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I Found Love

Chapter Text

Thursday nights were both Keith’s favorite and least favorite day of the week, depending on who came in to the bar.

He had already wiped down the counters and shelves, removed glasses from the dishwasher and replaced them with the leftover ones that hadn’t made it in the night before, tossing the dishwasher soap square in there as a subconscious afterthought. He’d gone about restocking the bottles of alcohol that were running low or were emptied, making multiple trips back and forth from their expansive storage room and huge fridge that held the refrigerated beverages and premade cocktail drinks.

Now he was sitting with the small of his back against the counter, idly cleaning a glass from a tray that he’d missed before starting the dishwasher, waiting for the dusk rush to come filtering in. They’d opened the bar a little earlier than normal, since The Red Lion Bar & Grill usually only opened their bar at quarter to nine, but tonight was one of the nights they’d booked some musicians to come in and play for the restaurant.

The decently-sized stage tucked into the corner was dressed in soft lights and framed by bulky, black speakers. A vocal microphone laid propped daintily on top of a mic stand, its cord hanging like falling water, twirling its way around the slender, silver rod. The lights were dimmed so that most faces were indiscernible until you were basically nose-to-nose, but the walkways were lit by small lights embedded into the walls, close to where floor met drywall, casting a soft, blue glow over the deep red carpet.

Keith didn’t have to wait long for the place to start filling up, the event having been lightly advertised in the paper and by fliers posted around town, not to mention such events held by The Red Lion were quite popular. People of all sorts made their way to the restaurant - packs of teens laughing loudly, obnoxiously chattering to each other, groups of parents with smaller children who’d wanted a safe night out without having to worry about censoring their children from inappropriate content they wouldn’t understand for another decade anyways, and loners, who were often the ones that made their way to Keith’s bar and asked for anything to take their mind off the fact that they’d sat in an empty seat by themselves.

He was making his third White Russian of the night when a noise caught his attention. Over the buzz that had slowly built up from the muddled conversations that clogged the air around him, he heard a laugh. Not an annoying laugh from a teen on their first night out on their own, or the high-pitched giggling of older women spending time away from their husbands. This laugh rang like a silver bell, cutting through the noise and weaving its way to Keith’s ears like ice water, and he shivered involuntarily. His eyes glanced around, searching for the source, until he heard it renewed and turned his head to finally see the person responsible for such a pleasant sound.

There was a man standing just by the door, the streetlight from outside illuminating his face where he had turned to comment something to who Keith assumed was his friend. He was tall, at least from where Keith was standing, broad shoulders pushed back and bouncing with each laugh that jumped out of a dazzling smile, one hand wrapped around the even broader shoulders of the guy he was laughing with. Even in the low light, Keith could see perfect teeth and crinkles by the corner of eyes, which held irises that seemed to suck in every speck of light around them and shine. It was barely May and the temperature may have warmed up significantly, but it still warranted the use of a rather plain, grey sweatshirt and blue jeans for the guy. And damn did he make basic look good.

There was a hardcover guitar case slung over his back, covered in a variety of stickers that were both new and faded with age. Keith couldn’t make out any of them from where he was standing, even though he squinted and leaned forward a bit subconsciously to fruitlessly get a better look. There was a voice clearing to his left, the opposite direction of the new guy, and Keith jumped back to see the guy he’d been making a drink for tapping his fingers impatiently against the counter with a hard look. The drink was still sitting near-finished where Keith had left it before he’d gotten distracted, so he quickly topped it off and slid it to the guy with a soft apology and a quick bow of his head, which seemed to sate the older man, who shrugged him off.

He didn’t have the chance to look back again because a group of girls had seated themselves at the far end of the bar, calling him over with voices too shrill to be healthy and giggling that was far from cute. Still, they were the easiest to get tips out of, and Keith may not of had a lick of interest in them, but their money was a different story. He still had bills to pay and a cat to feed, after all.

He finished a rather impressive bottle-flipping display and slid their drinks towards them, easily forcing a smile on as he did so, which made them all laugh behind manicured fingers and lotioned palms.

“Working hard, Keith?” A voice to his side said, tone lax and familiar. The dark-haired male turned to see Rolo walking up to the counter from the back entrance, tying his apron behind him and giving Keith a friendly smile.

“I wouldn’t have to be if you showed up on time, Rolo,” He replied, returning the Kahlua under the shelf in one of the mini-fridges that were placed along the underside of the counter.

The other merely laughed, giving him a soft punch in the arm playfully, “C’mon man, cut me some slack. It’s midterm week.”

“Excuses, excuses,” Keith said dismissively, giving the blond a slightly harder punch back, grinning. The other winced, but still smiled. They worked well together, and Rolo may not always be on time, but he was good with customers where Keith was not, able to smooth over disagreements and get the more drunk assholes to turn around and stumble on their merry way.

“Busy tonight?” The other asked, watching the front door open again as another couple came filtering in.

“Eh, same old, same old.” Keith shrugged, pulling the small washcloth he kept in one of his apron’s pockets and giving his hands a quick wipe to get the tacky feeling of over-sweetened alcohol off his skin. “Filled up a little faster since it’s an event night, but other than that it’s been pretty chill.” Rolo made a hum and then was called over to the other end of the bar counter by a pair of college guys. They worked for a while in silence, effortlessly dancing around each other for bottles or glasses, and it was when Keith was reaching up to a taller shelf, too stubborn to get a step stool for something he could get if he just stretched a little more, that he heard it.

“Uh, yeah, hello, testing testing!” A voice came, echoing loudly through the room above the chatter, which dropped a substantial amount in volume at the new voice’s presence. A wide variety of eyes - including Keith’s own when he managed to grab the bottle he needed and drop back to his heels -  turned towards its source, landing on the crooked grin that Keith had found himself drawn to when it had been peeled back and pouring out laughter. “How’s everyone doin’ tonight?”

There was a weak cheer that rippled through the crowd, and the man shook his head, tutting into the mic, “Doesn’t sound very convincing to me. I said how’s everyone doing tonight?” The cheer this time was far more boisterous, and that made the man throw back his head and laugh. “Now that’s more like it!” He was sitting on one of the bar stools that had been seated in front of the mic, a pristine Rogue Dreadnought acoustic guitar in his lap and one ankle propped up on his knee to cradle the instrument loosely into his lap. The instrument's intense blue hue reflected off her owner's eyes like sunlight on the rolling waves of the ocean, the soft smile forming on his lips as his eyes glittered in the spotlight acting as the cresting foam. “So now that I’ve got you all amped up and excited, I’m gunna play you all a little something sweet. Better than the wine you’ve got goin’ on with your steaks, I assure you.” A small echo of laughter danced over the room, and Keith found himself shaking his head and smiling before he turned back to the glass he’d gotten out a moment before.

Soft notes, high in octave for a guitar as if they were made for a different instrument, but still gentle as they reached out over the expanse of the restaurant. They were little pricks of sound, tugging on your ear teasingly to get your attention before cradling it with warm fingers. They sounded familiar to Keith, his brow furrowing slightly as he briefly thought of where he’d heard it before. But the notes were sparse before the guy was taking a breath and leaning forward into the mic, lips a hairsbreadth away from the windscreen as they started forming words and breathing melodies.

“What is in this wine? The more I drink the more I wander off into a stranger’s eyes.” The musician’s own fluttered a bit with the words, notes smoothed over with the comforting tone of his voice as he sang. “I like the way that they reflect my thoughts.”

Keith found himself slowing down as he poured the vodka into the glass, recognizing the lyrics from a song on one of his Spotify playlists. A soft song called “Homeless” by Maria Mena. It wasn’t that well known - in fact, Keith had a hard time finding anyone who knew the artist in general, let alone a specific song by her - so this musician knowing it and playing it in the bar Keith worked at, of all places, was more than enough to have him pausing in his work and looking up to watch long fingers flick over thick strings.

“What is in this air? It feels like feathery dust everywhere.” The chatter of the room had dropped to a murmur, most people falling silent completely as the angelic song brought a hush to the restaurant. “As I breath it in, I breath the masculine scent of his skin.”

That caught Keith off guard, and he blinked over at the musician in surprise. Nearly every one before him had changed the pronouns of songs by other artists to keep it straight, but he never missed a beat, singing the lyrics as they were originally written like there wasn’t a thing wrong with that.

As Keith watched, making the simple drink through muscle memory alone, the guitarist continued strumming in a similar manner. His eyes were half-glazed as he sang, as if lost in some old memory paired with the words, the light they'd been holding dimming. But then they seemed to brighten again as he came back to reality, and he looked up just enough to make eye contact with Keith.

And then he winked.

Keith snorted softly and shook his head, chuckling as he went back to mixing the vodka martini he’d paused in making, trying to ignore the flush he could feel drape over his cheeks. He finished stringing green olives on a toothpick before he dropped it into the glass with hardly a splash, and slid it over to the customer who’d ordered it.

“Good voice in this one,” Rolo commented a minute later, wiping down his hands as he came to rest beside Keith.

Keith shrugged as he crossed his arms in front of him, “I suppose. Better than the fuckboi that came in last time we had Open Mic and tried to rap Eminem.”

Rolo winced at the memory, but the taller male saw the smile still clinging to the corners of Keith’s lips, and smiled himself, “You should offer him a drink when he goes on break.”

“Um, how ‘bout no?” The dark-haired male wrinkled his nose at him, gesturing at the musician as he finished his song and switched off to some personalized cover of “Stand By Me”, huffing, “He looks totally full of himself, dude. Not really my type.”

Rolo chuckled, “Sure, man. Whatever you gotta say to make yourself feel better. But if you judge people too quickly before you get to know ‘em, you might be missin’ a great opportunity.”

Before Keith could give a sharp retort, the other was sliding back to the other end of the bar where someone had called him over, shouldering past Keith with a knowing smirk. The other bartender grumbled at his back before his own attention was called over by another group of girls, and he tried not to visibly sigh before he pulled on a smile and walked over. He’d never miss a chance to get more tips.

The music stops after a few more songs, switching over to a new person whose melody is far less appealing to Keith’s ears. He looks up over the bottle he’s pouring into a tall glass, and his eyes flicker over the crowd to find the face that was starting to become clearer in his memory, but he can’t find it. He pouts a bit and finishes the drink, handing it off to the customer who ordered it.

“Hey, ‘scuse me!” Someone calls to his right, and Keith makes his way over while he wipes down his hands.

“Yes, what can I get for you?” He asked without looking up, stuffing the small towel back into one of his apron’s front pockets.

