2251.5 Miles - heavily_caffeinated - Voltron: Legendary Defender [Archive of Our Own] (2024)

Chapter 1: And So The Madness Begins

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Keith was pacing.

Which was overall a strange thing to watch, Keith wearing his boot tread into the carpeted floor of their study room.

Typically, Lance was the one that was always moving, whether it was his legs bouncing or hands flying or fingers tapping. Keith often sat still, quiet, effectively scaring the sh*t out of people by the way he slunk through the shadows.

But this was definitely scarier.

Keith was pacing and Lance wondered whether he needed to check out the window to see if pigs were flying.

And if Lance wasn’t unnerved enough, Keith was also talking pretty politely with whoever he was on the phone with. Well, polite for Keith.

“Wait,” Keith let out a low breath, pressing his fingers to his temple. “One more time?”

Keith listened for a moment to whoever the f*ck he was talking to. Lance wanted to ask him to put it on speaker phone.

After all, he was nothing but a nosy bitch. And the fact that his study buddy, now tentative friend since they learned to stop screaming at each other, had been on this phone call for over thirty minutes and had offered Lance nothing in terms of explanation, was going to cause Lance to die from curiosity.

“I’m sorry,” Keith rubbed his forehead. “You must have the wrong Keith Kogane.”

He shoved a hand hard into his hoodie pocket, bangs slipping into tired, stressed eyes as he ducked his head to listen.

“Yes, my birthday is October 23rd— yes, I am twenty-one, but listen, there’s no fu— there’s no way.”

Then Keith started to get a panicky look on his face, his eyes narrowing and lips twisting into a snarl that would have looked scary to most people. But Lance wasn’t most people.

He had spent enough late nights studying with Keith to know that it was just his Feral Cat Look, and figured that he had about thirty seconds to hop in and salvage whatever the f*ck this was before Keith just decided to hang up and wash his hands of it.

“I— I need you to slow down,” Keith’s fingers curled into his pocket.

Before Lance could think, because Keith looked close to throwing up, he held out his hand.

“Give me the phone.”

Keith blinked at him, as if he had forgotten Lance was there. That they were in the middle of studying for their ethics exam until he got this weird-ass call from an unknown number. Lance wiggled his fingers meaningfully.

Lance knew that he had absolutely crossed a line or two. After all, they had only just become friends a few months earlier. They hated each other for most of their college years thus far, having remained neck and neck in their classes for the astrophysics program. Keith was the curve-breaker, the famous Straight-A Kogane that everyone would have hated, if it were for his whole mysterious bad boy thing he was rocking. With his famous brood and flashing violet-gray eyes, he made all the girls fall in love with him, and all the guys reevaluate their sexuality, it was a whole thing.

Then, Keith abruptly dropped the program halfway through freshman year, moved to the English Department, and turned out to be a much more pleasurable being to be around. This semester, he had been in Introduction to Ethics with Lance, a stupid course that they were both taking in order to plow through some required credits, and had saved Lance’s ass more than once while studying moral dilemmas.

So, Lance figured what could be the harm, and wiggled his fingers once more.

After debating for a moment, Keith slipped his phone into Lance’s hand.

Lance coolly lifted it to his ear. “Keith Kogane’s study buddy speaking, who is this?”

A huff of a laugh left Keith’s lips as he visibly relaxed at Lance’s words, leaning against the wall and closing his eyes.

“Um,” a deep male voice said hesitantly. “My name is Mr. Clyde, with Clyde and Associates.”

“A lawyer?” Lance asked. “Oh God, what did he do now?”

“Lance!”

“I’m afraid that this is private information,” the lawyer pushed on, “and I cannot share anything with Mr. Kogane’s, erm, study buddy.”

“Fair,” Lance paused to think. “Well, Mr. Kogane looks seconds from an aneurism, so how about we do this business over speaker phone?”

A long pause followed. Lance shrugged at Keith.

“If Mr. Kogane consents to you listening along, I suppose that is fine.”
“Do you consent?” Lance asked Keith.

“Sure,” Keith said quickly, despite having no idea what Lance was even talking about.

“Right on,” Lance put the phone on speaker and let it clatter onto the desk. “Tell me everything, Mr. Clyde.”

The lawyer cleared his throat.

“I called to discuss the matters of a storage container that has now fallen to Mr. Kogane following the death of his mother.”
Lance blinked. And blinked again.

And stared at Keith because what the hell?

He knew that Keith had been adopted, had spent most of his childhood jumping from foster homes because he was a bit of a trouble maker. But that’s all he knew, Keith was quiet about his past. He only had the previous information from wheedling it out of Shiro, Keith’s adoptive brother, after a couple drinks at the local bar. All he knew about that was how Shiro’s family had adopted Keith when he was fourteen, and the rest was history.

Shiro was another god of the science courses, the sought-after TA that everyone drooled over. He was handsome, kind, and viral on any social media page of their college. Lance had a bit of a crush on him in freshman year, but Keith never needed to know that.

Damn, they sure could use Shiro right now. Lance debated creating a conference call and pulling Shiro into this mess as well.

Keith looked helplessly back at Lance, that stressed Feral Cat Look reappearing.

“Okay, um,” Lance tapped his thumbs against the end of the table. “What are the matters?”

“Since the rental fee is now under his name as well—.”

“Hold on,” Lance cut in. “Why is it under his name? Why didn’t it go to someone else?”

“I am just following the late Mrs. Kogane’s will, Mr.—.”

“Lance.”

“Mr. Lance. She has put the storage container along with a small sum of money under Keith Kogane’s name, all which has been made available upon her death.”

Lance’s eyebrows rose. “Money? How much we talking?”

That I cannot discuss with a study buddy.”

“Fair enough, my man,” Lance decided, leaning back in his chair and grinning at Keith.

But Keith did not look as relieved as a college student should’ve when hearing that he had a surprise trust fund. Instead, he was frowning, absolutely glaring at his phone.

“I don’t want it,” Keith said tightly, lips pressed in a thin line. “I don’t want the money or the storage container. Find someone else to deal with it. I’m practically a child. Don’t put this on me.”

“I can come forward as a witness that Keith should absolutely not be put in charge of this,” Lance added. “He can’t even keep a plant alive.”

Keith nodded in agreement.

Mr. Clyde cleared his throat again, and Lance knew that this was not how he planned to spend his Friday afternoon.

“I’m afraid there is no other option, Mr. Kogane. There is no one else it can fall to, and the storage container’s fees will be charged to you.”

Keith’s eye twitched.

“Just come down to Houston at your earliest convenience and—.”

Whoa,” Lance interrupted because, simply, what the f*ck. “Houston? Houston, Texas? You are aware that Mr. Kogane lives near Portland, Oregon, right? That’s like a two day drive! Three, if you aren’t insane.”

“I am aware,” Mr. Clyde said stiffly. “I’m also aware that college spring break is coming up, yes?”

Keith let out a cold laugh. “And you want me to spend it driving down to Houston and emptying out an old storage container that belonged to a mother I didn’t know existed?”

“I— yes.”

Keith pinched the bridge of his nose, letting out a low breath.

Lance only shrugged wordlessly when he glanced at him, not able to think of anything remotely helpful to say.

“Is,” Keith’s voice wavered and Lance thought he might die watching this ordeal. “Is there seriously no one else?”

Mr. Clyde paused again.

“Krolia Kogane lived a private life, Mr. Kogane. There aren’t many people included in her will.”

Keith chuckled darkly. “Glad to see there was some kind of personality trait I picked up from her.”

Lance winced.

“So,” Keith squeezed his eyes shut. “If I don’t go, then I get screwed with the rental fees.”

“I— I would have phrased it a little more delicately, but yes.”

Keith slicked his tongue over his teeth and Lance wondered if he needed to block the window to stop Keith from literally catapulting himself out of this situation.

“Fine,” Keith said finally. “Fine. Send me the information.”

The sigh of relief that came through the phone would have been funny in a different situation.

“I will contact you later this week with the address and my office location, so you can retrieve the keys,” Mr. Clyde said. “Have a good afternoon, Mr. Kogane.”

With that, the call disconnected.

Lance sat still, a bit afraid to move.

Keith still hadn’t moved from the wall, staring at his boots with wide eyes. Lance couldn’t fathom how he would be feeling, with that mountain of information dropped on him.

Lance swallowed.

“Did you,” he paused, licked his lips. “I mean, did you know?”

Keith let out a bitter laugh and crossed his arms over his chest. But it looked less intimidating, more like he was hugging himself.

“No idea,” he said.

He pushed off from the wall, turning to his laptop and tapping it awake.

“How do I,” he trailed off. “I need to call Shiro.”

“God, yes. Please get an actual adult in on this sh*t.”

“Nah,” Keith frowned at his laptop. “I need his truck for the drive. sh*t, it’s like thirty-four hours to Houston.”

“Hold on,” Lance held up his hands. “You’re actually going?”

Keith’s eyes flicked up to him. “I said I was, didn’t I?”

“Well, yeah, I thought that was to get Mr. Clyde off your back!” Lance gasped. “You are going to drive to Houston?”

Keith shrugged. “I had no other plans. And might as well get this over with. Something tells me that Mr. Clyde isn’t about to drop this.”

Lance shouldn’t have been surprised. This was how Keith did things. He dove in headfirst, and hoped it was deep enough that he wouldn’t knock himself out.

But Lance continued to gape at him as Keith shoved everything back in his backpack, snatching up his phone and immediately muttering under his breath a list of what he needed for this ridiculous adventure.

“Wait, wait,” Lance stood up. “You need to think this through.”

“I am.”

“You are driving to Houston.”

“Yes.”

“A drive that’s over thirty hours.”

“Yup.”

“By yourself.”

“Sure seems like it.”

“To clean out a storage container of your dead mother, that you have never met, that is now legally under your name.”

“Correct.”

Lance stared at him, wondering if Keith had lost his mind.

“Keith, there could be dead bodies in that storage container!” He argued. “Or a meth lab. Or worse, mannequins dressed up like dolls sat at a tea party or some weird sh*t like that.”

Keith offered him an unimpressed blink. “I’ll be fine.”

“Keith, this is insane. You can’t go by yourself!”

“I have a knife.”

Lance mentally filed that little tidbit away for the next time he pissed Keith off. “You could get murdered. Or trafficked.”

Keith glanced at him as he shouldered his backpack.

“Come with me then.”

And that small, damned smirk tilted Keith’s lips as he held Lance’s gaze.

“What do you think, Lance?” He asked. “2,251 miles. Think you could handle it?”

Lance stopped short.

Contemplated.

And, well. Lance had nothing to do either.

So. That’s how this all started.

Notes:

I have never stared at Google Maps as much as I have for this fic. Sorry this chapter is so short, they will be longer afterwards but I simply had to ~set the scene~. I shall update soon!

Chapter 2: 1450.2 Miles Left (and More Traffic Than Lance Would Have Preferred)

Notes:

My eyes are burning from staring at Google Maps, anywho I hope y'all enjoy!

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Lance could feel Hunk gaping at him as he yanked out his suitcase from his closet.

“Walk me through this one more time.”

“Hunk,” Lance groaned, dramatically splaying himself against his closet door. “We’ve been through it twice already.”

“I know, but,” his roommate blinked wildly at the floor, “I’m definitely still not understanding.”

“Keith’s mother left him a storage container in Houston,” Lance repeated as he plucked up his freshest pairs of sweatpants and tossed them into the suitcase. “I’m going with him to clean it out.”

“So you guys plan on driving to Houston and back, and deal with all the mysterious contents of an even more mysterious storage locker, all in about nine days?” Hunk asked dubiously.

Lance paused, hands full of socks. “Yeah, that’s the plan.”

Hunk stared at him. “That’s impossible.”

“The drive is about six days there and back,” Lance said, counting out the days on his fingers. “So that gives us about two to three days to sort through all of Krolia’s sh*t. Keith’s bringing a truck to take anything he may actually want home, and the rest we can donate or take to the dump.”

“Krolia?”

“Keith’s long-lost mother.”

“Who’s dead.”

“Yup, that’s her.”

“Lance,” Hunk sighed. “This is insane. You don’t even like Keith!”

“Sure I do.”

“You used to complain about him all the time!” Hunk said, plopping down on the couch. “Every night, there was a new story about Straight-A Kogane, how he glared at you, how he called you by the wrong name, how he got a better grade than you.”

Lance shrugged as he chucked a handful of shirts into his suitcase. “I’ve changed since then. I’ve grown.”

“Since last semester?”

“For sure.”

Hunk groaned, pressing his fingers into his eyes. “You guys are going to get murdered. Or murder each other.”

Lance frowned. “Thanks for the vote of confidence, my man.”

“Have you even considered that you will be stuck with Keith, stubborn, grouchy Keith, in a car for nearly seventy hours total?”

Lance paused while emptying a drawer of underwear into his suitcase.

Of course he had thought about it. He hadn’t stopped thinking about it.

Sure, it was probably going to be awkward. They would probably hate each other within the first ten hours and be stuck together for the rest of the trip. They hadn’t even thought far enough to decide where they would spend the night, how they would even afford the trip.

He had barely spoken to Keith since the call in the library, only exchanged a few texts deciding to leave at six the next morning.

It was basically the stupidest idea Lance had ever had, joining Keith.

But whenever he got cold feet, he remembered Keith’s frantic look as he listened to Mr. Clyde over the phone, looking too young for the insane burden that was dropped onto his shoulders. And the small smile that had spread over Keith’s face when Lance agreed to join him, the tiny spark in his eyes that could only be described as pure relief.

Lance may not love the guy, but he wouldn’t leave him to deal with this alone.

“Hunk,” Lance leaned against the wall of his bedroom. “I’m going. End of story.”

His friend looked at him for a long time. A little too long, judging by the way his lips twitched ever so slightly.

“Pack condoms.”

“I— Hunk! That’s not—.”

“And pepper spray.”

***

All of Lance’s confidence slipped away into the cool air as he stood outside his apartment building at 5:45 the next morning.

He shivered, the cool Oregon wind slicing through his fleece pull-over. It was still dark outside. The rest of the city was still asleep, while he was beginning arguably the craziest adventure of his life.

He checked his phone, trying to not panic.

Keith hadn’t responded to Lance’s good morning text, but Lance wasn’t too surprised. The man didn’t look at his phone, ever. Only when he got calls from random lawyers, apparently. He needed to talk to Keith about that, he wouldn’t put it past him to forget Lance at a rest stop in the middle of nowhere just because he didn’t glance at his phone.

Rocking back and forth on his heels, Lance scrolled through the flurry of texts his mother had sent him that morning, warning him to be careful, don’t talk to strangers, all that jazz.

His mom had been less than thrilled to hear of his spring break plans, but thankfully she was a kind, understanding woman.

Once she heard about Keith’s predicament, she had even sent Lance a bit of his birthday money early, a bit of a cushion just in case they needed some cash.

Lance squeezed his eyes shut, pressing his phone against his forehead.

“I’m going to get murdered,” he muttered.

Maybe this was all a bad idea. Maybe he just needed to dip and go back to bed.

Keith probably regretted asking him as well, realizing how insane this was. He probably intentionally didn’t respond to Lance’s text, was instead halfway out of Oregon and—.

“Yo.”

Lance jumped, whirling around to see a—a monstrosity slowing at the curb.

It was an old, battered golden van that looked close to Lance’s age. The tires squealed to a stop in front of him and Lance waited for one of them to pop, burst, an early sign of the disaster he was getting in.

He would have thought someone was trying to pick him up, if it wasn’t for a familiar dark mullet hanging out the window.

“Don’t say a word.”

Lance let out a hysterical laugh because this was real, they were seriously doing this, and Keith was here.

Keith looked exhausted, wearing what looked like the same exact hoodie and sweatpants from the library. He had purple lining his under-eyes and his lips were trapped. His pale skin was nearly translucent. A hand clad with a fingerless glove tapped the side of his door.

“Shiro is an asshole and couldn’t loan me his truck,” Keith sighed. “So I’m stuck with Mom’s old van.”

“Is that thing going to get us to Houston?” Lance asked.

Keith shrugged. “It got Shiro to adulthood.”

Then, he looked at Lance and smiled.

“You ready?”

Any hesitation stayed on the curb as Lance stepped forward, tugging his suitcase with him.

“I need coffee first.”

***

It took about ten minutes for Lance to convince Keith to stop by Starbucks.

And in that time, he learned a couple valuable things about his copilot.

For starters, Keith didn’t think to bring an AUX cord. Which was arguably a cardinal sin, considering that the man had expected them to listen to the radio (which was turned to a classic rock station, figures) for the entire week.

Secondly, Keith was a careful driver. Like, the most careful driver Lance had ever seen.

He drove with both hands on the wheel, knuckles white and eyes tight and attentive as he maneuvered through traffic. He didn’t talk much, only responding when necessary to Lance’s incessant babble about needing coffee.

To be fair, Lance would probably do the same when driving the fossil that was carting them across the country.

It was only when Lance threatened to drop, duck, and roll out of the car that Keith finally rolled his eyes, switched lanes, and turned into Starbucks.

He listened to Lance recite his order with a stunned look on his face.

“I’m not saying that,” Keith muttered.

“Fine.”

The second they reached the speaker, Lance lurched forward, nearly in Keith’s lap as he leaned towards the open window.

“Good morning!” He chirped to the faceless speaker.

“Good morning,” came the tired employee. “What can I get you?”

Keith’s huff fanned against his cheek.

And that was about the time where Lance realized he was in Keith’s lap, practically draped over him, his knee pressing into the seat between Keith’s own. He dared a look towards Keith, and found his face was inches from his.

Keith’s dark circles were even more prominent, viciously purple against his pale skin. He could see a tiny pimple right above his eyebrow and another splash of red dots along his jaw.

Keith stared back, cool and collected, and arched an eyebrow. “You gonna order?”

“Right, right,” Lance forced his gaze forward. “How’s your morning going?”

Keith dropped his head against his seat with a groan.

“It’s going okay,” the barista’s voice lightened. “You know, I’ve survived the past hour. How’s yours?”

“Oh girl,” Lance chuckled. “Do I have a story for you when we get to the window.”

“Lance,” Keith sighed as the barista let out a surprised laugh.

“Anyways, can I have a venti iced caramel macchiato with almond milk and two extra shots of espresso?” Lance asked, ignoring Keith’s sound of disgust. “Oh, and a venti iced chai for later. Make it dirty.”

Keith rolled his eyes as the barista giggled.

Lance pinched Keith’s shoulder, earning a smack. “What do you want?”

Keith looked unimpressed. “A black coffee.”

“And a venti black coffee!”

As the barista rattled off their total, Lance settled back into his seat with a smug look on his face.

Keith shot him a look as they pulled forward. “How many Starbucks trips are we going to be making this week?”

“Too many to count, my guy.”

Keith grumbled under his breath as he turned through the drive-thru, reaching the window.

The barista, a blonde woman with eye bags that rivaled Keith’s, smiled at them, already holding Lance’s drinks.

Lance quickly reached over again, handing her his phone and ignoring Keith’s startled breath.

“I was going to pay!”

Lance paused, glancing at Keith. “Your drink was like two dollars.”

“Well,” Keith shrugged, suddenly finding the steering wheel very interesting to look at. “You’re the one coming with me on this insane trip. I think I owe you a coffee or two.”

Lance hummed as he took his coffees with a smile, ignoring the flutter in his stomach.

“It’s fine,” he winked at Keith anyways. “I get points anyways.”

The barista leaned against the window, grinning brightly down at them. “Where are you boys headed?”

“Well,” Lance cleared his throat.

Lance.”

“What?” Lance asked. “Can I not trauma dump for you with our barista?”

The girl, who Lance realized was wearing a name tag labeled Romelle, laughed again.

Keith sputtered. “They— they have things to do!”

Romelle and Lance looked rather pointedly at the empty drive-thru line.

“Please,” Romelle smiled. “I need something to wake me up.”

“Alright,” Lance rubbed his hands together excitedly. “So, a couple days ago, Keithy here gets a call.”

Keith covered his face with his hands.

By the end of the story, they had all of the baristas crowded at the window, listening to Lance’s dramatic tale with wide eyes and slack jaws.

Lance and Keith finally pulled out ten minutes later, coffees in hand and a free gift card.

Keith shook his head as he slipped into the traffic, watching Lance update his Snapchat followers on their journey with a grinning selfie of the gift card pressed against his forehead.

hour one: got a free Starbs drink by trauma dumping

“Are you always like that?” Keith asked.

“Like what?” Lance asked, eyes on his phone as he added the picture to his story.

“I don’t know,” Keith shrugged. “Chatty?”

Lance paused, before letting out a surprised laugh.

“Come on, Keith. You know I love to hear my own voice.”

“No, no, I mean,” Keith paused, switched lanes, and then continued to comb together the words. “Like, you talk to baristas.”

Lance frowned, confused. “Sure. I mean, I do if they seem like they want to chat.”

Keith hummed, interested.

Another minute passed as they sailed down the interstate. Lance waited, because Keith seemed far from finished.

“How do you know that they want to talk?”

“This is my trick,” Lance said as he plucked up his macchiato, taking a grateful sip. “Typically, I ask them how their morning is going, or afternoon or night or shift, something like that. And then, if they seem like they want to talk, complain about their day, rant about a Karen, that’s typically when I know they want to chat.”

“And if they don’t?”

“Then I give my order and move on with my day,” Lance said easily, waving his fingers with a flourish. “I used to work at a coffee shop and, let me tell you, I loved talking with customers. It helps break up the routine, adds a little spice to the shift.”

Keith nodded thoughtfully as he carefully reaching for his coffee, taking a sip.

“Interesting.”

“Don’t worry,” Lance patted Keith on the shoulder. “I’ll have you chatting to baristas by the end of this trip."

***

hour two: keith tried my dirty chai and made a face, actually how dare he

hour three: we missed our exit #uhoh #mybad #sorryiwastoobusysingingtonicklebacktocopilot

hour four: keith is muttering along to Metallica under his breath. Mom pick me up im scared

hour five: i have to pee, swipe up if I should tell keith

***

After ten responses to his post, Lance caved and Keith grumbled insults about Lance’s minuscule bladder as they rolled into a terrifying gas station somewhere in Baker County. It was rundown, lines of ivy webbing along the cement walls, and a flickering OPEN sign that did no favors for Lance’s nerves.

But watching Keith slide out of the car and carelessly begin filling the car with gas, Lance suddenly didn’t feel too worried.

There was just something about Keith. Lance wouldn’t call the feeling comforting exactly. It was more of an assurance, an air that he held as he leaned against the car, dirty combat boot pressed against the tire, and gazed around the gas station/potential murder scene with a bored stare.

He looked like he would only consider a serial killer that would slink from the nearby bushes an inconvenience, a brief sidestep on their journey.

He felt safe. That was it. Keith made him feel safe.

Keith looked over, combing his hair back into a messy bun at the crown of his head, giving Lance and all nearby murderers a perfect view of his sharp jaw.

His hands lowered from his tied hair. “Didn’t you say you were going to piss yourself?”

Lance blinked back to attention. “Right.”

Lance scurried inside, did his business, stepped aside for Keith to use the bathroom, and then swooped through the aisles, scanning for any electronics. Come on, come one, please have one— thank f*ck.

He checked out with the cashier who looked older than sliced bread right as Keith left the bathroom, drying his hands on his sweatpants.

Once Keith came up to him, Lance dangled a plastic bag in his face, grinning.

“The best thirty bucks I’ve ever spent,” Lance said gleefully.

Keith blinked.

Lance’s sh*t-eating grin widened. “Dibs on aux.”

***

“Lance, if you play one more Ariana Grande song, I’m dropping you off on the side of the road.”

Lance let out an insulted squawk. “How dare you!”

Keith wrinkled his nose. “Her voice hurts my ears.”

That’s hom*ophobic.”

“What—how?”

“Next, you going to say that you don’t like Lady Gaga.”

Keith hesitated, mulled it over, and shrugged. “She’s alright.”

Alright? I’m walking home.”

“Find something good to play or I’m turning on an audiobook.”

“Something goo— Keith, I’ve been playing absolute bangers for the past hour.”

“They definitely want to make me bang my head against the wall.”

Lance gasped. Keith rolled his eyes, tipping back the last of his coffee to his mouth. He handed the empty cup to Lance and he immediately tossed it into the plastic bag from the gas station, their makeshift trashcan for the trip.

“Compromise,” Lance suggested. “Katy Perry.”

God, no.”

“You’re insufferable. Olivia Rodrigo?”

“I don’t even know who that is.”

“Taylor Swift?”

Keith opened his mouth, and hesitated. Lance let out a gleeful laugh.

“Fine. Just the Reputation album, though,” Keith consented.

Lance was already swiping through the songs, grinning madly. He swore he saw Keith’s lips twitch as well.

“It’s a deal, my man.”

With that, the hours slipped past with Taylor serenading their entrance into Idaho.

hour seven: you didn’t hear this from me, but keithy likes t swift.

***

“Think we can make it to Salt Lake City today?”

Keith paused, chewing thoughtfully on his cheeseburger. “Sure, why?”

“I’m looking at a sweet Holiday Inn near the interstate. Free breakfast, all the works.”

Keith shrugged. “Sounds good.”

Lance side-eyed him. “Don’t tell me that you were thinking about sleeping at a rest stop.”

Keith puckered his lips slightly as a response.

Keith.”

“I’m kidding!” Keith laughed, and damn, if that wasn’t a delightful sound. “I would have if it was just me, but I’ll let you sleep in a bed.”

“Thank you for allowing me that.”

“You’re welcome,” Keith chuckled.

As Lance hastily booked a room, he occasionally shot glances towards Keith. He couldn’t help it.

In the rich, five-in-the-afternoon sunlight, Keith looked much more relaxed than he was in the beginning. One hand had dropped from the steering wheel to rummage through the paper bag for remaining fries that Lance didn’t manage to snatch first, while the other sat against the top of the wheel, fully relaxed into the eight hours of driving that had passed.

Despite this, Lance could still see the exhaustion weighing down Keith’s face, the heavy droop of his eyelids and the dead look to his eyes from staring at the road for so long. He kept on blinking, as if his eyes were dry.

So Lance made an executive decision, straightened in his seat, and told Keith he was going to piss himself again.

It was only with minor bickering that Keith pulled into the next gas station, they took turns in the bathroom, and Lance put his great plan into action.

Keeping his eyes on Keith’s fingers that twirled the keys, Lance fell into step with him.

“I have an idea.”

Keith blinked tiredly as Lance held out his fist.

“Rock, paper, scissors. Whoever wins drives through Salt Lake City.”

Keith stared at him, eyebrows high. Lance shook his fist meaningfully.

“Lance, I can drive.”

“Are you seriously going to drive the whole two-thousand miles?”

“I was planning to,” Keith grumbled, looking anywhere but Lance. “You shouldn’t have to drive. It’s my mess that we are headed to.”

“Wha— I like driving!” Lance protested. “I signed on to drive. I have never driven a car older than me before, this is exciting.”

Keith watched him suspiciously, but all Lance could see was the small flicker of relief in his eyes.

“Fine,” Keith held out his fist.

Lance grinned. “Okay, rock, paper, scissors, shoot!”

Keith flattened his hand into paper, took one look at Lance’s hand, and rolled his eyes. “Clever.”

Lance grinned, waggling his finger gun. “Bang. I win.”

Keith was trying very hard to keep back a smile and Lance thought he may die watching it.

“Alright,” Keith tossed the keys to him before walking around the car. “I’m not sure why the winner has to drive, though.”

Because I could guarantee that I would win.

Lance let out an excited whoop, dashing to the driver’s seat and sliding in with a broad grin. He rubbed his hands together eagerly, looking over the ancient dials and knobs.

“Have you driven a car like this before?” Keith asked as he buckled his seat belt.

“Are you kidding?” Lance laughed. “My mom has the largest SUV I’ve ever seen in order to cart us around.”

With that, Lance eagerly slid into drive and maneuvered out back onto the interstate with what he believed was the epitome of grace.

Even Keith looked faintly impressed, relaxing back into the seat now that he knew that Lance had a vague idea of what he was doing.

“Salt Lake City, here we come!” Lance called before blindly reaching for his phone and turning on the first playlist he saw.

Only for the beginning of “Super Bass” to filter through the old speaker, earning another howl from Lance.

Keith hid his smile with a hand, looking out the window as Lance turned up the volume, cleared his throat, and began his solo.

Keith kept his gaze out the window as Lance rapped like the true Barb he was. But then he glanced at Lance near the end of the song with such a small, private smile that Lance had to hastily tear his eyes away from Keith and back to the road.

Lance turned down the volume. “Did you really think we wouldn’t take turns?”

Keith shrugged, long fingers sweeping over Lance’s phone to scan the rest of their route. “I don’t know. I haven’t really ever done this before.”

“Done what? A road trip to your dead mother’s storage container?”

Keith was too nonchalant, eyes on Lance’s phone as he replied, “a road trip with a friend.”

***

It took Lance swearing that he would give Keith dibs on the bathroom in the hotel for him to begrudgingly take a photo of Lance flashing a thumbs up to the camera while driving for his Snap story.

