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Greedy

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It starts and ends like this--at the Garrison, in the shadows, Lance pressed flat to the wall.

Keith doesn’t know this pompous cargo pilot’s name, and he could give a shit. He’d been training at the lower ranks gym when he’d been approached, when he’d been singled out and challenged to a ‘duel’ (the dumb guy’s words, not his).

Fingers now curling around his fellow cadet’s throat, Keith thinks only of the stupidity of it all.

“Fold, idiot,” he says, almost bored, to the guy. He’s got him in a lock against the wall, hand clenching around his windpipe along with his knee shoved tight between his legs, holding him a good inch or so off the floor.

It wasn’t hard to disarm him. The guy had rushed him with little warning, but it’s after hours, and the building is dim enough that Keith felt his reflexes react in no time at all.

It’s always been easier for Keith to see in the dark, and besides, the way he comes at him is mere child’s play. This guy is a fool in more ways than one, for sure. He could use all that lankiness and lean muscle to his advantage, but Keith can tell there’s no experience there, not even raw fight-or-flight talent. There’s nothing but wasted energy and poorly-timed scrambling.

Christ, he can’t even kick him properly, even when Keith left some leeway out of pity for him to try a cheap shot or two with his legs. Honestly, the guy’s lucky he didn’t just immediately lay him flat on his ass.

Keith’s had enough bullshit for one evening -- this guy is like a pesky fly that just won’t go away. He doesn’t even know what he did to prompt such severe treatment in the first place, and all he wants to do is go back to his dorm, maybe read or eat something, talk to Shiro, and then go to bed.

This isn’t supposed to be a part of his routine.

The guy wriggles, and out of instinct, places his palms over Keith’s, attempting to pull him off. Keith digs his thumb in towards his Adam's apple, just for the hell of it. The guy snaps and jerks like a marionette doll, gasping like a fish out of water. He’s squirming as he continues cursing and protesting.

“I’ll fold when you,” he pants, fighting for air to the point his voice comes out as a raspy squeak. Keith lessens his grip, if only to see the pleasing marks of red around his throat. “I’ll fold when you stop acting like you own this place.”

“Own this place?” Keith echoes, lowering him, because obviously this guy isn’t going to give in.

It’s probably been about five minutes since he’s been holding him like this, on the cusp of barely being able to breathe, and Keith is beginning to think that this weirdo is actually enjoying it .

“What in the world are you talking about?”

The guy crumples to the floor for a few moments, breathing heavily, before he pulls himself right back up. It’s obvious he’s moved too soon, obvious he’s lightheaded as he stumbles back and takes a few disjointed, weaving steps.

Still, he puts on a cocky front, like somehow he was the one who just had Keith pinned to the wall.

“You,” he waves his hand around, right in Keith’s face, “You think you’re so amazing, huh?”

Frowning, Keith takes a few steps back. Clearly, this guy is crazy, and Keith just so happened to be the unfortunate person there at the time he decided to lose his mind.

“Your simulation scores,” he says, crossing his arms, like that explains everything. Tone accusatory, as if Keith’s committed some terrible crime. “They’re always perfect!”

“Um…” Keith really doesn’t know how to respond to that. “I’m sorry, is this like...something you want me to apologize for?”

The cargo pilot flips up two fingers from his closed fist. “Your grades, always perfect.”

“Well, I mean, I study a lot…” Keith tries to explain. The guy takes another step forward, he moves back again.

“Your body, perfect,” he flicks up another finger, and Keith’s eyebrows raise high, high up his forehead. “You get special treatment because you’re perfect , and you get to hang out with Takashi Shirogane.”

With all five of Keith’s atrocities brought to light, he slams his flat palm against his own thigh, like he’s made some great case for something.

“Shiro’s my friend,” Keith clicks his tongue, offended, “God, what the fuck is your deal? Just fuck off already, I haven’t even done anything to you. Fuck, scratch that, I don’t even know  you.”

“My name’s Lance,” the guy shouts as he throws his hands in the air again, cheeks red with fury, fingers twitching in frustration, ”I’ve been sitting behind you in flight instruction for an entire semester now, oh my god!”

Keith wracks his memory and yeah, okay, he might be faintly aware that this Lance guy looks familiar, although it’s hard to picture this mess of a person sitting quietly behind him while taking notes in class. Still, Keith shrugs noncommittally.

“Fine, well, just so you know, I haven’t done anything to you, either,” Lance spits, looking beyond insulted that Keith can barely remember him. “But yet, here we are, with your claw marks around my throat.”

He rubs a palm over his throat as if trying to evoke pity, which is still pretty red. Keith most definitely chooses not to feel bad about it.

Keith spreads his arms in disbelief, anger surging through his veins. “You attacked me!”

“Right, and if you don’t watch yourself, I’ll do it again.”

Lance moves forward in a flash, and even though Keith’s pretty good at reacting, he can’t respond fast enough to a cheap shot he wasn’t anticipating in the first place.

The dumbass lurches to him, grabbing his wrist, and sinks his teeth hard into the flesh of his forearm, like some wild, rabid animal. Keith recoils immediately, pain prickling raised bumps on his skin. He gives an involuntary shiver.

“See?” Lance says, looking delirious, pupils still blown in his eyes from being strangled, and then apparently using his after-near-death adrenaline rush to--Jesus Christ.

“Shit, what the fuck?” Keith glares, trying to rub the sting from his arm. “Did you just fucking bite me?”

Lance is smirking, holding his head high, and that’s what makes Keith decide that enough is enough. With boredom evident on his face, Keith makes a wide sweeping motion, and promptly knocks Lance’s feet out from under him. Lance groans as he lands hard on his ass, and Keith leans over to grab a handful of his jacket. After yanking him up, he clamps his hand down on one of Lance’s wrists instead, and wrenches it to his back. He spins him around and bends his arm until Lance is forced to finally fold for him.

Moving his lips right to Lance’s ear, he conjures the most intimidating voice he can manage.

“Don’t underestimate me, cargo pilot,” Keith hisses, slowly, and Lance looks like he’s either about to lose his lunch or shit his pants, “Know your place.”

Keith swears he feels Lance shudder, and he thinks, good.

He drops him then--or more like, he throws Lance back down.

“This was fun, but I’m, uh.” Keith jabs a thumb towards the exit. “I’m gonna go now.”

“Come back here, and fight me,“ Lance demands, scrambling to get to his feet and failing horribly, “Come here and say that to my face, asshole, I dare you!”

“You’re literally on the ground, dude,” Keith sighs, reaching the door, and he pulls it open without so much as a glance back, “It’s over. Go back to your dorm.”

Keith snickers as he walks through the door, tuning out whatever Lance is currently screaming at him.

“See you in class, I guess.”

 


 

Burning off some steam, or some stupid shit like that, is what Lance starts calling it.

Keith doesn’t call it anything but annoying.

He’s finishing up a session with Shiro when, unfortunately, Lance comes back that next evening. It does catch Keith off guard; this is the first time in his entire life that someone he mercilessly beat in a fight has stupidly come back for round two. He’s already not too happy about seeing him before Lance even speaks -- the very obvious bite marks on his arm earned him a lot of strange looks from his peers during his classes, and Shiro noticing as well was it’s own special little Hell for one day.

“I’m challenging you for another round,” is the first thing Lance yells across the room, turning several heads of other people training towards him. The first thing Keith does is laugh. “You ignored me in class again!”

Keith knocks back his water bottle, taking several huge gulps before answering Lance. “Didn’t see you,” He shrugs, wiping off his mouth with the back of his hand while Shiro stares curiously between them. “Were you there today? Could have sworn you were absent.”

“I know for a fact you noticed me this time, mullet,” Lance hisses, storming over the mats, disrupting a few people in his way as they scramble to evade his stomping.

Keith frowns at the new insult, wondering just what the hell that’s supposed to mean. Self-consciously, he pulls some of his sweaty hair between his fingers, wondering if maybe he’s overdue for a haircut. Either way, it’s a bit uncalled for--just because he made a point of actually acknowledging Lance by winking at him when he came into class that morning, doesn’t mean Lance has to get pissy about the fact he also made it a point to act just like he always has--oblivious of his existence. Ideally, he wished he could just go back in time to continue in that vein, but Lance completely killed that illusion forever.

Still, seeing Lance angry is a special kind of reward all on its own, so Keith supposes it isn’t all bad.

“But you still said nothing,” Lance almost gasps the last word in his offense, as if it’s an entirely inconceivable concept that someone wouldn’t want to talk to him. “What the hell do I have to do to get your attention, huh?!”

The second sentence Keith finds much more confusing, and he realizes he can’t decipher its intended meaning no matter how he looks at it. Meanwhile, Lance has successfully stormed his way to clearing the room of all other cadets but them now. Keith considers him with a tilt of his head, watching Lance get close enough that he can smell his fresh just-after-dinner breath, which is anything but appealing.

Shiro is laughing a little, quietly, before he claps a hand onto Keith’s shoulder, startling him both with the touch and unexpected amusement at his clear suffering. “Good hustle out there today, Keith. I’ll catch you tomorrow, okay? Seems like you’ve got another match to prepare for.”

“I wouldn’t call it a match so much as it’ll just be me, beating the shit out of him, but alright. Bye,” Keith grumbles, placing his water bottle on the ground and flexing his arms, trying to smooth the fresh workout ache from his muscles.

Lance has at least chosen something smarter to do this time around, which is to catch him after he’s already fairly tired. Keith isn’t so sure that’s intentional or not, though, and he figures he won’t need to exert much energy on his end anyway for it to really matter.

When Shiro leaves, making Keith think in the back of his mind, traitor, he finally gets enough of his wits about him to respond.

“Counterpoint: the Hell do you need my attention for?”

Lance doesn’t answer him, looking a little too red in the face for the weak nudge he gives Keith.

“God, I hate you,” Lance snarls instead. “Hate you, hate you.”

Weak push, weak push, terrible breath. Keith lets him have some fun, moving back with the laughable force, building Lance’s confidence before he smashes it into a million bite-sized, insecure cargo pilot pieces.

Snorting, Keith tells him, “Can’t say that I’m real fond of you either, cargo pilot.”

It’s definitely a weak point. Lance’s face, if possible, looks even more furious at the fact he won’t acknowledge his name again. It’s enough of a distraction for Keith to make his real move, which is side-stepping away from Lance’s next push mere seconds before it’s supposed to make contact.

Lance trips, his hands flailing wildly through the air, thrown dangerously off balance. Keith gets behind him and shoves him roughly, right into the wall. He can admit that Lance dives into the motion beautifully, flying towards the surface at a brutal, but seamless, speed.

“Are we done here yet?” Keith says flatly, driving his elbow between Lance’s shoulder blades as he bends his arms behind his back, smashes his chest flush against the concrete. “I’m sort of hungry.”

“No,” Lance shouts after gurgling some strange noises from being manhandled, “because I’m going to kick your ass!”

If Lance says anything to Keith next, he doesn’t hear it over the sound of how hard he’s laughing. One of Lance’s bony legs comes out to actually make good use of itself, flying towards Keith in a back kick that does almost make its mark--if it weren’t for Keith’s quick reflexes.

He jumps back to avoid it, keeping his hold on Lance. Without warning, Keith slams the entire side of his body like a linebacker against Lance to better keep him still.

Keith can practically hear the air rushing out of his lungs.

“I said,” Keith lowers his mouth to Lance’s ear, keeping a deep pitch in his tone, much like he did the day before, “Are we done here?”

“We’re done when I-I say we’re done,” Lance says, breathing uneven, cheek smushed to the wall. It’s hard to understand him.

“Really now?” Keith asks, annoyed, and jabs harder with his elbow. “And you’re gonna do that...how?”

This guy just won’t take a hint.

Lance cries out, his body straining against Keith’s hold. Keith translates ‘em gunnashill, em gunnashill yew shmullert ’ to the much more understandable, “I'm gonna kill, I’m gonna kill you, mullet ”.

"The answer is yes, Lance,” Keith just about growls, tugging him back and then slamming him again, trying to knock some literal sense into this guy that there’s no point in continuing to try and take him on.

One last, strong jab between his shoulder blades, one more wrench back of his arms. A strange sensation coils in Keith’s stomach when he sees the way Lance perks up at the use of his actual name, attempting to lift his face from the wall. There’s something hopeful there, something different and unfamiliar in that brief expression towards Keith before he falls back into anger.

Keith instantly decides he doesn’t like it, or at least doesn’t want to like it.

He gives him one last good shove before he backs up off him, watching as Lance slides to a heap down the wall. “The answer is yes , we’re fucking done.”

Keith leaves, but this time, he glances back.

 


 

Lance keeps coming back for more. Keith complains about it a lot.

In all honesty, Keith’s got to hand it to him for sticking to it, even though he obliterates Lance every time. There’s never been someone like him before, someone who showed up repeatedly just to have their ass handed to them. Keith doesn’t like to think about what makes Lance an outlier, what his real endgame may be here. It’s been easier to think Lance either: A, is a glutton for punishment, or B, is deluded enough he thinks he can actually beat Keith.

Keith prefers to think the latter.

Somewhere along the line, however, ‘fighting’ starts turning into Keith criticizing Lance’s technique (or lack thereof). It turns into him making a conscious effort to avoid using offensive techniques if possible, instead of automatically harming him, as he wants to see Lance try and take the advantage while mostly in one piece.

The most shocking thing above all, isn’t really any of that. The most shocking thing is that this somehow evolves into him actually helping  Lance with his technique.

It’s merely out of pity, Keith convinces himself. Pity, and the fact that ‘sparring’ with Lance is boring as hell. Keith doesn’t want to waste anymore time with someone this inexperienced. There’s no challenge there at all, besides the fact Lance’s mouth is the only real weapon that could possibly hold any negative effect on his opponent.

“Your center of gravity is always off,” Keith shakes his head, watching as Lance does the walk of shame extricating himself from the mat. He’s sporting a busted lip from a fight of theirs the other night, and he tongues the cut as he faces Keith again, looking haggard and weary. “No wonder you can’t stand your ground.”

Keith waits for Lance’s gaze to--yup, and there it is right on schedule, tipping idiotically to the floor.

Lance shifts his weight from one foot to the other, rolling up the sleeves of his gym uniform as irritably as he can manage. “I don’t see what the big deal is. My feet are already on the ground, what does it matter?”

“The big deal is, is that I can do this,” Keith says, grinning as he jumps forward and pushes Lance as hard as he can. “Whenever I want.”

It’s pretty fun, being able to toss Lance around like it’s nothing, even with their few inch height difference. There’s nothing quite like the way Lance falls, the ungraceful movement of him tripping over his feet, the strangled, indignant, squawking noises. Overall, it’s very satisfying, which is why Keith doesn’t know why he offers what he offers next.

Keith laughs, placing his hands on his hips. “Rethinking my opinion yet?”

“Rethinking you may have a point, maybe, yeah.” With a groan, Lance scoops himself up from the floor, dramatically brushing off invisible dust. “Thinking it’s a good opinion? No.”

Rolling his eyes, Keith beckons him forward with a finger. “Come here, stupid.”

Cautiously, Lance walks over to where he’s pointing in front of him. He gives him a skeptical look, one of his hands rubbing his arm, a habit Keith’s noticed him do whenever he’s nervous about something.

Keith drives that thought immediately back out. He doesn’t know why he’s bothered to remember that.

He steps close to Lance, very happy that it’s not after dinner this time around. Instinctively, Lance moves to take a step back, but Keith stops him with one hand on his arm. With his foot, he nudges one of Lance’s legs, urging him to spread them.

“Um…” Lance’s voice wavers, raising an eyebrow as he stares at Keith, their faces inches apart.

“You need to widen your stance for this exercise,” Keith explains, then backs up to show him.

Lance looks relieved by the space, face annoyingly flushed even though he’s barely been doing anything but falling for the past half hour. Facing Lance, Keith slides his own foot out until he’s standing wider, sinking into the stance with his knees slightly bent.

“Like this.”

