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Costumed Identities

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The school lunch room echoes with the voices of a hundred students laughing and chatting away. Lance, Hunk and Pidge sit in a quiet corner with their trays of food in front of food of them. Pidge and Hunk eagerly devour their lunches, whilst Lance’s sits forgotten. He flicks through his facebook and tumblr, smiling fondly at all the photos of him and Red from the weekend. He saves a couple to his phone for… reasons. He has to admit that they do look together. He knows he can’t hope for anything more than friendship, but he can’t deny that he enjoys her company immensely.

“Stop smiling like that. You look drunk.” Pidge states from the other side of the table. Lance locks his phone.

“Alright, alright, I just…” Lance catches a glance of something out the corner of his eye. Long dark hair and navy eyes looking unsure. Keith walks with his tray of food and Lance can see the empty table he’s making a bee line for. Lance can’t have that.

“Keith!” He shouts. The boy turns with wide eyes. Lance stands and waves above the crowd. His height makes him clearly visible. Keith balks. He turns to look behind himself, as if Lance has to be waving to someone else. But there’s no one there.

“Keith!” He yells again.

Oh jeez. Don’t fuck this up. Don’t fuck this up.

Keith shuffles over to where Lance sits. The taller boy slides over on the bench.

 

“Come sit with us,” He welcomes.

“Um… thanks.” Dammit. He’s already messed up. Keith knows that his tone was far too clipped and rude. He places his tray down and tries to smile at Lance. Lance smiles back, so Keith thinks he may have saved this social interaction.

“Did you have a good weekend?” Lance asks. Keith hums.

“Busy though.”

“Busy good or busy bad?” Lance smirks.

“Busy good.” And Keith tries not to sigh too wistfully. He’s looked over those photos of him and Tay at least a dozen times now. But his heart has barely had time to recover, because now Lance is smiling at him and their knees are touching under the table when Keith sits. Tay is exciting and new and an actual possibility, but Lance is…. Oh god Lance. Lance is childhood crushes and doodling hearts in the margins of notebooks. He’s the boy Keith has stared at in the halls since before he had even come to grips with the fact he may not be straight. Keith remembers the day he realized how tall Lance had gotten, and how clear his skin had become. How nice Lance’s long legs had looked in jeans the few times the school had let them out of their uniforms.

 

“Oh Keith, this is Hunk and Pidge. You probably know Hunk already though,” Lance sheepishly corrects himself.

“Hunk, Pidge, this is Keith. I said he could hang with us.”

Hunk smiles in his friendly way. Pidge smirks.

“I dunno man, we are pretty elite. How are you gonna prove your coolness to us?” She leans forward.

“Yeah, only the most badass kids get to sit here.” Hunk waggles his eyebrows.

“You have mustard on your face.” Keith deadpans. He takes a polite bite of his rice as Hunk scrambles for a napkin. Lance howls with laughter.

 

They talk about upcoming assignments and how much they hate some new fashion trend. Keith gets both very surprised, but also mildly turned on when Lance goes on a rant about the deconstructed trend and how people invented French seams for a reason. Keith sits back and just enjoys hearing them chat when Pidge mentions some online game she’s been playing, and Keith enthusiastically spouts everything he knows and what class he plays. Lance leans his head on his hands and smiles contentedly at the display. Keith seems to have fit in quite well, and Pidge is having a great time telling him why his faction is bullshit. Hunk locks eyes with Lance and sends him an approving nod. Lance beams back. He’s too lost in watching Keith that he barely notices the bell ring.

“Aw man…” Pidge groans. “I don’t wanna go to English. I don’t give a shit about what dead, white guy has to say about what true love is, or capitalism or some other bullshit.”

“Channel your rage into your essay. Teacher’s love that.” Lance smirks.

“Oh I will. I’ll tell everyone exactly how I feel.” Pidge huffs. Lance begins to reach for his tray when there’s a tentative cough next to him.

 

“Lance?” Keith asks shyly. Lance stops and smiles warmly at him.

“Yeah?”

“I was thinking…. If you’re not busy…”

Lance holds his breath.

“You could come over to my place today. We could start building our bridge?”

Keith’s voice squeaks a little at the end. He prays that Lance doesn’t notice.

“Oh yeah, sure. I’m free.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. Just meet me outside of the lockers after school. Do you want me to drive us to the hardware store?” Lance stands and tosses away the rubbish left on his lunch tray.

“That’d be … really helpful. You don’t mind?”

“Nah.” Lance shrugs and smiles. Keith decides that his final classes cannot go fast enough.

 

 

Keith once again finds himself in the front seat of Lance’s beat up Corolla with butterflies in his stomach. Lance has softened around him. He’s noticed it. He laughs more freely and his neutral expression is kind and open, and not the guarded and borderline hostile attitude he once had towards Keith. He asks if he can listen to some music from his phone. Keith lets him.

 

He regrets it immediately.

 

“Oh dear god, what is this?” Keith groans as his ears are assaulted. There’s some carribbean drums, heavy bass, and air horns.

“This is my hype music!” Lance loudly exclaims. He drums on his steering wheel.

“Nicki Minaj always gets me pumped after a lame day at school. C’mon! Don’t you feel better?” Lance bounces in his seat. He shimmies his shoulder to the chorus and whoops with the high synth notes. The song is terrible, but watching Lance get so into it definitely charms Keith.

“I guess I do.”

 

They arrive at the hardware store and navigate the aisles expertly. Lance seems to know exactly where all the wire and balsa wood is kept, while Keith seems particularly knowledgeable about what kind of epoxy glue they will need. They get to the check outs and Lance proudly waves his gold VIP membership card. Keith chuckles and pulls out his platinum one (ok, he might share an account with Shiro). Lance balks. Did Keith build neighbourhood treehouses in his free time? What the hell?

 

 

Keith’s house is neat and silent. There are cabinets filled with ornate china, and chubby faced, baby Keith portraits line the hallway.

“Please ignore those.” Keith sighs.

“No way. Oh man… so you always had terrible hair?” Lance sniggers. Keith looks affronted.

“I’m kidding, I’m kidding.” Lance laughs. He dumps his backpack in Keith’s bedroom. It’s neater than his, but no less shameful. Pop-punk posters are stuck to his walls, and there’s a huge set of gaming headphones and microphone attached to his computer. Lance sniggers at the expensive hair curler and straightener on the dresser. Oh so the hair was a sensitive topic.

 

They move out into the garage, which is remarkably organized. The work bench is free of discarded tools and crunchy paint brushes. Lance wishes he could say the same for his work space. Keith hands him a coping saw.

“You know how to use this?” He asks. Not patronizingly, but he just wants to make sure Lance doesn’t hurt himself. Lance tries not to burst out laughing.

“Yes. Yes I do.” He manages to control his sniggers.

 

Keith starts to measure out the lengths of wire and mold the plaster that they’ll use as the anchorages, when he looks over to see that Lance has almost finished cutting down the wood. His forearms tense and expertly maneuver the coping saw with ease. He breaks through the plank in no time.

“Holy shit.” Keith breathes. Lance looks up. He sheepishly rubs the back of his neck.

“I uh… I do a lot of DIY?” He tries. Keith seems to accept it with quiet awe. What the hell did Lance do? He had siblings… maybe they had built the greatest swing set in the neighbourhood? Keith didn’t get a chance to look in the backyard, but if the bikes in the front yard were any indicator, they definitely seemed like the kind of family that liked to hang outside together.

