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Costumed Identities

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Harryploppers asked:

Hey Red! I’ve been following you for a while now and I’m always amazed at how flawless and beautiful you look. Do you have any makeup recommendations? What’s your favorite product?

 

Red-Lioness-Cosplay answered:

Oh thanks! I’m sure most of it is due to good lighting and talented photographers though.

My favorite product is my maybeline master precise eyeliner. Shiro gave it to me and I haven’t looked back. I also really like the body shop’s blush and bronzer.

 

 

Anonymous asked:

Hi Red, ah sorry I’m pretty new to cosplay and I was just wondering how you dealt with long wigs? I have so much trouble, but your hair always looks so smooth and natural.

 

Red-Lioness-Cosplay answered:

Get some horse man and tail detangler. … I’m serious. It’s the best for preventing your wigs from tangling. If you go to your local saddler the store clerks should be able to tell you which brand is their favorite.

…maybe don’t tell them it’s for wigs though.

 

 

Pugsnhugs asked:

Hey Red, sorry I may have just stalked your blog a bit, but I notice you and Tay of “TheTailorCosplays” live in the same town and often go to the same cons. It looks like you’ve competed against each other several times too. Are you guys friends at all? If you are, you guys should totally cosplay together sometime. I think you’d look great together.

 

Red-Lioness-Cosplay answered:

… I have no idea who you’re talking about.

 

 

“No idea!” Lance shrieks. It startles Hunk next to him and the car swerves violently.

“WHAT WHAT?!” Hunk exclaims.

“Sorry! Sorry, not you.” Lance calms his friend before their car goes careening off the road. Lance looks down at his phone again. He stares at the tumblr post glaring up at him. I have no idea who you’re talking about. The small letters cut through him.

“I just…. I cannot believe…

“What is it?”

“Someone just asked Red-Lioness-Cosplay about me. Like if we were friends?!”

Pidge perks up in the back seat at the sound of Red’s name. Anytime she was brought up in a conversation, Lance would crumble into a seething, horny rage.

“Oh?” Pidge adjusts her glasses.

“And she said, AND I QUOTE, ‘I have no idea who you’re talking about’. NO IDEA?!” Lance throws his arms up. His hands whack against the roof of the car.

“Whoa, whoa, slow down there. Who’s this girl?” Hunk dodges his lanky limbs.

“Red!” Lance exclaims, like the name… or colour, should awaken some memory within Hunk. Pidge leans forward, resting on the center console.

“Red is that really hot cosplayer that keeps beating Lance to a pulp in competitions.” She smirks.

“She does not beat me to a pulp. She scrapes a few extra points in the craftsmanship area. That’s all.” Lance crosses his arms and pouts. Hunk scowls. He wracks his brain for some mention of this person, when his eyes light up.

“OH! The Samus incident?!”

 

The Samus incident. That’s what the trio had called it.

 

Just last year, Lance had entered a cosplay competition. He went as Vergil in his devil trigger mode from the video game DMC, which was slightly unusual for Lance, who usually prefered big armour builds. But this time he had chosen to focus more on his sewing skills. His jacket was lined, hand dyed, hand embroidered, and true to his online username, excellently tailored to his body. He’d spent days cos-testing and trying to figure out the best method to create Vergil’s demon makeup, and standing on stage, he had looked like he had been lifted straight from the game. Lance was a performer. No doubt about it. His skits were always the best, and he usually won the audience’s approval easily. Even if he couldn’t grab the coveted first prize, Lance had won more audience choice awards than anyone else in the cosplay community. He was charming, charismatic, and moved with ease on stage. He had the audience loudly cheering during this competition. He had first prize in the bag.

 

That’s when Red walked out as Samus from the Metroid video games. Lance had been mildly impressed. She was in the Varia suit, which definitely was a difficult build, but Lance had seen stuff like this before. Well done, but pretty standard fare. And it looked difficult to move around in. Her movements were clunky and looked nothing like the fast moving bounty hunter she was supposed to be. Lance had chuckled to himself side of stage. Finally he was going to beat her. This was a long time coming.

 

Until she stepped into the middle of the stage. With a few clicks and a whir, the Varia suit opened up. The huge armour parted in the middle, and with a removal of her helmet and a tossing of her long, blonde wig, Red stepped out in Samus’ zero suit.

“TWO COSPLAYS!” Lance had hissed. One character. Two costumes. Perfectly executed. Red was stunning in the zero suit that glistened under the bright lights. It was so tight on her body that it was sinful, and even though Lance was pretty sure Red was a brunette, hot damn did she look good blonde. He didn’t know whether he wanted to punch her or propose to her.

 

This was it. He couldn’t beat this.

 

And he didn’t.

 

“Yes, yes. Red was that Samus cosplayer.” Lance continues to pout in the front seat of the car.

“We were all very impressed. She actually deserved to beat me that time.”

“I dunno. She trashed your Owain from Fire Emblem when she was Queen Serenity from Sailor moon pretty damn well.” Pidge chuckles.

“SAILOR MOON IS BASIC BITCH COSPLAY AND EVERYONE KNOWS IT.” Lance seethes. Hunk scoffs next to him.

“No it’s not.” He laughs.

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure she had an eight foot train. And I think she made a lot of the lace herself…. You told me she looked like an angel.” Pidge teases.

“Nope, nope. Did not. Don’t remember.” Lance shakes his head.

“You told me you were going to marry her. That your oldest son was going to be named Miguel.” Pidge states. Much to Lance’s annoyance, her incredible memory didn’t just soak up complex formulas and facts. She had a knack for filing away all the ridiculous things Lance spouted, to hold them against him at a later date.

 

“So what’s the big deal? She doesn’t know you. You’re not friends.” Hunk shrugs.

“Oh ho ho, it’s not friendship that Lance wants.” Pidge giggles. Lance blushes up to his ears.

“Look! My feelings for Red are very complicated, but the one thing I do know is that I am very insulted she doesn’t know me. We compete against each other all the time! I remember her!” Lance slumps down in his seat. He’s being dramatic, but Hunk can tell that this has genuinely hurt him. Despite their rivalry, it’s clear that Lance has a lot of respect for what Red does. It’s not unusual for Pidge to wake up to a text at 2am from Lance with a link to one of her latest photoshoots and a message exclaiming “Look at what this chick just pulled off!”.

 

Lance sighs. His words are quiet.

“I just figured she would know me by now.” He purses his lips. The car engine thrums.

“Well… you have another con coming up. Maybe you could confront her there?” Hunk offers. “Just you know, introduce yourself. Maybe show her some photos of the two of you standing next to each other?” His words are sweet and supportive, but Lance only focuses on two of them. Confront her.

“Yeaaaaahhhh,” Lance’s eyes widen. He sits up. “This weekend. I’ll destroy her this weekend!” He crows.

“You’re not even competing this weekend.” Pidge drawls. Lance turns around and stares at her with wide eyes.

“Oh I’m always competing, Pidge.” He starts to whisper. “In this game called life.”

“Oh my god.” Pidge throws herself across the seat.

 

 

Hunk parks in their school’s student parking lot and they begin to make their way to their classes. Pidge, being the year below, heads in the opposite direction to her chemistry class, whilst Hunk and Lance walk towards physics.

 

Lance hates physics. The material is dry. It’s a lot of reading and memorization and rope learning, which Lance has found does not suit the way his brain works at all. Hunk has taken it upon himself to tutor him, which has helped greatly, but it doesn’t make the subject any more interesting. It just means that Lance can now sit in class and actually understand what his teacher tells them.

 

They file into their classroom, lit up by the early morning sun, and begin to pile into their assigned seats. Their teacher stands at the front of the class with an enthusiastic smile.

“Good morning class!” Coran’s ginger moustache bounces on his lip. Lance likes Coran a lot. He speaks to Lance in hushed tones because he knows he is self conscious about not understanding the material, and Coran always tries to explain things in terms that he knows Lance will understand. It’s just a shame that he teaches such a buuuuullshit subject.

 

“Today I am going to introduce to you your latest assignment! It’s a real doozy, so I’ve given you two months to complete it.”

There’s a communal groan throughout the class.

“Now, now don’t be like that. I think you guys are gonna have a lot of fun with this one.” Coran taps his computer and flicks up the assignment criteria sheet, which is projected onto the whiteboard at the front of the class.

