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September - "I light the candles at your sweet sixteen"
The air was cool and the skies bright but cloudy as Lance waited in the driver’s seat of his blue 2001 Toyota Echo. He stifled a yawn as that morning’s light rain splattered silently against the windshield; it was another early start… Although he’d be lying if he said he wouldn’t be taking a bit of comfort from knowing he wasn’t going to be having as bad a morning as some people he could mention.
And speak of the devil, the Shirogane/Kogane stepbrothers materialized in the shade of the doorway to Shiro’s apartment building. They were both dressed in jogging clothes, with a backpack slung over their shoulder.
Lance slipped out of the car and joined them at the doorway. "Hey guys.“ He greeted, and leant over to kiss Keith on the cheek. He also took the opportunity to check out his boyfriend, sporting an old pair of black sneakers, black shorts, a black tank top (currently covered by a lightweight windbreaker), fingerless leather gloves, and adding a dash of colour were a set of matching red sweatbands on his wrists and forehead. For the occasion, Keith’s hair had been tied up into a ponytail.
It was enough to make Lance willing to take a jog with him around Lake Sammamish, but they had a prior engagement they needed to get to.
"Thanks for picking us up.” Shiro smiled.
Lance made a dismissive wave. "Pshaw, it’s no problem. I got a text from Pidge a few minutes ago saying they’re on their way in Hunk’s car.“
Shiro nodded. "Then we’d better get moving.”
Lance moved over to open the front-passenger door so he could slide the seat forward. Keith settled into the back of the car, whilst Shiro sat shotgun. Keith had always insisted Shiro get priority whenever they were travelling in Lance’s car.
With his passengers in situ, Lance flopped into the driver’s seat, strapped in, and retrieved a scrap of paper from one of the cubbyholes either side of the car’s stereo. He studied it for a moment, and began to type an address into his SATNAV.
“Turn right in. Three. Hundred. Yards.” The device instructed.
“Alright, look Marmorites, you’re about to get wrecked by the Broganes!” Lance grinned, and ignited Azul’s engine.
The journey from Beacon Hill to Union Hill-Novelty Hill had lasted almost forty minutes, and by the time the dashboard clock told them it was seven-thirty, they were making their way along Northeast Carnation Farm Road. The ride had been relatively smooth and enjoyable, thanks to the absence of office workers jamming up the city streets, and Lance’s playlist rotating via the aux jack plugged into his phone.
The pecan-haired man was in a pretty good mood as he joined the queue of vehicles lined up at a turnoff on the road, just past the main buildings of the farm. Stood gently swaying in the breeze were purple banners advertising the day’s feature attraction:
THE TRIALS OF MARMORA
The event was a major part of the ‘Broganes’ calendar, a physical fitness event which saw them spend the better part of an hour scaling log traverses, tyre runs, rope walls, apex climbs, fire strips, barbed wire, and enough mud to leave you almost covered head to toe, which wasn’t a possibility, but a certainty.
The obstacle course was spread out across three miles of countryside, ending at the festival which rolled a live D.J., a large photo backdrop, food and drinks, junior training, and finisher’s celebration into one huge after-party.
Lance was directed up a snaking field road, and into a large grassy clearing that had been designated as the parking lot for the event. He pulled Azul into an empty spot, and shut off the engine.
The three of them slipped out of the car, and took a moment to stretch and take stock of their surroundings.
“I think I can see Hunk’s car.” Keith remarked, and pointed a fingerless-gloved hand towards the distinctive canary-yellow Ford Escape.
“Awesome. I’ll give them a call and see where they’re at.” Lance grabbed his phone from the car and pulled up Hunk’s contact.
“Hey buddy, how’s it going?”
Lance grinned. "We’ve just parked up. Where’re you guys?“
"Still at my car, just getting a few last things together.”
“Hold on, I think I can see you.” Lance began to wave wildly towards the other car. He temporarily put his phone against his chest to muffle it. "Hunk! Hey, Hunk! Over here!“
A figure that could only be Hunk popped it’s head around the side of the vehicle, and waved back.
Keith and Shiro shared an amused look, before they went back to their preparations. Lance returned the phone to his ear: "We’ll be right over in a couple of minutes.”
“Take your time, see you guys in a bit.”
Lance turned his attention back to his companions. "How’s it going over here?“
"Almost ready to go.” Shiro reported with an emphatic final tug on his shoe laces, past experience had taught the stepbrothers that double-knotting them was always recommendable. "And done.“
Royal blue eyes shifted to the other man in the group. "Hey, how’s it going down there?”
“I don’t know, how’s the air up there?”
Lance chuckled. "Cute. You good to go?“
"Uh, not really.” Keith responded, he raised what looked like a black length of string into Lance’s eye-line. It was the snapped third of one of his sneaker laces.
The opportunity was too perfect. "Some people would say that’s fixable, but I’m a frayed knot.“ Keith looked genuinely surprised by the joke, which lasted all of four seconds before he turned a mean glower on his boyfriend.
"Because of that, I’m gonna push you into the mud.”
“Don’t even think about it, lace murderer.” Lance fired back.
“Here you go.” Shiro stepped over, handing Keith a fresh lace and a pocket knife to cut the remaining knotted section.
“That’s knot how you remove a broken lace.”
Keith let out a frustrated groan. "Lance, I swear to whatever God made you…“
Lance, Shiro and Keith made their way towards Hunk’s car. Crowded around it, evidently waiting for them to arrive, were Hunk, Pidge, Allura and Coran, all of whom, like Lance, were dressed for a day spent out and about in nature.
"Hey guys.” The grey-eyed man grinned.
“We were starting to wonder what had happened to you.” Allura smiled in greeting.
“I’m sure our combined efforts would have located them in no time.” Coran mused, twisting his moustache thoughtfully.
“We were just…” Lance paused to glance at his boyfriend. "Tying up loose ends.“
"I’m leaving.” Keith grumbled and made an exaggerated move to leave.
“Whilst Keith’s mostly joking, he’s also right… We’d better be heading off to grab our race packets.”
“We’ll try see you off from the starting line.” The white-haired woman added.
“And we’ll meet up with you again at the finish line.” Pidge added.
“Yeah. Good luck on your run, guys.” Hunk chipped in.
“And try to avoid the mud!” Coran suggested, prompting the group to laugh.
“See you guys later.” Shiro nodded, and he joined Keith as they headed towards the event tables.
“See you at the start line, Ninja!” Lance shouted, and Keith briefly turned to fire back an awkward wave.
They watched the figures retreat into the distance for a few minutes, before they too set off towards the cluster of stalls, tables, tents, and the blast of music that comprised the Trials of Marmora festival.
“Man…” Hunk noted, awed. "Every year they’re as pumped for Marmora as if it was their first… How long have they been doing this now?“
"Shiro’s been running it since he was eighteen. Keith’s been doing it seven years now.” Lance answered.
Hunk let that knowledge sink in. “Wow. I don’t know how they haven’t gotten tired from doing it so long.”
“They change the layout and the obstacles every year or so, which helps keep it fresh.” The bespectacled spectator pointed out.
“Plus, you know Shiro, he’s always up for a challenge… And Keith…” Lance laughed fondly. "He’s a classic adrenaline freak.“
Pidge smirked. "I hadn’t noticed.”
Lance glanced down at his shorter friend. "You guys get up to much for Saint Hildegard this year?“
Pidge beamed. "It was amazing! Dad took us to this pizzeria in Whittier Heights where they have a wood-fired oven, and it really gave the crusts this…” Their hands waved about for a word.
“Volume? Crispiness?” Hunk suggested.
“Yes!” Pidge pointed at him excitedly. "Both of those! The crusts on store-bought pizza just seem so weak and doughy in comparison. It’s like comparing Matt to Shiro in terms of physical build.“
Lance laughed. "Does Matt know you compare him to Shiro?”
Pidge shrugged. "All the time.“
"Man, I could go for some of their Charcuterie, or some of their sausage pizza right about now.” Hunk mused.
“'Fraid it’s pre-packed sandwiches and semi-cold cola, big guy.” Pidge commiserated.
“A dream deferred is a dream denied.” Hunk sighed sadly. He then brightened as an idea settled in: “Maybe we should go there for a double date some time, you and Keith and me and Shay?”
Lance nodded. "Sure. Keith would probably jump at a chance to have a pizza that isn’t made by Domino’s.“
"Aren’t you the one who usually suggests Domino’s as an option?” Pidge enquired pointedly.
“Lies. It’s all vicious lies.” Lance joking deflected.
The journey through the festival revealed a handful of things that caught their eye, such as the Blade Store, the beer garden, The Mettle of the Blade (an off-course challenge that tested a participant’s endurance by supporting their own weight with steady rings), a tug-of-war, and what appeared to be the start of a costume contest. Through past experience they’d seen that there was plenty for participants and spectators to take part in.
They reached the plastic tape marking the edge of the spectator area. There were about a dozen or so people clustered about, waiting for the first wave to begin. Most of the other onlookers were still over at the festival, or had picked their spots by the finishing line.
“So, any bets on who’ll finish first?” Lance asked.
“It feels a little unsavory to bet on our friends.” Allura chimed in thoughtfully. "But… I believe Shiro will be the victor.“
Lance made a dismissive sound. "Shiro’s a power-house, but he’s no competition to the Street Ninja.”
“I hate to speak bad of Keith, obviously, but Shiro has the greater experience. He’s been doing this longer… As we established a while ago.”
“And Keith’s always given one-hundred percent whenever he’s made the run.” Their bespectacled friend pointed out.
“Team Punk has broken, and in its place stands Team Pince!” Lance grinned.
Pidge rolled their eyes. "For the record, I never agreed to 'Team Pince’… Though it’s better than 'Team Pance’.“
"Team… Allurunk… Backs Shiro to win!” Hunk grinned, though it wobbled a little on the team name.
Coran looked between his four friends. "In the name of sportsmanship and fair play, I’ll side with hoping they just have a good time. It’s not important who wins… What is important is the journey you take getting there.“
They continued to chat amongst themselves until Pidge, following a check on the time on their phone, announced: "Ten to eight.”
“There they are!” Allura called out, and the distinctive profiles of Keith and Shiro trekked across the grassy field. The two of them were now shirtless, with their race bibs pinned to their shorts. Shiro grinned broadly and nodded as he spotted the group, the two stepbrothers approached their crowd.
Keith and Shiro handed their bags across the barrier tape, it had become an agreed-on tradition that those watching would look after the belongings of those racing.
“Thanks, guys.” Shiro nodded.
“Yeah.” Keith agreed.
“Knock them dead, Babe.” Lance rallied.
“Not literally.” Pidge smirked. "Leave them in your dust.“
"Take these amateurs to school.” Allura spurred-on brightly.
“Yeah, kick their butts!” Hunk cheered, then added a moment later: “In as friendly and competitive way as possible, I mean.”
“Hear, hear.” Coran agreed with a broad smile.
“We will.” Keith grinned, and he shared a nod with his stepbrother. They took their positions amongst the other racers… The other 'Blades’, as the event organizers referred to them.
The mood of the weather shifted as eight a.m. approached, as if it too were getting ready for the race. The overcast sky finally followed through on its threat, and a light rain began to fall whilst the wind picked up.
Toward the starting line, a grey-haired and grim-faced man wearing a violet-blue-coloured hoodie stepped up to a metal platform. Even from there, they could make out the Trials of Marmora logo printed in eggplant-coloured ink on the man’s clothing.
The stern announcer raised a microphone to his mouth as he addressed the crowd: “The Trials of Marmora is a challenge, a test of endurance, skill and patience… Spread across thirteen obstacles over three miles of open country. These trials result in one of two things: success or failure. Blades, are you ready to test yourselves and triumph?”
“Yes!” The competitors responded resolutely in-near unison. Almost every participant in the opening competitive wave appeared to be a veteran of the event.
“You may run the challenge, but the greatest challenge is knowing when to stop.”
The sound of a lion’s roar played over the loudspeakers, and on either end of the starting line,, a pair of fire machines flared into life, sending bursts of flame into the air.
The race had started, and the Blades were off.
Keith and Shiro maintained a relaxed jog as they put the starting line behind them.
“Ready for this, old man?” Keith smirked.
“Only if you think you’ve got the stamina, shorty.” Shiro chuckled back.
The path curved towards a small cluster of rectangular industrial buildings and metal silos. From there, the Broganes crossed Northeast Carnation Farm Road and followed it eastwards, jogging on the verge with the other competitors. A little over two-hundred feet along the road, the pack of racers turned off at a gate with a giant purple arrow pointing toward it, and they entered the leafy shade of the adjacent woods.
As they jogged, a sign staked into the ground proclaimed:
YOU ARE NOT MEANT TO CROSS THAT FINISH LINE
Keith smirked to himself, the 'motivational’ signs never changed.