“Wow… clearly.” Keith puts the anchorages in the sun to dry.

“Looks like I definitely got the best partner for this project then.” He smiles.

“I’m the best partner for all kinds of things.” Lance smirks. He has to make a joke. He has to laugh it off, because Keith just actually complimented him and his brain can’t comprehend it.

 

They start to paint all the pieces because Keith insists that “presentation is everything”, and Lance is impressed by the amount of paint and primers hidden in his garage. There’s almost a full colour spectrum, and a huge range of metallics that Lance thinks could rival his own. Well this would definitely explain Keith’s platinum card.

 

They both paint the pieces, sitting around a pile of newspapers to put the finished bits of wood on to dry. Lance spends a particularly long amount of time on the plank of wood that will be the road and bottom of the bridge.

“What are doing over there?” Keith asks.

“Adding wear and texture.” Lance scowls at his hard work. Keith blusters and laughs.

“What?! Dude, why?”

“Hey do you want this done right, or not?” Lance snaps. Keith looks over at his road and he has to admit that Lance’s skill with paint greatly surprises him. Lance is…an artist?

“…I guess it looks nice.” He concedes.

“Mmmmhmmmm.” Lance knowingly smiles.

 

“Hey, Keith, I was wondering if you wanted….” The boys jump as Shiro barges into the garage. He’s still got his school bag hanging from his shoulder, and university papers spill out of it. He’s clearly just come from class. He halts when he sees the two boys in the center of the garage. He has to do a double take, because Keith never brings friends over. Shiro knows he doesn’t get along well with others. But here he is with some cute, tan boy, sitting… Oh. Shiro recognizes Lance instantly, or Tay as Keith refers to him. Shiro leans on the door frame and his smile spreads wide over his teeth.

“Am I interrupting something?” He smirks.

“Shiro??” Lance gasps. This was the last place he had expected to see his idol. Keith’s gaze snaps to Lance when he utters his friend’s name.

“Wait, how do you know Shiro?” Keith’s asks. Shiro’s eyebrows shoot up into his hairline.

What does he mean how does Tay know me?

“Oh…” Lance flushes. “Uh… I’ve just run into him a couple of times at events you know? Just big things around town… I’m friends with Pidge, Pidge is Matt’s sister, Matt and Shiro are friends…” He stammers. He feels like he’s covered his tracks well enough.

Events? What? Shiro’s nose scrunches.

“How do you know, Shiro?” Lance turns the conversation around. Shiro starts to think that there is something very wrong. Tay knows that Keith and him have cosplayed together, right?

“Oh… we’re childhood friends.” Keith scratches the side of his chin. “He’s who I was talking about when I said that my friends are older…so…”

“Oh yeah!” Lance remembers. “Small world.” He shrugs.

Shiro stands in the doorway absolutely dumbfounded.

“Lance and I go to school together. He’s the one I said I was doing this physics assignment with?” Keith explains to Shiro. Physics assignment… Shiro’s brain ticks over. Ok, that definitely rings a bell. More than a bell. He vividly remembers that conversation with Keith. Something along the lines of “LORD HELP ME I GOT MY CRUSH’S PHONE NUMBER! AND ALL IT TOOK WAS A COMPULSORY BUILDING OF A BRIDGE” Keith had kicked down his door practically shouting. What Shiro does not remember though, is Keith ever stating “Hey, I go to school with Tay. Weird, right?”.

 

Shiro blinks dumbly and steps forward.

“You guys go to school together?” He asks. His voice is even. His eyes narrow with thought. Both boys nod.

“That’s how you know each other? Just through school?”

Keith and Lance glance nervously at each other. Shiro is being very weird, and he looms like he expects another answer.

“Yeesssss?” They unanimously reply.

“Huh.” Is he crazy…. could Lance could be someone different? No, no… He knows this kid.

“Sorry, I gotta head off.”

“What? Shiro, what the hell…?” Keith stammers.

“Something came up!” Shiro jogs out of the garage and down to his car. He hops in the front seat, closes the door, and makes sure he’s out of earshot. He pulls out his phone and hits his most recent contact.

 

“Hey, buddy. Forget something?” Matt’s voice is cheery.

“No, no. Weird request, can I talk to you sister?” There’s a slight urgency to Shiro’s tone.

“What? Katie?”

“Yeah, yeah. I just have something to ask her.”

Matt hums on the other end of the receiver.

“I dunnnooooo, sounds fishy. Urgently needing to talk to another girl? Do I need to tell Allura on you?” Matt teases. Shiro laughs.

“C’mon man, it’s just about her friend…Lance?”

“Oh Lance?” Matt’s voice drops and he murmurs mostly to himself. “Oh god, what’s he done now?”

“Alright, let me get her.” Matt turns away from the receiver and Shiro can hear his loud voice shout out “Katie!”. There’s some murmuring before Pidge’s voice comes through.

“What’s he done?” She sighs.

“Nothing, nothing.” Shiro laughs. “I’m just…” He sighs. “Ok, so I’m at Keith’s place right now and Lance is here. Working on some project?”

“Yeeeesss~” Shiro can hear the smile erupt on Pidge’s face.

“So… I have to ask this because I’m starting to feel like I’m crazy! But…”

“Go oooonnnn~” Pidge sings. Shiro breathes.

“Tay and Lance are the same person right?? RIGHT? Like…. They have to be?!” Shiro’s voice gets very high and borderline hysterical. Pidge just loses it. Her laughter is so loud that Shiro has to pull the receiver away.

“Yes! YES! Oh my god yes. They’re the same person. Lance is Tay, Tay is Lance.”

“DOES KEITH NOT KNOW THAT?!”

“NO!” Pidge is in hysterics. Finally, finally, she can have another person to laugh about this with. She’s found herself walking out of the lunch room murmuring “They’re dumb. They’re so fucking dumb” under her breath far too frequently.

“DOES LANCE KNOW THAT RED IS KEITH??!!”

“NO!! HE’S SO FUCKING DUMB!” Pidge is weezing.

“HOLY SHIT!” Shiro barks out laughter. Oh god, he can’t believe these two. Honestly he feels like he has to give Lance a bit of credit. Keith is amazingly convincing as a girl, and he will look quite different with his lashes and wigs and… boobs. Shiro can kind of understand that. But oh god, Lance? Lance is often just Lance in a wig! Sure he’d use some makeup tricks too, and if you were casual acquaintances you might not recognize him, but Keith had been staring at this boy in class for months! Shiro knows that Keith’s observation skills are sometimes lacking but…

“Oh god, Keith.” He shakes his head and laughs. His childhood friend is an idiot.

“I know… I know…” Pidge gasps.

“Like… Are they good friends? Do they get along?” Shiro asks. He needs as much context as possible.

“To be honest, Lance really hated him until recently.”

“Oh no, really?”

“Yeah, because Keith would always just barely talk to him. Like he’d be all weird and kind of snap at him, or give him one word replies to things.” Pidge explains.

“Oh no…. no Keith, my buddy…” Shiro rubs his eyes. His poor, poor socially inept friend.

“Keith likes him. That’s what happens. He panics, so he comes across as really rude.” Shiro explains. Pidge whoops with laughter.

“Are you kidding me?! Holy shit, Keith.”

“Oh god, he’s so terrible. And please don’t tell that to anyone.” Shiro begs.