“A smile and a few laughs would be nice,” the person joked casually, and that has Keith looking up, eyes widening marginally when he recognizes the wide smile under shining eyes, now aimed directly at him.

“‘Fraid we’re fresh out,” Keith answered back, using one hand to lean gently on the counter.

“Could you check in the back?” The guy laughed, and Keith can now tell that the clean-cut locks layered over his head are brown.

Keith rolled his eyes, “Only if you order something on the menu, first.”

“Aiight, fair, fair,” the other hummed, and Keith plucked a small list of beverages from a little holder on the back counter and slid it into the brunet's fingers. The other curls the fingers of his other hand and rests his head in his palm, cheek squishing up a bit comically, stretching the small smile still painted over his lips. His eyes light up a bit when he finally sees something he likes, and Keith feels like they not only suck in the light, but also the air around him, his breath catching in his throat. “Ooh! Can I get a mudslide?”

“Comin’ right up,” Keith replied, moving a bit to his left and dipping under the counter to reach for the right glass. He filled it with ice, leaning over to the vodka area of the cabinet, asking over his shoulder, “You got a preference on brand?”

“Nope! Hit me with your best shot!”

“You got it,” he said, reaching over for the already half-drained bottle of Grey Goose, curling his fingers over its slender neck. He grabbed the coffee liqueur and Irish cream liqueur on his way by, sliding everything on the counter and popping the cap to the blender.

Out of the corner of his eye, Keith could see the guy had turned to his side and leaned smoothly across the countertop, blinking long lashes at a pretty girl who sat another two seats away. Her friend behind her giggled as the other rolled her eyes, flicking her hair over her shoulder easily. The cute guy laughed and said something, but Keith couldn’t hear him over the blender. He couldn’t hear her response either, tinted with the little smile she wore. He didn’t want to hear it.

A Mudslide was a very simple drink to make - there wasn’t even that much alcohol in it. He poured the concoction into the glass with practiced ease, added some whipped cream and a sprinkle of chocolate powder for a bit of extra flair - pausing to debate for a moment before he dropped a cherry on top - and slid it over to him.

“There you go.” The tall male turned back at Keith’s voice, giving the girl a wink and a finger pistol, making her and her friend giggle more, but when his eyes landed on the drink, they were wide and excited.

“Holy shit, this looks awesome!” His grin was blinding in the incredible low-light of the bar area, but Keith felt himself flush a bit, anyways. “I don’t have to pay extra for the toppings, do I?”

The dark-haired boy shrugged to himself, “Nah.”

“Oh?” The other asked, cocking a brow at him.

“You already paid for 'em with your singing,” Keith supplied to the unasked question, and before the other could push the topic further, he was called to the other end of the bar, not looking back as he felt the tips of his ears flare with heat. The smirk Rolo tossed him from where he was making a cocktail made Keith flip bottles a little sharper than he usually would have. It got him a hefty tip, all the same.

 

♡ ♡ ♡

 

When he finally made it back to his apartment block, Keith was exhausted, but that’s to be expected when he had to bike everywhere. He wished he had the gorgeous, red Ducati he’d been eyeing at the bike shop he passed on his way to work, but instead, he was left with his mountain bicycle. It was a good workout, but that also meant he’d had to start bringing his work clothes in a bag, always carrying deodorant on him. Plus, when he wanted to bring his cat to the pet store with him, he’d have to walk and carry him in his carry case.

Speaking of his cat, when he finally managed to fumble through his keys to find the right one and slipped inside, he heard a series of pert meows from the far room, rapidly growing closer as he closed the door and toed off his work shoes. He only took two steps into the apartment before the big ball of orange fluff made his way around the corner of the doorway to his legs, his loud purring broken only by meows and expectant looks.

Keith chuckled and carefully made his way to his bedroom, the feline weaving his way around his ankles, somehow without tripping him up and meowing all the while. He cracked open the door and they both wandered in, the cat quickly moving to jump up on the bed and turn around to meow now-impatiently at him. Keith pulled off his apron and tossed it over the end of his desk chair, unbuttoning his work shirt and shrugging it off, before doing the same with it and then his pants, leaving him comfortably in his undershirt and boxers.

He sighed, and when he finally let himself flop down on the unmade covers from that morning, his cat immediately crossed the distance and started rubbing over his face, still purring up a storm. His whiskers tickled Keith’s nose, and the pale-skinned male chuckled, wedging a hand between them. But his cat was undeterred, merely continuing to rub his cheeks over Keith’s palm.

“Helios, jeez, you’d think I’d been gone a week instead of a few hours,” He said quietly, dropping his hand back to the bed. Helios crawled onto his chest, turning once before flopping down, rear end towards Keith’s chin and head happily dropped to his paws as he blinked at his owner. Keith shook his head and turned his eyes to the ceiling, lazily tracing patterns in the rough, grainy surface, one hand absently stroking the ball of ginger fur curled on his chest.

“Do you believe in love at first sight?” He asked his cat, not looking away from the ceiling for a moment. When he did, he found Helios blinking one, narrow eye at him, as if he were saying “Well, do you?” Keith sighed loudly, drawn out, and used his free hand to reach up and roughly rub over his face.

“Augh, I know, it’s dumb. But there was this guy at work who was just… he was pretty, alright? And he just.. He had this laugh that just sounded like something out of a Disney movie, all silver bells and perfect teeth smile. His voice was something else - he was one of the musicians that came to play tonight. And his eyes, Helios. His. Eyes. Were so blue, okay?” He let his hand rub down his face more softly this time, resting over his chin as his brow furrowed. “I don’t know, Hel. He was pretty but, like, I’m pretty sure he’s straight. He was really only flirting with the girls at the end of the bar during his break, though I kinda got mixed signals when he called me over to order a drink. “ He dropped his hand to the side again, closing his eyes this time as he idly stroked his pet.

The memory of blue eyes, glinting playfully almost like a cat’s, sitting above a cheshire grin was seared into his mind. Smooth, tan skin and soft-looking brown hair that Keith had wanted to run his fingers through, praying they smelled like strawberries or ocean breeze shampoo. His laugh rang in his ears, hours after Keith had left for the night, passing off his shift to another coworker for the rest of the event, clear as a spring river coursing over polished rocks.

He opened his eyes, slowly, and the only smile that met him was the natural curve of his cat’s lips.

“Just… I don’t know man.” He shifted his hand so he was rubbing circles in the space between Helios’s ears, and the feline gave a small mewl of pleasure. Keith chuckled under his breath, “Very helpful.”

He felt gross from sitting in the bar area, where smoking was allowed, the smell of menthol clinging even to his underclothes. But he was comfortable and tired, and he felt like if he moved Helios from his chest, he was breaking some ancient taboo. Still, the tacky feeling of his skin bothered him enough that finally he sighed again, and gently slipped his hands under his cat, cupping him as best he could cup a full-grown Maine Coon in both hands, before getting up and setting him back down in the warm spot Keith’s body had no doubt created.

He gave the cat’s head a few pats, a little scratch behind the ear until his purring started again, and then he was grabbing the towel still sitting on the floor from when he’d last used it, and headed to the bathroom. Maybe some hot water and steam would help clear his head of ocean mist and silver bells he’d probably never see again.  

Chapter Text

There was only so much Keith could do in the span of six hours when there hadn’t been a single customer all day.

He was at his second job, working as a store clerk at Arus Pet Supply, and he was already halfway through it without a single customer having walked through the door since he took over for Coran. The windows were wide and open, washed clean by Coran earlier in the morning, not a smudge on the pristine glass.

Helios was with him today, lounging atop the counter’s freespace, fur draped around him like a blanket as he napped. Keith gave him a few scratches on top of the head as he circled around the counter, and took a seat behind it on the high, cushioned stool.

It was early afternoon, the clock reading three minutes past two, and Keith sighed, his phone held idly in his hands under the lip of the smooth, marble countertop. His thumb brushed over the screen in a mindless, rhythmic pattern, eyes lazily scanning the contents of his social media dashboard under half-lowered lids.

His mind wandered often during times like these, and soon his thumb had stilled over the smooth surface of his screen, his eyes dimming, unseeing as he got lost in his thoughts.

The most present thing in his mind was the event at the Red Lion last week, when he’d first laid eyes on the musician with piercing blue eyes and a laugh that drew Keith in like the tide. When he looked at that boy, he was standing barefoot on a beach with his toes awash with fine sand that matched the color of the other male’s skin. His eyes were the waves, alive and full of life, breaking against each other as his gaze flitted over the room. When they landed on Keith, they seemed to almost soften to something sweeter, and Keith could feel seafoam wash over his feet and caress his ankles as he stared calmly back.

He hadn’t even gotten the guy’s name. He knew nothing about him. He’d finished his mudslide and disappeared into the crowd, and Keith didn’t see him again for the rest of the night. He’d expected that, though. It was what always happened. Granted, he never usually found himself drawn to people like he had been to that one musician with the pretty blue eyes and the silver bell laugh.

He blinked sluggishly, slowly coming back to reality as his vision meshed with his daydream, until his phone screen blackened by the sleep mode sitting loosely in his hand was all he could see. He sighed, tapping the home button and unlocking it with his passcode. No use dwelling on him much longer. He’d probably never even see him again.

He decided he might as well go through the store and do some restocking, if it was needed. Keith tried not to sigh again as he locked his phone, sliding it in his back pocket as he stood, and grabbed the clipboard that held their hefty supply list. For such a small store, they sure had a lot of items available. They often did order-ins for specific products, too, but Coran usually handled those personally.

He was halfway through restocking the shelf that held their organic dog food when the bell hanging above the store’s door chimed, the sound of the wind outside ripping past the entryway as someone walked in, and it chilled the whole room in one swift motion. He grunted a bit as he shifted the dog food he had in his hands and slid it onto the shelf, still surrounded by other larger bags that he was putting away, before he stood up straight so he could address the new arrival.

“Hey, welcome to Arus Pet Sup-” He paused mid-sentence as he looked over at the customer, his tongue catching on his teeth when he spotted brown locks evenly layered over tan skin, and vibrant blue eyes squinting against the breeze as their owner turned around to shut the door.

Apparently, fate had different plans for him today.

The other was wearing pants the color of peaches, rolled up a bit to expose his ankles above his white sneakers, a jean jacket, and white shirt with some graphic design of a pineapple on it, colored with a peach to yellow fading gradient. It was an unreasonably cute outfit for such an unreasonably cute guy to wear. Keith wasn’t sure he could handle it.

