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Gotta Catch Him (All)

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              “Alright Lance, new city, new school, new you.”


              He looks at himself in the mirror. He needed this, a new start, a new page in this chapter of his life. The last school was too close to home, too close to everything he wanted to try being away from. So, he transferred to a university on the other side of the country. Luckily Astrophysics now had multiple quality programs across the country, so he wouldn’t have to worry about whether his program was competitive or not.
Lance grabs his back pack from the floor right beside him, takes one last look at himself in the hallway mirror, flips some finger guns, and heads out the door of his one-bedroom apartment. His parents had been nice enough to help with the rent on the place until he could cover it himself.

              The apartment he lives in is a five-minute walk from his new campus, a detail his mother had insisted on when helping him look. She insisted it would help his productivity come exam season, he is inclined to agree with her. The walk is short but pleasant, large green-leafed trees spanning both sides of the street providing shade and beautiful scenery. It’s gorgeous.

              Lance’s new campus is larger than his old one, but not by a lot. There are several buildings but the walk from one end of campus to the other is only about ten minutes. His classes are luckily grouped together in the science buildings, so they are very close together, which makes getting around really easy.

              He walks up to the main science building, being a third-year student, his lectures are smaller and more specialized. His first class for example is an astronomy lecture, specifically looking at large objects outside their solar system.

              Lance finds his lecture hall a few minutes early and grabs a seat near the front but far enough away that he won’t get found out too easy if he’s on his phone for a couple minutes. There aren’t too many people in the theatre yet, and most of the people who are there are sitting much farther back than him. There are two people farther forward than him. They’re actually directly in front of him, one row ahead.

              The guy on the right, from what Lance can currently see, is a bigger guy but looks like solid muscle. Dark hair kept somewhat short, it only touches his ears, and an orange headband tied at the back of his head. The guy to his left is a bit shorter, about Lance’s height, maybe taller, and has tawny hair that reaches just down to his shoulder blades. Prime ponytail length. The two boys are both looking at something on the screen of the shorter boy’s laptop, it looks like an announcement of some sort on Twitter. Maybe an event? There’s a weird picture underneath it of a yellow mouse/rabbit thing.

              Lance is just about to lean forward to get a better look when the doors open with a bang and a shorter man with grey hair and glasses comes into the room carrying a large stack of books and papers. He looks like he is struggling a bit as he makes his way down the stairs, the stack in his arms tilting dangerously as he walks. Lance looks around, noticing more people have arrived and filled out the fifty-person lecture theatre. Lance glances at the clock quickly, all thoughts of the tweet and the two boys in front of him forgotten as he grabs his notebook and pencil case out of his backpack and hunkers down for some learning.

~~~~~~~~~~

              When the lecture is over, Lance packs up quickly and rushes out of the room. He has a friend who attends the school and iss going to meet them in between his first two classes today to have a coffee. He hasn’t seen his friend in at least six months and is eager to catch up. Lance rushes to the coffee shop in the student centre. He scans the crowd in the shop quickly, looking for a head of blonde hair.

              When he finds it, he makes a beeline straight for it and comes face to face with his friend Romelle. A girl he’s known for years through his cousin Allura and had befriended when they attended the same high school.

              “Romelle! Hey!” he exclaims when he reaches the table she had been holding for them. A smile lights up her face when she sees him.

              “Lance there you are! I was wondering when you were going to get here, I was going to assume the absolute worst if you weren’t here within the next five minutes.” She says with a smirk. She seems to be feeling the snark today.

              “Hey! I went as fast as I could, it’s hard navigating a new campus when you’ve only had one tour!” He chuckles, pulling out the chair opposite her and sitting down. Romelle slides him one of the two cups that are sitting in front of her. “Oh, you are an angel—” He brings the cup close to his nose and inhales, “—my mother confiscated all my caffeine when my family helped me move and I haven’t had the chance to replenish my supply. And there weren’t any coffee shops in between my apartment and here. Can you believe a college town doesn’t have a network of coffee shops around the university? Unbelievable.” He huffs before taking a gulp of the magical elixir in his cup. Lance groans in delight as Romelle giggles at his antics. He is so glad they’d memorized each other’s coffee preferences years ago.

              “It is a travesty! Have they not learned that coffee is the life blood of all university students?” she shakes her head in mock exasperation, “Ridiculous, anyway Lance! My most wonderful friend, how have you been? I feel like I haven’t seen you in ages!”

              “Well my favourite-est lady, it has been what six months since we last saw each other? Skype and snapchat can only do so much!” Lance exclaims. The last time they had gotten to sit down face-to-face had been just after Christmas, before Romelle had left again for school.

              “Oh my goodness, you’re right! Well that can be rectified since we now attend the same university! We’ll have to do movie nights again! Oh my gosh and lunch dates! We can hit the clubs nearby too and get our dance on! Oh my gosh Lance thisisgoingtobesofun!” Romelle says hurriedly. She rambles when she gets excited.

              “Yes, yes, yes, and, yes. Girl, this shit was assumed. I brought the good tv and the comfiest couch with those sectional pieces, so we can make it a bed. It is happening.” They go on like this for another half hour before Lance sees the time and has to bolt for his next class. They make a plan to meet up later that day and head to Lance’s apartment to hang out.

~~~~~~~~~~

              When Lance makes it to the Earth sciences building for his next lecture, he notices one of the same two guys from his first class. The guy with the headband. The other guy from earlier is nowhere in sight. Well the guy is in two of his classes, might as well make a friend!

              Lance walks over and plops himself in the seat next to the taller man. He lifts his right hand in offering, “Hey, my name’s Lance. I noticed you were in Dr. Holt’s lecture earlier too. I was wondering if you’d want to be my study buddy?” Lance asks hopefully.

              Now that he’s gotten a look at his face, the guy is rather large and solid, in other words absolutely gorgeous. Like a teddy bear almost.

              “Oh, hey. Uh you can call me Hunk, it’s nice to meet you Lance. The more study buddies the better.” Hunk replies, shaking Lance’s hand with a soft smile on his face.

              “Hunk is a very fitting name. So, what program are you in?” Lance asks with a wink, hoping to get some small talk going for him and his (hopefully) new friend.

              “Aerospace engineering, I also like to dabble a bit in robotics. What about you?”

              “Nice! I’m in Astrophysics, I’m hoping to get into the spaceflight program when I graduate.” Lance says, excited to meet someone else who likes space as much as he does. But then again, they are in a lecture hall with a bunch of other people who like space.

              “Wow, that is awesome man! Space is so cool. I have a friend who wants to get into that program too, maybe I should introduce you guys.” Hunk laughs.

              Just then the professor walks into the theatre and both boys turn their attention to the front of the room.

              When the lecture lets out, Hunk and Lance make their way to the student centre for lunch. They chat about their hobbies and interests, finding they have a lot in common. Lance will have to invite Hunk to hangout with him and Romelle one of these days. He feels like the two of them would get along really well.

~~~~~~~~~~

              Lance is on his way to his third and final class of the day when his world is turned upside down. Literally. He is heading back to the main science building for his last lecture when a guy runs into him and Lance falls to the floor with the stranger on top of him groaning. He did not shriek on the way down. Nope. No sir. It was more of a squeal of intimidation.

              Lance opens his eyes and moves his right hand to the back of his head where it just barely contacted the solid concrete floor. He groans as he moves to sit up, recognizing a weight on top of him. He looks down at his chest to find a man with long tawny hair staring at him, eyes wide and mouth hanging open in shock.

              Oh shit. He’s hot.

              Lance can feel the blood rushing to his face as the beautiful stranger continues to stare at him. He coughs awkwardly and avoids eye contact.

              “Uh, hey. Do you mind letting me up?” Lance asks nervously.

              “Huh? Oh shit, yeah! I am so sorry! I was playing a game and I totally wasn’t watching where I was going. You’re not hurt, are you? Did your head hit the floor? Did I give you a concussion?” The guy’s speech getting faster and faster as he starts to panic. ‘Even when he’s freaking out he’s beautiful…’ Lance thinks to himself.

              “No man I’m fine. My butt might be a little sore from the landing, but my head is good. What game were you playing that had you so distracted anyway?” He asks, trying to get information about the gorgeous man on top of him.

              “Okay, don’t laugh but I was playing Pokémon Go!” Hottie Mchotness says sheepishly, right hand rubbing the back of his neck and showing off his toned arms.

              ‘He’s fucking ripped, oh no.’ Lance thinks, at the flex of the man’s bicep, his own panic starting.

              “What’s that?” He asks, breaking out of his mini freak out. He’s never heard of this Pokémon before.

              “It’s a mobile game that overlays Pokémon in a virtual reality like in a way so we can interact with them like we were playing Pokémon in real life. It’s a lot of fun.” The taller man says as he checks his phone for damage from where it hit the floor of the hallway.

              “Cool! Uh, what’s Pokémon?” He gets another shocked look from the other man.

              “You’ve never heard of Pokémon? Have you been living under a rock for the last two decades?” The guy sputters.

              “No, but I didn’t grow up here. I grew up on a rock though. I’m from Cuba, American media isn’t something we got a whole lot of.” Lance shrugged.

              “Shit, sorry man.”

              “It’s fine. But seriously what is Pokémon?”

              “A truly classic video game series by Nintendo that was adapted into a kid’s cartoon in the 90’s” Tall, hot, and handsome explains.

              Lance realizes they’re still lying on the floor, and the beautiful man is still on top of him. As much as he’s enjoying being pinned to the floor by someone that good looking, the concrete isn’t exactly comfortable on his back. “So, as much as I want to keep listening to this explanation, we’re still on the floor and I have a class to get to, so if you could let me up that would be great.”

              “Oh my god. I am so sorry!” The guy says as he scrambles up off of Lance. Once he’s up on his feet he reaches his arm out and offers his right hand to Lance to help the other boy off the floor. He’s wearing a sheepish smile and Lance feels his heartbeat stutter at the perfection that is the other boy’s brown eyes. Lance and the taller man stand there for a minute, Lance’s hand still being held, as they continue to stare at each other. A look of panic overtakes the taller man’s face.

              “Oh no, where is it?” He suddenly exclaims. He lets go of Lance’s hand and starts patting his pockets

              “Where’s what? Did you drop something?” Lance starts looking around the floor for anything the other guy could have dropped.

              “I seem to have lost my phone number, can I have yours?”

              Lance freezes. He looks up at the other boy, seeing the blush bleeding onto his cheeks, a look Lance could only describe as hopeful on his face. A cheesy pickup line? Is this guy hitting on him right now? Seriously? The other guy extends his left arm, still holding his phone, towards Lance.

              Well this is happening.

              “Uh, sure.” Lance reaches for the phone and finds it open to the guy’s contact list. He puts his name and cell number in and saves the contact before handing the phone back. “Uh, I’m Lance by the way. Lance McClain.”

              “I’m Matt Holt. It’s nice to meet you Lance.”

              … Wait what? Holt?

              “Holt? Like Dr. Holt?” Lance is confused now.

              “Yeah, he’s kinda my father.” Matt just shrugs.

              “Wow, that is really cool. I had him for my first lecture this morning, he’s brilliant.” Lance says in awe.

              Matt raises a questioning eyebrow at him, “That wouldn’t have been Astronomy 540 would it?”

              Lance nods.

              “Oh my god the stars must be aligning. I’m in that class too! We should totally sit together on Wednesday!” Matt exclaims, pulling his hands to his chest in excitement.

              Hot and adorable. Well Lance is officially fucked.

              Lance gapes at him. “Uh yeah sure, sounds like a great idea.”

              “Excellent, then I’ll see you on Wednesday morning, bright and early. Lance McClain.” Matt practically purrs his name as he walks past the shorter man, down the hall and Lance can feel the blush burning his cheeks. Yup, fucked.

              Lance glances down at his watch and sees he’s got five minutes until his next lecture starts. He books it down the hall in the opposite direction as Matt.

              Just as he makes it into a seat in the fifty-person theatre he feels his phone buzz with an incoming call. He pulls his phone out and sees it’s a number he doesn’t know. He decides to answer it.

              “Hello?”

              “Hey Lance!”

              “Matt?” Lance is confused now. Again. That seems to be happening a lot today.

              “Yup. Hey, Cupid called. He wants to tell you that he needs my heart back.”

              Lance just sputters, eyes wide. He hears a “Have fun in class!” before the line goes dead and he just sits there in a daze.

              What even is this guy? Cheesy pickup lines that Lance would totally use, space nerd, Dr. Holt’s son so he’s got to be smart, and gorgeous as all get out? Lance just lets that sink in before he smirks to himself. Oh, this boy was going to be his. He needed to find some common ground, an excuse outside of class to hangout more. Lance looks down at his phone.

              That Pokémon game! He seemed pretty excited about it, maybe Lance can get Matt to show him how to play! They could get to know each other and hangout more. It was perfect, after class Lance would download the game onto his phone and then he’d be set!

              With a plan and excitement burning in his gut, he turns his attention to the front of the room where the professor is just finishing setting up for the lecture. Lance pulls his notebook and pens out of his bag and buckles down to focus on class for the next hour.

~~~~~~~~~~~

              When Matt had woken up that morning he hadn’t thought he’d have to pull out the lines on the first day of classes. But here he is, three o’clock in the afternoon and he’s already met the most beautiful man on the face of the earth. Not just met either, oh no, he got the angel’s phone number! After literally knocking him on his ass, like how do you mess up that badly and still manage to walk away with a phone number? Matt’s answer?

              Pickup lines. Cheesy, awful pickup lines. If nothing else, guaranteed to make the person receiving the line laugh at least a little bit. Matt found people were more receptive to his particular brand of flirting if they were laughing. Making someone smile right away tended to make it easier for them to say yes to going on a date with him. And he just liked making people happy.

              Now Lance was a bit of a wildcard. The lines hadn’t worked per se, but they hadn’t not worked either. He certainly hadn’t made Lance smile or laugh with the first line, but the gorgeous boy had agreed to giving Matt his number, and he had just been knocked to the floor! So, Matt had clearly done something right with their interaction.

              Matt is still reeling from the shorter boy not knowing Pokémon at all, that was a fucking travesty. If given the chance, Matt will have to introduce the delight that is Pokémon to the Cuban. Make it a date. A date with Lance.

              Matt really likes the sound of that.

              They share a class so there is time for Matt to warm Lance up to the idea. Studying together would also be excellent. Oh god he’d lit up when he heard Matt’s last name. He was a fan of his father’s and must have actually read some of his father’s work. That stuff wasn’t an easy read, Lance is smart and that just makes him more beautiful.

              Matt is so lost in his thoughts of Lance and his sea blue eyes that he doesn’t notice his friends join him at his table in the campus library.

              “Hey Matt, you in there?” Hunk waves his hand in front of Matt’s face, snapping him out of his Lance-trance.

              “Oh, hey Hunk, when did you guys get here?” Matt looks confusedly around the table. His friends must either be ninjas or he was really out of it to not notice when the four of them sat down to join him.

              “Dude. We’ve been here for five minutes already.” huffs Keith from Matt’s right.

              “Well shit. Sorry guys. Got lost in thought.”

              “We noticed, what has you looking so wistful?” Shiro asks.

              A scoff comes from the demon on his left, “probably saw a cute boy or something.”

              “That was his ‘I saw a cute boy’ face.” Hunk adds from Pidge’s left.

              “I didn’t just see a cute boy, guys.” Matt grins, “I got his number!”

              He will definitely admit that the squeal that follows this exclamation is neither ‘manly’ nor ‘within the acceptable noise level of the library’, but he doesn’t really care. The librarians give him dirty looks all the time.

              “You got a guy’s number? Within a day of meeting him?” Keith asks, skeptical.

              “Within minutes! He was rushing off to class and I ran into him, quite literally. I helped him up off the floor and hit him with a truly classy line. It was hook, line, and sinker. Pun intended.” Matt explains. He has a dreamy look on his face and his hands together and off to the side in a signature lovestruck pose.

              “Dude. That number is totally fake. You somehow knock him to the floor, use a shitty pickup line on him and he gives you his number? No way.” Keith is shaking his head, arms across his chest.

              “See I would have thought so too if I hadn’t called the number. He answered.” Matt says pointing triumphantly in Keith’s face. “So, hah!”

              “You called him?! He was heading to class Matt! You could have gotten him in trouble with his professor!” Hunk reprimands. He knows he’d be mad if someone called him right before class starts.

              “He didn’t have to pick up! It was fine Hunk. Besides, I only had him on the line for like a minute.” Matt counters, rolling his eyes good naturedly at his friend.

              Everybody goes silent at that, most still amazed that Matt’s terrible pickup lines had worked even a little bit. This poor guy must be so confused.

              Shiro is the first to break the silence, “So are you going to tell us this guy’s name?”

              “Oh, my goodness dad, you’re right. How rude of me. His name is Lance, he’s in the 9 am Astronomy 540 with us Hunk.” Matt nods in Hunks direction. Hunk eyebrows jump up in realization.

              “Hey, he’s in my second class too! He recognized me and asked to study together. He’s a pretty cool dude, we had lunch together after class.” Hunk smiles. “He definitely seems the type to like pickup lines, he hit me with duel-finger guns at lunch.”

              “He likes pickup lines and Finger guns!?” Matt’s voice is steadily rising in both volume and pitch as he repeats the information. “I think I’m in love.”

              “He’s swooning, quick get the fan! We need to stabilize him—” Matt sighs and puts his head onto his crossed arms on the table, the dreamy look intensifying, “—We’re losing him! Hunk get the book. Shiro hold him down! Keith! Prepare your most heart wrenching emo music, we need to bring him back down to earth!” Pidge instructs dramatically.

              Matt only sighs again and gazes longingly out the window, now more to see what Pidge will do. He isn’t disappointed.

              “No, we’ve lost him! My only brother lost to us from pining.” The back of her hand flies to her forehead as she dramatically faints into Hunk’s awaiting arms. The boy holding back fake tears with great difficulty.

              “Man, this is so sad. Alexa, play Despacito.” Shiro says, deadpan, from his spot at the other end of the square table.

              They all start laughing as Keith’s phone starts actually playing Despacito. A setting Pidge must have added recently.

              “All that aside, what are planning to do Matt? You going to ask him out on Wednesday?” Hunk asks, Pidge still laying in her pose in his arms. She is committed to her craft god dammit.

              A determined look comes across Matt’s face, he raises his fist, “I’m going to woo him.” He nods to himself once.

              “Great, you do that. We still on for tonight guys?” Keith asks the group, he gets nods from everyone. “Great, I’m going to head home and get a quick ride in before we head out.” he’s pushes back from the table and heads for the exit, throwing a wave over his shoulder as he goes.

              “Yeah, I’ve got class soon. I should head too.” Pidge says before also leaving.

              Matt knows Hunk and Shiro have the rest of the day off, so they decide to go hangout at Shiro’s place before the meet up later. The other boys have no idea what they have gotten themselves into, trapping themselves with Matt for the rest of the day. He’s going to gush so hard.

~~~~~~~~~~~

              Lance meets up with Romelle on the edge of campus nearest his apartment. They walk the five minutes back to Lance’s apartment in easy silence. Lance hasn’t said a word about Matt to Romelle yet, he’s waiting until they get to his place where there will be comfy couches and facemasks to accompany their gossiping. The smile on his face never dulls though and he knows Romelle is getting suspicious.

              When they arrive at his place and he has closed the door behind them, Romelle pins him with an expectant look. Lance chuckles, “Let’s get our hangout on first, then I will give you all the dirty details. This needs full gushing-about-boys mode.”

              “Full gush mode? This is going to be so juicy.” Romelle rubs her hands together in anticipation. She throws her bag on the couch as Lance does and follows him into the kitchen to prep snacks.

              Ten minutes later they have a couple bowls of popcorn (extra butter because they’re not animals), and some veggies and dip. Hey, they may be away from home but they both know the benefits of good snack foods! Besides all the sugar and grease would be horrible for their complexions.

              They’ve made a fort of Lance’s chocolate coloured sectional couch, pulling the couch together so it almost looks like a giant bed in the middle of Lance’s living room. They pop a musical they’ve both seen a thousand times into the DVD player for background noise and get right to the facemasks. Once applied, Romelle once again pins Lance with The LookTM

              Lance puts his hands up in surrender, “Okay, okay. First things first, there are some beautiful people at this school. Like holy cheese Romelle, beautiful people. I walked into my first class and nearly had a heart attack, there were so many attractive people. There were these two guys in my first class, and just wow, I met one of them in my second class and the muscles. Romelle. The muscles on this man are to die for, and he is literally the sweetest person in the universe. His name is Hunk and he’s agreed to be my study buddy for both classes—” Romelle waggles her eyebrows at him suggestively, “—hey no not like that. He’s a friend all the way for me, because the real juice is that I got a guy’s number today.”

              “You didn’t! Oh, my god Lance! What’s his name? His major? Sign? Blood type?”

              “Romelle! If you’d stop and breathe for a second I could tell you!” Lance chuckles, she was such a good hype man. “His name is Matt, he’s actually the son of one of my professors. Which I found out after he pulled some quality pickup lines on me. He’s such a dork Romelle, but he’s gorgeous. Like tall, fit, rugged kind of gorgeous. Downright rakish” Lance sighs wistfully.

              “He sounds like a dream; how did you even meet this Matt? It sounds like he fell from heaven just for you.” Romelle smirks.

              “It wasn’t from heaven, but he definitely fell.” He chuckles, Romelle raises an eyebrow, “He wasn’t watching where he was going in the hallway and ran into me, we both fell. Literally.” Lance shakes his head, “Honestly Romelle, it was the craziest thing. A hot stranger lands on me in the hallway and pulls awful pickup lines but ends up with my number anyways. It’s way too good to be true and if the landing didn’t hurt I would think it was a dream.”

              “It certainly does sound amazing, what are you going to do about it?”

              “Well, I’m not letting him get away if that’s what you’re implying! He was playing a mobile game when he ran into me, Poke-something. I was thinking I’d get him to show me how to play.” He explains.

              “Pokémon? Like Pokémon go? People still play that?” Again, with the eyebrow raise. She needs to stop showing off her eyebrow skills.

              “Apparently? I don’t actually know what it is, hence the getting him to show me.” Lance winks.

              “You know what? That’s actually a great idea. If he’s still playing, then he probably really likes it. I am behind this a hundred percent.” Romelle nods sagely.

              “So, wanna help me find the app? Help me get set up?” He asks hopefully.

              “Of course! I’d be a terrible wing woman if I didn’t. We’re are getting you that man!”

              They both cheer before turning to Lance’s phone to get started.

~~~~~~~~~~~

              Lance’s Tuesday is rather uneventful in that Hunk and Matt are not in either of his Tuesday classes, which is honestly expected. Latin and Computer science for dummies don’t seem like classes the two men would be in. He meets up with Romelle for lunch again before they split for her to go to work and Lance makes his way to the library for a couple hours to get a head start on his readings for the week.

              Once he’s arrived home, he makes sure he has everything ready for the next day. He has the game downloaded on his phone, an extra battery pack (the reviews say that the game is a battery drainer) and some snacks. Some of the forums he perused mentioned a lot of walking and he wants to go into this as prepared as possible. He needs to impress Matt after all!

              Speaking of the object of his affections, Matt hasn’t said anything to him since that phone call yesterday. The man seems pretty comfortable with being forward, so the radio silence is throwing Lance off a bit. Then again, Lance hasn’t exactly said anything either. Maybe Matt was waiting for Lance to initiate contact this time? Oh god is he sending Matt the wrong message? Does Matt think he is ignoring him? Lance’s hands fly to is hair and start pulling. This is a catastrophe!

              Lance’s hands release his hair and start scrambling over his pockets, where in the hobgoblin’s nuts is his phone? If he can text Matt something positive, he can fix the day of accidental silence!

              “Aha! Gotcha!” he exclaims, pulling his phone out of his right back pocket. He quickly checks for any notifications, there are none, and heaves a sigh of relief before a bit of disappointment wiggles in.

              Maybe Matt is having second thoughts about everything? Maybe that’s why he hasn’t texted Lance all day. He looks at his phone and sighs.

              “Knocking someone over in the hallway isn’t exactly the kind of thing you follow up on. Maybe he only asked for my number to try and be nice?” he wonders aloud to himself.

              He shakes his head vigorously, “Then why would he spring pickup lines on me? There’d be no reason for something like that if he wasn’t at least a little interested!”

              His confidence now bolstered, he raises his phone and opens the messaging app. He scrolls down to his newest contact and opens it.

              “Hmmm, what to write what to write? Hey, he used a cheesy line! He’d probably enjoy getting one back!” Lance pumps his other arm in victory.

              He hits the text bar at the bottom of the screen. He types a couple lines and hits send. Now he only has to wait for a reply! He nods in self-satisfaction before grabbing his astronomy textbook and getting to this week’s readings. He actually does genuinely enjoy being ahead of the game when it comes to school.

~~~~~~~~~~~

              Matt is jogging home after his last class of the day when his phone chimes with an incoming message.

              He slows to a walk and pulls out the device, confused as to who is messaging him. His group chat with his friends has a distinct alert and that definitely isn’t it.

              His heart stops when he sees it’s from Lance.

              ‘Hey, how’s your day been?

              Matt resists the urge to scream. Lance actually texted him! He was waiting until tomorrow, so he doesn’t come on too strong but if Lance is willing to strike up a conversation then who is Matt to not take this perfect opportunity?

              ‘It’s been pretty decent, but hearing from you has made it infinitely better ’

              Matt walks slowly while he waits for a reply. The three dots coming up at the bottom of his screen almost immediately.

              ‘Such a Charmer!

              Followed closely by,

              ‘Hey, are you tired right now?’

              Which leaves Matt a little confused. Why would Lance want to know that? Is he planning something?

              ‘Not really? It’s been a rather uneventful day.

              The dots are back almost as quickly as they were before.

              ‘Huh, that’s weird. I thought you would be exhausted after running through my mind all day.’

              The reply makes Matt choke. Lance really is a fan of pickup lines. Matt is so fucked, so royally fucked. He scrambles to type a suitable reply.

              ‘Oh my god! Are you Google? Because you’re everything I’ve been searching for!

              There is no immediate reply to that one.

              “So, he can dish it out, but he can’t take it huh? That is too cute.” Matt whispers to himself. He feels the blush on his face and the grin that’s making his cheeks hurt.

              He slips his phone into his pocket again. He’ll give Lance a few minutes to process before he sends him anything else. With his phone secure in his pocket once more, he starts back on his jog home.

~~~~~~~~~~~

              Lance is bright red. He’s got his hand over his mouth as he internally combusts.

              “He’s going to be the literal death of me. How is he that fucking smooth?!” Lance shrieks, throwing his phone down on his couch before falling to the floor and spreading his long limbs out. he needs to process this before his face literally lights on fire.

              That line was so smooth, he thinks to himself.

              How is he going to deal with that in class all the time? Oh no, class. He has class with Hunk and Matt tomorrow.

              He has to face Matt tomorrow after that smooth as fuck line.

