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Here’s the thing. Keith’s a pretty cool guy, he guesses. Pretty hip. Pretty self-aware. Has some close friends and a boyfriend and knows how to dress himself the right way. He’s pretty much got shit figured out...except for money.  So when Shiro tells him that they need another bartender at the strip club he works at, Keith figures hey, why not, right? It’s an exciting atmosphere - he’ll definitely never get bored - plus Shiro’s been making bank with all the tips that are thrown his way. And who doesn’t like not having to scrape by for rent, right?

It’s a logical choice, both for him and the club’s manager, Allura - a tall, confident woman who’s as committed as she is intimidatingly gorgeous. She interviews him with such a sharp tongue and hawk-like gaze that Keith forgets it’s a strip club he’s being checked over for and not the FBI. But not unlike the FBI, once he’s in, he’s in. And he is a pretty cool guy, he guesses, so when he strolls in for his first shift, he’s not sweating it.

Well...he’s not sweating it until there’s a huge rush up to the bar and he and Shiro are swamped with orders. Because that’s when things get a little dicey and Keith forgets how to make half the menu and the music is really loud and he spills more drinks than he actually gets to people and-...and yeah. He loses his shit a little. But he’s gonna get better. Tonight. Tonight’s the night for sure.

“Shiro. Pssst, Shiro. The fuck is a Blue Rider?” He practically hisses it over his shoulder, the drink order not sounding even the slightest bit familiar as it leaves the woman’s lips across the bar. He’s like 78% sure that’s not even on the menu.

But - “Oh. Here, watch.” - Shiro is on it, three separate bottles clinking together in his arm as he grabs them from the shelf on his way over. “Vodka, blue curacao, champagne,” he lists out as he measures each and dumps them into a thin glass on the bartop, “aaaand, little bit of lemon juice.”

The lemon wedge folds beneath his fingers as he squeezes it over the drink and then sticks one of the small black straws into the glass.

“Yeah, that definitely isn’t on the menu Allura gave me to memorize,” Keith says, more to himself than to anyone, the ice clinking delicately as he takes the drink from his brother and hands it over to the customer with a smile.

“Yeah it’s not on the list at all.”

“Why even serve it then?”

Shiro huffs a laugh, “Because it’s named after one of the dancers here.”

He’s already starting on another drink by the time Keith’s reached the electronic register on the wall. “One of ours?” Doesn’t ring a bell. “Which one?”

“Hasn’t come in yet, but he’s pretty much the club favorite. Cleans everyone out whenever he’s here.”

Keith flashes him a raised eyebrow. “And when’s that?”

“Weekend usually.”

“It’s the weekend now.” Well. Technically it’s Friday. But Friday night. Which is pretty much the weekend, so.

His inner monologue is interrupted by Shiro’s chuckle. “I’d learn how to make the drink before stressing about this guy’s life story.”

Keith huffs. “I’m not stressing.” Just interested is all.

Doesn’t matter, though. Shiro’s just shaking his head, an amused smirk quirking the corner of his mouth as he turns back toward the incoming customers. “Whatever you say.”

It leaves Keith to put the champagne and other ingredients back on his own, his mind taking off as he holds the slender blue curacao bottle up to the flashing lights, liquid glinting as it dances against the clear sides.

The club favorite, huh?

 


 

 

Here’s the thing.

Keith’s only been to a strip club with the intent of being entertained once, and while it wasn’t even his idea, it wasn’t completely terrible. But here’s the difference between that place and his new place of employment:

Dudes.

Dudes.

The place he had went to with the guy he’s seeing was nice and the girls were talented and everything, but as much as Keith wanted to pretend to be like Isaac, his gay little heart just wasn’t into it.

Here, though. Here he’s got a straight shot of the main stage from where the bar is situated on the back wall of the club, two smaller strips of stage flanking the main one in a sort of elongated E-shape. It means he’s got a great view of exactly what’s happening. At all times. Oh yeah, take him to this club any day.

“What can I get you?” Keith shouts over the bar top as the buff guy on stage finishes up his routine - some sort of firefighter ‘ooo lemme come spray you with my hose’ number that's pretty cheesy but has the ladies hollering regardless.

Not this one though. Apparently this one's not into firefighters. To each their own. “Vodka cranberry.”

Keith nods, the flashing lights settling and then dimming as the routine comes to an end and the dancer bounds off the stage with a wave. Vodka cranberry. If he had a fucking “Tab?” he asks, not because he's trying to prolong this interaction in hopes of a tip, but because he honestly can't remember if he’s served this girl already tonight.

But, “No, can I open one?” and okay, Keith feels like less of a dick now.

She slides her credit card over the counter as he pours her drink for her - vodka first, then the cranberry juice - and he's almost finished when the sudden song startup over the speakers throws everything to shit.

“Shoot,” the girl mutters under her breath while quickly glancing over her shoulder toward the stage. Which is empty. Completely empty. Why the hell is everyone making their way over to it like they’re about to miss something?

“Oh, looks like he is here tonight,” Shiro says vaguely, his nonchalance clashing with the way he slides into double-time to finish an order.

Keith frowns, confused and so obviously missing something and-...and is this fucking k-pop?

He quickly slides the vodka cranberry over - no chance to react when she grabs it with a rushed “Thanks!” and then turns to join the rest of the people who've gathered at the tables near the stage.

And yeah, this is a fucking k-pop song.

“What the fuck is happening?” he tries again, but Shiro’s just slinging a towel over his shoulder, completely at ease as the song snippet ends, the lights dim, and the room is cast in a sultry blue.

Looks like he is here tonight.

Keith wants to scream, eyes fixed on the stage at the figure cast in shadows.

Who?

-I'm just wild and young-  the song starts, the single bass-line rhythmic and heartbeat-like as it pounds in Keith’s chest. -I'm just wild and young. Do it just for fun.-

And that's when the lights flash on - cue ladies losing it - cue money flashing out of purses and wallets. Keith takes it all in with a surprised curiosity as the song’s tempo kicks in, seemingly fast until he notices the steadying bass-line returning in his chest.

-Hellooo- He's never seen this dancer before. -Yes sir. I'm one of a kind.- Never seen this powerful but graceful strut, softened by a black hoodie and trackpants but still completely obvious as the dancer moves forward, a hand gripping the brim of the snapback that hides his face.

And.

And this is definitely G-Dragon. This guy’s 100% stripping to k-pop right now.

But it's working. It's working pretty fucking well, if Keith’s dick has any minor say in the matter. And even if it didn't, the money flying in the dancer’s direction as he rolls his hips to the beat makes this a no-brainer.

This is definitely him. The club favorite. Blue Rider.

-get back-

A hand goes to the zipper of his hoodie, teasing with aborted pulls.

-young and rich-

The audience waits on bated breath. And it's only when the zipper finally slides down for the reveal - smooth, tan skin - that Keith realizes he was waiting for it too. And okay. Yes, that's a good set of muscles right there. Not too defined and hot in the way that they're tight and touchable and would probably feel crazy good if you could get your hands underneath that hoodie.

And Keith can't help but just stare as they work, the dancer’s hips grinding on what only his imagination can whip up as the music plays on.

