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don't give up (on me)

Chapter Text

Beep...beep...beep...

Here’s the thing.

Beep...beep...beep...

Keith’s been through a lot— has seen a lot— while he’s been alive. He’s been tossed from foster home to foster home, state to state, one type of abuse to another. Has gotten emotional whiplash when leaving a cruel family and joining a kind family. He’s lost people, over and over. Has seen adoption papers get tossed after he comes out, has hidden so many parts of himself to stay safe that he isn’t sure what’s real and what’s fake.

Beep...beep...beep...

When he was younger, he thought he was cursed. That anyone who cares about him is destined to leave. He never met his mother, never had to watch her leave him behind with his dad, and walk off into whatever life she decided was better. He had, however, watched the burning building collapsed on his father through a television screen, watched one of his foster parents take her last breath and her husband toss him back in the system before papers could be signed. 

Keith is good at moving on, though. He learned to pack up his emotions and thoughts and heart tightly in a little box tied with a bow. Learned to hide it beneath more important things, nice and snug at the bottom of a mental suitcase.

He hardly ever opens it, and when he does it’s a flurry of claws and shredded leather. 

Beep. Beep.

Because it’s easier if you just don’t deal with it. If you just pretend that everything is fine, go along with whatever people say or ask. If you fake it enough, you almost forget. Almost forget the painful twang in your heart when you stop to take a breath. The suffocating thoughts that crowd inside your brain and force you to think and remember and relive and suffer all over again.

So Keith doesn’t think about it. Keeps himself busy, constantly occupied, so he doesn’t even have time to think about whatever lingering wounds cover his flesh and heart. He burns himself out during the day so he can pass out at night and not think, not get mentally crowded by images and memories and thoughts.

Beep...be--

Thoughts are dangerous. 

Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeep.

---

“So. Who wants to start?”

Keith looks up to examine the group. For the nth time since he lost it, he finds himself missing his hair. Misses his long bangs and having something to hide behind. Shiro sits directly across from him, leaning forward in his chair with his hands clasped in front of him. Other patients sit on chairs in the circle, slouching in their seats and pointedly ignoring the counselor. 

Shiro sighs. “I know losing Allura was hard for everyone—”

Someone on Keith’s right scoffs. “Understatement.”

The counselor sighs. “Talking about it will help. You’re all going through the same thing here— you all lost her. Going through this together will be better than going through it alone.”

He pretends he doesn’t notice how everyone’s eyes slip to him, however brief, at that. Sure, everyone knew Allura. It was impossible not to— she had a presence, she made herself known. She was what brought most of the life to the cancer wing. She would’ve already jumped in to say something, dragging everyone else into a discussion. With her gone, a light seemed to disappear.

But Keith knew her best. He never really considered anyone a friend before Allura. He was drawn into her atmosphere of familiarity and stayed for her companionship. 

She was doing good. She was getting better. She was going to go home.

And then—

Beeeeeeeeeeep.

Allura should’ve gone home.

The room stays silent.

“Keith?” He stiffens at the sound of Shiro’s voice, looking over at him with wide eyes. He’s met with only kindness reflected from brown eyes, understanding and caring. “Could you start?”

“Um.” His arms tighten where they lay across his chest. What was he supposed to say to that? He works his jaw for a moment, trying to think of something that didn’t sound stupid, repeated, cliche. 

He shouldn’t have to say these things out loud. How much Allura deserved, how much she had to look forward to, everything they had all started hoping she’d get. Everything she meant, everything she stood for, everything that made Allura...Allura. One moment she was there, the next she was gone, and a void was left in her place.

Keith’s throat is dry, his voice cracking. “She was supposed to go home.”

---

He stops his chemo a few days later.

If Allura didn’t make it, there is no way he will.

---

They met in a group home.

They didn’t like each other too much. Keith reminded Allura too much of people from her past. Keith doesn’t make it a habit to get along with people who don’t want to get along with him. They pointedly ignored each other, not bothering to put energy into any sort of relationship.