Lance mirrors him. Keith curls his hands into fists, and rests them on either side of his hips, nodding for Lance to do the same. For once, Lance is doing something right, just keeping his mouth shut and actually listening to him.

“Now, stomach in, back straight, and hold it, cadet,” Keith barks, much like their officers do when they have endurance training. Lance seems to be pretty responsive to his commanding tone of voice, so Keith figures it doesn’t hurt to take advantage of that.

Keith comes around behind him, pushing lightly down on the tops of his thighs. “Center yourself, stay low.” Lance sinks with his touch, and Keith removes his hands. “Be mindful of keeping your abs tight, like we do during pyramids.” For the Hell of it, Keith slaps the back of his hand against Lance’s stomach, and Lance jerks forward, looking like he’d prefer to sink his teeth into Keith again. “I’m going to push you around some.”

Keith can’t help a chuckle from escaping between his pursed lips, because things are finally starting to get interesting. “Your goal is simple. Just don’t move.”

“Not move? Like, at all?” Lance says, sounding panicked. “That’s crazy. How is this any different than what you’ve been doing, anyway? And how hard of a push are we talking here? Like hard, hard or--”

Keith claps Lance’s back, gives a tiny shove. Not fully paying attention, Lance stumbles somewhat out of the stance. He bends too far in at the hip, too, but the impact is more muted than usual.

Eyes going wide, Lance gives a small, surprised ‘oh.’

“See, you feel that? This is why you should listen to me more often.” Keith pushes him lower, at the small of his back, and Lance holds steady. “...That was pretty good, though. Much better than falling on your face.”

The praise flows naturally, much too naturally for Keith to feel good about it.

“But shut up, and focus on your center,” he adds quickly, “Your center is key, the most important part. Without a good center, you’ll never be able to fight like you want to.”

Keith returns in front of him, poking a finger into Lance’s chest as he asks, “You want to be able to actually fight me, right?”

“Well, I--”

Quiet,” Keith says, jabbing into his left side this time, completely over hearing Lance say another word. “Focus. Imagine your feet are glued to the floor. They’re an extension of the ground right now, not your body. You’re like a tree. You fall, you uproot yourself.”

Lance teeters to the right, but works through the aftershock. Sinking back low, he tucks his fists to his sides. He’s biting his lip and glaring, looking like it’s taking everything in him to not make an outright smart remark. Keith swears he hears him mumbling something mocking about how all this tree talk is for nerds, but he chooses to ignore that for now.

“That means you die, you know,” Keith whispers into his ear, laughing as he claps a hand onto his shoulder. Lance snorts, but doesn’t complain. “So don’t kill yourself here, cargo pilot.”

As much as he’d like to destroy him with this exercise, Keith starts out slow, testing Lance’s right side and then his upper back. He moves around, pushing on his body until Lance is able to keep still, even when he switches up the order and force.

He’s not really bad at it, and actually, is taking to the concept fairly fast. Where he’s weak, Keith points it out, and Lance corrects it. When he moves his feet even an inch, Keith strictly chastises him, and Lance (although huffily) attempts to stay balanced.

Maybe all of this tomfoolery wasn’t as big of a waste of time as Keith previously thought.

“It hurts,” Lance complains, body trembling. “My everything hurts.”

Keith decides to get more creative, snapping out his foot and hitting him lightly with the side of it, right towards the back of Lance’s knees. Lance wobbles, but he tenses, catches himself at the last second. It’s the first time he’s impressed Keith at all since they’ve started--whatever the Hell this is. He’s nice like this, Keith thinks, but he can’t quite put his finger on exactly what is so nice about how Lance looks and is acting right now.

Tucking that thought away, Keith reminds him to breathe while bumping a shoulder, laughing as Lance lets out a strained, shaky breath. He’s been gritting his teeth extremely hard while he’s been focusing, to the point Keith can hear him grinding them. His cheeks are dusted a violent red. Keith would rather not have to care for an unconscious Lance, even though the silence that would come afterwards would probably be worth it.

“Good,” Keith flits around him, catching Lance off guard. “That means you’re actually doing something right.”

Slamming both hands onto Lance’s chest, Keith heaves with as much force as he can muster. “Trees don’t talk either, though.”

As always, Keith moves in for the kill, and Lance takes the bait.

 


 

Keith doesn’t know why Lance is here again, but he’s like some terrible, non-adorable version of a lost puppy.

He just won’t go the Hell away, is always staring up at Keith with pitiful, guilt-inducing eyes.

It’s gross, but for some reason, Keith’s accepted it.

Every training session he has with Shiro the jerk promptly interrupts, and it’s obvious he’s doing it on purpose. Keith’s randomly changed the times he and Shiro meet up to no avail -- Lance always seems to just know. It’s gotten to the point they both anticipate Lance joining them regardless. Lately, Shiro’s even been bringing an extra water bottle.

Every time, Shiro smiles and politely excuses himself. Every time, Keith feels very betrayed. Every time, Keith draws blood from Lance in some form.

Today, Keith’s decided to continue giving the fuck up, and shift their lesson to be more focused on balance and energy, having spent a good chunk of the week before enjoying pushing Lance around. Though not as fun as sweeping him to the ground, it was still a good time.

Now comes the more annoying part.

“It’s about subtle movements, Lance,” Keith shows him, using the tiniest step to the side to avoid Lance’s fist at the last minute, “If you waste all your energy right off the bat, you’ll spin out and crash. Not to mention, get the shit beaten out of you, and you’ll have no energy left to defend yourself. Basically, every stupid thing that happens every time you try to fight me.”

Lance stumbles forward with momentum, his punch cutting through air and dragging him from too much force. Half-bent, he blinks up at Keith, drawing his brows tightly together. There’s an admittedly cute expression of confusion plastered on his face.

“How the hell’d you do that?” Lance demands him to explain, “You were right there in front of me two seconds ago!”

“You can’t have fear in you,” Keith sighs, balling his fists by his face to get Lance to reflect the motion, “You stand your ground, watch their movement, and then give a gentle slide out of harm’s way when the time’s right. It’s not actually that hard.”

Keith nods to him, motioning for Lance to get into an offensive stance. “It just takes practice, and patience -- two things you seem to understand literally nothing about. Here, come at me again, and watch closely.”

Again, Lance comes at him, again Keith steps away from him seconds before his fist rears back to swing in an amateur’s attempt to backhand him.

“Fuck!” Lance splutters, shoulders slumping in defeat, “You’re so damn fast.”

Keith knows he’s fast, but it’s surprising to hear Lance admit it. Scratching his head, he turns to the clock. It’s been about an hour since they started.

“Alright, let’s take a break. Honestly, how do you even get through endurance training?”

Keith walks to the side of the room, picking up their water bottles and handing one to Lance. Lance snags it from him roughly, though he mutters a quick thanks.

Lance sits down on the mat, legs naturally splaying into a wide, full split as he stretches to the side to wind down. Keith’s eyebrows raise. He had no idea Lance was that flexible. Keith chokes on his water, coughing to the point he has to turn away. When he looks back, Lance is staring at him. His shorts have ridden up in his new position, his sleeves are annoyingly rolled again, showing off a surprising amount of lean muscle.

“You know what?” Lance looks up through the thick of his lashes, smirking wide enough that his still unhealed lip re-splits, “We can’t all be naturally born ninjas, mullet.”

  


 

Routine sets in, easy and clicking into place, like they’re old friends meeting up to get shitfaced in some seedy bar on a Saturday night.

Except that the drink Keith is serving to Lance is a broken nose and bruised ribs, and Lance is ordering his one-way trip to the hospital, not the toilet.

The sickening crack isn’t what Keith hears so much as he feels, registering it as soon as his knuckles slam not against the delicate plate of Lance’s cheek like he’d intended, but smack into the middle of his face as Lance stupidly turns his head without protection at the last second--probably to run his mouth.

He runs his mouth instead by howling, clutching at his nose as Keith retreats, fast. Blood is immediately gushing from it, steady and dripping between Lance’s fingers.

“Shit, shit, you fucking idiot,” Keith shouts, panicked and scrambling for the first aid kit hanging on the wall, “You weren’t supposed to move, fuck.”

He gets to it in record time, but pops open the thing much too quickly, causing it to fall and burst into an irritating mess of scattered medical supplies on the floor. Shit is rolling everywhere, Keith is frantically sifting inside the disorganized box.

“God, you didn’t even block, why didn’t you block?!” Keith yells at him, thinking, gauze, gauze, where is the fucking gauze.

He’s seen plenty of people bleed like that before, and it’s not the first time it was also by his hands, but something about the whole situation being with Lance is uncomfortably turning his stomach.

“What the fuck do you mean, I wasn’t supposed to move?!” Lance barks back, hysterical, spitting out blood and falling to his knees, “We were wrestling, I had to move, and you fucked up my nose! You fucking punched me, you asshole! I shouldn’t need to block when the real problem is that you suck!”

“If you had learned anything these past few weeks, this wouldn’t have happened,” Keith tells him firmly, almost letting out a victorious whoop when he finally finds the damn gauze. He rushes back over to Lance, who’s on the mat still.

Keith would say he didn’t have an ounce of pity in him, but that would be wrong, because Lance is so pathetic it’s almost unfair to even continue indulging him in this war.

“Come here,” Keith says with a sigh, feeling pity he shouldn’t be feeling when he sees Lance, sitting with a pool of blood gathering between his legs.

“No,” Lance groans, “I don’t trust you anymore.”

“Fine,” Keith squats down on his heels in front of Lance, “Then I’ll come to you, idiot.”

Lance flinches back, making a weak attempt to kick him. “Don’t touch me! You’ll just ruin more of my features!”

It isn’t hard to get near him, to grab him and press the gauze to where Lance’s fingers have been trying to staunch the flow of blood.

“Oh god, it hurts, it hurts,” Lance moans, dropping his stained hands and letting Keith touch him anyway, without any more protest.

Keith hushes him, using one hand to stuff the gauze gently up his nostrils, his other to very carefully inspect the damage.

With Lance’s hands now out of the way, Keith can see how the ridge of his nose is skewed to the side, with a tiny bump of swelling already forming over bruise kissed skin. Lance is pale, trembling, his eyes unfocused and far away. There’s tears pricking in them from pain, and Keith can only hope the bleeding will stop soon.

Keith shakes his head. “It’s definitely broken. We’re gonna need to go to the infirmary, maybe even to the hospital.”

“I don’t like doctors.” Lance gives a small, pathetic whimper. “I don’t want to go to the doctor.”

Lightly, Keith runs the pad of his finger over the bump of swelling, then drifts it to the corner of Lance’s eye, wiping his tears away without really thinking about it. He doesn’t know why he felt compelled to do that, but realizes it was very worth it to see how shocked Lance looks -- outside of the actual shock, that is.

“Do you ever stop whining about things? Come on, look at you,” Keith flails his arms out, dramatically gesturing to Lance’s prone form, “You’re going into shock. Seeing a doctor is the least of your problems right now, you’re a mess. So, let’s go, buddy.”

Carefully, he puts an arm around Lance’s waist, hauling him up before he can open his big mouth to whine again. Lance leans into him as they slowly rise together. He totters to the side when they get to their feet, but Keith rights him, motioning for Lance to lay an arm over his shoulder, too.

“Can you walk, or do you want me to call someone?” Keith asks him, snapping his fingers a few times to get Lance’s attention. His face is entirely drained of blood now, the gauze in his nose slowing spreading from white to deep red in its place. Keith wonders if he may be about to throw up.

Lance pauses, watching him with unsteady eyes, more looking through him than anything.

“Carry me,” Lance suggests, tugging on Keith’s shirt.

There’s the faintest lazy grin upon his lips when he says it, absent of anything shit-eating for once. He lays his head on Keith’s shoulder, moaning softly in pain, and Keith resists the urge to stroke a soothing hand through his hair.

Disgusting. He doesn’t even want to think about what’s coming over him to have a thought like that.

“Don’t push your luck.”

Keith clicks his tongue, but after an incredibly awkward few steps in which Lance trips over his feet more than he seems able to lift them, Keith prepares himself for doing the most ridiculous thing he’s ever done since starting to hang out with Lance in the first place.

Steadying Lance at the small of his back, he hooks an arm under his knees and gingerly picks him up, bridal style. Lance makes a noise of surprise, but otherwise, doesn’t say anything. His uneven breathing is loud near Keith’s ear, and Keith knows he’s probably going to annoyingly get blood all over his shirt now.

It doesn’t bother him as much as it should though--being this close to Lance nor having his favorite shirt ruined -- and that’s honestly a way bigger problem than navigating their way to the infirmary. Keith prepares himself to be humiliated, in more ways than one.

“Will you come with me at least? I don’t wanna go alone…” Lance is speaking barely above a whisper now. Any ounce of cockiness or pride seems to be completely drained from him, and it’s a little startling how normal, how pitiful and small he appears to be without it. Honestly, Keith could get used to this.

“What does it look like I’m doing here? I’m literally holding you.” Keith licks his lips, trying to keep the gruffness in his voice to mask his concern. Lance looks at him like that doesn’t make much sense. “Just...don’t go to sleep.”

Lance doesn’t, but about halfway to the trek through crowded Garrison halls with hushed whispers around them, Keith wishes he had.

“You smell really nice,” Lance murmurs, nuzzling into his neck as he wraps his arms around it. His eyelashes are fluttering, in tempo with the quiet lull of his words. “You’re really soft, too. It’s nice. You’re kinda nice sometimes, I think.” They’re surprising compliments, Keith thinks, up until Lance feels it necessary to open his mouth again. “...When you’re not being, like, a total dick I guess.”

“I could drop you, you know,” Keith says, definitely thinking about it, definitely wondering what he ever did to deserve ending up in this situation.

Keith doesn’t say another word after Lance tells him, with the utmost confidence and a wry smile, “Yeah, but you won’t.”

  


 

“You made me ugly,” Lance whines immediately to Keith when he sees him a few days later, patched up with a splint and sporting two deeply black eyes. “I hate you. My beauty has been forever tarnished.”

“I didn’t make you ugly, Lance,” When Lance opens his mouth to continue whining, Keith beats him to it, “You’ve always been that way.”

Lance looks over at him, pitiful, with large, sad eyes. They’re sitting on the mat together, Lance dramatically flat on his back, Keith leaning against the wall, flipping through a judo instruction book. Watching Lance from the corner of his eye, Keith isn’t sure they’ve actually sat next to each other this long before without fighting.

Physically, anyway.

Keith heaves a sigh. “God, don’t look at me like that. It’s gross.”

“That was really mean, though,” Lance pouts, propping himself up on his elbows, looking much like a depressed raccoon.

Pathetic, pathetic.

“I was joking, dude,” Keith looks away, glancing at the clock to see if he can find an excuse to escape to class. Tapping his fingers along the mat, he considers Lance over the edge of his book. “You’re not ugly now. You never were. Cheer up, pretty boy.”

“Whoa, hold up,” Lance springs to a sitting position, wincing in pain from jerking his head much too fast. His eyes are hopeful within the swelling on his face, hands clasping happily together.  “Do you really think I’m pretty?"

“Yeah,” Keith snorts, “Pretty annoying. Now be quiet, I’m trying to read.”

Lance’s face creases into an even bigger pout. “Whatever. You’re just jealous, because I can rock it, even with this ugly splint on.”

Keith doesn’t have the energy in him to continue watching Lance, so he just flips to the next page in his book.

“Too bad they didn’t put it over your mouth,” he mutters, trying to push down these strange new feelings, “That’s the real problem area.”

Ironically, Lance doesn’t say another word. 

 

Chapter Text

At this point, Keith wonders if he should start charging Lance for lessons.

It’s just them in the training room, late as usual. Lance was already there when Keith came in.

Finals came and went in a blur, and it’s been a crazy week. Keith’s feeling the relief of finally having some time off soon, and he imagines Lance is too as he notices the pronounced bags under his eyes.

After their semester long evaluations, Keith’s been permanently placed into fighter class. He has different required extracurricular activities now, like specialized simulation training and actually getting his hands on a real aircraft (while heavily monitored by an officer, of course).

