Lance still has butterflies in his stomach by the time he gets home. He can’t seem to shake the memory of Keith’s smooth hands on his skin, so he tries to distract himself. He ends up pulling out his phone and swooning over photos of his first love.
He flicks through the photos of Red and himself in their One Punch Man costumes, and in hindsight, Lance has to laugh that he ever thought Red was a girl. He’s thankful that Red took it as a compliment, rather then dumping him on his ass like he probably deserved. But his smile had been understanding, and his words of encouragement were soft. Lance can still feel his hands on his shoulder if he thinks about it hard enough. He can still feel the texture of his body suit against his fingers, whenever Lance thinks about wrapping his arm around his waist. He’s set the selfie of the two of them as his new phone lock screen.
He’s dreamily staring at an action shot of Red standing off against Shiro, when the phone vibrates. Lance drops it onto his bed in surprise. Red’s name blinks up at him. Lance quickly grabs at it again.
Red-Lioness-Cosplay: Hey I had a really great time the other day. I hope you had fun, and might be into doing something like that again with me
Lance claps his hands to his burning cheeks. Yes, yes, I would do anything for you. He hastily types.
TheTailorCosplays: Yeah! It was really great! I’m actually looking at photos of us now, haha
Red-Lioness-Cosplay: Oh? Miss me that much?
TheTailorCosplays: I was actually just admiring how ridiculously handsome I am… also we do look nice together.
Red-Lioness-Cosplay: Jeez, ego much? But yeah, we do look quite nice :) I actually get asks about our Link and Zelda a lot.
TheTailorCosplays: Still? Really? I mean, let’s be real, we did look phenomenal. but really?
Red-Lioness-Cosplay: Oh yeah, and then after our One Punch Man photos people seem to be pretty keen to see us do something else.
TheTailorCosplays: Maybe they just want you to atone for not knowing who I was
Red-Lioness-Cosplay: I apologized!
TheTailorCosplays: I dunno. I feel like you still owe me ;p
Red-Lioness-Cosplay: Alright, because I am feeling generous, what would it take for you to forgive me (keeping in mind you totally thought I was a girl this whole time)
TheTailorCosplays: Hmmmmmmmmm leeeeeeet me think. (and that’s a compliment! You were really beautiful and convincing!)
Hmmmmmm were you serious about cosplaying with me again?
Red-Lioness-Cosplay: Of course.
Lance steals himself for a moment. He sets down his phone and clenches his fists, punching them through the air several times in order to build the courage he needs to send his message.
“Okay!” He shouts once he’s hyped enough. He clumsily stamps out a reply.
TheTailorCosplays: Compete with me?
Lance practically throws his phone when the message sends. He can’t believe that he’s just asked Red, the embodiment of human perfection and the sole reason Lance’s losing streak exists, to team up with him in a competition. Oh god, he’ll never go for it. Lance is probably a joke to him. Red would never lower himself to his level.
Across the room, Lance’s phone lights up.
“Oh jeez,” Lance breathes.
He shuffles over. Tentatively, he picks up the phone and glances at the flashing message on the screen.
Red-Lioness-Cosplay: Sure :)
“Ho!” Lance jumps onto his feet. “HO BOY. HO MAN.” He’s sure that his sister can hear him, and is probably wondering what on earth is happening, but Lance doesn’t care. He fixates on that little sideways smiley like it is the Rosetta stone.
He does an embarrassing little dance on the spot, with far too many knees and elbows, then stops and tries control his breathing.
“Okay, okay…” He attempts to calm down.
TheTailorCosplays: Yeah? Really?
Red-Lioness-Cosplay: Yeah, of course. Were you planning on cramming for that competition in a month? The one at Avcon?
TheTailorCosplays: Like I’d love to. Aw man… could we pull it off?
Red-Lioness-Cosplay: What is sleep?? Haha. But yeah, I’m willing to give it a shot.
TheTailorCosplays: Alright. You brought this hell onto yourself.
Red-Lioness-Cosplay: Don’t worry about it. Besides, if we win this one, we get to compete at the national competition, and I don’t wanna sound petty, but Shiro’s gone at least 5 times and I need to kick his ass.
TheTailorCosplays: Is he competing this time?
Red-Lioness-Cosplay: Yeah. With Allura.
Lance hesitates. He’s never had to compete against Shiro. He was usually judging Lance’s competitions, that’s how far out of his league he is. And Alurra… oh man. But Nationals is a dream of Lance’s. To stand on the stage and show his parents that he hasn’t been goofing around this whole time. To prove to himself that he’s not just a weird kid with a sewing machine. That there’s legitimacy and recognition to this difficult hobby of his. He thought he’d have to wait at least five years to reach that level… but with Red by his side?
TheTailorCosplays: Let’s kick their asses.
Red-Lioness-Cosplay: That’s the spirit. Did you have anything in mind?
Oh god, Lance hadn’t thought that far yet. He has a list scrawled somewhere of dream cosplays. He pulls it out of his worn sketchbook and goes over it. There’s some final fantasy characters, a loud mouth protagonist from a mech anime, Wally West, Spider-man, and other characters that Lance knows he would have so much fun with, but aren’t really competition material. He’s about to ask Red for ideas, when his eyes land on a character name. It’s something Lance has wanted to do since he was 12 years old, but the opportunity has never properly presented itself. He has so much love for the character, and he’sdnever thought he’d be able to do him justice… until now. And there were plenty of other characters in this show that Red would surely be able to find something to cosplay. Lance, feeling slightly embarrassed, begins to type.
TheTailorCosplays: Have you uh… there’s this thing I’ve wanted to do for forever. But I’m not sure if it’s competition level. Like I’d put everything I had into it, but feel free to shoot it down.
Red-Lioness-Cosplay: Let’s hear it.
TheTailorCosplays: Have you uh… have you ever seen Avatar: The last Airbender?
Lance chews his nails, impatiently waiting his reply.
Red-Lioness-Cosplay: If you’re suggesting that you go as Sokka… I will support this 100%
A gross noise of joy and laughter escapes Lance’s mouth. He bounces on the spot. He feels lightheaded.
TheTailorCosplays: Yeah! I’ve always really wanted to cosplay him in like… battle mode. With his wolf armour, and the war paint he wears in one of the earliest episodes.
Red-Lioness-Cosplay: Yes. Yes. I will give everything to this. Yes.
Red-Lioness-Cosplay: Absolutely. You would be so amazing as that. I can’t believe you’ve never done it before.
TheTailorCosplays: I just wanted my skill level higher! Sokka deserves the best!
Lance thinks about options for Red. He did Sonic so well, he’d probably make a really handsome Zuko. But Red’s forte is his ability to crossplay. Maybe he’d want to be one of the girls? He’d make an impressive Azula, or maybe he’d like to go for someone nicer like Ty Lee or Katara?
TheTailorCosplays: What do you want to do? Zuko? Azula? Boy? Girl?
Red-Lioness-Cosplay: Couple cosplays always do really well, right?
Lance swallows. C…couple cosplay? Yeah they always did well, usually earning audience choice at least, because they were cute and often emotionally blinded judges. They’d get points on being adorable alone. But… they were usually done by actual couples.
TheTailorCosplays: Yeah? Like they definitely get a good audience reaction.
Red-Lioness-Cosplay: Suki. I want to be Suki with you.
Lance tosses his phone in the air in shock. He can feel his face heating up. He can feel his heart thundering in his chest. He picks up his phone again and stares at the message. He tries to read the lines and between the lines, like this is some elaborate code from Red. Should he read it as “I want to be Suki …. Oh with you of course”, or was it more “I want to be Suki, with yooouuuu~”. What did it mean? What elaborate scheme is Red playing at?!
Lance puts his hands on either side of his head and takes deep, steady breaths. He’s overthinking this. He needs to focus on the facts. And the facts are that Red wants to cosplay Suki. Suki…. Sokka’s girlfriend… Sokka…who Lance will be cosplaying.
“Stop it!” Lance lightly slaps his face. He’s overthinking things again.
TheTailorCosplays: Whoa really? I mean, you’d be amazing as that, I’m just surprised you’d be up for it.
Red-Lioness-Cosplay: Aw, you sound flustered again.
TheTailorCosplays: I am not. I’m just wondering why you chose that character?
Red-Lioness-Cosplay: I like Suki. I think she has an impressive costume, and I’m excited to try her makeup… also are you going to be blushing this much on the day?
TheTailorCosplays: I AM MERELY ASKING. OH MY GOD. I’M TRYING TO BOND, BUT WHATEVER.
Red-Lioness-Cosplay: I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I do really want to do this with you, and I bet we have a chance to beat Alurra and Shiro for sure.
TheTailorCosplays: That’s more like it.
Red-Lioness-Cosplay: Send me photos when you buy your fabric?
TheTailorCosplays: Sure :)
TheTailorCosplays: Yo YO! Check it!
Keith looks down at his phone which has started vibrating away. Keith’s smile lights up when he reads its from Tay. He excitedly opens the attached image, and his eyes widen when he sees the progress shot of the wolf helmet he is working on. It’s not painted yet, but Keith can see that it’s been expertly moulded, and Tay has taken it upon himself to embellish it with ornate patterns and symbols so that it looks more like a real helmet, and less like something out of a cartoon. A small gasp leaves his lips.
Red-Lioness-Cosplay: WHOA! That looks fantastic! You really are the armour expert.
TheTailorCosplays: Aw, you are too kind.
The two start to exchange more photos over the next few days, and Keith feels odd if his phone isn’t in his hand or right next to him. He neglects sleep and works tirelessly on making Suki’s leather armour and kimono style clothing. He sends the photos to Tay at 2am, and is always pleased and shocked when he gets replies back. Tay shows how he’s dyeing his leather armour to give it a blue tint, as well as his hands after he’s finished gluing some fur trim, and there’s white tufts now stuck to his fingers. Keith giggles underneath his bed sheets.
Red-Lioness-Cosplay: So when did you first start cosplaying anyway?
TheTailorCosplays: I dunno. I feel like that’s an odd question. Like at conventions? Or when did I first put on a cape and run around pretending to be batman?
Red-Lioness-Cosplay: Hmmmmm both. But start with the second one because I can very easily imagine you doing that.
TheTailorCosplays: Haha, well Halloween was always HUGE with my family, so I guess that’s kind of where the love of it started. I have a lot of siblings, so we’d always go ALL OUT to do big group costumes, and I think by the end of our trick-or-treating days I was definitely the one who organized everything.
Wanna see a photo??
Keith is ashamed at the excited little noise he makes. Shiro looks up from his button mashing on the PS4, but he doesn’t say anything.
Red-Lioness-Cosplay: I would absolutely love to see that.
TheTailorCosplays: Ok haha brace yourself. Here you go.
Keith opens up the attached photo. He can see a group of kids, who range from 3 to 14 years old. The oldest boy is in green tights, with a green tunic and a rough looking red wig. He’s obviously supposed to be Peter Pan, and the crowd of younger siblings around him are dressed in torn clothes, war paint and feathers. Keith gently laughs at the excited look on the Lost Boys faces. He scans them all, but is unsure which one Tay is. He could be Peter Pan, but that boy looks too broad in the chest, even though he’s still a young teen. A couple of the lost boys are girls, so that of course rules them out. Keith’s eyes keep zoning in on a boy in the front, missing his two front teeth, and a bandage is over his cheek that Keith thinks is probably not part of the costume. The boy is practically naked, and skinny. He only wears a small brown skirt and some large hiking boots. His arms are smattered in paint, his head is topped with a raccoon skin hat, and he screams at the camera as he brandishes a large, Styrofoam club.
Red-Lioness-Cosplay: If this very angry naked child is you I am actually going to die laughing.
TheTailorCosplays: The one missing his teeth? Oh yeah. That’s absolutely me.
Keith throws his head back and laughs loudly. It startles Shiro next to him. He cannot believe… but at the same time of course this would be how Tay started cosplaying. He can imagine him running around the streets on Halloween night threatening to fight Pirates, and gorging himself on candy. Peter Pan probably had to keep him on a leash.
“Who you talking to?” Shiro asks, like he doesn’t already know.
“No one. Nothing.” But Keith can’t hide the huge smile that bursts across his face.
Red-Lioness-Cosplay: I’m dying. Of course. OF COURSE. Nice skirt.
TheTailorCosplays: Hey c’mon, I actually sewed that thing. I thought it came out pretty well.
