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Shut Up and Dance With Me

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“I cannot believe neither of you asked me to be your partner. I thought we were friends.” Lance whines, dramatically leaning back and draping his body across Pidge, tilting them in the process until they’re pushed up against Hunk’s arm. Lance rests his head on Hunk’s shoulder.

“Lance, you hate dancing duos.” Pidge says flatly. “Would you even have said yes if we had asked?”

Lance scrunches up his face, nose wrinkling as his lip curls. “That’s beside the point, Pidge.”

friend sandwich

“My point is perfectly valid and shouldn’t be ignored.” They’re all sitting sat cross legged in the middle of Pidge and Hunk’s practice room, gathered in front of Pidge’s laptop. A youtube playlist is pulled up on the screen, and they’re idly scrolling through it.

“Your point sucks. Huuuunk,” He tilts his head back to look up at him, eyes wide and lips in a pout. “You would’ve danced with me, right, buddy?”

Hunk glances at him sideways, then looks back down to the computer screen. “Yeaaah, no. Sorry, Lance, we love you and all, but you’re a huge pain in the ass to work with.”

Lance sits up straight, turning to face them. He throws his arms up in the air. “I am not!”

“You are,” Pidge agrees. “You are literally the worst to choreograph dances with. We’ve tried before, Lance. Never again.”

Hunk nods. “Amen.”

Lance crosses his arms over his chest, shoulders slumping. He looks away with a huff. “Some friends you are.”

“You’re just going to audition for a solo spot anyway, aren’t you?”

“Well, yeah, but—“

“So I don’t see the problem. Moving on, please.” They roll their eyes, somehow managing to get their whole body in on the motion.

“The point is I’m offended!”

“That’s great, buddy, but can you like… be quietly offended? We’ve only got this room for an hour and we need to decide on music for our audition.”

Lance sighs, slouching once again against Pidge. He rests his cheek atop their head, arms still crossed stubbornly over his chest. “Fiiiine.”

“What about this one?” Pidge asks.

Hunk scrunches up his face in thought. “Didn’t the third place winners do that one last year?”

Pidge hums. “Yeah, I think you’re right.”

“Oh! Oh! What about—“

Pidge slaps Hunk’s hand away. “Don’t touch the screen.”

Hunk’s shoulders hunch as he rubs his hand. “Hey, I need that hand if you wanna dance with me!”

Pidge rolls their eyes again, clicking another song on the list. “Shiro doesn’t.”

“Okay, touché… Still, I’d rather keep both my hands.”

“Then don’t touch my screen. "

"Now dancing without a leg, that would be difficult." Lance says.

Pidge ignores him. "What about this one?”

“Didn’t you guys do that one two years ago?” Lance asks.

They exchange a look.

“Did we?”

“I don’t really remember?”

Lance snorts. “You did. You didn’t win anything, but you definitely did. Hunk spun so fast he nearly hurled on stage.”

“Alright, so not that one.”

“What about a mix of these two? They kinda have a nice vibe and we could like, use both of our styles, I think.”

“Uuuuugh, not this song.” Lance whines, reaching forward to click on the next button. Pidge promptly slaps his hand, and he yanks it back against his chest. Sitting up straight, he cradles it against his chest, glaring down at Pidge. “Jesus, are you sure those are hands? Aren’t hands supposed to be, I don’t know, soft or something?”

Pidge looks up at him, giving him that exasperated look he knows so well. “Lance, not everyone uses as much moisturizer and lotion as you do.”

“Yeah, but your hands are like, hard and sharp.”

“I know, right?” Hunk meets his eyes over Pidge’s head, holding up his own hand and making a jabbing motion. “And how are they that fast?”

Lance leans away from Pidge, eyes narrowing. “Are you some kind of robot?”

“If it’ll keep you from touching my stuff, believe what you want.” They gesture back to their computer. “So why not this song?”

“Uh, maybe because I got dumped on Valentines Day?”

“And what does that have to do with this song?”

“It was playing on the radio in the coffee shop!”

Pidge breathes deeply, crossing one arm over their chest and using the other hand to pinch the bridge of their nose. “You seriously don’t want us to use this song, which is, might I add, a good song—“

“That works very good with our styles.”

“—Thank you, Hunk. Because a girl dumped you while it was playing?”

“Yes! It was Valentine’s Day, Pidge! Who does that?!”

“How long had you been dating?”

“Well, that was, um, our first date, but still— PIdge, stop laughing! This isn’t funny!”

Pidge uses their hand to stifle their laugh, but they can’t quite hide their smile. “Lance, if we vetoed every song that was playing when you had a bad date experience, we’d be limited to old jazz and nursery rhymes.”

“Wow, okay, first of all: rude?” He holds up one finger, then adds a second. “Second of all, there was this one time—“

“Oh my god.” Pidge rolls their eyes so dramatically that they tilt over and fall against Hunk. They slap their hands over their face before leaning their head back, gazing up at Hunk through their fingers. “Hunk, our child is pathetic. Where did we go wrong?”

“Hey!” Lance snaps. “Must I repeat: rude?”

Hunk pats Pidge’s head, shaking his own. “There, there, Pidge. We did our best. It’s not our fault he’s a little pathetic.”

“A little?”

“Okay, maybe a lot.”

Wow, Hunk!”

Hunk grins at him over Pidge’s head for a second before it falls. “Seriously, though, dude. You don’t really have veto power over our setlist.”

“Um, like hell, I don’t! I’m gonna have to suffer through whatever songs you pick for months. I deserve to have a veto vote.”

Pidge lets their hands slip further down their face. Their eyes are crinkled at the edges by a smirk. “So does that mean we get to veto your setlist?”

Lance feels his face drop, and he looks away, shoulders slumping. “Point taken.”

“That’s what I thought.”

“Don’t you have your own practice to do, anyway?” Hunk asks, one eyebrow raised.

Lance sits up straight, eyes widening. “Shit, you’re right.” His arms drop to his sides as he pats his pockets for his phone. “What time is it?”

Pidge glances at their computer screen. “A couple minutes past one.”

“Well, then!” Lance pushes himself to his feet, stretching his arms over his head and leaning back slightly. “I have a date with a practice room.” He takes one step back, placing his right foot behind his left, and bows deeply, gesturing to the side with his arms. “Later, nerds.” He says, giving them a mock salute and wink as he straightens and grabs his bag, spinning on his heel and striding off toward the door.

“You may not have given us veto powers, but if you choose Brittany Spears again, I’m terminating our friendship!” Pidge calls out behind him.

Lance flips them off over his shoulder as he leaves the room.

His own practice room is on the floor above. Good old room 4C. The first time he had gotten the room, it had been out of spite.

When they had first started getting into competitions, they had started signing up for separate practices rooms. Pidge and Hunk in one, Lance in another. Of course they had signed up for rooms next to each other. Why wouldn’t they? They were bffs! Bros for life! But then Pidge had started making fun of Lance’s music selection, so of course he started playing his music just a little extra loud, so Pidge could really appreciate it in the next room. And, well… the feud had gotten a little out of hand.

Once Pidge and Hunk even tried to mess with the speakers in Lance’s room, so in retaliation, Lance had sung Justin Bieber’s Baby at the top of his lungs until they conceded and fixed the speakers. It had taken ten minutes.

After that, Pidge and Hunk started choosing a room, specifically room 3C, that was always booked on both sides. Lance, rightfully seeing this as a challenge, chose good old room 4C, so he could not only blast his music, but also stop on the floor above them.

This only lasted a couple of weeks before they all grew tired of it, but by then Lance was already attached to that room. It’s his room. Well, yeah, other people use it, too. But Lance always signs up for that room. He’s a creature of habit, alright? He likes to have a familiar space to practice in. Even if the auxiliary cable in that room is a little buggy, and sometimes the speakers crackle when they get too loud, and there’s a couple warped floorboards that he sometimes trips on, and one of the mirrors is smudged to hell. The room has character.

As he climbs the stairs, he pulls out his phone, idly flipping through his playlists. He hasn’t really decided on a setlist for this year, let alone an audition song. He usually doesn’t ahead of time. He kinda just lets his music go through on shuffle until something really speaks to him. Until it feels right.

The fourth floor is pretty much deserted when he gets there. It’s the middle of the day, and none of the actual dance lessons start until late afternoon, when most schools are out. The only people who are around at this time of day are people like him (those who don’t go to school and don’t have a set nine to five job) and people like Pidge and Hunk (college students with oddly timed classes). It’s a great time to practice, to be honest. No kids running around, the whole fourth floor to himself, peace and—

Why does he hear music?

And not the muffled dull beats that can usually be heard from downstairs or upstairs. This is like… loud, clear music. Music coming from this floor. Lance looks up, scanning the line of doors. They’re all closed except for one. One that’s cracked. One that has music and light spilling from it. Who the hell even practices on the forth floor? There isn’t enough people around at this time of day to warrant anyone besides him coming all the way up here. The second and third floor have plenty of practice rooms to choose from.

And is that… is that room 4C?

Oh. Hell. NO.

Shoving his phone into his pocket, Lance stomps over to the room. Ugh, what is even playing? Some kinda pop, yeah, whatever, most of them danced to pop. But this is like… not even top 40’s. Lance isn’t sure he’s even heard this song before. And he isn’t about to sit around to listen to it. He has business to attend to. And by business, he means barging in on the asshole who’s stolen his room.

He puts a hand on the door, intent on shoving it open, but right as he does, the music changes. He may not know the song, but he knows enough to realize that the sudden and abrupt stop isn’t part of it. He hesitates at the sudden stop, and a new song starts up. This one he recognizes: Bastille’s Pompeii.

Huh, so maybe the asshole’s music isn’t all bad.

He considers his curiosity piqued.

As the opening vocals start, Lance slowly pushes the door open just a little wider, peeking through the crack.

Alright, so it’s a dude. A dude wearing tight black pants, a well fitting black shirt, and a long sleeved red flannel tied around his waist. He’s just finished putting his dark hair up in a small ponytail, exposing a pale, slender neck. And he’s wearing black, fingerless gloves. A little different, but hey, it doesn’t look bad. Lance can dig it.

Okay, so the asshole is hot as fuck. At least from behind. Maaaaaybe Lance can forgive him for taking his room. Maybe. Hell, maybe they can share the room?

The guy bounces on the balls of his feet for several beats, and then as soon as the lyrics start, he’s in motion. Quick to jerk his body into position, one foot steps to the side, knee bent, corresponding arm lifting and angling. Then there’s a slow move, arm rising and crossing his body, feet twisting as his weight turns to the other foot. Hand to his chest, other arm extended as his feet come together.

ponytail lad

The way he moves is… beautiful. Perfectly timed to the song, he alternates between quick jerks and slow, graceful movements, moving his arms and legs with such extreme precision before letting them flow smoothly with the song’s lyrics.

The way he can quickly shift his body, throwing it into a new position and stopping with pinpoint precision as if hitting a mold for that exact pose, reminds him a lot of Pidge’s preferred style. But the way his limbs roll gracefully after, shifting and expressing, is similar to Allura. It was an amazing combination.

Even as the beat picks up and everything moves quickly, there’re still those moments where he suddenly stops and flows before his limbs are once again quick and jagged. There’s even a jump in there and is it even possible to jump in slow motion like that? Or maybe that’s just Lance’s perception…

He’s kind of in a daze, completely transfixed by this guy’s dancing. It’s so coordinated, so calculated, and yet there’s a beauty in the way he knows and trusts his body to move just as he wants it to.

Then the guy turns, and Lance catches sight of his face, and he nearly chokes— fuck, it’s Keith?! As in Keith Kogane?!

He may have made a strangled sound, but if he did, it was drowned out by the music.

Alright, back to his original statement: Oh. Hell. NO.

Keith doesn’t seem to have noticed Lance. Good, he wants the element of surprise.

Just as the song reaches the chorus, Lance pulls the door shut slightly, before stepping back and kicking it open. Aw yes, dramatic flair, Lance McClain style.

He steps into the room, reveling in the way Keith’s movements stutter, nearly falling over as he loses his balance for a second. Then he recovers and whips around to stare at Lance, eyes wide and mouth agape. Yeah, it feels good to have the upper hand.

“You!” Lance snaps, throwing up an arm to point at him. “You’re in my practice room!”

Keith stares at him for a moment longer before his mouth snaps shut and he straightens, brow furrowing.

Lance blames the ponytail. The stupid, stupid ponytail that had hidden the guy’s signature mullet. If he had seen that he would have known right away and wouldn’t have wasted time oogling him. He isn’t worth his oogles.

“What the hell are you talking about?”

Lance puts both hands on his hips, cocking them to the side as he leans forward slightly. He raises an eyebrow. “Uhh, I’m talking about you being in my practice room? Hello? Is all that mullet getting in the way of your hearing?”

Keith’s chin tilts down a fraction, and his arms cross over his chest. He looks Lance up and down, and his back straightens under Keith’s scrutinizing gaze. His eyes hover on his t-shirt for a fraction of a second before moving on to stare at the colorful bracelets on his wrists. He feels warmth start to crawl up his neck, and he squashes down the strange mix of embarrassment and offense.

His ‘Getting Bi’ shirt is one of his favorites, okay? A little cheesy, yeah, but he loves it. Pidge had gotten it for him as a joke. He had gotten Pidge one that says ’Non-Binary Day’ with the N and B larger and more accented. And the bracelets had been made my his siblings and niblings, and he will literally fight Keith if he says anything about them.

He does his best not to fidget. Finally, Keith’s eyes return to his face. “Who are you?”

Lance’s jaw drops. Is he… is he serious? “Who am I? Uhh, the name’s Lance?” Keith blinks, staring at him blankly. Lance tries again. “We were in a dance class together last year? I’m like… always hanging around this place? I practically live here, come on!”

He blinks again, and something seems to click. “Oh, wait, I remember you. You auditioned for one of the regional spots last year.”

Lance is, honestly, a little relieved. He gestures at Keith with one hand, the other one firmly placed on his cocked hip. “Yes! We were like rivals! You know, Lance and Keith, neck and neck.”

“I didn’t think you got one of the spots?” There’s some annoyance in his voice, which has been steadily growing since recovering from his surprise. Under normal circumstances, Lance would say he can’t really blame him. But because this is Keith, Lance can and will totally blame him. He deserved to be interrupted! He’s in Lance’s room! Lance signed up for it and everything! Not to mention he is severely disrespecting him right now.

Lance frowns, trying his best to keep it from turning into a pout as he glares at Keith. “Yeah, well I got in, thanks to you dropping out.”

That seems to almost surprise him. He raises one curious eyebrow. “Did you win?”

“Yes! I did… sort of.” Lance fidgets, crossing his arms over his chest and raising his chin. He refuses to be the first to look away from this glare fest. “I got third place.” Okay, so not the most impressive, and he didn’t get to go to nationals, but still, he won something and that has to count, right?

“Well, congratulations.” Keith says dryly, and it grates on Lance’s nerves.

He clenches his teeth, hands curling into tight fists. “Thanks.” He says, voice dripping in bitter sarcasm. He steps to the side, further into the room, and half bows, gesturing widely to the door. “Now if you don’t mind, this is my practice room, and I gotta start getting ready for auditions.”

There goes Keith’s eyebrow again, raising up to disappear beneath his bangs. “This isn’t your practice room.”

“Yes, it is!” Lance nearly shouts in his agitation. Straightening, he stomps over to where Keith is standing. He stops right in front of him and jabs at his chest with one finger. “Listen, buddy. This is my practice room. I always sign up for this room. Hell, they should put a big sign on the door that says ‘Lance’s room, no mullets allowed’.”

Keith’s brows furrow and he slaps Lance’s hand away. “Look, I don’t know what your problem is—“

Lance throws his arms up in the air. “My problem is you!”

“—but I signed up for this room. And if you don’t mind, I’d like to practice alone.”

“I do mind, because as I’ve said several times now, this is my room.”

Keith groans, putting a hand to his face and shaking his head before it slides off to hang at his side. He tilts his head slightly, still glaring at Lance from under furrowed brows. “Look, my name is even on the schedule outside the door. If you would just—“

“I don’t need to look!” Lance snaps, gesturing behind him to the door. “The list is probably wrong. There’s been some kind of mix up. Now sorry to inconvenience you, but get out.”

Keith doesn’t move. “Why can’t you just go to one of the other rooms? There’s literally ten rooms on this floor and no one is ever here at this time.”

Lance sputters, putting a hand to his chest. “Why can’t I— alright, buddy, let me explain to you a thing.” He spins on his heel and throws his arms up, gesturing to the whole room. “This here room and I, we’ve got history. She and I go waaaay back.”

“She?”

“Shush!” Lance snaps, sending a glare over his shoulder. Is it just him… or does Keith look a little amused? No, he must be seeing things. Keith’s sour expression just has layers upon layers. “Anyway, where was I?”

“History.”

“Ah yes, we have history. A history rooted in friendship and determination. Our first meeting was by chance, but the bond we formed was special, and now she is my home and I am hers.”

“Are you always like this?”

Lance ignores him, and instead starts off in a wide circle, hands on his hips as his gaze sweeps around the room. “Sure, she’s not the prettiest thing to look at, and sometimes it gets too hot up here, but she’s got character. Take, for instance, these floor boards.” He comes to a stop where he knows the squeaky floorboards are, but when he steps on them, there’s no sound. He frowns slightly. “They must not be feeling squeaky today.” He mumbles, before turning and dramatically pointing. “Or those warped—“ He stops when he realizes that the spot he pointed at was entirely flat. “Or the smudges on the—“ He snaps his head up, but the mirror panel, the one that’s been scratched and smudged and cracked since he started coming here, is in fact whole and clean and pristine.

His frown deepens as he stands up straight, both hands hanging at his sides. “Huh,” He says, mostly to himself. His eyes wander the room. Now that he’s looking at it… Wasn’t there a different poster on the walls in his room? And he always made sure the chairs were stacked in a different corner…

Pompeii ends and another song starts up in it’s place, all the while Lance is silent, and Keith is staring at him.

Scratching the back of his neck with one hand, Lance avoids making eye contact. “I don’t suppose you had any trouble with the auxiliary cable?”

He glances sideways in time to see Keith shake his head once. “Nope.”

“Huh,” Lance repeats, cause that’s all he can really think to say as his stomach drops. He may… have made a mistake. Maybe. “What room is this?”

“4D.”

Yup, okay, so he’s definitely made a mistake. And totally made an ass out of himself in the process. But is he going to own up to it? Nope. No way in hell.

“Alriiiight.” He says slowly, lacing his hands behind his head. “Since you’ve already started your practice, and I’m such a good guy, I’m gonna let you keep this room. I’ll just… go find another one.” He kicks out his foot, letting his weight fall slowly before he’s walking quickly toward the door. He really hopes he turned away before Keith could see the flush creeping up his face.

Keith speaks up as he reaches the door, and this time there is definitely amusement in his smug ass voice. “You’re in the wrong room, aren’t you?”

“No!” Lance snaps, grabbing the doorknob on his way out. He doesn’t turn around as he pulls the door shut behind him a little harder than necessary.

He leans against the door next to Keith’s room, trying to steady his breath and suppress some of the adrenaline that spiked through his system. Glancing sideways, he sees that the door does, in fact, say 4D. Very clearly. In giant, chipped, gold paint. God fuck why didn’t he see that before he made an ass of himself? Well if Keith didn’t remember him before, he’s sure going to remember him now. But it isn’t at all how Lance wants to be remembered. Maybe as cool, handsome, charming, and a devilishly good dancer. Definitely not as an idiot who barged into his practice room thinking it was his own.

4D

He hears the music pause before switching back to Pompeii, and in that silence, he swears he can hear soft laughter.

God, what an ass.

Pushing off the wall, Lance stomps to his own practice room. The actual room 4C. Which is, unfortunately, only one room over. It was an easy mistake, alright?

He slams the door shut with perhaps a little too much force. He casts a glare at the mirrored wall, through which he can hear Pompeii still playing. For just a moment, his mind is filled with the memory of Keith dancing, how smooth and precise his movements were, how hypnotizing… but then the moment is gone and Lance is throwing his bag on the floor before stomping across to the auxiliary cable.

He jams it into his phone before pulling up his playlist once again. He hits it on shuffle and, not surprisingly, nothing but a loud crackle comes out of the speakers. He sets his phone down on the table, turning it just so, and draping the cable gently in just the right way. And suddenly the smooth opening lyrics to Glad You Came comes in clear, followed by the opening beat. Nodding his head in time, body already bouncing along, he digs his bluetooth remote from his pocket. Honestly, the best twenty bucks he’s ever spent.

Turning up the volume to effectively drown out, and maybe overpower, the music next door, Lance shuffle steps his way out to the middle of the floor, turning on his heel and giving himself a spin, arms up. He stops, facing the mirror, and flashes himself a bright smile. Then the lyrics pick up and he’s moving.

His eyes drift closed and he moves, arms and legs, his whole body. Each step, each gesture, each roll of his hips is in time with the music. Nothing is precise and calculated like Pidge’s dancing. It’s not all jarring big movements like Hunk’s, or smooth and elaborate like Shiro and Allura’s. Hell, it’s not even as energetic as Coran’s. But it’s real. Lance has always let the music just flow through him, and his body moves on it’s own. Sure, he learns moves and styles, but when it comes right down to it, he just does what feels right.

He bounces on the ball of one foot, his other foot shifting him around in a circle with small, quick steps. His arms are held out wide and angled as he spins. Then he points the remote at his phone and switches to the next song. It only lasted less than a minute.

He throws back his head and laughs as Push It starts playing. His dance style changes immediately to match. That classic lasts only thirty seconds before he’s already switching to the next.

In the pause between songs, he can hear that Pompeii has ended in the other room and a new song is playing. One he doesn’t recognize. But it’s soon drowned out by Ke$ha. He can’t help himself. He sings along to TiK ToK as his feet shuffle across the floor and he gestures to himself in the mirror.

That song lasts much longer. Nearly a whole minute before he’s switching to the next one. Club Can’t Handle Me. His movements get more smooth, more flowing, but he still retains a jump in his step.

And this is how it goes. This is Lance’s beloved process. It drives Pidge up a wall, and they refuse to be in the same room as Lance when he does it. Hell, he’s mildly surprised they’re not texting him to stop it right now. They can no doubt hear him in the room below. When looking for the perfect song to choose to dance to, everyone has to do a little shuffling. But while Pidge does it at their computer, actually looking through their songs, Lance does it like this. He sets his whole library to shuffle and actually feels out each song, hitting the next button on his bluetooth remote.

Some songs last nearly a minute, and some last only five seconds. Most average out at around thirty. He hasn’t found anything yet, and he’s not sure what he’s looking for. But when he knows, he’ll know. He trusts his instincts. It’s worked for him so far.

He goes through songs decades old and new hits, everything and anything he’s got on his phone. He loses track of time and how many songs he goes through. Five minutes? Ten? Thirty?

He’s in the middle of Bulletproof, and singing along to it of course, when he hears a banging. He stops in the middle of spinning on his heel, nearly toppling over. He glares at the floor, expecting to hear Pidge’s shout. What he hears, however, is another banging on the wall and Keith’s voice.

“Just pick a song already!”

Lance’s head whips up to stare at the mirrored wall. His eyes narrow at his own reflection. “It’s my process!” He shouts, clicking the button. Immediately whistling starts up from Moves Like Jagger.

“Your process sucks!”

“I can’t hear you!” He yells back, whistling along with the tune as he clasps his hands behind his back and struts around with stutter steps.

“Then turn your music down!”

Lance moves around the room, sliding dramatically and spinning in wide, slow arcs that get his whole body into it. He sings the first few lines before responding. “No can do, mullet boy! Then I’d have to listen to your terrible music taste, and I’m not about that life.”

“How do you think I feel? You’re forcing me to listen to your voice!”

Lance sputters, tripping over his feet as he stomps over to the mirror. “Excuse! My voice is a blessing!” He shouts, coming to stand right in front of the mirror and glaring up at the wall.

“More like a curse.” His voice isn’t a shout, but it’s definitely loud enough to be heard through the wall.

Lance bristles. “You mean like your mullet?”

“What’s your problem?”

“My problem? Well, first of all, you trick me into thinking you had my room!” He didn’t but… you know, semantics. “And secondly, you’re interrupting my dance process!”

And thirdly, he’s still hella embarrassed after barging in on Keith and making a scene. Not to mention checking him out. Ugh. He can feel his face heating up just thinking about it. He’s never going to live this down. He has to find a way to impress Keith with his dancing or he’ll forever be remembered as the idiot who barged in on him.

He isn’t going to think too hard about why he’s concerned about how Keith remembers him. Maybe because Keith apparently didn’t before and Lance sure as hell remembers him, so… yeah, he’s a little offended.

“And we’re back to the whole your process sucks point.”

Lance holds out a hand, tapping the next button. This song isn’t doing it for him anymore. The sound of computerized cymbals and a familiar beat come over his speakers. He grins to himself, his bad mood already starting to subside. Oh yes, nothing a little T-Swift can’t help him with.

I stay out too late,” He sings, stepping away from the mirror with exaggerated movements, snapping his fingers low. “Got nothing in my brain.”

He hears a loud, bark of a laugh from the other room. “I’ll say!”

Lance’s head jerks around to glare at the wall, then sticks his nose up in the air and continues his jazz into the center of the room, singing perhaps just a fraction louder. “That’s what people say, mm mm, that’s what people say.”

He continues to move, closing his eyes and doing his best to block out all the noise from the other room. It isn’t quite working. This song doesn’t have enough back volume and he can clearly hear the muffled sound of Keith’s music. He vaguely recognizes it as a Panic! at the Disco song. As his own song reaches the chorus, he holds out the remote, turning up the volume.

And while he’s at it, he hits the next button.

Through the opening beats of Danza Kuduro, he can hear the volume of Keith’s music rising, and it’s disrupting his flow. Instinctually, Lance raises his own volume to max, singing along in Spanish and rolling his hips as the music blasts from his speakers. But he just hears Keith’s volume rise to match his.

Oh, so that’s how they’re going to play it. Alright, Lance can dig it. He’s got a lot of experience in this department.

In retaliation, lance hits the next button, counts to ten, and hits it again. Rinse and repeat. The whole time he doesn’t stop moving. The change in rhythms are drastic, clashing, and he barely has time to adjust before he’s changing it. But it’s all worth it because he’s savoring the idea of annoying Keith. So he dances with noncommittal moves, bouncing on the balls of his feet, kicking out his legs, rotating his arms, spinning on his heel before sliding or hopping to the side, rolling his hips.

He goes through around twenty songs like this before he hears the shout from the other room.

“You know, if you want to audition for regionals, you actually need to pick a song instead of shuffling through them every five seconds.”

“Excuse you, I’m waiting TEN seconds.” He should know. He’s counting. Through the particularly soft opening to the song he stopped on, he can hear familiar guitar rifts coming through the wall, along with a very distinct voice. “How about you pick a song from this century!” He’s going to ignore the fact that Dancing With Myself is actually kind of fitting. He’s also going to ignore the fact that he’s a fan.

“Billy Idol is timeless!” Keith argues. Lance can hear the irritation in his voice, and he’s reveling in it. He grins, wondering what Keith looks like when that cocky, cool attitude is shattered. He doesn’t think he’s ever seen him express anything besides indifference and boredom… and of course a little annoyance when he was in his room earlier. “Besides, you were just playing Oingo Boingo a minute ago and that is definitely not from this century!”

Lance’s grin is gone. “Dead Man’s Party is a good song with a good beat!” He’s not going to point out that he first heard it on Dance Dance Revolution, and that he can get a perfect score every time. He somehow doesn’t think that’ll impress Keith.

Keith’s song ends just as Lance is hitting the next button again, and suddenly he’s bombarded by a surround sound of Shut Up and Dance. They’re off by a second or two, but it’s very clear that it’s the same song. Lance nearly drops his remote in his haste to change the song. He will NOT admit he has the same taste in music as Keith. He feels his face burning and is extremely grateful that Keith can’t see him right now.

Keith’s song changes just moments later, and he hears the opening clapping and gentle strumming of On Top of the World before it’s drowned out by his own speakers blaring Lady Gaga.

He’s shifting his hips and rolling his body into some swift leg movements, arms moving along, when his music cuts out.

And suddenly he’s thrown into silence.

He freezes, eyes darting around. His ears are ringing, but that’s all he can hear. There’s some music playing distantly somewhere in the building, but it’s definitely not Keith. His room is eerily silent, too.

Then he hears Pidge’s shout through the floorboards, loud and annoyed. “You’re both officially cut off!”

His eyes snap down as his hands go to his hips. He stomps on the floor. “Pidge, what the hell?!

“We’re tired of listening to your cock fight! Some of us are trying to be productive!” Their voice is still muffled through the floor, but it comes in clear.

“Huuuunk!” Lance draws out the name in a long, low whine.

“Sorry, man, but it was my idea.” He doesn’t sound the least bit sorry.

“How am I suppose to practice now?!” Lance stomps again, crossing his arms over his chest.

“Suck it up and use your headphones!” Comes Pidge’s reply.

Lance groans loudly, hoping it’ll carry through the floor. “This is all Keith’s fault!”

“Hey!” Keith snaps through the wall.

Pidge doesn’t reply, and instead he hears the muffled music from below start up. It’s much, much softer than the volume he and Keith had been using. Blowing all his air out in a long huff, Lance stomps over to where his iPhone is, making sure to be extra loud with every step. He rips the auxiliary cable form his phone and goes to his bag, pulling out his headphones. Plugging them in, he settles the headphones over his ears and starts up his music once again.

He winces as the music blasts a little too loudly and immediately turns it down. Sighing, he straightens and lets his body move once again to the beat. At least this way he can’t hear Keith’s stupid music or his stupid voice. No distractions. Just him and his music. No more thinking about Flannel McMullet.

Or his stupid ponytail.

Or the stupid way his body moves.

Or his stupid ass in those jeans.

Yeah, none of that.

As it turns out, Lance doesn’t get much done with the rest of his time. With Keith’s interruption, and Pidge and Hunk’s interruption, he’s finding it hard to really get back into it. Whenever he feels particularly grumpy and resentful, he makes sure to step extra hard so his friends down below can hear.

His phone vibrates in his hand, and he glances down to see a text from Pidge telling him that his hour is up and if he doesn’t get downstairs in the next five minutes, they’re leaving without him. Glancing at the time, he realizes he’s technically gone over his practice time by seven minutes. Luckily, there doesn’t seem to be anyone sighed up right after him. Turning his music down to a more normal volume, he gathers his stuff and heads out.

While he’s nodding his head along to Dancing Queen, he steps wide over the threshold, dragging his other foot along in a smooth slide as they sing, ”You can jiiiive.” It’s not until he hears another door shut that he glances up and realizes that Keith is staring at him.

He’s still got that red flannel wrapped around his waist instead of putting it in his bag like a normal person. And Lance will not admit that it’s a good look for him. He also totally doesn’t notice how Keith’s black shirt clings to him with sweat, or how some of his bangs are stuck to his forehead and cheeks. His backpack is thrown over one shoulder, one hand on the strap, and he’s got a set of red headphones resting around his neck. He’s staring at Lance with one eyebrow raised, and he swears he sees an amused tilt to his lips.

Lance scowls, pulling his own headphones down to rest around his neck. “What?”

Keith shakes his head, letting go of the door to his room and starting off down the hall. “Nothing.” As he passes Lance, he shoves his shoulder with his own.

Lance stumbles back a step, arms going straight down at his sides and hands curled into fists as he shouts, “Hey! Watch where you’re going!”

Keith is still walking away, but he turns to glance over his shoulder, pulling down his bottom eyelid with a middle finger as he sticks out his tongue. “Watch what room you’re entering next time.”

Lance bristles, his lips pursing into a scowl as he fights down the blush that’s creeping up his neck. But Keith isn’t looking at him anymore. He grumbles something unintelligible and partially in spanish as he shoves his hands in his pockets, hunches his shoulders, and follows after him, dragging his feet. It’s not like he wants to follow him. They’re just headed in the same direction.

He’s expecting Keith to stop in front of the elevator at the end of the hall, but instead he turns right toward the stairs. Now Lance normally takes the stairs, too. But for a moment he considers taking the elevator just to get away from Keith. That thought is quickly dashed however. There’s not way in hell he’s going to let Keith think he’s lazy. They’re at a dance studio for crying out loud. If they can’t walk a couple flights of stairs, they might as well leave.

So he follows Keith into the stairwell. Keith gets to the landing halfway halfway down to the third floor, and as he rounds it, he glanced up and makes eye contact with Lance. Lance freezes for just a moment, hesitating with a foot hovering above the next step. Then the moment has passed and Keith is looking away, continuing down the stairs.

Why does he feel so offended by that? It was probably nothing, but it feels like a brush off. He’s already embarrassed himself in front of this guy, and now he’s acting all indifferent and holier than thou, and quite frankly, it rubs him the wrong way.

Maybe he’s irrational. He probably is. But at the same time, fuck this guy.

He takes only one more step before the song coming from his headphones changes, and once again, T-Swift has got his back. Bad Blood starts playing, and the volume is just loud enough for him to hear it. His lips curve into a slow smirk, and he’s hopping down the stairs at a quick pace before he fully realizes what he’s doing.

It doesn’t take long before he passes Keith, shoving his shoulder with his own as he skips down the stairs. When he turns back to look, Keith’s brows are furrowed, lips slack in surprise. Lance cocks his head to the side, grins, and gives him a mock salute before continuing down the stairs.

It only takes Keith a couple seconds to catch up. Lance can hear his footsteps speed up behind him and immediately his heart rate picks up to match. The next thing he knows, they’re practically racing down the stairwell. He starts skipping down the steps two at a time, pulling ahead, but Keith overtakes him when they get to a landing and he grabs the corner railing, swinging his body around and bypassing the landing entirely as he jumps to the next set of stairs. Lance jumps the last four steps to the next landing, pushes off the wall, and practically flies down the steps.

As they round the last landing to the final stretch of stairs, Lance glances out of the corner of his eye to see Keith doing the same. He doesn’t have time to think about what he sees there because he’s jumping the last stretch, Keith in the air a second behind him.

His feet land a second before Keith’s.

“Aha!” He says, loud and breathless, straightening and throwing his hairs up in victory. “I win!”

Keith hunched over at his side, hands on his knees as he panted. “We weren’t… racing…” He says between breaths.

“Oh yeah?” Lance crosses his arms over his chest, cocking his hips to the side as he grins smugly down at him. “Then why were you sprinting after me?”

Keith tilts his head to glare up at him through the hair that was falling in front of his face. Is it just him, or is it suddenly very hot in this stairwell? Keith sighs and straightens, adjusting the backpack strap on his shoulder. “Whatever.” He says, rolling his shoulders before walking away, leaving Lance alone in the stairwell.

Lance isn’t sure what possess him to move, but suddenly he’s rushing out of the stairwell after him. “Hey!” He shouts, one hand on the doorframe. Keith is already several feet away and headed down the hall toward the door that leads to the back parking lot. He stops and turns, one eyebrow raised in silent question. He’s not frowning anymore, but he’s by no means smiling. Did he always look that sour? “You auditioning for regionals again this year?” He blurts out before he can lose his nerve.

Keith’s second eyebrow went up as well. He blinks, and Lance squirms in the silence. What? It was a totally innocent question. It’s not like it was hard. Keith seems to think it is though. His brows suddenly furrow and he purses his lips, looking off to the side. “I, uh… yes?”

“Good!” His eyes snap back to Lance, and Lance leans against the doorframe, other hand going to his hip as he grins. “Cause I’m gonna prove to you that I can kick your ass.”

“If you can manage to settle on a song before then.” Keith deadpans, but Lance swears he can see the guy’s lips twitching.

Lance puts a hand to his chest in, mostly, mock offense, gasping loudly for good measure. “Oh, it is on, mullet!”

Keith rolls his eyes, but as he’s turning away, Lance can definitely see his lips tilting up into a small smile. Lance watches him leave, lips quirked up into a wide grin, before going to find Pidge and Hunk.

It doesn’t take long for them to get the story out of him, and they spend the entire drive home laughing at Lance while he mumbles something about finding new friends.

Chapter Text

Keith isn’t even sure why he’s here.

They’re in one of the larger dance rooms on the first floor, and it’s crowded as hell. People of all ages: kids, teenagers, people well into their twenties. They’re mostly grouped up in their own ages, talking with friends, bouncing excitedly, stretching. Keith leans up against the wall, as far away from the others as he can get. His arms are crossed over his chest as his eyes idly pass over the room. His headphones are around his neck and he can hear his music playing softly under the general din of conversation in the room.

grump

He barely recognizes anyone here. He’s been coming here for a couple of years, but he doesn’t really interact with anyone and he’s only take a couple of classes. He learned a lot from those classes, but he hated having to go at the whole class’s pace. He hated having to deal with the other students. He hated how the instructors always used him as the ‘example’ because he picked up the moves faster than others. He hated how the others looked at him.

It isn’t like he doesn’t want to make friends. But when he’s learning a new dance, he gets so concentrated, so into it. He blocks a lot out. Shiro’s told him on several occasions that he doesn’t exactly look easy to approach when he’s like that.

It didn’t take long for Keith to learn that he prefers independent study. He can learn dances at his own pace, repeat it as many times as he needs to for his movements and muscle memory to be perfect. He doesn’t have to worry about people staring at him. He doesn’t have to worry about fucking up. He doesn’t have to worry about anyone seeing him until he’s confident he can do it. No one to see him stumble. No one to distract him. No one to see him get frustrated. It’s a learning environment he prefers.

This, however, is definitely not an environment he prefers. It’s too loud. There’s too many people. They’re all one hundred percent more into this than he is. He doesn’t even like dance competitions. Why is he even here?

Lance.

Lance is the reason he’s here. Lance and his stupid competitive streak. Lance and his innate ability to get under Keith’s skin. Lance and his cocky grin that makes a strange heat rise in Keith’s chest. A heat that drives him to do anything, anything, to wipe that stupid smirk off his face.

He isn’t even sure how he got himself into this situation.

Last year he had tried this whole dance competition thing. He had gotten one of the slots to go to regionals. He had practiced and learned his routine. But when it came right down to it, he just didn’t want to go. He doesn’t like dancing in front of crowds. He’s never been into it. He only auditioned because Shiro convinced him to. He had promised he would try, and he did. Then he had dropped out. And apparently Lance had gotten his spot.

It’s not like he doesn’t remember Lance. He does when he thinks about it. He remembers his loud personality and abrasive voice, his cocky attitude and unrefined dance style. He didn’t pay attention to much when he took dance classes, being so focused on himself and learning the moves with the least amount of struggle possible. But Lance… Lance had made himself known. He had gotten in Keith’s face on several occasions, had caught his eye in the mirror, had made comments about how Keith was the teacher’s pet. Keith had decidedly ignored him. At the time, he had no idea that the annoying Latino boy would waltz back into his life.

He didn’t really pay attention to anyone during auditions last year either. He had sat against the wall, waited his turn, danced, and left. But Lance… it was hard not to notice him. He had never learned his name, and he had forgotten about him not long after. But when he danced… Keith had actually watched.

He doesn’t remember much about his dancing now, but he remembers what he thought about it. Lance had been… wild. Keith could tell right away that his routine wasn’t entirely practiced. But that didn’t seem to matter. He never missed a beat, never stumbled. He smiled throughout the whole thing, and the way his body moved was just… entirely natural. It was so different from Keith, and he found himself staring.

He would be lying if he said he wasn’t interested in seeing him dance again.

Unfortunately, it looks like he’s not going to.

Scowling, Keith looks down at his phone. Five minutes until auditions start. The energy in the room is hyped and jittery, but Keith feels nothing but annoyance as he once again scans the room. He knows Lance isn’t here. He would notice him right away, and no doubt Lance would come up to him, say something stupid, brag a little bit. He knows Lance isn’t here, but he looks anyway. The door opens, and his eyes snap to it. But it’s just a couple of teenagers chatting away as they push into the room.

Keith looks away, his frown growing as he stares at a spot on the hardwood floor.

He isn’t even sure why he said yes when Lance asked if he was going to audition again this year. He hadn’t been planning on it. He had already decided not to, despite Shiro’s insistence that he should try again. But then Lance… He had looked so hopeful when he had asked. Keith still isn’t sure what had possessed him to say yes, but he had.

And that had started a strange rivalry between them.

Lance always seemed to be in the room next to him. His music was always loud, and Keith always turned his up to match. They constantly threw comments and insults through the wall. They occasionally raced down the stairs after their practices. At one point Lance put a handwritten sign on his door that read “Lance’s Room, No Mullets Allowed.” Keith responded by putting a sign on his door that read “Not Room 4C.” Lance had turned red and sputtered at that, and it had been hilarious.

This had gone on for two weeks. Two weeks of Lance’s constant insults and snide remarks. Two weeks of petty competitiveness and his practices being interrupted. Two weeks of heading toward the parking lot with Lance’s parting words echoing in his ears. “One week till I kick your ass, mullet!” “Make sure you show up, fancy feet!” “Better not run off scared, Kogane! I’m gonna beat you fair and square!”

He could have chosen a different practice room. He could have started practicing at a different time. He could have easily avoided Lance. But he hadn’t.

Lance is annoying. He’s insufferably cocky and confident. He’s loud and isn’t afraid of making his opinions on Keith known. He gets underneath Keith’s skin in the worst way possible. He’s needlessly competitive and has basically forced Keith into a rivalry that he didn’t ask for and definitely doesn’t want. But… Keith can’t quite bring himself to get rid of him.

Somehow he’s found himself drawn into all of Lance’s nonsense. He finds himself responding to Lance, stooping to his level. Racing him down the stairs. Racing him to the drinking fountain. Putting passive aggressive sticky notes on his door. Yelling comments about his music through the walls. Teasing him about not being able to settle on a song.

He’s never cared about dance competitions. He doesn’t like dancing in front of audiences. But he really, really wants to beat Lance. He shouldn’t have anything to prove, and he knows this. But he really wants to wipe that smug grin off his stupidly attractive face. He wants Lance to watch him, to have his complete attention, and to see the way Lance would frown and turn red when he realizes that Keith is good.

Keith isn’t always competitive, but he’s been been known to be stubborn, and he’s always found it hard to say no to a challenge. And Lance… Lance has an innate ability to bring it out in him. Lance threw down a challenge, and it had lit a fire in him that he hadn’t felt in years.

He had actually… been looking forward to this. He had woken this morning with an odd sort of nervous, excited energy. He had felt weird butterflies in his stomach when he had driven here. Despite only having two weeks to prepare, he was ready. The routine he had chosen was one he had been working on anyway. He had actually been excited to audition, which was a strange feeling.

And all of that has slowly been leaking out of him with every minute that ticked by in Lance’s absence.

“Welcome everyone!” Coran says cheerily, clasping his hands together as he walks into the open dance space at the front of the room. The hum of conversation dies down to listen to him.

Keith isn’t paying attention. His jaw is clenched too tight, but he barely registers the ache. He checks his phone again. What is he even doing here? Why did he let himself get so worked up over this? He hates that he let Lance get to him. More than that, he hates how disappointed he feels.

Something is definitely wrong with him.

As Coran steps aside to let the first person get set up, quiet conversation starts up again, whispered between groups of friends. Keith pushes off the wall, grabbing his bag and hiking it over his shoulder. He maneuvers his way around the edge of the room, ignoring the curious glances. He leaves, letting the door slam shut behind him.

He still has two hours before his shift at work, and he decides that a long hard run at the gym is exactly what he needs.

While he’s there, he gets several calls from Shiro and even more texts. He ignores them all.

 


 

 

“Come on, Coran, you have to let me audition!” Lance leans across the tall counter of the front desk. His arms are bent and his hands clasped together, held up in front of his face as he begs. “I have to get in. Just— please just let me audition. I’m only a day late.”

Coran leans against the wall behind the desk, one arm crossed over his chest and the other idly stroking his mustache. He shakes his head, closing his eyes briefly. “No can do, Lance. You know we have a very strict policy about these things.”

“I know, but I had an emergency! I had to take my niece to the ER after she broke her arm! The ER, Coran! The emergency room!”

For what it’s worth, Coran does look apologetic. He tilts his head to the side, hand dropping from his mustache. “I know, Lance, and that is unfortunate, but you know I can’t bend the rules for you.”

“Coran, I thought we were friends!” Lance throws his hands into the air.

“We are, but I can’t give you special treatment.”

Lance groans loudly and collapses forward, flopping his arms limply across the counter and resting his head face down. “I called and left a voicemail and everything!” He mumbles into the hard surface. “Doesn’t that count for anything?”

“It was very courteous of you, but no, I’m afraid. It counts for nothing.”

“Gee, thanks, buddy.” He grumbles dryly.

“This reminds me of when I was young and first got into competing. Back when Allura and I were partners, we missed an audition after I came down with a nasty case of—“

“Coraaaaaan,” Lance whines loudly, cutting off the other man’s story. His hands flop in the air in front of him. “Is there anything you can do?” Lance lifts his head, resting his chin on the counter so he can look up at Coran. He tries to look at pitiful as possible, with wide eyes and a pouting lip and everything.

Coran only looks at him with pity and shakes his head. “Sorry, my boy, but my hands are tied. If we made an exception for you, we’d have to make exceptions for everyone. And that would just turn into a messy situation.”

Lance groans loudly again. Perhaps a little louder than necessary, but hey, he’s really upset right now. He drops his head again, forehead hitting the counter just a little too hard, which makes him groan again. He’s not mad at Coran. He understands where he’s coming from. Altea has always had very strict rules about audition days. Lance has always respected it, but he’s never been in this situation before.

He had been getting ready to leave the house when it happened. His nieces were over, as they always were during weekdays. His mama kept an eye on them while his brother and his wife were at work. It was cheaper than daycare or a babysitter, and they got to play with their cousins. Lance helped out, too, when he didn’t have work or plans. He had been alone watching them while his mama was grocery shopping. Just twenty more minutes and she would’ve been home and he would’ve been gone.

His nieces, Maria and Abigail, and his youngest brother, Leo, had been playing in the back yard, and he had been tying his shoes when he heard the screaming. After a lot of panicked yelling and tears, he had finally been able to get the story out of them. Maria had jumped down from the deck of the tree house, like they had all recently started to do because they were ‘big enough’ now and it was faster than climbing down the ladder. As much as his mama berated them for it, they never got hurt beyond scrapped hands and sore knees. This time, however, her shoe lace had caught on a loose nail and she had been tripped as she jumped. She had landed on her arm and it had broken.

He’d had no choice. He hadn’t even thought about it. He had rushed all three of them to his car and driven them to the hospital. It hadn’t been until he was sitting in the waiting room, his niece on his lap and cradled against his chest, that he realized he was missing solo auditions.

He’d called the front desk, but no one was there. He’d left a voicemail, explaining the situation and why he was missing auditions. He had known at the time that it was a futile effort. He knew about the strict rules. But he had hoped beyond hope that there was maybe something that could be done about it. That maybe Coran could somehow work some of his magic. Pull some strings. Anything.

Apparently, he’s just shit out of luck.

Auditions are a big deal. They’re his only chance to get to regionals, which is only like one of the biggest and best competitions around. And first and second place get to go to nationals. Lance loves dancing and he loves competitions. And not only would the publicity be a good jumpstart to actually being able to do something about a possible dance career, but the money that comes with winning is nice, too.

He’s been auditioning for years, and while this isn’t his first time not getting in, it is the first time he’s missed auditions all together.

And it’s also the most important one that he missed for one simple reason: Keith.

For two week he was talking himself up and challenging Keith and making him promise that he’d make it to auditions. For two weeks he’s been talking shit. And then he didn’t even make it himself.

Jesus fucking Christ, what is it about Keith that just makes him constantly fuck up and embarrass himself? Granted, this had been completely out of his control, but he’s still extremely bummed about it.

“Lance?” Coran asks, and he hears the man shift closer to him. A strong finger jabs at his head. “Are you alright?”

“No!” Lance snaps, blindly swatting his hand away without lifting his head. “Can’t you see I’m wallowing?”

“Ah, yes, I do see that. Would you mind wallowing somewhere out of the way? Our classes will be starting up soon, and I need to be able to greet any guests who come in.”

Uuuugh, Coran have some compassion.”

“I am… compassionately asking you to relocate your wallowing into one of the available chairs.”

“Fiiine,” He steps backward a couple steps, pulling his body off the counter in the process. Head hanging forward, shoulders slumped, and arms hanging limply at his sides. He drags his feet over to one of the chairs at the side of the room and flops down into it.

“Don’t worry, Lance.” Coran says, shifting through some papers on the desk behind the counter. He doesn’t look like he’s paying much attention anymore. “There’s always next year.”

Lance grunts in acknowledgement, putting one elbow on the arm of the chair and resting his cheek against his fist. His other arm flops across the other arm rest, fingers idly tapping the metal. He glares at a smudge on the floor, lips pursed into a small frown. Yeah, there is next year. But he’d made auditions this year into such a big deal, and he didn’t even get to put his money where his mouth was. God, Keith must think he’s a huge fucking loser.

He’s so deep in his self pity that he barely notices when someone walks into the office. In fact, he doesn’t notice until there’s a familiar set of shoes in his vision and a familiar voice speaking.

“Good afternoon, Coran, Lance.”

“Good afternoon, Shiro!” Coran says cheerfully.

Lance grumbles something unintelligible that might have been a greeting.

“I just came by to get the keys to our room.”

“Right! Of course. I haven’t gotten around to unlocking all the practice rooms yet.” Coran says, turning around to the board of pegs that’s mounted on the wall. He taps his chin. “Let’s see… room 2A?”

“As usual.” Shiro says, and Lance can hear the smile in his voice. He and Allura have been dance partners for years, and in that time, Lance has never known them to practice in any other room. Not that anyone would ever try to stop them from claiming that room. Allura, after all, technically owns the Dance Academy. She doesn’t work here, but she inherited it when her father passed.

Her and Shiro have been partners for as long as Lance has known them. He’s never seen two people so completely in sync with each other, and they’re honestly beautiful to watch. They’ve won several championships in Altea’s name. Their trophies are displayed proudly in the case in the entry hall. While they don’t normally teach, they occasionally hold classes for duos. Not for any specific type of dance, but to help partners with synergy and teamwork. Other than that, they sometimes help out in other classes. Allura likes to pop in and join whenever she has free time, and she likes to get to know everyone who comes here. Lance doesn’t know how she manages to remember everyone’s names and faces, but she does.

They’re both honestly really cool people, and Lance is proud that he can call them both friends, which is more than most at Altea get to do. He has an in though. Shiro is friends with Pidge’s older brother, so they’ve known each other for years and naturally Lance and Hunk got pulled into that friendship.

They’re part of his dance family, and he loves them. Wouldn’t trade them for the world. But right now, he’s not even sure Shiro can manage to cheer him up.

Because he’s currently imagining all the terrible impressions he’s given Keith and how he’s never going to manage to salvage his reputation. He groans again and buries his face in his open palm.

There’s a short silent before Shiro speaks. “Is he alright?”

“I have been informed that no, he is not alright, he’s wallowing.”

“What happened this time?”

“You say that like I wallow all the time!” Lance says, lifting his head to narrow his eyes at his friends. They’re both staring at him with flat expressions, eyebrows raised. They don’t say anything, but their skeptic silence speaks volumes. And okay… maybe they have a point.

“He missed solo auditions for regionals yesterday.” Coran says, answering Shiro’s question.

“Don’t remind me!” He throws up his arms, collapsing back against his chair, arms falling to lay across the arm rests and head tilted back against the chair. He slouches, glaring at the ceiling.

wallow

“What happened?” Shiro asks, sounding more surprised than anything. “I’ve seen you go to auditions with a fever rather than miss it.”

“I had to take my niece to the hospital after she broke her arm.” He grumbles without heat.

Shiro’s tone immediately shifts to concern. “Maria or Abigail? Is she alright?”

“Maria,” Lance waves a hand at him before letting it fall. “Yeah, yeah, she’s good. She’s more excited about having people sign her cast than anything. The only real damage is to my pride.”

“So nothing you’re not used to then?”

“Hey!” Lance’s head snaps up and he levels a glare at Shiro. The man is standing near the front desk, a good humored smile playing across his lips. Coran is chuckling behind the desk. Lance can’t stay mad at them. Especially when they’re right. He sighs, slapping both hands over his face. “How am I supposed to beat mullet head now?” He groans, more to himself than anyone else.

Shiro, however, hears him. “Are you… are you talking about Keith?”

Lance spreads his fingers, peeking out and raising an eyebrow. Shiro’s eyeing him curiously. “Yeah?” He didn’t expect Shiro to actually know who he was talking about. Then again, there’s only one guy who has a mullet around here. “You know Keith?”

Shiro’s smile is back, small and tugging at the corners of his lips. “Yeah, I do.” His eyes squint a little in amusement, but Lance doesn’t really get what’s funny. “He’s a pretty good dancer.”

“I knooooow.” Lance closes his fingers again and groans. “And I told him I was gonna kick his ass at auditions and beat him at regionals, but once again he one ups me.”

“Actually, Keith missed auditions, too.”

His fingers splay wide so he can stare at Shiro, both eyebrows raised. “Say what now?”

“Keith missed auditions, too.” Shiro looks like he’s trying far too hard to look casual, and Lance doesn’t trust it.

His brows furrow, hands coming down on the arm rests as he leans forward, tilting his head as his eyes narrow slightly. “Why?”

He shrugs. “Not sure. He won’t tell me.”

“But you’re sure he missed auditions? As in he didn’t get a spot for regionals?”

“That’s what I’m saying, yes.”

“Yes!” Lance jumps to his feet, throwing a fist into the air before bringing it down in front of him. His self pity evaporates in an instant. Sure, he’s still upset that he missed auditions. Going to regionals wasn’t entirely about Keith. But at least there’s no longer that salt in the wound. He does a little victory dance, which mostly consists of swinging hips and bobbing shoulders. “Suck it, Keith!”

“He told me you were big into this whole competition thing,” Shiro says, crossing his arms over his chest. “But I didn’t realize you were this….”

“Intense?” Coran supplies.

“Exactly. Though this would explain why he actually cared enough to actually audition. Or at least intended do.”

“How is that?”

“He’s never been good at turning down a challenge, and Lance… is very good at setting challenges.”

“Very good at forcing you into them, don’t you mean?”

Shiro chuckles. “Exactly.”

Lance is only listening with half an ear, far too engrossed in his victory dance, which has morphed into more of a victory Macarena. With a swing of his hips, he jumps to face the others, his lips split into a wide grin. They’re both watching him with raised eyebrows and varying degrees of amusement.

“Feeling better?” Shiro asks, crossing his arms over his chest, lips quirking upward.

Lance puts his hands on his hips, grin never faltering. “Immensely.”

Coran glances at the clock on the wall. “Don’t you have a practice room reserved, Lance?”

He brings a fist down on his open palm. “Right!” His face instantly drops, as do his shoulders and his grin. His bottom lip sticks out in a small pout. “I guess I’ll go… practice, or something.” He mumbles, scooping up his back and slinging the strap over his shoulder. He isn’t sure exactly what he’s going to do. It isn’t like he has anything to practice for now. He had reserved room 4C for weeks in advanced, under the assumption that he would end up going to regionals.

So much for that.

He drags his feet as he makes his way out of the front office. Maybe he’ll stop by Pidge and Hunk’s room. They still have a couple weeks before the duo auditions, but they usually learn their routines pretty quickly. So they shouldn’t mind too much if he bums around for a bit. Maybe he can help them with a few transitions. As much as they complain about dancing with him, they do value his advice. He knows what he’s doing and he’s good at it, even if he doesn’t play well with others.

“Do you still want to get in?”

Lance stops mid step, back tracking until he’s in the doorway to the office again. With one hand on the door frame, he eyes Shiro through narrowed eyes, one eyebrow raised. “Was that a trick question?”

“Nope.” He says with a small shake of his head before repeating, “Do you still want to go to regionals?” Shiro’s arms drop to his sides as he steps forward to join Lance by the door. His face is so open and friendly, but Lance is having a hard time believing what he’s implying.

“Yeeeees?” He says, suspicious. His brows furrow and he lifts his chin, eyeing Shiro sideways. “More than anything, but Coran said there was nothing he could do.”

“Maybe not, but I have an idea.” Shiro slides past him out the door and starts off down the hallway. He waves over his shoulder. “Follow me.” And Lance does because he has nothing else to do and his curiosity is piqued. He isn’t sure what Shiro is getting at, not when Coran said there was no way he could get in, but he’s willing to try whatever it is. He’s been looking forward to regionals for months.

Allura is waiting for Shiro by the stairs. She’s leaning up against the wall, hair pulled back into a thick bun and her head bowed over her phone. Even in sweatpants and a tight tank top, she looks good. She’s all curves and dark skin, silver hair and bright blue eyes. She’s tall, with curves and muscle, and damn if she isn’t the most attractive woman Lance has ever seen.

She’s also incredibly out of his league, and he’s embarrassed himself enough trying to hit on that, thank you very much.

Besides, it didn’t take him long to realize she has a thing for Shiro. Not that he can blame her. Shiro is also incredibly attractive, and the two of them make one of the most amazing duo partners he’s ever witnessed. Not that they’ll ever admit their chemistry goes beyond that of just dance partners.

She looks up when she hears them coming, and her lips tilt upward into a warm smile as her eyes settle on Shrio. Lance glances at his friend to see the same smile mirrored there. Shiro lifts a hand to wave at her as they approach.

Her eyes shift to Lance, and her smile is no less friendly. “Hello, Lance!”

Her smile is infectious. Lance practically beams. “Hey, Allura.”

“How did auditions go?”

His smile drops immediately. His shoulders slump as he shoves his hands in his pockets, looking away. “I… didn’t make it.”

Out of the corner of his eye, he can see her own expression drop. “Oh, Lance, I am sorry to hear that.”

He hates hearing her pity. He doesn’t want to bother telling her that he didn’t even make it to auditions. He straightens, waving her off and tilting his head to the side. “Nah, don’t worry about it. It’s fine.” He lets his lips curve into a relaxed smirk. Confidence is key. He might have been moping and wallowing in self pity just five minutes ago, but that was before someone actually showed genuine pity. He doesn’t want pity. So he won’t let her see that it’s actually tearing him up inside that he had to miss auditions. “Besides, Shiro here said he has an idea for how I can still get in.” He says, jerking a thumb over his shoulder at the man in question.

Her eyes slide to Shiro, one delicate eyebrow raising. She looks genuinely curious. “Does he now?”

Shiro nods. “Do you mind starting without me?” He tosses her the key and she snatches it out of the air with ease, barely blinking. “I want to see if this might work.” He’s being cryptic, and Allura is eyeing him suspiciously, her lips pressed into a small pout.

“Alright, but I expect you to tell me everything when you are done.” She says, pushing off the wall to follow them up the stairwell. She turns off at the second floor, giving them both a wave and shooting Shiro a narrowed look. He just smiles and continues up the stairs. Lance trails after him.

“Uuuh, so where are we going?” He asks as they pass the third floor. Pidge and Hunk should be down there now. They usually sign up for rooms at the same time and carpool. It’s just easier that way. They had left Lance in the front office to beg and plead with Coran, and they would no doubt be expecting him to come barging in with whatever good or bad news he has. He’ll have to keep them waiting just a little longer. Maybe then he’ll have good news.

“You’ll see,” Is all Shiro says as they climb to the fourth and top floor of the building.

They step out of the stairwell and Lance’s eyes immediately go to room 4D. He had kind of been hoping that Keith wouldn’t be there. There’s no reason for him to have hope for this. He and Keith have been practicing at the same time nearly every day for two weeks, but he still hopes against hope that this will be the day that Keith isn’t here. He doesn’t want to face him after skipping out on auditions yesterday. And after hearing that Keith also missed auditions… well, he was kind of hoping that meant that Keith wouldn’t have anything to practice for and therefore wouldn’t show. Pretty stupid logic, seeing as he also doesn’t have anything to practice for now, but he’s still here.

And all his hope has been in vain, because the door to room 4D is cracked and music is filtering out into the hallway. It’s definitely not in english, and it definitely sounds like some kinda kpop. He feels his lip curl in distaste. He’s just glad Keith is already in his room and he doesn’t have to face him.

He stops when he reaches room 4C, but Shiro keeps walking.

“Uh, Shiro? My room is right here?” He says, thrusting a thumb at the door.

“I know.” He says simply, continuing on.

Lance glares at his back. Hoe, don’t— dammit! Lo and behold, Shiro stops in front of room 4D. He turns to look at Lance, eyebrows raised. Lance hasn’t moved an inch. “Shiro, what are you doing?” He asks, voice low and filled with suspicion. Red lights are going off in his head to accompany the red flags that are shooting up all over the place. Red alert! Keith alert! Avoid! Hide! Duck into your room and lock the door! Drown out Shiro’s protests with Nicki Minaj!

“Lance,” Shiro’s voice is suddenly very solemn and very serious. Lance hates that voice. That’s his dreaded dad voice. “Do you trust me?”

Lance pouts, looking away with a sigh. “Yes.” Because that’s all he can say when Shiro is using that voice. He feels like he’ll just disappoint him otherwise, and he does not want Shiro’s stern fatherly disapproval.

He instantly brightens, no longer so serious as he grins at Lance with the friendliest goddamn smile in the world, and he feels like he’s been manipulated. “Good, then come on.” And so Lance shoves his hands in his pockets and trudges over to stand a little behind Shiro. He lifts his prosthetic hand and knocks on the door, pushing it open slightly and sticking his head through. “Keith?”

The response is instant. “Hey, Shiro.”

And Lance stiffens. Not just because he’s actually nervous as hell to be face to face with Keith after blowing off the audition he made such a big deal of, but because holy shit Keith’s voice. It’s not the voice he’s come to know. It’s not filled with exasperation or irritation. It’s not dry or sarcastic or mocking. It doesn’t have that angry edge or that underlying amusement. He sounds pleasantly surprised and genuinely… kind. He sounds nice, and… and holy shit, Lance was not expecting that.

It makes him wonder how exactly Keith and Shiro know each other. Like, yeah, Shiro brings out the best in everyone, but Keith’s voice spoke of so much familiarity that it’s hard not to be curious.

“Can we talk for a moment?” Shiro is saying, pushing open the door far enough to step into the room.

Lance hears Keith sigh, and his voice is suddenly very tired and a little annoyed, which is much more like the Keith he knows. “Shiro, if this is about auditions, I already told you, I don’t—“ He cuts off abruptly when Lance follows Shiro into the room

He tries to keep his shoulders back to keep from slouching, but he can’t help the pout he feels on his face. Unlike the last time he barged into this room, full of bravado and determination, he feels small and uncomfortable as he tries to stick to Shiro’s shadow. He has no idea what the guy is up to, but he’s severely reconsidering the whole ‘he’ll try anything to get to regionals’ thing.

“What are you doing here?” Keith’s voice has a lot of bite to it, and Lance instantly bristles.

He finally looks up at Keith, takes in his sour expression, his arms crossed over his chest, the way his weight his leaning onto one hip, that god damn pony tail. More than any of that, he takes in the fact that Keith looks almost hostile as he glares at him, and that is definitely new. Even when they’ve been in the heat of an argument, he’s never seen this level of anger from Keith.

Part of him really just wants to shy away from Keith’s glare, go hide in good old room 4C, and lose himself to his music. Maybe lay on the floor and stare at the ceiling and really get his wallow on. Work on bottling up and stuffing down that embarrassment until he’s able to actually face Keith again.

But that part of him is stamped into the dirty by the part of him that makes him so endearingly stubborn and defiant. At least that’s what his mama calls it.

He lifts his chin, matching Keith’s glare as he picks his hands out of his pockets to cross his arms over his chest. “It’s not like I want to be here, kpop. Shiro told me to follow him.”

Keith breaks their good old fashioned stare down to shift his glare to Shiro. “Why did you bring him here?”

One hand on the strap of the bag thrown over his shoulder, he gestures to Lance with the other. “Lance didn’t make it to regionals—“

Keith scoffs, rolling his eyes. “No shit, he wasn’t even there.”

“How do you know that?” Lance snaps.

“Because I actually showed up, unlike some people.”

Lance opens his mouth to respond, but snaps it shut when nothing comes out. His brows furrow as he shifts his gaze to Shiro. The older man is gazing at him with eyebrows raised, lips tugged downward into a small frown. He looks back to Keith, leaning his head forward a little and turning it an inch to the side to look at Keith sideways. “Shiro said you missed auditions.”

Keith’s glare snaps to Shiro, and Lance watches as the man gives Keith a shrug and a sheepish smile. “What? You did.”

“I was there.” Keith finally says, looking back to Lance. Either his cheeks are dusted with the smallest shade of pink or the lighting in here is doing weird things to his completion. “I just… left. Before they started.”

Lance gapes at him, eyes wide, mouth open, and everything. “Why?” He manages to gasp. Why would Keith leave before he auditioned? Especially if he was already there? Lance would have killed for that chance!

Now he’s definitely sure it’s not the lighting, because Keith’s cheeks turn a deeper shade of pink as he looks down and away. “I just… I wasn’t feeling good.” He mumbles, and at least he sounds abashed, even if Lance doesn’t really understand. He would have gone through his routine choking down vomit if it meant he got to audition.

Shiro clears his throat, bringing both of their attentions back to him. “As I was saying,” He gestures to Lance. “Lance didn’t make it to auditions.” His hand swings around to point to Keith, giving him a very pointed look. “And neither did you. You both missed out on your chance to go to regionals as solo performers.”

“Shiro, what the hell!” Lance nearly shouts, throwing his arms up in the air before letting them fall to his sides. He’s hunched forward, head hanging as he glares up at the man. He purses his lips together. “You told me you were gonna help me get in!”

He nods, a small smile starting to play across his lips, and Lance really doesn’t like the look of that smile. “I am, Lance. If you would just listen.”

Lance tilts his head, eyes still narrowed in suspicion and locked onto the older man. “I’m listening.”

Shiro crosses his arms over his chest, looking back and forth between him and Keith. “I propose you two audition as a duo.”

Lance’s jaw drops open. He’s is pretty sure he’s hearing things, because did Shiro just say— He lifts a hand, sticking a finger in his ear and twisting it. “I’m sorry, I must be hallucinating, because I could have sworn you just said—“

Shiro nods again. “That you two should audition as a duo, yes.”

“WHAT?!” Lance straightens, scrambling backwards, arms going up and eyes wide with horror. His eyes whip around to look at Keith, and he hasn’t moved an inch, but his face is contorted in a very similar expression. It takes him about two seconds to echo Lance’s sentiment.

What?

“Shiro, you said you would help me—“

“You can’t be serious—“

“I do not dance duos, and especially not with Keith!”

“I don’t care enough about this competition to sink that low—“

Excuse you, you would be lucky to have me as a partner!”

“You wouldn’t be able to keep up with me!”

“Alright, hold up, Billy Ray, you wouldn’t be able to keep up with me!”

“Do you even know how to choreograph something?”

“Do you even know how to dance?”

“At least I can pick a song!”

“At least my songs are good!”

“Guys! Cool it!” Shiro cuts in, putting a hand on both of their shoulders to push them apart.

dance dad to the rescue

Lance hadn’t even realized that they had both stepped forward during their argument, closing the distance between them until they stood practically nose to nose, arms flailing and gesturing wildly and fingers jabbing painfully into each other’s chests. He can feel Keiths breath on his face and the warmth radiating from his body. He can see how long his lashes are and how his thick eyebrows are furrowed, matching his wrinkled nose. He can see the flush of anger across his otherwise flawless pale skin. And he had never thought much about Keith’s eyes before, but now he can see that they’re dark gray with little flecks of color, and he can smell the slightly woodsy scent of his deodorant, and— jesus fucking christ he should not be standing this close.

He’s kind of finding it hard to focus on the argument at hand all of a sudden, so he lets Shiro push him away from Keith. He steps back with one foot, twisting his body sideways so he’s no longer facing him, and crosses his arms over his chest with a huff. He looks pointedly away and tries to subtly suck down lung full of sweet, fresh, Keith-free air. He raises his shoulders nearly up to his ears, his mouth twisting into a frown. He does not like how Keith always seems to manage to mess with his head.

But Shiro is talking again, and Lance turns his attention to him, if only to keep his attention off of Keith for a moment. The guy just gets him so worked up.

“As I was saying,” Shiro says with a sigh, crossing his arms over his chest once again. He some how makes the stance look infinitely more intimidating than Keith or himself. Lance turns his head to glance sideways at Shiro, pointedly refusing to look at Keith. But out of the corner of his eye, he can see that Keith is also turned away from him, arms crossed and eyes locked on Shiro. “You two should seriously consider dancing as a duo.” He held up a hand, effectively cutting off both of their protests with a sharp shake of his head. Lance’s jaw snapped shut. “Hear me out, okay?” He looks between them, and it’s obvious that he’s waiting for an answer.

“Fine.” Keith grumbles.

“Fiiiine.” Lance sighs.

Shiro nods, continuing. “Dancing as a duo isn’t that bad, and the auditions for it aren’t for another two weeks. You’re both very talented, and that should be plenty of time for you two to come up with something. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just good enough to impress the Altea judges and get you that spot at regionals.”

“But—“ Lance tries, but he’s once again cut off by Shiro raising his hand and shaking his head.

“I’m not done.” Lance huffs, hunching his shoulders a little more and looking away. “Keith, you’re brilliant with choreography. I know you have several dances you’re working on now. You could easily adapt them to be for two people.”

Lance lifts his head a fraction, shoulders dropping slightly as he glances sideways at Keith. He… didn’t know that. It’s pretty much inherent for a good dancer to be able to choreograph their own dances. They all can. Hell, Lance can. But the way Shiro says it… he makes it sound like Keith is better at it than usual. Like that’s his thing. And despite himself, Lance is… intrigued.

“And Lance,” Shiro’s piercing eyes swing back to him and Lance jumps, ripping his eyes away from Keith to stare at Shiro, eyes wide. Shiro’s gaze softens, and Lance relaxes. “You pick up dance moves and styles faster than anyone I’ve ever met. You’re the most adaptable dancer I know. If anyone can keep up and learn Keith’s choreography in two weeks, it’s you.”

Lance’s shoulders drop, pulling back as he lifts his chin. A lazy smirk spreads his lips as he preens in the praise. He rolls his shoulder, tilting his head to shoot Keith a smug look. Keith just looks at him with a blank and unreadable expression, lips tight and brows furrowed.

“Hear that, Keith?” Lance says, all confidence.

“I heard.” Keith says flatly, but doesn’t rise to the bait.

Lance opens his mouth to say something else, but Shiro cuts him off. “Lance, do you want to go to regionals?”

Lance blinks at him, smug smile fading. His first instinct is a sarcastic reply, but something about Shiro’s face stops him. So he swallows his sass and decides to go for open honesty. “Hell fucking yeah I want to go. More than anything.”

Shiro nods, a small smile tugging at his lips. Lance knows that was the answer that he was hoping for. He turns to look at Keith. “Keith, do you want to go to regionals.”

Lance glares at Keith in time to see him open his mouth, close it, and look away. He fidgets under Shiro’s gaze, shifting his weight and shuffling his arms.

Shiro sighs, dropping his head a fraction and shaking it. There’s exasperation there, but also a fondness that Lance finds hard to place. “Alright, let me rephrase: Keith, going to regionals would be good for you. No, don’t argue with me. It would be. You didn’t go last year, and I respected your wishes, but you have a lot of talent and this would be a good opportunity for you.” His face softens, and suddenly it’s Lance’s turn to fidget. He feels like he’s intruding on a private moment. He looks down, picking at the colorful woven bracelets on his wrists. “I know you want to preform, Keith.”

Lance glances up to find that Keith still isn’t looking at Shiro. He shrugs, and Shiro seems to take that as a yes. He clasps his hands together, flesh slapping against metal in an startling loud sound. Both he and Keith jump.

“Good, now that that’s settled, let’s try something.”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Lance says, holding up both hands. He puts one on his hip and uses his other to point and Shiro. “We didn’t settle anything—“

“I never agreed to anything—“ Keith cuts in.

“Neither did I!”

Shiro isn’t listening to them. He’s turned away from them both and is walking toward the front of the room where the auxiliary cable sits. He sets his bag on the ground and grabs it, pulling it out from Keith’s phone and plugging it into his own.

“Shiro,” Keith says slowly, warning and suspicion in his voice. “What are you doing?”

“I said we were going to try something.” He says casually, turning to face them both as he scrolls through his phone. “Do you two remember the dance you were taught in that class last year? For the final performance?”

Keith’s brows furrow in thought, and Lance taps his chin, lifting his eyes to the ceiling as he thinks. He’s been in a lot of classes throughout the years, and each one had several dances that they learned. It’s gotten to the point where a lot of them blur together, but he can very clearly remember the one class he had with Keith.

He remembers how he always chose a spot at the front of the room. How he spent every free moment with his headphones on, avoiding the rest of class. How he was always, always, practicing. How Lance had spent a good portion of his time watching him. It didn’t take long for Lance to zero in on him. He was clearly one of the best dancers in the room. Aside from Lance, of course. And because of that, he had instantly felt the need to impress him, to prove himself. Lance had tried to make eye contact with him in the mirror, tried to get a spot next to him to show off a little. No matter what he tried, he never seemed to get a reaction. Keith was stoic and stuck up and carried himself like he knew he was good and like he didn’t want to interact with anyone else. It had grated on Lance’s nerves and had fueled his desire to be better than him.

And it’s only because of that that he’s able to remember the dance they did for their final performance.

He snaps his fingers, grinning as he pulls up the memory. “Uptown Funk.”

Shiro nods, a smile playing across his lips as he looks down at his phone. “Exactly. You both did very well, if I remember correctly.”

“You remember at least a little bit,” Lance says, smirking. “I did very well. I donno about Keithy boy over here.” He jerks a thumb over his shoulder, ignoring Keith’s glare.

Shiro looks up then, looking between them. “Do you remember the dance?”

“Pfff, of course I do,” Lance drawls, rolling his head to the side. He waves a hand at Shiro. “I know that routine like the back of my hand.” He holds up the hand in question— when did he get a cut on his knuckles?

Shiro’s smile looks amused. “Good. Keith?”

Keith shrugs and nods. “I remember it.”

“Oooo, someone’s cocky.” Lance says, rolling his eyes.

“And you’re not?”

“Why don’t you put your money where your mouth is, ponytail?” Not his best insulting nickname, but damn if that ponytail isn’t distracting. Seriously, where does he get off putting up that god awful hair and having it look cute as fuck? And his neck is far too long and slender and definitely needs to be covered up pronto.

“Maybe I will!”

“Good, now that that’s settled—“

“Nothing was settled!” Both of them snap at the same time, whipping around to glare at Shiro.

He puts up both hands defensively, still holding his phone. His smile widens as he looks between them, and he even chuckles a little. Lance scowls at him. “Alright, look, just calm down for a second.”

“I am calm.” Keith says with a little too much bite.

“Me too!” Lance adds, sending the other boy a glare.

“Then neither of you would mind doing that dance?” He asks, eyebrows raised.

“I’m down. I’ll prove to mullet boy over here that I’m better than him.” Lance says, tossing his bag to the side and cranking his neck to the side to crack it. He intertwines his fingers and stretches them in front of him before shaking out his limbs. He bounces on the balls of his feet. “Let’s go, Shiro.”

His brows are furrowed slightly, lips pressing into a thin line. “Lance, this isn’t really meant to be a competition—“

“Let’s go, Shiro.” Lance says loudly and impatiently. He can feel Keith still staring at him, but he ignores him.

“This is to prove that you two can dance as a duo. I just chose this one because I know it’s pretty easy and you both learned it—“

“Let the music play!”

Shiro sighs, finally giving in and tapping his phone.

Immediately the opening beats to Uptown Funk start blaring over the speakers, and Lance is immediately jumping into action. Turning sideways, one arm bent with his hand on the side of his head, his other arm extends and snaps in front of him in time with the beat. He walks forward with sideways steps. After a couple beats, he switches sides. In the wall length mirror, he can see Keith doing the same thing next to him.

They face forward, snapping fingers at their sides before sweeping their arms up and over their heads to point to the side. They take a few steps back, hips swinging and arms waving with them. Then the beat drops, and they throw their hands up in the air before dropping down to grab the front of their pants and thrusting forward. And then they’re moving quickly, knees twisting in and out to the beat, arms being thrown out to the side. Hands move down their sides, outlining their bodies. They turn for a couple steps before hopping back.

Lance feels a thrill run through him as he watches both of them move in the mirror. It’s not like when he’s in a class, and everyone is doing the same thing but everyone is just slightly off. Lance has always prided himself on his rhythm and timing, and he’s long since accepted that most people, no matter how good, tend to be off when they throw their bodies into it. Keith, however… Keith is perfectly in time, all of his movements precise and calculated. As Lance watches their reflections move, he can see that they’re perfectly in sync. With the music and with each other. Every move and motion is done at the same time and at the same angle.

They… actually look good together. Dancing like this. Lance feels the thrill of it thrumming through his veins, and he cant help the wide smile that breaks out across his face. When he looks up, Shiro is grinning, too.

Adrenaline floods his system, and he feels himself starting to really get into the music. His eyes drift closed, letting his body go through the motions. His legs are moving, his hips, his arms, his head is bobbing along, and it just feels so good.

As he feels the build to the chorus, his memory starts to get a little muddled. It’s no problem though. He knows vaguely how it’s supposed to go, so he starts to improvise. His eyes open, watching himself in the mirror. His shoulders shake, his steps are fluid and gliding in time with the beat. He shakes his hips, smirks at himself. Hot damn.

The beat drops and he’s in it. He’s a slave to it. Moving, bobbing, swinging. He’s not paying attention to his steps or what his hands are doing. He’s just feeling it.

“What are you doing.” Keith’s voice snaps him out of his groove.

His eyes widen as he trips over his own feet, stumbling a few steps, arms thrown out to the side to balance himself. Then he lifts his head, eyes narrowing as he shoots a glare at Keith. He’s standing there with his hands on his hips and a scowl on his face. Geez, how did he ever think that Keith sounded nice?

“What the hell is your problem?” Lance shouts, throwing his hands up in the air.

“What was that?” He throws a hand out at him.

Lance straightens, putting on hand on his hip, cocking it to the side and letting his other arm hang loose at his side. “Uh, dancing? I thought we were at a dance studio?”

Keith’s face scrunches up even more. “You weren’t even doing the right dance anymore!”

“It’s called improvising. Ever heard of it?”

“You can’t improvise a choreographed dance!”

“I can, and I just did!”

“Then we’re not in sync anymore!”

“You can’t stifle my creativity!”

“The whole point of this is to see if we can dance together, not for you to go off and do your own thing!”

Lance crosses his arms over his chest, half turning away and lifting his chin with a huff. “You’re just jealous that I looked better than you.”

Keith groans. With one arm crossing his chest, his other hand slaps a hand over his face, dragging it down until his arm flops in front of him. He turns his glare on Shiro, who’s standing helplessly at the front of the room, all traces of his smile gone. “I can’t work with him!” Keith says, gesturing angrily to Lance. “He’s an idiot. I can’t duo with someone who can’t even follow simple choreography.”

Lance bristles, shoulders rising and back stiffening. Any thrill he felt earlier at watching himself dancing with Keith is gone. Flown out the window. Long gone. Never to be heard from again. Dead and buried. Lance is starting to doubt he ever felt it at all.

“Oh yeah? Well I can’t duo with someone who has a giant stick up their ass!” Lance shouts over the music, bringing both of their attentions to him. He stomps over to where his bag lays abandoned, and throws the strap over his shoulder.

“Lance—“ It’s Shiro. His voice is soft but firm, imploring and begging. He sounds a little sad, and Lance can feel that guilt at disappointing him rising in his throat. He chokes it down.

“No,” He says, lifting a hand. “If this is what I get for trying to have a little fun, then I’m out.”

“Lance,” The voice is sterner now. “Keith didn’t mean—“

“Oh, I think he did. And that’s fine.” He’s walking backwards now, toward the door. “It was a nice thought Shiro, and I appreciate you trying to help me, but I think we all know this isn’t going to work.”

“Lance—“

He spins on his heels as the song comes to an end, holding up a hand to wave over his shoulder. “Later, Shiro. Good luck with your auditions.”

He doesn’t say bye to Keith as he leaves. He doesn’t look at him before he pulls the door shut behind him. He doesn’t want to think about Keith. Lance should have known better than to even attempt dancing with him. He’s been told for years that he’s hard to work with. But you know what? So is Keith. With his disapproving frown and judging stare and holier-than-thou attitude.

Lance is good at dancing. And he knows it. It’s one of the only things in life that he knows he’s good at. He takes pride in that. And he’s not about to let some mullet-wearing, arrogant kpop wannabe take that away from him. No matter how stupidly hot he looks in a pony tail and no matter how pretty his eyes are.

Lance feels like screaming. There’s too much going on in his head, and his chest feels tight, and he’s been on way too much of a devastation-hope rollercoaster today, and he just needs to let it all out. So he does. He marches down the stairs, out to the parking lot, and throws back his head and screams. It’s loud, it’s wordless, and it makes several birds scatter from their perches on a nearby telephone wire. It’s filled with all his frustration at the world, at himself, at Shiro, at Keith, at stupid rules and stupid auditions.

And when it’s all out, he feel a little better.

Hiking his bag up higher, and shoving his hands in his pockets, he trudges back into the building. He doesn’t want to go to his room. That would be too close to the main source of his current frustration. So instead he stops off on the third floor and heads towards room 3C. He unceremoniously throws the door open without knocking and slams it shut behind him.

Pidge and Hunk are standing in the middle of the room, eyes on the clock on the wall. Neither of them look at him as he comes in.

Pidge nods, hands on their hips. “Just as I thought. Less than a minute. Hunk, you owe me.”

Hunk rolls his eyes, going back to where the laptop is hooked up to the speakers. “Yeah, yeah, we’ll stop and get you a milkshake on our way home.”

Pidge is grinning as their gaze finally slides to Lance, and it fades considerably. They cross their arms over their chest. “Alright, what happened?”

Lance groans loudly and wordlessly, stomping over to the side of the room and throwing his bag on the ground. He falls to his knees, then face plants into his backpack, lying there with his limbs sprawled out and face buried.

“Come on, dude. We heard your angry shout from in here.” Hunk says, pausing the song that’s been playing. “Something’s up.”

Lance groans again, though this time it’s muffled. He rolls his face back and forth on his backpack.

Pidge sighs. “Do you need time to wallow before you complain to us?” Another groan, this one a little more pitiful than the others. “Thought so. Hunk, our pathetic child needs time to gather his thoughts, so we might as well work through the chorus again.”

“Sounds good. Hey Lance, when you’re done wallowing, can you help us find good transitions in and out of the chorus?” Lance doesn’t say anything, but he lifts up an arm, setting it next to his head with a thumbs up. “Great, knew we could count on you, buddy.”

“I’m charging a milkshake for my services.” He mumbles into his backpack.

Chapter Text

Keith is nearing the final lap of his second mile when he feels his brother’s presence come up next to him. He keeps staring straight ahead, not even bothering to take out his earbuds. “Shiro, no.”

He can see Shiro pull ahead a little, leaning into his vision and miming removing his headphones. Keith huffs, rolling his eyes, but does as he’s asked. “I didn’t even say anything.” Shiro says as soon as Keith tugs out one of his earbuds and lets it drop.

Keith levels a flat glare at him. “You were going to ask me about Lance, weren’t you?” Shiro’s smile turns sheepish. He opens his mouth to speak but Keith cuts him off. “No.” He turns back forward, speeding up his pace a fraction to pull ahead of Shiro. It doesn’t take long before he’s pulling up alongside him once again.

“Keith, just listen—“

“I’m not dancing with him.”

“This would be a good opportunity for you both.”

Keith presses his lips together into a thin frown, but internally he’s groaning. Shiro’s using that voice. Everyone else likes to call it his dad voice, but to Keith, it’s always been his big brother voice. The voice he used whenever Keith had acted out. The voice he used whenever Keith felt like giving up. The voice he used whenever Keith needed kindness and a guiding hand. It’s so soft, so kind, filled with unwavering and genuine concern, yet containing that edge of seriousness that makes Keith bite his tongue.

Keith knows he’s just trying to help, but this is something he really doesn’t want to budge on. So he avoids his brother’s eyes, staring straight ahead.

“Keith,” Kindness and patience. Ugh, Keith hates him sometimes.

“I don’t care about regionals, Shiro.”

He sighs, and Keith can see him shaking his head out of the corner of his eye. “I know you say that—“

“And I mean it.”

“—But, I think you should reconsider.”

“And why should I do that?” He asks dryly. He doesn’t know why he’s humoring Shiro. He’s done a good job avoiding the subject so far. This isn’t the first time Shiro’s attempted to corner him since he forced Keith and Lance to dance together yesterday. He can always just leave, abandon his gym routine and just go. He had driven himself here. But… something keeps him. Stubbornness, probably. He knows Shiro won’t drop the subject until they talk it out. He has that gleam in his eyes that Keith knows all too well. Shiro can be just as stubborn as he is.

“You should perform, Keith. You’re good. Really good. You could go far if you’d just give yourself a chance.” There it is. The beginning of the guilt trip. Shiro is a master of that. Always manipulating him with that kind, caring voice because he knows Keith hates disappointing him. It’s cruel and unfair.

“I don’t see how some competition would help me.” He grumbles, and as soon as he does, he knows he’s made a mistake. Shiro’s smile tells him that the man has sensed a chink in his armor, a fault in his resolve.

“You love dancing, don’t you?”

“What kind of question is that? You know I do.”

“You want to do something with it, right? Some kind of career?”

Keith shrugs, dodging around a few slower joggers to hide his face. “I dunno. Maybe. I haven’t thought about it.”

Shiro’s tone is reproachful. “We both know you have, and you do. The best way for you to get started is to get yourself out there. Let yourself be seen. You’re really good, Keith, but you won’t get anywhere if you just dance in a room by yourself.”

“I know that, Shiro, but—“

“And regionals is a perfectly good opportunity for you to prove yourself.” Keith scowls and looks away. He knows Shiro is right, but that doesn’t mean he’s happy about it. Shiro’s been around him long enough to sense him hardening. His voice softens and he tilts his head, giving Keith a small smile. “You’re good enough to get to nationals if you try. It’s a good way to make a name for yourself in something that you love doing.”

Keith grunts in response, grabbing hold of his dangling earbud to keep it from bouncing wildly. “I’m about to go into my sprints. You gonna keep up, old man?”

Shiro raises an eyebrow, a smile tugging at his lips. “You can’t run from your problems, Keith.”

“Watch me.” He deadpans, fighting the twitch at the corner of his lips. He pauses as they round the corner of the indoor track, and he bounces on the balls of his feet, staring down the straight stretch.

“How many laps?”

“Sprint three, jog one. Rinse and repeat.” He rolls his shoulders, cranking his head to each side. He can hear the song currently playing coming to an end in his one earbud.

“When we’re done, will you talk with me?”

Keith shrugs, putting his dangling earbud back in his ear. “I’ll think about it. If you’re not too out of breath, old man.”

Shiro frowns. “I’m not that old.”

Keith tugs at his own bangs, a smirk curling his lips. “You’re already going gray.”

Shiro automatically reaches up to brush the white strands away from his forehead. They fell right back into place. His brow furrows and mumbles, “Allura told me it looks good.” It’s a statement, but Keith can hear the self conscious question in it.

He rolls his eyes, bending down to get into position for a runner’s start. “Your hair looks fine. It suits you.”

Shiro instantly brightens. “You really think so?”

The song in his ears ends, and he smirks up at his brother. “Yeah, because you’re old.” And then his sprinting playlist starts up, all song with fast, driving beats, and he takes off.

Keith loves running. He always has. He finds it cathartic and it never fails to clear his mind. He loves the burn in his lungs and the sweet ache in his body. It’s one of his favorite escapes. Before Shiro had introduced him to dancing, it was his main escape. It’s like nothing can hurt him as long as he keeps moving. He doesn’t have to deal with things as long as he’s moving.

It doesn’t take him long to be up to speed, pushing his body as fast as he can go. He’s breathing hard, legs pumping, and arms swinging. The music in his ears drives him forward, keeps him going. The beat keeps tempo with his heart hammering in his chest. As he thunders down the track, he expertly weaves around people. The balls of his feet barely touch the ground. His blood is singing through his veins, his hair is whipping around him, and he truly feels alive.

He tries not to think about how he had felt a very similar feeling when he danced with Lance.

For a moment, he lets himself forget. He forgets about Shiro. He forgets about regionals. He forgets about Lance and the barely concealed hurt in his voice when he had stormed out yesterday. He forgets about his retreating back. He forgets about the angry shout he heard in the parking lot. He forgets about the way his chest had clenched when Lance had said he could never dance with him. Keith had started it. He has no reason to feel hurt because Lance had agreed with him.

He forgets it all and focuses solely on moving forward and pushing his body as fast as he can go.

After two laps, he can feel himself slowing and Shiro catches up to him. They don’t speak. They’re both breathing too hard for that, and they’re too busy dodging around others on the track. But they keep pace with each other.

Then they finish the third lap, and Keith automatically slows to a jog. He’s panting, his heart still pounding, and his music blares in his ears, encouraging him to keep going. But he allows himself a brief reprieve. Shiro looks grateful for this as he slows down beside him. Keith glances sideways at him, and Shiro shoots him a wide grin, pointing to his ear. Keith reluctantly pulls out an earbud.

“You’re going to run someone over one of these days.” He tries to sound serious, but the edge is lost to his teasing tone and the fact that he’s breathless.

Keith shrugs. “Hasn’t happened yet.”

They’re halfway through the lap, breaths finally starting to get back to a more natural rhythm, before Shiro speaks again. “He’s not that bad, you know.”

So much for trying to get his heart rate down for a moment. “I don’t know who you’re talking about.”

“Lance.”

Keith definitely feels his heartbeat pick up, and he blames it on the run and his music. There’s no way just the guy’s name can get him this riled up. “Are we thinking about the same guy? Cause the Lance I’m thinking of is definitely that bad.”

“He just… has a very strong personality.”

Keith barks a short, sharp laugh before he can help himself. “That’s one way to put it.”

“You should give him a chance.”

Keith is already putting his earbud back in his ear, making sure it’s secure enough to stay there. “Sorry, Shiro, can’t hear you. Gotta run.”

And then he rounds the corner of the track, and he’s sprinting again. He hears Shiro shouting his name, but he doesn’t turn around. He easily stays ahead of his brother this time. He can hear his heavier steps pounding behind him, and occasionally sees him out of the corner of his eye when he dodges around people, but he doesn’t slow or give him the chance to catch up.

By the time he’s finished his sprinting laps, he slows to a jog which is just a little slower than before. His legs are starting to feel the burn, and it feels great. When Shiro comes up alongside him, he doesn’t even have to say anything before Keith is reaching up to remove one of his earbuds. They don’t say anything for half a lap, content to simply try to catch their breath. The silence is comfortable, and for a brief moment, Keith thinks that maybe Shiro has finally dropped it.

He’s never that lucky.

“Winning at regionals and going to nationals is a great way to get discovered.” Shiro says, panting between words, he tuns a winning smile to Keith. “It would look great on your resume.”

Keith groans, rolling his head to the side to level a flat look at Shiro. “I know I made fun of you for being old, but now you’re seriously sounding like dad.”

He chuckles, rubbing the back of his neck. “Am I wrong, though?”

Keith looks away and grumbles, “No…” He can practically feel Shiro’s shit eating grin, and he decidedly ignores it. “Are you just running through a pre-made list of things to say to convince me?”

“Is it that obvious?” Keith glares at him, but Shiro just laughs. “I thought it might be nice to be prepared.”

“I’m not one of your speeches, Shiro. You don’t need notecards to talk to me.”

“With how stubborn you are? I really do. It’s best to have all my important points planned out beforehand so I can fire back when you try to shoot me down.”

Keith grunts and looks away, picking up his earbud in anticipation as they near the curve at the end of the track. His body is practically humming with energy, eager to sprint again. Eager to get away from Shiro before he has a chance to further whittle away at his resolve. He can feel it weakening, and he doesn’t like it. He’s determined to stick this one out.

“At least I don’t actually have notecards,” Shiro supplies, amusement in his voice. “Like I did when we were kids.”

Keith glances at him sideways, unable to hide the smirk that tilts his lips. “And I see you haven’t written it out on your arm either. You’re growing up.”

“Believe it or not, I am capable of pestering you without a written list.”

“You memorized it, didn’t you?”

His smile turns sheepish, and he looks down and away before glancing at Keith sideways. “Yeah, Allura helped me.” They may be exercising, and their skin might be flushed with exertion, but Keith would have to be blind to miss the blush that tinges Shiro’s cheeks.

Seeing a way to turn this back around, Keith let’s his smirk widen. “Speaking of your girlfriend, where is she?”

Shiro’s eyes snap up to him, smile gone and lips pressed into a small frown. His blush is definitely brighter. “She’s not my girlfriend.” He tries to sound firm. Keith knows he does. And it’s an adorable attempt. But it comes out as more of a pout than anything.

Keith can’t help but throw back his head and laugh. “Whatever you say, champ. You’re not fooling anyone.”

Shiro scowls and looks away, facing forward. “Why do you assume I know where she is?”

Keith snorts. “Because you two always come to the gym together. If you’re here, she is, too.”

“After we lifted weights, she went to the erg…” He mumbled, turning away. Probably to hide his blush, but Keith can see it creeping up his neck.

Keith laughs again. “Oh my god, how posh of her. Was she on the rowing team at her fancy British boarding school?” Shiro looks at him, lips pressed into a thin line, brows furrowed. He opens his mouth once, then closes it, and a variety of emotions pass over his face. Keith raises both eyebrows, positively grinning. “She was, wasn’t she? Oh my god, that’s amazing.”

“Keith,” There’s definitely an exasperated whine in that voice. Keith doesn’t even feel sorry for him. If he can’t deal with the teasing, he shouldn’t dish it out to begin with.

“Sorry, Shiro, I can’t hear you.” He says, shoving the earbud back in his ear. They round the corner and they’re facing the straight side of the track. Keith looks up, and his eyes are immediately drawn to the woman who had just walked through the door. She tucks a wayward strand of white hair behind her ear as she looks around the track. Keith smirks at Shiro. “Looks like your girlfriend’s here. Wouldn’t want to lose a race to your little brother. That would be embarrassing.”

He laughs at the utter look of embarrassed horror that comes across Shiro’s face, and takes off before he hears Shiro shouting his name again. This time Shiro actually gives him a run for his money. He doesn’t know if Shiro is actually trying to impress Allura, prove to Keith that he can keep up, or if he’s actually just trying to chase Keith down so he can tackle him to the ground and put him in a headlock. Either way, he’s not willing to stick around to find out.

He pushes himself harder than before, feeling the adrenaline roaring through his veins at the chase. He flies past Allura, sending her a wild grin as he goes and seeing it reflected on her face before he’s gone. As he rounds the first curve, he glances over his shoulder, surprised to find Shiro right behind him. His face is tight with concentration. His arms are pumping at his sides as he charges forward.

Keith yelps, the sound immediately shifting to a laugh as he turns back forward, cutting the corner as tight as he can while still dodging people and without losing speed. His lungs burn, his feet barely touch the ground, and he feels a tight knot forming in his side. He doesn’t care. He keeps going. At the next turn he looks back again to find that Shiro hasn’t gained much, but he hasn’t fallen behind either.

When they pass Allura again, she’s leaning against the wall near the door, arms crossed over her chest and a small smile of amusement on her lips. She gives him a little wave as he passes, and he lifts his hand in response.

He doesn’t think he drops his pace for the entirety of his three laps. He feels alive. They haven’t had a chase like this in years. It was a lot more common when they were kids, and it was usually after Keith had pushed Shiro past the breaking point of his patience. Which, by the way, is very high and Keith prides himself in the fact that he’s one of the only ones who can make his brother suffer like that.

