Peter Pan’s Peanut Gallery
Jedi need a nap – 3:02 PM
Good luck before the parade, guys!
Wish I could be there!
TinkerPidge – 3:02 PM
I wish you were here too so you can stop lance’s tirade
I swear if I have to hear lance talk about how amazing lancome foundation is one more time I’m going to kill someone
Frog Prince – 3:03 PM
Shiro, please tell pidge that it’s important to wear stage makeup that doesn’t melt off her face when she’s going to be under the sun
sweating in front of thousands of people
people who are trying to snap a picture of her for memories sake
and possibly post it on social media
Peter Pan – 3:05 PM
Omg, Shiro, you just missed Pidge trying to flip a table over Lance
*flip Lance over a table
Also, good luck with your next show!
Even though you just finished another one, lol.
The Coranic – 3:06 PM
Yes, yes! I agree with Matthew!
Show that Kylo Ren a thing or two like you do every show!
Jedi need a nap – 3:07 PM
Thanks, you guys, but please tell me someone is stopping Pidge from maiming Lance.
I don’t think we have another prince readily available for the parade.
Matt, you are 25 years old. Please be responsible.
Peter Pan – 3:07 PM
I’m not responsible for anyone’s actions but my own.
Who do I look like? Pidge’s keeper?
Hunka Burnin’ Love – 3:09 PM
I’d hate to break it to you, Matt, but…
You kinda do? Since you wear a Peter Pan costume like sixteen hours a week.
And you got Pidge the TinkerBell gig. Even if she hates it.
Princess Allura – 3:10 PM
That’s not what she was telling me last week! ;)
There was a cute little girl who said she was very pretty and that she liked Pidge’s wings.
TinkerPidge – 3:10 PM
I TRUSTED YOU
Frog Prince – 3:10 PM
Awwww how precious! :')
TinkerPidge – 3:11 PM
This coming from the guy who cried when he learned that he got cast as Prince Naveen.
The Coranic – 3:11 PM
Yes, it was a very heart-warming scene!
We had to take you out to ice cream to get you to stop.
And even then, you wouldn’t stop crying into your sundae.
Princess Allura – 3:13 PM
Lance looks a little close to dying of embarrassment, but they’ve gotten mostly settled down now!
Your next show is the last one for today, right? Break a leg, Shiro!
Jedi need a nap – 3:13 PM
Thank you, Allura! :)
Frog Prince – 3:13 PM
TinkerPidge – 3:13 PM
Peter Pan – 3:13 PM
Hunka Burnin’ Love – 3:13 PM
The Coranic – 3:14 PM
Lightning McMullet – 3:15 PM
The fuck is going on?
Anyway, Hunk, could one of you help me check on Lance and Allura’s parade float just to make sure nothing goes wrong?
Hunka Burnin’ Love – 3:16 PM
“It looks like you’re all good,” Hunk said, closing the hidden latch in the parade float. “Everything’s in place. You should be fine.”
Keith shrugged, shoving his hands into the pockets of his red jacket. He kicked the toe of his boots and grumbled, “It’s the same route as always. I don’t think anything’s going to happen, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.” He could only imagine the traffic a downed parade float would cause. It hasn’t happened yet, but Keith would rather not be the first one.
“You gonna ask Lance out for dinner after the parade?” Hunk asked.
Keith frowned and leaned against the green parade float fashioned after a snazzy cruise ship atop blue waters, decorated with stylised water lilies. His brow furrowed before he replied, “I mean, I guess we have time before the night parade. I don’t see why not? We can invite everyone since Shiro’s last show is at four thirty-five; he should end around the same time as us.”
Hunk sighed and fixed Keith with an unimpressed stare, and Keith met it head on, standing his ground and playing dumb. Fighting against Hunk was like pushing a mountain. Hunk was insistent when he wanted to be, and now was one of those times. Even though Keith tried to feign innocence, Hunk would have none of it. “Keith, you’re not doing a really good job of hiding them,” Hunk stated.
“Hiding what?” Keith retorted, cocking his head and blinking slowly.
“Hmm, oh, I don’t know,” Hunk chimed, smirking deviously. Keith gulped, well acquainted with the glimmer of mischief in Hunk’s eyes. His eyes only glowed like that when he was scheming something together with Lance and Pidge. “Like how, when Lance left the Astro Blasters team, you followed after him.”
Keith felt heat creep up his neck and tried pushing it down, keeping it at bay, in order to maintain a nonchalant façade. “That was a coincidence,” Keith replied, barely able to hide his wince when he realised that his voice had cracked under pressure. “Lance was excited about how they were hiring roles for Prince Naveen and auditioned,” Keith recalled. A smile dared creeping onto his lips when he couldn’t help but remember how excited Lance was.
(“It’s like I was made for this role, Keith!” Lance had exclaimed. “Naveen’s a prince—handsome and suave—and a total hit with the ladies! Plus, he’s a musician, and I can play guitar, piano, and ukelele. I’ve watched The Princess and the Frog so many times that I can sing the entire soundtrack and impersonate his accent! Keith, I have an actual chance of being a Disney Prince!”
Nobody mentioned—nobody still mentions—the time he and Plaxum tried out for Prince Eric and Ariel. Lance was turned away from auditioning as Prince Eric before the preliminary rounds; in fact, they had turned down his application. He was nearly in tears when he was congratulating Plaxum for getting Ariel’s role.
So, after seeing Lance at his worst, how could Keith say no to that enthusiasm? To Lance’s blinding smile?
“Go for it then, casanova,” Keith had replied. “Nobody’s stopping you.”)
“Anyway, he got the part and left,” Keith insisted, “and since Lance was gone, the timetable for Astro Blasters got shifted around. Surprisingly, driving parade floats fits in my schedule better.” If given the chance, Disneyland might just assign you unreasonable hours; Keith had learnt his lessons back when he worked attractions.
“Mhmm, uh-huh, okay,” Hunk responded, grinning widely at Keith with a look that said he didn’t believe Keith at all. “Let’s not forget that one time Lance called the two of you—uh, what was it again? Oh yeah, right—Space Ranger Partners and you were so out of it that you forgot to help some passengers out of the car when the ride was over. They ended up having to sit through the ride a second time.”
“Hey, nobody got hurt, and they didn’t complain. Besides, I was just having an off day. We all have them,” Keith protested. “I was tired, and I didn’t have any coffee—”
“Keith, you hate coffee,” Hunk remarked, rolling his eyes.
“I’m tired, Hunk.”
“And it’s not like you personally requested The Princess and the Frog float or anything,” Hunk teased.
“I didn’t,” Keith grumbled, exasperated. “They just assign you to a float. You don’t get to pick.”
“But you wanted to drive Lance’s float,” Hunk continued irregardless. “You were pretty darn happy when they said you could drive Lance’s float.”
“It’s not only Lance’s float,” Keith protested. “It’s also Allura’s float—and the dude who plays the alligator. It’s not even the same people all the time. They switch out actors.”
Hunk huffed. “Your eyes just—they just light up whenever you see Lance though!” he argued. “Let’s compare how many times you’ve been in New Orleans Square back when you were working attractions and now. I’m pretty sure the numbers have definitely skyrocketed. You’re totally seeking out Lance, man.”
“I am not,” Keith tried. “They have good churros there.”
“Keith, they have good churros literally everywhere,” Hunk quipped. “You cannot walk three steps in Disneyland without seeing another churro cart.”
“The ones in New Orleans Square are different,” Keith grumbled weakly.
“Oh, oh, lemme guess why! Rumour has it that Prince Naveen is always down there with Princess Tiana or with the jazz men to perform. Sometimes, he’ll even greet the guests. That makes it special enough, yeah?” He wiggled his eyebrows. “Look, man. I don’t know why you’re so insistent on hiding your feelings, but there’s really no reason to. Lance is a nice guy.”
“So what? He’ll let me down easy?” Keith scoffed.
“Oh man, if that’s what you think is gonna happen, you’re in for a real surprise,” Hunk mused.
“Oh, nothing,” Hunk chirped, too chipper to be innocent. “You should still ask Lance out for dinner though—if not tonight, then some other time—or you guys can get lunch before the first parade or coffee or something.”
Keith frowned. “Why are you planning dates for Lance and me?” he asked, bewildered, before a more teasing note accented his tone. “Shouldn’t you be doing that for Shay instead of buying candied apples from her all the time? I’m surprised you don’t have any cavities, Hunk.”
“There’s nothing wrong with buying candied apples,” Hunk whined. “They’re delicious. I share them with Lance all the time; he loves them. Besides, at least I’m actually dating Shay.” He sighed, and unlike the last time, it wasn’t laced with frustration. His sigh was airy, rather. Dreamy, almost.
“I’ll think about it, okay?” Keith assured. “Anyway, it’s four, and I have a parade float to drive down Main Street, USA, in half an hour.”
“Hey, Keith! Hunk!”
“Speak of the devil,” Hunk teased, nudging Keith in the ribs. Grunting, Keith elbowed him back but straightened up once Lance and Allura, all dolled up in their signature costumes, got closer. “Hey, bro! You ready?” Hunk asked as he initiated a secret handshake with Lance. Keith didn’t bother trying to keep up with the movements.
“As ready as ever,” Lance replied with a wide grin. “This is definitely one of the coolest parts of the day.”
“Must be nice to be a prince,” Keith remarked, smirking. “All you have to do is look pretty and wave.” It was no secret that the entertainment cast members were all treated like royalty. Kids would line up for almost an entire hour for a few minutes’ worth of interaction with their favourite characters. They were beloved by everyone, and Lance thrived off that kind of energy.
Lance looked happy—happier than when he was working Astro Blasters. It wasn’t as though Lance had hated his last job; hell, he loved just being able to work at Disneyland. In fact, Lance had always been a peppy character on scene, getting along with the guests, and according to their supervisor, he was able to diffuse any kind of volatile situation. Lance just seemed to attract people with his positivity and optimism.
Still, Lance was born an entertainer, and Prince Naveen’s role was right up his alley. There was no way he’d stick around Astro Blasters when he had that kind of opportunity crop up right around the corner.
“They still haven’t assigned you to the Haunted Mansion, Keith?” Lance asked, batting his pretty lashes at him. “I’d think after they renovated the Tower of Terror, your next best fit is the Haunted Mansion. I mean, look at that face! Look at that hair!” He grinned, accepting the light punch that came his way, and winced ever so slightly, rubbing his shoulder. “Watch the costume, Space Ranger!”
Keith chuckled, ignoring the way that his chest swelled with a delightful sort of warmth, and nodded his head towards the parade float. “Get on the boat, Lance,” he chastised, hoping that the exasperation in his voice would cover up the fondness he felt. “We have to get into formation before heading down Main Street.”
“Already on it, hot shot,” Lance retorted. He stretched out his hand, grinning at Allura, and addressed her with a simple, “Milady?”
Allura rolled her eyes but accepted the help nevertheless. “You’re definitely suited to playing Naveen’s character. Handsome, but arrogant and egotistical,” she remarked.
Lance feigned offence. “But only at the beginning at the movie, right?”
Allura laughed. “I’ll admit that he does become more enjoyable towards the end.”
Keith turned away from the sight, smiling, only for what little contentment he felt to dissipate at the sight of Hunk urging him to ask Lance out—for dinner? On a date? Keith wasn’t all too sure, but it was nothing good—using only his hands and facial expressions. Hunk gave him one last pointed look and nodded his head towards the sight of Lance and Allura playfully flirting atop the float—what they called “getting into character.” When Keith made his way to his wheel, Hunk blocked the way, crossing his arms and intruding Keith’s space.
“I don’t know why you’re so persistent!” Keith hissed.
“Oh, trust me,” Hunk said, “when you figure it out, you’re gonna wish I meddled earlier.”
Frowning, Keith backed away from the wheel and tried to catch Lance’s attention. “Hey, Lance!” he shouted. Lance brightened at the sound of his name and leaned against the side of the pastel painted boat, arms crossed against the ledge, tilting his head to signal that he had heard. Keith bit down on his lower lip, hesitating once he realised that he hadn’t really thought about what he was going to say. He mustered the last drops of his courage and asked, “What are you doing after this?”
Lance’s face shifted into a pensive expression before he answered, “I’m going to take a stroll down New Orleans Square with Allura. We’re going swing dancing, and then we’re heading straight to a photo op. Why? What’s up?”
Right, Lance had an entirely different schedule than Keith now. Pursing his lips, Keith responded, “It’s nothing. I was thinking we could catch the ending of Shiro’s show, right when he beats Lotor in a lightsaber duel. Then we could all head out to dinner, I guess.” He averted his gaze, shifting his weight between his legs, and rocked back on his heels, staring up at the blue skies of sunny Southern California.
Lance grinned. “As much as I would love to see Lotor get his pompous ass owned, Prince Naveen is expected by little princes and princesses this afternoon.” Allura whispered something into his ear, and Lance seemed to light up at whatever she said. The heat that had swelled in Keith’s chest now burned darkly, uncomfortably, and it was honestly ridiculous. Keith knew he was being ridiculous. Hunk was being ridiculous. All of this was just ridiculous.
“Hey, Keith!” Lance exclaimed, bright eyed and—Keith couldn’t say for sure, but he looked excited? Eager? “You’re not driving parade floats tomorrow, right? I have the day off, too! I’m taking my niece and nephew to Disneyland. Yeah, it’s essentially babysitting, but do you wanna hang out anyway?”