“Using what we’ve learnt about forces and engineering over the past few months, you guys are going to design and build a bridge! And to keep things interesting we are going to make it a competition.” Coran claps his hands proudly.

“The bridge that weighs the least, but is able to support the most, wins!”

“What do we win?” Lance drawls. Coran beams.

“The respect and adoration of your peers!” He announces. “…and maybe a king sized snickers.”

There’s a weak cheer.

“Also you will be completing this in partners…”

Lance’s head almost whips off his neck with the speed he turns to face Hunk. Their eyes meet. Hunk waggles his eyebrows coyly at him. Lance blows a kiss and Hunk pretends to catch it, before sighing dreamily.

“…and I will be assigning them to you.” Coran continues.

 

Lance turns cold. Nooooo. Group and partner assignments break him. Despite his easy-going nature, school is important to him. He needs good grades to get where he wants to be after school, so he can’t afford teammates who slack off or do poorly. Because Lance knows he can’t compensate for them. He can’t be that kid who ends up doing the whole project himself and getting an A+ for everyone involved. He needs the help. Hunk is usually that help. He waits and preys that Coran is merciful. He knows Hunk and Lance are usually a team, and they produce good work.

Pleeeease, Coran. Lance tries to telepathically communicate with his teacher. This is Laaaaaaance. Put me with Huuuuuuuunk.

 

Coran makes his way around the room. He reads off kids names from his notepad. He’s thought about this. He’s not just drawing names out of a hat like other teachers.

“Lance!” He calls out. Lance makes his best puppy dog eyes. You knoooow what I waaaant Coraaaan. Coran seems to chuckle.

“I think you’d do well with Keith for this one.” He states, then moves on to the next student. He walks away before Lance can sputter and argue.

 

KEITH?! His chest clenches. Lance has had very little exposure to Keith, but all of his encounters have been unpleasant. So far he has formed the opinion that Keith is two things:

  1. Very
  2. An arrogant butt.

 

He speaks to Lance with clipped, terse words, like he doesn’t have the time to spare to talk to him. He keeps to himself and seems to sigh a lot.

 

He laughed when Lance got a problem wrong on the board.

 

That had been the nail in the coffin. Lance’s fingers were already shaking with nervousness. He could barely read his smudgy handwriting on the whiteboard, and when he had chosen the incorrect coeffiecient and Keith’s laugh rang out? He’d never felt more worthless in his life. He wanted the ground to swallow him. It took every fiber in his body to not burst into tears. Hunk had had to give him an extra big hug after that class.

 

Keith was an asshole. Lance was sure of it. But he had the second highest grades in the class, after Hunk, so at least Lance wouldn’t have to pull him along. Lance tries to not think about him struggling with calculations. He tries not to think about Keith sniggering at him as he has to erase something, or flick open his text book for help. He isn’t sure he can emotionally handle this. His heart beats in his throat.

 

“L…Lance?” He snaps up at the sound of his name. Everyone around him is packing up there things and Keith is standing in front of him. Oh god, had he worried away the whole lesson? He doesn’t even remember what it was about! Crap. He’ll have to get Hunk over for another tutoring session.

“Um… I was thinking we should probably… exchange numbers. So we can talk about the assignment?” Keith nervously scratches his arm. Lance narrows his eyes. What did he have to be anxious about? He must be furious he’s gotten partnered with a dunce like Lance.

“Yeah. Guess you’re right.” Lance sighs. He fishes in his pocket and pulls out his phone, then hands it over to Keith.

“Just put your number in.”

“Mmm, you too.” Keith hands his over. Lance almost smiles at the Evangelion charm that hangs from it.

“When did you uh… did you want to meet up sometime outside of school to work on this?” Keith takes his phone back.

“Yeah. I’m busy this weekend though. I have a…” Oh god, Keith does not need to know Lance goes to conventions. He’s sure he’d really laugh at that. And if he knew he cosplayed? Lance’s reputation would be ruined. Lanky Hispanic kid likes to play dress up. He can already hear the taunts.

“A…thing.” Lance finishes.

“Yeah, yeah, I’ve got a thing too.” Keith sighs. “Monday afternoon? After school?”

Lance mentally flips through his schedule. The convention would be over and he didn’t have any pressing assignments due the next day.

“Ok.” Lance nods. He packs his untouched books into his bag. “Text me if you have any genius ideas throughout the week.”.

And he shuffles past Keith and out the door.

 

 

Keith falls into his room and collapses on his bed. School has a way of zapping all the energy out of him with all the continuous noise and forced social interaction. His parents are still at work, so he’s thankful that the house is currently silent. He shimmies his backpack off of his shoulders and rolls over. His back cracks as he stretches out on the bed. He closes his eyes. Taking slow breaths, he reaches his hand into his pocket and pulls out his phone. He unlocks it to see that Lance’s contact information is the last thing still open. He smiles at that. He’d have to give Coran a good review at the end of semester. Maybe his stares across the class had been less subtle than he thought.

 

He presses the home button and Lance’s info disappears. He flicks between apps on his phone checking messages (a text from Shiro asking about an upcoming convention), reading emails, and scrolling idly through facebook. He’s finished reading all of the important messages when he decides to open up his tumblr app. He’s planning on just flipping through his dashboard, maybe liking a few cosplays and videos of shiba inus, when he sees the bright red number staring aggressively at him from the corner of the app’s icon.

 

37.

 

He had 37 messages.

 

“Whaaaaaat?” He drawls. It was pretty common for him to get messages. Usually they were people asking for cosplay tips, or maybe even the rare fan linking him to some fanart they did, but 37?! That was an unusually high number.

Oh god, what’s happened? He breathes to himself. He tentatively opens the app and begins to read.

 

Appa-yip-yip asked:

 

Whoa, what? What do you mean you don’t know Tailor? I swear I’ve seen you guys together in convention photos before? Have you never properly introduced yourselves?

 

Anonymous asked:

 

SHUT YOUR ASS. What do you mean you don’t know Tay??!!

 

Pineapple-smoothie asked:

 

DUDE. DUDE STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING. Go check out Tailor right now, because he’s super cute, and wow I could stalk his blog all day, but he’s also hella talented. Seriously, go.

 

Suck-my-digglet asked:

 

HOW DO YOU NOT KNOW TAY?! His Eren Jaeger went viral. He’s basically canon now. Also his Spike Spiegel is the thing dreams are made of.

 

 

All of Keith’s messages are like this. All of them. He’s so overwhelmed he can’t even begin to reply to any. What were they even talking about?! Why was he being attacked like this? … WHO THE HELL WAS TAY? And why was he such a big deal?

 

Keith looks through his previous asks, thinking someone must have asked him about it. And sure enough there it is. An innocent question and a username that Keith had previously brushed off. TheTailorCosplays. Thinking that he has to appease the masses somehow, he clicks the link.

 

Oh.

 

Oh.

 

This guy.

 

Keith had no idea what his name was, or even that he had a tumblr or a decent following, but yes. Keith absolutely remembers this guy. He had just been calling him “That really hot Hispanic cosplayer” in his head. He was definitely talented. Enough so that Keith really thought he was going to beat him a few times in competition, but he hadn’t quite managed it yet.

 

But his costumes weren’t what pulled Keith in. It was the way his smile charmed everyone around him, and how he moved with confident self assurance. His laugh could be heard tinkling like bells in the convention halls, and he was always warm and welcoming to anyone who approached him. Nothing like Keith. Keith was beautiful, but distant. He couldn’t have animated, passionate conversations with strangers the way this guy could. God… how many times had he wanted to congratulate him or say hello, but he had always chickened out?

 

Keith spends the next two hours drooling over his blog.

 

 

Hunk waits outside the teeming exhibition center. Saturday has finally rolled around, and he waits anxiously to see what Lance and Pidge are going to pull off this time. Lance has been surprisingly quiet about it. Hunk doesn’t cosplay, but he certainly admires the idea of it, and he loves that his best friend has found something that makes him this happy.

 

Hunk: You guys almost here?

 

Pidge: Literally just walking around the corner.

 

Hunk: Which corner?

 

Lance: Look up dumbass.

 

Hunk’s head whips up and he quickly spies Pidge and…

“Ohhhhhhh myyyy gooooood!” His booming laugh carries throughout the courtyard. Lance’s smile beams from underneath his blue helmet. His bulky, bright, blue armour stands out strikingly in the crowd, and he waves the shovel he carries around dramatically.