As he rounds the last corner, he lets his run slowly and naturally wind down to a mild jog. He turns to grin over his shoulder only to find Shiro has slowed to a walk pretty far behind him. His hands are on his hips and his head tossed back as his chest heaves with heavy breaths. Keith slows to a walk and then a stop, waiting for Shiro to catch up.

His breaths are fire and his limbs are vibrating with unused energy. He needs to keep moving, but he can’t pass this up. “You’re losing your touch.” He says, pulling out his earbud as Shiro comes up beside him. They keep walking along the track, but Keith’s legs feel like jelly at the pace that’s so drastic from his previous burst of movement.

“One of these days…” He pants.

Keith rolls his eyes. “Yeah, keep dreaming.”

Shiro has alway had a much better endurance than Keith. He can go for miles and miles after Keith’s legs give out, as long as he keeps a steady pace. But Keith has always and will always surpass him in speed. When it comes to sprints and weaving through obstacles, Keith is faster. He can go longer. His body was built for that kind of endurance, that kind of push. He thrives on it. Shiro gets tired too quickly trying to catch up to Keith.

Keith isn’t saying that it was his plan to tire his brother out with sprints so he couldn’t keep bothering him about the whole regionals thing, but hey, he’ll take it.

He pats Shiro on the shoulder. “I’m gonna keep running. Why don’t you go say hi to your girlfriend.”

Shiro scowls. “Keith, you said we would talk.” He says, still panting heavily.

Keith gives him a small smirk. “I said I’d think about it.” He plugs his earbud back in his ear and starts off at a slow jog, intent on completing his jog lap before doing one last sprint. Just to dissuade Shiro from following him.

“Keith—“

Bye, Shiro!” He calls out behind him. Allura is shaking her head as he passes her.

As he completes his jogging lap, he starts sprinting again. It’s not as fun without having to actively outrun Shiro, and he’s tired himself out enough that he’s not really hitting his top speed anymore. He had done it enough now, however, that the other runners are learning to move out of his way, even if they do send him dirty looks as he passes. When he sprints past the door, he can see Shiro and Allura have gone out into the open space between the track and the weight room. They’re talking, her hand on his arm as he holds a water bottle.

He resists the urge to shake his head. He doesn’t know why his brother even tries to deny it anymore.

He only sprints for two laps before slowing to a decent run for the third, then a casual jog for the fourth, and ending with a walking lap. As he walks, he skips forward past the section of his playlist intended for sprinting songs, getting to the much more casual acoustic covers of pop songs. After his walking lap, he stops by one of the open corners of the room, outside the track itself, and starts to stretch. There’s a few people there, with mats out doing yoga or just stretching before or after a run.

He’s got his arm stretched across his chest when he feels a tap on his shoulder. He starts to turn, mouth already open to tell Shiro to just drop it already, only to snap shut when he sees Allura. She’s steps around to stand in front of him, her arm across her chest to mirror his. She’s smiling widely, her hair pulled up into a monster of a pony tail that cascades down her back, and she’s wearing simple yoga pants and a loose tank top. Her dark skin glistens with sweat and yet she still manages to outshine everyone.

Keith may be gay as hell, but he’s not blind, and Allura is positively beautiful, even after spending several hours in the gym. Honestly, it’s not even fair.

Keith scowls at her, wary and suspicious. “Shiro sent you, didn’t he?” He looks over his shoulder, and sure enough, Shiro is walking the track, water bottle in hand. When he see’s Keith’s glare, he smiles and gives him a thumbs up. Keith frowns, but his attention is brought back to Allura when she gently tugs one of his earbuds out.

“Do you mind if I join you?” She asks, and it’s so sweet and falsely innocent that Keith can’t say no.

“Would you leave if I said no?”

Her smile widens. “Nope.”

He shrugs, switching arms. “Guess it doesn’t matter then.”

“No, I suppose it doesn’t.” They go through several stretches in blissful silence before she speaks again. “So… Shiro tells me you’re considering auditioning for regionals.” She says as they’re both sitting on the ground, legs stretched out in front of them, reaching for their toes. Keith is a little proud that he can wrap his hands around the toes of his shoes, which is just a little further than Allura can go.

He looks up at her, brows furrowed. “I’m not. I missed auditions.” He says flatly, leaving no room for argument.

Allura, however, looks unfazed. “He told me he suggested you and Lance try out as a duo.” Her voice is innocent, yet probing.

Keith pulls his right leg in, pressing his foot against his thigh and leaning far forward until his chest is nearly touching his leg. He uses this new position to avoid looking at her. “And that’s the worst idea my brother has ever had since he decided to put chocolate syrup on a slice of Kraft Single’s cheese.”

She throws back her head and laughs. It’s not a dainty laugh. It doesn’t sound like bells chiming in a meadow with birds chirping and the sun shining. It’s a deep bellied laugh. A real laugh that comes from down deep and one without restraint, bearing her heart and soul. Her whole face gets into it, and she still manages to be beautiful. He can see why his brother is so head over heels.

Her laugh is actually… a lot like Lance’s. That unrestrained laugh that just bursts from them, loud and unrelenting. It could be ugly, unrefined, annoying… but it’s not. It just makes them glow brighter. It’s infectious, and just make you want to hear more, to keep it going, to keep that smile on their faces.

Aaaaand now he’s comparing Lance’s laugh to Allura’s, and that’s defiantly not something he should be doing. Because as he’s mentioned already, Allura is beautiful and Lance is… well, Lance.

“Well, to his credit, I think it’s a brilliant idea.” She says when her laughter subsides.

Keith ignores meeting her eyes and her smile by switching legs and practically laying down in his stretch. “It’s a terrible idea, Allura. Don’t encourage him.”

“Aww, don’t be like that, Keith! Think about it—“

“I have, and the answer is no.”

“—You both missed auditions, but duo auditions are still coming up. As Shiro said, you’re both more than capable of putting together a routine by then. You’re both amazingly talented, and I have no doubt that you two could go far. You both have so much chemistry.” Keith tilts his head back far enough to make a face up at her, and she chuckles, winking. “Trust me, I know about these things.” Her eyes automatically drift away from him toward the track, and her expression softens. He knows without having to turn around that she’s looking at Shiro. He supposes she does have a point there. Her and Shiro have amazing chemistry on, and off, the dance floor. On this, however, she is definitely wrong.

Keith snorts, bringing her attention back to him. “Sorry, Allura, but if we have chemistry, it’s the kind that blows the roof off the lab and causes everyone to die in a fire.”

Her smile widens, and there’s a sparkle of amusement in her eyes that he doesn’t appreciate. “That’s the best kind. If you guys can just focus your energies, I know you can make a good team.”

Keith is already shaking his head. He pulls both his legs toward him, feet together, and rests his hands on his ankles, using his elbows to push his knees down. He leans forward, feeling the stretch in his thighs.

“Shiro said he had you guys dance together yesterday. He said you were really good!”

Keith glares up at her from behind his bangs, lips pressed into a thin line. Then he looks away, staring at the ground. “You weren’t there, Allura.” He grumbles. “He’s… unprofessional. It started out great, but then he just… I don’t know, said he was improvising or whatever, and stopped doing the right dance. That might work fine as a solo act, but that is not going to get us anywhere. Not if he can’t or won’t follow directions. He’s not even that good!” Allura is chuckling, and he lifts his head, glaring at her. “What?”

“Alright, that last part I know is a lie. Lance is a fantastic dancer. He just has a… strong personality.”

Keith rolls his eyes. “That’s what Shiro said, and it’s an understatement. He’s cocky, needlessly competitive, and insufferable.”

“Okay, so ignore how it ended and tell me about the part where it started out great.”

Keith groans and leans forward to rest his forehead on the ground.

“Keeeith, come on, you can tell me, you know.” She reaches forward to pat his head. “I won’t even tell Shiro, promise.”

He groans again. “It was… great. He was able to keep up with me, and everything was the right angle, and it was… I don’t know, fun, sort of….”

“Ah ha—“

“No!” Keith snaps sitting up quickly to level a glare at her. “No, you don’t get it. It was good for about thirty seconds before he started fucking up. I can’t work with someone who can’t keep up with the choreography.”

“But he can. You said so yourself.”

“But he doesn’t, and that’s the problem.”

“So you’re saying if we could get him to take it seriously, there wouldn’t be a problem?”

“I—“ He blinks. “That’s not—“

“And if we can get Lance to agree, you would audition for regionals with him?”

“I did not say that.” He scowls, his lip curling as he leans back, regarding Allura. “You’re devious.”

Her smile never falters as she tilts her head to the side. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“I suddenly fear for my brother.”

She rolls her eyes and then shifts to the side, getting her knees under her. “Tell you what, shall we make a little wager?”

He raises one eyebrow, suddenly suspicious. “What kind of wager?” He asks slowly.

“A plank off.” She puts her hands on her hips, regarding him thoughtfully. “We both plank, first one to give up, loses. If I win, you have to promise to actually, seriously consider giving Lance a chance.”

“Allura, I don’t—“

She holds up a finger, cutting him off. “Let me elaborate. You have to talk to him. About dancing together, specifically. Have a civil conversation with him.”

Keith gets the feeling that he’s not getting out of this. Shiro might be stubborn, but Allura is relentless. If he wants to have his way, he’s going to have to play her game. He shifts onto his knees, crossing his arms over his chest. “What if I win?”

“You won’t.” She says with a smirk and a glint in her bright blue eyes.

“Humor me.” He deadpans.

She shrugs. “What do you want?”

“If I win, neither you or Shiro are allowed to mention regionals or dancing with Lance again. And that includes trying to get others to convince me.”

She holds out a hand. “Deal.”

He takes her hand, and her long, slender fingers curl around his with surprising strength. He glances at her exposed arms before his eyes slide to her face. He doesn’t like the wicked smirk he sees there. He sets his face into a grim mask of determination as he drops her hand. “Let’s get this over with.”

They both immediately take up planking positions on their hands and toes, backs straight. His positioning is perfect, and he knows this. He’s not a stranger to planks and push ups, and he’s got the stamina to prove it. He feels the familiar tightening in his core, the strain in his arms, and he settles into it. This is as familiar to him as sprinting, and he’ll enjoy the burn while Allura caves. Then he’ll never have to hear about auditions or regionals or duos or Lance ever again.

Ten minutes later, Keith is starting to realize that Allura may not actually cave as easily or as quickly as he had hoped.

He has his head tilted up and to the side a fraction, and he’s glaring at Allura from beneath his bangs. She’s meeting his eyes, and she still has that shit eating smirk on her lips that just screams confidence. Her eyes are narrowed slightly, but they’re glinting with determination and the fire of a challenge.

Keith is seriously regretting his decision right about now.

He can feel the quiver in his gut and the slight shake in his knees that tells him that he’s starting to reach his tolerance, but he refuses to give up. Not when Allura is practically grinning at him like she’s already won. He gives her one last scowl and looks down, keeping his spine straight to help alleviate some of the pressure. They’re silent, at least, and he’s grateful for that. He focuses on his breathing and clearing his mind, pushing past any protests his body is making.

He’s not sure how much time has passed. The people around them in the corner come and go. He tilts his head to the side slightly so he can watch people on the track. Anything to keep his mind off of the task at hand. He watches them go around and around. The center of the track is open, looking down on the basket ball courts on the floor below. The sounds of sneakers squeaking across the gym floor and balls bouncing echoes and blurs with shouts and conversation. His music is still playing in one ear, giving him another distraction.

“How are you holding up?” Allura’s voice is unwelcome.

“Fine.” He grunts, clenching his teeth.

“Are you sure? You look a little shaky.”

“I’m fine.” He says again, voice hard. He’s not fine and he knows it. His arms are shaking now, as are his legs. There’s a burn in his gut that’s gone from pleasant to unbearable. Still he holds it.

“Honestly, you have lasted a lot longer than I expected. I am impressed.” She sounds genuinely impressed, and not at all condescending or mocking. Still, he grunts and lifts his head to glare at her, lips pressed tight in concentration. He can see her arms are shaking, too, but her expression is unworried and confident and honestly she looks a lot more sturdy than he feels.

God fuck, he should have known. He expected her to be good, but he had been sure that he’s better.

She catches his eye, and somehow her smirk turns mischievous. “Ready to give up?”

“Not even close.” He says, and he’s not lying. He’s not ready to give up. Is his body about to give up on him, however, is a completely different question. He thinks he can still last several more minutes though, if he really focuses and ignores her. He’s just got to focus on his breathing, which has started to get strained. He focuses on breathing in through his nose, and out through his mouth. He leans his head back down to face the ground and closes his eyes. Breathe in… Breathe out… Breathe in.

“Why don’t you just admit you want an excuse to talk to Lance again?”

Keith’s eyes shoot open and his head whips up to stare at her. “What—“ His arms give out and his core muscles relax. He falls to his knees, barely catching himself before his chin hits the ground. He sits up straight, eyes wild. “Allura, what the fuck was that?!”

She lowers herself to her knees with a slight sigh, sitting up a lot more gracefully than he had. She crosses her arms over her chest and tilts her head to the side. “That was me winning.”

“Wha— you—“ He sputters, waving his hands around and grasping the air as he searches for words. “You cheated!”

She laughs. “How did I cheat? I just asked you a question! Why, does mentioning him make you flustered?” She leans forward, tilting her chin downward a fraction and waggling her eyebrows.

never plank off against allura

Keith presses his lips firmly together, feeling the telltale warmth rise up his neck to take up residence on his cheeks. He has nothing to say to that. There’s nothing he can say without making it worse. He huffs and looks away, pushing himself to his feet. “Whatever, I’m out of here.”

His legs are shaky as he walks away, and he tries his best not to stumble or fall on his face as he stomps toward the door. “Don’t forget about our wager!” She calls out behind him. “You should talk to him!”

“I’ll think about it.” He says without turning around.

“You know you want to!”

“I do not!” He snaps, perhaps a little too loudly. He yanks the door open and steps into the hall. He can hear Allura’s laugh echoing behind him, and his ears feel like they’re on fire.

He stomps down the stairs, leaning heavily on the handrail to keep his balance as his legs protested the movement. His gut feels like it was on fire, and he blames it solely on the planking. It has nothing to do with what Allura had said, because he refuses to consider it a possibility. She was just trying to get under his skin so she could win. And it had worked.

He meant what he had said: he’s starting to fear for his brother.

The locker room is mostly empty when he gets there, and he’s glad. He goes to his usual locker, off and out of the way in the corner, and rips it open, pulling out his water bottle. He tilts his head back, guzzling it until he feels it dripping down his chin. Wiping off his mouth, he gasps for air and sits down heavily on the bench in front of his locker. His muscles are still screaming in protest. Usually it’s a sign of a good work out, but right now he’s not really feeling the afterglow. He knows he should have done more of a cool down, but he just wanted to get away from Allura, and the men’s locker room is the perfect place for that.

He rests his elbow on his knees and leans forward, letting his head hang. He stares at his shoes absently. He had made that wager with Allura, and he had lost. But he really doesn’t want to talk to Lance. He isn’t even sure he can have a civil conversation with the guy. He’s just so… cocky, and smug, and his fucking shit eating grin does weird things to Keith’s chest. He gets under his skin. He’s not sure he can trust Lance to be civil, and he’s definitely not sure he can trust himself to be civil.

But… if he talks to Lance, and confirms that the guy’s an asshole, then they can’t blame him and they can’t fault him for not trying. Besides, he didn’t agree to actually dancing with him, he only agreed to consider it, and maybe talk to him.

Ugh, since when did coming to the gym get this complicated? He comes here to forget his problems for a while, not get new ones. He needs to start finding out when Shiro and Allura are coming to the gym so he can make sure not to be here.

He groans, running a hand through his hair and resting his forehead in his palm. How the fuck is he even supposed to approach Lance? What the hell is he supposed to say? They both made their opinions on the matter quite clear, and he really doesn’t think Lance wants to see him anytime soon. Or ever…

The clench in his gut is definitely from the twenty minute planking session with Allura. He’s sure of it.

“I’ve never seen someone hold out that long against Allura.”

Ah, of course. He should have expected this. The men’s locker room is safe from Allura, but it’s not safe from his brother. He groans loudly, but doesn’t lift his head. “Go away, Shiro.”

“Nope,” He sits down heavily on the bench next to him, leaning back against the lockers. “Seriously, though, I thought for a minute there that you might beat her.”

“Your girlfriend is a monster and you sicked her on me. What kind of brother are you?”

“The kind that’s trying to get you past your own stubbornness.”

Keith snorts. “By using your own.”

“It’s for your own good.”

“I’ve heard that line before.”

“Have I ever been wrong?”

Keith is silent for a moment, before he sighs and lets out a reluctant, “No…” He sits up and leans against the lockers, tilting his head back to stare at the ceiling while his hands hang between his legs.

“So you admit I might be right about this? That duoing with Lance might be good for you?”

Keith’s eyes narrow at the ceiling panels. He frowns. “You’re twisting my words.”

“Do you admit it?”

He sighs. “Maybe.”

Shiro leans over to nudge his shoulder with his own. “So are you going to go through with it? The bet you made with Allura?”

Keith rolls his head to the side, still leaning against the lockers as he glares up at the older man. “I knew you were in on this.”

Shiro isn’t even trying to hide his smile. He shrugs, his shoulder rubbing against Keith’s. “She said if she couldn’t convince you to see reason, she would use your competitive spirit against you.”

“She’s devious.” Keith deadpans.

Shiro nods. “I know.”

“I fear for you.”

At that he laughs. “I fear for myself sometimes. So are you going to do it?”

Keith sighs, looking down at the water bottle in his hands. “I don’t know…”

“He’s a good guy, Keith. If you get to know him, I’m sure you two would get along.” Keith snorts, but Shiro continues. “He doesn’t dance well with others, but neither do you.” He says gentle, but there’s that edge of the patented Big Brother Voice. He can hear it seeping in. “This would be a good opportunity for you both to prove you can work well with others. You’ll both need to if you want to get anywhere with dance.”

Keith exhales heavily through his nose because he knows Shiro is right. Shiro is always right. He has some very valid points, that would, under normal circumstances, actually be fairly convincing, but… why does it have to be Lance of all people?

Shiro stands then, stretching his arms over his head. Then he puts a hand on one shoulder and rotates that arm. “Well, if you decide to go through with it, he should be in the park with Hunk and Pidge for the next couple of hours.”

Keith looks up at him, one eyebrow raised. “How do you know that?”

Shiro shrugs, grinning as he crosses his arms over his chest. “It’s Tuesday.” He says, like that answer should have been obvious.

Keith’s brow furrows. “Shiro, that doesn’t make any sense.”

Shiro shrugs again, and lightly prods Keith’s shoe with his own. “Just go check them out. They’re quite fun to watch.”

“What are you even talking about?”

“You’ll see.”

“Maybe I won’t. Maybe I won’t go.” Keith says, crossing his arms over his chest, pressing his lips into a frown.

Shiro looks at him with that soft, trusting expression of his, a small smile on his lips. “I know you’ll make the right decision.” And great, there goes the Big Brother Guilt, too. He’s not going to fall for it. That’s manipulation and he’s above that.

“I’m not going.” He says flatly.

“Keith, please.” And then Shiro’s expression drops, his lip pouts, and his eyes are wide, and— oh, fuck no. Keith is not falling for the puppy dog eyes. He practically invented that trick.

“Shiro,” He deadpans. “The puppy dog eye trick won’t work on me. I’ve used that on mom and dad since I was five. I used it on you all the time. I’m immune to it.”

“Keith…” How is it even fair for him to mix his Big Brother Guilt voice with the puppy dog look? It’s not fair. Not at all. He’s realizing that his brother is just as devious as Allura is. Maybe he should fear for her. No, scratch that. He should fear for everyone else. Especially himself. Together they make a team that’s impossible to say no to.

Keith groans, tilting his head back to bang loudly against the locker. “Fiiiine, but if I talk to him and he’s an asshole, you have to drop this whole thing and accept it’s not going to happen.”

“Deal.” He’s already grinning like he’s won, and Keith hates it. He glares, but Shiro is unaffected. “Just go to the park. You won’t regret it.”

“Somehow, I doubt that.”

 


 

 

Lance hits play and sets the phone down by the speaker. His hips are already canting to one side with the beat, his head nodding along, when he sees a small hand reach for the phone. He promptly reaches out and slaps it away. “Pidge, no.”

Pidge snatches their hand back, scowling as they cross their arms over their chest. They glare at him, weight shifted to one hip. “Lance, it’s my phone.”

“And we don’t change the song when Shakira is playing.” He chastises, one hand on his hip and the other waggling his finger at Pidge in time with the beat.

Pidge rolls their eyes. “One of these days, you’ll let me skip Shakira.”

Lance smirks letting his arms hang at his sides as he moves his hips, stepping around in a slow circle with one foot with each kick of the drum. “Never, Pidge. Never. Shakira is tradition.” He’s slowly shifting away from the speaker. He knows Pidge won’t touch it now. They try every time but always give up after Lance gets started.

“It’s only tradition because you insist on it every time.” Hunk says. He’s standing a few feet away, stretching an arm over his chest while he props the balls of one foot up against a bench, leaning forward to stretch his calf at the same time.

“It’s my warm-up, Hunk.” Lance says, dancing away from them with every step.

Pidge snorts, adjusting the volume on the speaker. “Since when do you warm-up?”

Lance grins. “You’re right, I’m just hot all the time. Thank you, Pidge.” He puts his arms straight up in the air, back to Pidge, swinging his hip heavily to the side with every downbeat. Then he snaps his hands to his hips and whips his head around to look at Pidge over his shoulder. “Dance or die.” He sings, voice overly low and husky.

“Oh my god.” Pidge sighs dramatically, rolling their eyes and getting their whole head into it. But there’s a smile on their face that betrays the exasperation they’re trying to portray. And when Lance holds out his hand, waggling his eyebrows as he starts to sing along in Spanish, Pidge obligingly steps forward to take it.

He spins them around, and they end facing each other. They dance together while Lance rattles off the lyrics to Loca. One hand holding their’s, Lance leads them through several quick steps, forward and back, side to side. He spins them occasionally, and Pidge is good enough and has done this enough to go with his lead. They swing their hips, and it doesn’t take long before Pidge is just as into it as Lance is. It’s a lot different from their preferred style, but Pidge is nothing if not adaptable, and the quick jerking movements of feet and hips combined with the more fluid motions of arms is right up their alley.

He swings them around, and they go with it. He sweeps them in close, spinning them with an arm around their waist and the other outstretched. Pidge laughs, and Lance smirks through the lyrics. Hunk continues to stretch on the sidelines, grinning at the two of them and laughing as Lance turns his back to Pidge and they drop down. He reaches between his legs to pull them between and up. They hop up and twist so they’re facing each other again, and they do a few quick salsa-like steps.

They’re already drawing eyes and a small crowd. They’re well known around here. As long as it’s not raining, they’re out here every Tuesday. And assuming everyone’s schedules have an opening for it, they’re out here a lot of weekends for an hour or two. They usually claim a spot somewhere around the large square with tight stone paving and a fountain in the center. It gives them plenty of room to move without blocking too much foot traffic.

Per usual, they’ve set up their speaker on one of the benches lining the square and hooked up Pidge’s phone via auxiliary cable. While they dance, Lance sees Hunk moving out of the corner of his eye, setting up their usual bucket, painted with galaxies and stars, with brightly colored lions flying around. It’s ridiculous, but Lance loves it. Hunk sets the bucket a little off to the side of their dance space with a sign that reads ‘Donations Welcome’.

He hears the song coming to an end. He gives Pidge one last dramatic spin, spinning himself so that they end back to back, arms crossed over their chests. The music fades, and there’s a couple of claps from the people that’ve been watching. Lance gives them a dramatic bow.

“Thank god that’s over.” Pidge says, already peeling themselves away from Lance to go back to their phone.

“You had fun, Pidge.” Lance says, straightening and turning on his heel to face them. His hands are on his hips and a wide smile on his lips.

“No.” They say, thumb tapping on the screen.

“Admit it. You like dancing to Shakira with me.”

“I was humoring you.” Music starts up, and Lance assumes it’s the new playlist Pidge’s brother has created for them. They set down their phone and start back toward Lance.

“I know you had fun,” His smile brightens, and he waggles his eyebrows. “Your hips don’t lie, Pidge.”

They groan, dramatically slapping their face and dragging their hand down their cheek. “Why are you like this?”

“You love me.”

“Yeah, yeah, now get out of here so I can dance.” They say as they shove Lance away from the wide open space they’ve created.

He laughs, stumbling away. “Why do you get to start?”

Pidge sets themselves up, back to the speakers and rolling their shoulders, shaking out their limbs. They send a cocky smirk over their shoulder. “Because it’s tradition.”

Alright, they’ve got him there. Lance comes to a stop beside Hunk and crosses his arms over his chest, throwing back his head to laugh. “Whatever you say, princess!”

Hunk snorts. “Lance, please, we all know you’re the princess here.”

He makes a loud, exaggerated noise of mock offense, leaning away from Hunk and putting a hand to his chest. “Excuse me?” Hunk eyes sideways, a smile tugging at the corner of his lips. Lance holds his offended face for all of three seconds before he snorts and elbows Hunk’s arm. “I’m totally the handsome, charming prince.” Hunk snorts. “Don’t hate me cause I’m beautiful, Hunk.”

“Besides,” Pidge says, stretching their arms over their head. The intro to the song is still building, and the heel of their foot is already tapping to the beat. “We all know I’d be the wizard in the tower that holds all the power.” The glint in their eyes as they glance over their shoulder is down right maniacal.

Lance leans in close to Hunk and whispers loudly, “Did you get just shivers?”

Hunk whispers back just as loudly. “Don’t let them hear you. They feed off of fear.”

Pidge throws back their head and laughs, dropping their arms to their sides. Then the beat drops, kicking the volume up and Pidge is moving.

Lance likes to watch all his friends dance. He can really see their personalities and their spirits come out. But Pidge in particular is fun to watch. Their movements are so… precise yet fluid. They move like their limbs are animatronic, with stiff, jerking movements that Lance has a hard time believe a human should be able to do. And then within a couple of beats, they’re moving like their bones have been replaced with liquid, only to snap back into those short, sharp, movements. There’s big movements and small ones, all moving together and meshing like a working of gears.

Pidge has taught him a few things, and he likes to think he’s pretty good at them. He can incorporate a lot of moves into his own dancing. But he’ll never be at Pidge’s level.

There are some cheers from their small audience at some of Pidge’s more impressive moves, the kind they really shouldn’t be able to do, and he can see a small smirk on Pidge’s face. They’re not as outwardly cocky like he is, but they know they’re good and they revel in the praise. He knows the crowd is just going to get bigger from here. People come and stop and move on, but the longer they go, the more people hang around. They usually end the day with quite a few donations, too.

It’s not about the money, though. It’s just about having fun. They started out just dancing in the park. It’s outside and a nice change from spending all their time in Altea, plus they like having an audience. What dancer doesn’t? Then people started giving them donations, so they figured they should get a bucket. The decorations were Lance’s idea. Lions in space? Genius.

The music is a lot like Matt’s usual stuff. It’s a lot of pop music and other popular songs mixed together, and more often than not with dubstep beats. He leans heavily toward dubstep, which makes sense. Pidge likes dancing to dubstep, and Matt likes creating music for them. They probably grew up developing their tastes together, and it just happened to work out this way. Lance and Hunk don’t mind it. Matt usually makes good music, and he usually makes good variety playlists for them to play while they freestyle in the park.

“Do the robot!” Lance shouts from the sideline.

Pidge rolls their arm out, outstretching it toward him and looking like a liquid wave. It jerks to a stop with their middle finger pointed up. Lance bends over and laughs, before using his momentum of leaning over to stumble forward a few steps.

“Alright, iRobot, take it back.” He says, catching his balance and sliding forward in a few much more graceful and in time steps. “Lemme show you how it’s done.” He stops in front of Pidge, pulling off a few jerking movements to act like a robot kicking them out.

Pidge chuckles and breaks off, stumbling away to give the floor to Lance.

And boy, does he take the floor.

This is what Lance needs. This. The feeling of just being able to kick back with friends and dance. Dance for himself, not for any particular routine, not for auditions. He’s got an audience, yeah, and he’s trying to impress, but it’s still just for him. He knows most people watching can’t really dance, so whatever he does will look impressive. He feeds off the adrenaline of it, off the thrill of it.

His dance this time is much different from his hip shaking warm-up with his girl Shakira. He’s keeping with Pidge’s theme, but throwing in a lot of his own Lance flair. Bigger movements, hops and slides, more movements with his arms that aren’t anywhere near animatronic. He gets a couple cheers and grins at the group of teens passing by, fitting a little salute into his dance.

He’s already feeling lighter than he has in days. And definitely lighter than he has since yesterday. His chest doesn’t feel tight anymore, and Keith’s face isn’t haunting his mind. Keith, and his too-cool-for-school attitude, his better-than-you looks, his stupid mullet and pretty eyes. The way his body moves perfectly to choreography like he was made for it. He doesn’t lose himself in it like Lance does. He stays focused, body moving freely but exactly the way it needs to.

Maybe Keith is a robot, too.

If Lance had to admit it, he would say Keith is a good dancer. Probably never to Keith’s face, but maybe to like… Shiro or Allura or Hunk. Definitely not to Pidge. Keith is a good dancer. Lance isn’t blind. But what Shiro had suggested… Lance has a track record with not working well in official duos. Dancing with his friends in the park is one thing. Goofing off is one thing. But actually coordinating a routine for a competition? That isn’t Lance’s forte. He prefers to have the outline of a dance prepared, then leave himself room to improvise and feed off the crowd.

That, he’s been told, doesn’t work well when he’s dancing with others. And now he’s got proof that it really doesn’t work with Keith.

He can still see the hostile looks Keith had been sending him, the annoyed tilt to his voice. It was… more than usual. And yeah, Lance fucked up and missed auditions, but it wasn’t his fault! And it was more of a big deal to Lance than it was to Keith. Keith had his chance to audition, and he blew it because… because… hell, Lance doesn’t even know why but it pisses him off to think about.

Keith pisses him off. When he thinks about him, his gut clenches and he feels a tightness in his chest that’s hard to get rid of. Anytime Lance isn’t busy, he finds himself thinking about it. It gets him all worked up and he just wants to— to— punch a wall or something.

The worst part, honestly, is that Lance thinks it might… actually be fun to dance with Keith.

He’ll never admit that though. Not to anyone, and barely to himself. And usually when he admits it to himself, it’s immediately followed up with all the reasons for why it wouldn’t be fun. Like the fact that Keith is an ass. Keith thinks he’s better than him. Keith doesn’t think he’s a good enough dancer to keep up with him.

That… that thought kinda hurts, and the worst part is he doesn’t know why. He shouldn’t care what Keith thinks of him. He usually doesn’t when it comes to random people who have no real impact on his life. But Keith… he hates that his only lasting impressions have been bad. He hates that he really just wanted to impress Keith, prove to him that Lance is good enough to be his rival. But every time he tries, he just fucks up.

He keeps fucking up around Keith, and he hates it.

And now Keith just thinks he’s some douche canoe who can’t dance. He’s made it clear that he wants nothing to do with Lance. And you know what? That’s fine. Totally fine. Two can play this game, and they will, because Lance wants nothing to do with him either. Lance doesn’t need to be hung up on a guy who doesn’t understand. He’s got a stick up his perfect Adonis ass anyway. They can’t work together, that much is clear, and they’ve missed their chance to dance against each other.

So now Lance will just forget about it, let it the fuck go. He hates Lance, and Lance doesn’t need that negativity in his life. Keith is an ass, and Lance hates him. Fuck that guy.

Except now Lance is thinking about him, and that weird tight feeling is in his chest again, and he feels his smile fading, and his stomach is just in knots. He’s still moving, because he can’t stop the beat. He’s a slave to it. But he isn’t feeling it like he was a minute ago.

But then Hunk, blessed, amazing Hunk, comes to his rescue. He doesn’t know if his best friend was sensing his shift in mood, or if he just decided it’s his turn to dance, but Hunk is suddenly there. He hooks an arm in Lance’s, then turns so their backs are pressed together. He’s reaching with his other arm, and Lance is already there, holding out his arm so Hunk can hook those two together as well.

Hunk leans back, and Lance crouches forward.

“Ready, buddy?” Hunk asks.

“Lift off!”

Hunk bends forward at the same time Lance jumps. He flips over Hunk’s back, feeling a moment of weightlessness before he lands firmly on his feet, facing Hunk. They both laugh and put up their hands, almost like their about to fight. they shift from side to side in time with the beat, getting their legs and feet into it, to hit their forearms together. Once, twice, and then Lance is skipping backwards, pointing at Hunk as he spins on one heel, other leg extended and arms bent, hands in the air.

The song changes, and true to Matt Holt form, there’s barely a break in the music. In fact, if there hadn’t been a change in beat, Lance wouldn’t have even noticed it changed at all. This one, however, is a lot more fitting for Hunk. Higher energy, louder beats. Lance is starting to suspect Hunk had known about the playlists’s change coming.

When it comes right down to it, Hunk almost seems like the complete opposite of Pidge. Physically, he’s much bigger than Pidge, taller and heftier. But it’s more than that. Pidge’s dance style is controlled and contained. Every movement is deliberate and calculated. All of their energy is used with laser focus, executing exactly what move their mind summons up. When it comes to Hunk, he doesn’t lack for control. In fact, he’s just as controlled as Pidge is, but with a much more… let loose Lance flair.

His movements are wide and big, and he throws everything into them. A lot of his dance comes from his limbs, arms and legs being thrown out, twisting to a constant and repetitive rhythm. His body is the center of his momentum, a control center that moves and gyrates with the music, being thrown side to side and rolling with a mobility and flexibility that most don’t expect from him. His energy is high and wild, moving rapidly and with purpose, but always within his control and always immediately able to roll into the next move.

Where Pidge’s movements have some spontaneity with how they move, keeping the audience constantly on edge and waiting for what happens next, Hunk likes patterns. He likes movements that you see coming, that repeat for several beats before changing it up. But somehow he keeps it interesting. It’s the smile on his face, the little personal flairs he throws up, the creative moves that are all him. He pulls people in, keeps their attention, makes them cheer and crave more. It’s welcoming and warm and he’s always been the best at getting the audience to dance, too.

Lance likes dancing with Hunk. They have a lot of fun with it, and Lance can match his energy, his spontaneity, his smiles and goofiness. Like Pidge, however, Hunk doesn’t like actually dancing duos with Lance. When it comes to competitions, he likes patterns and he likes choreography.

He and Pidge, despite their drastically different styles, actually work really well together. Even if they have their strengths, they’re both adaptable. Hunk brings up Pidge’s energy. Pidge helps keep Hunk contained. Hunk can throw Pidge around, and they trust each other enough to do some crazy shit. It always appeals to the audience, and even when they don’t place, they usually win fan favorites.

Lance would never have that kind of chemistry with Keith…

But he’s not thinking about Keith right now, cause this is bro time and bro time isn’t the time to think about assholes.

After a couple minutes, Pidge darts into the open space. A loose circle is starting to form around them. Pidge stops in front of hunk, doing a few quick steps before spinning and gliding from side to side like their shoes have no traction on the stone bricks. Hunk concedes the dance floor to them, and backs up to stand next to Lance.

And that’s how the next hour passes. They take turns pushing each other out of the circle, but never in any specific order. It’s usually whenever they’re feeling the music hit them. Some songs are better suited to some of their styles than others, but overall, Matt’s new playlist is gold. They even get a few questions about the music, and they hand out some of Matt’s DJ business cards.

There’s a few times some of the audience members get involved, and they laugh and encourage them to dance. They don’t mind, and it makes things more fun. It’s rarely a case of some douche trying to one up them, and more like people really just getting into the spirit and enjoying themselves. Hunk gets a gaggle of kids to join at some point and has them hold onto his biceps as he spins around. They get a couple of dudes who know some breakdancing moves, and they have a good time exchanging moves with Lance. Even a young kid jumps in to join Pidge, matching their style perfectly as the two duke it out in short lived battle while Lance chants, ‘Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots’ in the background.

They’re even getting a fair amount of donations as well. And to top it all off, Lance hasn’t thought about Keith in who knows how long. Not at all. Keith is far from his mind. He’s just laughing and having fun with friends and letting this new music just fucking rock his soul and move his body. He’s interacting with the crowd because he’s a people person like that, and it makes it more fun. He loves the mini dance offs. He loves when the kids get excited. He loves showing off for an audience that actually appreciates what he does. Unlike a certain mullet toting individual he could mention.

He’s just pushed Hunk out of the circle and is doing a few quick steps from side to side, really getting his hips into it, when he spots a flash of black hair.

His heart instant stops in his chest, his lungs tightening, before his heart rate sky rockets. His eyes snap up, and he’s able to breathe again. It’s not Keith. Not that he thought it would be Keith. Not that he’s thinking about Keith, because this has been declared a No Keith Zone. He spies a girl with shoulder length black hair standing around their loose circle with two of her friends. All three of them are attractive and beautiful, and helloooooo there.

Putting on his best charming smirk, Lance half dances and half saunters over to them. He does a few quick dance moves, ending in a spin as he flashes them a winning smile and finger guns. One is scowling, one is hiding her face in her hands, and the other giggles. Well, one out of three isn’t bad. He holds out his hand, still dancing, and motions for them to join him. They exchange looks, and he knows those looks. Rejection, once again. It’s not too strange though. Not everyone has the confidence to dance in front of a crowd like this, especially with a stranger.

Besides, in a situation like this, turning down a dance doesn’t mean he’s being shot down all together. So he tries again, just to be nice, and when they firmly reject his offer a second time, he slaps a hand to his chest, putting on a look of surprise as he stumbles backwards. He purposefully falls onto his ass, using his momentum to roll onto his back. His feet follow the movement, going up and over his shoulder as he rolls backwards. As he goes, he puts his hands behind him and uses the momentum to turn his backwards roll up into a handstand.

There’s a lot of oo’s and aa’s from the crowd and he’s feeding off of it. He holds the position for several seconds, just to prove that he can, before he bends his legs and comes gracefully back down to his feet.

As soon as he’s upright, he’s moving again. He decides to roll with the whole breakdancing theme he’s already set himself up for. The music is ripe for it. He scuttles around, setting himself up to go down on his hands and do a few quick maneuvers on his hands and feet. He can hear the crowd egging him on, and he loves it. Break dancing has always been a crowd pleaser. He sees a couple of kids hanging onto their parents hands and practically jumping up and down, their eyes alight with excitement. He grins and laughs, because he loves when people enjoy his dancing. When he can give someone a good show and make their day.

Fuck Keith and his no nonsense attitude. Lance doesn’t need to impress him. He’s got an appreciative audience right here!

The group of girls is still watching, so he shoots them some finger guns and wink, grinning when they giggle. He doesn’t know if it’s with him or at him, but he’ll take it. He drops to his right side, planting his hand to the ground and kicking his legs up over his body. His right leg remains bent and left leg is extended, he reaches up with this left hand to touch his toes. It’s a classic move and a crowd pleaser. Not everyone can hold this form while balancing on one hand, and he knows it. He smirks at the audience.

But it’s in those few seconds that he’s holding the pose, in those few seconds where his eyes scan the crowd, smirking and feeding off of the reactions he sees. It’s in those few seconds that he spots a head of dark hair that is definitely shaped like a mullet. And he’d know that mullet anywhere.

His eyes pass over him before snapping back, widening as he feels his smirk fall.

Keith. That is definitely, indisputably Keith standing there. In the circle of people. Arms crossed over his chest, weight shifted onto one hip. But far from the usual impassive scowl, he’s smiling. Well, smiling might be a strong word. But his expression is soft, his posture relaxed, and his lips are curved upward at the edges. And that expression is happening while his eyes are on Lance.

he's so free and stylin'

It takes his breath away. Literally. For a moment his chest tightens and he forgets how to breathe, his air locking up in his throat. His heart probably skips a beat, too, but he barely notices. His stomach is caught between twisting and fluttering, and he doesn’t know if it’s pleasant or unpleasant.

For a full second, their eyes lock. He sees the moment Keith realizes he’s been seen. He sees how his eyes widen a fraction, his smile relaxing and lips parting every so slightly. His vague amusement is gone, replaced but surprise. Lance isn’t sure what expression he’s making, his face feels numb, but he’s pretty sure it’s something similar. Although it’s probably tinged with a dash of horror because in that one second, he feels himself lose control. His balance shifts as he’s distracted, and he can feel the moment his stomach lurches and he knows he’s going to fall.

He tears his eyes away from Keith as he falls onto his back, squeezing his eyes shut with a soft groan. He doesn't hit that hard. He knows how to take a fall. Knows how to do it without hurting himself, even if it looks bad from the outside. Dancing can be dangerous, and he really can't afford a hospital bill.

There’s a collective pained sound from the audience, but he barely hears it. His mind is too full of chaos and loud thoughts that border on screams. Keith. Keith is here. Red alert, he’s HERE. And you just fucked up again. He saw the whole thing. Way to go, cool kid. Time to run away. Run FAR away, where no one knows your name, start over, new friends, new life, let’s go.

He opens his eyes, staring up at the late afternoon sky, dotted with fluffy white clouds. It’s such a beautiful day. He had been looking forward to this. To hanging out with his friends and letting loose and just forgetting about Keith. And it had been working! To some extent. But here he is. Ruining everything. And now all those terrible feelings that he had finally managed to let go were back.

God, why is he here? And why does Lance always manage to do something embarrassing when he’s around? Why does the universe hate him so? No fucking wonder Keith thinks he’s an idiot.

Normally, when he falls, he just rolls with it and recovers, going into some other move or posing, smirk on his lips for the audience. This time, however, all he can do is lay on his back, knees bent, arms flailed out at his sides. His face feels like it’s on fire.

Thankfully, Pidge comes to his rescue. Sweet, sweet, angelic Pidge. Sweet, amazing, beautiful Pidge. Pidge is a real bro. One of the best. Best Bros for Life.

There’s a blur of green and copper brown hair out of the corner of his eye as Pidge sprints toward him. They jump when they reach his head, leaping over his body to land between Lance’s feet. They hold out a hand, giving Lance a small, secretive smile. He sends his own thankful one back as he grabs their hand. With a strength that always surprises him, Pidge yanks Lance to his feet. Once he’s upright again, they playfully kick his ass to push him away from the center of the circle so they can take over.

Lance laughs as he stumbles back to Hunk, but it feels forced. When he gets there, he crosses his arms over his chest, watching Pidge as he gathers the courage to look at Keith again.

When he does finally manage to flick his eyes up and over Pidge to the spot where he knows Keith is standing, he’s not sure if he’s disappointed or relieved to find he’s not looking at him. His eyes are on Pidge, and the small smile is back, but Lance can’t help but notice his face isn’t as soft and unguarded as it was before.

“What is he doing here?” Lance asks, leaning closer to Hunk.

Hunk, who had been laughing and clapping along with the audience to encourage Pidge, blinks and looks at Lance before trying to follow his gaze around the audience. “Who?”

Him.” Lance hisses, lifting his chin to gesture toward Keith.

Hunk still looks lost. “Sorry, buddy, I don’t see who you’re—“

Keith!

Hunk follows his gaze once more before settling. His eyes go wide and his mouth drops into small circle of understanding as he whispers. “oooooh, Keith, right. Him.”

“Yes, him.” Lance holds his arms tighter around himself and lifts his shoulders. “What’s he doing here?”

“Probably enjoying the park.”

“There’s plenty of park that isn’t right here!”

“We kind of attract attention, dude.”

“So?”

“Is he the reason you fell just now?”

Lance’s shoulders drop and he leans away from Hunk, tearing his glare away from Keith to gape at Hunk. Bewilderment written across his features. “Wha— Uh, no. I just lost my balance!”

Hunk pats him on the shoulder, nodding. “Uh huh, I believe you, buddy.”

Lance scowls at him. “Hunk! You’re supposed to be on my side!”

He nods again. “I am on your side.”

Lance isn’t convinced. He narrowed his eyes. “If you’re on my side, then go get him out of here! He’s throwing off my groove!”

Hunk throws back his head and laughs. Then he puts up both hands, holding them palms out defensively as he cowers away from Lance. “Oh no! Beware the groove!”

Lance rolls his eyes and slaps his friend’s arm. “I’m serious! His bad hair and stupid face are ruining the good vibes! I need my good vibes, Hunk! You saw me yesterday! It was all bad vibes!”

“Yeah, tell me about it. You ate half the enchiladas I made and then pouted on the couch with a tub of ice cream.”

“I eat when I’m angry!”

“Hey, if it keeps you from rambling about Keith all night, then I’m all for it. Eat me out of house and home.”

“I do not ramble about him.”

“Dude,” Hunk fixes him with a flat look. “I could probably tell you exactly how his hair looked every day for the past two weeks in excruciating detail. I swear I know his wardrobe and music playlist by heart, and if I have to hear about the way he frowns or the way his nose wrinkles or the way his eyes sparkle one more time—“

“I don’t talk about that!” Lance snaps, punching Hunk’s arm. It’s not hard, but his friend grip his arm like it does and laughs. Lance huffs and looks away. “Just get rid of him, Hunk. For me?” He tilts his head back over his shoulder, giving Hunk wide eyes and a pouty lip in the classic Lance McClain Puppy Dog Pout.

Hunk just gives him an amused look and shakes his head, putting a comforting hand on his shoulder. “No can do, buddy. This is a good song and I’m about to go kick Pidge out.”

And with that, he jogs forward a few steps, stopping in front of Pidge with his hands up at his chest, elbows out. He gyrates in front of them, arms and hips shaking, torso pumping, until Pidge laughs and throws up their hands in defeat, skipping backwards to join Lance. Hunk takes the circle by storm, falling to his hands and feet to do a few quick moves that have him spinning on the stones. He doesn’t exactly have the more acrobatic breakdancing moves down like Lance, but damn can he get down.

“What’s got your panties in a twist?” They ask, coming to a stop next to Lance. They cross their arms over their chest and bump their hip against his.

“My panties are twist free, thank you.” He huffs, lifting his chin.

“Uh huh, and that’s why you look like you’ve swallowed a lemon.” Lance grumbles something incoherent. “Laaaance.” Pidge groans, full of exasperation, bumping his hip again, hard enough to make him stumble.

He sighs, then nods his head toward the crowd. “Keith is here.” He grumbles.

Pidge follows his nod and spots Keith a lot faster than Hunk had. “Oooh, that explains it. He’s the reason you fell.”

“He is not!”

They hum in response, then lift their hand in a small wave. Lance snaps his head up in time to see Keith lifting his hand in response. He’s looking at Pidge, and Lance gets the feeling that he’s stubbornly avoiding his gaze. And that just irritates him more. He scowls, hunching his shoulders up higher. “Look at that asshole. He won’t even look at me! What? Am I not good enough to be graced by his stupid dark grayish violet eyes—“

“You know the color of his eyes?” There’s amusement there. Lance ignores them.

“—Which I know is a lie, cause I’m good and good looking.” He scoffs. “I mean, just look at me, I’m hot as— Pidge, what are you doing?”

They’re definitely making a ‘come here’ motion across the circle. Lance feels his eyes widen, and his head whips up. Sure enough, Keith nods and steps back from the circle, weaving his way behind people.

“I’m inviting him over.” They say nonchalantly.

Lance looks down at them, mouth agape and eyes wide. “Wha— Pidge, why?”

They shrug, but there’s a smile playing across their lips that he really doesn’t like. “Just thought it’d be nice to say hi.”

Lance sputters, unable to find proper words to articulate with panic rising up his throat. “Wha— why— Pidge—“

“He’s here.”

Lance spins around, back going ramrod straight. Keith has made his way around the circle, and he’s obviously making a beeline for them. He stops by the donation bucket though, and pulls a hand out of his pocket, dropping a couple bills into the bucket. Lance doesn’t want to feel touched or happy about that. His lips purse together in what he thinks is probably a frown, and tries to school his expression into something intimidating.

He’s about… eighty percent sure he nails it.

He shifts his arms over his chest, fingers fidgeting against his upper arms as he shifts his weight to one hip. “What are you doing here?” He asks in a remarkably ingenious impersonation of Keith from yesterday. He’s pretty proud of it.

Keith comes to a stop in front of them, hands back in the pockets of his leather jacket. It should really not look that good on him. Actually, it doesn’t. It doesn’t look good on him at all. Nope. Definitely doesn’t bring attention to his broad shoulders and narrow waist. And it really doesn’t complete his whole impassive bad boy look. Nope. Lance doesn’t notice how his hair curls against the collar of the jacket.

The small smile that had been shadowing his lips while watching them dance is gone. His lips press into a deeper frown at Lance’s words. His brows furrow slightly as he meets Lance’s gaze, and they have a small stare off. Lance doesn’t want to be the first to back down, and Keith is stubbornly refusing to give in. They both fidget. Keith looks like he wants to say something, his mouth twisting and nose wrinkling. Lance can see the gears turning behind his eyes, struggling with some kind of decision that he doesn’t understand.

“Hey, Keith.” Pidge says, instantly drawing Keith’s attention away from him. His eyes easily slide over Lance’s shoulder and down to look at his friend.

Then for the third time ever, Lance sees Keith’s expression soften into something foreign. His brows relax, the tension in his face drains away, and he fucking grins. Straight up grins. His lips spread wide enough to show a small bit of teeth and it’s blinding. His eyes fucking light up when he sees Pidge, and for a moment he’s so open and earnest with his expression that Lance feels heat instantly crawl up his neck to settle on his cheeks. He’s never seen Keith’s expression like this so close. It’s… almost painful.

For the second time in ten minutes, Lance forgets how to breathe.

“Hey, Pidge.” Even his voice is softer than Lance is used to hearing, and it’s quickly becoming too much.

Before he can say anything, not like he has any idea what to say, his brain has more or less shut down, Pidge is pushing past him. They shove his arm, and he stumbles to the side, watching in mounting horror as Pidge and Keith hug. They hug. They wrap their arms around Keith’s waist and he wraps his arms around their shoulders, and they embrace in such a way that is way too tight to be casual.

“Long time no see,” Pidge says as they step back from each other. They cross their arms over their chest in a mirror of each other. Both of them are smiling, and Lance’s brain is short circuiting a little.

“Yeah, it’s been a while.”

“Too busy to hang out with your old pal Pidge?”

“Pidge, you’re the one who’s always busy. I haven’t seen you in almost two months.” He deadpans.

“And not even a text or a call. I’m hurt, Keith.”

He rolls his eyes, but his smile turns sheepish. “Yeah, well I didn’t get anything from you either.”

Pidge laughs. “Alright, alright, that’s fair. We both suck at communicating. To be fair, I’ve had my hands full. Grad school takes up a lot of time and I have these idiots to look after.” They offhandedly gesture to Lance, and Keith’s eyes slide to him. He’s still in such a state of shock that he doesn’t have time to react before Keith is looking away.

“I, uh, didn’t know you guys knew each other.”

Pidge rolls their eyes, a smirk still on their lips. “Who do you think he goes to complain to after you piss him off or he embarrasses himself?”

“Hey!” Lance interjects, being shaken from his stupor. He glares at Pidge, and they meet his glare unflinchingly before turning back to Keith.

“You’ve been going to Altea for how long now and we’ve never hung out there?”

He shrugs, looking away. “I don’t really… hang out there.”

Pidge rolls their eyes and waves him off. “Yeah, yeah, I know. You go in, dance, and leave, like the antisocial caterpillar you are.” Keith levels a glare at them, but it’s more like a pout than any look he’s ever given Lance.

What—” Lance finally finds his voice, and raises it to a shout. Both of them look at him, and he’s aware his voice is a little higher pitched than normal, but he can’t exactly control that right now. “—Is going on?”

Keith’s pout hardens into more of a real glare at the interruption, but Pidge doesn’t even flinch. “I’m talking to Keith.”

“You know Keith?!” There’s an accusation in his voice as he points to the mullet man in question.

“Yes.”

“You know Keith?!” He gestures with both hands.

“Yup.”

“The guy I’ve been competing with for the past two weeks?!”

“The answer is still the same, Lance.”

“The guy I challenged to auditions? My rival? The asshole with a mullet?”

“How long is this going to go on?”

“You knew who he was and you didn’t tell me?”

“I knew you’d react like this.”

“Of course I’d react like this!” He throws his arms up in the air. “One of my best friends is fraternizing with my rival! How am I supposed to act?”

“Like a normal person?”

“So the whole time I’ve complained about him, you knew?”

“I thought that was already established?”

lance.exe has stopped working

“Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh, my god. Oh my—“ He runs his hands through his hair, gripping and tugging on it as he slowly walks in a small circle. He’s like a broken record, and part of him knows it, but that part is very much overridden by the part of him that’s panicking.

Pidge knows Keith. Pidge has known the whole time. Pidge never told him he knows Keith. And he can see from Pidge’s face that they’re enjoying this. They’re enjoying watching Lance embarrass himself again in front of Keith. What was that he had said about Pidge being a sweet, sweet angel? He takes it back. Oh man, takes it all back. Pidge is a demon in disguise. A hell creature bent on watching him suffer.

“Is… Is he alright?” He vaguely hears Keith ask.

Pidge shrugs. “Yeah, he’s just a little dramatic. He’ll be fine once he gets it out of his system.”

“Dramatic?” He rounds on Pidge, one hand on his hip as he holds his other hand out, palm up and fingers curled. “I’m not dramatic. One of my best friends has betrayed me.”

“See what I mean?”

“Ugh!” He throws his hands up in the air.

“And to be fair, Keith was my friend first.”

Ugh!

“Lance, you’re being ridiculous.”

“I cannot believe—“ He throws up his hands once more, gesturing wildly between them. Keith is no longer glaring. He’s watching Lance with one eyebrow raised and expression blank. But he can’t help but get the impression that he’s amused. “You know what? I can’t handle this right now.” He pushes between and past them both, holding his arms out to the side. “Hunk! Step aside! I’ve got a fire that can’t be contained!”

Hunk concedes the floor to him, and Lance let’s go. He does his best to ignore everything and simply dance. He tries to feed off the audience and smile like he was earlier. He’s not feeling it though. His attention is constantly being drawn back to where Keith, the source of all his recent anguish, is talking and smiling and laughing with his two best friends. He doesn’t know what they’re talking about, but he desperately wants to know. He also knows that he can’t handle being around them in a civilized manner yet.

He just has… so much going on in his head. Never in his wildest nightmares did he imagine Keith would know Pidge. It was pretty clear that he knows Shiro, but Shiro isn’t one of his two major confidants in the world. He isn’t the one Lance has been ranting to for weeks about Keith. And Pidge never said anything! Lance is desperately trying to remember everything he’s ever said about Keith in front of Pidge, but he’s pulling up a blank. He knows there’s got to be about a million embarrassing things.

It was, and still is, a lot to take in. He just wants Keith out of his life so he doesn’t have to think about him or feel the weird chest flutterings ever again. He wants to breathe normally for once. But no, of course Keith has to find his way into the heart of Lance’s life by knowing one of his best friends.

And then he hadn’t even managed to play it cool. He had freaked the fuck out, and by the time he had realized what he was doing, it was too late to control it.

God, why is he always managing to act like an idiot in front of Keith? The guy is never going to see him as an equal.

He dances with a lot of spins and sideways moves so he can keep an eye on the small group chatting behind him. The more he watches, the more agitated he gets. This is the guy who’s made him miserable and is the whole reason Lance was so upset yesterday, yet here he is, chatting with his friends like it’s no big deal.

Then he catches Keith’s eyes on him.

He’s watching him dance from over Pidge’s shoulder, and in the moment before he realizes he’s been caught, Lance see’s an edge of that soft look again. He doesn’t know if it’s aimed at him or the after affect of him smiling at Pidge and Hunk, but… Lance will take it. Maybe it’s not too late to… he’s not even sure what he wants to do. Impress him? Make a better impression? Prove that he’s good? Salvage his reputation?

Out of reflex more than anything, he smirks, cocky confidence coming back to him so naturally when faced with an expression of admiration. Keith’s eyes widen a fraction, lips parting in surprise, before his face drops into a familiar scowl. Before he turns, Lance is positive he sees a flush on Keith’s cheeks.

Now that he knows he has an audience that he actually cares to impress, he kicks it up a notch. It comes to him easily enough. Nothing too fancy, but definitely some crowd pleasers. He bounces around with quick steps, throwing his arms into it. He even gets a half a backflip in there, jumping backwards and reaching back over his shoulder to plant his hand on the ground. He holds his weight upright for a moment before letting his momentum continue over, feet barely touching the ground before he’s moving again.

The whole time he keeps sneaking glances at Keith to make sure he’s watching. He is.

The song changes, and suddenly Pidge and Hunk are there, both of them pushing him out of the circle. He’s barely away from them before they start dancing a routine they had created a couple years ago. He recognizes it immediately. That’ll happen when you’ve seen your friends do the same thing nearly every day for a couple months.

He walks back to his spot, which is, unfortunately, right next to Keith. He stands next to him, hands handing at his sides and idly tapping against his thighs with the beat. Keith has his hands in his pockets, and Lance can see him shifting his weight from side to side next to him. They stand in awkward silence for nearly a minute before Keith says something.

Lance knows. He’s basically counting the seconds while trying to keep his breathing under control.

“So… do you guys do this often?” He asks, pulling a hand out of his pocket to gesture toward where Hunk and Pidge are dancing.

Lance shrugs, tapping his hands double time. “Every week, usually.”

“It looks, uh… fun?”

He glances sideways at Keith, who’s keeping his eyes fixed forward. His lips are pursed together slightly, but it doesn’t look like it’s in anger or irritation or any of the other ways he’s always looked at Lance. Lance also doesn’t get the impression that he’s making fun of them. He just sounds… awkward and uncomfortable, but determined.

“Yeah,” He finally says. “Yeah, it’s a lot of fun.” Keith doesn’t say anything, and they’re both resolutely keeping their eyes on the dancing duo. “So…” Jeez, now he’s feeling awkward. Thank god there’s music to tap along to, otherwise he’d be fidgeting a lot more. This is the first time he and Keith have had a real actual conversation, and Lance is feeling… strange. Nervous? Who knows. Sure as hell not him. “How do you know Pidge?”

Yeah, that’s right. He can be calm about this situation. He can be cool. Cool as ice, Lance McClain.

Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Keith shrug. “We’ve known each other since we were kids.”

“Oh, really?” He vaguely remembers Pidge mentioning a childhood friend, his main friend throughout high school, but to be honest, he doesn’t remember much else. Pidge has never brought him around.

“Yeah, our older brothers were friends. Shiro used to bring me along when he went to their house—“

“Wait, Shiro?” Lance says, turning to look at him, eyes wide.

Keith meets his gaze, blinking. He raises one eyebrow. “Yeah? Shiro’s my brother.” He says slowly, like he’s surprised that Lance doesn’t already know.

But how is he supposed to know that when no one’s ever told him! He feels the panic start to rise again, threatening to choke him. His hands curl into fists, but don’t stop tapping against his thighs. “Oh,” He says, and his voice is unnaturally high again. He tries to subtly clear his throat and to not sound like he’s being strangled.

He’s not panicking. He’s not. He’s cool as ice. Totally. He’s not about to freak out because the guy he’s been determined to beat, the guy that pisses him off, the guy that he’s ranted and complained about for weeks, his rival, is not only old friends with Pidge, but the younger brother of Shiro.

Why has no one ever told him this?

“You okay?” Keith is looking at him, half turned in his direction.

“Fine!” He says, cringing at his own voice.

Keith doesn’t seem convinced, but he drops it anyway. Lance remains silent, trying to digest this new information as silently as possible. Pidge and Hunk, luckily, provide a good distraction so he doesn’t have to look at Keith.

Then Keith clears his throat, and Lance reflexively looks over at him. There’s a small blush tinging his cheeks, and his lips are pursed, brows furrowed. He can see his hands moving restlessly in his pockets. “Speaking of Shiro… he’s actually the reason why I’m here. He asked me to… talk to you… about that whole duo thing.”

He glances at Lance out of the corner of his eye, and Lance blinks. Once, twice, three times. Oh. A smirk slowly curves his lips as he feels his nervousness subside, slowly replaced by a surge of confidence. He crosses his arms over his chest and cocks his hip to the side. His eyes go half lidded as he practically beams at Keith.

“Oh, I see what this is.” He says slowly.

Keith looks at him suspiciously, eyes roaming over his sudden change of expression. “You do?” He sounds skeptical.

He shrugs. “Of course!” He holds his hands out at his sides in a defenseless gesture. “Not that I can blame you.”

Keith’s brow furrows. “What are you talking about?”

He puts a hand on his hip as he turns to face him, leaning forward and using his other hand to poke him in the chest. He’s grinning now. “You’ve changed your mind, and you’re here to admit that I’m a good dancer and to beg me to be your duo partner.” He leans back, holding his hand to his chest. “I can’t blame you. I am pretty good.” He flashes him a winning smile. “You’d be lucky to have someone as dashing and talented as me as your partner.”

Keith glares at him, face hardening. He frowns, and this is a Keith expression that he’s used to seeing. This is comfortingly familiar. Keith looks like he’s swallowed something sour. He then sighs, turning away. “You know what? Forget it. This is a waste of my time.”

“Oh, come on, Keith! Don’t be like that!” Before he really realizes what he’s doing, he steps forward, reaching out to grab Keith’s arm. Keith glares at it before his eyes rise to meet his, raising one eyebrow in silent question. He feels a shiver run through him but ignores it. Keith is so close, staring at him expectantly, and he feels his heart go into over time. His hair looks slightly damp, like he had recently taken a shower. And when a slight breeze passes by, Lance can smell the odd but pleasant combination of his shampoo and deodorant. It’s so disconcerting that he says the first thing that comes to mind. “You’re already here, might as well hurry up and apologize.”

Both his brows skyrocket and his mouth hangs open. “Apologize?”

“Uh, yeah, dude, you were rude as fuck yesterday. I’m not going to duo with you if you keep throwing a fit whenever I try to have a little fun.”

Keith pulls his arm from Lance’s grasp, turning to face him. “I have no reason to apologize. I said you fucked up our dance and you did. Besides, you were the one who missed auditions after practically begging me to be there.”

Lance’s smirk is gone. He crosses his arms over his chest, leaning back as he frowns. “I had my reasons.”

Keith rolls his eyes, mirroring Lance’s position. “Like what? Couldn’t pick a song?”

Lance feels heat flare to his cheeks. “You know what? I don’t need this from you.” He steps forward, getting into Keith’s space and trying to ignore how the nearness of him makes his stomach twist in knots. He jabs a finger into Keith’s chest, forcing him to stumble back a step. “If you’re so good, you should’ve just auditioned by yourself instead of coming to beg me to carry you to regionals!”

“I’m not begging!”

“Then why are you here? Wanted to rub salt in the wound? Haha, Lance didn’t make it and I’m not going to duo with him because I’ve got a ten foot pole shoved so far up my ass it’s a miracle I can dance at all.”

“Why the hell would I want to duo with you when you’re always such an ass?”

“Uh, because I’m good.”

“Don’t flatter yourself.”

“Oh, and you think you’re any better, hot shot?”

“I made it last year, didn’t I?”

“You didn’t go!”

“But I made it through auditions. Unlike you.”

“You know what? Fuck you. I don’t need this, and I definitely don’t need you.” Lance says, giving Keith’s chest one last jab for good measure.

Keith slaps his hand away. “Yeah? Well, same. I told them this was a stupid idea.” His shoulders hunch and he shoves his hands in his pockets as he steps away. “You can’t even have a normal conversation with someone, let alone work with them. Shiro and Allura are crazy if they think we’d make a good team.” His face is set in that scowl that Lance knows all too well. He can feel it mirrored on his own face. Keith’s eyes drop away from him, lips twisting into something else as he kicks at something on the ground. “I was starting to think that maybe they were right when they said duoing to regionals was a good idea, but I can’t do this. I’m done.” He shakes his head and removed his hands from his pockets, putting them up in the air. He takes several steps backwards. “I don’t need you to get to regionals. I’ll find someone else.”

Lance ignores the twisting in his gut and his heart sinking into his stomach. He feels his expression twist, but he’s not sure what face he’s making. “Fine! I don’t need you!” He snaps. “There are plenty of other people who would be lucky to have me as a partner!”

“Good luck finding someone willing to put up with your bullshit.” He says, turning on his heel and shoving his hands back in his pockets as he walks away, shoulders hunched.

“Yeah?” He shouts after him. “Well— good luck finding someone willing to put up with your—“ Complex choreography? Skill? Talent? Amazing agility? Angry eyes and pouting lips? All of those sound suspiciously like compliments. He flounders, trying to find something to say. But Keith is walking away, so he says the first non-compliment he can think of. “—With your mullet!”

Yeah, good one. He groans and buries his face in his hands. 

Chapter Text

“How much lasagne did you say you made?”

“Like, enough to feed a whole family.”

“And he ate half of that?”

“Yup.”

“And now he’s on a tub of ice cream.”

“Yup. Good thing I just went grocery shopping. Though if we don’t stop him we may need to go replenish our ice cream stock soon.”

“Under normal circumstances I would fight him for that ice cream, but… I’m not willing to get between him and that tub.”

“Yeaaah, me neither, to be honest. He may only have a spoon, but I don’t trust it. Maybe he’ll tire himself out eventually. You know, like a food coma.”

“I’ve never known him to hold a scowl for this long before. Do you think his face will get stuck like that?”

“Oh man, I hope not. It’s gotta be taking a lot of his energy to keep it up though.”

“That’s probably how he can manage to eat so much. Where does it even go? He’s like a bean pole.”

“I’m kinda worried, PIdge. If he keeps this up I just know he’s gonna get sick. I’ll rock, paper, scissors you for who has to go take that from him.”

“No way, I’m not taking that chance. What we need is a replacement so he can keep up his anger munchies but not make himself sick off that ice cream.”

“Oooh, yeah, that’s a good idea. What’d you suggest?”

“Popcorn?”

“Alright, yeah, that’s good. Good plan. But should we, like, ask him first or just start popping it and see if he comes around?”

“Definitely just start popping it. I’ve never known him to turn down popcorn. I’m not sure he’d answer us right now anyway. He kinda looks like he’s in a weird… comatose state.”

“Is it possible to even be in an angry coma?”

“I don’t think it’s all anger. I think half of it is embarrassment and disappointment and repressed feelings.”

“I can hear you, you know.” Lance says, turning his head to glare at his friends. He’s sitting on the couch, knees pulled up to his chest with a tub of good old rocky road resting on them. His words are slurred slightly by the spoon in his mouth.

Hunk and Pidge both jump, turning to stare at him, wide-eyed.

“Oh, uh, hey buddy, how you doing?” Hunk says, but the last of his question is drowned out by Pidge’s loud and dramatic declaration.

“He liiiives!” They throw their hands up, fingers curling.

Lance continues to glare at them, spoon in his mouth.

When they don’t get a reaction, Pidge sighs, hopping off the counter where they had been sitting and moving toward the living room of the apartment.

“How do you feel about popcorn, Lance?” Hunk asks from the kitchen, but Lance can already hear him rummaging through the pantry.

“Movie theater butter?”

“Is there any other kind?”

“I guess that’s fine then…” He grumbles begrudgingly, pulling the spoon form his mouth and staring at the ice cream. He doesn’t really want more, but it’s right there, so he might as well…

“Oh no you don’t.” Pidge says, reaching out to snatch the tub from it’s precarious perch on his knees. Lance makes a wordless, pitiful sound of protest, reaching out to grab it back. Pidge slaps his hands away and holds out their hand. “Spoon.”

Métetelo por el culo…” He mumbles as he reluctantly hands them the spoon.

Pidge snorts as they walk away. “I heard that.”

“Doesn’t mean you understand it!”

“Except I do.”

“You took German in school!” He snaps, crossing his arms over his chest, shoulders rising to his ears.

Pidge waves the spoon over their shoulder as they near the kitchen. “I’ve picked up a few things after being friends with you for so long.”

Chingate…”

Que the la pique un pollo.” They reply smoothly, despite their terrible accent and choppy pronunciation.

Lance gaps at them as they put the ice cream back in the freezer. Hunk lets out a burst of surprised laughter, throwing his head back as he pulls the box of popcorn bags from the pantry. “Pidge!” He tries to sound chastising, but it doesn’t quite work.

“You need to stop talking to Sophie!” Lance snaps.

Pidge tosses the spoon in the sink and grins at him. “No way, Sophie is the best. She teaches me things that are actually relevant.”

“How is that relevant?!”

Pidge shrugs. “It was useful, wasn’t it?”

Lance huffs, turning away from them both, staring at the blank TV instead. The couch in Pidge and Hunk’s apartment is a corner couch that they got cheap from Hunk’s parents. One edge is pressed against the wall while the other has it’s back to the small area designated as the dining room, complete with a small table, before giving way to the bar counter that separates the dining room from the kitchen. Lance sits in the corner of the L-shaped couch, knees pulled up to his chest. He rests his crossed arms overtop them and puts his chin on his forearms.

Pidge plops down on one side of the couch, leaning their back against the arm and the back cushion and stretching their legs out along the length, one knee bent. They’re staring at Lance, but he’s pointedly refusing to look at them. A silence stretches between them.

“One popcorn bag or two?” Hunk asks.

“Two.” Both Lance and Pidge say at the same time.

There’s a hum from the kitchen. “Right.”

The silence is back, and it’s starting to get under his skin. Pidge hasn’t even taken their phone out. They’re just… staring at him. He knows they want to talk about what happened earlier at the park. He knows they both do. One moment they had been dancing, and the next Keith had stormed off and Lance was moping. Not even dancing could pull him out of it. Pidge had even tried putting on more Shakira and Hunk had tried Nikki Minaj. Lance had been uncharacteristically silent for the whole ride back to their apartment, and throughout the preparation of dinner. He knew he was just making it worse for himself. He had known that his friends would pick up on it and corner him later but… he couldn’t quite help it.

When he needs to wallow, he needs to wallow.

And he knows the moment he’s been dreading is here, but he refuses to cave first. Unfortunately, so does Pidge. They end up sitting like that for several long minutes while Lance tries not to visibly fidget. All the while listening to the microwave hum and beep in the background.

Then Hunk is there, plopping down on the other side of Lance and handing him a bowl of popcorn. He takes it gratefully, unfurling from his position to sit cross legged with the bowl on his lap. The crunch of popcorn, warm and salty, is exactly what he needed after all that ice cream. He chews loudly to fill the silence.

“So…” Hunk says slowly, conversationally. He props both feet up on the coffee table and settles his own bowl in his lap. “Wanna talk about it?”

Lance scowls down at the bowl in his lap. “No…”

Hunk leans over, nudging him with his own shoulder. “Come on, Lance…”

Lance lifts his chin, casually tossing back a few pieces of popcorn. “I’m sorry, Hunk. I can’t hear you over the sound of complete and utter betrayal.” With this, he shoots a nasty look at Pidge.

They roll their eyes and their head, rolling it back along the couch cushion. “Laaaance!” They groan.

“Hunk, did you hear something?” He says, turning away from Pidge but putting his hand to his ear and leaning toward them a fraction.

“Dude,” Hunk says flatly, and there’s probably a warning in there for him to cut his shit, but he ignores it.

“It must be a ghost, cause that is definitely the voice of someone who’s dead to me.”

“Laaaance!” Pidge groans again. He looks at them and meets their bright amber gaze. Their brow is knit in the middle, and their lips are scrunched up in such a way that they seem to find the words they’re trying to say to be actually painful. “I’m… I’m sorry, okay?”

Lance continues to stare, but his eyes narrow.

Pidge waves a hand in the air aimlessly. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you I know Keith. I didn’t think it would be this big of a deal. I still don’t really get why it’s such a big deal, but I should’ve told you sooner.”

Lance nods, looking down into the bowl on his lap. “You should’ve.”

“To be fair, though, I didn’t realize the ‘mullet-head Keith’ you were complaining about was my childhood friend Keith.”

Lance snorts, rolling his eyes. “How many Keiths do you think there are? And how many of them have mullets?” Lance waves at the back of his neck for emphasis.

Pidge shrugs. “I’ve never really thought of it as a mullet.”

“Pidge, it’s totally a mullet!”

“Yeah, okay, I can kind of see it now. But it suits him.” Lance isn’t about to agree with that, but he can’t exactly deny it either. So he stays silent. “Anyway, I didn’t really think about it. I just saw it as you being you and challenging a guy you barely knew but admired—“

“I don’t admire him!”

“—To a dance contest at auditions. It’s not exactly out of character for you. Hunk told me he was some guy you guys were in a class with last year that you were totally obsessed with—“

“Hunk!”

“You were, dude.”

“Was not!”

“—But I didn’t really connect him to my Keith until I saw his name on the sign ups for auditions.”

“You should have told me then!”

Pidge shrugs again. “I didn’t think it was a big deal. It was right before auditions, and I thought it would distract you. Hunk told me to wait until after auditions.”

Lance whips his head around to look at his best friend of nearly eight years. “Hunk?” He gapes at him, and at least he has the decency to look abashed.

He busies himself by shuffling the popcorn in his bowl, but he won’t meet Lance’s eyes. “Look, we both know how you get. You would’ve been even more obsessed and trying to learn about his ‘weaknesses’ or something from Pidge, and you would’ve been so wrapped up in knowing that Pidge is friends with your ‘enemy’ that it might’ve… you know, distracted you from doing your best at auditions?”

Alright, so maybe Lance feels a little bad now. His friends were only looking out for him. And yeah, he has a tendency to get a little obsessive and a little distracted, and it might have affected his performance. Not that it mattered in the end anyway.

Lance sighs, reaching out to pat Hunk’s arm. “Thanks, man.” He says softly, giving Hunk a small smile.

He returns it. “We were only trying to look out for you, man.”

“Okay, but that doesn’t explain why you didn’t tell me after.” He says pointedly, swinging his gaze back around to Pidge. They jumped a little at his sudden swing back to a sharp tone. He sees their face scrunch up defensively as they sat up straighter.

“I didn’t think it mattered. It was over, you didn’t get in, you were moping and upset that you hadn’t made it and Keith had, and I didn’t want to rub salt in that wound and make it worse.”

“What about after Shiro said—“

Pidge throws their hands up in the air with an exasperated groan. “It all happened so fast! One day, you miss auditions. The next, Shiro suggests duoing with Keith. That night you mope around at our apartment. The next day we try to cheer you up with some street dancing. When exactly did I have time to bring it up and not send you back into another mope spiral?”

“Anytime before I found out in front of him would have been nice!”

“It’s not my fault you freaked out when you found out.”

“Pidge, you’re supposed to be my friend!

“I am! And as your friend, I have to admit, your reaction was hilarious.”

Pidge!

“What’s the big deal? You always embarrass yourself, and you always bounce back.”

“Yeah, but— but this is different! This was Keith.”

Pidge’s expression changes then. They look like they’ve got a glimpse of gold, and Lance really doesn’t like the look they’re giving him. They tilt their chin down, looking up at Lance with a small smirk tugging the corner of their lips. “What’s so special about Keith, Lance?”

Lance presses his lips together, eyes widening as he tries to keep his face neutral and fight down the heat that’s rising up his neck. He knows it’s a losing battle, so he scowls down at the bowl in his lap. “Nothing! He’s the worst!” To avoid talking further, he shoves a handful of popcorn in his mouth.

“Mhmm, sure he is. You know, this wouldn’t be such a big deal if you just—“

“Pidge,” Hunk cuts in, and when Lance glances up at him, he can see Hunk frowning at Pidge. Hunk is his hero.

They sigh and cross their arms over their chest, sinking further into the couch as they scowl at the coffee table. “Right, anyway, I’m… I’m sorry I didn’t tell you earlier, okay? I didn’t think it would affect you this much.” Lance glances up at them, and they honestly look apologetic.

He feels his scowl fading, and he sighs, relieved. He hadn’t realized how much tension had been in his body until he relaxes, sinking back against the couch. “Thanks, Pidge.”

They relax, too, and then the corner of their lips twitch upward. “The risk I took was calculated, but man, am I bad at math.”

Lance throws back his head and laughs, and Pidge’s smirk widens. “Pidge! Do you really think that I’ll forgive you just because you meme in your apology?” He asks, looking at them and unable to smother his grin.

Pidge shrugs, still smiling. “It was worth a shot. So…?”

“So?”

“Do you forgive me?”

Lance makes a show of humming in consideration, tapping his chin with a finger, and looking up at the ceiling. “Hmmm, I dunno…”

Pidge rolls their eyes, stretching out their leg to kick his thigh with their foot. “Lance, come on!”

He laughs, dropping his hand to pat their leg. “Yeah, yeah, I forgive you.”

“Good.” And the smile on their face is genuine.

Hunk sighs, tilting his head back against the couch cushion. “Thank god that’s over. I hate it when you guys fight.”

Lance snorts. “We weren’t fighting.”

Hunk shrugs, reaching for the TV remote. “Close enough.”

Pidge nudges Lance’s thigh with their toes. “Now that we’re good, pass some of that popcorn.”

Lance raises an eyebrow. “Why didn’t you reach for it earlier?”

“And risk you biting my hand off? I don’t think so.”

Lance passes them his bowl, and they settle it on their stomach as Lance leans into Hunk, reaching for his bowl before shoving his face with more popcorn. Hunk’s got the xbox controller in his hand and is pulling up Netflix. Several moments pass as they scroll through the options before he speaks.

“So…Now that that’s over, wanna talk about what’s got you in this mood?”

“I’m not in a mood.” Lance grumbles, hunching his shoulders slightly as he leans against Hunk’s arm. His protest sounds weak, even to him.

Pidge snorts, waving a couple pieces of popcorn around in the air. “Yeah, that’s why you’ve been angry eating ever since we got back from the park.”

Lance shoots them a glare, but doesn’t say anything. He knows there’s nothing he can say because they’re right. Eating just makes him feel better, okay? And it’s something he can put his energy into.

“This has to do with Keith, doesn’t it?” Hunk prompts, he’s idly scrolling through things on Netflix, but none of them are really paying attention. Lance knows he’s not going to pick something until they’ve had this talk.

Lance sighs. “Yeah, it does.” He admits, taking the popcorn bowl from Hunk’s lap and sitting up straight again. He pulls his knees up, cradling the bowl between his knees and his chest. He doesn’t look at either of his friends. “I wasn’t… expecting to see him there. He blindsided me.” He says it like Keith meant to do it. Like it’s his fault, and he caught Lance off guard on purpose. Like it’s his fault that Lance was so completely floored by seeing all those fucking soft expressions and smiles.

“What did he want?” Hunk asks.

Lance raises an eyebrow, glancing up at him. “He didn’t tell you?”

Hunk shook his head. “Nah, we just got introduced and talked to him a bit about dancing and what we were doing and stuff.”

“Then our song came on,” Pidge says. “And we wanted to see if we still remembered it.”

“And we did.”

“Of course, we did.”

“Up top!” Hunk leans over Lance, holding up a hand. Pidge sits up and leans forward to clap his hand with theirs. Hunk leans back into his original position, but Pidge shifts, scooting closer to Lance and turning to lean their back against his arm and shoulder.

“Then when we got back, Keith was gone and you were moping on the bench.” Pidge finishes, shoving popcorn in their mouth and speaking around it. “So what happened?”

Lance groans, long, loud, and wordless. Hunk pats his arm. “Come on, buddy. The sooner you tell us the better.”

“For all of us.” Pidge adds.

Lance huffs in defeat. “Well, Mr. High and Mighty decides to show up and tell me about how Shiro wanted him to talk to me about dancing together for auditions.” He tries to sound indifferent, offended, maybe even a little angry, but he can’t help the grumpy defeat that’s layering his voice.

“That’s good, isn’t it?” Hunk says, perking up. He looks between the two of them, smiling. “This gives you another chance to get to regionals. Right, Lance?”

Lance refuses to look at him, instead slouching a little more. He wonders if he can find a way to get the couch to absorb him. Just kinda disappear into it. It’s a pretty comfortable couch. It’s been his bed on many occasions. Surely a lifetime being stuck in a couch void wouldn’t be too bad…

Right, Lance?” Hunk repeats after a moment, but his smile has dropped and his tone has become wary.

He winces and curls a little in on himself, hunching over the popcorn bowl as he picks through it. He can feel the gazes of both his friends on him.

“He wanted to talk about duoing?” Hunk repeats.

“Mhmm…”

“Lance…” Pidge’s voice is pitched low. They sit up straight, turning so they can reach out and grab Lance’s face in both hands. Lance tries to jerk away, but their grip is surprisingly strong. They force him to meet their gaze. He tries to look casual. Casual and confident and totally not guilty or scared. Pidge searches his eyes for a moment before their own gaze narrows. “You said yes, didn’t you?”

Oh no, that’s their warning voice. Lance winces out of reflex. Looking anywhere but at Pidge’s face, he bites his bottom lip.

“Lance…” Ugh, that’s Hunk’s warning voice! It isn’t fair when they gang up on him like this! A small whimper escapes his lips.

“Did he offer to duo with you and you fucked up and told him no?” Pidge presses further, still not letting go of his face.

“Noooo…” Lance says slowly. “Not… exactly?”

Pidge’s glare sharpens. “What happened?”

“He may not… have gotten the chance to… ask? At all?”

Hunk groans. “Lance, what did you do?

“Did you piss him off and make him storm off?” Pidge is shouting now, scowling at him while they smoosh his cheeks together until it hurts.

“Ow, ow, ow, Pidge!” Lance slaps their hands away, taking them by the wrist to push them off. He me meets Pidge’s glare.

“Tell us what happened.” They demand.

tough love

And so Lance tells them. He tells them everything that he can remember, which, admittedly, is basically the whole conversation he had with Keith. He’s been thinking about it ever since he watched Keith walk away. It’s been on repeat in his head. So remembers pretty much everything. All of the moments he wishes he could change. All of things he wishes he could say differently. He knows he fucked up. And he also knows there’s nothing he can do to change it.

When he’s done, he waits, but his friends are silent. The seconds tick by, expanding and filling the room. Lance feels that itch under his skin again, and tries to distract himself with it by eating more popcorn. Loudly and obnoxiously.

Pidge is the first to break the silence. “Lance…”

Hunk isn’t far behind them. “Dude…”

“Seriously?”

“Lance, please…”

There’s exasperation in their voices. That, and pity. And probably a little frustration as well. But nothing about them speaks of surprise. They’re disappointed, that much is obvious, but are they surprised? Nope. Not at all. And Lance likes to believe there’s a little edge of fondness mixed in with that exasperation that he’s so familiar with.

“I… may have overreacted a bit.” He admits slowly.

Pidge snorts. “You think?”

“No wonder he left. I’d have left, too, in his shoes.” Hunk says. He’s given up pretending to scroll through Netflix. Instead, his head is tilted back on the couch cushion, one hand pinching the bridge of his nose. Pidge is back to leaning against his side, seeming drained of all energy to stay upright.

“It sounds like he was trying to ask you to duo with him.” Pidge asks, raising a brow as they tilted their head back to look up at him.

Lance groans. “I know, I know, I fucked up, okay? I admit it. But there’s nothing I can do now.” He frowns at his knees. “Besides, I wasn’t wrong. He was an ass yesterday, and he should have apologized.”

“Sounds like you didn’t exactly give him time to before you started being an ass.”

“No one asked you, Pidge.”

“Maybe you should go apologize now.” Hunk suggested.

Lance whipped his head around, pulling it back as his lip curled. “Hunk, who’s side are you on?!”

Hunk is giving him a flat look. “The side that gets you to regionals, man. And that side is Keith, whether you want to admit it or not. Shiro was right when he said the best way for you both to go is to work together and audition as a duo.”

He has a point there. Lance backtracks a little, mentally flailing as he tries to find something to cling to. “Okay, alright, so I admit that Shiro has a point, and it would be nice if we could get along. But the fact remains that we don’t.”

“You just have to get along well enough to dance together.”

“I dunno if that’s possible.”

“Maybe if you’d suck it up and stop acting like a dick—“ Pidge says dryly.

“He started it!” Lance snaps

“And you weren’t helping!”

“Get your gremlin self off of me! I don’t want any of your sass!” Lance says, pushing at Pidge to try to shove them away from him. They dead weight a little, and push back against Lance’s protests. Lance takes a particularly sharp elbow to the side and hisses in pain. “Hunk! Get the little demon off me!” He whines, falling over to lean against Hunk’s side in much the same way Pidge is leaning against his. He tilts his head back, looking up at Hunk with his best pout.

Hunk shakes his head. “No can do, buddy. I agree with them. You were being a dick. He was obviously there to make amends, and you didn’t exactly make it easy for him.”

Lance groans, throwing an arm over his face, using his other one to keep a steady hold on his popcorn bowl. “Nobody loves me!”

Pidge shifts against him, adjusting until they’re comfortable using his whole side as a pillow. He can feel the smugness coming off them in waves. “I think the fact that we still hang out with you is proof that we do.”

Hunk nods. “You just need some tough love sometimes.”

Lance huffs loudly, trying to adjust himself so he’s comfortable, but he gets another Pidge elbow in his side for his efforts.

“So…” Hunk starts.

Lance groans. “Can we please just drop it?”

“Not gonna happen,” Pidge says, resting their popcorn bowl on their stomach and tilting their head back against Lance’s shoulder. “Continue, Hunk.”

“So…” Lance groans louder in an attempt to cut him off, but he continues, speaking over Lance’s wordless protests. “Do you want to go to regionals?”

“You know I do…” He grumbles, still hiding his face beneath his arm.

“So then you should go and apologize and beg him to give you a chance.”

“What?!” Lance lifts his arm to glare up at Hunk, waiting for the moment when he admits it’s a joke. Unfortunately, he looks completely serious. Lance pouts. “Hunk, you’re crazy! I can’t do that!”

He raises an eyebrow, gazing steadily down at him. “Why not?”

“Because!” Lance flails his arms around, making vague gestures. Pidge makes a grunt of annoyance as he jostles them. “I’ve already embarrassed myself in front of him! Like, so many times! He thinks I’m an idiot!”

“And you’re not?” Pidge says.

Lance scowls, reaching around them to clap his hand over their mouth, muffling their surprised squeak. Pidge claws at his hand, but he doesn’t budge. He smirks a little in victory and rests his other arm on top of their head. “As I was saying, he thinks I’m an idiot and he made it very clear that he doesn’t want to dance with me—aH! PIDGE! GROSS!”

Pidge thoroughly licks his hand and he rips it away, grumbling loudly as he wipes his palm on their shirt. “Calm down, Beyonce.” They say, tilting their head back against him so he can meet their gaze. “He came to talk about duoing, so obviously he was considering it.”

Lance glares at them, then glances away. He can feel his bottom lip stick out in a pout as he adjusts the popcorn bowl on his lap. He sinks further against Hunk’s side. “Only because Shiro made him… Shiro can guilt you into anything.”

“Oh man, it’s true. He’s got that dad voice that just makes you feel so guilty about disappointing him.” Hunk says, shuttering slightly. “Just thinking about it makes me want to bake him cookies tomorrow just so he has no reason to be upset with me.”

Pidge nods. “He’s always been like that. Keith grew up with him, so he’s a little immune, but even he can’t hold out against Shiro for long, but—“

Speaking of Shiro, why did no one tell me he’s Keith’s brother?” Lance cuts in, feeling his agitation rise.

“Not now, Lance.” Hunk says, patting his head. He hunches, but leans into the touch.

He crosses his arms over his chest, careful not to knock over the bowl on his lap. “Just another thing you guys kept from me.”

Pidge rolls their head against him. “Oh my god, Lance, we already went over this. I’m sorry, okay? Let’s move on.”

He sniffs dramatically. “Easy for you to say.”

Anyway, Shiro may have made him go to the park, but the fact that he was there at all indicates that he has given it some thought.”

“Doesn’t matter now, anyway.” Lance grumbles. “He already said he was going to find someone else to duo with.” At that, Pidge sits up, putting their back to the couch and giving Lance the blankest, flattest, most unamused stare he’s ever seen. His brow furrows. “What?”

Pidge sighs, closing their eyes and raising a hand to rub their eyes beneath their glasses. Then they turn, sitting cross legged and sideways on the couch to face him. They adjust their glasses on their nose, and then lean forward, resting their elbows on their knees. With their popcorn bowl still cradled on their lap, they press both hands together. Breathing deeply, they exhale and point their hands at him. “Boy, let me tell you something about Keith.”

“Is it his deepest, darkest, most embarrassing secret? Cause if not, I don’t wanna hear it.”

Pidge slaps his leg. “Shut up for just a second and listen.” Lance does just that, eyeing Pidge warily. He has to admit, he might be a little curious. “Keith is terrible with human interaction. There’s a reason he just goes to the academy, does his thing, and insta leaves. We’ve been friends for years and I haven’t even hung out with him there.”

“…Soooo?”

Pidge rolls their eyes. “So he will literally not find anyone else. He doesn’t know anyone else at Altea, and if left to his own devices, he would rather not to go regionals than approach someone random about this. Agreeing to audition as a solo dancer was one thing, but actually finding someone to duo with? Nu uh, not gonna happen. There’s a reason Shiro basically dumped you guys in each other’s laps.”

Lance looks away, firmly holding onto his pout. “Shiro will probably just find him someone else to dance with…” He says, shooting for sounding offhanded but he doesn’t quite pull it off. He can feel his determination crumbling. He really, really wants to go to regionals…

Pidge waves him off, a small smirk forming at the corners of their lips like they can just smell their imminent victory. “There isn’t anyone else who can keep up with him and his choreography. Shiro wasn’t lying when he said you were one of the only people who’s a quick enough study to learn a dance in two weeks.”

“A week and a half by now.” Hunk adds.

“Gee, thanks, Hunk.” Lance says flatly.

“Anytime, buddy.” He pats Lance’s head.

“You’re good, Lance. And you’re the only one who can keep up with him.”

Lance feels a smile tugging at his lips. He eyes Pidge sideways. “Was that a compliment, Pidge?”

They roll their eyes. “Don’t let it go to your head.”

“Too late.” His smile widens.

“Even if he does find someone as good as you to duo with, he wouldn’t. He doesn’t care enough about it to dance with someone just to get to regionals.”

Lance’s smile fades. “Then why would he dance with me?”

Pidge’s smirk is firmly in place. “Because Keith can’t turn down a challenge. And you have already challenged him. He won’t admit it, but he wants to prove to you that he can do this. And I think you want to impress him, too.”

“I—“

“Don’t even try to deny it, dude.” Hunk says. “We can see right through you.”

Lance snaps his mouth shut and glares up at his friend.

“I guarantee if you go and apologize to him, he’ll agree to duo with you.”

“Then BOOM!” Hunk claps his hands together, making both Lance and Pidge jump. “The four of us are going to regionals! Road tripping and all hanging out and a new friend—“

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Lance cuts him off, pushing himself up so he’s sitting up straighter and he can turn to glare at Hunk. “Who said anything about being friends with Keith?”

Hunk gives him a blank look, one eyebrow raised. “Uh, dude, you’ve been obsessed with him for weeks. If you end up duoing with him, he’s obviously going to end up being one of our friends. He’s already friends with Pidge! That’s one third of us right there.”

Lance scowls and opens his mouth to retort, to say that he never wants to be friends with Keith. Friendly rivals maybe, but not friends. Not sleepovers and movie night and hanging out kinda friends. He doesn’t want to hang out with Keith… right? Of course, he doesn’t. Keith wouldn’t want to hang out with him either. He’s sure of that.

Before he can voice his opinions, however, Pidge cuts him off. “Hunk, don’t scare him away from Keith when we just got him this far.”

Hunk smiles sheepishly. “Sorry.” He looks to Lance. “So will you do it? Apologize to Keith and ask him to duo with you?”

They’re both staring at him expectantly. He looks between them, scowling. He’s… conflicted. Yes, he wants to go to regionals. If he’s being honest, he wants to dance with Keith, too. But… the thought of facing Keith after everything that’s happened… it’s mortifying. And Keith was a dick… but he was a dick, too. Ugh, he knows he’s going to give in. He knows he’s going to cave. He knows he’s going to have to swallow his pride and apologize to Keith. But he can at least drag it out to make his friends suffer.

But in his silence, Pidge leans forward, a glint in their eyes as a smile slowly spreads their lips. “If you change your mind…” They start out softly, before slowly getting louder. “He’s the first in line…”

They’re singing, and Lance’s eyes widen when they realize what’s happening. He throws back his head and laughs. “Pidge! No! Stop!”

Hunk leans toward him on the other side, and in a low voice he sings the background vocals. “Take a chance, take a take a chance chance, take a chance, take a chance.”

Honey, he’s still free, take a chance on him.

“That doesn’t even fit with the rhyme anymore!”

If you need him, let him know, gonna be around. If you got no place to go, if you’re feeling down.”

“Alright! Alright! I’ll do it!” Lance says, laughing as he presses his hands to his friends’ faces, pushing them both back from where they had leaned way too far into his personal space. “Oh my god, you guys are the worst singers. Stick to dancing!”

Pidge leans back, hands on their ankles, grinning. “Rude.”

“We’ll forgive you though, since you agreed to apologize to Keith.”

Pidge nods. “You just got double teamed!”

They high five again, in front of Lance, and he swatted both their hands away. “You guys are the worst.”

Hunk chuckles. “Okay, but seriously, man, you should go catch him at work tomorrow.”

Lance looks at him, one eyebrow raised. “Work?”

“Yeah, he said he works at a local bookstore.”

“Why can’t I just see him at Altea?”

Hunk shrugs. “He said he works all day tomorrow, so he won’t be at Altea. You wanna get this sorted quickly, right? So you have more time to practice?”

“Well, yeah, but—“

“Lance,” Pidge says, giving him a stern look. “You’re going to his work tomorrow. I’ll tell you where it is.”

“But—“

“You’re lucky we’re not making you go tonight.”

“Ugh!”

“Glad you see it our way.” Pidge says, patting Lance’s arm before flopping down across his and Hunk’s lap. “Now that that’s settled, can we watch a movie already? I still have homework I need to get started on.”

Lance snorts, adjusting his popcorn bowl on top of Pidge, next to theirs. “We all know you’re not going to sleep until like three am anyway.”

“True, but working through your problems tires me out. I need a change of pace.”

“You make it sound like I’m a problem child.”

Hunk snorts. “Lance, you’ll always be our problem child.”

There’s some arguing over what movie to pick, but they eventually settle on the 80’s classic, Flashdance. Pidge is firmly against it, complaining that they’ve watched that movie a million times already. Hunk doesn’t care, and Lance knows it’s because he actually enjoys it. Though he does throw out the suggestion of Dirty Dancing if they’re going for a dance classic. Pidge groans at that one, too. Lance eventually wins because this is still his moping day and Flashdance is one of his childhood comfort movies.

They talk through most of it. Lance and Hunk recite along with several scenes just to annoy and amuse Pidge. Lance and Pidge eventually have a contest for who can throw the most popcorn into Hunk’s mouth. They lean against one edge of the couch while Hunk goes to the opposite. Pidge wins, but Lance blames it on Hunk cheating.

And of course Lance performs the whole “He’s a Dream” scene for his friends, complete with a chair he drags in from the dining room. He’s had this dance scene memorized since he was a kid. Him and his older sister, Norah, learned it together. When he reaches up to tug on the invisible chord, Pidge comes up behind him and dumps popcorn kernels over his head.

It’s a good night, and it keeps him from worrying about what he’s going to say to Keith tomorrow.

 


 

Keith shoves the book onto the shelf with a little more force than necessary. He’s got one of his earbuds in one ear, the chord of which trails down through the neck of his work polo. He’d much rather have his bigger headphones. They’re much more comfortable and better at blocking out the world, but they’re way too big and not very professional. While he’s stocking books or doing chores in the back, his managers don’t care if he listens to music, as long as he’s discrete. So he uses his simple earbuds.

