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The truth comes out the Friday before spring break, because Pidge is a traitorous snake and has apparently grown a conscience and told Keith about The Plan.

“I just think enough is enough,” she says stubbornly when Lance bemoans her betrayal. “It was kind of funny at first, and now it’s just not. He didn’t do anything to deserve this.”

“Pidge,” Lance whines. “Keith is my archnemesis. His very existence is enough to deserve my righteous vengeance!”

Pidge serves him a withering look. “Grow up,” she says curtly. “Anyway, I see him walking this way. I hope you apologize.”

With that she leaves him floundering at his locker, dead in the water as Keith stalks over looking pissed. To be fair, he’s got a chronic case of Resting Bitch Face so he kind of always looks pissed, but Lance has been working at this for years, so he can tell when it’s serious. Right now, it’s serious.

In all honesty, Lance would probably be pissed too if he found out that someone had been posing as a secret admirer for nearly a month just to set the stage for an elaborate fake promposal designed to humiliate him in front of the whole school. Pidge had helped him set up this untraceable number for texting, and Lance had been buttering Keith up to think he was a junior girl and too shy to talk to him in person. It was all supposed to culminate in a very public affair, the exact nature of which Lance hadn’t yet decided — he was leaning towards splattering Keith with something nasty, something easier to find than pigs’ blood, but he wanted the overall vibe to be Carrie-esque — but that’s obviously been ruined now. Way to go, Pidge.

Keith is in front of him in a flash, way too close for comfort, arms crossed and edging Lance back into the row of lockers until he can feel the little metal vents digging into his back. Lance swallows, unsettled. This close, he can practically hear Keith gnashing his teeth, can see the faint flush on his cheeks.

“What,” Keith says harshly, “the fuck is your problem?”

Lance is about to snap back with some dumb, snarky remark, but something in Keith’s voice gives him pause. It’s low and venomous, which is to be expected, but it’s also… hurt? As though Keith’s been let down. As though this time, for the first time, Lance has really gotten to him, has found a tender spot and pressed it, hard.

The concept is a new one. Before he can form anything even resembling a coherent response, Keith continues.

“What the fuck did I ever do to you?” he says.

This, Lance knows, is where he’s supposed to say he’s sorry. But instead he fixates on the question — Pidge had brought it up too — of what Keith ever did. Specifically. And he’s reaching back, trying to pinpoint something, anything, but it’s hard to think, particularly with Keith glaring daggers at him from six inches away, and he comes up empty.

“Um,” he says.

Keith backs off suddenly and Lance flinches, expecting a blow, but it never comes. His expression abruptly cold and blank, Keith just walks away. And somehow, that makes Lance feel even worse.

 

 

Maybe it all started in eighth grade during the particularly vicious game of dodgeball that had ended with Keith’s nose bloody and Lance’s left eye swollen nearly shut. Or maybe it started the summer before that, when they’d been banned from the public swimming pool for, among other things, brawling in the hot tub. Maybe it was more recent — when Keith had made varsity baseball as a freshman and Lance hadn’t, and he’d hated JV so much he quit after a year and joined the swim team, where his talents were better appreciated.

Or maybe this went all the way back, back to the spring Keith had first moved to town, had disrupted the flow of Lance’s life. Lance remembers his nine-year-old self being actually sort of excited when the new kid stood in front of the class and said reluctantly, “My name is Keith. I like baseball. Nice to meet you.” But then everyone else had gotten excited too, and during lunch Keith had been the first to get picked for kickball teams, and Lance’s mood had soured, and maybe that was the point from which everything had gone downhill.

By middle school, Lance was calling Keith his nemesis. Pidge called Lance an instigator. Lance, age eleven, asked what that meant.

“It means you’re the one who always starts it,” Pidge replied, “and for the record, I think you should stop.”

For all that Pidge revels in playing the mischievous evil-doer, she’s always had a soft side to her as well, and even back then, she had a point. Lance usually was the one to throw the first punch. When asked, he’d say he’d been provoked. When asked how, sometimes he had to get creative.

“He was looking at me funny.”

“He was farting.”

“His hair smells bad.”

“He called Pidge a girl.”

(“But Pidge is a girl!” Keith had shot back exasperatedly.

“Yeah, well, you said it in a mean way,” was Lance’s scathing reply.)

Now, with a little more perspective under his belt, Lance can admit that, yes, he is kind of an instigator. And yes, it is possible that he’s taken things a little too far. And alright, he does owe Keith an apology. He can’t get that weird, hurt expression out of his head — the way Keith’s eyes had been all black and disappointed. And how he’d sighed as he’d walked away, his shoulders hunched and tense. It was all very un-Keith-like behavior. What Lance had expected — wanted, almost — was for Keith to get aggressive, like he normally would. To just give Lance a reason, and then they could hit each other a few times and then the whole thing would be water under the bridge.

But Keith had just left, leaving this awful sour feeling in his wake that wormed into Lance’s chest and festered there. It’s not that Lance wants to get punched, specifically, but he wants something, anything but this unbearable hollowness. And after a weekend of feeling like absolute human garbage, Lance has had enough, and he decides to nut up and say that he’s sorry.

 

 

The Monday of spring break he goes to Keith’s house, the address of which he knows not because he’s a stalker, but because they used to carpool to Little League practice sometimes, until all parties involved decided that that was a Very Bad Idea. The place hasn’t changed much over the years: still the same lemon tree in the yard, the same brick walkway wending from the driveway to the front door. There’s the beginnings of a potted herb garden on the front porch that Lance never noticed as a kid, so maybe that’s new.

I’m at Keith’s house, Lance thinks numbly as he raises his hand to the doorbell. What the hell am I doing at Keith’s house.

Before he can psych himself out of this, he pushes it, and a series of chimes echoes inside. Footsteps down the stairs. Then the door is swinging open, and—

“Well, if it isn’t Lance McClain.”

Keith’s dad is standing there in a scuffy-looking T-shirt, sweatpants and slippers. He’s always been kind of a sad-looking dude, big but sort of loose, with heavy brows and a downturned mouth.

“Mr. Kogane,” Lance says quickly. “Um. Good morning.”

“It’s two in the afternoon,” Keith’s dad says.

“Right you are, sir,” Lance says. “Good, um. Good day.”

Nice. Smooth.

“What brings you around, Lance?” Keith’s dad says, looking a little amused now.

“Is Keith home?” Lance says weakly.

“He’s at baseball practice. Shiro’s got ’em doing some kind of training camp all week.”

“Oh, shit, duh,” Lance says, and then quickly backpedals. “I mean, shoot. Duh.”

Keith’s dad is now biting back a half-smile.

“Do you know what time that’ll be done?” Lance says.

“Think they end at four,” Keith’s dad says, and then narrows his eyes a little. “Why?”

It’s a fair question. Given the number of times Lance and Keith have been given detention and the occasional suspension for fighting, he doesn’t blame Keith’s dad for being suspicious of his motives. He wants to be honest, but something tells him that “I wanted to apologize to your son for almost trying to dump pigs’ blood on him and for nine years’ worth of generally being a dick” would only invite more questions, so he just kind of shrugs.

“I, we, group project,” is what comes out of his mouth. “But you know what, that’s what they invented email for, right? I’ll just go now. Have a nice day, Mr. Kogane.”

“Bye, Lance.”

 

 

Their high school doesn’t have a baseball field, so the team uses a public field a couple of miles away. A field that is only a ten minute drive from Keith’s house. Lance maneuvers his mom’s station wagon in the farthest back corner of the parking lot, puts it in park, and then immediately starts wiping his sweaty palms on his jeans because he has most definitely Not Thought This Through.

The baseball team is notoriously well-disciplined, and their assistant coach Shiro is notoriously a real hard-ass when it comes to practice attendance rates, especially for his spring break training camp, when the players are whipped into shape right before the regional high school playoffs — now less than a month away. So, statistically speaking, there’s about a zero point zero chance in hell that Shiro’ll let Lance just make his merry way onto the field and try to talk to Keith now. Something that Lance knew, before coming here, obviously. But he came anyway.

God, he’s a dumbass. This was a bad idea after all.

He starts the car, pulls out of the parking lot, and drives to the Starbucks five blocks away.

An hour and half and two venti double shot lattes later, he comes back.

Honestly, Lance is the king of not thinking things through. His palms have stopped sweating, but his heartbeat is off the charts, and it’s past four now so the team is done practicing and have clearly seen him pull into the parking lot. A couple of them wave, and Lance has no choice but to wave back and smile like he doesn’t lowkey want to throw up right now.

Keith hasn’t seen him yet, though, so he could still bail. It would be weird, but potentially far less weird than flagging him down randomly at sports practice, after going to his house like a literal stalker, and saying, “Sorry I catfished you, can we try to get along?” Lance really should have planned out what he was going to say before he came here. All of his brooding over the weekend, and he still can’t quite articulate the type of sorry he’s feeling. Maybe he can just do this tomorrow.

But then Keith does see him. He’s hauling equipment from the dugout to the school van parked in the lot, a mere few yards from where Lance is still sitting in his car like the lily-livered pond scum that he is. And Keith looks at him. And his face starts to twist up like it does when he’s about to be angry, and that’s somehow more promising than the cold void it had been on Friday, so Lance figures, what the hell.

