Keith's leg is twitching.
"Are you gonna be ok?" Shiro asks. His tone sounds serious, but there's a grin curling at the edge of his mouth. Keith kind of wants to hit him, but he's almost twenty, and Shiro is twenty-five; they really should be beyond this kind of behavior, except Shiro apparently didn't get the memo.
Keith buries his face in his hands, sighing, and tries his best to ignore his brother sitting next to him. It's just kind of hard when Shiro keeps snickering into a gloved hand, even though Keith should be used to this after living with him for fifteen years.
"I shouldn't tell you anything, ever," Keith mutters petulantly, and Shiro snorts.
"You didn't even tell me this, I just know you too well." Shiro smirks at him before tucking the lower half of his face into the black scarf wrapped around his neck, shivering exaggeratedly. Keith sighs again, exhaling plumes of white into the darkness around them.
Unfortunately, Shiro is right. Keith is pretty good at keeping his feelings to himself about most things, but Shiro has always been the one person who understood him more than anyone else; it didn't matter if it was hidden scrapes on his knees from skateboarding or the first time a boy broke his heart, Shiro has always been able to figure out when Keith is hiding something, especially if it's painful.
And this is getting really, really painful.
"Shit," Keith murmurs to himself. He can hear them already, even without seeing them, and he sucks in a breath, bracing himself. Shiro nudges him with his shoulder and shoots him a look, but Keith focuses on the trio making their way down the walkway. They always make such a strange sight, the three of them different heights and sizes but pressed close together. Pidge is wrapped up in a giant coat with a huge fur hood, only recognizable by their glasses and bright hair. They're scowling up at Hunk, who beams down at them and rubs a hand over the top of their head, knocking the hood down low over their face. Pidge blindly swings their hand up and knocks Hunk's arm away, which makes him burst into laughter. Keith feels himself smiling too, because after a month of nothing but texts and sporadic skype calls, it's really, really good to see his friends again, even if being back on campus means dealing with freezing weather and new classes. Even if it means dealing with--
His eyes shift automatically to the third person, as they always seem to, and his heart lurches.
"Oh my god," Shiro whispers incredulously. "You're ridiculous."
Keith doesn't even want to know what expression is on his face for Shiro to say something like that, but he can't help it.
Lance is wearing a huge white and blue sweater and a dark coat, with the ends of his sleeves falling over his fingertips, and he's grinning at Hunk and Pidge, throat bared as he tilts his head back and laughs. He looks well-rested, the shadows from last semester's all nighters missing from his eyes, and his hair is a little bit longer, curling on the ends. It hasn't been that long since Keith saw him in their last video call, but it's different in person -- in person, Keith can spot all the little freckles on Lance's cheekbones, can appreciate the warmth in Lance's voice when he finally spots them and shouts, "Hey, Keith!" His stomach twists a little bit but he can't stop the smile stretching his mouth wide as Lance runs up to them.
"Hey, Lance," Keith says, and then yelps as Lance tugs on the collar of his jacket to pull him up into a hug. He can hear Shiro greeting Pidge and Hunk somewhere to his left, but all he can focus on is how warm Lance is, and how he smells of something woodsy, like smoke or sandalwood. His arms hover at his sides for a second, but then he wraps them around Lance and squeezes once, which makes Lance laugh.
"He can be taught," Lance teases, pulling away a little. He's got glitter on his face, Keith realizes, and in his hair too. He probably doesn't even know it. "Where was that initiative when I was trying to start a group catchphrase?"
Keith resists the urge to dust the sparkles off of Lance's cheekbones, settles for rolling his eyes and touching the silvery buttons on Lance's coat instead. Lance still hasn't let go of him, so Keith's caught in the circle of his arms, and he isn't normally this touchy with people, but it's Lance, so he allows it. He can feel Shiro looking at him from the corner of his eye, but he focuses instead on how bright Lance's eyes are, even through the darkness.
"No one even knows what Voltron is, Lance, you just made it up," he says, and Lance finally lets go of him to cross his arms and pout. Keith is immediately cold again, which he hides by slouching into his jacket, tucking his hands firmly into his pockets to keep from reaching out and pulling him back in.
"Hey--" Lance starts, but Pidge groans loudly, looking over from where they're yanking at Shiro's scarf, which he tolerates with a surprising amount of patience.
"No, Lance," they say firmly, "We don't have time for your dumb bullshit. We have to make it to the movie in the next ten minutes, and you know everyone is going to want to get snacks, so we're leaving now."
"You know how Pidge is about trailers," Hunk whispers loudly, which earns him a dark look from Pidge. They let go of Shiro's scarf to point at Hunk and then at Lance and Keith with a truly astonishing amount of vehemence, given how small they are.
"The trailers are the best part about going to see a movie," they say, waving their hands around. "It's part of the experience! I'm not missing them because Lance wants to bicker with Keith for another thirty minutes. Let's go, go, go!"
"Alright, alright, we're going," Shiro says, placating, and everyone automatically starts walking in the direction of the theater, like they'd been waiting for the signal. Pidge is still grumbling a little, but grins excitedly when Hunk mentions how much he's been looking forward to this movie, and Shiro says something about the director, and they jump into a conversation Keith doesn't have the attention span for right now.
All of his focus is on Lance, pressed up against his side, humming a little under his breath as they walk. He's a solid line of warmth against Keith's right side, and his expressions flash in and out of view as they pass under streetlights.
"Was -- did you have a good break?" he says awkwardly, trying to fill the silence. It's hard to tell, but Lance's mouth curves strangely in the darkness before he answers.
"It was good," he says cheerfully, nudging against Keith briefly. "It's always good to be home, see my mom. My sisters still won't shut up about how hot Shiro is, though." He makes a disgusted face, which Keith mirrors, and then laughs. "What about you, how was your time back home?"
Keith blows on his fingertips before he answers, curling them in and out -- the tips are red, and he really should invest in gloves that cover his whole hand, but he has an attachment to these. "It was fine. Shiro and I didn't get to go to Japan over break with mom and dad, but we skyped with everyone, which was nice. And Shiro got me the parts I needed for my bike for Christmas, which was cool."
"Sweet, dude. You'll have to give me a ride some time."
Keith struggles not to let his face turn red, glad that they're still under the blanket of nighttime. "Sure."
"Hey, slowpokes!" Pidge yells, muffled through their coat hood, "Move it! We have like five minutes before it starts!"
"Coming, your highness," Lance shouts back, and then tucks his arm through Keith's and pulls him along, grinning. "I swear, they get bossier every time I see them," he tells Keith conspiratorially. He leans in close to say it, and his breath fans out over Keith's face. He swallows and tries not to grip too hard as he and Lance break into a jog to catch up to their friends. His heart pounds the whole way, pulse drumming loud in his ear as he tries to convince himself that this is the year he finally, finally gets over Lance.
