[identity profile] tierfal.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] tierfallen
Title: With Fries
Fandom: Voltron: Legendary Defender
Characters/Pairing: Lance, Hunk, & Pidge with low-key Shiro/Keith and Lance hate!crushin' on the mullet
Rating: PG
Word Count: 5,390
Warnings: pointless modern!AU; Lance is my favorite dweeb in the history of dweebness
Summary: This summer gig could be worse, but only if it made a concerted effort and believed in itself and wished upon a star.
Author's Note: Hello, Voltron fandom; my name is Tierfal, and I like modern!AUs, stupid puns, and sassy space children. :'D


Another day, another dance with the deep-fryer.

Lance is getting fast as all heck with the register, though—his first day here, the sea of keys was huge and foreign, and he didn’t know that the Coke button sticks, but the Root Beer button’s hypersensitive, and he was charging stuff nine kinds of wrong.  The challenge of serving two sides of the counter at once—that is, the people who come to the walk-up window that faces the parking lot, plus the patrons who sit down indoors, both of whom are ordering from the same register from different angles so that you have to manage the traffic on the fly—initially sent his brain into a spiral of terror.

He is proud to proclaim that now, just two weeks into this crap excuse for a summer job, he’s an absolute freakin’ whiz with this stuff, and he bends this register to his customer-service-oriented will on the regular.  These days, even the bug-eye-sunglasses-clad soccer moms in their tragic Porsche SUVs can’t faze him when he takes the Lance Stance in front of the keys.  He is a magician.  He is a miracle-worker.  He is a machine.

He is really, really hoping that the person who just pulled into their dangerously tiny parking lot on a goshdarn motorcycle is not who he thinks it is.  Logically, given the Murphy-mandated legalities that govern Lance’s basic existence, there’s pretty much a zero percent chance that the worst-case scenario isn’t about to unfold, but maybe—maybe just this once—

The guy on the bike pops his helmet off and shakes his head vigorously, which sends dramatic dark hair fluttering everywhere.

Dramatic, mullet-y dark hair.

“Oh, no,” Lance says.  “Hunk, would you pinch me?”

“Can’t,” Hunk says.  “Health code.  We’re almost out of gloves.  What happened?”

“It hasn’t happened yet,” Lance says, which is true for the next twenty seconds or so.  “It’s currently happening.  Oh, God, this is the end.  The end.  The Mulletpocalypse.  The Mullet Rapture.  The…”

“You are the biggest drama queen I have ever met,” Pidge says.  “And half of my friends do theater.”

“Amateurs,” Lance says.  “My life is theater.”

Pidge has somehow managed to make eye-rolling an audible event, which is even more impressive given how loud the fry oil is.  “I noti—”

“Hey, man,” Lance says, heart in his throat, to the worst possible specimen of all of the seven billion humans on Earth who could walk up to the window right now—with the possible exception of, like, Vladimir Putin, maybe.  “How’s it going?”

Keith, super-swish red-and-white helmet dangling from one hand, blinks like Lance just got him and Putin mixed up and greeted him in Russian.

“Hi,” Keith says.  “Do I know you?”

Lance stares at him.

Keith stares back.

Yes,” Lance says.  “We were—we were on the lacrosse team together for an entire year.”

Technically, it was only about half a year, because of the length of the season and whatever, and then Keith graduated, but that still totally counts.

Semantics aside, Keith is blinking again.  Maybe he wears contacts, and one slipped.  Yeah.  He totally knows who Lance is; the recognition is just about to dawn, bright and clear a—

“Are you sure?” Keith asks.  “You look… a little… familiar, but I think I’d remember if—”

“You passed to me like a million times!” Lance says.  Well.  Four.  And two of those were during the finals game.  “Come on!”

“Uh,” Keith says, shifting his weight and swinging the helmet a little, “sorry.  Sorry…” He glances quickly down at the stupid little embroidered name-tag on Lance’s stupid red polo shirt.  “…Lano… Oh—Lance.  Sorry, Lance.”

Pidge’s elbow makes first contact with Lance’s arm.  Low on his arm, because Pidge is so short that lawn gnomes sometimes feel a sense of kinship, but it jars him out of the haze of uncomprehending distress, which was presumably the point.