He bursts out of the car, trots over.

“Keith,” he calls, trying not to sound as breathless as he feels. His heart is still beating double time.

“Lance,” Keith says coolly. He shoves a heavy jangling bag of aluminum bats into the trunk of the van. “Here to ask me to prom?”

“I’m here to say that I’m sorry.” That’s pretty much the extent of his planned speech, so now he’s got to wing it. Keith looks wary, but he doesn’t seem to be trying to walk away, which is a good sign. “I was being a jerk. With this whole fake phone number thing, and just, like. I guess I’ve been sort of, uh, hostile ever since middle school. To you. For no good reason. I was… wrong. And, yeah, I’m sorry. For everything.”

 It’s like a weight’s been lifted off his chest. His heart is still beating way too fast, but that’s doubtless just the caffeine. Keith, meanwhile, looks fairly unimpressed.

“Okay,” he says.

“Okay?” Lance repeats. “That’s all you have to say?”

“What do you want me to say?” Keith says. “Thanks, I guess?”

“I spent all weekend thinking about this,” Lance says. He’s getting kind of heated without knowing why. “About what an asshole I was. Are you really just okay, just like that?”

“Are you really just sorry, just like that?” Keith shoots back. “I don’t know, if you are, then cool. That’d be cool.”

“I sense a ‘but’,” Lance mutters.

“But if you pull any more petty shit on me, I’ll kick your face in,” Keith says savagely.

“Roger that,” Lance says in a small voice. “So, what I’m getting from this is, apology accepted?”

Keith gives him a long, tired look, and then he sighs and pushes his baseball cap up off his head so he can run his hand through his hair, before settling it back down.

“Yeah,” he says. “I accept your apology.”

“Dope, ’cause I meant it,” Lance says. “I mean… you know I never… y’know, it was mostly like, not serious stuff up until this prom thing. And I crossed the line, and I guess I realized I was being a dick for no reason. And I felt like shit.” He takes a deep breath. “And I’m glad we’re like, cool now, or whatever.”

“We’re cool,” Keith says slowly, as though turning the concept over in his mind. “Yeah, we’re cool.”

“Cool,” Lance says. He’s suddenly aware of a couple of underclassmen skulking on the other side of the van, apparently waiting for them to be done. “I guess I’ll, uh, let you get back to your practice then. Or, cleanup. Or, whatever. I’ll see you around.”

“Okay,” Keith says. He gives Lance a nod and starts walking back to the field. “See you.”

This is a new concept: the idea of ending an encounter with Keith on good terms and actually anticipating another one. Lance hasn’t decided how he feels about it all, but he’s leaning towards tentatively (and casually) pleased. With himself, of course, for being the bigger man and apologizing with all the grace and magnanimity of a true gentleman.

But it also hadn’t felt completely horrible to have Keith look at him the way he had, eyes dark and so much softer than when they were fighting. It had been… decidedly bearable.

Lance is in his car, half a mile away, when it registers that his face is burning, his heart is still pumping away a mile a minute, and his limbs feel light and jittery. He thinks of Keith, how he’d been flushed and sweaty even though practice was long over.

“Dumbass must’ve gave me the flu,” he mutters to himself, and stomps on the gas.

 

 

Chapter Text

They had said “see you,” but Lance had assumed that he wouldn’t actually have to see Keith until school the next week, when they would presumably astound the rest of gym class by not getting into a juvenile, badminton-related pissing contest.

Instead, because his other best friend is apparently also traitorous trash, he ends up seeing Keith two days later at the movies.

“I really don’t think it’s fair for you to call me a traitor,” Hunk says mildly. “You made up with him, right? So I don’t see how this is a big deal.”

“You inviting him to the movies is not the betrayal,” Lance says, wounded. “You befriending him behind my back sophomore year is the betrayal. A betrayal of the highest magnitude, I might add, and—”

“And you two are cool now,” Hunk says. “Which retroactively cancels out any transgressions of allegiance I may have committed.”

“I don’t — that’s,” Lance sputters, feeling very attacked. “Stop with your logic!”

Hunk shrugs. “We’re all friends now and that’s what matters, right?”

Whatever snarky reply Lance had been going to make gets stuck in his throat at the word “friends” and the realization that he has committed himself to being, for all intents and purposes, Keith’s friend from now on.

Then Keith himself walks up to them, and Lance has to concentrate as hard as he can on not making it weird.

But not making it weird is the least of his worries, because it turns out that saying you’re friends with someone doesn’t erase their entire irritating personality, and Lance is soon expending all his precious patience on not fighting with Keith like he normally would and very badly wants to. Nevertheless—

“No spoilers!” he screeches, covering his ears.

Keith rolls his eyes. “The Haggar thing isn’t a spoiler, Lance. It was revealed in a post-credits scene in the last movie and it was in the trailer for this one.”

“I didn’t watch the trailer,” Lance sniffs, “because I don’t want to be spoiled!”

“Oh my god,” Keith says, aggravated. “It’s not a spoiler if it’s in the trailer!”

They argue all the way to their seats, about what constitutes a spoiler, about whether the Voltron reboot is playing fast and loose with canon, about being in time to watch the previews, about the best flavor of popcorn topping. It’s familiar and comfortable and uncannily like how they’ve always been with each other, except every time Keith starts to make the face that means he’s going to hit something, it turns into a laugh instead, which is doing bizarre things to Lance’s nerves for whatever reason. He’s sure it doesn’t mean anything, though. Probably just a heretofore unknown allergic reaction to Keith’s smile.

The movie, predictably, sucks, and Lance keeps a running commentary on all the ways in which it is garbage. Keith, a couple of times, actually does hit him, reaching over Pidge and smacking him viciously on his upper arm.

“Like you don’t see the plot holes, too!” Lance hisses, rubbing his arm, as a number of spaceships are destroyed in multicolored explosions on screen.

“Shut up, Lance,” Pidge whispers.

“I’ll shut up when this movie starts making sense,” Lance says.

Several other moviegoers hush him, and Lance falls silent until the credits are rolling.

“You’re obnoxious,” Keith tells him frankly as they walk out into the lobby.

“Oh, so everyone who has an actual critical opinion of your precious Voltron is obnoxious?” Lance says. “Everyone who doesn’t consider it the greatest sci-fi franchise of all time is a stupid annoying moron, is that it?”

“Don’t put words in my mouth,” Keith says. “Not everyone who doesn’t like Voltron is a stupid annoying moron.” He pauses and smirks. “Just you.”

Lance has possibly never seen Keith smirk before. Well, probably he has, because it’s combative and self-assured (a mood of Keith’s that Lance knows all too well), but he must have just never been looking properly, because it’s also, and this is the strangest thought Lance has ever had in his young life, but: it’s hot?

He banishes the notion immediately, because no, it’s not, it’s Keith. He probably does have the flu. Fevers make you hallucinate thoughts of attraction, right? He’ll Google that later.

“I hate you,” he says, “and everything you stand for in this world.”

 

 

The sentence for all but the most dire infractions in Coach Iverson’s gym class is running laps. A sentence that Lance has received, on average, twice a week for the past year, usually for a) getting into petty arguments with Keith or b) being a general smartass. It sucks, but it’s also decent dry land training, and he’s managed to shave almost a minute off his mile time, so there’s that.

Today, though, is going to be different. Today there will be no running. Today will be the day that he shocks and awes everyone in third period gym by Getting Along With Keith.

“Yo,” he says, grabbing a racket and birdie from the bin. “Wanna get your ass kicked at badminton?”

Keith crosses his arms. “I don’t think that’s going to happen,” he says archly.

“What,” Lance taunts, “afraid I’ll embarrass you? Think you can’t handle the McClain spin serve?”

Keith’s eyes narrow, and Lance bites back a grin. It’s that easy.

“You’re on,” Keith says, snatching up a racket, “I’m gonna wipe the floor with you.”

Iverson is suddenly looming over the both of them. “I’ve never seen you willingly pair up with Kogane, McClain.” His already stern expression goes stony. “This better not devolve into any tomfoolery.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it, sir,” Lance says.

“I hate tomfoolery,” Keith adds.

Iverson looks unconvinced. “One step out of line,” he warns, pointing emphatically to the track. “One step.”

Lance gives a little salute. “Roger that, sir.”

“You know you don’t have to call him sir,” Keith says as they walk towards the nets.

“I know,” Lance says, “but he likes it.”

Keith rolls his eyes, trots into position on their chosen court. “Just serve the birdie, McClain.”

He’ll die before he verbally admits this to anyone, but Lance knows, has known for a while, that Keith is better than him at badminton. Keith is, infuriatingly, a natural athlete, and he plays badminton with the same single-minded dedication that he applies to pretty much everything he chooses to do. It’s part of why Lance has hated him so fiercely for so long, but it’s also what makes him the best badminton opponent Lance has ever had.

Which, again, is something he’ll go to the grave denying.

