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Takashi Shirogane sat outside the bathroom door reading the prescription packet. He flipped through the papers, scanning the multiple side effects. He heard, his roommate/boyfriend on the other side of the door uncap the new prescription.

“This one might cause blistering…” Shiro said, just loud enough for Keith to hear it. Keith let out a sharp yelp. Shiro dropped the paper, jumping up to his feet, just as Keith walked out of the room tossing the new prescription on the ground. 

“No. Worse than the last one,”  Keith hissed, gritting his teeth as he clutched his hand at the part he tried using the new steroid cream on. Keith sighed as he sat on the couch, clutching his legs. His dog, Kosmo, jumped off the lounge chair and sniffed his hand, nudging his nose against the palm. Keith smiled softly, petting the dog. Shiro leaned over the side, gently wrapping his arms around Keith. Keith lifted his hand up, showing the flare up. 

“Guess the new dermatologist isn’t working out,” Keith let out a hollow laugh, nuzzling closer to Shiro. Shiro moved around the couch to sit next to Keith. His heart winced in pain seeing what has happened to Keith’s skin. Patches of red rashes covered parts of his body from his legs up to his neck. The past couple years Keith and Shiro had been trying to find him a treatment after discovering it was a bad case of eczema. Usually what would happen is the skin would always relapse or a doctor would recommend a treatment that would be too painful on Keith.

It was one thing for Keith do go in and try a different treatment every week to month and get no result but it was another to have to see Keith be in pain wearing specific fabrics, trying not to scratch his own skin, having flare-ups that caused him to whine in his sleep and soak his pillows with tears that Shiro found himself gently trying to do anything to soothe the pain. Including finding alternatives. 

“I mean we can always try-“ 

“No,” Keith shot down, knowing exactly what Shiro was going this. It’s been a conversation that Shiro has been gently bringing up more and more the past few months.

“Why not?” Shiro asked, pouting a little.

“You only want me to go there ‘cause you once got a nice lotion from one of the workers who you thought was cute,” Keith flicked Shiro’s nose, smiling. “You want to gawk at him and to get another sample of that product.” Shiro leaned closer to Keith, scrunching up his nose. 

“-and you loved that lotion. Wouldn’t stop raving about how soft I felt,” Shiro innocently recalled as he tapped his chin, “If I remember correctly you couldn’t keep your hands off me that first weeke-“

Keith shoved Shiro in turn, turning a shade of red. Shiro chuckled, bringing Keith closer. Keith leaned in but gave another a wince, pulling up his wrist. “Keith-" 

“I’m fine-“

“You’re not,” Shiro whispered, his voice breaking. Keith bit his lip. “Why don’t you want to go try this place?”

“What if it doesn’t work?” Keith sighed, resting his head on Shiro’s chest. “What if we go and it doesn’t work out and then we-I’m back to square one?” He trailed his own hands over his arms feeling the flaky patches and shutting his eyes.

“Hey. Hey. Hey. Keith,” Shiro spoke in a low, calm voice that Keith made a little hum. “If this doesn’t work out then we keep looking. I’m not giving up and I know you’re not going to give up okay?” Shiro tilted Keith’s chin, careful not to touch any of his affected areas.

Keith leaned up pecking Shiro on lips.

“Okay.”

Shiro gave a bright smile, giving Keith a kiss back. They pulled apart, both grinning. 

“Besides, worst case scenario, we leave the store with some new skin care products and you get to see the cute guy I’ve been telling you about.”

Keith let out a laugh.


 

“I hate you.”

“No. You don’t.”

Keith gave an exasperated groan. “You’re right. I don’t.” Shiro had warned him that the store was in the Altea High-End Shopping District, a shopping district that was not only way out of Shiro and Keith’s price range but was also packed with people, despite it being a Wednesday afternoon. 

“Don’t these people have anywhere better to be?” Keith muttered, feeling self-conscious as he was the only person wearing layers to cover all of his skin to conceal the eczema. He inched towards Shiro who led the way, his hand grasping Shiro’s. Shiro’s fingers curled around Keith’s hand, careful not to squeeze so hard. Keith chewed his lip.

He knew Shiro was being the best he could be in this situation however Keith had seen how Shiro had acted in his previous relationship. The way he touched Keith was different than how he wanted to touch Keith. They both knew why. The fear of hurting Keith. It had happened before. One or both of them would get a little too excited, Shiro would touch skin that was inflamed or Keith would shift in a position that caused him so much agony it halted their day or night depending on the moment. 

That, of course, didn’t stop them from being romantic nor sexual with each other. Stolen, gentle kisses. Soft whispers in the night as one would move slowly amongst each other. Keith was going to be damned if he couldn’t even touch Shiro. However, Keith wanted more and he knew Shiro wanted more.

“This is it.”

Keith looked up, letting go of Shiro’s hand. He looked at the neat, flowy writing on the sign on the quaint looking two-story shop in between a bakery and a coffee shop. “'Alfor and Melenor’s'?”

“From what I heard, they are the owners. They tend to travel a lot to get the ingredients to make a lot of their products but they also run the store. All about being hands-on,” Shiro explained opening the door allowing Keith to walk in.

An array of different scents hit him all at once-citrus, lavender, pine, honey, rose, mint-Keith took a step forwards assessing the store. It was full of different kind of products ranging from shampoos, lotions, body washes, bath products-all with little signs of information explaining how the items were all natural. The store itself was decently packed as people shopped for products, tried free samples, or discussed with people who were dressed in a pink colored shirt, black pants and mini aprons. Keith squinted seeing name tags on those people, realizing they were the employees of the shop.

Keith picked up a sign of one of the products, a small three-ounce jar of a lotion that claimed to use a salt scrub to help cracked hands. Keith dropped the sign immediately seeing the price and hastily caught it, putting it back in its place. He whipped his whole body around to Shiro who was spraying a cologne sample on his wrist.

“How in the world are we supposed to afford any of this?”

“Don’t worry about it. What do you think? Cedarwood?” Shiro lifted his wrist for Keith to smell. He wore a smile with eyes closed. A smile, while rare, that meant Shiro was either up to something, hiding something, or worse. Keith leaned in, eyes narrowing.

“Takashi Shirogane, how are we supposed to afford-“

“Shiro?”

Keith and Shiro turned around simultaneously to see a woman with long, flowing, frost-colored hair and sparkling makeup look up from a clipboard. She broke out a grin, revealing pearly white teeth.

She glowed. Keith didn’t think people besides Shiro glowed that bright yet here this woman was.

“Allura! Keith, this the manager of 'Alfor and Melenor’s' and their daughter,” Shiro explained. “She also helps make a lot of the products.”

“Ah, so you’re Keith! Shiro has told me so much about you-all good things!” Allura spoke in a posh accent. Allura held her hand out to shake Keith’s hand. Keith gingerly held it, out giving her a slight, light handshake. For a moment, Keith thought Allura made a confused face looking at his gloved hands but he could have imagined, as her attention was focused on Shiro. 

“Did you like the moisturizer sample?”

“It’s genuinely amazing Allura.”

“Moisturizer sample?” Keith asked. Allura clasped her hands. “Ah yes my family and I have been developing a line of products for people with prosthetics and we approached Shiro with the offer if he could use some of our products to see if they were faulty in any way. In exchange, our family would give him compensation along with a free store membership.”

Keith rolled his eyes. Now it added it up. 

“So he’s a lab rat.”

“Keith-“

“No, he’s pretty much right. That’s what you are in this situation in laymen’s terms.”

“Allura!” Shiro cried out. Allura let out another blinding smile. “We haven’t hurt you at all Shiro-“

“Yet,” Keith cut in. The two stared at each other for a second and Allura broke the gaze with a giggle, clasping her hands together. “You were right Shiro, he is fiery.”

“Ooo so I’m really fired up now,” Keith giving a tight grin, bearing his teeth as he can see Shiro getting all flustered. He wasn’t exactly ready to hope on the “Let’s experiment on your boyfriend” hype train yet. 

“Allura, don’t you have to log my progress?” Shiro offered, avoiding Keith’s gaze. Allura nodded, motioning with her clipboard.

“If you wouldn’t mind, I’d love to give you another sample. It’s a prosthetic cream to stop chafing and oh,” Allura took a pen out of her apron pocket. She tapped the clipboard a couple of times. “We just restocked some of the body care products you like so I can allow you to get first pick if you’d come into the lab."

“Lab?” Keith raised an eyebrow. Allura a nod with a shrug.

“I mean, it’s just the backroom of the building where my parents allow me to do a few tests with the new products and even try to create new ones. It’s more like a workstation. I think Shiro and I are the only ones who have ever referred to it as a lab. I mean-“ Allura tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “I mean I guess you can call me a chemist-“

Keith could only look at Shiro as he looked up and let out a sigh paired with an exasperated chuckle. He looked Keith dead in the eye, a smile creeping on the corner of his lips and Keith knew he was about to pull out a trump card.

“Rose.”

“Fine.”

Allura could not piece what that meant and Shiro knew she wouldn’t be able to but that one word shut Keith up about the whole topic.

“Allura, where should I put this shipment?”

She turned to one of her fellow co-workers and Keith felt Shiro grab his shoulder. Shiro gave a few nods to the guy who was opening up a box. He was pulling out products and speaking to Allura just as ecstatically of what seemed to be a new product from their excitement.

He glowed just as bright as Allura, if not, even more. The two together nearly blinded Keith but he couldn’t look away, especially not from the guy.

“That’s him.”

“That’s him?!” Keith wheezed out, turning to Shiro so fast Keith thought he might have given himself whiplash. Shiro folded his arms, his smile slowly turning a Cheshire’s smirk. Keith knew Shiro could see the blush appearing on his neck.

“Cute right?” Shiro and Keith watched as the guy bent down to place the box down. Keith gave a weak scoff. 

“He’s alright.” 

“Alr-wow okay,” Shiro wrapped his arms around Keith’s waist, both still gazing at him. “You want to be in denial, I’m not going stop you.” Allura turned around from the worker’s conversation. She waved the clipboard at Shiro.

“I’m ready. Let’s go in the backroom and we can continue,” she said as she began to head towards the back. She stopped in her tracks.

“Oh, Keith? Welcome to 'Alfor and Melenor’s.' If you have any questions, my staff will be happy to help. Won’t they Lance?” 

Without looking from the shipment, Lance gave a thumbs up. Allura responded with a slight kick to Lance’s side. He let out a little whine, snapping his head up looking at Shiro and Keith. He grinned at Shiro and Keith, acknowledging them. Shiro released Keith, giving him a small peck on his cheek.

“Have fun,” Shiro whispered.

“Can’t make me,” Keith whispered back, not being able to hide a small smile. Shiro whispered out a “You sure?” and before Keith could sneak a comeback, Allura let out a small cough. The two looked up as Allura weakly laughed, tapping on her clipboard. Shiro sheepishly ran his hand through his hair.

“Sorry Allura, I know you’re on a tight schedule-“

“It’s okay. It’s actually really sweet to actually see but no you’re right, I do have to finish the rest of shipments today and stock checks…“

“Got it, let’s go. Talk to you in a bit Keith,” Shiro followed Allura into the backroom, leaving Keith alone in the packed shop. Keith found himself clutching his arms, not knowing what do to now as he began walking back towards the displays. Keith tugged his hoodie and adjusted his gloves, taking time to read the information on the signs. He found himself near a section of different bath bombs. He felt an itch come upon his neck and immediately reached to pick it.

“Shouldn’t scratch your neck that much.” 

Keith’s hands stopped as the worker, Lance had stopped beside Keith to begin restocking the bath bombs next to him. Keith’s hand dropped, attempting to not look guilty, only to frown. How did he know?

Keith picked up a bath bomb pretending to examine it as Lance continued to restock. Eyeing the worker from the side, Keith couldn’t help but give Lance a look over. Maybe Keith wasn’t imagining the glowing cause Lance looked flawless with perfect, clear skin. Keith did a double take, was he wearing gold glitter or dust to near his eyes? The face paired with the soft-looking locks, a tailored uniform, and-Christ did Shiro purposely undersell this guy?

“You’re staring." 

“What?” 

Lance put down a bath bomb. He pulled a cloth from his apron and reached for his own face. “What? Did I smear another bath oil on my face again? Those things are filled with glitter. “

“Oh n-“ Keith stopped himself. What was the alternative? Tell him that he was checking out him out? “You got it. It’s gone.”

“Thankfully. So-“ Lance leans on the wooden display holding all the bath bombs. “Never thought I’d meet the ever so famous Keith Kogane.”

“Oh my God,” Keith mumbled, pulling up his hoodie wondering if he could sink into it. As much as he loved Shiro, Shiro was no stranger to gloating and gushing about his boyfriend. Keith did actually really like it however it could get a little embarrassing when someone who never met Keith i.e. Lance, already has heard of him from Shiro’s point of view.

“Don’t worry, all good things,” Lance laughed and Keith smiled softly. He knew however still couldn’t help feeling utter embarrassment.

“Can I ask you um-“ Keith bit his lip. “Did he show you his phone background?”

“No.” Lance looked right at Keith. “He did show Allura though. All I know is he’s a fan of filters and the current background involves. . . flower crowns?” Keith felt his chest grow tighter and he put his hands over his face attempting to hide any more mortification. Shiro also had the habit of taking selfies with Keith whenever he could sneak them in.  Keith found them stupidly adorable (although he would never tell Shiro that) and felt his heart swell up even more when he discovered Shiro had been using them as his phone background, adding filters or doodling little symbols and hearts.

Lance motioned to the entire store. “So need help finding anything?” Keith began to shake his head but Lance looked unconvinced. Lance motioned to Keith.

“If you want, I can give you a demo.”

“I’m-a what?”

“Shiro’s got that whole set up with Allura. Free products and all that jazz,” Lance jazz-handed at the word. “You can probably use his deal and since it’s your first time here, why not got crazy?”

“You work on commission don’t you?” Keith frowned, stuffing his hands in his pockets. Lance chortled. 

“I wish, but seriously, I can help you with that.” 

Lance stared at Keith’s neck and Keith’s hand snapped up to cover it; aware it was one of the few pieces he could not hide with clothing due to the June heat. The exposed part of eczema made him feel like he was choking but also had him feeling ridiculously self-conscious. Keith gave a small shrug, giving a small, bitter scoff.

“Yeah right,” Keith mumbled. This wasn’t the first time someone had said that to him and Keith was exhausted of falling for it. Exhausted of falling for brands that promised pain relief, experimental treatments that guaranteed results, doctors with five-star ratings who claimed they had the cure-Keith was just tired. Lance put his hands on his hips. 

“Are you doubting my abilities?” Lance accused, putting a hand to his chest. His voice was filled with mock hurt. Keith lowered his hand, dumbfounded. Lance began to wipe a nonexistent tear from his eyes. 

“I just met you Kogane and here you are already breaking my heart; not trusting my customer service satisfaction skills. I mean I have been working with Allura-“ Lance paused. “-and keeping your boyfriend satisfied,”

The way Lance worded that sentence paired with a devilish grin had Keith see red. It was one thing for Shiro to talk about another guy being cute because Keith did it too; in fact, it was a casual conversation piece. Just saying something like “Oh the new mailman is hot,” or “Did you see that cute doctor. I’d raw him,” and so on but here Keith felt like Lance was implying something that he knew Shiro would never do, which would be two-time him.

Keith knew Lance was trying to get Keith’s blood boiled. ‘Satisfied’ can mean a lot of things and Lance chose those words for the vague meaning just so Keith could do whatever dumb demonstration just to see what he was doing to Shiro so he would have a sense of calm and security because let’s face it, Keith tends to be very overpotec-

“Show me.” Keith narrowed his eyes, falling for Lance’s trap. Lance’s grinned, making a small fist pump out of excitement. He moved the restock box to the side.

“Follow me." 

Keith trailed after Lance in the now packed store picking up bits and pieces of conversations of how customers were excited to try product this and how associates would promote that and so on. Lance stopped to introduce Keith to a side area of the store with seats and small tables. He instructed Keith to wait right there as he went to go get the items. Keith took a seat, slamming his head on the small table.

He’s trying this place for Shiro. He’s trying this place because this is Shiro’s idea. He doesn’t want to disappoint his loving, sweet, thoughtful boyfriend so Keith isn’t going to book the hell out of the store before giving it a chance no matter how much he wants to just walk out.

“Okay!”

Keith snapped his head up to see Lance putting down a few products in front of him along with a bowl of clear water. He reached into the apron pocket grabbing some napkins and washcloths as he took a seat across from Keith. Keith glowered. Now, Keith was pretty positive the guy not only glowed but also sparkled. He was made for customer service being able to rope people in with all that energy and his dumb, straight teeth.

Shiro was right though. He was cute. That’s it. He’s cute. Nothing else.

Lance gave a nervous laugh and panic set in as Keith wondered if he said any of that out loud. Lance motioned to Keith’s get up as he disinfected his hands.

“I need you to take off some of those layers.” 

“No, not going to happen,” Keith said, standing up to leave. Stripping in front of a doctor in a private office where only a nurse and doctor can examine him. That’s okay. Stripping in front of Shiro. Sure! Keith didn’t like how his skin look but Shiro never once made one of those dumb gasps or winces strangers do when they see his skin.

So there was no way Keith was going to take off his hoodie to expose how ruined his arms are. It wasn’t stripping but this was still in public. The last thing Keith needed was more whispers and stares thrown his way accompanied with “That poor guy.” Lance reached to grab Keith’s hand but ceased.

“How about just the gloves and maybe roll up the sleeves a little?” Lance offered. Keith stopped. Lance’s face looked frantic, attempting to find any reason for Keith not leave. It threw Keith off as Lance did mention he could probably piggyback on Shiro’s deal so there was no way the store would make money off helping him. So why was he so desperate for him not leave in this moment?

Keith sat back down. He took a deep breath.

“Not a word about how bad it looks.”

Keith took the gloves off and gingerly rolled up the hoodie sleeves, wincing at the movement. His skin looked extremely sore and tender with the bright red skin patches contrasting Keith’s regular skin tone drastically. Sections of skin had begun peeling and flaking off as other sections weren’t progressing as fast so there was no way for a consistent heal to go on. He felt dry, itchy, hot and overall, just gross even looking at it. He looked at Lance to gauge his reaction.

Lance only tilted his head to the side. He reached to grab one of Keith’s hands but stopped again.

“May I?”

“Y-yeah?”

Tentatively, Lance picked up Keith’s hand and lightly ran his hand over Keith’s. Lance’s skin was such a vast difference. Keith felt envious. Smooth and soft almost like velvet. Lance let go picking up a bottle.

“I’m not going to touch the arms just yet. There are some raw patches and me just poking at them with nothing is going to only cause you more pain, “ Lance explained as he began adding some drops of what Keith could presume was a body wash? “We actually have a lot of products that cater to people with eczema.”

That surprised Keith: Lance already making the right assumption of what Keith had. Many people usually thought it was a bad case of sunburn or somehow Keith did it to himself (he never understood that one) Keith also was surprised at how different Lance was acting now compared to ten minutes ago where he was all playful and boppy to now, where he was focused on Keith with intensity. 

“So some of the products here are from the Starshine Soft and Simple Line. If any of them hurt, tell me, I will stop immediately.”

He nodded as Lance dipped his hand in the clear water mixing the wash in between his palms. He took hold of Keith’s hand and began to slowly rub the suds on Keith’s damaged skin.

Two separate trains of thoughts ran through Keith’s mind at that moment.

One, it’s not hurting. Why isn’t hurting? Stuff like this always hurt? What is this? The thought of a bath product not causing him pain was astonishing but started to spark a little hope in his chest. Maybe Lance did know what he was doing. 

Lance was the primary reason for the second separate train of thought; why did this feel really sensual? Keith frantically looked around the store to see anyone else was doing a demo. One other blonde girl with choppy hair and freckles and she seemed to be doing the same kind of thing Lance was doing to her customer, however, the customer was on the phone, not really caring and only giving slight nods to the girl’s explanations. Was Keith making this weird? caressed Keith’s skin and reaching up.

Lance caressed Keith’s skin and reaching up.

“I’m now going to start on the arms if that’s okay?”

“It’s fine,” Keith choked out. Lance did just what he said. He was most likely taking his sweet time because he didn’t want to hurt Keith but why did this feel like it was taking forever? Keith knew he was touch starved but this was different. Ridiculously different. He doesn’t heat up when he bumps into a person on the street or shake someone’s hand.

"It’s going be fine,’ was the only thought that kept running throughout Keith’s already jumbled mind. ‘Just don’t make eye contact. That’s what makes it weird. Making eye contact as a stranger slowly touches you and rubs a mystery product on you in public-‘

“Okay so-“Lance continued and Keith did exactly what his mind was screaming not to. Make eye contact. Lance began to laugh a little grabbing a washcloth.

“It’s weird, right? You just met me and I’m already all over you,” Lance smiled and Keith breathed a sigh of relief as Lance wiped the arms with some water.

“How-I mean-“ Keith didn’t know what to ask but Lance knew. 

“We’ve had a lot of customers not know how to use to products, what motions to do, which order, etc-hence the demonstrations. Trust me, like eighty percent of the people we have to do demos on are people who make us feel uncomfortable and we dread the moment cause we are going to get stuck with some creep who only wants to be handled,” Lance explained, now drying Keith’s arms. “Other twenty percent then tends to be actually cool people.” He then finger-gunned at Keith.

“I got lucky today. Got one of the rare ones.”

Keith was going to kill Shiro for introducing him to-no he was going slaughter his boyfriend for bringing him into this store. He now got why Shiro wouldn’t stop raving about the guy.

Lance pulls out another product, a cream, and began doing the same procedure of putting it on Keith’s hands making gentle touches attempting not to irritate Keith’s skin. 

Lance traced the skin with a finger. “How long has been going on if you don’t mind me asking?” Keith reeled back his mind attempting to pin a date of when he first began trying to hide his skin from even Shiro.

“One or two years’ tops. . . I definitely remember having it past my 21stbirthday. . .” Keith answered, uncertain if he had the correct timeline. Lance made a click with his tongue. “What?”

“Didn’t expect you to be that young, in your early 20s. . .” Lance explained, almost sounding impressed.

“How old do I look?”

Lance let of Keith’ hand to tap his chin. He pursed his lips only to shrug. “I don’t know. Mid-to-late 20s? Kind of assumed you were nearly the same age as Shiro.”

“Really?” Keith ran his hand across the other, feeling the cream amongst his skin as Lance began preparing to put another product on him. “I don’t get that a lot.” In truth, Keith would still get mistaken for someone just starting college or even sometimes, a high school senior. It occasionally would become an issue whenever Keith would try to buy alcohol or do anything that needed a license. He had even been in the scenario of where people would refuse service on just believing he had a really good fake ID rather than just looking a bit young.

“I can see that,” Lance’s voice interrupted Keith’s thoughts. “People thinking you are younger," he clarified. "It’s the eyes. You don’t have the bags under them that most millennials have.” Lance pointed to his own eyes, motioning to the dark lines that couldn’t be hidden with what Keith could only presume was makeup. It was barely noticeable until Lance pointed it out. 

Keith also didn’t take notice of Lance’s eyes until Lance was directly pointing at them. Exhausted, stress-lines, little, faint crinkles at the corners to indicate he laughs and smiles a lot-

They were also blue. 

“So what makes you assume I’m older?” Keith asked, trying to now not look away from Lance without giving off a suspicious vibe as Lance began rubbing a sweet-smelling lotion onto his hands and then onto Keith’s. 

“Ah. Little things. Your clothing, Shiro being your man, your hairstyle-I have to rub this lotion into the fissures of your skin okay?” Keith nodded not really sure what Lance meant by that. 

“My hairsty-“ he stopped as Lance’s fingers intertwined with Keith’s, softly and barely enough to be considered hand-holding but the act alone through Keith for such a loop that any amount of thinking was off the table. Meanwhile, Lance had no idea what was going through Keith’ s head as Lance pulled his hand away and held Keith’s hands in his own, tracing thin, red lines with the lotion.

“See these? The fissures are what causes your skin to crack and bleed. You have to keep these moisturized but it’s difficult for you considering you have eczema so you have to rely on skin care products-“

Lance might as well have started speaking another language because the minute he began to go back to the slow motions paired with the caressing, Keith felt his brain literally being fried. This wasn’t fair. He was being set up. Shiro set him up.

“-so if you follow those steps, I’m sure we can your skin back to a healthier and more manageable state, alright?” Lance released Keith to clean off. Keith felt like he could finally breathe. He moved his hands to find that the pain had lessened a bit. It could have been his imagination but his hands were feeling a tad softer.

“I’m going to go get the products we used today.” Lance hopped right on off, leaving Keith back to where he started when Shiro left. Alone in a packed store. Keith couldn’t help but tap his fingers over his skin, questions racing through his mind. Does everyone get the same treatment he just got? No, that can't be true. If so then people would be lining up to see this guy. Or again, what if Keith imagined the whole thing because, hey, how often does he let anyone touch him or does he touch anyone?

Confusion began to rise within him. Did Shiro get the same treatment? Is that why he was so eager for Keith to come to the store? The clicking of heels hitting the wooden floor paired with Shiro’s laughter rang through the store. Keith looked up to see Allura and Shiro walking towards him, Shiro holding a store bag and laughing to a story Allura was telling enthusiastically. He lit up, seeing Keith. Giving his goodbyes to the Allura, who immediately began working on the next task, Shiro made it to the table Keith was sat at.

He draped his arms around Keith, putting the bag on the table. Keith leaned back into Shiro’s hold. “How did it go?” Shiro asked.

“You’re cruel,” Keith mumbled into Shiro’s ear. Shiro replied with a smug smile, gently burying his nose into Keith’s neck. His hands reached toward Keith’s. He paused as he felt the back of it with his left palm. Keith’s fingers weaved into Shiro’s prosthetic ones, the metal feeling cool to the touch. They shared a stare, realizing a small shift had happened.

“Okay, I’m back!” Keith and Shiro let go of each other startled as the employee set a bag down on the table next to Shiro’s. It looked a little bigger than Keith suspected as they only tried three products. “Shiro, how did it go with Allura?“ Lance asked as he pulled out a notepad and pen from the apron. 

Keith squinted. Was that an Adventure Time pen? 

“Pretty good. Only improvements so far. You didn’t harass Keith too much, now did you?” Shiro crossed his arms, nudging his boyfriend. Keith pouted, slightly kicking Shiro’s foot. Lance let out a quick laugh as he wrote quickly on the pad. 

He ripped off the piece of the paper. “I think Keith’s going to be very happy I was working today,” Lance waved the paper, tossing it into the bag. “In fact, I bet I’m about to change your lives.” He winked at Shiro and Keith.

Keith turned away as Shiro chuckled. Allura’s voice rang across the store, calling for Lance to help her in the back. Lance tapped on the bag, looking towards the back. “Receipt, the products we used in the store, a list on how to use them, and some bonus samples are all in the bag,”

Allura called for Lance again. He winced, turning back to the two looking genuinely apologetic that he had to run off. “You got any questions, call me. I hope you guys come back again alright.”

Lance ran off, maneuvering past the customers and displays. Keith stood up, adjusting his sleeves and placing the gloves back on to cover any trace of Lance. Keith sneered in a desperate attempt to hide the blush creeping again across his neck. 

“Samples? What if I react to those? Just call the main line and say “Hey one of your store workers gave me a random product just based on one session and now my skin is decaying".” Keith asked, looking at Shiro who was going through the bag Lance had assembled. He pulled out the piece of paper Lance was writing on. “I mean come on Shiro, it’s not like I’m supposed to call this guy if I have a relapse-“ 

Keith picked up both bags as Shiro scanned the paper. They walked out of the store only to have Shiro abruptly stopped. Keith bumped into him, almost dropping the bags.

“He gave you his number.”

“Yeah. The store number. To call if I have any questions.” Keith clarified. Shiro turned around with a knowing smile and a sinful glint in his eyes.

“No. I have the store number. I used to use it all the time to get transferred to Allura’s desk phone until she gave me her personal number. This isn’t the store’s number nor the store manager’s.” Shiro waved the paper. “He gave you his personal number.”

Keith snatched the paper out of Shiro’s hands. Shiro took the bags from him as Keith frantically scanned the paper. On 'Alfor and Melenor's' store's stationery was a list of products Lance included in the bag along with instructions on how to use them. On the bottom of the instructions, there in blue cursive writing was indeed a number signed with the name Lance and a little doodle of a smiley face.

“He’s into you.”

Keith shoved the paper back in the bag attempting to stuff it down to the bottom. “This-this means nothing Shiro!” Keith explained. “He just wants to help.”

“Yeah, help with his d-“

“Shiro!” Keith nearly screeched but found himself really trying hard not to laugh by how Shiro was enjoying the whole situation. “Besides he’s probably straight.” Shiro let out another snort. 

“Lance did the thing to you, didn’t he? The whole ‘slow touch, make eye contact with you, and laugh about how embarrassing it is to touch strangers’ routine,” Shiro inquired. Keith’s jaw went slack in shock. 

“He did it to you?!”

Shiro nodded, relishing in Keith’s embarrassment. “-and you freaked out right?”

“I-“ Keith tugged on his sleeves and pulled them to his face. “How did you know?” Keith asked.

“Because he did it to me too the first time I walked into here.” 

Now that got Keith’s attention. So Lance was just an extremely touchy person with his customers. Okay, that’s okay. It kind of works considering Keith could only assume he made more sales with this routine.

“He did it to my shoulder with that lotion you like and I, you’ll laugh, I panicked, pulled away from him and yelped out 'I have a boyfriend!'” Shiro motioned to Keith. Keith covered his mouth to attempt to spare Shiro from him laughing to his face but couldn’t. It was cute and he could picture the image perfectly knowing how touching him with no forewarning could make Shiro flustered easily.

It was a trick Keith used in the past.

The two turned a corner and began heading down to the subway station. 

“So he’s a little unreserved. You got the passes right?” Keith asked and Shiro pulled out two subway cards from his back pocket. They swiped them amongst the terminal as Shiro continued to talk.

“That’s what I thought too. Until I saw him react with other customers. Not exactly the same treatment we got. So I bring it up to Allura one day when she’s doing an inventory check-up,”

“You just asked her straight?” Keith narrowed his eyes, knowing Shiro doesn’t confront people with the accusation when there is little basis to go on. He tended to be the more rational of two allowing Keith to be plenty hot-headed for the both of them.

“Not exactly. I just bring up how Lance is more hands-on than the other associates,” Shiro explains as the run down the stairs at the sound of their train arriving soon. They stop as the train begins to pull up to them.

“She explains to me how sometimes he gets so into his work he doesn’t even realize how hands-on he gets. Turns out she and Lance are going to college for dermatology.“

The doors open and the two get on the nearly deserted train. Keith takes a seat, setting the bags down next to him as Shiro holds onto a pole grip, choosing to stand in front of Keith as he continues. 

“Okay . . .” Keith attempted to make rational sense with more pieces now in place.  “He gets really into it because it’s his passion. . . .” Keith mumbled, satisfied with that conclusion. He leaned back and stretched, already feeling more comfortable being surrounded by fewer people as the doors close. Shiro shakes his head.

“Again. That’s what I thought until Allura made this comment. One I don’t even think she herself realized she was making.”

“Which was?”

“'God forbids if it’s someone who he finds hot.'” Shiro quoted.


 

Chapter Text

 


“Why is he still here?” Lance McClain whispered to his co-workers as he swept up any excess bath product debris that might have fallen on the floor. James was watching with his arms crossed as Ina made peeking glances as she balanced the register. Lance used the broom as support, leaning forward as James glances at his watch.

“It’s fourteen and half minutes past closing time.”

“Mine says sixteen,” Ina countered, moving her blonde, choppy bangs away. James gave her an incredulous look. “Leifsdottir, give me your watch. You’re behind the store’s clock.”

“We even did two closing calls . . .” Lance sighed as James reset Ina’s watch. Lance should have really continued sweeping but he already felt so tired from doing an eight-hour shift in a packed store. He was positive that if he let go of the broom, he’d collapse.

“It doesn’t matter. Customers don’t care,” James let slip. Lance grinned, glancing at James who attempted to backtrack. “I mean our customers do it’s just-“

“Statistically, a good portion of customers won’t even remember any of the staff they interact with. So James, you’re right. Many don’t care.”

Lance yawned, deciding to finish up the cleaning.

Ina was probably right. Usually, many of the customers didn’t remember any of the store staff. Only people who would return more than once would start to recognize faces and names.

“Oh good. Allura is going to get rid of hi-oh no,” James and Lance winced as Ina gasped. The man began yelling at Allura spouting nonsense of how it was ridiculous of them to close at ten pm on a weekday when many of the stores in the Altea-High End Shopping district stayed open later. Keeping her posture, Allura asked him to leave the store or else she would have no choice but to call security.

The three employees held their breath knowing they had no security and Allura was bluffing, hardcore. She held her stance. The man spat on the floor and walked out, attempting to slam the door as hard as he could. 

Lance cheered as Ina and James politely clapped at Allura’s ability to maintain calm and composure during the situation. Allura batted her hand, trying to hide her smile.

“You guys, go home. It’s late,” she instructed, looking outside. “I can close up. Plus Coran, Ryan, and Nadia are always fine with coming in a bit early to fix the displays.”

That was enough for James, he nodded telling his coworkers to have a good night, leaving the place. Ina closed up the register and grabbed her bag from behind the counter.

“See you all tomorrow.”

“Stay safe out there!” Allura called out as Ina left. Lance put the broom away. As he did, he saw Allura bring out the displays for tomorrow.

“Thought you’d let Coran handle it,” Lance joked, knowing full well that Allura would never do that. If she could take on more workloads and shifts, she would. She cared so much about the store and what her family built.

It was one of the reasons Lance admired her and eventually fell in love with her.

It was also one of the reasons they broke up.

He leaned down and began helping Allura with the display. “Lance, you did a full shift. Rest. Go home.”

Lance just raised an eyebrow. “And let you have all the fun? Come on I always wanted to unpack boxes of-“ Lance pulled out the order papers. He began reading in a low voice. “Sensual. The body care line where you and your lover can “really” get to know each other.”

Lance waggled his eyebrows and Allura burst out laughing. Lance tossed the sheet back in the box, snickering alongside Allura. “I can’t believe your parents decided to do this line! You do realize the store is gonna be twice as busy now.”

“I know, I know. Besides, there’s no way a-“ Allura picked up a dark, jar out of the box. “-candle can make someone more sexual? My parents were so inspired by their Caribbean trip, they thought they could create something that emulated all the . . . good times they had." 

Lance grabbed the candle and read it. “Orgasm’” Oh I can not wait for you to have to try to promote these.” 

“Oh yeah. What about you?” Allura stood up, tieing her hair in a bun. She leaned over, giving the illusion of having a hunchback as she walked over to Lance, tugging his sleeve. “Young man? Can you please show me how to use the product Sex, Sex, and More Sex.”

“Stop!” Lance shrieked as he pulled away from Allura, shuddering but laughing at the thought that the scenario was very likely. She knelt back on the ground and Lance followed suit. Allura gave a soft smile, as she took out the products from the box.

“My parents still think I’m going to marry you.”

“I’m sorry Allura.” Lance quickly responded back. She chuckled.

“For what? Our past sounding like a cliché love story? We were childhood friends. You moved away and we kept in touch. You returned and surprise, we were both following the same passion-“

Allura stopped unpacking and Lance knew full aware of the story went.

“’The perfect couple’” Lance whispered, bittersweetly. “That’s what my mom used to call us.” Allura nodded, her smile not faltering.

“I remember. So we gave it a shot. As anyone would.” 

“It wasn’t bad. . .” Lance offered, attempting to make it sound better. Allura looked right at him. Lance sighed. “It just wasn’t what we expected.” 

“We were miserable Lance.”

“We were,” Lance ran his hands through his styled hair. He let out a giggle which was contagious to Allura. “You couldn’t separate work from school from your love life-“

“-neither of us ever felt any actual attraction towards each other-“ Allura added. 

“-so when people were like ‘Did you hit that?’ we realized we ‘Fuck! We were wasting our time!”’ Lance exclaimed grinning at the memory of the one year mess Allura and Lance had been through. “Remember how I tried to your hand in public and you cringed?” 

“Oh oh oh!” Allura clapped, pointing at Lance. “What about when my parents asked if we were thinking about kids and I found you in the bathroom later that night throwing up at the thought of impregnating me!”

Lance gently put his hand on Allura’s shoulder. He looked her dead in the eye, tears forming.

“Allura, as every religions’ god as my witness, I promise you, hand on my heart, I will never get you pregnant.”

Allura wiped tears from her eyes as she clasped Lance’s hands. “That’s all I ever wanted,” she whispered. They laughed again. Lance pulled out the sign from the box and began opening it up.

“So what are you going to do?” Allura gave a slight shrug.

“I’ve already told them we broke up multiple times but they are persistent. I’ll figure something out. You would think two bisexual people were a match made in heaven.” Allura pulled out some tape from her apron pocket, handing it to Lance. 

“I think that was what fooled us two. Is it straight?”

“It’s the only straight thing in this store,” Allura mumbled and Lance snickered. “You could just tell them, you know. You like girls and guys.”

“How was telling your parents?” Allura asked, smirking. Lance glowered.

“They threw me a party,” Lance recalled. Allura’s smirk developed into more laughter.

“I still have the e-vite!”

“If you loved me Allura you would burn the computer that has the thing on it.” 

Allura tossed Lance a product to which he caught as he began setting up the new display. The routine was silent for a moment and efficient until Allura spoke up.

“Going to try these on Shiro?”

Lance fumbled.

“Or how about Keith?”

Lance dropped the product. Allura reached out, catching it before it hit the ground. She looked up at Lance, who had turned away and was now taking a very specific interest in arranging the new display. Allura sat up, tossing the product in between her hands.

“My parents designed this line to work for all skin types.” 

Lance heard Allura slam the bottle on the ground.

“All. Skin. Types.” 

Lance turned around. “You monster, “ he hissed. Allura threw her hands up.

“Lance, I thought you were going to pursue more romantic interests after me? We talked about this.”

“Oh no. No no no no-“ Lance rambled, shaking his finger. “One, my customers have never been a good thing for me to pursue. Remember Nyma?”

‘But-“

“Or how about Plaxum!?”

“I know-“

“Oh, how could I possible forget Rolo? Do you remember the mess that caused!? I still have to drive out of town to get my car fixed-“ 

“Lance-“

“And what about Jenny Shaybon!? And the other Jenny!? That shitstorm?!” Lance threw his hands out in frustration and in fear. Allura bit her lip knowing the person after the double Jenny fiasco, she was the last person for Lance to pursue. 

In fact, she was the most normal and longest standing relationship out of all of Lance’s previous ones.

She was the only one who wanted a long-term relationship like Lance how craved. 

“Two!” Lance held out two fingers, running his hand through his hair again. “They. Are. Dating. Allura.” Lance let out exasperated sigh paired with a lost, hollow laugh. “I am not going to break up a perfect relationship like that! It’s one thing for me to be all touchy-feely with a customer cause ‘hey better chance of them coming back to our store!’ I mean I’m used to whoring myself out-“ 

Now that hurt hearing that. Allura felt the cry in Lance’s voice at the end of that sentence and paired with every previous relationship, she knew why he felt that way.

“-and sure, the two of them are so god damn touch starved that you can see them eye-fucking across the room but I am not-“ Lance’s hand shook at the thought. “I’m not going to ruin that.”

Allura got up and began rubbing Lance’s shoulder.

“Lance I’m so sor-“

“Three!” Lance held up three fingers, avoiding Allura’s eye contact. She let go.

“Lance . . .?”

“How cruel would it be if I went into another relationship while Princess over here has only been in one?”

Allura shoved Lance as he began to return to his peppy self.

“I told you to stop calling me that,” Allura crossed her arms. “Besides, if I recall, you were just as eager to play the Prince in our childhood dress up games.”

“We would always fight for that one tiara you had. Who would get to be royalty etc.” Lance hummed as he began going back to putting the display together. “Remember how Coran would have to break us apart?”

“Of course,” Allura gave a beamed at the memory. “We would have such tifts that Coran would have to literally pull us apart. Remember how he tried to settle a fight one time by wearing the tiara and saying we had to save him?”

Allura tossed Lance another product and the routine continued. “How could I forget?” Allura watched Lance continue to work on the display. 

“Lance?”

“Hm?”

She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “I’m really happy to go to college here in Altea. Visiting every year back and forth after your family moved away was fine but having you back here for the past few years-I’m just really glad to have my best friend by my side and-“ 

Allura looked up to see Lance was leaning on the display, eyes twinkling. Lance clasped his hands together, staring back at Allura in mock love.

“Well, I’m honored that you chose to hit on me again-“

“You know what-“

Lance cackled as Allura threw a bottle of shampoo at him. He flinched, expecting it to hit his face, only to be surprised by catching. He yelled triumphantly as he waved the bottle around like a trophy. Allura leaned back.

“I can’t believe I picked you to be in the running.” 

Lance stopped. He slowly put the bottle down. “What did you say?” he whispered.

“You heard me. My parents asked who would be a good store manager to join my side when summer ends. They got to pick a choice and I got to pick a choice.”

Lance found himself needing to steady himself on a nearby bath oil display at the words.

“You didn’t.”

“Three years of no days off nor being late. Great customer service. Working overtime. You actually care about this place. I picked you, Lance,” Allura stood back up. Lance slammed his hands on the display, glitter flying in the air.

“Lance!” Allura shrieked as he pulled her in tight to give her a hug. He pulled away as she attempted to wave glitter away.

“Who is my competition?”

“Ryan.”

Lance clenched his fist. “Damn that gorgeous man. He always gets the best customer reviews,” he mumbled and Allura nodded.

“It’s the one thing you need more of. He beats you in the review department by a smidge. But imagine it, Lance!” Allura clasped her hands in excitement. Lance mirrored her enthusiasm. 

“I am! Better pay, making my own schedule, getting to work with you and Coran in creating more products!” 

“Plus our senior year schedules would be more open with the schedules we are in charge of!”

Lance held out his hand and Allura bowed, graciously accepting it. He twirled her around. “After all these years of the Prince and the Princess being stuck to heal others, they will finally have the freedom to do what they want.”

Lance dipped Allura. Allura imitated fainting. Allura caressed Lance’s face, trying to hold in giggles.

“Who will finally be able to woo the Prince’s cold, broken heart?” 

“Wha-hey!” Lance shouted almost dropping Allura. He pulled her up into another twirl and the extended out. Lance knelt down showing off Allura as if he was introducing her to the world.

“And who will finally save the Princess from a life of celibacy?” 

Allura stepped on Lance’s shoe and he groaned in pain. He fell to the ground, reaching out to Allura as he clutched his foot. 

“Princess . . .” Lance dramatically coughed. “Don’t let your Prince die.” 

“For quiznak’s sake, we are such disasters, “ Allura exclaimed to the empty store. Lance rolled his eyes. 

“I can’t believe you still say ‘quiznak’”

“Go home Lance,” Allura chuckled. 


Keith stepped back from the painting, tapping the paintbrush on his chin, slowly reaching to chew it, only to cough. Wrong end. Paint in mouth.

He began wiping away the pigment.

“Shiro?!”

Kosmo’s head popped up and Keith gave the dog snuggled in between his legs a pat.

“Yeah?” Shiro walked out of the bathroom, fresh out of the shower. He picked at his white lock eyeing them, suspiciously. Keith stepped away from the painting.

“It’s off.”

Shiro looked at the painting of the Altea Oceanside outside the city. Shiro walked over attempting to see what Keith meant. 

“It looks great. It’s exactly what the buyer wanted.” Keith nodded only to shake his head.

“Yeah, it’s not the subject I'm having a problem with but something about the light or maybe the color,” Keith mumbled, reaching to scratch his neck. Shiro lightly slapped his hand.

Keith frowned. “Hey!”

“Lance’s instructions specifically said no scratching or picking at your skin.”

“I’m not.”

“Keith. . . the paint.”

Keith looked at his arms to see that indeed any skin he had touched was in fact covered with paint. He mentally cursed himself. Shiro walked off to the kitchen, grabbing some paper towels. 

“I mean considering it’s only been over a week it’s looking a little better, “ Shiro offered as he began wiping off the paint of Keith who was still trying to paint. 

“Doesn’t mean I’m feeling any better.” Keith wryly smiled, tapping the paintbrush on Shiro’s nose, a spot of purple appearing. Shiro wiped a bit of it off and tapped Keith’s nose, who loudly protested as Shiro objected saying how they had to match.

A bell chime interrupted them. Keith put the paintbrush down as Shiro sighed.

“Didn’t know you’d be working there today too,” Shiro mumbled as he sat on the couches' armrest to see one of Keith’s jobs in play.

The sex chat screen popped up across Keith’s battered, hand-me-down computer with one question indicating that the message was indeed for Keith. 

“Hello Rose,” it read. 

Shiro leaned in, reading the username 69BigDick69Yolo. “Regular?”

“Sadly. He’s got a lot of issues with women. He’s got this whole humiliation kink . . . maybe I need more yellow . . .” Keith trailed off as he typed a quick reply to the stranger and going back to the commission.  Shiro sighed. 

Out of the two of them, Keith had more jobs in order to pay rent, food, etc. It wasn’t always like this but ever since the Kuron incident, Shiro had just recently got back into teaching. Unfortunately, he was only landing substitute jobs. Along with that, he would work as an editor on hire for indie magazines but it wasn’t enough to pay for their expenses. 

Enter Keith. Despite Shiro’s protests and Keith being in immense pain, Keith earned just about enough to get them by each month. Whether it would be small jobs like walking dogs or helping the neighbors with tasks such as cleaning their house or taking their trash out to bigger payouts like replicating a painting for a cheaper cost or Shiro’s least favorite- 

Finding out that Keith joined a sex chat site under the name of ‘Rose’ to earn most of their income.

At first, Shiro was scared for Keith’s safety but Keith had reassured Keith countless times they couldn’t trace him and he only did chat for obvious reasons. It became clear Keith didn’t care for it as he was always doing something else while responding to the chats such as right now; he was more into the painting that whatever 69BigDick69Yolo was responding back with urgency.

Shiro just felt bad for Keith having to waste his time here or have to even do jobs like this.

He stared at his arm.

“If you’re moping again, I’m going to make you regret it,“ Keith said. Shiro looked up to see Keith was giving him little glances in between painting. Keith used the paintbrush to indicate to their apartment.

“We aren’t going to lose this place.”

Keith pointed to Kosmo. 

“I’m not putting him up for adoption.”

Keith stormed over to Shiro who almost fell onto the couch. Keith caught him by his shirt and nudged his chest with the paintbrush end.

“-and I’m sure as hell not losing you again.” 

Shiro felt his heart melt. He always thought he didn’t deserve Keith especially of what happened in the past but time and time again Keith only showed persistence, loyalty, and caring that Shiro couldn’t help but adore about him.

Using his hands to steady himself on the couch while  Keith supported himself with the grip on Shiro's shirt, lips crashed.

Touching without touching. 

Their compromise. 

Keith let out a moan as Shiro pulled away to take a breath. Keith was heating up again. He stood up, rubbing his neck. Shiro batted the hand away to which Keith smiled.

A bell chime. The two groaned.

“How many of them even know ‘Rose’ is a guy?” Shiro cried out collapsing on the couch. “Isn’t it illegal or immoral to catfish?” 

“Illegal? No. Immoral? Depends on who’s answering,” Keith took a seat at the desk to type another quick response. He then began to go through the desk drawers for more paint supplies. “Besides, I never specified Rose’s gender in any of my chats nor my profile. They see what they want to see.”

“-and you call me cruel . . .” Shiro shifted to watch Keith. “Here you are teasing people.” 

Shiro watched as Keith pulled out some tubes of paint along with sealers. He noticed Keith took out a postcard, gently placing it on the desk. It was one Shiro didn’t recognize.

“Your mother contacted you again?” Shiro sat up. Keith turned in the swivel chair, holding the postcard. 

“Yeah just got it this morning. Already wrote her back. She says hi and she put some more funds in my account so we won’t have to worry about electricity nor air-conditioning. She’s going to a new base soon so we may not hear from her for five to six months. . .” Keith trailed off turning the postcard around. “She did mention trying to return back in time for my birthday but it’s starting to-“

Frantic knocking cut Keith off. Keith opened his desk drawer, putting the postcard in as Shiro slowly stood up. Kosmo popped up, growling. Keith began to pet Kosmo, hand still in the desk.

“We did pay rent, right?” Keith whispered and Shiro nodded his head, approaching the door. “Who is it?”

Shiro leaned towards the peephole only to stumble back when the knocking became louder.

“Shiro?! Keith!? I know you guys are in there!!!”

“Stop freaking them out.”

The two breathed a sigh of relief. Shiro reached to open the door, turning to Keith to see his reaction. He had pulled out a blade from the desk.

“Put that away!”

“Excuse me for being prepared. I don’t plan on being robbed again.”

The moment Shiro unlocked their front door Romelle came bursting through with Acxa following close behind.

“Robbers don’t knock,” Acxa cleared up. “Sorry, Shiro.”

“It’s fine. What are you guys doing here?” Shiro asked. Romelle held out her phone as Acxa jumped onto the couch chair, sitting to watch Keith go back to painting.

“Keith didn’t answer my texts,” Romelle held the phone close to her. “Did you get them?!”

“I knew I forgot to do something.”

“So you did get them! Well?” Romelle leaned in. Keith backed away slightly. Despite how much he valued Romelle as a friend, she had a habit with invading personal people’s space.

“Well, what?”

“She wants to know if you are going to come clothes shopping with us for the next school semester, “ Acxa clarified. She pointed at the sky in Keith’s painting. “Use more complimentary colors here.”

“That was the problem . . .” Keith slammed the brush down reaching for a clean one, now that he has seen the problem through Acxa’s eyes. “Why would I need to go shopping for school clothes. I dropped out.”

“Doesn’t mean you can’t get a new outfit!” Romelle argued, nudging Keith. He felt himself shrink up.

“School for you guys isn’t for another three months,” Keith argued.

“I do extra classes in the summer. Plus, you need a break Keith,” Acxa cut in. “Even if it is something as lame as shopping.” Keith sighed putting the paintbrush down. 

Shiro nodded from the back. “She’s right you know. You’re going to get burnt out if you keep overworking yourself.”

“Fine, Shiro do you-“ 

“Actually Matt invited me to a Monsters and Mana session.”

Keith physically let a loud groan. Even that was sounding much better than having to try clothes that would irritate his skin. He was most likely over exaggerating because he did enjoy spending time with the two girls but he was expecting to just chill at home.

“Shiro please-“

“Ladies, please keep care of him for me,” Shiro put his hands on Acxa and Romelle’s shoulder. “If anything were to happen to him, I don’t know what I’d do.” Acxa snorted and Romelle saluted Shiro who saluted Romelle back. 

“You guys are a bunch of losers.” Keith said, shutting his laptop off as Acxa and Romelle began to chant ‘shopping, shopping, shopping-‘

“Bring him back in one piece!”

“No promises!” Romelle stuck her tongue out at Shiro who only shook his head in response.


After a trip to the food court, three candle shops, a furniture store (Acxa needed new lamps as he previous roommates broke hers after they had a fervent make-out session) and several clothing stores, Keith just wanted to go back home into his and Shiro’s bed. 

Sadly that was not the case as he found himself in a dressing room, trying on clothes that he and Acxa had picked out for him. The first few clothing stores he protested but after Acxa bribed him with a  meal in the food court, some free art supplies, and candle shaped like a cactus (he was weak) Keith gave in.

Keith also found himself asking Acxa how she could afford all these items as he knew that her pay at the Balmera University art store wasn’t the best.  

Turns out she had stolen her ex-roommates’ cash and credit cards as revenge for constantly sucking face and having sex everywhere when she needed to use their home for things such as sleeping, cooking, and working on her finals.

So add that with Romelle consistent, non-stop conversation, Keith gladly took whatever pile of clothes the two had gathered and locked himself in a dressing room. 

Romelle and Acxa were aware of his skin condition so he wasn’t worried about them picking clothes. Acxa surprisingly knew more about fabric blends than anyone Keith knew so she would always be able to look at some item of clothing and just tell Keith automatically where or not it would hurt his skin.

Romelle always brought in Keith’s sense of style. Never had Romelle given Keith something like a bright rainbow top with corduroy pants and Keith appreciated that even though their styles were like night and day. 

So after trying on Romelle’s fourth choice, a grey, cotton button-up cardigan with a little bit of polyester blend (an option he considered buying out of sheer comfort alone) he halted at the fifth clothing item. Jeans. 

When was the last time he wore jeans? The denim always rubbed his skin wrong. And these were skinny jeans which would just be tighter on him. 

Keith came to the conclusion that this option was probably tossed in by mistake but he ran his hand over the fabric.

No harm in trying right?

‘It wasn’t going to work’ ran through Keith’s mind as he tossed off his own sweatpants. His hand brushed over his thighs in taking off his pants and Keith was sure he was imagining things. It didn’t feel as cracked. Sure Keith wasn’t really monitoring the progress but he was trying to do all the things in Lance’s list even though he hadn’t touched the sample items yet of fear of a reaction. 

Keith looked in the mirror to see the-what did Lance call them? Fissures?-had gone down. Not dramatically but enough for Keith to notice a difference.

Enough to make Keith wonder if he was hallucinating right now because the rest of his body didn’t improve that fast.

‘It isn’t going to work’ rang louder as Keith slowly brought the jeans up. He shut his eyes tight expecting for searing pain, to want to rip off the clothes, or even to just be in a general pain.

Nothing. 

Keith moved.

He felt nothing.

Keith even did a little spin to which he stumbled a bit, steadying himself on the mirror.

Nothing.

“What the hell? What the hell? What the hell-“ Keith kicked the door open and walked out to the waiting area where Romelle was laying down on a couch and Acxa was scrolling through her phone. They both looked up. Romelle covered her mouth.

“Holy shit Keith,” Acxa shoved her phone in her pocket, circling around the panicking Keith. “You look hot.”

“Are those jeans? I thought you couldn’t wear jeans?” Romelle asked quietly, her eyes watering in excitement. Keith looked at the mirrors in the middle of the waiting area where the light was brighter. He forgot he was still wearing the cardigan Romelle picked out of him. 

“I can’t. I mean I thought I can’t . . .” Keith mumbled. When was the last time he wore form-fitting clothes? 

“You’re going to give Shiro a heart attack. My God. How-Romelle did you drop these in?”

“I must have accidentally picked them up!? You’re not in any pain?” Romelle touched the jean fabric.

“I mean it’s an adjustment and it’s only my legs that seem to okay with this but no-it doesn’t hurt . . .” Keith replied, still not looking away from the mirror. Using her elbow, Axca leaned on Keith. 

“Keith Yorak Kogane-”

“I will always regret telling you my middle name,” Keith hissed, shutting his eyes. She turned to Romelle.

“-this opens a whole new wardrobe for you. A whole new world. One where Romelle and I must christen you with hotter clothes that will make Shiro want to have you in public!”

Keith's eyes snapped open as he turned around wondering if anyone heard her. “Acxa!”

“Romelle are you with me?” Acxa pointed at the girl who nodded excitedly. Keith buried his hands in the sleeves of the new cardigan.

“Why are you doing this?” he whined. Acxa shrugged.

“Anything to get out of summer homework,” she snapped her fingers, pointing at Keith. “Whatever you are doing, keep doing it.”


 

Chapter Text

 


“Stop that.”

Shiro’s head snapped up to look at Keith directly. The guy was pacing back and forth as they stood outside ‘Alfor and Melenor’s.’ Shiro put his hands in his pockets attempting to look innocent as he gazed at the sky.

“Stop what?”

