A Little Soccer Love
Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, Keith parked himself on what came to be his usual spot on the cool metal bleachers, pulled out his notebook, and waited for the school’s soccer team to come out for practice. And today was no different.
Not that he had any real reason to sit and watch practice every other day. He wasn’t on the team, a yearbook photographer, or dating anyone of the team…
But boy did he want to.
The star of Altea High’s soccer team, Lance McClain, was a walking dream in signature blue cleats and Keith loved watching him. He’d noticed him back in freshman year when they had gym class together, and later learned he was an athlete from pictures in that year’s yearbook.
Ever since, he’d been on the bleachers watching every practice and game he could make the time to see.
It was probably a little stalkerish, he was sure, but he rationalized that he was supporting his school’s team. Which he was. He knew almost everyone, and had been watching for long enough to see how much everyone had improved over time.
But he knew the only reason was because of Lance McClain, a boy he’d said approximately three words to and had been watching from a distance for over two years. He’d watched Lance climb the ranks until he was the captain of the soccer team, eventually taking on the mantle of the previous captain, Ryan.
As soon as Lance appeared out on the field with his usual spring in his step, Keith put his homework down and watched as he bounded over to Pidge, a smaller girl on their team. She was a year younger than he and Lance, but had managed to easily insert herself into Lance’s friend circle.
Keith couldn’t help but be a little jealous about that.
But that was just the kind of guy Lance was. He was like a magnet; everybody flocked to him for his bright personality and handsome features.
Keith knew he was nothing like Lance. Mostly a loner, he didn’t really have any friends at school, and he was fine with that. He wasn’t planning to stick around in this town after he finished high school. He wanted to get into the flight program at the Galaxy Garrison and become a pilot. It was his dream for as long as he could remember, after his dad passed away and his family adopted him. And his older brother, Shiro, going there certainly solidified the fact.
Even though he didn’t mind being alone, he did sort of regret it sometimes. With Shiro gone off to the Garrison, and his parents busy with work, it was all the more jarring when he heard about everyone’s plans for the weekend when he walked by. It just reminded him that he was practically alone at school.
All of a sudden, people were shouting, and Keith glanced up to see a black and white object flying towards him at an alarming speed. He jerked sideways, just barely missing the ball as it flew past his head and hit the seats beside him.
He whirled around to watch as the ball bounce a bit with wide eyes. It was so close that he’d felt wind whip by his cheek, rustling his hair as it rushed past. He leaned over to pick it up, staring dumbly down at the soccer ball that almost took his head off.
“Shit, sorry about that!” A voice called out, a hint of laughter in his voice. “Didn’t mean for that to go so far off course.”
Keith would recognize that voice anywhere. He fought to keep his face neutral as he looked up to face Lance’s bright blue eyes.
“Are you okay?” Lance asked, ever the considerate one. “Didn’t mean to disrupt your…” he glanced down at the book on Keith’s lap, his face lighting up when he recognized the notes, “bioengineering homework. Hey, are you in Ryner’s class?”
“Uh,” Keith replied intelligently, mind blanking under Lance’s unwavering attention. “Yeah?”
“Cool! Me too! I’m in her morning class.” Lance’s gaze turned down to the soccer ball, and extended a hand out, silently asking for the ball.
Keith quickly pushed the ball into his waiting hand, maybe a little harder than he needed to. He could feel his cheeks starting to heat up in embarrassment, but Lance flashed him a wide grin before turning back to his team.
He expected him to run back to his team with nothing further to say, so he was surprised when Lance lobbed the ball back to his team and turned back to face him again. “By the way, I’ve noticed you hanging out here a lot during practice. Do you like soccer?”
“Oh, uh…” Keith floundered for an answer. He didn’t like soccer so much as one of the boys playing soccer. “Yeah, I don’t mind soccer. It’s fun to watch.”
“Do you want to join us?”
“What?” The words were out of Keith’s mouth before he could even think of an excuse to say no. He winced slightly, staring up at Lance with wide eyes.