              He is so fucked.

~~~~~~~~~~~

              Matt arrives on campus Wednesday morning with his father and sister. It was the earliest he could get to campus and not be a zombie. Pidge still lives with their parents and her 8 am lecture is something Matt could never do but he isn’t above using it to set up the perfect reunion with Lance.

              They have one class together and Matt is going to make the absolute most of it. They’re going to sit next to each and everything! He thinks excitedly as he downs the rest of his first cup of coffee for the day.

              “Okay, spill. Why in the world did you ask to come in with us this morning?” Pidge asks, squinting at him in suspicion.

              “No reason just wanted to be here early.” It’s a half truth and he knows Pidge is going to pick up on it. He just hopes she doesn’t say anything—

              “Wait a minute! Isn’t your first class with Lance? You’re here an hour early because Lance is in your first class! I am both somewhat impressed by your dedication and concerned for your mental state because you have to be crazy.” She looks at him with a vaguely impressed expression.

              “Yes. I have my first class with Lance! I wanted to make a good second impression okay? He texted me yesterday and I think my flirting flustered him a little too much cause he never responded. I want to be obvious but not come on too strong y’know? I really like him.” He explains, getting quieter as he goes on.

              “He must have made an impression if you’re this concerned.” She sighs.

              “If he responded so well to your lines yesterday he obviously likes you too, maybe he’s not used to being flirted with? Maybe start with a nice compliment today rather than a pickup line. Ease him into it all.” Pidge suggests, actually trying to be helpful.

              “That’s a good idea Pidge, he’s got beautiful eyes.” Matt sighs at the memory of Lance’s gorgeous blue eyes.

              “Yeah that’s great but keep your pining ass away from me when you do that. I don’t want to somehow catch your cooties.” She says disgustedly.

              A thumbs up is all she gets before they pull into the faculty parking lot of the science buildings. She hops out and heads for her class, waving goodbye to their father and Matt as she goes. Matt takes a moment to gather himself before he too, exits the vehicle.

              “What is this Katie was saying about a boy?” Sam holt asks his eldest child.

              Matt freezes and blushes up to his ears, leave it to his dad to not leave his love life alone.

              “I met a cute boy yesterday, managed to get his number. He’s actually in your 9am lecture with Hunk and I. His name is Lance.” Matt says nervously.

              “Ah yes the boy who sat behind you boys on Monday. He transferred with a glowing record from his last university. A very smart young man.” Sam says approvingly. Before his expression darkens.

              “He didn’t know you were my son when you asked for his phone number did he?”

              “No, he didn’t find out until afterwards. He seemed genuinely pleased to talk to me dad. I don’t think he would think of using me to get to you.” Matt assures quietly.

              “As long as you’re sure, I’d hate for him to break your heart Matt. You deserve something good after all that stuff with your knee.” His father says. Sam Holt was nothing if not supportive of his children.

              “Thanks dad. I’ll be careful though.” He says, a grateful smile on his face.

              The two men go their separate ways after that, Matt heading for the student centre for more coffee and Sam for his office to prepare for that day’s classes.

~~~~~~~~~~~

              When Lance arrives to his 9 am class he’s ten minutes earlier than normal. He’s ten minutes earlier than normal and Matt is already waiting by the door. Now this could totally be normal Matt behaviour but for some reason Lance doesn’t think so. He’s too tense, he looks a little nervous.

              Huh.

              Why would he be nervous? Lance decides that maybe adding to the stress the other man is clearly feeling isn’t a good idea, when Matt spots him.

              The older man absolutely lights up when he sees Lance standing there. He waves Lance over with a devilish grin.

              “Hey hot stuff, come here often?” Matt says and winks at Lance as he makes his way over.

              “Well considering this is the first week of classes, no not really but I’m definitely looking to change that.” Lance fires back, a smirk on his face. The blush that stains Matt’s cheeks makes Lance mentally fist pump in victory. Finally, his natural suaveness was shining through.

              “You know just what to say to me don’t you?” Matt teases. He giggles at Lance’s answering blush.

              And there goes all that natural suaveness.

              “Aw what’s wrong gorgeous? Cat got your tongue?”

              Oh no, the rakishness is back. Lance’s heart skips. He makes a choked noise and he swears his face is going to explode.

              “Oh my god did I break you? Are you okay?” Matt says, a little worried. Lance looks ready to pass out with how red he is.

              Lance nods stiffly.

              “Are you sure? Do I need to tone it down? I can get a little carried away when I see a pair of eyes as hypnotising as yours.” Lance just squeaks. Matt has the decency to look apologetic.

              “It’s fine! I’m just not really used to being hit on. I’m usually the smooth one.” Lance says sheepishly, finally finding his voice.

              “Seriously? No one flirts with you? That is a god damn travesty! This cannot stand!” Matt announces dramatically.

              Lance giggles at Matt’s silliness. Matt freezes for a moment before a goofy grin takes over his face.

              “You two seem to be having fun.” Hunk declares as he makes his way over to the other two men.

              Lance looks up at the big man with a small smile and Matt is wearing a huge grin, “You know it big man!” Matt says, Lance shooting finger guns at Hunk. Hunk just stares at the two, they’re perfectly in sync today. It’s unnerving.

              “Oh my god. You two are perfect for each other.” Hunk says in disgust.

              The other two men look at each other then turn away awkwardly, a blush rising on both their faces.

              “Okay, this is disgustingly sweet so I’m going to go sit down now.” He says as he walks towards the doors of their lecture theatre. The other two are quick to follow behind. They grab seats close to where they were on Monday, Lance between the two other men.

~~~~~~~~~~~

              “Hey Matt, did you get the update from Pidge about the raid-ride tonight?” Hunk asks once their lecture is over.

              “Yeah, it’s going to be pretty late though huh? You’ve got the 8 am lecture, tomorrow don’t you? You sure you want to come?” Matt asks distracted by the people they have to avoid to get out of the theatre.

              “I’ll be fine, I had a request for Adventure Cookies anyways.” Hunk shrugs.

              Lance asks confused, “What’s a raid-ride?”

              “Oh my god confused Lance is adorable. Hunk learn him a thing, I gotta get to class.” He says, looking at Lance’s wide eyes before darting down the hall.

              “Okay? You wanna come get coffee with me?” Lance asks Hunk. Hunk nods and they head off to the coffee shop Lance had met Romelle at two days prior.

              They grab coffee and some croissants from the coffee shop and chat about their classes before they head off to their shared second class of the day.

~~~~~~~~~~~

              They decide that lunch is in order after their second class lets out. They head for the student centre, Hunk texting someone constantly on their way there. Once they sit down with their food, Hunk puts his phone down on the table and looks at Lance with a smug grin.

              “So, you and Matt looked pretty cozy this morning. What’s all that about?”

              “I wish I knew man. He flirts with me and I love it, and I want more than anything for it to be a thing…” Lance trails off.

              “But?” Hunk encourages.

              “But, is it really a good idea? I would be more than happy to continue on with how we’re going, but I want more than that and if that could cause issues with either of us and his dad being a professor then would it be okay? I don’t want Matt or Dr. Holt to get in trouble because of me.” Lance answers quietly.

              “Lance, buddy, don’t worry about it. It’ll be fine. Dr. Holt and Matt have an agreement with the school about this kind of stuff.” The larger man assures.

              “Really? So, pursuing Matt won’t get either of them in trouble?” Lance breathes a sigh of relief at Hunk’s emphatic nodding.

              “Alright, then I have a plan and I was hoping for your opinion.” Lance says with a hopeful smile.

              Hunk gestures for Lance to proceed.

              “Well, when Matt bumped into me on Monday he was playing a game on his phone. He seemed pretty into it and that got me thinking. So, I asked my friend Romelle if she knew what the game was and apparently for him to be playing it he’d have to enjoy it a lot right? So, I figured that maybe I could give it a try, maybe get him to teach me how to play y’know?” he explains animatedly.

              Hunk’s eyes widen almost comically at the mention of the phone game. Lance is really trying to get in Matt’s good books, obviously not knowing that the older man is absolutely beyond smitten with him. Hunk needs to tell Pidge immediately, she is going to get such a kick out this!

              “That sounds like a great idea man. In fact, I invited him to come have lunch with us, so he should be here any minute and you can ask him!” Hunk says, trying really hard not to laugh.

              Lance’s eyes almost bug out of his face, “Wait what?”

              “Hey guys!” they hear from behind them. Lance turns and sees Matt walking towards their table with a bright smile as he waves.

              ‘Well,’ Lance thinks to himself, ‘I’m fucked.’

~~~~~~~~~~~

              Matt was riding high after his first class. He knows he laid it on a little thick with the flirting, but Lance said he was okay with it. Matt has no intention of stopping now that he knows Lance is receptive.

              He’s on his way to his usual spot in the library when he gets a message from Hunk.

              ‘Lance and I are going for lunch after this class, you should totally join us.’

              Matt smirks at the message, leave it to Hunk to be the best wingman ever.

              ‘I’m so there. Keep me updated’

              Matt settles down in his chair at his usual table and waits.

~~~~~~~~~~~

              An hour later he gets another message from Hunk.

              ‘Dude, you have some seriously good taste. You 2 are literally fucking perfect for each other. We’re done class, get your ass over to the student centre.’

              Matt feels his heart warm. If Hunk thinks they’re perfect for each other then there’s really nothing that can challenge that. Matt grabs his books and starts packing up to head across campus to the student centre.

              He makes good time getting there and all the while he’s getting messages from Hunk about Lance.

              Things like: ‘Dude, he wants the flirting.’ And, ‘You better take it to the next level soon bro, he’s fucking smitten with you.’ To, ‘Seriously dude, you don’t need to woo him. He’s so gone. HE HAS A PLAN TO WOO YOU, YOU DO NOT NEED TO WOO’

              ‘Hunk have I ever told you how much I appreciate our friendship? If not let me tell you now, you are an angel. A true fucking angel.’

              Matt comes up behind the two boys as Lance is animatedly explaining something. God he’s so adorable.

              “Hey guys!” He calls, and watches in amusement as Lance whips around and stares at him. Oh man those eyes.

              “How’s it going? Got any juicy news for me since we last parted?” He asks as he slides into the seat next to Lance. The younger man wide-eyed and gaping at him.

              “Not a whole lot, except Lance here was just telling me he was wanting to give a new game a try.” Hunk smirks.

              “Oh really, I am well versed in games of many kinds. What game is it?” Matt is curious now, where is this going? Is this part of the plan Hunk had mentioned?

~~~~~~~~~~~

              “Uh, well, I uh. I wanted to give that Pokémon game a try. You said it was fun and I thought it might be a good way to get out of my apartment more often?” Lance says, nervously rubbing the back of his neck.

              “I was actually hoping you’d show me how to play? I mean since I’ve never seen or played Pokémon before and you seemed to know a lot.” A sheepish smile slides its way onto his lips.

              Well fuck, isn’t that just the most adorable thing Matt has ever seen?

              “I’d love to Lance. Hunk and I are actually part of a group that plays regularly. We’ve got a raid-ride tonight, you could probably join us. Right Hunk?” Matt turns to his friend expectantly.

              “Oh yeah, the more the merrier!” Hunk says, trying to contain himself. Their friends were going to tease Matt mercilessly for this.

              “Great! I’m done my last class at 3 this afternoon. When are you guys all meeting up? I can meet you some place!” Lance says excitedly, his plan was working!

              “It might be a good idea for someone to show you a little on how to play first so you’re not totally lost when you meet the rest of the group.” Hunk adds.

              “That would be great! I really have no idea what I’m doing, and a little one-on-one instruction would be really helpful!” Lance agrees quickly, a suggestive arch to his eyebrows.

~~~~~~~~~~~

              “I’m done my classes for the day, I can meet up with you after your class is done and we can go through Pokémon Go 101 on the way to the meetup.” Matt suggests, picking up on Lance’s suggestive tone.

              “The meetup isn’t until 8 though Matt, cause of Keith’s night class. Pokémon 101 wouldn’t take five hours.” Hunk interjects.

              “You’re right Hunk. You can head home after class Lance, I can meet you at the park south of campus at like 6:30 instead. That work?” thank goodness for Hunk’s good memory, Matt totally forgot Keith has a night class on Wednesdays.

              “Um, I don’t actually know where the park is. I moved here from the other side of the country a couple weeks ago. I haven’t had the chance to explore yet.” Lance says quietly. The embarrassed blush on his face make Matt’s heart skip a beat. Well damn, if this wasn’t the perfect opportunity then what was?

              “I can walk you home after class? We could hang out for a bit, and I can show you around town a bit while we get you setup to play.” Matt suggests. ‘Please sweet god let him say yes,’ he thinks.

              “Uh, yeah, sure. That sounds good.” Lance mumbles. His face is bright red.

              Matt does a mental victory dance.

              “What building is your last class in? I can meet you there when you’re done.”

              “The math science tower.” Lance replies.

              “Awesome, I’ll meet you by the door to the quad at 3.” Lance nods in ascent.

              Hunk just sits across the table watching the two men plan what is definitely not a date, no way. Not even close to a date.

              “They are so made for each other.” He mumbles to himself, not loud enough for the two men to hear.

~~~~~~~~~~~

              Lance can feel his hands shaking. He’s just leaving his last class of the day and he knows Matt is waiting for him. So they can walk to Lance’s apartment. Alone. Oh god is he nervous.

              He makes his way down the hall to the staircase to bide himself a little more time. He’s more than excited to spend time with Matt but it’s also incredibly nerve-wracking, being in the same place as the object of your affections usually is. It doesn’t help that he’s meeting Matt’s friends that night either. What of they don’t like him? What if he doesn’t like them? So many things could go wrong.

              He’s so lost in thought that he doesn’t notice that he’s at the bottom of the eight flights of stairs until he’s almost halfway to the door he’s meeting Matt at. The older man doesn’t seem to be there yet, and Lance relaxes just a little bit. He still has time to compose himself.

              “Hey, looking for someone?” Lance jumps at the voice suddenly behind him and whips around.

              “Whoa there! Didn’t mean to scare you.” Matt says sheepishly.

              “I wasn’t scared, that was a shriek of intimidation…” Lance mumbles.

              Matt laughs and Lance blushes even more furiously. That was a sound he could get used to.

              “So, you ready to head out?” and Lance nods.

              “Lead the way pretty boy.” Matt says, gesturing towards the doors beside them.

              Because it’s somehow possible, Lance can feel his face heat up even more. He’s probably blushing all the way to his toes now.

              They head through the quad, towards the south side of campus, through the parking lot for the science buildings and off campus. The walk is short, and they spend it in relative silence. They’re just rounding the corner of Lance’s block when Matt breaks the silence.

              “What made you decide to live off campus?” he asks.

              “Well, I didn’t have much choice. My transfer came through after the application deadline and since there weren’t any single rooms left after that, my parents helped me find an apartment.” Lance shrugs. He’s pretty pleased with having his own place. He doesn’t have to deal with nearly as many obnoxiously loud parties.

              “Transfer? Where from?” Matt asks, curiosity written all over his face.

              “Arus.”

              “You went to Castle University! Wow! The science department over there is insane!” he gushes, “Why’d you transfer so far away? And to a less prestigious school?”

              “I wanted to try being on my own for once. I have a massive family and they can be incredibly overbearing at times. I needed a change.” Lance replies as they come up to his building.

              Lance waves at the security guard on duty and heads to the elevator. He hits the button for the fifth floor and they ride the elevator in silence. Lance can feel the questions buzzing in Matt’s brain, just glad he was waiting until they were behind closed doors to ask them.

              They get off the elevator, turn left and head down to the end of the hallway. Lance’s apartment is the last door on the right. Number 517. He unlocks the door and holds it open for Matt to enter ahead of him. The taller man looks around with wide eyes at the simple set up of the space.

              The apartment is very open, there’s no wall between the kitchen and the living room, only a bar counter with four bar stools underneath it and a support pillar making up some of the hallway. The living room has a large sectional couch that covers the two farthest walls of the room from the door. There is a large ottoman in the middle and a love seat in front of the bar. The kitchen is something Hunk would have a field day with, there’s lots of counter space and a large island in the middle with a stovetop and an oven.

              To the left of the entrance is a wall. The first of the three doors in that wall is a bathroom, the second and third are both bedrooms. There’s a mirror at the end of the hallway as well. Matt whistles, impressed with the size of the apartment.

              “Wow, nice place you got here. It’s got a lot of space and it’s only five minutes from campus on foot. You lucked out so hard. I hope your roommate doesn’t mind I’m here.” Matt says, in awe of Lance’s home.

              “I don’t have a roommate. My parents really didn’t like the idea of me living with anyone so it’s just me.” he says quietly.

              “No roommate? How are you paying for this place? It must cost a fortune alone.”

              “I wouldn’t know, my parents are covering the rent right now.”

              “Wow, that sounds like a pretty sweet deal. I’m kinda jealous, I still live at home which is nice but having my own place would be amazing. All that privacy!” Matt sighs wistfully.

              “It’s a little odd coming from a loud house and a big family to here. It’s quiet with just me, it’s a little unnerving sometimes.”

              “I bet it would be. I still live with my parents and my sister, but they’re all pretty quiet people anyways. At least now you’ll be able to have all your friends over for movie night and stuff.” Matt shrugs.

              “Romelle and I have movie nights weekly.”

              “Sick, what about your other friends?” Matt asks.

              “What other friends? It’s just Romelle, you and Hunk so far.” Lance replies, confused.

              “While I’m flattered to be included in that list, a radiant and charming man such as yourself should definitely have more friends.” Lance blushes, “It seems my friends and I will just have to adopt you.” Matt nods in satisfaction at his plan. Lance would have a whole group of friends by the end of the night.

              “…Okay? Um, thank you?”

              Matt just smiles in reply.

              “So, it’s like quarter to 4, and the meetup isn’t until 8. What do you want to do?” Lance asks.

              “Well, you’ve got no experience with Pokémon at all, so since you’ve got a tv and probably an internet connection, let’s introduce you to my childhood. You’re about to watch anime bro.” Matt replies excitedly, heading for the corner of the couch on the far side of the living room. He puts his backpack on the floor before bending down to rummage through it. He triumphantly pulls out his laptop and an HDMI cable.

              ‘Why in the heck does he have that?’ Lance thinks to himself.

              “Okay, so we’re watching the show about Pokémon. Cool. I will have you know that I’m no stranger to anime though. I had my own weab phase growing up.” Lance says, moving to the couch to the right of where Matt has placed his backpack.

              “Well you clearly haven’t watched much anime to not know what Pokemon is, so we’re going to rectify this. Pokémon here we come!” Matt announces, moving to the tv to plug in his laptop and pull up the first episode. “I’m usually a sub kind of person but we’re watching the original dub version for nostalgia purposes. No choice in the matter.”

              Matt makes his way back to the couch and plops himself down to Lance’s right. Lance grabs the remote for the tv and hits the power button. The tv comes to life and a view of the screen on Matt’s laptop is projected.

              “Dude how are you going to reach your computer from here?” Lance asks, wondering how the clearly smart boy could skip over this detail.

              “I have this lovely thing right here called a mouse. It’s plugged into the USB port in my laptop. As long as I can see what I’m clicking on we’ll be fine.” Matt assures, holding up said mouse and waggling it.

~~~~~~~~~~~

              “Alrighty then. Do you want any snacks or anything?” Lance asks, rising from the couch to go check out what he has to offer in his kitchen.

              “I’m down for anything really.” Matt shrugs.

              “Alright, well I’ve got some chips and some Coke. Sound good?”

              “Sure!” comes the reply form the living room.

              Lance takes a moment while he’s mostly out of Matt’s sight to breathe. Matt was in his living room. Matt was sitting on his couch. They were alone together. They would be alone together for the next four hours.

              Oh boy.

              What does he do for four hours? He has to keep Matt occupied somehow but what does that entail? They’ve known each other for like three days! There’s an obvious attraction between the two of them but how does that playout here? Is he supposed to make a move? Are they supposed to talk about it? This was already incredibly nerve wracking.

              Lance grabs the chips, puts them in a large bowl and grabs two cans of Coke from the fridge. When he walks back into the living room he sees Matt wandering the room looking at the various photos and posters Lance has hung on the walls.

              “That’s a picture of my sisters and our cousin back when they were like ten. We went to the beach near my house for a surprise trip when my uncle and cousin came to visit. I liked the picture and it’s one of the only ones I have of the girls together, so I figured I’d bring it with me. Now are we going to watch this show or not?” Lance explains fondly before reminding Matt about their original plans.

              “Right, right. Let’s get Pokémon 101 rolling! You’re going to love it!” Matt says as he launches himself back onto the couch next to Lance and hits play on his laptop.

              Lance chuckles quietly at the older man’s antics. ‘He’s such an adorable dork,’ Lance thinks to himself fondly. He could get used to spending time around Matt.

              The opening of the first episode pulls Lance’s attention back to the tv, and he doesn’t take his eyes off the screen.

Chapter Text

              Matt watches Lance fondly as they sit on the younger man’s couch. Lance is so engrossed in the tv that he doesn’t notice Matt’s staring, which is both a blessing and a shame. Matt absolutely adores the blush that flares on Lance’s cheeks when Matt catches him off guard but seeing him so genuinely entranced is something Matt would pay to see regularly.

              Lance is just so beautiful.

              Matt smiles fondly at the younger man before turning back to the tv. They are just finishing up the fourth episode of the first season and Lance is in love with Butterfree. Which is to be expected because c’mon it’s Butterfree. Before Lance can snag the mouse to click to the next episode, Matt grabs it and moves it away from Lance’s seeking hands.

              “Hold on a minute there, pretty boy. We’ve been at this for an hour and a half, let’s take a quick break and maybe scrounge up some dinner. Hunk is going to have snacks later, but we have to make sure you’ve got enough energy for how much walking we’re going to be doing later.” Matt says, grinning at the disappointed expression on Lance’s face. ‘God this boy is too cute.’ Matt thinks.

              Lance doesn’t say anything, he just sits there and pouts as his face heats up from the nickname. His silence is ended by the growling of his stomach.

              Matt laughs, “Well I think your stomach agrees with me!”

              “Traitor. I was having fun watching the show.” Lance continues to pout.

              “And we have two and a half hours before the rendezvous time, we can come back and watch more but we both need some food first.” Matt says attempting to placate the other man.

              “Fine.” Lance says, drawing out the vowel in exasperation. “Did you want to cook or order in?”

              “Well, if we cook it’ll take longer. If we order in, we can watch more while we wait.” Matt offers.

              “But ordering in requires money and I don’t know about you, but I’d like to save as much money as possible.” Lance counters.

              “Damn good point. What do you have that we can make?” he says, tapping his finger to his chin in thought.

              “Well, I’ve got some pasta, some instant rice, the makings of a quick veggie stir-fry, and some other like miscellaneous stuff. Depends what you’re in the mood for I guess.” He shrugs.

              “Damn, I was expecting like frozen pizza or something. I’d be down for a veggie stir-fry if you’re up for it.” Matt looks surprised. A university student who actually likes to cook for themselves, that isn’t Hunk? World-ending.

              The prep for food is quick because everything is pre-cut and ready to just go in the pan Lance has started heating on the stove. They cook in relative silence. It’s awkward as hell.

              ‘Why is this so weirdly domestic? And why do I enjoy it so much?’ Lance asks himself. He manages not to burn himself on the pan as he mixes their food. Matt is quiet beside him, just watching him cook. He’s probably thinking about the Pokémon thing later.

~~~~~~~~~~~

              Matt is most definitely not thinking about the raid-ride later. He is also trying very hard not to ask the man in front of him to marry him immediately. He’s using all his energy just to keep the blush off his face because oh my god—

              Lance is the epitome of gorgeous.

              How Matt is going to survive the rest of the night with this god damn angel at his side, he’ll never know.

              While Matt is having a major internal crisis, Lance finishes up the stir-fry. He grabs two plates down from the cupboard above the dishwasher and two forks from the drawer next to the sink and dishes out enough for himself and Matt, before heading back out to the living room to watch more Pokémon.

              Matt doesn’t realize Lance has left the kitchen until he hears Lance call him from the living room.

              “Hey dude, food’s ready. You coming?” he asks.

              “Uh, yeah sorry!” Matt replies quickly.

              Matt pulls up the next episode of Pokémon and hits play before digging into his food. A quiet moan of satisfaction slips out when he takes a bite, surprising the man to his left and bringing a bright red flush to Lance’s cheeks.

              “You must have been really hungry, it’s really nothing special.” Lance says, looking away from Matt.

              “I mean yes, I was hungry, but hunger does not change taste pretty boy. You and Hunk need to team up sometime cause food coming from you two would be godly.”

              Lance coughs awkwardly before turning back to the episode. They finish their food in silence, eyes trained on the screen of Lance’s tv.

              Another hour passes before either man speaks.

              “Hey, when do you want to start Pokémon 101?” Lance asks.

              Matt ponders for a moment before answering, “Well we just finished the episode, so I guess now is as good a place to stop as any. Let me shut down my computer and we can get you all setup.”

              Lance nods before grabbing their plates and taking them to the dishwasher.

              Once Matt has all his stuff put back in his bag and Lance is back in the living room, he whips out a mortarboard from his bag and his old glasses with massive frames and turns to Lance.

              “Um, what are you doing?” Lance asks, confused by Matt’s antics.

              “Well I figured that if I’m teaching you how to play this game, I might as well look the part right?” Matt replies sheepishly. Maybe the hat was a little too much, he’s committed now though.

              Lance thinks on that for a moment, “Alright, what’s first professor?”

              Matt grins, “Well, first we need to get you a truly exceptional avatar and handle.”

              “Okay? How do I do that?”

              Matt’s grin widens.

~~~~~~~~~~~

              Twenty minutes later finds the two men outside of Lance’s apartment, mortarboard and glasses-less, phones in hand and apps open. Lance going through the tutorial at the beginning of the game and learning what exactly the purpose of everything is. Matt suggests they wait until they actually reach the park for a real explanation, but they’ll be going over some of the bigger things on the way.

              “Alright, first thing’s first. Once you’re done talking to the professor, you’ll get to choose a Pokémon to catch. There are three main starters, and one ‘secret’ one. The thing about Pokémon Go is that it’s augmented reality, so the game is overlaid on the real world. If you want, you can play with the Pokémon actually being in your environment or you can turn off the VR and play with the Pokémon backgrounds. I personally like to play that way.” Matt explains, gesturing at Lance’s phone and all the settings visible from the main screen.

              “Okay, so turning VR off, got it. Can you tell me more about these starters?” Lance asks, confused.

              “Of course! So, every Pokémon game starts the same way. You go to the professor and are given the choice between three Pokémon to be your very first Pokémon ever. Each game has a different set because they’re all different generations, but the three are always a grass type, a fire type, and a water type. They all have different advantages and disadvantages depending on what Pokémon you’re battling against. Now they haven’t brought in battling yet outside of gyms and raids, so this is something you need to worry about. Let’s take a look at the starters quick and you can choose your favourite.” Lance notices that Matt likes to gesture a but while he’s explaining. It’s ridiculously cute.

              They stop in the middle of the sidewalk for Lance to take a look around with his phone and look at the Pokémon he has to choose from.

              “What in the hell is that?”

              Matt looks at the screen concerned before laughing, “That’s a Bulbasaur. It’s the grass type, look that way.” He points.

              “That’s a Charmander, the fire type, and if you look the other way you’ll find the water type.”

              “It’s a turtle! I love turtles!”

              Matt chuckles at how Lance lights up, “It’s called a Squirtle. If you turn around, you’ll find the last starter option.” Lance turns around and gasps excitedly.

              “Pikachu! I didn’t think he’d be an option. Pikachu is cool but that Squirtle was super cute.” Lance pouts.

              “You can pick whatever you want Lance, you have the ability to catch the others at some point so it’s not a big deal. Plus, and you’ll love this, you can pick a name for all the Pokémon you catch, including your starter.” Matt waggles his eyebrows suggestively.

              “Oh my god! I’m getting the Squirtle!” Lance announces before looking at the screen again, confused. “What do I do now?”

              “Tap the Pokémon you want, then I’ll show you how to catch it.” Matt was losing the battle over whether or not to coo at Lance’s adorableness. The cute is strong in this one.

              “Okay!” Lance taps the Squirtle and the screen changes to the Squirtle, and a red and white ball thing that Lance recognizes vaguely from the show. “Now what?”

              “Now, tap and hold the ball at the bottom and flick it at the Squirtle.” Lance does as Matt instructs and misses. Matt encourages him to try again with a look and Lance misses a second time.

              “How do you aim this stupid thing? I’m usually really good with balls but this is ridiculous. Would you mind giving me a hand Matt?” Lance asks innocently, Matt sputters at the thinly veiled innuendo before nodding.

              He reaches around Lance to press the shorter man up against his chest before wrapping his hands around Lance’s on the phone.

              “Here, it takes a light hand.” He whispers in Lance’s ear, smirking as the younger man goes bright red.

