Chapter 1: Preludio
Fly me to the moon,
Let me play among the stars
Applause. Stage lights. Quiet breathing.
Keith took a bow and marched off the stage. Shiro was already there, waiting by the curtains. Grabbing the pair of fingerless gloves that his brother handed out, he shoved them on his hands, finally able to breathe.
Staring at his hands, Keith waited for the adrenaline to settle and clenched his fists. Performing was exhilarating but too much of it and he’d burn up.
“The audience is still clapping,” Shiro said with amusement. Keith groaned, and walked back on stage, plastering on a blank face. Touching the side of the grand piano, he bowed once more.
One… Two… Three… Up.
Facing the dimmed concert hall, he gave a sharp nod and walked out.
Shiro checked the time. “I think you’ve got to go out and bow to the audience twice more. They’re still not stopping.”
“Oh come on,” Keith moaned, “That wasn’t even my best performance!”
Shiro shrugged. “The audience doesn’t seem to mind. You up for an encore?”
“No,” Keith spat. He walked out again - more of a march, really - and then pleasantries of flowers would commence, and it would take two more hours for Keith to finally be able to go home.
“I’m sick of roses,” Keith mumbled through a mouthful of fabric.
He was face-planted on the sofa, too tired to even take off his formal attire. Shiro carried the humongous bouquet to the vase centered on the coffee table that was filled with white roses, not even wilted from the previous concert three days prior.
The door of the study creaked open and Adam walked out, a mug of coffee in his hand. “How was your concert?” He asked lightheartedly.
“Did you stay up to work on the blueprints of the simulations again?” Shiro raised an eyebrow. Adam didn’t even look guilty as he noisily slurped his coffee. Shiro just shook his head, a soft smile on his face.
Keith’s head whipped up and glared at him. “You didn’t even watch! You promised you’d watch!”
“I did. They put it on the television,” Adam said, ruffling Keith’s hair, messing up the thick bangs that were gelled back. “There's only so many times I can watch a Rachmaninoff-Debussy-Satie program, you know.”
“The show on a screen isn’t the same as the live show, anyone can tell you that,” Keith grumbled.
Adam rolled his eyes. “I think you did great.”
Keith went back to moaning and mumbling into the sofa. Adam gave Shiro an exasperated look. “He’s still not satisfied?”
“You can’t just kick me out!”
“Yes, I can, and I just did.”
“Your next concert isn't until 5 months from now. Get out there and enjoy the great outdoors.”
Keith banged on the door. When Shiro refused to open, Keith kicked the door with a solid thunk and then marched out to the elevator. Grumbling about how he didn’t have to go that far and so what if it’s unhealthy to practice 12 hours a day? I still eat and have bathroom breaks and ‘ go enjoy the city,’ he said. ‘It’ll be fun,’ he said.
To say that Keith was upset was the understatement of the century. His scowl looked like it could murder someone in cold blood. His eyes blazed, daring anyone to get too close. Black boots stomping out of the lobby, he pulled his red jacket tighter around him as the autumn breeze called in the nearing winter.
Breathing in the crisp air, Keith realized begrudgingly that he didn’t mind the outdoors. The weather was nice; a colder breeze, but with the sun still hanging out. Days like these were missed as he kept himself cooped up in the practice room, hunched over his grand piano.
Keith didn’t know what to do with his time. The only journey he knew was from his hotel to the concert halls around. And that was by car.
Wandering down the street, he followed the smell of breakfast and found himself in front of a small café decorated with bright juniberry flowers. There weren’t many people milling about, but it seemed cozy enough. Checking his wallet, he shrugged and stepped right in.
“Welcome to Voltron café! What can I get you?”
The first thing he noticed was the white upright piano on the other side of the shop. His fingers itched for the keys, but he dragged his eyes away to face the cashier.
And a good thing too, because he had never seen anything as beautiful as the boy in front of him. Which was saying something, because he had literally cried when he received Victoria, his grand piano.
The sunlight that filtered in danced across his rich brown skin, enhancing the bluest eyes. His grin was infectious as he bustled behind the counter, humming along to the song playing in the radio. Keith walked up to the counter, his mouth suddenly dry.
“A black coffee and blueberry pancakes,” Keith said, wincing at how rough his voice sounded. At least he didn’t stammer.
The cashier – Lance it said on the nametag – punched in the numbers and sang: “That’ll be $5.80, sir! Please, take a seat anywhere.”
“Thanks.” Keith murmured. Handing over the exact amount, he plopped down on one of the sofas and stared at the piano. Maybe if he focused, he could do a mental practice.
“Y’know, you’re gonna burn the piano down if you keep glaring like that.”
Keith startled as Lance set down a steaming cup of coffee and a stack of pancakes that were sprinkled with blueberries, butter, maple syrup, along with a light feather-dusting of powdered sugar. Keith’s mouth watered at the sight: only now did he remember that a single nutrient bar was insufficient for his morning, and his stomach was actually complaining about its lack of food content.
As Keith dug in, Lance surveyed him with calculating eyes. Then he asked, “So, do you play?”
Keith paused. Should he tell him? What’s the worst that could happen?
“Well, yeah,” Keith said, wiping off the powdery sugar with a napkin. “I mean, when I’m not doing anything else, I guess.”
Lance raised an eyebrow. “What? Like, you’re some kind of prodigy who holes himself away in a practice room, excluded from all of society?”
He winced. When Lance said it like that… coming from Shiro, it sounded like he was an introvert. But from a total stranger, it didn’t look good on him. Not that Keith could blame him - he wasn’t great at connecting with people.
Lance’s eyes widened at Keith’s hesitance. There was an odd glint in his eyes that the pianist didn’t like. Lance jeered, “I bet you don’t even know any jazz or blues songs – what with all your stuck-up pianist virtuosity or whatever.”
“Shut up. I’m not stuck up,” Keith snapped. With a growl, he stood up and walked towards the piano, and not bothering to take off his gloves, began to play.
Fly me to the moon,
Let me play among the stars
Let me see what spring is like on
Jupiter and Mars
As Keith continued angrily belting out the lyrics, he became aware of what he was doing. Face turning red, his voice faded away, leaving him pressing the last few chords. With shaking hands, he stopped playing, dreading the aftermath.
Keith blinked. He wasn’t expecting that.
Lance spun him around, saying, with eyes shining, “Dude! Your voice was great – I mean, not as great as mine,” he mumbled cockily, “I thought you were only a pianist?”
Keith reddened as he pushed Lance’s hands away. “Just ‘cause I play classical, doesn’t mean I don’t know other genres. Sinatra is a classic, after all.”
Lance nodded in agreement. Eyeing Keith in a new light - and taking note of his outfit - he said, “I bet you’re one of those undercover MCR fans, aren’t you?”
He didn’t know how many shades darker his blush could go, but apparently, you learn something new every day. Lance cackled and Keith wished for a black hole to just swallow him right then and there. “I didn’t know you even knew of the band. For a second, I thought you were one of those geniuses who played piano around the world and looks down on people who can’t.”
“Well, I don’t expect you to understand,” Keith bit out. Lance looked like he’d been slapped. Then his eyes hardened.
With a huff, he turned away. “Whatever, man. Not like I care. My shift ends in a few minutes anyway, so enjoy your own stuck up silence mullet.”
“It’s not a mullet!” Keith shot him a glare not received and settled back into attacking his blueberry pancakes.
Shiro raised an eyebrow at the sound of the door slamming shut. He had unlocked the door an hour after kicking Keith out of the penthouse, but for him to come back three hours later…
Craning his neck, he looked over from the couch to where Keith discarded his shoes and shoved his gloves inside his pockets before storming into his practice room. A few seconds later, angry scales were sounding off. Shiro knew better than to interrupt. Last time he did, he was forced to stay up to contemporary piano playing of whatever sounds Keith could slam the hardest.
As the sound slowed down to a more calming roll instead of crashing waves, Shiro got up and knocked tentatively on the door. The music stopped and Shiro stepped inside, surveying the sullen 22-year-old in front of him.
“Did you enjoy your day out?” Shiro asked with a slight grin.
Keith, whose frown was already deep, frowned even more. It was a wonder how his eyebrows hadn’t met in the middle yet. “Shiro, am I stuck up?”
The older man blinked. Dropping the grin, he said seriously, “Who said that to you? You know you’re not.”
“Shiro, I know who I am. I just -” Keith ran his thumb across the tips of his fingers, “I don’t know. As someone who plays classical music, am I stuck up?”
“Keith-” Shiro placed a heavy hand on his shoulder, “you know that’s just a stereotype. I know you can’t control everything that happens to you, but your playing – it’s a gift. You’re more than your music.”
Keith regarded him for a moment, then looked back down at the ivory keys. “I guess,” He said doubtfully.
“What brought this up, anyway?” Shiro asked gently, his protectiveness rearing its head.
Keith bit his bottom lip. He looked like he was about to say something but then decided against it with a shake of his head. “Just… someone I met outside.”
Shiro knew Keith was always different – he was a piano prodigy, for crying out loud. But maybe… maybe Shiro had sheltered him a tad too much. He should’ve kicked him out of the house sooner if only to expand his horizons and question things. But for now…
“C’mon, why don’t we watch a movie?” Shiro suggested, “You can take your pick.”
Keith was about to accept, but then he balked and went to his bookshelf instead, pulling out his complete set of Chopin etudes. “I need to practice.”
Shiro sighed. Taking one last glance behind him, he gently closed the door.
He was hot. Lance mused sourly to himself as he headed to the Altea Music shop, the late afternoon sun casting growing shadows on the sidewalk. Too bad he was a jerk. As well as a mullet man.
“Coran!” Lance sang as he threw the door to the music shop wide open, “Is the back room free?”
A head of ginger popped up from one of the booths at the far back of the room. “Lance, my boy! It’s been a while! It’s free for the next hour and a half, so it’s all yours.”
“Thanks!” Lance grinned as he bounded to the biggest booth. Altea Music had been his sponsor when he started singing at gigs and needed a place to practice. Unlike other music schools that charged around $20 per hour for a room, Coran was kind enough to let him practice for half that with unlimited time, seeing as the shop depended more on its music sales and occasional classes.
Switching on the lights, he breathed in the musty air of music books, that distinct wood smell of instruments, and the lingering perfume of the previous occupant. As he set his bag down, he walked to the opposite end of the room to grab the acoustic guitar. He sat down and set to tuning it as he ran over the songs in his head.
Strumming out the chords, Lance began to sing.
Fly me to the moon,
Let me play among the stars
Let me see what spring is like on
Jupiter and Mars
It was freeing - singing. On days when it all seemed too much, he’d lock himself up in his room, turning up his music to some Elle Fitzgerald or Louis Armstrong and just belting out the lyrics. Singing at the top of his voice helped too. The complaints from his older siblings and neighbors, not so much.
In other words, hold my hand
In other words, baby, kiss me
Hunk and Pidge came in, but Lance paid them no mind. They were quiet as they set up their equipment. It was an unspoken rule to not interrupt him as he warmed up.
Fill my heart with song
And let me sing forever more
You are all I long for
All I worship and adore
With Lance on the vocals, Hunk on the double bass, and Pidge on the drums, they had named themselves the Garrison Trio – an amateur group who did biweekly gigs at the Saxophone Pub. Their style was a cover of popular songs in different jazz styles.
In other words, please be true
In other words, I love you
Lance wished they had a pianist. Many people had commented on it as well. They were a good group, but more could be made if they had a piano to go along with it. It would add a new element, not to mention a wider selection of songs.
There’s the hot emo pianist. A small voice spoke at the back of his head. Shut up. Mullets are not hot. Another part of his brain – the reasonable part – growled.
Opening his eyes, he gave a lopsided grin to his friends who were already stationed in their respective places. “So I was thinking of starting with 5 songs, and then 3 songs - each with a solo - then another 3 – you think it’d be good to have Coran for Dave Brubeck's Take Five?”
Hunk nodded. With Coran occasionally joining them with his wide array of talents from saxophone to trombone to trumpet, they had more options for the accompaniment. “A New Orleans style for his trumpet solo would be nice as well.”
“But we don’t have a pianist,” Pidge pointed out, “I mean, I know it’s just a bunch of chords, but we still need an actual pianist for it.”
Lance sighed, Hunk gave him a sympathetic look. They had been searching all over for a pianist, but none seemed to fit the bill. Their group had that bad habit of switching from one genre to another without warning, and some pianists didn’t get the memo or didn’t have enough of an idea about various jazz styles to follow along.
“Well-” Hunk scratched his chin, “We could ask Allura-”
“She’s not in America right now,” Lance cut in, turning his pick over his hands, “she’s in Italy for a concert.”
“But without a pianist-” Pidge started.
“We survived without a pianist for a year. If we can do that, we can go on for longer,” Lance said resolutely.
“There’s only so much music we can make with a vocals-drums-bass - and the occasional brass - group though,” Pidge said curtly.
There’s that hot emo pianist. If you just apologized, then maybe he’ll agree to play with you. Lance’s traitorous little voice whispered again. He pouted, fingers drumming on the guitar. “Well…”
“You found a pianist?” Hunk said, perking up.
Lance scratched the back of his neck. “Not that I found him – not like you can find anyone – but there is someone, I mean, I don’t even know if he likes jazz – he did sing Fly Me to the Moon. But he’s a pianist – doesn’t look like much considering with his crop jacket and-“
“Lance, get to the point.”
“I met a pianist this morning.” Lance blurted out.
Pidge and Hunk exchanged looks. Pidge said, “I’m sensing a ‘but’ in there somewhere.”
Lance bit his bottom lip. “ But , I may or may not have been a jerk and chased him away.”
“Bro. Not cool.”
“I know!” Lance lamented as he picked on the strings of his guitar. “But you know me; I can’t stop my mouth from running like a bull in a corrida de toros. ”
Hunk asked, “Did he eat the pancakes?”
Lance gave him a skeptical look. “What've your pancakes got to do with this?”
“Because if he did,” Hunk said with a grin, “He’s gonna come back for more.”
“Again? Seriously, Shiro?” Keith tried very hard to stay inside, but one push from Shiro’s prosthetic arm and he was outside with the door slamming shut behind him. He banged on the wood. “You didn’t even let me eat breakfast! What’s up with that?”
“You can go find something to eat outside.” Shiro’s muffled voice was tinged with amusement. “It’ll do you some good.”
“If I get kidnapped, this is all your fault!” All he heard was a snort from the other side. Throwing his hands up in exasperation, he stomped to the elevators and proceeded to explore the grand outdoors for the second time in three days.
He didn’t mean to go back to Voltron café. But for some reason, his feet brought him to the entrance of the shop, a glimpse inside showing that Lance was back into manning the register again. He groaned, but his stomach growled louder.
Why do I hate myself so much? Keith pushed open the door, the tinkling of the bell causing Lance to look up. Both of them froze, eyes locked on each other. Keith was the first to make a move, rushing to the front and slapping down the money, saying in a rushed mumble, “Black coffee and blueberry pancakes.”
Then, without waiting for a reply, he sat down to where he did the day before. He could feel his face burning.
It only took 4 minutes and 36 seconds (yes, he counted) for Lance to approach him with another stack of pancakes and a steaming mug of coffee. The tension in the air was thick enough that he could stick a butter knife through it. Instead, he stuck it through his pancakes and began eating.
Lance lingered, and then with a sigh, sat down opposite him. Keith raised an eyebrow at this. Lance opened and closed his mouth a few times, but no sound came out.
“Just spit it out,” Keith snapped.
“I will! Don’t rush me!” Lance protested. He huffed, and said meekly, “Look, about two days ago - I called you stuck up. I just wanna say I’m sorry. I was a jerk. I didn’t mean it. My friends keep telling me I tend to ramble and have no filter, which leads to things being awkward and someone getting pissed off. So, uhh… yeah. Sorry ‘bout that.”
Keith didn’t say anything, just took another bite from his pancakes. He was fighting off a smirk as he watched Lance squirm in front of him. “What’s the catch?”
Lance looked up at him, bewildered. “What?”
“What’s the catch? I know you want something from me,” Keith said.
“Me? Wha – pfft, no of course not!” Lance said airily, his laugh as fake as a toy made in China, “I wasn’t gonna-” Keith gave him a pointed look, “yeah, okay. I might, maybe actually, need a pianist… for my band.”
Keith sighed. Of course.
It wasn’t that he minded, he really didn’t. Shiro wanted him to go outside, and if outside included more piano playing, well, he wasn’t complaining, seeing as he wasn’t skipping his daily practice hours. He just wished that, for once, someone would see him and not just his playing.
“Oh, but of course you wouldn’t just be a pianist! You’d get Premium Access to the ultimate Lance Friendship!” Lance said proudly, “The whole package of midnight movie marathons, bickering, whining, and all that jazz!”
He gave him a wink with the last line, fully intending the pun. Keith blinked, speechless. A snort came out. Then snickers. Until finally, Keith doubled over with laughter. Lance stared at him, awestruck. “You're an idiot,” Pushing back his empty plate, Keith crossed his arms with a grin, “But okay.”
“Wait, seriously?!” Lance’s jaw dropped. “You’re not kidding?”
“Stop looking at me like that,” Keith said defensively, “Unless you actually didn't want me to accept-”
“No! I mean, yes! I need you!” Lance practically shouted. Keith jumped in surprise, heart skipping a beat.
“Here, here.” Before Keith could protest, Lance had already grabbed his arm, pushed up his jacket sleeve and wrote down an address along with a date and time on his arm. With a wide grin, Lance said excitedly, “My group's performing a joint concert with another jazz band at this place tomorrow night. It'd be great if you could come to watch.”
“Okay,” Keith said, stunned into one-word responses. Lance’s bright demeanor had given him whiplash for a moment there.
“You won’t regret this, dude.” Lance stood up and bounded off. “I gotta go to class now, but I’ll see you later!”
Keith could only wave goodbye as Lance disappeared to the back of the café and scurried off to wherever he was going off to. With a shake of his head, he settled back, taking a sip of his coffee. He looked down at the scribbles on his arm and smiled despite himself, not noticing the warm feeling spreading inside.
“So…” Lance dragged out the ‘o’ as he plopped down beside Pidge in the lecture hall.
Pidge raised an eyebrow. “So, what?”
“About the pianist…” Lance threaded his fingers together, his mouth curving into a Cheshire-like smile.
Pidge paused and scrutinized him, “You got a pianist?”
Lance winked. “You can thank me later.”
“Yes!” Pidge jumped up and wrapped her arms around him. Lance laughed as he stumbled back, careful not to let them both fall to the ground. After squeezing the life out of him, she sat back, “Did you tell Hunk yet?” she asked.
“Not yet - maybe after Astrophysics. Or maybe you could tell him; both of you have the next class together. Also-” Lance sniffed her, “you did take a bath, right?”