Lance smiled kindly, and repeated the question with a hopeful look in his eyes. “If you’re worried about what our coach will say, he won’t mind. Come join us for a bit?”
Oh no, he couldn’t do that. He knew that if he was up close and personal with Lance on the field that he wouldn’t be able to keep his eyes off of him, and everyone would immediately know that he was completely head over heels for the boy. “Oh, uh… Thanks? But no thanks.” He waved his notebook back and forth a bit, “I’ve gotta keep up on my notes.”
Lance’s face fell slightly at the rejection, but he was quick to cover it up with smiles and laughter. “No worries! Another time, then?” With that he backed away, giving a wave before turning and running back to his waiting team.
The next time Keith saw Lance, he was running out to meet him on the bleachers with that usual smile and a mischievous glint in his eye.
“What about today, Mullet?” He asked as soon as he was close enough. “Ryner’s class was pretty light today.”
“‘Mullet’?” Keith questioned with a raised brow.
Lance waved generally towards Keith’s hair. “You have… Well, actually, it’s mostly because I don’t know your name?”
Disappointment settled deep in his stomach at that, but he quickly rationalized that since they never really talked, not even when they had a class together, that Lance never would have had a chance to know his name in the first place. “Keith.”
“Well, Keith, care to join us for a game of soccer?”
“Oh… No, I--” Keith floundered a little, trying to find a somewhat believable excuse. “I’ve got a math test coming up. Gotta study for it.”
Lance whined, and fell back against the railing dramatically, draping his back over it until a strip of skin was revealed beneath his shirt. “ Keith , buddy, my man, you’re killing me here. Are you always about academics?”
“I have to be.” Keith said with a shrug. “I’m trying to get into the Galaxy Garrison.”
“Oh shit, you too?” Lance looked surprised at that tidbit of information. “I should’ve guessed from the bioengineering homework. But, I’ll let you get to it.” He stood up again with a slight groan, before giving Keith a wink and his signature finger guns. “I’ll get you playing soccer with us one day, Keith.”
The next practice Keith could make it to wasn’t until the following week. Shiro came home for the weekend, and as much as he loved watching Lance, he loved seeing his big brother more.
So, come Monday he was a little surprised to see Lance sitting at his spot on the bleachers, bouncing a soccer ball on his knees.
As soon as Keith stepped up onto the bleachers, Lance whirled around to face him, his eyes lighting up as soon as he realized who it was. “Keith! You’re back!”
“‘Back’?” Keith nearly tripped over his own feet at how excited Lance sounded to see him. “What do you mean?”
Lance turned to face him, juggling the ball back and forth between his hands. “Didn’t see you at Friday’s practice.”
“My brother came home for the weekend. I went home as soon as classes were done.”
“You have a brother?”
Keith nodded, and sat down beside Lance, letting his bag drop to the seat behind him. “Yeah, older brother. His name’s Shiro. He’s studying at the Garrison.”
“So you don’t get to see him that often, huh?” Lance placed the ball between his knees, giving Keith his full attention. “My older sister is there, too. Veronica. She’s super smart, and seeing her studying and working hard inspired me to do the same. She’s part of why I want to go there.”
Keith couldn’t help but smile, watching Lance gush about his older sister. “So you totally get it.”
“Which means you know I can’t join you today, either.”
Lance groaned, and flopped back against the seat with an arm over his eyes. “How did I know that was going to be your answer?” he moaned.
A chuckle made its way out of his chest before he could think too much about it.
Lance sat up quickly, staring up at Keith with wide eyes. “That’s the first time I’ve heard you laugh.” He sounded surprised, or awed by the fact.
“Oh, uh…” Keith ducked his head, letting his hair hide his flushed cheeks.
“I didn’t mean to embarrass you.” Lance was quick to say. “I just--”
“Hey, Lance!” Pidge yelled, catching both boys’ attention. “Are you coming?”