It’s all he’s ever wanted, to be able to sit in a cockpit and feel the genuine acceleration when he hits the throttle, to hear the powerful thrumming of an engine. Keith wants to experience the smell of fuel simmering all around him, the sound of actual jets and turbines working harder when he slams the stick and guns the speed.

His and Lance’s schedules don’t match up perfectly anymore, though. Lance is still a cargo pilot, despite Keith getting wind that he applied for fighter class.

It’s one of the few things Lance won’t talk about. At least not to him.

Regardless, Lance snuck out of class to meet him up on the roof earlier for lunch. Initially, it was weird. He’d been in a pissier than usual mood lately because of Keith’s promotion, which he complained about loudly and often, in typical Lance fashion. Why Lance would continue seeking out his company if he apparently hated him so much, continues to completely elude Keith.

When Keith asked him what the hell he wanted, Lance didn’t respond at first. He’d strode in and presumptuously sat down next to him, then before Keith could tell him to fuck off, he’d smiled. Keith lost his nerve to say anything after that, too focused on watching that cheeky smile spread.

Lance turned to him and said simply, in a small voice, that he was there because he knew they wouldn’t have much time this week to see each other.

What a baffling answer.

Keith doesn’t know why he would bother to go out of his way to do such a thing in the first place. The whole thing caught him off guard, and for a moment he wondered if this was all part of Lance’s plan to pull some dirty move, like lulling him into a false sense of security before jumping him.

But, it wasn't anything like that. It was...nice, actually.

They talked about things other than training, like how Lance’s little sister had a dance recital recently, and how sad he was to miss it since he always went to them when he lived at home.

Keith learned that Lance has traveled a pretty long way, from Cuba, and gets homesick easily. Keith learned that he has a large, happy family that stays in touch with him often. Keith learned that Lance skypes one of his older brothers whenever he’s feeling stressed with school, because he’s in a similar space program settled out in the East sector.

Keith doesn’t know what Lance might be learning about him, but he doesn’t have nearly as much to talk about to really teach him anything like that.

He finds that he likes hearing about Lance’s family, likes hearing about all this closeness that he really doesn’t know anything about. Beneath the interest and curiosity, there’s a small layer of unexpected jealousy, something Keith never would have guessed he’d hold for someone like Lance.

Keith tries not to think too much about what any of this means anymore. These sparring sessions are more familiar ground -- they follow a logical and predictable structure. He can deal with these.

“Today, we’re doing kicks,” Keith announces, drawing the blinds on the door, feeling relief and less strain around his eyes. Darker is always better.

Keith’s prepared for some form of protest, but he’s not feeling as annoyed about it as he usually would. There’s a calmness settled over him, a nice soreness in his abs from practicing grunt during his weekly G-force training, and he’s coming down from the high of flying, jittering with unused energy.

He was actually sort of relieved to see Lance here--excited, even.

Keith's throat tightens. He shouldn’t be thinking about this. He just needs a good outlet, nothing more, nothing less.

“Aw, come on,” Lance deflates, pausing in wrapping his hands, where he prematurely anticipated doing some hand-to-hand combat. He gives a few over zealous punches to the air. “But I want to punch you and stuff.”

Keith inhales deeply, trying to ignore the pitiful look on Lance’s face. He’s not falling for that puppy dog act again. In his book, Lance isn’t ready for hand-to-hand. At least, not with his actual hands, lest he wants to break those, too.

“Lance,” Keith sighs, squatting down to his level on the mat, “Listen.”

Lance looks at him morosely, frown tugging into that classic pout.

Keith taps his index finger on Lance’s nose, watching him wince when he runs it over the nasty residual bruise. “Your nose is just starting to heal and shit. We’re not going to risk re-breaking it.”

Lance pushes his bottom lip out. For some reason, Keith feels tempted to push it back in.

Resisting the urge, Keith smiles, clapping Lance on the shoulder before rising back up. “Besides. Your legs are your strong point. You have amazing flexibility, you could really use that to your advantage in a fight.”

“Really?” Lance questions, looking at his legs, as if the thought never occurred to him. He lifts his gaze to Keith, hopeful, pleased with the praise. “Huh. You really think I could do that?”

“If you pay attention, yeah,” Keith says, smirking as he ushers Lance to the middle of the room.

Bouncing up, Lance gets into a loose fighting stance. He cracks his neck, rolls his sleeves up.

Keith looks at him in mild disdain.

“You're always doing that, it's dumb,” Keith blurts before he can stop himself this time, eyes skimming over the lean, but defined muscle of Lance’s upper arms. “Why don't you just use the assigned tank tops they have available, like mine?”

“Because, those ones are uglier,” Lance huffs, like Keith is stupid for not thinking about that.

Raising an eyebrow, Keith looks down at his own shirt, feeling a little offended. Nothing about any of their uniforms is technically flattering. There’s no need for Lance to get all high-and-mighty about it, they all look ridiculous here.

“Plus,” Lance flexes his arms, tipping his chin proudly, “It's the cool bad boy thing to do.”

Keith wrinkles his nose, almost forgetting about their lesson, because he can just never understand quite how Lance’s mind works.

“Since when?” Keith asks, genuinely wanting some form of explanation.

“Pfft, since forever,” Lance snorts, planting one hand on his hip and gesturing wildly with the other. “Haven't you ever watched any fighting movies? I mean, do you live under a rock? Come on now. I look badass like this.”

Lance slides a palm over his chest, dragging his fingers slowly across it, then down to the minute curve of his hips. Keith feels the tips of his ears grow hotter. “The tailoring in this shows off my bangin’ pecs, too. Better for attracting the ladies, if you know what I mean.”

Keith frowns. No, he doesn't know what he means, and honestly he doesn't want to know.

“Would you just put your mouth guard in so we can start,” Keith shakes his head, “Please, put it in so I at least don’t have to hear this stuff anymore.”

Lance grumbles about how he’s the one who started it this time, but he reaches into his pocket, and pulls out the mouth guard Keith gave him the other week. Once it’s in, Keith feels relieved.

“I don’t think you’ll actually have any issues with this,” Keith admits, coming over to Lance and adjusting his position slightly.

Every time he places his hands on him, though the touches are slight, Lance responds in some minute way despite not speaking.

When he puts a palm to his shoulder and pushes, Lance’s fingers twitch. When he casually guides his hips to be facing more forwards, Lance makes a soft, barely audible whine. When Keith nudges his hands higher so that they’re more properly protecting his face, Lance stiffens, and it takes a few verbal prompts from Keith for him to finally loosen up again.

Keith feels warmer with every small touch, wonders if maybe some irresponsible cadet messed with the thermostat again, because the air is far past stuffy and stifling tonight.

Keith backs off him to show him by example first, since Lance is a much better visual learner than he is when being explained about what he needs to do. Keith does a simple roundhouse, and while he has a fair amount of flexibility himself, the kick he lands only reaches at about Lance’s shoulder.

Lance fiddles with the wrapping on his wrist as he watches, eyes big and wavering like they sometimes get, obviously impressed by the height in a way that Keith really isn’t. While his kicks are still strong, they aren’t the basis of his foundation. Keith is harder on himself about it, despite Shiro telling him multiple times that there was nothing wrong with his technique. Having shorter legs, Keith feels like there’s only so far he can go.

Lance pops the guard out of his mouth. “Whoa. That was actually really cool. Kicks are legit.” He twists his torso a few times, jumps up and down in a short attempt to get his blood rushing around and prepared for a fight before he slides the guard back in. “Alright, I take back what I said, this is about as awesome as punching. I think I can do that.”

Keith shuffles back and falls into a stance on the balls of his feet. He taps the side of his head, grinning as Lance comes at him. “I want you to try and reach my ear. Or higher, if you’re ab--”

Pivoting and snapping out the top of his pointed foot, Lance startles him into complete silence. Without any effort at all, he manages to go right over Keith’s head.

Keith lowers his hands in shock. The hairs on the top of his scalp were grazed, and the ones on the back of his neck stand up to match them.

He thinks about the motion in his mind, shivering a little as the memory replays on his eyelids when he closes them to take a deep breath. Lance, with one long, lean leg extended, toes brushing his hair. Lance, with his shorts sliding further down his thigh, revealing a fine tan-line. Lance, with his tongue sticking out between his teeth in concentration.

Lance, looking uncertain in front of him when he re-opens his eyes, anticipating what Keith will say.

Lance fidgets, stuffing his hands in his pockets as he glances at the clock, then back to Keith. “Was that good? You said higher if I could, so...”

“Yeah,” Keith breathes, trying to contain the higher-pitched inflection of his voice from being too obvious. He feels like he might need a minute to sit down, get the room to stop spinning around him. “Yeah, that was...that was really good, Lance.”

Keith hates the way he equally enjoys the curve of Lance’s proud, unfurling smile.

  


 

There’s something in the air, something that fizzles and bursts into staticky white noise every time Keith brushes past Lance in the hallways, or whenever he squeezes Lance’s fragile wrists between his fingers. Lately, he’s been all too aware of the smoothness, the flawlessness of Lance’s skin, which he isn’t sure is a normal thing to suddenly be aware of. The close proximity they engage in on an almost daily basis now has changed, has morphed from just like any other casual fight, to something undeniably electric.

The training room transforms into a hotbox of energy when they’re in it, popping and singing double the amount of adrenaline in Keith’s veins when he knocks Lance on his back.

Recently, Lance has gotten good enough to be able to tackle him a few times, which seems related to these new realizations. He never pins Keith for very long, either not paying attention or purposefully letting himself get re-tackled--Keith can never tell what’s the real reason these days.

But the way he looks above Keith when he does it, goddammit--the way he smells and feels, all cocky with staggered breaths against his neck, leaves Keith in a very different high than a regular post-workout buzz.

When they fight, it’s a rush unlike any other, and he’s slowly become a junkie for every second of it--to the point he’s about to crash and spiral out. It snuck up on him, insidious, much like how Lance has wormed his way into an unsettling domestic routine in Keith’s life.

For chrissakes, they haven’t even been seriously fighting each other half the time anymore. It took Keith about a week to make the grave realization as he stared at his ceiling unable to sleep -- they’d been hanging out. Like actual friends or something.

This epiphany should have been like waking up to another nightmare, but--

Keith wasn’t actually bothered by it.

They’d done a few things together in peace, like Keith reading while Lance tried in vain to get his attention, or Lance attempting to get him to help him with some homework when Keith tried to escape to the refuge of the library. Usually, it was Lance bothering him, but occasionally Keith even went out of his way to say a regular greeting to him in class. There was no sarcasm involved, because he found out that when he does it genuinely, Lance’s eyes spark in the prettiest way.

Lance joins him regularly on the roof now for lunch, where they spend more time throwing rocks at unsuspecting professors they don’t like, than they do actually eating. Training room afternoons get replaced by things Keith wouldn’t normally do, like ducking fast out of sight from an enraged officer, so as not to get found out.

Lance has a friend -- someone Keith has yet to meet, but hears about often -- who cooks amazing gourmet meals, and Lance shares whatever leftovers he has with Keith sometimes. He tells him he should eat more before rushing away from his dorm, leaving Keith confused in his doorway with a handful of pot roast. When he’s in a particularly good mood, Lance even gives some to Shiro, though the tension between the two of them is much different than whatever’s happening with them.

Keith’s noticed in the paused time whenever Lance pins him, that Lance’s eyes are a very deep, dark blue. His skin is always soft and warm, has an alluring sheen to it that often hints with some unfamiliar, distinctly salty scent. It looks lovely in the dim light, all prickled with sweat, and it feels good underneath Keith’s fingertips, especially when he’s digging them into it.

Too good.

And Keith reluctantly helps him whenever he asks for something, be it some dumb question about air-speed velocities of coconut laden swallows (which is so irritatingly specific, and Lance won’t stop laughing at him when he attempts to answer it), or when he’s giving him a very hands-on lesson about why it’s a cheap shot to pull someone’s hair.

Lance asked for it by tugging on Keith’s first, but he didn’t seem to have an issue with Keith returning the favor, a cheshire’s grin curling up his lips even as Keith yanked as hard as he could by the hair at the nape of his neck. Frowning back at him, Keith had gotten the impression yet again that there was some enjoyment, something underlying there that Lance was getting out of this as well.

He doesn’t know what yet, but the fact of the matter remains: Reluctant as his attitude may be, he still does all those things for Lance.

Keith doesn’t know what’s happening to him. He’s never felt like this before.

Lance was supposed to be like a charity case -- community service, even. He was someone he was helping out of pity to keep some other guy from laying him flat one day. But now, the mere thought of that makes Keith’s blood boil.

He doesn’t want to consider anyone else laying Lance flat but him.

Keith thinks he must be going crazy. He’s either crazy, poisoned, or dying. Maybe all three, because there’s no way he’s starting to actually like Lance’s company.

The bigger problem is that there’s no denying Lance can’t feel this oppressive curtain around them, too. Keith can just about taste the energy they generate these days -- it's becoming too hard to hide. Whatever it is, it’s well out in the open, albeit a mysterious, unspoken thing.

Keith thinks about how he’s always been sensitive to intangible things like that, like feeling someone’s energy, or aura, as Shiro’s friend Matt likes to call it. The sisters at the orphanage used to tell him he was just ‘emotionally sensitive’, different from the others, and that’s why he had to work harder to fight back whenever the bigger boys picked on him.

When he was old enough to go to school and be adopted for the first time, his fanatically religious foster family returned him when they thought much different, convinced he was possessed by some otherworldly demon because he cried, without fail, every time before it began to rain.

Keith feels things, and then sometimes those feelings just become real things that happen. It's not unusual to him, because it's always been that way.

He doesn’t really believe in any of those spiritual concepts, though -- he believes in the physical, things he can rightfully feel crushed beneath his sweaty palms.

Like right here and now, with Lance’s wrists pinioned above him on the mat, like some kind of annoying, beanpole martyr.

“Are you even trying anymore?” Keith pants, not meaning for it to come out as low and husky as it does.

The training room is dim, the windows tipped with incandescent reds and purples from the sunset outside. Like stained glass, perfect to complete the image of Lance at his mercy.

Keith feels dizzy. His mouth is way too dry.

Lance is ripe with sweat, with whatever stupid fucking lotion he owns that for some inane reason smells like cherries. The jagged edges of the faux stained glass washes over his face, doubling the flush there and accentuating the pleasing angles of his cheekbones.

His lip is split again. Keith watches a rivulet of red roll down to his chin.

“This is...this is the third time I’ve pinned you tonight,” Keith says softly, licking cracked lips. “What’s going on? I thought we were past this.”

Keith doesn’t know why he’s reminding him. Lance seems pretty proud of this fact.

“Who knows?” Lance replies enigmatically, tilting his chin up, hair plastered to his damp forehead. “Maybe I just like getting under your skin.”

Keith blinks, taken aback. The next thing he knows, thin thighs are locking around his waist, bony knees jabbing in towards his ribs. Lance twists his torso, and the world flips upside down.

Keith finds himself in the only position where he’s ever felt too weak.

He’s out of his element. No one but Shiro has pinned him since he was a kid, and it surely wasn’t anything like this.

Lance doesn’t pin him at all like Keith pins him. He doesn’t copy Keith’s technique in this aspect, but for all that Keith can admit, he definitely doesn’t have to.

Lance doesn’t press him down, just hovers over him on his hands and knees, grinning. He doesn’t even hold him, choosing to slam his palms on the floor near Keith’s ears instead. Keith feels the illusion of a grip anyway, unable to move despite not being held there.

They’ll usually stare at each for a long time. The floodlights will come on, illuminating the way Lance watches him, with an intensity Keith’s only seen flickering here and there whenever he grinds his face into the mat. About that time, the announcements will filter over the loudspeaker for them to return to their dorms.

Lance slowly leans down then, gets close enough that Keith tenses. The heat of his breath will flutter against his lips.

...But that’s when he always leaves. He just hops off of him, shooting lame finger guns, and leaves.