“Don’t be an idiot.” Pidge glared at him. “I took a bath yesterday.”
“I’m joking, jeez. Of course, I did. I wouldn’t hear the end of it from you if I hadn’t. Besides, I came in early.”
“Did you even sleep?”
Her silence was answer enough. Lance huffed and brought out his own laptop, making a mental note on getting Hunk to gang up on her with him to force her into at least taking a nap.
As his professor walked in, Lance got down to taking notes. He couldn’t afford to be distracted, especially not by thoughts of hot emo boys who wore fingerless gloves and sported mullets.
“Are you free later in the afternoon for a session?” Lance whispered, “We can go over a new list. Also, Hunk’s bringing cookies.”
Pidge grinned. “I wouldn’t miss it.”
Keith was no stranger to bars, seeing as he'd go and have a drink or two with the conductor and concertmaster after a performance. He also wasn't a stranger to jazz music, as he had several recordings at home.
But he was a stranger in this particular jazz club and he was a stranger to a live jazz performance. He sat up a little straighter as he saw the band come in. Five trumpets, four trombones, an assortment of saxophones, a pianist who set his music on the piano stand, a double bass carried by some big guy, and the drummer who was half the size of the former.
As they finished setting up, Keith rested his chin on his hand and prepared himself for the music.
He was not prepared.
Loud. That was the first impression Keith had. Upbeat and amazing was the second one, with amazement onwards.
He could feel the rhythm and beat penetrate his bones, his heart skipping with each syncopated note. The trumpets pierced the air, like a bold statement. As the electric guitar and the double bass gave the underlying bass line, the saxophone improvised, its smooth tones gave another quality to the music.
There was a lot of improvising, showcasing each instrument family. Even the drums got a go, playing rhythms on the hi-hat, crash, and snare - beats within beats, raring the crowd after its turn. There was a dramatic pause, and then the piano came in, and then the music changed its color into smooth blues. It flowed like water, with the trumpet taking over the melody. Keith listened, his ears tickling with every note. He was no stranger to jazz music, but seeing it live - it was another experience altogether.
He thought he already had the whole experience of jazz music and how much this club could offer. But the show wasn't done. Oh no. Because as the tapping of the sticks gave way to a very familiar song, the whole restaurant roared as the main act of the evening slid in.
“When marimba rhythms start to play, dance with me, make me sway,” Lance lifted up his hat and made his way to the center of the stage. “Like a lazy ocean hugs the shore, sway me smooth, sway me more.”
Keith watched, mouth slightly open, as Lance took all the attention. “Like a flower bending in the breeze,” Lance moved smoothly to the side, “Bend with me, sway with ease.”
Lance switched the microphone to his other hand. “When we dance you have a way with me, stay with me, sway with me.”
The brass band took over the melody as Lance swayed on the stage, snapping his fingers, feeling the beat. The crowd cheered and he sent a wink their way, eliciting in a few shrill screams.
“All the dancers may be on the floor,” Lance looked at Keith, “oh but my eyes will see only you,” he whirled around, “only you got the magic technique.”
He looked over his shoulder, “When we sway I go weak!”
It was foot-tapping, body-moving, finger-snapping music and Keith couldn't help the laughter bubble out of him. He loved music. There was no question - even going so far as to make it his life career. Apparently, music wasn't done with him because it had surprised him once more by coming into his life with the bursting of trumpets.
“Stay with me,” Lance pointed at Keith, “Sway with me!”
As the music ended, Keith felt swept away with the energy of the room as people cheered and whistled, applause not ending anytime soon. He joined in, clapping loudly, a small grin on his face. The musicians left the stage and Keith relaxed back on his chair, waiting for a certain jazz singer.
"So, thoughts?" Lance asked as he sat with him at the table. He had come down after the first set, grin wide as he took off his hat and ruffled his hair back. Keith coughed and looked away.
"It was good," he said, voice cracking in the end.
"Aw, just good?" Lance teased. Keith rolled his eyes. Looks like someone was a sucker for compliments.
"It was great. You were amazing up there. Everyone was captivated." Keith said sincerely. He may find Lance funny to poke fun of, but he wasn't going to lie about anything related to music. If one was good, one was good, regardless of anything else.
Lance stared at him, mouth open in surprise. He hadn't expected that. "Wow, um, thanks!" Scratching his cheek, he looked away, searching for something to do or something to say. He couldn't drink right now - he was singing again right after this. “So… after this, will you be willing to play?”
“Do I get paid?” Keith gave him a side glance. His hard work to get this far wasn't for free after all. The talent was expensive and not easily gained.
Lance understood that. He grinned. “Oh yeah. Depends on how many people you can crowd in this room.”
Judging by the pressed bodies around the bar and Lance's irresistible aura, Keith didn't think that part was going to be a problem. He held out his hand. “Deal.”
They shook on it.
After the second set, Lance gave him his contacts.
This is my number. I'll send you the details later, but we'll be meeting at Altea Music Shop this Tuesday afternoon at 3 for a practice session. See you!
And later that night, Keith could only lie awake and stare at the characters on his skin. It still tingled from where he touched it.
The show was exhilarating. He didn't think he had ever felt that energized after a concert - not since he watched Stravinsky's Rite of Spring . He also didn't think that he'd start to feel a slight attraction to a certain blue-eyed boy. But what can he say - musicians were attractive, the best ones very much so.
Chapter 2: Scherzando
“But you rescued me from reachin’ for the bottom.
And brought me back from being too far gone.”
He was a little too early. Okay, maybe a little was putting it too mildly. To be exact; Keith was an hour early.
He stood in front of the vintage music shop with his arms crossed, too nervous to enter and berating himself for being too eager when they’re just here to meet up and rehearse, it’s not a ‘hang out and go on a date’ type of thing, don’t be an idiot, Keith.
“Well, hello there.”
Keith recoiled and stared wildly at the man who towered in front of him, the bright ginger hair and large mustache a stark contrast to the baby blue paint of the shop. With a heavy Australian accent, the man asked, “I see you’ve been standing in front of the shop for ten minutes already. Why aren’t you coming in?”
“Oh, um, I’m waiting for a friend,” Keith stammered, still a bit shocked. His eyebrows furrowed. Were he and Lance friends? They had only met a handful of times.
“Well, better to wait inside where it’s warmer, isn’t it? Your jacket looks like it wouldn’t do much in the cold,” The man pointed out. “I am Coran, by the way.”
Keith flushed. This wasn't the first time someone commented on his jacket. Was it really that bad? “Nice to meet you.”
Pushing the door wide open, Keith stepped inside, skin prickling with the sudden warmth. It wasn’t cold enough to warrant him getting a warmer jacket, but it was cold enough to be uncomfortable for his skin. He looked around, feeling strange, as though he had traveled back in time.
The shop was built with polished mahogany, aisles upon aisles of music books lining the shelves. There were CDs up on one wall, and shelves of vinyl records in the center of the room. In one of the corners was a gramophone playing out a smooth recording of Erik Satie’s Gymnopédie No.1. At the far end of the room were booths that served as a studio and practice rooms.
“Wow,” Keith breathed out, “I like your shop.”
“Why, thank you,” Coran said proudly. “This place has been standing here for over a hundred years, started by my great-great-grandfather. Many composers and musicians have come by, from Gershwin to Bernstein, Arthur Rubinstein – a jolly good fella, if I say so myself – to Valentina Lisitsa, and now you.”
Keith blinked. “You know who I am?”
“Ohohoho, you’ve been the talk of the town lately, young man.” He walked to one end of the room and pulled out a CD. There on the front, was Keith with his eyes ablaze as he poured out his emotions on the piano. “An amazing recording of Chopin’s Ballade in G , if I do say so myself. It really gets into the gut like a punch and pulls at the heartstrings like a lasso. You were quite splendid.”
“Thank you,” Keith said as he turned red at the compliment. Despite having made several recording, Keith still wasn't used to being known by complete strangers nor was he really aware of how famous he was in the classical music world. There was a pause, and then he asked hesitantly, “Does Lance know about me?”
Coran raised an eyebrow. “He hasn’t noticed yet. Nay, I believe he isn't interested in classical music. Would you like him to know?”
“No!” Keith said quickly, “I mean, I don’t want it to be a secret, but I don’t really want it to be known. It’s easier for him to think that I’m just a pianist rather than one who’s… famous or something.”
“Well, then I won’t say a word.” Coran winked. Keith smiled at that.
He looked back down at the CD in his hands and sighed. It was a live recording, so even the mistakes were there. Not that he often made mistakes; just that he didn’t like an imperfect performance. But then again, perfectionism was a myth and if a musician walked down that path, it would soon turn into a downward spiral.
“Oh hey! You're pretty early!”
Keith slammed the CD back onto the shelf with a resounding crack and whirled around to face Lance. He winced internally. He was probably gonna pay for that.
Lance grinned as he ushered the two behind him. Keith glanced at the clock. “I’m on time.”
Lance stared at him in confusion. “What? No, it’s half an hour before three.”
“Yes?” Keith raised an eyebrow at his confusion. “What’s wrong with that?”
“Nothing. Just-” Lance stopped and shook his head. “Forget it. Anyway!” He pushed the short girl and the big guy in front of him. “Mullet, meet Pidge and Hunk! Resident gremlin and best bud in the universe respectively!”
With a glare, Pidge elbowed Lance sharply and stepped forward, sticking out a hand. “Lemme guess, your name’s not really mullet, is it?”
“It’s Keith,” He said as he shook her hand.
Pidge looked back at Lance. “You totally forgot his name, didn’t you?”
“No, he didn’t forget,” Keith said, “he never even asked.”
Hunk and Pidge looked back and forth between a smug - if slightly miffed - Keith and an awkward Lance, and guffawed.
“Ha ha. Very funny,” Lance said sarcastically, dragging his friends towards the studio. “Anyhoo! Lots of things to do, music to make, time waits for no one and all that jazz so - yeah! Let’s get this show on the road!”
And with that, he promptly shoved his bandmates inside the practice room before slamming the door behind them.
“So!” Lance clapped his hands. “Do you know any jazz styles?”
Keith blinked at him. The wide grin that Lance had plastered on his face faltered and then dropped into a disappointed frown. “Okay, so you don't.”
“I listened to some recordings on the way here.” Keith shrugged. “Practiced a bit and stuff.”
Lance lit up. “Well, that's more than okay!”
As Lance prattled on about different jazz styles and how each one felt different, Keith zoned out, one ear listening listlessly as he stared at him.
Lance was a spotlight, Keith decided. A young man who shone so bright, he could light up a room with his mere presence alone. But he was also one who belonged under the spotlight, with his charisma working like a charm to the eyes.
Lance was the lead on the stage, and for the first time, the concert pianist was the captivated audience.
“Keith, are you even listening?” Lance said, snapping his fingers under his nose.
“Uh...” Was the unintelligible answer.
“Whatever. You do know ‘Call Me Maybe’, right?” As Keith gave him another blank look, Lance felt his confidence crumbling. “Please tell me you at least know some sort of popular music or movie.”
Seeing as Keith preferred listening to music written by dead people from well over 100 years ago, he didn't think that was the answer Lance was looking for. “I know Star Wars? The one where the alien dude with pointy ears goes ‘may the force be with you’ and holds up his hand in some weird gesture.”
Apparently, that was the wrong thing to say because both Pidge and Lance looked at him as though he had killed a puppy.
He raised an eyebrow. “What?”
“That's… You've got them wrong,” Lance whined, with a pained expression on his face. “That’s Spock, and he along with the hand thing are from Star Trek.”
“Aren't they the same?”
Once again: the wrong thing to say, because this time Lance dramatically shrieked and said, “I can't believe you've betrayed me like this! I didn't think we'd hit a snag in our relationship this early. You've betrayed me! Dios mio, tengo un idiota para un amigo .”
“What are you saying?” Keith's ears burned. How was he supposed to know that confusing two movies was where Lance drew the line when half of the stuff that came out of his mouth didn't even make any sense.
“Alright! That's it!” Lance slapped his knee to emphasize his point. “Once we're done, you're getting a movie marathon!”
Keith could only gape as Lance moved on to the next topic as if he hadn’t just dropped a bombshell on him. They had just met! Correction: Lance wasn't a spotlight; he was a freaking whirlwind and Keith was (unfortunately) caught in the momentum that appeared to defy Newton’s first law of motion.
“Since mullet is still new to this scene, let’s start with something simple.” Lance pulled out a folder from his backpack and took out a bunch of music sheets, putting them on the piano stand.
Keith raised an eyebrow. “Tennessee Whiskey? You know we need another voice for that, right?”
Lance just grinned expectantly at him. Keith gave him a deadpan expression. “No.”
“Aw, c’mon Keith, you can’t deny that you have a nice voice!” Lance whined. “I mean, I know I can sing but yours is another quality!”
“Why can’t you just sing with Hunk or Pidge?” Keith protested.
“Uhh, no thanks. I already get anxiety playing on stage as it is,” Hunk said nervously. “Singing up front? No-go, bro.”
Pidge just looked at him dead in the eye and sang the first few lines of the song terribly out of tune.
Keith sighed as Lance kept grinning. “So, yeah or yeah?”
“Fine,” Keith grumbled. “But just this once! Only one song!”
“Yup! Got it!” Lance chirped. Keith just barely knew him, but somehow he knew Lance wasn’t going to live up to his promises.
Facing the piano, he began playing the first few bars of the piece. But, just before the singer would come in, Lance stopped him. “Okay, dude you’ve got it all wrong.”
Keith’s eyebrow twitched. He glared at Lance. “How did I get it wrong? I played all the notes correctly.”
“That’s the thing! You aren’t supposed to play everything,” Lance said, “You gotta leave some spaces to improvise, to play that honky-tonk feel thing on the piano.”
Keith stared at him, his words making sense, but at the same time, not. Looking over the score once more, he started again. This time, he closed his eyes and imagined how the music shaped.
Well, more like, he imagined what Lance would do.
The notes were clumsy, he stumbled on the rhythm, but it was unmistakably jazz blues.
“Used to spend my nights out at the barroom.
Liquor was the only love I’ve known.”
Keith’s eyes flew open as Lance sang. His voice was smooth and filled with warmth.
“But you rescued me from reachin’ for the bottom.
And brought me back from being too far gone.”
Still playing the chords, he snuck a peek at Lance. The boy was grinning as he sang, hands resting idly on his guitar. For some reason, that image sent Keith blushing and turning back. His turn was coming up.
“You’re as smooth,” Keith sang in harmony with Lance, “As Tennessee whiskey.”
Nervousness built up, but it wasn’t performance anxiety. It was the connection between the two voices.
“You’re as sweet as strawberry wine.”
No, Keith refused to lock gazes with Lance. This was embarrassing enough as it is.
“You’re as warm as a glass of brandy.
And honey I stay stoned on your love all the time.”
Once again, he butchered his piano solo, but it was better than the first time. They repeated the chorus, and then stopped quietly.
No one spoke for a moment.
“I think we’ve just completed our group,” Hunk said at last.
“Yeah,” Lance said, gazing at Keith with an indecipherable look, “I think we did.”
Closing the piano lid with a quiet click, Keith released his breath. He looked down at his gloved fingers and raised an eyebrow. How did he not take them off beforehand? Glancing at the three others who were busy talking amongst themselves, Keith awkwardly lingered before he shrugged and headed for the door.
Suddenly, a hand grabbed the back of his collar. “Hey, hey, hey, where do you think you're going?”
Keith said hesitantly, “Uhhh… Home?”
Lance looked at him, scandalized. “Oh no, you don't! We're going back to my dorm and we're marathoning all the Star Wars episodes."
Before Keith could say anything, Lance had already dragged him outside with a cheery ‘bye’ to Coran before pushing him into the backseat of Hunk's car and climbing in behind. Pidge rode shotgun and Hunk drove them to his and Lance's dorm.
“I hope you don't murder me on the way and dump my body on the side of the road,” Keith mumbled, brain still whirling from what had just transpired in the last 2 minutes.
“No way, man,” Lance said airily, “Hunk's a saint and he'd rat us out to the first cop he sees.”
“That was a compliment, my dude,” Lance said as he patted Hunk's shoulder. “Pidge though - she's another story. I'm pretty sure she could make your murder look like an accident.”
Keith stared at Lance who looked passively back at him. He couldn't tell if he was joking or not. He snuck a peek at Pidge who met his gaze in the rearview mirror and grinned. Deeming them weirdos, Keith gave them a skeptical look and settled back. Weird or not, they (aka Lance) had dragged him into their social circle with no inkling of ever letting him go. And at that moment, he wasn't sure if he wanted to stay cooped up in the practice room or step outside with them.
“Wait, the fourth movie is the first episode?”
Keith stared at the titles displayed on the TV screen in utter bafflement.
“Yup. They released the prequels after the first three Star Wars movies,” Lance explained as he clicked the remote, switching from one title to another.
Keith frowned. “So do we watch it in order of movie release or the Star Wars chronological timeline?”
Pidge and Hunk piped up "chronological order" as Lance shouted "movie release order". Keith gave them a blank look as the Garrison Trio glared at each other and began arguing amongst themselves. Finally, Lance pointed at him and said, “Keith, be a tiebreaker and decide which one of us is right.”
“Well... Pidge looks like she’s smarter than you, so I’d go with her.” Keith shrugged.
Pidge crowed at her victory while Lance just stared at him with utter betrayal. “How dare you do this to our friendship.”
Keith shrugged again and then grinned when Lance turned his back on him with a pout. As Hunk brought in his cookies and several soda bottles, the four of them quickly settled down on the couch while ‘The Phantom Menace’ began playing on the screen.
Maybe he was too self-conscious, but Keith couldn’t help but feel his shoulder burning with the slight brush against Lance’s as the comical boy leaned into him and gave commentary throughout the movie. Normally, Keith would snap back whenever Shiro or Adam talked while a film was playing, but with Lance, it was different. He couldn’t help but smile and even let out a few snickers here and there at Lance’s reactions and mutterings of Spanish swear words under his breath.
“Apparently, John Williams took influence from Korngold’s Kings Row for Star Wars' main theme , ” Keith whispered to Lance. He had looked up the composer of the film’s music and recognized the name.
Lance raised an eyebrow. “How do you know?”
“It's literally copied and pasted. Listen to it some time.”
Lance blinked and then snorted. “You’re such a nerd.”
“Not as much as you.”
Pidge glared at them and the two boys quickly clammed up. But not before exchanging looks and chuckling.
They were halfway through ‘Revenge of The Sith’ when Keith realized that his phone had been buzzing crazily for the past two minutes. He pulled it out and looked at the screen.
“Oh,” Keith said with no remorse whatsoever. It was Shiro. “Hello?”