He's not entirely sure when this -- having feelings for Lance -- started. They met freshmen year during an astronomy club meeting where they'd bickered over conflicting news articles for a solid forty minutes until Shiro had to physically separate them. He'd teased Keith then about having a crush, but Keith had been genuinely annoyed at Lance and also sort of genuinely thrilled to have someone push back against him. So many people found him intimidating or cold, and it was fun to be able to argue with someone who was willing to give as good as he got. He'd intended to go to the club meeting only once, for Shiro's benefit, but he found himself readily agreeing to go back, just to see if Lance would show up. He did.
It had been inevitable, somehow, that they would end up friends. They spent the entire fall semester butting heads over every little thing, and then, after a bake sale that had somehow turned into a competitive event between the two of them, they suddenly just started hanging out, even outside of meetings. Lance was already friends with Pidge and Hunk from high school, and Shiro and Keith had always been close siblings; their group just naturally formed itself as they spent more and more time together.
It was the start of sophomore year that Keith realized that he liked Lance, way more than he liked any of his other friends. They'd been fighting amiably about some television show, or book, or one of the million things they found time to talk about, and then Lance had stuck his tongue out and pursed his lips and Keith had thought I could kiss him to shut him up and then choked on nothing. He'd spent the rest of that afternoon together freaking out and doing his best to hide it from Lance, who was always more perceptive than people gave him credit for. Thankfully he hadn't seemed to catch onto the fact that Keith was dying inside.
He'd gone to bed that night hoping it was a fluke, like maybe it was just the way the light was hitting Lance's face, or that maybe Keith was just getting sick -- but the next day Lance sneezed so hard he squeaked and Keith still wanted to kiss the pout off his lips when everyone laughed at him. And it continued the next day and the next, until he just finally just had to accept it.
It's become as much a part of him as breathing, by this point. Junior year is half over and his feelings haven't dissipated at all -- in fact, they seem to grow over breaks, which is why he'd been so nervous seeing him again. He buries his face in his pillow and groans.
"You should just say something," Shiro tells him, because Shiro is a terrible brother who gives terrible advice. "Ow!" Shiro adds, because Keith blindly hits him with the closest pillow and then slumps back onto his bed, sighing. "Seriously Keith, it's been almost two years now. It's clearly not going away at this point."
"I like having Lance as a friend, Shiro," Keith mumbles into his pillow. "And I like our friend group, and I like not having to worry that I'm going to be the one to fuck everything up, so--"
"Why do you always assume you're going to fuck something up?" Shiro asks, rubbing a hand through Keith's hair. Keith wrinkles his nose but tolerates it. "Seriously, you're being way too dramatic about this."
"It's easy to be calm and rational about stuff when you're in a committed relationship with an amazing woman, Shiro," Keith mutters. "I don't think he even thinks of me like that."
"He's all touchy with you, and he knows no one else gets to be that close," Shiro points out. It's true that Keith will allow his friends to touch him more than he usually lets anyone else -- but only Shiro and Lance get to be as close as they want, and Lance is the only person Keith finds himself wanting to touch him. "Why would he do that if he weren't flirting back?"
"I don't flirt with him, Shiro," Keith protests. "When have I ever--"
"You definitely wore those leggings to the gym that one time because you knew Lance has a thing for legs, please don't pretend. Also, I still haven't forgiven you for making me witness that." Shiro makes a face and Keith shoves at him hard enough that he falls off the bed. "Fuck! Keith, seriously. Listen, just--"
"Takashi, no," Keith interrupts, and the resigned tiredness in his voice is enough to make Shiro pause. "I just -- I'm okay with how things are. I'm willing to let it pass, I don't want to change anything. I'm happy like this, okay?"
Shiro kneels next to the bed and looks at Keith for a moment longer, and then sighs. He runs a hand over Keith's head again, and this time Keith doesn't make a face, just closes his eyes. "Alright, kiddo. Whatever you think is best."
Keith's stomach twists, but he doesn't say anything else.
The thing is, Lance is still the exact same person Keith started liking, and he's probably not going to change, so Keith isn't really sure how he's going to get over these feelings. The smart thing to do would probably be to limit himself from seeing him, but that's not really an option when you have such a small group of friends. Also, Keith wants to spend time with Lance, even if he does spend half of the time trying to make sure he's not being obvious about his heart skipping a beat because Lance is wrapping an arm around his shoulders and whispering in his ear, or singing obnoxious love songs loud enough that strangers stare at them as they walk by.
"I hate studying," Lance says now, slumping in his seat. They're in the library on a Wednesday afternoon, so it isn't too crowded, but a couple of students at a nearby table do shoot Lance vaguely offended looks. He flicks a wrist at them apologetically and then nudges distastefully at the books spread out in front of him. "It's barely a week into the semester and I'm already researching for a paper. I want a refund on college."
"It's only a five page paper, Lance," Keith says dryly, highlighting another section of his notes. He glances over at Lance's messy scrawl on sheets and sheets of paper; there's good information there, Keith knows, but Lance is terrible about organizing it. He sighs and takes a stack of Lance's pages, smoothing them out before he starts trying to decipher them.
"What are you doing?" Lance asks, leaning forward in his seat. His hand comes up to rest on the table, close enough that his wrist is pressed to Keith's arm. Keith determinedly keeps his eyes on the paper.
"I'll highlight some stuff for you to pull from when you're looking up articles later," he says, using the blue highlighter because he knows it's Lance's favorite color.
"Aw, Keith," Lance says, exaggeratedly clasping his hands together and beaming, "You're the best." He nudges Keith's arm a little, laughs when Keith just rolls his eyes, and then reluctantly goes back to his book, sucking his lower lip into his mouth absently as he frowns at the words. Keith stares at him a moment longer, caught by the play of dim lighting over his hair and lashes, and then catches himself and flushes, going back to trying to work out Lance's honestly terrible handwriting. It's incredibly annoying that even this is charming, because Lance writes like a toddler but Keith is still absurdly fond of the swooping curls of his Ys and the way his writing slants to the right slightly.
They sit quietly for a while, Lance slowly turning pages and Keith carefully highlighting around all of Lance's doodles. He doesn't realize he's shivering until something warm wraps around his shoulders, breaking into his concentration. He looks up to see Lance tucking the edges of his jacket around Keith, leaned in close.
"Uh," Keith says intelligently, and Lance grins at him. His smile is bright, and Keith swallows, throat clicking.
"You're obviously cold, dude. You know they keep it negative ten in the library, even when it's winter." Lance leans back in his own huge sweater and looks at Keith quietly, mouth quirked up. The shoulder of the jacket slides off, and Keith automatically tugs it back up, hunching into it. He doesn't have the sleeves on so it hangs awkwardly, but it's warm from Lance's body heat, and the collar gives off that same woodsy scent that Lance does. Keith kind of wants to bury his face in it, but he settles for pulling it on properly, pushing the sleeves up over his wrists when they hang low.