Keith’s eyebrows scrunch. Tay was sewing at this age? He looks closely at the young boy’s face. He’d guess he was maybe 8? Possibly 9 years old?
Red-Lioness-Cosplay: Really? That young?
TheTailorCosplays: I don’t think you quite get just HOW into Halloween I was. But yeah. I had a lot of energy as a kid, and my grandmother thought I could generate that energy into something useful. She’s the one who taught me how to sew :) I really owe her a lot.
Keith lets out a pained whine. He flops back onto the bed and covers his flaming cheeks with his hands.
“Ohhhh my gooooodddd.” He whines. Shiro pauses his game.
“Problem?” He smirks.
“He’s too cute. Too cute!” Keith declares. “I can’t handle this!”
“Is this Lance or Tay?” Shiro looks down at his helpless friend. Keith finally rips his hands off his face and stares up at Shiro with slight terror in his eyes.
“His grandma, Shiro. His grandma!! She taught him how to sew!”
“Ah, so we’re talking Tay then.” Shiro sighs and smiles.
“Can you imagine? Can you just picture tiny Tay standing next to a sewing machine, impatiently jogging on the spot, while his sweet grandma explains what a bobbin is? Can you?!” Keith flings his arms out wide. “Cuz I can!”
Keith abruptly stands up. There’s too much energy suddenly coursing through his body. Shiro laughs.
“I told you to just ask him out, didn’t I?” He watches Keith card his fingers through his hair. There’s a blush high on his cheekbones.
“It’s obvious you’re into him.”
Keith lets out an exasperated sigh.
“Look, ok. Ok….ok…so ok…”
“Oh my god get to your point.”
“So ok! Tay is…. Very cute, and he’s nice and fun, but….” Keith wears a pained expression. He makes odd, grabby gestures with his hands. Shiro has to laugh.
“He’s not Lance?” He offers.
“Yes!” Keith deflates. “Like man, Tay is so great. He’s talented and sweet, and he’s so charismatic, but Lance is….Lance is like…sunshine! And and summer days and…” Keith glances at Shiro.
“I sound ridiculous don’t I?”
“You sound ridiculously gay, yeah.” Shiro chuckles.
“But didn’t you say you thought Lance was straight?” He offers.
“Oh…um…” Keith blanches. “He uh… he’s bi.” He sheepishly fiddles with the hem of his shirt. “He told me last time he was over.”
“What?!” Shiro jumps off the bed. He stands with his hands in the air.
“WHAT?! WHAT? You didn’t tell me this! He told you this?”
“Y…yeah. Like I told him I was gay…. And he said he liked guys too?” Keith shrugs.
“Well what the hell are you doing here?! Why aren’t you over at his house sucking his dick yet?!”
“SHIRO!” Keith steps away, looking absolutely scandalized.
“What? You don’t want to?”
“Ohhhh my god. Oh my god, I am not having this conversation with you.” Keith walks back to the bed and starts to submerge himself underneath all the blankets.
“Well if you can’t talk to me about this, who are you gonna talk to?” Shiro places his hands on his hips. Keith disappears beneath the sheets and blankets.
“Nope. Nope. Goodbye dad. This conversation is over.” Keith’s voice is muffled.
Shiro sighs. He’s not sure how much more he’ll be able to take with these two dancing around each other.
Red-Lioness-Cosplay: Your family looks very cute. You wanna see a photo of one of my earliest cosplays? Like I think I’m 12 and it was just for fun.
Lance sits up straight. Would he like to see 12 year old Red? Hell-fucking-yeah. For blackmail if nothing else.
TheTailorCosplays: I wait in anticipation.
Red-Lioness-Cosplay: Ok uh… you’ve seen Naruto right?
TheTailorCosplays: Oh god… you didn’t.
Red-lioness-Cosplay: I did.
Lance opens the attached image and immediately starts howling. He has seen heaven, and it looks like a sweaty 12 year old with too much hair gel and a headband. Lance gasps for breath in between his bouts of laughter. His ribs start to ache. He tries to get himself under control, but just as he’s about to, he sees that image of little Red as Sasuke, with his hair clumped and sticking straight up, and Lance just loses it all over again. He’s barely noticed Shiro in the background of the image, who even at 15, makes an impressive Kakashi.
TheTailorCosplays: I can’t… breathe. You have killed me.
Red-Lioness-Cosplay: I used to be so ashamed of that, but now I think it’s pretty funny.
TheTailorCosplays: I might have to set this as my phone background. It gives me so much joy. Oh man…
Lance wipes the tears out of his eyes. His lungs burn.
Red-Lioness-Cosplay: But seriously, what was your first REAL cosplay? You know, where you’re not naked and running around for free candy.
TheTailorCosplays: Ahhhh, I don’t have any photos, but I’m pretty sure it was like One Piece or something like that. Might have been Luffy, I dunno.
Red-Lioness-Cosplay: I can see that.
TheTailorCosplays: But the first one I did WELL and kind of got some notice for was Eren Jaeger, from Attack on Titan.
Red-Lioness-Cosplay: Oh cool! Mikasa was one of my first crossplays!
TheTailorCosplays: Oh wow! Haha, hang on, I definitely have photos of Eren.
Red-Lioness-Cosplay: Yeah I’m searching for Mikasa photos now too.
Lance scrolls through his tumblr, all the way back to almost page one. There’s a bunch of photos of his Eren cosplay. Being about the right age, the right skin tone and build meant that he had gotten a lot of notice for his cosplay. It was the first time he had really felt validated, and to this day, he still gets asked about it. He’s got several professional photos, but Lance isn’t interested in sending those. Instead he picks a photo that was taken casually in the hall of the convention. He’s smiling, and his bright green contacts stand out strikingly against his tan skin. Pidge stands next to him, barely 12 years old, but painfully cute in a blonde bob as Armin. Lance grabs the image and sends it.
TheTailorCosplays: Ok so this is me, and Pidge (you’ve met her) is Armin. I don’t know who the Mikasa is, she was just some nice girl I talked to for a bit haha. But we wanted to get a photo of the trio.
Red-Lioness-Cosplay: Hey, here’s an old photo of my Mikasa. Shiro was Erwin, but he ended up ditching me for a bit, but it was ok cuz I ended up meeting this really cute Eren and Armin.
TheTailorCosplays: … wait…
Lance stares down at the picture he’s just received, but he has to make sure that it’s the one Red has sent him, because it’s practically identical to the one Lance just sent to him. He recognizes himself, and Pidge, and that Mikasa… which must mean…
TheTailorCosplays: OH MY GOD
Red-Lioness-Cosplay: That Mikasa is me!
TheTailorCosplays: YEAH WELL THAT EREN IS ME.
Red-Lioness-Cosplay: Oh my god… we’re so dumb. I can’t believe I didn’t know it was you.
TheTailorCosplays: Yeah well, I think we’ve already established that we’re pretty terrible at recognizing each other.
Red-Lioness-Cosplay: I can’t believe we’ve cosplayed together already (kinda)
TheTailorCosplays: It’s destiny~
Keith and Lance sit next to each other in their physics class. They had asked Coran, and he had let them ditch their seating assignments in order to sit next to their bridge-building partners. Lance had never really liked the kid he usually sat next to, and when he mentioned it, Keith seemed more than eager to ask Coran for permission to sit next to him.
It’s early, and they both lazily talk about some video game with half closed eyes. Staying up so late to work on their Avatar cosplays is starting to take its toll, but they both fight through it. Keith risks reaching out and gently touching Lance’s hand to inspect the burn still there. It no longer makes Lance wince, and is now shiny from where it is beginning to scar. Keith rubs his thumb soothingly over the mark. Lance doesn’t say anything. He just sleepily smiles at him and hums contentedly as their hands touch on top of their desks.
“Alright class!” Coran enters the room. Lance and Keith rip their hands away and sit up straight.
“How are we all? Good? Good!” Coran doesn’t even wait for the exhausted hum of his class.
“Now just a reminder that your bridges are due in ONE WEEK. And in case you’ve forgotten, it is a competition. Fight for your honour, class!”
Lance bumps Keith’s knee underneath the desk. Keith looks up, and Lance flashes him a smile and a thumbs up. Keith laughs and leans in close. His breath tickles Lance’s ear.
“We got this in the bag.” He smirks.
“You know it.” Lance’s grin is almost predatory. Something leaps in Keith’s stomach.
“Y….you wanna finish it off this afternoon? I… I don’t have anything on. A…and my parents are out so they won’t bother us.” Keith is still unnaturally close to Lance. He can feel the heat coming off of his skin. Goosebumps start to appear on his arms.
“Aw, I like your parents.” Lance laughs under his breath.
“Please don’t encourage them.” Keith hisses.
“Mmmm, I might have to.” Lance slyly grins. Keith pulls away then. What was this? Is Lance…? No. Keith quells it before he can even think it. They’re just friends now. Nothing more. Just friends.
Just friends. Then why do both Keith and Lance practically sprint up Keith’s driveway and into the garage after school? There’s an electricity in the air. Lance grins wider. Keith’s eyes sparkle. His fingers shake. They throw their backpacks into the corner of the garage and immediately get to work. Keith starts to heat up the hot glue guns, and skeptically hands one over to Lance.
“Don’t hurt yourself this time, ok?” He warns.
“Ok,” Lance laughs.
They work quickly and giggle when their knuckles brush each other. Wires are secured through beams. Anchorages are stuck in place. It gradually starts to come together, until eventually Lance looks to his side and there are no more loose pieces. The bridge in front of him… looks like a bridge. He steps back with a pleased sigh and crosses his arms. Keith hums in appreciation.
“Should we test it?” Keith is the first to break the silence.
“Hell yeah.” Lance nods.
They run around the garage thinking of things to put on it, to see if it will support any weight. They decide on a small mallet. Heavy enough to actually be a test, but light enough that (if their calculations are correct) it should hold. Keith places it on the bridge with shaky fingers. Lance sucks in a breath.
They share a smile and a short cheer, before their eyes light up with possibility. Lance grabs a dumbbell. Keith grabs a brick. The bridge holds both of them easily. A tool box. A cinder block. A sand bag. The bridge holds them all. They should really stop here. Their tests all worked. They should be happy, but Keith and Lance don’t know how to stop when they are ahead. Keith looks up at Lance with urgency.
“We need something heavier.” He says.
“I don’t see anything though. We don’t wanna break it.” Lance breathes.
“Stand on it.” Keith urges. Lance steps back. His eyebrows shoot up.
“What?! No Way! Are you crazy?!”
“C’mon, it hasn’t even bent. It’ll be fine.” Keith tries to reassure. Lance shakes his head.
“No, no, no, I have put too much time and effort into this. You stand on it if you’re so confident.” Lance pokes Keith in the chest.
“I’m too heavy. You’re lighter than me.” Keith states.
“I’m taller than you!” Lance’s voice goes up an octave.
“Yeah, but I’m more muscular than you.” Keith crosses his arms across his chest. Lance gapes.
“No you aren’t, you haven’t…”
“Want to feel my abs?” Keith smirks. Something dies in Lance’s throat. He tries not to let his eyes betray him. He tries not to glance down at Keith’s stomach, or at his arms that he seems to be tensing over his muscular chest. Lance steps back with a groan.
“What happens if it breaks?” He mumbles. Keith smiles victoriously.
“It won’t. I’ll support you, don’t worry.” Keith takes Lance by the wrist and leads him back over to the bridge. He places Lance’s hands on his shoulders, then steps in close. His hands drift down to securely hold the taller boy around his narrow hips. Lance feels like a flustered girl at a school dance.
“Here, step back onto it. I’ve got you.” Keith chuckles. His laugh vibrates in his chest and Lance can feel it rumble against his own torso.
“O… okay.” Lance scowls at how his voice cracks.
He steps back and feels the platform of their bridge under his foot. He starts to step onto it, when Keith’s grip tightens around his waist. Lance gasps as he feels himself lifted, and his weight gradually comes down to rest on their bridge. Keith looks up at him through dark lashes and with a huge smile. His grip loosens when almost all of Lance’s weight is supported by the platform. Lance thinks he could get used to Keith looking at him like that.
“Holy shit,” Lance breathes. Keith steps away completely. The bridge holds Lance off the ground.
“Holy shit!” Lance cries more confidently. He beams at Keith, who laughs loudly and quickly rushes back in to lift Lance off the bridge. He smiles into Lance’s chest, and Lance grabs onto Keith’s back tightly as he’s spun around. Their laughs intermingle with each other.
