparkle menacingly. She goes from a living corpse to wildly alive and dangerous in 0.5 seconds. She throws her mug down.
“Living rooms! Living rooms!! Are you fucking…! No! No! I’ve been asking for more staff for months! I have twice the workload, I’m the last department so I have to deal with all the customers YOU GUYS have fucked up, I’ve got at least two pages of incoming stock to set up for every day, AND this is third time this week I’ve had a sick call and have ended up doing everything by myself!” She throws her arms into the air, as if pleading god to smite her down.
“This is absolute bullshit! Living rooms already has three full time workers, and at least four part timers. They don’t even need…!” Her glare gets turned on Shiro. “You’re a manager! Weren’t you at his interview?! Why didn’t you assign him downstairs?!”
“Hey, hey, whoa Pidge…” Shiro holds his hands up in a placating gesture. “I’m logistics, not sales. I have no control over where the sales managers assign people.” He explains. “Besides, living rooms lost a coworker last month and had been struggling to look after the department properly.”
“That’s because upstairs coworkers are shit and weak. The fact Keith hasn’t been fired yet is the purest example of that!”
“Now, hold on there…”
“What the fuck, Pidge…”
A chorus of her friends calling her out knocks Pidge to her senses. All animosity seems to melt from her body.
“I’m sorry, Keith. I didn’t mean…”
“It’s ok.” Keith mumbles.
“No, no, I know you work hard. I’m sorry. I’ve just been doing 10 hour shifts every day, and it’s been six days since my last day off…” She slumps forward. “I feel like I’m going crazy. I shouldn’t have taken it out on you.”
“It’s ok.” Keith repeats, a bit gentler this time.
The group is quiet and a heavy silence settles in. Lance hates silence.
“Is this what I’ll eventually become?” He points at Pidge’s depressed, sweaty frame. She laughs darkly.
A phone rings. Everyone’s hands fly to their pockets. They all breathe a sigh of relief when they realise their phone is not the one ringing. Pidge doesn’t even reach for hers.
“I’m on break. Fuck ‘em.” She says into her coffee. Lance groans.
“Ah man, it’s me.” He answers it.
“Host and living rooms, this is Lance…. Uh huh… yup… ah… I’m on break so… no Keith is with me… Yeah ok I’ll check for you. Hold on.”
Lance takes the phone away from his ear and groans.
“I gotta go guys.” He shovels the rest of his cake into his mouth. “See you at home, big guy.” He stands and ruffles Hunk’s hair.
“Catch ya later.” He waves to the rest of the group and jogs off. Keith watches his back as he exits.
He pulls out his mobile and flips through facebook again when someone coughs. His eyes look up.
“Soooooo, Keith~” Hunk starts. “What do you think of Lance?”
Keith’s eyes narrow suspiciously. He shrugs.
“Seems nice. Good with customers.”
“You haven’t been mean to him yet?” Hunk raises his eyebrows.
“What? No!” Keith barks. “Why would I…
“Don’t be mean to him, Keith.” He points a large index finger into Keith’s space. “He’s my best friend. You’re a friend too, but he’s more sensitive than you.”
“What the hell…?” Keith pulls away from Hunk’s finger. “Why on Earth would I be mean to him? I like Lance! Well… from what I’ve seen anyway.”
“Augh I dunno,” Hunk sighs. “I just worry you two will clash. You have pretty opposite personalities. Like Lance likes Pitbull unironically, and bad Sylvester Stallone movies, and expensive skin care products…”
“Hunk, it’s really fine. We get along fine.”
“Sorry, sorry I’m just nervous.” Hunk runs a hand through his long bangs. “I just want my buds to get along!”
Keith smiles quietly at his friends passionate display.
“Hey, Keith…” Pidge smirks into her coffee. “You know what else Lance likes?”
Keith takes a sip of his water. He makes a questioning noise.
Keith doesn’t stop coughing for five minutes.
Keith’s next shift is a stressful one. It’s the day before their big sale, and he has to hang up all the signage and replace price tags with the new slashed prices. It wouldn’t be that bad, except for the fact that he’s only allowed to start putting signs up an hour before close. They’ve had a sick call. He’s alone and closing time is fast approaching. He’ll have to call Shiro and tell him he won’t be making dinner. At this rate he’ll be at work until 11pm.
“Good evening, this is a customer announcement. Our store is now closed…” A voice over the loud speaker rings out.
“Shit,” Keith hisses. He’s high on a ladder struggling to hang his fifth sales banner. He still has 15 to go. His fingers tremble as he manages to tie the signs loops over the beams that cross over the ceiling.
“Goodnight, Keith!” Lance peeks in from the start of the department with a wave.
“Uh yeah, night!” Keith’s voice trembles as he strains to hang the sign straight. Lance glances curiously at Keith on the ladder. His eyes pan around the department for signs of anyone else helping to set up the sale. He swears he remembers at least two other people were supposed to be here.
“You alone, man?” Lance quietly walks over to the ladder. Keith sighs as he finally manages to finish tying the sign.
“Yeah. We had some sick calls.” He begins to descend. He’s already thinking about where the sixth sign is supposed to go.
“You’re setting up sale all by yourself?!” Lance guffaws. He’s set up for enough sales at his old store to know it’s a monumental task.
“Looks like it.” Keith sighs. He looks through his pile of signs and pulls out the next one to hang. It’s one for a sofa bed in the corner. This one will be particularly hard to hang.
Lance begins to rummage through the signs and pulls one out for a product he recognizes.
“This one’s gonna hang on eight loops, right?” He asks as he begins to cut the loop line that is used to hang the signs.
“What? What are you…?”
“I’m helping you out. There’s no way I’m leaving you here to do all this. And managers will have a fit tomorrow morning if it’s not all up.”
“No, Lance. You’re supposed to go home now.”
Lance smiles and shrugs.
“It’s fine. I need the extra money. Now it’s eight loops, yeah?”
Keith sighs. Maybe this set up won’t be so painful after all.
They work out a system. Because Lance is taller, and struggles less to toss the loops over the ceiling beams, he stands on the ladder whilst Keith prepares and hands him the sign from below. Keith soon discovers that Lance is actually pretty good at this, and teaches him a few tricks that make hanging the banners easier.
“So apart from this incredibly interesting evening, how has the rest of your day been?” Lance smiles down at Keith as he’s handed another banner. Keith grips onto the ladder to keep it steady.
“This whole day’s been pretty… less than average.” He grumbles quietly.
“Get any mean customers?” Lance chuckles.
“Yeah.” Keith sighs. Lance stops laughing. He looks down to see the concerned look on Keith’s face.
“Had some guy call me useless and threaten to complain about me.”
“Whoa, you ok?” Lance leans against the ladder. He contemplates coming down and comforting Keith properly.
“Yeah, yeah. I’m used to it.”
“This has happened before?” Lance balks.
“I told you I wasn’t good with customers.” Keith smirks and meets Lance’s gaze. Lance shakes his head.
“You seem plenty nice to me. I’m sure they’re just jerks. That whole ‘the customer is always right?’ thing?” Lance stretches up to finish looping the lines for the 11th banner. They’re slowly making progress.
“Absolute bullshit. Customer’s are idiots.” He bites. Keith laughs.
“It’s odd to hear you say that.”
“You gotta treat them like children.” Lance hops off the last step with a huff. He wipes his dusty hands on his navy pants, leaving marks on them. “So tell me, Keith…” He grabs the next sign to hang. “If customer service isn’t your thing, then what is?”
“What do you mean?” Keith pushes the ladder to the next location. Lance begins to climb it.
“What are you good at? What do you like to do when you aren’t sweating in this store?” Lance looks down and laughs. He leans easily, like the height barely fazes him.
“Uh…” Despite Keith being constantly told by his professors how talented he is in numerous areas, and winning enough academic and athletic competitions that he lost track long ago, he finds it difficult to talk about himself. His brain fizzles out. Lance would never care how proficient he was in chemistry, or that he was on the champion field hockey and soccer teams in high school. Those are boring facts to put on a resume. Keith didn’t know how Lance’s grades were, but he knew he had a large family, that he was crazy good at making sandcastles, and hated wearing shoes when he didn’t have to.
“Riding motorcycles.” Keith blurts. It’s something that only his closest friends know about.
“Oh yeah?” Lance perks up. “You just like riding them or…?”
“Yeah, I’m actually saving up to buy a touring motorcycle.” Keith smiles shyly to himself. “I wanna travel around the country when I graduate.”
Lance’s fingers pause their ministrations with the hanging loops. He looks down at Keith and nods encouragingly. This dream of Keith’s has surprised him.
“…That’s really fucking cool.”
“Yeah. I could never do something like that.” Lance shakes his head. “And you’re gonna do this all by yourself?”
“That was the plan?”
“Amazing. That’s so cool. I’d be terrified of dying in a ditch somewhere.” Lance laughs. The 12th sign is finished.
“What else?” He beams and hops down.
“I’m pretty good at rolling cold rolls.”
“Rolling what now?”
“You know, those rolls in like…. Vietnamese cooking. They’re filled with vermicelli and veggies and prawns… wrapped in rice paper?” Keith mimes rolling one in the air.
“Is it like rolling a burrito?”
“I dunno. I’ve never rolled a burrito.”
“Well I’m the king of rolling burritos.” 13th sign completed. “Tell you what, I’ll roll you a burrito and you roll me a cold roll and then we’ll swap and judge each other.”
“Sounds like a plan. I always look forward to burritos.”
“I don’t know anything about cold rolls, but in my experience, if a food is rolled it’s usually pretty damn good.”
“You eat a lot of rolled foods?” Keith smirks.
“I’m convinced that all cylinder food is a gift. Burritos, tamales, churros, cannolis, cannellonis… uh… that cookie dough that comes in a tube, Greek dolmas…”
“Yiros?” Keith offers.
“There you go. Now you’re catching on.” Lance laughs. 15th sign down.
“Fruit roll ups?” Keith hands him the next sign.
“Oh, a classic.” Lance smirks.
“The power of the rolled food is strong.” Lance whispers, as if it’s a religious statement.
“So you ride bikes and roll rice paper. What else have you got? I’m guessing you’re good at physics if you’re in Hunk’s classes.”
“I’m ok. Physics is one of my favorite subjects.”
“Neeeerd.” Lance teases. Keith rolls his eyes.
“What are you studying officially anyway?”
“Aerospace engineering.” Keith replies in a bored tone. Lance slowly turns his head. His mouth and eyes are wide. 17th sign down.
“Holy fuck dude.”
“What?” Keith shrugs.
“Oh I juess I’m ok.” Lance mocks Keith’s humble previous statement. “I know the aerospace program. I tried to get in to the aerospace program. You have to be a genius to get into there.” 19th sign down.
“Alright, this is depressing me. What else are you into?”
“Tae kwon do?” Keith offers. Lance snorts.
“What, cuz I’m Asian? What are you saying…?”
“No! No! Nonononono…” Lance holds his hands up. “Just like, you look… uh… athletic, like you’re clearly…” Lance’s eyes pan over Keith’s physique and he swears at himself. He’d be lying if he said he’d never looked at Keith’s arms, or leered at his slender waist in comparison to his shoulders.
“You… you look like an active person!” Lance settles on. His ears are glowing furiously. He curses under his breath.
“Okay??” Keith’s eyes narrow.
“That’s really cool though!” Lance tries to recover. With the final sign all tied up, he climbs down the ladder. He squats into a fighting stance…. Or at least an imitation of one.