It’s so frustrating, and Keith doesn’t even know why -- until tonight.

Lance ‘pins’ him, they stare, but the loudspeaker doesn’t come on. It’s too early in the evening.

Nonetheless, routine continues. Lance gets closer, teasingly ghosting his breath against Keith’s cheek, leaning in enough that their chests are almost touching. One of his sleeves has unraveled in their scuffling, skewed to the side so that Keith can see a hint of one heavily freckled shoulder.

Lance doesn’t have to pull away this time, but he does anyway, as if he’s just realized there’s something odd about this game of chicken they’ve been playing.

Keith honestly isn’t a huge fan of routine anymore. Structure, definitely. Self-discipline, of course. But routine? It gets boring. Tedious.

So just like that, impulsivity hits him.

“Lance, wait. Stay for a second,” Keith tells him against his better judgment, grasping one small wrist and dragging him back down, “You don’t have to hurry if you don’t want to.”

Due to the unexpected force, Lance practically falls back on top of him.

It isn’t until a few seconds of awkward silence later, Lance looking flustered as he lays flush on his chest, that Keith realizes how weird that must have sounded. Don’t hurry from what, exactly? Sitting on top of him and grinning?

Keith feels his entire body flush warmer. He knows things are getting way out of hand when his mind agrees that that’s something he wouldn’t particularly be opposed to.

Lance still doesn’t speak, and it’s all wrong. Lance should be running his mouth, should be saying something lame, like all those times he’s spilled out pick-up lines to use on him to practice for “future Mrs. McClains”. He shouldn’t be looking at Keith like he’s said something offensive, his mouth hanging open and eyes stretched in disbelief.

Wincing, Keith thinks about how he’s surely made things weird now, so he does the only thing he knows how to do in situations like this.

He tucks away the feelings of panic, the innermost feelings he’s been having about Lance --

And fights.

Switching their positions faster than either of them can process, Lance’s skull knocks hard when it hits the tile right outside of the mat. Keith almost takes it back, wincing at the sound of it, but he’s already gone too far down the rabbit-hole for this cover up.

“Jesus, ouch, not fair, not fair,” Lance groans, trying to clutch his head, but Keith yanks his hands out to his sides before he can touch the likely bruised area.

He clamps his hands over Lance’s wrists, thumbs digging into his pulse points. Lance doesn’t struggle against him, just smiles as he squints through the pain.

“Four,” Keith says, tile cool under the heat of his knuckles.

“You know I won’t say uncle, but that was so not fair.” Sounding breathless, Lance gives a weak chuckle. “You really had me going for a second there. You're always so serious, so it's hard to tell when you're joking...”

“Joking...” Keith echoes, but he plays along, realizing Lance was convinced enough to mistake his invitation for a trick. “Yeah. I, uh. I do that sometimes.”

He tightens his grip, pulls on Lance’s arms until they’re taught over his head. The position’s only slightly different than before, Keith’s hips being farther up as he straddles him, more over Lance’s waist. There’s the tiniest gap of space between their bodies.

Keith runs his tongue over his bottom lip, before pulling it between his teeth. He forces a grin. “Got you.”

“You did,” Lance says with a laugh, his smile soft in the shifting blue of stained glass. He wriggles one of his fingers, waving it back and forth like Keith’s done something bad. “But that was a dirty trick.”

Crossing Lance’s wrists, Keith gathers both of them in one hand. He doesn’t know why, but he feels like he needs a free hand for -- something.

Like putting his palm over Lance’s mouth. That’s definitely a good reason to have it available.

“You're always pulling shit like that, doing dirty things to me at the last second. Hypocrite,” Lance sighs, though he doesn’t sound too frustrated about it.

In fact, after all his training, he should easily be able to remove himself from this position.

Keith’s barely holding him there, but for once, Lance is keeping still as the oncoming night. He glances towards the ceiling, his pupils dilated in the quickly darkening room, swallowing the deep blue of his irises. There’s a pause before his eyes stretch a little wider.

“Er, I mean, uh, you know you’re always doing dirty things in general,” Lance coughs, arching his back and shifting in a clear show of being uncomfortable, “Like the kind that you often do...to me. Um. Wait.”

Keith lowers his hips, letting the pressure of his body sink onto Lance’s chest. He locks his thighs tight around his sides. The pulse under his thumb flutters.

“Let’s forget I said th--”

Making good use of that free hand, Keith muffles whatever the Hell kind of word vomit Lance was about to continue.

“Shhh,” Keith whispers, leaning in, “You’re always so noisy.”

Deafening silence surrounds them. The air feels thick and heavy. Lance squirms a little under him, his fingers twitching uselessly, but otherwise makes no attempts to move. His eyes never once stray from Keith's.

He's waiting for something, Keith thinks. Waiting for you to make the next move.

The clock on the wall ticks, loud and echoey. Unsure of what move is right, Keith just acts on instinct. Keith hovers his lips over the back of his hand, or his makeshift Lance gag.

“You need to learn the value of silence,” he mutters, pressing his lips against his own skin, at the approximate area where the full of Lance’s lips are underneath.

Lances eyebrows shoot up his forehead, his lips automatically part under Keith's fingers. They feel soft, inviting, and Keith imagines they’d probably feel a lot nicer than his own calloused knuckles. Lance’s eyes flutter closed, Keith keeps his open. The inside of Lance’s mouth is hot on his skin, tempting. Wet. It'd be easy to remove the barrier to gain access to it.

Keith doesn't know what he's doing, lifting his mouth as his heart thunders in his chest. Lance is making strange whimpering noises that are coiling wave after wave of heat in the pit of his stomach.

It's then that the loudspeaker finally goes off, saving him, and Keith bolts.

 


 

It starts and ends like this.

At the Garrison, in the shadows, Lance pressed flat to the wall.

Lance jumps him in the training room the next day before Keith can entertain the thought of getting a word in.

“You kissed me,” he accuses right off the bat, giving Keith a firm push.

Stumbling back, Keith lifts an eyebrow, smiling lazily. He regains even footing, prepares himself to get in a ‘laying Lance flat’ kind of mindset. “Don't know what you're talking about. I did nothing of the sort.”

“You put your lips, kind of like, over my mouth!” Lance throws his fists up, moves to the balls of his feet. “I mean, they were basically touching me. Almost!”

“Kissing usually involves both pairs of lips actually touching, or at least one person touching the other with their lips in some aspect.” Keith shrugs, wishing he had thought against going to the training room tonight. “I didn’t kiss you, Lance.”

It’s morbid curiosity about Lance’s potential reaction that brought his feet here, Keith supposes.

“Yeah, but--” Lance starts, but then stops, raising a finger like he’s going to prove a point he has no ground to stand on to defend. He squints to the ceiling, raised finger coming in to trace along his bottom lip, as if they really did make contact with Keith’s. A light flush blossoms along his cheeks. “B-but you sort of did. In a way.”

“Yeah, yeah, whatever you say,” Keith bounces into a stance to mirror Lance, hands shielding his face, elbows tucked in towards his chest. His heart is racing, accelerating at the promise of a decent fight. He waves him over, fingers curling in a ‘come hither’ motion. “So what, then? You wanna fight me about it?”

Lance only glares, hunches his shoulders, and charges at him.

Keith sidesteps him effortlessly. “Too much off the bat,” Keith chastises, clicking his tongue. “You can do better than that, cargo pilot.”

Lance attempts to charge him a few more times before he falls back, and they circle around each other like vultures honing in for the kill. There’s that refocus there, that actual usage of patience and reflection, on Lance’s face.

He closes his eyes, takes a large breath in to steady himself, and Keith’s breath catches in anticipation with him.

Getting close enough that his legs can reach Keith, Lance snaps one out into a sharp roundhouse. Keith bends back just in time, Lance’s toes passing so close to his face he can feel the residual breeze of them against the side of his cheek.

Keith thinks about putting space between them, but it’s too little, too late. Lance’s legs really are his strong point, really are too long and lanky to escape when Keith’s unknowingly drawn himself closer to the wall.

Lance keeps his momentum even as his roundhouse swipes over Keith’s head, pivoting around rather fluidly into a spinning kick that unfortunately Keith takes the brunt of on his side.

Keith stumbles back, catches himself from hitting the ground, but ricochets hard like a ping-pong ball into the wall. Lance corners him against it while he’s too busy being surprised by the shock of the hit and that sneaky kick, slamming their bodies together like Keith has often done to him. There’s a wild edge to his eyes, Keith notices as he stares back, caught like an animal trapped into a cage.

Then Lance grins, devoid of anything genuinely happy, and clamps his teeth down into Keith’s exposed collarbone.

“Fuck!” Keith exclaims, getting a knee up just in time to jab it into Lance’s stomach, attempting to push him back. “What did I say about using teeth, for fuck’s sake --”

His collarbone throbs, skin over it red and broken, probably enough to bleed if given a few more seconds. There’s going to be a suspicious bruise there later for sure. It feels undeniably good, however, in a way that further confuses Keith’s senses. There’s no way he can stop thinking about Lance’s lips now when they keep touching him like this.

Unable to get Lance to stop clinging to him like a leech, Keith automatically reaches to wrench Lance’s head back by his hair. Fuck not playing dirty.

Lance hisses between his teeth when Keith grabs a handful of it, fury etched on his face. His lidded eyes flash as he stares Keith down the bridge of his nose.

Glancing to the side, Lance fists his hands into Keith’s tank top. Shaking Keith like a ragdoll, he screeches without prelude, “Kiss me properly, dammit!”

Hell no, you just fucking bit me again, you’re pissing me--” It takes Keith a few seconds to process exactly what Lance just said to him. He doesn’t get the recovery period to be more properly flabbergasted, though, because Lance strikes him with a sharp uppercut.

Exactly where it’s supposed to land.

Keith’s teeth clack together painfully, forcing him to bite his lip. He can instantly taste the familiar beading of blood blossom over it, coming to trickle into his mouth. Lance freezes, looking astonished, but also annoyingly proud that he actually managed to land a hit like that. He gives Keith a sheepish grin, puts his arms up in mock surrender, but --

“Oh, fuck,” Lance breathes shakily, right before Keith sinks his fist into his gut.

Careening back towards the opposite wall, Lance groans when he smacks right into it. The glass doors rattle with the impact.

As Keith advances towards him, slowly, all he can see is red.

Red, red, red.

Red, how good it looks streaming from Lance’s nose and lips again. Red, the way it compliments the beautiful bronze of Lance’s skin. Red, the perfect color settled over Lance’s cheeks as he smiles at him regardless of the obvious pain he’s in, an all-too happy bruised and battered heap on the floor.

Keith braces himself, trying in vain to get his nerves to quiet, for the alarms to stop going off in his head. His body’s a confusing mess of strung out on adrenaline, angry, in pain, horny, and goddammit Lance, god-fucking-dammit.

“‘Kiss you properly’?” Keith wipes his mouth with the back of his hand, frowning at the amount of smeared blood that appears on it. He’s lucky he didn’t bite his tongue. “Did you seriously just...”

On track to try and suck down the arousal burning in his veins, Keith thinks he can still right this situation. He could easily just help Lance up, ignore his request, go back to his room to jerk off, and forget this ever, ever happened.

The problem is, is that isn’t what he really wants to do. Not when Lance is bleeding for him, prone on the ground, and smirking up in a way that Keith really wouldn’t mind kissing the expression right the fuck off his smug ass face.

Another idea strikes Keith, this one more fulfilling, promising. Enticing. He lets a grin crack his lips, holding his hand down to Lance in some show of a truce.

It’s purely by coincidence it’s the same hand he kissed. Of course. Definitely.

“Hey,” Keith stares down at his prostrated form, nudging one of Lance’s spread legs with his foot, “You jealous of my hand?”

Keith can’t help but laugh a little when Lance narrows his eyes at the offered hand. He doesn’t take it.

"Very,” Lance just about cries, no hint of sarcasm, only raw, desperate emotion. He stops rubbing his stomach to cross his arms over his heaving chest. “You stole my first kiss, but you couldn’t even do it right!”

Keith is tempted to argue with him. He’s tempted to try and explain that nothing they did can be considered more than Keith giving the illusion and suggestion of him kissing Lance (which more than worked, considering how Lance is basically begging him to really do it now).

Instead, he just fists his hand into Lance’s shirt, and hauls him up to his knees.

“Fine. If I do it right,” Keith draws out, letting his own staggered breaths mingle with Lance’s, “Will you finally stop whining at least?”  

They’re nose to nose now, and Keith can smell the overwhelming mix of sweat and blood, of the air heady and broiling with their combined electricity.

Lance glares, but plasters on a cocky smile, like he isn’t at all bothered by this when Keith can feel every tremor of his body giving him away.

“Only one way to find out, mullet,” he spits back, tugging at the hem of Keith’s shirt, an attempt to drag him down.

They meet somewhere in the middle, crashing and tumbling in a mess of frantic limbs until they hit the wall. Keith claims Lance’s lips, meeting his mouth in a weird, poorly-timed clash of tongue and teeth, a fight that honestly isn’t much different than what they usually do.

Except this is better in a much, much different way. The pain, the adrenaline, the desire, the way Lance parts his lips and sucks him in -- it all intermixes until it becomes indistinguishable. Pain is pleasure is pain is sticking his tongue down Lance’s throat and grinding him mercilessly into the plaster.

Lance doesn’t have much technique, and normally Keith would teach him if he had the patience, but he doesn’t. It’s entirely gone. When it comes to Lance, he barely had any to start with.

All he’s concerned about is feeling, of groping and sucking and getting Lance to yes, oh yes, just like that -- rake his nails down his back again. Lance moves to latch those familiarly sharp teeth onto his neck, but it doesn’t hurt, only has Keith throwing back his head and groaning low in his throat.

Keith feels that rise of possession in him, wants to shove Lance around and kiss him until his lips are swollen for reasons other than being punched in the mouth. Something everyone could see, but only they would know the reality that lies behind it.

It’s sort of gross for a first kiss, Keith thinks. Lance’s blood is mixing with his own, and Keith can smell his overpowering sweat, can taste the salt of it intermingling with their saliva and the addictive sweetness of Lance’s lips. Putting a tongue into someone else’s mouth has always been a weird sensation to him, especially when that person is making a distracting amount of noise. Their teeth clack together more than they’re able to properly angle their heads.

It’s fast, hot, bordering on violent -- but it’s amazing, the best feeling Keith’s ever had next to stopping abruptly in midair and gunning a ship into a sharp nosedive.

It’s undeniably them.

When Keith pulls away, Lance’s lips are painted with his blood, streaked over them like some macabre form of lipstick. He’s gasping and panting, one hand still threaded into Keith’s hair, looking lost that Keith stopped.

The animalistic urges moving Keith’s body make him far past thinking of the logical. Keith wants to leave his own marks on Lance.

He cases Lance fully against the wall, grinding their crotches together. He feels dizzy, on a power trip with suppressed desire finally letting loose. Lance moans, and it’s a beautiful, rapturous sound.

“Oh my god,” Lance gasps, when on an impulsive whim, Keith curls his fingers around his throat, “Oh my god, yes, yes yes.”

That’s all the confirmation Keith needs.

He fucking knew  it. He knew that there was something behind that mask Lance always wears when they fight, but he never could have imagined in his wildest dreams that it would be something like this.

Keith’s cock gives a sympathetic twitch at the thought, at the sight, at the memory of how Lance tastes and how perfectly they fit and work together, in more ways than one.

“More, more, fuck, I want more,” Lance demands, though gently, running his tongue along his lip to catch some escaping blood. His expression pained for entirely different reasons now, Lance adds, almost as an afterthought, “Um. P-please?”

This is the end of Keith’s control. This is the end of him ever being able to look at Lance in the same light again without wanting to drag him to some dark corner and get his hands on every inch of his body.

“Greedy,” Keith states, more to the air than anything, and Lance arches when he squeezes tighter around him. “Aren’t you?”

Lance manages to nod, whimpering quietly, and Keith’s breath hitches. He clenches his fingers for a few seconds, then releases, watching the red wax and wane on Lance’s cheeks.

