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/ i. /

 

Lance is stressed.

 

His midterms are coming up and for the life of him he can’t find the damn reference book he needs. The fourth floor of the library is known for its maze like structure, he thinks who ever designed the floor plan didn’t take into account practicality. No one really likes to spend more time on the fourth floor than necessary, the place is all creaks and odd noises – his theory is that it’s cursed. The endless rows of books seem to suck up all the unsuspecting freshmen. Lance on the other hand is a seasoned junior so of course he knows all the tricks to survive his expedition to the fourth floor.

 

At least that’s what he’d thought, he’d been so busy checking the codes and labels of the shelves, to actually remember which way he came in through. It’s not impossible to get out, but their university is research based and well-funded meaning that they’ve got this grand library, so getting lost in it is not ideal. He sighs, but continues to scour the endless spines of textbooks, once he’s found what he needs it’ll probably take him thirty minutes to find the nearest exit. (Hopefully he finds the elevator and not the staircase, because the fluorescent lights and grimy banisters give him the creeps).

 

Finally, purely by luck he finds the bio text he needed filed in the American Literature section, he’s going to have some words with the librarian when he finds his way out. He plucks the offending book from where it’s wedged and hums happily, he really needs it to pass his exam.

 

“Lance.” A voice drawls, it makes his head snap up from where he’s flipping through the pages –they kind of stick together, but he'll manage. “What are you doing up here?” Lance has to bite back a groan when he sees who it is, it’s the unrelenting dude from his freshman sociology class who couldn’t take a hint. It’s probably his own fault, he’s non-confrontational to a fault… well regarding strangers that is.

 

“Oh, Teddy. Um, I was looking for this,” Lance raises the textbook with a hand, why else would he be here? No one likes the fourth floor it’s not like he’s here to have fun – “Shit,” He hisses knowing what the guy is thinking.

 

“Well now that you’ve found it what are you going to do?” The guy is wearing a sleazy smile, and Lance’s heart begins to speed up with nervousness. While the fourth floor isn’t good for studying, or anything academic for the most part it is notorious for being one of the most used hookup spots on campus. There’s so many twists to the book shelves so they tend to provide a lot of privacy, it’s least occupied around midterm week and finals. When everyone else is on the lower levels revising till their brains feel like mush. And here Lance is, with a weak excuse and a boy who looks far too confident.

 

“I’m going to my dorm to study,” Lance supplies, an anxious laugh slipping out. He backs up a bit, and jeez where the hell is the exit? He’ll even take a window, he’s not picky he just wants out of this awkward situation. “Do you know where the ex – “

 

“Why don’t we hang out for a bit?” Teddy interrupts, reaching forward to clasp a hand around his wrist. This is the part where Lance should actively be saying, ‘no thanks, not interested’ but because he’s a nervous wreck he just ends up saying:

 

“Maybe some other time,” And while it’s not the worst thing he could’ve said, it is practically an invitation for Teddy to keep pestering him. He really should’ve cut this off from the start, they’d sat next to each other during lecture and Lance was suckered in by his green eyes. Naturally he'd flirted – testing the waters to make sure the boy wasn’t 100% straight – and Teddy responded a little too eagerly. To this day, it was one of Lance’s most tragic mistakes.

 

“But we’re both free right now,” Teddy responds, trying to charm his way into getting Lance to agree. The fingers clasped around his wrist tighten a fraction, and this is why Lance hasn’t built up the courage to outright reject the guy.

 

“I really can’t right now,” Lance says, his heart’s beating wildly in his chest. This is the last time he comes to the fourth floor alone.

 

“Lance?” His gaze cuts towards the sound of his name. It’s strange, the flood of relief he feels when he sees Keith standing there. He’s got his patent scowl on, and he looks annoyed like he can’t believe he ran into Lance right now. Lance on the other hand feels blessed. While they’re still struggling with openly calling each other friends instead of rivals he can admit that Keith’s a good guy and he also knows that if he even so much as suspected that Lance was uncomfortable being alone with the guy he’d save him. That’s the main reason he feels instantly safe around Keith’s grumpy presence.

 

He tugs his wrist out Teddy’s unsuspecting grip and rushes over to stand by Keith, their shoulders brush and Lance sends back a faux sympathetic smile, “See I told you I couldn’t stay. I was meeting up with my pal Keith here. We’re studying together!” He feels Keith’s questioning glare, but chooses to ignore it. He wasn’t necessarily afraid of Teddy; it was just the whole unpredictability of the situation that spiked the infinite fountain of his paranoia.

 

Keith seems to pick up on his unease, his brows scrunch and his frown deepens, he shifts until he’s sort of standing in front of Lance, “Yeah, and now we’re leaving,” Lance smiles one more time so he doesn’t offend him, and then follows after Keith who’s already started walking away. Keith slows his brisk pace when they turn left and out of Teddy’s sight. “What was that about?” He asks, his arms are crossed over his chest and he looks peeved. “We don’t even share classes this semester,”

 

Lance sighs, and waves a dismissive hand in the air, “I know, I think he wanted to hook up, and I was too nervous to say no. And then you came, and I was like oh there’s my escape plan!” He rambles on, using the time to stuff the textbook into his backpack “Thanks for the save by the way,” Lance finishes, zipping up his bag with finality.

 

His grin drops when he meets Keith’s burning glare, “Does he bother you a lot?” Keith questions, eyebrow raised sharply. Lance shrugs and fidgets with the straps of his bag.

 

“It’s not a big deal, Teddy isn’t like that. I just get nervous about rejecting someone, you never know how they’re gonna respond,” Keith doesn’t seem satisfied, his eyes flash towards where they left the other boy. It’s something he recognizes immediately, Keith’s angry, probably ready to start a fight. Lance had hit the nail on the head, Keith’s protective even with people he doesn’t particularly get along with…  “Anyway, do you know where the exit is? I hate this place,” He frowns looking up and down the aisle like an exit sign will magically appear.