He stared dumbly as the other turned around, mouth still parted mid-speech and eyebrows raised, watching broad shoulders shake themselves to get rid of the clinging chill from being outside. The other looked over, eyes meeting his own, and if Keith had been trapped in them before, he was absolutely lost in them now.

“...ply,” he finished after he managed to unhitch his breath from his throat.

“Uh, hi, is Coran here?” The other male asked, offering Keith a warm smile and completely unperturbed by Keith’s blatant staring. He had dimples on both cheeks that Keith hadn’t noticed the night at the bar, and he thought he felt his heart stop.

The dark-haired male blinked quickly, regaining his composure, “Uh, sorry, he’s out for the day. Is there something I can help you with?”

The other seemed a little miffed at that, a small pout puckering his lips before he sighed, throwing his hands to his hips, “Yeah, I was supposed to pick up an order yesterday but I was running late and didn’t get free until after you guys closed. I really need that order for my cat.”

Keith finished straightening up and dusted his hands off on the front of his store apron, “Well, I can get it for you, I just need your name.” The other smiled and closed some of the distance between himself and the counter as Keith stepped around the piles of dog food and started looking through one of the small cabinets under the countertop for their list of order-ins. “So who’s order am I looking for?”

“Uh, the name’s Lance,” the other said, and Keith tried his best not to openly smile. He apparently failed when the other raised a brow at him as he started filing through papers. “Something wrong with my name?”

Keith chuckled, “Not at all. Got a nice ring to it, actually.” His fingers filtered over the lips of folders until he found the one holding all their current order-ins. “Let’s see…. Last name?”

“Ramirez,” Lance responded, coming to a stop in front of the counter, and then he looked over at Helios. A grin split his face, and he reached over, letting the ginger cat lift his head and sniff at his hands, before he gave them an approving bump with his nose. Lance chuckled and ran his fingers over the cat’s head, arcing behind his ear before he started rubbing circles behind it. “Well, aren’t you beautiful?”

“He’s a boy,” Keith says over his shoulder, as he turns to head back to the storage room. “And he doesn’t usually like other people, so watch out for his teeth!”

He heard Lance call out a “Boys can be beautiful, too!” and then he slips through the door and into the messier storage room. It isn’t too terribly messy, since Keith has a tendency to organize sections of it when he gets too bored, so navigating the shelves of the order-in section isn’t hard, and soon he finds a small rectangular box with Lance’s name on it. It still takes him a few minutes, but he’s returning to the front before long, only to be greeted by the most peculiar sight.

Helios, a fully grown Maine Coon cat, is cradled in Lance’s arms like a newborn baby, belly up and feet lazily curled in, his eyes closed contentedly as the human holding him kneads his fingers gently over his tummy. They’re standing almost six feet away from him, but Keith can already hear his cat’s purring, which is a rarity whenever someone other than Keith is the one petting him. But the other man is just cuddling up a storm, cooing continuous streams of praises and compliments over the fluffy, ginger feline. And he can’t forget the dimples indenting his cheeks. Those things are going to kill him.

“Who’s a good little kitty? Is it you? I think it’s you. Oh, you’re so cute all curled up like this, you just love tummy rubs, don’t you? I could tell. My cat Violet doesn’t like them all that much, but she loves chin scratches. They’re her favorite, and she stretches her neck out all pretty and does that little happy cat smile that cats do when they’re really pleased. I bet you do it, too.” He pulls his fingers from the feline’s belly fur before reaching towards his face, fingers dipping under his chin and giving a few scratches. Helios tilts his head back until his neck is totally exposed, and Lance laughs as he gives his throat a few light rubs. “I knew it!”

Keith is staring at them, dumbfounded, having never witnessed Helios take to anyone so well so quickly. Not even Shiro had been able to gain the cat’s affections this quickly, and almost every animal liked Shiro immediately. He watches the tan-skinned male love up his cat for another moment, a warmth coiling in his stomach pleasantly and he smiled. Then he clears his throat to get his attention on him.

Lance looks up, face brightening when he sees Keith had returned, “Ah, you’re back! Did you find it!”

There are a dozen things he wanted to say to this man loving up his cat as only Keith himself had ever been able to, voice soothing like the gentle lapping of waves breaking over the beach, including “who are you?”, “what have you done to my cat?”, and “marry me”.

Instead, he manages to huff “Yeah I did.” He has to pass the group of dog food bags on his way back to the counter, but he’s so flabbergasted by what he’s witnessing, that he fails to pick up his feet enough to step over them. His foot catches on one, and it topples over, the impact making the full bag’s top split open and spill all over the floor in a mess of brown kibble. Keith himself barely manages to unhook his foot from the bag and hop forward a few uneven steps before he braces a hand on the counter, standing up and looking behind him at the mess.

“Ugh, god damn it,” He groans, straightening. Lance puts down the cat, rolling him gently so he lands on his feet on the countertop.

He looks at Keith, a little worry furrowing his brow, “Are you alright?”

“Yeah, my foot just caught on one of the bags,” the pale-skinned male sighs, placing the other’s order on the countertop, already moving to get the dustpan and small, handheld broom from under the counter. “Can you hold on a second? I need to clean this up.”

“Let me help,” Lance offers.

“What?” Keith chirps, raising his head sharply to look at the other, before forgetting he was under a counter. The top of his head collided painfully with the underside of the polished marble with a solid thud . “Son of a--” He ducks back out of the small space, dustpan and broom in one hand, the other rubbing the top of his head, wincing.

“Wow, are you always this clumsy?” The other laughs, still moving to join Keith as he makes his way over to the bag of spilled food.

Only when guys I have an inexplicable crush on walk into my store, Keith thinks to himself.

“Just one of those days, I guess,” he replies with half a laugh, before glancing up at the other when he kneels down. “You really don’t have to help, dude, it’s fine.”

Lance shrugged, kneeling down beside him, “It’ll get done faster with four hands instead of two, right?” Then he grins like he just told a cunning joke, and winks. Keith doesn’t think his heart can take it with the way it swells under his sternum, and he can feel his cheeks flush. “I’ll hold the dustpan, you sweep up the kibble. Easy peasy lemon squeezy!”

Keith laughs at that, the sound tinged with a bit of nervousness, but he hands him the dustpan anyways, “Alright then, have it your way.” He leans forward and stands the bag back up, readjusting its position till it can stand solidly on its own, then he starts sweeping all the spread out kibble into a pile. Once he has it collected, Lance braces the dustpan against the floor while Keith shuffles kibble into its open mouth, before he dumps it back in the bag. They continue this until most of the kibble is cleaned up, but right when they think their job is done, the bag of dog food starts to lean over, slowly. They both seemed to notice, their hands reaching out at the same time to brace the bag, and their fingers overlap as they both catch it before it falls.

Time seems to still for just a breath as Keith looks over at the other in shock, eyebrows raised. The other has his mouth opened just a bit, eyes wide as he looks back at him. Keith’s limbs lock up, his heart hammering in his throat as he looks into ocean blue eyes and is submerged in their bright, shimmering color. He feels like he’s drowning, unable to take in air, but then the other smiles sheepishly as a bit of color sweeps over his cheeks, and he pulls back his hand.

Somehow, that doesn’t help Keith remember how to breathe.

“I think we got most of it,” Lance chuckles, and the sound is like an electrical shock, zapping Keith out of his suffocating trance.

He takes a breath, exhales it slowly, and smiles back, “Yeah, one more sweep should do it.” He keeps one hand on the bag of food this time, leaning over to sweep the last of the kibble into Lance’s dust pan, who drops it into the bag. “Nice catch, by the way.”

Lance grins, “Yeah, I am, aren’t I?”

Keith nearly chokes on his tongue, but manages to cover it by rolling his eyes, “I’ll take your word for it.”

After resealing the bag and propping it against another, Keith stands and makes his way back over to the counter, all while avoiding his gaze. He slides over to the side where the register is at, and starts clicking away at the keyboard, glancing back at him a few times. Lance stands and follows after him, walking around to the customer’s side of the counter. Helios gives a pert noise, still purring as he turns around and starts rubbing against Lance’s arm.

Lance laughed and nudged the cat back a bit as he reached for his wallet, “Hey, c’mon, I just pet you for like, five solid minutes!”

“It’s never enough for him,” Keith says, manually inputting the order’s serial code with a flurry of clicks on the keyboard. He glances back to Lance and raises a brow, “But you know, he usually doesn’t like strangers, let alone people who have their own cats.”

“Guess I’m just special, huh?” Lance grinned. “Probably because I’ve got the cat gene.”

The dark-haired boy looks back at him with a quizzical look, “The ‘cat gene’?”

“Yeah, you know, when cats all love you for like, no reason, even the ones that don’t usually love anyone.”

“Or maybe you’re an alien and you’ve brainwashed my cat,” Keith comments without much thought, and he’s startled when the other actually laughs. The sound rings through the room, and Helios’s tail swishes happily, while Keith can feel the tips of his ears heat up, and silently curses himself for putting his hair up and leaving his ears on full display. He coughs to clear his throat, turning his eyes back to the screen and hoping the other wouldn’t notice his flustered state, “Uh, that’ll be forty-seven thirty-nine.”

“Fifty bucks for shampoo?” Lance says, slipping his debit card from his wallet and handing it to Keith, who slid it easily through the card reader.

“You bought shampoo for your cat?” The dark-haired male questions, raising a brow at the brunet, who shrugs.

“Hey man, don’t judge me for spoiling my cat.”

“I’m not, but don’t cats usually hate water?” Keith asks.

“Not Vi. She’s practically a fish, and she loves getting bathed and pampered, the brat,” Lance replies with a fond laugh, and Keith smiles at him.

He picks up the box and gestures slightly with it, “Do you want this in a bag?”

Lance shrugs, “Yeah, sure. I think I’m running late, so I won’t have time to drop it off at home, anyways.”

Keith leans down a bit and grabs a small, plastic bag for the box and drops it in, “Late for what?”

The other rolls his eyes and groans, “Ugh, class.”

“Does that mean you go to school or is it like, one of those exercise classes?” Keith questions, handing him the plastic bag.

“Nah, it’s my Music History three class. I go to Oltari.” The brunet jabs a thumb towards the door, as if that would give Keith any direction towards the university.

He laughs instead, leaning forward to hand off the bag to the other, “That’s cool. My brother and his fiancé both graduated from there. What’s your major, if you don’t mind my asking?”

“Bachelors of Music in Performance,” Lance responds casually. “I’ve got an emphasis on guitar and voice, though.”

“So you’re a guitarist, then?” Keith asks slowly.

“Yep!”

“Do you play gigs?”

