In general you could say that Lance liked his studies. Loved them, even. Sure, he wasn’t a big fan of advanced calculus, but he accepted that he needed it for other classes. Fun classes, such as astronomy or physics, for example. Most of his fellow students were nice and willing to compare the results of homework assignments on the last minute and most of his professors were always open to answer any additional questions he might have.
That was the point though. Most of them. And while Lance wouldn’t exactly say that he was an unlucky guy, he had been suspicious that his general contentment with his classes - and life as a whole - would come to an end soon; there was just no way anyone could be this lucky. He had a loving family, the best friends one could ask for, enough money to afford to live with said friends in a shared apartment and an awesome university experience so far? Yeah, no. That was just too much.
Needless to say that Lance had whined for days on end when he had heard that they would have to take part in a three-month physics lab that he would have to apply for first. The professors that offered to supervise students in the lab could be separated into the categories of “okay” and “there is no way he was gonna survive more than two weeks without losing his all of his dignity and self-esteem” and he had been convinced that his end was near. Still, he had tried to make his application sound as appealing as possible and only sent it out to the acceptable professors, praying that his miraculous streak of luck wasn’t exhausted yet.
And, by some miracle that Lance didn’t dare question, (maybe he had done something really awesome in a past life? Something save-the-universe kind of awesome) his luck had preserved. When Pidge had told him that his name was on the list of students that Professor Allura had accepted, he had nearly cried with joy and couldn’t stop talking about it for days after.
It was only when Lance took a look at the list himself that he realized that maybe he had spoken too soon. Apparently Professor Allura held her lab at five thirty in the morning which meant that Lance would have to wake up at four am for the next three months. He had promptly complained to Hunk and Pidge, only stopping when they had pointed out that he could always ask for a transfer to Professor Sendak’s lab at two in the afternoon. There were probably more than enough willing students to switch with him. Shuddering at even the thought of having to spend three months under that guy’s supervision, he had accepted his fate and succumbed to lots of early mornings and overdoses of caffeine to stay alive.
Against all odds, Lance was fully awake and lowkey excited when he left the house on the first week of September. It was also raining hard, something that never failed to make him smile, even as he took the largest umbrella he possessed in a desperate attempt to not get completely drenched. Rain was nice and calming and Lance deeply enjoyed the smell of ozone that accompanied it, but sticky clothes on his first day of lab weren’t something that he wanted to deal with.
Despite his best efforts, Lance ended up with wet patches on his jeans and damp socks. He wasn’t too bothered by it, he knew that they would dry again within a few hours, but he was still grateful when the train arrived and allowed him to get out of the cold. He only had half an hour left before the lab started, the train ride taking up twenty minutes of it, and he wanted to double-check that he had brought everything he might possibly need along.
As soon as he got inside, Lance noticed that the train was mostly empty. There was a middle-aged man in a suit - scratch that, two middle-aged men in suits - an emo/punk kid around his age, an elderly woman next to an elderly man and girl several years older than him that seemed to eagerly study some kind of textbook in her lap. Usually he would have had no qualms about approaching her but ever since he had started his second semester he had learned that you shouldn’t disturb people that were cramming on the train. She probably had some kind of pop quiz in a few hours and needed all the study time she could get.
Politely moving away from her, Lance took his seat across from the punk guy who seemed to have fallen asleep. He subtly shook out his umbrella and placed it on the empty seat next to him - it wasn’t as if the train was going to get crowded anytime soon. The seat would have enough time to dry again after he had gotten off. Pulling his backpack into his lap, he went through a mental checklist of all the stuff he needed for today.
A notepad? Check. Pens? Check. He had even thought about bringing colored ones since he wasn’t sure what Professor Allura would want him to do. A calculator, a ruler, the food Hunk had prepared for him yesterday (bless his soul), and a box of tissues were also there. None of that surprised him, considering he put it in there yesterday evening.
No, what surprised him was the tiny, white towel tucked neatly to the side as if it didn’t want to draw attention to itself. More than a little confused Lance pulled it out of the backpack and into his lap, almost missing the small paper that tumbled to the ground. Recognizing the handwriting, Lance read Pidge’s note.
The forecast said that it’d rain for the next few days & since I know your obsession with rain I thought I’d make sure that you don’t fuck up your first impression on P. Allura. Dry your hair & notes before you enter the lab. -Pidge
Lance cooed at the note before pulling his phone out of his jacket and shooting her a quick message. It wasn’t often that Pidge showed her caring side but after he had saved her ass last week when she had forgotten her chemistry notes in the library she probably wanted to make it up to him. He would make sure to never let this die.