“No way man. I am keeping this information all mine.” Pidge sighs. Shiro imagines her wiping away tears.

“But they get along a lot better now. Like Lance invited Keith to sit with us at lunch and stuff.”

“Awww, that’s really sweet.” Shiro pauses. “They’re fucking dumb, Pidge.”

“So dumb!”

Shiro shakes his head again. What on earth is he going to do with these two?

“Soooooo….” Pidge drawls. “Are you going to tell them?”

Shiro ponders this. He hums loudly.

“Well,” He starts. “As Keith’s friend I really should.” He pauses. “BUT!” and he finds it hard to contain his laughter. “As someone who finds his friend’s stupidity immensely entertaining… I don’t think I will.”

“Atta boy.” Pidge praises. “Please join my club.”

“I claim best man at the wedding.” Shiro states.

“You’ll have to fight Hunk for that.” Pidge laughs.

 

 

Lance is just placing down his last painted piece when his phone vibrates. He pulls it out and sees that it’s a text from his mother. Something about his sister’s piano recital and he better not “miss it and bring shame onto the family”. Shit. Lance had forgotten all about that. Keith’s invitation was too appealing that he had just jumped into it.

“Oh man,” He sighs.

“You gotta go?” Keith asks.

“Yeah. Sorry. I totally spaced on a thing I have to do.” Lance guiltily stands and makes his way back through the house to grab his bag. Keith follows him.

“It’s ok. We made good progress today.”

“We’ll meet up again soon, I promise.” Lance hurriedly grabs his bag and moves past Keith. He’s a little breathless.

“This is probably the first assignment that I won’t be cramming at the last minute.” He laughs. Keith smiles and holds the door open for him. Lance rushes past and out to his car with a guilty wave. Keith stares long after his car has sped away. He leans against the door frame. He pulls out his phone to check the time, but hesitates when he sees all the notifications he has from tumblr. They’re all likes and reblogs of his recent photos with Tay. He flicks through a couple and finds himself smiling at the photos. Tay’s hand had felt so warm on his waist. And his breath was sweet against his skin.

 

He’d never have Lance. He knew it in his gut. Lance was very likely straight, and had only recently started to find Keith tolerable. But Tay was… fun, and talented, and he put Keith at ease. Keith knew he liked guys at least, and he didn’t resist getting close to him. Maybe…

 

Keith whips out his messenger and clicks on Tay’s username. He types out the message with hurried, desperate, fingers.

 

Red-Lioness-Cosplay: Hey, I’m planning a really casual cosplay in a couple of weeks. Not competing or anything, but I wondered if you might want to join me again? If you’re not sick of me.

 

Keith lets out the breath he was holding. He thrusts his hands into the air.

“I did it! Iiiiiii did it!” He yells.

 

 

Lance is sitting in a dark auditorium when the message comes in. Some kid is murdering chopsticks and he is thankful for the distraction. His eyes light up when he reads it. He types, deletes, and re-types his message several times, trying to give it the appropriate level of enthusiasm.

 

TheTailorCosplays: Yeah! That’s be great! Did you have anything in mind?

 

Lance smiles when he sees the ellipses pop up, showing that Red is typing a reply.

 

Red-Lioness-Cosplay: I was actually hoping to do a One Punch Man group? Shiro’s had Genos planned for a while, and I want to do Sonic.

 

Lance raises his eyebrows at that. Sonic? That would be interesting to see. Lance isn’t sure how Red will strap down her chest.

 

TheTailorCosplays: Sonic? That’s a bit different for you. Think you can pull off being a guy?

 

Red-Lioness-Cosplay: Ha ha. Very funny. So are you in or not?

 

TheTailorCosplays: Yeah totally! And I have faith in you. I’m sure you’ll do great. I’ve actually really wanted to do Mumen Rider for a long time. I was saving him for a quick and easy con.

 

Red-Lioness-Cosplay: Oh I love Mumen Rider! That’d be great!

 

TheTailorCosplays: Do you think it’d be ok if I brought a friend? She was the one cosplaying Midna with me the other weekend? I think she wanted to be Tatsumaki?? The green haired tornado chick?

 

Red-Lioness-Cosplay: Oh yeah! She’d be really great as that! That’s fine if she wants to join.

 

TheTailorCosplays: Cool, I’ll let her know it’s on. Oh yeah! BTW! Is Allura coming? Oh man, she always pulls out the greatest stuff.

 

Red-Lioness-Cosplays: I dunno.

 

TheTailorCosplays: Oh man I hope she does. God man, she is honestly so pretty. Her and Shiro would make crazy beautiful babies together. Honestly, how does she exist?

 

Red-Lioness-Cosplays: I dunno.

 

Lance stares at the terse message. Like obviously Allura was off limits, with dating Shiro and all, but surely Red would agree she was pretty? He kind of hoped the two of them might be able to bond over how attractive they found her. The way girls giggle about what guys they think are cute, he had hoped he might be able to have a similar relationship with Red. Why was Red annoyed at him?

 

He scrunches his eyebrows when a thought occurs. Ohhh…. Maybe people compared Red and Allura all the time? Maybe Red was jealous of all the attention Allura got? They were both top-tier female cosplayers, but Allura had been asked to judge competitions and had even been approached by games developers to cosplay characters from upcoming games. Red hadn’t quite achieved that status yet. Maybe Allura was the girl to beat?

 

TheTailorCosplays: Of course you’re still the prettiest! Like I honestly really think you’re so amazing at what you do, and I think in a year or two you’ll definitely overtake Allura.

 

Red-Lioness-Cosplay: Alright, alright, you’re just saying that.

 

TheTailorCosplays: No! No way. Trust me, I’m a terrible liar. But I am a purveyor of beautiful things. And you’re definitely something gorgeous.

 

 

Keith stares down at his phone. His hands shake.

“HOW?!” He reads the message a dozen more times.

“HOW ARE YOU REAL?!” His face is bright red.

 

 

They message each other regularly after that. Lance gets in the terrible habit of going to bed too late because he’s too involved in a conversation with Red. They talk about cosplay a lot, of course, but also music and movies and tv shows they like. Red talks about how she likes Sailor Moon too much, and Lance admits that he’s never seen an episode. Lance talks about his undying love for Ouran High School Host Club, but he doesn’t feel like he’ll ever be the right level of flawlessly beautiful to cosplay Tamaki. Red tells him to shut the fuck up and go for it.

 

TheTailorCosplays: So why did you start cosplaying anyway? Shiro just drag you into it?

 

Keith smiles down at the message. He’s eating breakfast, but his cereal lies forgotten.

 

Red-Lioness-Cosplay: A little bit. I’ll admit. But I think I really liked the idea of being someone else for a day. Like I know I rub people the wrong way. I’m not the easiest to get along with. So it’s nice to pretend to be someone that is better at all that stuff?

 

TheTailorCosplays: Aw no man, I think you’re really easy to talk to :)

 

Red-Lioness-Cosplay: Well thanks. But yeah it’s just kind of… an escape for me? I guess? Sorry this got very dramatic. What about you?

 

TheTailorCosplays: I just like looking good.