Keith blinked. “We’re here every other day,” he remarked.
“Yeah, I get that, but we’re here working every other day! Plus, the block out dates for summer are coming up, which means the only time we’ll be here is for work!” Lance protested, pouting. God, he looked so cute. “Come on, Keith! I hardly ever get to see you any more!”
Heat flushed Keith’s cheeks, and he cleared his throat, cringing when he heard himself croak, “Yeah, sure.”
Lance was absolutely beaming. “I bet I can eat more churros than you,” he retorted.
Keith snorted. “As if,” he returned. “There’s a limit to how many you can buy, you know? Your bank account isn’t going to like you after that.”
“It’s worth it,” Lance protested. “Those churros are laced with pixie dust or something. They taste magical.”
“You said the same thing about Dole Whip,” Keith quipped. “I just think you’re a glutton.”
“At least you’ll never go hungry with me around,” Lance teased, smiling.
“Do you remember ‘all you can eat pancakes’ at IHOP? Because I don’t,” Keith remarked dryly. “I remember spending the entire day in bed, sick, because we ate too much. Anyway, I’m going to get us lined up properly. We’re heading out soon.”
“Thanks, Keith!” Lance cried just as Keith pivoted on his heel. “I’ll text you the details later!”
Keith gave a wave over his shoulder, and just before he slid into the driver’s seat, he could hear Allura tease Lance, “Very smooth. Next time though, leave the children out of it, Lance.” Keith settled into his seat, shutting the door to the compartment, completely in the dark except for a few illuminated buttons and a small screen that showed camera footage displaying what was in front of him. He slipped on his headset, checking in with the lookout, and started up the engines.
Nobody could see the grin on his lips. Giddiness fluttered in his stomach, lifting both his spirit and his hopes up.
Maybe Hunk was right, and all Keith had to do was take the plunge. Nevertheless, as reckless as he was known to be, Keith wasn’t going to admit that aloud. He’ll just test the waters, dip his toes in, and then decide if it was safe to jump in.
Keeeeith thanks for not running over pedestrians today!
Let’s do the same thing next week bc ik how much you love entitled tourists :)
Anyway do you wanna meet in front of the gate tmr at 9?
Or I can come pick you up since you’re like on the way.
Someone trusts you to drive their kids?
(sent 5:05 PM)
Hahaha, very funny :/
But yes I’m driving. Is that a problem?
I might not be able to drive blindfolded like you but I think I’m still a pretty good driver.
Not a problem.
I can recall almost dying the one time we went on a Starbucks run for Shiro though.
(sent 5:06 PM)
That was ONCE!!!
Can’t you follow Elsa’s example and let it go already? :P
Okay, I admit that was a bad pun on Hunk’s level
But the silent treatment? Really?
Sorry, I was grabbing dinner with Shiro. Some people need to eat to live.
Anyway, it’ll save gas and the environment if we just carpool.
(sent 5:31 PM)
Have fun at work, Lance.
(sent 5:37 PM)
Keith glanced at the screen of his phone, stifling the stirrings of disappointment.
“Waiting for a response from someone?” Shiro teased, a shit-eating grin stretched across his lips.
“Of course not.” Keith scoffed. “Who do you think I am? A teenage girl?”
“Yes,” Shiro answered, laughing. “More specifically, one who’s anticipating a reply from her crush.”
“There is no crush,” Keith protested, stuffing his phone into his pocket. He still had three hours until the night parade, and with most of his friends (including Lance) at work, there wasn’t much for him to do. He supposed he could wander around, but Keith didn’t really want to deal with navigating the large crowds Disneyland tended to attract, not after being stuffed into a dark, claustrophobic cockpit.
“Alright then,” Shiro acquiesced. “A teenage girl waiting for a reply from her handsome prince then.”
Keith cursed when he felt his cheeks warm at the accusation. “Whatever you say,” he grumbled. Two can play at that game, though. “Don’t you have a princess to visit before you leave?” A devious smirk crossed Keith’s lips when Shiro reddened, properly flustered.
“You might as well come with me,” Shiro suggested. He sighed, and if Keith didn’t know any better, he would have said that it sounded rather wistful. “Lance and Allura are almost inseparable.”
“Well,” Keith responded, swallowing the lump in his throat, “they are supposed to be married. It’s just acting anyway; it’s not like they mean it.”
Though, Keith couldn’t help but think, they are close. Considering that he had gotten to know Lance better during their time as “Space Ranger Partners,” however, it made sense. Allura was the one who was with Lance practically 24/7 now—not Keith. Keith only showed up at three in the afternoon to get ready for the parade, and there was hardly ever time for interaction. Lance had to get to his “princely duties” afterwards while Keith had a break until it was time for the night parade.
It was such a change from when they had first met though. Lance had tried flirting with Allura, and she had immediately shot him down. It took a couple of weeks before he could even turn around her first—and quite unfavourable—impression of him.
“Are you coming with me to New Orleans Square?” Shiro inquired. “I bet Lance would love to see you.”
Keith huffed and crossed his arms. “It’s not like he could even see me because of their crowd of adoring fans,” he grumbled.
“Unless you’re suddenly shorter than a crowd of children,” Shiro commented, “I don’t think that it’ll be a problem. Come on, you grouch. Let’s get moving.”
Groaning, Keith lifted himself up from his bench and followed after Shiro. They trekked across the theme park, leaving the retro Americana style of Main Street, USA, and entered the jungle known as Adventureland. They weaved through crowds of explorers, and Shiro greeted a couple of his friends working concessions. Eventually, the jungle gave way to the lively atmosphere of New Orleans.
They strolled past the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction, and in the space before a line of restaurants, there was a crowd forming to watch Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen perform an East Coast Swing routine. Everyone had smiles on their faces just watching Allura and Lance rock back and forth, spin, dip, and executing little tricks. Keith couldn’t help but smile at the sight, at the unadulterated joy and happiness permeating the atmosphere. It was contagious. Even Shiro, despite his lack of rhythm, was tapping his foot along to the beat of the song, caught up in the mood.
Maybe it was wishful thinking, but Lance seemed to light up when their eyes met.
Keith’s smile grew ever softer as Lance spun Allura around and then stretched his hand out towards a little girl in the audience. She accepted his offer to dance, and Lance took to leading her around expertly, careful not to strain her in any way. Allura, too, began to entertain another girl in the audience, a small toddler who was a little on the shy side. Lance switched partners and twirled around a teenager.
Before Keith knew it, someone bumped into him from behind. Keith barely heard an apology as he was sent tumbling through the crowd and into the spotlight. Looking up, he spotted Shiro slapping a hand over his mouth, stopping short of doubling over in laughter. Keith’s ears burned, but before he could dart off, he felt someone take his hand.
He whipped around, ready to give that someone a glare and a piece of his mind, only to falter when he saw Lance grinning at him. He felt Lance pull him into a dance, setting up their frame, and Keith’s clumsy steps could barely keep up with Lance’s practised steps. Still, Lance didn’t mind, taking charge to guide Keith and carefully lead him in a simple dance.
“Hey there, Space Ranger,” Lance chirped, winking at him. “You look a little lost here. Tomorrowland’s on the other side of the park, you know?”
“You and I both know that I’m not working Astro Blasters anymore,” Keith replied, rolling his eyes.
Lance huffed, pouting, and quipped, “Once Space Ranger Partners, always Space Ranger Partners, Keith.” His heart seized in his chest before beating wildly and uncontrollably. “Besides, we made a pretty good team! Or are you trying to forget all the bonding moments we had during all the emergency stops we’ve pulled during ride operations?”
“Nobody can forget all the shit that went down back at Command,” Keith retorted, matching Lance’s smirk. He was sure that it looked ridiculous on him though, considering how flushed his cheeks felt. “Anyway, I should go—”
“Nope,” Lance insisted, spinning Keith under their arms. He pulled Keith closer before the latter could escape from his clutches. “Why’d you come all the way here?” He grinned. “Did you miss me?”
“O-of course not!” Keith spluttered, cursing the red that stained his cheeks. “Shiro wanted to come here! For the Dole Whip!”
“Well, I’m afraid that I’m going to have to tell you that you passed the Enchanted Tiki Room a while ago, Keith,” Lance mused. “You’ll have to go all the way back to get your Dole Whip.” He chuckled and added, “Besides, we both know that Shiro is a big fan of Tiana.”
Keith chortled. “That’s true,” he responded. “Did you know he accidentally slipped up during his show when he heard the parade pass by Tomorrowland? Lotor managed to land a hit on him, and it left a nasty bruise.”
Lance burst out laughing. “Oh my God, that’s hilarious,” he crowed. “Shirogane? More like Shirogone.”
Keith snorted. “Hunk has been influencing you with his bad puns.”
Lance cringed. “I know,” he grumbled. “Him and Pidge both.”
The song came to an end, and so did their dance. Lance bowed twice, once towards Keith and once more towards the crowd. Before he rejoined with Allura, he gave Keith a smile, almost shy. (God, why was Keith’s heart beating so goddamn fast? Maybe because Lance was never shy, but he digressed.) He nearly tugged at his hair, hand stretched halfway, before he caught himself. Instead, Lance moved his hand to the back of his neck, rubbing it lightly, and said, “I’ll see you tomorrow?”
“Yeah,” Keith replied, breathless. “Definitely. Uh, I’ll text you. Again. So we can work out the details.”
“Yeah, yeah, for sure,” Lance responded, grinning. He lowered his hands and was about to stuff them into non-existent pockets before moving them behind his back and clasping them together. Lance rocked back on his heels and said, “I’ll talk to you later then.”
“Later,” Keith assured. He took a step back and then another and another, moving away from the crowd. He turned around just in time to watch Allura and Lance link arms. Several of the spectators approached them with their phones out, asking for photos and blocking Keith’s vision.
He shuffled back to Shiro’s side, who gave him yet another shit-eating grin. “You looked like you had fun out there,” Shiro teased.
“Shut it,” Keith grumbled. “I hope Lotor hits you with his lightsaber again.”
“That’s not very nice, Keith.”
“Neither are you, Shiro.” Keith rolled his eyes. “What’s the point of coming here if you’re not even going to say hi to ‘Princess Tiana’?”
“I waved,” Shiro replied brusquely. “She even invited me to dance.”
Keith hummed. “Why didn’t you?”
“I think one of us making a fool out of himself is good enough, never mind two,” Shiro answered.
Keith didn’t feel bad for elbowing Shiro where his bruise was.
I know you probably just got home after the last parade
and you’re probably tired
Sorry this is so last minute!!!
Anyway, I’ll get to your apartment around 8:30
I’ll be taking my brother’s car since he has the kids’ car seats and stuff
It’s fine. It’s summer vacation, so it’s not like I have plans when I’m not working.
(sent 9:56 PM)
Ngl, that sounds really sad.
That’s why we’re going to make tomorrow the best day of your entire damn life!!!
Or summer vacation bc I’m pretty sure the best day of your life was when you met me ;)
Jsyk this is most likely going to be a scavenger hunt for princesses though
My niece is still obsessed with Frozen so we’ll be looking for Elsa and Anna for sure
That’s no big deal.
They’re only the most popular princesses, so their lines are probably as long as most of the roller coasters.
(sent 9:57 PM)
She loves Tinkerbell too
Oh God. Pidge is working tomorrow.
(sent 9:57 PM)
Pidge has warmed up to her job. Mostly.
There’s a reason why she prefers parades tho :P
Anyway, this is why we’ll be using my pass.
You sure? I could use my own. It’s not like I go that often anyway.
(sent 9:58 PM)
Dude, chill. It’s nbd!
If you’re that worried about it then we can use your pass next time! :)
There’s a next time?
Keith stared at the screen, heart thumping a little bit faster than usual, before remembering that replying to messages was only proper etiquette.
But what do I say? Is this a date? But Lance’s niece and nephew are going to be there?
Okay, okay, whatever. If you’re sure.
(sent 10:00 PM)
My nephew acts all tough but he’s actually terrified of anything with “mountain” in the name
So we won’t go on more than half the roller coasters. Anything else I should know about?
(sent 10:01 PM)
Well, my niece loops the Moana soundtrack in the car.
(sent 10:02 PM)
And it really was wonderful.
“I didn’t know you could sing,” Keith blurted out the moment “How Far I’ll Go” ended.
Lance reached for his phone, hitting the back button on his Spotify to replay the track for his niece, a bubbly little six year old with dark hair pulled into cute twin tails and bright brown eyes. Lance had said that she was a splitting image of her grandmother—Lance’s mother—when she was younger.
“I told you that I could sing, didn’t I?” Lance chirped as he drove down the winding road and over the sloping hills. He joined Maritza just in time for the chorus.
“You said that you knew the entire soundtrack for The Princess and the Frog when you auditioned for—”
“Do you live to ruin children’s dreams, Keith?” Lance interrupted. “They’re not even ten yet!”
Keith blinked. “They don’t know the truth about Santa, do they?”
“What about Santa?” Alfonso inquired, kicking his feet back and forth as he blinked his big, blue eyes at Lance and Keith.