“Do you realize what time it is now?” Shiro berated from the other end. “Where are you? Do you know how worried I was? You gave no explanation as to where you were going this afternoon! Have you been doing drugs or smoking weed? I swear, Keith if -”
“Yeah, okay I'm heading back, love you too, bye,” Keith said monotonously, and then ended the call. Several angry bubbles popped up from his messenger. “I have to go,” Keith said ruefully and was surprised that he felt regretful for leaving so early.
Lance got up with him, waving the other two off. Waiting for Keith to gather his things, Lance walked him to the front door. Shoving his hands inside his jeans pockets, he asked, “Can’t your brother let you stay for a little bit longer? Or until the movie’s over?”
Keith shook his head. “To be honest, I didn’t even tell him I was gonna stay out this late - this is actually my first time hanging out without telling my brother.”
“Wait, seriously?” Lance gaped at him. “Like, you didn’t even have sleepovers?”
“None that I can remember.”
“Seriously?” Lance clapped his hand on Keith’s shoulder. “You know what; next time, let’s have a sleepover and watch all the movies.”
Excitement simmered inside him. Along with that habitual feeling of- “But I have to practice.”
“Dude, one night of not practicing is not gonna kill you.” Lance rolled his eyes.
As his phone buzzed again insistently, Keith’s lips quirked up into a lopsided grin. “I guess. Well, see you.”
Lance waved goodbye as he watched Keith walk down the corridor and inside the lift, silver doors sliding close.
What Shiro expected as he waited behind the front door was a Keith who was either stoned or drunk. What he did not expect was the humming of the Star Wars theme to go along with a smile on his brother's face.
“Where have you been?” Shiro asked in a voice of attempted demand that ended up just downright curious. Keith froze for a second and then slowly closed the door behind him. Suspicious.
“Nowhere.” He took his shoes off. “Just outside.” He beelined for his bedroom. “Hanging out.” He opened the door. “With friends,” Keith mumbled the last part.
“You have friends?” Shiro said, and promptly winced at his tone of disbelief as Keith turned to glare at him.
Adam popped his head into the room, eyebrows raised. “Should we open the champagne? Is this a cause for celebration?”
“You guys are the worst!” Keith snapped and slammed his door shut as Shiro and Adam tried to smother their laughter.
“Okay Keith, sorry I promise I won’t laugh anymore,” Shiro said after calming down, following his brother inside his room. He smiled warmly. “Did you have fun?”
Keith paused, and with a small grin, he said quietly, “Yeah, I guess did.”
It wasn’t long after that that Lance dumped on his lap almost a hundred years of jazz styles in books and records. His only explanation being, “Master these by the next time we rehearse. Because our pick’s gonna be random.”
And two days later, they did just that. It was relentless and random, jumping from one song to another, never settling in one style for long. Any new member would go mad trying to catch up with the group’s tight-knit connection and knowledge of jazz styles, from blues to swing to soul and more. But Keith wasn’t just anybody. He may be a classical musician, but with his gift, it was easy for him to quickly get the changes, switching instantaneously with the three as though he had played with them for years.
They finally settled with 4 songs in the first set and an additional 3 in the second, bringing in Coran for the other instrumental background. All too soon, it was their night - and Keith’s first gig.
“Hey, sorry I’m late.”
Lance rolled his eyes. “Dude, chillax, you’re 30 minutes early and… it… hasn’t…”
Keith shrugged off his jacket, revealing a black dress shirt that accented his torso and black pants that- Lance quickly snapped his eyes up before he could follow the curve of his body's lower region.
His red tie hung loosely, possibly from him rushing. His hair, while still in the awful mullet, was slicked back, giving Lance a clearer view of his grey-violet eyes.
Pidge and Hunk exchanged looks and then snickered behind the stricken boy’s back.
Keith paused as he felt eyes on him and looked sharply at Lance. “What?”
“Nothing!” Lance squeaked. He cleared his throat and said in a strained voice, “You clean up nicely, samurai.”
Keith stared wide-eyed at him, before furrowing his brows and saying awkwardly, “Uhm, thanks. You do too, I guess.”
“Oh, this?” Lance chuckled nervously. He was dressed in a crisp white button down, rolled up at the sleeves, with brown slacks and suspenders. The ensemble was completed with oxford shoes and his classic fedora. He twirled around and winked. “Razzle dazzle time.”
Keith stared at him blankly and then snorted. “You’re such a dork.”
“Hey what’s that supposed to mean!”
But then Lance apparently noticed something lacking in Keith’s outfit because the next thing he knew, the boy was right in his face, going, “No no no no, dude, where are your gloves?”
“My gloves?” Keith scrunched eyebrows in confusion. “Why do I need those?”
“For your image!” Lance exclaimed, gesturing to all of him. “We can't have a classic bad boy emo pianist without fingerless gloves.”
Keith stared at him as though he had grown two heads. “Classic bad boy what ?”
“C’mon, your gloves,” Lance insisted. “Or else we're gonna have to go to Target, buy you some gloves and cut off the ends.”
Keith rolled his eyes and pulled them out from his pocket. He flexed his fingers as he put them on, adjusting the leather. He was suddenly hit with a sense of unease. The gloves weren't just there to keep his palms warm, they were a suppressor - keeping his emotions in check. At least to him, they were. According to Shiro, it was just mere superstition, don't be ridiculous Keith. Well, if Shiro would criticize his fashion choices, then Keith had some words to share on his forelock.
Lance surveyed him, eyes running down his figure and Keith felt pinned under his gaze, skin pricking and heating up as Lance examined him.
“Great!” Lance said in a tight voice, “Now you're stage-ready. Aside from that horrid mullet of yours.”
Again, Keith rolled his eyes. Apparently, there was a lot of eye rolling going on with Lance around. They stood side by side as they waited for the first band to finish.
On first glance, Keith seemed composed with his neutral expression and relaxed shoulders. But as Lance looked a little closer, he could see the nervous twitching of his fingers and his shallow breathing.
“Hey man, you need to breathe.” Lance nudged him. Keith nudged him back, but nonetheless, pursed his lips and took oxygen in a little deeper and slower until it evened out.
Lance gave him an encouraging smile. “You'll be fine. With my shining stage presence, no one will even look at you twice.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Keith replied flatly.
Lance snorted but said, “Don't worry too much. Besides, you've got me.”
“Exactly the reason why I'm worried,” Keith was quick to reply as he marched forward to the stage while the previous group finished their set.
Lance was left gaping as Keith took to the stage before then snapping out of it. “Rude!”
Waiting for the band to set up, Keith mimed on the piano, ghosting his fingers lightly over the keys. He looked over to the bar, observing the space. The stage wasn’t really a stage, it was more of a platform slightly elevated, so there was a sense of closeness between the performers and the audience. The bar gave off a rustic vibe with the smell of beer and chips sticking to the red brick walls.
“Oh, Keith?” Keith looked up from his sheets and peeked over to Pidge who was twirling some sort of paintbrush drumstick in her hand. “Stay on your toes. This won’t be the same as when we practiced,” She said with a dangerous glint in her eyes.
Keith raised an eyebrow. Of course, the performance would never be the same as the rehearsal, so he didn’t really need the warning. Nevertheless, “Got it.”
“Good evening, ladies, gentlemen, and all those in between,” Lance greeted, smooth voice carrying over the bar. Keith knew Lance had that aura that magnetically pulled people towards him, but he didn’t know the full effect until now as the bar literally cheered, vibrating off the walls.
Keith couldn’t look away as Lance laughed, waving to the crowd. “I know you’re all curious about the piano man, but you can get his number later, yeah?”
And with that, Lance turned towards them and nodded his head.
Keith began to play, twinkling trills from his right hand.
“I threw a wish in a well,” Lance sang slowly, “Don’t ask, I’ll never tell.”
Lance locked eyes with Keith. “I looked at you as it fell, and now you’re in my way.”
And then the upbeat rhythm came in as Lance started swaying his hips, “Your stare was holding, ripped jeans skin was showing, hot night wind was blowing-”
He smirked to the crowd, “Where’d you think you’re going, baby?”
And then the whole band comes in, the bass bringing in the deep rhythm. Keith couldn’t stop the grin consuming his face. Sure, he was just playing chords, but this was different. Where he felt consuming fire inside when he played in the halls, he now felt electricity crackling on his skin, spreading goosebumps everywhere in its wake.
The crowd was cheering, and he couldn’t keep his eyes off Lance.
“So call me maybe, hey!” Lance twirled around and then suddenly pointed at Keith, deliberately settling the spotlight onto him. “Hit it, samurai!”
Keith’s eyes widened. This was not part of the rehearsal, dammit!
With a groan and a what the heck, screw it! Keith dove into an improvisation, running up and down the keys, skipping notes and stealing the melody from the song, switching up the rhythm. It wasn’t as ‘jazzy-y’ as he would’ve liked, but whatever.
As he finished off with a flourish, the whole bar went wild. Keith started and nearly missed his next cue. This was his first time performing where the audience was cheering during his performance.
It was different, sure, but it was also exhilarating. He couldn't help but grin. This was going to take some time to get used to.
And for the first time, Keith didn't feel lonely when he performed.
“And all the other boys, try to chase me.” Lance cocked his hip with a ‘call me’ gesture, winking at the crowd, “But here’s my number. So call me maybe?”
The bar roared at the end, cheers and whistles ringing out as Lance took a bow. “Are you guys having a great time tonight?”
He grinned at the enthusiastic reply. “As many of you may have noticed, there’s something different about our group today.”
Lance gestured to Keith who waved shyly at the crowd. “Meet our newest member; Keith! Don’t be fooled by his mullet, because he’s actually a pretty decent player.”
The crowd laughed, some people wolf-whistling. Keith felt his ears burn. It was a welcoming reception - with a few questionable catcalls here and there.
This was different. But a good different that he could get used to.
“Now for our next song, we'll be playing Make It Rain ,” Lance said as he hung the strap of his guitar around his neck, fiddling with the controls. “Stick around since we've got a lot more to go for the whole night.”
Saying goodbye to the audience, the four of them left the stage and headed for the bar.
“That-” Keith whirled around and poked Lance on the chest, “was not what we rehearsed.”
“I know, my bad, my bad. Sorry ‘bout that,” Lance said, not sounding at all sorry. “But, Keith, you gotta realize that nothing ever follows what we practiced when we go on stage.”
“I didn’t expect you to give me an improvised part!” Keith protested. “That was totally uncalled for!”
Pidge came in between them, pushing the two apart. “That’s why I told you to stay on your toes; Lance always does that.”
She shot a glare at the lead singer. “And you. You have to realize that this was Keith’s first gig. What if he froze up?”
“I don't freeze up!”
“Well, if you want them to learn, you gotta throw them to the sharks.” Lance shrugged. His two bandmates gave him equally unimpressed looks. “What? He played, didn’t he? And he was great too.”
“You don’t understand!” Keith threw up his hands in the air. “I could’ve done better! I played so many wrong notes!”
Lance gave him a confused stare. “But there’s no right or wrong notes in improvisation. That’s what it’s about, isn’t it?”
Keith opened his mouth to protest, but then closed it. Begrudgingly, he said, “Well, you’re technically correct-”
“Of course I am!” Lance interrupted smugly.
Keith poked him in the side of his ribs, earning a squeal from the boy. “But I could’ve made it better.”
Lance hid behind Pidge, a pout on his lips. “You could’ve, but what’s fun with that? It’s written out, it’s robotic, it isn’t from inside. You plan it. But if you don’t write it out, it’ll be different and more genuine.”
Keith was speechless. He had his point, but from someone else who wasn't a full-time musician, it was a surprise. The people he talked to who weren't musicians either didn't know or didn't even bother.
“You sure are something, huh,” Keith muttered to himself.
“What was that?”
“I said you're still annoying.”
“What did I ever do to you, mullet?”
“Let me give you a list-”
Pidge and Hunk stood off to the side, observing their banter, before Pidge whispered to Hunk, “10 bucks say they're gonna choke each other within two weeks.”
“First off, ew.” Hunk shuddered at her hidden innuendo. “Second off, if I know my best friend, I'd say two days.”
They shook hands on it. Seeing that their quarrel wasn't going to let up anytime soon, Pidge called out, “Can you two stop flirting so we can go get pizza at Vrepit Sal’s?”
“We're not flirting!” Lance and Keith protested, comically at the same time.
“Right. And aliens are out there.”
Lance shook his head in mock pity. “Pidge, there is no such thing as aliens.”
“You don’t know that.” Surprisingly, it was Keith who interjected.
Lance stared at him in horror. “Not you too! Don’t tell me you’re also one of those conspiracy theorists.”
Pidge grinned as she high-fived Keith. “We travel in packs, Lance. We were bound to meet sooner or later.”
Lance groaned and stomped away, dragging Hunk by the arm. “C’mon, my normal best friend. Let’s go and leave these two weirdos behind.”
“Don’t be such a disbeliever, Lance!”
“There’s nothing to disbelieve if there’s nothing there!”
Pidge turned to Keith. “Don’t worry about him. Sooner or later, he’s gonna come around.”
“More like never.” Keith snorted. Pidge just shrugged and the two followed onward to Vrepit Sal’s.
“Pineapple on pizza? Really?”
“Like you’re any better, putting anchovies on yours!”
Pidge facepalmed, groaning in frustration. “I take back the offer. They couldn’t even last a minute. These two getting along is as impossible as me getting abducted by aliens.”
Hunk just patted her shoulder in sympathy.
okay, so I may be slightly obsessed with PMJ (as you may have already seen in the Youtube playlist)(no but seriously, they're so good)
also, I have never watched Star Wars...so uhhh...
Chapter 3: Pesante
If you close your eyes and let the music play
Keep our love alive, I'll never fade away
Two days had passed since their first performance, and Keith was still high on the adrenaline of that night. He shivered at the cold wind and pulled up his scarf - the winter chill was coming, but all he felt was warm on the inside. Pushing open the Voltron doors, he called out, “Lance, I want my regular.”
Keith stopped only to see Hunk grinning at him as he held a tray of freshly baked pastries. Walking up to the register, Keith asked, “Where's Lance?”
“He has midterms coming up, so he'll be cramming until next week,” Hunk said, “So it'll just be me for a while.” Keith tried not to let his disappointment show, but it seemed that Hunk was more perceptive than he thought. “Why? Were you expecting a sexy Cuban singer instead of a Hunk?” Hunk inquired with a teasing grin.
“I was not!” Keith countered, subconsciously crossing his arms. “I'm just glad to not have to see his face this early in the morning.”
“Right,” Hunk drawled. “So what're you having?”
“Blueberry pancakes and hot coffee,” Keith said as he leaned on the counter. He watched with interest as Hunk worked on it. Unlike Lance who just took it out from the glass, Hunk actually made it.
“So, Lance, huh?”
Keith jumped and snapped his eyes to Hunk who just whistled to himself. He responded carefully, “I don't know what you're talking about.”
“Really?” Hunk gave him a side-eye glance. “Either you're lying to me, or you don't realize the looks you give him.”
“What looks?” Keith said. “The only looks I spare for him are glares that come with a wish that he’d stop talking for one minute.”
“Sure, if those looks aren't also laced with you finding his talking endearing.” Hunk grinned as he flipped the pancake. “I mean, I don't blame you; if I wasn't straight, I'd also have a crush on him.”
“I don't have a crush on Lance!” Keith said in a strangled voice.
Hunk’s face fell. “You don't?”
“I don't,” Keith insisted, “And even if I did, nothing's gonna happen; he's as straight as a ruler!”
“Sure, if you mean those plastic bendy ones.”
Keith paused. “What do you mean?”
Hunk piled the last pancake on the plate and sprinkled powdered sugar on top. “I'm saying that Lance isn't as straight as you think he is. Oh man, you should've seen him with his crush on Orlando Bloom when he watched Lord of the Rings. He even bought a poster and bid it goodnight before he’d go to sleep.” He shook his head in fond exasperation. They were childhood friends; Hunk knew Lance better than Lance knew himself. When Keith said nothing, Hunk looked over his shoulder and grinned. The boy was as red as cherry pie as he took in the revelation.
“But Lance couldn’t possibly like me in that way.” He refused to meet his eyes. “He’s just so… Lance.”
As though that explained everything - which, in a way, it did - Hunk hummed in agreement. “Lance may be a total flirt, but he’s completely oblivious to when people actually fancy him, even if it’s so obvious.”
“I'm not obvious!”
“I didn't say you were, buddy,” Hunk said with a grin. “What did you think I was saying?”
With a groan, Keith took his tray and headed to his regular seat. He wasn’t going to take the bait. Hunk might come across as an easy going guy, but he should have known that he was going to be shrewd when it came to Lance related matters.
“So, Keith, huh?”
Lance pulled the pencil that he was biting out from his mouth and grimaced at the teeth marks. He twisted to look at Pidge who was on the floor, blankets and pillows were strewn around her like a makeshift nest. “What are you talking about?”
“Don't think I didn't see you drooling over Keith's ass the other day.”
“I was not drooling!”
“Right, and my name isn’t Katie Holt.”
“Your name is not Katie Holt; it’s Pidge.”
Pidge took a moment to look up at him from underneath her glasses. “Stop denying it.”
“Stop denying what?” Lance said, perplexed. “What am I denying?”
She searched his eyes, a panicked realization settling in. “Please don’t tell me you don’t have a clue.”
Deciding that he’d rather pass his class than solve the mysteries of a genius’ thoughts, Lance turned back to his textbook.
But just then, his phone rang. Lance looked at the caller's ID and lit up. Pidge raised an eyebrow. “Who is it?”
“The love of my life.” Lance grinned. Answering the call, he said giddily, “Hey, princess.”
Pidge blanked out for a second and then remembered. And grimaced as she did. Damn, I forgot about that.
Pidgeon: he is an oblivious man and I am in disbelief
Hunkahunk: I am so sorry for my best friend
Pidgeon: also how did we forget that the princess still lives
Hunkahunk: Oh no.
Lance groaned. He stared down at his notes, then groaned some more. Planting his face on his pillow, he wondered if he could die from suffocation and not take the exams.
With a sigh, he opened his phone. Scrolling through his contacts, he paused at her name and then clicked on it. Scrolling through their messages, he smiled at that. Their exchange was sweet and polite.
But that was all.
As he went further down, it grew scarcer until all they had were once a month or once every two months type of thing. And she wouldn't even reply until 3 days or a week later.
And the thing was, it was always him who was the first to reach out.
Lance looked at the last message he sent her.
Hey princess, when are you coming back?
I miss you <3 <3 <3
I miss you too, Lance.
With a sigh, he shook his head. It was no use dwelling in doubts. After all, that was what destroyed relationships. Looking through his contacts, he grinned as he saw another name. He pressed call.
Lance flopped on his back as he stretched his legs above him. “Hey mullet, you free?”
A pause. “Why?”
“I'm bored,” Lance drawled as he twisted his legs, “Come over.”
“... I gotta practice, and don't you have exams next week?”