 

Keith sighs and pinches the bridge of his nose, “You’ll just get lost again. Come with me to find the books I need for my psych paper,”

 

“Ugh, Keith you’re so needy,” Lance snarks, but follows anyway – Keith forces him to carry all the books in return for showing him the exit. What an asshole.

 

/ ii. /

 

Pidge is a good study buddy, she’s brutal when she needs to be, and her explanations on the subject are at times clearer than a professor’s. It’s the reason that she’s so in demand, her hourly rate when tutoring will probably make her a part of the 1% by the time she’s twenty – she’s that good. Despite all her sarcasm and taunting, he knows that she has a soft spot for him. It’s why she makes sure there’s time to help him with his chemistry work, also she doesn’t charge him a fee whatsoever. Lance owes his eternal soul to her, because while he’s not struggling in most of his classes Chemistry is kicking his butt. For some convoluted reason he’d signed up for two natural science classes this semester??? Apparently he has little regard for his GPA or his sleeping schedule.

 

It’s for that reason that he and Pidge, an absolute godsend, are sitting at one of the student cafes littered all over campus. Pidge is scribbling down questions on flashcards so that she can quiz him, while he revises his messy notes and highlights sections of his textbook like a mad man. They’d taken the largest round table that they could find – meant for some sports team probably – and spilled all their materials on its surface. There’s plenty of empty seats at their table, and the group of six squeezed into a booth are sending the two of them envious glares, but they’re in the zone so they're oblivious to it. Lance is ready to understand what all these equations and reactions mean and Pidge is the only one who can get him there. Still, fate seems to have other plans.

 

“Hi, can I bother you for a second?” A girlish voice asks.

 

Pidge doesn’t even bother to look up from her scribbling before she responds, “Why’d you ask if you were gonna bother us anyway?” Lance gasps, and tears his eyes away from what he’s reading. An apology is at the tip of his tongue, but the girl simply laughs it off as if Pidge hadn’t been completely serious.

 

Still, he says “Sorry about that,” and gestures to Pidge who only snorts, “Um, did you need something?” He asks, because he was raised right, but he really hopes this won’t take long. He needs to go back to revising before his energy leaves him and he decides to pester Pidge into going to go see the new Amy Adams movie instead. (The wheedling only works when aliens are involved, so there’s a high chance of this happening).

 

“I just couldn’t help but notice you when I walked in,” She leans across the back of one of the chairs, her long blonde hair spilling in front of her as she smiles. She’s pretty, and she’s definitely his type and she looks incredibly familiar. “I’m Nyma,” and hell no. He knows exactly who this girl is, she’s Rolo’s ex-girlfriend. And while that kind of drama wouldn’t usually deter him, this has just skated into dangerous territory.

 

Freshman year Rolo had kind of been known as the school’s resident stoner, he scammed people into buying a gram for twenty dollars –he’d been harmless. But then he’d gotten in with the wrong crowd, he’d started selling harder drugs and there were rumors that his crew and him went around stealing car parts and reselling them for twice the price. So whatever this is, he wants no part in it and it seems that Pidge is just as wary as him, “I’m Lance,” He gives her a stiff smile and hopes that's the end of that.

 

“I was wondering if I could maybe get your number?” He balks at her question, he doesn’t want to be rude but he also doesn’t feel comfortable doing that. He sends Pidge a look, but she also seems at a loss. Nyma doesn’t seem to notice their internal struggle, the way they're panicking through eye contact. No instead, she rummages through her bag and pulls out her phone, she smiles and holds it out for him to take.

 

“Um, about that – “ He’s saved from whatever half-ass excuse he was about to give when someone slides into the open chair to his right. Said someone turns out to be Keith, an ever annoyed looking Keith. He kicks his legs onto the chair that Nyma’s leaning against, it ‘accidentally’ moves a little and looks to be pushing uncomfortably at her ribs.

 

He gives her a pointed look before taking a vicious bite from his pizza bagel, he chews painstakingly slow, all the while maintaining eye contact with the irritated looking blonde. “Tell Rolo that if he starts messing with my friends, he’s going to regret it.”

 

Nyma scoffs, flipping her hair behind her, “This has nothing to do with Rolo,”

 

“I’m not an idiot. I saw you two behind the science building, I know your tricks. You two are pretending to be broken up, so that you can flirt your way into stealing shit from some poor guy who falls for it. Hell, of a relationship you got there,” Keith finishes, he’s smirking but his eyes are hard.

 

Nyma opens her mouth like she’s going to deny it, but instead she pouts and says, “Shame you really are cute,” She drops a wink at Lance, before sauntering out of the café.

 

Huh. Well that was easy, he wonders if he should turn back to studying or thank Keith for calling him a friend out loud for the first time? Do they do that now? They have been seeing more of each other on campus, does that make them friends? He should ask, he really should, “Is Rolo your new rival now? Are you replacing me?” He mimics Nyma’s exaggerated pout.

 

Keith apparently is above responding, he just swipes Lance’s nearly empty coffee cup off the table and takes a sip of it. Roughly two seconds go by before he’s making a disgusted face, “Your coffee’s cold,” He informs.

 

Lance frowns at him, but lets it slide since Keith’s come to his rescue for the second time this week, “Are you two not fighting anymore?” Pidge asks, her eyes narrow suspiciously like she’s trying to figure something out, “Just last week you were arguing over the stupidest – “

 

“We were young and stupid back then, we’ve matured,” Lance cuts her off, going back to highlighting terms that seem important.