“No problem,” Lance says, because customer freakin’ service doesn’t care if you’re dying on the inside.  “So what can I get for you tonight?”

Keith—who is, let it be known across the land and maybe the internet and probably the ears of anyone Lance can get to listen, a monster—is apparently in the mood for a burger (no sauce, no pickles, no tomato, but extra ketchup, which for the record makes as much sense as forgetting your own damn teammates), a Dr. Pepper, and a large order of fries.

Maybe Lance will make him a milkshake, on the house.  And then “accidentally” dump it down his stupid-awesome leather jacket, so that he’ll have to ride all the way home on his stupid-awesome motorcycle smelling like whatever strawberry-flavor interacting with leather smells like, and no amount of tossing his stupid-nice hair around will help him to forget the act of unspeakable cruelty that he just committed without so much as a—

“Number fifty-four,” Lance says into the little goose-neck mic.  When you hold it the right way, you can almost imagine you’re tightening your fist around somebody’s throat.  Usually Lance reserves that for the people who call in an order and then show up and ask for something different than what they said on the phone, but tonight he’s making an exception.  “Number fifty-four, your order’s ready.”

Keith looks up with an expression so disarmed and surprised and whatever that you’d almost believe that he hasn’t sensed Lance glaring dozens of poisoned daggers at him for the past eight and a half minutes while Hunk assembled the extremely illogical burger as perfectly as possible, and Pidge won another minor war with the fryer.  The jerk of the freaking hour stands up from where he was leaning against his bike like it’s just what you do when you’re waiting for your food, not something that makes you look like a flipping movie star who got seriously lost en route to Hollywood, and wanders back over to the window.

“That’s mine,” he says, holding up his receipt for good measure.

“Sure is,” Lance says, because stupid freaking customer service.  He pops a lid onto the medium Dr. Pepper, rolls up the top of the paper bag that the burger and the fries went into, and plants one hand on the back side of each to propel them through the gap in the window towards Keith.  “All the condiments are on your left.”

“Cool,” Keith says, grabbing an entire handful of ketchup—even though he asked for extra on the burger; what’s wrong with him?—and several salt packets along with his bag.  “Thanks, L… Lance.  Right?”

Lance grinds his teeth so hard that his dentist probably sits up in a cold sweat halfway across town.  “That’s right.”

“Awesome,” Keith says.

And it’s not enough that he’s oblivious to the existence of other people who went out of their way for an entire season-but-basically-a-year to support him.  It’s not enough that he’s got stupid hair and a stupid motorcycle and a stupid leather jacket and stupid shiny boots.  It’s not enough that he turns up out of the blue, after finally escaping the wretched confines of their high school, looking super cool and successful and all that crap.

He’s also got the single cutest little genuinely grateful smile of any human being Lance has ever met.

That’s not fair.

That’s not right.

“Have a nice night,” Keith says.

“You, too,” Lance says.

And he means it.

That’s the worst part.

If it was possible to use grease as an incense infuser thing and create a calming ambience, this place would be the hottest hippie ticket in town, because the air is thick with it in here.  But it isn’t.  So it just means that Pidge has gotten really good at pushing glasses up with the back of a wrist instead of a finger, because everything gets a little slippery a couple hours into your shift.

“So you know him?” Pidge asks.

“I think ‘know’ has to be mutual,” Hunk says.  “So… maybe not.”

“So you stalked him?” Pidge asks.

“Oh, my God,” Lance says.  “I did not stalk him.  We were literally on the same team for months.  I was, like, three lockers down.”  They have a milkshake on the next order, so he edges behind Pidge and Hunk to the machine, shoves a cup under the spout, and slams the lever down.  The strawberry flavor kind of sucks compared to chocolate anyway; serves whoever ordered this right.  “We sat on the bench together one time.  I mean, mostly he was on the field, obviously; and mostly I was on the bench watching him on the field, but what a freaking… jerk.”  He smacks the lever back up, fits a lid on, and brings it back to set on the counter by the register to wait for the rest of the order.  “What a huge, lame, mullet-headed jerk.  What kind of a lousy captain forgets about his own wonderful, devoted, supportive, charismatic, generous, humble teamma—hi, there; what can I get for you tonight?”