“We did it!” Keith howls. He stops spinning, but he doesn’t set Lance back on the ground just yet. Lance presses himself closer.
“Holy shit dude. We got this competition in the bag! I can’t believe…”
“See? Aren’t you glad you trust me?” Keith laughs.
“I… I’m definitely glad I trusted you.” Lance says with a shy smile. His hands rest gently on Keith’s shoulders, but the contact has Keith suddenly hot all over. He’s got himself completely wrapped around Lance. Lance is in his house, laughing, smiling, and looking down at him with half lidded eyes and flushed cheeks. Keith swallows. He gently starts to lower Lance to the floor.
“Lance I …” There’s something in his throat. He can’t breathe. Can’t talk. Can barely hear anything past his thudding heartbeat.
“Yeah?” Lance asks. His smile is delicate and kind.
“I’m just… I’m really going to miss this.” Keith averts his eyes and worries his lip.
“I’ll really miss… you. Hanging out with you like this.”
Lance is suddenly too aware of Keith’s hands on his waist. Of how their chests are barely an inch apart. He stares at Keith’s pink lips, now wet with the way he keeps sucking on them.
“Me too, Keith.” Lance is shocked at how low and breathy his voice sounds. Keith internally whines at how his name falls from his lips.
“I know we don’t have an assignment any more, but… uh….” Come on Keith!
“If you wanted to still come over…. And hang out with me… I’d uh…” Keith thinks he’s going to pass out. He’s just asking if Lance would still want to spend time with him, but it feels like more. The layers of subtext and unsaid confessions are clearly there, and Keith is terrified that Lance will see them.
“I’d really like that.” Keith finishes with a smile.
Lance is still staring at his lips. His fascinated with the corners that press into his cheek when he smiles. How his teeth nip at his bottom lip.
“I’d love to keep coming over.” Lance rubs his thumb on Keith’s shoulder.
Lance kisses Keith.
He leans in calmly, hand wrapping gently around the back of Keith’s neck, and he presses their lips together. It feels natural. Like breathing.
That’s until Lance notices that Keith’s body has gone stiff against his. His lips freeze, and when Lance peeks, Keith’s eyes are wide in terror. Shit!
“I’m sorry!” Idiot. Idiot. IDIOT. Lance jumps away. His chest feels cold.
“I’m…. I’m sorry, I misread, I thought…!” You liked me. He runs around the garage, gathering up his things. He needs to get out of there. He can feel his eyes beginning to well up. He can’t believe he’d just assume. He can’t believe he’d just go ahead and selfishly throw himself on his friend like this.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry…. I… Oh god!” And Lance bolts from the house. Keith is only vaguely aware of a car starting and tearing out of his driveway. He remembers to breathe. He brings his fingertips to his lips.
My first kiss.
After a shower and angry crying into his pillow, Lance has finally calmed down to some degree. He just wants to forget it. Forget the terrible mistake he made. Keith didn’t want him. Of course he didn’t want him! His body had gone stiff with revulsion.
But the way he looked at me…
NO! Lance shuts up the voice in his head. He was wrong. He was completely wrong. He had violated his friend’s trust and Kaith would likely never be comfortable around him again. Lance groans into his pillow. He needs to distract himself. He can’t keep dwelling on this. He picks up his phone to watch some youtube or something.
He notices a message he hadn’t seen before. It’s from this afternoon, probably just sent before he had met up with Keith to run over to his place. Lance had been so excited to go, Keith had been gently leaning in and touching him all… STOP IT.
Red-Lioness-Cosplay: Hey I just realized that we haven’t talked about what our skit is going to be for the competition. Did you want to meet up this weekend to figure it out? Rehearse it?
Lance breathes a sigh of relief. Oh Red, Red is definitely a welcomed distraction.
TheTailorCosplays: I’d love too. Let me know where and when :)
Lance puts his phone down. He runs his hands through his hair. He may have just jeopardized his relationship with Keith, but at least he still had something to look forward to.
School for Lance is… unbearable. Keith still sits with them at lunch, but Lance barely spares him a word or glance. Keith shrinks into himself, and even though he tries to get Lance by himself, to maybe catch him by the hand and tell him that he liked being kissed, that he wants Lance to do it again and again and again, he can’t ever manage it. Lance avoids him like a rabbit outrunning a predator. It would be impressive if it didn’t make Keith’s gut twist up in knots.
They sit at the lunch table. Lance idly pokes his chocolate mousse. Keith stares down at his phone. There’s no new messages from Tay to keep his mind off of things.
“So uh…. How’s your project?” Pidge tries to bring some conversation into the group.
“Done.” Lance states. This is the last thing he wants to talk about. Pidge leans forward skeptically. Usually she couldn’t get Lance to shut up, and now he was replying with just a word? Is he sick?
“What the hell…?” But Pidge is cut off as the bell rings. Keith jumps up with a start.
“I’ll see you guys later.” He practically bolts away from Lance. He can’t bear to be ignored any more. Lance relaxes when Keith’s out of sight. Pidge sighs and begins to pick up her lunch tray.
“Guess I’ll see you guys later.” She wanders out of the lunch room. Hunk looks at Lance expectantly, but he hasn’t moved. He still slumps over in his chair and stares at his mousse like it might hold the secrets of the universe.
“Hey Hunk,” He sighs.
“Could I come over today?” Lance asks in a small and weak voice. Hunk smiles and reaches across the table to squeeze his friend’s arm.
“Of course, man.”
Lance drapes himself across Hunk’s couch, while Hunk sits on the ground in front. The TV chatters away with Adventure Time playing. Lance has been quiet, but relaxed in the comfortable setting. He stretches out his long legs and sighs into the pillow he’s resting on. Both of them laugh as Jake the Dog transforms into something weird. Lance breathes easy. He feels like he can now process things properly.
“I kissed Keith.” He announces without warning. Hunk turns around with a huge smile.
“Yeah?!! Oh man….!”
“No, no, don’t get excited.” Lance appreciates that his friend is happy for him, but it’ll just make admitting his mistake even more difficult if Hunk is there egging him on.
“He didn’t kiss me back. I fucked up. He doesn’t like me like that.” Lance wraps his arms around his middle. Hunk leans in and pats his side.
“Aw dude, I’m so sorry.” He sighs. He tries to hide his shock because he’s seen the way Keith has been looking at Lance the past few weeks, batting his lashes and looking for any excuse to touch Lance’s arm or stomach.
“Tell me what happened.”
Lance groans loudly. He dramatically rolls off of the couch and flops onto the floor. Hunk has to suppress at laugh at his friend’s antics. He’s suffering, but damn if Lance wasn’t going to milk this for all the sympathy it was worth.
“Oh god.” He pushes his hair off his forehead. “He was just… he twirled me, Hunk! Twirled me!” He throws his arms into the air.
“And he was there just… fuck he’s so hot…” Lance whines. “He was telling me how much he was going to miss hanging out with me! And his hands were on my hips and I just…” Lance covers his face with his hands. He lets out a pitiful groan.
“I kissed him. He just meant it in a friendly way and I kissed him… who does that?!” Lance flails. Hunk rolls his eyes.
“Well how do you know he doesn’t like you?” Hunk offers.
“He just STOOD there! Oh man, oh man you should’ve seen the look on his face. He looked so scared!” Lance rolls onto his stomach and buries his face in the carpet.
“Well what did he say?!” Hunk urgently shakes his shoulder. Lance stills under his touch. He doesn’t reply.
“Uh….” Lance turns his neck to peek over his shoulder. “He didn’t say anything. I kind of…”
Hunk’s eyes widen. He’s known his best friend for a long time. He knows what his fight or flight reflexes are like.
“Oh no… you didn’t…”
“Run like a scared child? Cuz yeah! Yeah I totally did!!”
“Noooooo!” Hunks falls back onto his hands like he’s been shot. This dumb, skinny idiot.
“You didn’t see his face! I did!” Lance scurries on to his knees. “That boy wanted NOTHING to do with my mouth!”
“But you didn’t even…” Wait for a response. Wait for Keith to giggle and kiss you back. Wait for the wave of sexual tension to be released. Hunk cycles through all of these appropriate responses.
“No, no, when I pulled away Keith just STOOD THERE! Like I apologized over and over, and he never said it was ok, BECAUSE IT WAS SO NOT OK…” Lance begins to get hysterical.
“Oh god, oh god I like him so much. I like him, Hunk!” Lance begins to shake his broad friend aggressively by the shoulders.
“KEITH! Arrogant, impulsive, socially awkward, Keith!” Lance reaches this conclusion like a train crash.
“I know dude.” Hunk whispers up at his friend. “I know you do. You have for months. I’m sorry to tell you this.”
“AUGH!” Lance collapses against his friend. Hunk wraps his strong arms around his narrow frame and pats his back.
“There, there.” He coos with a smirk. Lance does not appreciate his tone.
“Don’t make fun of me.” He whimpers.
“Impossible. You should see yourself. I have to make fun of you.” Hunk laughs. Lance pouts, but a smile starts to sneak onto his lips.
“Why didn’t you tell me I liked him?”
“And have you go into a panic attack and denial state? No way. You had to reach this on your own.”
There’s a pitiful snivel pressed into Hunk’s shoulder.
“Would so. I know you, Lance.”
“You know my name, not my story.”
“Oh my god,” Hunk chuckles and pushes Lance off of his chest so that he sits on his legs.
“Look, I just… you should talk to him. Clear the air. But uh…” Hunk tries not to let his giggles poke through his next thought.
“You still got Red, right? I thought you really liked him too?”
“Oh man…. Red…” Lance breathes the name like he’s sitting in confession at his church. “Yeah, but he’s way too god for me. I know he would never go for me…” Lance rubs his chest.
“I really thought Keith might…”
“I know dude, I know.” Hunk smiles. “But uh… I wouldn’t sell yourself short. Red has chosen to do a couple cosplay with you after all. Right?” Hunk punches Lance in the arm. Lance sheepishly grins.
“Eh? Eh? Am I right?!” Hunk pokes him in the side. Lance is ticklish and he knows it. Lance laughs and bats Hunk’s hands away.
“Yeah, yeah, you’re right.”
“There you go.” Hunk smiles.
A devious idea forms in his brain. He promised Pidge he wouldn’t tell, but maybe… a nudge in the right direction…?
“It’s a shame,” He sighs. “Could you imagine if you met someone who was like Red and Keith combined? Wouldn’t that just be perfect?” Hunk has to stop himself from winking.
“Impossible.” Lance states with certainty. “No one that perfect could exist. It is for our universe’s safety that they don’t. Someone that perfect would be a mockery of god, and he would smite us.” Lance whispers for dramatic effect. Hunk shakes his head.
Boy, do you have a storm coming.
His talk with Hunk doesn’t fix everything, but it does give Lance a new lease on hope when it comes to Red. They have agreed to meet in a large park to rehearse their skit. Neither of them wanted to be disturbed by their families, so they chose to meet up at a spot with plenty of room, and soft grass to throw themselves around on. A bootcamp gym class works out 50 metres away from them, so they won’t look too out of place if they’re running around and doing ridiculous stunts on the grass. Lance sits on a rickety swing set, bouncing his leg with anticipation. He watches the cars drive by with an intense stare, and when one parks in front of him, he leaps to his feet. Shiro steps out and Lance runs over to excitedly look for Red in the front seat.
No one’s there. Lance stands up with a confused look.
“Where’s Red?” He asks. Shiro gives him a sad smile.
“Red’s uh… he’s not feeling very well today. He sincerely apologises.”
“But hey! It’s ok, because he taught me the routine, and now I’m going to teach you!” Shiro’s older brother instincts kick in. He barely knows Lance, but his look of disappointment almost destroys him.
“It’ll be great, ok? It’s a really good routine. I think you’ll have a lot of fun.”
Lance’s eyes narrow skeptically.
“Is this sabotage?” He asks bluntly. Shiro halts his steps.
“Yeeeaaahhhh~” Lance slowly nods. “You’re competing against me and Red. We’re a threat to you. How do I know you won’t teach me the wrong routine so that when we go to compete, Red and I are doing completely different things and making huge fools of ourselves?”
Shiro sighs. This kid shared Keith’s skepticism at least.
“Lance…Tay…” Shiro places a heavy hand on his shoulder. “I understand your worry. But honestly?” He smiles and Lance feels his knees tremble. Stupid sexy Shiro he laments.