"What about you?" Keith asks, tucking a strand of hair behind his ear and ignoring Lance's warm eyes by looking down at the notes again. There's blue highlighter on his fingertip, and he rubs his thumb against it absently.
"I'm fine," Lance says, waving a hand. "This sweater is made of the thickest wool known to mankind, and it's infused with my grandmother's love so it stays even warmer." He brushes a hand down his chest, and Keith's eyes helplessly follow it and then cut away quickly. "Ah, I'm tired," Lance continues, rubbing at his eyes with the heels of his palms. When he pulls his hands away, there are shadows under his eyes, unusual this early in the semester. Keith can't help but wonder what's keeping him up so late, if it's the same thing making him act somewhat strange lately.
"Wanna go for coffee after this?" Keith suggests, and Lance beams at him. Keith doesn't even like coffee, but Lance looks so pleased, willingly going back to his book. He tucks a hand under his chin and scribbles a few more notes, and Keith takes a moment to pull the jacket tighter around him, pressing the sleeve to his mouth to cover his smile.
When they leave the coffee shop later that evening, Lance doesn't mention the jacket, and neither does Keith. He wears it until just before he gets into bed, and then drapes it over his desk chair, telling himself he'll give it back tomorrow.
Or maybe next week.
Keith has a problem.
Lance has always been the most touch-prone person in the group, and he's allowed far more liberties than anyone in the group when it comes to Keith. Even before Keith realized his crush, Lance was the only one who was able to wrap an arm around his shoulder or lean against him on the couch, whereas Keith had accidentally let Pidge fall over one time when they tried to lean on him while they were waiting for the others to show up because he'd instinctively jerked away. He'd apologized profusely, immensely embarrassed, and they'd waved it off, saying "Sorry, I shouldn't have done that in the first place." That hadn't happened with Lance for some reason.
So Keith is used to Lance touching him. Or he thought he was. Something is different this semester, something about Lance. It's something that makes his smiles go tight at the corners of his mouth, that has him staring off into the distance sometimes, eyes unfocused and dull. Keith is pretty sure he and Hunk are the only ones who notice, because other than these small, quiet moments, Lance is as bright and friendly and excitable as always.
But he's also much, much more tactile.
Keith comes back from a run to find Lance already in his apartment, digging around in his fridge. Keith has a momentary panic, wondering where he left Lance's jacket, but he remembers that it's tucked safely under his blankets on his bed. He relaxes and makes a point of slamming his door loud enough that Lance yelps and almost hits his head on the inside of the fridge.
"Hello," Keith says, cheerfully pointed, and Lance pops the top of a can of soda and grins at him. "What are you doing?"
"I was at the convenience store down the block but they didn't have the kind of soda I wanted, but I knew you would, so I figured why not pop by. I know where you keep the spare key." Lance smirks and takes a long drink of the can, head tilted back, throat working, and Keith clenches his fists at his side and struggles to keep his face straight. He sets his iPod and his own set of keys on the counter and walks around Lance to the fridge, opening it to pull a bottle of water out.
He startles as a hand brushes against his nape, and then glances back as Lance tugs at his ponytail. "What?"
"Your hair looks good like this," Lance says, still playing with his hair, twisting the ends around. It's gotten longer than he likes to keep it but he hasn't had time to trim it, and it curls slightly at the ends around Lance's fingers. Keith feels his face flushing, and he closes the fridge door hastily, turning away from Lance so he can't see. Lance just leans up behind Keith, hooking his chin over his shoulder, settling his hand against the curve of Keith's neck. He inhales, and Keith can feel his chest push against his back. What is happening? Keith thinks wildly.
His lungs are probably caving in on him because he can barely breathe, and his heart is pounding so loudly Lance can probably hear it. He can probably blame it on the run, he thinks. He can probably pretend his entire body isn't going crazy at Lance's proximity, at the feeling of his breath against Keith's cheek.
"I'm sweaty," he says, glad when he sounds annoyed rather than flustered. "Get off."
"You smell like pine trees," Lance says, and then moves away to grab his can of soda again. He's left a warm imprint along Keith's back, and Keith shivers a little. He fumbles with the cap on his water bottle and takes a long drink before he bothers to turn around again. Lance is leaned against the counter, chewing on his hoodie string, looking around Keith's kitchen with interest. Keith glances around as well, but it's the same kitchen as always -- mostly clean, with a box of cereal left out and with a couple of dirty dishes in the sink. Lance stares for a while at the map of the world Keith has hung up on the wall, eyes distant, and then spits out his string and grins.
"Wanna go get breakfast?" His smile is crooked, and he tilts his head invitingly. Keith sighs.
"It's almost midday," Keith says, "And I need a shower."
"Brunch," Lance argues. "And I'll wait. I need to finish a chapter for chemistry anyway."
Keith waves a hand at him, walking towards his bedroom. He resists the urge to lock the door, just in case Lance decides to go snooping around his room, but he knows Lance wouldn't do that; he's really just worried about Lance possibly finding the jacket, because he has absolutely no explanation for why he still has it a week and a half after Lance gave it to him. He doesn't want to give it up, either.
He doesn't want to give any of it up.
He takes less time in the shower than he usually does, because it makes him slightly anxious, thinking Lance alone in his apartment, and, after an embarrassingly long internal debate, decides to leave his hair up. He tells himself it's because it's damp and he doesn't want it hanging over his neck, but the memory of Lance's fingers curling through the ends leaves him staring helplessly at the mirror as he gets ready.
Lance looks up from his book when Keith walks out, and a smile stretches cross his face; he's so familiar and pretty and Keith genuinely can't stand how much he likes him. It's like a neverending fire burning in his stomach, slowly but surely consuming him from the inside out. "Ready?" Lance asks, standing up and stretching his arms above his head. He makes a pleased noise when his back pops. The fire flickers inside of Keith.
"Ready," Keith says, once again trying to resign himself to his own irrepressible feelings. "Let's go."
"What do you think it is?" Hunk asks, and Keith looks up from his phone (where he's been ignoring increasingly annoying texts from Shiro in favor of snapchatting Lance) to blink at him. Hunk has his head propped up on a hand, looking at Keith with his brows furrowed in concern -- it's not a look Hunk wears very often, so Keith puts his phone down and gives him his full attention. Around them, the coffee shop they're in bustles with students chatting to each other, comparing notes or books or stories from over break, idly chatting or furiously ignoring each other. He and Hunk had started off quizzing each other for exams they had coming up, but had ended up taking a break about an hour in to complain about classes and how busy they are.
"What do I think what is?" he asks.
Hunk carefully wraps his hands around his mug of coffee and looks at it.