They met again, years later, at the hospital. At Keith’s first group meeting, actually. (Shiro doesn’t like it when he calls it group therapy, because “it’s not,” but it’s totally therapy. Not a meeting. Moving on.) Allura had made it her mission to get him to interact with the others, and Keith stubbornly stayed silent and still. Counted the tiles on the floor, the number of times the boy next to him tapped his pencil against his seat.

Allura was stubborn, too, always turned to Keith and tried to get his input. Sent light-hearted jabs his way to get any sort of reaction. But he kept his eyes ahead, down, and his mouth closed. 

The whole ordeal would’ve been more painful without her, if the last meeting was anything to go off of. 

---

Keith’s life changes direction with the slam of a door against a wall, a rushed and murmured apology, and the ashamed shuffle of feet against the tile. The late student sticks to the back wall, loud clanking emitting from his backpack, stumbling over a few desks. Keith grimaces at the disruptive commotion. The guy ducks his head, pulling his baseball cap low to cover his face.

How does one trying to sneak into class late manage to be that loud? Keith has no clue. But it definitely takes skill.

The entire class turns to look at the late student, who’s currently making his way to an empty desk in the back. Keith looks at Coran through his bangs— yes, he has bangs again and he loves it. The history teacher stands at the whiteboard, watching the commotion with hands on his hips and an eyebrow raised. 

The student finally takes a seat, pulling his hat even lower as he slouches. A few snickers fill the air, and the guy covers his face with his hands.

Coran clears his throat and everyone quiets down. “Mr. McClain?” He prompts. The guy’s fingers part so he can peek out. “Your cap.”

McClain sighs, shoulders slouching, as he removes the cap.

“Thank you.” Coran turns around, resigning the encounter to being over with, and continues his lecture. 

The class, however, does not consider it done with. 

The majority of the students continue to stare, which only makes McClain slouch further in his seat. More accurately, they’re staring at his head. Even more accurately, they stare at his lack of hair. Keith sighs. Of course, they were doing this again. Heaven forbid someone to live outside the social norm.

With a heavy sigh, Keith turns to face the front of the class again. Coran continues to teach, oblivious to the murmurs and judging stares of his students. 

Keith remembers all too well how that feels— being the center of attention when all you want to do is get through the day. Hide behind whatever metaphorical object and keep to yourself. There’s no way McClain is making a fashion statement, he wouldn’t be as self-conscious about it. Wouldn’t be trying to disappear from existence and become one with his desk. Keith knows that feeling, too. 

The bell rings, students instantly hopping from their seats and dumping their books into backpacks, and beginning to chatter loudly. Coran shouts, reminding them of their homework assignments, as they all shuffle out. He lets out a sigh, shaking his head, and turning back to his desk. 

Keith waits for the room to empty before sliding his books into his backpack, his chair squealing as he stands up to leave. Coran glances over at him. “At least you’ll know the homework.”

The corner of Keith’s lips quirks up. “I’m sure you’ll get several emails asking about it.”

He shakes his head, chuckling. He pauses, humming thoughtfully and twirling his mustache. “Perhaps, you could fill Mr. McClain in on the lesson he missed this morning? Lend him your notes for the semester? Chat him up?”

“Oh.” Keith shrugs his backup strap higher up his shoulder, looking over at the student who was putting on his cap and getting ready to leave. Looks back at Coran. “Are you asking me because I’m the only student who cares about this class or…”

Coran smiles softly, eyes crinkling at the corners. “Why else would I ask you?” Then he’s returning to his papers, pen moving fluidly across the page. Keith swallows, looking once again at the McClain kid.

He lets out a sigh, closing his eyes, suppressing a groan. He’ll just ask him if he’d like some notes and maybe a quick tutoring— when had he decided to tutor this guy?— session to get him caught up. And then he’s done. No more interaction with people, Coran is happy, and the guy might not fail the class.