 He stopped pacing. “Stop-stop undressing me with your eyes in public,” Keith said as ran his hands over his face, failing at covering up any of red tint appearing. Shiro coughed, turning away. He was caught. “Not that I’m not enjoying it. . .” Keith began in a small mumble only to bury his face in his hands.

It had been several days since the Romelle and Acxa shopping trip. Keith came home with multiple shopping bags with the only explanation of ‘Acxa and Romelle just wanted to buy me some clothes and they wouldn’t take no for answer.'

That was alright. It wasn’t the first time the two ladies had splurged on their friend but then Shiro was slowly introduced to what was in those bags.

The first thing Shiro noticed was a sweater. Keith was sitting on the couch, going through the laptop, bookmarking any spare jobs he could do when Shiro walked past only to slowly walk back. Keith wore his usual shorts he would wear to let his skin breathe but it was the over-sized sweater that somehow hung over Keith a little too big but yet hugged all the right places.

He said nothing and Keith said nothing about it.

However, Shiro didn’t really sleep that night.

The second thing was when the two of them were getting ready to help their friend Katie at their family’s new arcade they were planning on opening up. Shiro was drinking coffee as he edited a new piece for some small lifestyle magazine and Keith walked out of their room.

He was wearing jeans that, despite covering his skin, it showed off his legs really, really well.

Shiro had spit out the sip of coffee, ruining his shirt and almost destroying the piece he had to edit. Keith had watched frozen in shock as Shiro rushed back into their room to change.

They were twenty minutes late for Katie.

The third thing was a top that allowed one of Keith’s shoulder’s to be revealed paired with another pair of form-fitting pair of pants. Shiro had walked into their home, going through the mail, talking about how there was a sign in the lobby saying there would be street cleaning a few days when he stopped dead in his tracks.

Keith retorted about how they should move the motorcycle into the garage but when he got no response he turned away from making dinner.

Shiro had pinned him against the counter and Keith had dropped the ladle into the pot.

Griping the countertop, Shiro began to kiss Keith over and over again while his boyfriend could only retort back with more fervent forms of endearment.

Shiro and Keith would have overstepped if it wasn’t for the smell of something burning interrupting them.

They ended up ordering takeout that night.

Which led Shiro to number four. Skinny jeans paired with one of Shiro’s old dress shirts. The two didn’t notice Keith had chosen his shirt until they were in the Altea-High Shopping District. It was something that genuinely didn’t fit Shiro anymore so it would be a reasonable accident Keith would make. He did have a habit of being so exhausted after overworking, Shiro would find Keith grabbing his jacket instead of his own every once in a while.

And they were running late as Keith and Shiro had both overslept so their primary thought was to make it ‘Alfor and Melenor’s’ before it closed.

Unfortunately, Shiro felt like a mess looking at Keith and not being able to just do more than small, simple touches. The two tended to be masters of controlling themselves for Keith’s sake but not these past several days.

They were cracking.

They needed Lance’s help.

“I blame you,” Keith went back to pacing, occasionally reaching for the door handle only to chicken out. “If you hadn’t decided to be Satan with bringing this guy into our-“

“Okay alright how about we shift some of the blame to Acxa and Romelle? I apologize if the time we’ve been together I have only ever seen you in . . .  less shapely clothing . . .”

Keith extended his hands, attempting to strangle invisible air. “You’ve seen me naked!”

“This is different and you know it is,” Shiro retorted back in a dead-pan voice. Keith shut up for a moment only to get back to being panicky.

“What do you want me to say? ‘Sup Lance. Shiro and I really want to fuck each other but oh he can still barely touch me cause despite some of these products working well, they kind of stopped and we are at a terrifying standstill-“

“We should have called him,” Shiro sighed.

“We lost the phone number!” Keith yelled out.

“Who’s phone number did you lose?”

Shiro quickly grabbed Keith’s arm, stopping Keith from decking Lance out of pure reflex. Lance had also ducked in time so no injury sustained. Keith sighed as Lance stood back up, awing at Keith. 

“Don’t sneak up on him,” Shiro chuckled as Keith moved his wrist around. “You almost might have had to spend your afternoon in the ER.”

“Free meal, hot nurses-not sounding like a bad way to spend my Sunday afternoon,” Lance joked. Keith attempted to walk away but Shiro tugged the shirt, not allowing him to get away.

“He’s an idiot,” Keith hissed.

“’He’s good at his job,” Shiro whispered back.

“I can hear both of you,” Lance spoke loudly behind them. Shiro turned to Lance.

“We lost your number.”

“I didn’t lose anything.”

“Keith you just agreed-“

Shiro was cut off as Lance hoisted his tote bag onto his shoulder as he hectically circled around Keith.

“Did you have a reaction? How’s your skin? Do you remember any of the advice I told you? I mean-“

Keith stepped away. “No. The same. No,” he answered, hiding behind Shiro. Shiro coughed. It was kind of fun to see Lance and Keith interact. The two of them were polar opposites: one being extroverted and the other being introverted. 

It was really charming and cute and they both- 

Shiro physically shook his head to try to shake the thought that invaded his mind. His attention focused back Lance and Keith who were still doing this little dance of Lance worriedly asking questions and begging to let him see his skin as Keith continued to away, trying not to let Lance touch him.

Shiro put his arm between the pair, stopping Lance. Lance looked up at Shiro and Shiro did his best to give Lance a reassuring smile.

“He’s not hurt.”

Lance breathed a sigh of relief and Shiro mentally breathed a sigh of relief with him. Keith crossed his arms. 

“Not any more than I already am.”

Lance reached into his bag, pulling out his phone.

“What’s your number, Keith?”

Keith opened his mouth only to close it again. Shiro gave his boyfriend an incredulous look. Shiro took Lance’s phone and began creating the contact. Keith looked away.

“I’m putting him under 'Keith' and don’t text or call him in the morning, he won’t answer. He’s a light sleeper so he keeps every device on mute. Wants to have his beauty rest,” Shiro explained to Lance. Keith’s head snapped up.

“I do not want to have my-“

A click went off as Shiro had taken a picture the minute Keith looked up. Keith stomped his foot down pairing it with him muttering ‘dammit!’ as he fell for another one of Shiro’s snaps. Lance watched amazed as Shiro handed him the phone. 

“It’s a little blurry but hey now if you got a picture of him in case you forget who Keith is.”

Lance chuckled excitedly as he opened up the new contact. “Oh, I don’t think I can. Keith’s a very memorable person.” Shiro peered over Lance seeing the picture of Keith. Keith staring straight at the camera, blushing from Shiro’s comment, clear anger and embarrassment mixed all over his face.

Shiro kind wished he sent the picture to himself before handing back Lance’s phone.

“So I’ll just text you the steps and-“

“It’s not working,” Keith cut in. He began to explain. “Well, it was because-“ Keith motioned to a different outfit. “-but it’s kind of stopped and I thought it was because I didn’t have the instructions and-“

Lance was still texting to Keith. Without looking up he asked, “Did you try the sample sizes?" 

“No, I don’t-I tried one . . .”

Shiro stopped looking at the picture. Keith didn’t tell him that. Lance still wasn’t looking from the phone. “-and?”

Keith shut his eyes real tight as he pulled up his left sleeve. The skin on the arm had retreated back. The eczema returned tenfold. Shiro walked over to Keith, careful not to the touch the area.

“Why didn’t you say-why did you try-“ Shiro kept stopping himself because he knew why. Keith didn’t like asking for help and Keith didn’t like talking about what was happening to him.

It was why Shiro didn’t know about the skin condition for half a year.

Lance put the phone away and made a sharp inhale as he walked to Keith’s arm. Keith covered it up.

“Dude, I got to be able to see it to know what caused it. I mean I think it might have been the lavender in the-”

“You knew this could happen?” Shiro almost lashed out and Lance shut his eyes for a split second before snapping them back open. He spoke in a calm voice that Shiro could only imagine was used for tense customer service situations. 

“If Keith contacted me I would be able to fix it but he’s been hiding it, allowing it to get worst.”

Shiro frowned and Lance put a hand on Shiro’s shoulder. “I know you’re freaking out but have I ever steered you wrong?” Shiro looked at Keith who was tugging at his sleeve, avoiding both Lance and Shiro’s gaze. “He’s going to be okay.”

Keith wrapped his arms around himself. “Can we just go to the shop? I can try some other thing and-“

“I’m off the clock right and for the next couple of days,” Lance responded. “I’m not walking back in there especially not during the summer extravaganza sale.” Lance shook his phone. “Only coming back unless my phone starts blasting Leslie Odom Jr.

Keith and Shiro looked at each other and back at Lance.

“I don’t understand,” Shiro tried to but couldn’t add up what Lance just said.

“It’s the singer of Allura’s ringtone. She's a fan of musicals,” Lance shrugged.

"Oh! I didn't know that. Does she enjoy-"

Keith clenched his fists. 

“So what am I supposed to do?!” Keith asked, interrupting Shiro.

Lance put his hand on his hip as he put the phone in his pocket. “Where do you guys live?” Keith stepped back.

“Uh . . . the outer edge of Altea. Closer to Balmera-“ Keith started but Lance began walking off.

“Let’s go. Shiro, I need an address. Come on I’ll drive.”


 Keith slammed the car door. “How do you even have a license!?” Shiro laughed as Keith began leading the way towards the apartment. Lance followed, clicking his car keys to lock the car up.

Keith glanced back at Lance. "I mean honestly, you sped past four red lights! And that U-turn!?”

“Oh come on it’s not that bad,” Lance rolled his eyes as Keith stormed into the lobby.

“How many times did it take you to get your license, Lance?” Shiro asked as he opened the door for Lance. Lance rubbed the back of his neck. 

“Four times,” Lance whispered. “Don’t tell Keith but I usually don’t drive that fast but I-“ Lance moved is hands around indicating to Keith. Shiro smiled softly, acknowledging that Lance was worried about Keith. “Next time, don’t rush.”

The desk person was asleep but woke up the minute Keith stomped past him and began banging on the elevator button repeatedly. “Didn’t even use blinkers . . .” Keith mumbled as the elevator opened up. Lance spun around taking the lobby in. The place looked old. Creepy old. Antique lamps, low lights, cobwebs-the elevator itself had one of those old-timey dials and had a metal gate.

Maybe Keith and Shiro were monsters? It would explain the haunted home. 

“Lance!”

“Coming!” Lance hopped into the elevator standing to the side of Shiro and Keith. Shiro watched the dial as it slowly flicked to each floor. Keith leaned on the metal ornate paneling. Lance couldn’t help but notice the elevator inspection sign and its date. It hasn’t been inspected in ten years.

Keith smirked from behind Lance. “Hope the elevator doesn’t crash again.” Lance clutched the handle of the tote.

“Ha-ha,” Keith was probably lying about the elevator breaking.

“Me too,” Shiro replied not taking his eyes of the dial. Okay, now’s the time to freak out. Also didn’t help that Lance just noticed there was no thirteen floor on the panel of buttons.

The doors rang and Lance was the first one out of the elevator. Keith held his smirk as he led the way and Shiro turned around looking at Lance as he followed Keith. Looking apologetic, Shiro responded with “It only broke a few times.”

That wasn’t helping.

They arrived at a door. Number three on floor fourteen. Top floor. Lance couldn’t pinpoint whether the two of them were super rich and lived in an old building for the hell of it or there was an ulterior motive to living here.

It was a nice place with probably a lot of history.

It was just out of Lance’s comfort zone.

Keith opened the door tossing the keys back to Shiro. “I’m getting something to drink . . . want anything?” Keith asked Shiro followed.

Lance stepped in and the place was such a jarring difference he wondered if he had stepped into a portal. Shiro was sitting on a kitchen stool by a counter, putting Keith’s keys into a small dish as behind him Keith was going through the fridge. There was an archway leading into the living room with a couch, a couple of armchairs, a flatscreen and desk with an easel facing out to a balcony.

There was also a huge dog (Lance thought it was a wolf at first glance) sleeping in one of the armchairs.

Lance turned back to see Shiro making himself some tea as the kitchen was still visible due to the countertop.

He turned back. Three doors, two on one side of the living room and another door opposite. Bedrooms and bathroom was Lance’s conclusion.

Lance walked around seeing the rack of DVDs and a few used game systems.  Shiro and Keith didn’t seem like people who played video games but who knows? The couch had a few blankets on it and the desk looked as if someone constantly used it with an open laptop, still running, multiple pens and papers scattered all over, newspaper clippings- 

Shiro nudged Lance with a cold water bottle and he jumped. “We didn’t know what you wanted,” Shiro explained as Keith came out of the kitchen drinking a can of coffee.

“He’s too busy trying to figure out how we live in a historic, luxury apartment,” Keith climbed over the couch and lied down. He glanced at Lance. “Right?”

“I mean I-well how-“

Shiro took a sip and used his mug to motion to Keith. “Tell him. I know your dying to.” Lance’s attention turned to Keith who sat up, stretching his arms out.

“Place is haunted.”

“I’m sorry?”

“It’s not,” Shiro clarified but Keith shook his head. “Is too. That’s why this apartment was so cheap. Cause no one wants to live in the apartment where a four-person death happened.”

“Excuse me!?” Lance shrieked now seeing their home with a new outlook. Shiro slightly tipped Lance’s water bottle, a silent instruction for him to take a drink in hopes of calming him down.

“Everything was replaced. They renovated the whole apartment,” Shiro attempted to explain again only to have Keith cut in with. 

“Only because there was so much blood.”

Lance turned to Shiro hoping he would rebuttal that but Shiro’s lips were tight. Instead, he attempted to change the subject with “So Lance. What’s the plan?”

Lance tried to shove the information he just received in the back of his head now remembering the primary reason for why he was here. “Where are all the products I gave you?” Lance asked.

“Bathroom,” Keith got up leading the way to the door Lance had guessed earlier for the bathroom. Lance opened the door only to walk out. 

“How bad were the deaths?” he demanded. The reason for this demand was one look at the bathroom and it was clear this place was for the rich. The bathroom itself had the basic things such as a countertop, sink, toilet and so on but it the was fact there was a separate shower and a large corner tub a few people could fit in it at once. 

Keith opened his mouth but Shiro held his hand up. “Don’t.” Keith slowly narrowed his eyes, turning to his boyfriend and Shiro sighed knowing he lost as he just tried to give Keith an order.

“It was a double homicide and double suicide,” Keith said not taking his eyes of Shiro. “Three lovers murdered by one of the woman’s husbands. He husband murdered the two women she was cheating on him with and before he could attack his wife, she jumped off the balcony and then he killed himself.” 

Shiro groaned into his hands. “This is why people don’t want to come over. Because you keep telling them this.”

Keith turned to Lance. “I think it’s romantic.”

“You would. You think Romeo and Juliet is romantic. It’s horrific.” 

“Where . . . “ Lance slowly spoke out. “Where did it happen . . .” Keith began listing off places off his fingers, clearly not shaken. “Chloe was murdered in the bed. It woke Eliza and Marybeth. Eliza died supposedly here in the living room. Before Lucas could kill wife Marybeth, she took her own life by falling back off the balcony into the parking lot and Lucas killed himself the balcony.” 

Keith walked into the bathroom. Lance turned to Shiro. “How do you guys know about this?”

“Owners had to tell us of the deaths because the reason the price is low due to people assuming it's, like Keith said, haunted.” 

“It is!” Keith shouted back as they heard him put products on the countertop sink. His head popped out from the bathroom. “The only reason we are not being haunted is ‘cause we are lovers,” Keith argued. Shiro shook his head but Keith slammed his hands on the door frame. “Then explain how every previous single tenant was being haunted-“

“-they weren’t being haunted-“

Keith gave Lance a knowing look. “They were–they all moved out of fear and Shiro had the same stuff happen to him but when I moved in and only after we started dating-“

“You rented this place!?” Lance yelled and Shiro muttered. “It’s not haunted, it’s just an unfortunate circumstance." 

“The banging stopped! The cold spots disappeared! The random grandfather clock sounds even though we didn’t have a grandfather clock!? Gone! Katie and I both-“

“Who’s Katie?” Lance asked, doing his best to follow the story.

“Someone just as crazy Keith when it comes to ghosts and aliens.” 

“Don’t. Aliens exist.”

From the look of Keith’s face and Shiro’s exhausted eyes, this was probably the only thing they argued about. The two made some sort of nonverbal agreement and they dropped the subject. Shiro motioned for Lance to follow they went back to the bathroom.

Shiro began to explain. “Katie is a friend. They are working at that new arcade in the Altea district-“

Lance pointed at Shiro. “Holt’s Arcade?”

“You know of it?” Keith asked as he sat down on the edge of the bathtub. Lance nodded excitedly.

“Yeah. I got a friend who works there who I’ve been helping for the grand opening. Pidge?” Lance went through all the products he had given Keith. Keith looked up at the ceiling. Shiro leaned against the door, sliding down to sit.

“Maybe they know each other?” Shiro offered. Keith shrugged now focusing his attention on Lance.

“Who knows, Katie is an enigma when it comes to social groups.”

Lance brought his palms together making a loud clapping sound, startling the two men. “Shirt.” Lance looked at Keith. Lance wasn’t focusing really hard on Keith but by the hesitance, he could feel the nervousness fill the air. “I have to see it to fix it-“

“Okay okay-“ Keith unbuttoned the shirt, tossing the shirt to Shiro. Shiro caught it and let out a holler paired with a few claps. Keith took off one of his shoes and whipped it at Shiro, who narrowly dodged Keith’s deadly aim. Lance steadied himself on the sink trying not to laugh. This was not he expected to spend his Sunday afternoon. He turned to face Keith but found his throat going dry. 

Keith sitting on the bathtub edge, steadying himself with the infected arms. His neck had also been covered in spots of rashes and thankfully, it didn’t spread to his chest.

Not because it was a nice chest with some really nice abs-no! It was because the chest would have taken a bit longer to heal same as if Keith had it spread to his face, which again thankfully, hasn’t gotten that far. 

“Take a picture,” Keith mumbled, covering his arm, thinking Lance was staring for all the wrong reasons. Lance tapped his own cheek.

“The scar.”

“What about it?” Shiro asked as Lance felt a complete mood change the minute he mentioned it. “Was it caused by eczema?”

“No,” was Shiro and Keith’s simultaneous answer.

“If you want I can tone it down with some scar creams Allura is develop-“

“I don’t want to get rid of it,” Keith answered firmly. Lance made a sight glance at Shiro who seemed to turn into jelly when Keith said that. Lance nodded, respecting the boundary Keith laid out.

Lance didn’t bother prodding on what caused it. That’s not why he’s here. Grabbing some of the products, he knelt in front of Keith. He spilled them on the floor, sifting through them. Lance held his hand out to Keith.

“The arm.”

Keith tentatively revealed his arm and Lance gently lifted the arm, inspecting while going back to the bottles. He grabbed one showing Keith.

“How did you use this one?”

“I just put it on my skin and rubbed it in and-“ 

“This is a body wash if you just ‘rub it in’ with no water, it will dry your skin. That paired with your already dried skin is what is causing this. It will tone down in a week if you don’t do that again but I can help stop the pain and maybe speed up the process faster?” Lance offered. He heard Shiro breathe a sigh of relief behind him. 

“Thank you, Lance.“

“No, it’s my fault I should have-“

“This isn’t your fault.” Keith cut in, not allowing Lance to take any blame. Lance went through the products. He lifted up a wrapped bath bomb. 

“How is your shower routine?”

“How long, cold or hot water, what products-“ Lance began moving his hands the bathroom around attempting to make it as clear as he possibly could be.

“Every day. Hot showers. I don’t know fifteen-twenty minutes? I don’t time myself . . .” Keith muttered. Lance pulled out his phone and began typing in it.

“Don’t do that. The water is only going to make it worse. Cold or lukewarm water only. You can still bathe and shower but not as frequent because your skin will dry up faster. I’m going to have Allura hold off some dry shampoos onto the side so on days you don’t bathe your hair won’t look like a mess and there is some other products we can give you to keep clean but-“ Lance looked up from his rambling, pointing to the Keith’s neck. 

“If that extends, you will have trouble breathing.”

“I’m sorry?” Keith asked and Shiro sat up a little straighter.

“What are you talking about Lance?”

“He’s been scratching it in the past and when more and more skin gets irritated, the condition can spread. Blisters can start to form and if we don’t treat this-“

“I’m sorry. We? I mean besides working that store how do I know if this isn't some ploy to get me to use more products at that shop?“

“Im literall-!“ Lance waved his phone around. “I’m literally going to school for biology and chemistry to become a dermatologist Keith. I know this sucks but if you don’t work with me then this is only going to get worse and there is a small, but likely chance of death due to your stubbornness!”

A sharp inhale and Keith turned away. Lance slammed his phone down on the edge, face up. He crossed his arms, looking away.

“Plus I’ve been there.”

Shiro stood up to take a seat next to Keith. Keith picked up the phone. It was on a picture of what Keith assumed was Lance’s family and friends at a party. The younger, teenage version of Lance was unmistakable in that photo with the same smile and the person linking arms next to him was Allura, flashing a smile just as bright.

Lance was wearing a tank top. His skin was completely flaking and peeling off. Shiro squinted and gasped. Keith took another look to see why the reaction but then he saw it. Lance’s arms were covered in cuts caused by the skin falling off.

It was a stage Keith got to and never wanted to. 

The smile in the picture now looked fake.

Lance lifted his arm out, showing faint scars that matched up the photo. “You know no matter how hard you try, it’s not going away. It’s permanent so you have to live with it and accept it and manage the hell out of it-“

Lance reeled back to the pleading he gave Keith when he was about to walk out of the demo.

He was terrified of someone else being in his position. 

“What changed?” Shiro asked. Lance shrugged. “I found out why it was happening. Anxiety, school stress, went through a bad break up-it all built up and my body reacted. So bad I was hospitalized.” Lance looked Keith dead in the eye. “Something or somethings trigger it.”

Keith looked at the ground. He knew what Lance was talking about with triggering. He came to the conclusion on his own on what event tipped him over the edge along with the months that followed. 

A bell chime rang through the home. Lance leaned away, confused as Shiro stood up, frustrated.

“Shiro-“

“No, I’m putting you offline. This is more important.” 

Shiro walked off and Lance gently nudged the door closed. “What was that about,” Lance whispered. Keith sighed.

“One of my jobs is working online in a . . . chat room where I help people . . .” Keith started. Lance look unconvinced and Keith sighed again. “It’s a sex chat room. It’s how we pay most of the rent, necessities, Kosmo’s check-ups, and Shiro’s medicine. That along with like two jobs Shiro is doing plus the work for Allura and then I do a bunch of other odd jobs-“

“Hey woah okay okay-“ Lance put his hand on Keith’s knee. He let out a small laugh as he shook his head. He looked up. “That’s what’s doing it,” Lance whispered to himself.

“I’m sorry?” Keith asked and Lance let go.

“Mine was caused by anxiety-it started to get better with therapy and doctor’s appointments and all that fun but you-“ Lance looked at Keith in all seriousness. “It’s stress isn’t it? When’s the last time you had a day out? Or slept well?” 

Keith had no words. He heard diet was the problem, exercise was the problem, living situation was the problem-multiple different reasons on what could of caused it. 

Shiro walked back into the bathroom. He took a seat back on the floor. “It’s off,” Shiro said.

“It’s me.”

“What?” Shiro asked. Keith ran his hands over his skin and slammed them down on the porcelain, taking a stand. 

“I’m doing this!?” Keith shouted, looking ready to break. “God, I –why didn’t I-it adds up doesn’t it? I mean, I keep taking on more and more workloads and all those stupid emails on job notifications and we rarely make rent on time and-"

Shiro turned to Lance who was slowly moving the bath bomb in his hands. He seemed unaffected by Keith having a meltdown. Lance pointed at Shiro with the bath bomb.

“You want to help your man?”

“Yes.” No hesitation. Lance liked that. 

“Okay, some rules. One, keeping skin in control. I can assist with that. I can provide the products, advice, do that monitoring thing Allura for Shiro does but tailored to Keith-"

Lance stood up and turned on the bathtub faucet. He ran his hand through the water, frowning. He then began to play with the faucet to adjust the temperature.

“Two, Keith needs to avoid stress. It’s a primary factor. I know quitting your jobs is a very unlikely thing to do so we counter that. Introduce more fun into his life. Take him places, hobbies, and so on-“ 

Keith seemed uncertain. “I mean you can’t force fun or just tell someone to stop being stressed. . .” 

Lance nodded as he tested the water with his hand as it rose. “Of course not but we can change the environment and introduce some new ones.”

“I know you're trying Lance but trust me when I say this-“ Shiro said, eyes dark with worry. “Keith would unfortunately rather die than give up everything he’s worked for.” 

Lance turned off the water. He sat down on the bathtub edge. He smiled.

The same smile that he used to push Keith into trying the demo. 

“You guys haven’t fucked each other, have you?”

Keith almost shoved Lance into the water but he focused his attention on Shiro, who choked so hard out of shock Lance would just bring it out in the open. The poor man was now coughing and Keith was trying to rub his back. Shiro looked up.

“How did you know!?” he rasped.

"Shiro!" Keith blurted out, only confirming Lance's hunch.

“When I met you, Shiro, you raved of your boyfriend of over a year,” Lance began to explain. “-and Keith mentioned this has been going on for more than two years and unless you guys are sadists you guys have been forced into a vanilla relationship, right?” 

They didn't need to answer. Their faces told Lance he wasn't wrong. Pure frustration, anger, and blush so red from Keith, Lance could get away with calling it another bad case of eczema. Shiro covering is mouth but still couldn’t hide the blush on his nose and ears forming paired with the scared look that Lance was able to figure it out. 

Time to really have some fun.

“Shiro, don’t you . . .” Lance naively rolled his hand around, as if he was attempting to find a solution. He dropped his hand and looked Shiro in the eyes.

“Don’t you want to really feel Keith?”

“That’s it!” Keith nearly tackled Lance but Lance stood up in time, grabbing Keith by the shoulder. He motioned to the bath, still holding the bath tub.

“Three, the most important one. Listen and do as I say-” Lance refused to look away from the either of them. “-and together, we can help Keith.” 

Keith swallowed hard. Shiro crossed his arms. “Well, it sounds like a plan. I’m in. Keith?”

Keith looked scared. Lance got that. The poor guy probably had been lied to over and over again being promised cures and more bull that only resulted in trust issues. He should probably take it easy on him.

On the other hand, Lance wanted Keith to wake up. If this was how he had to do it, then so be it.

“Fine.” Keith agreed, looking to the ground. Lance smiled, feeling triumphant. If he could stop Keith from getting to the point he was at, then all of this was worth it.

“Good-“

He let go of Keith and tossed the bath bomb in the water. 

“-now get it.” 


 

Chapter Text

 


Keith watched as the bath bomb fizzled in the tub. He turned to Lance, who was stepping out of the bathroom, pointing at Shiro.

 “He better be in there when I come back! If he doesn’t get in, throw him in. That’s a forty dollar bath bomb,” Lance explained, shutting the door. Keith began to stammer.

 “Wait! When you come back!?” Keith asked. Lance confirmed his suspicions by talking from the other side.

 “Don’t worry. The bath will cover most of you.”

 “Oh my god,” Keith turned around to Shiro who dipped his hands in the water pulling up a handful of light teal, shimmering water. He sniffed it.

 “Aloe and oatmeal and . . .?

 “It’s coconut Shiro!” Lance shouted, sounding more impatient with each second. “Aloe, Oatmeal, coconut, a little bit of citric acid-I swear, I will toss Keith in myself if you waste it!”

Keith shuffled over to Shiro, yanking him down close so Lance wouldn’t hear.

“So I’m just supposed to get naked and-“

“If Keith is freaking out about having to take a bath, tell him not worry. He’s not my type.” Lance sang out, tapping on the door, his nails hiding the wood in a rhythmic pattern. Keith took off his other shoe and threw it at the door. Lance only knocked back louder. 

Shiro barked out a laugh while Keith slammed his hands on the porcelain only to pull them back due to pain. Shiro reached out to see if Keith was okay but Keith already had moved onto trying to pull off the skinny jeans as fast as he could, nearly falling onto the ground. 

Shiro held out his hand to support him and Keith took it, kicking the jeans into the corner and going for his underwear. “’My type’ my ass. Not according to Allura,” Keith muttered under his breath. Shiro shook his head, trying not to laugh at Keith’s competitive nature.

Underwear was off. Shiro let go of Keith so he could get in the bath. He did notice Shiro eyeing him up and down, taking him in with his eyes. Keith rubbed his arm, avoiding Shiro’s gaze.

“Help me in?” he asked quietly. Shiro nodded, holding his hand out Keith again.

“Of course.”

Keith lifted a leg up but stopped.

“Lance I swear if this causes ano-“

“I’m going to kick the door down if you don’t get in!” Lance retorted back, clearly insulted Keith wasn’t trusting him. Keith shut his eyes, shoving one foot in the water, grip tightening on Shiro’s hand. The fizziness of the water was a strange tingly sensation but nothing was burning or itching so in went the other foot.

“Careful. Don’t rush,” Shiro said as Keith slowly sat down in the bath and lied down against the bathtub wall tiles. He looked at the water noticing the water was such a thick, bright mixture that one wouldn’t be able to see anything lower than his chest. Shiro knelt down on the floor, letting go of his hand. He relaxed his head on the bathtub edge, looking at Keith.

“Does it hurt?” Shiro asked. Keith shook his head.

“Is he in?” Lance called out.

“Yes,” Shiro responded. Lance slowly opened the door, peeking to confirm if Shiro was correct. He walked in, closing the door behind him. Keith quickly started to feel self-conscious now that Lance was also in the room. It was just . . . weird to Keith to have this guy he only met a couple times now watch him take a bath. 

Lance hopped on the bathroom counter, shifting to sit cross-legged across from the two of them. “Is the temperature okay?”

“The tempe-oh yeah. I mean it’s kind of cold-“

“Better than hot. That’s going to cause more skin peeling,” Lance cut in. “Stop freaking out.”

“I’m not . . .“

Lance let out a huff glancing at Shiro for confirmation. Shiro avoided Lance’s gaze. He wasn’t wrong. Keith did feel a bit panicky. Sure, right now things might feel fine but what if a reaction or relapse happens later? Or what happens if Lance does all these things and there is no progress? Or- 

“The point of a bath is to relax.”

“What exactly am I supposed to do!?” Keith asked, feeling irritation with Lance. Lance was like a rollercoaster of emotions with him. One moment, he’d find the guy incredibly sweet and selfless and adorable. The next, his personality would drive Keith up the wall. 

Shiro offered his hand to Keith again. Keith sighed, shifting in the bath, leaning on the edge to hold Shiro’s hand. The little motion brought calmness and a sense of serenity to Keith.

Lance watched this small act. He leaned forward, shoulders on knees, chin in hands. 

“How long have you been dating?”

“What?” Keith asked, confused why Lance would ask such a question right now. Shiro smiled. 

“Eighteen months.” 

Has it been that long? Keith found himself turning away from Lance’s studying stare to look at the tiles. Has he really had Shiro for eighteen months?

“Who asked who?”

Shiro stuttered at this but Keith filled this one in, recalling the memory. He actually liked how they confessed.

“We both broke down on Thursday afternoon in between me heading off to work and Shiro coming back from. We kissed each other goodbye without realizing it and then I canceled work that day to-“

“K-Keith!” Shiro sputtered out. Keith chuckled, remembering the memory of him walking out of their apartment, not realizing what he and Shiro did, only to storm back in and see Shiro just as bright red as him. 

“Ooh Keith you dawg,” Lance snickered. Keith shrugged but his smile didn’t waver. “So equal confession. Both falling in love at the same time. A romance for the ages!” Lance shouted, holding his hands out as if he was promoting Keith and Shiro’s backstory as the next Hollywood hit.

“Nah, I had a crush on Shiro for years,” Keith explained. Shiro’s grip on Keith’s hand became tighter. Keith didn’t look at Shiro. “He was going to get married." 

Keith didn’t even need to look at Lance to access the amount of shock that was plastered all over his face. Shiro rapidly beginning to clarify was confirmation that Lance probably had made the same assumption many do. 

That Keith was the one who caused the wedding to break off.

However, only Shiro and Keith along with a handful of a few close friends and family knew the real reason. 

“My fiancé and I broke up before the wedding and there were other events that were tied to-Keith had nothing to do wit-plus us getting together didn’t happen for almost a year after the wedding-it’s not his fault,” Shiro ended with.

“I didn’t say it was.”

 Keith turned to Lance. He was staring at Keith and Shiro, not out of suspicion or disbelief but a feeling Keith couldn’t pinpoint. Envy? Sorrow? Whatever it was, Keith smiled back at Lance. It was not judgment.

He wasn’t judging Shiro and Keith. Lance beamed back.

“How are you feeling?”

Keith looked at his boyfriend, trying to figure out what Lance meant. Shiro splashed Keith lightly with his prosthetic arm.

“The bath, Keith,” Shiro said. Keith had honestly begun to forget he was soaking in the mixture. The conversation Lance had brought up about him and Shiro had distracted him enough for a moment to, indeed relax. Keith looked back Lance.

Who was wearing a stupid, know-it-all grin.

Keith attempted to pick a handful of water as best as he could. He could only manage some droplets and flick them at Lance who held his hands out in protest as he snickered.

“Just stop that!” Keith protested. Lance examined his nails. Keith’s hands dropped in the water and he sank a little further in, hating how easy it was for Lance to steer the conversation. “Just . . . don’t . . .”

“-go breaking my heart-“ Lance mumbled, picking at a cuticle. Keith’s eyes widened and before he could protest Shiro-

“-I couldn’t if I tried-“ Shiro responded back. Lance looked up, excited. He extended his hand out to Shiro and Keith.

Honey if I look restless-“

Shiro looked at Keith, enjoying the agony both he and Lance thrust Keith into unexpectedly. “Baby you’re not that kind!” 

“Let me out. I want out,” Keith demanded. Lance graciously bowed at Keith. 

“I mean if you’re willing to give me a free show then by all means.”

Keith dunked his entire body into the bath to scream. With the few seconds of solitude, Keith came out from the water for a breath of air. Shiro focused his attention on to Lance.

“Keith actually has a really nice voice.” 

“Shiro!” Keith wanted to drown. He didn’t think he had a nice voice. He always thought Shiro had a Disney sounding one and could listen to it for hours and Lance just now with-

Not his own though.

“One of Keith’s many talents I presume-“

“-love doesn't discriminate between the sinners and the saints-it takes and it-“

Lance toppled off the bathroom sink as he reached for his phone. Shiro and Keith both sat up as Lance jumped up, answering his phone.

“Allura?! Wha-Slow down! What happened!?”

Keith leaned to the edge as Lance turned away.

“Is everything alright Lance?” Shiro asked. He didn’t answer as he continued to listen to Allura on the other end.

“You caught her!? I’m coming over right now! Of course yes. I know exactly where security footage is-Allura-Allura! I’m on my way!” Lance hung up. He grabbed his bag turning to the Keith and Shiro. 

“I have to go. One of my coworkers finally caught the person that has been stealing from our store for the past three months and I’m the only one that knows what video-tapes have her on them and the police is waiting with Ryan and Allura and-“

“We understand. Go, Lance,” Shiro cut in. Lance began to walk out but stopped.

“Keith, you can soak in that for about fifteen more minutes and then moisturize your skin with Potion Lotion. Instructions are in the text I sent you!”

With that, Lance had bolted leaving Shiro and Keith alone. Keith cocked his head.

“Shiro . . .”

“Hm?”

“What exactly is Allura and Lance’s relationship?”


 Lance tossed miniature, glass crystal sphere in the air as he stared at the sparkling shards hanging from the ceiling of ‘Cavernous Crystals,’ a shop specializing in selling different types of rocks, gemstones, and valuable stones. On his side was a gift certificate to ‘Sal’s Diner.’ As Lance continued to toss the sphere, he picked up the glossy piece of paper.

 “Are you guys sure you guys don’t want this?”

Hunk looked up from the cash register. He was sitting there, reading a cookbook. His girlfriend, Shay was placing crystals on the counter, polishing them carefully one by one. Hunk shook his head.

“Shay and I have eaten there way too much now and Sal keeps giving us these things as thanks for reworking his menu,” Hunk explained. Shay smiled softly, looking a bit apologetic as she spoke in a quiet calm voice. 

“I feel a little bad but I’m starting to get tired of eating there all the time,” she said. “You would have more fun, Lance. Plus, it’s here in the Balmera district and you rarely visit these parts.”

Shay was right on that. Lance lived in the highest end of Altea in a shared apartment with Hunk. He visited Pidge and Matt as they helped their family set up Holt’s Arcade, an arcade that was by Altea’s mall. If he wasn’t working at Allura’s family shop, he would be helping her and Coran in the backroom or hanging out with her in her apartment above the shop.

Keith and Shiro were in the middle of Altea and Balmera, so it wasn’t so far from his comfort zone.

In truth, Shay was the only reason to go to this side as she worked and lived in this section of the city. Even then, Shay would visit Hunk and Lance’s place rather than the other way around just because they both found Shay’s brother a little intimidating.

A free meal was a free meal though.

“It really is a beautiful place. Especially at night,” Shay stopped polishing a crystal to look all starry-eyed. Hunk smiled at Shay.

Sometimes Lance wondered why he kept surrounding himself with people who were in love. 

“You guys know I’ve been kind of swamped for a while with-hey!” Lance pouted as Hunk had leaned over the counter to swipe the crystal orb from him in mid-air. Hunk waved it, giving Lance a disapproving look. 

“Do you know how expensive these are?” Hunk asked, setting it down next to the rest of the crystals Shay continued to give such attention to detail to. Lance folded the certificate in his pocket just so he could cross his arms. Shay tapped Hunk’s shoulder. He leaned behind the cash register, pulling out a small box. She reached into her pocket for a key. 

Lance sat up. “It’s not like I was going to drop it.”

Hunk and Shay looked unconvinced. Using the key, she opened the wooden box, revealing a box of glittering jewels that Lance might have assumed were fake just on how much they sparkled. On the other hand, he knew Shay’s family would never have a fake item in the store so whatever worth Shay would say those rocks were, she was most likely telling the truth.

She picked out a couple and began to clean them.

“Are those for the couple that’s getting married?” Hunk asked. Shay nodded.

“Custom rings. My brother already made the bands and I helped them pick out the stones. My parents are going to then assemble it all together,” Shay moved carefully. “These stones alone could pay for both of yours’ college tuition,” she joked.

Lance frowned. All that work and money for just some stupid rings?

He always thought actions spoke louder than words. An act could be more valuable than an item. One could shower someone would gifts and items to prove ‘love’ but all that meant nothing if one couldn’t match it with how the portrayed feelings. 

Then again, did he even know what the hell he was talking about? 

He had been the cause of almost every relationship he had ever been in falling apart so who knows? Maybe he was supposed to spend his life savings on rocks and gold.

No, that still didn’t sound right.

Hunk’s laughter interrupted his mental argument with himself. Lance focused on his attention to his friends. Hunk was snapping his fingers in front of Lance. “You spaced out.” 

“Oh sorry. What were you saying?”

Hunk went back to scanning the recipe book. “How about inviting those- what were their names- Shirogane and Kogane?”

“To what?”

“To Sal’s Diner,” Shay explained, without looking up from her work. A siren went off in Lance’s head. This was dangerous territory. It could be a trap. Part of him was sure that this was an innocent idea that Hunk and Shay thought up of.

But another part of him, reminded him that Hunk was also friends with Pidge and the two of them have plotted together at Lance’s expense in the past.

Also didn’t help that he knew that he had sent a few late night texts to the both of them more than once about how hot Keith and Shiro was.

“Why would I do that . . .?” Lance slowly asked, his words mimicking the movement of stepping around a minefield. They remained unfazed as they continued to focus on their individual tasks. Shay gave Lance a quick glance. 

“You mentioned you were helping that Koth-“ 

“Keith-“ Lance corrected. Shay went back to focusing on her work but continued to talk.

“-yes him. You had that whole rant a day ago about how he is so pushed to the limit and how Sheero-“

“Shiro-“ 

“-right, looked just as exhausted so invite them to a nice, free meal. I’m sure they will appreciate it.”

“Shay’s right,” Hunk closed the book. “Plus Sal’s Diner, despite it usually being packed, is pretty fun. Decent tunes, the service is good-“

Lance lied back down on the floor, staring at the crystals. Their colors bounced off the walls, reflecting other items in the shop. All the hues melded together, like a makeshift false galaxy. 

Lance reached into his pocket, touching the gift certificate.

What’s the worst that could happen?


Shiro let out a long drawl of jumbled words as he ran his fingers through his hair. He had been sitting in front of a pile of papers and a notebook in a small coffee shop, Bean There, Done That. He had been editing the same sentence over and over again. Usually, he didn’t have a problem if the piece he got if it was an interesting enough read. Then reading it over and over again wouldn’t feel like drilling a hole into his skull would be a better alternative than editing the assigned work.

Sadly, this was one of those cases where he found himself falling asleep at the work. Shiro didn’t know how much longer he could keep reading about lipstick trends that could save a marriage.

“Here you go, one fresh strawberry frappuccino,” Matt slammed the cup on the table causing Shiro to wake up. Shiro quickly gripped all the papers in a desperate attempt to make sure nothing spilled on them.

“Matt what are you-I already had a drink!” Shiro exclaimed, motioning to the expresso. Matt grabbed the expresso and tossed it into a nearby plant.

“I don’t see another drink,” Matt innocently slid the drink towards Shiro who only responded with a displeased frown. He didn’t even like frappuccinos. Shiro held his hand out and Matt pulled out a napkin from the dispenser on the table. As Shiro cleaned the light spillage, Matt grabbed a nearby chair, turning it around and sat down, the back forward so he could rest his elbows on the top. He grabbed a paper, scanning it, only to frown and toss it back down with disinterest. Shiro chuckled, putting the soaked napkin to the side.

“If you wanted to just procrastinate you could have just told me instead of making a scene,” Shiro said as he watched Matt give a dismissive motion to Shiro’s accusation. He reached to grab a coaster from another table putting it under the drink. 

Shiro attempted to take a drink of the drink Matt had brought him. One sip and Shiro slowly brought it down and attempted to give it back to Matt, who gently shoved it back . “Humor me,” he mumbled. “I’ll give you a free expresso if you just pretend to have a problem with it. I can’t keep dealing with soccer moms I’ll choke myself with all the reusable straws.”

Shiro snorted as he forced down another sip. “Kinky.” he gave Shiro a wink as he picked up the used napkin, crumpling it up. Without getting up, he went for another napkin and began just doing circular motions on the table with it, cleaning virtually nothing. “I can’t believe you haven’t been fired yet. When’s the arcade open?” 

“August,” Matt responded, in a sing-song voice. He then glowered. “If we get all the machines working, the new games get finished in time, clean everything-“ Matt sank lower into the chair, ready to fall into the floor. He would have if Shiro had not pulled him back up.

“Matthew Holt, figures you’d be slack-Shiro?!”

Lance stopped dead in his tracks as Shiro turned around to see why the voice sounded so familiar. Shiro got up. 

“Lance, what are you doing here? Did everything turn out fine with the shop?” Shiro asked out of concern recalling Lance's needing to leave the other night.

“Everything is fine. I-“ Lance stuffed his hands in his pockets. “I’m here to pick up an order for everyone at the store but I’ve been waiting at the counter for twenty minutes-“ Lance glared Matt. “-cause no one is there.”

Matt got up, tossing the napkin at Lance who yelped in disgust. “Fine Lanceeeee,” Matt gave Lance a middle finger as Lance playfully stuck his tongue back at him. Shiro watched the interaction and came to a realization.

“Oh, you two know each other because of-“

“Pidge,” Lance finished the thought. “Should have figured you knew Matt too.”

Matt pointed at Shiro. “Know this guy? This man is responsible for my Monsters and Mana nightmares!” 

Lance banged his hands on the table, leaning towards Shiro. Shiro almost had a heart attack not only due to Lance’ enthusiasm but because Lance being right in his face with those bright eyes which were most likely not good for his health.

“You play that game too!?”

“Yeah, you play?” Shiro asked, never expecting Lance to be a player. Lance a seat at the chair my Matt had abandoned.

“Allura and I used to. It was a fun little game to play in freshmen year of college but then we got super busy leaving Pidge and Hunk to drift with Matt in their own Monster and Mana sessions,”

Shiro began to connect threads. “I’ve been playing with Matt, Katie, Coran, and guy named Hunk for a few years now . . . would it be the same-“ Lance looked up in disbelief.

“I can’t believe you knew some of my-Matt why didn’t you say anything?” Lance accused. Matt shrugged.

“It slipped my mind!” he exclaimed. “Besides, every time we play, I’m too busy trying to plan an entire campaign with Coran around Shiro because he picks the same class. Each. Time,” Matt announced as he began walking back to the counter to begin preparing the order Lance sent out earlier.

“Paladin’s a good class,” Shiro argued. Matt shook a carton of cream in accusation.

“It’s so boring when you do it every time! At least when Lance played he chose thief! I can work with that!” Matt yelled, furiously mixing drinks. Lance and Shiro stifled a laugh as he watched Matt make the orders badly. Instinct told them they weren’t going to taste good. Shiro focused back to Lance, finding him much more interesting than the work in front of him. He propped his head.

“Thief huh?” Shiro asked. Shiro felt like Lance belonged in a different class and it was on the tip of his tongue but his mind was drawing blanks. Shiro leaned forward. “What were you planning on stealing Lance McClain?”

Lance leaned back, almost toppling to the ground but steadied himself with a vice-like grip on the table. He responded with an anxious laugh, his eyes shifting back and forth to see if anyone else saw the move Shiro just pulled.

When no one did Lance coughed into his hand attempting to collect himself, his cheeks still stained with a blush.

Shiro found it precious.

“I-it was silly. I was a thief. Allura was an archer . . . what’s that?” Lance asked, obviously changing the subject by pointing to Shiro’s drink.

“Strawberry frappuccino. If you want it, be my guest.”

“You sure?”

Shiro’s nod was enough of a confirmation for Lance as he swiped the drink from Shiro, taking quick sips. Shiro’s hands dropped to the table as crossed his arms watching Lance drink. “It’s that busy isn’t it?”

Lance set the drink down and nodded, wiping his mouth the back of his hand. “Technically, this is my break. Tragic, I know.” Shiro tapped his own lips.

“Missed a spot.”

Lance wiped his mouth again. 

“Still didn’t get it.”

“Are you ser-come on,” Lance reached for a napkin. Shiro moved forward, his fingers lingering on Lance's chin. Lance stopped moving as Shiro slowly ran his thumb on the corner of Lance’s lips. He pulled away, releasing Lance and grabbing a napkin to wipe his hands.

“It’s gone,” Shiro beamed. Lance stood up, reaching for the back pocket of his pants. Shiro tilted his head as Lance slowly put a gift certificate on the table. Shiro picked it up recognizing the diner it was for.

“It’s for you and Keith,” Lance enunciated the word ‘and’ avoiding Shiro’s eye contact. “Hunk had a free one and-“

“You and Keith should go,” Shiro responded.

“What?” Lance rasped out. Shiro tapped the papers on the table. “Deadline to get this piece into the magazine is this Saturday and this expires in a couple days,” Shiro handed the certificate back to Lance to show him the expiration date. Lance squinted, eyes widening at Shiro being correct.

“Don’t waste it. Take Keith.”

“I’m not sure if Keith would even want to hang out with only me,” Lance responded. He rubbed his arm in discomfort at the thought of having to get turned down to hang out with Keith. Shiro looked at his wrist and exhaled.

“Do you have the time Lance. Left my watch at home.”

“Oh! Sure I-“Lance pulled out his phone. “It’s-hey!”

Shiro had swiped Lance’s phone. He tutted as he quickly went to contacts. “No password Lance? I thought you were better than that,” he said, giving Lance a disapproving look. Shiro did appreciate that Lance did not change Keith’s contact picture. It was a small joy seeing that candid.

Lance attempted to grab the phone from Shiro but Shiro held him away with one hand as he typed with another.

“What are you-“ 

Lance’s phone dinged, signaling a message has been sent. Shiro turned the phone around, showing the screen.

“Hey Keithy <3 You. Me. Dinner Friday at 8 ;)”

Lance’s eyes widened as he looked up at Shiro to perhaps protest or yell-Shiro would never know because Keith responded immediately.

“Shiro, give Lance his phone back. If he’s serious about hanging out though he better be buying unless he wants to eat fast food. Lance, I'm sorry you didn’t put a password on your phone.”

Shiro handed Lance back his phone as he hugged himself, melodramatically. “He sees right through me.” Shiro loved Keith for little things like that.

“You knew he would be able to tell?”

Shiro nodded. “He can read me like a book. Hard to sneak anything by him.” 

“I feel bad.”

“What? Why?” 

“This was supposed to be for you and Keith,” Lance mumbled. Shiro coyly moved into Lance’s personal space again, startling the poor guy.

“I guess you’ll have to make it up to me in the future,”

“Shiro-“ Lance whispered. 

“Order for Lance McLame!”

Lance got up, chair toppling over. “I’ll see you later Shiro,” he managed to choke out as he speed-walked to Matt, grabbing the orders for his coworkers and leaving the shop. Matt jumped over the counter and ran to Shiro, who began to focus back on his job. 

“What the fuck was that Shiro!?” Matt loudly whispered. 

“Sir, my macchiato is missing foam-“ a woman squeaked from behind Matt. He held his hand up.

“Miss, we are all missing things in life. Money, purposes, meaning-“

“No, but really if there is no foam my macchiato it isn’t really a macchiato-“

“Is this really how you want to spend your afternoon?” Matt asked turning to the woman. “Arguing with a twenty some who is silently judging your hairstyle?”

The two didn’t move until the woman sighed and walked out the store mumbling “I’m going to give this place the worst review” to which Matt responded with “Thank you!” He moved back to addressing what he witnessed with Shiro. Shiro didn’t look up but was humming to himself. 

“I don’t know what you were referring to Matthew.”

“Don’t play stupid with me. I don’t know what you and Keith are planning but I know that move,” Matt took a seat, starring at Shiro. “He had nothing on his lips,” Matt spoke to Shiro in a hushed tone. Shiro finally looked at Matt who was scanning Shiro to try to figure out what the ulterior motive was.

However, Shiro’s poker-face was too good. Matt squinted.

“What are you two doing?”


 Keith and Kosmo walked around Shiro.

“Let me help,” Keith demanded. 

The three had gathered around in the back of the apartment building in the parking lot and were doing repairs on their motorcycle. Initially, it was Keith’s but after Shiro had begun using it, repairing it, and even eventually teaching Keith how to ride it better, it only felt fair to call it both theirs.                         

“You know cleaning isn’t the same as fixing,” Keith argued as Shiro grabbed some wax. Shiro laughed as he continued to work on the motorcycle. 

“Yeah but last time, you and Katie made such a shady mod on it that it not only woke up the entire neighborhood but it put this thing out of commission for a week,” Shiro patted the cycle. “You would find a way to sneak an alteration.”

Keith frowned but he couldn’t deny that Shiro was right. He enjoyed trying to make the cycled vehicle go as fast as it possible could and he was no stranger to biker injuries but he loved the thrill of seeing how hard he could push a moment on the road.

Keith handed Shiro a microfiber towel. He watched as Shiro worked. Luckily for Keith, Shiro was sane enough to bring him back down to reality reminding him this is not a movie and not every sick maneuver Keith was going to throw out on the street was going to go as planned.

“You know it was kind of a dick move of you to do that to Lance . . . and me,” Keith brought up. Shiro stopped.

“Do you want to cancel?”

“No-I mean-does he even want to hang out or does he only want to hang out cause you put him on the spot?”

“Hm, the ‘I don’t know if Keith wants to hang out with me; he’s so angsty,’” Keith lightly puched Shiro at that jab. Shiro snickered, continuing. “-paired with Allura’s ‘Lonce gets really hands on with people he finds exceptionally, gorgeously, beautifully hot’-“ Shiro imitated Allura’s voice as he batted his eyelashes. Keith gave another shove.

“She never said that!” Keith shoulders were shaking from trying to hold back laughter. Shiro put his hands up defensively. 

“I’m just saying why not? What’s the worst, possible thing that can happen? You get to hang out with this really fun nice guy who is spending his free time helping us-again for free-and you get a free meal.”

“I do like free . . .” Keith said to himself. Shiro snapped his finger pointing at Keith.

“Plus, I’ve known Lance longer than you. You need to catch up with Lance downtime.”

“Oh so you spending time with him at his work place is completely the same thing as me going down to Balmera for dinner. Okay,” Keith smirked at the predicament. Shiro side-eyed Keith.

“Don’t worry about that.”

“-and it’s not like we are now showing off with a motorcycle-“ 

“Lance deserves a nice ride. You should deliver it. Like I said. We should thank him for how kind he’s being-“ 

“BS Shiro. Ulterior motive or angle, I don’t know what this is but whatever,” Keith crossed his arms only to uncross them as Kosmo nudged his leg, begging to be petted. Keith knelt down to scratch Kosmo’s ear. Shiro simpered.

“So you’re not going to take the off route to Balmera.”

Keith stopped, eyes widening as blush began forming over his neck up to his face.

“Oh so you are . . .!” Shiro exclaimed, triumphant in catching Keith doing the same thing he’s been doing. Keith stood up, shaking his head. 

“My thing is different. The off route is a better route-“

“-a more pretty route-“

“-a safer route with less cars-“

“-and scenic views-“ Shiro kept cutting in, remembering when Keith discovered the route. Shiro liked that route a lot and knew Lance was going to love it. Keith looked down at Kosmo.

“Attack Shiro.”

“Wait Keith-“

Kosmo leaped away from Keith onto Shiro, toppling to the ground, sitting on top of him as pounded his fist onto the pavement. Keith knelt back down.

“Get him off of me,” Shiro implored as Kosmo began preparing himself to sleep on Shiro’s chest. Shiro could easily lift the dog off himself but he wouldn’t dare.

Keith leaned over, pecking Shiro on the cheek.

“Nah.”

He walked off back into their apartment building.

“I’m going to go text Lance the details for the dinner.” 

“Keith!”


 Lance sat on the curb steps a few blocks away from Altea University. He watched as students who lived in the dorm walked in and out of the building. Lance felt somewhat lucky to find Hunk and be able to afford a small apartment so close to the school rather than having to live in the actual university. 

He was all up for parties but he couldn’t imagine being a senior or someone trying to do summer work right now on a Friday night as the air was filled with music and parties coming from the dorm rooms.

Lance checked his new password protected phone. 

8:30 PM

Keith didn’t seem like the type to know what fashionably late meant. Bail, oh yeah, Keith fit the bail category well. Maybe that’s why Lance’s stomach couldn’t settle as he picked threads off his cardigan duster jacket.

A motorcycle came shredding around the corner. Instincts kicked in as Lance got up just in time before his toes almost got run off. The driver screeched to a halt in front of Lance, engine still running.

Tight pants, loose black top, paired with an old Garrison bomber jacket that looked a little too big on him, black helmet, red motorcycle-who was this asshole?

He tossed Lance a red helmet. Lance caught it, confused if this person had mistaken Lance for someone else. He attempted to hand the helmet back.

“Sorry dude I think-“

The rider took off his helmet and Lance was pretty sure if he clutched the one he was holding anymore, the visor was going to shatter. Keith shook his head, trying to move the bangs away from his eyes.

“Lance I am so sorry I’m late. There was a traffic jam on by Lake Lane alone with construction work and I should have checked ahead and I was already in such a rush I forgot to text-“

“You-you have a motorcycle,” Lance whispered so softly Keith stopped talking. He leaned in.

“What did you say?”

“You have a motorcycle!?” Lance shouted in excitement. 

Keith moved back, attempting to readjust from Lance’s loud yell. “Actually it’s Shiro’s and mine’s but yeah-”

“Can I try?”