The floor of the stage is covered in bills and Blue Rider technically hasn't even taken any clothes off yet, his hoodie draped back on the crooks of his arms as he bends backwards to continue the grind at a more suggestive angle. It's then that he flips his snapback around too, the bill now backwards and the shadows no longer hiding the face beneath- ...b-...beneath...it...

Keith blinks.

Oh.

...jesus.

The hoodie goes flying in an outburst of whistles and catcalling, but all Keith can focus on is the sharp jawline...the dark eyes...the very very interesting smirk pulling at the corners of the dancer's mouth as he rolls seamlessly onward. 

Oh jesus.

-Hellooo. Yes sir, I'm one of a kind.-

The smirk stays true and deadly as he bends at the waist, hands coming up to flatten against his chest and then slowly work their way down over his pecs, then his stomach, then linger past his hip bones to hint at what’s to come. It's mesmerizing and Keith can't look away...can't look away...can't look away until the song draws to a close and the dancer’s squatting gracefully to pick up his hoodie and the hat that Keith doesn't remember him throwing, and…

The lights rise back up, background music filtering back on as it does between every single dance.

Keith blinks.

Wait. What just happened. Did he black out a little there?

“Woooooow.”

Shiro’s droning tone drags him even further back into reality, the look of vague amusement he’s sporting when Keith turns to face him making Keith frown.

“What?”

And it must be the wrong thing to say, because it pulls an astounded chuckle from him. “Whatdaya mean what?”

“I mean what's the ‘woooow’ for?” His rendition doesn't nearly capture the spirit of the original, but it's hard to commit to denying something when you’re secretly popping half a hard-on in your jeans.

Shiro probably doesn’t know the extent of it, but he definitely knows enough to just shake his head, still chuckling as he motions toward the credit card still clasped in Keith’s hand. “Might wanna deal with that before the next push comes.”

Oh yeah. The tab. Right.

Keith turns without another word, not because he doesn’t have one, but because the heat is washing over his face and he just needs a second is all - just a minute to get his shit together.

“He’s got another one coming up, by the way,” Shiro mentions offhandedly behind him. And Keith doesn’t even have to look to know he’s smirking to himself.

It’s fine.

He just needs a second.

 

-   -   -   -   -

 

Three more dancers do their thing. Three more downtimes and Keith’s break happen and then things are actually fine. Which means he was right. He just got caught off guard by the new dancer and got a little excited and yes, he just needed a second to cool down. Everything’s fine.

-Hold up!-

The intro song (that no one else seems to need?) blasts over the speaker but Keith keeps his head on straight, not about to be thrown again by a little k-pop. Or is it k-hop. ...K-hip-hop? What the hell is the right way to say that? Korean hip hop? Does it not get it’s own fun abbreviation thing?

Despite Keith’s purposefully rambling thoughts, Blue Rider’s song begins - another k-hop selection that leaves Keith wondering how he’s getting away with this when all the other dancers have “normal” music. Granted it’s still got the heavy, alluring beat - the one that he’s dancing to right this second, clean and precise movements that show off the tempting proportions of broad shoulders narrowing into a tight waist-

Keith drags his eyes away, blue lights dancing over his face as he frowns at the selection of glassware waiting to be filled under the counter. He doesn’t have to look. He’s not obligated as someone who works at a strip club to actually watch the stripping as it’s happening.

Even if it’s good. Even if it’s like...the smoothest fucking hip thrusts he’s ever seen in his life. Like. It’s not even a thrust. This guy’s somehow completely passed over ‘smooth’ and gone straight to ‘what the fuck how are you so good at that’. Keith doesn’t know how he does it. Or, well, he wouldn’t if he was watching. Which he’s not. Which means he doesn’t deserve that smirk that Shiro’s throwing his way.  

A flurry of excitement breaks out over the floor, Keith’s eyes fixing curiously at where Blue’s made his way towards a table below. In the time Keith’s avoided looking, he’s rid himself of his shirt, leaving only a pair of tight black shorts that probably hug his ass pretty well if Keith took the time to notice, which he definitely doesn’t . And he also doesn’t have to watch to know that everyone who can get their hands on him are tucking bills into his waistband. It’s probably not that hard either, judging by how tight those shorts are and how close he’s getting to each girl as he makes his way around the tables.

Keith zones in at the crisp dollar bill entering his vision from the side, Shiro smiling teasingly when Keith catches on and rolls his eyes at him. “Hilarious.”

“Thirsty much?”

“No, but I’ll take the money if you’re just handing it out,” he deadpans and snatches the bill out of his grip. He's not thirsty. He's not.

Shiro’s still smiling regardless. “Yeah, you might as well hang onto that for tomorrow.”

“I love how clever you think you are.”

“And I love when you try to convince yourself that you’re not being completely obvious.”

Keith opts to turn away, “No idea what you’re talking about,” and then busies himself with the register on the wall as the song ends and the background music fades back in, much to the crowd’s disappointment.

But Shiro’s not done. “Please. I know that face. That’s the smitten-but-hiding-it face.”

Keith has to laugh. “The what?”

“I don’t see it a lot, but I know it when I do.”

“Yeah? You spend a lot of time staring at my face?”

“More than I’d like to, seeing as we still live together.”

It’s enough to pull another chuckle from him, finger tapping at various buttons on the touch screen as he checks on the tabs. “And who’s idea was that?”

“Same person who hooked you up with a job where you can ogle hot guys for hours on end.” He pauses. “Well. One guy, at least. What would Isaac think?”

The urge to groan is mighty but Keith resists it. “This still? More of this?”

“So I’m wrong, then?”

“Yes.”

“You’re not a Blue Rider fanboy?”

That’s worth a cringe. “No.”

“Alright.” The way he accepts it just like that - suddenly and with no further questions - leaves Keith narrowing his eyes suspiciously.

That was far too easy.

What’s going on...

“Well if it isn’t Six, my favorite hunky bartender.”

A new voice joins them before Keith can figure out what Shiro’s scheming, the nickname and familiarity of it all causing him to slowly turn his head from the screen. And when he does, he’s pretty sure his heart dropkicks itself into the ceiling, because that’s when the voice connects to the face grinning playfully at Shiro across the bar top from underneath a drawn up hood, the same kind of grin that unknowingly held Keith’s attention from afar not so long ago.

“Whatdaya need, Blue?” Shiro sighs, although it’s hardly serious and almost as lighthearted as how he talks to Keith. Keith, who is standing stock still by the register, muscles refusing to move because. Well shit, it’s him.

“I left my water bottle in my car,” Blue fake pouts, bottom lip jutting out but not masking the labor in his breathing - the slight sheen of sweat across his face and his neck and his collarbones.

Shiro must be immune to it because he continues on like Keith’s entire world isn’t rearranging itself at breakneck speed a few feet away. “Again?”

But it’s okay. Blue hasn’t spotted Keith yet - hasn’t noticed the other presence behind the counter. Maybe if Keith just doesn’t fucking move…

Shiro hands over a cold water bottle from the refrigerator and Blue smiles as he takes it, eyes sparkling dangerously. “You’re the best, Six.” And what the fuck does that even mean? Like, six pack? Because Shiro’s definitely ripped. “You can watch my six any time.”