              Lance.exe has stopped working.

              The poke ball goes flying at the Squirtle, it makes contact before the Squirtle is sucked up into the ball. The light flickers once, twice, three times, before it finally goes dark and the congratulations message comes on the screen which snaps Lance out of his daze.

              “We did it! My first Pokémon ever!” Lance shouts jumping up and down in excitement, back still to Matt’s chest.

              “Good job!” he squeezes his arms around Lance’s waist in a congratulatory hug, “What are you going to name it?”

              Lance squeaks at the arms around his waist. And this time it’s in surprise not intimidation and he’s not afraid to admit it.

              “I, uh, was thinking Michelangelo or something. Cause he’s a turtle.”

              “I like it, but why not Leonardo? He is blue.” Matt suggests.

              “It’s a little close to my first name, and besides, Mikey has always been my favourite.” Lance grins.

              Wait, Lance isn’t his first name?

              “Now let’s head for the park, the meetup time is in half an hour and we’ve still got some stuff to cover.”

              Matt moves away from Lance to a friendly distance and starts walking, leading Lance towards the main park of their town. They run into a couple Pokéstops on the way to the park and Matt explains how they work to an excited Lance. They save all the actual Pokémon catching until they’re in the park, walking around looking for Matt’s friends.

              They stop at a group of benches near a fountain where Lance is instructed to wait for Matt to come back. The benches are the usual meeting place, but Matt wants to check for the others quickly. So, Lance remains by the benches for about five minutes before he notices something weird. There’s a guy on roller blades just rolling in a circle, looking at his phone. That takes some skill.

              Huh.

              Lance looks around for Matt quickly, before heading over to see what Bladerunner is doing.

              The rollerblade master doesn’t look up from his phone when Lance approaches, he just keeps on rolling.

              “Any reason you’re rolling in circles?” Lance asks.

              “I’m catching something.” The guy says, popping a bubble with gum Lance didn’t realize he was chewing.

              Suddenly a very distinctive note rings out from the direction of Sk8ter Boi’s neck. Lance notices a pair of big over-the-ear headphones. The volume is obviously cranked up and Lance can hear the sound of My Chemical Romance playing.

              Well that explains the black on black on black ensemble and the haircut.

              Lance is about to ask what the guy is catching when he hears Matt call his name. He turns towards the call and sees Matt walking towards him with a small group walking behind him.

              The group consists of Hunk, Hot Buff Dude Numero Uno, Tiny Matt with glasses, and Hot Buff Dude Numero Dos. Hunk is carrying a messenger bag that could easily hide a large Tupperware container full of cookies.

              “I see you found Keith.” Matt says as he comes to stand in front of Lance. Mullet-Man, Keith, has stopped his circles and moved to stand next to Lance.

              “Lance this is the Squad, Squad this is the Lance.” Which starts a round of ‘Hi Lance’ from the group, some more excited sounding than others. “Lance, you’ve already met Hunk. Tall dark and broody over there is Keith, resident emo and collector of all things pointy and sharp.”

              He points to his right at Hot Dude Numero Uno, “This is Keith’s older brother Shiro, looks like a hardass with the scar and the hair, not to mention all the muscles, but he’s a giant softy. We have adopted him as our father.” Shiro goes to argue this but Matt is already moving on.

              Gesturing at Hot Dude Numero Dos, “This beautiful soul right here is our dear mom, Adam. He’s Shiro’s fiancé and way to good for him.” Shiro shrugs at that, nodding and Adam just chuckles. The combined attractiveness of the two making Lance’s eyes burn.

              “Last but not least, this little gremlin here is my sister Katie. To the Squad she is known as either Pidge or our lord and saviour PokéJesus. She knows anything and everything that goes on with the game. She may or may not be working for Niantic, we’ll never know.” Matt shrugs, Pidge just smirks. Evilly. Lance does not trust that smirk.

              “We’re missing a couple members today unfortunately. Coran is at work and Allura is—”

              “—In Turkey right now.” Lance finishes for him, surprised.

              “Yeah, how do you know that?” Hunk asks.

              “If we’re talking about Allura Albión, she happens to be my beautiful and wonderful cousin.”

              “I knew that girl in the photo looked familiar! Naturally white hair is ridiculously uncommon!” Matt shouts triumphantly.

              “Okay? I didn’t know she played Pokémon or knew you guys. Small world it seems.”

              “You got any funny stories from when you two were growing up?” Pidge asks.

              “Plenty, but I enjoy my life and unfortunately she knows where I live and also knows my mother. If you want blackmail, you’re not getting it from me.”

              Pidge shrugs, “That’s fair.”

              Hunk steps forward, “So how’s Pokémon 101 been going?”

              “Do you not trust me with the education of our dear Pokémon baby, Hunk? I am offended!” Matt proclaims dramatically. Drapes himself over Lance in mock offense.

              Lance’s face burns at the contact. He can feel the rock-hard wall that is Matt’s solid, I repeat solid, physique. ‘Oh lord, I’ve died and gone to heaven’ Lance thinks as his brain once more short circuits.

              Pidge and Hunk share a knowing look. Yeah, these two doofuses were made for each other.

              “Are we going to get to raiding or not?” Keith asks before popping another bubble.

              “Right! We came out here on a mission and we shall not be foiled!” Matt announces as he reluctantly releases Lance and heads towards the fountain. Everyone else pulls out the phones before following the man. Lance pulls out his phone and follows, confused as to what is happening.

              “Um guys? What this yellow thing?” he asks. The group doesn’t look at him.

              “It’s a gym. You challenge it.” Keith says.

              “Okay? How?”

              “Tap it.” Keith, Lance learns, is super helpful. Not.

              He taps the weird spinning yellow tower thing and it says he doesn’t have access yet.

              “Um, I can’t? It won’t let me.” Lance looks over at Keith for help.

              “Don’t worry about it Lance, you’re only a level one. You won’t be able to get in on the gyms and raids until level five. We’re going to walk around for a bit and I’ll show you how you do that okay?” Matt explains, returning to Lance’s side. Lance nods, relieved, it would suck for his game to glitch out the first day he was playing.

              The group wanders around the park for a while, getting candies he later finds out, by walking with a buddy. Lance is shown how to pick a buddy and with Mikey being his only Pokémon, sets the adorable turtle as his buddy. They come across a Pokéstop and Lance tries to figure out what it does on his own. He taps the small blue marker and spins the disk in the middle. He is quite pleased with himself when items pop up on his screen.

              “Matt look I did it!” he says, bounding up to the taller man with a delighted smile.

              The cuteness overload currently coming from Lance’s sheer amount of happiness, shorts out Matt’s brain. He just looks at Lance with a small fond smile.

              Lance’s face morphs into one of surprise when he sees a little round seal looking thing pop up near the Pokéstop. As he’s finding is usually the answer in this game, he taps the seal-like creature. The screen zooms in on the--Spheal? Is that what that says? —and a Pokéball appears at the bottom of the screen once more.

              Well, he should probably try and catch it then huh?

              His aim is better this time. He actually manages to hit the thing and it goes into the Pokéball. The dot blinks once. Twice.

              And pops back open.

              “What the heck? These things can escape in the game too?” He mutters to himself.

              He goes to flick another Pokéball. This one hits again. Blinks, once, twice, three times, and goes dark.

              “Nice job Lance!” Matt says, having been drawn over by the other man’s confused mutterings.

              Lance jumps at Matt’s sudden appearance. He nearly drops his phone in his surprise, drawing a laugh from the taller man. He blushes at the praise.

              Before Lance can reply, Pidge shouts something Lance thinks was supposed to be “raid!” before taking off down the south path.

              The others take off after her, Keith overtaking many of them on his wheels. Lance stands there in confusion for a moment. Just watching these people, he had just met, pelting down the pathway toward an invisible location and he snickers. Then he realises he should probably be following them cause he has no idea where he is or how to get home without Matt as his guide.

              Lance takes off after the group, a huge grin on his face. He could definitely get used to the enthusiastic dorkiness they exuded.

~~~~~~~~~~~

              It doesn’t take long for Lance to catch up to the group, they don’t go nearly far enough for him to lose them. But when he does arrive the group seems to be finishing up what they’re doing.

              “Well that was a bust, not nearly worth the running it took to get here.” Matt says, sitting in the grass next to the path, his left leg extended in front of him.

              “Shit Matt, did you bring your brace?” Hunk asks, concerned.

              “I did but I left my bag at Lance’s place and it’s in my bag. Totally slipped my mind.” Matt winces.

              “You pack it for a reason dude. You should stop forgetting it.” Pidge huffs.

              “He was probably too busy making goo-goo eyes at Lance to remember it.” Keith retorts.

              Lance arrives just in time to catch Keith’s comment.

              He looks confused before asking, “What about me?”

              Everyone snaps their heads over to look at Lance, jogging up to the group.

              “This idiot wasn’t paying enough attention and forgot his knee brace at your place.” Keith says, jerking his thumb in Matt’s direction.

              “Knee brace? You okay Matt?”

              “Yeah, just decided to sprint full speed when I really shouldn’t have. Sorry for leaving you back there, we tend to go tunnel vision when we’re raiding.” Matt offers an apologetic smile with the change of subject. Lance can see the discomfort underneath though.

              Maybe next time he should have insisted on them bringing their backpacks instead of leaving them at his apartment. Lance doesn’t have his EpiPen on him either and that realization leaves him feeling a little naked.

              “Okay, well since we’re not going to be out here for too much longer as some of us,” Hunk points at himself, “have an early lecture in the morning. So, I brought Adventure Sustenance!” He pulls some Tupperware containers out of his bag.

              “I’ve got a fruit platter, some veggie snacks and as promised, the Adventure Cookies.” The group digs in as soon as Hunk has his hands out of the way.

              Lance looks at the different bits of snackage Hunk laid out for them. He’s unsure about the fruit and the cookies but the veggies should be fine right? He takes a peek at the spread.

              And yup, fruit platter is definitely not safe. And the cookies have some sort of red filling in the middle. Best to avoid those too.

              Lance decides to wait until he’s at home eat something, after all he and Matt had made themselves dinner two hours ago. So, he plops himself down next to Matt on the grass.

              “How are finding day one of your Pokémon adventure young trainer?” Matt asks between bites of his snacks.

              “Pretty good so far, I think it’s going to be a fun activity to do with you.” Lance turns to look at Matt and grins.

              The blush blooms on Matt’s cheeks, and he coughs awkwardly, “You don’t have to play just to spend time with me, you’ve got my number, we can hangout. Maybe go for coffee tomorrow? Just us?” the hope in his eyes sets Lance’s cheeks on fire as well.

              That definitely sounded like a date.

              Lance opens his mouth to ask if it really is a date, when Hunk addresses him.

              “Hey Lance, you didn’t grab anything to snack on! Did you want something?”

              “Uh, no thanks Hunk. Matt and I had dinner before we left my place so I’m not all that hungry right now. Thanks though.” Lance answers awkwardly. He really doesn’t want to get into his stupid allergies right now.

              Matt knows that what they had to eat wasn’t much. They had decided on a light dinner because Hunk was bringing snacks in the first place. So why doesn’t Lance want to eat anything? He must be hungry and there were cookies!

              “That’s okay man, there’s cookies too so if you’ve got room for dessert. They’re a special of mine, chocolate chip oatmeal with a thumb print twist. I usually use raspberry jam I make myself, but I didn’t have any ready so it’s a batch of strawberry jam I made this summer. Feel free to take some.” Hunk says jovially. He’s always proud of his cooking, but especially likes to show it off when there’s a new face around.

              Lance tries not to let his face fall. Those cookies sounded really good, but not today. What a day to forget his allergy emergency bag.

              Matt sees Lance’s shoulders droop for a moment before the man catches himself and plays it off. What the heck?

              “Thanks anyway Hunk but I’m not up for cookies right now. They sound really good, especially with the raspberry jam. Maybe next time.”

              Hunk shrugs it off, “No worries man, I’ll make sure I have the raspberry next time.”

              Once snacks are done, the group returns to the raids possibly happening in the park. They get one more in before Hunk has to leave, and the group decides to call it a night.

~~~~~~~~~~~

              Matt and Lance make their way back to Lance’s apartment chatting amicably about the events of the evening. Matt answers any questions Lance has remaining from their adventures, and Lance gushes about the one Pokémon he caught by himself even though Matt was there. The older man doesn’t stop him though, just hypes him up.

              They enter Lance’s apartment laughing at one of Matt’s more ridiculous puns and hanging off each other. They end up collapsing on the couch again holding their stomachs as their giggles fade.

              Lance catches sight of his backpack laying on the ground and remembers the snack issue from earlier. His laughter cuts off.

              “Hey Matt, you need your knee brace for raid nights, right?”

              Matt looks confused, “yeah, I need a really good warmup if I’m running without it. I can get away with a light jog on good days, but I prefer to wear it anyways. Why?” he asks.

              “I forgot something really important too, it’s why I didn’t eat anything earlier. I uh. I forgot my EpiPen.” Lance says quietly.

              “Your EpiPen! Oh my god what are you allergic too? Are you okay? Why didn’t you say anything?” Matt asks loudly. He’s worrying.

              “I didn’t want to get into the details with a bunch of people I just met. I’m not really comfortable with giving personal details to strangers, even if they are your friends.” Lance snaps. He doesn’t like talking about personal issues with anyone really, but for some reason, besides his own safety, he wants Matt to know.

              “Whoa! Hey. It’s okay. I get it, new people and weaknesses are a big deal.” Matt tries to reassure the shorter man. “Hunk makes snacks for us all the time, so it might be a good idea to let him know tomorrow, you don’t really need to tell anyone else until you’re comfortable enough.”

              “I don’t have an issue with telling Hunk privately. I just didn’t want to deal with all the questions that usually come up.” Lance says, wrapping his arms around his torso protectively. He wasn’t supposed to talk about this stuff. His mom would not be happy.

              “Can you tell me what you’re allergic too? I would like to avoid potentially poisoning you if at all possible.” Matt offers.

              Lance looks at the floor next to his backpack for a moment. Collecting himself. It shouldn’t be this hard to tell someone else. Romelle knows! Matt and Hunk are his friends too.

              “You have to promise not to laugh. It’s stupid.” Lance mumbles.

              “Why would I laugh? You need an EpiPen for it then it’s gotta be severe, that’s nothing to laugh about.” Matt insists.

              Lance mumbles something that Matt can’t hear. Matt just raises an eyebrow.

              Lance huffs before grumbling, “Strawberries.”

              “Strawberries? I can see why you didn’t want to eat anything earlier.” Matt replies calmly. There’s a reason Lance is so reluctant to share, Matt doesn’t want to spook him anymore.

              “Do you want to ask me something?”

              Lance’s head whips up from where he was slouching, trying to make himself as small as possible to off set the anxiety of sharing.

              “What do you mean?” he says, skeptically.

              “Well, you just shard something personal with me, and you didn’t exactly want to. It’s only fair you get a chance to ask me something in return.” Matt shrugs. He really doesn’t have a whole lot he isn’t comfortable sharing at this point.

              “Okay? Well, uh. What’s up with your knee? Was it an injury or something?” Lance looks away from Matt as he asks. It’s the only question he can come up with and probably the most invasive.

              “Yeah, my knee cap got smashed a couple years ago. I had to get surgery to put it back together and reattach everything. I only need the knee brace for stuff higher impact than a light jog which is awesome.” Matt gives him a thumbs up.

              “That sounds awful!” Lance exclaims.

              “Yeah, it wasn’t much fun. But it’s a great excuse if I ever kneed one you know?” Matt grins like a true Cheshire cat.

              Lance blinks. And blinks. Before the pun finally registers. He busts out laughing so hard he falls off the couch and onto the floor.

              Matt hears “That was awful!” in between guffaws and snorts.

              Score one for Matt breaking the tension!

              “Did I neglect to mention I am a true pun master? I can’t believe I forgot to patellar you that! Gosh, I’m sorry for the lapse in memory. Telling you would have probably given you a leg up in our conversations.” Lance was laughing so hard he couldn’t make noise anymore. He can only squeak. Which lets be honest, is probably one of the cutest things Matt has ever seen.

              God he really needs to get on the wooing thing.

              Lance gets himself under control after about five minutes of laughing, turned giggles towards the end. The odd hiccup hits him as he calms down.

              “Feeling better?” Matt asks smugly.

              “So much. Thanks Matt, for listening and for making me bust my gut laughing.” Lance replies with a find smile.

              Matt’s cheeks burn red again. He really, really, needs to get on that whole wooing thing.

              Lance stands up and walks over to his backpack. He opens the smallest pocket at the front of the bag and pulls out a small toiletry bag before walking back to the couch. The smile hasn’t faded from his face and he seems much calmer.

              Matt might need to forget the wooing all together. Yeah just ask the boy out already, before someone else finds out about how adorable he is. Good plan Matt. Do that.

              Lance sits back down on the couch, closer to Matt this time. He’s visibly relaxed now which Matt chalks up as a win.

              Lance hands Matt the little toiletry bag and gestures for him to open it. Matt does.

              Inside the bag is an EpiPen, distinct with its orange and blue ends. There’s what looks like a healthcare card and a laminated piece of paper with some details of Lance’s medical history. Matt doesn’t look too closely at the card, he would rather Lance tell him himself. The last thing in the bag is a box of allergy medication, the kind for immediate reaction issues rather then an all-day kind.

              Matt looks up at Lance again, puzzled.

              Lance shrugs, “You knowing I have an EpiPen is one thing, but it’s not very helpful if you don’t know where it is or how to use it. That little bag has all the stuff I need when I have a reaction. It’s always in the front-most pocket of my backpack. I have a smaller backpack I usually use when I’m out on the town, but everything is always in the front-most pocket. Now, do you know how to use this?” Lance asks.

              “Yeah, I used to babysit a kid with a peanut allergy. I had to know how to use one so we’re good.” Matt explains, “Any other immediately concerning health issues? Specifically, anything that could put you in the hospital by accident.”

              “Nope, just the strawberry thing.” Lance chirps.

              ‘Well that’s a relief’ Matt thinks. An allergy is workable, and Hunk will definitely need to be told.

              They sit in comfortable silence for a few minutes until Matt’s phone goes off. A text from his sister.

              ‘Get your ass home moron, you can flirt with the baby trainer tomorrow.’

              “Well it looks like it’s time for me to head out.” Matt sighs, “I’ll see you tomorrow yeah?”

              “For what?” Lance asks, completely forgetting about Matt’s offer for coffee.

              “Our date silly. I’m done at 2:15 tomorrow afternoon we can meet up by the library if you’re free?”

              “Wait, like an actual date?” lance says, disbelieving.

              “Um, yeah. If you want to. It can just be us hanging out, it doesn’t have to be anything—” Lance cuts Matt off.

              “Yes! Yes, I want it to be a date.” he looks at Matt with stars in his eyes. His hands are up as if to grab onto Matt’s shirt. “Oh my god!” he squeals.

              “Excellent.” Matt breathes caught up in Lance’s excitement, “2:30 at the library? I know a cute café a couple blocks east of here we can go to.”

              Lance nods emphatically and Matt thinks the man’s head might fall off from the sheer force of it. It’s cute.

              “Awesome.” Matt says.

              They’re both blushing hard. Matt is looking at Lance and Lance is looking at the floor.

              Matt’s phone buzzes again.

              ‘Matt for the love of god if you’re not home in 20 minutes I’m hiding your PlayStation controllers!!!!!!’

              “Oh damn, Pidge is pulling out the big guns. I really gotta go.” He says wincing at the message.

              “It’s okay, I don’t want to keep you too long if she’s pulling out the big guns.” Lance looks up at Matt with a small smile. The red on his cheeks is still going strong, it’s endearing.

              “Besides, I get to see you tomorrow.” He says as they move towards the door.

              Matt grabs his backpack along the way, staring at the man in front of him.

              How did he manage to get this guy to say yes? How is the world has he managed to get this lucky? Is the universe making up for the crap that happened with his knee?

              ‘Just role with it Matt, don’t question a good thing.’ He thinks quickly.

              Lance opens the door to let Matt out. They look at each other awkwardly.

              How do you say goodbye when you’re not quite dating yet but want to be?

              Matt settles for waving with a huge grin.

              Lance goes for finger guns and a wink as the door closes.

              And Matt stands in the hall for a moment screaming internally.

              “I am so fucked for this guy.” He says before he finally turns and walks to the elevator. He’s got a date to plan now.

              Wait.

              What does Lance like to do? Oh no.

              Well Matt has always been good at improvising.

~~~~~~~~~~~

              Lance slides down the door after he hears Matt’s footsteps fade away down the hall.

              Did Matt know he said that out loud?

              Lance covers his face with his hands and squeals.

              An actual date with Matt! This was officially the best week ever! Romelle would be so proud of him.

              …His mother would be furious…

              “Well what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her, and it’s not like I have to tell her anything. I moved out here for a reason, they don’t get a say in who I talk to anymore.” Lance nods determinedly.

              He gets up off the floor and heads into the kitchen to clean up the dishes from their dinner earlier. He’s planning his outfit in his head as he starts the dishwasher.

              He takes extra care cleaning his face, applying his really nice moisturizers and a sheet mask he saves for just such an occasion before heading to bed.

              He lays in bed staring at his phone. He’s got his conversation with Matt up on the screen.

              Should he say something? Lance knows that he’d like a message from Matt right now, maybe Matt wants the same thing?

              ‘I had fun today, think you for teaching my how to play and for understanding. Talking about myself is hard.’ He sends quickly.

              The reply isn’t immediate, but Lance can see the dots on the bottom of the screen. Matt must be typing something long.

              ‘I’m glad you had fun, hopefully we can make it a regular thing <3 It’s okay, I’ve got some stuff that’s hard to talk about too. If you want to talk about that kind of stuff, I’ll be here to listen but only when you’re ready. Now, I know you’re too gorgeous to need it, but this potato needs his beauty sleep if he wants to impress this really cute guy on our date tomorrow. Regretfully I must bid you goodnight, I’ll see you tomorrow Lance ;)’

              Lance is getting used to the blush burning his cheeks. Matt makes it appear so often now. But gosh, he’s so sweet.

              ‘You are far from a potato my good sir! Thanks Matt. Goodnight.’

              They both fall asleep with soft smiles and high hopes for the next day, and maybe after that too.

~~~~~~~~~~~

              Matt wakes up to Bae-bae, the family dog, drooling in his hair at 10:10 am.

              Ten minutes before he has to leave for his first lecture.

              He scrambles out of bed, to the shower, and to get ready at Mach-speed. He is not going to put up with this today. Today is too important.

              He manages to wash the dog slobber out of his hair in record time, pack his backpack, and make it out of the house in eight minutes and thirty-five seconds. His outfit is casual but just enough to say he cares about his appearance enough. Pidge may or not have helped him pick it out the night before. A true ride-or-die sibling.

              He takes the walk to his first class at a brisk pace, just on the slow side of a full-on sprint (it wouldn’t do to be sweaty so quickly). He’s nervous about meeting Lance later and it shows. He does everything almost frantically, not calming down until the class actually starts.