After several minutes of jogging along the straight path through the trees, the woods broke away as they entered a clearing. Ahead of them stood the first obstacle: The Warzone.
The Warzone was comprised of three mini-obstacles, a triangular wooden inclining wall, followed by a barb-wire crawl, and a second inclining wall that bookended the far end. Shiro’s height and greater strength had him quickly up and over the first inclined wall, but Keith’s nimbleness and energy had him in close pursuit. Each man crossed the crawl section at equal pace, and both landed on the far side of the second inclined barrier at roughly the same time.
The race path curved through a pair of long, low outbuildings for the farm. Ahead of Keith and Shiro, the ground dropped into The Entrenched Soil, a pair of muddy pools, separated by three mounds of soil.
The two men charged through the obstacle, Keith managed to avoid the worst of the mud thanks to a quick bit of jumping, whilst Shiro, who sought to preserve his energy by sticking to the ground, earned a splattering of mire up to his shins.
The Broganes jogged on, ignoring the hydration station and proceeded to a stretch of roadway. As the road swept southwards it butted up against a cluster of farm buildings, and then led out into the nearby fields. The failed surface of the road crunched beneath their sneakers as it briefly wove eastwards, and then sharply curved southwards.
The younger man grinned as the sign advertising the next challenge flipped by, he had a chance to win some ground against his brother. The route the stepbrothers followed veered off the road and onto the adjacent pastures to the north, taking them along a dirt path towards the third obstacle.
The Blade’s Edge was an apex ladder: a twenty-foot obstacle where they had to scale a sloped side, hope over a short wall, and climb down a vertical side that was affixed with rungs along the upper half, and a sheer face on the lower portion.
Keith was the first to reach the structure, but Shiro pressed forward to quickly move into the lead.
“How’s the view down there?” Shiro quipped.
“Dunno, why don’t you tell me?” Keith returned as he scrambled up the rungs on the upward side. He wasted little time at the apex of the apex, and kicked off the paneled side whilst halfway-down.
Shiro reached the ground almost a minute after his stepbrother, and put in a quicker pace to close the gap between them. "One of these days… You’re going to roll your ankle doing that.“
"If it happens, it happens.” The raven-haired man made as much of a shrugging movement as he could whilst running.
They were just over a quarter of the way into the trials, and from there the challenges would be getting tougher.
From The Blade’s Edge, Keith and Shiro jogged westwards until they reached the tree-line, and from there they followed it until they reached a new dirt path, and they followed that until they returned to the stony roadway.
Ahead of them, the smoldering glow and waft of smoke heralded the next obstacle: Kral Zera (Sacred Flame).
This was the challenge Keith had found to be the most underwhelming, in a race of mud ditches, climbs, pulls and crawls, a line of burning logs stretched across the path seemed utterly anti-climactic.
The Broganes leapt the flames with unchallenged ease.
“That challenge still sucks.”
“I know, I know…”
“Can’t you say something to Kolivan?”
“The last time I asked him about it, he mentioned that there were a number of reasons why it couldn’t be as big as the other obstacles, ensuring participant safety was one of the main ones.”
“It just seems such a waste given the whole 'warrior trials’ image they’re trying to create.”
“This might sound overly-sentimental, but I’m glad it’s not over the top… I don’t want to see you burned to a crisp.”
There was some weight to the argument that Kral Zera was only there to lure the competitors into a false sense of security, for further along the route, back on the farmland, lay the intimidating Ascent of the Blade. A thirty-foot triangular prism where the participants scaled one side with the help of ropes, and descended with the help of rungs.
Keith had the initial lead up the ascent, but Shiro stole ahead of the younger man thanks to his greater upper-body strength. As Keith scrambled over the top to clamber back down, Shiro calmly worked his way down the rungs. Upon touching the ground he walked backwards and winked at Keith. "A little effort with a bench press or some press-ups can work wonders.“
Keith swore under his breath and hopped down the wooden rungs.
The woods made a return, and their path meandered and weaved as it curved northwards, back towards the road and the starting line.
The two runners broke out into a clearing, which revealed the next course obstacle: The Slipped Knot. Keith had just caught up with Shiro as the man with the undercut waded across a knee-high moat of brown water, the official start of the obstacle, which consisted of a series of plastic chutes laid out on the ground, with a crisscross of ropes suspended above them on a wooden frame.
Keith pushed across the water and turned around, allowing himself to drop onto his back in the plastic chute. He grasped the ropes above him, and pulled himself along the plastic path, chasing Shiro along the five-hundred-and-eighty-foot obstacle.
They emerged on the far end, Shiro in the lead, but with Keith nipping at his heels.
The racers were now officially reaching the half-way point, and ahead of Shiro and Keith lay a brand-new obstacle:
Kusarigama, which upon first sighting appeared to be the bastard child of a set of balance beams, a ramp climb, and metal chains strung across the metal support structure.
"That’s new.” Keith remarked as they drew up to the structure.
“I know what you’re thinking, don’t even try it.” Shiro warned.
They reached the chains, and proceeded to use them to make their way up the incline facing them. The going was slow, due to the precarious nature of the links, and all the while Shiro knew that Keith just wanted to get this challenge over and done with.
“Patience yields focus.” The older man reminded, already sensing Keith’s impatience bubbling.
They reached the top of the metal pyramid, from there it was the same way back down.
Naturally, Keith had other ideas.
The younger man’s arms sprang out to steady his balance, and he began to walk the narrow metal structural beam down to the ground.
Shiro briefly hesitated, taken back by his brother’s recklessness. "Keith!“
"Sorry Shiro, but it was taking too long.”
The moment Keith’s feet touched the soil, Shiro had only progressed a third of the way down. He shook his head ruefully as he continued to descend the obstacle.
Keith skirted the edge of a mossy pond that veered on the size of an Olympic swimming pool, the path of the trails took him counter-clockwise around the body of water towards the eighth obstacle of the course.
The Drifting Shards was a challenge that threw unpredictability into the mix, consisting of a rectangular wooden truss frame, from which were suspended three rows of seven platforms.
The tethers that supported the platforms allowed them to shift and sway against the participant’s momentum and center of gravity, forcing them to take navigate the obstacle slowly in order to progress safely.
Keith fought his urge to take the challenge too quickly. Shiro’s earlier caution came to mind, as well as the knowledge that a measured approach would give his stepbrother a chance to chop up his lead.
The raven-haired man deftly climbed onto his first platform, and used his momentum to swing it forward as far as he could - closing the gap to the next platform, and allowing him to step across.
He was moving toward the third platform in the line when Shiro climbed onto the obstacle behind him.
Once again, the older man used his greater physical volume to his advantage; throwing it into the swing to rock the suspended platforms further, and close in on Keith.
By the time the younger man was making his effort to move on to the sixth platform in his line, Shiro was swinging towards the fifth in his.
The moment Keith stepped off of the final platform of the Drifting Shards, Shiro was only half a step behind him and narrowing the ground fast.
Of course, now that he didn’t have to worry about the ground shifting beneath his feet, Keith could also unleash the throttle once more.
The returning leg of the course trail wound through the main buildings of the Carnation Farms property, and under the roadway via an access tunnel. As Keith and Shiro emerged from the darkness into the light, the finish line would soon be visible, rather than an abstract concept.
The ninth obstacle, Luxite Grip, lay ahead. The main structure was a wooden truss, similar to Drifting Shards, but hung within its perimeter were four swaying, double-sided frames with rock climbing handgrips. Luxite Grip was a test of grip, balance and constitution.
Keith and Shiro were roughly equal in speed and skill as they traversed the challenge, having spent plenty of time over the years at Parkour Visions and Momentum Rock Climbing back in the city.
“Just like old times, right?” Shiro grinned as they inched from one end to the other.
“Child’s play.” Keith agreed.
They hopped off the frame at the far end, and left some of their fellow competitors behind.
Shiro and Keith were now feeling the physical exertion from the challenges, their lungs sucked greedily at the air whilst their legs and arms began to burn from lactic buildup.
They had enough to make it through the final quartet with a bit to spare afterwards for the final dash… Whichever way they played the closing leg of the obstacle course, they both knew they were going to be feeling the day’s exertion in the morning.
Towering ahead of them was The Water of Knowledge, a combination of an apex ladder and a light downpour, provided by water jets mounted to a pair of wooden trusses at the near and far ends of the ladder. The water sprayed out and soaked the surface of the apex, which was suspended over another pool of dirty-coloured water.
The obstacle provided the test of having to grapple with the sodden structure, introducing chance and a degree of luck late into the game which had been largely fought with skill, speed and agility.
Keith and Shiro jogged towards the waist-deep water and dropped in, each man aiming to reach the treacherous incline first.
Keith was the first to haul himself out of the water, but the unpredictable nature of the obstacle came to life, and his grip slipped, sending him back into the pool.
He spluttered as he pulled himself back up to start again. Shiro was about half-way up the apex when his sneaker slipped, and he slid back about a foot. He braced himself against the frame and pushed forward.
The grey-eyed man was still in the lead as he pressed on over the tip of the apex, and Keith’s impatience led to a minor slip of his own, before he too had surmounted the summit.
The younger man clambered down the apex as quickly as he could risk, trying not to focus too much on Shiro’s increasingly distant figure as he hauled himself out of the water and back onto semi-dry land.
He caught sight of his stepbrother as the older man dropped into a crouch and clambered under a purple canvas branded with the Trials of Marmora logo, and disappeared into a trench. Keith arrived at Down to Earth a half-minute later, and progressed down into an earthen channel.
He crept forward through the ankle-high layer of mire as quickly as he could, the need to make up on the time lost against his stepbrother driving him on through the trench.
The channel had cut through the soil in a straight line for about twenty feet, where it then ended in what looked like a T-junction. Keith wasted no time in considering the options and just ducked right, and then left again into a new length of tunnel on an offset. If he’d made the wrong choice, he’d deal with it if and when it came.
Another twenty feet of crawling, and he was bursting out into the overcast light… Right beside Shiro!
“And here I was worried I’d lost you!” The man with the undercut chuckled.
Keith smirked. "You have to try harder if you want to shake me.“
There wasn’t any doubt about where the next and penultimate course obstacle would be, it was the biggest bastard yet.
The Tail’s Sting: An obstacle that towered over the fields surrounding it, an unholy mutant lovechild of the Trial of Marmora’s greatest hits: The Blade’s Edge, Slipped Knot, and a little bit of Kral Zera for seasoning.
Starting with another mud moat, the first part of The Tail’s Sting was a two-level structure shaped roughly like an L, constructed of shipping containers.
Participants could ascend to the first level either by a wooden ladder, or pull themselves up the apex climb with the help of a rope.
The ascent to the second level was via a wooden ladder, albeit almost the entire width of the whole structure.
From the top, the racers would then slide down a plastic chute to the base of the obstacle on their backs, passing under a line of flames erected above them.
Keith and Shiro had gotten this far without taking the easy option, so they both went for the rope climb as soon as they’d pulled themselves from the moat.
The Broganes fought to keep in step as much as they could with the other, pulling from what remained of their energy to rob the other of any lead they’d started to build.
They scrambled up the final ladder, their arm muscles protesting at the ongoing effort and strain.
There was no time to admire the view from the top, as quickly as they could they hopped onto the plastic chutes and slid back down to terra firma.
The two men were at ground level in moments, and hopping off as quickly as possible to make it to the final challenge: Rebirth.
The thirteenth challenge was simple in its execution: A one-hundred-foot-long ditch dug into the earth, filled with mud and strung overhead with low-hanging lengths of barb wire, designed exclusively to ensure anyone passing through would get covered almost head-to-toe in mire.
Shiro was ready to give the last leg of the Trials of Marmora his all, and he knew Keith wasn’t going to give up. The older man led the charge into the pit of sludge, and his stepbrother went in straight after him.
They worked and pushed themselves, burning through their reserves as they ploughed across the pit with their fellow Blades. Their legs joined their arms in protest, and what wasn’t coated in mud was slick with sweat.
It was quite possibly the most disgusting either man had felt… But it’d be worth it.
They neared the edge of the pit, and the rush from the knowledge that they were nearly at the race’s end spurred them on. They clambered out of the muck and up the sodden incline back up to the topsoil, and made a last dash for the visible structure of the finish line.
Victory was within each stepbrother’s grasp, here were Shiro and Keith, neck-and-neck and pushing each other to the end.
"There they are!” Pidge bellowed, drawing their attention to the stretch connecting the final obstacle with the finishing line.
“Who’s in the lead?” Lance asked, peering towards the two muck-splattered runners.
“Both of them!” Hunk reported in awe.
The Broganes were footsteps from the line when Keith seemed to get a sudden surge of last-moment energy, and pulled forward enough to cross a second before Shiro.