“You should go.” Keith said with a rueful smile. “Your team’s waiting for you.”
Lance looked reluctant to leave, hesitating for a moment too long before he stood up, giving his team a big smile and a wave. “Fine, not today, then. Wednesday?”
“Maybe.” Keith replied with a sly smile.
On Wednesday, one of Keith’s classes assigned a new group project. Fortunately, since people could pick their group or partner, nobody really wanted Keith. And he and one other guy, Hunk, were left until last, so they just mutually decided to work together before their teacher could assign them together.
“So, you don’t mind doing the background rationale?” Hunk asked, holding the door open for Keith.
Keith stepped outside with a shake of his head. “No, if you don’t mind doing the participants and materials section. I hate how structured all of that has to be.”
“It’s just like a recipe!” Hunk exclaimed, walking beside Keith out to the field. “You just gotta follow the instructions to get to the end result!”
“Whatever you say, man.” Keith said with a chuckle. “At least one of us enjoys doing it.”
Hunk bumped his shoulder into Keith’s as they ambled along. “How come we aren’t friends, Keith? I feel like group projects would have gone a lot better if you and I worked together.”
“I dunno.” Keith said with a shrug. “I don’t talk much. That might be why.”
“That’s for sure. If Iverson didn’t hound you for answers as often as he did, I wouldn’t know what your voice sounded like.”
Keith sighed up at the sky dramatically at the mention of Iverson. “He’s so pushy sometimes.”
Hunk threw his head back and laughed heartily at Keith’s exasperation. “I think we’ll be good friends, dude.” he slapped a hand to Keith’s back, making him stumble forwards a little. But Keith didn’t mind; Hunk seemed like a really great guy.
“Hey, Keith!” a new voice suddenly called out. Keith looked around frantically for a moment, before his eyes settled on Lance’s frantically waving figure. “There you are!”
“What do you want, Lance?” he called back, even though he already knew the answer to his own question.
“Hey, Lance!” Hunk called with a wave.
Lance’s gaze turned to Hunk, and he looked happily surprised to see him. “Hunk, bro!” he hopped over the fence and ran towards them, launching onto him as soon as he was close enough. “What are you doing here?”
Hunk caught him easily and swung him around once, before placing him back on the ground. “Just hanging out with my new buddy Keith, here.” he explained, waving a hand towards the man in question.
Keith offered a brief sheepish smile.
“How do you know Keith?” Hunk asked, looking between the two.
Keith’s eyes widened at the question, but before he could even think of saying something, anything, Lance was already talking, “He studies out on the bleachers during soccer practice. Almost hit him with a ball one day, and we got talking.”
“And then you were hooked, huh?” Hunk asked Keith, a chuckle escaping his lips. Keith flushed at the implications, but Hunk continued; “Lance is a hard guy to shake once he knows who you are.”
“Hey!” Was Lance’s indignant reply. “I happen to be a fun, loveable guy. Right, Keith?”
Lance’s too blue eyes were suddenly focused on him, and Keith’s mind went blank. Having his handsome gaze solely focused on him wasn’t something Keith ever thought would happen, and being under the intensity of it was almost overwhelming. He wasn’t sure what to do.
“Leave him alone.” Hunk shoved playfully at Lance’s arm, saving Keith from embarrassment.
Hunk was right; they were gonna be good friends.
“I’m just messin’ with ya.” Lance laughed, his eyes practically shining. Keith’s heart didn’t know how to handle that. “Well,” Lance continued, “you already know what I’m gonna ask.”
“I do.” Keith crossed his arms over his chest to try to give himself a bit of a barrier between he and Lance. “And the answer’s no. Hunk and I gotta work on our project.”
Lance groaned dramatically, and flopped backwards onto the ground at being rejected once again. “Nooo,” he whined, throwing an arm over his face for good measure.
Hunk levelled Lance with an exasperated deadpan look. He glanced up at Keith, silently apologizing for his friend’s behaviour, before kicking Lance’s leg. “You’re embarrassing us.” he said dryly. “C’mon, get your ass up.”