              He loses himself and his worries in his Comms Lecture for the next hour and fifteen minutes.

~~~~~~~~~~~

              Lance is beside himself.

              Sure, they spent like six hours together yesterday, but that doesn’t stop Lance’s anxiety from rearing its ugly head. What if something happens? What if Matt changes his mind? What if, while on the way to the café a fridge falls from the window of an overhead apartment and lands on one of them, crushing them flat!

              Okay that one is admittedly far-fetched, but it could happen!

              He spent his entire first lecture freaking out quietly in the back. And Latin is not easy. Especially when you’re not paying attention.

              In between classes he texts back and forth with Romelle for some moral support. Talking to her manages to calm his overactive imagination enough for the what-ifs to be more reasonable.

              No more random falling objects or trips to the hospital.

              His second lecture goes much better than his first. It positively flies by.

              And sooner than he knows it, he’s getting out of his chair and heading to the library. Their date doesn’t start until 2:30 so Lance decides to spend the next hour and fifteen minutes finishing as much homework as possible. No use stressing about schoolwork on a date after all.

              Lance loses track of time easily once he’s immersed in his readings. Past Lance was smart enough to set an alarm so that he wouldn’t be late, good job past Lance.

              He heads down to the main doors, nerves returning in full force. Unlike the last time they met up for something, Matt is actually waiting in full view of the doors of the library.

              Lance grins, the butterflies in his gut make a few, more aggressive, passes. He walks toward his date.

              His Date!

              He’s going on an actual date with Matt! Not a friend date, an established romantic date.

              Is it too soon to be going out? They’ve only known each other for three days after all. What if it is too early? What if this doesn’t work out and the rest of the semester is ruined, and he has to drop out of his program in shame and—

              Whoa. Matt is looking at him. He’s smiling, and it’s fond and bright and he’s beautiful.

              Maybe this is going to be okay after all?

              Lance walks out the door of the library, the butterflies in his stomach have calmed and the what-ifs have died entirely. He walks up to the man waiting for him.

              “Hey Lance! You ready to go?” Matt asks, a little higher pitched than normal.

              Oh, so he’s nervous too. That settles the butterflies a little more and Lance’s chest fills with a fond warmth.

              “Born ready.” Lance says, grinning wide.

              It seems to settle something in Matt too because the older man holds his right elbow out to Lance dramatically.

              “Allow me to be your humble escort for this afternoon’s excursion.”

              “Why, sir that sounds delightful.” Lance replies with a giggle. He places his left hand on Matt’s elbow and the two start walking in the vague direction of Lance’s apartment.

              It takes them ten minutes of ridiculous banter in between telling’s of their classes, to make it to the little café Matt had chosen.

              Matt holds the door open for Lance to enter with a flourish. It is ridiculously endearing.

              They find a booth in the corner away from the door to sit in. Matt puts his bag on one side of the booth and grabs Lance’s coffee order before heading for the counter to place their order.

              Lance takes a moment to watch the other man head up to the counter, still a little bewildered by the fact that they’re at this café. Together. On a date.

              Whoa.

              His phone buzzing snaps Lance out his thoughts and he realizes he hasn’t sat down yet. So, he moves to the side of the booth opposite Matt’s stuff and slides onto the bench. He takes his phone out of his pocket to check why it buzzed.

              It’s a message from his sister.

              ‘Lance, you didn’t call mom last night and she’s worried. You need to call her tonight. TONIGHT. Or she might just decide to go out there to make sure you’re okay.’

              Well crap. He knew he forgot something last night.

              “I knew things were going too good to be true.” He sighs, typing out his reply.

              ‘I’ll call her later, I’m not home right now so I’ll do it tonight. Don’t let her come out here please! I’m fine! You guys don’t need to worry so much!’

              Lance puts his phone back down on the table. His family is so protective! He’s fine, better than fine! He’s got friends and a date and he’s ahead on his readings. His mother doesn’t need to come out just to check up on him.

              His phone vibrates again. He huffs in annoyance.

              ‘We’re going to worry no matter what and you know it. We care about you Leo, we don’t want anything to happen to you. You’re on the other side of the country and you’ve been through enough. I’ll do what I can to keep her from flying out there though. As long as you’re for real okay.’

              ‘I’m for real okay Rach. I promise. I’ll Skype home tonight and you’ll be able to see for yourself. I’m out right now so I gotta go, but I’ll talk to you later!’

              He doesn’t get a reply back, but he knows that Rachel doesn’t even do ‘see yah later’s so he isn’t concerned. He puts his phone in his bag and turns to look around the café to find Matt.

              “Everything okay?” Lance jumps.

              Matt is sitting across the table from him with two large mugs and some brownies in front of him and a concerned look on his face.

              Lance blinks in confusion for a few seconds. Matt must have sat down while he was texting his sister.

              “Yeah, just got a message from my sister. I was supposed to call home last night and forgot. She’s just checking in, making sure I’m okay.” He sighs, “My family worries too much.”

              “Well, you are on the other side of the country right now. I can understand why they’re worried.” Matt says, before his expression goes soft. “I’m glad your family cares so much about you, it can be hard being so far away.” Matt smiles softly.

              Matt slides Lance’s mug over to him and puts the brownie plate in the middle of the table.

              “Thanks.” He cradles his mug in his hands, “It is nice, they’re just really protective and it can get annoying sometimes. But enough about that, what’s the plan for today?” Lance says, waving his hands to clear the air of the serious conversation.

              “Well I was thinking, after coffee and brownies, we could walk through the park. Maybe head to the theatre and catch a movie? I don’t have anything solid planned, I just really want to spend the rest of today with you. I want to get to know you better.” Matt shrugs.

              Lance stares at him, mouth hanging open. His mouth snaps closed, and his cheeks are on fire.

              “That sounds uh, really great actually. I want to get to know you better too.” Lance says sheepishly.

              He doesn’t think his face can get any redder, but he is proven wrong when Matt reaches across the table and grabs his left hand. The red from his cheeks spreads like a wildfire over his face and down his neck. He thinks he can feel his ears burning too.

              “How about we start with twenty questions and go from there, sound okay?” Matt asks, all suave and Lance cannot handle how hot this guy is.

              Lance nods because he thinks if he says anything it’ll just be squeaking.

              “I’ll go first then?” Lance nods again. “Okay, so, I know you have your sister and Allura, but I don’t know much about your family. Do you have a big family?” Matt asks, taking a sip of his own drink.

              “Yeah, I’ve got four older siblings. Two sisters and two brothers, a sister-in-law and two niblings. Mom and dad and my Abuela on my dad’s side too. There’s a multitude of aunts, uncles, and cousins in there but Uncle Alfor is mom’s only brother so we’re closest with them. How about you? Big family?”

              “Nah, It’s just me, Pidgey, mom and dad. And Bae-bae our dog. We don’t have too many aunts or uncles, and both sets of grandparents passed away before Pidge and I were even born.” Matt explains. He’s happy with his little family.

              “Your turn to ask a question.” Matt says, scooting a brownie in Lance’s direction while the Cuban is taking hearty sip of his own drink.

              “Okay, um. What is your favourite video game outside of Pokémon?”

              “Dang, going for the tough ones already! Well, it would have to be Killbot Phantasm 1. It’s a classic from my childhood and will always have a special place in my heart!” Matt exclaims, taking a bite of his own brownie.

              “What’s yours?”

              Lance takes a moment to look like he’s pondering deeply, “Well, I really liked Killbot Phantasm 1, but my heart belongs to the Kingdom Hearts series. Specifically, the second one. Disney owns my soul.” Lance says, chuckling.

              “Disney owns all of our souls somehow man.” Matt says sagely.

              “Wow, such wisdom, much knowledge.” Lance snorts.

              “Oh my god! Really?” Both men clutch their stomachs as they devolve into giggles and snorts.

              They pass questions between bites of brownie and sips of their drinks. They end up staying at the café for over an hour, learning facts about each other like their favourite colours (teal and pumpkin orange), or their preferred music to dance around the kitchen to (Lance likes Spanish pop, while Matt lives for 90’s pop music and boybands). They decide to go walk around the park once they’re done their drinks, the brownies barely survived the first ten questions let alone the full twenty.

              They’re walking through the park, chatting about the desperate lack of pickup lines in modern romance films when a small child running down the path runs into Lance.

              He’s mid sentence when he feels a weight clip him. He’s falling to his left before he knows whats happening.

              He feels Matt catch him in a dip before he can hit the ground.

              “Hey, falling for me already?” Matt says, grinning at his own wit.

              Lance’s heart stops as he looks up at Matt’s face.

              Well shit. He—

              “—Might be.” He finishes out loud.

              Matt stops laughing and just stares at the man in his arms with wide eyes. Before a fond smile spread over his face.

              “You know what, I might be falling for you too.”

 

Chapter Text

              Lance is on cloud nine.

              They went out on Thursday and it’s now 10 am on Saturday morning. Lance is still on cloud nine.

              He spent all of his first class yesterday in a giddy daze. The two men held hands shyly when they met a few minutes before class and shared a nervous goodbye before they went their separate ways, Matt to his next class and Lance with Hunk to get coffee. Matt had to head home right after his last class, so they hadn’t had the chance to hangout since, but Matt had sent him a sweet goodnight text.

              Lance stares at his bedroom ceiling, he brings his hands to his face and squeals giddily. Moving here is the best decision he’s made in a long time!

              His late morning bliss is interrupted by the sound of his phone going off.

              Lance scrambles out from under his nest of blankets and throws himself out of bed and across the room to his dresser where his phone sits charging.

              “Please be Matt, please be Matt please be Matt…” Lance chants as he unlocks his phone and pulls up his messaging app. His face falls when he reads the name on the new message.

              It’s not Matt.

              It’s his sister. But not Rachel this time. Oh no this is much worse.

              It’s Veronica. Lance is in trouble now if they’re bringing out the big guns.

              ‘You didn’t call mom on Thursday.’

              Lance flinches. He didn’t mean to not call home, he was just really caught up in his first date with Matt. Can you blame him though? Matt is hot, and they have so much in common and they get along so well! It’s hard to think of anything else when there’s that man to compete with.

              ‘I’m sorry, I forgot. I don’t have anything today, I’ll do it after breakfast okay?’ he sends back.

              There’s another chime of his phone. All the reply is, is an angry emoji.

              Lance huffs and sticks his tongue out petulantly at his phone. Leave it to Veronica to get the last word without using words.

              He throws his phone onto his bed and heads out of his room and down the hall to the kitchen. He should finish breakfast quickly, so his family doesn’t yell at him anymore. He loves them, he really does, but they can be really overbearing at times. He knows they have good reasons, that shit he went through with Kayden was scary and they have every reason to worry about him.

              But Kayden was a fluke and Lance is more careful now, so they don’t have to be so in his face all the time. His mom doesn’t even like the idea of him dating, she’s going to flip when she finds out about Matt.

              Lance sighs and preps himself a bowl of cereal, quick and easy so he can get his overdue conversation with his mother out of the way. He loves her, but this is not going to go well.

              Once he’s done his bowl of cereal, he rinses it and places it gently in the top rack of the dishwasher next to the sink. He sighs again, might as well get dressed, no more lazing around for him once this conversation ends.

              Ten minutes later, he’s dressed and sitting on his bed staring at his phone. He sighs again, he’s been doing that a lot today, and picks up his phone and scrolls down to his home number.

              He hits the call button and waits with bated breath while it rings.

              It rings twice before he hears someone pick up.

              “Hello?” comes his mother’s voice.

              “Hey, Mamá.”

              “Leo! Oh, it’s so good to hear from you mijo! How have you been? It’s been so long since you’ve called!”

              “I’m sorry I haven’t called Mamá, the first week of classes has kept me busy. I’ll make sure to call more though, once I’ve got my rhythm with everything. But anyways Mamá, how are things at home?” he asks her.

              “Things have been quieter without you here Leo but otherwise things are just as they were. I hope your new school is treating you well, how is Romelle?”

              “Romelle is doing well, she and I have already established our old movie night tradition.” He pauses, “Mamá, I made some new friends in some of my classes. We formed a study group and we really hit it off. They invited me to come hangout with them on Wednesday, we played a cool phone game in the park...” He trails off, biting his bottom lip nervously. He doesn’t want to tell her, but he doesn’t want to lie either. His budding relationship with Matt is something he’s excited about and he wants to share that excitement with his mother.

              “Lance? Is there something you’re not telling me?”

              “…I met a boy…” he whispers into the phone.

              “Lance...” his mother starts, the lecture voice is out.

              “Well, he kind of ran into me and knocked me over by accident and we got to talking and he’s really funny and attractive andImayormaynothavealreadygoneonadatewithhim.” He rushes the last bit out.

              There’s silence on the line. For a moment Lance is worried that his mother hung up on him. He takes a breath to try and reach out to her when he’s cut off.

              “You went out on a date with a boy you just met? Leonardo! You need to be more careful! Did Romelle know where you were? Has she met him yet? You need to get to know people before you jump into things like this! I thought you’d learned your lesson after that incident with that Carlisle boy three years ago. You don’t know anything about him!”

              “Mamá!” he snaps harshly. He’d gotten this lecture every time he’s tried dating since the so-called incident. A lot of the time it was enough for him to drop the idea of a relationship altogether, but this time? No, he likes Matt too much to just let his mother convince him out of it.

              “You can’t keep doing this every time I tell you I’m interested in someone! I really like him and he’s a good guy. I had fun on our date and I plan on seeing him again.” Lance states firmly. He’s had enough of being babied no matter how good of a reason his family has for being so protective.

              “Now, I love you, but I’ve got stuff to do today, so I’ll call you later. Bye Mamá.” He doesn’t give her a chance to reply before he hangs up.

              His sisters are going to have his head for that.

              He drops his phone and sighs. Well, he doesn’t have anything to do now. Maybe a walk around town will do him some good? He can even get some steps in with his buddy in Pokémon Go! Matt will be happy about that.

              So, Lance grabs his phone and a spare portable charger, his small backpack and some granola bars and heads out of his apartment and towards the park the raid-ride was at on Wednesday.

~~~~~~~~~~~

              Matt is laying on the couch in the living room of his parents house. Staring at his phone. His blank, unchanging phone. It’s almost 1 pm.

              He should call Lance.

              He really wants to call Lance.

              Lance would like to talk, Matt knows he would.

              But Lance hasn’t replied to his good morning text yet and he sent that an hour and a half ago, maybe he doesn’t actually want to talk today?

              Matt shakes his head, no Lance always wants to hear from him, they’d talked about it on Thursday. Matt nods in resolution, he’s going to text Lance.

              ‘Hey hot stuff, how are you today?’

              He waits for a moment or two before he puts his phone down on the coffee table in front of him and heads to grab a snack from the kitchen. Lance will reply when he’s ready.

~~~~~~~~~~~

              Lance stares at his phone. He’s been so caught up in trying to forget his conversation with his mom he’s been ignoring Matt.

              That and he’s very lost.

              He had made his way to the park and wandered around a bit catching some Pokémon and going through Pokéstops, but not really paying attention to where he was going. And now he has no idea where he is. He’s not in the park anymore and he’s nowhere near his apartment or any other landmarks he recognizes.

              This is not good.

              He looks back down at the message thread he has with Matt.

              ‘Good morning beautiful, I hope you’re not too tired from running through my dreams all night ;)’

              ‘Hey hot stuff, how are you today?’

              Lance feels awful for ignoring him, even by accident. He should call him. He should call him and see if he wants to go out for lunch or something and maybe if he’s okay with it Matt will help him find out where he is.

              Yeah, they can have a date and Lance can get un-lost and the day will get better.

              Lance hits the call button at the top of the message thread.

              The phone rings, and rings, and rings. Matt’s voicemail message plays.

              “Hey, you’ve reached Matt Holt meme master extraordinaire. Looks like you missed me but if you leave your name, number, and reason for calling I’ll get back to you when I can. Thanks!” and the beep sounds.

              “Hey Matt, it’s Lance. I’m sorry for not replying to your messages earlier, some stuff happened this morning and I needed some time. But I was wondering if you’d want to grab a late lunch or something? If you’re not busy of course. Uh, let me know. Uh, yeah, bye.” He hangs up.

              Lance sighs, well Matt is annoyed with him clearly. Well, only option now is to try and find his way home. He turns around in a full circle to survey his options. Three paths, one behind him, one to his left, and one to his right.

              He goes left.

~~~~~~~~~~~

              Matt sees his phone ring, but he’s currently literally knee-deep in something, namely giving Bae-bae a bath because she somehow found her way into a mud puddle in the backyard. He scrambles to grab it before it stops but he’s too late.

              He’s sulking when he sees the voicemail notification.

              Matt races to dry his hands, so he can listen to the message.

              As Matt is listening, he notices that Lance sounds almost distraught. A late lunch sounds like a great idea, especially if he can cheer up the beautiful Cuban.

              He hits the call-back button.

              It rings twice before Lance picks up.

              “Hello?”

              “Hey Lance! I’m sorry I didn’t pick up; the dog somehow got into a mud puddle and needed a bath. But anyway, what’s up? You mentioned a late lunch?”

              “…Yeah, if you’re not doing anything? I had a bit of a shitty morning and I’d really like to see you.”

              Matt’s heart melts at Lance’s confession. God he’s just too cute!

              “The only thing I had to do today was free Bae-bae from the dastardly mud monster.” He grins when he’s rewarded by with giggles form the other man.

              “Well with a hero such as yourself, that dastardly demon of mud wouldn’t stand a chance!” Lance adds dramatically, and it’s Matt’s turn to chuckle at that.

              “It went down with minimal effort, the cleanup was the hard part, but Bae-bae is clean and ready to wreak more havoc, like the devil she is.” He chuckles as he scratches the dog’s head affectionately, “Anyway, where do you want to go for lunch? I can meet you somewhere and we can walk there together.” Matt suggests.

              “I actually don’t know many good places to eat, I usually just cook for myself or grab food on campus.”

              “Well, if you’re at home I can grab the car and come get you and we can go from there.”

              “………..”

              “Lance?”

              “…I’m not at home right now…”

              “Okay? Well, let me know where you are, and I can come grab you.” Matt raises an eyebrow. Why can he hear the ellipses in Lance’s speech right now?

              “…I would definitely do that if I had any idea of where I am right now.”

              “…You’re lost.” Matt deadpans.

              “I have momentarily misplaced my exact position in reference to where I was…”

              Matt gives Lance the look even though Lance can’t see him.

              “…Yes, I am very lost right now.”

              “Lance, are you on the street or in the park or…? Can you give me some landmarks?”

              “Well I started out in the park and headed away from the fountain and the streets and I got distracted by the Pokémon game and kept walking and catching things and now I’m lost.” Lance explains.

              Matt gets an idea.

              “Lance, what’s the name of the closest Pokéstop?  They’re usually locations so I can find you through that.” Matt explains.

              “Well the closest one says ‘The Old Creak Bridge’ but I’m a bit away from there. I should head back that way, shouldn’t I?” the question is very rhetorical. “I’m gonna go back to the Pokéstop…”

              “Lance?”

              “Yeah?”

              “How in the world did you end up on the literal opposite side of town from your apartment?”

              “We’ve established that I have no idea, so your guess is as good as mine.”

              “Okay, well I’m going to grab the car and I’ll come pick you up. Can you stay by that Pokéstop until I get there?”

              “I would very much like to be unlost so yes, I’m going to stay right here.”

              “Awesome, sit tight I’ll be there in like fifteen minutes.”

              “Cool. Thanks Matt, you’re my hero today too.”

              Matt can’t say anything to that and the line goes dead before he can even try to find his tongue.

              He rushes to grab his keys as soon as he can think again. Can’t keep Lance waiting any longer than necessary after all.

~~~~~~~~~~~

              Lance found a bench at some point while he was waiting and planted himself there to wait for Matt. Now, he’s got nothing distracting him from his rampant thoughts.

              His mother is not happy with him. His sisters had texted him as much. Luis had called him too, but he hadn’t picked up. They weren’t going to listen to him anyway, they were all too worried to listen to him tell them he’s fine. They won’t listen to him, no matter how many times he tries to tell them he’s being careful, that he’s okay and they don’t have to hover.

              “What’s got you so deep in thought?” Matt’s voice completely derails his train of thought.

              Lance had been so deep in thought that he’d missed Matt sitting down next to him on the bench. His brain is still catching up and he’s gaping at Matt like a fish out of water.

              “Lance? Are you okay?” Matt leans closer in concern. “You sounded a little down on the phone too, did you want to talk about it?”

              Lance shakes his head, “Just a rough morning is all, I’m okay. I appreciate the concern though Matt. How about we go for that late lunch now? End the day with something good?” Lance changes the subject quickly. He doesn’t want to talk about his family and his issues so early in their maybe relationship.

              Matt smiles and nods, “Sounds like a plan, I know a great little pizza place nearby. They have the best garlic knots for miles and I’ve got a craving.” He hops up from the bench and turns around, offering his right hand to Lance.

              Lance smiles at the offered hand before taking it lightly with his left hand and letting Matt haul him up off the bench. They walk hand in hand back to Matt’s car, Lance regaling Matt with he tales of what he managed to catch and see while on his adventure to get lost by accident in a small college town.

~~~~~~~~~~~

              “Those garlic knots were insane!” Lance exclaims for the nth time on the drive back to his apartment.

              Matt chuckles, eyes on the road so the car doesn’t end up meeting a pole in a way it most definitely shouldn’t.

              Pizza had gone well, Lance learning the glory of garlic knots and stuffed crust in the same sitting. They’d chatted for a solid hour after their food was gone and they didn’t leave the restaurant until 5pm, a full two hours since they had entered. They’d played another round of twenty questions, Matt learned the other man’s sisters were demons when they wanted something and outstripped all three McClain boys easily when it came to pranks. Allura had played princess like it was a way of life (and if Lance ever finds out that Matt tells anyone this, he’s going to make Matt wish he was never born, you get me?).

              Lance is still raving about the ‘holy garlic knots of gooey goodness’ every couple words punctuated by a yawn. That walk must have been a long one for the man to be this tired at 5 in the evening.

              They pull into the parking lot of Lance’s building sooner than Matt would have liked. He tries to get as much as possible out of the time he gets to spend with Lance. They haven’t talked about what they want with this whole thing yet and Matt thinks he might have a plan to start that conversation, but that’s an idea for another day. Right now, he needs to get a very tired and talkative Lance out of his car and into the building.

              Matt turns the car off, gets out and makes his way around the old green car his parents gifted him for his eighteenth birthday to open Lance’s door and lead the man out and up to his apartment. He waves at the doorman as they pass, his right hand tangled with Lance’s left again.

              It’s when they’re at Lance’s apartment door that things get a little awkward. They’ve been on two dates, so what happens now? What are they ready for? What would Lance want?

              Lance is looking up at him with tired but excited eyes, babbling about something Matt isn’t listening to.

              “That was an excellent afternoon, I think. We should do something like this again with less of me getting lost and more of us spending time together. I like spending time with you.” Lance says, looking down at his shoes and twisting his fingers together nervously.

              “You’re no longer allowed to wander around town alone, guess I’ll have to come with you every time you go outside so you don’t get lost again huh?” Matt winks and Lance’s face goes three shades redder than Matt thought possible.

              “I’d like that.” Lance whispers.

              “Me too.” Matt whispers back.

              They’re close now, barely any space between them and Lance is looking up at him with those big blue eyes. Matt’s heart beats faster.

              “I’ll let you get inside now, you look a little tired. I’ll text you when I get home okay?” Matt asks, not moving out of the little bubble they’ve created.

              Lance nods dazedly, staring into Matt’s eyes still.

              Matt suddenly leans forward and places a soft peck on Lance’s left cheek before taking a step back. He grabs Lance’s right hand and gives it a squeeze.

              “Get some sleep Lance, I’ll talk to you tomorrow okay?” At Lance’s nod, Matt takes another step back, slowly letting go of Lance’s hand.

              “Goodnight Lance.” He smiles sweetly and lets Lance’s hand fall from his grip as he takes another step back.

              “Goodnight Matt.” Lance replies softly before Matt grins and turns to walk down the hall and back to his car.

              Lance turns back to his door as soon as Matt’s out of sight and pulls out his keys to get into his apartment.

              Once inside Lance’s hand comes up to his cradle his cheek where he can still feel the tingle Matt’s lips left behind. His back hits the closed door and he slides slowly down to the floor, his hand still cradling his cheek and stars in his eyes.

              “Wow.” He breathes.

              It’s official, Lance is really fucked for Matt and he’d really like to know what it feels like to kiss him.

              He continues thinking about Matt’s eyes and his hair and his muscles and the feeling of his lips on Lance’s cheek as he get’s ready for an early bedtime. He’s thinking about how soft his hair must be when his head hits the pillow and he’s out almost instantly.

              Lance’s phone buzzes as he slips out of consciousness.

              ‘I made it home in one piece, I’ll talk to you in the morning. Sleep well Lance <3<3’

              The one thing that sets this message apart from the others he’s sent to Lance, is the three times Matt types out and deletes the pet names that pop into his head that he’s suddenly dying to use.

~~~~~~~~~~~

              Monday morning roles around and with it another day of classes with Hunk and Matt.

              They hold hands until class starts again, and Lance doesn’t see the way Dr. Holt’s eyes crinkle in fondness when he looks at the two men.

              Hunk has to run to a meeting with one of his other professors after their first lecture so Lance heads to the coffee shop and meets Romelle for some juicy updates on his love life. She’s almost as excited about how everything is going as Lance is! She really is the best wing-woman ever.

              “So?”

              “So, what?” he looks at her confused.

              “What’s the next step? Do you think it might be time to make it official?” Romelle sips her coffee excitedly.

              “Maybe? I mean I’d really like to make it official.” He admits quietly.

              “Does your mom know?” and that immediately sours the mood.

              “She knows that we went on a date and that I planned on seeing him again. I haven’t said anything else about it to anyone. Besides the updates that I’m still alive and okay that I send my dad, I’ve been ignoring everyone.” Lance explains, scowling.

              “Is that such a good idea? Veronica is going to be pissed.”

              “She can be as mad as she wants, I don’t care anymore. They keep trying to convince me to ‘go slower’ and to ‘be more careful Leo!’ they’re so overbearing lately and I’m tired of it! I mean I was the one hurt not them! I want to be happy for once and not have Kayden hanging over my head all the time! Why can’t they let me do that?” Lance asks dejectedly.

              “Do they really bring him up every time?” Lance nods and Romelle cringes. “I can see why you’re mad, that’s a crappy thing to do.”

              “Yeah, I mean they’re worried and that’s okay but they’re going about it wrong and they won’t listen to me about any of it.” Lance sighs before he takes a sip of his coffee.

              The dejected atmosphere is broken when Romelle’s eyes widen comically and she grabs Lance’s arm and starts shaking it.

              “Hottie alert, hottie alert.” Romelle hisses from the corner of her mouth.

              Lance turns as subtly as possible to see the man who’s caught Romelle’s attention. And he only sees Hunk.

              Oh.

              Hunk.

              He smiles slyly and turns back to Romelle.

              “I’ve got some excellent news for you, my most favouritest lady. That beautiful piece of man right there is a friend of mine.” Romelle looks confused, but as Lance turns back around, she starts to panic.

              “Lance no—”

              “Hey Hunk! Over here!” Lance calls to the other man, waving.

              Hunk sees Lance and makes his way over with a grin on his face.

              “There you are buddy! My meeting ended early and I thought I’d see if I could catch you before you headed off to class.” Hunk says jovially.

              “Dude, we’re in the same class. You totally could have waited, but I’m glad you didn’t. This gives me the perfect opportunity to introduce you to my best friend.” Lance gestures to Romelle, throwing her a smug look before turning back to Hunk.

              “Hunk, this beautiful lady right here is Romelle, my friend since the days of lockers and awkward bi-crises.” Romelle gives Hunk a stiff little wave.

              “Romelle, this sexy hunk of a man right here is, well, Hunk. He’s in two of my classes and makes some bomb-ass food, or so I’ve been told. I haven’t been able to try any yet.” Hunk gives Romelle the sweetest smile as Lance introduces him.

              He looks at Lance quickly at the last point, “Right, I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that! You didn’t have any of the cookies, or anything now that I think about it. Any particular reason why?”

              Lance flinches at the question. He continues the conversation with a strained smile and Romelle gives him a pointed look.

              “I’ll talk to you about that later Hunk, promise. Right now, I’m trying to facilitate the first meeting of my closest friends! I want you guys to get along!”

              Hunk gives him a look and Romelle sighs and shakes her head at her friend.

              The two look at each other and blink twice. In perfect sync.

              Lance does a mental victory dance.

              The three chat for a few minutes before Hunk and Lance have to head off to their next class and Romelle heads for the library.

              “So.” Hunk starts.

              “Yeah?” Lance prompts.

              “Romelle’s pretty cute…”

              “She thinks you’re hot and she’s single. Do with that information what you will.” Lance smirks triumphantly.

              “…Oh, okay, yeah. Thanks.” Hunk manages to get out, his face is on fire.

              After a moment of comfortable silence, Hunk pipes up again.

              “So, the food thing? What’s up with that?”

              Lance’s smile drops from his face and he looks at Hunk sheepishly.

              “I’m sorry about that. I’ve got a food allergy I’m not too comfortable talking about and I didn’t have my EpiPen on me at the park.” Hunk’s eyes widen comically.

              “Why didn’t you tell me earlier that day? I would have made something safe for you to eat!” Hunk demands loudly.

              Lance flinches and Hunk backs off a bit.

              “I didn’t think about it before hand. I was pretty caught up in Matt and being nervous about meeting your guys’ friends. I talked to Matt about it afterwards though and he convinced me it would be a good idea to at least tell you about it.” Lance admits.

              Thank god for Matt.

              “So, what are you allergic to and how badly?” Hunk asks finally.

              “Strawberries and if I didn’t have my EpiPen I’d be dead in about a half hour.” Lance states. “Speaking of which! My EpiPen and my allergy kit is a little toiletry bag in the front-most pocket of my backpack. And like I told Matt, I have a smaller backpack I usually bring when I’m out on the town and it has a similar kit in the front-most pocket as well. All my medical issues are on a card in the little kits too.”

              “Thorough.”

              “My mom is a worrywart, it was instilled in me early on to be prepared for the worst.”

              “Well, now I know why you didn’t want to eat anything at the raid-ride. I’ll make sure to bring Lance-safe snacks from now on, so you can have something if you want. I’ll make enough for Matt too just in case” Hunk winks at him and deep blush blooms on Lance’s face.

              Hunk laughs, a deep chuckle as they make their way into their classroom.

~~~~~~~~~~~

              Lance get’s a text from Matt later that day, once all his classes are done.

              ‘We’ve got another raid-ride happening later tonight, did you want to come?’

              He takes a moment to think it over.

              ‘Sure, when and where?’

               The reply is immediate.

              ‘I’ll come pick you up around 8, we’re on the other side of town and the walk is a long one.’

              ‘Are you sure you don’t just want me alone in your car? I didn’t take you for such a rogue ;)’

              Lance giggles at his own wit.

              ‘Pfffft what are you talking about? Like come on I wouldn’t be that obvious about it, like whaaaaaat? That’s crazy talk.’

              Lance quirks a brow at the ridiculous attempt at a diversion.

              ‘You just want to make sure I don’t get lost again don’t you.’

              ‘As much as you getting lost is awful and I wish to prevent it, I genuinely do want to spend time with you and being alone with me in my car isn’t a bad alternative to getting lost right?’

              Lance feels his heart skip a beat. Damn. That was smooth and a little bit hot.

              ‘I accept this proposal. I will be ready and waiting for you good sir.’

              Matt doesn’t reply to that, but Lance doesn’t mind. He starts packing his tiny backpack with some safe snacks just in case and a couple extra portable chargers.

              He’s all packed up and takes a look at the clock on the microwave and sees it’s only 6:30. What is he going to do for an hour and a half? He finished his readings for tomorrow and the assignment he has due isn’t for another couple days. His apartment is relatively clean, and there’s no pressing chores he needs to get accomplished.

              So, what does he do? He could text Matt, but he doesn’t want to keep the other man from whatever he’s doing before the raid.

              One text won’t hurt though, right?

              His phone buzzes before he can make a move.

              ‘Lance, you need to talk to mom. Now. She’s not happy.’

              He loves his siblings. He really, really does, but he is not in the mood to fight with his family.

              ‘Marco. I have talked to mom. I explained myself to mom, just because you’re all overprotective doesn’t mean I’m not being careful.’

              He huffs and throws his phone down on the couch in front of him. His siblings are banding against him, and they decided to send in the heavy artillery. His oldest brother is his hero after all, not many people better to convince him to do something. They probably think he’s just being rebellious because he’s so far from home.

              ‘Leo, we just want you to be safe.’

              Comes the reply.