"Whatever's wrong with Lance," he says, and Keith feels his stomach dip automatically at the sound of his name. SirLancelot sent you a snap pops up on his phone, as if Lance can tell he's being talked about. "I mean, it's nothing too obvious, but I can tell you've noticed too," Hunk adds, glancing up at Keith with this knowing look in his eyes.
Keith's body tenses, and he hurriedly takes a sip of his tea, trying to cover up his reaction. It's not like he doesn't assume that the others have probably noticed his feelings for Lance -- he can try all he wants, but he still reacts whenever they touch, or when Lance gives him special attention, and Shiro's not the only observant person in his life. But this is the first time Hunk has ever alluded to the fact that he knows about Keith's feelings. He tries to look calm, but he wants to avoid Hunk's eyes, which is hard to do when they're so calm and understanding; Hunk has always been the easiest to talk to, out of the group. He swallows the hot liquid and tries not to choke.
"Um," he says, taking his time putting his cup down. "I mean, I've noticed he's been kind of distant."
"That's a word for it," Hunk sighs. "He's been losing track of time, and he'll drift off because he's distracted. He's been snappish, even with me. He stays up later than normal and he's been texting his sisters more than usual. I'm worried about him."
Keith chews his lip for a second, spinning his cup in his hands. "Do you think something happened over break?"
"Yeah," Hunk says. He takes a sip of his coffee and frowns into the cup. "I've tried to hint that he can talk to me about it, but he isn't biting. And I don't wanna push. I've just--" Hunk pauses and then, clearly choosing his words carefully, continues. "I've noticed he's been hanging with you more than usual this semester, so if you can find a way to get him to talk about it, I think that would help. You know how he is when he bottles things up."
Keith nods slowly, turning the words over in his head. He's glad Hunk brought it up, because he's been getting more and more worried about Lance's strange pauses and cold looks as the semester has gone on, but he's also wondering what Hunk means by 'more than usual', and whether or not everyone else has noticed. What that could mean, what Lance could mean by it, if it's true.
But as far as getting Lance to talk to him -- well, Hunk knows Lance better than anyone. They've been friends since middle school, and they're so close they can communicate through twitches of their eyebrows. If Hunk can't get him to explain what's going on, what chance does Keith, the guy he's known for a couple of years who still sometimes can't understand him when he's using real words, really have of getting him to talk?
"I'll see what I can do," Keith says doubtfully. Hunk's brow smooths out and he smiles.
"Thanks, buddy. I just know he's going through something, and I hate that he's not reaching out." Hunk looks so lost that Keith can't help but reach across the table and touch the back of his hand, hoping it's comforting and not just weird. Hunk smiles at him again, so Keith smiles back and then pulls away. He wonders if he's supposed to address the other thing, the 'I have a huge crush on Lance and you know about it' thing, but he doesn't really know how to talk about it with anyone except Shiro. He looks down at his cup again, picking at the edge of the lid with a fingernail.
Hunk takes another sip of coffee and then says, "So did you watch that show I was talking about yet?"
Keith relaxes, and then looks up at Hunk with a grin. "Just the first episode, but oh my god, you were right, it's really good."
"Told you," Hunk sing songs, and Keith throws a napkin at him and tries to put Lance and whatever is bothering him to the back of his mind.
Keith tries to bring it up the next time he's alone with Lance. They're outside of Keith's apartment in the parking lot while Keith replaces the brake pads on his motorcycle. Lance is blasting music on his phone, a weird mix of top 40s pop songs and melancholic indie songs. The latter is what prompts Keith to say, hesitantly, "So what did you do on break?"
Lance is balanced up against the car in the spot next to Keith's motorcycle, tapping away on his phone as he idly sings along with whatever's playing. "What do you mean?" he asks. He sounds normal, looks totally relaxed, but the fact that he isn't looking at Keith says a lot. Keith concentrates on his hands, on the lube coating his gloved fingertips and threatening the cuffs of his long sleeved sweatshirt.
"Just wondering if you did anything special with your family," Keith says, trying to be casual about it. "I know you guys usually do that bonfire thing." He focuses on the whirls of wear on the old brake pads, studying them for evidence they've been rubbing the wrong way. He sets them aside and flicks a glance at Lance, who is staring at his feet scuffing the asphalt. Keith picks up the wrench just to have something to hold onto.
"Oh," Lance says. His voice is deceptively cheerful. He'd probably fool a stranger. Keith's fingers clench around the wrench. "Yeah, we couldn't do it this year. Too busy doing other stuff. We went to visit my grandparents, my, uh, mom's parents. Haven't seen them in a little while."
"Cool," Keith says, even though he's trying to figure out how to say Please tell me what's been bothering you without coming across as pushy or weird. He lifts his hand up, trying to flick his sleeve back down past his wrist, stalling for time in the hopes that his brain will come up with something.
Hands wrap around his sleeve and pull, folding the edges up so that the material sits comfortably around his forearm. "You're a mess," Lance says, reaching around to fold back the sleeve on his other side too. His hands are warm against Keith's skin, fingers lingering in against the crease of his elbow before he pulls away again. Lance doesn't go back to leaning against the car -- instead he crouches next to Keith, pressing up alongside him. Keith's face heats up and he determinedly turns back to his motorcycle, fiddling with the caliper to keep from looking at Lance. Lance almost tips over and reaches out to put a hand on Keith's thigh, balancing himself. Keith looks down at his gloved fingers, resting gently against his black jeans.
He kind of wants to just forget about what Hunk asked, wants sit here with Lance warm at his side and fix his bike and maybe find a way to casually ask Lance if he was serious about wanting to go for a ride, but he -- really does want to help Lance, even though he knows this is going end badly.
He clears his throat. "You've seemed busy this semester. Are you doing okay?"
There's a pause where Lance doesn't say anything, and Keith starts cursing himself inwardly, and then clarifies, "Just, you know, you seemed tired earlier." They'd been watching television and Lance had dozed off, falling onto Keith's shoulder and curling into his side. His hand had curled tight around Keith's bicep, and Keith had stared unseeing at the television screen until Lance had jerked awake thirty minutes later.
Lance's fingers twitch a little against his leg. "Mmm, yeah? No more busy than usual. Just trying to keep up with all of my labs and papers and stuff I guess." His tone is cool and disinterested, and Keith feels his stomach sinking. Lance taps a little rhythm against Keith's leg, and then pushes to his feet. "I'm fine though. I'm gonna go inside real quick, you just reminded me about a paper I need to summarize. See you in a bit?"
He doesn't wait for a response, walking away before Keith can even turn to look at him. Lance's shoulders are tight, and Keith clenches his fist around the wrench and has to resist the urge to throw it across the parking lot, or hit himself in the head.
"Nice job," he mutters to himself, and decides to take his time finishing up.