“Sometimes, when I have time or need a little extra cash.”

“Ever played at the Red Lion Bar and Grill before?”

The other ponders that for a minute, “I don’t… think so? Oh, wait, yeah I did.”

Keith hums, reaching over to give Helios the pets he was looking for, “Did you play at their music event last Thursday?”

“I want to say yes, but I can’t remember,” the other laughed.

Keith’s eyebrows piqued in surprise, “What do you mean you can’t remember?”

“I mean, I had a lot to drink that night, so I really don’t remember anything from last Thursday,” the other offers with a shrug and an unsure smirk. “Why? Were you there?”

The dark-haired boy nods before looking over at Helios, “I was. I was the bartender for the first part of the night.”

That catches Lance off guard, “Oh, were you?”

Keith eyes him for a moment, before shrugging and turning back to Helios, “Yeah, but there were a lot of people there. I don’t remember all the pretty faces that come to my bar.”

Lance leans forward, grinning, “Oh, so you think I’m pretty, do you?”

Keith feels his cheeks heat up for a third time, and really, this is getting ridiculous. He’s not a high-schooler, he should be able to control himself around cute guys by now.

He huffs, “Yeah, pretty full of yourself.” But he’s grinning back at the other, who rolls his eyes. Then Lance pulls his phone from his pants’ pocket and gives the screen a tap to wake it. His eyes widen at whatever he sees, and he hurriedly shoves it back into his pocket, “Oh my god, I am so late now! Iverson is going to kill me!” He gives Helios a quick few rubs on top of his head and then turns to leave, “Hey, maybe I’ll see you around though!”

“Uh, sure,” Keith replies, blinking quickly. “I guess.”

“Cool! Then bye, uh…” He trails off, looking at the store clerk expectantly.

The dark-haired male smiles softly at him, “Keith.”

Lance smiles right back, “Keith. That suits you.” He starts towards the door, giving a wave when he reaches it, tugging it open for another bit of chill to sweep into the room. “Well then, till later, Keith!” He tries to walk through the door, but it snags on the door mat and jams, causing Lance to bump right into it in his haste to get out. “Shit! I’m good! No worries!” He calls back with a dismissive wave as Keith laughs out loud for the first time since Lance got there. Then he’s ducking out the door and hurrying down the sidewalk, the door quickly shutting behind him and ringing the little bell as it goes.

Helios sits up, curls his fluffy tail around his paws and looks over at Keith, and if he didn’t know any better, he’d think the damn cat was grinning. He huffs at him, giving him a particularly hard ruffle on his head that made him mewl.

“Oh shut up,” Keith grumbles at him. “He was probably just being polite. I doubt I’ll actually see him again anytime soon.” Helios merely meows from his perch before flopping down again to nap, and Keith goes about moving the broken bag of food to the back to deal with later, returning to continue where he’d left off in restocking. He shoves a bag onto the shelf, leaning back and pausing for just a moment.

“Lance Ramirez, huh?” He reaches up and lays pale fingers over his lips as they curl all too willingly into a small smile, hiding it even though no one is in the store anymore, and he can feel the butterflies still fluttering around in his stomach. “Quite a pretty catch indeed.”

Chapter Text

The day was colder than usual, if only because of the wind chill that seemed to snap at anyone who decided to go out underdressed. The sun shone powerfully, illuminating everything with a harsh contrast that almost hurt your eyes unless you squinted. The sky was bright and open, a wide expanse of cloudless blue that only added to the falsity of a warm day.

Despite these facts, the air still held a soft warmth to it when the wind settled down and one stepped out into the sun, the subtle scent of spring wrapping around those bullied by the wind and giving them soft encouragement that it would be warmer soon.

But that was neither here nor there.

Here was Lance, sitting in a classroom with his leg bouncing anxiously under his desk, eyes flickering from the lesson he was supposed to be paying attention to, up to the clock above the door that seemed to tick slower and slower every time he glanced at it. He had already spammed his best friend, Hunk, with a string of incoherent babbling about him freaking out. The other had replied that he was at work till seven, and if Lance wanted to talk to him, he could stop by the store after Lance got out of class.

So he was stuck sitting there, listening to a lecture about some old guy who hadn’t even contributed much to the music lineage except for this one term they used. He stifled a groan until thankfully, someone mentioned that it was nearly four o’clock, and the professor sighed before letting the class go. Lance couldn’t pick up his belongings fast enough, shoving his notebook into his messenger bag before sliding it over his shoulder, and weaving expertly through the throng of crabby music students and out the door.

Now Lance wasn’t one to freak out over small things. He was one who took something that was small and made it something big.

Then he proceeded to freak out about it.

When he finally reached the hefty flower shop that his best friend worked at, Lance crookedly parked his car in an empty spot in his haste. He barely remembered to click the button to lock the door before he was bounding up the steps to the door, the little sign reading “Balmera Flowers and Ferns” sitting painted pretty over the archway.

“Hunk!” Lance called when he finally bounded through the door, not even waiting for an answer before he was striding through the rows of carts, leaves and vines alike brushing over his arms as he cut corners in his quickening pace.

“Lance, don’t shout!” He heard Hunk call from the general area to his right, and Lance quickly turned on his heel and headed towards him.

“Hunk, oh my god, you will not believe what happened this morning!” He finally came upon his friend tending to one of the window displays on the right-hand side of the building. His wide hands looked even bigger in the hefty gardening gloves he wore, a smudge of dirt over his cheek when he put down the plant he was holding with a surprising amount of care.

 

“If it has you freaking out this badly, it’s probably nothing,” the taller male mused, and took a surprising amount of amusement in the way Lance bunched up his shoulders and pouted.

“Hunk, this is like, super serious! It’s totally something important!” His hands waved animatedly as he spoke, but Hunk merely knelt down and picked up another plant from the crate he’d brought with him.

“As long as I can still work on this window display while you rant, then shoot,” Hunk said, already returning to what he’d been doing before Lance’s expected outburst.

The brunet huffed at him, throwing his hands to his hips, “Fine, whatever, it’s not like I met the cutest freaking boy in the universe or anything!”

“That’s a hefty brag, Lance.” Hunk eyed him over his shoulder as he placed the plant on one of the taller shelves of the display. “I’m gunna need a five paragraph essay with at least three sources.”

“Dude, alright, first, I went to Coran’s store to get the shampoo for Violet, since I had to order it in because the other store that usually sells it doesn’t anymore and won’t do single orders. Which, by the way, is freaking dumb! ” He’s waving his hands around again as he speaks, his eyes dashing this way and that in his excitement. “But like, Coran wasn’t there? And this other guy was? I’ve like, never seen him there before!”

The dark-haired man dropped back onto his heels before he looks over at Lance, “That’s because you only ever go when Coran is working.”

“That’s besides the point!” Lance waves a hand dismissively.

Hunk raises a brow at him as he reaches for another potted plant, its fronds skimming the bare skin of his arm, “Then what is the point, Lance?”

“The point, Hunk, is that the guy that was there was probably the most beautiful boy I have ever seen!” Hunk huffs at him and Lance pauses in his ranting to give him a confident smirk, “Besides you, buddy. Most beautiful boy I have ever seen besides you.”

Hunk nods, satisfied, “Thank you, I know.” He stands again, moving over to the light a bit to examine the plant, his eyes dancing from it to the shelf and back multiple times as he decides where it would look best to sit. “So what did you say to him?”

“Not a lot, really. I asked about my order and he went to get it. Then his cat came up to me and-”

“He had his cat with him?”

“I know, right! Must be certified as a therapy cat or service animal or something to sit in the store with him.”

Hunk shrugged, “Or Coran doesn’t care.”

Lance mirrored him with a laugh, “Or that. Anyways, I was loving up his cat - beautiful ball of ginger fluff, oh my God - and he comes back out with it. But he’d been like, restocking dog food or something and left the bags out when I came in. Ended up spilling dog food everywhere and I tried to help him.”

Lance’s hands went from flailing wildly around him to gently, repeatedly papping his cheeks, a huge grin breaking out over his lips, “Oh my god, Hunk, he was so cute, He was staring at me when I came in and I think he was distracted by me petting his cat and tripped. And he complimented my name, and also banged his head on the counter like a dork, it was great. And I helped him clean up the dog food because, you know, I’m a good samaritan.” Hunk hummed questioningly at that, giving Lance a crooked smirk to show he was joking when the other shot him a look before continuing.

Lance rolled his eyes, waving his hand as he did so, “ Anyways, we ended up talking about my major because I said I was late to class-”

“You were late to Iverson’s class again?” Hunk balked at him.

“Yes! My niece was having a bad day yesterday and called me crying, so I stayed up to calm her down and I didn’t get a lot of sleep, alright?”

Hunk sighed, “Alright, fair, but Iverson is going to fail you if you’re late again.”

“Argh! I know! I know, I do, but I couldn’t just ignore her or leave her alone!” The brunet groaned, running a hand over his face. He hadn’t realized how tired he was, but being reminded of how little sleep he’d gotten seemed to dampen some of his joy.

Hunk, bless him, was quick to notice and tugged the conversation back to what had Lance charging in here screaming in the first place, “So you were talking to the cute boy about your major…”

Lance’s eyes lit up again, his mouth peeling back into a smile, which Hunk mirrored, “Right! I told him I was a guitarist, so he asked if I did gigs! And, obviously, I do, I mean what kind of guitarist doesn’t do at least one gig in their career? Then he asked me if I’d ever played at the Red Lion Bar & Grill and-”

“Wait, wait, wait,” the dark-haired male interrupted again, waving one hand as the other found his waist. “He specifically asked you about a specific gig?”

Lance blinked at him, confused, “Uh, yeah?”

“And?”

“And… he asked if I played at the event we went to last Thursday, but I told him I couldn’t remember. Apparently he was the barista who worked the bar that night”

“Do you remember if he wore a nametag?” Hunk inquires.

“A nametag?” Lance pauses, brow furrowing as he replays the whole scene in his mind, never once remembering if the attractive man had worn any form of identification. He ran through their entire conversation, scanning his memories for mentions of a name, but found none. “...no? No, I don’t think so.”

Hunk gives him a narrow look, lips twisting in a questioning pout, “Okay, what did he look like?”

“Skin pale and smooth like an antique doll, super dark hair pulled back in an adorable ponytail, sharp nose, sharper jawline, gentle voice with that edge of gruffness on it, and he had gorgeous eyes, Hunk. I think I literally drowned in them when I got a close look while we were cleaning. They were blue but like, almost a purple-y kinda blue. Indigo? Is that the color? Like freshly washed blueberries or something like that. Point is: They were gorgeous, he was gorgeous, and I am a weak, weak man.”