“Think you could teach me some sweet moves?” He gently punches Keith’s bicep with a loose fist. Oh, that’s a solid bicep… stoooppp.
“I’d kill you.” Keith places his hands on his hips. He smiles at Lance’s goofy martial arts moves. All are accompanied by horrific sound effects.
“Try me, hot stuff.” Lance shuffles forward. “I’ve got legs for days, son. I could keep you at bay with these babies.” And he actually manages to execute a fairly impressive hitch kick.
“I’ve noticed.” Keith shakes his head. Lance stands up straight. A shit eating grin is on his face.
“You’ve been looking at my legs?” He grins. Keith freezes. Oh fuck. He’s let it slip. He has to distract Lance. Move on like he never heard him. This never happened!
“That was the last sign.” He nods at the bright yellow banner above their heads.
“Oh yeah! Guess it was. That actually went pretty quickly.” Lance smiles fondly. Something warms in Keith’s chest.
“Thanks, Lance. I really couldn’t have done this without you.” His voice is soft and far too sincere. Lance’s grin falters.
“No problem, man.” He ducks his head and smiles. “I like when we get to work together.”
Keith’s heart clenches.
With the sale fully up and running, Keith’s next shift is hectic. Long gone are the days where he can just stand by his computer and look busy. He’s constantly having to redo displays because customers keep trashing them, and his department is littered with products from elsewhere in the store. He’s shocked to find that a customer has abandoned a children’s high chair in the coffee table section. Why would a customer carry a high chair all the way from children’s…. just to neglect it here? Why carry it all that way? Keith learned long ago to not question people’s behaviour.
He’s printing out a pile of price tags when his phone rings for the eighth time that hour. He picks it up with an exasperated sigh.
“Living rooms, Keith speaking,”
“Hey, when’s your next break?” The cheerful voice on the other end asks.
“…Lance?” Keith’s face scrunches in confusion.
“Yeah, who else would it be?” Lance laughs.
“…Why do you need to know when my next break is? Do you need to go? Do you need me to get someone to cover you?” Keith rattles off all the explanations he can think of. There’s a disbelieving laugh on the other end of the phone.
“I’m asking because I wanna have lunch with you, you idiot.”
Keith freezes. No one’s ever deliberately gone on a break with him before. His hand grips the work phone tightly.
“Oh?” He squeaks.
“Yeah, I prefer eating with friends. Makes it feel like recess.”
Frrriiiieends???? Keith’s brain short circuits. Is that…? Well reasonably he could be Lance’s friend. They talked about classes and enjoyed each other’s company. But their interactions only ever took place at work. Did that count? Does this count?
“I was gonna go in an hour.” Keith breathes. He tries not to let his voice shake too much.
“Cool! I can wait til then. I’ll swing by your department when I’m ready to go.”
“C…cool.” He hangs up. He completely forgets to say goodbye.
True to his word, Lance arrives in an hour. They walk to the break room together, stand in line at the cafeteria and complain about the limited selection. Keith’s expression breaks into a shy smile when he sees one item that’s on offer. He gently nudges Lance in the side and points to a ricotta stuffed cannelloni.
“Cylinder food.” He whispers. Lance sniggers. He loads up his plate and they go sit at their usual table in the corner. Despite Lance asking Keith to go on break with him, he doesn’t force conversation or talk at his usual break neck speed. They sit in comfortable silence, flicking through their phones and munching on their subsidized lunches. Keith notices that Lance eats all the olives in his salad. He hates olives, so he happily moves his over to Lance’s plate. Lance makes something like a happy chirping noise and eats them greedily. Keith feels warm.
Allura enters the room and Keith sniggers to himself.
“You gonna hit on my brother’s girlfriend again?”
“Shut up,” Lance hisses. He smiles around his mouthful. Both of their eyes flick up when Allura approaches their table.
“Keith,” Her tone is serious. Keith’s stomach drops. All the warmth he previously felt fluttering around his chest vanishes and turns cold. Dread builds.
“Oh no…” He whispers.
Lance can see the fear on Keith’s face. His eyes dart between him and Allura. What could possibly make Keith look so distraught.
“Keith, I’m sorry, but I got another complaint about you today.” Allura speaks softly so only their table hears. Keith deflates. Lance stares in shock.
“I know you’re trying, but this is starting to be a problem.” Allura bites her lip. “You’re good at forecasting and building and merchandising, have you thought of maybe transferring to logistics with Shiro?”
“I can’t work those kinds of hours with school, Allura. You know that.” Keith pushes the food around on his plate. Lance feels guilt and sadness swell within him. It pushes him to rub his foot against Keith’s under the table. He eyes Keith’s hands. He thinks about reaching across the table and grabbing them. He thinks about holding them tight and kissing the back of his knuckles. Hold up.
Keith looks up and meets Lance’s worried expression. He presses his foot against Lance’s. A subtle brush that hopefully conveys “I’m ok.”. Lance purses his lips.
“Alright, I trust you’ll find a solution.” Allura is about to turn away when she finally notices Lance. Her body language picks up and she happily claps him on the shoulder.
“Oh, Lance! I’ve had lots of customers mention to me how wonderful you are! Keep up the good work.” She lightly jostles him. He smiles nervously. It hardly seems appropriate to do all this in front of Keith.
“Sorry,” He breathes when Allura leaves.
“What? No don’t be.” Keith shakes his head. “You deserve the praise.”
“Still…” Lance bites his lip.
When they return to their departments, Keith’s heart is no longer in his work. He wanders around listless. He feels like he’s at his wits end. He doesn’t know what he’s doing wrong. The customers ask him questions… he gives them the answer! So why are so many people unhappy with him? Why do so many customers scoff and walk away from him shaking their head? He doesn’t know what more he can give.
Unconsciously he’s wandered to the start of his department. He watches Lance man the hosting desk. A hostile couple approaches him. Keith swallows. He’d know that look anywhere.
“Excuse me!” The frustrated couple’s voices bark. Lance immediately comes out from behind the desk.
“We have been wandering around forever looking for one product, and you guys keep telling us it’s in different departments. First it was downstairs, now it’s upstairs! We’ve been here for over an hour now!”
“Ok, ok…” Lance, all business, moves behind his desk. His fingers fly over his keyboard in a flurry.
“What exactly was the product you were chasing?”
“Drawer liners. Just drawer liners to protect kitchen drawers!” The woman huffs in exasperation.
“Ok, are these them?” Lance moves his monitor so that the couple can see the picture he’s brought up.
“Yeah, that’s them.”
“Ok, so good news and bad news…” Lance smiles. He smiles wider and laughs when the couple groans.
“No, no, it’s not that bad. The bad news is that this is one of the trickiest products we carry. A lot of our coworkers think that they’re downstairs in pots and pans, just because that makes the most sense, but they’re actually up here in stove tops. It’s just horrible bad luck that you needed this particular product.” Lance sighs. “But the good news is that these are kept just two departments down in kitchens, in between stove tops and cutlery drawer sorters.”
“Are you sure?” The woman asks, skeptical of Lance’s answer.
“Yes, I swear to god.” Lance laughs. “This place is pretty much a giant rat trap, but I’ve learnt it well over the years.”
“Oh I know.” Lance laughs, and the couple seems to as well. Keith stares in confusion. Why… why were they laughing now?
“I once had a friend text me, it was three am. Three am! Just to ask if this store had fire exits. He was convinced that it was such a labyrinth that everyone would just perish if there was a fire.” Lance recounts his story with a chuckle.
“Are there?” The couple smirks.
“Yes! Yes, we have fire exits. You will know because in the event of a fire I will run towards it shrieking like a child.”
Lance and the couple all laugh. Keith chuckles a bit too. Wait a second, what wizardry was Lance pulling? Keith was sure this couple were about to scream in his face. Now they were joking around?
“Why did your friend ask at 3am?” The man asks.
“I honestly like to believe that he had been laying there in distress since midnight with this question just burning on his mind.” Lance shrugs. “Or maybe he was high. I dunno!”
They all laugh together again. Lance sighs.
“But anyway, those drawer liners will just be on your right in kitchens.”
“Excellent, thanks so much. Take care of your stoner friend.” The couple smirk and walk off with a wave.
“It’s not hard. You just give him some doritos.” Lance calls after them. They leave the department still chuckling.
Keith’s jaw is on the floor.
He stalks over to Lance with fire in his eyes.
“Oh hey KeithWhoa…” Lance steps back. Keith’s gaze is wild.
“HOW?!” He exclaims.
“H…how what?” Lance steps back again. “You okay, buddy?”
“How?!... w…with the customer and the anger… and then the laughing…and…?” Keith stammers all over the place. He runs his fingers through his hair desperately.
“Oh, those two?” Lance juts a thumb in the couples direction. “Ah no they were fine. Anyone would be mad at getting jerked around like that.”
Keith swallows. He stares in awe at this retail deity in front of him.
“Teach me how to do that.” He blurts.
“Teach me how to… I dunno… not be shit at this customer service thing.” Keith scratches his arm, suddenly embarrassed. “Teach me how to do what you do.”
“Keith, I don’t…” Lance makes an uncommitted noise. He scratches his jaw. “I don’t really know if I can teach that. Like it’s just something I do?”
Keith’s eyebrows crinkle. This. This is what he needs to fix his problem. He tries to switch tactics. Pleading?
“Please Lance, you have to. I don’t know what else to do.”
“I’m just not sure if I can explain it. I’ve never been good at articulating things.”
“You’d be great. You’re the best I’ve seen. If anyone can help me, it’s you.”
“I’m hardly worthy of your praise. I’ve seen lots of people manipulate customers better than me.”
…An idea strikes Keith. It seems ridiculous, but maybe…. Just maybe…
“Alright, I guess you’re just not up for the challenge.” He sighs. “If you don’t think you’re good enough…”
“Now hold on…”
“I could just go ask Pidge? She’s as good as you, right?”
“Pidge? That prickly leprechaun creature?” Lance guffaws.
“Yeah, I’m pretty sure she’d be able to teach me as well as you could.”
“Are you crazy?! She could never hope to be on my level!” Lance shrieks. Keith tries not to smile.
“You think you’d be more suitable?” He asks innocently.
“Damn right I’d be. Buckle up buttercup, because your ass is about to get schooled.” Lance juts his finger into Keith’s chest. Keith grins victoriously.
Lance watches Keith intently over the next hour. He’s never really watched Keith interact with customers, so he isn’t sure what the problem could be. Keith did like to scowl a lot. Did they just think he had kind of a mean face?
“Excuse me, do you have any more of these?” A girl asks about a beaded cushion on display. Keith looks over his shoulder at the product.
“No.” He replies curtly, then leaves the girl when he notices someone knock over a bin. Lance laughs a bit to himself.
An older man approaches Keith and asks how much a chair is. Keith looks at the chair and notices that the price tag is clearly on its seat.
“The price tag is just there.” He points at it. The man squints in the direction Keith is pointing.
“It’s just on the chair. The big white tag.”
“Oh, ok.” And the man waddles over towards it. Lance frowns.
The final straw is when a woman inquires about a couple of couches. She is conflicted over which one to choose and has asked Keith to help her make a decision.
“My room has brown carpet, so do I take this brown couch? Or this black one?” She asks, flopping back on the brown couch.
“I think the black one is a bit more comfortable.” She muses to herself.
“So take that one.” Keith offers.
“Hmmm, you think?” The customer hums.
The woman waits for some kind of explanation, but receives none.
“I uh… I think I’ll ask my sister what she thinks.”
“Ok.” And Keith turns to go back to checking the stock levels. Lance sneaks up behind him.