              ‘I know you do, but I’m an adult. I know how to look after myself, and I am. I can’t just close myself off to the world because of one freak incident. I’m meeting with some friends later so I gotta go.’

              Marco is his hero for a reason. He’s the most understanding of his siblings and trusts him a lot more than the rest of his family apparently. He really takes after their father.

              Lance’s phone buzzes again, he looks at it in trepidation for a moment before sighing and unlocking the screen.

              There’s two messages, one from Marco—

              ‘I’m here if you want to talk kid. Go have some fun.’

              Which is honestly more support than he expected from anyone at home.

              —And one from Matt.

              ‘Hey Lance, is it alright if I head over a bit early?’

              Lance’s eyes widen in surprise.

              ‘Yeah sure. I’m ready to go whenever.’

              ‘Awesome, be there in 5.’

              Comes the immediate response.

              Yes! Now he doesn’t have to wait for another hour for Matt time! He quickly runs around to double check he’s got everything and jumps when he hears the knock on the door five minutes later almost on the dot.

              He quickly grabs his tiny backpack and heads over to unlock the door.

              “Hey Lance, you ready to go?” Matt stands in front of the door and a grin lights up his face when he makes eye contact with Lance.

              Lance feels the tension drain from his shoulders as he looks back at Matt. “Ready when you are.”

              Matt holds out his hand for Lance to take and leads Lance out into the hall, allowing him time to lock his door, before they head down to Matt’s car waiting in the parking lot.

~~~~~~~~~~~

              The squad is nowhere to be found when the two men arrive at the location. Granted the meetup isn’t supposed to be for another twenty minutes. They wander hand-in-hand around the little grassy area. They don’t talk about much but the fact that Matt’s there and holding his hand is enough to keep the stress of his family out of his mind. The idea of telling Matt about it flits through his mind briefly before he decides it’s too early for that just yet.

              The other start to trickle over just before 8:15.

              Pidge and Hunk are practically bouncing up and down when they arrive. Keith rolls in cool as a damn cucumber and Shiro strolls over calm as can be with a big grin on his face.

              The entire group is wearing large grins except for Matt and Lance who are very confused.

              “So, are we allowed to know what’s going on here?” Matt asks.

              “Nope.” Comes the reply from all of them.

              Matt and Lance look at each other still confused before shrugging and pulling out their phones to begin.

              Lance managed to reach level five on his Directionless Adventure on Saturday, so he can actually take part in the raids and the gym battles.

              “The actual raid won’t be for a bit so let’s get you some gym experience, shall we?” Pidge suggests with a mischievous glint in her eyes.

              They walk over to the closest gym that isn’t blue.

              (“Why’d you pick Mystic?” “Cause blue’s my favourite colour.”)

              When they get to the yellow gym (“Instinct” Matt supplies) there’s a small group of people arguing in front of a bench.

              “You insufferable prick! I don’t owe you anything!” comes a very familiar accented voice.

              Lance’s eyes snap over to the group and he sees a head of very familiar white hair.

              “Allura?” He asks loudly.

              The girl turns around sharply at the sound of her cousin’s voice. She glares one more time at the group behind her before making her way quickly to her friends and cousin.

              “Leo! How are you?” She exclaims, moving in for a tight hug.

              “Pretty good, I’ve made some friends as you probably already know. Mamá has been on my case lately but what else is new right?” Lance is still holding Matt’s hand which draws Allura’s attention almost immediately.

              “Friends you say? Matthew, my dear, are you putting moves on my baby cousin?” She looks at Matt with a predatory glint in her eyes.

              “Moves? Never. Only the best here. We’ve been on a couple dates already actually.” Matt replies smoothly.

              “Allura! Don’t you start too, Mamá already gave me the whole lecture. I don’t need another family fight going on.” Lance whines, trying to hide his honest plea not to get on his case even as a joke.

              Allura and Matt both look at him oddly. Lance refuses to meet their eyes.

              “Allura my dear, it was rude of you to walk away while we were still talking.” Comes a smooth voice with a similar accent to Allura’s, from behind the woman.

              “Lotor. I mad very clear that our ‘conversation’ as you put it, was over. Now, I suggest you leave before I have to call your shadow into action. I’m sure he’d be more than pleased to remove you from the area.” Allura growls without turning around.

              Lance peeks over Allura’s shoulder at the man, Lotor, and get’s a good look at pale skin just a tad darker than Shiro’s and white hair. The smile is what really gets his attention though. It’s the cockiest smile he’s ever seen. The man just radiates ‘slimy’. Lance shivers and ducks his head back to look at his and Matt’s intertwined fingers to take his mind off the creepiness of the other man.

              It’s bringing back some not so good memories.

              “As delightful as that sounds Allura dear, I actually noticed your new friend here and wanted to say hello.” Lotor moves smoothly around Allura to look directly at Lance.

              Matt’s grip on his hand tightens just a bit.

              “Hello there, you’re certainly an enchanting creature, aren’t you?” Lotor says as he moves steadily closer to Lance.

              “Um, thanks I guess.” Lance replies, moving backwards and closer to Matt.

              “You are most welcome. As you have blessed me with your presence, would you also bless me with your name sir?” Lotor seems like he’s trying to purr but Lance can only feel a desire to run creeping up his spine.

              “He’s not interested.” Matt interrupts.

              “I wasn’t asking you Holt.” Lotor snaps before turning the overly smooth grin back onto Lance.

              “Uh, I’m Lance…” he offers reluctantly. Maybe if he just gives his name then the creepy guy will go away.

              Lotor does not go away. He grabs Lance’s right hand in his left, and bowing, lifts it to his lips “Enchanté. It is truly a pleasure to meet you Lance. I hope to see more of you around town.” He straightens up and moves away, back to his posse. “Alas I must depart as I have business to attend to tonight, until next time Lance.” He wiggles his fingers in a wave and with a sweep of his ridiculous hair he’s gone.

              “Well that was the worst thing I’ve ever had to witness in my life.” Pipes up Pidge from Matt’s left.

              “I was really hoping that guy moved over the summer, but apparently we’re stuck with him again.” Hunk adds from behind Pidge.

              “At least he graduated so we don’t have to watch out for him on campus.” Keith bites, he’s on Lance’s right, just behind him.

              “How dare that rat attempt such vile flirtations! And on my baby cousin no less!” Allura stomps her foot in irritation.

              Matt has wrapped his right arm around Lance’s waist and is holding him close. Lance is staring off in the direction Lotor went so he can see if he comes back.

              “Isn’t he like a level forty?” Shiro asks from the back of the group.

              They all freeze.

              “Shit.” Keith breathes.

              Matt is looking at Lance now, concern on his face.

              “Lance are you okay?” he asks quietly so as not to alert the rest of the group.

              It takes a moment for Lance to process and respond, “Yeah, but I’m not really up for playing anymore. Can we just hang out for a bit instead?”

              Matt nods and leads Lance over to a bench a bit away from the one Lotor had been occupying. The rest of the group follows closely, unwilling to let their newest member be alone if Lotor was still around.

              Hunk pulls out the snacks he packed and a separate container for Lance and Matt to share. Allura looks surprised at the container now in Lance’s hands. She gives Lance a questioning look and Lance shrugs it off without meeting her eyes. Who he tells about his allergies and issues is his business.

              The group munches in silence for a while, the food being that good as well as the awkward atmosphere The Purple Asshole left behind.

              “Did you want me to take you home Lance?” Matt asks him quietly when he’s finished as much food as he can stomach at the moment.

              Lance curls closer to Matt on the bench and nods, looking at his hands in his lap.

              “Give me two shakes and we can go okay?” Lance nods again.

              Matt goes to say his goodbyes to everyone and Allura makes her way over to her cousin.

              “Matt’s taking you home? You must trust him a fair bit for you to let him know where you live.” Allura remarks.

              “He’s oddly easy to trust. I snapped at Mamá because of him.”

              “You what? You never talk back to your mother.” Allura looks at him completely gobsmacked.

              “She was trying to convince me that I was going too fast again, and He makes me happy right now, so I told her off. My sisters and Luis are pissed, but Marco and Dad seem to get it.”

              “Are you going to tell him about everything? He’s going to find out somehow, especially if you guys are making it official and getting serious.” She warns.

              “I know, and I will tell him. I’m just not ready yet.” Lance says quietly.

              Matt makes his way back over to the two at that moment. He slows down a bit when he sees the pensive expression on Lance’s face and he feels a wave of concern for the younger man. He says his goodbyes to Allura and so does Lance before they head off to the car and Matt takes Lance.

              “You okay?” Matt asks once they’re in the car and on the way back to Lance’s apartment.

              “Yeah, he’s just creepy and it brought up some bad memories is all.” Lance says, looking out the window.

              “I know that feeling. It’s weird how he zeroed in on you though, he usually hates new players and we were clearly playing. He’s a snob and none of us like him much.”

              Lance turns from the window and looks at his lap.

              “You know, if you want to talk about what’s been going on with your family or what’s been bothering you lately, I’m here to listen. I’m not going to force it out if you but I’m here if you need me.” Matt glances at Lance briefly.

              Lance looks up at Matt and stares for a moment or two. Nobody has really offered to listen outside his family and Romelle before. Well his therapist did but she was kind of paid to do it, he’s grateful for her and all the things she helped him with but it’s not really the same as talking it out with a friend…or boyfriend? Maybe?

              They make it Lance’s apartment building without him saying anything. Matt walks him up to his door again and they linger there for a few minutes, in silence just holding each other’s hands.

              “Do you want to hang out with me after class again tomorrow?” Matt asks.

              “I’d like that. Maybe we can come here and watch some more Pokémon? Or something else?” Lance adds quietly.

              “Sounds like a great idea, I’ll meet you by the library again. 3pm sharp.” Matt says lightly. He leans in again and presses a kiss to Lance’s cheek. It isn’t enough for Lance this time.

              “I’ll see you tomorrow Lance, I’ll let you know when I make it home okay?” Lance nods in reply.

              Just as Matt goes to turn to leave, Lance’s grip on his hands tightens. Matt halts and looks at Lance confused.

              “You forgot something.” Lance says simply, looking at Matt with big eyes.

              Lance moves his left hand up to cup Matt’s cheek and pull him forward and down just enough for Lance to press his lips softly to Matt’s own.

              After a brief moment of surprise Matt melts into Lance. His free hand moves to rest on Lance’s waist.

              When they separate, Matt has a dopey grin on his face and Lance is bright red. They smile at each other before Matt slowly makes to leave.

              He freezes a few steps down the hall when he hears Lance call out to him—

              “Matt?”

              “Yeah?”

              “Let’s make us official. I want to be your boyfriend.” Lance says, grinning with cheeks still flushed bright red.

Chapter Text

It’s weeks later that things start to take a turn.

They manage to go the whole two months since Lance and Matt got together without seeing Lotor. The #Squad gets more raids in and Lance get’s to know his boyfriend and cousin’s friends better. He loosens up around the group considerably.

Adam and Shiro take to looking out for him when they aren’t trying to get Keith to stop popping his gum as obnoxiously as possible, to which Keith just cranks up the music playing through the headphones always hanging around his neck. Emo asshat.

“There’s a reason we call him Edgelord in literally every group chat ever, it’s permanent now.” Matt tells Lance on one such occasion.

They’re on another raid when Lotor makes himself known.

Lance is standing a little ways off from the group, he’s the last one to reach the Pokéstop they chose to meet at. Everyone else is over at a nearby picnic table, setting up lunch and no one sees Lotor approach.

“Though I’d never dreamed I could be so fortunate as to see them again, I’d know those gorgeous blue eyes anywhere.”

Lance’s head snaps up at the unfortunately familiar voice, far closer then he had ever wanted it.

“Lotor?”

“Hello Lance, it is lovely to see you again.” Lotor says, leaning into Lance’s personal space a little bit more than he already was.

“Hello, Lotor. Uh, how have you been?” Lance hedges as he looks frantically around for one of his friends. He really didn’t like Lotor when he met him the first time and that was surrounded by people who he now calls friends.

He’s practically alone now.

“I am wonderful now that I’m in your glowing presence. But enough about me, I’d love to here how you have been since we last met Lance.” Lotor whispers, moving even further into Lance’s space.

“Uh…I’m good? Nothing much to report?” Lance is still frantically looking for a way out of this conversation.

“But fair Lance, it has been two months since we last spoke. Have you not been plagued by exams and other such academics?” Okay, he’s laying the accent on a little thick.

“Look, Lotor, nothing all that exciting has happened to me in the last little bit. But if my life is so boring, maybe you can find someone more worth your time to talk to?” Lance offers with a fake apologetic smile.

Maybe if he can get Lotor to think he’s not all that exciting, Lotor will leave him alone!

“More worth my time then you?” well there goes that idea, “Never.”

Lance tries to keep the wince at Lotor’s ‘charming’ grin internal but must fail on some level. Lotor’s eyes seem to darken a bit.

Anything Lotor attempts to say next is cut off by a shout.

“Lance! There you are!” Matt calls, jogging over to the pair. His eyebrows furrow as he makes eye contact with Lotor “Lotor, fancy seeing you here.”

“Ah, Holt. Delightful as always.” Lotor replies stiffly.

Lance backs into Matt’s chest, away from Lotor, as his boyfriend’s left arm comes up to rest around his waist. Matt turns his head towards Lance, eyes still on Lotor as he addresses the man in his arms.

“I’m sorry to interrupt but Hunk has everything all setup, I came to get you.”

Anger flashes on Lotor’s face, just a split second before he schools his features back into cool, disarming charm.

“So sorry to infringe upon your activities today Lance. I enjoyed our chat, I hope to see you again soon.” He says, ignoring the glare Matt sends him as he winks at Lance and struts away.

Matt’s arm tightens around Lance’s waist, not letting go until Lotor is firmly out of sight.

“God, I hate that guy.” Matt breathes out as he relaxes, “I hope he didn’t—Lance? Are you okay?”

Matt’s worried voice breaks Lance out of the thoughts swirling through his head. He blinks a few times before turning to Matt, still holding him.

“Y-yeah, I’m okay. Just some bad memories.” Lance tries to reassure the taller man with a weak smile.

“You said that last time too. You know I’m not going to push, but if you’re ever ready to talk about it, I’d like to know what those bad memories are.” Matt pulls him closer. “I want to be able to help with them if I can.”

Lance leans heavily into Matt’s left side, “I know, I’m not ready to talk about it yet. It’s a lot to dump on someone and I honestly don’t think that we’re ready.”

Matt squeezes him a little tighter but lets the matter drop.

Lance is lead gently back over to their friends. No one asks when they see the tired look on his face. Hunk passes him a Tupperware container and conversation starts back up around him. Matt stays close but lets Lance have his space to relax.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Lotor shows up more frequently at the park. They see him at least once a week when they’re out raiding or when Lance and Matt are just walking around enjoying each other’s company. With every appearance of Lotor, Lance gets more and more restless. He tries to avoid going out alone anymore, especially anywhere near the park.

His friends are worried. He’s getting jumpy when they go out and no matter how many times they ask if he wants to stay in and do something else, he insists that they go out. He doesn’t want to disrupt the routine they’ve had since before he showed up.

Matt isn’t happy. Lance isn’t okay and Matt is pissed.

Lance doesn’t want to talk about it, but Matt knows the Cuban boy has been through some shit. And Lotor dragging up bad memories and making Lance afraid to go out alone is not something Matt is willing to let slide. Unfortunately, there’s not much he can do about Lotor at this point in time.

There is something he can do to make Lance feel a little better though.

He knows that Lance and Romelle have been keeping up with their weekly movie nights (sometimes with the addition of himself or Hunk). Allura has to leave for a conference in a few days but she expressed an interest in spending time with just ‘the old crew from back home’. Matt thinks that might be just what Lance needs to lose some of the tension that’s been building up in his shoulders since they met Lotor that second time.

He organizes the surprise for Lance for their reading break just before Allura leaves. The girls are more then on board, the only issue is that Matt has his appointment with his physiotherapist the next morning and can’t join in on the fun.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Lance is going to kiss the absolute shit out of Matt when he sees him.

Romelle and Allura showed up at his apartment three hours ago with all the stuff they needed for a classic slumber party night with the old gang. They had facemasks, nail polish, hair masks, you name it. If you could think of a home spa activity, they have it.

Lance greeted them at the door, beyond surprised but incredibly pleased. He hasn’t had the chance to spend time with his girls, like they did at home, in so long. He honestly needs the comfort. Matt has been amazing but sometimes he just needs the comfort of family and as good as family to get him through the rough stuff.

They’re in the middle of exfoliating masks and snacks in front of Moulin Rouge when Lance thinks to ask about their motivation for the surprise visit.

“It was Matt’s idea.” Romelle says, between throwing popcorn up and catching it in her mouth.

“We’ve all noticed how stressed you’ve been the last little while and he’s worried. He figured having a night with us to relax would be good for you. He was going to come too but he had a thing tomorrow morning and wouldn’t have been able to stay.” Allura explains.

The girls are watching Lance’s face, waiting for a reaction. Their wishes are granted when Lance turns bright red and whines in happiness.

He curls up into a ball an squeals into the throw pillow he held in his lap. “I have the best boyfriend ever!”

The girls laugh at his antics, glad to see him unwinding and feeling happy.

“He really has been good for you. I was skeptical at first, protective, when you said you’d met a guy, but he’s surpassed all my expectations. I’m really happy for you Lance.” Romelle says as she slides closer to her best friend.

“I knew Matt beforehand and I have to admit I was also a bit worried. He’s been through a lot the past few years and it hasn’t done good things for him, but the two of you seem to be just what the other needed. I’ll say that to your mother too if need be.” Allura added.

Lance feels warmth swelling in his chest, it isn’t necessary, but it is nice to know that these women would go up to bat for him against his mother if he needed them to. It was nice having people on his side.

“I really appreciate that guys, I really care about him and he makes me so happy. I’m glad you guys are behind us.” He gets up from his spot on the love seat and throws himself in between the two women on the other couch to hug them.

They devolve into a fit of giggles. He missed this, gossiping about boys with his cousin and his best friend. Speaking of boys…

“Hey Romelle, how are things going with that guy you met?” Allura asks.

Romelle freezes and turns bright red. She sputters for a few moments before Lance decides it’s time to spill the beans.

“Yeah Romelle, how are things going with Hunk? You hit it off pretty quick, but you haven’t been giving the deets. We want the deets woman!” Lance smirks, watching the realization flicker over Allura’s face as Romelle turns more and more red.

“The guy you met at the coffee shop months ago, the guy you’ve been talking about and to nonstop for weeks, has been HUNK THIS ENTIRE TIME?” Allura shrieks.

Romelle squeaks and Lance cackles.

“I introduced them the day we met up with you for the raid,” he ignores Allura’s flinch at the reminder of that day, “they were both super awkward and dancing around each other. It looks like things are working out though!”

“When’s the wedding?” Allura crows.

Romelle throws a pillow at Lance when he snorts, knocking him onto the floor. They all devolve into giggles again when they hear the thunk of his butt meeting the floor.

It takes a minute but Romelle finally pipes up when they get their giggles under control, “We’ve been on a few dates. He actually asked me to officially be his girlfriend a week ago.”

Lance and Allura shriek excitedly.

They spend hours gossiping and giggling throughout the night, they trade stories and sing obnoxiously to whatever movie musical they have playing at the time. It’s late into the early morning when Lance’s world gets shaken up a bit.

“Hey Leo?” Allura whispers into the dark of their sleepover fort in Lance’s living room.

“Yeah, ‘Llura?”

“I know you said you care a lot for him, and it’s been almost three months since you guys became official, but do you think you might be edging into love territory?” She asks quietly.

She knows him well, he’s been pondering that exact question for a few weeks now. He’s been mulling over just what he’s been feeling in regard to the other man and what exactly those feelings mean for him.

It takes him a moment, but he eventually whispers,

“You know what? I think I might be.”

~~~~~~~~~~~

Matt’s appointment had gone really well, he doesn’t need to go very often anymore because it’s mostly just making sure everything is still functioning properly every couple months or so. It helps that his doctor and physiotherapist are in the same office. He runs through all his exercises, supervised by his therapist, and is pleased to hear he probably won’t need his knee brace for activities for too much longer.

His therapist likes to get him to test his limits just to be safe and he managed to work up a pretty decent sweat by the time Pidge arrives with Bae-bae to pick him up.

“You know, Lance would love to see you like this.” She says offhandedly from the doorway.

“Like what?” Matt leans down to grab his towel and his shirt.

“Sweaty and muscly,” She replies, Matt looks back at her confused, “You can’t tell me you haven’t seen the looks he gives you when he catches a glimpse of your torso.” She snorts.

Matt raises an eyebrow, still confused.

“We haven’t really gotten into the territory of that conversation yet. Especially with him being so jumpy lately.”

“But you want to talk about it right? Getting ‘intimate’?” she shudders as she says it.

Matt nods.

“Well then why not send him a photo? It’ll get the conversation started and I know for a fact he’ll love it.” Pidge suggests, just as Matt moves to start putting his shirt on.

“A photo?” Matt pauses.

“Yeah, a selfie of you, post workout. I guarantee it will get you two on the same page.” Pidge smirks.

It couldn’t hurt right? They’ve made out a few times and it’s always an excellent way to lose track of time. But Lance has had issues with just being physically close to people, Matt doesn’t want to take things too fast. Maybe a photo would be a good idea? Test the waters a bit? Set the stage for the kind of conversation they definitely need to have about the possibility of a physical side of their relationship.

After a few moments of deliberation, Matt nods.

“Excellent! Now, put your shirt down and stand in front of that wall.” Pidge instructs, grabbing Matt’s phone to take the picture.

“Oh! He really likes animals, right? Here! Lift Bae-bae!” Pidge picks up the little dog and hands her to her brother.

Matt gives his younger sister a questioning glance before he shrugs and raises his dog above his head.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Lance, after going to sleep around 3am, manages to wake up before noon on a Saturday. He’s a little groggy from all the junk food they consumed (a break from normal healthy snacks for the health-conscious group) and he’s tired but his internal clock isn’t used to sleeping in so he’s up and about at 11:15 am.

It’s worth it when he gets up to start on breakfast for himself and his guests. He’s still in the mound of pillows and blankets when his phone goes off.

He unlocks it, seeing it’s a message from Matt and freezes.

Allura sits up groggily and stares at her cousin who is steadily turning red as his phone falls from his hands and to the pile of blankets they slept on.

“Lance? Are you alright?” She asks sleepily.

Lance doesn’t move but Allura can hear a high-pitched whine coming from the man.

Romelle, more conscious than Allura at the moment, reaches for the fallen device. She opens it and can only stare at the image on the screen.

“Oh, holy mother of god.” She breathes and the sound coming from Lance only increases in volume.

Allura, now incredibly awake and confused, reaches for the phone. The sight that greets her eyes is a photo from Matt.

And it is one HELL of a photo.

Matt Holt, Shirtless with a small grey dog being held above his head

The photo has the perfect lighting to play off of the sweat dripping down Matt’s torso and flexed arms. He’s got a small smile on his face and his wild ponytail is draped over his left shoulder, making him look positively rakish. She knew he had scars from the accident 2 years ago, and she imagined they’d be painful to look at, but they just made him hotter.

It’s weird thinking the word sexy about her friend but Matt is definitely that.

“…Lance, were you aware your boyfriend has a 6-pack?” Lance whines pitifully and falls to the floor.

“6-pack? That’s a fucking 8-pack Allura. Lance! Your man is fucking shredded! How in the hell did you manage to snag this Adonis?” Romelle shouts, gesturing wildly at Lance’s phone still in Allura’s hands.

Lance grabs blindly for his phone which Allura surrenders willingly. He brings it up to his face with one hand while the other covers his eyes. He opens his fingers to peek and groans.

“Fucking god.”

Romelle and Allura watch Lance hide behind his hands again. They look at each other concerned before Allura turns back to Lance.

“Leo, is this not something you’re okay with? Did he go too far?” Allura asks, scooching closer to Lance.

It takes Lance a second to register Allura’s words, a confused look on his face.

“Not okay? Wha-Oh! Oh, guys I’m more than okay with this.” Lance sits up quickly, his phone falling onto his stomach. “I just can’t handle how god damn gorgeous he is! We haven’t had the whole physical boundaries talk yet and I wasn’t expecting something like this so early in the day. But good lord I am so okay with this.”

“You’d better get to that conversation soon cause if you don’t ride that boy soon, I’m going to be all over those washboard abs!” Romelle cuts in.

“Romelle! You have your own man and Hunk is definitely no slouch in the body department! Keep your grubby hands off my man!” Lance snaps jokingly at his best friend.

“Grubby hands? How dare you sir! I’ll have you know my hands are delicate and soft as silk! Hunk would gladly defend their honour against such slander!” Romelle brandishes a throw pillow dramatically in Lance’s direction while her opponent draws a hand back to his chest with a gasp. He opens his mouth to retort when Allura suddenly whacks him over the head with another throw pillow.

He falls to the floor with a shout of “Betrayal!”

They all break into laughter after his dramatic ‘death’ scene is over.

Their giggles are winding down when Lance’s phone starts ringing. A smile breaks across his face when he recognizes the ring tone.

~~~~~~~~~~~

“Hey Matt!” Lance says through the phone. Matt can hear Allura and Romelle giggling and singing a rather ridiculous rendition of It’s Raining Men by The Weather Girls.

“Hey Lance, sounds like you guys are having a rather lively morning.” He chuckles at the sound of Lance trying to shush the other two.

“Lively is definitely a word for it.” He chuckles, “to what do I owe the pleasure of this surprise phone call?”

“What I can’t call my boyfriend to wish him good morning?”

“Oh no, you can, and it is more than welcome, I just find the timing of said phone call rather interesting considering what I just received…” he hears the twittering of giggles and the rush of what must be Lance standing up to escape the nosy girls.

“…Okay fine, I wanted to check up on you. We haven’t talked about those kinds of boundaries yet and I wanted to make sure I hadn’t crossed a line.” He admits.

“Well you don’t have to worry about any lines being crossed, I am more than okay with pictures like that making a much more frequent appearance in my life. But I think we should have that talk. Not right now! But maybe later today? If you’re free and feeling okay after your appointment?”

“My good sir! Such a scandalous proposal! I am a gentleman! You shouldn’t use such talk in polite company.”

Lance snorts and Matt grins, every time he makes Lance laugh is a victory especially recently.

“I apologize for my misstep, though the offer remains if it finds you in good health. If you wouldn’t mind my company later this fine day for talk of a more casual nature?” Lance slips into a posh accent, trying not to laugh from what Matt can hear.

“That sounds like a truly wonderful idea, might I suggest a dinner meeting? Shall I bring my humble self and an appropriate item of sustenance to your abode at approximately 6 o’clock this evening?”

“A splendid idea, I eagerly await your arrival.”

“I’ll see you later then babe.”

“Yup, and Matt?” he hums in reply, “Thank you.”

Matt smiles to himself, “No thanks necessary Lance.”

They hang up and Matt drops dramatically onto his bed with a sigh.

“This boy is going to be the death of me Bae-bae” he tells the dog sitting on his floor. She doesn’t even blink.

~~~~~~~~~~~

The girls leave Lance’s home soon after brunch, Allura to go finish getting ready for her conference and Romelle to get ready for a dinner date with Hunk. Lance is alone in his bedroom, staring at the ceiling and thinking.

He wants to take things to a more physical level with Matt, he genuinely wants that. He trusts Matt and he knows he would never willingly hurt him. Even if he wasn’t in his right mind.

The sound of knocking on his door breaks him from his thoughts. The clock on his nightstand reads exactly 6 o’clock on the dot and he jumps from his bed to race down the hall. He throws open the door to see a grinning Matt with a bag of food in his hand.

“Hey babe, I brou--mmf” he’s cut off.

Lance grabs his collar and drags him forward into a forceful kiss. Matt wraps his free arm around Lance’s waist and leans into his boyfriend. After a moment Lance pulls back and laces his hands behind Matt’s neck.