Shiro huffs a laugh. “Flirt all you want, but you’re not getting another drink named after you.” He says it so casually that this must be a thing that happens frequently, his nonchalance about it almost enough to transfer over to Keith’s own frazzled nerves - that is, until he changes the game up and nods over his shoulder in Keith’s direction. “Oh by the way, meet the new guy. He just started yes-”

The very sudden attention has Keith panicking - his nerves spiking and pushing him and before he knows what he's doing he turns on his heels - just fucking slips away from the intro and the spike in his nerves and into the back room where he’s away from the eyes - away from the attention.

...far enough away from the dimmed lights and deep bass that the reality of what he just did fully sinks in.

Wait.

What...the fuck.

What the fuck?

What the fuck did he just do? Is he five?

His pulse is still rapid. Heavy. The various boxes of unopened bottles mock him with a clink as he nearly collapsed back on a stack, a heavy sigh escaping him in the process. He just dipped on an intro. Like a child.

And now here comes the worry. Because shit, what're the two of them doing out there now? Laughing at him? No, Shiro wouldn't do that. Introduce him to an extremely attractive dancer out of fucking nowhere? Now that's something he'd do. And how'd Keith respond to a little sudden pressure?

He lets out another sigh, rubbing his eyes with the heels of his hands.

Wow. How super cool is he. What a super cool first impression. Just the super coolest.

“He's gone,” Shiro hums through the door.

But Keith’s not ready to face the incredible amount of shit he's about to get when he goes back out there. No, he's about to take a personal five in hopes that his inability to function will be forgotten in that time.

 


 

 

It's not forgotten.

Not even a little bit.

Almost the exact same scenario happens Saturday night and Keith does it again. Just fucking dips before he has to interact.

He swears he's cool.

 


 

The television flickers like lightning on the darkened living room walls of Isaac’s apartment, Keith only half watching, his mind pulled in several other directions lately. He glances over to the other end of the couch. He was a sophomore in college when they met - Isaac a junior. All it took was a few interested looks and a couple bad decisions and they started seeing each other a semester later. Keith couldn’t resist it - the bad boy type - the dark hair and piercings and tattoos that screamed Art Major Because I Had To Pick A Major But Fuck Conforming. Keith fell for it. Hard. For a while, at least. But they’re older now - three years older. And…

Keith slips his foot through the space between them on the couch, nudging at Isaac’s thigh. “Hey.”

“Hey.” His voice is as stereotypically deep and stereotypically dull as it was three years ago. Keith hopes he’s changed though, at least a little.

“Finished my first weekend of work yesterday.”

“That’s good.”

“Yeah.”

Silence creeps back up between them.

The television bathes the white walls in pale green.

“I didn’t completely fuck it up, I don’t think,” he tries again with another nudge to the thigh, this one more pointed.

It works. Isaac looks over at him, eyelids heavy. “That’s good, Keith.” And then it’s back to the TV.

Keith frowns, disappointed but not surprised. “You’re not curious at all?”

“‘Bout what.”

“‘Bout the fact that I work in a strip club now? With a bunch of almost naked guys?”

He waits for the response that he knows isn’t going to come, maybe out of hope for the sheer surprise of it.

It doesn’t. Just like he knew it wouldn't.

Okay, fine.

Keith moves on autopilot, drawing his legs in so he can slink over towards him because he knows that at least  this will work - has so many other times and will now too. Isaac remains unmoved until the screen is blocked by Keith’s body, the shorter boy coming to drop down in his lap, both hands reaching out to spread against his chest.

Isaac looks up. Finally.

“Shouldn’t you be jealous?” Keith asks quietly, though not from a lack of confidence. No. He knows exactly what he’s doing. And the hands that come to rest on the small of his back tell him he’s doing it right. “All those hot guys around me. Night after night.” A very specific hot guy comes to mind, actually, but he doesn’t have to know that.

Isaac’s touch lingers before sliding down to cup Keith’s ass - to give a squeeze that can’t be interpreted as anything other than possessive. It’s not what Keith was looking for at the start of all this - not where he wanted it to go - but he guesses he’ll take it, rolling his hips as Isaac tugs him in tight.

 


 

 Blue Rider is still really really popular and really really hot when Thursday night rolls around again - the start of their Thursday to Saturday shift. It’s only the third night Keith’s seen him dance, but it might as well be the very first, the liquid smooth roll of his hips against the back of a girl’s chair making the table of friends call out in encouragement.

Keith watches, but only for a little. Partially because he’s starting to lose his ability to pretend like he doesn’t care, and partially because he doesn’t want to give his brother any more ammunition. Not after consistently bailing on intros for two days straight.

“So when does afterschool start up?” Shiro asks, graciously ignoring the little start in Keith’s composure as he walks by. He’s got more glasses stacked in his arms than he probably should, but leave it to him to make one trip instead of two. “Soon?”

“This week.”

It's about time. The afterschool is exactly what it sounds like - a place that takes in kids that have working parents after school lets out. He’s volunteered there for years now - more of a second home than anything.

"Pidge working there too?"

"Yep."

“Sydney comin’ back?”

Keith takes a stack from his brother’s arms and places it on the counter, Blue Rider’s relentless k-hop making them vibrate across the marble. “Should be. She’ll be in third now.” Grade, that is.

The glasses clink as Shiro positions them on a ledge beneath the bar top, neat and orderly and just like him. “Good. Means you won’t be bumming around the house during the day anymore.”

“That’s insulting.”

“It’s the truth.”

Keith lets his attention roll back over to the main stage, or more specifically, where Blue is now strutting confidently around the pole at the end without actually touching it - a tease that leaves the club-goers wanting - “Whatever.” - Keith too, if he’s gonna be honest. “He ever actually do it?”

His question is just vague enough that it has Shiro pausing, the glass perched in his fingers before he pops his head up past the counter to tune into Keith’s train of thought. The pole. “Oh. Not that I’ve ever seen.” Interesting. “And I remember being here before he was even hired on.”

Keith leans against the register, arms crossed. Very interesting.

“It’s probably a good thing, actually.” And with that, Shiro’s straightening back up and moving past him. “Wouldn’t wanna have to call the paramedics on multiple heart attacks…” he lobs a grin at Keith as he brushes by, “customer and staff-wise.”

It’s so funny that Keith forgets to laugh. At all. Because it’s not funny. “Ha.” But it’s drowned out by the flashing ending to the k-hop and the hormones and the blah blah blah.

Keith turns toward the register. Please. It’s not a big deal. Blue’s not even really that attractive up close, when he’s not grinding his hips into an imaginary body below him. And even if Keith’s only really seen him up close that one time - and even if his hood was up so Keith couldn’t actually really see too well - and even if it was only a few seconds - and…

And alright. So what if   he’s really that attractive up close? What fucking if? It’s still not a big deal. People can be super attractive and be complete assholes. Like Isaac. There you go. Keith already has a super attractive person in his life. And they’re together. And they’re fucking. And even if Keith isn’t as attracted to him as he was three years ago, that doesn’t mean anything. Especially now. He’s got Isaac.