“The hell was that?”
“Wah!” Keith jumps back. He rubs his ear that Lance’s breath had just tickled. “Don’t sneak up on me!”
“Sorry, sorry. But it’s good to see that you do have emotions at least.” Lance smirks. Keith squints, looking perplexed.
“You act like your soul has left your body. Like the customer could kill themselves in front of you and you wouldn’t give two shits.” Lance rubs his temples and laughs. He can’t believe what he has to work with here.
“What? She said the black one was more comfortable. It matches her floor, it’s more modern, she thinks it’s more comfortable, she should buy the black one.”
“So saaaaaayyyyy thaaaat!” Lance groans. “Use your words Keith! Remember what I told you the other night?” He squeezes Keith’s arm. Keith suddenly forgets everything that ever happened to him up until this point.
I was born, I work at this store, Lance works at this store, I thought his nose was cute, I liked that I could look at his butt when he was on the ladder…. We talked about bikes and food.
“Uh… fruit roll ups are a classic tube food?” Keith offers.
“Wha…? No, no, no, I said customers were idiots. They’re dumb toddlers whose hands need to be held and they need to be guided through every decision. Like sheep you have to shepherd them as they run around in a blind panic. They’d shit themselves if we didn’t have a million bathroom signs!” Lance notices a woman passing incredibly close. “Good afternoon,” He smiles until she’s walked past.
“Morons. The lot of them.” Lance continues his lecture. He starts to think about the things he does subconsciously. Manners he’s developed over years of working retail.
“You’ve gotta smile more, use lots of words. If you talk a lot then people feel like you’re really engaged. Ask questions, even if you think you know the answer. You have to explain the reasoning and justification behind decisions. If customers understand where you’re coming from, they become a lot more tolerant of policies. Always offer to do more work than you have to.”
Keith blinks several times. This deluge of advice washes over him.
“That’s too many things!” He sighs. “How am I supposed to remember all that?”
“It’s ok. I know it’s a lot.” He gently touches Keith’s forearm. Keith knows its supposed to relax him, but it just sends a thrum of electricity through his body. His breath stutters.
“I’ll be with you every step of the way.”
“McClain! Get your ass back to your desk!”
“Except right now.” Lance blanches at the sound of his manager’s voice from across the department. He drops Keith’s arm and scurries off with a wave.
“I have faith in you, Keith!”
An hour passes and the flood of customers has slowed enough that Lance feels he can abandon his post. With a devious smirk, Lance tip toes back into living rooms. He lights up when he sees that a customer has approached Keith. Perfect timing.
“Do you have any of these?” The girl points to a large clock with roman numeral numbers and an olive green border.
“No.” Keith replies curtly. Lance rolls his eyes. He approaches him from behind, and touches his arm so that he doesn’t startle him when he speaks.
“Why not?” Lance murmurs.
“We’ve sold out… I…I’m afraid.” Keith continues, listening to Lance’s cue.
“Oh! Ok…” The girl immediately brightens. “Ah man, I drove all this way just for it.” She pouts.
“Are we gonna get it back in?” Lance prompts again.
“I uh… I could see when we’re going to get new stock in… if you’d like?” Keith anxiously asks. The girl smiles and nods.
Keith guides her over to his computer and punches in the product’s code. He navigates the mess of numbers and figures that are brought up and expertly interprets them.
“It says that we should have another delivery arriving Tuesday, so if you come in on Tuesday or Wednesday we should definitely have them. It looks like it’s not a high turnover item, so we shouldn’t sell out right away.” Keith pauses. An idea strikes him. It sounds like something Lance would say.
“If uh… if you didn’t want something like this to happen again you can always check the product online and check stock there before you come all the way down?” He suggests. The girl smiles brightly.
“Ah, I didn’t know you could do that. That would definitely save me a lot of trouble. So Tuesday?”
“Tuesday.” Keith confirms.
“Alright, thanks…” The girl’s eyes find Keith’s nametag. “Keith. You’ve been very helpful.”
The girl leaves and adrenaline courses through Keith’s body. His cheeks are on fire. There’s two beats of silence.
“Alright, Keith!” Lance grabs hold of his shoulders and lightly shakes him. “That was great!”
Keith hides his face in his hands and groans a bit.
“Now was that so hard?”
“Yes!” Keith whines. Lance laughs and pulls his hands away from his blushing face.
“Hey man,” He holds his hand up for a high-five. “Good job.” He smiles easily. Keith feels a laugh bubble through his chest. He claps their hands together and their fingers seem to lace automatically. Lance gives him a reassuring squeeze.
“Thanks.” Keith quietly grins.
Keith stumbles into his home and welcomes the gust of cold air conditioning. It makes his sweaty skin feel cool and tacky. He wanders out to their living room and collapses on the couch. He thinks about maybe standing up and getting himself a big drink… but that can wait. He lays back to enjoy the cool and the quiet.
“Don’t get too comfortable there.” Shiro walks out. He’s buttoning a collared shirt and Keith notices that he’s wearing his nice jeans. The dark ones that make his legs look like they go for years.
“We’re going out.” He announces. Keith groans and buries his face in the couch cushions.
“Whyyyy?” He whines. “Just go without me.”
“You were specially asked for.” Shiro laughs. He walks over and hits his little brother in the butt several times. “C’mon bro. Let’s go. We’ve been invited to hang out at Hunk’s place.”
Keith peeks a curious eye at Shiro.
“Mmmmhmmm.” Shiro hums knowingly.
“Oh uh… Lance lives with Hunk right?” A slight blush rises on Keith’s cheeks.
“Uh huh.” Shiro leans down close to Keith’s ear. “So you better change and get hot already.” He teases. Keith shoves him away with a growl… even if he does spring off to his closet a bit faster then usual.
“Bruh…” Hunk implores. He’s walked out into their living area to see Lance wearing nothing but his underwear, whilst sitting on the couch playing video games.
“You knew what you signed up for when you agreed to live with me.” Lance smirks. Hunks laughs.
“Fair enough, but you need to get changed. People are coming over.”
“People?” Lance scoffs. “What Pidge? She’s seen my tighty-whities before. Her gay ass has comes to terms with it.”
The opening chest music plays from the tv and Lance gives a weak cheer.
“Alright, a heart piece.” He goes back to his game. Hunk sighs.
“Not just Pidge.” He smirks. “Shiro, Allura… Keeeeeeeeiiiith~”
“Fuck!” Lance slams down his controller and leaps off the couch.
“Why didn’t you warn me? There’s… there’s…” Lance’s voice goes quiet as he sprints into his room. He emerges in an impressive 30 seconds later in some shorts and a loose tank top. The arm holes are so large that the sides of his stomach and chest are clearly visible. He starts to run around the kitchen and living room, gathering things into his arms to dump in a closet.
“This whole place is a shrine to what a loser I am!” He spies a picture of Hunk and himself dressed up as characters from Aladdin stuck to their fridge. They have to be about 10 years old. Hunk looks cute in his purple vest and little red hat… Lance looks ridiculous in the aqua two piece and matted long, black, wig.
“Stuff like this!” Lance yanks the picture from the fridge. “I can’t let himI MEAN all of those guys see this.”
He tosses it into the linen closet along with his Goku figurines, questionable comics, and cute stuffed animals.
“Aw not Mitsy. Now she knows you’re ashamed of her.” Hunk whines as an old and well-loved stuffed Labrador gets tossed in.
“She’ll forgive me!” Lance shrieks.
They order pizza when everyone arrives. Lance eyes the closet he’s stored his shame in warily, but he manages to relax throughout the night. He lounges on the couch, munching on his pizza slice, chatting with the others. He claps his hands excitedly when Hunk offer to put Mario Kart on. He greedily rushes for a controller and notices Keith does as well.
“Oh, you up for this, Keith?” He sneers. Keith smirks back. A dark laugh sounds from his throat.
“I think I can handle it.”
“Alright, but consider yourself warned.” Lance elbows him in the side. His eyes do a quick once over of Keith. He looks different out of uniform and it’s not lost on Lance.
“Let’s go!” Keith cheers as the race starts.
“Shit,” Lance hisses. He had gotten distracted by Keith’s exposed collarbones. He punches the button on his wii-mote. Waluigi rushes forward.
“Ohoho, falling behind already?” Keith taunts.
“Pfft, just thought I’d give you a fair chance.” Lance breathes confidently. Sure enough, he knows the shortcuts, how to take the corners tight, and he catches up with Keith soon enough.
“Impressive.” Keith whispers. “But is it enough?” He smiles frighteningly. A green shell is launched and it amazingly hits Lance. His character goes tumbling.
“I’ve been playing Shiro, Mario Kart champion, my whole life!” Keith laughs loudly. “Step aside rookie.” He sighs.
A red shell appears. Keith’s eyes widen. He swerves as much as he wants, but its futile. It collides with him. Lance pulls coolly into first place.
“I don’t know about championships, but I’ve been battling the entire McClain clan for decades. You don’t get to be the number one McClain driver by accident.” Lance boasts. They round the final corner of their final lap. The finish line is in sight. Lance and Keith are neck and neck.
CRASH! A bomb takes both of them out centimeters away from the finish line. A player they’ve never noticed before screeches into first.
“GET WRECKED SCRUBS!” Pidge howls triumphantly.
Keith and Lance both groan. Lance takes a pathetic bite of his pizza and chews slowly.
“So besides these losers getting their asses handed to them, what was on the agenda tonight?” Pidge asks. Hunk hums with thought.
“I really just wanted to hang. We could watch a movie?”
“Nah, that’s no fun. I want to talk to you guys and I can’t do that if we’re all focused on a movie.” Shiro counters.
“What about a board game?” Allura asks.
“NO.” Pidge and Hunk immediately shut down. Allura blinks at them.
“There have been…” Hunk nervously wrings his hands.
“Incidents…” Pidge finishes. Allura looks at Shiro, who just nods, asking her to trust them.
“You guys wanna go out anywhere?” Lance stretches out on the sofa. His long, tan legs invade Keith’s space. Man…. They were awfully smooth looking.
“Like where?” Pidge asks. Lance just shrugs.
“Oh! Oh! There’s a karaoke bar just down the street. Lance and I were gonna try it out sometime, but it’s always more fun in a big group.” Hunk explains. Allura claps her hands together excitedly.
“Karaoke?! Like with a stage and…”
“No, no, you just get a room and you can buy drinks and food and they’ll bring it to you… it’s great!” Hunk explains.
“Oh that sounds fun!” Allura jumps up and down. “Will you come Shiro?” She clings to her boyfriend’s arm.
“I wanna try it!”
“Yeah, yeah. Sounds good. As long as I get to do Bon Jovi I’m happy.” He chuckles.
“Oh god, I’ve gotta see that.” Pidge is already pulling on her shoes. Lance is beaming and scrambling to find his house keys.
“Alright! It’s on!” He opens the front door and begins herding people out.
“C’mon, Keith! What are you waiting for?”
Keith swallows. The sweet release of death.
This is an awful idea. A terrible idea. Keith nervously sips his root beer float while Lance lounges with his arms outstretched on the back of the couch next to him. It would be so easy for Keith to lean into his chest. The exposed skin on Lance’s side practically begs him to come closer. Lance taps his toe to the beat of the song booming out of the Karaoke machine. Hunk and Pidge are belting out a particularly dramatic rendition of Aqua’s Barbie Girl. So far Keith has remained quiet and no one has noticed that he hasn’t sung anything yet. He laughs at Pidge’s over exaggerated valley-girl voice and Hunk’s deep taunts of “C’mon Barbie, Let’s go party”. Keith leans back and feels his head brush Lance’s arm. Lance doesn’t pull away. This is good. This is ok. If he can just stay tucked into Lance’s side for the rest of the night then that would be brilliant.