“You’re Shovel Knight?!” Hunk cackles. The two of them had played the co-op of the game until 3am one night during the summer holidays, and it held a special place in their hearts.

“Yeah man!” Lance is just as enthusiastic to show Hunk. He’s been sitting on this secret for months.

“Oh my god,” Hunk is still catching his breath from laughing so hard. “I love it. I love it so much. Oh my god…”

Lance claps him on the shoulder and holds his phone out.

“Here I’ve gotta get a photo with you…” He starts.

“No no! Take it with my phone!” Hunk clumsily takes his phone out of his pocket and switches the camera on. He wraps an arm around Lance’s bulky middle.

“I’m making this my phone background, so look nice.” He warns. Lance chuckles.

“I always look nice.”

There’s a click and Hunk pulls down the phone to inspect the photo. His smile grows wider.

“You look amazing, dude.” He shakes his head in disbelief.

“You glad I kept it a secret?” Lance teases.

“Oh absolutely.” And true to his word, Hunk sets the photo as his phone’s background. That’s when he finally looks up to see Pidge. She’s dressed in jeans and a green tank top. Casual wear. Hunk arches an eyebrow.

“Lance didn’t need a shota sidekick this time?”

“No.” pidge crosses her arms. “Thank god.”

“Aw c’mon, we have fun together.” Lance prods her in the side with the handle of his shovel. She bats it away.

You have fun. Girls come up to you and tell you how handsome you are, while I spend all day being told that I’m adorable and cute.” She hisses.

“You are cute!” Lance exclaims. His voice echoes in his large helmet. Pidge’s eyes narrow.

“I would cut you in your sleep and not even think twice about it.”

“Shovel knight never sleeps. He is a warrior for all.” Lance prods her with his shovel again and she hits it away more aggressively.

“Alright, I’ve had enough of this. Hunk we’re going to be late.”

Hunk looks at his watch and makes a noise of affirmation.

“Oh yeah! We’ll see you later, man.”

“Whoa, whoa! Where you going?” Lance calls after his friends as they begin to walk away.

“There’s an animatronics and 3d printing panel. You can come too!”

“Ugh, I’ll pass. You nerds go have fun. I’ll be in the dealer’s hall.”

“kay!” and Hunk jogs after Pidge.

 

Lance tries to move about the dealer’s hall and artist alley, but it’s difficult with how large he is, and how frequently he’s stopped for photos. He’s particularly thrilled when little kids recognize him, and he always lets them hold the shovel in photos and thanks their parents for bringing them to the convention. He remembers his mum chauffeuring him around with all his gear when he was younger, and what a pain it must have been for her. But she never complained.

 

A huge group of jock looking guys yell at him from across the hall, and he ends up spending about 15 minutes with them taking ridiculous photos and laughing at their enthusiasm and expressions. Several people even recognize him, not only as Shovel Knight, but as Tay. He hears the name called out, and at first he doesn’t notice it. Tay is an online alias. The online world never met the real world, yet here these girls were. Yelling out his username and running over to him. They got photos and gushed about their favorite cosplays of his, and he could have probably spent all day with those girls, when someone caught his eye. A flash of red hair and black leather.

“Girls, I am so sorry, but I’ve just seen someone I really need to talk to. If you could just… excuse…”

He starts to walk through their group as cries of “Oh sure!” and “Go right ahead!” follow him.

 

Their voices are faint to him now though. His eyes are locked on the Batwoman cosplayer across the hall… because he would recognize that ass anywhere.

‘Hey! Red!” He barks. The cosplayer spins around at the name. Her red curls bounce lightly against her shoulders, and beneath her mask, Lance can just make out her eyes widening.

 

Keith’s eyes land on the huge Shovel Knight cosplayer immediately. He’d be impressed and ask for a photo, if he weren’t barreling towards him intimidatingly.

“Red Lioness, right?” Shovel Knight snaps.

Oh god. What did he do?

“Y…yes?” He stammers. He can barely breathe past his waist cincher. His ankles ache from his heels and he’s sweating underneath three layers of padding, undergarments, and pleather. He does not need this right now.

“Sooooo, we’ve been competing against each other for years. I win a bunch of audience choices over you, and you don’t even know who I am?

Keith deflates.

“Tailorcosplays?” He sighs.

“Oh good, so now you’ve figured it out!” Shovel Knight scoffs.

“I… I know who you are.” God, this was not how Keith wanted to introduce himself.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t know you’re name. But I definitely know who you are.” Keith speaks very quietly. Almost sheepishly. Shovel Knight’s rage is immediately gone.

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. Your Owain definitely should have beat my Serenity. You did all that leather work by hand, yeah?”

 

Lance is very thankful that he’s wearing a helmet, because he knows he’s turned bright red.

“Y…yeah.” He sighs. Red nervously bites her lip. “Look, I’m sorry. I was just really hurt that you seemed to not know who I was.”

“You follow my blog?” Red asks, looking surprised.

“Well…well yeah. I need to see what my rival is up to.”

 

And even though Keith can’t see it, he knows what kind of wide grin Tay wears under his helmet.

 

“I’m very flattered.” She smiles. “And I’m sorry too. God if I had known what a big deal it was gonna be…”

“I swear to god I didn’t send those people to harass you.”

“I know you didn’t, and it’s ok. They kind of had a point.” Red laughs.

“So… Tailor?” Red holds out a hand. Lance smiles and shakes it.

“Tay is fine. Red?”

And she nods. They let go of each other and Lance doesn’t miss the once over Red gives him.

“I’m very impressed. But is the shovel really necessary? It must get annoying.”

Lance balks at the question.

“What… Excuse…?! … What kind of weak ass Shovel Knight would I be…”

“Okay, okay!” Red laughs. It makes Lance’s stomach flutter. He’s never seen Red show any other kind of expression besides “ethereally beautiful” and “murderous”. It’s thrilling to hear her voice and see her smile like a regular person.

“Do you uh… think I could get a photo?”

“YES.” Lance answers all too eagerly. “I… I mean of course. I’d really like that.” He clears his throat. Red pulls out her phone and waves for Lance to come over.

“You’re gonna have to squat a bit. I can’t get us both in frame.” She chuckles.

“Sure, sure.” Lance looks up at the phone’s screen and tries to position himself as best he can. He flashes up a peace sign when the camera clicks. Red brings it down and smiles at it. Lance quickly stands up before his legs give out under him. A silence yawns between them, but he doesn’t want to leave just yet. Not when he’s so close to maybe actually striking up some kind of friendship with this girl.

“So! Uhhh….” He struggles for a conversation topic. “Batwoman huh? You… You a fan?”

“Well we have a lot in common,” Red sighs.

“Oh yeah?”

“We both wear an unhealthy amount of red and black, and we’re both very very gay.” She laughs.

 

Lance’s heart drops to his stomach. Of course… of course he had never expected any kind of relationship with Red… but he couldn’t deny his attraction to her. She was stunning, talented, and looked like she could bite out a man’s jugular. All thing’s Lance found imperative in a woman. He knew he could never have anything with Red. She was grossly out of his league, but to have his hopes dashed so swiftly… it felt like a punch in the gut.

 

“Oh?” He squeaks.

“I thought it was obvious.” Red smirks.

“I don’t uh… I don’t know anything about you besides what you like to dress up as.” Lance chuckles. “But you must have a lot of disappointed fans.”

Red just shrugs.

“But then I also have a lot of followers that would be really excited about that.”

“Yeah, I bet that’s true.” Lance nods.

“You can’t please everyone.” Red laughs breathily. “I mean you seem to have a fairly strong following. I bet your orientation disappoints half of your fans.”

“Oh well…” Lance leans forward on his shovel. “I’m bi…. So actually no. Everyone has a chance.”

 

Keith swears he can hear Tay’s eyebrows waggling.

“Oh.” He states. “Everyone?”

“I am a man of varied tastes.”

And Keith can just make out Tay’s white teeth smiling from underneath his helmet.

“You’re a nerd. You’re at an anime convention. Just remember that.” Keith replies snarkily. Tay laughs loudly at that.

“Oh I know. You don’t have to remind me.”

 

Something loudly buzzes in Lance’s bag. He fossicks around until he grabs his phone, and pulls off a glove to unlock it. A message from Pidge blinks on the screen.

 

Pidge: Yo our panel’s finished. You up for food?