“Absolutely not. I’ve seen you drive. No signals I mean-” Keith patted the back of the cycle. “Get on.”

Lance and Keith put on the helmets. Keith instructed Lance. Lance hesitantly put his hands around Keith’s waist. 

“You might need to be a little tighter.”

“Why?”

Keith began to drive and Lance found himself clutching onto Keith for dear life. Screw what Keith said about his driving. Sure, Lance may forget rules of the road but Keith-Keith drove like was trying to beat every other car on the road.

It was terrifying.

Exciting but oh so fucking terrifying. Lance gripped tighter. He didn’t know what would kill him first: Keith’s driving that involved Keith dodging and maneuvering angles and streets in such a blur that Lance only saw Altea as colors and lights or the how close he was to Keith and how he found himself enjoying the feeling of having his hands on Keith’s chest.

Oh god. Maybe he was going to die.

Lance turned his attention to the side as they exited Altea city approaching the Lakeside. Lance could feel himself smiling as he saw the stars get illuminated off the lake, the actual water look like it glowed in the night. The farther Keith drove out of the city, more stars began to become visible. 

Keith made a harsh right off the main road.

“I thought we were going to Balmera!” Lance yelled out, in hopes Keith would hear his question amongst the wind and the engine.

“We are!” Keith responded. He drove onto a smaller road with one lane designed for only one vehicle at a time. The road was less paved as it headed towards a forest. Keith began to slow down as Lance became aware of his surroundings.

The woods were lush and if it wasn’t for the bright stars, moonlight, and lights on Keith’s motorcycle, Lance was sure this place would be terrifying but right now it looked beautiful as different types of flora grew on the side of road untouched by civilization. The place looked like it was out of a fantasy novel.

Keith halted and parked. He took off his helmet. Lance followed suit, attempting to look at Keith.

“Why did you stop?”

“I wonder if they still come . . .” Keith mumbled, ignoring Lance’s questioned as he turned off the motorcycle, giving them only the forest’s light.

“Keith?” he tried to look at Keith but stopped.

He thought he imagined the first and the second and even the third but enough of them began to flicker and fly around the forest. 

“Lightning bugs?” Lance whispered, reaching his hand out as he watched the little glowing bugs fly in the air. Keith snorted.

“You call them lightning bugs? I always called them fireflies,” was Keith’s response as he watched one climb onto the headlight. Lance the back of hand and one landed on it for a brief second only to fly away.

“They appear every June here. Only close to Balmera never in Altea City. Not enough foliage.”

“I haven’t seen these since I was home . . .” Lance whispered, still enthralled by the sight. He turned to Keith. “Home with my family, not home here. Cuba,” Lance explained.

“Do you miss it?”

“Cuba? Sometimes,” Lance began to explain as he continued to watch the sight. “My family? Of course but I love Altea just as much. I plan to live in the city but every now and then I-it’s just little things you know. Sights and smells. Stuff like this . . .” Lance whispered at the bugs in the forest.

He could recall the silly memories of him and his brothers and sisters attempting to catch one. Of how his sister, Veronica, would capture one in a jar and explain how their environment needed to be damp. How they only had a day to keep it the jar or else the little insect would die so Marco and Luis would release them because Rachel would cry if they hurt one. Of how his mother told him that seeing these little bugs meant it was a sign that his path was illuminated and things he desired would come into his life.

Lance didn’t notice that Keith hadn’t taken his eyes off him. Lance turned to look at Keith just ask Keith began to look anywhere but Lance.

“Thank you Keith.”

“Anytime Lance.”


 

Chapter Text


Lance opened the door for Keith as they walked into Sal’s Diner. The place was bustling and packed. Lance took a quick glance at Keith who shifted a little closer to Lance at seeing how many people were here.

 “Hi welcome to-Keith!” a blonde girl walked around the hostess stand. She startled Keith by hugging him. Lance’s eyes widened.

 “Little too friendly for a hostess-woah!” Lance found himself being hugged by the same girl. She pulled away and grabbed Lance’s hand, shaking it.

 “You must be Lance!” she then pointed to herself. “I’m Romelle. One of Keith’s best friends-“

 “Romelle-“

 “-can I just say, you are just incredible! Keith has texted about how you’ve been helping him with his skin and it’s because of you me and Acxa can fix his sorry excuse of a fashion sense-“

“Oh, so you’re one of the people responsible for dressing Keith like a stud. You’re doing a service to the world,” Lance clasped Romelle’s hand, shaking it back. Lance already liked this girl and made a mental note to thank whoever this Acxa was. Romelle let go to do a curtsey.

“-and you are as well as bringing Keith back into this world,” Romelle replied and Lance did a little bow. Keith groaned in his hands.

“You guys are so dumb,” he mumbled. “Romelle, Lance has this certificate . . .” Lance handed Romelle the shiny piece of paper. Romelle snatched it, moving it back and forth to see it glisten in the low light of the diner.

“I’ve seen these! A couple that comes here a lot uses these-“ Romelle slowly looked between Lance and Keith. She hands waved between the two, her eyes narrowing. Lance could physically see the gears turning in her head.

“Is this a-“

“Any free tables?” Lance cut where Romelle’s assumption was heading. She nodded.

“Yeah, few just opened up. Follow me!”

Lance and Keith trailed after the blonde in the packed diner. Balmera district souvenirs and memorabilia was strewn amongst the walls along with small, framed pictures adorned with autographs from celebrities who were passing through for a quick bite. The glow of the diner was dim as the only lights came from string lights that hung from the ceiling mixed with what Lance assumed was real plants.

Lance should have figured a restaurant in the Balmera district would be more nature-oriented. With how Shay’s job was set up, the smaller town with more narrow roads, and that forest skit that Keith just pulled (that was still replaying in the back of Lance’s mind)-those places were such a contrast to Altea where everything was all flashy and high-end.

Romelle place two menus down at the booth in the back of the diner near the kitchen. Even the counter itself was packed as every bar stool was taken and servers kept rushing in and out to bring food. If Lance leaned to the side, he could get a clear of the window to the kitchen filled with cooks working like lives life depended on it.

Stroke of luck they managed to even get seats, Lance couldn’t help but think to himself as he sat down while Keith took off his jacket, tossing it.

“A booth Romelle? You don’t need to-” Keith looked around seeing how some other customers might benefit better than the two of them taking the booth. He reluctantly took a seat opposite Lance when Romelle gave a firm pout. Romelle tightened the scrunchies holding her pigtails.

“I still owe you for the Ouija incident-“

“-that was summers ago and you keep making up for-“

“-cause it was a good thing you and Katie did so take the booth. What do you guys want to drink?”

Lance was already scanning the menus the minute he spotted them.

“Milkshake. Chocolate.”

“Pop,” Keith told Romelle, not specifying which one. Romelle nodded as she hopped off to get their drinks. Lance put his hands down.

“So, I got to ask because if I don’t it’s going to bother me all night. What’s the Ouija incident?”

Keith didn’t look up from his menu. 

“It’s when Katie, Acxa, Romelle, and I used an Ouiji board in my freshmen year of college and Romelle got haunted.”

Lance looked at Keith for what had to a be a solid minute. No emotion changed. No elaboration. Keith just turned his menu over looking up at Lance.

“If I got a bunch of appetizers do you want to share? I kind of want to try the poppers, the knots, and the-“ 

Lance softly batted the menu out of Keith’s hands.

“What does that mean!?” 

“Sharing food? It’s when you and other people divide meals for-” Keith gave Lance a baffled look. Lance used his own menu to slap it on the table repeatedly. 

“No! No! No, you dense m-the board! Haunting! Backtrack Keith! Oh my God!” Lance leaned forward. “Please tell me you’re not going to bring up more murders.”

Keith mimicked Lance’s movement, his hands wavering close to Lance’s. Lance could feel Keith’s breath on his neck.

“You scared?” 

Lance reeled the hell back. While attempting to cover his mouth, Keith let out a laugh. Lance shuddered.

“Just-what happened?”

“Let me ask you something first,” Keith reached back for his own menu, continuing to try to decide on a meal. “You believe in the supernatural? Cryptids? Aliens? Or are you like Shiro where, quote ‘everything has a logical explanation,’” Keith repeated, trying to impersonate Shiro. 

Lance gave a side-shrug. 

“To an extent,” Lance replied. Keith pointed at Lance giving a signal for more information. Lance sighed. “Okay, like example: aliens have to be real because there is no way in the universe we are the only form of life that can do things like making technology-“

Keith nodded at this.

“-but something like loch ness monster or the Mothman are obviously tourist traps and-“

Lance shut up when he saw Keith giving him a deadly stare. If looks could kill, Lance would be running out of this diner right pleading for his life. Now he got why Shiro and Keith dropped the whole ‘is this apartment haunted’ argument rather than picking a winner.

Because there would never be a winner. 

“Anyway,” Keith ignored Lance’s statement about the cryptids. “So freshmen year-“

The noise of filled glasses hitting their table interrupted the beginning of Keith’s story. Romelle slid Lance his shake and Keith his pop. She put her hands on her hips.

“You guys ready to order?” Romelle asked. Keith turned to Lance for his response. One thumbs-up. “Alright, Keith?” She took the pen from behind her ear. 

‘Where was she going to write?’ Lance asked himself. 

“Fries. Grilled cheese and-“ Keith tapped on the menu. Romelle wrote on her wrist. Lance respected that.  “Soup and salad but those two for a to-go box later. Is that’s alright Romelle?” 

“Caesar dressing okay for Shiro ‘cause we are out of French,” Romelle asked as she tapped the menu. Keith nodded. Romelle grabbed Keith’s menu. She focused her attention now to Lance. 

“Can I have a burger but instead of fries can I have a baked potato-“ Lance mumbled scanning the menu. “-oh and the appetizer platter.” Keith laughed as Romelle sulked. 

“Sure we can afford that?”

“Oh you guys can-“ Romelle cut in. “It’s just that thing is usually for huge groups or parties and there is no way you will both finish it-“

Lance shut his menu handing it back to Romelle. “Then we’ll have a bunch of leftovers. Awesome.” Romelle sighed, not even bothering to debate their disaster choice.

“Give it thirty to forty. Stop me if you need refills,” she said, leaving the two of them back to Keith’s tale.

“So freshmen year we get a board and decide to contact the dead at Romelle’s dorm room-“

“-as any rational college students would-“

“-we did all the precautions, did the whole asking it questions with the planchette and so forth but Romelle forgot to say goodbye when we finished up that night-“ 

Lance wasn’t sure if Keith was purposefully avoiding talking about what they said to the board. Keith continued, reaching for his drink. It was a dark soda. Cola maybe?

“So when you don’t say goodbye to an Ouija board, it leaves it open. So in the next week, Romelle began finding scratches and bruises all over her body. Romelle thought maybe she was doing this herself in her sleep so Acxa slept over a night.” 

Keith took a sip. He shook his head, moving his hair to see Lance better.

“Acxa stays up all night while Romelle sleeps. No one comes in and or out but Romelle wakes up screaming. Acxa then discovers a gash in Romelle’s side.

Keith’s expression had no indication of what he was saying was a lie. Keith continued

“-so after an emergency room trip, we all head back to Romelle’s dorm. I set sigils and Katie preps the room. Romelle forces the planchette into a goodbye. Storm breaks out, creepy right? Romelle is terrified so Acxa stays with her in the dorm while Katie and I douse the board in holy water, cut it up, and bury it far off of the campus. Storm stopped.” 

Keith leaned back into the booth, sinking into the upholstery. Lance realized he had been gripping the glass of the milkshake so hard that his hands were now soaked. He released, wiping his hands on the table as he attempted to hide his fear.

“Sounds fake.”

“Romelle will show you the scar if you ask her.”

“So this is what you do on you days off?” Lance slowly spun the glass around, taking in the details in the extravagance of the milkshake with the large spun dollap of whip cream, a red cherry, chocolate shavings and sprinkles. “Get your friends stabbed?”

Keith mixed the ice cubes around with his straw. “Why? What do your friends do?"

Lance opened his mouth but realized he didn’t want to say. Test deluxe gadgets and play the newest video games with Pidge and Matt? Go with Hunk and Shay to the farmers’ market or try new recipes for internship Hunk has at that three star Michelin restaurant in downtown Altea? Or how about the spa days or shopping trips he goes on with Allura? 

“What? Lance McClain afraid to tell me of his lavish lifestyle?” Keith broke through Lance’s thoughts. Lance opened his mouth to protest but Keith chuckled. “It’s how you walk and dress and how you reacted to Shiro’s and mine’s home.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Why?” Keith asked. “You’re not shoving your extravagance in my face so I don’t care,” Keith shrugged. He traced his finger along the rim of the glass. “I am curious though on how a rich kid-“ 

Lance cut in. “I’m not rich.” 

“-on how a fancy shmancy boy-" Keith corrected in a dead-panned tone. 

“Alright-“

“-would react to my version on a night out of town . . . or maybe Shiro’s. . .” Keith thought out loud, tapping the table slowly. “Things get a lot more . . .” Keith paused, his eyes shifting, trying to find the right word. “ . . . creative.” 

Lance stopped moving the glass. That could mean-well, that could mean anything-by why-why did he just think of so many, awful, unpure thoughts when Keith said that?! And why did he bring up Shiro!? What was the reason!? What could be the reason!? Lance watched as Keith plopped the straw back in to take a sip. 

Then it dawned on him. 

“This is payback.” 

“Hm?” 

“For-“

Lance found himself stopping again as Keith stopped drinking, glaring directly at Lance. Both were at a standstill. Keith was teasing Lance for Lance putting his hands all over Keith from the first time they met.

Lance was positive Shiro also told Keith that Lance did the same thing to Shiro. Those love-sick fools most likely tell each other anything. He wasn't sure if Shiro was teasing him on purpose but Keith-this seemed like Keith's alleyway. 

But if Lance admitted that he was seeing what Keith was doing right now then Lance would reveal he played them the first time he met them; stringing them in. Partially for Allura’s trial. Partially for well-

Well, they were hot.

This fucker.

“What’s? Payback? Lance?” Keith demanded, knowing he had Lance in a corner. Lance tossed the straw from his milkshake to the side taking a gulp, ignoring Keith. “Lance!”

Lance set the drink down. Time to play stupid. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Oh, I think you know exactly what . . . what. . . .” Keith trailed off looking over Lance’s shoulder, his eyes squinting only to widen in a panic.

“Keith?”

Lance began to turn around to see what Keith kicked him. Hard. Lance grabbed his knee as Keith ducked down under the table. He then dragged Lance down with him. 

“What the hell Keith?!” Lance demanded, rubbing his knee. How strong was Keith?! He could feel a bruise forming. 

“I’m sorry. I just-“ Keith whispered, his voice shaking as he tried to get a clear look from under the table. “What’s he doing here?” he muttered. Lance crawled closer to Keith, following where Keith was looking.

“I thought Shiro couldn’t come?” Lance continued to watch the waiter. Keith pulled Lance back, still focusing. Keith’s grip remained on Lance’s cardigan. 

“That’s not Shiro.”

“Pft okay yeah right so it’s his clone. Keith what was in your drink-“

Keith’s hand moved up from the cardigan to Lance’s neck. His hand gently running through Lance’s hair so he could turn Lance to look directly at him.

Lance felt frozen. Not because he was under a diner table in a packed resturant off from the city and anything could happen right here in this moment.

No. That wasn’t it.

It was that Keith was begging, pleading, imploring-silently crying for this one moment for Lance to believe him. Just this one moment, Keith needed him to trust him. He looked frantic, scared, angry, worried- a mix of emotions that Lance has never seen stir up with Shiro so this couldn’t be the person Keith loved. 

“Lance-“

“Okay,” Lance took Keith’s hand away from his neck and gently clasped it. “It’s going to be okay.”

Keith shook his head. He let go. 

“I’m sorry Lance you’re being dragged into this.”

“Dragged into what-Keith!” Lance whispered as loud as a whisper could get before it could be noticeable as Keith snuck along the floor past customers, booths, and tables. 

Lance followed him. 

Keith then waited a moment as a server left the counter. He then snuck behind the counter. 

Lance was beginning to think he shouldn’t have followed Keith. 

Keith leaned boxes of condiments and napkins as Lance joined him. He was silently thanking whatever guardian angel he had that allowed the resturant to be so packed today that let them to even make it this far but if they get caught now one could only assume they might be trying to skip out on a check or worse, try to steal from the register. Lance frowned, tugging Keith’s jacket.

“What is going on?” 

“Lance-“

“You have to tell me or I’m going to tell Shir-“

Keith slammed his hand over Lance’s mouth. Lance attempted to pull Keith’s hand off. “I swear-Lance I’m just-I need to hear-fine!” Keith hissed. He climbed over Lance. Lance’s eyes widened as Keith pressed his body against Lance’s, still holding one hand over his mouth and the other clutching his wrist to prevent him from making a move.

Keith seemed furious with Lance. “You make a sound I swear I’m-“

“Good job today,” a voice called out to the side. Lance looked over. Over in the distance to their left, they could see another cook patting ‘not-Shiro’ on the back.

Lance blinked. If this wasn’t Shiro then who was it? They look exactly the same? 

“Oh no, it was nothing. Thanks for the extra hours.”

Keith’s eyes widened in a panic. Lance could feel Keith’s grip loosen as he began to shake. Keith shut his eyes, letting go of Lance. Lance didn’t move. 

Was that a tear?

“I’m off for the night.”

“Tell Adam I said hi!”

Keith’s eyes snapped open with a new found rage as got off of Lance. He began to chase after this guy.

“K-Keith?” Lance asked. He stood up, stumbling through customers to try to catch up to Keith. Questions with no answers were running through his mind. He wanted reasons for what was going on but was it his place to know?

He finally got out of the diner. He didn’t realize it got so dark so quick in Balmera. Only the stars and the lights of the diner’s neon sign lit up the parking lot.

A car began to start up in the distance. Lance spinned around to see the car but felt a hand grab him, dragging him to the side of the resturant. Keith pinned Lance amongst the cool exterior of the diner. He propped both arms above Lance. Lance’s chest was almost pressed so close to Keith’s he was scared Keith could hear how fast his heart was beating.

This wasn’t like how Keith wanted him to stop talking a few moments ago. This was different. Keith wasn’t moving. Keith seemed careful. Hesitant. Concerned.

A car passed by them. Keith watched as it drove off in the distance. 

He breathed a sigh of relief, slamming his head next to Lance on the wall. 

“Keith?”

“He’s gone,” Keith mumbled, relieved.

“You’re on top of me.”

“Right!” Keith backed off Lance, tugging his own gloves. “Sorry I just-“ Keith stopped playing with his gloves. However, he couldn’t look at Lance. “-I was afraid if he saw your face, he might hurt you.”

“Who?”

“Kuron.”


 Romelle had wondered if Lance and Keith had bailed but found them on the side of the resturant talking. She offered to bring them their meal outside and while Lance and Keith protested, Romelle insisted.

 Which is how Keith Kogane found himself outside of Sal’s Diner eating a free dinner on an old tablecloth with Lance McClain under the stars as told Lance about the worse time of his life.

 “So Shiro has a twin.”

 Lance coughed on his spiked milkshake. The two had asked Romelle for some vodka after the night they had. She happily obliged.

 Keith, however, had advised Lance not to put vodka in a milkshake. Lance didn't listen. Keith reached for a shot but Lance pointed the milkshake at him.

 “Who’se driving?” 

“Do you want me to call Shiro or a taxi?” Keith asked. They gave each other a hard stare before agreeing on taxi would be better than disturbing Shiro on the last night of his deadline. Lance reached for a garlic knot off the appetizer platter they were already halfway done with.

“So who we saw was-“

“-Kuron. Shiro’s twin,” Keith clarified. “I met Shiro and Kuron when I was going to graduate high school. They needed a roommate cause Shiro was planning on moving out cause he was going to get married to Adam.”

Keith took a bit of his grilled cheese. He chewed slowly, closing his eyes.

“If it’s too hard for you to-“

“No,” Keith took another bite. “It’s-” Keith reached for the shot glass, motioning for Lance to give him a second shot. He poured it halfway. Keith downed it. 

It was moments like this he hated he was heavyweight when it came to alcohol.

“-it’s bad Lance,” Keith flat out said. “Shiro was always the type to be patient and I don’t know why they took so long to plan the wedding but everyone kept getting irritated. What was supposed to be a few months on the couch turned to more than a year as Kuron got fed up with the wedding arrangements and so forth.”

Keith began to pick off the crust from the sandwich. He dropped them all on the plate.

“To make matters worse, I fell in love with Shiro.”

Tears began to fall. Keith quickly wiped them but it was too late. Lance was already shifting things around to move closer to Keith. Lance grabbed some napkins and Keith’s soda. He handed them both to Keith.

“Take a sip, come on. You’ll feel better,” Keith obliged as Lance gently wiped the tears from Lance’s cheek. Lance crumpled the napkin onto the tablecloth, pulling his knees up to his chest. 

“How long?”

“I want to lie and say it was when he asked me to be his best man and it was all the wedding planning but it was longer than that . . . “ Keith recalled. “Probably from the first few weeks I knew him I started to fall for him. Stupid. Falling for someone who is taken.” 

“It’s not,” Lance firmly argued. “You ended up with him. You got your happy ending.” 

Keith gave Lance such a broken, fake smile. Lance’s eyes widened in fear. 

“Kuron told Shiro about my feelings, Lance. We were in the car, the three of us. Kuron snapped. I should have seen it coming or warned Shiro. He was exhausted from doing a lot of this wedding work along with our jobs and college. We all were.”

Keith took a shaky breath. 

“He told Shiro that he was so blind to how Adam had fallen out of love with him. Of how I was in love with him. Of how Shiro had always got everything and how he was the lesser-“

“Keith . . “

“If you ask Shiro, Shiro will say the semi was coming at us-“

Lance held his breath.

“I was in the back, Lance. Shiro was too focused on trying to defend Adam. Argue for me. Convince Kuron,” Keith shut his eyes, shaking his head. The memory still fresh. 

Seeing Kuron’s hands grip tighter and tighter on the steering wheel.

Shiro not noticing. 

Keith feeling time stop. 

He brought his hand up to his own cheek. Keith traced his scar. “He did this to me, Lance.“

Lance didn’t speak for a moment. Keith allowed him to take all the information in. Lance shut his eyes tight, taking a big gulp.

“And Shiro’s arm?”

“Also Kuron. Both ironically had similar facial scars, Shiro's is a little larger but it lessened over time but Kuron managed to away with no little injury. Lucky him,” Keith spat out. “Shiro spent months in rehab, had to get a custom prosthetic created by a medical designer named Haggar that put him into debt, lost his job, and has nightmares/PTSD." 

Keith leaned against the wall. He looked up at the stars, somewhat hoping a shooting star would pass by and grant his wish to get rid of all of his financial troubles.

“Adam left during Shiro’s rehabilitation. Couldn’t take it anymore,” Keith let out a cold, hollow laugh. “Kuron disappeared so we couldn’t file a restraining order-well I couldn’t-Shiro continues to believe it was an accident.”

Keith shut his eyes. Lance let out a small gasp.

“That was the incident.” 

Keith slowly opened them. He refused to look at Lance, knowing exactly what he was talking about. Keith continued to look at the stars. 

 “Yeah. During that whole time. My skin suffered.”

“Keith, I-" 

“What? You’re sorry? You’re going to say I don’t deserve this? I know and I don’t need another person’s pity and-“

“Will you shut-I was going to say you’re fucking amazing!” Lance interrupted. Keith focused on Lance. He sat up straighter.

“What?”

“You already work your butt off for your little version of heaven with Shiro and your dog and you do it all while in pain,” Lance said. “Like right now, can you honestly say you aren’t in any pain?”

Keith couldn’t. His thighs were burnings. His arms were itchy and it was taking a lot of willpower not to scratch. He could feel his throat drying up. Most likely an attack right now due to the stress seeing Kuron brought him. Lance snapped his fingers.

“Exactly! So that’s just now. Now I can’t imagine how it was during what you described to me. I’m not going to. I can’t. But that means you can do anything! If Shiro can get through losing an arm and a failed relationship, you can survive your own body!”

Lance clapped his hands together, startling Keith.

“You’re Keith Kogane!”

Keith frowned. 

Why Lance decided to go pep-talk on him was a really weird turn but he'll take it over pity. 

“Okay . . .” Keith started. “. . . but you just-isn’t Kuron stress? I’m supposed to not be stressed and he’s back. You heard him! Adam? Why is he in contact with Adam? Why is Kuron even here?” Keith asked.

Lance reached to grab Keith’s arm. Keith looked down.

He hadn’t even realized he was going to scratch his arm. Lance had stopped him.

That gave Keith an idea. 

“Help me, Lance.”

“I am. .  ?”

“No, I mean, yeah, with this, but with Kuron. Help me find Kuron and why he’s in contact with Adam.”

Lance let go. He began to rub the back of his head as he reached for his boozy milkshake. “I don’t know Keith. Shouldn’t we tell Shiro.”

“Yeah. Oh, hey, Shiro, your ex fiancé is hanging out with your jealous twin,” Keith pitched. Lance nodded as he took a very long, large gulp of the alcoholic drink.

“Right.” Lance stumbled. “Okay fine,” he took another sip. “Let’s do it but we tell Shiro.”

“When we have enough information,” Keith clarified. Keith tilted his head as he watched Lance attempt to steady himself and failing. “Lance  . . . are you a lightweight?”


 

Lance snapped his eyes open and sat up only to groan loudly, sinking back into a surprisingly plush comforter. Lance spread out, smiling.

What a nice, soft, big bed-

Lance sat back up. Black covers. King size bed. Rolled up newspaper? A squeaky stick toy? This was not his bed. He stumbled out.

Same clothes. Okay. Okay. Okay. Lance gripped the railing of the bed. Christ. 

His head was pounding. He gently opened the door.

“Wow. Someone’s awake,” Shiro spoke up as he ate a bowl of cereal. 

This was Keith and Shiro’s apartment.

Think Lance. You remember Sal’s Diner.

You remember talking to Keith.

Then-

Lance's chest hurt at the sight of Shiro.

Kuron.

Keith crying.

Lance agreeing to help find Kuron. 

Lance drinking with Keith. 

Romelle telling them it was the last call.

A taxi.

“How did I get up here?” Lance asked. Shiro didn’t look up from reading the back of the cereal box.

“Keith carried you up here.”

He took a seat across from Shiro at the counter. “Yeah right,” Lance replied, in clear disbelief. Shiro peered over the box only to continue reading. “You’re serious?!”

“Lance, you knocked out cold halfway through the cab ride according to Keith. He tried to wake you up but you refused and Keith didn’t know where you lived,” Shiro explained.

Lance couldn’t even picture Keith carrying him out of a taxi princess-style and bringing him to his apartment. No. That didn’t seem in Keith’s nature.

The guy probably dragged him up the stairs with his foot.

A wave of guilt washed over Lance realizing if Keith did carry Lance, his skin must have been on fire the whole time. Lance sank down, melting onto the countertop, glancing up at Shiro.

“Where is Keith?” 

“Had to leave early for a job. He tried to wake you up again. He even tried to wake you up with some of Kosmo’s toys,” Shiro smiled apologetically. “He gave up ‘cause he was running late but asked that I stay to make sure you were okay.”

Lance groaned into his arms. He wanted to die. Lance would end up having a blackout only a little bit of vodka. He hated it. Especially, since Keith told him such a vulnerable part of about his past.

Shiro set the box down. “Oh, come on I thought it was kind of cute. Like a little Sleeping Beauty.” 

Now Lance wanted to scream. This wasn’t helping either. 

“If it makes you feel better, I’m a lightweight too,” Shiro started. Lance’s ears perked up. He sat straight up and Shiro gave a nod. “Yup. Keith could probably drink us both under the table.”

“I feel like you’re just trying to make me feel better." 

Shiro snickered and stood up, picking up the used bowl and box. “Believe what you want.” Shiro began to wash the bowl in the sink just as Lance’s phone began to buzz indicating he had a text message. 

Okay, so I don’t know why you want me to look up everyone who works at Sal’s Diner but who am I to question what you do in your free time. I got a list of everyone there.

He texted Pidge!? When the fuck did he text Pidge to ask them to look up info on Kuron!? 

Lance lowered the phone as he began texting Pidge back. 

“So any plans Shiro?” 

And? Lance typed back quickly checking that he messaged Pidge at three in the morning asking them to get info on everyone who works there.

“I got to send the edited work to the publisher. They are having problems at the office so I’m just going to hand deliver it. Little worried that it might get lost in spam,” Shiro trailed off.

And meet me at the arcade today and I’ll tell you what I found.  

Lance wanted to kick the counter.

 Can’t you just tell me over the phone???? Let me call you in a bit! :C

Lance tapped his foot nervously as Shiro but the box of cereal away.

No. I’m actually on the phone with someone right now.

“What about you Lance?”

“Allura!“ Lance looked up, nearly whipping his phone across the room. “I was going to visit Allura. Work on some new brands for Christmas.”

“That’s. . . really early,” Shiro said, looking past Lance at the balcony. It was summer. Lance should have said Halloween or Fourth of July or- 

“Ah you know Allura-” Lance chuckled, typing on the phone while making eye contact with Shiro.

What about your burner phones?! Can I call those!? I know you have em Pidge!? How else do you get away withhbksd

“-she’s always got a plan!” Lance mentally cursed. He hit send without finishing. Whatever. Pidge knew what he meant.

Those are charging. Get over here loser -_- Bring me a slushie


"Katie, I'm kind of busy all week," Keith argued as he ran his finger across the glass. Spotless. 

"You promised Matt and more importantly you promised me you'd help us develop it for the arcade!" Katie's protested through the phone. "Come on Keith. You do it if the game does become an arcade hit, you will get royaltiessssss!" Katie sang out. 

". . .is it the same songs?" Keith asked as he snuck a feather duster in between some ornate statuettes. He slowly moved it around carefully attempting not to shift the placement of the settings.

"Of course."

Keith let out a loud sigh. 

"Fine. When do you-"

Keith pulled the phone away. Katie had hung up. He knew agreeing to help Matt and Katie create an arcade game was going to bite him in the ass. He just didn't know when. 

He stepped back, checking to see if he missed anything. 

He was good. Keith looked around.

“Ms. Winterloom?" Keith called out. "I finished dusting the cabinets do you need-“

“Oh Kenneth-“ the old woman hobbled over from the kitchen. Keith put his hand to his chest, catching his breath. The woman was so silent that every time Keith came over to clean her home for her, he never truly knew if she was home or not.

She could pass for a ghost with her towering stature, soft voice, and pale wrinkled skin. She steadied herself on a cane adorned with a jewel on top. Real or not-Keith will never know.

“I made an upside down pineapple cake this morning. Please help yourself,” Ms. Winterloom walked off to her balcony to tend to her multiple plants. Keith peeked in the kitchen. The woman had already wrapped him some of the cake to go.

He couldn’t say no. He sighed. 

He headed towards her.

“Ms. Winterloom is there anything you else you need me-“

“Aren’t they lovely Kenneth. My husband and I would travel all over the world and I would collect seeds,”

Keith watched as she carefully picked flowers.

“I would get so excited when I would see a little seed grow into something so wonderful. It would remind me of all the lovely times.” 

She pointed to different flowers, recalling locations.

“China, I found these beautiful hibiscuses, Spain, I was able to get these Jonquil seeds, these roses are from Alaska actually-“ 

Keith bit his tongue as he watched the woman ramble on, knowing what was to come next. She began to shake a bit, holding the bouget of assorted flowers.

She wiped her eyes before tears could show.

“Here-“

“Oh, I couldn’t-“

“You have that woman in your life, right? Sherry?” Ms. Winterloom squinted. Keith shook his head, wincing. She chuckled. “Right. I apologize. Man, right? Shaun? More and more keeps slipping-“ 

“It’s okay,” he said, taking the bouquet.

This wasn’t the first time she got his name wrong. This wasn’t the first time she forgot Keith was gay. This wasn’t the first time she told Keith of her flowers and her passed husband. 

This wasn’t the first bouquet.

“You’re daughter is coming later right?” Keith asked, getting his bag holding all the cleaning supplies. Ms. Winterloom nodded.

“Yes. To take me to lunch and then to my appointments. I’ll see you next week, Kenneth.”

“Call me if you need any extra help, no charge,” Keith tried to offer. Ms. Winterloom protested.

"You worry too much of an old croon like me. Enjoy the summer Kenneth. Stir trouble. Break a bone. Fall in love all over again.”

Keith rolled his eyes as he said his goodbyes. He headed down the hallway, hearing creaking under the carpet and an ominous dripping noise somewhere on the floor but he couldn’t place the location.

He reached the elevator, pressing the button. It didn’t react.

“Okay,” Keith mumbled, knowing how busted the elevator always was. He slammed the button, debating if he should just take the stairs to go back up to his floor.

He heard the elevator drop a little quicker than normal. 

Whoops. 

The doors slowly opened. Lance was in the corner, arms spread out, attempting to support himself.

“Did you do that!?” Lance demanded.

Keith burst out laughing.

“You’re still here!?” Keith managed to choke out in between his wheezing. Lance attempted to shove past Keith.

“Let me out. I’ve been trying to navigate that thing for ten minutes and I can’t reach the main floor and you just turned it into Tower of Terror. I’ll take the stairs-“ 

“Stop being a baby,” Keith shoved Lance back in as he got in too. He kicked the bottom of the panel and then pressed the ground floor. The elevator began to move down at a slow, sane pace. Lance threw his hands up.

“My apologies! I didn’t know there was a secret knock!” Lance exclaimed as he rubbed his head.

“Someone’s a little hungover,” Keith responded, picking through the flowers. Lance took notice.

“For Shiro?” 

Keith shrugged. “The lady I work for has this mini garden. She always gives us plants.” 

“That’s really nice of her,” Lance smiled. “So I’m meeting Pidge right now. They looked up everyone at Sal’s Diner.”

Keith stopped going through the flowers. 

“Really? What they find out?”

“They won’t tell me,” Lance crossed his arms. “It’s probably because I owe them like a lot of meals and drinks because I mooch off them so they are now holding information from me hostage. They want a slushie out of it.”

“Then get them a slushie.”

Lance grumbled. “But then they win.” 

Keith chuckled as he went back to picking through the bouquet.

“You didn’t have to do this?” Keith began. “I could have just dealt with Kuron thing on my own you know.”

 “Yeah, but Shiro is my friend and I’m not letting you have all the “fun” of trying to find out why Shiro’s twin is back in town-“ Lance cut in, nudging Keith’s shoulder with his elbow. “Plus this way, I can keep an eye on when Shiro can’t. I know you’ve been still scratchi-”

Keith plucked a yellow flower from the bouquet. Ms. Winterloom called it a jonquil if he remembered correctly. Lance gasped in horror.

“Dude why’d you-“

Keith gently placed the flower behind Lance’s left ear. 

“You’re cute when you ramble.”

The doors opened up. Lance stumbled out his face conveying shock and confusion. Before Lance could speak the elevator doors shut and Keith headed back up to his apartment. Keith leaned against the wall, sinking to the ground. 

He really hoped he and Lance could find Kuron for Shiro’s sake.


 

Chapter Text


Lance went through the notes on his phone. After seeing Pidge yesterday, Lance couldn’t help but replay their conversation over and over again as he scanned different desserts while an employee packed up cookies for his coworkers in the back of the coffee shop.

 “Try dropping it now,” Pidge spoke up from working on the skeeball game. Lance tossed a ball in the fifty-point slot. They both looked up at the scoreboard to see the score changed adding fifty points. They waited a moment but the skeeball didn’t return. Pidge pulled off their glasses, nearly slamming them on the ground, only to rub their eyes.

 " I changed the fuses, the lightbulbs are fixed, the ticket dispenser is not jammed nor empty-“

  “Maybe it’s eating them. . .” Lance mumbled attempting to look in the hole only to see darkness. Pidge put on their glasses.  

“What if it’s the circuits . . .” they mumbled, taking a seat on the long, narrow pad of the machine. Lance glanced around. The arcade itself was coming along great with new machines mixed in with vintage ones that Pidge and Matt repaired themselves with their father. Sadly, they kept running into snares such as pipes bursting in the bathrooms, machines not getting fixed in time, the delivery food for snack bar being late more than once and so forth.

An overwhelming sense of guilt ate Lance up for even asking Pidge to do this extra task when he knew they were already swamped especially since Pidge seemed to be working on extra side projects for the arcade whenever they had any free time.  

Pidge took a long sip of the slushee Lance had brought them. They mixed the straw around.

“Strawberry, banana and mango?”

“I mixed them! You didn’t tell me what flavor!” Lance exclaimed, ready to argue Pidge. She put a hand up, taking another sip.

“It’s good,” Pidge took out their phone. “So I went through Sal’s Diner’s employee records. Who are you looking for?”

Lance dropped his head against the machine.  

“Is there anyone named Kuron?” Lance mumbled. He never liked when Pidge went full crime on him. Sometimes it was nice like tweaking his last test score from a C to a B because Lance had spent two weeks helping Allura for a new product line.

 This was not one of those times. This was Pidge getting all employee records and their information.

“No. No Kuron.”

Lance slowly turned to Pidge. They looked at Lance with curious intrigue. “Who’s Kuron?”

“That’s not possible. No. He was there,” Lance mumbled, getting up to check over Pidge’s shoulder. Pidge held their phone up so Lance could get a better look at the list.

Amongst the names of workers over the years, Lance had spotted Romelle’s.  

He also noticed an S.

“How about that one!” Lance tapped on the phone. Pidge moved away, brushing the screen with their sleeve.

“I’m thinking it’s a new employee. No full record but money is given to them. I think S stands for Stand-in. A temporary worker-“

Lance reeled back. That had to have been Kuron but with no record of an address or name or any location, this was a dead end.

Pidge took notice of Lance’s disappointment.

“Whoever S is, they work at the same restaurant Hunk works at. If you give me some time, I can probably sneak a reservation in for you,”

“Pidge you don’t have to do that-“

“You’re right. I don’t,” Pidge goes back to their phone. “It would be a fun challenge to break through the firewall of one of the most elite restaurants in Altea.”

“It’s not that bad.”  

“The name of the place is one word, Lance. ‘The’. The restaurant is called ‘The’” Pidge argued already pulling up screens that clearly didn’t look legal. Lance was not going to win this fight.

“Alright,” Lance watched as more screens flashed across Pidge’s screen. “Can you make it a reservation for two?”

Pidge hadn’t responded since yesterday if they were able to get through and sneak a reservation. In truth, Pidge wasn’t really responding at all. Lance tried not to dwell on it, considering Pidge’s schedule had no set order.

“You keep frowning your face is going to get stuck that way,” Lance turned around to see Shiro was standing behind him in the line. Lance huffed, attempting to look away as Shiro stepped up to stand next to him.

“Are you following me Shiro?” Lance teased. Shiro tossed a smile back in response. 

“I’ve been coming here for years. I should be asking if you are following me,” Shiro replied. He looked up across the menu. “What are you getting?”

“Orders for my later shift at Alfor and Melenor’s. You?”

Shiro held up a sticky note with different types of handwriting on it. “Picking up some drinks. Want anything?” Shiro asked as the cashier came up to the register to take Shiro’s order. 

“Oh I couldn’t-“ Shiro handed her the list.

“Lance McClain, are you really going to turn down a drink that I want to buy you. I’m hurt, Lance. Truly hurt,” Shiro said, mock-sadness coating his words. Lance sighed as he just pointed to a caffeinated beverage on the menu. Shiro gleamed as he handed the cashier a membership card.

This place was pricey though and Lance already started to feel guilty for Shiro spending money on him and-

“Okay, Matthew Holt!” the cashier said as she read the card. “Says here you have over ten thousand Bean Points here. Would you like to use them on your order, making it free?”

“Of course.”

Lance narrowed his eyes, turning to Shiro. “You sneak.”

“Matt’s not going to notice. That card has so many points on it, this won’t even make a dent.”

“Why do you have it?”

Before Lance could get a solid answer, an employee put down Lance’s box of orders at the counter. Lance moved it closer to him as he leaned against the counter.

“Don’t you have to be at work with that, Lance?” Shiro asked, in genuine concern. Lance shrugged, opening the box to see if everything was in there. Lance shook his head.

“Not yet. Got a couple of hours. I was going to just show up early but-“ Lance closed the box, glancing at Shiro. “-but found something better to do.”

Shiro smirked, turning around so his back was against the counter. He propped is elbows up, not taking his eyes of Lance.

“Wonder what that could be?”

Lance felt confident to say Shiro was faintly blushing. Okay, maybe not super confident. If he was, Shiro was really good at hiding it.

But when he saw Shiro’s eyes do a quick dart up and down, Lance decided to be a little cocky. Lance stood a little straighter, his hand trailing from the box to Shiro’s personal space. Shiro watched the hand only to look at Lance to see Lance was much closer now.

Lance gently traced is hand over Shiro’s prosthetic. “I think you know,” Lance murmured.

Shiro dropped down, covering his face. Lance pumped his fists up. Though Shiro trying to cover his face, Lance could see the bright flush spreading from his face to his ears. Shiro broke down laughing, doing his best to still cover his mouth.

“You’re calling me the tease?” he choked out, still in a fit. Lance plopped down on knees next to Shiro. Hands on the ground, Lance moved forward.

“Oh Shiro, I’m hurt,” Lance mimicked Shiro’s fake-sadness. “I’m truly hurt.”

A little closer and Lance was positive he could take Shiro. The poor guy had taken a sharp intake of breath when Lance one hand behind him firmly planted on the ground and the other, on the floor, smack dab right in between Shiro’s legs. 

“L-Lance . . .” Shiro gasped out. The redness still hadn’t wavered, he was breathing hard, his other hand was twitching as if it couldn’t decide want move to take-fuck, this was a good look for Shiro.

“Oi! Matthew Holt? Your order has been ready for five minutes!”

Lance lifted his hands away, holding up in defeat. He aimed his hands in a mimic of shooting Shiro in the chest.

“That’s how you be a tease,” Lance winked.

Oh thank God for cover up and Lance’s ability to bullshit for it wasn’t for that he would be a mess right now like Shiro. He held his hand out to Shiro.

“Remind me never to get engaged in a game of gay chicken with you,” Shiro said taking Lance’s hand as the two got up.

“Noted,” Lance responded. Shiro’s phone buzzed. He reached for it to check the message as Lance pulled in the free drink he got from technically Matt. “Do you need any help with this Shir-o . . .” Lance trailed on the end of Shiro’s name when he saw the grin on Shiro’s face glancing at the phone.

“Actually I do.”

That grin was conniving. Pure schemery. 

“Are you . . . are you sure?” Lance wanted to backtrack. Shiro already found a way to get back at him for the little stunt he just pulled and Lance had no idea what that message said.

“Oh yeah. Come on Lance.”


The train ride was a full on anxiety trip as Shiro didn’t really acknowledge where they were going. It’s not like Lance didn’t trust Shiro, it is just that Lance knew Shiro could turn the tables on any situation if he needed to. 

Or wanted to and right now, Shiro was set on turning tables.

So when they arrived at Shiro and Keith’s apartment more questions were raised. Lance actually started to let his guard down. Maybe Shiro just wanted him to believe something was going to happen. Maybe he really is helping Shiro drop off these drinks.

These four drinks.

It dawned on Lance in the elevator that there were four drinks not counting his own.

“Shiro? Who are these for?” Lance asked as they arrived on floor fourteen. Shiro only hummed in response.

He was humming to the beat of music filling the floor.

No, screw Shiro ‘wanting’ him to believe something was going to happen. Something’s happening.

They reached the door. Key in hand. Shiro turned back to Lance.

“They are probably not going to notice ‘cause they are really into getting the product out in time for the opening but I suggest you don’t say anything if you want to see the full performance.”

Lance had no response as Shiro slowly opened the door. He held his arm out, stopping Lance from going into the living room nor seeing what was going on.

“I’m just saying we need to more in sync if we want the game to come out in time for the August!”

That was Matt’s voice.  Definitely Matt’s voice. 

“It’s going to be fine!” Keith. That was Keith. “Katie has done so many tests and I think it’s going to be fine on opening night! Right, Katie?”

With the mention of Katie, Lance new realized that filled the drink quota unless Shiro didn’t buy one for himself. . .

“It’s not fine . . .” Wait. “If you keep freestyling Keith, the actual game won’t register if we can get the sync combos right and I can’t input the data-“

That sounded like-

“Homigod whatever,” Matt groaned as some melodic rings came from the TV. “I’m putting a another one!”

“At least tell me which one it is-“

“Get ready!” an announcer voice called out. 

“Oh f-“ Keith cut in as shuffling was heard. 

Shiro dragged Lance into the kitchen just in time to see the show begin. Nothing could have prepared for seeing Matt holding up what seemed to be a really fancy game controller base guitar, Keith standing in the middle and Lance’s friend, Pidge holding an electric guitar controller.

All the furniture was moved around to make space for what was about to transpire. Kosmo sat on the moved couch quietly and patiently watching.

The three of them all had bracelets around their wrists and ankles that glowed obnoxiously but while Matt and Pidge’s were blue, Keith’s was red. Keith was also holding a mic.

One the flat screen was three separate screens, one for a bass, one for guitar, and for the lead.

“Shiro what the-“ Lance managed to whisper out.

“Begin!” the announcer screamed out.

“Boys call you sexy” Keith turned to Matt . “What's up, sexy,” Matt sang back. The two walked towards each other as Matt played the bass and Keith sang. Lance knew this song. Lance mentally screamed as this was ‘When I Grow Up’ by The Pussycat Dolls.

But this was a rock version!

"-And you don't care what they say, see, every time you turn around-“ Keith ran his hand amongst Matt’s neck only to turn him around. “They screamin' your name!” Keith made it back to the middle with a confident walk. 

“Now I've got a confession,” Keith whispered. “When I was young, I wanted attention,” he clutched own chest.“-and I promised myself that I'd do anything,” Keith’s hips began to slowly sway as he moved down. “-anything at all for them to notice me,” Keith moved back up. 

“Focus Keith!” Pidge yelled out. Keith smirked, shutting his eyes. 

“But I ain't complaining,” fingers ran through his own hair, Keith still holding the mic.“We all wanna be famous,” his hands moving down to his own waist again. “So go ahead and say what you wanna say” he flipped his head back and forth.“You know what it's like to be nameless, Want them to know what your name is-“

Keith held the mic in the air.

“'Cause see when I was younger I would say-“Matt belted out. The music dropped. Keith began to do a strut with more force, moving back and forth.

When I grow up, I wanna be famous, I wanna be a star, I wanna be in movies-“

“Katie is developing a new game for the arcade, “ Shiro explained. “She asked some people including Keith to be testers so the game would come out with little error.”

“When I grow up, I wanna see the world, drive nice cars, I wanna have groupies-“ Keith chanted, pumping his fist up to only bring in a slow, sensual motion involving in more self-touching. “When I grow up, be on TV, people know me, be on magazines! When I grow up, fresh and clean, number one boy when I step out on the scene-“

Lance was going to have an aneurysm.

 “Be careful what you wish for, 'cause you just might get it, You just might get it-“ Pidge and Matt joined in. The screen lit up in other colors applauding the synchronized singing. “You just might get it! Be careful what you wish for, 'cause you just might get it, you just might get it, you just might get it-

Keith I swear to God-“Pidge cut in as the two side screens moved away motioning it this was all Keith now.

Keith continued to move slow, walking towards the screen as if it was an audience.

 “I see them staring at me, oh I'm a trendsetter-“ -hand to chest-“Yes, this is true 'cause what I do, no one can do it better,”-hand to hip- “You can talk about me, 'cause I'm a hot topic-“ -Keith moved down again, falling on his knees- “I see you watching me, watching me, and I know you want it!” He hit the high note and collapsed on his back as the screen switched to Matt and Pidge who were doing a little guitar battle, bringing the music up to a rise again.

Keith chuckled, eyes opening, still oblivious to whom was watching as the Matt and Pidge of them pulled him back up for the finale. 

When I grow up, I wanna be famous, I wanna be a star, I wanna be in movies-“-Keith sang with everything he got- “When I grow up, I wanna see the world, drive nice cars, I wanna have groupies-“ –sweat dripping from his hair down to the back, lighting soaking the tank top he adorned- “When I grow up, be on TV, people know me, be on magazines-“

Lance couldn’t move. Why did he even try to one-up Shiro?

"When I grow up, fresh and clean, number one boy when I step out on the scene!”Keith screamed out laughing along with Matt as Pidge groaned knowing this was a lost cause on data. They still continued.

“Be careful what you wish for, 'cause you just might get it, you just might get it, you just might get it,” the three harmonized as the screen continued to rack up points.

“Be careful what you wish for, 'cause you just might get it, you just might get it, you just might get it!”

The music trailed off as Matt and Keith cheered while Pidge grumbled at the score.

“Come on the points were higher this time!” Matt pointed out. Pidge pointed back at the screen.

“On the freestyle sections! But on technicality and sync, we all ranked low and I can’t get a decent analysis if I never see how the higher end sides of those scorings go if we never each them,” Pidge sighed as they all took off the equipment.

“It’s not our fault you made a fun game. We did good, right Shiro? Lance?” Matt asked. Lance nearly sunk down the behind counter, imitating Shiro’s earlier move of embarrassment. Shiro grabbed him by the collar, pulling him up.

Keith stopped taking the bands off.

“You guys were watching?” Keith asked, face beginning to be more flushed than it already was.

“Keith I’ve seen you play this game before.”

“But not-“ Keith looked at Lance. Eye contact alone was enough to make Lance felt his chest about to burst for the second time today. Keith turned away, going back to removing the bands.

“It’s embarrassing.”

Matt rolled his eyes. “Only cause someone other than your boyfriend was viewing the show. You had fun. Admit it,” Matt pointed at Lance. “Lance, how hot was Keith?”

Oh, if Lance could name a sound close to what he just heard in his head, he would have describe it as Kill Bill sirens mixed with every alarm he slept through his entire life.

He needed to abort the hell out of this conversation. Smoothly, if possible.

“You’re Katie!?!” Lance screeched out pointing at Pidge who stopped unplugging the game.

Never mind, just abort.

Shiro continued to watch him panic. He’s learned his lesson. Who knows what other tricks this demon might have up his sleeves.

Pidge looked up. “Oh, I see the confusion. Yeah, well to these losers, I’m Katie-“ Pidge motioned back forth in between Shiro and Keith. They then pointed to Lance. “You know me as Matt’s nickname, Pidge. Call me whichever, just with respect,” Pidge clarified.

“We should have made the connection,” Keith muttered also a little surprised that Lance’s friend was also theirs. Shiro nodded walking out of the kitchen to the living room, handing them their orders.

Matt frowned after taking a sip. “It’s cold.”

“Was I supposed to interrupt the show?”

“Fair point,” Matt replied taking another sip of the drink. Shiro handed Keith his along with a peck on Keith’s cheek. Keith protested saying he was covered in sweat.

“You have a job interview. Get changed,” Keith nudged Shiro who trailed off like a puppy dog.

Lance found it incredible how two guys like Shiro and Keith who oozed hotness could also be super domestic and mushy.

Envy rose in Lance’s chest which he responded quickly by shoving it down with a little mental mantra of ‘be happy for them, not jealous of them.’

“I’m going to start getting this stuff back in our car,” Matt explained as he began carrying parts of the game out of the house. Keith walked over to the kitchen cupboard, grabbing a bag of chips. He opened it as he took a seat on the counter.

“You’re really good,” Lance offered. Keith snorted as he offered him the bag.

“Too bad I don’t have idol companies knocking on my door,” Keith said as Lance grabbed a handful of chips. Keith took the bag back, reaching in. “Why are you here?”

“Shiro brought me here.”

“Of course he did,” Keith glowered. Lance didn’t know if that was meant for him or Shiro. Keith glanced back at Lance. “He just sometimes meddles when he shouldn’t,” Keith clarified.

Keith tossed a chip in the air and catching it with his mouth. Lance rubbed the back of his neck.

“Isn’t that what we’re doing?” Lance asked. Keith stopped in a mid-chew. He took a moment to think only to continue chewing again.

Pidge walked across the living room and took a seat on one of the kitchen stools.

“Lance, I got the reservation.”

“You did!?” Lance exclaimed. He reached across the countertop to hug Pidge who protested violently with clawing Lance away. 

“Reservation to-?” Keith prodded. Lance jumped in front of Keith, slamming his hands around him, nearly pinning him. Keith jumped, almost dropping the bag.

“We have a lead.”

“You do!?” Keith asked, slowly putting the bag down. Lance nodded, bubbling with excitement.

“Oh, so you’re taking Keith?” Pidge realized. “Well to clarify Keith, whomever you guys are looking for might work at this place. We aren’t sure yet but I was able to sneak in a reservation for after tomorrow night.”

“That’s so soon,” Lance mumbled. He clasped his hands together. “Do you have a suit, Keith?”

Keith’s eyes widened in concern. “Why do I need a suit?” 


Keith made a mental note to somehow thank Matt for being similar to build because there was no way else he would have gotten a suit in time. Pidge had asked Matt, who gladly offered Keith to borrow one.

Hearing the Kuron worked at a second job in one of Altea’s fanciest restaurants was unsettling.

It was also unsettling standing outside Lance’s apartment door for more than five minutes because some of the neighbors had taken notice of Keith and were prying on who Keith was picking up.

Not that he was picking up Lance. No, Keith had to reassure himself. This was just two guys going to an upper-class dining establishment. On a reservation. Together. At night. No, this was more like a spy mission where they stalk a man who hurt him and his current boyfriend and Lance was just a really sweet, cute guy who-

Keith hit his head against the door.

If he could just have his thoughts stop for one night, oh, how much sleep he would get.

Keith knocked again on the door, slowly as he still hadn’t lifted his head up. The door opened, causing Keith to almost fall. 

Someone caught him.

Someone larger than Lance.

“Shay, I knew someone was knocking,” Keith looked up. He didn’t recognize this big guy with a dopey smile and a headband. He was cute though. Maybe he can just ditch Lance. Was he in the wrong house?

“You must be Keith,” he propped Keith up, brushing off his shoulders. “I’m Hunk, come on in,” Hunk motioned for Keith to follow him in the apartment. The smell of different spices and sugars enveloped him in a blast. Hunk smiled apologetically. “Sorry, I was trying a bunch of new recipes. Trying to get into a class next semester and it’s prerequisite requires three original recipes.”

They arrived at the kitchen which was an absolute mess. Used pots and pans strewn about along with different types of cooked meals ranging to breakfast to dessert.  In the middle, was a someone with a short, brown bob and large hoop earrings. She had her own chaos going with pencils and papers and rocks? Keith was questioning if Hunk was beginning to be so desperate he was adding rocks to his servings.

“This is my girlfriend Shay,” Hunk slid next to Shay, who looked up surprised, not realizing Keith had entered. She stopped chewing on a cooked asparagus stalk that she lifted off one of the plates. Keith offered his hand.

“Hi, I’m-“

Shay took it, giving a soft, gently smile that Keith immediately found trust in. “-Keith. Lance has told us so much about you and Shiro.”

“He has?” Keith let go of Shay’s hand.

“Won’t stop talking about you,” Hunk whined as Shay delicately shoved his shoulder. He smiled at Keith. “Nothing awful, man, he’s just a blabbermouth. He thinks you guys are so cool.”

An oven went off and Hunk bolted. Shay took a seat back down. “Sorry, this place is chaos,” she said, trying to shift some things around to make a seat for Keith. It was a failed attempt. Keith spotted that there were unfinished drawings of the rocks in front of her. Keith picked one up.

“Did you do these?”

“Hm? Oh, yes, I’m no artist but I needed some illustrations for the catalog for my family’s shop and I’m having some trouble with-“ 

Without thinking, Keith took a nearby pencil and began adjusting the drawing as Shay spoke. A line there, a bit of shading there, his eyes glancing more at the stone it was supposed to be rather than the picture in front of him-he put the pencil down. 