King and Lionhearted plays in one ear, part of his chill playlist that Allura helped him make, just barely louder than the music that plays over the bookstore’s speakers. The general din of conversation is blurred and dull, surrounding him like a familiar blanket of white noise. The smell of coffee from the bookstore’s small coffeeshop fills his nose, mixing with the calming and pleasant scent of books and paper. He’s going through the mindless motions of stocking books, straightening the shelves, and making sure everything is where it belongs.

He hasn’t had to deal with any customers today. They made the wrong coffee order earlier and the barista offered it to Keith as he was walking by. He’s been assigned to stocking and back room work all day, which means he can listen to music and avoid people for the entirety of his shift. It’s not a busy day, so the noise and crowd around the shelves isn’t bad. And the store isn’t in that much disarray so he can take his time fixing up the shelves without needing to rush.

Overall, it’s a pretty good day as far as work days go. The atmosphere is calm and soothing, his hands are kept busy without needing too much concentration. He doesn’t have to deal with people, customers or coworkers.

By all rights, he should be calm and content at the easy money.

But Keith still manages to find himself agitated, and it has nothing to do with work. There’s a scowl permanently twisting his face. He can feel it, and that might be one of the reasons he hasn’t been approached by a customer yet all day. He’s shoving books onto the shelves with far too much force, which just means he had to adjust them again after the fact. And he’s pretty sure he’s stomping around the aisles.

And it’s all because of Lance.

Lance with his stupid cocky smile and his smug ass voice. Lance and the way he has to turn everything into a competition or an insult. Lance and the way he just sounds so arrogant all the time. Lance and the way he just manages to say all the wrong things. Lance and his incredible habit of sticking his foot in his mouth.

Lance with his stupid bright ass smile that had glowed in the afternoon sun. Lance with his loud and genuine laugh that wasn’t at all pretty but still managed to make his chest tighten and his stomach flutter. Lance and his ability to just make everyone around him smile. Lance and his incredibly welcoming energy, at least when it isn’t directed at Keith. Lance and his amazing talent for dancing. The way he always seems to feel the music and let his body just… move without having to practice before hand.

It all gets under his skin like an itch he can’t scratch. It makes him warm and flustered and angry whenever Lance opens his mouth. Whenever his attitude and whole demeanor changes whenever he’s around him.

He hates it. He’s never done anything to him! He hasn’t exactly been the nicest person, but it’s usually only after Lance baits him into it. And yesterday… yesterday he had tried to be nice. He had tried to talk to him like Shiro and Allura had asked him to, but Lance was just… Lance. There had been a moment when he had thought that maybe, just maybe, Lance might actually be civil. But that moment had quickly died when the whole duo thing had been brought up.

Keith clenches his teeth just thinking about it, his jaw working. He accidentally knocks over a couple of books which results in the whole line to suddenly be slouched over. He groans in frustration and sets to work fixing it.

At one point his music is interrupted by the sound of his ringtone, and he pulls his phone out of his pocket far enough to see the screen.

It’s Shiro, of course. The man had been calling and texting him nonstop since last night. Keith had told him that it hadn’t worked out with Lance, so he isn’t sure why his brother is being so insistent about this. He hits the ignore button and shoves his phone back in his pocket as his music starts up again.

When he’s done checking through the non-fiction section, he’s already at the front of the store, so he decides to check over the main displays up front.

He heads for the main aisle that leads from the front doors deeper into the store. There’s a lot of bigger tables set up here, with displays of newer releases. He pauses at them, checking them over and making sure any books that were taken on the big pyramid-like displays are replaced by some from the standby piles.

When he’s done with that, he picks up the top book from the standby piles that are just stacked around the display and opens it, propping it upright. The doors behind him open with a faint chime and a soft breeze of air rushing in. He firmly ignores it. It’s not his job to greet customers. Well, it sort of it, but he’s not in the mood for it.

Then a body brushes past him down the main aisle and Keith stiffens, catching sight of tanned skin and soft brown hair.

He feels the air catch in his breath in the split second it takes him to realize that it’s just a girl. She’s shorter than him, a lot younger, and her hair is pulled back into a high pony tail. She’s holding the hand of a boy, probably somewhere between eight and twelve? Keith isn’t sure. He’s shit with guessing ages. The kid is practically dragging her along, a strangely familiar bounce in his step. His skin is the same color as hers, and his hair, though also soft brown, is cut short and reminds him distinctly of—

No. Nope. He’s not thinking about Lance. Not today. Not ever again. God fucking dammit. Yeah, he’s been agitated all day, but he’s been firmly not thinking about the source of his frustration. Yet one look at a couple of Latino kids and his mind is already there again, dwelling on what it really shouldn’t be dwelling on. This is supposed to be a nice relaxing day at work, and he’s not going to ruin it by thinking about Lance, or auditions, or regionals, or Shiro and his shitty, shitty ideas.

He tears his eyes away from the kid’s retreating backs with a jerk of his head. He turns sharply, intent on stomping away from the display to disappear back into the shelves. But then his hand hits something as he turns, he over corrects when he jerks and his hip bumps the table, and then suddenly the display pyramid of books is crashing down.

He stands there, staring at the books scattered around the table along with plastic bookends that had kept them upright. He can feel heat creeping up his neck, and he just knows people are staring at him. He purses his lips together, determined not to look around and make eye contact with anyone. Fists clenching and unclenching, he sighs loudly, closing his eyes for a moment as he pinches the bridge of his nose. He hears a snort of barely contained laughter somewhere behind him.

Great. Just great. Exactly what he needs.

Then he sighs again, much softer and shorter and full of defeat as he sets to work picking up the books and reorganizing them.

“Smooth, McMullet. Smooth.” A voice drawls behind him.

Keith stiffens, freezing as his fingers curl around a book. His eyes widen as a shiver runs down his spine because no, there’s no way…

He turns slowly, pivoting his hips so he can look behind him. He’s careful to keep his face blank, but he can’t help the way his chest tightens when he sees him.

Sure enough, it’s Lance. Because the universe doesn’t hate him enough already. He’s standing just a few feet away, arms crossed over his chest, weight on one hip, posture relaxed, and that familiar shit eating smirk on his lips.

Keith bristles, shoulders tensing as he frowns. “What are you doing here?”

Lance’s smirk widens enough to show a sliver of teeth. “Is that going to be our standard greeting now?”

Keith’s eyes narrow for a moment before he turns away. “I don’t have time for this…” He grumbles, setting to work putting the display back in order. He hopes Lance will just somehow… go away. He’s never that lucky, and as he’s already established: the universe hates him.

Lance comes into his vision again, leaning his hip against the table, arms still crossed over his chest. Keith refuses to look at him. “Hey, I’m not the one who knocked everything over. Not so graceful when you’re not on the dance floor, huh?”

Keith glances up at him, his own smirk fixing itself to his lips. “You think I’m graceful, huh?”

It has the desired affect: Lance’s eyes widen, his smirk fades, and his cheeks get a shade darker. “What? No.” He sputters, then looks away.

Keith snorts, rolling his eyes as he goes back to his work. They’re silent while he rearranges the books back into their pyramid-like display. Keith can feel himself getting more and more agitated. Lance is just standing there, staring at him, and saying nothing. Why can’t he just go a day without seeing this guy?

When he finishes, he sighs and looks up. “Lance, what’re you even doing here?” He tries to sound civil. He really does. But he can’t quite hide all the irritation from his voice.

Lance shrugs, waving a hand around. He seems to have recovered his confident demeanor. “What? Can’t a guy come to a bookstore to, you know, look at books?”

Keith gives I’m a flat look. “No offense, but you don’t exactly look like the reading type.”

Lance gasps, putting a hand to his chest. “Why I never!” He puts a hand on his hip, cocking it out as he puts the other on the table and leans on it. “Well you don’t look like an asshole, but I guess we’re both wrong, huh?”

Keith stares at him for a moment, doing little more than blinking. He’s pretty sure that was supposed to be an insult, but it also came off as half a compliment. He crosses his arms over his chest, leaning his hip against the table in a mirror of Lance’s earlier position. He lets a smirk of his own curve his lips. “So you’re saying I don’t look like an asshole?”

Lance opens his mouth for a moment, then snaps it shut, his face scrunching up in concentration. He looks frustrated and a little constipated. “What? No, that’s not what I— Stop twisting my words!”

Keith’s smirk widens, and he can feel it in the way his cheeks rise a fraction. There’s a light blush across Lance’s cheeks, and Keith would be lying if he said it wasn’t cute against his completion. “Then tell me, Lance, what do I look like?”

Lance’s eyes narrow, lips pursing. He leans back, crossing one arm loosely over his chest and raising his other hand to rub his chin. It looks almost comical, and Keith stands there, smile never fading as he waits. He makes a lot of humming sounds before he finally nods. “Like if Mel Gibson and Patrick Swayze had an Asian baby and raised it in the 80’s.”

Keith’s eyebrows go up, and he exhales a short laugh. Tilting his head to the side, he says thoughtfully, “I think I should probably be offended, but I’m more amused by the fact that you know so many people with mullets.”

Lance grins, tilting his chin down as he cradles it between his thumb and forefinger, positioned like a finger gun. He stares at Keith through half lidded eyes that look far too smug. “What can I say? I do my research. I’m that dedicated to insulting you.”

Keith rolls his eyes, but the ghost of his smile is still there. “I’m honored.” He says with the driest sarcasm he can muster. Then he turns away, heading away from the main aisle and weaving back toward the bookshelves.

“Hey! Where’re you going?” Lance practically yelps, stumbling after him.

Keith glances at him over his shoulder, one eyebrow raised. “I’m working.”

Lance rolls his eyes, catching up to Keith and walking beside him. “Well, yeah, no shit, I got that from the whole uniform thing.” He says, gesturing to Keith’s shirt before gesturing to the table behind them. “But weren’t you just working over there?”

Keith nods. “Yeah, and now I’m working over here.” He takes a sudden turn down another aisle of books, and is only a little surprised when Lance falters and quickens his pace to catch up. He weaves through the store with Lance keeping step beside him. Lance stops when he reaches the hallway that leads to the back rooms.

He frowns, hands in his pockets and shoulders slumping. “Where are you going now?”

Keith glances back at him without pausing. “Work. Shouldn’t you be looking at books?”

Lance scowls, looking away, “Yeah, yeah…”

He disappears in the back room, taking a moment to simply breathe. He closes his eyes, trying to center himself. He hadn’t been expecting Lance to be here. He’s never seen Lance here. At least… not that he remembers. Maybe he’s just jumping the gun a bit and Lance is actually an avid reader and he is just here for books? Pfff, yeah, right. If that’s the case, why is he following Keith around?

Maybe… Maybe he’s here to talk about yesterday? To talk about duos and dancing together?

A strange feeling tightens in Keith’s chest, and he puts a hand to it, fingers tightening in his shirt. He frowns, feeling the weird fluttering in his gut. Oh no. No, no, no. He is not feeling hopeful.

But he is. He’s… feeling hope. Actual hope that Lance will… No, he’s not going to think about it. This is still Lance he’s talking about. No matter what his intentions are, he’s still an ass. An unreliable, infuriating ass. And Keith isn’t going to get his hopes up for nothing.

He finds one of the book carts he’s already loaded up with books that need to be restocked, and he pushes it out of the room. He’s not really sure what he’s anticipating, but he feels his hands tense around the handle as he steps out into the store once again. He didn’t think he wanted Lance to still be there, but he can’t deny that he’s relieved when he is. He’s standing at one of the shelves near the back hallway, a small, thoughtful frown on his face as he holds a book open in his hands.

He had to have been waiting, because the second Keith appears, he’s snapping the book shut and turning to look at him, his small frown gone and his smirk back in place. “There you are. I was starting to think maybe you got lost.”

Keith pauses, staring at him with one eyebrow raised. “I told you I’m working. That involves going into the backroom sometimes.”

Lance rolls his eyes, waving the book in his hand at Keith. “Yeah, yeah, keep your sass to yourself, mullet man. You know, the more I talk to you, the more I can see how you and Pidge have been friends for so long.”

Keith feels his lips twitch at that, but he ignores it. He doesn’t want Lance to think he’s amused by everything he says. After all, he is still mad at him, and he has every right to be. He should just walk away, but something keeps him fixed to the spot. Probably curiosity. That has to be the only thing that would keep him willingly in Lance’s presence for this long. “What’re you doing?” He asks.

“What?”

Keith nods to the book in his hands.

Lance looks down at it like he had forgotten it was there at all. A faint blush creeps up his cheeks, but he just shrugs, waving the book around so Keith can’t properly see the cover. “Oh, you know, looking at books. This is a bookstore, after all. I came here to look at books.” He sounds like he’s floundering, despite how casual he tries to sound.

“Are you planning on going somewhere?” Keith has the sneaking suspicion that he was just waiting around near the back hallway for Keith to come out. To bug him some more, probably. But he finds himself curious about what book had caught his attention. He knows nothing about Lance except his taste in music and that he dances. He doesn’t know what kind of things could possibly catch his attention, what things he’s interested in, and… Keith is weirdly curious.

“What?” Lance blinks at him, face blank.

Keith gestures to the sign above the shelf that reads, ‘Foreign Travels.’

Lance follows his gesture and blinks again, “Oh.” He looks down at the book in his hand, then shoves it back onto the shelf. “No, I’m not— it’s none of your business.” He snaps, suddenly harsh as he glares at Keith.

It’s Keith’s turn to stare, blinking and dumbfounded. Then he feels his face harden, lips pursing. “Fine.” He says, already pushing the cart away. He walks as quickly as he can without actually running in the store.

“Keith, wait!” Lance shouts, and he can hear his footsteps as he runs to catch up. Keith holds his scowl and keep his pace as he weaves around aisles. “Keith, wait up! Geez, I’m sorry, okay? I didn’t mean to like, snap at you or whatever.”

Keith finally slows, but he tells himself it’s only because he’s nearing his destination. Lance comes up alongside him, and he turns to glare at him. He’s not looking at him. His eyes are on the ground, with one hand in his pocket and the other scratching the back of his neck.

“I was… looking at a book about Cuba.” He says it with an expression that looks a little pained, a little embarrassed, and a lot like he swallowed something sour.

Keith isn’t exactly happy with him, but that damned curiosity gets the better of him. “Cuba?”

Lance nods and looks away. “Uh, yeah. Three of my grandparents immigrated here from Cuba when they were kids. I’ve, uh, never been. But I’ve always thought I’d be nice to see where they came from, you know? Where I come from…” He’s quiet, and Keith feels a strange little tug at his heart at how vulnerable he sounds. Like he thinks Keith is going to make fun of him.

He looks away as he pulls the cart to a stop close to the shelves so he’s not taking up the whole aisle. “That sounds… really cool.” He says earnestly. It must be nice to have a heritage to connect to.

When the teasing doesn’t come, Lance instantly brightens. “It does, doesn’t it?” Keith starts picking books off the cart and turns to the shelf, looking for their counterparts, but he sneaks a sideways glance at Lance. He leans back against the shelf, hands in his pockets. His eyes are still on the ground, and a small, soft smile is playing across his lips. It’s unlike any other smile he’s seen from him so far and his heart clenches before he has to look away. “I wanna take my Lita there one day. She hasn’t been back since she moved here when she was still a kid.”

“Lita?” Keith asks without looking at him, because he’s not quite sure he can yet. He focuses on picking up books, reading the author’s last name, and finding the rough alphabetical placement before searching for the other books like it.

Fortunately, stocking doesn’t take much concentration, so he can focus on his conversation with Lance.

Unfortunately, he can focus on his conversation with Lance and the fact that he’s way too aware of him right now. And the fact that he’s seeing a weird softer side to Lance. He doesn’t like what it’s doing to him. He’s content with the ‘attractive but huge asshole’ image he had of him.

Lance laughs a little. “Oh, right, sorry. Lita is like, our nickname for our grandma.” Keith sees him shrug out of the corner of his eye. “It’s a little childish, I guess, but I still have younger siblings and stuff, so it sticks.”

Keith hums in acknowledgement, unsure of what to say to that. He never really thought he’d talk to Lance, of all people, about family. He feels like he’s gotten a small glimpse into his life that he was never meant to see, and it makes him a little uncomfortable. Still, the silence between them is getting awkward, and he knows he has to say something. He knows if he lets this opportunity to actually be civil with Lance pass, Shiro will kill him.

“So…” He starts, grabbing a couple books and dropping into a squat so he can reach the lowest shelves. “If three of your grandparents are from Cuba, where’s the other one from?”

He’s not sure if that’s a good question to ask, or if that would be too personal, but Lance snorts loudly, and Keith looks up to see him rolling his eyes, his smile widening. “Fucking Scotland.” He says, incredulous. “I mean, that part of my family has been in the states for generations, but they’re originally from Scotland. But he’s my dad’s dad, so that’s how a family of Latino kids ended up with the last name McClain.”

Keith can’t help himself: he laughs. Something about Lance just invites him to laugh along. Just like what Keith observed at the park yesterday. He puts one hand on the floor and the other on the shelf in front of himself to balance himself as his shoulders shake. When he looks up at Lance, grinning, he’s staring at him with a wide grin, cheeks slightly flushed. There’s something in his eyes that Keith doesn’t get a chance to decipher before he’s continuing.

“I cannot tell you how many weird looks I’ve gotten when I’ve had to fill out applications with the last name McClain but then checking the box for hispanic.” One of his hands is out of his pocket, waving around animatedly. He’s not looking at Keith anymore, but he’s still smiling. “Or how many looks I’ve gotten when someone sees my name first but then I show up.” He says, gesturing to himself.

“Oh my god,” Keith says, shaking his head as he starts shelving again.

“Right? It’s hilarious. I mean, you’re lucky your last name at least fits you.”

Keith shoves a book onto the shelf and looks up at him, eyebrows raised. “I’m not sure if I should consider that racist or not.”

Lance laughs, a little forced, but the slight blush across his cheeks remains. He looks away, one hand rubbing the back of his neck. “So, uh, speaking of last names. I gotta ask. If you and Shiro are brothers, why…” Lance waves a hand around, at a loss for words.

Luckily, Keith knows exactly what he’s asking. “Why do we have different last names?”

Lance smiles sheepishly. “Yeah, that.”

Keith shrugs, pushing himself to his feet and reaching for a couple more books off the top shelf of the cart. “We’re both adopted.” He says it as casually as he can. It’s not a big deal to him. It’s just as much apart of his life as his favorite childhood cereal being Apple Jacks or the fact that he’s lactose intolerant. It’s just a fact about him that doesn’t really have much emotional significance. But he hates telling people because they always feel weird about it.

There’s a long moment of silence, which he expects, and then he hears Lance’s strangled, “Oh.” His voice is higher than usual, and Keith sighs. “I— uh, I didn’t know, man. I—“

Keith reaches out and slaps a hand over Lance’s mouth, effectively cutting him off. Lance stiffens and jerks at the sudden contact, and his eyes widen, snapping over to look at Keith. Keith glares at him. “I’m going to stop you right there. Don’t start apologizing. There’s nothing to apologize for. I was young when my birth parents died. I don’t remember them. I was adopted when I was five. They had already adopted Shiro. Our parents had us keep our birth names because they wanted us to have a connection to our ancestry or whatever, but we’re no less apart of the family.” He says, rattling off all the answers to the usual questions. He sounds tired and bored, and he really hopes Lance will get the hint. “It doesn’t matter that I’m adopted because I have great parents and a great brother.” He pauses, expression twisting as his lip curls. “Well, sometimes he’s great. Other times he’s a pain in the ass.” Like lately. Lately Shiro has been a huge pain in the ass. He meets Lance’s gaze. If it’s even possible, his eyes have gotten even wider since Keith has been speaking. Keith’s bottom lids twitch, gaze narrowing. “I’m going to let go of your mouth now, and I don’t want to hear a single word of pity or sympathy, or I’m going to find the biggest book in this store and beat you with it, got it?”

Lance nods, and Keith releases him, slowly lowering his hand. He holds his gaze, silently daring him to say it. He holds Keith’s gaze for a second before looking down, then to the side, then up. His face is scrunched up in an expression that looks contemplative, but it’s hard to tell. When he finally looks at Keith, all that conflict is gone and he’s smirking again. “So you can give me all the blackmail material on Shiro?”

At that, Keith feels a smile tugging at his lips. “Oh yeah, I’ve got tons.”

“Did he have braces?”

“For two years.”

“Oh my god, yes. I knew that smile was too perfect to be natural. Do you have pictures of him with zits?”

“He had the worst acne until he was twenty. He had to go see a dermatologist about it.”

“This is the best day of my life.”

Keith hums, a small smile on his face. He never would have thought that one of the best ways to bond with Lance was to tell him embarrassing things about his brother. He can’t wait to tell Shiro about this. With a couple books in hand, he drops into a squat again and gets back to shelving. There’s a silence between them, but it doesn’t feel as awkward and strained as it did before. That itch under his skin is gone. He’s content with the silence, but it’s unsurprising when Lance breaks it.

“Hey, uh, I didn’t mean to like… come here and share all this personal family info with my rival.” He says it like a half apology, and Keith can tell he’s about to go somewhere with this, but he can’t help but point out the one thing about that sentence that bothers him.

“I never asked to be your rival.”

“Uh, you don’t ask to be a rival. It just happens. That’s how rivals work.”

“I’m not your rival, Lance.” Keith says, looking up to give him a flat stare.

Lance makes a sound and waves him off. “Whatever, Keith, you can’t deny our rivalry. Rivalness. Rival-tude? Rival-dom. Rival-ship.” Keith rolls his eyes and looks back to the shelf. Lance gently taps his leg with his shoe, knocking him off balance.

He shoots out a hand to steady himself. “Lance!” He snaps, swatting his shoe away.

“See?” He says, grinning down at him. “We have a spark. Don’t deny our spark, Keith.”

Keith feels heat rising up his neck, and he knows it has nothing to do with anger or frustration. How can Lance just… say things like that? Without thinking about the other implications? He sighs. “Why are you so annoying?”

His grin never falters. “It’s a gift.”

“Did you get a gift receipt so you can return it?”

“Okay, first of all, rude.”

“Second of all, if you’re going to stand around, at least make yourself useful and hand me those books off the top.” He says, pointing to the cart.

“Hey! You can’t ‘second of all’ my ‘first of all’!” He says, but he’s already pushing off the shelf to walk around to the cart.

“I just did.” Keith says with a small smirk as he takes the books Lance hands him.

Keith finishes off restocking and organized the shelves in both the sci-fy/fantasy and mystery sections. The whole time he scoots the cart along, Lance follows, either leaning against a shelf or handing Keith books when he gets to the lower shelves. The whole time they mostly talk about Shiro. Lance asks all sorts of questions: does he drool in his sleep? What are some embarrassing moments? Did he used to be skinny and gangly or was he always built like that? Keith is more than happy to reveal all his brother’s embarrassing memories, reliving his childhood with Shiro through Lance. Lance laughs a lot, and it does weird things to Keith’s heart. He also finds it hard to look at him when he’s smiling so openly, so he’s glad to have the excuse of work to keep his eyes busy.

At one point he tries to get Keith to spill some of Pidge’s embarrassing teenage moments, but Keith firmly refuses. “There’s no way in hell I’m telling you anything. I value my life.” Lance is persistent though, and only switches off the topic when Keith says that Pidge has too much blackmail on him, too. Unfortunately, the subject he switches to is pestering Keith about his awkward teenage moments.

When he runs out of books for this section, he checks what the next pile of books is on the cart and pushes himself to his feet. He pushes the cart through the store to an aisle that’s a couple of rows over, Lance trailing behind him. He’s still not sure why Lance is there, but… he doesn’t really mind his company. At least not right now.

“Are you even supposed to be wearing these?” Lance says, and Keith jumps when he’s suddenly close, pulling out Keith’s earbud and letting it dangle over his forefinger. When Keith looks up, he’s standing way too close, and smiling that obnoxiously blinding smile.

He looked back to the shelf and shoves a book into place, shrugging. “Officially? Yeah, I’m not supposed to have it. Unofficially? My managers don’t care as long as I keep it discrete and still do my job.” Lance hums, letting the earbud drop to dangle in front of Keith’s shirt. Honestly, he had forgotten all about it. He hadn’t noticed when his playlist had reached it’s end and the music had stopped. But now he’s very aware of the fact that the only music playing is the radio station from the store’s speakers.

How did he not notice?

He blames Lance. The guy’s a distraction.

“I’m also not supposed to be talking to people on my shift, either.” He says, smirking a little as he glances over at Lance.

Lance scoffs, waving Keith off before putting his hands on his hips. He’s self assured and confidence, and Keith isn’t sure why that isn’t annoying him like it usually does. “Pfff, no problem. If anyone comes over, you can just say you’re helping me find a book.”

Keith gives him a flat stare, willing his amusement to not betray him. “Lance,” He says, voice so blank that Lance looks at him for a moment, smile fading in his confusion. “We’re in the maternity section.”

Lance blinks, then turns his head to look at the sign above the shelves next to them. He opens his mouth, closes it. Blinks. Then opens it again and lets out a small, “Oh.”

Keith laughs, unable to contain it. It bubbles out of his throat and bursts from his lips before he can stop it. He bends at the waist, one hand on the book cart. When he looks up, Lance is looking at him strangely, but there’s a small, soft smile on his lips. Keith doesn’t like that smile. It’s too… genuine, earnest, and… adorable.

He straightens and coughs, clearing his throat as he turns back to the book cart. “So… don’t you have some books to find or browse or whatever?”

“What?”

Keith picked up a few books and drops into a squat, setting the books on the floor as he steadies himself with one hand on the shelf. He picks the first off the top and finds the author’s name, instantly scanning the shelf for it’s counterparts. “You said you were here to look for books because this is a bookstore.”

“Oh, heh, right, that.” Lance sighs then, and slides down the bookshelf until he’s sitting on the ground next to Keith. He stretches one leg out in front of him and bends the other knee, resting one arm on it. “I, uh… I didn’t actually come here to look at books…” He says, voice small and hesitant. It’s so different from what Keith is used to that it gives him pause.

He glances over at him, but Lance isn’t looking at him. His fingers are idly fidgeting and playing with the colorful threaded bracelets around his wrists, and his eyes are locked on the motions. Keith feels a sliver of anticipation slide down his spine to coil in his gut. He feels suddenly nervous, and he knows it’s because Lance does, too.

“You don’t say?” He says flatly, putting a teasing edge to his voice that he hopes will get Lance to loosen up.

It works enough to make him glance up, lips twisting into a frown and eyes narrowing. When he looks away, his frown definitely looks more like a pout than anything else. “Anyway, I came here to talk to you…”

Keith can’t really say he’s surprised. He kind of had a feeing. But he’s still a little caught off guard at the sudden bluntness. He stares at Lance, but he’s refusing to meet his eyes again. “You did?”

Lance purses his lips together and nods. “Yeah, I, uh…” His face scrunches up as several emotions pass over his face. His brows are furrowed and his nose wrinkled. His upper lip is curled and it looks like he might be clenching his teeth. “I wanted to… apologize for, you know… being an ass, or whatever… yesterday.”

Keith is… a little shocked. He hadn’t been expecting him to just come out with it. Honestly, if you had asked him this morning, he would have said he never expected Lance to apologize. A huge weight that he hadn’t really realize he’d been carrying is suddenly lifted from his shoulders. He feels like he can breathe again, and he feels so much lighter for it. His shoulders relax, and there’s an ache there that indicates he’s been a lot more tense than he thought.

He smirks a little, tilting his head to the side. “Can you say that without looking like you’re in pain.”

He didn’t think it was possible, but Lance’s face scrunches up even more. “No. This is causing me physical pain. Excruciating, physical, very real pain. I may need to go to the doctor after this. I may need a band-aid. I might start bleeding.” He touches his nose and then pulls his hand back to look at his fingers. “Am I bleeding, Keith?”

Keith rolls his eyes, adjusting his weight. He sits on the ground, back to the book cart and facing Lance with his knees bent and arms wrapped around them, fingers locked in front. From this angle, everything looks so… surreal. Like it’s just him and Lance. With the book shelves and the book cart surrounding them, blocking them from view, and being in a section in the corner of the store and isn’t frequently visited… it’s like they’re all alone, despite the music, and conversation, and coffee smells surrounding them.

“Then why bother apologizing to me at all?” There’s still a teasing edge to his voice, but his voice is softer. He’s honesty curious, and his heart is pounding in his chest.

Lance huffs, turning away from Keith as he mumbles, “Because you deserve an apology. You came to talk to me, and I was an ass, and I don’t want you to hate me, and—“ He cuts himself off with a loud groan, leaning back against the shelf as he slouches a little more. He covers his face with both hands, and his voice comes out mumbled and in so much of a rush that Keith can’t distinguish the words. “AndIwantyoutoduowithme.”

He blinks, trying to make sense of what he had heard, but it was honestly so jumbled that he can’t. Lance is still hiding behind his hands, but his chest is suspiciously still. “What?”

Lance’s chest heaves as he breathes in a deep breath, and then lets it all out in a very similar rush. It’s louder, but all his words still blur together. “Iwantyoutoduowithme.”

Keith’s brow furrows, his lips pursing into a small frown. “What?”

A loud whine comes from behind Lance’s hands.

Keith sighs, unlocking his fingers to roll forward up onto his toes before falling forward onto his knees, sitting on his heels. He’s not really sure what gives him the courage to do so, maybe it’s the obvious uncertainty and embarrassment coming off of Lance in waves, but Keith reaches forward and wraps his fingers around Lance’s wrists. He feels Lance stiffen, but he doesn’t resist as Keith gently pulls his hands away from his face.

Keith is pretty sure his heart stops. Lance is staring up at with wide, uncertain eyes. His bottom lip is caught between his teeth, and his brow is drawn together, causing wrinkles to line his forehead. He looks… almost scared, and it tugs at Keith’s heartstrings.

Tugs hard enough that suddenly his heart is jumpstarted into overdrive, and it feels like it’s bruising his ribs from the inside out.

Keith’s mouth is suddenly very, very dry. He’s trying to school his expression into something neutral. Something that won’t set Lance off, but it’s hard when his body is currently trying to kill him. God, he hopes his palms aren’t sweaty right now. He’s not wearing his gloves. He licks his lips, trying to buy himself a couple more seconds to get himself together. Lance’s eyes flicker down at the movement, widen a fraction, and then snap back up to meet his gaze. There are lines of tension in his expression that weren’t there a moment ago.

His eyelashes are short but dark where they line his bright blue eyes, and his skin looks so soft and flawless. They’re so close that Keith can smell his deodorant and just… Lance. He should be disgusted, or at least unaffected, but he’s not.

And that’s kind of scaring the shit out of him.

“I can’t hear you when your hands are in front of your face, idiot.” He says, eternally grateful when his voice comes out calm and steady.

Lance visibly gulps. He closes his eyes as he takes a deep breath, and opens them as he exhales a long sigh. His breath only shutters sightly. When he meets Keith’s gaze again, Keith is startled by the sudden fire there. All the nervousness he had seen before is gone. His face is set in determination and seriousness and confidence, and holy shit… it’s hot as hell.

He’s pretty sure his heart can’t take this, but he can’t look away.

“I want you to duo with me.” He says, slowly and calmly.

fills you with determination

They sit like that for several long moments. Keith doesn’t let go of Lance’s wrists, and he doesn’t pull away. Keith can’t look away from his eyes, and Lance doesn’t look away either. His eyes flicker back and forth between Keith’s, searching for… something. His lips are pursed slightly, and if Keith listens carefully, he can hear him breathing heavily through his nose.

He wonders if Lance’s heart is beating as fast as his.

He doesn’t know what to say. He knows what he wants to say. He knows what he wants to do. He also knows he wants to tease Lance and put him through hell after he was an ass after Keith tried to ask the same thing. Part of him even wants to refuse altogether because he can be petty and hold a grudge and Lance has already proven to be more trouble than he’s worth.

He doesn’t get a chance to say anything, however, because the sound of a throat being cleared loudly rips them both out of their daze.

Keith jerks back, head whipping up to stare dumbfounded at woman standing over them. She was smiling kindly at them and looking a little awkward. Her hands rested on a rather large belly. “Sorry to, um, intrude. But I was hoping I could get past you two?” She asks, not unkindly, as she gestures to the shelf behind them. She sound almost apologetic.

Keith lets go of Lance’s hands like he’s been burned and scrambles to his feet. Lance is only seconds behind. “Oh! Uh, yes, of course. Sorry.” Keith mumbles, taking several steps back to give her space as he busies himself with fiddling with the books on the cart. As she looks over the shelves, Keith glances sideways, catching sight of Lance on her other side. He’s standing there awkwardly, one hand on his hip and the other rubbing the back of his neck while he turns his head away from them both.

She picks a book off the shelf, gives Keith a small smile, and steps away. “Thank you, sorry again.”

“No, it’s no problem, really.” He says hurriedly, and she gives him a small wave as she walks away. He watches her go, sighing before he turns to look back at Lance.

Who is still avoiding eye contact.

Keith sighs again, running a hand through his hair. He shoves his hands in his pockets, and looks down at his feet. “Sure.”

There’s a pause, and then, “What?”

Keith glances up at him through his lashes. Lance is finally looking at him, expression blank and eyes wide. Keith lifts his chin, shrugging and turning to stare at the shelves. “Sure, I’ll duo with you.” Once again, he’s grateful that his voice holds and betrays none of the queasiness he feels inside.

He glances at Lance out of the corner of his eyes in time to see his face morph from blank and surprise into bright and overjoyed. It’s a gradual change, one that starts in his eyes and spreads out over his face like ripples. His lips slowly tug upward, revealing white teeth and making his cheeks rise, squinting his eyes a fraction as they crinkle at the corners. “Really?”

Keith sighs. What is he doing? “Yeah, really.”

Lance’s expression drops for a second, eyes narrowing and lips pouting in suspicion as he eyes Keith. He crosses his arms over his chest. “That was… surprisingly easy. What’s the catch? Why’d you change your mind? I thought you didn’t want to dance with me? I was sure I was going to have to beg.”

Keith felt a smirk tug at his lips. “If you want to beg, by all means, go ahead.” Lance’s gaze narrows into slits. Keith sighs. He’s been doing that a lot lately, and he fully blames Lance. He pulls his hands out of his pockets to cross his arms over his chest, fingers tapping on his upper arm. “If you would have listened to me yesterday, I was going to ask you the same question.” He says pointedly, enjoying the look of guilt that takes over Lance’s expression. “Don’t get me wrong, I still think you’re an ass and an idiot, but I trust Shiro, and he says you’ll be able to learn my choreography. And… I can see that you’re serious about this.”

When he’s done, he watches as Lance’s expression brightens again, twice as quickly as last time. “So we’re doing this? We’re making this happen?”

Keith sighs once more, making it loud and dramatic and sounding like defeat. He hangs his head, shaking is slowly. “Yes, Lance. We’re doing this.”

And then suddenly there’s loud, wordless screaming, and Keith is being wrapped up in the tightest hug he’s received in years. Arms wrap around him, lifting him off the ground and spinning him around as Lance’s laughter fills his ears. Before he can really enjoy the warmth of it, or really get over his shock at all, he’s being set down on his feet, and Lance is holding his shoulders, standing at arms length and beaming at him.

“You won’t regret this! You won’t, I promise. We’re going to get to regionals for sure.”

Lance’s hands are warm through his shirt and it’s more distracting than he wants to admit. Arms still crossed over his chest, he huffs, glaring at Lance. “You have to take this seriously and learn my choreography.”

“I’ll be the most serious student ever. So serious that the Joker will be questioning me. So Sirius that I’ll jump into the veil.”

Keith refuses to smile. He does. He refuses. He can feel it, but he holds it back. “And you have to learn my choreography. No complaining, got it?”

He’s nodding. “Got it. No complaining.” He steps forward and wraps Keith up in another hug. “Thank you, thankyouthankyou. You have no idea what this means to me.”

Feeling awkward, Keith unfolds his arms and tentatively wraps them around Lance’s back. He puts them there lightly, but he’s not sure it’s enough, so he gently pats him on the back. Is that weird? It’s probably weird. He’s way too aware of this hug for it to feel natural. Even when he’s being nice Lance has a way of getting under his skin.

Why did Keith agree to this again?

“Yeah, uh, no problem.” He says, feeling both grateful and disappointed when Lance pulls away. They step back from each other. Lance shoves his hands in his pockets, and Keith crosses his arms over his chest. The silence is almost unbearable. So he says the only thing he can think to say: the question that’s been bugging him for days. “So… um, if regionals is such a big deal, why did you miss solo auditions?”

At that, Lance’s face drops. It’s so instant that Keith immediately regrets asking the question. Lance glances away and shrugs. “Oh, that, heh. My, uh… my niece broke her arm and I had to take her to the hospital…”

Keith blinks. That… isn’t what he was expecting. “Oh…” He’s not sure what to say, so he tries, “I’m… I’m sorry.”

Lance shrugs again, looking up and smiling sheepishly. “It’s fine. She’s fine. I convinced her having a cast is cool cause people can sign it and stuff. I even told her I wish I had broken something so I could have a cast." He chuckles offhandedly, waving it off. "But anyway... now we’ve still got a second chance to get in, yeah? So it’s all good.”

At that, Keith lets himself smile. “Yeah, all good.”

For a moment they simply stand there, staring and smiling, and it’s such a soft moment that Keith is certain Lance can feel his heart pounding in his chest.

But then the moment is broken by a child’s screeching.

“Lance! Laaaance! Lance!”

Lance winces, giving Keith a look that’s almost apologetic before taking a few steps forward until they’re side by side. “Over here, Leo!” He calls.

Within seconds, a small boy skids to a stop at the opening of the aisle, spies Lance, and runs straight toward him. As he reaches him, Lance side steps, bends down, and wraps his arms around the boy’s middle, lifting him off his feet and into the air. He holds the boy on his hip, legs flailing in front of him and aims flailing behind him.

“Put me down!” He demands. “Lance! Put me down!

Lance tsks his tongue. “What have we told you about yelling and running in stores.”

The boy goes limp in defeat, head hung. “Not to do it…” He mumbles.

Lance nods, and sets him down on his feet. Then suddenly there’s a girl there, speed walking to catch up to them. Her hair is pulled back into a high ponytail and— Keith recognizes them from earlier. Now that he can see her face, she looks just like Lance. Their noses are a little different, and the shape of their jaws, but their eyes and the tilt of their mouths are the same.

“Sophie, weren’t you supposed to be watching him?”

She scowled, crossing her arms over her chest and cocking her hip out to the side. There’s a book in her arms, but Keith can’t see what it is. “I was, but then he took off trying to find you. You said you would be quick. Why are you here?” She asks, raising an eyebrow as she reads over the sign that says ‘Maternity.’

Lance’s cheeks redden, and his face scrunches up as he mirrors her stance. “I was just talking to Keith here.” He says defensively, jerking a thumb over his shoulder toward Keith.

Her eyes slide to him, looking him up and down. Her brows knit curiously, but it’s Leo who asks, “Who’s he?”

At that, Lance’s signature smirk is back. The one Keith hates. Then Lance is throwing an arm over his shoulder, and he can’t quite bring himself to hate it this time. “Keith is my dancing partner for regionals.” He announces proudly. He gestures to the others. “Keith, this is my little sister Sophie and little bro Leo.”

Both of Sophie’s eyebrows go up. “I thought people hated dancing with you?”

Excuse.”

“Lance!” The boy is tugging at Lance’s shirt, holding up a book. Keith recognizes the words ‘Percy Jackson.’ “Look! I picked out a book and it’s awesome.” He waves to Sophie behind him. “And Sophie got a book, too.”

“That’s great, nerdling.” Lance says, ruffling his brother’s hair.

Leo’s eyes narrow suspiciously as he looks Lance over. “Where’s your book?”

“I, uh,” He rubs the back of his neck. “I… didn’t find one.”

“Laaaance, you said if I got a book you would get a book.”

“I know, but—“

“What’s the matter, Lance? I thought you were an avid reader?” Keith says, smirking sideways at Lance.

Lance glares at him, then points at his face. “I don’t need your sass.” He hisses, and Keith chuckles, covering his mouth as Lance turns back to his brother. “I just… didn’t find one yet. I, uh, I don’t know what’s good? Maybe next time—“

“I can make a suggestion.” Keith says suddenly, drawing the attention of all three of them. He feels his face heating up. He… hadn’t really meant to say anything. But Lance had gotten him relaxed and it was habit to help customers out with books, so… He decides to roll with it.

“Yeah?” Lance asks, eyebrows raised.

Keith turns away from him to hide the heat rising up his neck. His ears feel warm. “Yeah, follow me.” Without turning to see if they’re following, he weaves between aisles to the other side of the store, to the sci-fi section. Here he slows down, walking past shelves with his eyes scanning the book spines until he gets to the A’s. He pulls out a book and turns to hold it out to Lance.

He takes it hesitantly, eyebrows raised as he reads the cover. “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? Seriously? Wasn’t this made into a movie.”

Keith nods, and taps the book’s cover. “Yeah, but the book is much better. It’s one of my favorites. I think it’s… goofy enough to hold your attention.”

Lance’s eyes narrow, but there’s a smile curling his lips. “I don’t know whether to be insulted or flattered.”

Keith shrugs. He can feel his own smirk. “You can be both.”

“Lance! I”m hungry!” Leo says, tugging on Lance’s shirt. “Can we get food on the way home?”

Lance snorts and ruffles his hair. “You know mama will kill us if we’re not hungry for dinner. How about a milkshake?”

The little boy’s eyes brighten, looking so much like a young Lance when he smiles. He’s missing a couple teeth and his hair is shorter, but Keith can definitely see the resemblance. “Yes!”

“Alright, let’s go pay for these books.” The boy is already walking off, Sophie following him after sending a curious and sharp look over her shoulder at Keith. Her lips curve into a small smile that reminds him far too much of Pidge for him to feel comfortable. Lance turns back to him, bringing Keith’s attention back to him. “I’ll see you tomorrow, yeah?”

“Yeah,” Keith says with a small nod. He catches himself fidgeting and fingers plucking at his pants, so he crosses his arms over his chest. “We need to start practicing if we’re going to do this.”

Lance grins. “Oh, we are.”

Keith smirks, tilting his head to the side. “Yeah, if you think you can keep up.”

Laugh laughs. “Oh, is that a challenge?”

Keith doesn’t hesitate. “Yeah, it is.”

Lance smirks, tilting his chin downwards as he leans forward slightly to gaze up at Keith. He’s already walking backwards, hands on his hips. “Bring it, mullet.” He says, voice low and playful. It sends shivers right down Keith’s spine. Then Lance laughs, turns on his heel, and walks away. He waves the book in the air over his shoulder. “Thanks for the book!”

hitchhikers guide

Keith spends the rest of his shift with a small smile playing across his lips. It apparently makes him approachable enough that several people come up to him to ask for help.

He blames Lance.

Chapter Text

[ THURSDAY ]

Keith is already regretting his life choices.

“To be honest, with your mullet, I was expecting a lot more eighties songs or emo remixes.” Lance says from his seat against the mirror. Both of their bags have been tossed to the side, and Keith’s phone is in Lance’s hand, hooked up to the speakers as Lance browses through his music. Keith had made a playlist specifically for today with all the songs he has full or partial choreography for.

They’re in room 4D, which had taken a lot of stubbornness on Keith’s part and a lot of whining on Lance’s. Keith insisted that he wasn’t going to practice in a room with a shoddy auxiliary cable. Lance had eventually given in when Keith reminded of him of his promise about no complaining.

“I don’t listen to that much eighties.” Keith grumbles, stretching an arm across his chest. He knows he can’t deny it completely. Lance had heard him listening to Billy Idol after all.

Lance looks up at him, eyebrows raised. A small smirk curves his lips. “I don’t hear you denying the emo music.”

Keith glares at him, switching arms. “I don’t listen to emo music either.”

Lance scoffs, lifting Keith’s phone and dangling it between a thumb and forefinger. “So you’re saying that if I go through all the music in your phone, right here, right now, I won’t find any music that classifies as emo?”

Keith holds his glare and purses his lips. He can feel heat rising to his cheeks. “It was a phase.”

Lance’s face breaks out in a wide grin. “Aha! I knew it! You do have emo music on here!”

“It’s only there for nostalgic purposes.”

“Oh yeah? Like what? When you get all moody and broody?”

Keith snorts, rolling his eyes. He throws an arm behind his head, putting a hand on his elbow to stretch it. He looks away, turning so his side is to Lance so he doesn’t have to look at him. “Like when Pidge and I go on road trips.”

The silence is uncharacteristic. After a few beats of it, Keith glances back, eyebrow raised. Lance’s eyes are blown wide, his jaw practically on the floor. He’s not really sure what would warrant that reaction.

Keith blinks. “What?”

“No. Way.” Lance breathes, blinking out of his stupor. “Pidge had an emo phase?”

Oh. Oh. A small smirk tugs at the corner of his lips. “Did they never tell you that?”

“No!” Lance is grinning now, and Keith isn’t sure how his cheeks don’t hurt with the sheer size of it. “I cannot believe— You’re kidding me, right? This has to be a joke.”

Keith shakes his head, switching arms. “Nope. Pidge went through the emo phase with me. Dyed their hair and everything.”

“Oh. My. God.” Lance throws back his head and laughs. The motion rocks him backwards and he hits his head on the mirror, cutting off his laughter abruptly. “Oooow,” He whines, but he’s still grinning as he rubs the back of his head. “You have to give me pictures.”

Keith shakes his head, letting his arms drop. He swings them, crossing them in front of him before pulling them back. “Nope, not gonna happen.”

“Keith, please. This is a need.”

Keith shakes his head again, giving Lance a small smile. “Nope. They would kill me. Or at least try to maul me. You can't dance with me if Pidge breaks my legs. Besides, they have too many photos of me to retaliate with.”

“Ugh, why must you ex-emos always stick together.” He groans, slumping against the mirror and letting his arms flop to the sides. He pouts, glaring at Keith. “Hunk is my best friend, and I would totally sell out his embarrassing high school pictures for a donut and some coffee.”

Keith rolls his eyes, but he can’t help the small smile on his face. He turns his back to Lance to hide it, walking out into the center of the room. “I don’t know why Hunk puts up with you.”

“Hey, Hunk loves me.”

“He’s too good for you.”

“Would Shiro have embarrassing pictures of you two in your emo phase?”

Keith freezes, his smile instantly disappearing. He turns around slowly, narrowing his eyes. “Don’t you dare.”

Lance’s grin is back, along with a wicked glint in his eyes. “Oh, I dare.”

Keith sighs, waving a hand at him. “Just pick a song. We only have this room for an hour.”

Lance huffs and mumbles something that sounds a lot like, “Party pooper.” But he does as he’s told. Keith stretches out his legs as he waits, doing his best to ignore all the muttered comments about his music taste.

Unfortunately, there’s only so much he can take.

“Just pick something.” Keith groans.

Lance scoffs. “How about you cool your jets, hot shot? This is a big ass playlist, and a big decision! Besides, how am I supposed to know what dances are good or not?”

“They’re all good.” Keith huffs.

“Pfff, yeah, okay. But they need to be regionals worthy.”

“Just… pick some songs and I’ll demonstrate them for you.”

Lance looks up at that, eyebrows raised and eyes wide as he blinks. Then his expression settles into something more… suggestive. His eyes go half lidded, a smirk curves his lips, and he tilts his head to the side as he waggles his eyebrows. “Oh ho ho, gonna put on a personal show for me?”

“Lance,” Keith says flatly, crossing his arms over his chest. He ignores the heat that’s crawling up his neck. “Don’t make this weird.”

“I take offense to that. I never make things weird.”

“You’re the epitome of weird.”

“Rude!”

“Just pick a song.”

“Fine!” He looks back down at the phone in his hand, thumb hovering over the screen. “This one. It’s go time, mullet man. Show me what we’re working with.”

The opening to Rather Be starts up, and Keith immediately lets it wash over him. A small smirk tugs at his lips as his eyes drift closed as he takes up his position in the middle of the room. His head bobs loosely, and his foot taps to the beat. He breathes deep at the pause, and then the lyrics start and Keith is moving.

The muscle memory comes easily, and he’s a little thankful that he’s practiced this one a lot recently. He hates to admit it, but he really does want to show off a little for Lance. And this is the perfect song to do just that. Lance couldn’t have picked a better one to start off with. This is the song he had been planning to do for solo auditions. He won’t tell Lance that, though. He’d rather let the guy think that he’s usually this smooth remembering all of his choreography.

Still, he’s glad he actually gets to do this dance for Lance. Make him watch. Prove to him that he can dance, and he can do it well. Hopefully make him shut up for once. It’s just like he wanted it at auditions: Lance’s eyes on him. His undivided attention. Lance being forced to watch as Keith shows him what he’s capable of. Impressing him. Except unlike auditions would have been, they’re alone, and that adds a whole new level of intimacy that Keith expected to be awkward. Instead he feels a little thrill run through him, and—

And now he’s the one making it weird.

Pushing those thoughts aside, he lets the music and lyrics tug at his muscle memory, dragging his body around like a puppet. In a way, he has perfect control. In another, he’s a complete slave to it.

His arms alternate between rigid and flowing movements, jerking and locking into place before sliding into the next movement. His steps are precise, shifting and altering his body weight and balance to better accommodate the movements his arms make. He spins and steps. Flow, stop, move, pop. There’s big movements and small, more precise ones. He grabs at his clothes, slides his hands along his body, gestures widely with his arms, rolls his hips, all the while his feet carry him around the dance floor.

He doesn’t watch Lance. There’s too many movements to focus on one place for long. His body is constantly turning, spinning. His head whips around. This way and that. He runs his hands through his hair, tugging some strands loose from his pony tail. He looks up, whips his head to the side, then back front, looks down, flips his hair. He has no time to focus on anything. Not Lance. Not himself in the mirror. So he goes through the movements with his eyes half lidded and unfocused, putting all of his concentration into not second guessing himself, letting his body react the way it had been trained to. He knows this dance. He knows it like the back of his hand. And he just needs to trust his body, his instincts, to follow through.

This dance has a lot of movements in it. One constantly flowing into the next. A lot of emotion shown in the way his whole body gets into it, his head, his limbs, his hips. He ends up on the floor, legs and arms crossed as he rolls his shoulders. It’s a slow enough moment that he takes a second to look up at Lance.

What he sees makes his heart jump into his throat.

Lance is staring at him with wide eyed awe. His lips are parted slightly, face relaxed. He looks… completely blown away, and Keith feeds on that. But then the seconds have passed, and he’s throwing himself across the floor, legs and arms getting into it. Then he’s on his feet again. The chorus builds. He jumps. The beat picks up with it, and his feet dance quickly in measured steps. He alternates between fast movements and slow ones, rolling his hips and running his fingers through his hair. He can’t bring himself to look at Lance again.

When the song ends, Keith is left panting. He puts his hands on his hips, chest heaving with every breath. He bends at the waist a little, letting his hair fall in front of his face. A lot of it has come out of the small ponytail. He would be lying if he said he hadn’t choreographed that dance with his hair in mind. He has the length to flip it around, so why not? It keeps him from having to look at the audience for too long.

He straightens, running a hand through his bangs to get them out of his face, and looks at Lance. As soon as they made eye contact, Lance’s mouth snaps shut and his brow furrows. He looks down quickly. “That was, uh…”

“Yeah?” Keith prompts when he trails off.

“Uh, good. I guess. Yeah, pretty good.”

Keith is grinning. “Now try saying that without looking like you’re having a tooth pulled.”

“Yeaaaaah, that’s not gonna happen.”

Keith sighs. “Laaance.”

“I’m trying, okay? Yeesh, get off my back.” Lance still hasn’t looked up at him. He’s scowling down at Keith’s phone, thumb scrolling through the playlist.

Keith sighs, giving up trying to make eye contact. He walks over to his stuff and grabs his water bottle, guzzling several mouthfuls before lowering it, gasping for air as he wipes his mouth. He pulls out his hair tie and puts it between his teeth as he gathers up his hair. Once it’s secured behind his head again, he turns to look at Lance.

He’s staring at him again, face contorted into a glare.

Keith scowls. “What?”

Lance shakes his head, looking down again. “Nothing.” Before Keith can push it, Lance continues talking. “Why don’t you have like, any of my girls on here?”

Keith raises an eyebrow. “Your girls?”

“Yeah! Like Shakira—“

“No.”

“Lady gaga—“

“No.”

“Rhianna—“

“No.”

“Oh, come on, Keith!” Keith is never sure how he manages to pull off his name like an insult, but he does. “Live a little!” He scowls down at Keith’s phone, scrolling, when suddenly he stops. His scowl melts into the largest shit eating grin Keith has seen to date. “Oh, man, you have Anaconda on this list? Are you serious? You’ve got to be shitting me right now.”

Keith groans, crossing one arm over his chest while the other goes to his face. He pinches the bridge of his nose, squeezing his eyes shut. He should have known not to put that song on there. But it had been late, and he had just hurriedly slapped together everything he knew he had a dance for. “It was on a dare.” He says, sounding exasperated.

“Do tell.” Keith really wants to just punch him.

Keith sighs, waving a hand around in the air and avoiding looking at Lance. His face is on fire and his ears are burning. “I was experimenting with choreographing different dance styles. Matt and Pidge said I wouldn’t, so I did.”

“Oh my god, that’s literally all it took?”

He can just hear that grin in his voice. He makes some kind of noncommittal grunt in the back of his throat.

“In that case, I bet you won’t do it.”

Keith looks at him, face blank. “What? Now?”

God, how is it even possible for him to grin that wide? There has to be some sort of regulations on this shit. How can something so bright piss him off so much? Keith can barely look at him. But he does, because he’s stubborn. He holds his gaze steadily, feeling his expression morph into a scowl in an attempt to smother the blush he feels. The itch beneath his skin is back. It only seems to happen around Lance.

“Yup! Right here, right now.”

“You’re kidding.”

“I’m dead serious, Keith. Dead. Serious.” He tries to darken his expression, but he can’t quite hide that grin.

“No way.”

“Yes way! You said you were going to demonstrate any dance I wanted to see! What if I want to pick this song for auditions?”

“You don’t. You literally just want to see the dance.”

“Okay, guilty, but what’s the harm?”

“I’m not doing it, Lance.”

“What’s wrong, Keith?” He tilts his chin downward, gazing up at Keith with a smirk that makes his blood pressure rise and his stomach boil. “Scared?

“I’m not scared!” He snaps.

“Prove it!” And then he’s hit the track and the music starts playing.

Keith glares at him, but Lance holds his gaze, smirking with all the confidence in the world. Fine. Lance wants to see it? Fine. Keith is going to wipe that fucking smirk off his face.

The beat starts along with Nikki’s lyrics, and Keith is in motion. He steps sideways, shaking his hips twice before he’s shifting back, dropping slowly on the balls of his feet, knees out and hands sliding along his thighs. Be bounces twice before he’s standing again, hips cocked and rotating while his arms go through the motions.

Honestly, he’s surprised he even still remembers this dance. It’s been years. He guesses his muscle memory is better than he realized. He shouldn’t be too surprised. When he comes up with a dance, he practices it step for step, move for move, dozens, if not hundreds of times. He beats that shit into himself until he can practically do it in his sleep. He refreshes a lot of his favorite dances occasionally, but this one he hadn’t done in ages.

Under normal circumstances, he would be a little hesitant, a little worried that he wouldn’t be able to remember the moves. He might even get a little in his own head, probably stutter step a little.

But… there’s just something about Lance that brings out his grim determination.

Eyes locked on Lance’s, he feels a strange calm come over him. He doesn’t think. He just lets the oddly familiar beats tug his body into place like a mannequin. He doesn’t question himself. He trusts his body to do what it needs to. It’s… a strangely freeing feeling. It’s not often he gets into a zone like this, but damn, does he love it when he does.

Lance doesn’t look away, and even if he tries, Keith won’t let him. Eyes locked, face relaxed, he goes through the dance. It has a lot in common with his usual choreography: the sharp, quick movements interspersed with slower glides. The main difference is there’s a lot more… hips in it than he’s used to. A lot of thrusts and grinds and struts than he usually does. But it fits the song.

When he first preformed it for Pidge and Matt years ago, he had been nervous. He felt awkward doing the moves, like he was somehow doing them wrong, despite all his practice and despite it looking fine in the mirror. He wasn’t sure if he could actually pull them off. Eventually, the laughter from his friends was enough for him to get into it, laughing at himself and the sheer ridiculousness of it. Pidge assured him later that it was actually really good, even if they found it funny.

Now, however, Keith doesn’t feel nervous at all. He feels nothing but the fire that rolls and boils in his gut. His moves get quicker, and he hits them all. There are a few times where he forgets the exact positions, so he improvises with a few body rolls and hip movements to get him into the next part he remembers. His hands slide through his hair, and at some point he pulls out his hair tie all together, flipping his hair and letting it fall in front of his face.

He expects Lance to laugh. He expects some sort of joke. Instead, he gets to watch with increasing satisfaction as Lance’s jaw drops, eyes widening. It’s similar to the look he had given him earlier, but there’s something… different. He looks transfixed. The awe is definitely there, but there’s also something unreadable in his eyes. Surprise? Probably. Keith doesn’t know what it is, but he doesn’t care. As long as that stupid fucking smirk isn’t there anymore.

Keith closes his eyes for a moment, breaking eye contact for the first time since the song started. He rolls his body, turning sideways and tilting his head back—

his anaconda don't

And then the song cuts off.

His eyes snap open. He’s mid turn, and he freezes. Without the music playing, this pose feels incredibly awkward, and something akin to self consciousness starts to seep in. It’s covered immediately by a flash of anger.

“Lance, what the—“

“Nope. Enough of that. We’re done.”

Keith straightens, leaning his weight to one hip as he crosses his arms over his chest. “You were the one who wanted me to dance to that stupid song—“

“And now I’m saying that we’re done.” Lance’s words are clipped, his voice oddly strained. His eyes are downcast, looking at Keith’s phone, lips pursed and brows furrowed. His tan complexion is made darker by the flush settled onto his cheeks. He’s shifting restlessly where he sits.

“Lance, what are you—“

“Done!”

“What—“

“Moving on!”

“Fine!” He throws his arms up in the air, spinning on his heel to turn his back to him. Lance doesn’t make any sense, and he’s done trying to figure him out. They’re not even halfway through their practice, and Keith is already done. Whatever. Fuck him. He wonders if it’s too late to back out. Shiro would probably kill him, but it might be worth it to keep his sanity.

He puts his hair back up, scowling at the back wall. “Just pick something else then. We need to settle on a song.”

“Aye, aye, captain.” Lance says mockingly.

They don’t end up picking a song.

 



[ FRIDAY ]

Lance bursts into the room with a smile on his face and a bounce in his step.

Okay, yeah, so the day before had been a total shit show, and they hadn’t figured anything out. They had spent the entirety of their practice time arguing over music and Keith demonstrating dances.

He refused to do things Lance’s way, and had somehow managed to notice the moment Lance put his playlist on shuffle. Quite frankly, it was creepy. He could have sworn his poker face was better than that.

Point is, none of the songs or dances really spoke to him. Yeah, they were good. Yeah, he might admit that he likes some of the music on Keith’s playlist. And yes, okay, Keith is a good dancer with some wicked awesome dances up his sleeve. But none of them had seemed… right.

Keith had complained that Lance was being picky, and he is! This is a very important decision and it needs to be something that works well for both of them!

Lance slams the door to room 4D open wide as he bursts into the room. “Keith!”

Keith is already there. He’s standing by the front mirror, stretching. At Lance’s entrance, however, he jumps, spinning around to face him, eyes wide and a hand on his chest. “Jesus fuck, Lance!”

Lance ignores him, slamming the door shut as he strides into the room. “I’ve got an idea!”

Keith’s look of surprise has already reset into a familiar scowl. “Whatever it is, I’m against it.”

“Oh, haha, just listen, alright?” His smile never falters as he strides to the center of the room, tossing his backpack across the floor so it slides over to bump against the mirror. “Here, plug this in.” He says, tossing his phone to Keith.

“Lance, what the—“ He snatches Lance’s phone out of the air with minimal fumbling. He should probably be grateful for that. Keith scowls at him, shaking his phone in the air. “I could have dropped this!”

“Yeah, but you didn’t.” Lance says, grinning with his hands on his hips. “Thanks for that, by the way. Now plug that in and play the first song there.”

Keith sighs, but walks over to the auxiliary chord. “What are you up to?” He asks, sounding tired.

“Okay, okay, so I was thinking about how we were going about this, how I was looking through your phone and randomly clicking songs so you could show me the dance, right?” Keith nods, eyeing him silently. He still looks suspicious, but Lance definitely has his curiosity. Good. “Alright, so I was thinking that that probably isn’t the best way to go about it? Cause we have to find something that you have a foundation for, but something that fits both of our styles and skill sets. But like, there’s no way for me to know what kind of dance goes with a song until you show me. And if I’m picking the songs, then we could end up wasting a lot of time. Like yesterday.” He’s gesturing wildly and vaguely while he rambles, getting more and more excited. “And let’s face it, yesterday was awful. We got nothing done. And I don’t know about you, but that makes me a little anxious. I mean, Pidge and Hunk already have everything down pat, and I’m sure Shiro and Allura are already ready to go, cause they’re both annoyingly perfect. I mean seriously, where do they even get off—“

“Lance,” Keith says calmly but sharply, holding up a hand to make him pause. Lance drags in a lungful of air he hadn’t realized he needed. Dang, had he said all that on one breath? His older sister has always said he’s longwinded, but damn. “Breathe. Do you even have a point to this?”

Lance rolls his eyes, huffing indigently as he crosses his arms over his chest. “Of course I have a point, Keith. Just listen.” Keith raises one eyebrow, but remains silent. Lance grins, spreading his arms wide. “You’re going to watch me dance.”

There’s a beat of silence. Two. Three. Then Keith speaks, voice flat. “What?”

“You’re going to watch me dance!” Lance repeats, arms still outstretched.

Keith just stares at him. “Why?”

Lance groans, flopping over and shoulders slumping as his arms fall to his sides. “Keeith, try to keep up! You’re going to watch me dance, and then you’re going to show me the dances you have that you think would fit us both. Brilliant, right?”

“That’s—“ Keith cuts himself off, brows furrowing. He presses his lips together into a small frown. He looks almost surprised. “That’s not a bad idea.”

Lance is grinning smugly. “Thank you. Now, DJ, let the music play.”

Keith does as he’s told, finally, and taps on the song. It immediately starts to play over the speakers. He sets Lance’s phone down on the small table and leans his back against the mirror, one leg propped up behind him and arms crossed over his chest.

Lance would be lying if he said he wasn’t a little nervous, what with Keith watching him like this. But he’s nothing if not a performer, and he thrives on attention. So he embraces the surge of adrenaline that pulses through his veins when he meets Keith’s curious gaze. Oh yeah. He’s going to knock this guy’s socks off.

As soon as the beat starts, he’s moving from side to side, feeling the tempo as he slides, getting his arms into it. “This was my audition song, by the way.” He says, shooting a grin at Keith.

Both of his eyebrows go up at that, and his expression is unreadably blank. But before he can say anything, Lance is moving.

He kicks, brings his foot back, hips rotating with each step and arms going with the lyrics. He snaps, he points, all the while he steps with each beat. Crossing, spinning, crouching, stepping. His gestures fit the music and the lyrics. It’s upbeat, it’s fun, and he finds himself mouthing along with the words, facial expressions getting into the groove with him. He knows his footwork is impressive with this dance, quick paced and fun, and he wants to show off a little.

Judging from the look on Keith’s face, it’s working.

He owns the dance floor, and he makes use of his space. There’s not a moment when something isn’t moving, whether it’s his arms, legs, hips, feet, hands, head. As usual, he doesn’t have a set choreographed dance. It’s more like… a guideline. He knows vaguely what to do, and he rolls with the rest. It’s like, eighty percent planned and twenty percent improvisation. He has fun with it, feeling the music and trusting his body to move in a way he knows will fit.

This is his element. No partners to fit to. No one to tell him how to move. He just does what he knows he can, what feels right. Nothing and no one can touch him.

When the song ends, his chest is heaving with every pant, and his cheeks hurt with the force of his grin. He puts his hands on his hips, looking back to Keith. He hasn’t moved from his spot, and his face is still mostly blank, but Lance likes to think he sees something in there that means he’s impressed.

He’s not scowling at least. Or frowning. He’s not smiling either, but that might have been too much to hope for. It definitely looks like he’s putting some effort into schooling his expression though. Whatever. Let him continue to be mysterious or whatever the fuck. Lance knows he did, and looked, good.

He bows dramatically, sweeping his arms to the side and bending at the waist. “So?” He says when he straightens. Keith just blinks, staring at him. Lance sighs, slumping dramatically. “Keith, come ooooon, humor me.”

He seems to come out of his stupor then, shaking his head. “It was, uh, good.” He’s not meeting his eyes.

“Just good?” Lance prompts.

That gets Keith to look at him. Or rather, glare at him. Especially after Lance smirks and waggles his eyebrows. Keith huffs. “That’s all you’re getting, Lance. Don’t push it.”

“Why you gotta be so ruuuuude!” Lance sings dramatically, putting his hands to his chest and stumbling backwards. He holds one hand out to Keith, twisting his torso and hips as he throws his head back. “Don’t you know I’m human, tooooo!”

When his antics don’t get a reaction, he straightens. Keith isn’t looking at him, and he’s not leaning up against the mirror anymore. He’s at the auxiliary chord, which is now inserted into his own phone as he scrolls through it. His brows are pinched slightly, and his lips are pursed in concentration. He doesn’t look mad, or even annoyed. Maybe like… a Keith version of thoughtful?

“Whatcha doing?” Lance asks curiously, coming to stand next to him and eyeing his phone over his shoulder.

“I… I think I have an idea.” He says absently, finding a song and tapping it before setting his phone down. He steps out toward the center of the room.

This time it’s Lance’s turn to lean against the mirror, shoving his hands into his pockets. “Is that so, McMullet?”

Keith ignores him, taking up a starting position as the song starts. “Just tell me what you think. This one’s a work in progress, but we might be able to work with it. And you have to imagine it with two people.”

“Just dance, Keith.” He says, rolling his eyes. Lance is a little skeptical, to say the least. He doubts Keith can just come up with the dance first thing when they had already spent a whole practice session and came up with nothing.

Then he watches Keith move, the steady beat filling the room and— yeah, it’s not much with just one person, but— but with two people, specifically him and Keith, this could be—

The song isn’t even over, in fact it’s only been roughly a minute, before Lance is pushing off the mirror and rushing forward. Keith seems him coming and flinches away, stopping his dance as Lance’s hands come down on his shoulders.

“Keith!” He says loudly, grinning at the other.

“What?” Keith snaps without heat. He looks bewildered. “Lance, you didn’t let me finish—“

“I don’t care, this is it!” He says quickly, volume probably a little too high, but he’s excited. “This is it! This is the one! This is brilliant! Let’s do it! It already looks awesome!”

Keith’s expression finally cracks, relaxing as a small smile tugs at his lips. Lance feels his heart rate pick up, and blames it on his excitement. “Really?” He asks, voice soft and a little breathless.

“Really!”

Keith’s resulting grin is blinding.

 


 

[ SATURDAY ]

coo coo motherfuckers added vive la lance, uptown hunk, last resort to this conversation

coo coo motherfuckers: GUYS
coo coo motherfuckers: GUYS
coo coo motherfuckers: CHECK THIS OUT

coo coo motherfuckers has sent an image

vive la lance: PIDGE!!
vive la lance: YOU TOOK A PICTURE??!
coo coo motherfuckers: of course I did
coo coo motherfuckers: I had to document this momentous occasion
coo coo motherfuckers: who know when this’ll happen again
vive la lance: I cannot belieVE
vive la lance: delete that riGHT NOW!!
coo coo motherfuckers: not a chance
uptown hunk: :O !!!!
uptown hunk: omg
uptown hunk: is that ???
coo coo motherfuckers: rigHT??
last resort: uhh what am I looking at?
coo coo motherfuckers: LANCE IS READING!
uptown hunk: I’m so proud :’)
uptown hunk: our little boy is growing up
vive la lance: I hate you both
uptown hunk: <33
last resort: I take it he normally doesn’t read
vive la lance: who tf is that anyway?
vive la lance: wtf is that screen name??
vive la lance: is that keith??
vive la lance: fuck you keith
last resort: what gave it away
vive la lance: maybe its my brilliant deduction skills
vive la lance: maybe its your sass ass mouth
vive la lance: maybe I can just SMELL your mullet through text
uptown hunk: maybe he’s born with it
uptown hunk: maybe it’s maybelline :O
last resort: why’re you smelling my hair lance?
vive la lance: hard not to
vive la lance: you reek dude
last resort: sure you’re not smelling yourself?
last resort: p sure you insist on dancing on the 4th floor so no one can smell your sweat
vive la lance: gaSP!!
vive la lance: I do NOT smeLL!!
vive la lance: yOU take that baCK!
last resort: make me
uptown hunk: hate to disagree with you, dude
uptown hunk: but Lance smells like any variation of coconut, honey dew melon, mint, peaches, vanilla, or lemongrass :/
coo coo motherfuckers: sometimes brown sugar or cinnamon
uptown hunk: he went through a flower phase too
last resort: what the actual fuck
coo coo motherfuckers: sadly it’s true
coo coo motherfuckers: he’s got a very intensive skin care routine and like 5 bottles of moisturizer on him at all times
last resort: do I even want to know?
coo coo motherfuckers: no
uptown hunk: no
vive la lance: B)
uptown hunk: speaking of things people should know
uptown hunk: we should add shiro and allura
vive la lance: whAT?? WHY??
uptown hunk: they need to see this
uptown hunk: it’s a very special occasion
coo coo motherfuckers: on it

coo coo motherfuckers added Need-A-Hand, LLunarGoddess to this conversation

coo coo motherfuckers: SHIRO
coo coo motherfuckers: ALLURA
vive la lance: DONT LISTEN TO A THING PIDGE SAYS
Need-A-Hand: Um? What’s this?
coo coo motherfuckers: it’s a group chat, dad, get with the program
Need-A-Hand: >:(
Need-A-Hand: I know what a group chat is, Pidge
uptown hunk: pidge, leave dance dad alone, he’s trying
Need-A-Hand: Thank you, Hunk
Need-A-Hand: And stop calling me dad
vive la lance: no can do daddy-o ;)
LLunarGoddess: what’s going on?
coo coo motherfuckers: alright, prepare yourselves
coo coo motherfuckers: you might need to sit down for this
vive la lance: pidge no!
coo coo motherfuckers: pidge yes

coo coo motherfuckers has sent an image

vive la lance: ugh
Need-A-Hand: Um…
Need-A-Hand: Am I supposed to be looking at a picture of Lance… laying on the couch?
coo coo motherfuckers: well yes
coo coo motherfuckers: but notice what he’s DOING
vive la lance: UGH
LLunarGoddess: oh
LLunarGoddess: oh my god
coo coo motherfuckers: allura’s getting it ;)
vive la lance: pidge why are you LIKE this?
last resort: because pidge is an evil little demon
vive la lance: THANK YOU
vive la lance: Ive been telling them that for years
vive la lance: tho I prefer the term gremlin
coo coo motherfuckers: pleASE
coo coo motherfuckers: like you’re one to talk keith
last resort: I’m innocent
Need-A-Hand: I, for one, would like to put in that no, you’re not
coo coo motherfuckers: HA!
last resort: Isn’t it past your bedtime, old man?
vive la lance: ooo shots fired
uptown hunk: guys, I think we should get back to the matter at hand?
uptown hunk: I mean, I’m seriously tearing up over here I’m so proud???
vive la lance: hunk pLS!
uptown hunk: what? I never thought this day would come
Need-A-Hand: I still don’t get what I’m supposed to be looking at?
LLunarGoddess: he’s reading, Shiro
LLunarGoddess: READING
vive la lance: ALLURA! NOT YOU TOO??!
LLunarGoddess: what? I’m proud of you :)
Need-A-Hand: Ooooh I see it now
Need-A-Hand: Congratulations, Lance!
vive la lance: shirooooo
Need-A-Hand: I’m proud of you
coo coo motherfuckers: (son)
uptown hunk: **son
coo coo motherfuckers: lol
uptown hunk: nice
LLunarGoddess: hold on, I’m adding Corn
Need-A-Hand: Corn?
coo coo motherfuckers: corn
uptown hunk: corn
last resort: corn
vive la lance: pls dont add corn
vive la lance: Im on a corn free diet
LLunarGoddess: ugh
LLunarGoddess: I’m adding him
vive la lance: WHYYYY
LLunarGoddess: he’ll want to be in on this too
vive la lance: why cant you let ONE PERSON keep their respect for me??!
last resort: you can’t lose what you never had
vive la lance: exCUSE

LLunarGoddess added I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul to this conversation

vive la lance: sure just invite everyone!
vive la lance: let everyone enjoy my misery!
vive la lance: haha lets get a laugh at lance
vive la lance: why dont we just make a poster and put in on the greeting wall at the studio??
LLunarGoddess: that could be arranged
vive la lance: ALLURA NO
coo coo motherfuckers: I can print out the picture
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: As much as I appreciate being included on general Lance roasting
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: Might I ask what the topic is this time?
vive la lance: I feel so beTRAYED
LLunarGoddess: Coran, you have to see this
LLunarGoddess: Pidge, send the picture again
coo coo motherfuckers: gotchu fam

coo coo motherfuckers has sent an image

I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: It’s just Lance laying on the couch?
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: Forgive me, friends, but I don’t see anything out of the ordinary here
vive la lance: THANK YOU CORAN
vive la lance: GOOD TO KNOW I HAVE ONE TRUE FRIEND
vive la lance: coran is my new best friend.
vive la lance: Best Friend™
LLunarGoddess: wait for it
coo coo motherfuckers: -waits-
uptown hunk: -crosses fingers-
last resort: -sighs-
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: Oooooh good golly!
vive la lance: coran
vive la lance: think about what youre doing
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: Lance my boy is that a BOOK in your hands??
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: Are you reading??
LLunarGoddess: there it is ;)
coo coo motherfuckers: hA!
uptown hunk: boom
vive la lance: THAT’S IT! I TAKE BACK THE BEST FRIEND STATUS!
uptown hunk: awesome, my place is still secured B)
vive la lance: nope
vive la lance: I have no friends
last resort: so you finally admit it
uptown hunk: ooooo
coo coo motherfuckers: ooOOooOOo
Need-A-Hand: Keith, play nice
last resort: fuck no you’re not my real dad
vive la lance: shiro is the only one who loves me <3
Need-A-Hand: I wouldn’t go that far
vive la lance: RUDE 3
Need-A-Hand: I’ll consider loving you more now that I know you can read
uptown hunk: hey! I’ve read WAY more books than lance has, do you love me?
Need-A-Hand: Of course, Hunk
uptown hunk: awww <3
coo coo motherfuckers: yeah, but lance reading is like a special occasion
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: A celebration is in order!
LLunarGoddess: a party!
coo coo motherfuckers: a “holy shit lance likes books” party!
last resort: at least now we know he’ll be able to read the invitation
vive la lance: fuCK YOU
vive la lance: I thought you guys were my friends!
uptown hunk: we am
uptown hunk: **are
coo coo motherfuckers: we am
uptown hunk: and as your friends— you know what, go ahead, get it out of your systems
vive la lance: we am
last resort: we am
LLunarGoddess: we am B)
Need-A-Hand: We am ;)
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: We am B{D
uptown hunk: so as I was saying
uptown hunk: and as your friends, we’re proud of you for finally joining the world of the literate
vive la lance: HUNK!
uptown hunk: okay that came out a little meaner than intended
last resort: rekt
coo coo motherfuckers: I’m so proud
vive la lance: I just came here to have a good time and Im honestly feeling so attacked right now
coo coo motherfuckers: tbh I thought he WAS illiterate
vive la lance: SO. ATTACKED.
coo coo motherfuckers: calm down lance we’re happy for you
LLunarGoddess: they grow up so fast :’)
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: I remember when he was just a wee lad, tripping over his own feet while dancing
last resort: that was just earlier today
vive la lance: KEITH
vive la lance: WHAT HAPPENS IN 4D STAYS IN 4D
coo coo motherfuckers: oh ho ho ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) 
uptown hunk: oh my
LLunarGoddess: hiding more secrets, are we lance?
vive la lance: NOT LIKE THAT OH MY GOD
Need-A-Hand: Lance, what are your intentions toward my brother?
vive la lance: OOOOH MY GOD
uptown hunk: I don’t want to know what happens in 4D
vive la lance: kill me pls
vive la lance: let me die
coo coo motherfuckers: nope we like torturing you too much
vive la lance: gremlin
coo coo motherfuckers: gangly giraffe
coo coo motherfuckers: so now that your reading secret is out, is there anything else we should know?
vive la lance: WHY IS IT SO HARD FOR YOU TO BELIEVE I WOULD READ??
uptown hunk: lance
uptown hunk: I’ve known you for what, 7 years? 8?
vive la lance: more or less yeah
uptown hunk: in all those years, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you willingly read a book
vive la lance: DECEPTION
vive la lance: (an outrage!)
vive la lance: DISGRACE
vive la lance: (for shame!)
last resort: are you quoting the song from lion king 2?
coo coo motherfuckers: he is
coo coo motherfuckers: he’s singing it right now
Need-A-Hand: How do you know?
coo coo motherfuckers: I may or may not be sitting on him
Need-A-Hand: You’re together in the same room and talking in this chat?
coo coo motherfuckers: uh yeah of course
coo coo motherfuckers: I had to share this moment with you guys
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: I, for one, am grateful
LLunarGoddess: same :’)
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: Thank you, Pidge
coo coo motherfuckers: anytime B)
vive la lance: they came in here and took a picture WITHOUT ME KNOWING
vive la lance: and then STOLE MY BOOK AND SAT ON ME
vive la lance: AND NOW THEY WONT GET THEIR BONEY ASS UP
vive la lance: IM GOING TO GAVE BRUISES FROM YOU YA SHIT STAIN
last resort: you’re going to gave bruises from them?
uptown hunk: gave
coo coo motherfuckers: hA! gave
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: I don’t think Pidge is heavy enough to give you bruises
uptown hunk: they're not, trust me, I throw them around when we dance
last resort
: yeah but lance is a fragile child
vive la lance: WHAT DID I EVER DO TO YOU??
last resort: do you want the list alphabetically or chronologically?
coo coo motherfuckers: lol
coo coo motherfuckers: lance just asked me what chronologically meant
vive la lance: LIES
uptown hunk: aw buddy
vive la lance
: ANYWAY
vive la lance: I apologized for that stuff already!
vive la lance: or do you keep grudges in that greasy mullet of yours?
last resort: pidge are you sure he was reading or was he just staring at the pages? Was the book even right side up?
vive la lance: I CAN READ YOU ASS
last resort: I’ll believe it when I see it
uptown hunk: oh! lance can read out loud to us at the party!
LLunarGoddess: brilliant idea, Hunk!
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: A good old fashioned story time!
LLunarGoddess: let’s make it a pajama party!
vive la lance: only if theres pillow fights ;)
Need-A-Hand: Lance.
vive la lance: whAT??
coo coo motherfuckers: dude that’s creepy
coo coo motherfuckers: how do you manage to do the Dad Voice™ through text??
uptown hunk: I think it's the proper caps and punctuation combo
LLunarGoddess
: he does that all the time when he’s trying to be stern
coo coo motherfuckers: how often is he trying to be stern with you, allura? ;)
vive la lance: yeah, does he try to punish you? ;)
last resort: I’m going to barf
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: I don’t understand, why would Shiro punish her?
LLunarGoddess: I’m politely refusing to answer this line of questioning
Need-A-Hand: Pidge. Behave.
coo coo motherfuckers: I just got chills
coo coo motherfuckers: Dad Voice™ too strong
vive la lance: its true, they just shivered
last resort: why am I even in this chat?
uptown hunk: cause you're one of us now, man
coo coo motherfuckers: there’s no escape
vive la lance: you love us ;)
last resort: definitely not
Need-A-Hand: Now you see what I put up with
LLunarGoddess: we’re not so bad once you get used to us
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: Welcome to the family, Keith!

coo coo motherfuckers has renamed the conversation “Family BBQ - Today’s Menu: Roasted Lance”

vive la lance: HEY!
coo coo motherfuckers: ;)
Need-A-Hand: What’ve you been reading anyway, Lance?
vive la lance: nothing
coo coo motherfuckers: hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy
Need-A-Hand: Keith, isn’t that one of your favorite books?
vive la lance: NO
last resort: yes
Need-A-Hand: Um?
uptown hunk: uuuh
LLunarGoddess
: have I missed something?
vive la lance: YOURE NOT MISSING ANYTHING THERE’S NOTHING TO MISS
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: Methinks the Lance-y doth protest too much
vive la lance: corAN WTF
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: 8{D
vive la lance: >:(
uptown hunk: pidge? fill us in?
coo coo motherfuckers: lance doesn’t want to admit he’s reading this book cause keith told him to
vive la lance: he didn’t TELL me to!
last resort: I just suggested it
coo coo motherfuckers: okay
coo coo motherfuckers: my b
coo coo motherfuckers: he’s reading because keith SUGGESTED a book
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: I see
LLunarGoddess: interesting
Need-A-Hand: Hmm
vive la lance: Not. A. Word.
last resort: I’m out of here
vive la lance: YOU ARE NOT
vive la lance: IF I HAVE TO SUFFER SO DO YOU
uptown hunk: hey keith, can you suggest to lance that he clean our apartment?
vive la lance: Im done
vive la lance: Im done with ALL OF YOU
coo coo motherfuckers: go back to reading you piss baby
vive la lance: I WOULD if SOMEONE would GIVE ME BACK MY BOOK
Need-A-Hand: Pidge. Give Lance his book back.
coo coo motherfuckers: but daaaad D:
Need-A-Hand: He’s doing a good thing by expanding his horizons and reading. Don’t interrupt him.
coo coo motherfuckers: ugh fine
vive la lance: get rekt pidge
Need-A-Hand: Lance, go back to reading.
vive la lance: you cant tell me what to do!
vive la lance: why would I go back to reading after suffering all this abuSE??
uptown hunk: you're going to tho right?
vive la lance: not the point hunk
last resort: do you like it so far?
vive la lance: … yeah its alright
uptown hunk: aww
LLunarGoddess
: awww
Need-A-Hand: Awwww
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: Awwwww
coo coo motherfuckers: awwwwww
vive la lance: SHUT IT

NB Day 

 



[ SUNDAY ]

Lance stands with his hands on his hips, leaning forward. Keith’s arms are crossed over his chest as he mirrors Lance’s stance. Their shoulders are squared, foreheads pressed together hard enough to hurt. He can feel Keith pushing against him, but he pushes back with just as much force. There’s no way he’s backing down first.

Keith is scowling at him, but he scowls right back. Neither of them has blinked in nearly two minutes. Lance knows. He’s counting. There’s not much else to do in the tense silence.

There’s a knock at the door.

“What?!” Both of them snap in unison.

Keith straightens, whipping his head around to look at the door. Lance isn’t expecting it. He’s still pushing forward. So when Keith’s opposing force is gone, he’s suddenly falling forward. Keith smoothly steps aside as Lance stumbles forward several steps, arms flailing and muttering curses as he attempts to regain his balance.

He doesn’t manage. He falls, catching himself on his hands and knees. “Keith, what the fuck?” He snaps, glaring up at him.

Keith ignores him. “What’s up, Shiro?”

Lance rolls onto his ass, crossing his arms and legs and letting his shoulders rise as he pouts. Sure enough, Shiro is standing in the doorway, one hand on the door frame and the other on the doorknob. He looks over the two, eyebrows raised and lips pressed together. “I, uh, just wanted to come check on you guys. We heard a lot of yelling from downstairs.”

“We’re fine.” Keith says at the same time Lance speaks up.

“It’s Keith’s fault!”

He whips his head around then to glare at him. “How is it my fault?”

Lance ignores him, holding Shiro’s gaze as he gestures to Keith. “He’s impossible to work with! He’s picky! He yells! Nothing is good enough for him! He can’t take a joke!”

“You’re not taking this seriously!”

“I am! It’s been three days! Give me a break!”

“You’re still fucking up things we’ve practiced a dozen times now!”

“Cut me some slack!”

“I thought you were supposed to learn quickly?”

“See what I have to deal with, Shiro?!” They’re both yelling now. Lance looks back to Shiro, pointing at Keith. “He’s a pain in the ass!”

There’s a small smile on the older man’s lips, and his brow has relaxed. He leans against the door frame, arms crossed over his chest. “Don’t I know it. I grew up with him.” He says playfully.

“Shiro!” Keith snaps.

He chuckles, shaking his head. “Good to see you guys are getting along.”

“We’re not!” They both yell at the same time before exchanging glares.

“Seriously, Shiro,” Lance says after a moment, looking away from Keith. “Have you ever tried to work with him? He’s a more demanding teacher than Coran!”

Shiro tilts his head to the side, a thoughtful look on his face. “I have, actually. Though I don’t remember him being that bad.”

Keith scoffs, tossing his head to get the hair out of his face. Lance glares at him. Fucking Keith. “That’s because you’re not dead weight.”

“Hey!” They both look at him: Keith annoyed and Shiro amused. Lance is struck suddenly with the thought that these two are brothers. They grew up together. He’s not sure how he never noticed before. The dynamic between them is so obvious now. It reminds him of the vibe he has with his siblings.

He always saw Keith as some snobby wannabe badass with a superiority complex and a standoffish attitude. Next to Shiro, however, he’s starting to see something else. He imagines young Keith, stubborn and pouty, and amused Shiro teasing him, poking at him. A serious and focused Keith trying to show his older brother the dance moves he came up with. Maybe he would be nervous? Shiro is good, after all, and maybe Keith would be aching for his approval. He imagines Keith snapping at Shiro, fixing his positions like he does with Lance, crease in his brows and frown of concentration on his lips. He imagines how Shiro would laugh it off and tease him, infuriate him in a way only older siblings can.

They’re talking again, but he hasn’t been listening.

“Show me,” He says suddenly, getting both of them to turn their attention back to him.

“What?” Keith asks, voice flat and face blank.

Lance feels himself grinning as he sits up straighter, lifting his chin. “Show me a dance you two know.”

Keith’s brow furrows. “Lance, we don’t have time—“

“We were getting nothing done anyway. Shiro’s already here. We could use a break. What’s the problem?” He tilts his head to the side, lifting his shoulder to meet it as he grins smugly, eyes going half lidded. “Unless you’re scaaared—“

“Shiro,” Keith says, cutting him off. He turns to his brother. Lance thinks it’s hilarious how often that line works. “Do you still remember the dance we learned last year?”

“The Michael Jackson one?”

“Yeah.”

“I believe so.”

“Let’s do it then.”

Shiro nods, grinning as he steps into the room. “Alright then. But if Allura asks, I’m helping you two settle your differences.”

Keith practically stomps over to where his phone is hooked up to the speakers and points at Lance. “You. Sit. Be silent for once.”

Lance laughs, a cocky grin on his face as he practically purrs, “Sir, yessir.” He doesn’t miss the brief tensing around Keith’s mouth, the flare of his nostrils, or the pink that settles on his cheeks. He doesn’t know what to think about that, it’s probably irritation anyway, so instead he gives Keith a mock salute and slides his ass across the floor so he’s sitting against the mirror. He gestures widely as the two of them take up positions in the center of the room. “Alright, WOW me!”

Keith rolls his eyes, but Shiro smiles.

They start when the music does. He’s not sure what he was expecting, but he’s not disappointed. It’s nothing big or flashy, nothing quick paced or wild. But it’s together, quick small movements that are perfectly synced or in timed reactions to each other. It’s mostly in their legs and body angles, but their arms are in it, too, adding slow movements to their quick steps.

Objectively, Keith and Shiro look nothing alike. Yeah, okay, so they both have some kind of Asian heritage, but their features are nothing alike. Black hair, dark eyes, whatever. Their faces aren’t similar at all, and neither are their body types, despite the fact that they both obvious work out. But as Lance watches them dance together, he’s struck with just how… similar the two are. It’s obvious they’re brothers, even if it’s not by blood.

They’re also both handsome as fuck, and that realization hits Lance like a sixteen wheeler going eighty-five on the highway. It straight up knocks the breath right out of his lungs. Leaves him for dead as roadkill. Flat as a pancake and bleeding out. No need to call an ambulance because he is gone.

He’s always known Shiro is attractive. He’d have to be blind not to. Hell, even if he were straight, he’d be able to acknowledge the fact that the man is gorgeous. That’s not the part of the realization that leaves him floundering.

No, that honor goes to Keith.

Fucking Keith.

Too bad his personality is ass.

It should be illegal for the two of them to dance together. Straight up illegal. Round ‘em up, boys! Lock ‘em away! Throw away the key! Let ‘em rot in a dungeon forever for punishment of their crimes.

By the time they finish, Lance is reminded just how comfortable he is with his sexuality. He feels like his bones have turned to jelly and his stomach is doing these weird little flips like it’s on a trampoline, but hey, at least he can breathe again. He’s pretty sure his mouth is hanging open, though.

“Take a video, it’ll last longer.” Keith says, smirking. God damn, fucking Keith. Isn’t Lance supposed to be mad at him?

Lance wonders if Allura has seen the two of them dance. He pulls out his phone. “Can I?”

Keith rolls his eyes, shoving Lance over as he walks back to his phone. Shiro just laughs.

 



[ MONDAY ]

“Oh man, I could really go for a milkshake right about now.” Lance says, stretching his arms over his head.

Keith snorts, looking away as his shirt rides up, exposing tanned flesh. Lance would get way too much of a kick out of it if he saw Keith looking. Even if it was a natural reaction to look toward movement. That’s just way too cliche, and he refuses to fall victim to it.

Is it just him, or is it warm in this stairwell? His throat feels weirdly dry. He must be dehydrated. They did just have a very intensive practice session. Probably their most productive one yet. Their choreography isn’t nearly finished, but they got a lot of work done and they didn’t devolve into yelling at each other like they normally do. It feels like progress.

“You work out and then immediately want a milkshake.”

“Uh, yeah? It totally balances out the calories. Carbs? Sugars? I don’t know. It works, okay?” He says, arms, thankfully, falling back to his sides. They’re walking down the stairs at the studio. Well, Keith is walking. Lance looks like he’s more trudging, putting way too much slump and effort into each step.

Keith rolls his eyes. “It doesn’t work like that.”

“Oh yeah? How would you know? Are you a nutritionist, Keith? Are you a doctor? Should I call you doctor Keith from now on?” He puts his hand up to his ear like a phone and puts on a high pitched and perky receptionist voice. “Hello? Paging doctor Keith. Come in doctor Keith. We need you in surgery. It’s an emergency. The patient? Oh, that would be you. You’re scheduled for a mullet extraction stat. We can’t afford to wait! Immediate action is the only answer! While we’re at it, we might as well get that stick out of your ass. It’s so far imbedded that surgery is the only way.”

Keith can’t help it. He laughs, throwing his head back and putting his hand out on the handrail to help him keep his balance. It takes him a moment before he can continue walking. When he looks back at Lance, he’s grinning. “Are you going to be my surgeon?”

Lance nods sagely and seriously. “Of course. I would do that for you, Keith.”

Keith rolls his eyes and tries his best to get his grin under control. He’s pretty sure he fails, but he hops down the stairs two at a time to put distance between him and Lance. “Good! Cause then I can sue the hospital for malpractice and make a fortune!”

“Hey! I would be a good doctor! I’d save your big dumb head from being consumed by that evil mullet.” He calls out, laughter in his voice as he throws himself down the stairs after him.

“Are you a surgeon or an exorcist?”

Keith isn’t sure how, but they end up racing down the rest of the way. That tends to happen more often than not: a silent agreement sealed by a spark in Lance’s eyes and a subtle smirk from Keith. He’s stopped questioning it.

He ends up winning, but Lance’s feet land not long after his.

“Seriously, though, haven’t you ever like, craved a milkshake or ice cream or something after a good work out?”

Keith shrugs. “I haven’t had a milkshake in years.” He takes a few steps before he realizes that Lance has stopped. He turns to look at him, eyebrow raised. “What?”

“What’d you mean?” Lance asks, gaping.

“It means I haven’t had a milkshake in years.”

“Not even a Cookout milkshake?”

“Nope.”

“Never?”

“Never.

Never never?”

“Lance—“

“Oh no, no no no no, we’re fixing this right now.” And suddenly Lance is walking past him, grabbing his wrist and dragging him down the hallway toward the front doors.

He frowns. His bike is parked out back. “Lance, where are we—“

“I told you we’re fixing this!” He says, dragging Keith past a very confused looking Coran who’s currently pinning fliers to the main bulletin board. “Hi, Coran. Bye, Coran.”

He watches them go, eyebrows raised. He lifts a hand. “Hi, boys. Bye, boys.”

Keith shoots him a pleading look, but Coran only smiles and shrugs. So much for help.

Lance drags him out the front doors, slamming them open with way more force than necessary. “Hunk! Pidge!” He calls out, dragging Keith across the parking lot. The two in question are standing around an older looking gold car. Hunk is leaning back against it, arms crossed over his chest, and Pidge is sitting on the trunk, legs crossed. They both look up as they approach.

“Uh, what’s up, Lance?” Hunk asks, eyeing Keith curiously. Keith gives him the same helpless pleading look he had given Coran. He actually gets some sympathy out of Hunk, judging from his expression.

“Oh great, what is it this time?” Pidge says

They come to a stop in front of them, and Lance glares at Pidge, lips pursed into a pout. “Hey, I resent that.”

“I’ll change my tone when you get a better track record for spontaneous ideas.”

“Rude.”

“So… Lance. Keith? What’s up?” Hunk says, reeling them back in.

“Right. So can you guys believe that this guy has never had a Cookout milkshake?” Lance says incredulously, lifting up Keith’s wrist and shaking it. “Never! As in never never! We need to fix this! As in stat. As in right now!”

Hunk grins. “A Cookout run? I could go for a milkshake.”

“Hunk, my man! My dude! That’s what I’m talking about!” Lance says, grinning as he pats Hunk’s shoulder. He finally lets go of Keith’s wrist, and he pulls it to him, rubbing it absently.

Keith’s brow furrows, pressing his lips together. “Do I get a say in this?”

“Nope!” Lance practically sings.

“Sorry, buddy.” Hunk says, but doesn’t look or sound sorry at all. He pulls his keys out of his pocket, unlocking his car. “Alright, load up. We’ve got a mission now!”

Lance and Hunk are already opening their car doors when Pidge speaks up. They haven’t moved from their perch on the trunk. “Keith, you’re lactose intolerant.” They say flatly, giving him a look.

He sighs, face twisting into something out of his control as he shrugs helplessly. “This wasn’t my idea.”

“What?!” Lance practically yells, causing them both to jump. He’s staring at Keith with wide eyes. “You’re lactose intolerant?!”

“Uh, yeah?”

“WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME?”

Keith shrugs again. “You didn’t give me a chance.”

“But—! What about— Does this mean—? Hunk? Keith!” He’s whining and floundering, arms flailing around and gesturing wildly as his mouth opens and closes. He makes a lot of sounds that are probably supposed to be words, but they don’t end up that way. About twenty different emotions pass over his expression before his arms drop to his sides, shoulders slumping as he deflates. He’s pouting again. “Does that mean no milkshakes?” His voice is small and childlike and full of disappointment.

God dammit. How does he get wrapped up in this shit?

Feeling incredibly uncomfortable when faced with that small frown that looks so out of place on his face, Keith fidgets. He scratches the back of his neck, looking away. “Well, I mean, I have my pills. So it would probably be fine—“

“Really?” Lance brightens right the fuck up, and Keith knows he’s not getting out of this one.

He sighs, his turn to be defeated. “Yeah, I guess.”

Lance jumps, actually jumps, and fist pumps the air. “Yes!”

Pidge gives Keith a smug little smirk as they hop off the back of the car, eyes glinting. Keith glares at them. Hard. Daring them to say something. They don’t, thankfully.

