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Voluntary Drowning

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One thing they don’t warn you about during the short two week training to become a lifeguard is just how many people there are to keep an eye on. Of course there are a lot of people occupying the waterpark, Keith expected that with how hot the days had been and how much more the temperature was expected to rise, but he didn’t expect the pool to become less of a hole filled with water and more like an undulating mass of bodies in brightly colored swimsuits morphing together to form the waves out of themselves right before him.

Keith’s eyes are sore from straining so hard, trying his best to pay close attention to every movement in case anyone needs him, his ears trying to sift through the noise and distinguish shouts of excitement from screams of terror.

He never expected this job to be so stressful. He feels as if he’s aged three years in the few short weeks of work. Even his skin feels older, leathery and dry like a grandpa, though the sun has more to do with that than the job. But with college starting in the fall he needs to save up as much money as he can manage, even if it means dying of stress related illness at the tender age of nineteen.

At first he’d had a blast, the red swim trunks with the white cross like a badge of honor, complete with a visor and glinting silver whistle hanging from his neck. His parents and brother had come in a few times to see him, waving proudly from the lawn chairs set up on the edge of the pool, and Shiro had even come back again with his boyfriend and his little sister to drag the poor girl around from one long slide line to another and fill her full of dip’n dots. Those days had been the best, when he could look out from his post and see a familiar face in the crowd, but no one had stopped by for a few weeks.

After a while the excitement wears off and the $20 a day ticket price just isn’t worth a quick hello and lukewarm water filled with too many strangers.

Keith understands; it isn’t like he’d come here on his own if they didn’t pay him, but it still gets lonely. The uniform is still pretty cool, though.

Today is one of the worst so far. The water is never very appealing when you get to see firsthand the amount of people who get in and out of it every day, but what Keith wouldn’t give to dunk his head in right now. The heatwave ravaging the town had not been kind so far, but today was something unreal. The air just above the sidewalks wavers and kids hop around on one foot searching for quick spaces of shade that can calm the pain on their burning feet for a few short seconds. The people swimming seem to be a shade brighter pink than usual, melted ice cream spills down arms in record speed, and Keith can practically feel his brain baking inside his skull. $9 an hour isn’t worth this kind of torture.

He leans forward on his stool, wondering how bad it would be, really, if he just toppled over into the water for a moment. Just one quick dunk and back to work. No one would notice, right? He could say the heat got to him and it was an accident. They might even let him go home for the day to his air conditioned bedroom with the blackout curtains that could keep every ray of that offending sun away from him.

Yes, it’s the perfect plan.

“Hey! You alright there, man? You look like you’re about to pass out.”

Keith snaps to attention, almost losing balance on his perch as he straightens up too fast. The white stool rocks back and forth on the concrete before coming to a rest, Keith clutching his chest as if he could force his heart to stop hammering by squeezing hard enough.

“Huh?” He looks around, panting as he tries to find the source of the voice that startled him.

“Woah there, don’t die on me now,” the voice speaks again, and Keith tracks it to a boy a few feet away from him with his long arms crossed over the lip of the pool and his cheek laid across them. “That’d be a real shame.”

“Sorry,” he mutters, not sure exactly what he’s apologizing for, his heart picking up pace again as the boy smirks and scoots closer to him. “It’s just, uh...really hot out here.”

“Tell me about it,” he winks, long eyelashes batting over big dark eyes. Keith opens his mouth to respond but no sound comes out so he shuts it again. He rubs his sweaty palms across his swim trunks and nods, hoping the boy will go back to whatever he was doing before and leave him alone.

He doesn’t.

Instead he hops up onto the concrete in one easy motion, water sliding easily over rich brown skin and glistening, refracting tiny rainbows on lean muscle and gangly limbs. Keith swallows hard, trying to paint a scowl on his face instead of letting his eyes trail down the boy’s chest and back up to his overly confident face. This heat really is a killer.

“The name’s Lance,” he says, extending a hand and cocking his head with a goofy smile. The expression is one Keith would find annoying on anyone else, but for some reason it looks good on him.