The woman and her kids who just walked up to the window don’t seem to take any notice of the fine rant they just interrupted, but apparently Pidge does, because as soon as Lance gets the family’s order in, and they go sit down on the nearby bench to wait:

“If he’s such a jerk, why do you care?”

“Because I hate him,” Lance says.  “He’s so flipping cool without even trying.  He doesn’t even care.  It’s like he’s doing it for the sole purpose of rubbing it in my face that his coolness factor outweighs mine by a factor of ten, and he’s not even going to do anything with it.”

“Have you ever thought,” Pidge says, “that maybe if you didn’t try so hard, you’d get a lot closer to your weird and arbitrary standards of ‘coolness’ right off the bat?”

“I can’t afford a motorcycle,” Lance says, gesturing towards the now-empty but still-indicative parking space Keith left.  “If I could afford a motorcycle, I’d be out revving the engine at stoplights when there’re hot chicks in sundresses walking by, not bumming around here with you nerds.”

He tries to tear a little leftover corner of receipt paper off of the machine to punctuate the point, only it gets stuck, and he ends up having to tussle with it, and then it twists up enough that it’s too structurally sound for him to rip at this angle, and… he gives up.

“I like bumming around here with you guys,” Hunk says.  He flips four patties in succession, with a precision so attentive it verges on tenderness.  “I mean, it’s still food service, but at least we’re all in it together, right?”

“The three extremely disgruntled burger-making musketeers,” Pidge says.

“And it’s definitely not as bad as last summer,” Hunk says.  “With your theme park job.”

Hunk has an unfortunate habit of always looking on the bright side, and an even more unfortunate habit of almost always being right.  The theme park job freakin’ sucked—the drive was lousy; the parking was lousier; the hours were terrible; and said hours were spent almost exclusively inside an awful oil- and flavor-fluid-splattered kiosk with only the flimsy plastic awning overhead for protection from the sun.  The kids were grabby and smarmy and generally an inspiring free substitute for a birth-control ad, and listening to the inevitable cycle of screaming and the same two-minute theme music from the surrounding rides for hours at a time was enough to drive even the stablest of mature young men to the very brink of madness.

Also, after the first week, Lance had kept a tiny whiteboard to use as an incident counter, and the Days Since a Belligerent Dad Threw Unsatisfactory Junk Food Back in My Face tally never got over five.

“I just want this stupid summer to be over,” Lance says when the flashbacks finally spare him of skin-crawling reminiscences long enough for him to check their next order and cross the kitchen to start on another milkshake—chocolate this time.  “We’re finally gonna be seniors, Hunk.  We’re gonna rule the school!”

“I don’t know if I’m ready for that kind of responsibility,” Hunk says.  “I really don’t have any qualifications to govern a body of people, even if it’s just high schoolers.”  He gestures somewhat ambiguously with a piece of lettuce before laying it gently onto the next in-progress hamburger.  “And how are we going to rule it?  Is it going to be like a constitutional monarchy?  We have to have a vote.  If we try to stage a coup out of nowhere, there’ll be a revolt, and then who knows where we’re gonna end up.  Guillotine, probably.”

“That was a fascinating logical roller coaster,” Pidge says.

“Thanks,” Hunk says.

“Please don’t remind me about roller coasters,” Lance says.

“Sorry,” Pidge and Hunk say in unison.

Lance blinks at Hunk, whose bangs are slowly unfurling their way free of the stupid red standard-issue snapback.  “Why are you sorry?”

“I dunno,” Hunk says.  “Just in general.”

“Don’t be sorry,” Lance says.  “Be unapologetically yourself, even when it’s obnoxious.  It’s the only way to live.”

Hunk looks skeptical but receptive, which is an expression he should probably trademark at this point.  “Yeah?”

“It is one hundred and fifty billion percent how I roll,” Lance says.

“That explains a lot,” Pidge says.

As freaking figures in Lance’s tragically infelicitous little life, Keith turns out to be a regular.