 

“It was last week,” She deadpans, but nonetheless follows his lead and goes back to working on the flashcards, “Does this mean we can have movie night without you two turning it into a bloodbath?” She asks, “I’ve been waiting for the Harry Potter movie weekend all month and if you guys behave we could make it into a sleepover or something. I know Shiro’s been dying to relax since he’s just finished grading all that stuff for his TA period,”

 

“Yeah, according to Keith we’re 'friends'. Friends who wouldn’t dare disrespect Harry Potter with petty fights. We’re above that now,” He reaches over and ruffles her already unruly hair, she squirms out of his reach without ever stopping her pen from moving. She’s an all-powerful being.

 

“I don’t even start the fights,” Keith adds, going to pop the last of his pizza bagel in his mouth. Unfortunately, Lance is faster and all he’s left with is an empty hand. Lance smiles smugly as he chews the last of the other boy's hard earned bagel. Keith merely grumbles, and slides down further in his chair.

 

Keith doesn’t leave, doesn’t contribute with the flashcard quizzing at all, he stays silent throughout the whole study session, but he stays and he watches them with a small smile on his face. It’s odd, but Lance finds his quiet presence comforting as he shouts his answers to Pidge.

 

/ iii. /

 

Freshmen, they ruin everything.

 

A voice that sounds a little like Hunk reminds him that at one point he’d been a freshman too. He stands by his point, well actually. Revision: The university staff trying to reel the freshmen into picking a major ruin everything. This is worse than hellweek when all the frats and sororities accost him into either joining or donating. It's the week of their university’s ‘Majors Fair’ booths are set up all around the main quad, but that wasn’t really the issue. In fact, the real issue was all the solicitors that wormed their way onto campus and hid under the cover of mayhem.

 

They were the worst, sometimes it wasn’t all that bad. For example, city elections were coming up in March so a lot of the solicitors were merely there to register the just-turned-eighteen students to vote. And then there were others, who hassled their conservative views on unsuspecting young adults. It was always in vain, it was a liberal campus after all, still they tried.

 

He was trying to cross the quad, his dorm was in that direction and this was the quickest route. Taking a deep breath, Lance plunged forward and began making his way through the main walkway. He kept his eyes downcast and a fake frown in place in order to keep people from asking him to sign up for – “Registered to vote?” A girl asked, shoving her clipboard under his nose.

 

Rude? “I’m twenty, so yeah,” He says instead, she smiles too enthusiastically and bids him a good day. While she’d been polite it didn't matter, she’d effectively ruined his whole day. By getting him to respond, she'd opened the floodgates. Others with clipboards are already circling, like sharks to blood. He frowns at her back, this time it's real.

 

“You look like a man of faith!” Lance ends up letting the student-priest talk his ear off for about twenty minutes, and while he is a bit on the catholic side he doesn't mean to sign up for a weekly youth group meeting. He also gives up his number so that their organization can text him details of their next bible study, he really needs to learn how to say no. But he's developed an innate need to please anyone and everyone, and the guy is just so cheerful that he doesn't want to disappoint him. Still, when the guy walks away towards his next victim Lance practically runs back to the outdoor dining area he'd just come back from. Forging forward would only lead to him handing out his phone number to strangers who simply asked for it.

 

Pacing he thinks of his options. Pidge is tutoring so that's a no, and Hunk...well Hunk (the angel) is worse than him when it comes to letting people down, he's just too kind. And then it hits him, the only real option. He checks his watch, it's 3:15 which means Keith’s probably just come out of practice and is eating lunch….

 

It takes him about five seconds before he finds him in the crowd. He's sitting with his soccer team, his face concentrated and intense as he gestures wildly – that's his ‘I'm talking strategy’ gesticulating. He's still wearing his soccer jersey, it's a deep red color that makes him look more attractive than usual. Objectively speaking of course.

 

“Keith!” Lance shouts as he gets closer, “Walk me to me to my dorm,” He's nothing if not dramatic and demanding. Keith to his credit just looks away from the conversation he's holding and blinks at him unamused.

 

“Nice to see you too,” Keith answers, far too straight-faced for someone using sarcasm. “I'm busy,” He turns back to his teammates and starts spewing terms that go over Lance’s head. Sports aren't his thing, when the Olympics are on he only watches the gymnastics and free dive sections. They're the most entertaining, he can be quoted on that.

 

“Fine then. Where's Shiro?” He scans the faces of the other soccer players, they're familiar in the sense that he sees them when he accompanies Allura to watch her boyfriend – team captain Takashi Shirogane – play.

 

“He had to talk to Professor Coran, he has office hours right now,” Keith answers, turning back to him. He shakes his head a bit so that his hair isn't in his eyes, and he can see Lance better. It shouldn't be endearing, but he's a sucker so of course it is, “What do you need?”

 

Lance juts his hip so that he's leaning against the edge of the table and looking down at Keith, “Like I said someone to walk me to my dorm,” Smirking he turns and bats his eyelashes at the rest of the team, “Anyone offering?”

 

The soccer players blink, some blush, but mostly they all turn to look at Keith. They kind of look afraid, so Lance cuts his gaze back to him. He's working his jaw, as if Lance has said something offensive. What’s wrong with a little flirting? “Why?

 

“You know I have trouble saying no to people,” He jabs his thumb in the general direction of the main quad. “Those solicitors could ask me for my social security number and I'd probably give it to them,” He shrugs, “Plus you have the best bitch face I know, they won't bother me if you're with me,”

 

“Fine, whatever.” Keith answers, swinging his gym bag over his shoulder as he stands. Lance grins and pushes himself off the table, but before they even move to leave some of the soccer players start snickering. He raises an eyebrow at the closest one.