 

Lance’s stomach growls appreciatively. He hasn’t eaten at all in the rush to get costumed up and out the door.

“Ah, I’m really sorry…”

“You gotta go?” Red smiles. Lance nods sadly.

“It’s cool. I’m just glad I could finally put a face to a name…” Red squints at Lance’s all eclipsing helmet. “…Well kind of anyway.”

“Me too.” Lance hums. “But uh, Comiccon is in a fortnight. I know it’s a bit close but…”

“I’ll be there.” Red smiles and tucks a strand of her red wig away.

“What are you cosplaying as?”

Lance’s eyes twinkle.

“Ahhhhh, that is a surprise. But hopefully something more transportable than this.” Lance shrugs and the huge weight of his armour shifts.

“What are you going as?”

“Well if you’re not telling, I’m not telling.” Red grins. God her smile is sexy.

Lance’s phone buzzes angrily.

 

Pidge: YO! EATS!

 

“Ah…”

“Just go, it’s fine.” Red waves him off. Lance waves back and starts to jog away.

“Try to recognize me at the next con!” He laughs.

“I’ll follow your blog!” Red yells back.

“Please don’t! I really don’t need you stealing my secrets.”

“Your secrets are hot glue and duct tape. I see through you.”

Red’s words should be insulting, but the way she chuckles afterwards makes Lance feels lighthearted.

 

 

After a long shower, Lance collapses into his bed. His feet ache from wandering around the convention all day, but he got a lot of great photos out of it. And Pidge and Hunk seemed to have a good time at whatever nerd speaker they listened to. Lance lays in his boxers and begins to flip through his phone. Guiltily, he starts to go through Red’s blog. Sure enough, there’s a bunch of photos of her as Batwoman with a swarm of fans and other cosplayers. There’s also a few self indulgent selfies that Lance recognizes had to have been taken in the convention’s bathroom. Ok, so she was totally out of his league and a lesbian, but that didn’t stop Lance from scanning through every new photo and post with intense focus.

 

That’s when he sees it. The selfie Red had taken with him, with her beaming widely and Lance flashing up his peace fingers. You can’t see it, but Lance remembers how widely he had been smiling at that time. His chest flutters when he reads the caption underneath.

 

Before any more of you send me any more angry messages, I met TheTailorCosplays today, and yes I DID remember him, I just had no idea what his name was. He seemed to laugh the whole thing off, even though I felt terrible. He’s very talented and I expect a lot of great things from him.

 

Lance pulls his knees up to his chest and giggles like a little girl. He’d be more embarrassed if he weren’t too busy feeling absolutely elated. A notification flashes up for just a moment.

 

Red-Lioness-Cosplay started following you.

 

Damn. He’d have to stop posting as many memes now.

 

 

Keith: Uh hey. It’s Keith.

Lance: Hey

Keith Hey

Keith: So we said we’d meet up tomorrow afternoon, but we never said where.

Lance: Uhhhhhhhh…

Keith: I’d offer my place, but I think my mom has her book club over.

Lance: My place then? You can just come back with me after school. I can drop you back home or get my dad to when we’ve finished.

Keith: you sure?

Lance: yeah it’s easy

Keith: Cool. See ya then.

Lance: *thumbs up emoji*

 

“Ohhhhh man.” Keith presses his hands to his burning cheeks. Lance’s house. Lance’s house. Lance’s… bedroom? Is that where they would be working?

 

Lance was loud, obnoxious, kind of skinny, and untactful. Keith knew all of these things. He’d repeat them to himself over and over. But everyday he was still entranced with Lance’s smile. The way he effortlessly made other people laugh and feel at ease. He was bright, and warm, and his nose turned upwards in the cutest way when…

 

Keith shakes himself back into focus. This is his chance. To finally make friend’s with Lance the way literally everyone else in their cohort had. Keith would be a good partner, and he would be nice. Not weird and standoffish. Not cold and unintentionally rude like he always was. Not moody and broody. Nice dammit. Keith claps his hands against his cheeks with determination.

You can do it!

 

 

Monday afternoon arrives and the drive to Lance’s house is fairly quiet. He politely asks how Keith’s weekend was, and what he got up to, and Keith replies in short sentences. He’s too afraid he’ll say something embarrassing (well I walked around in heels, a padded bra and a leather bodysuit all Saturday) or rude, which he has a tendency for. Keith isn’t rude or mean, he’s just terrified. Lance is in the seat right next to him. Keith going to his house. Butterflies lurch violently in his stomach and he keeps his mouth shut as a defence against vomiting everywhere.

 

They pull up into Lance’s driveway and Keith is surprised at the level of debris outside the house. It’s not… messy. “Organised Chaos” his mother might call it. A pile of bikes have been tossed in the corner of the yard. There’s a classic white picket fence around the large property, and Keith has to step over several dog toys that hide in the long grass. They reach the front door and Keith is frightened of the shouting inside. What the hell was happening?

 

“You have siblings?” Lance asks. His hand hesitates on the door nob.

“No.”

“Oh jeez. Brace yourself.” Lance warns. They push inside and Keith winces at the noise. Two people are shouting at each other from across the hall, but there’s oddly no malice to it.

“I need my hoodie, Lisa!” A male voice yells out.

“I don’t have your hoodie! I gave it back!”

“Nooooo, then I would have it!”

“Jesus, I left it right on your…” A girl comes stomping out of a bedroom. Her mass of brown curls has been pulled into a messy bun on top of her head, and there’s still some baby fat around her face. She looks about 14. She’s heavier than Lance, but has the same tight mouth when she grimaces. Her eyes dart up and spy the two boys. They widen when they land on Keith.

 

“Jeez, could you guys keep it down. I’ve got someone over to work on an assignment.” Lance sighs.

“Keith, this is my sister, Lisa. Lisa, Keith.” Lance quickly introduces them. Lisa gives Keith another once over with a smirk.

“School assignment?” She asks. Lance hums.

“Shame. He’s pretty cute. I thought you’d finally gotten a boy…”

“OK LEAVING NOW!” Lance forcibly shoves Keith past. With a hard push and a tumble, Keith finds himself in Lance’s bedroom with the door being slammed behind him. He pulls himself up and readjusts his messed up uniform.

 

“What was that?!” He breathes.

“Nothing. Never mind. She’s just a brat. We getting started or what?” Lance throws his backpack on the bed and begins to rummage through it to pull out his physics books.

“Uh yeah… ok.” Keith looks on in confusion, but follows Lance’s example all the same.

 

 

They sprawl out on Lance’s floor. Papers and textbooks are scattered around them, and Lance has provided cushions for them to lean on. They’re trying to brainstorm what materials they could make their bridge out of, and what style of bridge they should go for, but Keith is getting distracted by the contents of Lance’s room. It’s organized chaos, just like the rest of the house, but Keith smiles at all the knick knacks and posters he can identify on the walls. There’s several printed out photos of Lance, Pidge, and Hunk in silly poses pinned by the bed’s headboard. It looks like the photos were taken in one of those novelty photo booths.

 

A cup of empty ramen noodles sits on his desk, as well as several empty cans of Sprite. A couple of little league trophies sit high on a dusty shelf, and there’s a pile of spider man comics on the floor next to Lance’s bedside.

 

“What about an arch bridge?” Lance asks out loud. Keith pulls himself back into the conversation.

“Wh…what? Sorry.”

“For the type of bridge. Did you have a preference? Arch through bridge seems easy.”

“Oh… like Sydney harbor bridge style?” Keith offers. He flicks through his notes about bridges, and the advantages and disadvantages of each style.

“Suspension is always reliable. And probably easiest to do calculations for.” Keith looks up, but Lance has glazed over. He’s looking at nothing in particular, and Keith notices the bags under his eyes.

“Dude,” Keith says sharply. Lance comes back into focus.

“Sorry, sorry. I’m just…”

Lance is exhausted. Conventions always fool around with his energy levels for a few days. The stress of the night before, the adrenaline of putting everything on the morning of, and then running around excitedly for the whole weekend. He’s struggling to stay awake, even when Keith’s glare is right in front of him.

 

“I’m sorry, I just had a big weekend.” He rubs his eyes tiredly. “It’s been difficult to stay focused today.”

Boy, did Keith know how that felt. He had practically slept all of Sunday and he was only just returning to normal today. The balls of his feet still ached occasionally from his heels. And his sleep schedule barely had time to recover after the several late nights he had pulled to finish off his costume.