“That he prefers gingerbread cookies over chocolate chip,” Lance answered before Keith could cut in. Lance gave Keith a pointed look as he slowed to a stop at a red light. Keith rolled his eyes, but he couldn’t do anything about the smile that made itself at home on his lips.
Keith supposed that he’ll play along then. It’s fine as long as he’s not the one who has to break the truth to these children—that Santa Claus doesn’t exist, and no, neither did the Tooth Fairy, and Mickey and Minnie were actually cast members sized between four foot eight and five foot two inches. He’s only known Maritza and Alfonso for all of ten minutes, and he’s pretty sure that Maritza, the darling little girl, would burst into tears if she learned that Elsa was actually just a lookalike and not the real deal.
“Keith, who’s your favourite princess?” Maritza asked, beaming.
“That’s a tough question,” Keith mused—and only because he never gave the question any thought before. “Maybe Mulan? She kicks as—” Lance shot him a glare “—butt. She kicks butt.”
“Papi says Mulan isn’t a princess,” Alfonso interjected.
“Well, she’s a part of the franchise. Plus, being a hero of China is a pretty big accomplishment, so she counts in my books,” Lance chirped. “Who’s the one who works at Disneyland here?”
“Tío Lance!” the two sang.
“And who doesn’t?”
“So who knows more about Disney princesses?”
Lance grinned. “That’s what I thought.”
“Tío Lance,” Maritza chirped, “do you know Mulan? Can we meet Mulan, too?”
“Only if she’s visiting today, princesa,” Lance replied. “It’s hard to get a hold of her. I know for sure Tinkerbell, Ariel, and Jasmine are going to be there though. If we’re lucky, we can also find Moana in Adventureland and Tiana in New Orleans—oh, and Spider-Man will be with the other Marvel heroes in California Adventure, too, Alfonso!”
Alfonso’s eyes lit up like Christmas lights. “We have to go find him!”
“All in due time, buddy,” Lance assured as he drove into the parking structure. He reached into the back pocket of his short, army green shorts (and Keith really did try not to stare at Lance’s legs that stretched for days) and pulled out his cast member ID to show the toll booth operator.
“Welcome back, cast member!” he exclaimed, lifting the gate for them to pass. Lance parked on the top floor, and he all but leapt out of the minivan. He popped open the door to the back, snatching his light grey backpack, printed with Winnie the Pooh, Piglet, and hunny pots all over the canvas, from the floor and slipping it over his shoulders. Keith had to pull his eyes away from watching how the muscles in Lance’s arms flexed.
Honestly, it’d be a wonder if Lance didn’t get stopped at the security checkpoint for being undeniably attractive, dressed up in his short shorts and his black oversized muscle top, the hem falling to the cuffs of his shorts. A denim jacket with a grey hood was tied around his waist, either waiting to be used for the water rides or for the temperature drop expected that night. Keith, on the other hand, was hardly dressed for the summer climate, what with his denim skinny jeans, black combat boots, and black tank top, exposing the dragon tattooed onto his right shoulder. At least his red flannel was tied around his waist rather than helping the heat suffocate him.
“What’d you bring?” Keith inquired curiously, distracting himself from Lance’s appearance, as the two of them helped the kids out of their car seats and led them by the hand downstairs, where they would wait for the next tram to take them to the gate.
“My wallet, phone, keys… Plus, three water bottles, sunscreen, power bank,” Lance listed off, “and a couple of snacks—cookies, chips, and granola bars—just in case we get hungry. I’m planning on eating actual lunch though; I’m not too sure about dinner plans yet.”
Keith only brought his wallet, phone, and keys, all of which were tucked into the pockets of his jeans. “Well,” he said, chuckling, “I feel underprepared.”
“Don’t be,” Lance replied with a shrug. “Half of the stuff that’s packed was mostly my mom and my sister-in-law.”
“They couldn’t come?” Keith asked.
“Nah,” Lance responded, shrugging. “My sister-in-law and my brother are both working, and my mom says that her old bones can’t keep up with the kids at Disney. My older sister is on a date with her boyfriend and says to have fun with the kids. So here we are!”
They shuffled along through security before lining up in front of the gates leading into California Adventure.
“So what’s the gameplan?” Keith asked, starting to pull his hair into a small ponytail. It would only get warmer as they approached noon. “You look like you have the whole day planned out.”
“Hmm, not all of it,” Lance replied. “For now, I figured we just snatch up the fastpasses for Radiator Springs Racers before they stop distributing them. Then we wander around Cars Land or the pier for a bit—or head towards the Marvel area and hunt down Spider-Man. After that, we head on over to Disneyland, grab a couple of fastpasses in Tomorrowland, beat my high score in Astro Blasters, and then go on a scavenger hunt for Tinkerbell and princesses. We’ll wing it after that.”
“Sounds good,” Keith responded, shrugging. “Bet I can top your score in Astro Blasters though.”
Lance blanched. “I’m sorry, who was the level five Ranger First Class, you level four Space Scout?” he huffed.
“You were only a thousand points ahead!” Keith argued as he threw out his arms in a show of exasperation. “Considering how the game works, that’s hardly a difference!”
“Oh, it is so on,” Lance hissed, pouting.
Once they made it to the front, Maritza and Alfonso were practically bubbling with excitement, bouncing on their toes as Lance’s ID was scanned, printing out four tickets. “Write your names on the tickets, dears,” the attendant chimed as she handed them out, presenting the party with a fine point Sharpie.
“Tío Lance, Tío Keith, look!” Maritza exclaimed, waving her ticket in front of their faces. “My ticket has Minnie, Mickey, and Goofy!”
“Very nice,” Lance appraised. “It’s cute, just like you!”
“Mine has Mater!” Alfonso cried, showing his design off as well.
They walked a little ways farther from the gate, and Lance nudged Keith in the side, smiling. “Look,” he said, “we’re matching.” He held his ticket closer to Keith’s, and certainly enough, they ended up with the same design—Donald Duck and Pluto standing together with the Fun Wheel in the background.
“Let’s take a photo!” he decided, motioning for the four of them to hold out their tickets in a circle, as he brought out his phone. Grinning, he snapped a quick picture before wrapping his arm around Keith’s shoulders and bringing him in closer. Keith flushed from the warmth of Lance’s bare skin pressing against his (and God, how was Lance’s skin so damn soft?) and he barely had time to blink before Lance took a selfie of the two of them. (How did he manage to look so perfect when Keith looked so flustered?) “For memories’ sake,” Lance offered by ways of explanation. “Anyway! Let’s get moving!” He linked arms with Keith and stretched out his free hand for Maritza to take while Alfonso clung onto the fabric of Keith’s flannel.
For the most part, things went as Lance had planned. They got their fastpasses for Radiator Springs Racers, and then, waiting for their return time, the four of them wandered around Cars Land. Lance had a couple photos snapped at Flo’s V8 Cafe and the Crazy Cone Motel, dragging Keith into ridiculous poses, and they waited in line to ride dancing Italian cars in Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters, where Maritza and Alfonso rode together in one car, leaving Lance and Keith together in another—before returning to Racers.
Keith gave the California Screamin’ one last yearning glance as they passed the massive roller coaster on the boardwalk, relishing the shrieks and squeals of the riders. There was no way that Lance couldn’t notice. Lance patted Keith’s shoulder in consolation. “Next time,” he promised with a smile that failed to hide just how amused he was at Keith’s need for high speed rides.
For now, they had to follow Alfonso on his hunt for Spider-Man; Alfonso wouldn’t leave California Adventure without seeing him at least once. Since they were already lined up, Lance took a selfie with Spider-Man as well after getting Alfonso’s picture.
“I think Elsa and Anna are nearby, actually,” Lance thought aloud.
Of course, that statement had sealed his fate. Maritza gripped onto his hand tightly, eyes wide, and declared, “We have to go find them.”
Thus, they were tasked with tracking down Elsa and Anna in Hollywood Land for Maritza’s sake, and only after they were done with the photo sessions were they able to hightail it back to Disneyland.
“Tío Lance,” Maritza said, tugging on the fabric of his muscle tank, “can we get ears, too?” She pointed in the direction of a hat shop, where a pair of sisters and their parents had exited, all of them wearing Mickey and Minnie Mouse ears.
Lance shrugged. “Why not?”
Keith openly gaped at his response. He leaned closer to Lance’s ear, whispering so that neither of the siblings could hear, “Those ears are like twenty, twenty-five bucks, Lance. They’re ridiculously overpriced!”
“Keith, I am trying to win the title of best uncle here,” Lance replied tersely. “I can’t lose to my in-laws. My pride is on the line here, dude!” He looked mortified at the mere prospect of being lesser than “best uncle.” He grinned and added, “Besides, we just got paid.”
“Lance. That’s nearly seventy-five dollars down the drain.”
“They’re cute though,” Lance protested, “and it’ll make the kids happy!”
Keith sighed. “You’re spoiling them,” he remarked.
“What’s wrong with that?” Lance sniffed. “I don’t get to do it often.”
“Your sister-in-law nearly revoked your best uncle privileges after you fed them ice cream for dinner,” Keith reminded. “You were whining for a week.” It was the longest damn week of his life.
“Louisa wouldn’t get mad if I bought her kids cute little mouse ears!” Lance griped. “It’s not like I’m giving them candy for breakfast! End of discussion! Let’s go!”
With that, he marched in the direction of the hat shop, and Keith sighed once again, resigned to his fate. He trailed after Lance, his steps slowing into a begrudging trudge, and watched as Maritza became enticed by soft pastel colours and the shine of glitter and sequins, Lance only a few steps behind her. She picked out an Elsa styled pair of mouse ears while Alfonso wandered a few paces away, taken by a baseball cap with mouse ears fashioned on the sides. As they flaunted their new prizes, Lance had managed to find a pair of sequined Minnie Mouse ears with a puffy blue bow speckled with silver crescent moons and five-pointed stars, and he didn’t hesitate to put it on his head—much to Maritza’s delight and, well, Keith’s.
After all, Lance was cute.
And with that wide grin? Way too cute.
“Keith!” he cried, holding out another Minnie Mouse headband. Rather than the blue bow, however, it was styled with the classic red and white polka-dotted bow. “I found one for you, too!”
The outburst made a few heads turn, and those who paid attention tittered quietly. Flushing, Keith hissed, “I don’t need one!”
Despite Keith’s snapping and sneering, Lance somehow managed to plop it onto Keith’s head, grin stretching ever wider, and insisted, “It looks good on you! We match! Look!”
He whipped out his phone again and snapped another selfie that caught Keith off-guard. Lance flashed the screen of his phone at Keith, showing off his wide, beaming smile that rivalled the entirety of the Electrical Parade. Beside him, Keith was… well, taken out of context, it looked like he was pouting in that photo, but he would deny that later if anyone brought it up.
Shit, Lance really is cute.
Keith tugged at the price tag, trying to get a good look at the numbers printed there, but Lance slapped his hand away. Before Keith could protest, Lance took all the headbands and Alfonso’s ball cap to the front counter. All four of them walked out, wearing the new purchases, with Lance almost a hundred dollars poorer if not for his discount.
“I’m paying for lunch,” Keith insisted. It might not cover the cost of all four of the mouse ears, but it should be more than enough to pay for Keith’s Minnie Mouse headband. When Lance opened his mouth to argue, Keith glared at him. “I’m. Paying. For. Lunch.”
Lance pouted, closing his mouth. “Fine,” he grumbled.
Still, Keith supposed getting the dumb headbands might have been worth it. Lance was beyond ecstatic when they were taking pictures at the Walt Disney statue, the Sword in the Stone, and the Castle. “We just look so damn cute!” Lance had cooed.
Keith wasn’t entirely sure about that. He must have been a sight to see (with his adorable red headband contrasting his combat boots, his piercings, and his dragon tattoo), but a part of him was flattered that Lance at least thought so—even if Lance was just spitting out words.
Nevertheless, Lance was more than satisfied with their photos, with how they were coordinated, and Keith was okay with that…although he still didn’t approve of Lance’s purchases. “We don’t get to do this all the time,” Lance reasoned, “since we’re usually working. It’s a different experience to be a guest, so we might as well enjoy it.”
“Says you,” Keith huffed. “Entertainment cast members are treated like literal royalty.”
“Anyway,” Lance continued, regardless of Keith’s interruption, “we can hate ourselves for spending so much money later. The point is to enjoy the moment while it lasts.”
“Unless you’re Walt Disney,” Keith responded, gazing up at what was once Walt Disney’s personal apartment. “You’d probably be able to spend forever here if you were. I heard his apartment is haunted—”
“La la la!” Lance wailed at the top of his lungs, attracting a fair share of attention from the other guests around them, as he slapped his hands over his ears. “Not listening! Not. Listening. Keith.”
Keith snorted, rolling his eyes, as he watched Lance nearly walk into Mary Poppins. Maritza giggled into her hand while Alfonso openly guffawed at their uncle’s antics. “You’re weird, Tío Lance!” Alfonso cried.
After averting another close call (where Lance was about to crash into a parked stroller the moment Keith launched into another ghost story upon spotting Space Mountain), they entered Tomorrowland and bustled over to the area distributing fastpasses for Star Tours. Since it was nearby, they got in line for Astro Blasters for Keith and Lance’s destined duel. Both Lance and Keith spent the wait bickering about where the best ice cream parlour was.