Hour Nine: Lance is making me tell you guys that “he is the king of I-15”

After Keith posted it, Lance spotted him opening up a different part of the app.

“What are you doing?”

“Adding me,” Keith replied. “Just to make sure you aren’t taking sh*t about me.”

“That’s the only reason?”

“Yup.”

Lance was glad it was now dark in the car, so Keith didn’t see the huge grin on his face.

***

Hour Ten: Lance owes me now two first dibs on the shower. We’ve only nearly gotten into three accidents, so I’m calling it a win.

(Also, I do not LIKE Taylor Swift, I tolerate her. Lance is lying to you all)

Hour Eleven: if Lance sings “Part of Your World” one more time, I’m pulling an Ursula and stealing his voice.

Hour Thirteen: We have been stuck in traffic and I think if I got out and walked, I would beat Lance to our hotel.

Hour Fourteen: If we don't get there before midnight, I'm eating Lance.

***

Lance could have cried with relief when they pulled into the Holiday Inn parking lot at ten that night.

Driving through the city had not been the easiest thing he had ever done, especially since the van had an objectively massive ass that proved difficult to wedge through downtown traffic.

When Lance turned off the car, they both sat there for a moment, staring at the gleaming green hotel sign.

“I could sleep for a hundred years,” Keith said finally.

All Lance could do was nod.

They clambered out of the car and stretched, cracking bones that Lance didn’t even know he had.

Grabbing their overnight bags, the two shuffled into the lobby, squinting against the bright lights. Lance took initiative and handled checking themselves in, considering that Feral Cat look was returning on Keith’s face, this time haggard with exhaustion.

Keith stood quietly behind Lance, his boot pressed against Lance’s heel as Lance smiled and chatted with the hotel employee before they were retreating quickly to the elevator.

Lance stared down at the room keycard as they rose up to the third level, lifting it up and staring at it in the light.

“This is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.”

Keith let out an exhausted chuckle as the elevator doors chimed open.

Their room was plain, all shades of white and beige. But Lance took one look at the white duvet on the two beds and decided they looked like the softest thing he had ever seen.

As Keith took his well-deserved shower, Lance laid on one of the bed, updating everyone that they reached Utah. He checked his Snap story and grinned like an idiot seeing Keith’s updates, each only a dark screen with his typed, dry wit.

He got up, stretched, and dug out his pajamas and toiletry bag from his suitcase. Once he had triumphantly ripped out his phone charger from the mess, the bathroom door cracked open.

“It’s all yours.”

Lance turned, and immediately every part of his mouth went dry.

Steam billowed out after Keith as he left the bathroom, frowning at his phone as he tousled his hair dry with a towel in the other hand.

The mint of his shampoo and spice of his body wash rolled off of him in waves and all Lance could do was stare as Keith plopped onto the other bed, still scrolling through his phone.

With a fresh T-shirt and pajama pants, socks bundling up his feet, Keith looked completely different. His brow was relaxed as his damp hair splayed out on the pillow, black as ink. There was no tightness to his face, no hunch in his shoulders.

He looked soft, almost. And really f*cking cute.

Keith looked over and quirked an eyebrow. “What’s up?”

Lance’s jaw snapped shut and he spun around, snatching up his pajamas and toiletries.

“Nothing!” He called hastily over his shoulder. “Just spacing out.”

He heard Keith’s answering mumble just as he shut the door behind him and immediately shuddered.

It smelled even more of Keith in here.

Lance gripped the sink before giving himself a very stern look.

“Do not do this, Lance,” he muttered.

He repeated that mantra in his head as he stepped into the shower, robotically scrubbing himself clean of the drive. He continued to say it over and over inwardly as he did his skincare routine, staring at himself in the mirror.

Keith was handsome, that was an objective fact.

Everyone knew it, Lance was noticing the obvious right now. That was all.

Any feelings were just strengthened, put on f*cking steroids, with them sharing a hotel room. That was all.

Once he got himself in check and left the bathroom, Keith was tucked under his covers, still scrolling on his phone.

“Shiro says hi,” he replied.

“Hi Shiro,” Lance offered back, hoping his voice didn’t sound off.

Keith shot him a curious look and Lance mentally cursed. He slipped into his own bed, picked up his own phone, and tried to act normal.

But then Keith delivered the killing blow.

After a moment of silent scrolling, he groaned, kicking off the covers.

“Damn,” he muttered. “Forgot to take out my contacts.”

Lance nearly dropped his phone on his face.

He flew into a sitting position, gaping at Keith’s retreating figure as he trudged into the bathroom.

“You have contacts?”

“Yeah?” Keith called, rifling through his own bag. “I have sh*t eyesight.”

As Lance watched Keith wash his hands, it all clicked together.

While Keith had been blinking nearly constantly once they reached the eighth hour of the drive, why his eyes looked so tired.

Keith leaned over the sink, plucking out the contacts with a dexterity that still caused Lance to shudder. Noticing this, Keith looked over with a grin.

“What?” He asked innocently as he slipped his contacts into their case. “Squeamish?”

“About you poking at your eyeball? Absolutely.”

Keith chuckled as he pulled out a sleek black case and slipped on his glasses and— oh— Lance was either finally seeing heaven or hurtling into hell.

The glasses were simple, round wire frames that balanced delicately on Keith’s nose. They looked f*cking marvelous on him, his violet eyes glimmering behind the silver frames.

Lance thought he might swallow his tongue.

Keith’s brows furrowed as he ambled back to his bed, watching Lance watch him. “Lance, what?”

“I—,” Lance tried to string syllables together. “I never knew you had glasses.”

“Well, I never wear them,” Keith said as he sank back into his bed, reaching for the lamp.

“You should!”

Keith’s fingers paused inches from the lamp, leaving the light on as he blinked at Lance. Lance could’ve slapped himself.

“I mean,” he tried to play it off, shrugging, “they look good. Ideal frames for your face shape.”

Ideal frames? Lance needed to simply walk home.

Keith’s lips twitched. “Thanks. Shiro would be flattered, he picked them out for me.”

Lance nodded tightly before dropping back into his bed, staring at the ceiling with wide eyes.

“Good night, Lance,” Keith’s low chuckle floated through the room as he clicked off the lamp, sealing them in darkness.

The city lights streamed through the dark room, the sound of cars racing on the streets below quiet but comforting.

Lance continued to gaze up at the ceiling, wondering how the hell he would be able to sleep with Keith dropping that bombshell.

Just that little fact, just the knowledge that Keith wore glasses, felt like too much to know. It felt like a secret, a thing that few knew. And Lance was given that piece of Keith, witnessed it.

It sounded stupid even just thinking it, but Lance felt strangely honored.

Instead of counting sheep, Lance counted facts about Keith.

He wore contacts, long after they began to irritate his eyes.

He was tense driving through traffic-filled cities, but relaxed on interstates.

He liked ketchup on his cheeseburgers, but hated mustard.

He liked Taylor Swift, and was loathe to admit it.

He mumbled to himself. A lot.

He would tap along to songs on the steering wheel, but only until Lance noticed it.

He scowled most of the time, but his smile could light up the night sky.

Lance rolled onto his side, staring at the wall. In eleven hours, and 766 miles, he had learned more about Keith than he had in years.

And all he wanted to do was learn more.

Notes:

I'm hoping to get a bit of a regular uploading schedule, likely Saturdays? I'm thinking this will be six or seven chapters, but listen, I love to ramble and love me a good epilogue so it could be longer? I hope you guys liked it! (And I'm super excited for their second day of traveling so get ready folks!)

Chapter 3: 852.4 Miles To Go (and Lance is Definitely Going to Hell for These Sinful Thoughts)

Notes:

Hope y'all didn't think you were going to get a fic without angst??? Sorry guys, enjoyyyyy

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Lance woke up with a bang.

No, no, to a bang.

He blinked in the dark, hearing that same thump again. Sluggishly, he tried to comprehend where he was and what was going on.

Another thump as he remembered that he was in Salt Lake City, laying in a hotel bed opposite Keith, who wore glasses.

He wasn’t entirely sure why that fact intruded his recollection, but another thump caused him to turn over, wondering if Keith was sleepwalking or some sh*t.

He kinda hoped that Keith was sleepwalking. Firstly, because that would be hilarious and secondly, he would love for Keith to have some kind of weird trait that would maybe cause his heart to calm down.

(Lance rolled his eyes. As if sleepwalking wouldn’t only cause him to lose his mind even more.)

And then, a snort from Keith’s bed.

Lance peered curiously over at him. In the amber glow from the lights outside, he realized that Keith’s shoulders were shaking.

Lance sat up, gripping the blanket tightly and trying to decide if he should tiptoe over to investigate because it looked a whole lot like Keith was crying—

Another thump.

“Oh my God.”

Lance slowly registered. Keith was laughing.

Keith rolled to face him and the dim light in the room showed his massive, sleepy grin. Lance’s heart skipped a beat.

“You’re joking,” he snickered.

Lance stared at Keith, confused, until another bump sounded through the wall.

Through the wall.

Lance’s lips parted as he slowly turned towards his bed frame, staring at the wall that they shared with other hotel guests.

A couple, Lance was quickly realizing.

As they heard the unmistakable sound of a bed frame slamming against the opposite side of their wall, Keith turned into his pillow, struggling to stifle his laughter.

Lance was aghast.

What in Utah of all places is turning this couple on?”

And that sent Keith into hysterics, tearing his face out of the pillow as he clutched his stomach, laughing louder than Lance had ever heard.

His laugh was the best thing Lance had ever witnessed. It was light and carefree and just so unlike the Keith he knew— he thought he knew, that Lance could only stare.

“It’s,” Keith gasped for air, "it’s three in the f*cking morning and they are f*cking in a Holiday Inn in Utah?”

Lance let out a bark of a laugh, slapping a hand over his mouth and flopping back into his pillows. They dissolved into giggles, wheezing for air in their quiet room.

Lance finally caught air in his lungs before a moan filtered through the wall and a honk ripped through his nose.

Keith started laughing so hard that he fell off the bed with a thud, sending them into a fit all over again.

“Keith,” Lance’s stomach was cramping, “you’re gonna make them think that they are starting a trend.”

And that caused Keith to cackle even louder, curled up on the floor between his and Lance’s bed.

How thin are these walls?” Keith choked out.

Lance dropped his head into his pillows, eyes damp from his laughter. The polyester was smooth against his teeth as he grinned against the pillow, giggles still slipping through.

Keith crawled back into his bed, chuckling. “This is ridiculous.”

“Where’s—,” Lance started fumbling in his sheets. “Where’s my phone? I need to update our fans.”

And that set them both off again.

Lance’s Snapchat friends received a blurry video of two boys laughing so hard they were crying in the middle of the night on a trip they were supposed to hate.

And eight hundred miles away, Hunk began the betting pool.

***

The enthusiasm of the hotel patrons sharing their wall quickly grew less funny the further into the night it went on.

Because Lance and Keith ended up with just as much sleep as the couple, just without the fun.

The two trudged to the breakfast station the next morning, yawning and peeling their eyes open.

“Should we try to figure out if we can place our favorite couple?” Lance asked.

Keith let out a tired huff. “They are probably still sleeping.”

“Lucky bastards.”

Once they chugged two cups of coffee each and smuggled biscuits into their pockets, they headed out towards the van.

Lance plucked the keys from Keith’s hands, earning an outraged gasp. He shrugged Keith off, already headed to the driver’s seat.

“Take a nap, I’ll wake you up in the next city.”

“Lance,” Keith groaned. “I’m fine. Let me drive. You can sleep.”

“Nuh-uh.”

Keith’s eye twitched. “Lance.”

“Fine,” Lance held out his fist. “Round two.”

Keith leaned back on his heels and held out his fist as well. “Fine. But whoever loses drives.”

sh*t. Judging by the smug look on Keith’s face, he figured Lance’s evil plan out.

“Fine.”

“Fine!” Keith stared hard at their fists. “Rock, paper, scissors, shoot— Lance, what is that?”

Lance grinned. “It’s a hand.”

He took Keith’s wrist and lightly tapped Keith’s fist against his own hand before letting out a dramatic sigh.

“Ow, your rock demolished my poor fingers.”

Keith clenched his jaw. “‘Hand’ isn’t a move.”

“Sure it is.”

“No, it isn’t!”

“Well, you didn’t clarify the rules.”

With his hair wavy and wild from sleeping on it wet, Keith looked a bit like a bird with its feathers ruffled. He looked at Lance and raised his fist, expression way too determined for such a silly game.

“Best two out of three.”

“Alright.”

“Rock, paper, scissors, shoot— Lance!”

Lance grinned, wiggling his two fingers against Keith’s fist. “Snail!”

Keith looked far from pleased. “Who won that one?”

“You did, obviously. You’re the shell.”

Keith arched an eyebrow. “How many of these tricks do you know?”

“Tons, I grew up with four siblings. I have mastered Rock, Paper, Scissors.”

Keith’s eye twitched. “Best three out of five.”

“You’re on.”

This time, it was just too easy to know that Keith was gonna try to pull a fast one. The second he whipped out paper, Lance kept his fist. Keith’s jaw dropped.

“How did you—.”

“Four siblings,” Lance reminded him as he skipped to the driver’s door. “Let’s hit the road!”

***

“Four siblings?” Keith asked when they pulled out of the Starbucks lot later that morning.

Lance nodded as he tossed the now-empty gift card into the backseat.

Keith hummed. “What’s that like?”

Lance paused, looking over at Keith curiously. But Keith’s eyes were determinedly focused on the windshield, not meeting Lance’s gaze as he took a slow sip of his black coffee.

“I’m curious,” Keith admitted. “I mean, I was either crammed in orphanages or foster homes filled with kids, or in a house with only Shiro and his—our parents.”

Lance decided to not comment on Keith’s little slip of the tongue, even though it did make him want to pull him over and pull the idiot into the tightest hug ever.

“It’s,” Lance faltered, “hard to describe.”

Keith nodded, waiting for him to continue. Lance hesitated again.

He couldn’t help but feel sh*tty talking about his massive, loving family. Because while Keith had asked, he was obviously intrigued, this entire trip was caused by Keith not knowing his family. It felt cruel, almost, to talk about his.

“Don’t get weird about it.”

Lance blinked, glancing over to see that Keith’s gaze hadn’t moved, but he was definitely gripping his coffee like his life depended on it. A red flush crawled up Keith’s neck and Lance realized that Keith was embarrassed about asking.

“Never mind,” Keith muttered, turning to face his window. “I was just wondering.”

The silence that followed was horrific, and Lance immediately did what he did best.

Ramble.

“I fainted with Rachel got her first period!”

Jesus Christ.

That earned Keith’s eyes, startled but definitely interested, finally on him.

Lance gripped the steering wheel tightly, not daring to look over because he knew that he was blushing as well.

“I mean, I was like, twelve,” he continued quickly. “Rachel and I are the closest in age, she’s only eleven months older. So we grew up sharing a room and a bathroom and, one day, I’m minding my business, you know, doing my thing, when Rachel just like screams for me to get Mom.”

Keith’s lips twitched. “Oh no.”

“Oh yes,” Lance sighed. “So, naturally, I’m trying to act like a good brother and I barge into the bathroom, thinking she fell or something. And, dude, I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced watching someone get a period—.”

“I haven’t,” Keith said, amused.

“Lucky man,” Lance side-eyed him. “That sh*t’s terrifying.”

Keith snorted.

“So I like see, you know, an absolute bloodbath, and I’m like, cool, my sister is bleeding out.”

Keith was fully smiling now, watching Lance attentively as he told the story.

“And,” Lance cleared his throat. “I’m sh*t with blood.”

Keith covered his smile with his hand. “Oh, Lance.”

“So,” Lance began to snicker through his words, “I’m seeing stars and everything’s getting really hot and Rachel is just screaming at me to get out. And I’m going horizontal, just about to slam into the bathroom floor, and the last thing I hear is Lance, I just need a tampon, you idiot!”

Keith began giggling, and any regret Lance had about telling the story disappears.

“I woke up like a minute later,” Lance said. “A changed man. One who supremely respects anyone who gets a period.”

“Oh my God,” Keith laughed.

“That pretty much describes what it’s like having a big family,” Lance continued. “We were on top of each other all the time. We are all pretty close in age, Marco is six years old than me, Luis four, Veronica two, and Rachel one. So when we were all in our teens, it was a nightmare for our parents.”

“I bet.”

“I mean, don’t get me wrong, it was a lot of fun,” Lance said. “And I love my family, I really do. But sometimes, you get overshadowed. Soccer games are during dance recitals or band concerts. My parents missed the one time I made the winning goal in a game, dumb sh*t like that. And now, it’s stupid, I know now they were honest-to-God doing their best, but fifteen-year-old me was pissed.”

Keith nodded, still listening intently.

“Now that we are all adults, it’s harder to all meet up,” Lance said. “Marco’s fully married with two kids, Nadia and Sylvio, the cutest motherf*ckers you will ever meet. They con me into doing sh*t for them all the time.”

Keith chuckled. “Where do they live?”

“Oh, well, Mom and Dad moved to Florida. Miami, dear God, that place is a nightmare to drive through. Marco and Luis are still in Colorado, and Rachel and Veronica are out being obnoxious in New York City.”

“Wow,” Keith said. “So, all different sides of the country.”

“Yeah,” Lance exhaled. “Like I said, it’s harder to meet up. But we always come together for the holidays.”

Keith smiled softly. “That sounds nice.”

“Yeah, well,” Lance shrugged off Keith’s earnestness. “What about you?”

Keith arched an eyebrow. “What about me?”

Lance busied himself with switching lanes. “I only know that your brother is Shiro. And, of course, the long-lost Krolia.”

Keith snorted. “Yeah, well, that’s really all there’s to it.”

“C’mon, Keith,” Lance groaned. “I just bared my soul to you.”

“Fine,” Keith sighed. “Well, I was in foster homes and orphanages since I was three. My dad died in a job, he was a firefighter.”

Lance’s heart sank. “Keith, I’m—.”

“Don’t say you’re sorry,” Keith cut in, voice sharp. “It’s in the past. It’s fine. I barely remember him anyways.”

Lance bite back another apology, trying to ignore the absolutely heart-wrenching idea of forgetting your father.

“I, um,” Keith shifted, “I was an angry kid. Got in fights, constantly at ends with the other kids in the homes. Being gay didn’t help.”

Lance nearly choked on his spit.

He blinked, wildly, at the road. He could feel Keith watching him, the casual way he came out betrayed by how he was scanning Lance’s face for a reaction.

Lance was trying to keep his face nonchalant, nodding endlessly while coming to the terms with that fact that Keith was gay. Sure, he had guessed, hoped, but this was confirmation.

(That he had a chance).

So, as his world changed abruptly around him, the best Lance could manage was “that sucks”.

Keith chuckled, relaxing into his seat, at ease with Lance’s reaction. “Yeah.”

He looked out the window, tapping his fingers against the plastic lid of his coffee.

“Finally,” he exhaled. “When I was fourteen, the home I was in forced me into the Big Brother Big Sister program. And there I met Shiro.”

Lance cracked a smile. “And the rest is history.”

“Pretty much,” Keith said. “Shiro took one look at me, practically feral with anger and just this rage, and decided to beg his parents to adopt me. It was terrible at first. I didn’t trust them, kept all my sh*t packed into the trash bags for months.”

Trash bags? Lance felt a strike of nausea at the mere idea of small Keith, scared and angry Keith, carrying all his possession in bags meant for garbage.

“But finally, Mom had it and I came home one day after school to find my things packed neatly in suitcase instead,” Keith smiled out the window. “She told me that it was fine if I stayed packed, but to please stop wearing wrinkled clothes that reeked of plastic, she was getting so many concerned calls from teachers.”

Lance snorted and Keith let out a low chuckle.

“I unpacked that night,” Keith said quietly.

Lance grinned. “Your parents sound cool.”

“Yeah,” Keith’s voice was soft. “They are.”

He ran his fingernail along the line of his window.

“I don’t know where I would be without them,” he mused quietly. “Probably in jail, if I’m being honest.”

Lance’s smile faded at that. They drove in silence for a bit longer, as Lance soaked in Keith’s story. It was strange, connecting the Keith that sat next to him with his terrible childhood. It must have felt impossible, coming from his past to where he was now, a brilliant college student with a rather incredible future in front of him.

Keith was intelligent and quick-witted and determined, and all of that could have been lost.

“Well,” Lance said finally. “I’m really f*cking glad you have them. That you got here.”

Keith sent a small smile his way. “Me too.”

***

Hour Two of Day 2: I cannot believe Lance is making me do this sh*t again.

And no, f*ck you Lance, I’m not going to count the actual hour that we are at

Hour Three of Day 2: can someone please tell me how to win Rock, Paper, Scissors, why is Lance so good at it?

***

Hours later and they were still in Utah.

Both convinced that they may go insane staring at the same state for so long, Keith and Lance had long since sank into their own forms of entertainment.

Lance was listening to an audiobook while he drove, while Keith was flipping through a book for one of his English classes, earbuds blasting with some kind of rock music. The book was enormous and made Lance ill just looking at it.

But Keith seemed captivated, highlighter locked between his teeth as he scanned and annotated passages.

It felt strange, staying in this comfortable silence. It felt similar to their times in the study rooms and gave this insane trip a sense of normality.

So Lance continued to cruise down US-191 and listened to his latest romance book, until—

Keith popped out an earbud, eyebrow arched. “Are you crying?”

Lance blinked quickly. “No!”

Keith marked his place and shut his book, listening along to the audiobook as Lance tried to get himself under control.

A few more spoken lines and Keith was rolling his eyes. “Lance.”

“Shut up.”

“That’s like the oldest trope in the book,” Keith said. “Running through an airport right before it takes off to confess your love? Please. Realistically, the character wouldn't get through TSA in time.”

“You know what,” Lance paused the book, ignoring Keith’s small smile of excitement as he got him fired up. “You don’t know true literature.”

Keith chuckled. “Oh, really?”

“Nope, this is art, unlike whatever encyclopedia you’re reading.”

“Ah,” Keith was fully grinning evilly now. “So Anna Karenina isn’t as good as whatever the f*ck this is?”

“The movie was good,” Lance relented. “But only because of my girl, Keira Knightley.”

Before Keith’s eyebrows could furrow too hard, a question of who even is that already forming on his lips, Lance forged ahead.

“I think it’s romantic,” he argued.

“So you would want someone to run through an airport and be all sweaty and frantic and sh*t only to cause a huge fuss that would likely cause security being caused?”

“Yes!”

Keith frowned, lifting up his book once more. “They wouldn’t get past TSA.”

“It’s called fiction, Keith.”

***

day 2 hour five: welcome back bitches, I know y’all missed my face. Also, smh Keith why can’t you count back the hours? It would add to the ~drama~

day 2 hour six: dear god I need a salad. I've only had fast food for over 30 hours. My pores are leaking McDonald's sweet and sour sauce.

day 2 hour seven: will we EVER get out of Utah?

***

Lance was pretty sure that they were stuck in some kind of hellish loop, determined to drive through Utah forever.

The sun was almost dipping below the trees and they were doomed to reach Albuquerque, their planned stop for the night, long after they planned. And the lack of sleep they had gotten was beginning to wear on them. Keith’s lips were pulled into an exhausted frown as he stared out through the windshield, blinking against his contacts.

Lance would offer to drive again, but he didn’t think he would fare much better.

And Keith would probably throw him out of the car if he offered one more time that day.

And then finally, they saw God.

Lance let out a loud whoop as they sailed past the enormous WELCOME TO NEW MEXICO sign, yanking out a tired laugh from Keith as well. Lance beamed toothily at Keith and he smiled back.

The exhilaration of breaking into a new state faded quickly, however.

Because they were approximately two hours away from their booked hotel when the tell-tale rumbling happened. The shift of the car, the unmistakable sound of loose rubber smacking against pavement.

Lance’s stomach dropped.

Keith’s hands throttled the steering wheel, eyes widening as he gaped at the road.

They listened to the sound of the popped tire a few moments more.

Lance was the first to speak. “sh*t.”

A rather colorful and vivid bout of swearing left Keith’s lips before he turned on his blinker.

They stared at the flat tire, cars whizzing past them and ruffling their hair and clothes.

Lance dragged a hand down his face, trying to think. But he was so tired.

Keith was trembling, hands twitching as he gaped at the misshapen tire. Lance could see that he was cracking at the seams, the exhaustion and emotion from the past few days pushing down on his shoulders so hard that it barely looked like he could stand.

“Keith,” Lance said.

Keith’s lips were turning white from how hard he was pressing them together, just staring and staring at the tire.

“Keith.”

Lance reached out, to take his hand or do something equally as stupid, and Keith flinched. He took a massive step back from Lance, a large breath whistling through his teeth before he inhaled tightly.

At least he was breathing again.

“Do we have a spare?”

It took several blinks for Keith to nod stiffly.

“Okay,” Lance swallowed. “Okay.”

Together, they opened the trunk and wrestled out the tools and spare tire from under their bags. Lance could feel Keith’s shaking from where they were pressed together, heaving the tire to the ground.

He could see how his fingers were quivering as he jacked up the car, each car that whizzed past another electric shock. His movements were sharp yet clumsy, anxious hands and tired eyes going through the motions.

Lance could only watch as Keith tried to remain calm, nostrils flaring as he worked. He had been waiting for the moment that Keith would explode. Because sometimes, burdens didn’t truly feel like burdens until you hit a hitch in the road. And that was when they became crushing.

He could see that it was strangling Keith now, the enormous job he was given digging into his shoulders and wrapping around his neck.

It was when Keith moved to hook the wrench around one of the bolts in the flat tire that Lance finally came forward, taking the wrench from tight, tight hands.

“I got it.”

“Lance,” Keith hissed, eyes narrowed and voice sharp. “Just f*ck off and let me—.”

“Take a breath,” Lance countered just as sharply. “A f*cking massive one.”

Keith opened his mouth to argue, chest heaving and eyes like fire, but then a semi ripped past them, the wind deafening and drowning out whatever Keith was going to say next.

As the semi hurtled past them, Keith tore himself away and staggered back. He kicked the back tire hard enough that Lance winced.

“I can’t do this!” Keith snapped. “I can’t f*cking—.”

He cut himself off with a cruel laugh, rubbing at his eyes and curling into himself.

“I’m so f*cking tired!” He yelled, not to Lance, but to the world. “I’m f*cking exhausted and sick from caffeine and I just want to be home, in bed. But no, no. A mother I never knew existed decided to dump this sh*t on me as a farewell, and you know what?”

His eyes, crazed and red, locked onto Lance.

“I don’t want it!” Keith snarled. “I don’t want any of this. I would have been much happier if she just slipped into nonexistence and never came to the surface in the first place. I was happy never knowing a thing about her!”

“I know, Keith,” Lance whispered.

Lance’s voice seemed to calm Keith, reminding him that he wasn’t alone in this. He sucked in a deep breath, turning away and tugging at his hair with his hands.

“I don’t want this,” Keith breathed, voice cracking.

“I know,” Lance breathed. “Just, listen for a second.”

Keith slowly turned back to face him, eyes on his boots and chin quivering. Lance felt something in him break as he took in Keith, tired and stressed and upset. It was so different from the Keith that was uproariously laughing earlier that morning.

“We are exhausted,” Lance forced on. “We slept like sh*t and have so much driving to do and Keith, your entire life has changed in a matter of days.”

Keith said nothing, wrapping his arms around himself and looking out into the road.

“I need you to give me three more hours,” Lance whispered. “That’s all. In three hours, we get a spare tire and go to the closest auto shop and get ourselves to Albuquerque.”

Lance took a hesitant step towards Keith, as if he was approaching a scared animal.

“Three hours,” he breathed. “That’s it, man. We can do it.”

“But it’s not three hours,” Keith said finally, voice thick. “It’s three hours and then driving all day tomorrow and then digging through all of my mom’s sh*t and dealing with lawyers and then we do this drive all f*cking over again.”

He wiped his mouth with his hand and blinked quickly.

“I don’t think I can do this.”

Lance watched Keith as he trembled, before he came closer. Treaded towards Keith oh-so-f*cking-carefully, and tentatively wrapped his fingers around Keith’s arms.

Keith blinked tiredly at him, too busy shutting down to tear himself away. Lance swore for a moment that Keith leaned into his hold, just barely.

“Okay,” Lance said quietly. “That’s okay. You know that, right?”

His grip on Keith tightened.

“We are kids, Keith,” he said with a short laugh. “If you can’t do this, that’s okay.”

Keith was watching him almost with suspicion, as if not trusting his words.

“But that decision can’t be made right now,” Lance said softly. “I still need you to give me those three hours. Because we have to get a new tire and go somewhere safe to sleep. And then, if you wake up tomorrow and you want to go home, we can figure that out.”

Keith let out a breath and teetered forward. For a split second, Lance thought that he was about to faint, until Keith’s forehead pressed against his shoulder. Lance stood there, frozen, still holding Keith’s crossed arms, as Keith leaned against him.