It’s just that he has such lightning quick reflexes, and he wields the racket like an extension of his lean, subtly muscled arm, and he’s so fast, his thighs straining under the baggy gym shorts. A couple of times he makes saves so impressive that Lance gets caught up staring, and almost forgets to return the birdie. One time, he actually does forget, his racket forgotten at his side and his jaw slack as Keith makes a seemingly impossible backhand save, lunging swiftly across the court and diving for the back corner, arm outstretched. The birdie plinks off his racket, sails over the net, and lands softly behind Lance, who can hardly believe his eyes.

“What the actual fuck,” he says, awestruck. “Did you just fly?”

And at that, Keith, pulls a wide, exhilarated grin, his cheeks pink with exertion and his hair tousled, strands of it clinging to his damp temples. It’s exactly the kind of face that should piss Lance off, should make him want to fight this smug bastard, but the anger never comes. Instead, he finds himself feeling dizzy and warm, his heartbeat tripping and stuttering and god, is this the flu, too?

“Sixteen-twelve,” Keith says, “my serve.” Then he cocks his head. “Lance? You okay?”

Lance gives his head a shake to clear it. “Fine, fine. I’m good. I’m great.”

“You look sort of out of it,” Keith says, coming closer to the net.

“No way,” Lance says briskly, retrieving the birdie. “Quite the opposite. I’m into it. I’m in it to win it. Get ready for the McClain Comeback Kid to strike again!”

Keith chuckles. “You’ve been calling yourself that since middle school. And it’s never once been true.”

(Has it really been since middle school? Keith sure has a weirdly good memory.)

Lance lobs the birdie back over the net.

“Good thing there’s a first time for everything,” he says. “Serve and I’ll show you what the fuck I’m made of.”

They have a good set that stretches past twenty-one points and that Lance feels he’s poised to win, but it’s cut tragically short when he and Keith get into a heated argument about whether or not one of Keith’s serves landed inside the line or not. Keith insists it was in, Lance starts trying to rope in witnesses from neighboring games, and it’s at that point that Coach Iverson stomps over and growls, “Track. Both of you. Now.”

Lance and Keith surrender their rackets and make the familiar jog down to the track. It’s the same old routine, but instead of glaring and spewing insults at each other, they’re laughing and shoving each other playfully, and they run for the rest of the class, but like this, side-by-side, it somehow doesn’t really feel like a punishment anymore.

 

 

When she’s not busy being the shadow leader of the student government or illegally hacking the school’s records system and tweaking kids’ attendance records (for a fee, of course), Pidge runs the school newspaper. In the year since she took it over, the paper’s become something of a hot topic among the administration — are they really alright with using so much ink on memes and conspiracy theories in a school-funded publication? — but as of yet, she’s maintained free reign over the thing and basically always gets her way in the end. Which leads to a deep-seated resentment amongst her staff, which in turn leads to high turnover, which in turn leads to Lance and Hunk frequently being roped into writing last-minute articles when one of the regular writers has quit.

“I need an article about prom,” Pidge says without prelude, plopping into the seat beside Lance on the bus to school one Monday morning. “As far as the specifics, I don’t care as long as it’s not boring.”

“Okay,” Lance says. When Pidge is in Head Editor Mode, he’s learned that it’s best to take these kinds of commands in stride and never, ever talk back. “Prom. Got it.”

“Given that prom’s in only a few more weeks, most of the big promposals have happened already. That’d be an easy topic,” Pidge says. “You could also write about the drama surrounding the venue. Or the drama surrounding the ticket cost. Hell, you could write about the drama between you and Keith, I don’t care.”

“There’s no drama between me and Keith,” Lance says indignantly. “I’ve seen the error of my ways! We’re on good terms now!”

“Mm,” Pidge says slyly. “You’re welcome for that, by the way.”

“Oh, no no no,” Lance says, “I’m not thanking you and never will.”

“You just admitted that you were wrong,” Pidge says. “You know you were being a jackass. And deny it if you want to, but you enjoy being friends with Keith. None of this would have happened if I hadn’t told him about your stupid scheme.”

“That’s not the point,” Lance says. “The point is that you stabbed me in the back!”

“It was for your own good,” Pidge says. “Anyway, I think your dumb plan would have blown up in your face some other way eventually.”

“Dumb plan?” Lance says. Okay, yes, it was a dumb plan, but — “You’re the one who helped me come up with it! You were all for it at first!”

“Well, yeah,” Pidge says, frowning, “’cause at first you made it seem like it would end with you actually taking Keith to prom. And that sounded hilarious. Of course I was gonna help.”

Lance feels his cheeks begin to heat up. “Don’t be ridiculous, I didn’t — that was never part of the plan! At no point did I say I was going to take him to prom.”

“Lance,” Pidge says incredulously, “you described a scenario where Keith was wearing a tux with his hair slicked back and you were behind the wheel of your cousin’s Mustang convertible. You asked what color the corsage should be. How else was I supposed to interpret that?”

“I have no memory of saying any such thing,” Lance says, weak under the weight of his argument crashing down around him.

“You said it,” Pidge says. “And I’ll never forget it, because you literally used the words ‘all gussied up’ to describe Keith in this imaginary prom date. I even tweeted about it.”

“You what?”

“And I just thought, hey, what could be the harm,” Pidge continues. “Maybe this would be your most innocent and lighthearted prank yet. Maybe it’d even get you to realize that your lifelong obsession with Keith is based in something other than antipathy. Maybe all the stupid and quite frankly bizarre sexual tension between you would be resolved and we could all move on. But, noooo—”

“Wait, what?” Lance interjects, gut churning. “Sexual — c’mon, Pidge. That’s not funny.”

“No, it’s not,” Pidge says. “At this point, it’s mostly just sad.”

Lance snorts a laugh that falls just short of casual. “You’re crazy.”

Pidge shrugs. “Feel free to prove me wrong.”

They spend the bus ride mostly in silence as Lance fumes. Prove her wrong? There’s nothing to prove. The idea that he could be, what? Attracted to Keith? Is just so preposterous that it’s not worth entertaining. Whatever Pidge thinks is going on is entirely in her head, because Lance has only just come around to tolerating Keith’s presence and there’s no way he’d ever be attracted to him. Sure, maybe he looks forward to P.E. now because their badminton games are so fun, but that has nothing to do with Keith as a person and it certainly doesn’t mean that Lance has at any point found him attractive. Well, not in a lucid state. He’s pretty sure he has some type of fever that’s caused him to have the stray thought of ‘Keith is hot’ or ‘Keith has Nice arms’ but that’s a separate issue. 

The point is this: Lance is not into Keith. That would be insane. Up until two weeks ago, he hated Keith’s guts, and you don’t just go from hating someone to liking them overnight. Even if that someone is really good at badminton and actually almost fun to be around. Even if that someone fits seamlessly into Lance’s friend group and now it’s almost like the four of them were always together like this. Two weeks of Getting Along can’t erase the years and years they spent fighting constantly, the pent up bad feelings and resentment and aggression. The aggression that was definitely only rooted in anger and not sexual tension and god, why would Pidge even say that??

“You can be really mean,” Lance says sourly, shortly before they arrive at school.

“I’m sorry,” Pidge says, utterly unrepentant. “Can you write me that article by Wednesday?”

“Yeah, sure,” Lance says.

“Thanks,” Pidge says. “And you know what, scratch what I said about venue and ticket drama. Someone wrote about that last year and it was boring as fuck. Just write something interesting.”

“Fine.”

But it’s hard to think about interesting article topics, or even anything at all other than how very much he’s not attracted to Keith. Then they get to school and actually run into Keith, and that’s even worse because Lance takes a long, appraising look at him and thinks, fuck, actually, shit…

It’s not that he’s attracted to Keith, necessarily, just that Keith is, objectively, an attractive person. His hair is a disaster of course, messy and long in the back and dangerously close to being an honest to god mullet; but it’s also this gorgeous shade of jet black, and it looks like it’d be really soft to touch. And he’s got a nice face as well, as long as he’s not scowling at the world (so, almost never). His body’s not bad either — probably because of all that baseball training — and he tends to wear sort of tight clothes so you can see the strength in his arms and the breadth of his chest and every last contour of his shapely legs.

And — this is — it’s fine. Lance can just resign himself to the fact that Keith is good looking. It doesn’t mean he’s attracted to him. It’s just an impartial observation. Same as how he thinks Pidge is majorly cute and Hunk is a Samoan god, it doesn’t actually mean anything. Keith is allowed to be handsome, and Lance is allowed to think so, and it’s all perfectly legal within the bounds of friendship.

It doesn’t mean anything.

“Hey nerd,” Keith greets Pidge cheerfully, “hey Lance.”

“Hey loser,” Pidge says, high-fiving Keith.

“Hey,” Lance says. Have Keith’s eyes always been so goddamn pretty when he smiles?

“You look constipated,” Keith remarks.

“Your face looks constipated,” Lance shoots back automatically.

Keith rolls his eyes, and there, that’s normal. This is Keith, Lance reminds himself, his ex-archnemesis and an all-around lame person. The fact that he happens to be cute and have a really good smile? Doesn’t. Mean. Anything.

Pidge glances back and forth between them with a critical eye. Then she declares with a laugh,

“Man. Boys are really dumb.”