“Well, yeah. But y'know, all study and no play makes Lance a dull boy,” Lance said, “And all practice and no having fun with friends will make you a sad old man.”
He heard Keith snort on the other end. “I think you got it wrong.”
“Whatever, mullet. Come over,” Lance insisted.
“Am I supposed to entertain you?”
“Yep,” Lance chirped. He could practically feel Keith roll his eyes.
“Fine. I'll see you in 15 minutes.” And with that, Keith ended the call.
Lance gazed at the screen for a few moments. Their exchange was only a few seconds long, but for some reason, those few seconds were better than an hour long conversation with her.
He felt guilty but didn't know why. Keith was just a friend. Keith understood him in a way she didn't. So of course, he liked to spend time with his friend. That was normal, wasn't it?
30 minutes later, there was a knock at his door. Lance crossed the room and swung open the door, gasping with delight at the pizza box in Keith's hands.
“Did I tell you how much I love you?” Lance said as he made grabbing motions with his hands.
Keith rolled his eyes, cheeks flushed red, probably from the cold outside. “You're only saying that cause I brought food.”
“You know me so well,” Lance purred, taking the box from his hands and ushering him in. Closing the door, he said, “You wanna play video games?”
“Are you done studying?” Keith interjected as he hung his coat and scarf on the rack.
Lance gaped at him. “Why are you like this?”
“I'm Asian,” Keith said flatly. His poker face broke into a grin and then he doubled over, laughing. “Chill, Lance, I was kidding.”
Lance sniffed and marched on his bed. “Rude. You aren't getting any pizza.”
“I'm the one who bought the pizza.”
“You only get one slice.”
Keith snorted and climbed onto the bed with him. Setting down the box on the covers, Lance pulled out the controls and started up the game.
“Don't you have some studying to do?” Keith said as he opened the box and took out a slice.
Lance stuck out his tongue. Grabbing a bite, he stuffed it in his mouth and said, “If I read one more word about quantum mechanics, I will die.”
“No, you won't,” Keith said.
“No, I won't but just let me be dramatic over here mullet.” Wiping off the crumbs on his jeans, they began to play. Five minutes in, and Lance had already won two times.
“Bro, you suck,” Lance said in disbelief.
“Shut up. You're the one who wanted to play this stupid game,” Keith grumbled.
After winning for the fifth time in a row, Lance put down the controls. “Damn, I didn't think you'd be bad at something.”
“Well, sorry for not being perfect.” Keith scowled, his bottom lip jutting out. Lance found that cute before forcefully pushing that thought away.
Lance shook his head. “Nah, man. That just makes you more human and more of a wannabe emo instead.”
Shoving the rest of his pizza in his mouth, Lance pulled out his guitar.
“Did you wash your hands?”
Lance paused and looked at Keith. With his mouth full, he asked, “Why do I need to wash my hands?”
Keith looked absolutely scandalized. “Why - don't tell me you’ve never washed your hands before - I can't believe - I don't even want to know - go wash your hands!”
Lance groaned and headed for the bathroom.
“And don't forget to use soap!”
“ Yes , mom ,” Lance said as he switched on the tap and let the water run over his hands. “Seriously, you're worse than Hunk, and he wouldn't even let me go ten feet near his cooking without clean hands.”
“And he's right. Your guitar is gonna have pizza oil on the strings and then get sticky and then it’s gonna smell and rot ‘cause it's made of wood.”
Lance wrinkled his nose. Okay, that was not something he wanted to see.
“Did you dry your hands?” Keith asked suspiciously.
“Yes,” Lance insisted as he crawled back on the mattress, hands finally clean and dry. Grabbing his guitar, he leaned down on the pillows and strummed the strings. “Any song requests?”
Keith shrugged his shoulders. “Up to you. I don't mind anything.”
Lance hummed as he leaned back and stared at the ceiling. Finally decided, he began to sing. “ Recuérdame hoy me tengo que ir mi amor… Recuérdame, no llores por favor.”
Closing his eyes, he delved into the song. “Te llevo en mi corazón y cerca me tendrás. A solas yo te cantaré soñando en regresar...”
“Recuédame.” Lance looked out the window and into the sky. “Aunque tenga que emigrar… Recuérdame, si mi guitarra oyes llorar.”
“Ella con su triste canto te acompañará. Hasta que en mis brazos estés,” Lance looked at Keith. “Recuérdame.”
The last note hung in the air. The two looked at each other, Keith with a soft gaze and Lance in contemplation.
WHY DO YOU BUILD ME UP BUTTERCUP BABY
Both the boys jumped as Lance's ringtone pierced the air. Lance grabbed his phone and smiled at the name.
Keith asked, “Who is it?”
“My girlfriend,” Lance said excitedly as he answered with an enthusiastic, “Hey, princess.”
As he talked with her, Lance didn't notice the way Keith's face fell a fraction. He didn't notice the way Keith gazed at him, only distractedly hearing, “You know, I actually have somewhere to get to so I gotta go.”
Lance’s head whipped up to look at him, mouth open in protest. But before getting anything out, the person from the other end of the line was already inquiring him. Lance could only watch as Keith slipped on his shoes and walked out the door, not ever once looking back.
Keith closed the door to his practice room and sighed. Sliding down, he brought up his knees and wrapped his arms around himself.
Of course. Of course, Lance would have a girlfriend. What was he expecting?
For someone so amazing, it'd be ridiculous for anyone to not have fallen in love with him.
He gazed at his piano, gleaming under the sunset. With the melody of a piece ringing in his ears, he got up and walked to it.
Sitting down on the stool, he looked at the keys in a daze. Without taking off his gloves, he lifted his hands and began to play.
They're writing songs of love, but not for me
Lucky stars above, but not for me
Keith felt burning in his eyes as he looked out the window, and then laughed at himself. It was just a simple crush.
With love to lead the way, I’ve found more clouds of gray
than any Russian play can guarantee
It was better, them being friends.
Chapter 4: Agitato
"Oh yes, my loved treasure, I knew it full soon;
It was the grey willow that danced to the moon."
A few weeks had passed and the group was steadily growing closer to Keith, albeit he’d always been busy with whatever it was he was doing, but they didn’t question it. They were also quite preoccupied with college and part-time jobs, so it was understandable.
Meeting two times a week, the Garrison Trio renamed themselves to Voltron, after the cafe that Lance worked part-time in. The group disagreed at first, but it was either that or Jazz Rangers, so they complied.
And with every session, Keith grew a little fonder of the group, his shoulders dropped their tension, and his face smiled a bit more. He spent more time with them, even going out on days when they didn’t have practice, just to hang out, most of the time, with Lance in the coffee shop. Even if his one-sided crush did hurt sometimes.
During rehearsals, Lance and Keith continued to bicker. But now, the bitterness was gone, replaced with teasing lilts and cocky grins.
He’d like to say that he was starting to get to know Lance a little more, but if he were truly honest, he would say that Lance was an enigma, a contradiction, a paradox. Some days Lance would be a bubbling package of sunshine. But on rare days when the sun was clouded over, he’d be subdued, smile not quite reaching his eyes. There were juniberry flowers around the cafe that Lance meticulously took care for. Sometimes, he’d talk to the flowers in a fond way.
Adding to the peculiarity of the situation, Keith would come into the studio and see Lance already there, seated at the piano, lost in thought. He would clear his throat and Lance would shriek and accuse him of jumping him when Keith had been standing there for the last minute, waiting for Lance to notice his presence.
It was only a few days of prodding Hunk and snooping around on the internet that he got a name.
Allura, Lance’s girlfriend and the former pianist of the group.
Keith gave a grunt in reply as he focused on the passage in front of him. Slow and steady.
Shiro leaned by the doorway and held up a ticket with a backstage pass. “The duo's back in New York.”
At this, Keith stopped and looked up. “Seriously?”
“Yup. The concert is tonight at 8,” Shiro said.
Keith got up and cleaned the keys while asking, “What's on the program?”
Shiro looked it up. “Poulenc's Concerto for 2 Pianos, Rachmaninoff's piano four hands arrangement on Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty, and Franz Schubert's Der Erlkönig.”
“Der Erlkönig? They have an arrangement for that?” Keith said in excitement, closing the lid with a click. Shiro nodded. “Okay, great! I'm going.”
“Tell me how it goes,” Shiro said as Keith headed for the bathroom.
Keith walked in the lobby, adjusting his suit sleeves. It was a small semi-formal concert, but it still drew in the crowd.
The performers were Allura A. and Lotor D. after all; the dynamic duo famous for their amazing synchronization and playing styles that may differ, but still compliment each other. Individually, they were amazing at their own right having won their fair share in competitions, but together, they were a force to be reckoned with.
Taking his program notes, Keith read it, raising an eyebrow at the completion of their Europe tour. He grinned at their accomplishments.
Just then, he bumped into someone's back. Rubbing his nose, he stepped away. The stranger whirled around, ready with a glare when they gawked at him.
“Lance?” Keith blinked. Lance was in a formal suit, carrying a bouquet of juniberry flowers. “What are you doing here?”
“What are you doing here?”
“I asked you first.”
“Well, I asked you second.”
“That’s not how it works.”
“I’m watching my girlfriend.”
“I’m - wait, girlfriend?” Keith stared at him. “Allura's your girlfriend?’
Lance blushed as he rubbed the back of his neck. “Uhh, yeah. Has been for a year now. It’s kinda long distance. She doesn’t know I’m here.”
An ache stabbed him in the chest. Keith cleared his throat. “Well, congratulations. I think she’ll love them.”
“Yeah.” Lance grinned, his smile was sweet as he gazed fondly at the flowers. “These are her favorite.”
Keith just nodded in reply. But there was a nagging thought at the back of his head. “I’ll be back in a few. See you around.”
Lance raised an eyebrow. “Okay.”
“By the way, you should probably give that to those ladies over there. They’ll give it to Allura for you backstage.” Keith pointed at a counter where countless bouquets lined the back.
Lance bumped his shoulder. “Of course you would know where everything goes, the piano prodigy.”
Keith rolled his eyes. He waited as Lance gave the bouquet and left to go inside the hall before walking up to the same counter and requesting for the flowers. Showing his backstage pass, he took it and headed for Allura’s room.
As Keith walked up to the door, he could hear two muffled voices on the other side. He knocked. A voice called out, “Come in.”
Keith opened the door and stepped inside. “Hello, Allura. Lotor.”
Allura looked at him in surprise. She beamed. “Keith! It’s been such a long time! How have you been?”
With her pink glittering dress swirling around her feet, she walked towards him and embraced him in a tight hug, mindful of the flowers. Coming from the same generation, it was inevitable that the three would compete in the same piano concours from an early age.
Keith smiled. “Just fine. Been practicing and playing here and there. Nothing much.”
Lotor came up to him and shook his hand. “Last time I saw you, you were competing in the Tchaikovsky competition three years ago. Congratulations, by the way.”
“And to you too, winning that first prize last year,” Keith said sincerely.
Allura spotted the flowers and gasped. “Juniberries! How did you know?”
“It isn’t mine.” Keith handed her the bouquet and said carefully, “They’re from Lance.”
Allura stared at him in shock. Keith leveled her gaze, blank and unreadable. She said softly, “Lotor, could you leave us for a moment?”
Lotor looked back and forth between them. “Of course.”
When the door shut, Allura asked, “How did you know?”
“Remember when Lance told you about getting a new pianist for his jazz group?”
“That was you? But you don’t play jazz.”
Keith shrugged. “People change and learn. I can say that jazz is something else. It’s quite fun, actually.”
There was a pause. Keith watched her fiddle with a petal. “So, Lotor, huh.”
“We’re just friends,” Allura said defensively.
“Right.” Keith nodded. “Just friends. Apparently ‘just friends’ tour around Europe together for half a year, playing duets while checking in on her boyfriend only once in a while.”
“What do you know about Lance? You’ve just met him,” Allura said angrily.
Keith kept his calm. “I know Lance more in three months than you ever did in a year.”
“You say that, but he’s my boyfriend.”
“I know you, Allura. And your relationship with Lotor.”
Allura stilled. Keith pursed his lips. “Our community is small. Word gets around. You two have been close and almost no one knows that you’re in a relationship with Lance.”
Allura whirled around, clutching the flowers to her chest. “You have no idea what I’ve been through. Lotor- he- he helped me through the years, especially when I lost my father. He is…”
Keith clenched his fists. He knew what happened. Allura was 14 years old. Alfor and his wife were on their way to Allura’s concert, but then they got in a car accident that Allura didn’t hear of until after her performance. Lotor, who watched her at the time, was the one who comforted her, having lost his own parents as well.
After that, Lotor had never left her side. Many fans had inquired them on their relationship, but their choice not to comment was always the answer. Because of that, many assumed they were in a secret relationship; the duo had never confirmed nor denied the rumors.
But she was in a relationship with Lance.
“You can’t do this to him,” Keith finally said. “You can’t do this to Lance.”
“I...” Allura bit her lip, face contorted with guilt. “I’ll talk to him.”
Keith nodded and then left the room.
Lance fidgeted in his seat as he looked around the hall. Gentlemen in suits and ladies in evening gowns adorned with elegant jewelry surrounded him and, not for the first time, he felt out of place. No matter how much he researched about classical music or their customs, he felt as though he could never be part of their world.
Lance prickled at the rude greeting only to look up and see Keith, who was eyeing the seat beside him. He raised an eyebrow. “Your seat is here?”
“It is now,” Keith said as he sat down and nonchalantly flipped through the program notes. Lance looked suspiciously at him but gave him the benefit of the doubt.
Lance leaned over Keith’s shoulder, looking at the program. “What’s the first song?”
“It’s called a piece,” Keith mumbled, “A musical work that has words, that’s called a song. But for instrumental works like these, it’s called a piece.”
He shifted uncomfortably when Lance continued to stare, and said, “You know what, forget it. Call it a song. Whatever.”
“I didn’t even say anything!” Lance threw up his arms in protest. “How was I supposed to know you were one of those-”
“One of those what ?” Keith glared at him, daring him to say what he was going to say. Which Lance correctly decided not to. “Thought so.”
“Fine, Mr.Grumpy Pants. What’s the first piece ?”
Keith rolled his eyes as he listed off the program. “Poulenc Concerto for two pianos, Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty for Piano Four Hands arranged by Rachmaninoff. And lastly, Die Erlkönig by Franz Schubert arranged for four hands.”
“I have no idea what half of those mean or who those people are,” Lance said flatly. Keith snorted and then settled back as the lights dimmed and the stage lit up.
“There she is! It’s Allura!” Lance hissed in excitement and Keith couldn’t help but grin as well. But then Lance narrowed his eyes. “And who’s that guy?”
Lotor walked out from behind her, going to the other piano, his long hair strands floating behind him. Exchanging looks, Allura and Lotor bowed to the audience and settled down to play. With the wave of the conductor’s baton, the music started.
It didn’t escape Lance’s eye how Allura and Lotor looked at each other in an intense, intimate gaze as they played. Their fingers flew across the keys, their melodies interweaving.
Allura’s sound was beautiful, and rich in an almost singing tone whereas Lotor’s was more crisp and clean with powerful snaps. Their sounds, despite being different, complemented each other in a way that was quite rare for duets, especially those who weren’t in an intimate relationship.
Keith watched from the corner of his eye as Lance clutched the end of the armchair with a grip too tight.
With the last dark chord ringing in the hall, the audience stood up in applause and cheer.
Allura and Lotor clasped their hands as they met at the middle and bowed to the audience. They exchanged grins and Lotor brought up her hand, sweetly kissing her knuckles. Allura blushed and laughed.
But then she met Lance’s gaze.
The smile wavered and guilt washed over her features, only barely being obvious as the piano duo took one last bow before leaving the stage.
Lance didn’t stick around for the encore.
Lance, are you there?
The screen illuminated his face, the shadows underneath his eyes a stark contrast on his hollow, pale face.
Lance, please talk to me.
He didn’t feel like talking. He didn’t want to talk. He felt loathsome with a crawling feeling in his guts creeping up his throat. He felt like throwing up. His limbs were heavy, his mind was busy, his heart stinging in his chest.
Please let me explain.
Was there anything to explain? There was nothing to explain. He knew those looks as it was him looking at her in that way. But now that he thought about it, he was never the recipient of that gaze.
Pidge and Keith exchanged worried looks as Hunk called Lance for the fourth time. They were already gathered in the studio, but the main act had yet to arrive.
“He's still not answering?” Pidge asked, twirling her drumsticks around and bouncing her knees.
“It's weird. He always answers the phone, especially if I'm the one calling. Actually, he's been acting weird the past few days. He didn't want me in the room so I've been bunking at Shay's place for the time being,” Hunk said. He paused and then looked at Keith. “Can you call him?”
Keith raised an eyebrow. “Why me?”
“I don't know, but I get the feeling that if it's you, he'll answer.”
With a look filled with doubt, Keith took out his phone and called him. Lance picked up by the second ring. Hunk and Pidge exchanged knowing looks.
“Um, hey,” Keith started awkwardly, then made a face at Hunk and Pidge's snickers. “I was wondering - uh...”
“Sorry, I can't come to practice right now.”
Alarm bells rang through him. It wasn't like Lance to skip on practice. “You okay?”
“I… I don't know. I mean - don't worry about me. I'll be right as rain soon so don't get your boxers up in a twist. Just keep practicing - that's what you do best, right?”
Keith grew increasingly worried at the false assurance coming from the other end of the line.
That was it. ‘I'm fine’ this, ‘I'm fine’ that. Fine was not fine.
“I'm coming over.”
And before Lance could protest some more, Keith had ended the call and gathered his things.
“Wait, you're going?” Pidge asked.
Keith nodded. “I'm guessing that after witnessing Allura and Lotor together in that concert, he didn't take it well. I gotta go before he does something stupid.”
“Wait, wait, wait, back up.” Hunk frowned. “Allura's back? And what do you mean concert? And who the hell is Lotor?”
Impatiently, Keith explained what had transpired the previous week as well as Allura and Lotor's connection, omitting the part where he knew them personally.
Pidge bit the bottom of her lip, conflict in her eyes. “As a friend, Allura is great. But she had too many secrets. Don't get me wrong, I like her. But I never believed that she and Lance would work out - he was too into her but she had more important things to think about.”
Hunk nodded in agreement. “To be honest, I get the same feeling off of you that I do from Allura-” Keith gulped. “But I also get the feeling that you care more. I dunno.”
Warmth spread within him. Keith smiled and said, “Thanks.”
“No problem.” Hunk grinned. “Now go get 'em, tiger.”
Chuckling at the cheesy cheer, Keith walked out and headed to Lance's dorm.
There was a knock at the door. Lance groaned and buried his face in his pillow. If he stayed like that, maybe he didn't have to wake up or get up and walk to the front door.
“Lance, I know you're in there!”
Curse him and his stupid mullet for caring too much.