“-that’s amazing, Keith!”

 “I should have asked,” Keith started, gearing up to apologize for altering Shay’s work. Shay shook her head profusely. She took the drawing and held it to the the rock. “It’s like a replica! Are you an artist?”

“I dabble. . . Mostly commissions. . .” Keith mumbled as he rubbed his arm.

“You should apply for the Balmera Arts Scholarship! Hunk got a full ride on it and I’m sure you can too,” Shay exclaimed, slowly moving a new sheet of paper in front of Keith along with a different rock. Keith snorted at her obviousness. He continued to draw for her.

“I thought Lance and Hunk went to the same school?”

“No, no, no, Lance goes Altea’s and Hunk attends Balmera’s. Balmera’s strictly focuses on the arts. I take classes outside of campus and such. I do jewelry making. You probably already guessed Hunk does culinary. You’d be a perfect fit!” Shay clasped her hands as Keith handed the second drawing, another replica of what she needed.

Hunk came back in with a different dish. A plate of macaroons assorted in different colors. He put them down, crossing his arms.

“Okay, try them.”

Shay took one, popping it in her mouth. “You too, Keith.”

“Oh, I-“

“It’ll be great for Hunk to get a second opinion-“ Shay explained, mouth full of sweets. Keith took one, biting into it uncertainly. White chocolate was the first taste but then it became overwhelmed with-

“-wasabi?” Keith asked. Hunk tapped his chin.

“Yeah. It’s already been done but maybe if I make a new recipe with a sweet/spicy crossover then that can cover the dessert portion. I just need to nail the basics and then I can start altering-“

“-I got the chili and key lime. It’s good Hunk-“

Keith took another bite as Hunk and Shay discussed how he could improve the recipe.

“You guys already dragged Keith into your cooking horror show?” Lance threw his arms around Shay and Keith. Keith debated shoving a macaroon into Lance’s mouth with no warning.

Lance took one without prompt, eating it whole, only to slowly take it out and frown. Keith laughed.

“Hunk. Love you man. Really do. Love that you wanted to delve more into spice but maybe next time, don’t mix lavender with jalapeño,” Hunk grabbed one Shay’s pencils and wrote Lance’s critique down.

Shay turned to Lance. “The amount of products and showering and-“

“You can’t rush perfection Shay,”

“You’re not even ready,” Hunk countered, motioning that Lance still didn’t have a tie, jacket, nor shoes. He only wore a white colored shirt paired with dark blue dress pants. Lance scoffed as he fiddled with the buttons on his shirt. 

“Neither is Hunk and he’s one of the chefs tonight! You’re our insider Hunk. Our mole!”

“I still have no idea what you guys are doing,” Hunk argued, as he took off the apron and began to clean up. 

“Espionage Hunk,” Lance responded, with a hand on hip. “If it wasn’t vital, that Pidge wouldn’t have gotten us that reservation.”

“Okay, but whoever you guys are following, what if they recognize you?” Hunk asked. Lance batted his hand.

“They never met me,” Lance said, full of confidence. Dread overwhelmed Keith. He hadn’t thought about Kuron noticing him dining in the restaurant. What would he do then? How would he explain why he was there or who was Lance?

Keith’s thoughts were interrupted with Shay tapping on his shoulder. 

“Come on,” she took his hand, leading him into the bathroom. She put the toilet seat cover down and laid a clean towel down, motioning for Keith to sit. Shay knelt down going through the cabinets, softly shutting the door with her foot.

“Lance didn’t specify why you guys are doing this but the way he explained it, it sounded important. I won’t pry,” Shay started as she began to pull out different small cans and products. She laid them out on the floor. “He came to the same realization you must have and asked if there was any way I could help with a disguise. He suggested a wig which won’t pass in where Hunk works,” 

She reached into her dress pocket pulling out an eyeliner pencil and a pair of black rim glasses. She put them down on the countertop. Shay motioned to all the cans on the floor. 

“We can temporarily dye your hair Keith. Just for tonight. It’s spray on so it’ll last a day and it just washes out.”

Keith had no words. Shay had no idea what the whole story was nor did Hunk but yet the two were already willing to help so much. He looked down at all the colors, leaning forward, folding his arms.

“I’ve always wondered how I’d look with white hair . . .”

Shay smiled grabbing the color. She pulled out another towel from the cabinet and put around Keith’s shoulders. She sprayed in the color, determined not to leave a strand of black hair seen.

“Hunk will be working in the kitchen. I’m not sure where the person you guys are looking for work nor does Hunk know considering Pidge wasn’t able to find out. Hunk doesn’t know either where you guys will be sitting. Pidge left that as a surprise,”

Another long spray. Keith couldn’t help but think that Katie would leave them in the dark on where they put Lance and Keith in the restaurant. 

“Sadly, Hunk will have to head out a bit earlier because he has to do some prep before his shift. I can drive you guys to the restaurant but I won’t after nor will Hunk as he is working until closing.”

“That’s okay, we can take a cab or the train,” Keith reassured, recalling having to deal with a drink Lance the last time they went out to eat. Keith wondered if perhaps this time he might be the one who drinks himself into a coma just from the sight of seeing Kuron.

Shay put down the can of spray and uncapped the eyeliner. “I’m only going to do a little. Then with the glasses, fake lenses by the way, it will hopefully be enough. We couldn’t get colored contacts in time,” Shay explained as she began putting the small amount of makeup on the eyelid. She handed Keith the glasses to which he popped on.

“Take a look,”

“That’s-“

Keith almost touched the mirror because that didn’t feel like his reflection. What Shay did was a few small changes such as dying his hair, moved his bangs around, making his eyes look bigger with the eyeliner/glasses combo-but Keith began to feel calmer about Kuron not being able to recognize him.

“Thank you, Shay," 

Shay beamed back as she began clearing the other products. Frantic knocking interrupted them. 

“Shay! Your boyfriend is bullying me-“Lance whined.

“-I’m just trying to put a tie on you Lance-“ 

“-you’re strangling me-“

Lance and Hunk opened the door to stop at Keith. Hunk gasped, covering his mouth and Lance blinked slowly. Lance let a low whistle.

“Who is this?” Lance asked. Keith rolled his eyes. Lance walked around Keith. “Sorry sir, have you seen my friend Keith? Just here a moment ago? Full of rage and pent up horm-“

Keith shoved Lance who almost fell into the still wet shower. He caught himself on the wall giving out a fake cry. 

“You did a great job Shay. Keith, it’s almost like you have a brother,”

“You can’t call him Keith,” Shay cut in, standing up. Lance cocked his head in confusion as he regained his poise. 

“Why not-oh,” Lance realized. “So what kind of name should be used for you?”

Keith never really thought of another name. He didn’t even think about having disguise until twenty minutes ago. He was so used to being called Keith that he probably wouldn’t respond to any other name, being a dead giveaway. In fact, only one other person called him a name and he needed to respond because if he didn’t she would-

“Kenneth,” Keith responded remembering how he picked that name off Ms. Winterloom immediately because she couldn’t drop it. Lance nodded.

“Close enough,” he clapped his hands together, rubbing them. “Alrighty, Kenneth-“ Lance held his hand out to Keith. “-you ready?”


 

Chapter Text


“This place is-“ Keith hissed softly in between gritted teeth as Lance and he stood behind a few businessmen. Lance bumped Keith’s shoulder giving him a smile.

 Lance was no stranger to high-end restaurants but the velvet chairs, crystal chandeliers, and different aromas of expensive perfumes and colognes filling the air were overwhelming and this was just at the front of the house where the hostess was checking people in. Even Lance felt a bit suffocated.

 “It’s going to be fine,” Lance reassured. Keith scoffed as the hostess motioned the people to a table. 

“Fine never means fine, you know,” Keith responded back as they stepped up to the hostess’s stand. 

“Name?” she asked, without looking up from the tablet. Keith and Lance looked at each other, not sure what the reservation is under. The hostess looked up from the book, tapping it impatiently with her digital pen. “If you don’t have a reservation-“

“McClain-” Lance cut in, leaning against the stand. The hostess jumped up, startled by Lance’s sudden movement. She frowned when she saw Keith laughing. Using her pen, she shoved Lance away and flipped through her tablet, making small clicking noises with her tongue.

“Ah yes. McClain. Reservation for two. Oh-“ the hostess’s tone started to change. Lance could see Keith take heed by it. She gave them a warm smile.

Lance didn’t like that. 

“So you’re our honorary guests dining at the chef’s table tonight. My apologies. I didn’t know such high prestige guests dining in our establishment today-“

“I’m so-“ Lance tried to cut in as the hostess walked around the stand to lead them.

“I just didn’t expect you to be so young but truly a prince from Europe and his soon to be husband-“

“I’m sorry?!” Keith screeched and the woman gasped.

“I’ve offended, oh dear. Granted I have never heard of your country so I don’t know of your customs-this way please-but then again I was never the geography buff-“ the hostess rambled on as she led them to a table right in front of the kitchen.

She motioned for them to sit as she adjusted the flowers. Lance took notice of all the staff bustling about. Hunk caught his eye and made eye contact with him. He gave Lance the most confused look, signaling that Hunk also had no idea why Keith and Lance were seated in such a high-end area.

“Your server will be right with you. I hope you enjoy our humble restaurant,” the hostess curtsied and went off.

Keith immediately pulled Lance in, nearly throwing all the silverware and glasses off the table.

“What was that about?!” Keith demanded. At that moment, Lance was grateful they were in chef’s table seating for all the noise of prep work covered Keith’s angered and panicked tone. Lance attempted to squirm away from Keith’s tight grasp. 

“You think I know?! I didn’t make the-“

Lance and Keith’s eyes shot wide open at the same realization. 

“Pidge.”

“Katie.”

Keith let go of Lance, balling his hands into a fist only to release them in exasperation. He sighed, leaning back on the cushioned seating. 

“Am I the European prince or your soon-to-be husband?” Keith asked in a monotone, watching as the head chef shout orders.

Lance turned to Keith, gape-mouthed. Keith looked at Lance, still dead-panned but then the corner of his lips begin to turn up and Lance began to chuckle. Soon the two began laughing.

“I’m going to kill Pidge,” Lance choked out in between chortles. Keith wiped a tear with his wrist.

“Oh come on, they did get us that reservation,” Keith grabbed an empty glass, mock toasting to Lance. “-your majesty.” Lance gave a small kick to Keith under the table. 

“Yeah, right there’s no way I’d be a-“

“What?” Keith interrupted, twirling the ornate glass. “A prince?” Keith held it up as he admired the intricate details. “You could pass for one with all that frou-frou skin care you do and your excessive need to care about people-“

Lance opened his mouth to speak again but found no words coming out as Keith continued to admire the table settings. Keith smirked.

“-and I’d be the paramour. Caught between two. . .”

Lance gulped as Keith finally took his eyes off the glass to look at Lance. Keith chuckled nervously asset the glass down.

“Sorry, I had a few shifts as Rose earlier today before meeting up with and I’m still a little-“

“I thought you didn’t like being Rose,” Lance cut in. Keith cocked his head back forth as he shut his eyes.

 “Most of the time. Yeah. Like ninety-five percent-“ Keith waved his hand around. “-but every now and then I get a fun prompt or chat and it kinda sticks and it makes it not so bad,” Keith picked up a fork, frowning at his reflection. “I still want a better job,” Keith clarified. “-but at least sometimes the chats don’t always suck.” 

“What was this one about?” Lance propped his head up with hands.

“Two other members joined in chat. Threesome scenario but they made up a little story about it being all taboo like that whole “I can’t have you but I must-“ cheezy but it’s a nice break from-“

“Hi, my name is Shiro and I’ll be your server today.”

Keith dropped the fork and Lance nearly slid straight to the table. He looked up to see that if Keith didn’t explain the difference between Shiro and Kuron, then yeah, Lance would have believed that was Shiro, but no, Lance was looking at Kuron.

Who just called himself Shiro. 

“We will be having a five-course menu today. Are there any allergies I should be made aware of?” Kuron asked as he brought a small pad. Lance shook his head but wasn’t sure about Keith

“Ke-Kenneth?” Lance corrected, remembering the fake name the minute he saw the white hair and how Keith was avoiding Kuron’s eyes.

“No,” Keith mumbled in a hushed tone. Kuron nodded.

“And to drink?”

“Sparkling water,” Lance said. 

“Whiskey,” Keith hissed. Lance laughed nervously waving his hands at Kuron’s confused expression. 

“Joking. Joking. Water. Get him water.”

“I’ll be back with your drinks and first course soon,”

Kuron walked off leaving Lance to see that Keith was gripping the tablecloth so hard he had made indentations through it. Lance leaned across the table, putting his hand over Keith’s

“Hey . . .”

Keith released, looking up at Lance. Fear clouded his face. “Why . . . Why is he using Shiro’s name?” Keith whispered, his voice filled with confusion and hurt.

Lance quickly scooched closer to Keith, thanking whatever religious deity was watching over him that allowed the seats at the chef’s table to be booth-like in nature. “I’m here for you. Whole time."

“It’s stupid but I keep thinking he’s going to do something crazy the moment he realizes I’m me-“ Keith chuckled for a moment only to let out a shaky sigh. “You don’t think he recognized me, do you.”

“No, but with no menus and you can’t keep doing that move-“

“What move-“ Keith asked.

“You're looking down directly at the table. This is a chef’s table and people are usually enjoying themselves, no offense, and-“

“No, no, you’re right, especially since this is supposed to be a ‘date,’” Keith accentuated the word date, laughing at the predicament.

“You’re right. . . “ Lance slowly said turning to Keith. Keith stopped laughing.

“I’m sorry?”

Lance could see in the distance that Kuron was heading towards them with their drinks and first course. He put his hand on Keith’s shoulder.

“Here we’re just on a date,” Lance whispered and with that Lance pulled Keith in for a tight grip, hand over waist, just as Kuron arrived. Keith gasped attempting to move but Lance buried his nose in Keith’s hair

“Oh Shiro you're back so soon,” Lance spoke loudly to Kuron, holding Keith.

“Your drinks and first entrée is an apple-cranberry-butternut soup. Comfortable?”

“You know it. It is our anniversary. Have to make it special,” Lance winked at Kuron. Kuron smiled back at Lance. 

“Enjoy.”

“Mhm. . .” Lance responded back as he watched Kuron walk away. He let go of Keith who slowly pulled away, blinking a few times. He stopped, opened his mouth, frowned, and closed it again.

Keith did that a few times as Lance was eating the first entrée. 

“I didn’t hurt you did I?” 

“No I . . . I . . .” Keith trailed off, still baffled.

“It worked didn’t it.”

“Shut up,” Keith grabbed a spoon.

“Wrong spoon,” 

Keith jabbed the spoon at Lance who broke out laughing.


 

“That’s so cool.” Lance watched at Keith scrolled through a gallery of couple costumes Keith and the real Shiro did every Halloween.

“We switch back and forth on who decides what year. Last year was Shiro’s choice so we did Addam’s Family.” 

Keith pulled up a picture of him dressed up as Morticia and Shiro dressed up as Gomez. Lance shakes his head.

“Should have been reversed with that chest Shir-“

Keith shoved Lance who threw his hands up demanding Keith proved him wrong. They were the end and Lance would be lying that despite this being an endeavor to find more information about Kuron, he had a great time with Keith.

“He’s coming,” Keith said as he put his phone away.

“Of course he is. Alright, how are we doing this one? I won’t do anything your uncomfortable with-“

“Lance-“

“I mean after all this is-“

“Lance he’s-“ 

“Maybe we should have disc-

Keith grabbed Lance’s shirt collar and yanked him so hard that Lance somehow ended on top of Keith. 

In public.

In a fine dining establishment. 

Lance could hear his heart pounding so loud that all other sounds of the kitchen drowned out for a moment. He attempted to steady himself so he wasn’t completely on top of Keith in the seating.

“A little warning-“

“Tried to,” Keith bit his lip, looking Lance up and down as they heard shuffling behind them. A cough.

Kuron saying words.

Neither of them listening. 

Well, Lance knew he wasn’t listening. Can’t be sure about Keith. 

“Thanks for tonight,” Keith mumbled, adjusting Lance’s collar. Lance nodded.

“Anytime.” 

Keith narrowed his eyes at that word. As if he was trying to figure Lance’s intention.

Didn’t help that Keith straight at Lance as if his eyes were going to help answer that question. Keith sighed.

“Let’s go.”

Lance nodded, getting off of Keith. He brushed himself off, picking up the check to see the entire meal was covered off of Pidge’s ridiculous lie. Then the color drained from Lance’s face. 

A number.

Belonging to Kuron.

XO McClain, call me OX


 

 Lance could feel the check with Kuron’s number burn in the back of his pocket. He didn’t tell Keith yet. How could he tell Keith?

He was on the transit right now with Keith watching Keith pace back and forth on an empty subway train picking the white out of his hair.

“You shouldn’t do that,” Lance motioned to Keith trying to just shake the dye out. 

“We should just tell Shiro.”

“I’ll do whatever you want me to do,” Lance responded. The number scorched.

“I mean it’s now safe to assume he’s pretending to be Shiro. What else is he doing?”

“Your guess is as good as mine,” Why would Kuron give Lance his number?

Keith stopped pacing which Lance found incredible that Keith was that stable on a moving train in the first place. He steadied himself on a railing. “You don’t think he’s doing illegal activities with Shiro’s identity?!”

Lance woke up from his Kuron thoughts.

“Illegal activ-we just pretended to be two people to get into a restaurant to spy on someone and I’ve seen, like, three knives hidden around your apartment!”

Keith slammed his hands repeatedly on the railing.

“That’s us, not Shiro!!!” Keith argued. “We are talking about a man who I’ve once witnessed step out of the way for a ladybug! If Kuron ruins this man’s reputation-“

“Oh my god,” Lance groaned, as he sank his head in his hands. The train screeched to a halt. Lance jolted as Keith remained perfectly still. He walked to Lance helping out his seat.

“So what do you plan to do?” Lance asked as the two walked out of the train and out onto the streets. The glow of the street lamps in Keith’s neighborhood reminded him how late it was already. At least he didn’t have work tomorrow. 

“We have to tell him." 

“We?”

Keith stopped walking. “Right. Me. You’re done technically-“ Keith realized. “I’ll handle this-“ Lance put his hand on Keith’s shoulder.

“You don’t have to though. Not by yourself,” Lance protested. Keith sighed leading Lance to his and Shiro’s apartment. Silence enveloped them for what was about to come. Telling Shiro that his brother was back in town.

They got on the elevator as Keith kicked the bottom panel.

That Adam was in contact with Kuron.

The elevator began to rise.

That Kuron was using Shiro’s name.

They arrived on Keith and Shiro’s floor. 

Keith stopped, touching his white, dyed locks.

“Dammit,” he mumbled. Lance shut his eyes.

“That’s the least thing Shiro is going to be worried about,” Lance clarified. Keith hesitated only to nod. They looked to the door. Lance watched as Keith hesitate on opening his own door. “Ready?”

“Nope.” 


Keith was sitting on the couch with a wet towel over his head and new clothes. Lance was sitting by the kitchen. Keith had offered him some of his old clothes.

Lance had taken them.

The reasoning for this was, well, Shiro was in shock.

At least that’s what Lance was calling it.

Lance checked his phone as Shiro refused to uncross his arms and move from his position from the couch.

“It’s been forty-three minutes Shiro . . .” Lance said gently, as he picked at the paint off of one Keith’s sweaters. Keith had suggested Lance go home but Lance refused until Shiro would have a reaction to the news.

It wasn’t what they expected. They only told Shiro they were going to hang out. So when returning in suits and Keith adorning white hair, Shiro had questions. He thought it was some joke or prank.

Didn’t really help that Keith had just shouted that Kuron was back.

Shiro refused to believe that.

Then Lance and Keith retold their tales. Both sightings of Kuron only seemed to make Shiro more unsettled.

However what seemed to shut Shiro down was Kuron calling himself Shiro.

And the mention of Adam.

“Do you want some tea. .? Snacks? Put on some TV? Blink, please Shiro?” Lance asked in a soothing, gentle tone. “Oh God, we broke him,” Lance whispered.

Keith looked at Shiro. “You want me to suck you off Shiro? Hm?” Keith asked in the same gentle tone Lance was using.

“Keith!” Lance and Shiro yelled, turning bright red. Keith slammed a hand down on the table. 

“Well your method was getting us nowhere,” Keith shook his head allowing the towel to fall revealing his regular black hair has returned. “How are you feeling?”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Shiro asked the two of them as Kosmo jumped up Shiro’s lap. He began petting the dog. Keith picked up the towel.

“Would you have believed me?”

Shiro stopped petting Kosmo. Kosmo looked at Shiro to see why only go back to resting on Shiro’s lap. He scowled. “It’s just that all of this doesn’t add up. Why Adam? Why use my name? Why-“

“It’s Kuron? Do you need more of a reason! I think we need-“

“What Keith?” Shiro rubbed his forehead. “Try to get a restraining order. He’s not doing anything that can harm us nor did he want to make contact with us.”

Keith huffed, crossing his arms at the dead end Shiro pointed out. Shiro scratched behind Kosmo’s ears. “I still have this uneasy feeling that he’s talking to Adam. If only I could talk to Kuron maybe-“ 

“He gave me his number,” Lance blurted out.

Keith and Shiro slowly looked to Lance who was avoiding their eyes.

“When?” Keith asked, standing up. Lance pulled out the check from the restaurant. “He wrote it at the bottom of the check. I don’t understand why-I mean I never hit on him-or-“

Keith snatched the check from Lance. “I’ve never seen this number.” Shiro picked up Kosmo who gave little protest as he set him down on the floor. He looked at the number Keith was holding. 

“Neither have I. Could be a new one or a burner?” 

Keith stared at the number trying to figure out whether the best action was to just look the phone number up and go from there or call it when Lance spoke up again. 

“Let me call Kuron.”

“No,” Shiro countered. Lance got up, snatching the number from Keith’s hands.

“You want to see Kuron? Kuron wants to see me. Let me call him.”

“Lance-“ Shiro began but Lance stared at the digits. He gave a weak smile. 

“If you’re so concerned then make sure I’m safe,” Shiro and Keith looked at each other and back at Lance. Lance held the number close. “Please, I want to do this for you.”


 

“We should have said no.” Shiro muttered watching from a bus stop as Lance waited outside of a bar. “We should have said no or thought up of something else but no, no we gave into those stupid puppy dog eyes-“

“Why do you care about Adam still?” Keith cut in, starring at his cheap gas station coffee that Lance had bought the two of them before they separated. Shiro’s attention shifted from Lance to Keith now.

“I don’t-I still-you know, I love you right Keith?“

“Of course I do, Christ, Shiro this isn’t about that, I mean-I just-I get why freak out about your brother, the one who ghosted after being involved in a deadly car accident with your current boyfriend and yourself. The guy being back in town, I understand that,” Keith took a sip of the coffee only to gag in disgust. He looked up at Shiro, meeting his eyes. “Why care about the guy who not only called off your marriage but left you when you needed him?”

Shiro tapped his nail on top of his own coffee cup’s lid. “I’m worried. I can’t help thinking something is just. . .” Shiro looked up in staring at the night sky with so few stars. “. . . off? Why keep in touch with Adam? It doesn’t make sense?”

Shiro looked back at Keith who nodded, content with Shiro’s reply. Shiro took a sip of his own coffee also frowning. Keith moved his hand, motioning to his own cup. 

“Right?”

“It’s like soup?” Shiro said, taking the lid off to examine the drink. He had watched Lance drink the entire cup before separating from them. “How did Lance . . ?”

“I think he needed something to calm down . . .” Keith replied not taking his eyes off Lance. 

“Coffee though?”

“Or be alert? The guy looks really wired,” Keith winced. “Look at him.” 

Just as Shiro put the lid back on, Keith grabbed Shiro’s shoulder. The grip was enough a signal for Shiro to know what was in the distance. Shiro looked up.

Kuron headed towards Lance.

“Now what?”

“I’m intervening-“

“Wait-wait-Shiro-“ Keith pushed Shiro down, both not taking their eyes off Lance who greeted Kuron with a smile. “Kuron runs faster than you-“

“What? He does not-“

“He does so-especially after the accident-look let him at least get to Lance and then-“

“He does not-is Lance flirting with him?!” Shiro sputtered, trying to separate thoughts of whether or not Kuron was going to run and how he just saw Lance wink at Kuron.  

“What?!” Keith screeched. Now it was Shiro’s turn to hold Keith back as Shiro witnessed Keith look ready to attack Kuron with his bare hands. “If he fucking hurts him, Shiro-“

Shiro struggled as Keith kept trying to pull away. Lance seemed to laugh at something Kuron said. Shiro’s chest felt uneasy. He didn’t like it. He didn’t like seeing Kuron make Lance laugh.  

“Lance is an adult. He can keep care of him himself,” Shiro reassured Keith, doing his best to attempt to believe his own words. Keith seemed to calm down at that sentence.

Until Kuron took Lance’s hand.

“Where’s he taking him?” Keith muttered, shifting again. 

“Probably into the bar. We can go in there. Confront him-“

“They aren’t going into the bar Shiro,” Keith stood up as Kuron led a now reluctant Lance the alley behind the bar. “Fuck!” Keith swore, tossing his drink, and running towards Kuron and Lance.

Shiro followed immediately.

“Lance!” 

Turning the corner, the sight without context would have just been a guy flirting with another guy or searching for a cheap thrill. 

Kuron with his arm propped up against the wall, pining Lance who was playing along with Kuron’s words but had his hand in his chest, as if to prolong Kuron making another move. 

With context, Shiro saw red. 

“Keith?” Kuron looked back between Lance and Keith. He stood up, arm still pinned against Lance. “Shiro?”

“Get away from him-“

“Wait-were you-“ Kuron snickered at Keith who took a step towards Kuron. “You look better with white hair, Keith.” 

“Get your hands off him,”

“Why?” Kuron asked innocently, still not budging. Keith was about to take another step but Shiro stopped him. 

“Why did you use my name?” Shiro whispered, staring at the ground, trying to access the situation. 

“Shiro!” Keith yelled, wanting to move Lance away from the situation. Kuron looked at the two, leaning closer to Lance.

“Is that why they got you, Lance? As bait?” Kuron questioned.

“I think I’m pretty good at baiting people on my own,” Lance joked, avoiding Kuron’s eye contact. Kuron smirked. 

“Where’s Adam?”

“Why don’t you call him?” Kuron responded, taking Lance in. Lance shifted, uneasy under Kuron’s continuous gaze. “Oh, that’s right-“ Kuron let out a small, disapproving titter as he moved away from Lance. 

“-he fell out of love with you the moment you broke. So then you had to find yourself second best and when that wasn’t enough you had to get yourself another-“

“You son of a-“ Keith started but was cut off by Shiro decking Kuron.

“Oh my god!” Lance yelled as Shiro threw another hit in which Kuron responded by going for Shiro’s throat. Keith took this opportunity to pull Lance away from Kuron.

“Don’t fucking-“ Shiro attempted to pin Kuron who shoved him back. “Don’t fucking talk about them like that.”

When did Kuron strike blood? Shiro had no time to think about that because Kuron already went for his gut.

“Always second best right Shiro?” Kuron demanded. Shiro kneed him and though Kuron winced, he didn’t stop. “How does it feel for once to not be on top of everything?”

He pushed Kuron away, both standing up.

“What are you-“ thoughts flooded Shiro’s mind of what else Kuron could be doing. Lying to Adam, trying to take his identity, going for his friends, attempting to hurt Keith or Lance-

“Shiro’s he’s got a fucking gun!” Lance yelled and Keith tackled Shiro down. A shot fired.

Ringing.

That’s all he felt and heard.

Ringing.

Then police sirens.

“Shiro get up. Someone heard the gunshot and called the cops. They want to question us,” Keith’s voice rang out. Shiro opened his eyes seeing a comfort. His eyes widened as he turned around to see Lance on his other side, safe as well. 

Comfort.

“Did he-“ Shiro started.

“He bolted,” Lance whispered. “Guys I’m sor-“ Lance began but Keith waved his hands in front of Lance as a motion to stop.

“There is no way you could have known Lance. We didn’t know. He’s never-it’s never-it’s a mess,” Keith trailed off, not sure to explain how this was worse than before. How somehow just trying to get some more answers only raised more questions.

How was it that something Keith and Shiro only had to deal with had now dragged Lance in as well?


 Keith sighed as he and Lance watched as Shiro answered all the questions the police provided.

 “How are you feeling?” Keith asked. Lance chuckled.

“How are you feeling?” he mirrored back.

Keith pulled his knees up in the alleyway. “Fair enough. .weird though. The night started so differently.”

“Thank. Fuck. I didn’t let you drink whiskey,” Lance mumbled and Keith barked out a laugh.

 “No, with whiskey, I would have taken the bullet and then had enough liquid courage in me left to punch Kuron’s lights out,” Keith clarified. Lance rolled his eyes.

“You guys alright?” Shiro asked as he walked away from the police who seemed to be all fone with the trio. Lance and Keith nodded, getting up. “Good. That’s good. . . I don’t think I’m going to sleep tonight . . .” Shiro mumbled, rubbing his eyes.

“I know I’m not. We still haven’t got rid of all of Kuron’s stuff in that spare bedroom and I-I don’t know maybe I’ll paint tonight? Do some extra hours as Rose?” Keith thought out loud. “Walk Kosmo . . . for three hours. . . .”

Lance rubbed his shoulder, glancing at Shiro and Keith.

“Or . . .” Lance began. 


 

“Lance, what is this?” Keith asked as Lance finally reached the destination he would not reveal for the whole train ride. They were in Altea City so of course, more things were open this late but the question was what exactly this was.

It was a part of Altea City that Keith and Shiro had never been in before. More lively at night, more bars, clubs-

“Did you bring us to a red-light district?” Shiro asked, curious. Lance stopped walking.

“Does it look like I have red-light district money?”

“Yes,” Shiro and Keith both responded immediately. Lance put a hand to his chest and smiled.

“Aw but no. Here. This way,” Lance led for a few more blocks to a small two-story building with a sign in another language so Keith still was lost. They walked into a desk with a man- 

“Is he dying?” Keith whispered to Shiro who also seemed uneasy at how tall and thin this man was. The guy could be a stick for a profession. 

“Bii-Boh-Bi!” Lance exclaimed. The man looked up and excitedly greeted Lance but shaking his hand up and down. “How about a room and the works. My same if possible? You would not believe my night.”

The man responded back to Lance in an incomprehensible language to which Lance was nodding to. They seemed to come to an agreement and Lance went back to leading the way. Keith and Shiro attempted to catch up. 

“Lance, what was he was saying?” Shiro asked.

“Oh, Bii-Boh-Bi?” Lance shrugged as they passed doors in a long hallway. “I don’t know. Never understood the guy but he seems to be okay with me using the rooms since I’ve been a long-term customer etc-“ Lance trailed off only to clap his hands.

“Lucky 7! Alright. Drinks on me,”

“What exactly-“

Lance opened the door to reveal they were in a karaoke bar. Shiro chuckled walking in. Keith crossed his arms. He didn’t even know if he was in the mood to sing.

“I didn’t even know Altea had one of these. . .” Shiro said as he marveled at the sound-proof room filled with colored, dim lighting. Lance shut the door. He stepped onto the table and collapsed on one of the sofas. He then picked up a menu, flipping through the pages.

“It’s a hole-in-the-wall place which I love. Allura and I use it to unwind a lot during finals week. Lots of death metal songs. To scream out the anger of not ace-ing the exam,” Lance’s face grew dark at the memory. Shiro picked up a menu and began reading one as well. Lance walked over to the song selection list.

There were so many to choose from he didn’t understand how anyone can pick a song. Lance sat up.

“Keith do you have the time?”

“Oh yeah it’s-“ Keith pulled out his phone. The lighting made it a bit hard to see on the lock screen so he typed in his password. “-it’s 3:12 AM-what the hell Lance!” Keith exclaimed as Lance swiped Keith’s phone from him. Shiro looked up from the menu intrigued at Lance’s move. 

“Patience,” Lance waved the phone. “These rooms are super high tech you know. You don’t get to pick from the songs they have here. You can . . . I don’t know. . . use your own playlist . . .” Lance smirked as he leaned down by the machines, selecting a cord and plugging it into Keith’s phone 

“That actually is pretty amazing,”

“How are you okay with just singing?” Keith burst out. “Shiro almost got shot.”

Lance stopped scrolling through Keith’s songs and Shiro continued to flip through the menu. “We’re not.”

“Far from it,” Shiro continued.

“I’m going to get drunk and sing into this mic and raise the volume higher every time I even think about what we just experienced,” Lance calmly said as he went back to scrolling. 

“Lance read my mind. Twice on the drinking. Going to order whatever this ‘Adios Motherfucker’ is,” Shiro mumbled. Keith stared at the two of them in shock. Lance looked up when Keith didn’t respond.

“Honestly, you want my advice right now. Fall into a vice. You're stressed Keith. We all are. Drink. Dance. Beat something up. If you don’t, you’ll get more stressed and worked up and then we’ll be back square one with your skin,” Lance explained. He chuckled as he waved the phone around. “Hell, I wouldn’t even blame you if you wanted to fuck Shiro right now. Just react.”

“Aw Lance thank you for the blessing,” Shiro shot back and Lance gave him a finger-gun.

A knock on the door cut in. 

“Come in,” Lance responded. Bii-Boh-Bi walked into the room with a tray of assorted drinks and set them down. “My man!” Lance exclaimed already walking over and grabbing one, downing it in one go. He picked up a menu and pointed to some food and drink choices he wanted. “Shiro? Keith?” 

Shiro listed off his choices. Keith kept thinking about what Lance said. A vice?

“Keith?” Lance repeated. Keith blinked to see everyone waiting for a response.

“Surprise me,” Keith mumbled, taking a seat next to Shiro. Bii-Boh-Bi nodded and headed on off to prepare food and drinks for the group. Lance tossed the menu down and picked up another strange cocktail, this time taking sips. 

“Usually it takes him like an hour. So I’m going to sing . . . just to pick a song-“ Lance muttered. Shiro gestured to the tray and to his own drink he grabbed. 

“They’re actually decent Keith,” Shiro took a gulp of the purple concoction. Keith groaned, shutting his eyes only to swipe one. He swirled the ice cubes around with his straw.

He wanted to get into this, he really did, and maybe any other night he would be a little more enthusiastic but tonight Keith had experienced so many emotions-

Keith tossed the straw away and began to drink.

He just needed his head to shut up.

“Shiro, do you know any of Keith’s playlist?”

“Oh most of it yeah,” Shiro picked up another drink. Keith needed to keep track of the two of them, knowing their lightweight status. “He puts it on shuffle sometimes when he’s painting and just lets it blast as he dances and his hips do this cute little-“

“Okay you’ve had enough,” Keith reached for Shiro’s drink. How much alcohol was in Shiro’s drink if he was already getting loose-lipped that fast? Shiro huddled over the drink, taking offense that Keith would do such a move.

“Come on Keith,” Lance gave a half smile. When did Lance get on a third drink? Keith shut his eyes and could feel a migraine forming from the stress of even keeping track.

Screw it.

He grabbed another drink. An orangey-yellow one reminiscing of a sunset topped with fruit.

“So. . . “ Lance drawled out. “If I put a song of Keith’s playlist maybe I happened to know. . . would you guys both know it. . . .?

“It’s very possible,” Shiro confirmed. Lance nodded as he selected a song. The sound of drums and guitar filled the room as Shiro sat up.

“I love this song!” Shiro exclaimed 

“Me too!” Lance shouted back.

“Is this Matchbox 20?” Keith asked to himself, knowing full well that it was for he had listened to “How Far We’ve Come” hundreds of times. Lance had opted out of using a mic and was just singing along to the beat. 

“I'm waking up at the start of the end of the world, but it's feeling just like every other morning before, now I wonder what my life is going to mean if it's gone-“ Lance belted out as he clutched his hands to his chest. Shiro hollered cheering him on. Lance winked at him.

Where was another drink?

“The cars are moving like a half a mile an hour, and I started staring at the passengers who're waving goodbye-” Lance began to walk towards the two of them. He leaned down on the table. Panic ran through Keith for he found himself fixated on Lance's movements. ” -can you tell me what was ever really special about me all this time?

And Keith swallowed as much alcohol he could at that moment. Lance laughed, tossing his head back and reached for his drink. 

“But I believe the world is burning to the ground, oh well, I guess we're gonna find out, let's see how far we've come!” Lance sang, eyes shut, toasting his drink in the air.

“Let's see how far we've come! Well I, believe, it all, is coming to an end! Oh well, I guess, we're gonna pretend-“ he held out his hand to Shiro and Keith, his eyes fluttering open. Christ, he had pretty eyes and stupid pretty lashes.

 “Let's see how far we've come, let's see how far we've come.“  

Shiro grabbed Lance’s hand. Keith began to choke when Shiro started singing to Lance.

“I think it turned ten o'clock but I don't really know,” Shiro whispered, walking around the table, still holding Lance's hand.

Then I can't remember caring for an hour or so-“ - a sloppy spin causing Lance to giggle. Actually, giggle. 

“Started crying and I couldn't stop myself-“ -Lance moving back in a tease while Shiro moved forward-“-I started running but there's nowhere to run to-“- Shiro caught Lance spinning him around again, almost spilling Lance’s drink. 

“-I sat down on the street and took a look at myself-“-Shiro continued. Lance chugged the rest of his beverage.

 “-said where you going man you know the world is headed for hell-“ Lance smiled at Shiro. "Say your goodbyes if you've got someone you can say goodbye to!”  

Shiro pulled Lance in, effortlessly gravitating to Shiro and moving with his body. Lance cheered, joining back in the song.

  “I believe the world is burning to the ground,”

Why was Keith finding this hot!?

“ Oh well, I guess, we're gonna find out!” Lance ran his hand up against Shiro’s back and Shiro only gripped Lance tighter, moving his shoulders in what was pathetic dancing for two drunk people but-

“Let's see how far we've come, let's see how far we've come-“  

He shouldn’t be finding his friend dancing with his boyfriend hot-he shouldn't-he-

“Well I, believe, it all, is coming to an end, oh well, I guess, we're gonna pretend-“ they continued to sing to each other, completely fixated.

Keith wanted another drink. He needed one. No way was he going to have some crisis right now with what he was feeling at this moment. 

“Let's see how far we've come, let's see how far we've come-“

When did he run out? 

Keith watched as the two continued to dance and laugh with each other throughout the instrumental. Touching. Caressing. They weren’t even aware of how good they looked.

When did he get up?

“It's gone, gone, baby, it’s all gone-“ Keith murmured, standing over the table to walk down towards Lance and Shiro, who stopped the moment they heard Keith’s voice.

“There is no one on the corner-“ Keith crooned and Shiro’s fingers interlaced with Keith’s, pulling him in. Keith stumbled but Shiro's hold made sure he was balanced.”-and there's no one at home-“

“It was cool, cool, it was just all cool-“ Keith ran his hands through his own hair, singing softly. The lyrics were coming out so easily. Shiro reached for Lance dragging him closer.

"Now it's over for me, and it's over for you-“ Keith said to himself.

“Well it's gone, gone, baby, it's all gone-“= Shiro and Lance repeated as Keith dipped himself back into Lance's chest. Shiro started to press up against him and Keith was aware of anything else in the room-only Lance and Shiro.

 “There is no one on the corner and there's no one at home-“ Shiro managed to spin Keith around, allowing him to face Lance.  

“-well it was cool, cool, it was just all cool-“-Keith leaned in feeling Lance’s chest amongst his own and Shiro behind him. Both of them were coming so close to his body. He could feel hot their breaths and smell the mixtures of fruity alcohol. It was intoxicating. Keith bit his lip in anticipation, dipping his head back and humming in time Shiro and Lance singing. 

“-now it's over for me, and it's over for you.“  

Fuck.

Keith’s eyes shot open. Lance pulled away, being the first one to break him out of the fantasy.

 “But I believe the world is burning to the ground-“ Lance sang, grabbing Keith’s hand. Shiro smirked.

"Oh well, I guess we're gonna find out-“ Shiro belted back, throwing his hands in the air. Keith laughed at how silly and loose they were getting. He joined back in.

“Let's see how far we've come, let's see how far we've come!” Keith was feeling so much at once.

“Well I, believe, it all, is coming to an end-“ Lance shot, extended his arms out, twirling around to be caught by Keith who was stlll trying to subdue his laughter. Shiro shrugged backing away.

“Oh well, I guess, we're gonna pretend-“ Shiro sang. Lance got up from Keith's hold and tugged Shiro back in close to him and Keith. Keith couldn't stop smiling. 

With everything that happened in the past twenty-four hours . . .

“-let's see how far we've come-“

 Every raw emotion was spilled out . . .

“-let's see how far we've go-“

It was spilling out in this small, little, karaoke room . . .

“-let's see how far we've come-“  

In the yelling and singing for no one else to see but the three of them . . .

“-let's see how far we've go-“

Through the smiles and laughter, the tears were spilling out, muted through music and drinks . . .

“-let's see how far we've come-“

 Raw . . . Keith felt raw and real at this moment with Shiro and Lance . . .

“-let's see how far we've come-“ 

 He didn’t want this moment to end . . . 

“-let's see how far we've come-“

 Keith wanted this bad . . . 

“let's see how far we've come-“

 He wanted this to last . . . 

“-let's see how far we've come.”


 

Chapter Text


Lance attempted to sit up but immediately fell back down, letting out a whine when a shot of pain hit his head. He tried to open his eyes to access the situation but every time he did, he was greeted with a multitude of colors that filled the room.

What happened last night? 

Lance released a long groan only to be pushed up by a knee. Oh? His back was on somebody’s knees? A voice shushed him. Lance reached up, smacking his left hand on whomever he was on in hopes of trying to piece the puzzle.

“Lance. . .” Shiro mumbled as Lance lingered a moment too long on Shiro’s chest. Lance withdrew his hand quickly attempting to get up again to realize he was too hungover and he needed a bit. 

“Stop making sounds . . .” Shiro muttered as he rubbed his eyes. “Keith has never drunk that much and I-“ 

Keith! Where was Keith?

It was then Lance noticed his right arm was being gripped, rather tightly, by Keith who was sitting upright on the floor. Lance tried to pull away. Keith whimpered, only grasping Lance’s arm tighter. Lance began to stammer looking to Shiro for advice but Shiro only chuckled.

“Now that’s precious,” Shiro said, lazily, watching the scene out of the corner of his eyes. He glanced at Lance who decided to focus on adjusting to the lighting in the karaoke room. “How are you feeling?”

“Whipped. Exhausted. Headachey,” Lance listed off, hating the sound of his own voice. "Dazed."

“That makes two of us,” Shiro sighed, fixing Lance’s hair. Lance wondered if it was them that managed to change the color light settings in the room or did they request it or-

Shiro tucked another strand behind Lance’s ear and Lance involuntary nudged his cheek closer to Shiro’s hand. 

Lance froze. He shouldn’t have done that. He shouldn’t have done that. He really really really shouldn’t have but with Shiro doing that to him holding Keith he just felt so- 

“Remember when we talked about Monster and Mana at Matt’s job?” Shiro brought up, still playing with Lance’s hair. Lance went back to focusing on the lights. Sure, they hurt looking at but if he made eye contact with Shiro or even looked at Keith he was positive he’d die.

“You’re asking me to remember something in this state Shiro,” Lance weakly but dryly responded. Shiro let out another soft laugh. Wasn’t alcohol supposed to numb everything?! 

“You said you were a thief but I always felt that was off-“

“Coming from Mr. Chooses Paladin Each Time over here,” Lance teased and Shiro nudged his knee a bit causing Lance to jolt. The two laughed but when Shiro’s eyes caught Lance’s, the laughing died down. Shiro stopped playing with Lance’s hair.

“-I kinda see you like a prince.”

That was it. Within Keith’s dumb argument at the restaurant and whatever Shiro was doing right now, Lance couldn’t handle the tightening in his chest. The feeling that he was in a place he wasn't supposed to be in. He was beginning to care too much. It was going to happen again. He was going to get hurt. He was going to get-

Keith let go of Lance’s hand, hitting the floor with a loud thud. Lance sat straight up with the assistance of Shiro.

“Keith!” they both yelled as Keith attempted to stand only fall back on all fours.

“What is this?” he asked. “What the hell is this?” Keith turned to both Shiro and Lance as if they were the ones who did this damage to him. Shiro offered his shoulder to help Keith up as Lance reached for one of the few bottles of water next to food that must have been dropped off by Bii-Boh-Bi. Lance didn’t even want to think about how much money the three of them wasted for a night like this.

“Here,” Lance offered the water. Keith eyes it suspiciously.

“Lance if that’s vodka or rum I swear-“

“Why would I offer you more alcohol!?” Lance exclaimed, still attempting to hand the bottle to Keith.

“Cause I feel like you’d be the kind of guy to say something ‘can’t get hungover if you don’t stop drinking!’” Keith yelled with as much strength as he could. The three of them stopped. Shiro attempted to try to hide his chuckling behind Keith’s mullet but when Lance snickered the three couldn’t hold it in and began full on laughing. 

“It’s true though!” Lance argued, through tears.

“I knew it!” Keith shot back.

“Just-just take the water Keith,” Shiro choked out attempting to look composed but it was useless. Though memory was vague, the three of them trashed the room. Food and drinks were spilled all over. The karaoke machine was on a loop. Though the volume was lowered, it was getting annoying. Pillows from the couches were upturned, menus were flipped through and stained with what Lance could only assume was food from the empty dishes-

“Katie sent us something,” Shiro said, looking at his phone. Lance reached for his phone only to realize he didn’t have it. Keith noticed his panic and nodded towards the machine.

“Think you plugged it in last night after you called my playlist ‘sucky’

“Hey Shiro, Keith, Lance-look I don’t know how fucking wasted you guys are-“  

Pidge sounds pissed,” Lance winced as he retrieved his and Keith’s phone. He checked his own, seeing there was also a voice mail from Pidge. Must be the same one.

“-but it’s four in the fucking morning and you’ve already left me, Matt, Hunk, and Hunk’s friend Romelle and bunch of stupid messages-“

Some shoving and Pidge arguing in the background. Matt’s voice took over.

“-the dumbasses won’t comprehend this. They’ll still be hungover. Pidge-Pidge-Let me tal-attached are some voicemails we received over the night!”

“Enjoy drunk you!” Pidge angrily yelled in the background.

Lance could feel all the color and life drain the moment when that message ended, Shiro’s phone blinked with three new voicemails. 

“Those little . . .” Keith started. Shiro rubbed the back of his head, looking around the room. 

“I can only assume . . .”

“Play it. Rip off the band-aid,” Lance said, shocked at how confident he sounded. Keith and Shiro looked at each other surprised at how little fear Lance showed.

However, faking confidence was much different than feeling confident.

“Well, get ready for the second hand embarrassment,” Shiro warned as he pressed play on the first of the messages.

“Hunk!!!”

“Hi . . . Lance?”

“How Pidge can transfer something like a voice message from Lance’s phone to mine is something I will never understand-“ Shiro began but Lance and Keith held their hands up for Shiro to silence. 

“Hunk! Guys! Guys! I got Hunk!”

“Oh my God, you’re drunk.”   

“Is that Hunk!” Keith’s voice was heard.  

“I fucking love Hunk!” Shiro yelled.

“Don’t-“ Shiro held his hand up as Keith and Lance were about to comment on the swearing. Lance only witnessed Shiro curse a few times and it was during his fight with Kuron. So to see alcohol also triggered Shiro into spewing more profanities was knowledge Lance didn't know what to do with.

“Oh God Oh God-Shay-Lance is with Shiro and Keith and they are drunk!” Hunk whispered.

“You gotta speak up Hunk! You’re on speaker!” Lance yelled over a pounding beat.

“I thought Keith never drank . . .” Shay said in the back of Hunk’s call.

“Never say never Shay! Life is short! Seize the day! My high school teachers were wrong! I ended up-oh Shiro what is this?!”

“I think it’s a mixer. . . “ Shiro spoke fascinated.

“Lance oh no, please stay hydrated. Where are you guys at! Me and Shay could come pick you guys up-“

“Sss allright Hunk. You’re a good friend. Gorgeous friend. Amazing friend. I’m calling to see if you can tell me how to make that pizza from that time you and Pidge stayed up for three days trying to create a sentient life robot-how many toppings had it-“

“Lance I made a lasagna-“  

With that, the message cut out and everyone stared at the phone in Shiro’s hand. 

“Do we even want to her the next message?” Keith asked. Shiro answered by pressing play.

“Hello?” Romelle’s groggy voice spoke up.

“Oh good guys I got her,” Keith slurred.

“Keith this is the fourth time-“

  “Shiro insists that the final episode of season 7 of Garfle Warfle Snick the contestants won by dominating in Pictionary but Lance is insisting that’s a round one game-“  

“It! Is! Shiro help sing Cascada!” Lance yelled.  

“If you sing Cascada one more time I’m breaking the machine!” Keith shouted. “Where was I Romelle?”

“Keith I have a six AM shift. . .“ Romelle argued, sleepily.  

Lance, Shiro, and Keith winced hearing the poor girl say that. 

“-tell her to skip!” Lance shouted.

“Am I on speaker phone?” Romelle seemed to perk up a bit with that knowledge.  

“-Romelle I really need you to prove Lance and Shiro wrong on this-“

“Lance! Shiro and Keith are-“

Either Romelle or Keith had cut off the line. Lance narrowed his eyes trying to figure out what Romelle meant there. 

“She was probably going to spill some silly, gushy stuff about us,” Shiro nudged Keith who gave a smile.

“Yeah like that time at the beach,” Keith backed up.

“Or that time at that convention Matt made us go to.”

The two smiled but avoided looking at Lance. Something felt . . . off. It was the way Shiro and Keith responded to Romelle’s burst. Not natural. 

Shiro let the third message roll.

“Shiro. It’s been forty minutes-“ Matt interrupted.

“No, shut up, no, shut up, let me explain why paladin is a valid class-“

“Is he still fucking talking!?” Pidge yelled out. Shuffling and then Pidge’s voice came in.

“You’re lucky I’m wide awake working on fixing that dumb skee ball machine cause I’ve been keeping a log of every one calling me tonight about you guys-“  

“Pidgeeee put Mattttt back on-“ Lance cried. “Matttt sounds prettttyyierrrr-“

“You’re so god damn valid there Lance like fuck have you-“ Keith responded back.

“We have such hot fucking friends,” Lance responded. “Matt, Pidge, Hunk-oh God Allura-“

Lance had started crying. Keith sounded like he had taken another drink and slamed the bottle against the table.  

“Imagine if Allura was a guy- Shiro I might leave you-“

“You’d leave me for Allura-“ Shiro snapped away from his argument with Matt.  

“Male Allura. Maybe. No, I can’t-fuck-“ Keith was beginning to sound just as emotional as Lance.  

Pidge made a loud gagging noise and everyone could here Matt loudly sigh.

“They’re just going to keep calling . . .” Pidge said to themself.

“We could teach them a lesson . . .” Matt responded. Shiro, Keith, and Lance were oblvious to the siblings’ plotting in front of them. Silence from Pidge for a moment.

“Hey, sober Keith, sober Lance, sober Shiro-“ Pidge spoke into the phone.  

“Pidge you know I care about you so much-“ Lance cried.  

“-by now Matt and I have probably shoved some recordings of this night into your laps-“

"-oh god I’m out of drinks-“

“-so consider this collateral-“ Pidge began.

“-plenty more recordings-“ Matt sang out, finally catching on.

“-ever pull this shit off again and I send it to, I don’t know, our friends, the internet-“ Pidge drawled off.

“That’s not so bad,” Keith crossed his arms.

-your mother Keith-“

“We need to burn those recordings,” Keith said, trying to grab Shiro's phone in fear at the thought of disappointing his mom. “Make sure I never drink again, mom can not-“

“Pidge is just using a scare tactic,” Lance sighed as Matt and Pidge said their goodbyes. “They used to do this to me a bunch during my freshmen year. Rarely do they release what they have-“

“Rarely,” Shiro repeated. A knock interrupted them. Bii-Boh-Bi opened the door slightly motioning to Lance. Lance rubbed his eyes, knowing they were way past their time here. He held out his palms, signaling for ten more minutes in the room.

“Look you guys head home. Call a cab. I’m going to clean a bit of the damage here and then cover the bill.”

“Lance-“ Shiro started but Lance stopped him.

“Keith has been using you something to steady himself on this whole conversation. He needs to lie down-“

“No I don’t I’m-“ Keith argued pulling away only to have Shiro and Lance hold him up. Keith moved closer to Shiro. Lance figured with Shiro being his boyfriend.

“I said this could be on me. Don’t worry about it,” Lance insisted, shoving Shiro and Keith out of the room. “Get some rest.”

“We’ll talk to you later. Thank you, Lance,” Shiro said and Keith nodded, affirming what Shiro just spoke. Lance smiled back watching them head down the hall. He closed the door. He leaned against him, his head feeling like trains were constantly running across his skull 

He checked his phone.

Three voice messages.

Lance started them to confirm they were the same exact messages they had just listened too. When the third message was finished, Lance shut his eyes.

So much was blurred and he kept having glimpses and traces but he couldn’t piece together.

His phone buzzed.

Lance’s hands began to shake when he saw a fourth voice mail. Shiro and Keith didn’t get a fourth voice mail.

Lance, do you want to talk about it? 

Lance didn’t want to press it. Lance didn’t want to see what Pidge sent him.

No.

Lance didn’t want to talk about it. 


 

Shiro always forgot how difficult it was getting into his and Keith’s apartment when hungover. Noises were just so loud and all he wanted to do is shower and get in bed with Keith.

“One of us needs to walk Kosmo-“ Keith muttered. The minute Shiro opened the door, the large dog nearly teleported right in front of them. Right. Kosmo.

“-I’ll walk him-“ Shiro went for a leash in the closet.

“-I’m going get his food ready in the kitchen-“ Keith went for the dog food. 

“-you think you can take a quick shower and then I can jump in after?”

“Yeah, but I’m going to brush my teeth before I just-“ Keith frowned, licking his own lips, disgusted by the taste of so much booze. Shiro nodded thinking he should do the same. 

“See you in a bit,” Shiro pecked Keith’s neck. Keith responded with a nod, focused a bit more on doing his tasks.

As Shiro walked Kosmo he felt like something was off the entire night. He was thinking about when Keith came home last night with Lance. During the fight with Kuron. Whatever memories he had of the karao- 

“Kosmo, slow down,” Shiro begged as Kosmo attempted to run. Kosmo heeded Shiro’s plea and took a slower pace.

Shiro went back to thinking.

-it was on the tip of his tongue; was that even right? Maybe something shifted? No, that wasn’t it. 

After finishing Kosmo’s walk, Shiro still found himself stumped, which only made him more persistent to discover what was so different about last night. Kosmo settled into the living room. Shiro brushed his teeth, checking to see if he needed to do anything before he went into the shower and the eventually into bed. 

It was bothering him. Shiro tossed the toothbrush in its designated holder.

He took the shower with the thought still eating away at him; the scent of the products chosen by Lance for Keith seemed to only cloud his thought process.

Sleep would help. Shiro went back into the kitchen checking to see if Keith had work today or tomorrow. He himself had another edit piece but his deadline was in a week’s time.

He checked the sticky notes around Keith’s desk to see he was only scheduled to either paint or work as Rose; jobs that were both flexible and would allow Keith to rest. 

Shiro headed to their room opening in softly to see Keith already asleep on his side of the bed.