“Keith,” he replies, taking Lance’s hand. He’s thankful that Lance’s hands are still wet from the pool so he can’t feel how clammy his own are.

“So, how’d a delicate princess such as yourself get stuck doing a job like this?”

Lance looks up and smirks, and Keith’s glare is no longer forced. Suddenly he isn’t so intrigued by the dark hair curling against his forehead or the tan line peaking out above his swim trunks.

“Excuse me?” he asks, folding his arms across his chest.

“Oh, sorry, the hair threw me off,” he says, waving a hand behind his head at his much shorter hair. “On a girl it would look less like...a mullet.”

“Why would you-,” Keith starts, narrowing his eyes as he tries to figure out whether Lance is joking or if he actually mistook him for a girl. “I’m not wearing a shirt.”

“I don’t like to judge,” Lance shrugs, leaning back on his arms and looking out over the water.

“Are you hitting on me or insulting me?” He asks, quickly surveying the water to make sure no one decided to drown during their little conversation before returning his gaze to Lance.

“Which would you prefer, princess?” Lance winks, honest to god winks , and Keith can feel his jaw hitting the burning cement. What is this guy? Who does he think he is? Keith has no idea what to make of him, with his pretty face and smooth words that turn to jokes with no warning.

“Neither!” He snaps, letting out a huff of air like a child. “Can’t you go find someone else to annoy? I have a job to do.”

“You mean protecting the masses from five feet of water?” He asks, pointing a thumb at a group of kids playing in the shallows and turning back to Keith with one eyebrow raised. “I don't think anyone is in danger.”

“Hey, you could drown in an inch of water, you know? This is a very serious job.”

“Oh, excuse me Mr. Hero,” Lance chuckles, and Keith pushes down the little flutter of his heart at the noise. This guy is annoying, not cute. He needs to remember that.

“Why don’t you get back in the water and leave me alone?”

“Can’t swim,” Lance says nonchalantly, the words leaving his lips so easily that Keith is almost inclined to believe him.

“Pfft, yeah right,” he scoffs, rolling his eyes.

“I’m serious!” Lance replies, those big eyes wide as he presses a hand to his chest in offense.

“Well, like you said, it’s five feet deep I’m sure you’ll be fine.”

“Well you said I could drown in as little as an inch,” he folds his arms, shooting a smug look at Keith who feels a strong urge to hit him.

“Oh my god, are you always this annoying?” Keith fists a hand in his hair, tugging lightly as he tries to convince himself that the tingling in his stomach is frustration and not because the dumb quirk at the corner of Lance’s lips is kind of cute.

“Only with people who are cute when they’re mad,” he says easily, as if his own stupid words don’t embarrass him at all. Keith, however, tries to ignore how hot his cheeks feel and blame it on the sun.

“I hope you do drown.”

Lance gasps, the expression ridiculous on his face with his eyebrows pinched together and his lips forming a large ‘o’. Keith’s frown almost turns to a laugh, but he manages to hold his breath until the urge passes, refusing to give in.

“You’re supposed to protect lives, not condemn them,” Lance says, his bottom lip sticking out in a slight pout. “You should lose your license for that.”

“Lifeguards don’t have licenses,” Keith folds his arms, trying to resist the pout.

“What? You aren’t even licensed? So they just let any mullet wearing hooligan with red shorts come in here and be a lifeguard?”

“Hooligan?”

“I can’t believe this. Lifeguards are supposed to be able guard lives , not just sit here and look pretty,” Lance continues, nonsensical words pouring out of his mouth so fast Keith can’t tell if he’s being serious or if he’s reading from some sort of prewritten script. “I have to say, I am shocked and appalled at the management of this facility.”

“There you go again!” Keith shouts, the volume effectively shutting Lance up.

“What?”

“Complimenting me and then insulting me in the same sentence! Would you just make up your mind already?”

“I can’t help the fact that you have a pretty face but a dumb personality,” Lance deadpans, his words stinging.