“Lance! I'm gonna bring down this door if you don't open it.”
At that, Lance lifted up his head. He wouldn't do that, would he? He got that the cropped jacket and fingerless gloves were just a personal preference, but that bad boy image wasn't backed up by bad boy actions, right?
“One. Two. Three.”
Keith blinked as Lance glared at him, a sight to behold. The words were out of his mouth before he could think, “You look like shit.”
“Thank you, Captain Obvious,” Lance said sarcastically. “Did you just come here to insult me because I have better things to do.”
“Like what, wallow in your grief?” Keith retorted back. Lance started to close the door. “Okay, okay, I'm sorry I didn't mean to say that.”
Lance paused. Keith looked at him meekly. “Can I come in?”
With a moment of hesitance, Lance stepped aside and let him in. The room was dark, the blinds were drawn shut. Lance leaned on the door as Keith looked around, noting the scattered pieces of torn paper. Along with balls of tissue overflowing on the wastebasket.
Keith took a closer look at his friend whose eyes were bloodshot, nose red and usually well-kept hair in disarray. Dropping his bag on the floor, he slowly moved closer to him, unsure what to do. He wasn't good at these type of things. He decided on the only course of action he knew that Shiro had done for him so many times before.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
Lance's eyes widened and then he shook his head. Keith stood beside him and leaned on the door as well. He waited.
“She didn't say anything,” Lance finally spoke. “She - all this time, she was with him. I never knew. I should have known. I'm so stupid.”
Keith wanted to reach out. But he clenched his fists and kept his arms at his sides. He hated to see Lance like this - Lance was meant to smile and laugh and sing. Not to look down at the ground, with a heart full of doubt and deep-seated self-hatred. “Don't say that. Maybe they're just friends-”
“Just friends don't go cross country together. Just friends don't tour around Europe for half a year and not inform their significant other about it. Just friends,” Lance hissed, “don't look at each other in that way.”
Lance grit his teeth in frustration as another set of tears streamed down his face. He had always been an easy crier and he hated it. Sinking down, he wrapped his arms around his knees. Keith followed suit.
“We met in the hospital,” Lance started softly. “She had sprained her ankle. I was there visiting ‘cause Hunk got the flu. She tripped and fell in my arms. It was love at first sight.
“I flirted with her. Now that I think about it, she didn't take it nicely. She twisted my arm,” He laughed at that. “But she was beautiful and I was a fool in love. I got her number and we started talking. I asked her on a date.” His smile dropped. “She didn't say no. But she didn't say yes either. We were at Central Park when I confessed.
“I've always said I love you but she has never said it back.” Lance ran his hand through his hair. “That should have been a warning sign. I ignored that. I also ignored the fact that she would reply hours, or even a day, later to my texts. She'd be gone for weeks, sometimes a month. And I never questioned it.
“She was our pianist for the jazz group but she rarely ever came to practice,” Lance said, “And when she did, well… she'd have opinions on who was playing offbeat, Hunk's double bass was never in tune, Pidge's rhythm was too erratic, I never sang on time, and all that jazz.”
Keith said nothing. On one hand, Allura was right. Music required strict rhythm and perfect intonation. But when it came to jazz music, that was where she was wrong. Jazz required a different formula of playing. Where classical music was silver and gold of interweaving melodies, jazz was black and white of syncopated harmonies.
“She was different, she had always been different. She was in a world away from ours.” Lance stretched out his arm, as though reaching out. “I thought I would be able to touch her, to close the gap between us by even a millimeter. But looks like that world will forever be out of my reach.”
“But I'm right here,” Keith said, an odd hint of desperation in his voice.
Lance looked at him and smiled. “I know. Thank you.”
Keith looked crestfallen for a second, but then it was gone. “So what are you gonna do?”
“Nothing?” Lance said pathetically. “Bury myself six feet under? Let the earth come up and swallow me whole so no one will see my body's sorry excuse of a boyfriend? Or an ex-boyfriend now, I guess.”
Even in grief, he was still dramatic. “You gotta talk to her, one way or another.”
Keith roamed his eyes over the huddled figure, and asked awkwardly, “Do you want a hug?”
Lance’s head whipped up, eyes wide in surprise. He grinned. “Is this a one-time deal?”
No. You can hug me as often as you like . Keith blushed. “Yeah. Just this once.”
He opened up his arms and Lance wrapped his own around Keith’s middle. With a moment's hesitance, Keith embraced him. They stayed like that, in the quiet room, leaning on each other.
Just this once. Keith closed his eyes. If they'll work out, then… this'll be the last time.
also a little bit of angst. y'know, not too much. There's fluff though! I promise!
Chapter 5: Affettuoso
Love of my life
Love of my life
A few days later, Lance had finally found the little resolve necessary to get out of that room. He was tackled by Hunk's bear hug, Pidge's midget-sized bone crushing embrace, and a knowing smile from Keith. No one mentioned the dark bags under his eyes or his hoarse voice.
And a little after that, they had finally started practicing and performing again. Lance thought he was finally okay. They had finished their first set without a hitch and were now having some downtime before their next.
His hand tightened around his glass as the sweet voice carried over the crowd. Seems like it wasn't going to be that easy. He resisted the urge to down the drink in one go and get blackout drunk.
Taking a deep breath, he plastered on a polite smile and faced her. “Allura. I didn't guess you’d come.”
“You knew I would,” Allura said as she sat beside him. Her juniberry perfume washed over him, sending his stomach lurching at the memories of midnight serenades, early morning passions, and one-sided affections. Lance took a sip and then asked tentatively, “You alone?”
“I came with Lotor.” Just the mention of his name sent an uneasy roll in him. Allura lowered her gaze down to her hands. “Look, there's nothing going-”
“Are you sure about that?” Lance said softly. “Because, of all those months you've spent in Europe, you never mentioned him to me. No one knew you were in a relationship with someone else. Everyone thought you were with Lotor. And after that other night? So did I.”
“Lance, I can explain,” Allura pleaded, grabbing his hand.
Lance pulled away, lips in a thin line - how he even agreed to be in an ambiguous long distance relationship with her for a year, he did not know. His gaze wandered to Keith who was playing smooth blues during the break, and an idea popped in his head. Downing his drink, he pushed himself off the bar, saying to her, “Sorry Allura, but not tonight.”
Ignoring her hurt expression, he climbed up to the podium. Keith opened his eyes and raised an eyebrow. Lance mouthed the title. He nodded.
The transition was smooth as Keith switched from major chords to solemn, minor chords. Lance took the microphone and closed his eyes.
Love of my life, you've hurt me.
You've broken my heart and now you leave me.
He remembered their first date. She was dressed in a beautiful white dress. His family had accepted her warmly. After, they had taken a walk in Central Park, the lanterns casting a romantic glow around them as they kissed under the spring trees.
Love of my life, can't you see?
Bring it back, bring it back
Don't take it away from me, because you don't know
Lance looked at her. “What it means to me.”
Love of my life, don't leave me
You've stolen my love, now you desert me
Time and time again, she had to go. Practice, rehearsal, concerts overseas. She was the first to go. And Lance was left behind, waiting for her return.
You will remember
When this is blown over
Everything's all by the way
Lance felt a burning in his eyes but he refused to cry. Not on stage, not in front of the crowd, and definitely not in front of Allura.
When I grow older
I will be there at your side to remind you
How I still love you
Lance looked at the crowd, but she was gone.
I still love you
“That’s me.” Lance whirled around, only for his jaw to drop as he took in the imposing figure standing before him. “Mr. Kolivan.”
Kolivan looked down at him over the rim of his purple-tinted glasses. He held out a hand. “Kolivan from the Marmora Blues Club. I’m quite impressed by your group.”
Lance swallowed thickly as he shook his hand. “Thanks. I’m glad you enjoyed the show.”
“I was wondering if you’d be interested in doing a gig in our club?” Kolivan asked, handing over a business card. Lance’s hands shook slightly as he accepted.
Seeing that his friend was too overwhelmed to respond, Keith stepped up and said sincerely, “We’d be honored.”
Kolivan gave him a once-over and raised an eyebrow. Keith stiffened. For a moment, he was terrified that Kolivan might have recognized him. But when the man only confirmed with them the time and date, he let out the breath he was holding.
“I look forward to seeing your show,” Kolivan said and then left.
Immediately, Lance gripped Keith’s arm, hyperventilating as he stared at the card in his hands. Hunk and Pidge came over in a flurry, just as excited.
“Kolivan was here-”
Keith stared at them in bewilderment as the three prattled on about The Marmora Blues Club. From what he could tell, it was a pretty big deal.
“Dude, it’s the Marmora!” Lance waved his arms excitedly. “It’s like, the ultimate hub for jazz bands!”
“Uh-huh okay,” Keith said unsurely.
“You’re not getting it!” Lance whined.
This time, it was Pidge who piped up, saying, “Think Carnegie Hall. But for jazz.”
Keith’s eyes widened. Lance crowed at his reaction, “Yes! Exactly!”
“No way,” Keith said in disbelief. He had just started and now they were playing in such a distinctive place?
“Yes, way!” Lance laughed as he tucked the card safely in his pocket and wrapped an arm around Keith, heading them towards the bar. “This calls for a celebration!”
“He’s drunk,” Keith stated as Lance hiccupped, nearly toppling over his seventh beer bottle.
Pidge and Hunk exchanged looks before shouting, “CHEESECAKE!”
Keith jumped and stared at them, wondering if they were just as intoxicated. Hunk grinned and said, “The last one to say it gets to bring Lance home.”
And before he could protest, the two had already run away, leaving him with the drunk.
“You are a pain in the ass,” Keith grumbled, one arm around Lance's waist, his arm over his shoulders.
“You love me though,” Lance slurred, too out of it to register his own words. Keith stilled. “Hey Keith, buddy, why'd you stop?”
“You are a pain in the ass,” Keith said again, cheeks red as he dragged Lance back to his dorm. “And you're lucky I'm nice enough not to leave you on the sidewalk.”
“What a gentleman,” Lance snickered as he played with Keith's hair, “If I didn't know better, I'd say that you actually like me.”
“Is that so bad?”
Lance blinked slowly. “Hmmm? What was that?”
Keith glanced at him, eyes glinting with hesitance and raw vulnerability. “Is it so bad if I like you?”
The singer just gave him a loopy grin, his words not registering. “Uhh, thanks? I like me too?”
Keith groaned and went back to walking, or trying to walk without Lance stumbling them out into the road and getting run over. “Seriously, drunk you is even more stupid than regular you.”
“Hey, I'm smart,” Lance protested and hiccuped, “I know you like me.”
“Yeah, after I just literally confessed,” Keith grumbled.
“I like you too, you know,” Lance said offhandedly, “I thought you were a jerk at first but turns out you're just an awkward mullet head with a severe lack of social skills.”
The breath that Keith was holding exhaled out sharply. Of course, Lance would mean it in a friendly way. There was no chance Lance would look at him in that way.
They continued on, with Keith keeping him steady as Lance kept humming songs. Several times, he had to drag him back as the drunk boy attempted to loudly converse with the strangers who passed by at the late hour, most of them suspicious people that Keith turned away with a glare. Apparently, dumbass Lance was way worse than smartass Lance.
“You're nicer than Allura,” Lance purred, his hand reaching out and playing with Keith's fingers before lacing them together. He didn't notice the slight trembling of the other's hand. “She’d leave before I did, saying she had to go somewhere, to Germany or something. She’d always leave me.”
Keith grunted as he reached the dorm and proceeded to walk up the stairs. “Well, I'm not Allura. I'm not going to leave you behind.”
“Yeah,” Keith said firmly as he tugged out Lance's keys from his pocket and unlocked the door, kicking it behind him and navigating through the room under the night light from the windows.
They both stumbled into his bedroom where Keith none too gently set him down on the mattress. Lance was heavy and his arms ached. Keith straightened up and surveyed his friend. Lance was already on the edges of sleep. With a sigh, he yanked off his shoes and set them down on the floor, before pulling the covers up and over his sleeping figure. With a nod at his satisfactory work, he proceeded to get the hell out of there before he did something rash. But then Lance reached out and snagged the bottom of his shirt. Keith stopped.
It was said so softly, he thought he had imagined it. But he didn't and Lance had said it, his eyes glittering with something so lonely and so scared.
Keith paused for a moment, debating whether to go because that was safer and he was a gentleman by not taking advantage of him or staying which was a bad idea and Shiro is so gonna kill him if he finds out, before sighing and walking back to the bed. Lance scooted over and Keith kicked off his own shoes before getting under the covers. This was a terrible idea and Keith dreaded Shiro’s lecture when he'd get back the next morning. But his desire to be with Lance was greater than his fear of his brother. He couldn't leave him. Not when he looked at him like that .
Their quiet breathing was the only sound in the room, Keith extremely aware of their close proximity. He thought Lance had fallen asleep, but then Lance began to talk.
“Allura was there tonight.” Keith waited. Lance took a shuddering breath as he blinked his eyes rapidly. “She's still so beautiful.”
His chest ached. Of course, Lance still loved her. What was he expecting? That Lance had moved on? Even if he did, he wouldn't move on to him. He was just a friend, much more a guy. And even if Hunk said any different, Lance never gave any indication of liking someone of the same gender.
“She wanted to explain things,” Lance said in a faraway voice.
Staring at the shadows that danced on the ceiling, Keith asked quietly, “Did you let her?”
Lance just hummed. “I left her at the bar. I couldn't talk - not tonight. Not when she came with Lotor.”
Keith hesitantly reached out and squeezed his hand. Lance squeezed back and continued, “We didn't work out - never did. I just didn't see that. Didn't want to see that.”
Twisting to his side, Lance fixed his eyes at Keith who gazed back. Keith kept still as he watched Lance trace his every outline.
“Why did you stay?” Lance asked, his voice laced with uncertainty.
“You asked,” Keith replied simply.
His blue eyes widened and then crinkled from the smile on his face. “And if I didn't?”
“I'd still stay if you want me to.” A sudden panic surged into him as Lance's eyes welled with tears. Keith sat up in a flurry, confused. “Sorry, I didn't mean to make you cry!”
“No, no, you're okay,” Lance said with a watery laugh. “I just - that's the nicest thing you've ever said to me.”
“Oh,” Keith said stupidly. Wiping his tears, Lance dragged him back down.
Lying side by side, Keith decided that this was worth the lecture he was going to get the next morning.
As Lance reached out to brush his bangs away from his face just before closing his eyes and falling asleep, Keith decided that he would even trade his grand piano just for a chance at this every night.
But as he fought to keep his eyes open just to keep looking at the boy in front of him, sleep eventually took over and he fell into slumber with the feeling of warmth throughout his body and a slight aching in his heart.
Lance stretched as he lazily opened his eyes. For some reason, he was well rested for the first time in what felt like a while. With a yawn, he got out of bed. Or tried to. If not for the arms wrapped around his middle and the head full of hair pinning his arm down.
“Oh quiznack,” Lance muttered to himself.
He was sleeping next to Keith. Who was with him. In his bed.
This was not good. Better than good since Lance couldn’t deny that Keith was a handsome and attractive man, but it was still bad. Lance yanked up the covers and breathed out a sigh of relief when he saw that they still had clothes on. Then he wrinkled his nose. He hadn’t done his skincare routine. They hadn’t changed from last night either, so both of them most likely smelled like booze.
With a groan, he flopped back on the pillow. He turned to Keith who was curled up to him in a fetal position, eyebrows slightly furrowed and mouth open. In quiet contemplation, Lance hesitantly took a lock of black hair and twisted it around his fingers. It was soft. Glancing at his face to make sure he was still fast asleep, Lance gently ran his hand through Keith’s hair. Keith leaned into the touch and snuggled even closer to Lance, pushing his nose to the inside of his neck. His breath fanned against his skin, making a shiver journey down his spine. Keith’s scent of piano wood – do pianos even have a scent – and musky roses filled his nose.
“Why are you so quiznacking attractive?” Lance complained as he ran his thumb over the middle of his eyebrows, smoothing out the crinkle. This was probably the first and only time he would see Keith in such an open and vulnerable state.
Just as he was about to caress his cheek, Keith’s eyes fluttered. With a start, Lance realized what he was doing and abruptly sat up. Keith’s head fell on the pillow, but that didn’t deter him by the slightest, only turning away and snuggling back under the blanket.
With his heart going a mile a minute, Lance scooted out of the bed and headed for the bathroom. He was going to need a freezing bath for this.
Keith shuffled in the kitchen where the smell of bacon and fried rice simmered out from the pan that Lance was cooking from.
Lance glanced at him and snickered. “You have the worst bed hair I have ever seen.”
“Shut up,” Keith grumbled as he slumped down on a chair and rested his cheek on the cool top of the table.
Lance tutted as he set down the plates. “Table manners, Keith. Didn't your parents teach you that?” Keith bristled at the words, but then seemed to dismiss it. Lance could only wonder what that meant before another thought popped up. “By the way, your phone's been ringing off the hook since this morning.”
Keith's head shot up. “Shiro!” Lance watched in amusement as Keith scrambled to grab his phone from the couch where Lance had plugged it in to charge and cursed in a series of colorful word choices as he read over the logs: 26 messages and 15 missed calls.
“Who's Shiro?” Lance asked, piling up the food on the plates.
“My brother who's going to kill me right after he picks up,” Keith said gravely as he hit call. Rightly so, Lance could hear reprimanding words and frantic shouting from the other end. Keith pulled the phone away from his ear with a wince.
Deciding that Shiro had finally settled down from his tirade, he tentatively put the phone back to his ear. Only to grimace at the scolding that followed.
“No… I'm sorry. I stayed at a friend's house. He wanted to - no, I know it's late but - Shiro!” Keith slapped his hand on his face, dragging it down with a groan. “Nothing! And even if we - I'm not gonna tell you!”
Lance rested his chin on his hand as he enjoyed the view of Keith pacing the floor, his face an odd shade of red. With a final “Leave off! Bye Shiro!” Keith ended the call and marched to the kitchen table with a look that could kill.
“You okay there?” Lance asked with amusement.
Keith groaned. “I’m grounded.”
“Grounded?” He couldn’t help but snicker. “Even though you’re 22?”
“Try telling that to my brother.” Keith stabbed at his bacon with the fork. “He still thinks I’m 12 and even checks on me every night before I go to sleep.”
“Awww isn’t that sweet,” Lance crooned and then dodged with a laugh when Keith flicked a piece of bacon in his direction, “Ah! Hey! I cooked that! It’s supposed to go in your mouth, not on the floor.”
“Then you better stuff your mouth before I stuff it for you,” Keith retorted back. Lance just rolled his eyes and began eating.
They settled for idle talk, but Lance was distracted. Polishing off his plate, he leaned back and watched as Keith also finished eating.
“About yesterday,” Lance said slowly. Keith stopped and glanced up at him. “I didn't say or do anything weird, did I?”