 

“Oh it's nothing,” His tone is absolutely gleeful even as he says this, “It’s just that, Keith here also has trouble saying no,”

 

“Yup,” another chimes in, he's at the far end eyes twinkling with recognizable mischief, “The thing is, it's not so much strangers he has trouble saying no to. It's just a certain someone—”

 

He's cut off by a scarily precise bread roll hitting him squarely in the face, “Espinosa if you value your life, you won't say another word,” Keith threatens, Lance can't quite tell if he's serious. Truth be told he doesn't really care, because there's a telltale blush dusting his cheeks pink. This is a momentously rare occasion; Keith does not blush. Lance has known him for about three years now, and right now is the only time he's seen him even slightly flustered.

 

“He's broke and in college, of course he doesn't value his life,” The first one who spoke pipes up again. The table starts roaring with laughter, Keith’s face is getting increasingly redder. “You're Lance right? We’ve heard about you a lot,” He emphasizes the last bit.

 

Scrunching his eyebrows in confusion, Lance opens his mouth to ask for details only to be interrupted by Keith, “McKinney, shut the hell up!” He grits out, his teammate simply laughs and holds his hands up in surrender. There's still some stifled snickering as Keith grinds his teeth. “I hate you guys,” He tugs Lance along as he stomps away, ignoring the choruses of ‘love you Kogane.’

 

“Well they seem nice,”

 

“They're the scum of this earth and I want them dead.” Keith replies, sadly his blush is fading. He drops Lance’s arm and heads towards the main walkway that had started this whole mess in the first place.

 

“A little excessive, but okay,” They're walking pretty close to each other, their knuckles brushing with every other step. It's a message to the solicitors that they're together. Not together together, but yknow together… “Aw Keith look, your mean face is scaring the freshmen,” He points towards the younger students who are gathered near the Communications Major’s booth, they're scrambling to give Keith and him a wide berth.

 

“Good.”

 

“You're so fake,” Lance laughs, hooking his arm with Keith’s as they continue in the direction of the dorms, “We all know you're a big softie, that's why Hunk and you get along so well,” He doesn't notice the way Keith presses closer against him, it's easy to miss what with their arms linked and all, “Speaking of Hunk, he's cooking dinner tonight if you wanna come up and join us. My treat since you're being so chivalrous and walking me to my dorm,” He fake swoons, a hand to his heart, eyelashes fluttering.

 

“Yeah I'd like that,” Keith looks at him, quirking his lips into a soft smile. If Lance didn't know any better he’d think it was almost fond, his next words ruin the moment, “But how is it your treat if Hunk is the one doing the cooking.”

 

“I invited you!” He screeches indignantly.

 

/ iv. /

 

7:00 PM.

 

That's the time his political science class lets out on Wednesdays. He’d gotten stuck with it thanks to late registration, but overall the Professor is really nice and his class has all these wild debates so he doesn't really regret it. It's just that he gets out so late, the sun’s already set and the campus just looks eerie in the night time. Plus, he has to get all the way to the shuttle station in order to get back to his dorm with minimal walking. Sighing he pulls out his phone and begins his trek across campus.

 

He's so entranced by the video of bulldog skateboarding that he doesn't even notice the hooded figure rushing up to him. It takes a solid punch to his face to get his attention. It's a hit to his jaw that leads to him accidentally splitting his lip when his teeth clack together with the force of it. He drops his phone in surprise and stumbles backwards, he can taste copper, knows that it's the metallic flavor of blood. Nursing his jaw, he tries to orient himself only to notice the hooded figure running away, his phone is no longer on the floor.

 

“I would've given you the phone! You didn't have to punch me asshole!” He shouts at the delinquent’s back; the bastard has the audacity to flip him off over his shoulder.

 

It's a long and lonely walk all the way to the campus police station.

 

 

Ice packs are god’s gift to humans, Lance is sure of it. Readjusting it, he flops down next to Hunk. He lets his head rest on his best friend’s shoulder, “My life was threatened today,” He whines, Hunk simply mumbles something placating and continues to watch Scandal on Netflix. “Hunk I'm serious,” Lance argues, covering the laptop screen with long fingers. Hunk sighs and pauses the damn show.

 

“Lance buddy, I'm sure it wasn't that serious,” Hunk reasons, finger hovering over the space bar so that he can press play. Some best friend he is!

 

Making an affronted noise, Lance sits up and rips the cold compress off, “Oh yeah then what's this!” It’d been two hours since the ordeal, giving his statement to campus police had dragged on for a while. It had been enough time for the purple to bloom on his jaw and his lip to scab over.

 

Hunk immediately pushes the laptop off him and sits up in alarm, “What happened?” And like a kid whose curiousity gets the better of their common sense, he pokes the bruise.

 

Ow,” Lance hisses, smacking his hand away.

 

“Sorry, scientific habit,” Hunk explains, drawing his hand back to himself. “But seriously?”

 

“Someone stole my phone,” Lance sighs, returning the ice pack to his face to soothe the pain, “I knew being on campus this late would have its drawbacks. My schedule was bound to have a flaw,”

 

“Yeah campus is cursed after five o'clock. Remember when Pidge stayed late at the LRC that one time? She got her bike tires stolen, she was so pissed,” They laugh at the memory, “Did you go to the —”

 

“Yeah yeah yeah,” Lance cuts him off, “I did my civic duty and reported the crime. They said they'd look into it. The asshole took my phone before I could finish watching that one video of the bulldog skating,” He pouts and flops back down. Hunk following suit almost immediately.

 

“I just retweeted that! Wanna see it?” He asks, pulling his laptop back onto his tummy and clicking a new tab for twitter open. “I also found one of this tortoise eating a strawberry, it’s five minutes long… wanna watch it?”