 

 

The spaceship is small, a two-seater, and completely made of glass. Stark against the blackness of space is the blue-green marble of Earth, shrinking slowly as they cruise away. Lance is only wearing his Speedo for some reason, and Keith is in his baseball uniform.

“Where’s Shiro?” Lance asks. Shiro should be there, too, and it seems urgent that they find him. But Keith just shrugs.

“He had to pick up a cake.”

Lance nods; makes sense.

“We have another five hours before we land on Jupiter,” Lance says, glancing at a control panel displaying data in an alien language.

“Maybe we should make out,” Keith suggests.

Then the seats of the spaceship melt into a soft, bouncy mattress, and Keith is straddling Lance and kissing him passionately, the fabric of his uniform rough against Lance’s sensitive bare skin, his hands frenzied and roaming everywhere. Lance gives a helpless whimper as Keith tugs down the waistband of the Speedo and starts to stroke him where he’s hard.

“I wanna feel you,” Lance moans.

“Fuck, Lance,” Keith exhales, his breath hot right against Lance’s ear. Lance shivers.

Then they’re hard against each other, and in the sweet haze of pleasure Lance isn’t sure what exactly is happening, who’s touching what, how they started moving in sync, but he doesn’t care, it just feels so good. The sounds Keith is making in his ear are beyond filthy, and they both start moving faster, and the pressure builds and builds until—

“Oh,” Lance gasps, “oh — fuck!”

 

 

Lance wakes up with an unpleasant start, ten minutes before his alarm on Monday morning, cum cooling in his boxers.

He did not just have a wet dream about Keith Kogane fucking him in a spaceship.

He scoots out of bed, gingerly peels off his soiled underwear, and makes for the shower. The more he tries not to think about it, the more he replays the stupid dream in his mind and the more his heartbeat races frantically. This is by far the worst thing that’s ever happened to him in his entire life.

And way worse than just the fact that he had a sex dream about Keith is the fact that it was a really very nice sex dream and thus burned into his memory forever. There’s no way he’s going to be able to look at Keith now without remembering the feel of him in the dream, all warm and muscly in his fucking baseball uniform…

“Fuck baseball!” he says loudly as the hot water of the shower streams over him. “And fuck everything!”

“Shut up,” Marco yells from down the hall.

So Lance goes about the rest of his tantrum in silence.

Apparently it’s not just his best friends who are traitors — his subconscious has decided to join the mutiny as well. How could this have happened? Lance is willing to admit that Keith is cute, whatever. But still. He has the sex appeal of a rock. Why, why, why, then is Lance so stuck on this disgraceful fantasy?

Unlike most of his embarrassing sexual fantasies, this one’s born out of absolutely nothing concrete. His weird dreams about Sexy Lifeguard Shiro make sense, at least, because Shiro is actually a lifeguard. His weird dreams about Sexy Dominatrix Nyma make sense because she actually pinned him down in gym that one time and started lowkey choking him and it was actually hot as hell. But this? Sexy Baseball Keith??

Well, sure, Keith does play baseball. And he does look halfway decent in the uniform — long-sleeved undershirt hugging the lines of his arms, the gray pants tight just about everywhere. The cap perched just so on his head, with little locks of hair spilling out from under it. The way that the nape of his neck was beaded with sweat that one day Lance had gone to see him at practice — and the way that his chest and back were damp as well — and the flush high on his cheeks in the warmth of the afternoon sun—

A fever dream, that was all it was, Lance decides. A product of the swine flu that he’s pretty sure he has.

Swine flu gives you wet dreams, right? He’ll have to Google that.

 

Chapter Text

The one and only thing Lance vows is that no one can learn of his shameful wet dream about Keith. So, naturally, later that day, both Pidge and Hunk end up learning of his shameful wet dream about Keith.

 He doesn’t tell them, but it’s not his fault his two best friends are both mega-genius super sleuths.

“Yo,” Hunk whispers as they walk together to English after lunch, “you okay, dude?”

“Fine,” Lance says stiffly.

“Okay,” Hunk says slowly, “’cause you were mad staring at Keith while he ate that banana. Staring, and like. Blushing.”

“No, I wasn’t,” Lance says instantly, “I was not, and I would never.”

“You’re blushing again now.”

“How can you even—?” Lance is dark enough that this really shouldn’t be a problem. “Look, whatever. If I’m blushing it’s because I have a fever. I wasn’t staring at Keith and I didn’t dream about anything last night, so maybe you could mind your own business, Hunk.”

“Dream?” Hunk says, lighting up. “You dreamed about him last night? Like… a sexy dream?”

“Stop,” Lance groans, “no. I just said I didn’t.”

“Bro,” Hunk says very seriously, “I think we need to have a talk.”

“I disagree.”

“I think you should ask him out.”

That’s a ridiculous idea if ever Lance heard one, and he tells Hunk so, just as soon as he’s finished choking on his own spit.

“No, for real,” Hunk says insistently. “I think it’d go better than you’re thinking it would.”

“I think you’re very much mistaken,” Lance says, “because one, of course it wouldn’t go well, and two, I don’t like Keith. Whatever involuntary reactions my body may be having to him, I can assure you it’s nothing more than a side effect of the swine flu.”

Hunk wrinkles his nose. “You don’t have the swine flu, Lance.”

“I do,” Lance says, “because otherwise there’s no explanation for, like.” He swallows. “Stuff.”

“Buddy,” Hunk says, “pretty sure you have a crush. Not a deadly disease.”

Lance has no coherent response to that, and by now they’re already at the classroom, so the conversation is cut short there, and he’s forced to just kind of marinate in Hunk’s words for the rest of the day. Crush? Even if that is what’s going on here, and it’s not, that’s a sentence just about as bad as swine flu. Because even if Lance were to ever hypothetically develop romantical feelings for Keith, the chances that Keith’d ever reciprocate said feelings are less than zero. This is someone he spent years fighting and antagonizing and pushing away with all his might, someone who never failed to fight back, someone who might be his friend now but who always makes it more than clear when Lance is getting on his last nerve — and that’s practically a daily occurrence. Lance flatters himself that he’s a decently attractive guy, but Keith knows him too well by now to care about his looks more than all the shit underneath which is… a lot. If the years of enemyship weren’t enough of a turn-off, probably literally everything else about Lance’s personality would be. AND, is Keith even gay? Lance has no idea. For them to end up together, Keith would have to not only like guys, but also like Lance specifically, both of which are a huge stretch. So, yeah, hypothetically, Lance isn’t crazy about his chances.

All in all, he thinks he’d take the swine flu over a crush any day.

 

 

Hunk has obviously texted Pidge about the whole thing, because when she and Lance board the bus after school she says very casually, “Congrats on boning Keith in your dreams, by the way.”

“Fuck off,” Lance says tiredly. He doesn’t feel like getting into this again.

Pidge gives him a little nudge in the arm. “Hey, are you okay? You normally get way more defensive when I tease you about Keith.”

“I’m fine,” Lance says. “Can we talk about something else?”

Pidge hesitates, but then nods. “Yeah, okay.”

Lance is grateful for that. Pidge might be a nosy little know-it-all, but she’s smart, and she knows when to not cross the line.

“So I liked what you wrote for the newspaper last week,” Pidge says.

“Thanks,” Lance says. It had been a very brief 500 word piece on promposals, including photos of the more memorable ones (freeway signs, decorated cupcakes, a fully choreographed ABBA number by the marching band) and a couple of quotes from kids who’d either successfully carried one out or been involved in the planning process.

“The vice principal liked it too,” Pidge goes on.

“Uh oh,” Lance says. Mr. Smythe is a good guy and all, but so very weird. His likes include collecting weird bugs and pontificating about the biology of earthworms, so Lance isn’t sure what exactly it means that he’s also taken a fancy to Lance’s article.

“Yeah,” Pidge says, “and he strongly implied that he wants to be interviewed about his prom. Said you could go around interviewing other staff as well. Kind of a throwback theme.”

“Do I have a choice?” Lance says with a groan.

“It could be fun,” Pidge says. “You could interview Shiro, he’s an alum. You like Shiro.”

Lance does very much like Shiro, with his big beefy shoulders and his chiseled jaw and his perfect face and it’s actually really kind of a dirty trick for Pidge to bring that up. He sighs.

“Alright,” he says, “whatever.”

It’s not like it’ll be that bad. And besides, it’s at least something to keep him busy and distract him from how very much he does not have a crush on Keith.

 

 

Shiro’s not a real teacher at the school so he doesn’t have an office Lance can pop into or anything like that, which means that in order to interview him, he ends up borrowing his mom’s car once more to visit baseball practice again.

It’s been a few days since The Dream, and thankfully Lance has managed to keep his shit fairly well together. But when he shows up at the field with his digital audio recorder and his spiral notebook, walking awkwardly over to wait in the bleachers for practice to finish up, he can’t help but look at Keith in his baseball gear and remember how it’d been in the dream, Keith all warm and smelling of glove leather and grass stains, his thighs looking right in those tight pants and his mouth—

Lance shakes his head. Snap the fuck out of it, McClain.