“If Red beat me? Fair and square? I would be so proud of him.” He lets his hand slip from Lance’s shoulder. “So come one. I gotta make sure he has a partner worthy of him.” Shiro smirks. He walks onto the large grassy area. Lance trots excitedly after him.
“So you guys are trying replicate that fight from the first time Sokka and Suki meet, yeah?” Shiro tosses his jacket onto the grass.
“Where Suki is trying to teach Sokka how to fight, but she just beats the crap out of him for a while?” Lance laughs. “Yeah, that’s the idea we decided on.”
“Great. You’re ok getting thrown around for a bit?” Shiro starts to stretch out his arms.
“Red can throw me around all he likes.” Lance clicks some finger guns at Shiro before he can stop himself.
“Uh…sorry…” He blushes and remembers who he’s talking to. “That was wildly inappropriate.”
“Yes.” Shiro states. “Yes it was.”
Shiro starts to block out the steps with Lance. It’s similar to an intricate dance routine, with Shiro stepping forward when Lance steps back. A hand goes on his waist, Lance has to shift his weight to the right, left, then right. A foot shuffle to the side, kick of the leg, step in, hand on his back. He picks up the moves easily, stepping gracefully around Shiro, and letting himself be pinned to the ground, picked up, then tossed to the ground again. Shiro is patient when Lance forgets that he’s supposed to be holding a sword through all of this. They end up grabbing a dead stick for Lance to practice with. He worries he’s going to get Shiro in the eye, but Shiro tells him not to worry about it.
“Ok,” Shiro starts to block out the final part of the routine. “So Red’s going to step in with his fans again, similar to before, but you’ve learnt how to dodge them now.” Shiro replicates Red’s moves.
“So You’re gonna reach up, grab my hands…” Shiro does it on Lance so he knows exactly how to restrain him.
“Hold him with one hand, then grab his dagger out of his belt and point it at his stomach with the other.”
“Then you’re gonna smile and say ‘better?’ and then Red will nod and say ‘better’. Toss your dagger, and pull his waist in close to yours, and say ‘I knew I’d get it eventually.’”
Lance squeaks as Shiro presses him close.
“Then you stare at each other and it’s all very cute. End scene.” Shiro lets Lance go.
“Oh… okay.” Lance’s voice cracks.
“You wanna try it now?” Shiro suggests.
“I…. I guess I should.” He sighs. Shiro lunges forward slowly, like Red would, and Lance grabs his hands with shaking fingers. He grabs the “dagger” (or short stick) Shiro has shoved into his belt, and presses it gently to his stomach.
“B…better?” He repeats. Shiro cocks his eyebrow.
“If you’re like this with me, how the hell are you going to do it with Red?” He smirks. Lance lets him go and steps away.
“Jeez… sorry! It’s just an intimate moment is all! Anyone would get nervous!” Lance throws his hands up.
“Alright, alright. Let’s try it again. We can’t have you blushing this much on stage.”
“From the top!”
They do it over and over and over again, until their movements are fluid. Lance can confidently grab Shiro and look him in the eyes without dissolving into a fit of giggles, and he no longer fumbles with flicking the dagger out of his belt. His hands are confident on his sword, and he now anticipates Shiro’s movements before they happen. He collapses on the grass after a seamless run and takes a big gulp from his water bottle.
“I think we’re good.” Shiro sighs and sits next to him.
“I’d say you definitely got it now.”
“The trick will be doing it in all my armour.” Lance groans. “You really think Red will be able to throw me around as easily as you?”
“As easily as me?” Shiro chuckles. “No, no. but he’ll manage. Don’t worry. You’re pretty light.”
“So I’ve been told.” Lance mumbles.
Shiro leans forward and stares at Lance with an unwavering gaze. Lance ignores it until it gets uncomfortable.
“Oh my god, what?” He asks. Shiro’s grin is wide.
“Wondering what?” Lance pouts. He tears a few tufts of grass out of the ground.
“Mmmmm…” Shiro hums. “What your intentions are with Red?”
Lance chokes on his own saliva. He turns to Shiro with a shocked expression.
“I do not…!”
“You’re really easy to read. You know that?”
Lance blushes up to his ears. His hands grip onto the grass.
“Ok thanks for the rehearsal, BYE!” He jumps up.
“Oh my god, are you running away?” Shiro laughs.
“Are you going to keep asking me about how I feel about Red?” Lance yells over his shoulder.
“Then YUP!” Lance hops in his car. Shiro shakes his head and waves.
Lance flops onto his bed when he gets home. His joints still ache from his arduous rehearsal, but he ignores that for the moment. Red’s absence still worries him.
TheTailorCosplays: Hey I just finished practice with Shiro. He explained you weren’t feeling too well. Hope you’re doing ok :(
Red-Lioness-Cosplay: Yeah, ah I feel so bad I didn’t go. Was Shiro nice to you?
Lance is surprised to get a reply so quickly.
TheTailorCosplays: Shiro is always nice! Don’t worry about it. You’re more important. You doing ok?
Red-Lioness-Cosplay: Yeah, aw man it’s so dumb. I’m sorry I’m just kind of … emotionally fragile right now. I’m really sorry.
TheTailorCosplays: What? No, no don’t be. I get it. You wanna talk about it?
Red-Lioness-Cosplay: Augh, it’s so dumb. I don’t wanna go into it but I guess I could just sum it up as… boy trouble?
TheTailorCosplays: Dude. DUDE. I feel you. Man I so get that.
TheTailorCosplays: Yeah man. Look don’t focus on that guy anymore, ok? Cuz you’ve got me, and we’re gonna have an awesome time next weekend, and it’ll make you forget all about your problems. That’s what I’m doing, haha.
Red-Lioness-Cosplay: Yeah, I’m really looking forward to it. Thanks Tay :)
TheTailorCosplays: Hey, no problem. Don’t work yourself up too much, alright?
Red-Lioness-Cosplay: Alright :)
Friday. The day before the con, which Keith is so focused on, but it’s also the day that he and Lance have to present their physics assignment. Keith has brought the large bridge from home and it sits on the desk in between them. The sight of it makes Lance’s heart drop and he looks at the ground in shame. Keith sinks sadly into his chair.
“Whoa! This thing looks hella sweeeeeeet!” Hunk proclaims. He closely examines all the details they’ve put into it and its structural integrity.
“It looks really solid!” He praises.
Lance pulls himself out of his slump.
“Well what did you expect? We made it after all.” He smirks. Keith stares at him. Lance just… acknowledged him?
A small crowd begins to crowd around their bridge as they ooh and awe over the painting details and sturdy cabling.
“Alright class! Today’s the day! I hope you’re all excited.” Coran enters carrying a scale and several students follow him carrying bags of weights.
“Let the bridge show down… commence!!”
All of their bridges are weighed and are then placed at the front of the class for the best part: loading weight onto them until they break.
Most bridges make a valiant effort, but many come undone in a sea of splintering wood around the 20Kg mark. Lance and Keith look at each other nervously. They know their bridge can hold Lance, who’s almost three times that. Each time a bridge breaks, they compare it to how much it weighs to get an overall score. This makes all the bridges equal, whether they are made out of Styrofoam or plywood.
Hunk’s bridge is second last and it gets up to a jaw dropping 63Kg before it falters. Lance claps him on the back. He knew Hunk would do well.
His and Keith’s bridge is last. Hunk is the one to beat, but Lance would be happy if his friend won. He just needs a good grade. He tells himself this, but each time Coran loads another brick onto the bridge he holds his breath a little longer. Keith stares intensely, doing the math in his head to calculate just how many bricks they need to hold in comparison with their bridge’s weight to surpass Hunk’s score. They hit the 50Kg mark. Keith figures out they just need five kilos more to win this thing.
- 52. 53.
He gasps and grabs Lance’s hand next to him.
‘This is it! We just need to hit 55 to win.” He excitedly whispers. Lance stares at their joined hands. He assumed Keith would never want to touch him again.
“Okay,” He breathes.
They turn back to the competition. 54. Keith squeezes Lance’s hand. Lance squeezes back.
“Yes!!” Lance and Keith both cry out. Lance punches the air and Keith pounds on his desk. They turn to each other excitedly, and in the heat of the moment, hug each other tightly and jump around in a circle. Lance seems to remember himself first, and pulls himself away slowly. Keith hates how his sides still tingle when the contact is gone.
“Good uh… Good job” Lance clears his throat and holds his hand out. Keith nods and shakes it.
They eagerly watch as Coran loads up more weights, just to see when and if it’ll break. They surpass Hunk’s record of 63Kg and are well on their way to 70Kg when Coran starts to rummage in his bag.
“I’ve uh… I’ve run out of weights it seems. I’m extremely impressed, but I never expected one of your bridges to take this much.” He sheepishly twirls his moustache between his fingers.
“Hang on, I want to see something.” Keith jogs up to the bridge on the ground, piled high with weights, and kicks them off.
“I weigh around 65Kg.” He steps onto it. The bridge holds him up. He then waves to his partner.
“C’mon Lance, get over here.” Lance looks past his shoulder, like maybe there’s another Lance in the class. When he realizes that Keith is definitely talking to him he excitedly runs over.
“How much do you weigh?”
“A gentleman never asks how much…”
“It’s for science.” Keith smirks.
“I dunno… Like high 50’s? Low 60’s?” Keith holds his hands out, and Lance takes them for support. He steps onto the bridge, but in order for them both to fit, he has to place one of his legs in between Keith’s. Keith grabs him around the waist so he doesn’t fall, and usually this would make Lance recoil at the memory of last time he was this close to Keith, but instead he stands in shock. Because their bridge actually holds. They look at each other with shocked and elated expressions. The class cheers.
“Holy shit! I can’t believe….”
“Me neither! I thought for sure…!”
Their shifting weight causes the bridge to finally give out. Lance violently falls as his ankle buckles underneath him. Keith stumbles forward and catches him. The class around them claps loudly. Lance marches proudly up to Coran.
“My king size snickers, if you please?” He holds his hand out.
“Now Lance, I said the prize would be the victory itself and that only maybe …”
“MY KING SIZED SNICKERS, PLEASE!” Lance demands louder. Coran bristles.
Lance munches happily on his chocolate bar after school.
“You didn’t have to pester Coran like that.” Keith chides. They sit on the bench with the remains of their bridge in between them. A glorious carcass.
“You say that, but you barely even chewed your snickers.” Lance chuckles. Keith pouts. He can still taste the sweet chocolate in his mouth.
“AW DAMN! I heard you guys won!” Pidge runs up to them. Hunk walks behind her, putting away the phone with the footage he had filmed.
“Yeah we did!” Lance shouts. “You should’ve seen those other weak-ass bridges!”
“Hey,” Hunk calls out.
“Oh! Except for Hunk’s of course. I thought he’d win for sure.”
“Nice save.” Hunk snorts. “Speaking of saving though! Now that this atrocious assignment is done with, and Pidge just handed in her titration paper, did you guys wanna come over to my place? Celebratory Super Smash Bros? Homemade pizza by yours truly?” Hunk winks.
“The beacons have been lit!” Pidge cries. “I am so there.”
“That sounds nice.” Keith smiles. “Oh uh… if I’m invited.”
“What? Dude! Of course you are!” Hunk punches Keith in the arm lightly. “Get it through your head that we like you already.”
Keith licks his lips and smiles. He rubs his arm where Hunk punched him.
“Lance?” Hunk asks.
“Oh uh…” Lance’s eyes flit to meet Keith’s hopeful gaze.
“I can’t.” He states. Keith’s eyes widen. A lump rises in his throat.
“Wh…Why?” He wants to demand an answer. Is his presence really so trying?
“No I mean, I’ve got an appointment!” Lance rushes to quell Keith’s obvious disappointment.
“I’ve gotta get my haircut. I’m sorry. I’ve had this thing booked for a fortnight now.”
“Yeah, I noticed your hair was getting pretty long.” Pidge runs her hands through Lance’s floppy locks.
“I just thought you were embracing your inner hobo.” She smirks. “Or were trying to steal Keith’s look.”
Lance snorts. “Oh my god, never.” He laughs. He elbows Keith in the side. A smile erupts on Keith’s face when they touch.
“I’m just trying something different.” Lance stands. He hoists his backpack onto his shoulder.
“I’ll see you guys soon! Have a great time without me!” He calls out. “Thanks for winning with me, Keith!”