“Can I help you?”

And Keith is standing awkwardly at the kid’s desk, blocking him from the exit. The kid has his blue baseball cap back on, head tilted slightly to the side, a grin on his face. His dark skin is spattered with freckles that remind Keith of stars. His almond eyes are mismatched, one hazel and one blue, examining Keith with curiosity. 

Why’s he have to be so pretty. He groans internally. Bad idea, this was a bad idea

Speak, Kogane.

“Uh.” Eloquent. “Would you like to borrow my notes? From the semester so far. Or I could just fill you in on the part of the lesson you missed—”

“Oh, I’ve been doing all the school work online. So I’m caught up for the semester.”

Keith gapes. “Oh.” Well, that would’ve been good to know.

“A catch-up on today would be nice, though?”

Right! He’d offered that, too. “That— yeah. I could give you my notes, or we could meet up...”

Meet up? You don’t meet up with people.

“Yeah, I should probably get to my next class, but if we could meet up after school, that’d be great.”

“That works for me.”

“Awesome.”

The warning bell rings. McClain points finger guns at the classroom door. “Right, soooo I’m gonna head to class.”

Oh. Keith’s still blocking the exist… “Right.” He shuffles out of the way, allowing the other boy to move past him.

He watches Baseball Cap walk off when he suddenly pauses in his steps. “Oh.” He snaps his fingers, backtracking and pointing at Keith with one of those finger guns. “I’m Lance.”

Keith blinks, flustered. He stutters for a moment. “Keith.”

Lance grins. “Nice to meet you.” 

Then he’s gone, out the door just as the final bell rings. Keith stands there awkwardly for a moment, trying to collect his thoughts. You don’t just— you don’t just throw finger guns at someone and expect him not to gay panic. The next class starts to file in and Keith is pulled out of his extremely gay trance. “Fuck.” He mutters, shoving through the herd and rushing to his next class.

---

Lance is waiting for him by the flagpole after school.

The flag whips and flaps in the wind, and Keith has to squint against the onslaught of the sun to see the other boy properly. He’s leaning against the flag pole, ankles crossed, idly scrolling through his phone.

Keith fiddles with the strap of his backpack, steadying himself as he approaches the other boy. 

Lance looks up as he gets closer, giving him that blinding grin again— and Keith goes only slightly weak in the knees, thank you very much. The darker boy raises a hand in a small wave, pocketing his phone. “Soo,” He says, once Keith’s in front of him. “Were you planning on studying somewhere specific, because I was thinking we could go to the mall?”

He raises an eyebrow. “The mall?”

“Yeah. Study in the food court. Let the food dull the pain of studying.”

Keith’s lips quirk up. “Food court food sucks.”

“Please,” Lance waves him off, “that’s what makes it better.”

The brunette purses his lips. “You’re not wrong.”

Lance nods, “I’m usually not.”

Keith’s brow lowers. “Doubtful.”

The taller boy gasps, offended. “How dare you?”

The brunette can’t help the laugh that escapes his lips, Lance crossing his arms and pouting, not doing very well to mask his own smile. The shorter boy shakes his head, crossing his arms. “Do you want to drive there together, or…?”

“Would it be easier separate? If you drove here, that is. Less time taken up by driving you back here just so you can take your care home.”

“Yeah, I drove,” Keith confirms, nodding. “So...meet you there?”

“Sounds good.” He turns on his heel to leave, waving over his shoulder at Keith with two fingers. “Hasta la later, Keith.”

---

The pair meet up at the food court-- Lance got lost somewhere around Joaan's, but they figured it out after an embarrassing game of Marco Polo.

("We could have gotten kicked out."

"Please, me and my siblings used to do that all the time.")

Lance somehow doesn't mind the strange looks they get from the other patrons as they make their way to the food court, but Keith has the urge to keep his beat-red face down. (Maybe Lance is just used to the stares and knows how to shrug it off. Keith had, at one point.)