 

“I don't even know why you asked. Cute animals are the only way to heal my wounded ego,”

 

They're two minutes and fifteen seconds into the video when something occurs to Hunk, “Oh man, Keith is going to flip,

 

Lance side-eyes him in confusion, “Why?”

 

Hunk groans, like he's in actual physical pain, “Please tell me you actually got a concussion after getting punched and that you're not truly this dense?!

 

“Are you really going to insult your injured best friend? Even Pidge would show me a little sympathy,” Lance accuses stabbing Hunk in the armpit with his pointer finger. “And no I don't have a concussion. So please tell me why Keith would flip?” He whines the last part, knows that his high pitched complains always get Hunk to let the cat out of the bag.

 

Hunk seems to be deliberating something, he sighs again, “You know how he gets when one of us gets hurt,” It feels like a half truth, Hunk avoiding his eyes confirms that. Ignoring his usual unrelenting curiosity, he lets the subject drop, Hunk doesn't keep things from him unless it's not his secret to tell. Plus, what he's said makes sense? What more could there be?

 

“Eh, he doesn't need to know. I probably won't see him until next week, it'll look way better by then. I'll tell him I tripped or something,” He focuses his gaze back on the tortoise chomping away at the juicy fruit. It's so damn cute!

 

“Buddy,” Hunk starts, he's got that nervous uplift to his voice, “Tomorrow’s Friday,” He hums in acknowledgment, but Hunk continues, “Don't you remember Allura invited us out for breakfast…All of us?”

 

“Can I catch a break!” Lance shouts out, bolting up and running to his bathroom to see if his sister had left any concealer from the last time she'd visited.

 

Keith is going to flip.

 

 

“Lance!” Allura snaps when she arrives, Shiro and Keith are in tow, “I've been texting you to see if you were here already! Why didn't you answer?!” She takes the empty seat in front of Pidge. “I had to text Hunk to find out, and you know how I hate texting androids!”

 

“Hey! The Galaxy is soo much better than the—”

 

“No! I won't have the same argument again! You and Pidge are always trying to convince me on how it's such a technological feat, but that doesn't matter to me. It's all about the aesthetic,” Allura argues, “But seriously why didn't you answer? Did you forget it in your dorm or something?

 

Shiro takes the seat to the left of Allura, and Keith trudges up slowly. He's not much of a morning person, still he looks cute all sleep ruffled and annoyed. He has his phone out and seems to be follow his brother through his peripheral, he manages to slide in across from Lance with minimal fumbling.

 

“Nah, I won't have a phone till Saturday,” Lance mumbles out, he'd originally had his face resting on the surface because it'd been cool to the touch, but they're at a window booth and the sun keeps rising so there's just heat and an ache to his jaw.

 

“Oh why?” Allura asks.

 

“Did you guys see the email we got?” Keith says, not bothering to catch up on the conversation. Typical. Lance shifts so he can see as Keith aims his phone screen at their side of the table. He doesn't lift up his face though, not ready to see Keith’s explosive reaction yet. “It's from campus police. Some idiot got their phone stolen and they got punched in the face,”

 

Hunk chokes on nothing and Lance reacts, shooting to sit straight up and point menacingly at Keith, “You're the idiot!” He shouts.

 

Keith's phone drops onto the table top with a clatter when he takes in Lance’s face. He winces, knows it looks worse than it actually feels. When he looked in the mirror this morning the bruise had gone from a muted purple to an angry one. It's bright and noticeable, and christ he'd gotten punched with a large fist. He's not even sure if the person who punched him was human, he's leaning on the ogre theory, but that's neither here nor there. Also, he keeps worrying the scab on his lip away so it's still fresh and raw looking. He's definitely not a sight for sore eyes.

 

He kind of expects Keith to be angry, not at him of course, at his attacker. Nevertheless, Keith is full of surprises, he leans across the table immediately and cups his jaw, turning his face so he's looking at his side profile. His fingers are surprisingly gentle as they assess the damage, “I'm gonna find him.” The hardness of his voice is a stark contrast to the way his fingers softly skim over the bruised skin.

 

“Yeah okay,” Lance agrees dumbly, leaning into the touch. Keith’s fingers are cool against his the throbbing mark.

 

“Please tell me you don't have any more injuries,” Shiro asks, he's leaning forward too inspecting Lance with narrow eyes. “What did the police say?” His concern is almost paternal and it makes Lance playfully roll his eyes.

 

Reluctantly he backs out of Keith’s hands to look at Shiro, Keith takes that as an opportunity to curl them into fists. With one last wary glance at him, he answers all of Shiro’s slightly overprotective questions.

 

“When'd this even happen?” Pidge asks, tilting her head so she can be seen by Lance.

 

“After my poli sci class. It's so dark when I get out, the menace used the cover of the night. They were like the anti-Batman,” He shakes his head solemnly, Pidge cackles and for the most part the tension that had arisen dispels with his joke.  

 

Keith still looks angry, but he softens when Lance turns his grin on him.

 

 

The next week, he's stepping out of the building that houses his lecture and stops short when he spots a familiar figure.

 

Keith’s got his motorcycle parked on the red zone, he's leaning against it as he mindlessly scrolls through phone. He's the definition of badass, it makes Lance’s mouth water a little. Swallowing roughly, he fixes a crooked smirk on his face and walks over, “Waiting for someone handsome?”

 

Keith looks up, a light blush appearing on his cheeks, “Yeah. I figured you wouldn't wanna walk to your dorm alone after what happened. I came to offer a ride,” He pats his red monstrosity as an indicator.