Keith sits up straight at his name. He feels a flicker of hope simmer in his chest.
“We make a good team!” He smiles back.
It’s the crack of dawn. Lance’s stomach growls, he’s exhausted, he’s got a headache from staying up so late, but none of that matters because today is con day. He drives over to Hunk’s house, and in the early morning light, they pack up the car with all the things they’ll need. Pidge brings plenty of snacks. Lance makes sure his wolf helmet is bubble wrapped and placed in a secure location, and Hunk starts to pull out massive pieces of… something… from his garage. They are almost the size of Pidge, and covered in sheets so Lance can’t see what they are. Hunk loads around six pieces into the back of his van.
“What the hell is…?” Hunk presses a finger to his lips before Lance can finish.
“Shhhhh, shhhhh, all in good time.” He reassures. Pidge laughs, then begins to climb into her seat.
“Is this your super secret project you’ve been working on?”
“No comment” Hunk laughs and starts the engine. With a resigned sigh, Lance climbs into his seat.
This convention is out of state, which means the three spend hours trapped in the car together. They blast terrible music. Lance impresses with his rendition of Queen’s “Somebody to Love”, but Pidge kills them all with how she spits out The Barenaked Ladies’ “One week”. They play butchered versions of classic games like “I spy” and “20 questions”, which almost always come around to bite Lance in the ass. Despite his objections, Hunk supports Pidge’s choice of spying “frustrated bisexuals”. They stop for terrible roadside burgers and hot dogs, then have to pull over when they all start to get motion sickness after their third milkshake. They’re sweaty and slightly smelly, but happy and laughing when they pull into their hotel for the night. It takes them eight trips to unload all the junk into the hotel room.
The wander into the large city and settle on an Indian place for dinner. Pidge inhales her palak paneer. Hunk and Lance sing an ode to their mixed platter of naan breads.
“Here Pidge! Smile!”
“What?” Pidge barely has time to look up from her food when Lance’s phone flashes. The photo shows a disoriented Pidge with cheese and spinach puree on her cheeks. Lance sniggers.
TheTailorCosplays: We’ve made it to the con! Just getting dinner now. Pumped for tomorrow. Here is a gross Pidge.
Red-Lioness-Cosplay: We’re doing the same thing!
Lance opens the image to see a startled Shiro slurping up some ramen and Allura with a gyoza halfway to her face.
Red-Lioness-Cosplay: I am stealing their secrets. There’s no way they’re beating us tomorrow.
TheTailorCosplays: PREPARE TO GET #WREKT SHIRO!
It’s the day of the comp and Lance is up bright and early. He is well rested, his skin is exfoliated and moisturized, his hair is oil treated and luxurious, and he enjoys his complimentary continental breakfast. He looks around his hotel room, but neither Pidge nor Hunk is around. They must be down at the convention already. Lance doesn’t mind though. He likes it quiet when he gets ready so he can concentrate. It’s almost a meditation with how he centers and focuses himself as he gets ready. Pre-judging for the competition is at noon and it’s now 10am. Plenty of time to get ready and sneak in a dress rehearsal with Red.
Lance wets his face paints and begins to apply them with gentle, smooth strokes. He’s got a reference photo open in front of him, but luckily he did a couple of makeup tests before he left, so he’s now confident in what he’s doing. He puts his contacts in first, so his eyes don’t water and cause his makeup to run. Then, white around the jaw and brows. Several layers of this until it’s no longer streaky. Grey to colour the majority of his face second, then finally going in heavy with the black around his eyes. He dries each layer with his blow-dryer, and resists the temptation to open his eyes before the black has dried.
When his eyelids no longer feel cool with wet paint, he dares to open them. He smiles wide at what he sees. He grabs his phone and snaps a quick selfie to send to Red. It’s blurry and taken from a weird angle, but you can get the idea.
TheTailorCosplays: Southern water tribe transformation COMMENCE!
Red-Lioness-Cosplay: Holy shit! You look phenomenal! I’m on my third layer of white paint and it’s STILL streaking!
Lance smiles at the message, but doesn’t reply just yet. He’s still got several steps to go through before he’s ready. He looks at himself in the mirror. The sight of his new haircut still catches him off guard, but with all of his war paint on, it seems to suit him a bit better. He pulls it back into a small, high ponytail. He then pulls on his heavy tunic, fur trimmed armour, and pants. Tying off the tops of his custom boots feels odd, but they’re secure enough that he’s sure they won’t fly off during his performance. He bandages his forearms, but doesn’t pull on his gloves just yet. He still needs his hands to have full motion. Lastly, he attaches his sword and trademark boomerang to his belt, and places his wolf helmet on his head. He looks in the mirror and holds his hands up to his mouth. He laughs quietly behind them. This is a dream of his and he’s actually doing it! He’s finally doing it! And with Red of all people! Lance does a small jig on the spot, then checks his phone again.
Red-Lioness-Cosplay: Oh my god Shiro ditched me to help Allura get ready. Struggle street - population: me.
TheTailorCosplays: Hey I’ve finished getting ready. Did you need a hand?
Red-Lioness-Cosplay: …. Yes. I’m ashamed to say that I really do.
TheTailorCosplays: Haha, no it’s no problem. What’s your room number?
TheTailorCosplays: Cool. Please let me in when I knock. I know I’m going to get a lot of weird looks.
Lance walks out into the hallway, checking to see that the coast is clear before he startles any hotel guests. It’s not everyday a Midwestern suburban family on holiday sees a boy jump out in blue armour and war paint. Lance scurries down the hall and impatiently pushes the elevator button.
“Come on. Come oooonnnnn” He whispers. The coast is still clear, but he doesn’t know for how much longer.
The elevator doors open with a ding. A cleaner is already inside it and his eyes widen when he sees Lance in front of him. He moves his trolley to the side, allowing Lance room to step in. Lance does so with a resigned sigh.
“You here for the convention?” The cleaner asks.
“Just remember to seal your makeup before you go around touching everything in my lobby.”
Lance jogs out as soon as the doors open on Red’s floor, following the signs on the walls until he reaches room 352. He rapps his knuckles on the solid wood door impatiently. He bounces on the balls of his feet, and butterflies flutter into his stomach. He beams when he hears rustling from inside the hotel room and the door knob begins to turn.
“Tay! Thank god, I really…. Hooooooomy god”
The two speak at the same time and can’t seem to pull their eyes away from each other. Keith marvels at how handsome and fierce Tay looks with all of his armour on, whilst Lance… Lance practically drools as Red has answered the door in his makeup, beautiful false lashes and bob wig… and only a pair of red briefs.
“You look fantastic!” Red beams. “I can’t believe… well of course I knew you’d… man.” He breathes.
“Come in, come in! Help me girlify myself.” He laughs.
“Oh, yeah yeah sure.” Lance swallows the saliva down in his mouth. He steps into the hotel room, which is just a mirror image of his own.
Keith walks over to pick up his waist cincher off the bed.
“This is the thing I need the most help with. I just can’t…” He freezes. He turns back to look at Tay who has placed his gloves on the coffee table, and has taken off his helmet and set it next to them. Underneath his helmet, Keith can see that Tay has cut his hair so that he now has a severe undercut, and all of it is exposed with the longer hair being gathered into a ponytail on top.
“Whoa…” He breathes. Tay looks at him curiously.
“You cut your… Your hair… Has it always been like that?” Keith swallows.
“Oh!” Tay smiles. “Yeah it’s new… I’ve had the same haircut since I was a kid. I’ve been thinking of doing it for a long time and Sokka just seemed to be the catalyst I needed.” Tay runs his hands up his shaved sides. Keith stares in awe.
“Uh… does it look…bad?” Tay nervously asks.
“No! No, no, I just…” Keith approaches him. “I just…” Instinctively, Keith begins to lift his hand.
“Sorry!” He stops himself. “Just… can I touch it?” He shyly smiles. Tay laughs in surprise.
“Sure, go ahead.”
Keith raises his hand and runs his fingertips along the shaved area. The short stubble feels like velvet against his fingers. He rubs the back of his knuckles against it and the feeling intensifies. He smiles brightly.
“It’s really cool.”
“I’m still getting used to it.” Tay shrugs.
“Well I like it.” Keith laughs. Because he does. He really does. He pushes his corset into Tay’s chest.
“Now c’mon! Cinch me up!”
Lance looks at the corset in his hand with confusion.
“I have no idea how to…”
“It’s ok,” Red laughs. He lays the corset out on the table in front of them and demonstrates how to tighten it and tie it off.
“Remember, we’re not actually trying to give me a Victorian waistline or anything. I just need to get rid of my boy body.” He chuckles. He slips the corset on, then spins it around so that the laces are at the back.
“Hang on, let me just…” Red walks over to the nearest wall. He places his palms on it, and leans his weight onto them, with his feet standing a shoulder’s width apart. He positions himself like he’s about to get strip searched.
“Alright, now do it. It’s easier if I brace myself like this.” Red explains.
“L…like this?” Lance squawks. He can’t help but notice that this position has Red’s perfect ass arching back towards him, and the way his hands grip tightly to the wall makes Lance’s brain flash with all kinds of tasteless images.
“Yeah, go ahead. Just like I showed you.” Red states confidently. Lance rubs his sweaty palms on his pants.
“Ok, ok.” Lance steps forward and grabs the laces. He gives them an experimental tug.
“You won’t break me. C’mon,” Red laughs over his shoulder.
“Sorry, sorry. Just nervous.”
“You like the view from back there?” Red smirks. That’s all the motivation Lance needs to jerk back the laces, tighten them up Red’s spine, then tie them off in a secure knot. He jumps back before Red can make fun of him any more.
“Oof,” Red stands up. He rubs at his stomach. “Good job. This feels good.” He stands and arches his back with a pop. Lance’s mind is on emergency backup system. He stares at the gentle curve of Keith’s waist counterbalanced with his broad, muscular, chest. His nipples are visible at the top of the corset. His eyes are wide and beautifully striking when rimmed with black and red paint, and his scarlet lips are full and pulled into a gentle smirk. He crosses his arms and Lance admires the bulge of his biceps.
“You ok there?” Red asks. He starts to unfold his skirt.
“Sorry, sorry…” Lance shakes his head. He bites his lip. Red tucks a lock of mahogany hair behind his ear and his collarbones shift underneath his smooth skin. Lance internally moans.
“Would it be really forward of me if I said you were really hot like this?” Lance vomits before he can stop it. Red pulls on his skirt with a laugh.
“Ok, I won’t say it then.”
“You got a thing for boys in drag?” To punctuate the statement, Red starts to clasp on his padded bra. Lance stares in wonder.
Red’s gaze snaps up. He searches Lance’s face for any kind of mockery, but finds none. He blushes underneath his makeup and shakes his head.
“You’re ridiculous. Now close your mouth before you catch flies.”
Keith finishes pulling on the rest of his costume, and it’s a miracle he’s able to do it in such a quick a professional manner, when all he really wants to do is run into the bathroom and giggle happily to himself. Tay is far too charming and it just might murder him before the weekend is over. Keith places his golden headdress on his head, the last piece of the cosplay.
“How do I look?” He asks. Tay’s bright blue eyes light up. His smile is infectious. He tucks a loose strand of hair away from Keith’s eyes.
“Beautiful.” He says honestly. “You’ll wow those judges for sure. And have Shiro and Allura quaking in their worbla.” Tay smirks. Keith fidgets with his gloves.
There’s just enough time for Lance and Red to quickly rehearse in the back of the convention centre, and its desperately needed. Red is shorter than Shiro, so Lance has to readjust some of his moves, and Red is able to get a better grip on his fans and figures out how he can maneuver them around Lance. They’ve just gotten comfortable when they have to rush off to the backstage area for pre-judging.
“Hey, Tay!” A familiar voice calls. Lance darts his head around until he finds the source. It comes from a striking Cloud Strife cosplayer that’s looks to be about 30% bicep and 60% jaw carved from actual marble. The final 10% is his winning smile.
“Shiro…” Lance shrinks into himself. Shiro is dazzling. He carries the huge buster sword on his back like it weighs nothing. Next to him stands Allura, queen of cosplay and Lance’s infatuations, as a stunning Aerith. She jogs over with Shiro.
“Aw so this is Tay!” She smiles sweetly. “I’m Allura. I think I might have been a judge at one of your competitions? Ke…” Shiro elbows her hard in the ribs. She changes her course mid-sentence.