(“Obviously,” Lance insisted, “it’s Clarabelle’s!”
Keith snorted. “You know nothing,” he retorted. “Gibson Girl’s ice cream is the best.”
“Oh, poor, poor Keith,” Lance crooned, batting his eyes with fake sympathy, “you can just continue to live in ignorance.”)
Meanwhile, Maritza and Alfonso were browsing the Disneyland app on Lance’s phone to see which characters they could meet, what rides they wanted to go on, where they wanted to eat for lunch, what shows they wanted to watch, and so on.
“Can we go on Nemo after Star Wars?” Maritza asked as she handed Lance his phone. She gave Lance a charming little pout that reminded Keith both of Lance’s pout and of a kicked puppy. Someone must have been teaching her all of his old tricks, and if her parents were of the same mind as Keith, they certainly didn’t appreciate the effort.
“Lance is the youngest child,” Hunk had once told him, “so all he has to do is flutter his eyes, pout, say ‘pretty please with a cherry on top,’ and his brother and sister will give him the literal world.”
It looked like even Lance wasn’t immune either. Patting Maritza’s head, he chirped, “Of course we can, Princesa, but only after we eat lunch!”
Maritza cheered and posed once she realised Lance was going to snap a picture of her and the Buzz Lightyear animatronic together. They continued their journey through Star Command, stopping once they reached the usher. She brightened immediately upon spotting Lance and Keith. “Cadet Reyes! Cadet Yeon!” she greeted, reaching out to bring Lance and Keith in a hug. “Welcome back to Star Command! How many members in your party?”
“Hello, Julie!” Lance replied, grinning. He held up four fingers, and she gestured for them to continue. Another cast member at the front monitoring guests getting on and off the ride smiled as they approached. She held out a hand in front of Maritza and Alfonso before they could climb onto their car, and after the previous riders cleared out, she motioned for them to go ahead. Maritza and Alfonso clamoured onto a car, and the cast member helped them get buckled in. Keith and Lance climbed onto a car of their own, Lance claiming the left side for himself while Keith insisted on steering.
“Ready to get your butt kicked, Cadet Yeon?” Lance challenged, removing his laser gun from its mount.
Keith rolled his eyes. “Shut up and put your money where your mouth is, Cadet Reyes,” he quipped. “Loser pays for churros.”
“Oh, you are so on,” Lance sneered, looking all the more smug. “Be prepared to eat your words, McMullet!”
Keith snorted before he moved on and tested the motion of the car. He moved the joystick between them left and right and, consequently, made their pod turn with the corresponding directions. The doors opened in front of them, immersing them in the dark shooting gallery. In front of them, Alfonso had already started shooting while Maritza was moving their pod around in a complete 360 motion. Once they spotted their guardians, the two of them waved wildly, and Lance waved with his left hand, continuing to shoot targets with his right. Keith, busy moving them around with his left hand and trying to shoot single-handedly with his right, could only give them a nod before the kids’ pod turned around again.
Keith kept aiming target after target, quickly chasing after those that light up with bright neon colours, and Lance, as always, had impeccable marksmanship. Out of the corner of his eye, Keith noticed that Lance’s laser gun always flashed with colours every time he shot at a target, indicating that he had managed to hit whatever he was gunning for. Keith’s accuracy was less than stellar, but his recovery made up for his aim.
Lance and Keith’s points began to stack up, and they were usually tied, for the most part, as they were taken through the shooting gallery. Just as Emperor Zurg came into sight, the ride came to an abrupt stop, and an announcement was made, apologising for the emergency stop and the inconvenience. Lance turned to face Keith, grin wide, and barked a loud, giddy laugh. “Just like old times!” he exclaimed.
Keith chuckled, shaking his head. “Someone’s probably gotten stuck trying to get off,” he mused, taking aim for another target located on Emperor Zurg’s body.
Lance had stolen it first, his gun flashing with neon colours once more, and took the lead. The ride may have stopped, but the guns were completely functional and so was the point counting system. It was best to take advantage of this emergency stop while they could.
“I hope someone forgets their bag, too, so they have to stop the ride again,” Lance replied. “You’re cutting it a little too close there to be comfortable.”
Keith scoffed. “So you admit that I’m not bad,” he quipped.
“I never said that you were,” Lance replied, smirking. “I’m just better.”
“Oh yeah?” Keith snorted. “That’s not what the scores are saying.”
Lance rolled his eyes. Keith watched as Lance swapped his gun to his left hand (was Lance ambidextrous?), and he jolted—nearly jumping out of the car had they not been buckled down—when he felt Lance’s slender fingers (God, why were his hands so soft?) settle atop his hand. Keith could feel all the blood rush to his face, burning his cheeks and the tips of his ears, and all he could hear was his heart pounding in his ears, drowning out the background noise of laser guns and galactic music.
He felt Lance’s grip tighten ever so slightly, tilting the pod one way so that they were better angled at Zurg, and just as one of the targets glowed neon green, Lance pulled his trigger, aiming at Zurg’s gun. Lance’s gun flashed with neon colours, playing a victory chime that blared in Keith’s ear. Then, in a move that would definitely set him higher than Keith, Lance fired at Zurg’s chest—and successfully hit his target. Keith’s heart pounded faster when Lance gave him that irritating smirk—the one that made Keith want to kiss it off Lance’s stupid pretty face and make him breathless.
“Um, I’m pretty sure that’s what the scores are saying,” Lance chirped. His last move had set him at least fifty thousand points ahead of Keith, and that was all levels of unfair. Keith couldn’t even complain because Lance, technically, hadn’t cheated. Keith was being stupid. He always seemed to be stupid when it came to Lance.
“You haven’t won yet,” Keith managed to spit out, continuously firing at a spot on Zurg’s arm.
As expected, Lance didn’t back down from a challenge and followed Keith’s example. The ride started up again, and, as he got in a couple more shots at Zurg, Keith turned their pods so that they continued to face Emperor Zurg. He only turned them back around once they had gotten too far away for the gunfire to connect with the targets.
“And, of course,” Lance gloated, “I’m the Galactic Hero.”
“Hey,” Keith protested, elbowing Lance, “I was only five thousand points behind. We’re both Galactic Heroes.”
“But you’re the Galactic Hero who has to buy churros,” Lance reminded, smirking.
“Fine, fine,” Keith acquiesced. “A deal’s a deal.”
They hopped out of their car the moment the safety was off and met up with Maritza and Alfonso, who were diligently waiting for them at the exit. “All right!” Lance exclaimed. “Onto the next ride!” He stretched out his hands, and Maritza and Alfonso each grabbed one. Leading them out of the building with a bounce in his step, Keith couldn’t help but smile as he followed after Lance and the kids.
“The line is super long!” Alfonso cried as they reached the building that housed Star Tours.
The line wound around the building, dividing into separate lines for the stand-by entrance and the fastpass returns. They shuffled towards the end of the latter, and Maritza pulled at the leg of Lance’s shorts. Lance lifted her into his arms. She smiled as she met Keith’s eyes, and Keith shyly returned it. He never had any siblings—namely younger siblings—but Shiro was the closest person he had to an older brother, at least.
“I like your Minnie ears. You look really pretty,” she offered, blushing. Maritza ducked her head into Lance’s shoulder, and Keith could feel his cheeks bloom with heat, too. He was probably just as red as Maritza. Keith turned to Lance, expecting some kind of explanation, but Lance was pointedly avoiding his gaze, cheeks tinged a tickled pink.
“I like your ears, too,” Keith responded. “They’re very cute.”
There was a wailing noise, sounding as though it was stifled in the back of someone’s throat, that oddly reminded Keith of a yowling cat. Most people who heard it turned in their direction, and even Keith couldn’t help but glance at Lance (since the sound did come from his direction), who only seemed to redden even more under the attention.
Keith pursed his lips. Maybe Lance agreed with Maritza? The thought forced the red staining his cheeks to linger. Maybe, Keith amended, he was being too hopeful.
After all, Maritza probably meant that the Minnie ears looked pretty—not Keith himself. They didn’t match him at all, not in style, not in personality, not in attitude. However, if wearing them made Lance and the kids happy, then what choice did he have in the matter? Once he got home, he’ll be pawning it off on eBay, and he’d never have to wear it again.
...unless Lance invited him on another expedition to Disneyland.
He did say there would be a next time, didn’t he? At the very least, Lance had implied it.
Keith sighed through his nose, sending a few strands of his bangs flying. Again, he was being too hopeful. Lance was just being a nice guy; he probably didn’t even realise he had extended another invitation to Keith.
“Okay, kiddo,” Lance declared, “looks like the line’s moving. Down you go!”
He lowered Maritza to the ground, half listening as she mapped out the route they would take through Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. Keith was certain that Lance knew the princesses’ schedules and where they were usually roaming by heart now, and he knew exactly where to avoid heavy traffic. After all, he couldn’t have spent all that time with the other royal cast members doing nothing.
“Why do we have to go see princesses?” Alfonso whined.
“Well, we saw the Marvel heroes for you,” Lance reminded. “You had Captain America haul you onto his shoulder, so I think it’s only fair that your sister gets to meet some princesses.”
The woman in front of them chuckled. She turned to Lance, smiling, and said, “They’re absolutely precious. Mine were just like that, but now they’ve grown up and gone to college.” Punctuating that statement, she gently cuffed a young man on the ear, a fond smile on her lips. The young woman next to him—his sister, Keith realised, possibly a fraternal twin—snickered.
“Thank you,” Lance replied, matching her smile.
“It’s sweet that you’re taking them out,” the older woman mentioned. “You and your husband make for a lovely family.”
Keith could feel his jaw unhinge, dropping to the ground, as he openly gaped at the woman. Beside him, Lance was visibly burning—and certainly not from the sun, not yet. “Mom!” the young woman hissed.
“Oh dear, was I wrong?” she asked, seemingly not too perturbed.
“I, uh, well, um,” Lance spluttered, “they’re my niece and nephew—not… not our children.”
“Oh,” the woman mused. “That does make a lot of sense. You and your partner did look rather young—not that much older than my own kids, I would assume.”
“Oh my God, Mom,” the young man mumbled, throwing his head into his hands. Her husband—or at least, Keith assumed he was her husband (after this whole fiasco, Keith could be wrong and the older man might as well be an uncle or a family friend)—chuckled and patted the twins’ shoulders simultaneously.
“You are together, right?” the mother pressed, looking genuinely curious. “You two look so sweet together.”
“Uh, ma’am?” someone from behind them spoke up, pointing to the gap in space. “The line’s moving.”
“Oh, yes, right!” she exclaimed, closing the distance. “Sorry about that!”
Keith caught a glimpse of Lance turning around to face the stranger, mouthing, “Thank you.”
The other guest only grinned. “I have an aunt just like that,” he confessed in a low whisper, “real nosy, always buttin’ into other people’s business. Ain’t much she can do knowing whether you two fellows are datin’ or not.” With that, he returned to his own family, scooping a little girl up into his arms and then onto his shoulders so that she could get a better view of the park and what else she would want to do.
Once inside the building for Star Tours, Alfonso and Maritza were awestruck by the space décor all around them. The interior was modelled after a galactic port with posters advertising travel destinations and screens displaying flight statuses and weather information. While Alfonso and Maritza were distracted by the droids, Lance snapped pictures of the two of them and then wrapped an arm around Keith, taking a selfie with the droids in the background.
“You can warn a guy,” Keith protested.
Lance cackled. “Your expressions are the best though,” he reasoned.
Keith huffed, but yeah, sure, maybe he’ll deal with the random selfies if it makes Lance smile like that again.
“Everyone, make sure to grab your flight glasses!” the flight attendant announced over the chattering of the crowd. Lance snatched four of the 3D glasses and handed them out to everyone in his group. Alfonso immediately put them on, marvelling at the design, and clung onto Lance’s hand after another cast member gave them a standing position. Keith helped Maritza put on her pair of glasses so that they didn’t push off her Elsa-styled mouse ears.
“We’re group one!” Alfonso exclaimed, turning back to face Keith and Maritza.
Keith slipped on his 3D glasses and guided Maritza by the hand to catch up with her brother and uncle. “Isn’t group one the very back row?” Keith inquired, standing beside Lance. Alfonso had swapped places with him to get a better look at the safety instructions playing on the screen above their heads.
“Which means that we get the best seats,” Lance chirped.
The doors to the ride simulator opened, and they trekked inside, taking their seats. Lance immediately stuffed his backpack in the compartment below his seat. “Can you help Maritza and Alfonso buckle up?” Lance asked Keith with a pleading smile.
“Sure thing,” Keith replied. After he secured his own seatbelt, he turned to Maritza and made sure that hers was all tight. “Alfonso, buddy, you got it?”
“I got it!” Alfonso chirped, clicking his seatbelt in. He tugged on the yellow strap to demonstrate that it was secure.
“Good job, buddy.”
After everyone boarded the simulator, the cast member had each row tug on the yellow strap attached to their seatbelts. Once the check finished, the doors closed, and a screen revealed itself in front of them. At the front C-3PO complained to R2-D2 that he wasn’t the captain of this ship, that there must be some kind of misunderstanding, but the ship took off irregardless. Before the ship could leave the terminal, however, they were stopped by the Galactic Empire with Darth Vader at the head, claiming that they have a rebel spy aboard.