 

Sweet,” Lance says before tackling Keith with a surprise hug. They stumble and almost knock over the bike with the force of their embrace. Keith wraps his arms around him, and laughs something delicate into his shoulder.

 

Behind them Lance’s classmates – who are still filing out of the building – pause to watch with amusement. They assume that the boys are an item.

 

/ v. /

 

It's the last night of spring break and he’s partying at one of the many fraternities his university has to offer. Lance has had one too many drinks, his skin is buzzing and he's warm in an almost overwhelming type of way. His vision is blurry, and he's seventy percent sure that the girl on his lap is Allura, she looks like her. Kind of? She's got dark skin, but her hair seems platinum not white. He tries to focus his blearily sight on her, but then she's leaning in. So nope, definitely not Allura. He can smell the alcohol on her breath and then there's the unfamiliar feeling of her lips pressed against his.

 

He squirms back into the couch cushions, his lips tightly pressed into a line. “No, I don't wanna do that.” She laughs, presses another drink to his hand and almost coaxes him to drink it, but he doesn't want to. “I think I need to get up,” He slurs. He really shouldn't have played beer pong, he's horrible at it. It was inevitable that he gets this shitfaced.

 

“You feelin’ bad baby?” She rubs his arms up and down soothingly, but her weight on him feels constricting. She hasn't tried to kiss him again which is good, they're both drunk and he's surprisingly not interested in hooking up with her. Anyone for that matter. He shakes his head trying to clear his thoughts.

 

“Lance?” Keith's voice cuts through his mind like a razor, he feels sick. He's standing in front of them, face twisted with a rare emotion that he can't quite place with his inebriated brain. “Sorry if I interrupted. Hunk was just worried cause you said you'd be home by 3, and when you weren't he called me. Safe to say, you probably weren't planning onngoing home tonight,” He spits out the last part

 

“No. I,” Lance shakes his head again, “Fuck. Get off,” He shoves at the girl, she's a little offended but ultimately picks herself up and off him. “I don't feel,” He cuts off as the world tilts when he tries to stand. “Oh man,” This wasn’t fun drunk. He'd never really learned his limit, and it was the last night of spring break so he might've overdone it.

 

Keith’s at his side instantly, grunting when Lance practically lays all his weight on him, “How much did you drink?” He asks carving his way through the mass of sweaty bodies filling up the house and towards the nearest exit.

 

“Dunno,” Lance mumbles “wasn't counting,”

 

“You play beer pong?”

 

“Yup”

 

“And you're sure you don't have alcohol poisoning? You suck at beer pong,”

 

“Dunno why, I have great aim when it comes to everything else. Could've gotten into the major leagues,”

 

Keith chuckles and straps him into the passenger seat of Shiro’s car. There's a moment where he thinks he feels him brush the hair away from his face, but he can't be sure. He's drunk and his eyes are closed.

 

 

He spends half the night vomiting out liquid death from his system. His throat is raw, and he feels miserable – throwing up is something he's never been able to handle. It leaves him feeling weak, and the nausea just doesn't seem to want to pass. He can feel the telltale sting of tears in his eyes as he retches violently into the toilet bowl, it's not his finest moment. Still, Keith’s there rubbing soothing circles on his shoulder blade.

 

Flushing, he slumps back so that he's reclining against the cool tile of the bathtub and tries very hard not to cry as he feels the familiar rise of nausea and bile in his throat, but it's not enough to have him leaning over the toilet - yet anyway. “This sucks” His voice is absolutely wrecked, and Keith pats his knee sympathetically. “This really sucks,” The nausea is getting worse, and he can't help the way his eyes finally start leaking.

 

Keith sighs and rubs his tears away with the pad of his thumb, “It's alright, it'll pass I promise,” and that's it isn't it? Keith isn't great with words, but he’s always known what to say to make Lance feel better.

 

The thing about feeling sick is that it makes him incredibly miserable, he feels like his queasiness will never subside and he'll be stuck feeling awful for the rest of eternity until he actually dies of nausea. It's an unrealistic possibility, but it still freaks him out. And yet Keith’s figured it out hasn't he? He reassures him, and tell him what he wants to hear.

 

Affection and alcohol loosen his tongue, “I wasn't gonna do anything with her. Didn't want to,”

 

“Wanna try and drink some water?” Keith asks, ignoring his words altogether.

 

“I need you to believe me, I swear I didn't want to. Wasn't planning to!”

 

“Alright,” Keith’s voice sounds exasperated, but he's smiling with amusement. “I believe you,”

 

“Okay good. Cause I didn't like her. I like y—” He lurches up towards the porcelain bowl and promptly throws up again, it’s mostly acid so he knows this is probably the last of it. He pulls back and breathes heavily, “Wanna brush my teeth,”

 

“Sure,” There's an edge to Keith’s voice but he's too drained to ask about it. Keith helps him to his feet, he rinses, brushes his teeth three times, and gargles the mouthwash despite the way it burns at his sensitive throat. “What were you gonna say by the way? Back before you,” He makes a vague gesture.

 

“Back when?” Lance asks, drowsiness creeping up on him as he lets himself be guided to his bed.

 

“Yknow you were talking about liking someone…”

 

“Right, I was thinking maybe…” His words peter off, the instant his head hits the pillow he falls asleep. He misses the absolute desperate whine Keith releases.

 

 

“I'm never drinking again,” Lance announces the next day, they're at a Denny’s. It's four PM and he’d been in the mood for a breakfast hangover cure – Hunk had denied him the luxury of his culinary skills because he'd kept him up all night with his vomiting. Not that he'd even bothered to check up on him - he'd known Keith was fussing over him - all he'd done was try to drown out the sound of his retching by cranking up his whale noises. He's one more mishap away from stripping Hunk of his best friend title and awarding it to Keith, who'd driven him to the nearest diner for a greasy breakfast in the middle of the day. Actually, never mind Keith already is his best friend, the selfless angel.

