The Deconstruction of Light
“Keith Kogane lives on a crowded street” is not a sentence Keith think he would ever cross by. But, well, here he is anyway, that exact sentence flashing through his mind word-by-word.
It’s a curious set of words. For once in his lifetime, Keith has an apartment in a place that can be considered a city of some sort. For the first time in the long thirty-six years of his existence, he can go stand by the window and see actual human beings busying their lives away on the street. The orphanage he stayed in was always kinda isolated, Garrison was in the middle of a desert, and so was his… shed. A busy town’s white noises baffle him sometimes.
Just this Monday Keith got himself lost in an unfamiliar part of this city. He have never bothered to check a map (he didn’t think he would go outside alone that much anyway. Still thinks so, actually. Still lying to himself), and that had landed him on a threeway near a barbershop. He has sighed wearily and chosen a general direction to go in.
Midway to nowhere, he came across a hill while accidentally breaking into somebody’s private property. He’s fought the illogical urge to climb it and take a look around, but lost to it in the end. From the top of that hill, he could see the new state spaceport in construction.
Keith has had a few sleepless nights since then - he blames the long exhausting walk back home, but even he himself knows exhaustion always works in favor of his slumber - and has taken to wander the nearby park everytime he’s awake past two in the morning. He works in a hangar nowadays, flies twice a week; the work’s not even half as tiring as what he has faced during his time… away. He has plenty time to rest (wander the street with no set destination in mind) these days.
Hunk generously calls this period right after they arrived home “rehabilitation”. Keith just thinks it makes them all sound like they’re addicted to something. Maybe they aren’t, maybe they are but he just doesn’t like that thought - either way he denies the word. Lance just laughs at him, as always.
Things like that come to his mind everytime he finds himself in the park at wee hour. Maybe he really is in rehab right now, he tries to be honest with himself, maybe he’s trying to fit back into society after having been gone for so long. It’s just a strange, alien thought (ha, alien) that he’d never expect to encounter in his own mind; and all in all, it’s gone on for too long already. Keith just doesn’t really know how to end it.
“It’s six in the morning,” he tells Lance, who’s probably spotting an incredulous face on the other side of the comm. Lance’s like that since day one: weird faces and conversations back and forth, a spring to his steps nobody else can really keep up with, a whole closet of secrets he refuses to share but accept the help with anyway. Keith is surprised by how detailed his inner image of the man is sometimes.
He snorts (a bad habit he picked up from Pidge), irritated. “I’ve been up since five. You, on the other hand, never wake up before eight - and you were the one never shutting up about that during training, so don’t deny it” he cuts Lance off before any attempt to contradict his word. “The surprise lies there. So what’s the big deal?”
“Smart ass,” Lance quips without any real heat, then gets serious again. “Pidge wants a sleep-over.”
Keith stares at his comm for a few seconds before answering. “There are a lot wrong with that request.”
“No, mulletman, oh my God,” Lance says, exasperated. “Okay, lemme rephrase that for your insensitive ass. Pidge needs a sleep-over. Hunk’s already over there making pancakes for all of us, and if we don’t come by before Pidge sits up from her involuntary nap then it’s gonna run out in a blink. You know how Pidge is after crashing.”
Keith knows. He also knows, through their secret source, that she used to know how to care for herself - not even in the Lance way, but in the basic-human-needs way. She used to have a real sleep schedule and regular meals with family and all that stuffs. Everyone in the team eventually learned to value sleep and snack breaks, except for Pidge. She never really got that carved into her mind like the rest of them, not even after her dad and brother’s rescue. That’s just a part of her that’s forever gone.
Keith wants to regret that for her, but he doesn’t really know that part of her any better than what she’s willing to tell. You can’t really regret what you never know.
He sighs, careful not to let Lance hear (no need for more teasing, thank you very much), and decides to make it just a bit more difficult for old time’s sake. “I’m not coming if there’s no blueberries pancakes.”