He tries focusing instead on Shiro, who also looks damn good in baseball gear. Usually, this would distract him. But for some reason his gaze keeps drifting back to Keith, who catches him staring a couple of times and responds with a friendly wave.

Because they are friends, Lance reminds himself. And what’s a little wet dream among friends? It doesn’t have to be a big deal, he needs to stop making such a big fucking deal out of everything.

“Shiro,” Lance says, jogging down to the dugout when it’s clear that practice is finished. Shiro’s at the outside corner, packing up a duffel bag of catcher’s gear. “Hey.”

“Hi, Lance,” Shiro says. It doesn’t elicit the usual stomach butterflies, but it’s still nice to know that Shiro knows his name. “What’s up? What are you doing here?”

“I’m writing a piece for the school paper on prom,” Lance says, “but like, about old people. So I was wondering if you had any interesting anecdotes about your prom.”

Shiro rolls his eyes. “Old people? I’m twenty-four, Lance.”

“Yeah, you’re practically in your grave,” Lance says cheerfully. “Can I record?”

“Go for it,” Shiro says. Lance holds out the recorder and hits the big red button.

“Interview with Takashi Shirogane,” he says. “So, what year was your prom?”

“2012,” Shiro says. “It wasn’t that long ago. Was it?”

“Don’t ask me, I was barely born,” Lance says. “And did you go with a date?”

“Yeah,” Shiro says, eyes softening. “I went with my boyfriend, Adam.”

Lance does his best to play it cool, but he has to bite back the instinct to yell, BOYfriend???? There’s been much speculation among the student body about Shiro’s love life, but his total absence from social media made it hard to confirm anything until now. Lance supposes he was never hiding anything, but nor did he ever declare his sexuality from the rooftops. This discovery feels oddly triumphant.

“Did either of you ask the other in any special way?” Lance says, maintaining what he hope is a totally unexcited and businesslike tone.

“He asked me,” Shiro says, smiling. “During history class, I think it was a question about the Great Depression or something. Adam raised his hand, Ms. Sanda called on him, and he just stood up and said, ‘I don’t know about all that, but Takashi, will you go to prom with me?’”

Lance busts out laughing at the mental picture. “I bet Sanda loved that.”

“She was less than thrilled,” Shiro chuckles.

“You said yes, though.”

“I did,” Shiro says. “We went with a bunch of friends and had a good time. It wasn’t that important to me to go to prom, but I went, and it was fun.”

“That’s sort of anticlimactic, I probably won’t include it,” Lance says. “Do you have any other comments?”

Shiro looks thoughtful. “I guess I just wanna say, I’m grateful that no one at school was ever judgmental of me and Adam for being out. So many young queer people don’t get to have the quintessential prom experience, but I did. It wasn’t all that exciting, but I’m fine with that. I got to be myself. That’s not a small thing. I consider myself very lucky.”

Lance blinks rapidly. “Yeah. That’s really cool, Shiro.”

“I hope everyone has a good time at prom this year, too,” Shiro says. “It’s your last high school dance, might as well make it a good one.”

“Thanks,” Lance says, shutting off the recorder. “That was good, I’ll definitely quote you.”

“Cool,” Shiro says. He zips up the duffel bag and hefts it onto his broad shoulders. “So, who’s your prom date, Lance?”

“Me?” Lance says. “Ah, I’ll probably just go with friends. No date.”

“Really?” Shiro says, looking surprised. “You’re not—? Okay. Well, yeah, that’s fun, too.”

“Don’t judge me,” Lance sniffs. “We don’t all have boyfriends, Shiro, you don’t have to rub it in.”

Shiro smiles patiently. “Lance, if you want a boyfriend, I’m sure you’ll be able to get one.”

Lance is scrambling to think of something flippant to say to that when he sees Keith over Shiro’s shoulder, pulling second base out of the infield and lugging it to the storage locker behind the backstop. He’s not doing anything special, but still, just the sight of him makes Lance’s heart do cartwheels. Keith isn’t looking at him this time, but Lance wants him to, and god.

He doesn’t want a boyfriend. He wants Keith.

He wants to take back every last stupid insignificant fight he ever started, he wants to take back every hurtful comment he didn’t mean, he wants to make it all not exist and he wants to be someone that Keith would like, someone that Keith would kiss, would date. Because he doesn’t have a fever, doesn’t have the swine flu, he’s down with a much worse affliction. He likes Keith. Really, really likes him.

And it’s — well, it’s honestly not the most shocking revelation, but it’s still earth shattering  in a way because the last pathetic shred of denial he’s been clinging to desperately for the past few weeks is blown away, and his worldview has been turned on its head. He definitely, seriously, full on really likes Keith, which fucking sucks, because as long as he kept telling himself that he didn’t like him like that, there was no possibility of rejection. Now that he’s let the thought into existence, he can’t tamp it down any longer, he’s so fucking into Keith and Keith is never going to be into him, and at least if he had the swine flu, that’d be actionable. You could go to the hospital and be treated for swine flu. Lance can’t exactly march up to a doctor and say, “I like this boy, what can you prescribe me that’ll make it stop?”

“Lance?” Shiro is looking a little concerned now. “You alright?”

Not even a little bit, Lance thinks. Keith still hasn’t looked at him. “I’m fine, just zoned out for a second. Weird. Well, anyway, this was enlightening, but I’ve gotta run, so, thanks Shiro, bye!”

“You don’t want to say hi to—?”

“No, I’ll just go,” Lance says, pocketing the recorder. “Seeya!”

He thinks he hears Keith calling out his name as he makes a mad dash for the parking lot, but he ignores it. It’s probably just his delusional mind projecting, as usual. He hops in his car and speeds the whole way home, heart in his throat and eyes stinging and he thinks, Hunk was so wrong. A crush most definitely is a deadly disease.

 

 

The one and only thing he vows is that he will go to the grave without telling Keith that he likes him. So naturally, the very next day, he blurts out to Keith that he likes him.

He should maybe start confronting the fact that he is Not Good at keeping secrets.

They’re paired up for badminton again, despite Coach Iverson’s heaviest and most disapproving glares. The thing is that they haven’t really fought at all for the past week in gym class, so Iverson has little choice but to grudgingly allow it. Yesterday Lance spent all of class playing against Rolo, who’s athletic but for some reason terrible at badminton, and Lance’s ego took a huge boost as a result.

“I have to warn you, I’m on a streak, Kogane,” Lance says, cracking his neck and grinning. “I’ve reached my final form, and I’m ready to take you down.”

“We’ll see about that,” Keith says. “Ask Griffin how many points he scored against me yesterday. Or don’t, I’ll tell you. Six. The whole period.”

“Yeah, well Griff’s a chump,” Lance scoffs, “and I’m a champion.”

“You just keep telling yourself that.”

“I’m serious!” Lance insists. “I’m on a fucking roll here! And don’t think for a second that just because I ‘like’ you or whatever, I’ll go easy on your ass, because I won’t.” He tucks his racket under his arm to make air quotes with both hands.

Keith freezes.

“What?”

“What,” Lance says blankly. Is he going to have to explain air quotes to uncultured Neanderthal Keith? But Keith isn’t wearing his ‘I don’t understand that reference’ face, he’s wearing his ‘are you being for real?’ face, so it’s not that. Lance plays back what he just said, realizes what was inside the air quotes, and for the love of Christ he should never be allowed to speak ever again. 

“Did you just,” Keith starts, looking dumbfounded.

“As friends,” Lance says hurriedly. His face may well be burning right off, for all he can tell. “I meant now that we’re on friend terms. I didn’t mean — that.”

“Oh,” Keith says. He looks a bit red in the face, too, and Lance doesn’t blame him. He’s an embarrassment to this earth. Second-hand embarrassment is only natural, and heck, there’s enough to go around for third-hand, maybe fourth-hand embarrassment, too.

“Yeah,” Lance says awkwardly. Man, death sounds great right about now. “I didn’t mean — I wouldn’t — um, just… don’t worry about it.”

“I won’t,” Keith says. He won’t look Lance in the eyes, but maybe that’s for the best. “Your serve.”

They start the game, and Keith plays like shit. He keeps hitting the birdie into the net, and missing his serves, and letting Lance score on him in ways he normally would never allow. Lance wins by a mile, but it feels hollow.

“Are you okay?” he asks Keith awkwardly after class. They’re heading back to the locker room to get changed. “You seem off.”

“I’m fine,” Keith says. “I just… I’m fine.”

“Okay,” Lance says. He hesitates. They’re standing just outside the locker room door, and he waits until everyone else has pushed past them and gone inside. “Listen, if it’s about the thing that I said, I told you, that wasn’t—”

“I know it wasn’t,” Keith says sharply. Then he goes sort of pensive. “But I guess I’d just never heard you acknowledge yourself that we’re… friends now. And I kind of thought you wouldn’t ever want to actually say it.”

“I didn’t want to,” Lance mumbles. “It just slipped out.” That much, at least, is true.

“I guess I never said it either,” Keith says. “We are though, aren’t we? Friends?”

“We are,” Lance says, and his heart clenches, hard. His entire chest hurts. He forces a light smile anyway. “Don’t tell middle school Lance. He’d throw a fit.”