Ten minutes later, after two minutes of arguing over the auxiliary cable (which Lance wins), a terribly loud blaring of Milkshake by Kelis (which Lance and Hunk sing loudly and dramatically with the windows down, leaning Pidge and Keith groaning), another fight in which Lance wants to repeat the song and Pidge nearly comes into the backseat to get the cable from him (Pidge wins and Lance whines), and several more minutes of Pidge’s music to drown out Lance’s protests (they end up choosing Kamelot, which Keith thinks is pretty tame considering everything Pidge could have chosen from their personal music), they finally make it to Cookout.

“So what kind of milkshake do you want?” Lance asks, leaning across the backseat and getting a little too much into Keith’s personal space. Keith can’t really push him away though. The menu board is on his side of the car. Lance probably just wants to look at it.

Keith shrugs, leaning against the door of the car. “I don’t know.” He flounders. He hasn’t had a milkshake since he was thirteen. What flavors even existed? “Vanilla?”

Lance gives him a flat glare, completely unamused. “Vanilla? Really?”

“What?” He bristles. “It’s a classic.” It is, isn’t it? “Chocolate?”

Lance groans, sagging a little bit. “Keeeeith, come oooon.”

“What’s good, then?”

“Literally everything! Look!” Lance leans over him, pointing out the window at the menu board. Keith can smell him. He smells like warmth and sweat, deodorant and just… Lance. By all rights, it should smell bad, but it doesn’t. It’s making him a little uncomfortable. “Look at all of those flavors! They’re so fancy!

“I’m so fancy…” Hunk softly sings from the driver’s seat. The car in front of them moves and they scoot forward a spot.

“Lance, that’s not an answer—“

“Actually,” Pidge cuts in. “It is, sort of. They actually call them ‘fancy’ milkshakes.” Keith looks at the menu board and, huh, what’d you know. “Anyway, they literally have every flavor under the sun, assuming there are forty-six flavors under the sun, and you can mix and combine them. You can have anything.”

Keith feels his lips twist into a frown. There’s… a lot of choices. All of the words kind of just blur together. There’s too many for him to focus on just one, let alone read and analyze all his choices. The car moves forward, and Hunk pulls up to the speaker.

“Hi, how’re you doing today?” Says the crackling voice. Keith still has no idea what he wants. What would even be good? Some of these flavors sound ridiculous. And Lance is still leaning over him, staring intently at the menu board, brows pinched and lips screwed up in thought.

“Doing well, how about you?” Hunk says cheerfully.

“Fine, thanks. What can we get for you?”

“I’ll have a chocolate, banana, pineapple milkshake.”

Keith scrunches his nose up, lip curling. Lance catches his look, glancing at him sideways as he smirks. “I know, gross, right?” He whispers so the speaker won’t pick up his voice.

“Is that even good?”

Lance shrugs. “Who knows. He’s a weirdo.”

Pidge pats Hunk’s arm. “A lovable weirdo, but a weirdo nonetheless. I’m convinced he orders it so we won’t steal his milkshake.” Hunk snorts, but he’s smiling as he points to Pidge. “Mocha oreo.”

Hunk repeats the order, then points a thumb over his shoulder. “Lance?”

Lance puts a hand on the back of Hunk’s seat, the other planted between him and Keith as he leans over. “Ummmm, Reese’s Cup, no—caramel fudge, no! Chocolate chip mint.”

Hunk groans. “Make up your miiiind.”

“Deff chocolate chip mint.” He must have caught Keith’s look again, because he turns a playful scowl in his direction. “What?”

“Chocolate chip mint? Really?” Keith’s lip is definitely curling.

Lance gasps loudly, putting a hand to his chest and leaning away, finally. “Keith! You’re one of those heathens, aren’t you?”

Keith snorts. “I could say the same about you.”

“Chocolate mint is a godsend!”

“Then I’m going to happily go to hell.”

“I knew you were a demon! Your history with Pidge suddenly makes so much more sense.”

Pidge laughs, exchanging smirks with Keith.

“Not to interrupt or anything, but what’d you want, Keith?” Hunk says, looking at him in the rearview mirror.

“Uh,” Keith looks back to the menu, eyes settling on the first thing that doesn’t sound completely terrible. “Peach cobbler?”

That earns him a few curious “ooo’s” from around the car.

“Adventurous.” Pidge says.

“Living life on the edge, huh, mullet?” Lance adds, nudging him with his elbow.

They get their shakes, and Hunk insists on paying, waving off Keith’s attempt to give him a couple dollars. They drive back to the studio with Pidge’s metal music blaring, all happily eating their shakes with either a straw or a spoon. Lance is making horrendously inappropriate sounds with each bite, slouching low in his seat and throwing his head back. Keith twists in his seat and kicks him, earning an indignant shout, but they’re both smiling.

“How is it?” Lance asks, nodding toward his milkshake. His blue eyes are bright and wide and stupidly innocent with enthusiasm.

Keith shrugs, looking out the window. “It’s alright.”

“Keeeith!”

Truth be told, it’s good, but he’s not willing to relent to Lance that easily. As long as he remembers to take his pill, he should be fine.

Lance proceeds to poke at him, and he slaps his hand away. They end up slapping and kicking at each other until Pidge unbuckles their seatbelt and climbs into the back, despite Hunk’s loud protests. Pidge ends up sitting between them, wiggling and elbowing them both as they get comfortable. Hunk grumbles at them all, complaining that he feels like a chauffeur now. Which, of course, leads them all to speaking in snooty British accents while backseat driving.

Keith ends up forgetting his pill. It’s not fine. But he can’t bring himself to regret his decision to go with them.

 



[ TUESDAY ]

“Come on, Keith, just jump in there!” Lance says, nudging Keith’s shoulder with his own.

Keith barely moves. “Nope.”

“Keith!” Lance is whining, and Keith is sure if he looks at him, he’ll be pouting, too. Good thing Keith doesn’t plan on looking at him. He keeps his eyes firmly fixed on Hunk. He’s dancing in the center of the loose ring of people, having a vague dance off with a couple of guys who had jumped in with them. Hunk doesn’t seem to mind. He’s laughing and keeping up with them, exchanging dance moves.

“No.” Keith repeats.

“What’s the point of even coming out with us if you won’t dance?”

Keith has been asking himself that same question. He thinks the reason he didn’t say no was because it had been Hunk and Pidge who had asked. He likes Hunk, and he misses hanging out with Pidge. If Lance had asked, he probably would have said no. The guy is beyond obnoxious, and Keith hates relenting to him. He feels like it goes along the lines of enforcing bad behavior with children or pets. He would have just said no out of principle. He wouldn’t be here, standing awkwardly off to the sidelines as Hunk, Pidge, and Lance take turns darting into the dance circle, moving to the music in anyway they deem fit.

Unfortunately, it had been Pidge and Hunk who had asked, so Keith had said yes. And now he has to deal with Lance’s needling.

Keith shrugs, but doesn’t answer, earning a huff from Lance.

“I don’t get you.” He says, crossing his arms over his chest and turning away from Keith. “You act all high and mighty about dancing, you’re good at it, but you won’t just… do it!”

Keith eyes him sidelong, lips curling into a small smirk. “Was that a compliment in there?”

Lance’s eyes widen comically, lips twisting into a frown as he huffs again. “Don’t change the subject, David Bowie!”

Keith tilts his head, looking thoughtful. “You know, I don’t mind that one so much.”

Lance sighs, scratching the back of his neck, other hand on his hip. “Yeah, not my best. I mean, who wouldn’t appreciate being compared to David Bowie?”

“Exactly.”

The song changes, and there’s a brief lull in which the guys shake Hunk’s hand and back out of the circle. Hunk waves them off, grinning. Lance perks up at the new song. It’s something from Matt’s newest playlist, he knows that much. This is the first time he’s hearing it, but that’s not too surprising. He doesn’t usually keep up with Matt’s music.

“My turn!” Lance announces, suddenly darting forward. He turns his back to Hunk, bending over and rubbing his ass on him in a dramatically comical way. Hunk throws up his hands, laughing as Lance backs him out of the circle. Then he poses dramatically, holding it for just a second before he’s dancing.

Keith is… impressed. And if he’s being honest, a little jealous. Lance doesn’t look like he even thinks about how he moves. He doesn’t seem to get in his own head when he dances like Keith does. He just… goes for it. It looks so free and so natural, and Keith can’t help but feel drawn to it. He’ll never admit it to Lance, the dude’s ego is big enough as it is, but Keith enjoys watching him dance.

That is, until he’s making eyes at a group of girls watching, shooting them finger guns and adding a flex to his dancing. Keith sighs, rolling his eyes. God, why does he even associate with this guy? Does he even see how embarrassing he is? He doesn’t seem to, as he laughs off the rejection with a flirtatious smile and keeps going.

“Before you ask, he’s like this all the time,” Pidge says, coming up to stand alongside Keith, arms crossed over their chest. He glances down at them, but they’re watching Lance, a small fond smile on their lips. “But he grows on you, I swear.”

Keith shakes his head. “I don’t know how you’ve put up with it for this long.”

Pidge tilts their chin to glance up at him, smile turning sly. “I stuck with you for longer. That should speak volumes for my patience.”

Keith snorts, rolling his eyes. “You had to. I was your only ally against Matt and Shiro.”

Pidge hums thoughtfully, tilting their head back to look absently upwards. “We made their lives hell, didn’t we?”

Keith smirks. “I sure hope so.”

“Sooooo…” He doesn’t like the way they say that. “Are you going to dance?”

“No.”

“That’s kind of the point of coming out here.”

Keith shrugs. “I don’t know the music.”

“So you’re saying if I put on some music that you do know, you’d dance?”

“I didn’t say—“

“Look, Keith, you can cut the crap with me, alright?” Keith looks at them, eyebrows raised. Pidge is gazing up at them steadily, lips pursed into a small frown. “I know you don’t really like dancing in front of others when you’re not prepared, okay? Lance may buy your mysterious edge lord shtick, but I don’t. I’ve known you too long for that.”

Keith’s face scrunches up, and he looks away. “So you know I’m not going to dance.”

“Come ooon, Keith.” Pidge says, bumping his hip with their own. This sounds remarkably similar, but unlike with Lance, Pidge doesn’t fill him with annoyance when they do it. “We came out here to dance. You gotta do it at least once. Lance will never leave you alone if you don’t.”

Keith snorts, rolling his eyes. “I can handle him.”

“Come on, buddy.” And suddenly Hunk is there, laying a hand on his shoulder. He normally isn’t too big of a fan of contact, but there’s something about Hunk that just makes him relax, and he finds he doesn’t mind.

He looks up at him, a small frown tugging at his lips as he tries to keep his expression blank. “How long have you been standing there?”

Hunk shrugs, letting his hand drop and scratching at his cheek as he smiles sheepishly. “Not long, but Pidge already told me about your, uh, hangups with freestyling.”

Keith shoots a glare at Pidge, and they step back, hands up defensively and grinning. “Whoa, there, before you get angry with me, you should know that Hunk is trustworthy.”

Keith glances back to Hunk, skeptical. But he only laughs, crossing his arms over his chest. “Don’t worry, I’m not going to make fun of your or anything. I won’t even tell Lance, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

“Why would I care if Lance knows?” It comes out a little more defensively than he planned. He can’t think of any reason why it would be a big deal, but he knows in his gut that he doesn’t want Lance to know.

“Because Lance would definitely make fun of you and push you out of your comfort zone.” Pidge says matter of factly.

Oh, right. That’s why.

“But you should totally do something.” Hunk says, nodding toward the dance circle. “Have some fun. It’s the whole reason we’re out here. You know, kick back, dance in a different environment, have fun with friends.”

“Yeah,” Keith says, shaking his head. “This isn’t really… my thing.” He waves a hand around vaguely, gesturing to where Lance is dancing.

“Then let’s make it your thing.” Pidge says, suddenly gone from his side.

He turns to watch Pidge walk over to where their phone is hooked up to the speaker. “Pidge,” He says, voice pitched low with caution. “What are you doing?”

Pidge looks up at him, grin on their face. “Do you remember that dance to Happy by C2C that you choreographed for us a couple years ago?”

Keith wracks his brain for it. He nods slowly. “Yes.”

Pidge tilts their head to the side, eyes wide with mischief. “And do you remember it?”

“No?”

“Keith.”

He sighs. “Yes.”

“Good! Because I do, too. Let’s go, edge lord. Let’s show these scrubs what we can do.” And then they tap their phone and the song changes. The difference is instantly apparently. They had gone from an upbeat remix to something softer, quick, and with words.

There’s a startled sound from Lance, and when he looks up, Lance is glaring at them indignantly, lips pursed into frown. He puts his hands on his hips, cocking them to the side. “Pidge! What the hell—“

“Step aside, bean pole.” They say, grabbing Keith’s wrist and dragging him into the circle.

His eyes settled on Keith, anger morphing into something surprised. He holds up his hands, stepping back to give them space. The cocky grin that Keith hates is firmly in place. “Alright, alright, but only because I gotta see this.” And the way he says it doesn’t exactly sound like a compliment. Keith glares at him, but his grin only widens. “Show me what you’re made of, Keithy boy.”

And Keith opens his mouth to say something, but Pidge is tugging at his arm, forcing him to turn around to face them. Their legs are already moving, taking tiny barely there steps with each of the fast beats. They point two fingers at their own eyes before spinning their hand around to point at Keith.

“Focus Keith,” They say, face set in determination. A small smirk tugs at their lips. “We got this.”

Keith breathes in deep, and lets it out in a long exhale. His feet are moving now, too, mirroring Pidge’s quick, small steps. He feels his face relax, and his lips set into a small smile. “Yeah, we got this.”

Pidge’s smirk widens a fraction, and they lift their hands for a double high five. Keith gives it to them, and then they’re both laughing, shaking out their arms and upper body in anticipation as they shuffle backwards with those small, quick steps. They set up next to each other, facing forward.

To be honest, Keith isn’t entirely sure he’ll remember the dance, but as the music plays, he can feel it coming back to him. Adrenaline floods his system in anticipation, and right as the hard downbeat happens, his body tenses and moves to just the right position: one step forward, shoulders up and back as his arms shoot out. Then they’re moving with beat beat, quick precise movements that are jagged and sharp, emphasizing the tempo. His legs get into it, moving to the unique twang of the song.

Out of the corner of his eye, he can see Pidge moving, too, perfectly in sync with him. He had choreographed this a few years ago, when he was really getting into experimenting with choreography. Shiro brought up that organizing a dance for two was different than a dance for one, and he gave him the challenge of making a dance that would combine the overlapping strengths of his and Pidge’s styles. He thinks he did pretty good. Pidge had thought so, too, and put all their effort into committing it to memory. He had thought they would have forgotten it, but he should know better than to doubt the abilities of Pidge’s mind.

The dance is quick with a collection of fast, sharp movements and gestures, precise steps. But it’s fun. There’s a flair of playfulness to it that only comes out because he made this made for him and Pidge. They spent weeks learning it perfectly, and their synergy brings out a bubbling of joy that Keith hasn’t felt while dancing in a long time.

Dancing with Lance is fun, when the guy gets the moves right. When he wants to, Lance can keep up with him, locking into the right poses at the right time and synchronizing with Keith to a T.

But it’s different with Pidge. He trusts Pidge. He’s known Pidge. Pidge knows him. He knows he can trust Pidge to lock their body into each gesture, no matter how quickly it comes and goes. The dance is a perfect mix of their combined styles, but the synergy that brings it alive isn’t something that comes from just knowing the moves. It comes from two friends doing something they love together.

When the music picks up, they’re flying. Practically bouncing from foot to foot in quick movements that are perfectly aligned. They clap and kick and rotate. They bounce from toes to heels, quick steps and rolling hips.

The audience is screaming. They’re loud and cheering, but their noise just blends into the music. Keith is grinning. He feels the ache in his cheeks. The shares glances with Pidge, and they’re smiling just as bright, arms up as their feet move. There’s a lull in the dance and they laugh, setting up for the next bit with tiny moves like fake playing the piano, feet tapping, building up.

Their movements get sloppier from then on out. Their perfect synchronization falls apart as they laugh and really start to get into it. The audience seems to fade away. And yet despite not being completely together, it doesn’t seem to matter. They still go through the same vague motions, and their smiles bring a realness to it.

For once, Keith doesn’t care when their choreography falls apart, ripping and faltering before syncing back up again when they both remember the next part. He’s just… having fun.

As the last tinks of the piano sound, they go through large, exaggerated steps and gestures, falling back and down into kneeling poses, arms crossed over their propped up knees. And with the last beat, their heads drop.

The audience is cheering, and Keith lifts his head, recalling looking around for the first time. He climbs to his feet, spinning a little to take in the audience. His face feels warm. He’s not used to performing in front of a crowd. All eyes are on him, but he doesn’t recognize any of them.

And then he locks eyes with a gaze he does know.

Lance’s grin is blinding in the afternoon sun. His eyes are crinkled with it, and Keith just knows that smile has to hurt. There’s no way it can’t. And the force of that gaze is focused solely on Keith. He’s bouncing on the balls of his feet, slapping Hunk’s arm incessantly. His lips are moving, saying something Keith can’t hear. Hunk doesn’t seem to care. He has Pidge’s phone in his hand and he’s staring at it intently. Then he looks up and follows Lance’s gaze to Keith, face breaking out into a wide grin as he gives Keith a thumbs up.

God, what was it with this group and having brilliant, warm smiles? They were just so… friendly.

Before he can think too much of it, Pidge is suddenly slamming into him. They leap at him, climbing onto his back as he stumbles for balance.

“Keith! That was awesome!” They shout in his ear, settling on his back and locking their legs around his waist. One arm clutches around his shoulders while the other shoots a fist into the air. “We should do that more often! That was amazing!”

Keith chuckles, loudly and freely, giving a little hop to adjust Pidge’s weight as his arms locked around their legs to keep them up. “Yeah, that was great.” He says earnestly.

“I forgot how much fun your choreography can be.” They say, viciously ruffling his hair.

“Hey! Let up on the hair!” He ducks his head away from them as best he can, and they laugh. He tosses his head, trying to get his hair out of his face.

“Stand back, mullet!” And suddenly Lance is there, hip checking him toward the sidelines. “And take your shoulder gremlin with you! Time for the big boys to show you how it’s done.” As Keith turns to walk away backwards, Lance does the same, headed for the center of the circle. He shoots them finger guns and winks, and Keith rolls his eyes. From over his shoulder, he hears Pidge laugh.

too hot, hot damn

“Someone got jealous of our bro dance.” Pidge sings mockingly, wrapping their arms loosely around his shoulders and resting their chin atop his head.

“Hunk’s the only bro I need! You’re just jealous of our bromance.” Lance shoots back, tightening the arms of the shirt that’s tied around his waist and checking to make sure his snapback is on securely. He should look like a douche, but he doesn’t.

Hunk puts a hand to his chest, the other still holding the phone. “Aww, bro!”

“Love you, bro!” Lance winks, making a heart with his hands.

Hunk’s hand goes to his forehead and he leans back as far as he can go without falling over. “Bro! Love you, too, bro!”

Pidge makes gagging noises. “At least Keith and I aren’t gross.”

Lance puts his hands on his hips, smirking. “I don’t know, have you two looked in a mirror lately?”

“Ooh! Good one, Lance!” Hunk laughs.

“I would, but your face cracked them all.” Keith deadpans, and Pidge laughs.

They hold a fist over his shoulder and he lifts a hand from their leg to bump it.

“Whatever! Roll the track, Hunk!” Lance says, pointing dramatically at him.

Hunk does just that, and Uptown Funk starts to play.

Keith groans softly. “Not this one again.”

“Again?” Pidge asks over his shoulder.

“Shiro made me and Lance do the dance to this we learned last year in that dance class we had together.”

Pidge snorts. “I know exactly what they’re doing. Lance didn’t like the dance you guys learned for that. He said it wasn’t hype enough, or something. Too easy. So he and Hunk tried to choreograph a new dance for it. Key word here being tried.”

Keith exhales a short, sharp laugh. He can see Lance doing that. “It didn’t go well?”

“I didn’t say that. But they’re not exactly the… choreograph type. Especially with Lance. Dude’s the walking embodiment of ‘winging it’.”

Lance is skipping around the edge of the circle, clapping his hands with the music and encouraging the audience to do the same. They do, because Lance is oddly charismatic when he wants to be and crowds are suckers for a clapping beat. Even if they’re terrible at keeping time.

The lyrics start and Lance practically jumps into the center, body flailing in dance-like movements that Keith thinks are supposed to go with the beat. Then Hunk is there, running past him and Pidge to jump in front of Lance to do his own quick set of moves. Lance even takes a step back to let him. After a moment, Lance surges forward, putting a hand on Hunk’s shoulder to pull him back, making room for himself. Hunk does the same, like they’re fighting for the spotlight, which honestly doesn’t seem like Hunk at all.

Then they turn to face each other, arms out like they’re going to fight. They freeze, look to the audience, and then they’re doing body rolls at the same time, grinning wildly.

And that’s when Keith realizes it’s a planned back and forth.

They continue a lot like that. They take turns going through their own dance moves before the other steps forward to be the center of attention. Occasionally they exchange fake hits that miss by miles, but to which the other will fake stumble or whip their head around like it had landed. All the while neither of them stops moving to the beat.

Unlike Pidge and Keith, their movements are rolling and energetic, the flinging of limbs and bodies in a style that just seems so natural and uncoordinated. It’s not precise. It’s wild and loose. But Keith is impressed with how well they manage to keep their movements in time anyway. Neither of them ever drop a beat. It’s all crazy gestures and cliche moves that fit together so perfectly and naturally, and despite each of them mostly doing their own thing, it clicks together in a form of synergy that leaves Keith baffled and impressed.

Then they’re rolling their hips, taking steps to rotate in a circle, throwing their hands up with the ”woo’s”, and the crowd is screaming and laughing. Pidge is cheering in his ear, and even he’s smiling. The song builds to the chorus and they’re flailing and gesturing in a way that looks partially planned but mostly improvised, but their gestures are so similar that it doesn’t even matter.

They actually have a choreographed dance for the chorus, and Keith is actually surprised. The two of them manage to retain their loose and wild style but do so in complete sync.

As the song goes on, it starts to fall apart. They go back to dancing in a way that’s so similar, but so unique. They’re both laughing and grinning, high fiving and play fighting. It’s clear that they’re feeding off each other’s energy in a way reminds Keith of him and Pidge. But it’s different because they’re different. Different people and so a different dynamic, but the feeling is the same. The way they dance together reminds Keith of their banter, playful and comfortable, both with wild energy and just general good vibes.

By the end of the song, the whole circle has devolved. Somehow the combined energies of Lance and Hunk, coupled with their combined relaxed style of dance, has managed to pull people into the circle until it’s just a mob of moving bodies. Even Keith is bobbing up and down, stepping in side strides and purposefully bouncing Pidge on his back. Pidge laughs in his ear, clinging to him with their legs as they lean back to dance with their arms and hands. He turns in a circle, stepping with the beat and moving as much as he can with Pidge on his back. It’s easier when no one is paying attention to him, when it’s just movement of his legs in a half assed dance.

As he turns, he catches Lance’s eyes through the crowd. His smile widens when he sees Keith, and he gestures them closer. Keith edges through the crowd toward them, and Lance sidles up in front of him. Their eyes lock and they mirror each other as they slide step from side to side. Lance’s eyes are half lidded as he hold’s Keith’s, lips locked in a small smirk that has his stomach doing odd flips. With each step, he sidles a little closer, and Keith blames the warmth on his face on the sun.

Then Pidge is whispering in his ear, and Keith grins. He sees the moment Lance’s movement hesitates, suspicion suddenly clouding his features as he looks at the two of them.

Before he can back away, Keith spins. In the middle of his turn, Pidge launches themselves off his back and onto Lance, who shrieks and stumbles backwards. They go down in a tangle of limbs, Lance continuing to shriek as he tries to push PIdge off, who only laughs and digs their fingers into his sides. Lance’s desperate flailing increases tenfold as his shrieks go up in pitch. Keith laughs so hard that he has to lean on Hunk for support, though he, too, is bent at the waist, hands on his knees as a deep bellied laugh bubbles out of him.

Keith can’t remember having this much fun in a long time.

Chapter Text

[ WEDNESDAY ]

Group Chat: “Family BBQ - Today’s Menu: Roasted Lance”

uptown hunk: can you guys please stop yelling?
uptown hunk: it was funny the first couple times but it’s getting old real fast
coo coo motherfuckers: seriously we can barely hear our own music
coo coo motherfuckers: if you don’t stop I’m cutting off your music altogether
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: Ah yes, speaking of that, Pidge, Hunk, I’ve been meaning to speak with you about tampering with studio wiring and equipment
coo coo motherfuckers: I plead the fifth
uptown hunk: -innocent whistling-
Need-A-Hand: To Hunk and Pidge’s original point, I agree
LLunarGoddess: we can hear you two all the way on the second floor
Need-A-Hand: Don’t make us come up there
coo coo motherfuckers: oooo dad on a mission
uptown hunk: does that make allura mom?
vive la lance: pidge!
coo coo motherfuckers: what’d I do?
vive la lance: can you PLEASE tell KEITH that he can TRUST ME to flip him?
coo coo motherfuckers: keith
coo coo motherfuckers: you most definitely cannot trust lance to flip you
vive la lance: PIDGE!
last resort: thank you pidge
coo coo motherfuckers: anytime man
vive la lance: pidge I can’t believe you
vive la lance: beTRAYAL
coo coo motherfuckers: I call em like I see em
vive la lance: rUDE
vive la lance: I am totally trust worthy
uptown hunk: they have a point dude
vive la lance: hunk! D:
uptown hunk: you’ve never really practiced flips before
uptown hunk: auditions are in less than a week
uptown hunk: I can’t, in good conscious, recommend it
coo coo motherfuckers: plus you have noodle arms
vive la lance: I do nOT!
vive la lance: I CAN DO HANDSTANDS!
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: Lance has a point, that takes quite a bit of strength to hold one’s body weight steady
uptown hunk: yeah but it’s different throwing around someone else’s weight
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: Also a very good point
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: Not to mention the point of Lance’s pasta arms
vive la lance: I DO NOT HAVE NOODLE ARMS
Need-A-Hand: Debatable
Need-A-Hand: How do we define “noodle arms”?
coo coo motherfuckers: skinny little sticks with skin
coo coo motherfuckers: that kinda flail and wobble around a lot
LLunarGoddess: that sounds an awful lot like Lance
vive la lance: babe I can lift
vive la lance: Ill bench press you any day
LLunarGoddess: is that so?
coo coo motherfuckers: HA
uptown hunk: HA
Need-A-Hand: Hahaha
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: That’s an amusing sentiment, Lance
vive la lance: why is no one ever on my side?
last resort: we don’t like siding with the losing side
vive la lance: excUSE??
last resort: she will destroy you
vive la lance: oh yeah? and how would YOU know?
Need-A-Hand: She beat him in a plank off last week
last resort: SHE CHEATED
LLunarGoddess: B) if you can’t take the heat, get out of the gym
LLunarGoddess: I won fair and square
last resort: you cheated and you know it
LLunarGoddess: and how did I cheat, Keith? hmmm? :)
Need-A-Hand: Yes, Keith, why don’t you share with the class
last resort: no
last resort: fuck off
vive la lance: I bet she won cause keith sucks
vive la lance: do you even lift bro?
last resort: yes
vive la lance: oh
uptown hunk: not to distract or anything, but I’d like to bring us back around to the fact that lance should not attempt to flip keith
uptown hunk: like, I’m actually kind of worried that he’s going to try
uptown hunk: and you should definitely not do that lance
Need-A-Hand: I agree, it’s too late to throw something like that into the mix
Need-A-Hand: Maybe next time
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: Please do not bleed on the dance room floors, I just had them polished
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: New studio policy: you bleed, you clean it up. No exceptions or excuses
vive la lance: why does no one believe in me??
coo coo motherfuckers: must we return to “noodle arms”?
coo coo motherfuckers: plus keith is a fatty
last resort: rude
Need-A-Hand: He was the pudgiest little kid
last resort: SHIRO
coo coo motherfuckers: yeah I remember those days
coo coo motherfuckers: little baby pudgy keith with bad skin and chubby cheeks and hair a brush couldn’t tame
last resort: fuck off
LLunarGoddess: awww he sounds so cute :)
LLunarGoddess: I want pictures
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: Seconded
last resort: no
last resort: lance wants you all to know that he’s doing handstands to prove his strength
coo coo motherfuckers: knock him over
uptown hunk: knock him over
Need-A-Hand: Keith, don’t knock him over
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: Please don’t injure him, he’ll mope for weeks if he misses another round of auditions
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: There’s only so much wallowing my office can take
vive la lance: KEITH KNOCKED ME OVER!
coo coo motherfuckers: nice
uptown hunk: called it
Need-A-Hand: sigh
vive la lance: ALSO I’M WITH ALLURA
vive la lance: I WANT TO SEE PICTURES OF CHUBBY CHILD KEITH
vive la lance: GIMME THE BLACKMAIL
Need-A-Hand: I most definitely have pictures :)
vive la lance: SHIRO
vive la lance: MY DUDE
vive la lance: HOOK ME UP
Need-A-Hand: Sure thing
last resort: shiro
last resort: think about what you’re doing
Need-A-Hand: I am
Need-A-Hand: I’m thinking about how it’s my brotherly duty to embarrass you
last resort: this road goes both ways
last resort: I can get pictures too
Need-A-Hand: …
Need-A-Hand: I see your point
vive la lance: goddammit
LLunarGoddess: Keith
LLunarGoddess: I humbly request teenage Shiro pictures
vive la lance: hell fucking yeah me too
vive la lance: keith told me he had terrible acne and BRACES and a boWL CUT
LLunarGoddess: oh my god
LLunarGoddess: please, Keith, I need to see this
LLunarGoddess: it’s of the upmost importance
Need-A-Hand: Keith
Need-A-Hand: Why does Lance know this?
last resort: we were bonding
last resort: we had a moment
Need-A-Hand: by talking about how I looked in high school?
vive la lance: damn right
vive la lance: and now I want pictures
LLunarGoddess: same!
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: Seconded!
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: Thirded?
uptown hunk: fourthed!
coo coo motherfuckers: oh man those were the good old days
coo coo motherfuckers: I probably have a few pictures around too
coo coo motherfuckers: I can deff find them on matt’s computer
Need-A-Hand: Shouldn’t you all be practicing?
uptown hunk: ummm yes, I’d just like to point out that yes, we should
uptown hunk: auditions are in a couple of days
uptown hunk: and our practice hour is already halfway over
coo coo motherfuckers: ugh fiiiiine
vive la lance: NO FUN ZONE >:(
last resort: lance shut up and put your phone away
vive la lance: make me mullet
vive la lance: a;dlfkjadls;kfjawoei
uptown hunk: uuuuhhhhmmmm
Need-A-Hand: Do you think he did it?
coo coo motherfuckers: definitely, we heard lance’s screams
LLunarGoddess: Shiro we should get back to practice too :)
coo coo motherfuckers: yeah shiro, mom is calling for you
Need-A-Hand: Leaving
coo coo motherfuckers: lol
uptown hunk: awww
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: Good luck, everyone!

 



[ THURSDAY ]

The gym is Keith’s only safe haven. It’s where he goes to think. It’s where he goes to be alone. It’s where he goes to get away from everything. When he’s here, he can get in his own head. Take a moment to think about what makes him tick. Work through his problems while his body engages in mindless activity.

It’s refreshing.

It’s rejuvenating.

It’s relaxing.

And other than occasionally when Shiro and Allura hang out around him, he’s usually left alone to do his own thing.

He can just… be himself. No worries. No anxieties. He doesn’t have to think about auditions. He doesn’t have to think about how him and Lance still have so much work to do, how they’re still rocky with choreography. He doesn’t have to think about how frustrating it is to work with Lance. He doesn’t have to think about Lance, and his stupid smiles and cocky, flippant attitude.

He doesn’t have to think about Hunk, and how the big guy is so earnest and pure and quite easily the most genuine human being he’s ever met.

He doesn’t have to think about Pidge, and how he hasn’t realized how much he missed having them in his life and how grateful he is to have a second chance at being close again.

He doesn’t have to think about Allura, who’s becoming less like just his brother’s dance partner and not-quite girlfriend and casual acquaintance, and more like her own person and friend in Keith’s life.

He doesn’t have to think about Coran, and how the man he’s always just seen as just a dance instructor and Allura’s brother-friend-thing is slowly becoming more like that weird exotic uncle friend that hangs around because he honestly likes everyone and everyone honestly likes him.

He doesn’t have to think about Shiro, and how seeing his brother interact with his friends is making him see a whole new dimension to his brother that makes them feel closer than ever.

Here at the gym, he doesn’t have to think about how he’s never considered himself to be someone who had or even needed a lot of friends. He’s always been fine with just him and Pidge and Shiro. Hell, he even considered Matt a friend at some point. He’s never needed more than them. And when they started to grow apart, he had accepted it and hadn’t felt the need to fill the void. He was fine like this. He had always been fine without constant companionship.

And yet now he finds himself thrust into a group of friends that he never asked to be part of, but who are, for some reason, determined to keep him around.

And the strangest part? He actually… kind of likes it. He likes them. They’re all quirky and fun and just… good people.

And all because he had made the decision to try out for regionals with Lance. Lance with his too loud laugh. Lance with his infuriating smirks. Lance with his irritatingly persistent competitive nature. Lance with his dramatic flair he puts into everything. Lance and the way he fights back against all of Keith’s instruction, the way he complains and whines whenever Keith corrects him, the way he really does listen and try despite all of his protests. Lance and the way he actually makes a point to include Keith like it’s only natural to do so. Lance and the way he—

But Keith isn’t going to think about Lance right now. Him and the rest of the group have been on his mind way too much lately. He’s still a little floored that they’ve all been so ready and willing to accept him, how he just kind of slipped into their lives seamlessly and they’ve barely had to think about accepting it.

He’s not thinking about any of those things, or about any of those people, because thinking about them never fails to make his chest tight with a chaos of emotions that are new and blinding and he doesn’t think he’s properly equipped to deal.

Just for a couple hours, he’s going to let his mind rest, block out all those emotions wordlessly screaming, ignore all the thoughts that are too loud.

In here, in this gym, the real world can’t touch him as long as he’s within these walls.

That is, until the real world comes crashing through the doors to shatter his peace of mind in the form of Lance Mc-fucking-Clain.

“What’s up, Hulk Hogan!”

A hand comes down on his shoulder, and Keith jumps, slamming his locker shut with a little too much force. He whips his head around, scowling at Lance’s grinning face.

He raises an unamused eyebrow, frown firmly in place. “Hulk Hogan? Really?”

Lance chuckles, shrugging with one shoulder as he steps away, opening a locker a couple down from Keith’s. “I just thought, you know, gym, wrestler, kind of the same thing, right?”

“Does it really count as a mullet if he’s balding?”

“Oh yeah, definitely still counts. Even if it’s an unfortunately coincidence. Though I doubt it. He was around in the time when mullets were all the rage.” He tosses his bag into the locker before balancing on one foot, lifting the other to pull at his shoelaces.

Now that the shock of seeing Lance here of all places has dulled somewhat, Keith takes a moment to actually take him in. He’s got on sneakers, a t-shirt, and a hoodie, but that’s not what draws his attention. He’s wearing shorts, which honestly isn’t too surprising, because it’s a gym, hell even Keith is wearing shorts. But his shorts are skin tight, cut off above his knee, and are black with a couple sweeps of blue. What the actual fuck? Why is he wearing like… legging shorts? They show off the leanness of his thighs and draw attention to his toned calves. Jesus, his legs are shaved?

“Something wrong, champ?” Lance says, snapping him out of it his stare fest with Lance’s legs.

Keith rips his eyes up to Lance’s, which aren’t that far, to be fair. He’s bending over to untie his shoes. His scowl is back in full force, and he holds it firmly in an attempt to fight off the warmth he can feel creeping up his neck. “What’re you doing here?”

He pauses, blinks, and then a small smirk starts to curl his lips. “Well, currently I’m untying my shoes—“

“Lance.” Keith says flatly, lifting a hand to pinch the bridge of his nose while his other arm wraps around his middle. He closes his eyes briefly. “You know what I mean.”

He snickers. “Sorry, dude, couldn’t resist.”

“Seriously, though.” Keith lets his hand drop, opening his eyes. Lance has gotten one shoe off, tossing it in his locker before peeling off his sock as well. Then he’s onto the other foot. “What are you doing here? I’ve never seen you here, and honestly, you don’t seem like the gym type.”

Lance pauses, looking up to narrow his eyes suspiciously. His lips purse into the tiniest of frowns. “This conversation sounds strangely familiar.” Keith holds his gaze and raises one eyebrow, unable to hide the quirk of his lips at Lance’s comical impression of scrutiny. Lance points at him, narrowing his eyes. “You, sir, need to stop underestimating me.” He says, trying to be serious but unable to hide his smile. Instead, he ducks his head and pulls off his other shoe, throwing it, and his sock, in his locker. When he stands back up, he rests his hands on his hips. “Besides, there’s a lot you don’t know about me.”

“Like the fact that you shave your legs.” Keith says, trying to keep his tone conversational as he gestures to Lance’s calves. Fuck, he’s not sure why he said that. He just can’t stop looking and thinking about it because what the fuck, Lance? So might as well draw attention to it so he has a reason to stare, right? Yeah, great thinking, Keith. Draw attention to the fact that you’re gawking at him like you’ve never seen legs before, great idea.

Lance seems surprised at first, smile fading as he blinks in confusion. Then he looks down, like he’s seeing his legs for the first time. He even wiggles his toes. Jesus. Then he’s looking up, head tilted to the side and grinning sheepishly. He lifts a hand to scratch at his cheek. “Yeaaaah, I started doing that when I swam back in high school. We didn’t need to, and I don’t think it like, does anything, but the whole team did it on a dare once before a swim meet, and I kinda liked it, so I kept it going.”

Keith doesn’t know what to say to that, honestly. So he made a noncommittal grunt and somehow manages to tear his eyes from Lance’s legs and back to his face. “I didn’t know you swam.”

“Like I said, there’s a lot you don’t know about me.” He says with a wink. Keith purses his lips tighter, holding his face as impassive as he can. When he doesn’t get a response, Lance coughs, scratching the back of his neck. “Anyway, that’s why I’m here. I mentioned that I missed swimming a while ago, and Allura said this place has a nice pool. So I thought I’d come check it out.”

Ah. So that explains the shorts. Swimsuit. He should have known.

And then Lance is reaching for the hem of his shirt, and Keith spins around on his heel. Nope. He’s having none of that.

“Right.” Keith’s already walking away, uncoiling his headphones and putting one in his ear. “Good luck with that.”

“What’re you going to do?” He hears Lance call out behind him.

He doesn’t turn around. Instead he shrugs, waving an arm vaguely. “The usual stuff.”

“Alright, well, see you later then, I guess.”

“Later.”

Now if this really were the usual stuff, Keith probably would have gone straight to the indoor track. Probably. He usually did. But when he reaches the top of the stairs, he finds himself turning left instead of right. And somehow, without thinking about it, he ends up in the weight room.

And he’s about eighty-five percent sure it has nothing to do with the fact that the weight room has a glass wall that looks down over the pool.

Okay, maybe seventy percent sure it has nothing to do with that.

Sixty?

Forty-Five.

He’s curious, alright? Sue him. He just learned the pain in his ass, his not-really rival, his dance partner, and kind of his new friend swims, and he’s curious about it. Keith can’t swim for the life of him. Plus, if he knows Lance and Allura like he’s pretty sure he does, they’ll end up in some sort of race. And he’s all for seeing Allura kick Lance’s ass.

He honestly should have expected to see Shiro there. He’s hard to miss. A lot of the dudes hanging around the weight room are big, but his brother isn’t just big, he’s… strong. In presence as well as body. There’s just something about him that makes people take notice, and he’s pretty sure it would be that way even if he didn’t have a tuff of white hair and a prothetic arm. He’s standing on the other side of the room, a couple of dumbbells in his hands. He’s lifting them, but it seems halfhearted.

A small smirk tugging at his lips, Keith slips across the weight room, sidling up to his brother’s side. “Enjoying the view?”

Shiro jumps, dropping both weights in his surprise. They both spring back to avoid getting their toes crushed. There’s hiss from the attendant across the room about dropping weights, and Shiro lifts a hand, muttering an apology. A heavy blush spreading quickly across his cheeks. Keith just grins, crossing his arms over his chest.

“Keith,” He says flatly, almost like a warning but also filled with a deep kind of exasperation that can only come from knowing someone for years.

“What’s up, bro?”

“Shouldn’t you be, I don’t know, running?”

“Am I not allowed to come see my dearest older brother?” Shiro just glares at him, crossing his arms over his chest to mirror Keith’s posture. He doesn’t bother picking the weights up again. “What were you looking at?” He asks, putting that innocent edge to his voice. He turns, taking a step toward the window wall. “Ah, yup, that’ll do it.”

Just as he expected: Allura is sitting by the pool side, her hands behind her as she leans back and her legs idly kicking in the water. She’s wearing a one piece swimsuit, white and blue and pink. Her hair is somehow wrangled back into a tight bun that sits close to her head, even as several curl strands fall down to frame her face.

As Keith turns to look at his brother, his grin can only be described as “shit eating”.

“Don’t.”

“Don’t what?”

“You know what.”

“Enlighten me.”

“I know exactly what you were going to say.” Shiro lifts his chin a fraction, glaring down his nose at Keith. He admits, it’s probably a pretty intimidating pose. Unfortunately for him, it doesn’t work on Keith. Not when Keith has known him long enough to see how flustered he is underneath it all. “Don’t.”

Keith tilts his head to the side. “What was I going to say exactly?”

“Well…” Shiro’s demeanor cracks. He tilts his head back, away from Keith, eyes darting to the ceiling, the wall, the floor. He waves a hand around vaguely. “You know…”

“I don’t.”

He sighs, pinching the bridge of his nose. He shakes his head. “I’m too tired for this.”

Keith feels his grin widen, if only a fraction. He has to bite back his laugh. “No, you’re just getting old.”

Shiro opens his eyes, hand still at his face. His cheeks are tinged pink as he glares at Keith. “To deal with you acting like you’re five? Yeah, you’re right.”

With some difficulty, Keith swallows his laughter. He sighs, shaking his head and forcing his grin to fade. “Alright, here’s the deal,” He looks up at Shiro, all seriousness. Shiro raises an eyebrow. “I’ll stop acting like I’m five when teasing you…”

“Thank you.”

“Once you stop acting like you’re twelve about your crushes.” He feels the grin coming back, quirking the corners of his lips.

“Keith!” Shiro snaps, pursing his lips as the color on his face darkens.

“What? Are you trying to tell me you don’t have a crush? Because I wouldn’t believe you if you did.”

Shiro stares him down, looking twelve kinds of mortified and embarrassed. Keith just grins.

Shiro sighs again, shaking his head. “Why are you like this?” He looks away, eyes once again trailing to the glass wall. No doubt looking at Allura. Keith doesn’t bother to look, too busy drinking in the sight of his flustered brother.

“As your little brother,” Something changes in Shiro’s expression. It’s subtle, but enough to make Keith curious. He finds his gaze drifting toward the window, down towards the pool. “I have faithfully devoted my life to—“ His eyes settle on Lance walking toward the pool, and his words wither and die on his tongue.

He’s tall. He’s always been tall. Keith knows he’s tall and lanky. But somehow, right now, he’s reacquainted with this fact. His swimsuit is tight, and without his shirt, Keith can really see all the contours of his body. Since when the fuck did he have such broad shoulders? His arms and legs definitely don’t normally look that defined. And Keith is pretty damn sure his waist has never been that narrow. God fuck, who is this and what has he done with Lance?

As he watches, Lance stretches his arms over his head, back muscles tightening and rolling beneath his tan skin and he feels something inside of him wither a little bit. What. The actual fuck. Is wrong with him. This is Lance. Loud mouthed and obnoxious Lance. The shit bag who gets under his skin and pisses him off at every available opportunity.

“—to, uh…” Keith tries to get back to his sentence. He’s been quite for long enough for it to be weird. His voice is higher than he was anticipating, and he cuts himself off to clear his throat. He really fucking hopes Shiro doesn’t notice.

But of course, the universe hates him, so he does.

“To what?” Shiro asks curiously, interest piqued. Keith doesn’t look at him, but he can see Shiro staring at him out of the corner of his eye, and then he’s following Keith’s gaze, and… “Oh. Oh.” And god dammit, he has that same shit eating voice that Keith had a moment ago. Fuck.

“Don’t.” Keith says flatly.

“Don’t what?” Shiro practically sings. He’s eating this up. Keith refuses to look at him. He can feel the telltale heat creeping up his neck.

“Whatever you’re going to say, just don’t.”

Shiro laughs, putting up his hands. “Alright, alright.” And Keith breathes a small sigh of relief. He certainly wouldn’t have backed down so quickly, but he’s glad Shiro does. He doesn’t have a mean bone in his body—

“So, Lance…”

Keith groans, slapping a hand over his face. He shakes his head. “Shiro, it’s not like that…”

“Like what, dear brother?”

“I know what you’re thinking, Shiro. And it’s not like that.” He says firmly.

He hums. “Is that so?”

“I’m not doing this.”

“Do you wanna talk about it?”

“Do you want to talk about Allura?”

There was a brief pause and then, “Touche.”

“Truce?”

“For now.”

And then they stand in silence. Blessed, tense, awkward silence, while the two of them refuse to look at each other. Shiro doesn’t move to pick up his weights again, and Keith doesn’t bother going to get any. They watch as Lance launches himself into the pool, curling up to do a cannonball as he hits the water. Allura throws up her arms, shielding her face as water splashes over her. She laughs as Lance comes back up, grinning at her. He swims to where she’s sitting and crosses his arms on the edge of the pool next to her. He doesn’t know what they’re talking about, and he doesn’t really care. He’s too busy glaring at the expanse of Lance’s shoulders and back as it dips into the water—

“Hey, guys!”

Keith jumps as a heavy hand comes down on his shoulder. He whips his head around, face contorting into lord knows what as he stares at Hunk in horror. On Hunk’s other side, he sees Shiro in a very similar position.

“Hunk!” Keith manages to get out, though his voice sounds strangled.

“Uh, what’re you doing here?” Shiro asks, recovering shortly after and managing it much better.

Hunk grins at them both, completely oblivious to the fact that the two of them had been watching Lance and Allura by the poolside. It suddenly hit Keith just how fucking creepy that is, and it knocks the air out of his lungs. His ears are burning.

Hunk shrugs. “I came here with Lance. He said he was gonna come by and swim with Allura, and he asked if I wanted to come with. I’ve been meaning to find a new gym anyway. Pidge may not weigh much, but it never hurts to be prepared, you know?”

Keith gives him a weak smile, trying to ignore the warmth on his face. They’re in a gym though. Hunk has no idea how long they’ve been here. They can probably blame it on exertion, right?

“I’d be happy to show you around, Hunk.” Shiro says, and fuck him for sounding so calm. Like he hadn’t just been caught red handed staring like a creep.

Hunk grins at him. “That sounds great, Shiro. What’ve you guys been doing so far? When I got here, you were looking down—“ He takes a step forward, curious eyes going to the window, down to the pool below, and— “Oh, hey! It’s Lance and Allura!” He brightens instantly, seemingly oblivious to Keith and Shiro stiffening beside him. “Do they know we’re up here?”

“Uhh, no, we, uh—“ Shiro stutters for words.

“We just noticed them.” Keith finishes, voice a little pitchy but otherwise calm. He exchanges a tight lipped look with Shiro, a silent agreement passing between them.

“Yeah, I just noticed Allura down there when Keith showed up. Then Lance walked out. Don’t think they’ve noticed us.” Shiro says with complete calm. It’s a hundred percent true, and when he says it, it doesn’t sound creepy at all.

“Huh, well, let’s say hi.” And before he say say anything to stop him, Hunk steps forward, rapping his knuckles heavily on the glass and ignoring all the looks he gets around the weight room as he says loudly. “Lance! Laaaance! Alluraaaa! Hey guys!”

To Keith’s horror, they both look up, faces breaking out into grins as Hunk waves at them. They wave back, and Keith looks away, pursing his lips and really fucking hoping the color on his face isn’t visible from down below. God, he can’t even make eye contact with Lance while he’s like that. Jesus Christ, there’s something wrong with him.

embarrassed broganes

He excuses himself and walks away to the racks of dumbbells, grabbing two of them for himself. When he comes back to the other two, they’re still staring intently down at the pool. Shiro doesn’t seem nearly as red anymore, and he’s even smiling. “What’s going on?” He asks, coming to stand on the other side of Hunk.

Hunk crosses his arms over his chest, easy smile on his face as he glances at him. “Looks like they’re about to have some sort of race. Look.”

Keith does, and sure enough, Lance and Allura are both standing at the edge of the pool in front of two empty lanes that had been roped off from the rest. They’re both stretching as they talk, and Keith knows those smirks. Both of those smirks. Those cocky, self assured smirks. Even if Hunk hadn’t told him, he would have known right away what was happening.

As they watch, the two of them line up by their respective lanes, standing at the edge and bending over into position. Both of them have really good form, and Keith watches Allura because she’s so much easier to stare at.

“Who’d you think will win?” Hunk asks.

Shiro smirks. Keith scoffs. “Allura,” They both say at the same time. Hunk throws back his head and laughs.

He’s not sure who’s counting them down, but he sees Allura tilt her head to say something to Lance, who immediately breaks form to stand up straight, arms flailing as he says something they can’t hear. His face looks mortified. And then Allura is launching herself into the pool, entering the water with graceful perfection. Lance’s wordless shout echoes around the room below before he’s diving in after her.

They race to one end of the long pool and back. Allura hits the turn around point first, but Lance is right behind her. But despite how smoothly he cuts through the water, he can’t close the distance. Allura hits the edge of the pool with a loud whoop and throws a hand in the air, grinning as Lance hits the edge. He looks furious. He says something to her as he pulls himself out of the water and sits himself on the edge.

Lance’s head snaps up to look at them as he gestures violently to Allura, who’s innocently treading water. His voice is muffled through the glass, but it’s loud and echoes around the room enough for them to make out the words: “She cheated!

Keith laughs.

 


 

[ FRIDAY ]

Group Chat: “Family BBQ - Today’s Menu: Roasted Lance”

last resort: whatever lance is about to type into the chat ignore him
vive la lance: SHIRO I HAVE A HUMBLE REQUEST
vive la lance: keith f u
vive la lance: this is between me and shiro
uptown hunk: uuuh hey guys
uptown hunk: whats up?
vive la lance: HUNK
vive la lance: buddy ol pal
vive la lance: tell keith to shut his fucking mouth
uptown hunk: yeah sorry buddy I’m not gonna do that :/
last resort: thank you hunk
uptown hunk: np buddy :)
vive la lance: okay Im gonna gloss over that betrayal in favor of pursuing my mission
vive la lance: SHIRO YOU HERE???
LLunarGoddess: hold on, I’ll tell him to look at his phone
last resort: ALLURA DON’T
vive la lance: allura youre an angel
LLunarGoddess: :)
Need-A-Hand: I’m here
Need-A-Hand: What is it, Lance?
last resort: god fuck
Need-A-Hand: Language, Keith
last resort: gosh fuck
Need-A-Hand: >:(
vive la lance: SHIRO I HAVE A REQUEST
last resort: shiro if you have ever loved me you will ignore him
coo coo motherfuckers: if lance’s request is gonna embarrass keith, I say go for it
last resort: pidge you’re gonna want to be on my side for this
coo coo motherfuckers: what? why?
coo coo motherfuckers: oh god what’s that idiot gonna do?
vive la lance: SHIRO I WANT TO SEE PICTURES OF KEITH AND PIDGE IN HIGH SCHOOL
uptown hunk: :O
LLunarGoddess: !!!
coo coo motherfuckers: oh fuck no
last resort: that’s why you’re gonna want to be on my side
vive la lance: SHIRO SEND ME PICS OF THE EMO TWINS
coo coo motherfuckers: shiro don’t you dare
last resort: shiro I will disown you
Need-A-Hand: Pretty sure you can’t do that, Keith
last resort: watch me
vive la lance: hunk back me up!
vive la lance: you wanna see pics of this train wreck too right??
uptown hunk: I’m…
uptown hunk: going to stay out of this one
vive la lance: hunk! D:
vive la lance: bro
uptown hunk: sorry dude but I live with them
uptown hunk: and I’m not willing to take the consequences of encouraging this
uptown hunk: they know where I sleep
coo coo motherfuckers: hunk knows what’s up
vive la lance: boo you whore
vive la lance: allura’s on my side right? coran?
LLunarGoddess: most definitely >:)
LLunarGoddess: I’d love to see pictures of them in high school, I bet it’s adorable
coo coo motherfuckers: no offense but fuck you, allura
last resort: I knew you were evil
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: What are friends for if not to relive your pasts with you in a humorous light?
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: I say bring on the pictures!
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: I’m sure we could all use a good laugh with the stress of auditions looming over us
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: Or you, as the case may be
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: I’m delightfully stress free at the moment B{D
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: Still I think the pictures would be amusing
vive la lance: thats what Im talkin about!
vive la lance: bring on the pics shiro!
vive la lance: its your brotherly duty!
Need-A-Hand: As much as I would love to agree with you, Lance
Need-A-Hand: And as much as I love any opportunity to embarrass Keith
last resort: i hate you
coo coo motherfuckers: shiro think about this
Need-A-Hand: I’m going to have to say no
coo coo motherfuckers: thank god
vive la lance: whAT??
vive la lance: shIRO WHY??
Need-A-Hand: It’s been mentioned before that blackmail pictures are a two way street with us
Need-A-Hand: I don’t think the revenge pictures would be worth it
vive la lance: what if I promise not to look at them???
LLunarGoddess: I can’t make that promise
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: Nor can I
uptown hunk: same here
vive la lance: guys pls
vive la lance: Im trying to negotiate over here
Need-A-Hand: Sorry, Lance, no deal
last resort: you can stay my brother for now
coo coo motherfuckers: you’ve made a wise decision
vive la lance: man fUCK this buSTED BLACKMAIL SYSTEM

 

 

Group Chat: “Family BBQ - Today’s Menu: Roasted Lance”

vive la lance has renamed the conversation “Family BBQ - Today’s Menu: Flash Fried Emo Twins”

uptown hunk: not gonna lie
uptown hunk: that menu sounds gross
coo coo motherfuckers: what the fuck is this
vive la lance: I HAVE RETURNED AND I COME BEARING GIFTS
coo coo motherfuckers: …
coo coo motherfuckers: that better not mean what I think it means
vive la lance: strap in kiddies
vive la lance: were about to go on a wild ride B)
last resort: lance
last resort: what the fuck are you doing

vive la lance has sent an image
vive la lance has sent an image
vive la lance has sent an image

vive la lance: B)
uptown hunk: omg
LLunarGoddess: oooomg!!
last resort: oh, my god
last resort: I’m breaking your kneecaps
coo coo motherfuckers: WHERE THE FUCK DID YOU GET THOSE
LLunarGoddess: you’re both so CUTE!!
coo coo motherfuckers: allura
coo coo motherfuckers: I like you
coo coo motherfuckers: but I will not hesitate to take you down
LLunarGoddess: bring it short stuff B)
LLunarGoddess: you’re adorable
coo coo motherfuckers: OH MY GOD
uptown hunk: pls don’t kill me pidge
uptown hunk: but allura’s right
vive la lance: LOOK AT THOSE TWO ADORABLE EMO ASSHOLES
vive la lance: PIDGE HAS BLACK HAIR
vive la lance: WITH GREEN HIGHLIGHTS
vive la lance: KEITH HAS A DOUCHY RED STREAK
vive la lance: still a mullet tho :/
last resort: fuck off lance
coo coo motherfuckers: I will end you, you soggy piece of bread
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: What a delightful display of youth! Reminds me of my days in high school
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: Tried to dye my mustache once
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: That did not go well
LLunarGoddess: it did not
vive la lance: Im crying tears of joy rn
vive la lance: I have been blessed
coo coo motherfuckers: I’m going to beat you with a garden gate
coo coo motherfuckers: how the ever living FUCK did you find those pictures?
last resort: shiro I swear to god
last resort: you’re being suspiciously quiet
Need-A-Hand: I’m just trying to figure out how Lance could have gotten those from me
Need-A-Hand: I didn’t give them to him, I swear
last resort: I’m texting mom right now to send me your most embarrassing pictures
Need-A-Hand: Keith, please
Need-A-Hand: It wasn’t me
Need-A-Hand: We had a deal, and I didn’t break it
coo coo motherfuckers: shiro you bowl of stale cereal
coo coo motherfuckers: I will have my vengeance
Need-A-Hand: It wasn’t me!
vive la lance: as much as I would love to see the retribution pics
vive la lance: I feel like I should say it wasnt shiro
coo coo motherfuckers: THEN HOW THE FUCK????
vive la lance: your brother dude
coo coo motherfuckers: MATT DID THIS???
coo coo motherfuckers: I’m gonna kill him
Need-A-Hand: Pidge, let’s stay reasonable
coo coo motherfuckers: I’m sorry I can’t hear you over the sound of sibling betrayal
uptown hunk: pidge you’re starting to sound like lance
vive la lance: this is the best day of my life
last resort: shut the fuck up lance
last resort: delete those right now
vive la lance: make me mullet boy ;P
last resort: I’m going to break your kneecaps
vive la lance: keith I need my kneecaps if Im gonna dance :(
vive la lance: you wound me
last resort: not yet
last resort: but I will
vive la lance: are you gonna
vive la lance: cut my life into pieces? ;)
last resort: ….
last resort: what
vive la lance: Is this your last resort?
last resort: oh my god
vive la lance: suffocation?
vive la lance: no breathing?
last resort: stop
last resort: I made this username years ago okay?
last resort: I never use this stupid program
last resort: fuck off
vive la lance: ahahahahaha
vive la lance: cant escape your past keith
vive la lance: just to sow more Discourse™
vive la lance: pidge was the one who told me where your username was from
last resort: PIDGE WHAT THE FUCK
coo coo motherfuckers: can’t talk rn keith
coo coo motherfuckers: dealing with brother dearest
vive la lance: teenage emo keith is everything I ever hoped for
vive la lance: I am LIVING

last resort has changed his username to fuck off

vive la lance: AHAHAHAHA
Need-A-Hand: Keith
fuck off: don’t you keith me shiro
coo coo motherfuckers: this is BULLSHIT
coo coo motherfuckers: I can’t even get my REVENGE on him because matt is stupidly not ashamed of his gawky awkward teenage self
coo coo motherfuckers: what the FUCK is up with that
Need-A-Hand: To be honest, he hasn’t changed much over the years
coo coo motherfuckers: I mean
coo coo motherfuckers: yeah
coo coo motherfuckers: but in principle he should still be ashamed
coo coo motherfuckers: I’m offended
vive la lance: oh! speaking of matt
vive la lance: he also sent me this

vive la lance has sent an image

coo coo motherfuckers: YOU TAKE THAT FILTH BACK YOU UNFATHOMABLY ITCHY SWEATER
vive la lance: not on your life pidge
vive la lance: pay backs a bitch
LLunarGoddess: awwwWWWW!!!
LLunarGoddess: that’s adorable :)
uptown hunk: aww they’re sleeping and CUDDLING
coo coo motherfuckers: HUNK I WILL HIDE ALL YOUR FAVORITE COOKING UTENSILS
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: That is positively adorable!
Need-A-Hand: … It IS pretty cute
Need-A-Hand: That one’s one of my favorites

fuck off has sent an image

Need-A-Hand: Keith! WHY? I didn’t send those pictures to Lance!
uptown hunk: :O !!!!
uptown hunk: this is amazing
vive la lance: AWKWARD TEENAGE SHIRO!!!
vive la lance: THIS IS THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: What a strapping young lad!
LLunarGoddess: this is…
LLunarGoddess: the best thing I’ve ever seen :’)
Need-A-Hand: Allura, please, don’t
LLunarGoddess: don’t what? ;)
Need-A-Hand: Uuuuugh, Keith, why?
fuck off: if I have to suffer so do you
vive la lance: this is The Best™
vive la lance: have I died and gone to heaven??
uptown hunk: I feel like… I need to level the playing ground
vive la lance: …
vive la lance: hunk what are you talking about?
uptown hunk: sorry buddy but if I don’t pacify pidge I fear what they might do
vive la lance: huuuuuunk
uptown hunk: :/
coo coo motherfuckers: do it, hunk
fuck off: do it
LLunarGoddess: please
Need-A-Hand: Do it
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: You’re outvoted, Lance
vive la lance: NO!

uptown hunk has sent an image

vive la lance: NOBODY LOOK
vive la lance: AVERT YOUR EYES
coo coo motherfuckers: sweet sweet justice
fuck off: … wow
vive la lance: SHUT YOUR WHORE MOUTH EMO BOY
fuck off: I suddenly feel better about myself
vive la lance: FUCK OOOOOFF
Need-A-Hand: And you made fun of ME for braces and acne
vive la lance: IT WAS BEFORE I HAD MY PERSONAL HYGENE ROUTINE OKAY???
LLunarGoddess: Lance, you’re adorable
vive la lance: shut the fuck off allura
coo coo motherfuckers: shut off
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: Shut off!
uptown hunk: shut off :o
fuck off: go ahead and shut off allura
Need-A-Hand: I’d rather she didn’t
fuck off: I’m sure
Need-A-Hand: …
Need-A-Hand: Shut off, Keith
vive la lance: hunk buddy you brought this on yourself
uptown hunk: yeah I figured :/
uptown hunk: I don’t blame you

vive la lance has sent an image

uptown hunk: sigh
uptown hunk: you had to pick that one?
vive la lance: sorry not sorry buddy
coo coo motherfuckers: okay but teenage hunk is like ACTUALLY adorable
coo coo motherfuckers: like a straight up prepubescent angel?
coo coo motherfuckers: I can’t even make fun of him
fuck off: yeah I’m with pidge
fuck off: let’s go back to making fun of lance
vive la lance: HEY!
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: I can offer a diversion for you, Lance

I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul has sent an image

LLunarGoddess: CORAN!
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: Behold! Young Allura! Isn’t she precious?
uptown hunk: awww!!!
coo coo motherfuckers: hA!
vive la lance: coran you are my hero
Need-A-Hand: Oh my god
Need-A-Hand: That’s
Need-A-Hand: So cute
LLunarGoddess: I’m leaving this chat
coo coo motherfuckers: what’s the matter princess? can dish it out but can’t deal with it?
LLunarGoddess: a parting gift

LLunarGoddess has sent an image

vive la lance: …
vive la lance: coran were you just BORN with that mustache???
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: I’ve been gifted B)
uptown hunk: that’s honestly impressive
uptown hunk: you were a strapping young dude, coran
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: Why, thank you, Hunk ^_^
coo coo motherfuckers: that’s… some scary shit
coo coo motherfuckers: that mustache is immortal
Need-A-Hand: Coran looks almost the same as he does now
coo coo motherfuckers: I know it’s not fair
LLunarGoddess: how about this one

LLunarGoddess has sent an image

coo coo motherfuckers: AAAAH!!!!!
uptown hunk: WHOAAA NO NONONO
fuck off: holy fuck
Need-A-Hand: Wooow
vive la lance: PUT THE MUSTACHE BACK ON PUT IT ON WHAT IS THIS WITCHCRAFT
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: D:< !!!
LLunarGoddess: B)
fuck off: why is this group like this?
vive la lance: because friends make friends share the suffering
coo coo motherfuckers: fact
uptown hunk: truth
vive la lance: B) deal with it preteen mullet
fuck off: I hate you all
vive la lance: aw keith likes us ;)
Need-A-Hand: aww <3
uptown hunk: awww :’)
LLunarGoddess: awwww :P
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: awwwww 8D
coo coo motherfuckers: awwwwww ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)
fuck off: fuck
fuck off: OFF

 


 

[ SATURDAY ]

“Keeeeith, I’m exhausted!” Lance whines, throwing an arm over Keith’s shoulders and leaning his whole body into it. Lance hates that he doesn’t even budge. He just shifts his feet a little to rebalance himself.

“Lance, get off of me.” He says mildly. His voice is calm, but there’s faint color on his cheeks. Then again, that could just be from the fact that they’ve run through their dance routine like a hundred times in the past hour. Ugh.

“Nooooo, I’m exhausted. You tired me out. Jesus, Keith, haven’t you ever heard that too much practice can be a bad thing?”

“No.”

“Well it can!” Lance huffs, draping both arms over his shoulders. Keith ignores him in favor of scrolling through his phone. Lance can see that he’s checking the group message. “If you practice too much, you can over practice and then when the time comes, if you fuck up once you get lost and you stumble and it’s harder to recover! That’s why you’re not supposed to actually like, write a speech. You just write notecards and wing it.”

Keith snorts. “I’m not really a fan of winging it.”

“Yeah, no kidding.” Lance rolls his eyes, sagging heavier on Keith’s shoulders.

Keith tries to shrug him off, but Lance isn’t moving. “Lance, get off of me.”

“No! I’m tired! I’m sore! My legs are like jelly! Have some sympathy, Keith!”

“Stop being dramatic.”

“Can’t help it, dude. It’s in my blood.” Keith snorts, and tries to disengage himself from Lance once again, but Lance isn’t having any of it. He wraps his arms around Keith’s neck and wraps a leg around him.

Keith grunts, trying to push off his leg, but he’s persistent. “What the fuck are you doing?”

“Keith, carry meeeee.”

“And why in the ever living hell would I do that?”

“Because you’ve worked me to the bone, Keith! You don’t want me to trip on my tired legs and fall down the stairs, do you? Break a leg is just an expression!”

“Use the elevator.”

“You’re so cruel. You piggybacked Pidge!”

“Pidge is significantly smaller than you.”

Lance scoffs. “What? I thought you lifted, bro? You saying I’m too heavy for you? I mean, I understand if you can’t—“

“Oh, my god, Lance, just shut up.” He sounds exasperated, but not mad. He pinches the bridge of his nose and sighs, shaking his head. It’s a gesture that Lance has come to realize is him gracefully accepting defeat. “Alright, but you’re carrying my bag.”

Lance lets out a happy squeal that he’s not in the least bit embarrassed by, and scrambles away from Keith, grabbing his bag and Keith’s. He throws one over each shoulder and hurries back to Keith, who’s standing with his hip cocked to the side, arms crossed over his chest, and watching Lance with a raised eyebrow. Try as he might, if he’s even trying, he can’t hide the amusement playing across his features. Lance grins at him broadly, gesturing with impatient hands for him to turn around.

Keith roll his eyes and does as he’s bid, shifting his legs apart to balance his weight as he bends down a little, holding his arms out to the side. Lance wastes no time jumping on Keith’s back, wrapping his long limbs around him. Keith grunts, straightening as his hands hesitantly wrap around Lance’s knees. He hops a little, adjusting Lance’s weight.

“Jesus, why are you so heavy?”

“It’s all muscle, dude. Check out these guns.” He legs go of Keith with one arm in order to flex, but Keith spins sharply, throwing off his balance. He lets out a small yelp that he’s a little ashamed off, and clings to Keith once again. “Um, rude. And to think I gave you front row seats to the gun show.”

Keith chuckles. “If I wanted to see Nerf guns, I’d go to Walmart.”

“Ha ha, very funny.” Lance says dryly. Then he straightens and points to the door, saying much more enthusiastically. “Hi-ho, Mullet! Away!”

Keith doesn’t even try to hide his soft chortle of a laugh. It’s insanely adorable. Which isn’t a weird thing to think, because plenty of Lance’s friends have adorable laughs. Take Hunk for example! His laughter is the best! And when Pidge really gets going, they get all shorty and high pitched and it’s hilariously cute.

“Really? That’s the best you could do?”

Lance scoffs in mock offense as Keith carries him through the door, and Lance reaches out as they pass to flick off the lights. “Well, I can’t really call you Silver, now can I? There’s nothing silver about you. Except maybe your pasty ass skin. And I would’ve gone for another horse reference, but Black Beauty was too much of a compliment. I have standards, you know.”

“You could’ve fooled me.”

“Excuse!”

“Face it, Lance. You need new material. If you keep calling me Mullet, I’m going to start thinking you actually like my hair.”

Lance scoffs and sputters, making a big show just for the hell of it. And possibly because he knows it might get Keith to laugh again. “Puh-lease, Keith. This rat’s nest?” He lifts a hand to ruffle Keith’s hair. He’s… just going to ignore how soft it is, like wow, what conditioner does this boy use? Keith ducks his head to get away, but there is no escaping. Lance laughs. “Your hair is terrible, and you should feel bad.”

“If I cut it, you’ll lose most of your insults. Who knows, you might start calling me by my name.”

Lance hums, considering. “You’re right. Keep it. I don’t want all my famous mullet research to go to waste.”

He can almost hear Keith rolling his eyes. They get to the elevator and Keith nods to the panel. “Hit the button.”

“The elevator? Really?” He says, but hits the down button anyway. They hear the contraption hum to life. They haven’t taken the elevator a single time since they started this whole rivalry fiasco. And even after they became partners instead, they still took the stairs. There’s like an unspoken rule about it.

“I’m not taking the stairs carrying your fat ass.”

“Pfff, sure, be a wimp.”

When the doors dinged open, Keith steps inside and Lance hits the ground floor button. As the doors close, Lance feels a strange sense of… confinement come over him. He’s never been particularly claustrophobic, and he’s never had a problem with elevators. But there’s something infinitely more private about being trapped inside a small metal box than being alone in a long, echoey stairwell. The silence that falls feels suffocating, leaving him with nothing to think about besides the fact that he’s got a mildly attractive guy between his thighs— and okay, he admits, that was a weird way to think of that.

“Hey Keith,” He says to break the silence.

“Yeah?” There’s something unreadable in his voice. Or maybe Lance is just imagining it. He continues on anyway, saying the only thing he can think to say.

Probably because it’s the main thing that’s been bothering him.

“Are you nervous?” He asks, voice coming out a lot softer than he had meant to.

It takes him a moment to answer. “Nervous about what?”

Lance let out a surprised snort. “Keith, don’t be a smartass!” He says, lightly smacking the side of Keith’s head. Then, a little more grumpily, he adds, “You know what I mean…”

“No, I’m not nervous.” He says as the elevator descends. “Are you?’

“Well, yeah.” He doesn’t see any reason to deny it. Especially since Keith can’t see his face right now. “This is like… a big deal for me. I really want to go to regionals. And we’ve had half the time to prepare as everyone else. And we’ve never danced together before. And there’s like, a million and five things that could go wrong. What if someone breaks their arm again? What if I break my arm? What if I get sick? What if I completely blank and forget everything? Oh my god, I’m going to choke, aren’t I? I’m totally going to choke—“

He’s cut off from his increasingly panicked rambling as Keith takes a step back and pushes his back up against the elevator wall. Keith leans back into him heavily, pushing the air out of his lungs. He tilts his head back against Lance’s chest, and he gets a mouth full of mullet. He sputters, turning his head to get the strands unstuck from his lips.

“You’re not going to choke.” Keith says, and fuck him for being so calm about this. Why is Lance the only one panicking?

“But how do you knoooow?” Lance whines.

Keith shrugs beneath his arms. “I just do.”

“Keeeeith.”

Keith sighs. “Look, how many times have we run through it?”

“A lot.”

“And how many times have I corrected you until you got the perfect form?”

“Too many times!”

“And did it help you improve?”

“Maybe…”

“And are you confident with the dance?”

“For the most part…”

“And who’s good at pulling shit off even when he fucks up?”

“…Me?”

“And who has faith that you can pull this off?”

“Uh, Shiro?”

“Literally everyone but you, so would you just chill? We’ll be fine.”

Lance groans, despite the warmth that’s spreading in his chest. “How are you so… calm about this?”

He shrugs again. “We’ve run through the routine enough time that it’s just muscle memory now.”

“Dancing is more than just muscle memory, you know.”

Another shrug. Every time he does it, his shoulders rub against Lance’s chest. He doesn’t like that he notices that. “It’s gotten me this far, and it’s going to be what gets us through auditions.”

Lance scoffs. “Well you sure are cocky.”

“Yeah, and you should be, too.”

The elevator dings as it opens, and Keith leans off the back wall. They stumble forward for a moment before he catches himself, then they’re walking down the hall. It’s nearly empty at this time. The dance classes haven’t started yet, so the only people here are those like them. More of the independent study type. A few people give them curious glances as they pass, but Keith doesn’t pay them any mind. Whenever Lance makes eye contact, he gives them finger guns and a wink. He’s the king of making other people look away first.

“Hey, Keith?”

“Yeah?”

“Thanks… For the pep talk and everything.”

“Don’t get used to it.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it.”

When they reach the front lobby, Pidge and Hunk are already there waiting. Coran stands in the open doorway to the office, leaning casually against the door frame while he talks to the two of them. When Keith and Lance come around the corner, conversation stops as they all turn to stare with varying expressions of amusement and surprise.

Keith takes a few more steps toward them and Lance is grinning, lifting a hand into the air. “Hi, guys—Keith!

Keith turns sharply, pivoting on his heel as he lets go of Lance’s legs, pulling them off his hips as he turns. Lance hasn’t been holding on tightly, and he’s promptly thrown onto the floor on his ass.

Keith!” Lance repeats, putting everything into his offended tone as he glares up at Keith, rubbing his ass.

Pidge is cackling behind him, and Coran is chuckling. Even Hunk is laughing, and Lance is so betrayed!

“Special delivery.” Keith announces, gesturing to Lance with one hand.

“I’m not signing for that. Can we return it?” Pidge says.

Lance gapes at them. “Rude.”

But Keith is laughing softly under his breath as he bends down to pick up his bag, and Lance can’t bring himself to be too mad at him. Fucking Keith.

“See you guys tomorrow.” He says, giving them all a small salute with two fingers as he turns and walks back toward the hall. Lance has learned over the past few weeks that Keith always parks in the back.

As he watches him go, he remembers something, and scrambles to his feet to hurry after him. “Keith! Wait up!”

Keith stops, already around the corner, and turns to stare at him. “What?”

Lance skips to a stop in front of him, grinning. “You know that red plaid you have?”

“Uh, yeah?” He looks about twelve flavors of confused.

“Wear it tomorrow.”

“What?”

“Wear it tomorrow. With a black shirt and black pants.”

Keith raises an eyebrow. “Why?”

Lance just grins. “Just trust me.”

 


 

[ SUNDAY ]

Keith makes it to the studio nearly an hour before auditions.

Despite what he had said to Lance, he’s feeling a little nervous. It’s not often he performs in front of a crowd, or anyone for that matter, so he’s just… he’s not used to the anticipation of it all. That’s honestly the worst part. Having to just… wait. Waiting, and waiting, and all the adrenaline of it just souring in his veins. He knows once they get up there, he’ll be fine. Once they’re dancing, he’ll be fine. Once it’s over, he’ll be fine. But it’s everything that leads up to doing it that’s got him on edge.

He had been pacing around his apartment, unable to start anything and unable to just… calm down, so he had decided fuck it, he’d go to the studio early.

He gets a key from Coran and holes himself up in an empty room, running through the routine a couple more times. His muscle memory is impeccable. As always. Sure, they changed it a bit when they adapted it for two people. And yeah, they added a bunch of things. But this dance was his first. He’d had much more time to prepare. And besides, this is his element. Memorizing choreography like this… it’s what he’s good at.

Lance, on the other hand…

It’s not that Lance is bad, it’s just not his thing. Keith knew that going into this. Even when he was trying, even when he was listening to Keith’s instructions and mirroring his moves, Keith could feel him struggling to contain the urge to act out. To dance his own way. Keith could practically feel him fighting against the choreography, despite his determination to learn it. It just… wasn’t in his nature. Keith could see that he wanted to learn, but his attention was just constantly drifting, and Keith had to constantly reign it back in.

So Keith had drilled him hard. He had corrected him mercilessly. He had made Lance go through it step for step, making him pause to Keith could adjust his arm here, push his leg out a little there, curve his torso every so slightly. He made sure each and every one of Lance’s poses were perfect, that they hit the correct beats at just the right times.

Lance complained. Holy shit did he complain. He whined and he pouted, but he did everything Keith asked. He never gave up and he let Keith go about nitpicking everything.

Keith isn’t even sure Lance realizes just how much it helped him improve. He’s a good dancer. That much is obvious. And all the attention to detail, making Lance go through it over and over and over until they were perfectly in sync… it had actually helped. It had drilled it into Lance’s muscle memory without the idiot even knowing. Lance knows the moves. He fucking knows this dance like the back of his hand. Keith knows he does. Keith, honestly, has complete faith in him.

The real question is: is Lance going to get so far into his own head that he doesn’t trust his body to just do what Keith taught it to do?

Keith doesn’t know the answer to that question, but there’s nothing he can do about it at this point. He’d tried his best to give a pep talk yesterday, and that had been awkward as hell. He’s not used to… being that guy. That’s usually Shiro’s deal. Still, Lance is his partner in this. It’s the least he can do to try and get him to calm the fuck down and trust himself.

All Keith can do now is focus on himself and make sure that he does what he’s supposed to do, and just… pray to anything that’ll listen that Lance can pull this off.

He’s gone through the routine several times with long breaks between to just scroll through his phone to distract himself, when he gets a message. Then two. Then three. He just watches as his phone blows up.

vive la lance: dude! where are you??
vive la lance: were here
vive la lance: me hunk and pidge
vive la lance: I wanted to get here like an hour or two or three ago but SOME PEOPLE thought that was excessive??
vive la lance: rude much
vive la lance: I stayed the night with them last night so they could make sure I got here on time
vive la lance: not that I slept much
vive la lance: even tho hunk made me sleepy time tea
vive la lance: it just made me pee a lot
vive la lance: I think my bloodstream is like 50% coffee rn??
vive la lance: is that a bad thing??
vive la lance: too late now
vive la lance: anyway where are you dude??
vive la lance: dont tell me you forgot
vive la lance: or youre late
vive la lance: or youre skipping out on me
vive la lance: or that you got into an accident and youre in the hospital
vive la lance: ill kick your ass keith kogane i swear i will
vive la lance: keith
vive la lance: keith
vive la lance: keith
fuck off: jfc lance STOP
vive la lance: there you are!
vive la lance: well sort of
vive la lance: where are you really?
vive la lance: like physically rn
vive la lance: and the answer better be “almost there”
fuck off: I’m here
fuck off: at the studio
vive la lance: wait really?
fuck off: I’ve been here for an hour
fuck off: Im upstairs, Ill head down now
vive la lance: you got here early?
fuck off: yeah
vive la lance: oh
vive la lance: nice
fuck off: this is a big thing for me too lance Im going to fuck it up for you
vive la lance: I know I know
vive la lance: Im just nervous
fuck off: I know
fuck off: but youll do fine
vive la lance: damn right I will
vive la lance: just make sure to carry your own weight hotshot
vive la lance: btw you remembered to wear your red plaid right?
fuck off: yeah?
vive la lance: good ;)

Keith shoves his phone back into his pocket as he reaches the bottom of the steps and steps out into the main hall. Auditions are set to take place in room 1A, one of the biggest rooms on the ground floor. A quick check of the time tells him that it’s ten minutes until the hour, when it’s scheduled to start. Everyone is filtering into the room, except for Lance, who’s leaning against the wall outside the room, one leg propped up on the wall behind him and hands shoved in his pockets.

He looks up as Keith approaches, a bright grin spreading his lips.

“You’ve got to be kidding me.” Keith says, frowning as he crosses his arms over his chest.

Lance doesn’t need an explanation to know what Keith’s talking about. He pushes off the wall and holds his arms out to the side. “What’d you think?” He crosses his ankles and executes a smooth spin.

Keith raises an eyebrow. “I think you’re an idiot.”

“Aww, don’t be that way, Keith. We look good!”

“You know this is just auditions, right? They’re not judging us on appearances. Just how we dance.”

“Well, yeah, but they’ll appreciate the extra effort we’re putting into this. They’ll never know that we only had two weeks to prepare.”

“I don’t think they’ll be fooled by matching outfits.” Keith deadpans. “All the judges saw us signed up for solo auditions.”

Lance just shrugs, putting his hands on his hips. His grins morphs into more of a smirk. “Come on, it’s all about showmanship. Appearances might not officially count, but we’re definitely going to stick out.”

“I hope it’s in a good way.”

Lance scoffs and steps closer to sling an arm around Keith’s shoulders. “Have some faith in me, Keith, buddy, ol’ pal. We’ve got this awesome duality thing going in our dance, you know? And now that’s enforced by our awesome casual fire and ice getup.” He says, waggling his eyebrows and tugging on the edges of his open plaid.

His plaid matches Keith’s almost perfectly, except for the fact that it’s blue instead of red. Both of them are wearing it open with black shirts underneath, and the sleeves rolled up to their elbows. Like Keith, Lance is wearing black jeans. The way the blue and black compliment Lance’s skin tone, showing off the definition of his forearms… god fuck, where did he get off? It just wasn’t fair that he could dress like a hobo half the time, a douchebag the other half, and still manage to look good like this. What an asshole.

Keith rolls his eyes. “Fire and ice, huh?”

“Yeah, pretty cool, right?” Lance is grinning, and Keith glances at him sideways. He refuses to turn his head all the way. They’re too close as it is. He gives Lance a flat stare, but feels a smile tugging at his lips. “You’re fire cause you’re Mr. Hotshot. And I’m ice, obviously, cause I’m just that cool.” He lifts his chin, tugging at his collar.

Keith snorts.

The room is crowded. Much more crowded than solo auditions had been. But he supposes that’s to be expected when everyone is auditioning in pairs. Still, his anxiety over being in such a crowded space, surrounded by all the sound and voices, it’s not so bad. Not when Lance’s arm is still over his shoulder as he guides Keith across the room to where Pidge and Hunk are sitting up against the wall with Shiro and Allura.

Hunk and Lance fist bump. Shiro puts an encouraging hand on Keith’s shoulder. Pidge flashes them a thumbs up. Allura gives them a brilliant smile and a wave. Keith and Lance settle down next to the four of them, and it’s… comforting to be around them. It helps ease his nerves, still frazzled with anticipation. It’s easy to ignore the steadily filling room when he’s pressed so close to the familiar bubble of his close friends.

When the clock hits the hour, Coran is suddenly there at the front of the room, and not a second late. He welcomes everyone and starts his prepared speech, much like he had for solo auditions. When he’s done, he bows in an overly formal way that reminds Keith of something Lance would do, and strides off to the side to the judge’s table.

They go by the list order of sign ups. Which, unfortunately, means that Keith and Lance are last. When this is announced, Keith sighs. He hates going last. He’d prefer to go first and get it over with than sit and stew in anticipation.

At the sound of his sigh, and what he can only assume is a sour look on his face, Lance leans over and whispers. “Hey, don’t worry about it, we got this.”

Keith scowls, hunching his shoulders slightly as he slides down the wall. “I’m not worried.” He mumbles. “I just don’t like going last.”

Lance snorts softly, nudging his shoulder with his own. “What’re you talking about? Last is the best time to go. The first thing they remember is the last thing they see, you know? We’re going to be so memorable that they have to give us one of the spots.”

Keith glances up at him, feeling his expression soften when faced with Lance’s confident smirk. “Well you sure are cocky.”

He snickers, tilting his chin down as he raises an eyebrow. “Wasn’t it you who told me I should be?”

Keith just smiles.

The list of contestants is longer than Keith anticipated. Or maybe time just moves a lot slower when he’s watching everyone dance? He’s not really sure. Some of their competition is good, but others could use some obvious improvement. He watches them all with a critical eye, but it’s not judging. He’s just watching the choreography, interest piqued at what others might have come up with. Half the time he’s not even seeing what people are doing, but rather the potential of what they could be doing, if their dances had been tweaked just right.

Beside him, Lance is a nervous wreck. He might have talked big about being the last to go, but Keith can see his nerves are frayed. He’s twitching a lot. Keith can see him out of the corner of his eye, fingers drumming against his arms, foot restlessly bouncing. He watches the others dance with polite attention, but in the breaks, his eyes are shifting everywhere, lips pressed tight. He’s not even talking, which is probably what worries Keith the most.

Keith doesn’t think he’s particularly nervous, but Lance is doing a damn fine job of making him feel it.

The tension is eased somewhat when it’s Hunk and Pidge’s turn. Lance sits up straight, crossing his legs and leaning forward with rapt attention. As the two of them plug in Pidge’s phone and take their starting positions side by side at the front of the room, Lance leans over to Keith, nudging him with his elbow.

“I helped with this one.”

Keith eyes him curiously. “I thought you didn’t like to choreograph dances?”

“I don’t.” Lance scoffs, rolling his eyes. “I see it more like…” He waves a hand around vaguely. “Helping them figure out a good groove? How to get from one set of moves to the next? I help with transitions and stuff.” He looks at Keith out of the corner of his eyes, giving him a sly smile and a wink. “Impressed?”

Now it’s Keith’s turn to roll his eyes, but there’s a good natured smile on his lips. “We’ll see.”

Pidge and Hunk go through a complicated handshake with a lot of fist bumps and flaring fingers before they turn to the crowd, grinning as the music starts.

They start with a tapping their feet to the beat, wrists flicking. And then Hunk moves quick, rotating on his heels and throwing up a hand over Pidge’s head to gesture to them. He stands still as Pidge goes through a series of moves to the beat, moves that are high energy but with that small Pidge flair. Then Pidge is moving, rotating on their feet to gesture to Hunk before freezing. Hunk picks up immediately, doing his own set of very Hunk-like dance moves.

And then suddenly they’re both going through a series of poses, each falling on the heavy downbeat and holding for just a fraction of a second before they’re moving to the next. The first pose is together, but the following ones are different. Yet they still seem to fit together. Each pose, though not the same, seem to fit together in one cohesive picture, a frame that only lasts half a second before changing.

The poses devolve into more separate dancing, but they’re still together. Then they’re slapping hands and gesturing together.

It goes on like that. Their moves are together and then separate, but even when they’re doing their own thing, it fits together so perfectly that Keith can’t question it. They play off each other, high fiving and play punching the other into a new pose. And right when they look like they’re going to devolve into separate dances, they’re suddenly syncing up again for several beats. Separate, but together. Always together.

Keith sees how they play off of their size difference. Instead of spending the whole dance side by side, as a lot of duos do, they’re constantly moving. They’re doing their own thing, playing off the moves and energy of the other. They rotate around, at one point going back to back and taking turns in the spot light before spinning around to show the other. They position themselves to Pidge is more forward, knowing that there’s not much they can do to block the view of Hunk anyway.

The dance style has a lot more energy than Keith knows Pidge likes to do on their own, but he knows Pidge is perfectly capable of pulling it off. There’s a lot of big gestures from Hunk’s style, but there are fine finesses and sharp moves that distinctly come from Pidge. At one point when the music slows, they do as well, moving with the controlled fluidity that Pidge specializes in. He’s actually surprised as how well Hunk pulls it off, but he supposes he’s been dancing with Pidge for long enough, so it would make sense that he’s picked up a few things.

They move stiffly, body bouncing a little with each step like they’re on hydraulics. He can practically hear the steam and grind of metal with their movements. And while each of them move of their own accord, out of sync with the other, it still fits together perfectly. Like two gears, one big and one small, moving independently but together.

They end standing stiffly, one hand each in the air, then slowly bending forward and lowering their hands over their torsos in a bow.

The audience claps and cheers as they have after every performance, but Keith likes to think it’s a little louder than usual. That may, he thinks, have something to do with the fact that Lance is practically screaming beside him.

It’s not long after that it’s Shiro and Allura’s turn.

As their names are called and the two of them stand, everyone lights up with excited whispers. Shiro and Allura are legendary at Altea. They’re easily the best duo here, and no one really tried to fight that. At this point, auditions are just a formality for them. Everyone knows they’re going to get in, but they still enjoy the opportunity to watch them nonetheless.

Keith definitely enjoys getting to see them dance. They have such emotional and physical synergy that comes across with their dancing, and it’s absolutely incredible. Watching the two of them, seeing how dance had helped Shiro get back to being himself after he lost his arm… it had been what pushed Keith into dancing in the first place.

As they plug in Allura’s phone and select the song, pausing it and handing it over to Coran, they take their places at the front of the room. Keith isn’t sure if it’s intentional or not, but he swears everyone in the room seems to shuffle back a few feet, widening the dance floor at the front of the room. It’s well known that the two of them use a lot of space.

They stand back to back, and as the music starts, Keith swears the whole room is holding their breath. He knows he is.

The music is slow and emotional. They go through a series of poses, completely independent of each other, but playing off the other in subtle ways. And then they’re together as the lyrics start, taking a long, exaggerated lunge step. Shiro’s hand in there, seemingly guiding Allura. Then they’re stepping apart, bending backwards, turning, straightening. Her hand is in his as she goes a graceful leap to reposition. They come together before falling apart to the floor, quickly lying on their backs, side by side but facing opposite ways.

Allura goes into a bridge and Shiro is under her, rolling over, propping his head under his calves to lift her legs and giving a firm push to help give her the momentum to pull her legs forward. Then suddenly he’s standing, her leg hooked around his neck. He swings her around to his back. She straightens as he bends forward, putting her back down on her feet. She’s immediately falling to her knees and pulls him down with her. The music picks up and they roll, leaping to their feet to go through a series of coordinated moves.

Their synergy is electric. They dance in a way that’s physically emotional, playing out a story. Instead of dancing to the song, the song seems to just be a background for their performance. They play off each other, limbs flowing but controlled. Allura never hesitates when Shiro lifts her or throws her around. Keith can see the complete trust she has in him, a trust gained after years of working together, and it damn near takes his breath away. With the way they dance together, the way they flow together, it’s easy to forget that his brother has a prosthetic. The adjustments they’ve made to compensate for it are subtle, barely noticeable.

The way they dance is so natural. Allura’s hair falls freely as they move, falling in front of her face and over her shoulders but only adding to the emotional appeal of the story. Their faces are relaxed, eyes only for each other. It’s like they’ve completely forgotten they’re performing in front of others. It’s like they only exist for each other. Like the audience is intruding on a private moment.

And it’s a kind of synergy, a kind of tension and adoration that can’t be faked.

Jesus fucking Christ, his brother is blind as a fucking bat. “Just dance partners” his ass.

When the music fades, there’s a beat of silence where no one in the room dares to break it. And then Shiro and Allura look up, heartbroken expressions from a moment ago gone and replaced by bright grins. One person claps, and then suddenly the room erupts in applause. Shiro scratches the back of his neck, smiling shyly at the audience as Allura takes his hand and leads him into a graceful bow.

“Wow…” Lance breathes beside him.

“Yeah,” Because there’s not much else he can say.

Then it’s like Lance snaps out of the spell that’s fallen over all of them. He leans back on a hand, head lolling to the side as his eyes go half lidded and he smirks. “It’s gonna be tough, but we can beat them.”

Keith gives him an incredulous look, one eyebrow raised. “Beat them? We saw the same performance, right? We’re no where near their caliber.”

Lance scoffs, leaning over to nudge Keith’s shoulder with his own. “Come on, Keithy boy, confidence is key here. It’s time your old hag of a brother went down. Gotta make way for the new generation, right?”

Keith snorts to hold back his laugh. “Shiro’s an old hag but Allura’s not?”

“Pfff, what? Of course not! Have you seen her? She could be ten thousand years old and still look just as gorgeous.”

Keith hums an affirmative because there’s not much he can say to contest that.

Time seems to flow in a weird, confined flux after that. It takes forever for their names to be called, but once they are, it’s like time had passed in the blink of an eye. Keith’s head snaps up, heart instantly racing as a surge of adrenaline rushes through his veins. Lance is grinning at him, grabbing his arm and yanking him to his feet. “Let’s go, hotshot!”

They pick their way through the mass of sitting dancers, all of them antsy to leave now that they’ve auditioned but politely staying. Keith hands his phone to Coran, song already selected. The man grins at him, idly twisting his mustache. There’s an odd twinkle of what Keith thinks is excitement in his eyes as he says, “Good luck, boys.”

Keith gives him a small smile, nodding as he goes back to Lance, who’s standing in the center of the open floor, arms moving back and forth as he bounces on the balls of his feet.

“Ready for this?”

“Are you?”

“Pfff, I got this shit down, for reals. Just try to keep up, mullet man.” He sends him a smirk and a wink before he’s turning his back to him.

Keith steps up and puts his back to Lance’s, and they lock arms.

“Relax.” Keith says under his breath.

“I am relaxed,” Lance hisses back.

“I can feel how stiff you are, idiot.” He’s silent for a beat, so Keith continues, voice kinder. “You’ve got this, Lance. Just relax.”

“Thanks.”

They don’t have time to talk more because Coran’s hit play and Elderbrook’s Could starts playing.

As soon as the opening beats start, they both still, suddenly focused. Keith feels the music crawl beneath his skin, tugging on the strings of his muscle memory. He doesn’t have to think. It’s just another run through. Just another time they dance to this song. He knows it, and he knows he can do this. The anxiety and nervousness that had built up with the wait and anticipation ooze out of him, leaving him laser focused. Despite the adrenaline that’s spiking his blood stream, he feels eerily calm.

The lyrics start and the two of them lean quickly to the side before jerking back to lean forward, their arms splaying apart. Then they’re leaning back, arms locking once again. They both kick their back feet out, bending them at the knees as they lower their weight and bouncing a little as it settles. They hold it for a second, before there’s quicker motion. They put their feet down, arms unlocking and in the air. They pose them up in the air, turning their heads forward as their wrists rotate their fists. Then with the beat, they’re going through a series of poses: Lance leans forward as Keith leans back, then Keith bends forward as Lance leans back, going back and forth and gesturing with their hands.

One beat of a pause, then legs are kicked out. They rotate, dancing around each other, backs always to each other even as they step and spin, kick out and rotate. They stop after a short spin, backs to each other. They go through several moves, gesturing with their legs and their arms. And while Lance’s back is to Keith, he knows Lance is perfectly in time with him. He can feel it. When Lance puts his mind to it, Keith knows he can trust him to sync up with him. It’s an uncanny ability that Keith appreciates.

They come together, Keith facing the audience and Lance’s back to it. They have a hand on each other’s shoulder and their free hands on their hips. Then Keith lifts his hand to Lance’s shoulder, spinning him around.

flannel looks

As soon as they’re both facing forward, their feet are in motion with the new beat. Keith doesn’t focus on the audience in front of him. He focuses on his body, his movements, and Lance beside him. The movements are quick, fitted in with slower movements to mix it up. There’s a lot of hand motions, tiny feet movements, and then they jump, slow and controlled, landing with right knees bent and left legs extended, arms eventuating the diagonal.

They inch up, spin, and then Keith freezes as Lance continues, dancing several quick moves that Keith is fairly certain are improvised. They change every time. Keith counts the beats, and then Lance has frozen and it’s Keith’s turn to move. To be honest, the moments of dance exchanges weren’t part of Keith’s original vision. But Lance has insisted and Keith had given in, if only because they only had less than two weeks to prepare and those were just moments they didn’t have to coordinate together.

After Keith’s moment, they come back together, quick small movements and bigger slow ones, hips moving and bodies shaking. They go down to the ground, executing a few poses with their legs as their arms hold them up before they rotate their feet under them, jumping back up.

The rest of the dance passes in a blur. Keith doesn’t think, he just acts. There are a few times where Lance obviously stumbles over the choreography, but he recovers quickly. He manages to improvise for a few steps in such a way that it looks natural before fitting back in with Keith. Keith sends him a few looks, but Lance isn’t look at him. He’s face is set in a rare expression of concentration.

They end very similar to how they started: back to back, making different poses before locking arms and stopping as the song ends.