A droid scanned the crowd, and as it did so, it displayed a series of portraits that flickered for several seconds before stopping on a particular photograph.
“Keith! It’s you!” Alfonso shrieked. “Keith! You’re the rebel spy!” A couple of guests in the room chuckled at the exclamation.
Keith hid his face in his hands.
“Thanks for the lunch, rebel spy,” Lance teased as Keith and Alfonso returned with two trays. The tray that Keith held had two cheeseburgers and fries while Alfonso’s had a hamburger and chicken nuggets. Keith took a seat next to Lance, Alfonso sitting between Keith and Maritza.
“Would you drop it already?” Keith groaned.
“It figures they would choose you though, edgelord,” Lance retorted with an amused grin pulling at his lips. He accepted one of the platters with a cheeseburger and fries. “Rebel is probably one of your middle names, isn’t it? Right next to Darkness.”
“That’s it,” Keith grumbled. “No churros for you.”
“But Keeeith!” Lance whined. “You promised!”
Keith rolled his eyes, and for a moment, he wondered if he could pass the redness on his cheeks as a mild sunburn. Still, Lance didn’t seem to linger too long on the subject. Instead, he placed the hamburger in front of Alfonso and the chicken nuggets in front of Maritza, but the two kids sat backwards, completely uninterested in their lunch, as they stared at the Tomorrowland Terrace stage.
“Alfonso, Maritza, eat your lunch, kiddos. The show starts in twenty minutes; it can wait,” Lance chastised as he piled a handful of fries onto Maritza’s plate. Keith did the same for Alfonso, and Lance gave him a small smile. “You didn’t have to do that,” Lance said. “I was going to give Alfonso mine.”
“Well, now we all have French fries,” Keith remarked, “and you don’t have to be a martyr.”
Lance laughed. “Thanks, Keith.”
“Just eat your fries, Lance.”
“Fine, fine,” Lance acquiesced, popping a French fry into his mouth. “You think we can talk to Shiro after his show?”
“Doubtful,” Keith replied. “He has another one after this showing, remember?”
“Must be rough,” Lance mused as he picked up his burger.
“Well, not all of us can be paid to look pretty,” Keith mumbled.
Fluttering his long lashes at Keith, Lance gave him a haughty smirk. “Did I hear that right?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“You think I look pretty?” Lance cooed.
“I think you heard wrong.”
“Aw, Keith, you’re too sweet,” Lance crooned, giggling. He lightly tapped Keith’s foot underneath the table, but luckily, he left him alone after that, going back to eating his burger, unaware of how Keith’s cheeks darkened. His attention was diverted once again when Alfonso squealed in delight.
“Tío Lance, it’s starting!” Alfonso cried, pointing at the stage.
The Jedi Master and Apprentice gathered a group of children onto the stage, handing them a robe and lightsaber, and started teaching them basic techniques. Keith chuckled a bit when a child asked Shiro about his robot arm, and as the Jedi Apprentice, he explained that he had lost his original arm when he was caught up in a battle between the Rebel Forces and the Empire.
Alfonso gasped when Darth Vader and the Seventh Sister appeared on the stage, and he watched, captivated, as every student had a turn facing off Darth Vader and the Seventh Sister. Lance laughed and asked, “You wanna join them next time?”
His nephew shook his head furiously. Keith raised an eyebrow and caught Lance’s eye. “Stage fright,” Lance mouthed in his direction. “He’s shy.” Lance didn’t push his nephew any more on the matter. Instead, he was busy trying to keep his burger from falling apart.
“Kylo Ren!” Alfonso whispered, wide eyed, as Lotor was raised onto the stage from a platform.
After a pep talk from Yoda, the Jedi Apprentice engaged Kylo Ren in a battle that Keith knew for a fact both Shiro and Lotor enjoyed. It may have been scripted for the most part, but Lotor seriously acted as though he was out for blood, challenging Shiro to keep up with his motions. Eventually, as with every show, Shiro overpowered him and had Lotor at his mercy. Before he could deal the killing blow, the children pleaded him not to do it, and Kylo Ren escaped.
The audience cheered, and Lance joined in on the applause. He decided that sitting down wasn’t enough, however. Popping out of his seat, he gave the cast a standing ovation. “Way to go, Shiro!” Lance called out. His shout seemed to catch Shiro’s attention, and the latter gave a smile in Lance’s direction. His smile only widened once he spotted Keith, and much to his dismay, it transformed into a lopsided smirk.
Shit. He’s definitely getting ideas.
“Are we done here?” Keith asked. He was already done with his burger and fries; he’d seen this show too many times and lost interest save for a few moments of improvisation. Lance and the kids looked mostly done, too. The better they got away from Shiro and his schemes, the better it would be for the both of them.
“Yeah,” Lance replied. “I think so. Should we get in line for Nemo while Keith buys our churros? We can eat while we wait.”
“Yeah!” Alfonso and Maritza chimed, hopping off their chairs.
A rooster’s crow had Alfonso and Maritza on red alert. The two kids snapped to attention immediately, eagerly scanning the central plaza in search for the source of the noise. Lance was the first to spot the figure in green and, grinning, waved him over.
Peter Pan twirled around the lamppost where he was perched and leapt over to their group. Keith had to bite the inside of his cheek to refrain from commenting on Matt’s getup. It was hard to believe that, once upon a time, Matthew Holt was just a scrawny geek. Now he was a geek dressed in green tights with a red wig who happened to be well-practised in free-running to get into character—though, as Keith recalled, he had more than twice dragged Shiro into Dungeons and Dragons, live action role play, and cosplay.
As Pidge would say, her brother was a nerd and geek no matter what he does.
“Atteeen-hut!” Matt cried. Maritza was practically bouncing on her heels while Alfonso clutched onto Lance’s hand like a lifeline.
“Tío Lance,” Maritza whispered none too discreetly, entirely starstruck, “it’s Peter Pan!”
Matt’s chest puffed out, swelling with his character’s pride, and he placed his hands on his hips, bending over to meet Maritza’s eye. Grinning, he said, “I see you’ve heard of me! Now, who are you?”
“I’m Maritza!” she chirped.
“That’s a pretty name!” Matt responded. He cautiously approached Alfonso, keeping his demeanour friendly and open. “And you are?”
“Alfonso,” he replied in a manner more subdued than Maritza. He seemed to hesitate, and Matt had noticed, waiting patiently for Alfonso to speak. “Um, can we take a picture?”
“Of course you can!” Matt exclaimed. “I love taking pictures with my lost boys and girls!”
Lance whipped out his phone, and Keith lingered beside him as Maritza posed with Peter Pan, both of them making silly faces, while Alfonso grinned and giggled at the sight. Matt gestured over to Keith and Lance, and Keith stayed planted where he was. There was no way to mistake the mirth in Matt’s eyes. “Hey, Mum, Pop! Come on over! You want a family photo?”
Maritza and Alfonso giggled. “They’re not our mami and papi,” Maritza whispered to Matt. “That’s Tío Lance and his friend, Tío Keith!”
Matt made a face—some hybridisation of shocked and scandalised—and whispered back just as loudly, “I thought they were definitely your mom and dad! Why, they fit the description that Wendy gave me!”
Alfonso snorted. “They do, don’t they?”
Redness burned Keith’s cheeks, spreading to the tips of his ears, as he tried levelling a glare towards Matt, but it only fell flat. He stole a glimpse at Lance, heart fluttering when he saw that Lance was equally flustered.
“Would you like to stay here forever with me?” Peter Pan asked the two kids, grinning. “We can leave those two icky adults alone!”
Oh, so that’s what he was playing at.
Shiro must have contacted Matt and told him where to find them.
Shiro was so dead.
“Nope!” Maritza replied, beaming. “If I stay with you in Neverland, I can’t grow up, and I wanna grow up and be a princess!”
“Well, that’s no fun!” Matt pouted before sighing. “You’d make an awesome princess though, Maritza! Do you wanna get some tips? I can take you to some princesses for advice!”
Maritza’s eyes widened. “Yes please!” she squealed.
“Well then! Let’s go!” Peter Pan leapt back onto his feet, a bounce in every step, and gestured for the party to follow him towards Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. Maritza chased after him, Alfonso tagging along with his sister, and left Keith and Lance no other choice but to follow their excitable charges.
Just as they reached the entrance, Matt was stopped for photos by several guests. He grinned at Maritza and pointed towards the side of the castle, where they found find Jasmine and Aladdin (and, upon closer inspection, Keith saw that it was Nyma and Rolo) taking pictures and greeting guests. “I think this is your stop, little princess,” Matt chirped. “Well, duty calls! Come find me again!”
“Tío Lance, I think I see Tinkerbell!” Maritza said, tugging on the fabric of Lance’s muscle tank. She pointed to Pixie Hollow off the side, and surely enough, Pidge was there greeting the guests as well.
“Where do you wanna go first, Maritza?” Lance inquired. Keith inwardly sighed. Either way, he would end up teased mercilessly by either Nyma or Pidge. There was no easy way out of this.
“How about Tinkerbell? Her line gets long really fast!” an all too familiar voice suggested. Keith pivoted on his heel, only to come face to face with Hunk’s grin.
“Tío Hunk!” Maritza and Alfonso shrieked, darting over to him. Maritza leapt into his arms, and Alfonso practically climbed onto his back. Shay giggled beside him and waved at the two gaping young men. She winked in Keith’s direction.
“Hey, kiddos,” Hunk greeted them, laughing. “Cute ears,” he commented, but his eyes strayed from Maritza and Alfonso to Lance and Keith, lingering for far longer than necessary. Keith’s cheeks warmed. “Anyway, I haven’t seen you two in ages! Wow, you’ve gotten big. How about you ditch Lance and come hang out with Tío Hunk, yeah?”
“Can we?” Maritza gasped, turning to Lance with wide, pleading eyes. “Please, Tío Lance? Please?”
“I’ve got my phone on me, and we have a power bank,” Hunk informed, eyes gleaming with the same mischief that Keith had noticed in Matt, in Shiro. “If anything happens, we’ll call, and we’ll also update our location every now and then. You’ll know if we’ll leave Fantasyland for Adventureland or switch between California Adventure and Disneyland.”
“Is it okay?” Lance asked hesitantly. “I don’t wanna dump them on you or anything.”
“Of course it’s okay, bro,” Hunk assured, grinning. “I wouldn’t have suggested it otherwise! I get a little motion sick anyway, so I can’t ride all of the mountains here. Plus, I miss these little guys, so it’s all good.”
“All right,” Lance replied, though he didn’t sound very convinced. He slipped his backpack off his shoulders and said, “Let me give you some of their snacks and water bottles though. Oh! And their tickets for the fastpasses.” He dropped off two water bottles into Hunk’s backpack as well as more than half the snacks that they had brought along. Then he handed over Maritza’s and Alfonso’s tickets. Kneeling so that he was facing Maritza and Alfonso, Lance gave them a firm stare and said, “You two be good for Tío Hunk, all right?”
“Okay!” they chimed. “I promise,” Alfonso added.
“Good,” Lance said, kissing the top of their heads. “If anything happens, call me, okay? If you’re tired or hungry or feeling sick, call me.”
“Okay, Tío Lance,” they chorused.
As Shay walked past Keith, she leaned closer and whispered into Keith’s ear, “You take this chance, all right, Keith?”
Keith flushed but remained quiet as he and Lance watched the kids leave with Hunk and Shay. “So,” Keith began hesitantly, “what now?”
Lance grinned in his direction. “Race you to Space Mountain!” With that, he took off running in the direction of Tomorrowland.
Keith spluttered, “Lance! Get back here!” Nevertheless, he chased after the would-be Disney prince, a grin spread wide on his lips.
“Okay,” Lance said, studying the return time on their fastpass reservations for the Indiana Jones attraction, “we just need to be back in an hour.”
“That’s doable,” Keith remarked, “considering some of these lines are an hour long.”
“You’re such an optimist,” Lance retorted, stuffing the stubs into the front pouch of his backpack. He tugged on his backpack straps and asked, “Is there anything you wanna do around here in the meantime?”
Keith shrugged. “What would you recommend?” he asked. “I mean, isn’t this basically your second home, Prince Na—argh!”
Glaring at Lance, who returned the glare with one that might have been several times fiercer, Keith tried prying off the hand slapped over his mouth. He nearly shuddered but reprimanded himself, This isn’t the time to be admiring his soft hands and pretty fingers. Lance dropped his hand from Keith’s mouth, snatching his wrist instead, and practically dragged Keith out of the fastpass distribution centre.
“Okay, what was that for?” Keith hissed.
Lance frowned. “I take my job very seriously, Keith.”
“I know you do,” Keith grumbled.
“I actually can’t tell people I’m… you know,” Lance murmured. “I know probably nobody will find out if you let it slip here, but… I don’t want to take any chances because this is my only chance.” He sighed. “Sure, the guy’s from a fictional country, so he’s not even Hispanic or Latino… But it’s still a step up from nothing, you know?”
And Keith did know. He remembered dropping Lance off at auditions before his shift started at Astro Blasters and seeing young men of colour lined up at the door, all vying for the same role—possibly the only role they could be a lookalike for—even though only a handful of them would be casted. The acceptance rate was low, so he knew how important this job was to Lance because finally, finally, he had a chance to make little boys and girls smile. Finally, he had the chance to tell them their dreams could come true.
