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Tattered Blankets and Mending Hearts

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Lance takes a deep breath as he prepares himself for what he is about to do. It’s only been three months since he got here from Cuba. His momma had insisted that he came to the states since he finally had enough money to do it and there was no way he could disobey his momma. He had found himself an affordable apartment and a job at a coffee shop. At first he would pay to take the bus to his job but his landlord kept coming up with excuses to raise Lance’s rent every two weeks. Soon he could no longer afford to take the bus so he walked the four miles to his job and the four miles back. He decided it was good exercise for him and it could have been worse.

He was right… it could have been worse and it got worse. His land lord continued to raise his rent saying that he was doing so to make sure that ‘people like Lance’ wouldn’t have extra money to spend on drugs and other illegal things. Lance knew the racist meaning to the words, he knew the stereotypes that the man was referring to and it hurt. But the hurt of the man’s word did not compare to the hurt that Lance felt when he couldn’t afford to pay for the apartment anymore. Lance packed all of his belongs into a backpack and a suitcase and left, that’s all he could do.

That’s how Lance ended up in his current situation, standing in front of a dumpster. His two bags leaning against the side as he listens to the sound of his stomach growling. He had long since run out of 'food’. If that’s what you could call Lance’s measly diet. For the last month of renting his apartment, Lance had resorted to buying as little food as possible. When he got his paycheck from the coffee shop he would go to the store and buy two jars of peanut butter then save the rest of the money for rent and the crappy flip phone he has so he can talk to his momma. He ate one teaspoon of peanut butter in place of every meal. Of course it left him hungry and dropping pounds faster then he ever had but that’s all he could afford. He would make the two jars last as long as possible, then buy two more jars.

His last jar of peanut butter had run out a day and a half ago. The jar now holds water from a water fountain at a park. Lance stares at the dumpster in front of him, a dumpster behind a restaurant only a few blocks from the coffee shop he’s managed to keep working at. He hoists his skinny frame into the dumpster and starts scavenging around for anything that looks edible and praying that no one will see him.

He manages to find enough edible looking food to fill his stomach then climbs out of the dumpster looking down at his now very dirty clothes. He sighs softly and grabs his bags then heads towards the park that’s several blocks away. He ignores the pitiful and/or disgusted looks he gets from people walking past. He’s to ashamed to raise his gaze any higher than the ground. He feels disgusting. He has never felt this dirty or useless in his whole life. He knows it’s a combination of his new homelessness and the fact that he hasn’t been taking his meds for his depression since he couldn’t afford them anymore.

When he gets back to the park he sits down by a secluded water fountain. Over the past few days he’s managed to find an unpopular area of the park and that’s where he has been staying. He strips off the dirty shirt he is wearing, washes it as best he can with the water from the fountain then uses it to scrub down his body. He rinses his hair in the fountain then puts on one of the other shirts he has in his bag. He strips off his dirty pants next, scrubs his legs down with the still wet shirt then puts on new pants. He washes his dirty clothes from the day once again in the fountain then sets them on the side walk next to him to dry.

He fishes out his flip phone from his backpack and cringes as he types in his mothers number, international calls are expensive but with no rent to pay his next paycheck will take care of it, hopefully. When his mother answers the phone he plasters on a happy facade and tells her how amazing America is. His heartaches with every lies he tells his mother but he knows neither of them can afford a plane ticket back to Cuba so he’s stuck here. Stuck lying to his mother about how amazing the place is that he is living in and how wonderful all the food is. He hates his new life. He is ashamed of his new life. But he is doing all he can.

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Lance wakes up cold and stiff, sleeping on a metal bench in a secluded area of a park will do that to you. He sits up slowly and stretches out his lanky body in attempt to soothe his aches and pains but it doesn’t work. He knows they’ll never go away until he sleeps on a real bed again or at least something softer then a metal bench.

He gets up and gathers his belongings quickly. His belongings consist of a beaten up backpack containing a repurposed peanut butter jar that now holds water, a tooth brush, a few pairs of socks, and his work uniform and a small suitcase that hold three changes of clothes all of which are thin and worn. It also contains the little money he has left of his last paycheck. When the next one comes in he will have enough money to get himself some real food since he no longer had to struggle to pay rent.