The two men darted past, and began to lose traction as they let themselves wind down. Lance, Pidge, Hunk, Allura and Coran quickly made their way over to join up with the exhausted men. As the group approached their friends, Keith flopped like a ragdoll onto the ground with a groan, and Shiro eased himself to sit down in the grass.
“Oowwwww.” Keith observed.
“Seconded.” Shiro agreed.
“You guys are nuts, but it looks like you had a good time.” Pidge remarked with an amused smirk.
Shiro grinned a tired smile. "We did.“ Keith gave them a thumbs up.
"And it looks like you guys have enough mud on you to give most of the sorority girls in Seattle a facial.”
Keith managed to somehow sit up and then pull himself back onto his feet. "Speaking of facials.“ He remarked, making his way over to Lance.
"Nope! Don’t even think of trying it!” Lance balked and quickly backed away.
The tanned man made an inhuman screeching sound as Keith planted a mud-stained kiss on the side of his face, smearing the splatters from his cheeks and jaws from the last challenge.
Lance pulled away from the embrace to the laughter of their gathered friends. "You’re lucky you’re my boyfriend and you’re cute… Even when you’re fucking covered in mud.“
Fifteen minutes later, Shiro and Keith had collected their medals (purple enamel affairs that replicated the angular blade-like shapes of the event logo) and participant swag, posed for photos in front of the eight-foot tall photo backdrop, and were now in the shower station, washing off the worst of the mud that they were caked in.
Lance, after Keith had brought him over briefly to rinse the mire from his face, waited patiently nearby with their towels and bags of clothes.
Keith’s sweatbands, and both runners’ sneakers were still going to need some TLC after they got back to the city, but for the most part the Broganes were now clean. Lance handed a faded black towel out to Shiro.
"Thanks.” The grey-eyed man accepted the offering and started to dry off. Keith took a moment to wring out his hair, before he accepted the frayed red towel he’d brought.
The raven-haired man flashed a tired smile. “Thanks.”
“It’s the least I can do for my super-hot boyfriend.”
“Super-hot? Even when I was wearing half a field?”
Lance shrugged. "You looked a lot better after that little show you put on during your shower.“
"You want a real show? You can watch me the next time I’m taking a proper shower.”
Lance smirked, and settled his hands on Keith’s damp hips, making it harder for the other man to actually dry off. "Why only watch when I can wash your back for you? As well as other parts I like?“
Keith rolled his eyes, but his mouth was curved with amusement. "How romantic.”
“One kiss you two, then we have to get back to the others.” Shiro quipped in good humor as he drifted past.
Lance watched his boyfriend’s stepbrother disappear in the distance, before turning back to Keith with a smile. "He didn’t say it had to be a quick kiss.“
It was around half-past nine that morning when they grabbed a spot at a metal folding table at the event festival, the Broganes gratefully sat down on the provided chairs as their friends settled in with them, each man tiredly but proudly wearing their competitor’s T-shirts. Around them, more and more of their fellow blades were taking part in the merry atmosphere.
There was a healthy chatter between Hunk, Pidge, Lance, Coran and Allura, but for Shiro and Keith, they were taking some time to rest and recharge with the help of the food and drink provided by their friends, and the Trials of Marmora organizers.
A pair of men approached the table, one of them was the announcer from earlier. Like the announcer, the other man was dressed in a branded hoodie, and was someone Keith recognized.
Shiro set his food down and wiped his hands off on some paper napkins so he could greet the two men. The stern man was dark-skinned, with tufts of grey hair. A prominent scar ran from his forehead down to his lower lip on the right-side of his face.
The other man was white, with a thin, angular face, a short silver Mohawk, and a thoughtful countenance.
"Kolivan! Ulaz! Great to see you!”
“It’s good to see you and Keith again. I trust you and your friends are enjoying yourselves?” The man with the scar, Kolivan, welcomed.
Shiro affirmed: “We are.”
Ulaz, the man with the Mohawk, smiled and clasped Shiro’s forearm in a friendly gesture. "I was certain we’d see you and your brother at some point… You’re almost as much a part of the fabric of the trials now as the obstacles.“
Shiro chuckled. "I guess we are a little single-minded when it comes to Marmora. How’s Thace? Is he around?”
The South-African shook his head. "He probably won’t be here until this afternoon, there was a scheduling conflict with his self-defense class. He’s well however, we had our third anniversary this June.“
Shiro’s brows rose. "Three years already? Where’s the time gone?”
“The Trials will be marking its tenth anniversary next year.” Kolivan noted.
“Wow.” Shiro remarked, a little in awe.
“Time certainly flies when you’re enjoying yourselves.” Allura remarked thoughtfully. "And I have no doubt the two of you will continue to return until you’re physically unable to compete.“
Shiro shrugged. "Basically, yeah.”
“Until we get too old or lose a limb, or something.” Keith mused out loud.
“We should get Shiro a cake for his twenty-first run… And another for Keith’s 'sweet sixteen’.” Hunk grinned.
Lance nudged his boyfriend. "Guess I’ll have to light the candles for yours.“
Keith gave him a thoughtful look. "Yeah? Will you be blowing them out for me as well?”
Lance shrugged, a dangerous smirk curving his lips. "Don’t know… Though I’m sure something will get blown.“
Pidge made a face. "Seriously? Right in front of my salad here?”
or, enter your birth date.*
Lance wasn’t sure his insides were working properly anymore. He’d been sat in the window of his temporary Garrison quarters, staring out of the transparent aluminum as the first rain he’d seen since returning to Earth pebbled and rivuleted the surface. The sight, something he’d longed to see and feel for so long had brought him to tears.
He’d expected to be happy when he got to experience rain again, and maybe he was… But why did it also seem so damn sad?
The tears had eventually subsided and he’d stayed there, absorbed in the natural phenomena that so reminded him of home. He’d eventually given in, pushing the window open so he could stick his hand out of the gap and into the precipitation. He embraced the cool wet as it dampened his skin.
Sitting there, knowing he was back home, knowing he was alive, knowing they would have to journey back into the stars in order to fight what the Galra Empire had become, knowing that they could’ve died fighting the latest robeast, and they may still die in missions to come… It’d left him with a lot to digest, and even more things that churned around in his head, leading the Blue Paladin to feel that his feelings and his mind weren’t working the way they used to.
A restless energy began to take hold of Lance’s limbs, making him less relaxed and content to just stay by the window. There was a thought circulating that he couldn’t squash, couldn’t avoid… And if he was going to be stuck with it, maybe he could talk to someone about it.
“Hey guys, anyone seen Shiro around?”
Pidge and Hunk looked up from the workbench they’d been sat at. They’d already been busy spending the last several hours dissecting some of the technology from the robeast, and had been providing technical notes to a team of Garrison engineers and scientists.
“I haven’t seen him in, like, so many hours.” Pidge responded unhelpfully.
“I think he’s in a briefing with Iverson, Commander Holt, Allura, and a few others of the senior staff.” Hunk chimed in.
“Oh.” Lance nodded.
“Something wrong, buddy?” The Yellow Paladin leant forward towards his friend.
The tanned man made a dismissive wave of his hand. "Nothing… Really. I just wanted his advice on something.“
"You want us to tell him you’re looking for him?” The Hacker asked.
“Nah, I’ll find him when he’s free.”
The restlessness had briefly returned during the hour Lance had paced and sat beside the door to Shiro’s own temporary quarters, but his patience was rewarded as their battle-scarred leader appeared in the junction of the corridor, said something to a lower-ranking member of the Garrison staff, and watched as they disappeared. Turning towards his quarters, Shiro’s face broke into a smile.
“Lance! Sorry if I kept you waiting, the briefing overran.”
Lance effortlessly pushed himself up the metal bulkhead. "Waiting? Pshaw, I just got here.“
Shiro nodded as he approached his door. "Did you want to talk about something?”
The weird feeling from early began to return to Lance’s being. "Yeah, y'know… Only if you’ve got the time to fit me in. Important Garrison stuff, and all that.“
Shiro flashed a warm smile. "I’ve always got time for you guys.” He tapped the pass code into the glowing number pad, and the door sprung open. "Please, come in.“
This was the first time Lance had seen Shiro’s quarters, and he took it in as the older man settled a bag of briefing materials and data pads down beside his desk. There were a couple of plastic boxes full of what looked like personal items still waiting to be sorted, but one item Lance did spot, perched on Shiro’s desk, was a photograph of a man with glasses.
Lance had learned about Adam Wyle following the Garrison memorial ceremony, from conversations with some of the staff, and from some info relayed from Keith via Hunk and Pidge. He hadn’t known that Shiro had almost gotten married before he’d signed up for the Kerberos mission. He’d also not been aware of Shiro’s condition prior to being captured by the Galra.
"Take a seat.” Shiro gestured towards a recessed couch that was set into the wall. He settled down amongst the cushions at one end. "Would you like anything to drink?“
"Got any Space Juice?” Lance asked, a smile that was possibly a bit forced on his face.
“Fresh out I’m afraid.” Shiro smiled apologetically. "Would Ramune be okay? It’s lemon and lime.“
"Sounds good.” Lance nodded. Shiro extracted a pair of bottles from a mini fridge, and decanted some of it into a metal mug emblazoned with the Garrison insignia. He handed the mug and open bottle to the Blue Paladin.
“Drinking from the bottle for the first time is a little tricky.” The grey-haired man explained, he settled down on the opposite end of the couch.
Lance took a sip of the clear liquid, and hummed appreciatively. "I can’t remember the last time I had anything like lemonade.“
"The guys working the hydroponics labs are hoping to have a crop of fresh fruit and vegetables ready in about a month. There’s also some talk about preparing a space for cattle so we might be able to produce milk, cheese…” He trailed off.
“Kalternecker could probably help. She’s probably one of the healthiest cows in a hundred-mile radius.”
“Probably closer to five-hundred.” Shiro nodded. "If you’re happy to allow Kalternecker to be put to use, I think they’d really appreciate the head start.“
"We’re working for something bigger than milkshakes.” Lance smirked.
Shiro nodded. "Thanks Lance, it’ll really help.“ He took a sip from his bottle of Ramune. "I kinda get the feeling that you didn’t really come here to talk about food, though.”
Lance fought against the shift in his demeanor, but it ultimately won-out. His gaze trailed down to the coffee table, and the fidgetiness returned. "I… I’ve been thinking a lot about the last battle. How we could’ve died because of how tough that robeast was. It’s… Stirred up a lot of stuff in me.“
Shiro leant forward. "That’s only natural. A near-death experience can do that to us.”
“But why now? After everything we’ve been through? Why not after we fought Zarkon, or Naxzela, or when the Teleduv nearly blew up? We’ve nearly died dozens of times, why is this time different?”
“I think… Maybe we just haven’t had the time to properly sit down consider things before. After pretty much every instance you’ve mentioned, we’ve had to quickly turn our attention back to the war with the Galra. This is the first time we’ve actually got a chance to really take stock and see how it’s affected us.”
The point stuck Lance like walking out of a warm house into a freezing-cold morning. Here he was, complaining about his own problems to the very poster-boy for P.T.S.D.: Diagnosed with a terminal illness, kidnapped by aliens, forced to fight in a gladiator ring, escaped to get back to Earth, went back to space and joined a science ninja robotic lion team, fought his captors, fought the emperor of his captors, literally died and was then reborn. Not to mention he had lost his arm twice now.
What the fuck was Lance thinking? Compared to Shiro, his life was rainbows and candy.
“I… I think I better get going…” He muttered and pushed himself away from the couch.
“Lance! Wait!” Shiro moved quickly to intercept. "What’s wrong?“
Lance shrugged. "I just realized that I’m whining about nothing to someone who has had, like, literally everything bad happen to him.”
Shiro’s face fell. "Is that what you really think? That what you’re experiencing is less important?“
Lance didn’t give a verbal response, but the flash of a half-hearted smile was answer enough.
"Lance, what you’ve gone through isn’t any less important just because it’s not everything I’ve gone through. Stress, grief… They affect us in different ways. Are you seeing the staff therapist to talk about what you’re feeling?”
“No.” Lance shrugged.
Shiro processed that answer. "C'mon, let’s sit back down.“
The two men resumed their spots sat at opposite couch-ends from each other. "I’ve been seeing the therapist for about a week now, to help me with my P.T.S.D. I think it’s going well, but we’re just getting started. We’re talking about three years of stuff to get through… Or six if you adjust for time-travel. I’d like for you to schedule an appointment when you feel comfortable.”
Lance nodded weakly. "I will.“
The older man offered a friendly smile. "I think it will do you a lot of good to get things off your chest. I… I think that maybe sometimes you keep things bottled up, and that isn’t good for any of us in the long run.”
Lance let out a breath. "Yeah.“ He nodded. "I guess I have…”
“Do you want to talk about it?” Shiro asked.