They’re still for a moment before the audience starts applauding. Amongst them, he can hear Pidge, Hunk, and Allura the most. They let go of each other, stepping apart. Keith looks over at their friends, and he’s nearly taken aback by the looks he finds there. Hunk looks ecstatic, sitting up straight and clapping loudly as he shouts. Pidge is on their feet next to him, hands on his shoulders and jumping up and down as they grin. Allura’s smile splits her face as she leans forward to clap loudly, putting a hand to her mouth as she cheers. When she meets Keith’s eye, she winks. Shiro is next to her, clapping and smiling and practically glowing with his proud brother expression. Even Coran is smiling, clapping him on the shoulder as he goes to get his phone.

He’s startled when there’s suddenly an arm around his shoulders, steering him to face the crowd. Lance bows, forcing him to bow with him. When Keith looks sideways at him, his smile is wide, eyes and hair wild. There’s a flush on his cheeks, and he’s panting a little. And he looks so incredibly happy.

Keith feels something inside him stir, and no, that is not okay. It’s gotta just be the exhilaration of dancing, especially in front of a crowd. He won’t accept anything else.

“Don’t let this go to your head,” Keith says, because he can’t bring himself to encourage Lance’s smile right now. He’s not ready to face that. “I saw you fuck up several times.”

Lance gasps loudly, putting his free hand to his chest and leaning his head away to look at Keith. His arm is still around his shoulders. “Why I never! Keith, how dare you insinuate that I was nothing short of perfect.”

Keith rolls his eyes, putting a hand on Lance’s face to push him away and off of him. “Calm down, Beyonce. We won’t know if we made it until tomorrow.”

Lance stumbles away a step. “Aww, Keith, you think I dance like Beyonce. That’s so sweet.” He coos.

Keith turns to walk back toward their friends, flipping him off over his shoulder. He can hear Lance cackling as he follows.

 


 

[ MONDAY ]

Keith would be lying if he said he isn’t nervous as he pulls into his usual parking space that afternoon.

It’s a really strange feeling, and mostly because he’s not entirely sure where it stems from.

It would be dumb to think auditions don’t have anything to do with it. Obviously that’s been weighing heavily on his mind. It’s the whole anticipation thing again. He doesn’t exactly care if they make it or not. He knows they did their best, and yeah, it could be fun to go to regionals, and yeah, it would probably be good for him, but if they didn’t make it, they didn’t make it. There’s nothing he can do about it now.

But the anticipation of waiting to find out if they made it or not is slowly killing his peace of mind.

And who the hell is he kidding, he really kind of wants to go to regionals now. He’s kind of built himself up to the idea. And yeah, okay, so working with Lance of all people for a while has the potential to be absolutely horrible, but he thinks the good will outweigh the bad. Plus they worked so hard. It would be disappointing to not make it. He’d move on, of course, but he’d be disappointed.

But as much as the outcomes of auditions is bothering him, he doesn’t think that’s entirely the cause of his current nerves. It just… doesn’t feel right. He didn’t get much sleep last night. His sleep was dotted with active dreams that he barely remembers. There was dancing, and his friends, and Lance’s smile. God fuck, that stupid thing was haunting him, and he can’t quite figure out why. He doesn’t want to figure out why.

As he pulls his helmet off and runs his fingers through his hair, anticipation rolls in his gut. As he puts his helmet away and heads for the door to the studio, he’s already coming up with reasons why it would be okay if they didn’t make it. He wouldn’t have to deal with choreographing something with Lance. He wouldn’t have to deal with Lance’s cocky ass attitude. He wouldn’t have to stress over regionals. He could go back to choreographing and dancing for fun by himself. As he pulls the door open and steps inside, he feels like he might be sick.

What the fuck is wrong with him?

A whisper of doubt is fleeting in his mind, but definitely there. He pushes it aside. He’s already made friends during this whole ordeal. Some of them are friends he had to begin with. It’s not like they’re going to ditch him if he doesn’t make it to regionals. They’ll still be there and still talk to him and still hang out with him. Lance will still bug him sometimes, right? He doesn’t think Lance’s stupid idea of a rivalry between them will allow him to ditch Keith altogether.

The main hallway is empty, but he can hear the chattering sounds coming from the front lobby where the bulletin board is. Where results would be posted. He listens closely as he nears, trying to pick out familiar voices.

He rounds the corner, and he pauses. There’s a crowd in the front lobby, most of whom are gathered around the bulletin board. He spies his friends standing near the office door. All of them are there, and they’re all smiling. Coran is talking with Allura and Shiro, who, Keith notices, are standing very close to each other. Like as close as they can without touching. God, his brother is infuriating. Pidge and Lance are standing next to them, talking animately with lots of expressions and hand gestures. Hunk stands near them, smiling as he listens to their exchange.

He’s the first to see Keith. He looks up, and his smile widens as he gesture’s to him. Keith lifts a hand in greeting just as Lance stiffens, straightening as he spins around. His eyes lock on Keith and suddenly his face is breaking out in the widest grin Keith’s ever seen in his goddamn life.

“Keith!”

And suddenly Lance is there, charging across the lobby and wrapping Keith up in a rib bruising hug as he lifts him off his feet and spins around. It’s strangely reminiscence of what he had done in the bookstore all those days ago. The tension in his gut relaxes just as his chest clenches, and oh fuck, no. No no no no. Keith is not doing this.

“Jesus fuck, Lance,” Keith manages to grunt out when Lance puts him back on his feet and releases him, allowing his crushed lungs to draw in a shaky breath.

“Come on!” Lance wastes no time grabbing his arm, practically dragging him across the lobby. Keith stumbles after him before he regains his balance. Lance pushes through the crowd right up to the bulletin board.

“Lance, what are you—“

“Look.” He says, dropping Keith’s arm to point at the piece of paper that’s pinned to the board. Then Keith realizes what he’s looking at. The sheet of paper has two columns, one that’s labeled “solos” and one that’s labeled “duos”. Lance is pointing to their names.

Keith barely has a chance to register this before Lance half turns to look back at him out of the corner of his eyes. They’re half lidded, his lips curling into a small, confident smirk. He’s practically oozing confidence, and while he’s not bubbling with happiness anymore, it’s still there. It’s simmered down into something softer, more sincere, more genuine. Keith can see it in the crinkles around his eyes, in the way his blue irises spark, in the tilt of his smile and the soft flush in his cheeks.

“We did it.” He says then, voice strangely soft amongst the chatter and excited shouts around them. But Keith can hear it loud and fucking clear. “We are a good team.”

With an odd sense of detachment, Keith feels several things all at once. His face is warm, the heat crawling up his neck all the way to this ears. His chest is tight, and he can’t seem to take in more than a shallow breath. His heart stutters in his chest before pounding into overdrive to compensate. A strange shocking thrill runs through him, from his chest to his toes.

And it’s with this odd sense of detachment that Keith realizes three things.

One: these reactions have nothing to do with the fact that he made it to regionals.

Two: Lance Mc-fucking-Clain is absolutely and indisputably fucking gorgeous.

Three: he, Keith Kogane, is so completely and totally fucked.

rip keith

Chapter Text

“What about this one?” Keith asks, and there’s a brief pause before the music starts to play. It takes Lance only until the lyrics start to recognize The Other Side.

Lance makes an unsure whine sound in the back of his throat. “Don’t get me wrong, I love my man Jason Derulo, but like… I’m not feeling it, you know?”

Keith grunts, pausing the music. “What is it anyway? You’ve been saying the same thing for the past week, but you haven’t found it yet.” He grumbles, and Lance feels him hunch a little more.

They’re sitting back to back on the floor of room 4D, both looking through their phones. He can’t really blame Keith for his frustration. They have been at this for a week and so far they’ve made no progress. Granted, they haven’t met up every day since regionals, both deciding to take a break from their daily practices to kind of reset and rest. But this is the fourth day they’ve met for a schedule one hour practice session, and so far there’s been no practicing. Just an endless stream of music and disappointment.

He doesn’t think Hunk and Pidge have this much trouble settling on a song, and despite the trouble he and Keith had picking a song for auditions, he didn’t think it would be this hard. But every song Keith suggests just doesn’t feel right, and Keith is all about vetoing Lance’s ideas. They had both decided that since they had roughly three months till regionals, they would pick a completely new song and choreograph something together.

So far, working with Keith is terrible.

“You know, it!!” He says, throwing up his hands to gesture vaguely.

“No, I don’t. That doesn’t make any sense.”

Lance turns his head to look in the wall length mirror, glaring at Keith’s reflection. Keith tilts his head, catching his eye. “It, Keith. It!” He holds up a hand, pinching his thumb and forefinger together and shaking the gesture. “I’m not feeling it! It doesn’t feel right!.”

Keith snorts, looking back down at his phone. “You’re too picky.”

“Uh, duh, yeah, of course I’m picky! We got into regionals, dude! This is a big deal! If we do well, we could get all kinds of opportunities! I can finally get my dance career on track!”

“You’re going to do well no matter what song we choose.” He mumbles, and his voice is filled with a frustrated grumble, but the compliment in it is so clear, so blunt, and so unabashed, that Lance finds himself staring at Keith’s reflection with wide eyes.

“Uh… thanks?” He says, because he’s not sure what else to do. Keith isn’t usually open with compliments like that, and it kind of catches him off guard.

Keith jerks his head up then, catching Lance’s eye. He seems to realize what he’s said, eyes widening a fraction even as his lips press into a frown. If Lance squints really hard and truly believes, he can almost see the reddening of Keith’s cheeks. But then he’s looking away, hiding his face with a curtain of hair. “Yeah, so get the stick out of your ass and just pick something.”

Aaaand Keith is back to normal. Crisis averted.

“Uh, must I remind you that you’re just as guilty as I am about vetoing songs?”

“Am not.”

“Are, too!”

“Am not!”

“Okay, then what about this one?” He says, pressing a song on his phone and the indisputable beats of Turn Me On by David Guetta and Nicki Minaj starts playing.

Keith actually seems to listen to the song for a bit, and for a moment Lance thinks they might have found something, but then the song gets to the chorus and Keith shakes his head once.

“No.”

Keeeeith.”

“No.” He repeats, and there’s an odd strain in his voice that Lance can’t quite place.

“Ugh, see? You’re just as bad as I am!”

“Whatever,” He mumbles.

“Alright, how about something more relatable to your former emo sensibilities?” He says, smile in his voice as he hits play and the slow, unmistakable beginning piano notes to Welcome To The Black Parade start up. He’s grinning as the music plays, a laugh barely contained. But to his horror, Keith makes a thoughtful sound.

“You know, now that you mention it…”

“Keith!” Lance sputters, choking out his name as he leans forward and half turns to gape at him. He cannot believe— this is way to cliche— no fucking way— he had been joking!— it’s way too slow for their combined dance style anyway—

Keith half turns to look at him, one eyebrow raised and the ghost of a smirk on his lips. He takes one look at Lance’s offended expression and bursts out laughing. The sound is so unexpected and, fuck, he forgets how nice of a laugh Keith has. “Calm down, Lance, I’m kidding.” He says, grinning, and Lance has to look away.

“Oh yeah, sure, now you have jokes. Look at Keith, everybody! Stoic McScowl has jokes now. Fancy that!”

He glances up in time to see Keith roll his eyes. The wide grin is gone, but there’s still a small smile there. And okay, they may not be getting anything done, but hey, at least they’re both kind of having fun, right?

Lance always feels… weirdly victorious whenever he manages to make Keith smile. Maybe it’s because the guy always seems so serious and so reserved. But when Lance pulls him out of that… well, it’s a good feeling. Lance has always enjoyed making people laugh. It’s not that weird, really. Besides, against his better judgement, he’s starting to see Keith as a friend. A new, partner, rival friend, but… still a friend. And who doesn’t like making their friends smile?

They’re both quiet for a moment while they scroll through their phones, and Lance tries not to think too much about the fact that he’s not as comfortable now that they’re no longer leaning against each other. Then his eye catches on a song title, and he grins.

“Okay, okay, okay, but what about…” He trails of as he spins around to sit facing Keith. Keith is half turned to him, one knee up and arm resting lazily on it. He looks up at Lance, face blank as he raises a curious eyebrow. Lance keeps eye contact as he hits play.

He doesn’t see the flicker of recognition pass over Keith’s features until the lyrics start. It’s like a slow degeneration of his expression as the blank confusion morphs into a strange mix of horror, disbelief, amusement, and disappointment. Lance throws back his head and laughs as Psy’s Daddy plays.

Please tell me you’re joking.” He says when he finally finds his voice.

Lance manages to compose himself, waving a hand at Keith as he chuckles. “Yeah, yeah, sure…” He looks down at his phone, feigning innocence. After a pause, he looks up, gazing at Keith through his lashes as his lips curl into a smirk and he waggles his eyebrows, voice dropping a pitch or two. “Or am I?”

Keith’s expression pinches, lips curling up as his nose crinkles. “Lance, no.”

Lance sighs dramatically, throwing himself backwards to sprawl out on the floor, flopping his limbs out wide and kicking Keith in the process. “Watch out! It’s the fun police!” He puts a hand to his face, cupping around his mouth as he starts to make siren sounds.

He doesn’t get very far into it before Keith is kicking him. “Stop.”

Lance huffs, letting his hand flop back down. They lapse back into silence, in which Keith scrolls through his phone and Lance just stares at the ceiling. All jokes aside, this is hard. And despite the fact that he and Keith do, maybe, sort of, have similar music tastes… Lance just can’t choose anything. He wants this dance to be perfect. Gold worthy, you know? And he just… what if he chooses wrong? What if there’s a better song? And he thinks that beneath his nonchalance and aggravating calm, Keith is probably feeling the same kind of pressure.

“I’m pretty sure Pidge and Hunk already have a song.” He says conversationally, still staring at the ceiling. “Or they at least have it narrowed down to like… five possibilities.”

“Good for them.” Keith grunts.

“Shiro and Allura probably have theirs picked out already, too.”

“Probably.”

“When you think about it, three months isn’t actually that much time.”

“Lance, does this have a point?”

“The point is we need to pick something so we can start actually dancing.”

“I thought that’s what we were trying to do.”

“Well, it’s not working.”

“You don’t say.”

“Your sass isn’t constructive, Keith.”

“And your commentary on our friends and their ability to actually pick a song is?”

“Alright, ignoring your continuing sass, what I was getting at, is we should like…yolo.”

“What does that even mean, Lance?”

Lance props himself up on his elbows to actually look at Keith. He prods him with the toe of his shoe. “We should try it my way. You knoooow…”

Keith just stares at him for a moment. Lance sees when he realizes what Lance is getting at, apprehension flickering across his features. “No.”

“Keeeeeith,” Lance pokes him harder, nearly knocking him over. Keith pushes his foot away.

“No.”

“Do you have any better ideas?” Lance asks, sticking his bottom lip out in a pout but meeting Keith’s gaze with a steady challenge.

Keith is the first to back down. He sighs, face settling into begrudging defeat. “Fine.”

Lance lets out a loud, wordless cheer, practically jumping to his feet as he scrambles over to the auxiliary cable. He plugs in his phone, sets it to shuffle, and pulls his bluetooth remote out of his bag. Keith has scooted back so he’s sitting up against the mirror, arms crossed loosely over his chest as he watches him.

Lance stands in front of him in the middle of the room, hands on his hips as he scowls. “You, too. Get over here.”

Keith raises an eyebrow. “Uh, no?”

“Keith!”

“This is your thing, dude.”

“But we’re picking our song! You need to feel it, too!” Keith still looks skeptical. Lance sets his face into a challenging frown and points to the ground next to him. “Keith Kogane, get your ass over here.”

Keith looks like he’s going to refuse again, but something in him gives and he sighs, shaking his head as he gets to his feet. He trudges over to Lance, dragging his feet. His arms stay crossed over his chest, and he looks more awkward than Lance is used to seeing him. Lance gives him what he hopes is a reassuring smile and starts his music.

His eyes fall closed as he nods his head, picking up the beat. Then he starts to move. He falls into it pretty easily, trying to focus on the song and how it calls out to him. He doesn’t think twice about how he’s dancing. He barely pays attention to it. It’s just natural. As long as he’s moving, he can get a feel for the song and determine whether or not it has that it factor.

It takes him about two skips and roughly a minute to realize that Keith isn’t dancing at all.

“Keith,” Lance says, tone accusatory as he stares at him. He doesn’t stop moving though, swaying from hip to hip.

“What?” He’s still just standing there and looks like he hasn’t moved an inch.

“You have to dance, dude!”

“No, I don’t.”

“How else are you going to know when you feel it?”

“I don’t even know what it is!”

“Come on, man, just… move.” Lance steps up to him, putting his hands on his shoulders and trying to get him to do just that. He does, but it’s reluctant and stiff and barely more than just a swaying back and forth. His face is pinched and unhappy, and there’s a faint blush spreading across his cheeks. Yeesh, for a guy who’s ridiculously confident when he dances, he sure isn’t showing it now. He doesn’t even look like the same person Lance danced with a week ago. “Now who looks like they have a stick up their ass, hm?”

“Shut up.” Keith glares at him, slapping his hands away. “I just… I don’t do this, okay? This is your method, so you do it.”

The rest of their practice session is about as productive as the first half. Lance spends nearly ten minutes trying to convince Keith to dance, to just cut loose and relax, but he isn’t having any of it. He begrudgingly dances on his own after that, shuffling through his songs and trying to ignore Keith and his permanent pout as he sits against the mirror and watches him. Lance tries to show Keith it can be fun, but he’s already been thrown off his groove and he’s dancing more out of principal than because he actually feels it.

They don’t end up picking a song. Again.

They don’t talk as they pack up and leave room 4D. They don’t bicker or joke as they trudge down the stairs, each footfall heavy and echoing. They don’t race down the steps.

Shiro is waiting for them when they reach the ground floor. He’s leaning up against the wall next to the stairwell entrance, ankles crossed, phone in hand, and prothetic shoved in his pocket. Keith stops at the bottom of the stairs, and Lance stops on the last couple steps. Shiro looks up, smiling when he sees them.

“Hey, guys,” He says, putting his phone away.

“Uh, hey, Shiro.” Lance says, raising both eyebrows. “Were you waiting for us?”

“I was, actually.” He says brightly, like it’s the most natural thing in the world. It’s not, though. Lance can’t remember a single time the man’s waited for them after practice.

“Oh, uh, what’s up?” He asks because Keith is silence, eyeing his brother curiously.

“I just wanted to ask how it’s been going? You know, preparing for regionals.”

At that, Lance groans long and loud as he reaches out to grab the railing and leans on it so he can properly and dramatically throw his weight around. “Awful!”

“I take it you guys haven’t chosen a song yet?”

“No,” Keith finally speaks up, and he sounds just as grumpy as he looks. “Lance says he’s not feeling it in any of the songs we’ve listened to.”

He can practically hear the air quotes. “Because they’re not right!”

“How do you know? You haven’t given any of them a chance!”

Lance turns his head to glare at Shiro. “See what I have to deal with?”

Shiro tilts his head, lips curved into a small, apologetic and sympathetic smile. “I was worried this might happen.”

“What is this, exactly?” Keith asks as Lance’s eyes narrow at Shiro.

The man shrugs. “Neither of you are used to working with a partner, let alone each other. You guys did great at auditions, but it was clear there were some, uh, synergy issues?”

So it was that obvious, huh? It’s not like they did bad. Obviously they had done well enough to be chosen for regionals. But Lance can’t quite deny the obvious disconnect between him and Keith. He doubts anyone without dance experience could see it. It’s subtle, something only those used to dancing and especially dancing with a partner can feel. Like they aren’t on the same page when they dance together. Or like… they’re the same book, but it’s two different editions, so while it might be the same place in the story, the words don’t line up on the pages just right.

They learned the same dance, and they both did it to the best of their abilities, which is no doubt how they had succeeded. But it was clear that they were both in their own heads. They were dancing together physically, but not mentally. Lance didn’t think it mattered too much. They did well for only having less than two weeks to work. He’s proud of what they did. He just knows that, given more time and more synergy between them, it could have been better.

He’s also kind of embarrassed that Shiro’s been able to pick up on it.

When neither of them respond, Shiro continues. “Allura and I have been talking—“

“Oh, god…” Keith mumbles.

“And we think that you two could benefit from some of our lessons.”

Lance raises an eyebrow. “Lessons?”

“One of your duo synergy building lessons?” Keith sounds skeptical and none too happy.

Shiro nods, still smiling in that friendly way that really makes Lance reluctant to disappoint him. “Since you two are new partners, obviously there’s going to be some bumps along the way. But we really think that you have the potential to work really well together, and we want to help.”

Lance shifts so he’s leaning forward, hand balancing on the railing, so he can look at Shiro more fully. He eyes him cautiously. “What’s the catch?”

they're onto you shiro

Shiro seems amused by that. He crosses his arms over his chest. “The catch is that you might actually learn something.” He raises an eyebrow. “Dangerous, I know.”

Lance snorts, eyeing Keith sideways as he mumbles under his breath. “I see where you get your sass from.” He thinks he might have seen a twitch at Keith’s lips.

“So what’d you say? This Wednesday? Three hour practice session with me and Allura?”

Keith groans, and Lance finds himself echoing that sentiment. Still, it’s obvious they’re getting no where on their own, and he really wants to do well at regionals. He’ll take all the help he can get. Still, he has his pride. He’s caught between brushing it off and claiming they’ve got this in the bag, and actually accepting the help. He looks to Keith to find he’s already staring at him. They exchange tight lipped frowns. He can see his own struggle mirrored in Keith’s eyes.

Then Keith gives him an almost imperceptible nod, and Lance sighs.

He finds himself saying, “Sure, why not?”

It can’t be too bad, right?

 


 

Room 2A is a lot like the other rooms in the studio: polished hardwood floors, wall length mirror, sound system, but it’s nearly twice as big as Keith’s usual room up on the fourth floor. Shiro and Allura do require a lot of space when they dance, but Keith can’t imagine a scenario where they would need this much room. Still, he supposes it’s a perk of technically owning the place. They can have whatever room they want.

Keith is there before Lance. It was raining that morning, so he had opted to hitch a ride with Shiro instead of riding his bike. Unfortunately, Shiro and Allura have a scheduled practice session of their own for an hour before their lesson with him and Lance. So that’s how he finds himself in room 2A, sitting with his back to the mirror, headphones on, his chill playlist blasting, and idly playing a game on his phone.

He’s only half paying attention to what Shiro and Allura are doing. They start out with some kind of drill practice, then move on into going through old routines. They’re nothing Keith hasn’t seen a hundred times before. They’re still impressive, but Keith has other things on his mind.

Like Lance.

He really wishes he didn’t have Lance on his mind. But there he is. In all of his tanned skinned, blue eyed, dopey smiled glory. Rooting himself in the base of Keith’s thoughts. Always there and always waiting with an infuriating smirk and cocky pride whenever Keith lets his mind wander. He hates it. He wants to just… dig Lance up and toss him into the pile with the rest of his friends in his mental mind dump. But no. Just like in real life, Lance has to be stubborn and a constant thorn in Keith’s metaphorical side.

It’s not like finding people attractive is rare. Keith has been attracted to plenty of people in his twenty-two years of existence. He just… hasn’t been attracted to one of his friends since high school, and he had forgotten how absolutely terrible it can be. Especially since it’s Lance, and Lance is just… infuriating, for the most part. He’s such a cacophony of positive and negative traits that Keith finds himself in a near constant state of whiplash.

Still, Keith is pretty sure his attraction is just physical. There’s so way in hell it can be anything deeper than that. There’s no way Keith is going to let it be deeper than that. That road can only lead to complications with his new friend group and with this whole regional thing, and it’s a road Keith is determined not to go down.

Still… there’s a surprisingly big difference for crossing the relatively thin line of finding someone attractive and admitting to yourself that you find that person attractive. That difference comes down to self awareness. And Keith’s self awareness is loud. For one stupid moment, he had thought that if he acknowledged it, maybe he could move past it. He had been so wrong. Now he’s just stuck thinking about it, constantly aware whenever Lance is close, whenever he smiles, whenever he fucking winks. He wants it to just go away. He wants to go back to when they were just friends. Or at least the awkward beginning of friends. Back before he had all these… extra thoughts flying around.

They’re unwanted, unnecessary, and quite honestly, annoying.

They make him second guess himself. They make him notice things he wishes he didn’t. They make him hyper aware of Lance whenever he’s nearby. They make him aware of his own reactions and therefore embarrassed of those reactions, which only manages to make it worse. And it comes right down to making it an unpredictable and awkward experience whenever he has to interact with his new set of friends. It’s like his own personal hell.

But crushes fade, right? This one will go away, too.

… Not that it really qualifies as a crush. It’s just attraction. That’s like… only a pre-stage to a crush. And Keith will be damned if he’s going to let things get that far. Fuck no.

So Keith lets his music wrap him up and tries to force himself to relax, telling himself that this whole lesson with Shiro and Allura will be fine. They’re just going to learn how be better dance partners. Plenty of people have gone through training with Shiro and Allura and have come out of it better dancers.

It’ll be fine.

Still, no matter how many times he tells himself that, he can’t help the small hitch in his breath as the door opens, and the way his heart lodges itself in his throat as Lance walks in.

Shiro and Allura don’t stop dancing, but as he looks up, he briefly sees the flicker of recognition on both their faces.

Lance pauses in the doorway, eyes sweeping over them before he gently shuts the door behind him and inches along the mirror wall to sit himself next to Keith. He drops his bag at his side, reaching out to tap a finger against Keith’s headphones. Reluctantly, he turns off his music and pulls the headphones down to rest around his neck, half turning to glance at Lance.

He’s smiling, and it’s just a casual greeting smile, but it does things to Keith’s insides that he’s not proud of. “Sorry I’m late.”

He raises an eyebrow. “You are?”

Lance looks mildly surprised. “Uh, yeah, by like ten minutes. I had to wait for my mom to get home from the store. Can’t leave the kids alone, you know?”

“Honestly, I didn’t even notice you were late.”

Lance snorts. “Gee, thanks, buddy.”

Keith shrugs, gesturing to where Shiro grabs Allura’s waist, lifting her and spinning before bending over. She flips over his back and lands on her toes, one foot at a time, with all the grace and balance of a ballet dancer. He doesn’t know if she’s taken ballet before, but he wouldn’t be surprised. “They’ve just been dancing, so I haven’t noticed.”

Lance eyes them curiously, and Keith is glad to have his attention elsewhere. “New routine?”

Keith shakes his head. “Old routines. Like, years old. I don’t even know how they remember all of it, to be honest.”

Lance snorts, bumping Keith’s shoulder with his own. “Like you don’t remember all of your choreographed dances, too.”

Keith feels his lips quirk into a small smile. “Fair.”

“So have you ever like… taken one of these lessons with them?”

“Nope.”

“So you have no idea what to expect.”

“Not really.”

“But it’s supposed to make us better dance partners?”

“Supposedly? Shiro brags about his students all the time, so I guess it works.”

“Well, he’s going to brag about us next, because we’re totally going to nail this lesson. Step one, whatever this is. Step two, we pick a song. Step three, regionals!”

Keith snorts out a small laugh, and just like that, he feels the tension he had been feeling melt away. This is familiar. This is just Lance. There’s nothing deep about it. He thinks that a lot of his uncertainty and nervousness comes from the anticipation of seeing Lance. Of not knowing how he’ll response to seeing him. But then once he’s there, it’s fine. It’s just Lance. Nothing special, nothing unexpected. Just like with performing. He overthinks things, but when the moment comes, it’s fine.

He’ll be fine.

The song ends, and their dance comes to a close with Shiro and Allura gazing into each other’s eyes with enough choked emotion that Keith knows it can’t be all for show. For just a second, he feels like he’s intruding on a personal moment, but then that moment is shattered as Lance claps loudly, whistling and cheering enough to make the two of them laugh as they draw away from each other.

“Nice of you to show up, Lance.” Allura says, though it’s all teasing and not unkind.

He shrugs. “Family things. You know how it goes.”

“Well, all that matters is you’re here now, and we can get started.” Shiro says, going to where his phone is plugged into the sound system. He stops the playlist from playing the next song and takes a long swing from a water bottle before tossing it to Allura.

“Yeah! Let’s get this party started!” Lance practically jumps to his feet, bounding further out into the room. Keith is much slower, taking his time to put his phone and headphones in his bag before reluctantly standing and going to join Lance next to Allura.

She smiles at them. “Your enthusiasm is appreciated, Lance.”

“Yeah, Keith, where’s your enthusiasm?” Shiro asks, coming to stand next to him and bumping him with his shoulder.

Keith crosses his arms over his chest and deadpans, “I must have left it in my other bag.”

Lance snickers, and Shiro tries to hide his smile. “Come on, you can do better than that. This is your first lesson with your big bro in years.”

Keith levels a look at him and lifts one finger, rotating it around in a small circle as he says in a baseline monotone, “Yay.”

Shiro rolls his eyes, but his smile stays in place. Lance sounds like he’s struggling to contain himself, but Allura brings all of their attention back to her as she clears her throat. “So, Keith, Lance, do you two know why you’re here?”

“Uh, to learn to be better dance partners?” Lance says, like he’s expecting this to be a trick question and he’s not quite sure of the answer.

Allura nods, one hand on her hip as she gestures to them with her water bottle. “Yes. Now don’t get me wrong, you two are both amazing dancers in your own right, and it’s understandable that you were a little rocky at auditions. You did well, but it was obvious that you lacked some basic level synergy that partners need in order to put on a good show. It was like…” She wave the bottle around, eyes searching the ceiling as she struggles to find the right words.

“It was like you were dancing the same dance next to each other rather than with each other.” Shiro supplies.

Allura snaps her fingers, pointing at him. “Yes, that. Exactly.” She sends him a brief but brilliant smile before looking away, and Keith doesn’t miss the way his brother’s cheeks darken, or the shy smile that takes over his face. “So the purpose of lessons is to help you two develop your relationship as partners and hopefully build some synergy between you. You already have a really good foundation, and we believe that with a little help, the two of you can really go far.”

Lance looks like he’s reveling in the praise, but Keith can’t help but feel a sliver of apprehension coil in his gut.

“Did you say… Lessons? As in plural?” He asks warily.

It’s Shiro who answers, a wide smile in place. “Yes, we were hoping to have a lesson with the two of you once a week for at least a month.”

“The rest of them will be shorter than this one.” Allura adds. “But we feel continuous work like this will drastically help your improvement.”

“It’s often an overlooked aspect of dancing, but it’s very important. Especially in duos when it’s only you and one other person, and you can’t hide in a group.”

“And it’s especially important with you two, seeing as you barely knew each other just a couple weeks ago.”

Keith isn’t aware of his facial expression changing until Lance bumps into him playfully. “Calm down, sourpuss.” He says, giving Keith a confident grin. “This’ll be good for us.” He turns back to Allura. “I’m down for anything that’ll help us stomp at regionals.”

She looks delighted. “That’s the spirit, Lance!” And then something in her expression changes. It’s subtle, and Keith is convinced the only reason he catches it is because he’s spent so much time on the receiving end of that look. Her chin tilts downward a fraction, her eyes narrow just slightly, a spark in the depths of her irises, a small quirk to her lips. “We’re going to start today’s lesson with trust exercises.”

Keith tenses, and he can see Lance stiffening in his peripheral vision. “Uh, trust exercises?” Lance says, voice echoing Keith’s own apprehension. “I thought we were here to learn how to dance?”

Allura’s mega watt smile doesn’t falter. If anything it gets a little more conniving as she tilts her head to the side just slightly. “You already know how to dance. You’re here to learn how to dance together, and that requires a level of trust that neither of you have yet.”

Lance rolls his eyes, leaning his weight back as he crosses his arms over his chest. “Pfff, Keith and I totally trust each other when it comes to dancing. We don’t need to do trust exercises. Right, Keith?”

“Yeah,” He agrees, trying to sound stern. But he knows that look, and Allura isn’t about to let this go.

“So you’re saying that if I asked you to, you’d be willing to jump headfirst into Keith’s arms right now. No hesitation. No questions asked. And trust him to catch you?” Shiro asks, eyebrows raised.

Lance turns his head to look at Keith, and Keith meets his gaze. He tries his hardest to communicate with him silently, pleading him to just agree that he trusts him. Maybe if they can convince Shiro and Allura, they won’t have to do the exercises.

But Lance is looking him over, lips pressed tight and eyes narrowed, and Keith knows it’s a losing battle. “Yeaaaah,” Lance says slowly, turning back to Allura, but holding Keith’s gaze for a second longer, lifting his chin as he looks at him warily. “So… about those trust exercises…”

Allura laughs. “Glad you’re seeing things my way.”

Keith groans. “Please don’t tell me we’re going to do trust fa—“

“First thing we’re going to do is trust falls.” Allura says over him, clasping her hands together loudly. “I doubt you’ll need a demonstration, but just in case.” And then she falls. She just leans over, keeping her legs straight as she rocks back on her heels, and suddenly she’s falling.

Keith isn’t even sure he sees Shiro move, but suddenly he’s there, catching Allura beneath the arms and tilting her back onto her feet.

She straightens, hands on her hips. “Like that. Now come on.” She says, waving her hands at them. “Lance, you’re first. Keith, make sure to catch him.” When neither of them move right away, instead exchanging wary glances, she signs and steps forward, forcefully moving them into position with a tight grip around their arms. She sets Lance up only a couple feet away, his back to Keith. He tries to turn around to look at him, but Allura just spins him back around before stepping away. “Now, go.”

Keith sighs, turning his attention to Lance and holding his arms out. He braces his legs to catch Lance’s weight, and he waits… and waits… and—

“Are you ready?” Lance peeks over his shoulder.

“Yes, Lance. Just fall already.” He says, lifting his arms a little higher to demonstrate just how ready he is.

Lance’s brow furrows. “Right, yeah, okay.” He turns back forward. His arms are at his sides, and Keith can see his fingers nervously tapping each other and his legs. “Here I go. Falling. Right now. Gonna fall. Just… gonna lean back.”

“Anytime now, Lance.” Allura says, and Keith can tell she’s trying to be patient, but there’s an exasperated edge there.

“You can’t force trust, Allura!” Lance snaps, voice a little higher than it was before.

Keith sees Shiro put a hand on Allura’s shoulder. “He’s right. Let them do this at their own pace.” He says gently, more to her than either of them. They exchange soft looks, and once again Keith is hit with the sensation that he’s intruding on a private moment. He turns back to Lance.

“Lance. I’m ready. Just go.” He really just wants to get this over with. He doesn’t want to think about Lance in his arms any longer than necessary.

“Alright, alright, don’t push me.” Lance grumbles. And after a few more seconds of anxiously shifting his weight around, he starts to lean back. He holds out his arms, weight rocking back on his heels. He starts to fall, and— he catches himself, stumbling back a step and wheeling his arms before looking over his shoulder with an accusatory expression, like Keith is the one who messed up. “Are you sure you’re ready? Because I don’t feel like you’re really ready—“

“Lance, for fuck’s sake!” Shiro clears his throat, but Keith ignores him. “Just shut up and trust me!”

“Alright, fine! Yeesh, no need to yell…” His voice grumbles off, but he takes up his position again.

After a significantly shorter wait, Lance actually leans back and falls. To be completely honest, Keith was expecting him to stop himself again. But he actually goes through with it, and Keith finds himself stumbling to brace himself as Lance’s deadweight falls into his arms. He has to step back to balance himself as Lance hits his chest, arms stiffening as they catch under Lance’s armpits. He grits his teeth as he rebalances, ignoring Lance’s mildly surprised yelp.

For a second, just one measly second where he’s distracted, Keith finds himself reeling from Lance’s warmth, the feel of his back against his chest, the smell of his shampoo is strong and pleasant. And then he’s pushing forward, getting Lance back up to his feet and they’re no longer touching.

“You almost dropped me!” Lance says, spinning around to face him, lips twisted in an accusatory pout.

Keith crosses his arms over his chest. “But I didn’t.”

“But you almost did! I felt you stumble!”

He shrugs. “You weighted more than I thought you would.”

Lance gasps dramatically, putting a hand to his chest. Keith rolls his eyes.

“Alright, that was good. A little unsteady, but good. Now switch. Keith, you fall, and Lance, you catch him.” Allura pauses, fixing Lance with a stern stare. “And please don’t drop him.”

“I wouldn’t!” She just holds his gaze. He sighs loudly, turning away from her to face Keith. He holds out his arms, jaw set in determination. “Come on, Keith.”

Keith turns his back to Lance, completely set to just fall as soon as he does, but he hesitates. Alright, so… in the moment it’s a little harder than he anticipated. It’s not that he doesn’t trust Lance, it’s just… he doesn’t like letting himself blindly fall. No one does. It’s against human nature. That might be why it’s good for a trust exercise, but right now Keith is using that as his validation for hesitating. It has nothing to do with the thought of Lance holding him whisking through his mind in a flash before dissipating.

Still, he’s determined to make a point and not wait or stall as long as Lance did.

“What’s the matter, Joe Jonas? Not so easy when it’s you, now is—“

He cuts off abruptly with another yelp as Keith lets himself fall. He’s not entirely sure Lance is ready. In fact, he’s pretty sure he’s not. But at this point, Keith doesn’t really care. Maybe if he hits the ground hard enough, he’ll black out and won’t have to deal with this anymore.

Unfortunately, he doesn’t hit the ground. He hits Lance square in the chest… and then his momentum keeps going. Lance’s arms wrap around him and he lets out a sharp shout as he tips over and they both go down. Panic spikes and he fails, but it does nothing. The air is knocked from his lungs when he lands on top of Lance, and he hears the other wheeze in response.

“I wasn’t ready.” Lance groans under him, arms letting go to flop out to the sides.

Keith had tensed during the fall, and now relaxes, letting his body sag on top of Lance’s as his head lolls back onto his shoulder. “You were supposed to be ready, idiot. That’s the whole point of this exercise.”

“You’re the idiot for falling when I was obviously not ready!”

“You were telling me to fall!”

Then Shiro is there, holding out a hand to help Keith up. He takes it. “Alright, it was nobody’s fault.” He says, reaching down to help Lance up. “But can we please try to take this seriously?”

“I was taking it seriously.” Keith grumbles.

“Yeah, me too!”

“Then go again.” Allura says, walking over to where Shiro’s phone is plugged in. She pulls up a playlist of songs that Keith recognizes as her chill playlist as soon as the music starts. She turns down the volume so it’s just background noise. “Lance, it’s your turn again.”

“But—!”

“Lance.” Shiro’s tone leaves no room for argument.

Lance glares at Keith. “You better not drop me.”

“Like you dropped me?”

“I stopped your fall with my body! That has to count for something!”

Keith hums thoughtfully. “I’ll think about it.”

“Keith! Buddy!”

Keith smirks, holding out his arms. “Just trust me and fall. I won’t drop you.”

Lance gives him a lingering glare, but turns around nonetheless. He breathes deep, like a man resigning himself to his fate, and falls. Keith catches him, and this time he’s prepared enough to avoid stumbling.

Lance hits his chest with a soft oomph and opens his eyes after a second. He glances around before tilting his head back. His hair brushes against Keith’s collarbones, and he wishes he didn’t notice that detail. “Huh, you caught me.”

Keith holds his smirk in place. “I told you I would.”

“Not gonna lie, I thought you would let me fall.”

“I’m not a dick, Lance.”

But then Keith bends his legs quickly, abruptly dropping his body several inches. Lance drops with him. It’s not much, and it’s over before it really starts, but it doesn’t stop Lance from crying out, flailing a little before he catches back on Keith’s arms. Keith can’t help the laugh that bubbles up his throat. He can ever hear Shiro and Allura snickering from the side, smiles hidden by their hands.

“That wasn’t funny!” Lance snaps. His ears are red.

“It was pretty funny.”

“Whatever…” He grumbles, and even though he can’t see his face, Keith can hear his pout. Lance kind of hangs in his arms for a moment, arms slung over Keith’s, which are tense and rigid from holding him up, back against Keith’s chest. He does this weird little flex thing, tightening his armpits around Keith’s arm. Keith is about to ask him what the hell he’s doing when Lance finally speaks. “Damn, Keith. I guess you do lift, huh?”

He nearly drops him right then and there. Instead, he pushes him roughly to his feet.

Allura is clapping. “Very good! Now Keith, let’s try this again. Lance—“

“I won’t drop him this time!”

“Good.”

Keith is grateful for the excuse to turn his back to Lance. His neck feels a little too warm. He can’t help but ask, “Ready?” But it’s more teasing than anything.

Lance hums out an affirmative, and right before he falls, he hears Lance sing under his breath, “He’s going down, I’m yelling timbeeeer!”

Lance catches him, and barely stumbles at all. He’s a surprisingly sturdy weight behind him, and Keith tries not to think too hard about that. Especially when Lance chuckles low in his throat, the sound so close to Keith’s ear and his chest shaking under him.

“Aww, you’re falling for me.” Lance coos playfully, and Keith groans loudly, slapping his hands over his face.

“Please just let me fall and hit my head.”

“No can do, dude. We’ve got work to do.”

Allura makes them go through several more trust falls, and each time it gets easier. Once they realize the other is sturdy enough to catch the other, and they come to an unspoken agreement to do what Allura says for their own good, the catches and falls are easy. They go through them quickly, and it doesn’t take Lance long to get bored.

When it’s his turn, he doesn’t waste anytime swooning dramatically, hand to his forehead as he falls. When it’s Keith’s turn, Lance makes another falling for him joke. Keith looks Shiro straight in the eyes and deadpans, “Kill me.”

Shiro obliges by lifting a hand and pointing a finger gun at him. “Blam.” He says, smiling playfully. Keith ignores his brother’s terrible attempt at making a gun sound and puts a hand to his chest, falling like he was shot. Lance is laughing as he catches him, and nearly drops him because of it. Keith doesn’t mind. He hides his smile.

Turns out, all in all, the trust falls aren’t that bad. Unfortunately, just when he’s starting to really believe that everything will be fine, Allura hits them with the next trust exercise.

“Do we have to?” Lance whines, shoulders sagging as his head lolls to the side.

“Yes,” She says firmly, arms crossed over her chest. “Eye contact is a very important part of building synergy. How are you supposed to dance with someone and convey unity if you can’t even look at each other.”

“I can look at Keith just fine. It’s the staring part that’s just so… awkward.”

Keith can’t even take offense to that. He agrees completely.

They’re both sitting on the floor now, each of them with their arms crossed over their chests and stubbornly not looking at each other.

“I assure you, it’s not as awkward as you think.” Her voice softens into something more sympathetic. “It may feel awkward now, but if you can do this, then making eye contact while dancing will be easy. Shiro can hold my gaze for entire dances without feeling awkward.”

“There’s a reason for that.” Keith mutters under his breath, and Lance snickers.

Allura sighs. “Just do the exercise. One minute. That’s all I ask.”

“But—“

“No but’s.” She steps forward, reaching out to put a hand on both of their heads. With a firm jerk, she forces them to face each other. “Shiro, will you time them?”

“Yup. Go ahead and start, guys.”

Allura removes her hand and steps back, and suddenly Keith feels a lot more alone and a lot more vulnerable. He stares at Lance, and Lance stares back. His lips are pressed into a small frown that’s bordering on a pout. Keith does his best to school his expression into something neutral. He’s not sure if he succeeds. The silence that falls over the room is deafening, despite the music playing softly over the speakers. Lance’s fingers are tapping on his arms, picking at his shirt. Keith starts counting the seconds because he’s not sure what else to do. Each second is agonizingly slow. And the whole time, he’s lost in a sea of dark blue with flecks of grays and lighter shades that swirl into a storm—

Lance’s eyes narrow a fraction. “I bet I can go longer than you without blinking.”

Keith raises an eyebrow. “You want to turn our staring contest… into a staring contest.”

Lance’s head cocks to the side, a smirk quirking his lips. “Yes.”

Keith frowns. “You’re on.”

“Okay, starting— now!”

And suddenly, it’s a lot easier to stare at him. Because he really can’t help himself. A challenge has been laid down, and Keith isn’t one to give up easily. Thank god for Lance and his tendency to turn everything into a contest. He stops counting in favor of glaring at Lance, focusing on not blinking. He can feel his eyelid twitching, but he holds back the impulse. Lance scrunches up his nose in an effort to do the same.

Time seems to get away from him because suddenly Shiro is calling out, “Time!”

It startles him enough that he blinks. Lance blinks a second after, face brightening as he straightens, pumping a fist in the air. “I win!”

“Lance, this wasn’t supposed to be a contest.” Shiro sounds more tired than authoritative. “It’s supposed to help you two get closer and more comfortable with each other.

”Well, I’m more comfortable when I’m kicking Keith’s ass.”

Keith scoffs. “You only won because Shiro distracted me.”

“Don’t drag me into this.” Shiro mumbles with a soft groan and a plea.

“Luckily for you, you can have a rematch.” Allura says, and all three of them turn to look at her. Shiro gives her a curious look, eyebrows raised. She meets his gaze, shrugging with a small smile. “They might be needlessly turning it into a contest, but at least they’re doing the exercise. We might as well roll with it.”

Shiro shrugs, returning her smile. “Fair enough.”

“Wait, so we have to do it again?” Lance asks, sounding a little dismayed. Keith can’t even bring himself to be offended. He’s not exactly happy about it either.

“Yup,” She smiles brightly.

“You said it would only be a minute!”

“For the first time, yes. This time, you’ll be holding eye contact for two minutes.”

“What?!”

Both her and Shiro are leaning up against the railing that lines the mirror wall. Both with their arms crossed loosely over their chests. Despite the cheery innocence in her voice, Keith can see that familiar spark in her eyes. A trickle of nauseating anticipation snakes down his spine. “Only this time, you’re going to hold hands.”

Keith tries to protest, but his heart lodges itself firmly in his throat, and all that comes out is a choked gasp. Lance seems to be having a similar problem. Keith refuses to look at him, instead staring intently at Allura with wide eyes, trying to convey a silent warning and a plea. Allura ignores him, and Lance makes these strange strangled sounds next to him. Keith feels a telltale warmth creeping up his neck.

Lance manages to find his voice first. He clears his throat, and Keith glances sidelong at him. He puts his hands flat together, holding them up to his face. His eyes are closed as he inhales deeply. “Okay, wait, hold up, let me get this straight…” He opens his eyes and points his hands at Allura. “You want us to stare at each other. For two minutes. While holding hands?!”

Allura doesn’t flinch. “Yes.”

Lance sputters for a second. “Allura, why?

“Because I strongly believe that this is important, Lance.” Her voice is a little more firm, but no less calm. “Eye contact and physical touch are important aspects to dancing as a duo, even if you don’t dance in the style that Shiro and I prefer. Eye contact and touch are ways to interact, to build synergy between you during a performance, to really show that you’re dancing together. This is just a simple exercise to get you used to these two things. If you can do this, then doing it while dancing will be easy.”

“Yeah, but—“

“No but’s!”

Lance huffs, and Keith can see him turning to face him out of the corner of his eye. Keith’s gaze flicker between Allura and Shiro, eyes narrowed. They both meet his gaze steadily, both feigning innocence. He doesn’t believe that act for a second. Everything Allura had said makes sense, and she explained it with such ease that Keith believes that this is a regular part of this lesson. But he doesn’t believe that they’re getting no extra satisfaction out of watching him squirm.

He’s going to kill Shiro later.

“Let’s get this over with.” Lance mumbles, and suddenly he’s shifting. Keith’s head whips around to stare at him as he scoots forward, stopping only when their knees touch. Lance doesn’t look at him as he holds out his hands. Has Lance always had such long, slender fingers? “Keeeeith,” Lance whines. Keith hadn’t realized he’s been staring. He starts, eyes flying up to Lance’s. His lips are pursed into a small frown, eyes hard and unreadable as he looks up at him. “Don’t leave me hanging, dude.”

Keith sighs, feeling stiff as he unfolds his arms and puts his hands in Lance’s. Their fingers tighten around each other just a fraction, enough that Allura can’t argue that they aren’t holding hands.

“Alright, staring the time— now.” Shiro says from somewhere to the side.

Keith is barely paying attention. His eyes are on Lances, lips pressed tight as he hopes and prays that his expression is something calm. His face feels irrationally warm, and so does his hand. Jesus fuck, he hopes his palms aren’t sweating. Thank god he’s wearing his gloves. The only solace he has is the faint blush taking over Lance’s cheekbones, splashing color across his nose.

Lance’s eyes flicker between his, the small movement oddly hesitant and erratic. Lance’s expression contorts in minor ways, a twitch here, a wrinkle there. He looks like he’s fighting and losing some internal battle. Keith just focuses on keeping his expression still, subtly taking deep breaths to calm the fluttering in his stomach.

He sees the moment Lance decides to speak. He sees it in the spark in his eyes, the twitch of his lips. When he finally finds his voice, the ghost of a smile is present. “Jesus, Keith, your hands are like sandpaper. Ever hear of a thing called lotion?”

Keith feels his brows pinch, lips tugging into a frown. “Have you ever worked a day in your life? You have next to no callouses.”

Lance’s smirk widens. “I’m going to take that as a compliment. It’s amazing what miracles a good skin care routine can do.”

“I’ll take your word for it.”

“Seriously, dude, do you bite your nails?” Lance pokes and prods his finger tips with his thumbs, feeling the rough skin around the nail beds where Keith has picked at it.

“That’s none of your business.”

“That’s gross, dude.”

“Like you never pick at your nails.”

“I don’t. Check ‘em out.”

And Keith does, running his thumb gently over the tips of his fingers. His nails are smooth and filed into perfect little crescents close to skin. The skin around his nails is perfectly unblemished, at least from what Keith can feel. He frowns. “How the hell…”

“It’s called impulse control, mullet.”

Keith grunts wordlessly, still holding eye contact. It’s easier when they bicker, but the silence they fall back into makes him feel restless. His hands get fidgety in Lance’s, finger idly tapping against Lance’s wrist. He then feels one of the many bracelets on his wrists brush against his fingertip, and that seems like as good a conversation as any.

“Why do you wear these?”

For a second, it looks like Lance is going to instinctively look down. He stops himself at the last moment. “What?”

“The bracelets. They look like a kid’s friendship bracelets.”

He expects some kind of frown or pout, but instead Lance’s expression goes soft, head tilting to the side. “They are.” Keith quirks an eyebrow, and Lance continues. “I have a lot of siblings, and nieces, and nephews, and cousins, and most of them are younger than me. It’s kind of like a family tradition for me and my older siblings to teach the younger ones how to make them. Then they get obsessed with making them, and suddenly I’ve got a million and five bracelets shoved at me. Of course I’m going to wear them all.”

Keith feels his lips twitch. “Of course.”

“Hey, is that sass I hear, Kogane? Don’t you insult my family’s arts and crafts bonding time. I will fight you.” His tone is mostly playful, but there’s a small, subtle defensive edge to it, an edge of hardness in his eyes as he stares back at Keith.

“I’m not insulting it.” Keith says earnestly, feeling the need to make that clear. But he doesn’t know what possesses him to continue. “I think it’s— cute.” He tries to say it as casually as he can, like it isn’t a big deal because it’s not. It is cute. He just hopes Lance doesn’t pick up on the small hitch in his voice.

Lance, however, purses his lips, completion darkening. His eyes widen a fraction, and Keith knows he wants to look away. Hell, Keith wants to look away. But they can’t. Not yet. Instead, Lance composes himself, easing back into nonchalance and confidence. He shrugs. “It’s just practical. It’s a good way to keep the kids entertained and occupied. They have fun. I rock the bracelets. Everyone wins.”

The silence they lapse into is more suffocating this time around, but neither of them break eye contact until Shiro speaks.

“And that’s time.”

“Finally!” Lance tears his hands away from Keith’s, throwing his arms in the air and flopping backwards until he’s lying on the floor. “Can we please move on to the actual dancing?”

Allura chuckles, and Shiro is smirking. Keith shoots them both a glare. “Yes, we’ll move on for now—“

Thank you.”

“—Go ahead and warm up properly so we can get started.”

Warming up and stretching is a casual affair. He does his best to ignore Lance for the moment, but he has an obnoxious habit of catching Keith’s eye. Stretching turns into no less than three contests for who’s the most flexible. It’s a silent agreement: eyes locking, Lance smirking as he leans a little further, Keith doing the same in response. They’re pretty even, but Keith is pretty sure he’s a little more flexible with his legs while Lance has an edge on him with his upper body. As soon as Allura catches wind of their silent contest, she easily beats them both.

And alright, so maybe Keith can see why his brother is so intimidated by Allura. But come on. Anyone with eyes can see the constant glances she sends his way, the casual touches, the soft smiles. Just another reason to kick Shiro’s ass.

“Alright,” Allura says as she steps up in front of Shiro, half turned to look at the two of them. “We’re going to demonstrate a dance for the two of you. It’s… a little more complicated than we usually go for with these lessons, but we think that given time, you can learn it. You’re both very talented dancers, and you both pick up dance styles fairly quickly. So even though this may be out of your comfort zone, we have faith that you’ll manage. Today, though, we’re going to start out small. We’ll teach you the dance in pieces, starting with the easy things while your synergy is still a little rocky, and eventually putting it all together.”

“Assuming, of course,” Shiro adds. “That you two agree to meet with us once a week for these lessons.”

“Assuming that, yes. Now we’ll show you what it’ll look like eventually, but try not to be too intimidated.” She gives them a quick wink. “Now if you would be so kind as to hit play?”

Keith has seen them dance hundreds of times before. It’s nothing new. He knows of their impeccable synergy, of their emotional and story telling style. It’s nothing like anything Keith has ever attempted. Probably because it requires a partner. And probably because it seems so… intimate. And despite knowing exactly what kind of style Shiro and Allura tend to dance, he had somewhat been in denial before this moment.

Now that he’s in this moment, he’s realizing that when Allura had said this might be out of their comfort zones, it had been the biggest understatement of the year.

He feels tense, and he knows he’s tense. He’s watching with his arms crossed, fingers digging into his upper arms, trying to regulate his breathing. It’s hard when his heart can’t seem to decide whether it wants to live in his throat or drop down into his stomach. The song is an emotional one, and that sentiment is echoed in their expressions, in their touches, in the dramatic and heartfelt ways they throw their bodies and limbs around. The smiling Shiro and Allura are gone, and he feels like he’s been thrown into a story that clashes terribly with the reality they had just inhabited.

He’s barely paying attention to the details of the lifts and poses the two of them are going through. He’s too distracted by the shear closeness of it all. He really, really doesn’t want to think about doing that with Lance.

He doesn’t think he has a choice though.

When they’re done, they turn off the music and go through the first couple moves slowly. There’s nothing dramatic. No fancy lifts. No real action for him to focus on. Just… a lot of touching. And holding. And passionate expressions…

“So did you guys get all that?” Allura asks when they’re done. All in all, when it’s up to speed, it only takes a few seconds. To Keith, it feels like hours. She steps away from Shiro, smiling at the two of them with her hands on her hips.

Keith doesn’t trust his voice, so he just nods stiffly.

Lance, on the other hand, has no problem voicing his concerns. “Yeaaaah, so, like, that looked great and all, but… are we supposed to do— that— too?”

Allura raises one eyebrow. “And what exactly is that?”

Lance scratches the back of his neck, other hands waving vaguely. “You know, that. The looks and touches and everything.”

“Yes, of course.”

“But—“

“It’s a very important aspect to this dance style. You’re telling a story, and that requires you to focus on your partner. Expression is both on an individual level and a joint effort.”

“But— why?” An edge of desperation leaks into his voice, and at least Keith can take some comfort in the fact that he’s not the only one feeling hesitant about this. It may not be for the same reasons, but he’ll take what he can get.

“Because this style forces you to focus on your partner and what’s going on between you. Which is, coincidentally, the whole point of this exercise.” He and Allura stare at each other, eyes narrowed and lips set into firm lines. If it’s an intimidation battle, Keith knows Allura is going to win.

He takes the moment to send a pleading look to Shiro. He hasn’t explicitly told his brother about his developing attraction. Hell, he doesn’t even like thinking about it himself. But that doesn’t stop him from silently begging his brother to help him. Shiro meets his gaze, and sends him a look that’s two parts sympathy and one part amusement.

“You’re doing this, Lance.” Allura says firmly. “This will be good for you two, and the lessons you learn here will transfer over to your own style. You do want to do well at regionals, don’t you?”

Keith looks back to them in time to see Lance flinch. It’s a low blow, and they all know it. They also know it’s Allura’s biggest bargaining chip. Lance can’t argue with her logic, and Keith sees the moment he gives up. He gapes at her, mouth and jaw working as he tries to formulate a response. Then he crosses his arms over his chest and hikes his shoulders up to his ears, looking away as he mumbles, “Yes…”

And that’s how Keith finds himself a little too close to Lance for comfort. Shiro and Allura are next to them, demonstrating the moves and walking them through it. They go pose for pose as their two instructors hover around them, poking and prodding them until they’re doing it just right. Much to his dismay, they find themselves holding eye contact more often than not. As awkward as it is, it’s easier than trying to ignore each other all together. It’s impossible to ignore each other when they’re this close. He tries to keep focused, his lips pressed into a firm line and his expression in check. He’s not sure if he pulls it of, though.

The only thing he’s sure of is that while Lance has his arm wrapped around his back and his other hand flat on Keith’s chest while he leans into his arms, he knows that Lance can feel the rapid staccato of his heartbeat. He can feel it pounding against his chest, slamming against Lance’s touch. He tries to will it to stop, silently pleads with it. It doesn’t, of course. Not when Lance’s face is so close and they’re staring into each other’s eyes and how has he never noticed the faint freckles that scatter across his nose and cheeks just a shade darker than his skin?

They hold the pose, and Keith feels his legs starting to shake slightly, mostly from nerves but also from attempting to hold his own weight up while leaning so heavily into Lance’s embrace. He can feel Lance’s arm starting to shake behind him.

God fuck, why did he ever agree to this?

As he meets Lance’s gaze, steady and determined not to flinch away, he tries to convince himself that this is fine. Completely professional. He tries to convince himself that he’s definitely not attracted to Lance in the slightest. The slight upturn to his long nose isn’t cute at all. His sharp cheekbones are a generically pretty feature, but they’re just cheekbones. The determined fire in the blue depths of his irises isn’t anything to make his stomach flutter at. The way his lips smirk in self satisfaction, causing his eyes to crinkle whenever Shiro or Allura praises them is definitely not the reason for Keith’s breath to hitch.

Who the fuck is he kidding? Everything is not fine.

At Allura’s insistence, they move into the next pose. Keith tilts his head back, grateful for an excuse to look away for a moment. The hand on his chest wraps around his back as Lance switches arms, and suddenly he’s being held close and lifted as he steps up. They half turn and stop, chest to chest. Lances hands are on his sides as his own hands move to the hold Lance’s head, fingers moving through the hair at the back of his neck, fingers splayed to feel the soft strands and warm flesh of his neck and face and jesus fucking christ

He’s going to murder Shiro for choosing this dance. Or letting Allura choose this dance. He doesn’t care. He’ll murder them both.

“That’s good, keep going.” Allura says, gently tapped a beat on her thigh.

Lance lifts his face, and Keith tilts his back. His eyes close briefly as Lance’s nose runs across his throat, and he willfully ignores the shivers that run down his spine. Lance exhales and his breath is hot on Keith’s skin. Oh god, he can’t— he can’t fucking handle this.

keith.exe has stopped working

“Your breath stinks,” He grumbles, proud when his voice doesn’t waver or crack. In fact, he sounds relatively normal, if not a little grumpy. He’ll take it.

He feels more than hears Lance snort. “Your mullet looks greasier up close.”

“You know the skin care routine you do in the morning?”

“What about it?”

“You missed a spot.”

Lance gasps loudly, abruptly leaning away from him. Their bodies are still close, but now Keith can see his face as he gaps at him, eyes wide. “Where?

He tries to remain casual as he makes a show of looking Lance’s face over, ignoring the fact that he’s still holding the guy’s head cradled in his hands. He can’t quite hold back his amused smirk. “No, wait, never mind. I was wrong.” Lance breaths a sigh of relief. “It’s just your face.”

Lance gasps again, removing a hand from Keith’s side to put it to his own chest. Then his face scrunches up as he lightly kicks Keith’s shoes. “Well you keep stepping on my toes. It’s like you have two left feet.”

Keith holds his expression steady. “I’d prefer if I had two right feet.”

Lance eyes him suspiciously, one eyebrow raising slowly. “Why’s that?”

“Because then I’d be alright.”

Lance is quiet for a full two seconds, just looking Keith over. “Oh my god.” He throws back his head and laughs, in the end having to hold onto Keith to keep from falling over. Keith finds himself grinning. “Oh my god, Keith, you made a joke!”

“I’ve been known to do that occasionally.” He tries to deadpan, but his smile is stubbornly in place.

“I know, but it always catches me off guard!” Lance has recovered by now, and they’ve both stepped back from each other.

“If you two are finished?” They both turn to see Allura watching them, eyebrow and lips quirked in amusement. “And you were doing so well, too.”

“Right, right,”

“That’s supposed to be my line.”

“Oh my god, Keith, stop.” Lance laughs, shoving him.

At Allura’s insistence, they go through several more moves. It’s mostly poses, close and personal. Allura reminds them to hold eye contact and to convey emotion with their expressions and body language, that it’s all about showing a connection between them. Luckily, Lance finds a way to make it a hell of a lot less awkward.

“Keith, it’s called exfoliating.” He says as he roughly rubs his hand down Keith’s cheek. “You should try it sometime.”

“Is that a zit I see forming?”

“Don’t even joke.”

“Who said I’m joking?”

“Keith, I will drop you right now.”

“What happened to promising you wouldn’t drop me?”

“You weigh a ton, Allura’s making us hold these poses for way too long, and you just insinuated that a zit got past my remarkable skin care regiment, don’t think I wouldn’t drop you in a heartbeat.” He heaves Keith up, spinning them around. “Seriously, dude, lay off the snack cakes.”

“Only when you lay off the milkshakes.”

There’s a moment where their faces are close, eyes locked. Allura is beside them, speaking softly as she guides them through it. Keith has mostly tuned her out. He gets the gist of what she’s saying anyway. They freeze at her insistence, and she and Shiro move around them, poking and prodding their arms and feet, adjusting their stances, telling Lance to lean his weight more heavily onto Keith, telling Keith how to hold himself to better distribute the weight. The whole time Lance is looking at him, faces so close that Keith can feel his breath on his cheeks, his nose, his lips—

“Your eyes are like an ocean,” Lance says, voice pitched low. His lips curve into a cocky smirk that has Keith’s toes curling. “And baby, I’m lost at sea.” And then he fucking winks.

He’s going to fucking kill him. Will he be disqualified from regionals if he breaks his partner’s nose?

Keith just stares at him blankly, then lifts his head to look at Shiro, who’s hovering beside them. “Can I drop him now?”

Shiro gives him an amused smile. “I’m honestly surprised you’re still holding onto him after that.”

“I’m afraid of Allura, to be honest.”

“That’s understandable. I would be, too.”

“I say drop him.” Allura cuts in.

“Allura, no!” Lance is laughing, wrapping his arms more firmly around Keith’s neck. “Keith, don’t drop meeeeee!” He whines between laughs, practically dead weighting and half wrapping a leg around Keith’s.

He’s lucky Keith had already adjusted his weight to balance better, but even still, he stumbles. “Lance, get off of me!” He puts a hand to his chest and one to his face, shoving. Lance just clings tighter.

“No! I’m your partner! You’re not supposed to drop me!”

“You deserve it!”

“Why you gotta be so ruuuuude!” He sings, wrapping his leg more firmly around him. Keith’s halfhearted struggles turn more forceful when he realizes that Lance isn’t moving. Lance notices the change and just latches on tighter.

“Holy shit, what is this grip? You’re worse than— oh my god, you’re going to choke me— you’re worse than Pidge!”

“They’re not the only ones who know how to koala someone!” And then suddenly all of Lance’s limbs are wrapped around him and he’s scrambling for purchase as Keith shoves at him. Pidge has climbed on him hundreds of times, but Lance has a lot more torso and a hell of a lot more limb than Pidge does. Pidge clings like a koala, but Lance is like a squid.

“Oh my god— Lance!— Let go, I swear to— Fuck! Shiro, help me!”

“Sorry, little bro, you’re on your own.” There’s laughter in Shiro’s voice and Keith spares him a quick glare.

“Ha HA!” Lance has somehow managed to scramble and shift his body around Keith’s side. He’s kicked and elbowed, and honestly he’s not sure how he’s still standing.

“Why must you both be this way?” Allura sighs, shaking her head, but there’s no real annoyance in her voice.

“You wanted synergy, Allura!” Lance says, fixing himself onto Keith’s back. He settles with his arms around his neck and legs wrapped firmly around his waist, ankles locked. “This is our synergy. Our spark! Right, Keith?”

“No.”

He plants his hands on Keith’s shoulders, shaking them by rocking his body back and forth. “Keeeeeith! Don’t deny our spark, man!”

“I’m denying it, now stop that before we—“ He doesn’t get to finish his sentence before Lance’s rocking gets out of hand and throws Keith off balance. They both topple over backwards. Keith lands on top of Lance, and he hears the loud oomph as the air rushes out of his lungs, followed by a groan. Keith echoes it.

“I feel like I’m having deja vu.” Lance mumbles beneath him.

“You don’t say,” Keith mumbles dryly, sitting up as Lance shoves his back.

“Nevertheless.” Allura says, holding out a hand to help Keith to his feet. “Shall we get back to our lesson on practicing a different kind of synergy?”

“Yeah, okay.” Keith says sheepishly, unable to meet her eyes.

“I guess,” Lance says as Shiro helps him to his feet. He even manages to sound a little abashed.

“Excellent.”

The next thirty minutes or so are dedicated to learning a simple lift. There are some arguments at the beginning, mostly on Lance’s part, about who would be doing the lifting. Lance is insistent that he should do the lifting. He says he wanted to do a pseudo lift in their audition song but everyone shut him down. Keith fights back, a little for the matter of principle, a little because Lance is getting on his nerves, but mostly because arguing with Lance brings about a sense of familiarity that’s comforting when they’re forced into such unfamiliar and uncomfortable close proximity.

In the end, when Shiro finally manages to get a word in edgewise, he tells them that he and Allura had actually planned for Keith to be doing this particular lift. Keith doesn’t say anything as Lance sputters, but makes sure he can see his triumphant smirk.

He’s grateful, mostly because he thinks being in Lance’s arms would be a hell of a lot worse than having Lance in his.

Turns out he’s wrong. It’s pretty bad either way.

They start out a little rocky. Lance is jittery and nervous about trusting Keith to lift him, and it makes him too stiff. This, in turn, makes Keith nervous. He’s not used to lifting another’s weight like this, keeping it fluid and in time with the music. He’s, more or less, in complete control of the lift. Luckily, he’s nothing if not persistent. And he’s no stranger to consistent training to drill new things into muscle memory. So he grits his teeth, mostly ignores Lance’s nervous jabs, and concentrates on improving.

It’s mostly Shiro who walks him through it, giving tips and advice for lifting. He pays close attention, barely listening to Allura doing the same for Lance. When they try it over and over and over again, Keith hears his brother’s advice, pays attention to how his body is moving, how Lance’s body is reacting to his. After a while, Lance relaxes and actually starts to take it seriously. After that point, they improve quickly.

He can feel the familiar trickle of self pride when they actually start to get it without faltering. It’s still somewhat stiff and shaky, and they’re not nearly as fluid and graceful as Shiro and Allura, but they’re getting it. He can see the pride radiating off his brother’s smiling face, see it in Allura’s eyes. Even Lance has cut the jokes and jabs out, concentrating fully. Keith has no doubt it’s in reaction to his own sudden focus. Lance can be just as stubborn as him, especially when he get it in his head that Keith is trying to “one up him” or whatever.

Keith can’t complain too much. He likes the way his jaw is set and his eyes flare with single minded determination.

Whatever the reason, Keith is grateful for the moderate silence and focus. It makes it a lot easier to ignore the fact that his hands are all over Lance, that he’s been holding him in his arms for however long now. It’s easy to forget when they’re like this: laser focused, determined, and stubborn. It took them long enough to get to this point, but now that they’re here, Keith feels like they’re finally getting somewhere.

“Alright, so now that we’ve shown you how that particular lift fits in with the other moves we’ve taught you, why don’t we try putting it all together with the music?”

Keith nods wordlessly and steps up to Lance, who’s already stepping in close to take up their starting position. He has a leg stretched out, using it as a balancing point as his other knee is bent, toe pointed and leg at the angle Allura taught him. Both legs are to one side of Keith as he leans forward in a lunge. One arm is wrapped around Lance’s back, holding him up with his other arm is out to the side in a gesture that Shiro insisted on. It’s somewhat difficult to hold the pose with one arm, but once the music is going and they’re moving and shifting their weight, it’s not so bad. One of Lance’s hands is loosely on his shoulder, the other wrapped around his neck.

They’re close, and it’s an intimate position that Keith hasn’t had time to think too much about while they were working through everything. But now, while they hold their positions as Shiro shuffles through his phone for the music, Keith thinks about it.

He let’s himself indulge in it, if only for a moment. He thinks about how much he likes this angle and the feel of Lance’s hands on him. He likes how Lance is relaxed and loose as he hangs under him, completely at his mercy but utterly trusting and without a sense of hesitation. He thinks, if only for a moment, how lucky he is to have gotten an attractive dance partner, even if his personality could use improvement. He thinks about how grateful he is that they have dancing as an excuse to be close like this, to explore their physical chemistry without any strings attached. Because as much as he hates to admit it, they do have a physical chemistry. One that makes dancing with Lance so much more enjoyable than he would have ever imagined. He thinks that might be what’s been messing him up. Acknowledging their dance floor chemistry and Lance’s objective attractiveness has muddled his brain. He can accept that they’re just this. They’re not very compatable otherwise anyway. But if he’s going to accept that they’re just this, then he can at least let himself enjoy it, right?

As they wait, suspended in animation as they wait for the music to start, he stares into Lance’s eyes, still set and hard with that focused fire that Keith finds himself drawn to. Then his lips quirk up at the corners in the shadow of a smirk, his head tilting just every so slightly as that familiar cocky and confident look enters his eyes. “Try not to drop me, mullet.” His voice is soft, playful, and teasing, with no actual edge to it.

Some crackling is faint over the speakers, but it’s not what he remembers from what Shiro and Allura danced to earlier, so he doesn’t bother moving yet. “Percussion…

Keith finds himself mirroring his expression. “No promises, princess.”

”Strings…” He thought that was Shiro whispering to Allura, but that’s definitely not Shiro’s voice…

“So you finally admit I’m royalty.”

Winds…

“A royal pain in the ass maybe.”

Words…

Lance chuckles at that, and Keith can feel the brief puffs of air on his cheeks.

There you see her, sitting there across the way…” Okay, that’s definitely music playing now, but it’s definitely not what they were dancing to earlier. Keith wants to look up, to see what’s going on, but he doesn’t. He tells himself it’s because Allura instructed him to hold the pose until he heard the song start and she gave the go ahead to start moving. It’s not because Lance’s eyes are crinkling at the edges when he grins.

“You can call me your majesty.”

“Not on your life.”

”She don’t got a lot to say, but there’s something about her…” Keith is only listening to the lyrics with half an ear, but something is tickling the edges of his memory. Where has he heard this song before?

Lance doesn’t seem to be paying attention to it, but it’s nagging Keith insistently. “Better be careful, Sir Keith, or this princess is going to have your ass thrown into the dungeon.”

”And you don’t know why, but you’re dying to try—“ Keith’s eyes widen, heart dropping so quickly he feels vertigo as he recognizes the song— “You wanna kiss the girl.

Keith’s head snaps up so fast that there’s a flash of pain, but he ignores it. His eyes lock onto Shiro’s, who’s smiling innocently but the amusement in his eyes betray him. Keith stares at him, and he knows his mouth is hanging open in horror. Keith doesn’t have much time to dwell on it though, because his arms have gone slack and he’s dropped Lance without a second thought. In the sudden surge of blind panic, he doesn’t even notice Lance isn’t there anymore until he hears the surprised yelp.

It brings his attention back to Lance, who’s lying on the floor, propped up on an elbow and rubbing the back of his head, expression contorted into one of annoyance and pain. “Keith, what the fuck?

Keith winces. He’s going to fucking kill Shiro. “Oh my god, Lance— fuck— I’m so sorry.” He says, words in a rush as he scrambles to reach down to help Lance to his feet.

Lance glares at him, and for a second Keith thinks he won’t take his hand. But as his eyes roam Keith’s face, the edge to his anger fades. Keith doesn’t want to think about what his expression looks like right now. His heart is hammering in his chest, and his face feels like it’s on fire. Lance takes his hand, and Keith pulls him to his feet.

“What the hell was that?” He doesn’t sound angry, just disgruntled, which Keith takes as a good sign.

“I’m sorry— fuck, I didn’t mean to. I just got distracted, and— Shiro.” Keith snaps, turning to glare at his brother and hoping to divert the attention away from himself.

Shiro holds up his hands. “Sorry, must have accidentally hit play on a song while I was searching for the right one.” It sounds innocent enough, and like a logical excuse, but Keith isn’t buying it. He has seen that spark of amusement.

“Shiro, that song isn’t even in the same playlist.” Allura says, sounding just as confused as Lance looks. Luckily, said song isn’t still playing. Shiro had cut it off shortly after Keith had dropped Lance.

Shiro rubs the back of his neck, eyes on his phone. “Yeah, I don’t know how that happened. I must not have been paying attention.”

“What song was even playing?” Lance asks. “I didn’t even notice.”

“Nothing!” Keith snaps, a little too loudly. His face is still warm, and he hates it. He purses his lips tight, trying to refocus and let his embarrassment go as he holds out his arms for Lance. “Let’s just… do this, alright?” He spares a sharp glance toward Shiro. “And do it right this time.”

Keith is expecting Lance to hesitate. After all, who wouldn’t after just being dropped without explanation? But to his extreme surprise, he doesn’t. Lance steps right up to him and takes up the same position they had been in before, body lax and languid in Keith’s arms. The obvious trust in that gesture does nothing to keep his blush down.

“For real this time, try not to drop me.” Lance says, and while it’s gruff, there’s a playful edge to it.

Keith sighs. “I’m not going— look, I’m sorry, alright? I didn’t mean to.” He hesitates, subconsciously bitting his bottom lip. “You’re not— are you alright?”

Lance seems surprised by that, but then his lips quirk into a smile and he shrugs. “Yeah, no problem. My Lita always said I have a hard head. No harm done.”

Keith smiles at that, small and sincere. “Good.”

This time the right music plays, and all jokes are set aside as they focus. The first run through is shaky. They haven’t done it to music and staying on top of the beat while going through moves they’ve just learned is tricky. Allura has them go through it several more times, and each time there’s significant improvement. Keith realizes that he doesn’t even have to think about the whole staring thing. The moves themselves give off half of the emotion they need to portray in and of themselves, and he finds the rest comes easily enough when they’re in the moment. Especially when they’re both determined to make the most of this.

Without words, they seem to have come to an agreement that despite how uncomfortable it can be, Shiro and Allura think this will be good for them, and they both trust them. And he has to admit… now that they’re actually dancing and they’ve been in each other’s personal bubble for a while now, it’s not so bad. It’s actually kind of fun. Despite everything, he and Lance do work well together. Their bodies sync up well. Maybe these lessons really will be good for them after all.

Plus… it gives him an excuse to be close to Lance without the pressure that would be there otherwise. Maybe this will help him get over everything. Maybe it’ll get him used to the whole ‘lance is attractive’ thing without letting it develop into anything else. Better to let himself indulge in the physicality of it, in their dance chemistry, and just focus on being friends.

He supposes he should be a little grateful to his brother for suggesting this.

But he’s still going to kick his ass.

 


 

Shiro sits on the ground legs outstretched and spread, feet against Allura’s. Her hands are in his, soft and delicate but still strong and firm. He’s leaning back, pulling her forward as far as she can go to help her stretch. And damn, can she go far. He tries not to think too hard about her leaning toward and over his lower body, and luckily, her face is turned away from him, focused instead on their students.

“It took a while, but I think they ended up doing quite well.” She says softly, just for him.

He hums, taking the distraction and looking over to where Lance and Keith are goofing off. He feels his lips quirk into a small, fond smile. “Yeah, but we knew they’d be difficult. I’m honestly surprised they pulled themselves together as quickly as they did. I expected it would take more lessons.”

“I had faith in them. They’re both very determined and very talented. As long as they can stop overthinking things and let their natural compatibility flow, they’ll do fine. I can see improvement in their synergy already.”

“I do, too. Though it was quite an… experience, to say the least.”

“At least they’re amusing.”

“They are that.”

Allura leans back, pulling Shiro forward. He feels the stretch in his legs and breathes a small sigh of relief. “With some proper training, they could actually be really good with this style of dancing.” She says thoughtfully. He looks up to see the spark in her eyes, and smiles kindly, chuckling.

“As much as I believe that’s true, I doubt they’ll stick with it. Not to say they’ll never dance like this again, but I think they’re too fond of other styles.”

“I suppose you’re right.” Allura hums. “Do you think they have the energy to go through it again—“

“NEVER LET GO, JACK!” Lance’s shout cuts her off, drawing both of their attention.

The two are standing in what can only be described as the typical Titanic pose: Lance on the balls of his feet, leaning forward with his arms held out to the sides. Keith is behind him, arms around his waist and holding him up. They had decided to take a break, and while Allura and Shiro stretched, Lance and Keith had been playing around with various poses and lifts. Shiro thinks he might have heard something about ‘I bet I trust you more’ and ‘you’re on.’

Keith leans in close to Lance, a teasing smirk slowly curling his lips as he hovers just behind Lance’s ear. It’s a strangely intimate position, one that he isn’t expecting his brother to put himself into. But there’s a wicked glint to Keith’s eyes as he pauses, drawing out the moment. Shiro can see Lance’s expression waver, the blush spreading across his cheeks as his eyes widen just slightly.

drown in hell, bitch

Then Keith breaks the silence. “Drown in hell, bitch.” And then he drops Lance.

Lance hits the ground, catching himself on his hands and knees, but he’s laughing too hard to hold the position. He rolls over onto his back, one arm resting on his stomach as the other splays over his face. Keith is laughing too, arms wrapped around his middle as he doubles over, eyes squeezed shut.

Lance flops around on the floor, bellowing out accusations about being betrayed and an icy death between laughs. It’s dramatic enough that Shiro finds himself grinning. Keith can’t even respond, having been thrown into another fit of laughter. He’s distracted and doesn’t see the moment Lance lunches for his legs, knocking him over. Lance crawls on him as Keith attempts to push him off, crying out, “Drown with me, you watery twat!”

His brother has a nice laugh, and it’s a shame he doesn’t do it more often. Though he’s heard it a lot more since he started hanging out with Lance and the rest of them. This whole duo thing has been good for him in more ways than one, and Shiro will make sure to gloat about it some other time.

It’s later, after practice, when the two of them are stretching out, that he asks, “So, will the two of you be joining us next week?”

They pause, turning to look at him. Lance is lying on his back and Keith is standing over him, Lance’s leg stretched out and in his hand as Keith pushes it back to help him stretch.

“Your synergy has already improved greatly,” Allura adds with a smile, “Imagine what you two can accomplish after a month.”

They exchange looks, something silent passing between them, and after a moment, Lance shrugs. “As long as butter fingers over here doesn’t drop me again, I’m down.” Keith glares, lips pursing into a small frown as he leans forward, pushing Lance’s leg further. Lance half yelps and half laughs, hands smacking the floor next to him. “Keith! Keith, buddy, I’m sorry! Stop! Oh my god, you’re going to break my leg!”

Allura leans close to him then, her breath dancing across his ear and sending shivers down his spine. “Do you think those two will be okay?”

He sees the slight smirk on Keith’s lips, the wide grin on Lance’s, and he smiles. “Yeah,” He says softly. “They’ll be just fine.”

Chapter Text

Group Chat: “Family BBQ - Today’s Menu: Spit-Roasted Squad”

coo coo motherfuckers: ALRIGHT
coo coo motherfuckers: I need to know who’s here
coo coo motherfuckers: so roll call time
coo coo motherfuckers: sound off nerds
coo coo motherfuckers: I’ll start: pidge
uptown hunk: hunk :3c
fuck off: uh keith
vive la lance: lance aka the man of your dreams ;)
fuck off: more like nightmares
vive la lance: you know what keiTH???
vive la lance: youre absolutely right
fuck off: …
fuck off: I am?
vive la lance: yeah
vive la lance: this level of perfection is frightening
fuck off: amazing
vive la lance: thank you
coo coo motherfuckers: alright so tweedle dee and tweedle dum are here got it
fuck off: dibs on tweedle dee
vive la lance: whAT??
vive la lance: nO!
vive la lance: you’re totALLY tweedle dumb
fuck off: and why is that?
coo coo motherfuckers: he’s just going to say it’s cause you’re dumb
vive la lance: because I make you speechless ;)
fuck off: I
uptown hunk: :O
coo coo motherfuckers: …wow
fuck off: yeah
coo coo motherfuckers: I’m actually a little impressed
fuck off: I actually have nothing to say to that
vive la lance: HA!
fuck off: I’m just so surprised you made an intelligent joke
vive la lance: you know Im sensing some sass over there
vive la lance: but Im going to ignore it in favor of the compliment
fuck off: do what you gotta do to make yourself feel better
coo coo motherfuckers: ANYWAY
coo coo motherfuckers: can you two stop clogging up the chat long enough for me to figure out if the others are here?
fuck off: you’re not my mom
coo coo motherfuckers: keith I will beat your ass
coo coo motherfuckers: I know where you live
fuck off: bring it munchkin
fuck off: I put out the mousetraps
coo coo motherfuckers: I will murder your kneecaps
fuck off: I’ll stand on the table
coo coo motherfuckers: I will climb up that bean pole physique to punch you in the jaw
vive la lance: figHT FIGHT FIGHT
fuck off: I’ll sit on you
coo coo motherfuckers: biTCh
coo coo motherfuckers: you weight like tWO POUNDS
vive la lance: not to be a buzzkill cause you know I love a good ol fashions pidge/keith beat down
vive la lance: but keith is a heavy af fat ass
vive la lance: can confirm
fuck off: just because yOU have the upper body strength of a diseased hamster
vive la lance: excuSE
uptown hunk: so, like, you guys know I love you, and I love all your shenanigans, but I’ve got a paper I need to write and a LOT of research to do for it
uptown hunk: so can we like, hurry this along?
vive la lance: sorry buddy
uptown hunk: no problem, dude :3c
vive la lance: <3
uptown hunk: <33
fuck off: what’d you need pidge?
coo coo motherfuckers: right
coo coo motherfuckers: where are the more adult-y adults?
fuck off: pretty sure shiro is working at the museum
uptown hunk: probably allura too then, cause they usually try to line up their schedules
coo coo motherfuckers: -COUGH- BASICALLY MARRIED -COUGH-
fuck off: basically
vive la lance: amen
uptown hunk: I think it’s cute :3
coo coo motherfuckers: you would, you big softie
uptown hunk: I can’t help it D:
coo coo motherfuckers: you don’t need to help it, you’re perfect, hunk
uptown hunk: awwww
uptown hunk: I already told you I’m not making cookies tonight
coo coo motherfuckers: worth a shot
coo coo motherfuckers: so what about coran?
vive la lance: hes probs still at the studio
vive la lance: dudes there all day
coo coo motherfuckers: yeah but he usually checks his phone for messages, especially when he’s got downtime in the office
vive la lance: its monday right?
uptown hunk: yup, and this paper, by the way, is due friday
uptown hunk: and pidge is in this class, too
uptown hunk: so I know they should be working right now
coo coo motherfuckers: you’re not my mom
uptown hunk: no work, no cookies
coo coo motherfuckers: …. fuck
vive la lance: pretty sure corans got some classes today
coo coo motherfuckers: godDAMMIT
fuck off: what’d you want to tell us?
coo coo motherfuckers: I can’t now >:(
fuck off: ?
coo coo motherfuckers: you’ve all gotta be here when I make the announcement
coo coo motherfuckers: otherwise there won’t be the proper mix of excitement and peer pressure
coo coo motherfuckers: plus it’ll just get lose by your constant blathering and I can’t be assed to get excited twice
uptown hunk: alright so is this meeting done then?
coo coo motherfuckers: postponed until further notice
uptown hunk: alright, wanna meet in the living room to cross examine sources?
coo coo motherfuckers: sounds good
vive la lance: great now that the nerds are gone we can talk about cool things
vive la lance: hows it going keith?
fuck off: I’m out
vive la lance: KEITH NO WAIT
fuck off: what?
vive la lance: Im bored :(
fuck off: not my problem
vive la lance: why are you always so rude
vive la lance: shiro didnt raise you this way
fuck off: shiro once told me that if I ate enough spiders I could absorb their power and be like spiderman
vive la lance: … wow
vive la lance: how many spiders did you eat?
fuck off: I don’t want to talk about it
vive la lance: was it upwards of ten?
fuck off: I DON’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT
vive la lance: alright alright
vive la lance: but dont think Im gonna let you forget about this
fuck off: wouldn’t dream of it
vive la lance: cool
vive la lance: so you doing anything?
fuck off: not really
vive la lance: wanna play games?
fuck off: yeah sure

 


 

 

 

Group Chat: “Family BBQ - Today’s Menu: Spit-Roasted Squad”

coo coo motherfuckers: ALRIGHT
coo coo motherfuckers: TAKE TWO
coo coo motherfuckers: SOUND OFF NERDS
vive la lance: ONE B)
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: two! 8{D
uptown hunk: three ;3c
coo coo motherfuckers: … alright I’ve waited long enough
uptown hunk: you’ve literally waited two minutes
coo coo motherfuckers: two minutes is an eternity in Pidge Time™
coo coo motherfuckers: where are the others?
coo coo motherfuckers: shiro? allura? keith?
coo coo motherfuckers: ping ping motherfuckers
coo coo motherfuckers: I swear if you’re all at the gym again…
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: I believe Allura has a shift at the museum tonight!
vive la lance: and you know that means she does
vive la lance: cause my man coran has that crazy knack for remembering schedules
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: Thank you, Lance!
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: Tonight isn’t apart of her normal schedule, however.
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: From what I remember her calling out before she dashed out of the apartment, they were short staffed at the museum tonight so she had to rush over for a closing shift.
coo coo motherfuckers: uuuuuugh
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: Sorry, Pidge 8(
coo coo motherfuckers: dare I even ask where the others are?
uptown hunk: I have no idea D:
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: Nor do I
coo coo motherfuckers: hmmm
coo coo motherfuckers: two secs
uptown hunk: what’re you going to do?
coo coo motherfuckers: text matt
uptown hunk: and??
coo coo motherfuckers: UGH
uptown hunk: I take that as no luck?
coo coo motherfuckers: he’s not answering me
coo coo motherfuckers: that nerd is pretty much glued to his phone 24/7
vive la lance: you mean like you?
coo coo motherfuckers: what can I say?
coo coo motherfuckers: the family resemblance is strong
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: In that case, if he’s so glued to his phone, should you worry?
coo coo motherfuckers: nah
coo coo motherfuckers: I mean, probably not
coo coo motherfuckers: neither of them are answering, and typically that means they’re having Bro Time™
vive la lance: pffff old man Bro Time™
uptown hunk: hey man, don’t diss the importance of Bro Time™ :(
vive la lance: youre right
vive la lance: Im sorry for bringing dishonor to bros everywhere
uptown hunk: it’s okay, I forgive you bro :’)
vive la lance: bro :’)
coo coo motherfuckers: god you two are so gay
coo coo motherfuckers: just like matt and shiro
coo coo motherfuckers: jesus why is everyone around me so gay
vive la lance: we flock to each other
uptown hunk: pidge, I’ve seen you with keith
uptown hunk: you guys are pretty gay too
coo coo motherfuckers: all bromo, no romo
coo coo motherfuckers: but I’m with lance, they’re probably doing old man Bro Time™
coo coo motherfuckers: they lock themselves in their apartment, no phones, no girlfriends or boyfriends, and play idk uno or something
vive la lance: sounds riveting
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: Indeed! Sounds like a roaring good time!
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: Just dudes being dudes
vive la lance: omg coran
vive la lance: did you just like half meme?
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: B)
vive la lance: Im just… so proud :’)
coo coo motherfuckers: speaking of keith
coo coo motherfuckers: where is that fucknut?
vive la lance: hes at work
coo coo motherfuckers: …
vive la lance: what?
uptown hunk: ……
vive la lance: whAT??
uptown hunk: that just had like… no hesitation
vive la lance: so???
coo coo motherfuckers: so how do you know with complete certainty what keith is doing right now??
vive la lance: hold up

vive la lance has sent an image

uptown hunk: awww
uptown hunk: he looks so pissed :’)
coo coo motherfuckers: nah that’s just his face
fuck off: rude
coo coo motherfuckers: nice of you to join us
fuck off: I just wanted to say that lance took that without my consent
coo coo motherfuckers: you don’t say
uptown hunk: I couldn’t tell from the glare you’re giving the camera
coo coo motherfuckers: or how you’re flipping it off
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: Visually, it’s a very endearing contrast between Keith’s sour look and Lance’s smile, not to mention Keith’s crude gesture and Lance’s peace sign
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: A wonderful selfie, I say
uptown hunk: seconded
vive la lance: thanks coran
fuck off: fuck off
vive la lance: Im going to start a photo collection called “Times I Surprised Keith and He Looked Stupid”
fuck off: I hate you
vive la lance: yeah sure
coo coo motherfuckers: we can really feel the hate between you two
uptown hunk: I, for one, only visit my mortal enemies at work
vive la lance: hunk
vive la lance: dont do me like this
coo coo motherfuckers: why ARE you at the bookstore, anyway?
uptown hunk: who are you and what have you done with lance?
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: I feel we should be questioning what Keith had done to Lance
uptown hunk: good point, coran
uptown hunk: keith, whatever you’re doing to lance, it scares me but I think it’s for the best
fuck off: it’s not an easy job
coo coo motherfuckers: I can’t imagine it would be
uptown hunk: do you even KNOW how long I’ve been trying to get him to read?
coo coo motherfuckers: years
uptown hunk: YEARS, man!
coo coo motherfuckers: and now he’s been in a book store twice
vive la lance: Im not sure whether I should be offended or not
fuck off: it’s always a safe bet to assume we’re insulting you
vive la lance: keith go back to shelving
vive la lance: and for your informATION Im here because leo has turned into a book devouring BEAST and needed more books
fuck off: he reads faster than lance
vive la lance: THATS NOT FAIR HE HAS MORE TIME
uptown hunk: leo’s always been my favorite
vive la lance: huuuuunk D:
uptown hunk: besides you, Lance
vive la lance: awww <3
coo coo motherfuckers: leo has a lot of potential…
vive la lance: pidge
vive la lance: dont
coo coo motherfuckers: don’t what, lance?
vive la lance: I see you plotting in that ellipsis
coo coo motherfuckers: I would never
coo coo motherfuckers: I just see them as my own younger siblings
coo coo motherfuckers: It wouldn’t hurt to take them under my wing
coo coo motherfuckers: look at how lovely sophie turned out?
vive la lance: SOPHIE IS A DEMON
vive la lance: SHE THREATENED TO BREAK MY TOES WHEN ALL I DID WAS TICKLE HER
coo coo motherfuckers: she makes me proud
vive la lance: shes been tainted but yOU LEAVE LEO ALONE
fuck off: he’s like a small version of lance
vive la lance: thank you he makes me proud
fuck off: only more cultured and polite
vive la lance: shouldnt you be working???
fuck off: I am
vive la lance: no youre not!!
vive la lance: put your phone away!
fuck off: make me;adoijwaven
fuck off: my name is keithad;kJ and I herebyadflkja make lance my official spokesman for the group chat while Im working
vive la lance: awesome thank you keith Im so honored
fuck off: no problem lance youre just the most handsome and charming and funny and qualified person for the job
vive la lance: I know B)
fuck off: -swoon-
vive la lance: -finger guns-
fuck off: oh laaaance, you’re so coooool!
vive la lance: glad youre finally coming around B)
uptown hunk: yeaaaaaah, so I’m going to just leave the group chat for a while, I’ve got, uh, stuff to do
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: I’m already ahead of you
coo coo motherfuckers: same, I don’t need to sit here and watch lance talk to himself
vive la lance: okay okay but for real keith wants to know what your announcement was pidge
coo coo motherfuckers: nope, the moment is passed and we’re missing our parents
vive la lance: boo you whore
coo coo motherfuckers: go ask keith about the time he thought he was secretly dating mothman
vive la lance: oh
vive la lance: I am so on it

 


 

 