[TO: evil flatmate] [05:04 am] aww i got ur note
[TO: evil flatmate] [05:04 am] v cute i always knew u loved me
[TO: evil flatmate] [05:05 am] somewhere
[TO: evil flatmate] [05:05 am] deep downm
[TO: evil flatmate] [05:05 am] in ur cold heart
[TO: evil flatmate] [05:05 am] myb its time 2 change ur contact name
[TO: evil flatmate] [05:05 am] still---
[TO: evil flatmate] [05:05 am] im almost offended in how little faith u have in me
[TO: evil flatmate] [05:05 am] i took the umbrella
[TO: evil flatmate] [05:06 am] me & my noted are dry and a-okay
[TO: evil flatmate] [05:06 am] *NOTES
Lance quickly took a selfie of himself flashing a peace sign over the contents of his open backpack, then put his phone back into his pocket and inspected the towel. It was such a nice thing to do… maybe it wasn’t even a payback thing. Maybe Pidge had noticed how nervous he had been at the prospect of being part of a lab taught by Professor Allura of all people (not that it was hard to miss: Lance’s cocky behavior had skyrocketed in a way it only ever did when he was extremely worried about something) and had wanted to help. She could be sweet like that if she wanted to. Now he almost felt a little bad for not having any use for the towel.
Sighing and leaning into the backrest, Lance twirled it between his fingers. A lab with Professor Allura. He had never been in any of her classes but she had held a guest lecture once and ever since then he had admired her. And he wasn’t the only one - she was kind of a legend at their university, at least in the classes that had to do with physics or astronomy. To think that she had read his application and had chosen him as one of her students out of undoubtedly many of others… damn, he couldn’t fuck this up.
In an effort to distract himself and calm his nerves, Lance observed the boy in front of him. He didn’t look as punk-ish as Lance had initially thought, he didn’t even have any piercings as far as he could see. It was just something about his long hair, the fingerless gloves, the huge, tacky belt and the leather jacket that gave an impression of danger. Everything was black too, which didn’t exactly help his case. He was kind of hot, actually. Kind of.
What was that guy doing here, sleeping on the train at 5am?
Maybe he had been kicked out of his apartment. Maybe he was in a late rebellious phase and ran away from home. He didn’t have any bags with him though, so those options were unlikely. Maybe he was on his way home from a party - wait, did punks host parties? Lance wasn’t quite sure about that. Then again, the boy wasn’t a real punk anyway. A party could be a very real possibility.
Another thing that Lance noticed fairly quickly was how dripping wet he was. His hair was plastered to his face and every now and then a tiny drop rolled down his cheeks, almost making it seem as if he cried. Yep, a lot less punk and a lot more emo, Lance decided. For how long had the guy been on the train that his hair was still so wet?
Realization hit him like a ton of bricks. The guy didn’t carry anything with him, so of course he didn’t have anything to protect himself against the rain. And nothing to dry himself with either. He was bound to get sick in these cold-ass temperatures. And here Lance was, happily hogging his fluffy, little towel that he had no use for.
Deciding that this would be his good deed for the day, Lance slowly pulled his notebook out of his backpack and ripped off a small piece of paper.
hey there - I saw you sitting dripping wet on the train and decided to save you from catching a cold. You can have the towel, I don’t need it anymore. Bring an umbrella next time though, the forecast said it would rain for another few days. - handsome dude from the train
Lance grinned down at his note, folding it once and tucking it between the towel, making sure that it stuck out enough to be noticeable. For a brief moment he wondered how the guy would react when he woke up again but he wasn’t about to be late to Professor Allura’s lab just to check on a random stranger. Telling himself that the reaction didn’t matter anyway - it was an act of kindness, after all, so he shouldn’t want to take credit for it - he went to play some games on his phone instead.
It didn’t take long for Lance to meet the guy again. In fact, it took him around twenty-four hours: he was on the same train as the day before when his eyes fell on the sleeping guy. Despite carrying a small plastic bag with him, the guy apparently couldn’t have been bothered with bringing an umbrella. Once again he was wet all over and Lance (nonsensically) felt bad for not carrying another towel with him. It wasn’t his fault if the guy decided to ignore his advice, right?
Sitting down in front of him, Lance shook out his umbrella and put his headphones on. For some reason he wasn’t in the mood to play games today. Maybe it was because he had realized how much work the lab would be, even if he had expected it. Maybe it was because there hadn’t been a homemade lunch from Hunk on the counter today. Maybe it was because there was no sweet message from Pidge. Maybe it was because the guy across from him looked seriously pitiful with the water dripping down his face.
Altogether it hadn't taken Lance long to shift his focus back from his music to the not-punk guy in front of him. His leather jacket probably kept at least a little water out but Lance could see how his long hair dripped past it into the collar of his shirt below. The guy was slumped in his seat, head leaned back and slightly to the right as he breathed evenly in and out. He didn’t wake, no matter if the door three seats next to him opened to let in some cold air or if the train jumped slightly at uneven railways.
It was exhaustion, Lance figured. The dark circles under his eyes just proved his point. This guy was seriously exhausted and in dire need of something nice happening to him.