“Yeah, yeah me too.” Keith slumps forwards onto his elbows. He winces a bit.

“Sorry, can I use your bathroom?” He mumbles. Lance wakes up a bit at that.

“Oh yeah, sure thing.” He stands and opens the door. Luckily his siblings have quieted down significantly. Keith begins to walk down the hall.

“Just the second door on the left.” Lance directs. Keith pauses. Second from the start of the hall? Or second from where he is now? He begins to move towards a battered looking door, which is second from the start of the hall. It looks like paint covered fingers have touched it recently. Blue paint.

“This one?” He begins to turn the handle.

 

“NO!” Lance abruptly pops up in between him and the door. “That one!” Lance nods towards the next door down.

That’s the bathroom. Not this one.” Lance forces a smile. His heart thunders in his chest. He hopes that Keith will just turn away without any further questions. How could he possibly explain his sewing room full of styled wigs, half sewn tunics and a disheveled Shovel Knight costume in the corner? He could try to blame it on his sister. Say she was in drama and had to make theatre costumes. Except there were tonnes of photos of very obviously Lance in different cosplays, pinned to the walls as souvenirs from each convention.

 

Keith eyes him suspiciously, but doesn’t press forward. He shrugs and moves towards the bathroom. Lance exhales loudly when the door closes.

 

“Don’t want him to know about your fortress of solitude?” Lisa pokes her head out of her room. Lance starts.

“How long have you been there for?”

“Long enough to see you practically launch the poor boy into the sun. What’s the big deal?” She shrugs.

“I just… It’s weird ok. It’s an odd thing for a guy my age to do, and I just don’t want to explain it.” Lance sighs. “We’re just doing an assignment. Keith doesn’t need to know everything about me.”

Lisa shrugs.

“Well… I think it’s pretty cool.”

Lance deflates, but there’s a small smile on his lips.

“Thanks sis.”

 

 

They start to do some calculations for how long their materials need to be. What kind of strength they can expect from them, and how to maximize the weight the materials can hold. Lance grimaces over his calculations. He’s had to erase his latest answer several times. He knows something’s off, but he can’t bear to ask Keith for help. Keith notices the pained look on his face.

“You want a hand?

“No, no. I’ll get it. I know I can.” Lance gnaws on his pencil. “I know I’m stupid, but I’m working on it.”

 

Keith blinks at that. Lance’s words hurt something in his chest.

“You’re… you’re not stupid.” He states, softly.

“You seem to think I am.” Lance glares at the paper in front of him. He’s finally getting a chance to have this confrontation, but he knows he’ll chicken out the moment he sees Keith’s dark eyes and fine features. He knows he has a problem standing up for himself against pretty people. Keith takes a sharp intake of air.

“What?” He gasps.

“You laughed at me. When I got the question wrong on watts in a circuit.” Lance pouts. Keith wracks his brain. He knows he would never laugh at another student struggling, let alone Lance. He had seen how hard Lance had worked in this course and how he smiled extra wide and clutched his test paper to his chest every time he got a higher ranking in the class. When would Keith have ever laughed at…

 

Oh.

 

Wait.

 

Keith sighs. Oh god, clearly that had been terribly timed. He remembers Lance at the board, and an uncharacteristic bark of laughter coming from himself, but not for the reason Lance thinks.

“Lance,” And the way he says his name so softly and sweetly makes Lance look up. He meets Keith’s eyes and immediately regrets ever bringing this up. God he was weak. Especially when Keith’s navy eyes are wide and sad.

“I… I didn’t laugh at you messing up the question.” Keith glances to the floor. A faint blush creeps on his cheeks. “You… you uh… picked a seat that some art students were working on before.” He scratches his cheek nervously and continues to avoid Lance’s eyes.

“There… There was chalk on your butt. It kind of looked like a smiley face.” Keith mumbles. He wants Lance to know that he wasn’t laughing at his mistake, but he also doesn’t want Lance to know that he was staring at his ass.

 

“There… there was…” Lance blinks. “Are you serious?!” he throws his arms out wide. So much anxiety and tears over nothing. Chalk on his butt? That’s what made Keith snigger so loudly??!!

“I’m sorry!” Keith holds his hands up innocently. “It just made me laugh! Little chalk smiley, just having a nice time on your butt!”

“Oh my god!” Lance collapses forwards. He buries his head in his hands. He doesn’t know whether to start giggling like an idiot, or scream towards his ceiling. But something still doesn’t sit right with Keith.

 

“You thought… I thought you were stupid?” he whispers. Lance just shrugs, like he’s used to it.

“Well yeah. Why not?”

“Cuz you’re not!”

Lance purses his lips. A sad laugh rises from his chest.

“It’s ok. One of the downsides of hanging out with two geniuses all the time.” He shrugs. “I must look like a toddler compared to those two.”

“I’m sure people don’t compare you.” Keith states quietly. Lance raises a skeptical eyebrow.

“People always compare. C’mon who do you hang out with? I’m sure they’ve got a slight inferiority complex.” Lance laughs. Keith doesn’t. He drops his gaze back to the numbers on his page and chews the inside of his cheek. Lance waits expectantly.

“C’mon man. Who’s in your squad? Are they all as mysterious as you?” Lance chuckles. Keith purses his lips harder. His pencil digs into his page a little deeper. A thought bubbles in Lance’s mind. No. No way.

“Keith,”

Saying his name makes Keith look up. His eyes lock with Lance’s, which are crinkled with concern.

“Who are your friends?” He asks quietly. Keith wrings his shirt in his hands and tears his gaze away. He scratches the side of his face anxiously. Lance swallows.

“Keith…” He breathes sadly. Keith’s stomach drops.

“I…. uh I… don’t really hang out with anyone. At school I mean.” He swallows. “I have friends!” He declares, almost defensively. “B…but they’re older than me, so I don’t get to see them as much.”

Lance’s look of pity hurts. Keith knows it’s pathetic. That he doesn’t have anyone to sit with at lunch times, or to work on group projects with. He’s seen the way people flock around Lance, and his stalking gaze burns with jealousy and admiration.

“You… you could hang out with us.” Lance shakily offers.

“I’m sure Hunk and Pidge would like someone to talk to physics about…that actually might understand what they’re saying.” He smiles kindly. Keith’s eyes widen.

“But…” Keith isn’t the most socially savvy, but he’s seen the glares Lance sends him. He’s noticed the way Lance exuberantly greets everyone each morning in class, when all Keith gets is a quiet “Hey.”

“You…you don’t like me.”

“Yeah,” Lance scoffs. “Because you don’t like me. But I can put that aside if you’re …”

“What?” Keith balks. “I…I like you fine.”

Now it was Lance’s turn to be speechless. His cheeks heat up at the minute confession. He’d always assumed Keith had found him irritating and obnoxious.

“You… you do?”

Keith nods.

“Oh… well then.” Lance claps his hands together. “Then I like you fine too.” He beams. “I’m willing to promote you to friend.

Keith feels like he’s going to pass out. Lance’s smile is blinding, and his words ignite fireworks under his skin. Friends. Friends with Lance.

“I um…” He clears his throat. “Ok.”

Lance sighs and mentally congratulates himself.

“So there you go. Now you have a friend at school.”

Keith hums.

 

They continue working, but Keith has a hard time reading his equations from how much his hands shake with happiness.

 

 

“Hey man, how’d your play date go?” Hunk’s tinny voice sounds through Lance’s phone. Lance sighs, but continues working.

“Fine, fine. By the way, Keith might be hanging out with us from now on. So hope you don’t hate him or anything.” Lance feeds the fabric through his sewing machine. The thrumming of the needle is almost hypnotic to him now.

“I…I don’t. But… don’t you?” Hunk asks cautiously. He’s glad that Lance seems to be getting over his grudge, but he doesn’t want him to push himself.

“Eh,” Lance answers. “I think he’s ok. There was a bit of a misunderstanding, but get this! He doesn’t have any friends at school!”

“What? No, dude, he’s gotta…”

“No! I asked! He said he has no friends! Like not even people that hang around him just to stare at his pretty face all day. Not even fake friends who just want in his pants!” Lance shakes his head. He pulls the fabric from underneath the foot of his machine and cuts the thread.

“…Are you in that category, Lance?” Hunk sniggers.