Keith’s eyebrows narrowed. He asked with uncertainty, “What do you mean?”
Lance scratched the back of his neck in embarrassment. “I mean, I know I get weird when I'm drunk - I say stuff. I mean, I already say stupid stuff at a normal rate - just that it becomes more? At a personal level? When I'm drunk - which gets awkward cause you obviously brought me back yesterday so I must’ve maybe done something or said stuff and-”
“Lance you're rambling,” Keith interrupted, “Get to the point.”
“I forgot what happened last night,” Lance blurted out. When Keith just stared at him, he continued, “When I get flat out drunk, I'm out of commission.”
Lance heard alarm bells go off in his head as Keith immediately closed off. He asked quietly, “How much did you remember?”
He winced and said hesitantly, “Just bits and pieces. I know you brought me home, but I can't remember our conversation or if we even had any. And when we got back and you set me down on the bed, but that's it.”
Apparently, that was the wrong thing to say because the next second, Keith had pushed himself away from the table and headed for the door. “Thanks for the food. I'm leaving.”
He knew right then that something had happened. He scrambled up and made a grab for his arm. “No, Keith, wait!”
“I don't have time for this, Lance,” Keith growled as he wrenched his arm away.
“I did something, didn't I?” Lance said frantically.
“It's nothing. I just have to go.”
“It's not nothing if you're running away,” Lance insisted, grabbing his arm again.
“Fuck it, Lance! You can't do this!” Keith cried as he whirled back and faced him. “You can't just - forget ! Who does that! You can't do that to me after I -”
He cut himself off and glared at the ground. Lance froze as his eyes widened in fear. He said in a whisper, “We totally made out, didn't we?”
“Did - did we fuck?”
Keith's face flushed. “No!”
“Then what did I do?” Lance pleaded, “If I said something wrong, I'm sorry. If - if I did something to you without your consent, you can sue me and spit on my corpse - I just, please. What did I do for you to leave like this?”
Keith was silent, his face hard. “I have to go.”
With that, he twisted away from Lance's slackened grip and walked out, slamming the door behind him.
Chapter 6: Lacuna
But none of them will ever love you
The way I do, it's me and you
“Hunk, have I ever been so blackout drunk that I did something so horrible that you wouldn't even dare tell me the next day?” Lance mumbled as he hung upside down from the sofa. Four days had passed, and while the group still held their Tuesday and Thursday rehearsals, it was strained, with Lance and Keith barely speaking to each other.
Hunk paused and thought about it. “Not really, no.”
Lance whined. “So then, why won't Keith tell me what I did? What did I do?”
“I already did but he won't say,” he protested. “We didn't make out and we didn't have sex. So what else did I do?”
Hunk raised an eyebrow. “Maybe it's something you said that made him misunderstand.”
Lance stared at him and then scoffed. “Hunk, buddy, the only thing I would say that would make stuff awkward is if I confessed - which I'm pretty sure I didn't because I don't like him in that way.”
“What if he was the one who confessed?” Hunk said lightly, “And you gave him mixed signals and stuff.”
Lance snorted and then guffawed. “Oh man, that's hilarious. Buddy, he hates my guts. And after that night, yeah, he’s already saying goodbye to my sorry ass.”
“So you're just gonna let our pianist go?” Hunk asked.
Lance paused. He said sheepishly, “Well, we could always find a new pianist-”
Hunk marched up to him and put his hands on his hips. “If you don’t fix this, I’m revoking our friendship status to Hanging Out.”
“What?” Lance scrambled up and wrapped his arms around his best friend. “But Hunk, we’re best buds for life!”
“Keith is also my friend,” Hunk said. “You can’t just let one argument get in between the both of you.”
Lance pouted and reluctantly let go. “If he punches me in the face-”
“Then you deserved it,” Hunk said as he pushed him out of the door, “Now get out and don’t come back without him or I’m finishing all my cookies without you.”
Keith stopped playing as Lance let himself into the studio. He shifted from foot to foot, hesitant.
“If you wanna say something, say it now.”
“Maybe you're the one who's supposed to say something,” Lance retorted before he could stop himself. He shrunk away from the withering glare.
“Look.” Keith faced him. “Let's just forget that night and everything that happened.”
“Sure, fine, lemme just forget something I can’t even remember,” Lance said sarcastically.
Keith nodded his head in all seriousness. “Good. Now drop it.”
With that said, he turned away and continued practicing. From his hunched figure, Lance was pretty sure he wasn't going to drop it, just avoid it in general, probably crumple it into a ball and shove it underneath all that mullet.
Shyly stepping in closer, he began to sing. “You've got a friend in me.”
“Lance,” Keith reprimanded.
“You've got a friend in me.” Lance sang, a little bolder as he sat down on the piano bench and bumped Keith over with his hip. “You got troubles and I got them too.”
Keith had stopped playing at this point, opting to watch Lance with wide eyes and an oddly flushed face. He garnered it to the pianist not used to being sung to.
“There isn't anything I wouldn't do for you.” Lance ducked down his head, suddenly feeling a little self-conscious. He looked up at him and gave a little grin. “We stick together, we can see it through.”
He paused. Keith's face was burning at this point and he grumpily finished it. “Cause you've got a friend in me.”
Lance gave a cheer and threw an arm around Keith. “Awww buddy, I didn't know you cared.”
“You are an embarrassment to humankind,” Keith said, his hands covering his face in exasperation, “This was the cheesiest thing I have ever experienced.”
“Oh but you love me for it,” Lance said cheekily. When Keith didn't respond, he withdrew and looked at him in concern. “Keith?”
“How can you say that?”
“ That !” Keith gestured to all of him. “How can you not be embarrassed by the stuff you say?”
Lance gave him a flat look. “Keith, buddy, you've gotta realize by now that half of the stuff that comes out of my mouth is pure crap.”
There was a nagging thought at the back of his head. Something that resembled the day he started going out with Allura. He looked down at the piano keys, suddenly having a vague idea of what he might've said.
“You know,” Lance started, “I am quite honest when I'm drunk.”
Keith glanced at him and then looked away, his lips pursed. “What are you trying to say?”
“That whatever I said that night… I may have meant it.”
Lance took a peek at the young man beside him. Keith's brows were furrowed, deep in thought. Finally, it cleared.
“You're a dumbass,” Keith said with finality, as though it summed everything up.
“Wow, nice words, Keith. I'm feeling all the love here,” Lance said, deadpanned.
The pianist grinned and pressed a few notes on the piano in light thought. “And to answer your question, then yes.”
“Yes, what? What question?”
“Maybe I'll tell you again next time when you're not drunk,” Keith said lightly, “And when you're not such an idiot.”
Lance glared at him. He was holding something back. But if he knew anything about Keith by now, it was that if he didn't want to tell you something, he wasn't going to say anything.
“Fine.” Lance shrugged and let it go. Then he asked meekly, “This isn't going to change anything, right?”
Keith stopped playing and gave him a rueful smile. “Nope. Nothing's changed.”
But something had changed between them. Something he’d rather not touch, lest it destroyed the friendship they had.
“So,” Keith started out slowly, “About Allura...”
Lance hummed, but there was a frown on his face. “What about her?”
“Have you sorted things out?” Keith asked.
Lance chuckled. “Wow, you really aren’t subtle, huh.” Keith shrugged. He was straight to the point. Lance looked down absently at the keys. “We haven’t talked.”
“Can we talk?”
“Of course. Where do you want to meet?”
“At Central Park.”
“Then I’ll meet you there in half an hour.”
Hanging up the phone, Lance drew a slow breath. This was it. Pocketing his phone, he walked out of his dorm and headed for the park.
As the orange leaves crunched under his soles, Lance couldn’t help but look back at the time he and Allura had their first date. She was beautiful, wearing a white dress with her hair cascading around her shoulders. She was a sight to behold and he couldn’t believe she agreed to go out with him.
But that was the thing, wasn’t it? She had agreed, but did she really love him?
Taking a seat at one of the benches, Lance pulled his red scarf up his face as he watched the kids playing in the pile of leaves. Such freedom, with carefree smiles that he wished he could get back. He closed his eyes and basked under the rare heat of the day. A few minutes later, he felt another person sit beside him.
“Hey,” Lance greeted as he opened his eyes and looked at her.
“Hello, Lance,” Allura replied with a smile that didn’t reach her eyes. She tore her gaze away and dropped them down on her hands. She clenched her fists and then released them. “How have you been?”
“Could’ve been better,” Lance said absentmindedly. “Had been better.”
Allura bit her lip and then said, “What would you like to know?”
“Nothing. Everything.” Lance finally looked at her. “To be honest, I don't know what to do anymore - what to think. I've always wanted to bridge that gap between us, but I've always felt that you'd never let me in.”
“It's not that I never let you in. It's that you won't understand.” Allura said.
Lance clenched his fists inside his pockets. “Then tell me . Help me understand.”
Allura looked sadly at him. “I could tell you, but how could you ever understand? How could you ever comprehend the turmoil, the stress of being in shape, the pressure of perfection? I'm a classical musician, Lance. I live in a world that's very different from yours. Music will always come first.”
Lance's expression was akin to that of disbelief and heartbreak. “You wouldn't even let me try?”
“You don't get it-”
“Because you won't-”
“- you're just an ordinary person,” Allura said, “We may have dated, we may have talked about common interests, but by the end of the day, you go home and sleep while I go home and practice.”
“You're not even going to give me a chance?” Her silence was answer enough. Lance sighed and stood up. Allura stayed seated.
“I loved you,” Lance said finally. In the end, this was the only thing he could say. “I loved you so much.”
“I know.” Allura looked down guiltily. “I know and I took that for granted.”
Lance looked up at the sky. It was clear. “But you've never said it back.”
“I'm sorry too.”
He looked down at the ground. There was nothing more to say but goodbye.
With that, he turned around and walked away. The further he walked away, the lighter he felt. He pulled out his phone and then, “Hey, Keith?”
“You up for some more Star Wars?”
“... You want me to bring ice cream?”
“I'll meet you in 15 minutes.”
That night, Lance let himself cry. He made himself feel the heartbreak of letting go.
But by the next day, surrounded by people who stayed, Lance couldn't help but smile and hope for better days.
Checking his watch, Keith looked up at the two pianists that headed towards him, luggage tugged at their sides. They had agreed to meet at the airport before the duo left again. Allura looked guiltily at him, but as Keith smiled, she breathed a sigh of relief and smiled back.
“So where are you headed next?” Keith asked.
Allura and Lotor exchanged looks. She said, “We were invited to do a masterclass in Switzerland, and after that, we were thinking of having downtime to start practicing a new set of pieces.”
“Thoughts on coming back to the States?”
Lotor scratched his cheek. “If there is an opening in our schedule, but not for a few months, I believe.”
“That’s a shame,” Keith said, stuffing his hands in the pockets of his jacket, “We have a show coming up, and I was hoping you could come and watch.”
“I’d love to, but I don’t think I’m welcome anymore,” Allura said sadly. “I hope he’ll find it in his heart to forgive me.”
Keith gave her a smile. “He forgives you, Allura. He’s just hurt.”
She nodded. Lotor gave her shoulder a squeeze. They exchanged looks and she smiled. Allura faced Keith. “Well, it was great meeting you after so long, Keith.”
“Likewise,” Keith said.
“And thank you. For telling me,” Allura said meekly, “It was never my intention to hurt Lance.”
As the airport announced the boarding, the three pianists hugged once again.
“See you soon.”
“Good luck with your concert.”
A stab of guilt pierced Keith’s chest. He smiled. Apparently, he wasn’t the only one keeping secrets. “Thanks.”
Allura squeezed his hand before letting go. “Take care of Lance.”
Chapter 7: con furore
Sie verstehn des Busens Sehnen,
Rühren mit den Silbertönen
Jedes weiche Herz.
violas, I love you. no really.
A few days had passed, and Keith was back in the cafe, bickering with Lance and hiding his teasing smirk behind his cup of coffee. He looked over his shoulder as he heard the door of the cafe open and stiffened as he saw a familiar face. The young woman, who had a music case strapped at her back, looked up from her phone and stared at him in surprise. “Keith? It's quite rare to see you here.”
He glanced at Lance and said, “Just came to get breakfast.”
“Right.” The girl nodded, confusion still evident on her face as she walked up to the counter. “A decaf latte and blueberry muffin, please and thank you.”
“Do I get a name with that pretty face?” Lance said seductively, giving her a wink.
“It’s Romelle,” she said, and then with a laugh, “And I'm sorry, but I don't swing your way.”
“Loud, idiotic, and too full of himself.” Keith translated in a flat voice.
Romelle looked at the two boys suddenly arguing. But there was no malice in their banter. She chuckled. “Both of you are quite well matched.”
They looked at her in a mix of shock, horror, and embarrassment, for two drastically different reasons.
“With the mullet man? No way!”
“What is your problem with my hair!”
Romelle looked at them with an eyebrow raised. “Are you sure you’re not together?”
“Absolutely not,” Lance declared, crossing his arms and raising chin defiantly. Keith scowled at him. Eager to change the subject, Lance zeroed in on the case strapped at Romelle’s back. “What's that on your back? A machine gun?”
Romelle gave a tired chuckle. “Hilarious. I haven’t heard that one before.”
“No, worse,” Keith said in a deadpan expression, “It's a viola.”
“Viola? What's that?” Lance tilted his head in bewilderment. “Is that a type of violin?”
“Now that's just a downright insult!” Romelle huffed as she put her hands on her hips. “And I don't even know who you're insulting, me or the violinists.”
“No difference. They’re both smaller versions of a cello,” Keith said offhandedly.
“And the piano is just a harp lying down,” Romelle snapped back.
“Say that when you can finally play in tune.”
Lance blinked as he stared at the two who seemed to be communicating in their own language even if they were still speaking English. “Is there something I'm missing here?”
“Just the poor hierarchy of elitism in the string section.” Keith sent a teasing grin her way.
She glared at him. “One of these days, we will rise and you will be very very sorry.”
“You’ll have to stand in line,” Keith said nonchalantly.
“It's a very short line from where you're standing,” Was her scathing remark.
Keith faltered and that was enough for her as the ends of her mouth lifted up in a triumphant grin. Even Lance was impressed.
“You just got your mullet served on a silver platter.” Lance whistled as he handed her the coffee cup. With a curt thank you and a last evil eye at the pianist, she walked out.
Keith walked back home in a flurry of embarrassment to return to his piano but before he could make it to the practice room he was faced with a waiting Shiro in the living room looking expectantly at Keith. He held a program in his hand, which he held out to his brother without a word.
Keith took the program with a skeptical raised brow, and the other promptly joined the first as he read the concert information. “Dudamel decided on the official date,” Shiro commentated.
“Is this final?” Keith asked as he looked over the prototype poster and program notes. His face was plastered on the middle of the poster, still as unfriendly as ever.
Shiro nodded. “Pretty much. They’ve already sent out the posters.”
Keith hummed as he gave it back to Shiro and entered his practice room. With the concert drawing near, he had better start practicing seriously. Which meant less time thinking about a certain Cuban boy and more about the piece by a certain Mendelssohn.
“Whatcha playing?” Lance asked, bounding towards the piano and sitting on the bench. Keith gave him a pointed look before rolling his eyes and scooting over. It was their Tuesday practice and Keith had come early to warm up before the practice session. Lance had the afternoon off and knew a certain mullet would be in the room, and he was right.
“It’s a piece called Le Cygne by Saint-Saens,” Keith said as he continued playing the rolling arpeggios, “It’s about a swan which is a metaphor for many things: mainly death, but there are other meanings as well like melancholy, heartbreak, longing.”
“Sounds pretty sad,” Lance mused. Keith looked at him, an unreadable expression in his eyes.
“It is.” Keith turned away and lost himself in the music. Lance watched his fingers roll on the keys, the notes like twinkling stars. It was melancholic, the melody was simple, and yet, this was the most emotional piece he had ever heard from him.
Lance couldn’t help but feel a little bit distanced. Keith was looking down at the keys, but his eyes were far away, clouded with thoughts. Thoughts that Lance was still too nervous to ask about. If he asked, Lance had a feeling the answer would change something between them.
But he wanted to know. He wanted to know more about him. Keith was a song he couldn’t find the lyrics to, but a song with a melody so beautiful, he couldn’t help but want to listen to it every day. Before he knew it, he had called his name.
For a moment, Lance felt pinned under his gaze, rendered immobile under those grey-violet irises. So much emotion swirling within, but he wasn’t one to show it. Something strange overcame him and the next thing he knew, he was leaning in towards Keith.
The music was silent, but the silence was the loudest sound he could hear. Lance took a glance at his lips before catching himself and looked back in his eyes. Keith said nothing, just stared wide-eyed at him, a look of apprehension but not uninviting on his face.
Lance tilted his head and leaned in closer until his breath fanned Keith’s flushed cheeks. He searched his gaze, but there was no resistance. The tips of his ears were red. How cute.
Then their hands touched.
Lance abruptly pulled away, arms held up in the air. Keith blinked, surprised at the sudden loss of contact. They stared at each other. Lance felt embarrassment and mortification at what just transpired. Did he just - I tried to make a move. I wasn’t supposed to make a move!
As though nothing had happened, Keith turned away and went back to playing the piano. He said quietly, “You should start setting up. Hunk and Pidge are gonna come any minute.”
“Right. I’m gonna do that,” Lance said awkwardly and internally cringed at his reply. Getting up from the bench, he opened his guitar case and started tuning. He didn’t need to wonder about how Keith had felt about what almost happened. He’d seen it.
Keith’s hands were shaking, and so were his.
Awkward was the understatement of the century. Hunk and Pidge could feel the tension in the room. Not once within that hour did Lance and Keith look at each other.
Lance's voice was strange, warbling in places it shouldn't have warbled. Keith made too many mistakes that - even if jazz really had no right or wrong notes, it was still terrible playing. Finally, Hunk threw down the towel and demanded the group to stop practice early. They weren't getting anywhere if the two main instruments of the group weren't syncing properly.
Lance was glad for the interruption. One more duet with Keith and he was going to combust. Pulling out his phone, he decided to talk about their next big gig, “Kolivan says the only available slot is on the 20th. Everyone okay with that?”
Hunk and Pidge checked their calendar and nodded. Keith stayed quiet but Lance noticed his silence. “Keith?”
He scratched the back of his neck. “Could we, like, find another time or date? Is that final? I mean-”
Lance gave him a concerned look but sent a message to Kolivan. A reply came a second later. “Apparently, there are no slots left on any other days. We could switch the time with another band, but that’s it.” He caught the pianist’s troubled look and said, “Keith?”
“I'm – It’s fine,” Keith said hastily.
“You sure buddy?” Lance frowned. “I mean, we could always ask Kolivan -”
“No no, I'm fine with it,” Keith interrupted.