“Already one step ahead of you, Princess,” Lance whistles. “When I said ‘Hunk got us all covered’, I mean exactly that. So you want a ride or you can get your ass to our destination by yourself?”
They are both a bit late. Pidge is already up and stuffing her face with Hunk’s pancakes before they arrive. “Gosh, Pidge,” Lance exclamed loudly, “can’t we ask for a bit of waiting?”
“Nope,” she says through her mouthful, “no forcing the sick to wait.”
“You’re not sick, you’re sleep-deprived.”
“That counts as sick.” She turns to Hunk for approval. “Right, Hunk?”
“Aw, c’mon!” Lance throws both of his hands up. “That’s just unfair to the pancakes-deprived. Keith, back me up, man! She’s taking your share too!”
Pidge stops chewing to transfer two blueberries pancakes from her stack to the empty plate next to her. “Nah, I remember your share, Kogane. ‘Cause I wanna spite Lance.”
Lance sputters in indignance while Keith takes his assigned seat and picks up a fork on the table. “Thanks. How’s the newest project?”
“A solid four.” Pidge says, loud enough to be heard over Lance running into the kitchen to have a hissy-fit with Hunk. She stares at Keith’s confused face for a moment then laughs. “Oh, yeah, you still don’t get that grading system, right? Should’ve at least tried, man, everyone uses it now.”
“No, just you, Lance, Hunk, and Coran.”
“Good point. Anyway, that’s like… a six out of ten. We ran out of coolant last night and I crashed into the table while Hunk was out getting more, but we managed to get the thing running once. But then Hunk called Lance and now I have pancakes and you guys to wake up to, so I’m tempted to regrade the whole experience.”
“Get it up to an eight?”
“I don’t know, I’m feeling a four out of ten actually.” Pidge laughs again when she looks at Keith’s face. “Man, I’m kidding. How’s city life for you? Got a cat yet?”
Keith rolls his eyes (got that from Lance, the man’s such a bad influence), “Pidge, I lived in the city before Garrison. You’re living in the city. Everyone here’s a city slicker. And no, my landlord doesn’t allow pets.”
“Oh Keith-man here’s the loneliest boy in this side of the town,” Lance jumps in as he sets down his own stack of pancakes and grabs for the bottle of syrup near Keith’s arm on the table. “He’s like the king of hermits. He doesn’t even say thank you to the cashier when he finishes checking out because he’s that unfamiliar to human interactions.”
“I do say thank you to the cashier!” Keith say, while Pidge snickers and resumes her eating.
“Whatever you say, pretty boy.”
Hunk steps out of the kitchen at that exact moment. “You aren’t any better than him, Lance, so let him be. You called me at two in the morning like three days ago-”
“No! Nope, Hunk, that’s classified information!” Lance yells out while Pidge laughs her way to asphyxiation. “What happened on the comm stays on the comm! We had an agreement!”
“We do?” Hunk says and thumps on Pidge’s back.
“Yeah, we probably do. I just don’t remember, because it was two in the morning and I was asleep before you called me. Like, deep sleep.”
“I’m really sorry for that, by the way, but you can’t call me out like this.” Lance pouts, then gives up on the conversation and focus on his pancakes.
They finish their post-crashing meal a while after that, with easy words thrown back and forth and laughters bubbling up at any given time. The pancakes are heavenly, the company is good, and Keith feels at peace for once.
Afterward, Hunk puts up a random pre-recorded TV show, and they all just lay down on the mat in a puppy pile with Pidge getting the most comfortable place. She’s asleep ten minutes into the show, and Lance follows pretty close after. Hunk stays still but doesn’t really drift off, his eyes still on the screen. Keith plays with the seams of the pillow he got from the sofa and lets his thoughts wander.
Twenty minutes into the show, Hunk speaks up quietly, “Matt called me yesterday.”
Since everyone else but them’s asleep, Keith assumes that statement’s aimed toward him. “What did he say?” he asks, equally as quietly.
“That Pidge was about to crash. He noticed it too.”