His thin frame trembles in the cold breeze and he pulls his jacket close to himself. He knows he’ll need to save part of his paycheck for a heavier jacket if he wants to survive the ever colder days of fall and winter.

He makes his way down the familiar streets to the coffee shop he works at. He makes sure that no one is watching as he goes behind the building and leaves his belongings safely hidden behind a few crates that the coffee beans had come in.

He walks back around the building and enters the front door smiling broadly at Coran, the owner of the coffee shop, when he greets him. He brings his uniform into the bathroom and changes quickly then locks his clothes in the little lockers that the workers have in the break room, he leaves his phone and his little money in there as well just in case.

“My boy, you are still looking much to thin! Get over here and have a fresh baked croissant! Hunk just dropped them off.” He says. Lance mouth waters at just the mention of Hunk’s baking. Hunk is the owner of a bakery just a block over and supplier of all baked goods that the Altea Coffee shop sells. Lance has become good friends with Hunk as he makes runs over to the bakery when the shop runs out of certain baked goods.

Lance heads over to Coran and thanks him as he takes the croissant that he had been offered. He takes a small bite and hums happily as the buttery taste fills his mouth and the warmth of the pastry makes it even better as it reminds him that this food is not only fresh but didn’t come from a trashcan or the street.

Coran watches the teen in front of him and twists his mustache as he ponders a few things. He waits for the boy to finish his pastry before speaking. “How are things with your landlord? Has he bothered you lately?” He asks.

Lance swallows the last bit of the delicious croissant then washes his hands using it as an excuse to not look at the man as he responds. “He hasn’t bothered me lately. I don’t think we’ll have anymore problems.” Lance says which technically isn’t a lie… he just left out the part that he no longer lives in the apartment so he doesn’t have to deal with the landlord anymore.

Coran smiles and pats Lance on the shoulder, oblivious to the truth behind Lance’s words. “That’s great my boy, I’m glad things worked themselves out.” He says. Lance gives him a short nod and a fake smile that he’s perfected.

The guilt Lance feels for lying to Coran, who has been like an uncle to him ever since he got to the states, is like a brick in his stomach heavy and unpleasant. He checks the time and sighs in relief when he sees there is only a few minutes until opening time meaning he can avoid conversation with Coran by helping all the early morning customers on their way to work or school.

Coran leaves him to go make sure all the chairs are nicely arranged before the customers starts showing up. Lance sets up his station and makes sure he’ll be prepared in case an early morning rush forms.

When the door chimes open only a minute after opening he looks up and gives a happy greeting to the first customer of the day. Only to have his breath taken away by the gorgeous man he sees standing in front of him. He is tall with broad shoulders and dark hair and eyes. He has a scar that spans across his nose and a striking white tuft at the front of his hair that only slightly distracts from his hi-tech prosthetic arm.

The man offers him a kind smile as he tucks his flesh hand into to the back pocket of his uniform pants. “Hi, welcome to Altea coffee. What can I get you?” Lance asks with a few stumbles and he could kick himself when his accent is a bit heavier than normal but the man’s smile widens as he places his order and makes small talk with Lance.

Lance had no clue that this meeting would be the first step in a new journey to come…

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Lance takes a little longer than normal to make the beautiful man his coffee. He learned the man goes by Shiro and judging by his uniform he is a police officer.

Lance finished the coffee and delivers it to Shiro who had taken a seat in a nearby booth. Shiro smiles up at Lance brightly and Lance struggles to remember how to breathe. Shiro thanks him and Lance nods before walking back behind the counter.

Shiro leaves a few moments later and Lance stares after him, hoping he will see him again soon. He shakes his head in attempt to clear his mind of the daze that Shiro had left him in but it’s no use.

The rest of his day goes by in a haze, all Lance can think about is the chance that he might see Shiro again tomorrow morning. The thought alone makes his heart warm, he was just so perfect… the soft smile, kind eyes, perfect manners, incredible body…

Lance forces himself to stop there as he finishes off a coffee order for Pidge, a coffee shop usual who is friends with Hunk and more recently Lance. He brings Pidge her coffee in her usual corner and isn’t surprised to find her typing away in her computer like always. She lets out a small grunt of acknowledgment when he sets her drink down next to her, Lance has learned to take that hunt as a thank you.