“Hey man, I am many things, but blind is not one of them.” Lance changes his bobbin and begins to sew a new piece of fabric. “I’m just saying, if the opportunity arose, no strings attached, Keith offered me his ass? Yes…. Yes I would gladly take a bite.”

“Dude!”

“What? He’s hot! You’ve seen him! As long as he doesn’t open his mouth or look at me with contempt, I think we’d have a good time!”

“Jesus, dude.” Hunk sighs. “So you’ve just invited him to hang out so you can ogle him?”

“No, no.” Lance sighs. “I genuinely want him to have somebody. Who knows. Maybe he and Pidge will hit it off?” Lance hits a thick seam, and his machine has to work harder to get the needle through. It thrums loudly.

“Alright, well I’m glad you offered….” Hunk hesitates. “Bro, are you sewing right now?”

“Uhhhhhhhh….”

“Oh my god! Do your homework!”

“I only have a fortnight to finish this!” Lance shrieks and he begins to sew more feverishly.

“Priorities, Lance.”

“My priorities are fine, thank you.” Lance drawls. He’s pulls his fabric out and fiddles with the seam. It puckers more than he would like. He frowns at it.

“Are you doing all this to woo the fair Red?” Hunk sings. Lance barks with laughter.

Impress Red. I’m trying to impress her. Sadly she told me that she was gay, so there will be no wooing.” Lance moves to his ironing board.

“Aw, no chance at all.”

“None at all. My fantasies are dashed. She only likes girls.” Lance presses a seam. Steam rises from where the iron contacts the dampened fabric.

“Huh…” Hunk ponders. “Does she now?”

 

 

“Pidge, we are late! Now pull on your damn tights!” Lance pushes a pair of black and white stockings into Pidge’s chest. Despite her face being covered in makeup already, and her fake ears glued down, she’s still reluctant to finish getting ready.

“Whyyyyy….whyyyyyy? Can’t you go by yourself?” She collapses on the edge of Lance’s bed. Lance moves around feverishly as the adrenaline of a convention morning has fully kicked in. He’s lining his eyes skillfully, changing their shape so that they look bigger and more youthful. His bright blue contacts almost completely change his face. With a satisfied nod, he finishes the touches to his eyes and begins to pull on his blonde wig. He coughs around the fibres that always seem to find their way into his mouth.

“No! I need you! Link has a companion in every game. I can’t be alone.” He scoffs.

“But why Midna? Why am I always your fairy or gremlin sidekick?”

“Because you refused Zelda! You had the opportunity to be my partner! My equal!” Lance adjusts the wig around his prosthetic ears. “I honestly don’t get it.”

 

Pidge groans. That’s right. She remembers why they had settled on Midna from Twilight Princess. She was one of the few companions that didn’t annoy the shit out of Pidge when she had played The Legend of Zelda games, and even though she was small, she wasn’t the classic fairy archetype. So at least she would avoid all glitter and wings for the weekend. But most importantly, Midna was in no way romantically inclined towards Link. So Pidge wouldn’t be asked to take photos with Lance making googly eyes at him, or him carrying her princess style. The thought of even pretending to be in love with Lance had made her gag. No thank you.

 

“Alright, alright.” Pidge pulls on her stockings and begins to arrange her huge headdress. Lance pins the trademark green cap to his wig. He walks up to Pidge, gently clinking as the chain mail under his tunic shifts, and claps his hands together.

“Alright! Let’s wreck this con!”

 

 

They walk towards the convention center and are immediately grabbed by a barrage of photographers. It’s flattering, and Lance welcomes the compliments and camera flashes with a smile and wave, while Pidge stands and glowers. It’s too hot and she’s so close to getting inside actual air conditioning. Couldn’t they take photos in the foyer?

 

They pose together, pulling off the silly stances they thought up on the drive over. At one point Lance ends up piggy-backing Pidge, while she points forwards as if to say “Onward my steed!”. They gradually edge their way over to the glass doors. The cool breeze from inside beckons them, and Pidge is about to bolt inside when a young boy with a camera around his neck bigger than his head catches them.

“H…Hi! Wow you guys look really great.” He starts. Lance beams and arches an eyebrow cockily.

“Thanks, we’re pretty happy with how they turned out.”

“I was just wondering…” The boy continues. He dances around his question and Pidge’s glare is vicious. C’moooooon just snap the photo and let’s go!

“There’s a really awesome Twilight Princess Zelda here, and I was hoping I could get a photo with all three of you?” He asks meekly.

“Oh yeah, sure man. Absolutely.” Lance, ever the people pleaser, obliges. “Where is she?”

“She’s just inside here.”

“Oh thank god. Yes, we’ll do it.” Pidge barges past and through the glass doors. The soothing cool air takes the edge off her mood immediately. She breathes a sigh of relief. Thank god she set her body paint properly, otherwise it would have melted off an hour ago. Lance follows behind with a chuckle.

“Feel better?”

“Much. Apparently I am part amphibian and breathe through my skin. This body paint is killing me.” Pidge sighs.

Lance scans the foyer for the Zelda cosplayer. It’s crowded and there’s even more cosplayers and photographers inside, taking moody portraits pressed up against the windows and looking out onto the grounds wistfully.

“She’s over there,” The photographer points at a small crowd by a window in the corner. Sure enough, there’s a remarkably beautiful Zelda against the window, encircled on the outside by a couple of photographers and onlookers. Lance puts on his most charming smile and hesitantly approaches the cosplayer. He doesn’t want to rudely crash her shoot. The group of people ooh and ah as he and Pidge get closer. One of them yells out “Princess, your hero is here!”.

 

The girl turns to finally see them. Lance shyly waves. Pidge’s eyes widen. Oh… of course.

 

The girl’s eyes narrow and she gives Lance a hard once over.

“Tay?” She nervously asks. Lance balks.

“Oh man, Red?” Red nods enthusiastically. Lance recognizes her now, the slant of her nose, her small chin. Her shy smile sends butterflies to his stomach.

“What are the odds?” She laughs and walks over to them. Her chiffon dress billows elegantly behind her.

“I know right! I had no idea…”

“Me neither.” Lance and Red both giggle. Pidge wants to vomit.

“Do you think we could get some photos with you?” Lance asks. The photographers nod enthusiastically behind him.

“…We?” And that’s when Red finally notices Pidge. She throws up a wave.

“Oh! Sorry, I didn’t….” She starts to apologise. Pidge shakes her head.

“It’s fine, it’s fine.”

“You look really amazing though. Very cute.”

Pidge’s eye twitches. Lance notices. He place’s a gentle hand on Red’s shoulder to push her out of Pidge’s line of fire.

“You look stunning. I almost didn’t recognize you.”

 

Keith’s gone. He wants to melt under the hand on his shoulder. He hopes he has enough makeup on that Tay can’t see him blush. How can this boy say something so embarrassing so sincerely? Stunning, Keith repeats in his head.

“Th….Thanks…” He stammers. “You look really…” Handsome. Sexy. Hot. Beautiful. Can I take nude photos of you where you leave the wig on?

“Accurate.” He settles on. Not exactly the most seductive of compliments, but it’s a decent one for a cosplayer.

“Thanks!”

“Alright, alright, how do you two want to do this?” Pidge gets in between the two of them before they can make more bedroom eyes at each other.

 

They’re stuck in that foyer for an hour. For Keith it passes in a blink and blur of smiles and laughter at Tay’s ridiculous expressions and the jokes he cracks with the Midna cosplayer next to him. Keith never did catch her name. Tay lets Keith hold his sword in several photos, and lets him pose like the hero while he comically swoons in the background. Midna very kindly offers to pick up his skirt and toss it in several photos so it looks like the wind is gently blowing it. His feet ache and he’s starting to sweat under the layers of makeup he has on, but he finds it hard to complain when Tay is next to him, cheerily answering any questions directed at the both of them and greeting any fans that may recognize them. It puts Keith at ease. He feels like he doesn’t have to force himself to interact.

 

There’s a lull finally in the people coming up and asking for photos. Keith sighs.

“I better let you guys get back to your plans. I don’t want to hijack your morning.”

He begins to step back. Tay looks at him with a puzzled expression.

“I’ll see you around, yeah?” Keith turns. A hand quickly grabs his wrist.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa, no way. Do you know how badly I’ve wanted to cosplay Link with a Zelda?” Tay chuckles.

“I’m sorry, but I’m afraid you’re not getting rid of me today. Now what did you have planned, beautiful? I’ll go wherever you lead.”