They were barely touching, chests inches apart and Keith was still covering himself, shielding himself, but he kept his forehead against Lance’s shoulder as he steadied his breathing.

Soft, black hair tickled Lance’s jaw as Keith sniffed.

“Sorry,” he mumbled, “for what I said. I’m really sorry, Lance.”

“It’s alright, man—.”

“It’s not,” Keith argued into Lance’s hoodie. “You are doing this with me for no other reason than just being an incredible guy, and I’m taking it out on you. I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay,” Lance whispered, trying to fight the ridiculous blush from Keith’s words. “Honestly, I expected you to have a meltdown way earlier than this.”

Keith let out a dry laugh before he lifted his head to smile tiredly at Lance. Lance fought back the urge to smooth his thumb along the dark circles under those damp, violet eyes.

“Three hours,” Lance whispered.

Keith gave a short nod. “Three hours.”

***

It will likely not be a surprise to anyone that it in fact was not three hours.

Actually, it was much longer.

They got the spare tire on quickly, working together in sheer desperation to get to their hotel beds. Keith stayed quiet, fighting back his temper as they heaved the tires this way and that.

Once they piled back into the car, swearing and sweaty, Keith took the wheel while Lance began looking up auto shops.

It took forever to find once that was open with an available spot at ten at night.

The three hour mark had come and passed before they were slowly rolling out of the shop with a fresh tire. Lance didn’t even want to know how far they were from their hotel.

They were only on the interstate for twenty minutes before Keith abruptly pulled into a rest stop, immediately shifting the car into park, and rubbing his eyes.

“Lance, I literally cannot drive,” he said. “I’m going to fall asleep at the wheel.”

Lance felt a pang of guilt as he swallowed. “Me neither.”

Keith let out a huff. “How far are we?”

Lance grimaced as he looked at his phone. “Two hours.”

Keith swore, dropping his head against his seat. They stared at the dark rest stop, watching as families on late night excursions scurried into the bathrooms and convenience store.

Lance knew that Keith and him for thinking the same thing.

“An idea,” he said hesitantly.

“Yeah?” Keith was a little too eager.

“We pass out here,” Lance said. “For just a few hours.”

Keith nodded readily. “Just a few hours.”

“Just enough to get our asses awake enough to make the rest of the drive.”

Keith was still nodding quickly, as if worried that Lance would change his mind.

“There’s enough room back there,” Keith said, nodding to the backseat.

And that was all Lance really needed.

He yawned and unbuckled, squirming through the front seats to flop into the back. He pushed any bags to the side, grabbing a hoodie from his stuff and shaping it into a pillow.

Lance dropped his head against the seat, finally shutting his heavy eyelids. He listened to Keith as he turned off the ignition and locked the doors.

Then, he heard the sound of long limbs sliding over leather.

He would have opened his eyes, when he felt Keith’s hand brush against his knee. But they were already glued shut from exhaustion.

And a small part of him felt like if he opened them, looked up at Keith, the moment would break, shatter into a million pieces.

So he kept his eyes closed. Waited. Heard Keith’s soft “can I?”

And opened his arms.

Keith’s sigh of relief fluttered through the quiet car as he sunk down on top of Lance, sinking into his arms and the worn upholstery.

He was warm, his stomach pressed against Lance as he shifted himself in the pocket of Lance’s side, squeezing between the seat and Lance’s arm. His head rested on Lance’s shoulder, arm dropping to lay across Lance’s stomach.

Lance didn’t think twice, wrapping his arms around Keith.

He wrapped them around Keith and pulled him closer, their legs tangling together. Lance could feel the heavy pulse in Keith’s wrist, racing against his chest.

“Is this okay?”

A car passed them, sending a rush of red light sweeping into the car. Lance watched the red fade behind his eyelids, not daring to open his eyes, to make it all too real.

“It’s okay,” Lance yawned. “You’re okay.”

Keith hummed, his pulse slowing.

His soft hair tickled Lance’s cheek and smelled like sandalwood and mint. A strange combination, but the spice of Keith’s cologne tangled with the two and created a smell that was so comforting, so Keith, Lance found he wanted to bottle up the scent and keep it forever.

“Just a few hours,” Keith whispered against his chest.

Lance nodded, already slipping away.

“Just a few hours,” he whispered back before he was taken away by a dream.

***

A car door slamming shut jerked Lance from his sleep.

He blinked wildly in the dark, disoriented, as the weight on his chest sprang up as well. Lance stared up at Keith as he looked around quickly, a warm hand balancing on Lance’s chest.

Keith’s hair was a mess, all tousled and mussed from the few hours of sleep. There was an imprint on Keith’s cheek from Lance’s shirt and Lance tried really f*cking hard to not stare.

Their legs were tangled together, Lance’s hoodie had been shucked up his stomach while they had slept and he was really trying to not focus the feeling of Keith’s palm just centimeters from his bare skin.

He wondered what deity he had pissed off to get into the situation.

Finally, Keith turned and looked down at Lance.

Lance was suddenly very glad that the car was dark, feeling a furious blush rush to his cheeks. For a moment, they stared at each other.

Then, Keith cleared his throat. “Hi.”

“Hi.”

And just like that, they decided not to speak about it.

They didn’t speak about it as they clambered out of the back doors, ignoring the looks from passing travelers as two disheveled men staggered from the back of the van.

They didn’t talk about it as Keith sluggishly got back onto the interstate.

It was a quiet two hours, getting to their hotel.

It was still quiet as they clambered into their room, only brushing their teeth and Keith taking out his contacts before they both collapsed into their beds.

The trial of silence was broken only when Lance was seconds from sleep.

“Thank you, Lance,” Keith whispered. “For everything.”

He let out a huff of laugh, rolling over away from Lance.

"I don't know what I would have done without you," he breathed, maybe more to himself than Lance. "Or what I did before you."

Notes:

I just want to say I have no problems with Utah, but Lance clearly does smh.

Chapter 4: 5.1 Miles Left (and Lance Frankly Cannot Believe They Actually Made It)

Notes:

This was BY FAR my favorite chapter to write so far. Fully giggling and screaming and crying and throwing up while I wrote it. Enjoy!

***SPOILERS*** While I doubt that anyone touring AO3 would not have read the Harry Potter series, there are some slight spoilers for the fourth book. When they begin arguing about it, just skip to the next set of *** :)

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Lance woke up to the feeling of fingers squeezing his knee.

“Lance, wake up.”

With a groan, he peeled his eyes open. And immediately was 75% sure he was still dreaming.

Keith was sitting on the edge of his bed, an outstretched hand holding a drink.

A Starbucks venti caramel macchiato, to be exact.

Lance swallowed, violently aware of his morning breath.

“Hey,” he rasped, sitting up and taking the coffee with a soft murmur of thanks.

And tried to not think about how Keith looked good.

Great, even.

(Perfect, maybe).

He looked at ease sitting cross-legged on Lance’s bed in a clean pair of sweats and a college hoodie, hair freshly-dried from a shower and tied into a neat half knot at the crown of his head. His glasses were perched on his nose, violet eyes practically sparkling behind the lens.

And he was smiling. Lance hadn’t realized how much he missed those small, private smiles until they were gone.

“Good morning.”

Lance blinked blearily. “Good morning. What time is it?”

“About eight.”

Keith tapped his knee and Lance thought he might be suffering from a heart attack.

“So,” Keith was still smiling and Lance took a hasty sip of his coffee, the sweet burn on his tongue jarring him to focus. “I’ve been thinking.”

“Terrifying.”

Keith rolled his eyes, but there was no malice behind it.

“I’ve decided to be an adult,” Keith said simply. “You know, one that doesn’t have a mental breakdown over a flat tire.”

Lance snorted. “To be fair, it wasn’t only the flat tire.”

Keith hummed. “Still, I haven’t been pulling my weight.”

He looked out to the window, giving Lance a frankly perfect view of his sharp jaw.

“I was on the phone with Clyde,” he said. “I think I woke him up.”

Keith looked a little too pleased by that fact.

“And he arranged a hotel for us in Houston,” Keith said. “And said that his office will cover the cost of the new tire.”

“Go Clyde.”

“Yeah,” Keith huffed a laugh. “I think he was half asleep when he made that deal, but I already emailed him the receipt.”

Smug looked good on Keith.

“I think,” Keith continued slowly, “that our downfall is dragging ourselves out of bed and immediately launching into the car. We’ve been eating like sh*t and have breathed only car air for two days.”

“That’s fair.”

Keith’s eyes twinkled. “There’s a breakfast place right down the street. Thoughts?"

Lance froze. Keith was watching him evenly, face calm and hand steady against Lance’s leg.

For the most part, Lance could see what this was.

It was an apology, a way of making up for the night before (which was unnecessary in Lance’s opinion, but he had no qualms about waking up to Starbucks and a grinning Keith).

But something that Lance could not figure out was could this possibly be a date?

He knew that he had to chill, road trip buddies could get breakfast together.

But the way that Keith looked happy, excited almost, with his cute taps against Lance’s knee and proud smile from finding somewhere to eat, made Lance hope.

“Thank God,” Lance said finally. “I would commit arson for a piece of fruit.”

***

After a quick shower, Lance threw on a fresh pair of clothes, brushed his teeth, shot a couple encouraging finger guns in the mirror, and followed Keith out the door.

They checked out, stowed their sh*t in the van, and Keith led the way down the street.

Lance clocked a Starbucks on the opposite of the road, and fought a smile at the idea of Keith traipsing over earlier that morning, grimacing as he ordered Lance’s sickeningly sweet coffee.

About a quarter of a mile from the hotel, Keith stopped in front of a hole-in-the-wall cafe, opening the door and gesturing Lance in front of him.

Lance obliged with a grin and a nod.

Is this a date? Is this a date?

The smell of cooking bacon ripped a moan from Lance’s throat and Keith snorted as the door chimed shut behind them. The cafe was cute, all vintage crimson booths and steel tables. The counter was packed, a long row of patrons sipping coffee and reading the newspaper.

Lance spotted a man in the kitchen with a massive quaff of orange hair tamed by a hairnet. Looking closer, he saw that the cook also had a great mustache, tied back by another haircut. He waved a spatula with a flourish, barking orders with a strong, Australian accent.

He nudged Keith and nodded towards the eccentric man, earning a hushed giggle from Keith.

A waitress, clearly exhausted with concealer caking around her tired eyes, shot them a warm smile, already snatching up two menus.

“Good morning, boys.”

They hummed a greeting before following her to an empty booth. After ordering waters and coffees, they fell into a comfortable silence while scanning the menu.

Lance tried to keep his gaze on the laminated menu, but commonly found his eyes raising up to watch Keith. Lazily twirling his phone in circles with his long fingers, Keith studied the menu with a pleasant expression.

“What are you getting?” He asked.

Feeling caught, Lance ducked his head and skimmed the remaining items he hadn’t read.

“The western omelet, for sure.”

Keith nodded. “I think I’ll get that too.”

Is this a date is this a date is this a date—

“This is a cool place,” Lance said instead. “How did you find it?”

Keith shrugged. “I went out for a run this morning. Spotted it and thought it sounded good.”

“You ran?”

Keith’s lips twitched. “I needed to get some nervous energy out.”

Lance nodded and tried to play it cool. But, nervous energy for what?

The waitress reappeared before he could work up the nerve to ask.

“What will you boys be having?”

“Two western omelets,” Keith answered smoothly.

Lance wiped his sweaty palms on his thighs as the waitress nodded, writing quickly on her notepad.

“And white toast, home fries, the works?”

“All the potatoes you can give us,” Lance added, earning a laugh from her.

Keith grinned at him and Lance thought he might pass out.

“Two western omelets, toast, and all the potatoes coming right out,” the waitress said with a chuckle as she took their menus and walked back to the kitchen.

Without the menus, Lance felt naked. Nothing to hold, nothing to look at now except for Keith.

Keith seemed at ease, fingers swiping along his phone and scanning their route for that day.Lance twiddled his thumbs, bounced his foot, and studied the lovely architecture.

The second their coffees arrived, Lance grabbed onto his mug like it was a lifesaver, quickly snatching up two small buckets of cream and three sugar packets.Keith watched his onslaught of sweeteners with a wrinkled nose.

“Don’t judge my lifestyle, Keith.”

He merely chuckled instead, raising his black coffee to his lips.

Keith’s phone buzzed, revealing a message from Shiro. Lance watched him unlock his phone, noticing that his background was some literary quote that Lance could read upside-down.

Lance clinked his fingernail against his mug thoughtfully. “I have a personal question to ask you.”

“Oh no,” Keith chuckled as he texted a quick reply to Shiro.

Lance hesitated. “Why did you leave the aerospace major?”

Keith paused, looking up at Lance in surprise.

Lance shrank back, afraid that he pushed too far. But he had to admit he was curious.

Then, Keith snorted and tapped the side of his glasses.

“Because I can’t see for sh*t.”

Lance’s jaw dropped as raw sympathy swept through him so fast that he took a hasty sip of coffee to soothe the chill of it.

Really?”

Keith nodded. “I couldn’t pass the vision test. Sure, you’re allowed to have corrective lenses, glasses and contacts and stuff, but my depth perception isn’t great.”

Lance gaped at him. It felt ridiculous, something so normal as needing glasses stopping Keith from advancing higher into the world of flying.

“I could have gotten surgery but,” Keith shrugged, “I took a semester away from the major, took some English classes for sh*ts and giggles, and really enjoyed it.”

Keith lifted his mug to his lips with a smile.

“I didn’t realize how unhappy I was until I was doing something different,” he said. “I don’t regret it, at all.”

He grinned to himself, shaking his head slightly.

“I wrote my first English paper,” he continued. “An analysis of the impact of society on women in Pride and Prejudice, and never looked back.”

Lance could only stare.

“That’s, like, really f*cking cool, Keith.”

Keith looked up at him, biting the corner of his lip shyly. “You think?”

“Yes!” Lance exclaimed. “I mean, you really know how to roll with the punches.”

Keith laughed at that. “The foster system will do that to you.”

Keith held his gaze.

“Besides,” he said, toying with the edge of his napkin. “If I hadn’t quit the major, then I doubt we would have been friends.”

Lance’s heart sunk a little, knowing that he was right. He didn’t think he would have ever stopped the rivalry if Keith and him had remained neck and neck in the program.

“So,” Keith said shortly, looking away from Lance and down to his lap. “Like I said, it was worth it.”

***

With stomachs full of coffee, egg, cheese, peppers, onions, and enough potatoes to make them feel a little ill, they set off again.

Lance bounced with excitement in his seat as Keith plugged in his phone, beginning the route on his app.

He could feel how the energy had changed, how they were both rejuvenated and ready to make these last twelve hours their bitch.

“So,” Lance said, just ensuring, just double-checking. “We are doing this?”

Keith looked over, fingers paused over his phone. He smiled.“We are doing this.”

Lance let out a cheer, pounding Keith on the shoulder. Keith shook his head, grinning as he set the van into drive.

He shot a glance Lance’s way. “How soon until you are going to have to sh*t?”

“Too soon, my guy,” Lance responded happily. “I had three coffees and I’m ready to go to war.”

Keith swallowed a laugh and pulled onto the road.

***

“I’m going to slit your throat in your sleep.”

Keith sucked his lips into his mouth to fight a smile. “That’s a little dramatic.”

“It’s warranted,” Lance snapped. “How could you think that DC is better than Marvel?”

“Hold on,” Keith held up a hand, laughing. “I said that I prefer Gotham over Marvel, not the entire DC universe. There’s a difference.”

“No, there is not!”

“Gotham is the most unique and creative superhero universe there is,” Keith argued. “It’s dark, ugly, corrupt. Even Batman isn’t the most morally sound, that’s what makes him the most interesting superhero.”

“Do you have brain damage?”

Keith glanced at him, grinning. “You are really passionate about your superheroes.”

“I am when someone has the wrong opinions.”

“So, who’s the best Marvel character, then?”

“Easy. Loki.”

Keith squinted at him. “You just think he’s hot.”

“I’m allowed to note that Tom Hiddleston is drop-dead gorgeous and a great portrayal of Loki. That’s allowed. I can do that.”

***

“Oh, that’s it,” Lance fumbled for his phone. “I’m calling an Uber.”

“What?” Keith laughed. “Why?”

“I’m in the same car as a serial killer.”

Keith looked unimpressed. “Just because I think that Prisoner of Azkaban is the better Harry Potter book?”

“You’re in denial. Goblet of Fire is obviously the best. It shows the shift of the entire series! The murder in the first chapter, the absolute banger trials, Cedric f*cking Diggory!”

“Okay, fair,” Keith relented. “Cedric is certainly a highlight of the series. But Prisoner is the only one without Voldemort, causing it to really flush out the characters. They feel like actual teenagers when you read it.”

“You’re sick.”

***

hour three of day three: Keith is a madman. Saying to MY face that vanilla ice cream is better than chocolate????? How dare he???? CANCEL HIM

hour four of day three: I need someone to pick me up right now. Keith has never listened to Hamilton

***

After they plowed through the entire Hamilton discography (much to Lance’s delight, and Keith’s chagrin), another song immediately came on shuffle.

Lance let out a whoop, immediately reaching over and ignoring Keith smacking at his hand as he turned the volume up to near deafening.

“This is my favorite f*cking song,” Lance batted Keith’s shoulder excitedly. “‘The Breeze’ by Dr. Dog. Everyone shut up and take your seats. Get ready to have your mind blown.”

Keith, quickly learning that the easiest way to sate Lance is to follow directions, mimed zipping his lips as the song played.

Lance leaned over so close to Keith that his seatbelt dug into his shoulder.

Are you moving too fast?” He sang along to the song. “And the good times that just don’t last.”

“Oh my God,” Keith snickered.

“If you’re always on the go,” Lance dramatically swept his arm out to gestured at the road, earning a snort from Keith,“make an angel in the snow. And freeze!”

Lance leaned back in his seat, nodding along to the beat and making sure to play every air instrument he could.

Is it a dream keeping you awake? Is it the stillness that makes you shake?”

Keith traded glances between him and the road, smiling with red cheeks.

“Are there dark parts to your mind?” Lance poked Keith’s cheek, earning another slap against his fingers. “Hidden secrets left behind?”

Lance flung his hand against his forehead, swooning against the window.

Where no one ever goes? But everybody knows, it’s all right.”

And Lance’s performance continued pretty much just like that.

He knew every word, shouting along to the booming music, greedily eating up every glance sent his way from Keith.

Keith soon started laughing, nodding his head along with Lance’s and matching Lance’s shimmying shoulders with his.

Lance’s grin widened as Keith jumped in with him, fine to act like fools together as the song blasted through the speakers.

For a moment, it didn’t feel like they were on a three-day drive towards a dead woman’s storage container. Instead, it felt as if they were driving to school or a movie or something that was innocent in its fun.

Laughing together like two idiots with the rest of the world trailing behind them.

Once the song faded to a close, Lance looked over at Keith, grinning rather evilly.

“Now, it’s required that you show me your favorite song.”

Keith’s entertained smile dropped into something embarrassed. “No.”

“What?” Lance whined. “Why not?”

Keith’s eyes narrowed. “You’re definitely going to make fun of me.”

“Keeeiiiitttttthhhhhh.”

“Nope.”

Lance arched an eyebrow, a sh*t-eating grin growing on his face. “Oh, I see. It’s by My Chemical Romance.”

“No.”

Mariana’s Trench?”

“No!”

Nine Inch Nails?”

Keith hesitated, earning a loud laugh from Lance. “No! Not my favorite song, at least.”

“Well, now I’m dying from curiosity, Keith. You know I’m a nosy bitch.”

“That I do.”

“Come on,” Lance groaned. “We are baring our souls to each other this trip. You are bound by the road trip laws to tell me.”

Keith tapped his fingers on the steering wheel, staring hard out the windshield as he debated.

Finally, he tilted his head back with a groan. “You better not give me sh*t for this.”

“I swear I won’t. Scouts honor.”

Keith shot him a mistrusting look. “Fine. Fine. Pull up “The Trapeze Swinger” by Iron and Wine.

Lance did just that, an interested hum leaving his lips as he did.

He had listened to them once or twice, but never in his life would have thought Keith did. He pulled up the unfamiliar song and his eyebrows shot up.

“Jesus, it’s like ten minutes long.”

“Yeah, and a f*cking masterpiece,” Keith spat. “Now shut up, and listen.”

Lance snickered as he began the song. He only grew more surprised as the gentle humming and strum of a guitar that filtered through the speakers.

He side-eyed Keith. “You gonna sing it for me?"

“f*ck off.”

Please, remember me happily.

Any smug grin dropped off Lance’s lips as he listened.

“Your house beneath the hill and up until someone caught us in the kitchen.”

Keith shrank into himself, biting his bottom lip and staring determinedly forward at the road. Lance sat still, unsure of how to react when Keith’s favorite song was so gentle, elegant.

“But please, remember me fondly. I heard from someone you’re still pretty.”

So sad.

“And then thy went on to say that the pearly gates had some eloquent graffiti.”

Keith didn’t look over to Lance as the song melted into one lyric to another, gripping the steering wheel so tightly that his knuckles were paling white.

“We’d forgotten one another and when the morning came, I was ashamed.”

“I told you that you would make fun of me,” Keith grumbled.

Lance shushed him gently. “I’m listening.”

Keith’s ears grew red.

“So please, remember me mistakenly.”

Keith let out something between a scoff and an embarrassed cough, reaching for Lance’s phone.

“Forget it, it’s just a stupid song—.”

Lance grabbed his hand, stopping him.

“And please, remember me as in the dream.”

“No,” he said quietly. “I know it’s not.”

Keith looked at him for the first time, expression open and vulnerable. Their fingers stayed tangled together over Lance’s phone.

“A fleeting chance to see a trapeze swinger high as any savior.”

Keith was a reader. Potentially a writer. Lance knew the meanings that words had for them, the way that they were strung together by any artist. So he listened, and tried to see more of Keith.

“But please, remember me, my misery and how it lost me all I wanted.”

Keith’s blush was climbing up his neck, but he didn’t move his hand from Lance’s.

“But never meant to last, the clowns that passed saw me just come up with anger.”

Keith’s hand was clammy, but Lance’s was clammier.

“So please, remember me, finally. And all my uphill clawing, my dear.”

Slowly but surely, the song faded into nothing. They rode in silence for a moment. Lance wanted to Google the lyrics, read them over and over and piece together the meanings and analyze the words along with Keith’s expressions during each line.

But Keith looked too raw for that, as he cleared his throat and hastily untangled his fingers from Lance’s.

Lance missed the warmth immediately.

“I really liked it.”

“Cool,” Keith muttered, still blushing.

***

hour seven: Keith and I are fresh out of a pirated audio recording of Taylor Swift’s Reputation tour, what’s everyone else up to?”

hour nine: we just obliterated a Ruby Tuesday salad bar. No regrets.

***

Lance started screaming the instant they passed the Welcome to Texas sign. He thumped his hands against the steering wheel, whooping and wailing as Keith laughed in the passenger seat.

Drunk with adrenaline, Lance rolled down his window, stuck out his head, and let out the loudest, most obnoxious yee-haw! he could muster.

Keith’s fingers wrapped around his sleeve as he yanked him back inside. “You’re gonna get your head chopped off.”

It would have sounded stern, if it wasn’t for the laugh that leaked around the chiding words.

“We have to do something to celebrate,” Lance insisted. “We made it to f*cking Texas, Keith.”

Keith hummed in consideration as they merged onto a new road, nearly empty of cars and lit with rows upon rows of glowing amber street lights. His eyes lifted up to the roof and he grinned.

“Ever see Perks of a Wallflower?”

***

Lance considered himself a strong man. He could fight his inhibitions, could remain cool under pressure. He could be chill, play anything off.

That is, he could until Keith cranked open the sunroof of the van, notched his boots into his seat and next to Lance’s thigh, and stood up.

The laugh that left Keith as he lifted his chest and head into the wild and warm Texas air was something that Lance would never forget. Every chance he could, he dared to look up, to peer through the sunroof to see Keith gripping the sides of the open hatch and grinning wide.

He had taken off his glasses before rising through the roof, squinting against the wind and peering up at the rows of streetlights as they passed. His hair flew over and across his face, flying into his mouth as he laughed. His T-shirt billowed against his stomach, sliding up and revealing a sliver of pale skin.

His violet eyes shone orange under the lights, the amber glow throwing shadows under his cheekbones, eyelashes and nose. He glanced down, mid-laugh and caught Lance’s eye. If possible, his smile grew even wider.

Keith looked undoubtably, incredibly gorgeous.

Before Lance could think about it too much, potentially even wreck from the distraction of his roaring heartbeat, Keith clambered back inside.

He dropped clumsily into his seat, windswept and happy as he giggled.

“That was amazing,” he gasped as he combed back his hair.

He looked over to Lance and winked.

“Your turn.”

Lance thought he was joking, until Keith guided him to a stop to pull over. They hopped out, switched seats, and soon, it was Lance slipping through the sunroof.

He could feel the steady pressure of Keith’s thigh against his Converse as he lifted his head up and was immediately met by wind so sharp it felt like a slap in the face.

But soon, Lance adjusted and lifted himself higher so that the wind buffeted his chest as well. Tears were ripped from his eyes from the air, streaming down his face as he opened his mouth and laughed.

The road looked incredibly small from where he stood, looking up at the sea of lights and the world that seemed to go on forever.

Tentatively, he released his death-grip on the sides and lifted his arms. The wind force caused him to stagger a little, and he felt Keith’s grip on his ankle tighten. But then he balanced and raised his arms higher, letting the wind plaster back his shirt against his chest.

It was almost suffocating, but exhilarating.

A loud whoop left his chest as he beamed at Texas, pumping his fist and doing the wave just for good measure. He heard Keith laugh from inside the van and glanced down.

Keith was beaming up at him. Behind his glasses, violet eyes were sparkling and still misty from the wind.

He looked as beautiful as he did earlier, even with his tangled hair and wind-burned cheeks.

And up there, in the blistering air and under the Texas night, Lance finally admitted it to himself.

His feelings towards Keith had grown, tentatively, slowly, into something damn near love.

***

Six hours later and too far into the early morning, they stared up at the hotel. A light drizzle had started, already dampening their clothes and hair, but they couldn’t have cared less. Instead they took their time gaping up at the Houston hotel.

“Holy sh*t,” Keith exhaled. “We made it.”

At Keith’s words, a rather crazed laugh left Lance’s lips. Before he could think into it, he spun and tugged Keith into a hug.

Keith was warm in his arms, solid and steadying, as he tentatively returned the hug before tightening his grip on Lance. They embraced tightly, laughing into each other’s shoulders, near hysterical from exhaustion.

They broke away, Keith grinning and happy in Lance’s hold. A raindrop slipped down the bridge of his nose.

Lance debated kissing him.

But then exhaustion took over and tore the moment, and they grabbed their things right before the drizzle hardened into a downpour.

They broke into a dead sprint, bursting into the quiet lobby gasping for breath around their giggles.

Keith, still being an adult Lance supposed, checked them in.

But once they entered the room, planning to collapse into the bed and not even bothering to flick on the lights, they stopped short. Staring at the single full bed.

Lance opened his mouth and shut it twice, trying to unscramble his tangle of exhausted thoughts.

“I think Clyde vastly misinterpreted our relationship.”

A tired snort came from Keith.

Lance was already panicking, trying to fix it. “I can ask if they have another room, or, hell, I could definitely pass out on the floor—.”

Keith shushed him softly, yawning as he dropped his bag onto the ground. He kicked off his boots, stretched and popped his back, and turned to his bag.

Heart hammering in his throat, Lance followed suit.

They didn’t even trade turns in the bathroom, instead just turning around and changing into clean, dry clothes with their backs to each other.

And then, once they were dressed, Keith took Lance’s wrist and tugged him to the bed.

Lance followed numbly, head spinning.

“Don’t worry about it,” Keith said finally. “Let’s just go to bed.”

And if those words didn’t have Lance near collapsing.

But he played it cool, buttoned his lip and nodded as Keith plopped onto the bed, shifting under the covers and rolling away from Lance.

Lance slipped under the covers slowly, watching Keith’s rising and falling back as he slid in next to him.

“Good night, Lance,” Keith whispered.

“Good night,” Lance whispered, voice small. “Welcome to Houston.”

***

4:03 blared in blue light from the alarm clock when Lance woke up from a crack of thunder.

The rain was pouring steadily now, loud and brash against their window.

Lance watched the rain for a moment, blinking against the dark as he laid still with Keith’s arm draped over his waist.

He wasn’t sure when it happened, when in the night Keith had rolled over and came close enough to wrap his arm around him.

Keith’s arm warm and heavy over his stomach, his fingertips just barely brushing against Lance’s ribs.

Lance swallowed his heartbeat, did some breathing exercises and fell asleep again.

4:57 and Keith jerked awake, rousing Lance as well.

Remembering the arm laying over him, Lance was immediately wide awake, tense in Keith’s hold as he shifted sleepily behind him.

Lance waited for Keith to realize, for him to no doubt freak out or move to the floor or even get a new room.

