Lance was a touchy person, Keith had noticed.
Whether it be a hand on your shoulder in passing or a pat on the knee as he laughed with you, he tended to be touchy-feely with his friends.
Keith, however, was not one of those friends.
No, Lance kept Keith at arms length for the most part. In combat they were often forced into tight knit situations, and when arguing they would get in each other's faces. But it wasn't the same.
It wasn't Lance's carefree arm being thrown over Hunk's shoulder as they laughed. It wasn't his hand ruffling Pidge's hair when he called her a nerd. It wasn't his elbow being nudged Shiro's way when he made a particularly bad joke. It wasn't his light, good natured punches on Coran's arm when they talked. It wasn't his hand on Allura's back while he tried —and failed— to flirt.
It wasn't that Keith and Lance hadn't bonded, or that they couldn't stand being around each other. They had a rough start, sure, but Keith had thought things had changed after Lance had said that they made a good team. The two of them still argued and competed, but there wasn't any bite to it anymore. They still had this sort of tension, a feeling that Keith couldn't quite place, but they could joke now. Icy insults melted into a more good-natured kind of teasing. Lance would even smile at him sometimes! (It was more of a challenging smirk, but still.) They worked well together, and their bickering was fun in an odd sort of way. They were getting along, as well as their contrasting personalities could.
But none of it changed the fact that Lance never touched him in the same friendly, casual way he did everyone else. And Keith couldn't figure out why. Was it his own fault? Did he think that Keith hated him? Had he done something, said something that turned the other boy away? Or was he overthinking the whole thing and did Lance not even realize what he himself was doing?
It made the red paladin want to tear his hair out. What started as a passing thought turned into a riddle to solve. Why wouldn't Lance get close to him like he got close to the others?
Lance was stuck in his head and the more Keith thought about it, the more wanted it. He'd never wanted something like this before, never been so wrapped up in the idea of a person. But there he was, chest aching and stomach rolling. He longed for gentle touches; for a reassuring pat and a shoulder to lay on, for fingers in his hair and a hand to hold, for lips brushed against his. He wanted intimacy.
Keith knew he had a crush, but he had no clue when it started. He wasn't sure if these feelings were new or not, if they had come out of the blue or always been there, in the back of his mind.
Still, the red paladin was the only one of their small crew who was left out of Lance's touch, and he was starting to get a little mad about it. The boy drove him crazy, but he couldn't get enough.
'I'm being ridiculous.' Keith reasoned with himself as he struck the training robot, dodged, then struck again.
All of Keith's frustrations were taken out on the training deck. It was his own little safe haven that was usually empty save for himself. He was free to let go of whatever was weighing on his mind. And boy was his current problem weighing him down.
"Stupid Lance." The teenager muttered angrily. He slid under the robot's legs to hit it from behind.
"With his dumb smile..." But the robot was quick. It turned its torso around while its lower half stood in place and clashed its sword with Keith's.
"Stupid Lance." He muttered angrily. He slid under the robot's legs to hit it from behind.
The sound drowned out all of Keith's thoughts. He could focus again, breathe again. He couldn't risk dwelling on his emotions for too long, because when he felt, he felt like a raging fire. Sooner or later, it would consume him.
"And his pretty eyes." Their swords pushed against each other tensely, rivaling each other's strength. Keith glared into the soulless eyes of the drone and took a deep breath. He pushed hard against the robot before ducking down and out of the way. He composed himself in time for their swords to meet again; the sound clanged at every slash and clash of their weapons.
The sound drowned out all of Keith's thoughts. He could focus again. He couldn't risk dwelling on his emotions for too long, because when he felt, he felt like a raging fire. Sooner or later, it would consume him.
"Could you grunt a little louder?" Came a voice.
Keith spun his head to find the culprit of the noise looking straight at him from the door with his aforementioned dumb smile and pretty eyes.
"Uh..." Keith said smartly.
The red paladin was sat on the floor as he wiped the sweat off of his face with his shirt, chest heaving. He heard steps coming towards him and looked up to see his bayard being handed to him by the intruder.
After aimlessly running around, Keith decided that he was too distracted to finish. "End training sequence." He said with a sigh.
Keith gave a noncommittal grunt as he took his weapon back with an unnecessary amount of force. Lance's eyebrows quirked up as he raised his hands to a surrendering pose. "Jeez, man, just trying to be nice."
Keith couldn't help but roll his eyes at the boy, but he also couldn't help the upwards twitch of his lips. "Oh yeah, thanks so much, Lance. What would I have ever done without you here?" He responded.
"Glad to know I'm appreciated." Lance chirped. And, instead of offering to help Keith up, he plopped down across from him on the cold deck floor.
At this distance Keith could get a good look at his teammate. He was wearing his usual clothes; his comfy looking, baggy jacket and skinny jeans accentuating his absurdly long legs. He was looking at Keith with expectant eyes —had they always been so blue?— and Keith scrunched his brows together in response. Lance seeking Keith out like this was... odd the say the least. He was usually around Hunk or Pidge. He was friends with those two, really friends.
'Are the two of us friends?' Keith wondered as they continued their impromptu staring contest. He hesitated to call them friends. They saw each other every single day, but that was well out of their control. Friends chose to hang out, they sought each other out. Did it really count if there was no one else to pick from?
Lance's feet tapped back and forth impatiently and it was only then that Keith remembered to speak. "What?" He drew out, his voice raised a few octaves skeptically.
Lance gave him an incredulous look. "What do you mean, "What?" I'm just sitting here, man."
"I mean, what-" He quickly gestured between the two of them with an exasperated sigh, "-what is this? We don't hang out, man. Everyone else busy?"
The boy in front of him laughed messily, and by all accounts it wasn't a very attractive laugh, but Keith's treacherous brain still found it to be cute. "Maybe I was looking to shake things up, I can't afford to have my rival surpassing me."
Ah, of course, rivals. That's what they were. Not friends. Could they be both? Keith wanted to be both, but he had no idea how to breach the topic. "Friends" wasn't something Keith had done much of before, and he couldn't pretend that "friendship" was all he wanted from this boy. He wanted much, much more than friendship.
"Though," Lance started, an infuriating grin plastered across his face, "t doesn't seem like I had to be worried."
The words took a few deafening moments to sink in. "You!" Keith's voice cracked and he pressed a finger in Lance's direction. "You distracted me!"
"I had everything under control until you came in and ruined it all." Keith said, trying to keep his voice level.
Keith let out a frustrated sigh. He could never win with this boy.
Keith let out a frustrated sigh. Leave it to Lance to change of the mood of the room at a moment's notice, for better or for worse. And even now, as they bickered, his heartbeat picked up the pace, his face flushed, his hands grew clammy. He could never win with this boy. "I'm taking a shower." Keith blurted out as he pushed up off the deck floor and made a beeline to the hallway.
"Good thing, 'cause you reek, pretty boy!" Lance yelled playfully down the corridor.
Keith sped up, and as he put more and more distance between the two of them, he wondered for the second time if he was the one at fault for their tense non-friendship. Maybe he was blaming Lance for no good reason. He groaned. He could never win with this boy.