Every Tuesday night right at eight fifteen, his stupid mulleted ass—not that his ass, which is an unfortunately nice ass, has a mullet; his head has the mullet, but it’s a metaphorical thing—rumbles into the parking lot, slides into the semi-legal not-really-a-spot right in front of the dumpster, toes the kickstand down, pops his helmet off, and shakes his hair loose like he’s in a darn shampoo commercial.  Not even a good one—the kind that comes up on YouTube unexpectedly right in the middle of your video, with bad sound balancing, so that it’s really loud compared to whatever you were watching.  And there’s a lot of weird floral imagery and a bad jingle, and the product is probably overpriced anyway.

Keith always orders the same tomato-phobic but ketchup-philic burger and a giant thing of fries.  Which is bizarre, because he also wears really tight pants, so even if Lance didn’t have some hazy recollections of stuff you’re not supposed to pay attention to in the locker room, he’d know that Keith isn’t storing an ounce of fat after plowing through this meal every single week.

After week four, Lance just stops asking for the specifics and plugs the whole thing in the register in advance, like a phone order, so that Keith’s bag of goodies will be ready and waiting when he roars up at a quarter after eight.  Admittedly, turning this place into a motorcycle drive-through for the likes of a lousy ex-captain is a really, really stupid way to get vindictive revenge, since it just makes Keith’s life easier in the long run, but Lance gets to furiously scribble TECTWTMBWIHSUFH on the receipt stapled to the bag every time.

“What the heck does that mean?” Pidge asks once upon an eight thirteen-and-a-half.

The Eighties Called, They Want Their Mullet Back, Why Is He Still Unreasonably Frigging Hot,” Lance says.  He rolls up the top of the bag.  “Obviously.”

Pidge looks at him for a second, eyes narrowing slightly.  “But Keith is a guy.”

“He is,” Lance says.

Pidge’s eyes narrow a little more.  “I thought you were the self-proclaimed ‘biggest and most accomplished ladies man in the recorded history of this sad excuse for a town’.”

“I am,” Lance says.  “But it’s a mathematical thing—once you’ve struck out with every single girl at the high school twice each, you have to expand your options.”

“Some of them three times,” Hunk says.

“The point is,” Lance says, “that broadening your horizons can be a beautiful and transformative experience that doubles your potential dating pool at the critical moment that you’re about to start as a senior and really need more people to hit on.”

“Is the weather nice?” Pidge asks.

Lance pauses, then sticks his head into the hole in the window where the food goes through to see if anything’s changed outside.  “Uh… it’s okay.”

“No,” Pidge says.  “I meant in the strange little world where you live.”

Lance says “What?” at the same moment Hunk gasps, “Savage.”

Which probably sums it up, really.

What a stupid job.

Even stupider is the fact that, because he has a car, and they all live within a three-mile radius of each other, he always feels obligated to drive Hunk and Pidge back home after they’ve scrubbed down the stupid grills and the tables and the counters and the fryer and the walls and… Lance doesn’t even remember what else.  It’s all an elbow-greasy and regular-greasy blur.

The upshot is, as is usually the case when they have to close, it’s ten o’clock by the time they finally escape their fry-filled, kitschy prison, and Pidge is too tired to be especially sassy.

“I wish I could afford a motorcycle,” Lance says, gazing sadly at a stoplight.  “I don’t remember Keith being super rich or anything—how can he afford that?”

“Maybe he’s been saving money by not getting haircuts for, like, ten years,” Hunk says.

“Are gloves without the fingers on them cheaper?” Pidge asks from the backseat.  “It’d make sense.”

“They’re not,” Lance says.  “They’re more expensive.”

“Capitalism is terrifying,” Pidge mutters.  “Thanks, Obama.”

“Right?” Lance says.  “How can he afford those, too?  Do you think he’s a drug dealer?”

“It would explain how he eats all those fries by himself,” Hunk says slowly.  “If he’s sort of perpetually got the munchies.”

Lance smacks his clenched fist against the steering wheel.  “I bet that’s it.  Crushed by his failure to parlay his lacrosse skills into a career in sports, he went immediately to the streets and started selling massive quantities of weed, and then he bought a motorcycle, and don’t you get arrested if you drive while you’re high?  And aren’t motorcycles kind of hard to drive to start with?  Man, that must take some skill.”