He tried to fight back the sting as Keith’s arm slowly moved from around him, retreating back and away. He squeezed his eyes shut, feeling pathetic from the burn in them.

Until Keith rolled over, pressing his back tightly against Lance’s. Lance could feel the rise and fall of Keith’s back, and wondered why Keith still was intent on touching him.

5:26 and a car door slamming stirred Lance once more.

Keith’s back was still pressed against his, still rising and falling evenly as Keith continued his slumber. Lance’s left arm was now asleep, plagued with pins and needles from not daring to move for so long.

Carefully, all while holding his breath, he rolled over, careful to not disturb Keith.

But Keith decided to completely encroach onto Lance’s side, leaving him stuck with his chest pressed against Keith’s back.

Lance stared at Keith’s shoulder for a moment, the rain thundering in his ears along with his pulse, and wondered if he dared.

He did.

Slowly, Lance raised his arm, extending it over Keith until it draped over his arm, their fingertips just barely brushing. Keith’s skin was soft, smooth, and smelled of sandalwood and mint.

He was sure Keith would wake up from the thumping of his pounding heart alone, but he didn’t.

He continued to sleep and Lance finally closed his eyes and tried to as well.

6:04 and Lance woke to Keith shifting under his arm.

He froze, already panicking as he felt Keith sleepily notice his new position, the way their fingers were brushing against the other.

Lance considered rolling over, taking his arm back and booking it to the very edge of the bed, even if it showed that he was awake.

But before he could, Keith beat him to it.

With a sleepy hum, Keith twisted in Lance’s hold, burrowing down to where the blankets had fallen to their waists. Under the covers turned from warm to hot as Keith tangled their legs together, shifting closer and closer to Lance.

Lance gaped at the dark wall as Keith’s head tucked under his chin, strong arms wrapping around his waist. He was sure Keith would now be able to hear his heart, but neither of them commented on it.

Neither of them said anything, as they slipped off to sleep once more in each other’s arms.

Notes:

During this chapter, I realized that I am fully inserting myself into Keith's character. Am I too an English major with terrible eyesight and sh*t depth perception? Indeed I am. Is The Trapeze Swinger my fav song? Indeed it is.

(P.S. If you haven't listen to The Breeze or The Trapeze Swinger, plz do. Trapeze in particular is a religious experience to listen to omg plz mercy. Also psst, the songs will become important later oop

P.P.S Anyone see Coran's cameo lmao)

Chapter 5: They Made It Folks (and Now To See What Shenanigans Gays Can Get into in Houston)

Notes:

OHOHOHHHH lads welcome to this 6.5K monster! No lie, I was running LAPS writing this chapter. I know I'm posting later than normal, but I think the end of this chapter will cause y'all to forgive me

(AKA spice warning wink wink nudge nudge)

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

When Lance finally woke to sunlight streaming into the room and Keith shifting in his arms, he half-expected a punch to the nose.

A little bop of surprise, once Keith found himself completely ensnared in Lance’s arms.

Taking a more cowardly route, Lance kept his eyes closed, his breathing even, and pretended he was still asleep.

After a moment, Keith went still as well, his mop of dark hair tickling Lance’s chin. He smacked his lips together sleepily, leaning back against Lance with a soft sigh.

It took all the strength Lance could summon to not coo at him.

Until Keith began to move, carefully slipping under Lance’s arms and untangling their limbs slowly. As if trying to not wake Lance.

And so Lance was now trying to desperately not to smile, forcing his face to remain expressionless in his feigned sleep.

Keith finally slipped out of the bed and Lance dared to peek through his eyelashes to watch as Keith stood and stretched. He shoved his hair out of his face, yawning as he ambled to the bathroom.

Once the door clicked shut and the shower turned on, Lance rolled over, grinning into his pillow.

He shut his eyes again and selfishly pretended that this was normal, them waking up together in the same bed, Keith letting him sleep in, sinking into the domestic fantasy as if it was another blanket.

(Don’t worry, Lance is self-aware. He knows he’s absolutely gone for this idiot.)

Eventually, Lance forced himself into a sitting position, yawning throatily as he rubbed his eyes.

He grabbed his phone, updated Hunk and his family, and was posting a new update to his story just as the bathroom door opened.

hour one of day four: we made it f*ckers

Steam billowed out as Keith reentered the room, damp hair still dripping onto the towel draped over his clean shirt, frowning down at his phone.

He looked up, and paused.

Then he smiled.

“Hey.”

Lance tried to act somewhat normal. “What’s shakin’?”

Keith arched an eyebrow and Lance buried himself deeper into the covers, pursing his lips and admiring the ceiling.

Keith cleared his throat and tilted his phone towards Lance. “Clyde wants to meet us ASAP. To give us the keys.”

“Right.”

Any of the giddiness or sweet awkwardness in the room evaporated. Lance had almost forgotten why they had even driven to Houston in the first place. He had been so lost in Keith that he forgot they had a bunch of creepy sh*t to sort through.

Keith bit the corner of his lip, tapping his phone against his fingertips. He seemed jittery, tight in all the areas he was normally loose, and Lance realized that he was nervous.

And immediately remembered why he was here. What his role was.

With a dramatic groan, Lance flopped over to the side of the bed, dangling his head upside down and staring up at Keith.

“Think Clyde will buy us breakfast?”

Even upside-down, Lance could see Keith’s slight frown tilt into something amused.

“I think Clyde would rather eat a cactus.”

“I think he loves us.”

“Sure,” Keith snorted, before throwing his towel onto Lance’s face.

Lance inhaled the smell of Keith’s shampoo and felt himself drop a few levels lower in hell.

***

Lance thought that Clyde could have acted a little more happy to see them.

The lawyer looked exactly how Lance had pictured him.

He couldn’t have been much over fifty. Clyde was thin, and tall, if his legs that were hidden under the desk were anything like his long-ass arms. His graying hair was combed neatly back, slicked with a gel that was likely more expensive than Lance’s entire skincare shelf. His suit was pressed, fingernails clipped, and stern blue eyes watched them enter the polished and gleaming office.

“Clyde!” Lance opened his arms. “You into hugs?”

Clyde’s nose wrinkled and Keith huffed a laugh before grabbing the back of Lance’s hoodie and manually steering him to the chairs opposing Clyde’s great oak desk.

“You must be Lance,” Clyde said, his voice ever more monotone when not over the phone.

“How’d you figure that one out?”

Keith snickered as he plopped down in the chair next to Lance, leaning back and resting his head against the top of the leather seat.

They were a sight to see, two twenty-somethings in sweats and hoodies, sprawled over this expensive office.

“Lucky guess,” Clyde drawled.

His eyes, which Lance now noticed were heavy with dark circles, found Keith.

“And you, sir, look exactly like Krolia.”

Keith’s amused grin dropped.

An awkward silence followed and Lance squirmed, before clearing his throat.

“So,” Lance clapped, “shall we?”

Clyde’s gaze found him again and Lance found that he was really looking forward to annoying the hell out of this man.

“Of course,” Clyde said. “How was your first night in Houston? Sleep well?”

Lance narrowed his eyes at the lawyer. Clyde held his gaze evenly, though his lips dared to twitch ever so slightly.

Lance wondered whether the lawyer was merely an excellent wingman, or a clever son-of-a-bitch.

“Like babies,” Keith sighed. “Can we move this along?”

Clyde nodded, rising to his feet and walking over to a massive filing cabinet. He tugged open one of the drawers, what looked like hundreds of files sliding out. His fingers deftly swept through the files, scanning each name quickly.

“As I told you two on the phone, there is a storage locker that must be handled,” Clyde said. “And Mr. Kogane has a sum of money left to him as well.”

Keith rolled his eyes. “I’m not interested.”

“Keith, my man,” Lance turned to him. “At least look at the check.”

Keith glared at him. “I don’t want any blood money.”

Clyde plucked up a pale manilla envelope, the contents clinking softly as he returned to his desk. Lance’s and Keith’s eyes both followed the envelope as the lawyer placed it gently onto the wood.

Clyde glanced at Lance. “Normally, these proceedings only happen with family.”

“Lance stays,” Keith countered stubbornly.

Lance grinned at Clyde, trying to ignore his hopping heart. “Lance stays.”

Clyde forcibly restrained an eyebrow before curtly turning to open the envelope. Lance leaned forward, stomach twisting from anticipation. Keith remained slouched in his seat, thought his attentive eyes betrayed his nonchalance.

The first thing he pulled out a crisp check. Lance was a bit ashamed to admit that his mouth watered.

“I don’t care what you do with it,” Clyde slid the check down the desk. “Rip it in pieces for all I care. But you have to sign off that I gave it to you.”

Lance leaned forward, clocked the number of zeroes, and let out a rather undignified screech.

Immediately, he was lunging, grabbing Keith’s shoulder and shaking him wildly as he stared at the check.

“Keith, Keith, Keith, Keith.”

Keith swatted at him. “I see it, Lance, I got it.”

“Keith,” Lance was gasping for air, absolutely fighting for his life. “You are the proud owner of twenty-five f*cking thousand dollars!”

For most, it was a great sum of money. Pretty damn decent if you ask Lance.

But for a college student? That was an unthinkable amount.

“Keith,” Lance choked out. “I will simply never speak to you again if you don’t keep it. If you do not cash that check, I will do it for you.”

Clyde watched all of this with his fingers pressed to his temples, as if fighting off an impending headache.

“You could go to grad school,” Lance couldn’t tear his eyes from the check. “You could pay off your loans. God, Keith, you’re f*cking set.”

“Okay, okay!” Keith slapped up the check, folded it, and stuffed it carelessly into his pocket.

Both Lance and Clyde winced at the sound of the check crinkling.

And then, Lance had to admit that Clyde was smarter than he gave him credit for.

Because after that, the two of them barely flinched as a small set of keys were dropped into Keith’s hand.

***

The walk to the storage container was too quiet.

Keith and Lance trudged through the forest of obnoxious orange containers, each row seemingly endless with locker after locker.

They got lost, several times.

It was only after Lance sweet-talked an employee or two for directions that they finally were standing in front of the correct massive orange garage.

Keith fidgeted next to him, shuffling back and forth and twirling the keys on his ring finger. He was pale and eyes were hard as he stared at the garage door. The Feral Cat look had arrived and Lance tried to think fast, wondering how to pull him back.

“We should do a drinking game.”

Keith blinked once, twice, and then looked over at Lance in bewilderment. “What?”

Lance nodded quickly. “Every piece of creepy sh*t we find, we remember to drink for it tonight.”

Keith’s lips twitched. “So, we are going to get plastered.”

“That seems extremely likely.”

Keith huffed out a laugh before stepping forward. He crouched, boots squeaking as he deftly unlocked the padlock at the bottom of the door. Lance was glad that his fingers were steady again.

Keith kicked the padlock to the side, the metal clinking as it skittered across the pavement. He stepped back, back from the door, back to Lance’s side.

“Oh f*ck,” Keith exhaled. “I really don’t want to open it.”

Lance nodded, biting hard into his bottom lip. He really wished that he hadn’t spent so much time wondering whether there would be dead bodies inside.

“Want me to?”

Keith shook his head, hesitated, then shook it once more.

“Rock, paper, scissors?”

“f*ck no.”

Lance swallowed. “Together?”

Keith looked to him, all pale skin and dark circles and beauty, and nodded.

Slowly, they edged forward. Keith grabbed hold of the handle and Lance wrapped his hand around Keith’s. His fingers were sweaty under Lance’s even sweatier one and Lance wondered whether they would even be able to open it or if it would just slide out from under their hands.

“One,” Lance said slowly.

He wrapped his free arm around Keith, tucking his hand into Keith’s pocket and bundling the fabric in his fingers. Keeping him there, keeping him steady.

“Two.”

Keith swore under his breath.

“Three.”

They threw open the door and, with a mighty screech, the orange monstrosity shot upwards. Both Lance and Keith scrambled back, stumbling in a mad tangle of limbs and chests away from the door.

Then the door clambered fully back into the ceiling of the container and the two of them peered inside.

And—

Well—

Lance still wasn’t entirely sure what he had been expecting.

But he was positive that he hadn't planned to just see books.

Mountains, towers, boxes stuffed full of them. Sure, there was the occasional old piece of furniture, old chairs and desks hidden behind and under crate after crate of novels.

Lance took a slow step forward.

“You’ve got yourself a library, Keith.”

Keith didn’t respond, following Lance into the cave. The smell of old paper and stale upholstery caused Lance to scratch at his nose, fighting off a sneeze that felt vaguely inappropriate in the strained silence.

It was dark in the container, only the sunlight brightening the very front of the storage.

Lance hopped over old boxes with Sharpie-scrawled labels and ventured further. “If I see an operating freezer, I’m hauling ass out of here.”

Another total lack of response from Keith caused Lance to turn around. Keith was peering into a box of books, scanning the titles with an unidentifiable look on his face.

“Keith? You alright?”

“Yeah, yeah, I—,” he faltered, still staring down into the box. “I just wanted something that was mine.”

Lance’s shoulders lowered.

Keith had spent his entire life invested in STEM, dealing with the stress of such a difficult major and forging through the astrophysics world only to break away and trying something new with English.

Something that was his.

Only to find that his love of books was, apparently, hereditary.

Lance swallowed. “Do you think this is something you could share?”

Keith shrugged. “I guess I have no choice.”

Lance watched Keith wade further into his mother’s things, looking around with his hands glued to his sides, as if afraid to touch anything. He was overwhelmed by the person that surrounded them, the stories and memories and pieces of a puzzle that created half of Keith’s DNA.

Suddenly, Lance felt as if he was intruding.

Here he was, knee deep in Krolia Kogane, while her son had barely taken two steps into the room.

He sauntered away, out of the books and memories and past Keith, who turned to watch him leave curiously.

“I’m going to get one those dollies at the front,” he said. “Want to come with?”

Keith faltered, turning to look back into the storage. “No, no, I’ll get started.”

Lance tried to not look too relieved, glad that Keith was taking the time to look around and adjust without Lance’s annoying ass.

“Right on,” he grinned. “I’ll be back!”

***

Lance took his damn time returning to the storage locker. The dolly that he found had two wheels that loved to go in opposite directions, causing it to be quite the bitch to steer.

When he finally returned, cursing and sweating, he saw that Keith was on a roll.

Six massive boxes were sat outside on the concrete, overflowing with leather spines and yellowing pages. Lance tugged the dolly to a stop just as Keith remerged.

And Lance nearly swallowed his tongue.

In the time he had been fighting the dolly, Keith had forgone his flannel, leaving him in a simply navy T-shirt with the sleeves rolled up to the top of his arm. He had pulled his hair up into a top knot, his bangs already sticking to the sweat shining on his forehead.

Breathing heavily, Keith wiped his face with his T-shirt, revealing an atrocious set of abs that made Lance flush even hotter than the Houston sun.

“I see you are full-steam ahead.”

Keith looked at him and shrugged. “Figured we get this over with.”

Lance peered down at the boxes. “Where are we taking these?”

Keith pointed to the five boxes set closer to the door. “These are being donated. Or burned, Fahrenheit 451 style.”

Lance snorted, trying to clock any of the titles. “That bad?”

Keith huffed. “Krolia dug H. P. Lovecraft way too much. Enough Hemingway to make me sick.”

He paused, turning away and marching back into the container.

“And then some of those are copies I already have.”

Lance rolled over his words in his head, and tried really f*cking hard to not smile. “And the other box?”

Keith’s pause was heavy. “I’m taking them.”

Lance couldn’t fight the grin anymore. “Cool, cool, man.”

“Shut up.” Keith definitely heard the smile in Lance’s voice. “God, this couch is disgusting. That floral pattern is horrific.”

Lance chuckled before diving into the memories right behind him.

***

hour four: we found baby dolls. Send us any recipes for exorcisms

hour six: nearly died from a book collapse, Keith laughed so hard he nearly shat himself :((

hour seven: HOW are there SO MANY BOOKS????

***

“Holy sh*t!” Lance flicked feverishly through the once-glossy pages, blowing off dust. “Dude, is this your yearbook?”

“What?”

Keith stumbled through the mess of boxes, the storage container effectively dissected enough that it was in completely disarray.

They had been rifling through Krolia’s things for nearly seven hours. Lance suspected that they were only a third through the storage, despite the fact that the van was filled to the brim. They were soaked with sweat and exhausted, fully aware that they couldn’t take anything else with them that night in the stuffed car. Most of it was to be donated. But some, just a little bit but also just enough, Keith was taking home with him. Just books and the occasional jacket that fitted Keith's style strangely well, but Lance would take it.

And something had stopped them from leaving. Keith seemed strangely content poking through the boxes, examining old clothing that smelled of old perfume and mothballs. They had found out a lot about Krolia.

They gathered that she had been an English professor at a nearby community college (Keith had taken a quiet lap around the storage facility after finding that out) and kept just about any book she had assigned or any paper she had written.

And she had lived a quiet life.

And now, they were apparently learning that she had kept tabs on Keith.

Lance flipped a page, spotted a five-year-old with missing front teeth, violet eyes, and a mop of dark hair, and screamed.

Keith practically dove over a pair of boxes, swatting aside an ancient teddy bear, and grabbed at the yearbook.

A mad cackle left Lance’s lips as they wrestled for the book.

“Stop it, stop it!” Lance laughed, going for his phone for his back pocket. “Let me at least take a photo!”

“For f*ck’s sake,” Keith ground out. “Do not.

“Keith, you’re adorable!” Lance cooed, trying to see more of the picture partially hidden by Keith’s thumb. “Wait, your middle name is Akira?”

Keith tugged but Lance held firm, until his sneaker caught the edge of a fallen scarf and they both went down, hard.

Lance hit the ground with a strangled wheeze, head thankfully cushioned by an overturned box of blankets. Keith quickly followed, slamming on top of Lance and thoroughly knocking out any remaining air in Lance’s lungs.

Because he’s the actually worst, Keith took advantage of Lance’s breathlessness and dove for the book.

But Lance had grown up in a home stricken by war between siblings, and knew how to fight through the pain.

With a groan, he elbowed Keith, snatched up the book, pinned Keith’s waist down with a leg, slapped an arm over his windpipe, and effectively trapped Keith against the floor.

“Now,” Lance wheezed, “you and I are going down memory lane.”

“I would rather die,” Keith hissed.

“Too bad,” Lance licked his thumb and slid to the next page.

Keith thrashed and grumbled under Lance’s hold as Lance gasped and cooed at the next page.

“Shut the f*ck up, you did not play soccer.”

“My foster family forced me,” Keith muttered, Adam’s apple moving against Lance’s forearm. “They thought it would get my anger out.”

“Did it?”

“Nah, I just learned how to kick soccer balls into kids’ crotches with deadly accuracy.”

Lance snorted at that and Keith grinned smugly.

Keith finally relaxed, allowing Lance to flip through the rest of the yearbook, giggling at any shots of Keith glaring into the camera with other kindergarteners. Somewhere in the traipse down memory lane, Lance had moved his arm from Keith’s throat and Keith’s head was resting on his shoulder, content to remain stuck under Lance’s leg on the cold concrete floor.

Personally, Lance’s ass had begun to go numb, but he found he didn’t mind.

“This is so cool that your mom kept this.”

Keith hummed. “I don’t know how she got it. Feels a little creepy.”

Lance groaned. “Can you, like, not be grouchy for one second and appreciate this?”

Keith looked at him for a long moment. “If she really valued it, it would be in an old storage container.”

Ouch. Shots fired, and well deserved.

“Fair.”

Keith nodded, his bun brushing against Lance’s ear. He held Lance’s gaze for a moment, violet eyes nearly black in the darkening room. It was just dark enough for Lance to not be entirely sure whether he caught Keith’s eyes darting to his lips or imagined it.

With a groan, Keith sat up, teetering to his feet and stretching.

“Let’s get something to eat.”

Lance sat up, grinned, and shot a finger gun at Keith. “More importantly, let’s get something to drink.”

***

Keith was a picky little bitch when it came to bars.

One was too dirty, another too crowded, another too likely to “hate-crime them” (to which Lance responded that they were in Texas and were already toeing the line of potential rampant hom*ophobia wherever they went).

They were already grasping for straws considering that they wanted to find a place that was walking distance from their hotel, and Clyde had clearly not taken that into consideration when he booked their room.

Finally, Keith deemed a bar shining with hideously bright purple lights “good enough” and Lance entered skeptically, eyeing the sign as they passed.

“Who the f*ck is Zarkon and why is the bar named after him?”

Immediately, they were blasted with rock music booming from overhead speakers and the sound of yelling and laughing over the music.

Keith shrugged as they entered the boisterous bar, filled to the brim with huge, beefy guys that could absolutely snap Lance in half.

Keith looked disturbingly at ease, with his dark hair and leather jacket appearing as if they were all cut from the same cloth. Meanwhile, Lance was regretting wearing Vans as they clung to the sticky floor.

The bar was dark except for the purple string lights dangling over the bar and along the low wooden beams above them. Lance could smell hamburgers and his stomach growled.

A nearby patron passed them and Lance was pretty sure that he had an eyepatch.

“Dude,” Lance whispered into Keith’s ear. “They’re gonna kill us.”

Keith looked pointedly to two women bartenders behind the dark wood bar, that looked quite cozy with each other as they worked.

Lance looked around, noticed many customers were reclining with people of the same sex, and snorted.

How did you manage to find the single gay bar on the street?”

Keith’s teeth glinted as he grinned. “It’s a gift.”

With that, he grabbed Lance’s hand (Lance really wished he had known of this plan beforehand because he would have absolutely wiped them on his jeans) and tugged him to the bar.

“What do you want?” Keith side-eyed him. “A piña colada?”

“No,” Lance scowled. “A screwdriver.”

Keith chuckled before signaling the bartender.

Ten minutes, they were crammed into a booth tucked into the corner, sat with drinks and baskets of hamburgers and overflowing fries.

Hunger took over and they were silent for a moment as they demolished their food.

Finally, Lance came up for air, and lifted his drink. “To the creepy dolls.”

Keith wiped his greasy fingers on his napkin and lifted his beer. “Drink.”

Orange juice and vodka had never tasted so good.

“The moth-eaten witch Halloween costume?”

“Drink.”

“The newspaper articles that I’m pretty sure were stained with blood?”

“Drink!”

Keith’s lips tilted. “The yearbook.”

“Drink!”

And it pretty much went on like that.

It went on like that for three screwdrivers and four beers. Quickly, Keith and Lance was giggling together in the booth, flushed from the alcohol and heat from the other customers.

“Want another drink?”

“Sure,” Lance fumbled for his wallet.

Keith waved him off. “No, I’m treating you tonight.”

He grinned at Lance over the lip of his beer, eyes twinkling.

“After all, I’m over twenty grand richer.”

Lance leaned forward. “You’re cashing the check?”

Keith shrugged, obviously trying to downplay it now that Lance was excitedly bouncing in his seat.

“I thought about it and you’re right,” he tilted his beer towards Lance. “To grad school.”

Lance beamed. “To f*cking grad school.”

They clinked their drinks together and finished both. Lance wiped his mouth with his hand.

“Dr. Kogane,” Lance mused. “PhD in Literature. Has a good ring to it, don’t you think?”

Keith smiled at him so bright that Lance’s heart skipped a beat.

“Yeah,” Keith said softly. “It does.”

As Keith got up and headed back to the bar, Lance sank back in the booth, letting the pleasant spin to his head overtake him. Getting up tomorrow and cleaning out more of that storage container was certainly going to be a bitch. But seeing Keith like this, giggly and tipsy and thinking about having a doctorate was certainly worth it.

Keith returned with more drinks and waters sent specifically from the bartenders, and Lance gladly took his glass.

Another hour passed and the crowd started dwindling. Keith and Lance took the hint and followed, leaving the bar on clumsy legs. They leaned against each other, arms wound around the other’s waists as they staggered down the street with the rest of the poor, drunk souls.

A group of friends around their age sauntered past, whooping and yelling and shoving at each other. One of the girls stumbled in a circle and jabbed a finger at Lance and Keith.

“You two are so cute together!”

“You too, gorgeous!” Lance called, nodding to the girl that was trailing after her, obviously a girlfriend judging by the fond and exasperated look on her sober face.

The girl laughed as her girlfriend steadied her, turning her the right way and marching her forward.

Lance snorted as they leaned heavily to the left, Keith giggling and turning his smile into Lance’s neck. His nose was cool against Lance’s jaw, his eyelashes fluttering against Lance’s cheek.

Lance stopped, sluggishly turning to look over his shoulder.

“Where the f*ck are we?”

Keith laughed again, stepping back and leaving only their hands intertwined.

“Houston,” Keith’s cheeks were flushed a pretty pink as he grinned dazedly at Lance.

“No, I know that,” Lance sighed, earning another laugh from Keith. “I mean, where is our hotel?”

“Oh sh*t,” Keith snorted, turning to look and pulling Lance’s hands with him.

Lance stumbled, giggling hysterically as his chest smacked into Keith’s back. He pulled his hands free and wrapped them instead around Keith’s waist, pushing his knees into the back of Keith’s to keep him walking.

“Onward!” He said into Keith’s ear. “We’ll find it somehow!”

He could feel Keith’s laughter through his back as he guided the two of them forward. They were pressed so tightly that he could feel each inhale and exhale that left Keith, each giggle and sigh and smile.

Shortcut!” Keith shouted suddenly, turning abruptly and sending them staggering into an alley.

“Yeah, a shortcut to death,” Lance retorted, sending Keith into giggles again.

“We’ll make it,” Keith moved a hand from where they were clinging onto Lance’s wrists and pointed. “Our hotel is there.”

“Are you sure?”

“Positive.”

“Positively positive?”

Keith laughed. “I’m not likely to forget the hotel where I finally got to wake up in your arms.”

It—

It took a moment for Keith’s words to sink in and through Lance’s muddled mind. It took a moment for Keith to register what he said as well.

He froze in Lance’s hold, both of them stopping short.

Lance’s mouth was open, jaw dangling as he slowly but surely comprehended what Keith had said.

Finally got to wake up in your arms.

Finally?

His world was turning more than it had when he had risen from the booth, absolutely shattering and shifting under his feet.

Finally got to wake up in your arms.

Keith broke away, spinning around and Lance saw the panic on his face, the frantic look in his eyes. He took a step back, looking much more alert than he had since they reached the bar.

“Lance, I—,” he trailed off, his hands curling into fists next to his sides.

Most of his hair had slipped from his messy bun, falling freely over his shoulders and nearly disappearing into the black leather of his jacket. His chest was rising and falling fast, his black T-shirt shifting with the movement. His eyes were violet and a little gray and so scared.

His flushed cheekbones threw shadows down his jaw from the moonlight and he just looked so—

So f*cking beautiful.

It felt as natural as walking, as talking or laughing or smiling, for Lance to step forward, sink his hands into that dark hair, and kiss Keith Kogane like he was a man starved.

It took a moment for Keith to register the lips pressed against his chapped ones, but then he adjusted, tilted his head, and kissed Lance back.

Immediately, Lance felt calloused fingers brush gently against his cheeks before sliding into his hair. And then they gripped tight, pulling him close and Lance felt like he was falling all over again.

Keith tasted of beer and grease but also somehow of sandalwood and mint and old book pages and Lance chased greedily for it.

Lance barely noticed how insistent he was, how his hands were sliding down and under Keith’s jacket and pressing hard into lines of muscles shifting under his shirt. But then Keith’s back hit a stone wall and their lips collided harshly from the momentum.

Neither minded much.

After all, there is no concern for clumsiness when you finally get what you’ve been praying for.

Keith’s hand found Lance’s elbow, tugging it closer, tightening Lance’s hold around him. Their chests rose and fell together, warmth sinking through fabric and pounding hearts.

There was no way to get closer, but oh, how Lance wanted to.

He wanted to sink inside together and crawl into each other’s bones and never be separated, never stop tasting Keith.

And so his thigh slipped in between Keith’s and Keith let out a hiccup of a gasp into Lance’s mouth. Lance eagerly swallowed the sounds that left Keith as he pressed his thigh gently and then firmly and then—

“Lance.”

Keith pulled away, gasping for air and Lance let his head retreat from the clouds.

The daze settled and disappeared and Lance realized what the f*ck they were doing.

He had Keith tightly pressed against a random alley in an unfamiliar city, damn close to tearing his clothes off.

A lower part of him really appreciated that idea and he sucked in a hasty breath, trying to calm down.

Keith’s shirt was shucked up nearly to his chest from Lance’s hands, Keith’s own fingers tangled in Lance’s hair and still wrapped around his wrist.

Keith’s lips were swollen red and wet and he was still trying to breathe and Jesus Christ, Lance really needed to stuff his head in a bucket of ice.

“Sorry,” Lance choked out, moving back his thigh and pulling back.

“No, no,” Keith’s hands tightened on him, keeping him close. “Don’t be sorry, I—.”

Keith faltered, as if trying to think of the words.

“We are in a random alley at one in the morning,” Lance supplied.

Keith’s eyes darted back and forth over his face before he let out an exhale of a laugh. “Yeah.”

“Arguably more than a little stupid.”

“Maybe.”

But Keith was smiling again and Lance was trying really hard to not kiss it.