“What did his cat look like?”

Lance gave him a curious look, “Why do you need to know?”

Hunk shrugged, “Humor me.”

“Uh… ginger, white belly, white muzzle, really fluffy, and I think a Maine Coon or maybe a mix? He was kinda small for a pure Maine Coon.”

Hunk hummed in thought for a moment, “I think you’re talking about Keith.”

Lance gaped at him, “Who?” Then his eyes lit up as the name came back to him, “Keith! Keith, that’s right, he did give me his name!.”

Hunk snickered at his friend, before bending down to return to his task, “He’s a chill guy that comes here and buys flowers for like, every special occasion. Sometimes he comes in just to talk. He’s really nice, actually, once you get to know him.” Hunk stood and cradled the plant he’d chosen in one arm, using his free hand to maneuver a space between two others just big enough to slide it into. “He talks about his cat a lot, complains about the drunk jerks he gets at the Red Lion Bar & Grill, and likes working at the pet store with Coran. And yes, he is really pretty.” Hunk adds the last part with a laugh, grinning up at his friend, who flushes and looks away with a grumble. “So why didn’t you like, ask him out on a date like you do with every pretty girl you see?”

“I-It’s different!” Lance sputters, shoulders bunching up to his ears.

Hunk raises a brow, still smiling, “Is it though?”

“Yes! He was so nice and actually kinda receptive to my flirting, and that like? Never happens?” The tan-skinned male huffs and throws his hands to his hips, but he still looks unsure as he turns his head to the side. “I mean, I dunno. Maybe it was just my imagination. Wistful interpretation or something.”

“Hey, no,” the other starts, pulling off his gloves and setting them aside as he stepped around the crate on the floor and walking over to Lance, wide hands giving the slightly shorter male’s arms a soft squeeze. “No thinking like that. I bet Keith would love to be friends with you. Guy’s just a little hard to break the ice with, but it sounds like you did okay. Why don’t you try talking to him; catch him at work and see if you can get his number so you can hang out when you’re both free?”

“Christ, Hunk, I don’t think I can do that!” He blinked sweet, blue eyes up at his best friend, who sighed before leveling him with a flat look tinged with an underlying layer of sympathy. Or maybe it was pity. Lance wasn’t sure. Both? Both. Both worked. Lance’s pinched his brow up, putting on his best puppy dog face,

“Do you want me to go with you and play wingman?” Hunk asked.

“Please?”

A defeated sigh dribbled from the other’s lips before he smiled at the brunet, “Fine, but not tonight. I’m going out with Shay.”

Lance’s face lit up as he swung his arms around Hunk’s neck in a hug, laughing a bit, “I knew I could count on you to back me up!”

“When have I ever not?” His friend chuckled, hugging back in that warm, enrapturing kind of hug that always made Lance feel safe and reassured. He pulled the other back and Lance hopped back onto his own feet, “I think I’ll have free time Saturday night? Pretty sure he works the evening shift at the bar then. He’s complained about a few Saturday shifts.”

Lance beamed at him, already feeling excitement bubbling like fizzy soda in his veins, “Yes, Hunk, you’re the best!”

Hunk flipped his bangs and grinned, “I know I am. But I’ve still got a lot of work to do, and I’m pretty certain you still haven’t started that data project Iverson gave you.”

“Shit, you’re right!” Lance quickly turned on his heel and started jogging away, before he turned back and rushed to give Hunk one last hug, whose arms were already open. Lance nuzzled into his friend’s shoulder, grinning, “Seriously dude, you’re a lifesaver.”

He could feel Hunk’s laughter rumble in his chest, washing over him soothingly, “I know, I know, you’re the best too, now go do your work, dude.”

They broke apart and Lance resumed his jog for the door, waving over his shoulder as he turned the corner and departed the store a moment later. He couldn’t seem to wipe the smile off his face, and every time he thought of those deep eyes filled with light like swirling purple and blue galaxies, he found he didn’t want to.

 

♡ ♡ ♡

 

“Hunk, I can’t do this,” Lance whimpered, looking himself up and down in the full-body mirror on his wall. He scrutinized every aspect of his outfit, from the dark blue jean shorts, up to the periwinkle shirt with the white wave pattern over it, and over to the light-colored jacket he wore that casually hugged his lithe frame. He threw his hands to his hips and tapped a bare foot impatiently, mouth twisting in a frown as his eyes raked over the outfit.

Clothes were everywhere, mounds of colors and fabric piled on top of each other and strewn about the room. It had been clean the last time Hunk had been here, but when he’d let himself in that night to pick up Lance before they headed over to the Red Lion, he’d found the brunet’s room to be an absolute catastrophe as he rushed about searching for specific articles of clothing in a mad attempt to find an outfit he thought would catch the attention of the cute bartender he was trying to woo.

Hunk was sitting on his friend’s bed to avoid the mess, legs criss-crossed in front of him as he leaned back on his hands. Violet lay lounging to his left, half lain against his thigh with her paws crossed daintily in front of her. She blinked slowly, a little curve of amusement to her lips as her eyes lazily followed her owner in his nervous search.

Hunk shook his head as Lance groaned and stalked over to another pile, “Dude, you can totally do this. I have full faith.”

“I don’t think faith is going to get me his number, Hunk,” Lance muttered, and Hunk would have tossed the pillow at him if he hadn’t known that Lance had already spent an hour and a half trying to fix his hair just right. It sat soft and pretty atop his head, layered daintily and cradling his face. The light of the room glistened minutely over the locks, a shimmering bronze hue to the brown swaths of hair. “I need this outfit to be on point. Something to get his attention, but not in a bad way!” He shifted himself to a smaller pile to the right, digging through shirts as he continued, “It’s gotta say ‘Hey, look at me, I’m pretty, but also handsome, and I’m interested in you’, you know?”

“No,” Hunk hummed back, and Lance tossed a scowl over his shoulder at him. Hunk rolled his eyes, “Dude, you look fantastic, as usual. And Keith really isn’t picky about people’s appearances. We’re already late as it is, and if we wait too much longer, it’ll get busy and then you won’t be able to talk to him at all!” Lance huffed before standing up, walking back over to the mirror, holding up a slightly wrinkled white shirt over the blue one. Hunk sighed softly before he slid off the bed and walked over to his friend, turning him around gently and taking the shirt from him. He did the same thing, though, comparing the two shirts before he tossed the white one to the side. “The blue one is perfect, your outfit is super cute and you’re very handsome, Lance. Now can we please get going?”

Lance pouted at him before rolling his eyes, “Fiiiiine, but if I don’t get his number, I blame you.” Then he slipped past the other to where his laceless vans were located by his bed, sliding on the pair of ankle socks he’d laid over them earlier before slipping them on.

“Well I’m sure my wingman skills will be more than adequate in picking up your slack.” The taller male gave Lance a solid pat on the shoulder, grinning at the look of betrayal on his face. Lance gave his cat a few farewell scratches under the chin, which she accepted happily with a little purr that made him smile, then followed Hunk out of his room to the front door of his apartment. They made their way down the two floors to the parking lot, where they both climbed into Lance’s car, as designated driver of the night so he could treat Hunk to drinks as a thank you for doing this for him.

The drive isn’t too bad, traffic being pretty mild for a Saturday night on the town, but the restaurant they’re going to is on the quieter side, anyways. The parking lot is only half full when they pull in, and Lance takes half a breath to pray that all of their owners are at tables and not at the bar. Lance shivers a bit when he steps out of the car’s warmth, but it’s surprisingly warmer than it was a few days ago, even now that the sun has long since fallen behind the horizon. The hostess gave them both bright smiles, which Hunk happily returned, and asked them how many they’d be sitting. Hunk gave her a dismissive wave, and said they were just gunna go to the bar, and she nodded.

The restaurant was better lit this time around, now that an event didn’t require mood lighting. It was easier to navigate their way to the back of the restaurant where the bar sat, and Lance was thankful when he saw that the bar itself was empty of customers. But when Lance’s eyes settled on the sloping shoulders and the tiny black ponytail he couldn’t stop thinking about, he thought his heart would stop. The bottom of his stomach dropped out and he dropped back to duck behind Hunk as they walked over to the bar, sitting down at the far end where they’d be more out of the way and easier to talk with.

Hunk leaned forward, semi-blocking Lance from view as he waved Keith over. Keith’s face lit up in surprise and then he smiled, neatly tucking his hand towel into the front pocket of his apron as he walked over.

“Hey, Hunk! Haven’t seen you in a while!” Keith greeted with a smile that Hunk mirrored gleefully.

“Yeah, dude, you haven’t stopped by the shop in a while,” the taller male replied. “Been busy?”

Keith shrugged, finally making his way over to them fully, “Busy enough.” Then Hunk leaned back and exposed Lance sitting on the stool beside him. When he looked up, Keith looked down, and their eyes met.

There was a breath of silence as Keith’s face lit up in surprise, and Lance thought his heart was beating loud enough for the other two men to hear it clearly over the gently ambiance in the restaurant. Then he let a smile slip over his lips, and almost hummed with pleasure when Keith’s melted into one as well.

“Hey, nice to see you again,” Keith said to him.

“Likewise, dog chow,” Lance smirked, despite his racing pulse, and he chuckled when the other winced.

Keith glanced at Hunk, “Please tell me he didn’t tell you about that.”

Hunk shrugged unapologetically, “Sorry dude, we tell each other everything. We’re best bros. Oh, you should have seen him though when he-” Hunk’s words were quickly cut off by a quick hand to his mouth, lips sealed shut by tan fingers. Keith gave Lance a questioning look while Hunk’s eyes crinkled in amusement at the brunet.

“What he was saying,” Lance continued forcefully, giving Hunk a sharp look before turning to smile sweetly at Keith again, “Is you should have seen how excited he got when I told him drinks were on me tonight.”

“Is that right?” Keith hummed, lips quirking back into a grin. “And exactly what would Hunk like to drink?”

Lance opened his mouth to reply, but just then his eyes went wide, yanking his head back with a strangled yelp to revel Hunk’s tongue hanging out of his mouth, “Hunk!”

Hunk pulled his tongue back in and grinned at him, before turning to Keith casually, “Do you guys still offer those Mint Chocolate Martinis or were they, like, a seasonal thing.”

“They were seasonal, but…” Keith looks behind him towards the back door before leaning forward enough to whisper to them, “I can make it for you, if you want. I’ll just charge you for a regular.”