Keith was the one who insisted on sharing the bed but Shiro was always worried about the touching aspect and hurting Keith as time went on. Shiro could always fondly recall the day Keith slammed the door open to their apartment, holding multiple bags of pillows and blankets. 

Keith had then explained how ‘a little skin thing’ wasn’t going to stop him from sleeping next to the person he loved as he set up a barrier in the middle of the bed. It allowed them to sleep next to each other, talk to each other at night, hold each other’s hand in the same bed-

All without the fear of one of them accidentally moving too much in their sleep and brushing up against Keith causing the pain to sear.

Shiro stepped in, shutting the door as silently as he can.

“-took a while,” Keith mumbled under the sheets. He held his hand out to Shiro, urging he come in and join him. Shiro took it, crawling into the bed, the makeshift barrier between them.

“Night Shiro,”

“It’s midday,” Shiro murmured already feeling sleep take over him and the thought that was itching to be solved got pushed away. 


 

Shiro stretched his hand down finding something on top of him. 

“Shiro,” Keith murmured, nudging his cheek against Shiro’s neck, the soft, hair feeling soothing as he pulled Keith closer-

Shiro’s eyes snapped open.

“Keith-“ Shiro whispered, frantic seeing Keith was indeed on top of him. “Keith, oh no, Keith please-“ Shiro tried to gently wake Keith up bracing for a yelp or a scream when the pain would hit.

They were so careful. They were usually so careful. The combination of both of them being drunk then hungover plus exhaustion must have skewed their usual sleep schedules and now Shiro’s mind was panicking.

“Shiro, you’re being loud,” Keith dug his face into Shiro’s chest. Keith stopped moving.

“Keith?”

 Keith slowly looked up at Shiro.

Usually by now- 

“Keith?” Shiro repeated slowly as Keith blinked, trying process.

Usually by now-

“Holy fuck,” Keith slammed his hands against Shiro’s chest and Shiro wheezed. “Ah sorry!”

“It’s okay-“ Shiro coughed, “You’re not in-“

“Not really, I mean my thighs and arms are still sensitive but-“ Keith ‘s hands trailed amongst Shiro’s chest and up towards his arms. “What the fuck," 

“W-What?” Shiro stammered. 

“I’ve been missing out on this-if I realized-fucking-“ Keith was just talking to himself at this point, finding new interest in Shiro’s body for a second time in his life. Keith grabbed Shiro’s hand.

“Wait Keith are you sure?”

Keith paused, still holding Shiro’s hand. Then Keith placed it gently on his own shoulder. Keith let go allowing himself to touch Shiro and Shiro’s hand began to trail down Keith’s stomach.

If there was any time in Shiro’s life he was grateful that the two of them only bothered putting on under wear and shorts to bed, now was that time.

“I’m going to kiss you,” Shiro whispered.

“Yeah?” Keith mumbled, his hands trailing up to Shiro’s neck.

“-and this time it’s going to be different-“

“-oh definitely,” Keith’s eyes glinted with excitement and with that, Shiro’s lips crashed against Keith’s.

They always held back. Even when kissing.

Now there weren't many limitations.

Now, Keith was savoring every little lick and peck Shiro would do against his neck up to his face in between the extended kisses that they were taking way too much pleasure in. 

Now, Shiro found himself gasping, discovering Keith was a biter, marking up Shiro’s neck; each mark a moment Keith missed out on. Each hickey a claim that Keith did this to Shiro.

Shiro was discovering himself not being able to stop, holding and exploring Keith, as with every new discovery came a cute sound Keith would make or a moan Shiro would want to be imprinted in his skull on a loop. 

Keith sat up pulling Shiro up. He grinded against Shiro’s crotch, pushing for them to move forward. Shiro shut his eyes. 

“We have no protection-“

How was he already becoming hard from that interaction?

“-and no lube or-“

“We don’t need-“

 Shiro stopped moving, insulted at what Keith was about to suggest, and Keith held up his hands. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry-“

“I would never fuck you without lube-“

“I know. You’re right. You’re just so-“ Keith trailed off, taking Shiro in. Shiro pulled him closer, hands intertwining.

“-go on,” Shiro egged, imitating Keith’s excited grind move and Keith let out a very pleasing whimper that Shiro will always be grateful for.

“Tease,” Keith said back as Shiro pulled him back in the bed.

The two of them were always patient. What difference would a few more moments be? 

They could be patient. 

Well at least until Shiro would run later that day to the nearest convenience store.


 

 “You are in a good mood!” Allura smiled as she jotted down Shiro’s progress on the experimental prosthetic creams for her family shops.

“I am?” Shiro asked, trying to hide a trace of glee in his voice.

It had been over a week since Shiro and Keith discovered Keith was touchable and they could not keep their hands off each other. 

“I know what it is,” Allura snapped her fingers. “You finally got a permanent job!”

“No that’s not it,” Shiro sighed. Allura just made he feel like he got kicked off cloud nine and back to reality. Yes, now he and Keith can have sex but that doesn’t fix Keith and Shiro’s problems of money. 

Shiro would love it if they had more stability in their life. 

“Why’s Shiro look so down,” Lance asked popping into the backroom of shop. He jumped up on a desk to sit on it. “Allura finally tell you the side effects of the cream she’s putting on you?”

 “What?” Shiro asked and Allura waved her hands back and forth. 

“Lance-” Allura glared at her friend/co-worker, enunciating the ‘a’ in his name into a harsh ‘o’ “-was kidding.”

“So what killed his mood. He looked super happy walking into the place,”

“I did?” 

“I said hi to you four times and you were so out of it, you almost hit a door. I opened it for you Shiro,” Lance clarified, sounding a bit more intrigued rather than offended. 

“We were just talking about how Shiro still has no job,” Allura explained, examining the skin where Shiro’s prosthetic goes. 

“Still doesn’t explain how earlier-“

“Yeah!” Shiro cut in. He wasn’t sure if he wanted Lance or Allura to know about his sex life. Plus, Allura and Lance seemed like they would get really interpersonal on how to stay safe and make sure what creams and skin products to use and Shiro . . . 

Shiro just wasn’t in the mood for that level of embarrassment yet. 

“I’m sorry the job hunt is going good Shiro,” Lance attempted to console. 

“Lance you don’t-“ 

“Maybe I can help-“ 

Shiro smiled at Lance's never-ending offers. “You’ve done more than enough Lance. Besides you don’t need to stress so much about me and Keith.”

“I freak out though and I just want to help,” Lance began trying to find the right words. Allura seemed to glance every now and then at Lance throughout the conversation but she made no interruption.

“But you’ve already done so much for us,” Shiro started, feeling guilty. “You’ve been such a help and I’d hate to impose.”

Lance had already offered to help Keith with skin, helped Shiro on the side when Allura wasn’t around and on top of that, he was in on the whole Kuron debacle. Shiro would feel that he was taking advantage of Lance if they asked him for anything more.

“Okay,” Lance responded, dropping the subject.


 “I’m going to write that I’m right outside his window,”

“Don’t do that,” Keith smirked. Lance was sitting at Keith’s desk while Keith sat at the armchair with Kosmo in his lap. Keith had fit a sketchbook in between him and Kosmo and was doing some preliminary sketches for a commission.

Lance had seen another message for Rose pop up. He asked Keith if he could just take over. 

Keith said what the hell.

Which led to Lance proposing the most ridicuolous replies Lance wanted to type in to ManixPiXieLuv who kept trying to issue Rose into a long-term relationship. 

“-tell him I bought a ring and plane ticked to Paris-“

“Stop!” Keith held the sketchbook to his face, desperately attempting to keep it together.

“-already adopted our first four kids. He just needed to make the first move-“

Keith ripped a paper out of the sketchbook, crumpled it up and tossed it at Lance’s head. He dodged it, cheering. 

“Getting predictable Kogane!” Lance spun around in the chair to face Keith. 

“Whatever,” Keith smiled as he went back to drawing. 

“What’s with you?” Lance prodded.

“What do you mean?” Keith began to cross-hatchet on the sketch, delving into details that didn’t matter. 

“You seem . . . chipper,” Lance offered. “Like I’ve never seen you smile so much. .  .”

“I smile,” Keith began looking up from the drawing but Lance just responded back with a look of disbelief. Keith went back to his drawing. “Whatever.”

Lance snorted and turned the chair around to go back to typing as Rose. Fingers hit the keyboards as Lance continued to talk.

“What? You and Shiro finally fuck?”

Keith’s pencil snapped, causing Kosmo to open his eyes to check if Keith was okay. Lance stopped typing and slowly turned around as Keith brought the sketchbook up to his face.

“You guys fucked.”

“Stop saying it.”

“Oh my god.”

“Lance if you don’t-“

“Keith, you’re positively glowing-“ Lance started and Keith jumped out of the chair in an attempt to hit Lance with his book but Lance was already on the other side of the couch, a step ahead. 

“Why else would your hair have that extra shine and your eyes that little, special sparkle-“ –sketchbook was thrown and Keith missed- “-been relieving a lot of stress Keith?” 

“You’re starting to cause some,” Keith jumped over the couch and tackled Lance down. Lance struggled against Keith’s grip only to stop moving, noticing his arms. He attempted to sit up but Keith was still pinning him down. 

“You’ve actually been listening to me . . .” Lance mumbled. Keith loosened the grip and Lance touched Keith’s arms, seeing how progress was being made. Keith felt his chest start to feel tight to with Lance’s touch. He moved away. 

“Yeah. You know what you’re talking about,” Keith’s face flushed red with the knowledge that now Lance knew that Shiro and he were fucking. Lance sat down next to Keith against the bottom of the couch. “Thanks by the way?”

“Dude, you you’re doing most of the work-”

“-yeah but you came up with the guidelines and the right products and a plan-“

“-but if you don’t execute it then I’m useless-“

“-you’re not useless-“ Keith turned to face Lance just at Lance turned to face Keith.

Their faces inches apart. 

Lance and Keith jolted away from each other with Lance getting up. “I should get going!” Lance clasped his hands together.

Keith crossed his arms, trying to settle everything going on within him.

“You sure?” Keith asked, his voice an octave higher than usual.

“Yeah. Oh. Yup. I’ll-“ Lance backed away to the door. “I’ll talk to you later Keith.”

With that, Keith found himself alone in the apartment, questions interrupting his every thought and a feeling all too familiar. 

A feeling he wanted to shove down.


 

Keith let out at a cry of ecstasy as Shiro sucked him off in the kitchen. Keith gripped the countertop hard as it was his only way to steady himself cause his knees were shot at this point.

So yes, perhaps Shiro and Keith were maybe going a little off the deep end.

On the other hand, Keith and Shiro had begun rationalizing it as making up for lost time. Months and months of lost time. 

So if Keith and Shiro wanted to go loose then what should stop them?

Keith’s phone buzzed, signaling a call. Shiro pulled away, leaving Keith a wreck as he watched Keith reach for the phone. 

“Really?” Shiro asked surprised.

“It could be a job offer,” Keith rationalized. Shiro nodded moving up as Keith turned around allowing the Keith to check the message as he continued to kiss his neck-

“Slow down-“ Keith laughed as he was about to answer. Shiro pouted as he propped his chin on Keith’s shoulder. Keith unlocked the phone. 

“Keith?”  Lance’s voice rang out. Before Keith could respond, Shiro covered Keith’s mouth. His hands reaching down for Keith’s cock.

“Keith’s kind of busy right now. Hey Lance!”

Keith retaliated Shiro’s dirty move by sucking off the fingers that were shutting him up. Shiro opened his mouth to gasp but buried his noises into Keith’s neck. 

“Okay, that’s fine. I just was calling to say I’ll be able to pick up a few more refills of the products that are helping Keith. I’ll be a little busier over August though cause Allura has me going to this banquet for the new product lines-“

Keith pulled away, turning around to face Shiro as he began to make his way down to Shiro’s dick.

“-actually I think you guys are going to be invited because of Shiro-“

Keith was taunting, gently kissing the skin in between Shiro’s thighs.

“Sounds great Lance,” Shiro managed to choke out before Keith had begun sucking him off in return.

“Isn’t it? Well, I just wanted to check up, tell you the news-“

Lance was rambling and Shiro took initiative because he wouldn’t be able to stay quiet any longer. He slammed the phone across the table as an excuse before hitting the end call button in hopes that Lance would assume the connection was cut off.

Shiro began to sink to floor with Keith steadying him. He was pinned against the fridge. 

“That-god Keith-that was nice of Lance-“ Shiro managed to rasp out in between moans.  “Kei-“ Shiro couldn’t manage to finish Keith’s name as Keith pulled away just as Shiro climaxed.

“Lance is always nice,” Keith murmured continuing to grope Shiro. Shiro pulled Keith in for a messy kiss and Keith mumbled “Wonder what Lance tastes like?”

“How he sounds?” Shiro prodded, transfixed in the direction the two were going in. 

“If he tops or bottoms,” Keith danced his fingers along Shiro’s arm. 

“What his little kinks are . . .”

“Is he quiet or loud . . . “

“He looks flexible . . .”

“He’d probably feel amazing . . .”

The two of them found themselves in their own little fantasy with Keith continuing to trace Shiro’s skin until Keith disconnected the delusion by scrambling away from Shiro. 

“You like Lance!” Keith yelled out, attempting to get up only to sink down. He opted for reaching for his clothes sprawled over the kitchen floor.

“You like Lance. Everyone likes Lance. Hard not to like Lance,” Shiro stated calmly, careful not to set himself for a trap.

“No! You know what I mean!” Keith argued, going for a second attempt of standing up and succeeding as he put his underwear on. Shiro reached for his own clothes.

“We have to talk about this Keith-“ 

Keith choked a laugh out.

“No. No. We don’t. So we both got a little crush on the same guy-“ Keith started. Shiro’s eyes widened, surprised Keith was in that much denial. He stood up putting on the rest of his clothes, trying to follow Keith around the apartment. 

“I think it’s way farther than a crush,” Shiro began. “You have caller ID, Keith. You knew exactly called you-“

Keith covered his ears. “No. It’s a crush. A fantasy. Whatever!”

“Exactly! It’s really hard for you to even crush on someone let alone get attached to someone and we both managed-“ Shiro tried to reason but Keith was going through the drawes of his desk. “What are you doing?”

“Headphones. Earplugs. Going to ignore this,” Keith muttered.

“Oh just like you ignored the crush you had on me?” Shiro crossed his arms. Keith stopped moving things around. It was a low blow and Shiro almost regretted it. 

Almost.

“That was different.” 

“How?” Shiro asked, pleading for Keith to explain. For Shiro, it was always easy to get along with people. Opening up, dating, and flirting was second nature to him.

Keith was another story and even through dating Shiro, Keith never really went into detail about how it felt stuffing down all those feelings as he watched Shiro nearly marry Adam.

How Keith was willing to just let someone he loved go. 

Keith walked to the couch. He sat down, bringing his knees in. Keith was silent for a moment as Shiro took a seat next to him. Keith leaned on him as Shiro brought him closer.

Keith shut his eyes.

“Okay. You know how you get sick with a cold?“

“Yeah,“ Shiro watched Keith out of the corner his eye, wanting to hear more.

“With you, it was noticing little things. Like oh, all the sudden I have a headache, and then I got a stuffy nose and now I’m vomiting and I just knew it was coming. I knew falling in love with you was inevitable, no matter how much medicine I tried to take because the symptoms were already there so I just let myself fall.”

Shiro was positive he just fell for Keith all over again. He wanted to kiss and hold him and never let him go but now wasn’t the right time. 

“With Lance. It’s like you do everything not to get sick. I take the vitamins, stay healthy, all that nonsense but all the sudden . . .“ Keith took a shaky breath stopping himself. “All the sudden I find myself in love with two fucking guys and I spent years falling for you and Lance-“

“With Lance, falling was quick,” Shiro finished understanding what Keith meant.

“What gives him the right?” Keith frowned. He shut his eyes. “I’m not going to tell him anytime soon.“

“Keith-“

“Are you Shiro?” Keith sat up straighter, looking Shiro dead in the eye. “I mean, honestly, do you think you can just go tell Lance right now ‘Hey I’ve fallen for you and whoops so has my boyfriend-‘”

“Keith-“

“-I don’t know if this will affect you treating my long-term boyfriend’s skin or you’ll be weirded out that two of your friends now like you but hey offer is on the table,’ I mean, Shiro?” Keith attempted to find the words but couldn’t. He put his head in his hands. “What if this ruins everything?”

Shiro rubbed Keith’s back in an attempt to soothe him. Keith’s hands dropped. 

“Oh, Shiro, what if he’s straight. What if we’ve fallen for a straight guy?”

Shiro let out a laugh. “There’s a lot a things Lance is but I don’t think straight is one of them.” 

Keith grinned watching Shiro laugh. Shiro put his forehead to Keith’s and Keith shut his eyes.

“Just give me time,” Keith said. Shiro traced the scar on Keith’s cheek.

“What if you used up all your extra time on me?” Shiro softly whispered, knowing how close of a call Shiro and Keith would have led different lives all due to unfortunate timing. 

“Maybe I still got some left,” Keith mumbled, hesitant to take another leap. 


 

Chapter Text


So allowing Keith to have more time was easier said than done in Shiro’s opinion. Shiro and Keith ended up coming to the conclusion to that spacing themselves a bit from Lance would perhaps give Keith a chance to access his emotions.

Unfortunately, Lance was already so involved in their lives at this point, Shiro was seeing much more clearly what Keith meant.

First, it was just seeing Lance constantly at Alfor and Melenor’s. Whether Lance was doing demos for customers or attending to the store, Shiro couldn’t help running into him especially now that Allura was asking him to come in more due to an event Allura’s parents were planning. One of the lines, was the one Allura had been testing out on Shiro, was suppose to be featured there so she implored Keith and Shiro to attend when the time would come.

Shiro realized it was the same banquet Lance was speaking about earlier.

Then it was seeing Lance at Matt’s job: Bean There, Done That. It was the place Shiro always went to edit or apply for jobs and so forth but apparently Allura and the rest of Lance’s coworkers had made it their go-to place for coffee and baked goods.

Many times Lance was the one who was sent on the orders. Once Shiro saw a blonde girl with freckles pick up the orders but that was only one time. 

And of course, Lance would stop to chat with him. Shiro didn’t know how to just step aside especially when Lance didn’t know all sides of the story.

Sometimes they would talk about trivial things like the new flavors on the menu and other times about more serious subjects. Such as today where Shiro was attempting to find any information about Kuron. He had multiple tabs open on his phone trying to locate an address or a phone number. The one Kuron had used for Lance was no longer in service making Shiro assume it was a burner. 

“It’s weird. Pidge can’t find anything else about him,” Lance said, also at the same table. Lance had stopped by, bringing Shiro a second order, noticing how Shiro had already downed his first.

It had happened again.

Shiro didn’t really know how to just walk away nor did he even want to entertain the thought of just ditching Lance, so Lance ended up at the table, trying to help Shiro find a trace of Kuron. 

“Kuron was never the type to post a lot on the internet . . .” Shiro responded, tapping the screen of his phone. “If anyone is an expert at ghosting, it’s my brother.” 

Shiro’s phone buzzed with a notification signaling an email.

Another job rejection. Lance bit his lip, seeming like he wanted to ask, but didn’t want to overstep.

“Job search stuff,” Shiro clarified.

“Ah.”

Silence enveloped them for a moment until Lance sighed. He reached into his bag, pulling out a paper, slowly sliding it towards Shiro.

“What is this Lance?” Shiro asked, reaching for the paper.

“Altea University is looking for a full-time substitute in the writing courses. Someone that would be on-call. I found it while scrolling through the school website-“

Shiro began flipping through the printed out job offer.

“You’d have to apply online and of course if they consider you there would be an interview and you’d probably need a fancier resume but Pidge and I can help you with that, maybe even Shay and Hunk, they are really good with stuff like that-“

“Lance,” Shiro cut in. Lance slammed his mouth shut.   

For a minute.

“I just want to help and I’m sorry if I overstepped but-“

Shiro put his hand on Lance’s. That got Lance to stop talking. He glanced at Shiro only to attempt to focus on anything else. He settled for the job offer in front of Shiro. Shiro’s hand still was on top of Lance’s. 

“Thank you, Lance.”

Shiro was screwed.


 

Shiro flipped through TV channels trying to find a show to settle on in the background as he about to try to tidy up the place.

That was until Keith slammed the door to their home wide open. He stormed in so loud Kosmo had rushed to Keith’s side to see if he was okay.

Keith was moving so fast that Kosmo was having a bit of trouble keeping up.

“Keith are you alright?” Shiro put down the remote just as Keith dropped an application into his hands. 

“Lance got me recommended for a scholarship for Balmera.” 

“What?” Shiro scanned the application.

“There’s this dumb ridiculous scholarship that can only be accessed if someone writes an essay speaking about why the student should attend-“

“It’s way more than that,” Shiro started as he continued to look over the application’s requirements. Lance had to give reasons and examples on why Keith was Balmera material in order for the scholarship application to reach Keith’s stage, which would require an interview along with a portfolio. 

“He handed it to me when I was picking up some products at Allura’s store and my mind just-Hunk and Shay pitched it to him but someone had to vouch for me and I just-“ 

It had been several days since Keith and Shiro came to the conclusion of how they felt about Lance along with Keith asking for time to figure out what to do but as time went on, Shiro could see the strings pull apart and Keith was becoming an anxious mess. 

Shiro wasn’t doing so hot either. 

“Why is so stupidly sweet and caring like where does he get off?“ Keith kicked the bottom of the couch.

“Maybe because he cares about us?” Shiro piped up. Keith crossed his arms.

“Maybe he has to cause we’re both technically pet projects of Alfor and Melenor’s shop?” 

Shiro let a long groan and Keith continued.

“Come on Shiro. You saw the invitations to that banquet thing!”

Shiro did. They had received them two days ago. The envelopes with delicate card stock and a gold wax seal filled with an invite written in meticulous calligraphy were enough to warn Shiro and Keith that the event was something that most likely meant a lot to Allura’s family and Lance as well due to how much he was at that store.

Keith’s wariness from the invitation paired with his trust issues made Shiro understand why Keith would jump to a conclusion.

“Lance cares about us,” Shiro stated.

“Like how a doctor cares about his patients or a retail worker with their customers?” Keith said back, trying to find a fault. Shiro’s shoulders’ slumped. It was no use. Keith was just building barrier after barrier.

“Maybe I have it wrong,” Keith continued. “Maybe Lance doesn’t think about us at all and he’s been dating Allura-“

“Okay, that’s just-“

Shiro stopped himself. They never asked Lance what his dating situation was like. After all the times Shiro had spoken to Lance, the topic of Lance’s love life was never brought up.

Lance also was extremely close to Allura. 

“They are just friends,” Shiro said, uneasiness on the edge of own his voice.

“They probably already have wedding plans after college, I mean, they both go for the same degree, work at the same job, Lance constantly talks about Allura-“

Keith was hitting an angle that Shiro never bothered considering and with every addition of how involved Allura was in Lance’s life, Shiro’s heart began to sink. 

Keith may have been jumping to conclusions and paranoia but you’d have to be blind to say Allura and Lance didn’t have any type of history.

“We don’t have all the sides of the story,” Shiro said, still trying to find a silver lining. Keith was about to retaliate but they were interrupted by the buzzing of Keith’s phone.

Keith checked it. He gave a vacant smirk.

“Lance’s car broke down. He’s asking if we could help.”


 

 Lance glanced up at the sky seeing clouds gather together. He was wondering if rain was going to hit any time soon.

If it was, Lance was just not in the mood.

“Come on,” Lance sighed as he attempted again to reach roadside assistance for the fifth time. No answer. Wonderful. 

He wasn’t too far away from an auto repair shop and he was in somewhat familiar territory being outside of the Balmera District but there would be no way he could get his car to the auto repair and Lance had second thoughts about just abandoning it . . . 

“Lance!”

Lance looked up from his phone to see Keith and Shiro walking towards him off the road.

“You guys came?!” Lance asked, surprised they responded considering he messaged Keith over an hour again.

“Of course we did,” Shiro said walking past Lance to check up on the car.

“We would have been here sooner but you contacted the two guys with no car-“ Keith clarified walking next to Shiro. “-and the nearest bus stop two miles away-“ 

“Thank you,” Lance said, genuinely grateful.

“Hm,” was Keith’s response, throwing Lance off a bit. He didn’t understand why Keith would just shrug him off like that but then again, Lance was asking the two of them for a huge favor.

“Battery is dead,” Shiro explained after checking under the hood. 

“Lance doesn’t seem like the type to carry the supplies to jump start it,” Keith said back to Shiro.

“Hey!”

Keith was right though. Lance had no idea how to start the car back up.

“He’s got a manual so maybe it’ll start with a push-“

“-maybe. It seems like a pretty low shot Shiro and there’s no slant on this road-“

“-we have to try Keith, at least until we can get it to the gas station or that auto repair shop about a mile ahead-“ 

Lance apparently made an audible wince at the mention of the nearby auto repair shop. Keith took notice. 

“What? Not good enough?” Keith demanded. Lance quickly took offense. What was with him? 

“I’ll drive it while you guys push,” Shiro said heading to the driver’s seat. “When I shift into gear, you guys have to push. We have to communicate through this,” Shiro explained. Lance and Keith nodded, heading back to push the car. Shiro checked a final time if the starter could work. With the confirmation of a no, he hit the pedal on the clutch and held.

“Alright, now,” Shiro directed, releasing the handbrake.

Lance and Keith pushed the car as Shiro continued to make sure things stayed smooth up in front. Every moment Shiro would shout a command explaining what he would do with the clutch and how Keith and Lance would need to respond, but other than Shiro’s instructions, no other words were being said.

Which Lance continued to find odd.

Shiro was already preoccupied up in front but by now, Keith would say some snarky comment about Lance’s driving ability. If not, he would probably ask how Lance managed to kill the battery. 

Fat droplets began to descend from the sky. 

“Great. Rain,” Keith muttered.

“What is with you?” Lance finally asked, already more invested in what was going on with Keith rather than his own car.

“Nothing.”

“Bullshit.” 

The rain began to pick up making it a bit harder for the two of them to keep moving the car.

“I just think it’s funny how you only want to hang out with us when you need something.”

“What!?” Lance yelled, letting go of the car but Keith continued to try to push. It was now becoming an endeavor. “What the hell are you talking about?” 

Keith stayed silent and Lance grabbed his shoulder, pulling him away from the car. Keith shoved Lance off, trying to go back to moving the car.

Shiro remained unaware of the of what was going on in the back of the car until he noticed how little they were moving. 

“No,” Lance reached for Keith. “You don’t get to say something like that and just shut up!”

“Okay! Fine!" Keith stopped. "Why us Lance!?” He hit his hand on the back of the car.

“What?”

“What is going on!?” Shiro asked, getting up from the seat. They weren’t too far from the autoshop if Lance was correct but he could give less of a shit now.

“Why us!?” Keith repeated. “You could have called Pidge, Matt, Hunk, Shay, fucking even Allura-she could probably get you out of this in a snap!” 

“Keith slow down,” Shiro began reaching for his boyfriend but Keith slapped his hand away.

“No! I don’t get it and you don’t get it, Shiro! What are we to you Lance?”

The rain was pouring and the streets were filling up. Lance was surrounded by water yet his mouth had decided this was the time to go dry. 

“Are we coworkers or your friends or your little pet projects-“

“No!”

“No to what!?” Keith shot back, still asking for clarification.

“Keith drop this,” Shiro said, his voice getting dangerously low. Keith pointed at Shiro.

“Don’t Shiro-I swear-I need you to-“ Keith’s voice wavered as lightning flashed in the distance and thunder rolled. Keith looked terrified.

Lance felt terrified.

“Lance-“ Keith choked out. “-why won’t you answer?”

Shiro glanced at Lance, also waiting for a response. This had to be a nightmare. He couldn’t say what he wanted. He physically couldn’t. It was like his own body was rejecting him from screaming out how much it hurt him to see Keith and Shiro like this. Why wasn’t he moving? What wasn’t he fighting? 

Headlights and a horn stopped Lance from giving Keith and Shiro a response. A car rolled up to them with the side door opening out.

“Lance?” 

Lance lowered to see who was calling his name. Who greeted him caused him to back up allowing Keith and Shiro to see a girl in her twenties with ridulous blonde hair and harsh, violet eye shadow. 

“Lance! It’s me, Nyma! Remember? We dated?” Nyma laughed, hand to her chest. This was a nightmare. He was asleep. He had to be and Hunk was going to wake him up cause he’s going to scream. “Are you guys alright? I can give a lift to the auto shop and Rolo and I-“

“Fuck this,” Keith finally spoke up and began to walk back.

“Wait! Keith I-“ Shiro paused looking back in between Lance and the already soaked Keith heading back to the bus stop. Lance stared at the ground, choosing to watch his shoes get destroyed by the weather rather than watch Keith storm off.

“Go ahead Shiro.”

“Lance you don’t-“

“It’s fine Shiro. It’s-make sure Keith’s-“ Lance wouldn’t look up. He knew if he looked at Shiro, he would break. Shiro didn’t give a verbal response but him running after Keith was all Lance needed to hear.

He took a sharp breath, finally being able to look seeing that Shiro and Keith were gone. Nyma got out of her car, not truly understanding what had gone on before her arrival.

“Come on-“ she softy said. “-I’ve already called Rolo to bring a tow. You need to get out of this rain.”


Lance had got a ride from Nyma after discovering his car would need extra time in the shop. Seeing Nyma and then later on Rolo to discuss payment for the car and then having to sit in a car with Nyma- 

Lance wanted to die.

Of course, he had to encounter two of his exes on a day where Keith had confronted Lance and while Shiro may have tried to mediate, Shiro also seemed he wanted Lance to say something during the confrontation.

Lance had no excuse besides fear taking over which was a lame excuse. He could have shut Keith up just pulling him in and telling him what he and Shiro meant to him and how he was terrified of the two walking out of his life.

Of how he’s exhausted of trying and doesn’t know if he has it in him for another heartbreak.

Of how he wanted everything Shiro and Keith had but even more.

Of how he opened up a little too fast and now he felt hollow.  

But with Nyma arriving, Keith seemed to take that as an answer of some sort.

Nyma.

An ex where Lance wish the break up ended up smoother than it should have but he was grateful the two of them were at least on speaking terms. 

Versus Rolo.

Another break up where Rolo now glares at Lance so hard anytime they two cross paths. Lance was always sure Rolo was imagining how many ways Lance could die.

He didn’t know if it was better that Keith and Shiro only saw Nyma and not Rolo later at the shop.

Nyma was an eccentric personality but at least nice. Some days. 

Rolo might have thrown Lance under the car if Lance looked like he was in an argument with people he cared about. 

He thanked Nyma for giving him a ride back to his apartment and Nyma gave him a nod, not prodding any further. The rain refused to let up and all Lance wanted to do was spend the next several hours in bed.

So he ignored the stares he got from his nighbors as he walked up the stairs, water dripping onto each step. He muted his phone, only allowing for the alarm for his next shift to be played. He even disregarded the greetings from Hunk and apparently Pidge who were hanging out in the living room and working on some new tech.

He shut his door, peeling off his clothes and changing into the comfiest pieces of clothing he had and collapsed into his bed.


“Alright everyone,” Allura clapped her hands in front of James, Nadia, and Ryan. She tapped her clipboard as the door to the shop opened. “Today’s agenda is I’m going to train you guys for a new product demo and then we’ll do some cleaning up. Coran will come in with Ina we’ll begin the homigod!” Allura dropped the clipboard. The rest of the staff turned around to see what is causing Allura to cover her mouth in fear.

“Holy shit!” Nadia yelled backing up as James gasped and Ryan winced. “Lance!?”

Lance walked past his coworkers, reaching in one of the hidden drawers in the shop for his uniform. “I’m fine,” Lance muttered in a hoarse voice. Allura rushed to her friend, touching his forehead.

“I've never seen you without moisturizer . . .” Ryan said, astounded.

“Quick, Ryan, get the camera,” Nadia said, shoving Ryan in hopes to grab a once in a life time picture or even better: footage. Ryan only narrowed his eyes back at Nadia.

“What happened to you Lance?” James asked with genuine concern. Allura was still fretting over Lance who seemed persistent to begin working.

“I’m okay gu-“ Lance began but ended into a coughing fit in which everyone backed away from. 

“No. No, you’re not. What happened!?” Allura asked, repeating James’ question.

“I just got caught up in some rain a couple days ago. It’s nothing,” Lance explained, offended that he was being treated like this. He was in pain but he just assumed that was his heart at a near breaking point.

“The rain? You mean that thunderstorm that is still happening?” Ryan questioned, pointing to the rain that refused to stop and seemed to get more violent with each day.

“Lance did you walk here!?” Allura gasped, finally noticing Lance’s clothes were soaked.

“Bus was late.”

“No. Absolutely not. Sick leave.”

“Allura-“ Lance attempted to plead but Allura was already going behind the counter where she had stashed her own umbrella and jacket. She also appeared to be carrying some old stock.

“Lance McClain you have never taken a sick day in the entire history you worked here-“ 

“-that itself is kind of sickening,” Nadia muttered under breath and James stifled a laugh.

“-take time off. Feel better. Get rest. Please,” Allura implored.

She held up some lotions, bath bombs, and candles. 

“I was going to give these to you anyway. The labels are already ripped off from poor shipping. Product is good but we can’t sell it. You always love freebies!” Allura gleamed, putting the stock in Lance’s bag. Lance couldn’t help but be grateful for a friend like Allura who was already trying to cheer him up. 

He didn’t want to let her down. 

“Allura I can-”Lance got cut off with Allura putting her black and pink jacket on him.

“Take as much time as you need.” Lance knew there was no use in trying to argue with Allura at this point see he sighed, taking her umbrella.

He left the shop already feeling disappointed that he was now put on a short medical leave on Allura’s terms. He popped open the umbrella.

“Stupid rain,” Lance coughed out, heading back to his apartment. He'd be okay if it wasn’t for the dumb rain the drenched him, Keith, and Shiro.

Lance froze with a sudden realization now entering his clouded head.

If he was feeling like this, then that meant Shiro and Keith-

Lance bolted opposite direction of his apartment.


Lance wasn’t sure if he was knocking loud enough because noises to him were muddled and running to a train stop in pounding rain to get to Keith and Shiro’s apartment wasn’t the smartest move he ever made but he only had two people on his mind right now.

“Shiro! Keith!” Lance gasped out, steadying on the door, already feeling dizzy. A click paired with a turn of the door knob gave Lance hope but now he just wanted to lie down. Lance fell just as Shiro opened the door.

Shiro managed to grab hold of Lance so he wouldn’t hit face first but Shiro appeared to have trouble holding Lance up. 

“Lance?” Shiro whispered, his voice sounding twice as worst as Lance.

“Shiro, did you just say his name?” Keith cried out from the couch in a rasp. Shiro turned as Lance regained footing.

“Oh no,” Lance said seeing Shiro and Keith looked utterly awful. Shiro looked like he hadn’t slept and seemed to be shivering, despite having two blankets over him. Keith was sweating, had an ice pack on him, and had his eyes shut so tight as if that was going to solve anything.

“Why is everything so loud?” Keith moaned, burying himself deeper into the couch which to Lance’s surprise was turned into a pull-out bed. 

Not that it would be distinguishable as the large bed it was suppose to be. Keith was sprawled out in a tank and shorts as a multitude of blankets were strewn across the bed along with bottles of drinks such as water and tea to keep them hydrated. The coffee table was pushed to the side but contained medicines ranging from syrups to tablets to drops. Keith was watching a sitcom but the show was on mute and subtitles were placed up.

Lance was sure that Keith wasn’t following the show.

Keith eyed Lance as Shiro led him in the room. Lance steadied on a chair as Shiro lied back down on the pull-out. 

“This is your fault,” Keith rasped out. “If you hadn’t-“

“We walked in the rain Keith,” Shiro sighed, not wanting a round two of the week's earlier fight. 

“But he could have-“

“I’m sorry,” Lance cut in, still leaning. He didn't care anymore. Lance felt awful inside and out so if he could drop his own guilt then maybe he could just deal with the pain of this sickness. He turned focus to both of them, fighting the voice in his head telling him to collapse. “Keith. Shiro. I’m sorry.”

Keith narrowed his eyes, pursing his lips.

“This is Keith’s fault too,” Shiro cleared up, pulling more sheets towards him. Lance’s jaw dropped as Keith watched his boyfriend sell him out. Shiro stared Keith down. “You ran away from us in the rain. We could have taken a ride from Lance’s friend-“

“Shiro-“ Lance attempted to stop Shiro from pushing the envelope with the mention of Nyma but Keith shifted, allowing the ice pack to fall. He positioned himself a bit better to look at Lance and Shiro.

“I’m sorry Lance,” Keith muttered. Shiro smiled, fixing Keith’s bangs. Shiro looked back at Lance.

“I am too, Lance,” Shiro said. Keith went to flipping through channels, avoiding eye contact. “How are you feeling?” Shiro asked. Lance rolled his eyes and instantly regretted the action because even that caused him a new headache. 

“Allura sent me home. Told me to take as much time as I need.”

A click of the tongue from Keith.

“That’s nice of Allura.”

“She just worries,” Lance explained, running his hands over his eyes in hopes to calm the headache.

It wasn’t calming down. Lance wanted to scream.

“I think anyone who had a relationship close to the point of a ring being involved would not care,” he revealed.

Lance pulled his hands down to see a shocked Keith and Shiro. Lance shook his head, seeing his mistake. 

“Right sorry, Shiro, you had a wedding called off and Keith you-and I shouldn’t have-“ 

“You and Allura were almost engaged?” Keith interrupted and Shiro just seemed confused. 

“Ohhhh," Lance drawled. "Right, no, we never freaking planned anything hell-“ Lance took a breath trying to keep a pace. “Her parents gave me a ring passed down from generations in her family and we were only dating for a year but we were already going to break up and it’s this whole damn mess-“ Lance tried to explain.

Shiro was still looking like he had just stumbled to a five hundred piece puzzle with no box to go off of and Keith kept opening his mouth only to close it up. 

“We’re just friends. Just two stupid bisexual friends who had families who put their hopes and dreams on us-” Lance took another shot at describing his predicament but he his mind couldn't keep up with his mouth. He wanted to shut up but the quiet was taking over the room. 

“Lance, what are you planning to do today?” Shiro questioned, slowly.

“I-oh nooo-Hunk. . .I can’t infect him with this oh no . . .” Lance started. Hunk kept a clean place and was terrified of making his customers sick. Hunk was always so cautious in avoiding catching any type of bug. So if Lance came home with a cold this bad, Hunk would be devastated. He snapped his fingers. “Pidge! Pidge will let me-“

“Katie is watching Kosmo. Well Katie and Axca. They are taking turns. We didn’t know if we’d be able to keep care of him like this,” Shiro said.

Lance mentally sobbed. 

Maybe Hunk could constantly spray the apartment with disinfectant every five minutes and he'd be okay. 

“Just invite him already,” Keith said. 

“What?”

“We’re sick. This place is quarantined until we get better so just stay over Lance,” Shiro said.

“I have no clothes.”

Keith let out a cry. “Use some of mine and Shiro’s! Stop being a baby! Just stop being so loud!” Keith shouted out as he got up, stomping over to the bedroom. 

He came back tossing Lance a dry shirt and shorts. Lance fumbled, doing his best not to drop the clothes. 

Shiro nodded to the bathroom. 

“Go. Get changed.”

Keith gestured to the mess of a home. 

“Join us in hell.”


 

Chapter Text


“Shiro, get off of me, you’re freezing.”

Keith inched to the edge of the pull-out. He had continued to try to move away from his boyfriend as the two of them were ranging from different body temperatures at the point of time. Lance was sitting on the other side and Shiro was in the middle.

Lance scrolled through social media sites as Shiro put down the book he was reading. How Shiro could read in this state was beyond Lance. 

“Last week you couldn’t keep your hands off me and now this Keith, I’m hurt,” his voice dripping with a touch of sarcasm that matched how dry Shiro’s throat sounded. 

Keith flushed at Shiro blatantly speaking of his and Shiro’s relationship next to Lance. 

Lance snickered only to cough. While covering coughs with his shoulder, Lance caught what Shiro was reading. Comic books. 

Ah. That made more sense.

Shiro flipped to the next the next page. “Why not have me switch places with Lance?”

Lance’s finger flew up so quick, he somehow managed to exit the app he was on. He was currently having no problem with being on the side with just having to deal with Shiro who seemed to have dropped earlier matters much easier versus Keith. Shiro continued on when no reply came from either of them.

“I’m freezing right now and Keith, you’re burning. Lance seems to be neutral territory-“

“I’m right here,” Lance attempted to cut in, as he witnessed Shiro discuss him like he was about to do a trade deal where Lance would have to deal with a pissed-off sick guy and Lance, himself, would get nothing. Shiro shut his eyes. 

“Sorry. Lance, you don’t have to if you don’t want to,” Shiro started. 

“He doesn’t need to.”

Lance looked past Shiro to Keith who was crossing his arms, giving him the coldest stare someone who was heating up could muster.

Frankly, Lance was already getting sick of it. 

He grabbed one of the multiple blankets and his phone, mumbling an ‘excuse me’ to Shiro as he climbed over his legs and in between the two of them.

If Keith could shove himself farther to the edge pull out bed he could but he already reached the armrests. He settled for giving Shiro an incredulous and betrayed look to which Shiro only responded with sinking in deeper into the backrest.


 “Everything sucks.”

 “We know Lance,” Shiro replied as he poked through the take-out the three of them had ordered. After a fourth attempt of missing picking up his food, Keith sighed and gave up using chopsticks. He grabbing a plastic fork to eat his rice.

“It all tastes bland. . .” Lance mumbled, disappointed. He was tempted to get up and try to at least cook food for them Lance didn’t want to waste Shiro and Keith’s ingredients if there was a chance one of them might be sick later. 

“Take more medicine then.”

Keith bluntly pointed to the table filled with different things they were using to numb the pain. Lance had chosen tablets only because he hated the syrup flavors that were offered but had also settled for sucking honey cough drops to just deal with the searing feeling in the back of his throat. 

His headaches weren’t going away though.

Shiro closed the little carton.

“I’m walking to the fridge. Does anybody want anything?” 

Lance shook his head but offered his food to be taken back as well. Keith asked for water. They had already figured out a small system where they would take turns on who would get up to make trips to the fridge to get drinks, make tea, and so on.

Despite the kitchen being so close, right now, it felt like a mile.

Plus every time Lance stood up, the room began to spin, so he didn’t want to keep getting up to stay hydrated. 

Lance also didn’t want to admit it out loud but it helped to have two other people in the same boat as him versus him having to do this entire ordeal alone.


One more thing Lance, unfortunately, came to realize was it was hard as hell to sleep. Sleeping when your sick is already a difficult challenge. How Shiro and Keith managed to pass out was beyond him.

Along with that, this was a new environment so he wasn’t completely used to all the sounds of this place. Sure Lance had visited Keith and Shiro’s place quite a few times but he never truly noticed the sounds at night like how it was much quieter versus Altea. Fewer cars and no constant trains mixed with the bustling noise of tourists, city-dwellers, and students.

It was different. Nice but different. 

At least the rain was consistent. It didn’t seem to want to let up.

Lance sat up a bit, careful not to wake up Shiro nor Keith. He watched through the sheer curtains above the outskirts of Altea seeing hints of the rain. 

It wasn’t stopping.

It didn’t seem like it was going to.


 Lance woke to the sound running water. He shifted under the sheets, realizing there was more space on the pullout. He sat up to see Keith sitting cross-legged as he ate a bowl of cereal.

“Shiro’s taking a steam bath,” Keith explained to the still confused Lance. Using the spoon he pointed to a box of cereal and a carton of milk on the counter. “Breakfast?” 

Lance nodded, getting up to make himself a bowl. He peeked into the box to see it was empty. He sighed, knowing what was to come but checked the milk anyway. Empty as well. Keith took another bite.

“I’m still mad at you.” 

“No, really?” Lance questioned, crumpling the boxes and tossing them into the trash. He reached for the breadbox and just grabbed a plain slice of bread and chewed on it as he examined his reflection on the toaster.

He looked like a wreck. Messy hair, bags under his eyes, he hadn’t even kept up with skincare routine-

“Yuppp,” Keith continued, dragging out the final letter.

Lance set the toaster down with a thud, heading back to his section of the pullout couch. He continued to chew on the dry bread as Keith spun the spoon around with one hand. 

“Still-“ Keith tapped the spoon on the rim of the bowl. “-mad.”

Lance swallowed the rest of his breakfast and going for a bottle of sports drink he grabbed out of the fridge yesterday and left in his spot. The drink was warm by now but Lance didn’t care. He uncapped it, watching Keith continue to take slow, meticulous bites. 

“Okay. Well. Can you not be?”

Keith coughed almost dropping the spoon and bowl, only to compose himself back. He turned to Lance.

“I’m sorry?!” he spat out. Lance took a sip as he shrugged and wiped his mouth.

“Can you not be mad?” Lance repeated. He was too tired to argue. Too tired to have to explain himself to Keith. “Just right now maybe? I don’t know. . .”

Keith narrowed his eyes, setting the bowl on the floor. 

“Christ, you really are sick.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Lance sighed, as he picked at the label on the bottle. Keith crossed his arms.

“Usually you’d argue with me about the dumbest things-what color is the best, which place is the best for ice cream, etc-“ 

“So what, you want to fight?” Lance asked in an exhausted tone. Another taken aback look from Keith.

“No, I-“ 

“I don’t want to fight with you Keith or argue with you, god, Keith, I don’t want you to even be mad at me,” Lance clarified, his voice already rasping due to talking so much this early on.  He pulled his knees up, continuing to focus on picking the label off. “I missed talking to you guys even if it for a few stupid days.”

Lance peeled the corner of the label off only to be interrupted with Keith putting his hand on his forehead. Lance dropped the bottle. 

“Dude, boundaries!”

“You are burning up. I knew it,” Keith shut his eyes only to snap them open. Lance grabbed Keith’s arm.

“Oh, what? I have to be sick to try to be civil?!“

“Don’t even-um-“ 

Keith had stopped talking. In fact, his hand had trailed down from Lance’s forehead to his cheek as Lance continued to hold his hand on Keith’s arm. They hadn’t even noticed they had shifted closer to each other. 

Lance didn’t want to let go of holding onto Keith’s arm. He was warm and Lance felt ready to just collapse right into him.

Keith didn’t seem like he wanted to move away either. His breath hitched.

Then again Lance always felt like he was shit at reading signals so maybe Keith was just hallucinating and needed someone to lean on.

Keith’s thumb gently grazed over Lance’s cheek. With that move, the two pulled away, snapping back to the bedridden reality they were in. Keith stumbled to get up.

“I’m getting you some of the-we have some compresses for the-“ Keith motioned to Lance’s forehead. “-yeah.” He headed into the bathroom just as Shiro was walking out.

In a tight tank top and loose shorts. 

Lance pulled up the blankets, giving his best silent scream he could.

This was the dumbest thing he ever decided to do.


“Jump left.”

 “I can’t jump left. The fluff ball will then die.”

 “No, you can you got to double tap it and then you have a double jump,” Lance tapped on the screen of Shiro’s phone demonstrating on the app as the little alien creature maneuvered through piles of garbage to find it’s friends.

The game was cute and fun. Plus, it was helping Lance not to ogle Shiro so bonus there.

“That would make sense,” Shiro mumbled, steadying the phone, so the two of them can continue to try to go onto the next level.

Lance glanced back at Keith who was sound asleep. He had given Lance a cold compress but other than that and acting a bit more civil to him. With Keith mostly slept for the day, this allowed Lance to just ignore what had happened earlier.

“Hey we found one,” Shiro motioned to the screen as the creature reunited with its friend. Lance made a little fist pump. 

“Okay so now we got eight more to go-“

Shiro’s phone buzzed alerting a notification right through the game. 

It was from Adam.

Lance was through mid gasp but Shiro batted his hand.

“It’s a different Adam, Lance. He helps gets me those small editing jobs. He’s really meticulous. Insisted that I kept his name as Adam in my phonebook despite me trying to explain . . .” Shiro trailed off for Lance knew the rest.

Shiro rubbed the back of his head.

“If Adam hadn’t ghosted on me this whole Kuron thing would be a little easier . . .” he admitted. Lance leaned on his side, propping himself up with his hands.

“Do you miss him?”

Shiro let a small chuckle out. He pulled some covers up, bringing some over Lance as well. Lance was careful not to let any extra ones fall on Keith as he was still heating up a lot more than the two of them. 

“In what context Lance?” Shiro asked, laying to the side and mirroring Lance’s body language. Lance’s eyes were already trailing to Shiro’s neck down to his chest and- 

“Do you miss Allura?”

“What? Not as a girlfriend-“ the mention of Allura had brought Lance back to focus because it was always tricky explaining his exes. “-I mean. I’m glad she’s my friend and I’m super grateful we’ve been able to stay friends after everything but I don’t miss her as a girlfriend . . .” Lance winced, hoping that didn’t sound too brutal. Shiro let out another weak laugh.

“Right. It’s the same for me. I don’t miss Adam as boyfriend or marriage material but sometimes I miss him as a friend. We’d talk a lot about silly space theories and constellations and a bunch of other nerd stuff-“

Lance took notice as Shiro began to trace the blanket. Almost as if he was drawing stars into the sheets with his finger. 

Shiro explained. “-Adam was the only one I knew that had the same kind of thought process on that. That, of course, didn’t mean we were meant for each other, but sometimes I do miss having a conversation with him.” 

Lance gave a nod. He’s had moments like that where he missed conversations about topics with past exes.

“I couldn’t even imagine what’d be like if I stopped talking to Allura,” Lance whispered. Shiro smiled.

“You’re lucky like that Lance.”

Lance didn’t feel lucky. 


 The sounds of paper crumpling up woke Lance. He opened his eyes to see Keith drawing in his sketchbook. Keith peered over his sketchbook, taking note Lance was awake.

“Sorry. Shiro’s used to the-“ Keith tapped the sketchbook. Lance rubbed his eyes, to get a better look at Keith. He ended up tying his hair into a ponytail and switched out clothes to a thin t-shirt and shorts. Keith glanced up from the sketchbook, not stopping his drawing.

“What?”

“Hair looks cute that way.”

Keith froze and Lance gave a lazy smile. He was starting to find a little joy in all this mess by getting Keith to get all flustered.

Keith shot a wry grin, looking down to continue to draw.

“Not as cute as you with my clothes on.”

Lance slammed his hand down on the mattress, almost wheezing. Keith let out a small snort which he tried to hide with the book. Lance leaned in.

“Does Keith Kogane have game?” he whispered. Keith gently smacked his head. 

“Shut up. It was dumb.”

“No, it was cute,” Lance enunciated the final word and Keith snickered.

“You guys are both adorable.”

Lance and Keith turned to see Shiro who was lying up, arm over his head to block out any light in the already dim room. A smile was clear on his face indicating he heard the entire conversation.

“-and yes Lance. Keith does have game.” 

“Shiro!” Keith gasped out only to go into a fit of coughs as Lance clapped excitedly.


“No. No. Take out the risotto.”

“He’s an idiot. Wrong pan.”

“What’s the difference!?”

Lance and Keith both motioned to the TV, which was on a low setting paired with subtitles due to Keith still having problems with sounds. They had decided to watch something to pass the time.

After an hour of not agreeing on anything, the remote decided for them with the battery dying on the cooking channel. Currently, they were watching some competitive cooking show.

Lance tapped his chin as Keith shook his head seeing another chef misfire an entrée.

“I’ve never seen you cook Shiro? I’ve seen Keith a few times but never you . . .”

“That’s cause Shiro can’t.”

“Oh come on,” Lance smiled, nudging Shiro who was reaching for a tissue box. “Everyone can cook.”

Shiro blew his nose, tossing the used tissue into a wastebasket by Keith’s desk. It landed in.

“Nope. I can’t even boil water.”

“I-what?”

“Lance, have you not noticed that you and I were the only ones making the tea?” Keith asked, eyes still focused on the show. “Last time Shiro tried to boil water, he somehow burned a hole in one of the nice pots we own.”

“It was a nice pot,” Shiro recalled fondly with sadness. Lance could only gape.

“Oh, well if you’re just going to do sloppy plating then why are you even in this competition?!” Keith demanded at the TV as if the competitors could hear him. He glanced back at Lance who was still looking at Shiro. Keith smirked.

“Shiro can't be perfect Lance. He had to be knocked down a peg so hence he can’t cook,” Keith explained as if it was logical. He tossed the remote in between his hands.

“What-no-“ Lance began.

Shiro’s shoulders shacked with stifled laughter. “As if taking an arm and giving me a scar wasn’t enough.” He ran his hand through his hair. 

Lance leaned back in the upholstery.

“Oh, please, scars are sexy.”

The minute that sentence left Lance’s mouth, he realized his mistake as Shiro gave a knowing smile and Keith stopped tossing the remote only to give a smug grin. Lance sat back up.

“Wait-“ 

“We’re not saying anything,” Shiro held his hands out.

“Wait, you don’t-“

“We didn’t say anything Lance,” Keith continued, cocking his head, giving a full view of the scar that adorned his cheek.

Fuck.


“Would you . . . “ Lance paused as he turned his attention to the tea into three separate mugs. Extra sugar cubes on the side for Shiro, plain for Keith, honey for himself-lemon slices for each of them. Once he got that situated, he continued on with his question. “ . . . would you rather be stuck in space forever but get to bring people to be stuck with you in space or get to travel anywhere in the world but you never know when you get to see your friends and family?”

“Travel,” Keith said as he took the cup from Lance. Shiro thought for a moment.

“Space,” Shiro responded after thanking Lance for the tea. “Space would be fun, plus, bonus if I could invite others to come with me.”

“I’d want to travel,” Keith held the cup, waiting for it to cool down. “I’d find you guys. Eventually.”

Lance paused before grabbing his own cup to sit down. He was pretty sure Keith accidentally included him in that response but he still felt a sense of warmth that didn’t falter when he joined them.

“Okay, your turn Shiro. You know the rules. You ask it and we got to answer it.”

Shiro dropped the sugar cubes one by one and slowly moved the cup around, pursing his lips as he tried to think of a question.

“Fuck an alien or fuck a furry?”

“Oh come on Shiro, that’s not fair!” Lance yelped as Keith shook his head, trying to hold back laughter. “You don’t have to answer it!” 

“Think of some better questions then.”

Keith examined the lemon slice and squeezed the juice out of it into the tea. “Question?”

“Yeah?” Lance asked.

“Can I fuck a furry alien?”


Lance found himself watching the rain again through another night. It was still pouring with an intensity that only seemed to increase as the days went by.

Shiro and Keith had fallen asleep before him and this time they were much closer to him.

Not that Lance was complaining but at the same time Lance felt like he shouldn’t be here.

Like he didn’t belong.

Lance gently put the back of hand on Keith’s shoulder. His fever was going down but was becoming a bit clammier. He would start to become colder but at least he was healing. Lance turned to Shiro. Over the past few days, he was down to a few blankets rather than needing several.

Lance himself felt a little better with each day passing by. It was a slow process but they were slowing improving.

His phone lit up. A message from Allura jumped across the screen, asking if he was okay.

He smiled typing back a quick response to reassure her he was indeed resting.

Moments past and then another message came through; Allura confirming to take all the time he needs. Along with that was a reminder for the upcoming banquet party Allura’s parents were throwing and how they needed to pick a song. 

Lance gave a groan only to stop when he noticed Shiro move a bit. He waited until he was sure Shiro was still sound asleep then went back to Allura’s message.

Those banquet parties Allura’s parents threw used to be fun when they were little but as time grew on, they became more constricted as Allura’s parents would ask Lance when he was going to propose despite the two of them now constantly trying to make it clear that they broke up.

Plus, it didn’t help that they always had to do a duet.