Wanting to help again, Lance opened his bag and peered inside. Since Hunk hadn’t made him a lunch today he had visited the coffee shop two streets down the train station. He had bought himself three muffins to look forward once the lab ended but swiftly decided that two would be enough for him. He could totally give the last one to someone that needed it more than he did.
Smiling to himself, Lance dug out the sticky notes he had thrown into his bag for physics class. He tore one off, uncapped a pen with his mouth and awkwardly scrawled a message on it before sticking it to the muffin.
Yo. Remember me? It's the guy that told you yesterday to bring an umbrella. Betcha wish you listened to me now. I decided to brighten your day once again, enjoy. - handsome dude from the train
Yes, that was perfect.
Lance carefully put the muffin on top of the plastic bag, making sure that it wouldn’t accidentally fall onto the floor, and sat back into his own seat, resigning himself to more boredom until he arrived at the institute. At least he had made someone’s day better.
When Lance saw him again the next day, he was quick to note that the guy still hadn’t brought his own umbrella. Just like last time he was wet and passed out against his backrest with his left arm loosely curled around a plastic bag.
A plastic bag with a bright pink post-it stuck to it.
‘TO: HANDSOME DUDE FROM THE TRAIN’
Lance felt excitement bubbling up in his throat as he carefully took the bag from the guy’s lap. He didn’t want him to wake up, that would just be… awkward. But he would most definitely not leave a present behind either, nu-uh, not in a million years. Lance loved presents.
Settling himself into the seat across the sleeping guy, Lance peeked into the bag. There wasn’t much in it: a towel - his towel, he recognized - and a donut in a small plastic wrapping. Grinning broadly, he turned the bag over and let the items tumble onto his lap, careful to not let the towel become damp again. The plastic was despite obvious attempts to dry it still painfully wet. Emo-guy should really start bringing an umbrella in the mornings.
Speaking of staying dry.
Lance shoved part of the plastic bag under his backpack, hoping to let it air dry as much as possible. If it was less wet by the time he would leave the train, the guy could totally use it as a weird makeshift umbrella thing. Praising himself for the good thinking, he then turned towards the towel, lifting it and sniffing at it. And, believe it or not, it was clean. It smelled like laundry detergent, something that Lance was pretty sure hadn’t been used on this old thing for years now. Not that he didn’t clean his towels, he just didn’t really use the small ones his mother liked so much. It was safe to say that he had gotten it back in a better state than he had given it away.
Unsure of how to proceed, Lance lowered the fabric and pursed his lips. He was pretty sure that he had gifted the towel to emo-guy in his note, so it wouldn’t be right to take it back again, would it? But emo-guy had cleaned it and brought it back for him, so would it be okay to refuse it?
Lance gloomily began to pick at the towel, side-eyeing the donut. It seemed delicious, Lance couldn’t wait to try it. Was this payback for the muffin? It probably was. Now he was even less sure what to do, it had been supposed to be a present! A good deed coming from the kindness of his heart! Maybe Hunk would know.
Deciding to shoot Hunk as many messages as it would take to wake him up before his alarm, Lance shifted the towel and donut onto his left leg while searching his right pocket for his phone. There it was. Hunk would surely forgive him for waking him up, he was a good guy like that. Irreplaceable, really.
Just when he had pulled Hunk’s contact up, Lance saw the paper peeking out between the towel. He let out an excited squeak and completely forgot about waking his friend in favor of reading whatever message Mystery Guy had left him.
I really hope that you will get the bag this time, I fell asleep yesterday waiting for you. Sorry. I wanted to thank you personally and return this but I’m too tired after work to stay up for long.
Thank you for the towel, I washed it. The muffin was delicious. I hope you like the donut too.
Also I don’t have an umbrella - but don’t worry, I’ve been surviving this for years. Thanks for caring though, I guess.
Lance couldn’t stop his eyebrow from raising amusedly. Punk-emo guy apparently had a name and didn’t have any problems with strangers knowing it. Then again, he probably realized that Lance didn’t mean him any harm - otherwise the whole ‘giving him presents’ thing wouldn’t make any sense. And it wasn’t as if there were a lot of other people on the train that could have taken the bag in his stead.
Slowly, Lance let his eyes wander over Keith again. He was still wearing that leather jacket in combination with the fingerless gloves and combat boots. It made him look dark and edgy, not at all like the person that would write him such a cute note. Needless to say, Lance was intrigued.
For the lack of a better idea, he dug a pen out of his backpack and began to write a response.
I got the bag. I didn’t expect you to return the towel, much less wash it, but thank you anyway. Same goes for the donut (even if I haven’t tried it yet I know it’s gonna be delicious. Donuts ftw man)
Also. Dude. Invest in a freaking umbrella. Idc how emo and scene your jacket makes you look, you’re gonna catch a cold like this. Which - not cool. Just in case you didn’t get the memo. You could look for a black one with knives or skulls if you don't want to break character, just get an umbrella, man.