“You, are the best boyfriend in the fucking universe Matthew Holt.” Lance says against Matt’s lips before dragging him into another kiss, this one softer.

Matt smiles into it and tightens his hold on Lance’s waist. He lets himself enjoy the feel of this man against him before he pulls away with a soft smile.

“As much as I’m loving this greeting, I don’t want our food to get cold and if I recall we need to talk before we get up to more kissing.” Lance huffs before dragging Matt through the door by his shirt.

~~~~~~~~~~~

They’re curled up together on the couch, Lance has Matt’s legs curled up over his legs and his head on Matt’s chest.

“Thanks for dinner Matt, after last night cooking definitely wasn’t something I wanted to attempt.”

Matt snorts, “I bet. Did you guys get any sleep at all?”

“I’ll have you know I got a solid seven hours of sleep.”

“You did look suitably well rested when I got here, but that doesn’t take into account when you fell asleep.” Matt runs his fingers through Lance’s hair.

Lance hums at the contact, “Allura and I passed out around 3 but Romelle was out at 2:30 at the latest. I woke up just before you texted me actually.”

“Ah yes the infamous shirtless picture, the reason we decided to spend this evening together. Seems about as good a time as any to get that conversation started.” Matt gives Lance a squeeze.

“…Yeah, I guess it is. I’m a little nervous to be honest. I haven’t done a whole lot of dating the past few years, so I don’t really know how things are supposed to progress but I’m really grateful you’ve been so patient with me.” Lance says quietly, burying his face into the juncture between Matt’s neck and shoulder.

“Hey now, I’m more than happy to take things slow. I haven’t dated much either since the accident and not for very long, we’re figuring everything out together and that’s okay. I do want to set up our boundaries though, we haven’t done much other than cuddling and some solid making out, so I don’t really know where your lines are, and I’d rather talk them out then cross one by accident.” He explains quietly, still carding his fingers through Lance’s soft brown hair.

“I want to know what yours are too, I don’t want you to feel uncomfortable either.” Lance presses a gentle kiss to Matt’s collar.

Matt ducks down to place a soft kiss on the top of Lance’s head, “Do you want to start or should I?”

Lance nods at the mention of Matt going first, “Well I guess the first thing we need to cover is how far we’re both comfortable going right now. I want to be totally honest with you Lance, I do want to have sex with you, just not right now. I like where we’re at when it comes to physical stuff and I’d like to work our way up to that at a pace that’s comfortable for both of us.”

The tension Lance didn’t know he was holding onto leaks out of him at Matt’s admission. Matt feels Lane sag against him.

“I don’t expect anything from you Lance, I’m sorry if I made you feel that way.” Lance’s head jerks up off his boyfriend’s chest and he stares at Matt with wide eyes.

“I know you didn’t expect anything, you’ve never pushed me. I just get stressed out when physical intimacy is brought up. I had a really not good experience my senior year of high school, compounded with my family handling me with kid gloves, I just get really anxious about it. I trust you, but hearing you say you want to take things slow and make sure we’re both comfortable? That makes me feel a lot better.” Lance assures, hands curling into Matt’s chest.

Matt meets Lance’s eye and smiles softly. He leans in and presses a light kiss to the tip of Lance’s nose, “I’m glad I can help you relax. I think I can assume we’re on the same page as far as how fast we’re going. But speaking of things that make you uncomfortable, and we can talk about this stuff again later, is there anything in particular you don’t like? Ways you don’t like to be touched both sexually and non-sexually?” Lance bites his lip.

“I don’t like things coming near my left knee and I don’t like being held down much, I’m not a fan of feeling helpless and those things stem from my accident a couple years ago. Otherwise I’m down for pretty much anything for touching, I think we should talk more about things we like in regard to sex when we actually get closer to being there.” Matt says, trying to make it easier for Lance to talk about his own comfort.

“I, I don’t like small spaces, or being held down. Actually, being restrained in anyway isn’t something I do well with. I’m not usually very good with touching in general but I trust you and you touching me doesn’t make me uncomfortable, which is why I never said anything before. I’ll let you know when I don’t want to be touched though, if it happens. I don’t like my back specifically being touched, and I don’t like open flame of any sort, not that you’d use any for sex or anything anyways, but fire and I don’t get along.”

Matt nods, “No bonfires, cool. I appreciate you letting me know. I don’t pay your back too much attention, do I?” Lance shakes his head.

“No, you’d know if you were.”

“Awesome. For right now would you prefer hands over cloths or a little bit under clothes or shirts off or anything like that? Skin on skin contact is something I enjoy in a non-sexual context too and I want to check your limits before I get too handsy by accident.”

“I don’t like taking my shirt off. I don’t really mind a little under clothes as long as it’s not my back and we don’t take it too far.” Lance answers, moving his hands up to play with the ends of Matt’s long hair, clearly trying to focus on something else while he answers.

“Got it, your back is a big no go for attention, but non-focused touches are okay? Like when I run my hands down your back when we cuddle?” Lance nods, not meeting his eyes, “Okay, line established. Is there a reason you don’t like your back being focused on? You don’t have to tell me why, I’m just curious.” He assures the younger man, now once more curled into his side.

Lance tenses for a second before sighing.

“Honestly? Now is as good a time as any to tell you why, it’s kind of a big reason for a lot of the things I do. It’s why I’ve been having issues with my family and ultimately why I came out here for school instead of finishing up in Arus.” Lance explains quietly.

“Only if that’s what you want Lance, you know I won’t push.” Matt says, trying to assure his boyfriend that he doesn’t have to go through it.

“I know, but I also know it will make things easier if you know.” Lance takes a deep breath before looking Matt in the eyes, “That really not good experience my senior year? It’s the cause of a lot of problems. I was staying with a friend for a couple weeks over the summer at his parents’ cabin by the lake just outside Arus, we’d been friends for a while and had been dabbling in a bit more too. It was our big adventure before we went off to college and we were having fun living life and messing around. About a week into our get away he started acting a little weird, he wouldn’t let me out of his sight for even a moment and he was getting super fidgety. It was really weird but more often than not he was normal. Things took a turn when we were messing around one day and he like pinned me to a tree really aggressively. I wasn’t comfortable with the situation and told him so, but he managed to slam my head against the tree hard enough to give me a decent concussion and disorient me. When things finally made sense again, we were in a shed somewhere and my hands and feet were tied together, he was on the other side of the room talking to himself and pacing and things were still pretty fuzzy for me from the hit to my head. I think he said something about needing to cleanse something? I don’t know it was really fuzzy and my ears were ringing.” Lance’s hands tighten in Matt’s shirt again and Matt gives Lance a brief squeeze for comfort before loosening up, trying not to make Lance feel trapped.

“He had a gas can and started pouring gas everywhere, I could smell it. He never poured it anywhere near me though, so I think he realized what he was doing on some level, but he walked out after that. The next thing I can remember is the smell of smoke and the one wall of the shed catching on fire. I got out of there as fast as I could, luckily the rope tying my feet was loose enough that I got one out so I could run but when I got out of the cabin…” he trails off.

“Lance, you don’t have to say anything else, it’s oka—”

“No, I need you to know and I want you to hear it from me and not some dramatized version from my family!” Lance says sharply, “I need to say this okay? I need to tell you.”

Matt nods.

“When I made it out of the shed the forest around it was on fire. I don’t know how far the flames stretched but all I saw was fire. There was only one path that was clear enough for me to try and escape, but I got hit with a falling branch just before I hit the trees. The branch was on fire and it was really heavy and hot, and I passed out at some point, but I don’t really remember. When I woke up, I was in the hospital hooked up to a variety of machines and my family was all in the room. Turns out I almost died from the amount of smoke inhalation alone, the branch almost broke my spine and left me with third degree burns.

“We pressed charges, Kayden is now in a mental ward back in Arus. He had a psychotic break and I just happened to be in the wrong place. I email him sometimes and he’s been doing really well. Once he came back to himself, he freaked out, he never really wanted to hurt me and he felt terrible.” Lance takes a breath and Matt runs his hand comfortingly up and down the other man’s arm.

“My family thinks I forgave him too easily, that I’m too trusting and not careful enough and that’s why I got hurt. Everyone freaks out if I don’t update them on my safety every day. My dad and my brother Marco are finally getting the memo, but my mother and sisters can’t leave well enough alone.” He meets Matt’s eye again, “My mother doesn’t like me dating, at all, and tries to dissuade me from every relationship I get in to by bringing up Kayden. My family still doesn’t know we’re official because my mother would fly over here to forcibly take me home if she found out.”

“That is a very extreme reaction, but I have to say, you almost died Lance. Your family has every reason to worry about you, and before you say anything, I completely agree with you that they’re going way too far and if and when I meet her, your mother and I are having words.” Matt adds the last part quickly, so he doesn’t upset his boyfriend who just unloaded some major trauma.

“...I know they have good reasons for what they do, but I’m the one who almost died, and I want to move on with my life and they won’t let me. I want to be happy and yes, the trauma is still a thing, hence my issues with small spaces, restraints, and my back; but I want to be happy. I’ve done a lot of work to get to this point and I’m happy here. I’m happy with you and our friends and I don’t want it being ruined.” Lance sounds irritated and almost petulant. He just wants to move on and live his life.

“Hey hey hey, it’s okay. Nothing is going to be ruined, especially not your place with our friends or your place with me. I’m happy with you too and I’m not letting that, or you, go anytime soon.” He whisper reassuringly, pressing a soft kiss to Lance’s temple and rubbing his hands comfortingly up and down Lance’s arms.

They sit like that for a while, just soaking up the comfort from one another. Matt presses soft kisses into Lance’s hair every so often. Lance melts into him, grip tight on Matt’s shirt but more to ground himself than anything.

He’s half asleep on Matt’s chest when Matt breaks the silence.

“Stuff like that is always tiring to talk about, how about we get you to bed?” Lance hums and Matt swings his legs around so he can lift Lance into his arms to carry him to bed.

Lance wakes up enough to grab Matt’s hand when the older man goes to leave after laying him on the bed.

“Stay.” He’s fully conscious of what he’s asking but he needs Matt to be here.

“Are you sure?” Lance nods, scooting over on the bed to make room.

Matt lays down next to Lance and the younger man snuggles up to him quickly. He lays one arm over Lance’s waist and the other he uses to run his fingers through Lance’s hair for a moment. Lance hums in content at the feeling. Lance grabs hold of the arm belonging to that hand and plants a kiss on the skin of Matt’s wrist.

“I love you Matt.” He whispers against the skin. He opens one eye to see Matt staring at him in wide eyed shock.

Matt leans in once he gets a hold of himself and kisses Lance softly on the mouth, “I love you too Lance.” he says against his boyfriend’s lips.

They cuddle closer together and fall asleep with soft smiles on their faces.

Chapter Text

His plans are going well. He’s seen Lance often and well established his interest in the younger man. The fact that Lance never fails to converse with him is a good sign that Lance is receptive to his advances.

But he can still see the sadness and fear in the man’s eyes. Fear and sadness, he only has when in the presences if his so-called boyfriend Matthew Holt.

Allura had been a lovely woman to pursue, though she was not the prize of the group of friends clearly. No, that title belonged only to Lance, the newest addition. How fortunate it was that he had returned to the city in time to meet such an enchanting creature.

His plan is to sweep the beautiful man off of his feet and away from the group that clearly causes him such strife. The look of such pain should never be upon such an angelic face. The next step of the plan is to get Lance alone so that he can broach the subject of getting him away from the obviously abusive group of individuals. The perfect opportunity is approaching as well. There is a special event in the park this coming weekend and he’s noticed Lance’s tendency to wander away from his ‘friends’ (obviously to gain some measure of freedom). He will remain close by but unseen for when such a moment appears, and he can whisk the younger man away. He will have to make sure the bodyguard his father has assigned him is otherwise occupied as well, but that is something he has gotten quite good at.

Yes, this plan is perfect.

~~~~~~~~~~~

The phone rings.

“Hello?” Lance answers, he didn’t get a chance to check the ID of the caller. Too distracted with Matt throwing soap bubbles at him from the dinner dishes.

“Hola mijo.” A very familiar, soft voice comes through the phone.

“Mamá! This is a surprise. How have you been?” Matt pauses his dish washing to look at Lance in concern.

“We’ve been alright, I’m a bit sad you haven’t called for a while. Your father and Marco have been saying you’re doing fine but you know how I worry mijo, I want to hear it from you myself.”

“I have been doing fine Mamá. My classes are all going really well, top marks in all my subjects, even the tough ones. I have a study group that’s been helping too.” he smiles brightly up at Matt.

“That’s wonderful Leo! I’m proud of you!” his mother pauses and Lance feels his heart drop, “Leo, I want to ask about that boy you said you were seeing. I wanted to know how things are going?”

“Uh, things are actually going really well with him too. His name’s Matt and we actually made it official a while ago…He’s my boyfriend now Mamá.” Lance bites his lip, waiting for his mother’s reaction. Matt having already dried his hands, comes, and wraps his arms around Lance’s wait to provide what little comfort he can.

“…Lance, does he treat you well?”

“Yes Mamá, very well. He’s actually here right now, we made dinner together and we were cleaning up when you called. Would you, would you like to talk to him?” Lance turns to Matt asking permission with a pleading look and Matt nods enthusiastically.

Lance’s family is incredibly important to him and Matt wants nothing more than to assuage the fears he knows Lance’s mother is having right now.

Lance hits the speaker button and takes a shaky breath before his mother can even reply, “You’re on speaker phone Mamá”.

“Lance, you didn’t give me a chance to answer your question.”

“Sorry Mamá, I’m just excited for you to meet him. Even if it is over the phone first.”

“Hello Mrs. McClain, my name is Matthew Holt and I wish I could have introduced myself sooner, but I’m your son’s boyfriend.”

“Hello Matthew. It is nice to hear a voice to put to the name. I must admit I don’t know much about you. Leonardo and I haven’t had much occasion to talk the last few weeks.” Lance flinches at the not so subtle dig to his avoidance of her. Matt tightens his grip on his boyfriend’s waist.

“I’m sorry to hear that, I’d be more than happy to answer any question you have about me though. I know how much family means to Lance and I’d like to remedy any concerns you may have about me if I can.” Matt replies, being as open and friendly as possible. He really does want to make a good impression.

“Well, I guess the first thing I want to know since you are being so gracious, is how you met my youngest. And how long you’ve really been seeing each other.” She’s coming out swinging it seems.

“Lance and I met on our first day of classes, we share a class first thing in the morning, but I actually met Lance that afternoon. I wasn’t watching where I was going and ran into him. It took me a moment to actually help him up off the floor, you have a gorgeous son ma’am. I have to admit I used some truly cheesy pickup lines in my shocked state, but I managed to convince Lance to give me his phone number.

“We found out through a mutual friend that we shared a class and we all decided to make a study group. We went on our first date that week to a café near the university so we could get to know each other a little better. We didn’t make it official for another week, but we’ve been seeing each other officially for three months now?”

“That’s a fairly long time. Does your family know about you two Matt?” Lance flinches hard in Matt’s arms.

“They do, Lance has been over a few times for dinner as well. My sister is part of the friend group that has adopted Lance, all our friends have been very supportive of the relationship.”

“I’m glad you have such a good support system then. Tell me, would I know of any of these friends?”

“They’re ‘Llura’s friends Mamá. I didn’t know that until after I started hanging out with them, Allura was in Turkey still when I met everyone.” Lance fields that question, knowing that mentioning Allura would help keep his mother’s interrogation to a minimum.

“Oh, you’re Allura’s friend, that’s nice. She has good taste in people. I am disappointed that she didn’t tell me anything, but I suppose it isn’t her place. Have you met Romelle yet Matt?”

“I have! She’s a lovely girl, cares a lot about Lance which is nice to see. He didn’t have many people coming out here as I’m more than sure you know, but it was nice to see someone so aggressively in his corner. Though I have to say the combined shovel talk from her and Allura was rather terrifying.” Matt chuckles.

Lance relaxes into Matt’s chest. He’s handling his mother rather well which is a good sign, but his mom hasn’t started asking the really hard-hitting questions yet. And Lance knows she’ll bring up Kayden. He can feel it coming and it leaves him nervous.

“I’m glad those girls have been looking out for him. Lance has been through a lot, more than most, when it comes to relationships. Tell me Matt, has he told you anything about how he got that scar on his back? I’d imagine you’d be close enough now to have seen it in person.”

“Mamá!” Lance squawks in anger. He knew it was coming.

“He told me what happened to cause it. We had a long talk about what we were comfortable with when it came to the physical aspects of our relationship. I haven’t seen it yet; we’ve elected to take things slow so that we can both be as comfortable as possible. I also have issues with physical intimacy from a past relationship and this is comfortable for us.” Matt says clearly, a barely hidden edge to his words.

Matt knows Lance doesn’t like talking to his mother about his love life, he knows that Mrs. McClain is overprotective to a point that makes Lance very unhappy. He never imagined that she’d be so cruel about it. Lance is clearly upset, and Matt has had enough of this woman.

An awkward pause stretches over the phone line. Mrs. McClain clearly caught out on the fact that Matt knows. Her trump card in getting people to leave Lance alone has been circumvented quite handily. Lance, under the anger at his mother, is happy he told Matt about the shit with Kayden. They’ve been very comfortable and happy with their physical intimacy and he gets the satisfaction of knowing his family can’t scare Matt away with the horror stories if he already knows.

“If you know the story, then you can understand why I can’t support your relationship with my son.” She says coldly.

“I understand why you worry so fiercely about him, but I think he deserves to be happy after all he’s been through.” Matt says back, just as if not colder.

Lance’s mom makes a sound of indignation on the other end of the line.

“Mamá. That’s enough. I’ll text Papá later, but Matt needs to go, and I have dishes to finish.” Lance hangs up before his mother can say anything.

He lays his phone gently on the counter, before turning quickly to shove his face into Matt’s chest. Matt holds him tighter.

“Well, that was fun.” Lance snorts in reply, “I believed you when you said she was overprotective, but I didn’t expect her to be so cruel about it. That was just downright mean.”

“She gets like that every time I try to date. Especially when it’s a boy. I think she has more hang-ups from the incident than I do. You handled it really well though and honestly that’s all that matters to me. Her approval is something I’d like but will never get, my father and my older brother on the other hand will love you after they hear it all from my mom.” Lance chuckles weakly.

“I don’t need their approval; I only want to keep you happy and safe.” Matt whispers, pressing a kiss to the top of Lance’s head.

They stand like that, holding each other tightly for a few more moments before they decide to say fuck the dishes and head to cuddle in Lance’s bed.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Rosa McClain thinks of herself as a decent mother. Her children are happy, raised well, and her home is a safe place.

Or it was a safe place.

She sits in kitchen chair, the phone hanging loosely in her grip still beeping with the disconnection alert.

When had her home become a place where one of her children wasn’t safe and happy? When had Leonardo decided that safety was on the other side of the country, in the arms of a stranger? That happiness was hiding things from his family?

Rosa can not let this continue. She needs to talk to her youngest child face to face, so that he can not run from her simply by hanging up the phone.

“Veronica! I need your help with something!” She calls to her eldest daughter.

If there is one person who can help convince Lance to come home, it’s his favourite big sister.

~~~~~~~~~~~

The gang arrives in the park that Saturday. Hunk is loaded up with food in a massive cooler, Romelle carrying a smaller cooler of drinks beside him.

This is her first-time spending time with the entire group as Hunk’s girlfriend and Lance can tell she’s a little nervous. He sticks close to his best friend to help reassure her, Matt by his side.

“Alright, let’s grab a nice picnic spot to make base-camp!” Pidge calls from the front of the group.

She’s got the scoop on all the cool stuff they can get with this event and Lance is still convinced Pidge works for Niantic. He is still unable to prove it though, even with Matt and Hunk’s help.

Keith rolls along with the group, headphones around his neck and blasting Panic! At the Disco today. He is sans gum today in preparation for Hunk’s many, many delicious snacks.

Adam and Shiro are in the back of the group holding hands and talking back and forth softly, locked in their own little world for the moment. The end of the semester is approaching, and the grad students are feeling the crunch. They need this day out just as much if not more than the multitude of undergrads they hangout with.

Allura is still away at the conference, it extending longer than she thought due to some unforeseen issues with the plans they want to act upon.

Lance hums happily to himself, surrounded by his friends and enjoying the sun on his skin.

“You look happy.” Matt says softly into his ear, giving his hand a squeeze.

“I am happy, I get to spend a day out in the sun with my friends and boyfriend, playing a game we all love.”

“Plus, we get to escape from all the studying for a day.” Matt adds.

“Amen to that!” Hunk says from the left of Lance.

They find a nice empty place in the grass to lay down the picnic blanket Adam and Shiro brought. They settle on the blanket for a few minutes, chatting and catching up after another hectic week. Keith is the first to take off, speeding away to the location of a Pokémon he really wants.

Pidge, Lance, and Matt head out next. Adam and Romelle have decided they’ll hold down the fort while everyone else get some time to enjoy the Pokémon Go event.

They hit Pokéstop after Pokéstop and grab as many Pokémon as they can. They manage one raid before their stomachs decide lunch is in order.

Lance sees an Eevee at a nearby Pokéstop and lets the two Holts know he’s heading that way quickly before lunch. Matt looks a little unsure before seeing that the Pokéstop is still within view of their base-camp.

“Matt, I’ll be fine. Go sit down, take a rest” he says glancing pointedly at Matt’s legs.

The light ache from his knee makes his decision for him. He kisses Lance’s cheek before heading over for lunch with his sister.

The Eevee isn’t very strong but Lance has a collection of Eeveelutions going and he needs a Flareon still.

He looks over his shoulder and waves at Matt at base-camp before turning back to the game on his phone.

“Hello Lance.”

Lance’s head snaps up at the slimy feeling creeping up his back at the voice.

“Enjoying the event? I haven’t been able to catch anything to exciting but the surplus of fire types is very handy don’t you think?” Lotor says, smoothly sliding up next to Lance’s left side.

Lance takes a small step away from the man currently making him supremely uncomfortable.

“I know you’re here with your friends, but I was hoping you’d be willing to help me out with something. It’s not really Pokémon related but it is rather important. It’s just over there by that tree” Lotor gestures to a large tree near the fountain.

“I don’t want to go to far from my friends, I still don’t know the area very well.” Lance objects weakly.

“Oh don’t worry, it’s still within easy view of your group there. Don’t worry.” Lotor smiles, an attempt to be reassuring that just makes Lance’s skin crawl.

Lance starts to say no but Lotor grabs his wrist and tugs him insistently towards the tree he pointed out.

“Lotor, I don’t want to—”

“Nonsense!”

Lotor continues dragging him, rendering any attempt Lance makes to rip his wrist out of the older man’s tight grasp useless. He tugs and tries to drag his feet but Lotor is unrelenting.

He only lets up on the tugging when they’re behind the tree. Lotor doesn’t loosen his grip and he doesn’t look at Lance.

“It’s alright now, you don’t have to worry. You’re safe.” Lotor says quietly.

“Safe? You just dragged me over here against my will man! I don’t really feel safe.” Lance snaps.

“It’s okay, we’re away from them so you don’t have to pretend anymore. They can’t hurt you.” Lotor finally turns and looks at Lance.

“What do you mean pretend?” Lance is really confused now.

“I see the look in your eyes when you’re with that so-called boyfriend of yours. You look anything but happy. I had hoped that getting you away from him and those people who call themselves your friends would be enough to make you feel safe enough to talk about it and allow me to help you. It seems that time is also required here.”

Lance gapes at Lotor in mounting horror.

“Lance, I need you to come with me. We will go somewhere safe, somewhere you can be comfortable enough to be yourself. Away from the controlling nature of Holt and the others.” Lotor pulls on Lance’s wrist again to try and drag him away further.

“No! Lotor they’re not doing anything to me. I’m happy with Matt and I want to go back to my friends now!” Lance digs his heals into the dirt and tries his hardest to tug his wrist out of Lotor’s grasp.

“I see. They really have you believing what you’re saying. They did the same thing to Allura, I won’t let them break you too.” Lotor’s eyes determined as he lets go of Lance’s wrist.

The young man goes flying back as he heaves on his wrist to break out of a grip no longer there. He smashes the back of his head against the tree behind him.

‘What is it with all the crazy dudes and hitting my head on trees?’ is his last thought before he blacks out and collapses to the dirt.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Keith rolls up to the group a few minutes after Matt and Pidge sit down. He looks around happily at his friends. Though someone is missing. It’s odd to see Matt without Lance nearby now, he couldn’t be happier for the pair. Matt went through some crazy shit and Lance makes him happy. He’s also noticed how Lance has opened up to the group more since he and Matt got serious.

He figures Lance is nearby, but it never hurts to ask.

“Hey Matt, where’s Lance?” he asks, actually taking off his skates to sit on the blanket.

“He went to catch an Eevee over near the blue art bench.” Matt looks up and frowns, “He should have been back by now actually.”

Keith watches Matt stand up and move to get a better view of the location in question. His eyebrows are scrunched in confusion when he doesn’t see his boyfriend.

“That’s weird, he was right there a minute ago.” Matt pulls his phone out of his pocket and shoots his boyfriend a text. He waits a moment.

No response.

He sends another.

“He is literally on his phone right now; he usually responds immediately.” Keith can see the worry on Matt’s face.

He knows Lance has been through some shit too and knows that Matt knows about it. Matt isn’t a worrier by nature.

“Everything okay Matt?” Adam asks, concerned.

“Lance said he was going to the Pokéstop that’s literally right over there but he’s not there anymore and he hasn’t answered my texts. That’s not normal.” He explains.

“Give him a call instead. If he doesn’t answer, then we’ll go look for him.” Shiro soothes.

Matt dials Lance’s number and waits. And waits. It rings and rings.

Lance’s voicemail.

“He’s not answering.” Hunk stands up and moves to stand next to Matt.

“I’ll come with you to look for him, maybe he got lost and is freaking out too much to hear his phone?” Matt nods absentmindedly at Hunk’s words.

The two head over to the bench where Lance should have been.

They look around the park, as far as they can in every direction. They don’t see any sign of Lance.

“Where in the world is he? He can’t have gone that far in the last ten minutes.” Hunk says.

Matt is lost in thought, frantically searching the area for his boyfriend. After his third check of the area he turns to look at the ground to see if Lance dropped his phone.

Nothing.

“This isn’t like him Hunk; he knows his sense of direction is shit so he never wanders too far. Especially since we’ve been seeing Lotor so much around here. The only reason I let him come over here alone was because he was in my sights.” Matt’s speech picks up to frantic levels quickly.

“Whoa, hold on Matt. We’ll find him, he knows the park well enough to find the important landmarks and find his way back to us.” Hunk reasons.

“I’d believe you Hunk, if Lance was answering me, but he’s not. We play a mobile game! His phone is literally in his hand the entire time and it can’t have died. This doesn’t feel right Hunk; he should be answering.”

“There’s gotta be a reason he’s not answering Matt; he can’t have just disappeared.”

“What if something happened Hunk? This is seriously not like him and you know it! He’s been through some serious shit; he doesn’t just not answer me for no reason.” Matt snaps.

Hunk raises his hands in surrender, “I’m not saying he did. I’m just trying to keep you from jumping off the deep end before we have an idea of what’s going on.”

Matt looks around again silently. There’s still nothing that could possibly indicate where Lance could have possibly gone.

“I think we might have to call the police Hunk.” Matt’s eyes are hard when Hunk looks at him.

“The police? But why? It’s not like he was kidnapped or anything right?” Hunk starts freaking out.

“Look, Lance has been through some shit. That shit includes being kidnapped before, so there is no way he would just disappear without telling me Hunk. I genuinely think he’s in trouble.” Matt explains softly.

The fear is in every tense line of his body. He’s worried, terrified.

“Let’s head back to the others and start going our options Matt.” Matt nods and follows Hunk back to the group, eyes still scanning the park for that familiar head of brown hair.

They walk quickly back to the group, Romelle’s worried eyes bore into Matt.

“Any idea where he went?” her small voice breaks the expectant silence.

“No. We couldn’t see him or any indication of where he went.” Hunk answers his petite girlfriend.

“I think we need to call the police guys.” Matt says, looking up to meet everyone’s eyes.

“You think it happened again?” Romelle asks, shock and fear warring on her face.

Matt nods.

“We need to call the police, now. Shiro can you handle that? I’m going to call Marco. Matt? Can you call Allura? She needs to know.” Romelle takes charge, addressing Matt softly.

Matt nods again and pulls out his phone.

Shiro is on the phone with the local precinct, detailing the problem.

“No, he didn’t just wander off sir. No, we have reason to believe he’s been taken by someone.” Matt can see the frustration on Shiro’s face.

The dial tone on his own phone is interrupted with a very irate Allura, “Matthew! You better have a damn good reason for calling me! It is 2 am!”

“Lance is missing Allura. We think someone grabbed him.”

“…Are you sure?”

“Yes. We’re at the park for the event and he was at a Pokéstop that I could see, maybe thirty feet away. I looked down and back up and he was gone! I texted him and no answer, I called him and no answer. There’s no sign of him Allura and you know he wouldn’t just wander off on his own without saying anything!”

“Have you tried calling him again? Maybe his phone’s dead? There’s no reason to assume he’s been kidnapped.” Allura says shakily, more to reassure herself than anything.

“He had eighty percent battery; I’ve called him three times. We’ve searched the immediate area and can’t find any trace of him or his phone. There is no reason to not assume he’s been taken Allura.”

“…You called the police already didn’t you?”

“Shiro was talking to them as I was calling you.”

Allura is silent.

“I’m sorry Allura. I don’t know what happened. He was there and then he wasn’t. I wouldn’t have left him if I hadn’t been so close and could see him.” Matt can feel the burn in his eyes.

“It wasn’t your fault Matt. You wouldn’t have let anything happen to him if you could stop it, there wasn’t anything you could do.” Allura says seriously.

“I should have stayed with him, but I let him convince me out of it. My knee was not happy with me and he knew it! That considerate ass!” Matt can feel the tears falling now.

“It’ll be okay Matt, you’ll find him. Everything is going to be okay. Thank you for calling me.” She reassures through the phone line.

Matt really just wants Lance back safe.

Allura hangs up after a quick goodbye. Matt lets his head fall as the tears continue rolling down his cheeks.

The police arriving at the park isn’t enough to snap him out of his funk. The officer’s hand on his shoulder is though.

“Sir, your sister informed us that you know the most about who we’re looking for, we’d like to ask you about him if that’s alright?” the officer is gentle and waits patiently for Matt to process the words before nodding.