“RED! Has told us so much about you.” She wheezes.
“I’m I’m I’m…” Lance just gapes. Allura knows about him. Allura… knows about him!
“You guys look nice.” Red bites. Allura looks taken aback by his callousness, then throws her head back and laughs.
“I see you’ve got your game face on already.” She smirks.
“Friendship means nothing to me now.” Red states. Shiro chuckles. Lance stays rooted to the ground in shock. Allura knows who he is…
“C’mon Tay. Let’s stretch over here.” Red grabs his wrist and tows him to the opposite side of the backstage area.
“I can’t do this.” Tay wheezes. “Did you see them?! I can’t compete with…”
“Tay!” Keith claps him on the shoulders. “You look so damn fantastic. Shiro is wearing a jersey knit top with a single armour shoulder. Jersey!!” He hisses.
“Allura’s in…. what? A cropped jacket? A pink dress? You researched Inuit symbols and wove them into your tunic! There’s mother of pearl inlay beneath the resin of the beads on your armour!”
Keith presses their foreheads together and glares into Tay’s eyes.
“You have worked so hard and I am so proud of what you’ve achieved. They will not take that from you.”
“Aerith is basic bitch cosplay. Say it.” Keith orders. Tay looks back in confusion.
“Saaayyyy iiiit~” Keith remains stern, but a smirk starts to slide across his features.
“Aerith is… basic bitch cosplay.”
“Aerith is basic bitch cosplay.”
“Aerith is basic bitch cosplay!” Tay throws his arms up.
“Are we basic?!” Keith is too hyped to stop.
“Do we deserve to be here?!”
“Good!” Keith tosses an arm over Tay’s shoulders. He looks over at the judges table like an assassin eyeing his targets.
They all line up for prejudging and Lance will never get used to having several people paw over his body. They ask him to take off his helmet so they can inspect it. They flip his seams around and examine the lining of his tunic. They even go so far as to look at how his boots are constructed and how much modification has been made to them. Red gets poked and prodded even more, though all the judges are careful to avoid his chest area.
“Dude…” Lance leans over once they’ve moved on to the next competitors. “I think they really think you’re a girl.”
“They’ll read our application soon enough. This always happens.”
Prejudging seems to go well, with the judges not asking any probing questions, but just nodding and writing in their notebooks. Once Lance and Red have been judged, they can relax until their performance starts. They sit on a bench and wait. Red takes sips from his water bottle through a straw. He offers it to Lance, who accepts it.
The host’s booming voice on the microphone announces the cosplay competition’s start. Lance anxiously jitters backstage. Red takes his hand.
“Don’t be. You’re the best performer I know.”
This makes Lance stop and stare at the boy next to him.
“What? I can’t be honest?” Red smirks. Lance shakes his head, but squeezes his hand tighter.
They watch the other cosplayers perform, and sit through the cringe worthy segments where the host tries to make jokes. Some of the skits are silly, some are serious. There’s a particularly impressive dance routine by some Love!Live cosplayers, and a hilarious skit by a single Dr. Eggman cosplayer who is alarmingly convincing.
Shiro and Allura reenact the scene of Aerith’s death from Final Fantasy VII. Its beautiful, touching, and it sounds like Shiro is genuinely choking up when he lays Allura’s limp body on the table before him. The audience is enraptured in the moment. Lance and Red make gagging noises from the wings. They look like a couple of 12 year olds being forced to watch a romance movie. When the skit is over they loudly applaud with the audience, while Red whispers “Boooo! Go home Shiro! You look cheap as a blonde,” under his breath. This eases some of Lance’s tension. There’s just one more skit before they are on.
Their names ring out and they walk to the front of the stage to polite applause from the audience. Photos from the pre-judging are blown up on the huge projection screen behind them. Tay wears a goofy grin and Keith looks awkwardly serious. He tries not to pay it any attention. He stands politely behind Tay, silently thanking God that he doesn’t have to chat to the host. He’s too stubborn and not at all natural in front of a crowd, but Lance easily introduces the both of them and their characters. He makes cracks about the lengths you go to for cosplay and brandishes his shaved head underneath his helmet. He’s charismatic, handsome, and Keith enjoys standing back and watching him work.
“Alright, thanks so much Tay and Red! Audience give them another round of applause!” The host cries, then moves to the side of the stage so that they can perform. The lights dim and the music that they chose to accompany their piece begins. Keith swallows down his nerves.
“You honestly think you can take me?” He says his rehearsed line in a loud voice. It doesn’t sound very natural, but hey, he’s a cosplayer. Not an actor.
“I think I would stand a pretty good chance.” Tay crosses his arms and smirks. Everything he does exudes Sokka’s energy and quiet confidence. His easiness on the stage begins to make Keith relax. Just like we rehearsed.
“Well let’s see what you’ve got, water tribe.” He taunts. Tay lunges forward with his sword, and Keith swipes it away with his fans. Their dance begins. They move around each other gracefully, Keith spinning and twirling his fans like a flamenco dancer, while Tay moves with sharp, clumsy movements. The first time Keith throws and pins Tay to the ground the audience erupts into laughter.
“You cheated!” Tay shrieks. “Two for three!” He scrambles to his feet.
“If you say so.” Keith sighs. There’s a knowing chuckle from the audience. Their complicated dance begins again, but it ends quickly with Tay on his back once more. The audience howls.
“Four out of five!” Tay shouts.
“Why do you hate yourself, honestly?” Keith’s dialogue comes out more naturally. Tay leaps to his feet and swipes with his sword. They dodge, lunge and slide across the ground, avoiding each other’s blows. That is until Keith does a spinning kick and knocks Tay’s sword out of his hand. It clatters to the stage loudly. Keith rushes forward. This is it. The finishing pose. Tay expertly restrains his hands, his dagger slides out of his belt and he feels it pressed against his stomach.
“Better?” Tay’s voice is sickly sweet. The audience whoops and cheers.
“Better.” Keith smirks. Tay tosses the dagger and pulls him in close. The audience continues to applaud, but it’s not enough. Keith wants more. He wants there to be no doubt in people’s minds when they talk about who had the best performance. With Tay just a few millimetres away, he knows what the audience would want. What he wants.
“Kiss me.” He whispers. Only Tay can hear him. His eyes widen.
“Kiss me. Do it.” Keith’s breath is warm on his lips.
Tay doesn’t wait to be told again. He lets Keith’s hands go and wraps him up in a fairytale worthy kiss. There’s a hand behind his neck and the small of his back. Keith opens his mouth and holy shit that is tongue. The audience is on their feet screaming. Keith swears that he can hear Shiro yell something along the lines of:
“That’s my boy!” from backstage. Tay pulls away with a gasp and glassy eyes.
“Was I any better at that?” He ad-libs. Keith is awful at improvising. He doesn’t think about what Suki would say, but instead says what Keith would say.
“You’re probably the best at that.” He smiles. The crowd whistles and cheers as Tay grabs his hands and they awkwardly bow. Keith laughs when he sees his lipstick on Tay’s painted mouth.
Going backstage, watching the final few performances, and then filing up on stage for the awards ceremony is all a blur for Lance. His head is in the clouds and he can’t focus on anything but the fact that he kissed Red. HE KISSED RED! Sure it was just for the performance most likely, and the drama queen in Lance knows that it was a fantastic idea, but that doesn’t stop him reliving the experience every five seconds. Red had been warm and gentle. Maybe even a little bit shy, as Lance had taken the lead. There’s a bit of grey paint on Red’s face, which sends a thrill of excitement down Lance’s spine because he knows he put it there… with his mouth… because he kissed him. It still doesn’t feel real.
“C’mon!” Red laughs and tugs him back onto the stage for the awards ceremony. Lance’s head swims and he almost trips. He quickly finds his source of balance and seems to wake up a bit more when Red laughs at him. They excitedly line up on the stage underneath the lights. They stand next to Allura and Shiro, who smile encouragingly at them. Red flips them off.
“Oh my god, be nice!” Lance laughs and whispers.
“Don’t worry, I’m used to it.” Shiro rolls his eyes.
“You uh… got a little something here, Red.” Allura sneers and points to her lips.
“You know what it is? That’s the taste of victory, Allura.”
Lance guffaws at the amount of snark this boy has suddenly summoned. Shiro and Allura shake violently with how desperately they want to burst out laughing, but the host is starting to introduce the judges on stage, and it would be rude to interrupt.
The judges start by announcing the audience’s choice. This is the category Lance usually wins, and he has to admit that it feels disappointing to hear another name called out. The prize goes to the Dr. Eggman cosplayer, who Lance has to admit had a damn amusing skit and pretty solid costume. He claps politely with the other contestants. The second runner up goes to an EDI cosplayer from the game Mass Effect.
“Alright and our runner up prize, who will receive a Sony Playstation 4, $500 in credit, and will perform at Nationals if the first place team is unable to, goes to….” A hush falls over everyone. Lance snaps his hand out to hold onto Red’s. He’s happy that Red’s palm is just as sweaty as his. Their fingers tremble together.
Only one of three scenarios could happen. They either a: Are announced as the runners up, which is a great honour and they would be grateful… but it’s not first place.
B: They aren’t announced as the runners up, and they aren’t announced as anything. They don’t win a single category.
This option makes Lance’s chest turn icy. Red doesn’t deserve that. He’s worked so hard and poured all of his talents into this. Lance wants so badly to see his friend succeed. Of course he wants to win for himself too, but he honestly feels like he’s already gained so much from this. Winning would just be the cherry on top.
Then there’s option C. They win. They win everything. They get the money, the joy of beating Shiro and Allura… they get to go to Nationals. Lance gets to compete with Red again. He thinks he likes that part most of all.
Lance comes back to his senses. He shares a nervous look with Red.
“Shiro and Allura! For their touching Cloud and Aerith cosplay!” The host announces. The two graciously step forward to accept their prize. Shiro grabs the playstation and the two of them flash up goofy expressions for the official photographer who takes their photo. Lance would usually laugh, but he’s too busy screaming inside. Red’s nails are biting into the back of his hand. They stare at each other with baited breath.
“So that makes our coveted first prize winners…” The host begins. This is it. This is it. THIS IS IT.
“The ones who will receive $2000 each in cash, and will represent this region at the Nationals competition, is…”
Lance doesn’t breathe he can barely think. His ears ring terribly. His knees shake. There’s a ginormous cheer from the audience, and suddenly Shiro is clapping him on the back. Allura sweeps him into a tight hug. He’s numb and confused. That’s when Red grabs him and starts to violently shake him.
“We won!!” He cries. “We did it! We won!”
Lance blinks at him slowly.
“Oh my god Tay, we won!!”
“WHAT?!” Lance’s brain finally catches up with the situation.
“We won?!” He claps his hands to his face. Red laughs loudly and begins to repeat “Yes! Yes! Yes!” over and over.
“HOLY SHIT!” Lance shouts. He violently pulls Red towards him into a bruising hug. He spins him around as best as he can. Red laughs into the crook of his neck. Lance, moving purely on adrenaline, kisses him several times on the cheek. Red giggles and pushes him towards the host to accept their prize.
There’s a whirlwind of congratulations by the other contestants, more hugs from Shiro and Allura, and flashes of photographer’s cameras. They take publicity shots on the cosplay stage, before they are pushed out into the dealer’s room to hang out at the cosplay booth to promote the event, take more photos, and talk to anyone who approaches. Shiro and Allura as the runners up are also there, and Lance thanks them for their support. He’s not used to this deluge of attention. Allura also graciously touches up his makeup before any more photos can be taken.
“We need you to look as nice as possible. Can’t let Red’s impulses ruin your look.” She laughs and blots the red away from Lance’s lips.
“It’s ok.” Lance smiles.
“Oh, I’m sure it is.” Allura smirks back.
“Don’t let that witch near you, Tay. She’s just bitter she won’t be going to Nationals.” Red warns with a deadpan expression. “She’ll try to seduce you and take you away from me.”
“Oh, I don’t think anyone could take Tay away from you.” Allura purrs just under her breath. Lance thinks he’s the only one that heard. He stares at Allura, the very picture of grace and dignity, in shock. Did she just… sass him?
“I have known you for a total of five minutes. I do not deserve this treatment.” He gawks at her. Allura laughs darkly and moves in close.
“Welcome to the family… Lance.”
That shuts Lance the hell up. He silently walks back over to Red who is retouching his lipstick.