Keith huffs in agreement, smirking a little. “Yeah, middle school me would not be proud.”

“Whoa, whoa,” Lance says, “who wouldn’t be proud to be friends with all of this?”

“You were a holy terror in middle school,” Keith says frankly. “I think I really hated you.”

“I think the feeling was mutual,” Lance says.

“And then high school happened, and you got so,” Keith says, making a vague gesture.

“I what?” Lance says, and he can’t help the tinge of hopefulness in his voice.

“You got… tall,” Keith says, flushing a little.

What the hell does that mean? Does that mean what Lance wants it to mean? Surely not. He’s reading too much into it.

“And you were jealous of my superior height and stunning good looks, is that it?” he forces himself to say blithely.

Keith’s eyes are dark, his cheeks still glowing pink. “Not quite.”

WHAT DOES THAT MEAN??? Lance wants to yell, and he’s halfway to shaking Keith by the shoulders and demanding answers when Iverson rounds the corner, looming menacingly.

“Enough malingering,” he barks. “Get inside and get changed or you’ll be late for fourth period!”

So they do, heading for their lockers on opposite sides of the locker room, and by the time Lance is changed out of his gym clothes, Keith is nowhere to be found.

Chapter Text

Lance likes to think he’s a smooth operator. He glossed over his weird unintentional confession, right? So probably, Keith isn’t hung up on it. Probably, Keith hasn’t thought about the conversation that came after, either, and probably Keith isn’t obsessing over every last little microexpression and word choice. Probably, Keith is not lying awake in his bed at night overanalyzing shit and then giving up in frustration and jerking off in the dark.

Lance most surely is not doing any of those things.

What Lance is doing is ensuring that the two of them are never alone together. He keeps Pidge or Hunk glued to his side at all times, makes a point of emphasizing the group nature of all of their hangouts, and gym class has switched from badminton to volleyball, which is just as well, because they rarely end up on the same team, and even then there’s little opportunity for private conversations. Lance doesn’t trust himself not to have another slip-up, and the idea of Keith realizing that Lance feels that way about him and shutting him down is terrifying.

There’s also the tiny, minuscule chance that Keith might not shut him down, which is maybe even more terrifying, so Lance chooses not to think about it.

A week passes like that, and it’s fine. Lance can act like a normal human being, and Keith isn’t being weird about it, and everything is fine.

Well, except that they’re both being perfectly civil to each other, never bickering or even really disagreeing about anything, which apparently sets off alarm bells for Pidge and Hunk, who both separately pull him aside and ask him what the hell happened with Keith.

“Nothing happened,” he insists. “I’m being nice to him. Is that so insane?”

Pidge warns him not to try pulling any more weird pranks, and Hunk says skeptically that he’s glad they’re getting along, and eventually they both drop it. Lance is so exhausted from avoiding Keith all the time, he barely has the energy to be relieved that no one’s looking too closely at this strange behavior.

And it is strange. Even before they were “friends,” Lance never avoided Keith. If anything he was usually seeking him out, albeit for nefarious reasons. He’s always been attuned to Keith’s presence, watching him keenly, ready to criticize or complain or stir up shit. And Lance did love having an audience to their altercations, but he was just as happy to have it out one-on-one. It was less about the drama than it was about Keith himself, seeing him riled up and making him lose his cool. He was icy and aloof, but so quick to burn scorching hot, and Lance just loved feeding that flame.

He misses that, now. A part of him wants to grab Keith by the lapels of his leather jacket, shove him into the nearest wall and scream, “What the fuck is going on inside your head?!” because then Keith would get annoyed, and would say exactly what he was thinking.

Another part of him is scared of knowing exactly what Keith is thinking. Hence, the impasse.

Today, he’s resigned himself to more stilted, polite interactions with Keith. Pidge texted their group chat that they should all go and try the new Starbucks drink — she knows Lance is a slut for Starbucks — and they’ve all agreed to meet at the one near Keith’s house after school. Keith has baseball practice, Hunk is volunteering, Pidge has a “freelance gig” (whatever that means) and Lance has to wrap up his article for the paper, so they agree that 5:30 is the best time to meet. That gives Lance plenty of time to tackle his final interview for the article: Mr. Smythe.

He’s been saving Smythe for last, despite him being the impetus for the entire article, only because he is quite frankly a little scared of the man. It’s not that he’s scary in the conventional sense, but he is eccentric and unpredictable and can get intense about random things out of nowhere. Just last month Lance was walking through the halls, minding his own business, when Mr. Smythe stopped him, bent down to examine his neon yellow socks, and told him very seriously that those socks were just the shade to attract a polydamas swallowtail, and if Lance really wanted a treat he could try dabbing himself with sugar water. Lance had smiled and nodded and said, “I’ll keep that in mind,” before dashing off to class. He still isn’t sure if Smythe was just messing with him.

By 3:20 the majority of students have cleared out of school, and Lance makes his way to the vice principal’s office. Smythe is sitting there concentrating very hard on trimming one of his decorative bonsai trees, and he looks up, startled, when Lance knocks on the open doorframe.

“Oh!” he says. “Hello, Lance! What can I do for you today?”

“I’m writing an article for the school newspaper, and I was wondering if I could interview you?” Lance says.

Smythe laughs jovially and twirls his voluminous ginger mustache. “An article! Why I’d be delighted to contribute! Do come in.”

It turns out the reason Smythe was so eager to be interviewed was so that he could talk about how his idea for the theme (1984, the novel, since that was the year) had gotten passed over for Footloose, and how rankled he is about it to this day. He even goes onto Youtube to find the weird futuristic disco music that he wished they’d played, and makes Lance listen to it.

“That’s very interesting,” Lance says with all the politeness he can muster. “So, did you take a date to the prom?”

Smythe suddenly gets a wistful look in his eye. Some of his over-the-top theatricality melts away, and he smiles sadly. “No. No, I went stag.”

Lance can’t help but ask, “Was there someone you wanted to take?”

Smythe sighs. “Oh, very much so. But… I convinced myself that they would never say yes. So I never asked.” His gaze drops down to his desk, and in stillness he looks so much more his age. “It’s one of the only regrets I have about high school, really.”

Lance isn’t quite sure what to say. He’s never seen Mr. Smythe like this.

“But that’s all in the past, of course!” Smythe says after a moment, smiling brightly. “Let it be a lesson to all you younglings! Better to regret something you did do than something you didn’t! What is that saying your generation has, Lance? You only have one life! YOLO!”

Lance laughs. “Yeah, you got it Mr. Smythe.”

After leaving the vice principal’s office, Lance heads for the library to work on his article. Maybe it’s stupid, but going through all these quotes from the faculty about their high school proms is really getting in his head about the whole Keith thing. So many of them talked about how special it was to go with their date, how they were so glad they had the courage to ask, how it was an experience they’d remember for the rest of their lives. Lance thinks about his whole diabolical plan to entrap Keith, and what really lay at the twisted heart of it.

And he thinks about what Smythe had said: Better to regret something you did do than something you didn’t.

He’s spent years being a jerk, and weeks being in denial. And it’s left him feeling shitty. Maybe it’ll end horribly, and maybe he’ll end up completely humiliated, and maybe he was right all along to hide his real feelings, but he won’t know for sure if he doesn’t put his cards out on the table, at least one time.

“Yeah, you know what,” Lance mutters, selecting the title of his article and hitting ‘delete’. “Yolo.”

 

 

He’s finished and submitted his article and feeling jittery and restless. If the head editor were anyone but Pidge, his little stunt wouldn’t fly, but he knows that she’ll publish it, and now all that’s left to do is wait. The paper will be distributed next Monday, so until then, he’s just gotta act normal.

“Act normal,” Lance tells himself as he walks to the parking lot to catch the late bus, “I can do that, I’m normal, I’m the normalest normie ever to normal…”

“Lance?” says Keith, seemingly from nowhere.

“Gah,” is Lance’s eloquent and very normal response. “Keith. Hey.”

“Are you heading out?” Keith says. He’s clearly just gotten back to school from baseball practice, still in his sweaty practice uniform, dirt caked onto his shirt and his hair mussed improbably wild.

He looks delicious.

“Yeah,” Lance says. “I was about to hop on the bus.”

“Oh,” Keith says. “Well, we’re meeting up with Pidge and Hunk, right? I can just give you a ride there.”

“Are you sure?”

Keith laughs. “Yeah, c’mon, we’re going to the same place. Why would you take the bus?”

Because I want to be alone with you so bad that I can’t let myself be alone with you, Lance thinks. Outwardly, he just kind of laughs along and says, “Okay, yeah. Where’s your car?”

Keith drives a cramped 2-seater, which means that when Lance squeezes into the passenger seat, it’s damn near a sensory overload of Keith. The car already smells like him, and then Keith is near enough that Lance can smell the dirt and grass and sweat he’s emanating, which really shouldn’t make him hot but it does, he’s depraved, what else is new. And because they’re so close it’s easy to glance over and check out how fucking fine Keith looks, and when he talks the low purr of his voice is near enough to send shivers up Lance’s spine and the situation is, overall, just kind of dangerous.