 

“Liar,” Best friend title revoked.

 

He concedes the point though, “Yeah you're right. I'm only getting wine drunk from now on. It's classier,” He steals a strawberry from Keith’s pancake plate.

 

“Nothing about you is classy,” Keith says, taking a revenge sip of Lance’s steaming coffee.

 

“I resent that, I am elegance incarnate,” Lance affronts, as he unceremoniously stuffs his face with cheesy scrambled eggs. Keith raises an eyebrow that says ‘you're proving my point by simply existing.’

 

“I stand by my statement,”

 

“You stand by your lie!

 

“Whatever,” Keith laughs, his chin is resting on the palm of his hand, head slightly tilted as he watches Lance eat, he wants to ask what that's all about but he also doesn't want the attention to stop. “You eat too fast,”

 

“You're the one who already finished his food!” Lance points at Keith’s empty plate with his fork, “Hypocrite? I think yes?”

 

Keith rolls his eyes, “You only haven't finished because you ordered for a family of four,”

 

“I'm a growing boy?”

 

“More like you're hungover hungry,” Keith accuses, picking up his own fork to steal some of Lance’s hash brown.

 

“Yeah what even is that? Why does that always happen? It's like I can't get full the day after I've almost drank myself to death. Weird right?” Lance asks, pushing his plate into the middle of the table so that Keith can reach better. Keith sighs something tender at the gesture.

 

“Your body’s trying to replenish your carbohydrates,” He says, like the encyclopedia he sometimes chooses to be.

 

“Ew, don't tell me facts. It's too early for that,” Lance makes a disgusted face, chugging the last of his coffee down. It's scalding.

 

“It's four in the afternoon,”

 

“Yeah, but I'm hungover. For me it's six in the morning,”

 

“You're ridiculous,” Keith shakes his head, a smile gracing his normally stoic features. He goes to stand, “I'm gonna go pay. You better finish or ask the waiter for to-go boxes cause I have to get to class,” He warns.

 

“Wait what? Most of the food is mine, we should split it,” Lance fishes in his pocket for his wallet, but Keith merely scoffs.

 

“Yeah, but I invited you out so I'll pay,” He doesn't wait to hear his counter argument. Choosing instead to head for the cash register to pay for the mountain of food they'd consumed.

 

What kind of gentleman/boyfriend bullshit behavior? Oh god, his Mamá would love Keith.

 

 

Keith drops him off in front of his dorm, “Thank for everything,” He fidgets, he should close the car door so that Keith can leave and actually get to his class on time, but his thank you doesn't feel like enough.

 

A thought crosses his mind, he doesn't think on it too much, knows he’ll chicken out if he does. One second he's shifting his weight from foot to foot on the sidewalk and then next he's scrambling back into the car, leaning over the console and smacking a kiss to Keith’s cheek.

 

He scrambles back out and doesn't dare look at Keith, “Okay, I'll see you later,” Lance has to fight himself in order to not give in to his fight-or-flight instinct. That would just be embarrassing…

 

Ignoring his fraying nerves, Lance can't hold back the grin from forming on his face the second he's inside his dorm building.

 

/ + /

 

Allura tells him about the issue.

 

Apparently, the girl who works at the main desk at the school recreation center has the “hots” for Keith. Allura says she's sweet enough, but since everyone in their friend group knows how not into girls Keith is, then obviously he's not going to be comfortable with her advances. Her very clear and direct advances, Lance glares at the back of her head from his seat on the top bleacher. How she even found out about Keith’s soccer match is beyond him.

 

The game is winding down, there's only a few minutes left before the game is over and the girl hasn't budged from her seat. Why isn't she leaving? Is she planning on talking to Keith? What's her deal? “If looks could kill,” Allura whistles, sliding in next to him. She's amused, but clearly she's instigated this petty jealousy.

 

“You didn't have to tell me,” Lance whisper shouts at her even though no one is sitting by them.

 

“Now where’s the fun in that?” She pops her bubblegum pointedly. “Who's winning?” She asks, turning her eyes back onto the field below them.

 

“Who do you think? We’ve got Shiro and Keith, of course we’re winning!”

 

“Don't know why I even asked, I already knew the answer to that,”

 

The whistle blows, signifying that the game is finally over. Lance stands, stretching his stiff limbs, “Why do I always come to these things? It's only fun watching at home when my Papá adds all his angry spanish commentary,”

 

“You come cause you're hopelessly smitten with Keith,” Allura teases, leading the way down the aisles with careful steps.

 

“Why are we friends again?” He pokes his finger into her spine.

 

“Pretty people are friends with pretty people,”

 

“You're a conceited hag,”

 

“And you love me for it!” She pats the side of his face condescendingly and goes to meet her boyfriend who's leaning against the fence that separates the spectators from the players.

 

“I don't know how you put up with her!” He shouts at Shiro, who just waves back amusedly.

 

“Lance,” Keith calls at him, and suddenly Allura’s shenanigans are forgotten. He needs to address the problem at hand, and Keith is the only one who can give him the answers. He bounds down towards Keith, and he's greeted with an easy smile and bright eyes. When he's close enough, Keith reaches for both his hands, and swings them excitedly. Lance’s heart is in his throat, “Did you see that pass I made? I've been practicing it with Jameson for a while now. The other teams always assume I'm going to pass to Shiro,”

 

Lance rolls his eyes, “Dude. Of course I saw it. That high pitched screaming. That was me,” Keith laughs, his thumb unconsciously rubbing against Lance’s knuckles. It's distracting and he kind of forgot why he was here… wait, “So Allura told me something,” Keith hums in inquiry, “She told me about the gym receptionist,”

 

Keith groans, “Why? I told her not to tell you!”