Group Chat: “Family BBQ - Today’s Menu: Spit-Roasted Squad”

coo coo motherfuckers: it’s been abnormally quiet here
coo coo motherfuckers: dare I ask if everyone is here?
uptown hunk: I am!
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: Present!
LLunarGoddess: I’m here :)
Need-A-Hand: What’s up, Pidge?
fuck off: are you still trying to make that announcement?
coo coo motherfuckers: yes
coo coo motherfuckers: so far all my attempts have been thwarted
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: “Thwarted” is such a lovely and underused word
uptown hunk: agreed, petition to use the word thwarted more
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: Petition signed 8{D
uptown hunk: 8D
LLunarGoddess: what announcement is this? :o
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: Young Pidge here has been attempting to gather all of us at once to make some sort of announcement
uptown hunk: yeah, you’ve been gone both times
fuck off: shiro was gone too
coo coo motherfuckers: yeah someone is always missing
coo coo motherfuckers: getting you all together at the same time is surprisingly difficult
Need-A-Hand: I wouldn’t think it would be that hard
coo coo motherfuckers: laws of the universe, shiro
coo coo motherfuckers: I want you all together therefore it’s going to be as difficult as possible
uptown hunk: cold hard truth
fuck off: can’t be helped
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: Proven fact
LLunarGoddess: oh :o well I’m here now!
Need-A-Hand: Same :) I’d be glad to hear your announcement, Pidge
coo coo motherfuckers: thaNK yOU
fuck off: we told you before that we were willing to listen
coo coo motherfuckers: yeah but you weren’t all here
fuck off: you still could’ve told us
coo coo motherfuckers: and I told yOU that I need everyone present to A, keep from repeating myself, and B, use the group hype and peer pressure against sticks in the mud like you
fuck off: …
fuck off: I change my mind, I don’t want to hear this announcement
coo coo motherfuckers: too late
fuck off: I can leave
coo coo motherfuckers: you won’t
fuck off: try me, short stuff
Need-A-Hand: Keith, behave and let Pidge speak
coo coo motherfuckers: thanks, dad
Need-A-Hand: don’t call me dad
coo coo motherfuckers: dad
fuck off: dad
uptown hunk: dad
LLunarGoddess: dad
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul Dad ;)
coo coo motherfuckers: ….
fuck off: nope
uptown hunk: yeaaaaah
LLunarGoddess: what?
coo coo motherfuckers: yeah, it’s weird when you two say it
LLunarGoddess: who?
uptown hunk: you and coran
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: >:(
Need-A-Hand: ANYWAY
Need-A-Hand: Does this have anything to do with what Matt won’t tell me because, and I quote
Need-A-Hand: “If I tell you first, Pidge will kill me mercilessly and without remorse and probably with a blunt, easily disposable object, so until then I’m keeping my hype to myself”
coo coo motherfuckers: yes
coo coo motherfuckers: good to know he’s abiding by my threats
LLunarGoddess: so what’s going on, Pidge?
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: Does this have anything to do with yours and Hunk’s duo performance?
uptown hunk: I hope not
uptown hunk: I haven’t heard anything :O
coo coo motherfuckers: no, it has nothing to do with that
uptown hunk: what about the robotics project you’ve been working on for grad school?? :O
coo coo motherfuckers: nope, Rover is unfortunately not functional yet
uptown hunk: dangit
Need-A-Hand: You had a break through with your TA work?
coo coo motherfuckers: oh hell no
coo coo motherfuckers: those idiots are hopeless
LLunarGoddess: is this a family related announcement?
coo coo motherfuckers: sort of?
coo coo motherfuckers: when did this turn into a guessing game?
LLunarGoddess: since we started asking questions and you started answering :)
coo coo motherfuckers: of course
fuck off: have you heard more chatter through the radio??
coo coo motherfuckers: unfortunately negative
fuck off: dammit
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: Radio chatter?
fuck off: pidge is monitoring for alien activity
Need-A-Hand: … Are they now?
coo coo motherfuckers: don’t patronize me, dad
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: Fascinating
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: Might I ask what frequencies you’re using? And the medium for amplifying your signal receiver?
uptown hunk: uh, not to interrupt, but we’re kind of forgetting someone…
Need-A-Hand: Oh…
LLunarGoddess: oops :O
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: oh drat
coo coo motherfuckers: I knew it was too silent in this chat earlier
fuck off: nope, sorry, I’m drawing a blank
uptown hunk: lance
fuck off: doesn’t ring a bell
coo coo motherfuckers: where is he anyway?
coo coo motherfuckers: he’s like, always glued to his phone when he’s at home
uptown hunk: I’m not sure, I haven’t heard from him all day
fuck off: maybe he’s been reading
uptown hunk: ….
uptown hunk: you know, I might have once poke fun at him for that, but now it might be a possibility
coo coo motherfuckers: hunk’s right, it’s not as fun anymore
LLunarGoddess: I’m so proud of him :)
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: He’s grown so much
Need-A-Hand: You’ve been a good influence on him, Keith :)
vive la lance: yo I got a ping whats up
vive la lance: and make it quick Im on a time crunch
Need-A-Hand: Pidge wants to make an announcement
vive la lance: oh shit that one theyve been talking about for like two days?
Need-A-Hand: Apparently
coo coo motherfuckers: lance, it’s very important that you’re here for this announcement
coo coo motherfuckers: you got time? I need you committed
fuck off: why is lance so important?
vive la lance: jealous much? ;)
fuck off: in your dreams
vive la lance: in my dreams youre doing an interpretive dance to my greatness
Need-A-Hand: I’m curious, too. Why is Lance so important to the announcement?
coo coo motherfuckers: he’s my main hype man
vive la lance: aw yeah
uptown hunk: he’s very good at that
fuck off: I definitely don’t want to know now
vive la lance: shut your trap mullet
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: Well, now that we’re all here, shall we commence with the announcement?
vive la lance: no can do
vive la lance: raincheck
coo coo motherfuckers: what?
coo coo motherfuckers: whY??
vive la lance: pidge if you want me to do you any justice as your hype man youll call a raincheck
vive la lance: I dont have time to devote the time and energy that you deserve atm
uptown hunk: what’s going on, dude?
vive la lance: I may or may not be hiding in a closet right now
coo coo motherfuckers: oh boy
uptown hunk: dude
vive la lance: NOT LIKE THAT
vive la lance: I am LITERALLY hiding in a closet
vive la lance: because SOMEONE pinged me and I needed a safe place to hide
LLunarGoddess: umm
fuck off: I feel like I’m missing something
Need-A-Hand: Lance, what’s going on?
vive la lance: dont go all dad on me shiro
vive la lance: Im babysitting
LLunarGoddess: I don’t mean to question your methods, Lance, but…
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: From a closet?
vive la lance: its not what it looks like
vive la lance: Im watching the younger 4
uptown hunk: aren’t there a younger 5?
vive la lance: yeah but little oli is still with his mom
vive la lance: its just the 4
fuck off: I’m still trying to figure out how the closet fits into this
coo coo motherfuckers: I hope leo and sophie locked you in there
vive la lance: pffff not a chance
vive la lance: were in the middle of war
vive la lance: NERF WAR
uptown hunk :O !!!!
LLunarGoddess: as in nerf guns?
vive la lance: and all other nerf accessories
vive la lance: leo has a bow and arrow and abbi has a slingshot
LLunarGoddess: you sound like an amazing babysitter, Lance :)
vive la lance: thanks babe B)
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: Wish we had those back in my day. We used actual slingshots, sticks, and paintball guns
Need-A-Hand: In the house?
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: B)
vive la lance: damn coran you go hard
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: Thank you, Lance… I think
coo coo motherfuckers: so leo and sophie basically got you pinned down?
vive la lance: pfff no not even
vive la lance: they dont even know I’m here
coo coo motherfuckers: I could text them
vive la lance: DON’T YOU DARE
fuck off: are you losing to a bunch of kids?
vive la lance: IT’S FOUR AGAINST ONE KEITH
vive la lance: THE LITTLE ONES HAVE NO MERCY AND THE BIGGER ONES ARE SNEAKY
fuck off: I am so disappointed in you rn
vive la lance: …
vive la lance: I see how you and shiro are siblings now
vive la lance: HUNK
vive la lance: YOU BUSY BUDDY??
uptown hunk: not at the moment, I just finished my homework and Pidge is at the library
uptown hunk: probably procrastinating on their essay because they started this conversation :/
coo coo motherfuckers: you’re not my mom, hunk
Need-A-Hand: Pidge.
coo coo motherfuckers: oh god look what you’ve done
vive la lance: SHIRO REPREMAND PIDGE LATER
vive la lance: HUNK I NEED YOU BUDDY
vive la lance: BE MY BACK UP???
uptown hunk: I
uptown hunk: woulD BE HONORED
vive la lance: DO YOU STILL HAVE THAT AUTOMATIC WITH THE BONUS CLIPS???
uptown hunk: OF COURSE
vive la lance: GOOD CAUSE THEY STUCK ME WITH THE MANUAL RELOAD AND I’M PINNED DOWN
coo coo motherfuckers: called it
uptown hunk: I’M ON MY WAY
uptown hunk: IT’LL TAKE ME TWENTY TO GET THERE
uptown hunk: CAN YOU MAKE IT??
vive la lance: ILL DO MY BEST
uptown hunk: ALSO IS THERE DINNER LATER?
vive la lance: MOM GAVE ME MONEY FOR PIZZA
uptown hunk: WILL IT BE ALRIGHT IF I’M THERE?
vive la lance: DUDE SHE LOVES YOU AND THE KIDS ARE A MESS I NEED YOU MI AMIGO
uptown hunk: ON IT HOMBRE
vive la lance: I LOVE YOU
uptown hunk: I LOVE YOU TOO
fuck off: what… did I just witness
coo coo motherfuckers: the sound of my frustrated heart breaking at having to pull a raincheck on my announcement for these nerds
fuck off: has it ever occurred to you that you’re just as dramatic in your own way?
coo coo motherfuckers: you take that back
fuck off: make me
coo coo motherfuckers: I know your passwords
fuck off: hey shiro, pidge is behind on their essay and procrastinating
Need-A-Hand: Pidge.
Need-A-Hand: You’re in the library. You really shouldn’t be in the group chat.
coo coo motherfuckers: keith you’re the WORST
fuck off: payback for telling lance about the mothman incident
coo coo motherfuckers: …
coo coo motherfuckers: worth

 


 

 

Group Chat: “Family BBQ - Today’s Menu: Slow Broiled Raincheck”

coo coo motherfuckers: dare I even ask?
coo coo motherfuckers: …
coo coo motherfuckers: hello??
coo coo motherfuckers: okay I know that my luck at getting everyone in at the same time is terrible
coo coo motherfuckers: but there’s usually sOMEBODY
coo coo motherfuckers: no?
coo coo motherfuckers: oh come on
coo coo motherfuckers: I’m stuck in the library for the next hour before matt picks me up for dinner
coo coo motherfuckers: at this rate I’ll even settle for lance’s company
vive la lance: okay rude
coo coo motherfuckers: finally!
vive la lance: no can stay, my mini dude
vive la lance: coran asked me to cover for him teaching some of the kids classes
fuck off: you teach classes?
vive la lance: yeah man
vive la lance: Im charismatic and handsome and I mold young minds
coo coo motherfuckers: he’s teaching some kids dance classes
vive la lance: same thing
coo coo motherfuckers: you’re not really molding their minds
vive la lance: cant say molding their bodies, dude
vive la lance: thats weird and wrong
coo coo motherfuckers: point taken
fuck off: just didn’t see you as the type to be able to teach kids
vive la lance: Im going to take offense to that
fuck off: I’m pleasantly surprised
vive la lance: Im taking it as a compliment
vive la lance: want a lesson? ;)
fuck off: so you can drop me like you do during shiro and allure’s lessons?
fuck off: I don’t think so
vive la lance: YOU drop ME
fuck off: you can’t prove anything
vive la lance: I HAVE BRUISES
fuck off: those could be from anywhere
coo coo motherfuckers: you ARE a clumsy dude with limbs that flail everywhere
vive la lance: this is getting dangerously close to insulting lance territory
vive la lance: lucky I have to go start class now
vive la lance: hasta la later keith
vive la lance: raincheck pidge
coo coo motherfuckers: ugh
vive la lance: if you want lessons keith Im teaching ballroom at 6
vive la lance: I can show you up there too
fuck off: I find that hard to believe
coo coo motherfuckers: he’s actually good
fuck off: seriously?
coo coo motherfuckers: dead serious
coo coo motherfuckers: keith?
fuck off: sorry just needed a moment to process that information
coo coo motherfuckers: don’t worry, I’m sure you can show him up with contra dancing ;)
fuck off: we agreed not to speak of that
coo coo motherfuckers: I do not recall
coo coo motherfuckers: …
coo coo motherfuckers: keith?
coo coo motherfuckers: I’m sorry come back I’m bored
fuck off: sorry I’m in the middle of my shift and I have to go to the register now, harder to text
coo coo motherfuckers: dammit
coo coo motherfuckers: I take this to mean coran is gone too?
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: Yup!
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: I have a reunion with my old Georgian dance troupe tonight!
uptown hunk: oh man I LOVE those guys
uptown hunk: you guys are so fun to watch
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: Thank you, Hunk :)
uptown hunk: do we get to see you guys perform sometime soon?
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: Perhaps ;)
uptown hunk: oh man oh man
coo coo motherfuckers: hunk does that mean you’re here?
uptown hunk: nope, I have my TA hours rn
coo coo motherfuckers: dammit I forgot
uptown hunk: I just snuck away to check my phone, but I gotta get back to work
coo coo motherfuckers: ugh FINE
uptown hunk: see you later at home :)
coo coo motherfuckers: yeah later
coo coo motherfuckers: where are shiro and allura?
LLunarGoddess: sorry, Pidge, since Coran is gone for the evening, I’m having some quality me time :)
LLunarGoddess: I love you all, but I have a bath bomb, a bottle of wine, and netflix with my name on it
LLunarGoddess: putting my phone away now
LLunarGoddess: Allura, OUT! ;P
coo coo motherfuckers: well thats one mystery solved
Need-A-Hand: Sorry, Pidge, I’m meeting up with some old friends tonight for a beer
coo coo motherfuckers: GASP
coo coo motherfuckers: you have friends other than us?
Need-A-Hand: Believe it or not, I do ;P
coo coo motherfuckers: oh god you’re using emojis
coo coo motherfuckers: WINKY emojis
coo coo motherfuckers: you’ve already had a beer, haven’t you?
Need-A-Hand: … Perhaps
coo coo motherfuckers: you’re banned from the chat until further notice
Need-A-Hand: ;’(
coo coo motherfuckers: nope not dealing with this alone
Need-A-Hand: I cry everyteim
coo coo motherfuckers: WHY AM I THE ONLY ONE HERE TO WITNESS THIS??!
Need-A-Hand: Gotta go
Need-A-Hand: Fast ;)
coo coo motherfuckers: I’m crying and I don’t know if my tears are from pride or embarrassment
Need-A-Hand: Bye, Pidge! ;)
coo coo motherfuckers: GOD STOP WINKING
Need-A-Hand: ;(
coo coo motherfuckers: alright, you know what, I’m out too

 


 

 

Group Chat: “Family BBQ - Today’s Menu: Slow Broiled Raincheck”

vive la lance: I am still SO. UPSET. that I missed shiros tipsy memeing
uptown hunk: you read back through it
vive la lance: well yeAH but it’s not the same as seeing it LIVE
Need-A-Hand: It wasn’t that big of a deal, Lance
vive la lance: says yOU
fuck off: I could have lived without seeing it
Need-A-Hand: Thank you, Keith
fuck off: it wasn’t a compliment
Need-A-Hand: I’m still taking it as you being on my side
fuck off: the more you drink, the more you act like a weird hybrid form of pidge and lance
vive la lance: you say that its a bad thing
fuck off: it definitely is
vive la lance: not**
vive la lance: you forgot the not in that sentence
Need-A-Hand: I blame Matt
Need-A-Hand: He’s basically an older version of Pidge
fuck off: matt wasn’t even there
Need-A-Hand: No, but growing up close to the Holts was bound to have some side effects
fuck off: … can’t argue with that
vive la lance: I vote we have another squad movie night soon
vive la lance: I miss seeing drunk shiro
vive la lance: last time I got him to speak only in pick up lines and puns
uptown hunk: that was so much fun
Need-A-Hand: let’s not
LLunarGoddess: I thought it was cute ;)
vive la lance: sEE?? allure thought it was cute
vive la lance: we cant deny allura things that are cute
vive la lance: and if that thing is shiro being drunk and ridiculous
vive la lance: than by god will I take one for the team and get dance dad drunk
Need-A-Hand: Allura, why do you do this to me?
LLunarGoddess: it’s only because I love you ;P
vive la lance: yeah shiro we love you
vive la lance: … shiro?
fuck off: you definitely broke him, allura
vive la lance: how would you know?
fuck off: he’s at my place
fuck off: he WAS helping me with my bike, but now he’s just bright red and trying to remember how to breathe
fuck off: I never took any cpr training so if he goes down, he’s down for good
fuck off: say your goodbyes now
uptown hunk: bye shiro :’( I’ll miss you, you gave good hugs, can I have your snicker doodle recipe?
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: Goodbye, Shiro, you were a good man and a good dancer, I’ll resurrect a statue in your honor in the entry hall of the studio
LLunarGoddess: would it help if I took back what I said? was the wink face too much?
fuck off: pretty sure the damage has already been done
vive la lance: and the winky face was perfect allura keep it up flustered dad is hilarious
vive la lance: also hA keith working on a bike
uptown hunk: it’s a motorcycle, dude
vive la lance: …
vive la lance: KEITH HAS A MOTORCYCLE???
fuck off: uh, yeah?
uptown hunk: you didn’t know?
vive la lance: NO???
vive la lance: HOW DO YOU KNOW???
uptown hunk: he rode it over to our place once
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: He always parks it in the back. It’s quite a beautiful machine, Keith
fuck off: thanks
fuck off: I built her from scratch
vive la lance: YOU BUILT YOUR BIKE???
LLunarGoddess: you didn’t know Keith is a good mechanic?
vive la lance: NO??
fuck off: yeah
vive la lance: …
vive la lance: I need a moment
LLunarGoddess: looks like we’ve got two down
uptown hunk: rip :/
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: Not to detract from the current breakdowns of our beloved friends, but I would certainly be down for another rousing squad get together!
LLunarGoddess: same!
uptown hunk: oh oh same!
fuck off: oh no
vive la lance: oH YES
vive la lance: PARTY PARTY PARTY
fuck off: that didn’t take long
vive la lance: Im currently ignoring the fact that you drive a bike in favor of thinking about a squad party
uptown hunk: 8D
LLunarGoddess: :’)
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: B{D
vive la lance: speaking of our squad it looks like everyone’s here
vive la lance: so wheres pidge?
uptown hunk: :O ooooooooh
uptown hunk: oooooh they’re going to be so mad
uptown hunk: they’re TA’ing a class right now
uptown hunk: they should be back in like two hours
vive la lance: ooooh fuck
vive la lance: Ive gotta leave for work in an hour and a half
uptown hunk: dang :/
fuck off: you work?
vive la lance: yES keITH
vive la lance: Im a responsible adult
fuck off: color me surprised
vive la lance: >:(
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: Lance is a very responsible employee when he works with us
vive la lance: thANK YOU
fuck off: I never said he wouldn’t be
vive la lance: was that… ALMOST a compliment?
vive la lance: keith kogane did you almost compliment me?
Need-A-Hand: Keith wants me to say that he can’t hear you because he’s too busy working on his bike

 

coo coo motherfuckers: EVERYONE WAS HERE???
coo coo motherfuckers: FUCK
Need-A-Hand: language
coo coo motherfuckers: F*CK
Need-A-Hand: Why do I bother?

 


 

 

Group Chat: “Family BBQ - Today’s Menu: Slow Broiled Raincheck”

vive la lance: PIDGE
vive la lance: PIDGE
vive la lance: PIIIIIDGE
vive la lance: PIDGEY!! PIDGEOTTO!!! PIDGEOT!!!!
vive la lance: AMAZING BIRD OF PREY COME DOWN FROM ABOVE YOU HAVE BEEN SUMMONED
vive la lance: PIDGE PIDGE PIDGE PING PING PING
coo coo motherfuckers: LANCE OH MY GOD
coo coo motherfuckers: STOP YELLING
vive la lance: SEEING AS THIS IS A TEXTING PROGRAM I PHYSICALLY AM NOT ACTUALLY YELLING
coo coo motherfuckers: THIS IS THE TEXTING EQUIVALENT OF YELLING, YOU BOWL OF SOGGY FRUIT LOOPS
coo coo motherfuckers: I WAS BEING FACETIOUS
vive la lance: I AM NOT ENTIRELY CERTAIN WHAT THAT MEANS
coo coo motherfuckers: YOU’RE ON THE INTERNET RIGHT NOW
coo coo motherfuckers: GOOGLE IT
vive la lance: NO TIME THIS IS IMPORTANT
coo coo motherfuckers: THEN WHAT IT IS?
uptown hunk: can we stop using caps now? :/ it’s hurting my eyes
Need-A-Hand: Seconded
vive la lance: NO CAN DO CAPSLOCK IS CRUISE CONTROL TO AWESOME B)
fuck off: never say that again
vive la lance: FUCK OFF
fuck off: that’s my name, don’t wear it out
vive la lance: ….
vive la lance: did you just…
vive la lance: oh my goD
vive la lance: yOU just mADe a dA D jOK E
vive la lance: SHIRO WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO HIM???
Need-A-Hand: Why do you blame ME???
vive la lance: you’re clEARLY the dAD
vive la lance: AND you’re keiths brother
vive la lance: obviously your nearness is rubbing dad humor off on him
Need-A-Hand: Pfff
Need-A-Hand: Lance you’re overreacting
Need-A-Hand: Keith’s humor has been like that since he was a kid
vive la lance: …. you’re kidding
Need-A-Hand: Nope
vive la lance: keITH???
fuck off: -shrugs-
vive la lance: I… I need to lie down…
fuck off: dramatic
vive la lance: shut up I cant tell if this is the best or worst thing thats ever happened to me
coo coo motherfuckers: lance pls
coo coo motherfuckers: what did you call me in here for the second my class ended? I haven’t even gotten home yet
vive la lance: riGHT!
fuck off: he bounces back fast
uptown hunk: always has
vive la lance: PIDGE WATCH THIS
vive la lance: ROLL CALL
vive la lance: LANCE
vive la lance: handsome, humble, and here ;)
vive la lance: (don’t say anythING keiTH)
fuck off: (I didn’t say anything)
vive la lance (you were going to say “one of those things is true”)
fuck off: (thanks for insulting yourself for me)
vive la lance: (….moVING ON)
vive la lance: KEITH
fuck off: seriously?
vive la lance: come on play along
fuck off: fine
fuck off: here
vive la lance: thank you
vive la lance: HUNK
uptown hunk: yo :3c
vive la lance: SHIRO
Need-A-Hand: Here
vive la lance: ALLURA
LLunarGoddess: here! :)
vive la lance: CORAN MY MAN
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: Present!
vive la lance: and last but certainly not least: PIDGE
coo coo motherfuckers: holy shit
vive la lance: B)
coo coo motherfuckers: are we actually all here??
vive la lance: yeah booooiiiiiiiiii!!!!!!
vive la lance: annOUNCEMENT TIME!
uptown hunk: speech! speech! speech!
LLunarGoddess: it’s your time to shine, Pidge!
coo coo motherfuckers: FINALLY
coo coo motherfuckers: or maybe I should build suspense
Need-A-Hand: Pidge.
coo coo motherfuckers: fiNE
coo coo motherfuckers: alright nerds listen up
coo coo motherfuckers: so you know how matt’s been looking for a new dj gig?
vive la lance: … I like where this is going
uptown hunk: :O !!!
LLunarGoddess: I second both of those statements
Need-A-Hand: So that’s why he’s been in such a good mood lately
coo coo motherfuckers: guys please
coo coo motherfuckers: stop stealing my thunder
uptown hunk: :o sorry
LLunarGoddess: sorry!
vive la lance: my b
Need-A-Hand: Sorry, Pidge, go on
coo coo motherfuckers: thank you
coo coo motherfuckers: MATT GOT A GIG AT BALMERA STARTING THIS WEEKEND
coo coo motherfuckers: GUESS WHAT SQUAD IS GOING CLUBBING SATURDAY TO SUPPORT MY BROTHER’S FIRST DAY ON THE JOB
vive la lance: oh
vive la lance: oh my goD
vive la lance: OH MY GOD
coo coo motherfuckers: there’s my hype man
LLunarGoddess: OH MY GOD!
vive la lance: THAT’S THE SPIRIT ALLURA
LLunarGoddess: WE’RE GOING CLUBBING!
vive la lance: LET ME DO YOUR HAIR
LLunarGoddess: ONLY IF I GET TO DO YOUR OUTFIT
vive la lance: DONE AND DONE
coo coo motherfuckers: have I mentioned the best part? we get in for free cause matt’s putting us on the guest list
vive la lance: I HAVE DIED AND GONE TO HEAVEN
vive la lance: I SEE THE PEARLY GATES AND THEY’RE COVERED IN STROBE LIGHTS AND SURROUNDED BY SOME DEEP ASS BASS
LLunarGoddess: this is so exciting! I cannot WAIT!
coo coo motherfuckers: alright club twins, time to turn your hype onto our favorite sticks in the metaphorical mud
vive la lance: I’m on it
vive la lance: hunk??? buddy????
uptown hunk: I’m in :3 sounds fun
uptown hunk: but uh, I vote we have like… an agreed upon safe word and agreement in case things get like… to be too much? too overstimulating?? a lot happens at clubs…
vive la lance: don’t worry buddy we gotcha
uptown hunk: thanks dude :3
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: You can count me in as well! It’s been a while since I’ve been able to cut loose at one of those establishments!
vive la lance: corAN my mAN!
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: I’m going to bring out and dust off my old leather pants!
coo coo motherfuckers: oh dear god
vive la lance: o kaaaay didn’t expect that but I love your enthusiasm
uptown hunk: I really don’t wanna see that
LLunarGoddess: I’ll make sure he’s appropriately dressed before leaving the apartment
coo coo motherfuckers: bless
Need-A-Hand: I’m in, too
LLunarGoddess: to be honest, I expected you’d need more convincing
Need-A-Hand: Matt’s my roommate and best friend, I’m not going to miss seeing him on his first day
LLunarGoddess: that’s actually really sweet :’)
vive la lance: spoken like a true dad
Need-A-Hand: Not to mention we can all stand off to the side of the DJ booth and embarrass him by acting like a proud family
coo coo motherfuckers: now thAT’s the shiro I know and love
coo coo motherfuckers: so that just leave my favorite stick in the mud
vive la lance: keeeeith
Need-A-Hand: Keith.
LLunarGoddess: keeeeith ;)
uptown hunk: keith! 8D
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: Keith!
fuck off: ….
fuck off: oh would you look at the time
vive la lance: noPE no no no no no no
vive la lance: keith
vive la lance: my man
vive la lance: my dude
vive la lance: buddy
vive la lance: you are gOING to that club with us
fuck off: I am not
vive la lance: you are so
fuck off: I’m not really… the clubbing type
coo coo motherfuckers: neither is shiro and hunk and they’re going
uptown hunk: yeah! it’ll be fun, dude
uptown hunk: I mean, I don’t think clubs are always fun
uptown hunk: but we’re going with friends so we make it fun!
LLunarGoddess: we’d love it if you came out with us, Keith :)
LLunarGoddess: we don’t really get to hang out much outside of the studio
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: You’re only young once!
vive la lance: YOYO I like it
fuck off: I don’t know…
Need-A-Hand: Keith.
fuck off: oh no
Need-A-Hand: You are part of this family now. You WILL be going on this family outing with us.
vive la lance: aw yeAH dads got our back!
Need-A-Hand: Lance.
vive la lance: no no go back to talking to keith
fuck off: ugh
vive la lance: keith come on!
fuck off: no
vive la lance: yes!
fuck off: no
vive la lance: yES!
fuck off: no
vive la lance: YES!
vive la lance: I WILL use the puppy dog eyes on you
fuck off: that won’t work
vive la lance: oh yeaaaah???
vive la lance: GUYS CODE GINGER
fuck off: wtf is code ginger?
fuck off: ….
fuck off: uh… guys?

vive la lance has sent an image
coo coo motherfuckers has sent an image
Need-A-Hand has sent an image
uptown hunk has sent an image
LLunarGoddess has sent an image
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul has sent an image

fuck off: you have gOT to be kidding me
vive la lance: B)
fuck off: uGH
uptown hunk: please keith? it would really mean a lot
fuck off: oh my god
fuck off: FINE
vive la lance: YES
uptown hunk: yay! 8D
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: Horra!
coo coo motherfuckers: excellent
Need-A-Hand: Proud of you, Keith
LLunarGoddess: I can’t wait :)
fuck off: I can’t believe you guys have a code name for everyone sending a puppy dog look
fuck off: and why the hell is it code ginger?
coo coo motherfuckers: because like a ginger, a multitude of puppy dog looks like that will steal your soul and thus your will, forcing you to give into our demands
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: It was my idea!
fuck off: you guys are ridiculous
vive la lance: we love you too keith ;)
uptown hunk: <3
coo coo motherfuckers: <33
I-Mustache-u4ur-Soul: <333
LLunarGoddess: <3333
Need-A-Hand: <33333
fuck off: ugh
fuck off: …
fuck off: <3
vive la lance: !!!!!

 


 

 

“Why did I agree to this again?” Keith grumbles, arms crossed over his chest and leaning to the side to rest his head against the window.

“Because you looooove us.” Lance sings from one of the middle bucket seats. He twists around to look at him, and his lips are predictably cocked up into that smirk that matches his teasing voice so well.

Keith glares at it and at him. He hates it. He hates them both. Lance and the entity that is his smile. Smirk. Whatever. Keith hates his mouth and everything that mouth forms. Including smirks, smiles, and words. “Definitely not.” He deadpans.

His good humor isn’t deterred in the slightest. If anything, his smile widens as he tilts his head to the side. He’s done something with his hair to make it look nicer than usual, and he looks great in the outfit that Allura picked out for him. It’s casual enough, but it makes Keith wish he had put more effort into his own appearance. Shiro had assured him that he looks fine, but now he’s not so sure. He’s dull in comparison to Lance.

“Now, now, let’s not forget that heart you sent the group, implying that you do, indeed, love us.” Lance says, waving his phone in the air for emphasis.

Keith glares at him. “You can’t prove anything.”

“Oh, can’t I?”

“No?”

“I screenshotted it.”

“You did not.”

“Oh, I did.”

“Why?!”

“For future proof and blackmail, of course.”

“I hate you.”

“Sticks and stones, Keithy boy!” He says laughing, turning back around in his seat.

“Stop antagonizing him, Lance. We practically had to drag him out of his apartment.” Pidge calls out from the driver’s seat. They had borrowed their family’s van for the night, agreeing to DD for them all seeing as they were underage anyway. Though they hadn’t agreed without some grumbling.

“Speak for yourself,” Shiro snorts from his seat next to Keith in the back. “I did have to drag him out.” He says, nudging Keith with his shoulder.

Keith grunts, but doesn’t say anything, instead turning his eyes to the window. They’re already deep in the city, headed for downtown. He doesn’t come this way often. He’s not a big fan of crowds, and downtown is usually full of them. He’s just glad he’s not driving.

“It’s good for you to get out once in a while.”

“Thanks, dad.” Keith grumbles, half heartedly shoving him back. Shiro only chuckles.

The conversation turns, and Keith finds himself only half listening. He’d be lying if he said he isn’t nervous, and he doubts anyone would believe him if he tried. He hasn’t really ever been to a club. In fact, he’s barely even been to bars. He’s gone to a couple with Shiro, and sometimes Matt and Allura, but they were usually chill bars where they sat in a corner and talked. Sometimes there was live music, but there was never… dancing.

Clubs have dancing.

Clubs have a DJ and a dance floor and his friends are all dancers, so he’d be delusional to believe that they wouldn’t spend the majority of their time there. Maybe if he looks awkward and helpless enough, some of his friends will take pity on him and stay with him while the others go off to dance.

It’s not that he doesn’t love dancing. Obviously he loves dancing. He considers dancing to be one of his main passions in life. One of the only things that really makes him happy. One of the things he kind of wants to somehow make a living from. But this… this is different. He likes to choreograph. He likes to listen to the music alone, likes to let instinct figure out what moves to use and how they flow together, likes to train and practice and repeat until everything is beaten into muscle memory and feels natural, and then, only then, does he like to perform in front of a crowd. Even then he’s still a little nervous about performing, but at least at that point he can trust his body to do what it needs to do.

This is different. There are no preset moves to rely on. There’s no predictable music. There’s no space to perform. It’s just people… dancing. Even people who have absolutely no rhythm. They just go out there and move like they’ve known how to do it their entire lives.

Keith doesn’t know how to do that. Club dancing is a style that he’s never really gotten into. It’s a lot of just… grinding and rolling and moving in ways that are supposed to make you stand out but never really do because everyone is doing the same thing. He doesn’t think he can do that on his own, let alone standing up close and personal with his friends who are all probably infinitely better at this than he is. Certainly all more comfortable. Especially Lance.

Oh god, Lance is probably fantastic at club dancing. This kind of shit is right up his alley: all free style and smooth confidence. Keith is going to look like an idiot. He’s going to look like an awkward, stiff idiot with two left feet and a stick rammed so far up his ass it’s breaking his teeth.

Why the fuck did he agree to come tonight? Surely looking like a loner who doesn’t want to hang out with his friends would be better than this…

Who is he kidding? He knew he was going to regret it, no matter which decision he made. Which is probably why he decided to just suck it up and go along with his friends. At least this way they can’t say that he never tried.

Keith’s gut is in knots as they pull into the parking lot and climb out of the van. He gazes up at the neon sign above the front doors that reads, BALMERA. The parking lot is crowded, and there’s a mass of people outside on the outdoor patio smoking. He can hear the dull throb of music from within, breaking through the otherwise peaceful night.

He’s not sure what expression is on his face as he stares at the club building, anxiety tightening his chest, but it’s apparently enough to catch Hunk’s attention.

He slides up next to Keith as the others climb out of the van and sort themselves out. “Have you ever been to a club before?” He asks, voice casual but soft enough that the conversation can stay between them.

Keith purses his lips together, shaking his head.

Hunk chuckles, but it’s not the harsh laugh of mockery. It’s softer, more sympathetic. “Yeah, I’ve only been to one once. Lance made us go on his twenty-first birthday. Oh man, that was a crazy time.”

Keith cocks a small, wry smile. “I can imagine.”

Hunk shakes his head. “No, no, you don’t get it. It was terrible. Lance’s girlfriend had just broken up with him, and that is a whole ‘nother can of worms I shouldn’t get into, but it was messy and it left him pretty messed up, so we really shouldn’t have taken him to a club, but we’re his best friends so what were we gonna say? No? It was his birthday.” Hunk’s hands are waving around while he narrates. He gets his whole face into it, expressing so many emotions from a past that Keith wasn’t apart of, yet feels like he’s reliving with him. It reminds him a lot of Lance, to be honest. Perhaps he never noticed because Lance is always so loud and dramatic enough that it drowns Hunk out. Or maybe he’s just always too distracted by Lance…

“So Pidge couldn’t drink cause they were underage, of course, but they were nineteen so they could get in, and I am so grateful for that because I would not have been able to handle Lance on my own. He got drunker than he should have, despite us trying to count his drinks. He just kept getting more when he weren’t looking. And he kept sneaking off as soon as we turned our backs. Just POOF, disappears into the crowd. And he was flirting terribly with basically everyone, so we had to keep him from getting too wrapped up with someone or from getting into a fight for flirting with the wrong people, and we tried to help him have a good time, which I think we did despite him being a mess, but Pidge and I were not very impressed by club life.”

Keith’s smile is sympathetic. “Understandable.”

Hunk’s laugh is full of bitter humor, the kind that comes from finding a past event amusing only in hindsight. He runs a hand through his hair. “Yeah, well, after that we agreed on the Four Friend Rule.”

Keith’s smile fades as he raises an eyebrow. “Four Friend Rule?”

Hunk nods. “Yeah! Four Friend Rule.” He holds up both hands, two fingers up on each. “We only go to a club if there’s four of us. That way there’s enough of us that we can always pair off. You know, like a buddy system. Keeps everyone safer and from getting lost and from making stupid decisions…. well, mostly anyway.”

He smiles, and it’s warm and comforting, and Keith feels the anxiety in his chest loosen a bit. He feels like he can breathe again. “Why’re you telling me this?” He asks, but despite his blunt question, he’s smiling back and his tone is nothing but curious.

Hunk shrugs, tilting his head to the side. “Just to let you know that we’re not crazy club animals? And despite Lance’s enthusiasm, he’s not really the club type either. This is like… a special occasion, which is why we’re all so excited. And this time there’s seven of us, if you don’t count Matt. Plus, I could see you were actually a little nervous, so I want you to know that I am, too, but it’ll still be fun cause like… we form our own little group. It’s just like the seven of us having a party, just in a place with other people who are also having party. If that makes sense?”

Keith chuckles softly. “I think I get what you mean. Thanks, Hunk.” He says, and he means it.

Hunk grins, bumping their shoulders enough that Keith stumbles a step. “It’ll be fun, promise.”

Keith can’t hep but smile at that. “Okay.”

“Hey!” Lance says, marching toward them from around the hood of the car. Both Keith and Hunk turn to look at him. He glares at Keith, but he can tell there’s no real heat there. “How come when I say it’s gonna be fun, you don’t believe me, but when Hunk says it, you trust him?” He gestures wildly between himself and Hunk as he talks, and ends with his hands on his hips, leaning forward slightly to put himself at eye level with Keith.

Keith just shrugs, a small smirk curving his lips. “I guess I just trust Hunk more.”

Lance gasps loudly, leaning back as one hand goes to his chest. “Uh, rude! And here I thought all those trust exercises were getting us somewhere!”

“Don’t take it personally, Lance.” Pidge says, sliding up next to them. They cross their arms over their chest, leaning their head and shoulder lazily against Keith’s arm. “Everyone trusts Hunk more than you.”

“I’m very trustworthy!” Lance says, crossing his arms over his chest. “Right, Keith? You trust me! Allura even said we’re getting better at the trust exercises!”

“That’s true. I did.” She says as she, Shiro, and Coran come to join them. “You two have made remarkable improvement in the past three weeks.”

“See!”

Keith shrugs. “I trust you on the dance floor.” He says, leaving his tone vague and the statement open ended, implying that might be the only place he trusts him. It’s not true, of course. He hates to admit it, but when it comes right down to it, he would trust Lance in a heartbeat. Doesn’t mean he can’t watch him squirm though.

And squirm he does. His eyes narrow as he looks at Keith, lips twisting into a pout. He tilts his head to the side as he whines, “Keeeeith.”

Keith only grins.

“Not Keith’s fault.” Pidge says, and he can feel them shrug against his arm. “I mean, have you seen, Hunk? Dude’s like a big cinnamon roll. Who wouldn’t trust him?” Pidge waves a hand towards the large man in question.

Coran lifts a finger. “Not to mention Hunk here has the highest record of being right in most situations.”

Shiro raises an eyebrow, eyeing him curiously. “Are you keeping track?”

Coran only smiles, twisting his mustache as his eyes glint mischievously. “Perhaps…”

“Fiiiine,” Lance drawls, throwing himself dramatically onto Hunk, leaning against him and throwing an arm over his shoulders. “I’ll concede, but only because Hunk’s my best friend and can confirm that he is, indeed, a precious cinnamon roll and the most trust worthy person I know.”

“Awww, bro.” Hunk says, wrapping Lance up in a bone crushing hung, lifting him off his feel and twisting back and forth, leaving Lance’s limbs to dangle awkwardly. He’s laughing breathlessly though, and the rest of them smile.

Shiro and Pidge lead the way through the parking lot, and the rest of them trail behind. The line is long, but moves quickly, and before he’s really ready, they’re stepping inside. The employee at the door checks their ID’s, gives six of them a wristband, marks a black X on Pidge’s hands, and checks their names on the guest list before waving them on. Pidge leads the way with far more confidence than Keith would have expected. Like him, Pidge has never liked crowds. Unlike him, however, they weren’t afraid to bully their way through one. Despite their short stature.

Pidge leads them through the entry halls and into the first room. It’s large, dark, and loud. A bar lines wall and there are tall tables bolted to the floor and spread around the room. The room is thick with people. Keith thinks they’re going to stop at the bar, but Pidge bypasses it, shouldering through the crowd and leaving a small gap for Keith to dart through before the bodies close around it. He puts a hand on Pidge’s shoulder to keep them in his sights, and feels a hand rest against his back. When he turns, Shiro gives him a small smile before turning and reaching out a hand toward Allura. They make a single file train to follow Pidge.

They pass through a second room with pool tables, dart boards, and corn hole boards. The room is less crowded than the others, but all the game stations are taken. It’s easier to navigate. They enter a wide hallway, and pass by several open doorways. One leads to an outdoor courtyard that seems to be sporting it’s own bar on the far side, but it’s honestly hard to tell with the sheer mass of people out there. They pass another door that undoubtably leads to the main dance floor. Keith glances inside as they pass. It’s dark, with flashing lights that give glimpses of grinding and writhing bodies. Music blasts from the room, and Keith can feel the thump of the bass in his feet, pulsing up through his chest.

He gulps, hand instinctively tightening on Pidge’s shoulder. But Pidge keeps walking, and he’s a little surprised to feel Pidge’s hand covering his, giving his fingers a small squeeze.

They finally stop when they reach a room toward the back of the complex. The room is significantly less crowded. There’s a bar along one wall and several tall tables scattered close by. On the outer edges of the room, there are also couches with low coffee tables between them. It looks more like a lounge than any other room in the club that he’s seen so far. The music is significantly softer here, though he can still feel it pounding and pulsing like a heartbeat throughout the entirety of the club.

“How do you know where you’re going?” Keith asks when they finally come to a stop and the group starts to gather in a small circle.

Pidge shrugs. “I came here with Matt earlier in the week when he came to see the set up.” They turn to face the group, setting their hands on their hips. “Alright, so the manager said this is the least crowded room in the whole place, so I vote we use it as our base of operations. You lose the group? Come here. It’ll be the meet up spot. Agreed?”

There are nods around the group, and Shiro glances at the watch on his wrist. Keith has to actively resist the urge to roll his eyes. Seriously? A watch? Who wears a watch anymore, Shiro? Old people, that’s who. His brother is dressed handsomely though, with well fitting dark jeans and a black button up that has the sleeves rolled up to his elbows and is open to reveal a tight v-neck. Watch or not, he doesn’t look old.

“Matt should have taken over the DJ booth about half an hour ago.” He says.

Allura puts a hand on his shoulder, giving him a small smile when he turns to look at her. “Perhaps we should give him a little longer to settle in before we make our appearance.”

“You ruin all my fun.” Shiro says with a light smile.

Allura gives him a quick wink and a smirk. “Someone has to keep you in line.”

And while Shiro manages to keep a steady expression, Keith can see him breaking down under the weight of Allura’s gaze. He can see the way his brother’s hand flexes, the way his prosthetic taps against his thigh, the way a blush lights up his cheeks, putting his scar in stark relief. He can’t really blame him. Allura is damn gorgeous. She dressed up for the evening with a light blue dress that hangs off her shoulder, her hair half pinned up with pins and beads and silver white tendrils that fell to frame her face.

Keith wonders if they had gone through with their bargain and if Lance had actually done Allura’s hair. He hadn’t thought to ask, but if that had been Lance… well, Keith is impressed.

“Alright,” Lance says, clapping his hands together loudly and drawing the attention to him. He takes a moment to sweep his gaze around the group, grinning. “While we wait, I vote we get drinks.”

“Aw yeah, let’s get our drink on.” Pidge deadpans with monotoned enthusiasm.

Lance laughs, ruffling their hair. “Next year, short stuff!”

Pidge slaps his hands away, and Lance snatches them back to his chest quickly. “Fuck off, bean pole.”

“Hey, calm down!” He throws an arm over Pidge’s shoulder and leans in close, putting a hand up to his mouth while whispering loudly. “We’ll sneak you some of our drinks while Shiro isn’t looking.”

“Lance,” Shiro levels a look at them both.

Lance throws his hands up in the air, doing his best and failing to hide his smile. “What? I didn’t say anything!” Shiro continues to stare at him, and Lance fidgets under his gaze. He darts behind Pidge and makes a laughable attempt to hide. “Pidge, protect me from dad.”

Pidge crosses their arms over their chest and rolls their eyes. “I’ll make sure I’m sober by the time we leave.” They say, meeting Shiro’s eyes with a challenge, as if daring him to try to stop them.

He looks like he just might try, but then Allura is slipping her arm around Shiro’s, pressing herself against his arm as she looks around him to where Coran is standing. “Coran, do you think they have any decent whiskey? Perhaps you can convince the bartender to make that drink you wanted Shiro to try?”

Coran’s eyes sparkle as he stands up straight, snapping his fingers. “Oh, right! That drink! Let’s find out, shall we?” He swoops in and wraps an arm around Shiro’s other arm, turning him with Allura’s help to tug him toward the bar. “It’s a concoction of my grandfather’s own design! He called it The Hair Tonic, because it’s bound to put some hair on your chest!”

As he and Allura drag Shiro away toward the bar, Allura glances over her shoulder, giving them a smile and a wink. Pidge grins, and Lance gives her a mock salute.

After they all get drinks, the seven of them claim two couches facing each other across a coffee table at the far end of the room. The couches aren’t exactly big, and it’s a tight fit, but they make it work: Shiro, Allura, and Coran take one couch while Keith, Lance, and Hunk take the other. Pidge perches themselves on the arm of the chair next to Hunk, leaning against his arm.

Keith tries to ignore the fact that Lance is pressed right up against him, leg to leg and arm to arm. He rests an elbow on the arm of the couch and tries to lean away from him as much as he can without being too obvious. Touching Lance has gotten easier since they started taking lessons with Shiro and Allura, but the casual touches outside of practice still make his stomach twist in knots

He hates it, and he can’t wait for this stupid infatuation to pass. And it will pass, because it always does. It’s not the first time he’s found himself unexplainably attracted to someone, and it’s not the first time he’s ignored those feelings until they went away. It’s just easier this way. Especially since Lance is now not only his dance partner, but his friend. He’s not about to sacrifice his new friend group just because his hormones decided to wake up and give him his yearly crush.

Except it’s not a crush. It’s just the potential for a crush. He’s not letting it progress that far. He refuses.

Unfortunately, in the meantime, he’s just going to have to deal with the fact that Lance’s touch sends electricity shooting through his veins, that his smile makes his stomach do summersaults, that his laugh makes something tighten in his chest. All physical responses. Physical responses could be overcome. Mind over matter, right?

So what if he likes to push Lance’s buttons to see him riled up? It’s cute, yeah, but it’s also hilarious. So what if he’ll go out of his way to do nice things for Lance? To make him smile? That’s what friends do. They make each other happy. So what if he looks forward to Wednesdays because Shiro and Allura’s synergy lessons give him an excuse to be close to Lance? So what if—

Oh man, he’s got it bad, doesn’t he?

Fuck

“Hey,” Keith jerks when Lance’s voice is suddenly right in his ear, breath warm against his cheek. He had been attempting to pay attention to whatever Allura and Coran were talking about across from him, but he hadn’t realized how much he had zoned out. He leans away to put some distance between them before half turning to look at Lance. His brows are furrowed and his lips are curled into a small frown.

“What?”

“You okay, dude?”

Keith frowned, one hand curling into a fist on his leg. “Why wouldn’t I be?” Okay, that came out a little more defensive than he would have liked.

Lance’s frown deepens and his eyes search Keith’s face. He really fucking hopes he’s not blushing. “I dunno, but you’re all stiff and twitchy.”

“I am not.”

He raises an eyebrow. “You’re really gonna deny it?” He uses his free hand to point to Keith’s leg, the one that’s pressed up against his. It’s bouncing. Keith immediately stops. “Usually I’m the one who can’t sit still.”

Keith grunts and turns away, lifting his cup to his lips to sip. It’s a simple rum and coke, but he had ordered it strong. He felt like he’d need it. The burn at the back of his throat is oddly comforting.

Lance isn’t quite done with him. “Not a club person?”

Keith snorts. “What gave it away?”

“Do you want the list alphabetically or chronologically?”

“I’m so proud of you for using that word correctly.”

“I’m a learned man, Keith. A man of many talents.”

“Is one of those talents looking like an idiot?” Keith asks, gesturing to the multitude of glow bracelets hanging on his wrists over his usual bracelets and wrapped around his neck. They’re not glowing very well in the lighting of the lounge room. They look sickly and dull.

“Hey! Don’t knock the glow bracelets, dude!” Lance says, pointing a finger at Keith. He glares at him, finger an inch from his cheek. Then, with the shadow of an amused smirk breaking through his mock frown, he shifts his finger forward to poke Keith’s nose.

“Stop that.” Keith snaps, slapping his hand away and wrinkling his nose.

Lance smiles at that, cocking his head to the side as he chuckles. They’re leaning in close, which isn’t too hard given their proximity on the couch, and Lance seems to be making an effort to keep their conversation between them. No one’s made a move to intrude, and while Keith catches Shiro’s curious glance, he doesn’t say anything.

“Seriously, though, if you’re good tonight, maaaaaybe I’ll consider giving you one.” He says, voice aloof as he dangles a wrist in front of Keith.

Keith snorts, rolling his eyes. “No thanks.” But he’s smiling. It’s small, a mere tilt of his lips, but it’s there.

“Mark my words, Kogane. By the end of the night, I’m going to get you to wear one of these.” He says with his signature smirk.

“I’ll take that bet.”

“You sure? I’ve already gotten everyone else to wear one.” He says, grin widening. He sits back, one arm crossed over his chest as he sips his drink. “Even Shiro and Pidge.”

Keith rolls his eyes. “There’s no way—“ But as he glances across to his brother, sure enough, there’s a purple glow necklace around his neck. Keith lifts an eyebrow as he deadpans, “Seriously?”

Shiro manages to look sheepish as he shrugs. “Allura was persuasive.”

“You’re weak.”

Shiro shrugs but doesn’t deny it as he hides his face behind his cup. Keith isn’t sure if he got whatever drink Coran was talking about, but judging from the look on his face when he takes a sip, he’s going to go with yes.

Lance, Hunk, and Allura had the most glow bracelets, and they’d been wearing them since Keith was picked up. He’s not surprised about Lance and Hunk. This is exactly the kind of thing Lance would think of, and Hunk is good natured enough to go along with it. Allura, he’s a little surprised about, but he really shouldn’t be. Despite her elegance and beauty, she’s a child at heart and is easily wrapped up in Lance’s ideas if she thinks they’ll be fun. Coran gained a few bracelets and a necklace shortly after getting into the van. He was nearly as enthusiastic about getting them as Hunk was about giving them.

Keith, Shiro, and Pidge, however, had declined.

At least that’s what he had thought. He should have known Shiro would cave the moment Allura got involved. Pidge, however, is made of tougher stuff.

“Pidge?” He asks, leaning forward to look at them perched on the far end of the couch.

Pidge’s smile is small and a little apologetic as they lift a hand and present their wrist where there are two green glow bracelets. “Sorry, Keith. Hunk got me.”

Keith glares. “I feel betrayed.”

Pidge rolls their eyes. “Don’t be so dramatic. We’re here to have fun.”

“And what’s more fun than glow bracelets?” Lance says, grinning.

“I like them. They kind of make us stick out as a squad.” Hunk says, rubbing the back of his neck. “We’re here to have fun with friends, after all.” He gives Keith a genuine smile, and okay, he can see how Pidge broke so easily to Hunk. Still, Lance is watching him, and Keith isn’t going to cave just yet.

“Besides, Hunk brought up a good point: the more ridiculous we look, the more it’ll embarrass Matt.” Pidge’s smile is devious, and Keith finds himself with a similar smirk. They have a good point. Matt is just as much family as Pidge is. He’s an honorary older brother. And as such, it’s Keith’s job to embarrass him.

“Fair enough.”

“So you’ll wear one?” Lance asks, nudging him with his shoulder.

“Not on your life.”

“Oh, come on, Keith!”

Lance continues to bug him, and Keith makes a point of ignoring him by talking to everyone else. Lance complains, leaning into Keith and practically begging for his attention, while Keith tries his best to hold a straight face as he talks loudly to the others. It doesn’t take long for Lance to switch to draping himself against Hunk, who takes Keith’s cue to ignore Lance in order to talk animatedly to Allura. He tries leaning across Hunk to poke at Pidge, but Pidge ignores him in favor of leaning forward to talk loudly to Keith about a new alien documentary that’s supposed to be out.

Lance is dramatic, but his antics make everyone smile through the indifferent masks they’re trying to hold, and even Lance is having a hard time keeping up his pouting facade. When he leans across Keith’s lap to lean against the arm of the couch in order to stretch his legs out across Hunk, Keith really hopes the warmth rising to his cheeks isn’t visible.

Either way, he catches Shiro’s eye and his brother leans back, resting one foot over the other knee as he sips his drink, waggling his eyebrows and smiling knowingly. Keith glares daggers at him.

When they’re all finished with their drinks, Pidge and Shiro waste no time rushing people up and ushering them all out of the room and toward the source of the club’s music: the dance floor. Keith’s nerves have subsided for the most part, what with Lance’s dramatics and the warm buzz of rum in his system, but it’s starting to come back, leaking into his system and coiling low in his gut.

But then Lance is there, draping his arm around Keith’s shoulders and tugging him close with a casual squeeze. “Relax, John Stamos.” He says lightly.

Keith glances up at him, eyebrows raised. “You know, that’s another one I don’t really mind.”

Lance’s grin is small and sincere. “Yeah, I had a feeling. You’ve got that eighties bad boy vibe.”

“I’m not sure if that’s a compliment or not.”

“You know what? Neither am I.” He laughs, but the sound is drowned out as they turn the corner and step into the dance room.

It’s dark, with flashing lights that light up and throw the writhing crowd into silhouettes. Keith feels immediately engulfed in the atmosphere, nearly suffocated by it. The air here is heavy and warm, and the energy is thick enough to be cut with a knife. The music is music he vaguely recognizes from the stuff he’s gotten from Matt, but it’s pounding down through his body, rattling his bones and driving his heart rate through the roof.

He nearly turns right the fuck around, but Lance’s arm is still around his shoulders and tugging him after their friends. His legs feel numb and rigid as he blindly follows. As they push along the outskirts of the crowd, Lance’s arm drops to push ahead of him a little, shouldering people aside in Coran’s wake. But his hand remains on Keith’s arm, tugging him ever onward. As the bodies press in close, he finds himself leaning toward Lance. Much to Keith’s gratitude, Lance doesn’t bring it up.

The DJ booth is halfway along one of the sidewalls, elevated a few steps above the floor. They can only see the edges of Matt’s equipment peeking over the top of the booth, but they can see him clearly.

He’s standing over his equipment, eyes focused on it with an intensity and single minded concentration that he often sees in Pidge. In all honesty, the two siblings look incredibly alike. Matt’s taller, with a little more of a masculine build and cut to his face, but their hair is styled nearly the same with the exact same copper-orange color. Not to mention their eyes are exactly the same: amber, bright with intellect, wide with curiosity, sharp with analysis, and soft with unwavering loyalty. The only difference is that Pidge can’t quite hide the mischievous air about them, and Matt is much more laid back and open.

He has his headphones on, making his hair stand up in more angles than it does usually, and his head is bobbing along with the beat as his hands adjust levels on the boards they can’t see.

They stop in front of the booth, a little to the side, and huddle into a group. He hasn’t noticed them yet, and Keith doubts he will until they make their presence known. He can imagine the crowd just kinda blurs into the background when you’re up there. Hell, the crowd is blurring for him and he’s in it.

“Alright,” Pidge says, eyeing their brother before looking around the group. A smirk decorates their lips, crinkling their eyes as they reach into one of the bigger pockets of their pants and pull out a large, folded piece of paper. “Let’s do this. No holding back. I want to see him firmly embarrassed. No excuses.”

They systematically and carefully unfold the paper to reveal a large poster with the words “THAT DJ NERD IS MY BROTHER” written out in large block letters in a horrendously vibrant paint that glows in the blacklights around the club. In the dim lighting, he can’t even see the creases from it being folded for so long.

“Where were you even keeping that?” Keith asks, eyeing them curiously.

They shrug. “These pants have big pockets.”

“Is that glitter?” Lance asks, leaning in close to inspect the poster.

Pidge is grinning. “Damn right, it is. It was Hunk’s idea.”

Lance leans back, nodding as he reaches out to pat Hunk’s arm. “Nice eye, buddy.”

Hunk crosses his arms over his chest, smiling. “Thanks. I wasn’t sure if you’d be able to see it in this lighting, but I thought it was worth a shot.”

“It’s a nice touch.” Lance agrees.

Allura is chuckling, hiding her smile behind her hand. “Absolutely brilliant craftsmanship, Pidge.”

Coran idly twirls his mustache, one arm crossed over his chest as he grins. “Agreed. Absolutely impeccable.”

Pidge gives a small bow. “I try.”

Shiro looks over the sign, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. “It’s completely horrendous.” He deadpans, and then a wide grin slowly overtakes his lips. “I love it.”

Pidge is beaming. “I knew you would.”

And then they set to work embarrassing Matt.

At Shiro’s cue, and following Pidge’s lead, they all step forward and start squealing, voices high in pitch. Pidge climbs up onto Hunk’s shoulders and holds the sign above their head while they scream, “THAT NERD IS MY BROTHER! THAT’S MY BROTHER!”

Matt’s head snaps up, and the widening of his eyes is absolutely hilarious. His mouth drops open as he gapes at them in horror. He freezes, one hand on his headset and the other hovering above the buttons of his board.

With his hands on Pidge’s legs to keep them balanced, Hunk dances side to side, swiveling his hips and jostling Pidge. Shiro links his fingers together and puts them under his chin, putting his knees together as he squats a little, letting out the highest pitched squeal Keith has ever heard from him. He wiggles around like something straight out of a cartoon as he makes faces at Matt. He’s supposed to be embarrassing his roommate, but honestly, Keith is feeling it just as hard. Lance and Allura lock hands, jumping up and down and squealing as they point to Matt and giggle loudly. Then they both dramatically swoon, hands to their chests and foreheads. Legs straight as a board, they fall backward. Allura falls right into Coran’s waiting arms, who catches her, lets her lean against his chest, and throws a hand of his own to his forehead, declaring things about Matt in a loud, overly dramatic voice.

Lance falls right toward Keith, and if it weren’t for their weekly trust exercises, he might not have caught him in time. But the way he steps forward to catch Lance under the arms is completely automatic and without hesitation. Lance tilts his head back, breaking character for a moment to grin up at him.

“Knew I could trust you, partner.” He says with a wink, and Keith feels himself stiffen, heart hammering in his chest as his breath hitches. But Lance is already standing up on his own again and joining in with the others to continue their antics.

After several moments of him, Matt finally breaks out of his shock. He sighs, and though they can’t hear it, they can see it in the way his shoulders sag. He puts a hand to his face, covering most of it as he turns away, but Keith can see the tell tale signs of a smile there.

rip matt

It’s not long before he has to get back to his work though, and he waves them off, half an eye on his equipment and his computer screen.

“I LOVE YOU, BRO!” Pidge yells loud enough to be heard, brandishing their sign for the last time.

He flips them off, but he’s laughing.

Once the sign in folded and once again stuffed into their pocket, the group heads deeper into the crowd. Keith follows close behind, chest clenched tight and breaths coming short and shallow. They manage to carve out a section of the dance floor for themselves, standing around and forming a small circle.

As it turns out, it’s not as bad as Keith was anticipating. The group stands in a circle, movement running through them as they feel for the beat, during which Keith feels far too stiff. But then Lance steps forward and starts doing the sprinkler, complete with a hand behind his head and the other outstretched, moving in tics with the beat. He makes faces at Hunk across the circle, and he laughs before joining in. It’s not long before everyone joins in with the ridiculous dance move, Pidge bumping Keith’s hip until he reluctantly rolls with it.

When all of their sprinklers reset at the same time and they all make various sprinkler sounds, Keith can’t help but laugh. And just like that, the tension he feels breaks.

Somehow, unspoken, a game is formed. They go around the circle, taking turns coming up with some novelty dance move that the others then all have to copy. Since it started with Lance, it moves onto Allura at his other side. She doesn’t miss a beat before putting her hands out like she’s swimming, going a few times before plugging up her nose and wiggling an arm in the air and sinking a little with bent knees.

Coran does cliche disco moves. Hunk does the running man. Shiro does the monkey. Pidge does the robot, though they do it significantly worse and more cliche than everyone knows they can. When it gets to Keith, he panics for a moment, looking around at all the smiling and expectant eyes, before hesitantly doing the cabbage patch. Lance throws back his head and laughs, getting into it and bumping Keith’s hip with his own.

His cheeks hurt from smiling.

He wonders why he ever expected everyone to be into typical club dancing. His group of friends… they’re more into having fun than showing off. They dance seriously on a near daily basis. This is for fun, and they make it show.

And with the way their tight circle is formed, backs to the crowd around them, it’s like they’re in their own little island in a sea of strangers. Keith can effectively block everyone else out and just relax with his friends.

The game goes on, and when they run out of known novelty dances, they start making things up. The songs change, a mix of Matt’s remixes of popular songs as well as some of his originals mixed in there. Keith doesn’t recognize all of it, but it all has the same feel: the vibe that drives them forward, keeps their body moving of its own accord, a beat that’s forever pounding onward.

Eventually the game dissolves, along with their circle, and they start dancing in a way that Keith had feared. But… it turns out to not be that bad. Lance and Pidge somehow end up next to each other and dance together in a style that is so completely Pidge: quick precise movements that are jagged yet flow into each other. Keith is… a little impressed. He didn’t think Lance could dance like that. He’s actually pretty good.

Allura and Coran end up dancing together in wild, spinning, dramatic motions that forces other people away to make space for them. Coran is just as wild and energetic as the other times Keith has seen him dance, and Allura keeps up beautifully, adding her own grace that’s so definably hers. Shiro and Hunk show up on either side of him, nudging his hip with their own. Neither of them are dancing anything crazy. They’re just bobbing back and forth, shifting with their weight with the beat and just letting it control their movements in subtle but sure ways. Keith takes their lead. It’s barely dancing compared to what they usually do. It’s just kind of… moving to the beat, but any movement keeps them from standing out.

And truth be told, it’s difficult not to move at all. The beat is driving, singing in his veins and practically begging him to move to some degree, tugging on his strings to sway his body and bob his head. He’s not sure what to do with his arms, so he lets them mostly hang at his sides, moving them in small movements as he mimics Hunk.

Shiro starts dancing the twist and Keith groans loudly, throwing his head back and running his hands down his face. Hunk is laughing, and it’s not long before he’s copying Shiro. They crowd him until he has no choice but to relent, laughing as he does so.

At some point, Shiro and Allura split off from the ground, dancing close and sensual with the music, bodies rolling together and sharing gentle caresses. The maintain eye contact for most of it. It’s tender, and somehow manages to be sweet and lack any of the raunchy atmosphere that surrounds some of the other dancers around them. Still, somehow they make it a private moment that feels inappropriate to intrude on, so the rest of their group turns their eyes away and lets them have it to themselves.

Keith watches with amusement as Pidge attempts to teach Coran some of their robotic dance moves. Which he’s not bad at, but certainly lacks some of the fluidity that Pidge embodies. Movement catches his eye as Lance bends in half, scooting backwards in large movements as he bounces until he’s hilariously rubbing his ass on Hunk. The big guy just laughs, attempting to shove Lance away, but his shaking ass is persistent. Keith laughs, unable to hold it back. The sound is drowned out in the general noise that fills the dance floor, but Lance seems to notice anyway. With a mischievous look, he turns his attention to Keith and waggles his eyebrows as he straightens. He makes a motion like twirling a lasso and throws it at Keith, who just stares at him, unimpressed.

Lance, not one to be deterred when Keith stands still, instead jerks forward with every phantom pull on the invisible rope. He does this until he’s right in front of him, grinning widely, and though he tries, Keith can’t quite smother his amused smirk.

Then he’s suddenly sidling further forward, hands reaching out to grab hold of Keith’s hips. His touch isn’t hesitant, but it’s light and gentle, and if it weren’t for the warmth of his palms and the slight pressure of his fingers, Keith would doubt he was touching him at all.

For a moment, he forgets how to breathe.

Lance leans forward, breath tickling the hair by his ears when he speaks. “You need to relax.” He says, voice pitched far too low for comfort. It makes something in Keith’s chest tighten, a shiver running down his spine to curl his toes. They had been this close before, especially with Shiro and Allura’s weekly lessons, but this is different. They aren’t practicing choreography. They’re just… existing, together, here. It’s a conscious choice on Lance’s part to be this close to him, and it’s making thinking difficult.

So Keith pulls back. Not physically. He doesn’t think he can pull back physically. But he pulls back mentally, stuffing down his chaotic emotions for a moment as a scowl hardens his expression. Or at least, he tries to scowl. Judging from Lance’s reaction, it might have come out as more of a pout.

“I am relaxed,” He says defensively.

Lance had already leaned back to look at him, a small smile playing across his lips, but at that, he tosses his head back and laughs. His grip on Keith’s hips tighten as he puts forth effort to wiggle them back and forth. “You’re still so stiff!” He says, eyes finding Keith’s. They’re dark in the dim lighting, but every once in a while one of the flashing lights will catch them, reflecting brightly and giving dazzling depth to his irises.

He’s still smirking, but there’s an edge of amused fondness there that Keith doesn’t know what to do with, so he just frowns. “I am not.”

“You are!” Lance argues, releasing his hips to step back. Keith tries not to mourn the loss of his touch. Then Lance is suddenly grabbing his wrist, stepping to his side and holding out his free arm. He starts a rolling motion there, rolling a wave along his arm, his shoulders, down his other arm, and into Keith’s. When Keith doesn’t move, his shoulders hunch and he pouts. “Keeeith! You let the wave die! You can’t let the wave die!”

And Keith chuckles, because it’s so absurd and ridiculous and so completely Lance.

He goes again, and this time Keith rolls the wave through both arms, pausing, and then rolling it back. Lance laughs as it goes through him, and when it reaches his extended free arm, he throws the invisible wave at Hunk, who catches it without hesitation and rolls it through his own body. They throw it around the group like it’s a living thing, getting more and more dramatic and big with their actions as it goes on until they’re laughing too hard to keep it going.

At some point they end up forming a circle again, widening it so they can take turns dancing in the middle. As the people around them catch on, the circle ends up widening, more and more people joining. All of his friends take turns dancing in the circle. Keith, however, refrains, and whenever someone nudges him, he shakes his head and smiles apologetically, then someone else takes the floor and he’s forgotten. Luckily, his friends don’t push him too hard. They all either know he’s uncomfortable with it, or they pick up on it pretty quickly.

He knows it’s for fun, and it’s just around his friends and people he’ll probably never see again, but he just… can’t get himself to take to the circle. It’s just… not his thing, and as much as he would like to be able to relax enough to just wing it, his thoughts are too loud and paralyze his body, keeping him from just doing it. He’ll need a lot more alcohol before he’s that comfortable.

Lance, however, is absolutely living. He dives into the circle as often as he can while still giving others a chance. Even going so far as to have a dance off with several people. This is his element, and this is where he shines, beneath the flashing, colored club lights, surrounded by people cheering him on, where freestyle reigns king.

And here, Lance is king, and Keith can do nothing but watch, knowing he’ll never be able to touch that light.

It’s some point during Coran’s turn, in which he spins around the widened circle, legs kicked out, toes bent in ways they shouldn’t, and going up and dropping to his knees in such quick succession that it leaves the crowd in awe, when Lance tugs at his arm. Keith doesn’t resist, unable to, as Lance practically drags him through the crowd.

And that’s how they end up back at the lounge, leaning against the bar as they order another round of drinks. Keith is grateful for the change of scenery, though he can’t help but wonder why Lance dragged him, of all people, with him, He knows of the buddy system from Hunk, but he didn’t think Lance would choose him as his drinking buddy. He wonders if Lance sensed that he needed a break. Is that too much wishful thinking? Keith isn’t sure. He takes a long swig of his rum and coke as soon as it’s set in front of him. All this thinking is making his head hurt. Why can’t he just have a fun night out with his friends without thinking himself in circles around Lance?

Infatuation sucks.

“How can you drink that?” Lance asks, leaning both elbows on the bar counter as he sips his drink. As he’s leaned forward, he has one foot propped up on the low bar that runs along the bottom of the bar. His lips are quirked at one side, giving Keith the smallest of smirks.

Keith shrugs, turning to lean has back against the bar, one elbow bent to rest on it behind him. “It’s simple, easy, and tastes good.” He says, looking down at his drink, swirling it around the plastic cup.

Lance snorts, eyeing him over the rim of his own plastic cup to hide his smile. “It’s just cheep rum and coke, dude.”

Keith nods once and repeats, “It’s simple, easy, and tastes good.” Then he eyes Lance sideways, his own smirk crawling it’s way onto his lips. “Besides, it’s better than your drink.”

“Um, excuse,” He says, lifting his cup a fraction and gesturing toward Keith with it. “Vodka cranberry is a classic.”

“So is rum and coke!”

“Yeah, but cranberries are more fruity and delicious and good for you.”

“But vodka tastes like rubbing alcohol.”

“Ah, but it’s ingeniously hidden by the cranberry juice.”

Keith’s lip curls. “I doubt that.”

“No, trust me! Try it!” He practically shoves his drink into Keith’s hand, so he does as he’s bid and takes a sip.

His lip curls further as he shoves it back, coughing slightly. “I stand by what I said.”

“You’re no fun. Your drink is so booooring.”

“So is yours.”

Lance looks at his cup, brows furrowing in thought as his lip twists. “I suppose you’re right.” His head snaps up then, a smile returning. “We should order a fun drink next.”

Keith raises an eyebrow, skeptical. “I don’t… really know many fun drinks.”

Lance sighs, dropping his forehead to his arms on the bar. “Oh my god, Keith, where’s your sense of adventure?”

“I didn’t say I wouldn’t, I just said I didn’t know any fun drinks.” Then he leans over and nudges Lance’s hip with his own. When he pulls back, he doesn’t go very far. “You pick something for me.”

Lance lifts his head at that, smiling. “You’re on.”

“Nothing gross, please.”

“I would never.” Then his face takes on a thoughtful expression, tapping his chin with a free finger. Keith waits, sipping his drink and letting his gaze roam over the lounge. It’s more full than it was before, by no where close to the other rooms closer to the front of the club. He doesn’t spot any of their friends, but there are plenty of strangers crowding the bar. It just gives him an excuse to be this close to Lance. “I got it!” He says, snapping his fingers and pointing at Keith. “A blue motorcycle!”

Keith raises an eyebrow, looking back to him. “A blue motorcycle?”

“Yeah!” He’s grinning. “You like motorcycles, yeah?” Keith nods hesitantly. “So you should have a drink with motorcycle in the name!”

“What’s in it?” He asks, skeptical.

Lance shrugs. “I donno. A little bit of thing, a little of that. I just know it has some blue liqueur and tequila, but it’s good, trust me.”

Keith isn’t sure if his trust in Lance extends as far as drinks, but he’ll give it a shot anyway. “What’re you going to get?”

He grins. “A long island iced tea.”

“Does that even have any alcohol?”

Lance laughs, shoving him lightly. “Yes, it does, you ass.” He lifts his cup, eyes glinting over the top of it. “Race ya.”

Keith lifts his cup. “You’re on.”

Lance finishes chugging his drink first, and Keith blames it on the fact that he’s chugging soda and Lance is chugging juice. They order their new drinks, and Keith is pleasantly surprised, but he puts on a show of being skeptical just to watch Lance squirm.

He loses track of time. They hang out at the bar instead of going to the couches. A couple of their friends come and go, grabbing a drink and chatting before heading back to the dance floor. Lance and Keith stay. They talk about a lot of things and a lot of nothing, shoving each other playfully and eventually getting to the point where the bar is crowded enough that their arms press up against each other. Neither of them make to move. They go through several more drinks, and Keith is feeling it. It blurs the edges of his vision, making it harder to focus, flushes his cheeks, makes him more honest and talkative, and makes his limbs feel like they’re slightly detached, numb. Lance doesn’t seem to be faring much better.

They’re in the middle of an argument over who has a higher tolerance when Lance suddenly just stops talking mid sentence.

It’s so abrupt that it catches Keith’s attention. He looks up from where he had been about to take a sip from his cup, eyebrows raised curiously. Lance is standing there, eyes wide and focused on something over Keith’s shoulder. His jaw has gone slack, lips parted as pure shock is written across his features.

Keith’s brow furrows, lips pursing into a small frown. He turns his head, but he doesn’t see anything besides people. No one he recognizes, and certainly nothing strange enough to warrant that reaction. He looks back, but Lance hasn’t moved. If he has to guess, he’d say Lance doesn’t seem to be breathing. It’s not just shock or surprise, there’s something… akin to fear in his eyes. A level of vulnerability that Keith isn’t used to seeing with him. It worries him, and he feels something clench in his gut.

“Lance?” He says, voice soft and uncertain. Then louder, waving a hand in front of his face. “Lance.”

That snaps him out of it, his eyes darting back to Keith’s and refocusing. His jaw snaps shut, and he’s frowning. He opens his mouth a couple of times, like he’s trying to speak but he’s not sure what he wants to say.

When he does finally manage to find words, his voice is carefully neutral and barely hiding the waver that’s there. “Sorry, I, uh— I need to go.” It comes out rushed, choppy, and he shoves himself away from the bar and his half empty cup.

He barely gets a step before Keith grabs hold of his arm, yanking him to a stop. Lance turns, eyes wide and face so full of barely contained emotions, each passing over his features too fast and colliding together, leaving them unidentifiable. Keith frowns, eyes hard and searching. “Lance, what’s wrong?”

“Nothing, it’s— it’s nothing.” He carefully and systematically removes Keith’s grip from his arm, smiling apologetically as he’s already stepping away. “I just— I need to find Hunk, now. I’ll be— it’s fine. I’ll see you later, yeah?” He’s already turning away from him, hiding whatever is playing across his face, and he dives into the crowd with a frantic urgency that leaves Keith reeling, staring after him and frozen in surprise.

He isn’t sure how long he stands there, but it’s long enough for people to start jostling him around, trying to reach the bar. He frowns, brows furrowing as he stares down at his drink. He doesn’t want it anymore. The taste has soured in his mouth at Lance’s abrupt departure. They had been having fun. He had… he had actually been enjoying himself. And while he knows enough to doubt he was the cause of whatever freaked Lance out, it bothered him that Lance hadn’t even told him what was wrong. He had just… left. Weren’t they bonding? Why didn’t Lance trust him with— with whatever that was?

He grits his teeth, fingers tightening on the cup as he downs the rest of his drink. It’s tasteless and burns more than it should, but he had paid for it, so he might as well.

Once he’s done, he leaves the cup on the bar and goes to search for Lance.

He finds Shiro first. His brother has been let up into the DJ booth, and Matt is busy showing him everything. Keith can see the smile on his face while he proudly points out this and that, lips moving but words lost on Keith. Shiro watches, his own set of headphones on as he follows Matt’s gestures with his eyes. He looks impressed. Keith waves his hand to catch their attention, and Shiro leans down, removing one side of the headphones to hear Keith as she shouts up at him. He asks if he’s seen Lance, but he has to ask several times before Shiro understands him. He ends up shaking his head, but points out where Allura and Coran are. He gives Keith a curious look, but Keith waves him off before turning to leave.

Allura and Coran are standing along the edges of the room, drinks in hand and leaning against the wall as they talk. They both look up, smiling brightly as Keith approaches. He tries to smile back, but he’s not feeling it. He asks if they’ve seen Lance, and their expressions drop a fraction. Coran explains that he had just come by and grabbed Hunk before towing him out of the room. And that he looked upset.

Allura tells him to check the bathroom, and so he does.

Turns out, the club has several sets of bathrooms scattered around, and not only does it take him a while to find them, but Lance isn’t in the first one he tries, or the second.

He finds Pidge outside the third, leaning against the wall between the men’s and women’s rooms, arms crossed over their chest and a deep scowl on their face. They glare daggers at everyone that passes, holding eye contact until they look away. Out of context, it looks like Pidge is having a bad night. With the knowledge that Lance is probably in the bathroom, they look more like a pissed off bodyguard, and their small size doesn’t detract from that in the slightest.

Their expression is unchanging when they spy Keith.

“Hey,” He says, coming to a stop in front of them.

They grunt, lifting their chin a fraction in greeting. “Hey.”

Keith nods toward the bathroom door. “Lance in there?”

Pidge tilts their chin down just a fraction, but it effectively darkens their expression. “Yes.”

Keith takes a step towards it, reaching out.

“Don’t.” The sharp edge of their tone stops him in his tracks, and he freezes with one hand on the door. He turns to look at them, brows furrowing. They’re holding his gaze, eyes hard and brows pinched. Their lips are scrunched up into a small frown, and Keith knows that look. Pidge is pissed off, but they’re also protective, ready to pounce on anything that might threaten whatever they’re protecting. In this case, Lance.

They stare at each other, neither of them budging, until someone tries to push past Keith. He steps aside as the guy pushes into the bathroom. Keith just gets a glimpse of a tiled corner and not the bathroom himself. He doesn’t see Lance, but he catches his voice and Hunk’s before the door closes and their words are once again lost and voices muffled. Keith steps over to Pidge, mirroring their stance against the wall, crossing his arms over his chest.

“What’s going on, Pidge?” He asks, and for a moment he thinks they’re going to resist, but then they sigh, shoulders sagging.

“That’s… it’s not really my place to say.”

“Pidge.”

“Look, I know you’re worried— no, don’t deny it, Keith. I can see it on your face. We’re all worried. The thing is… Lance saw someone here that he really wasn’t prepared to see, and none of us were expecting to see anytime soon, and… she fucked him up pretty bad.”

Keith bristles, back stiffening against the wall. It feels cold, even through his shirt. He feels cold, and it’s an odd contrast to the warmth of the club and the alcohol running through his veins. “It’s an ex girlfriend, isn’t it?” He tries to keep his tone casual and neutral, but it comes out far too soft and rigid to be either.

Pidge nods once. “Yeah, it is.”

“Is this the one that Hunk said broke up with him before his twenty first birthday?”

He’s looking at them, so he sees when Pidge’s lips curl into a small, wry smile. “Hunk told you about that?”

Keith shrugs, the movement causing his arm to rub against Pidge’s. They lean into his touch, seeking comfort. He leans toward them, too. “Only a little. He was telling me about your first club experience.”

“Ah, that. Yeah, not a fun time.”

“So he said.” There’s a long pause before he manages to say. “So… this ex girlfriend…?”

Pidge’s smile instantly drops, face darkening. “Don’t be fooled. He’s over her, and has been for a while, but… she did some pretty shitty things, he was too attached, they were terrible at communicating, and it ended badly. It messed him up pretty bad for a while, but he’s gotten better, it’s just… he wasn’t prepared to see her. It caught him off guard and brought a lot of bad things to the surface.”

“Maybe I can—“

“No.” Pidge says sharply, cutting him off. They shake their head, sighing and continuing in a softer tone. “He just… He needs a moment, Keith. He doesn’t want anyone to see him like this. He doesn’t want you to think bad of him—“

“I wouldn’t!”

“I know, Keith, but… just let him have a moment to compose himself. He’ll come find us when he’s ready.”

Keith sighs, looking away. “Fine.” He understands. He really does. But that doesn’t stop him from wanting to shove his way in there and— he’s not even sure what he’d do. What can he do? He doesn’t know how to comfort people, let alone Lance. He doesn’t know what Lance needs or what would make him feel better. But the memory of Lance’s face is drifting through his mind, and he hates seeing Lance like that. Still… he knows there’s nothing he can do about it.

Truth be told, he wants to go find this ex girlfriend and get a good look at whatever monster could make Lance, beautiful, shining, smiling Lance, look like that.

And maybe punch her in the face.

But that could just be the alcohol talking.

Perhaps he has some protective instincts after all. He’d certainly feel like punching whoever managed to hurt Pidge or Shiro or even Matt. He doesn’t like seeing anyone hurt his friends, even if it happened long before he met them. Like it or not, and all infatuation aside, Lance is his friend. Though… it might be the infatuation mixed with the alcohol that makes him feel like he’d do anything in order to see Lance smile again.

But he’ll have to wait until Lance is ready.

He hates waiting.

“Any specific reason why you’re waiting out here?” He asks.

Pidge shrugs. “Not really.” There’s that small, wry smile again. “Maybe I’m hoping Nyma will go to the bathroom, so I can give her a piece of my mind.”

“Shouldn’t we wait somewhere else to give Lance some space until he’s ready?”

Pidge sighs then, whole body slumping. “Yeah, I guess. I’m just… I’m worried.”

Keith puts an arm around their shoulders, pulling them into his side. “Me, too.” There’s a long silence, and even though they had both agreed that they shouldn’t be waiting here, neither of them make a move to leave. Keith clears his throat. “So… Matt let Shiro up into the DJ booth.”

Pidge’s head snaps up so fast, he’s certain they have whiplash. “What? He told me I’d be first in the booth!”

And then he’s following a small, angry Pidge as they stomp through the crowd. He casts one last look over his shoulder, chewing his bottom lip. He hopes Lance is alright.

 


 

 

Lance isn’t alright. Not by a long shot. Not by the longest shot. Not by miles and miles and—

“Hunk, what’s she even doing here?” He groans, tilting his head back until it hits the tile. He’s sitting on the floor in the men’s bathroom, and yeah, gross, but he’s drunk and he’s upset and his legs can’t be assed to hold him up right now.

Hunk is knelt down next to him, carefully avoiding putting his knees or ass on the bathroom floor. Smart man. He has one hand on the wall to balance him, and the other is on Lance’s shoulder. The firm but gentle touch grounds him, and it’s a much needed support.

“I dunno, man.” Hunk says, voice calm and soothing on Lance’s frazzled nerves. “Maybe she just came home to visit her family? That wouldn’t be too weird.” Ah, there he is. Always the voice of reason. And thinking about it logically, yeah, that makes sense. But Lance isn’t really a fan of logic right now.

“But why is she here?” He says with more emphasis, gesturing wildly to the bathroom and the club beyond.

Hunk shrugs, giving him a small, barely there smile. Lance knows he’s not feeling it, but he’s trying to smile for him like it’s the last anchor keeping him from drifting away into the chaotic storm of his own damn emotions. “She was always more of a partier than we were. It’s not really surprising that she’s here.”

“But Huuunk,” Lance whines, lifting his head to stare at Hunk, brows furrowing and bottom lip sticking out. It’s quivering, and it’s not entirely an act. His eyes are still burning from the few tears he’s already shed. “Why tonight? It’s not fair. She looked happy! Like what happened doesn’t even bother her! Like she doesn’t think about me at all!”

Hunk frowns then, but it’s more pensive than anything. “But Lance… you were happy until you saw her, weren’t you?”

“Well, yeah, but—“

“And do you think about her all the time?”

No, but—“

“Then what’s the problem?”

Lance huffs, crossing his arms over his chest and looking away. “Why’re you defending her?” He mumbles the accusation.

“What? I’m not!” And when Lance glances up at him, he sees the offense in Hunk’s expression. He sighs, shaking his head. His girp on Lance’s shoulder tightens. When he speaks again, his voice is softer, kinder, and calms his nerves. “I’m not defending her, dude. You know how I felt— how I feel about her. You know I never really liked her to begin with.”

“Yeah, I know.” Lance mumbles, unable to hide the wry smile that curves his lips. After the worst of the break up had passed, Hunk hadn’t hesitated to give him his ‘I told you so’ speech.

“So you know that I’d never defend her after what she did to you. What I am trying to say, is that you shouldn’t be upset!” He holds up a finger to Lance’s lips when he opens his mouth to protest, effectively cutting him off. Lance scowls at him. “That’s not to say that you don’t have a right to be upset, because you do, but you’ve moved past her, dude. You don’t think about her, you’ve gotten over her, you’ve healed in so many ways, and I’d hate to see your night ruined just because she’s here. She doesn’t deserve to have that kinda power over you, Lance. Don’t give her the satisfaction. Don’t let her bring you down.”

Lance looks up at him, eyes burning and vision wavering— and oh god, he’s going to cry again. But that doesn’t stop him from giving his best friend a small smile and whispering, “Thanks, Hunk.” And then his voice cracks right as the first tear falls.

He hastily wipes it away, sniffling back the snot that’s welling up in his nose and wiping his eyes to keep more tears from fully forming. Hunk sighs, giving up his fight and sitting on the floor next to him, wrapping an arm around his shoulder. “No problem, buddy. Let it out, and when you’ve calmed down, we can go hang out with the others.”

Lance leans into him, groaning. “Oh god, Keith is probably wondering what the fuck is wrong with me.”

“I’m sure he’d understand. He’s a lot nicer than you usually give him credit for.”

“I basically just freaked out on him and ran away! We were having a good time, Hunk! And I ruined it!”

“You didn’t ruin it, Lance. I’m sure he’s just worried.”

“That’s wooorse.”

He tightens his grip around his shoulders, shaking him slightly. “We’re all here for you, buddy. Even Keith.”

“I don’t want to talk to him about Nyma…” He grumbles, smooshing his face against Hunk’s shoulder.

“You don’t have to.”

“What if he asks?”

“Just tell him you’re not ready to talk about it. I’m sure he’ll understand.”

“Maybe…”

He really, really doesn’t want to talk to Keith about his baggage, let alone ex girlfriend baggage. Especially since it happened over a year ago and he’s apparently still freaking out about it… But that’s not fair. He doesn’t care. He really doesn’t. He’s gotten over her and moved past it, just like Hunk had said. He’s just… caught off guard. He wasn’t expecting to see her, and when he had, just… all the emotions that he’d long since buried came roaring to the surface. It had been too much. It’s still too much, but he’s getting a better handle on himself now that the shock is fading. He knows he’s being ridiculous, hiding out in the bathroom from an ex girlfriend who he never wants to see again and who probably doesn’t want anything to do with him, and he kind of hates himself a little more for acting this way.

Those feelings of shame and self-deprecating hate give him the strength and motivation to pull himself together. He’ll be damned if he lets Nyma ruin tonight for him. Tonight’s all about his friends. He doesn’t want to ruin their night either. Oh god, both times he’s dragged Hunk to a club, he’s ended up comforting him in the bathroom over Nyma. What an awful track record. He refuses to ruin Hunk’s night again.

He had been having fun with Keith. A lot of fun actually. They had been laughing, and Keith had been standing so close, and he’d really been enjoying being able to casually lean into him because hey, he’s a touchy guy, okay? But the sight of Keith’s smile, so close and so entirely focused on him, had been doing pleasant things to his insides. He finds it hard to believe that’s the guy he was convinced he hated just a couple months ago.

All of a sudden, he wants nothing more than to just be with Keith. He just… wants to find him and go back to what they were doing and how they were like before Lance had seen her. He loves Hunk. He really does. And he can’t even begin to explain what his presence is doing to calm his nerves. And he loves Pidge, and he loves how they’re so fiercely protective of him, going so far as to threaten to claw out Nyma’s eyes on the dance floor. He has great friends, to be honest, but he really just wants to be with Keith.

Keith wasn’t there for the Nyma incident. He won’t remind Lance of what it was like back then. He’s new and exciting, and Lance finds it hard to believe that he’ll look at him with pity. He really fucking hopes Keith doesn’t pity him. If he does, all Lance has to do is challenge him to a dance off and their dynamic will be restored. He likes their dynamic. He takes comfort in it. And even as they get closer, that strangely competitive and teasing dynamic is still there. He doesn’t want it any other way.

Right now, he really wants that. He doesn’t know why, maybe it’s the alcohol talking, but he really feels like right now, in this moment, Keith is the only thing that can make him feel normal again.

But he’s got to pull his shit together before he can go and find him.

He’s not sure how long they stay in the bathroom, but Hunk stays with him the whole time, talking with him and taking his mind off of everything in ways that only Hunk can. They get a wide array of reactions. Some of them are strange looks, to which Hunk glares until they look away, but more often than not, the guys try to talk to them. It’s usually amusing conversation, and it’s a welcome distraction.

One dude stumbles to the stall, takes one look at Lance, and says, “Too much vodka. What’s up with you, bruh?” To which Lance replies, “Ex girlfriend.” And the guy just nods, nearly losing his balance in the process, gives him a thumbs up, and says “Don’t worry about it, dude. You’re a good looking guys. Bitch musta been cray.” Before disappearing in the stall.

By the time they leave the bathroom, Lance is feeling much better. He’s still a little guarded and on edge, but he’s ready and determined to get his night back on track. First stop? The bar. He’s a little relieved that Keith isn’t there anymore, and he convinces Hunk to do a run of shots with him. Hunk agrees reluctantly, but only after making Lance agree that they’ll be his last drinks of the night.

Three shots of cheap tequila each later, Lance is ready. He stumbles a little as he walks, but his limbs are pleasantly numb, the beat of the music is thrumming through his body, and he’s ready to just dance and forget. His vision isn’t necessarily blurry, but it’s hard as fuck to focus. As the shots start to trickle their way into his system, any buzz he lost while in the bathroom comes surging back and then some.

They find Keith near the DJ booth, standing aside and watching with amusement as Shiro and Pidge poke at and fight over things on Matt’s sound boards. Every time Shiro reaches for something, Pidge slaps at his hand, glaring up at him. He looks infinitely amused by this, and Matt is just standing to the side, shaking his head and keeping an eye on his laptop.

As soon as he sees Keith, his vision narrows down and something that had been tight in his chest loosens. He feels like he can breathe again, which is concerning, seeing as he hadn’t realized that he’d been having trouble before.

When they reach where he’s standing, Lance throws an arm over his shoulder, placing his other hand on his own hip. “What’s going on here?” He says, proud with how casual he sounds, despite how thick his tongue feels. He nods toward the DJ booth, staring at the three there instead of looking at Keith.

He could feel Keith jump and then relax, and he can see him staring at him, but Lance isn’t quite ready to meet his eyes. Not yet. Eventually, he looks away. “Pidge was mad Matt let Shiro up into the booth first. I think he’s now regretting letting either of them up there at all.”

“Aww, I wanted to see the equipment.” Hunk says, coming up on Lance’s other side. He stares up at the booth longingly and mutters, “No one ever lets me touch the equipment.”

Lance pats his arm with his free hand. “All in good time, buddy.” Then he shakes Keith a little with the arm he has resting over his shoulders. He’s not quite being subtle about using him for balance. “So Keithy boy, my dude, my man, did I miss anything?”

Keith shakes his head, gesturing toward the booth. “Just this.” Then Lance can see him turn to look at him again, and he’s afraid of what expression might be there. Especially when Keith’s voice is suddenly soft and so filled concern. “Are you alright?”

Lance smiles then, a small sad smile that he knows doesn’t reach his eyes, and answers in a voice just as soft. “I wasn’t, but I am now. And I will be.” He steels himself, fixing that smile in place, and looks at Keith. The concern in his voice is reflected in his eyes, and his thick brows are pinched just a little, his lips pursed into a small, pouting frown. Something in Lance’s heart twists, and a warmth fills his chest. His smile becomes a little more genuine as he tilts his head. “Don’t worry about it, Keith. I’m fine.”

His eyes search Lance’s for a moment before he looks away, chewing on his bottom lip so subtly that Lance wonders if he even realizes he’s doing it. “Do you want to… talk about it? Or whatever?”

At that, Lance throws his head back and laughs. “Keith, buddy, I appreciate the thought, but I really don’t. I’m so done talking about it. I just want to forget about it and have fun, you know?”

And then Keith’s expression softens and Lance can feel him relax a little. “Yeah, okay.”

“So let’s go dance!” He says, pulling his arm back to put his hands on Keith’s shoulders and spinning him around.

Keith almost immediately digs his heels into the floor, turning his head back, eyes blown wide with sudden panic. “But what about—“

“They’ll catch up.”

“But—“

“Keith! We’re dancers! We’re at a club! I’m tired of thinking. Let’s just cut loose and dance, for fuck’s sake.”

Keith is caught between scowling and looking panicked, and honestly, it’s one of the cutest things Lance has ever seen. He’s got some damn attractive friends. “Hunk! We’re going to go ahead! Meet us on the dance floor!” He calls over his shoulder, and catches sight of Hunk looking at them fondly and waving them away. He turns back around in time to see Keith’s pleading look he sends Hunk’s way, and Lance laughs.

Keith eventually stops resisting, and Lance pulls ahead of him, taking him by the arm and guiding him through the crowd. He doesn’t think Keith will just leave him at this point, but touching him, feeling his presence behind him, is comforting. He loves all his friends, but there’s just… something about Keith that makes him feel better right now, and he craves that. He’s grateful for the chance to be alone with him. Even if that’s in the middle of a crowded club.

He’s pushing through the thick of the crowd with Keith in tow, looking for a good stop to stop and claim some space for themselves, when the people in front of him part and he sees her.

He freezes in his tracks, grip on Keith’s arm tightening. His breath hitches as his throat locks up.

She’s beautiful. She always has been, and no matter how many shitty things she did, and no matter how messy their break up was, that won’t detract from it. She’s gorgeous. Her completion is dark, club lights highlighting the spots where vitiligo has lightened parts of her skin. Her dreads are still dyed blonde, but her natural color is coming through at the roots, giving her hair the same two toned look that her skin has. She’s wearing a blue dress that fits to all the curves of her body.

Fuck, she’s gorgeous, and his heart clenches painfully at the sight of her. She was his once. He gave her everything, she didn’t want it, and she broke him. Now she’s here, smiling and laughing with her friends like none of it every happened. With no clue that Lance is there, world crumbling around him.

Hunk is right, of course. He shouldn’t let her have this power over him, because he is over her. But seeing her for the first time since their break up just brings up so many emotions he had thought were long gone. They twist unpleasantly inside of him, fighting with his desire to simply let it go.

God, he’s a mess.

With some effort, he rips his eyes away from her, letting go of Keith’s arm and spinning back around. “Not this way…” He mumbles, crossing his arms over his chest. He’s not able to look at Keith, so he stares down and off to the side, hoping, praying that Keith won’t question it.

nyma is gorgeous

But of course Keith isn’t stupid. It doesn’t take a genius to see his sudden change in attitude.

When he risks a glance up, Keith is staring over his shoulder beyond him, toward where Nyma is. He’s not sure Keith will even be able to pick her out of the crowd. He doesn’t know how much Keith knows. Hell, he’s not even sure Keith knows that this whole thing is because ex problems. But judging from his face, he knows enough.

His brows are furrowed, lips twisting into a scowl as he glares at the crowd. His gaze is unmoving, eyes fierce and sparking, and Lance wonders if he’s zeroed in on her. Is he even looking at the right girl? Does he know it’s a girl?

Lance glances over his shoulder, following Keith gaze, and yup, she’s still there. Laughing and tossing several locks of hair over her shoulder in that flippant way that he had once found endearing.

He feels unfocused, everything spins, and he’s starting to regret those last three shots.

He’s not sure how it happened, but Keith has suddenly taken his arm, tugging him away. He stumbles after him as they weave through the crowd. Finding a space carved out, they take the floor.

Keith turns to face him then, hand still on his arm. Without thinking, Lance starts to turn, towards where he knows Nyma is standing, just to see if she’s still in view or if they’re safely away. But then Keith is tugging at his arm, pulling his attention back. Lance stares at him, eyes wide and eyebrows raised.

Keith scowls at him, lips set into a firm line as he says loud enough to be heard over the music, “Don’t you dare look back.” And Lance hunches his shoulders, looking away and feeling guilty. He didn’t think Keith could read him that well. When he glances up through his lashes, Keith’s expression has softened, the ghost of a smile on his lips. “Just keep your eyes on me.”

He drops his hand from Lance’s arm and takes a step back, already swaying a little to the music. His feet move, driven by the beat, and his head and shoulders bob along with it. His arms look like he’s not quite sure what to do with them. He looks like he’s trying to mimic what the people around him are doing, but the pained expression on his face makes it look so incredibly awkward.

Lance doesn’t get it. He’s seen Keith dance before, dozens of times. Keith is always full of confidence when he dances, so certain and sure of his movements. Lance isn’t sure he’d ever notice if Keith fucked up, because the guy is just so… sure about everything he does. And he does it all with such a cool calm, like nothing he’s doing is actually impressive and he would never do anything less. It’s always been frustrating and irritating, but since working with him, Lance has found a strange appreciation for it.

It’s… kind of endearing to see him like this now. All that confidence and calm is gone, not a trace of it left alive. He looks as awkward and unsure as someone who’s never danced before in their life. He looks… self conscious. And that’s not something Lance is used to seeing on him. He’s not sure he likes it. Keith is so great at everything, and Lance doesn’t think he should ever feel self conscious about something he’s so incredibly talented with like dancing.

Yet here he is, in front of him, dancing like it pains him. He has the beat, sure, but he’s so incredibly rigid and looks like he’s afraid of actually doing anything besides swaying back and forth and awkwardly moving his arms.

And yet he’s doing it under Lance’s full attention in an attempt to distract him, no matter how uncomfortable he is.

Lance feels the small smile curve his lips as a touch of fondness fills his chest. Before he really realizes what he’s doing, he’s stepping forward into Keith’s space, hands sliding to rest on his hips as he had done earlier. His grip is firm as he tries to wiggle Keith’s hips in an attempt to get him to loosen up. He knows freestyle isn’t the guy’s strong suit, but this is ridiculous. He knows Keith can do so much more.

“You’re holding back.” He says, voice laced with amusement.

Keith glares up at him, face twisted into that scowl that he knows so well. The lighting makes it hard to see any sort of blush, but he can tell from the extra lines around his lips and eyes that he’s embarrassed.

“Shut up and dance with me.” He snaps, and it’s such a needlessly aggressive demand and so completely Keith that Lance finds himself grinning, and this time he can feel it reaching his eyes.

This is what he needed, what he had been craving. Keith just has this uncanny ability to make him forget his problems and just feel like himself again. And he does it just by being Keith.

This guy is my destiny.

The thought comes unbidden from the recesses of his mind, startling him. He blames in on the alcohol, hazing his mind and making him needlessly sentimental. He’s been known to be an emotional drunk, and tonight’s been an emotional night. He really probably shouldn’t have had those last few shots.

But still… that thought has a nice ring to it. He likes to think he was meant to meet all of this friends, and he thinks that maybe, just maybe, that maybe Keith is part of his destiny, too. Keith helped him get into regionals, after all. Keith drives him to be a better dancer. Keith fits so seamlessly into his group of friends. Keith is the only person who’s managed to dance as a duo with him. And now Keith is here, making him forget about all the negative emotions that plague him and letting him just live in the moment.

Maybe the D in room 4D stands for destiny?

…Alright, now he’s getting a little ridiculous. He’s definitely had too much to drink. Or maybe it’s just all hitting him now? Either way, his thoughts are getting way too deep and way too emotional and way too philosophical for a club night, so he forces himself to focus on the guy standing right in front of him, beautiful and scowly.

