Disclaimer: I do not own Voltron or its characters. Just FYI.
Hunk wondered how long he was supposed to wait before acknowledging that Keith was brooding on the other side of the kitchen counter.
Hunk shared a glance with Pidge, who looked up from her own typing where she was perched further down on the counter, and then they both turned their gazes at Keith.
Keith had been leaning on the counter for at least ten minutes, scowling at the counter as if it had stolen the last chocolate chip cookie he'd called dibs on. It wasn't like Keith didn't have a tendency to brood, but usually he didn't do it too much in front of others, or at least not in front of Hunk and Pidge. Keith normally stomped off into parts unknown in the Castleship, with Lance inevitably following, or he'd settle to brood on the couch in the lounge they'd claimed as a living room and Lance would end up there doing his own thing.
And when Keith wasn't brooding, or somehow sharing space with Lance, he was off training the day away with either the gladiators or Red.
Hunk could take a gander at what was causing that expression on his face, but he wasn't going to be the one who started the talk. Instead, he just kept mixing what he hoped would turn out to be makeshift bread if he had figured out the alien ingredients correctly. Not a yeast based one unfortunately, but at this point he would take anything similar to bread.
He was almost relieved when Keith finally let out a huff of frustration. "I don't get him."
"Hmm?" Hunk looked up and tried to seem nonchalant, but inside he was quivering in anticipation. Keith was actually opening up to him! "Who are you talking about?"
Hunk knew very well who Keith was talking about.
"Lance!" Keith's crossed arms slid across the counter so he could rest his head on them. "I just - I don't get him."
"Does anyone?" Pidge softly scoffed but Keith didn't appear to hear her.
"I mean, we work well when it's missions and stuff." Keith continued to rant. "And half of the time here we get along, but then he's just - so - " His face scrunched up as he struggled for the right words.
"Stupidly competitive?" Pidge offered, this time speaking up.
Keith perked up at that. "Yes! This whole rivalry thing! I don't get why he's so insistent about it!"
Pidge snorted. "You say that as if you don't give as good as you get or start stuff yourself." She turned back to her coding, obviously having something better to do than dealing with Keith and Lance's drama.
Keith looked sheepish for a moment before he redirected his attention to Hunk. "Okay, maybe," he acquiesced, "But still - I don't - " He brushed his hand through his hair, obviously frustrated. "You've known him the longest right? Can you just - " he looked incredibly lost.
Hunk watched the back and forth between the two. As Keith turned to him, he sighed and put down the bowl he was using. He didn't know how much he should say, because while he did have problems with keeping secrets and he knew he could be quite the gossip, it didn't change the fact that Lance had entrusted certain things to him that he didn't want to give up. "How much do you remember about the Garrison?" He decided to start off with, because that would determine the rest of this conversation.
Keith's face blanked out. "Uh…" He sat up a bit but kept his arms crossed over his chest. "Not much?" He admitted. "I remember lessons and stuff, and doing things with Shiro before Kerberos but…"
"Yeah. You were less social than Pidge."
"Hey!" Pidge's head jerked up at that comment.
"But do you seriously not remember Lance? At all?" Hunk knew that out of everything that had happened between the two, that had stung the worst for Lance.
Keith's shoulders met his ears. "No…"
Hunk sighed and picked the bowl back up to continue stirring. "I can't believe you don't remember him declaring you his rival back at the Garrison at least." He grumbled to himself.
Both Pidge and Keith straightened up and stared at him at that.
"Wait, something like that really happened?" Pidge raised an eyebrow. "I thought it was mostly just from Lance's mental point of view."
Keith scoffed a bit. "I'm pretty sure that didn't happen." He said. "Did he tell you - "
"I was there." That shut both of them up. "It was in the hallway outside the simulators. He looked you right in the eye as he said it and you raised an eyebrow at him and replied with 'sure.'"
They stared at him. Then Pidge turned her inquisitive gaze to Keith. "Did you hit your head sometime during that year you were traipsing around the desert?"
"What?" Keith's face scrunched up. "No!"
"Because Hunk is a terrible liar so he must be telling the truth. And you don't remember any of this."
"What?! I don't - I mean - " Keith was uncharacteristically flustered, red staining his cheeks. He turned to Hunk. "Are you sure?"