“Let’s get back,” Keith whispered.

Lance licked his smarting lips and managed to nod.

***

They were quiet as they trudged towards the hotel. Nearly silent as they came back into their room, noted the disarray that had been left in the haste to leave that morning.

Lance didn’t dare look at Keith as they changed, still keeping their backs turned and not speaking as they sluggishly got ready for bed.

He got to the bathroom and splashed his face with ice cold water, trying to think.

Because what was that?

He tried to put the pieces together. Okay, so, Keith was into him. Cool, excellent.

And then Lance essentially accosted him in an empty alley while they were both heavily tipsy.

Not great, not a super gentlemanly approach.

Not Lance’s best work.

But. Keith kissed back.

He kissed back.

And stopped them.

Lance’s head was whirling as he patted his face dry with a towel. Once he looked back into the mirror, he nearly jumped out of his skin when he saw Keith leaning against the door, watching it quietly.

Keith studied him, running his thumb over his pointer finger nervously.

“Was it because you were drunk?”

No,” Lance said intently to Keith’s reflection. “No, it wasn’t. And I wasn’t drunk. I mean, f*cking tipsy as sh*t, sure, but—no. No.”

Keith blinked, surprised. Lance could have laughed.

Because how was he surprised?

“C’mon man,” Lance attempted a dry chuckle. “I’ve been a little obvious.”

Keith’s eyebrows furrowed cutely. “You—.”

“Yeah,” Lance exhaled. “Yeah.”

He crossed the bathroom floor, slipping past Keith and darting towards the bed with flaming cheeks.

Okay. So he essentially just confessed to Keith. They were on the same page.

Right on.

But then. Why was this so awkward?

Keith silently passed through the room, clicking off all the lights and sealing them in darkness. Lance rolled onto his back, staring at the wall through the black as Keith slipped into the bed next to him.

For a moment, they were still.

“You were tipsy.”

“For sure,” Lance snorted.

He rolled onto his back, bracing himself to turn his head to face Keith.

Keith was laying the same way, studying him with that analytical look, as if he was a puzzle that needed to be solved.

“Sorry,” Lance whispered. “For jumping you.”

“No, don’t apologize,” Keith whispered back. “I—I was tipsy too. And, uh, fully participated.”

Lance smiled into the pillow and Keith grinned back.

And then, his smile fell slightly, turning into something tentative.

“And now?”

“Now what?”

Keith swallowed. This time, Lance was sure he caught Keith’s eyes darting to his lips.

“Exactly how sober are you?”

Lance’s heart was beating heavy in his chest. “Pretty clear-headed.”

Keith nodded. “Me too.”

Lance could practically taste his heartbeat. “I would even call myself sober-adjacent.”

And there was that small, private smile again. “Would you?”

Lance hummed, slipping closer to Keith. Carefully, he slowly slid his arm over to rest on Keith’s hip. Keith didn’t move from his touch. If anything, he sank into it.

“Then,” Keith’s voice was barely above a whisper, “kiss me again.”

Lance grinned, rising up to his elbow.

“Really?”

“Really.”

Lance slowly rose and lowered himself on top of Keith, keeping some of his weight back by balancing on his knee between Keith’s legs.

“This isn’t an interesting as a random alleyway,” he hummed, his lips ghosting of Keith’s.

Keith smiled against his mouth. “No it’s not.”

His hands slipped into Lance’s hair, his thumb sliding over the shell of his ear.

“But a hotel room in a random city is pretty interesting.”

“Oh definitely.”

Keith arched his face up to Lance’s.

“Then get on with it,” he breathed into Lance’s mouth.

With that, Lance kissed him again. A deep, long kiss of toothpaste and mouthwash. Keith’s hands tightened as he pulled Lance’s mouth closer to his, moving his fingers to Lance’s neck as he tilted his head to kiss him deeper.

And Lance sank down, down, down into Keith.

Keith wasted no time sliding a hand under Lance’s shirt, calloused fingers sliding over the line of his back. Then Lance dropped his hips into Keith’s and he gasped into Lance’s mouth, fingers hooking on the curve of Lance’s shoulder blade.

Lance could have taken the time to think through the motions, plan what would work and how to follow through and where to do this and that.

But, tangled with Keith in hotel sheets and Houston moonlight, Lance found he just didn’t have the time.

Because Keith’s leg was wrapping around his hip, hauling him in as he kissed him hard, and Lance—

Well Lance had no qualms about driving down a slow, heavy grind that had Keith breaking away and gasping, blunt fingernails digging into Lance’s shoulders.

And then Keith was tugging at Lance’s shirt and Lance sure hated pulling away, but he did it gladly to tear his shirt over his head and toss it somewhere behind him.

Keith’s eyes darkened as they swept up Lance’s stomach and chest, finally meeting his eyes as his fingers boldly smoothed up Lance’s side.

Lance’s chest heaved. “You next.”

Keith chuckled, shifting and grabbing the ends of his shift and pulling it over his head. Lance’s mouth went dry, staring down at the muscles coiling and relaxing underneath Keith’s pale skin.

Keith’s eyes narrowed as he threw his shirt to the side, watching Lance. “What?”

“Nothing,” Lance grinned as he lowered himself back down. “You’re just so f*cking hot.”

He caught Keith’s laugh with his lips and swallowed it down before greedily kissing down his jaw, the curve of his hitching throat, the jut of his collarbone.

Keith’s chest lowered with a gasp as Lance kissed it. “What are you doing?”

“Well,” Lance murmured as he trailed his lips lower and lower. “Unless you somehow planned way more accordingly than I did, we have no lube or condoms.”

He paused to look up at Keith with a growing smile.

“So I’m making do,” he whispered, kissing Keith’s hip, right above the hem of his boxers. “May I?”

Keith looked down at him, swallowed, and nodded quickly.

Lance grinned and did what he had wanted to do since, honestly, freshman year.

He slipped his fingers underneath Keith’s boxers and sweatpants, and tugged them down in one go. He paused, absentmindedly tugging Keith’s lightly kicking feet free of the pants, staring down at—

“Of course even your dick is gorgeous.”

Keith rolled his eyes. “Lance, I—.”

He cut himself off with a low groan as Lance swallowed him down, back bowing as his head snapped up. Quickly catching Keith’s hips with his hands, Lance barely saved himself from gagging. He steadied himself, chiding himself for getting too excited, and began a rhyme.

The taste of salt and musk and Keith caused a moan to leave Lance’s lips, the low hum causing Keith to hiss out a curse.

Keith’s stomach hitched as he buried his flushed face in the pillows, his hands curling the sheets into fists.

Lance tried to not grin and focus instead on the work at hand. He ran his tongue up along the side of Keith’s co*ck, circled the head, and watched Keith shudder.

It was mesmerizing, watching Keith pant and gasp, writhing in the sheets. Seeing Keith like this, thoroughly undone, was easily one of the most beautiful things Lance had ever seen.

He swallowed down more, more until Keith’s glossy eyes fell on him. Lance watched as Keith’s eyes followed Lance’s red lips, waited until gazes met, and winked before swallowing Keith down completely.

Keith’s eyes rolled to the back of his head as a low moan left his lips.

f*ck, Lance,” he choked out.

Lance hummed in response, bobbing his head and trying to ignore the growing pressure from where his own dick was pressed against the bed.

Keith’s hand smoothed back Lance’s fringe that had slipped into his eyes before tightening in his hair. He wasn’t guiding him necessarily, it was more something to hold, to stay steady.

That was until Lance hollowed his cheeks and Keith choked out a mix of a gasp and Lance’s name.

“Lance, I’m—.”

Lance’s grip tightened on Keith’s trembling thighs, keeping him still as he came with a sharp inhale. Lance feverishly breathed through his nose as he swallowed, holding Keith’s gaze.

Keith watched, a stunned and dazed look on his face as he panted.

Finally, Lance rose, wiping his mouth on his hand before opening it to definitely say something stupid, but Keith pulled him forward and kissed him hard on the mouth.

"You're amazing," Keith panted. "You just, God, Lance, you're just--."

He trailed off, staring up at Lance something in his eyes that looked pretty close to adoration. Lance felt his heartbeat in his temples, his ears, staring down at Keith and wondering when was the last time someone looked at him like that.

Ifanyonehad ever looked at him like that.

"You'reyou," Keith exhaled. "And I can't get enough of it."

Lance tried to breathe, a blush spreading up from his shoulders to his neck. And then, Keith grinned, rolled them over, and returned the favor.

Notes:

i-- yeah. Yeah.

Chapter 6: And Somehow They Move Backwards (Warning: It's a Disaster)

Notes:

this is gonna be a rollercoaster and I apologize. you guys are about to find out exactly how much i love foreshadowing

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

The second Keith began shifting in the bed, stirring awake and sweeping long fingers down Lance’s arm, Lance went to shut that sh*t down.

“No,” he grunted into the pillow.

Keith snorted. He leaned down, pressing his cold nose against Lance’s cheek.

“Wakey wakey.”

“Absolutely not.”

Keith grinned against Lance’s jaw and Lance worked hard to keep a smile from his lips.

“Executive decision,” Lance mumbled, “we are sleeping in.”

“Lance.”

“If there is a single digit for the hour on the clock, I’m not opening my eyes.”

Lance.”

Keith,” Lance mimicked. “We don’t have to drive a thousand miles. We don’t have a meeting with Clyde.”

“We just have a ton of sh*t to donate and then half of a storage container to clean.”

“Exactly,” Lance sighed. “That’s a problem for Lance and Keith two hours from now.”

Keith hummed, sliding his hand down the line of Lance’s back. He sidled even closer, continuing the slide of his hand while ghosting his lips over Lance’s cheek.

“You can’t seduce me into getting up either.”

Keith snickered, caught. Lance yawned, reaching over and throwing his arm over Keith. Rather than resisting, Keith sunk into Lance’s hold, resting his head on Lance’s shoulder.

Lance shifted, laying on his bed to pull Keith even closer, nearly on top of him in order to soak in that sleepy warmth.

Deciding to be a bit of a little sh*t, Lance brushed his fingers down, down, down Keith’s back, past the waistline of his boxers and—

Keith snorted against Lance’s collarbone. “Oh my God.”

Lance grinned, relishing in the feeling of Keith’s ass in his hands.

“You can’t grope me if I can’t seduce you,” Keith said. “There are rules for these things.”

“Are there?”

Keith nodded and Lance dared to peek one eye open.

Keith blinked up at him from where he was nestled into his side, tired violet eyes glowing from the sunlight that had begun to encroach into the room. His hair was mused from sleep and sex and there was a free and open smile on his face. Lance thought he had never looked more beautiful.

Slowly, he ran his thumb under Keith’s eye, tracing the dark lines.

“One hour,” he said.

Keith paused, before nodding with a sigh. “One hour.”

Lance grinned, flopping his head back into the pillows, pulling Keith close, and then slipping back to sleep with a smile on his face.

***

The following hour came too quick and Lance had a sneaking suspicion that Keith didn’t even go back to bed. Instead, he had waited patiently for the moment that the alarm went off before proceeding to suck on his finger and plunge it into Lance’s ear.

The man had the damn audacity to give Lance a wet willy.

Lance nearly bursted Keith’s eardrum with the shriek that he had let out, but he had no regrets.

Slyly, he had tried to coax Keith into the shower with him, only for Keith to give that evil smile and a shrug with a “maybe later”.

Aka ensuring that Lance would be on his A-game today and clean out this storage locker at super-sonic speed to get them back to the hotel as fast as possible.

(Keith was quickly figuring out how to trade goods for services and Lance was growing increasingly worried about his future considering that he would probably kill a man for Keith’s talented mouth).

Once he returned from the bathroom, Keith was already dressed, laying on their bed with his hair tied back and the freshest T-shirt and sweatpants he had. He was twirling the check between his fingers, studying the numbers and zeroes with a thoughtful frown.

And so Lance did what he did best. Do whatever stupid sh*t he could to get a smile back on Keith’s face.

So he dropped to his knees with a dramatic groan. “f*ck me.”

Keith’s attention diverted to him, his frown turning into something confused as he sat up and peered over the bed to where Lance knelt. “What?”

“f*ck me.”

Keith arched an eyebrow.

“f*ck,” Lance pointed at him. “Me.”

He pointed to himself and Keith’s lips twitched.

Keith kicked his legs over the bed and stretched before tucking the check into his pocket. Then, he leaned down, tilting up Lance’s chin with his fingers.

“Maybe later,” he murmured, pecking Lance’s lips. “If you’re good.”

Lance’s jaw fell open as Keith brushed past him, the bastard too smug as he grabbed his keys and room card. Lance could feel the startled blush rise up to his cheeks as he dropped his forehead to the side of the bed.

“You’re gonna kill me, Kogane.”

Keith only chuckled softly.

***

Lance managed to stage a sneak attack in the elevator, the two of them leaving with swollen lips and tangled hair and scandalizing the two elderly women that were waiting at the doors. Keith was so dazed that Lance easily ushered him to the closest Starbucks.

Lance was still grinning evilly as they leaned into each other in the corner of the coffee shop, waiting patiently for their orders.

Lance pulled out his phone and opened Snapchat.

“Smile, beautiful,” he murmured as he held out his phone.

He caught the exact moment Keith registered his words, a wave of red blooming in his cheeks as he covered his smile with a hand.

“You’re ridiculous,” Keith chuckled as Lance captioned the picture, grinning.

day five: ten screenshots and I WILL makeout with Keith on the spot in the middle of this local starbs. Make all these Texan brains go brrrrrrrrrr

“You will not,” Keith hissed in his ear.

“Try me,” Lance leaned further into Keith, resting his chin on Keith’s shoulder. “You know I love a scandal.”

Lance’s phone buzzed before Keith could retort, and Lance quickly slid open Snapchat, expecting to see a screenshot. But it was a response to his story from the ever elusive Pidge, one of his other friends from college.

Their message was abrupt and bone-chilling.

delete this.

Lance rose his eyebrows, quickly responding with a solid bruh y?

Pidge typed back immediately, Keith watching Lance’s screen with interest as well.

You are about to cost me fifty bucks.

“The f*ck,” Lance muttered.

???

I had bet that you two wouldn’t get your heads out of your asses until driving home.

Hunk called that it would be the fifth day somehow perfectly. I don’t know how he did that, the man is a psychic.

Delete this.

Before he sees it.

Keith chuckled as Lance stared at his phone in wonder. “Did they make a f*cking betting pool?”

“I guess we were pretty obvious,” Keith snickered.

Lance received another notification. A screenshot of the story. From the amazing hunkalicious

Lance grinned.

too late Pidgeon. It’s a dog eat dog world out here.

Their names were called and Keith stepped away to grab their drinks just as a message from Hunk popped up on Lance’s screen.

You just made me a richer and happier man.

Lance snorted.

Glad to help, my guy. Though, I gotta say, you probably can’t be happier than me.

***

The two groaned as they ripped up the storage container door once more.

Lance stared at the remaining junk in astonishment. “Did more sh*t mysteriously appear in the night?”

“I knew we shouldn’t have slept in,” Keith murmured as he began to carefully step over the boxes. “Or take a forty-five minute detour for coffee.”

“Um,” Lance put his hands on his hips. “I’ll have you know that sleeping in was the smartest idea I’ve had since we got here. And you willingly agreed to get coffee.”

“You and I both know you convinced me with your body.”

“Goods for services, my man,” Lance said cheerfully as he poked a nearby box with his toe. “Goods for services.”

Keith chuckled as he ripped open a box, pulling out a massive sweatshirt from the nearby community college. He wrinkled his nose as the smell of old polyester, earning a snort from Lance.

“That would be cute on you, babe,” he said, clocking the mascot emblazoned on the fabric. “Go Gophers!”

Keith’s eyes flicked to him and Lance held his breath, fighting back the embarrassment at his slip of the tongue.

He didn’t mean to use the pet name, it had just left his mouth without thinking.

But Keith didn’t seem bothered by it. In fact, he blushed. He cleared his throat and turned away, chucking the sweatshirt into the pile meant for donating.

Lance couldn’t help the sh*t-eating grin that curled on his lips, filing that away for later.

And the siege on Krolia’s belongings continued. Most of it was quickly squared away for donating or to sell to nearby thrift stores. Keith had rather eagerly (though he would never admit it) sorted through all of the books the day before, which left them with cracking leather furniture and so much clothing.

It grew boring quickly.

The only thing that Lance truly focused on was how Keith interacted with him now. How he would gently grasp Lance’s waist while sidling behind him, nudge his hip with his when he was hefting a box past him. It felt so comfortable, normal. Like they had been doing this for years.

In a way, Lance supposed, they had.

A part of him knew that they had been orbiting closer and closer to this moment since they met, each of them caught in the other’s gravitational force. They had always been bound to collide, but Lance figured that neither of them thought that it would be like this.

That they would come together with gentle touches and warm skin, rather than heated words and someone clocking someone in the mouth.

They sank together, rather than crashing.

“You know,” Lance said finally, once he finished that train of thought. “We should hang out when we get back to town.”

Keith paused, shooting him a curious look over the box he was carrying. “What?”

Lance hesitated, turning to a box tucked in the corner in order to avoid looking at Keith. “You know, see a movie, go and get something to eat. That kind of stuff.”

Lance wanted to bury his head in the box. Why was he making this as painful as possible?

Keith was quiet for a moment. Before he burst into laughter.

Lance cringed at the sound, feeling his cheeks redden.

“Are you asking me on a date, Lance?” Keith giggled.

God, Lance couldn’t even look at him. “That is what I am attempting to do. Quite horribly.”

Taking pity on him, Keith set down the box and crept closer to Lance. Lance stared rather shamefully at the wall as Keith wrapped his hands around Lance’s waist and rested his chin on his shoulder.

“Lance,” Keith chuckled into his ear.

“Yes?”

“I sucked your dick,” he whispered, his smile evident in his voice. “Why are you nervous about asking me to see a movie?”

Lance could have died. Why was Keith the suave and collected one in this?

“Well,” he started defensively. “I didn’t know if you were just lost in the throws of Houston magic.”

Keith laughed softly, squeezing Lance’s hips.

“I’m not,” he breathed before kissing Lance’s cheek. “A movie sounds great.”

He pulled away, stepping back, still f*cking laughing.

“Just make sure to pick a screening time that ensures you’ll be back before your curfew—.”

Lance spun around and chucked a nearby pillow at Keith. Keith ducked, grinning madly and laughing.

“You’re the worst.”

“No, I’m not,” Keith said easily.

“No, you’re not,” Lance muttered before turning back and ripping open the box.

He couldn’t help the pleased, excited smile from growing on his face.

He asked Keith on a date. He said yes. Keith and him were dating.

Lance coughed as the dust intruded into his nose, waving away the particles before ducking down for a closer look.

He hummed under his breath as he pushed aside the mound of soft fleece. After closer examination, he realized it was a baby blanket, a little white duckling embroidered into the side of the yellow fabric.

He grinned. “I never pegged you as a duck fan.”

“What?” Keith’s voice filtered from somewhere near the back of the locker.

“I’m holding your cute little baby blanket right now,” Lance waved it for emphasis. “She must have kept more tabs on you than we thought.”

“I don’t like ducks,” Keith responded, which was a hilarious statement. “I like hippos. My baby blanket had a hippo on it.”

Lance nearly dropped the blanket. “Hippos?

“Yeah,” there came a horrific scratching sound, Keith likely dragging a box to the side. “They’re f*cking cool as sh*t.”

Lance was still grinning as he returned to the box. “You’re adorable.”

His smile grew at Keith’s answering huff as he dug further into the box, pulling out a handful of onesies and other baby clothes.

A flash of pink startled him, damn near a jumpscare. He held out the tiny pink skirt at a distance, staring at it in confusion.

“What the—.”

Lance slowly, carefully, looked into the box. Stared down into the depths of pinks and purples. Clocked the unmistakable folder for copies of paperwork. Felt his heart drop to his stomach.

Tentatively, he reached forward, took hold of one of the flaps on the box, and tilted it towards him.

His blood ran cold. “Keith.”

“Hm?”

“I, uh,” Lance’s mouth felt full of sawdust as he gaped at the scrawled Sharpie on the cardboard. “Come here.”

It took too long for Keith to shuffle through the mess, his boots skirting over the boxes before he came behind Lance, resting a hand lightly on his lower back.

“What’s up?”

Wordlessly, Lance pointed to the box. Keith hummed, leaning forward and scanning the contents. Spotting the label.

And he froze, paralyzed as they both stood and gaped at the box in the dark room.

Lance moved first, ducking down and pulling out the folder. Flicking through it and staring unseeingly at the jumbled mess of records and numbers until landing on a copy of a birth certificate.

Axca Kogane.

“I,” Lance swallowed. “Keith, I think you have a sister.”

***

Keith was silent.

Lance peered at him nervously, watching those dark eyes take in the box. Watch him piece together the puzzle.

They had been so stupid.

Not even thinking about the baby dolls they had seen the day before. The teddy bear that Keith swatted aside in the mad dash to the yearbook. The clothing that they donated just that morning because it was small, too small to be Krolia’s when Lance really thought about it.

More fitting for a teenage girl.

Lance placed a hand on Keith’s elbow. “Keith, babe, I—.”

Keith shrugged him off, stepping back and away and turning from the box. Turning his back on the box of Axca Kogane’s possessions.

“Technically, she’s not my sister,” Keith said stiffly.

“Keith—.”

“Krolia gave me up,” Keith said sternly. “Signed me away. I’m not even her son, technically.”

Lance swallowed. “Keith, this isn’t really a time where ‘technicals’ are all that important.”

He glanced down at the certificate. The slot for mother was labeled Krolia Kogane while the father spot had Unknown.

“You share a mother,” Lance said. “I guess you are half-siblings.”

“We aren’t siblings,” Keith snapped, whirling to face Lance.

“She’s eighteen,” Lance whispered.

“Stop it,” Keith said coldly. “I don’t want to hear about it. I want nothing to do with her.”

Lance blinked in shock. Keith turned back, chest heaving and eyes narrowed as he looked wildly around the mess of boxes.

“All I want to know is why the f*ck I had to deal with all this sh*t,” Keith snarled, kicking a nearby box.

Lance winced at the sound of glass clinking as the box slid.

“Probably because she’s grieving,” Lance breathed.

“Oh,” Keith laughed darkly. “So since she got a mom, that’s a free pass out of cleaning out the dirty laundry? From choking on moth balls and sneezing from dusty books? Bullsh*t.”

Lance took a step forward. “I know you’re upset. I would be too. But let’s think about this. You have a sister.”

“No, I don’t!” Keith shouted.

He glared at Lance.

“I share DNA with someone,” he hissed. “That’s it. And that means nothing.”

“You asked me about what it was like living with a big family,” Lance pressed. “And, look, Keith, you have a chance to do that now.”

“It’s too late!” Keith yelled, holding out his hands helplessly. “I don’t give a sh*t about them.”

Lance frowned. “You don’t mean that.”

“I don’t?”

“There’s some girl out there without a mom.”

“I didn’t have one either!” Keith argued. “And she got eighteen years with her. I didn’t. My dad and I were ditched by Krolia. And then I guess a better option came along."

Lance felt cold, too cold, watching as Keith glared at the floor, pacing mindlessly with anger.

“Okay, you don’t care about her.”

“Yeah.”

“Then why won’t you say her name?”

Keith froze, stopped short in his pacing, and spun to look at Lance. “Excuse me?”

“You haven’t said her name yet,” Lance said quietly.

“Why the f*ck does that matter?”

“Do it,” Lance begged. “Please, just say her name out loud. Acknowledge her existence, and then see how you feel. Babe, just—.”

“Don’t call me that.”

Lance felt as if he had been slapped. Keith glared at him, nostrils flared and chin lifted. He looked nearly unrecognizable, with his chest heaving and hands curled into fists.

“Okay,” Lance whispered. “I’m sorry.”

“I didn’t even ask for your advice, you know,” Keith snarled. “Why are you even telling me what to do?”

Lance frowned. “Keith, I’ve been here this whole time, trying to help. And now, after last night—.”

“What?” Keith let out a cold laugh. “God, you make a guy cum and suddenly he knows how you should run your life.”

Lance recoiled, Keith’s words stinging and leaving behind a scorched mark on his heart.

Keith’s eyes were lidded as he watched his words sink in and burn.

“That’s not fair,” Lance breathed.

“Yeah, well,” Keith’s voice was sour, “I’m not finding it very fair, either. You’ve enjoyed it, haven’t you? Picking through this sh*t, looking through the seams of this torn, f*cked-up part of my history. You stink of pity.”

Lance felt the tell-tale burn crowd behind his eyes. He hated this Keith. He didn’t want this anymore, didn’t want him anymore.

A small part of him knew that this wasn’t Keith, this wasn’t his Keith. He knew that Keith was scared and freaked out and lashing out because that’s what he did. He didn’t exactly learn how to manage his feelings in his foster homes and it led to this, him not knowing what to do when his emotions were this big. This impossibly big.

But the way that Keith was looking at him, as if he was an inconvenience that he couldn’t be bothered to deal with, Lance felt something snap.

Lance laughed then, and his voice sounded foreign.

“You’ve got quite a way with words, Keith,” he hissed, extending his hands to gesture around the room. “Apparently, it’s hereditary.”

Keith’s mouth dropped open with outrage but Lance wasn’t done, far from it, actually.

“You talk a lot of sh*t for someone who would still be stuck in f*cking Utah if it wasn’t for me,” Lance growled. “And I’ve dealt with it. I’ve dealt with your moods, dealt with the long days and short nights, dealt with this crap you dragged me through.”

“You wanted to come!”

“You asked!”

“And you said yes.”

Lance lifted his chin, the ugly hot coil of rage slinking up his throat. “Sure, but you asked. Maybe I did pity you. Because I knew that you had no one else to ask. No one else would dare to spend this much time with you. Because you’re f*cking intolerable, Keith.”

Keith’s jaw clenched and Lance felt a tiny, evil part of him regard the mist that came over Keith’s eyes with satisfaction.

“f*ck you,” Keith croaked.

“You already did,” Lance sneered. “I guess you’ve been wanting to do it for a while, hm?”

Keith inhaled sharply, slicking his tongue over his teeth and turning away from Lance.

“Get out.”

Lance let out another cruel laugh. “And where would I go?”

“I don’t care,” Keith snapped. “Get a hotel room. Get a flight home. I’ll pay for it.”

Lance chuckled darkly. “That twenty-five grand is getting helpful, isn’t it?”

“It is,” Keith responded quietly. “Especially if it gets me away from you.”

Notes:

I-- sorry. That is my bad.

okAY LISTEN, I love writing a good fight. That's why all my novel WIPs simply have people screaming at each other, I LOVE IT. gimme the angst

Chapter 7: Looking Back (About Three Years, To Be Exact)

Notes:

Soooooo it's eight minutes into Saturday so ~congrats~ here's the chapter a little early. Ngl, I teared up a little bit writing this one god im hurting my own feelings rn

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Out of all the things that Lance noticed in his first college class, it was the mullet.

He didn’t even know they were still a thing, he was sure that they had been wiped out of existence twenty years ago.

Nevertheless, the kid marching in with a ratty black messenger bag was gripping the equally ratty strap with horrific fingerless gloves and a mop of black hair and Lance–

Lance couldn’t tear his eyes away.

He unashamedly gaped from his seat in the third row (his decision regarding which seat he would take had taken extensive planning the night before) as Mullet kept his head down and scaled the stairs to the back row in the lecture hall.

Lance couldn’t help but feel a pang of disappointment as Mullet disappeared behind him, he had been looking forward to staring at that heinous haircut whenever the class got boring.

And well. He was intrigued.

Lance had to appreciate his Uber’s driver talent of minding his own business.

The man said nothing as Lance collapsed into the back of his sedan, sputtered out the address for the hotel, and then promptly bursted into tears.

He even turned up the music to drown out Lance, leaving Lance to blubber along with the hits from the 80s, 90s, and today.

He couldn’t stop thinking about the look on Keith’s face, the coldness of his anger as his eyes glinted in the dark storage container.

It was so different from the giddy shine of them the night before. Or even that morning.

Lance’s eyes burned and the lump in his throat grew. That morning felt like years ago.

He scrubbed his eyes hard with his hands, trying to steady his breathing and focus. He needed to think. He needed to leave the Uber with a game plan.

Okay, so he needed to get all of his sh*t out of the hotel room, and book a new room. Then, he needed to look up flights.

Don’t call me that.

The lump in his throat grew so much he thought he would choke.

You’ve enjoyed it, haven’t you?

Lance was suffocating on all of it, his body was rejecting the absolute upheaval of pain and hurt.

You stink of pity.

Lance could laugh.

Despite the pain of Keith’s words, they were clever, biting. If he could write like he could speak, then he would have a bestseller, easily.

The Uber finally slowed in front of the hotel and Lance’s driver awkwardly cleared his throat.

“I, uh,” he shifted, “I hope it all turns out okay, man.”

Lance offered a watery smile. “Thanks.”

With that, he left. He quickly tipped ten dollars, hoping that would salvage his rating.