Keith stares at his shit eating grin for only a few seconds before snapping, “Shut up!” And Lance can feel him bristling, embarrassment coloring his features. Lance just grins because he hadn’t said anything, but he thinks it’s hilarious that Keith can read so far into his expressions. Lance chuckles, and Keith must be able to tell that it’s not mocking, because his expression softens. He attempts a smile, but it’s so endearingly shy, and when he speaks, his voice is quieter than before, just barely heard above the music. “And just… dance with me.”

And so they dance, but it’s not like it was earlier, when their dances are throw backs to ridiculous things with wild movements and high energy. Their movements now are smaller, more confined. Lance doesn’t move his hands from Keith’s hips, and Keith doesn’t push him away. His own hands come to rest on Lance’s arms, and while they sway and roll to the pulse of the driving beat, they seem to get impossibly closer.

Lance wants to blame it on the crowd, pushing in on them from all sides. He wants to blame it on the alcohol buzzing through his system and making his limbs tingle. He wants to blame it on Keith’s eyes, so dark yet flashing so impossibly purple in the club lights. He wants to blame it on everything, but the fact remains that something has shifted. It’s so small, so subtle, so indescribable and impossible to pin point, but it shifts, and suddenly the atmosphere between them has changed.

They’re so close that Lance can feel Keith’s body whenever he rolls his, and it’s not long before Keith picks up on the movement and they’re moving together, dancing the same, moving as one. He feels the beat through the floor, through the air, through Keith, connecting them and pulsing through his very core.

He doesn’t notice the distance closing, but suddenly Keith is so, so close. He can practically taste the rum on his breath. Their eyes lock and he can’t look away. Keith’s irises, flashing so many different shades and dark with shadows, draw him in, refusing to let him go. He finds it hard to focus on anything else. Everything around them fizzles out of existence as his vision tunnels in on Keith’s face. His pale, flawless skin. His hair pulled back in that pony tail that just does things to him, bangs falling across his forehead and stuck to his temples with sweat. His small, sharp nose. Those ridiculously alluring lips…

He doesn’t realize he’s staring until his eyes dart upwards, and for a moment he panics, realizing that Keith had seen him staring at his lips. But then Keith’s eyes are flickering down to his own mouth and Lance feels his heart stop in his chest, his breath shuttering out.

Then Keith is leaning forward, chests pressing together as he does so. Lance is frozen, unable to move as Keith stares at him through half lidded eyes. His gaze flickers downward as their noses brush, and Lance feels electricity spark through that small, small tender touch. He can taste Keith’s breath now, feel it fanning out across his lips, and he realizes his own are hanging open, parted slightly. In shock? Anticipation? He doesn’t know.

Keith tilts his chin upward, a small, sharp movement that brushes his bottom lip against Lance’s top lip. It’s such a small, tender touch, so light and fleeting and makes Lance’s chest clench, craving more. But Keith pulls back a fraction, letting their noses rest against each other, lips hovering mere centimeters away from Lances.

For just a moment, time stands still, and he’s certain Keith is holding his breath, too.

He doesn’t know who moves first, but suddenly there’s lips against his, and he’s kissing Keith.

Holy shit, he’s kissing Keith.

It starts out soft and hesitant but eager, lips sliding together, sharing small, short kisses, probably too wet and far too sloppy, heads bobbing as their lips part slightly, slotting together. Their bodies still move together, swaying to the beat, a slave to it, unable to let it go.

Then Keith’s hands slide up his arms, up his neck, carding through his hair, cupping his head and tilting it slightly to better fit their lips together. Out of their own accord, his fingers tighten on Keith’s hips, jerking him forward to press them firmly together. He gasps at the sudden roughness, and Lance takes the opportunity to slide his tongue past his lips, licking into his mouth. Keith only hesitates for a moment before he’s responding, arms tightening and holding Lance’s head firmly in place. Lance’s hands slide around his waist, holding onto him just as tight, like he’s the only thing anchoring him to this reality, and Lance desperately doesn’t want to let him go.

Everything else fades away. He feels like they’re alone in a writhing, twisting sea with only each other to keep themselves afloat. And while Keith is the only thing keeping him anchored, he also feels like he’s stealing his breath away. He’s drowning, gasping, and being swept away by those dark eyes, soft lips, a greedy tongue, rough hands, and firm body. It’s consuming him, washing over him and dragging him under.

Their kiss is sloppy, messy, and bordering on desperate, lips groping and tongues searching with a hunger that’s dizzying, but feels so, so good. He can’t get enough. In that moment, he needs Keith like he needs air, but the more he breathes him in, the more he’s drowning.

He’s drowning, but he thinks this is a nice way to die.

sha la la la

Later, after the fact, there will be many things about that night that blur in his memory with time and the haze of alcohol.

He’ll remember how Pidge came barreling through the crowd to collide with them, startling them apart.

He’ll remember how Keith let go of him like he had been burned, dark eyes wide in panic even as he reverently licked his lips.

He’ll remember a similar panic rising up in his gut, threatening nausea for the umpteenth time that night.

He’ll remember the gang gathering and dancing. He’ll remember Allura tugging him along to dance with her, but all the while he’d be caught between avoiding looking at Keith and finding his eyes drawn to him.

He’ll remember how he had completely forgotten about Nyma

He’ll remember how, somehow, Keith had gotten ahold of one of the glow bracelets, and had looked up at him shyly through his lashes as he slipped it onto his wrist.

He’ll remember how he had downed one last drink before asking Hunk to sit outside with him to clear his head with fresh air.

He’ll remember piling into Pidge’s van at the end of the night, climbing into the back seat and pressing his forehead against the window.

He won’t remember much of the car ride, just the bumps in the road and the cool of the glass against his skin, the blur of voices, and actively trying not to vomit.

He won’t remember how long it took to get to Pidge and Hunk’s apartment, but he would vaguely remember being helped up the stairs and collapsing on the couch before passing out.

The next morning he’ll wake in pain, from both his head and his gut, and will hurry to the bathroom only to find that he had slept with his shoes on and Pidge had drawn a dick on his forehead.

Hunk will make a light breakfast when he and Pidge stumble out of their rooms, and there’ll be little conversation and a lot of coffee.

Too tired to scrub his face, he’ll borrow a headband from Hunk to hide Pidge’s artwork and head home.

Once there, he’ll trudge to his room and take a long hot shower before collapsing onto his bed.

And there, suffering between a pounding head and rolling stomach, he’ll think about the kiss. He won’t remember details, he won’t remember who initiated it, and the events will blur in his mind’s eye, but he’ll remember some things. He’ll remember how he thought Keith’s lips were soft. He’ll remember grabbing him desperately. He’ll remember Keith running his fingers through his hair and moaning into his mouth. He’ll remember being pressed up against him and gasping for air as he drowned.

He’ll remember that, at the time, he had liked it. He had liked it a lot.

Staring at pale stars on his ceiling, looking as sickly in the daylight as he feels, he’ll whisper, “What the fuck?” And then again, softer, and with more desperation, “What the fuck?

Chapter Text

“Piiiiidge! What am I going to dooooo?” He whines, flopping his arms a little for added effect. He’s lying on their living room floor, arms sprawled out on either side of him and feet propped up on the coffee table.

“You’re going to man up.” They say, sounding bored. He doesn’t blame them. He’s been whining like this for a while now. He just can’t stop. It’s on his mind, and so he’s going to talk about it. End of story. Luckily, his friends are used to him by now. Besides, he listens to Hunk when he talks about his new recipes or inventions, and he listens to Pidge when they’re excited about all their tech mumbo jumbo or ranting about their grad school classes. The least they can do it listen to Lance when his world is a confusing mess.

It’s what friends are for.

“You hate that phrase…” He mumbles.

Pidge makes a sound that sounds a lot like “Huyup,” as they toss a grape at him from their spot on the couch. At the sound, Lance glances up in time to see the grape and shifts his head just a little to catch it easily in his mouth. He’s a grape catching champ.

“You’re right, I do.” They said idly, eating their own grape as they idly scroll through their phone, both legs pulled up onto the couch as they nest in the corner. “But in this case, I’m using the word ‘man’ in reference to its use as a short for ‘mankind’ and the implications of being an adult.”

“What’s the difference?”

“I’m not telling you to be a man. I’m telling you to grow the fuck up and don’t be a child.”

“I’m not a child!” He whines, limbs flopping. That earns him a raised brow and a barely contained upturn of their lips.

“Coulda fooled me.”

“Surrounded by sass.”

“You chose this life.”

“This life chose me.”

Pidge makes a noncommittal grunt and heaves another grape his way. He shifts to catch it, but this one bounces off his cheek and rolls across the floor. He snorts and grabs for it, blowing it off before popping it in his mouth.

“Your aim sucks.”

“You suck.”

“I knooow, Pidge! That’s my problem! So can we get back to the whole what should I do thing?”

“I already told you.”

“Telling me to man up isn’t an answer, Pidge.”

Pidge snorts. “What I mean, Lance, is that you’re an adult. He’s an adult. Adults kiss people. Adults at clubs kiss people. Adult friends sometimes kiss each other. It doesn’t have to mean anything if you don’t want it to mean anything.” They pause, looking up from their phone to gaze at him owlishly, both eyebrows raised. “Do you want it to mean something?”

“No!” He snaps, propping himself up on his elbows to glare at Pidge. Then again… Yes? Maybe… He doesn’t know. At this point, he’s not really sure. It’s only been five days since the club, and he’s still a mess about the whole thing. Easiest answer to go with is no. No, he doesn’t want it to mean anything. He doesn’t want it to ruin their budding friendship. He doesn’t want it to ruin their budding partnership. He doesn’t want to ruin his chances at regionals. He’s not throwing away this chance. He’s never throwing away a chance to further his career. Never again.

And he’s just… he’s just not sure if he wants anything as serious as a relationship— oh god, a relationship. Who was talking about relationships? It was just a kiss! A kiss at a club! A kiss in the heat of the moment when they were both drunk and dancing and it just felt right at the time!

Pidge is right. It doesn’t have to mean anything.

Still… he can’t stop thinking about how he had liked it.

Unfortunately, those thoughts are being overlapped with the knowledge that the whole kiss thing might have ruined his relationship with Keith. They haven’t exactly talked about it. Lance can’t quite get up the courage to. He’d much rather just pretend like it never happened. Like it was just a thing that happened in the dark at a club for like, two seconds… five seconds… maybe like, thirty, but who was counting? And Keith didn’t really seem like he was willing to bring it up either.

Unfortunately, the whole ‘pretend like it never happened’ thing is making things really fucking awkward.

They had a practice room reserved on Monday, but Keith texted him and said he was asked to pick up a shift at work, so he wouldn’t make it. Lance isn’t sure if he believes that or if it was just an excuse to give each other space, but at the time, he wasn’t exactly complaining. He didn’t think he was ready to see Keith, alone, in a room, by themselves.

Unfortunately, that meant the first time he saw Keith since the kiss was at their regular Wednesday lesson with Shiro and Allura. Neither of them backed out of that one, and at least on his side, it was entirely because of his fear of disappointing them. He took some solace in the fact that Keith seemed just as awkward as he felt. Luckily, Shiro and Allura seemed to read the atmosphere and had them focus more on lifts and actual dance moves instead of the more… intimate things. He was grateful for that.

He’s also grateful for the fact that they both looked extremely perplexed at the tense atmosphere between him and Keith, leading him to the conclusion that Shiro doesn’t know he kissed his brother. Thank god.

Pidge, on the other hand, knows, seeing as they were the one who found them making out on the dance floor. And because they’re the only one that knows, they get to be subject to Lance’s complaints.

“I don’t!” Lance insists when Pidge just keeps staring at him blankly. He throws his hands up in the air for emphasis. “I don’t want it to mean anything! It was just a kiss! I’m an adult! I can kiss people at clubs—!” He cuts himself off, blinking. “Oh… nice advice, Pidge.”

Pidge’s lips curl into a small smile as they look back down at their phone and blindly toss a grape at him. “No problem.” Lance catches it and shoved it in his mouth. “So what’s the problem then?”

He flops back down to the floor. “The problem is it’s awkward! I think I fucked up!”

“Didn’t you say Keith was the one who kissed you?”

“Yes! But…” He groans loudly, rubbing his hands down his face and mumbles through his fingers. “But I don’t really remember who started it. We were just… kissing?”

“So I don’t really see the problem.” Another grape throw. Another mouth catch. Score another point for Lance.

“The problem is it’s awkward!” He gasps, managing to inhale his half chewed grape. He abruptly rolls onto his side, propping himself up on an elbow as he coughs and pounds his chest. “Pidge!” He says when he recovers, looking at them with wide, horrified eyes. “What if he’s straight? What if he’s being awkward with me because he straight and I totally forced a dude kiss on him? I mean, I kind of assume that I made him uncomfortable, but what if I made him doubly uncomfortable—“

“Oh my god.” Pidge groans, rolling their eyes so hard that their whole head gets into it. They sit up a little straighter and reach up a hand, swatting up the wall until they hit the edge of the picture frame hanging above the couch. Once they make contact, they swat a little harder, knocking the corner enough to send the whole frame askew. He’s kind of surprised it didn’t just fall off the wall. Slouching back into the couch and looking at their phone, Pidge vaguely waves a hand at their handiwork. “Lance, is that picture straight?”

Lance cocks an eyebrow, staring at them incredulously. “Uh, no, Pidge you just knocked it—“

“Exactly,” They say, cutting him off. “Neither is Keith.”

Lance feels his entire face go slack, eyebrows rising to his hairline as his mouth falls open into a small circle of realization. A strange heat rises up his neck, and his chest flutters with… something. “Oh…”

“Yeah. I doubt he’s uncomfortable because you’re a dude.”

“Well…” He shifts, rubbing the back of his neck and looking away. “That doesn’t change the fact that he is uncomfortable around me…”

“Lance,” Pidge says, somehow turning his name into a sigh. “Has it occurred to you that the reason he’s awkward about it might be because you’re awkward about it?” They level him with a flat stare, and he opens his mouth to respond. Then his brows furrow, and he snaps it shut.

“Um…”

“Yeah, didn’t think so. Look, if it really doesn’t mean anything, then act like it doesn’t mean anything. If you act on edge around him all the time, he’s going to think you hate him or something—“

“I don’t!”

“Then treat him normally and stop being a big baby about this whole thing.”

“Not a baby…” He grumbles, crossing his arms over his chest and lying back on the floor, puffing out his cheeks as he turns his head to the side.

Treat him normally, huh? He can do that. Treat Keith like normal, Keith will relax, which will make Lance relax, and then they can actually be normal again. Then they can find a song, choreograph a routine, go to regionals, and make names for themselves. And most importantly, stay friends. Because Lance actually likes having Keith as a friend. He’s a cool dude. Not that he’ll ever tell Keith that.

But treat him normally? Yeah, Lance can do that.

“So do you think he’s hot?”

Lance isn’t eating a grape at the moment, but that doesn’t stop him from choking on air. He props himself up again. “What?

Pidge is looking at him, amusement in their small smile and both eyebrows raised. “Keith, do you think he’s hot?”

Lance snorts and rolls his eyes, leaning more on one elbow to wave his other hand vaguely in the air. “I think all my friends are hot! I’m friends with some really pretty people.”

“Mhmm.” Their smile quirks a fraction wider.

“I mean it! Look at Hunk! He’s a gorgeous chunk of man! Gorgeous and beautiful, inside and out. And do I really need to bring up Shiro and Allura? I mean, they pretty much hold the top spots for most beautiful people. And Coran? I mean, yeah, he’s the oldest of us, but he pretty much holds the spot for most handsome and poised. And you,” He glares as he points a finger at them.

Their smile drops, eyes narrowing. “Don’t you dare…” They whisper.

You,” He repeats, jerking his finger toward them for emphasis as he speaks in a low, threatening voice. “Are adorable.”

“Lance,” Their voice is all warning.

“I mean it, Pidge! You’re the cutest fucking human on the entire planet—“ He cuts himself off with a loud yelp of surprise as Pidge tosses their phone and grape bowl aside and launches themselves at him.

He tries to scramble backwards, but it’s too late. They slide across the coffee table and land on top of him, scrambling across him. He’s screaming, trying to push them off, but they’re small and slippery as they struggle to coil their body around him and get him into a headlock.

“You take that back!”

“Never!”

Lance isn’t sure how long they spend rolling around on the floor, but by the time Hunk gets home, he’s exhausted, sweating, sore, and has several bite and claw marks because Pidge fights dirty like the little troll they are.

“Hunk! Save me! S.O.S! Life alert!” Lance calls the second he hears the door open. Much to his dismay, Hunk takes his time closing the door, kicking off his shoes, and setting some grocery bags in the kitchen before heading into the living room. When he does, he stops and stares.

Pidge has their legs locked around his rib cage, squeezing the life out of him, and their arms putting him in a headlock. He has one hand wrapped around their arm, trying to pull it off his neck, and his other hand is behind him, fingers curled into their hair. He’s lying on top of them, having using his superior weight to flip on top of them and hoping he could get them to let go by crushing their lungs. But apparently they’re made out of tougher stuff. Like pure determination, stubbornness, and rage compact into one tiny human.

“Uh, what’s going on?” Hunk asks, not making any moves to come to his rescue.

“I called them cute and now they’re trying to kill me!” He screeches, nails digging into their arm. They retaliate by biting his shoulder. He yelps. “Ow! They’re biting me, Hunk!”

“Take it back!”

“No!”

“Awww, but Pidge is cute.”

Pidge freezes, and the suddenness of it cause Lance to still. The moment only lasts a second before Pidge has detached themselves from him, wiggles out from under him, and launches themselves at Hunk. The poor guy stares, wide eyed as Pidge scrambles toward him on all fours, trying to get their feet under them. He throws up his hands and scrambles back several steps.

Lance uses his newfound freedom to launch himself after them, wrapping them up in his longer limbs and bringing them back to the floor. They claw the carpet, trying to get away from him, but it gets them no where.

“I got you, Hunk!” Lance says, and Hunk sighs, entire body relaxing.

“Thanks, buddy.” He crouches in front of Pidge. “But really, Pidge. You’re adorable.” He says, reaching out to ruffle their hair.

They make an odd growling sound and swipe at him. There’s the loud sound of flesh slapping flesh, followed up by Hunk’s yelp, and the big guy is suddenly cradling his hand to his chest.

“Take it back!” They shout.

“Accept it!” Lance shouts louder.

“No!”

“Yes!”

Pidge thrashes wildly, but Lance uses his weight and position to his advantage to keep them pinned. They finally groan loudly, entire body going slack, arms stretched out in front of them as they bury their face into the carpet. “You guys are the worst.”

Hunk pats their head. “We love you, too.”

Lance sighs, letting his body go lax, which only crushes Pidge a little more and they let out a grunt of annoyance.

“Uh, so, not that I’m particularly surprised to come home to find you guys like this, but what started it this time?” Hunk asks.

Pidge lifts a hand, gesturing at Lance with a thumb over their shoulder. “I asked Lance if he thinks Keith is hot, and he made up a bullshit cover by saying all his friends are hot.”

Lance lets them go, pushing himself to his knees and throwing his arms up in the air. “They are! I have very attractive friends!”

Hunk nods sagely, but Pidge just snorts, lifting themselves up onto their elbows to shoot a look at Lance, a mischievous glint in their eyes as they smile sweetly. “So you do think he’s pretty.”

Lance glares at them. “Uh, yeah, by default, because all my friends are pretty.”

“But Keith is extra pretty, right?”

“No!”

“Uh huh, but you don’t go around kissing all of us.”

Hunk gapes at them, wide eyes snapping to Lance. “You kissed Keith?”

Lance glares at Pidge, heat rising to his cheeks under the weight of Hunk’s gaze. “Pidge!”

They smile innocently. “What? It’s true. You don’t go around kissing me or—“ Lance’s lips curl into a smirk, and Pidge’s eyes widen, their own smile fading. They scramble away from him. “Lance— no!”

He slowly crawls forward, eyes never leaving Pidge’s as he smiles with the same false innocence they had used on him. “Piiiidge, come heeeere.” He sing songs.

They scramble away from him. “Oh, hell no!”

“Pidge get back here!”

He chases them around the apartment, over the couch several times, around the dining room table. He thinks he corners them in the kitchen for a moment before they scramble over the bar counter and escape into the dining room before sprinting to their room. They slam the door behind them.

“Pidge!” He shouts, running after them, only to be grabbed by Hunk.

“Okay, but I’d like to backtrack for a moment and get back to you kissed Keith?!

Lance groans loudly and flops face down onto the couch. He can hear Pidge laughing from their room.

Thirty minutes later, Lance has explained the whole situation to Hunk, with a few woe is me laments for good measure. Hunk is sitting on the couch, listening and nodding when appropriate. Lance has laid with his head on Hunk’s lap, twisted so his legs could hang over the back of the couch. Pidge has crawled out of their lair and taken a seat on the other side of Hunk, leaning up against his arm and playing on their phone while occasionally adding commentary.

“Whoa…” Hunk says when he’s done. And Lance has nothing to say to that, so he just nods. Whoa is right. “So… what’re you gonna do about it?”

He shrugs, tilting his head to look across the room. “It didn’t mean anything, and I don’t want it to mean anything. So I’m going to be an adult and act normal around him.”

Pidge snorts. “Great idea, Lance.” They say dryly. “Wonder where you came up with that.”

“I’m filled with great plans.” He said, reaching a hand back to flick them in the ear.

“Okay, but you’re not going to be like… awkward tonight, are you?”

Lance turns a suspicious glare to Hunk. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Hunk looks up, rubbing the back of his neck. “It means you’re, you know, you, and with Keith coming over tonight, I don’t want it to be awkward… you know?”

“Why would it be awkward? I just told you I was gonna treat him normally!”

“He means he doesn’t want to deal with your unresolved sexual tension.” Pidge cuts in matter-of-factly.

“There’s nothing to resolve! We’re just friends!” They both give him blank stares, and he glares at them. “I’m serious! Just friends, and I’ll be totally normal. You’ll see. No awkwardness, no tension. I’ll be chill. Cool as ice. I got this.”

Pidge snorts, and Hunk hums, though it sounds skeptical.

“As long as someone doesn’t bring it up, everything will be fine.” He tries again, flicking Pidge again.

They idly swat his hand away. “I won’t say anything.” They grumble.

“Hunk?” Lance says warningly, narrowing his eyes up at his best friend.

Hunk puts his hands up in the air in a defensive gesture. “My lips are sealed, buddy!” And then he mimes the gesture.

“Good.” He nods, crossing his arms over the chest. It’s quiet for a moment, and then he says, “Besides, no matter what happens with me and Keith, there’s no way we can be as bad as Shiro and Allura.”

Right?!” Hunk says at the same time Pidge groans, “Oh my god, I know.”

Lance laughs, feeling lighter already now that the focus is off of him. “Seriously, though, how long have they been dancing around each other?”

“Pun intended?” Hunk asks.

“Totally intended.”

“Nice.” They high-five, and Pidge groans.

“Puns aside, it’s been way too fucking long. I don’t even remember Shiro before his crush on Allura.”

Hunk raises an eyebrow. “Haven’t you known Shiro for like… most of your life?”

Pidge throws their arms up in the air. “Exactly! At first it was funny, but now it’s just pathetic.”

“One of these days…” Lance says wistfully.

Pidge snorts. “Yeah, I’ll be old and gray before that happens.”

 


 

If there’s one thing in life that Keith has never been very good at, it’s resisting his impulses.

He’s always just been a little too impulsive, acting on reflexes and considering the consequences later when he’s forced to face them. Well… now he’s forced to face them as they present themselves in the form of an extremely awkward Lance and an entirely too uncomfortable atmosphere.

When he had kissed Lance, he hadn’t been thinking about how it would affect their friendship. He hadn’t been thinking about how it would affect their dancing partnership. He didn’t think about how it would affect them at all. He hadn’t been thinking at all. All he had known was the fact that Lance was sad and distracted and making these pitiful faces that tugged hard at his heart. All he had known was that those faces faded when Lance focused on him. All he knew was that he was making Lance smile again, and all he wanted at the time was for Lance to smile.

They had been so close, and the atmosphere had been so intimate, and it had just felt right. So he had kissed him. Well… sort of. He had initiated the idea, he’s pretty sure. But he can’t quite remember who actually kissed who first. They were just… suddenly kissing each other. It was a short kiss. Only like five seconds… maybe fifteen. Maybe half a minute? Who was counting.

All he knows is that it ended too abruptly when Pidge came hurtling through the crowd at them with Shiro hot on their trail. That he and Lance didn’t get intimate again that night. That he somehow ended up with a glow bracelet on his wrist, if only to make Lance smile again. That he got home and passed out fully clothed. That he woke up the next day with a pounding headache and feeling gross all over. That he kept repeating that night, the kiss, and everything that lead up to it over and over again in his mind while he laid on his bed suffering.

That he had liked it.

He didn’t regret what he had done, but he was starting to wish Lance hadn’t remembered. It would be a lot easier to pretend like it hadn’t happened and let it drift away like a barely remembered dream.

As he sits astride his bike, gazing up at Pidge and Hunk’s apartment complex with growing apprehension, he really hopes they can get back to normal soon. He misses normal. He misses hanging out with Lance without all the tension. He misses seeing him smile genuinely. He misses the casual touches that don’t mean anything. He misses the way Lance’s eyes spark with challenge or sparkle when he teases. He misses the playful pouts. Hell, he even misses the cocky smirks.

Anything is better than the Lance that treats him like he’s afraid he’ll blow up at any moment.

He just… He wants Lance back. And as much as he had enjoyed that kiss, as much as it had just felt right, he’s starting to wish he had more self control. Would he do it again? He’s… not sure. He wants to say no. He really doesn’t want to ruin this friendship, or partnership, or make things any more awkward than they already are. But at the same time, if the opportunity presented itself, he’s not sure he could say no. Does he want a relationship? Hell no. Does he like kissing Lance? Unfortunately, yes.

God damn, he hates feelings. Too fucking problematic. He didn’t sign up for this. Infatuation is one thing. He can get over infatuation. He’s done it plenty of times before. Think a guy is attractive? Fine. Give it a few weeks and it’s faded to nothing. Unfortunately for him, making out with the subject of that infatuation isn’t exactly helping to keep those feelings from reaching the crush zone.

That, unfortunately, hasn’t stopped him from replaying the kiss over and over again every time he finds himself with a free moment: when he’s trying to sleep, when he’s trying to work, when he’s fucking driving.

He just really wants things to calm down again. Which would be easier if he wasn’t so fucking awkward, and Lance wasn’t so fucking awkward, and that didn’t make him even more fucking awkward.

He spends approximately three minutes just sitting on his bike and staring up at the apartment, wondering if he should just dip out, before his phone buzzes.

caw caw motherfuckers: keith I can see you out there
caw caw motherfuckers: now get your ass up here, I’m hungry and hunk won’t let us eat before you get here

He sighs, shoving his phone back in his pocket. Guess there’s no getting out of it now. Hunk and Pidge had invited him to hang out last week, before the whole club thing happened. It would look weird if he cancelled on them now. Besides, if he wants the kiss to have meant nothing, he’s got to act like it meant nothing, right? Right.

And that’s how he finds himself outside the door to Pidge and Hunk’s apartment, running his fingers through his hair and sighing to himself before lifting a hand to knock. The door swings open before his knuckles can even make contact, and he finds himself face to face with Lance.

“Keith!” He says, a little too loud and Keith can’t stop the flinch. “Buddy! Pal! Friend-o! Homie-o bromio! How you doing?” He says with strained enthusiasm, voice pitched a little too high. Holding the door open wide with one hand, he rests his other forearm against the doorframe and leans into it. He smiles the smile that Keith knows is supposed to be charming, but honestly just looks a little too tight and doesn’t reach his eyes.

“Uh,” He says intelligibly, hand hanging awkwardly in the air for a moment before letting it drop. He shoves his hands in his pockets to keep from fidgeting. “I was… invited over?” Great. Off to a wonderful start.

“Right,” Lance says, lifting his hand off the door to point a finger gun at him. He tops it with a wink, but the overall affect looks so much like a cringe that Keith is just left staring. He… doesn’t know how to deal with this. This is even weirder than normal. This is a new level of awkward Lance that he isn’t prepared for. “I knew that.” He continues, laughing in a way that’s so strained that it’s painful to hear.

He trails off, and the two are left just staring at each other.

“So, uh…” He starts, then clears his throat, lifting a hand to rub the back of his neck. “Are you going to let me in…?”

Lance blinks one, twice, his smile falls, and then his hand is back on the door, shutting it a fraction. “What’s the password?”

Keith blinks. “What?”

Lance rolls his eyes, and the smile that curves his lips looks a hundred times more natural. “I said password, Keith. What’s the password?”

Keith’s lips press into a thin line, eyes narrowing a fraction as his hand drops to his side. “Pidge didn’t say anything about a—“

“Door’s closing Keith!” Lance sings, stepping back as he slowly starts to shut the door.

“Lance—“

“Nope, sorry! That’s not it!”

The door’s nearly closed when Keith’s hand shoots out to stop it. “Lance!”

“Password, Keith!”

Lance!”

“Yeesh, you’re terrible at this. Okay, repeat after me: Lance is the greatest.”

“No.”

“Oh, look, the door is slipping—“

Keith tries to shove the door open, but Lance leans on it from the other side, using the rest of his body to block the open space so Keith can’t slip in. He’s grinning that shit eating grin, and Keith wonders why he missed that stupid grin. He grits his teeth. “Lance, let me in.”

“Say the words, Keith.”

“No.”

“Yes!”

password pls

Keith looks at him, brows pinched and lips pursed into a small frown. With how they’re both leaning against the door, they’re surprisingly close. He tries not to think about that as he holds eye contact and mumbles a reluctant, “Lance is the greatest.” He tries to make his voice as dry and deadpan as he can, but there’s this strange fluttering in his stomach at those words that he doesn’t really want to analyze too much.

Lance’s grin drops almost immediately, face freezing in an almost comical way. And Keith thinks there might be a blush darkening his cheeks, but before he can really tell, Lance has stepped away from the door and Keith is falling through. His eyes widen as he stumbles into the entranceway, throwing a glare over his shoulder as he straightens.

“Sorry,” Lance mumbles, closing the door. And then he’s slipping past Keith, giving him an oddly wide berth as he hurries pas the kitchen and into the living room. “Keith’s here!”

“We know, Lance.” Pidge grumbles.

“Hey, Keith!” Hunk says, smile wide and warm as Keith pauses at the kitchen entrance.

Keith smiles back, small and sincere. “Hey, Hunk. Need a hand?”

Hunk snorts a short laugh. “No, that’s Shiro.”

It takes Keith a moment to realize what he meant, and when he does, he rolls his eyes. He leans against the wall at the entry way to the kitchen, crossing his arms over his chest as he deadpans, “Fuck off.”

Hunk jerks a little, startled, and stares at him with wide eyes, mouth agape. Keith can feel the small smile tugging at the corner of his lips. Hunk must see it, too, because his look of startled alarm shifts to surprise. “Oh, my god…” He mumbles. “Keith, did you just…?” Keith’s smile widens, one eyebrow going up. Hunk grins. “Keith! You just made a joke! Guys! Keith made a joke!”

“I’ve told you guys he’s secretly funny!” Lance calls out from the living room. “He just hides it under all that emo! Almost like humor is a… last resort.” Keith doesn’t need to see his face to know he’s wearing that shit eating grin.

“Oooh! Good one, Lance!” Hunk laughs.

He can hear Pidge’s groan mingling with his own before he hears their voice. “I’m way too hungry for this. Can we please eat now? I don’t want to have to resort to eating Lance. He’s all skin and bone.”

Excuse! This is all muscle! Lean, sculpted muscle.”

Pidge snorts. “Yeah, sure it is, string bean.”

Hunk shoots Keith an amused, wry smile before gesturing to the plates and food he has set up on the counter. “Mind helping me carry this out there before they kill each other?”

Keith raises an eyebrow. “Would that really be such a bad thing?”

Hunk taps his chin, thoughtful. “As amusing as it would be to watch, I don’t want to have to pay rent alone.”

Keith hums. “Fair enough.”

Dinner that night consisted of the most intense loaded nachos Keith had ever seen. They brought out two trays of it, setting them on the coffee table. Everyone had their own plates and they picked what they wanted. There was so much that Keith gave in and used a fork, along with Hunk. Lance and Pidge, however, went bare handed, calling Hunk and Keith weak before exchanging a very messy high five.

While they ate, they watched Shrek. When Keith questioned it, Pidge whispered a quiet “Don’t” before Lance was set off in a speech that sounded half prepared and half like he was pulling it out of his ass. Something about true fairy tale romance, a thrilling saga of character growth, and ending it with, “And come on, who wouldn’t want to be cradled in those big, green, ogre bara hands?”

At that, Pidge, Hunk, and Keith all silently raised a hand.

It’s not too bad, and after Keith finishes eating, he settles back into the couch feeling far too stuffed to move. The others seem to echo that sentiment. Lance, he notices, managed to sit as far away from him as possible. He tries not to let that get to him.

All in all, Lance isn’t as awkward as he was expected. But Keith feels like he’s on a never ending rollercoaster. One moment Lance is fine and joking with him like normal, the next he won’t make eye contact. One moment he’s grinning, the next his smile is too tense and won’t reach his eyes. One moment he’s teasing Keith, and the next he won’t even talk to him. One moment they’re fine and normal, and the next everything is awkward. And when he’s not avoiding him all together, he picks at Keith in a way that’s reminiscent of when they first met, and it… it hurts. He always laughs it off, like he doesn’t realize he’s being antagonistic, but Keith hates it. It’s weird. It’s hectic. And Keith is tired of it.

He’s pretty sure Pidge and Hunk feel the tension, too, because they keep sending Lance looks whenever he gets weird and apologetic smiles to Keith.

Keith really fucking hopes they don’t know why Lance is being so weird.

When Robin Hood comes on screen, Lance leaps up and claims the open space in the living room to do his own theatrical rendition of the song. Hunk stays on the couch, but does the merry men vocals for him, complete with clapping hands and an array of expressions. Pidge sits next to him, phone in their hand to record them both. Keith isn’t sure how they got it ready so fast, but he supposes being with these two a lot keeps them on their toes. As soon as Lance and Hunk realize Pidge is recording, they start performing to the camera. Pidge keeps their free hand clapped over their mouth to stifle their giggles.

Keith hasn’t seen this movie in years. He hasn’t thought about it in years. But that doesn’t change the fact that he and Shiro used to watch it when they were kids. And because of that, he knows exactly how Hood’s song ends.

Lance has been avoiding looking at him for nearly twenty minutes, even while performing, and now his attention is on Pidge and their phone, so he doesn’t notice when Keith slips off the couch, one of the couch pillows in hand. Keith slowly creeps around the coffee table and positions himself just behind Lance’s peripheral vision. Not that he needs to bother. Lance is so wrapped up in his performance and interacting with Hunk for Pidge’s entertainment. Pidge, however, does see him. He sees it in the way their eyes flicker to him briefly, in the way their lips curl a little higher.

Then Hood’s song comes to it’s end, and Lance a fork that he had scooped off the table at Pidge while holding out the long last note, and then right when Fiona cut’s off Hood’s song with a kick, Keith slaps Lance in the side of the head with the pillow.

Lance goes down with a startled yelp, and Pidge bursts out laughing, followed shortly after by Hunk. Keith grins down at Lance, but he doesn’t loose it until Lance looks up at him, pillow clutched in his hands, expression torn between an offended scowl and a pout. Then Keith’s gone. He bends at the waist, eyes squeezing shut as laughter bubbles out of him. One arm wraps around his middle, but the other has to rest against his knee to keep himself from toppling over. He feels moisture gathering at the corners of his eyes.

Then there’s suddenly a pillow hitting him in the face. His laughter chokes off as he straightens, but he barely manages to toss the pillow away before Lance is tackling him. They both go down, Lance on top, scrambling to pin him. Keith pushes at him, his face, his shoulders, shoving his legs with his own. Lance is slippery and all limbs and every time Keith pushes at him, he bends to avoid the actual shove. Like a god damn cat.

Keith finally gets a leg around him and manages to flip their positions, but Lance doesn’t stay down for long. Every time he thinks he’s got an advantage, Lance flips it on him. Luckily, he’s able to do the same. Unfortunately, that leads to neither of them winning and mostly just rolling around on the floor in a fit of chaotic limbs, grunts, and half muttered insults. Distantly, he realizes that if they keep this up, one of them is going to end up getting hurt. At the least, they're going to end up dislocating a shoulder or spraining a wrist or knocking an ankle out of alignment. He can hear Pidge and Hunk talking in the background, but he can’t focus on them with Lance so close, growling insults and complaining in his ear.

Keith has taken martial arts for years, he goes to the gym regularly, and he thinks all of that combined with dancing gives him a pretty good understanding of his body and how to use it to his advantage. All of that means nothing when he severely underestimated Lance’s ability to just be squirrelly as fuck. When Lance has managed to have him pinned for nearly five minutes and none of Keith’s struggles do him any good, he finally huffs in annoyance and lets his body go slack.

It takes another thirty seconds before Lance believes him. He sits back on Keith’s thighs, straddling his hips. He puts his hands on Keith’s shoulders to prop himself up as he grins down at him, a victorious twinkle in his eyes. “Pinned ya.”

Keith huffs again, blowing his bangs out of his eyes as he scowls up at Lance. “Good job.” He says dryly. “Now can you get off me.”

“Hold on, I’m just basking in my victory.” He says, grin sharpening into a smirk. Keith just glares at him.

“Oh man, I’m so glad I got that on video.” Pidge says, and both of their heads snap up to stare at them. Pidge’s phone is still aimed at them, and Keith sees Lance’s smile widen. He sits back, lifting his hands to pose, flexing for the camera.

Keith rolls his eyes before planting his feet and bucking his hips sharply upward. Lance yelps, jostled, but manages to stay where he is. He flops back down, hands landing on either side of Keith’s head to catch himself, and suddenly it dawns on him just how close they are. He can see the realization come to Lance at nearly the same time. His eyes widen a fraction, lips parting as his jaw goes slack, a multitude of emotions passing over his face but all gone before Keith can pin point them. Then he presses his lips together and his Adam’s apple bobs as he swallows thickly.

Keith’s mouth feels dry.

He blinks, and suddenly Lance is off of him, scrambling to his feet and taking several hurried steps backwards. “Ha! Yeah, so anyway, I win! You suck, Keith.” He babbles, voice pitched a little too high for his nonchalance to be realistic. That, and the fact that he refuses to look at Keith, even when attempting to goad him. “Wow, boy am I thirsty. Anyone else thirsty? I’m going to go to the kitchen, heh. Don’t worry about pausing the movie.” He’s been slowly taking a few steps back, but with that, he turns on his heel and scuttles out of the room, leaving the rest of them staring after him in surprised silence.

Silence that’s getting thicker and tenser by the second. Pidge and Hunk look like they’re torn between giving him apologetic smiles and avoiding looking at him all together.

“I shouuuuld take these to the kitchen.” Hunk says, a little too loudly, reaching for the nacho trays as he starts to stand.

“I got it.” Keith says, on his feet and swiping the trays away before he really knows what he’s doing.

“But I—“ Hunk’s cut off by a Pidge elbow to the side, and Keith leaves before he can really dwell on the fact that both of them probably know.

He’s not really sure what he’s going to say. It’s not like he was planning on having this conversation. But he’s had enough, and he’s tired of it. He’s tired of Lance being weird. He’s tired of feeling like he has to be on eggshells around him. Being impulsive got him into this mess, and he hopes being impulsive will get him out of it.

When he gets to the kitchen, Lance is bent over behind the fridge door. Keith steps in, drops the trays loudly into the sink and turns around in time to see Lance jump and straighten, spinning around to stare at him wide eyed. “Keith!”

Keith crosses his arms over his chest, leaning back against the counter. “Lance.”

Lance fidgets, eyes darting around the kitchen. “What’re you, uh, doing here? Not that you can’t be here! Obviously you can come to the kitchen if you want to.” His words are quick and hurried and he grabs a can of Coke from the fridge before closing it. “I was just getting a drink, but I’ll be go—“

“Lance,” Keith repeats, maybe a little too sharply, and Lance freezes mid step, finally looking at him with wide eyes. Keith sighs, holding eye contact as he tries to work up the courage to say what he needs to. He can feel his lips working, pressing and relaxing, tugging downward.

Lance relaxes a bit, standing a little straighter, brows pinching, small frown on his lips. “Keith, what are you—“

“We kissed.” He blurts, because apparently when he can’t quite figure out what to say, he says it bluntly. He’s making hard eye contact with Lance, so he sees the moment Lance freezes, mouth snapping shut, eyes widening even as his brows furrow. His shoulders rise in a stance Keith has started to associate with him being defensive. The panic in his eyes is all too clear, so Keith goes on before he bolts from the room. “We kissed.” He repeats, voice a lot softer and a lot kinder, words trailing off with a sigh. It feels… good to get that out in the open.

Lance’s eyes are intense, and Keith finds the emotions dancing across them to be too much and too overwhelming, so his own gaze drifts down to the floor. His fingers tighten around his upper arms, jaw clenching reflexively.

“Uh… yeah, we did.” He finally says, voice just as soft as Keith’s had been. When Keith looks up, Lance is looking to the side, hand rubbing the back of his neck. “We did that…”

“Do you hate me?”

“What?” Lance’s gaze snaps to his, eyes wide and mouth hanging open.

Keith holds his gaze, refusing to look away. “Do you hate me?”

“Wha— no! Why would I—“

“Then why are you acting weird?”

Lance gapes at him. “Wha— me? You’re acting weird!”

Keith’s brows furrow. “You started it.”

You started it!”

Keith sighs, lifting a hand to pinch the bridge of his nose, eyes closing. “Look, Lance…” He lets his hand drop and he looks up through his bangs. Lance is watching him cautiously, the fire that had been building already gone out. He’s chewing his bottom lip, and that shouldn’t be as endearing as it is. Keith feels the irritation seeping from him. “Can we just… go back to normal?”

He watches Lance’s Adam’s apple bob. He licks his lips before he echoes, “Normal?”

“Yeah, normal. Back to how we were before…” He waves a hand around. “It happened. We kissed at a club. It’s no big deal. I don’t want—“ He cuts himself off, huffing as he looks away, shifting uncomfortably. “I don’t want this to ruin our friendship. I just want us to be… normal.”

He’s silent for a while, and as the moment stretches, Keith feels the tension in him rising, stiffening his shoulders and tightening his arms over his chest. Then Lance speaks, and it’s so casual and so calm that the tension dissolves instantly. “Yeah, we can do that.” Keith looks up, breath stopping in his throat at the sight of Lance’s smile, small and cocky and genuine, and so very Lance. It’s what he’s been missing. What he didn’t realize he’s been needed to see. The look in his eyes is so soft and filled with emotions that Keith doesn’t want to name and so focused on him that he has to consciously keep himself from fidgeting again. “Well, I can do that. Think you’re up to the test, mullet?”

He feels his lips quirk up into a small smirk. “What? No fancy name this time?”

Lance shrugs, crossing his arms over his chest and cocking his hip to the side. “I may or may not need to do more research.”

Keith snorts, pushing off the counter and starts toward the kitchen entryway. He only gets a few steps before there’s a hand on his arm, pulling him to a stop. He half turns, looking from the hand to Lance’s face, quirking an eyebrow in question. He’s searching Keith’s face, chewing on his bottom lip again. But there’s a spark of determination in those eyes that Keith knows all to well. It gives him chills. “So, uh…” He lifts his free hand to rub the back of his neck, but stops when he lifts his soda can. He stares at it for a moment like he forgot it was there before shaking his head and turning to look back at Keith. Once their eyes catch, Keith feels like he can’t look away. “I just wanted to ask… do you regret it?” His voice is so soft filled with so much concern and worry that Keith doesn’t hesitate before answering.

“No.” He says, voice surprisingly steady. Something about Lance shifts. It’s subtle, hard to pinpoint, but the kicked puppy look evaporates like it had never been there to begin with. Leaving a Lance who looks so wholly relaxed and… happy.

“Good,” He says on an exhale, like he had been holding his breath. A smile curves his lips on the trail end of it. “Neither do I.”

Keith’s heart stutters in his chest. He hadn’t realized just how much he’d been hoping to hear those words, how much he needed to hear those words, how worried he had been if he didn’t… His gut knots just as his stomach flutters, and it’s such a contradicting feeling that it leaves him off kilter.

Without his permission, he feels his lips curling into a small, sincere smile.

“You know, just a couple of bros being bros.” Lance says, voice light and teasing as his grin widens. “Just dudes kissing dudes.”

Keith’s smile drops and he groans, rolling his eyes. “Don’t ruin it.”

Keith tugs his arm out of Lance’s grasp, and he lets go easily. “Okay, but Keith, buddy, in all seriousness, I need to know…” He asks, face dropping into a small frown as he pins Keith with his eyes. He might have pulled off the whole serious look, if it weren’t for the corners of his lips twitching upward again. “Am I a good kisser?”

Keith groans again, rolling his eyes as he shoves Lance’s shoulder hard enough to make him stumble back a few steps. “I said don’t ruin it.”

Lance laughs as Keith leaves the kitchen, following close behind. “Keith! I need to know! For science!”

“Five out of seven.” Keith says over his shoulder, and when he glances back, he’s pleased to find Lance has stopped and is gaping at him.

“Keith, did you just meme me?”

Keith raises an eyebrow, side of his lips curving upward into a small smirk. He tilts his head to the side. “They’ll never believe you.”

Lance gasps, hand to his chest. “You’re worse than Pidge!”

 


 

“Pidge, your phone is vibrating.” Hunk says, lobbing a piece of popcorn over the coffee table and cleanly into Lance’s waiting mouth.

“Seventy-two,” Lance says.

“I know, but I’m trying to concentrate.” They say, tossing a piece to Keith. He has to turn his head to head quickly to try to catch it, but he misses. It bounces off his nose onto the floor. He glares at it before picking it up to eat it begrudgingly.

Lance giggles, biting his bottom lip to try to stifle the sound. Keith turns his head to the side to glare at him.

“Doesn’t look like it’s working.” Hunk says thoughtfully, eating a piece of popcorn himself.

“Yeah, what’s your number, Keith?” Lance asks, grin wide enough to crinkle his eyes.

Keith has to look away, heat rising up his neck. “Fifty-seven.” He grumbles.

“You guys suck at this.”

“And why are you so good at it?” Keith asks, crossing his arms over his chest.

Lance puts his hands behind his head, crossing his legs at the ankles where they’re resting propped up on the coffee table next to Keith’s. He shrugs. “Natural talent.” Keith snorts indignantly, and Lance chuckles. “Don’t be jealous of the dynamic duo. Up top, Hunk!” Lance lifts a foot. Hunk slouches further on the couch and lifts a foot to press it to Lance’s.

“I blame Keith.” Pidge mumbles, reaching for their phone as they eat a few pieces from the bowl in their lap. The third Shrek movie has just started and is playing on the tv, but none of them are paying any attention anymore. He’s not even sure how they got into this position, but he’s certain it has something to do with Lance’s competitive streak and his inability to turn down a challenge. Next thing he knows, they’re lying side by side on the floor while Pidge and Hunk throw popcorn across the room at them.

He can’t complain too much, though. After their short talk in the kitchen, things between them has been a lot better. The awkward tension has all but dissipated, gone like it had never been there to begin with. In it’s wake is a new kind of tension. A much more subtle one. One that shows itself in sideways glances, small smiles, playful teasing. It’s… Keith doesn’t know what it is, but it’s not bad, so he’ll take it. They spent most of the second movie sitting next to each other on the couch, playfully kicking each other before Pidge got tired of it and sat on both their legs. They both then proceeded to poke at Pidge instead.

“Who is it?” Hunk asks curiously, leaning over to loom over Pidge, eyes on their phone.

“Yeah, who’s blowing up your digits, little pidgeon?” Lance asks from his spot on the floor.

Pidge just makes a short, amused sound. “It’s just Matt. He’s complaining that Shiro is doing the thing again.”

Hunk raises both brows. “What thing?”

Keith snorts. “He’s planning his first date with Allura again, isn’t he?”

“Yyyup.”

“Aww, that’s so cute.” Hunk coos.

“It would be cute if he actually got the nerve to ask her.” Keith deadpans.

“Instead of telling Matt all about it, who then tells me about it, which I then tell Keith about it.” Pidge continues. “And now you guys, I guess.”

“I think he’s planned like twelve first dates at this point.”

“Whoa, whoa,” Lance pushes himself up on his elbows, looking between them. “Shiro plans his first dates with Allura?” A slow smile was creeping over his lips.

Keith shrugs with one shoulder. “If you can call it that.”

“More like he hypothetically plans dates and talks to Matt about it, but we all know he’s doing it with Allura in mind.” Pidge adds. “He gets so into it that he doesn’t notice when Matt puts on his headphones and zones out.”

Lance pulls his feet off the table, crossing his legs under him as he sits up. “Oh, man, this is great.” He laughs, grin wide. “Allura does the same fucking thing.”

They all stare at him, but it’s Hunk who speaks. “How do you know that?”

Lance shrugs, grin turning mischievous. “She tells me about it sometimes. And when she doesn’t, she’s telling Coran about it, and he does the same thing with me that Matt is doing with Pidge.”

“Bro,” Hunk almost looks hurt. “You never told me that.”

Lance gives him an apologetic look. “Sorry, buddy, but she told me in confidence. It’s bro code.”

Keith snorts. “Didn’t stop you from telling us now.”

Lance gives him a small half scowl, half pout, and shoves him. Keith just chuckles under his breath, and they exchange small smiles.

“Anyway!” Lance says, clapping his hands together. “Point is, those two are completely hopeless and have been for years. They’re both planning dates that they refuse to ask the other out on!”

Hunk scratches his chin thoughtfully. “I can’t tell if that’s cute and endearing or just sad.”

“It’s just plain sad.” Pidge offers.

“Seconded.” Keith adds.

“I have an idea!” Lance announces, and they all turn to look at him. He’s grinning, and takes a moment to make eye contact with all of them. He does it like he’s trying to build suspense, but Keith already has an idea of where he’s going with this. “We should set them up on their first date!”

Yup, there it is.

They’re all silent for a moment, then Hunk breaks it. “Uh… how’re we going to do that?”

Lance is ready with an answer. “We get Matt and Coran to bring them to the same place at the same time, where we’ve set up the best and most awesome and most memorable first date ever.”

“Lance—“ Keith starts, but Pidge cuts him off.

“No, wait. This might just work…” They all turn to stare at Pidge. Even Lance looks surprised.

“Really?” He asks, then shakes his head, crossing his arms over his chest. “I mean, pffff, yeah, of course it will! I’m a genius.”

“Yeah, really,” Pidge continues, tapping their chin with their phone. “Think about it. We’re all tired of them dancing around each other— pun intended,” They add, high fiving Hunk. “They’re basically dating anyway, but both of them refuse to just do it. So why don’t we just give them the shove they need?”

Hunk hums thoughtfully. “It could be pretty fun.”

Keith sighs, pulling his feet down from the table to sit up. He knows at this point, he’s going to be pulled it to it regardless, so he might as well jump on board. Besides, he’s tired of watching his brother pine uselessly when the girl he loves is so obviously head over heels for him. It’s just embarrassing at this point. He runs his fingers through his hair. “Okay, but what date do we do?”

Lance claps a hand on his shoulder. “Just leave that to me. I’m great with plans.”

Part of him wants to challenge that claim, the side of him that always want to challenge and poke at Lance. But he looks so genuinely excited, eyes sparkling, so Keith just shrugs. “Alright.”

His smile dims a fraction. “Wha— that’s it?”

Keith shrugs again, lips quirking into a small smile. “Yeah. I don’t have any ideas, so…”

They share small, genuine smiles.

“This shit has got to be over the top,” Pidge cuts in. “Nothing says over the top like Lance. I’m in.”

Lance tears his eyes away from Keith to glare at Pidge. “I’m going to take that as a compliment.”

“In this case, it was one.”

“I’m in, too.” Hunk says. “This is going to be great.”

They all look to Keith. “I’m in.”

“Yes!” Lance shouts, throwing a fist into the air. “Operation Parent Trap is a go!”

Hunk laughs. “Oooh! Nice name, buddy!”

Lance rubs his nails on his shirt, smiling smugly. “Thanks, buddy.” He pushes himself to his feet, stretching his arms over his head until his back pops. “Don’t worry, I won’t let you guys down. I’m going to plan the most tooth rottingly sweet first date ever.”

“I believe in your ability to make this gross.” Pidge says.

He’s already walking down the hallway toward the bathroom, but he turns to walk backwards so he can shoot finger guns at Pidge.

“While he’s gone, do you think we can catch up in points?” Pidge asks as soon as they hear the bathroom door close.

Keith looks up to see them positioned with a piece of popcorn held in their fingers, ready to throw. He shrugs, leaning back on his hands and opening his mouth.

“I’m pretty sure that’s cheating.” Hunk says.

Pidge throws anyway, and Keith manages to catch it. “Lance would do the same thing.” They say.

Hunk hums thoughtfully, the nods. “Good point.” He leans back. “Carry on.”

They get two more throws in before there’s suddenly a loud scream coming from across the apartment. They all jump, and Keith whips around just in time to see the bathroom door being thrown open and Lance hurling himself through it.

Hunk!” He shouts, scrambling fast enough that he nearly trips and runs on all fours for a second before gaining his feet again. His eyes are wide in what Keith can only describe as pure panic.

“Lance, wha—“

“HunK!” He reaches the couch and scrambles over the arm of it, practically throwing himself across the cushions. “Hunk! Bathroom! Spider! Juan! HUNK, GET JUAN.”

Keith watches in complete bewilderment as Hunk sighs, pushing himself to his feet and walking across the living room with all the calmness in the world. He heads out of sight toward the front door, and Keith turns back to the other two. Lance looks like he’s simultaneously trying to crawl into Pidge’s lap and curl around them. Pidge is desperately trying to shove him off.

“Lance— get off—!”

Hunk comes back and pauses in the living room. Keith looks at him, both eyebrows raised. “Juan?”

Hunk nods solemnly and lifts the shoe. “Juan.”

Juan

And then he heads down the hallway toward the bathroom.

“Be careful, Hunk! It’s huge!”

“Lance, where is it?” Hunk calls from the bathroom.

“On the wall between the toilet and the shower! Right at face level! It almost jumped on my face, Hunk!”

“Awww, Lance, it’s not that big.”

Kill it, Hunk. Murder it with Juan.”

There’s a loud sigh, followed by a muffled thump. Hunk comes back out, pausing as he enters the living room and smiling as he holds up his shoe. “Got it.”

“Hunk! Juan! My hero!” Lance leaps up from where he’s half crushing Pidge into the cushions, sprints across the couch, and leaps toward Hunk. Hunk must be used to this, because he catches Lance without a second thought.

Keith looks to where Pidge is pushing hair out of their face. “What just happened?”

Pidge huffs, sending a mild glare toward Lance. “He’s terrified of spiders and always makes Hunk kill them. He nicknamed Hunk’s left shoe Juan Shoe, The Savior. Now whenever he sees a bug in the apartment, he calls for Juan.”

Keith raises an eyebrow. “Specifically the left one?”

They nod. “Specifically the left one.”

Keith looks back to where Hunk is holding Lance up, an amused look on his face as Lance sings praises of him and Juan. Without really thinking about it, Keith feels his face relax, lips quirking at the corners in amusement as a strange, warm feeling starts up in his chest. It’s so dramatic and so ridiculous, but so amusing and so endearing and so incredibly Lance.

When Lance catches him watching, he rolls out of Hunk’s grasp, grabs the shoe, and crawls across the floor to make introductions. The entire time he goes about his over the top speech about the incredible Juan and the many times he’s been saved, Keith can’t look away from his face, so animated and expressive. Every time Keith laughs, Lance’s enthusiasm is spurred on. Keith notices that his cheeks vaguely ache from smiling. It’s a strange feeling.

He’s cute. The thought comes to him unbidden and with a fluttering echo in his chest, followed quickly by a sinking sensation in his stomach and a mildly horrified, Oh no

 


 

By seven o’clock on Friday night, Lance and Keith are both waiting outside the dance studio’s back door. Matt pulls up with Shiro first. After he parks, he guides his blindfolded roommate out of the car and across the parking lot.

“Special delivery!” He calls out, one hand on Shiro’s arm.

Shiro frowns. “Matt, what are you—“

“Thanks, Matt.”

“Lance?” The man’s eyebrows shoot upward, frown deepening. He sees Shiro stiffen and his steps falter, but Matt just tugs him forward. “What’s going on?”

“I told you not to worry about it.” Matt says.

“And that’s exactly why I’m worrying about it.”

“Just shut up and trust us.” Keith says, sounding exasperated already.

“Keith?” They come to a stop in front of them, and Shiro turns his head like he’s trying to look between them. His brows furrow. “Now I’m definitely worried.”

“Ha ha,” Keith deadpans. “Thanks, Matt. We’ll take it from here.”

“No problem.” Matt says, letting go of Shiro’s arm and stepping away. He shoves his hands in his pockets and rocks back on his heels, smiling a lopsided grin that reminds him entirely of Pidge. “I expect him home before ten.”

“No promises,” Lance says with a wink.

Both Keith and Shiro groan, which earns laughter from Lance and Matt. The latter takes a couple steps backwards and waves. “Later, guys. Good luck! Tell Pidge to send me video.”

“Will do!” Lance calls.

“Pidge is here, too? Video of what?”

Keith sighs, taking Shiro’s arm and pulling him toward the door. “Don’t worry about it.”

“Can I take this blindfold off now?”

“Nope,” Keith says, popping the ‘p’ sound. As he walks through the door, the glances over his shoulder at Lance, who gives him a smile and a thumbs up. Keith’s returning smile is small, but entirely too endearing for his own good. Or for Lance’s own good.

He turns away and lets his eyes sweep across the parking lot. Coran arrives not too long after. He pulls right up to the door and doesn’t even bother turning the car off before he’s out the door and loping around to the other side.

“Hey, Coran.” Lance greets.

The older man grins, giving him a once over. “Lance, my boy! You look positively dashing.”

Lance smirks, holding an extended thumb and forefinger to his chin. “Like always.”

Coran opens the passenger side door and holds out a hand for Allura as she slips out of the car. “Coran, where are we? Did I hear—“

“Evening, princess.”

“Lance?”

“The one and only.”

Her brows furrow. “What’s going on?”

“Do you trust me?” Coran asks.

Allura’s look softens. “You know I do.”

“Then trust me when I say,” He guides her forward and places her hand In Lance’s. “That they will take good care of you.”

Her face scrunches up, but she resigns herself with a reluctant. “Alright…”

“Good luck!” Coran says, skipping around to the drivers side of his car. “Do tell Pidge to send me video, won’t you?”

“Will do! Thanks, Coran.”

“Video?”

“Don’t worry about it, princess.” He says smoothly, taking her hand gently and guiding her through the door. It clicks softly shut behind them.

“I do wish you would stop calling me that.”

“No can do. Tonight, you are a princess.”

“Lance, where is this going?” She asks warily, practically dragging her feet and subtly tugging against Lance’s hold in her own apprehension.

“You’ll see.” He sing songs, pulling her into the elevator and pressing the button for the second floor. When it dings open, he pulls her along down the hall.

“Are we… at the studio?”

He pauses mid step, glancing at her curiously. “How could you tell?”

A small smile curves her lips. “It felt like that’s the way Coran was going, plus we hit that pothole on the way to the back parking lot that we’ve been meaning to fix. Not to mention I’ve known the layout of this place since I was a child. It smells the same, too.”

Laugh laughs, continuing to walk her along. “That’s some impressive detective work. Now can you guess why you’re here?”

“I haven’t a clue.” She says in honest bafflement.

He grins. Good. He looks forward to the surprise.

When he reaches room 2A, he opens the door and guides her in. Keith and Shiro are already there, Keith with one hand on Shiro’s arm and Shiro positioned on the far side of the small table, next to one of the chairs.

At the sound of the door, his head shifts. “Who’s that?”

“Shiro?”

“Allura?”

“Lance, what’s going on?”

He doesn’t say anything as he sets her up across the table from Shiro. He exchanges a look with Keith before they’re both reaching up to pull off the blindfolds. They both step back, standing side by side as they wait for the two of them to take in their surroundings.

He’s not disappointed. The first thing they see is each other, eyes locking for a long moment before they take in what the other is wearing. Coran and Matt had told them to dress nicely, but hadn’t told them where they were going. As their gazes roam down the other, they see the table between them: a simple, round, two person table dressed up with a dark red table cloth. There’s two sets of plates and silverware and a small vase at the center with a single rose. Next to it is a bucket of ice with a bottle of wine. From there, their gazes drift around the room.

The room itself is Lance’s masterpiece. It’s their usual practice room, but he’s put some serious elbow grease into sprucing it up. The walls have tapestries of rich fabric in dark colors hung up around them to block out the windows and walls. The edges of the room has candles everywhere, some in clusters and some scattered, all lit to create a soft warm glow along the edges. Various vases of roses are positioned with candle clusters, as well as rose petals scattered about. The whole mood is brought together by the lighting, where Pidge has replaced some of the lights with colored bulbs, turning them down power and positioned them so the whole room is cast in purples and pinks.

And the pièce de rèsistance is the wall length mirror, reflecting the whole scene back to them. He worked hard to create a romantic, cozy, and intimate atmosphere out of the place where they’ve spent the most time together. And yeah, it costed them quite a pretty penny to get everything, but Coran covered half the expenses on his own, and they split the remaining cost. It was worth it for Shiro and Allura.

Lance watches them, unable to hide his wide grin. They both look like a wonderful mix of shock and awe. The lighting, combination of the colored light from above and the soft candle light from below, reflects off their eyes. Allura’s seem to sparkle, but not nearly as much as Shiro’s when he looks at her. He sees the moment they finish absorbing their surroundings and the whole implication of them really starts to set in. He sees the slight widening of their eyes, the way Shiro’s lips purse in his ‘I’m trying to hide a blush’ face, the way Allura’s jaw drops as she gasps and her hands go to her chest, the way both of their complexions seem to get darker despite the already dim lighting.

They stare at each other, and slowly, so slowly it takes Lance a moment to see it, they smile. Their expressions soften, and their entire bodies relax for the first time since they arrived. The moment is suddenly weirdly private and intensely intimate, and Lance finds he has to look away.

He makes the mistake of looking at Keith.

They’re both dressed to the nines. Coran had taken them out to get matching outfits for the occasion: tightly fitted black slacks, shoes to match, and black vests with matching colored button-ups underneath. Lance’s is a deep blue, and Keith’s is a dark red. They both have their shirts rolled up to the elbows, and it shows off Keith’s forearms nicely. At Lance’s insistence, they both slicked their hair back. He just wanted to go all out with the whole fancy theme they have going on. He knew he’d look good, but he wasn’t expecting the way his heart went into overdrive when Keith came out of the bathroom with his hair slicked back and out of his face. Or for how endearing it was when he shuffled his weight from foot to foot and looked up at Lance through his lashes to ask if he looked alright in a low mumble.

Looking at Keith now, Lance sees the flaws in his plan.

He knows he looks good. He can feel it. He sees it in the mirror. He pulls off the look fantastically. He had expected as much. What he hadn’t expected was how good Keith would look. If he looks good, Keith looks phenomenal.

Looking at him now, seeing the lighting play off his pale complexion, seeing the way the clothes fit him in all the right places, seeing the soft, amused smile on his lips as he watches his brother, seeing the way he stands relaxed with his arms crossed loosely over his chest… He takes his breath away.

And then Keith is turning to look at him, and Lance is captured by those dark eyes. He can feel his excited grin is still fixed in place, and Keith’s smile widens just a fraction in response.

Then he fucking winks, and Lance feels his heart stutter in his chest.

He doesn’t have time to dwell on it, however, because Shiro and Allura have turned to them, taking in their outfits for the first time.

“Uh, guys?” Shiro says, snapping their attention back to him. “What’s going on?” He asks, but his words are slow and cautious.

Clearing his throat, Lance drops into a graceful and practiced bow. “Welcome to The Altean Kitchen . Keith and I will be your waiters this evening. Hunk has already prepared a lovely meal for you both, which we’ll be serving shortly.” He straightens and smoothly steps up behind Allura, pulling out her chair and gesturing to it. “We invite you to sit, and we hope you enjoy your evening.”

Allura stares at him blankly, then to the chair, then to Shiro. He shrugs, and she sits. With a hand on the back of her chair, Lance looks to Keith. He hasn’t moved. Lance puts a fist to his mouth and clears his throat loudly. Keith raises an eyebrow and Lance looks pointedly to Shiro’s seat. Keith follows his gaze, stares, and then heaves a heavy sigh, shoulder slumping in defeat as he goes to pull the chair out for his brother.

Once they’re both sitting, Keith works on uncorking the bottle of whine. When he does, he passes it to Lance who pours for them both.

“So, uh…” Shiro rubs the back of his neck. “What’s the occasion?”

Allura mumbles a soft thanks to Lance and takes her glass, lifting it to her lips to sip.

“You’re on your first date.” Keith says bluntly, lips curling into a small smirk as Allura chokes on her wine and Shiro gapes at him, scar being thrown into stark relief against his blush.

“We’ll leave you two alone now.” Lance says, grabbing hold of Keith’s wrist and tugging him away from the table. “We’ll be back shortly with the appetizers!” He calls out behind him as he shuts the door. They’re halfway to the stairs before Lance realizes he’s still holding Keith’s arm and let’s go. He covers up his embarrassment by racing Keith down the stairs.

The rest of the date goes smoothly. Hunk had prepared the food at their apartment and brought it over after Shiro and Allura showed up. He set up shop in the studio’s meager half kitchen break room, and they finished off the dishes as best they could. Pidge, being the little tech gremlin they are, set up a subtle camera in the room so they could keep an eye on the date, as well as hooked the sound system up to their own portable remote. As soon as Keith and Lance left, they started to play soft music to further set the mood.

They bring up the appetizers, followed by the main course, and later dessert. They keep an eye on the two through the camera feed to see when they’re needed, but other than that they leave the two alone. The awkward tension dissolves somewhere after the appetizer, and it’s not long before the two of them are leaning across the table, smiling, and absorbed in conversation.

As it turns out, there’s a lot more downtime than they were anticipating. With the food already prepared, they spend a lot of time simply waiting for Shiro and Allura to be ready for the next course. After some rummaging, Hunk manages to find a few decks of cards, and the four of them sit on the break room table to play several rounds of Tic. They pause whenever Pidge decides it’s time for the next course, and Keith and Lance have to hurry upstairs.

When they’ve been done with dessert for long enough that they’re both starting to look fidgety, Lance declares that it’s time for phase two of the date. He and Keith head upstairs and push into the room. With a flourish, they pull Shiro and Allura to their feet, each grab a chair under one arm, and use their free hands to carry the table between them as they shuffle toward the door. It goes so quick that Shiro and Allura are left standing there, staring after them.

They both manage a few half formed questions, but Lance just shoots them a wide smile before closing the door. He and Keith leave the table and chairs out in the hall before sprinting back down to the break room.

“Did we miss it?” Lance asks, bursting into he room.

“Nope, we were just about to start.” Pidge says, pulling their laptop into their lap where they sit crosslegged on the table.

Lance hurries into the room, Keith right behind him. Hunk sits on the table behind Pidge, leaning over them to watch the camera feed. Lance props his ass up on the table next to Pidge, one foot dangling and the other resting on one of the chairs as he leans in. Keith crosses his arms over his chest, leaning against the table on Pidge’s other side to watch the screen.

It shows Shiro and Allura standing around awkwardly in the middle of the open dance room, surrounded by the soft atmosphere Lance has so painstakingly crafted. Shiro rubs the back of his neck, and Allura idly rubs one arm. But they’re standing close and they’re both smiling. Then Pidge cuts off the music that’s been playing and turns on the song that Keith had picked out.

He assured them that it was the first dance the two of them had choreographed and performed together.

Lance watches with building excitement as the two of them recognize the song, eyes shyly finding each other, smiles replacing surprised expressions. Then Allura holds out a hand, and Shiro takes it.

Watching them dance has always been breathtaking, but this is on a whole different level. Here, they’re not dancing for a crowd. They’re dancing for each other. Their steps and movements are memorized, but there’s a loose and languid quality about them that speaks of easy comfort. They’re not dancing to be perfect. They’re dancing to be together. And it shows. That combined with the whole atmosphere of the room makes Lance’s chest feel full and heavy with emotion. Mostly happiness for his friends.

None of them talk as they all watch with rapt attention. Lance is pretty sure the others are holding their breath, too. Lance spares a glance at the others. Hunk looks like he’s about to cry. Pidge’s expression is soft and adorable. And Keith… Keith is smiling this small, genuine smile and his eyes are so dark and he just looks so happy— Lance looks back to the screen, ignoring the increase in his heart rate.

The dance itself is pretty simple from Shiro’s side. He’s mostly just there to guide and support Allura as she does all the beautiful and complicated moves. But there’s a history there. As their first choreographed dance, it’s one they did with the intention of getting Shiro used to dancing, one they did with the intention of learning how to work with his prosthetic, one they did while they were building trust and getting to know each other as partners.

As the song comes to the end, Keith leans toward Pidge, nudging them with his shoulder. “Did you set up the thing I asked you to?” He mumbles. There’s no need to whisper, but the air in the room feels too heavy not to. Even then, his voice is almost startling in the silence.

Pidge nods, small smile curling into something more mischievous. “Yup.”

On the screen, Shiro and Allura are standing close. His hands are resting loosely on her waist, her hands on his chest. They’re gazing at each other and have been for a solid several seconds.

“Do it.”

Pidge hits a button on the music player and suddenly Kiss the Girl is blasting loudly from the chorus.

Both of them jump, heads whipping up to look around the room, faces on guard in their surprise. Lance see’s Shiro stiffen as his face morphs to one of mortification, his jaw going slack. Allura, on the other hand, throws back her head and laughs. Before Shiro can say anything, she grabs him and dips him. They see his eyes widen in surprise before his face is out of sight and Allura is kissing him.

kiss the boy

They all cheer loudly, Pidge’s laptop nearly slipping off their lap in their excitement.

“Yes!” Lance throws a fist into the air.

“Finally,” Pidge throws both hands up into the air as they shout.

“About damn time.” Keith says.

“Go, Allura! Oh my god, guys, that was beautiful.” Hunk is saying. Hands on Pidge’s shoulders, he shakes them back and forth. “I can’t believe that happened!”

“Nice touch with the song, Keith.” Pidge says, lightly punching him in the arm.

His smile curls a little wider. “It was payback.”

And then on screen, Allura is standing Shiro up again, and they all have a clear view of his awestruck face, completion dark with a flush. He looks absolutely stunned, and they all laugh.

And for what feels like the thousandth time that night, Lance makes the mistake of looking at Keith.

He’s laughing so hard that his eyes are crinkling, bent at the waist as it bubbles out of him. Lance has heard his laugh plenty of times before, but that doesn’t stop it from making his heart jump into this throat. Then Keith is looking at him, grin wide and eyes sparkling as he wipes away a tear. His pale cheeks are flushed, and with his hair slicked back, Lance can see the entirety of his face, beautiful in his mirth.

He’s cute. The thought, so innocent and so genuine, comes unbidden, flitting across his mind as his stomach flutters, followed shortly after by a clenching in his chest and a sense of dread. Oh no…

Chapter Text

“Lance—“

“Shhhh!”

“—What are you doing?”

Shhhh!” He glares at him, squinted eyes, pout, and everything. Keith just stares back, face blank and unamused.

When it’s clear he isn’t going to say anything, Keith raises one pointed eyebrow.

Lance sighs, rolling his eyes before once more lying flat on the dance room floor, ear pressed to the polish hard wood. “I’m trying to listen, if you would just be quiet.”

Keith’s eyes narrowed. “Listen to what?

“Listen to music! We’re in a dance studio, Keith. Keep up.”

He doesn’t look impressed. “Why are you trying to listen to music through the floor?

Lance sighs, giving up for the moment as he props himself up on his elbows. “Because, Keith,” He says, calmly and rationally, like it’s the most obvious thing in the world. Because it is. Why else would he have his ear pressed to the floor of room 4D unless Pidge and Hunk were in room 3D?
“I’m trying to figure out what song Pidge and Hunk are practicing to.”

Keith, however, looks more confused than ever. He’s sitting close by, the two of them pretty dead center on the floor. Keith has his feet stretched out, leaning back on his hands. Lance actively ignores his stupid fucking ponytail and the way it exposes the long curves of his neck. He’s really starting to hate that thing. He’s said it before, and he’ll say it again: Keith’s hair is stupid.

Keith’s brows pinch just a little, his lips puckering in that way that’s so adorably confused and yet infinitely endearing. Lance wants to hate that, too, but that one’s a little harder to hate. “Why are you trying to do that?”

Lance sighs, loudly and rolls his eyes, letting the imaginary momentum of it roll him over onto his back. He sprawls out, eyes fixed on the ceiling and the familiar tiles. And it’s only partially so he doesn’t have to stare at Keith. Staring at Keith has proved to be a dangerous activity lately. If his mind wanders while he’s doing it, his thoughts can get into some dangerous territory. Territory that tends to make his insides squirm. Which is not okay when he’s in the middle of one of Shiro and Allura’s lessons and Keith is like… two fucking inches from his face.

He’s had more heart attacks in the past two weeks than he cares to admit. One of these days his heart is just gonna skip a beat and straight up stop. Rest in pieces, Lance McClain. Here he lies and here he died, killed by Keith’s stupid mullet and those stupidly beautiful eyes that seem to change colors like a shifting storm.

Man, fuck Keith.

But not like… not like fuck Keith. That’s a whole different can of worms that he really doesn’t want to open up right—

“—ance.”

“What?” He says a little too quickly, head rolling over to stare wide eyed at Keith, like he can somehow manage to read his thoughts.

But Keith is just staring at him, one eyebrow raised. “I asked why you’re trying to hear their music through the floor.”

“Oh, that.” He laughs a little, a nervous sort of chuckle that he internally winces at. “I’m trying to figure out what they’re dancing to for regionals.”

“Why don’t you just… ask… them?” He asks slowly.

Lance scoffs, rolling his head back to look at the ceiling to avoid looking at him. There’s a water stain in the corner of that one tile. Fascinating. “Because they won’t tell me.”

“Why not?”

“Because they won’t just tell me about their regionals routine, Keith.”

“…Why not?”

He throws his hands into the air, voice rising. “Because it’s top secret information! We’re rivals now! That’s how this works!”

“Are you sure you’re not just projecting?” There’s that edge of amusement in his voice that Lance both loves and hates. And when he turns to glare at him, his lips are quirked into the ghost of a smile. “Besides, I thought we were rivals.” And yup. He’s definitely teasing him now. He cocks his head to the side and his smile widens like he’s not actually aware that he’s doing it, let alone able to stop it. And fuck, there goes his erratic heartbeat again.

Lance smirks, eyes going half lidded because he’s not sure what else to do and old habits die hard. “What’s the matter, Keith?” He purrs, lifting himself up on his elbows to leer at him. “Jealous?

Keith rolls his eyes. “Don’t get your hopes up.” He deadpans, but he’s still smiling as he lifts a foot and uses it to push him over.

Lance chuckles, rolling onto his stomach once again and pressing his ear to the floor, if only to have something to do. “I know it’s hard, what with that hairstyle and all, but stop living in the past. We’re partners now, and Hunk and Pidge are our rivals.”

Keith is quiet for a moment, and the pause almost seems thoughtful. He avoids looking at him because he can just feel those eyes on him. Instead, he tries to focus on the muted music coming through the floorboards. It’s no use though. He can hear muffled beats, but most of everything else is lost. Those beats could be from anything.

“Let me guess. They asked what we were doing for regionals, and since we don’t have anything, you told them it was top secret, so now they’re doing the same thing with you. Does that sum it up?”

Lance grumbles something unintelligible and makes a so-so hand gesture to indicate that, yeah, that’s mostly right, and he’s rewarded with a soft chuckle. There’s another silence, and it’s equal parts comfortable and awkward. But it’s not awkward because it’s Keith. In fact, it’s mostly comfortable because it’s Keith.

No, it’s awkward because they both know that they should be continuing their search for an audition song. But that search has been going on fruitlessly for weeks. They just can’t decide on anything. Nothing has felt right to Lance. They’ve found good songs, yeah, and they’ve found song he’d love to dance to some other time. But for regionals it has to be perfect, and nothing has given him that feeling that he’s so desperately looking for.

And Keith, despite his insistence that it’s Lance holding them up, is just as picky as he is.

So the first fifteen minutes of their practice slot involved them going over song and dance ideas they’ve had since their last practice. And when that ran dry, they just kinda… have done nothing since. Lance is trying to be productive by spying on their downstairs neighbors, but he still can’t quite figure out the song. The beat is too generic, and that’s all he can hear.

The song stops abruptly, like they had turned it off halfway through, and then it starts up again from the beginning.

He huffs loudly, propping himself up on his elbows so he can scroll through his phone. “Maybe if I download that music app…” He mumbles to himself.

“I don’t think it’ll pick it up through the floor.”

“Well I don’t see you coming up with any ideas.”

“Maybe because I don’t see the point?”

“The point is I want to win!”

“Win what exactly?”

“The— well— they— I don’t know! But they basically challenged me and I accepted it.”

Keith quirks one eyebrow. “That doesn’t make any sense.”

You don’t make any sense!” Keith looks unimpressed. Lance sighs, shoving his hand in his pocket and pushing himself to his feet. He brushes off his hands before holding a hand out to Keith. Keith just stares at it. Lance rolls his eyes, shaking his hand more insistently. “Come on.”

And surprisingly, he does take it after a moment. He surprises him for a moment, and he nearly forgets to pull him to his feet. “What are we doing?” He asks, and Lance grins.

“We’re going to spy on them.”

“Why—“

Lance is already tugging him toward the door. “Because we can’t hear them through the floor!”

Keith is putting up resistance, but it’s half hearted. “But why?”

Lance sighs as he reaches the door, one hand on the knob and the other still holding onto Keith. He turns to face him, giving him a flat look. “Alright, look, it doesn’t matter. Not really. But Keith… I’m bored. We’re not getting anywhere just sitting around, so we might as well have some fun, right? Besides, maybe if we know what they’re dancing to, it’ll inspire us.” He doesn’t look convinced, brows pinched and lips pursed. Lance gives him a small smile. “Worth a shot, right?”

Keith’s frown deepens, but it’s more of a pout than anything. The specific pout that he gets whenever he’s thinking about something and he knows it’s a losing battle. And… Lance doesn’t want to think too hard about the fact that he knows that. When did he get so good at reading Keith?

Finally he sighs, and Lance’s grin widens. “Fine.“

“Yes!” He says, already opening the door.

“—But this better not get me banned from Hunk’s cooking, or I swear I’m never talking to you again.”

Lance scoffs, letting go of Keith’s hand to put both of his on the door frame, peeking out and looking both ways. “Coast is clear.”

“Lance, we’re the only ones who use the fourth floor.”

“Come on, Keith! You gotta play along.”

“I didn’t agree to that.”

“Whatever, spoil sport.” He turns to look back at him, smirk wide as he waggles his eyebrows. “Besides, we can still dance together even if you’re not speaking to me. It’s called body language, Keith.” He says, punctuating his words by putting his hands behind head and rolling his body suggestively. He makes sure it’s a long, slow one, and he’s rewarded when Keith’s eyes follow the movement all the way down before snapping up to meet his gaze.

It might just be wishful thinking, but he could swear Keith’s cheeks are tinged pink.

Before he can look too closely, however, Keith is shoving past him. “Whatever, let’s just get this over with.”

“Keith, wait!” He says, scrambling out of the room after him.

He stops, watching Lance warily as he comes up behind him, putting a hand on his shoulder. “What?”

“If we’re going to do this, we gotta do it right.”

“And what’s the right way to do this?” He asks slowly, like he’s dreading the answer.

Lance’s grin widens. “I’m so glad you asked. Follow my lead.” And then he’s throwing himself to the side, his back hitting the wall a little harder than he intended. That doesn’t stop him from bending his knees a little, arms sprawled out against the wall, eyes squinting as he snaps his eyes back and forth. “Dun dun, duunun dun dun…” He starts to sing quietly.

“Oh my god,”

He doesn’t stop half-singing, half-humming as he shuffled down the hall against the wall. When he’s a good distance from Keith, he throws himself forward, going into a rolling summersault that’s only a little sloppy. When he rightens, he shuffles the remaining few feet to press his back to the other wall. His song resumes as he half crawls, half shuffles along the wall.

“Seriously?” Keith says dryly, arms crossed over his chest and one eyebrow raised as he cocks his head to the side. But Lance can see the slight tilt to his lips, the way his eyes are crinkling at the edges.

He grins, “Seriously,” Then he slaps the wall twice before pointing to the ground next to him. “Now get your ass over here.”

“Really?”

“Yes, Keith. Really.”

He sighs, but he does give in, which surprises Lance, but hey, he’s not about to look a gift horse in the mouth. Keith squats down on the ground next to him, glaring when they make eye contact. “But I’m not making the sounds.”

“That’s fine. I’ll just do it twice as loud to make up for it.”

“Lance, that’s—“

”DUN DUN, DUUN UN, DUN DUN—“ He’s already started off down the hall, leaving Keith behind.

”You can’t sneak around if you’re singing!” Keith hisses, but Lance can hear the smile in his voice.

He doesn’t turn around, nor does he stop as he makes his way down the hall. He does a few more rolls, purposefully making them terrible and stopping halfway though just to push himself along the floor on his back with his feet. It’s worth the dirt on his shirt to hear Keith snickering. He doesn’t get nearly as into it as Lance is, but he crouch walks along the wall even though he really doesn’t half to, and so Lance will take that as a win.

“Alright, that was your warm up round,” Lance says as they reach the stairwell. He flashes Keith a wide grin. “Here comes the real test.”

“Please don’t say something stup—“

Super spy mode, activate!”

Oh my god.” Keith says, but he’s laughing, openly and loudly as Lance dives for the stairs, throwing himself up against the wall and half climbing up onto the railing. “You are such a dork.”

“Come on, Keith. You know you wanna.” He says, waggling his eyebrows. “Live a little. Take a risk. You might find you like it.” He tries to shimmy his way down the railing, which proves to be more difficult than anticipated, but he’s not giving up.

Keith doesn’t say anything, but Lance catches sight of his smile as he steps forward and slides effortlessly down the center railing. When he gets to the landing between floors, he hops off and immediately jumps forward to press himself against the wall, hands flat against the cinderblocks. He catches Lance’s gaze and smirks before scooting to the side, with several quick steps before jumping, hitting the side wall with one foot before pushing off, landing several steps down.

Lance laughs, the suddenness of it causing him to nearly fall from his precarious perch. “Hardcore parkour!” He shouts before jumping forward, grabbing hold of the center railing and vaulting himself over it. His vault is nearly flawless, but his landing is… not so much. He lands on the edge of a step, arms wheeling to attempt to regain his balance, but before he can fall forward, Keith’s hand grabs the back of his shirt and yanks him backwards.

He stumbles back, feet finally gaining purchase as he lands against Keith’s torso, his other hand landing on Lance’s arm to steady him. His heart is hammering in his chest, and it only about seventy-five percent has to do with his near fall. The other twenty-five has to do with the fact that he can suddenly smell Keith, his deodorant dull and earthy with a hint of spice, mixed with a scent that he can’t describe but which he’s come to associate with just Keith. It fills his nose and leaves him momentarily dizzy.

It’s not that he’s not used to being this close to Keith by now. He really is. Shiro and Allura’s lessons have seen to that. He’s able to be practically cradled in the guy’s arms with only minimal blushing. This, however, is different. This isn’t them hiding behind a dance. Of course, it’s not them being close by choice. Rather by reflex and happenstance. But still.

The fact remains that Lance actually kind of likes it, and that thought has his heart kicking into overdrive because he doesn’t want to like it.

“Nice jump.” Keith says, teasing edge to his otherwise flat voice.

Lance tilts his head back, gazing up at Keith with a wry grin. “Nice catch.”

They only stare at each other for what is perhaps a second too long before Lance is ripping his gaze away and practically throwing himself down the stairs, continuing the Mission Impossible theme at a slightly rushed tempo.

The third floor of the dance studio is only ever slightly more populated than the forth. And luckily, it’s in the middle of a time slot, so anyone who’s actually on this floor is currently locked away inside their practice rooms. This means there’s no witnesses to his shenanigans, and Keith is more likely to continue doing them with him.

When they reach the door, Lance crouches by the door frame, gesturing for Keith to follow suit. He rolls his eyes, but surprisingly complies. Hunching over Lance as the two of them peer out from around the corner.

“The coast is clear.” He whispers.

“I can see that, Lance.”

“On the count of three—“

“Lance—“

“One—“

“What are you—“

“Two—“

I don’t know what you’re planning—“

“Three— Go!

“Lan— fuck—“

Lance grabs the front of his shirt, giving it a sharp tug. It’s just enough to tilt his momentum forward before he’s letting go. He dives forward, doing a much more coordinated tumble as he rolls out of the stairwell and across the hall. He has to do two whole tumbles before he reaches the opposite wall, and he leaps to his feet, back pressed against it. When he looks back at Keith, he sees the guy has fallen forward but managed to catch himself on the door frame. He’s giving Lance that flat stare of his.

Lance proceeds to give him a series of hand gestures and facial expressions in an attempt to get his thoughts across without having to speak.

Unfortunately, Keith’s blank stare just looks confused as his expression drops, eyes squinting as his mouth falls open just a little. Lance raises an eyebrow, but Keith just lifts his arms and shrugs.

Lance slaps a hand over his face. Uuuugh. Come on, Keith. It’s not that hard. He does this all the time with Hunk and Pidge and his siblings, and they all get it!

Alright, super awesome spy language is too complex for Keith. Gotta simplify it to beginner spy standards.

He points at Keith, then makes a rolling motion with both hands before jabbing a finger at the ground next to him.

That, at least, Keith seems to understand.

His brows pinch, his lips pursing as he firmly shakes his head and mouths, No.

Lance retaliates by mouthing an exaggerated, Yes!

Keith isn’t budging, so Lance breaks out the big guns. It’s time for Code Ginger.

He slumps his shoulders, tilting his head to the size, and making his eyes as big and innocent as possible while sticking his bottom lip out. He gives him a full taste of the Lance McClain Patented Puppy Dog Look. Keith’s only seen it in picture form, and at the time he had been bombarded with everyone else’s, too. But it had worked then, and he can only hope it’ll work now.

Keith manages to hold out for a grand total of four seconds.

He sighs, body slumping in defeat as he shakes his head. Lance feels himself light up like a goddamn Christmas tree, and he doesn’t even try to tone it down, because Keith is suddenly leaning out to glare down the hallway once more. He glares at Lance for just a moment before he’s suddenly in motion. He dives forward, going into a flawless tuck and roll. He manages to make it across in just one, and pops up with just as much grace to stand at Lance’s side, back pressed to the wall.

“Happy?” He mutters, still glaring.

“Extremely,” Lance says, grin cranked up to the max. Instead of dwelling on that, he turns and starts down the hall.

They creep along the wall with slow, careful steps. Not that it matters too much, but he’s determined to be as silent as possible. Just for the added challenge. He insists on rolling past all the closed doors, but Keith just crouches and scuttles past them. When they reach room 3D, Lance rolls past it before crouching low, back pressed to the wall next to the door frame. Keith stops opposite him, and as they make eye contact, Lance lifts a finger to his lips.

Keith rolls his eyes, but Lance thinks he can see the shadow of a smile.

Lance scoots forward and presses a hand and his ear to the door. The music is still muffled, but he can hear it a lot more clearly than he could through the floor. He closes his eyes, trying to concentrate. He’s pretty sure he knows it, but honestly the beat is something that could be in any of dozens of songs. Ugh, why can’t Pidge and Hunk listen to music at a loud volume like everyone else in the studio?

The sound of movement catches his attention, and he opens his eyes and fucking jumps because Keith is suddenly right there.

What’re you doing?” Lance hisses.

Keith just gives him an unimpressed look, pressing his ear to the door so they’re facing each other. “I’m trying to listen, if you would be quiet for ten seconds.” He whispers back.

His hand is pressed to the wood and their fingers touch. It takes every ounce of self control Lance possesses not to jerk his hand away. How is it even possible for one fucking finger to put off that much heat?

“That’d be easier if you didn’t have hair in your ears, George Clooney.”

Keith frowns. “He doesn’t have a mullet.”

“So you admit you have a mullet?”

“No, but that’s what you’re implying, and I’m correcting your reference.”

“He had one in the eighties. Trust me. I looked it up.”

“Oh, I believe it. What do you even do in your free time besides look up people with mullets?”

“Hey, I only looked it up twice.”

“Yeah, and memorized a list both times.”

“What are you insinuating?”

“I’m not insinuating anything.”

“Bullshit. It’s all up in your tone, and I don’t like it.”

“What’re you gonna do about it?”

They’re close. When had they gotten this close? Keith’s face is only a hands width away. He can practically feel his breath when he speaks. Lance can only sorta remember the last time they were this close, memories fogged with time and alcohol, but he knows very clearly what happened.

Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck.

He should move away. He really should. But he can’t. Moving away would be acknowledging that it’s weird, and he really doesn’t want it to be weird between them. That’s what they agreed on, right? No more weirdness? No more awkwardness? If he moves away now, it would just fuel the idea that it’s awkward. Which it’s not.

Never mind the sudden pick up in his heart rate and the sweatiness of his palms.

He opens his mouth to respond when suddenly the door is gone.

One moment he’s leaning against it, arguing with Keith, and the next it’s just… gone.

He sees Keith’s eyes widen a fraction, mirroring his own, just a second before they’re both falling forward.

Lance yelps in surprise and manages to catch himself on his hands before his face collides with the hardwood. Nevertheless, he’s sprawled out on the floor with Keith beside him in a similar state, and they both look up to see Pidge standing over them, arms crossed over their chest. They look thoroughly unimpressed.

kiss the boy

“You guys do realize it’s not really whispering if you’re loud about it, right?” They say, cocking one eyebrow.

“We weren’t loud!” Lance says, pushing himself to his feet. “You just have super sonic gremlin bat hearing or something.” Without really thinking about it, he stretches out a hand to Keith to help him to his feet, only belatedly hoping his palms aren’t moist. Fuck. He lets go of Keith’s hand and makes a show of brushing off his pants.

“No, they’re right.” Hunk says from across the room where he’s standing next to the table with the auxiliary cable, phone in hand. Lance only now realizes that the music has stopped. When did that even happen? “We could hear you over our music.”

“Speaking of that…” Lance says, voice smooth as silk as he practically purrs the words, sliding across the room on long legs to his best friend’s side. He drapes an arm over Hunk’s shoulder. “Hunk, ol’ buddy, ol’ pal, what song was playing?”

Hunk opens his mouth like he’s about to reply, not a spec of suspicion on his features. Victory is so close to sating his curiosity, he can taste it.

But right before Hunk can make a sound, Pidge cuts him off. “Hunk.” They say sharply from across the room, and Hunk’s mouth snaps shut, blinking at them in innocent surprise.

“Why not?”

“Yeah, Pidge,” Lance says, glaring at them over his shoulder. “Why not?”

Pidge gives him a flat, unamused look, arms crossed over their chest. Neither them nor Keith has moved from their positions next to the door. “Because it’s top secret, remember?”

“Oh, right!” Hunk says, shifting to hide his phone screen from Lance’s view. He pokes Lance’s chest. “Sorry, top secret, dude.”

“But Huuuunk!” He whines, wrapping his arms around his shoulders and slouching against him. “Come oooon!”

“Are you gonna tell us what song you’re doing?” PIdge asks.

“… Maybe?”

Keith scoffs, and Lance glares at him, willing him to keep his mouth shut. Thankfully, he does. Pidge rolls their eyes. “Yeah, that’s what I thought.”

“Come on, Pidge! It’s not a big deal!” He tries again.

You’re the one who made it a big deal!”

“They’re right, dude. This is a taste of your own medicine.” Hunk says, shrugging his arms off and patting his shoulder.

Lance pouts because he knows the whole puppy dog look won’t work with them. They’ve known him for too long that they’ve become immune. Maybe if he can convince Keith to try it… No, Pidge has known him longer. They’re probably immune to him, too. Time for Plan B.

B for bet.

“Alright, alright,” He says, standing up straight and collecting his features into something calmer and more confident. He puts up his hands in defeat, casually wandering back over to where Keith and Pidge are standing. He shoves his hands in his pockets, shoulders slouched as he rolls his head to the side. “Well what’d you guys say to a little wager?” He asks, waggling his brows at Pidge, a smirk on his lips.

They eye him curiously, one brow arched. “A bet?”

“Uh, yeah, unless the definition of wager has changed since I last checked.”

Their expression immediately drops back into unamusement. “I don’t need your sass, McClain.”

His grin widens, and he nudges Keith with an elbow. “I learned from the best.” He catches Keith’s eye and winks. He just snorts, rolling his eyes and looking away, but there’s a smile on his lips.

“What kind of bet are you talking about?” Hunk asks, coming over to stand with them. He looks just as curious as Pidge but a lot less suspicious.

“A dance off, obviously,” He says, grinning from ear to ear as the three of them look at him with various levels of excitement and exasperation. Before anyone can tell him it’s a terrible idea (because it’s not, it’s an amazing idea), he slings an arm around Keith’s shoulder, pulling him close and ignoring how he stiffens. “Me and Keith versus you two. Losers have to show what they have for regionals so far.”

Keith’s brows furrow, lips pursing into that small, confused frown. “But we don’t—“

Lance slaps a hand over his mouth, making him jump. “We do have time for this.” Lance says, loudly, cutting him off. “We’ve already been over this, Keith. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy and all that. We totally have time for this.”

They both know that isn’t what Keith was going to say. He gives Keith a very pointed look, and the guy just glares back at him. After several long moments of staring, he rolls his eyes, grabbing Lance’s wrist to move his hand away. “We should be working.” He says instead of following his original train of thought.

“Yeah, us, too.” Pidge says, checking the clock on the wall. “We’ve still got thirty minutes left of our practice session.”

“Come on, Pidge!” Lance says, slouching into Keith. “Live a little!”

“It… could be fun.” Hunk says, eyeing Pidge sheepishly, pushing two pointer fingers together. They give him a look, and he puts his hands up defensively. “I’m just saying! We’ve gotten a lot done, and we could use a break. Besides… it sounds like fun.” He gives Pidge the puppy dog eyes and Lance knows in that moment that he’s won. PIdge maybe immune to his look, but no one can say no to Hunk.

“Fine,” They say, rolling their eyes. “I’m in.”

“Me, too!” Hunk says, grinning brightly.

“Yes!” Lance throws a fist into the air.

“I’m leaving.” Keith says, shrugging off Lance’s arm and heading toward the door.

“Ooooh, no, you don’t.” He says, grabbing the back of Keith’s shirt and pulling him to a stop. He does so without much resistance. “I need a partner for this dance off, and you’re it.”

He huffs, but doesn’t protest otherwise. Lance takes that as a win.

“So what kinda dance off are you thinking?” Hunk asks. “What kind of songs?”

“I’m good with a randomized shuffled song.”

“Alright, but whose phone? Cause you have some songs on yours that I really don’t want to dance to. No offense.”

“None taken. I don’t care which. I’m flexible and can dance to anything. I vote not Keith’s phone, though. He has an emo playlist on there that he and Pidge use for road trips.”

“You told him of our road trip playlist?” Pidge asks.

Keith shrugs, looking sheepish. “It’s not like it’s a secret. He’s already seen the pictures…”

“I still need to make Matt pay for that…”

“Pidge has the same playlist on their phone,” Hunk puts in. “I’ve seen it.”

“You’re going through my playlists?!” Pidge says, voice rising in pitch.

He shrugs. “Yeah, sometimes, when we’re using your phone. You have some nice selfies saved, by the way. I can tell the snapchat dog filter is your favorite.”