Once again Keith finds himself speechless, but this time his face is burning from anger instead of embarrassment. Lance sighs before standing up and brushing imaginary dirt off of his swim trunks.

“Well, I guess I’ll see you around, princess,” he says, waving as he starts to walk away. “Perhaps we shall meet in another life. One where you’re less of a dick and have better hair.”

“Stop with the hair thing!” Keith yells after him but if Lance heard him over the crowd he shows no signs of it.

The rest of his shift goes rather uneventfully. Aside from a few warnings given to children running on the wet cement and one guy who got stuck in his innertube and had to have help paddling to the edge where someone could free him by letting the air out, Keith does little more but sit and mumble to himself about Lance. His stupid hair, his stupid smile, his stupid jokes. Keith frowns so much thinking about the other boy that he’s pretty sure he can feel early onset wrinkles forming around his mouth.

When the next lifeguard on duty comes to swap with him Keith finally feels better, the promise of going home raising his mood, but it doesn’t stay that way for long.

“Keith, I need you to stay until closing. I have no one watching the wave pool right now,” Allura tells him, his hand stopping mid turn on the handle of his employee locker. “I’ll pay you overtime, just please head out there before someone dies and we get sued.”

“Seriously, Allura?” He asks, deflating a bit as his bed and a nice nap slip farther out of his grasp. “I was just about to leave.”

“I know but we’re so shorthanded and the heatwave is really driving up attendance. I need all the help I can get, I’m sorry.”

Keith sighs, unable to resist his bosses pleading eyes. Besides, more money is never a bad thing.

“Fine,” he tells her. “But I want overtime and a half.”

“You’ve got it! Thank you so much, Keith, you’re a lifesaver,” she throws her arms around his neck, hugging him tightly. Somehow she’s not hot and sweaty like everyone else.

“That’s kind of my job,” Keith chuckles, pointing at the white cross on his visor as Allura steps back.

“It sure is,” she beams. “Now go! Really, we can’t afford another liability charge.”

“Got it.”

The wave pool is perhaps the worst attraction to watch over. If he thought the regular pool was like an endless sea of floating people then the wave pool is like it’s own land mass made of flesh tones and too many moving parts rising and falling with the current of the water. Keith feels immediately stressed, knowing there’s no way he’s be able to tell if someone were drowning in this nightmarescape.

At least the people here are less likely to talk to him, the high walls providing a well appreciated barrier between him and the others. He can sit and do his job in peace without the worry of annoying boys with stupid faces bothering him here. Well, in as much peace as one can muster when the lives of dozens of people lie on your shoulders.

The sun finally starts to set after a while, taking a bit of the heat with it but not quite enough to make a difference, and the crowd slowly thins. Boredom starts to set in, and Keith wishes something would happen to make him feel slightly needed or just a little useful.

He immediately regrets his wish when a booming voice rings out across the water.

“Help! My friend needs help! Someone!”

Keith takes a moment to pinpoint the source, his gaze falling over a large boy with bright yellow swim trunks near the shallow end of the pool. He cradles someone to his chest like a baby, their limp limbs spilling over strong arms, and Keith’s heart jumps into his throat. There’s a cold wash of fear as he realizes this is the first real emergency he’s been involved in since starting work and he’s never actually saved a human being. He was a superhero to the CPR training dummies, but a person is a different story.

“Help!” The boy calls again, snapping Keith to action. He takes off running down the edge of the pool to where the boy carries his friend to the shore and lies him down on the cement.

Keith reaches them breathless, his eyes falling over the unconscious boy on the ground. “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.”

Lance’s chest isn’t moving, wet hair plastered to his forehead as a wet silhouette spreads on the ground around him. Keith is frozen, his own words echoing in his mind. ‘I hope you do drown’. Why did he say that? What kind of monster is he?

“You have to help him,” the other boy tells him, face frantic and big eyes brimming with tears.

“Wh-what happened?” Keith asks, eyes not leaving Lance.