The food court is small, the walls lined with franchise mini-stores. The brunette wants to go straight to the Dairy Queen and drown himself in lactose, but Lance is already letting out an excited noise, hands doing some sort of grabbing motion at the air, before grabbing Keith's wrist and dragging him along.

Keith lets himself be pulled along, confusion fogging his brain. He tilts his head. "Uh--"

"Domino's."

"...pizza?"

"Garlic knots."

Keith blinks. "Garlic knots."

"Yes."

Lance drags them both into the pizza place's line, bouncing on the balls of his feet. "Uh, do you like garlic knots? Or pizza? Sorry, I got really excited and didn't think--"

"I like garlic knots. And pizza."

"Cool cool cool."

He resumes bouncing on his feet, anxiously awaiting the line to move forward. Keith rolls his eyes fondly. Because-- it's cute! This boy will be the death of him...

Once they reach the counter, Lance takes the liberty of ordering their food, looking over at Keith to ask what he wants. They end up getting a big helping of garlic knots to share, then make their way to a table that looks cleaner than the others. Lance sits down with a dramatic flair, not missing a beat before digging into his garlic knots. Keith fights the urge to grin and tease him.

After Lance has wolfed down his share (and some of Keith's), they start studying. Well, less studying and more Keith excitedly retelling their history lesson, hands moving through the air as he explains everything in much more detail than Coran had. He catches Lance staring at him with wide eyes and a gaping mouth and suddenly grows self-conscious. "Sorry, uh--"

"No, no, don't worry I just-- you're such a nerd."

Keith pouts.

"No, I mean that in the best way possible. One of my best friends is a huge food and culture nerd, and the other is literally a rocket scientist, so. Nerds are my people."

"Oh." He blinks. "Wait, so cultural food--"

"He gets super excited about it. Oh, once--"

 

They're leaving the mall when Lance suddenly flaps his hands, grabbing and Keith. "Hat store!"

Keith stares at him for a moment. "Hat store."

"Yeah! c'mon, hats are cool, and hat shopping is even cooler!"

"Uh, yeah, sure."

Lance grins as Keith follows him into the store. The inside is adorned with shelves and pedestals, all holding hats. Keith isn't sure what else he was expecting, really. Lance lets go of his wrist and eagerly bounds down an aisle, examining each hat showcased. The brunette tilts his head, still grabbing hold of the situation, before following after him. He suddenly remembers the shame Lance had when he took his cap off in class, and how he hasn't taken it off since they left the school.

He puts his hands in his pockets, trailing after the other boy. "Uh, Lance." The addressed boy hums, raising an eyebrow in prompting and not looking away from the toe-dye hat in his hands. Keith shifts his feet. "Does it...upset you? The fact that chemo gets rid of your hair."

Lance pauses, setting down the tie-dye hat. “I don’t care if I have hair or not." He taps his cap. "Teenagers, on the other hand…” He trails off, frowning.

“Yeah.” Keith nods slightly. “I get that."

“They’re assholes.

He feels the edges of his mouth quirk up. “I think that’s a synonym for teenagers, yeah.”

Lance looks over at him with a blinding grin, eyes crinkling at the edges. “Yeah, so I usually wear hats and stuff, but that was before I returned to school. But it's no big deal since hats are really fun, you know? Forgot the school doesn’t let you be fashionable.” He clicks his tongue and shakes his head. 

A few minutes go by, the taller boy flitting through the store and Keith trailing behind him. A few times, Lance turns and asks for his opinion on a certain headpiece and the brunette gives, in his opinion, extremely helpful advice. 

Lance picks up a bright, rainbow-colored knit hat and twirls it in his hands before putting it on his head and striking a dramatic pose.

Keith blinks. “You look ridiculous.”

Lance grins. “I look amazing, you uneducated fashion gremlin.”