“She’s a demon.” Lance whispers. Red doesn’t have to ask who.
“Why do you think Shiro likes her?”
They pose for photos with people who watched the competition, and Lance doesn’t think he’ll ever get sick oh hearing how great he looks. He supposes he probably has a bit of an ego now, but he doesn’t pay that any mind. He laughs when a group of girls come up to congratulate them and tell them how excited they were to hear that he was cosplaying with Red this time. Some people they compete against come up to have a closer look at their costumes, and Red lets him take the lead when microphones are shoved into their faces to be interviewed.
“How much longer do we have to do this?” Red breathes. He leans his weight against Lance as his feet are starting to hurt.
“Not that much longer. You guys have had your last interview, so it’s usually just another 20 or so minutes.” Shiro schools them on how these things usually run. Red groans. The crowd around them has died down significantly, so Lance can get a better view of the happenings around them. There’s a cart selling churros in the corner and Lance’s stomach groans. He can also see a booth selling cute phone charms and stickers, and he thinks about buying something for Red. His eyes move over the hall when he sees a massive crowd forming around a corner. Lance knows how these spaces are usually laid out, so there shouldn’t be an attraction over in that space. It would be a fire hazard. His curiosity is piqued.
“Hang on, Red. I’ll be right back. I just wanna see something.” Lance’s feet start to pull him away.
“Whoa, Tay wait…!”
“I’ll just be a second!” And Lance is already lost in the crowd. He moves over to the corner, pushing past the throng of on-lookers. He can make out glimpses of moving blue metal. Maybe an arm or something? Lance shoves through the crowd until he hears a familiar voice.
“Yeah, so basically I decided to do this because my best friend is this phenomenal cosplayer, and he seemed to love creating and getting really involved in everything… but I can’t sew. I can’t do that.” Hunk’s voice is recognizable even over the din of the crowd. Lance finally breaks through and there, standing in all its 8 foot glory, is a fully functional, animatronic, Optimus Prime. Hunk stands to the side of it holding the largest remote control Lance has ever scene. He moves some levers and Optimus blinks, shifts his weight, and says in his trademark voice “Let’s roll out.”
“So… you wired and built an Optimus Prime?” The reporter asks.
“Well yeah?” Hunk shrugs. He acts like he’s just baked a cake or something equally mundane.
“I think it came out alright.” He smiles. The reporter looks at him like he’s the messiah. Lance expects he wears a similar expression.
“Hello, hi, yes. Pidge Holt, child prodigy.” Pidge pushes the reporter’s microphone down to her level.
“I would just like to say that I helped too.”
The reporter snatches back his mic.
“So anyway, Hunk… Pidge… is this…?”
“WHAT. THE. FUCK?!” Lance can’t contain himself anymore. He breaks away from the crowd as pride and shock bursts through him. The reporter covers his mic and murmurs to his cameraman.
“Ok, we’re going to have to censor that.”
“Lance!” Hunk beams. He tosses the controller to pidge flippantly, who buckles under its weight. Hunk rushes forward and sweeps Lance up into a crippling hug.
“Oh my god! Congratulations! I was busy setting this up, but I watched the whole thing livestreamed on my phone and ohmygodyoulooksoamazing and I can’t believe you….!”
“Yeah yeah yeah, cosplay, whatever. No big deal. WHAT IN THE SHITTING HELL IS THIS?!” Lance dramatically points to the monstrous robot in front of him. Pidge makes it wave at him.
“Oh yeah! This is what I’ve been working on! Oh wait….” Hunk rushes back to the controller and punches some buttons.
“I programmed something in it just for you this morning!”
The dark screens on Optimus’ chest, which should be the truck’s windshield when he’s transformed, begin to display words. The words run sideways, spelling out a clear message.
Congratulations Tay and Red! See you at Nationals!
Lance is speechless. He looks at his friend with adoration. He steps forward and breathes in deeply, before he brings his hands up to clasp Hunk’s warm cheeks.
“You are a beautiful man. The world does not deserve you.”
“Aw, you’re just saying that.” They both laugh and Hunk makes Optimus move around some more. He can make it walk forward and backwards with grace. He can even make it shimmy its shoulders and wiggle its hips.
“That’s just wrong.” Lance states. Hunk laughs. People in the crowd start to shout out things they want it to do, just to see if Hunk can make it do it. Lance’s eyes sparkle with a need.
“What are you thinking?” Hunk smirks. Pidge chuckles knowingly behind him.
“I uh…” Lance’s eyes follow the robot’s movement closely. “I wanna ride it.” He says with determination. Hunk smirks.
“I knew you were gonna say that.” He snorts. “Go on. There’s some obvious footholds and a seat behind his head.”
Lance turns towards his friend with wide eyes. They then begin to glisten with tears. He squishes Hunk’s cheeks again.
“My soulmate.” He whispers.
“Go on, get up there.” Hunk rolls his eyes at Lance’s dramatics.
Lance skips over to the large robot and scales it like a monkey. He’s seated behind his head and laughing maniacally in no time.
“Yes! YES! BOW BEFORE YOUR ROBOT OVERLORD!”
“Dear god. What have you done.” Pidge drawls. Hunk makes Optimus bounce so Lance gets violently jostled around. His laughs turn into screams. Hunk giggles.
“Are you sad about being replaced?” Hunk asks Pidge. She crosses her arms over her chest and shrugs.
“Not really. I think I’m much more suited to doing things like this.” She gestures to the remote she helped to program a week ago.
“But I will a bit. We’ll still cosplay together, I’m sure, but I was never going to be competition level with him.” Pidge looks up at Lance, who’s now petting Optimus’ head like a dog. She smiles nostalgically.
“I think he and Keith are well matched for each other. And I wanna see him succeed.”
She turns to Hunk with a glare.
“Tell him I said that and I’ll program Optimus to tell everyone about your crush on Shay.”
“Jesus, alright. I won’t.” Hunk laughs to mask his fear.
Lance makes his way back to the cosplay booth after convention security called his display an “Occupational health and safety hazard”. Even when Lance had ordered Hunk to make the robot step on them, his request had been refused, and they had threatened to kick him out if he didn’t climb down. He walks back to Red with slightly wounded pride and a sore butt. Red rushes forward when he sees him approach.
“Oh my god, we have finally been released. I am sweating everywhere. Please help me get changed.” Lance is abruptly towed towards the hotel.
“Oh, uh, ok!”
“Sorry, did you wanna stay some more?” Red remembers himself and stops. His ribs ache, his neck is starting to get sore under the weight of his headdress, and he really is sweating in impossible places.
“I could manage another hour if you wanted.” He offers.
“No, no, you look beat. Let’s get you undressed.” Lance winks. Red punches him in the ribs. It hurts more than it should.
They crash into Red’s room, high on the rush of winning, but also desperate to get out of their heavy armour. They can finally hear themselves think away from the din of the convention. Red’s hotel room is comfortably quiet, and smells like lightly perfumed makeup.
“Oh my god…. Oh my god I can’t believe we did it.” Lance mutters to himself.
“I know. I know!” Red shakes his shoulders. “In your face! Eat my dick, Shiro!” He punches the air.
“Oh my god,” Lance laughs. He removes his helmet and whips off his gloves and the bandages on his forearms. He moves back to Red to undo his armour from the back.
“I cannot wait to get all this stuff off, dance around his big, buff, body, and then stuff myself fell of nachos.” Red promises and shimmies out of his armour. Lance tosses it on to the bed. Red kicks off his boots, removes his gloves, and starts to finally peel off his clothing. Lance has taken off his armour and stands in his tunic and pants when Red is back down to just his briefs and corset. He pulls his headdress and wig off with a sigh.
“Oh my god, that is the second best feeling in the world.” Red runs his hands through his long, dark hair. Lance steps in close, drawn to it.
“Huh…” He picks up a few strands hanging next to Red’s neck and rubs them between his fingers. “I never thought you would have long hair.”
“Oh god, it’s probably a mess right now.” Red laughs in embarrassment. He runs his hands through the kinked up locks that have been sweating and mased up underneath a wig cap all day. He tries to loosen all the weird bumps as best as he can.
“No, it looks nice.” Lance smiles. He kind of wishes Red wasn’t wearing a wig during their performance, so he could’ve run his hands through his hair when he kissed… OK enough of that!
Lance moves around to Red’s back.
“Here, let me get this for you.” He undoes the knot in Red’s corset and pulls apart the panels. Red lets out a huge breath.
“Now that’s the best feeling in the world.” He sighs and rubs his ribs. He looks up at Lance expectantly.
“Pull your tunic off already. You can borrow my clothes. You’ll feel better.”
“Oh, OH no.” Lance, suddenly self conscious, holds his hands up. “I’m fine! Really!”
He’s seen Red’s body now, and there is no way he can compare. He doesn’t have the nicely defined stomach or the drool worthy triceps that Red does.
“Pfft, are you pretending to be shy now?” Red snorts. “Don’t be such a weenie.”
“I’m not a weenie!” Lance’s voice breaks, making him sound very much like a weenie. Red presses himself close. He grabs the base of Lance’s tunic and looks up through thick, false lashes.
“You won’t let me undress you?” He purrs. The blood drains out of Lance’s face. He’s too dumbstruck to notice the tunic being whipped off his head. Red laughs loudly.
“I knew that would work.” He hums. Lance looks down at his bare chest.
“You’re so easy to read.” Red chuckles. He tosses over a white t-shirt and a pair of track pants.
“Put these on.”
Lance mumbles insults under his breath as he removes his pants. Red starts to pull off his eyelashes, then grabs some makeup remover wipes. He’s about to lift one to his face when Lance jumps over and grabs his wrist.
“Hey! Ho! You can’t just take your makeup off!” Lance proclaims. Red looks at him with confusion.
“There’s a whole ritual. It’s tradition!” Lance laughs. He grabs the wipe out of Red’s hand.
“Here, let me show you.” He grins. Red places his hands on his hips. This oughta be good.
Lance clears his throat.
“Whoooooooo is that girl I seeeeee? Staring straight…. Back at me? Why is my reflection someone Iiiiiiiii don’t knoooooowwwww?~”
“Holy shit, are you actually singing Mulan at me right now?” Red stares in captivated disbelief.
“Yes, I am. Now quiet.” Lance smirks. He begins to dance around, waving the makeup wipe dramatically in his hand. Red laughs and shakes his head.
“Soooooomehooowwww I caaaaNNOT hide, who I am, though I’ve tried…” Despite his goofyness, Lance knows he is nailing these notes. Ok, so he may have one extra talent that he never told Red about.
“When will my reflection show, who I am…IIINNNSIIIIIIIIDEEEE!” Lance grabs Red by the waist, pressing their bare chests together, and begins to roughly scrub at his face . Red flails his arms, coughing and spluttering.
But Lance just laughs. When he feels he’s gotten enough, he begins to pull the wipe away.
“When will my reflection show, who I aaaammmm….” But Lance can’t finish the lyric. His eyes widen at the face in front of him.
“Keith?” He whispers.
Keith’s reflexes jump into overdrive. He’s never told Tay his name. HE’S NEVER TOLD TAY HIS NAME! The warm arms around his waist are pulled away and Tay starts to stumble back.
“Who…?” Keith breathes.
“Nothing. Never mind.” Tay claws at the pants Keith has leant him, desperately trying to pull them onto his long legs.
“How do you know my name?” Keith breathes.
“I don’t. You’re hearing things. Listen I’ve just remembered…” Tay eyes the door, and this feels far too familiar. A shared moment. A boy apologizing profusely and fleeing out the door. Keith is not letting it happen again. He grabs a wad of makeup wipes and tackles Tay before his hand can touch the door knob.
“Ack! Red! Let me…”
“My name is Keith and you know it!” Keith straddles Tay’s waist. He fights to pin the hands that are trying to shove him off.
“Tell me who you are!” Keith demands. Tay just wriggles more.
“I’m Tay! You know…!”
“That’s not your name! What’s your real name?!”
Tay kicks and tries to pull his wrists out of Keith’s vice like grip. With his free hand, Keith starts to attack Tey’s face with one of the makeup wipes. Tay fights and twists his head around as much as he can. In the struggle, Tay’s ponytail comes undone and his brown hair starts to fly around.
“Keith! Keith, please!” He begs. Satisfied that he’s gotten most of the makeup off, Keith pulls his hands away.
He immediately lets go of Lance’s hands. Keith gasps softly and claps his hand over his mouth.