 

Red-Lioness-Cosplay: OH MY GOD. I OPEN UP TO YOU…

 

TheTailorCosplays: Alright, alright. So I have a pretty big family, and it’s kind of hard to get noticed? Like my brother is really athletic, my older sister is really academic, my younger sister is this really amazing musician, and I’m just… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

 

But then I started cosplaying and that became the one thing I had that was really mine. Like no one could sew better than me, my sisters are all terrible at makeup, and my brother has the charisma of a wet napkin. So it became this thing that I really clinged to?

 

Keith holds his phone close. He knows Tay is telling him something very special.

 

TheTailorCosplays: but now it’s cool, because my family seems to acknowledge it. Go to big bro for advice on how to climb a rock wall, go to big sis to check your English homework, go to little sis if you can’t remember that song that just got really popular, and go to Tay for prom makeup and a custom dress, haha.

 

Red-Lioness-Cosplay: I guess that sounds nice. But I bet you’re great at lots of things.

 

TheTailorCosplays: eh, not really. But oh yeah! Wanna see a progress photo??

(image attached)

 

Keith looks down at the image. It’s a picture of Mumen Rider’s chest plate, half painted, but he knows how Tay finishes things. It’ll definitely turn into something impressive. He can also make out knee pads, shin guards and wrist guards in the background.

 

Red-Lioness-Cosplay: Oh man, it all looks great. I’m really excited to see you pull all this off. Here’s mine so far

(image attached)

 

Keith sends a photo of his styled wig sitting on his wig head, as well as the leather body suit with some of the silver plating attached to it. It’s a more simple cosplay for him, but he’s still proud of what he’s achieved.

 

TheTailorCosplays: Oh shit it looks awesome! Man I am pumped for this weekend!

 

 

Lance and Keith sit at their lunch table, barely looking up from their phones to acknowledge Pidge or Hunk’s presence. They both type away with stupid grins on their face. Lance laughs at something and Keith leans over.

“Who are you talking to?” He teases.

“No one!” Lance snaps. He pulls his phone close to his chest.

“What about you? You look pretty happy over there.” His eyes narrow suspiciously. Keith chokes a little bit.

“Uh…uh…Shiro just sent me a funny video.” He blatantly lies. They both go back to their phones and their stupid grins.

 

“Ok.” Hunk places his hands down on the table. His eyes flick between Lance and Keith. Their body language unknowingly mirrors each other.

“I gotta test a theory.” He stands and Pidge watches as Hunk moves around the table and stands behind Lance and Keith. He tries to look at their phone screens as slyly as he can. His eyes widen and he throws his hands into the air, as if daring lightning to strike him where he stands. He grapples for his own phone and hastily sends a message to Pidge. She curiously opens it.

 

Hunk: THEY ARE LITERALLY MESSAGING EACH OTHER AND THEY DON’T KNOW IT!!!!

 

Pidge looks up to see Hunk dramatically gesturing to Lance and Keith. He points at Keith, then at Lance, then hits his head with both hands. His silent pantomime message is clear.

Lance… Keith… So Stupid.

Pidge bites her tongue so she doesn’t burst out laughing. She cannot believe these two.

 

Pidge: I AM PISSING.

 

Hunk aggressively nods. He comes back around the table and sighs as he sits.

“So Lance!” Pidge breaks Lance away from his phone. “How is your guys physics assignment coming along?”

Lance and Keith both exchange glances.

“Yeah, pretty good. We’ve just got to glue it all together.” Lance sighs. “We should probably organize a time to do that.” He looks at Keith. Keith nods.

“I can’t do this weekend…”
“No, no me neither.” Lance thinks. “Monday?”

“My place?” Keith offers. It’s dumb, but saying it like that makes it sound like it’s a date. He can dream. Lance beams.

“Sounds great.”

 

 

Con day. Con day and Lance is vibrating in the car. Hunk drives next to him, and Pidge is once again in the back seat. Lance is already hot from all of his black clothing, chest plate, and helmet, but he couldn’t care less. He’s officially cosplaying with Red. Like she asked him and everything. His eyes are wide behind his dark goggles.

“Jesus, calm down.” Pidge leans forward. It’s weird to see her looking so feminine. Her green wig curls around her cheeks and her false eyelashes make her look even younger, but she still wears her glasses over everything. She promises to take them off for photos.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m just…” Lance clenches his hands into fists. “I’m just really excited! I bet Red’s going to look amazing. Like crossplaying is really tricky, so I wanna know what kind of magic she’s going to use to look like a guy? And technically we’re cosplaying with Shiro too! Which is like… life goals!!” Lance pumps his hands into the air. Hunk pulls them into a parking space and he’s barely shut off the engine before Lance is leaping out and running for the center entrance.

“Jesus, look at that boy fly.” Hunk shakes his head. Pidge and him exit the car and attempt to catch up. Lance pauses in the foyer, eyes keenly waiting for a Sonic or Genos to appear. Pidge stops at his side, slightly winded.

“Oh my god, I cannot run in this dress. Do NOT do that again!” She warns. Usually Lance would be afraid of her temper, but he’s too busy scanning the crowd.

“Alright, I’ll see you guys later,” Hunk calls. This get’s Lance’s attention.

“What?! No man, you keep doing this. Where are you going?” Lance demands. Hunk shrugs.

“It’s a fiberglass workshop. I’ve got a project in the works.” He smiles.

“A project…?”

“Anyway I’m late! Gotta go!” Hunk scuttles through the foyer and into the throng of people heading into the various panels. Lance scoffs.

“Do you know anything about that?” He asks Pidge. She just smiles up at him.

“Who, me? No, no not a thing.”

Lance scowls.

“You little shit. What are you two…?”

“Tay?” A voice asks behind him. Lance beams and whips around.

 

“Red! You… Hooooooooooly fuck…” Lance has to pick his jaw off of the floor. Any doubts he had of Red not being able to pull off a boy are immediately wiped out. They’re slaughtered. A typhoon of pleather has murdered them.

“Y…You uh…Holy shit.” Because what else can Lance say? Red’s jaw is surprisingly strong, and her cheekbones look so handsome against her dark hair and sparkling eyes. And her body… oh god her body. Lance will have to quiz her about what deity narrowed her hips, and gave her such a broad chest. Where… where did her boobs go? Lance tries to look for any kind of folds or bulging visible underneath her skin tight body suit, but he finds none. She’s a wizard. He concludes.

“You look… so fantastic.” Lance settles on.

“Aw, really?” Red plays a little with her wig. “You don’t miss the lashes and tits?”

Lance laughs.

“I’m just… wow.” He shakes his head. “You make a very handsome Sonic.”

Red bites her lip shyly.

“Thank… Thank you. I never get called handsome.” She laughs. “But you look great! This is really nice.” She touches Lance’s chest plate, and Lance swears that it would be flirtatious, if he didn’t already know that Red wasn’t into him.

“Aw, nah. I made this in one afternoon.” He brushes off.

“Well you are the armour expert.” Red smiles. Lance is too busy staring at her to notice the large figure that approaches, as well as a throng of photographers.

 

“Oh hey Tay!” Shiro happily greets them. “Wow, you look awesome! I’d totally believe you could save the world on a bike.” He laughs.

“Oh hey, Shi….” Lance turns to see what Shiro has transformed himself into. His arms are covered in metal and whirring gears, and his chest and arms light up in a way that really suggests he is some kind of android. His custom sclera lenses and blonde hair also suit his face way too well. Lance takes a deep breath.

“Shiro,” He places his hands on Shiro’s chest. “I’m gonna need you… to calm the fuck down.”