“Partly melodramatic,” Pidge mumbles, head leaned against the window.  “With an eighty percent chance of hyperbole.”

“What?” Lance says.

“The weather report,” Pidge says, following it up with a massive yawn.  “For the little world you live in.”

“Harsh,” Hunk says.

“Okay,” Pidge says.  “Maybe seventy-five.”

Lance takes back the not-especially-sassy thing.

Lance also takes back anything nice he’s ever accidentally said about Pidge, who is not just a liar but also a traitor, and who might actually have to be dead to him starting now.

Three Tuesdays later, Pidge proves that assessment to be absolutely and unreservedly true—not like it needed any help.  Lance’s logic rarely does.

Lance is at the register, minding his own darned business, getting everything taken care of, thank you, when a very distinct throat-clearing from Pidge’s direction draws his attention over to the little line of paper-bagged pickup orders.

“What the heck does…” Pidge heaves long sigh.  And everybody calls Lance theatrical; it’s a flippin’ outrage. “…TECTWTMBWIHSUFH stand for, again?”

God, Pidge,” Lance says.  “This is why I say nobody ever listens to me around here, okay?  I tell you every time—it’s The Eighties Called, They Want Their Mullet Back, Why Is He Still Unreasonably Frigging Hot.  Obviousl…”

Turning halfway reveals the unholily evil grin on Pidge’s smarmy face.

Turning all the way reveals that Mr. Still Unreasonably Frigging Hot himself is standing at the window with his hand partly raised and his eyes the size of extra-large drink lids.

“Uh,” Lance says.  “…uh.”

This could be going better.

“Hi, Keith!” Hunk says.  “Are you okay?  You look a little…” He gestures to his own expression with one gloved hand.  “…thing.  There’s definitely some thing going on.  On your face, there.”

“Oh,” Keith says.

Lance shoves the designated bag through the little window and remembers at the last second to snatch the damning label off of it.  “Uh—here.  Same—as usual.  Same total.  You, uh.  Card?”

“Right,” Keith says.  “Um—” He fumbles with his wallet, fishes out his credit card, and slides it across the counter.  “I, uh.  I wanted to tell you guys—it’s really, really cool that you always have my stuff done before I even get here, and I totally appreciate that and… stuff.  But I might not get down this way at the same time next week, and my order might be different, so… yeah.  Don’t worry about it next time.”

Lance swipes the card, waits the fourteen seconds it takes for their ornery machine to spit out the receipt, tears it off, and hands it over for Keith to sign.

“Thanks for the heads up,” he says.  It’s nice that his voice decided to come back from its unheralded freakin’ vacation to Timbuktu.  “You got plans?”

“Maybe,” Keith says, looking intently at the scribble he’s laying on the paper.  “Not quite sure yet.”

“Mysterious,” Lance says, leaning forward and putting on his absolute finest Hello, I am a friendly and attractive bisexual grin.  The cat’s out of the bag, even if the burger isn’t, so at this point it can’t hurt to stick a torch into the flaming wreckage of his dignity and start running like it’s the beginning of the Olympics.  “Well, if your maybe-plans fall through, and you wanna have some pla—”

“Excuse me,” a guy says from the indoors-side of the register.  “Are the refills free?”

Lance turns around and manages not to say Can’t you see from my expert wit and provocative body language that I’m flirting here?  “First one is, yeah.”

“This is my second,” the guy says.  “Is it still free?”

Lance wants to ask why, if you were the kind of person who takes the first refill without permission, you would go to the trouble of asking when you’re about to repeat the crime, but… customer service.

“Y’know,” he says, “go right ahead.”

By the time he manages to focus through the window again, the receipt’s pinned down neatly by the pen, and Keith’s kickstand is up.  The engine growls, and then it roars, and then Keith raises one expensive-fingerless-gloved hand to wave, and then…

Gone with the wind.  Or the breeze, anyway.  Which smells like French fries.  Possibly eternally.

Hunk pats Lance’s back with an elbow, since the hands are off limits for health and safety reasons.

“Good try, though,” he says.