“Thank you! Thank you!” Pidge bows low when their song is over. Lance whoops and cheers for his friends.
“Me next! Me next!” Allura springs for the mic and begins to scroll through her song choices. Shiro smiles fondly at her enthusiasm.
“Ohhhhh I gotta pick this one! It’s Shiro’s favorite!” Allura laughs sarcastically.
“Oh god, what have you picked?” Shiro groans, but it starts to be drowned out by the disco beat and piano riff that starts to play.
“Oh no…” His eyes widen as he seems to recognize it.
“YOU CAN DANCE! YOU CAN JIII-IIIVE! HAVING THE TIME OF YOUR LIFE~” Allura points at Shiro with all of her feeling.
“Oh God! Why Abba?! Why must you do this to me Allura?” He whines and pulls his hands down his face, but he can’t hide the smile that has erupted there. Allura busts out some very dorky disco moves and tosses her hair out of her bun. She throws her hair tie at Shiro. Lance whistles.
“See that girl! Watch that scene! Dig in the dancing queen!” She continues to serenade. She’s doing a solid job, and would probably sound pretty damn good if she would stop prancing around Shiro.
“You’re a teaser you turn them on, leave ‘em burning and then you’re…” She hesitates. “Goooone.” She ruffles his hair and skips away. He splutters and tries to hide his blush.
“Gross.” Lance whispers to Keith, watching the two flirt shamelessly with each other.
“You don’t have to live with him.” Keith mumbles back. They both snigger.
Allura continues her song with vigour until the final note, where she collapses in Shiro’s lap, like she’s trying to seduce him for the very first time. Everyone claps and Shiro just rolls his eyes.
“Very nice. You’ve missed your calling.”
“I’ll remember you when I’m famous.” Allura winks. Shiro grabs the mic from her, and as he promised, selects Living on a Prayer from the list of songs.
Shiro doesn’t even have to look at the words on the screen. He knows every lyric, dip and key change like this is actually his song and Bon Jovi just borrowed it. Lance’s eyebrows shoot into his hairline. Shiro is actually… alarmingly good at this. Lance has to take a large gulp of his strawberry lemonade. Was it suddenly very warm in here?
“Jesus, did you know about this?” Lance asks Keith in disbelief.
“Sadly yes.” Keith grumbles. “My brother is perfect, did no one tell you?”
“Are you this good?”
“No, no. Not at all.” Keith flushes. “I’m nothing like Shiro.”
Lance’s eyes narrow.
“I think you’re selling yourself short.”
“I’m really not.”
“Well I’m about to know the truth because IT’S YOUR TURN BUDDY!”
Keith blanches as he realizes that Shiro has stopped singing. His song is playing it’s last chords and a mic is being forced into his hands. Like a child, Shiro is able to hoist him up and throw him into the spotlight.
“Nononononono…” Keith tries to run back to the couch. His brother catches him by his collar and drags him back.
“Oh yesyesyesyesyes.” Shiro parrots back.
“But I don’t even know which song to do? I barely listen to the radio!” Keith panics.
“Don’t worry, I got you bro.” Shiro hits enter on a song before Keith glances at it.
Heavy 80’s synth and bass begin to flood the room. Keith’s eyes widen. Shiro’s smile is maniacal.
“I know you know this song! I know you do! I hear you sing it in the bathroom all the time! I know you can!” Shiro squeezes his shoulders with a laugh and returns to the couch.
Shit…so this is really happening. Keith closes his eyes tightly. He grips the mic with two hands.
“You can do it!”
“Slay, bitch!” Keith glares at Pidge’s mocking encouragement.
“Kick Shiro’s ass!” Lance shouts. Keith glances nervously at the floor and opens his mouth.
“You were working as a waitress in a cocktail bar… when I met you…” His voice is a bit quiet. Definitely hesitant and somewhat shaky, but he’s pleasant enough to listen to. Shiro whoops and hollers. Lance stares with a dumb smile on his face.
Keith laughs under his breath at his focus.
“Don’t… Don’t you want me? You know I can't believe it when I hear that you won't see me. Don't, don't you want me? You know I don't believe you when you say that you don't need me…” He begins his build to the chorus. He can’t swallow and his fingers are shaking horribly. Lance’s smile falters. He pushes himself off the couch, grabs the spare mic, and pushes himself into Keith’s space.
“Don't you want me, baby? Don't you want me, ohhhhh?!” He joins in and Keith falters at how good Lance sounds. At how strong his voice is, and how it moves over the notes like this is as easy as breathing. Keith imagines him singing to his siblings late at night, or around a fire with a guitar somewhere. Forget Shiro. Shiro was dog shit now. But lance… Lance made vibrations thrum up Keith’s spine. He looked down at him through dark lashes whilst crooning the words:
“Don't you want me, baby? Don't you want me, ohh?”
Lance intuitively takes the next verse. He picks up Keith’s hand and dances around him, playing his role of the young girl in the song.
“I was working as a waitress in a cocktail bar. That much is true.
But even then I knew I'd find a much better place… either with or without you…”
He playfully bats at Keith’s chest. Keith giggles. Honest to god, he giggles and bites his lip as Lance drapes his long arms over his shoulders.
“I still love yooouuuu~” He croons with a flashy smile. Keith looks up. His eyes are dark and his lips are wet.
“Don’t… Don’t you want me?” He starts again. Something throbs in Lance’s abdomen. Keith’s voice is stronger now. Lance has embarrassed himself enough for the both of them that Keith now feels at ease. He smiles and slips into the song just as Lance did. He places his hand on Lance’s lower back and pulls him close.
“You know I can't believe it when I hear that you won't see me…” He continues. Their foreheads are almost touching.
“Don’t…” Lance echoes back in a higher tone.
“Don’t you want me?”
“Don’t you want me?” Lance closes the gap between their foreheads and noses. He closes his eyes tightly as if he’s really begging. Keith forgets the words momentarily. Lance laughs and his breath hits Keith’s face.
“Don't you want me, baby? Don't you want me, ohh?” Lance intentionally harmonises with Keith. It rings sweetly in his ears, and for once, he secretly hopes that Shiro is recording all of this.
“Don't you want me, baby? Don't you want me, ohh?”
Lance grips the front of Keith’s shirt. Their noses brush.
“Don’t you want me baby?” Their voices ring out. The music fades. Lance’s lustful gaze clears. He steps back and claps Keith on the shoulder.
“Hell yeah! I knew you were selling yourself short!” He laughs.
“I’d say he definitely beat you, Shiro!” He claims.
“Oh, he’s gonna beat something later.” Pidge murmurs quietly. Hunk punches her in the arm. She winces, but doesn’t stop smirking.
“Okay, your turn.” Keith wheezes. He hands his mic to Lance.
“What? I sang, now it’s someone else’s turn.” He tries to rationalize.
“No way, Lance! That was Keith’s turn. You just crashed it! Now sing dammit!” Hunk orders.
“Maybe someone else would like to…”
“Sing! Sing! Sing!” Hunk starts to chant. Pidge and the others join in.
“SING! SING! SING!”
“Ah! Alright! Alright!” Lance stomps over to the tv screen. He pouts and flips through the songs until he comes across an artist that makes his eyes light up. He laughs to himself and hits play.
“Alright, this one goes out to Hunk who blasts these guys in his car whenever we go on long road trips to the beach.” Lance shoots a finger gun at his best friend, who has thrown his head back and is cackling at the sound of heavy guitars and banjos.
“You blast Mumford and Sons??” Pidge looks scandalized.
“They’re the best road-trip music, man. I don’t have to defend myself to you.” Hunk prods her in the chest with his finger. Keith barely notices their bickering. Lance starts to sing.
“Well I came home…Like a stone. And I fell heavy into your arms…” He sings sweetly. A soft gasp passes through Keith’s lips. Singing with Lance had been one thing, but he had been too nervous to truly appreciate many elements of Lance’s performance. He hadn’t noticed how Lance closes his eyes for whole phrases. He hadn’t noticed how all the meanings of the words seem to consume him, perfectly portraying the story of love and want that the lyrics tell. A touch of a smile is on his thin lips. His voice soars on the high notes, then plummets down as the guitars fade away, leaving only the sound of his voice to echo on the chorus.
“And I will wait, I will wait for you. And I will wait, I will wait for you.” He opens his eyes and his gaze meets Keith’s. His eyes are dark. Keith can’t look away.
“So break my step, And relent. You forgave and I won't forget.” Lance holds the mic with both hands. He sings into it like these words are a promise. His eyes are closed for the entire verse, but fly open as he moves into the chorus with gusto.
“And I will wait, I will wait for you. And I will wait, I will wait for you.” He repeats. He begins to dance around the room, pulling Pidge in a small circle. She laughs before she is tossed into her chair again.
“And I'll kneel down, wait for now. I'll kneel down, know my ground…” Lance winks at Keith who realizes that he hasn’t moved for a very long time. It feels like his heart stops. The guitars build and Lance whoops. He attacks the tremendous bridge and final chorus.
“Raise my hands
Paint my spirit gold
And bow my head
Keep my heart slow
'Cause I will wait, I will wait for you
And I will wait, I will wait for you
And I will wait, I will wait for you
And I will wait, I will wait for you”
The song ends to a cacophony of cheers and praises from the group. Lance laughs and graciously bows. He tosses his mic to Hunk, then flops on the couch next to Keith. He sighs.
“Is there anything you can’t do?” Keith breathes. He means for it to come off as kind of snarky, but instead his true awe seeps through. Lance smiles dopily.
“How’d you mean?” He chuckles.
“You were…” Keith looks at his feet. He bites his lip. “Really good, Lance.”
Lance sits up straighter. He knows he’s an alright singer, but hearing Keith compliment him feels… better. His eyes sparkle happily.
“Yeah,” Keith laughs. “Between this and how you handle customers…”
“Honestly, those two things?” Lance leans back on the couch. “That’s really it. Those are my only talents.”
“No I’m serious.” Lance’s smile falters. “That’s really it.” He shakes his head.
“You’re far more impressive then me. It’s a good thing we met at work, otherwise I may have hated you when we first met.”
Keith’s face scrunches in confusion. Lance leans in close. The bass line of Michael Jackson’s Rock with You has started to play, and Lance doesn’t want to broadcast his conversation.
“Hunk told me you were ranked second in his physics class, and not by a lot. He also told me that you set a record for the youngest person to receive your senior black belt at your martial arts club. That you beat Shiro’s record by a clear two years.” Lance pulls away and smirks. “That’s pretty impressive stuff. I’d never be able to do anything like that.”
“It’s really nothing.” Keith is thankful for his long hair. He’s hoping it’s covering some of the blush that’s creeping up to his ears and down his neck.
“Nothing? I’m sure if we went to school together I would have started some stupid rivalry with you.” Lance smirks. “God man, you’re smart, athletic, have cool interests, know all the words to some excellent 80’s dance tunes…”
“You’ve got the whole too-cool-for-you vibe going on, but you’ve been nothing but nice to me, you’re really cute, you’re good with numbers and the technical aspects of work which I can never understand…”
“Sorry, what?” Keith’s brain finally catches up with him. Did Lance just…?
“You’re good with numbers at work?” Lance answers.