Lance comes back a few moments later with one of the chocolate and peanut butter muffins that she loves. “Hunk dropped a batch of these off this morning and gave me specific instructions to give you one on the house. So here you go Pidgeon, just shout if you need anything else.” He says with a grin and laughs when he hears Pidge growl in annoyance at the nickname.

Lance walks back behind the counter and tidies up his work station while humming a song to himself quietly. He checks the clock and groans when he sees that his shift is almost over, meaning that he will have to go back out into the cold.

Like usual he heads to the back to restock the work station for whoever has the shift after him. He grabs the last of the sickeningly sweet flavoring from their fall drinks and brings it to the front then out through the back to throw away the box that had been holding the seasonal flavor. He stops in his tracks and his blood runs cold when he sees Coran standing next to his belongs which he had hidden under the now overturned crates.

When Coran spots him he tries to play off his actions with a wave and dumps the box into their recycling pile and heads back inside trying his best to act normal.

He stops with his back against the door and takes a deep breath in attempt to calm himself down but the his heart feels like it’s gonna hammer out of his chest. He can’t let Coran find out those are his belongings! He wouldn’t be able to handle the pitying look Coran would probably give him.

The bell chimes in the front alerting Lance that a customer has just walked inside and he takes a deep breath then plasters a fake smile on his face. He heads out to the front and begins with his usual greeting only to feel the warmth leave his body, “Shiro? What are you doing here?” He asks confused.

Shiro gives him a smile in greeting, “The owner of this shop called and said he found some belongings behind the store and it’s not the first time he’s seen them back there. My partner and I came to check it out.” He explains and steps aside to reveal a much shorter man with dark hair long enough that Lance might go as far to call it a mullet, his expression is brooding but is eyes are a captivating shade of violet. Lance knows right then that he is screwed.

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Lance felt his chest seize in panic as he stared at the two police officers in front of him. He slapped a face smile on his face and gestures to the door behind the counter that would take them to the back room then outside. “Coran is out back.” He manages to say even though his mouth is dry.

He watches the pair head through the door and go out to Coran. He takes a shaky breath and looks up the clock. Twenty minutes… he has twenty minutes left of his shift meaning that he has twenty minutes to figure out how to get his stuff back without giving himself away.

He waves at Pidge as the little gremlin leaves the coffee shop. She returns the wave and heads out the door. Lance walks over and cleans up the table she had been using and decides on his plan to get his stuff back.

He waves goodbye to Coran and offers a smile to Shiro and Keith who are still there when his shift ends twenty minutes later. He heads out the door and over to Hunk’s bakery to kill a bit of time in hopes that Shiro and Keith will wrap up thier investigation quickly.

Lance walks in and his mouth waters at the delicious smell of freshly baked goods flood his senses. “Welcome to the Balmera Bakey!” Hunk shouts from the back. Shay smiles kindly at Lance from behind the counter and falls back to Hunk, “It’s Lance!”

Lance can’t help but laugh at the sound of pans clattering and second later an excited Hunk emerges from the kitchen still wearing an apron and has a light dusting of flour on his face. “Lance!” He beams and pulls Lance into a bear hug. Lance chuckles and hugs him back giving the heftier boy a pat on the back. “Hey buddy.” He says.

Hunk pulls back and frowns a bit, “dude I can feel like every bone in your body. You told me you started eating more.” He says and gives Lance a pointed look. Lance shrugs softly and smiles in attempt to ease the concerned look his friend is wearing, “I have been eating more Hunk. I promise.” He says and once again avoids telling him that all he’s done is up his diet from a teaspoon of peanut butter in place of meals to two. Lance of course never told Hunk about his measly diet to begin with but Hunk had voiced his concerns the first time he gave Lance a hug and felt exactly how skinny the lanky boy is.