Keith tries to put it to the back of his mind after that, because he's clearly only going to make things worse, and Lance goes right back to touching him like nothing had ever been said. It's neverending -- a hand on the back of his when they're sitting across from each other at the table, fingertips on the back of his neck when Lance passes by, pulling teasingly at his hair or gloves or jacket.
"So," Allura says, pressing her fingertips together and staring at Keith over the top of them, "You and Lance, huh?"
Keith levels a look at her. They're alone in Shiro's apartment because Shiro had to go grab his mail, and Allura has clearly been waiting for the opportunity to say something. Her eyes are practically sparkling.
He looks back down at his book and ignores her. She makes a frustrated noise.
"Keith!" she says, pouting a little. He raises an eyebrow at her, unimpressed. "We've all noticed, you know. He's been flirting back with you all semester!"
"Back? I do not flirt with him," Keith protests. "What is it with you and Shiro?"
Allura smirks and points a finger at him. "You've definitely been flirting with him, Keith. You took him his favorite coffee after he group texted us that he had a bad exam grade! And you guys were absolutely flirting over dinner the other night."
"We were talking about how much we hate our physics lecture!" Keith says incredulously. "How--"
"If you could see yourself when you look at him," Allura says, shaking her head. "Honestly, Keith, I'm not trying to tease you or anything, I think it's nice!"
She's smiling, looking genuinely pleased, which is the only reason Keith doesn't snap at her when he repeats, in a low voice, "Nice?"
Her smile loses some of its glow.
"You think it's nice that I've liked someone for almost two years and have to hide it so I don't ruin our friendship?" Keith asks. He's trying really, really hard not to get mad at Allura, because he likes her, because she's his brother's girlfriend and a really good person, but his hands are clenching around his book. "It's not -- Allura, it's not nice, I hate it."
Allura looks stunned. "Keith," she says, quiet and wide-eyed, but it's like a dam has broken, and he can't stop the words from spilling out.
"Do you know -- do you know what it's like, to like someone so much, to want to be able to hold their hand and kiss them but you can't, because they don't like you back? To see them every day, to be with them all the time and know that they can't know how you feel? Because you're just friends, and if you try to be more than that you could wreck an entire group of friends? I just -- Allura, I've been dealing with this for so long, and it isn't going away, it's getting harder and harder to ignore it and I know you guys can tell and that makes it worse, like you're all just waiting for it to come out, like I'm one step away from fucking everything up and I just--"
A hand drops onto his shoulder and Keith chokes on his words, looking up to see Shiro standing behind him. He distantly wonders how much he heard, but he can barely think past the embarrassed and angry buzzing in his head. Shiro is looking over at Allura, brows furrowed, and she sighs and raises her hand.
"I wasn't trying to say it like that, Keith," she says. Shiro steps away from Keith, putting his mail away in the kitchen, leaving them alone again. "We aren't -- the group isn't waiting on you to mess things up. You and Lance -- it would be nice. You don't know that it would end poorly."
"Lance doesn't like me," Keith says. "I know he's been acting weird this semester, but that's something else. Something about back home."
"It's not just this semester," Allura says, leaning back into the couch and crossing her arms. She looks stubborn and frustrated. Keith can relate. "Lance has always treated you differently. I thought he liked you before I ever knew about you liking him." Keith just stares at her, and she sighs. "I'm just saying, you've never been a shy person, Keith. You've never been timid. And I know what it's like to be worried about changing dynamics." She gestures to the kitchen, where Shiro is probably eavesdropping shamelessly, and she smiles. It's soft, and sweet, and Keith feels his stomach clench. "But sometimes it's really, really worth it."
Keith drops his gaze to his book, face flushed, trying to figure out what he's supposed to say to that. How do you explain your own misgivings and fears to someone who doesn't experience them? How can he explain that the thought of losing Lance terrifies him more than the thought of never being with him?
"I know," Allura sighs, as if he'd said something to her. She looks at him for a long moment and then quirks a small smile. "It'll work out. But I do believe that you should be more open to the idea that he likes you back, Keith."
She stands up and walks past him towards the kitchen; her hand hovers over his head for a moment, but she doesn't touch him, which he's grateful for.
He sits there quietly, trying to pretend he can't hear Shiro and Allura talking in the other room. Keith finds himself wishing, against all odds, that Lance were here.
"Hey," Lance says, "When am I gonna get my ride?"
They're sitting in the common area of the mathematics building, Keith trying to studying between classes and Lance just passing time until Hunk gets out of a lecture so they can go grocery shopping. They're sharing a couch, books and bags spread out around them, but Lance is still somehow pressed up against him. He's curled up sideways on the couch so that his knee is overlapping Keith's leg, and his arm is a warm weight around Keith's shoulder. He's been tapping without rhythm against Keith's shoulder for the past ten minutes.
Keith is so caught up in pretending to be reading his book instead of focusing on that touch that he almost doesn't hear Lance. "What?" he asks loudly, and then flushes.
Lance looks up from his phone and tilts his head. "You know, the ride you owe me?"
Keith realizes he's talking about the motorcycle a beat too late, but Lance doesn't say anything when he haltingly replies, "Oh, yeah. Uh, I mean, it's kind of cold weather but whenever you want to go is fine?"
"Cool," Lance says, grinning. "It'll be my first time, so be gentle with me, hmm?" His voice is teasing, and he's leaned in close enough Keith can smell the coffee he'd had earlier. Keith's breath hitches, and all he can hear is Allura's voice in his head, He likes you back, Keith. Is that what this is? Is this Lance showing his own interest, or is he overplaying the scene in his head? He tries to picture what they look like from an outside point of view, but to be honest, Keith's never really known what levels of affection are appropriate between people. He just knows what he's comfortable with, but with Lance that comfort has always been skewed differently.
Okay, he thinks. I can just...test the waters.
He nudges Lance a little, lingering. His heart is skittering in his chest. "Are you scared?" he asks, trying to sound teasing as well. He's not sure he pulls it off, but Lance nudges him back, pushing harder. Keith's entire left side is burning up.
"Absolutely not," he protests. "I just want to make sure you aren't gonna sling me off the back or anything."
Keith says, "You'll just have to hold on really tightly," before he's even aware the words are coming out of his mouth. He has to resist the urge to slap a hand over his mouth, as if he could force them back inside, but the damage is done. Lance blinks once at him and then laughs a little bit. His face is pink, but maybe that's just the lighting, or maybe he's just warm?
"I'll probably break your ribs," Lance says, and pulls back a little bit to flex the arm that's not still around Keith. "You know, I've been working out with Shiro and Allura on the weekends and he says--"
"Oh my god," Keith interrupts, "No, shut up. I don't want to hear about it. I don't care."
"Keith," Lance says seriously, even though his mouth is twitching, "Shiro's workout routine is really important. I mean, you've seen the schedule, right? It's all really scientific." Keith covers Lance's face with his hand and ignores when Lance immediately licks him.