 

Lance only buys one hat-- the rainbow knit one.

He trades it out for his baseball cap as they leave the store, twirling to show it off. Keith laughs at his antics, making the other boy grin wider. They're about to part ways when Lance reaches out to stop him “Would you want to hang out again? Like, not studying. Or shopping for hats.”

Keith blinks. What. “Uh, yeah.” He shifts his feet, smiles. “I’d really like that.”

Lance smiles. "Yeah, me, too."

---

Hanging out with Lance becomes a regular thing.

One moment, Keith is lazing around and trying to think of something to distract himself. Something that'll put the constant, buzzing pain to the back of his mind. Sometimes, Lance messages him at just the right moment. The moments where Keith's just finished everything on his schedule and has nothing to do to dull it. Other times, he messages right when his face crosses the brunette's mind, along with some fluttering thought that makes his insides squirm pleasantly and his lips tug up.

It's comforting, knowing Lance is always there and one message away, even if Keith isn't always the one to initiate.

Thankfully, Lance seems to understand it-- knows that he's always welcome to reach out, even if Keith doesn't reach out to him. Never shies away from sending him cat meme after cat meme, selfie after selfie, message after message. It becomes a constant that he didn't know he needed in his life.

This is why he feels the knot in his stomach loosens the minute his phone dings, the screen illuminating his darkroom. A blue shadow is cast on his surroundings as he rolls onto his side to see the message clearly from where his phone rests on the nightstand.

Lance: r u free tmrw?

Keith: That depends.

Lance: right so

Lance: i have a checkup thing tmrw at the hospital but i hate going alone

Lance: usually hunk goes with me but he has a family thing

Lance: so i was wondering if u'd come?

Keith pauses.

Keith: Chemo checkup?

Lance: well djfha i finished chemo this is just to make sure nothing sneaked its way back in

Keith hesitates. It’s been a long time since he’s been to the hospital, since he’s had to look at the disappointed faces of all the nurses and doctors and patients. He can't help but think about the disappointed and pitying faces he'd see if he went back, especially if it wasn't to start chemo again. He rubs his face with one hand, groaning.

But, then again, he's found it harder and harder to say no to Lance, even on the days he'd rather do nothing other than stay curled up in bed with pain meds.

Keith: Yeah, I'll come with you.

Keith: But if you want a hand to hold when you get scared, find someone else.

Lance: haha very funny mullethead

Keith: :)

Lance: soo seen you at noon?

Lance: tmrw

Keith: Yeah, sounds good.

Lance: awesome :)

Lance: also, how far are you in the owl house?

Keith huffs fondly.

 

"You're freaking out."

"I'm not freaking out."

"Yes, you are."

"I'm outing a perfectly normal amount, thank you very much."

"...that makes no sense."

"Your face makes no sense."

Keith sighs heavily. "Lance. It's going to be fine. They're just drawing your blood-- wait, are you scared of needles?"

Lance looks at him with wide eyes. "Nope."

"Uh, you sure about that?"

"Nope."

Keith blinks, then snorts out a laugh. "Is this why you wanted me to come with you?"

"Maybe I just want to enjoy the pleasure of your company, ever think of that?"

Keith deadpans. "Yes, You invited me along for my charming personality and riveting conversation."

"Hey!" Lance protests. "This is riveting! I'm having an amazing time discussing my nonexistent fear of needles and your amazing personality."

"Uh-huh."

Lance pouts, slouching in his seat. They're in the waiting room, sitting in the back corner, half-concealed by a potted plant. "I just...am so ready to never come here again." He pauses. "And...maybe I don't like needles, too."

"Yeah, I get that. You've spent a lot of time here and not all the memories are fond. I assume."

"Yeah, basically. I just....want to kick cancer in its face and move on with my life already."