Keith almost swallows his tongue. He’d usually bristle and growl at being called pet names, but the way Tay smiles when he says it, the earnestness behind it, knocks the wind out of him. He’s a man who has a designated closet for his heels, but he’s never felt more like a flustered teenage girl than in this moment.

“Oh…. Okay.” His voice cracks.

 

They stay together throughout the dealer’s hall and Lance notes that Red spends an unusually large amount of time in the artist alley. She enthusiastically coos over custom phone charms and gets excited by a set of mech bookmarks. She doesn’t buy much, saying that cosplay zaps away most of her money. Lance nods at that. She does purchase a plush Link though, saying she’ll keep it as a souvenir. Lance lights up at that. He offers to sew little clothes for it so she can dress it up in his different cosplays. Red laughs.

 

It’s early afternoon when Pidge hits her breaking point.

“Hey man, you doing okay?” Lance hands her a water bottle. She gulps it down gratefully.

“Sorry. I just think I need to get this paint off.”

“Aw man, you wanna go to the bathroom and take it off?” Lance kneels down in front of where Pidge sits on the ground. He carefully takes off her huge headdress, which is probably trapping in a bunch of heat.

“I’ve got some wet wipes if you want them.” Red offers. Pidge waves off her offer.

“I think I might just head home. My feet are killing me.”

“Oh.” Lance sighs a bit. “Ok, I guess we can…”

“I’ll get Hunk to pick me up, idiot.” Pidge smirks. “Wouldn’t want to ruin your day.” She knowingly glances at Red. Red looks down at her blankly. Lance punches Pidge in the arm, knowing what she’s hinting at. She chuckles. Lance helps her to her feet. She gathers her bags and begins to make her way to the convention entrance.

“Have fun you two!” She calls and disappears through the doors.

“I feel bad. Should we have gone with her?” Red asks.

“No, no it’s ok. She’ll be fine.” Lance stands and brushes off his knees.

“Where next, Princess?” He sighs. Red blushes up to her ears. Lance silently claps himself on the back for that.

“Th…there’s a panel on uh…I was interested…”

“Sounds great.” He laughs. “Lead the way.”

 

 

They don’t make it to their panel. They end up outside in the courtyard taking photos again, because Tay is too nice to say no, and Keith is drawn in by him so easily. The sun is lower in the sky, meaning that the lighting is ideal for photos. They start off with basic poses, and start to get silly, but the atmosphere shifts when some girls come up.

“Hey could we get some photos too?” They beam.

“Yeah, of course.” Tay starts to pull out his sword and raise his shield when he notices one of the girls open and close her mouth silently.

“This uh…. This not okay?” He asks. The girl doesn’t meet his eyes.

“Sorry, sorry. I just really like Link and Zelda. I was kinda hoping I might be able to get a photo of you two like… more together?

Keith’s eyes widen.

“It’s ok if you’re not comfortable with that! I’d take you guys just standing…” The girl begins to apologise.

“No, no, I’m sure we can do something for you.” Tay sheaths his sword. Keith’s eyes widen further.

“Oh we will?” He smirks.

“C’mon, just a little bit?” Tay shrugs. Keith looks over at the girl who smiles with polite hope. He sighs.

“Alright, alright.”

He steps in close and wraps his arms around Tay’s neck. He has to do it while he still has the nerve, before his brain can interject. Tay stiffens under his touch, then he smirks and relaxes into it. He places their foreheads together.

“Like this?” He smiles at the girls on the side. They look like they’re about to combust.

“Y…yeah. Thanks!”

Tay wraps his arms around Keith’s waist. He swallows audibly.

“You ok?” Tay asks with concern.

“Fine, fine.” Keith sighs. Because wow is he not. He can smell the sweat on Tay’s skin and feel the heat from his breath.

“Hey you’re pretty tall.” Tay comments.

“Am I? I thought I was pretty short.”

“No way. I usually have to bend over much more.” Tay glances over at the girls.

“Ok, one more!” He announces. “Just for you girls.”

He lightly cups Keith’s jaw and gives him the most erotic, half lidded eyes he’s ever seen. Tay begins to lean in.

Holy shit, holy shit. He’s going to kiss me.

Keith closes his eyes and eagerly waits. But nothing happens. Just a bunch of squealing and a shutter click before his jaw is released. His eyes flutter open. Tay looks down at him with awe.

“Wow! You’re really good at posing.”

Yes…. Yes… posing. Keith calms himself. He wasn’t just 100% ready to make out with this boy for a photo. Nope. Definitely not.

 

“Sorry, could I get a couple of photos like that?” A shy photographer with a huge backpack and oversized glasses shuffles over. Tay looks over at Keith and rubs the back of his neck.

“Uh, it’s up to you. I don’t wanna make you uncomfortable.”

“I’M FINE WITH IT.” Keith answers too eagerly and in a weird staccato voice that isn’t quite his. Tay beams.

“Alright, great!”

 

They pose for the next 45 minutes. Tay cupping Keith’s face in both of his hands and looking lovingly into his eyes. Hands on the small of his back. Keith’s head resting against his warm chest. The minutes pass by in a flurry of touches and caresses, and each one sears Keith’s skin. They laugh off every time someone asks if their dating, but he wishes Tay hesitated at least a little bit before answering. Just a blush or a sigh would give Keith the tiniest bit of hope that maybe Tay had thought about it. But none come. The photos stop, and so do the embraces when it becomes too dark out. Tay’s bright blue eyes glow in the last remaining bits of sunlight.

“I’ve probably gotta head off. My parents are expecting me for dinner.” He speaks quietly. It feels intimate.

“I uh…” Come on, Keith. You’ve picked fights with kids twice your size, but you’re too much of a coward for this?

“I had a fun today. I don’t usually get the chance to cosplay with people anymore.” He nervously rubs his arm. “I kind of lost my partner when he got a cosplaying girlfriend.” He rolls his eyes and laughs.

“Aw man, that sucks. Who was your partner?”

“Shiro?”

“Shiro!” Tay claps his hands to his head. “The Shiro???”

“You know him?” Keith smirks. He absolutely knew Shiro had a reputation. He was practically built like every video game protagonist and superhero released in the past decade. He’d swept up more championships than any other cosplayer, and that number had only increased since he teamed up with Allura.

“Aw man! That guy’s my hero! He complimented my Suzaku cosplay and I thought I honestly died!” Tay throws his arms out wide. Keith laughs. He’s seen Tay be incredibly charming, but his dorky side is unquestionably adorable.

“Yeah, well he taught me everything I know.”

“Jesus, that’s why you’re so good. I bet if I had Shiro helping…” But Tay stops himself. He doesn’t want to bring up their rivalry now.

“Anyway, it sucks you lost your partner.”

“Yeah, yeah. We still do a few things, but he’s got university and…” Keith fades out. Tay nods.

“Yeah, I get it.” He pauses. His eyebrows crease and he worries his lips.

“Listen, if you ever wanted to do anything with me…. Uh… I’d definitely be down for that.”

Down for that? Keith smirks. Who actually says that? But the offer sends warmth through his chest. He definitely had a lot of fun with Tay today, and the idea of spending another entire day listening to his laugh isn’t exactly repulsive.

“I’ll think about it.” He answers coolly. Tay beams.

 

 

Keith eagerly ditches his wig when he gets back to his house. His feet ache when he kicks off his shoes, and he sighs at the cool air on his skin when he wriggles out of his dress. He’s just unclasped his bra when Shiro walks in.

“Hey man,” He sighs. “I’m so sorry for bailing on you today.”

“Don’t you knock anymore?” Keith drawls. He reaches behind his back in search of the laces to his corset. Shiro watches him struggle, before moving behind him to help out. He undoes the laces and loosens them. Keith undoes the zip in the front with a gasp.

“Jesus,” He sighs and rubs his ribs. “Thanks, Shiro. And I get it. How did your emergency meeting go?”

“Ah fine. Like it was stressful, but I think Matt and I have this assignment figured out now. We’ll probably pull an all nighter tomorrow.”

“Oof, that sucks.” Keith sits on the bed in just his briefs and runs his hands through his messy hair. It’s been crumpled underneath a wig cap all day and it’s still curling in odd places.

“I still feel bad though. I hate leaving you to go to cons alone.” Shiro crosses his arms over his chest. He doesn’t miss the slight blush that appears on Keith’s cheeks.