~~~~~~~~~~~

His head hurts when he starts coming around.

“What is it with guys and smashing my head into trees? It fucking hurts.” He grumbles to himself as he takes stock of his body.

No other injuries it seems. His head hurts like a bitch though, definitely concussed.

There’s no sounds coming from his immediate surroundings which is both a good sign and a bad one. He knows at least that Lotor isn’t around which is a relief. Lance opens his eyes to scan the area.

His breath hitches and he can feel the panic wanting to crowd into his brain. The room he’s in is clean and well lit. There isn’t any furniture, the room is too small for anything more than a chair. There’s one door across from where Lance is sitting. His feet can almost touch the door if he sticks his legs out the whole way.

He tries to keep his breathing even, but the panic is putting up a damn good fight. He tries to distract himself by checking his hands and feet for restraints.

There are none and his phone is in his pocket. He rushes to grab the device. It’s at more than half battery which relieves some of the panic raging behind his tenuous mental barriers.

There are four missed messages and five missed calls, all from Matt. He scrabbles to hit the call button next to Matt’s name.

It rings once.

“Lance! Thank god! Are you okay?” Matt sounds so worried and Lance’s heart clenches.

“I’ve got a nasty headache from having my head smashed against a tree but other than that and the really, really tiny room I’m in, I’m okay.” Lance says, wincing at the reminder of how small the room is. Hearing Matt’s voice helps ebb the tide of panic a little more but it’s getting stronger the longer he’s in the room.

“Do you know where you are Lance? We’ve got the police helping us look for you, but we have no idea where to start.” Matt prods.

“I was unconscious the whole time, the last thing I remember is Lotor letting go of my arm and me smashing into a tree before blacking out. I only just woke up.” Lance explains, his voice getting higher as his breathing picks up.

“Lance, baby, breathe. It’s okay, we’re going to come get you super quick and you won’t be in there anymore. I need you to breathe for me though okay?” Matt instructs and Lance does his best to keep his breathing even, but the walls are starting to move, and things are going a little fuzzy.

“We’re coming to get you Lance; everything is going to be okay. The police are tracking your phone signal and we’re on our way right now. Breathe baby, just breathe.” Matt levels out his own breathing and must adjust the phone because Lance can here it far more clearly now and it helps to have something to focus on.

“I’m scared Matt. He didn’t want to hurt me, he said he was trying to help me by getting me away from you, but Kayden didn’t want to hurt me either and we know how that ended. I don’t think I can do that again Matt. I can’t do that again, it hurt so much. I don’t want to hurt again.” Lance wails.

Matt’s heart clenches at Lance’s words, “It’s okay Lance, he’s not going to hurt you. You’re going to be just fine baby. We’re on our way to get you right now. Just hang on Lance.”

Lance tries, he really does, but the panic overwhelms him quickly. He’s hyperventilating now and he can’t hear Matt calling his name anymore and that makes the panic sharper.

His vison goes fuzzy and he blacks out again.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Matt looks worriedly at the officer standing next to him. They have a computer in their lap and a focused look on their face.

The connection with Lance is still open, but Matt can’t hear the hyperventilating anymore which means Lance must have passed out from oxygen deprivation. And that thought brings bile up his throat.

“We’ve got a location!” the officer with the computer calls to the other officers gathered around.

At the announcement everyone jumps into action, most of the officers assembled move towards their cars to head to Lance’s location. A few officers remain to console the group and finish grabbing statements from the people in the park. Matt gives a pleading look to the officer with the laptop.

“Please, take me with you. I want to be there for him, his family lives on the other side of the country and his cousin is on the other side of the globe. I need to be there.” He pleads.

“I can take you, but you have to remain in the vehicle until I tell you you’re clear to come out, you get me?” the officer relents gruffly.

Matt nods vigorously and follows the officer as quickly as he possibly can to the assembled cruisers. There are four of them and Matt follows the officer into the car on the far left of the group.

The ride in the cruiser is quiet and tense. Matt clutches his phone tightly. He hung up after they police had found Lance and he’s ready in case Lance calls again. All of their friends are beside themselves with worry but Matt and Romelle are the only ones who really know what Lance has been through, and how scared he must be.

The ride is short. They make it to a massive gate on the outskirts of town without any trouble. If Lance is right, Lotor is delusional and really thinks he’s keeping Lance safe, then there’s really no telling what his reaction to the police presence will be.

The line of cruisers come to a stop and all the officers exit the vehicles. Matt stays buckled into his seat and looks at the officer still sitting beside him.

“Okay kid, we’re going to go in there and get your boy. I need you to stay in the car and keep low in case things go south. Not that they will, but just as a precaution” the officer rushes as he sees the horror make its way across Matt’s face.

“We have no reason to believe that this Lotor guy is dangerous, but we need to be prepared. Now your boyfriend, he said he had a head injury. Is there anything else we should know about him? So that we don’t freak him out worse?”

Matt nods quickly, “He said he smashed his head into a tree and that’s how he was knocked out in the first place. He’s claustrophobic and was panicking the entire time on the phone.” Matt explains quickly.

“Sir, he’s been kidnapped and held captive before in a remarkably similar situation and has some serious lasting trauma. He doesn’t like having his back touched and that could make his reactions worse. If he knows I’m around it might help him calm down if he’s freaking out though.”

The officer nods and gives him a soft smile and a quick thank you before opening the cruiser door and moving to relay the information to his fellow officers.

Moments later a group of officers make their way to the door and prepare to enter the building.

The door is opened, and they rush into the building and out of Matt’s line of sight.

All Matt can do now is hope that Lance is alright and stays that way.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Lance can hear shouting.

His head hurts and his face itches. His chest is tight, his throat is scratchy from the crying, and he feels shaky and exhausted. It takes him a moment to take stock of how he feels, the aftereffects of a panic attack familiar and unwelcome. He shifts minutely and winces, yeah no, he aches.

He remembers clearly what happened and where he is, but he keeps his eyes closed in an attempt to stave off the panic his claustrophobia will no doubt drown him in once again.

The shouting gets louder, and Lance can pick out that it’s multiple voices, but he can’t tell what they’re saying.

The shouting gets closer and he can finally hear that they’re calling a name? Wait! That’s his name! He sits up quickly and opens his eyes.

“Lance! Lance are you here?” a voice calls. He recognizes that it isn’t Lotor and that’s good enough for him.

“I’m in here!” he yells as loud as his scratchy throat will allow him to.

He hears someone shout that they heard something, and he calls out again.

There’s a scuffling noise from outside the door of the tiny room and then someone turns the knob of the door he can see.

Light from the hall adds to the light of the room as a police officer opens the door slowly.

“Lance?” he nods, “My name is Officer Shaw and your boyfriend Matt called us to come help you out here. Are you hurt anywhere?” the nice officer with curly hair asks as he moves slowly into the room and makes sure Lance has enough room to breathe.

“Just my head, I think I’m concussed but otherwise I think I’m fine.” Lance tells the officer.

“Perfect, I’m going to help you up just in case and then we’re going to make our way out of the room and then the building okay?” at Lance’s nod Officer Shaw steps closer and offers a hand to Lance.

The two work together to get Lance up on his feet slowly, taking time to make sure Lance is stable, before they make their way out of the tiny room. the walk from the room to the outside of the building is a blur for Lance, mostly just relieved to be out of that small space and breathing fresh air again.

The sun is dipping lower in the sky than it was when he was cornered by Lotor. It’s been a few hours since he went missing apparently. Lance chooses to ignore that fact for a moment and just revels in the feel of the sun on his face.

His peace comes crashing down when he notices all the police cars outside the building. Most of them are empty but he catches a flash of white hair being tucked into the back of one of the cruisers.

“Okay Lance, we have an ambulance here that’s going to check you out really quick and then they’re going to take you to the hospital just to really make sure you’re okay, alright? Let me lead you over there and then we can grab your man. He’s been worried sick about you, and I know he’ll be happy to see you’re alright.” Officer Shaw explains as he leads Lance gently towards the waiting group of paramedics.

“Matt’s here?” Lance asks, surprised.

“Yup, he insisted he come along. He’s waiting in a cruiser for us to come get him and let him know it’s safe for him to see you.” Shaw relinquishes his hold on Lance and the paramedics gently begin to lead him away.

“I’ll go get him right now and bring him over to the ambulance okay? These lovely folks are going to take care of you, and I’ll be right back.” Lance watches the officer walk away and lets himself be led by the paramedics.

He’s sat down in the back of the ambulance and asked question after question. He gets a little light shined in his eyes. He tells them about how he hit his head and his clear recall is a good sign. They make small talk as they clean up and prep for the quick trip to the nearby hospital. They tell him that even though they aren’t really worried about his concussion, they want to get some scans anyway just to be safe.

“Lance!” the call breaks him out of his thoughts, and he turns and sees Matt rushing toward him.

“Matt!” he calls back. He doesn’t move to stand because he knows that isn’t a good idea from past experience and the warning look one paramedic shoots him.

Matt slows down as he reaches Lance, worry and relief flitting through his eyes before he carefully moves to hug Lance tightly.

“I was so worried when I couldn’t see you. As soon as I realised you weren’t around, and you weren’t answering I called the police. I knew you wouldn’t have just walked away. Oh my god I was so worried.” Matt says shakily into Lance’s shoulder.

He hugs Matt back tightly, “I’m okay, Matt, I’m okay. You came and got me, I’m okay. I knew you wouldn’t let me down.” Lance whispers back.

Matt hugs him tighter. They hold each other quietly, just feeling the other person’s presence.

A paramedic taps on Matt’s shoulder softly, “Sir, we need to move Lance into the ambulance now so we can get him to the hospital for some precautionary tests. You are free to ride along but we need to leave now.”

Matt nods and moves away to allow them access to Lance to help him up into the back of the ambulance before climbing in after them.

He sends a quick text to all of their friends to update them in what’s going on. He lets them know that Lance is okay, they just want to make absolutely certain nothing was missed so they’re going to the hospital. Everyone sends messages back that they’ll meet the two at the hospital, Allura asking for regular updates on her cousin’s condition.

Matt holds Lance’s hand tightly the whole way there to help keep the other man grounded.

~~~~~~~~~~~

“How are you feeling babe?” Matt asks, settling into the chair beside the bed Lance has been given.

“The painkillers have kicked in so physically better. The mental stuff I don’t know yet, I don’t think it’s really hit me yet. I don’t think it will for a bit but I’m glad you’re here, I don’t think I’ll be able to handle it alone.” Matt leans in a presses a soft kiss to Lance’s forehead.

“I’m not leaving you alone again after the shit you’ve just gone through. At least not for the immediate future.” Matt says, giving Lance’s hand a squeeze.

“Don’t get too carried away Matt.” Lance whispers seriously.

“I promise. I was so worried, and I just need to be clingy and protective for a bit while you recover that’s all. You’re your own person and your decisions are your own, I don’t want to take any of your autonomy from you, I just want to have your back when you need me. And I’m going to fret and be annoying as all hell for a bit, feel free to kick my ass if you need to.” Matt explains softly.

He really doesn’t want to end up like Lance’s family, being so overprotective to the point that it drives Lance away. He needs to be a worrywart for a bit, but he knows where the line is. He won’t cross it and Lance won’t let him either.

“I think I can live with that.” he pauses and bites his lip, warring with himself, “I think, I can live with you being close while I’m getting everything back together. I think I can live with you.”

Matt’s head snaps around and he stares at Lance with wide eyes, “You mean that?”

Lance gulps and nods, “If you want to of course. I won’t force you.”

He feels Matt press a sweet kiss to his temple.

“I’d love to, but I think we need to give you some time first. I’ll stay with you while you’re recovering and then we can talk about it again after you’ve had time to process everything that’s happened. Don’t get me wrong, I want to move in with you I really do, I just want to make sure it’s what we both want before we make that jump okay?” Matt explains, his reassurance keeping Lance from freaking out at the not quite rejection.

“Okay, thank you Matt. I don’t think I’m going to change my mind, but I like that plan.”

Matt smiles and moves to pull Lance into a tight but gentle hug.

~~~~~~~~~~~

“What do you mean I can’t see him yet? I am his mother! I want to see my son immediately!”

The angry shouting draws Romelle’s attention from the text on her phone screen in her lap. She lifts her head off of Hunk’s comfortable shoulder to look at the source of the yelling and her eyes widen.

Rosa McClain and her eldest daughter Veronica stand in front of the reception desk of the emergency room. Rosa’s face is red in her ire and Veronica looks like she’d just bitten into a lemon.

Romelle adjusts her position to grab Hunk’s attention. She gives her boyfriend a worried look, pointedly looking in the direction of the McClain women and then back to meet Hunk’s eyes. He just raises an eyebrow in confusion. Romelle sighs and stands up, heading over to the two women harassing the nurse at the desk.

“Ma’am, the police are not allowing him any visitors right now. He needs to be cleared by them before we can let you back to see him.” The nurse says, biting back her anger.

“He’s been through a traumatic experience and you expect me to wait? He’s back there alone! I can’t just sit out here when my youngest child is back there alone and scared!” Rosa nearly screams at the poor woman.

“He’s not alone, he’s got a visitor back there and he’s the only one—”

“Mrs. McClain!” Romelle manages to interrupt the nurse, who shoots her a look of relief.

“Romelle! Thank goodness! Someone who’ll actually tell me what’s going on!” She looks angrily back that the nurse behind the desk. The nurse huffs but doesn’t say anything.

 “Of course Mrs. McClain, I and the rest of our friends are over here. I’ll introduce you to everyone and explain what’s going on.” Romelle says, attempting to placate the hurricane of a woman in front of her.

For her petite stature, Rosa is a force of nature. It doesn’t help calm any of Romelle’s fears that Veronica is the one with her.

Veronica McClain is the calm and cool to her mother’s raging storm. The taller woman is the eldest daughter and Lance’s favourite big sister, definitely not influenced by a healthy does of fear the woman instilled in everyone from a young age. She is truly someone you don’t want to mess with and the stare she has turned on Romelle is making the younger woman sweat.

“Lead the way dear.” Rosa gestures to the chairs where the group waits.

Hunk makes eye contact with his girlfriend as the three women draw near and he looks worried. She attempts to smile to reassure him but she’s nervous and it doesn’t really work.

“Everyone, this is Rosa and Veronica McClain, Lance’s mother and older sister. Mrs. McClain, Veronica, these people are mine, Allura and Lance’s friends.” She points to Shiro and Adam first, “This is Takashi Shirogane and his boyfriend Adam Wrenn. Next to Adam is Keith Kogane and Katie Holt, who we call Pidge. She’s Matt’s younger sister. This gentleman here is Hunk Garret, a classmate and close friend of Lance’s as well as my boyfriend.” Romelle explains, pointing out everyone individually.

“Nice to meet you all. Speaking of Matt, where is my brother’s so-called boyfriend?” Veronica asks, looking at the group warily.

“My brother is currently with Lance, keeping him company since he was on scene and rode with Lance in the ambulance here.” Pidge snaps defensively.

Veronica and Pidge make heated eye-contact before Veronica turns back to look at Romelle.

“Romelle, can you tell us what happened? The only information we got was from Marco and he didn’t give us all the details.” Rosa says, sitting herself in the chair next to the one Romelle had vacated earlier.

“That would be because I called him before we had any real information outside of Lance being taken.” Romelle explains, “We were all at the local park playing a mobile game we all enjoy when we lost track of Lance. He was moving to a location within like thirty feet of our picnic spot and when we all looked up, he was gone. Matt, even though he shouldn’t have been, and Hunk started searching for him in the immediate area for him, but they couldn’t find him. You know Lance isn’t one to wander off alone like that. We knew something was wrong when he didn’t answer his phone, Matt insisted we call the police and I agreed. Shiro called 911, I called Marco and Matt called Allura.

“The police let Matt go with them when they went to find Lance and we got a message to meet them here about an hour before you arrived. I kept Marco updated and he must have relayed the information to you.” She continued.

Rosa is quiet for a moment.

“Why didn’t you call one of us?” Veronica demands.

“I knew Marco would pickup and not freak out.” Romelle shrugs.

“What do you mean freak out? My brother was kidnapped again! Of course I’m going to freak out, especially when no one tells me what’s going on!” Veronica snaps, getting in Romelle’s face.

“Veronica, that’s enough. This just makes my decision easier. The people here clearly don’t care enough about Leo’s well fair for him to stay safe. Look at what happened! He got kidnapped again right our from under your noses! I never should have let him leave home. Arus is the best place for him.” Rosa nods resolutely to herself.

“You can’t expect him to agree with that decision.” Keith pipes up.

The two McClain women round on him.

“If there’s anything I’ve learned about Lance the last few months is that he doesn’t take kindly to other people making decisions for him. He won’t go with you unless you kidnap him yourselves and I can’t imagine that going well.” He continues, making strong eye contact with the two terrifying women.

“You clearly don’t know Leonardo very well; he will do what his mother tells him because it is for his own good. He is not safe here; he will see that now and come home.” Rosa nods again.

“Like hell he will.” Comes an angry voice from behind the group. They all turn to look at the newcomer.

“Lance can make his own decisions and I know for a fact going ‘home’ isn’t something he’s considering.” Matt snaps at the mother of his boyfriend. He crosses his arms and glares at the two women he knows must be Lance’s mother and sister.

“You can’t speak for my brother. You don’t know what that kind of trauma can cause and the best place for him is home with his family!” Veronica snaps, coming to stand in opposition to Matt.

Matt steps into Veronica’s space.

“You don’t know anything about me, who I am or what I’ve been through. I know better than anyone in this group what Lance is feeling and what he could need. Don’t make assumptions about things you couldn’t possibly understand.” Matt glares icily at Veronica.

No one speaks as Veronica and Matt stare each other down. The silence reigns for a few moments before Veronica looks to her mother for support and Matt smirks.

“I came out here to give everyone updates about how Lance is doing. I don’t have a lot of time, he’s expecting me back soon, but he’s doing pretty okay. I don’t think the mental toll has hit yet but the doctors aren’t worried about his head injury anymore. All his scans came up good, no swelling just a minor concussion. The police are getting his statement now and he should be able to leave in the next hour or two.” Matt says to the group of friends, sparing a glance at Rosa.

He knows why she’s there, why she came all the way to their town. He’s not letting her coerce Lance into going ‘home’ with the two women.

“When can we see him?” Rosa demands.

“If I have a say in it? Not until after he’s healed. You’re here to bully him into going back to Arus, something he really won’t want to do after the shit you’ve put him through. Luckily for you though, Lance loves you both despite the shitty way you’ve treated him, and he’ll want to see you. I have to get back to him now, so he doesn’t worry himself sick.” Matt doesn’t let anyone speak before he turns sharply and heads back through the doors and back to Lance’s side.

Rosa watches her son’s boyfriend walk away, shocked at his words and the ferocity of them. Veronica stares at the place where Matt’s back was moments ago with a deep frown.

“Out of all the people, why did Leo pick him? He’s an ass.” She huffs.

“Watch what you say about my brother. He’s been nothing but wonderful to Lance since they met and you being angry and worried about your brother doesn’t give you the right to bash mine.” Pidge snaps. Keith sitting closer to the small girl, ready to hold her back if need be.

“Your brother is a pompous jackass who thinks he knows better than Lance’s own family! He has no right to keep us away from Lance and he—”

“Veronica, that is enough. Leo will let us see him when he knows we are here. Matt does not get a say in that.” Rosa says, eyes also on the door.

Her son will see them, and when he does, they will take him home and that will be the end of that.

Chapter Text

Lance is sitting cross-legged on his bed when Matt walks into the room.

“Hey baby, how are you feeling?” he asks, making his way quickly to the chair he vacated when the police came in.

“Better now that you’re back. You were gone a long time; I was starting to worry.” Lance smiles at Matt as they reach for each other, fingers intertwining.

“I’m sorry I took so long, there was a surprise in the waiting room.” Matt grimaces.

Lance tilts his head in curiosity, “What happened?”

“Your mother and your sister are here. They were saying some things that got to me and I may have antagonized your sister a bit.” Matt looks at his lap sheepishly. His head snaps up when Lance squeezes his hand to reassure him.

“They came to convince me to go home with them, didn’t they?” Matt nods, and Lance sighs, “finding out I got abducted again probably isn’t helping is it?”

Matt shakes his head and Lance sighs again.

“They’re going to be insufferable until I can convince them to leave.”

“You want to stay?” Matt asks, weirdly hopeful. He knows Lance doesn’t want to go back to Arus, but having the confirmation lifts a weight off his chest he didn’t know was there.

Lance takes Matt’s other hand and gives another reassuring squeeze.

“Of course I want to stay, I can’t exactly live with you when I’m on the other side of the country. Besides, I’m happy here and I don’t want to go back to be smothered by a family that no matter how much I love them and know that their intentions are good, hurts me.” Lance smiles at Matt.

“I love you.” Matt whispers.

Lance’s smile grows wider, “I love you too Matt.”

They stare at each other, comfortable where they are.

Matt lets himself relax and think of what exactly he can do to support Lance while the younger man fights his desire to stay. A thought dawns on him.

“Lance?” the other man hums to acknowledge Matt, “I told your family that I knew better than anyone else what you’re going through when it comes to being hurt and traumatized. I may need to elaborate on how I know when they start asking questions. It’s not as hard for me to talk about as it could be, but I want to tell you before hand so it’s not a surprise. Is that alright?” Matt tells Lance softly.

Lance nods, a look of confusion on his face.

“Is this about your accident? The thing that happened to your knee?” Matt nods in answer.

“Yeah, it’s got to do with the system my dad and I have for dating any of his students as well.”

Lance bites his lip in worry, this sounds really serious. He thought it was just a bad car accident or something, but the implications of that knowledge are making him nervous. But Matt listened to him, respected his choice to talk about Kayden, he should give Matt the same courtesy.

Lance shuffles over on the bed, making room for Matt to climb up so they can snuggle. Lance wants to provide Matt with just as much support and comfort as Matt gave him.

“Okay, tell me what you’re comfortable with and let me know if you need a break okay?” he tells his boyfriend.

“I will, I’ve made a lot of progress with this so it’s not as uncomfortable talking about it as it could be.” Matt explains.

He wraps his arms around Lance and gives a light squeeze before he begins.

~~~~~~~~~~~

The next time the group in the waiting room hears anything from Lance or Matt is a couple hours after the initial conflict.

The two McClain women having moved away from the group to have a hushed conversation, don’t notice the two men walking through the doors and into the waiting room. Well Matt is walking; hospital policy has Lance in a wheelchair as a precaution.

Romelle looks up from her heated discussion with (read: yelling at) Marco about not warning her Veronica and Rosa were coming. She lights up at the sight of her best friend and jabs her elbow none too gently into her boyfriend’s side to get his attention.

“Hey Lance! Good to see you up and around, you had us worried there for a while.” Shiro says breaking the silence and drawing the attention of the McClain women to the men.

“I’m glad to be out and about Shiro. I’d love to chat but to be honest though, I just want to go home and nap.” Lance grins sheepishly at his friend.

“I completely understand Lance, today has been more than a little taxing for you. We’ll check up on you tomorrow afternoon so you can get some rest.” The older man assures, standing up.

“Thanks Shiro. I’m sorry for worrying everyone.” Lance addresses the rest of the group.

“You couldn’t help it” Keith shrugs, “we’re just glad you’re okay Lance.”

“Thanks Keith.” The fist bump as Keith follows Shiro and Adam out of the waiting room and into the night.

“I’m really glad you’re safe Lance.” she turns to her brother, “Mom is coming to get me; I’m assuming you’re staying with Lance tonight?” Pidge asks.

“Yeah, I don’t want to leave him alone right now both for my own piece of mind and to try and be of some comfort.” Matt chuckles, hugging his sister tightly with the arm not around Lance’s waist.

“I get it dude, don’t forget to let mom and dad know what’s going on. Night guys!” she walks quickly out the door leaving Hunk, Romelle and the McClain women still in the waiting room with the two men.

“I got Adam to drive your car over with us Matt, so you and Lance don’t have to worry about getting home. I’m going to take Romelle home, we’ll probably call around noon to check up on you guys. Keep us informed okay guys? We were really worried about you Lance and I can’t tell you how relieved I am that you’re safe and in one piece.” Hunk says, giving both men a gentle hug before moving out of the way for Romelle.

Romelle and Lance stare at each other for a moment before the girl moves forward quickly to wrap Lance in a tight hug.

“I don’t understand why these terrible things keep happening to you Lance. Thank god you’re alright.” Lance squeezes her back.

“Who knows anymore Romelle. Hopefully whatever it is making this shit happen, leaves me alone now. I don’t think I can handle too much more events like this.” He feels Matt’s arm tighten around his waist at his failed attempt to lighten the mood.

Romelle sniffles before letting Lance go and moving over to Hunk and heading out of the hospital with her boyfriend holding her close.

The men turn to the last to people in the waiting room.

“Mijo, are you alright?” His mother whispers.

Lance shakes his head but makes no move to get any closer to his mother.

“It’s been a terrible day and I just want to go home and go to bed. We can talk tomorrow but I’m really not in the mood to fight with you about going home.” Lance sighs. He curls himself into Matt’s side seeking the feeling of comfort from his boyfriend.

“We just want to make sure you’re okay Leo! The last time this happened you weren’t okay! We want to make sure you’re surrounded by people who care about you tonight.” Veronica snaps. Matt doesn’t miss the not so subtle dig at him, he doesn’t miss Lance’s flinch either, but he says nothing.

“I don’t want to deal with you right now Veronica. Go check into a hotel or something. Matt is going to take me home and we can talk tomorrow.” Lance dismisses. He leans into Matt to let him know it’s time to start making their dramatic exit.

“I hope you don’t intend to let him stay with you in your apartment Lance. You know how I feel about that.” His mother says sternly.

“Mamá, I love you, but there is no way in hell I am sleeping alone tonight. Matt is coming with me and you have to deal with that. I’ll see you tomorrow.” He says over his shoulder as the two men walk out of the emergency room.

They make their way to Matt’s car sitting alone in the parking lot. Matt opens the passenger side door for Lance and then makes his way over to the other side of the car. Once inside he leans slowly over to place a soft kiss on Lance’s cheek. Lance hums at the contact.

“I love you Lance and I’m so proud of you.” He whispers before turning back to the wheel and starting the car.

The ride home is quiet, Lance reveling in being safe with Matt again and as far away from Lotor as he can be.