It was a silly thing that started when they were kids and Melenor loved it so much it became a tradition. Allura and Lance were always allowed to pick the song but since the events were filled with rich snobby people and Allura’s family, it was always classical music accompanied with Allura either playing the piano or violin.  

The two of them were not looking forward to it. 

Shiro moved again in his sleep, putting an arm over Lance’s stomach, making a soft, slapping sound. Keith seemed to hear it his sleep and scrunched up his face, thinking it was an alarm.

He reached out grabbing to hit something and smacked Lance’s chest. Lance coughed as he couldn’t really move now with the Shiro and Keith’s arms on his chest. 

Lance shut his eyes, dropping his phone to the side, deciding later would be a better time to send Allura a song list than now. 

Now he just wanted to rest.


 “Would you rather only be allowed to have dogs as pets forever or cats?” Shiro asked, in a faint whisper. Shiro had woken up early prompting Lance to wake up again. Keith was still sleeping soundly and the two didn’t want to disturb him, especially since he seemed to be sickest out of the three of them.

 “Dogs but I’d like other animals like mice or birds.”

“Really?” Shiro tucked another strand of hair behind Lance’s ear.

At some point through the night, Shiro had pulled Lance in and Keith had rolled closer to Lance, causing them to be even closer. When Lance woke up practically in Shiro’s arms, he almost melted and then panicked but Shiro didn’t seem to mind.

And now Shiro was playing with his hair while they continued on with the game they did yesterday.

“Would you rather risk everything to follow a dream or be patient to see how things turn out?” Lance asked. 

“Risk,” Shiro said, stopping on a strand only to continue. Lance instinctively moved closer to Shiro so now his head was right under Shiro’s chin. Shiro wrapped his arms around Lance.

“What about you?" 

Lance leaned back, looking up at Shiro.

“I'm not sure . . .”


 Lance walked out of the bedroom in another pair of Keith’s shorts and one of Shiro’s sweaters. Lance was already here longer than he expected so it got to the point where Keith mentioned that Lance had brought no underwear.

So the solution they came up with was wearing some Keith’s clean boxers. 

Lance buried his hands into the sleeves out of embarrassment only to pull away because the smell of Shiro's clothes was also not helping. He turned his attention to the two of them only to frown at what he was seeing.

“Stop picking at the scabs,” Lance yanked Keith’s hand away from, stopping Keith when he noticed Keith scratch again. Keith moped.

“But it’s itchier now and it’s flaring up.”

“Because you’re sick and of course you're sweating more. Also, you're stressed,” Lance began to explain as he examined the eczema. He knew Keith was in an extra special type of pain right now. Flare-ups tended to get worse whenever the afflicted person got sick and Keith was still in the process of changing his lifestyle to fix previous damage.

Lance got up, dropping Keith’s arm. Keith leaned on the couch. Shiro looked up from the game he was still trying to beat.

“What is he supposed to do Lance?”

“He needs a distraction. Something else to pick at. I wonder if I still have it . . .” Lance went through his bag. He felt the little glass bottle and triumphantly pulled it out, waving it in front of Keith.

Shiro sat up. “Nail polish?”

“Allura used this me when I had really bad flares early on. Paint the nails and instead of picking the skin, I’d pick off the nail polish.”

“That’s actually . . . really clever of her.”

“Right?” Lance smiled taking a seat next to Keith who eyed the bottle suspiciously. “Ready?”

Keith shut his eyes. “At least the color is red-“

“-actually it’s maroon-“

“Lance.”

“Alright! Alright! Alright!”


 Lance woke up in the middle of the night. It was a nice change of pace to actually get some sleep this night.

Too bad it didn’t last long.

He had woken up because he felt cold and the reason for that was Keith had ended up hogging most of the blankets. Any other time, Keith would look like an adorable little cocoon, wrapped up in a bundle with the newly painted nails peeking out but right now-

-right now Lance was cold and wanted a blanket.

He reached over and snatched a few off, stopping to see his own nails were matching Keith’s. He turned back to Shiro to see Shiro’s were painted as well. Lance turned back to Keith, glaring at him.

The sneak must have painted their nails while they were asleep. 

Lance pulled the blankets, settling back down as he tossed them over himself and Shiro. He admired Keith’s handiwork. He had to give it to Keith. He had a pretty steady hand.


 

Lance and Shiro sat outside the bathroom door waiting for Keith to finish up his shower. They were taking turns and since there were still some stumbling issues every now and then, Shiro felt a little calmer knowing they would be able to respond quick if one of them slipped or passed out.

“I don’t see why we couldn’t have just sat on the floor in the bathroom?” Shiro called out, concerned as he witnessed Keith have to steady himself on the wall to walk into the bathroom.

“-because this is the most private time I’ve had this past week!” Keith called out through the water.

“Five more minutes Keith,” Lance responded. “Your skin is going to get too dry.”

Keith’s reply was just shutting off the shower. Shifting was heard and Keith came out in fresh clothes and dripping hair. He tossed Lance one of the lotions. 

“Help me.”

“What?”

“Help me with this,” Keith explained sitting down. “I feel exhausted.” 

Lance stared at the product. It was one of the lotions he gave Keith all the time. One he used in the demo. Why was Lance feeling nervous about this now? 

“Shiro, can you do my hair?” Keith begged, holding a small towel and brush. Shiro nodded, taking it. He sat down next to Keith and began to dry Keith’s hair, slowly detangling the hair. Keith blinked, aware that Lance hadn’t moved. 

“Lance?”

“Right,” Lance said as he knelt down to the floor, uncapping the lotion. He began to apply it to Keith’s affected skin.

“Thank you,” Keith said, eyes shut. He reclined, allowing Shiro to hold him as he did finishing touches on Keith’s hair. Lance began to put the lotion on Keith’s hand but Keith lifted Lance’s hand up, pulling Lance closer to the two of them.

“You guys smell nice,” Keith mumbled, sounding drowsier with every word he spoke.

“We should hope so after all the products Lance insisted on using today,” Shiro joked. Lance scoffed, attempting to muster up offense. Keith gave a grin to which Shiro beamed back.

A flash of lightning and then thunder interrupted the moment.

Followed by the power in the apartment going out.


"Okay, I'm back."

Shiro walked back in, locking the door. He shined the flashlight at Keith and Lance who were lighting any spare candles that were left over in the apartment. 

“So what did the landlord say?” Lance asked as Keith gave a yawn.

“Good news is the back-up generator will be able to keep the air conditioner and fridge running. That was this apartment building’s priority considering many senior folks live here.”

“Bad news?” Keith questioned.

“Electricity is by a different company and with the storm getting worse it may take a while.”

“Well, we only found about five candles plus that dumb trick candle that Katie gave us so that really doesn’t count-“ Keith motioned to how dark the entire place looked. An alternative would be to use their phones as lights but that would mean wasting whatever leftover batteries they had left and Keith mentioned he only had one back up portable battery for the phone. 

“Wait!” Lance snapped as he grabbed the flashlight from Shiro heading towards his bag. Allura had given him leftover stock when she sent him out of the shop. He remembered there being different types of candles.

Reaching down, he took each of the jar multicolored jars out. Without the labels, Lance still recognized which lines they were from. Some from past holiday lines, a few from the current summer line; but he stopped on the notice of a few black jars Allura had tossed in as well quickly recalling what they were. 

The Sensual line that Allura and him made fun of at the beginning of summer. 

“Are those candles Lance?”

Lance jumped almost dropping the jars as Shiro had snuck behind him. Keith had moved away from the kitchen and picked up one of the other candles Lance had set down on the floor. 

“Lemon.”

“They’re rejects from the shop. I was allowed to take them home. They are perfectly fine and if we are going to be stuck here with no light then-“

Why was his voice getting higher?

“That’s perfect Lance,” Shiro smiled as Keith picked began to set up the jars around the room. Shiro took the jars Lance were holding.

Lance attempted to soothe any panic that tried to arise the moment he saw the new line get lit up. 

There was no way a bunch of candles would institute a mood even though the place was beginning to look a bit more romantic and pretty. 

Lance shook his head as if physically shaking his head with help get rid of the worrying thoughts. 

Besides, he only knew of that line’s intended purpose plus there were using other lines like the Summer Splash line and- 

“It literally smells like your store Lance. All flowery and overwhelming,” Keith commented looking around the now glowing apartment. Shiro took a seat at the edge of pull out, watching all the flickering candles.

“It’s nice though. Plus we won’t have to worry about navigating through the dark.”

Keith shrugged, picking up the covers to settle back in.

“I guess.” 

He looked up at Lance, holding his hand out to Lance to guide him back into the bed through the lights. 

“You coming?” 


 “Is he still asleep?” 

“I don’t know . . .”

Keith and Shiro turned around to look at Lance.

“Cartoons suck,” Keith whispered. No response from Lance. “All you need to season food is salt. What else? Blue is the worse color-“

Lance’s shoulder scrunched as he moved and the two of them held their breaths, awaiting to see if Lance was in fact, awake. They finally breathed when they saw Lance only moved to sink deeper in the blankets surrounding them.

Shiro snapped a few times in front of Lance. 

“He’s out cold.”

The two them collapsed, giving equal sighs of relief. Shiro and Keith caught each other’s eyes only to laugh.

“We’re screwed,” Shiro groaned, shifting to position himself to look at Keith over Lance. Keith did as well as he gave an exhausted smile.

“We’re fucked." 

“You’re doing better than yesterday,” Shiro said, commenting on how Keith seemed to be less dazed. Keith gave a nod.

“Yeah? Feel a bit better. Just got a bit sore throat and feeling a bit whipped.”

“Literally or figuratively?”

“That’s rich coming from the guy who’s literally running his hands through a sleeping guy’s hair,” Keith pointed out. Shiro hadn’t even noticed he had started doing it again but it was becoming more and more of a habit where he any time Lance would come close he would begin to touch Lance’s hair. Shiro withdrew.

“You’re still holding his hand.” 

“He grabbed it in his sleep.”

“Sure Keith.” 

“He did!” Keith whisper-yelled. 

Shiro faced Lance. He was still asleep, unaware of the conversation that was happening in front of him. Unaware that despite Shiro and Keith being miserable from being sick these past several days, it had also become some of the nicest and most relaxing past days for them at the same time as well.

Shiro felt a little selfish for wanting it not to end.

He was sure that Keith also didn’t want it to either.

Shiro brushed a strand away from Lance’s face, smiling seeing how peaceful Lance looked. 

“What are we going to do about this?” 

Keith didn’t respond. He avoided Shiro’s eye contact, giving an indicator that he didn’t want to talk about it.

Thunder crackled causing the two of them glanced back outside, watching the rain pick up.

Keith and Shiro settled back, putting the blankets over themselves and Lance. Shiro shut his eyes attempting to focus on the rain in hopes to go back to sleep and get more rest but before he could drift off he heard Keith speak up.

“I wish I knew,” was Keith’s response.


 Lance woke up again with a familiar chill. Keith was using most of the blankets again.

He stared at the one he and Shiro had and the multiple Keith had. Lance glared. 

“Really Keith?” Lance muttered as he attempted to grab some from Keith. As he tried to pull some from Keith, he noticed own voice was becoming clearer, a pleasant surprise indicating he was almost healthy again.

“Stop it, Lance . . .” Keith groaned, holding onto the blankets.

“Well I’m cold and Shiro probably is too.”

“Shiro’s what?” Shiro mumbled, waking up to see Lance trying to grasp some covers away from Keith’s tight bundle. Keith replied by wrapping himself tighter. 

“There are more in the bedroom closet.”

“I don’t want to get up to the bedroom closet,” Lance began as he attempted again. Shiro sat up as Lance continued to try with a stubborn Keith. He exhaled as it was too early for this. Or was it the night? They couldn’t really tell with the power still out and the candles still illuminating the room, giving a distortion of how long they were out. 

“Look I’ll go get some-“

Lance gave a hard yank

Keith gave a surprised yell as he was flipped over. 

“Keith!”

It happened too fast. In an attempt to make sure Keith didn’t land right on top of Lance, Shiro had held Keith’s shoulder with one hand and used the other to grab Lance’s waist, who on instinct, jumped up.

Keith had slammed his left hand against the back the pullout and had his right on Lance’s left side, dangerously close to his hip.

The mess of blankets and sheets had now entangled them all. 

Lance didn’t know what the next move was going to be or what it should be. He couldn’t think straight. Panic kept flooding in as shadows from across the room kept dancing across the two’s faces. They refused to break eye contact, almost transfixed on Lance. 

He could just push them off. Laugh about it. Do something. Anything. 

Why wasn’t he doing anything!? 

Keith nudged his shoulder to Shiro’s and buried his face into Shiro’s neck, still holding his position. Lance watched as Keith seemed to say something to Shiro.

Shiro turned to Keith who slowly lifted his head. 

Shiro tenderly kissed Keith on the lips and Keith gave an almost inaudible moan. A sound one wouldn’t be able to hear. Unless you were close. 

Like Lance- 

-whose jaw had dropped because his friends must have lost it but Lance decided it must have been due to being sick, tired, and being trapped for so long in this one apartment so if he could just squeeze out of here he could give Shiro and Keith some alone time- 

Shiro deepened the kiss. A gasp slipped from Keith’s lips. 

Lance couldn’t help it. His mouth spoke before his brain thought of the consequences of the words as he rolled his eyes.

“Way to make a guy feel included.”

The next thing he knew, Shiro’s grasp on Lance’s waist became tighter, pulling him in. Keith’s left hand was now on the back of Lance’s neck. They focused their attention to gaze at Lance. 

“Do you want to be?” Shiro asked.

The thunder seemed to grow louder or perhaps that was Lance’s own heart pounding so hard he was about to pass out as Keith traced the back of his neck going to his shoulder. 

“Wh-what?” Lance asked, half-smiling, just waiting for them to say they were messing around and this was some stupid joke. 

“Do. You. Want. To. Be?” Keith asked, his fingers tiptoeing across Lance’s arm. He glanced up at Lance. “Included?”

“Don’t feel pressured,” Shiro clarified, in such a soft, gentle tone that all of the noise that was bothering him seemed to dissipate in an instant.

Lance shut his eyes, hundreds of reasons saying and telling he shouldn’t and explanations on why. Memories were beginning to rush in. Moments that he spent years shoving so far in the back of his mind and locking them up because he had enough of fixing himself.

He had reasons. He had reasons he wanted to explain. This was the time to get up. Be smart. Walk away. He liked them. A lot.

Just like how he liked the others too. 

“Lance?” Keith’s hand dropped at Lance’s silence.

Lightning flashed as Lance’s eyes opened as he grabbed Keith’s hand, dragging him close. Lips collided as Shiro’s hand pulled away from Lance’s waist at the boldness but he didn’t have time to be surprised as soon as Lance released Keith he grabbed Shiro, bringing him in for a kiss as well.

Still holding Keith’s hand, Lance brought him closer as Keith trailed his lips amongst Lance’s neck.  Lance let a yelp as Shiro gave a chuckle.

“He bites.” 

“I can tell,” Lance grinned, pleasantly surprised.  He leaned back into Keith's hold as Shiro’s hands moved up Lance’s shirt.

“May I?” 

“Such a gentleman,” Lance noted and Keith snorted putting his hand on Lance’s chin. 

“Right?” Keith tilted Lance going in again for a deeper kiss. Lance sank allowing himself to moan. He pulled away from Keith as Shiro continued to move amongst the two of them,  touching their bodies. 

“What are you-“ 

Lance began to nibble on Keith’s ear, trailing down along the neck. He was close to joining Shiro on his little journey. Keith covered his mouth,  trying to hold a whimper back as Shiro’s fingers pulled at the drawstrings of his shorts.

 “You guys are teaming up against me,” Keith let out, scandalized that the two would do such a thing. Shiro allowed the shorts to snap against Keith’s hipbone, causing Keith’s hips to jut out. He tried to give his boyfriend an innocent look but failed.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about?” Shiro said,  licking his lips as he began to peck Keith slowly on the hips,  going even further down. “Lance? Keith thinks it’s two against one?”

Lance’s hands snuck down into Keith’s pants finally doing what Shiro was teasing and bring the pants and underwear off. He pulled Keith down onto the bed. 

“Wonder where he got that idea?”

Keith looked up at the two of them as he watched Shiro go for lube in his own desk drawer. He glanced at Lance who was still motivated not leave any part of Keith untouched. 

“You know you’re next-ah!” Keith let out a sharp gasp of pleasure,  eyes widening.  He looked back at Lance,  surprised that Lance was already hitting so many points of his body that caused him pleasure. 

Such as right now, Lance took a mental note to go for Keith's chest more often. Lance looked up Keith who was already looking like a hot mess from just some simple contact.

Keith's face flushed a darker shade knowing what he must have looked like. 

"You look so good red."

Shiro let out an audible chortle as he was still going through Keith's desk.  Keith looked to the side but moved his hips up,   giving a slow,  teasing grind to Lance's crotch. 

Lance had to put his hands down on the bed to stabilize himself.  Using his thigh,  Keith began to pull Lance's shorts down a bit,  being already loose due to the pair belonging to Keith. 

"I mean it, " Keith said.  "After me.  You're next."

Another steady grind that made Lance almost beg and scream for Shiro to hurry up. 

"We're going to ruin you Lance. "

 "Only if we get to tag team against Shiro,” Lance responded with a grin,  wanting to get back at Shiro for all the times he had teased him in public. Keith replied with a devilish smile just as Shiro joined back in.

“Ready?”

Lance nodded.


“Lance?”

 Lance woke up to see Shiro. Keith was getting all the covers up to toss into the laundry after the night they had.

“We’re going to take a bath.”

Keith put the pile of new covers down on the corner. 

“Okay.” 

Shiro picked up Lance and Lance’s eyes snapped wide open. He thought he meant Shiro and Keith were going to take a bath. Not the three of them.

“Hey, your strength is getting back,” Keith noted, trying to adjust himself. Shiro set Lance down but the moment Lance stepped down he winced.

“Still in pain?”

Lance nodded. Lance didn’t really think of the consequences of what would happen in the morning and right now only half of Shiro and Keith’s words were reaching through to him. All he is focusing right now is he had sex and while it was nice (really nice) he knew he was going to be in a pain for a bit.

“The bath will help.”

Shiro was right. It would. Lance remembered thinking about how unusually large the bathroom was when he first visited. Keith had tossed in one of the many bath bombs Lance had picked out and Lance had thrown a few more, indicating the combo would help them feel better.

They rarely talked. It was just them lying there, enjoying the soothing feeling of the water with the minerals and scents along with all the candles lit all over the apartment. 

Lance picked up some of the bath water, allowing the near glittery liquid filled with flowers fall down his hands. Keith reached out for his hand. 

“What?” Lance mumbled, not looking at the either of them, just staring at the tiles.

“You’re beautiful.”

“He’s right, " Shiro confirmed.  "Gorgeous."

Lance became rigid. He could feel his eyes brimming with tears that he knew the two of them couldn’t see. 

He was thankful they couldn’t.


 The sounds of birds awoke Lance along with bright sunshine.

The rain had stopped. 

Lance sat up, finding Shiro and Keith’s arms around him. His chest began to swell at the sight as he slowly lifted their arms off of him.  He tip-toed into the kitchen reaching for the bread box to grab another piece of bread. He could make some actual breakfast for himself but didn’t want to wake the two of them up especially on the first sunny day like this.

Lance considered making toast as he could just unplug the toaster before the cooked toast popped out. He reached for the machine, dropping the slice of bread as he saw his reflection.

Leaning down to get a better look, he covered his mouth. Anxiety flooded his body as he saw hickies and marks. The events of last night hit him all at once and he grabbed the toaster, staring back at himself.

He had sex with Keith and Shiro. He had fucked Shiro and Keith and they both had their ways with him. There was sucking and orgasms and names being begged out for-

What was a night of what felt truly amazing in the moment was being ruined with a crash of coming back to the real world and Lance's own history with things like this. 

Lance set the machine down, not being able to stop the tremble of his own hands.

He messed up. It was going to happen again.

Lance looked back at Shiro and Keith who were still sound asleep. With a shaky breath, Lance closed his eyes making a decision. 

Sneaking past them and to Keith’s desk, he grabbed a piece of paper and wrote a simple apology. Lance didn’t know how to explain but he didn’t want to face them, yet at the same time, he feared the two of them would worry about him if he just left with no indication he left on his own. 

He grabbed his things, quietly opening the door, giving Shiro and Keith one last look.

He wasn’t ready to get hurt again.


 

Chapter Text


“I don’t understand why it’s printing blank receipts . . .” James mumbled as Allura hit the cash register multiple times. The store was about to open in a half hour and one of their two registers were acting up.

 Nadia flipped some separate receipt rolls around. Ryan watched as Allura popped the register open.

 “Both sides,” she said. “Both sides and they still print blank receipts.”

 “Maybe it’s out of ink?” Ryan suggested. Allura tapped the register, shaking her head.

 "No, then it would flash a light to signal it needs ink. Plus Coran refilled it last week!” Allura said, hitting the register with more force. She closed it back.

It continued to print out a blank receipt. Allura gave a long groan, rubbing her eyes.

“Okay. Okay. . . so only use this register for people who want a receipt emailed to them or don’t want them at all,” Allura assessed. The door opened and she turned ready to stop whatever customer who stumbled in before opening. “Sorry, we are not open ye-“ 

“Lance!” Nadia jumped up behind the cash register. Wearing Allura’s pink jacket with black decals, Lance threw out his hands and gave a bow with Allura’s umbrella, making a show of his return to the store. The staff headed towards Lance as Allura rushed to her best friend.

He handed her the umbrella. Allura pulled him in for a hug.

“How are you feeling?”

“Better. Much. I'm seeing this place hasn’t burned down without me,” Lance joked with a tight smile, looking around the shop. Ryan coughed.

“Barely.” 

“Are you sure you should back on your feet?” Allura gave Lance another concerned look.

“Allura, I’m fine.” 

Allura looked unconvinced as Nadia began setting the display for the daily store sale. 

“Come on Allura. He had that whole storm to get better.”

“Although, it isn’t really his day to work . . .” James commented. “We will be a little overstaffed . . .” 

Lance batted his hand, pulling the handle of his bag closer to himself. “That’s alright. I can just work in the back on the Spice Line for fall.”

“Good.” Allura nodded. “I’ll join you since I need to make sure there is enough stock for the banquet party my parents are throwing for the shop.”

Allura handed out the assignments and roles for the day for everyone’s shifts. As Ryan went to officially open the store, Lance headed for the back room of the shop.

Allura followed, shutting the door behind him.

“Okay, Lance. Talk to me,” Allura started as she began locking the door so they wouldn’t be disturbed. “We only say we are working on the Spice Line when something is wrong.” The line didn’t even exist. It was one of the many codes Allura and Lance came up with when they wanted to talk about something but were in public. 

She turned to see Lance facing away from her, shoulders shaking.

“I messed up Allura,” he said in a broken whisper.

Allura’s heart stopped. She heard that voice one too many times.

“Lance?” she took a step forward as Lance wrapped his own arms around himself, his sobbing becoming more visible. He didn’t say anything else. He didn’t need to as Allura wrapped her own arms around him, pulling him in for an embrace.

Lance broke down, turning to face her. He let out ugly cries into her shoulder while he clung to her. 

All the pieces made sense now. Why he was wearing her jacket, why he came in on a day he never worked, the fake smile-Lance had opened his heart again.

Allura rest her head atop Lance’s as she continued to reassure him it’s going to be okay and that she was here for him. Her own mind raced with questions filled with confusion and rage.

Which one did it?

Shiro? Keith? Who fucking hurt him? 

She rubbed his back as his breathing began to slow down. Lance was the kindest and most thoughtful person she knew so it pained her to see him like this.

“It was me this time Allura,” he gasped out in between the sobbing.

“No,” Allura stretched out.

“No I ran and I’m broken and they deserve better-“

Allura shushed him again, still hugging him. “None of that now,” she adjusted her own jacket on Lance. She pulled away from the hold. Using her sleeve, she wiped away the tears, seeing Lance was wearing concealer. He had been crying a lot. She cupped his face. 

“Come on. Let’s go upstairs.”

No matter how many times Lance would fall Allura would be there to catch him and vice versa. Friendships from childhood just worked that way. You’ve seen it all. The beautiful and the ugly.

Right now, Allura was seeing what Lance hated about himself but she had grown accustomed to it.

Just like how he had grown accustomed to her own hatreds about herself.

It was a different form of love.

One people still assumed was a love they could build a relationship and marriage off of. 

Allura allowed Lance as they walked upstairs to Allura’s loft above the shop. Her home away from her actual home with her parents. She helped Lance into her bed, pulling her plush comforters over him and surrounding him with pillows. He grabbed her hand. 

“What about you?”

“I’ll be here. Right on the edge for now. Don’t worry,” Allura explained, showing as she sat on the edge of the bed. “Whatever you need Lance, I’m here. Stay as long as you’d like.” 

Lance gave a tear-filled smile, lying back in the bed, still holding on her hand. She sighed knowing he wasn’t ready to talk about what happened yet but when he was, she’d be here. 

Just like Lance always was for her.


 

“Do you like that Shiro?”

“I think he does,” Keith chuckled.

“He’s blushing,” Lance responded gleefully.

“Hot.”

Shiro gasped out, feeling warmer with Lance’s lips moving up his thighs to his cock while Keith’s lips grazed across on his back as he slowly fucked him in a tease as his vision began to blur.

He wanted to respond back but he could only make moans as-  

Shiro bolted out of the bed, panting, body drenched in sweat. Keith was already up, staring straight ahead. He twirled one of his knives in his hands, a ‘hobby’ he did when he couldn’t sleep. 

“Another one?” Keith asked. Shiro put his head in his hands as he nodded, embarrassed. At least this time he woke before the dream escaladed or he ruined the sheets. Again. 

“So that’s five you’ve had and six for me. Awesome. Cool. He’s haunting our fucking dreams.”

Keith stabbed the knife in the wall next to him.

“In your dreams are they of the night with him or are they different?” Shiro brought up out of curiosity.

“Some are recurring of that night. That stupid freaking-we should have sent him home Shiro,” Keith said, pulling the knife out to go back to twirling it anxiously. 

“He might have passed out outside in that state.”

Keith was silent, knowing Shiro was right. He stopped doing tricks with the blade to stare at his own reflection along the metal. 

“He wasn’t ready. We all acted emotions and. . .“ Keith couldn’t finish the sentence. Guilt hung between them as what was once a was a wonderful night became a regret for when they woke up to see Lance gone only with an apology scribbled out on a note on Keith’s desk.

Keith tried texting or even calling Lance for them to give an explanation.

All calls went straight to voicemail along with texts being ignored. 

Shiro tried more direct approaches by going to the coffee shop and Lance's workplace however he could never catch Lance.

“We need to talk to him. The very least he deserves an apology. We moved too fast and he must think-“

“-we wanted to be experimental?” Keith bitterly joked knowing it wasn’t the case but they had jumped from kissing to fucking all in one night. “He only ever dated Allura which is why he probably bolted. I mean, three guys!” Keith exclaimed.

“Which is why we need to talk to him,” Shiro reasoned feeling exhausted. “I don’t know how? He keeps avoiding us like the plague.”

“We could ask Katie. They could find his location.”

“Then we’d have to tell Katie why.”

Keith made a grimace, putting the knife down. He brought some covers up as he shimmed down to lie on Shiro’s lap, looking up at him.

“Matt?”

“Pretty sure Katie has Matt’s phone bugged for blackmail.”

“I’ve tried Hunk already . . .” Keith said to himself, recalling how he ran into the guy in the Balmera District on pure chance only to discover Lance hadn’t returned to his apartment yet. Hunk told him not to worry as Lance tended to drift amongst friends every now and then. 

“Allura?" 

“Allura didn’t tell me anything when I spoke to her earlier this week?” Shiro offered but Keith frowned.

“If anyone would protect Lance it would be Allura . . .” Keith crossed his arms. “What about that thing we’re invited to? For the skin products?”

Shiro let a long, hesitant exhale. “Are you sure we can go to that now that Lance isn’t speaking to us?” 

“You were invited cause you were the tester for one of the lines. The invite said you could bring a plus one,” Keith slapped his hand on Shiro’s leg, sitting up, his voice getting louder with the realization. “Lance has to be at that thing!”

Shiro gave a nod. His boyfriend did have a point as Lance had mentioned it a few times to the two of them and Allura did as well. 

But to confront Lance in a public setting?

“We might as well give it a shot,” Shiro said, knowing the two of them were desperate to speak to Lance.


 

Lance petted the multicolored mice as he reached in the cage.

“They’ve gotten bigger,” Lance commented on the four mice. Allura had rescued them from a makeup company who were doing animal testing. They were close to death but through many vet visits and late nights, the mice were beginning to look much healthier.

However, the colored fur didn’t seem to go away. It was confirmed the mice were no longer feeling harm from the colors so that was good but people still thought Allura had some weird fad going on whenever they saw her brightly-colored pets.

“They’ve been eating more too!” Allura shouted from the kitchen. “What do you want on the pizza?”

 “You decide,” Lance said. He went back to reorganizing Allura’s bookshelves and desk.

Lance always felt guilty whenever Allura let him stay over. Her place was a cozy, little floor with one bedroom, a bathroom, a small kitchen, and a living room but she had filled with books and trinkets from trips her family took from all over the world. That, paired with her studies, experiments, and the bad sleeping habits-her place was basically a mess. 

The least Lance could do is clean up. Plus, Allura never seemed to mind.

“Do you still need these magazines?” 

“I own magazines?”

Lance took that as a 'no.' He tossed them in the trash, passing by her coffee table. More garbage stood out as Lance noticed a newspaper dated from last year along with a few empty coffee cups. When he cleared those, the discovery he made caused him to drop everything.

“What was that?!” Allura ran into the living room. It wasn’t even a run considering how close the rooms were and how you could hear everything. It was more like a few big leaps. 

“Uh, Allura-“ Lance moved some tissues and candy wrappers away, recognizing the blue velvet box from a year ago. “What the fuck is this?”

He popped it open and there it was-Allura’s grandmother’s wedding ring. The same one Alfor and Melenor gave him on that awful night-

Allura grimaced.

“They came by while you were sick. Tried again. Told me I should propose.”

“Did you tell them we broke up!?” Lance exclaimed, shaking the box. He was exhausted with this year-long game of him and Allura versus her family. They weren’t taking no for an answer.

“I did! Their exact words were ‘He just needs a push in the right direction!’ and then they handed me the ring, Lance!”

“Homigod,” Lance shut the box, tossing it on the table. He clutched his stomach, leaning against the bookcase. “The crippling nausea is coming back. Allura,” Lance whined as Allura ran into the kitchen for a bottle of water.

He slid down to sit on the floor and Allura joined him, uncapping the drink. He took it, almost downing the whole thing.

“I don’t know what to do Lance. I think they’ve just latched onto you because you’re the only guy I’ve dated-“

“-an honor-“

Allura playfully shoved Lance and shot finger-guns back at her.

“-and my family is such old school sometimes and they want kids-“

A gag came from both of them. Lance and Allura had in fact discussed if they wanted kids (not with each other) in the future. They both had agreed that their 20s were not the time for it.

“-so I think that’s why they are getting desperate. They don’t see my dating life proceeding so they pick you and-“

Allura began to wipe a tear that cascaded down her cheek.

“If I could just date like a normal person this wouldn’t be happening!”

“Woah no no no no!” Lance put the water down. “Goddammit why do you get to have movie star tears and I look like a mess,” Lance joked as he continued to clean Allura's face. “Allura, you’re wearing over one hundred dollars’ worth of makeup. This isn’t worth ruining it.”

Allura let out a giggle as she looked up, making sure the makeup didn’t run.

“It’s true though. If I just dated-“

 “-rushing into dating just ‘cause you want to or everyone else is doing it isn’t always the best thing. You’re looking at the prime example of why,” Lance explained, his own voice shaking. He took another breath.

He had it rough but Allura had her own special hell in the dating world.

Being a woman was hard enough no matter how you looked-you were bound to get harassed. Allura had her handful of creeps ranging from catcallers to perverts.

So she toughened up. Got a quick tongue. Learned to fight.

That earned her the title of ‘bitch’ from people whenever she stood up for herself.

Then there were those who only wanted Allura due to social status and money. Did not care for her personality nor her interests. She was forced to start looking through needles in haystacks for people who genuinely cared about her.

Lastly, she was bisexual.

Which created another level of people sexualizing for being bi or even worse, people not believing she was bi. If she commented on liking a woman, they said she was a lesbian. When she was dating Lance, she was told she just wanted attention by calling herself bisexual. 

A double-edged sword.

Lance always fell for people. A little too easy because he wanted to open his heart. 

Allura kept putting fences and locks on hers.

Lance began to peel the label on the water bottle. 

“Feel like you’re parents wouldn’t be pressuring you if they knew how many people I’ve fucked,” Lance laughed. Allura put her hand on Lance’s.

“Lance don’t-“ she stopped speaking, dropping his hand. “Lance.”

“Hm?” Lance stopped peeling the label to look at Allura who was staring at the box containing the dreaded ring.

“You’re right.”

“Really?!” Lance asked, honestly surprised that Allura’s parents were that shallow. She stood up, heading to the little box, grabbing it.

“In a way. They want a pure relationship. They’ve only ever seen us-you-me as polite and sweet and professional but if they saw the opposite . . .“ 

Lance threw the bottle, scrambling up. “They would lose their minds!” Allura held the box close, jumping up and down. Lance knew Melenor was the laxer of Allura’s parents but Alfor was more orderly. If the two of them were to act indecent enough, Alfor would want the ring back.

“How though?” Lance rubbed his hands, excited to cause mayhem. They could cause trouble online or in the shop but two syllables escaped Allura’s lips that Lance knew would seal their fate.

“The duet.”

“No,” Lance covered his mouth. What Allura had suggested would indeed work but it would be a risky move. Allura popped open the box revealing the ring, showing their motivation.

“Lance McClain, will you do me the honor of ruining our dated traditional duet by being sexual in a public setting to embarrass my parents so we can stop being matched together?” 

Lance put his hands to his chest. “I’d be honored.”

Allura slammed the box shut, her eyes glinting.

“Perfect.”


 

"How many people does Allura’s family know?” Keith mumbled, grabbing a drink from a tray from a waiter. After confirmation that it wasn’t alcohol, he began taking sips. Both Shiro and Keith had made a vow not to get drunk tonight, no matter what happened.

However, apparently the prosthetic line was something that was being advertised and word must have gotten out. Shiro had been bombarded all night with entrepreneurs and photographers asking about the success of the new line.

Some have even recognized Keith had eczema and had asked if Keith was representing the shop too.

The two had only spoken good things of the lines for it was the truth. The lines were helping them.

Sadly, all the attention had caused over two hours to pass without even seeing Lance.

“There’s Allura,” Shiro motioned with his glass. Keith followed Shiro’s line of sight to see Allura speaking with a few reporters. 

She was dressed in a glittering silver dress, adorned with sparkling gems that sparkled in different colors paired with a gold belt and matching, flowing, button up top. Her hair was all done up and her make up made her shine even brighter.

“You know the invitation said fancy casual but Allura took it . . .” Shiro narrowed his eyes. “Is she wearing bedazzled sneakers?”

“High fashion,” Keith snorted, scanning the crowds. Someone had mentioned there would be actual meals but that wouldn’t be for a bit and he was getting tired of appetizers. On the other hand, free food was free food as another waiter passed by him. He reached to grab a crab cake.

“Hunk?!" 

“Oh hey! Keith! Shiro! You guys are here? Awesome,” Hunk exclaimed. “I didn’t think I’d find anyone else I’d know here besides Matt and Pidge.” 

“Katie and Matt are here too?” Shiro glanced amongst the banquet hall. Hunk nodded, scanning around until he found of one of the Holts.

“Matt’s just coming from the bar. Matt!” Hunk waved. Shiro and Keith turned to see Matt in a disheveled shirt and crooked bow-tie. Unlike Hunk, who looked all polished, Matt was a mess.

“What’s up? Pidge owes me ten now. They thought you wouldn’t show up,” Matt gave a knowing smile to Shiro and Keith. “Looking sharp by the way.”

Keith looking at the dark suit combo Shiro had on and his own black pants/white colored top and red opened vest.

“Thanks. We try. Hunk’s clearly working but why are you here?” 

“Allura needed someone to do sound and lights and some emergency electronic thing. Called Pidge. I got to tag along. Would have done music but they got a live band for that,” Matt tilted his drink back and froth. “Said they had some changes to the duet. I know they needed headsets . . .”

Hunk let a groan. Matt held his hand out.

“I know!”

“Duet?” Shiro and Keith asked together. Hunk’s eyes widened while he held the tray out to a few guests.

“Oh, that’s right! This is your first time at one of Alfor and Melenor’s parties. Ever since Lance and Allura were kids, they sang.”

“It was cute. For a while-” Matt rolled his eyes. “-but it’s so boring. Especially since a lot of Allura’s family is hoity-toity but Melenor loved it so they. Never. Stopped.” 

Matt fully downed his alcoholic beverage in preparation for the duet.

“So Lance is here,” Shiro mumbled loud enough for Keith to hear.

“Speaking of Melenor . . .” Matt mumbled. Heading their way, was Melenor herself. “See you in a bit,” Matt backed away and Hunk apologized saying he’d catch up on his break as he had to get more appetizers.

“Takashi Shirogane? Keith Kogane?”

“That would be us,” Shiro smiled, offering his hand out. Melenor shook it. “Mrs-?”

“Please, call me Melenor,” Melenor shot a dazzling smile. She let go of Shiro’s hand and went to shake Keith’s. The whole time at the banquet party Keith and Shiro were playing a separate game called “What’s Alfor’s and Melenor’s Last Names” because every time they witnessed someone interact with one of them, they preferred to be called by their first. 

Shiro had made the joke saying that Allura’s family were like celebrities and how they only had one name each. Keith was beginning to think he was right. 

“I just want to personally thank you both for what you have offered for our shop. Takashi, with your help, we will be able to release the prosthetic line much sooner and Keith you have solidified our decision on promoting Lance.”

“I’m sorry?” Keith demanded.

“Allura told me in his free time Lance had been helping a friend who had eczema. He could have offered to come into the shop like how Allura is set up with Takashi allowing him to get paid on the clock like her but he chose to help you on his own free time. Didn't even tell Allura. She discovered it on her own,” Melenor explained, slowly lifting Keith’s sleeve, slickly pulling off his glove to reveal his skin going through the healing process. She turned Keith’s hand over, admiring Lance’s work.  

“Lance. . . Lance is just like that,” Keith mumbled.

“Exactly. Kind. Thoughtful. Exactly who I want to work next to my daughter and get promoted. People noticed how much he cared for not only you but Takashi as well-“ Melenor let go of Keith’s hand, clasping her own. “-they kept filling out so many customer reviews of him and requests to get paired with him but ah, such loyalty to you two-“

A wink from Melenor. Shiro coughed, turning away as Keith stared at his wrist.

“It’s not like that.” 

She cocked her head, giving a peaceful, content smile.

“Lance is like family to us so I’m pleased he found two people who-“ 

“Melenor! May I have a word? Who are you wearing for this event?” 

“Ah! Excuse me, boys,” Melenor apologized as she walked off. “Haven't you heard? Pink is the new black and-“

As Melenor’s voice became more distant Keith looked up at Shiro. “We have to find him, Shiro.”

“I know,” Shiro replied as the two headed for their table to take a break. They seemed to be finding everyone but Lance. Matt pushed past people, holding two table cards. He grabbed the ones next Keith and Shiro’s, crumpling them and tossing them across the banquet hall only to pop his and Hunk’s on their table. He sat down, grabbing a bread roll. 

“Where those two suppose to sit?” Shiro asked as he tried to locate the name cards in the crowd but was most likely trampled at this point. Matt huffed.

“Who cares. If anything, I made their night more fun,” he picked at the bread, popping pieces in his mouth. “I, for the life of me, can’t find Pidge, that little gremlin . . .”

“They are probably around here . . .” Keith reassured but Matt pointed the roll at Keith.

“Figures Pidge would steal a prime job from. That sneak,” he hissed, eyes narrowing that his sibling was getting to work at the tech at one of Allura’s family’s banquets. “Hogging all the glory. Speaking of glory, have you guys seen the guest list here? There are like seven people, I’ve seen on TV . . . people that are major A-list . . . real motherfuckers . . .” 

“Matt, talking to you is like taking a tab of acid I swear,” Keith muttered, putting his glove back on as Shiro leaned back in his chair.

“You’re being dramatic.”

“Oh, so I’m wrong?” Keith asked. Shiro raised an eyebrow. So far, this conversation had been one of the more intriguing ones of the night. “I once had to listen to you try to rationalize that robot fucking was better alien fucking.”

“It is!” 

“It was a hypothetical situation but you took it so far, Matt!”

“What if it’s a robot alien?” Shiro leaned in, now invested. Keith shut his eyes as Matt hit his knee.

“Now we are talking cause there is a very blurry line. Is it an alien robot I’m fucking or vice versa?”

“It doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter-“ Keith muttered under his breath. 

“Uh-what did I walk into?” Hunk asked, talking off the uniform top, revealing a spiffy yellow dress shirt. He took a seat next to Matt, very confused about the conversation he just joined. Keith sat up. 

“Hunk! Beautiful, amazing, Hunk! Change the subject!” he begged knowing if someone didn't steer topics soon, he and Shiro would have to listen to Matt explain alien and robot sexual anatomy for the entire meal. 

Keith was all for talking about cryptids and theories but this wasn’t the dinner topic he craved.

“It’s weird how the duet hasn’t started yet . . .” Hunk said, looking around the banquet hall. 

Hunk had saved the day because now all four of them were wondering what was taking so long. 

Guests were seated, awaiting their meals while others were amongst the dance floor, talking. There also some socializing with Allura’s parents yet still no Lance and now, Allura had vanished for quite a bit of time as well.

“Is it usually this late?” Shiro turned to Hunk and Matt. Both of them shook their heads.

“No. Usually . . . it would have started over where the band is-“ Hunk pointed to the stage. “-sometimes Allura would have an instrument. This is the first time I’ve rarely seen them all night and the restaurant caters a bunch of these . . .” 

“Maybe they finally realized it’s a cheesy, dumb thing to do and bailed,” Matt said, hopeful. Keith leaned forward, grabbing a pitcher of water to pour himself a glass. He offered it to the rest of the table and they all nodded.

“Is it really that bad?” Keith asked, filling the glasses up.

“It’s not . . . bad?” Hunk said, trying to find the right words, watching the water fill his glass. “It’s just . . .”

“Boring?” Matt threw out. Hunk bit his lip, obviously not wanting to say it. “Come on, even Allura and Lance hate doing it but they don’t want to make Melenor sad. She loves seeing them sing.”

He grabbed his own full glass as Keith set down the pitcher. 

“Thank fuck Allura and Lance can sing. Imagine if they couldn’t,” Matt said. “Look. The duet will start. It will be some boring classical music paired with two pretty voices and then we get to eat.”

He shrugged.

“Same old, same ol-“

A fast drum beat followed by a guitar interrupted their conversation paired with flashing red lights, causing Matt to spill his drink over the table.

“Well this is different,” Hunk remarked, as the lights began to speed up with music. Shiro squinted, recognizing the song. It was from a musical he and Keith once watched. 

“Is this Rent?” Shiro asked.

“Out Tonight?” Keith recalled, remembering the beat. Matt wiped the table, shaking his head. 

“God you guys are such-“ Matt’s didn’t get to finish his thought as through the red lights, a blue light shone on Allura across the banquet hall on an empty table. She tapped her headset.

“What's the time? Well, it's gotta be close to midnight,” she leaned her body back in slow gestures, moving down to lie down on the small table. 

“My body's talking to me-“ she placed a hand to chest with her leg in the air, “It says, ‘Time for danger . . .’”

She flashed a cheeky grin as she quickly sat up. 

A pink spotlight across the banquet hall opposite Allura, illuminating Lance. Shiro and Keith stopped breathing.

In tight fitted pants paired with a dark silver suit jacket and tie to match Allura’s outfit, stood Lance on the bar. His face and neck seemed to be highlighted lightly with the same shimmering makeup Allura wore. 

Lance gestured to Allura as he walked across the bar.

“It says, ‘I wanna commit a crime’-“ a slow, sensual strut came from Lance knowing all eyes were on him. “Wanna be the cause of a fight-“  He did a few steps back, paired with a spin; back against the audience. 

His hands found his own hips.

“I wanna put on a tight skirt-“ Lance steadily dragged them down as he continued to walk. 

“-and flirt with a stranger." He then gave a wink at Allura across the hall.

“Keith . . .” Shiro croaked out. Keith could only nod. 

Allura jumped off from the table, moving her shoulders from side to side with the beat.

“I've had a knack, from way back, at breaking the rules once I learn the games!”

Lance jumped down as well, pointing to her. She began to pick up her pace towards him.

“Get up, life's too quick!”She sang. 

“I know someplace sick!” Lance belted back. “Where this chick'll dance in the flames!”

“We don't need any money,” Allura untied her hair, letting it cascade as she ran her fingers through her locks. “I always get in for free.” She spun around.

“You can get in too-” Lance gave her a nod and continued her quickened pace.“-if you get in with me!“ 

With that high note, Allura made a leap amongst Lance as he slid against the banquet floor, unhooking her belt, revealing mini shorts. At the same time, Allura slipped off his blazer revealing a sheer thin shirt with shoulders dusted in small, translucent jewels.

They wanted to be seen in front of friends, business associates and more importantly-Allura’s family.

Guests hollered at the development, enthralled in the duet, but Alfor was less than pleased at what Lance just did to his daughter and the song was not over yet.

Keith and Shiro on the other hand-

“Let's go!” Allura and Lance broke out in a smile, back to back, grasping each other’s hands.“-outttttt tonight!”

They sank a bit only to rise up.

“I have to go, outttttt tonight!”

They backed up, to look at each other, hands still intertwined.

“You wanna play? Let's run away!” Lance dipping Allura. She threw her hands up, laughing.

“We won't be back before it's New Year’s Day!” she responded grabbing Lance’s hand to twist him around and repeat the dip back.

Lance cupped her cheeks

“Take me out tonight,” the two whispered, gleefully.

Keith and Shiro knew the next words. It was Mimi’s ‘meow’ lyric.

But Allura and Lance changed that.

They substituted it for a moan.

To which Alfor seemed to want to murder Lance but the couple was already moving across the banquet all past guests and tables who were making it difficult for the father to lay a finger on Lance. 

Lance ran backwards, his eyes on Allura.

“When I get a wink from the doorman, do you know how lucky you'll be?”

He untied his tie and threw it around Allura pulling her closer as the two walked onto the stage where the band was set up.

“That you're online with the feline-” Allura continued to follow Lance’s lead as the two avoided Alfor’s rage through the safety of the band set up.” - of Avenue B!” 

Lance released Allura and she went for the buttons on his shirt. 

“Let's go-” she repeated, popping them up off on by one, revealing his bare chest.” -outttttt tonight!”

Keith’s hand dug into Shiro’s leg, nails digging in. Shiro couldn’t blame him. He himself had a vice-like grip on his glass of water, terrified if he released it, he’d break it.  

Using the tie, Lance brought Allura with another twirl unbuttoning her top. 

“Does Lance want to die?!” Hunk whispered.

“I have to go outttttt tonight!” Lance stopped midway, showing just enough of her bra.   He released her and backed away as Allura continued to follow.“You wanna prowl, be my night owl!”

He offered her his hand again. 

“Well, take my hand-“

She took it, as the jumped off the stage, heading back to the bar. Allura slammed her hands against Lance on the edge of the bar. Her fingers danced across his thighs.

"-we're gonna howl out-“

 She lifted him up on the bar. She took the tie off and put it back on him, bringing him close.

 “ –tonight . . .” Lance whispered, his lips close to Allura’s neck.

“In the evening I've got to roam,” Allura mumbled as Lance gently brought her in again. She put her hands on his shoulders, falling back. “Can't sleep in the city of neon and chrome . . .” 

His hands moved up the sides of her waist as she looked away.

“Feels too damn much like home . . . when the Spanish babies cry . . .” Allura sang. Lance released her, turning to look at the audience.

“So let's find a bar,” Shiro and Keith froze. Lance gave a bittersweet smile. 

“So dark we forget who we are,” He was looking at them.

“But all the scars-“ he broke out in another smile, looking away.“-from the nevers and maybes die!” 

Lance fell against on the bar as Allura pounced on top it. She crawled over him. He smirked. As Lance moved back, along the bar, Allura followed, her hand moving Lance’s chest up and down almost like a puppet. 

“Let's go outttttt tonight!” Allura sang.

“Uh huh!” Lance agreed. 

With every fake pull Allura did, Lance did a slow thrust and she matched it in time.

"I have to goooo na na na na outttttt tonight!” Allura screamed, throwing her head back. 

Lance responded by gasping out repeatedly, clutching her shoulders and thrusting out even more. 

“Shiro . . .” Keith hissed through gritted teeth.

Shiro couldn’t respond. He now had one hand on Keith’s shoulder and another on the fucking glass because if he released Keith, Keith would rip Allura off Lance and if he let go of the glass, he’d do it himself.

“You're sweet, wanna hit the streets? Wanna wail at the moon like a cat in heat? Just take me outttttt tonight!!!”

The music slowed down as Lance shut his eyes.

“Please take me,” he softly choked out in a desperate plea.

The glass shattered in Shiro’s palm and Matt and Hunk jumped.

“Holy shit!”

“Are you okay Shiro!?“

“I’m fine!”

“He’s fine!”

“Outttttt tonight!” Allura repeated as the lights repeated. Lance’s eyes snapped open pushing her away.

“Don't forsake me!” he commanded.

Keith’s nails drew blood at that point. 

“Outttttt tonight!”

"I'll let you make me!” Lance put his hands to his chest motioning for Allura to take him all and Allura looked ready to oblige.

“Out tonightttttt-“  

The lights began to grow darker and darker with the final words paired with Allura and Lance’s voices shaky breaths. 

“Tonight, tonight, tonight!”

Pitch black darkness filled the banquet hall for a second and then sparks flashed behind the bar, illuminating the words ‘Sensual: by Alfor and Melenor.’ 

Lights came up showing Lance and Allura sitting on the bar.

“Lance McClai-“ Alfor started to scream but was cut off by applause from everyone intrigued in the performance advertising the Sensual product line.

“We need to-“

“Already heading towards him-“ Shiro cut Keith off as the two of them headed straight for Lance who was already getting mobbed by the guests.

“Wait! Your hand Shiro!” Hunk said, getting up to follow them. As Keith and Shiro pushed past guests, they were already beginning to lose sign of Lance. Keith would have started shoving people if he and Shiro weren’t in a weird representative position.

“I don’t see him,” Shiro scanned around, disappointed. Keith gave a jump seeing a spot of familiar white, flowing hair. 

“Allura! She has to know!”

That was their next best guess as they bee-lined straight to Allura who was answering some questions to a potential client.

She saw Shiro and Keith heading towards her. 

“Excuse me for a moment,” she apologized to the client who gave her an understanding nod. She started to walk away. Shiro and Keith trailed after her dodging people.

“Allura! Where is Lance?”

“We need to talk to him!” 

Allura grabbed a plate of appetizers from a waiter and a tray of sparkling water.

“Allura! Say something!”

She grabbed another plate, stacking it on top of the other. She headed out to the balcony of the building, opening the doors. Cool, night air blew in.

Katie looked up from their laptop, pulling off their headphones. They had been working out on the balcony, surrounded by the plants.

Keith made a mental note to tell Matt where his sibling was. He shook his head, remembering his objective. Hunk rushed out on the balcony, stopping to catch his breath. 

“Shiro-stop-seriously-so many people- your bleeding all over the hall!” Hunk exclaimed, motioning to his hand. 

Katie leaned to their side, seeing the trail of blood drips. 

“What happened out there?”

Allura slowly set the trays down next to Katie along with the drinks. 

“Allura, we need to speak to Lance,” Keith repeated. She walked past the Shiro, Keith, and Hunk. She closed the balcony doors. Sounds of the party became instantly muddled. 

All you can hear were the noise of Altea’s City District in the late night. Allura still had her back turned to everyone. 

Hunk spoke first, reaching out in fear and concern.

“Allura-“

Allura turned around pushing past Hunk and slapped Shiro amongst the face. Before Keith could access, she struck him too. Hunk backed away, covering his mouth. Katie stood up, still holding the laptop.

“What did you do!?”

“What the fuck, Allura!? Yeah!? What did you-“ Keith shouted, rubbing his face as Shiro only blinked in shock. 

“No!” Katie cut him off. “If she hit you, she had a reason!” 

It was then Keith and Shiro saw Allura was trembling. Tears were spilling and they didn’t seem to want to stop as she stormed towards them.

“How dare you?” she seethed. “How dare you, Keith Kogane and Takashi Shirogane!? How dare you hurt him?!” 

She quickly wiped her cheeks in an attempt to stop the tears from flowing but they refused to slow down.

“He’s been hurt too many times and he fell twice as hard and I don’t know if I can put the pieces back this time-“

“You guys fucked Lance!” Katie screeched, now clued in. Suddenly Shiro and Keith felt it was two against two.

“Dudes . . .” Hunk mumbled, disapprovingly. 

Three against two.

“I don’t understand,” Shiro held his hands out. “We knew he had a past with Allura but we didn’t think that would be a bid deal . . .”

“Oh, but the five other breakups are okay?” Kate said, sarcastically. Allura glared at them, taking a seat next to the appetizer trays. She began to snack, chewing furiously.

“What!?” Keith asked.

“Six people! Despicable really. Honestly,” Allura laughed out of anger. “Yet you guys on just decided ‘threesome! Why not!?’”

“Lance has broken up with six people . . .” Shiro looked to his friends. Hunk stared back and forth between Shiro and Keith. 

“Guys. I don’t think-I don’t think they knew. . .”

Silence enveloped the summer air. Allura grabbed one of the flutes filled with sparkling water.

“I’m not taking my slaps back,” she mumbled, taking a sip. 

“You seriously didn’t know?” Katie asked. Shiro and Keith had no words. Lance rarely spoke of his own dating life. It was what caused their own hesitance to even pursue Lance. 

“He mentioned Allura and the ring. That’s it.” 

“I was the sixth person Lance dated,” Allura sighed. “He never told you?”

A shake of the head from both of them. She shut her own eyes. 

“He’s never going to tell anyone,” Allura said in a soft whisper, almost as if she was just saying it to herself. Eyes still shut, she began to recall Lance’s exes.

“Nyma was the first.”

“Nyma was . . . “ Hunk paused.

“Kinky Hunk. Just say it,” Katie crossed their arms. “Lance was uncomfortable with some of the things she proposed but it’s hard to break up with your first girlfriend.”

Allura slowly opened her eyes.

“So Lance cheated.”

Katie held up two fingers.

“Rolo. Number two.”

“Didn’t help that Nyma and Rolo were best friends. Two had no idea Lance was using both,” Hunk explained. “It’s one of Lance’s biggest regrets.”

“Rolo hates Lance still. Constantly tries to destroy him online. I constantly have to scour chat rooms and social sites to this day-” Katie said. “-but karma got Lance back cause then he met Plaxum.” 

They made a number three with their fingers. 

“She dated him to just advance in class. Cheated off all his notes. Stole his final freshmen year project but at least she also got to have sex with Lance, right?” Allura stared at Keith and Shiro, gauging their reactions. Nothing yet besides undivided attention.

“That one kind of broke Lance," Hunk mumbled, already looking uncomfortable bringing up so much of Lance's dark past. 

“Not as much as Jenny Shaybon and the other Jenny,” Allura’s eyes narrowed and Lance’s three friends all gave a collective frown at the mention.