Keith jerks his knee forward. “You fucking like it when I do this, don’t you?”

He barely rubs his knee over the bulge he knows is in Lance’s shorts, but Lance thrusts fast into it, hips snapping to meet him. Laughing, Keith pulls back, amused by the whine Lance lets out.

Keith doesn’t let up with his grip. In fact, his fingers curl harder, until he can see the visible strain of the tendons and veins in Lance’s neck. He lifts him from the ground, sliding him up against the wall painfully slowly, mimicking their first encounter.

“You always have, haven’t you?”

“Yeah, yeah,” Lance chokes, watching him with eager, half-lidded eyes, not even trying to deny it anymore, “Fuck yeah! It’s so hot, you’re so hot, f-fuck.”

Keith’s grip loosens in mild surprise, not expecting such a candid response. Lance notices right away, and he begs Keith to touch him again, to push harder on his throat. It takes Keith a moment to gather himself enough to oblige at least one of his requests.

“...You really been getting off on this?”

Lance laughs as best as he can manage with the veins rebulging on his neck, looking far too full of himself in this position.

Tilting his head, Keith takes in the pretty flush of his face, the subtle spread of lust and desire over it. Things start clicking into place, but he finds he has too many questions he needs answers to.

Curious, Keith asks him, “...Tell me what you usually do after our sessions, then.”

“I-I,” Lance stammers, sounding suddenly uncertain as he looks away, “I, um…”

“You touch yourself like this, pervert?” Keith guesses, letting amusement show through his voice, but he can’t help the deep rasp of it escape, too. He can feel Lance’s throbbing pulse, can feel the quickening of his own as he digs into it. “One hand on your throat, maybe, making yourself your own bitch against the wall?”

Lance is wriggling, legs pedaling uselessly in the air, but in a way it’s obvious he isn’t really interested in getting loose. Keith isn’t stupid. Keith knows him, knows how his body works ever since he laid that first finger on him and felt his pulse quiver beneath his own.

Lance cries for Keith to touch him again, but Keith only laughs, right at his ear. He leans back when Lance tries to buck towards him.

“If you want more, you’re going to have to answer my questions first,” Keith warns, keeping his voice low, the way Lance always seems to like it. He lets his free hand slide down to Lance’s hip, a suggestion of what he could have if only he would ever cooperate.

“So what if I do?” Lance snaps at that, shuddering when Keith presses his hips against him, teasing, for a few short seconds. “So what if sometimes I put my fingers around it, like this,” Lance’s shaking hands come up, wrapping around Keith’s as he glares at him, “When I, uh, do it? It’s not the same as when you do it, it’s never the same, so what does it matter! Please, touch me, touch me--”

Keith feels something in him break, resolve giving way as he thrusts his knee back in place. Lance rubs himself against it, moaning dangerously loudly. The image of him, so wantonly eager for any sort of contact, the desperation on his face for reasons other than when he’s trying to futilely beat Keith in sparring, is something that’s only embarrassingly making Keith harder.

As much as Keith feels compelled to maybe turn Lance around, to shove his fingers in his obnoxious mouth and take him right here until he finally shuts up, he falters, looking around as if suddenly aware of where they are again. It’s sort of become a wildly unspoken rumor around campus to avoid using the training room whenever they’re in it, but he still can’t help himself from thinking somewhat rationally about this.

“Right here?” Keith glances around again, but there’s only the hum of dormant gym machinery, the incessant ticking of the clock. “You really want me to jerk you off or whatever when anyone could walk in at any moment?”

“Yes, duh,” Lance whines, judgmental, like Keith’s somehow crazy for being worried about that, “I’ve been ready for you to jerk me off, like, literally every single time we’re in here! I can’t wait for it anywhere else, I’ve been waiting forever, you fucking sexy asshole, so just do it, do it!”

“Fuck,” Keith swears, almost feeling like his legs could buckle beneath him, if not for how invigorating choking Lance is.

More shyly this time, Lance rubs himself, sighing in relief as Keith continues allowing him to rut into his knee.

“You don’t,” Keith can feel Lance swallow against his fingers, “You don’t have to do much, I’m really close.”

Laughing, Keith jabs his thumb into his Adam’s apple, then soothes the pressure by gently brushing over the blooming welt.

“D-don’t,” Lance stutters, his voice cracking from being deprived of normal breathing. He sounds embarrassed. Ashamed, even, which is unusual. “Don’t make fun of me, damn it.”

“I’m not,” Keith says, surprised he actually means it, “You’re just…” He squeezes Lance’s throat, lets up, watches the way he chokes and arches his back as he continues to roll his hips.

Keith smashes their lips together, chuckling through Lance parting his own eagerly. He replaces his knee with his hand, palming Lance through his shorts, and Lance cries out so loudly Keith’s sure it will be ringing in his ears for the next few days.

“You’re just sort of cute like this,” Keith whispers to him, nipping at his bottom lip. Lance scrunches his eyes shut, his breath quickening.

As usual, Lance squirms a lot. He kicks his legs until he realizes he can get better leverage by wrapping them around Keith’s waist, and the shapely limbs Keith’s admired for so long hook snug around him. The loose shorts he’s wearing slip further down, and Keith gets a glimpse of a large, mottled purpling bruise on his left thigh.

A bruise he made, a bruise he must have given him when he slammed that rough side kick there the other day which Lance was too slow to avoid.

He can’t take this anymore. He releases Lance’s throat despite Lance’s very vocal complaints about that, and slips both of his palms beneath his thighs, tilting him further up and pressing him harder into the wall. Keith squeezes viciously over the bruise, listening to the mix of Lance’s pained, but satisfied, cries vibrate against his lips. Keith’s other hand sneaks under the open leg of his shorts, grabbing a handful of his bare ass and feeling encouraged by the way Lance’s hips jerk.

They don’t rut against each other very long, Keith feeling pulled over the edge about as fast as he hears Lance reach his climax. He feels it, too, feels the warmth of cum surge against the crotch of his pants.

When they slide into a heap on the floor -- Keith holding onto Lance’s shoulders as Lance’s head lolls in post-orgasmic bliss -- he watches thick, white fluid roll down Lance’s thigh, over the bruise, trickling out towards his knee.

“You,” Keith tries to catch his breath, tries to process too many things at once, but all he can think to say, weakly, is, “...You aren’t fucking wearing underwear.”

Lance looks at him, a collar of red around his neck, goofy grin plastered on his face. He laughs, and Keith feels it against his still thundering heart.

“You never can be too prepared.”

 

Chapter Text

It’s basically impossible to train after that without it devolving into complete and utter sexual chaos. Keith wants to say it’s all Lance’s fault, but even he can admit that it’s hard to lay blame on one person when it takes at least two to execute a blowjob.

Not that they’ve done that yet, per se. Keith just thinks he shouldn’t exclude his vivid imagination and dreams from being part of these examples. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean he can’t fault Lance for other things.

Keith’s always left wondering, when Lance lands in any position on his stomach, if he’s wearing underwear that day. He can’t stop thinking about it, spent a fair amount of time getting off to the thought later, reflecting on how Lance basically insinuated he went commando since the very beginning.

When Keith outright asks him about it, he neither confirms nor denies it. It pisses Keith off.

That evening, however, as Lance tumbles backwards from the force of one of Keith’s kicks and tucks himself into a somersault, shorts riding up to the curve of his ass and revealing nothing but that smooth, distinctly tanlined skin, Keith discovers that the answer is most likely.

Keith hangs back as Lance flips himself upright in a flash. There’s grace to that movement, as much as there is a certain level of sensuality, which most definitely has no place being there in a proper fight. Lance barely smothers down his cheeky grin when he puts his hands back to shield his face, eyes flicking slowly up and down the length of Keith’s body. Keith gulps, feeling like it’s much too hot to be wearing his usual workout sweats today.

Licking his lips, he shoots Keith a wink that is surprisingly effective in aiding his defensive technique.

“Cut it out,” Keith barks at him shortly, “We’re never going to get past this lesson if you keep…” Keith clenches his fists harder, fingernails unable to take the edge off on his skin when Lance cocks his hip out. Keith’s eyes follow the exaggerated sway of it.  “...if you keep, uh…”

“If I keep what?” Lance asks innocently, like he has no idea what Keith could possibly be referring to. “I’m not doing anything. What’s wrong? You’re looking a little distracted there, buddy.”

Lance lowers his hands to yank up his loose shorts again, which Keith swears appear to be bigger than normal, as if he asked for a larger size on purpose just so he could keep rolling up the waistband.The hem is barely sitting past his groin at this point. Keith wipes his sweaty forehead, sighing as he feels an almost predatory growl leave his lips. It’s been about two days since they tried another futile attempt at training, as the three other times previously that week they barely got past the first ten minutes before they started making out.

Slight correction.

Giving each other bruises and busted lips first, and then making out in a sloppy, adrenaline and lust-infused mess on the floor until some unsuspecting cadet rattled the door, where they then had been forced to stop.

Needless to say, the whole process was more than a little frustrating, both in the sense of being continuously interrupted, and the fact Keith can’t even have a decent fight anymore without it turning into -- God, whatever this is.

“You know what I’m talking about, Lance,” Keith says, fighting the urge to act on his current train of thought, which involves something along the lines of just taking Lance’s stupid oversized shorts off altogether and commanding him to do another somersault completely bare-assed, because what would be the fucking difference.

Keith takes in a shuddering breath, clenches his fists again. Things are getting weird, and fast.

“I’m afraid I don’t,” Lance replies with an air of indifference, shrugging, keeping his eyes wide in feigned ignorance, “Maybe I could use some reminding of exactly what’s wrong with my technique, Sir .”

This is new, too -- this ingratiating use of respectful titles. And ‘Sir’ , of all fucking things.

Lance knows he has him in a hold, both literal and figurative now, because Keith is too busy seething about that to pay attention until Lance is already on him. A shiver runs up his spine as Lance wraps him into a nelson almost lovingly, his bare arms shifting like silk over Keith’s skin.

“What are you gonna do, hotshot?” Lance’s voice is nothing more than a tickle of hot breath at Keith’s ear, “Here’s your chance to punish me, you know. Correct my bad form and...behavior.

Keith wriggles his fingers beneath Lance’s squeezing arm, pries until there’s a wide breadth of space between them -- just enough to slip down, turn around, and wrap his arms around Lance’s waist.

He stays low, and barrels forward, slamming Lance into the wall with an audible smack. Lance’s neck cracks back like a whip, but he laughs.

“What I really oughtta do, is correct your bad porno lines,” Keith hisses, rising up only to place his palm firmly over Lance’s erratically beating heart. “Seriously, cut it out. I feel like I’m a B-grade actor here about to be cast in some shoddy film rip-off titled, ‘Lord of the Cocks’.”

Lance’s cheeks have that familiar tinge of a flush on them, and a pink, wet tongue pokes out from between his teeth to lap at the blood streaming from his nose.

Shit. Shit, shit, shit.

Keith glances at the clock. Five minutes in. This is officially getting ridiculous.

“Either way,” Lance sighs, canting his hips and letting one of his legs wrap around Keith’s, sliding up and down the back of it just enough to be enticing, “I think we both know, you’re gonna end up punishing me for something here.”

Keith hates that that’s true. Keith hates the coy smile that curves Lance’s full, knowing lips. Keith hates that he realizes training is no longer training, his sacred outlet and proverbial happy place, because Lance has tainted it by making it into some goddamn twisted form of foreplay --

Covering Lance’s mouth with his palm, Keith’s met with the usual playful swipe of his tongue across it. He’s not childish enough to recoil from it, just curls two fingers into Lance’s mouth, watches with baited breath as Lance hollows his cheeks and sucks back on them without any prompting.

“You know what? You’re right,” Keith growls lowly, tracing his free thumb along the slope of Lance’s neck, marveling at the fragility of the skin, the delicate ridges of the bones there. “You do deserve something... harsh for those awful lines.”

Lance pauses in taking Keith in, frozen with his lips around his knuckles, head tilted to the side. He’s staring at him owlishly, probably at the fact Keith’s playing along for once with whatever terrible roleplay fantasies must be manifesting themselves in Lance’s head.

Not that Keith wants to know what those may be. Not that he’s curious at all to why Lance calling him ‘sir’ is turning his legs into absolutely useless quivering forms of jello, is making his sweatpants for once uncomfortable over the strain of his jockstrap.

Keith darts out his own tongue to return moisture to his parched lips. He’s reminded, yet again, of the fact Lance wears a jockstrap under his shorts, and nothing else.

And goddammit it all to Hell, does he want to see that, preferably right now --

After a few moments, Lance resumes his movements. His tongue slides between the gaps of Keith’s fingers, swirling over them as he bobs his head forward, taking the sopping digits up to the base.

Never once does he take those dark, blue eyes off him.

Thumb digging harder into Lance’s throat, Keith lets his nail drag with it, drawing a steady line down that leaves a temporary red, puffy trail behind. Keith thinks about how he could stop the flow of blood here if he wanted to, and how he could just as easily start it back up again. Thinks about how he’s already done it numerous times, and how he wouldn’t hesitate to do it again if Lance asked for it.

He thinks about how as long as Lance asked, he’d do anything for him, really.

The clock ticks away. Barely eight minutes in, and here Keith is, with his fingers down Lance’s throat as he presses up close, grinding him softly into the wall.

That gentle dip of his hips isn’t enough for Lance, and Keith knows it. He grins at the look of frustration on Lance’s face, and plants a small kiss right below his ear.

Lance continues to whine about the steady pace, but Keith doesn’t care. Something about Lance being this particularly needy makes him want to go slower tonight. Something about Lance in general, looking this open and trusting and willing, makes him want to take his time here.

He thrusts his fingers suddenly harder in, then out slowly, increasing the speed only enough to hear the squelch of it reverberating around the wide room. Lance shudders out some gurgling little moan. He’s forcing himself flatter against the wall, flat enough that Keith hardly needs to do much when he rocks his hips towards him again. They both groan at the welcome friction.

The acoustics, as always, are amazing. The urge is strong to remove his fingers, to let Lance sing his pleasure for everyone to hear, but --

This should only be for them, Keith thinks, shoving a third finger in. The dim lights are almost not enough to ease the tension building in his body. Keith’s mind drifts to nauseating thoughts, thoughts of having a bed, of having a private room reserved for them to properly fool around in.

How he’d take his time, then -- really take his time.

Pushing that surprisingly domestic fantasy out, Keith lowers his lips, grazing them against Lance’s ear and then drifting down to nibble over the reflexive swallow of Lance’s throat.

Whispering softly, Keith tells him, “I need you to do me one favor, Lance, since you owe me for your…” He cringes internally, but swallows his pride to further rile up Lance, “...ugh, disobedience. Be quiet for me now, yeah? It’s not late enough, people could still come in.”

Letting out another groan, Lance’s eyes flutter to half-mast. He swallows Keith down, hard, snaps his hips as far as Keith will allow him to.

Keith reels him back by toying with his fingernail against his throat, letting the long, sharp edge of it that he’s grown out specifically for a scenario like this, do the talking for him.

“Can you do that for me, Lance?” Keith asks, in the best breathy, raspy voice he can whip up.

It works. No surprise there - Lance is always all too eager to be bossed around. It’s ironic in a way, considering how much he fights against Keith doing that very thing any other time when he isn’t sneaking a hand down his pants.

Lance nods, stays quiet and continues making only tiny slurping sounds and whimpers as Keith stretches his fingers out wider in his mouth. His arms come to hook around Keith’s waist, hands lightly settled right above the curve of his ass.

“You don’t want them to actually see you like this, do you?” Keith eggs him on, letting his hand drift lazily over Lance’s chest, down his stomach, then coming to rest on that teasing, jutting hip. Keith loosens up, feels himself slipping into a role that’s surprisingly easy to adapt to.

Lance likes being berated about as much as he likes being praised. He can work with that.

“You don’t really  want them to see the way you moan for me, the way you can’t handle even the slightest bit of contact without coming in your pants like some undisciplined teenager…right?”