"Yep." Hunk paused to open up a cupboard and grab a couple of rectangular pans. They looked similar to the kind of pans he'd use for pound cake back home so he figured they'd work.
Keith mulled that over for a moment, before he settled back into his usual sulk. "So he still just wanted a rivalry…" He seemed almost… disappointed.
Well, Hunk couldn't have that. Maybe he could offer a bit of insight.
"He didn't exactly jump right into a rivalry with you." Hunk said, noticing Keith perk up a bit at that, and although she had returned to her coding, he could tell that Pidge was also paying attention as well. "Lance did try to go about things more… amicably at first. Like, I remember at least a few times where it seemed like he was trying to be a friend."
Keith stared at him even harder than he had before. "What?" He asked softly, stunned.
"And from the sounds of it and from what I saw, you kinda brushed him off each time so…" Hunk shrugged. It was true but even Hunk didn't understand what Lance's thought process had been in regards to all of this. After all, most would not leap directly from "Let's be friends" to "Let's be rivals."
The thing was that Keith might not remember anything about Lance from the Garrison, but Hunk did.
Hunk remembered how nervous Lance had been that first day at the Garrison when they had met as assigned roommates. How Lance's smile had been bright and confident, but his hand had shook a bit as he extended it to Hunk in greeting, as if expecting it to be pushed aside. He remembered Lance ranting quietly to himself on the other side of the room, mumbling about how Keith Kogane might have been awesome at the simulator but he was kind of a remembered Lance worriedly staring at Keith during lunch when he had gone off by himself. He remembered Lance reaching out to help Keith up when he'd gotten into a fight with that one guy from the Communications sector and receiving a glare in return.
He knew that there had probably been other times as well that Lance had reached out, but he didn't know how many.
He also knew that back then, when Lance was first developing his slight obsession with Keith, that he had told Lance that maybe Keith didn't want a friend, maybe he just wanted to be alone.
And Lance had looked him right in the eye and said, "Everybody needs somebody, Hunk."
The next day, Lance had declared them rivals.
"So instead of being… friends," Keith's eyes narrowed as he slowly figured things out, "he thought being rivals would be better?" Now he just looked confused.
Hunk sighed as he poured the batter into the pan and checked the temperature on his makeshift oven. It seemed like he was going to have to lead the horse to the water. "Keith, what do you think a rivalry is?"
Keith's face blanked out. "Uh," he looked away.
"Do you think Lance doesn't like you, maybe even hates you?" At Keith's flinch, Hunk knew his guess was correct. "Because that's not the case at all. Lance does like you. At the very least he cares about you."
Though since Lance had declared the rivalry, one would be hard-pressed to make him admit having any sort of positive association with Keith. It was there though, and with how things had been looking up lately and what Hunk had heard of the Bonding Moment, Lance might even be able to admit it sooner rather than later.
But not too soon, because Hunk had found Lance screaming into his pillow after the Castleship launched, eyes as wide as a startled deer, due to freshly remembered memories of said Bonding Moment and being unable to deal with it.
Speaking of wide eyes, Keith was treating him to a similar look.
"Look, I know some rivalries as they're portrayed in certain mediums may make you believe that real rivalries are based on two people who dislike or hate each other and want to one one up each other, maybe even to the point of one of them practically killing the other…"
Pidge coughed some things that sounded vaguely like, "Naruto and Sasuke!" She stopped her coughs and hints at Hunk's look.
"However, a lot of rivalries involve people who are actually really close, even friends." Hunk could tell that Pidge was about to give some more examples of rivalries that weren't like that, but he quickly steamrolled over her. "Sometimes someone's rival is even closer to them than their best friend. Or even if they start out in the worst of ways, they become closer through their rivalry. And maybe get to a point later where they can be called friends.
Rivalry is about having a person who inspires you and pushes you to do better, be better." Hunk explained. "And I think that Lance thought that if you didn't want a friend, then maybe you could be that for each other."
After checking the temperature and seeing it was at the right level, Hunk finally slid his pans in. When he looked up, he caught Keith looking at him with a contemplative and yet awed expression. His face quickly evened out into his normal neutral expression, but his aura felt a bit lighter than before.