“He seemed kind of bummed out so I told him we should come swim in the wave pool for a while but when I turned around he was underwater. I don’t know how long he was down there,” he tells him, voice thick with tears. “Is he going to be okay?”

Keith shakes his head, pushing his thoughts away and letting himself go into business mode. “Don’t worry. I’ll save him.”

Keith pushes on Lance’s chest to the rhythm of a heartbeat, fingers threaded together with the force placed in the heel of his palms, but nothing happens. He puts more force behind the movement, careful not to put too much, but still the boy doesn’t breathe.

“I think you’re going to have to use mouth to mouth,” the boy behind him says, tears surprisingly gone and a strange tone to his voice.

“What? No way! They don’t even teach that in training anymore!”

“You have to!”

“I don’t know ho-,”

“MY BEST FRIEND IS GOING TO DIE IF YOU DON’T PUT YOUR MOUTH ON HIS RIGHT NOW!”

“ALRIGHT! STOP YELLING!”

“HE IS DYING !”

“I’M DOING IT!” Keith yells, panic starting to push away his unsuccessful adrenaline rush.

He reaches down, gingerly pinching Lance’s nose and tilting his chin down, those soft pouty lips from before opening perfectly for him. He pushes the thought down, this isn’t a kiss, it's a life saving maneuver.

“Dude, hurry up!”

Keith takes a deep breath and presses his mouth to Lance’s, but before he can blow air into his lungs Lance springs to life, hand flying to the back of Keith’s head and kissing him. Keith is too surprised to move, shock freezing him in place until Lance pulls back with that goofy smile back on his face. He wipes the back of his hand across his mouth, looking smugly satisfied as if the kiss was something enjoyable for the both of them.

“Took you long enough,” he pants, practically swallowing air. “I thought I was actually going to suffocate holding my breath that long. You aren’t a great lifeguard after all.”

“Lance you owe me big time for this,” his friend says, folding his arms and looking down disapprovingly. “I can’t believe you made me do that.”

“Calm down, Hunk. It worked didn’t it? I got my k-,”

Before Keith can stop himself, or even process the command moving from his brain to his muscles with lightning speed, his closed fist connects with Lance’s jaw. Hunk catches him before his head can hit the ground, but Keith doesn’t stick around long enough to see their reactions.

“Hey!” Hunk calls behind him as he storms off, ripping the red visor from his head and throwing it down. “That was uncalled for!”

“Don’t sweat it, big guy,” he hears Lance’s voice tell his friend. “Let him go.”

Keith doesn’t look back and doesn’t stop to think until he’s in his car pulling out of the parking lot in a blind rage. He’s halfway home before it dawns on him: he is so fired.

 

***

 

“Allura, please , I need this job back. I’ll do anything ,” Keith begs, following his boss around the outdoor lockers as she resets the locks for the day with a scowl on her face. He’s only seen her this mad one other time and he had vowed never to get on her bad side, yet here he is.

“Try Water World on the other side of town. Maybe they’ll take you,” she tells him, no hint of warmth in her voice.

“Nowhere is going to be hiring this close to the end of summer,” he replies, desperate and mere seconds away from groveling on the pavement.

“Then I don’t know what to tell you. Try McDonald’s. No one will notice if you punch a customer in there.”

“Shiro is going to kill me if he finds out I was fired, and he’s going to lecture me at my own funeral for hours if he finds out why , and the lecture is so much worse. I’m begging you.”

“Maybe you should have thought of that before you attacked a boy after he was drowning,” she snaps, rounding on him with blue eyes like icicles that threaten to cut him to pieces. She really is terrifying when she’s mad, and Keith swears she looks a few inches taller.

“He was not drowning! I told you he was faking it,” Keith explains for the hundredth time but it still has absolutely no effect on her.

“I don’t care if he was faking it or not, Keith, you can’t hit people! And you especially can’t do it while working.” She deflates a little, some warmth melting a bit of the ice in her eyes as she sighs. “I wish I could help you, but this is really serious. I should have reported you but I didn’t, and you’re incredibly lucky that the kid you hit didn’t press charges. Letting you go is the best I can do.”