Lance trudged through the hotel, clumsily sliding the key card as the door clicked open and he swore he stepped back in time.

His towel was still on the floor, Keith’s and his suitcases were still open with clothes spilling out. Anna Karenina still sat, bookmarked, on the nightstand. The bedsheets were still wrinkled from a time where they had been together.

Lance swallowed back tears, blinking them back as well as he wandered through the ghost of their romance and began to pack his things.

Sometimes, Lance was a little too competitive.

He could admit that to himself. He was self-aware, he knew that living in a house full of siblings had given him an unparalleled thirst to win. Monopoly, Operation, Clue, you name it. Lance would fight until the bitter end.

So when their professor suggested a trivia game, Lance was ready to obliterate.

He gripped his phone tightly, staring at the projector screen as he answered question after question as fast as he could.

But the professor’s screen clearly showed that Lance was in second. No matter how fast he answered. He was only a point or so behind at times, sometimes he would jump ahead only to be squashed in the next round.

It was maddening.

Lance studied this sh*t every night. He slaved over his notes, read each textbook chapter two times just to make sure that he absorbed it all.

And he was second.

To some motherf*cker named kkogane.

The absolute f*ckery of it all.

A bead of sweat dripped down the back of his neck under his hoodie. His hands were clammy, fingers sore as he tapped answer after answer on his phone. The rest of the class was hundreds of points behind them. At this point, many of them had lowered their phones, content to watch their two classmates fight to the death.

Even their professor looked mildly entertained. And Professor Kolivan never looked anything other than unimpressed.

It was just sirlancelot and kkogane, neck and neck.

(Lance wondered if Mullet was watching).

It ended with a ten point difference. All because Lance hesitated on the final question.

Lance let out a low huff, dropping his phone with a clatter as the class tittered and clapped, excited by the duel.

“Great job Lance,” Professor Kolivan nodded to Lance before looking further into the crowd of students. “Well done, Keith.”
Lance whipped his head around, laser eyes slicing through the students to spot his rival.

Only to see Mullet, his horrible fringe hiding his eyes, stiffly nodding as he twirled his phone between his fingers. Even from where Lance sat, he could see the shining first place screen on the phone.

Keith.

Mullet’s name was Keith.

And was Lance’s mortal enemy.

Lance all but collapsed into his bed of his freshly booked hotel room.

He still wasn’t sure how to feel about renting a room in the same hotel. While he was relieved that he didn’t have to Uber again that night, he was terrified that he would spot Keith.

He supposed that he would simply have to hide in his room for the rest of his time in Houston. Until his flight at five the next afternoon.

Lance laid in his bed, arm thrown over his eyes, and tried to think of the positives.

Now, he wouldn’t have to be stuck in that godforsaken van for another two thousand miles. He’ll be home by tomorrow night.

And would have to face Hunk, Pidge, his Snapchat friends, and eventually his mother and tell them all about what a disaster it was.

How he was sent home. How he and Keith couldn’t even tolerate each other for the rest of the trip.

He remembered Hunk’s doubt when he first told him of the trip, how he was certain that it would blow up in Lance’s face.

Hunk and Lance had been friends forever, he knew how Lance liked to dive in headfirst to things. He would give his heart to anything before his mind caught up.

And he had poured out his heart one time too much.

Because Kolivan was a sad*st, he paired Lance and Keith up for the course’s final project.

“I’m interested to see what you two can come up with,” he had said coolly when Lance and Keith both stormed up to him after class.

Lance had a theory that he just wanted the two of them to kill each other.

So now Lance was damned, condemned, forced to stare across the library table at Keith, who had yet to look up from his computer screen. He was in those same black jeans (f*cking skinny motherf*ckers) and grey hoodie. His combat boots were propped up on the chair next to Lance, clearly no sh*ts given for school property whatsoever.

“I’m not doing this whole project by myself,” Keith said.

Lance had never really heard his voice before.

(It was nice.)

Lance stiffened, opening his own laptop. “I’m not either.”

“Well, you won’t. I’m not putting my grade in your hands.”

“I’m not putting mine in yours!”

“Fine!”

“Fine!”

Lance tossed and turned that night. The AC was too loud, the blankets were too itchy, the city lights were too bright.

And the knowledge that Keith was sleeping two floors above him was too painful.

He squeezed his eyes shut, buried his face in his pillow, and inhaled the smell of hotel soap.

He wished for the smell of sandalwood and mint.

Keith blinked slowly. “Were you dropped on your head as a child?”

Lance grinded his teeth. “At least I was a child. I think you were spawned in some lab somewhere.”

Keith merely arched an eyebrow and Lance fought the urge to strangle him.

Put some pink in those pale cheeks and emotion on that bored face.

He was drafting a theory that Keith was a robot. He was collecting evidence every day.

It was sometime around four in the morning that Lance gave up on sleep.

The hotel room felt massive, without Keith sleeping next to him.

Even when they had been in two separate beds, the feeling of his presence made the world small, just big enough to fit the two of them and tiny enough to keep everyone else out.

Lance realized, staring at the ceiling in the dark, that they had been in a bubble. The size of it varied from the interior of a van, the inside of a hotel room, the size of a storage container.

They had locked everything out, especially common sense.

But when, truly, had Keith and him ever worked in real life?

There was nearly a fistfight.

Just a tiny one. Just a little spat.

Listen. Lance takes his theses very seriously, and when Keith read over Lance’s draft for their report, his nose wrinkled.

“A first-grader could have written this better.”

Lance nearly launched over the table.

Checkout for the hotel room was ten in the morning.

Leaving Lance to lead a walk of shame onto the streets of Houston, dragging his suitcase along with him.

He walked down the street that he and Keith had stumbled down, passed the alleyway where they had kissed.

It felt like a mirage, all just part of a stupid dream.

His Snapchat notifications were pooling in, friends wondering where the updates for that day were.

He eventually turned off his phone.

After three weeks of arguing and yelling at each other so often that they were asked to do their project somewhere other than the library (librarians could be mean, Lance learned), they finally turned it in.

And were given an A.

A 97, to be exact.

Lance held his breath the entire time as Keith peered over his shoulder, scanning Kolivan’s comments on their paper.

Then Keith let out a soft, happy hum and squeezed Lance’s shoulder.

“Good job.”

Lance nearly choked on his tongue.

“You too,” he managed.

But Keith had already disappeared to his seat in the back row.

Lance got to the airport way too early.

But there was nothing else to do other than wallow around the streets of Houston (and risk seeing Keith), so he decided wallowing in the airport was much preferable.

It was refreshing, getting lost in the crowd of people so preoccupied with themselves and their own lives that they didn’t even notice the twenty-something dragging himself through the sleek white halls with fatigue and heartbreak weighing heavy on his face.

He checked in his bag as a carry on, and continued to tug the depressing suitcase down the stretch of the airport.

He lazily window shopped, scanning all the bright stores and wondering what Keith would buy in each store with his newfound fortune.

He passed a bookstore, thought Keith would just buy the whole f*cking store, and found himself fighting tears again.

Keith had pinned back his bangs that day, revealing to everyone that he actually had a forehead.

And his eyes. His eyes were a strangle dark purple, a violet with a touch of gray.

They had to be the most beautiful eyes Lance had ever seen.

Naturally.

Lance found a coffee shop to sit in for the remaining three hours that he had until his flight.

His caramel macchiato sat next to him, untouched, as he spun his phone idly on the table. He knew that he should probably call Hunk, maybe his mom, and tell someone, but he couldn’t.

Because in the past few hours, an ugly sense of shame and embarrassment had risen up sour in his throat and he couldn’t bear to tell anyone he knew what had happened.

He cupped his chin in the palm of his hand, stared down at the black screen, and wondered if he should get something to eat. He had barely eaten anything since the fight. Only the room service order of french fries and a massive bowl of ice cream was in his stomach (and he fully planned to send Keith the check for that as well).

“Is this seat taken?”

It took Lance an embarrassingly long moment to realize that the voice was talking to him. He looked up to see a pretty young barista standing sheepishly in front of him. She was tall, with beautiful hair so blonde it looked nearly white and gleaming dark skin. There was a British lilt to her voice and Lance found it oddly comforting.

If Lance wasn’t currently tending to a broken heart, he would absolutely make a move.

She was holding her own cup and a scone, shifting her weight back and forth as she stood behind the other seat at Lance’s table. Looking around, Lance realized that it was the only available seat left in the small coffee shop.

“Sorry,” she said with a shy smile. “I only have twenty minutes for my break and I really don’t want to spend the entire time looking for a place to sit that’s not full of cranky travelers.”

Lance found a smile spreading across his lips, it felt foreign, and nodded to the seat. Her blue eyes shone as she daintily sat down across from him.

“Shall we talk?” She asked as she unwrapped her scone. “Or would you prefer to sit in silence?”

Lance let out a low huff of a laugh. “I’m probably not very good company right now.”

She hummed thoughtfully, delicately plucking up a piece of her scone.

“I hear a lot of stories, working here,” she said. “And I think you have a pretty interesting one to tell. If you would like.”

Lance hesitated, swallowed, and then opened his mouth.

“So, in freshman year, I saw this kid with a mullet walk into my class.”

Keith didn’t show up for class. Lance proudly reigned in the trivia game, answered every question correctly and successfully left his peers in the dust.

He smiled like an idiot that entire night.

Until the next class, Keith wasn’t there either.

Or the next class.

Or the next class.

And two whole weeks passed.

And Lance was nothing if not a nosy bitch, so he looked up his class’s page, scanned the people listed and wait a f*cking second–

Keith was no longer in the class.

(Lance felt a sharp stab of disappointment and wanted to punch himself in the face).

The barista’s name was Allura.

And Lance was pretty sure she was an angel sent down to listen to him bitch about the past twenty-four hours. And the past three years as well.

She was a captive audience, listening and nodding along as she ate her food and sipped her coffee.

And Lance talked and talked and talked.

He told her everything, from seeing Keith for the first time to being cast out from the storage container. She nodded and frowned in sympathy and patted his hand when his voice began to wobble.

“And so,” Lance finished with a watery smile, “here I am, headed back home.”

Allura took a moment, mulling over his words. She wiped her mouth with a napkin, and leaned forward.

“Lance,” she pronounced his name Lonce and Lance found it way too entertaining, “can I be honest with you?”

Lance winced. “Sure.”

She bit the corner of her lip. “So, this Keith has been without a birth family until the past two weeks.”

“Right.”

“And suddenly,” she wiggled her fingers for emphasis, “he has a mother who essentially asked him to clean out her junk. He does this, which is quite an admirable feat, I must admit, and then finds out he has a sister.”

“Mhmm.”

“And then,” she hesitated, “the man he clearly cares for immediately urges him to contact this stranger? Within seconds of learning she even existed?”

Lance opened his mouth, and paused.

“Well, when you put it like that–.”

“Listen,” Allura placed her hand over his, “he shouldn’t have spoken to you like that and he definitely owes you a massive apology. But, I see why he went a tad ballistic.”

Lance found himself nodding.

For a moment, he pushed aside the hurt and tried to step into Keith’s shoes. Imagined what it would have been like finding out he had a sister and then Keith was immediately in his face, damn near demanding that he shoot her a text.

Lance groaned, dropping his face into his hands. “I f*cked up.”

“You both did,” Allura said simply. “But, Lance, listen.”

She waited until Lance peeked at her through his fingers. She smiled softly at him.

“Life is just f*cking up over and over,” she said kindly, “until you don’t. That’s all it is. Learning and then living.”

She squeezed his hand.

“Learn and then live, Lance.”

Lance hated himself just a little bit as he walked into the continuation of Kolivan’s course the next semester, and sat in the back row.

He was unbelievable.

Sitting in the back just to ensure that Keith wouldn’t be a whole ten rows behind him this semester.

It was embarrassing, truly.

But Lance didn’t have long to chide himself, considering that the TA had walked in and holy sh*t, holy s h i t he was hot.

Takashi Shirogane, Shiro to his friends and the students he was presiding over, was arguably the hottest man he’s ever seen.

It took several moments of Lance composing himself after an actual god entered the lecture hall to realize the blaring absence.

Keith wasn’t in the class.

Lance found a place to sit that overlooked the airplanes taking off. He leaned back and watched the cloudless sky and listened to “The Trapeze Swinger” again.

And this time, he read the lyrics and tried to see Keith in them.

But please, remember me, my misery. And how it lost me all I wanted.

He wondered whether Keith was listening to it, and trying to remember Lance in the same hopeless way he was trying to remember Keith.

Weeks passed and Lance couldn’t help but wonder where Keith was. Where he had gone, when he left Lance’s life.

Lance paced the length of the large window, eyes roving along the geometric pattern in the carpet as he tapped his phone against his hip.

He turned around, pacing the length again. Watched a couple planes take off.

Tapped his phone a little more.

With a groan, he stopped, refusing to let himself slow as he lifted the phone and dialed the number.

It only hurt a little when he was immediately sent to voicemail.

He swallowed, and cleared his throat.

“Hey, Keith.”

Lance didn’t see Keith for a whole semester.

And still couldn’t stop f*cking wondering.

“Look, man, I f*cked up. I shouldn’t have said those things and I shouldn’t have told you to find Acxa in the first place. You were right, I overstepped. But you f*cked up too. Your words stung, and they still do. This entire trip has been a disaster, let’s be honest. It’s been a nightmare because we were so tired and stressed and were less than two feet from each other pretty much the entire time. I always knew that we were bound to collide, and this was our asteroid field. sh*t, sorry, I’m talking in aeroscience, sorry. Um, I just– we both f*cked up. But, that’s living, right? You live and you learn–

Lance was a full nineteen years old and strutting into the college coffee shop to start his sophom*ore year off strong with a mocha when he saw Keith again.

He froze, blinked once, twice, and pinched himself.

Nope. It was definitely Keith.

Tucked into a booth with his laptop and a book larger than his head open next to him. Lance gaped at him, gobsmacked.

How was he just casually sipping a coffee, scanning his laptop screen, while Lance’s world was actively changing around him?

He still had that mullet, but it was pulled back into a messy bun. His eyes were no longer laden with dark circles and his sweatpants looked freshly washed and he looked good. Really good.

“Are you going to order?”

Lance came back to the present, only to see that the line for the counter had disappeared, leaving him staring in the middle of the lobby and gaping at a fellow patron like an idiot.

Keith looked up at the voice, and his eyes connected with Lance.

And–

And–

Listen, Lance may be an overdramatic bitch at times. But he swore up and down that he felt a shock of electricity spike up his spine at that look.

He tore his eyes away and hurried to the counter to order with an apologetic smile.

As he stepped aside and waited for his order, Lance tried to work up the nerve to talk to him.

“Hey.”

Lance turned and found that he wouldn’t have to.

Because now Keith was standing in front of him, only a foot or so away and– sh*t– sophom*ore year looked way better on him than it did on Lance

Lance waited, like a deer in the highlights. Keith cleared his throat and pointed behind Lance.

“Mind if I–.”

He trailed off and Lance turned, and immediately wanted to jump into the trashcan and stay there forever. He died a little bit inside as he stepped to the side, allowing Keith access to all the sugar packets and creamers.

Lance was sure that his mortification would keep him up for weeks, as Keith picked through the sugars and decided on two bright green packets.

“How’s aerospace going?”

Lance needed to check outside to see if pigs were flying because Keith. Was. Talking. To. Him.

“Uh, um,” Lance needed to get his sh*t together. “Good.”

Keith nodded, fanning the packets between his fingers to move all the sugar to one end. “Good.”

“So, uh,” Lance needed to pull himself together, Jesus Christ, “are you just not in my classes or–.”

Keith shrugged. “Nah. I’m in English now.”

And if that wasn’t a plot twist.

Lance felt his jaw drop. “What?”

“Yeah,” Keith poured the sugar into his coffee. “I’m gonna major in Literature.”

“Oh.”

Keith smiled self-deprecatingly at his coffee. “That is always the reaction I get.”

“No, no,” Lance waved his hands quickly. “I just– you’re, like, so f*cking smart.”

Keith only smiled further and Lance wanted to run into oncoming traffic.

“sh*t, um,” Lance squeezed his eyes shut and sucked in a breath. “Hold on, let me pull my foot out of my mouth.”

Keith chuckled, stirring his coffee. “It’s fine. I get it all the time.”

He stepped back and brushed past Lance.

“See you around, Lance.”

Keith left Lance to stand there, feeling like a whole idiot.

–you live and you learn and I learned so f*cking much about you. You're smart but not just in a normal intelligence type way. You are clever and witty and f*cking brilliant when you get to talking about books and past papers. You get embarrassed showing people your favorite song because it’s soft and beautiful. You like black coffee with bright green sugar packets and snort if you laugh too hard. You’re quiet and you bottle things up and you get a look on your face when things get too much. I call it a Feral Cat Look, which is stupid and maybe a little insulting, but I look for it constantly now. I look for it and then I try to fix it and turn it into a smile. And, God, I love your smile, Keith. So Keith–

Another semester passes and Lance only sees glimpses of Keith.

It’s strange. You spend three months hating someone’s very existence only for them to disappear completely. And now, Lance feels like he is only seeing bits of Keith’s life, just pinpricks of his once-rival’s college experience.

He sees Keith in the library, poring over books.

He sees him crossing the main courtyard, a coffee in hand and earbuds stuffed in his ears.

He sees him walking into the English building as he enters the Arts and Sciences one.

But each time, Keith spots him and gives him a nod.

A small greeting. The tiniest bit of acknowledgment.

But it fuels Lance for now.

–So Keith. I’m asking you if we could learn from this. And just try again to live and maybe even love.”

Lance is twenty and they finally share a class again.

It’s a stupid gen ed, just a requirement to graduate.

Lance is dreading the Greek mythology class the second he signed up for it, wishing that he could have simply tested out on his knowledge alone.

(He had a Percy Jackson phase, what bisexual didn’t?)

But he needed a humanities credit, so here he was.

And so he trudges in, yawning and cursing the eight AM class and–

And Keith is here. Sitting in the back of the class and looking equally as bored as Lance.

But then their eyes connect. And Keith straightens, sitting up and holding Lance’s gaze and subtly jerking his chin to the seat next to him.

And Lance–

Lance really tried hard to wipe that idiotic grin off his face.

Lance hung up. Slipped his phone in his pocket and watched another plane take off.

Tried to imagine himself flying away from the city where Keith was somewhere, packing up things for a mother he never knew.

And he couldn’t quite picture it.

Lance slicked his tongue over his teeth.

“f*ck it.”

They start studying together.

It’s a thing.

It all started when Lance caught Keith brutally murdering his Greek gods flashcards at four AM in the library. Because Lance is just an amazing guy, he offered to help Keith study. No selfish reasons whatsoever.

And then they just kept meeting up.

And suddenly, they are study buddies and maybe even friends, but Lance won’t dare label it.

He won’t label it because he doesn’t think Keith sees them as friends.

And maybe he won’t label it because maybe, just maybe, it could one day be something more.

It was a little difficult finding his way out of the airport.

Lance got lost more than once, turned around and went this way and that. He passed the coffee shop and Allura noticed that he was in fact headed to the exit and ran out to him. She brandished a napkin at him and he realized it was her number.

For a split second, he thought that she had severely confused their situation, but then she winked.

“Let me know how it goes, Lance.”

Lance grinned, let out a shaky laugh, and hugged her.

With the napkin tucked in his pocket and her contact dialed into his phone, he slowly maneuvered his way out of the confusing airport.

He had fully walked the course of the winding sleek halls before finally finding the exit, ending right where he started.

Lance allowed himself a moment to hesitate right at the edge of the TSA, looking back down the hallway and wondering if he would still have time to board.

Because maybe this was all a bad idea.

Maybe he just needed to dip and turn around and board and–

“Please, just listen to me!”

Lance froze. Absolutely stood rooted to the spot.

Was certain that he was hearing things, because there was absolutely no f*cking way that–

“I just need to get through for five minutes, you can even have someone accompany me, I could care less!”

Lance’s heart was thumping in the back of his mouth as he edged forward, following the voice as if it was a siren’s song.

“What if I buy a ticket? Will that get me through?”

Lance was choking on his heart, back ramrod straight as people pushed past him with annoyance.

“Which flight, sir?” A bored voice asked.

“Literally any one. I’m not boarding. Just get me back there!”

His fingers were sweating against the handle of his suitcase as he walked down the final ramp and rounded the corner.

And stared as black fingerless gloves slapped a credit card on the counter. And stared at the rumpled hoodie and sweatpants, stuffed into combat boots.

And stared as Keith Kogane tiredly pushed back his hair from eyes lined with dark circles from a sleepless night, tapping nervously on the counter as the agent tapped on her computer.

Lance went stiller than a statue, paralyzed.

Because Keith was here.

He was biting his lips nervously, tapping his foot and checking his watch.

“We will need you to go through the metal detector–.”

Keith visibly fought an eyeroll and the look was so Keith that Lance felt a laugh bubble up around his heart crammed in his throat.

“I will strip here,” Keith said thinly. “I just need to get back there and see someone.”

“Sir, that’s not necessary.”

Keith leaned over the counter, teeth bared.

“Listen,” he said, and there was the Feral Cat Look, God, Lance had missed it. “I will buy a hundred flights. I got twenty-five grand in my pocket and I will gladly cash it in here and now to get past this f*cking security check–.”

“That seems a little dramatic.”

Keith froze, mouth still open and halfway through his tirade. Slowly, he turned his head and his eyes fell on Lance. Eyes of violet and gray and hope.

Lance thought he would burst into flames. He cleared his throat, taking a step forward and tugging his suitcase along with him.

“I’m flattered,” Lance said, trying to sound casual. “But I think that dropping twenty thousand dollars to bypass a security line is a little bit over the top.”

Keith said nothing, still staring at Lance, as if he was drinking him in and could never stop. The closer Lance got, the more he could see the exhaustion woven into Keith’s face. And Lance realized that he wasn’t the only one that had hated every single second they were parted.

“I’m sure that if you just took a second and communicated with this kind lady,” Lance paused and shot a quick wink to the agent, who looked close to calling security, “it would have gotten straightened out.”

And then Keith smiled at him, eyes gleaming.

“I told you it was unrealistic,” he said, voice wavering. “In real life, the love interest would never be able to get through TSA.”

Notes:

I TOLD YALL I LOVE FORESHADOWING

Chapter 8: Looking Back Once More (In a bit of a Different Way)

Notes:

f*ck SORRY THIS IS SO LATE LADS. it's been a mad busy week and I normally have such a relaxing and open Saturday to finish up that week's chapter and I :)) simply :)) didn't :)) today :)).

Anywho, hope you enjoy!

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Of all the things that Keith could have seen within moments of entering his first college course, it had to be the cute guy in the third row.

The Cute Guy was clearly nervous, tapping his pen feverishly against the corner of his desk, looking around at the lecture hall with the same wide eyed gaze that Keith was staring at him with.

He wore a backwards snapback for Christ’s sake, and Keith still couldn’t tear his eyes away from his bright blue eyes, the intentional rips in his skinny jeans, the scuffed Vans.

He couldn’t look away.

Until The Cute Guy began to turn his head towards where Keith was stumbling up the stairs and Keith snapped his head down so fast that his neck twanged.

He bit the inside of his cheek, sure he had been caught, and hastily clambered up the stairs to the very back of the lecture hall.

He stared at the frayed curve of the snapback all class.

Keith stared out into the bright sunlight, frozen as he heard the sounds of Lance’s Vans marching further and further away.

His eyes burned as he let out a shuddering breath.

Slowly, he turned to face the box of Acxa, still tasting the bitterness of his words on his tongue.

He lowered himself onto his haunches, digging his hands into his hair.

Immediately, he regretted his words, wishing that he could taste them back, that he could swallow them and go back in time and leave them in his chest.

His eyes searched through their haze and found a fallen pink skirt, all sparkles and tulle.

I think you have a sister.

Something arched through him, something hot and ugly and biting. With a loud cry, he shoved the nearest box as far from him as he could.

He staggered to his feet, taking a handful of books and throwing them as hard as he could.

A coat rack went next, flying into a wall of boxes that all tumbled with a sickening crunch of cardboard.

He kicked a forgotten desk chair, sending it arching across the locker.

He flung a mirror and watched it shatter against the wall, the pieces clinking to the ground.

Chest heaving, Keith stared at his broken reflection in the smashed mirror, the ragged shards of himself. His eyes were wild and haunted, his lips white and tugged down into a snarl. He looked and looked into this fragmented version of himself, and found he hated what he saw.

Keith sucked in a breath, one after another until his breathing slowed and his heart steadied.

And then he quietly continued to pack up his mother’s possessions and secrets.

So it turns out that The Cute Guy was f*cking smart.

He was demolishing everyone in their class in the trivia game. Well, except for Keith. Keith had always been good at memorizing things. He had a talent with words, they stuck in his brain as if glued there and he never forgot a definition once he saw it.

Which led to this trivia game being a bit too easy for him.

He knew that he had attracted a small audience, all the students around him watching over his shoulder and forgetting their own phone to survey him, easily clicking answer after answer.

He barely paid them any mind.

Too busy staring as The Cute Guy’s head snapped up and down from the projector screen to his phone, thumbs whizzing as he tried to keep up with Keith.

Well, kkogane. While Keith had the luxury of sitting high above the rest of the class in the back of the risen seats, The Cute Guy was stuck in the front.

Keith had noticed the repetitive flashes of green on The Cute Guy’s phone about fifteen questions ago and quickly ascertained that he was sirlancelot.

Keith idly wondered, as his fingers lazily skirted over his phone screen and his peers breathed down his neck, whether The Cute Guy was a fan of Arthurian literature.

Sir Lancelot, one of the Knights of the Round Table, was known to literary historians (and avid readers such as Keith) to be the very model of a chivalric knight, a pinnacle of medieval romantics.

Keith thought the name was quite fitting for The Cute Guy.

Then he tore himself out of his daydreams to realize that the game had ended and Professor Kolivan was talking to him and The Cute Guy was staring at him.

No, glaring.

The Cute Guy was sizing Keith up as if he was an evil creature he would challenge to a duel and—and Keith needed to stop having medieval fantasies about this dude.

After a moment, Keith realized that Kolivan had called him Lance.

Lance.

Keith rolled the name around in his head, and found it fit The Cute Guy perfectly, like a well-worn glove.

Lance turned back around and Keith tried to hide his smile.

This was going to be fun.

The sun was setting as Keith swept the floor of the storage locker.

Everything was packed away in his van or tossed into a nearby dumpster.

He had effectively and completely erased Krolia and Acxa Kogane from the tiny room.

Keith lowered the broom, his hand smarting from gripping the handle too tight, and stared into the empty storage container.

It was finished. What he had traveled 2,251 miles for was done.

He tried to feel happy as he tugged down the door and locked it. Well, he tried to feel anything at all.

Lance, alternatively The Cute Guy, was unfortunately also an ass.

He thought he was smarter than Keith, and normally Keith would allow people to think this despite how they were often wrong, but his smugness was palpable and sour. So Keith, naturally, had to knock him down a couple notches.

Keith ensured that he always got the best grades in the class, destroyed any potential curve for an exam, and all around made himself an enemy to everyone in their lecture hall.

But then, Kolivan woke up one morning and decided to be a menace, and paired Lance and Keith for the final project.

(Keith was not a little excited to meet up with Lance out of the classroom, no, he wasn’t, because that would honestly be masoch*stic of him and he in no way wanted to start another argument with him, no he wasn’t hopelessly eager to see the fire in those blue eyes—)

“I’m not doing this whole project by myself.”

Lance’s eyes narrowed.

(Keith is a weak, weak son of a bitch.)

The woman at the donation center was the same person that he and Lance spoke to yesterday when they dumped their haul in their loading dock.

Lance would have known her name, but Keith couldn’t find it in himself to think back through those perfect few hours to try and remember.

The woman smiled brightly at him, her chatter sliding in one of his ears to the other in jumbles as they unloaded all of the remaining items from the van.

Keith only nodded and hummed whenever she paused, trying to act like he was listening.

Lance would have listened.

Lance would have listened and laughed and talked with her in that enchanting way of his.

Keith lifted a box of picture frames from the backseat, and realized he had shoved it on top of one of Lance’s hoodies. A garnet one from their college, one that always made his tan skin shine.

His stomach lurched.

“Dear?” The woman placed a gentle hand on his arm and Keith tried not to flinch. “Are you alright?”

“Fine,” he mumbled. “Just tired.”

She nodded with a hum. “Where’s that friend of yours?”

Keith thought he might puke.

“He left early,” he said shortly.

“Oh,” Keith hated how disappointed she was. “Well that’s too bad.”

“Yeah,” Keith’s throat was tight. “It is.”

Keith was going to possibly murder Lance.

He was intolerable, so loud, and always talked with his hands with enough gusto that he typically knocked over a minimum of one object each time they met up.

Keith had saved his laptop from a near death enough times that he stopped bringing coffee with him to their sessions.

Lance emailed Keith’s draft of their thesis back to him, grinning evilly behind his laptop.

Keith opened it, took one look at the heavily highlighted lines and downright crude comments, and was definitely going to burst a blood vessel.