Keith grabs a handful of him without warning, feels his cock throb in sync at the sight of Lance muffling his cries as his eyes roll towards the back of his head.

“Hot,” Lance barely manages to say coherently, words heavily stunted by the barrier pushing in and out of him, “Everything you say and do is so fucking hot, I feel so hot, Keith, please --”

“That’s not an answer,” Keith shakes his head, crawling his fingers to that ridiculously rolled up waistband.

He doesn’t breach the hem, just slides the barest inch into it, sitting on the heat of Lance’s skin.

“Just touch me, damn it,” Lance begs, even though he started this charade in the first place. “Like touch me, touch me. Really  touch me.”

And Keith could. He could  let his fingers slip down, sneak under the spandex of protection over Lance’s crotch, and touch the probably smooth skin there, the fine bits of hair.

It’s a test of control, really, which he doesn’t have. He can’t guarantee that if he does that, if he finally pulls that flimsy bit of fabric down around Lance’s thighs, that he can promise to stop even if someone stumbles in.

“Not yet,” Keith says, yanking up one of those pesky legs that’s been rubbing him, intent on making good on his teasing by getting Lance to cum in his pants instead.

Lance bites down on his knuckles, just a little, when Keith thrusts forward.

It’s then that Keith realizes, with a gasp and a jolt when Lance threads a hand into his hair, and pulls him towards his mouth --

It’s not just now turning into depravity.

It’s always been that way.

  


 

It doesn’t take long for Keith’s curiosity to get the best of him.

It’s one thing to push and grind against a clothed erection in an unsavory place, another entirely to really feel it on your own, skin-on-skin.

Or skin-on-mouth. A cock shoved between his lips, the ability to grip onto fleshy bare ass. Choking on cum as Lance thrusts into him, or the other way around, Lance’s pretty face flushed as he swallows him down, never taking those piercing blue eyes off him. Preferably with his cheeks smattered with blood, but Keith's not particularly picky about that as long as something more satisfying is happening.

Late at night, when Keith’s fighting the temptation to touch himself because of his roommates nearby, he still thinks about it.

He still thinks about all the ways in which he’d like to really get his hands on Lance, try and figure out what else makes him tick other than humiliating him in public places, or getting the absolute shit beat out of him.

He thinks too much about going slow again, touching Lance softly and exploring until Lance is on the verge of cracking, crumbling like the clay of the red-caked desert as he breaks down within Keith’s capable hands.

It’s overwhelming, these new feelings. They wax and wane over him, passion edging back and forth like a wave that never quite crashes.

There aren’t any actual words to describe just exactly what he wants to do to Lance, because --

He wants it all.

He doesn’t like Lance, he tells himself. He doesn’t get attached to people like that. He never has. Shiro’s the only exception, and it's been that way for years, since he first came to visit the orphanage to hand out those glossy recruitment pamphlets as a newly enrolled cadet, changing the course of Keith's approaching adult life forever.

There's no way he has room to allow another person to breach this heavy emotional barrier he's set up for himself.

No way at all, he repeats in his head as he grabs Lance by the wrist after their only shared class, Theory of Aerodynamics , and drags him to the roof without so much as a hello first.

When he gets them up the stairs and through the door, he shoves Lance in front of him. Confused, Lance watches with one eyebrow raised, but also with mild amusement sparkling in his eyes when Keith plucks an old wooden board from the concrete, and wedges it under the doorknob.

They'll be no interruptions this time.

Keith turns on him, eyes flitting suggestively over his lanky body, that usual defined outline hidden by the oversized and unflattering uniform. He can admit this was a good plan. Lance is cute like this, caught off guard and stripped of bravado.

Keith can take what he wants here, without any sort of attachment, no problem. Thinking back to all the other guys he’s messed around with in the past, this should be no different.

He's done it before, and he can do it again.

Lance slinks over when Keith ushers him closer with a finger. It doesn’t matter that he annoyingly puffs out his chest, confidence oozing out of him that Keith knows will evaporate the second he starts touching him. What matters is that Lance doesn’t question any of it, just senses what Keith’s brought him here for.

It’s nice and impersonal, the way Lance bends a little to meet his mouth without a word, pulling him in with his hands shamelessly gripping his ass right off the bat. Keith prefers it that way.

Lance grins into the kiss, arching a bit when Keith loosens his belt and slides his hand for the first time under the shirt of his uniform. His palm meets more unbelievably smooth, soft skin.

“Well,” Lance waggles his eyebrows at the same time he lets out a satisfied sigh, “Hello to you, too.”

“Hey,” Keith says distractedly, pulling Lance’s lip between his teeth.

For the barest of moments, his fingers come to rest on Lance’s chin, not so much doing it to angle his face as he is enjoying caressing over his skin. He pulls away from that gentle touch, faster than Lance can blink through understanding any further meaning to it.

“Couldn’t wait until training to get your hands on me, huh?” Keith can still hear the smile in his voice even as he dips out of view to suck and bite down his neck, “You thinking about naughty things in class?”

Keith snorts, but he feels a little called out. Lance was asked to do a problem on the board earlier, and even though he completely bombed it, Keith was surely not focused on that when he was too busy watching his turned back, imagining how his bare ass looked underneath all that fabric.

Lance pushes his knee between his legs, continuing to talk even as Keith gropes the back side he’s so curious about in question. “I guess I’m just too irresistible,” he boasts.

“Yeah, the way you fumbled over answering that problem really got me going,” Keith deadpans, deciding to make better use of Lance’s mouth by occupying it with his own.

His fingers clip over a nipple, and he circles it with one sharp fingernail, bringing it to harden. Lance’s only response is to throw one of his hands back, blindly groping for something solid to support himself against.

It’s frustrating. Keith wants to hear all those cute noises he lets out with barely any effort at all whenever he pins Lance to the wall. He won’t be distracted from his task here.

Lance shrugs, unfazed as he still manages to mumble a quick, “I mean, something must have--” before Keith slams him back against the door and steals the words from his lips.

There’s that moan, nice and loud this time, vibrating into his mouth. Lance likes it rough -- right.

It isn’t long before Keith’s hands are sneaking to the belt holding up the waistband of pants that are obviously too big for Lance’s narrow waist, and this time, he unbuckles it and slips into them like he’s been dying to do for the past week.

His fingers find nothing else but a shocking amount of warm, soft skin.

Keith settles one hand underneath Lance’s balls, and pushes up just the barest amount. Lance moans when he tugs on the loose pants with his other, letting them fall down and catch around his thighs. Keith sucks back a breath at the view. “You're not wearing...again…”

“Don't see the point anymore,” Lance says easily, unashamed, “Never know when you're gonna jump me these days.” Through his laboured breathing, he laughs, “Case in point. Broad daylight on the roof. Who woulda thought…”

Keith lets his fingers drag towards his hardening cock, fascinated by the way it jumps towards him when he merely brushes lightly on Lance’s inner thigh.

He gulps, but rolls his eyes. “Slut. It's like one extra layer, how is that an issue?” Keith presses harder near his balls, chuckling as Lance throws back his head and shudders. Keith loves how sensitive he is, how easy it is to pull a reaction out of him.

Watching Lance closely, Keith memorizes the way in which his lips part to let out a gasp, how he stares back with big, pleading eyes. Keith feels a weird sensation in his chest, like there’s a fist squeezing around his heart.

“I could just as easily pull it down, like this,” Keith says, grinning, and yanks his pants the rest of the way down.

“Yeah, but…” Lance cries out when Keith finally closes his fist around him, jerking up his erection roughly, “I-I know you like it.”

Keith does like it. Likes it way too much, likes to think about it when he's doing this to himself, late at night when he manages to escape to the shelter of the bathrooms to relieve that aching throb between his legs.

His hand picks up speed, squeezing at the base and then sliding up, thumb pressed hard into the leaking slit of Lance’s cock.

“Wait, no, go back, shit, shit, shit,” Lance’s knees are visibly buckling, his back sliding fast down the door, “Fuck, do that other thing again.”

“Like this?” Keith smirks, moving down with him until Lance’s legs give out completely, and his ass hits the concrete. Keith closes his palm around him, tighter like before, feeling the pulsing throb of heat between his fingers.

“Yeah, yeah, better,” Lance lets his knees fall out to the side, spreading his legs as wide as he can manage with his pants pulled taut around his ankles. His head hits the wall, chin pointed towards the bright, blue sky. With his eyes fluttering closed and a faint smile on his lips, he murmurs, “Oh my god, how are you so...so good at this…”

Keith draws closer, tucked onto his knees, and threads his fingers into Lance’s hair. Pulling, he asks him in a low voice, giving another rough stroke, “Like that?”

“Like that, like that, yes, definitely like that!” Precum dribbles between Keith’s fingers, probably making the friction less painful, and Lance’s eyes shoot open. Keith can feel his entire body tense. “Keith, it’s too much, I’m gonna, I’m gonna- -”

Lance lurches forward to kiss him when he cums, bucking into Keith’s fist. Keith can feel his smile burn against his lips. Warm liquid spills over his hand.

Lance doesn’t stop after he rides out his orgasm, only switches their positions awkwardly while fumbling for the buckle of Keith’s belt. There’s no urgency behind the kiss, just a calculating tenderness that Keith couldn’t put a stop to even if he really wanted.

There’s inexperience behind his movements, but Lance’s enthusiasm, his curiosity as he gets it off and peeks inside his pants, has Keith throwing his own head back, has him more riled up than any amatuer move should ever have him be.

Lance’s fingers are cold when they stray under the fabric, but Keith’s body is only the warmest it’s ever felt. The cum on his hand is trickling down to his wrist now, to the ground as Keith slams his palms onto the concrete.

He makes the mistake of glancing down. Lance senses his gaze, and looks up.

Deep, understanding blue meets his own. There’s a soft smile, a chaste kiss to his cheek.

“This ok?” Lance asks him, one thumb brushing over his lips, the other pushing against his erection.

“Sure,” Keith says shakily, even though emotionally, everything isn’t, “Yeah.”

Lance sinks his teeth into his neck. Keith arches sharply, and moans without really thinking about it, “Fuck, please.”

Lance looks a little startled when he comes back into view, eyebrows knit tightly together. “Please, huh?” he repeats, giving a cock-eyed grin, “Nice. I like that. It’s about time you were more polite.”

“Please shut up,” Keith tries to cover, but Lance puts a finger to his lips.

“Hey, don’t ruin this amazing moment for me by being mean now,” Lance says, moving aside his boxers and nudging his legs farther apart, “Or I’ll stop.”

Keith could curse him out. Keith could tell him to go ahead and fuck off instead. Keith could take it all back, promise to never say another polite thing to Lance ever again. He has options here, definitely.

But he doesn’t do any of that.

He doesn’t, because he wants to know what will happen next, wants to feel and enjoy Lance touching him. He doesn’t, because all he needs is a good distraction, and what better way to do that than by getting off to erase any lingering emotions?

Because he can do this, he tells himself, biting down hard on his lip to stifle a louder moan. He can do this, even with Lance being uncharacteristically gentle as he slides his palm over his cock, watching with the utmost fascination.

He can do this, he thinks, up until Lance leans in and gives him another kiss, before saying softly, “Damn. You’re really pretty everywhere, you know that?”

Keith’s eyes trace over the fading bruises dotting Lance’s jawline. He shakes his head, feeling his throat tighten. No one’s ever said that to him before.

Lance’s playful smile falters, but he closes his hand around him. The clear sky spins above them. The approaching Fall air is crisp and sharp under his nose.

Keith reaches for Lance’s chin, careful not to squeeze too hard, and draws him back to his mouth. But as Keith’s learned well enough now, Lance can’t be silenced forever.

“Well, you are,” Lance tells him when they part, tucking some stray hair behind Keith’s ear with their foreheads pressed together, “And guess what? I especially think you’re beautiful.”

The moan stuck in Keith's throat pushes between his lips as Lance starts stroking him. Lance won’t break eye contact as he does it, and Keith can’t. The ragged increase in his breaths intermingle with Lance’s. It's impossible to tell who's breathing out or inhaling what at this point. His air is Lance’s air is his air.

The sun beats down on Keith's exposed skin, but that’s not why he feels so warm.

He can do this.

No attachments, no problems.

  


 

“How’d you get to look like that?”

Keith’s never been that good at trying to say what he wants sometimes. Whether because of a lack of being properly socialized, or just an unfortunate personality trait, it doesn’t really matter.

The words just don’t always come out right.

Lance raises an eyebrow at him as he buttons up his Garrison uniform, straightening the collar to cover over numerous bite marks and bruises. He pauses in humming whatever tune he’s trying to get stuck in Keith’s head this time, and makes a disgruntled harumph. “And just what the hell do you mean by that?”

“I mean, like, you know,” Keith waves a hand, trying to explain, “Your body.”

He cringes. That didn’t explain anything.

“Keith,” Lance says, leaning over and patting him on the shoulder as if placating a small child, “It’s been established that you like my body. You don’t need to be jealous of it, you can touch it whenever you want.”

The humming returns in full force. A breeze gusts by, and Keith watches it pick up and play with Lance’s hair. He sighs with the wind.

“No, you idiot,” Keith mutters, feeling more and more foolish by the second, since he’s the one who sounds like the idiot here, “You do poorly in endurance training. You’re terrible in gym class and at fighting--” Lance narrows his eyes, and Keith reluctantly corrects himself, “--okay, okay, you were terrible at fighting, but somehow you…”

Keith fiddles with his belt before he buckles it. He can do this. It’s already on the tip of his tongue. “Your arm muscles are super defined, and you’re so limber...”

Lance chokes with laughter at his choice of words, and Keith feels his face flush hotter. Ignoring his judgment, he continues on. “How’d you get like that? What did you do?”

It’s still not entirely what he means to say, he thinks, but Lance catches on. He’s beginning to do that alot lately, understand and interpret Keith’s poorly put together thoughts when they leave his mouth too prematurely.

This isn’t something Keith wants to be thinking about right after a nice romp on the roof.

“Ohhh,” Lance drawls, shimmying back into his pants while glancing at Keith over his shoulder, “That bothering you, huh?”

Keith snorts, fumbling over his own uniform clasps. “It’s not bothering me. I’m just...curious.”

Lance pauses at that, humming absently in his throat as his gaze drifts skyward. Silence blankets them for a few minutes, not tense, just something that’s there.

Just when Keith thinks Lance might not answer his question, Lance says quietly, “I’m just not that good when it comes to solid ground.”

Furrowing his brows, Keith scrutinizes him. He doesn’t understand. “Huh?”

Facing Keith, Lance puts his arms up, makes like he’s doing a breaststroke in the air.

Swimming, dude,” he explains, “I grew up on the beach and spent my whole life exploring the ocean. So, you know. Whenever I’m feeling homesick, I hit the pools, where I keep up this striking physique you like so much.”

Keith doesn’t know why he never put two and two together. He knew where Lance was from, knew that there was a strange taste to Lance’s skin sometimes that’s bordering on acidic. Thinking back to all the times he’s gotten a whiff of his sweat reeking of chlorine, the occasional afternoons when he met Keith for lunch and his hair was soaking wet, Keith only feels dumber.

Not to mention those pesky, alluring tan lines that often occupy his dreams most nights.

“So I’ve got stamina,” Lance sighs, expression turning sour, “Just not the kind you think’s impressive, I guess.”

Keith stares off to the side of the building, eyeing the setting sun dwindling over the horizon. He doesn’t like the tone Lance’s voice has crumbled into.

“...I wouldn’t know,” he says, unable to turn around and face Lance after that, “I never learned how to swim.”

“What?!” Lance just about yells, and Keith jumps, because he’s suddenly right at his ear, “You never got to experience the beauty that is swimming? Oh my god, you poor thing.”

It’s not something people usually bother to teach orphans, Keith wants to tell him, especially ones who grew up in the barren red desert of Arizona. That’s sort of a bummer conversation to have, though, so he holds his tongue back from it.