“I do. I…” He shook his head in frustration. "How am I going to tell you when I haven’t been able to explain it to myself?“
"Just give it your best shot, sharpshooter.” Shiro smiled encouragingly. "Start from the beginning and take as much time as you need, I don’t have anywhere I need to be.“
Lance made a scoffing sound, it wasn’t his usual level of amusement, but it seemed a good sign. "Oh come on, you’re Shiro! Hero of the Garrison! You fought a robeast while controlling a badass giant robot-ship and once again cleaned Sendak’s clock. You must have tones of meetings that you need to attend.”
“Yeah, well… I might do, but that doesn’t mean I can’t make time for Team Voltron… For my friends. And when it came down to it, it was Keith who ensured Sendak would no longer be a threat.”
The smile on Lance’s face softened, it might even have been sentimental. He took a breath, and began: “How did you know when you were in love?”
Shiro’s eyes widened for a moment, and he then adopted a thoughtful expression. His brow relaxed, and his lips curved into a fond smile. "It creeps up on you. It’s not like a crush where you’re head-over-heels the moment you see someone. Real love burrows into you, and often you don’t even realize it until suddenly you have this moment of epiphany.“
Shiro leant a little closer. "You start to notice little things about them, body language and behavior we usually pick up subconsciously… How they tap their fingers when they’re thinking, or suddenly brighten up when their favorite music starts playing. You might notice how they smile, or that they get more expressive when they’re talking about something they’re passionate about. You’ll probably also find yourself spending more and more time with them… And thinking about then when they aren’t there.”
Lance nodded slowly, he thought he knew what Shiro was talking about. "How did you know you loved Adam?“
Shiro’s expression briefly returned to thoughtful, and his gaze travelled across to the photograph on the desk. His face settled on something that looked like fond nostalgia. "I think I realized I was in love with him the moment I saw him after a long day of training. He’d been flying for hours, spending… At most ten minutes on the ground between sessions… It was the end of the day. He was in his flightsuit, his hair a mess and almost certainly smelling a little ripe, yet he had all the time in the world for the cadets and the questions they were asking him. He was great with them… And it was then that I realized I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him…”
Lance wanted to ask more about Adam, but he was now feeling very conscious about the feelings he was probably stirring up in the Black Paladin.
“Have you ever fallen in love with someone you hated?”
Shiro looked surprised for a moment, before he broke into relaxed laughter. "Maybe. Adam and I had a bit of a rocky start when we first met… Typical alpha male fighter pilot stuff, it’d make for a bad romantic comedy… It’s nothing like the kind or rivalry between two people I happen to know.“
And there it was, the elephant in the room.
Shiro’s expression was sympathetic. "We can save this for another time if it’s getting too uncomfortable to talk about.”
Lance avoided Shiro’s gaze again. "I want to talk about it… There’s just this part of me that doesn’t feel it’s real, and that if I say it out loud, it’ll make it real. Hating him just seemed so easy compared to this.“
The grey-haired man nodded. "If I had to be completely honest with you, I don’t think you’ve ever actually hated him. I think you felt a little intimidated by his skill, and because he didn’t respond to you the way you expected… Or the way most other people did, and that got under your skin. I figure Keith was a little… Pardon the choice of words… ‘Alien’… To your experiences, and he became this sort of puzzle that you had to solve.”
Lance nodded. "I was hung up on him, wasn’t I?“
"And because you were having difficulty working out how Keith ticked, it made you frustrated, and that fed back into your growing resentment of him, and that grew into your rivalry.”
“My one-sided rivalry. He barely remembered me when we met.”
“I think he did notice you back then, I think he actually mentioned you a couple of times before I left… Though maybe not by name.” Shiro mulled on that thought. "I think things would’ve gone differently between you two had I not left for Kerberos and been captured by the Galra. I think you two would’ve reached some sort of understanding.“
Lance huffed in amusement. "Yeah, probably over hating James.”
Shiro smirked. "Maybe. But for what it’s worth, I think that because you’ve both become Paladins, you’ve reached a better place than if you’d never left the Garrison. I think the both of you have grown closer to each other, even if the arguments and the bad memories from your days as Juniors have gotten in the way.“
Lance nodded, a half-smile playing on his lips. "We don’t argue as much as we used to.”
“Hunk also mentioned something as well… He said that while you and the others were trapped in some sort of… 'cosmic game show’… You said something about Keith being 'the future’?”
“Hunk!” Lance protested, his cheeks flushing.
“Talk to me, Lance.”
The Blue Paladin pouted. "It was just something I said in the moment.“
Shiro favored him with a dubious look. Lance let out a puff of air and ran a hand through his hair.
"Alright, fine… He’s our leader, which he is… And he’s been a lot better at being a leader now since he spent those two years out of time with his Mom. Maybe that’s one of reasons we’re getting on better now… Like… Having to wait all that time’s made him more patient? And… Maybe he’s going to help bring humans and Galra together in peace because he comes from both cultures? Maybe he’s who they need as a leader… Not murdering tyrants like Zarkon or murdering nutjobs like Lotor…”
Shiro was quiet for a few minutes as he absorbed Lance’s rambling, but heartfelt train of thought.
“Does he know any of that?”
“He knows about the 'he’s the future’ stuff… And do you know what he said after I said that? Nothing! Instead he said he didn’t want to be stuck with me!”
Shiro looked sympathetic. "Keith… Isn’t delicate or diplomatic about what he says.“
"Ooooooh, there’s a surprise!”
Shiro looked thoughtful. "Still, he picked you out of all the others.“
”…..Yeah.“ Lance conceded.
"I don’t think his choice was as spiteful as it might’ve looked. He could’ve picked Pidge, Hunk or Allura. Instead… He chose you.”
“Maybe…” The Blue Paladin grumpily acknowledged. He suddenly looked inquisitive. "Wait… Are you trying to tell me something?“
Shiro shook his head with a smile. "I’m just saying that what he said maybe wasn’t what he really meant.”
Lance’s face looked contemplative. "I know I’d messed up earlier in that game show, but I didn’t think I’d pissed him off that badly. Before that we’d gotten on a lot better than that.“
"And how have things been since the game show?”
“About the same, better than they used to be.”
Shiro nodded. "From what I’ve seen since I got back, you’ve both been working better together as teammates during battle, and getting along much better when we haven’t been fighting the Galra, or someone else picking a fight with us. I think you’ve reached a new understanding.“
"Maybe.” Lance nodded.
Shiro considered his next point. "Why did you come looking for me?“
Lance looked surprised. "You’ve been in love… I don’t think I have…. I don’t know, you seemed like the best person to ask.”
Shiro nodded. "I understand that, but why are you asking me now? You could’ve asked me once we’d beaten the Galra, or as soon as we’d returned to Earth.“
"Oh.” Lance realized. "I guess… Almost dying but not… I’m starting to realize there’s stuff I want to do and say while I’m still here to say it…“
"And you’ve been thinking about Keith a lot recently?”
Lance nodded. "Yeah.“
"Would you like to know what I think?”
Lance nodded again.
“I think you’ve survived one of our toughest ordeals… You’re grateful that you’ve survived… And I think you’re grateful Keith survived too. I think you realize how close you came to losing Keith, and it’s helped you realize what you feel about him.”
Lance shifted uncomfortably on the opposite sofa. "Maybe.“
Shiro leant forward, and tugged one of Lance’s hands into his. "One of the greatest regrets I’ll always have is letting Adam go… And never being able to tell him I’m sorry, or that I still loved him. Don’t make the same mistake I made.”
Lance nodded in understanding. There was the telltale wetness of tears at the edges of his eyes.
“Tell Keith how you feel. He may not like you the same way you do, but he cares for you… Even if he doesn’t show it.”
Lance set the bottle he’d been holding down and wiped at his eyes quickly. "I will.“ He quickly got up from the recessed couch and made his way to the door.
The Blue Paladin skidded to a stop.
“My door’s always open if you need to talk about anything.”
Lance offered him a shaky smile. "Thanks, Shiro.“
The older man nodded. "Good luck.”
Lance found Keith sparring in the Garrison gym, dressed in boxing boots, gym shorts and a black tank top. Lance quietly chuckled to himself at how typical it was. He then paused as it occurred to him this was one of the things he almost knew on instinct about Keith, one of the best ways for him to calm down was to slice and dice things with his bayard.
Although in this instance, the raven-haired teenager was cutting arcs through empty air.
Lance watched for a bit, wondering if Keith was finding the exercises anywhere near as calming as he did when he went through them on the Castle. Chopping air, no matter how energetic he went about it, had to be a pale imitation to the gladiator droids and floating sentries.
For a time, Lance was happy to just watch Keith sparring. There were no complications when Keith was training, no confused feelings, bickering banter, sudden departures for the Blade of Marmora, or even the Galra. There was just Keith, his katar, and an incredible finesse that regardless of everything else, Lance was always a little bit in awe of.
The Red Paladin chopped the air one last time, and dropped to a crouch.
He rose to stand, skin flushed and hair dampened by sweat, the black curls clinging to his forehead.
In that moment, the Blue Paladin was reminded of what Shiro had said about Adam:
It was the end of the day. He was in his flightsuit, his hair a mess and almost certainly smelling a little ripe, yet he had all the time in the world for the cadets and the questions…
There weren’t any cadets for Keith to mentor, but it didn’t matter. He was a literal hot mess, yet Lance still felt himself drawn to him.
There was a flash of blue as Keith’s katar shifted back into its default bayard configuration, and he turned towards the door. Surprise flashed on his face as he registered Lance.
Lance steeled his resolve, and tried to act casual and cross the room with his usual languid pace. "Hey man, how’s it going?“
Keith shrugged. "Training, trying to get back into routine. We need to be ready to head back out there once the Lions have been recharged.”
Lance settled down on the end of a weight bench. "C'mon Keith, you’re allowed to take some personal time. You… Me… The others… That thing nearly killed us. We need some time to recharge.“
"I spent some time with my Mom a few days ago… And I was with Shiro yesterday.”
Lance leveled a flat look at Keith. "You went with your mom to see your Dad’s grave, and you hung out with Shiro at a briefing session with Kolivan and the Mamorites. When was the last time you actually got your chill on with someone? With Hunk and Pidge, or Matt, or Allura?“
Keith looked uncertain. "I… Can’t really remember.”
Lance pushed himself off the weight bench. "Okay then, first thing you’re gonna do is take a break.“ He slung an arm over Keith’s shoulder. A moment later, his nose wrinkled. "Okay, maybe first thing you’ll do is grab a shower, second thing you do is take a break.”
“That was the plan.” Keith huffed.
“But… Hey, before you do that, I need to talk to you about something.” Lance let his arm slip off of Keith’s shoulder, and he stepped in front of him.
“Please, just hear me out okay? This is important.” Keith folded his arms across his chest, a quizzical brow raised. "Something kept bugging me those couple of weeks we were in the hospital, something that I was kinda afraid to admit to myself until I talked to Shiro about it.“ Lance laughed dryly at himself. "I think he figured things out deca-phoebs ago.”
“What did Shiro figure out?”
Lance tugged one of Keith’s hands away and into his own, the raven-haired man frowned in confusion. Lance swallowed to keep his throat clear.
“That I’m falling for you. I think I might be falling in love with you.”
Keith looked at Lance as if he had suddenly turned purple and gotten yellow eyes. "Very funny Lance.“ He pulled his hand free and side-stepped Lance so he could head towards the gym exit.
The Blue Paladin gaped. He took off to catch up with his teammate.
"I’m not joking Keith!” He shouted, and there must’ve been something in his voice that caused the Red Paladin to halt his departure. Keith hovered by the door, uncertain. "Look, I know I’ve done and said a lot of stupid stuff in front of you… And I’ve been a bit of a dick about this whole 'rivalry’ thing.“
"You had the rivalry.” Keith pointed out.
Lance made a frustrated noise. "I know, I know. It was all me because I was jealous of you… And intimidated… And maybe crushing on you a little as well.“ He took a deep breath to steady his nerves. "I know you have no reason to believe me… So let me show you.”
“Fine.” Keith responded, and Lance took the leap.
He gently leant forward, and kissed Keith on the lips. It was probably a minute later… Though it could’ve been longer or shorter for what Lance knew… That he pulled back. His pulse was racing, and his head suddenly felt cocooned with endorphins and dopamine. The kiss was brief, but felt great… And he hoped that it wouldn’t be the last they shared.
He studied Keith’s response, at the moment he looked a little lost in how to process things. Seems it had left an impression.
After a spell, Keith quietly asked: “Why me?”
“I’m still figuring a lot of it out…” Lance responded with his signature half-smile. "Maybe it’s because you’re brave, that you would… And have tried to sacrifice yourself to save the rest of the team. That there’s this soft side to you that you used to keep hidden away, but you’ve started showing to the rest of us. Then there’s the fact that you’re this amazing ninja with a sword, and you even have the suit to match.“
Keith was starting to look diffident.