“Don’t you have a girl to hook up and ditch?” Keith snapped, glaring at his project partner. “Leave my thesis alone and go and destroy some brain cells at a frat party.”

Lance arched an eyebrow, tilting his head as a smug smile grew on his lips.

“It seems my reputation doesn’t precede me,” he snickered.

Keith had no idea what that meant.

Keith stumbled into the hotel room much later that night.

He was exhausted, a sheen of dried sweat itching on his skin and clinging to the back of his T-shirt. His limbs ached from all the heavy lifting that was much easier with a partner.

This was all much easier when he had a partner.

He rubbed a knot in his shoulder as he kicked the door shut behind him. The echo of the door closing reverberated through a room that was much emptier than the last time Keith had been in it.

His hand froze, before slowly lowering from his shoulder as he stared at all the places where Lance’s things had been. His suitcase was nowhere to be seen, his scattered clothing had disappeared, every single skincare bottle was gone.

Lance had completely erased himself from their hotel room just as Keith had done to his mother in the storage container.

A lump grew in Keith’s throat as his eyes burned once more.

“It seems my reputation doesn’t precede me.”

Keith sucked up his pride and held his breath and dove deep into his college’s social media pages later that night, desperately curious.

It took only a bit of scouring to find a blurry video of none other than Lance taking a body shot off an abdomen that certainly did not belong to a girl.

Amongst the cheers, Lance turned and winked at the random man.

Keith slapped his laptop shut, cheeks flaming. He looked around his empty dorm room, as if he had been caught.

Well. That was, uh, interesting information to have.

Keith couldn’t bring himself to sleep in the hotel bed.

The duvet and bed sheets were still molded into the shape of him and Lance. The whiteness of the bedding caused it to look like a cast of their last night embedded in plaster.

He couldn’t bear to break it, break the memory, and so he pulled a couple of blankets from the closet.

And Keith slept on the floor.

Somehow, they were able to work together long enough to create a moderately decent final paper.

Not even decent. Maybe even actually good.

They got a 97 for their final paper.

Keith leaned over Lance’s shoulder, trying desperately to ignore the smell of Lance’s cologne, and grinned.

“Good job.”

“You too.”

But Keith had already turned and escaped to his seat in the back row.

Keith marched into Clyde’s office the next day ready to punch someone. He had barely slept the night before, too busy tossing and turning on the hotel floor all while tossing and turning the previous afternoon in his head.

He debated calling Lance exactly fifty seven times. He counted each like counting sheep, waiting for sleep and wondering if Lance was sleeping peacefully.

He wondered if Lance was even still in Houston.

Once the sun rose and business began to open, Keith considered it a fair enough time to call up the lawyer.

He breezed past the secretary without a second glance, ignoring her panicked orders growing more shrill as she jumped up from her seat and followed him down the hall.

“Sir, sir! You cannot go in there!”

Keith threw open the glass door, eyes narrowing the moment he saw Clyde. The lawyer looked surprised, a coffee mug halfway to his lips.

“Sir, you must wait for your appointm–.”

“Why didn’t you tell me about Krolia’s daughter?”

Clyde paused, studying him for a moment. Keith held his gaze, aware that he was trembling.

The lawyer lowered his mug to a coaster. “You may go, Cynthia.”

“But sir–.”

“It’s alright,” he waved the secretary away with an easy hand. “Sit down, Keith.”

Keith’s fingers were just dying to wrap around something and throw it. Maybe the mug that Clyde had just set down, maybe that fancy paperweight, God, he bet it would shatter so well

“Sit down, Keith.”

“No,” he said hoarsely. “I don’t think I will.”

Clyde watched him for a moment further before he sighed, dropping his head slightly.

“I told Krolia that it was a mistake to not tell you.”

“Yeah,” Keith’s voice wavered. “It was. A really f*cking stupid idea, actually.”

Clyde looked up at him, and seemed to notice that he was alone. “Where’s Lance?”

Keith’s jaw clenched. “None of your business.”

“Keith.”

Keith was shocked to see actual concern in Clyde’s eyes. The lawyer took a breath before standing up and slowly walking around his desk. With elegant fingers, he reached out and tugged one of the leather armchairs opposing his desk towards him. Then, he sat down.

And nodded to the other chair.

Keith’s fingers flexed and unflexed before he finally slumped down into the chair.

“Acxa Kogane is eighteen years old,” he said. “And therefore does not need a guardian or next of kin to take custody. Krolia insisted that it was unnecessary to inform either of you about the other.”

“Unnecessary?” Keith snapped. “She’s my–.”

He trailed off, not able to say it out loud.

Clyde sighed. “Trust me when I say that Krolia was a very difficult client. She was eccentric, paranoid, untrusting. I told her time and time again that if the storage locker was given to you then you were bound to find out. She assured me that she had erased all traces of Acxa from its content.”

The lawyer swallowed.

“It seems as if she was mistaken.”

Keith felt that familiar lump in his throat again.

“What am I supposed to do with this?” He whispered. “I don’t– I don’t know what to do, Clyde.”

“You don’t have to do anything,” Clyde said gently. “You are free to return back to Portland and pretend as if you never heard of Acxa Kogane. Or Krolia, for that matter.”

“But,” Keith’s voice wobbled, “isn’t that terrible of me to do?”

Clyde offered a small smile.

“I’ve seen people go through a lot of very difficult things, Keith. That’s what happens, when you manage wills and testimonies. People are forced to comb through painful memories, to organize a relative’s finances, to try to pay their debts. They have to smooth over all the rough edges that their loved one leaves behind.”

Clyde took in a long breath.

“But I must admit,” his eyebrows furrowed, “watching what you’ve had to do has been one of the hardest for me to endure.”

Keith’s throat was so tight he wasn’t sure he would be able to speak.

Clyde leaned forward. “You can go home, Keith. You’ve done your part. You’ve signed the dotted line, you’ve jumped through all the hoops. I do not require anything more of you, no one does. You are young. Too young for all of this.”

Keith couldn’t stop himself from falling into a memory, just a few days prior where he had shouted and screamed at the sky, bemoaning a flat tire and everything else that came out because of it.

We are kids, Keith. If you can’t do this, that’s okay.

Keith’s bottom lip trembled.

Clyde reached over and gently placed his hand on Keith’s shoulder. “Where is Lance, Keith?”

Keith tried to swallow back the hurt and guilt rising up to his mouth. “Gone.”

Clyde frowned at that, looking surprisingly disappointed.

“I sent him away,” Keith croaked. “I saw that birth certificate and just– I lost it.”

Clyde hummed.

“You know,” he tapped Keith’s shoulder lightly. “I’ve seen a lot of things in my time. But someone traveling across the country to help out a ‘study buddy’ is a first.”

“So?”

“So,” Clyde squeezed Keith’s shoulder. “That boy is something special. Don’t lose him over Krolia’s mistake.”

(Lance’s cologne smelled like pine trees and spring rain.)

Keith cashed the check. Wired twenty-five thousand dollars to his bank account.

And felt pretty damn sh*tty while doing it.

“I’m not getting surgery.”

Shiro took a long moment to look up from Keith’s eye test results, the crinkled paper so small and fragile, yet effectively condemning him.

His brother held his gaze, and Keith wanted to run. Or maybe scream. Perhaps cry.

“Okay,” Shiro’s voice always held that reassuring lilt to it, but this time it scraped against Keith’s eardrums. “That’s okay.”

Keith was shaking his head over and over, stuck in an endless loop. Everything about him was revolving, replaying his life of studying aerospace engineering and space.

All of that was useless, if Keith didn’t have the vision for flying.

His eyes were burning and Shiro’s fingers twitched around Keith’s damnation, fighting the urge to hug his younger brother.

“Take a few different classes,” Shiro said gently. “What about English? See if that peaks your interest.”

Keith could have scoffed. He loved to read, sure, but nothing could ever beat the dream of flying into that black openness of space.

Shiro leaned forward, holding Keith’s watery gaze.

“Just try it.”

It was late that night, after Keith had finally cried enough to make his head pound and punched a hole in his wall, that he realized that he wouldn’t see Lance in his classes anymore.

Keith packed up the hotel room.

Left the cast of him and Lance in the bedsheets for the maids to dismantle.

He felt numb, shoving his bags into the too-empty van. It felt massive now, with only him in it.

He set his phone’s map to Albuquerque.

And pulled onto the interstate.

Keith sulked as he walked into his first literature class the next semester.

It was a tiny room, only enough seats for thirty or so people. Nothing compared to the massive lecture halls teeming with people vying for adventure, hoping to one day live amongst stars and planets.

Keith shrunk into his seat, peering around at his classmates that all looked as if they stepped out of dark academia, and felt desperately out of place.

Professor Thace entered, wearing a tweed coat and what had to be a vintage satchel, and Keith fought back a scowl.

Keith sat through the typical introduction, forced out a greeting through his teeth, and glared at the printed syllabus when it was handed to him.

He glared and sulked as he scanned the reading list, until he paused on a title.

Le Morte d’Arthur.

One of the most famous medieval English romances of all time. A beast of fourteenth century writing, difficult to wade through and even harder to understand. Keith had stumbled through it once, but he had grown frustrated that he couldn’t unravel the Old English and barely finished it.

And now, with a team of classmates and a professor behind him, he would.

He looked up to see Thace watching him.

The professor smiled, as if he knew that Keith had just needed that push, that incentive to cause him to see a bit clearer.

Keith’s phone buzzed nonstop, questions from Shiro and his parents about how the cleaning went, when he would be home and how Lance was.

Eventually, he couldn’t take it, and shut his phone off.

Keith wrote a term paper inspecting and analyzing the characteristics of Arthurian chivalric knights. He admittedly brought up Sir Lancelot too many times.

He forgot all about the dream of that black openness and stars and planets.

Keith wasn’t entirely sure what happened.

He blinked and suddenly he was pulling into a Starbucks drive thru.

Perhaps it was muscle memory.

(Or maybe missing memories.)

But he stared at the empty drive thru with a look of horror. His hands shook against the steering wheel as panic rose up his throat.

He was an hour or so out of Houston and the Starbucks was completely empty despite it only being early afternoon, save for a few cars parked near the front.

As if on their own accord, Keith’s fingers rolled down the window.

“Hi!” The barista chirped through the screen. “What can I get you?”

“A black coffee and a–.”

Caramel macchiato.

Keith’s nails dug into the rubber sides of the wheel as a shudder wracked through his body. His mouth was sour and he felt the familiar prick behind his eyes.

“Nevermind,” he fought out. “Just a black coffee.”

“O-okay.”

Keith peered through his fringe to the black camera lens peering at him.

Jesus Christ. They probably thought he was having a mental breakdown.

Well, he probably was.

“Go ahead and pull forward.”

Keith nodded, not trusting himself to speak.

He debated saying f*ck it and leaving the drive thru and hopefully his mortification behind, but something kept him there. Something kept him rolling forward and stopping at the window.

The barista was pretty, with dark skin and short curly black hair. Large gold hoops shifted and glimmered from her ears as she walked up to the window, pulling it open with a friendly smile.

She felt warm, as she handed the coffee to Keith. He took it with trembling fingers, murmuring a thankful before fumbling for his wallet.

“Oh no,” she shook her head with a smile. “On the house.”

Keith froze, unsure how to respond.

Lance would know how to respond.

Her brown eyes crinkled as she leaned against the window, smiling sadly down at him.

“It looks as if you are having a tough day.”

He huffed out a laugh. “More like a tough week.”

The barista hummed, glancing at her screen, clocking the empty line. “Want to talk about it?”

Keith opened and closed his mouth once, twice, and then promptly bursted into tears.

Keith didn’t see Lance at all for the rest of the semester.

He wondered whether he even noticed that Keith had gone.

The barista’s name was Shay.

She was a good listener, nodding and frowning in sympathy whenever Keith had to pause to suck in a heavy breath and try to control his sobs.

Her coworker, Rax, had at some point joined the two of them and was diligently passing Keith napkins through the window to wipe his eyes.

Keith told them everything, the first time Clyde called him, the terrible journey to Houston, how him and Lance grew so close before he f*cked it all up.

Keith finally stumbled to a finish, gripping his coffee tightly and staring up at Shay as if she would have the answers he needed.

Despite the tears, he felt shockingly refreshed, more clear-headed than he had been since yesterday afternoon.

Shay nodded thoughtfully for a moment, mulling all of his words over in her head. Rax winced in sympathy before disappearing to help a customer that had entered the coffee shop.

“Sounds like you both really made a mess of things.”

Keith let out a choke of a laugh, swiping at his eyes. “Maybe. I really took first place for Biggest Asshole, though.”

Shay laughed lightly at that and Keith gave a feeble smile.

“Well,” she tapped her fingers against the window. “How much do you like this Lance?”

That was a question that Keith hadn’t asked himself either.

He didn’t like to think about it, how Lance had so easily slipped through some unseen chink in Keith’s armor, sneaking through and snuggling up to him with such elegance that Keith swore that one day he just blinked and Lance was there.

Lance had always been there, even when they bickered and argued constantly.

Even when he switched majors.

Even when they hadn’t seen each other for months.

He had always been there, nestled inside Keith’s head even when he was just The Cute Guy and sirlancelot.

He had always been there, all smiles and bright blue eyes, and Keith didn’t want to know what it would be like if he wasn’t.

Shay was smiling, as if she already knew his answer.

“Go and get him.”

“He’s–he’s probably already home,” Keith stuttered. “I bet he got a flight the second that I sent him away.”

Shay’s smile was only growing. “How many flights from Houston to Portland could there be?”

Keith was sat in a coffee shop, attacking his Pride and Prejudice term paper, when the door bell chimed. He didn’t look up, too busy flicking through his textbook to find that particular quote he needed.

“Are you going to order?”

Curiously, he looked up and his breath caught.

He just caught the end of Lance looking at him. Lance was here. And he had been looking at him.

Keith’s hands turned clammy and he gaped at Lance as he quickly turned to the bored barista and hurried to order.

He looked great.

He had aged out of his snapbacks and ripped jeans, falling into the slump of sweatpants and hoodies like all college students do. He was wearing a stained university hoodie, the garnet caused his tan skin to shine and Keith very intentionally kept his gaze there, not daring to look lower.

(As earlier discussed, Keith is a very weak man and allowed his eyes to dip for a brief moment and dear God he never knew how badly he needed to see Lance in gray sweatpants until now.)

He needed to talk to him. That’s what was supposed to happen, right? They were acquaintances at the very least, and had both obviously been shocked to see the other and yes, okay, Keith was going to talk to him.

He wiped his hands on his sweatpants and stood up shakily, gripped his coffee like a lifeline, and walked over to where Lance stood. Lance was eyeing the menu casually, rocking back and forth on his heels. Keith stared at the sharp cut of his jaw and debated turning around.

He had to say something, just say something, say something.

“Hey.”

Good. Good one.

Lance turned and Keith relaxed, waiting for Lance to effortlessly begin a conversation like he always did. But Lance wasn’t f*cking talking, just gaping at Keith as if he was a zombie and Keith supposed he did kinda look like one, perhaps zombie adjacent, and dear God, Lance wasn’t going to talk, was he?

Keith panicked, trying to think of a reason to have come up in the first place and spotted the creamers and sugars and—

“Mind if I—?”

Lance blinked cluelessly at him and Keith lamely nodded to the array of sugars and creams and Lance jumped to the side as if he had been burned.

Grateful for something to do with his hands, Keith plucked up a couple of green sugar packers.

“How’s aerospace going?” He asked.

“Uh, um,” Lance hesitated. “Good.”

Keith fanned the sugar packets, hoping that Lance didn’t spot his fingers shaking.

“So, uh, are you just not in my classes or—.”

Keith tried to not feel too pleased by the fact that Lance noticed his disappearance.

“Nah,” he shrugged, keeping his eyes on his coffee. “I’m in English now.”

He felt Lance reel behind him. “What?”

God, this was painful. “Yeah, I’m gonna major in Literature.”

“Oh.”

Keith fought back a flinch. He had grown used to the shock, the absolute gobsmacked look on people’s faces when they realized that the star of the program had left to go and read books. He had to admit it irritated him, people always looked down at the liberal arts and found them foolish things to get degrees in.

He had heard it all before, from his advisor, from the family members over holidays, always wondering how he expected to get a job, what was his plan now that he no longer had space programs breathing down his neck just waiting for him to graduate.

He knew that Lance meant no malice behind it, but it still stung.

“That is always the reaction I get.”

“No, no, I just—you’re, like, so f*cking smart.”

He knew Lance regretted his words instantly by the gust of air that left his lips. He couldn’t help a smile as Lance fidgeted behind him.

“sh*t, um. Hold on, let me pull my foot out of my mouth.”

God. Even when he was fumbling through his words, Lance was hopelessly endearing.

“It’s fine,” he tried to reassure. “I get it all the time.”

Steeling himself, he turned, shot a smile to the red-faced Lance, and passed him.

“See you around, Lance.”

As he returned to his laptop and books and Literature major, he wondered if he actually would.

One.

There was only one flight from Houston to Portland.

Keith’s knees were burning under the sweltering heat that his ancient laptop produced, his fingers flying across the keyboard as he scanned the flight list a second and third time.

He was still in the Starbucks lot, his backpack torn open and spilling its contents on the floor from where he had ripped out his laptop.

He stared at the screen, not believing it.

There had been no flights Lance could have taken the night before, and the only one he could have possibly booked was boarding at five o’clock.

Keith held his breath, and glanced at the time.

It was only three.

He could make it.

He only sees Lance a couple of times through the next semester.

He sees him walking with a man much taller than Lance, the man smiling and nodding as Lance chattered and waved his hands around.

He sees Lance in an impromptu dance off in the middle of the courtyard and ducks away before anyone could see his smile.

He sees Lance strutting into the building for his classes, while Keith disappears into his own.

He sees Lance living his life, a life much bigger and louder than Keith’s. It should hurt, seeing Lance take the classes that he originally planned to before simply being human got in the way.

But it doesn’t.

Keith finds he’s happy for him.

And he craves those tiny looks they send each other, the soft nods or smiles as they pass on the few times that their separate lives briefly conjoin.

And it’s good enough. For now.

Keith broke way too many speeding laws getting to the airport.

It was horrific, tearing back through Houston traffic and trying to keep his eyes on the road and not the clock.

He had turned his phone back on, in case his reckless driving went terribly, and threw on some music to try and soothe his whirling mind.

His phone remained facedown on the seat, notifications off. If his parents or Shiro were watching him on their family map, whizzing through downtown Houston, he sure as hell didn’t want to hear their scolding until later.

Until after.

A familiar song came on.

“Are you moving much too fast?”

Keith let out a huff of a laugh and turned up the volume to “The Breeze” by Dr. Dog.

It felt fitting, listening to Lance’s favorite song while desperately trying to catch up to him.

“If you’re always on the go, make an angel in the snow, and freeze.”

Keith glanced at the song’s title on his stereo and laughed harder. A wild, crazed sort of laugh that happens only when coincidences feel a little too strange.

The album’s name was Fate.

Keith would never admit to anyone that he was excited for his Greek mythology class.

Thace had recommended it to him, suggesting the course due to the impact that Grecian archetypes have on the entire literary world.

Keith’s always been fascinated by all mythology, and he is scanning the reading list eagerly when he hears a throaty yawn and the scuff of sneakers entering the room.

He looks up and freezes.

Lance is rubbing his eyes tiredly as he enters the room and he looks worn and tired but he shines as if he is a Greek god that they will be studying and Keith can’t look away.

He can’t look away and so when Lance lazily surveys the classroom, their gazes lock.

Keith is trembling as he nervously nods to the open seat next to him, wondering if he overstepped, wondering if they were even that close—

Lance grins.

It was only when he parked in the airport’s short-term parking lot that Keith allowed himself to look at his phone.

He scanned through the texts from his family, each spiraling from concern into anger, before spotting a missed call.

He nearly tripped over his feet when he spotted the caller ID.

Keith nearly dropped his phone in his rush to play the voicemail. He pressed his phone hard against his ear and sucked in a breath.

“Hey, Keith.”

Lance’s voice felt like sunlight, warm and steadying.

Keith started sprinting.

They start studying together.

It only began because Lance caught Keith at an admittedly low moment, debating whether or not to pull out his lighter, forbidden on campus, and setting his flashcards on fire.

He cannot keep track of the minor gods for the life of him and for the first time, Lance is easily skirting to the top of the class while Keith falls behind.

Keith is tearing his Janus flashcard into tiny pieces when Lance slides easily into the seat next to him.

And Keith is frozen, hands full of index card, and Lance smiles.

“Dude, did you ever read Percy Jackson?”

And that is when Keith began to fall.

Keith’s ear was starting to hurt from how hard his phone was pressed against it.

He flew through the parking lot, his heart in his throat and listening, listening, listening to Lance.

“Look, man, I f*cked up. I shouldn’t have said those things and I shouldn’t have told you to find Acxa in the first place.”

A car slammed on its brakes as Keith flew in front of it. A honk blared and Keith waved apologetically as he dashed away.

“You were right, I overstepped. But you f*cked up too. Your words stung, and they still do.”

“Sorry!” Keith shouted as he nearly collided with a couple wandering through the lot, looking for their car.

“This entire trip has been a disaster, let’s be honest.”

Keith vaulted up the stairs, taking three at a time.

“It’s been a nightmare because we were so tired and stressed and were less than two feet from each other pretty much the entire time. I always knew that we were bound to collide, and this was our asteroid field.”

Keith tripped at Lance’s words, slamming his hand against the metal railing to catch himself. He swung from the momentum, staggered forward, and found his footing again.

“sh*t, sorry, I’m talking in aeroscience, sorry. Um, I just– we both f*cked up. But, that’s living, right?”
Keith’s eyes burned.

“You live and you learn and I learned so f*cking much about you.”

Keith was so f*cking close to the doors.

“You're smart but not just in a normal intelligence type way.”

He narrowly avoided getting side-swiped by a suitcase, glaring at the man tugging it along and earning a glare back.

“You are clever and witty and f*cking brilliant when you get to talking about books and past papers. You get embarrassed showing people your favorite song because it’s soft and beautiful.”

“f*ck,” Keith whispered under his breath as he entered the airport.

It was loud and overwhelming and bustling with people.

“You like black coffee with bright green sugar packets and snort if you laugh too hard.”

Keith looked around wildly, trying to ignore the nauseating spark of anxiety as he tried to figure out where the f*ck to go.

“You’re quiet and you bottle things up and you get a look on your face when things get too much. I call it a Feral Cat Look, which is stupid and maybe a little insulting, but I look for it constantly now. I look for it and then I try to fix it and turn it into a smile.”

Keith spotted the massive screen detailing flight information and ran to it, breathing heavily as sweat slipped down under his shirt.

“And, God, I love your smile, Keith.”

Houston to Portland. They hadn’t boarded.

They hadn’t boarded.

“So Keith. I’m asking you if we could learn from this. And just try again to live and maybe even love.”

Lance’s last words choked all of the remaining air out of Keith. And he stood there, in the bustling airport, trying to remember how to breathe again.

And maybe even love.

He lowered his phone slowly from his ear, staring at the thin sliver of information about Lance’s flight.

Keith spun in circles, fidgety and panicky and ignoring the strange looks sent to him. With the people milling around him, for a moment, Keith felt desperately lost at sea.

He spotted a help desk and surged to it as if it was a lighthouse.

But the lady wouldn’t listen and Keith was doomed to stare at the screen behind her head, watched as the flight ticked closer and closer to boarding as he snarled and begged and even pleaded until–

Until–

“That seems a little dramatic.”

Keith froze.

Slowly turned.

And saw the sun.

Notes:

PEEP THE FORESHADOWING
GOD, I have been WAITING for Keith to "talk to the baristas" like Lance promised ever since the literal first chapter.

Get ready for some MAD groveling from Keith next chapter and mayhaps some gooey confessions? Mayhaps some spice? Idk let's find outttttt

Chapter 9: And Maybe They Look Forward (Spoiler: They Finally Communicate)

Notes:

Omg guys. You will NOT BELIEVE the week I've had. Like seriously, you wouldn't believe all the absurd events that happened even if I told you. It was an absolute mess. All this to say that all of the comments reacting to last week's chapter were amazing to read, they seriously cheered me up so much. I always try to respond to them when I see them so I'm sorry I was terribly behind on that this week :)

So, thank you so much for keeping me going this week and I hope that this chapter repays that

I think it will. Aka, spice warning ;)

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Lance has read a lot of romance novels in his time.

It—it’s a problem. He has a thing for enemies to lovers (which is, admittedly, hilariously ironic at this point and time) and love at first sight and, as previously mentioned, is a raging slu*t for an airport reunion.

But the issue is that these copious scenes that he wept over did not prepare him for the real thing.

The real thing, when you were kinda still pissed at each other.

The real thing, when you were exhausted and tired and fresh out of tears and any eloquent words and kinda smelled like a public restroom.

The real thing, when Keith was staring at him with eyes so wide Lance thought they might pop right out of his head and Lance—

Lance had no f*cking clue what to do next.

The world around them continued, people shuffled around Keith and nudged him away from the help desk. The employee went to the next customer. An airplane took off behind them. The intercom blasted information that Lance couldn’t hear around his roaring heartbeat.

The real thing was incredibly awkward.

Keith cleared his throat. “Would—do you want to sit down?”

“Uh, yeah,” Lance’s throat felt full of sawdust. “Let’s chat.”

Lance fought off a shudder at his super lame response and followed Keith towards an abandoned table in the corner.

The chairs squeaked horribly as they pulled them back, the lackluster cushions barely giving as Lance and Keith slowly sat down across each other.

Keith was now looking anywhere but Lance, a deep blush beginning to form on his cheeks and neck. Lance was a little relieved, that Keith felt as off-kilter as he did.

Lance tugged his suitcase next to him and shoved down the handle with a crack.

Keith picked at his fingernails. Lance bounced his foot. A baby started crying behind them.

“So,” Keith exhaled. “You didn’t get on the flight.”

“No,” Lance swallowed. “I didn’t.”

Keith glanced up at him, the tiniest of smiles crossing his lips. “I’m glad.”

Lance offered a weak smile in return.

And they were dragged back into silence. Lance cursed every book he ever read, because it certainly didn’t prepare him to this.

“I’m sorry,” Keith said quickly, squeezing his eyes shut. “Could you, like, give me a second?”

Lance blinked. “Sure.”

And then, Keith snatched a nearby napkin and pulled out a f*cking pen from his pocket. And began to scribble feverishly on the napkin.

Lance stared.

“Sorry,” Keith was blushing furiously, refusing to look up from the napkin. “I’m—I’m just exhausted.”

Lance found that he was nodding. “Yeah, me too.”

“I need to organize my thoughts,” Keith’s pen was flying over the napkin, “and make sure I don’t forget anything.”

“Yeah, cool, man.”

“And I f*cked up everything so horribly last time I opened my mouth so,” Keith sucked in a breath, looking up at Lance through his bangs. “I really don’t want to mess up this time.”

Lance smiled tiredly. “You won’t.”

Keith let out a dry huff at that and Lance’s smile turned into something genuine. And grew wider and wider, as he watched Keith scribble indiscernible notes on the napkin.

“Keith,” Lance whispered. “Breathe.”

“Trust me,” Keith flipped the napkin over, continuing to write, “sitting across from you is causing me to breathe for the first time all day.”
And Lance—

Well.

Lance stopped breathing at that.

It took a moment for Keith to realize that Lance had absolutely blue-screened at his words. He looked up, eyebrows raised, and his blush grew into a fierce red.

“See?” He asked wildly. “I need to draft an outline!”

“Uh, no,” Lance said. “Please keep talking like that.”

Keith shook his head at Lance, turning back to the napkin and continuing to organize his words, muttering to himself as he did.

And Lance could only stare and realize that Keith could probably spit in his face and he would forgive him.

(Which was a terrible and toxic thought but Lance was running on no sleep and heartbreak, so.)

“Okay,” Keith finally sat back, dropping the pen with a sigh.

“All organized?”

“As categorized as they can be.”

Lance’s grin grew. “Perfect.”

Keith smiled as well.

“So,” Keith ran a hand down his face. “Let’s just start off with the fact that I’m a major ass and I am so incredibly sorry for the things I said.”

“Okay.”

“Right,” Keith waved his hand. “Let’s table that bit for now.”

Lance was going to start laughing soon, Keith discussing their knock-down, drag-out fight in a way that he likely broke down plot lines in his English classes. Keith was watching him, still a little fidgety, a tad flighty, until Lance nodded evenly.

“Cool,” Keith sucked in a breath. “I finished packing up Krolia’s things, cleaned out the locker, finished up with Clyde. It’s all done.”

“Good,” Lance nodded. “I’m glad.”

“Great, and—,” Keith’s eyes darted to his napkin, “I’ve had a crush on you since freshman year.”

Lance—

Uh—

Lance’s mind went blank.

His mouth fell open, eyes bulged at Keith’s words.

Keith’s eyes widened and he looked down wildly at his napkin. “sh*t, f*ck, I skipped a few things.”