Keith opens his mouth to reply, but the door to the hallway opens, revealing a nurse in Garfield scrubs, glasses, and a mop of sandy blonde hair. He looks around the waiting room, then down at his clipboard. Keith subtly slouches in his seat, hoping to avoid Adam's gaze. "Alvarez?"

Lance slowly rises in his seat, leaning forward to peek out from behind the potted plant. "Heyyyyy, Nurse West."

Adam rolls his eyes fondly. "C'mon, kiddo. Hunk with you?"

Lance stands up. "No, I brought Keith this time."

Keith grimaces. Well, no going back now. He stands up after Lance, shoving his hands in his pockets and hiding behind his bangs, like a little kid caught with his hands in the cookie jar. Adam blinks. "Oh, right, Takashi said you would be coming."

The taller boy blinks, turning to look at Keith. "You...know Adam and Shiro?"

"Uh, yeah, Takashi is my brother, so."

"Oh." Another blink. "Nice."

Adam watches the somewhat ordeal with slight confusion, raising an eyebrow at Keith, he simply shrugs, and Adam, bless his soul, doesn't push it. The two boys follow the nurse into the hallway, then to a room for Lance's check-up. Keith sits in the chair in the corner, staring at the ceiling as he spun in it. This part was the same for everyone. Adam through in a couple of other questions specific to Lance's leukemia, then went to get Alfor and...

"Looking for constellations?"

Keith pauses, turning to look at Lance. "What?"

"You've been watching the ceiling for ten minutes."

"Oh. Just. Bored."

"Good to know my health is boring to you."

Keith kicks Lance's foot. "It's not."

A small smile. "Yeah, just joking." He looks away, clearing his throat. "Usually when I zone out I start looking for constellations. You can find them anywhere, you know? Freckles, popcorn ceilings, patterns in the carpet, the grass..." He shrugs. "That was really silly, now that I think about it."

Keith huffs, locking his ankle with Lance's. "It's not..."

Lance smiles. "Thanks. For coming with me and, taking my weirdness in stride."

"You're not weird." Keith insists. "You're just Lance."

 

They're walking to the lab to get Lance's blood drawn when they hear, “Kogane?”

Keith pauses, stiffening. He really doesn’t want to deal with anyone— knows they’ll ask about continuing chemo, doesn’t want to deal with the disappointment on their faces when he shakes his head. When he turns around, however, he thinks he sees an angel. Pidge could never be an angel, not in another life and certainly not in this one, but Keith was expecting much, much worse than them. Pidge grins crookedly, adjusting their glasses. He finds himself letting out a relieved sigh, posture relaxing. “Pidge.”

Pidge comes barreling at him, wrapping their stubby arms around him. "Hey, loser."

"Hey, nerd." Keith says, engulfing Pidge in a hug.

Pidge suddenly pulls away, punching Keith in the arm. "Asshole!"

The brunette's gaze narrows as he rubs his sore arm. "Of course this is how you greet me after months."

"I said hi."

"And called me a loser."

"It's a term of endearment."

"You two know each other?" Lance interrupts the friend's banter. They both turn to look at him, eyes wide like deer in headlights.

"Yeah, Keith's my best friend."

He frowns. "I thought I was your best friend."

Pidge blinks. "You're like, a brother friend. Keith is a best friend. He's my Hunk."

"...acceptable."

Pidge snickers as Keith rolls his eyes fondly. "We met each other while Keith was still doing chemo."

Keith feels his entire body stiffen and go tense. He knew not telling Lance sooner or just...coming to the hospital with him at all was a terrible idea. Keith isn't exactly sure why he hadn't told Lance-- it never really came up, and it's definitely too late to fill him in now. And...he's not exactly proud of running away after Allura died.

Lance is staring at him, face completely expressionless. “I...didn’t know you had cancer.”

“Have," Keith says quietly. "I...have cancer.”

“...oh.”

Pidge looks between the two of them. "Lance...didn't know?"

Keith sets his jaw. "It...never really came up."