A lot goes unsaid during that sentence. Keith knows. They’ve been there together for almost two decades, all of them; of course he’d know. “Hey, man, you did all you could,” he tells the man, putting as much sincerity in his voice as he can in his half-asleep state. “You really can’t play Pidge-sitter twenty four-seven. It’s just… not your fault, okay?”
Hunk shuffles a bit to turn onto his side, and right when Keith think he’s finally gone to sleep, he mumbles, “I… yeah, I know that. I mean, we’re on Earth. She’s got Matt now - and us too, right? And it’s not like she’s fourteen anymore…”
Keith doesn’t have anything to say to that. He’s always been terrible at comforting other people - always either too awkward or too straightforward - and he knows Hunk. Hunk’s a reasonable man, always has been. He doesn’t need things dragged out from him. He knows when he’s at his own limit.
After a few other quiet tics, Keith hears Hunk’s voice again. “Yeah… that’s not even the real problem.”
“Do you… sometimes forget… that time flows? Two decades in space feel like nothing sometimes. We’re nearing our forties, man. This puppy pile, this-- this whole morning, sometimes I forget all of those things aren’t by normal human standard. It’s just, you know, so abrupt. This change of scenery.”
Keith lays quiet, but he knows Hunk knows he’s still awake. He really can’t share Hunk’s sentiments thought: from foster home to Garrison to the castle, he has never known that ‘human standard’ Hunk speaks of. His whole life has been him, and then suddenly all of them. He hasn’t known anything other than those two things until a year ago. Time has never really flown for him.
He knows Hunk knows that, too.
“It’s by our standard.” He tells Hunk that instead of all the thoughts running through his head. “That’s good enough for me.”
Hunk doesn’t reply for a long while after that.
Keith is awaken by small sounds of shuffling. He lays still, hand almost flying to where his knife usually is before he remembers where he is. The noises quiet down to a few footsteps before even they’re gone.
Keith carefully disentangles himself from the blanket Lance is hoarding; the man mumbles something, but doesn’t move. Lance has always been a deep sleeper when he’s able to sleep, even in times of stress. He wakes when he feels the need to, not by any specific schedule, unlike Keith, who lives by military time, or Pidge, who doesn’t know what sleep even is in the face of new inventions. They all know his random sleeping habits, and after two decades stuck together, they just learned to accommodate it.
He leaves Lance and Hunk there and tip-toes outside. They’ve been asleep for a while; twilight blows chilly winds through his mussed hair. The Holts live in a rather isolated place, not far from the closest bus stop but definitely far enough away from downtown. From what he knows, this place used to be a more inhabited neighbourhood; a lot of things have happened during their years away.
Pidge is on the hill looking out to the new spaceport, just like the one Keith accidentally stumbled by days ago. She’s sitting in front of the two stone plates on the ground, arms around her legs, hair already dampened by the humid air. Keith doesn’t say anything, but sits down cross-legged beside her.
“Sorry if I woke you up,” she says first, chin on her hands. “I just… can’t sleep.”
“You were up for a day and a half.”
“Well, I can’t help the fact that I can’t sleep now,” she shoots back, but doesn’t move. “I just go out here everyday at this time, you know, so it’s in my biological clock now.”
“What do you even do out here?” Keith asks. “Watching the sunset?”
“Nah, watching the spaceport light up.” Pidge gestures toward the construction site. “They’re almost done building the main parts. About time, actually - they’ve been at it for five years already.”
Conversation falls after that, until Keith finds something to say. “This is a great place,” he says, “for… well… that. Sight-seeing. Good view.”
Pidge looks at him with disbelief. “Unbelievable, Keith. Greatest ice-breaker ever. Can you even get more awkward than this? You can say ‘the grass is of a nice bright green color’”, she mimics a bad London accent, “and it’d be less awkward than this. This is record-breaking.”
“The view is nice though,” Keith tries to argue.
“I know it is,” Pidge says, shaking her head, “that’s why they chose this place, knucklehead. It looks out to a whole sky of stars, and they can see the spaceport in construction.”
“They like the spaceport?”