Keith’s shoulders sag as he kicks at the cement, knowing what she says is right. He knows he shouldn’t have hit Lance but everything was so fast and he was so angry. Except maybe he wasn’t just angry, he was embarrassed and betrayed. He thinks he might have actually liked Lance if things had gone differently, if both of them had acted less like idiots, but that was ruined now.

“Yeah, I get it.”

“Keith, look,” she says as he starts to walk away, and when he turns she’s fully returned to the sweet and caring girl he’s used to. She’s been like the big sister he never had these last few weeks and he knows he’ll miss her the most about this place. “You’re a good kid, and I know you didn’t mean to snap. That other kid was a jerk for tricking you like that, but my hands really are tied. Tell Shiro to lay off you a little for me, alright?”

“I’ll try. Thanks, Allura. For everything.”

“See you around, kiddo. Good luck with school.”

Keith leaves without another word, heading towards the back exit of the waterpark where the employees park and away from the last bits of the crowds trickling out of the front gates to leave. As he passes the wave pool he tries his best to avert his eyes, not wanting to relive the events of yesterday quite yet, but as usual the world has different plans for him.

“Keith! Hey!” A tragically familiar voice calls behind him. He shoves his hands in his pocket and speeds up.

“Hey! Keith, hold up a second, will you?”

Lance catches up to him easily, his hand landing on Keith’s shoulder from behind. Keith sighs before turning around, willing his temper to stay level but deciding it’s a lost cause when he sees Lance’s smiling face despite the ugly purple blotch across the side of his jaw. Heat fills his face, but it’s nothing like the flush he felt when he first saw him.

“What do you want from me?” He asks, tone biting and wiping Lance’s smile away. “Wanna get me fired again? Well, heads up, I don’t have another job yet but I’ll call you when I do so you can come ruin that too.”

“You’ll call me?” He asks, perking up like a puppy shown a tennis ball.

“What? No!” Keith shakes his head, wondering how Lance can manage to be so infuriating and cute at the same time. He doesn’t even know if it’s the cuteness or the blatant stupidity that aggravates him more.

“But you said-,”

“Leave me alone!” Keith yells, regretting it immediately as Lance shrinks away from him.

“Sorry,” Lance mutters, eyes downcast and shoulders sagging. Keith’s stomach twists, feeling like complete shit for making him look that way. “I just wanted to come by and tell you that.”

“Message received. Please never contact me again,” Keith tells him, trying not to betray any of the sympathy he feels.

He starts to turn again before noticing how out of place Lance looks, his jeans and t-shirt not blending in with the atmosphere of pools and popsicle stands.

“Wait a second, why are you wearing pants in a water park?”

“I, uh, didn’t come to swim,” he admits, rubbing the back of his neck sheepishly. “I’ve just kind of been wandering around hoping I’d find you.”

“All day?”

“Yeah.”

“Lance, we’re in the middle of a heat wave, how stupid are you?” Keith can’t help but smile, and Lance perks up a bit seeing the expression which only causes it to spread.

“You don’t even know the half of it,” Lance chuckles. “So, apology accepted?”

“Well, I’m still fired, my brother is going to kill me, I don’t have enough money saved up for my college textbooks, and I’m losing a really cool pair of red trunks over this,” he pauses, watching Lance battle to keep a giggle under wraps, “but yeah, apology accepted.”

“You know,” Lance says, a glint in his eyes that makes Keith slightly uncomfortable. “I hear the coffee shop down the street is hiring, but mullets don’t really fit their aesthetic.”

“Oh my god, there you go again! Seriously, dude, what is your problem ! It’s like you want me to hate you!”

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Lance chuckles, reaching out again and grabbing Keith’s shoulder. “You’re just so much fun to mess with. And that hair really is ridiculous.”