"The topic of cancer never came up," Lance says drily.

"No, the" Keith looks away from the other boy, squirming under his scrutinizing gaze. "...the topic of me having cancer never came up."

Lance blinks. "Right. I'm gonna get to the lab, you can stay here so you can catch up with Pidge."

"I can catch up with them later--"

"It's fine." He smiles thinly. "Don't worry about it."

"Oh..." Keith says, frowning. "Alright."

Lance sends fingers guns to Pidge and then turns around, continuing his walk down the hall. Pidge lets out a low whistle. "You, Kogane, are in deep shit."

 

Lance is silent when he returns from the lab a few moments later, sending a wave to Pidge and heading straight for the exit. Keith hurries to catch up to him, swerving out of the way of other people and running as fast as his legs will let him.

When Lance speaks, it's small and quiet. "Why didn't you tell me about your cancer."

Keith is silent for a moment, gathering his thoughts. "I...I guess I just want to pretend it's gone."

"...but it's not."

"...I know."

Lance sighs, rubbing his face with his hands. "Let's just...can you drop me off at home? I need to think."

"Yeah..." Keith nods. "Yeah, of course."

 

He doesn't hear from Lance until the end of the week.

It's actually...right when Keith guessed he'd call. Three days after the blood test. Keith lets out a heavy sigh as he answers the phone. "Hello?"

"Can we meet up?"

Keith doesn't even hesitate on agreeing, Lance hanging up soon after giving him a location. The brunette shoves his phone into his pocket, grabbing his hoodie, and heading out the door.  

 

Lance is waiting for him in the parking lot of the diner, leaning against his baby blue pickup truck. He looks up as Keith approaches on his motorcycle, 

"I just...I have questions."

"Okay."

"What kind...?"

"Leukemia," He mutters, "same as you."

"I don't...is this why you hung out with me? And helped me study? Because you felt bad for me or something."

"Of course not."

He laughs, bitter. "Are you sure?"

Keith frowns. “I don’t know what you want me to say.”

“It’s not what I want you to say, Keith,” Lance says drily. “It's what I want you to stop saying. Or, or acting like.”

He remains silent. Lance makes a strangled sound, throwing his hands up in the air.

“A diagnosis isn't an automatic death warrant. You...you don't have to just...give up.”

Keith snorts. “If that was true, people wouldn't be pumping our bodies full of poison and hoping it kills the cancer before it kills us. There wouldn't be whole ass organizations designated to making patients' wishes come true. And there wouldn't be millions of fundraisers and marathons and pity. There'd actually be a cure and every time someone says you have cancer it wouldn't be earth-shattering. It wouldn't make you think about everything you're going to miss. But that's not how it is.

"I don't know what fantasy world you're living in, Lance, but it seems much nicer than reality."

Lance stays silent for a moment, gaping at Keith. Then his gaze narrows, fingers tightening into fists at his side. His face contorts into something twisted and full of rage. "It came back, Keith."

Keith freezes. "What."

"My cancer?" Lance says, eyes brimming with tears. The brunette just stares in shock, jaw going slack. Lance's fist clenches tighter, knuckles going white. "It came back."

"I..."

"So I'm sorry if I'd rather not think about the fact that it might not go away this time. I...I was so ready to move on." The tears in his eyes start to fall. "Do you know how much of my life I've put on hold for fucking cancer? How many things I've missed out on? Oh, wait, you do, because you have cancer? And, news flash, Keith, not all of us are fucking cowards--"

"Shut up."

"--who back out of the only chance at being healthy because their girlfriend died--"

Keith's fists clench at his sides. "Shut up."

"--because not all of us can afford to just give up. We don't...not all of us can only think of ourselves--"

"Lance, shut up."

Lance's gaze narrows as he snarls. "Fuck you, Keith. Just...fuck you."

He leaves, and Keith is left there in a sea of cars and people, and the beginning drops of rain.