"And you know what I said when we were stuck in that really weird gameshow? About you being the future? I meant it… I mean, who better to help us achieve peace with what’s left of the Galra than the half-human/half-Galra Paladin of Voltron? And it doesn’t hurt that you’re pretty handsome… Even though you don’t seem to know it…”
“Even with my… 'mullet’?”
Lance took a tentative step forward. "Even with that.“ He moved another step closer. "And it’s kinda cute how shy you get when someone pays you a compliment…”
He was now stood just outside of Keith’s bubble of personal space. "And for some reason, your lips felt so soft despite the fact I can see they’re dry and chapped.“
They hung there, caught in each other’s gravity.
"You don’t even know if I’m gay.” Keith pointed out.
“You could be bi.” Lance smirked. "I know I’m taking a giant leap here… But… I don’t want to wait any longer to tell you how I feel. I don’t want to deny it anymore.“
The Red Paladin digested what he’d heard.
"You love me?”
Lance nodded hesitantly. "I think I do, I’m sure I do.“
"What if you realize at some point later that it’s just a crush?”
“If it’s just a crush then…” His blue eyes widened. "Wait, you kinda suggested we could end up together?“
"Answer the question, Lance.”
Lance huffed. "If it’s a crush… Then we’ll deal with it. Isn’t that the point of asking someone out? We give it a try and see if it works?“
Keith shrugged. "You tell me… 'Loverboy’… I’ve never asked anyone out, I’ve never been asked out.”
A sudden sadness enveloped Lance. "That isn’t fair.“
Keith shrugged. "The universe isn’t fair, I got used to it. I grew up without my Mom, my dad died when I was a kid, I lost Shiro and I got kicked out of the Garrison.” He then gave a breathy laugh. “And now? I’ve got my Mom back, I got to see the amazing guy my Dad was. I found Shiro… Three times, I’m a Paladin of Voltron and I’ve got friends who make up this weird space family… And to top it off I’ve got this insufferable guy I met at the Garrison asking me out.”
“Insufferable, but appealing.” Lance grinned hopefully.
Keith rolled his eyes, but there was exasperated amusement in his voice. "I guess so.“
"I think I’m in love with you, but I’m cool with taking it slow. Will you go out with me?”
Keith considered the request. "I will, if you remember this.“ He closed the gap between them, grasped Lance by the lapel of his olive-coloured jacket and kissed the Blue Paladin on the lips.
It was impatient, fiery and intoxicating, just like Keith. It was also a little sloppy as well, but Lance was happy to help him with that.
They drew apart. Keith’s hand still clung to Lance’s coat. "You… Hit my heart… Sharpshooter.”
A surge of something happy tingled through him, Keith saying something romantic was new territory. "You stole it first, Samurai.“
or, enter your birth date.*
August - “When you’re on the beach you steal the show”
There weren’t many people Lance was willing to give up his beauty sleep and rise before the sun for, but it just so happened that a certain guy with a certain mullet-like haircut was one of them.
Keith had requested the early start when they’d hung out the previous evening, and Lance had agreed (with only a slight bit of grumbling).
Warm pre-dawn whipped about Lance and tugged at the backpack on his back as Keith’s Yamaha sped along the I-5 through Cascade and Pike/Pine, he was in the dark about where their destination lay, and what was inside the bag he was wearing, but he had complete trust in Keith’s plan. Whatever it happened to be.
Keith took Exit 167 off of the interstate, curving through the tiled and floodlit tunnel that would take them out onto Mercer Street.
The Space Needle swept into view in the distance as their journey continued, and after a short jaunt along Mercer Street, Keith turned north onto Queen Anne Avenue. The street rose ahead of them, and didn’t level out until they’d reached where Queen Anne Avenue crossed Highland Drive, where Keith swung left at the intersection. The cyclist followed the tree-lined residential street until it opened out on to their left, revealing a rectangular park populated with benches and a piece of modern art comprised of a large cylinder stacked on top of a large cube, both of which were perforated by large circular holes.
Keith slowed his Yamaha to a stop in the parking bay that ran the length of Kerry Park, and stilled the engine. He slipped effortlessly off of the motorcycle and helped Lance down onto the sidewalk. Lance removed the blue motorcycle helmet Keith had gotten for him, he stifled a yawn that was mostly genuine, and flashed a carefree smirk at his boyfriend.
“So… What’re we doing here at the ass-end of the morning?”
“This.” Keith nodded towards the far side of the thin park, where the land sloped away to reveal the Seattle skyline. Carrying their helmets, Keith led them over to the low wall which bordered the park’s panoramic viewpoint. The tanned man followed his boyfriend’s lead and sat down on the wall, where he trained his eyes across the city and waterfront.
The morning was dim but clear, leaving the skyline a shadowy version of itself, populated by a scattering of lit office windows, the remaining employees who were either burning the midnight oil, or getting an early start on the day’s work.
Beyond Mount Rainier, the Columbia Center, the Space Needle, and Two Union Square, the sky was beginning to lighten.
“I used to come here a lot. Sometimes I just needed to clear my head, and watching the sun rise… It helped me forget what was bothering me, even if only for a little while.”
Lance glanced towards the raven-haired man; Keith’s focus was entirely on the scene before them. His face seemed serene in the growing, golden light, and the blue-eyed man turned back towards the cityscape. The glow of the sun was bursting through the clouds on the horizon, and it was glorious.
“Is this what this thing’s for?” Lance asked, tugging the backpack strap looped around his right shoulder.
Keith turned back, an amused smirk on his face. "That’s for later.“
They’d watched the sun rise for the better part of an hour, in that time they’d barely traded more than a dozen words, their conversation having been translated through their body language as they sat together, Lance wrapping a hand around Keith’s waist. He was happy to pass the time in near-silence, seeing the calm and relaxed air his boyfriend had embodied was more than worth it.
With the new day literally dawning, Keith lead the way back to the motorcycle, where they resumed their journey heading north on the I-5. At almost a quarter past seven, there was already a steady thrum of traffic as their fellow Seattleites started heading to work.
Like before, Lance could only guess where they were heading to as they tore up the roadway.
A green sign for Edmonds Community College flipped by, and the interstate curved to the north-east. As the sky transitioned to blue at a rapid pace, Seattle slipped away behind them.
The final approach to their destination was unfamiliar to Lance, a winding and wooded route that fed through the suburban city of Edmonds. Keith brought the motorcycle to a stop in front of a pair of white barriers, and chain-link gates, both of which were closed.
Keith seemed to stare at the gates for a moment, like he hadn’t been expecting them to be there.
"It’s supposed to be open.”
“What?” Lance asked.
“The gates, they’re supposed to be open by now.”
“Maybe it’s the ranger’s day off, or like other people, he doesn’t like getting up before eight.” Lance joked.
Keith hopped off of the motorcycle without saying a word, and went to crouch beside the barriers. Lance removed his helmet and knelt beside the other man, who was studying the padlocks barring their way with the kind of intensity that meant he was concocting a plan.
“Looks like we’re walking from here, babe.”
Keith’s response was to extract something from the pocket of his red motorcycle jacket, a small leather pouch full of precision tools.
Lance blinked. “Are those lock picks?”
“You didn’t see these.” Keith muttered quietly as he went to work.
“Does Shiro know you have them?”
“He bought them for me.”
Lance nodded thoughtfully as he processed that information. Rather than press for answers, for now, he opted to watch his boyfriend at work. After only a few minutes, Keith had the first padlock off its chain. It didn’t take much longer for Keith to work his magic on the second padlock, and in little time at all, their way was now clear.
Keith’s chuckle broke the silence. "They need better padlocks.“ He pushed opened the gates and barriers far enough to let his bike pass through, and wheeled it through the gap. As soon as they were through, he left Lance with the Yamaha and headed back to the barriers so he could lock them up again.
"In and out, like a shadow… Leaving nothing but the mystery of the Street Ninja.”
“I’m not a street ninja.” Keith rebutted.
“-Is just what I’d expect the Street Ninja to protect his identity.” Lance countered.
Keith sighed. "On second thought, becoming your boyfriend was a bad idea.“
"Come over here and say that.” The blue-eyed man challenged with a smirk. Keith just shook his head and walked towards his bike. He hopped on and kick-started it.
He looked over his shoulder. "You coming?“
Lance hopped on, and they surged forward past a wooden sign:
Picnic Point Park
Keith had brought him to where they’d spent his birthday.
The Yamaha crossed the parking lot in no time, where Keith brought it to a stop where the curved road joined up with an equally-curvaceous footpath. Keith silenced the engine, and the riders hopped off. "I’m gonna stow the bike behind that dumpster. In case the warden shows up.”
“Breaking and entering, trespassing, and evading the law.” Lance chuckled. "What’s next, public nudity?“
"It’s not that kind of date.” Keith remarked as he unlocked the bike’s seat cover and unhooked it. "Helmet.“
Lance smirked as he handed over his headgear. Having dated Keith for as long as he had, and having known him for even longer, he knew that the other man’s often blunt and grumpy demeanor hid a fiercely loyal and loving friend. Keith wasn’t always a man of many words, but he had his own way of showing how much those close to him meant to him.
Keith secured the helmets via their straps to a pair of hooks fastened to the underside of the seat cover. He fitted the seat cover back into place, and gave the helmets a quick tug to check they were secure.
Satisfied, the raven-haired man pushed his bike off of the asphalt and behind the dumpster.
"So… what brings us back to the beach?”
Keith shrugged. "You like the beach, and you had fun when we came here last time. I figured we could have a picnic, or something.“
Realization dawned in blue eyes. "So that’s what this’s for.” He tugged the backpack strap again. "Awesome, should be nice.“
Keith nodded. He then knelt down and held out a hand. "Could you pass the bag?”
“Sure.” Lance nodded as he shrugged it off. He was silently glad to have a break from the heavy thing. Keith unzipped the backpack, and produced a pair of heavy-duty motorcycle padlocks.
Lance crossed his arms in a reflective gesture. "Huh, no wonder it weighed a ton.“
Keith snapped the padlocks into place, one on each wheel, and checked them to make sure they weren’t going anywhere. He rose to his feet and slung the backpack over his shoulder, favoring Lance with an affectionate half-smile. "Let’s check out the sand.”
Lance grasped his boyfriend’s hand. "Lead the way, Street Ninja.“
The air was warming up, and Picnic Point beach was currently deserted: the benefit of having chosen to visit on a weekday.
Skipping the picnic tables close to the overpass, Keith led them down to the sand. They then followed the shoreline north for a short distance, which brought them to a more secluded part of the beach, one that was scattered with buts of driftwood as big as tree trunks.
Keith picked a spot on a sun-bleached trunk, and they sat. He swung the backpack around and unzipped it, where he produced a couple of plastic bags stuffed with food and drink.
"I didn’t know what would work as picnic food, so I asked Hunk to help me make a few different things you’d probably like.” He dug through one of the bags. "Ham, cheese and pickle sandwiches… And some lemonade?“
Lance grinned as he accepted the offered food. "Looks great. Thanks, babe.”
Keith nodded. "We also made some dessert. Dulce… Dulcy… Dosey doe…“
Lance’s eyes brightened. ”Dulce de Toronja!?“
"Yeah. That.” Keith laughed. "I wanted to make something bigger, but Hunk talked me down because of my backpack.“
Lance laughed amiably. "This’s fine, seriously. I would’ve been happy with store-bought cupcakes… You didn’t have to do all this.”
Keith shrugged, that half-smile on his face again. "I wanted to.“
Lance scooted closer, and gave his boyfriend a peck on the cheek. "I love you for wanting to.”
Lance set to work unwrapping the Clingfilm that protected his sandwiches. As he took an experimental bite from his own, he watched as Keith pulled out what looked like a pair of chicken and lettuce sandwiches for himself. The sandwiches Keith had prepared were tasty, and he let him know as much: “These are pretty good.”
“Thank Hunk, he suggested what ingredients and sauces to use.”
“I will, but you still made them… That’s like, a major part of sandwich-making. Sandwiches are only so-good if your heart’s not in it.”
Keith let out a quiet laugh at the remark, and Lance was happy to chalk that up as a victory.
The two men settled in to enjoy their seaside picnic, set to the rumbling soundtrack of a freight train running along the tracks bisecting the park.
“Mmmmmm.” Lance hummed happily. He was leant against Keith, who had a hand wrapped around his boyfriend’s waist. Initiating physical shows of affection was still a learning process for Keith, but despite his initial caution and uncertainty, he’d grown more relaxed in his embrace with Lance. “This is nice.” The smile he had entered his voice. "And so was the picnic. For future reference you make a mean sandwich, and some really good Dulce de Toronja.“
Keith laughed, and the chuckle vibrated through Lance. "They were only good because Hunk helped me. Without him, the Dulcee…Dulce de… Dulce de Toronja would’ve been terrible. And it was just a ham and cheese sandwich.”