"I see." Keith nodded, and then headed towards the door, where he paused for a moment. "... Thanks." He muttered before heading off to either train or do some stupidly competitive thing with Lance.
Hunk tossed a smile after him and wiped his hands. Well, it looked like his work here was pretty much done.
"So the whole rivalry thing probably started because Keith's socially oblivious and awkward so he kept accidentally brushing Lance off?" Pidge concluded, no longer attempting that she was completely interested in her work.
"Probably." Hunk agreed, though he had to admit that in some regards Lance may have taken it too far back at the Garrison, practically working himself to the ground trying to beat Keith in the simulators. At least he'd been ahead of Keith academically in several ways, so Hunk hadn't had to worry over him in those classes.
He was just glad that Lance was able to admit, at least to himself, that it wasn't necessary to compete with Keith in everything out here as most of the time here and out in the field they did get along. Not everything was a competition, especially when things were serious. It didn't stop the bickering over pointless things, but it wasn't an all out rivalry like Hunk had been worried about.
"But you're sure he doesn't actually dislike him?" Pidge glanced up at him, a spark of curiosity in her eyes.
Hunk snorted. "Trust me. If Lance doesn't like someone, you will know." Lance could work with someone he disliked if needed, but he was not showing the levels of hostility towards Keith that were characteristic of him disliking someone.
Pidge gave a thoughtful hum, before she frowned, staring off into the distance.
"What?" Hunk asked as he realized he hadn't set a timer for the bread and got to that.
"You know there's one more kind of rivalry, right?"
Everything set, Hunk frowned right back at her. "What are you talking about?"
Pidge sighed and pushed up her glasses. "Look, I was never into anime as much as Matt was, or Lance from the sound of it," Hunk couldn't confirm or deny that, "but I do remember that there was one more kind of rivalry. The ones you described are the kind in sports, fighting, or adventure stuff."
Hunk raised an eyebrow, willing her to elaborate.
"The shoujo rivalry." Pidge patiently explained.
Hunk rolled his eyes. "I'm pretty sure they aren't love rivals. Keith really doesn't seem like he has any interest in Allura."
"Not that one." Pidge waved it away. "I'm talking about some of the shoujos Matt watched where the main couple are supposed rivals. They always compete for top grades or best at sports or something, but when the chips are down they have each other's backs and put the power in power couple. And they're clearly in love or one is in love and the other grows to be in love, but they do all these competitions and stuff because it's the only way they can express their feelings or be close and they're afraid of messing that up."
That actually made Hunk pause.
After all, there was all that concern they had for each other. They did do a bunch of stupid competitions. And yet their team-ups brought about some of the best results. And Lance did seem to want Keith to somehow notice him or at least acknowledge his existence back at the Garrison…
"You don't think…" He and Pidge exchanged a look.
And they both promptly burst out laughing.
"No way!" Pidge wheezed as she dissolved into giggles. "No way that'd happen!"
"Lance would be over the moon to be a shoujo trope." Hunk managed to get out. "But I'm pretty sure he wouldn't want that one."
As their laughter died down, Hunk had to wipe some tears from his eyes. He turned back to his baking and let his final chuckles and just the thought of the two of them together slip away. Because there was no way that Lance and Keith would ever be interested in each other in that regard.
There was no way their rivalry would turn out like that.
AN: So this started as a kind of prequel to a fic that I'm currently writing for Julance that should be posted in the next couple of days. I watch quite a bit of anime and I noticed that a lot of rivalries (once they get over trying to kill each other if that's ever part of their dynamic) tend to be as close as the bestest of friends or even closer. I'm thinking of Goku and Vegeta, Black Star and Death the Kid, Red and Blue, Negi and Kotaru, and the dozens and dozens of rivals that exist in battle and sports anime. Naruto and Sasuke have an okay rivalry until the whole Orochimaru stuff. So that's the kind of thinking that lead me to this.
Then as I was nearly done I caught sight of my Maid-sama manga and snorted at the thought that Usui and Misaki were kinda like rivals and I remembered Special A and other shoujo series who have that kind of rivalry. And as a Klance shipper I just had to include it. Though this is mostly focusing on their friendship, not anything further than that.