“Well,” Pidge sighs and deflates, “I guess so. Maybe. Matt says they were excited to see it being built. I don’t really know. I wasn’t here, remember?”
Keith doesn’t really know what to say to that, so he looks at the tombstones - two names, written in standard block letters, and dates carved underneath - and then gazes toward the construction site bathing in the last of daylight. Pidge used to get nervous when talking about feelings - not that she didn’t want to express them, she just didn’t have much practice with expressing them calmly with words. What she can live out she always does, but what she feels like a dead-end she used to ignore. They all know how she is. They learned to accommodate it. They learned to hear it in what she says.
Keith lets her say her words instead of trying to conjure up an answer, and so she continues to speak. “The whole… thing… took a toll on my dad, and on my mom too. That’s something no one ever mentioned, you know, how she waited for all of us. But at least Dad and Matt made it back, and they had each other for a while.”
She sighs again. “I really don’t know how it could’ve played out in any better way, y’know, anything I can think of is statistically impossible. We’ve got the best outcome. Well, again, I’m speaking statistically here in the course of what we’ve been through, because if we wanna go all the way we can go back to before the moment they created peanut butter and a single change in the recipe would create a whole new, perfect timeline, but the point is-- Oh hey! There it goes.”
Keith watches as light after light in the spaceport being lit up. In the quickly darkening sky, they glow up with an almost blinding white light, swallowing up the whole site for a moment before settling down to an enjoyable warm glow. He feels something strikingly like hope when he looks at it.
“Isn’t that nice,” Pidge says, next to him, chin still on her hands, early evening breeze in her hair.
Keith and Lance go home soon after that, leaving Hunk and Pidge to their project. Pidge sleeps for another four hours and eats some brownies before getting to work, according to Hunk’s words.
Keith goes home by bus. He walks with Lance for a short while before they part ways at the bus stop, Lance continuing on to where he parked his ‘ride’ earlier during the day (what the hell even is that ‘ride’? Keith has no idea, really, and Lance likes to drop it into every conversation as a way of boasting about it, but he never clarifies). Lance does most of the talking, as always, while Keith just listens to him when it feels like he should and makes faces when it gets ridiculous.
“So yeah, I found out about her a month ago,” Lance says, and Keith vaguely remembers that they’re talking about one of Lance’s many relatives. “And before you ask me why I waited for a whole month before I contacted her, the answer is I didn’t. She just replied like a couple of days ago - typical for her, always been like that since our childhood…”
Keith thinks he can still be surprised about Lance’s excellent memory for meaningless details like that, or about the value he gives for blood family (because of course it’s hard for Keith to understand. It’s hard to envision something he’s never got.), but the truth is that he can’t. That’s the constant in Lance’s person: his connections with people in his life. For Lance, people make places; when he said he missed home, it was almost always about people. Memories. Impressions. Keith misses the quiet sometimes; Lance only misses the quiet he shared with his friends and family. He knows that. They all know that. After realising how long the war they fought could be, he has told all of them exactly how he felt.
Lance learned a lot of things during the almost-two-decades they shared. They all do.
But of course, there are other things he didn’t learn. Wasn’t able to. “She might be busy,” Keith says, “work, life, family. Lots of things to worry about.”
Lance thinks about it but then brushes it off, “Nah, she’s just like that. That girl’s as carefree as a human can be. You know, she once got a birthday card from my grandma, and she read it and just put it in the cabinet with the newspapers. And then forgot about it for three months straight. Only remembered it when her mom reminded her…”
Keith kinda zones out afterward; he’s long since figured out the best way to please both sides of this conversation is to let Lance keep going. Lance also seems to need it.
“You listen to yourself speak more than I listen to you,” he says when they arrive at the bus stop. That quip is as old as the Princess herself, he knows, but he anticipates the answer.
Lance snorts, “Your lost. My voice is heavenly.” He turns to look at Keith. “You sure you don’t want a ride home?”
Keith points at the incoming bus, “This is my ride.”