He wants them to be able to enjoy the fading remnants of orgasm, of good feelings still jumbling around in them enough that they’re playfully bearable to each other. Or at least that Keith feels his attitude might be bearable enough for Lance to want to be around him for these few seconds longer.

Tugging anxiously on a lock of his hair, Keith asks him, “Can I...watch you sometime, then?” He says it softly, afraid of what Lance’s face might look like, “When you swim.”

“‘Course, mullet,” Lance’s reply is instantaneous, and Keith glances over to see him looking unbothered, simply lacing up his boots behind him, “You can watch me do whatever you want.”

Keith doesn’t know how to respond, but it’s fine, because Lance knows he can talk plenty enough for the both of them whenever that happens.

“You just gotta promise not to get too jealous, okay?” Lance is smirking now, running a hand through his hair to even out the rumpled tufts of it, “I don’t mean to brag, but I’m basically a professional.”

Keith feels a smile crawl across his face. He hides it as best as he can in the collar of his uniform. “Ha, yeah right. We’ll see.”

“You will see,” Lance chirps, sounding confident enough that Keith is tempted to already believe him. “Since you want to so badly.”

“I didn’t say badly, don’t make it sound like that,” Keith grumbles, because no, he’s definitely not into the prospect of watching a mostly naked Lance swim around in a dimly lit pool area, “ I’m just interested in...learning more about it.”

It’s a lame explanation, even for him. Keith knew he never should have even opened his mouth after they came.

“Whatever you say,“ Lance laughs, and Keith sort of wishes he would come closer to the edge of the building, so maybe he could push him off it. “Just giving you fair warning. And also, permission for you to jump my bones in the water when you realize how turned on you are from my impressive skills.”

“That’s not what’s going to happen at all,” Keith says flatly, but he isn’t entirely confident in that statement as he usually would be.

He’s thinking about it before he can stop himself. A proud Lance in the water, droplets dripping down his beautiful skin, cheeks rosy from exertion as he flaunts the only known strength he has over Keith.

Luckily, Lance steers the conversation away from the precarious direction it’s going in, springing to his feet and brushing out the wrinkles from his uniform.

“Sorry, I know you like to watch the sunset together--” Keith bristles, feeling defensive about that particular preference of his being pointed out,  “--but I’ve gotta run. I have a ton of homework I need to get started on, or Iverson’s gonna have my ass tomorrow.”

“Alright…” Keith says, swinging his legs over the edge of the building, disappointment crawling over him. “See you later.”

Watching a sunset alone used to be one of his favorite past times, but now it just seems...well, lonely.

He wishes he’d had the forethought to purchase some cigarettes from the last time he was in town. As his fingers itch for a pack that isn’t there, Lance’s features soften. He gives a short greeting goodbye, then stands there for a few seconds, as if considering on doing or saying something else.

“Hey, uh...good luck.” Keith ducks his head, flicking a rock over the edge and watching as it tumbles to the dark ground far below. If it makes a sound when it falls, Keith doesn’t hear it. “You know, with your work.”

“I…” Lance speaks up, but tapers off from whatever he was planning to say. “Thanks, Keith.”

Shrugging, Keith feels relieved when the breeze returns, cooling the hot buzz radiating off his cheeks.

“By the way, my flexibility, though...” Lance comes up behind him and helps smooth down his surely sticking up post-sex hair. He presses his lips briefly to Keith’s cheek, before traipsing to the roof door.

Keith turns with him, fingers traveling up to touch the wet mark on his cheek, and watches as Lance goes.

Blasting a finger gun at Keith while shoving his shoulder to open the door, Lance winks.

“That’s all natural, baby.”

  


 

“Keith,” Shiro smiles, setting his tray next to him on the table and taking a seat, “It’s good to see you around again. I was worried you might have started skipping lunch like you used to.”

It’s a free day for fighter class. Keith’s been spending his time off trying not to think about his weird, newly undefined budding relationship with Lance. Instead, he headed to his safe place -- seeing Shiro, where maybe he can ask for his advice without outright asking for his advice.

It sounds crazy, but Shiro’s good at reading him. He has a way with approaching tough subjects with ease, and with as little personal humiliation, anguish, and shame as possible. There’s just something about the way his mind works where he just understands Keith without having to pry too deep, and Keith likes that.

The respectful distance, the careful nature of Shiro. The lack of having to really feel when those feelings crash over and overwhelm him.

But, it’s still difficult. Now in the moment, Keith doesn’t want to have a serious conversation anymore. He gulps down the spaghetti he’s been twirling absently around his fork. Hard.

“Ah, no,” Keith says, fighting down the wad of pasta in his throat, “I’ve been eating. Just...not here.”

He doesn’t know why, but saying the real reason of where he’s been going out loud, seems hard to get off his chest.

Shiro raises a brow, popping a meatball into his mouth. “Oh?” He says, smile crawling farther up his lips.

“Yeah.”

And Keith leaves it at that. Because that’s exactly what he wants to do, of course. There’s no terrible urge nagging at him to confess everything that’s been going on to Shiro right that very second.

Of course not.

It’s silent for a while. The sounds of the mess hall, the clanging of trays on tables and people ordering things, surrounds them. The friendly chatter of students talking animatedly filters through, too, which somehow makes the absence of talking between them a little more awkward.

Shiro glances at him when he picks up some bread, peeling off the crust methodically before dipping it into the sauce on his plate. Keith picks and picks at the crust. When he thoroughly douses the stripped bread, he pauses in moving it to his mouth, stomach feeling suddenly unsettled.

“So...how’s Lance?” Shiro finally asks, taking a sip from his soda, eyes calculating over the rim of his can.

“What about him?” Keith mutters, feeling that familiar defensive shell take over, “He’s his old annoying self, as usual. There’s nothing to say.”

“No need to be like that. I’m just saying,” Shiro says gently, and Keith feels guilty for snapping at him when he was just asking a simple question, “You two seem to be really hitting it off lately.” Shiro rubs a hand at the back of his neck, chuckling, “Well, maybe that was too literal of an example, but…”

Before Keith can try and interject, Shiro beats him to it, always with words he knows will get Keith to fall back and allow himself to open up a little more.

“It’s just,” Shiro shrugs, cupping his chin in his hand as he points his fork towards Keith, “It’s nice to see you hanging out with other people, Keith.”

“Yeah, well…” Keith drops the bread, busies his hands instead with fiddling in his pockets, where he keeps his flying gloves. The pads of his fingers worry over the worn leather, and he feels like if he just takes a deep breath, he might be able to --

“...Lance is fine. He’s good,” Keith says quietly, exhaling. Shiro’s smile widens, and he finally slips. “I’m going to watch him swim.”

What a weird way to answer that question. What a total non-sequitur. Keith wishes he could sink into the cold, hard ground.

Shiro laughs, but it isn’t cruel, isn’t at his expense. All that considered, it still doesn’t take away the internal cringe Keith is currently feeling.

“Really?” Shiro looks surprised, as he’s very aware of his aversion to any bodies of water larger than a bathtub, “You, getting near the water? That’s new and very...unexpected.”

“I mean, it’s not like I’m getting into the water, too,” Keith blinks, wondering as he says it aloud if maybe that was Lance’s plan all along -- to get him in the water so he can make fun of the fact he can’t do anything but stand and glare at him from the shallow end. “At least, I don’t think so.”

“I’m sure he won’t do anything like put you in a position you don’t want to be in,” Shiro says, setting down his fork. He’s saying other things, other things about Lance Keith should probably be listening to, but --

That was a bad way to phrase that. A terrible way, actually. Shiro doesn’t know, but he’s probably wondering why Keith chokes over his bread and violently coughs for about a solid minute afterwards.

Shiro pushes a glass of water to him. “Jesus, are you alright?”

Keith takes it with one shaking hand, clapping the fist of his other against his leg. He croaks a hurried, “‘M fantastic,” before gulping down the soothing liquid. While in the middle of feeling like he’s dying, a tray slams loudly down onto their table, shaking the whole thing.

“Hey, bitches. What’s up?”

Through his tearing vision, Keith can make out reddish hair, glasses, cadet uniform. No long legs, pretty brown skin, or obnoxious, boasting voice. He’s immediately disinterested.

“Matt,” Shiro smiles in greeting, watching as Matt takes a seat across from Keith, “What’s going on?”

“Oh, you know,” Matt shrugs, digging his plastic fork into whatever goopy vegetarian dish the Garrison gives out these days, “Just spent all morning disarranging and rearranging hypobaric chambers to see how they function. Not as fun as it sounds, honestly.”

Matt glances at him, nodding as he asks Shiro, “What’s his problem?” Keith flushes, wiping water off from his lips, finally feeling the burn leave his throat. “Oi, Keith. You gotta chew your food first, dude.”

Matt laughs as Keith glares at him. Keith wouldn’t say that he and Matt are close enough to be considered friends, but he doesn’t grate on his nerves in any way like Lance or a lot of the other cadets do, so he tolerates the guy. It’s mostly because he works a lot with Shiro and the higher ranks, since apparently he’s some sort of prodigy. They all eat lunch together every once in awhile, and it doesn’t disrupt Keith’s routine any.

Shiro brings a napkin to his lips, probably to continue hiding his grin. “I asked him about Lance.”

Keith wonders when Shiro will ever stop betraying him. He gathers his tray up as if to leave, having had enough social interaction for one day. Now that Matt’s here, it’s not like he can ask Shiro anything more personal. But when Matt speaks up again, Keith pauses.

“Man,” Matt says around a mouthful of food, “No wonder. I dunno how you can stand that guy, Keith. I had one class with him first semester, and all he ever did was flirt with every girl around him. No work ethic, that guy. Have no idea why he’s even here.”

Usually, Keith would tend to agree with that sentiment. If he was feeling less frazzled, he might even defend Lance a little. But he’s stuck on only one part of that sentence as he furrows his brows, turning his gaze to Matt for the first time. “Flirt..?”

Matt hums, eyes glued to his plate. “Oh yeah, he’s a real womanizer. Just yesterday, I saw him--”

“Saw him in the library!” Shiro abruptly cuts him off. Keith catches the jab he gives to Matt’s side, which only increases the crease of his eyebrows. “He was asking about you.”

“The library?” Keith snorts, drawing his fork into his uneaten food and swirling it around, “Is that a joke?”

They all laugh, but Keith’s chest feels the tiniest bit constricted. Sure, hearing Lance go on about girls was something he definitely experienced a lot, but to know he actually was going around trying to hit on them…

Lance was all talk...wasn’t he?

“So what?” Keith asks, feeling his mood plummet, “Was he whining about me not being there to help him out?”

“No, actually,” Matt says, raising his head and adjusting his glasses. He and Shiro share a look that Keith wishes he could decipher. Matt pulls a face. “It was weird. He wanted to know what your favorite color was. So random.”

Keith looks to Shiro for confirmation, who shrugs. “I hope you don’t mind that I told him.”

“I…” Keith falters, confusion making it hard for him to mask his real feelings in the moment. “No, of course not. That’s fine.”

Shiro’s smile turns down at the edges, looking like he might be about to say something else as he sets his fork to the side again, but Keith doesn’t want to stick around to hear it. “I, um. I’ve got a lot of work to do, so I’m going to go, uh. Do that now. I’ll see you guys around.”

He takes off before either Shiro or Matt can respond, clearing and dumping his tray in the garbage before making a beeline for the exit, head a jumbled mess of new information.

Lance asks about him when he’s not around, but Lance also flirts with lots of girls, possibly as recently as yesterday.

Stupid, this is stupid, Keith thinks, stomping into his steps as he makes his way down the crowded Garrison halls.

Keith doesn’t know why Lance would ask about something like that in the first place. He, of all people, should have figured out by now what his favorite color is.

 

Chapter Text

Keith’s never been down to this part of the gym before, but he’s definitely smelled it from a distance -- that irritating scent of chlorine wafting in the air. It’s one of the main reasons he refuses to use the lower gym rooms, even though they generally have better equipment. He’s always been super sensitive to the smell, could even feel it burning on his skin, in a way.

And yet, he’s here. He’s bundled up like it’s 15 degrees inside, but he’s here.

It’s a pretty place, he has to admit, for a room at the Garrison. It’s the underground pool, not the outdoor one, since that was recently closed for being off season. There’s giant windows in the tiled walls, containing warped glass he’s seen to be common in photographs and illustrations of indoor pools. It bends the light in weird ways, which is dimmer than the disorienting fluorescent ones that line the halls, so Keith discovers that it isn’t all bad.

That’s not the sight he’s focused on, though. No, because the real entrancing image here is, without a doubt, Lance -- a dark backdrop over the shimmering darker backdrop of the water, gliding through it seamlessly enough he hardly makes any ripples.

Keith’s seated on a bench far, far away from the edge of the pool. There’s nothing he’d dislike more than suddenly getting splashed, or god forbid, dragged underwater. But --

It’s not really a good distance for watching something that has him subconsciously wanting to draw closer to get the full benefit from what he’s seeing.

Lance makes it look all too easy, traveling underwater for an impressively long amount of time, to the point that even Keith feels himself growing a little worried. He always pops back up at the second right before Keith might actually move, startling him into wondering just what the fuck he’s getting so worked about it.

Because it’s clear by the way Lance can tread water (he showed off that particular ability for at least fifteen minutes before he got bored, but Keith had watched it all the same), by how he can pull flawless, endless laps back and forth with different types of strokes, that Lance can more than handle himself here.

And what would he even do if Lance didn’t come back up, anyway? Get in and drown with him?

“You can come closer, you know,” Lance calls over when he comes up for air again, spitting water in the process, “I promise there’s no sharks that’ll bite your toes.”

“No thanks,” Keith huffs, rounding his back as he hunches forward, leaning his elbows on his knees with his eyes glued to Lance.

Lance cups some water between his palms, like he’s squeezing them together, and Keith watches as he somehow squirts a stream up above his head.

It’s not that Keith’s afraid of the water, not really. It’s just that he's never quite liked the idea of getting wet for a reason other than washing your body.

And it wasn’t just that. Sure, the prospect of drowning wasn’t exactly appealing, but it was more how it made him feel out of his element. Exposed almost, slowed down in the thickness of water, unable to move or fight in the ways that he’s learned make him feel comfortable in his own body.

As a young child, when his after-school program would take them on field trips to the one outdoor community pool nearby, he’d been dangerously pushed into the water ‘as a joke’ far more than he cares to recall. Keith will never forget that feeling of freefalling through it, sinking like a slow weight to the ground. How he couldn’t see just exactly how deep it was, or anything around him, instead only painfully aware of the way his eyes burned behind the blur of chlorine.

He remembers how it was much more unstable, more unpredictable than falling with the wind around you. He remembers how he had tried to fight with his fists in vain, beating slow motion blows that didn’t quite make their mark against the lifeguard as he saved his life.

All of that was more alarming than the fact he couldn’t breathe, because the loss of control was a scarier concept than anything else. He couldn’t physically manipulate his environment like that, without the warning vibrations of solid ground, without the whistling of the air to predict his attacker’s next action.

The notion of ever being in an ocean was thus, to him, nothing short of a nightmare.

Here, Lance is the one who looks more than comfortable than ever, and it gives Keith an interesting perspective. He’s in the middle of rethinking possibly his whole life choices that ultimately led him to this unfortunate moment, when Lance swims over to the ladder, and drags his waterlogged body up it.

“Dude, you’re kinda creeping me out, just being all like,” Lance flutters a wet hand in his direction, continuing on his journey to the high diving board as he laments, “Mr. Small, dark, and mopey eskimo over there. Could you at least respond with more than just two words at a time?”

Keith glares, turning over the palms of his hands and wondering if they really are that differently sized than Lance’s. He pulls his jacket tighter around him. “I’m not small.”

Lance’s face brightens as he reaches the ladder, shooting a winning smile over his shoulder when he grabs onto the railings. “Yeah, that’s the spirit! You’re getting there, buddy.”

When Keith came in, Lance had already been in the water, so getting a glimpse of his outfit now definitely has him raising his eyebrows. It shouldn’t be a surprise. Those tan lines were always suspiciously small.