Keith takes an affirmative breath, realizing now that he’s been glaring at the register for a good amount of time, also realizing that Shiro hasn’t interrupted his internalized pep talk once. Not once. He just stood there and kept to himself and didn’t say a thing. And now he’s leaving. He’s-...leaving? He’s turning on his heels and pushing noiselessly into the back room? Why?

“Hey mami. You avoiding me?”

Keith’s heart drops into his stomach, the barely familiar voice cropping up behind him with such ease that when he turns around, it’s like he’s been standing there the whole time.

Blue Rider.

Keith struggles. “...what?”

But the grin on the boy’s face across the counter is confident. And he’s looking at him. They’re making eye contact. And Keith doesn’t have anywhere to go when he explains. “You’re new, right?”

Uh. “Yeah?” Yeah. Yes. He’s new here. Why’d he answer that like he doesn't know?

Blue’s grin turns playful, the hood over his head tousling the damp hair there. It’s very-...it’s very attractive... “Okay so what's the deal then? You avoiding me or what?”

He’s got nowhere to go because Shiro fucking left him. On purpose. “Uh- no.” Keith aims for confidence but it gets pushed aside in the very real heat washing over his face. Because damn he’s attractive. And Keith can officially declare that because now he’s stared at him from both far off and up close. Slim face...amazing jawline...lips that quirk teasingly whether he knows it or not. Damn it. “No.”

It’s an outright lie. Keith’s totally been avoiding him, if the fact that he bails into the back every time he shows up isn’t obvious enough. But see, this is why. This is why Keith’s been waiting for the right time. This was not the first impression he wanted to make.

But Blue seems satisfied regardless, his posture cool as he folds his arms against the counter as he leans forward, “Good,” and then taps his pointer finger on top of the stack of small plastic cups. “So can you not avoid me and also get me a cup of ice real quick please?”

It’s kind of a weird request, but Keith doesn’t question it for one second, plucking a cup from the stack and scooping ice into it as quickly and calmly as possible. It feels like it stretches on for fifteen minutes, a couple cubes scattering to the floor in the process, but when it’s done, it’s done. And Keith’s grateful for it.

Except, “Here,” he says, kicking himself because he swears he’s cooler than this. He swears he has game.

The cup is taken from him with another grin, “Thanks man,” and then Blue’s walking away - strutting out of Keith’s personal bubble - right as Shiro makes his way out from the back to fall into place beside him.

And oh. Keith could kill him. “You did that on purpose.”

“You needed to talk to him at some point.”

“Yeah, not like that.” That was just-

“You’re overthinking it.” Shiro says it with a certain amount of nonchalance that’s almost reassuring. Almost like, maybe Keith wasn’t as fucking awkward as he thinks he was. And then he tacks on: “So how’d it go, though?”

Which makes Keith glance over at him, “How'd what go?”

And Shiro’s got this terrible, awful, shit-eating grin on his face that negates all the reassurance that he’s built up to this point. “Get him to sign anything for you?”

Fuck. God. Keith wants to bury himself in the ice chest. He swears he’s got game. “You're the worst.”

He swears it.

 

-  -  -  -  -

 

Keith faceplants into his pillow the second he gets home. This weekend schedule of a 3am bedtime supremely fucks with his circadian rhythm or whatever the hell that’s called. But at least he’s sleeping as soon as lights are out - no wishywashy grace period where he’s staring up at the ceiling contemplating life. It’s kind of nice, actually, in it’s own weird little way. Until he needs to wake up the next morning, that is.

“I’m dying,” he groans, the blanket he stripped from his bed pooled around his shoulders as he drops onto the couch, eyes still closed. “I'm dying - I'm dead.”

Shiro’s up and moving about like he didn’t get even less rest, but that’s what’s come to be expected of him. He’d even do it when he was the only one working at the club and Keith had normal sleeping hours. He’s some sort of superhuman big brother and honestly Keith stopped questioning it years ago.

“Here,” he hears him say as a shadow blocks the sunlight from hitting his eyelids. The telltale smell of coffee greets his nostrils. “I got the creamer you like.”

Keith opens one eye, lured by the promise of his favorite. “Peppermint?”

“Mhm.”

“But it’s not in season.”

Shiro smiles, “Got it off Amazon,” and then swishes the coffee mug in front of Keith’s face until he takes the bait and reaches out to claim it.

Keith’s blanket cocoon falls a bit as he brings the mug toward his mouth, but it’s worth it for peppermint-flavored caffeine. “You must love me,” he mumbles after a blessed sip.

“Sometimes,” is Shiro’s answer, although it’s vastly enhanced by the way he attempts to un-knot Keith’s bed-head as he moves around to the back of the couch.

“And you must feel guilty.”

“Rarely.”

Sip. “Not even for last night?”

The fingers expertly untangling his hair pause for a moment, as if in thought, and then move right along as Shiro huffs a chuckle. “Are you still not over that?”

“No,” Keith grumbles, mug to his lips.

“It was fine.”

“Betrayal.”

“Seriously? Since when do you care about making good first impressions?”

Direct hit. Keith has never been a people pleaser and they both know it. But. “You tricked me.”

“I only did what you did those other times.”

Direct hit number two. Keith sinks deeper into the couch.

It pulls another calm chuckle from his brother. “Relax,” he reassures, finishing up his last de-tangle. “Blue’s just a normal guy. You’re idolizing him, and I have a feeling it’s gonna get you disappointed in the long run.”

Keith remains silent. He’s not idolizing him. He’s just…

“Hey, I have a proposition for you.”

“Meh.”

“It involves pizza.”

And just like that, Keith has been pulled out of his slump. Pizza? Dare he ask… “Deep dish?”

“Yes.”

Damn it. He’s trapped. “What do you want?”

 

-  -  -  -  -

 

The outside of the club looks different in the sunlight - like more of a boring, normal building than it actually is. Keith locks the car he shares with Shiro and makes his way to the front, not exactly fired up about being here off hours when he’ll be here tonight anyway, but also not exactly complaining if it means pizza for dinner.

He makes his way to the front door, only frowning when he feels the pulse of familiar bass low in his chest. Could it be? But they’re closed.

He knows this song.

There’s the slightest bit of a creak to the door as he slips through, but it’s easily covered by the melody of the song’s chorus. The song. The k-pop song.

Keith’s pulse quickens a bit but he forces himself to keep moving, making a bee-line for the empty bar as Blue Rider moves none the wiser across the stage further out.

Take inventory, Keith grounds himself, even as his heart continues to flutter while he grabs the clipboard from where Shiro told him it’d be. Just take inventory and then leave. Everything’s cool.

Clearly Blue’s just here practicing. Dancers need to practice right? And they definitely need to practice if they’re gonna use the pole like that-

Keith pauses, pen freezing in the middle of his three. Wait. He looks up. Pole. He’s using the pole. He knows he shouldn’t, but he can’t help his curiosity as he watches - clipboard in hand - as Blue takes a couple steps back from the pole positioned in the middle of the walkway and stares at it, almost like he’s mentally psyching himself up. When he moves, he moves powerfully towards it, wraps his hand up high, and then lifts himself off the ground with ease. He swirls around the pole and it’s effortless - graceful - and Keith has to tear his attention away because it’s not even that sexual, it’s just...it’s just mesmerizing.