Shiro laughs. He places a metal hand on Lance’s helmet, like he wants to ruffle his hair.

“I’ve been wanting to do Genos for a while. I probably went overboard.” He shrugs. Lance turns to Red.

Simple Cosplay you said. Not competition level.” He taunts. “What the fuck is all this?” He gestures to Shiro’s glowing torso. Red laughs.

“I cannot tame Shiro. He always goes all out.”

“I can’t compete with this!” Lance squeaks.

“Sure you can. Genos is just a crazy character. You look very convincing.” Red smiles and slides Lance’s goggles further up his nose.

“Yeah?”

“Mmmhmm.”

 

Pidge rolls her eyes.

“Hey, if anyone is underdressed, it’s me. I’m literally just in a dress with a slit.” She crosses her hands over her chest.

 

Keith turns to look at the Tatsumaki cosplayer. She’s as small as he remembers, and it’s interesting to see her not covered in body paint. The glasses she wears on her nose make Keith smile, because they are too big for her face and are probably dated by several decades. They remind him a lot of… wait.

“Oh!” Tay exclaims. He steps back to push Pidge more into the center of their group.

“I don’t know if I properly introduced you guys last time. Red, this is my friend Pidge. Pidge, you know Red.”

Keith’s eyes widen. His chest turns icy. Maybe she wouldn’t recognize him? Oh man, he does not need this. And she saw him as Zelda a few weeks before! Oh god, would she tell anyone?! HAD she told anyone?! No… no, no one had mentioned it. She probably couldn’t recognize him. Surely she would have told Hunk and Lance by now if she had.

 

“P…Pidge? That’s an unusual name. It’s nice to properly meet you.” Keith holds out his hand. Pidge smirks. Oh… this is the game we’re playing. She takes his hand firmly.

“Likewise…Red.” She bites out his pseudonym. Keith swallows. That’s not a good sign.

 

“So how’d your brother go getting his lab paper in?” Shiro asks across the circle. Pidge shrugs.

“He’s been sleeping for several days, so I assume he pulled an all nighter to get it done.”

“That boy needs better time management.”

“I know, right?”

Shiro and Pidge continue to chat away, but all of that fades because Lance cannot take his eyes off of Red. He’s enamoured with the angle of her jaw, her thin, but soft, lips. How her chest moves when she breathes so it actually looks like she has pectorals. He’s been staring for several minutes when Red finally says something.

“Dude… what?” She looks insulted. Lance shakes his head.

“I’m sorry. Sorry. I just…” He notices that Shiro and Pidge have stopped talking.

“You just… You really look like a guy.” He narrows his eyes, as if trying to see Red’s feminine features past her makeup. Red chuckles loudly.

“Well, I would hope so.”

“No, I mean you’re a really convincing man.” Lance crosses his arms over his chest. He shakes his head and scratches his chin.

“I think you mean I make a really convincing girl” Red laughs.

“What? What do you mean?” Lance’s brows wrinkle in confusion.

“Oh my god. Oh my god it’s happening.” Pidge hisses from the sidelines. She hits Shiro in the side.

“Shiro! Shiro, pay attention. We’re about to be witnesses to something fantastic.” She whispers.

 

“Of course you make a convincing girl. I’m just impressed that you can crossplay a guy so successfully.”

Red chokes and steps back.

“Wait….what?!”

Lance worries he’s said something offend her.

“You uh… you are a girl so cosplaying a girl…”

“Oh my god!” Red claps both of her hands to her face. “Tay no! No, no no, I’m a guy!”

Lance stands stiff. He doesn’t breathe or blink. It feels like he’s been hit in the head with a cinder block.

“Nooooo” He squeaks. Red looks scandalised, but also incredibly amused. They laugh and step forward.

“Holy shit, I’m a boy, Tay! I am!” They step forward and pull down their long purple scarf. They grab Lance’s hand and press it against their throat.

“I have an Adam’s apple! You can feel it!”

 

And sure enough, Lance can. But no…. no… he was so sure. He’d known of Red for a couple of years now. He had never seen her…. Or him now, as anything but a girl.

 

“OH. MY. GOD” He steps back. He places his hands over his mouth.

“You’re a boy.” He gasps. Red laughs and claps him on the shoulder.

“Hey, don’t be so embarrassed. I’m actually very flattered.” He smiles. “I was really that convincing?”

Lance nods and groans. He’s completely covered his blushing face. Idiot. Idiot. IDIOT. He repeats to himself.

“All those competitions… all those losses…. I thought you were just a girl in a nice dress and a wig.” He whines. In a pitiful display, he collapses to the floor. His brain has short circuited. “Oh my god, I’m not even close to your level. No wonder you beat me every time.” Lance cries into the carpet. Red laughs over him.

“No, no. You are at my level. We just have a different skill set!” He tries to reassure.

“I’m cosplay garbage. Put me in the dumpster. I am done. I can embarrass myself no more.” Lance whimpers.

 

That’s when Pidge loses it. Lance has finally cracked it. It’s happened! And it has ended in such a glorious display with Lance catatonic on the floor. Lance’s head whips around at the sound of her chortling. He’s still in a puddle, but his movements are now sharp. He points towards her dramatically.

“YOU!” He hisses. “YOU KNEW!!!!”

And Pidge laughs louder.

“You… How long??!!!!” He shrieks. Pidge is wiping away tears. Even Shiro has turned away, but Lance can see his shoulders shake with a fit of giggles.

“Since you first showed me his blog.” Pidge titters. Lance snarls.

“YOU… YOU DIDN’T EVEN…” Lance springs to his feet. His hands shake. Red places a soft hand on his shoulder. Lance immediately softens.

“I’m not stupid, I swear.” His voice shakes. Red smiles gently at him.

“I know. I know you’re not.” His voice is tender and earnest. Lance leans forward and collapses against his chest. Red pats his back.

“God I feel like such an idiot.” Lance mumbles.

“Don’t. It’s an honest mistake.” Red soothes.

“You make a crazy hot girl, you know that?”

And Red laughs loudly. He picks Lance up off of his chest and smirks.

“Yeah.” He nods. “I really, really do.”

 

With some more giggles thrown Tay’s way, the group begins to move into the dealer’s hall. Keith has a little more pocket money and is looking forward to buying some cute keychains, when he feels a hand grab his wrist. He turns to see Pidge holding him back with a huge smirk. Keith’s stomach drops. She waits for Shiro and Lance to move out of earshot.

“So…Red…I think Keith suits you much better.” Her grin is wide and villainous. Keith chokes. He’s stopped breathing. There’s a million problems with Pidge recognizing him, but he blurts out his biggest fear.

“Please don’t tell Lance!” He begs. Pidge steps back in surprise. She hadn’t been expecting that reaction.

“Oh?” She smiles.

“Please…Pidge, please. If you like me at all you won’t tell him.” His voice is almost to a whisper. It comes out in desperate tones. Pidge softens.

“Why not? I don’t see the big deal. You are really good.” She offers.

“I just…” Keith goes to run his fingers through his hair, then realizes that he’s wearing a wig and shouldn’t touch it.

“God, I know the jokes he’d make. Especially if he knew I cosplayed girls most of the time? I can’t…” He swallows. “I couldn’t handle that ok?”

Pidge feels pity in her chest. Keith’s anxiety is palpable. She touches his arm gently.