“What happened?" 

“Lance already had begun to gain rep of having a bad dating life paired with Rolo spreading rumors of him. Add in he’s bisexual and people assumed-“ Katie started, fingers now going to four and five.

“-people decided they could just have some ‘fun’” Allura hissed, her hands balling into fists. 

“Both Jennys were cat-fishing Lance while they used him. . ." a pause from Hunk as he avoided Shiro and Keith's eyes. " . . . used him for threesome. Public humiliation,” Hunk said, staring at the ground. 

With every ex, Lance's actions made more sense and the sinking feeling in both Shiro and Keith only dropped lower. 

“He still won’t step into the Balmeran Mall cause of that fake freaking persona they created and he fell in love with-“ Allura choked up. She took a deep breath in an attempt to compose herself. 

“-and you?”

Hunk and Katie smiled at Allura.

“She was the one person that didn’t hurt Lance-”

“-no. I did,” Allura cut them off. “We both did by pretending we were compatible . . . by thinking best friends equaled lovers. It didn’t and we believed that lie for a year. Now the damage is so big, we had to do a slutty dance to get my parents off our backs about the stupid proposal.” 

A sixth finger popped up and then a seventh, to which Katie used it to point at Shiro and Keith both. 

“That makes you guy seven. The seventh that hurt Lance.”

“We-we didn’t mean to!” Shiro began. “If we had known, we would have-“

“Backed off cause he was used, damaged goods?” Allura offered, coldly.

“No! Fuck no!” Keith yelled, ready to pull out his hair. “We would have slowed down-" 

“-talked to him-“

“-asked him-“

“-tell him how much we-“

A pause as Hunk, Allura, and Katie stared at the couple. Shiro looked amongst Lance’s friends.

“What do we do?” he questioned, desperate for direction. Allura looked down avoiding everyone’s gaze.

“Do what I couldn’t.”


 

Chapter Text


Lance began walking across the streets of Altea City counting the few stars that were sprawled amongst the night sky. He should feel great. He should feel amazing. He had gotten Allura’s dad off her back. After witnessing the dance, Alfor had beelined straight for Lance and Allura. Lance had sent his beloved friend to deal with guests at the party who continued to bombard her with questions while he would deal with Allura’s father.

He had braced for yelling and that's exactly what Alfor did. Well, at least a much-constrained version if it, considering they were in a public setting. He had begun demanding for the ring back which Lance responded with ‘what ring?’ for Alfor had pawned to Allura wanting her to propose this time around. This only made Alfor seethe more. If it wasn’t for Melenor disrupting his spout, Lance was sure he would have spent the rest of the night being verbally tortured.

When Melenor removed Alfor away from Lance, he decided that was his time to leave. Allura was somewhere in the banquet and Lance knew she could handle herself for the rest of the night. He had talked to Pidge and Hunk earlier and had even seen Matt but didn’t really feel like drinking or dancing anymore.

Especially since Keith and Shiro were roaming the same floor.

He had to make eye contact, didn’t he? He wasn't even aware they had come to the banquet until he was on the bar for the song number. Lance was so caught up in helping Allura he had completely forgotten Shiro and Keith were invited. Seeing them just confused him even more.

It somewhat helped Allura and him because, during that entire little dance and song routine, he was not fantasizing about Allura, despite being the one to touch her. He was convinced she wasn’t thinking about him either but Lance never pushed to ask Allura of her crushes or fantasies.

So, when the two of them planned the dance, the knew they’d be faking and they had nothing to be worried about cause they wouldn’t feel anything towards each other but when Lance saw Keith and Shiro watching him-Lance could feel heat and drive take over.

As mentioned before, it worked to their advantage, but it left Lance feeling antsy and restless. His mind kept drifting back to that night full of names being whispered then yelled. To delicate touches that would develop into pulls and tugs while the three were discovering what made each other’s bodies move and spring in satisfaction.

In all fairness, Lance had almost gasped out Keith’s and Shiro’s name during the song near the end but Allura had caught it. She had done a great job of cutting in when Lance seemed to go too close to the deep end.

She had caught on and Lance had told her the basics of what happened during the storm. She remained stoic throughout the reveal of Lance having another threesome but did not judge him. Lance wasn’t sure what that meant. She had continued to comfort him but she had not brought up Shiro nor Keith around him.

Was she walking on eggshells? Was she afraid he would cry again? He probably would . . . he still felt all emotionally messy and-

Lance gave a grunt as he bumped into the back of a much larger figure. A figure with white hair that he recognized. He rubbed his head, backing up.

“Shiro?” Lance whispered, almost inaudibly. A turn and Lance’s eyes widened. His stomach dropped.

“Lance?” Kuron looked just as surprised. “Haven’t seen you around since our last encounter. How’s it going?”

One word kept running through his mind as he stared at Kuron’s brown eyes, flecked with yellow specks-one of the few, small, physical traits that differentiated Shiro and Kuron allowing people to separate them.

Run.

So that’s what he did. He ran. He fled as fast as he could. So fast that his vision was becoming obscured and he had no idea where he was going. Was he cursed? Did that one woman he once flicked off in traffic once was actually a witch and this was why all this stupid shit kept happening?! Why? Why couldn’t he just had one night!?

He slammed into something causing him to fall back on the cold, hard pavement. If there was a God, this was the moment Lance was ready to die.

“Jesus Christ!”

Lance would also accept it if Jesus Christ took him to the other side. Any religious deity or supernatural creature. He was ready.

A person. He bumped into a person. He was being helped up someone. Lance’s vision adjusted. Things were still a bit blurry but he didn’t recognize whoever this was. Good. Total stranger. He could just get up and go on with his life.

The man reached for Lance’s forehead. Lance blinked a few times.

“You fell pretty hard. You alright . . .” the man held out his hand to shake and for a name.

“Lance.”

His eyesight was becoming clearer and Lance’s stomach recoiled just as the man grasped Lance’s hand.

He had seen this man. In pictures. On Shiro's and Keith’s phones.

“I’m Adam.”


After Hunk and Katie had bandaged up Shiro’s hand, they went to Allura, who had left to make her way to the bar. She rubbed her forehead, trying to find a solution along with Shiro and Keith.

“The problem with Lance is he has commitment issues-one Shirley Temple please-“ Allura told the bartender who gave a nod. She stopped messing with her head when she felt the stares coming from the two men next to her. “What? I have to drive back to my loft tonight! I’m not getting drunk!”

“No,” Shiro said. “We’re now understanding the commitment issues-“

“-it’s just . . .” Keith hesitated. “ . . . how do you approach someone like that.”

Allura sighed, giving a shrug as the bartender slid the drink to her. She caught it smoothly, popping the cherry in her mouth. She chewed slowly. “You picked the wrong person in all honesty to question,” she said, pulling out the stem from her mouth. She beamed, seeing she had correctly tied the cherry stem into a heart, setting it down. “The only person I've ever dated is Lance.”

“Right,” Shiro said, disappointed. Keith crossed his arms, leaning against the bar. The two of them wanted to try but if Lance was just going to build walls then it would be a hopeless effort. Along with that, they did not want to push Lance like they did that night. They didn’t want to repeat their mistakes.

“I do know Lance though. . .” Allura stirred the drink around, trying to process. “I don’t think he’s afraid of commitment . . .” she sipped slowly. “I think he just never had a genuine commitment in a relationship?”

“Oh?” Shiro and Keith responded, both feeling a spark of hope light up between them. Allura nodded, watching the guests mingle and dance.

“Yes, before me, nothing was truly long-term and he got a reputation for that. Then with me-my family quickly pushed us into marriage. The ultimate long-term relationship,” Allura explained. “He’s never had the chance for a middle ground. To build up?”

“A real dating life,” Shiro nodded. Keith groaned getting Allura and Shiro to look at him.

“That just makes him more locked up, doesn’t it? How would you go asking him out?” Keith challenged Allura. Another shrug from Allura.

“By the time Lance got to me, he just joked about going out and then we decided why not. It wasn’t really asking out. You truly do have a difficult position and I am not envious-“

“Rollercoaster of love (say what?) Rollercoaster (yeah) ooh ooh, ooh, ooh”

Allura set the drink down.

“That’s the custom text ringtone I put on for Lance?” she said, confused as she reached into the pockets on her shorts. Keith and Shiro crowded next to Allura as she opened up her messages.

The color on her face drained.

“Hey Ally, can you send me directions again?”

“Ally?” Keith asked as Shiro watched Allura’s hands tremble.

“Allura?”

“Something’s wrong.”


“Did you message your friend?” Adam gestured to Lance’s phone, setting down a cup of coffee for Lance and one for himself.

He had insisted they stop somewhere to get Lance situated. Adam kept commenting on how jittery and jumpy Lance looked and requested on calling an ambulance. Lance was assuming it was due to the fall.

Unknown to Adam, Lance was acting all nervous because of Kuron and now seeing Shiro’s ex in front of him.

So to calm the fretting Adam, he settled for getting a bite and a drink rather than being sent to the emergency room. Adam had gotten him some water and coffee and right now one of the staff was making them breakfast plates in a 24-hour diner. It wasn’t as if Lance could eat anyway. He was going to throw up.

“You’re not feeling foggy? No ringing in the ear? Remember your address? Nauseous?”

“What? I mean I’m a bit sick in the stomach . . .”

Adam stopped putting creamer in his coffee to look at Lance. Lance waved his hands rapidly around.

“-but that was before I slammed into you! I’ve been sick all night!” Lance explained. A breath of relief from Adam.

“Sorry I just feel worried. It was a bit of a fall and I wouldn’t be able to sleep if I sent you off without knowing you had a concussion . . .” Adam clarified, wiping the fog from his glasses that were being created from the steam from the piping hot drink.

“And you would know about concussions because . . .” Lance slowly drawled out.

A sip and a swallow. “ . . . because I’m a med student . . .” Adam casually repeated back, smiling.

Oh? Shiro and Keith never said that?

Wait?

But Keith said Adam left Shiro during rehabilitation-

“I hope your friend Ally can come to pick you up soon. I'm supposed to be meeting up a friend as well. As nice as you are Lance, I can spend my whole night here,” Adam tossed an apologetic smile.


“So you guys have coded messages?” Shiro clarified as he clutched the dashboard. Keith was in the backseat, also tightly holding onto the leather upholstery. Seatbelts did nothing when Allura was driving and there was a chance Lance was in danger. The last thing she seemed to care about were the rules of the road.

But if Shiro or Keith were behind the wheel, they would most likely react the same way.

“That sentence is only reserved if we need help! Actual real help! I get called ‘Ally’ I call him ‘Lawrence!’ Last time Lance used this code was the double Jenny incident! When I used my code is when my cousin was going to out me to parents as blackmail!” Allura’s voice was a mix of anger filled with fear. She sounded ready to cry.

“It’s going to be ok-“ Shiro started but Allura cut him off.

“You can’t possibly know that!” Allura shouted as she did a sharp left turn to the address Lance sent. Keith reminded himself in the future to apologize to Lance for making jabs at his driving. Lance was actually a pro compared to Allura who almost ran over a postal mailbox.

“Here!” Shiro pounded the dashboard repeatedly with his covered hand, pulling back to cringe. Allura pushed the brakes hard. Keith grasped the back shoulder rests, looking to the location.

“A 24-hour breakfast diner?”

Allura didn’t respond for she was already texting a message back to Lance in one hand and taking her seatbelt off with the other. Shiro was also getting out of the car. As soon as Allura’s message was sent, Lance walked out of the diner.

With Adam.

“Kuron?” Adam chuckled. “We aren't supposed to meet for another-“ Keith slammed the car door open, getting up. Adam stepped back, narrowing his eyes. “K-Keith? What are you?

Rapid footsteps in the late night were heard. The five of them looked to the direction to see who was heading toward’s them.

“Lance wait let me-“

Kuron looked like a deer in headlights at the scene that encountered him. Allura glanced back inbetween Kuron and Shiro, surprised Shiro had a twin. Lance was retreating behind Adam surprisingly who wasn’t moving.

Shiro and Keith were infuriated.

So infuriated that when Kuron took step back in an attempt to run, Keith went to take him down as did Shiro but was stopped by Adam.

“Don’t-don’t-“ Adam started. He was trying to keep composure. Lance shook his head, not even bothering to stay calm. He marched past Adam and headed straight to Allura who opened her arms. He allowed her to embrace him and the two walked towards her car.

Shiro and Keith focused their attention on Lance as Allura opened the car door, letting him take a seat.

“Lance-“ Keith started.

Allura banged the door shut, turning back to Keith and Shiro. “Don’t.”

“But-“ Shiro started, genuinely worried. She eyed Kuron who was speaking to Adam.

“Trust me. Right now, he needs time . . .” Allura said. “Just . . . give him time,” Allura pleaded, staring back at Shiro and Keith. They stepped back, watching as Allura got in the car to take Lance away from the situation.

Leaving them to deal with their own.

Kuron and Adam.

Adam glanced at Shiro and back at Kuron. “You two need to talk.”


“Why?”

Kuron poked the breakfast meal as Shiro tapped the table.

“Why do all this?”

He moved some eggs around, not taking a bite.

“Kuron!”

“It was a build up,” Kuron began. He frowned wondering if the choice of words were right. “No. A repeat? I don’t know. .you post these selfies of you and Keith online, you were always the favorite, everyone loved you growing up, I can’t-“Kuron was clenching his fists at the rapid spill of revelations. He let go.

“You know twins are never planned, Shiro. One is always a surprise. . .”

“Kuron . . .” Shiro reached for his hand but a sharp drawback Kuron. Memories of the fight that caused the accident began rushing in.

“You were always the perfect kid? The golden child?” Kuron mumbled, rubbing his arm. “Do you know how hard it is to live up to Takashi Shirogane?”

“I’m not perfect,” Shiro said.

“You sure act like it sometimes. Maybe it’s unintentional, who knows and when the accident happened, I didn’t mean for things to go that far,” Kuron scratched the almost identical scar on his face. “But I did mean everything I said in that car.”

He motioned to Keith who was speaking to Adam outside.

“How Adam fell out of love with you . . . how you were oblivious to Keith being in love with you. .I mean that . . . I just went too far,” Kuron explained. Shiro crossed his arms, intrigued with where his brother was going with this.

“And now?”

“I was in town for different reasons. It was easier to get a job under Takashi Shirogane’s name than my own-“

Shiro wondered if perhaps that was why he was having such shit luck in the job market.

“-then Keith got involved and that cute little fellow Lance-“

Shiro didn’t even realize his hand was wavering over the fork and knife next to his pancakes. Kuron took notice, rolling his eyes.

“Relax. I wouldn’t touch your precious Keith and dear Lance ”

“You followed him today and the time in the alley-“

“I followed him today to apologize and the time in the alleyway I did overstep but he did call me when I gave him my number? I genuinely assumed he wanted to . . .” Kuron made a vague gesture with his hand. “ . . . but then you and Keith stepped in and things started to click. I do still owe him an apology.”

Shiro watched Kuron continue only to play with his food and not eat it.

“Never thought of you to be in a poly relationship . . .”

“We aren’t-we-it’s complicated-“ Shiro began to stammer. Kuron glanced up, surprised.

“Don’t tell me you, you guys are too late?”

Shiro slowly blinked not following what Kuron meant by that. Kuron shook his head again, scoffing, setting his utensils down. He gave up on trying to eat.

“It’s a trait you and Keith share. You’re both so painfully dense it causes you guys to wait and wait when it could already be too late,” Kuron explained to the older twin. To back his explanation up, he made a loud cough paired with Adam’s and Keith’s names.

Shiro hated to admit it but Kuron was right. Shiro had no idea what was going on with Adam during the wedding process and he also had no idea what was going on with Keith at the same time during the planning. Even when the wedding was called off, Shiro didn’t even consider the thought Keith could have feelings for him.

Along with that, he completely missed the signs of Keith’s skin condition.

Kuron didn’t even know that he and Keith had also not noticed signs of how Lance felt about relationships and now after all this time they spent with Lance, it felt like they were running out knowing Lance’s past.

“Don’t let him slip through your fingers. The guy looks sweet. Got a bit of fire in him. Enough to match Keith at least,” Kuron shrugged. Shiro felt uneasy that his own brother even had to give him this advice. Kuron gave him a tight smile. “If it’s any consolation, I’m leaving Altea in a few weeks.”

“What? Why?”

“Was here for treatment. Mental stuff. I got injured in that accident too, remember? Moving up with a friend up north.”

“Who?”

“You know him.”


“You’ve been working with Kuron?” Keith rubbed his thumbs over his fingers over and over again in a nervous fashion. He and Adam had few conversations in the past but it was probably better to let Kuron and Shiro talk with each other than all four of them in a room.

“Yeah. Well, I was interning at a doctor’s office and Kuron was there. I almost had a heart attack because it had been so long since I saw either Kuron nor Shiro-“ Adam shook his head. “-so after talking with Kuron we continued to hang out. I knew he had some mental things from the accident-“

“-kind of a cunt move of you dropped Shiro but hung out with Kuron-“ Keith glared at Adam who put his hands up in offense.

“Woah.”

“Oh sorry,” Keith bitterly laughed. “It’s just you ditched your fiancé when he went through a terrible accident and now I’m hearing that you’re giving sympathy to his brother who also went through the same accident.” He tugged a strand of his hair. “Double standard much.”

“You can’t be saying that when you were following Shiro like a love-sick puppy for months on end,” Adam bit back. Keith sneered.

“ At least I love him,” Keith said. “Instead of dragging a wedding that never happened and now whatever . . . whatever this is . . . with Kuron . . .” he gave a nervous chuckle. “Almost like you have a type, Adam.”

Adam didn’t speak.

Adam actually looked away. Keith’s hands dropped to his side in complete and utter disbelief.

“You’re joking.”

“He doesn’t know.”

“You’re absolutely joking.”

“You can’t seriously be judging me. You like Shiro!”

“-and I like Lance! That has nothing to do with you almost marrying Shiro and then going after his brother-wha-you-" Keith stammered only laugh again. "You know what this makes sense! You two are probably made for each other! You both bolt at times and are distant and blow up at unexpected times-“ Keith listed off. “You all probably are planning to move in together!”

Another long pause of silence from Adam. Keith closed his eyes, taking a long breath. He really hoped and pleaded that he was wrong. That he had just guessed wrong but they say silence speaks volumes and Adam was inaudible.

“You-“

“We’re moving in together a few weeks across the country-“

“Christ-“

“Just as friends-“

“Right,” Keith said sarcastically. He wanted to leave this moment. This scene. He wanted to go back to his comforting apartment and make food with music blaring as he sung cheesy 80s pop songs with Kosmo barking around the home. He wanted to sit bed all snuggled up as Shiro would edit a new piece and play with his hair. He wanted to call Lance while he was drawing and have him tell stupid jokes that would eventually end up with the two of them flirting relentlessly unaware of how much Keith and Shiro liked Lance.

No. He would do it differently. He would tell Lance. Ask him to come over. Spend time with Shiro and him not as a friend or third wheel or whatever Lance thought of himself but as a part of their relationship if he wanted to.

He wanted to leave this late night out by the streets where he was cold, tired, and angry. He could care less about Adam and Kuron.

“Who was that guy?”

“What?”

Adam took a seat on the curb. He stared down towards the road, watching the few cars that would zip by them.

“Lance? Both you and Shiro rushed to him the moment he looked distressed,” Adam pointed out. Keith reluctantly sat down next to Shiro’s infamous ex.

He put his hands in his pockets, fiddling with the seams on the inside. He also began to watch the passing cars, not wanting to look at Adam.

“It’s complicated.”

“It always is . . .” Adam said, mostly to himself. A long exhale from the ex that was nearly covered by a passing gust of wind. Keith brushed his bangs away while Adam spoke again. “It’s just . . . you guys looked at him the way you always looked at Shiro . . .”

A sharp pain hit Keith’s chest. He really should have stayed home. He didn’t need people bringing up his long crush on Shiro. Adam speaking of the past just reminded him of memories he was trying to forget. Adam seemed to understand he was walking into serious territory. He paused, choosing his next words carefully.

“Sometimes . . . patience can be a weakness . . .”


“No . . . just. . . no.” Shiro responded hearing his own brother was going to move in with his ex. Kuron snorted, pushing the plate away.

“Good thing I don’t need your permission. Why does it matter?” Kuron asked, extending a handout. “You’re in love with Keith and this Lance guy and you have a whole life going on. Why even care about I’m doing?”

Shiro opened his mouth to respond but Kuron caught him in a corner. He had rarely thought of his own brother for months until Keith and Lance found him. A wave of guilt washed over him that must have been clear on his face because another roll of the eyes came from Kuron.

“We don’t need to know what’s going on with each other’s lives. I do better without you. Don’t you?”

“But why Adam?”

“I’m not dating him for the love of-we’re just friends Shiro, why does it matter? Still have feelings?”

“No! I just-it’s weird?” Shiro offered up. “I was almost married to him and we are twins and-“ Kuron watched Shiro babble on a bit, impatient. He leaned back, looking up, still allowing his brother to talk. He watched the ceiling fans spin around for a few rotations until deciding to cut in.

“He’s trying to a be a doctor you know?”

Shiro shut up.

“He feels this insane stupid guilt on walking out on you and we met up by chance-“ Kuron weakly chuckled. “-he was interning for my doctor and after his internship was over we just . . . began hanging out. It was nice . . . to have a friend like that . . .”

Kuron continued to watch the spinning fans. He didn’t want to look at Shiro. Especially for the next part.

“I knew at first it was cause he felt guilty what he did to you. He didn’t say it and Shiro you posted so much of your relationship with Keith that he didn’t know how to apologize but it seemed like you didn't need an apology. He moved on. I still a small sliver of pent up anger.“

“Kuron-“

“Three people were affected in that accident. I feel like you and Keith constantly forget that,” Kuron said with a clear bite. Those words gave Shiro whiplash.

Kuron may have had his own troubles and anger throughout the entire wedding planning just as everyone else had, leading to the build up the accident but Shiro had been so focused on his own recovery and Keith’s. He had tried in the past a few times to find his brother but it was dropped so quickly. Kuron seemed unfazed by Shiro’s silence.

He got up. Shiro did as well but Kuron stopped him. He pulled out some money from his wallet, paying for all the food.

“I’m going with Adam. Are we at least alright?”

Shiro stared at the money on the table to cover the meal, now having answers but still feeling hollow. He wasn’t . . . satisfied with them.

“Are you going to stop using my name?”

A laugh for Kuron.

“Yeah. I will. Don’t need to when I move out of this city.”

Shiro looked to his brother to see Kuron wasn’t joking. A steel, cold gaze. Knowing how hard it was to even place Adam and Kuron, it would be a long time before he would ever see the two of them again.

Kuron held his hand out to Shiro.

“I am sorry Shiro,” he said, with sincerity and regret. The sorrow wasn’t just for everything that happened this summer but over the years. Shiro grabbed his hand. He not only shook his hand but pulled his brother in giving him a hug. Kuron stiffened up, surprised, but grinned.

“You were always such a sap.”

“Shut up. Don’t-“ Shiro responded, his voice tense, his hold tightening. “-don’t ever think about approaching Keith or Lance.”

A snort from his brother as he drew away. He smirked, grabbing his jacket from the chair.

“If Keith knew how protective-“

“I mean it.”

“I know,” Kuron nodded, understanding how defensive his brother could be. He began heading out towards the door but stopped. He didn’t turn around nor did Shiro face the estranged relative. They couldn’t fix the past and it had become clear that their lives were on two completely different paths.

They were fine with that.

“Goodbye Shiro.


Lance was sitting on the floor of Allura’s loft. She had said nothing the entire car ride and up the stairs. Lance had watched her pull out her record player, bringing out her favorite albums from the different decades. She hit the lights off, turning on the string lights and the night projector, causing Allura’s entire loft to be filled with stars and galaxies that changed colors.

She then played down multiple blankets and pillows on the floor along with turning on the TV, letting a random channel play in the background on low. She grabbed an incense burner, lighting some sticks up, filling the room with lovely scents that quickly began to reduce Lance’s anxiety. Allura then typed rapidly her phone, her nails hitting the screen hard and loud. After that was done, she set up multiple snacks on the coffee table by the couch along with drinks.

Lance knew what was coming next as Allura removed out a very ornate wooden box under the couch.

He had seen her bring out the box only twice.

Once during the double Jenny incident.

The second time was Allura almost got outed to her parents.

She began rolling up a joint, ever so calmly. Lance could even say sophistically.

“Allura-“

She continued to work, not looking up.

“-we are going to smoke pot, Lance-“

“Allura-“

“-and get high-“

“Allura-“

“-and whatever you want then we’ll do it because I just found out Shiro had a twin and whatever you’ve been going through is-“

“Allura-“

“What Lance!?” Allura snapped, almost spilling stray cannabis all over the carpet. She looked almost as exhausted as Lance felt. He brought his knees up.

“Just please tell me that weed is from Matt.”

Allura nodded and Lance huffed a sigh of relief knowing it was safe. Their first time had been a little too heavy and when Matt found out he told them if they ever wanted pot to come to him. The second time around, Lance asked because Allura was a mess during the near reveal and it helped her calm down.

She must have spoken to Matt at the party or earlier when Lance started staying with her and planned ahead for their third time.

Which had led to the two of them lying on the carpet next to each other, passing a joint back and forth. Allura reached out to the ceiling as if she could touch it but gave up, settling on a bag of chips she swiped from the table. Lance watched the stars fill up the room along with the puffs of smoke, creating their own world.

“I wished we had fallen in love together,” Lance confessed. Allura coughed for she had taken to big of a hit. She laughed only to frown as she passed to Lance.

“Me too. It would have been easy.”

They both knew that’s not how it worked. You can’t force two puzzle pieces that are from two different puzzles to stick together. It causes two broken pictures. It breaks two pieces. Lance and Allura spent so long trying and they knew they weren’t meant for each other.

Allura giggled again.

“Do you remember . . .” she giggled again. “ . . . do you remember when Coran almost swore in front of us?”

Lance began to match Allura’s laughter until a sinking feeling hit his stomach. He blinked a few times. He felt fuzzy. Why did he-

No! I want to wear the crown!”

Lance turned around. A sinking feeling. He was hallucinating. Tripping? Whatever was happening, he was in Allura’s parents’ home years ago when they had playdates.

In front of him was little six- year old him and six-year-old Allura fighting over a plastic crown.

“It’s a ti-a-ra!” young Allura argued in her small, posh accent. Lance chuckled, forgetting how Allura always acted so noble as a child. She was put in frilly dresses while Lance always showed up to the playdates in simple jeans and stained t-shirts. If it wasn’t for Melenor and his own mother attending the same yoga class they may have never become friends.

“It doesn’t matter!” his younger self yelled out. “Why do I always have to rescue people!?”

“Because that’s what you have to do!”

Another tug and shout. Lance actually stepped forward. He never realized how violent the fight looked. He reached to stop but the door to Allura’s playroom opened and Coran came rushing in. The outburst caused them to fall back dropping the tiara.

“Fu-oh quiznak!” Coran corrected himself, quickly checking to see if the two were okay. “Are you alright dears. Oh, just a scrape. Come on, fit as fiddles aren’t you? Lance? Allura?” Coran grinned as he wiped any tears that were trying to spill out. Young Lance rubbed his shoulder as young Allura cocked her head.

“What’s a ‘quiznak?’”

Coran paused.

“It’s not important.”

“Yes, it is. You yelled it out! And mother always said if I don’t know what a word means I should ask!”

Lance burst out laughing as young Allura stuck her nose in the air while all the color on Coran’s face drained. Young Lance was nodding enthusiastically.

“Well it’s-when it’s a cover for a bad word but it’s-it’s not-“ Coran stammered at the made-up word he used so the children wouldn’t learn the word ‘fuck’

“Quiznak is bad????” young Allura whispered. Young Lance put a hand over his mouth and let the word slip out.

“Quiznak.”

“Quiznak,” she repeated, excited. Young Lance said back and they were soon mincing the word like parrots as Coran chased them around the room, attempting to get them to stop as Melenor came rushing in, demanding what in the world was a ‘quiznak’ and why were the children screaming it.

Lance continued to smile at the ridiculous scene. He leaned down, staring at the tiara.

“Coran was the one that also said we can be both the Prince and Princess.”

Lance turned to see the current Allura also in his hallucination. She was holding the joint as she walked past, picking up the tiara. She took another inhale, breathing out, filling the room with smoke.

“Guess we had to grow up.”

Allura thew the tiara down, and Lance felt the floor fall beneath. The room became darker and darker eventually pitch black. He shut his eyes, opening up to be greeted by the stars again but only the stars.

Allura’s voice greeted him from reality.

“Do you remember . . . the airport . . .”

The sounds of airplanes and terminals being boarded overwhelmed him as he shut his eyes and covered his ears. Tears brimmed his eyes.

A hand on his shoulder.

“Lance it’s going to be okay . . ."

He opened his eyes. Wait. No. This was different. He was back at the airport. His family was speaking to Allura’s. The last hallucination allowed him to watch! Why was he living this one!?

He knew how this went as he turned to his side to see Allura’s hand on his shoulder. They were going to be separated before high school. They were already such outcasts with Allura being a complete science geek doubled with braces and prescription glasses while Lance himself was all lanky and obsessed with games and shows. They never branched out beside their themselves and now Lance was losing his best friend.

It was not going to be okay.

“It’s not,” Lance choked out, as the tears spilled out. He couldn’t stop it. He was losing control. There was no control. He had no control of having to leave, no control of having say goodbye, and no control of the future.

Allura brought him in and they hugged him close.

“It will be.”

Lance’s flight began to board and he had to let go of his best friend because he began to board, looking back his friend who was trying to be strong for the both of them. As he boarded with his family and took a seat, a familiar voice spoke up next to him.

“But it wasn’t, was it Lance?” Lance looked to his left to see current Allura taking a swirling a drink around. He grabbed the joint from her, taking a drag. “Was it alright Lance?”

Lance breathed smoke filling the plane and his head. Lights flickered on the plane as the pilot reassured things will be fine.

“Fine never means fine you know.”

Lance's eyes shot open to see Keith and Shiro sitting on the other side of the plane in another aisle. He reached just as turbulence began to hit and oxygen masks fell down as the plane became compromised. Lance couldn’t see through the smoke as lights began to flash as the plane went down.

“Are you sure you’re fine Lance?” Allure questioned as she prepared for the crash and then put the oxygen mask over her best friend. Lance braced for impact

Darkness hit filled with stars again. Lance swallowed heavily, tears brimming. He quickly wiped them away, reassuring himself it’s just a bad trip. He called for Allura through the bad hallucination.

“Do you remember the summer barbecue . . .” Lance brought up.

“How could I forget?” Allura responded, cold.

Lance collapsed on the grass. He groaned as his cousins apologized for hitting him with a soccer ball. He sat up, looking around. He was at his family’s home in Cuba but amongst all the family, other familiar faces were here as well.

Allura and her parents as well. They had managed to keep touch throughout their high school years. A high school version of Allura came running towards him. Lance knew how old he was now as his skin burned and itched and scathed under the summer sun.

He wanted to die. He reached to scratch the skin on his arm. His own mind was screaming to stop but he knew how this flashback played out as skin flaked off, bleeding. The heat from the sun singed the blood as Lance covered the fissures when Allura got to him. She helped him up.

“You alright Lance?”

“I’m good. How are you doing?” Lance whispered, eyeing Allura’s parents. This was the summer Allura also revealed to him she was bisexual. She was constantly untangling at the party, especially since Alfor kept bringing up how many men couldn’t stop sending Allura love letters and gifts back home. She seemed to get more and more uncomfortable every time her father brought up how popular she was.

They had grown more into their bodies. While Lance had developed a skin condition that his family kept assuming was constant bad sunburns, Allura had grown taller and got the metal in her mouth removed, revealing a dazzling smile. She constantly commented on how Lance had grown beautiful as well but he refused to believe that as he knew how bad his own skin had become.

He reached to scratch again, his nails digging deep. Scratching didn’t help, not touching it didn’t help-nothing helped-his throat was burning-why was it so hot-

Melenor sang out for everyone to group up for a photo. Lance and Allura headed together. He was having trouble breathing as Allura linked arms with him. Was he sweating more?

A flash went off.

“Lance?” Allura stepped back as she watched him reach for his neck. He didn’t want to relive this. This was one of the most terrifying moments of his life as he dropped to his knees surrounded by people he loved. He didn’t know what was happening as he clawed at his neck. He couldn’t breathe as his parents began to panic, pushing Allura out of the way.

Her horrified face stamped in his brain forever. His vision went out as his breathing constricted when tears filled his eyes as choked.

“I was so scared . . .” Allura whispered from reality. Lance swallowed.

“I remember . . .”

Lance woke up to see Allura by his bed, holding his hand. Both her family and Lance’s kept visiting him in shifts over the past few days as it was revealed he had an extreme case of dermatitis.

Otherwise known as eczema.

He could barely move. They had to give him high dosages of steroid creams along with other topical ointments paired with pain-killers to even get Lance to breathe again.

He swallowed. It hurt. He forgot how bad this hurt. Allura continued to hold his hand, careful not to squeeze to tight in fears she would hurt Lance.

“I’m . . .” she smiled, almost ready to cry. “I’m thinking of becoming a dermatologist.”

Lance gave a weak chuckle.

“So am I . . .” he whispered. “I’d be able to help myself then . . .”

Allura’s lips trembled, bringing her head down to Lance’s bed.

“Lance you’re being released.”

Lance looked away from teenage Allura to see a doctor standing in the door. He sat up releasing he was already out of his hospital gown and in different clothes.

“By who?” Lance questioned just as smoke filled the room and the current version of Allura walked in. She held her hand out to Lance. He reached to grab it but a voice interrupted.

“Are you sure that’s what you want to keep doing?”

Lance glanced to his side to see Shiro sitting in a chair, waiting for a response as Keith watched if Lance would take Allura’s hand.

Before Lance could choose, the smoke enveloped the room causing Lance to go into a coughing fit. Galaxies filled with nebulas and heavenly bodies began to surround him as Lance began to open his eyes wondering what would hit next.

He realized he was speaking now.

“ . . . remember how we got together . . .”

“ . . . how could I forget . . .”

The colors continued to envelop him as he spun around with Allura in the middle of a college party. His face bore a grin while his heart felt so low and destroyed after he just got hurt by Jenny Shaybon and the other Jenny. Hunk, Pidge, and Allura had pitched bringing him to a party.

He remembered being so desperate to feel something that he just said fuck it.

That’s how he found himself dancing in a crowd with Allura in one of Altea’s large dorm buildings as Hunk was playing beer pong against Pidge across the room. Music took over and the louder it got the quieter his heart became.

“I’m a little thirsty come on!” Allura shouted over the music, still bopping her shoulders as she tossed her hair up. They headed for the kitchen where a couple was walking out, being disgustingly gross.

Lance was jealous then.

Now he just wanted a drink.

Lance reached for water as Allura began mixing a drink. Lance knew what would come out of his own mouth next.

He wished he could stop it.

“It’s so easy with you. Why can’t I date you?” Lance grinned. Allura stopped.

As did all music in the house along with everyone dancing and speaking. It was just him and Allura at the stupid party. She looked down at the half-filled cup and back at Lance. A smile with a nervous chuckle.

“Okay.”

The music and dancing picked up as Allura continued to make her drink. Lance turned around to see current Allura standing in the door, disappointed.

“You made me a rebound.”

“Wait-no-“ Lance began.

“Are you sure?” Past Allura asked, without looking from her drink. The music started to get louder. A little too loud.

“No, I just-“

“You seemed confused,” Keith walked past current Allura. He ignored Lance going for the fridge. “I get that.” Shiro followed, taking a seat up on the counter, watching Keith scavenge the fridge.

“Why wouldn’t he date her. . ?” Shiro questioned. “She’s perfect for him . . .”

“Exactly. He’s made it clear he doesn’t want us-“

“-so we should just back off-“

“Wait-” Lance tried to disrupt the hallucinations of Shiro and Keith as current Allura tapped the joint against the wall. The bass of the music got brought up louder and Lance fell to the ground. Allura leaned down as the past version of herself continued to make a drink and the hallucination began to change again.

“We both know how it ended . . .”

She blew smoke in his face as the music reached a breaking point.

“We were so happy . . .” Allura whispered. Lance wasn’t even sure if this was a hallucination Allura speaking or the real one speaking but he went with it. She wasn’t wrong.

“Yeah-“

The smoke cleared up and the music halted. Lance turned to see Melenor switching in-between channels on the radio.

“I’m a fan of Christmas songs as the next person but I can only listen to Silent Night so many times-“ she joked as family members laughed. Lance backed up.

No.

Anything but this. He’d rather relive the summer barbecue than this. Lance whipped around bumping straight into Alfor.

“Lance, Melenor and I have been meaning to talk to you. Come, my boy,” Alfor put his arm on Lance’s shoulder, leading him to his study with Melenor following close by. He could see his reflection on the shimmering ceiling and ornaments he passed by.

Same tired, dead eyes. Same hair that was falling out in strands day by day. Same body that had lost ten pounds that month because he felt so sick to eat. Same nausea.

Wake up.

Someone wake him up.

Alfor and Melenor shut the door of the office. He couldn’t even focus on their words as his breathing became more tight and quick.

“Don’t make me do this,” he begged as they continued on with the same speech he heard before. “Don’t make do this. Don’t make do this-“

“-and we believe the perfect way for you to propose is with-“

“-no please, stop-“

“-a family heirloom that’s so dear my Melenor’s heart-“

“-stop, please-“ Lance begged as the ring was placed in the palm of his hand. Alfor and Melenor opened the door, continuing to speak of how grateful they are to find someone like Lance for their daughter. He couldn’t even control his own feet as he walked across the party. Why this memory? The one he blocked out so many times?

“You look like a wreck . . .”

Lance choked, letting out a laugh as Shiro caught up with him noticing the ring. Keith appeared on his other side, walking backwards. He smirked, glancing at the ring.

“Shiro, do you think I got a type for guys who got failed relationships?”

Shiro snorted and Lance couldn’t help but smile at imaginary Keith’s snarkiness.

”It is a strange coincidence . . . you don’t have to do this you know Lance," Shiro said, watching Lance's next movement.

Lance’s hand was on the doorknob.

“I can’t stop this,” Lance whispered referring to the flashback.

“That’s not what we mean,” Keith clarified as the door opened and the two stepped back. The scene confronting him broke him. Allura who was more of a wreck than him. Hair with dead ends, smudged make-up, skin that she stopped keeping care of, mismatched clothing-Allura who took such pride in her appearance and how regal she came off, became a mess.

Lance felt like he was dissociating when he revealed what Allura’s parents wanted him to do. A slam of the door paired with Allura yelling. Then screaming that became aimed at him.

Which Lance then shouted back.

Not their first fight since they started dating but it was one that was filled with tears and anger and confusion. Then it got to the point where Allura got hysterical.

“They keep pushing me! Pushing me to have a child! Have sex! Marry you! Fine!”

She pushed him down on the bed, taking her blouse off.

“Allura!” Lance shouted grabbing her arm, stopping her just as she reached to unclip her bra. Her eyes widened, horrified. She quickly started to tremble and bawl.

“Lance I’m sorry. Oh, God. I just haven’t slept in weeks and I-oh no-I-“

Lance brought her in close hugging her as she shook under his touch while tears stained his own cheeks. He got up, bringing Allura away from him. He knelt down to the ground, wiping her cheeks, allowing himself to still look awful. He took her hand.

Her shoulders shook as she tried to calm her breathing down.

"Alura . . . will you do me the honor of breaking up with me?" Lance begged, bringing her hand close to his heart. Allura took a shaky inhale and began to laugh and Lance did too.

"Yes. Yes, Lance," she gasped out through sobs. Lance beamed at ending their pain.

"A year. You took a year from her."

Lance swallowed, turning to see the current Allura behind him. He looked back to the other Allura was not only gone but the room had shifted into pitch black. No stars. No galaxies. No light.

"What else are you going to take Lance?" Allura questioned and light surrounded him as people passed him.

People that hurt him. Nyma, Rolo, Plaxum, the Jennys- Lance withdrew as they eyed him and circled around him. Everyone who he was ever in a relationship with.

"What do you want Lance?" Allura demanded. "Nothing's ever good enough, is it? I spent so long helping and I lost so much time-"

He couldn't back away, he was surrounded. He needed to wake up-have this be over-what did Matt put in this!? He felt like he was sinking. He was going to die. He was terrified. He was falling apart.

Two hands pulled him out of the vulturous circle.

Keith and Shiro.

Lance broke out in a grateful smile to thank them but they looked just as crushed as every other ex in this vision.

"We don't know what you want Lance . . ." Keith mumbled.

"We don't know how to fix it . . ." Shiro whispered as they began retreating away from Lance. Lance couldn't let them leave. No. He needed-no he wanted them. He wanted them. How could he tell them? He had to tell them!

He ran towards them only to get pulled back to the ground. He looked down to see a wedding ring on him. Lance got up, turning to see a chain linked from the ring all the way back to Allura who was the only one left standing.

All the other exes were gone.

"Let me go! Tell Alfor and Melenor to let me go! They need to let us go!" Lance shouted, desperately attempting to pull off the chain and ring. Allura sighed.

"It's not them holding you back," she said as she revealed she could take off her ring. Lance tried again with his own. It was stuck. He stared at his own hand, horrified glancing back at Allura and then at the couple who was leaving Lance behind.

"It's you."

"No-no it can't Shiro!" Lance tried to run after them but got pulled again. "Keith!" another drag from the chain. They were disappearing. He begged and called for their names. The darkness began seeping in as he stared at the stupid ring.

"Shiro! Keith!"

Lance gasped out, sobbing as Allura shook him calling his name over and over.

"Lance oh thank goodness! You were pretty dazed and quiet for a few hours but just now you kept mumbling Keith and Shiro's name until you were screaming it and-"

She stopped talking for Lance broke down crying onto her shoulder. She grasped his hand, smoothing it over and over again.

"I don't know what to do Allura," he hiccuped in between wails. Allura paused taking a deep breath.

"Lance . . . to fix things with Keith and Shiro . . ." she whispered, giving Lance's hand a tight squeeze. " . . . you need to let go."

She then released her best friend's hand.


 

Chapter Text


Lance took a deep breath in between clenched teeth. He shouldn’t mope. He was the one who decided it was healthy to go out. To leave Allura’s place after weeks of being cooped up. Weeks of moping and hiding and not knowing how to face anyone. A part of Lance still felt he was still a bit justified to feel the way he felt. He was allowed to take steps as slow as he wanted to yet at the same time-

-he was exhausted of feeling like garbage.

So he chose to roll off of Allura’s futon and go out. Out on the same day that happened to be the grand opening of the Holt’s arcade in the Altea district. What luck for Lance.

Allura unfortunately, had to work at the shop and could not go with Lance. Hunk was busy as well, working on an engineering essay he was to submit for early summer college credit for one of his classes. Lance didn’t want to push the poor guy. He had a double major.

Which let Lance to sitting at a snack bar, poking a snow cone while the packed arcade was filled with all ages enjoying the unique games-old and new. Lance couldn’t help but wonder whether this was if was the right environment for him. Maybe he should have gone somewhere quieter or closed or-

A bell rang and a holler followed.

“I knew I could get it to work!”

Lance gave a half smile without looking toward the direction. Pidge must have finally figured out what the bug was with that wonky skeeball machine. Lance shoved away the now melted sludge of a snow cone, picking it up to throw in a nearby trash can only to pause to watch a nearby stage of a group of friends playing a flashy game.

A game that was almost unrecognizable if it weren’t for those ridiculous bracelets and the fact that it was a music game. A rush of memories flooded Lance seeing a group of friend act ridiculous on that stage. He began to storm off only to bump into a cheerful face.

“Lance!”

“Wha-oh!” Lance narrowed his eyes trying to a name to the smiling blonde bouncing girl. She motioned to herself.

“It’s me! Romelle! We met at Sal’s!” Romelle said. She then pulled her friend who apparently was behind her, surprising Lance. “This is Acxa!”

“Hey,” Acxa gave a suspicious nod to Lance. He nodded back but intimidation was immediately received.

“She helped me pick out outfits for Keith!” Romelle giggled. “Back when Keith dressed like he had no will to live,” she laughed. Then she winked.

Acxa then snorted and gave Lance a knowing look.

Oh. Ohh. Ah. Of course. They don’t even know. Lance laughed nervously.

“You too . . . are gifts . . .” Lance smiled politely, backing away. “Excuse me.” He needed to get the hell out of here. Lance wasn’t an idiot, he knew some people had to have seen him flirt with Keith and Shiro so people had must have assumed things but now god-now lines were so crossed and messed up and-

Lance began to rub his head. He needed a bottle of water.

“Lance, you need to come with me,” Pidge cut in as they grabbed Lance’s shoulder, shoving him amongst the people across the arcade.

He apparently needed to go wherever Pidge wanted him to go?

They dragged him to the prize counter where they began pulling out boxes of unopened boxes. A dull knife got slammed on the glass countertop. With a shove, they commanded Lance to help open and start refilling the lower tier prize shelf. Lance gave a small nod. He stabbed the box, sliding the knife across the cardboard, pulling out bags of cheap prizes such as plastic tiaras and glow in the dark spiders.

As he spilled prizes into their designated bins, he could feel Pidge’s watchful eyes on him.

“I’m not going to mess up, Pidge,” he said, reassuring them. Pidge shook their head, leaning over a box, sprawling over like a lazy cat.

“I know I was just wondering . . .”

“About?”

“How are you doing?”

Lance snorted. Pidge, of course, would know, but caring? That was a different thing. He brought himself up from the prizes, crossing his arms.

“I'm doing alright. Fine. Great Pidge.”

Pidge pulled back from the box, mirroring his movements. The noises of the arcade almost muffled their speech. Pidge cocked their head to the side, refusing to believe a word Lance had just told them.

“So you spoke to Shiro and Keith?”

It was as if Pidge has just verbally slapped Lance by saying their names out loud. Lance had gotten so used to Allura tip-toeing around him all this time; their names were never mentioned. He had ignored ever call and text to where his phone no longer began to have traces of the two of them. He knew the procedure, all of his friends did-so for Pidge to even mention-

Lance walked past Pidge and around the prize counter.

“Wha-Lance!” Pidge hopped over the counter, pushing passed literal children in hopes to catch Lance, who was quickening his pace. “Stop being a baby!”

“I don’t know what you are talking about!” Lance shouted over the bells of someone winning a basketball arcade game. Pidge let put a frustrated yell, grabbing a basketball from the same game and whipping it at their avoidant friend.

Lance turned around, still walking. Pidge’s aim was always shit. There was no way they would actually hit him.

A violent yell from Pidge paired with Lance screaming with confused arcade goers turning around. Lance’s leg went out along with the rest of him.

Pidge stormed over, pulling Lance up to only drag him away. Lance could hear Matt reassuring those who witnessed the scenes that he was alright. Et tu, Matthew? He rubbed his knee to see that Pidge was dragging him into the bathroom, grabbing a broom from the supply closet along the way. After shoving Lance in, they followed, propping the broom up, not allowing anyone else to come in.

“What if someone else actually needs to use the bathroom?”

“Good thing there are two more bathrooms in this arcade then,” Pidge clarified, crossing their arms, leaning against the door. With those words, a flush of the toilet and a peek out of the door. Lance and Pidge turned.

“Ah, Shay,”

“Sorry . . . am I . . .” Shay looked at Lance and Pidge confused as she walked to the sink to wash her hands quickly confused at the situation. Pidge tapped her chin.

“No, no, actually stay, I can use a second input on this-“ Pidge said, eyeing Shay who lathered her hands up with soap but gave Pidge a hesitant look. Lance pinched the bridge of his nose.

“Really?”

Shay wiped her hands dry on her long skirt and then shoved her hands in her pocket.

“Is this about Lance still not talking to Keith and Shiro?”

“Is everyone talking about this!?”

“Oh my god yes!?” Pidge exclaimed. “How are you that fucking dense?!” Pidge poked Lance’s chest who stepped back. He turned to Shay who but her lip. She didn’t shut down Pidge’s accusation.

“They even spoke me and Hunk . . . they are really worried . . .” Shay whispered, putting a hand on Lance’s shoulder. Lance stilled. Shay continued. “They keep thinking they messed up-“

Lance shook Shay off, moving towards the sink. He put his hands on the ceramic. He doubted that. Why worry? What’s there to worry about? Time and time again people have shown-

“Now you’re probably thinking ‘why would they worry? I’m not special’ or some dumb, stupid nonsense along those lines,” Pidge came over, sitting on the floor next to Shay. Lance shut his eyes. Dammit. Dammit. Damn Pidge. “Ignoring all that low self-esteem bs because you are awesome-

“-you are a wonderful person Lance-“ Shay agreed as she grabbed Lance’s shoulders, shaking them to bring him to look at himself in the mirror.

“-yeah, you never shut up about it,” Pidge joked and Lance couldn’t help but snicker. Pidge smirked at getting Lance to laugh. “I’ve had to listen to you for so long talk about how great you are, and now this summer I had to listen to two other guys do the same damn thing.”

Lance watched himself in the mirror, his reflection darkening. He looked down at Shay, who shook him slightly, with gentle excitement.

“It’s adorable.”

“It’s disgusting.” Pidge countered Shay who smiled back. His thoughts were becoming mixed up. He liked what Pidge and Shay were saying. He wanted what they were saying to be true.

“But what if-“

Pidge let out a long groan, shutting their eyes, ending in silence. They got up with Shay watching them. After the moment of silence, they opened their eyes.

“Shay give us a sec,”

Shay looked in between Lance and Pidge giving an understanding glance. Pidge led Shay out while Pidge reset the broom, relocating the door again. They took their seat on the restroom floor again, motioning for Lance to sit next to them. Reluctantly, he did.

Still quiet, Pidge kept their eyes shut, almost like they were contemplating their next move. They stayed that way for what felt like hours but in reality, it must have only been minutes. Lance looked around, wondering if Pidge fell asleep. He reached over to tap them.

“Uh Pi-“

Their eyes snapped open and Lance jumped. Pidge rubbed their eyes.

“Okay. Okay. Okay. So, you remember that time you, Keith, and Shiro got really drunk at some karaoke bar and drunk dialed a bunch of people that one night?”

Was this what having a stroke felt like? He could feel his body going numb. He tasted pennies and smelled burning? His mind was short-circuiting. Oh fuck, why was Pidge bringing that up-

“Yes,” Lance croaked out.

It was an amazing night.

From what Lance could remember.

“Did you ever listen to the fourth voicemail I sent you?”

He did not.

Lance shook his head. Pidge took a deep sigh.

They pulled out their phone and placed it on the floor in front of them. Lance attempted to get up and flee only to have Pidge sink their nails into his arm. He wept, feeling tears form out of the corners of his eyes. He sank back down, staring at the phone.

“I never sent the fourth message to Shiro nor Keith, if that makes you feel better,” Pidge explained as they both stared at Pidge’s phone.

It did not. Lance had spent nights staring at that fourth message paired with Pidge’s text, wondering why there was another voicemail only for him. Of course, he had chickened out! So bad that he had deleted it! He had felt so good the moment he got rid of it!

“Is it bad Pidge?” Lance managed to ask. Pidge placed a hand on his back.

“Depends on what you consider bad . . .”Pidge then began to play the message. Lance pulled his knees up to his chest as Pidge kept his hand to his chest.

Shuffling could be heard and distant sounds of music. Light music?

Pidge?

An echo? Lance narrowed his eyes.

“Lance? Jesus christ again-

“Pidge I (hic) c-can’t do this aga-

“Woah wait, woah, shi-

Moving from Pidge’s side to the phone, Lance listened. It sounded like Keith and Shiro were singing in the next room while he sounded like he was crying. Soft little sobs that were echoed in a-

“A bathroom. I was in a bathroom . . .” Lance recalled as Pidge nodded.

“What’s going on?”

“I had to step back so I went in the f-freaking ba-bathroom god why is everything so loud oh god Pidge they are so-fuck I can’t do this again-it’s the same I’m gonna crash again and I’m gonna ruin them and-“

More sobs followed by Pidge’s hushed reassuring tone to get countered by Lance again.

“I don’t want to mess this up this time- I really-i really like them I really I like them-“

“Lance do you need me to come over and get you-Or I can get Matt or Hunk or-“

A knock interrupted them followed by Keith and Shiro’s confused cries for Lance to join them back in the room. Lance hung up. Pidge gauged Lance’s reaction as he stared at the phone.

“They deserve better.”

“Lance-“ Pidge got ready to argue.

“I want to be better for them,” Lance continued on. “I don’t know Pidge. . . there’s this part of me that just never feels like I’m good enough and I want to be . . .” Lance gave a half smile. Pidge nodded. They inclined towards the phone swiping to a different recording. “What are you-“

Sounds from a familiar banquet filled the restroom mixed in with arguing.

“That makes you guy seven. The seventh that hurt Lance.”

Pidge’s lazy accusatory voice. He knew who six were but seven?

“We-we didn’t mean to! If we had known, we would have-“

Shiro sounded so hurt and confused. Would have what? Dropped him? Stepped away?

“Backed off cause he was used, damaged goods?”

Allura sounded ready to murder.

“No! Fuck no! We would have slowed down-" 

Keith sounded so desperate to make his case

“-talked to him-“

As did Shiro.

“-asked him-“

Almost as if they wanted to scream it to him not the people at the banquet.

“-tell him how much we-“

“What?” Lance accidentally whispered out. Pidge gave him such a pitiful look.

“What do you think Lance?” Pidge picked up the phone when the recording ended. Lance reached out. He hadn’t realized how much he had missed the two of their voices until now. Even through the awful recording muddled by the sounds of the outside, it made him desperate to hear the real versions. To see them. Christ, he forgot how good they sounded.

He was a mess.

Pidge handed him the phone. They got up. Without a word, they took the broom down, setting it to the side. They then left Lance alone, with his thoughts and a phone to make the next move.

Lance stared at the cellular device with trepidation. There were cards now in his hand. He could make a step. In fact, he was the only one that could make a move. The two of them had seemed to get Lance’s hints and if Lance continued then Shiro and Keith disappearing from his life would be inevitable.

Lance scrambled to get up, the phone almost slipping from his hand. He clutched it, grasping onto the corner of the sink. That couldn’t happen. No, he had to fix things.

He scanned through Pidge’s contacts only to release this was one of their ridiculous burner phones. Course-why else would there voicemails and recordings on it!? There wouldn’t be an actual phonebook! Think! Lance slammed his head against the mirror trying to recall Keith’s phone number. He never got Shiro’s. He only managed to get Keith’s the entire time he had known the two of them.

Like an idiot.

But also like an idiot, he had stared at the stupid picture Shiro had taken of Keith, which was right next to his number. He had looked at the photo for quite a few nights. That blushing Keith was just too cute and Lance mumbled as he recalled numbers, tracing them along the mirror, desperate.

With a slam against his own reflection, he was sure he had the right combination and typed it in only to stop and stare at the number.

He could not call! What would he say!? No seriously!? Lance could feel his mouth go dry at the thought. Plus, who called anymore? No, too forward.

Text. He’ll text. Safer.

Lance took a shaky breath as he took a few types and then everything poured out. An apology paired with wanting to explain what was going on but most of all, he wanted to continue seeing Shiro and Keith if they did, whether it would be friends or more-

He found himself autocorrecting and rewriting quite a few times to the point where he was pacing around the bathroom to the point where someone was knocking on the bathroom violently.

“In a minute!” Lance shouted back, not taking his eyes off the phone, still worried a line in the text was wrong, the message would come off wrong. After giving a final read-through, Lance closed his eyes and clicked send, leaning against the back of restroom wall to sink down. It was done. He did it.

All he could do is wait.