Hunk sighs softly, “Well I think you still need to eat more. Come, sit down. I just took a batch of bagels out of the oven. I’ll get you one on the house now sit.” He says and hurried to the kitchen. Lance smiles fondly at how kind his friend is and takes a seat at a cozy table close to the counter.

Hunk emerges from the kitchen a few moments later with a warm cinnamon sugar bagel on a plate and a little cup of honey butter the he knows Lance loves to put on these bagels. He sets the plate down in front of Lance who salivates just from the sight. He looks up at his friend and smiles widely. “Hunk, you are the best!” He says and Hunk laughs softly. “You can praise me later, eat your bagel.” He urges.

Lance digs into the bagel, spreading the honey butter over it before taking a huge bite. He hums contently and lets his eyes fall shut as he savors the delicious bite. He swallows his first bite and quickly takes a second bite. He reminds himself to chew this one more slowly so his stomach, shrunken from his poor diet, can keep up with the substantial food.

When the bagel is gone Lance licks the last traces of honey butter off his fingers as Hunk tells him about new recipes that he’s working on. Lance loves when Hunk tries new recipes because new recipes require tasting and Hunk has deemed Lance his official taste tester. “Well you know where to find me when those recipes need to be tasted, just call me and I’ll come over after my shift at the cafe is over or I could come during my lunch break.” He says and smiles at his burly friend.

Hunk nods and smiles “I’ll call you over when I try them out.” He says and straightens up as a timer goes off in the kitchen. “My dough for the next batch of bagels is ready. I’m sorry buddy but I’ve got lots of bagels to form.” He says and gives Lance an apologetic smile before hurrying off to the kitchen.

Lance shouts a farewell after him then says bye to Shay before heading out of the bakery. He shoves his hands into the pockets of his pants as he tries to think of a plan to get his stuff without being caught. He gets a ridiculous idea but it just might work so he starts phase one of the plan and starts to make his way to a local skatepark where he could easily find teens to do something on a date or for a few dollars. Hopefully this plan will work…

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Lance takes a deep breath and leans against the fence that surrounds the skatepark for a moment. It couldn’t be that hard to convince some teens to do something for him. A dare or maybe a few bucks and a promise of discounted coffee would probably be enough to coax them into doing it for him. The problem was picking the right kids to do the job.

He tries to look as casual as possible as he scans the park for the right person to get the job done. He spots a kid with worn skate shoes and a thoroughly used skateboard and slowly saunters his way over to the boy. “Hey, you seem like you come here a lot. I’m looking for some kids to do a dare for me. Do you know anybody who’d be interested?” Lance asks and leans against the fence next to the kid who was watching a few of the others do some tricks.

The boy turns his attention to Lance and gives him a slow nod. “Jack and Marcus will do pretty much anything on a dare.” He says and gestures to two boys in the center of the park. One was trying his hardest to balance on his hands while doing a kick flip and Lance knew instantly that these were the right guys for the job. Lance thanks the boy for his help before making his way to the daredevils.

Jack and Marcus turn to look at Lance as he walks up. “Can we help you?” The taller of the two asks, cocking his head curiously at Lance. Lance nods and gives them a slightly cocky grin, “I heard that the two of you enjoy dares...” he says and the two boys grin back at him as they nod.

Lance finds himself sitting across from the boys at a stone picnic table toward the edge of the skate park. “So there is a coffee shop a few blocks over, the Altea Coffee shop. I overheard the manager talking about how this dude keeps leaving his stuff behind the store and he wants to try and catch whoever is leaving the stuff there. I dare you to get the stuff and bring it back to me without getting caught.” Lance says. With a few added conditions and of course some prizes, a couple dollars and a promise of a coffee on the house, Jack and Marcus agree to the dare.

Jack and Marcus agree to meet Lance on the next street over from the coffee shop after they grabbed the stuff from behind the store. Lance leans against the street sign as he watches the teens walk away toward the coffee shop.

Jack heads into the store, demanding that the barista let him speak to the manager about an issue he had earlier. Coran emerges from the back and speaks with Jack about what ever issue he has made up. Marcus sneaks around the back and spots the belongings laying there. He quickly grabs them, unaware of the surveillance cameras set up by Keith and Shiro earlier.