“What?” Lance says.  “He didn’t reject me; he just… left.  Abruptly.  While I was distracted.  That’s not the same.”

“A slightly desperate seventy-eight degrees,” Pidge says, lifting a basket of fries, “with denial showers.”

“Rude,” Lance says.

Pidge shrugs.

Hunk elbow-pats again.

The next Tuesday, at eight fifteen, there is no motorcycle.  There is no dumb helmet.  There is no dumb leather jacket.  Lance tries not to feel personally attacked.  It’s not like Keith is doing this to hurt him.  Keith has probably just forgotten that he exists, like last time.  No big deal.  Maybe Keith does that to everyone.  Maybe Keith is a serial forget-about-people-er.  Maybe he regularly looks at his own family with vague puzzlement because he’s momentarily misplaced every last recollection of who they are.


Maybe Lance needs to get over it.

Yeah, that sounds like a good start.

Wednesday, at half past six, a car pulls into the lot.  The car in question is a Honda Civic that saw better days in the early- to mid-nineties, before what looks like a very nasty run-in with a garage door followed by an even worse altercation with a low cement wall.  There is a small surge of triumph to be gleamed from the knowledge that Lance’s car is no longer the crappiest one in town.

Before he can revel in it too much, however, the driver’s side door opens, and—

Keith steps out.

Lance is having some trouble processing this.  For one thing, Keith on a Wednesday makes no sense.  For another, if Lance had a motorcycle and the remotest ability to drive it, you would need Vaseline and a crowbar to pry him off of the thing.  Is the bike in the shop?  Or did Keith, like, crash it into a building and walk out of the inferno instants before something exploded, whipping his helmet off right as a plume of smoke mushroomed skyward behind him to frame the way he tossed his hair and stared cold-eyed into the camera?  Or—

Keith shuts the car door quietly, pockets the keys, and makes a beeline for the order window.

Lance stares at him.  Maybe this is, in fact, a very convincing Keith-like apparition, and not actually Keith.

At the silence, Keith’s expression transitions from burger-related excitement to mild concern.

“Hi,” he says.  “Are you okay?”

“Are you okay?” Lance asks.  “Is your bike okay?”

“What?” Keith says, which does not answer either of the questions.  “Oh—yeah.”  At least that answers one of them, although Lance isn’t really sure which.  There isn’t time to ask, either, because Keith is sort of smiling and glancing back at the Civic.  “My, um… my friend’s in the car.  He just got back from Afghanistan—he was deployed there.  That’s… this is his favorite burger place, is the thing, so for weeks we’ve been… He’d get a burger in Kabul in the morning and have it for sorta-brunch, and I’d get one here at night, and then we’d go on Skype and have ’em together, and… yeah.  Anyway—he’s back now, for a while, but he’s still all messed up from the time zones, so on the way over here, he fell asleep.  But can I get what I normally get, only with everything doubled?  Oh, and he likes tomatoes.  For some reason.  So you can leave ’em on for his.”

Lance has to focus very, very hard on inputting the order, because his brain is much more inclined to think about everything else that Keith just said.

Fortunately, he is a beast at this job, and he will not have his beasthood revoked over a minor distraction.

Once he’s banged it out on the register, and the drawer has dinged, and he’s swiped Keith’s card and handed it back with the receipt to sign, he looks the distinguished Mr. Mullet right in the eyes.

“Tell him ‘thank you’ from me,” he says.  “And tell yourself ‘thank you’ from me, too, because you’re a real friend to that guy, and that’s a really special thing.  Okay?  It’s special.”

Keith blinks.

Then he smiles, tentatively, and then he leans down to scrawl a signature-like-thing on his receipt, and he might be blushing or something.  Hopefully that’s blushing, rather than some sort of weird… blood-rushing-to-the-face disease?

With flippin’ Keith, you never know.

“Thanks,” he says, shoving the receipt back in Lance’s direction.

“Sure,” Lance says.  “You’re number 108.”

Keith goes back to the car to peer through the passenger side window.  His friend must still be passed out, because he just sort of leans against the car parked next to his—which, thankfully, does not trigger the alarm, which it definitely would if Lance tried to do that; apparently the Power of Cool extends to more than just motorcycles—and keeps watching through the window with his arms folded across his chest.