-handsome dude from the train
Lance grinned smugly as he placed the note back inside Keith’s plastic bag. He couldn’t wait to see him again on Thursday, if everything went according to plan then Keith would either arrive with an umbrella or another text for Lance. There was no way that Keith would let an insult like that slide, right? Scene kids were usually kinda touchy about their appearance… and if Lance was lucky then Keith would be no exception to that.
As it turned out, Keith was no exception to that. When Lance entered the train, a bright orange sticky note on Keith’s left arm immediately drew his attention to it:
To: handsome dude from the train
i’m not emo. fuck off.
That was it. That was the entire note.
Lance suppressed a loud snicker and shook his umbrella out, letting it drop on its usual place as he opened his backpack. He had had a feeling that Keith wouldn’t listen to his advice to get an umbrella so he had taken all necessary precautions. First he would have to answer his sticky note though! Pursing his lips, Lance tapped his pen on them. What should he write?
After staring at the note for a whole minute, he decided to add an ugly smiley too. It could never hurt to bring some fun into a serious fight, right?
Grinning broadly, Lance ripped the note off and carefully stuck it to Keith’s jacket. He was once again reminded of how exhausted he must be if he didn’t wake up from Lance pushing against him in his attempt to get the post-it to stick to the wet fabric. Poor guy. His work must really do a number on him.
Once he got the note to stick, Lance took two steps backwards, almost falling over when the train passed over an uneven part in the railway. He caught himself at the last second but couldn’t help but stare at Keith’s left arm as the movement made the notes fly up a little.
Keith looked ridiculous with only two sticky notes on one arm. He needed at least two more on the other.
what’s brown and sticky?
Lance snickered to himself as he slowly, carefully fastened them against Keith’s right arm. He had a ton of stupid jokes, so many that Pidge had asked him multiple times where he even kept them all. Or why he would waste brain space remembering them. Now he knew, he had finally found a purpose for them. Besides, they were hilarious.
Admiring his handiwork, Lance sat back onto his seat. Then he immediately sprung up again when he felt his present for Keith dig into his ass. It was, lo and behold, an umbrella - to be more specific: Emily’s old umbrella. Her pink, glittery, Barbie & the Diamond Castle umbrella. He had known that she had left it at their place back in April because she had wanted to get rid of it after growing out of her Barbie phase. His mamá wasn’t a big fan of throwing things away that still worked just fine though, so he had agreed to help her let it disappear. Who would have thought that it would come back in handy after all this time?
Careful as ever, Lance placed the umbrella on Keith’s lap. He blinked a little and then decided to add a final note, just to be clear about his present.
I knew that you wouldn’t listen to me but I decided to be nice to you and save your sorry ass. Again. You totally
The post-it didn’t leave enough room for anything else, so Lance continued writing on a second one.
owe me for this. Not the umbrella though, I have my own one & don’t need it anymore, keep it. -hdftt
Satisfied with this, Lance stuck the notes to the umbrella and finally sunk back into his seat. He couldn’t keep his smug grin off his face for the entirety of the ride to his lab.
It was safe to say that Lance hadn’t expected Keith to bring the umbrella with him next time. But he had - and judging from how dry his clothes and hair were for once, he must have actually used it.
A little stunned, Lance halted next to Keith’s seat. He still looked exhausted and tired as fuck but without the rain sticking his hair to his face he looked a lot more peaceful in his sleep. He looked almost… well, he looked almost cute.
Uncomprehending how a little dryness could change a man so much, Lance absentmindedly set his stuff down onto his regular seat and approached him once more. He just couldn’t let this go. What was it that had changed him so much? It definitely couldn’t have been his hair, now that it was dry it allowed Lance to see that it was styled into a mullet. Mullets were neither attractive nor cute, so it couldn’t have been that.
Other than that not a lot had changed though. Okay, there were no tear tracks made by raindrops rolling down his face, but that was really it. Could a little fluffy hair and dry clothes make a man go from edgy and intimidating to harmless and cute? Apparently it could.
“Well, fuck me,” Lance mumbled to himself as he looked Keith over for the fifth time. Maybe it was the Barbie umbrella across his lap, he reasoned. It was hard to look intimidating while cuddling a Barbie umbrella in your sleep. He was so engrossed in his newfound discovery of Keith’s cute side that he almost missed the sticky note attached to his - now dry - leather jacket just above the umbrella.
I never asked you to do this. I owe you nothing.
Out of all the things Keith could have written, Lance really hadn’t expected it to be that. Or, well, he totally imagined that but he would have thought it would be followed up by an insult or something. And by a lack of Barbie umbrellas, that was for sure.
But for some reason, Keith had brought the umbrella with him. Had used it, even. What was he supposed to do with this information?! It made him oddly endearing, really, and Lance was stumped at how to react to this. The thought of dark and edgy Keith walking through the rain with a glittery pink umbrella and sticking post-its on himself to communicate with Lance was just… it was really fucking adorable.
Oh no. Oh no.