“You know what, Lance? Screw you,” Keith says, and before he can lose confidence he presses both palms to Lance’s chest and pushes him into the wave pool, watching him fall lion king style with a look of shock and surprise on his face.

He falls as if in slow motion, longs arms flailing in front of him before his back hits the water with a loud slap. Droplets hit Keith’s cheek and can’t help but laugh, doubling over as the motion courses through him.

Lance surfaces, sputtering and spitting out water, eyes wide and fearful as they look up.

“Keith! I-,” his head sinks back below the water before popping back up. “I can’t swim!”

“Yeah right,” he scoffs, folding his arms. “I’m not falling for that again.”

A wave hits Lance and he goes down for a few seconds, his arms and legs moving frantically in the water beneath him.

“I really can’t!” He yells again, but Keith just shakes his head and turns away, figuring watching the performance will just encourage him. “Keith, wait!”

Keith can hear the machine at the end of the pool whirl and gurgle as it pumps out a particularly large wave, the water crawling up the high walls as it glides past.

“Keith, pleas -,” the sounds of Lance’s voice is cut off as the wall of water hits him, but Keith doesn’t bother looking back. The sooner he can put all of this behind him the better.

He’s almost past the other end of the pool when doubt creeps in, tingling against his skin like a grip he can’t shake off. What if Lance really can’t swim? What would Keith do if he came home that night to a local news headline about the boy who drowned in the wave pool after park hours and the mysterious perp seen fleeing the scene of the crime?

Despite his best judgment Keith glances over his shoulder, expecting to see a soaking wet Lance climbing out of the pool, but he’s nowhere in sight. Cold fear hits Keith like a bullet to the chest, the same as he felt yesterday when he saw Lance limply hanging from Hunk’s arms but so much worse. He runs to the side of the pool and looks over the edge, catching sight of Lance floating just below the surface of the water, the waves pushing him deeper and deeper.

“Lance!” Keith yells, kicking himself for letting his temper get the best of him like always. If anything happens to Lance it’ll be all his fault, and he feels sick just thinking about it.

Lance doesn’t respond, his limbs no longer flailing underwater, and before he knows it Keith is diving into the water after him. He swims to his side easily, dipping below the surface quickly to drag Lance up and above the water, careful to keep them both from being pulled under the waves.

“Lance!” He shouts again, but the boy’s head just lolls back, mouth hanging open in a distinctly different way from when he was faking. This is the real deal.

Keith does his best to drag Lance to where the pool forms an artificial shore, mumbling to himself as he focuses on keeping them both above water with the extra weight on his back.

“I swear if you die on me I will be so mad at you. I’ll take back my apology, I mean it.”

They reach the concrete after what feels like years and without stopping to think too much about it Keith starts to pump his hands against Lance’s chest, silently begging him to breathe.

Nothing happens, and after a minute or so Keith knows what he has to do.

“Pretend he’s one of the CPR dummies,” he mutters, pinching Lance’s nose the same as he had the day before and tilting his mouth open. “If you don’t do this he’s going to die.”

Keith squeezes his eyes shut and presses his mouth to Lance’s for the second time in two days, but this time air exits one pair of lungs and enters the other, forcing water out from where it doesn't belong.

The first breath has no effect, and Keith really starts to panic, fear and guilt and adrenaline coursing through his veins. He blows a second time, and a third, hope dwindling slightly with each exhale and replicated heartbeat.

“Come one you big, stupid, idiot,” he begs, pushing on Lance’s chest again and again, hot tears springing to his eyes and voice breaking. “If you breathe I swear I’ll kiss you for real. Shit, I’ll even give you my number and let you make fun of my hair whenever you want. Just breathe .”

Keith leans down one last time, pushing out as much air as he can until he feels lightheaded, and finally, finally , Lance begins to cough. Water spills from his mouth as his lungs force it out, gurgling as he takes a huge gasp and sits up, eyes flying wide open.

“Lance!”

Keith leans forward and wraps his arms around Lance’s neck before he even finishes coughing, squeezing hard and pressing his face into the wet shirt covering his shoulder.