Marcus shoots Jack a text to let him know that he can put an end to his diversion. Jack just sighs and tells Coran that it’s okay that they don’t carry cashew milk instead of Almond milk for his lactose free lattes then walks out the door. The pair heads back to the corner they had left Lance on to exchange the belongings for their rewards.

Back at the police station Shiro shows Keith the footage that the cameras had picked up a few moments ago. The pair exchanges a look knowing that their was no way that the bags belong to the teen in the video. Something odd was going on here and they were going to figure it out.

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Officer Shiro calls Coran to let him know that the cameras they set up caught a teenager picking up the belongings from behind the cafe. He goes on to explain that something just didn’t feel right about the situation so he and Keith would like to keep the cameras there for a few more days to try and catch anymore activity to help them make sense of what is going on.

Coran agrees and goes back to the duties that come with owning a cafe. He goes about his day wondering if the suspicion he has about the belongings is true or not. He has a sinking feeling it is true but he hopes that it isn’t. This is one of the few instances where he doesn’t want to be right.

Shiro waits until the end of the work day before packing up his belongings and heading over to Keith’s office across the hall. He knocks on the door but doesn’t wait for an answer, instead he steps into the room and shuts the door behind him. He waits for Keith to finish filling out whatever paperwork he’s doing before speaking.

“Come on, we‘re gonna do a short patrol around town. I think I might have an idea of what’s going on at Coran’s cafe but I wanna see if we can find any solid leads.” Shiro says and leans against the wall as he waits for Keith to get ready to leave.

Keith sets his document down and packs up his stuff so that he can head home straight from their mini investigation. He stands up and slings his bag across his shoulder as he walks toward the door. He snags the keys to the squad car on the way out.

“Fine, but I’m driving this time.” He states simply as Shiro falls into step behind him. He holds the door open for his partner as they exit the building and they both slip into the car with practiced ease.

“Where to first?” Keith asks as he fits the key into the ignition and gives it a short twist to bring the engine to life. He looks over at Shiro for a response before putting the car into reverse and easily backing out of their spot.

“Just drive towards Coran’s shop, but slowly. I want to check out the area and see if we can find any clues as to what’s going on around here.” Shiro explains and looks out the window as Keith takes a new way to Coran’s cafe so that they could cover more of the area around it.

The pair is slowly cruising past a skate shop, only three streets over from Coran’s cafe, when Shiro spots a familiar face. The teen who had been caught taking the bag from behind Coran’s cafe has just stepped out of the skate shop and is walking down the sidewalk the opposite direction of where Keith is driving.

“Keith, stop the car! Pull over! That’s the kid from the surveillance video. He might have a clue as to what is actually going on here.” Shiro says and slaps his hand on the dash board to emphasize the necessity of Keith stopping the car at that exact moment.

Shiro receives an unimpressed look for his childlike action but Keith pulls the squad car over nonetheless. Before Keith can even shut the engine off, Shiro has already propelled himself out of the car and is jogging after the teen he spotted moments ago.

“Hey kid! I need to talk to you for a sec!” Shiro calls out to the teen when he’s only a few footfalls behind him. The kid turns his head and goes pale when he sees a cop running towards him but doesn’t turn around and run like Shiro had expected him to. Instead, the teen turns around fully and looks up at Shiro.

“Sir, I’m pretty sure that I haven’t done anything illegal in my life. What do you want to talk to me for?” The teen asks, a look of confusion and a bit of nervousness stretches its way across his acne prone face.

The teen’s face scrunches up in confusion as he realizes what the officer is talking about. “Yeah, I did take the bags from behind that coffee place but I didn’t sell any of it and I swear i wasn’t stealing. At least I don’t think I was… Some guy came and found my friend and I at the park we skate at. He said he heard that we live for a good dare and challenged us to get the stuff from behind the cafe without getting caught. Guess we got caught.” He shrugs and stuffs his hands into his pockets.

“I gave the stuff to the guy on that corner over there,” He gestures to the corner, “he promised us a coffee on the house so my guess is that he works there.” He looks up at Shiro nervously. “Listen, sir, I wasn’t trying to do anything bad. I never back down from dares, is all. I’m not going to jail right?” He asks.