Lance could feel the blush rising in his cheeks as he kept watching the steady rise and fall of Keith’s chest. When he had first met him Lance had thought that he was kind of hot, despite his emo appearance and intimidating aura. And now he was hot and cute. Rude, a little. But he went along with Lance’s game of writing messages and he had thanked him for the towel so he couldn’t be that bad. Really, he sounded like just his type.
Crap. Lance wanted to talk to him. Really talk to him, not just exchange short messages over sticky notes.
As soon as that urge arose, Lance pressed it down again. He wouldn’t wake Keith, not if the guy had fallen asleep trying to stay up and give him a bag. He obviously needed the sleep and Lance wasn’t an asshole. Maybe he would get lucky and Keith would be awake at some point and they could talk. His lab was three months long, this was only the first week, he was bound to be awake at some point.
Turning towards his backpack, Lance dug out his sticky notes and a pen. Then he turned back towards Keith, unsure of what to write this time. In the end, he settled for a short, rushed message as his stop turned up way faster than he had anticipated.
Well, a present is a present but fact is that I still saved your ass.
I demand payback. Bring me another donut.
He slapped the notes onto Keith’s umbrella, grabbed his backpack and his own umbrella and jumped out of the train.
A whole weekend without seeing Keith’s exhausted face had made Lance surprisingly desperate to see him again. There was just something exciting about exchanging notes with a stranger from the train, something that turned his mundane life into something a little more adventurous. And it most definitely didn’t hurt that Keith was an attractive guy full of contradictions who was totally indulging Lance’s whims.
So when he got onto the train on Monday, his eyes immediately zeroed in on the small, white plastic bag on the seat next to Keith, labeled ‘handsome dude from the train’. Was it a donut? Had Keith actually gotten him a donut again?
Since he didn’t have an umbrella to shake out this time, he immediately went for the bag. Yep, that was a donut. Two donuts, even. Two donuts and a letter.
Grinning, Lance took the bag with him and sat down in his seat. He didn’t even take his backpack off, which made the whole thing rather uncomfortable, but he couldn’t wait to read Keith’s message.
You asked for donuts. Not sure how much the umbrella was but I consider my debts paid off now.
That’s it. That’s the only thing he wrote on the entire A4 paper.
But honestly, Lance couldn’t even concentrate on the blatant waste of paper when Keith had apparently assumed that Lance had bought the umbrella for him. What kind of person did he think he was? If Lance had really wasted actual money on the thing he would have at least gotten him something a little more his style.
Suppressing his laughter, Lance shifted around until he got his backpack off and a pen in his hand. Then he immediately got to work, explaining Keith that the umbrella used to be his little sister’s and how it had basically vegetated its life away in a dusty corner of his room before he had passed it on to him.
Hah, I guess you could even say that you helped me with this. Like a recycle bin. Please tell me you didn’t throw it away, it deserves a better fate than that. Lots of love and exposure to the outer world.
Also yeah, consider your debts paid off now. Two donuts in exchange for an umbrella sounds neat.
-handsome dude from the train
For a brief moment Lance considered telling Keith his name, then he dismissed the thought. It was more fun this way. Maybe Keith would even express interest in him and ask him for his name, that would be cool.
Smiling contentedly, Lance put the letter back into the bag and tied it to the handlebar next to Keith. That way Keith couldn’t miss it and Lance wouldn’t have to worry about securing it somewhere on Keith without water helping to keep it in place. Keith might be a heavy sleeper but Lance was almost positive that even he couldn’t sleep through physically getting his arms lifted up.
Lance had just settled back into his seat when he gave Keith the first once-over of the day. And he immediately noticed something that he had missed in his excitement to get to the bag: Keith looked awful. Sick-awful. His nose was red and dripping even in his sleep and he wore a high-collared shirt underneath his jacket. Jesus, was this guy for real? Lance was almost positive that he would be burning up if he placed his hand on his forehead.
“What an idiot,” Lance cursed under his breath as he opened his backpack once again. But no, he didn’t carry any medicine with him. Why should he? He was completely healthy, after all. Damn, he should have known that Keith would get sick after walking through the cold rain for four days last week. He had even warned him about it! How had he not thought of taking some medicine with him?! The only thing he could find was an almost empty box of tissues and that was woefully insufficient.
Still, it was better than nothing, he supposed.
Lance frowned as he dragged the box, a sticky note, and a pen out of his bag. It felt wrong for him to leave just a few tissues when Keith actually needed his help as opposed to leaving an entire umbrella when he had said that he was used to this before - but it wasn’t as if he had much of a choice here!
Dude, you’re looking terrible. Don’t go to work like this. Rest up.
He was still frowning when he left the box on Keith’s lap and exited the train that day.
Keith wasn’t there the day after.