“No…” Keith licks his lips. “Uh, th…the one… before that…”
Now it’s Lance’s turn to flush bright red. He was hoping Keith wouldn’t notice. It had just slipped out! His mouth had gotten away from him, as it usually did, and he had just blurted that Keith was cute. Not just cute. Really cute.
“Uh, uh well I said…” He clears his throat. It’s fine. This is fine. He can play this off like it’s nothing. He calls Hunk “Handsome man” all the time… why would this be weird?
“I said you were really cute. I mean…” He scratches his jaw and chuckles. “Like yeah, obviously. I bet you have people throwing themselves at you all day. Shiro! Don’t you think your little brother’s cute?!”
“Oh, the cutest.” Shiro replies with no hesitation. He stands up and hugs Keith from behind. He grabs his cheeks with his palms and squishes them, making Keith’s lips pucker.
“He’s just the sweetest and cutest tiny boy ever!” He coos. Keith pouts and shoves him off.
Shiro laughs. Lance sighs in relief. His slip up has been swept under the rug for the moment.
“Hey it’s getting late, we should really head home.” Pidge looks at her watch. Everyone nods in agreement.
“Sorry, can I just use your bathroom quickly?” Keith asks. They’ve gone back to Hunk and Lance’s just to gather up the things they left, before they all head home for the night.
“You and your tiny bladder.” Shiro shakes his head.
“Shut up.” Keith elbows him in the ribs.
“Oh yeah that’s fine. Just down the hall and on your right.” Lance directs. Keith jogs off.
Pidge has already left, but Shiro and Allura wait with Hunk and Lance in the living room.
“Is this taking a while?” Hunk asks. “Like I’m not super familiar with Keith’s bathroom habits, but this… this feels like it’s taking a while…right?”
Shiro sighs. “Yeah, yeah, he’s taking a while.”
Lance stands up. Maybe they had run out of toilet paper and Keith was now stranded, trapped in their bathroom with limited resources.
“I’ll go check on him.”
He walks down the hall and stops at the bathroom door. He brings the back of his hand against it to knock, but stops when the door falls open. No one is inside. Lance peeks in, just to make sure Keith isn’t hiding in the shower for some reason. But he isn’t there. Lance steps back.
Movement catches his eyes. The light is on in his bedroom. Hadn’t he turned that off?
Oh no… Fear builds in his gut. He had removed all the embarrassing memorabilia from the common areas BUT NOT HIS ROOM. No one was supposed to go in there! Why would he clean it?
“Whatareyoudoing?!” Lance kicks down his door. Keith squeals and almost drops the item he’s holding. Lance’s eyes immediately zone in on the metallic thing Keith has pressed to his chest. It’s a plastic trophy, painted gold so that it looks like an Oscar, with a plaque at the bottom that reads “World’s Best Brother”.
“S…sorry! I uh, I got disoriented about which door to go into, and I accidentally came in here, and I would have left! But then I saw the uh… Spike Spiegel there…”
Keith nervously points to the Cowboy Bebop figure on Lance’s dresser.
“And I thought it was cool. I have a big model of the bike from Akira in my room.” Keith crosses his arms in front of his chest.
“I wasn’t trying to snoop!” He says forcefully. Lance’s fear melts off of him. He shakes his head and gives Keith a fond smile.
“It’s fine. Really.” He slowly reaches out and takes the cheap trophy from Keith. “I’m just embarrassed that you’ve seen how lame I am now.”
“I already knew that.” Keith quips. Lance is taken aback, impressed with the zing of his joke. He laughs.
“Yeah well, if you wanna see some real trophies you should check out Hunk’s room. His place is covered in them.” Lance places the trophy back on his shelf. Or at least he tries to, before Keith’s hand nudges his out of the way and he takes the trophy again. His eyebrows knit together in concentration.
“Did your siblings give this to you?” He asks. A smile plays on his lips.
“Yeah, yeah, for my birthday.” Lance laughs at the memory. “They thought I’d probably had enough macaroni picture frames, so they compiled their pocket money and got me this.”
Keith hums. He holds the trophy tenderly in his calloused hands.
“This is a real trophy,” He quietly states.
“Oh no, I just meant that Hunk has ones for like science fairs and…”
“This is a real trophy, Lance.” Keith states. Lance is taken aback by the conviction in his eyes. Keith continues. His tone is gentle and barely above a whisper.
“You said before that I was selling myself short, well…” Keith has to tear his gaze away for this part.
“I think you’re the one selling themselves short.” He breathes. “You’re really special, Lance.”
Lance sucks in air. His chest blooms with warmth.
“You’re not just saying that?” Lance steps forward. His voice drops low. Keith looks up at him through his dark hair.
“Never. I’m a terrible liar.” Keith can’t help but lean forward. He’s pulled into Lance’s orbit so easily. With shaking fingers, he reaches out and touches Lance’s tank top.
“I like how you dress too.”
Lance slumps forwards and laughs airily.
“Thanks. It’s not too surfer-douchebag for you?”
“Nah. And didn’t you call me too-cool-for-school or something?” He smirks. Lance hums. He places his hands on Keith’s hips. One of his hands plays with the chain hanging against Keith’s outer thigh.
“You’ve got a fucking wallet chain, man. I can’t even be mad at how 2007 hot topic you are because you somehow manage to pull it off.”
Keith throws his head back and laughs. Lance grips harder to his hips.
“If you have fingerless gloves I don’t think we can be friends anymore, honestly.”
“I wear some when I ride my bike. Does that count?”
“That’s….” really hot. “I suppose that’s a good use for them.” Lance admits. Keith plays with the hem of Lance’s shirt. He looks up with dark eyes.
“Should I wear them to work?”
They’re only an inch apart.
“Oi Keith! I’ve got a 5am start! Let’s go!”
Shiro’s voice shatters the atmosphere. Lance and Keith’s hands fly off of each other. They step back.
“Sorry, I was meant to…”
“Sorry I got distracted…”
They both dissolve into hurried excuses. They realise they both sound ridiculous and start to laugh.
“I’ve gotta go.” Keith sighs.
“Yeah, better let your brother get to bed.” Lance crosses his arms.
Keith walks over to the door. He places his hand on the frame and smiles over his shoulder.
“I had a lot of fun tonight. Thanks for inviting me.”
“Well uh!” Lance stumbles forward. “If… we could hang out again sometime. Outside of work. If you wanted. Maybe just you and me if you don’t like big social things.” He scratches the back of his neck. Keith smiles brightly. His eyes crinkle at the corners.
Lance thinks he may have died and gone to heaven.
Lance and Keith realise that they have it bad.
Told you I'd get this up quick
It’s the last day of the sale and the store is bursting at the seams with customers. They tear through the last of the reduced items trying to get the best deals. Keith’s tired, sweaty and suffering from mild dehydration, but he’s managing to keep his head above water. Lance has been pulled away from hosting to help out at some of the attractions the store is holding. Their restaurant is serving a special menu, there’s a fairy floss machine, a live band, balloon animals, but Lance has found himself assigned to a face painting booth. Someone (likely Allura) informed human resources that he was great with kids and had done face painting at many of his siblings’ birthday parties. Lance is happy to help, and he thinks the work is fun, but he hates not being able to run into Keith’s department to help him out.
He glances towards living rooms to see Keith talking to a customer. He’s close enough that Lance can hear their conversation.
“Do you know if the sales items will be reduced any more throughout the day?” The customer asks.
“No.” Keith starts. “Uh I mean…” His eyes dart over to where Lance sits. Lance makes a “go on” motion with his hand.
“Changing prices is very difficult and can only be enacted by managers. As far as I’m aware all of today’s prices are final. You can always check out our bargain corner though, because I know most of the items there are reduced by 50 or 75%.” He pauses, then forces a smile like he’s just remembered that that’s a thing he can do. The customer nods thoughtfully.
“Alright, I’ll check that out. Thanks!” And they walk off.
Keith looks towards Lance for some kind of affirmation. Lance gives him a huge thumbs up. He checks around for his manager, then rushes forward to stand next to him.
“Good job, young padawan.” Lance keeps his eyes on the child’s cheek in front of him. He’s painting the bat signal and a few tiny bats flying against the child’s temple.
“Thanks,” Keith sighs. His eyes narrow on Lance’s steady work.
“Hey, you’re pretty good at that.”
“I am the Da Vinci of children’s birthday parties.” Lance finishes the final bat. He turns to the kid.
“Alright little man, you wanna check it out?” He hands the kid a small mirror. The boy oohs and ahhs.
“You like it? You feel like you can take down some bad guys?” Lance smiles. The kid is too busy looking at his face.
“Mom! Mom! Look! Look!” The boy hops off and sprints to go find his mum. He doesn’t even look at Lance.
“Bit rude,” Keith laughs.
“Nah, he’s just excited. Alright who’s next!” Lance addresses the small crowd in front of him. A girl in a fancy, tulle dress, decorated with Elsa from Disney’s Frozen, is at the front of the line.
“Have a seat princess, thank you for waiting so patiently.” He smiles and Keith realizes he could honestly watch Lance hang out with kids all day.
I wonder what he’s like with his siblings…
“Now do you have an idea of what you’d like today?” Lance asks quietly. The shy girl squirms in her chair.
“Um… a uh…” The girl looks over her shoulder for reassurance from her parents. They smile and give her a thumbs up.
“A butterfly?” She mumbles.
“A butterfly! Of course. We’ll give you a beautiful butterfly in no time.” Lance starts to clean his brush.
“Did you want me to make it a snowy butterfly so it matches your Elsa dress?”
The girl nods.
“Alright, too easy.”
Keith watches with great interest as Lance sponges paint across the girl’s nose and cheeks. He manages to create a gradient of colour from white to a beautiful teal. He then goes in with his brush to create smooth lines and refine the shape of the butterfly’s body and wings. He adds delicate snowflakes and pretty swirls of white.
“You’re the oldest brother aren’t you?” Keith asks.
“Oh yeah. I’m sure Shiro can do stuff like this.” Lance sticks his tongue between his teeth as he adds small veins to the butterfly’s wings. He’s careful to not poke the girl in the eye.
Keith purses his lips.
“Shiro once told me that an electric fence wouldn’t hurt me if my hands were wet.”
Lance has to pull away so he doesn’t ruin his masterpiece with his laughing.
“I cried for 15 minutes.” Keith continues.
“I bet.” Lance puts his brush down. He grabs another one set to the side.
“Ok, almost done. I’m just gonna add a little bit of glitter to make it sparkle. Would you like that? Do you like glitter?”
The girl nods. Lance adds touches of silver sparkle to the snowflakes he’s painted.
“Alright, all done! Check it out, Princess!” He hands the girl the mirror. Her eyes widen and she smiles brightly.
“Woooooow” She whispers.
“Say thank you,” Her parents prompt from the side.
“Thank you!” She parrots and hops up. Keith and Lance chuckle as she skips away.
“Keith!” Allura’s voice makes both of their heads snap in her direction. “I’ve been looking for you all day.” Her face is serious. “A customer came up to me to talk about you…”
Keith’s eyes widen. Lance’s hand flies into his without thinking.
“Allura, I’ve been trying! I really have!” He sounds panicked.
“He has. I watch him every day and he’s really progressing.” Lance implores. Allura smiles at the both of them sweetly.
“That’s what I need to talk to you about. A customer just came up to me to compliment Keith!” She announces. Keith and Lance both freeze.
“What?” Keith finally breathes.
“She said you were attentive, patient and helpful.” Allura recounts. She grabs Keith by the shoulders.