They pull out of the parking lot and Keith says conversationally, “Are you gonna tell me why you’ve been acting weird lately?”

“I haven’t been acting weird,” Lance says automatically.

“You have,” Keith says stubbornly. “Weirder than usual.”

“That must be your imagination,” Lance says.

“I’m not an idiot,” Keith says. “You’re all… boring. It’s not you.”

Lance feels a pang. Keith sees right through him, just like always.

“I’m eternally flattered you think I’m not boring,” he says airily. “But maybe I am, actually, incredibly boring, and you’ve just had the wool lifted from your eyes—”

“Don’t bullshit me,” Keith says, sounding frustrated. “You don’t have to bullshit me.”

Lance shuts up. They drive in silence for a while, without even any music playing on the radio to soften the air. Lance looks out the window and thinks pathetically, I guess my bullshit has gone as far as it can go. He looks to his left at Keith, glaring stonily forward as he drives, and sighs.

Yolo, right?

They pull into the Starbucks parking lot and Keith kills the engine. Before either of them can get out of the car, and before Lance can lose his nerve, he says, “Keith.”

“What?”

“You remember the other day,” Lance says, “in gym class. What I said, in, like, totally just a friend kind of way.”

Keith glances up. “I remember.”

“Okay,” Lance says, feeling his heartbeat quicken. This is surreal. He can practically feel his soul departing his body. “So like, hypothetically, right? If I had said that in like… the other way. What would you have done?”

Keith is very still. For a horrible, strangled moment Lance thinks he’s going to laugh, or throw the car door open and run away, but instead, eventually, he clenches and unclenches his hands in his lap.

“I don’t know,” he says quietly. “Hypothetically? Maybe I’d have said, me too.”

Lance’s heart is pounding so fiercely he thinks, so this is a heart attack.

“But you didn’t mean it that way,” Keith continues. “So.”

“No, okay hold up,” Lance says, scrabbling frantically to release his seatbelt so he can twist around and face Keith properly. He bumps his head on the roof of the car in the process. “You — Keith, you—!”

“Yeah,” Keith says, pink rising in his cheeks, and god he’s pretty, he’s so gorgeous and he’d said, me too. “Yeah, okay. I guess I — what is that?”

He’s staring at the digital recorder that’s fallen out of Lance’s pocket in his state of agitation and landed in a cup holder.

“Why are you recording this?”

Lance flinches.  “I’m not—”

“Oh my god,” Keith says. He runs a hand through his hair and now his expression is raw and wounded. “I’m an idiot. This is just a continuation of your stupid prank. This is how you want to humiliate me.”

“It’s not—”

“Fuck, I’m a moron,” Keith says, huffing a humorless laugh. “You know what, you fucking win, Lance. I don’t care anymore.” He snatches the recorder up and says into it loudly, “I like you, Lance McClain. You absolute asshole. Do with that information what you will, I’m done—”

Lance kisses him.

It’s an awkward angle, and Keith is frozen at first, but then all at once he isn’t, and he’s grabbing at Lance’s shoulders, his neck, his chest, his fingers searing everyplace they land, his lips warm and wet and alive against Lance’s, his mouth shifting open to form a breathy Fuck that goes straight to Lance’s dick and has him half-hard in an instant. He wants, god he wants so much, wants to climb into Keith’s lap and rut against until he comes, wants to keep kissing Keith forever, wants to make Keith hard and touch him and blow him.

But the reality is that they’re making out in a parked car in broad daylight in front of Starbucks, and the position is giving Lance a neck cramp, so, much sooner than he’d like, he pulls back. Keith looks pink and dazed and happy, and Lance has never felt so gratified.

“I like you,” he says, and it’s so fucking liberating to say those three simple words, so he says them again. “Keith, I like you.”

Keith blinks. “You’re not bullshitting me?”

“I mean it.”

“If this is a prank I’ll straight up murder you,” Keith says, but he’s grinning.

“I’m not that committed to my goofs,” Lance says. He finds the recorder where it’s fallen again, wedged between the seats, and waves it in Keith’s face. “This thing isn’t even on. I was using it early to interview Mr. Smythe.”

“Oh,” Keith says, looking bashful.

“It’s great to know that you think so little of me,” Lance goes on, tossing his head. “I mean I know I was a shit in the past, but I’ve reformed and changed my ways, so when I say I like you, you’d best believe that I’m for real. Like, just how petty exactly do you think I—”

Now it’s Keith’s turn to cut him off with a kiss. He’s sort of aggressive about it, holding Lance by the chin and coming in hard, licking into Lance’s mouth until Lance moans. When he pulls back, Lance is so shell shocked that he’s temporarily lost the ability to form words. Keith laughs.

“If I’d known that would get you to shut up, I’d have tried it a long time ago,” he says.

“Oh my god,” Lance says, recovering. He licks his lips. “Hey, why don’t you try it again right now?”

Keith smirks and starts to lean in, when there’s a loud knock on the window.

“I’m calling the police, this is indecent exposure,” Pidge hollers, sounding at once slightly infuriated and very amused. From behind her, Hunk is giving two very enthusiastic thumbs up. Lance flips them both off.

“I guess we should go,” Keith says.

“I do need to get me some of that new cherry pie frappuccino,” Lance says. “Yeah, let’s go.”

When they get out of the car, Pidge is examining her nails. “I won’t say I told you so, but you know I did.”

“Whatever,” Lance says, rolling his eyes. He accepts a congratulatory high five from Hunk, who then throws his arm around Keith’s shoulders.

“I told you he didn’t hate you,” Hunk says.

“I believe you now,” Keith replies.

“You were talking to him about me?” Lance complains. “No fair, Hunk. What did you say? You didn’t tell him about the dream, did you?”

“What dream?” Keith says, curiosity piqued.

“No dream, there was no dream,” Lance says hastily. “I didn’t say dream, I said… cream. The ice cream. That’s what I call ice cream now.”

“You’re so full of it,” Keith says, but his voice is full of something like fondness.

The four of them make their way into the Starbucks line, Hunk and Pidge going ahead and Lance and Keith trailing behind. Keith bumps Lance’s shoulder with his, once, and then Lance can’t help but bump back. When Keith comes in for it a second time, Lance is ready, and catches him by the arm, pulling him in so their elbows intertwine, then lacing their fingers together. Keith looks taken aback at first, but then he smiles, and tightens his grip on Lance’s hand. They take a step forward, and don’t let go.

 


  

KEITH- WILL YOU GO TO PROM WITH ME? -LANCE

Dear readers of the Garrison Tribune,

I sincerely apologize for using school resources to ask a boy out to prom. I realize that this is a misuse of my position at the newspaper, but also, I’m a senior and I’ll be out of here in like three weeks anyway so if I get fired over this I don’t really care.

Originally this article was about the tradition of prom through the years, as told by our esteemed faculty. And I’ve included a bunch of anecdotes from teachers and administrators at the end of the article, so if you’re not interested in me baring my soul for abject humiliation, then by all means skip to page 2.

But as I was talking to all of these old folks, it just hit me that I’m going to be an old person someday, hopefully. And when I’m old and decrepit and reminiscing on my high school days, I wanna be able to reminisce about how awesome it was to go to prom with Keith Kogane. With that being said…

Dear Keith,

I like you.

I like you.

I like you.

I like you.

I like you.

I like you.

(Sorry, I just thought it would be more aesthetically pleasing if my incredibly embarrassing public display of affection filled up the entire column on page 1.)

I like you.

I like you.

I really like you.

Go to prom with me?

cont. on page 2

 


 

 

Keith tosses the school paper onto the cafeteria table where Lance is sitting and says unfeelingly, “No thanks.”

Lance, who’d been taking a drink of water, nearly does a spit take. “Huh?!”

“I think you heard me,” Keith says, sliding onto the bench across from Lance.

“Was that a no thanks, you don’t want to partake in the cheesy sandwich I brought for lunch?” Lance says, waving the aforementioned sandwich. “Because I know you’re mildly lactose intolerant so like, no hard feelings.”

“No thanks, I don’t want to go to prom,” Keith clarifies.

“Oh,” Lance says, utterly crestfallen. It’s only been three days since he kissed Keith in the Starbucks parking lot, but he kind of thought they were going out now. Or was there some other way he was supposed to interpret Keith saying “I like you, Lance McClain”?

“You don’t have to make that face,” Keith says, poking Lance in the forehead. “I never planned on going to prom. It’s nothing personal.”

“Oh?” Lance says, perking up. That’s slightly more alright, then. Still not great, considering how many people are going to realize his big newspaper stunt was all for naught when they don’t show up to prom together, but at least it’s not a total rejection.

“And I have a counter offer,” Keith goes on, looking down at the table determinedly, his cheeks going a bit pink.

“Pitch it to me, I’m all ears.” Lance props his chin on his two hands.

“We could go out somewhere else,” Keith says, growing steadily pinker. “On a, you know. Date.”

Lance’s chin slips and he nearly face-plants into his sandwich. “A date?”

“If you want to,” Keith mumbles.

“Yes,” Lance says quickly. YES YES A THOUSAND TIMES YES. “Yeah. I want to. Let’s do it. Prom? What prom?”