“I think you’ll find… that Lance is a lot more understanding then you give him credit for.” She smiles. “But I won’t tell him if you don’t want that. It’s your decision.”

Keith bites the inside of his cheek and sighs.

“Thanks, Pidge.”

“Ay, no problem. But you owe me lunch.” And she saunters off.

 

 

They’ve been caught in the outside courtyard by a number of photographers and have been posing for a good 45 minutes when Red finally notices. Lance keeps staring at him. His eyes roam over his fine features and across his torso. He cheats glances in between camera flashes. He’s lost in the strong slope of Red’s jaw and his throat that occasionally peaks out from under his scarf.

 

“Dude.” Red catches him. Lance snaps his gaze away.

“You keep staring.” He laughs.

“I’m sorry, sorry.” Lance shakes his head. “I can’t help it. I keep thinking how I could possibly have missed it.”

“You can go back to thinking I’m a girl if you want.” Red smirks. “If that makes things easier for you.”

“No! No… Sorry.” Lance flushes bright red. Oh god, he had finally gotten comfortable with Red! They were friends finally, and he could talk casually about unimportant things. Now Lance’s world feels like it’s been turned upside down.

“Y…you are really…uh…” Don’t do it, his head berates him. “Really attractive as a guy too.”

OH GOD. WHAT ARE YOU DOING. Lance laughs, trying to play it off like it’s no big deal. He tells his friends that they’re attractive every day! No big deal. He commonly refers to Hunk as “sexy cuddly man”, so why was telling Red that he was attractive any different?

Probably because you want to run your tongue all…

Lance splutters and tears his eyes away from Red’s gaze. He misses how Red stares at the floor and shyly chews his lips.

“Uh…um… thank you.” He responds.

 

The photographers start to thin, but the clicking of their shutters is replaced with the sound of Lance’s stomach growling.

“Same.” Pidge states.

“You guys want lunch?” Shiro asks. “We could go across the road to the Subway? Avoid expensive con food?”

“Aw man, there’ll be nowhere to sit though.” Lance huffs. He’s been to this con before, and dining at that Subway is a nightmare. Cosplayers end up sitting on the curb and eating, looking like sad rejects from a theme park parade.

“We can always send some people to grab it, and then eat it here.” Pidge shrugs.

The four of them agree that this is probably the best idea. They fish around in their wallets, and because Pidge is lazy and Shiro is self conscious about walking into the outside world with his huge mechanized arms, Lance and Red end up with the lunch money.

 

They walk out into the midday sun. Lance starts to sweat underneath all of his layers, and he expects Red is equally uncomfortable in his skin tight…tight…so tight… Lance swallows. He sweats for a different reason now. A question burns at the back of his head, but it hardly seems appropriate. This is not the time or the place to ask. He doesn’t need to know. He doesn’t need to know.

“Soooooooo….”

He needs to know. Red looks up.

“You know uh… sorry if this is really inappropriate. But when we first met, you uh…” He forces a laugh. “You made this tiny, miniscule really, flippant comment that yooooouuuuu weeeere gay?” He squeaks on the last word. Red arches an eyebrow.

“Well yeah I….”

 

Keith freezes. His brain catches up to him. He audibly gasps and feels like suddenly everything makes sense.

“You thought I was a lesbian!!” He practically shouts. Tay hushes him. Pleading Shut up! Shut up’s are whispered. But Keith won’t. It’s all too ridiculous and hilarious to him.

“Oh my god…” He has to stop and lean against a wall for support.

“I thought you were a girl! That was the logical conclusion!” Tay explains.

“I can’t… wow. I have never in my life…” Keith can’t stop giggling. When he finally thinks he has regained some composure, he locks eyes with Tay and sees his distraught expression, which just sets him off again.

“Can you please stop?” Tay asks with no amusement in his voice. “Everyone’s already taunted me enough today. I really don’t need it from you too.” He shakes his head. Keith’s breaths begin to regulate. He swallows and starts to genuinely feel bad. Tay had been incredibly considerate of him and his orientation…even if it was the wrong one.

“Yeah,” He sighs. A tired smile crosses his lips. “I like guys. Like I’m gay…” He chuckles a little bit.

“For dudes.” He concludes. Tay averts his gaze. He scratches the side of this chin, and Keith is sure that his cheeks flush underneath his goggles.

“Oh… ok. I was just…ok.” He worries his lip. Keith narrows his eyes in confusion, when a tiny gasp escapes his mouth.

“Oh,” He utters. Tay looks up in confusion.

“Oh~” Keith says again, but stronger this time. There’s a smirk at the end of it. He steps forward, into Tay’s space, crossing his arms over his chest. His stomach lightly flutters, but he stays strong. He looks up at Tay through dark lashes and smiles.

“You want to know if you have a chance now?” His voice melts over Tay’s face. Keith’s smile is wide and mischievous, and it only grows wider when Tay abruptly steps back and coughs.

“Th…that is NOT why I asked! I just wanted some… some…” He pushes his goggles up further on his nose.

“Honestly, the ego on you, Red. What ?! I can’t be bi and not be into you??” He throws his arms up and starts to continue down the sidewalk. Keith jogs to catch up.

“Would you like to know if you do?” He purrs. Tay practically skids to a halt. He turns and his eyebrows are visible high above his goggles, almost reaching his hairline.

Thought so~” Keith sings. He practically skips past.

“oh… OH!” Tay seethes. “You bastard, I don’t need this! I renege our friendship! I take back every compliment I’ve ever given you! You’re not even that handsome! Hey…HEY! Get back here!”

Tay has to run to catch up with Keith.

“I’m not done telling you how NOT into you I am!”

Keith welcomes the satisfied feeling in his stomach.

 

 

They eat their Subway contentedly, and Red apologises for his teasing by buying Lance a macadamia cookie. He happily munches it and all is forgiven. He’s thankful that his Mumen Rider cosplay covers so much of his face, because he’s sure he had turned bright red during that interrogation, and his expression would definitely have given away his true feelings. That yes… he had been extraordinarily relieved to find out that Red was into guys. … Because Lance is a guy… and he is kind of into Red. Kind of. Possibly. Immensely.

 

They finish off their day with some cute group photos. Shiro and Red pose like they are reenacting some amazing battle, with Shiro pushing his arms forwards and his palms lighting up. Red lunges and leans forward. His suit pulls over his tight… Oh god STOP IT. Lance has to chastise himself. They are in public, and even though the lenses in his goggles are dark, it’s rude to openly ogle his new friend. He forces himself to look at Pidge as she poses for a few fans of her character. Someone recognizes Lance, and they chat for a while, before the fan mentions that he rode a bike to the convention. Lance gratefully ends up using it in shoots for the rest of the afternoon.

 

They say goodbye to Red and Shiro when Hunk pulls the car around the front. His workshop had gone on for the entire day, and he is keen to get back home. Shiro tells Pidge to say hi to Matt, and then claps Lance on the shoulder to tell him how much he enjoyed seeing him again. Lance’s voice breaks when he replies.

 

When Lance and Red say goodbye, there’s a strange atmosphere. A handshake is too formal, a hug is too intimate, but no contact at all feels impersonal. They decide to take a selfie together, and if Lance holds onto Red’s waist is a little too tightly, Red doesn’t say anything. They look at the photo together, cheeks almost touching they’re standing so close, and laugh at what a mess they look. Some of the paint has flaked off of Lance’s helmet, and Red’s eyeliner is smudged down half of his face, but they both smile brightly. They leave with promises to message soon.