Giving him one last suspicious look, Lance gave the confirmation to Kolivan. Keith swallowed. There was no going back.
As the group broke off into the night, Keith left before Lance could catch him. He wasn’t in the mood to talk to him, much less see his face at the moment.
“That stupid. Fucking. Idiot.” Keith growled, slamming a discordant chord on every word. He thumped his head on the piano. Absentmindedly, he realized he’d been banging his frustrations on the piano lately. He patted his piano sympathetically. “Sorry about that, Veronica.”
Leaning back, he thought back to the piece he had played a while ago. Lifting his hands, he gently resumed playing. Sweet chords sang in the air.
He didn’t want to think. He didn’t want to think about how Lance had almost - and if he had not stopped - kissed him. He didn’t want to think about that precise moment when they both knew nothing would be the same. They weren’t friends anymore. He didn't know if they were even something more.
He also didn't want to think about how he was going to be at two places at once on the same day. It was either one or the other.
Clenching his jaw, Keith shoved those very thoughts in the deepest crevice of his mind. This problem was going to bite his ass later, but he wasn't going to let it bite his ass now.
Lance popped out from underneath the counter and lit up as he saw who just came in the shop. “Romelle! You're back!”
“Hello, Lance,” Romelle greeted, chuckling as he jumped up, quite energetic in the morning, “I’d like a decaf latte and a raspberry muffin, please.”
“Coming right up,” Lance chirped as he set to work. “By the way, are you free on Friday, next week? We’re having a gig at the Marmora Blues Club. It’d be great to have you there.”
“The Marmora?” Romelle raised an eyebrow at this. “That’s impressive.”
“I know,” Lance said proudly, flexing his biceps, “They probably saw these guns and thought to give us a shot.”
Romelle rolled her eyes, but there was a hint of a smile on her face. “I’d love to go, but I have a concert on that day as well.”
“Ohhh are you having a solo?” Lance asked in delight.
“Oh no, not me-” Romelle waved her hand, “Keith is.”
The smile on his face faltered. “What?”
“Oh you know,” Romelle shrugged. “Keith’s concert.”
“What d’you mean, Keith’s concert?”
“He didn’t tell you?”
“Tell me what ?”
“Keith’s concert is on the same day as your performance.”
Lance gaped at the high rise condominium in front of him. He had asked Pidge to somehow find Keith’s address since Keith wasn’t answering his phone, but this was not what he was expecting. What he expected was either a cheap apartment or a cozy house with a piano in the living room or maybe even a shack to fit with his emo vibes. What he got was fancy doormen, valets, and expensive penthouses. With a nervous swallow, he walked in.
“Uh, hi,” Lance greeted the receptionist at the hotel lobby, “I’m - do you have anyone registered - I mean, I’m asking for a Keith Kogane.”
The receptionist smiled at him. “And who is asking?”
“One moment.” Lance watched as the woman punched in a set of numbers on the phone, ringing a few times before being picked up. “Hello, this is the front desk speaking. A Mr. Lance Serrano-McClain is asking for Keith Kogane… yes… yes, sir. Very well, sir.”
Ending the call, she gave him a key card and said, “Please head to lift number five and insert this card in the slot. You’ll be able to press the 28th floor.” Lance accepted the card with thanks and did as instructed. He felt his skin crawl like he wasn’t meant to be in a place like this.
The elevator opened, revealing a door at the end of the hallway. He tentatively knocked on the door, his insides a bubbling mess. He knew Keith was rich, but to actually live in a penthouse? Now, this was something else. He was no stranger to fancy things, but he reckoned the call downstairs in the lobby was a bit of overkill. This place reminded him of that time he visited Allura's mansion. An ugly feeling twisted in him and he quickly squashed it down. He wasn’t going to get jealous. Friends don’t get jealous of friends.
He jumped as the door opened abruptly, revealing a very familiar face.
“Professor Shirogane?!” Lance gaped at his astrophysics professor.
“McClain. I hope you’re here to finally turn in your paper from last week,” Adam said as he crossed his arms. Lance’s brain stopped functioning at the mention of such paper.
“Don’t tease your student, Adam. You didn’t have anything planned last week,” A voice piped up from the back before the source of the voice made himself known.
Lance’s line of sight met with muscles bulging underneath a tight grey shirt along with an arm that was made of metal. Gulping, Lance dragged his eyes up to his face, noting the wide scar running across his nose. He would’ve been terrifying if it weren’t for the man’s kind eyes looking down at him with fondness.
“Lance, right?” He held out his prosthetic arm which Lance returned after a moment’s hesitation. “I’m Shiro, Keith’s brother, and Adam’s husband.”
“Uh, nice to meet you.” Lance cleared his throat. “How did you know my name?”
“Keith talks about you enough to figure it out,” Shiro said with a twinkle in his eye. “Come on in.”
“Keith talks about me?” Lance squeaked, cheeks heating up as he followed the two men in. He didn’t know why he was suddenly flustered by the thought of Keith talking about him to someone else.
“More than you talk about the possibility of aliens existing in space.” Adam chuckled. Lance blinked. He was about to ask his professor to elaborate when he saw the trophies.
He stopped in his tracks. Rows of gold trophies lined up inside a glass cabinet, arranged into different years and categories and countries. Tchaikovsky International Music Competition, International Franz Liszt Piano Competition, Frederic Chopin International Piano Competition, etc. There were even several CDs with Keith at the front cover, a passionate expression on his face, piano concertos in the titles blazed with golden font. Taking a step nearer, he could see group photos with various people and orchestras, but what caught his eye was a certain photo of a group of kids who looked shockingly familiar. Keith stood in the middle, holding a golden trophy, and on both of his sides were Allura and Lotor.
The ugly feeling inside his gut twisted some more into anger and hurt. He felt like a fool.
“What are you doing here?”
Lance’s eyes met with Keith’s who was looking at him with a mixture of surprise and panic. Lance balled his fists, glaring at him. Oh yeah, try getting out of this one .
“Why don’t you two talk it out in the room?” Shiro said gently, ushering the two into Keith’s practice room before closing the door with a click.
Lance whirled around, emotions bubbling inside. Keith looked like a deer caught in the headlights. He hissed, “What the hell, Keith?”
Keith’s face momentarily paled. “I-”
“Why didn’t you tell me about this?” Lance waved his hand back at the living room. “You didn’t even think to mention that you were a real prodigy going around the world and playing in concerts? You didn’t tell me that you knew Allura all along?”
“I was going to but-” Keith began to protest, but Lance cut him off.
“You thought we were too lame to know that you were too cool for us? You thought my pride was too fragile to know that you were actually someone significant? You thought I would be jealous if I knew that you knew Allura all along? You thought I was too dumb for your uptight fancy piano prodigy life?” When Keith said nothing, Lance grew angrier. “You didn’t have to hide! You could've just told me instead of going behind my back!”
“What I do in my own time is none of your business,” Keith snapped.
“And so instead of talking to me, you decided to run away and lie?”
“You wouldn’t understand!” Keith yelled at him. At that, his image overlapped with Allura. He grew pissed.
Lance yelled back, “Of course I wouldn’t understand ‘cause you won’t tell me a damn thing!”
“What does it have to do with you anyway?” Keith scoffed.
Lance glowered. “Oh, so your concert on the same day as the gig has nothing to do with me?”
Keith froze. “How did you know?”
“Were you even gonna tell me about this?” Lance growled. “Or were you just planning to bail at the last second?”
“I – I couldn’t find the time to tell you-” Keith stammered.
“Bullshit!” Lance shouted, “You had the perfect opportunity to tell me when I asked, but you ran away! If you were just gonna run away you should’ve stayed away!”
“What could you be so scared of, that you couldn’t even tell your friend about this?”
“Because you’d put me in a box!” Keith snapped at him. This time, it was Lance’s turn to be shocked. Keith said angrily, “You weren’t interested in classical music - you were only interested in Allura’s playing. You thought it was too uptight and high class!”
“That was then! That was until I met you!” Lance interrupted his tirade. “You think I would turn my back on you just because of a stereotype?”
“Because that’s what you’re doing right now!” Keith cried. “You’re putting me in a fucking box when you’ve known me for so long already!”
“Then you should already know me enough by now that I would never treat you like that!”
Keith said nothing. Both of them glared at each other, frustrated feelings clashing like two whirlwinds rotating in different directions.
Lance sighed, exhausted. “This isn’t about your mad piano skills, Keith. This is about you.”
“I trusted you, Keith,” Lance said hoarsely, eyes brimming with tears of frustration that threatened to fall down, “From the very start. I had always let you in.”
“I trusted you,” Lance said softly, “But apparently you never trusted me.”
And with that, Lance walked away.
Chapter 8: supplicando
Keith didn’t leave the practice room after Lance left him in the dust. And when he finally did get up from the piano, it was to use the bathroom across the condo. Shiro didn’t ask, Keith didn’t tell. He was in a state of shock; denial, anger, depression - with the grief of a friendship he now believed to be over. A friendship he once had hoped could be more.
Keith buried his nose into the piece. Buried his fingers into the keys hard enough to hurt in decibels and impact. He didn’t stop, why should he? He just pushed into overdrive on autopilot.
Crescendo - ritardando - switch to diminished 7th - blue eyes tinged with red from salty tears - octaves - arpeggios - “You didn’t have to hide.” - wrong note - missed passage - wrong - wrong - wrong -
Keith slammed his fingers on the chord, wincing at the jarring notes that clashed. Dropping his hands from the piano, he glanced at the clock. It was two in the afternoon and he had had neither breakfast nor lunch.
A day had passed since their fight and he hadn't even practiced anything worthwhile. He hadn't even touched his concert piece; resorting on a piece he could vent his emotions into. Resting his head on the piece, he stared blankly at the title: Prelude Op.3 No.2 in C# Minor by Sergei Rachmaninoff.
Rachmaninoff hated the piece, and Keith, at that moment, hated it too. But maybe he was simply projecting. Because he hated himself more.
“You could've just told me instead of going behind my back!”
He groaned. Apparently hiding the fact longer just made the blow-up bigger. He was pretty sure that Lance hated him at this point.
“I trusted you, Keith.”
Of all the things that Lance said, that was the one that hurt the most. Not only because he should’ve known better, but because he took that for granted.
When Shiro unlocked the front door, the first thing he noticed was music playing in pitch-black darkness. Switching on the light, he went inside the practice room. The music never faltered. It was Schubert’s Serenade no.4 - a romantic piece of work, but Keith played it with such heavy emotion, one could find it akin to heartbreak.
The young pianist swayed in time with the music, fingers pressing lightly on the keys. The piece was supposed to be gentle and somber. However, an underlying sorrow pertained throughout the piece and in his expression. This was the first time Shiro had ever seen such a troubled expression on his younger brother’s face. Despite being glad that Keith was finally showing a wider range of expressions, this one was not looking good.
He knocked lightly on the door. Keith slowly opened his eyes, gaze lost in focus as he kept playing.
“What’s wrong, kiddo?” Shiro asked.
Keith focused down on his hands. He was quiet for a while, and then he asked, “Can I stop the concert?”
Shiro frowned. “Keith, you’ve been preparing for this concert for so long. The tickets have sold out. Your patrons and sponsors are going to be there. If you back out, think of the losses. The tickets would have to be refunded along with the payment for the hall and the orchestra. It’s too risky.”
It unnerved Shiro to see him so placid to what he said. Many times when Keith wanted something, he fought for it. But this time…
Pushing himself away from the wall, he strode to Keith and placed a hand on his shoulder. “Okay, you have to tell me what’s going on.”
It was as though a barrier broke, and Keith told him everything from the day Shiro kicked him out of the house, to the present where he had fought with Lance.
“And now I’ve messed everything up and he hates me and I thought we were friends but because I was so fucking stupid and a coward who only knows how to run away I-”
“Hey, hey, hey.” Shiro grasped both his brother’s shoulders. “Keith, stop thinking like that. Nothing good is gonna come from putting yourself down.”
“It’s all my fault-”
“Well-” Shiro shrugged, “you probably didn’t make the best choice, but there’s no way Lance hates you. Disappointed, definitely. Would punch you in the face, most likely. But hate you? I don’t think so.”
“But what if he does?” Keith asked in a hoarse whisper.
“But what if he doesn’t?” Shiro quipped back.
“But what if he does?” Keith repeated stubbornly.
“But what if he doesn’t?”
“Keith,” Shiro pulled out his dad-voice. “Lance does not hate you. A conflicting schedule is a common problem. There is always a solution to everything.”
Keith glared at the floor. Of course, Shiro just had to make sense. “But I made a mistake.”
“But that’s the good thing about mistakes,” Shiro said kindly, “you get to try again.”
“He’s a stubborn idiot who will definitely not forgive me.”
“You’re a stubborn idiot who jumps to conclusions before even confronting the problem.”
Keith glared at him. Shiro cooly looked back at him like a big brother would. “You’re insufferable.”
Shiro rolled his eyes and ruffled Keith’s hair. “Yeah, yeah. Love you too.”
Keith grumbled unintelligibly as he righted his hairstyle. “Why does everything have to be difficult?”
“Lance,” Keith said, “love, and all that jazz.”
“Lance? As in Lance Serrano-McClain?”
Keith whirled around, surprised at not hearing Adam come in the room. Adam raised an eyebrow at his bewildered expression. “What? He’s my student.”
“Wait, what?!” Keith gaped at him. “You know Lance?”
Adam set down the stack of paper he was carrying on the dining table. “Of course. He’s been my student for the past three years. He’s an astrophysics major.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Keith protested. If he knew, then they wouldn’t even be in this much of a mess.
Shiro, on the other hand, got straight into questioning. “What can you tell me about this Lance?”
Adam observed the two. Shiro was in his overprotective brother mode while Keith was as red as a bouquet of roses. Well, he could tell where this was going.
“He’s a good kid,” Adam said. Shiro blinked, surprised at the compliment. Adam rarely showed favoritism, much less give compliments. “He’s actually at the top of the class if you don’t count Katie Holt since she’s a genius and all that. He’s quite the charmer, although I don’t need to tell you much on that department, right, Keith?”
If he could turn even a darker shade of red, he would.
“What about his relationships?” Shiro pressed on.
“Takashi, you do realize teachers shouldn't meddle in their student’s private lives,” Adam chastised. But when Shiro gave him a pointed look, he proceeded by saying, “Okay, so maybe Lance does come off as a flirt. But there was a year when he was in a serious relationship.
“He was so in love. Singing songs while he worked, writing hearts on the edges of his homework, and ditching Hunk and Pidge in favor of meeting up with her on the other side of town. He'd miss study nights just to watch her concerts and come to class late the next day.” Adam shook his head. “Those two didn't like that. Lance didn't realize how toxic it was.”
Adam continued. “There were some days when he would come to class in disarray. Hair tousled, eye bags prominent, and on his fourth cup of coffee. It would be after one of their fights. Especially regarding their long-distance relationship. Lance was never one for distance. He took care of his grades, but the emotional turmoil led him into making careless mistakes.”
Keith pursed his lips. Adam patted his head. “He’s okay now, you know that.” He nodded. Adam continued, “And I know you'll be good for him.”
“Wait, what?!” Keith squawked. “It's not what you think!”
Adam and Shiro chuckled. “Sure, kiddo.”
“Well, as long as you won't distract him from my class, then I'm all aboard.”
It was rare, Adam going to bed early, so Shiro wasn't wasting any chances on cuddles. That night, as Shiro and Adam lay together on their bed, they discussed the two boys. Shiro asked him, “You think Keith's going to apologize?”
“To be honest, I don't know,” Adam said absentmindedly. “But if I know Lance, he's not going to be the first to say sorry. It was Keith's fault after all.”
Shiro chuckled, shifting until he had an arm wrapped around his husband's shoulders. “Sounds like they're both stubborn to a fault.”
“You can say that again,” Adam agreed. “If we had pushed Keith into attending college, he'd be in the same class as Lance. I think they'd be rivals. They both want to be the best, after all.”
“I think they'll fall in love,” Shiro said. It was said with such conviction, Adam raised both his eyebrows in surprise.
“How do you know?”
“I just do,” Shiro said, yawning and closed his eyes. He mumbled against Adam's locks, “One way or another, they were meant to find each other and fall in love.”
Adam gave him a deadpanned look and snorted. “You're such a dork.”
“You married this dork, though,” Shiro said sleepily, yet with a hint of smugness in his voice. Adam's reply was lost with his slumber.
“Lance, could I talk with you for a second?”
Lance, who was halfway out of the classroom, stopped and looked back at his professor. “If this is about Keith-”
“No, it's about you,” Adam said. Lance lingered by the door for a moment before adjusting his backpack and walking back inside.
Setting his bag on the table, he faced Adam with his arms crossed. Adam contemplated his student for a moment before leaning forward and asking, “How have you been, Lance?”
Lance resisted the urge to roll his eyes at the generic conversation starter as he bit out a “Fine. Just peachy.”
“I think not,” Adam said straight out. “Your grades have been slipping.”
Lance grimaced at this. “I know. I promise I'll do better. I'm not in a good place right now, and I don't think I need to explain myself.”
“No, I don't think you do.” As Lance looked at him in confusion, he said, “I believe you have the right to be angry at Keith for keeping this from you.”
Lance looked away, fingers digging into his coat. “Then what are you trying to say? That I should give Keith a second chance? That I should forgive him after all those months of him hiding this from me?”
“I'm saying that it isn't in you to hold a grudge towards your friends,” Adam said. “You've been my student for the past three years, Lance. I've seen how much you've grown.”
“Has kept it from you, I know. He was in the wrong for that, but looking at the circumstances, it's understandable.” Adam leaned on his desk and crossed his arms. “It isn't easy, being a prodigy.”
Lance perked up at that. “What do you mean?”
“You've noticed how Keith has trouble making friends.” Lance could attest to that. It took almost a month for the guy to open up. “Not surprising, considering the fact that he was put in the system when he was just 6 years old. Add being talented in music at that, it's easy to see him isolated from everyone and everything.”
“Wait, Keith's an orphan?” Lance gaped. He felt sick to his stomach.
“Shiro and I adopted him when he was 12 years old. We tried sending him to school, but, well, it didn't really work out. He was quite the troublemaker. So he was homeschooled and focused on his music career.”
Lance adjusted and sat on the desk as he listened. “With his talent came competitions, some from which he's made friends and enemies alike. And those so-called friends had other means to get to him.”
“I’d never do that to him. You know I wouldn’t!” Lance stopped and then admitted, “I mean, I did approach him at the start for his piano skills, but now it's different.”
“I know you wouldn’t,” Adam reassured him. “But Keith doesn’t know that.”
“How can he not?” Lance snorted. “I’m as obvious as a red warning sign.”
“Well, yes, but you do realize that Keith ignores warning signs.” Adam walked around the desk and put his hand on Lance’s shoulder. “I know you care for Keith more than you realize. And I know you're good for him just as he's good for you.”