“Sorry,” Lance mumbled, “you probably think it’s dumb—”
“It’s not dumb,” Keith protested heatedly, glowering at Lance for an entirely different reason now. “It’s not dumb at all. It’s really fucking cool, okay? Lance, you’re basically telling these kids, kids who might have a similar background to you, that they could be a prince or princess, too, and it doesn’t matter who they are as long as they’re a really, really amazing person.”
Because you are, Keith concluded quietly. You’re beautiful.
Lance smiled, cheeks warming to a soft pink, and replied, “Thanks, Keith.” He coughed into his hand and said, “Anyway… Pirates of the Caribbean is a little further down. It’s usually half an hour wait, so do you wanna ride it?”
“I’m game,” Keith responded. “Lead the way.”
They wandered through Adventureland, past Tarzan’s Treehouse, and into New Orleans Square. Just as Lance had predicted, the stand-by entrance was only a twenty minute wait, so they settled into their spot at the end of the line. “Do you actually do anything with your employee benefits?” Lance asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Well, they offer the closest thing I have to health insurance,” Keith replied.
Lance rolled his eyes. “Anything else?”
“The pretzels here are godsend,” Keith added. “Sometimes I use the main entrance pass just to buy them.”
“And churros,” Keith tacked on. Then he backtracked. “Then again, I usually get the churros from Downtown Disney if I’m not working at Disneyland. Occasionally, I’ll go in and watch Shiro make a fool of himself in front of hundreds of people.”
Lance chuckled, shaking his head. “You’re really something, Keith,” he said. There was a fondness in his voice that made Keith warm on the inside. “So you don’t go to the parks often?”
“Normally, I have class if I don’t have work,” Keith admitted, “and if I don’t have either, there’s usually assignments and projects to be done.”
“Ah, the life of an aerospace engineering major,” Lance mused, grinning. “I don’t envy it in the slightest.”
“Says the music major,” Keith retorted. “I heard you guys are always cooped up in the practice rooms.”
“Well, luckily,” Lance quipped, “it’s summer. I’ll drag you out to Disneyland every day we don’t have work until the blackout dates come into effect.”
Keith smiled. He bit back the first response that came to mind (“I’d like that”) and, instead, asked, “Are we going to spend the entire day here, too?” The lined shifted a few paces forward, and Keith closed the distance that opened up.
“We can probably stretch one visit into an entire week,” Lance replied. He shrugged. “It feels like a week long wait to ride the new Guardians of the Galaxy ride anyway.”
“It’s still a drop tower,” Keith remarked. “If you’ve been on Tower of Terror, you’ve been on the Guardian of the Galaxy one.”
“Yeah,” Lance conceded, crossing his arms, “but it’s a different experience, Keith! Like if I took you to Disneyland during Christmas or Halloween, it’s different than going during the summer!”
Keith’s brows furrowed. “It’s still Disneyland.”
“It’s got a different atmosphere, Keith!” Lance whined, gesticulating with his hands with every word. “They decorate the parks and renovate the rides to suit the holiday season!” He huffed and narrowed his eyes into a fierce glare. He huffed and narrowed his eyes into a fierce glare. He pointed his forefinger at Keith, whose eyes crossed as he stared at the finger, accusatory and threatening, in mild bewilderment. “That’s it! We’re going right when they decorate for Halloween and when they do Christmas!”
Stifling his smile in the palm of his hand (because Lance was actually thinking of doing something with him that far into the future? It tickled his heart), Keith responded, “Yeah? I’m looking forward to it. At least I’ll know what to expect this time because it’s going to be the same place with the same rides.”
Lance rolled his eyes. “It’s the atmosphere, Keith!” he insisted. He bumped hips with Keith as he closed the distance that opened up between them and the guests in front of them. “I’m going to look forward to proving you wrong.”
Keith chuckled, fighting the impulsive response that dared to leap off the tip of his tongue (“I’m looking forward to that, too”), and followed Lance.
Sweat clung to their skin as the California sun beat down on them with dry heat. A family in front of them cooled down using a misting fan. A couple behind them finished the last dregs of water from a sports water bottle. Lance pulled at his muscle tank, fanning himself, and leaned against the building that housed the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Keith averted his eyes—less for politeness and more so that he didn’t think about Lance, flushed, panting, and sweaty—and said, “Just a little bit closer now…”
That was also less to comfort Lance and more to steel his own resolve.
A cold, air conditioned breeze smacked them in the face as they finally entered the building. Lance sighed in relief, but the redness staining Keith’s cheeks still lingered. They inched closer towards the loading area, telling a cast member that they only have two in their party, and were motioned towards the general vicinity of “row four.”
Leaning against the gate, Lance sighed as he spotted the diners from the Blue Bayou restaurant, feasting on a patio decorated to resemble some kind of Southern gala or party that looked out on the guests boarding the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction. “Now that’s definitely out of my budget even with the employee discount,” he grumbled. “I’ve only ever dreamed of eating there, but a plate is easily anywhere between like twenty-eight to forty-something bucks. Do you think you have to pay extra to be out here?”
“Can’t say,” Keith replied. “I’m in the same boat.”
Lance snorted and cracked a grin. “Was that a joke?”
“Was it funny?” Keith returned.
Cackling, Laugh responded, “It was Hunk’s level of bad!”
“Then, no,” Keith said, smiling, “it wasn’t a joke.”
“Wise guy,” Lance teased before the gates opened. Stepping onto the boat, Lance slid all the way to the other end. The rows in front of them filled up with family and friends, and another couple sat beside Keith. Lance dropped his backpack onto the floor, clutching it between his legs, and slipped his phone out from the front pouch. He pulled up his camera just as the boat lurched forward and wrapped an arm around Keith’s shoulders, bringing him in closer for another selfie that caught the diners in the background. (Some of which had noticed Lance’s photo and posed.) “Say cheese!” Lance chirped, snapping a quick photo before their boat floated into the darkness.
Lance slipped his phone into the pocket of his shorts, the ride and its guests now eerily quiet, as they roamed past shanty houseboats. At one of the houseboats, there was an old man rocking back and forth in his old, rickety rocking chair, looking fairly calm and at ease, while the strings of a banjo strummed along to “Camptown Races.”
They wandered underneath a stone archway, where a skull and crossbones delivered a haunting warning to those who enter. Keith only half-listened, more preoccupied with the sound of the riders in the previous boat shrieking either in fear or delight or both.
And they took the plunge down a waterfall.
“Woohoooo!” Lance cried, throwing his arms into the air.
Water splashed all around them, hitting Keith smack in the face, and Lance roared with laughter at the sight. The other guests around them laughed and cheered for another reason entirely—possibly, Keith mused, for enjoying the first fall—before a few of them held on tight for a second plunge.
That time, the water splashed all over their laps from the sides.
“At least you won’t be hot when we get out,” Lance mused as he brought out his phone, which happened to be miraculously dry.
“Knowing this weather,” Keith replied, sighing, “we’ll be dry within the hour.”
“For me, maybe,” Lance retorted, nudging his knee against Keith’s. “Denim takes forever to dry. Anyway,” Lance swiped for his camera, “smile!”
Keith rolled his eyes, but he didn’t make any attempt to push Lance away. “We look terrible,” he griped, yet he didn’t tell Lance to delete the photo.
“Please, these mouse ears make anything look cute,” Lance insisted, “even those menacing pirates!”
The next few minutes involved playing hide-and-seek with Jack Sparrow, and every time they caught sight of him, Lance would insist on taking a selfie, dragging Keith into the photo. The only exception was when they encountered a scene they recognised from the movie, though it had long been a part of a ride since the 1960s, where a group of pirates were trying to coerce a dog to hand over the prison keys in order to escape from the fires. Lance took a selfie with his thumb pointed towards the scene, grinning widely.
The moment Lance heard the first couple words to “A Pirate’s Life for Me,” he began belting out the lyrics. Keith buried his head into his hands, denying any involvement with the person sitting beside him, shoulders slumping when he heard the other guests joining Lance in song. Their boat was hauled up the ramp, and they quieted when they heard Jack Sparrow sing as well as give a short little monologue.
Once they returned to the docking area, Lance and Keith lingered a little between Adventureland and New Orleans Square. Lance had wandered over to the Enchanted Tiki Room and waited in a queue to buy his beloved Dole Whip before Keith dragged them back to one of the food stands on the way to the Haunted Mansion.
“Aren’t you lactose intolerant?” Lance questioned as he watched Keith buy one of the cheese jalapeño pretzels. He scooped another spoonful of Dole Whip into his mouth and asked, “Did you even bring your pills?”
“I keep them in my wallet,” Keith replied. “Chill, Lance.”
“Chill is my middle name!” Lance protested.
Keith snorted. “Your middle name is Emiliano,” he muttered as he pulled a lactose supplement from his wallet. He ripped the packet open with his teeth, resting the bland pill on his tongue, a necessary evil, swallowing the pill with his first bite of the pretzel. He nearly moaned, savouring the blend of cheese and spice.
Lance froze, eyeing Keith warily, and responded, “How did you know that?”
Keith slowed in his steps, returning Lance’s sceptical gaze, and replied, “How did I know what?”
“My name—or, at least, my middle name,” Lance replied. His brows furrowed. “When we got employed at Disneyland, they asked us for a nickname, and, sure, some of us put down our actual name. There’s no way to know what my middle name is though. Our professors don’t even take attendance. Hell, not everyone even knows what my given name is.”
Keith tore off another piece of his pretzel, silently offering it to Lance, who shook his head. Keith popped it into his mouth, stalling for time, before confessing, “I saw it on your cast member ID. You misplaced it once, and I put it back where you would notice it before you freaked out. I figured it didn’t really matter what your name was or what you wanted to go by. It doesn’t change who you are.”
Lance laughed mirthlessly. “What’s in a name?” he recited.
Keith rolled his eyes. “I don’t think that’s what Shakespeare meant when he wrote Romeo and Juliet,” he remarked.
“But it works,” Lance mused. “I’m surprised you know what play it’s from though.”
“Read it in high school,” Keith answered. “Hated it.”
“Same,” Lance replied, chuckling. “You know, speaking of school, when I was younger, my teachers couldn’t pronounce my name because they probably only took two years of Spanish back in college or high school and forgot over the years—or were never good at it. Hell, even now some of my professors can’t pronounce my name, and I didn’t think it was hard.”
“Me too, actually,” Keith muttered. “I’ve never thought it was particularly difficult to pronounce Min-Soo, but I guess I was wrong. In elementary school, I told them to call me Keith—like the black paladin from Lion Force.”
Lance openly gaped at him. “What?” Keith pressed, frowning.
“I told my teachers that it was okay to call me Lance, like the red paladin,” Lance clarified, grinning widely. “Holy shit. That’s a crazy coincidence.”
“Lots of kids liked watching Lion Force,” Keith reasoned, shrugging.
They caught a glimpse of a familiar green ballgown, and Lance leapt to his feet, waving with one hand. “Heeey!” he cried, grinning widely. “Tiana!”
Allura spun around and waved back at him, genuinely smiling after seeing the two of them. His shout had a few others turn around, and several guests began to approach her, asking for photos. Keith snickered and said, “Now you’ve gone and done it.”
“It’s her job anyway,” Lance replied with a shrug. “People were bound to notice, and if they didn’t, we just walk around New Orleans Square, sometimes Fantasyland, and hang out in front of the Riverboat. Did I ever tell you about the tourists from Florida—the ones who’ve been to Disney World but not Disneyland?”
“I don’t think you have,” Keith admitted.
Lance grinned. “Well, then I have to tell you now!”
Keith rolled his eyes and replied, “So what about the tourists from Florida?”
“So they run things a little differently in Disney World,” Lance said. “When they come here, they’re really confused because there’s just no structure to meeting characters. It’s very casual. We wander around Disneyland, usually in certain areas, and we do everything ourselves—like meet and greets, photo ops, all that—without a… what do they call them? Handlers? Yeah, that.
“Anyway, one of the tourists from Florida asked me where our handler was, and I had to pretend to be confused. ‘You mean Lawrence, my valet? I’m afraid he’s in prison, you know, after turning me into a frog!’” Lance chortled, and Keith smiled in response.
Keith finished off the rest of his pretzel and watched as Allura posed with a little girl dressed in a Tiana costume with her black hair styled into braided pigtails. “It’s fun though, isn’t it?” Keith asked. “You seemed to be enjoying yourself yesterday. Do you swing dance with guests often?”
“Not all the time but frequently enough,” Lance said as he threw away the plastic cup that once held his soft serve in a nearby trash can. Keith followed his example, tossing the paper wrapper. “I mean, our job is to make other people happy, so… that’s what we do.”
He checked the time on his phone. Keith asked, “I guess it’s time to go?”
“Yup!” Lance replied. “I hope I get the wheel.”
Keith chuckled. “You know it doesn’t do anything right?”
“Shut up, Keith, let me have my dream.”
Lance did, in fact, get the wheel when they boarded the car for Indiana Jones, and again, he took a multitude of selfies with it and Keith in his boring old “passenger seat.”
Afterwards, Keith teased Lance about his terrible driving. Huffing, Lance snapped, playing along with his usual flair of dramatics, “Excuse me! I’m pretty sure my driving saved us all! We could have been crushed by a boulder! It could be worse! We could have died, Keith!”