Okay. Alright. Lance knew he wasn’t the most patient guy in the world. He was aware he would be a little jumpy in the first few hours if he didn’t get an automatic message! Maybe Keith was working. Keith was a busy guy. Busy busy busy Keith.

But then a day passed by. Oh boy, well Lance tried to rationalize that! Maybe he turned his phone off! Phone needed to be charged! Maybe he was balls deep in Shiro!? Several times!?!?!

Lance then got desperate for explanations several days in. Maybe he got the wrong number! No that’s not it! He checked it at his apartment! What if Shiro and Keith are doing a reverse silent treatment! What if they moved on! What if they moved on and found a cuter twunk and-who was he kidding he was a freaking twink! A twink he may have missed his fucking chance and was running across the Altea district in the early morning dodging commuters who were giving him the stink eye.

He banged on shut doors, only to hit on them more rapidly.

“Pidge! Pidge! Pidge! Pidge! Pidge! Pidge!-“

Pidge came to the arcade doors followed by Matt, Hunk, Shay, Acxa, and Romelle? Pidge gave Lance a confused look as Matt unlocked the doors.

“What are you-“ Pidge started as Lance ran passed them, still holding Pidge’s phone.

“They haven’t responded!”

“How about a “Hi” Lance?” Matt offered up, genuinely offended. Romelle jumped up.

“Is here to play that fun singing game too?” she asked looking back to Pidge. She turned to Lance. “It’s so packed at the arcade, the Holt family let us play it early before the arcade opened." Hunk smiled at Romelle.

“It’s been great. Acxa even baked some cookies. They're amazing.”

“What?” Lance asked, not following what was going on, staring at the phone. He was still hoping a message would pop up. Axca crossed her arms.

“Something wrong with that?”

“Huh? No! I’m sure they’re great!” Lance gestured erratically. He waved the phone around. “I’m freaking out because Keith and Shiro still haven’t messaged back!”

A pause from the entire group. The sounds of fans and the standstill screens of arcade game machines overtook the room. Lance glanced between everyone, waiting for someone to speak up. Shay was the one who did, in a shocked tone.

“Really?”

“Really!?” Lance repeated. Pidge gently picked the phone out of Lance’s hands to look at the screen as Acxa put a hand on her hips.

“Come on maybe you got the wrong number-oh no, never mind that’s Keith’s-“

“Did you try social media?” Matt pitched from the back. “Shiro is almost on as much as you are.”

Lance threw his arms out sarcastically.

“Matty why didn’t I think of that!?” Lance slapped his own head and then glared at Matt. “He has ghosted this week.” Matt held his hands up walking away from Lance, muttering obscenities under his breath. Pidge continued to scroll through the phone. Romelle circled around her surprised at the situation.

“So weird that we can’t find them.”

“Right,” Shay agreed. “Usually at least you can find one but both never ghost at the same time . . .” she whispered, trying to think of how such a conundrum occurred. Hunk kept pitching ideas of how to track down either Shiro and Keith. Acxa then spoke up over the chaos.

“Try Keith’s porn chat room.”

If a pin a dropped in that arcade, that was the moment you could hear it.

Matt slowly stepped back into the conversation.

“Keith’s fucking what?”

Lance could feel eyes on him. Make eye contact or not? He was a dead man either way. Acxa kept talking.

“He does these porn chat rooms-no cam stuff but he is always usually on as “Rose” here-“ Acxa snatched the phone from Pidge who was wide-eyed that such a piece of information got past them. “-Keith and Shiro let it slip once around me and Romelle-"

“I forgot about that!” Romelle slapped her hand on her knee and Acxa smirked as she logged on her account.

“I like to send it joke requests. It’s fun. He’s a quick thinker. . . .

“Why won’t you look anyone in the eye Lance,” Matt spoke. God dammit Acxa. “Were you a subscriber???” Matt sang out. Hunk gave a snicker which he attempted to cover with a cough.

“No!”

“Huh . . . it’s gone . . .”

“What!?” Lance checked to see that Rose’s page was indeed gone.

“Disappointed?” Matt asked. He ignored the older Holt sibling, staring at the now dead page. That didn’t make sense. That was one of Keith’s primary sources of income. Why was the page gone?

“What about Shiro? Calling him I mean? Pidge surely you must have his number?” Shay pitched.

“I mean he was in the middle of switching phones last I spoke and I can try to get though Keith’s contacts but it’s not that quick-“ Pidge started, rubbing their eyes. “Does any of us have Shiro’s phone number?”

With no answer from the group, a name did come to Lance’s mind.


 

Allura pulled back a shower curtain giving her arms a stretch as steam came out of the shower stall. She bopped her shoulders as she wrapped her self up in a fluffy towel. Then she began drying her hair while she walked around her place, humming a show tune. Allura stopped by the cage filled with mice, allowing her singing to get louder, putting one of her free hands in the cage to pet her pet mice.

Then the door of her loft slammed wide open causing Allura to turn around screaming, clutching her the towel close to her chest.

“Lance!” Allura shouted while Lance intruded in with a group of people. Hunk shook his head followed with a series of ‘nopes’ at the sight of Allura only being dressed in a small towel. He also held Matt back at the frame of the door. It’s not like they could all fit in her small loft anyway. Pidge and Shay apologized while Romelle and Acxa introduced themselves to a shocked and embarrassed Allura who continued to shout at Lance.

“I’m sorry Allura! This is an emergency!”

“What could possibly cause you to use the spare key now!?” Allura demanded, flipping over cushions and blankets on the couch, trying to find something to cover herself with. She found a shawl and quickly wrapped herself up. Romelle leaned on Allura’s shoulders, dramatically covering her own face.

“None of us Shiro’s phone number and Lance still hasn’t got a response from either him nor Keith,” Romelle sobbed out. Acxa examined her nails.

“You might be Lance’s only hope.”

“Wha-are you joking?” Allura looked at everyone for confirmation. A few nods and Lance’s sheepish desperation. Allura gave a smile.

“Aw Lance-“

Lance looked up. He was getting really exhausted from being embarrassed by so many people in the limited amount of time. He watched as Allura went for her own phone. He recognized the expensive device covered in a glittering case paired with a charm from one of her favorite magical girl animes. He had seen it so many times. but this was the first time it filled him with nervous dread.

“Here you go Lance,” Allura handed him the phone with Shiro’s number pulled up the screen. “Right there. You can call him.”

Lance stared at the digits and then he realized everyone in the room was watching him. A nervous chuckle.

“Right now?”

“Yup!” Allura responded gleefully tapping the call button and Lance began to throw the phone around as if it was covered in lava but Hunk and Matt came storming in from the doorway holding Lance back while Pidge and Shay made sure the phone didn’t fall to the ground. It continued to ring.

This couldn’t be happening. He wasn’t ready to talk to them yet! That’s why he said a text!!! Now he had a whole audience! What if they didn’t respond because they hated him! What if they don’t respond now!? What if-

“Hello?”


Keith and Shiro could agree that Matt had given them a lot of stupid advice in the past. Advice on how if you need to win a fight, you just need to act crazier, advice on how comic sans makes you type faster, advice on how if you are having a bad day you still have until midnight to do something that makes you happy and if your day still sucked after midnight, it now doesn't matter because it’s a new day.

Whether the two of them could agree or disagree if his advice is good was debatable but some of it had a habit of popping up in their minds at the worse moments.

Such as at one point Matt had mentioned ‘Never eat at a mall buffet. Don’t do that to yourself.’

Maybe that’s how the two of them ended up in one of the food court floors in the Altea Mall in one of those tacky mall buffets during breakfast hours in a corner booth, disgruntled and exhausted, surrounded by plates of half-eaten food. Perhaps they had remembered Matt’s advice and thought what was the worse that could happen? They were in the mall anyway due to Keith’s phone needing repairs and they already hated themselves so much, could it be that bad?

“Matt was righ-“ Shiro was cut off by Keith tossing a paper napkin at Shiro cutting him off.

“Don’t. He’ll sense you said it. God, it’s all so bad,” Keith mumbled, heartbroken, as he popped in another bite of stale pancakes. Shiro began stacking the little coffee creamers on the side next to the sugars and salts on their table.

“Then why are you still eating it?”

“Cause we deserve to suffer-“ Keith grumbled, mouth full of food. Shiro sighed. “-we failed.”

“Come on-“ Shiro muttered but he was sounding just as disheartened. He had to witness Keith destroy his phone earlier this week after another ignored call that went straight to voicemail. Shiro did have Lance’s number written down due to the time when they first met. Plus the people at the phone repair shop said Keith’s phone would still have all of Keith’s data and contacts backed up so they should be okay.

Yet, witnessing Keith throw the phone in against the apartment wall and then seeing him sink down on the couch, head in hands; that seemed like it was game over for them. The final straw. Lance didn’t want contact and if they became obsessive, things would get worse. The only thing they could do is give him space and eventually move on.

But moving on was hard.

“They called you, you know . . .” Keith said.

“They did?!”

“Yup . . .” Keith smiled, looking Shiro dead in the eye to signalize he wasn’t joking around. “You got the job. The substitute one.”

Excitement filled Shiro only to deflate quickly. This was an amazing job that was a full-time position. Better pay and benefits. Unfortunately, he would have never gotten it if it wasn’t for Lance.

“. . .I quit as Rose.”

“What!?” Shiro snapped away from his thoughts to see Keith wasn’t joking.

“Not when you got the job. I quit that night with the storm . . .I couldn’t sleep and I ended up deleting the account . . . then did some laundry and the first part of the portfolio for the Balmera scholarship . . .” Keith mumbled.

“Really?” Shiro put his arms together. Keith shrugged.

“They want an interview. I’m in the final round?”

“Keith that’s amazing!” A whine as Keith covered his face in shame.

“I want to thank Lance. He did this for us. This sucks,” Keith said, scooching over to sit closer to Shiro. Shiro extended his arm out, allowing Keith snuggle up closer to his chest. His boyfriend was right as he watched Keith sneak bites off his own plate. It did suck. Lance was in their grasp and they had let a person so wonderful slip through by not communicating.

“What do you think he’s doing?” Keith mumbled, sliding slices of soggy bacon around the plate.

“Whatever he’s doing I hope he's happy and-” Shiro said, calmly. He could feel Keith’s eye-roll. Shiro laughed trying to sit a little straighter. “What do you want me to say?”

“Don’t give a speech Shiro,” Keith teased. “Come on. What do you think Lance is doing right now? Honestly.”

“Fine. Whatever he’s doing he’s probably being genuine and nice and caring-“

“-yet paired with that adorable nervousness-“

Shiro laughed again as Keith looked up to him.

“-the way he fiddles with his fingers when he wants to ask you something but he’s embarrassed about it-“

“-or how he gets that really bright flush around his neck when he’s thinking about something really dirty but he would cover it up by being all cocky-“

The two of them chortled at the memories. When the laughter died down Shiro spoke up again.

“I really miss him.”

Keith gave Shiro’s shoulder a squeeze as pulled away.
.
“I know. I'm getting another plate. Want anything?” A vibrating came from Shiro’s pocket. He pulled out his phone. “Who’s that?”

“Allura. Must be something about the product line. can you get more coffee? And those dry pastries?”

Keith began to get up to get more items just as Shiro answered his phone, Arguing could be heard and Keith stopped.

“What’s going on?”

“I don’t know . . . it sounds like a fight?” Shiro said trying to hear what was going on and Katie’s voice came in.

“He answered!”

People moving around and some crashes.

“Hello?” Shiro spoke in.

“What is going on?” Keith couldn’t help but cut in as well. “Is everyone okay?”

“Allura?” Shiro asked.

A pause of silence. A really long pause.

“Did the line cut out?” Shiro pulled the phone away.

“Just hang up,” Keith shrugged, getting up again.

“No! Don’t!”

Shiro dropped the phone and Keith banged his hands on the table. That wasn’t-that couldn’t-no-

“Lance!?” Shiro gasped out as Keith was shoving food and plates off the table to grab the phone.

————————————————————————————————————————-

Lance had his back turned to everyone and was facing a wall. He even had his eyes shut. He didn’t want to look at anyone right now even though they were all watching him. He could hear plates? And music? They must be eating breakfast somewhere? It also sounded like one of them had dropped the phone.

“Get the phone, Keith!”

“No? Really? I was going for the salt shaker, Shiro!”

Lance burst out laughing and he could hear Shiro chuckling at Keith’s franticness as well. More stumbling and now two clearer voices could be heard.

“Lance?”

“H-Hey . . .”

“Lance we are so sorry for everything-“ Shiro began

“We shouldn’t have pushed you to do anything during that storm-“

Lance opened his eyes, confused. What the hell were they talking about?

“What?” Lance cut in. “What are you talking about?”

The two stopped babbling.

“-We moved too fast?” Shiro continued. “-and we skipped many steps and-“

“Did you not get my message? Keith?”

“What!?” Keith gasped. “No, oh no, Lance . . . my phone broke a week ago. We are actually at the mall right now waiting for the fix?”

Lance slowly pulled the phone away from him. He put his head against the wall. Lots of things were going on right now. The two of them they had pushed him too far-he on, the other hand, had this whole emotional package they were unaware of-on top of that they still haven’t read that message.

“Lance we really are-“

“No shut up let me talk oh my god,” Lance said. “One, that night during the storm was amazing. You both know which one-“

“Ooooh dang, Lance-“ Matt called out from the back, only to get kneed in the stomach by Acxa. He collapsed to his floor, groaning.

“L-Lance! You’re on s-speaker!” Shiro whispered, embarrassed.

Lance could hear Keith’s smirk from here. Frankly, he didn’t care at this point.

“-two, there is a text message on Keith’s that explained this a bit better and I planned it out different where I wasn’t in a room full of people-“ Lance paused to glare at the entire audience behind him and turned his attention back to Keith and Shiro. “-but I had sent you guys an apology as well along with wanting to patch things up-“

“Lance . . .” Keith whispered.

“Three!”

Lance held up three fingers for emphasis. He was shaking. Fuck. He clutched the phone close to him and huddled over.

“Shiro? Keith? Will you two go out with me?” Lance whispered, his hands trembling.

“Holy sh-yes!” Shiro murmured back, shocked.

“Did he just-yes!” Keith spoke just as soft. “Lance what the fuck-yes!?” Keith then began to shout and Shiro couldn’t contain his glee either howling with laughter.

“Lance we have to go! The manager is coming over! They look so mad-“
“-it doesn’t matter! Lance is-“

With that, the line got cut. Lance brought the phone down to smile at the ended call only to be greeted with the room cheering. He jumped, startled, completely forgetting his friends were listening in. He spun around, smiling awkwardly.

Allura came over with a post it in one hand and a permanent marker in the other. She scribbled quickly on Lance’s arm and then handed him the note.

“Shiro’s number. Two versions in case you lose one until Keith’s phone gets repaired today.”

Lance gleamed, his chest feeling full of hope.

“Allura I don’t know how to thank you . . .” Lance mumbled as she brought him in for a hug. Allura then gripped her nails into her best friend’s back causing him to yelp in pain.

“You can get everyone the hell out of my loft.”


 

Chapter Text


Dating two people at the same time was . . . different. Lance couldn’t complain. It was twice as much love.

The first few dates were simple and had taken place around Shiro and Keith’s apartment. Meals-movies-walks around parks-little romantic things that would result in nice kisses and compliments. Later things went to hanging out more in public to shopping more together to texting each other constantly to Lance finding himself either with Keith or Shiro or the both of them. He found his life being more intertwined with theirs as the days passed.

Yet something felt off.

He could feel it on an early fall day when Shiro was reading at the counter and Keith putting groceries away. He himself was studying a biology textbook-or at least trying while sitting on the side of the armchair.

He realized what was bothering him after he had read the same sentence over and over for the past twenty minutes. His own relationship was also looping. He sat up, shocked.

“Why aren’t we moving forward?!”

“Sorry?” Keith stopped what he was doing to look at Lance.

“You’re not moving forward cause you’re sitting still Lance?” Shiro glanced for a second at Lance only to go back to the book. Lance crossed his arms.

“No-It’s like you guys are walking on glass around me? I mean I know I’m not the greatest at dating and I don’t have the greatest track record but you don’t even know the half of-“

“Hey woah, slow down-“ Shiro and Keith quickly rushed to Lance who was already going down into a spiral. Lance wasn’t done.

“-am I doing something wrong?”

“No! What!? No! We didn’t want to mess things up!” Keith said.

“So we took things slow?” Shiro added.

“Why would you mess things up?” Lance asked and the two of them became tight-lipped. It then dawned on Lance. They knew. They were aware of who were Lance’s exes and happened. He sat up, sitting cross-legged.

“Who told you guys?”

Shiro held his head down in his shame.

“Allura, Hunk, and Katie at that banquet party . . .”

“You guys knew that long?” Lance was a bit surprised. He knew from the voicemail from Pidge that they had become aware he had dated quite a few people but he assumed that was it. He didn't know his friends had gone into detail about what exactly happened with each ex. No wonder they were being hesitant.

Keith rubbed the back of his head, tugging a few strands of his dark hair, nervous.

“We weren’t sure if you wanted to talk about it. You seemed uncomfortable even talking about your past relationship with Allura . . . your history with relationships-“

“-are awful,” Lance finished, getting up. Kosmo looked up seeing Lance pace around the room. He gave a whine and Lance leaned down to pet the large pup. He shut his eyes, taking a deep breath. “. . . I’m going to get help . . .” Lance mumbled.

“Yeah?” Shiro questioned as Keith took a seat on the coffee table. Lance nodded.

“Yeah, I want to talk to someone . . . like a therapist about this? All that abandoning stuff messed me up so bad that it did affect my own skin and when I was going to weekly therapy when I was teen, it helped . . . I should go back . . .” Lance smiled. “I don’t want to relapse.”

“Okay,” Keith said. “We’ll be behind you every step of the way.” Lance stopped petting Kosmo.

“You guys don’t have to do that-“

“Lance-“ Shiro started in a firm but warmhearted voice. “-we care for you. We want to be there for you.”

“You want to go to therapy. Okay,” Keith held out his hand to Lance who took it. “You want to go a little faster. Okay-“

“- you guyssssss!” Lance cried out shaking his head trying to cover his embarrassment only for Shiro to grab his other hand, making his blush fully visible. Keith and Shiro gave a glance to each other that seemed to be underlined with a hidden motive.

“We got a present for you Lance,” Shiro said. Lance couldn’t help but seem a bit intrigued. 'Present' could mean a lot of things and it was nowhere near his birthday nor were the three of them dating long enough for any types of impromptu anniversaries. He must have seemed a little fervent with excitement because a grin tugged on Keith’s lips as he reached into his pocket.

“Eager to find out?”

“No!” Lance hastily replied, trying to catch a glimpse of what Keith had let go of his hand for in order to fish out of his front jean pockets. It was small. Small enough so Keith could completely cover it with one hand and not knowing only made Lance more curious.

Shiro brought the back of Lance’s hand to his lips, pecking it as he untangled his fingers from Lance’s.

“Open your palms out Lance,” Shiro instructed and Lance did just that. Keith dropped what was a small flash of silver and metal and Lance grasped the item, realizing immediately, it was a key. He opened his hands, staring at the unmarked key.

“Is this for your bike?” Lance asked, confused and Shiro snorted as Keith rubbed his eyes muttering under his breath.

“No, Lance-why would we-we would at least have to teach you before-“

“Oh then is this a duplicate key to the Holt Arcade I’ve been begging Pidge for?”

“What!?” came from Keith and Shiro’s laughter only got more persistent. Lance still seemed stumped as Shiro began wiping tears away.

“I completely forgot about that deal he made with Pidge-no, Lance that’s not it. Try one more time . . .” Shiro prodded while Keith got up, getting something from his and Shiro’s jackets. Lance shrugged.

“I mean it could be another replacement for my work but Allura is supposed to-woah!”

Lance was completely cut off by Keith grabbing the hand inspecting the key. In Keith’s own hands were two other identical keys-one on Shiro’s keyring attached with a Monsters and Mana charm and the other attached to Keith’s paired with his motorcycle key.

A lightbulb went off in Lance’s head and then shattered completely as he gasped with the realization. It was a key to their apartment. With the understanding it place, Shiro began to speak.

“We aren’t asking you to move in, it’s just that you’ve been spending so much time here-“

“-practically every day-“ Keith set down the other keys down to tug his hair, sheepish. Shiro nodded at this.

“-that we figured it was strange that you didn’t have a key. We aren’t forcing you to do anything, you don’t even have to accept it if you think this is a big step-“

“-right, we just like-no,” Keith frowned at his own word choice. “No, Lance we love spending time with you so we want you to feel welcome in our home-“

Lance stared down at the key in his hand while their voices faded out. They continued to make their case. A sense of happiness and assurance paired with safety and trust Lance had never felt with any previous relationship washed over him. He hadn’t even realized he had been spending so much time here until they mentioned it. It had become second nature to just go be with Shiro and Keith after work.

Lance could even recall how much he was visiting them before they were dating.

He rarely even went back to his own apartment ever.

“You know . . .” Lance got up, tapping the key on his lips. “Since my semester is now beginning and work is going to get a little hectic, I think commuting allllll the way back between here and Altea is just going to get a little hectic-“

Understanding, disappointed, quiet noises of agreement came from Shiro and Keith as they knew Lance took his studies seriously.

“-I mean it’s kind of ridiculous, me having to go back and forth to my old apartment when most of my stuff is already here-“ Lance continuing, twiddling the key between his fingers in mock confusion. He whirled around to see the two of them now trying to piece what Lance was getting at. “-I mean if you’re offering me a key and lately Hunk has been hinting I should move out so Shay could live with him, leaving poor me-oh if only I had two loving boyfriends who also had a large, soft bed? Then I could pitch in on rent-“

Shiro was shaking his head, smiling while Keith was already getting up.

“You ass, you had us worried that we messed up,” Keith hissed, bringing Lance in, who covered his bright grin with the key. Shiro got up, wrapping his arms around the two.

“So yes?”

“Duh,” Lance pulled his arms out to embrace the two of them in excitement.


“I think this is stupid,” Pidge muttered.

“Yeah . . .”

“I mean really, why have another costume party when Halloween was months ago!?”

“Uh huh . . .”

“Alfor and Melenor really need to stop with these banquet-wha-are you two even listening!?” Pidge waved their hand in from of Shiro and Lance.

The short adult had dressed up as a witch if one could call it that. Lance had spent a good twenty minutes arguing with them 'adding a black tall hat doesn’t make you a witch!' They had eventually dropped it.

It was another product line inspired by creatures and characters from stories and tales in media such as princesses and monsters but the banquet party was also crossed over with Melenor’s birthday party. She had insisted everyone come in costume. Allura took it upon herself to invite every one of her friends as this release banquet would take place at her family’s mansion outside the city. Lance had spoken of how rare such an occasion would be as the family was always working and never had time to actually plan things at the extravagant building.

However, the mansion was not what had made Lance and Shiro flabbergasted. Sadly, the three of them missed out their chance to dress up on Halloween earlier the year (Keith had a doctor appointment, Lance had work, and Shiro was at a meeting for his job) They had made up for the night by getting all comfy and spending the remaining of the Halloween night watching bad horror movies but Lance was disappointed he got to miss his first chance dressing up with his boyfriends.

This prompted Shiro and Keith to let Lance pick the costume next time; thinking he would have a whole year to decide. When Melenor mentioned on her invite that costumes were not only encouraged, but necessary to enter the mansion, Lance used that as his opportunity to choose the costumes.


Lance pulled up a picture on his phone of the costumes he wanted to wear. Keith and Shiro both cocked their head in silence for a second only to start asking questions.

“Who wears which one?” Shiro asked, taking Lance’s phone.

“I’ve never seen that movie,” Keith confessed. Lance banged his hands down on the counter, shocked. Keith held his hands up defensively.

“What?! I mean I get all the jokes from it. It is a classic, I know. I just never got around to it.”

“Okay, we are watching it later but this means Keith gets the last pick.“

“What!?”

“You never saw the movie,” Shiro agreed with Lance, liking how if the two of them played their cards right, they could make Keith wear what they want. Keith huffed but didn’t argue. Shiro Lance’s phone down, pointing to the character he wanted.

“Really?” Lance said surprised. Keith gave a devilish grin.

“Shiro can work well with that.”

“Alright,” Lance said as Shiro crossed his arms, confident. “I pick this one.” The two grinned at each other. They had been thinking the same thing as Keith threw his hands up.

“Come on! That one has the least clothes and I don’t have much to work with!”

Shiro put a hand on Lance’s shoulder.

“Keith! That’s not true. Look at my costume,” Shiro gestured to the phone dramatically as Lance snickered. “Lance and I have to do so much and ours are just as skimpy.”

“I’m being attacked in this house,” Keith got up. He threw his hands up passing his pup. “Attacked Kosmo!”


Romelle scrunched her face as she tried to guess what Lance and Shiro were dressed up as. Acxa stirred her drink around.

“A playboy bunny?“ Romelle pointed to Shiro. “Hot leather cat?” she narrowed her eyes at Lance who smiled innocently. Acxa spun Romelle around pointing her in the direction of Keith who was speaking to Hunk.

“Sexy mouse-Homiggod! Mean Girls! Mean Girls!” Romelle clapped excited, focusing her attention back to Lance. She grabbed his hands jumping up and down. “That’s amazing! Is that why Allura is dressed like a zombie bride? Is she Cady?”

Lance gave a mock bow as he dusted off glitter from himself at the leather from his costume. Romelle was dressed up as an elegant fairy queen paired with wings and glitter galore. He glanced at Allura who was immersed in a conversation with Shay.

“No. Corpse Bride. But funny coincident,” Lance chuckled, leaning on Shiro who’s attention was Acxa.

“You’re not-or are you-“ Shiro squinted trying to piece together if Acxa was wearing a costume or not. Her clothes seemed like her regular clothes. She stopped stirring and put a finger up. She brought out a foam, red nose from her pocket popping it on.

“I’m a clown.”

“Ah,” was the only response Shiro had to that. Romelle pointed out a few more costumes she wanted to look up at close allowing Shiro and Lance to be left alone in their conversation.

“We should have let him wear Gretchen’s-“ Lance stated.

“-or Regina’s-jesus Lance-“ Shiro covered his oncoming flush from glancing at Keith. Getting Karen’s outfit meant Keith had to dress up as “Sexy Mouse” which in the film translated to a black, short, nightgown with a mouse ear headband. Lance could still remember the look of confusion seeing the actual scene while watching the movie with the two of them but then he made this little “Oh!” sound in the middle of it as if he had a revelation.

A revelation in which Keith would one-up Shiro and Lance.

Not too far from them, Keith was wearing the mouse ears as instructed but he did have free-reign allowing Keith to go a little too close too the deep end in the sexy category. Lace underwear that was visible in the right light paired with an incredibly short, black, detailed nightgown-with no straps. Keith then added his own little details. Black garter belt, a choker, his original leather cloves replaced for delicate, lace ones. He also wore silver heels that he seemed to be walking in effortlessly-

“Shiro, answer this honestly. Did Keith ever walk in heels before?”

“No! I think he taught himself for this-did he add piercings to the mouse headband?” Shiro narrowed his eyes and Lance groaned, nuzzling his face into Shiro’s chest.

“He’s teasing us!”

Lance should have expected this. Over the months he had started noticing and discovering new turn-ons and kinks each one of them had. Lance was the only one who ever had even anything close to a three-way relationship and that shotty threesome didn’t count, so some discoveries were bound to happen.

Such as how Lance knew he had a praise kink. Previous relationships had taken advantage of it but in the right hands, god damn, Lance was feeling all kinds of right everywhere. Shiro and Keith knew exactly what to say in what moment to bring him to the edge and right back to make him feel oh so good.

More than one time he had been close to climaxing and found himself tearing up, not because either of them did something wrong but because he was getting reminded of past relationships. Then, words of comfort and compliments showered followed by reassurance that he was doing so well and how much they loved him. They knew how to handle him and Lance loved it.

But then other things spurred up, such as Keith must have never really understood he was into being pampered. Shiro and Lance had not even realized they had spent the morning indulging Keith the day of their discovery. Lance had started Keith a quick bath and Shiro had made him breakfast and then they had spoiled him with new art supplies paired with kisses and compliments along with reminders of to keep care of himself as the two went to work, leaving Keith all wrapped up in a plush robe so he could work on his art alone.

They had come home to find Keith in their bed, mid-masturbation, gasping out their names-something he had to plan. He requested for the two of them to join him and treat him, which-how could they say no? They then both made a mental note to do special things for Keith more often.

Then there was the moment where Keith was cleaning while Shiro was sorting through the mail while he sat at the counter. Lance had burst in the apartment, shutting the door with his foot, talking about how he had a good day at therapy, spinning around but Keith had frantically followed behind Lance making sure he didn’t knock over the broom, the mop, and bucket full of water. After setting them in a safe place, Keith grabbed the spray bottle for the plants spritzing Lance saying how careless he was almost ruining the floors and his hard work.

That caused a tiff that was more playful than serious as Lance had shoved Keith, joking about how he didn’t need to keep the apartment so clean for him and Keith had shoved Lance a little too hard back, making the two of them fall to the floor, on top of each other, legs intertwined.

Lance was about to make another snarky remark but saw Keith’s confused, dazed face who was looking directly at Shiro, who looked bright, red and uncomfortable?

Keith then slowly asked Shiro if he was turned on by watching them, which Shiro denied but Lance told him to get up. He refused as well. A twinkle in both their eyes as Lance rubbed his thigh across Keith’s crotch who in response, gave an extremely over-exaggerated gasp, begging Lance’s name out repeatedly, already reaching for his belt.

With a slam of Shiro’s prosthetic on the counter as his other hand shifted towards his own zipper while watching the sight of his two boyfriends go at it, Lance could safely say that putting on a show for Shiro was something he most certainly enjoyed.

But this was a whole new level from Keith. What could Lance call this? Lance didn’t even know he liked lace or garter belts until he saw them on Keith! He was sure Keith was feeling some sort of embarrassment being so scantily clad in public but he was shielded by their group costume allowing him to dress so slutty yet it was beyond Lance how he could hold such a poker face in a public setting.

“He’s coming over,” Shiro whispered and Lance twirled his fake tail around.

“Calm down. He is our boyfriend,” Lance reassured but his voice wavered. Dammit. Why was he getting high school flashbacks? Like Keith was the popular cheerleader ready to turn him down and he and Shiro weren’t on his level? But they were?! They were his and he was theirs-

“Dammit,” Lance slipped out just as Keith arrived. A tug of the gloves.

“What?”

“You’re going to be the death of us Keith,” Shiro confessed and Lance reached to bring Keith in. Keith batted Lance’s hand away but flicked his black cat ears. He then trailed both his hands across not only Shiro’s bare chest but Lance’s revealed skin as well.

“Look but don’t touch,” Keith commanded. “At least for a little bit more.” A whimper from Shiro and groan from Lance. He pulled back, hand on hip. “It’s what you get for giving me last pick! Leather would have looked cute on me!” He flicked Shiro’s bunny ears and then the cat bell on Lance’s collar. “I’m gonna to talk to you guys in a bit. I gotta tell Acxa I like her costume.”

They watched as Keith walked off, the heels clicking with each step.


“Allura couldn’t give us more vague instructions?”

“Lance, you have no clue?”

“No . . . I haven’t been here since I was a kid and they did so much remodeling . . .” Lance trailed off. They were lost. The three of them had decided to bail before presentations of products and even before dessert. Partially because Keith was getting some hungry looks from some of the much older men and women at the party and more than once Shiro or Lance had to step in to make sure Keith didn’t knock anyone’s teeth out.

Another reason because Lance and Shiro were becoming insatiable. Keith knew this and he agreed it was time to bolt, despite the night was young, barely grazing midnight. Unfortunately, their costumes rarely had room for a cellphone or keys so they had left the essentials with their coats in the coat room. After getting directions from Allura, the goal was to get their coats and then a taxi home but now they had spent quite a while lost in the mansion. They could hear the banquet hall from the distance but that didn’t help them on their endeavor.

“We could go back and ask for directions again?” Shiro propositioned. A sharp inhale from Lance.

“Rather not. Usually around now is when Melenor wants me to do another ridiculous duet with Allura and-oh don’t give me that look!”

“Last one wasn’t that bad . . .” Keith bit his lips, recalling the memory of Lance sprawled out on top of the bar. They had prodded Lance later in their relationship what Lance was thinking about during that song. He had confessed it was them, which made them walk on Cloud 9 for days. He went back to trying to find their way out of this twisting mess of a home.

“Man I don’t even think this floor existed the last time I was here . . .” Lance recalled. Keith continued to walk, admiring the priceless paintings strewn all over the walls.

“Were any of us paying attention when Allura explained how to navigate the house when we arrived?”

A cough from Shiro and Lance couldn’t even bring himself to look at Keith.

“Was looking at you,” Shiro confessed.

“Second that,” Lance agreed. Keith rolled his eyes but couldn’t hide his smile. “What about you?”

“Hm?”

“Were you paying attention? Hm? Keithy?” Lance prodded, using the old nickname that Shiro created via a message to Keith. Lance started using it more much to Keith’s dismay but it seemed to grow on the blushing boy.

“Was looking at you guys . . .” Keith muttered, ashamed. Shiro looked up, breathing out.

“We are a bunch of useless gays-“

“-bi-“ Lance corrected for himself.

“-right sorry-“

“-are we even just two gays and a bi or now are we poly too-“ Keith began to ask. Lance waved his hands around.

“No, no, oh hey no! You don’t get to use 'oh what flags from LGBT+ community do we start hanging around our house' as an excuse to switch convos!”

“What are you talking about Lance?” Keith asked, tired as the three turned a corner, sighing at another dead end.

“He’s talking about how you were eyeing us too,” Shiro said. They went to another direction walking up a flight of stairs. Lance leaned on a pillar.

“You know for someone who can dress like a stud, you crash pretty quick.”

“What does that even mean?”

Lance hopped up the steps, skipping a few as Shiro contemplated which direction they should go next. “Like most of the time act all tough but out of the three of us, you usually orgasm first-“

Keith began to stammer looking to Shiro for back up but Shiro could only offer an apologetic look.

“It’s true-“

“You guys have more experience! And a lot of times you’re tag teaming-“

“-do you want us to stop that?” Shiro cut in concerned and Lance stopped moving up the steps also worried. Keith blushed brightly.

“N-no. No that’s not it-I actually really like it-“ Keith quietly admitted his voice getting low and thick, thinking of how good his boyfriends have allowed him to feel. He then kicked his keel to the ground, shaking thoughts out of his head. “-it’s just Lance has way more experience-“

“-shitty experience-“

“-and Shiro had this really long relationship-“

“-that failed-“

“Will you guys-“ Keith chortled, still frustrated but amused at how the two of them were mocking themselves. Shiro began to lead the way to another floor and Lance pulled Keith to follow.

“It’s not like it’s a competition anyways,” Shiro shrugged.

“Right because if it was, I’d kick both of your asses, outlasting-“

“-right because cockiness can only get you so far. You know the longer we date, you the more we know how to make you weak-“

“-you say that like it’s a threat Kogane-“

“-what if he is threatening you, McClain?”

“Ooh Shirogane got something to say?” Lance joked but genuinely heated up. By the looks of it, so were Keith and Shiro. They were tired, lost, Keith was still in that stupid, ridiculous-

Shiro flung the nearest door open, dragging both of them in as Keith kicked it shut while Lance was already ripping the bunny ears of Shiro.

“Whoever lasts the longest-“ Lance breathed out as Keith began unzipping the tight leather off him. “-whoever lasts longest-“

“-gets bragging rights,” Shiro settled, reaching into the chest of his costume, revealing a small tube of lube and condoms.

“You son of-“ Keith started but Shiro narrowed his eyes.

“Keith help me-“

“Alright.”

“Traitor-“ Lance seethed out as Keith pinned himself against Lance, his lips crashing. He wasn’t going to allow this. He let his hands trail the lace for a moment and Keith shivered under the touch. “I don’t want to get this all messy but-“

Keith was already tenting which worked to Lance’s advantage as he allowed himself to reach under the small night-gown, teasing Keith by letting his hand move from his stomach down to his crotch, feeling the thin panties.

“Lance you’re doing so good,“ Shiro whispered as he straddled him, preparing to fuck him. He knew if Shiro was going to start preparing him and slipping fingers in, he himself wasn’t going to last long but he could work with how Keith was touch sensitive-

The doorknob jiggled and three of them froze. Shiro acted quick, hauling them from behind what appeared to be a desk. In the heat of the moment, Lance hadn’t even been aware of his surroundings.

Shiro covered both of their mouths and they all held their breath as steps came in.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

“Ah yes, this office would work wonderfully. The lounge chairs would help during the next meeting plus I’m sure the trade companies would enjoy seeing the different books that you and Melenor refer to create your lines.”

“Understandable. This isn’t the only the meeting room we have that contains a study collection-“

Lance pulled back Shiro’s hand mouthing the name 'Alfor.'

Allura’s father. If Allura’s father caught them, they were toast. Keith slowly reached into the lower drawer of the desk while Lance and Shiro shook their heads, motioning for Keith to stop.

“Actually I can get some references from a future line that perhaps you’d like to see-“

Keith quickly but quietly grabbed something from the desk which happened to the pen as Alfor headed towards the desk. He handed it to Shiro who whipped it across the dark room only illuminated by the night sky.

A shatter echoed throughout the room. Alfor stopped heading towards the desk where the three of them were hiding.

“What was that?”

“Oh, one of the vases fell. Hmm. No, don’t touch the glass- it's incredibly very sharp. Leave it to the side of the room. I’m sure the maid will get it tomorrow. Must have been teetering to the side . . .” Alfor mumbled, curious. “Please, allow me to continue the tour-“

“-that music from the party sure is getting quite loud-“

“-ah yes my daughter is quite a fan of-“

With a shut door, Lance scrambled up to shut the door while Shiro got up, collapsing on one of the chaise lounge chairs. Keith peered from over the desk.

“We could have been doing it on something soft rather than the floor . . .?“

“That’s your takeaway!?” Lance exclaimed, terrified they were almost caught. “The man still hates me from the last banquet and if he discovered what just happened-“

“-that you were with two hot guys. I’d be jealous too . . .” Keith replied, using the desk to lean on as got up to sit in Shiro’s lap.

Lance stuck his tongue out.

“Put that tongue to work,” Shiro called out and Keith chuckled. Lance shrugged.

“Okay. Shiro, flip Keith over,”

“I’m sorry?” Keith asked, wanting Lance to repeat himself.

“To face you?” Shiro questioned. Lance usually pushed their relationship farther in terms of what they should do and try so whenever Lance pitched something, Shiro and Keith tended to be all ears.

“No, upside down,” Lance explained while he took off his boots. “Screw this game. Shiro we are wasting prime opportunity with Keith dressed all cute. You fuck him while I suck him while he sucks me?”

He was done playing around after that little scare. “Ah, you okay with that?” Shiro asked Keith who seemed a little breathless at the idea.

“Uh huh,” Keith responded with a nod and Shiro tossed Keith over who laughed how effortlessly Shiro moved him. Lance climbed up, disappointed how Keith wasn’t hard anymore.

“Shiro, that little encounter got rid of all of our hard work-“

“-shame. Looks like we’re going to have to start all over,” Shiro growled, hungry as he ripped the mouse headband of Keith who was nothing but excited.


“Lance deserves a treat . . .” Shiro commented.

“Okay, we’ll get him one of those packs of sugar cookies he likes so much. The ones with the with faces? That make him laugh cause they look so dumb?” Keith offered while he slid around the grocery store on a shopping cart. Shiro tossed the sliding Keith a can who caught it in his hand and set it down. “Oh, we also need dog food for Kosmo and Lance also needs some more eggs. Wants to make pancakes.”

“That’s not what I mean by 'treat,'” Shiro said. They went to the next aisle getting the ingredients for Lance. Ever since Lance had moved and chipped for rent, grocery shopping had become more fun rather than such a dreadful task. Keith was worried that since he had to quit being Rose and only do smaller jobs once he would attend Balmera, they would still come up short, but the combination of Lance and Shiro’s jobs and the small, part-time work from Keith-they were doing better than fine.

“Explain . . .”

“Well, Lance lasted so long at that costume party last month . . .” Shiro trailed off.

“I thought that wasn’t a contest,” Keith grinned. He picked up a bag of Kosmo’s dog food along with a few treats to surprise the pup. Shiro pushed the cart back and forth waiting for Keith.

“I think we both know Lance was only saying that to be sweet. The guy is-“ Shiro gave a love-lorn sigh and Keith snorted. “

“If he saw you. You’d never hear the end of it,” Keith said, taking over the cart and heading for their next item

“If he saw your sketches of him-“

Keith screeched to a halt, quickly pulling back.

“Don’t you dare!”

“I think it’s cute when you draw us,” Shiro teased. Keith grumbled while Shiro grabbed the cart.

“I know but it’s a surprise. I want to get his features right before his birthday-“

“-that’s months away-“

“-it took me years to draw you!” Keith argued for his case. Shiro ignored this, putting in a carton of eggs in the cart.

“Aw babe. You drew me for years?”

“Oh my god,” Keith muttered, not believing he let that slip out. He waved his hands around in the air in the hopes erase their previous conversation.

“Treat. What did you mean by treat!?”

“Well, he deserves a ‘treat’ for always ‘treating’ us so well. You know,”

Shiro hinting, stopping at the register while Keith checked if they had everything they needed.

“Got any ideas?”

“I got one . . .”


Lance sighed. This biology chapter was so boring. He had already read it but he was rereading it. Allura had mentioned she overheard their professor speaking off a pop quiz and it was better to be prepared than to let his GPA take a hit.

“Keittthhh . . .” Lance called out. Keith was sitting on the armchair, sketching. He looked up. “This sucksssssss . . . “

“Maybe if you didn’t read upside down . . .” Keith suggested. Lance frowned. Lance has been laying on the couch hanging to the ground while also reading the book but it was due to how bored he was. If he had to read about cells one more time-

The door opened and the attention was focused on Shiro.

“So Kosmo is all dropped off at the groomers-“

“-poor fellow. He hates that place . . .” Lance mumbled. Keith twitched.

“If he let me cut his fur and trim his nails, we wouldn’t have to do that but he just speeds so fast around the apartment, it’s almost like he’s teleporting!” Keith exclaimed. Shiro nodded while he washed up and grabbed a glass of water.

“The groomers already seemed to be having trouble when I left but they kept reassuring me they had everything under control-change of topic though, Lance? What are you doing?”

“I’m bored. This textbook is boring.”

A pronounced sigh from Lance as he sank lower, allowing his head to hit the ground. Shiro glanced at Keith who was slowly setting his sketchbook to the side.

“Want us to distract you temporarily?” Keith offered, hoping Lance would take the bait.

“Please?” he begged. With those words, Shiro swooped in, picking Lance up while Keith trailed behind. They brought him to the bedroom. The quick move was such a surprise to Lance he didn’t have proper time to react until he was set on the bed where Lance started to act all confident like he usually did, but they didn’t allow him to get there yet.

Keith began to nibble on Lance’s ear while Shiro rubbed his back as they climbed in. Lance quickly began to strip Keith and Shiro of their clothes as they talked.

“So you remember when I bought all those books?” Shiro prompted and Lance nodded. Shiro smiled unbuttoning Lance’s shirt. Keith continued.

“Remember that page you got a little flustered at?”

Lance stopped breathing. They weren’t going-they-


Lance whined as he carried a heavy package along with the rest of the mail. Keith stopped watching TV and Shiro stopped scrolling through his phone to get up and see if Lance needed help.

“Who ordered this?!”

Oh my books!” Shiro grabbed the book from Lance.

“Like for work?” Lance asked as he readjusted his arm. Keith handed Shiro a knife to open the box. He paused.

“No,” Shiro said, rubbing his shoulder. “I-well I think all of us . . .should do some . . . research . . .” Keith and Lance waited and Shiro continued. “This is the first time any of us have been in a three-person relationship so I think it’s best if we had some outside sources in case we had questions emotionally or sexually-“

“You sound like a teacher,” Lance remarked while Keith grabbed the knife and began slicing open the box.

“Shiro is a teacher . . . but really? Books? We can just look up on the internet-“

“You okay with your search history constantly seeming perverted?” Shiro offered up. “Because I’ve been concerned about how this works-“ he motioned to the three of them. “-sexually and I’m tired of sifting through what’s porn and what’s an actual article.”

Hesitance until Lance sighed.

“I’ve been getting a lot of viruses on my laptop . . .”

“Okay, fair,” Keith pulled out some books handing them out. “Guess you’ll be doing a different kind of studying Lance.”

Sure enough, what started as a quick peek into those books became a full-on reading session paired with drinks while one of them asking a question every now and then. Some of the books Shiro had got were about how to balance a poly relationship emotionally while others were a bit more mischievous, showing the different types of sexual positions available for threesomes.

“We can’t do this one,” Keith said, holding up a page where one of the positions revealed a diagram of a man with a woman having sex with him vaginally and then another man had sex with her from the back.

“You know coming from someone who had to date someone who was kinky as shit-Nyma-“ Lance clarified. Shiro shut his own book. Keith flipped through some pages nonchalantly, much more interested on what Lance had to say. “-some of these positions are unrealistic as hell!”

“What page are you looking at?” Keith asked. He had noticed Lance hadn’t changed pages in well over a bit and kept making dumb faces at whatever page he was stuck at. He was sure Shiro noticed as well but neither wanted to push too much on whatever page it was, as it was still early in their relationship and Lance was just getting accustomed to living with them.

Lance held out the book.

“Page 33. Totally fake, right?”

“I don’t know?”

“Maybe?” Shiro also seemed uncertain. It was a diagram of a man taking two cocks at one time. “I mean maybe with enough prep and lube-“

“Shiro-“

“Why’s it bothering you so much,” Keith hummed. “You wanna try it?”

Lance began to sputter and wheeze while Shiro told to him hush. Keith held his hands out, not truly understanding if they were even allowed to ask Lance about this kind of stuff.

“What?! Didn’t the last book say we gotta be honest about this kind junk? Well okay?” Keith rolled his eyes flipping through some pages. “I’m not opposed to spit-roasting. There?”

“Keith!” Lance covered his face, trying not to laugh, and Shiro couldn’t stop grinning. Keith nudged Shiro’s knee with his foot.

“Shiro’s turn,”

“I mean I am kind of curious if we can even attempt stuff like daisy chaining but Lance is pretty flexible-“ Shiro joked and soon the jokes became a full night of poking fun at the positions in the book and themselves.


Since that moment, Lance hadn't thought of that page. Yes, they did know some new relationship techniques along with a few more things to try in the bedroom but they never returned to the subject of the position of page 33.

“Lance?”

“You guys will fucking ruin me . . .” Lance whispered, his voice already growing husky, completely hard at the thought of the two of them fucking him at the same time. Shiro moved behind Lance, allowing himself to lean on the headboard. “Absolutely destroy me . . .”

“Do you want us to?” Shiro questioned as Lance already could hear the cap of the lube pop off and condom wrappers come off.

“Yes,” Lance responded without hesitation. With the agreement, Shiro slowly proved his slick fingers one at a time as Lance gasped out while Keith steadied him.

“Doing good. You’re doing so good Lance,” Keith reassured, peppering in soft kisses. Lance chuckled.

“So . . . romantic . . .” Lance gasped out already feeling another finger slid in. He was beginning to be thankful for all the times he got fucked by Shiro or Keith on separate occasions. Almost as if this was prep for a moment like this.

“Lance-” Shiro warned out in a plea. A warning he heard many times when Shiro was actually going to be inside him, however, this time it was going to a be a bit different. Shiro inserted himself and rather than immediately going straight to Shiro fucking him hard over and over-he was greeted with cautious stillness as he could hear his own pounding heartbeat hammering within his ears.

“You’re doing so well, Lance-“

“-amazing-“

“-gorgeous-“

“You’re just sayin-tha-ah!” Lance gasped out as Keith then gently went inside. Shiro steadied quickly Lance, gripping his shoulders. Keith paused as Lance breathed heavily.

“Stop?”

“Does it hurt?” Shiro questioned, moving his hand down to even Lance’s trembling waist. Lance shook his head frantically, lips puffy from biting them.

“Feels-good . . .” Lance choked out, his hips bucking out. “Waiting’s . . .pa—painful.”

A flash of understanding, for Keith didn't waste time to let himself in and in a precarious moment, Lance had a clear thought where he understood that both Shiro and Keith were inside him.

Then immediately that thought was erased as he gripped Keith’s shoulders then sliding his hands down on his open thighs, moving back, causing Shiro to involuntarily let out a cry of pleasure as he begged out for both of them to fuck him- hard. They started with slow, tender, rhythmic thrusts.

“Ha-harder-“

“No,” Shiro commanded.

“Plea-please! Ke-Keith-“ Lance said in a strangled call, bouncing a bit causing the two of them to let out another synchronized, pleasured cry. He knew they were being careful but if they were going to tease and play with him much longer he was going to burst right here. Keith seemed to genuinely be weak as he whispered out a cuss, hitting one hand against the headboard; another on Shiro’s shoulder.

“Give him what he wants,” Keith said, through gritted teeth. An inhale from Shiro, as they weren’t stopping, but they weren’t going fast enough for Lance. Shiro pulled one of Lance’s hand, clasping it and tilting his chin to see their shaking boyfriend. Through flushed cheeks, Lance let out another plead for Shiro and Shiro got a good look at what Keith had to see. He dipped his head back, knowing his mistake was looking at Lance. Shiro leaned in giving Lance a quick, hard peck on the mouth and then rolled back.

“It’s going to hurt tomorrow,“ Shiro gave Lance a final warning but he begged with the full knowledge. He cried out for the two of them to go fuck him harder while they were still inside of him, urging to let him feel both of them at once. Keith moved his hand from the headboard to grab Lance’s other free hand, giving him a chaste kiss on the lips to silence his imploring.

“Okay,” Keith agreed softly and before Lance could voice his surprise at the agreement of going faster he was met with quicker, heavier thrusts while the two of them penetrated Lance, whose cries of their names filled the bedroom, telling them not to stop.


“Stop fussing,“ Keith said, gently slapping Shiro’s shoulder.

“I’m just worried if he’s okay-“ Shiro peered up from the bed. They were cleaning up after their night and Lance was last to use the bathroom. Shiro turned a near purple shade from embarrassment. “He’s going not gonna be able to sit tomorrow . . . or maybe for a few days . . . ”

Keith began to snicker and Shiro tilted his head at why Keith was laughing.

“Sorry, it’s just sweet to see you so awkward and nervous when moments ago I saw you cum all over Lance’s-“

“Keith!”

Keith closed his mouth trying to stifle his laughter but Shiro was also holding in as well. The door to the bedroom popped open slightly.

“I hear we are making fun of Shiro’s modesty? Is he worried?”

Lance opened the door, wearing a robe, motioning for the two of them to follow him. Keith and Shiro got up wrapping themselves up with blankets. Keith glanced at Shiro.

“Terribly,”

“Aw Shiro,” Lance batted his eyelashes. “I’m touched!” Shiro snorted. He lifted the blanket up, pulling Lance in who shrieked in protest. Keith wrapped another blanket around him. Lance popped his head out from the huddle while he tried to drag his two boyfriends two the bathroom. “Stop! You’re both so heavy!” Lance whined.

“Why are you taking us to the bathroom?” Shiro finally brought up while Keith pulled back the blankets.

“Round 2,” Keith propositioned, jokingly. Lance let out a laugh.

“You wish. At least not for tonight,” Lance blushed. “Was wondering if you guys wanna take a bath with me . . . some parts of me are sore and a bath be ever so soothing-“

“Ah? Would it now?” Shiro said as Lance opened the door, revealing he already set up the bathroom with lit candles while the air was filled with sweet, smelling aromas coming from the water mixed with a combination of soaps and bath bombs-picked out by Lance for his boyfriends. While Shiro seemed already keen on getting in, Keith stopped in the doorway. Lance took notice.

“Keith? Everything alright?”

“We haven’t taken a bath in a while . . . like all of us together . . .”

Lance and Shiro looked at each other confused at what Keith meant by that. Keith ran one hand through his hair, revealing a tint of red arising on his cheeks.

“Just . . . remember when we first met Lance and he automatically insisted I strip?“

“Keith . . . are you getting sentimental?” Lance walked forward, eyes bright. Shiro took a seat at the edge of the bathtub, recalling the memory with fondness.

“It was crazy-we just met you and all the sudden I was watching you tell my naked boyfriend how to fix his skin . . .” Shiro said, remembering the day. Keith nodded, staring at his skin. The eczema was always going to be permanent and there was scarring in a few places but his skin was now in a controlled state. It was manageable. Shiro leaned forward, propping his chin up. “He was persistent on not meeting you.”

“Really?!” Lance said, surprised. “Figures, you acted like such a recluse.” Lance joked and Keith put a hand to his chest, pretending to be hurt. Lance then extended his arms out. “To think you guys almost missed out on all this?” Lance made a swooping motion to his entire body and Shiro nodded, taking the blanket off and putting it on the floor. He extended his hand out to Lance, he graciously took it as he threw off his robe with a spin.

“Now stop being so nostalgic and get in,” Lance instructed to Keith. Keith shrugged, putting down the other blanket.

“I don’t know. I just think . . . you’re right Lance; you and Shiro,” Keith said while Shiro helped him get in the tub allowing himself to get positioned in between Lance and Shiro. “If it wasn’t for all the pain and series of mistrials then we wouldn’t get to experience all the stupid good things like the dumb corny jokes and-“

“Lance, are you crying?” Shiro cut in concerned and Keith drew back to see Lance tearing up. Shiro cooed, tried to wipe away Lance’s tears while he protested saying he must have added a little too much bath salts and it was making him tear up. Keith couldn’t hide his smile as he let himself spread out over Lance and Shiro, nudging his head into their necks. He continued.

“-all the endless nights we get to spend together and all the early mornings where I get to see both of your gorgeous faces and all the feelings I wouldn’t take back . . .” Keith said. “If it wasn’t for all of that we wouldn’t get to touch other-“

“-live together-“ Shiro added, pulling Keith closer to him and Lance.

“-wouldn’t fall in love . . .” Lance trailed off, looking at Shiro and Keith knowing those two were his entire world. Lance dipped his hand in the water and flicked a bit in Keith’s face who yelled in objection. “That’s for making me get all wistful. Dammit Keith, stupid romantic.”

Keith splashed back harder while Shiro let out a shocked yelp as he dodged, watching Lance get soaked. Keith let out a bark of smug laughter which was sadly cut off by Lance smearing soapy, watery suds all over Keith’s hair. The bubbles splashed onto Shiro who sputtered and before Lance could apologize, he was hit by a cold stream of body wash that Shiro had spilled all over Lance’s back. Lance squeaked in surprise while the cold liquid spread on his back.

“Stop, stop, stop!” Keith cut in. “The tub is overflowing.”

Lance and Shiro froze and peered over to see if their floor and bathmat was soaked in water only to see it bone dry. Shiro scrunched his face in confusion.

“Keith what you talking about-“

“Shiro it’s an ambush!” Lance screamed and they turned to see Keith had moved to the side by the faucet. He turned the water on with a cocky flick of the wrist and the shower was triggered, snuffing out half the candles and drenching both Lance and Shiro. They slowly turned to Keith who turned off the water. Betrayal and revenge filled their eyes and Keith backed up against the tiles, excitement running through his veins.

“Now let’s all be rational and don't forget you guys love me-“ Keith began.

“Get him,” Lance muttered and the two of them tackled Keith in the bath. Water and colorful suds spilled out as their screams and tittering filled the bathroom. While the two of them covered Keith with wet kisses and caresses, he couldn’t help but be sentimental.

He never thought he could be touched by who he loved.

Now, in one short summer, he couldn’t stop being touched by who he loved.