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Trail of Lights

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The sky was a palette of dark blues and purples as the night settled in. Stars began to appear overhead, and the chill in the air whipped through their small group. Lance pulled the scarf around his shoulders a little tighter. He couldn’t wait to get his hands on the steaming hot cocoa they sold inside the park.

He’d been coming to the Trail of Lights since he was a kid. It was a winter tradition and he had declared it blasphemous that Keith had never been before. In the end it became a group affair and Hunk, Pidge, and Shiro were tagging along.

Lance didn’t mind. This time of year was meant for spending time with friends and family, and he couldn’t think of a better group of friends to be freezing his butt off with.

“Did we have to pick the coldest weekend in December to do this,” grumped Keith.

“It’ll be worth it, I promise.” Lance leaned a little closer, stealing some of Keith’s warmth under the guise of providing it. “We’ll get you some hot cocoa once we're inside, ok, so stop mean mugging me.”

Keith rolled his eyes, but the smile tugging at the corner of his mouth and the arm wrapped around Lance’s middle gave him away.

“So, what is this thing again,” asked Shiro, shoving his hands deep into his pockets.

“It’s this long trail of big light displays that they set up every year in the park,” Hunk explained. “Lance and I used to come every year with our families when we were kids.” Hunk pointed his mitten covered hand towards the tops of the trees. “See that bit of light up there? That’s the top of the big light tree they make every year, Lance and I used to spin under it until we couldn’t walk straight.”

Lance laughed. “And you always ended up sick from it by the time our parents were dragging us home.”

“Mom and Dad brought me and Matt a few years back. It was fun. There’s a dinosaur display that’s completely scientifically inaccurate, but it’s pretty cool,” Pidge joked.

Keith really didn’t get the appeal. It was just a bunch of lights. If you’ve seen one light display you’ve seen em all, right? He didn’t want to be a Debbie Downer, but this time of year just didn’t really mean that much to him. He’d always had small Christmas’ that sounded almost like a different holiday entirely in comparison to the stories Lance and Hunk would tell, or Pidge with Hanukkah. He just didn’t care as much it seemed, but Lance was excited about this, and he could at least try for him.

They trudged through the parking lot and Keith could see lights glittering through the trees. He wasn’t sure if Lance was vibrating with excitement next to him, or if it was shivers, so he moved them into more of a huddle formation with the group as they neared the ticket line. The closer they got, the more Keith could hear the cheesy Christmas music playing overhead. He rolled his eyes. Keith couldn’t really stand Christmas music, and no matter how many times Lance tried to tell him that Christmas music and Christmas movies were on the same playing field, Keith remained adamant that they most certainly were not. Christmas movies were a gift, and Christmas music made him want to jump off a bridge.

Keith was prepared to rekindle the old teasing fight, but hands slid around him, turning him and pulling him closer. Keith’s eyes widened at the look on Lance’s face before he leaned to whisper into his ear. “Santa honey, I want a yacht, and really that’s not a lot,” he crooned along to the song, a playful note in his voice. Keith rolled his eyes yet again and tried to dislodge his boyfriend. “I’ve been an angel all year,” Lance pouted. “Santa Baby, and hurry down the chimney tonight.” Lance threw in a wink before skipping off to finish the song, draped onto Hunk’s back.

Shiro and Keith listened to the others as they debated which displays from previous years had been the best. The line began to move and Lance laced his fingers into Keith’s. “You ready,” he asked excitedly.

The entrance to the Trail of Lights was a literal tunnel of lights. The friends walked in, the multicolored lights dancing in their eyes. Lance chuckled at the look of awe on Keith’s face. Keith could hear Shiro whispering reverently behind them. They followed the throng of people down the trail, stopping and taking pictures periodically.

Pidge had gotten excited over the dinosaur display they had downplayed earlier. Hunk couldn’t stop talking about the giant 3D globe made of lights, wondering just how many strands had to go into that alone. Shiro’s favorite was oddly enough the Candyland display, stating it reminded him of the ornaments his mom had always decorated the tree with when he was a kid. Keith had made them stop at a moving display inspired by the only Christmas song he’d always kind of secretly enjoyed, ‘ I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas’ . Lance may have taken several pictures of Keith backlit by the glowing lifesize hippo.

Lance’s favorite part of the whole thing was where the trail opened up into a small village area with quaint little shops and a large fire pit. They all bought hot cocoas and wandered in and out of shops together. Lance bought a new ornament for their tree, per tradition. Shiro had gone to sit by the fire, while the others watched little kids spin themselves dizzy under the big light tree, and if they each spun until they were nearly collapsing, well, Shiro didn’t need to know.

The crowds were thinning and their cups were empty when Shiro begrudgingly suggested they head home. Despite the cold, Keith felt a warmness settling in his chest. Their feet thudded across the wooden boards leading out of the Trail. Keith looked up at the blue stars glittering above their heads, hung by arching strands of light. It was quieter here, Keith could hear the music once more. Lance was humming along and playfully wrapped his absurdly long scarf around both of their necks. The two of them laughed as they stumbled trying to walk together. As Baby, It’s Cold Outside began to play, Keith pulled Lance to a stop, wrapping his arm around him, the scarf keeping them close. He kissed his cheek, smiling at the surprised look on Lance’s face. He could hear Pidge, Hunk and Shiro teasing them in the background before continuing their conversation.

“Thank you for this,” Keith said, the wind not the only reason for the color in his cheeks. “I had a really good time.”

Lance played with the end of the scarf, leaning more into Keith as they began to walk again. “So, does this mean I’m getting that yacht?”

Lance laughed loudly as Keith ducked out of the scarf, trying to pull away, a smile covering his own face. They ended up racing to the car, Pidge and Hunk even joining in, and Shiro ultimately beating them all there somehow.

As far as holiday traditions went, Keith thought he could definitely get used to this one.