“Dude, it wasn’t just a ham and cheese sandwich. You had the perfect ratio of ham to cheese, and the pickles weren’t too strong or weak. And what did I say about you putting your heart into it?”
Keith grimaced. "Heart sandwich, yuck.“
"I’m being serious here.” Lance grinned.
Keith smirked, choosing not to go for the obvious bait. "I just followed Hunk’s instructions.“
"Yeah, but in addition to your heart you also imbued my sandwich with your special ninja powers. You’re a street ninja and a sandwich ninja!”
That got a breathy laugh out of Keith. "That… That isn’t how any of that works. And ‘imbued’?“
Lance made a scoffing noise. "I may play dumb some of the time, but I’m smarter than I look.”
“Uh-huh.” Keith smirked.
“I was paying you compliments, mullet.”
“Ridiculous compliments.” Keith pointed out.
“They’re still compliments.” Lance mock-pouted. The effort only lasted for a grand total of ten seconds before the look vanished, and he reached over to gently tilt Keith’s head to face him. "Thanks for this.“ He leant in, and pressed a soft kiss to Keith’s lips.
Keith flushed, and returned the affection.
They traded quick kisses, slow kisses, playful kisses and French kisses for a while. Keith reluctantly broke away, and stood up from their driftwood loveseat.
Lance braced his palms on the log and leant back, he regarded his boyfriend with a love-struck smile. "Thinking of heading?”
“Not yet.” Keith responded, and unzipped his motorcycle jacket. "It’s starting to get really hot, fancy going for a swim?“
Lance let out a short laugh. "I hope you swiped some of my swim shorts before we left, because once again I haven’t brought any. I’m happy to go swimming if you’re happy with me skinny dipping.”
Keith suddenly gave Lance a daring look as he dropped the red leather jacket onto the sand. "That’s okay. I don’t have any swimming shorts with me either.“
Lance gaped for a moment, and he felt his pulse quicken as Keith began to pull his black T-shirt off over his head. The hem of the shirt slid away, revealing the lean muscles of Keith’s stomach, as well as the trail of fine black hairs that flowed down from his navel until they vanished beneath the waistband of his black jeans.
The T-shirt quickly joined his jacket, not that Lance really noticed.
"You gonna keep sitting there?”
Lance trained an appreciative look across Keith’s body. "Sorry, was admiring the view.“
"Yeah?” Keith replied - there was that breathy chuckle again. "How’s it looking now?“
His right-hand slipped from the belt loop, and snaked down to the fly of his jeans. He took his time drawing it down, teasing Lance. As soon as it was undone, his hand disappeared inside, and Lance knew he would be undone. The motorcyclist pulled his half-hard penis through the gap.
Lance swallowed. "You’re going commando?”
“You’ll have to keep up with me to find out.” His boyfriend chuckled. He then stuffed his cock back into his jeans and took off in a jog.
As it turned out, Keith had been going commando, a fact Lance would have to file away for later use. With a degree of dexterity and finesse that the other male could only dream of (though he’d got to experience first-hand on many occasions), Keith had managed to remove his boots and jeans with little impact on the distance he was maintaining from his boyfriend.
Now, he was jogging across the sand. Sometimes he kept his magnificently firm ass in his boyfriend’s field of vision, at other moments, he flipped around and jogged backwards so he could treat Lance to the sight of half-masted dick bouncing out of reach like some pornographic carrot on a stick.
Lance was stumbling. He’d had no trouble stripping to his waist, but getting his sneakers and jeans off seen him nearly fall over a handful of times. In the end he’d conceded a temporary defeat in order to get his trousers off, but as soon as his legs were free, he was back in naked pursuit of Keith.
The raven-haired man was hip-deep in the water when Lance finally reached the surf. He charged forward, and hurled himself to tackle his boyfriend.
After a chaotic minute where they were both submerged, they burst to the surface, rivulets of water streaking down pale and tanned skin as they laughed between coughs.
“Did you have to do that?”
“Hey, I’m just going with the flow” Lance rebuked.
“'Going with the flow’, huh?” Keith asked, raising a querying brow. "Like this?“ He shoved his hand into the water and grabbed Lance’s ass.
The pecan-haired man did his best to stifle his smirk. "That’s one way.” He reached out and grasped Keith’s cock where it bobbed, the head just breaking the surface. "Here’s another.“
Lance gently stroked Keith off, sliding his fist up and down the length of his boyfriend’s manhood, rubbing the pad of his thumb over the head and slit as he went. Keith leant into the contact, and his grasp of the other man’s butt cheek tightened.
Abruptly, Lance dropped to his knees, submerging himself almost up to his nose. With little ceremony, he took Keith into his mouth. The standing man’s hands hovered briefly, having been left at a loss without Lance’s ass to grope, but Keith soon found a new activity to task them with, and he gently slid them into the damp waves of Lance’s pecan-coloured hair.
Keith was always reluctant to admit such a fact, fearing it would only cause his boyfriend’s ego to swell, but Lance sucking him off was his favorite thing he could do to him (Keith’s favorite thing to do to Lance was to ride him until he felt Lance come).
Keith hadn’t had as much experience with guys as his boyfriend, but he was grateful that Lance’s own experiences had made him a demon with his tongue and lips.
He was just getting into the blowjob when his dick suddenly slipped free of his boyfriend’s mouth, and Lance smirked up at him. "First one to swim to the rotted pier and back gets to have the other as their slave.”
“What?” Keith blurted. Lance made good on his head start while the indigo-eyed man stood there. "Hey!“
They traded water-logged steps for full-on swimming as they raced from their secluded part of the beach, out towards the rotted wood piles that were visible above the water-line.
Despite the head start, Lance had lost the race to the pier and back. Keith suspected his boyfriend had deliberately lost, but frankly he didn’t care. They were crashed out on the sand, Lance’s head bobbing up and down on his cock, that tongue of his once again working its magic on Keith.
"Huuuuuh… Huuuuugggh…” Keith’s breath came out in a rasp, he was getting close. "Huuuu… Ugggghhhhahh!“ Lance’s cock twitched and his precum left a damp spot where it was pressed between his stomach and the sand.
Keith had always been pretty quiet whenever Lance had given him a blowjob, and when Keith masturbated and Lance watched. He was much more vocal whenever he was riding Lance in the privacy of one of their bedrooms.
Lance suckled Keith’s softening penis for a short while, drinking up as much of the violet-eyed man’s cum as he could manage. He let Keith’s damp cock slip from his mouth and grinned, he’d already swallowed.
Keith settled onto his side and Lance shuffled forward, becoming little spoon to Keith’s big. "You know, I used to think I was pretty wild when it came to the stuff I got up to on the beach, but compared to you, I’m a noob.”
Keith smirked. "You’ve never streaked on a beach?“
"Once. At midnight. When I was alone. I never got to suck someone off on one.”
Keith’s breathy laugh returned. "Glad to have helped.“
"What can I say? When you’re on the beach, you steal the show. Seeing as we’re talking about getting nude, I thought this 'wasn’t that kind of date’?”
Keith shrugged. "I wanted to see the look on your face when I got my dick out.“
"Was it worth it?”
Keith chuckled. "What do you think? And speaking of 'helping’…“ Keith began. Lance felt his boyfriend’s ungloved fingers wrap around his still erect cock. Keith started to smear Lance’s precum with his thumb.
A pleasant shiver ran the length of Lance, and his fingers joined Keith’s as he helped set the pace. "I could use a hand.” He grinned. Keith let out a little groan at the pun, but didn’t stop.
Drying and cleaning each other up took almost twice as long thanks to the lengthy kisses Keith and Lance continued to share. By the time the clock on Lance’s phone reached nine in the morning, they were dressed and ready to head back to the city.
They walked hand-in-hand back along the overpass, luxuriating in the afterglow and of a tiring but fun morning on the beach. Keith’s motorcycle was stood patiently where they’d left it.
Keith worked on unhooking the seat cover, whilst Lance watched. He languidly stretched and rested his hands behind his head. Keith held his red Scorpion Exo 490 helmet by the visor opening, whilst he proffered the blue Box BX1 to Lance. The tanned man accepted the helmet, and mused as he turned it over in his hands.
“Can we do this again sometime?”
“Sure.” Keith shrugged. "We can even do it for your next birthday if you want.“
Lance chuckled. "As long as the others aren’t here to watch. Seeing as we’re talking about birthday presents, you got any ideas what you’d like?”
“Yeah?” Lance enquired.
“Yeah.” Keith nodded. He stepped closer, and rested a hand on Lance’s hip.
“What did you have in mind?” Lance returned, draping his arms (plus helmet) across Keith’s shoulders.
“Well…” He trailed off teasingly.
“Whatever you want, babe.”
Keith gave Lance a mischievous smirk. "What I’d like… Is one of those helmets that looks like the Predator’s mask.“
Lance stared in surprise for a moment, and then leveled his boyfriend with a flat glare. "Not cool mullet.”
or, enter your birth date.*
Author’s Note: This story features some musical enhancement; the link is embedded in the song lyrics.
August - “When you’re on the beach you steal the show”
The sun-drenched trees and wood-clad houses along the stretch of Matunuck Beach North Road were quickly becoming a familiar sight through Jack’s windscreen, and there was something to be said about having some variation in scenery compared to the bustle and noise of Providence.
Turning off onto Jay Street, Jack drew his car to a stop in front of the burnt orange and crimson-trimmed Haddock household. As promised, his boyfriend and his boyfriend’s best friends were stood on the sidewalk in beachwear.
The azure-eyed man flipped down his mirrored aviators and flashed them a dazzling smile. “So who’s up for some high tides and good vibes?”
Hamish grinned and showered his boyfriend with a warm greeting and a quick kiss. “Hey m'lord, traffic must’ve been good.”
“U.S. 1 was pretty clear once I got out of Federal Hill, though I can’t wait for the construction work on the I-95 to finally finish, it’s been crawling every time I’ve used it.” Jack banished his grouse with another flash of his smile, and he addressed Astrid and Fiske. “Hey guys. So who wants to go to the beach?”
Jack’s ‘a little bit of everything’ playlist blared from the car stereo as they glided along Matunuck Beach South Road, out of Berk and eastwards along the coast toward East Matunuck State Beach.
The suggestion had been Hamish’s at the spur of the moment, which had come as a bit of a surprise to Jack, who’d assumed they’d be spending the day at the town beach, where they’d had the fourth of July barbecue. Still, considering there wasn’t much in the way of beaches close to central Providence, he was always happy to check out new shorelines and sand dunes.
As they made their way to the beach, he’d learned that in addition to being much larger than the town beach, it would often be quieter even in the height of summer… And had required a change of vehicle, as Astrid’s Volkswagen GTI was equipped with a season pass for the provided parking.
The structure of the beach pavilion stood out as an unmistakeable landmark even half a mile down the road, the largest object amongst a landscape dominated by low trees, tall hedges, telegraph poles and salt marshes.
“♪Woooooooah, we’re half way there!♫” Jack sang at the top of his lungs.
“♫Woooooooah! The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air♪!” Hamish, Astrid and Fiske joined in, before breaking into a round of laughter. They’d been supplying meme-responses since the song started playing.
Astrid did her best to keep her laughter under control as she drove. A rectangular sign quickly approached, announcing:
“Here we are, guys.” She smirked, the ghost of his laughter still in her voice as a second sign, advising to keep right swept past. Astrid followed the slip road off of the highway, drawing the car to a stop in a short queue leading up to the toll booth-like huts.
Jack settled back in his seat, and glanced towards his boyfriend.
“Looks busy.” He mused.
“Don’t worry; it won’t be as busy as it looks.” The auburn-haired man explained.
“So what’s the plan? Sun bathing? Volleyball? Building sandcastles?”
“Astrid’s got something planned.” Hamish remarked with a smirk.
Their driver quickly glanced away from the traffic. “It’s nothing fancy, but I think you’ll like it.”
Jack grinned. “Neat. Hamish and I will have whatever you’ve got planned sorted in no time.”
Astrid glanced back, now bearing a conspiratorial look. “Actually, you’ll be teamed up with me.”
Despite the initial flurry that had queued to pay, the parking lot for the beach was reasonably quiet for the day. As Jack climbed out of the V.W., he took in the towering sight of the wind turbine.
His gaze drifted down to the sprawling mass of the beach pavilion, which he only had a moment to admire before his attention was drawn back to the others in the group.
Astrid walked past with a familiar beach umbrella slung under her arm, and a tote bag of snacks slung over the other. Fiske followed a few steps behind her, carrying some folded up windbreaks.