Hunk rolled his eyes, before turning and walking away. “Fine, then. C’mon, Keith, let’s go work on our project.”
Lance sat up like a dart, staring wide eyed after his friend. He turned to Keith, giving him puppy dog eyes.
With a snicker, Keith left him as well, following after Hunk with a skip in his step.
The next time they saw each other, they were both on the way to the bleachers.
Keith noticed Lance first, like he always did, and slowed to a stop while Lance kept on walking ahead.
But, somehow, Lance happened to look back behind him just as Keith stood still. Lance stopped dead in his tracks, looking at Keith as he looked at Lance. They stood there staring for a few long seconds, before Lance turned and backtracked over to where Keith was standing.
“Hi.” Lance said as soon as he was close enough.
“Hey.” Keith whispered. “Look, I know you’re gonna ask if--”
“Do you hate me, or something?” Lance interrupted. He looked pained asking the question out loud, and it was a sight Keith hated to see.
“Hate you? N-no, I--”
“Because if you do, I’ll leave you alone. I’ll stop bothering you, and we can pretend this never--”
“Lance!” Keith exclaimed, perhaps a little louder than he meant to. Lance jerked slightly, eyes wide, but it shut him up. Keith clenched his fists so tightly at his sides that he could feel his nails digging into his palms. “I don’t hate you.”
He bit at his lip, and breathed in a deep breath. He knew he couldn’t just keep stringing Lance along, at some point, he had to either completely back away or tell the truth. And as much as telling the truth terrified him, he knew that completely leaving Lance behind him was absolutely more terrifying, and something he didn’t think he’d be able to do. “I like you, okay? I don’t actually care about soccer, I just come to watch you play. I’ve been coming since sophomore year, to any practices and games I can make it to.”
Lance’s jaw dropped open at the admission. He even seemed to stop breathing, with how still he was standing.
Keith groaned, and buried his head in his hands. “That sounds super stalkerish, oh my god. I just, I didn’t know how to talk to you, okay?” He lifted his head up again, and took a breath to steady himself before continuing. “Ever since we had gym class together, I haven’t known how to talk to you. And, this way, I’d still get to see you. I really like you and wanted more, but, this was enough.”
The lack of an answer from Lance was more than enough to give Keith his answer, clear as day. So, without anything else to add or admit, Keith turned on his heel and fled from Lance’s sight.
He stopped briefly by his locker to drop off his books and grab his jacket, but then he was on his way to the parking lot, weaving through other students as fast as he was able.
There were still some kids waiting in the parking lot for late busses, but otherwise it was quickly emptying out. Keith made haste for his motorcycle at the back of the lot, furthest from the school and closest to the road. He tossed his backpack onto the seat with a little more force than necessary, and put his arms through the sleeves.
Just as he was putting his bag back onto his shoulders, someone tapped his shoulder.
Keith whirled around with wide eyes, only to be met with the sight of Lance McClain, breathing harder than usual like he’d run after him.
His cheeks were flushed, showcasing the pretty blue of his eyes in the bright afternoon light. His brown hair was a little windswept, just like Keith liked it, and his pretty mouth was open slightly.
Lance lifted a hand to touch Keith’s cheek, pulling a gasp out of him. Keith tried to step back, but Lance followed him, step for step until the back of his thighs met his motorcycle. Even then, he kept advancing until they were pressed practically chest to chest.
“That,” Lance paused to lick at his lips, “is the sweetest thing anyone’s ever done for me.”
They were standing so close that to look into both of Lance’s eyes, Keith had to keep glancing to each gorgeous blue eye separately. They were so close that their noses brushed. They were so close that he could feel Lance’s breath fanning across his lips.
With little more than a smile, Lance’s hand trailed to the back of Keith’s head, like he was cradling him, tangling his fingers in his hair, before leaning in to kiss the breath right out of his lungs.