Shiro shakes his head and takes out a pad of paper to take notes on but has a feeling that he won’t actually be needing it. “Could you describe the guy who asked you to grab the belongings from behind the store?” Shiro requests as a formality of his job. He sighs and pockets the pad of paper when the teen perfectly describes a certain blue eyed worker at Coran’s shop. “Thanks for your help.” Shiro says and heads back over to the squad car which Keith has just managed to park.

Shiro pops his door open and easily slides into the passenger seat. “The kid said he took the stuff from behind the shop on a dare. Lance was the one who dared him.” He explains while turning to look at his partner. “Lets go to the cafe, I think we need to ask Lance a few questions.” He sighs.

Keith nods but his dark eyebrows are furrowed because of the thoughts running through his mind. They could both guess Lance’s motives for leaving his belongings behind Coran’s shop and neither of them liked what that instilled for the Cuban.

Keith starts up the car once again and drives toward the cafe. Neither of them knowing that Lance is sleeping on a park bench in the park they’d already passed on their way from the police station to the skate shop where they’d caught the teen from the video.

Keith parks the car in front of the cafe and walks in behind his partner. Blocks away, Lance pulls a tattered blanket closer to himself to try and shield himself from the wind blowing through the park that’s become his makeshift home.

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The bell above the door chimes cheerily as Shiro and Keith walk into Altea Cafe. The pair simply nods in acknowledgment of Coran’s chipper greeting and scan the shop for any sign of the lanky Cuban who can usually be found working behind the counter.

“Is Lance in today? I think we’ve made some progress in figuring out what’s going on around here.” Shiro explains to Coran while stepping up to counter. Coran twirls his orange mustache while trying to remember Lance’s schedule for the week.

“Lance won’t be in until later today, I think he’s scheduled to start at four and then work until closing.” Coran explains and looks up at the officers in front of him. “Now, will please tell me what progress you’ve made on the case and why you are looking for Lance?” He asks, fearing that he may already know the answer.

Shiro and Keith share a look before Keith begins speaking, “We manage to track down a kid from the surveillance video behind your shop and the kid claims that a man who perfectly matches Lance’s description bet that him and his friend wouldn’t’t be able to get the bags from behind your shop without getting caught.” Shiro smiles sympathetically at Coran when he sees how worried the cafe owner looks about his lanky employee.

“Now just because we think Lance was the one to dare those two boys does not mean that it was Lance or that Lance is in any kind of trouble. What it does mean is that we would like to speak to Lance to see if we can confirm if he did dare the teens. If he did we would also like to find out why he wanted the to grab the bags from behind your cafe.” Shiro explains and steps closer to the counter so he can lean against it. “So if you can think of any places that Lance likes to hang out, or if you know where he stays we could use your help finding him so we can ask him a few questions.”

Coran nods and grabs a scrap piece of paper to scribble down the address of the apartment Lance has listed as his residence, the address for Hunk’s bakery where Lance can often be found hanging out or taste testing, and the name of the park that is a few blocks over that the boy has told him he likes to take walks in, although Coran has a feeling that Lance spends a lot more time in that park then he lets on.

-

Keith and Shiro pull up in front of the apartment complex that Coran gave them the address of and quickly exit their squad car. They make their way through the maze of poorly labeled apartments until they find what Coran has listed as Lance’s apartment. Keith glances at Shiro with a questioning look before stepping forward and knocking on the door. They both wrinkle their noses at the way the paint flakes away from the door from the rapping of Keith’s knuckles against the old wood door.

The door gives way and for a moment they both believe maybe the ratty thing has fallen off of its hinges but instead they find themselves face to face with a grumpy looking man who is definitely not Lance. The man looks Keith and Shiro up and down, taking in the sight of their uniforms before promptly slamming the door in their faces. Shiro and Keith are left standing in a little cloud of paint flakes and Shiro throws Keith a look to silently let him know to have his back before knocking on the ratty door again.