 

“Why'd you tell her that?” He asks, annoyed. Craning his neck to check the bleachers he tries to find her, it seems she's left.

 

“I told her that,” Keith starts, drawing his attention back so that he faces him again, “cause I knew you'd want to ‘help’ and it isn't a big deal. She doesn't even talk to me, she just comes and watches me play,”

 

“Yeah but—” He stops before he finishes with a: but coming to your games is my thing! “So it's not like a thing?”

 

“Lance, I'm gay,” Keith looks unamused.

 

“I know that! I just meant you're not bothered by it?” Keith shrugging is an answer that bothers him far too much. Lance bites back an annoyed comment, “Alright, just wanted to make sure,”

 

“Alright, thanks I guess,” They stand there awkwardly, and because he's a coward he pulls his hands from Keith’s.

 

“I'm gonna,” He points towards the exit. Keith frowns at him, but nods. Most of the audience has left already, only he and Allura remain with the team still messing around on the field. His eyes follow the sound of Allura laughing as Shiro tries to hop the fence to get to her. The jealously is almost overwhelming, he feels it filling him up and he doesn't like it. Needs to release it out into the world so it doesn't consume him, “I want that,” Lance blurts out, neither of them have moved.

 

“Want what?” Keith asks, following his gaze to the laughing couple, Shiro’s teetering a bit.

 

“What they have. I want a relationship… with you,” Where has his brain to mouth filter gone? Why is he saying this? Keith seems just as surprised, his eyes are wide and his mouth parts with the intake of a sharp gasp, “Hm, okay” He's panicking can feel himself heading towards and ugly downward spiral of self depreciating jokes and rambling, “Don't know why I said that out loud. I mean I was thinking it, but you weren't supposed to hear that. Like ever,” He takes a step back and Keith’s eyes track him, “I think I'm going to the Undergrad Office right now to transfer to another university, cause wow,” He lets out a nervous peal of laughter and scrambles backward ready to give into his panic.

 

Keith has other ideas, he lurches forward over the fence barely snagging Lance’s wrist, “Wait no. Come back over here, shit,” He yanks on Lance hard enough to pull him back to his original spot, “Sorry, the fence was digging into my ribs. I just didn't want you to run away,”

 

“I wasn't going to run away!” Lance lies, he feels a bit hysterical and now his stomach has joined his heart up in his throat.

 

“You were,” Keith insists, he doesn't look annoyed. No, he looks... delighted, “That's okay, I know you don't like confrontation.”

 

“That wasn't—”

 

“It's a form of confrontation, it's confronting your feelings,”

 

“Since when are you a psych major?”

 

Lance.” Keith sounds long suffering. A smile is still gracing his lips, “I’m going to kiss you now,” Keith informs him.

 

He's going deliberately slow, like he's giving Lance an out. And he can't stand it, because Keith's words imply a mutual liking of each other. So he does the first sensible thing of his life and surges forward pressing their lips together like he's been wanting to do for a while now. He cups Keith’s jaw, both hands curled on either side of his face, the other boy’s lips are warm, they fit against his own almost sinfully well. Keith leans upwards adding more pressure, he takes Lance bottom lip between his own and it's exhilarating. A tilt of his head, and it’s perfect. The kiss is slow burning, a natural next step for them and when Keith smiles into it, it's everything.

 

Eventually they pull apart at the sound of the soccer team’s (and Allura's, the traitor) wolf whistling and heckling. Keith briefly throws them a silencing glare, before going all soft eyed on Lance, “I like you.”

 

“Yeah, I know.” Lance smirks, doesn't even know how he has the cognitive reflex to reply with a taunt. “I like you too.”

 

Keith laughs, leans in to kiss him again. Once, twice, three times. The last time he pulls back resignedly, his sigh brushes against Lance’s lips. “I'm going to tell you something.”

 

“Sounds serious so no thanks,” Keith rolls his eyes.

 

“You've been sitting in the significant-other section of the bleachers,” Keith tells him. It takes a moment for that to register.

 

“What? No?! We weren't even together! I haven't even asked yet?” Lance looks back at the spot he'd been sitting in, tries to understand why no one told him.

 

“Oh so you are planning on asking?” Keith asks pulling him closer, but the damn fence is still a barrier between their stomachs.

 

“Yeah in a second,” Lance replies distractedly. “I don't believe you. Alondra, the girl with the freckle under her eye—”

 

“McKinney’s girlfriend,”

 

“Jess?”

 

“Abbey’s girlfriend,”

 

“Cheryl?”

 

“Rodriguez’s girlfriend,”

 

“Marisol?”

 

“Yang’s girlfriend?”

 

“Wait what about Matt? Matt was there!”

 

“Foster’s fiancé,”

 

“Oh my god! You let me sit up there! Why,” Lance whines, flashing back to all the comments from the girls and Matt that didn't add up.

 

“I liked knowing where you were,” Keith adds, like it's not a big deal.

 

“They probably thought we were dating,” Lance comments, pressing a finger into Keith’s chest. Fuck, it's so firm!

 

“Does it matter? Aren't we gonna do that now?”

 

Lance raises a finger to give a counterargument, finds that he doesn't have one so he lets it drop. “Okay,” He grins “Oh wait I have to ask!”

 

“No it’s fine—”

 

“Keith Kogane, will you be my boyfriend so that when I sit in the, quote significant-other end quote, section I'm not a fraud?”

 

“Only cause you asked so nicely,” Keith nudges him with his nose, making him tilt his head so that they don't bump against each other. They meet in a kiss again, lips warm and reassuring against each other.


And it's everything.