Hunk beamed at him, “Dude, you are literally the best!” He offers Keith a fist bump, which the other gladly reciprocates with a chuckle.

Then he turns to Lance, standing a little straighter, “What about you, man? Same thing?”

“Nah, I’m good,” Lance replied, waving a hand lightly as he declined. “Designated driver for the big guy here.”

“Well aren’t you a good samaritan,” The pale-skinned male smirked, before leaning back a little more. “Can I get you a soda or anything?”

Lance felt the tiniest nudge on his ankle from Hunk, and he knew they’d both seen the opening Lance needed. So with the tiniest breath to collect himself, Lance donned his most pleasant, flirty smile, fluttering his eyelashes for extra effect as he leaned forward, resting his head on his hands where his fingers threaded together.

“Can I get your number, maybe?”

Surprise clearly washed over Keith’s expression, his eyebrows jumping to his hairline at the blatant flirt, and the color that was splattered over his face then like wet paint was too endearing to look away from. Lance felt the butterflies in his belly go mad, making their way up his esophagus until they fluttered in the back of his throat, and he swallow hard. He could feel his own face heat up, but kept the coy smile decorating his lips, and just because he was a glutton for punishment, he batted his eyes a few more times.

“I-I… um,” Keith stuttered when he finally found his voice. His eyes dashed away, and he nervously reached up to rub the back of his neck with one hand. It was so cute that Lance couldn’t tear his eyes away, and he felt his sultry facade begin to crumble from the sheer natural charm the other man gave off. His eyes flicked back over to Lance, and the brunet would swear the color spread from his cheeks to his ears as his eyes dashed away again. “I mean, I’m not really supposed to give my number out to strangers.”

Lance chuckled softly, “We’re not strangers! We know each other’s names, and you even know my major and where I go to school.”

Keith stubbornly avoided eye contact, “Alright, fair.” There was a long moment of silence, with Hunk sitting between them, eyes flickering back and forth as if debating on whether or not he should say something. Then Keith sighed, even though his lips tilted into a smile. He reached into his apron pocket and pulled out a pad of stickynotes, and a cheap, ballpoint pen afterwards, before scribbling on it. “I can’t use my phone at work,” he explained while he wrote, and Lance dropped himself back into a casual posture, watching the pen slide over paper with a kind of grace Lance was unfamiliar with. “So this’ll have to do.” A second later he tears the yellow page off, sliding it face down towards Lance, who brings it the rest of the way towards him as Keith turns to Hunk. “You can save it too, man, we’re friends too… right?”

The dark-skinned boy practically radiates light with his smile, and Lance thinks it should be illegal for someone to be that pure, “Oh my god, absolutely! Thanks, Keith!”

Keith turns back to Lance now, smile still hesitant, but warm, “So what can I get you to drink, Lance? It is Lance, right?”

“That’d be me!” The brunet laughs, and he hope the nervous excitement fizzing in his stomach isn’t audible in his voice. “Can you make Shirley Temples?” Lance asked with a softer smile.

“Shirley Temples I can do,” the other smiled back, and then he turned on his heel and walked away to start gathering ingredients for both their drinks.

Hunk leaned over and gave Lance a soft nudge, “Dude, oh my god, you did it! You actually got Keith’s number!”

Lance jumped at the contact and blinked over at him owlishly, “I did?” Then he turns back to the paper still sitting face-down on the table, and with gentle fingers he tentatively picks it up and turns it over. The series of numbers is there, and it doesn’t look fake. In fact, there’s even a little note at the bottom that says “Thanks for helping with the dog food the other day. I don’t think I ever said that”, with a quick doodle of what can only be Keith, giving a small, but happy smile at the reader.

Lance felt his lungs collapse and expand, his breath swirling like a supernova inside him, hot and intense and too bright to process. Yet he sat there, still and quiet, and could only bring a hand up to cover the incredibly happy smile that peels back his lips.

His voice comes out hushed and a little muffled behind his fingers, “Oh my god, I totally got his number.”

Hunk sighs happily, swinging an arm over Lance’s shoulders, “Told you he wasn’t picky over outfits dude. His eyes were on your gorgeous face the whole time.”

Lance made a sound crossed between a laugh and a squeak, giving his friend a playful shove that did little more than nudge him back half an inch, “Hunk, christ, shut up!” Hunk laughed at him and he laughed back, and at the other end of the bar, Keith watched with a fond smile and reached under the counter for a soda glass, the tips of his ears stained red where the peeked out from behind his thick, choppy, curtain of bangs.

Chapter Text

Lance blinks open his eyes to his cat sitting right next to him, her face so close to his that if he so much as twitched, his nose would collide with her little pink one. He raised a brow and her eyes narrowed at him, a little huff tickling the tip of his nose before she leaned back on her haunches to sit. He wrinkles his nose in a touchless scratch before yawning, pushing himself to sit up. He does a few stretches that wring out the kinks in his muscles, rewarding himself by reaching over and dragging his phone off the bedside table, snapping the charger off as he does so.

His brow furrows as he browses through the variety of notifications that usually fill up, swiping the meaningless ones off the screen. A pout twists his lips when he finds that he doesn’t have more than a good morning text message from Hunk, followed by one asking about the movie night they usually do once a month. But none from a particular barista from the Red Lion Bar & Grill. He huffs as he unlocks his phone and opens his messaging app, only to find that a conversation to the pretty dark-haired boy doesn’t exist. He blinks in confusion before pinching his mouth in a bit of a pout.

He types a quick “hey ;)” before locking his phone and heading for the bathroom, giving the other time to respond while he does his morning skincare routine. He flicks the light on and lays the device on the bathroom counter, sliding to his left to pick out a bottle from the cluttered mess on the side of the sink.

He’s halfway through applying a facemask when his phone vibrates softly on the ceramic countertop, the screen lighting up to reveal a new text message. Lance leans over a bit to get a better look, fingers of one hand till spreading cream over his face as he unlocks his phone with his pinkie finger. Another tap and his message threads bubble up, the top one unread and from Keith.

 

(9:13AM) Keith

Who is this?

 

Lance chuckles under his breath, and pulls out one of his many witty responses as he types a response idly with a dry finger.

 

(9:14AM) Lance

ur motivation

 

He laughs to himself softly before going back to applying his facemask, and he just finishes it when his phone receives another reply.

 

(9:18AM) Keith

Finally, you’ve come back from the war

 

Lance actually barks out a laugh at the response, and makes quick work of washing his hands. He pats them dry on his pants and picks up his phone, typing as he walks, consequently smacking his shoulder into the doorway to his room for his lack of attention.

 

(9:19AM) Lance

OMG keith that was perfect!! im cackling XD

 

(9:20AM) Keith

Awesome

So…. who is this?

 

Lance makes his way back over to his bed, sitting down as he taps a response with one hand, while the other reaches over and scratches his cat’s cheek.

 

(9:20AM) Lance

Wait… srsly?

 

(9:21AM) Keith

Well, you’re not in my phone, sooo… yeah.

 

(9:21AM) Lance

uh the names lance?

super hot musician from last night?

asked for ur number when u wanted my order?

helped u clean up dog food when u spilled it in the store?

 

(9:22 AM) Keith

….Oh, right!

 

The brunet rolls his eyes at his phone, abandoning his cat petting in favor of flopping back against the wall, legs haphazardly half-propped in front of himself.

 

(9:22AM) Lance

i love how thats what gets u to remember

u wound me

 

(9:23AM) Keith

Well you didn’t text me after you left last night

So I didn’t know if you were going to at all.

 

(9:23AM) Lance

ah ye srry bout that

i may have

like

accidentally forgotten to txt u

 

(9:24AM) Keith

Yeah, I figured that much out for myself

 

(9:25AM) Lance

alright hey no listenn

i was super nervous ok

n excited bc i just got this SUPER hawt baristas number

 

Lance paused with his thumbs hovering over the keyboard, eyes widening as he realized exactly what he’d just said. That was way more forward than he usually was, but he’d gotten caught up in texting the other that he’d typed and sent the message without really thinking it over. He must have weirded the other out and his mouth pinched into a tighter line of worry when Keith responded a few seconds later.

 

(9:25AM) Keith

...Is that so?

 

Lance closed his eyes, bumping the back of his head against the wall with a soft whine. He knew he’d messed up, and so early on, too. Though he didn’t have too much time to reflect on it when another message made his phone vibrate against his skin, and he pulled it back enough to look at the next text Keith had sent.

 

(9:26AM) Keith

Then I guess you can imagine my disappointment when the super hot musician from last night didn’t text me right away.

 

There’s a moment of silence and then Lance lets out a chuckle that’s threaded with relief. He gets another text from Hunk, asking him about the movie night again, and suddenly he gets an idea. He smirks as he switches back to Keith’s message thread and rapidly starts typing back.

 

(9:27AM) Lance

well then allow me to redeem myself

how would u like to go see a movie with me hunk and pidge 2maro?

 

He waits for a reply, licking his lips absently. He hears Violet meow by the door, and wonders when she hopped off the bed, but then the other’s reply comes in.

 

(9:27AM) Keith

Tomorrow?

 

(9:27AM) Lance

yeee

unless thats too last second for you?

 

(9:28AM) Keith

Not at all, I only work Monday nights at the bar at 8:30

… Would they be okay with me coming?

 

(9:27AM) Lance

Are you saying you’ll go if they’re okay with it?

 

(9:27AM) Keith

...maybe

 

(9:28AM) Lance

i see

playin hard to get r we?

 

(9:28AM) Keith

Guess you’ll just have to join the game to find out.

 

This boy wasn’t just pretty, he was smooth. Lance needed to step up his game, especially with the blush that he could feel circling the sides of his neck and reaching for his cheeks, tugging at the corners of his lips to smile.

 

(9:28AM) Lance

challenge accepted

so whats ur opinion on animated movies

 

(9:29AM) Keith

Very high.

What did you have in mind?

 

(9:29AM) Lance

moana

 

(9:29AM) Keith

The new Disney movie about the ocean princess?

 

(9:29AM) Lance

ye ye

 

(9:30AM) Keith

Can I revoke my vague decision to go?

 

(9:30AM) Lance

nope! ur stuck with us >:P

 

(9:31AM) Keith

-insert annoyed groan here-

 

Lance laughs under his breath, fingers dancing over the keyboard. He quickly messages Hunk and, when he gives a very excited okay, Keith openly agrees to go.

 

(9:34AM) Keith

Alright so, one problem

 

(9:34AM) Lance

yo

 

(9:35AM) Keith

I don’t have a car

 

(9:35AM) Lance

dont have a-

dude

how do u even get around???