“Jack?” He turned to face Hamish, who was holding out a zipped sports bag of items. He took the bag from his boyfriend, who had a bundle of beach towels in one hand, and a drinks cooler in the other. “Thanks.”
“No problem, babe.” Jack smiled, and shared another quick kiss with the other young man.
Hamish slid a pair of sunglasses into position as they resumed walking, following their friends towards a ramp leading up to the pavilion.
As they ascended the ramp, Jack took in the pavilion. Set atop a raised concrete platform, the two huts, like oversized boathouses, were decked out in tan clapboards, white trim and grey pitched metal roofs. Square windows dotted above head level gave occasional glimpses of indistinct illuminated interiors. Their path took them between the two huts, and out onto a large deck, with a covered picnic area and tables with parasols. Jack glanced to his left, and spotted a pair of signs that advertised:
SALTY’S BURGERS & SEAFOOD
WOODY’S FROZEN LEMONADE
As he glanced right, he could see the lifeguard tower rising over the roof of the hut containing the changing rooms. Three storeys tall, with an observation platform lining all four sides of the tower.
“Pssst, c'mon.” Hamish intruded with a good-natured tone, and Jack quickened his pace to join Astrid and Fiske who were now stood by the rail overlooking the beach. The others turned as they approached, and Astrid broke into a friendly smile.
“You wanted to know why your boyfriend brought you here rather than hang out on the town beach again?”
She stepped aside with a theatrical sweep of her arm.
“Here’s why.” Hamish gently finished, and Jack took it all in.
The sand stretched out as far as he could see to the his left and right. Before them, the sparkling waters of Block Island Sound reached out until they caressed the sky where it met the horizon.
“I know, right?” The green-eyed man grinned. “You stole the show when we were last on the beach, so I figured you deserved to see what else we had to offer.”
Astrid cleared her throat, levelling a challenging look on her three companions. “So, who’s up for a little game?”
A quick set-up on the sand later, Jack, Hamish, Astrid and Fiske gathered under the beach umbrella.
Astrid clapped her hands together as she began. “Hamish has told me that one of the things you love to do is get into in a good old snowball fight.”
The blue-eyed man raised his hands in surrender with a grin. “Guilty as charged.”
“And I trust him when he says you’re pretty good at it.”
“I believe my exact words were 'he’s a demon’.” Hamish interjected.
“So normally, I wouldn’t even suggest going up against you in a fair snowball fight. And as you may’ve noticed, it’s still summer.”
Jack nodded with a flippant air. “I had noticed.”
“Which gives us a nice handicap: how good are you with sandballs?”
Jack’s brows raised as Astrid produced a pair of plastic snowball sand molds. He accepted one of the tong-like objects. “Looks like we’re about to find out.”
Hamish and Fiske set themselves up less than a yard from the waterline, with Astrid and Jack facing them eight feet away along the shoreline. Each camp had erected a wind break to serve as the wall of their “fort”, and each team had a pair of buckets which they could use for water to make their “sandballs”.
“The rules are as follows: a direct hit results in a ten-second penalty before you can start firing again. You can fire at the opposing team while they go to get more water. Try to aim for the body rather than the face if you can help it. You are only allowed four bucket refills each, so the first team to run out of "ammunition” is the loser, so make those shots count!“
"I’d like to see a nice, clean fight guys.” Jack added, getting into the spirit.
“I’ve seen you when you get into a snowball fight, m'lord.” Hamish fired back. “You’re anything but clean.”
“That’s fighting words, Haddock!” Astrid challenged.
“You’re so on, babe!” Jack jeered, and loosed the first shot.
The first shot had smashed Hamish square in the chest, and from that moment on he’d chosen that all was fair in love and war. Although Astrid and Jack had the better aim of the two, Hamish and Fiske had employed strategy to combat their opponents’ athletic prowess. Jack and Astrid had been enthusiastic, but their rivals were patient, and made their water count. A good few shots from both sides ended up smashing against the wind breaks, and twenty minutes into the sandball fight, Hamish chanced a quick peek over the “parapet”.
He didn’t have a clear view of Astrid and Jack, but they appeared to be scrambling for supplies. He quickly ducked back down, and grinned broadly at his fellow soldier. “I think they’re out.”
Fiske looked hesitant, but optimistic. “Should we call them out?”
“I think we should charge them.”
The heavyset man nodded, though he didn’t look like he was keen on the idea. “I just hope this doesn’t end up being like the charge of the light brigade!”
They swung out from behind their windbreak, and made a run for Jack and Astrid’s, a sandball in each hand.
The green-eyed man wasn’t too surprised to see that Jack and Astrid had planned a similar response, and they leapt up out of cover, a sandball in each hand in mirror of their contenders.
Each participant unleashed their remaining ammunition, with the last shot, hurled by Fiske, having caught the white-haired man on the shoulder.
The battle descended into a chaotic effort of flinging loose sand at each other, and a truce was finally called when they got to the point where they were spitting sand.
Chests heaving and sweat coating their skin, Astrid, Hamish, Jack and Fiske flopped down. It had been silly and frantic, but it had been-
“Fun.” Jack let out a groan, but they knew he’d enjoyed himself. “Did you come up with that specially for me?”
Astrid nodded. “Yep.”
He gave her a thumbs up. “Awesome. The only other person to invent a game for me is sat over there…” He vaguely gesticulated towards his boyfriend. “But I doubt it’d be family-friendly enough to play on a beach.”
Hamish made a dismissive wave of his hand. “There’s too much sand, anyway. It’d get in everywhere.”
“T.M.I., guys.” Fiske interjected.
“Seconded.” Astrid agreed, raising a hand.
“Alright, you prudes, we’ll stop.” Jack chuckled. He made another attempt to spit out some more of the coastline.
“Drinks?” Hamish suggested.
“Drinks.” Astrid agreed, and the group pulled themselves up and gathered their warfare supplies.
“Jack, could you help me carry this stuff to the car? It’s less for us to carry later.”
The blue-eyed man shrugged. “Sure.”
Hamish shot Astrid a look, and she fired back as much of a reassuring smile as she could achieve in the short moment before they headed back towards her car. As Jack fell into step with her, she glanced toward him.
“Nice idea with the snowball makers, I have to steal that for next summer.”
She chuckled, unable to stop the smirk. “Be my guest.”
He smiled, and then glanced pointedly at her. “So what do you want to take to me about?”
To the point. “I wanted to ask how things were going, can’t I do that?”
“C'mon, Astrid. You’ve got Hiccup here most of the time, you’ve got plenty of chances to ask him how things are going.”
“I used to.” She conceded. “But I think I overdid it a little when you two started dating and now he gets exasperated with me.”
He glanced slyly at her. “You were that worried about me?”
She shrugged. “You were this guy from the city that neither of us knew… And I know that he can be a bit of a love-struck puppy when he has a crush on someone.”
“He’s told me something like that.” Jack nodded with a chuckle. “Okay, I’ll lay it out… Do you want it in one-hundred-and-forty characters, or Facebook length?”
They were clearing the edge of the pavilion; the parking lot and Astrid’s Volkswagen were in sight. “We’re starting to settle into a routine, but that’s normal… Isn’t it? I’m still having plenty of fun with him on our dates, and I think he is as well. I don’t see us stopping anytime soon.”
“What about the long-haul?”
He slowed. “I haven’t really thought much about it.” He shrugged. “I’m kinda taking it one day at a time.”
“Do you see yourself as still being with him this time next year?”
“Well… Sure, I guess. Has he said he’s losing interest, or something?”
“No!” Astrid responded suddenly. “No, he’s not said or done anything to make me think that.” She took a step closer to him. “You’re the first person he’s had a significant relationship with… I guess it’s my natural nosiness and protectiveness getting the better of me and maybe making me a little scary.”
“You were getting a little scary… But, I get what you mean and why you’re doing it.” He took a breath as they resumed walking to the car. “I don’t really want to make a plan and carve it into stone. I like being able to see where things go without the expectation to settle down, get married, have kids, get a dog…” His expression turned thoughtful. “I mean, yeah, I think I do want to have those things. I think I can have them with him, but I don’t want to think too far ahead: wasting the now to work out the later… Know what I mean?”
“Yeah.” She nodded. “I do.”
She extracted the keys for her car and unlocked the trunk.
“He’s lucky to have you.” Jack stated.
“Isn’t that my line?” She countered with a smirk, and he let out a chuckle.
“Sorry if I got a bit defensive back there. If you want to know how we’re doing, feel free to ask, or call.”
She nodded, grateful for the offer. “I will. Thanks, Jack.”
Hamish glanced up from his spot opposite Fiske in the shade. “Hey you two. I was about to call Dad and organise a search party.”
“Sorry.” Astrid smiled apologetically. “I was grilling your boyfriend and we lost track of time.”
“About what?” Hamish asked. Fiske reached into the cooler and extracted a can of Pepsi Max for Jack and a bottle of Clear American raspberry apple for Astrid.
“Stuff, things, the average unladen velocity of an Swallow. The usual.” Jack interjected as he sat down, accepting the cool can from the blond man.
“Pull my other leg, it’s real.” Hamish countered.
“Astrid was just doing what all good friends do with the people dating their best friend: making sure my intentions were honourable.”
Hamish turned towards his aforementioned-best friend. “Are they? Is he?”
She nodded as she effortlessly twisted the cap off of her bottle. “You’ve nothing to worry about.”
Hamish looked suspiciously between the pair of them. “Good.”
“Good.” Jack agreed.
“Good.” Astrid smiled.
Fiske looked between the three of them. “So, uh… How about those Bruins? Who’ll they get to replace Czarnik now that he’s going to the Flames?”
After the sandball fight, the four young adults settled down to spend the rest of their time relaxing in each other’s company. Fiske poured over his rule books for Dragons & Berserkers, making occasional notes as he went. Astrid was progressing through Dread Nation by Justina Ireland, and Hamish was contently lying with his head propped up, using his boyfriend as a willing pillow. The two of them passing time identifying shapes in the clouds.
The afternoon drifted on, with the sun starting to descend towards the west.
Astrid slipped a homemade bookmark back into her novel, and set it down to glance at Fiske. He appeared to have briefly dozed off, pen loosely held in hand. She trailed her gaze to Jack and Hamish, who were talking quietly between each other.
“…Doing anything for Labor Day?”
Jack shrugged. “Barbecue with Bunny, Anna, Nick, plus Jamie and the others… You?”
“Same. Dad will probably hold it in the back yard and we’ll have Astrid, her family and Gobber over like we did for the fourth. I might be able to spend some time that weekend in the city with you, though.”
“I’d like that.” Jack returned softly. He leant forward and kissed Hamish’s forehead. A moment later, they shared an awkward upside-down kiss.
Astrid smiled and shook her head. They were a pair of romantic saps, but she loved them despite that. She retrieved her book, hoping to squeeze another few pages out of the dying light, before they headed back to Berk.
or, enter your birth date.*
July - "You’re a firecracker all aglow"
Jack gave the back seat of his car one final inspection; he thought he had everything he needed for the trip.
“Food… Beach umbrella… Inflatable?” An Australian voice suggested. Jack shot a flat look at Aster.
“I’m not a ten-year-old and I can swim, I don’t need a pool float.”
“Who said anything about it being a pool float?” the Antipodean chuckled. “I was just suggesting it in case you strike out tonight.”
Jack glared at his friend. “This isn’t that sort of night out, but if things go that way, the only rubber we’ll be using is in my wallet, and the only thing I’ll be blowing-”
“Alright, alright. I didn’t need the mental picture.”
Jack replied with a smirk. “Hey, you brought my sex life into it.”
“Sex life?” A voice asked from the doorway leading up to the apartment Jack shared with Aster.
“Don’t ask.” The older man grumbled.
“I’m not sure I want to.” Anna grimaced as she stepped out to join her friends. “All packed?”
“I think I’ve got everything.” Jack shrugged. “If not, I’ll improvise.”
Aster groaned. “Please don’t.”
“Hope you have a good time with Hamish.”
“Thanks.” Jack smiled as he climbed into his 2011 Crown Victoria.
“Give the tin-footer my regards.”
Anna gave Aster a half-hearted reprimanding slap. “Give him mine as well, without the thoughtless nickname.”
“I will.” Jack grinned. “Happy 4th of July.”
“Happy Treason Day.” Aster quipped.
This time, Anna gave him a playful jab with her elbow. “Happy Independence Day.”
Hamish was glad he had his phone with him to pass the time, as the sign pointing out Raven Point Park (and the adjacent beach), even though it was swinging quickly from the steady breeze blowing out to sea, was proving less than a viable distraction.
The wind was another thing he was grateful for, the temperature was in the mid-nineties with heat advisories, and even though he was wearing a light green tank top and brown shorts, the heat had still been higher than he felt comfortable in. Fortunately, between the south-eastern breeze and the shade offered by the trees at the turnoff for the park, he was able to stay relatively cool as he waited for Jack’s car to ride into view.