No. Focus. This can be done pretty quick - that’s what Shiro said. And then home and then pizza and then he can come back and stare at Blue all he wants. Keith completes his three and moves onto the next row of bottles. They’re gonna need more vanilla Absolut soon. That shit goes fast around here.

“Ahh...”

The music cuts out just in time for Keith to straighten, attention drawn to where Blue has crouched by his phone at the end of the walkway to pause the song. He stands to give it another shot, without the music this time, and Keith has to wonder if those basketball shorts are helping or hurting him. They’re swishy enough to help him slide with minimal friction as he grips the pole between his thighs. But is it too much?

Damn it, he’s doing it again. Focus. Oh my god just focus.

5 bottles of blueberry Absolut.

4 bottles of watermelon.

Blue is humming the song to himself as he dances.

5 bottles of pineapple.

Why is he so distracting.

5 whipped cream.

So distracting.

3 cherry.

Keith wants to watch.

CLINK!

If it’s possible for blood to freeze over in your body for real, it happens now. Right here. Right where Keith is standing, a bottle of shitty lemon vodka in one hand and his heart in the other.

Because Blue’s stopped humming.

“Holy shit, man!” And...and...he’s laughing? Keith turns hesitantly to the tune of Blue’s startled laughter. “You scared the crap outta me. I thought I was alone.”

Okay. So not the reaction he was expecting. He gingerly places the bottle back into its row as Blue hops down off the pole. “Yeah...my bad.”

“Nah, it’s fine!” The way he drops to the edge of the stage and hangs his feet off with a grin makes it seems as if he didn’t just get the crap scared out of him. If it was Keith, he’d be raising hell right now. But it’s not. And Blue’s not. He’s just, really chill. “Six’s got you doing inventory, huh?”

“Looks that way,” Keith fires back, a little snappier than the situation calls for, but he’s just now realizing that he’s alone in here with him. With Blue. All by themselves. Still, though. Calm the fuck down and make a better second impression. “Why do you call him that anyway?”

Blue looks up from where he’s tying his shoes. “Who, Six?”

“Yeah.”

“Six-pack. Dude’s ripped.” Ah, so Keith was right. That’s one for the books. “Everyone’s got nicknames, you know? He’s Six. I’m Blue.” He nods toward him, “You’re Gloves.”

“Gloves?”

“Gloves,” he motions toward Keith again, his smile dying down when he realizes it, “Well, you’re not wearing them now. But you always wear them at work.”

Keith frowns. His fingerless gloves? That’s what he’s named after? That's kind of... “Who decided that?”

“Oh,” Blue grins, his shoe now tied, “I did.”

Keith stares at him, several thousand more questions on the tip of his tongue, but it’s hard to do anything really when a smile like that is being directed at him. It’s like the sun but not in a shitty, cheesy way. It’s in the way that it physically hurts to look at and Keith knows he shouldn’t but he’ll be damned if he’s not gonna continue to stare his ass off anyway.

He might have a problem.

“Hey, so…” Blue drops off the side of the stage and makes his way closer to the bar. “You uh…?” Keith’s eyes drop down to the way he pinches his thumb and pointer finger together and then taps them to his pursed lips a couple times. Asking but not asking.

A rush of excitement washes through Keith’s body whether he actually asks it or not. Oh? But he has to stay cool, so he shrugs, setting the clipboard down on the counter in front of him. “Sometimes.”

Blue grins. “Yeah? Wanna?”

“You have some?”

“Mhm.”

Oooh the excitement. “I mean, yeah. If you’re offering.”

It transfers across the counter. And they’re on their way to the parking lot without further discussion. “Sweet.”

Keith hasn’t gotten high in a few months now. Not because he hasn’t wanted to, but because Isaac’s usual guy moved out of state and didn’t hook them up with someone else before going. Technically they could’ve found someone else - shit, it was Keith’s calculated flirting that got Isaac’s usual guy to be their usual guy - but it just never happened.

But now. Now Keith’s running up a high just from walking through the empty parking lot to Blue’s car, the black two-door a promising silhouette against the setting sun. He’d be lying if he didn’t also acknowledge the fact that he’s crazy nervous, but who wouldn’t be? Like going to smoke with the hot dancer you technically just had your first full conversation with isn’t grounds for some spiked nerves.

But Keith steadies out his breathing - does his best to, anyway - and follows around the side as Blue unlocks and opens the passenger side door, pulls forward the collapsible back to the seat, and motions dramatically. “After you, sir.”

Okay. Be cool.

Keith crouches beneath where the front seat belt is being held up for him and tucks away into the back, his pulse quickening as the door closes behind him. Blue appears on the other side and slips in like he’s done it a thousand times, barely giving Keith enough time to settle in before doing so himself.

And it’s close. They’re very close. Keith can smell his cologne they’re so close. But it’s fine. It’s all good. Everything’s fine.

“So really. How ya like it so far?” Blue’s pulling a small first aid kit out from under the driver’s seat as he asks it. “Six treatin’ you right?”

Six. Shiro. Keith nods. “Yeah it’s-...it’s good. He’s my roommate so...kinda has to treat me right, otherwise I know where he sleeps.”

“Really?” He pauses after the first aid kit’s top flips open. “I didn't know you guys were roomies.”

They’re too close for Blue to be looking straight at him like this. “Uh- yeah.” Keith shifts. “Brothers too, I guess.”

More staring. This time with raised eyebrows. “Seriously? I didn’t know you guys were brothers either!”

Keith crosses his arms, suddenly feeling like he’s taking up too much room in this backseat. “Well. Yeah, adopted. I'm adopted.” What is a sentence and how do you form one.

“Oh man, that’s insane.” Blue’s chuckling through the shock, and then finally pulls a thin silver tin out from the kit in his lap. “I would hate to work with my brother.”

Keith watches smooth fingers flip open the lid to the tin, a row of white cigarettes waiting inside for him when he does. “You don’t get along?”

“We do.” He pulls one out, “Not as good as my sister and I do though,” and sticks it in his mouth so he can have both hands to secure both lids and slide the first aid kit back underneath the seat. “Want the honors?”

Keith’s eyes drop to where he’s plucked the joint from his lips and has presented it to him in one hand, a purple lighter in the other. It’s been a while since he’s seen one of those - the joints that’re packed tightly and expertly enough that they almost look like a real cigarette. Fancy. Keith waves it off. “Go ahead.”

Blue accepts without a word, bringing the joint back between his lips and flicking the lighter below the end so he can light it. It’s familiar and it brings Keith back to an earlier time when he hears it...the grind and click of the lighter...the pulling intake of air...the barely-there crackle of burnt paper as Blue breathes it in enough to get it started, and then takes a drag for himself, tossing the lighter into the compartment on the side.

Keith watches, hungrily, as his lips part and the smoke billows out slowly into the open air in front of him.

Oh man. He might definitely be in trouble.

“So scale of one to ten,” Blue supposes calmly, whether he can see Keith staring at him or not, “how shitty is your sleep schedule right now?” He hands the joint over, super casual, and elaborates as Keith takes it from him. “One being normal, ten being the worst ever.”