“Well, can’t blame me for asking. Gotta bounce. Seeya.”
And with that ridiculous sentence, Lance is gone. Keith just sighs and chooses a seat to wait for the right bus. A few minutes later, he too is already gone.
A few days later Lance calls him. “She doesn’t even remember me,” he says, exasperated, “she was like, ‘I saw you in the family photograph but nobody talks about you so…’ So what? I babysat her all the time!”
Keith, as usual, lets him talk until the stream of words stutters, with just ‘yeah’ and ‘uh huh’ as scarce answers. He lets Lance get it all out, until there’s nothing left to hide what he really feels anymore. Like watercolor on a piece of glass, the heat just wash off with the words.
“You suck at this, you know,” Lance tells him after a particularly long pause. He shrugs, but then remembers Lance can’t see it.
“If you want someone better suited for this, you should’ve called Hunk.”
“Oh please,” Lance drags out the word ‘please’, “as if I can. You know me.”
Keith does. He knows Hunk too. He knows the reason why Lance doesn’t seek out Hunk is exactly that: Hunk’s too good at this. They all know each others too well, enough to predict the reactions.
He knows this didn’t turn out how Lance would’ve wanted it to, so he says, “It’s one in the morning. I need my sleep.” and lets Lance scoffs at his insensitivity. “You wanna do this, we’re gonna do this at a reasonable hour.”
Lance lets the silence fall for a bit before answering. “Yeah, it’s his birthday two days from now. Actually, since it’s-- one, you say?-- it’s the day after tomorrow. So you wanna go for a drink?”
“Birthday party without the main character, Lance?”
“I’m literally just looking for an excuse to try alcohol. Since, y’know, we never got the chance to, and I’m not getting any younger. Anyway, I’m asking Hunk too. You’re useless to me now.”
“Ouch,” Keith says nonchalantly. “Then that’s settled. Now let me sleep.”
He doesn’t sleep when he’s off the comm. Instead, he wanders the nearby park again, until the mist has dampened his coat enough to force him back inside. He’s still not tired enough to just drop off to sleep, but he tries anyway.
Sometimes after four, he wakes up from a mild nightmare involving a lot of unhappy memories, his hand on where his knife usually was. He doesn’t sleep with a knife anymore.
The team’s comm link is chirping from inside his nightstand’s cabinet. It’s still blinking after he takes it out of where it always lays quietly. A message. And not even a voice one.
[I think I might drop by afterall. Is that place near the research site still there?]
He puts off answering until well into the bright morning.
“They know each others” is a statement Keith doesn’t expect to be said out loud. It’s really just what humans do when they’re put in one place for sixteen years - they get to know each others - and that’s not taking the fact that they all worked toward something bigger than themselves together, and that they succeeded in the end, into account. Of course they know each others. There’s just nothing else they can do but that.
To say that they know themselves is another story. Keith knows himself, he sure does, and the part where he was supposed to learn about himself with difficulty was surprisingly short. He was a pretty straightforward guy, and he embraced changes in himself with ease. He is kinda clumsy with other people’s emotions sometimes (all the time), but he usually gets over it with some help. Hunk knows himself pretty well, too, but he’s not as straightforward on some particular fronts. And Lance just doesn’t really think of himself as much as he does others. That’s just how he is. Pidge - she has that tendency to brush anything more complicated under the carpet. She refuses to land herself into any kind of existential crisis.
They know each others, that’s for sure, and some of them know others better than they know themselves. Some of them are more aware of what’s happening than others.
The day they spent at Pidge’s, Hunk told him about his home. “It’s too… still, sometimes,” he told him with quiet murmurs, “there’s no sounds of a engine underneath you like how it used to. I find that exhaustion helps, but I just can’t get to that level of it, and I just… It doesn’t fit anymore.” I don’t fit anymore went unsaid with a lot of other things.
“Sorry I bothered you with all the crap I just said,” Hunk has said that before drifting off to sleep.