“Keith.”

“Oh my God,” Keith hissed, staring at his napkin as if it betrayed him. “Hold on, rewind—.”

“Keith,” Lance repeated, reaching over and slapping his palm over the napkin. “Forget the outline. What?”

Keith stared at him, sucking his lips into his mouth as he combed back his hair with nervous fingers.

“Freshman year?” Lance repeated.

Keith’s eyes darted to the nearby exit and Lance wondered if he would have to body block him if he made a run for it.

Finally, Keith slouched, dropping his head into his hands.

“Yeah,” he whispered through his fingers. “The second I saw you. When you were The Cute Guy.”

Lance blinked. And blinked again.

“You—you hated me.”

“No,” Keith groaned, still hiding in his hands. “I just don’t know how to feel feelings.”

“We,” Lance was sure he was hallucinating, “we argued all the time.”

“I don’t know how to flirt.”

Lance’s jaw was on the floor. “That is apparent.”

Keith cursed under his breath, shoulders bunching into himself. “This is not how I wanted to this go.”

“We didn’t even see each other for like a year!”

“Lance, I’m an English major,” Keith huffed. “I can quite easily entertain myself with maladaptive daydreams.”

Lance pinched himself under the table.

Because there was no way, no f*cking way, that Keith Kogane just admitted to daydreaming about Lance for years.

“So,” Lance considered reaching for a napkin and Keith’s pen because he definitely needed to be taking notes, “this entire time. The whole trip—.”

“Yeah,” Keith exhaled.

Keith finally lifted up from his hands, sitting back in his chair and staring determinedly at the floor.

“I didn’t think that we would,” his ears turned red, “do, um, all that we did. I promise I didn’t, like, whisk you away to ravish you in a strange city.”

“I know that, Keith,” Lance said gently.

“And so,” Keith said quietly, “when we had that moment the other night, I was like, kinda imploding from how the guy I’ve had a thing for since I was eighteen apparently liked me back.”

Lance’s heart sank. “And then suddenly, you have a sister.”

Keith bit the corner of his lip.

“Yeah,” he whispered.

Lance leaned back in his seat. With that essential bit of information, it all started to come together.

He honestly couldn’t imagine it. Not only did Keith go through this absurdly emotional and taxing trip with the dude he had a crush on, but he also had his feelings reciprocated and then found out he had a random sister within twelve hours.

Lance would have probably exploded as well.

“And I’m not trying to excuse what I said!” Keith said urgently. “I just wanted to explain where my head was at.”

Keith reached over, his fingers brushing over Lance’s and he finally held Lance’s gaze.

“I am so incredibly sorry for what I said,” Keith said hoarsely, eyes bright with guilt. “I should have never spoken to you like that and I promise I never will again. I just—.”

“Exploded.”

“Exploded,” Keith repeated quietly.

Keith licked his lips.

“Trust me,” he said hesitantly, “when I say that I didn’t mean a single thing I said in the locker. I want your advice. I want you to guide me and tell me when I’m being an asshole and keep me on the ground when my head gets full of air.”

Keith pulled his hand away, and turned to look to the large windows. Lance allowed himself just a moment of admiring the curve of his nose, the cut of his jaw.

“I want you to call me babe,” he whispered.

Lance swallowed a startled gasp.

“You know,” Lance found himself saying. “I didn’t mean what I said either.”

Keith’s eyes fell on him, attentive and a little wary.

“You’re not intolerable,” Lance said weakly. “In fact, the opposite. You’re f*cking addicting, Keith.”

He huffed out a laugh as Keith blinked in surprise.

“And, obviously, I can’t stay away,” Lance whispered.

His words settled into Keith, relaxing him and causing Keith to smile as he looked down at his hands.

“I listened to your voicemail,” Keith said and Lance resisted a flinch remembering his absolute stumble of affection he left in Keith’s phone.

But Keith smiled at him so fondly that he couldn’t find any shame in it.

“I want to learn and live,” Keith breathed. “And maybe love as well.”

Keith let out a soft laugh, rubbing his eyes.

“It’s crazy,” he said, “because 2,251 miles seems like an impossibly long distance. It seems like it would wrap around the Earth a dozen times.”

And then he looked at Lance, eyes shining and hesitant.

“But it also feels incredibly short,” he breathed, “when that was all it took for me to completely fall in love with you.”

***

Keith watched Lance take in his words.

Watched them absorb through his skin, watched as his eyes widened just a fraction, lips parting as he stared at Keith as if he was a figment of his imagination.

Keith forced himself to sit there, to hold Lance’s gaze, to not run.

Because he was sick of running.

Exhausted of tucking forbidden thoughts away, of fleeing the first chance when things got to be Too Much, or feelings grew into Feelings.

Tired of letting his mouth run fast and ugly whenever he got panicked or scared.

It had grown into a piece of personality, his hideous, biting words and urge to flee had molded to him.

And it was time to stop the habit.

So he sat. And waited. And stayed.

Lance finally unfroze, mouth closing and blinking quickly. His smile was a little sheepish, a little sad.

“Keith,” he said softly. “Thank you, I—I’m—.”

Lance stopped, searching for the words.

Keith’s heart plummeted to his stomach and he tucked his hands under his thighs and kept himself from running.

“I’m almost there,” Lance finally said, grinning shyly at Keith. “I hope that’s okay.”

Keith’s mind went blank for a moment.

Because Lance McClain was almost in love with him.

He felt the confused communication between his brain and body, limbs still tense as his brain slowly realized that he wasn’t about to get rejected, he hadn’t ruined everything.

They were almost in love.

He would f*cking take it.

“That’s more than okay!” He said quickly. “Excellent, perfect, even.”

Lance’s grin widened as he let out a huff of a laugh.

God, we are dramatic.”

Lance sank back with a groan and Keith found himself giggling.

“I suppose,” Lance snickered, “that we couldn’t have talked about this, I don’t know, f*cking two days ago?”

Keith’s giggles turned into a full laugh and he lifted his hands from under his knees to cover his blushing face.

“No,” Lance forged on through his laughter. “We instead had to go to full mental warfare first. God forbid we f*cking communicate.”

Keith snorted. “I think I got caught on like three stoplight cameras speeding on the way here.”

That sent Lance into hysterics, laughing loud and bright as he dipped back his head, chest heaving.

“At least you have twenty-five grand to pay for tickets after chasing my dramatic ass,” Lance giggled.

Keith just grinned and grinned and grinned, staring at Lance as he laughed at their pure stupidity. His eyes sparkled with tears of mirth and his face was red and mouth open and laughing and, f*ck.

Keith was so hopelessly in love with him.

***

Neither of them were particularly interested in heading home that night. Once they left the airport, hands brushing against the other, shy and hesitant, Lance immediately looked for a new hotel.

There was no way they were returning to the one that had been a witness to the absolute disaster of the past twenty-four hours.

There would definitely be some bad vibes.

And so they trudged back to the van, Lance scrolling through hotel options and frowning at the fees. Then Keith rested his chin on Lance’s shoulder, scanning through the options.

“Choose somewhere nice,” he murmured in Lance’s ear, “I’ve got some money to burn and some things to make up for.”

Lance looked over to see Keith grinning rather slyly and his heart leapt.

So, uh.

That is how they ended up making a rather essential stop at a nearby general store.

And that is how they ended up at arguably one of the nicest hotels in Houston.

Personally, Lance was not all that interested in the grand chandeliers and gilded ceilings, but he mentally prepared himself to wait for Keith to admire his money that was quite well spent.

But as Keith grabbed Lance’s wrist and tugged him quickly to the elevators rather after they checked in, Lance had to work really hard to keep the pleased grin off his face.

The elaborate elevator doors opened and Lance balked at the f*cking doorman standing next to the buttons.

He looked expectantly at them. “What floor?”

Lance is pretty sure he heard a growl come from Keith’s throat.

“Um, eleven,” Lance said.

The two of them walked into the elevator and Lance immediately clocked that Keith was pouting.

He was glaring at the doors as they clicked shut, arms crossed as he sulked.

Lance was certainly glad to find out that Keith definitely planned to jump him in the elevator, and had to hide a snicker in a cough.

Keith’s eyes narrowed as the hotel employee desperately tried to mind his business.

The instant that the doors opened on their floor, Keith had his hand on Lance’s wrist again and was tugging him quickly to their room.

“Impatient, are we?” Lance asked with a growing smirk.

Keith shot an arched eyebrow his way. “And you aren’t?”

Lance couldn’t exactly rebut that.

The instant they were in their room, all stunning carpets and duvets rich in color, Keith had Lance up against the door and was kissing him as if he would disappear.

Lance responded enthusiastically, digging his hands into Keith’s hair and pulling him close to meet his mouth again and again.

But as quickly as they started, Keith pulled away, dropping to his knees so fast that Lance thought he was going to have a heart attack.

Lance leaned against the door for balance and watched as Keith made quick work of untying Lance’s shoes.

“Wha—,” Lance trailed off as Keith attacked his Vans, yanking at the laces with a speed that was honestly impressive.

“I’m not dealing with these later,” Keith huffed.

His eyes were dark as he looked back up at Lance, catching sight of Lance’s rather interested lower region.

His lips, already swollen from their kiss, twitched. “Sweatshirt off.”

Lance had never pulled off an article of clothing faster.

He had tossed his sweatshirt to be forgotten in a corner just as Keith rose from tugging off Lance’s shoes, pulling him into another kiss. Cool fingers slid up and down Lance’s bare chest and goosebumps rose from their touch.

They staggered back into the room, Lance kicking his suitcase to the side and throwing their earlier purchase to the nightstand.

Lance grabbed the ends of Keith’s shirt and tugged, only disconnecting their lips for a moment to chuck it onto the floor.

Keith was grinning now, as he hooked his fingers into the waistline of Lance’s sweatpants and tugged him towards the bed.

Lance followed Keith, eyes trailing up and down Keith’s torso.

“You are so f*cking hot.”

Keith chuckled. “We’ve discussed this already.”

“I know, but, like, just in case you forgot.”

“Trust me, I didn’t forget you calling me hot.”

Lance only had a moment to think oh yeah, this Greek god of a man is in love with me before Keith was kissing him again. His lips moved to Lance’s jaw, his collarbones, as his fingers found the drawstrings of Lance’s pants.

By the time that they collapsed into the bed, ripping the duvet up and over them, it was only bare skin and warmth between them.

Lance just kept kissing Keith, trying to remember every detail and the feeling of Keith’s chapped lips against his own.

But, as usual, Keith was one step ahead, reaching over and rifling through their plastic bag from the store. Lance accepted Keith’s shifting around, kissing his shoulder, neck, arm, wherever his lips could touch.

And then the new bottle of lube was placed in his hand.

Lance paused, looking between the bottle and Keith. Keith held his gaze evenly, the picture of calm as he lowered himself onto the bed.

“You want me to—.”

Keith looked unimpressed. “No, Lance, I want you to drink it.”

The dry sarcasm floated around the room and made Lance’s lips split into a wide grin. Keith being annoyed at him even considering their current scandalous predicament was so normal, so them, that Lance relaxed.

“Should I get started without you or—.”

Lance immediately clicked open the bottle and Keith was giggling as Lance leaned down to kiss him. He coated his fingers with the lube, rubbing them together to warm it, and he continued to kiss Keith over and over as he reached down.

Keith let out a soft hiss as Lance’s index finger pressed through, moving his hand from Lance’s shoulder to the sheets to stabilize himself.

“Are you alright?”

“More than alright,” Keith nodded. “I’m just a little rusty.”

Lance snorted. “Join the club, my guy. Pining will do that to you.”

“Do not call me ‘my guy’ when you are--,” Keith trailed off into a moan as Lance pushed further.

Keith’s chest rose and lowered quickly as his eyes fluttered shut, his pulse hammering through his wrist pressed against Lance’s neck.

“Okay,” Lance was trying to not absolutely choke on his heartbeat, “so we are doing this.”

“Um,” Keith’s eyes curiously darted to where Lance’s hand had absolutely hit unforeseen waters, “I think we already are.”

“Right, right,” Lance was nodding, couldn’t stop nodding, “I just—um— wanted to make sure that we were on the same page.”

Keith huffed a laugh, smiling up at him.

“Lance,” he whispered. “Breathe.”

And Lance did.

A couple times, in fact.

Steadied his breathing, steadied himself. Leaned down to kiss Keith to steady himself a bit more.

Keith smiled against his lips.

“Now,” he breathed, “think you could move?”

“Oh,” Lance blinked. “Right.”

With that, he curled his fingers and Keith let out a strangled gasp.

“Too much?”

No,” Keith’s hand dug into the sheets, twisting the fabric between his fingers. “More.”

A red flush have begun to creep down Keith’s chest, enveloping the toned muscles in pink. Lance stared.

“I can do more,” Lance breathed.

Tentatively, he began to curl and move his fingers, watching the ways that Keith gasped. Studying what made his eyelids flutter, his back arch.

And then Lance curled his fingers and Keith let out a choked moan, eyes rolling back as his grip in Lance’s hair tightened.

There.”

Lance nodded, he was nodding endlessly, and massaged the spot as Keith writhed and gasped. He got a little lost in the moment, staring down at Keith in absolute wonder. Gaping at his flushed cheeks and bitten lips, the beginnings of sweat clinging his bangs to his forehead.

Keith looked absolutely, ridiculously beautiful and all Lance could do was stare.

So it took him a second to realize that Keith had grabbed his wrist and was shaking his head.

“Wait,” Keith panted. “Hold on.”

Lance froze. “What? What?”

Keith let out a strangled laugh. “Nothing, Lance, f*cking relax.”

He beamed up at him, eyes dazed. And Keith had the f*cking audacity, the gall, to smirk.

“Just, we have condoms now.”

Lance short-circuited.

And then he was hauling ass, carefully removing his fingers as Keith let out a soft hiss, and scampering to the condom box sat on the nightstand.

Within seconds, he was back, ready, and lowering himself on top of Keith.

“Tell me if I need to stop or slow down.”

Keith rolled his eyes. “Lance, if you do not get inside me—.”

He cut himself off with a moan as Lance slowly pressed forward, eyes rolling as his hands scrambled for a hold on Lance’s shoulders.

And Lance—

Well, Lance had to really focus to not come then and there.

He swallowed his heartbeat, blood pounding in his ears as he pushed further, focusing on any hesitance, any hitch in Keith’s breath. He kept it slow, careful.

But, God forbid Keith ever slow anything down.

A mix of moans and irritated mumbles slurred together in Keith’s mouth as his ankle pressed into Lance’s back and he took matters into his own hands.

Lance’s face grew hot and his chest went tight as he was suddenly flush with Keith, their chests heaving together in unison.

Keith’s forehead pressed against his, his rapid breathing fluttering against Lance’s cheek.

Finally,” Keith breathed.

Finally.

And then Lance was moving, pushing and pressing and trying desperately to become one with Keith, running his hands over any warm, pale skin he could reach.

He found Keith’s lips, both of them more breathing into each other’s mouths than actually kissing, but it was enough.

Keith moaned into his mouth and Lance swallowed it greedily and tugged a thin ankle tighter around his hip and got closer and closer and closer and—

Keith’s sharp inhale came only a second before his, Keith clenching and stiffening causing Lance to see f*cking stars.

He dropped, pleasure ricocheting through his bloodstream as his lips slid down Keith’s neck, tasting the salt on his skin.

Keith was panting under him, fingers still locked in Lance’s hair as they tried to caught their breath.

After a moment, Lance pressed a kiss to Keith’s shoulder.

“And to think, we could have been doing that since freshman year.”

Keith’s laugh was just too delightful, too gorgeous, for Lance to not roll over on top of him again.

***

It was much later into the night, the evening edging into early morning, when Keith shifted in Lance’s arms.

They had showered hours ago, had tugged on a semblance of clothing and collapsed into the bed, exhausted and spent.

But Lance couldn’t sleep, staring up at the ceiling with Keith in his arms and reevaluating his life.

Lance knew that Keith was still awake, he had felt him drawing patterns into Lance’s palm that rested open next to him.

Keith rolled in Lance’s arms, the shirt of Lance’s that he borrowed tangling slightly in the mess of limbs, and pressed his forehead against Lance’s jaw.

A shaky breath fluttered against Lance’s neck. There was a soft click as Keith swallowed.

“Acxa Kogane,” Keith whispered.

Please, just say her name out loud.

Lance’s eyes slowly slid shut and he pulled Keith closer to him.

“Acxa Kogane,” Keith repeated, voice wobbling as he tasted the words, saw how they felt. “My sister.”

Acknowledge her existence, and see how you feel.

“Half-sister, but,” Keith’s voice was quiet, “that doesn’t matter.”

Lance pressed his lips to Keith’s hair, squeezing Keith as he began to tremble.

“I have a sister,” Keith breathed, stumbling through the words, the very fact that had torn in him and ripped them apart only a day ago.

And then Keith out a shaky breath, and another, and another until they slurred into hitched breaths and finally tears.

And Lance held him all the way through it.

***

“Rock, paper, scissors?”

Keith scoffed from where he was stuffing Lance’s suitcase into the backseat. “No.”

“No?"

“Yeah,” Keith said as he hefted his backpack next. “No.”

“You can’t just refuse to do it!” Lance argued. “Those aren’t the rules.”

“You’ve been inventing rules for the entire week.”

“Of course I have,” Lance crossed his arms. “It was my way of courting you. Like how birds flutter their wings and dance around in a weird bird strip-tease.”

Keith let out an interested hum from where he was bent over rearranging their bags. “I’d love to see you do a strip-tease.”

Lance let out a scandalized gasp as Keith chuckled. He straightened and turned to face Lance with a smile, eyes shining.

He yanked the car door shut and leaned against it, nodding at Lance. “Let’s see it.”

“What?”

Keith was growing more and more amused. “Your strip-tease for the keys.”

And Lance was never one to back down from a challenge.

It was only when he began practically gyrating against the hood of the van that Keith swore under his breath and tossed Lance the keys, blushing furiously.

They slid into the van that carried them 2,251 miles, and Lance prayed that it could do it again.

He reached for his phone, keying in the directions to the nearest Starbucks until Keith stopped him.

“No, uh,” Keith’s lips tilted into an embarrassed smile. “I actually know one we can stop at.”

Lance’s eyebrows lifted in interest. “Oh really?”

“Yeah,” Keith scratched his nose, hiding his smile. “I actually have a barista or two that I need to update about our saga.”

Lance broke into a grin. “You talked to baristas? Without me?”

“I’m sure I’ll do it again,” Keith sighed as he clicked his seatbelt.

He looked up, and smiled at Lance.

“You ready?”

Lance grinned. “One more thing.”

He lifted his phone and tilted the screen to show both of them.

“Say Lance is a sex god!”

Keith laughed and Lance managed to snap it. He captioned it, sent it off to the masses, and then turned on the ignition.

He took Keith’s hand in his, squeezed, and then shifted to drive.

Hour one of day seven: we are headed home.

Notes:

Ngl I got a little emotional working on this chapter. After this, there will be a cute epilogue and then 2,251.5 Miles will be done which is bonkers to think about.

(Also next week is about to be INSANE and I will be busy pretty much all weekend and so I hope to be able to update on time next weekend but we shall see? If it's late just know that I'm as annoyed about it as y'all are lol)

I hope that you all enjoyed it!

Chapter 10: Three Months Later (The Boys Deserve an Epilogue)

Notes:

omg im SO sorry about how late this is. Last weekend was even crazier than I predicted and right when I planned to sit down and write this chapter, I was struck with the plague. Literally was almost positive I got c*vid but THANK GOD it was simply just a head cold worthy of Satan himself. I was so ill physically and mentally and I wanted to be in the right headspace to finish this sucker off so here we are.

Thank you all for reading :)

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

“Honey, I’m home!” Lance hollered as he kicked the door to Keith’s apartment shut behind him.

When he didn’t hear the answering grumble, normally along the lines of you don’t even live here or split the rent, then, Lance smiled to himself.

The silence following his entrance meant Keith was Writing again.

There was a difference between writing and Writing.

Because writing meant that Keith was jotting ideas on a notepad, organizing his thoughts or chapters and aware enough of the universe around him to curl up with Lance on the couch and nod along with Lance’s dramatic recount of his day.

But Writing was when Keith was dead to the world, only focused on his growing document.

Lance dropped the takeout bag on the counter, kicked off his Vans, and trudged through the small kitchen to the even smaller hallway.

He rounded the corner and, sure enough, Keith was Writing.

The notes of The Trapeze Swinger floated lazily from the turntable in the corner of Keith’s bedroom, meeting unhearing ears as Keith sat hunched in front of his computer.

An iMac, one of the few things that Keith actually splurged on with the twenty-five thousand dollars gifted to him back in Houston.

(Lance had been quite the advocate for it, dropping to his knees in the Apple Store and begging Keith to buy it because the red one was so sexy. His antics had been just embarrassing enough that Keith quickly bought it so they could leave the store.)

Lance leaned against the doorway, watching as Keith mumbled under his breath as his fingers flew over the keyboard.

He openly studied the planes of Keith’s back, his shoulders, the messy bun of dark hair tied at the crown of his hair. He unabashedly admired, because he was allowed to now.

Back in March, when they returned to college and normal life, Keith had rattled off a brief synopsis of his spring break in one of his English classes. The class quickly turned into his slack jawed professor and peers demanding him to retell every second of the 2,251 miles.

(Keith, obviously, left a couple scandalous details out.)

But just the bones, the skeleton of a tale of traveling across the country to clean out a storage locker of a mysterious and absent mother all while finding love along the way, was enough for his professor to pull him aside after class.

And tell him that there was certainly a memoir in that.

So Keith got to writing. Fired off a manuscript, a basic retelling, and emailed it to his professor. His professor sent it to a couple friends of his in publishing.

And Keith’s world promptly grew a lot larger.

With a publishing deal already set in place, Keith began to write his first book, perfecting the too-true story into something that would be read by an uncountable amount of people.

And Lance was indescribably proud.

The spinning record stilled, a soft static emitting from the turntable. Lance pushed himself off the doorframe, crossing to the other side of the room. He flipped the record and started it over. Keith didn’t react to the movement, or the music that spun from the vinyl.

Chuckling under his breath, Lance came forward and wrapped his arms around Keith.

Keith’s shoulders tensed, before relaxing.

“Honey, I’m home,” Lance whispered into his boyfriend’s ear.

Keith hummed as Lance kissed his cheek. “If you’re home, put your name on the lease.”

Lance grinned against Keith’s jaw. There he was.

His eyes went to the open document. “Where are we?”

He spotted the title of the chapter and grinned.

The Time Where I was a Complete Idiot and Almost Refused 25 Grand,” Lance read out loud. “I hope you took extreme caution in describing the dashing hero that forced you to take it.”

“Of course,” Keith said mildly. “I described Clyde in explicit detail.”

Lance let out a dramatic gasp as Keith snickered.

No longer lost in his Writing, Keith leaned back in Lance’s arms in order to look up at him. He was wearing his glasses and Lance died a little at the sight of those tired violet-gray eyes warming at the sight of him.

Keith smiled softly. “Hi.”

Lance grinned and pecked his lips. “Hello, sweet prince.”

Keith grimaced against Lance’s mouth and Lance briefly considering shoving his tongue into Keith’s mouth just to be a bit of an asshole, but he decided against it.

After all, he was hoping for it to go the other way around a bit later.

“I brought food,” Lance said as he pulled away.

Keith hummed, leaning his head against Lance’s shoulder. “Thai?”

“Of course,” Lance arched an eyebrow. “I’m assuming you haven’t eaten today.”

“No, I—.”

“Coffee isn’t a meal.”

Keith puckered his lips at Lance’s retort.

Lance rolled his eyes, stepping back and stretching. “You would have shriveled up in the corner of your room by now if it wasn’t for me.”

Keith was already nodding, already turning back to his computer. “Like a raisin.”

Lance snorted. Keith always tended to speak in figurative language when he was Writing.

“Well, I’m going to take a shower,” Lance said pointedly.

Keith typed away at his computer.

“In your bathroom.”

Typing and typing.

“Just me, my bare ass, and suds.”

Type type type.

Lance shook his head with a wry smile and trudged to the bathroom. Keith was lucky that when his head left the clouds and was back on Earth, he was a hell of a good boyfriend.

Lance stripped and slipped into the shower, eyeing Keith’s absolute lack of decent body washes and shampoos with a sigh of disappointment (he could have at least used a bit of that 25 grand to finance some proper skin care product) and turned the shower scalding.

While Lance was scrubbing away the long day, trying to decide which one of Keith’s products he would dare to use, he heard the sound of the bathroom door creaking open.

The sound of sweatpants being hastily shucked off caused a sh*t-eating grin to slowly cross Lance’s face.

It seems as if Keith finally registered his words.

He turned to the shower head, innocently humming as the shower curtain swished open and shut. Calloused fingers greedily found Lance’s hips before he was turned and met with his boyfriend’s mouth.

Lance grinned against Keith’s lips. “Welcome back to Earth, babe.”

“Sorry,” Keith mumbled. “I was trying to remember exactly what you said in Clyde’s office.”

“Well, I’d be happy to reenact,” Lance ended with a sigh as Keith pressed their bodies together.

“Please do,” Keith murmured as his lips found the divot in Lance’s neck.

Lance hummed, combing his fingers lazily through Keith’s dampening hair. “There was a lot of jaw dropping and hand flapping involved.”

“Mmhmm,” Keith’s teeth skirted against Lance’s collarbone.

“I think I threatened to cash it for you.”

Keith nodded. “And?”

Lance was trying to remember, but it was getting increasingly difficult considering Keith now had a handful of his ass.

“Um,” Lance’s mind went blank as Keith trailed his lips up his neck. “Grad school?”

Lance’s weak attempt of recalling was stopped short by Keith’s lips finding his again.

It was quite a long shower.

***

It was much later into the evening that Keith finally finished Writing for the night.

Lance was curled up on the couch, working on a research paper. He probably would force Keith to read it over, and use his body to pay him back later.

You know, goods and services.

The sound of quiet feet padding along the wood floor was Lance’s only warning to push his laptop to the side before Keith clambered in its former spot.

Lance grinned as Keith sunk into his arms, resting his chin on the top of the dark mullet. “Well, hello there.”

Keith hummed a reply, playing with the drawstrings of Lance’s hoodie. His eyes were thoughtful, considering, as he chewed on his lip. Lance, as always, waited.

But Lance was never terribly good with silence, especially with a quiet and fidgety boyfriend in his lap, so he rather quickly cleared his throat.

“Once I finish this paper, would you mind reading it over? Just to make sure it’s not complete shi—.”

“I think I’m ready.”

Lance stopped short, registering Keith’s soft words. It took a moment to process, to look down to see Keith staring determinedly at the wall, his fingers twisting the drawstring.

Lance paused, running a hand down Keith’s back. “You are?”

Keith nodded slowly, eyes still far away.

Lance let the quiet creep in once more, waiting for Keith to blink back to the present and retreat. This had to be the fifth or sixth time he had edged towards the idea before quickly backtracking.

But this time, he didn’t. He still looked at something Lance couldn’t see, something in the past, something that was once in a now empty storage container.

Lance pressed his lips to Keith’s hair. “You still have the number in your phone?”

Keith nodded.

The number had sat there for months, gathering cobwebs in Keith’s contacts.

Slowly, with hands shaking ever so slightly, Keith pulled his phone from his pocket. He stared at it for a moment and Lance tightened his grip on him.

“You don’t have to—.”

“I want to,” Keith cut in firmly. “I—I need to.”

Lance didn’t bother responding, because he knew Keith was right.

Keith was a writer, nearly a published author, sat in the arms of a boyfriend that loved him more than he originally thought possible. He was in a nice apartment, an accepted letter to a nearby grad school tucked somewhere in the pristine furnishing. He was happy and accomplished and finally getting all that he deserved.

But there was one snag, one loose thread that was begging to be pulled.

So Lance didn’t respond, just held Keith tight as he opened his phone, found the number and dialed.

Keith bit down hard on his lip as he held the phone to his ear, shaking like a leaf in Lance’s arms.

Lance heard the call connect and the barest hint of a female voice echo in Keith’s ear.

Panicked, Keith looked to Lance. Lance held his gaze and smiled encouragingly.

Keith swallowed.

“Is this Acxa Kogane?” Keith asked, voice hoarse.

Lance didn’t even hear the confirmation but he could see it in Keith’s face, the way he gripped the phone tighter and sank deeper into Lance’s arms.

“Um, hi,” Keith let out a shaky laugh. “I have quite the story for you.”

Notes:

Wow. I cannot believe that over two months ago I was like "huh, what if Keith and Lance had to go on this bizarre road trip lol" and now we have this 45k monster. This was so much fun to write and I am so happy that I got to share it with you all. I'm not sure when I will write a multi-chapter fic again, life is about to get a little crazy (aka new job, moving, all the works) but be sure to catch the fun and fresh little one-shots I will write!

Again, thank you, thank you, thank YOU!

2251.5 Miles - heavily_caffeinated - Voltron: Legendary Defender [Archive of Our Own] (2024)
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