"Stop talking immediately," Keith says, and Lance waggles his eyebrows at Keith and continues to flex his arm until Keith shoves him over onto the couch. He laughs loud enough to draw the attention of other people in the room, but looking at him feels like looking at the sun and Keith smiles and feels, despite himself, the smallest bubble of hope springing up in his chest.
Keith is supposed to meet Pidge outside of the humanities building because it's the halfway point between their evening classes, but he's running late. He had to stay after class to talk to his professor about a paper, and he's about fifteen minutes behind, which means Pidge is probably ticked. Pidge is very adamant about being on time for stuff; they like patterns and regularity, and don't deal well with their schedule being interrupted, so Keith is already thinking about the apology coffee he'll have to buy them later.
He hurries around the corner, spotting them leaning up against the columns in front of the entrance. They've got their back to him, on the phone, and he's about to shout for them when they say, "I think Lance is just latching onto him because he's upset, you know?"
Keith freezes, then closes his mouth, brow furrowing. Pidge goes quiet, listening to whoever they're talking to.
"I know," Pidge sighs, tapping their foot on the ground in agitation. "I can tell it's getting to Keith, too. Lance has been extra clingy and it's just--" They pause again, and then say, "Yes, exactly. I think we might have to say something to him? Because it's just gonna hurt Keith."
Pidge listens again and makes a soft sound of frustration. Keith can feel his heartbeat in his fingertips when he clenches his fists. "I know! But Lance doesn't know what he's doing, and I don't --" They cut off again, and then continue, "Hunk, come on. Lance would have said something by now if he knew. I know you're worried about him but I'm worried about Keith."
Keith takes several quiet, deep breaths, and then edges back around the corner. He makes sure he makes a lot of noise as he runs around, and Pidge whips around to look at him, wide-eyed.
"Hey Pidge," Keith says, and his voice is only slightly shaky. They probably don't notice. "Sorry to make you wait."
"It's fine," Pidge says, smiling. Through the twilight, it's hard to tell that it's not a real smile, but Keith can see tension lurking in the corners of their mouth. "Hunk and I had to talk about a project that's coming up anyway. I gotta go, Hunk, talk to you later?" Pidge hangs up and shoves their phone in a pocket, still smiling crookedly at Keith. "Did you get caught up?"
"Yeah," Keith says, "Had to talk about a paper with the professor."
Pidge makes a face, and gestures for Keith to follow them. They walk side by side towards the library, silent. Neither of them is usually overly talkative, but it's too quiet; Keith can feel the tension between them like it's a tangible thing, although he hopes Pidge can't tell. There's too much running through his head right now for him to say anything out loud.
So much for Lance might like you back. Pidge and Hunk have been with Lance the longest, they know him best. If they think that he's just latching onto Keith because of whatever's going on in his personal life -- then that's what it is. Keith knew this was what it was. He's known all along that Lance was just instinctively going to him because Keith has never really been able to say no to him.
That doesn't mean he doesn't still feel like acid is burning in his throat, like he's going to do something embarrassing like throw up or cry or just sit down on the ground and breathe until he can move again.
He keeps walking, head ducked low, eyes dry, and tells himself that he'll be fine.
It's easy enough to distance himself from Lance at first. They're about to start midterms and all of them are busy; Shiro's finishing up his masters in engineering, so he's basically missing in action -- Keith goes over to his apartment and spends thirty minutes watching Shiro have a breakdown over a single sentence in a paper, so he quietly leaves.
This means there's no one he can really talk to about the Lance thing, but that's fine. He's not avoiding Lance, he's just preventing Lance from using him as a crutch. It's not fair to either of them, and Keith needs to, has to get over him. It's ridiculous, and he's known all along that this was how it was going to turn out, so he should just suck it up and move on.
That means declining invitations to the movies, and being too busy to go to group study sessions, and pretending he isn't home when Lance tries to come up to his apartment. He moves his spare key and pretends it's lost when Lance texts him sadly about it. He spends a lot of time curled up on his couch, trying to study and keep his mind off of everything.
He still has the jacket.
It's easy to stay distracted when you have half a dozen papers due, on top of the exams and labs that he has to finish. He wakes up exhausted and goes to sleep exhausted, and there's no room left in his brain to dwell on his feelings for Lance, or what he should do when he doesn't have a good reason to avoid him anymore.
Lance is texting him more than ever, and he still replies, but it's not like it was before. Keith can't joke around and playfully tease Lance back anymore. He's always known that this would have to happen, but idly recognizing that you couldn't have a crush on your friend forever and actually making yourself confront that reality is -- hard. He has to stop himself from calling Lance when he hears a ridiculous pun from one of his classmates, and once he sees Lance across the courtyard and makes himself duck around the corner, guiltily waiting for him to move on, trying to ignore the churning in his gut. He's spent so much of the last two years caught up in Lance, and it's difficult to let him go.
When exams pass, he maintains the distance, even though the others can definitely tell something is up. He stays active in group chats, even meets up with Pidge and Hunk when Lance isn't there; he knows this can't last forever, but he's just hoping that staying away from Lance for a while will make him stop clinging to Keith so much. If that stops, maybe, maybe Keith will be able to get over these feelings.
He spends even more time in his apartment, or in the common areas of buildings he knows he won't bump into Lance in. Lance stops trying to find him at his apartment, and his texts start to sound increasingly hurt.
- Sorry you couldn't make it to game night, dude, you must be swamped.
- Are you seriously still studying? Exams are over...
- Dude, where are you? I haven't seen you in a week and a half.
- Are you avoiding me? Pidge says you went to lunch with them the other day.
- Keith, is something wrong?
Lance doesn't even bother sending a bunch of sad emojis for that last one, which is how Keith knows Lance is upset. He's honestly surprised he's managed to avoid him for as long as he has, especially with Hunk and Pidge both shooting him disappointed looks when he's with them. He doesn't know how to tell them that he's doing this because he has no other choice, that he's trying to keep Lance from ever having to deal with his feelings, that he just wants everything to go back to normal.
He wakes up and goes to sleep trying to ignore the hollowness in his gut, trying to convince himself that he just needs time.
Hunk corners him in the library after almost two weeks have passed.
"You gotta stop, dude. You're really hurting him."
Keith ignores him, picking through the books on the shelves to find the reference number he's looking for. Hunk huffs out a breath and pulls it out for him, then crosses his arms.
"Keith, seriously." Hunk does not sound happy, so Keith sighs and faces him properly. He rubs at his eye with one hand, hoping his face doesn't look the way his head feels; he hasn't been sleeping properly, and he's worried it's starting to show.
"Hunk, I'm just trying to give Lance -- space, I guess, to work through his shit. I can't be there for him to lean on when I like him as more than a friend, and it's not fair for you and Pidge to have to talk to Lance about it. I don't want him to know, and I'm trying -- I am getting over it. I promise."