When Wednesday came around, Keith was back on the train. He looked a lot better, Lance noticed with a not inconsiderable amount of relief. The flush on his cheeks was gone and his pale skin looked a little less sickly than before. At this point Lance wasn’t even sure whether he naturally looked that pale and all the black just amplified it or whether he was still sick. Keith needed some other colors to wear, he decided. Throughout the weekend Lance had rediscovered his passion for knitting, so Keith better be prepared for a nice scarf sometime next week.
Glad to see you’re feeling better. You had me worried there for a bit.
Lance had already finished his note by the time he discovered Keith’s.
There were like 3 tissues in the box. Do you expect me to thank you now?
He broke out into laughter that he just barely managed to muffle on time, turning it into a heavy snicker instead. Keith was ruthless. And here Lance had been worried about that asshole.
That’s 3 tissues more than without me. Learn to appreciate my kindness, Keith.
And then: We’re in September, Christmas is fast approaching, Santa is watching your every move.
This time he was smiling when he got off the train.
It’s not even close to December yet!
WATCHING YOUR EVERY MOVE.
You’re kinda creepy. You do realize that it’s creepy to watch sleeping people, right?
That’s no way to speak to your savior, Keith. You unthankful ass.
Also I’ll have something cool for you on Monday, I’m expecting more donuts.
Lance had expected the donuts this time but they still made him smile like an idiot. For all Keith knew, Lance might not even have appeared today. They hadn’t met, they hadn’t even officially exchanged names, and yet he had bought him food. Sure, Keith probably wouldn’t have had a problem with eating the donuts himself if Lance hadn’t appeared to take them, but he had purchased them. Why did that make him so freaking endearing?
Smiling softly, Lance shook his head at the sleeping boy. He didn’t understand how Keith hadn’t managed to stay awake even once throughout the past two weeks but he wasn’t complaining anymore. They had a weird kind of friendship now and he wasn’t sure about how he would react if Keith was awake anymore. This thing they shared was fun just as it was.
And it was about to become even more fun.
Taking the baby blue scarf out of his backpack that he had spent most of his time on during the weekend, Lance pursed his lips. Where should he put it? He decided on messily - but carefully, oh so carefully - draping it all over Keith’s head, leaving him to look quite ridiculous. It was perfect this way. That's how they worked.
Next, he grabbed the letter addressed to him.
I am not sure what you’re getting me this time but it better be worth the 2 donuts.
Ah yes, Keith, ever the master of words. Grinning crookedly, Lance wrote his response.
The scarf is worth even 3 donuts. It’s handmade fyi. And yes, by me, before you ask. I spent a lot of time on it so you better appreciate it. I’m very proud of it, treat it well. You see, winter is approaching fast and I have a feeling that you won’t invest in a better jacket no matter how cold it gets. You didn’t do it with the umbrella, so why would you do it now, right?
you’re a stupid iiiiidiot i keep telling you that your edgy-emo aura is only worth it if you stay healthy but nooooo mr. keith is hellbent on doing stuff his way
I also figured you are in dire need of not-black clothes. Just you watch, by the end of November you’ll almost look like a normal guy.
-handsome dude from the train
Thank you for the scarf. You can knit?
I am not emo.
Why the end of November?
You’re talking to the knitting master, my dude
My lab ends there and with it my early morning rides. Sorry bud.
On Wednesday Lance got heavily disappointed when he didn’t see any sticky notes on Keith at all. Maybe they had fallen off? A quick scan of the floor showed him that no, there was nothing. No bag, no post its, nothing. Absolutely nothing. Just Keith.
Lance pouted as he got his own sticky notes out of his bag. This was unacceptable. They had a thing, right? They were kinda-sorta friends. Actually, Lance already totally considered Keith a friend, he had even started knitting him his next present. What was he supposed to do with it now?
Nah, he shouldn't overthink it. It was probably nothing. He had to stay confident, maybe Keith simply didn’t know how to respond to his last answers. Maybe he got sad that Lance would be gone in another… nine weeks.
Deciding to give him the benefit of doubt, Lance composed a short message and stuck it directly to his chest.
No sticky notes today?
After a moment of deliberation, he added a second one.
The scarf suits you. I did good work on that one ★
Yeah, this was fine. He was fine.
And if he was kind of depressed for most of the day, Lance totally blamed the cold weather and dumb people in his lab.
There was a sticky note. Two even.
Lance almost fell over himself in his attempt to read them, he caught himself just at the last second so that he wouldn’t fall directly into Keith’s lap. Now that would have been an introduction, wouldn’t it? He had faith that he could have played it off somehow but he was still rather thankful for his quick reflexes saving him the embarrassment.
Sorry, I ran out of notes.
What is your name?
Refusing to think too much about the insane amount of relief he felt, he got his own post-its out of his backpack. Lance, he wrote. Just that, nothing else. Then he stuck it to Keith’s scarf, smiling at how he still wore it. It stood out against the dark leather of his jacket and looked a little ridiculous with the bright yellow stars but he had worn it for the second time already… and he didn’t seem to want to stop anytime soon.