Keith knew Hunk couldn’t share that particular thing with Lance, because he knows Lance. There’s no comfort to seek in a conversation that would eventually turn into some sort of comparison. Hunk is straightforward, but also almost too compassionate, and he lets out the part that won’t harm anyone. He knew Keith wouldn’t be able to relate to his problems, that’s why he shared them. His problems couldn’t haunt Keith the way they do him, or Lance, if he ever found out about them.
Keith understands and respects that. He also played his role of Hunk’s sounding board perfectly. He doesn’t tell anybody afterwards. They probably already know afterall, all of them.
(They all lie, to him, to themselves. For his sake. For their sake.)
Shiro comes back in the morning, but Keith finishes his assigned flight at the hangar before he answers the message with a simple [im coming by]. The cafe’ is almost completely deserted when he arrives.
“Hi,” Shiro says.
“Birthday,” Keith says, and drops down into the chair on the other side of the table.
“Thanks” is the answer.
They drop into a comfortable silence as Shiro eats his lunch (French toast and an espresso) and Keith watches him and occasionally glances at the TV hung on the wall. This place dated back to Shiro’s cadet days. They repainted it once or twice, and the original owner has finally accepted to hire more people to help run it, but it’s essentially the same as ever. Keith sometimes wanders to this part of the city if he feels particularly agitated.
“The princess doesn’t go with you?” He asks when Shiro finishes eating. He shrugs in response.
“She’s actually on her way to somewhere else for a diplomatic mission. They need her more than me at the moment.”
“How long will you stay for?”
“‘Til Friday,” he replies, not too easily.
Keith looks at him in silence, before doing what he does best: jump headfirst into fire. “Lance wanna go out for a drink this evening actually. He already talked Hunk into it, and since Hunk’s not gonna be able to help, Pidge has to stop whatever she’s doing, and since she’s gonna get bored, she’s going too. How do you think?”
Shiro seems to be lost in thought, but when Keith just decides to ask again he huffs out a laugh. “Sorry. I just forget that you’re all adult now sometimes.” He chuckled at Keith’s confused face. “The impression’s too strong, Keith. Doesn’t help that you still look like an undergrad, even now. Lance’s gonna give you shit about that mess of greasy hair you’ve got there.”
“He gives me shit about everything.” Keith rolls his eyes. “Just the day before he made fun of me for being a lonely man in a big city. Doesn’t mean I care for any of that, by the way.”
They go silent again, and it takes Keith another jump of decision before he asks again, “So, you’ll go out tonight?”
It takes Shiro even longer to answer. “I think it’d just be… awkward… for all of us.”
“What gives you that idea?” Keith snorts. He really needs to stop doing that. “One year’s not that long. I mean, I haven’t seen you in one year, and you have no problem talking to me.”
“But… well, you’re you. They’re them. You’re just… I’ve known you longer. You, well, you know me.”
Keith stares at Shiro. “Takashi, frankly, that’s an asshole thing to say.”
Shiro sighs wearily and covers his face with both of his hands. “It is,” he says. “I’m sorry. Tell them I’m sorry.” After a bit, he adds, quietly, “please.”
There’s silence between them again, Keith staring at Shiro, Shiro at his own mechanical arm, and then Keith takes another leap of faith. “Lance’s family is scattered everywhere,” he starts with that to gain Shiro’s attention. “He’s always off looking for them on that ‘ride’”, he makes air quotes, “he got from somewhere, and he calls me from time to time just to whine about his ventures. Hunk is always sleepless and he has no one to talk about it to. Pidge practically lives in the basement now, except to go to her parents’ grave to see the spaceport light up.” He looks into Shiro’s eyes. “You’ve missed a lot, Takashi. You should catch up with them.”
Shiro looks to his empty cup thoughtfully, chewing on his flesh hand’s ring finger. “Lance’s a hard-working man, he probably earns that ‘ride’ you speak of. Where does he work now?”
“I, well,” Keith says, and goes silent, and then admits, “I don’t know.”
“Do you know where Hunk works?”
Shiro huffs out a quiet breath. “You seem to have missed out on a lot, too.”