Lance sits up and sniffs. He can’t meet Keith’s gaze and there are tears in his eyes.
“What? Oh no, Lance.” Keith starts to rub his thumbs over Lance’s cheeks, but Lance yanks his face away.
“Why didn’t you…” Keith looks wounded. “Why did you try to run?”
Lance rubs his eyes with the back of his hand. There’s a lump in his throat. The best day of his life has just become the worst. The world has been ripped out from under him. When he had kissed Keith, his hopes had been dashed, but he could still hold onto the idea of Red. Keith didn’t want him. Would never want him. But maybe there was some kind of potential with Red? And now Lance has his answer. He never stood a chance.
“Because…!” He sobs. He sniffs again. “Because I LIKE you, but but…” Lance continues to rub the balls of his hands into his eyes. The tears won’t stop falling.
“But you don’t like me. You don’t like Lance. And, and now that you know I’m Lance, you won’t want to…”
Keith snarls and rips Lance’s hands away from his face. He rushes forward so violently, that when he crashes his lips into Lance’s, he’s sure that they’ll bruise. Keith’s fingers grip painfully to the back of his neck and he runs his tongue along his bottom lip. Keith pulls away with a gasp. Lance stares at him with a wet mouth and confused eyes.
“You never gave me a chance to kiss you back that day.” Keith pants. This time, when he surges forward, Lance rises to meet him. He cups Keith’s jaw with his hand and holds onto the small of his back. Keith moves his mouth clumsily over Lance’s, and their teeth continuously clack together. Lance pushes him back.
“Keith, what the hell…?”
“I’m sorry!” Keith rubs his mouth. His shoulders hunch forward in shame and his blush is visible all the way down his chest.
“I’ve never done this before! So I don’t know what I’m doing and…!”
“Whoa, hold up!” Lance looks at him incredulously. “What do you mean you’ve never done this before?”
“I….” Keith’s mouth forms a tight line. He looks to the side and scratches his arm. “That day in the garage…. That was my first kiss… so…” He trails off and worries his lip.
“Oh…” Lance breathes. Something primal roars in his stomach. “I was your first?”
“Y….yeah!” Keith snaps.
“Oh, Keith…” Lance melts forward. His arms tenderly wrap around Keith’s shoulders. He brushes the hair off of his neck and brings his hands up to delicately cup his face.
“Keith, baby, I had no idea. God, no wonder you looked so scared.” Lance whispers and brings their foreheads together. Keith thinks he could probably die happy if Lance called him Baby just once more.
“It’s ok.” He pants. “But I wanted you to kiss me.” He licks his lips. “I always want you to kiss me.”
Lance groans in the back of his throat. Keith hears it and smirks.
“I’m sorry I’m not very good at it.” He shyly laughs.
Lance moves forward and kisses his cheek. His words fan against Keith’s ear.
“I’ll teach you if you want.”
“Yeah.” Lance pulls back. His rubs his thumb over Keith’s lips. They are soft and part delicately when he applies a bit of pressure.
“Just relax, ok? I’ll go slow.”
Lance presses their lips together with a gentleness uncharacteristic of the loud mouthed, over energetic boy Keith is familiar with. He moves his lips slowly, and Keith follows along cautiously. Lance rubbing the back of his neck makes him ease into the kiss and hum. Lance doesn’t push forward, but he does carefully run his tongue against Keith’s bottom lip. Keith gasps and grips tightly to Lance’s shoulders, letting him shyly touch the tips of their tongues together. Keith starts to get a grip on himself again, and pushes his tongue more forcefully forward. Lance whines. He begins to move his lips in a steady rhythm and Keith follows suit. That’s when he feels something wet touch his cheek.
“Lance?” He pulls back to see Lance wiping tears from his eyes once more.
“Lance,” He lunges forward with worry, and starts to push the tears back.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry” Lance sniffles and smiles. “I’m just…!”
He buries his head in his hands and bends his knees up. He wants to fold into a ball, but this action just presses Keith closer on his lap.
“I’m just so happy.” He mumbles behind his hands. “Fuck, I’m an idiot. I can’t believe I’m crying.” He laughs. Keiths hums happily. He pushes Lance’s hair off his forehead.
“I just can’t believe its you.” Lance whispers. Keith kisses the tip of his nose.
“You disappointed?” Lance snorts. Keith moves forward so his bare chest and all of his weight is on Lance. He closes his eyes and presses a chaste kiss to his lips.
“I fantasized about it being you” He whispers into Lance’s open mouth. Lance keens at the confession. He throws all manners out the door and knots his fingers in Keith’s hair. He plunges his tongue into Keith’s eager and willing mouth. Keith’s naked thighs grip tightly to his waist.
“Hey guys! Congrat….!”
Something clicks. Lance and Keith look up at the commotion, mouths swollen, barely dressed bodies intertwined, and one minute away from dry humping each other, to see that Shiro, Allura, Hunk and Pidge have let themselves into the hotel room. They carry a cake that Hunk has quickly assembled and iced the words “Cosplay Champions!” onto the top of. All four sets of eyes stare down at the tangle of boys on the floor. Allura lets out a little squeak. Hunk wants to disinfect his eyes. Shiro tries to smile, but it’s hard to when your childhood friend is grinding on some kid in just his underwear. And Pidge… Pidge grins maliciously up to her ears.
“Congratulations” She smirks widely.
Lance groans and falls back against the wall behind him. Keith glares and crosses his arms. This seems to shake everyone out of their horrified states.
“Oh! Keith, I meant to mention that your friend Lance? Yeah, yeah, he’s Tay!” Shiro feigns innocence, but his wide grin betrays him.
“Gee Shiro, thank you so much for this information I so desperately needed yesterday.” If looks could kill.
Lance looks up at Hunk with a weary expression. Hunk avoids his eyes shamefully.
“Red is Keith!” He gives in.
“My best friend…” Lance shakes his head in disappointment. “The one I turn to….”
“Oh c’mon, Lance…”
“No, no. Our friendship is revoked. You are dead to me.” Lance turns his narrowed gaze onto Pidge. Her grin is wild.
“I’m not even surprised.” Lance sighs. Pidge shrugs.
“Alright, can everyone get out?!” Keith demands. Shiro blocks the doorways when Allura tries to leave. He stares at Keith an imploring gaze.
“Can you please, just please, for the good of my mental health….” Shiro presses his hands together in prayer. “Admit that it was obvious and that you’re an idiot?”
Keith lets out a suffering sigh. He looks over at Lance’s face. Tay’s face. Alright. He supposes there is some similarity.
“It was obvious and I’m an idiot.” He rolls his eyes. “Now everyone get out!”
The group jumps into action to rush out of the room.
“Whoa, whoa, hey whoa, Hunk!” Hunk freezes in the doorway at the sound of his name.
“Leave the cake.” Lance nods over at the coffee table. Hunk runs it over.
“Ah of course” He laughs. “Are we friends again?”
“We’ll have to see how good that cake is.” Lance smirks.
Hunk closes the door on the way out.
Lance sighs and sits up. Keith runs his hands through his hair. The two enjoy the silence and the heat between their bodies for a moment.
“I’m gonna keep kissing you.”
Keith quickly cuts off any more words.
Lance dives into his pad thai and red duck curry like a man on a mission. The restaurant hums busily around them, but everyone at the table is silent as they shovel in their dinner. Many of them haven’t eaten since breakfast and their stomachs growl loudly. Allura barely chews her fish cakes. Shiro’s hands are a flurry of chopsticks. The group finally comes up for air after a steady 10 minutes of eating. Shiro starts to tell them some story about Pidege’s brother spilling acid on his crotch. Pidge, unsurprisingly, laughs the hardest. Lance chuckles and leans on Keith’s shoulder. They’ve showered now and look more like themselves. All the eyeliner is gone from around their eyes, and Lance’s hair sweeps across his forhead and lightly curls around his ears. Keith runs his knuckles along his shaved sides once more. Lance hums into the touch.
“I really like this. Have I mentioned that?” Keith smiles against Lance’s ear. Lance sighs happily.
“You don’t miss my old hair?”
“Not at all.” Keith combs his fingers through the longer parts of Lance’s hair. “It’s pretty hot.”
“Guys! I’m literally eating! Please!” Hunk chides them. Pidge nods in agreement.
Shiro laughs and sets down his bowl in front of him.
“Yeah, save it for later guys. Remember I’m older than you and can go to jail if I see that stuff.” He smirks. “Also it’s icky.”
Lance sits up and rolls his eyes.
“Fine, fine.” He sighs. “I won’t flaunt my amazing boyfriend in front of you…”
“Boyfriend? Excuse me?” Keith’s interjects. Lance stares at him in confusion. His stomach turns cold. So he was right? Keith didn’t want to be with him after all? Lance hadn’t even considered the possibility of not having him always at his side now. His pulse thunders with fear. His expression is wounded.
“I’m just kidding.” Keith kisses him on the corner of the mouth. “Consider it payback for running away.”
Lance’s extremities regain feeling. His shocked expression melts into an annoyed grimace. He shoves Keith’s shoulder.
“Jeez! Don’t do that to me!”
Keith laughs playfully. “Sorry, sorry.” He gently begins to kiss Lance and all is forgiven.
“GUYS! EATING! WHY?!” Hunk protests again. The two separate with a groan. Lance sighs and leans on the table.
“What on earth are we going to do for nationals?” He whines.
“God, I can’t even think about it.” Keith flops back in his seat. “I’m still spent from this one.”
“Hunk should make us some sweet animatronics to wear. I know that much.” Lance winks at his friend. Hunk winks back and throws him a thumbs up.
“Mmmmmmm, would you wanna do couple cosplay again?” Keith asks. Lance smiles lazily.
“Oh yeah, I’d always be up for that again. Got any ideas?”
Keith smiles deviously.
“No, but uh…” He leans down close to Lance’s face.
“I think you should be a girl this time.”
Lance’s eyes widen.
“Oh no. No, no, no. I am not suited for that.” He starts to sit up.
“Why not?” Keith laughs.
“I would make a very ugly girl, I’m sure.” He shakes his head.
“Well I think you’d be very cute.” Keith grabs his chin and gently turns him towards his face. “C’mon. Let me put some lashes on you, see what happens.” He coos.
“I’m taller than you!”
“I’ll wear thick soled shoes.” Keith counters. Lance groans. He knows this is a battle he’s already lost.
“Ah jeez. You gotta make me look hot though, ok!” Lance lays out his conditions. Keith clenches his fist and whispers a victorious “Yes!”.
Lance pulls out his phone to check the time and maybe start searching for cosplay ideas, but he’s startled by his lock screen. It is full of notifications from tumblr and most of them are asks and messages. The words “Congratulations!” and “Finally!” flash before his eyes.
“Whoa what?” He mumbles and unlocks his phone. He opens the tumblr app to try and sort through the notifications.
“What is it?” Keith leans over.
“Check your phone.” Lance suggests. Keith arches an eyebrow, but follows the advice.
“The hell?” His notifications are also blowing up.
“Did you post…?”
The two scroll through all the messages until the final notification. It’s a post by a tumblr user that has both Keith’s and Lance’s names tagged in it.
“Do you recognize this person?” Keith shows his boyfriend the username. Lance swallows.
Keith opens the post before Lance can warn him. In the post is a series of images. Their bodies have been cropped out, but their faces making out with each other are clear as day. If you scroll through them fast enough you can actually watch Keith move and change the angle of his head to kiss Lance better. Lance groans and buries his face in his hands. Keith is numb, but still reads the caption at the bottom.
Rover-I-call-over: In case you guys missed it, @TheTailorCosplays and @Red-Lioness-Cosplay not only won their competition today, but also got together after months of dancing around each other. Please join me in a long sigh of relief.
“WHO IS…!?” Keith shrieks.
“Pidge…” Lance growls. Pidge looks up innocently from her yellow curry.
“The opportunity presented itself.” She chews. “I took it.”
Keith and Lance flops back with pitiful whines. Lance brings up the photos on his phone. He flicks through them once, twice, three times. The embarrassment is still there, but happiness starts to pool in his gut. He tries not to let Keith see him save the photos. Keith does the same.
“Did you just…?” Lance asks.
“Forget what you saw.” Kaith warns. Lance smirks and leans forward into another kiss.
“GUYS I WILL GET THE HOSE!”
But they pretend not to hear Hunk’s cries.