It’s thinner than Keith realized, now that he’s got it between his fingers. Kind of delicate. Like his ability to remain calm. “Seven,” he answers, hoping to get the attention off of himself as he brings it to his lips and prays to god that he doesn’t cough. He doesn’t even know if he’s being watched, to be fair, but the self-made pressure to perform is chugging away regardless.

His lungs burn as he inhales, shallow at first, and then more confidently when he realizes his body must remember how to not completely punk out after all this time. There’s a sweetness there that he doesn’t expect - not overpowering, but there all the same - and it makes him turn the joint in his fingers a few times as he lets the smoke out through his nose.

“Strawberry.”

“Nice, right?” Blue’s smiling at him when he gives it back, throwing in a quick, “My girl recommended it a while back and it’s all I’ve had since.”

He takes a drag and keeps it in his lungs, letting his eyes close long enough that Keith can take him in at this distance without feeling rushed.

There’s no doubt about it. He’s definitely attractive. But not even in the way that Keith normally finds guys attractive. No tattoos. No piercings. No terrible attitude. No, Blue isn’t any aspect of the bad boy archetype whatsoever. So why the fuck is Keith so goddamn obsessed with him?

“Blue?”

“Hm?”

“What’s your actual name?”

It should be a normal question - one that isn’t intrusive or creepy or anything like that. But somehow or another, it ends up coming out that way. In Keith’s head at least.

But Blue lets out his breath, more smoke filtering through the sunset. And then he says it, rather matter of fact. “Lance.”

It’s a declaration. One that Keith now wonders if coworkers here discuss with each other. But he’s done it either way. He now has a less ridiculous name to put to that face lurking in the back of his mind.

Lance.

“Keith,” he finally declares too. Because it’s only fair.

And Blue-...Lance - he rolls his head over to look at him, eyelids heavy and smirk legendary. “Good to meet ya, Keith.”

Yes. Keith is definitely in trouble.

“Thanks for sharing your stash, Lance.”

 

-  -  -  -  -

 

They get through almost a whole joint before Shiro’s texting Keith that the pizza’s arrived at the apartment - more of a ‘how the hell can you still be taking stock’ than anything, though. It’s fair. Keith’s been gone for two hours now. But it’s not because he’s been taking stock.

“So,” he starts out, still making his way in through the door to their apartment as he does.

Shiro’s pouring a glass of water near the sink as he looks up, confused. “So.”

“So I might've just gotten high with Lance.”

“Who?”

Oh yeah, that’s right. “Blue Rider.”

“What?”

“BLUE RIDER.” He might still be a little stoned.

Shiro winces. “No I heard you the first time, I'm just confused when this happened.”

“Just now,” Keith explains without explaining, leaning against the closed door and not really sure why he’s telling his brother this in the first place.

Especially with the look of hesitant confusion that’s written on his face. “Just now?”

“Yeah.”

“With Blue.”

“Yeah.”

“Where?”

“Back of his car.”

And Shiro’s just staring, gears turning. It’s kind of funny until he blinks and says: “Okay I'm missing something. Start again from the beginning.”

Keith lets out a breathy groan as he pushes himself from the door and sidles up next to the pizza box waiting on the table. “He was there when I was,” he explains as best as he can. And honestly, he thinks he’s doing a pretty killer job. “And so we lit up in his car.” There’s a hallelujah chorus singing in his head as he opens the box, the fresh, beautiful deep dish sparkling back at him. The cheese clings seductively to the rest of the pizza as he pulls a piece out with a whispered: “Oh my gooood…”

“Okay, you’re still high,” Shiro states confidently, quickly sliding a plate under where Keith is now lowering the slice of pizza to the table. “You drove home like this?”

“S’like... five minutes,” Keith mumbles through a bite. It’s so good. So cheesy. Shiro will not ruin this moment for him.

“I should’ve just done inventory myself…”

“No it’s fine,” Keith waves him off, even if his head is a little spinny right now. “It’s counted. We need um…” he closes his eyes in thought, “...uhhhh…” what was that one vodka they’re running out of?

“I’ll check and order tonight.” Shiro’s pulling a piece of pizza out for himself as he says it, struggling with the strings of gooey cheese that refuse to cooperate. “When you come down off your high, I want details.”

“Details.”

“I’m still completely shocked that you did anything at all with Blue and lived to talk about it.”

Keith narrows his eyes. Is that a comment on him or Lance?

“Eat,” he says before Keith can ask. “We have work in two hours and you’re slow with literally everything when you’re stoned.”

The instinct to defend rises in Keith’s core, but he goes for a bite instead. He can’t even fight that. It’s true and they both know it.

 


 

It’s Friday night and Keith is no longer stoned, which is helpful because the bar’s being swamped. Three appletinis and two vodka sprites and just a shit ton of those champagne drinks named after Blue. Keith works his ass off and is actually very cordial, which is why he doesn’t understand why his tip jar is almost empty. Is it not in a convenient spot? Is he not being nice enough? Shiro’s jar is practically overflowing but Keith’s is just-... What the hell.

“Why the long face, mami?”

The little drop in his heart is just something that’s going to happen every time Lance shows up behind him, Keith decides. He’s gonna need to get used to it.

“Nothing,” he answers automatically, sliding the last appletini across the counter and then wiping off the trail of condensation it left on the counter. Shiro likes to keep the bar top sparkly clean. It’s one of his Things™. “All good.”

But: “That’s a frown.”

Keith finally breaks away from his work, the rag still clutched in his hand as he looks up and is greeted with the very troublesome view of Lance leaning against the counter, head tilted a bit as he smirks at him from underneath a black zip-up hoodie. The problem is that it’s only zipped up halfway - smooth tan skin waiting temptingly beneath dark fabric.

Keith swallows. Lord help him.

“Making shit tips,” he forces out, opting to go back to wiping down the counter instead of mentally unzipping the rest of his hoodie. Because that’s not what people with significant others do. “Dunno what I’m doing wrong.”

“Want me to tell you?”

There’s honesty lurking beneath the tease. And it hooks Keith quicker than it probably should. “You know?”

“You know too, man.”

But he doesn’t. Keith doesn’t know. And that’s why it’s pissing him off so much - doesn’t he see that-

“It’s your clothes.”

Keith frowns, looking down at his normal black jeans and button up that’s probably a little too tight. “What the hell’s wrong with my clothes?”

“Too much of ‘em,” Lance grins. “Not enough skin.”

Keith’s ready to fire off a snappy response when it clicks it his head. His clothes. He glances over at Shiro - or more-so, the black shirtless vest that perfectly shows off the tight muscles that everyone knows he has underneath. Keith had always thought it was a bit much, but look at Shiro’s tip jar.

“Just sayin’.”

Keith zones back in, the honest raise in Lance’s eyebrows enough to seal the deal.

Okay.

“Should I just…” Keith stammers, “...take my shirt off?”

And it leaves Lance laughing, “Hey wait, that’s my job,” although the way his eyes trail just south of Keith’s face is interesting.

Very interesting. It’s his job to take Keith’s shirt off? Wait, no. It’s his job to take his own shirt off. He’s a fucking stripper. Right.

“Hey, can we take a selfie?”

Keith’s thoughts are derailed by the addition of several other voices belonging to the three girls who approach Lance from behind, seemingly out of nowhere and with nervous smiles.