“I’m so proud of you!” She beams. Keith presses his hands to his blushing face.
“Really! I had to come and tell you right away!” Allura gives him a small hug. “I’m gonna go call your brother. He’d definitely want to hear about this. Keep up the great work!” And she runs off. Keith’s pulse is in his throat.
Something tugs him downwards and it takes him a second to realise that he’s sitting in the face painting chair opposite Lance.
“I hope you guys don’t mind, but I have to paint a quick star on my friend here so everyone knows what a star he is.” He squeezes Keith’s thigh. Keith laughs.
“Lance, you really shouldn’t.”
“Nope, nope. You have worked hard and this will be your badge of honour.” Lance turns his paint pallet towards the kids.
“You guys want to pick what colour I should use? Make sure it looks good.” He smiles. A loud girl points at the yellow.
“Ah excellent choice. A gold star for my bright star of a friend here.” Lance gets to work jotting down a five-pointed star on Keith’s cheek. Keith likes the feeling of the cool paint, but he mostly enjoys the feeling of Lance’s steadying hand on his shoulder.
“There, two seconds.” Lance finishes it quickly. He gives Keith the mirror to look at. He laughs and nods in approval.
“Do you guys reckon he looks good with it?” Lance asks the crowd of kids. Most of them nod or say something positive. The loud girl speaks up again.
“He needs something else.”
“Something else?” Keith balks.
“Yeah, on your other cheek. It looks silly with just one.” She explains.
“Ah of course. I’ve got just the thing. It will bring this whole piece together.” Lance winks at the girl. She laughs and shuffles on the spot.
‘What’s your favorite colour, Keith?” Lance asks privately.
“Ah good. This won’t look dumb then.” Lance loads up his brush with red paint. Keith feels its coolness stroke along his other cheek.
“Oh! He’s painting a ….”
“Shhhhh!” Lance quiets the kids around him. “This is a surprise ok. It’s gonna be a secret, so noooo ooonnne tell him what it is.” Lance grins. “Can you guys do that for me?”
All the kids nod.
“Are you serious?” Keith chuckles.
“Dead serious.” Lance pulls his brush away. He hides the mirror so Keith can’t grab it and look at what he’s painted.
“Now go on! Don’t you have things to do?” Lance pushes him off his chair with a laugh. He calls the next child forward.
“Alright, alright, I’m off.” He smiles. He feels the paint tighten the skin of his cheek.
“Hey, Keith,” Lance looks up from cleaning his sponge. “I’m proud of you.”
Keith decides he needs a break from customers. He walks into the pricing room to restock his desk’s supply of price tag paper, plastic tag holders, and other bits and pieces. His arms are full of rack label strips when he runs into Pidge. She looks like she’s had the same idea. The pricing room is quiet and only accessible through a series of security doors. She revels in the silence and takes a deep breath. She finally turns and sees Keith. She huffs a quick laugh.
“Who painted your face?” She snorts.
“Gaaaaay~” She drones. She starts to scan the different bins in front of her for the price tags she needs. Keith’s brain burns with a question.
“Hey uh, could you tell me something?”
“Shoot.” Pidge pulls out a wad of small sales tags.
“Could you maaaaybe tell me…” This is a terrible idea. Why is he asking Pidge this?
“Lance won’t tell me what he painted on this cheek. He says it’s a secret. I haven’t had a chance to look at it in a mirror yet, so could you just tell me what it is?” He rushes through the question. Pidge quirks her eyebrow. Her smirk is sharp.
“It’s a love heart.” She states.
“Oh… oh ok.” Keith breathes. A smile quirks on his lips and his cheeks are dusted with pink.
The end of the day. The end of Sale. Keith breathes a sigh of relief. The customers may be gone, but he’s still got plenty of work to do. He finds himself once again alone in his department, on top of a ladder, struggling with the sale signs.
“Fucking god, shit dammit.” He curses under his breath. These knots are almost impossible.
Keith jumps and almost falls to his death. Lance grabs the ladder to steady him.
“Jesus, Lance. Don’t sneak up on me.” He hisses. Lance smirks.
“Sorry, sorry, you just looked like you were really concentrating.”
Keith hums and resumes fighting with the sign’s loops.
“Are you alone again?”
“Yeah, the guy who was supposed to help me got an emergency call. Taking down is easier then putting up at least.” Keith grumbles.
“Maybe the universe just wants us to be alone together.” Lance sighs wistfully. Keith chokes on his own saliva.
“Here, come down. We both know I have an easier time with this.” Lance chuckles.
“What? No you’re supposed to go home. I’ve got this.”
“Nothing at home for me but a sweaty, big, guy eating nachos on my couch. Now come on. Hop down and let me help you.” Lance orders. Keith grumbles.
And it does go faster with Lance there. His long fingers move expertly over the knots and he tosses the signs down onto Keith to fold for next year. They only have four more when Lance asks:
“Did you see what was on you cheek?”
“Yes, thank you. I got a lot of confused looks throughout the day.” Keith folds up a heavy banner.
“Little girls seemed to think it was funny.”
“Don’t be. It was fun.” Keith catches the last sign. “Next time I should get to paint you though.”
“Can you paint?”
“I can do basic shapes, Lance.” He scoffs. Lance hops down from the ladder and dusts off his hands.
“Alright, that’s the last of it.”
“Thank god.” Keith groans. He packs the final banner into a storage box.
“I’m exhausted.” He collapses onto the box. Lance yawns behind him.
“Yeah me too.”
Something gurgles, low and growling. Keith turns to shoot Lance an amused look.
“Was that your stomach?”
“Maybe.” He looks sheepish. “Alright, so I might be hungry too.”
Keith hums and tucks the box underneath the desk. Lance is quiet.
“Hey do you want to get out of here?”
“No, no…” Lance laughs. “I mean do you want to get something to eat with me? There’s this ice cream shop, and we could go celebrate your amazing customer service skills?”
Keith’s brain is immediately assaulted with wild, pastel-coloured fantasies. He and Lance sitting at a table, sharing a strawberry milkshake with two straws between them. Elvis plays in the background.
“I’d love that.” Keith breathes.
“Alright, hang on let me just call Pidge and see if she wants to come.”
Keith’s heart plummets. His retro 50’s date dreams are dashed.
“Of course.” He forces a smile. Lance dials Pidge’s work phone. It rings twice before it’s picked up.
“Ayyyyy, Pidge. You still here?”
“Of course I’m still here! I practically live here! This place would disintegrate without me!” Her voice is tinny, but rings clearly through the phone. Keith stifles a laugh.
“You want a hand with sale and then wanna get some ice cream?” Lance offers. There’s a yawning silence from Pidge on the other end.
Lance finally falls in the front door just as Hunk started to get worried. He knows Lance was supposed to finish his shift hours ago.
“There you are. I was getting ready to call the cops.” Hunk looks up from the couch.
“Sorry, I hung out with some people after work.” Lance sighs. He flops down next to Hunk on their cheap couch. It sags badly under his weight.
“We went to the ice cream place on the corner.”
“Oh man, I love that place. Did you enjoy a peanut butter shake for me?” Hunk goes back to the game he’s playing.
“You know it. I also recommended it to Pidge. I think she ascended to a new plane of existence.” Lance laughs. Hunk chuckles, imagining Pidge’s elated expression.
Lance watches Hunk guide his character into a secret room, where he loads up on ammo and health packs, before he runs out into the assault area. He takes cover behind some gas barrels, but has to roll out of the way when an enemy launches a grenade at him.
“Hey, quick question…” Lance starts. Keep it casual.
“Yeah?” Hunk’s focus is still on his game.
“So liiike, on a scale of 1 to 10… how gay is Keith?”
“It only goes up to 10?” Hunk snorts. He’s about to turn to his friend and make some sarcastic comment when he sees Lance’s anxious face.
“Oh man, yeah, Lance. Yeah Keith is gay. Exclusively gay.” He states. Lance seems to deflate.
“Cool. Coooooooollll” He breathes. He tries to relax, but he’s too on edge. His back is ram rod straight. His hands clench into fists on his thighs. Hunk frowns at him.
“You uh… do you like him?”
Lance crumples. He falls face first into the couch cushions and lets out a wounded groan. Hunk laughs, but places a soothing hand on his back.
“I’ll take that as a yes?”
“He’s so perfect, Hunk! I’m going TO DIE!” Lance cries. Hunk chuckles. He pulls Lance up and out of the cushions, so he can rest against his side. He throws a strong arm over his shoulders.
“So ask him out?”
“I can’t.” Lance whines. He closes his eyes tightly.
“He’s way out of my league. I was fine with how ridiculously hot he was, I was fine with how cute he could be, but then you had to come along and be like ‘Oh yeah, you didn’t know that Keith was a genius?’” Lance mimics Hunk’s low voice. “Or go all ‘Did I ever tell you that Keith was seriously approached for a modeling contract?’, or ‘Hey Lance! Guess who can snap a man’s neck with his thighs?’”
He runs his hands down his face.
“Now I know he’s so much better than me in every conceivable way. And even though I might die, I can’t stop thinking about burying my face between his thighs.”
“Gross dude. And I wasn’t kidding. I’ve seen him go Black Widow on a guy. He could smother you with his crotch.”
“Then I would welcome death.” Lance whispers. Hunk sighs and pulls him into a tight embrace. He cradles the back of his head.
“Lance, seriously. You’ve gotta stop getting down on yourself.” He squeezes him extra tight. “Anyone would be lucky to date you.”
Lance lets out a stuttering breath.
“I know.” He lets his full weight collapse onto Hunk. “He’s just so amazing though.”
“Hello?” Pidge nervously answers her phone. She’s just walked in the front door and Keith’s name lighting up her phone has her worried. Had he forgotten something?
“Hey…uh…” Pidge’s nervousness is not alleviated when she hears Keith’s tentative voice.
“Keith, you ok?”
“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine.” Keith sighs. “Look I just… I need to ask you something, but you can’t make fun of me, ok?”
“I promise nothing.” Pidge smirks.
“Ok, ok, I promise.” She replies seriously. While she likes to make fun of her friends, she can tell when they are in genuine distress. Whatever has Keith calling her so late must be important.
“Ok, uh…” She hears Keith swallow. “When Lance first showed up, you uh… you mentioned that he might…” There’s a pathetic laugh. “You said he was into guys?”
A pregnant pause.
“So does Lance… Does he like guys? Or were you just fucking around as usual.” There’s a bit of bite to his words. Pidge doesn’t take it personally though. She realizes that Keith is probably panicking.
“I wasn’t messing around.” She answers. “Lance is bi. He came out to Hunk and I two years ago.”
There’s a relieved breath.
“Yeah. He hasn’t had a boyfriend yet, but…” Pidge smiles. She can imagine Keith blushing at her next words. “I bet he’d really like one right about now.”
“God he just makes me so damn happy.”
“I can see that.”
Keith’s heart jumps into his throat when he next sees Lance at work. Even though Pidge had been there, the previous evening had been wonderful. They had laughed, Lance spilt some ice cream on his shirt, and even though they couldn’t drink out of it together like in the movies, Keith had actually managed to share a strawberry milkshake with him. They only used one straw. Keith feels his lips tingle at the memory.
“Hey handsome,” Lance pops up behind him at the desk. Keith is startled, but doesn’t shriek. He turns quickly to face Lance.
“Lance!” He breathes. “Stop scaring me”
“Sorry, sorry, you’re just too tempting.” Lance laughs.
“Mmmm, am I?” Keith bats his eyelashes. Lance laughs. Well not laughs. It’s more of a giggle, but he would never admit to that.