The roads rolling past the park had been pretty quiet once the concert on the beach had kicked off, the town usually went-all out for the national holiday, and if the residents weren’t already down on the shore, or dining at Barry Cuda’s, they were probably off visiting relatives in or out of state. The youngest member of the Haddock clan was spending the fourth of July in a similar fashion to previous years: a beach-side barbecue with his father and Astrid’s family, although this year would be a little different… This year he’d be celebrating it with his boyfriend.
Over Hamish’s shoulder, he could hear the chaotic sounds of excited children playing in the surf, and the thrum of music rising up from the concert playing down on the beach. There was plenty for Jack and Hamish to take part in, once Jack got there.
A red dot appeared on the horizon, all the way up Matanuck Beach North Road, past the short length of Main Street. The dot steadily grew until it had evolved into a full-size Crown Victoria, and the instant that Hamish was able to recognise the driver behind the wheel, a pair of mirrored sunglasses flashed as they revealed a pair of familiar azure eyes.
“‘Scuse me, do you know where the park is? I’m supposed to be meeting this booty call I met on Grindr? He’s skinny, but has the biggest-”
“Jack!” Hamish laughed, part-mortified.
“-heart you’d ever seen.” Jack smirked.
Hamish walked around and hopped into the front-passenger seat. “You’ve been here five seconds and you’re already causing trouble. What would my dad say?”
“'That Jackson Overland is nothing but a peroxide blond nuisance’.” Jack remarked, affecting a poor imitation of Stoick Haddock’s brogue. His boyfriend broke into laughter, so it had the desired effect.
“Don’t ever let him hear you talking like that.” Hamish warned with a smirk.
“Hey! I’m no idiot, okay? I enjoy having my limbs attached to my body, and not being banned from seeing my boyfriend.”
Jack leant over the center console and planted a kiss on his boyfriend’s lips. “I’ve been really looking forward to today.”
The green-eyed man smiled softly back. “I can tell… You’re like a firecracker… All aglow.”
“And you’d know a thing or two about fireworks.”
Hamish shrugged, and then returned his boyfriend’s kiss. “I’m a complete amateur compared to the guys putting together tonight’s display.”
“I don’t know, you always leave me seeing stars…”
“Behave.” Hamish laughed whilst Jack pouted.
“Nice.” Hamish remarked as Jack lugged the beach umbrella out of the floor well. “There isn’t a lot of shade where we’re sat.”
Jack gently kicked the door closed and locked up. “I figured I’d bring it along, it was really useful when I went camping a couple of years back.” He slung the umbrella easily across his shoulder, and hung his right hand over the canopy to keep in place.
Dressed in khaki shorts and a blue tank top with white stripes, Jack was the embodiment of a carefree summer, even though by his own admission he much preferred winter. Hamish indulged a moment to appreciate the figure Jack cut, especially how the way he was holding the umbrella emphasised his jogger’s physique.
As soon as he realised Hamish was staring, Jack’s mouth split into a cocksure grin. “Like what you see?”
Hamish flushed, but he didn’t try to hide he’d been checking his boyfriend out. “I’ve stuck with you this far, haven’t I?”
Jack feigned a wounded expression. “Oh yeah, that’s what everybody wants to hear from their other half. Guess I have to step up my game before you find someone better.” He held out his free left hand, and Hamish grasped it as they walked towards the path leading to the beach. The auburn-haired man’s free hand held the handle of Jack’s food hamper as they sauntered over.
Even dressed in a casual steel blue polo shirt and gunmetal-gray shorts, Stoick still commanded an intimidating presence, which even a year after they’d first met, left Jack feeling a little overawed. Early into his relationship with the Chief of Police’s son, he’d wondered how father and son could’ve been so drastically different in body type. It was only after the white-haired man had seen some photographs of Hamish’s mother Valka, that he finally understood.
The elder Haddock had chosen a spot near the beach’s flagpole, in line-of-sight of the concert and only a short walk for anyone wishing to cool off in the waters of Block Island Sound. The spot was also far enough away that it avoided the thickest parts of the crowds.
Stoick was tending to the burgers and sausages on his portable barbecue when he spotted Jack and Hamish approaching. He raised his free left hand in greeting as he kept his right busy turning over the meat. “Jack.” He welcomed warmly.
“Mister Haddock.” Jack smiled. He then spotted a familiar braid of blonde hair that looked up to greet him. Astrid smiled as she temporarily abandoned a second beach umbrella that she’d been assembling.
“I was starting to think we weren’t going to see you.”
“What Astrid really meant is 'Good, you’re here. I won’t have to hunt you down because you disappointed your boyfriend who also happens to be my best friend’.” Hamish supplied.
Astrid shrugged with an intimidating smirk. “Well I wasn’t exactly going to tell him that, was I?”
Jack grinned. “If I ever let Hiccup down, you can have the first shot at me.” He held out a hand, and Astrid tugged him into an unbalanced hug as he struggled to keep the beach umbrella level.
Released from the hug, the threesome strolled over to the picnic bench, where Jack laid the oversized sunshade down on the grass.
“Working on your own, huh?”
Astrid nodded. “Almost done. Does yours need anything?”
“Just a quick adjustment.” Jack knelt down and unfastened the base from his umbrella. As he scooted under the picnic table, Hamish clambered up and fed the pole through table’s umbrella hole, and Jack promptly reassembled it. Happy with the connection, Jack clambered out and unfurled the sky blue canopy.
“Very nice.” Stoick approved. “That should give us plenty of shade.”
“Yeah.” Jack agreed, wiping away a small amount of sweat from his forehead. He looked around, there was somebody missing from the gathering. “Is Gobber not here yet?”
Stoick shook his head. “He’ll be at the restaurant until this evening.”
“He usually puts on stuff like live music for the big holidays - it brings in a lot of people from Galilee, Hazard Island… Not to mention tourists who come to see the fireworks.”
“He’s hoping to join us once it starts getting dark.” Stoick suddenly chuckled. “The big yin loves a decent firework spectacular.” He took a moment to set some of the cooked meat onto a plate to serve up. “In the meantime though, why not go over and say hello to Astrid’s family?”
Jack glanced over Astrid’s shoulder, towards a nearby fair-haired family who were setting up some folding chairs. “Sure.” He smiled. Jack and Hamish joined Astrid, and she led them over to her relatives.
“Jack, this is my Mom, my Uncle and Aunt, and my cousins. Mom, Uncle Finn, Aunt Kirsten, Alex, Blyn, this is Jack.” Astrid started the introductions.
“My boyfriend.” Hamish added proudly.
“Nice to meet you, Stoick’s mentioned you a few times.” Bertha Hofferson chuckled.
“Mom works with Stoick at the station.”
Jack stiffened up his posture, and shot out his hand. “A pleasure to meet you, Officer Hofferson.”
“I’m off the clock, so it’s just Miss Hofferson.” She chuckled.
“Jack.” Finn Hofferson welcomed with a friendly air.
“It’s nice to meet you.” Kirsten greeted in turn.
“Uncle Finn and Aunt Kirsten run the café.”
Jack nodded in understanding; he’d seen Hofferson’s Café during one of his last visits to Berk.
“-Where special discounts are reserved for friends of the family.” Finn added.
Jack grinned. “Well when you put it that way, guess I’ll have to come down from Providence more often!”
“Mmmmmm.” Jack let out a contented hum, prompting Hamish to chuckle.
“What did I tell you?”
“Can you blame a guy for thinking maybe you were a little biased? I mean, Hell… Nick might not make the best pizza ever, but he still makes a badass pizza… But man, that was the best cheeseburger I’ve ever had.”
“The secret’s in mixing the cheese, and adding a little Worcestershire sauce to the burgers.” Stoick explained, tapping his nose with theatrical secrecy.
“Did I hear somebody talking about 'Haddock’s patented patties’?”
The group turned to see a hulking figure approaching the picnic table, near-silhouetted against the sun setting on a burning sky. George emerged from the gloom, carrying a large Tupperware box.
“Always leaving your entrance to the last minute.” Stoick chuckled as he rose to greet his friend. “I was almost thinking about starting to worry. If old Gobber didn’t show up to see the sparks fly, I might have to put out an A.P.B.”
George shot an offended glare. “'Old’? I’m the same age as you, you bastard.” He gave Stoick’s shoulder a shove, and the Police Chief shoved back. A minute later, the two of them embraced in a bear hug, before they turned back to the people sat around the picnic table.
“Would you two sit down already?” Bertha groaned.
“Yeah, Dad. You don’t exactly see this much 'male bonding’ from Jack and me.” Hamish quipped.
“Such disrespect!” Gobber smirked as he set the Tupperware container down on the table. “And here I am bringing you disrespectful lot some delectable desserts.” He removed the lid, revealing an assortment of Zeppoles, Lun Epleterte, and Death by Chocolate.
“Thanks for bringing dessert.” Astrid smiled.
Gobber regarded the young woman favourably. “At least someone appreciates me.” He held the plastic container towards her, and she selected a Zeppole.
“Would you like something to eat?” Stoick enquired, gesturing towards the closed lid of the barbecue.
“I won’t say no to your famous burgers. In my haste I didn’t grab anything to eat at the restaurant… I haven’t missed the display, have I?”
Hamish checked the time on his phone. “The concert won’t be over for another hour.”
“Ah, excellent.” George smiled, and he settled down on a free spot on the bench attached to the table. “Bertha, Astrid, Kirsten, Finn, Blyn, Alex, always a pleasure.”
Bertha chuckled. “Never a dull moment, George.”
Gobber turned his attention towards his surrogate nephew. “I see you’ve brought along your little Rhodie of mischief.”
Jack fired of a wave as he grinned. “Hey, Gobber.”
“How’re your friends? The grumpy, hairy fella and the delightful multi-coloured lass?”
“They’re good, they send their best. Someday soon I’m gonna convince them to drive down here so they can check out the restaurant.”
Gobber nodded approvingly. “Good lad.”
“…And with one twist, he took my hand and swallowed it whole. And I saw the look on his face; I was delicious! He must have passed the word, because it wasn’t a month before another one of those sleekit sharks took my leg!”
“Is any of that true?” Jack whispered towards his boyfriend.
Hamish smirked and shook his head. “Nope. The last time he told this story, it was a bunch of ill-tempered sea lions.”
“The scary thing about you Gobber, is you can tell all this nonsense whilst completely sober.” Stoick’s voice interjected from across the table.
George preened himself up as if the remark was a compliment. “You have to be extremely talented to tell tales as grand as these. You don’t call me 'Gobber’ for nothing.”
Hamish knew from much experience that left uninterrupted, the two older men would’ve playfully sparred with each other until first light, but he was given a reprieve as a voice spoke out from the loudspeakers down at the stage:
“Ladies and Gentlemen I’m afraid we’re just about done with our set.” A disappointed chorus rose up briefly at the lead singer’s announcement. “But before we say 'goodnight’, we’ve got one last… And very important song to perform. If everyone could stand, please.”
Jack, the Haddocks, the Hoffersons and George rose to their feet.
“We’ve been The Outcasts, and we hope you’ve had a fantastic Independence Day! Happy Birthday, U.S.A!”
There was a brief lull of silence, and then the lead singer launched into the closing number: “♫Oh say can you see… By the dawn’s early light. What so proudly we hailed… At the twilight’s last gleaming?♪”
The crowd promptly joined in with the band.
“♪Whose broad stripes and bright stars… Through the perilous fight, o’er the ramparts we watched… Were so gallantly streaming? And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air. Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there. Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave… O'er the land of the free… And the home… Of the brave?♫”
At the last bar of the Star-Spangled Banner, the concert-goers burst into applause, which was shortly followed by the first burst of fireworks shooting into the sky with a shriek.
As red, white, and blue chrysanthemums exploded into life, silver spinners spun aflame, and multi-coloured peonys flared across the night sky, the crowds settled in to watch as America celebrated its 242nd Birthday.
At the picnic table, Jack scooted a little closer towards Hamish, and wrapped his hands around his boyfriend’s waist.
“Happy Independence Day.” He whispered.
“Happy Independence Day.” Hamish whispered back. He then twisted his head sideways so he could share a kiss with the other man.
Current Residence: A house...no, really
Favourite genre of music: A wide variety
Favourite photographer: None I'm aware of, they're generally all good.
Favourite style of art: No explicet style
Operating System: Windows/Windows XP
MP3 player of choice: Either Windows Media or my Creative Labs MP3 player
Shell of choice: Conch... I'm a fan of "The Lord of the Flies".
Wallpaper of choice: Is flock out? Oh well...
Skin of choice: Fleshy
Favourite cartoon character: I have a lot of favourites, Homer Simpson, Peter Venkman, Garfield the cat...
Personal Quote: "We have the tools, we have the talent"