Keith frowns. What the fuck?

“Oh! Yeah, of course!”

What the fuck?

It happens quickly but it feels like it drags on from where Keith’s standing, Lance turning to swing his arms around the girls and smile as one of them holds her phone up and frames their faces. Keith has the good sense to duck out of frame just at the last second, although he’s sure Lance has already seen his look of confusion through the camera’s reflection.

Click!

“Thanks! We have to leave, but you were so good tonight!” One of them says, but the blush of her cheeks is obvious. She’s smitten. Star struck. Keith can’t say he doesn’t know the feeling.

When they’ve retreated back to wherever they came from, Lance turns back around, nonchalantly cracking his neck and leaning back against the counter.

Keith’s waiting for him when he does.

“What?”

“Does that…” how does he phrase this, “happen a lot?”

“What. ...oh that?” Yeah. That. “Yeah, depends on the day.”

Keith blinks. Tries to wrap his head around it. “You don’t think it’s creepy?”

It must be the wrong thing to say because Lance seems startled, brows coming together like he can’t understand the concept. “Why would I?”

And now they’re both just staring at each other - confused about two different things - on two different levels - and Keith doesn’t really know where to go from here.

“So anyway,” thankfully, Lance is on it, tapping on the bar top as he straightens to leave, “more skin. Got it, Gloves?”

And all Keith has to do is agree, “Got it,” even if the suggestion takes his brain to some wild places. Places it shouldn’t necessarily be. Especially as his eyes fix on Lance during his last song, the hoodie now completely gone and given way to a leanly muscled torso as hot as Keith was imagining. And especially as he watches him grind his hips in the bar’s direction, a hand sliding from the side of his neck, slowly down that torso, and then over the dangerous V of his hips.

 


 

Keith has a boyfriend.

Keith is seeing someone.

They’ve been together for three years.

He really shouldn’t be lusting over someone else - someone he just met, for that matter - no matter how sexy and fun and persuasive that person is. He just shouldn’t. That’s not what good people do.

“Isaac?” he mutters, although it comes out as more of a gasp, hands twisted beneath the pillow and his body jerking forward like it always does.

Isaac responds by picking up speed, crushing Keith tighter into the mattress as he snaps his hips.

Keith’s eyes squeeze shut from the pressure, unable to deny the heat building up in his stomach. The darkness of his eyelids flash with white for a split second. Then nothing. Then white. Then nothing. Then a knowing smirk and lips wrapped around the tip of a joint.

Keith forces his eyes open. What the hell? No way. He’s not thinking about him. Not now. That’s not what a good person would do.

Isaac’s grip on Keith’s hips tighten and Keith tries to straighten himself out. Okay, just don’t think about him. Simple. Don’t think about that smirk or that smooth way he rolls his hips. Or how good that hip roll would feel into him. If he’d just crowd Keith behind the counter and roll-

Fuck.

Fuck fuck fuck.

Keith lifts his head up, eyes searching the white wall in front of him for something to distract himself with but he’s already there - already at that tipping point - and he comes onto Isaac’s bedsheets with a strangled moan and a flash of Lance’s body pressed behind him, dick deep in his ass and Keith’s body jerking like it is now and-

He comes to it. He comes to the slightest, accidental thought of it.

Keith lets his eyes drop closed again, bottom lip between his teeth.

Oops.

 


 

It’s not a big deal. It happens to everyone. Keith just got a little ahead of himself - let himself fantasize a little bit too much. It’s not like he actually wants Lance to fuck him. Keith might be thirsty but he’s not thirsty.

Or at least, that’s what he tells himself as he gets dressed for Saturday night. And if he chooses a tight crop top that he thinks is more Lance’s style over the other, so fucking be it. He’s not dressing for him. He’s dressing for tips.

Keith clasps the back of the thin black choker around his neck and stares at his reflection. More skin? Got it: crop top and hair pulled up. The tight black leggings and matching stud earrings? Extra. But if it’s gonna get him money then he’ll wear the shit out of it.

“Jesus,” Shiro replies, taken hesitantly aback as Keith walks through the living room towards where he’s waiting at the door, boots clacking against the floor.

But Keith just grabs his jacket with confidence, eyes straight ahead. “Time to make that tip money.”

 

-  -  -  -  -

 

Keith has never been given such good advice in his life. It’s like the floodgates have been pried open and the sea of waves crashing through are money. Tips. He’s raking it in like he’s never raked it in before and it’s pretty fucking amazing, he has to admit.

He’s not even bothered by the massive increase of getting hit on. That’s fun too. Everything about everything is just so fucking good, and Keith’s flying high like he’s just taken three shots of tequila.

-Hold up!-

Blue’s intro song fires up around the time it’s supposed to, the usual drift of the crowd moving from the bar to the stage like it always does. Keith wipes down his side of the counter as Shiro heads in back for more glasses, his interest spiking when the song that begins isn’t one he’s familiar with.

It’s calmer - still has a heavy beat, but… Much slower. More sultry.

Blue emerges from the curtains center stage, smiling at the whistles blown his way as he moves forward, stalking down the main strip to the beat, knees bent gracefully with each step. He moves over the ground like he weighs nothing, looking over his shoulder to throw a wink at one of the girls at a nearby table. She reacts in the shy, blushy way that about a third of them do. The rest either flirt back or turn to the people they’re sitting with and scream.

Keith doesn’t know which one he’d be. Definitely not the last one. Maybe the middle.

Shiro appears at his side like an unhelpfully perceptive imaginary friend. “You’re drooling.”

Shit, is he rea-

Keith freezes, but his hand is already up to his mouth, the realization that Shiro was joking setting in and he - Keith actually thought he was drooling.

Shiro’s eyebrows are to his hairline when Keith shoots him a glare. “Wow,” he laughs, although it’s more astonished than anything. “Are you really that into this guy?”

Keith groans but doesn’t have a chance to answer.

“I don’t get it. He’s not your type at all.”

“Shiro. Stop,” he snaps. “I’m actually having a good night. Don’t ruin it.”

“I’m not trying to, I’m just-...” his chuckle settles down. “You do realize you’re not single, right?”

Keith huffs. “No shit.” Boy does he ever.

“Okay, just checking.”

He doesn’t press it after that, thankfully. Keith gets to continue on with his night, bathing in tips and compliments and friendly reminders to himself that it’s okay to look. Looking and admiring is fine, thank you very much. That’s all he’s doing anyway.

No harm no foul.

 

-  -  -  -  -

 

$157. That’s how much Keith makes in tip money tonight. He technically doesn’t know if that’s even that much in the grand scheme of things, but it’s way better than his usual draw in.

Alright. So he knows what he needs to go shopping for this week. More crop tops and leggings. He’s got some extra money lying around now.

“Damn, was I right or was I right?” Lance postures as he nudges at Keith’s tip jar with a grin.

“You were right. Not bad.”

The crowd has filtered out of the club by now, just the cleanup crew and a few other people remaining. It’s oddly relaxed without all the yelling and loud music.

“Now you can pay rent,” Shiro mentions offhandedly as he wipes a rag through a glass a few feet away.

It leaves Keith rolling his eyes. “I was paying rent before. Just...incrementally.”