“Did you need something?” Keith asks.
“Ice cream.” Lance blurts. Keith blinks in confusion. Lance crosses his arms and leans on the side of the desk. He grins confidently.
“Last night I noticed you got a scoop of coffee ice cream and a scoop of hazelnut. I just wondered if those were your favorites?”
“This is imperative information that you just had to know?” Keith looks skeptical.
“Of course! I always like to know what my friends favorite ice cream flavours are.” Lance shrugs like it’s obvious.
“Pidge likes peanut butter and chocolate. Hunk alternates between rocky road and banana nut fudge.”
Keith shakes his head and laughs. Lance knows he’ll never get sick of that sound.
“Well if it’s so important.” He leans forward on the desk. His pinky brushes Lance’s hip.
“Lemon sorbet is actually my favorite.” He smirks. Lance quirks an eyebrow.
“Yeah. Like it’s just really refreshing. There’s something really classic about it.” Keith muses.
“And I find a lot of ice creams too sweet.”
“Ah, is that because you’re sweet enough already?” Lance smirks and pointedly steps forward. Keith playfully bats at his arm.
“Stooop,” But his smile tells a different story.
“McClain! There’s a line at your desk!” Their manager yells from across the department. Lance jumps up.
“Ah! Duty calls!” He runs off with a wave.
“I have another important question.” Lance reappears in Keith’s department not too many minutes later. He lounges on one of the set up sofa beds.
“Lie with me, Keith. This requires all of our concentration.” He grasps Keith’s forearm and tugs him down onto the mattress. Keith lurches, but manages to catch himself. It’s quiet, and he thinks he can risk a little break. He lays next to Lance and stares at the ceiling.
“Are we contemplating our place in the universe?”
“No. We’re thinking about superheroes.”
“Who’s your favorite superhero?” Lance asks seriously. Keith can’t believe what he’s hearing.
“This is important?”
“Yes. Absolutely. Don’t you wanna know what mine is?”
And Keith has to admit that he does. He wants to know everything about Lance.
“Sure. Who is it?”
Keith laughs, because of course. Of course.
“Why is that?”
“He’s funny. He’s optimistic. I like his moxie.” Lance nods. Keith almost loses it at the word moxie.
“So who’s yours?”
“I don’t really have one.” Keith admits. “Yours seems so perfect for you, I feel like I’ll pick something lame.”
“Nah, never.” Lance nudges Keith’s foot with his. “Piiick one~” He croons.
“Ugh fine, fine. I dunno…” He hums. “Maybe Wiccan?”
“Wiccan?” Lance raises up on one elbow.
“That is some obscure-assed Marvel knowledge. Colour me impressed.”
“Is it that obscure?” Keith laughs.
“Well he’s not in any movie or tv show, so most people don’t know about him.” Lance lies back down. “Why Wiccan?”
“I guess I can relate. Young, gay, confused.” Keith shrugs.
“Alternate universe child of an Xman, and dating a shape-shifting alien, oh yeah I could see how you’d relate.” Lance smirks. Keith elbows him in the side.
“I also like Jason Todd.”
“Is it all the leather and red?”
“Yup.” Keith admits. “He’s got the cool bike too.”
“Jason Todd: 10 out of 10, would bang.” Lance nods. “Honestly I would bang the entire bat-family. Special shout outs for Jason and Dick.”
“Got a bit of a type there, Lance?” Keith teases. Lance looks him in the eye and grins.
“What can I say, I got a thing for pretty boys with dark hair.” He purrs. Keith wants to roll off the bed and fall forever.
“McClain! I don’t pay you to nap!”
“Righto!” Lance springs up and jogs back to his post.
“I have another life affirming question.” Lance has caught Keith in coffee tables now. He’s building a new one as an old display has become damaged. His fingers expertly twirl an allen key.
“Do you now?” He smirks. “So you’re not just making up excuses to come visit me?”
“Mmmmmm that might just be a nice reward, but I assure you it’s not my primary motivation.”
“Should I believe that?”
“Absolutely not.” Lance scoffs. Keith looks up and meets his gaze. They both smile earnestly. Keith goes back to tightening the joint on the table leg.
“So what’s your question?” He invites the conversation.
“It’s actually about this.” Lance reaches forward. He tucks some of Keith’s hair that has fallen in his face behind his ear. Lance’s fingers tenderly move it and stroke against Keith’s cheek.
“My hair?” Keith blusters.
“Yeah,” Finally Lance seems to get embarrassed. He blushes and pulls his hand away.
“Why do you have long hair?”
“Does… Does it look bad?” Keith self consciously brushes his hair back.
“No no no!” Lance rushes forward and grabs his wrist. “You look great. I love it. It’s just unusual is all. I wanted to know what made you decide to grow it out.” Lance drops Keith’s hand. His touch burns Keith’s wrist.
“Especially since Shiro has such short hair. I mean, pretty much everyone in my family has this haircut.” Lance points at his short crop. “Not very exciting.”
“I think your haircut suits you.” Keith happily reaches out and ruffles Lance’s short hair. It sticks up a bit after being handled. Lance pouts and flattens it back down.
“But I think it’s actually because Shiro had that haircut that I wanted something different.” Keith muses.
“I had a pretty bad identity crisis when I was younger. I was just known as ‘Shiro’s brother’. I needed to set myself apart somehow.” With all this focus on Keith’s hair, he decides he can’t stand it falling in his face. He sits up and shoves it into a rough ponytail. Lance gapes.
“But I liked school, and knew I needed good grades, so I wasn’t going to full on rebel.” Keith explains “So I kinda just rebelled with the things I wore and how I presented myself.” He winces at an embarrassing memory. “I’m horrified to say that I went through 6 bottles of black nail polish in one year.”
“Jesus,” Lance laughs.
“The haircut is really an artifact from that. But now I just like it. It’s a bit of a trademark.” Keith plays with his long fringe. Lance gently brushes it to the side.
“Well… you were never Shiro’s brother to me.” He says gently. Keith casts his gaze down.
“I know. That’s meant a lot to me.” He worries his lip. Lance shuffles forward. He takes one of Keith’s hands in his own.
“McClain! I will get the hose on you if I catch you abandoning your desk again!”
“Ugh, FINE!” Lance huffs. He stomps back to his department, but not without waving goodbye to his friend.
“We might have a problem.” Shiro hums. He’s standing at the opening in the store checking stock numbers, with Allura by his side noting any quality issues.
“With what?” Allura looks up from her clipboard. Shiro nods in the direction of the host desk. Lance is standing there as usual, looking something up on his computer, but Keith is in front of him. Shiro shakes his head as his little brother leans forward on the desk with his eyes half lidded and a wide smile.
“You can’t date people who work in your department. It’s company policy.” Shiro sighs.
“What are you talking about? Why would…” Allura stops mid sentence. Keith has tried to walk away, but Lance has grabbed him and tugged him in close. They both giggle, and Keith playfully hits at Lance’s hand that gently strokes down his forearm. Allura’s eyes widen.
“Yeah,” Shiro frowns. “I might have to talk to the other managers.”
Keith and Lance walk into the break room. They grab their food trays and load them up, when Lance pauses. He runs to the kitchen door and knocks.
“Laaaance, don’t harass Hunk for more cake.” Keith chides.
“I’m not, I’m not.” Lance replies innocently. Hunk comes to the door and smirks when he sees his friend.
“I’m not sneaking you cake.” He sighs.
“I don’t want cake!” Lance hisses. Hunk laughs and plunges his hands into his pockets.
“Alright man, what did you need?”
“Could you get me one of your fruit salads? You’re all out out here.”
“Ah see, I knew you wanted me to sneak you food.” Hunk nods.
“Shhhh, it’s for Keith. He always gets one when he can, and I can tell he gets annoyed when you guys are out.” Lance mumbles. Hunk looks at Lance with surprise and affection.
“Aw Lance, that’s so nice.” He coos.
“Shut up, you can make fun of me later.” Lance grumbles. Hunk chuckles as he disappears into the kitchen. He reemerges with a bowl of mixed fruit salad.
“Does this one have lots of strawberries in it?” Lance asks. Hunk rolls his eyes.
“Yes, yes, now go. I’m not here just to serve you.”
Lance skips over to Keith who is now at the end of the line and paying for his food.
“Wait, Keith!” He hands him the bowl so it can be added to his lunch.
“Wha…?” Keith looks at it in confusion. “There weren’t any left…”
“Ah, that’s why you make friends with kitchen staff.” Lance winks. “I know they’re your favorite so I got you one.” He smiles, feeling very pleased with himself. Keith feels his face warm from the small gesture. His smile is blinding.
Lance chats excitedly to him about some movie he’s seen recently, whilst Keith looks for a place to sit. He’s looking for an empty table when he spies Pidge and Allura sitting across the room. He makes eyes contact with Pidge…. Then pulls away to sit with Lance in the corner. Just Lance.
“Were we just ditched?” Pidge scoffs. Allura giggles behind her hand.
“I think Keith has become quite smitten.”
“Did you see that face he made when Lance handed him that fruit salad? I thought he was going to cry.” Pidge groans. “They’re so gross.”
“I think they’re sweet.” Allura happily takes a bite of her salad.
Keith and Lance’s pockets both begin to vibrate. Lance groans around his bite of lasagna.
“Ah, man. I’ve only got five minutes left. They can’t hold on?” He complains as his fingers fumble to pick the phone out of his pocket. Keith swallows his last strawberry half. His hands grab his phone out faster.
“I’ve got it.”
“Wha…. No Keith I’ll do it.” Lance protests. Keith smirks and hits the answer button before Lance can.
“Hello living rooms, this is Keith.” He answers in his smooth, professional tone. Lance scowls at him. Keith sticks out his tongue.
“Ok… uh huh… alright… yeah I’m just on my break so if you give me five minutes to get back to my department… alright…” Keith stands. He presses the phone into the crook between his face and shoulder so he can pick up his tray. He taps Lance on the shoulder.
“I’ll see you back in the department.” He whispers with a smile. Lance nods and smiles back, but it fades when Keith exits the room.
Lance doesn’t stay on his break much longer. Without Keith there he gets bored, and even though Lance is not thrilled with the idea of getting back to work, he rather feel productive then sit around doing nothing. He cleans his tray and makes his way towards the exit.
“Oh…!” He sees Pidge and Allura sitting at their table.
“I didn’t know you guys were here.” He smiles. “Sorry, did you guys miss my wit and charm?” He leans on their table with a smirk.
“Not particularly.” Pidge replies dryly.
“A bit.” Allura admits.
“Sorry, I’ve just finished with my break so I can’t stay. Did you guys just get here?”
“We’ve been here the whole time.” Pidge grins.
“Wha…? Really? Oh man, sorry guys.” Lance feels silly for not seeing them, but Keith had obviously not seen them either, so he can’t be entirely blamed.
“It’s fine. You and Keith seemed… distracted.” Allura sniggers. Lance blanches. Am I really getting that obvious?
“I gotta go.” He robotically announces. He leaves the break room to the sound of Pidge and Allura giggling together.
When Lance enters his department again his attention is caught by a customer yelling. His frustrated shouts are creating a scene. He’s an older man, broad and tall, and his meaty hands shake in fists at his sides. It looks bad. Lance peaks to see who is trying to talk this mad down.
He’s towering over Keith.
“Oh no…” Lance gasps.
“But that chair was $20!” The man’s voice booms.
“Sir, that was last week during our sale. Our sale has finished. Everything has returned back to it’s normal price.” Keith speaks in gentle, but firm tones.