Which, then, brought them to the Haunted Mansion.
The lines for the Haunted Mansion wove across the gardens and courtyard, and about ten minutes in, Keith and Lance passed through the cemetery, where some of the guests were taking pictures next to the tombstones.
Lance startled at the sound of a horse neighing, and Keith snorted. “You okay there, Lance?” he teased. “It’s just the invisible horse.” He gestured to a spot of guests taking selfies with the white carriage and the lack of horse.
“Shut up, Keith,” Lance grumbled, crossing his arms.
They were ushered into the foyer. Lance inched closer to Keith the deeper they went into the Haunted Mansion, tensing as a deep voice began to narrate, setting the tone and mood for the rest of the experience. Keith’s cheeks warmed as he felt Lance’s hand grab the fabric of his tank top with a death grip, and suddenly, he lost the heart to continue teasing Lance. Instead, he had to fight the urge to remove Lance’s hand and lace their fingers together. He focused on the narration—or tried to—and followed the other guests into another room after a pair of sliding doors opened.
He felt the fabric of his tank loosen with the loss of Lance’s grip, but before they could get separated by the crowd, Keith’s hand reached out, snatching Lance’s hand and guiding him along. He didn’t comment on how Lance’s hand was shaky and clammy. He didn’t flinch when Lance stepped a little too close to him (and yet, not close enough) to the point where their shoulders pressed together.
All of the guests began to admire the portraits and gargoyles lining the walls, and Keith wasn’t quite sure if they were paying attention to the backstory at all. He knew that he certainly wasn’t. Keith had half a mind to wrap an arm around Lance’s waist, to guard and protect him, even though he knew logically that nothing would happen. It was just a Disneyland ride, and he was surprised that, given how many times Lance visited New Orleans Square (either because of work or not), Lance was still unnerved by this ride.
“Dear guests,” the cast member at front directed them, “I would like to ask you to kindly drag your bodies away from the walls to the dead centre of the room!”
The door behind them closed, and Lance jumped a bit, startled. His hand tightened around Keith’s once he realised that they were “trapped” in the room, and he only stiffened as he felt the elevator lower. Because the fake walls didn’t reach the ceiling, it gave the impression that the room was stretching vertically, so while they descended, new portraits depicting the demise of previous visitors unveiled themselves. Their ethereal host declared that they would meet a similar fate and challenged them to find a way to escape from the Haunted Mansion.
“Of course,” the introduction concluded, “there’s always my way.”
Thunder clashed, clanging like the angry beat of drums, and consequently, the lights shut off, flooding the room with darkness. Somebody—several somebodies—screamed. With how Keith’s right ear throbbed and how his hand ached after Lance squeezed it deathly tight, he was certain one of the screamers was Lance. Keith stiffened as Lance buried his face into Keith’s shoulder. A second later, the room was illuminated, and the doors opened to reveal a gallery that would lead them into the loading area with the “Doom Buggies.”
“You okay, Lance?” Keith inquired, genuinely concern and yet awfully amused.
Lance was pale. “Just peachy,” he croaked.
“You… don’t do well with ghosts, do you?” Keith asked, hiding his smile, as they exited the room. As the ride progressed, the scares becoming less prevalent, Lance’s face had regained some of its colour. He was in a much better mood now that they had left the Haunted Mansion.
“Not really,” Lance mumbled, shamefaced. “I normally don’t ride this when Alfonso and Maritza are around, which is a shame because it’s so well-done. I just… can’t not get freaked out when they set the mood so well.” He sighed, shoulders slumping. “It’s also the reason why I don’t ride—didn’t ride—the Tower of Terror often when it was still around. I’d just let everyone drag me on.” He buried his face into his hands.
“It also explains why you don’t like hearing about Walt Disney’s apartment—”
“La la la!”
“—or when we were in line at Space Mountain, and I mentioned the one way ride—”
“—but did you know that the Haunted Mansion might actually be haunted—”
“I’m surprised you were able to ride Pirates of the Caribbean,” Keith commented. “They used to use real skulls—”
Lance shuddered. “Please don’t remind me,” he groaned.
Keith smiled. Lance pouted.
“You’re such a bully. Why are you like this?” Lance mumbled, nudging his shoulder into Keith’s. He slipped his backpack off and rummaged inside for a water bottle. Keith averted his eyes from the stretch of Lance’s throat as the latter drank. Lance sighed in relief, wiping the sweat off his forehead with the back of his hand, and stuffed his water bottle back into his backpack. “So where to next?”
“Well, we’ve gone to all of the mountains,” Keith recounted, listing them out on his fingers. “Space Mountain, Matterhorn, Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain… and we went on the California Screaming.”
With every roller coaster mentioned, Lance’s grin grew wider, probably recalling how ridiculous they looked for the cameras. He saved all of their photos and made sure to send copies to Keith’s phone as well—as well as the selfies and group pictures they had taken earlier that day. Keith may have set a selfie as his home screen background, and it might have been one where they wore their Minnie Mouse ears.
“We just rode Pirates of the Caribbean, Indiana Jones, and the Haunted Mansion, too,” Keith finished, “so all that’s left are the little rides.”
Lance hummed. “We did a lot today,” he mused. “My feet are aching. I wonder if Hunk’s keeping up with those troublemakers.” He glanced over at Keith and cracked a grin. “It looks like you got a little bit tanner, too.”
Keith huffed. “That tends to happen when you spend over ten hours outside,” he commented.
“I was actually looking forward to seeing you burn,” Lance teased. They wandered over to the railroad. They sat down on the benches, waiting for the steam engine to arrive. Lance’s phone rang, vibrating with a new message. He fished his phone out of his pocket and told Keith, “Hunk says that he just treated the rascals to Ariel’s Grotto.” Lance huffed. “Lucky them.”
“I’ve never eaten there,” Keith admitted. “Way too out of my budget.”
“Same,” Lance grumbled. “One of the chefs, apparently, owed Hunk big time though, and Hunk decided to cash in.” He turned his phone screen around to show Keith an image of Maritza and Ariel—Plaxum, Keith realised—at the restaurant. “At least Maritza and Alfonso are happy. Ariel’s one of her favourites, too.”
“I can’t seem to recall any princess who wasn’t Maritza’s favourite,” Keith mused.
“That… that’s true,” Lance agreed, chuckling, as he saved the photo and forwarded it to his sister-in-law. Keith caught sight of the chat log and snorted when he noticed it was entirely one-sided. All throughout entire day, Lance had been updating his sister-in-law with photos of her children. “Do you wanna ride the teacups? We don’t have to spin it or anything—just hang out in the cups.”
“Knowing you,” Keith remarked, “you’ll probably turn it into a competition.”
Lance scoffed. “It’s not like we can even measure how fast we turn it,” he protested.
“You’d find a way to make it competitive,” Keith insisted, elbowing Lance lightly.
“I wish Shiro was here,” Lance whined, “so I can tattle to him. ‘Shiiiro, Keith is bullying meee!’” He dropped his head onto Keith’s shoulder, and Keith tried not to tense with the weight. “We should do this again,” he mumbled. “Before Christmas and Halloween.”
“Maritza and Alfonso are cool kids,” Keith said. “I’d like that.”
“No, no, no,” Lance muttered. “I mean… just us… you know?”
Keith’s heart pounded faster, and he wondered for a second if he really did know what Lance meant. Keith certainly knew what he wanted it to mean. “I’d like that,” he repeated himself. “A lot. Today’s been a lot of fun.”
Lance hummed, quiet and lethargic, in what Keith assumed to be agreement.
“Are you awake?” Keith whispered.
“Yeah,” Lance replied. “Just a little tired. I remember, back when Disneyland was an affordable thing for SoCal residents, that I had a lot more energy than… well, this. I could have gone the entire day without a break until at least ten. My dad would always start to look tired around dinnertime, and I never understood until now.” He laughed. “Hunk must be having one hell of a time.”
Keith grinned. “They’re really energetic kids,” he said.
“Yeah, they are,” Lance agreed. “They’re awesome. Do you like them?”
“Yeah,” Keith answered, “I do.”
“You’ll like their mom then. They take after her.”
“And their dad?”
“My brother is a loser,” Lance stated, but Keith could feel Lance’s smile and his warm breath ghosting his skin and stamped down the instinctive shudder. “You should meet the rest of my family; they’ll like you, too.”
Keith’s heart swelled. “Yeah? You think so?”
“Mhmm,” Lance hummed. “You’re officially invited to my birthday party. My mom makes the best papas rellenas, so you can’t say no.”
“They’re like… they’re like potato balls,” Lance explained. “Like… if you stuffed mashed potatoes with picadillo and fried it.” He practically moaned, and Keith couldn’t help but flush. “They’re just so good.”
“I’ll take your word for it,” Keith teased. “Are you hungry?”
“Hmm, I could go for some papas rellenas, but unfortunately, most of the food here is American,” Lance thought aloud.
“We can grab some pizza,” Keith suggested. “Pretend we’re eating Italian food.”
Lance laughed, and Keith’s stomach erupted into a swarm of butterflies trying to escape. “Sounds good to me.”
“We can walk around the pier,” Keith said. “They have pizza there—and boardwalk games.”
“And Clarabelle’s,” Lance added.
“I’m telling you, Gibson Girl’s ice cream is the best one here,” Keith argued. “Have you not eaten their sundaes? Have you not seen their sundaes?”
“I still like Clarabelle’s,” Lance insisted, pouting. Keith turned his head, eyes widening once he realised how close Lance was, and froze. Lance lifted his eyes, staring at Keith from underneath his long lashes, before asking quietly, “What?”
In a moment of weakness, Keith followed the urge to kiss Lance’s pout and leaned in closer, only pulling away when he heard footsteps. Lance pursed his lips together, sitting up straight, when a little boy hung onto the iron gate. “Mom! Dad!” he exclaimed. “Look! The train’s coming!”
Keith’s hand trailed closer to Lance, seeking his warmth, and he linked their pinkies together. He heard Lance laugh, but the latter didn’t say anything. Instead, he curled his pinky around Keith’s. When the train arrived, they stole the first seats they spotted, neither exchanging a word as the rest of the passengers clamoured for a spot on the train.
The train pulled away from the station, and the moment they entered a tunnel, surrounded by darkness, Keith felt a pair of lips press against his own.
He smiled against Lance’s smile and kissed back.
“Don’t lose, Keith!” Lance warned as Keith took his seat among four other players. “Make sure to actually hit the target this time!”
Keith grabbed the mounted water cannon. “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I got it already,” he grumbled, steadying the nozzle. With the seats filled, the referee started the game, and Keith shot a stream of water at the target in the centre of a bucket, missing only for the first few seconds. The clown above his bucket began to climb up a ladder, but not quickly enough for Keith’s liking—the other players were right on his tail.
Lance was silent, watching in anticipation, and sighed in relief once Keith’s clown made it to the top to rescue Dumbo from the fires. The bells rang, announcing the end of the match, and the clowns returned to their first position at the bucket. “Congratulations!” the referee exclaimed, reaching up to take down a giant stuffed Dumbo from the large prizes. “We have a winner!”
“Sweet!” Lance cheered in Keith’s place, who only grinned at Lance’s excitement.
A little girl pouted, and her older brother patted her head and said that he was going in for another round. Several of the contestants remained, and a few others stepped up from the passer-bys. Keith and Lance stepped away from the game, Dumbo tucked under Keith’s arm. A few paces away, Keith pulled at Lance’s hand before shoving the elephant into his arms.
Keith flushed and ran his hand through his hair, loosening a few strands from his ponytail. “It’s for you,” he said. “As a thank you. For today. Um, thanks for inviting me.”
Lance smiled. “You’re so awkward, Keith,” he teased despite his red cheeks. He chuckled, squeezing Dumbo ever tighter in his arms, and said, “This is awesome. Thanks, man.” Lance bit down on his lower lip, and Keith wanted nothing more than to pull it free.
So he did just that, leaning in to press a kiss against Lance’s lips, growing giddy because, wow, he’s wanted to do that for a long time. They shared a smile and a second kiss and a third, and God, all Keith could think about was how he didn’t want to stop.
“So what does this mean?” Lance asked, resting his forehead against Keith’s. Their Minnie Mouse ears bumped against one another, skewing them to the side a bit, but Lance didn’t seem to mind his appearance for once.
“It means,” Keith began, grabbing onto Lance’s hands, “I want to take you out—for dinner—or, well, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, really.”
“Like as a date?” Lance asked. A smile stretched across his lips, and his eyes were absolutely radiant.
“I want to date you,” Keith confirmed, ducking his head the moment he felt his cheeks warm. “I’ve wanted to date you for a long time now.”
Lance’s cheeks glowed a soft pink. “Since when?” he asked.
“Ever since you called us Space Ranger Partners, maybe,” Keith admitted, pulling away as he tried to hide his embarrassment. “I wanted us to be… actual partners, actual boyfriends.”
Holding onto Keith’s hand, Lance refused to let go and instead pulled him closer. “Yeah, okay,” Lance murmured.
“Okay?” Keith echoed.
“Let’s do it,” Lance said, growing more confident. He grinned. “Let’s be boyfriends.”
“Yeah?” Keith asked, smiling.