 

Lance climbs into the front seat with a sigh. Hunk pulls away and there’s a comfortable silence. Pidge quickly discards her wig, and Lance ditches his helmet and goggles. Who knew eyelids could sweat?

“So,” Hunk’s voice cuts the silence. He’s a little too chipper.

“I heard you finally figured out Red is a guy…” He laughs. He keeps his gaze forward on the road.

“So does that change anything? … What do you think of him now?” Hunk elbows Lance in the ribs, but Lance is oddly distant. His eyes are unfocused and seem to stare vacantly at the road. His eyebrows are just barely furrowed. Hunk starts to think that maybe Lance didn’t hear him. The car waits in anticipation.

 

“I want to eat that boy’s ass for dessert”.

 

Lance is too lost in his own head. He can’t hear his friend’s mutual shrieking.

 

 

Monday afternoon rolls around far too quickly. Lance collapses on Keith’s bed with an exhausted groan.

“Rough weekend?” Keith asks. His feet are still hurting, and he hasn’t quite managed to remove all the mascara that clings to his lashes. It’ll take another day or so.

“Yeah, yeah, but good!” Lance smiles. He rubs his face against Keith’s bed sheets. Keith tries not to think about Lance in a similar position, but in an entirely different context.

“We should move to the garage,” He rushes out. Lance groans. He picks up his limp body and pads out of the room with a sigh.

“Fine, fine, ok.”

 

They sit down and Keith pulls out all of their painted pieces from the previous week. Lance inspects them and gives his nod of approval.

“We just gonna hot glue this?” He asks. Keith is already rummaging around in his toolbox when he pulls out two well-loved glue guns. They are covered in paint fingerprints and scratches.

“I call them ‘Vol’ and ‘Tron’” He holds them up respectively. Lance laughs in his chest. He reaches for one of them, when Keith pulls his back.

“Ah, ah, I don’t think so. Tron is my favorite.” He holds out the other gun for Lance. “You get Vol.”

“Are you always so particular?” Lance smirks.

“Always.” Keith smiles back.

 

They begin to work in a steady silence, only talking to each other when they need to be passed a piece or new glue stick. Their hands work expertly and delicately. Keith admires the way Lance angles his wrist so that he can get into tight places without disturbing any other pieces he’s laid down. Keith’s pulse flickers when Lance looks up and smiles silently at him, before he resumes working again. He’s a deer in headlights.

“Do you want me to hold…?”

“Yes, thanks.” Keith quickly answers when Lance offers to hold a stubborn piece that won’t retain it’s position until the glue dries. He holds it with a delicate finger, while Keith glues around it. His fingers tremble. He’s anxious not to brush Lance’s fingers with his own. He manages to retain his composure when there are footsteps outside, and the garage door softly swings open.

 

A man and woman peek their head in. They’re in their late 40’s, possibly early 50’s, and their eyes light up when they see the two boys in the center of the garage. They shuffle into the space to peer at the boy’s creation.

“Whatcha makin’ there, son?” The man asks. Lance looks a little skeptically at him. His brown hair is thinning, but his moustache and trimmed beard seem to be growing just fine. His large, hazel eyes sparkle behind his thick spectacles. He wears a suit.

“It’s a bridge for a school assignment, nopleasesdon’ttouchmom,” Keith bats the woman’s hand away quickly. She lets out a disappointed sigh. Her freckles pull across her plump cheeks when she smiles. Her red hair spills from a messy bun, and she turns her intense gaze onto Lance.

“And this issss?” She lightly sings. Keith looks up from his work.

“Oh! Yeah, this is Lance. He’s my partner on this assignment. Lance, these are my parents, Joan and Henry.”

Lance fights the obvious question raging through his head. He fights past his confusion and holds out his hand.

“Lance. It’s nice to meet you.” He puts on his most charming smile.

“Ohhh,” Joan takes his hand. “Such nice manners.” Even though she’s talking about Lance, she makes an odd point of looking at Keith.

“You taking physics then, Lance?” Henry asks. Lance imagines him with a pipe in his mouth and a bloodhound by his side.

“Yes, sir.” Lance replies. Keith’s mother makes another little amused expression towards Keith.

“Oh good. How do you like it? Do you need it for what you want to do when you graduate?” Henry plunges his hands into his pockets.

“It’s hard, but I do need it for what I want to do, so I’m trying my best.”

“What do you want to do?” Henry pushes. Lance is a bit confused by the interrogation, but he answers anyway.

“I wanna be a pilot,” He states. Henry nods. “Well, actually…” He continues. Keith’s eyes widen and he listens intently. He knew Lance wanted to be a pilot, but he didn’t think there was any more to it.

“My real dream is to get into the space program somehow.” Lance laughs. “Crazy I know.”

Keith didn’t know that.

“No, no.” Henry shakes his head. “I think it’s a great dream. Ambition is good.”

And there it is again. Henry is obviously responding to Lance’s statement, but he looks at Keith as he says it.

“Such a handsome, smart, boy like you must have a girlfriend.” Joan smiles. Lance’s smile hesitates, but he’s used to dealing with parents. He plays it off coolly.

“No, no. No one like that.”

“Really? That is surprising. You should definitely have someone interested.”

Keith mentally screams when his mother makes eye contact with him again. He hops up to his feet.

“OK YEAH WELL WE GOT A LOT OF WORK TO DO.” He pushes his parents towards the door. “We’ll let you know if we need anything please do notdisturbusgoodbye!” And the garage door shuts. Keith lets out a tortured sigh.

 

Lance waits two beats.

“What the hell was that.”

Keith shudders.

“Nothing, nothing, c’mon we need to…”

“No, no…” Lance shakes his head. He grins cheekily at Keith as he sits next to him. “That was definitely something. Why was I being interviewed like that?”

Keith clenches his fists. His nails dig into his palms. He can’t. Not like this. What would Lance think? Would he panic? Tell him to never see him again? Call him atrocious names and spread it around?

 

Lance is a lot more understanding then you give him credit for.

 

Pidge’s words ring in his brain. He sighs shakily. His shoulders loosen.

“Look…” He starts. Lance’s smile disappears. From the way Keith’s voice drops, he knows that this is a serious topic.

“You can’t freak out, ok?” Keith warns. Lance’s brows crinkle in concern. He shakes his head.

“Never, Keith. What’s this all about?” Lance is overcome by the sudden urge to put his hand on Keith’s thigh. It’s supposed to be a comforting gesture…right?

He does it anyway. Keith trembles against his touch. Goosebumps rise on his flesh when Lance begins to rub soothing circles with his thumb.

“Keith…”
“I uh…” Keith licks his lips. “I kind of came out to my parents last month.”

He waits for Lance to suddenly jerk back his hand. He waits for the shock. The accusations. But none come.

“Oh yeah?” Is all Lance replies. His hand reassuringly squeezes Keith’s thigh. Keith almost moans. Oh god, why? Why now?

“Yeah.”

“How did that go?”

“Well. TOO well.” Keith laughs. “That’s what all that was before. If I ever have a guy around me now, my parents seem desperate for me to get with him.”

“Wait…” Lance pauses. He removes his hand so he can clasp both of his hands together as if in prayer. Here it comes, Keith thinks.

“You’re saying… I just got boyfriend tested??”

“Y…yes?”