“It…It’s ok. I actually met a Link cosplayer there, and we hung out for most of the day.” He scratches the base of his neck. Shiro smirks.

“Oh? Was he good? Was he cute?” He leans forward.

“Stop it,” Keith laughs and kicks Shiro lightly in the shin.

“I got photos though! Wanna see?” Keith rolls across the bed before Shiro has the chance to reply. He smirks at seeing his childhood friend so happy.

“Yeah, definitely.”

He takes the phone that is thrust into his chest. There’s a selfie of Keith looking amazingly convincing as Princess Zelda. Long lashes, fair skin, and long brown hair combed to perfection. But next to him is a Link with an expertly styled wig, an embroidered tunic, and smooth, tan skin. Shiro barks out a laugh. He’d recognize that face even under a bunch of eyeliner and a blonde wig.

“Tay!? Tay was your Link?” He practically cackles. Keith vibrates with excitement. Shiro may have caught him stalking Tay’s blog a few too many times, so he knows that Shiro will understand why this was a very good day for him.

“Yeah, yeah!”

Shiro flicks through the photos on the phone. He has to fight back the “aws” and giggles that are threatening to burst through his mouth at any moment. Keith never smiles like this when he’s with other people.

“You have to ask him out.” He smirks.

“No, no! Are you crazy?!” Keith hisses. “I barely know him! He probably doesn’t even like me.”

“His arm is glued to your waist in all these photos. I’d say that’s a good sign.”

Keith snatches his phone back before Shiro can get to some of the more… intimate photos that were taken of them. Keith may have hunted them down on some of the photographer’s official facebook pages.

“Besides, who wouldn’t love such a cute and pretty face.” Shiro steps forward and squishes Keith’s cheeks between both of his hands. He uses his baby talk voice. Keith snatches his face back with a groan.

“Well if you wanna know him better, you should just spend more time with him.” Shiro sighs.

“He uh…” Keith stares at the ground and idly kicks his feet. “He offered to cosplay again with me… sometime.”

Shiro’s mouth drops open into a wide smile.

“Yeah he did, you dog, you!” He lunges forward and pulls Keith into a headlock. He starts to noogie the top of his scalp. Keith screams and flails uselessly.

Chapter Text

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

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

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

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

“Keith!” He yells again.

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

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

 

“Come sit with us,” He welcomes.

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

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

“Busy though.”

“Busy good or busy bad?” Lance smirks.

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

 

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

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

Hunk smiles in his friendly way. Pidge smirks.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

“Yeah?”

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

Lance holds his breath.

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

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

“Oh yeah, sure. I’m free.”

“Really?”

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

He regrets it immediately.

 

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

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

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

“I guess I do.”

 

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

 

 

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

“Please ignore those.” Keith sighs.

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

“What are doing over there?” Keith asks.

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

“What?! Dude, why?”

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

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

“Mmmmhmmmm.” Lance knowingly smiles.

 

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

“Am I interrupting something?” He smirks.

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

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

What does he mean how does Tay know me?

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

Events? What? Shiro’s nose scrunches.

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

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

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

Shiro stands in the doorway absolutely dumbfounded.

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

 

Shiro blinks dumbly and steps forward.

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

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

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

“Yeesssss?” They unanimously reply.

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

“Sorry, I gotta head off.”

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

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

 

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

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

“What? Katie?”

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

Matt hums on the other end of the receiver.

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

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

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

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

“What’s he done?” She sighs.

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

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

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

“Go oooonnnn~” Pidge sings. Shiro breathes.

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

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

“DOES KEITH NOT KNOW THAT?!”

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

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

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

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

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

“I know… I know…” Pidge gasps.

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

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

“Oh no, really?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“So dumb!”

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

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

Shiro ponders this. He hums loudly.

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

“Oh man,” He sighs.

“You gotta go?” Keith asks.

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

“I did it! Iiiiiii did it!” He yells.

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Red-Lioness-Cosplays: I dunno.

 

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

 

Red-Lioness-Cosplays: I dunno.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Keith stares down at his phone. His hands shake.

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

TheTailorCosplays: I just like looking good.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

(image attached)

 

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

 

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

(image attached)

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

“Who are you talking to?” He teases.

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

Lance… Keith… So Stupid.

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

 

Pidge: I AM PISSING.

 

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

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

Lance and Keith both exchange glances.

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

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

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

“Sounds great.”

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“A project…?”

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

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

“Who, me? No, no not a thing.”

Lance scowls.

“You little shit. What are you two…?”

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

 

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

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

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

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

Lance laughs.

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

Red bites her lip shyly.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yeah?”

“Mmmhmm.”

 

Pidge rolls her eyes.

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

“That boy needs better time management.”

“I know, right?”

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

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

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

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

“Well, I would hope so.”

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Red chokes and steps back.

“Wait….what?!”

Lance worries he’s said something offend her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

“YOU!” He hisses. “YOU KNEW!!!!”

And Pidge laughs louder.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

“Oh?” She smiles.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keith bites the inside of his cheek and sighs.

“Thanks, Pidge.”

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

 

 

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

 

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

“You keep staring.” He laughs.

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

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

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

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

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

Probably because you want to run your tongue all…

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

“Uh…um… thank you.” He responds.

 

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

“Same.” Pidge states.

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

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

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

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

 

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

“Soooooooo….”

He needs to know. Red looks up.

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

“Well yeah I….”

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tay has to run to catch up with Keith.

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

Keith welcomes the satisfied feeling in his stomach.

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

“Fine, fine, ok.”

 

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

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

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

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

“Are you always so particular?” Lance smirks.

“Always.” Keith smiles back.

 

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

“Do you want me to hold…?”

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keith didn’t know that.

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

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

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

“No, no. No one like that.”

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

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

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

 

Lance waits two beats.

“What the hell was that.”

Keith shudders.

“Nothing, nothing, c’mon we need to…”

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yeah.”

“How did that go?”

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

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

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

“Y…yes?”

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

“I…I think you did, yeah.”

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

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

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

“Low blow dude.”

“No! No! I didn’t mean it…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m adopted.” Keith shrugs.

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

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

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

Keith’s eyebrows raise.

“Who do you know that’s gay?”

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Oh.

 

Shit.

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

“So what happened?” He asks.

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

“By what?”

 

You.

 

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

“You had something…. Uh…”

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh no, I’m fine. It’s only…”

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

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

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

“It’s no problem.”

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

Chapter Text

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.

 

TheTailorCosplays: REALLY??

 

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…

 

Red-Lioness-Cosplay: 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.

 

It holds.

 

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.

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

 

 

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.

“Yeah?”

“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.

“Lance?”

“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?”

Hunk sighs.

“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 not.”

“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.”

Lance deflates.

“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.

“What?”

“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.”

Lance coughs.

“Anyyyyywwwaaaayyyy~”

 

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.”

Lance nods.

“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.”

“I’m not…!”

“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.

“Just wondering…”

“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.

“Of course.”

“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.

 

Red-Lioness-Cosplay: Yeah?

 

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.

  1. 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.

 

55.

 

“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.

“You too.”

 

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.

Lance concedes.

“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…!”

 

SNAP.

 

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.

“Ok…”

“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?

 

Red-Lioness-Cosplay: 352

 

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.

“Uh… yeah.”

“Just remember to seal your makeup before you go around touching everything in my lobby.”

“Sure thing.”

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”

“Holy shit.”

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.

“Yes.”

“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.

“Starting to.”

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.

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

 

 

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.”

Tay swallows.

“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.”

“Good, again.”

“Aerith is basic bitch cosplay.”

“Again”

“Aerith is basic bitch cosplay!” Tay throws his arms up.

“Are we basic?!” Keith is too hyped to stop.

“Fuck no!”

“Do we deserve to be here?!”

“Fuck yeah!”

“Good!” Keith tosses an arm over Tay’s shoulders. He looks over at the judges table like an assassin eyeing his targets.

“We’re ready.”

 

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.”

Red smirks.

“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.

“Nervous?”

“Yeah.”

“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.

 

“Goes to…!”

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.

‘Wh…what?”

“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.

“Hey!”

“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.
“Ack! Tay!”

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?”

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.”

Keith shudders.

“Yeah?”

“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.”

Keith nods.

 

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.

“Me neither.”
“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.”

“Wha..?”

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.

“You mean…”

“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…?”

“No.”

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.

“Oh no…”

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.