Pidge makes a high pitched indignant sound, gaping at him.

“That just leaves your phone, big guy.” Lance says, lightly punching his shoulder.

“That’s fine with me.”

“Alright, but if we’re doing this, we’re doing it right.” Pidge says, sending a wayward glare at Hunk. “We need an actual judge or else we’ll just end up arguing over who won.”

Lance grins. “I have just the judge in mind.”

After that, they all shuffle out of Pidge and Hunk’s practice room and head back toward the stairs. Pidge leads the way, sliding down the rails, with Hunk hurrying after them, fretting and prepared to catch them should they fall. Keith, however, trudges down the stairs slowly, arms crossed over his chest and face sullen as he glares at his feet.

“What’s with the long face?” Lance asks, slowing so they’re taking the steps together. It’s an odd change, given that they usually race down the steps, but… it’s not a bad change.

Keith glances sideways at him, then away, lips pursed. “It’s nothing…”

Lance rolls his eyes, lightly bumping Keith with his hip as the turn on the landing. “Come on, I know you better than that. What’s up?”

“I’m not…” He sighs, and it sounds frustrated. He rolls his head to the side and staring at the wall. “I’m not good at free styling.” He says it like the words are painful to admit.

“Dude, I know that. I’ve seen you at the park, remember?” He says, teasing smile in place. Unfortunately, it does nothing to lessen the tension in Keith’s shoulders.

He looks at him, incredulous. “Then why did you ask for a dance off?” He asks, voice soft so the others won’t hear. “We’re going to lose, Lance. I can’t— I don’t know how to do this.”

“You’re right. You’re probably terrible.” He says, and Keith scowls. “But you’re forgetting one very important thing.” He smirks, putting all his confidence into it as he gestures up and down his body. “You have me.”

Keith snorts, rolling his eyes, but some of the tension eases out of his shoulders.

As it turns out, Coran isn’t in the front office. Nor is he in the break room or any of the big dance rooms on the first floor. And after a cautionary check, they find he’s not in the bathrooms either. They reconvene in the office, empty handed and not a stray orange hair in sight. Lance is about five seconds away from marching down the halls of each floor, shouting his name, but he’s saved the trouble when Pidge hops over the tall counter and slides easily behind the computer. The three of them step forward, resting their forearms on the counter as they lean over to watch as Pidge pulls up the camera feed from all the different rooms.

“He’s in 2A,” They announce.

Lance snorts. “Figures.”

They start out of the office, and Keith is still dragging his feet. If Lance didn’t know him any better, he’d say the guy was the epitome of indifference. But the fact of the matter is that Lance does know better, and he knows Keith is nervous. He sees it in the way he bites at his lip, in the way his brows pinch, in the way his fingers tap incessantly at his arms. He wonders when he got so good at noticing things about Keith.

He bumps Keith’s shoulder with his own. “Race ya.” He says with a smirk.

Keith narrows his eyes at him. “We’re not racing.”

Lance skips ahead of him, hands in his pockets as he turns on his heel and walks backwards. His smirk stays in place. “Uh, yeah, we are, and right now? I’m winning.”

“I’ll race you.” Pidge says, a gleam in their eyes. All three of them turn to look at them, surprise coloring their features.

“Really?” He says, slow and suspicious.

Their smirk widens, and they try to look innocent. It only succeeds in making them look that much more mischievous. “Really. In fact, I’ll race all of you.”

Hunk puts his hands up quickly, shaking his head. “Nope, no, no, no, I’m staying out of this.”

Keith raises an eyebrow, narrowing his eyes down at Pidge. “What’s the catch?”

“Loser buys milkshakes?”

“Deal,” He and Keith say at the same time. He makes eye contact with him, and gets a small glimpse of his smile before Pidge is suddenly darting forward.

“One, two, three, go!” They say in a rush just as they reach him. Before he can react, they have a hand on his shoulder and a leg stuck out behind him. They use their forward momentum to push his shoulder. His legs hit theirs, and his knees buckle backwards, his torso falling back and losing his balance. He lands on his ass. Hard. And Pidge is sprinting down the hall, cackling.

Before he can fully recover, Keith is rushing past him. He sputters, flipping onto his stomach and making a last ditch attempt to grab his ankle. Which, in hindsight, is probably a bad idea. He doesn’t need to break his partner’s leg before regionals.

He doesn’t have to worry about it though. Keith easily jumps over his attack. His laughter echoes down the hall.

“Wha— get back here! Pidge, that’s cheating!” He screeches as he pushes himself to his feet and sprints after them. Pidge has already disappeared into the stairwell by the time Keith makes it to the doorway with Lance hot on his heels.

“I learned from the best!” They shout, and oh boy, is it on.

Pidge may have gotten a head start, but there’s one advantage that Lance has: his legs. He takes the stairs two at a time, cutting ahead of Keith at the landing and making it to the top of the stairs before him. He tries to shove past Pidge in the doorway, and they try to block his exit. Keith apparently sees little obstacle with them both being in the doorway, because just as Lance sees him running up in his peripheral vision, Keith is suddenly gone. He goes into a slide, feet first, and slides right under and between them. He scrambles for purchase and is up in half a second, headed down the hall with a cocky smirk thrown over his shoulder.

Pidge and Lance gap for only a moment before they’re sprinting after him.

Luckily, room 2A is at the very end of the hall, and the straight shot gives Lance the perfect opportunity to use his long legs to his advantage. He doesn’t run often, but he’s in shape and sprinting has always been something he excelled at. Besides, milkshakes are on the line.

He manages to overtake Keith right before they reach the room. The door is cracked open, and Lance hits it full speed, bursting into the room. “CORA—“ Keith runs into him from behind and the two of them fall to the floor in a heap. Pidge comes sprinting in a second later and trips over their legs, landing on top of them both.

They all groan, attempting to roll off each other and shoving with legs and arms.

“Do we… want to know?” He hears Shiro’s voice, and rolls onto his back, tilting his head back to see Shiro, Coran, and Allura all standing nearby, gazing down at them with expressions of amusement and curiosity.

“Coran!” He says, throwing his arms up in the air. “Coran, Coran, the gorgeous man!”

“That’s my name, don’t wear it out.” That has the man beaming. He squats down next to them, forearms resting on his knees as he gazes down at Lance. “What can I do for you, my boy?”

“I’m here!” Hunk says, bursting through the door. Thankfully, he stops in the doorway, leaning against the frame before he can trip over the pile on the floor. He’s breathing heavily and he bends over. “Geez, you guys are fast.” He straightens a little, lifting an eyebrow as he takes in the scene before him. “Uhh…. what’d I miss?”

“Nothing so far,” Allura says, gesturing to the three of them. “Just… this.”

“Oh, good.”

“Coran!” Lance says again, drawing the attention back to the real matter at hand. He lifts his arms, slapping his palms over Coran’s cheeks and holding his face tight. “We need you to judge a dance off!”

“A dance off, you say?” He says, words muffled as Lance smushes his cheeks.

“A dance off?” Shiro echoes, features relaxed as he crosses his arms over his chest, gazing down at them. He doesn’t look at all surprised, only curious.

“We made a dance off bet.” Pidge says, pushing themselves to their knees before Hunk helps them up. “Loser has to show what they have for regionals so far.”

“Is that so?” Shiro offers a hand to Keith, pulling him to his feet. “You agreed to this?”

Keith shrugs. “I didn’t really have much of a choice.”

“Damn straight, you don’t, mullet. So what’d you say, Coran?”

He puts his hands on Lance’s wrists and gently pulls his hands away from his face. His smile is bright beneath his mustache, eyes crinkling at the edges. “I’d be delighted to help. May I choose the music and dance style for this competition?”

Lance props himself up on his elbows, eyeing the others. They all exchange looks and shrug. He looks back to Coran. “Sounds good to us.”

“This way at least it’ll be impartial.” Pidge adds.

“Alright,” Coran says, putting his hands on his knees and standing with a flourish. “In that case I choose…” He pauses for emphasis, curling his mustache as he looks between everyone. He strikes a pose, dramatic as it is dynamic. His eyes twinkle mischievously. “Ballroom dance!”

Pidge and Hunk groan, Keith looks a little nauseous, but Lance throws a fist into the air with an excited whoop! before stumbling to his feet.

“Oh! That sounds like fun!” Allura says, bouncing on the balls of her feet while clasping her hands. “Can we join in on the bet?”

“No!” Lance and Pidge say together, both loud enough to make everyone else jump.

Allura’s expression immediately drops, and she leans her weight to one hip, crossing her arms over her chest as she pouts. “And why not?”

“Because you and Shiro will obviously win!” He says, and Pidge gestures to him as a silent form of backing him up.

“Well, you said that only the loser has to show what they have for regionals so far. So it sounds like there isn’t so much a winner of this bed as there’s just a loser. So I don’t see the problem.”

Lance frowns, lips pursing. He sighs loudly, throwing his hands into the air. “Fine! Whatever! Join in the bet! You’re all going down anyway!”

Coran shuffles over to the auxiliary chord, mumbling to himself while he searches through his phone, and everyone partners up and moves so that they all have plenty of room. Lance drags Keith to the side of the room and turns to face him, arms held out. Keith doesn’t move toward him. He’s standing there awkwardly, shuffling his weight and eyeing the others warily. Lance doesn’t miss the way he bites at his bottom lip. Something inside of him warms.

“Hey, get over here, mullet.” He says, but his tone is as soft as it is teasing.

Keith looks at him through narrowed eyes, but there’s no real heat there. His lips purse into the smallest of pouts, and he eyes Lance’s hands like he’s going to attack him or something.

Lance huffs, reaching out to grab Keith by the wrist, pulling him in close. “I said…” He takes one of Keith’s hands in his own, resting his other hand on Keith’s hip. “Get over here.” He’s smiling, but it’s small and reassuring. At least, he hopes it is.

“What’re we doing?” He mumbles, free hand floundering in the open air before settling hesitantly on Lance’s shoulder.

Lance shrugs. “We’re winging it. But this is basically standard ballroom position, so we’re gonna wing it from here.” Silence falls over the room as Coran searches for the right song. He can hear the others muttering amongst themselves, but Keith remains quiet as ever. He can feel how tense he is beneath his fingers, how his fingers curl into Lance’s shoulder just a little too tightly. He’s not looking at him, instead staring at Coran with more than a little apprehension. “Hey…” He says softly, shaking their joined hands to get his attention. When Keith looks at him, he smiles. “Chill out, okay? We’ve got this.”

“Lance…” He says, and Lance can tell that he’s trying to sound firm and indifferent, but there’s cracks in his mask. “I’m not… I don’t do improvising. I’m not good at this kind of thing. I don’t know anything about ballroom dances…” He looks uncomfortable, but in a way that’s uncertain and makes him look small and vulnerable.

It’s so unlike him, and Lance can’t decide if he loves it or if he hates it.

“Lucky for you, I happen to be a master of both.” He says, grinning as he waggles his eyebrows.

He doesn’t smile, but he does relax a little bit. “Really?” He asks, sounding skeptical.

Lance shrugs and waves their joined hands around vaguely. “Well… a master at improvising anyway, and that pretty much makes me a master of anything.”

“I don’t think that’s how that works…” He says, but there’s a small tilt to his lips. It’s not quite a smile, but he’ll take it.

“You’ll see,” He says, all confidence.

“Ah! Perfect! Ready, competitors?” Coran says, and Keith jumps, head whirling around to look at him. He looks like a deer in the headlights, and Lance takes pity on him.

“Hey,” He says, hands tightening just a little bit, just enough to be reassuring. Keith looks at him, eyes wide with the beginnings of panic. “Do you trust me?”

“What?”

“Do you trust me?”

He hesitates for a moment, eyes looking between his own, expression open but strangely unreadable. There’s so many things that pass behind those eyes, far too quickly for Lance to get it all. But then Keith’s expression is softening, and he can feel him relax beneath his fingertips. “Yes.” He says, so softly that Lance has to strain to hear. He then clears his throat, pursing his lips a little as he says a little louder. “Yeah, I do.”

Something electrifying sizzles through his veins, and his smile hurts his cheeks. He cocks his head to the side, trying to corral his expression into something more cocky and less bright. “Then sit back and enjoy the ride, kpop.”

“What do I do?”

“Just follow my lead.”

Coran starts up the music, and Lance is in motion. He silently thanks his mom for making him take ballroom classes with his sister when they were younger. He had thrown the biggest fit about it, but when it came right down to it, the class had been fun. And as one of the only guys signed up, he was never short of a partner. That history, combined with his natural aptitude for winging it, puts him in a pretty good spot for winning this little bet.

It’s just a shame that his dancing partner is pretty much a literal board in his arms.

Keith is beyond stiff from the moment Lance sweeps him up into movement. Lance can tell he’s trying. He really can. But his steps are stumbling, his feet unsure. His posture is slumped as his eyes fixate on the floor, watching their feet like they somehow held all the answers. His hands have Lance’s hand and shoulder in a death grip. If he didn’t know any better, he would be willing to bet Keith hadn’t danced a day in his life.

“Hey, eyes up here.” He says, and Keith’s gaze snaps up to meet his, eyes wide and panicked, even as his brows were pinched with frustration. “Stop fighting my lead.”

“I’m not—“

“You are. You’re stiff, and you’re fighting me. Just… let me lead.”

“I’m— I don’t—“

“Hey, dude, it’s okay, just relax. Go with the flow and don’t think about it.”

“How do I not think about it?”

“Just… trust me, and go with your instincts. Reflexes, you know? You know how to dance, dude, and you’re really damn good at it.” His eyebrows shoot up at this, and Lance frowns. “Yeah, don’t make me repeat that. Point is, just let your body do what it wants to do. Trust yourself and trust me, okay?”

He breathes in deep, closing his eyes briefly. When he exhales and opens them, there’s a fire in that gaze that wasn’t there before. It steals his breath away, punching it from his lungs. This close, in the daylight filtering through the window, Lance feels like he can see all sorts of depths to those irises that he’s never noticed before. Then Keith smiles. A small, almost tentative curve of his lips that form a smirk that’s almost cocky. Lance feels his knees shake. “Alright, let’s do this.”

Ignoring the fluttering in his stomach, he grins. “That’s the spirit. I’m going to spin you out now.”

“Wha—“

Lance spins him out, keeping their fingers locked. Keith stares at him, eyes wide with surprise, but Lance is already tugging him back in.

Things move quickly after that. Lance decides pretty quickly that they’re not winning this thing through pure poise and technique. So he goes with the one thing that he knows he can do: having fun. Keith loosens up considerably, and while he’s not exactly the best dancer, and clearly hesitates, he’s doing a lot better at taking Lance’s direction. He bends when Lance wants him to bend, and he moves where Lane wants him to move. He doesn’t have as much flair, but hey, he’ll take what he can get.

The song is fairly upbeat, but slow enough for Lance to add his own dramatics to it and make it more of a theatric performance featuring his board of wood partner. As they turn, he steals a glance at the others. Shiro and Allura are, as predicted, the picture perfect image of poise and grace. Hunk and Pidge aren’t doing that bad either. They’re not great at it, but at least neither of them looks like they’re two seconds away from a stroke.

Time for some good old fashioned sabotage.

He twirls him and Keith around the room, maneuvering them into the space of their friends. He manages to booty bump Allura, and spins out Keith so he can slap his brother across the face when his free hand flares out. They both laugh as Lance quickly twirls them away before the two can retaliate. They try to do the same to Pidge and Hunk, but they’re more resilient. Lance tries to use Keith as a weapon to trip up Pidge, but Hunk easily sweeps them away. In response, Hunk swings Pidge out, who’s foot connects with the back of Lance’s knees, causing them to buckle. He yelps as he goes down.

But Keith catches him, quickly shifting their grips so his arm moves from his shoulder to wrap around his waist. They end up in a pose very similar to a dip, both of their expressions frozen in panic. But once his momentum stops moving and they realize Keith pulled it off, they’re smiling. Keith pulls him back up, and Lance laughs, swooping him up and around the room in several quick steps. Keith manages to keep up, but just barely.

They add in several moves and lifts that they’ve learned from their time with Shiro and Allura, as well as a couple completely made up steps. Keith falters more with these than Lance does, but at least he’s smiling. For a moment, Lance forgets all about the bet, completely wrapped up in making sure Keith has a good time.

As the song draws to a close, he throws Keith into a dramatic dip, one arm wrapped around his back and the other going behind his thigh, encouraging him to stick that leg straight up in the air. He follows the direction without question, and doesn’t even hesitate to throw his weight into Lance’s arms. Lance dips down over him, and as the last notes fade, he finds himself staring into those dark violet eyes.

He’s grinning. He knows he is simply because his cheeks hurt with it. And he can’t even bring himself to tone it down because there’s a matching grin on Keith’s face. For a fleeting moment, he thinks it might be the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen.

They’re both breathing heavily, chests heaving as they pant. It’s only then, as the music fades, that he realizes just how close they are. Keith is pressed up against him, arms wrapped around his neck. His hands is hot against the back of Keith’s thigh, and his waist almost seems small in his arm. Has he always been this close to Keith’s face, or have they gotten closer? He can’t tell. His heart is beating a heavy staccato against his rib cage, and it’s loud enough that he’s pretty sure Keith can hear it. He can only hope he can blame it on the dancing.

He can feel Keith’s breath fanning out across his face. Has he ever noticed his freckles before? They’re subtle and really fucking cute, brushing across the bridge of his nose and high on his cheeks. Keith’s eyes are half lidded, lashes long and perfectly framing those gorgeous eyes. He doesn’t think it’s fair that fucking Keith has the pretties eyes he’s ever seen. They’re prettier than Allura’s and Nyma’s and Pidge’s put together, and those are the prettiest eyes he’s seen to date.

His smile has faded from something bright as the sun to something much more subdued but no less sincere. It’s almost shy, sheepish, and they’re so close that he doesn’t miss the way those gorgeous eyes flicker down— to look at his lips— before flickering back up, and fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck—

“Well done, everyone!” Coran says cheerfully, clapping his hands together.

It startles him so much that he jerks, nearly dropping Keith to the ground before catching him. Keith looks too startled himself to complain about it. As soon as he’s upright, Lance lets him go, taking a few subtle steps away to put space between them so he can finally breathe. His heart is still hammering away, and his palms feel sweaty as ever. He doesn’t know if Keith is feeling as awkward about the situation as he is because he can’t quite bring himself to look at him. Fuck, fuck, fuck.

In the end, despite all their efforts, Keith and Lance are declared the losers. He tries to argue against it, but Coran’s judgement is final. The look on everyone’s face when they sheepishly announce that they don’t even have a song for regionals, let alone a routine, is one part disappointment, two parts exasperation, and one part unamused.

Luckily, everyone agrees it wasn’t a complete waste of time because they actually had a lot of fun, and Pidge leaves him alone once he agrees to buy them all milkshakes despite winning the race earlier.

He spends the entire car ride pressed up against Keith in the backseat, and he tries really hard not to think about that. His heart beat doesn’t seem to get the memo.

 


 

 

Keith is on his fifth shirt choice when his phone rings. He slides it open with his thumb and puts it to his ear, still frowning at himself in the mirror as he looks himself over with a critical eye. “What’s up, Pidge?”

“Keeeith!” They whine through the receiver. It’s loud, and he winces, pulling it away from his ear. “I texted you that we were here ten minutes ago.”

“You did?” He looks at his phone, and— yup. So they did.

“Yes,” They say, full of exasperation. “Now hurry your ass up or we’re leaving you behind.”

“We won’t leave you behind!” He hears Hunk say somewhere in the background. “But if you could hurry up, that’d be great. Lance’s break starts soon, and we told him we’d be there.”

“Okay, okay, I’m coming.”

“Good!” Pidge says, and they both hand up at the same time.

He takes a moment to look himself over once again, sighing as he runs a hand through his hair. It’ll have to do. He supposes he looks nice enough, though he’s not really sure why he feels like he has to look nice. He just… he wants to, okay? And he thinks he does look nice. Simple, but nice. Black jeans that fit his legs and make his ass look nice, simple dark shirt, his favorite boots… Simple, but nice… right?

He hopes Lance thinks so.

And he hates that he hopes that. There’s no reason for him to want Lance to think he looks nice, but it’s there, a thought he can’t get rid of, nagging him as he tries to get dressed, following him as he scowls at his reflection before turning and stomping to the door. He sees Lance a lot, but Lance has rarely seen him in anything that wasn’t dance-able comfort clothes or his work uniform.

The problem is, he has seen Keith in casual clothes, so it’s completely pointless that he’s worrying about what Lance will think of him now.

So he pushes down that thought, all that worry, all the second guessing that he usually never feels because who cares what he wears, and he tries to harden his resolve as he locks up his apartment and heads down to where Hunk’s car is idling in the parking lot.

As soon as he opens the door and slides into the backseat, Pidge lets out a loud groan, flopping their head back against the seat to look at him. “About time! What took you so long?”

He shrugs, busying himself with buckling his seatbelt. “I was distracted.”

Pidge snorts, but lets the subject drop. The drive is a relatively short one, but lunch rush traffic makes it feel longer. Keith tries not to fidget in the backseat, but his fingers tap against his thigh and he stares out the window, trying to avoid looking at his own reflection. The urge to fiddle with his hair is overwhelmingly strong, and he hates it. Hunk and Pidge fight over control of the radio, and Pidge ends up winning when they confiscate the auxiliary cable. Sending a mischievous grin over their shoulder and making solid eye contact with Keith, they start up their old emo memories playlist.

Keith can’t help but grin, which morphs into a laugh when Hunk lets out a long, loud groan. Both hands remain on the wheel, but his head hits the headrest hard. “Why, Pidge? Why?

They grin triumphantly. “This is for snooping through my phone. Suffer.”

They spend the rest of the trip singing everything as loudly and obnoxiously as they can, and Keith is once again surprised that he remembers all the lyrics. Hunk groans the whole time, but when they get to Mr. Brightside, he actually sings along. Every time he reaches for the radio controls, Pidge slaps at his hand, fast and precise and Keith can tell from the sharp sound that it hurts. He’s been on the receiving end of those slaps plenty of times. Eventually, Hunk gives up and just slumps in his seat to pout.

“You guys are worse than Lance…” He grumbles as they pull into the parking lot.

“I resent that.” Pidge says, unbuckling their seatbelt as Hunk pulls into a spot.

“But am I wrong?”

“Nope.” They say, popping the P.

Keith slides out of the backseat, stretching as he looks up at the building in front of him. It’s big, and the parking lot is bigger, but it’s fairly empty. Perks of coming in the middle of the day in the middle of the week, he supposes. The sign that reads Adventure Zone is bright and neon and in a font that’s probably considered fun or something. It all looks… weirdly ominous to him.

Probably because he knows Lance is inside.

He doesn’t want to think about why that makes him nervous. It’s just Lance. Lance, his dancing partner. Lance, his new friend. Lance, the obnoxious doofus with a heart of gold. Lance, the guy who knew how to push his buttons better than anyone else. Lance, who pissed him off. Lance, the needlessly competitive one. Lance, the one who knew how to draw Keith out of his shell. Lance, the one Keith kissed at the club. Lance, the idiot who Keith had actually enjoyed kissing, despite all the awkwardness that followed. Lance—

“Have you ever been here?” Hunk asks, and Keith jumps, turning to look at him.

“Oh, uh… yeah, a couple times.” He says, scratching the back of his neck. “Shiro used to take me bowling here a couple times, and I’ve come with Pidge. It’s been a while though…”

“I had my eleventh birthday party here. We had a laser tag competition. Keith and I slaughtered everyone.” They say, coming up on his other side and offering a fist. Keith obligingly bumps it. “It was brutal.”

Hunk pulls out his phone, checking the time as he starts forward. “Oh man, we’re fifteen minutes late.” He says, brows furrowing.

Pidge waves him off. “He said he wasn’t gonna go on break until we got here anyway, so it’s fine.”

“Yeah, but you know he’s gonna complain about it.”

“When doesn’t he complain?” Keith says, shoving his hands in his pockets as he trails after them. Now that they’re here, he can feel his nerves acting up again. What a pain in the ass.

Pidge snorts, and Hunk smiles. “Yeah, but that’s part of his charm.”

Keith hates that he’s right.

The place is even bigger on the inside. From where they walk in, the bowling lanes lay out to the left, and the rock climbing wall lies to the right. He knows from experience that laser tag is near the back. They head for the stairs head down.

As they descend, the lighting changes. The carpet has a base of dark blue with strips and curls of neon swirls set in a consistent pattern. There’s no natural light, and none of the florescent lights like those on the floor above, but the place isn’t entirely dark. The arcade is lit up by more subtle lights, mixed through with black lights that make all the neons pop. The machines light up the maze of games that seem to go on forever, all of them flashing and blinking and making all sorts of sounds to lure people in. Toward the back, he knows there’s an indoor mini golf course, twisting through makeshift caves lit by more neon lights. Music plays softly over the speakers above.

It’s a familiar atmosphere, one that usually accompanies arcades and places like this, but there’s something ominous in the dim lighting, something threatening about the glow of neon beneath his feet. He thinks it’s the anticipation. The tingle beneath his skin, buzzing at his fingertips, making his palms sweat and making him so fucking glad that he’s wearing his gloves.

He has no reason to feel this way. It’s just Lance. He sees Lance several times a week. He spends more one on one time with Lance than anyone else. It’s just Lance. Just Lance. Just Lance. Just—

He sees him from across the room and it’s like a fucking freight train to the chest, punching the air right out of his lungs. He’s standing behind the prize counter, miscellaneous knick knacks and toys strew all around the wall and beneath the counter in an organized but sporadic fashion. There’s light above him and below, in the glass cases, making his station one of the few with solid lighting. It just makes him that much of a focal point.

When they arrived, he was leaning forward across the counter, cheek resting in one palm while the fingers of his other hand tapped against the glass. Upon seeing them, however, he springs up straight, hands slapping down on the counter as his face breaks out in a wide grin.

Keith is pretty sure the air down here is thicker and warmer than that of the floor above. It has to be. Because there’s no way his body is having this kind of reaction to seeing Lance. He sees Lance all the time. His uniform is nothing spectacular. Just a fitted dark blue polo tucked into some khaki pants. It’s not unlike his own work uniform. Yet at the sight of him in it, something weird and foreign twists in his chest, heart lodging in his throat.

Fuck.

“It’s about time!” Lance says as they get closer, already moving toward the register. He punches in a few buttons and shouts over his shoulder. “Theresa! I’m going on break!”

“Remember you only have an hour!” Says a woman as she pushes through a door, back first, cardboard box in her hands. She fixes Lance with a hard stare. “Don’t be late. I’m going on break right after you.”

“Yeah, yeah, got it.” He says, waving her off before planting his hands on the counter and vaulting over it, ass sliding across the glass before his legs fall off the other side. The woman just rolls her eyes, tight lipped, but says nothing about it. “You guys are late.” He accuses, hands on his hips as he walks up to meet them.

Keith is pretty sure those pants are too tight to be work appropriate. And that shirt stretches across his shoulders and chest, holding firm to his frame as it tucks into the pants hanging snuggly around his thin waist—

Jesus, Keith, get a grip on yourself. He tears his gaze away, and he’s surprised by how much it feels like ripping. He looks over the game machines. There’s so many and so few people. His heart is beating a swift staccato and he silently curses it. There’s nothing attractive about his uniform. They’re just clothes. Not even good clothes.

He hopes he miraculously developed a kink for polos and khakis, cause if it’s not the clothes, than it has to be Lance. And he’s not ready to admit it’s Lance.

“Yeah, well Keith over here took eighty four years to get ready.” Pidge says, jerking a thumb over their shoulder.

Keith looks up then, and he meets Lance’s eyes over Pidge’s head. He’s convinced he imagines the way Lance’s smile brightens just a fraction, crinkling his eyes. “Hey, mullet.” His voice is weirdly soft, and that Keith is certain he doesn’t imagine, judging from the way Pidge and Hunk exchange glances in his peripheral vision.

“Hey,” He says around the lump in his throat. He tilts his head a fraction, scratching the back of his neck as he licks his lips. Why does his mouth feel so dry? “I, uh, hope it’s okay that I came?” He asks, uncertain as his eyes flicker away, only to be drawn back to Lance’s like a magnet. “Pidge and Hunk invited me, so…”

Lance is already waving him off. “Yeah, of course, dude.” And then Lance is right next to him, slinging an arm around his shoulders. “You’re one of us now, which means you get all the perks that come with my friendship.”

Keith gives him a flat look, raising one eyebrow. “There’s perks?”

Lance gapes at him, leaning back with a hand pressed to his chest for emphasis. He gives Keith a wide-eyed offended stare, but he knows it’s all in jest. He can see it in the way Lance’s eyes light up, in the small twitch of a smile he can’t quite hide. Pidge snickers, and Hunk snorts, covering his smile with a hand.

Lance then leans close again, close enough that Keith is pretty sure he can feel his breath ghosting along his cheek. He then pokes him firmly in the chest. “Sassy.” He accuses in a loud whisper.

Keith just smirks, hoping Lance can’t feel the thud of his heart.

“Alright, if you two are done, we have some games to play, high scores to conquer, and some tickets to win.” Pidge says, already turned away from them and walking away.

Hunk trails after them, pulling his wallet out as they make their way to the token machine. “Are you sure you can’t get us like… a discount or something?”

Lance peels himself away to follow after them, shoving his hands in his pockets, and Keith tries not to focus on the loss of his warmth. “You know I can’t cheat the machines, buddy.”

“Yeah, but like… isn’t there a bucket of tokens or something you can get?”

“Yeaaaah, no, buddy.” He says, coming up beside Hunk and patting his arm while shaking his head. “Sorry, but last time when I did that, I got ripped a new one. I can get us into pretty much everything else here for free, but the arcade is a different matter. It’s out of my hands.” He says with an apologetic smile and nonchalant shrug, holding up both hands for emphasis.

Hunk smiles, wrapping an arm around his shoulders and pulling him in for a hug. “It’s no problem, dude. Don’t want you to get in trouble.”

Keith finds himself eyeing their closeness, the ease with which they just.... touch each other. Casual hugs, friendly shoves, mindless poking. It’s comfortable, and it’s normal. Nothing special about it. That’s just who Lance is. It’s how their friend group operates. There’s nothing special about it, nothing that means anything more.

Even if Keith’s heart doesn’t get the memo.

By the time they reach the token machine, Pidge is already feeding it bills, scooping out the tokens and shoving them into the large pockets of their cargo shorts. He has a feeling they chose their outfit specifically for that purpose. When they catch sight of his amused look, they smirk. “Cups are for nerds.”

“The cups are practical.” Lance defends, coming up beside the machine to lean an elbow on the top of it while he waits. “Leaves the pockets open for tickets.”

Pidge snorts, stepping away from the machine only when their pockets were heavily with coins. “Get more pockets then. The cups are for kids.”

Amusement crinkles his eyes as a sly smirk curves his lips. “Then are you sure you don’t want a--“

“Shut it.” Pidge cuts him off with a threatening finger.

He just laughs.

Hunk, likewise, is wearing cargo shorts, and he fills them with just as many coins as Pidge had. When it’s Keith’s turn, he takes a moment to stare at the machine before looking down at himself, a thoughtful frown pursing his lips. He... hadn’t thought this far ahead. His pocket options are very limited... He looks back at the machine, glaring at it like it personally offended him.

“Give me a cup.” He says, holding out a hand to Lance without looking at him.

Lance laughs, reaching out to where they store the plastic cups purely for the purpose of holding tokens. He puts it in Keith’s outstretched palm. “According to Pidge’s logic, you’re a nerd now.”

Keith just shrugs, pulling out a few bills of his own and feeding them into the machine. He busies himself with scooping the coins into his cup so he doesn’t have to look at him. “I’m not exactly wearing pants with loose pockets.”

And he doesn’t miss the way Lance leans a little to the side, or the way he nods in his peripheral vision. “No, you are not.” He says, voice oddly thoughtful and... appreciative? It’s hard to tell, what with the sudden ringing in his ears as his heart decides to pump blood at a lightning fast pace. He keeps his head down, eyes trained on the task at hand. Is it hot in here? He’s pretty sure it is. There’s no other reason for his face to be this warm.

When he’s done, he steps away without a word and gestures for Lance to go ahead. Lance grabs for a cup as well, and Pidge snorts, mumbling nerd under their breath. To which Lance simply flips them off.

Once they’re all set, Pidge leads the charge through the arcade, barely glancing behind them to see if everyone is following. It’s a single minded purpose, and they weave through the aisles of machines with a familiarity that speaks of practice. He’s watching them, eyebrow raised in mild amusement.

Lance must have caught onto his look, because he leans over, loudly whispering in his ear. “Every time they come here, Pidge has to check their fav games to make sure they still have the high score.”

Hunk leans into his other side, whispering just as loudly. “Yeah, and if they’re not, they’ll spend the whole time reclaiming their spot if they have to.”

“I’m not letting any snot nosed brats beat me.” Pidge says from ahead of them, and they all snicker.

Keith recognizes several of the games they stop at from his childhood excursions to the arcade with Pidge. Apparently their favorites haven’t changed much over the years. The first couple games, after a quick check, seem to still have Pidge as the top score. For some of them, they hold several of the top spots.

By the time they reach the third machine in Pidge’s rounds, Keith has lost interest. His gaze wanders around the machines, everything too flashy and too neon for him to really focus on anything in particular. At least he’s finding it easier to breath now, if only a little.

“Hey, Lance! Look!” Hunk says, piquing Keith’s interest.

He follows his gaze, eyes landing on the large dance machine, the screen is huge and flashing arrows and dancing cartoon girls, music set on a random shuffle as it waits for a customer. There’s two raised dance panels, both with arrows at the corners. He’s never done one like that before. All the one’s he’s done had the arrows up, down, left, and right. But a dance machine is a dance machine, he supposes.

Lance snorts. “Yeah, buddy, it’s in the same place it always is.”

“Come on, you’re always excited to do that one.”

Keith turns back around to see Lance scratching the back of his neck with his free hand, eyes turned to the side. “Yeah, well... I do it all the time—”

Pidge snorts softly without looking up from their game. “You got that right.”

“—So you guys are probably tired of seeing it...”

“Come on, man,” Hunk says, elbowing Lance in the side. “It’s always fun to watch, and besides, Keith hasn’t seen yet!”

Lance’s eyes flicker to Keith, and he catches the brief look of uncertainty. “Well, that’s true...”

Keith just looks between them, face blank. “It’s just a DDR machine?”

Lance scoffs, rolling his eyes. “Okay, for one, it’s not DDR, it’s called Pump It Up.”

Keith shrugs. “Same thing.”

“Okay, no—“

“Are you good at it or something?”

Lance chokes for a second, sputtering and eyes bugging before he manages to find his voice. “Good? Good? I’m the best!.”

Keith cocks an eyebrow, smirk tugging at the corner of his lips. “Care to put your tokens where your mouth is?”

“Bring it, Kogane.”

They make their way to the machine and each claim one of the dance pads. Hunk watches from the side as they insert their coins and shuffle through the songs. He recognizes a few of them, but he’s never danced to them on this game before. He knows Lance has probably played this more than anyone, so he vetoes any song Lance is particularly enthusiastic about.

They narrow it down to two songs by the time Pidge wanders over, and they become the deciding vote between the two.

As the song starts up, he settles into the center of his pad, eyes on the screen and focused in a single minded determination. He hasn’t played a game like this in years, but he’s always been good at rhythm games. He’s never played one where the arrows were in the corners, but it couldn’t be too hard to get into the groove of, right?

Turns out, it’s surprisingly difficult. It takes him a solid fifteen seconds to get used to the new button locations, and those are long, important fifteen seconds. By the end of it, he finds his groove and starts wracking up perfect’s and great’s, but he has a feeling Lance has already pulled ahead in score in the time he spent stumbling over his own feet.

Unsurprisingly, Lance wins. Before he can gloat too much, Keith challenges him to a rematch, claiming that was his warm up. And a warm up it might have been, but Lance still kicks his ass the second time, too. He’s good at rhythm games. He is. He’s good with the patterns and the timings, and he always used to drag Shiro onto these machines as a kid and he was good at it. Objectively, he is good at it.

But that doesn’t change the fact that Lance is phenomenal.

The song ends, and Lance’s top score flashes on the screen. He beams, hands on his hips even as his chest heaves with heavy breaths. Sweat glistens on his brow, but it does nothing to diminish how pretty he is. In a fucking polo and khakis no less. Ugh.

Keith decides to glare at his own score instead, leaning back on the railing behind him, hand on the cool metal to ground himself. He’s a little out of breath himself. He scowls at the screen, like he can somehow get the numbers to change.

“Ha! Told you I’m the superior dancer!” He says, grin far too bright for Keith to look at him.

“Pay up, Pidge.” Hunk says, holding out a hand.

Keith glances sideways in time to see Pidge dropping a handful of coins into Hunk’s open palm, grumbling under their breath. He glares at them. “You were betting on us?”

Pidge rolls their eyes. “Of course we were. And you let me down.”

“That’s what you get for betting against Lance when he practically grew up on this machine.” Hunk says with no small amount of pride, patting the side of the machine fondly. “Pleasure doing business with you.”

Pidge flips him off before crossing their arms over their chest with a huff.

“Yeah, Pidge, everyone here knows I’m the best dancer.” Lance says, crossing his arms over his chest and cocking his hip to the side. His grin is no less bright when Keith turns to scowl at him.

“It’s hardly dancing.” He says, gesturing to the screen. “It’s just a rhythm game.”

“Uh, it’s totally dancing.”

“Is not.”

“Is so!”

“Is not.”

“You know what? You want dancing? I’ll show you dancing. Off.” He’s suddenly stepping toward him, shooing him off the platform.

Keith steps off it, eyebrows raised. “What are you—“

“I’m going to show you dancing.” He says, already putting coins back into the machine, into both sides of it, and shuffling through the songs. He settles on one that’s a lot slower than the ones they were dancing to, which has him pinching his brows in confusion.

A hand lands on his shoulder and Hunk is pulling him back a few steps. When he looks up at him, he’s grinning. “You might want to step back a bit.”

“What’s he doing?”

“Just watch. It’s gonna be great.”

He turns to Pidge, but they’re not looking at him. Their phone is out, camera open and trained on Lance, already recording. When they catch Keith’s gaze, they shrug. “It’s actually pretty impressive, and he’ll kill me if I don’t record it.”

Keith huffs slightly, crossing his arms over his chest and leaning his weight to one side as he returns his gaze to Lance. He steps off the side of the platform, face oddly set in determination, a fire blazing in his eyes, confidence practically oozing from every pore. It’s a look he gets often, but it’s not quite complete without the smile—

Then he glances over at Keith, and his lips quirk upward in a smirk, causing Keith’s insides to twist and flutter.

Fuck.

But then Lance is looking away, glancing at the screen once before bending his knees, squatting and bending forward—

“What is he doing?” Keith asks, unable to stop himself. He gawks, mouth dropping open in surprise as Lance plants his head on the platform, puts his hands at the corners, and goes up into a headstand, legs bent and sprawled for balance. He barely wavers.

“This,” Hunk says, crossing his arms over his chest and pride coloring his voice. “Is why we love watching Lance on dance machines.”

“This is why Lance is such a show off with dance machines.” Pidge adds.

“Yeah, but he’s earned it.”

“I suppose.” They say, but there’s a smile in their voice.

Keith thinks they might still be talking, but he’s honestly not paying any attention. As soon as the arrows start moving up player one’s side of the screen, Lance is moving, rotating on his head and using his hands to hit the buttons. He’s not even looking at the screen, and yet he hits the mark every time.

And then his legs are flipping down, feet barely hitting the ground before he’s hoping up on the machine. He practically skips around the pad, spinning as he does so, legs bending and feet extending in rhythm, hitting the buttons right when he needs to. It’s honestly... a lot like something he’d do just freestyling in the park, and yet he manages to time it all with the arrows on the screen. The screen he’s barely even glancing at.

As the arrows fade on the player one side and start up the player two side, he puts one hand on the back railing, landing one hand on an arrow button as he flips his legs over to the second platform. He goes down, spinning around on hands and feet in a crouch and in moves that don’t look unlike breakdancing.

He pauses at one point, in the middle, slapping two arrows with his hands in rhythm like a petulant child. It’s a funny break in the moment, and it has Hunk laughing and Pidge snickering. Keith is too stuck in his awe to do either.

Then he’s up again, shifting between the two sides, feet dancing across the arrows. He throws in flashier moves, like grabbing one ankle behind him and pumping it into the air as he spins. He gets into it, feet dancing around, knees bending and snapping, heels and toes hitting buttons. He does down at several points to slap with his hands before he’s on his feet again. The whole time, he moves around, twisting and spinning. His upper body gets into it, bobbing with the beat, and it really just... looks like dancing.

He’s not just doing a rhythm game. Not like that had been just before.

He’s just... dancing in such a coordinated way that he happens to be hitting the right buttons at the right time.

He gets to into it, head bobbing and arms swinging, not even really looking at the screen. Keith doesn’t realize he’s grinning until he hears the clapping, and he tears his gaze away from Lance to notice for the first time that he’s gathering a small crowd. People are clapping along to the beat, led by a very enthusiastic Hunk. Pidge is whistling loudly, and Lance laughs, head thrown back for just a moment as it bubbles out of him.

Keith’s throat feels dry.

He feels... hot? Cold? Does it matter? He feels something, but he’s not connected enough to his body to really figure it out.

There’s a moment where Lance stops his bouncing movement, sliding sideways across the machines on feet like silk, hands moving like water and limbs flowing in a way Keith has seen him do a couple times but still finds it hard to believe. It’s something he knows he’s learned from Pidge, but it never ceases to amaze him. The switch from bouncing and upbeat, to rolling easy waves, back to bouncing is so quick, and yet it hits him hard.

Lance is good. He knows Lance is good. But he’s starting to realize he’s a much better dancer than Keith has ever really given him credit for.

And extremely out of his league.

“He’s incredible...” He says in a voice that doesn’t quite sound like his own.

“I know.” Hunk beams.

Lance spins and twirls, legs moving so naturally but still managing to hit all the right buttons. He goes down on hands and feet again, twisting and bouncing before he’s back upright, spinning again. He even goes up on his hands to hit buttons before gravity takes hold and pulls his feet back down. It’s all so smooth, so coordinated, and yet gives off such a carefree vibe that’s so incredibly Lance. It’s unlike anything Keith was expecting, unlike anything he ever expected from a gimmicky dance machine, and now he can’t imagine anyone approaching it any other way.

The last arrows slide up the screen as the song nears it’s end, and the clapping gets more intensive, adrenaline fueling them right until the end of the show. And right when Keith is certain he’s seen it all, Lance steps off the side of the platform before throwing his body forward, doing a front flip and landing with his feet on the two final buttons.

His momentum carries him forward, stumbling off the platform and crashing right into Hunk, who catches him with ease and barely budges. He looks up, exchanging wide grins with Hunk.

“I think that’s a new personal best.” Pidge says, stepping forward to get a closer look at the screen.

Lance’s head whips around. “No way, really?” He comes up beside them, putting his hands on their shoulders as he leans over their head. He squints for a moment, face drawn in concentration before brightening again as he straightens. “Oh fuck yeah!”

He turns then and catches Keith’s gaze. He’s not really sure what expression he’s wearing in that moment, but the cocky smugness that overtakes Lance’s face is enough to let him know he’s gawking. He quickly schools his own expression into something more neutral, more indifferent, but he knows Lance has already seen everything.

He slides up to him, hip cocked and arms crossed over his chest. “So, mullet, how was that for dancing?”

Keith looks to the side, mostly because he’s not sure he can look at him directly. Not with the way his heart is racing and his skin feels like it’s on fire, far too sensitive to everything, even his own clothes. There’s an itch beneath his fingertips that he can’t quite push down.

He holds up a hand, making a so-so gesture. “Eh, it was alright.”

“Alright?” Lance gasps, incredulous. “Alright? Come on! That was amazing!” He says, throwing his hands up in the air.

Pidge pats his arm, looking down at their phone. “Don’t worry, you can hear him on the recording saying you’re incredible.”

“Really?” He perks right the fuck up at that, peering over Pidge’s shoulder. “Show me, show me, gimmie.” He says quickly, making grabs for the device.

Pidge elbows him away. “Fuck, Lance— get off.” They say, struggling to get away but fighting against Lance’s advantage with longer limbs.

Keith turns and walks off, intent on exploring the arcade, and the other eventually trail after him.

It does take Pidge long to go back to their mission, everyone else following them through the arcade. Hunk gets caught up in a game next to the one Pidge is playing, and suddenly Lance is right next to him.

“What’d you say to a little competition?” He says, waggling his eyebrows when Keith turns to look at him, smirk on his lips.

“Seriously?” Keith deadpans. Why is everything a competition with him? Why can’t they have a normal outting without him turning everything into some sort of contest—

“I mean, I’m already winning after that dance machine challenge, so...”

Fuck it. He’s going down.

“Fine. How many games?”

He taps his chin with the edge of his cup, making the coins rattle. “Five games each? We take turns picking for a total of ten?”

Keith nods, “Fine, but the dance one doesn’t count.”

“Unless it’s tie, in which case my win there is a tie breaker.”

“Fine.”

“Awesome.” His face lights up with a fire that Keith is far too familiar with. It’s two parts cocky, one part excited, and one part determined. It sends a similar energy sizzling through him, settling into a warm heat in his stomach, a ball of fire to keep him pushing forward. He doesn’t care if everything with Lance turns into a pissing contest, the fact remains that it’s usually fun.

And just like that, everything seems to click back into place, a familiar normalcy dropping over them like a blanket. The itch beneath his skin calms, replaced by an itch that’s far more familiar. The anxiousness drains, replaced by another energy, an eager and excited one. He feels steadier, stronger, more confident, like slipping into familiar, well worn shoes as opposed to the new ones that were pinching his feet in all the wrong places.

The black lights and flashing lights no longer seem ominous. Instead, they’re suddenly inviting, each of them seeming to reach out, calling to him, urging him forward and whispering for him to kick Lance’s ass. The neon patterns on the dark floor act like guidelines, pulling his feet forward like magnets.

“Who picks first?”

“Me. Let’s go.” He says, grabbing hold of Lance’s wrist and dragging him away. Lance laughs, and gives just enough resistance to be annoying and force Keith to drag him, but not enough to truly be against it.

“Eager to lose, are we?”

“You’re going down, McClain.”

When they get to an intersection, he pauses, looking around, eyes narrowed as he searches for a game he’s pretty sure he saw earlier.

“What’re you looking for?” Lance asks after a moment. His smirk hasn’t toned down in the slightest. “I do work here, you know. If there’s any particular game you’re looking to get your ass kicked on, I’ll know where—“

“There.” Keith says, already starting forward, tugging Lance behind him.

Lance laughs when he realizes what Keith is going for. “Seriously?”

Keith lets go of him, setting his cup on the floor before shoving picking up a couple tokens and throwing a leg over the plastic motorcycle. “Afraid you’ll lose?” He asks, looking up at Lance with a cocked brow and a smirk of his own as he straddles the seat.

“Not on your life.” He says, taking up his position on the bike next to the one Keith has claimed. “I’ll have you know I’m a pro at this game.”

Keith rolls his eyes, inserting his tokens. “Are you going to say that about every game in here?”

“Well, I have spent a lot of time here.You’re ten years too early to beat me.”

“We’ll see.”

As Keith predicted, he wins the race, sliding into a comfortable first place. Lance isn’t too far behind, coming in a descent third out of twelve. He grumbles something about that particular bike being miscalibrated, to which Keith simply snorts his disbelief and rolls his eyes.

Lance drags him across the arcade to where the shooter games are, picking a zombie one and easily slotting in a token before picking up one of the plastic handguns.

Keith raises an eyebrow. “This is a co-op game.”

Lance is already navigating his way through the menu, not even looking at him. “Yeah, but the scores are calculated separately. Highest score wins.”

Keith shrugs, picking up the second gun. Fine.

He ends up holding his own, but Lance is leaps and bounds ahead of him. He stands back, taking up a legitimate shooting position and eyes flickering across the screen, trained and focused. His movements are precise and calculated, focus blazing in those narrowed blue eyes. And it... really shouldn’t be as hot as it is. Not with him holding a bright blue plastic gun that’s connected to the game by a thick black chord. But it is, and Keith blames the distraction for his own piss poor score.

kiss the boy

In the end, they’re neck ’n neck, and when Lance wins the last game, it ends up rounding out their score to a tie.

And thanks to the deal they agreed on earlier, that meant Lance wins it all. Which means the guy is going to be insufferable.

He groans as he steps away from the last game they played, an old version of Mortal Kombat. He scowls at it and the giant font that says “PLAYER TWO WINS.” He thought for sure he’d win this one, given all the hours he’s spent logged on similar games. He didn’t quite take into account all the hours Lance might have logged on the same games.

“Aw yeah, who’s the king?” Lance says, bumping Keith’s hip with his own. “Come on, Keith, who’s the king of games?”

“Lance—“ He says, meaning for it to be a warning, but Lance cuts him off.

“That’s right, me!.”

He does a little dance, one that involves far too much wiggling and makes him look entirely ridiculous. Keith rolls his eyes, scooping up his half empty cup and walking away.

“Whoa, there, Keith. Where’d you think you’re going?” Lance says, catching his arm and pulling him to a stop.

Keith half turns, first looking at where Lance’s hand grips his upper arm before following the trail of dark skin up to his face. “Uh, to find Pidge and Hunk?”

“Nope, not yet.” He turns in the opposite direction, using his grip on Keith’s arm to drag him along.

Keith finds his legs moving willingly after him, even as he frowns. “Where’re we going?”

“You’ll see.” Is all he says, flashing a mischievous grin.They end up in front of one of those photo booths, and Lance finally lets go of him to gesture grandly at it with both hands. “Ta-da!”

Keith gives it a good, hard once over before turning on his heel. “Nope.”

“Oh, come on!” Lance grabs hold of his wrist and tugs, making Keith stumble backwards. He grumbles and scowls, but otherwise lets Lance pull him inside the two person booth.

As soon as the curtain swings shut, Keith feels like he’s made a mistake. The booth is small. Like, really small. Small and cramped and their sides and arms and legs are pressed up against each other. Lance has already put their coin cups on the floor at their feet and is bent forward, fiddling with the photo booth settings.

“Why’re we doing this?” Keith asks, sounding disgruntled as his very real uncomfortableness seeps into his voice.

“Gotta capture the moment.”

“What moment?”

“Uh, the crowning of my kingship? My winning moment? Duh.”

“Don’t get a lot of those, huh?”

Lance glances at him over his shoulder, eyes narrowed. “Okay, rude.”

Keith can’t help it. He smirks, and that seems to be enough to get Lance to forgive him, turning back around to poke at the screen. Keith tries not to fidget as he waits.

“Alright,” He says, leaning back. There’s a smile on his face, but his hands are slapping at his knees, making Keith think that maybe this has got him a little nervous, too. “It’s gonna take four pictures. You ready?”

“No.”

Lance laughs. “Too bad.”

The screen starts counting down to the first picture, a little beep with every tick of the numbers. He crosses his arms over his chest and scowls, but Lance nudges him. “Come oooon, Keith.” He whines, laughter in his voice. Keith sighs, rolling his eyes, and complies. But only a little.

The sound of a shuttering camera is loud and obviously nothing more than a sound clip. The screen flashes and fades, leaving behind an image. Lance’s arm is behind him, putting up a set of bunny ears behind his head. He’s grinning triumphantly. Keith glares at the camera, lip curling upwards as he sticks out his tongue. He’s flipping off the camera.

They only get enough time to glance at the image before it’s gone, replaced by the counter once again.

“Come on, Keith.” Lance says, nudging him. “Smile this time.”

“I did.”

“Baring your teeth isn’t smiling!”

“Says who?”

“Me! Now smile!” He reaches out with both hands, one coming around the back of him, and pushes his index fingers into the corner’s of Keith’s mouth, pushing them up into his cheeks.

He’s startled enough that he doesn’t fight it. Instead, he laughs, a more genuine smile fighting to stay down beneath Lance’s fingers as he reaches out, capturing Lance’s face in his hand. He squeezes his cheeks between fingers and thumb, forcing him to make an expression akin to a fish face. He can’t smile, not when Keith has his face like this, but Keith can see the laughter crinkling the corners of his eyes, making the depths of his irises dance with mirth.

He thinks he might be in a similar state.

The numbers continue to count down, beeping getting louder in warning, and they both turn each other’s faces toward the camera. The light flashes, the shutter sound fills the booth, and then there they are on the screen, looking just as ridiculous as he feels.

It’s, admittedly, hilarious.

They both start laughing, grips on each other’s faces loosening but hands not quite pulling away. When he opens his eyes, turning to look at Lance, he’s startled by how close they are. Lance is turned toward him, too, eyes lifting to meet his. Their gazes lock as their laughter fades, leaving behind only soft panting and the shadows of smiles.

The arm around his back relaxes, lying across his shoulders. The other hand hovers in the air for a second before his knuckles are brushing across his chin, up his cheek, fingers lightly tucking away strands of hair behind his ear with a hesitant tenderness.

Keith is pretty sure he’s forgotten how to breathe, his lungs freezing and only able to draw in shallow breaths as his heartbeat jackhammers in his chest. Lance’s skin is warm beneath his fingertips. Without really thinking about it, his hand shifts, fingertips ghosting across his soft, soft skin, moving to cup his cheek in his palm.

Beep.

They’re close enough that Lance’s breath, short and shallow, ghosts across his cheeks. He feels the hitch in his breath more than he hears it.

Beep.

Lance’s fingers sink into his hair, so slowly and so softly that it sends shivers down his spine.

Beep.

His thumb moves of it’s own accord, caressing Lance’s cheekbone. How is his skin so soft?

Beep.

Their noses bump, and though they’re close enough that Keith is expecting the touch, it still sends electricity shooting through his veins, lighting a fire beneath his skin. The touch is so light, so hesitant. They pull apart, only to come back together, firmer this time, tilting their heads in just a way that their noses brush.

He think he feels Lance’s lips against him, so brief and so fleeting that he might have imagined it.

He hopes he had.

He hopes he hadn’t.

A flash. A shutter sound. The picture is displayed on the screen, but neither of them turn to look at it.

He doesn’t know who instigates it, who finally closes that distance, crosses that line, and quite frankly, he doesn’t care. All he knows is that he’s suddenly kissing Lance, and that’s all he wants to think about about.

It fills up his senses, Lance’s scent in his nose, his soft skin beneath Keith’s fingertips, the taste of his lips, the softness of his mouth even as he pushes more firmly against him, more insistently, lips groping for more before pulling away, head tilting to the side to get a better angle as he moves forward again, lips sliding together.

He’s not drunk this time. He can feel all of it. He’s fully aware of the way his heart pounds hard against his rib cage. He can hear the whistle of his breath, heavy as he exhales against Lance’s cheek. He can hear the ringing in his ears as blood pumps far too fast, far too quickly. He can feel every little detail in Lance’s lips. He can feel that they’re a little thicker than his own. He can feel the beginnings of stubble not quite formed on his upper lip and around his chin. He can feel that his lips aren’t chapped at all despite the fact that Keith is sure that his own are.

They’re eager and firm and demanding. They’re soft and pliant and sweet.

He’s not drunk this time, but holy fuck does he feel intoxicated.

There’s a spark of something in his chest, a brief panic that tightens his chest and makes his stomach roll. There’s a voice in the back of his mind, telling him to stop, slow down, think about this. All of it is easily drowned out by the flood of LanceLanceLance.

In that moment, he doesn’t care about logical thinking. He doesn’t care about any repercussions. He doesn’t care what he should and shouldn’t be doing. He doesn’t care, doesn’t care, doesn’t care. All he knows is he wants more.

More.

More.

Shutter sound. Flash of light on the back of his closed eyelids. Hell, he hadn’t even heard the beeping this time. He thinks about the fact that there’s now photographic evidence of this moment, and that’s enough to nearly kill the mood, but then he lightly sinks his teeth into Lance’s bottom lip and tugs and he fucking moans, low and soft and—

Fuck it. He doesn’t care anymore.

He pulls away, ignoring the soft whine that escapes Lance as he leans forward, chasing after him. His eyes crack open, a worried pinch between his brows before they’re blowing wide as Keith moves. He shoves Lance back in the seat, shifting awkwardly and impatiently until he’s straddling Lance’s lap, knees on either side of his thighs and hips.

Lance stares at him, open mouthed and gawking, eyes wide and hands hovering uncertain. Keith doesn’t give him time to say anything stupid and ruin the moment. He wraps his arms around his neck, burying fingers in his head and tilting his head back as he swoops in to reclaim his mouth.

He takes advantage of Lance’s surprise to lick into his mouth. Lance only hesitates for a moment before his eyes are fluttering closed, his hands coming down on Keith’s hips, fingers slipping beneath the hem of his shirt to rest on bare skin, pushing back into the kiss, giving as good as he gets. He kisses back with just as much sudden fervor and hunger as Keith feels himself, and it only sparks his own desire to spiral further, heat burning bright in his veins, electricity beneath his skin, building and burning.

Their kissing is sloppy and uncoordinated, lips and hands unfamiliar but oh so willing to learn. It’s not the best kiss he’s ever had, but he doesn’t give a shit. He’s enjoying it all the same.

Too bad his strategy of keeping Lance from saying anything stupid doesn’t work.

“Holy shit,” He mumbles, lips moving beneath Keith’s. “Holy fuck.” He sounds breathless, but clearly not breathless enough.

“Lance, shut up.” He growls, biting down on his lip again, a little more sharply this time. He gasps, inhaling sharply and letting it out in a long, low moan. His fingers tighten before relaxing, hands getting braver by the second, inching up and down his sides. Up, down, slipping beneath his shirt, up again, down to his hips, down his thighs, back up.

“Holy fuck, we’re making out—“ He says, gasping a little as he pulls back to breathe. He doesn’t go far, merely tilting his head to the side.

Keith isn’t done with him though, not ready to stop. He slides his lips down, along his jaw, reaching his ear and kissing just below it. He feels Lance shutter beneath him before he starts trailing open mouthed kisses down his neck. “Yeah,” He says simply, ignoring how he sounds just as breathless.

Again.”

“Yup.” He bites at his collarbone before licking his way back up the column of his neck. His head tilts to the side, giving Keith access to that tight, soft, deliciously dark skin.

“Holy fuc— we’re sober this— you’re not drunk, right?” He’s rambling. Keith wants him to stop, enjoy the moment, be quiet for once in his goddamn life. At the same time, he doesn’t. Keep talking. Let him hear how broken he sounds, let him know that Lance is just as affected by this as he is.

He lifts his head to look at him. Their noses bump, breaths intermingling. Lance’s eyes are half-lidded and dark, pupils blown wide. Keith licks his lips, trying to find his voice, and he sees the way Lance’s eyes flicker down at the movement before snapping back up.

“Do you wanna stop?” He asks, voice low, cautious, hesitant, reluctant. He’s offering Lance an out, a way to stop this before it gets to far, because Keith isn’t sure he can do that himself.

Lance doesn’t hesitate. “Fuck no,” He says, though it’s more of a sigh than anything. His eyes search Keith’s. “Do you?” He sounds small. Keith doesn’t like when he sounds small.

Keith snorts, soft and short. “If I did, do you think I’d be in your lap?”

A smile cracks his lips then, chasing away the shadows. “Fair enough.”

He leans forward and captures Keith’s lips again, and he’s perfectly fine with that. A hand slips up the back of his shirt, fingers surprisingly gentle as they explore the bumps of his spine, like he’s something fragile that just might break. One of his hands curls fingers into Lance’s hair, tilting his head back further and swallowing down the resulting gasp. His other hand grips at the back of Lance’s shirt, that goddamn polo, fabric clutched tightly in his grasp.

“It doesn’t have to mean anything, right?” Lance whispers between the bob of their lips, the push and pull, forward and back. It sounds like he’s trying to convince himself.

Either way, relief floods him, relief that he hadn’t known he needed to feel. A ball of tension he hadn’t recognized in his fervor melts, relaxing his shoulders and the muscles in his stomach. He doesn’t know what this means, and he doesn’t know what he wants it to mean. He doesn’t want to think about that right now, and that’s okay. Like Lance said, and like he said last time this happened: it doesn’t have to mean anything.

It doesn’t have to if they don’t want it to.

They can do what they want, go with the moment, no strings attached, no pestering thoughts and worries to taint the moment.

He should probably be worried, but he doesn’t care. Not right now. Now with Lance’s lips, hungry and pliant beneath his own. Now with the way Lance licks into his mouth, exploring in a way that’s pleasantly demanding, but falling back the moment Keith pushes forward to do the same. Push and pull. Give and take. Ebb and flow.

It doesn’t have to mean anything. It doesn’t have to mean any more than these sensations that he’s chasing. The relief is more intoxicating than the taste of Lance’s lips, and he finds that without that hovering tension, he has no reason to hold back. His hips rock forward before falling back, and he revels in Lance’s surprised gasp, in the way those hands clutch at him. He does it again, and again, trying to commit the feeling of Lance’s lips to memory.

“It doesn’t have to mean anything.” He repeats between broken breaths, giving Lance the assurance he had given him.

“Just two dudes being dudes?”

“Lance—“

“Bros being bros?”

Stut up.”

“Make me.”

He does. And he does a thorough job of it.

“Lance?” Hunk’s voice breaks through their little bubble of solitude.

They both freeze, Lance going stiff as a board beneath him, lips suddenly still as stone. He opens his eyes to find Lance’s, wide in panic and staring right at him. All the sounds from the arcade come flooding back: voices, the pings and music and voices from all the various machines, the distant crash of bowling pins from somewhere above, the soft jingle chiming coming from the photo booth screen, the radio playing distant but distinct.

“Keith? Lance!” Hunk calls, closer now.

“Where the fuck are you guys?” Pidge’s voice carries to them

“Pidge, you can’t just say fuck in a place where kids are!”

You just did.”

“Oh, fuc— I mean! Shit— shoot, ugh.”

If they stay here, they’ll be caught. He knows it, and judging from the way Lance tenses, he knows it, too. They’ll come around the corner and see Lance’s fucking khaki’s beneath the short curtain of the booth, pull it back, and find Keith fucking straddling his lap.

Fuck. Fuckfuckfuck.

Then Lance is suddenly shifting him off to the side, slipping out from under him, pulling back the curtain on the opposite side from where they’re hearing their friends’ voices. He steps out, holding the curtain back as he stretches a hand out to Keith. He doesn’t say anything, but he doesn’t need to.

Keith takes his hand, and Lance pulls him out of the booth. They get two hurried steps away before Keith is tugging him to a stop.

“What’re you doing?” Lance hisses, turning back to look at him. He tugs on Keith’s hand again, urging him onward.

Keith remains where he is. “The pictures.” He says, gesturing to the booth.

“Leave ‘em.”

“Pidge and Hunk will see them.”

“They already know we’ve kissed before.”

“Okay, first of all, fuck you for telling them. Second of all, do you want them to know we did it again?”

He blanches a little at that. “... No.”

Keith lets go of his hand, darting back to the booth and reaching out from behind the curtain on the other side, snatching up the two strips of printed photos waiting innocently in the little tray. He doesn’t look at them before shoving them into his pocket and hurrying back to Lance. He’s already holding his hand out again when Keith returns, and he takes it without hesitation.

Lance then leads him through the arcade, practically running and dragging Keith behind him. He tries to keep up, but he feels like he can’t get enough air to his lungs and his feet are strangely wobbly, causing him to stumble after Lance.

He doesn’t really pay attention to where they’re going. They stumble along the aisles, machines and lights flashing past them, chasing after the neon designs on the midnight carpet. When Lance finally stops moving, Keith doesn’t register it at first, running into him from behind. They stumble, and laugh, and hold onto arms to keep the other from falling over. They’re breathless, excitement and adrenaline buzzing in the air around them.

Lance has dragged them somewhere off to the side, deep within the maze of the arcade. They’re tucked into the space between lesser used machines, backed up into the corner, walls and games caging them in. They can’t see anyone, and he’s willing to bet no one can see them.

“I can’t believe we’re running from our friends.” Lance says, grin spreading his lips.

Keith returns the smile, but doesn’t say anything. He doesn’t need to. He knows why they ran from their friends, and he knows Lance does too.

It’s in their mused hair and flushed cheeks. It’s in the way Lance licks his lips, half lidded eyes dropping to Keith’s lips before flickering back up to his eyes. It’s in the way Keith steps forward and Lance backs up until his back hits the wall, not running but leading. It’s in the way Lance’s hands slide up his chest to wrap his arms around Keith’s neck. It’s in the way Keith’s hands find his hips, his waist, tugging his polo free before slipping his hands beneath his shirt to find warm, soft, bare skin. It’s in the way he presses in close and pins Lance to the wall with his body. It’s in the way Lance’s leg hitches up, latching around his hip. It’s in the way Keith’s hand runs down his thigh.

It’s in the way Lance licks Keith’s bottom lip. In the way Keith opens up immediately. In the way they’re suddenly kissing again, slower this time but no less hungry. More precise, easier, more comfortable, like they’re learning more and more about each other and adjusting accordingly.

Time loses meaning, nestled the way they are in the corner, away from prying eyes, surrounded in a nest of neon, blanketed in black lights, packed in with the beeping and music of games no one plays. He doesn’t know how long they kiss. He only knows sensation. He knows their mouths and chins are wet, he knows his lips will probably be sore. He knows he can’t remember the last time he could breathe properly. He knows he’s straining against his tight jeans. He knows Lance is warm against him, pressed firmly against the wall, so warm, so inviting.

“I could have sworn I saw them come this way...”

They both freeze at the sound of Hunk’s voice, breaking apart at the mouth, but bodies unmoving.

Fuck.” He swears under his breath, wiping his mouth off with the back of his hand. He glances over his shoulder, seeing nothing around the machines blocking out most of the arcade.

“They won’t find us here.” Lance whispers, voice a little too loud for comfort. “No one ever comes back far enough to actually see this spot. All the games back here are the unpopular outdated ones—“

“They will if you don’t shut up.” He hisses.

Lance’s lips, swollen and cherry red and glistening, curve into a cocky smirk. His fingers play with the hair at the nape of Keith’s neck. “Why don’t you make me—“ His voice is coy, deep, rumbling, and sends a shutter straight through him, but it’s not what they need at the moment.

Keith slaps a hand over his mouth to cut him off and shut him up. Lance startles, eyes widening for a moment before narrowing into a glare, letting Keith know this was not what he had in mind. Too bad.

“Are you sure?” Pidge’s voice drifts back to them. They’re probably a good distance away, but Keith feels like he can hear their voice loud and clear. “I didn’t see anything.”

“I thought I saw Lance...”

“It could’ve just been another employee.”

“I guess... but I could’ve sworn...”

Lance suddenly rolls his hips forward, rocking them against Keith’s. The movement is fluid, a roll of his body so calculated, so slow, so devastatingly precise. Keith can clearly feel him pressing firm against the material of those goddamn tight ass khakis.

Keith’s spine straightens, and he has to bite back a moan. Before he can fully recover, Lance is rolling his hips again. Keith jerks forward, burying his face in the crook of Lance’s neck, hand still firmly pressed to Lance’s mouth as he exhales a shaky breath against the skin of his neck.

“Don’t worry about it. Those two idiots are probably still having their contest or whatever. They’ll find us when they’re done.” He hears Pidge say.

“Aren’t you worried about them?”

“Nope. How much trouble can they get into in the middle of the day in a public arcade? Come on, I’ve still got half my tokens and I wanna get some tickets.”

Lance rolls his hips again, and again, a steady movement building, subtle and slow but far, far too effective. Keith lets out the whisper of a groan, nipping at the slope of Lance’s neck as he finds his own hips reacting, rolling to meet him. “Fuck...” He breathes out.

He feels Lance chuckle low in his throat.

“Fine,” Hunk says. “But I’m not responsible if they burn down the arcade.”

Their voices fade away, and Keith relaxes against Lance.

He lifts his head, glaring at him, lips pursed in a small frown. His hand still covers Lance’s mouth, but he can see the smile in the lift of his cheeks, in the mirth dancing in his eyes. Those fucking blue, blue eyes.

“You,” He hisses accusingly. “Are a fucking tease.”

He finally moves his hands, and sure enough, Lance is smiling. It’s a lopsided half smirk, cocky and confident despite the disheveled state of him, that the sight of it does things to Keith’s insides. “Shut up and kiss me, Charlie Sheen.”

“Don’t fucking call me mullet names when we’re making out.” He growls against Lance’s lips, nipping at them playfully just to draw sounds out of him.

“We’re not making out if you’re talking.” He says, coy, flirtatious. It’s more than Keith can handle, so he shuts him up.

They barely get into it again before a throat clears loudly nearby. It startles them both, and they jump apart. Keith leaps away, and Lance nearly falls over when he’s no longer being pinned to the wall. They both whip around and find themselves gaping at the guy standing between two machines, staring at them with a bored expression. He’s wearing the same uniform as Lance.

“Dude, I know it’s your first time in the make out corner and all, but your break has been over for nearly ten minutes, and Theresa is getting pissy.”

“Shit, fuck, okay,” He says, haphazardly attempting to shove his shirt back into his pants. “I’ll be right there.”

The guy just shrugs and walks off, like he hadn’t just caught the two of them dry humping against the wall in a corner of his fucking work place.

Keith turns to Lance, one eyebrow raised as he runs his fingers through his hair, trying to tame the mess that he knows Lance has made of it. “The make out corner?”

Lance is already flushed, but Keith gets the pleasure of seeing him redden even more, eyes flickering to him before quickly looking away. “Oh, uh, yeah. That’s what we call this corner. It’s the only private place where people and cameras can’t see you, so... yeah.”

“I see.”

“Shut the fuck up, Keith.”

“I didn’t say anything.” But he’s grinning from ear to ear and he knows it.

“Whatever, I gotta get back to work.” He says, shuffling backward awkwardly, unable to hold eye contact.

“Yeah.”

“So... yeah.”

“Okay.”

“I’ll... see you later?”

“Yeah.”

“No weirdness?” He asks, looking up at him through his lashes, biting his reddened bottom lip, the same one Keith had been biting only moments before. His voice is small, hesitant.

“No weirdness.” Keith promises, firmer, filled with conviction, which he hopes is comforting.

It seems to do the trick. Lance brightens immediately, straightening as he skips back a few steps. “Cool, cool. Later, Keith!”

He lifts a hand to wave, and Keith lifts one in response. Then Lance is turning and sprinting away. Left alone, the bright lights and sounds and neon are no longer as comforting, but they also don’t hold the same ominous air they had earlier either. Energy still hums through his veins, excitement like a drug in his system. He thinks about Lance working at the prize counter, of the two half full cups of tokens back at the photo booth, of all the games he knows will give the most tickets.

A small smirk playing across his lips, he starts off into the maze of the arcade, purpose in his steps.

 


 

Lance is, admittedly, a mess. A hot fucking mess. He keeps tripping over his words, tripping over his own feet, dropping boxes, knocking over rows of prizes. And it’s all because of Keith. Stupid Keith with his stupidly hot mouth and hot body, warm and firm and soft and pushing him against the wall, pushing that hot wet tongue into his mouth—

Fuck.

Fuckfuckfuck.

He’s gotta stop daydreaming, or he’s gonna have a serious problem on his hands. Or in his pants. Goddammit. This is gonna be the longest shift of his life.

He’s only been back at work for an hour and a half (he knows, he’s been staring at the clock, watching it pass achingly slow), when his friends approach the counter, ticket receipts in their hands. He grins as he takes them, chatting idly and sincerely hoping they don’t notice how frazzled he is. Keith hangs behind Pidge and Hunk, silent as ever, eyes watching his every move. He drops Pidge’s chosen prizes twice and nearly knocks down a neatly stacked pile of toy cars when he reaches for the plastic lion that Hunk wants.

They say their goodbyes, tell him to stop by after his shift for dinner. They turn away, walking back toward the stairs.

And then he’s left with Keith.

Keith hands him his receipt, and Lance’s eyes bulge at the number. “Holy crow,” He whistles, impressed. “How did you get so many?”

He shrugs. “You left half of your tokens. Plus Pidge taught me the art of grinding tickets a long time ago.”

“Why doesn’t that surprise me?” He steps back, gesturing to the wall behind him. “So what’ll it be?”

Keith’s eyes roam over the wall, down through the long glass counter. He takes his time, and Lance watches him, admiring the curve of his nose, the high cheekbones, the swell of his lips, just a little more plump than they usually are. He did that, and that sends a shiver through him.

“This one,” Keith says, tapping the glass.

Lance walks over to where he’s standing, peering down through the glass. He lifts his gaze, eyebrow raised. “Seriously?”

Keith nods once, leaning back and shoving his hands in his pockets. “Yup.”

“That’s like... most of your tickets?” Despite the fact that Keith had an impressive amount, the prizes are priced high. Far too high for the cheap plastic bobbles that they are, but hey, that’s the nature of arcades.

Keith just nods again before gesturing to where the candy is kept. “And a couple of those.”

“Alright,” He says slowly, opening up the back of the counter to retrieve the chosen prizes. He sets three lollipops on the counter and one gaudy silver tiara with a shit ton of plastic blue gems imbedded into it. He eyes the prize, eyebrows raised. “Why the hell do you want this—“

He doesn’t get to finish his question. Keith reaches forward and takes it, lifting it into the air and nestling it atop Lance’s head.

He just stares forward, lips parted in surprise and eyes wide. Keith is close, but not nearly as close as he was before. Not as close as he wants him to be again.

He cocks his head to the side as he steps away, smirk curving his lips as he swipes the lollipops off the counter. He shoves two in his pocket before ripping the wrapping off the third, shoving the bright red candy into his mouth. Lance watches, unabashed and far too intent on how it colors Keith’s already red lips.

He pulls out the candy with a pop, taking several slow steps backwards. “Long live the king.” He says, playful, teasing, smirk in place. Then he spins around on his heel, striding off after Pidge and Hunk, and Lance is left gaping, eyes fixated on his back.

kiss the boy

Can you feel it?
Now it’s coming back,
We can steal it.
If we bridge this gap,
I can see you,
Through the curtains of the waterfall.

The music plays through the speakers above, cutting through the ringing in his ears. Keith disappears up the stairs, and Lance is left alone, but he’s buzzing, alive with energy, unchecked and excited, dancing across his skin.

When I lost it,
Yeah you held my hand,
But I tossed it,
Didn’t understand,
You were waiting,
As I dove into the waterfall.

He plucks the tiara off his head, holding it in both hands as he stares down at it. It’s cheap, it’s plastic, the gems are dull and barely reflect any light, but their color is still brilliantly blue. It’s big and gaudy, costs far too many tickets for it’s worth, but it’s his now. Keith gave it to him.

So say Geronimo!
Say Geronimo!
Say Geronimo!
Say Geronimo!

His head snaps up, the chorus filling his ears, swirling around his mind, calling out to the energy humming through his veins, tugging on his limbs like strings, moving him, uncontrollable, adrenaline finding the chords, the beat, the vibe, latching onto it and using it as a guide, shifting something in his chest— This! This is it! The feeling! The vibe! IT!

He puts the tiara back on his head, fully intent on wearing it for the rest of his shift, and fumbles to get his phone out of his pocket. His fingers shake with built up energy, excitement, adrenaline, but he quickly finds Keith’s contact information, shooting him a quick message.

vive la lance: I FOUND IT! I FUCKING FOUND IT
fuck off: found what?
vive la lance: OUR REGIONALS SONG
vive la lance: I FOUND IT
fuck off: link me
vive la lance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UL_EXAyGCkw
vive la lance: ….
vive la lance: ………
vive la lance: weLL??
vive la lance: cmon keith youre killin me
fuck off: I like it
vive la lance: yeAH??
fuck off: yeah
vive la lance: YEAH??
fuck off: yeah, let’s do it
vive la lance: fuck yes!

Chapter Text

When he was ten, Lance learned how to surf.

They were on a family vacation. A big one. Aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, cousins, cousins. They rented out a house, right on the beach. It was cramped and most of them slept on the floor. You couldn’t take three steps without stepping on someone or something, and the place was filled with voices, laughter, and the smell of spices at all hours of the day. His dad and uncle tried to teach all the kids to surf that summer, but only Lance really picked it up.

He loved it. Couldn’t get enough.

He fell a lot at first, got frustrated a bunch, nearly gave up, but he stuck with it. And the first time he rode successfully through a wave, it was euphoric. Brought him back time and time again. Just to get another taste.

As he got older, he got better. Surfed at different beaches. Got a taste of different waters, different waves. Got a feel for different boards. He doesn’t get to surf as much as he’d like, but he loves every second he gets. He gets rusty sometimes, but it’s never hard to get back into the groove.

What he likes best about surfing, he thinks, is that it’s an Experience. Capital E and everything.

Every time he surfs, it’s always different. Always a different wave. Each unique and unlike any before it or any after it. Surfing is always surfing, no matter where he goes, but there are always things that make it a unique experience. The people. The water. The waves. The temperature. The beach. The season. The weather. Each variable combining into a special moment entirely of its own.

At it’s heart, it’s still surfing, but it’s the excitement of each new time that keeps him coming back time and time again. The promise of something new. The unknown of what will happen the next time. The anticipation. Knowing he’ll enjoy it but not knowing what this time will bring.

So yeah, surfing is an Experience.

As it turns out, kissing Keith is also an Experience for much the same reasons.

And just like surfing, Lance finds himself coming back time and time again, unable to help himself and unable to regret it.

 


 

“And if you pause right after the beat drops, like—“ He strikes a pose, waiting a moment for Pidge to strike one opposite of him. They’ve always done a good job keeping up with his jumbled thoughts as he works through dance moves. “Then pick it back up from here—“ He moves, and Pidge moves with him. Slowly. Much slower than the actual beat of the song, but that’s fine. They’re just testing out movements. “You should be able to seamlessly shift into the next move here—“ He demonstrates by stepping right into the already choreographed section they had shown him earlier, only going through a few moves before grabbing Pidge’s hand and suddenly sending them into a twirl. “Ta-da!”

Hunk claps slowly from where he’s watching from the sidelines, letting out a low whistle. “That looked great, Lance! Do you think you could, uh... go through all of that again? Slower? Maybe?”

He nods. “Yeah, no problem, buddy.” Lance lets Pidge go, and they twirl a couple more times before coming to a definitive stop. No wobbling. No swaying. And Lance hadn’t exactly spun them lightly. He put enough force into that to make the most sturdy of people dizzy. Yet here Pidge is, standing perfectly still and straight like it made no difference.

Pidge’s epicenter of balance is both impressive and mildly terrifying.

They take a moment to adjust their glasses. “I’m pretty sure I remember everything.”

”I’m pretty sure I remember everything.” Lance mocks, hip cocked and hand making talking motions.

Pidge rolls their eyes. “Photographic memory, dude. It applies here, too.”

“Bet you can’t do it up to speed.”

A glint off their lenses as they tilt their chin, a smirk at the corner of their lips. “You’re on.”

They slip into position, and Lance gestures to Hunk with a flourish. “Let the music play!”

As it turns out, Pidge makes it through with barely any hesitation, which Lance likes to attribute more to his ability to lead rather than their ability to remember. After that, they go through it again slower with Hunk hovering next to Lance, mimicking the motions. Then several more times with just the two of them and Lance supervising.

“So, like, not that I don’t appreciate you helping us and everything,” Hunk says fifteen minutes later when they decide to take a break. Lance is lying on his back at the front of the room, legs propped up on the mirror, crossed at the ankles. He looks up from his phone to raise an eyebrow at his friend towering over him. “Cause I do— we really do— we’ve been stuck on this transition for weeks, but Pidge didn’t want to go to you like we usually do cause you made such a big deal out of seeing our routine, and they wanted to teach you a lesson for being a brat.”

“Hey!” Lance says, brows furrowing as he scowls, tilting his head back so he can glare at Pidge.

They only shrug, one hand on their hip and the other holding their water bottle to their lips. “You would have done the same.”

Lance considers that for a moment, expression relaxing as he shrugs. “True.”

“My point is,” Hunk says, sitting himself on the floor next to him and crossing his legs as he leans back against the mirror. “We’re grateful and everything, but, uh, don’t you usually have practice, too? Like... at this time? Specifically?” He looks back and forth between Lance and Pidge, who’s brows furrow as they turn to glance at the clock on the wall.

When both pairs of eyes return to him, Lance fidgets, squirming a little in place as he avoid eye contact. “Usually, yeah, but... uh...”

“Lance, what did you do this time?” There’s a sigh in Pidge’s voice that has him bristling.

“Why do you think I did something?!” He snaps, throwing his arms up in the air and tilting his head back to glare at them.

They look thoughtful for a moment, arms crossed over their chest, water bottle dangling from their fingers, hip cocked to the side. They nod slowly. “Good point. What’d Keith do this time?”

And... okay, that’s not really a better question. His arms drop, crossing over his chest as he turns his face away from both of them, grumbling a disgruntled, “Nothing...”

“Soooo... it was you?” Hunk tries.

“No!”

“Forgive me, buddy, but I’m not really seeing the problem here. If neither of you did anything wrong then...” He trails off, but Pidge picks up where he leaves off.

“Then why are you here?”

He sighs loudly, trailing off into a wordless grumble. He doesn’t... really know how to explain. He doesn’t want to explain. Because he barely knows himself. He rolls over, flopping onto his stomach and lying his arms out uselessly at his sides. His knees bend, folding the bottom half of his legs up the mirror as he kicks at it lightly but enough to get his tantrum point across. His deep groan turns into a high pitched whine, hitting a variety of octaves to really drive home his frustration as he rolls his forehead back and forth over the floor.

He hears Pidge sigh, and Hunk make a consoling, wordless croon. A warm hand comes to rest on his shoulder. “Aww, what’s the matter, buddy?” Hunk says, voice soft and concerned. Bless his soul, honestly. “I thought you guys were getting better? Like, you don’t really argue as often as you used to, and—“

“And you’ve been flirting a hell of a lot more.” Pidge cuts in.

“That, too.”

“I have not!” Lance snaps, voice a lot higher than he wanted but it’s too late to cover it up now. He lifts his head to glare at Pidge, hoping that makes up for it.

“Oh, not just you.” They say, waving him off. “Him, too.”

Aaaarghh!” He groans, putting his forehead back to the floor, half out of comfort for his neck, but mostly to cover the blood rushing to his face.

“Okay, okay, really, dude. What’s wrong?” Hunk’s hand is back, rubbing soothing circles on his back.

And that’s the big question, isn’t it? What is wrong? Nothing’s wrong. Nothing feels wrong when he’s with Keith. And that’s... kind of the problem. Everything is great with Keith. Great enough that any prolonged solo exposure to each other tends to devolve into groping hands and messy make outs. Far more often than he’d like to admit. Especially to Pidge and Hunk.

Mostly Pidge.

Because then Pidge will go on one of their I knew it tirades, and knew what exactly? He thinks Keith is cute? Yeah, obviously, otherwise he wouldn’t have kissed the guy at the club... and at the arcade... and pretty much everywhere since then. But he knows that if Pidge knew that, they’d assume it’s something more than it is.

And that’s... another big question, isn’t it? One that’s been nagging at the edges of his mind and eating away at his gut, but one that he’s been firmly ignoring for his own peace of mind.

What exactly are they?

Friends who make out? Sounds about right. There’s where they are now anyway. The problem is that he’s not really sure... how... they got here? One kiss just led to another, led to more confidence in initiating it, led to hungry and rushed kisses when they were left alone for longer than five minutes. It feels good. He likes it. Likes kissing Keith. It’s an experience that has him constantly coming back for more.

But they haven’t really... talked about it. Not that they really need to. They’re both on the same page with the whole doesn’t have to mean anything. He’s fine with that. Friends with benefits? Cool. It’s chill. The thought of being in something committed again has his chest feeling tight and the butterflies souring in his gut. He’s not really sure he’s ready for that. Not again. Not with his dance partner. Not with regionals so close.

Relationships are all well and good until they’re not. And when they’re not, it sucks. He doesn’t like when things go south. Leaves him feeling hollow and vulnerable. He falls too hard, and it takes an embarrassing amount of time to build himself back up again. The risk just isn’t worth the reward. At least not right now.

It’s a risk he can’t afford.

Not when he gets to make out with Keith anyway.

This, however, has put him into a little bit of a dilemma. He’s cool with the no labels. And he’s chill with the casualty of the whole thing. And he doesn’t mind not talking about it because there’s nothing that really needs to be said. But because they don’t really talk about it, no clear lines have been drawn. So Lance often finds himself wondering just how far he’s allowed to go.

It’s clear to him that they somehow ended up as friends with benefits. He’s just wondering just how far those benefits extend.

Not that he’s like... eager to just jump right into bed with Keith, but in the moment, it’s kinda hard to figure out exactly where and how far his hands can go, especially when his senses are kinda overloading with Keith and his brain is kinda taking a backseat to his body.

So he’s not saying he wants to go jump Keith’s bones right now, but it would kinda be nice to know that if they’re making out, is it chill or not to kinda go for some under the clothes groping action. And sure, he can kinda just sit back and enjoy the ride, see where the winds take him, ride the tides, live in the moment. And he has been, for the most part. It’s just... something that’s been on his mind. That’s all.

He really doesn’t want to fuck up whatever... this is. Not their friendship. Not their partnership. And definitely not whatever hands on, label free road they’re taking now.

Unfortunately, all of that is only one of the big fat elephants that’ve been hanging out in the room of his brain space.

And it’s definitely not the problem that he’s about to discuss with Pidge and Hunk. Time to deflect to problem number two.

“Nothing’s... wrong, exactly...” He sighs, propping himself up on his elbows and waving his hands around vaguely, like that might help him get a grasp on his thoughts. “Things have been good— great even—“ Great. Wonderful. Fantastic. Like the feeling of Keith’s tongue down his throat and lips on his, like the feeling of the hard planes of his body pressed up against him and those calloused hands— “Fine,” He coughs. “Things have been fine. We’re friends. It’s chill. We’re cool. Then we get in the practice room, and it just— just—“

“Goes to shit?” Pidge supplies helpfully.

He snaps his fingers, pointing at them. “Bingo. It’s just bad.”

Hunk raises an eyebrow. “Bad?”

Lance nods. “Bad.”

“Um... explanation, maybe?”

“He’s just so— so— uptight! He doesn’t listen to anything I say. Won’t take any of my suggestions. He sucks all the fun out out of everything.” He hadn’t really registered himself moving, but as his voice amped up, he had pushed himself into a sitting position, legs crossed and arms waving for emphasis. “It’s a dance. It’s supposed to be fun, but he’s all No-Nonsense McGee up there, acting like he’s the only one taking this seriously, when I am taking it seriously! This is a step toward my future! I’ve been waiting for this for months— years! There’s two of us, and I definitely didn’t elect him to be the boss, but he sure as hell is acting like it. And then I get mad, then he gets mad, then we both get mad, then suddenly things aren’t great anymore, we’re yelling, I’m getting kicked out or he’s storming out and nothing gets done and— and—“ He lets out a long, loud, frustrated groan, throwing his hands up in the air and slouching back against the mirror. His arms come to settle across his chest, chin pointed down and scowl on his face.

The silence that stretches between them is short lived, but feels like an eternity. A single moment that stretches and stretches, thick and heavy as his rant hangs ominously in the air. He hates it. Hates not knowing how his friends will react. Hates not knowing who’s side they’ll be on. Hates that he considers there to be sides at all.

“So...” Hunk says, drawing it out slowly, not so much shattering the silence as edging his way into it. “Were you kicked out or did he storm out?”

Lance looks away, unable to really make eye contact as he tries to hold his scowl. “Both? Neither? Does it really matter? Point is, we’re getting no where, and I don’t know how to fix it.”

And that’s the root of it, really. Over the past few months, he’s learned a lot of things about Keith. He knows how to read when his scowl isn’t serious. He’s learned all these weird little ticks in his body language, all these subtle changes in his expression that are so hard to explain but can just read like they’re written across his face in fifty point font.

He’s learned Keith’s comfort food is chicken nuggets. He’s learned that he loves reading during thunderstorms. He’s learned he can’t really swim but can run for miles on autopilot. He’s learned he hates talking during movies but puts up with it when his friends do it. He’s learned he’s incredibly competitive and an adorable sore loser. He’s learned that he doesn’t laugh loudly often, but when he does, it comes bubbling up quick and sudden, like he’s not expecting it and doesn’t know how to contain it.

He’s learned Keith really likes to take the reigns when they kiss, but that he also falls apart like putty Lance’s hands. He’s learned Keith likes to bite and likes to have his hair pulled.

They’ve managed to figure each other out in small ways, fitting together like jagged little puzzle pieces, finding all the dips and rivets where they fit. Finding common ground. Finding out that they’re not really that different and they don’t annoy each other as much as he originally thought. They’ve figured out how to work together. They’ve figured out how friendship works between them. Hell, they’ve even figured out how to best mash their lips together.

But he can’t for the life of him figure out how to simply be partners. Not without the pressure of a time crunch weighing heavily on their shoulders.

He doesn’t know how to fix whatever this is between them. They constantly butt heads, and it’s like every little step they’ve taken forward doesn’t count for shit. They’re back at square one. Do not pass Go. Do not collect two hundred.

He pulls his knees up to his chest, crossing his arms over them and burying his face where it can be safe and hidden. “I don’t know how to fix this...” He repeats, aiming for frustrated but voice sounding a lot smaller and more vulnerable than intended.

Hunk’s hand is back at his shoulder, rubbing soothing circles into his upper back. He leans into the touch.

“This is what I was worried about when Shiro suggested this whole thing.” Pidge says with a sigh.

He lifts his head just enough to give them a look, eyes narrowed and one brow raised. “What’s that supposed to mean?” He asks warily.

They sigh again, sitting in front of him with their legs crossed. They adjust their glasses, and it’s such a matter-of-fact gesture, Pidge’s whole posture factual and concise, that it oddly enough grounds him. “It means that I know both of you. You’re both stubborn and pig-headed.” He opens his mouth to protest but they hold up a finger to silence him, pushing onward. “You both have your ways of doing things, and you’re both stuck in them because you think you know best. You’re both incredible dancers, but that won’t mean shit if you can’t work together.”

“I know, but—“

“No but’s!” Pidge snaps, and Lance purses his lips tight, glaring but not arguing. “What’s been his biggest complaint?”

Lance thinks about that for a moment, rolls the memories of the past few weeks around in his head. There have been a lot of complaints, a lot of accusations and grumbled jabs, but it all kinda boils down to— “That I’m not taking it seriously.” He says, lip curling at the thought. He is! He’s more serious about this than anything else!

“And are you?”

“Yes!”

Pidge silently raises one eyebrow, crossing their arms over their chest.

His brows furrow, lips pursing. “I am! It’s just not, like, Keith serious. I don’t know how to be Keith serious! I’m not Keith! Serious looks different on me!”

“Have you learned his routine?”

“...Mostly?”

“Lance.”

“I’m trying!”

“I know you are.” They say, and again it’s not condescending, not pitying. It’s matter-of-fact. Like they’ve never questioned for a moment that Lance wasn’t trying. It’s enough to keep him calm. “But does he know that?”

Lance opens his mouth to retort, but it snaps shut, brows furrowing. Keith has to know he’s at least trying... right? Has he ever given any indication that he wasn’t?

Pidge only gives him a brief moment to think before continuing. “Maybe the reason he doesn’t take your suggestions seriously is because he doesn’t think you’re taking him seriously.”

“But I am!”

“Then show him.”

He blinks. “How?”

Pidge shrugs then. “Learn the routine he’s been working on. Prove to him that you’re serious. Then show him your patented Lance McClain flair.”

“That’s... not a bad idea.”

Pidge smirks then, a small quirk at the corner of their lips as they gracefully push themselves to their feet, making a show of brushing off their pants. “It’s what I’d do.”

“Yeah, except we never fight like that.” Hunk says, pride brightening his features as he holds out a fist.

Pidge grins. “Nope.” Their fists meet, hands pulling back with flared fingers as they both make explosion sounds. There’s a few more movements added in there, but Lance has already stopped paying attention, staring at a spot across the room.

Prove to Keith that he’s serious, huh?

Yeah, he can do that.

 


 

Keith pulls into his usual spot fifteen minutes before their scheduled practice time. He’s early out of habit more than necessity, and he’s not exactly in any hurry to get inside.

To be honest, he’s not really sure why he’s here at all. They’ve got practice slots three times a week, but they’re not really getting anywhere. In fact, half the time it feels like they’re taking several steps back. Just full reverse to square one. He’s trying. He really is. He’s just not sure Lance is trying.

It’s all so... confusing. Annoying? Frustrating, definitely. Outside the practice room, outside of Altea Studios altogether, they’re fine. More than fine, actually. They’ve found this really great balance where they’re friends, close friends, who occasionally... make out. A lot. And he’s cool with that. That’s not the part that annoys him.

The part that annoys him is how as soon as they step over the threshold of Altea Studios, it’s like everything that they’ve ever worked out between them just disappears. They get in that practice room, and before either of them even say anything, the air is thick with apprehension and caution, like they’re both holding their breath to see who’s going to snap first.

He tries to work. He really does. He’s got a good idea of where he wants to take the choreography for this dance, and he’s been working diligently on it. This is his element. This is where he thrives. Constant practice. Focused. Precise. Figure out the moves. Drill it. Let it become muscle memory. Go until it’s perfect and he can let his body flow through it naturally. That’s how it’s always been.

Until Lance.

Lance doesn’t fit into his perfect practice routine. Lance’s jokes pull him out of his zone. Lance doesn’t take the moves seriously. Half the time he improvises new ones and suddenly they’re no longer in sync. Lance has a million ideas that are all over the place when they’re trying to focus on one idea at a time. Lance moves his limbs with the grace and easy of flowing water, swinging his hips in a way that’s memorizing, and it’s really fucking distracting.

Someone always ends up yelling. Lance is goofing off, or Keith is too uptight. Neither of them is every willing to back down. One spark. That’s all it takes. A dry comment. An insult. A look. One snaps, then the other. By then, it’s too late. The tension is too high and tempers are flaring. They can’t get anything else done. They usually try, but it’s wasted energy. One of them usually ends up storming out of the room, and they can’t practice dancing together if they’re not together.

Last time it was Lance’s fault, but it was Keith who snapped first. Keith had been trying to get them to practice a specific series of moves he was set on, but Lance kept messing up. On purpose. Trying out different things. Getting a feel for it. Relax, dude, it’s fine.

It wasn’t fine. It was annoying. Keith was annoyed. It didn’t matter if his own choreography was perfect if Lance didn’t sync up.

And it didn’t help that Lance had been smiling that stupid smile that made Keith’s insides all jittering and his knees weak and his fucking palms sweaty. It was just a smile. A cocky, self assured twist of those smooth lips that he was actually getting to know pretty damn well.

A cocky smile, half lidded eyes, lips mouthing words, a sway of his hips, dip of his shoulders, and Keith had snapped.

And not the good kind of snapped that usually results in him pushing Lance against the closest hard surface and swallowing down those needy sounds he makes whenever Keith bites at his lips.

No. The kind of snap where he said something he doesn’t even really remember. Something harsh and unyielding. Which snapped Lance out of his good mood and had him snapping back. Then it was a verbal volley that ended with Lance storming out and Keith suddenly alone.

Yeah. Not the best practice session, but pretty much what was becoming their norm.

It’s pretty much a waste of his time. He could just skip practice altogether, send some kind of silent, passive aggressive message to Lance, and just stay home and watch Netflix. But he’s here. Like he’s always here. Half out of habit, and half because of some vain hope that something will finally click between them and it’ll be like it used to.

They did this before. They did it for auditions. Granted, that was more of just teaching Lance a dance he already had and less of actually coming up with one together, but it’s the same concept. It should be easy, but it’s not easy. Why is nothing ever easy with Lance?

He sighs as he cuts his bike’s engine, sitting bac