He hates that he's having to have this conversation, especially in public, but it's Hunk, and if there's one person he trusts to understand this, it's him. Hunk cares about Lance just as much as Keith does, so he has to know that Keith is doing what he can to make this the least awkward for the group.
"Me and Pidge?" Hunk asks, brow furrowing, and then he sighs. It soft and sad, and Keith looks up to see Hunk looking at him with concern all over his face. "You heard us talking?"
"I just need time," Keith says firmly. "I'll do something with everyone this weekend, okay?"
Hunk just looks at him some more, and then puts a hand on his shoulder and leaves the shelves; Keith takes a slow, steady breath, and then lets it out.
He doesn't make it to the weekend, because Lance catches him at his apartment; Keith is pulling off his helmet, running a hand through his hair to settle it, and he almost drops his backpack on his ground when he hears someone call out, "Keith?"
Lance is standing around the staircase of the building, clearly waiting for him; he's wearing a scarf wrapped twice around his throat, and it makes him look soft and vulnerable when he tucks his chin into it. His eyes are dark and accusing when he levels them at Keith.
Keith hides the way his hands want to shake by hoisting his backpack over his shoulder, tucking the helmet under his arm and walking towards Lance as casually as he can. "Hey, Lance." It's easy to sound normal, happy to see Lance -- part of him really is, has been dying to talk to or look at Lance for days. The rest of him can already feel the way this conversation is going to go.
"Hey," Lance repeats, softly incredulous. He follows Keith up the stairs to his apartment, neither of them saying anything, an unspoken agreement to have this conversation in private. Keith only fumbles with his keys once.
Lance waits until Keith has put his things away. He unravels his scarf but leaves it around his neck, and he looks around the apartment as if searching for a reason, for some kind of excuse. Keith doesn't have anything to say, so he waits for Lance to speak.
"Hunk said," Lance starts, and then stops and licks his lips. Keith's eyes flick to the movement before he can stop himself. Lance doesn't notice. "Hunk said I should give you some space for a bit. I asked him why and he said he couldn't say. But I couldn't just not -- what does that even mean?"
Lance's voice is toeing the line between angry and hurt, and Keith isn't sure which one he'd rather him be at this moment. He's trying to decide what the point of keeping anything secret is at this point, when everything is clearly doomed to change anyway. Allura's voice saying Sometimes it's really, really worth it whips through his head.
"Did I do something?" Lance asks when Keith still hasn't said anything. "Like, I thought we were good enough friends that if I offended you or hurt your feelings, you'd say something to me instead of just hiding away--"
"It was me," Keith interrupts. "Well, I mean. It was you, but it was my fault."
"What does that even mean?" Lance asks, brow furrowing.
"This semester you've been -- different," Keith says carefully. Lance's face goes blank, just a flickering of his lashes betraying his emotions. "Yeah," Keith says, huffing out a humorless laugh. "Like that. But not just that, you've been more -- touchy, with me, and it was messing me up."
Lance's mask breaks when he makes a confused face. "What? But you've always been fine with me touching you, I told you to tell me if I ever did anything--"
"It's different," Keith says. He can feel the smile curving his mouth, and it hurts. "It's not something I can explain easily."
"Why?" Lance asks, clearly frustrated.
Fine, Keith thinks. Fine. Keith's stomach is eating itself alive as he opens his mouth and finally lets the words fall out: "I like you."
Lance doesn't pretend not to understand, which Keith is grateful for. It was hard enough saying the words once. Lance's mouth opens and then closes, and a soft, pink flush starts to appear over the bridge of his nose. Keith hates himself for noticing. Lance doesn't say anything, just stares. His eyes are wide, and uncomprehending.
"So," Keith says, because he has to fill the silence, has to make this moment end somehow. His head is pounding; his fingers hurt from clenching them so hard. "I don't expect anything from you. This is mine. I just wanted some time, and I wanted to keep you from -- having to deal with it. So just, please, let me -- can you please just let me deal with it myself?" He makes himself look at Lance, makes himself try to look calm and confident instead of falling apart.
Lance takes a step towards him and then stops and steps away again; he swallows visibly, and averts his eyes. "Okay," he says, so quiet Keith can barely hear him.
The door barely makes a sound as he closes it behind him. Keith drops onto his couch and makes himself breathe in and out, over and over, until ache in his chest becomes bearable enough for him to drag himself to his bed.
He doesn't go out all weekend. No one calls him, although he receives a few texts from Pidge, Hunk, and Shiro. There's nothing from Lance.
(Shiro brings him groceries on Sunday; he doesn't say anything about the state of Keith's apartment, doesn't tease him over his messy hair or his dirty clothes. He puts everything away, and picks up a few things laying around on the floor, and then sits next to where Keith is curled up on the couch.
It's very quiet for a long time, until Shiro says, leaning over to nudge Keith gently, "Did you wanna say 'I told you so?'"
Keith snorts before he can stop himself -- it feels like the first time he's laughed in a very long time, even if it's bittersweet. It turns into a full laugh against his will. Shiro just looks at him. He can't seem to stop giggling, until it turns into a hiccup, into a soft sob, and he's terrified he's going to start crying.
"Takashi," he says helplessly, and leans over to bury his face in Shiro's shoulder. Shiro sets a hand on the top of his head and lets him stay pressed against him for a long, long time without saying anything else.)
Keith is struggling through a paper on Tuesday night, but he keeps getting distracted by the sound of the rain falling outside. This is his favorite kind of weather. It's something he and Lance bonded over, their love of thunderstorms and rain showers, how the whole world went soft and gray and quiet, almost insulated. Like you're wrapped up in a feeling, Lance had said, and Keith can't help but stop and listen to the sound of rain pattering against his window.
There's a knock at the door.
Keith sets his laptop aside, pulls himself to his feet. He hopes it's not Shiro, or worse, Hunk, coming to try to cheer him up. He honestly doesn't have the energy to pretend to be fine tonight.
When he peers through the peephole, it's Lance on his doorstep, shivering in a soaked jacket. He's turned to the side slightly, arms wrapped around himself. The sight of him steals Keith's breath.
He's opening the door before he fully realizes it. "What are you doing?" he asks. Lance turns to look at him, water dripping down his throat and the side of his head. It's caught in his lashes, so when he blinks, the droplets fall down his cheeks. He looks miserable.
"Can I come in?" Lance asks quietly. Keith steps aside automatically, and Lance shuffles in. He sniffs a little, and Keith finds himself hurrying to the bathroom, hoping he has at least one clean towel still. There's one shoved into the back of his cabinet that seems to be okay, so he grabs that and goes back to find Lance standing awkwardly in the middle of his living room, staring at his feet. There are wet footprints all over the carpet.