It still doesn’t completely prepare him for seeing that tight, little speedo in action.

“Is that really  Garrison issued?” Keith calls up to him irritably, not expanding his thought any further than that.

Not like he has to. There’s no way Lance doesn’t know when he’s very obviously been bending provocatively at every chance he can get in it. At the top of the platform, Lance puts his hands on his hips, throws back his head, and laughs.

“Yeah, of course,” Lance tucks a bit of stray hair back under his swimming cap, snapping it in the process, “Think what would happen otherwise if I had something looser on when I tried to do this.”

Flicking down his goggles, Lance flashes his grin out towards the water. Winding up his arms, he takes a few steps back, until his heels are on the very edge of the board near the ladder.

Keith leans even farther forward. Anticipation runs low in his gut.

From his position of Lance’s back, Keith notices the way his chest expands, how he pulls air into his lungs like when they fight.

Lance bolts. He races to the end, throws his arms up into a point above his head right when he gets to it, and springs off faster than Keith can blink twice.

The dive is flawless and smooth, the splash when he hits the surface of the water, minimal.

Lance comes up hollering, punching a fist into the air. “Woohoo, yes,” he cheers, ripping off his swim cap and throwing it into the air, “That never gets old.”

Lance waves at him excitedly, laughing and splashing like an idiot in the water.

Despite their differences in opinions about swimming, Keith discovers that he really couldn’t agree more.

 


 

Keith is futiley trying to mind his own business in the library when Lance first suggests it.

Warm palms cover his eyes, heat slipping against his back while he’s immersed in reading a book. “Guess who?” A voice trills at his ear, blowing an unnecessary amount of hot air into it in the process.

“Miyamoto Musashi,” Keith says, without skipping a beat. The hands fall away from his face.

“I, um,” Caught off guard, Lance fumbles to respond, “Who now?”

“Infamous Japanese swordsman,” Keith tells him, refusing to take his eyes off his book. He’s just getting to the good part, but of course, Lance always has the perfect timing to disrupt him.

Taking a seat in the chair next to him, Lance says slowly, “Well, no--”

“Then I’m not interested,” Keith jokes, biting his lip to hold back a smile as Lance gives a weak punch to his shoulder.

“Come on, don’t be a jerk,” Keith doesn’t have to turn towards him to know that that pouty lip is probably out, “I was trying to be cute.”

“Try harder, then.” Another punch to his shoulder, this one with more force. It even hurts a little.

That actually has Keith raising his head. “Hey, not bad. You been practicing when I’m not around?”

“No,” Lance says, his mouth twisted into an irritated frown. He drapes his body over the table, with his head cushioned in his arms. There’s no pushed out lip, which makes Keith take the situation more seriously than usual. “I’m just fueled by the fact you’re being a dick.”

Keith lays his book down, feeling a little guilty. Lance tends to take his teasing to heart more than he probably should. “Relax. It was pretty cute, okay? It’s too easy with you, I swear.”

Mouth pressed up in the bend of his arm, Lance flashes him a tiny, victorious smile. Keith lets him have it.

“So, what’s up?” Keith prompts, knowing that Lance appreciates building up to whatever mysterious, annoying reason has brought his feet here today. “You usually only come here if you want to bother me about something.”

Keith makes a point of glancing at him from beneath the fringe of his hair, noticing the absence of any books or studying materials on Lance’s person. Though he doesn’t actually do much studying when he comes to the library, it’s different, because he usually at least has his work with him for show.

“What is up, is that we,” Lance rises up to sling an arm around his shoulder, ruffling his hair until Keith shakes him off, “Are going out tonight!”

“Out?” Keith repeats, tilting his head, not so sure he likes the sound of whatever that means. He tries patting down the now frizzing, messed up edges of his hair. “You mean, to the town?”

Laughing, Lance reclines in his chair until the front two legs are a few inches off the ground. Keith decides against reminding him what happened the last time he leaned back like that, since he could use some nice comic relief, what with midterms coming up and all.

“Heh, not just ‘to the town ’, man,” Lance says, as if offended, smacking his palm against the table and then pointing a finger at him. “You gotta think bigger than that. I am taking you out. Very big difference, trust me.”

Keith wasn’t prepared to be asked something like this. It’s been quite a while since he’s gone out to the town, and that was only for a quick smoke pickup. Even being out for that small amount of time, around a myriad of bustling shoppers and partying Garrison students, had severely tested his patience.

“I don’t really care for crowds, so I think I’ll pass,” Keith decides on, picking his book back up, but keeping a steady side-gaze at Lance.

Lance freezes at his words, the excitement on his face draining out. Keith doesn’t feel good about that at all. Thinking maybe what he said could be construed as rude, he adds, “Um, thanks for inviting me, though. I’m sure your uh, chef friend would go with you if you asked?”

Lance raises an eyebrow, and stares at him. There’s a noticeable, awkward sort of pause.

“I can’t, um. I can’t exactly take Hunk out for something...like this.” Lance blinks at him exaggeratedly, as if there’s something underlying in his words that Keith should be picking up on. “You know? It’s more of a ‘just us’ thing.”

A ‘just us thing’. Keith doesn’t even want to attempt to comprehend what that could possibly mean.

What he does know, however, is that a ‘just them’ kind of thing would most likely entail something devious and highly physical. He looks to the ceiling for answers, and comes up with way too many scenarios that would seem plausible based on a few of their past conversations.

Picking one at random, Keith rolls with it. “Look, if this is about your curiosity with fucking in back alleyways again, then--”

“Keith,” Lance waves his arms as he tries cutting him off, hissing in a sharp whisper, “Not so loud--” while giving a nervous glance towards the one student hanging out nearby.

“--you know I’m down for that. But just ask for it directly, alright? I know you like the whole ‘in the moment’ thing, but if we’re going to be real about this, we seriously need to bring lube for that one.”

Lance’s cheeks flush, and he looks down at the table, tapping his fingers as if there’s more he wants to say in retaliation. He sits forward, setting all the legs of his chair back on the ground.

There's a smile there, but Keith gets the impression it's lacking in enthusiasm.

“...Yeah, sure. That’s totally what it’s about,” Lance laughs, this weird, grating sound, “You got me.”

There’s a nagging sensation in the back of Keith’s mind about the whole exchange, which seems a little off, but he ignores it. He’s going off of approximately two hours of sleep carrying over the past three days, and his blood stream’s definitely about 90% caffeine at this point. He doubts his perception can be trusted.

A yawn pushes past his lips, and he stretches his arms to the ceiling. Keith weighs his options, and comes to the conclusion that there’s probably some merit in taking a break from studying tonight by venting away this upcoming test stress with Lance.

“Mmm, okay, you win. I’ll go out, then, just this one time.” Keith reaches for the backpack by his feet and unzips it, tucking his book away amongst numerous papers and assignments. “Just for you, since I can tell you’re always a little desperate for it.”

When Keith pops back up, Lance looks funny with his jaw open and hanging. The backlights of the library don’t do anything to hide his flush.

“...Great! I’ll pick you up at five then,” Lance says, softly, that excited smile curling back up his lips, “We’ll take the shuttle, so make sure you clean up nice, mullet.”

Lance playfully flicks a tuft of his hair. He pushes out his chair, apparently settling to leave.

But Keith grabs his wrist before he can get far. They stare at each other for a few poignant seconds, Lance’s eyes lidding after he gives a quick glance over his shoulder. Whatever student was loitering by them has disappeared.

There's no one else around.

Keith interlaces their fingers, and squeezes his hand. Wordlessly, he tugs Lance to the back corner of the library, to a quiet study area shielded in all the right ways with shelving and thicker, more obscuring reference books.

Spinning around, Keith pulls him in close, and lands his hands on Lance’s hips.

Lance grins against his closed lips, reaching up to cup Keith’s face so he can smooth his thumbs against his cheeks. Lance's hands are warm and feathery soft, and they tingle wherever they make contact. The shrouded area they're in feels slowed-down and personal -- intimate, almost. Here, it's just them and the books.

Lacing his arms around Keith’s neck, Lance fluffs up his hair again. Then he’s yanking it, and Keith’s digging his fingernails into the soft flesh of his ass.

They kiss behind the periodicals. Lance roams his palms over his sides, pushing at his clothes, groping at any exposed skin he can manage. He giggles when Keith easily loses that restraint of control and slams him roughly against one shelf, nipping at his neck while Lance folds his legs around his waist.

With little care for the buttons on Lance’s pants, Keith forces his hand into them. Lance grapples with a book sticking out from the shelf, clenching hard around the binding of it when Keith closes his palm around an already eager erection. Biting his lip, Lance lets out a small whimper, and bucks into Keith’s fist.

This isn’t the first time they’ve done this here, and it definitely won't be the last, because there’s something just absolutely maddening about a Lance fighting with everything in him to be quiet.

Keith flicks his gaze down to a tiny gap between the books, looking out for anyone who might end up wandering towards them. The hole is more near his knee, so it’s hard to make out entirely from the angle he’s at.

On a whim, Keith releases Lance, and drops to his knees to get a better look. There’s a lot more he can work with like this, anyway.

Fighting to catch his breath, Lance stares at him curiously, running one hand through his slightly overgrown bangs to push them away from his face. “Wait, what are you...”

Yanking on the legs of Lance’s pants until they’re stuck tight around his thighs, Keith smirks up at him. He’s been tempted to do this to Lance since the moment he first laid eyes on him like this, and he thinks there’s really no better time than the present to take advantage of that.

Keith traces over the flushed head straining towards him with the pad of his forefinger, watching with satisfaction as it twitches and jerks. Flicking his eyes up to Lance, he flashes him a lazy grin before lapping at the swollen tip with his tongue.

“Oh,” Lance lets out a gasp, and brings one hand to his mouth, “Oh, holy shit, you are not about to--”

“Shhh,” Keith whispers, mouthing over the bulging vein on the underside of his cock, “We’re in a library.”

He takes Lance between his lips without any further warning, swallowing him down. Lance’s grip slips on the book, which would have come crashing to the ground if Keith hadn’t sensed it in time.

Instead, he spots the movement from the corner of his eye, and catches the thing before it can possibly give them away. He gently sets it to the floor at the same time he flutters his lashes to stare back at Lance, curving one palm around the base of his cock.

Keith slips forward, pushing Lance towards the back of his throat. Lance curses, and shoves his own fingers into his mouth.

It’s still counts as a studying lesson, Keith thinks, running his free fingers up and down those smooth thighs, raking his nails as he slides to the more sensitive, inner area of them. He gives the skin there a pinch, then sucks back up his shaft, moaning just softly enough around Lance that he’s sure he can feel it. Predictably, Lance throws his head back so hard Keith can hear the resounding ding of metal shifting against jostled books.

Keith’s learning more about what Lance likes, and finds, unsurprisingly, that Lance likes a lot.

Lance likes when he drags his tongue over the head of his cock, mouth still hot around him. Lance likes when he works his hand in a steady pumping motion at the base, and when he jerks hard enough it puts pressure again his balls, more pressure on his ass rubbing against the shelf. There’s a sway, a rock to his hips, when Keith lightly drags his teeth as he pulls up over the head of his cock again.

Lance tastes good, with the sweetness of precum and the salt of chlorine mixing over Keith’s tongue.

Keith,” Lance hisses between his fingers, peeking down at him with his chest heaving. His free hand is gripping completely white knuckled around another book, and Keith laughs a little.

Lance’s hips jerk forward at the vibration. “Fuck, Keith, I’m, I’m--”

With little warning, warm liquid spills down the back of his throat. Keith is still staring at Lance when he takes it all in, and swallows without a second thought. He’s just wiping his sleeve across his mouth to clear the leftover residue of cum sticking to his lips, when Lance slides weakly down to the floor, and they’re more or less face-to-face again.

“You just, you just,” Lance babbles, starting and stopping his sentence a few times, but unable to coherently piece it all together. All he can manage to do in his daze, is to slip his pants back up.

It’s fine. Keith gets what he means regardless.

Keith tries to compose himself as well, painfully aware of the unrelenting throbbing in his cock as it strains against his zipper. He’d take care of it if they weren’t here, because as it stands, Lance has already made enough suspicious noise for one secret tryst for the day.

He can’t wait to get his hands on him out on the town, in the blanket and shadows of night, tucked away from limitations with time or possible prying eyes and ears.

Keith hesitates at first when that tug around his heart returns, gaze set on the deep blue of Lance’s eyes. He shakes his head before leaning forward, and pressing a light kiss to Lance’s lips anyway. Lance’s face blooms into the biggest, most self-satisfied grin.

It was worth it.

“I’ll, um. I'll see you at five,” Keith says, standing abruptly, but Lance is only grinning harder. Keith's entire body thrums with nervous tension. The collar of his uniform feels uncomfortably tight.

“See you then, babe,” Lance murmurs in a cracking voice from the ground. Fluttering those long lashes more than he has any right to, he blows him a kiss, and winks.

Keith flushes deeply before walking out as quickly as his legs can carry him.

 


 

Keith wakes up, startled and disoriented at his desk later that day.

There’s papers pressed to his face, stuck there with drool. His back aches from falling asleep sitting in a hard wooden chair. Peeling the sticky papers off, he looks at the smudged ink of his homework in disgust, and then peels his own sluggish body up, stretching to the ceiling until his back cracks.

There’s the remnants of some fuzzy dream he can’t quite recall tumbling around in his head, some hazy scene involving Lance, naked and sweaty above him. There’s the ghost of a memory of his mouth forming one word, over and over again, in the heat of the moment as he rode his cock.

Keith shakes his head, shoving down whatever that might have been.

It’s as he’s rubbing the sleep from his eyes while thumbing apart the clasps on his uniform jacket, that the bright red numbers on his clock finally catch his eye and make him do a double take.

4:15pm. He’s been out for nearly five hours since he left the library.

Keith scrambles to put himself together, plucking out the cleanest clothes he can find from his drawers and rushing to the showers in a whirlwind of panic.

The positive side of the situation is that showering has always been a get-in-and-get-out sort of thing for him, so after he does the bare minimum to appear clean, he’s hopping out and drying himself off not more than ten minutes later.

He doesn’t have time to blow dry his hair, nor does he really ever resort to doing so, so he decides he’ll just have to put up with Lance’s teasing about it when he knows it will curl from the humid air outside.

Keith’s about halfway to the trek towards the shuttles, when he bumps almost headlong into Shiro’s broad chest. A stack of loose papers explodes around them.

“Sorry, Shiro,” Keith mutters when he realizes it’s him, and helps gather the papers from the floor. “Here,” he says, shoving them in a messy bundle back into his hands, “I’ll explain later, but I’ve got to go--”

“Whoa, wait,” Shiro catches him by the sleeve when he tries to make his way past him, “Aren’t you going out with Lance tonight?”

Keith blinks a few times, before realizing Lance must have run into Shiro at some point after he left the library. Why he would choose to mention anything to Shiro about it, though, catches him off guard. Perhaps he tried to invite him out, too, but Shiro declined because Keith knows he has observation duty today with the new cadets.

“...Yeah, and if you don’t let me go, I’m gonna be late,” Keith protests, trying to shrug him off. It's futile, though. Shiro has too much strength for his own good.

“Keith,” Shiro sighs, one hand still settled on his shoulder, “You can’t go out with him wearing that.”

Keith feels a little insulted as he looks down at his outfit. It’s not a bad one, he thinks, just his usual old jeans and a simple, black t-shirt. They’re even washed this time around. He fails to see the issue here.

“...But, this is what I always wear...”

“Exactly,” Shiro says, looking at him with a raise of his brows. Keith lets his foot tap impatiently, and crosses his arms. He doesn’t have time for whatever Shiro’s trying to say here.

Keith searches his face, but finds no hint of a joke resting there. “And?”

“Look, just,” Shiro rubs his temples, before sighing, “Come with me for a second, okay? I promise it won’t take long.”

Before Keith can get in another word, Shiro is already pulling him along towards his dorm.