Lance looked up at him doubtfully. “But after those things I've said, you don't think-”
“Keith cares about you, maybe a little bit too much,” Adam smirked at the blush that grew on Lance's face. “And I know that Keith would do anything to not hurt you.”
Lance looked down at his hands. “But I don't know how I - I just-” he sighed, “I don’t know what to do. After everything I said to him, I don’t know how we’ll be able to patch this up.”
“I think you do,” Adam said simply as he patted his shoulder. “Just talk to him. It’ll work itself out.”
For the first time in days, Lance allowed himself to smile. “I guess.”
Lance had thought it would be him to apologize first, so the video message that Keith had left for him at 2 in the morning while he was asleep was a surprise when he woke up.
“Um… hey, Lance.”
Keith fidgeted in front of the camera. His hair was more disheveled than usual, dark bags clear underneath his eyes.
“I just…” He stopped and then looked straight at the camera. “I wanna say I'm sorry.”
Lance’s breath caught in his throat. There was a painful ache in his chest just above his heart, and he clenched his fist above it, bunching the fabric. His vision swam with the sting in his eyes.
Keith, who had taken a pause, continued. “I was wrong to keep it from you, me being a so-called prodigy and stuff – since you’ve already known from the beginning, or suspected at least. It’s ridiculous. You didn’t treat me any different. You and the rest of the group. I just…
“I was scared,” Keith said softly. “No one stayed the same when I told them that and I guess it came as a surprise – not really a surprise, more like, a shock. Cause I never really had that before. I never really had someone – someone like you; people who stay – who wanted to stay.”
Keith wrapped his arms around himself as he drew up his knees, Lance subconsciously mimicking the movement. “I’ve only known how to push people away, ignore them, looking away before making eye contact. Which is stupid ‘cause I’ve always been under the spotlight. But you… you were meant for the spotlight. All eyes were meant for you.” Keith took a deep shuddering breath, cheeks suspiciously flushed in the dim light.
“I’m sorry about Allura. I know you’re hurting. I shouldn’t have kept it from you. I shouldn’t have meddled.” Keith bit his bottom lip. “I just… I didn’t want to - you deserved better. It wasn’t supposed to be any of my business. I’m sorry… I just didn’t want to see you hurt if I knew I could do something about it.”
Keith chuckled humorlessly. “But apparently, I’m the one who hurt you instead, huh.”
He looked directly in the camera, his grey-violet eyes piercing, and said, “I know this isn’t an excuse for me to skip out on the gig. I know how much it means to you, it means a lot to me too. But...”
Lance scowled. Of course, there would be a ‘but’ in there somewhere.
“I can’t back out on my concert as well,” Keith said in a strained voice. “There’s a lot riding on this. I don’t care about the sponsors or the ticket sales or anything like that. It’s just…”
“Just what, you hypocrite?” Lance mumbled angrily. Here he was finally deciding to forgive this mullet head, only for said mullet head backing out again.
“It’s the orchestra.”
Lance blinked. Well, he wasn’t expecting that.
“If it were a piano recital, I would be fine canceling it in a heartbeat. But this is a concert with about a hundred musicians coming to practice every night for the past week. They’ve sacrificed time and sleep for this. We’ve even extended rehearsal hours. I can’t… I can’t let them down.”
Keith groaned as he ran his fingers through his hair. “Of course, it isn’t fair to you as well. We’ve practiced so much for the gig.”
“Yeah, no kidding,” Lance snapped, but there was no bite.
“This is an insult to both parties involved,” Keith said pathetically. “But I had no choice.”
And Lance, curse his forgiving heart, understood. Of course, he always would. This gig was a big deal for him and their jazz group, but Keith lived in another world apart from them. This classical concert was his life – his career. Who was he to mess that up just for some small show in a bar?
“I am so sorry,” Keith said, his voice cracking at the end, “You deserve to be pissed off at me. I deserve to get kicked out of the group. I just… you saw me for who I really am and I pushed you away and it was wrong of me to do that to you when all you wanted was the truth. I should’ve let you in. I should’ve let you know way before so we could’ve figured it out together. I know that now. And I understand if you won’t give me a second chance. I just wanna say that…”
Keith said, almost inaudibly, “You’re one of the best things that ever happened to me and I’m sorry for not trusting you enough with the truth.”
And then the video cut off. Lance stared back at his tearstained face reflected off the black screen. He sobbed, “Damn you, mullet. I had a 9 a.m. lecture today.”
Wiping away his tears, he sent Keith just one reply.
Marmora Blues Club, 8 pm
Chapter 9: finale
Keith wrung his fingers together as he waited impatiently for the overture to finish. He gazed at the clock. It was 8:17 p.m. and the overture was 20 minutes long. One way or another, he was going to be late. But that still didn't stop him from making a hole on the floor backstage.
In all of his worrying, Shiro came up to him, clapped him on both shoulders and said, “Keith, breathe. ”
Keith took in a shuddering breath. After a few slow inhales and exhales, he felt calmer. “Thanks, Shiro.”
Shiro grinned at him. “No problem. Now go out there and get ‘em, tiger.”
Keith rolled his eyes at the endearment and walked onto the stage just as the audience finished clapping for the first piece of the program.
With the stage lights on him, Keith swept his eyes over the dimmed hall. Bowing in their direction, he nodded at the conductor before sitting down in front of the piano.
Closing his eyes, he let the silence sing for him as he imagined the notes floating in the air. With a zoned calmness, he opened his eyes and nodded. Acknowledged, the conductor started the music.
The Mendelssohn Piano Concerto No.1 in G Minor, unlike its concerto peers, was not as well known. And yet, as one listens, one can tell from the beautiful line of melody that Mendelssohn is a master of melodies that are much underappreciated. Starting with Mendelssohn's distinctive style of a short trembling introduction from the orchestra that's well ahead of its time, it jumps right into a fierce chord that shakes the audience to the bones.
Leaving all inhibitions behind, Keith dove right into the music, sinking rapidly in its depths of quick-fire notes and scales whirling around, filling up emotions to the brim. It was exhilarating. This is who he was and this was his performance. Everything else fell away at that moment.
Keith leaned back, a calm settling in his features as the piece changed its mood to something more docile and sweet. Pulled in, the audience listened with bated breath at the intimate conversation between the piano and the orchestra.
Keith looked down at the keys, his eyes dazed as his emotions led him to the pull of a singer dazzling with eyes bright blue and a smile compelling.
Swaying in time, he glided through the notes, making them glisten like the stars’ reflection in the ocean waves as the orchestra sang. He took back the melody, tinged with a longing for something… or someone.
And then the brass strikes. The strings build up, tension climbing in the air.
Two beats and Keith pierces through, scaling down and up, hands lifting in a flourish before snapping down on the keys again. He takes control, red and fierce, the orchestra accompanying him and accenting each musical phrase.
It is fire, but it dances with mirth.
He couldn’t help but grin as he played, imagining the banter between him and Lance. His hands dance on the keys, meeting in the middle before separating again. A quick back and forth that builds up to the main theme.
The mood changes to something bluer, fading away lightly. His fingers never really pulled away from the keys.
Then he slammed on the lower chords and powerfully played up in octaves before settling back to the quick successions of sixteenth notes tumbling down, finally giving it away to the orchestra that dramatically ended the piece.
Keith snapped out of his musical haze as the audience roared and clapped. Flushed, he stood up and bowed to the audience. Shaking his hands with the concertmaster and the conductor, he quickly left the stage.
Shiro was there waiting for him by the sidelines. “One last-”
“No. I’m late,” Keith said, pulling out the gloves and putting them on. It was already five minutes to nine and if he hurried to catch a cab, he’d at least get there in time for the second half of their show.
Shiro only watched before sighing and called out to his brother. Keith stopped and looked back at him, impatience evident in the furrow of his brows. Shiro grinned as he nodded to the side. “I’ll take you there.”
Keith’s eyes widened and then he grinned. “Thanks, Shiro!”
Before the car could even stop at the entrance of the club, Keith was already running. He could hear music coming from inside and he swore. It was a quarter past nine. His group was probably already playing.
He burst inside and stopped in his tracks.
Lance stood alone on the podium, strumming his guitar and singing.
“Wha-” Keith could only stare. He searched the bar and saw Hunk and Pidge off to the side. He headed towards them. When he was within earshot, he asked, “What's going on?”
Hunk whirled around and lit up as he saw him. “You made it!”
Keith grew more confused. Pidge explained, “We were supposed to be playing at eight, but you weren't here yet so we decided to switch slots with another band.”
“He didn't want to introduce Voltron without you,” Hunk piped up. “So he's doing the first set alone.”
An overwhelming sense of gratitude swelled inside him. Along with a pang of heavy guilt. “What did Kolivan say?”
“Oh, he knew about your concert from Coran. Apparently, they go way back.” Pidge punched his arm. “Why didn't you say anything, you selfish jerk? We could've helped you.”
Keith looked down. “Sorry. I just-”
Hunk eyed him critically. “We're friends, Keith. We talk to each other about our problems. You don't need to keep everything to yourself. We would help you in any way we can. We might not understand, but we're still here for you, you know.”
“Unless we're the only ones who think that way-” Pidge started.
“No, of course not! I think of you all as my friends!” Keith fiddled with his gloves. “I just…”
As Lance’s smooth voice carried out in the bar, Keith felt swept away.
Unlike classical music where he was amazed by the interweaving strings of melodies and harmonies - as one would find the workings of a rocket amazing in its engineering - jazz was amazing in a different way. It was skipping stones and crispy rocky road ice cream, a misstep that didn’t let you fall, hopscotch on rainy days.
Jazz was fun.
As he took in Lance on the stage, he realized the distance between them. Lance belonged in a noisy crowd, while he faced a full hall of silence. Lance was upfront and personal - but for Keith, the distance between the stage and the first row was three long meters.
Overwhelmed, Keith tore his eyes away from the stage and walked out of the bar. Hunk and Pidge watched him leave, concern in their eyes, but didn’t stop him. They'd give him a few minutes to collect himself.
Keith flinched, fingers tightening around his jacket sleeves. Shiro stuffed his hands inside his jacket and sat beside him on the sidewalk. They were quiet for a few moments.
“Lance is a good singer, huh.” Shiro broke the silence. He was met with a small ‘hm’. He continued, “Okay, what’s wrong? I know Lance has a good voice and he sings with amazing emotion, so it can’t be those.”
“I can’t be with him, Shiro,” Keith said hoarsely. “I can’t – we’re not – we live in two different worlds.”
Shiro raised an eyebrow. “What are you talking about? Last time I checked, we’re both on Earth.”
“You know what I mean!” Keith snapped, “He’s – he’s normal! He goes to college, he has a part-time job, and he sings jazz and blues and all those normal things that normal people do! And…
“I’m not,” Keith spat out, the words bitter in his mouth. He clenched his teeth. “I’m not normal. I don’t go to college. I don’t have a part-time job. I don’t know how to play video games. I’m no good with people.”
Keith paused. “What?”
“So what if he’s normal and you’re - self-proclaimed – not normal?” Shiro said, “We can’t control where we come from or the environment around us, but we sure can control how we respond to it.”
“But I’m -”
“Keith,” Shiro placed his hand on Keith’s shoulder, “Did Lance befriend you for your piano skills or for yourself?”
Keith frowned. At the start, Lance did approach him for his playing, but it wasn't the whole package. He said so himself. He did wonder why Lance gave him a second chance, even after he found about his status in the classical music world. “I… I don’t know.”
“Maybe you do,” Shiro said gently, “Maybe you’ve made yourself think that no one can cross that line between you on the stage and you outside of that. But Keith, think about it. When did you start wearing your gloves when playing?”
Keith’s eyes widened. He didn’t know the last time he took off his gloves when playing. He remembered taking them off whenever he practiced, but as for actual playing…
“You’ve always played jazz music while wearing those, haven’t you?” Shiro said.
Keith flexed fingers. He said softly, “I guess.”
“Maybe you haven't bridged that connection with Lance, but you're both connected through music. You may come from two different worlds, but you both belong in the same place.” Shiro clapped his shoulder. “You were meant to make music together. And that's what matters most.”
Keith stared at him. And then groaned as he buried his flushing face in his hands. “Why am I surrounded by cheesy people.”
Shiro laughed at that. Keith chuckled and then said sincerely, “Thanks, Shiro.”
“Anything for you, kiddo,” Shiro said fondly.
Just then, Hunk and Pidge came outside. “Hey, Keith?”
Keith turned around. Pidge nudged her head to the club. “C'mon. We've still got another act and we can't do it without you.”
Keith looked back at Shiro who gave him an encouraging smile. Keith grinned and ran back inside with his bandmates.
Walking back inside, they were just in time to see Lance put away his guitar. As he looked up, his eyes locked with Keith's. What Keith expected was apprehension for having the nerve to still come back, disappointment that he had come in late, anger for putting the group second.
What he got instead was a brilliant smile, and a look so soft that warmth filled his entire being and he knew… he knew that he had been forgiven.
“Thank you all for listening and sticking around for so long,” Lance said to the crowd. “As we reach the second half, well, as the saying goes, we've saved the best for last.” There was a smattering of applause and cheers as the rest of the three climbed up on stage along with an additional brass group. Keith headed towards Lance, awkward in demeanor.
“Hi,” Keith said shyly.
“Hey,” Lance quipped back, a smile still on his mouth.
“Ah, nope.” Lance pushed a finger on his lips. “If you're gonna say sorry, save it for later.”
Keith stared at him, conflicted. Lance just winked. “C'mon, the show’s not over yet.”
With a nod, Keith walked to the piano and stretched his arms before looking at Lance. Giving an ok sign, Keith came in sweet melodies and then Lance sang.
“I see you driving ‘round town with the girl I love and I'm like-” Lance closed his eyes, “Forget you.”
“I guess the change in my pocket wasn’t enough, I'm like-” he pointed at Kolivan with a grin , “forget you-” he pointed at Coran and winked back, “And forget you too.”
“Well, I'm sorry, can't afford a Ferrari.” He twisted off the mic from the stand and marched around the stage, something fierce burning in his eyes. “But that don’t mean I can't get you there.”
“Oh I know, I had to borrow, beg, and, steal, and lie, and cheat-” He clutched his chest, as though pained from a memory, “Trying to keep you, trying to please you.”
“But damn girl, your ass ain't cheap.” Lance snapped his fingers. “I pity the fool that falls in love with you, oh.”
“Ooohh she's a gold digger.” Keith, Pidge, and Hunk piped up at the back.
“Ooohh she's a backstabber.” Pidge inserted in. Hunk couldn’t help snorting.
“I said why.” Lance pointed the mic to the crowd who enthusiastically replied, “Why.”
“WHY BABY.” Lance sang at the top of his lungs. “I loved you. I STILL DO, OH!” The crowd cheered as he hit the high notes, adrenaline riding with Lance as he stole the attention of everyone in the room.
The crowd loved it, and Lance was grinning wide, his forehead shining with perspiration. He looked behind him and gave Pidge and Hunk two thumbs up. Locking eyes with Keith, he gave him the fiercest grin.
Keith didn't know that Lance could look as fiercely attractive as now, but at that moment, Keith realized that he was too far gone.
“So, for the next song, it's quite simple. Some of you might be familiar with its original version.” Lance said as Pidge moved away from the drums and strapped on the electric guitar. Fiddling a few knobs, she gave a thumb up. Lance grinned. “This is Pure Imagination from Willy Wonka in a stride tin pan alley fashion. We hope you'll enjoy.”
The piano came in octaved half-steps and with a few snaps of his fingers, Lance came in.
“Come with me and you'll be in a world of pure imagination.” A small smile graced his face. “Take a look and you'll see into your imagination.”
He shared a glance with Pidge who grinned back and continued strumming the chords. “We'll begin with a spin, traveling in a world of my creation. What we'll see will define explanation.”
“If you wanna view paradise-” he gestured to the crowd, “simply look around and view it.”
“Anything you want to, do it. You wanna change the world-” Lance looked at Keith, “there's nothing to it.”
“There is no life I know, to compare with pure imagination. Living here, you'll be free if you truly wish to be.”
And then Pidge's solo came. Interweaving melodies came and went. It then switched to Keith, various chords and rhythms playing around.
“If you wanna view paradise, simply look around and view it.” Lance sent a grin to Hunk who nodded his head with a grin mirroring his own. “Well anything you want to do, you wanna change the world, there's nothing to it.
“There is no life I know to compare with pure imagination.” Lance faced the crowd, his blue eyes glittering. “Living here, you'll be free if you truly wish to be.”
It was their last song of the set. It was meant to be a song that showcased the skills of everyone in the band. But...
Without any warning, Keith played the first chord.
Without missing a beat, Lance sang the first verse. “Say something, I'm giving up on you.”
“I'm sorry that I couldn't get to you.” Lance looked at Keith eyebrows raised in question, but eyes filled with emotions that he didn't dare to guess. “ Anywhere I would have followed you.
“Say something I'm giving up on you.”
Lance looked away. “And I… am feeling so small. I was over my head. I know nothing at all.”
At that last part, he took a fleeting glance at Keith. “And I… will stumble and fall. I'm just learning to love. Just starting to crawl.”
Lance and Keith sang in harmony. “Say something I'm giving up on you.”
“I'm sorry that I couldn't get to you.” They exchanged looks and understood. “And anywhere I would've followed you.”
“Say something I'm giving up on you.”
“And I,” Keith sang, “will swallow my pride.”
He looked up and met Lance's stare. “You're the one that I love.”
Keith closed his eyes and changed the lyrics. “ I'm not saying goodbye.”
At his piano solo, Keith watched as Lance pulled off the microphone from the stand and walked slowly towards him.
“Anywhere I would've followed you.”
Lance searched his face and then smiled. “Say something I won't give up on you.”
Keith’s eyes widened at the change of lyrics. Lance smiled shyly at him. “I'm sorry that I couldn't get to you.”
“Anywhere I would've followed you.” Keith watched him draw nearer, cheeks turning red.
“Say something, I won't give up on you.” Lance sang, never looking away.
Keith replied back softly, “Say something I won't give up on you.”
Lance stepped closer to him.
One step closer.
Lance asked quietly. “Stay?”
Keith smiled and nodded.
“I won't give up on you.”
I guess, studying in performing arts does have its perks, one being me asking my friends and professors how jazz works and all that. I play music, but I cannot play jazz to save my life. But y’know, you get what you can at your disposal, and lemme tell you, jazz is something entirely different. (of course, how much those questions are inserted in this fic is less than what I asked for)
Also, I am not a prodigy so there's that too. Also, forgive me for all the music jokes that flew over your head. Violas, you have my heart. You always did. <3
So, thank you so much for reading! I'm glad you reached the end! See y'all next time!