Staring at the single post-it note, inspiration struck him. A big, shit-eating grin took over his entire face as he scribbled his next message out.
It’s one of these.
And then he got to work.
Name after name after name.
By the time he reached the stop before the one he had to get off, Keith was absolutely covered in colorful sticky notes. There was even one stuck to his bangs that didn't quite fit onto his torso and legs anymore. Hunk had bought him some more post-its last Tuesday when he had come across them in the store next to his work. Both he and Pidge had heard enough about Keith by then to not-so-subtly nudge him whenever they saw a sticky note anywhere. One would be surprised by how many there are when one suddenly pays attention to them.
Admiring his handiwork, Lance took a few steps back. Yes, this was a lot better than before. He liked colorful Keith, he would have to finish his bright pink beanie as soon as possible. For now, he would have to make do with covering Keith in sticky notes, ignoring the looks that the woman in business clothes sent him every five seconds. She wouldn’t understand anyway, he and Keith had a beautiful friendship. This was totally acceptable for them - it was required, even! It was their thing!
Oh man, he would have paid to see Keith’s reaction.
If I ever meet you, I’m going to murder you.
Lance almost ate his fist in his attempt to keep his laughter down.
Please don't. You wouldn't survive 2 weeks without me.
Guess which name is mine?
I’m saying you’re Bob. Your name is Bob from now on.
I’m 99% sure that that name wasn’t even on the list.
Do you think I care?
Harsh. And here I was preparing you another present.
Oh. How many donuts?
Hm. I’d say it’ll be a solid 4.
Lance got five donuts. He didn’t have an explanation for Professor Allura when she asked him why he was so happy today.
Well, you said the scarf would be worth 3. And it was very useful, I would have said 4.
So yeah I got you 5 in advance. You sell yourself short.
Tadaaaa, it’s finished, enjoy your new look, ex-emo boy!
Next Monday almost gave Lance a heart attack. He had been humming to himself, already grinning when he imagined what kind of messages Keith would come up with when the train had arrived. It was bound to be good, no matter whether he would actually thank him for the bright pink beanie or curse him out for it. Lance had long since accepted that every reaction Keith displayed made him smile like a fool.
When the train doors opened, he had been about to go to his usual place when he realized - Keith wasn’t leaning back against the window. The head that wore the pink beanie turned towards the door and-
Keith was awake.
Lance wasn’t sure why he had ever wanted Keith to be awake when he arrived, he suddenly felt like throwing up. He couldn’t meet him. Not today. Oh gods, he wasn’t prepared! What if Keith thought he was creepy? Or ugly? He wasn’t ugly, but what if Keith thought so? He had skipped his face mask yesterday! He so wasn’t prepared for this encounter.
Instead of heading towards his usual place, Lance feigned nonchalance and turned towards the left, away from Keith. He had his earbuds in so it didn’t look like he was overly interested in his surroundings anyway. Hopefully that would throw Keith off. Keith had no way of knowing who exactly he was looking for, everything would be fine.
Once Lance had reached a free seat, he took out the stuff for his lab. He could use this opportunity to get a little extra studying in… or at least he could pretend to. He still felt way too nervous to actually focus on his material.
Turning up his music, Lance began to underline random stuff. Oh yeah, he was good at pretending to be busy. It was the only way he had survived most of his high school classes when he had been bored out of his mind. No problem, he could keep this up for ages.
It took him five minutes to lift his head and sneak a glance at Keith.
Keith was staring right back.
Lance immediately snapped his eyes back to his notes, then he realized how suspicious that must have appeared and looked up again. Keith was still staring at him with furrowed brows - oh god, he really was way too attractive for Lance to deal with - and Lance forced his face into a relaxed but questioning smile. It did exactly what it did to most strangers that were on the receiving end of it: he became instantly flustered and turned his head away, now frowning at the ground.
Good. Phew. Keith didn’t know, he was safe.
Their eyes met again ten minutes later but Lance played it off as empty staring while being deep in thoughts. Keith didn’t get up to talk to him.
It was only when he was already off the train and out of immediate danger that he began to regret it.
Where were you yesterday?
Lance bit his lip, unsure of how to proceed. Should he? He wanted to. Oh god, he wanted to. He regretted not having had the guts to talk to Keith yesterday. Then again, it might have changed their entire relationship…
Maybe that wouldn't be such a bad thing? Maybe it was time to take a risk?
Oh wow, Lance was bad at this. Why was he so nervous? That was not like him. Sure, he had a little crush on the guy, but had that ever stopped him before? No. The opposite, actually - he had always approached his crushes head on and started flirting with them. Why was Keith any different?
He wasn’t, Lance realized. He wouldn’t be different if he didn’t let him be different.
So instead of overthinking it, Lance wrote what he had wanted to write since he had read Keith’s note.
I was on the train, guess who I was~
The guy with the headphones.
No hesitation. None whatsoever. So very Keith. Lance felt a helpless little grin stretching over his face.