They’ve gotten to be so efficient at assembling Keith’s order over the last several weeks that doubling it barely troubles them at all—Lance hopes that someone, somewhere, possibly someone watching the security camera feeds with creepily focused attention, notices that they’ve probably set a new record here.

Lance kind of doesn’t want to scream Keith’s number at him when it’s done, though, so once he’s rolled up the top of the two bags this time, he tries waving his hands to get Keith’s attention.  Then he tries holding one of the bags out through the window and swinging it back and forth.  Then he tries glaring really, really hard.

Instants before he relinquishes out of sheer exasperation and collapses against the register in despair—which is a more common occurrence than one might expect, but Lance’s life doesn’t pull any punches—Keith glances at him, blinks repeatedly, and then strides over to the window.

“Sorry,” he says.  “Is that mine?”

“Nah,” Lance says.  “This is for Auntie Agnes down the street.”

Keith blinks a little more.  Maybe he needs glasses.  “Oh.  Sorry.  Um—”

“Of course it’s yours,” Lance says.  “I didn’t want to shout at you and wake up your friend.”  He shoves both bags across the countertop.  “You—” He swallows losers just in time; there is a pretty good chance that anyone who would go out of their way to hang out with Keith is a loser, but he doesn’t have definitive evidence yet. “—guys enjoy, okay?”

Keith—because Keith is a contrary asshole whom Lance despises with at least ninety percent of the fibers of his being—flashes him a beaming grin so bright it fills Lance’s whole chest cavity with warm, zingy little photons of light.

“Thanks,” Keith says.  “We will.  Have a good night.”

He crosses the parking lot again, and Lance has another milkshake on order for somebody else, but over the noise of the machine, he can just hear a car engine starting, and then the grind of tires.  By the time he gets back to the register, the Civic’s gone.

“You know,” he says, trying to keep the welling of emotion in his chest to a reasonable level so that it won’t spill over and drown the entire restaurant, “that’s really cool.  That is really cool.  Having a friend like that.  You’d have long-distance burgers with me if I was a million miles away and miserable and stuff, wouldn’t you, Hunk?”

Hunk looks wounded.  Oops.  “Why do you even have to ask that?  I’d mail you freeze-dried milkshakes.  You know, like they make for NASA and stuff?  You can buy them online, or sometimes at really weird grocery stores; I saw the astronaut ice cream at the Safeway down on Laurel one time, an—”

“You’re a real friend,” Lance says, and the welling is getting to be a problem.  Probably they’re all going to die.  Hopefully there will be at least one surviving manager to send his last paycheck home to his mom.  “You’re a real friend, Hunk, and I real-friend-love you so much sometimes it’s like—”

“Weren’t you paying any attention?” Pidge asks, because Pidge is five pounds of undiluted hate.  “They were boyfriends.”

Lance stares.  “What?  No, they weren’t.  What?  Are you sure?  What?”

“You are the undisputed pinnacle of human evolution,” Pidge says.

“Thank you,” Lance says.

“I was being sarcastic,” Pidge says.

“Too late,” Lance says.  “No tonal take-backs.”

Pidge grimaces.  “How many weeks until school starts?”

“Five,” Hunk says.

“At least now I can quantify eternity,” Pidge says.

“Here’s the real question,” Hunk says.  “Are you ever not being sarcastic?  Because then it’d be pretty easy to keep track of what you’re really trying to say.”

Pidge pauses.  “It’s… almost always sarcasm.  I guess sometimes I’m sleeping.”

“You could probably be sarcastic in your sleep,” Lance says.

“Good point,” Pidge says.

“All my points are good,” Lance says.

Hunk and Pidge share an extremely protracted long-suffering look.

“I take back everything nice I ever said about either of you,” Lance says.  “You two are a pair of traitors.”

The be-gloved fist bump is not very encouraging.

“Next summer,” Lance says, “I’m working at Starbucks.”

“Me, too, then,” Hunk says.

Pidge shrugs.  “I’m in.”

So apparently Lance’s points are always good, and usually missed by an entire freakin’ mile.


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