“Did I pass?” And Keith is confused at the way Lance lights up. Like this is all amusing to him.

“I…I think you did, yeah.”

And Lance just starts laughing. He shakes his head and combs his fingers through his hair.

“Oh my god, dude… your parents have no standards.” He places his hand on Keith’s shoulder and laughs again. Keith stares at him for a few seconds, before he joins in.

“Well, clearly.” He smirks. “They didn’t even ask how you were doing in physics.”

“Low blow dude.”

“No! No! I didn’t mean it…”

“I know, I know.” Lance smiles. He lets his hand drop. The easiness in his face gradually disappears as a new thought appears. He bites his lip, and his fingers fidget.

“Also….uh…” His voice breaks. “Slight intrusive question… but I couldn’t help but notice that your parents are… uh… how do you say…?”

Keith smiles. He knows exactly what Lance is getting at, but he likes watching him squirm.

“So your parents seem to be… quite different in appearance to uh… you.”

“You mean cuz they’re white?” Keith smirks.

“Yes,” Lance squeaks. “Yes, yes. They are Caucasian, and you’re…Asian?”

“I’m adopted.” Keith shrugs.

“Ah!” Lance nods. “Cool. Cooooooool.” He bounces his foot impatiently. Keith snorts.

“You’re gonna be more awkward about me being adopted than me being gay?” He chuckles.

“I don’t know any adopted people. I know gay people,” Lance laughs. “So I guess it’s just something I’m more used to?”

Keith’s eyebrows raise.

“Who do you know that’s gay?”

“You mean besides me?” Lance shrugs. “Well there’s my friend…” But Lance doesn’t get through his next thought, because Keith is choking loudly next to him. His hot glue gun clatters to the ground. His mouth gapes like a fish.

 

“W…what?” He blinks quickly. Surely he’s heard Lance wrong. No way could Lance be gay. He would have known! …surely?! His brain has short circuited and he wonders if there was ever any missed opportunity… did he ever have the chance to flirt with Lance and he had just completely ignored it?

“Well, I’m actually bi, but yeah…” Lance worries his lip and looks towards his feet. “I uh… I like guys too.”

 

I like guys too. I like guys too. I like guys… Keith holds onto the words and stares dumbfounded at his partner. He wants to leap into the air and cheer. He wants to kick down a door and whoop, because Lance, Lance, is interested in men. Keith’s crush roars in his chest, like a match becoming a bonfire.

“Oh…” Is all he can manage. “I uh… I wouldn’t have guessed.” Keith blushes. He starts to pick up his glue gun again and stick down some pieces.

“Did you want me to wear my bi pride flag t-shirt around you? Because I have one. And I will.” Lance smirks. He resumes working as well. Keith laughs.

“No, no. You’re fine… it’s just…” Keith pauses. His mouth thins with concentration. “I don’t know many people. It’s nice to have someone else at school.”

“No problem.” Lance smiles. He gets it. School seems like this endless field of smelly, straight boys, who have the ability to smell out anyone different to them. It’s easy to feel alone.

 

Keith smiles up at him with a soft laugh. His pretty eyes sparkle, framed by his long, dark, lashes. His high cheekbones make his face look elegant and sharp, but his features are softened by the toothy smile that stretches across his face.

 

Oh.

 

Shit.

 

“If you ever wannaAUGH HOLY FUCK SHIT!!” Lance, in his daze, completely forgets that he’s left his finger on the trigger of his glue gun. A searing, melted gob of glue rolls out and drips onto his hand. He manages to peel it off, but only after it’s started to harden and leave a red, angry mark. Lance holds his hand and hisses. He’s burnt himself before, but this is definitely one of his worst.

“Lance!” Keith worries. His brows lower with determination. “Come with me, quickly.” He grabs Lance by the wrist and hauls him to his feet. Lance is towed into the kitchen, where Keith urgently turns on the sink and shoves Lance’s burnt hand under it. The cool water makes Lance wince.

“Stay there for a bit.” Keith orders softly. Lance is happy to oblige. He moans quietly under his breath.

 

Keith runs to the freezer and pulls out an ice pack. He’s burnt himself with hot glue enough times to have a solid after care routine down pat. He turns back to Lance and tenderly removes his hand. He inspects the damage.

“Lance,” He whines. The red mark is starting to blister. Keith shakes his head and wraps the ice pack around the burn. He doesn’t let go of Lance’s hand.

“What were you doing? I thought you were handy?”

“I am.” Lance sighs. His hand throbs, but the coolness of the icepack and Keith’s soft fingers are working wonders to alleviate the pain. Keith sticks his tongue out of his mouth in concentration. He peeks under the ice pack again, but decides the burn needs more time.

“So what happened?” He asks.

“Got distracted.” Lance murmurs. Keith rolls his eyes and laughs.

“By what?”

 

You.

 

But Lance doesn’t say that. Instead his eyes just flick up to meet Keith’s. He tries not to think about this boy’s soft smile, or how his eyes light up when he talks about something he’s really passionate about. Lance definitely doesn’t think about his pretty mouth and how it’s so close to his own hand, which Keith holds up close to his face and gently rubs soothing circles into. He could just flex his fingers and press the tips to Keith’s plush lips if he wanted to. Lance starts to admire how Keith’s hair falls across his face, when he spies a small curl of sawdust in a strand over his ear. Lance steps in close. Keith doesn’t back away. He looks up and leans into Lance’s hand as it grazes his cheek. His eyes close momentarily. Lance plucks the sawdust from his hair, and flicks it away.

“You had something…. Uh…”

They’re close. So close that Keith can feel Lance’s breath on his face. He barely feels the ice pack in his hands anymore, because his body is on fire. Lance’s hand lingers on his forearm.

 

“I think… uh…” Lance steps back. His hand slips out from between Keith’s palms. Lance looks at the burn on his hand, and flexes his palm, watching the way it pulls over his skin.

“We should probably stop for the day.” He whispers.

“Yeah,” Keith exhales the breath he had been holding.

“We got a lot done though. We should definitely finish next time.” Lance beams. With just his smile, the tension leaves the room, and hope glimmers brightly in Keith’s heart.

“I’m looking forward to it.” Keith hands the ice pack over. “You should take this. Leave it on your hand while you drive.”

“Oh no, I’m fine. It’s only…”

“Lance,” Keith’s look is stern. Lance tries to glower back, but fails after only a few seconds. His face erupts into a grin.

“Alright, alright.” He holds the ice pack to his burn once more. “Thank you, Keith.”

Keith’s pulse skips a beat, but he manages to smirk back without passing out.

“It’s no problem.”

 

Lance grabs his backpack and pokes his head into the living room to say goodbye to Keith’s parents. They tell him that he’s free to come anytime, and Keith rolls his eyes. Lance shares a knowing glance with him, but thanks his parents for the offer all the same.

“See you at school, yeah?” Lance sighs. He’s lingering in the doorway.

“Yeah, yeah. I haven’t gotten sick of you yet.” Keith chuckles. A light blush appears on Lance’s dark cheeks. He scratches the back of his neck.

“Alright, cool. Cooool. I’ll see you then.”

 

He walks down the driveway. With one final look towards the front door, he waves at Keith, who stands with his arms over his chest. Lance pulls away sloppily, using his good hand to drive.

 

When Lance is finally out of sight, Keith turns on the kitchen sink and sticks his head under it.