 

(9:36AM) Keith

I walk?

You know, that thing you do with your legs to get from one place to another

 

(9:36AM) Lance

i know what walking is sherlock

 

(9:37AM) Keith

Amazing

But back to that issue

Isn’t the closest movie theater in the next town over?

 

(9:38AM) Lance

yup

 

(9:39AM) Keith

So it’s not exactly within walking distance…

 

(9:39AM) Lance

keith

buddy

pal

friend

amigo

compadre

i already planned on picking u up

 

(9:40AM) Keith

Wait, really?

 

(9:40AM) Lance

rme

YES keith

what kind of friend would i be if i let you walk all the way to the movie theater when i got a perfectly good car to drive us there?

 

(9:42AM) Keith

Ok fair

Wait, we’re friends?

 

(9:43AM) Lance

uh yeah obvi

wut kind of question is that?

 

(9:43AM) Keith

I just mean, like...

We JUST started talking and you already think of me as your friend?

 

(9:43 AM) Lance

yep!

 

(9:44AM) Keith

… Alright then.

 

Lance was in the middle of typing a reply when a particularly loud yowl sounds from the doorway, and he pushes himself up enough to look at his cat. She’s standing by the door with her head at shoulder level, glaring at him as her tail whips behind her in irritation. She meows again, low this time, almost a growl. His eyes flicker back down to the time in the corner of his phone screen and they widen a bit when they see that he’s been texting Keith for over half an hour and completely forgotten to take care of both his and his cat’s morning grooming. He can still feel the facemask on his skin starting to dry and sighs when he realizes he should go wash it off.

Violet calls for his attention again, and he mockingly imitates the sound back at her as he pushes himself all the way up and on his feet. Her meows turn into a quick succession of chirps, and she prances beside his strides on the way back to the bathroom.

 

(9:46AM) Lance

alright well the princess is demanding her morning grooming so i g2g

ill msg u for more details about the movie l8r

 

(9:46AM) Keith

Sounds like a plan.

Later

 

(9:47AM) Lance

byeeee

 

♡ ♡ ♡

 

Lance is a little nervous as he flicks on his turn signal and comes to a stop at the light, waiting to turn onto the street Keith gave him yesterday. His pointer finger taps rhythmically on his steering wheel, both hands wrapped around the smooth leather as his eyes flick from the red light to the street a few cars ahead of him to his left.

He can see some of the apartment buildings from here, and while they don’t look bad, they do all look rather plain. The light turns to a green arrow, and the brunet follows the rest of his lane onto the designated road. He slows his speed just so, scanning the buildings for the right number. To him, they’re all rather identical in terms of composition, with varying shades of red, brown, and beige. He finally spots the one Keith mentioned, and pulls into an empty parking spot by it.

He picks up his phone to text Keith that he thinks he’s here, and sees a message from Pidge. She’s warning him that she’s bailing because she’s got a huge project due that she procrastinated till the last second, yet again. He huffs under his breath, but types a response saying not to worry about it, before he messages Keith that he’s there. The other messages him that he sees him and he’ll be right down, so Lance locks his phone and sighs, trying to settle his nerves.

It’s just Keith. And even without Pidge there, Hunk is a really good buffer if things get awkward or stiff between them. He doesn’t really have a reason to be nervous, except that he is because this is Keith. The cute barista who drew him a cute note and made a mess in the pet store because he was too distracted by Lance. The guy Lance had taken a chance with and actually succeeded in befriending and getting his number. The guy he was currently going to have in his car, alone, for the next twenty-seven minutes while they drove to the movie theater.

His train of thoughts is interrupted when he sees one of the front doors to the apartment open and Keith step out, his finger stuttering mid-air in its rhythmic tapping on the steering wheel.

The other was wearing black and white sneakers with grey harem pants, and a black shirt with a red, crop top jacket over it that showed off his slight hour-glass waist. His hair is up in his usual ponytail. Lance couldn’t make out the words on his shirt from where the other was, but when he opened his car door to step out and wave him over, he saw the words “Kick butt, go to space, represent the human race” in bold white letters on the front with a few simple drawings of stars and planets around them. It made him chuckle and Keith raised a brow at him when he came over.

“Nice shirt,” Lance said with a grin, reaching down to hit the unlock button on the inside of his door, hearing each of the door’s locks unlock with a little click.

Keith looks down at his shirt before glancing back up again, “Is it weird?”

Lance shrugs, but offers the other a more reassuring smile, “Nah man, I like it.” He nods to the door on the other side before ducking back into the car. A moment later, Keith slides into the passenger seat beside him and buckles his seatbelt, as Lance does the same.

“So,” Keith starts, and Lance hums for him to continue as he turns in his seat and carefully backs out of the parking spot. “Hunk and Pidge are going to be there, right? I don’t think I’ve met Pidge.”

“Well, you won’t meet her today either, because she bailed to work on another project she procrastinated until the last second.” Lance rolls his eyes as he changes gears once fully out on the road again, “Again.”

“Oh,” Keith replied softly.

“Yeah, so it’s just us and Hunk.”

The brunet can see Keith raise a brow at him, “So then why isn’t Hunk with you?”

Lance turns on his signal again when he reaches the end of the road, pausing at the stop light just long enough to make sure no cars are coming before he turns right, “He said he had some errands to run this morning or something, so he’d meet us there.” Keith hums in acknowledgement, and an awkward silence settles between them. It persists for the beginning of the ride, and Keith starts to get fidgety until Lance flicks on the radio. He flips through the stations he has set without taking his eyes off the road, eventually settling on one that plays popular pop songs.

A couple songs go by with nothing more than Lance tapping to the beat on the steering wheel, but by the third, he started humming softly, and when the lyrics played out, so did his voice.

“Stop me on the corner. I swear you hit me like a vision,” he hummed, tapping to the beat all the while, braking lightly as they came to another light. “I- I- I wasn’t expecting, but who am I to tell fate where it’s s’posed to go with it?” His smile pulled wider as the tapping escalated while they were stopped, and he could see Keith watching him from the corner of his eye. “Don’t you blink, you might miss it. See, we got a right to just love it or leave it. You find it and keep it, ‘cause it ain’t every day you get a chance to say-”

The light turned green and they were off again, Lance singing to the music and watching the small smile on Keith’s face slowly get bigger and bigger as they went along. The awkward air that was between them earlier seemed to be pushed to the backburner, still there but nowhere near as present as it had been. Lance sees Keith lean over and look out the window, occasionally stealing glances as Lance while he drove. Lance stole them back, and more than once their eyes met, making Lance’s eyes look back to the road while Keith’s eyes flitted back to the window, a light blush coating both their cheeks that neither commented on.

When they got to the theater, they found the parking lot relatively empty, so Lance was able to park closer to the entrance. He was kind of grateful since it made the walk of awkward silence to the building shorter. Lance hopped up the few steps to the front doors, opening one and dramatically bowing as Keith approached more carefully.

“After you, my good sir!” The brunet teased, and Keith rolled his eyes but he was smiling as he walked past Lance into the theater. The taller male slid in after him, putting his hands on his hips and deeply breathing the heavy scent of chemical butter syrup and warm pretzels. “Dang, it always smells so good in here.”

“Kinda nauseating, in my opinion,” Keith mumbled, wrinkling his nose as he followed Lance to the side. Lance looked around, scanning the slim pickings of groups that dotted the floor and found Hunk not among any of them, or even on his own. He pulled his phone from his pocket and tapped the home button to check the time. A tiny pout pulled at his lips as he huffed at his empty lock screen, no text notification to be found.

“Jeez, where is he?” Lance muttered while unlocking his phone.

“Hunk?” Keith inquired, blinking over at him.

“Yup. He’s not here yet, so I’m gunna give him a call to see where he is,” Lance looked back briefly, thumb dancing over the screen on muscle memory as he pulled up the call app and tapped on Hunk’s phone number. Holding the phone to his ear, he stole a glance at Keith as he listened to it ring. The other was standing idly next to him, hands loosely slung into the pockets of his pants. The red jacket was a brilliant contrast that would have drawn Lance’s eye to him if he were on the other side of the long building, yet somehow, it fit. The sleeves fit tenderly on his arm, but he could see the gentle roll of hidden muscles under the fabric.

His thoughts were interrupted as the call was picked up, his best friend’s voice slicing into his senses in a chipper voice, “Hey, Lance!”

“Hey, Hunk, where are you?” Lance asked, tilting his head into the phone a bit as he spoke.

“Uh, out doing errands?” The other responded, as if the answer were obvious, but there was something else in his voice. It almost sounded like an underlying layer of amusement.

“I thought you said you’d be done by like, eleven?”

“It’s busy out, so I probably won’t be done till one.”

“Hunk!” Lance groaned into the phone, “We’re supposed to be seeing a movie at eleven-thirty, remember?”

“Yeah dude, I’m like, super sorry, but I’m gunna have to take a raincheck.”

Funny, Lance thought as he pouted against the phone, he doesn’t sound sorry at all.

Still, he sighed and put a hand on his hip again, “It’s fine, dude. But you totally owe me next time. I’m talking a 3D movie and extra popcorn!”

Hunk laughs on the other end of the line, and Lance can’t even be mad at him when he hears the sound, “Alright, deal. Is Keith with you?”

“Yeah, why?”

“Tell him I said hi! Oh, and sorry I couldn’t go.”

Lance snorts softly, before turning to Keith, “Hunk says hi.”

The dakr-haired boy blinks in surprise before smiling a little, “Tell him I said hi back.”

“He says hi!” Lance laughs into the phone, and Hunk laughs with him before they say their goodbyes and hang up. He’s a little suspicious that Hunk and Pidge may have planned to duck out on purpose to get Keith and Lance to talk to each other explicitly. He tries not to sigh again as he pockets his phone.

“So I take it he’s not coming?” Keith asks, though it almost sounds more like a statement than a question.

“Yeah, but that just means we don’t have to share the snacks with him,” Lance replies with a crooked grin. There’s a bit of an awkward silence before Lance gives a little cough to break it, “So uh, what do you want to do?”

Keith gives him a look that’s a mix of wary and confused, “What do you mean?”

Lance shrugs, one hand coming up to rub the side of his neck, “I mean, Hunk and I were gunna split the fees. Like one buys snacks and the other buys the tickets, since they’re like equally grossly overpriced. So, do you want to do that?”

“Oh, sure. I was gunna buy my own ticket anyways.”