~~~~~~~~~~~

The snuggle into bed quickly after getting back to Lance’s apartment. Lance laying on Matt’s chest, his head tucked under the other man’s chin. He draws light patterns on Matt’s chest with his fingers, focusing on relaxing. He can feel the panic slowly building in his chest.

He knew it was coming.

“Lance? are you alright?” Matt whispers in concern, moving his arms to hold his boyfriend lightly. The hold reassuring without being too tight, so Lance doesn’t feel held down at all.

“Yeah, just, I think it’s hitting me now.” He takes a shaky breath in, “Matt? I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I can’t believe I let that happen, how did I let that happen?” the tears burn behind his eyes.

Matt shifts underneath him to pull them both into a sitting position and cradles Lance close.

“Lance, it’s okay, you have nothing to apologize for. You’re alright and you’re here and safe. He did that to you; you didn’t let anything happen. I know you fought him, you would never go willingly with that creep and you’re here and safe because of it.” He squeezes Lance a little closer. Lance sniffs and buries his face into Matt’s chest.

“I made you worry, I never want to make you worry Matt, I love you.”

“Lance, baby, look at me?” Lance follows the direction and looks into Matt’s eyes.

“I can’t say I wasn’t worried; I was terrified he would hurt you or worse, but none of that is your fault. He’s crazy and he’s going to go away for a long time for what he did. I’m just so glad you’re here and you’re alright. I don’t know what I’d do without you Lance.” he slowly peppers light kisses to the side of Lance’s face to reassure the man in his arms.

“I was so scared Matt, so scared. I don’t think I can handle anything else happening for a bit.”

“And that’s more than alright Lance. We’re going to call the university and talk to the advisers and everything to get your classes sorted out, so you don’t have to worry about anything else but being okay, alright?” Lance nods, “Good. We can stay in tomorrow and just relax and regroup. I can talk to everybody if you want, answer all their questions and everything so you don’t have tor stress. We’ll do whatever you need.” Matt whispers soft assurances into Lance’s hair.

“My mother and Veronica are going to insist on coming here. They’ll probably show up first thing in the morning too. I can’t put that off, but I think I’d like to just exist tomorrow and let the world go on without us for a few hours.” Lance murmurs, fading fast in the comfort of Matt’s embrace.

Matt kisses his forehead, “if that’s what you want baby, we can deal with your family and then we’ll curl up and just exist.” Lance nods.

“Okay baby, you’re okay. It’s safe here so you can sleep. I’ll be right here when you wake up. You’re safe Lance, you’re safe and home.” He murmurs into Lance’s hair.

“I know I am. I love you Matt.” He whispers before the darkness of sleep claims him.

Mat places a soft, lingering kiss on Lance’s forehead. He waits a moment before slowly shifting to lay them both down on the bed properly, Lance snuggled close to his chest again.

Once he’s got them both situated, Matt allows sleep to claim him as well. He breathes in the comforting scent of Lance, drifting off to the steady beat of the younger man’s heart.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Lance wakes up feeling groggy but comfortable. He knows where he is, he knows he’s home in his own bed, but he’s missing the distinct warmth of the arms he fell asleep in last night. He opens his eyes and looks around the room for Matt.

His boyfriend isn’t in the room anymore, but his side of the bed is still warm and there’s a slip of paper on the table beside the bed. Lance reaches for the paper to find a note.

“I went to make breakfast. If I’m not back yet, I’m probably still in the kitchen. <3 Matt”

Lance breathes a sigh of relief before sliding out from under the covers and onto the floor. He grabs the topmost blanket on the bed and wraps it around his shoulders before making his way of the bedroom and down the hall to the kitchen.

Matt stands at the stove on the island of the kitchen, watching over something in a pan. He grabs a spatula and removes a pancake, moving it to a plate on the counter. He glances up and smiles warmly at the sound of Lance’s footsteps on the floor.

“Good morning Starfish. How are you feeling?” Lance walks over and slumps against Matt’s back.

He groans and buries his face further into his boyfriend’s back.

“I’ll take that as ‘okay, but not great’. I hope some fresh pancakes will help a little.” Matt says, turning to nuzzle into Lance’s hair.

Lance nods.

“Great. I’ve got enough batter for one more so how about you go sit yourself down and let me look after you and breakfast okay?” he presses a soft kiss to the top of Lance’s head. The other man nods and makes his way over to the stools lined up under the breakfast bar that separates the kitchen and the living room.

Lance wraps himself tighter in the blanket and lets his gaze wander out the window behind the longer part of the couch. His gaze lingers there, and he lets his mind drift, keeping his thoughts light and away from the events of the day before and years ago.

Matt’s soft touch on his shoulder pulls him out of his thoughts and he focuses on the plate with two stacked pancakes in front of him. Syrup is placed next to the plate and a fork is on his left side on the counter.

“There we go, the breakfast of champions!” Matt says brightly, settling into the stool on Lance’s right. He scoots the stool closer and entwines his and Lance’s hands on his knee.

They eat in silence for a few minutes, Lance actually managing to eat the two pancakes he was given.

Once they’re finished Matt takes the plates and utensils to the sink and sets them up to soak for a bit while they relax. He comes back to Lance, hands sliding around the younger man’s waist to hold him close.

“Do you want to go back to bed or do you want to snuggle on the couch?” he murmurs, pressing a kiss under Lance’s ear.

“Couch please.” Lance mumbles back. He stands up and turns around in Matt’s arms to snuggle into the taller man’s chest.

“Do you want to walk or be carried?” at Lance’s quiet reply of ‘carried’ Matt lifts him up bridal style and carries him to the longest part of the ‘L’ shaped couch.

The two men snuggle up, Lance facing outward towards the rest of the apartment and Matt snugly behind him holding him tightly.

Lance let’s himself drift off in the comfort of Matt’s arms again.

~~~~~~~~~~~

“We’ve come to see Lance.” an angry voice breaks through Lance’s hazy doze.

“I know why you’re here, but Lance isn’t up for any visitors right now. I know he wants to see you but he’s asleep right now and—”

“What do you mean he’s asleep? It’s nearly 2:30 in the afternoon, and he has a concussion! He shouldn’t be sleeping!” Oh, his mother is here.

“You know very well that he’s suffered some serious trauma, he needs to rest and let himself heal physically and mentally. His doctor in the ER gave the okay for him to sleep since his scans came back with minimal cause for worry. I asked her and she encouraged him sleeping and resting today.” Matt’s borderline nasty tone snaps Lance out of his fog further.

Lance slowly sits up and takes stock of himself as the arguing continues at the doorway. He’s a little achy, but his head doesn’t hurt anymore, and he feels more like himself then he did that morning. He decides he can face his mother as long as Matt doesn’t leave and gets up from the couch, keeping the blanket around his shoulders. He goes through the kitchen, so his mother doesn’t see him coming.

“Mamá, if Matt says the doctor gave the okay then it’s fine for me to sleep.” He says tired, but clearly, as he walks up behind his boyfriend who’s standing defensively in the doorway. The obvious refusal to let Rosa in without Lance’s okay makes Lance smile to himself.

“Leo! How are feeling mijo? Your boyfriend--” she tries not to sneer but it still makes itself known, “—wouldn’t let us in to check on you, which I find quite rude. I am your mother; I need to make sure you’re alright.”

“He was only doing what I asked Mamá. I didn’t want to see anyone unless I had to today so I could process and rest.” Lance explains, exasperated at his mother’s insistence and really not subtle opinion of Matt’s actions.

“Everyone but your mother and sister! He should have let us in immediately, it’s not like he knows how to care for you properly.” She huffs.

Lance wraps his hands tightly around Matt’s bicep to keep him grounded. He can feel the anger rolling off Matt in waves now and he’s not going to let this bullshit escalate into a full-blown screaming match right now.

“Matt has been taking excellent care of me and you shouldn’t make assumptions just because you don’t want me dating. I didn’t want to see anyone, and that includes the two of you! So, you can either behave and we can talk, or you can leave right now because I am not going to deal with this after what I went through yesterday!” Lance snaps at his mother. Veronica stands quietly behind Rosa, saying nothing but watching everything with a keen eye.

His mother looks taken aback for a moment before closing her mouth and nodding stiffly.

“Alright, you two can come in. we can talk in the living room.” Lance turns and pulls Matt along with him, back to the couch he vacated moments ago.

The two men sit comfortably on the ‘L’ shaped couch while Lance’s mother and sister seat themselves awkwardly on the love seat in front of the breakfast bar.

“So, what are you doing here Mamá? You couldn’t have made it here that fast if you were coming because of the incident.” Lance opens.

“I was worried about you after we talked on the phone the other day, I decided to come check on you and Veronica volunteered to come with me.” Rosa says, confident. Lance doesn’t buy it and he knows Matt doesn’t either.

“You were worried about me. Right. It had nothing to do with me being in a happy relationship against your wishes and the fact that you telling Matt my history, which is not yours to tell might I add, didn’t scare him away like you wanted it to. It definitely only had to do with you being worried about me.” Lance says flatly, staring right at his mother’s face.

She doesn’t outwardly react, but he can tell she’s getting mad at him.

“I’m not allowed to worry about my son?”

“Oh, you’re allowed to, I just think it’s kind of funny how you decide to come out here after you find out about me and Matt instead of months ago. You were worried then too.” Lance retorts.

“It’s a good thing we did come now! Who knows what would have happened if we weren’t here to look out for you!”

Matt squeezes Lance tighter and watches Rosa with confusion on his face.

“You haven’t done anything except stress him out. I’ve been looking after him and things were fine until you came pounding on the door.” Matt says plainly. Rosa snaps her eyes over to glare at Matt hotly.

“I’m talking to my son; I’d appreciate it if you would give us some privacy.” She bites.

“No, he’s staying right here.” Lance says firmly.

“He does not need to be privy to this conversation Leo, it does not concern him.”

“Then you can leave. I’m not continuing this conversation without Matt here and if that’s not okay then you can leave.” Lance shrugs.

“Don’t forget who allows you to stay here Leonardo.” Rosa says smugly.

“You forget, you and Papá may be paying for it but my name is on the lease. You have no ground to stand on.” Lance replies, just as smugly as he watches the look on his mother’s face fall.

They stare at each other, gazes warring when Veronica speaks up.

“We came to take you home Lance. This place isn’t good for you, you’re not acting like yourself.” She says quietly.

“And what would acting like myself entail Veronica? How I acted at home in Arus? Before or after Kayden? Because I can tell you right now that I feel more like myself in this town then I have since that summer.” Lance rounds on her.

“Before you left, you’d never have argued with us over your safety! Why are you doing it now when you’re in an unsafe situation? What about this place has changed you so much?” his sister looks genuinely confused.

“I got a taste of freedom! Ever since that shit with Kayden I haven’t been able to make my own choices! I haven’t been allowed to try dating again because, you two especially, sabotage every relationship I tell you about! I want to be happy and move on, but you all held that fucking accident over my head every time I tried! I had enough so I came out here and I found Matt and Hunk and everyone and I’m finally happy for the first time in years and you come out here to ruin it again!” Lance yells, tears forming and falling down his cheeks in his frustration. Matt’s arms pull him closer and Lance has to stop himself from curling into Matt’s side and crying his eyes out.

Rosa and Veronica stare at Lance in shock.

“I didn’t tell you about Matt right away because I knew you’d try and talk me out of it, which you did. I love him, and I didn’t want you trying to wreck that, like you tried to do as soon as you found out. I’m an adult, I can make my own decisions and look after myself.” The tears still stream down hi face.

Veronica snorts derisively, “Because you making your own decisions has worked out so well.”

Matt glares at Veronica and if looks could kill, Lance knows she’d be dead four times over by now.

“He has been attacked and abducted against his will twice. Those are not things someone chooses for themselves.” Matt growls through clenched teeth.

“He chose to associate with those people! If he hadn’t been with that Kayden boy or that Lotor character, none of tis would have happened!” Rosa shouts suddenly.

Lance blinks in shock at his mother. Not once has he thought of the shit he went through as truly his fault. He knows there was nothing he could have done in either situation, no matter what his traumatized brain tries to tell him. But his mother does think it’s his fault. His fault that he was in the situation in the first place.

“Lance may have been friends with Kayden but that doesn’t mean any of it was his fault. Lotor is someone none of us like very much and we try to avoid him whenever possible. Both them physically hurt Lance to get him to go with them. None of it is Lance’s fault and to insinuate that it is, is a horrible thing to do to anyone, let alone your own son.” Matt says coldly, the rage he felt now freezing over.

“Regardless of what you think Matthew, Lance has proven he cannot make sensible decisions without guidance. Your ‘relationship’ is evidence of this as well. He will be coming home with us whether he wants to or not, it is for his own good. He will be safe and happy at home where we can look after him.” Rosa snaps again, standing up quickly.

Silence reigns in the apartment.

Lance starts shaking. He presses himself closer to Matt and farther away from his mother. Veronica looks at her mother in shock.

“…Your solution to him being kidnapped, is to kidnap him?” Matt asks quietly, holding Lance tighter. He feels Lance’s tear start to soak into his shirt.

“I am his mother, there is a vast difference between taking him home and abducting him.” She says haughtily.

Lance whimpers into the side of Matt’s chest.

“I think you two need to leave now.” It’s not a suggestion.

“I will not leave without my son. He is leaving with us tomorrow.” Rosa demands, her daughter pushing her towards the door.

“He’s not going anywhere with you, now Get out.” Matt growls, holding Lance close and rubbing his back to try and soothe the younger man.

Rosa opens her mouth to try and say something else, but Veronica manages to get her out of the living room, down the hall and out of the apartment before she can make a sound.

The slam of the door closing causes Lance to fall apart in Matt’s arms. He sobs and shakes and wails. The terror of knowing his mother had even thought about taking him back to Arus against his will, dragging up all the pain and horrors he had been slowly coming to terms with.

Matt tries to reassure Lance as much as he can, but he knows, Lance needs to cry it out and there’s nothing Matt can do about that except be there to hold him.

Lance cries himself to exhaustion in Matt’s arms and passes out against the older man. Matt lifts him gently, cradling him to his chest, and makes his way to Lance’s bedroom. He lays Lance down, grabs his phone and relays the events to Romelle and lets Pidge know he won’t be home anytime soon before turning the device off and crawling in next to Lance and holding him tightly.

“If I have anything to say about it, nothing like this will ever happen to you ever again.” He whispers then plants a soft kiss to Lance’s forehead.

He watches Lance sleep for a few minutes before falling into his own light doze.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Veronica sits in a chair in the lobby of the hotel her and her mother are staying in. She thinks back to the look on her baby brother’s face when their mother spoke, the pain and fear easy to read.

She’s never heard her mother say anything like she did in that apartment, especially not to Lance, her baby.

“Maybe coming here really was a bad idea?” she whispers to herself.

“You think?” the voice snaps Veronica out of her reverie and she turns to see Romelle standing a couple feet away.

“You didn’t ask your mother what she really wanted when she decided to come out here, did you?” Romelle crosses her arms over her chest.

“No, I didn’t. She said she wanted to check up on Lance cause he wasn’t calling her anymore and she was worried. Marco said he was fine, but she wasn’t satisfied and to be honest I wanted to see my baby brother too. It’s been weird at home without him.” Veronica admits softly, eyes on the hands in her lap.

“I understand, I missed him too when I first came out here for school. I was ecstatic when he called me to say he was coming here too, but he came out here for more than just school.” Romelle says, moving closer to the chair Veronica occupies.

“He said that he left home to escape us. That we were smothering him.” She whispers.

“After Kayden, Lance wasn’t ever the same. He smiled less, didn’t talk as much and was in general a muted version of himself. I hated having to leave while he was suffering like that, but he insisted I go. We video chatted often, and I could see some of the life come back to him every time, at least until he mentioned how he had met this guy named Taylor who’d asked him out for a coffee. It was probably almost a year after the Kayden thing, and he seemed really excited until he told me that your mother had said something when Taylor had come to pick Lance up. He looked like someone had taken all his progress and ripped it away. My heart broke for him then. He had been doing so well.” Romelle sighs deeply, “That’s when things got bad. He got so quiet, he stopped calling me as much. I got so worried but there wasn’t anything I could do. I kept texting him, hoping he’d at least take some comfort from that. The next time heard from him was when he had decided that he was coming here.”

“He never said anything—”

“When was he supposed to? When you all kept tearing down all the progress he was making? Here, he has been the happiest I have seen him since Kayden. He’s been able to spread his wings and meet people, to be the people person he’s always been. Your house stifled him, you all stifled him out of fear for his safety. He left because you made him. It was either stay and slowly fade away or leave his family, the people he loves most in the world, to try and live again. I think he made the right decision, don’t you?” Romelle drops her hands to her sides and looks Veronica in the eyes.

“You have a chance to make this better, I suggest you take it or lose your brother forever because he will not go back. I know for a fact Matt will fight you tooth and nail to keep Lance happy, and I wouldn’t cross him if I were you.” Romelle warns before she turns and leaves the hotel lobby.

Veronica stares in shock at the place Romelle had vacated.

Maybe it’s time she lets Lance protect himself for once?

~~~~~~~~~~~

Matt is making dinner in the kitchen when he hears a soft knock on the door of the apartment. He sets the lid on the pot again before he goes to answer it.

His eyebrows crinkle in confusion when he looks out the peephole and sees who’s standing there.

“Veronica?” he asks as he opens the door.

“Hello. I know I’m not exactly welcome right now, but I want to make things better for my brother and that means I need to talk to you.” She looks up at Matt, determined.

“Lance is sleeping still, but we can talk for a few minutes in the kitchen.” Matt moves aside to let the older McClain sibling into the apartment.

They sit down at the breakfast bar awkwardly.

Veronica sighs, “Well, I guess introductions are in order. My name is Veronica McClain, I’m Lance’s eldest sister, and the second McClain sibling.”

“Mathew Holt, Lance’s boyfriend.” They shake hands awkwardly.

“I’m sorry for how my mother acted earlier, it was way out of line. I tried to talk to her, but she is adamant so I’m trying to get my father to talk to her.”

“That shit she said really hurt Lance. He cried himself to exhaustion before he passed out. The rest of your family aside from Marco and your father, are currently on my shit list so I suggest you say what you need to quickly.” Matt says coolly.

Veronica blinks a few times, taken aback at the shift in Matt’s demeanor.

“…Right. Uh, Well. I came out here to see my brother, I’ve been worried about him since he moved out here and we’re all very protective of him.” Matt snorts derisively, “Romelle told me that our behaviour has been a major source of Lance’s pain. We all thought what we were doing was what was best for him, keeping him out of situations where he could potentially end up being hurt again. What we, I didn’t realize was that we were treating him like a caged songbird. He couldn’t do anything out of what we allowed and as a kid that makes sense to a degree, but Lance isn’t a kid anymore and none of the things that have happened to him have been his fault.

“We all overstepped and that can’t keep happening. Marco and Papá figured that out and I think it’s time we all follow suit. I’m going to make sure we leave without Lance, if that’s what he wants, but convincing our mother is going to be a challenge.” Veronica looks out the window to avoid Matt’s keen gaze.

“That’s why you’re here. You don’t want to talk to Lance like you should, you want something from me.” Matt says, displeased.

“I have no right to ask anything of you, not after you have done so much to correct our mistakes, but my mother doesn’t trust you and I need to tell her something that will help convince her you can help Lance with what he’s going through.” Matt raises an eyebrow expectantly, “you mentioned at the hospital that you know better what Lance is going through than anyone. I want to know how you know that.” she looks up at him, eyes hopeful but expression hesitant.

Matt sighs, “You’re right, I don’t owe you anything. I don’t have any obligation to tell you about my past, especially if it’s just to use it as a point to get your mother to leave. But and this is a big but, because I want her far away from Lance right now, I’ll tell you.” He steps down form his seat to grab a mug form the counter and proceeds to fill it with a blue liquid from the fridge before making his way back to his seat.

“First thing you need to know about me is I’m a pretty trusting person, I give people the benefit of the doubt more often then not. This trait has gotten me into some serious trouble.” He takes a sip from his mug.

“A couple years ago I met someone, Jazz, we hit it off pretty well and started dating pretty quick. We jumped feet first into what I thought was a pretty serious relationship. She was super excited to meet my family and become part of my life. She got along really well with my dad which was pretty cool until they started asking him really odd questions, specifically about his research, which was being kept secret from the general population because if it’s military nature.

“My dad got really uncomfortable with the whole situation and asked that she not come over or have any interaction with him about his work until after it was published. She started trying to get me to be the middleman, to ask their questions of my dad for them. I refused because that was crossing a line that my father had very firmly drawn. After a while, she got really frustrated with me and got nasty. I didn’t want to be in that situation anymore, so I broke up with her. A week and a half later, she tracked me down with the front end of her car before smashing my leg with a baseball bat. She shattered my kneecap and tore some stuff in there up pretty bad, I had two surgeries to fix the damage. Everything was caught on a security camera and with my testimony, she was convicted of varying assault charges and is currently still in federal prison.

“I know what it feels like to have someone you care about turn on you like that and the trauma of being hurt by them. It’s a bit different in my case but I can understand better than someone who’s never had to face a similar situation.” Matt looks at Veronica sitting speechless in front of him.

“………Tha-that’s awful. Oh my god.” She says quietly, obviously unprepared for the story she got.

“Does Lance know?”

Matt snorts, “of course he knows! I wouldn’t even think of telling you if I hadn’t told him already.”

Veronica just looks at Matt with an unreadable expression, “You and Lance talk a lot, don’t you?”

“The key to any relationship is good communication, the both of us have been through some serious shit when it comes to relationships, so we try and talk as much as possible. Staying on the same page and not over-stepping each other’s boundaries is especially important to both of us because of what we’ve been through.” He shrugs like this is the most obvious thing ever.

It takes Veronica a moment to realize that maybe, just maybe, her baby brother doesn’t need them anymore. Lance never needed anyone to hold his hand and lead him, but they tried anyways, and it caused more harm than good, but Matt? Matt’s going to take Lance’s hand and run side by side to the horizon.

Veronica smiles to herself at the thought. She can trust Matt with her brother’s heart.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Lance sits on a bench in the park a few months later. Things have been good, Lotor was tried and convicted, he’s going to be spending the next ten years in a federal prison with mandated psychiatric help.

The university gave Lance leave for the rest of the semester to get his life back together, which means one extra semester before he’s done, but the break is needed.

His own therapist from back home called shortly after his mother and sister left with a quiet goodbye, to recommend a colleague of hers close by. The regular therapy has been helping him find the answers he needs when he’s lying in the dark when he can’t sleep. Being able to snuggle up into Matt’s arms has also been very helpful for chasing the dark thoughts away.

“What are thinking so hard about?” Keith asks, rolling to a stop in front of Lance’s bench.

“Not really any of your business Mullet, but I’m just thinking about how happy I am and how well I’ve been doing the last little while.” He snarks with little heat.

Keith clearly wasn’t expecting that because he looks awkward about all the feelings in the air that he simply cannot deal with without copious amounts of My Chemical Romance. He looks around quickly and spots Matt.

“Hey, your boyfriend was looking for you a couple minutes ago, maybe you should see what he wanted?” he suggests, at Lance’s shrug he takes off at a sedate pace to join his brother and Adam on the picnic blanket.

Lance looks around for Matt before grinning widely and taking off. He catches him off guard and launches himself on top of Matt.

“Gotcha!” he cries before devolving into giggles as Matt shrieks in intimidation and tries to get Lance off his back.

“Ah! Lance!” they topple to the ground.

Lance lays atop Matt who’s pressed face first into the grass of the field. Matt lifts his head to glance at the bright grin stretching across Lance’s face.

“Any reason for it to be raining man on me today?” He winks.

“No really, I just wanted to say hi and that seemed like the best way to get all of your attention.” Lance answers brightly.

“Okay, well, hi.” Matt shakes his head fondly.

“Hi.” Lance leans down and presses a soft kiss to Matt’s temple. Matt melts into the contact.

Until a yelp tears itself out of his throat when he feels fingers jab him in the kidneys and then the sudden absence of Lance on his back.

“Lance! You are so in for it now!” Matt yells, quickly clambering to his feet to chase down his giggling boyfriend.

Hunk stands close by watching the scene unfold, “Guess you’ve gotta catch him for revenge now Matt, I wish you good luck.” Hunk salutes.

“Nah, I’ve already caught him. It’s getting him to surrender that will be the hard part.” Matt hears Hunk laugh as he takes off at a dead sprint after the lanky Cuban man he loves.

The shriek Lance lets out when Matt catches him has the entire group laughing.

~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Epilogue: A Heart So True

 

Matt has no idea why they’re at the park in their old town. It’s been three years since Lance graduated and since then they’ve been living in Olkari for about a year and a half and Lance insisted that they visit the park during their trip home.

They’re near the fountain and weirdly enough there’s not very many people around for a Saturday afternoon in August.

Matt scans the park again, trying to figure out if he can see a reason why there’s be so few people in the usually popular park. He doesn’t see the small group making their way over to Lance.

It’s not until he hears a very weirdly familiar song being carried over by the wind that he turns back to see all of their friends standing behind Lance and facing Matt.

“Guys? What are you all doing here? I thought everyone was too busy to come out.” Matt looks at the smiling faces confused.

“Lance called us weeks ago and we made time, but we were told we couldn’t tell you we were coming.” Romelle shrugs as if that helps at all.

Matt turns and looks at Lance directly. His boyfriend is smiling brightly but it doesn’t quite reach his eyes which puts a stab of worry through Matt’s heart.

“Lance?” he asks, unsure.

“I wanted to do this in front of all of our friends.” He clears his throat before looking Matt straight in the eyes.

“I know you’re the one who brought it up but as soon as we talked about getting married, I knew I needed to do this. I honestly didn’t know what to expect from the person that fucking wrecked me in the hallway my first year at our university, but I would never in a million years have guessed this. The last couple years have been the most amazing and happy years of my life and I know that we don’t need some slip of paper or rings to tell us that we will be like this until the day we die, but I want to put a ring on your finger. I want to put something there to remind you everyday that I choose you. So, Mathew Holt, will you marry me?” Lance gets down on one knee, raising a small sphere painted very distinctly.

The little Pokéball opens and inside is a simple but beautiful ring.

“You know, I was going to take Hunk ring shopping next weekend. I had it all planned out and everything, maximum levels of cheese and there was going to be glitter. But you know what? This is so much better.” Matt laughs wetly.

“Of course I want to marry you! Yes!” Matt feels the happy tears sliding down his cheeks as he drops to his own knees in front of Lance, throwing his arms around his about-to-be fiancé.

Lance gives Matt a watery smile before pulling the ring out of the small Pokéball shaped jewelry box. He gently raises Matt’s left hand and slides the ring onto his finger. They hold each other tightly as their friends hoot and cheer the newly engaged couple.

They stand up together, hands clasped tightly, grinning through the happy tears slowly tracing down their cheeks.

The group heads for the Holt family residence to share the good news.

Lance has never been so grateful to a mobile game in his life.