“Excuse me sir, I’m Officer Shirogane. My partner and I are here looking for Lance, Lance McClain. We just want to ask him a few questions so if you can open up the door that’d be great. We heard from Lance’s boss that this is his apartment.” Shiro explains and there is a beat of silence before the door creaks open again.

The man’s face is contorted in a dark scowl which rivals Keith’s most fearsome glare and his words are no kinder than his expression, “I always knew that McClain would get himself into some legal trouble. Let me tell you one thing, that boy hasn’t lived here for months and I’m glad to be rid of him. Next time you go looking to deport his immigrant ass remember that he ain’t here and isn’t welcome back here. I don’t harbor illegals, my apartments are for people who deserve to be in this country.”

Shiro’s face hardens as he listens to the awful way the man refers to Lance and how the man claims that Lance is involved in illegal acts. Keith speaks before Shiro can even open his mouth to respond to vile landlord before them.

“Sir, as we have already stated, Lance is not in any kind of trouble. From our. Records Lance immigrated here legally so please refrain from making anymore false accusations in our presence, my partner and I do not take kindly to such blatant racism.” Keith says in a tone that implies some kind of threat but is still so monotonous that it gives the smaller officer the appearance of remaining calm and collected.

The man just scoffs and opens the dilapidated more so that the officers can pear into the rundown but obviously vacant apartment behind I’m. “I already told you that McClain doesn’t live here anymore. I drove his rent up to make sure I could get rid of him and now I’m checking one last time to make sure he didn’t leave any drugs behind before I rent this place out to someone who can actually afford to pay me rent.”

Keith looks like he is trying his hardest to not physically washout at the man in front of him after hearing him imply that Lance uses drugs. Shiro carefully reaches out and pushes Keith just a few steps behind him to prevent any physical altercations between his partner and the ignorant man standing before them.

Shiro takes a better look at the tiny apartment behind the man and is saddened by the image of Lance living in such a barren and dreary looking space. His heart breaks a bit as the weight of the man’s words sink and he realizes that Lance had been forced out of the apartment and if he was unable to afford a dump like the closet sized living space in front of them then there is almost no way that Lance has moved himself into a nicer apartment.

The man before them looks ready to slam the door in their faces again but Shiro raises his hand before he can get the chance. “Thank you for your time sir. We will be leaving now but some other officers will probably stop by later to investigate the legality of driving up rent to get rid of tenants that you do not like and to also investigate the standards of living in your rather run down establishment,” Shiro states before promptly dragging Keith away from the now enraged man who is shouting about knowing his rights and them needing warrants to set foot on his property again.

Keith turns to face Shiro as they come to stand beside their squad car once again, “Are we really gonna send some officers down here to investigate because I think it would be better if we set Coran after this guy. You’ve seen how much cares about Lance, he would definitely tear that land lord apart.” Keith grumbles and Shiro indulges in the idea of Coran using some odd mix of martial arts moves he’s seen in movies and any actual fighting skills that the cafe owner might have.

Shiro just shakes his head and makes his way around the squad car to get into the driver’s seat. He clicks the unlock button on the keys and pulls his door open before answering Keith, “No, we have bigger things to worry about right now than a racist apartment owner. We need to find Lance, not only because we need to question him so we can close the investigation of the cafe but also because Lance is out here on the streets somewhere.” Shiro says seriously and the only sound that follows is the sound of the patrol car’s doors closing and the engine starting up.

-

Lance sits on a metal bench in the far corner of the park that he has been staying in. All of belongings are tucked away beneath his feet except for the jar of peanut butter that he is cradling in his lap. He carefully digs in a metal spoon that he’d nabbed from the cafe when it was going to be thrown away for having a slightly bent handle.

He carefully scoops up just enough peanut butter to fill the spoon. His stomach grumbles in protest of Lance’s measly spoonful but Lance knows he can’t afford to be more generous with his portion sizes if he ever intends on saving enough money to be able to rent an apartment again. He brings the spoonful of peanut butter to his lips and sighs softly.

“I am so sick of peanut butter. I wish I had one of Hunk’s fresh pastries instead.” He grumbles before closing his lips around the spoonful of peanut butter.