Bingo. Surprised at how handsome I was in real life?
Not really. You seem to have a lot of confidence, it has to come from somewhere.
Lance stared at the note, then stared some more. He was pretty sure that his mouth had fallen open as he reread it for the fifth time.
This was flirting. This was totally flirting, right? It was, right?! And not even the kind of flirting where he tricked himself into believing that the other half was interested to keep his composure, no, this was real, actual flirting. Right?!
He needed confirmation.
Instead of letting the note stick to Keith as he usually did, he took it off and put it in his backpack. He had to discuss this with Hunk and Pidge. This was serious business. The one person that brightened his morning every day might be interested in him, no time for jokes.
Lance was so caught up in panicking over the note that he didn’t even realize that he forgot to reply.
Sorry, did I offend you yesterday?
For a while Lance just kept blinking at the post-it. Offended? With what?
No dude, I felt flattered. You’re not so bad looking yourself ;)
Even if I still think you should tone down the edge.
He stuck both of the sticky notes directly to Keith’s own, then sat back into his seat and rubbed his arms. It was about time to get out his winter jacket, it was freezing outside. At least Keith was still wearing both the scarf and the beanie, so Lance knew that even with the same old leather jacket he would be mostly warm.
He had shown the note to Hunk yesterday and without even knowing the context of it his eyebrows had shot up. It was flirting, he had agreed. Lance had also pulled Pidge into it and she had brought up the valid point that it might have just been a very unfortunate worded compliment… but when Lance had told her about their previous exchange, she had also agreed that it was flirting. No doubt.
So. This was a thing. Keith had been flirting with him.
And Lance was so down for it.
Hesitating a little, Lance grabbed his pen once more. Yeah, he would add a third note.
I have another present for you. 1 donut, I actually just need your plastic bag.
When Monday came around, Lance felt weirdly excited. It was raining again, so that might have played into his positive mood even more. Keith had brought the Barbie umbrella and Lance was struck again by how really, fucking cute he looked. The beanie and the umbrella looked almost matching… and oh, there was the plastic bag.
Lance snatched it up and opened it. Two donuts. God fucking damnit, who had allowed Keith to be so nice? He didn’t even really have a present!
Putting one of them into his bag and leaving the other one for Keith, Lance dug out the letter.
What are you getting me now? Face paint and glitter? Light-up shoes?
Oh, if only. He should have gotten Keith some glitter and thrown it all over his clothes. That way he could have been dark, edgy and sparkling. He could have gone full Twilight mode, even if the Barbie umbrella might have ruined the picture a bit.
Hey now, light-up shoes are damn cool. Sadly I’m too broke to even afford them for myself so nah, no shoes for you. Keep the second donut, I was serious when I said that I actually just needed your plastic bag.
Lance smiled to himself as he added the last sentence.
Can’t have any weirdos getting my number after I get off the train - 0xxx xxxxxxx
-handsome dude from the train
[FROM: unknown] [05:48am] Is this Bob?
[TO: edgy emo child] [07:23am] no
[TO: edgy emo child] [10:12am] the name’s Lance ;P
[TO: edgy emo child] [11:05am] Keith?
[TO: edgy emo child] [11:06am] it’s the handsome dude from the train. Lance.
[FROM: edgy emo child] [01:18pm] Sorry, was asleep.
[FROM: edgy emo child] [01:18pm] So you are Lance.
[TO: edgy emo child] [01:22pm] yep. the one and only~
[TO: edgy emo child] [01:23pm] just what do you work as that you’re literally always asleep?!
[FROM: edgy emo child] [01:23pm] I have night shifts at the gas station. I usually get off work at 4am.
[FROM: edgy emo child] [01:24pm] And then I sleep.
[TO: edgy emo child] [01:24pm] bruh. life’s hard i s’pose.
[TO: edgy emo child] [01:24pm] so i take it you’re very good at pumping gas~
[FROM: edgy emo child] [01:25pm] Um. I’m average? I’m behind the register, not out there pumping gas for anyone.
[TO: edgy emo child] [01:26pm] dude you just ruined the pick up line.
[TO: edgy emo child] [01:26pm] boooo
[FROM: edgy emo child] [01:26pm] What?
[TO: edgy emo child] [01:27pm] …i’ll call you. are you free right now?
[FROM: edgy emo child] [01:28pm] I guess…
Lance didn’t even think twice about it: he clicked on Keith’s contact name and pressed the call button. The phone hadn’t even had the chance to ring properly yet when someone picked up. He couldn’t help the way it made him grin, even if it got him raised eyebrows from Hunk and Pidge across the cafeteria table.
“Hi,” a breathless, deep voice greeted him. Giddiness spread through Lance and he leaned a little more into the phone.
“Hello there, Keith. So, what do you say - was the present worth a donut?”
“…I still think you’re selling yourself short. It’s two at least.”
Keith was smiling, he could hear it in his voice.
Lance couldn’t judge though, really. He was too.