Keith looks up at him finally and smiles. “Yeah?”

“Yeah,” Lance says. “Did you have any place in mind?”

 

 

They take Keith’s car up into the mountains just outside of town. It’s not really a long drive, but Lance doesn’t know where they’re going, so it feels like it takes ages, winding up and up on progressively narrower roads as the sun sets and dyes the world a dusky purple, and they lose reception to the decent radio stations so staticky jazz is playing from the stereo.

“If I didn’t know any better, I’d think you were bringing me to the middle of the dark woods to murder me,” Lance remarks.

Keith shrugs, staring straight ahead at the road. “I haven’t ruled it out.”

They reach a gravelly shoulder, and Keith pulls over.

“Is it okay to park here?” Lance wonders.

“I don’t see why not,” Keith says, getting out of the car. He goes to the trunk and starts unloading. Lance, who’s still not entirely sold on this being a legal parking spot, but whatever, follows, and offers to carry half. There isn’t much to bring, just blankets, snacks, drinks, and a telescope.

Keith leads the way into what might as well be a random dark part of the forest, and, when Lance hesitates, rolls his eyes and switches on his phone’s flashlight. “Better?”

“Not everyone’s a mountain man like you,” Lance sniffs, “I don’t want to fall and break my nose or something, okay, because this face? This is the moneymaker, so go easy on the merchandise.”

Keith keeps walking, doesn’t turn around as he says, “I guess I like your face as it is.”

Lance knows he was kind of asking for it, but Keith really shouldn’t say things like that so suddenly. It’s bad for his extremely weak heart.

They trek through the darkness for a while, until Lance feels a cool fresh breeze on his face, and he can see the navy blue of the night sky ahead, and then they’ve emerged from the trees to a small grassy clearing. Down in the distance is the entirety of the town, spread out in an array of yellow streetlights, and up above is a clear dark sky, the first stars just beginning to emerge.

“Wow,” Lance breathes. “You weren’t kidding.”

“Like I said, best view in the city.” Keith spreads a blanket out on the grass and pats it down. “You can sit. We have a while before the stars really come out.”

Lance does sit, and he’s extremely aware of how big the blanket is, and how close Keith still chooses to sit next to him. Neither of them say anything for a while, and gaze out at the city lights twinkling below them. It’s quiet but for the rustling of tree branches in the wind, and Lance keeps trying to think what they should talk about. It’s a date, so he should try to make it kind of romantic, right? Except… it’s Keith, and none of Lance’s usual cheesy romantic schlock could possibly feel right with Keith. He could talk about something normal, something innocuous and everyday, except they’re alone on a mountain about to stargaze, it would be weird to be normal, right? So…

He’s still at a loss when Keith wordlessly holds out his left hand. It’s such a small, natural little gesture, and Lance’s heart swells. He doesn’t have to worry, doesn’t have to think so goddamn hard about everything. Here with Keith, he can just be. He takes Keith’s hand and gives it a little squeeze.

“Do you believe in aliens?” Keith asks, apropos of nothing.

“Not especially,” Lance says. “Why, do you?”

“I did as a kid, hardcore,” Keith says. “I want to still, now. I mean, how cool would it be, right? If aliens came to Earth right now, and invited us into their spaceship.”

Lance laughs at the absurdity of it. “Not cool at all! Are you insane? I don’t want to be abducted and probed.” He thinks about it and amends: “Not by aliens, anyway.”

Keith shakes his head. “You aren’t even a little bit curious about life on other planets? There’s entire galaxies out there waiting to be explored… wouldn’t you want to be able to see them, if you had the chance?”

“Not right this second,” Lance says. “I have stuff I wanna do here first.”

“Mm?” Keith hums, tilting his head towards Lance. “Such as?”

“Such as this,” Lance says softly, closing the distance between them. He kisses Keith slowly, tenderly. They have kissed since last Friday, but not much, and not like this, completely alone, with time enough to be patient and thorough. They make out leisurely, unhurriedly, until they’re somehow both horizontal, Lance on his back and Keith poised over him, their breathing gone heavy and Lance’s hands gone up the back of Keith’s shirt.

“Lance,” Keith says, his voice trembling a little. And Lance can feel, god he can feel, where their knees are slotted together, that Keith is hard, and he knows Keith can feel that he is too. And it’s weird and scary and amazing, Keith being so warm and fluttery under his touch, and the thought that it was Lance who did this, who got him hot and made his voice go weak.

“I had a dream about this,” Lance says, his fingers trailing lower down Keith’s back, his sides, until he’s got his thumbs hooked through Keith’s belt loops.

“Really?” Keith says. “What happened in your dream?”

“We had sex on a spaceship,” Lance says, and feels Keith’s breathing hitch at the word ‘sex.’

“You sure you don’t believe in aliens?” Keith says, his voice low.

“Pretty sure,” Lance says. His hands are still at Keith’s waist. “Hey. Can I, um.” He swallows. “Can I blow you?”

Keith’s eyes go wide. “You want to?”

“I really want to,” Lance says. “If you want me to.”

Keith nods, and they switch around, Keith lying on the blanket and Lance sort of crouched between his legs. It’s awkward to actually do this in real life, but he can also see Keith’s actual hard dick right in front of his eyes, which is too exciting for him to chicken out now.

He unzips Keith’s jeans and shimmies them down a little, and sees Keith inhale sharply when the night air hits him on the bits of exposed skin his boxer briefs aren’t covering. Lance gulps and takes a steadying breath before taking his hand and wrapping it around Keith’s length through his underwear.

It’s fucking weird to touch a dick that’s not his own — weird in a very nice way, but still weird. Lance gives a few good tugs so he can mentally work himself up to Mouth Stuff because, oh god, this is really happening isn’t it, and then he peels down Keith’s underwear and lowers his lips to the tip.

For all that he’s fantasized about sucking cock (most recently, sucking Keith’s cock specifically), Lance has never done this before, and he’s worried he isn’t very good at it. But fuck if he doesn’t give it his all anyway, swirling his tongue around the head and sliding as much of the shaft into his mouth as he can. Once or twice Keith’s dick nudges at the back of his throat and he nearly chokes, but even that is, dare he say, kinda hot, and he finds himself wishing he could deepthroat.

But this still seems to be good enough, judging by the way Keith’s hips keep jerking up, and the way his fingers are fisted in Lance’s hair, and the sounds he’s making, all yes, Lance, that’s good, and god, fuck yes. All of that, plus the incredible sensation of fullness in his mouth, and the fucking taste of it even, has Lance wishing they could just do this all night, because it would be worth it.

But pretty soon Keith is tensing, his grip on Lance’s hair tightening, and he says, “Oh godfuckshit Lance I’m—” before he comes, pulsing into Lance’s mouth with a long, low groan. It’s bitter and takes him by surprise, but he does his best to swallow it all, smacking his lips as Keith comes down from his orgasm, panting a little.

Lance scoots back up the blanket to lie next to Keith. “Was that okay?” he asks thickly.

“That was really good,” Keith says, and then, with a jolt — “Wait, you didn’t — I wanna — can I just — I mean, can I — with my hand—”

“Yes,” Lance says.

He gets his dick out and then Keith’s holding him, fingers smearing precum down from the tip, and then stroking, slowly and first but then faster and faster, and Lance lets out a whine. He clutches at Keith’s shoulders as he comes, fast enough that he should probably be embarrassed, but fuck it. His fingers dig into Keith’s shirt as he bucks through his climax, moaning, and then he flops back onto the blanket, his breathing wildly uneven. Keith wipes his hand on the grass, they both tuck their junk back into their pants, and then they just lie there together. After a while, Lance breaks the silence.

“So have I convinced you not to go getting abducted by aliens any time soon?” he says.

Keith bursts out laughing. “Yes, the power of blowjobs has totally convinced me to stay on Earth.”

“Good,” Lance says, grinning. “Just let me know whenever you need convincing again.”

“God,” Keith says, sighing a little. He looks into Lance’s eyes, and there’s moonlight reflected in his pupils. “I really like you.”

“I really like you, too,” Lance says. “I wish I’d realized it earlier.”

“Better late than never,” Keith says. Then, “Do you wanna look at the stars?”

 Honestly, Lance wants to keep looking at Keith. But he says, “Sure,” and they get up, Keith to set up the telescope and Lance to grab a bag of chips to munch on while he watches Keith set up the telescope.

Maybe it would have been fun to go to prom. Lord knows Lance loves an excuse to get all dressed up, and he would have very much enjoyed seeing Keith dressed up too. But they’ll have other opportunities to do things like that, he hopes. And now that he’s here, on some random mountainside, in slightly sticky boxers, watching Keith frown and fiddle and adjust the eyepiece of his telescope, with just the two of them, and all the time in the world, Lance knows he wouldn’t change a thing.

“I got it,” Keith calls over, “check it out, you can see Mars.”

It’s not the prom night he’s ever envisioned, but it’s perfect nonetheless, because Keith is here, Keith is beckoning him over, and Keith likes him.

God, what a time to be alive.

“I’m coming,” Lance calls. And he hurries over, because Keith is waiting, and after all those years of being a dense idiot, Lance is determined not to make him wait anymore.