“Yeah!” Lance answered. “It’ll be awesome. You can take me out for coffee in the morning, and then we can grab lunch together. We’ll go to work, but after the parade, you’ll try to steal me from Princess Tiana. We can have a dance, and then we can eat dinner before the night parade.”
Keith chuckled. “That… that sounds like a plan—a good plan. I like it; I’d like that very much.”
“Then let’s do it,” Lance suggested. “Starting tomorrow, okay?”
“Yeah,” Keith replied, “yeah, okay.”
Lance laced their fingers together right before turning around in the direction Maritza called him. She crashed right into his legs, babbling one thousand words a minute about what she and Alfonso did together with Hunk and Shay, meeting the princesses, meeting the people from Star Wars, going on these super cool rides, and watching the parade. In the meanwhile, Hunk and Shay took a more leisurely pace to approach them, Alfonso holding their hands. Hunk also happened to hold a Disneyland park bag, and Keith could see the dread that haunted Lance’s visage.
No doubt, Keith mused, Lance was wondering about what had Hunk bought, if it was for the kids, and if Hunk would even accept reimbursement.
“Hey, Lance!” Hunk greeted. He gave Keith a knowing look that made the latter want to turn away. “Keith,” he tacked on, and even though Keith could tell that Hunk was trying to remain nonchalant, there was a teasing note that only Keith could hear. “We got some candied apples. The girls at Pooh’s Corner were insistent that we take some.” At that, Hunk nudged Shay, who smiled shyly. “This one didn’t want to abuse their kindness.”
“We’re really not supposed to be handing them out,” Shay responded. “I was lucky that they accepted my employee discount.”
Hunk snorted, but the look that he gave Shay was fond. “Anyway, we got you two the Minnie Mouse one—to match your ears,” Hunk said. He nodded towards Maritza and added, “It was Mari’s idea.”
Lance smiled broadly at his niece and said, “Thanks, princesa.” He pressed a kiss against her forehead before thanking Hunk and Shay directly. “So what are you guys gonna do now?”
“We’re gonna grab seats for World of Colour,” Hunk replied, “before they’re all taken. What about you two?”
Keith couldn’t help the yawn that escaped his lips when he thought of trekking all over two theme parks. Lance chuckled and replied, “I think we’re all tuckered out over here.”
“We should all watch the show together then!” Shay declared, clapping her hands together. She smiled far too innocently at Keith. “What do you think, Keith?”
“Yeah, that sounds good,” Keith responded, shrugging. There wasn’t much left to do at the end of the day, anyway. “We should go before all the good spots are taken.”
“All the good spots are already taken by the fastpass and reservation people,” Hunk whined. “We can at least get a decent spot.”
“We’re wasting time with all this talking,” Lance reminded. “Let’s get moving!”
They circled around the pier and chose a spot directly in front of Mickey’s Fun Wheel. There were already crowds of people in front of them, and Hunk and Lance had to lift Alfonso and Maritza onto their shoulders to get a proper view of where the projection screens would be. It was better, Keith reflected, than being stuck behind a tree or a lamppost.
A cast member came from behind, informing the crowds that it would be a sitting show, and they humoured him while he was still around. The moment he left to tell the other crowds the same thing, everyone stood back up when it was clear that nobody else would remain sitting; hell, not everyone sat down in the first place.
They spent a good half hour catching up with Hunk, Shay, and the kids before an announcement caught their attention. “To play the Fun Wheel Challenge, connect Pier Games network on your WiFi and open your web browser.”
“Keith, get your phone out,” Lance stated.
“You’re really going to do this?” Keith inquired, watching as several other guests whipped out their phones as well. Their odds of winning was looking rather slim…
“We’re gonna do this,” Lance corrected. “My hands are full, so you’re going to have to play as my proxy. We’re going to win, and we’re going to control the colours on the ferris wheel.”
“Fine, fine,” Keith conceded. He opened Chrome and redirected the browser to the game’s website. There was an image of the iconic ferris wheel with an arrow pointing upwards. “‘Look up at the Fun Wheel,’” Keith read aloud.
“Coran must be having fun with all of these shows,” Lance mused. “Maybe I should have gotten a pyrotechnician licence, too.”
Keith snorted. “If that happened,” he remarked, “we’d all be doomed. Disneyland would be set on fire.”
“Hey, it would be lit, and you know it!” Lance protested.
“Keith, Keith, Keith! The game’s starting!” Lance declared as the ferris wheel in front of the pier flashed orange lights in one of the three sections. “Orange! Orange!”
“I got it, I got it!” Keith hissed, tapping the corresponding orange sector on his phone. “It’s a memory game then?” he asked Lance as his score tallied up based on correctness and a time bonus.
“You’ve never played this before?” Lance inquired.
“I’ve never watched any of the shows before,” Keith responded. “Usually, when there’s a big show, the lines at the rides get shorter, so that’s where you’ll find me. I’m guessing you’ve played this before?”
“Yeah, a few times,” Lance replied. “I’ve never actually won though. The guy next to me did. Anyway, the important thing to know is not to exit after the first game. There are three games, so we have three chances to win.”
“Got it,” Keith replied, matching the next sequence much more quickly than he did the first time. They spent the time in relative silence, memorising the sequences of colours and matching them on Keith’s phone, with Lance muttering the appropriate colours in a rhythmic pattern under his breath.
“Let’s find our winner!”
Lance groaned when Mickey’s Fun Wheel began to switch colours at seemingly random. Keith huffed and said, “Two more chances. We can do this, Lance.”
He’d win. He has to win because he could only imagine how happy Lance would be, and Keith wanted to see it come to fruition. He wanted to see Lance happy—even if it’s taking control of the ferris wheel lights for only thirty seconds.
Keith cursed as the second game ended, his screen taken over with the message, “Let’s find our winner!” He turned to look at Lance, who was starting to lose hope. Lance seemed to have accepted defeat already. If Alfonso wasn’t on top of his shoulders, Keith was sure they would have slumped or shrugged or something. Instead, he had a half-hearted grin on his lips. “Last try?” Lance questioned, sounding not too optimistic.
“We’ll win for sure,” Keith swore.
Keith prided himself on his reaction speed and reflexes. He wouldn’t mess this up. Maybe he was being ridiculous (because look at Hunk and Shay! They were just happy watching people having fun), but Keith had to do this. Winning Lance a toy wasn’t enough; he wanted Lance to know exactly how much today had meant to him.
“Holy shit,” Lance whispered.
Keith gaped at his screen, presented with four different options consisting of colours and patterns. “You’re in control!” it read. “Press the buttons to change the lights!”
There was also a time limit that was ticking down with every passing second.
“Purple!” Maritza shouted. “Do purple!”
“And blue!” Lance hurriedly tacked on. “We need blue!”
“I wanna see green!” Alfonso added.
Keith tapped each button in order and lifted his head in time to catch the lights switch on the ferris wheel. He hid his grin as he heard Lance laugh beside him, but he was forced to look up the moment their time ran out. Lance nudged him in the arm, and Keith looked up, squeezing Dumbo in his arms a little more tightly in apprehension, only to be blindsided by Lance’s beaming smile.
“You did good, Space Ranger Boyfriend,” Lance chimed.
Keith’s cheeks pricked with searing heat. “It’s nothing,” he mumbled, stowing his phone away once there was an announcement made for World of Colour.
“Are you kidding me?” Lance mused. “That was pretty awesome.” He laughed. “If you keep this up, you’re going to end up being best boyfriend, and I can’t have that. I was going to be best boyfriend, you know?”
Keith chuckled. “You already are.”
He watched as red bloomed on Lance’s cheeks, rosy and lovely and beautiful. “Stop that,” Lance pouted, and Keith was again tempted to kiss his plush lips. “You’re about to steal it any second now.”
“Well, the night is still young,” Keith reminded, wrapping an arm around Lance’s waist instead. “We’ll see.”
“We’re on the third floor,” Hunk told them upon reaching the parking structure, “since we got here later in the day.”
“Let me guess,” Keith replied. “It was after you got a message from Shiro saying that he saw Lance and me with his nephew and niece at Tomorrowland.”
“Hey, hey,” Hunk protested. “I’m allowed my secrets.”
Lance snorted. “This coming from the guy who read Pidge’s diary?”
“I was looking for candy bars!”
“A diary looks nothing like a candy bar, Hunk,” Shay reprimanded.
They left with the promise of seeing each other tomorrow at work. Hunk had given Lance and Keith their candied apples—shaped distinctly like Minnie Mouse’s head—and they stuffed them inside Lance’s backpack before shoving Dumbo in there as well. (His head poked out, but that was fine.) The group of six separated on the third floor. Lance and Keith each carried Alfonso and Maritza respectively, both of whom were dead tired, up to the rooftop.
Lance startled, jumping out of his shoes, upon hearing the first explosion. Keith chuckled and nodded his head towards the sky. Lance followed Keith’s gaze, smiling as he watched various colours burst in the night sky. Alfonso lifted his head from where he rested it against Lance’s shoulder, watching the fireworks with a wide grin. “Wow!” he whispered.
“Let’s head back to the car and watch them from there,” Lance suggested. From how he shifted Alfonso’s weight in his arms, Keith guessed that his strength must be waning.
They strolled over to Lance’s brother’s car, setting Alfonso and Maritza on top of the hood of the car, and leaned against the minivan. Their fingers brushed against one another as their eyes remained fixated on the sparks of colour before them. Lance reached out, hooking their pinkies together. Keith then laced their fingers together, holding onto Lance’s hand tightly, never wanting to let go.
“Today was a good day,” Lance whispered, his breath brushing against the shell of Keith’s ear. “I got to buy this super cute Minnie Mouse headband, beat my high score and yours at Astro Blasters, ride a bunch of roller coasters, get Dumbo, control the lights on the Fun Wheel, and get a new boyfriend. I don’t think anything can top this.”
“Well, I don’t know about you,” Keith retorted, “but I managed to steal a prince for myself. You don’t get to do that every day.”
Lance laughed. “That prince is expecting you to take him out to dinner tomorrow night,” he quipped, resting his head against Keith’s, “so you better not disappoint.”
“I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Keith replied, pressing a chaste kiss against the crown of Lance’s head. “I’ve been waiting for this day for so long, after all.”
The last of the fireworks fizzled out, and they helped the kids into their car seats. “Do you mind if you drop me off last?” Keith inquired hesitantly, turning his head away from Lance to hide his embarrassment. “I… I don’t really want this day to end. It’s been a really good day.”
Lance grinned. “Yeah,” he answered, “yeah, I can do that.”
Maritza was so exhausted that she hadn’t even noticed when Lance switched from the Moana soundtrack to one of Beyoncé’s albums, and Keith didn’t have the heart in him to complain about Lance’s musical tastes. (They’ve had that conversation before, and Keith was not going back there.) He even closed his eyes for a bit when Lance began singing along to “Halo.” Keith hummed the lyrics before making a comment, “I still like Alicia Keys better.”
Lance gasped, offended.
And it was all good because Lance looked cute when he was offended by stupid things—like someone preferring Alicia Keys over Beyoncé.
Eventually, Lance pulled into the driveway of a small suburban house. Keith recognised Lance’s car—a shiny blue Toyota Corolla—parked in the streets in front of the house. The moment they parked, the front door opened, and an older man and woman—Lance’s brother and sister-in-law, Keith realised—came out, dressed in lounge wear.
Lance greeted his older brother, clapping his hand in a loose handshake and bringing him in for a one-armed hug, before hugging his sister-in-law. “They’re sleeping in the back,” Lance whispered as he exchanged keys with his older brother. He pushed Keith forward and grinned. “By the way, this is Keith. Keith, this is my brother, Enrique, and his wife, Louisa.”
“Your boyfriend?” Lance’s older brother inquired, his eyes sparkling with mischief, with every intention of teasing Lance.
However, Lance would have none of it. Instead, he chirped, “Yup. Isn’t he cute?”
“I don’t know about cute,” his sister-in-law mused, blatantly eyeing Keith’s tattoos, “but he’s not bad. Not my type. You treat my baby brother all right, yeah?”
Keith flushed under the attention and nodded.
“If the kids like him,” Lance’s brother commented, “then he can’t be a bad guy.” He shrugged. “I guess we won’t find out tonight, so we’ll wait for the verdict tomorrow morning.”
With that, they helped Louisa and Enrique unbuckle Maritza and Alfonso from their car seats and carry them into the house. Afterwards, Lance took out Dumbo and flung his backpack into the back seat of his car. He settled in the driver’s seat with Dumbo on his lap. Chuckling, Keith commented, “You really like that elephant, huh?”
“Of course I do,” Lance replied, grinning impishly. He pulled out of his parking spot, leaving the neighbourhood and merging into the local roads. “It’s the first gift I’ve ever gotten from my super cute boyfriend, Keith. Maybe you know him?”
Keith rolled his eyes. “I think I do,” he responded. “He drives the parade floats at Disneyland, right? Must be tough work.”
“I heard it’s like driving blindfolded,” Lance stated. “He’s real badass, you know? Anyway, it also means I get to see him tomorrow, too, so it’s gonna be another good day.”
Keith pressed his smile against his knuckles, elbow propped against the car door. His other hand reached out to where Lance’s hand rested on the console, intertwining their fingers together.
“Yeah, it really is.”