Shiro laughs. “Sure, you could call it that.”

Lance hums a laugh too, then lightly taps the counter in front of Keith, “Hey,” voice lowered when he gets his attention. He brings his thumb and pointer finger up to his lips like he did before, humming a suggestive, “Mm?” as he does so.

Keith watches him nod towards the parking lot, brows furrowing despite the dramatic increase in excitement. “It’s two in the morning.”

“No better time.”

“Shiro’s my ride.”

“What?” Shiro’s cropping up again, tuning into his name being dropped, no doubt.

“I can drive you home,” Lance waves it off like it’s no big deal, then turns to where Shiro’s still looking at him. “Yeah? I can drive him home, right Six?”

Shiro glances between Lance and where Keith is pinning him with a wide-eyed beg of a stare - not something he’s unfamiliar with in the least. “When?”

“Soon.”

“How soon?”

Shiro…” Keith huffs.

But Lance is not put off. “I dunno, like...hour tops.”

And now Keith is just standing there, his entire body turned toward Shiro and eyebrows furrowing delicately because maybe if he goes for the sad little brother approach…

“That’s fine,” he finally gives in, “Just don’t be stupid, please.”

Lance grins in victory. “Nice.” Then he turns to Keith, “Lemme grab my bag and tell Hunk,” before moving off in the direction of the backstage dressing rooms.

Keith watches, silently, and then turns to where his brother is fixing him with a stare.

Keith smiles.

It doesn’t work. “Please behave.”

“Ugh, Shiro,” he groans, but it doesn’t cover his grin. “C’mon. What could I even do.”

“Don’t ask me that. You know that makes me start thinking of terrible things.”

“We’ll be fine,” he assures, just as Lance emerges from behind the scenes to meet up again, “I’ll be fine.”

And then he’s slipping out from underneath the bar and they’re out the door.

It’s the second time Keith’s in the back of Lance’s car, knees close enough to knock together if he lets them. It’s the second time Lance pulls the metal tin from the first aid kit and lights up. Only this time, it’s dark. This time, the spark of fire from the lighter casts an orange-ish glow on Lance’s face before extinguishing. Then it’s just the moonlight. And the street lamps. And Keith’s heightened sense of self-awareness.

“You look good,” Lance mentions cooly, the last puffs of smoke escaping from his lips as he reaches over, Keith’s pulse tripping when he loops the tip of his pointer finger underneath the thin band of his choker and tugs ever so gently. “I like this.”

It shoots sparks up Keith’s spine. He can feel them even after Lance has drawn his hand back and presented the joint to him, still as cool as ever. “Thanks,” he manages, and then takes a drag that shouldn’t burn his throat but does, his reflex acting up and pulling the cough from his lungs before he can stuff it down.

Lance straightens a bit, “Y’alright?”

And Keith feels the heat rise to his cheeks, his answer hitchhiking on the tail end of another cough. “Yeah.”

He hands the joint over, eyes elsewhere to avoid the look he knows he’s getting. He just needs to get it together. He can’t be thrown off by something as small as that. Relax.

“So I gotta ask…” He goes for it, voice still a bit strangled but getting better. “The k-pop. Are you doing it ironically or no?”

Lance purses his lips, smoke streaming out quickly so he can answer. “Ironic how?”

Really? Does Keith really have to say it? “I mean…”

I like it,” Lance offers, staring down at the blunt as he rolls it in his fingers. “They like it. Nothing ironic about it.”

Keith nods. Alright then. “Okay.”

“It’s not your thing.”

“No, it’s fine. I’ve just never considered someone stripping to it before.”

“And?”

Keith looks over, startled every single time by how close they really are in this back seat. “And what?”

“And now that you’ve seen it…”

He’s being egged on. As if Keith could let slip what he actually thinks of it - how closely he finds himself watching every time Lance takes the stage - every move. He takes the joint, thankful for the nighttime that covers up the heat in his face. “It’s fine,” he supposes, tip to his lips. “You’re good.”

He inhales like it’ll save him from the topic - from talking about it - but all it does is burn his throat and hurt his lungs and he bends forward, fist to his mouth as he coughs up a cloud of smoke into his lap.

God damn it.

Breathe.

“I’m fine,” he mutters stubbornly as he regains his breathing.

But Lance is taking the blunt from him, “It’s cool,” and when he's steadied himself, Keith straightens right into the hand sliding behind his neck as he says, “Here,” takes a drag, and then leans forward, mouth hovering inches from his.

Keith freezes, heart pounding in his rib cage as Lance’s thumb pulls gently at his bottom lip until his mouth drops open, and then he’s shallowly breathing out, the smoke billowing from his mouth to Keith’s.

Except.

Except Keith’s not breathing.

Keith’s not doing much of anything except panicking, eyes widened as the smoke mingles on his tongue before hitting a wall and pouring out of his mouth and into their laps.

Lance notices. Leans back a little. Not enough. “You’re supposed to breathe it in.”

Keith’s sure his pulse is unhealthy. “I-...I know you just...surprised me…” He knows what this is. What he’s supposed to do. He just never thought he’d be here, in his back seat, doing it with him.

“Sorry.” Lance is annoyingly calm. “Try again?”

And Keith doesn’t know how he’s doing it because jesus - jesus how is he supposed to keep his cool when Lance is so suddenly in his space like this.

But he nods, determined to earn back at least a few of his bad boy points tonight. He will not fuck up this opportunity that has been presented to him. So he takes a breath through his nose, nudges his face a little closer, and lets his mouth drop open when Lance’s fingers coax it to.

And this time, he breathes in, no matter how subconsciously shaky it may be. He breathes it in and he lets it fill his lungs and he closes his eyes, because the voice in his head is telling him that if he leans in just a little bit closer he can press his lips to Lance’s. So he closes his eyes. And ignores the voice. And breathes the smoke out when Lance leans away with heavy eyelids and a grin on his face.

It’s intense.

And amazing.

And Keith knows himself enough to fake a yawn and say, “I’m tired.” Because he knows Lance will say something like:

“Want me to take you home?”

And then he’ll say, “Yeah, that’d be great.”

And then he won’t have to deny the little voice in his head anymore because he won’t be in the situation in the first place.

“I’m tired.”

“Should I drop you off?”

“Yeah, that’d be great.”

 

-  -  -  -  -

 

Shiro is asleep on the couch when Keith slips through the door, the muted TV flickering against where his phone lays face-down on the chest of his threadbare UIC shirt.

“Go to sleep,” Keith says quietly as he walks past, knowing it’ll be enough.

Shiro stirs, then mumbles groggily, “All your limbs’re attached to your body?”

“Yes, go to sleep.”

“Mmk.”

Keith makes it to his room before Shiro rises from the couch. He kicks his boots off and stalls in front of his mirror, reaching up to unclasp the choker around his neck. The ghost of a spark crackles down his spine. A finger at his throat. Then on his neck and against his bottom lip.

He could ignore the little ball of giddiness that bubbles up in his chest, but he’s too tired. So he simply drops down onto his bed, a grin tugging at his lips as he instantly drifts off to sleep.

This is the moment where it starts.  

This is the moment where things begin to complicate themselves.