And Keith has nothing to say to that.
(Later, when he stands up to leave, Shiro asks with carefully guarded emotion, the way he’s seen parents do when they ask their teenage children, “Do you have anything going on for you though?”
And Keith answers him truthfully, because he’s straightforward, and because he’s willing to try anything, “Nothing but you guys. You already know that.” And that too is an asshole move, but he’s never been a strategist the way Shiro and Lance can be.)
(They all know that.)
Keith tells Pidge about Shiro that evening.
“He’s still sorry for that,” he tells her, “for all of this, after a whole year.”
“Unbelievable,” Pidge snorts. “If he keeps that up, I’m gonna have to start blaming him, so he actually has a reason to brood. It’s not like my parents haven’t gone into a coma a whole four months before we came home.” She drinks down that bitter statement with a gulp of something glowing green lightly. “It’s war, man. No one’s too powerful in wars. Like I said, this is the best outcome.”
Keith stares at her with some surprise - he really does forget that she’s a thirty-one years old adult sometimes. “Yeah. He also says sorry for not coming over.”
“He probably has his survivor instinct running wild in there. You know him. When things get overwhelming…”
“I know,” Keith says. He really does know.
“...so you can’t blame him.” Pidge concludes. “It’s just been one year, Kogane. Six point two percents of our time together in space. I’m gonna text him to tell him how much of a quiznak he is, but the point is, we’re all in rehab. Even Shiro.”
“Space time rehab?” Keith laughs quietly.
“Space time rehab. See, I know Lance can teach you something about humor.”
He snorts at that idea, and Pidge laughs her way through her current drink.
Lance calls him on his comm while he’s out on the balcony of the bar, because he’s a dingus and is a bit tipsy. “Hunk sucks. You both suck.” Keith doesn’t great that with an answer. “No, sorry, I didn’t mean that. I love Hunk. He’s the best. You suck.”
“Talk to me when you’re sober again,” Keith says, and lets Hunk deal with Lance.
It’s past midnight when Pidge calls a taxi for her, Lance, and Hunk; the drinks don’t do much for her, and Hunk is scared of hangovers enough to take only two shots the whole evening, but Lance is smashed drunk. Pidge gets several footages of him trying to flirt with inanimate objects (key word being ‘trying’), and thus considers the whole experience fruitful enough.
“My apartment is in the other direction,” he says when they offer to go home together, so they’re soon on their way, and him on his. He chooses to walk home, to ward off any possible sleeplessness.
But in the end, he wanders off again. Back to that threeway near a barbershop, then back to that road in the middle of nowhere, then back to that hill. He doesn’t even realise he’s there until the spaceport is already in his sight.
Keith stands there, half of his mind trying to figure out how he got to this exact place again, the other half still muddled in thoughts. In a better version of the story, he would feel the team’s comm link buzz in his pocket, and then would take it out to read the new message. It’d read, [Pidge just texted me. She said she regrets a lot of things. That everyone regrets a lot of things.], and he’d put off answering again, and another text’d come anyway, [I asked Hunk to cover us tomorrow. There’ll be your favourite. You wanna come by?], and shortly after Lance’d call him to tell him that Hunk has spoken to him, and that Shiro called, and that they’re in for a tons of cleaning tomorrow. And he’d go back to his apartment with that information in mind, exhausted and content enough to keep the nightmares at bay and sleep until six in the morning, unperturbed.
But that’s the better version of things, and this is the version they’re all living, in which Pidge goes to her parents’ graves every sunset, Hunk lays sleepless at night in the bed that’s rightfully his, Lance drifts in strangers’ place with a few phonecalls to look forward to, Shiro does everything to survive yet again, and Keith stands alone on the unnamed hill looking out toward the spaceport being built in the middle of the night, coat damp and too many regrets in mind. And they all know that statistically, this is their best outcome.
(And they all want more than this, but they all lie to themselves, for their own sake.)
Moments after, he turns his back to the glowing white light and returns to the deserted road.