“Great! Then you can buy tickets and I’ll buy snacks,” the brunet chimes. Keith nods in acceptance and they split to go to their respective counters. It isn’t until he’s standing in line for the snack counter that he realizes...he has no idea what kind of foods Keith likes. He could be a salty-sweet kind of guy, or go straight for sour. Maybe he just wanted popcorn? Or maybe real food instead of candy? Their theater was pretty popular, so the food choices were kind of extensive, which didn’t really help him pick something.

There were three sets of people in front of him, so he at least tried to pick out what he wanted. His eyes glanced over the massive food island to the rows of ticket booths where cashiers stood waiting, noting Keith one person behind the next in line. He breathed a sigh of relief when Keith got both tickets and trotted over, sliding into line beside Lance, with one set of people to go before them.

“Hey, uh, I wasn’t sure what you’d want,” Lance started, sliding his hands out of his jacket pockets and laying them over his hips. “I usually go for the mozzarella sticks, because they’re super hella, but ugh, their pretzel bites are so good, man.”

Keith chuckled, “Yeah?”

“Uh, yeah! They’re like, all warm and soft with just the right amount of salt.” The brunet sighed dreamily before turning to grin at the dark-haired male, “So? What’cha want? It’s all on me and you can buy snacks next time, so don’t feel bad about the price.”

“I’m good with just popcorn,” the other replied, smiling lightly.

“Just popcorn?”

“Mhm.”

Lance blew a soft raspberry at him, “That’s boring, but to each their own, I guess.”

Keith huffed a little at him, “I usually eat before movies so I don’t waste a fortune on the overpriced food. The tickets are bad enough.”

“Alright, fair.”

The cashier calls them up, and Lance orders a large popcorn and two small soft drinks, along with an order of mozzarella sticks for himself. They’re handed their cups and shuffle over to the large variety of soda machines. Lance fills his entirely with Sprite, before turning to watch in horror as Keith spritzes a variety of flavors and soda brands into his cup before capping it.

He raises a brow at Lance when he finishes, “What, you’ve never mixed before?”

“Uh, not like that. Usually just half and half on two sodas.” The slightly taller boy crinkles his nose a little bit, “What even is that concoction?”

“I like to call it skittles pop,” the other laughed, moving to pluck a straw from the container and sticking it through the lid after shedding it of its wrapper.

“Skittles pop,” Lance deadpans, scrunching his lips up a bit when Keith offers him the drink.

“C’mon Lance, it won’t bite,” Keith says, smiling coyly. “Or are ya’ scared?”

“You wish!” The brunet huffs back, before grabbing the cup enough to guide it towards himself, leaning forwards to take the straw into his lips and giving it a sharp suck. Fizzy flavor crashes over his tongue, but instead of sickly sweet and gross it’s… light, and still got that kind of candy taste from the variety of flavors. He swallowed and blinks, “Holy shit, it taste like a handful of skittles.”

“Told you so!” Keith smirked, and Lance rolled his eyes. There was a moment of silence when they both looked down to Keith’s cup to find Lance’s fingers overlapping his own, and Lance quickly pulled his hand back and coughed a bit.

“Uh, the movie is gunna start soon,” Lance says, glancing at Keith before he looks off to the side again, staring at a stain on the floor a few yards away. “And I know it’s gunna be pretty popular, so we should get good seats before the hordes of small children take them all.”

Keith laughed, a bit of nervousness tingeing the sound, “Yeah, good point.” Lance grabbed his drink and they headed over to the delivery counter for his mozzarella sticks and the bucket of popcorn, which he hands to Keith in exchange for the tickets. The ticket master tears off the expendable part of their tickets and lets them pass with an obligatory “enjoy the movie”, and they’re walking down the long, heavily decorated carpet to their theater.

“And now, Monsieur, it is with greatest pride and deepest pleasure, that we welcome you tonight!” Lance smirks as he pulls open the door for Keith, whose arms are full of popcorn and soda. The dark-haired male raises a brow at him as he slips past, and Lance follows, continuing his monologue as they wander into the small hallway that leads into the theater, “And now, we invite you to relax, pull up a chair, as AMC proudly presents-” He hopped past him just enough to gesture broadly to the room, which only had a few families in it so far, surprisingly. “Your theater!”

Keith chuckled and hushed him, and then they made their way to the top row by the projector, settling down in the middle and tucking their drinks into the holders on their respective sides. They talked amongst themselves for a bit, commenting on the trailers and what movies they wanted to see. There was a trailer out for the new Star Wars movie, and Lance turned to Keith just as the other did and said in unison, “We have to see that!”. They blinked at each other, surprised, and then Keith snorted, which made Lance grin.

When the movie started, the opening music immediately caught their attention, the narrator silencing all the conversations in the room as she spoke of the ocean and its history. The story flowed like water over rocks as it explained the backstory and how Maui was involved, before softly transitioning to an old woman, who appeared to be the narrator the entire time, telling this story to a group of small island children. Lance could easily pick out little Moana by the flower in her hair, and her happily engrossed look that stood out against the horrified faces of the other children behind her.

The whole movie had him entranced and eating almost subconsciously, and when he’d finished his mozzarella sticks and pouted a bit, he found the half-eaten tub of popcorn plopped in his lap. He turned to look at Keith, who smiled at him before turning back to the movie. His heart fluttered, and he took a long sip of his soda to quell some of the sudden dryness in his mouth. Before long, he was happily stuffing his face with handfuls of popcorn as his eyes were heavily fixed on the screen and its flashing images. Though, he didn’t miss the side glances paired with a smile that Keith threw him from time to time.



“Alright, I’ll admit,” Keith says when the credits are over and the secret end scene is done. He stands and stretches, before picking up the empty popcorn bucket and soda cup. Lance does the same. “That was pretty good.”

“‘Pretty good’?” Lance parrots incredulously. “Dude, it was amazing! The animation was hella and smooth, the colors were pretty and aesthetic and always fit the mood, and the music!” He inhaled into the side of his fist, before letting his hand fan out, eyes closed in pleasure, “Perfection.”

Keith laughs as they make their way down the steps, “True, true.”

Lance’s eyes lit up as he got an idea, dumping his empty mozzarella stick box in the trash nearby, tossing his soda cup in the recycle bin, “Oh my god, I bet it’s on Spotify already! We should totally listen to it on the ride home!”

Keith’s eyebrows piqued in interest, dropping the empty popcorn bucket in the trash as he followed Lance down the narrow hallway to the main theater, “I’m down if it is.”

“Yes!” Lance fistpumped and offered a high five to Keith, who smacked his hand with a smirk. The sound echoed sharply around them with the smarting in his hand. Lance’s grin grew wider, anyways. They chatter more about the movie as they make their way to the front doors, words passing easily between them and whatever awkwardness that had been between them before was gone. When they got into Lance’s car, he plugged his phone in, found a full Moana OST playlist on Spotify, and cranked up the volume after he hit play.

“Alright, what should we listen to first?” Lance asks, scrolling through the songs.

“What was that one where Moana first meets the ocean?” Keith inquires, buckling his seatbelt and leaning over to look at the screen.

“Uh, I wanna say… this one!” The brunet taps a song, and dramatic music starts blasting through the car, causing them both to jump. He quickly pauses it and turns the volume down, “Okay, so not that one.”

Keith holds out his palm, arching a brow in question, “May I?”

Lance blinks at him, before handing him his phone, “Uh, yeah sure, dude.”  He watches Keith take the device delicately in his hands, cradling it in his palm as a finger from the other hand slowly browses through the songs. His brow furrows a bit, lips puckering just enough to create a thoughtful pout, his eyes shadowed from the bright sun by his thick swath of bangs, which contrast perfectly against his pale skin. The light runs its warm fingers over Keith’s hair, and Lance could swear he could see deep, purple and blue highlights in the inky strands.

“Maybe it’s this one,” Keith says, more to himself than to Lance, before he taps a song on the list. A deep hum filled the car, rising and falling like the tide. A soft voice started singing in a gentle way, like the waves rolling over the rocks. Keith smiled softly and handed Lance back his phone, who put it in the phone holder for when he played his music. He smiled back at him, put his car in reverse, and backed out of his parking spot. I Am Moana started playing when they reached the end of the parking lot, and Lance hummed along to it. He saw Keith settle into his seat, leaning on his hand as he watched the scenery go by. When Moana started singing, Lance gently sang along, the words already embedded in his brain.

“I am a girl who loves my island, I’m the girl who loves the sea,” he sang softly, perfectly in tune with the melody, matching Moana’s words note for note like he’d wrote it himself. “It calls me.” He tapped against the steering wheel as the foreign language was hummed in between, before gripping the wheel and spinning it as he turned. “ I am the daughter of the village chief. We are descended from voyagers, who found their way across the world, they call me!”

Keith listened with a soft smile, looking over to watch Lance pseudo-dance to the music as he sang, loving how his voice sounded with the music, even if he really shouldn’t try to reach those ending high notes. Still, hearing Lance sing without inhibition, watching him shimmying his shoulders at red lights and stop signs, was kind of endearing. He felt heat scratch at his neck and the back of his ears, but he ignored it when Lance reached the second chorus of How Far I’ll Go.

He still doesn’t think Lance should try to hit those ridiculous high notes. He’s lucky he likes him.

When they finally reach Keith’s apartment, Keith unbuckles himself but his hand pauses halfway through opening the door. He turns to Lance, grinning, “I had a lot of fun. Shame the others had to miss out on such a good movie.”

“Ugh, I know,” Lance replies with a roll of his eyes. “I’m totally gunna blast the soundtrack around them like, all the time now, just to rub it in.” He smirks, then twists to lean an arm on the back of his seat, “But hey, listen, we should all meet up next week when Hunk and Pidge are free.”

Keith looks surprised, but pleasantly so, “Uh, sure. I mean, I work, obviously, but if I’m free then I’m down.”

Lance’s face lights up and his grin broadens and reaches for his ears, “Awesome! I’ll text you about it later when I talk to Hunk and Pidge.”

Keith nudged the door open the rest of the way, sliding out as he replied, “Cool. Uh, I’m usually free Tuesday and Thursday mornings and afternoons, if that helps with planning at all. Sometimes Sundays.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Lance laughed back.

They both seemed a little reluctant to depart, but after a moment Keith slid all the way out the door with a little “see you later” and shut the door. He gave a half-wave, which Lance returned, before he turned and headed for the apartment doors. Lance sighed softly, watching to make sure Keith stepped into his apartment before he backed out of his parking spot and started the journey home. Somehow, even with the music blasting Moana, it felt a whole lot quieter than before.