"Here," Keith says, holding the towel out. Lance takes it and stares for a moment before he rubs it over his face, scrubbing his hair. He's still shaking with cold, but Keith doesn't know if he'd accept any of Keith's clothes, doesn't know what he's doing here at all. He opens his mouth to ask, but he can't make himself say the words.
"I forgot an umbrella," Lance says, and then chuckles a little. He wrings the towel in his hands and buries his face in it again, rubbing where the water is still dripping over his skin. "I don't know why I couldn't just -- I couldn't make myself slow down."
"Lance," Keith says. Lance drops the towel.
"I was listening to the rain and I couldn't stop thinking of you," Lance blurts, and takes a step towards Keith again. This time, he doesn't step away again. Keith holds himself very still. "I just -- don't want to not be together anymore. I hate it."
Keith closes his eyes, feeling the familiar ache settling under his ribcage. "Lance, I can't--"
"My parents are getting a divorce," Lance says. Keith's eyes fly open. The words fall between them and linger. Keith has never heard Lance sound like that before, entirely bitter and resigned; even when Lance fails at something, or makes a mistake, or been upset, he's always been hopeful that things would turn around. This is Lance entirely without hope. "They've been married for over thirty years but -- my dad's been cheating, I guess. There's -- another family."
Keith doesn't know what to say. "I'm so sorry," he says, and means it, but it sounds pathetic. Lance glances up at him, smiling with his mouth but not his eyes.
"That look on your face is why I haven't said anything to anyone. I wanted to -- to forget about it when I came back. It sounds dumb. I know that I was acting differently, but I never -- I never wanted to make you uncomfortable, Keith. I never wanted to hurt you. I just -- I like being around you. I like being someone you trust." He closes his eyes. "I feel so selfish."
"You didn't know how I felt," Keith says, trying to swallow around the lump in his throat. "I'm -- I want to be friends too, I'm going to get over it, Lance, I swear."
Lance takes another step towards him and stops again, hesitant. "What if -- what if I didn't want you to?"
Keith feels his breath catch and then he hisses it out between his teeth. "Don't, how could you even say that to me--" His anger is unfamiliar and wild after feeling so empty for so long, but all he can think is that he's being mocked, or worse, pitied, until Lance scowls at him.
"Keith, stop. I'm not going to -- to lie and say that I've been pining for you this whole time. But I -- when you said that, the other day, I realized that I just -- I hadn't even let myself consider it before, because it never felt like it was a possibility." Keith stares at Lance and Lance stares back, and a long moment passes. Lance's eyes are dark and intent and Keith shivers despite himself.
"But being apart -- it's been so awful. Being away from you, all I could think about was how I wanted to see you, to hear your voice, or how much I wanted to be able to -- to just touch you again. It was like a physical pain, Keith." Lance touches his heart, mirroring the place where Keith can feel his own heart pounding wildly in his chest. "And that's not nothing. I don't know if it's the same as what you feel but I want to find out."
He takes another step, and then another, and then he's within arms reach. Keith can see his freckles scattered across his cheekbones from here, can almost count them. Lance's chest rises and falls and Keith's heart feels like it's trying to burst from his chest, like he's swallowed the sun and the moon and all the stars at once -- he's warring between terror and tentative joy.
"I don't -- I don't think I can get over you," he confesses, and Lance's eyes light up, and this time when he smiles it reaches his eyes. He closes the gap between them and leans in close; his hand is cold when it cups Keith's neck, but that's not why he shivers. Lance's eyes flick to his mouth and then up again, a question, and Keith is so, so tired of waiting. He leans in and kisses Lance, just a press of lips but it's warm and Keith can smell the woods and feel Lance tilting his head to make the angle better. It's almost chaste but Keith can feel it in his stomach, burning with the knowledge that he's finally, finally kissing Lance. It's nothing like he thought it might be, but it's real, the damp clothes under his fingertips and the rasp of Lance's stubble and the soft, dazed noise Lance makes as they pull apart.
Keith licks his lips and Lance flashes a grin. He's flushed pink, and Keith can feel his own face burning too. He's almost dizzy with all the things running through his head right now, worry creeping in around his happiness, but then Lance says, "Definitely not nothing," and leans in again.
"We changed our mind," Pidge says, rolling their eyes. "This was a mistake and we don't want you two together."
"Seconded," Hunk says, making a face before hiding his face behind his book. They're all outside, enjoying the first sunny weather of the year in one of the campus courtyards. Shiro and Allura are a little ways off, talking softly to each other, and Pidge and Hunk are tucked up against the trunk of a tree. They've got books and papers spread around them from one of their classes, but Pidge is ignoring their work in favor of frowning at Keith and Lance.
"No take backs," Lance says, and then leans down and kisses Keith on the tip of his nose. Keith wrinkles it at him but doesn't protest. He's got his head in Lance's lap, sprawled out on the ground, absorbing the sunshine and Lance's warmth in equal measure. He kind of wants to go to sleep, but he's pretty sure Lance would draw on his face if given the opportunity, so he settles for closing his eyes and threading his fingers through the hand Lance has on his stomach. "We've got lost time to make up for," Lance continues, tugging at Keith's hair with his free hand.
"Why does that mean we have to suffer?" Pidge complains. Hunk makes an agreeable noise but doesn't look up from his book. "I thought Shiro and Allura were sappy but they're nothing compared to you two. I should have expected this."
"True," Lance agrees amiably. "You know what I'm like, of course I'm gonna shower my boyfriend with affection, that's just -- oh my god, are you blushing?"
Keith tries to tuck his face into Lance's stomach so he can't see it, but Lance is already poking his cheek and laughing. "No," Keith mutters, but he is blushing, can feel the heat spreading across his face.
"Is it -- is it because I said boyfriend?" Lance asks, and when Keith stubbornly doesn't answer, he laughs again and leans down, pressing another kiss, this time to the corner of Keith's mouth. "You're so cute."
"I just," Keith starts, and then stops; Lance patiently waits, tracing the shape of Keith's ear idly. "Wasn't sure if we were." Another pause, and then he says, reluctantly, "Boyfriends."
"This is disgusting," Pidge whispers loudly, and Hunk says something about leaving to go to the library, but Keith can barely hear it over Lance leaning down again and pressing kisses all over Keith's face, hitting his eyebrow and his cheeks and his chin -- he tries to squirm away but Lance just kisses whatever he can reach, and Keith finally just lets it happen, trying to bite down on his grin.
"You're so cute," Lance repeats when finally pulls away. "And yes, we definitely are." He pauses significantly and then says, in a poor imitation of Keith, "Boyfriends."
"Shut up," Keith says, and reaches up to pull Lance back down; Lance is still laughing when Keith kisses him, and it turns the kiss into a mess, but it feels like the sunshine falling down on them -- warm and soft and familiar, and Keith closes his eyes and basks in it.