“I thought you died.”

“You-,” Lance coughs a few more times, getting the last of the water out of his lungs. “You came back?”

Keith pulls back, suddenly embarrassed. “Yeah, I’m a lifeguard, aren’t I?”

“Not anymore,” Lance quips, his eyelids sagging with exhaustion yet still not too tired to take a jab at Keith. He’s unbelievable. “But you saved my life.”

“I tried to kill you first, though,” Keith shrugs, feeling tired himself as the excitement drains from his body. “I guess it cancels out.”

“I think I heard you talking while I was unconscious,” Lance says, trying to look Keith dead in the eyes but he turns away, face flaring up red. “Something about a number? And hair?”

“You must have heard wrong. I was telling you to go towards the light,” he deadpans.

“Yeah right, Mr. Tough Guy,” Lance laughs, coughing again, voice hoarse and painful. “You came back and literally saved my life. You can’t hide your big soft heart from me.”

“You’re an idiot, you know that?” Keith asks, meeting Lance’s eyes again. “You just almost died and all you can do is crack jokes.”

“I can’t help it,” he shrugs, a genuinely shy looking smile creeping across his features. “You make this face when I annoy you, and I can’t really do it justice with words, but your eyebrows pinch together and your lip curls a little bit. I just...I think you look beautiful when you look like that.”

Keith freezes, whatever retort he had been preparing dying on his lips. No one has ever said something like that to him before, and he has no idea how to respond.

“You...you like it when I’m mad at you?”

“No, I just figure if you look that good when you’re mad then I can’t imagine how amazing your smile must be.”

Lance looks up, opening his mouth to say something else but Keith fists a hand in his soaked shirt and pulls him forward, their lips meeting for the first time with both of them being visibly conscious. It tastes like chlorine, and Lance's lips aren't nearly as soft as they had looked before he almost drowned, but Keith doesn’t care. It’s nice, and he lingers longer than he meant to before pulling back.

“Is that what you’re going to do when you’re annoyed now? Because I can live with that,” Lance says, mouth forming a goofy crooked smile.

“No, that’s what I’m going to do when you won’t shut up,” Keith retorts, failing to keep a smirk from his own face.

“Then I’m never going to stop talking.”

“Oh god, I take it back,” Keith groans, watching a mischievous fire light behind Lance’s eyes.

“Here’s a list of every word I know,” he continues, holding up his fingers to count the words. “Pizza, monster truck, underwear model, onomatopoeia, nebula.”

“Lance, shut up ,” Keith laughs, unable to keep the sound at bay. There’s just something about the way Lance said ‘underwear model’ that is so funny to him. He can't quite put his finger on it.

“Make me,” he smirks, and without hesitation Keith leans forward to kiss him again.

This time Lance is the one to pull back, letting his hand linger in Keith’s wet hair with a thoughtful expression.

“You know, I think I can get used to the mullet. It suits you.”

“What do you mean?”

“It looks dumb, but when you get close it’s actually really soft and fun to play with,” Lance says, fingers parting the tangles and struggling to keep a straight face.

“You know, my kindness only goes so far. I will let you drown for real,” Keith warns him, all real threat absent from his voice. “Besides, the mullet thing is getting a bit old. Don't you have any other insults?”

“Trust me, I’ll think of tons, don't worry.” Lance stands up, extending a hand to pull Keith up with him. “Let’s go find you a job.”

“Try not to ruin it this time,” he says, letting Lance drape an arm around his shoulders as they make their way towards the back gate of the park.

“No promises.”

“Of course not,” he sighs, wondering what exactly he’s gotten himself into.

Another thing they don’t warn you about in the short two week training to become a lifeguard, Keith thinks to himself, is how easy it is to fall in love. Maybe that isn't relevant to the job, but what fits together better than summer and romance?

Lance and Keith fit together about as well as a fist to a jaw bone, but maybe that’s what makes them work. Maybe that’s what makes it love.