“But I came and you were out! One of you guys said it would be coming back in stock!”
“It did come back, but it’s just that our sale is now over so…”
“I’VE DRIVEN HOURS FOR THIS CHAIR! I WAS GUARANTEED THAT IT WOULD BE $20 WHEN IT CAME BACK IN STOCK!”
Managers are starting to take notice.
“Look…” Keith’s eyes grow cold. He speaks through gritted teeth. Oh no…
“Listen to me. I am telling you…”
“Hello sir!” Lance suddenly jumps in between the two. He protectively pushes Keith behind him. He can read the twitch of this man’s jaw, how his hands flail wildly at his sides.
“I hear there’s been some confusion over the price of an armchair.” He smiles sweetly. His voice is high and strained.
“ARE YOU A MANAGER?! BECAUSE I’VE HAD IT UP TO HERE WITH THIS BULLSHIT STORE!”
“No, no, I’m not. But I can call the customer…”
“THEN WHAT GOOD ARE YOU?!”
A fist is raised. Someone shouts. Everything for Lance goes black.
Lance’s head throbs. It feels like he’s been drawn through a vice and strectched across a too large surface. His skin is cold and his vision is blurry as he tries to piece together why he’s currently horizontal.
“Wha….” He gurgles.
“Oh he’s waking up.”
“Oh thank god,”
“Stop crowding him! Back off guys!”
An argument. Yelling. A fist flying towards him. Keith behind him. Keith…
“Keith!” Lance suddenly remembers. He tries to sit up. A strong hand forces him back onto the mattress. He weakly thrashes against it. Is Keith ok??!! Had the customer attacked him after Lance had fallen? Where was he now?
“Where’s Keith? Is he alright? Did that guy…” His words all slur together. He looks up at Shiro with wide, panicked eyes.
“Lance! Lance…” He soothes. “Keith’s fine, he’s fine, he’s right here.”
Lance feels something squeeze his hand. He looks down finally and takes in everyone around him. Allura is just behind Shiro holding an ice pack and first aid kit. Hunk stands by his head on his other side, holding Pidge so that she doesn’t collapse onto Lance with how far she leans over. And there, at his hip, sits Keith. His hair is tied in a messy ponytail, his eyes look a bit red, but he’s otherwise unharmed. Lance smiles and breathes a sigh of relief. Keith smiles back. Still keeping hold of Lance’s hand, he reaches up with his free hand and runs the back of his knuckles tenderly against Lance’s cheek.
“I’m right here.” He whispers. “I’m fine. Don’t worry about me.”
Lance sinks deeper into the mattress. He closes his eyes at Keith’s touch.
“You just need to rest, Lance.” Shiro’s comforting voice echoes in the small medical bay.
“I don’t… remember…” Lance’s face scrunches.
“You were knocked out. That customer landed a pretty good hit on you,” Shiro laughs humourlessly. “But luckily security got there quickly. The police have arrived and taken him into custody.”
“That’s good.” Lance murmurs. He opens his eyes and meets Keith’s worried gaze. He looks down to see their hands intertwined, and Keith rubbing his thumb along the back of his hand. Lance smiles dumbly.
“Uh, we better go talk to the police actually… you know, now that we know Lance is ok… They’ll be wanting to record our statement.” Hunk begins to pull Pidge towards the door.
“What? We’ve already given our statements,” She protests.
“No I think we have to do it again!” Hunk shoves her out of the room. Shiro and Allura follow suit with suspicious smiles.
“You don’t have to give a statement?” Lance smirks. Keith squeezes his hand harder. He steps closer, and his expression looks grave.
“Lance, I’m so sorry,” He whispers. “I’m so sorry! I thought I could handle it, but he just kept getting angrier and angrier, and I should never have tried…” He rambles. His voice shakes and tears begin to pool in his eyes.
“Whoa, hey, hey, Keith, no,” Lance reaches up to cup Keith’s face in his hands. He brushes the hair out of his face.
“No, this isn’t you fault. You did nothing wrong.” He pushes the tears away as they fall.
“But I should have asked for help! I wasn’t ready…”
“You were doing wonderfully. Keith, sometimes there’s nothing you can do. Sometimes people are just assholes looking for a fight.” Lance takes Keith’s other hand. He runs his fingers over the back of his knuckles, but stills when he feels the rough texture of them. Lance glances down.
Keith’s knuckles are red and raw. The skin is broken along some of the prominent ridges and stained with dry blood.
“Keith…” Lance brings the abused hand closer to his face. “What happened? I thought you were fine.”
Keith looks away. His dark eyebrows form a scowl on his pretty face.
“When you went down, uh… Security weren’t the ones to restrain that guy.” He laughs darkly.
“The official report is that the customer hurt himself when I pushed him onto the ground, but I uh… I may have gotten a few jabs in.”
“Oh, Keith…” Lance knows how dangerous that is. Keith could be fired over this.
“I’m sorry. I just lost it. First aid wasn’t there yet and I had no idea if you were ok or…” Fresh tears start to well up, but Keith stops them when he hears Lance chuckle.
“What’s so funny?”
“Just the thought that I tried to protect you, when you clearly didn’t need it.” Lance smiles. He kisses Keith’s abused knuckles.
“It was very sweet.” Keith shudders. “But you wouldn’t have needed to do anything if I had just listened to you and…”
“Stop.” Lance kisses his hand again. “Stop. I’m just happy you’re ok.”
“I’m just happy you’re ok.” Keith corrects. He squeezes Lance’s hand. “Anything I can do to make all this up to you?”
Lance laughs. He closes his eyes and lets his hands fall to his side.
“Kiss it better?” He jokes.
Lance’s eyes fly open.
“I said ‘ok’” Keith answers earnestly.
Lance holds his breath as Keith leans forward. His eyes widen, then flutter closed. He feels Keith’s breath against his face, and fingers begin to caress his cheeks.
“Ah!” He pulls back.
“Sorry! Sorry! I thought I was reading that…!” Keith leaps back. Lance catches him by the wrist and yanks him forwards again. His hand reaches up to grab Keith behind the neck and pull him down.
“You just touched the bruise on my face, you idiot.” Lance smirks. He laughs in the back of his throat when he pulls Keith down into a kiss. All laughter stops when Keith makes a soft moan.
His hands find their way into Keith’s long hair and pull at the strands. Keith’s fingers rest against his throat and cup his jaw tentatively. Lance opens his mouth, and Keith surges at the invitation. They have to pull apart for air, and their breaths intermingle in each other’s mouths.
“Come up here,” Lance whispers. His voice shoots an ache straight to Keith’s gut. It feels like he’s been starving, and Lance is his first meal in years. He’s dizzy, his fingers tremble, and its painful to pull himself away.
“Need you closer.” Lance whines. Keith barely hesitates. He’s on the bed and back to attacking Lance’s mouth in moments. Lance groans appreciatively. He arcs up slightly, just to feel Keith’s weight against his chest and hips. Just to confirm that he’s really there.
“Sorry, sorry, I should slow down.” Keith wheezes. He’s moving too fast. He knows he is. Lance had probably just wanted to try this out. Probably just wanted to test a little peck on the lips, or a slow sultry kiss, not the feverish desperation that Keith has been moving at.
“Don’t you dare,” Lance growls. He yanks Keith by his collar and crashes their lips together again. His nails scrape the small of Keith’s back.
“Waited so long for this,” He pants into Keith’s mouth, just before he behind his teeth.
“Oh god, me too.” Keith sucks on his tongue. His hands tilt Lance’s jaw up so he can kiss even deeper.
“Are they making out in there?” Pidge whispers. Her ear is pressed to the med bay door.
“I dunno.” Hunk mimics her position. His head is just on top of hers. “I thought I heard a mattress squeak. Do you think Keith is on top of him?”
“Oh my god, if they have sex in the med bay…” Pidge wheezes.
“They would never!” Allura hisses. Her head is pressed to the door just above Hunk’s.
“I dunno. It’s gone awfully quiet in there. I think they’re doing stuff.” Pidge hypothesizes.
“Shiro! Come listen! You’d know your brother’s kissing noises, surely.”
“Please just let me die over here in peace, without picturing my baby brother having sex with Lance.” Shiro rubs his temples and stands several feet away from everyone.
“Aw c’mon Shiro! We need a second opiNION!!”
A loose latch, a stumble, and a yelp are all that announce Hunk, Pidge and Allura tumbling into the med bay. Keith jolts up, but his hair is still a mess. He’s still straddling Lance and his lips are red and swollen. He looks at his friends with a murderous glare. Lance props himself up on his elbows. His short hair sticks up at odd angles. There might be a bruise on his neck that wasn’t there before.
Pidge is the first to speak.
“That’s a good look for you Keith.” She sniggers. Keith’s eyes sparkle dangerously. She stops laughing.
Shiro steps over the bodies on the floor with a disappointed sigh. He looks over at the two boys on the bed and tuts.
“You know this means I have to transfer you to a different department?” He lectures Lance. Lance collapses back and throws his hands in the air.
“Oh my god, does it look like I care?!”
“Everyone get out!” Keith cries.
“Alright, but as long as you understand the consequences…”
“Oh my god, Shiro. I will aggressively make out with Lance in front of you if you don’t get out in three seconds.” Keith snaps.
“Wow, someone’s desperate.” Pidge chuckles.
“ONE!” Keith starts to count. Everyone leaps to their feet. Shiro moves at lightning speed to be the first one out of the room. Hunk slams the door shut behind him.
“Wow, great…” Lance’s laughter is swallowed by another kiss. This one just as deep, but slower and warmer than the ones before. Keith leans harder into it, and builds a gentle rhythm.
“It’s my turn to take you out for ice cream after this.” He pulls back, but leaves their foreheads touching. Lance places his hands behind his head and hums contently.
“I should get punched in the face more often.”
They kiss until first aid officers start pounding on the door.
“You know what,” Lance laughs. “I actually don’t know the answer to that.”
The customer in front of him visibly deflates. She starts to nod politely.
“It would be best if you could talk to someone who specializes in that department. They’d be able to give you the answer you’re looking for.” Lance moves from behind his desk and begins to walk towards living rooms.
“If you just follow me, I’ll find someone who can help you.”
“Oh, you don’t have to walk me,” The customer begins to decline.
“No, no it’s no problem. And it’s easy to get lost in here.” Lance waves off her concerns. He stops in sofas and looks for anyone in a yellow uniform. Their work shirts stand out brightly in the sea of people they are usually surrounded by.
“Aha!” He perks up. He spies a yellow shirt, long, dark hair, and (if he’s completely honest) a cute butt.
“Here we are,”
Keith turns at the sound of his boyfriend’s voice. He sees the customer trailing behind and drops what he’s doing.
“You are very lucky,” Lance turns to the customer with a bright smile. “Because this guy here isn’t just an expert in sofas, he also happens to be my favorite person in the whole store.”
Keith chuckles and rolls his eyes. Lance steps in close to whisper something in his ear. He expects to hear something along the lines of “This customer wants to know what your best armchair is”, or “She was asking about warranties on sofa beds”, but instead what he hears is:
“You look really cute today.” Lance squeezes his bicep and pulls away with waggling eyebrows.
“Stoooop” Keith pulls away looking embarrassed. There’s the hint of a smile on his lips. Lance jogs off giggling. Keith shakes his head, then turns his focus to the customer in front of him. He eases into a friendly smile.
“Hi, how can I help you today?”
Lance, on the edge of the department, blows him a kiss. Keith smiles wider.