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Stop Annoying Me Or I'll Kiss You

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Keelio genuinely liked college. It was difficult, sure, but it was also incredibly rewarding. Even the times during finals week or midterms where he was in the engineering building without breathing fresh air for more than 24 hours, he still thought it was worth it. There was just one little problem with his time at the university.

“Hey, Kee!” Redwing. The business major who, due to a freak of university scheduling, had a business analytics class in the engineering building. It meant that they saw each other three times a week and Keelio was often subjected to his insistence on bothering Keelio at every given opportunity.

“Red,” Keelio said a little bit flatly. “Still with that stupid name?”

“How’re you feeling today, hm? You look like shit, like you haven’t been sleeping well,” Redwing said with an easy grin as he fell into step next to him, completely ignoring his question.

“Wow, thanks,” Keelio said with a roll of his eyes. “Can you go be a jerk to someone else for a while?”

“Why in the world would I do that when you’re right here, huh? Come on, tell me what’s eating at you. I bet I can put your pretty little mind to rest,” Redwing said, bumping their hips together. Keelio wasn’t sure if Redwing had meant for it to make him stumble, but was still a bit irritated that it did considering how much shorter Redwing was than him.

“How is it that nearly everything you say to me sounds like an insult when anyone else saying it would be sweet?” Keelio asked, not particularly expecting a real answer but also knowing Redwing tended to have a snappy response to everything.

“Maybe you’re just desperate for my approval so you read more into what I say,” Redwing said with a grin. Keelio sighed.

“Did you want something or are you just here to stroke your own ego?”

“I’m going to ignore the perfect set-up you just gave me about stroking things,” Redwing snorted. “So, are you going to tell me what’s going on or am I going to have to weedle it out of you? We both know that I’m more stubborn than you, I’m going to get to it eventually.” Keelio sighed again, louder. But he knew that Redwing was right. He really was the most stubborn thing that Keelio had ever met.

“I’ve got a really big test next week on the fourteenth and I don’t know how it’s going to go. I didn’t do so well on the first one, so unless I get an A this time there’s no way I can get an A in the course,” he finally admitted. Redwing hummed, as though thinking, before he shrugged.

“Wow, what kind of sadistic professor makes you take a test on Valentine’s Day? But anyway, you’re just going to have to study a whole lot.”

“I already am, Redwing,” Keelio said.

“Oof, full name, huh?” Redwing asked, pressing a hand to his chest dramatically. “Not even a cute nickname? Red? Darling? Sweetheart? Light of your life?” Keelio couldn’t help his short laugh.

“Sorry to disappoint.”

“No, you’re not.”

“No, I’m not,” he agreed.

“It doesn’t really matter, you know,” Redwing said as they got to the front of the engineering building and he moved forward to hold the door open for Keelio, letting him in first before following. If Keelio waited a beat so that Redwing wouldn’t have to catch up with him, nobody needed to know.

“What doesn’t?”

“This test. It’s not a big deal.” Keelio’s eyebrows drew together and he opened his mouth to say something in response but Redwing quickly held up a hand to stop him. “I’m not saying that it’s not going to impact your course, because it will. I’m just saying that in the grand scheme of things in ten years or so no one is going to care if you didn’t get an A on the thing. Which is a stupid idea anyway because you’re a nerd and one of the masochists who think math is fun. If you’re studying then you don’t have anything to worry about.” Keelio pressed his lips together, thinking about that for a moment.

“I suppose. It’s just...right now it feels like so much. It feels like it’s the most important thing in my life.”

“Wow, that’s sad,” Redwing snorted.

“And I think that’s all the Redwing I can take today, hope you have fun in class,” Keelio said as they got to the hall junction they always split up at. Redwing rolled his eyes at that, seeming more amused than anything, but waved and then blew a kiss at Keelio before heading for his class.

Redwing really would be the death of him one day, Keelio was sure of it.

xXx

Whoever invented campus delivery was a saint. They deserved a promotion. An award. A Nobel Peace Prize. Keelio bit into the first slice of far-too-greasy pizza and wished that he knew who that person was so he could at least give them a hug.

Keelio had taken up station in the study room at about nine in the morning and now, nearly twelve hours later, was starting to see numbers swimming behind his eyelids every time he blinked. He’d eaten around noon but it is a truth universally acknowledged that a college student in possession of an upcoming test must be in want of unhealthy food. At the very least, the pizza was making him feel better and was giving him an excuse to pause for a while while he ate.

Keelio saw someone walk by the glass door out of the corner of his eye, but then a second later saw the saw person poke their head back in front of the door. Keelio figured it must be one of his friends or someone else from the class who just happened to recognize him as they walked by. Curious, Keelio looked over. And had to bite back a groan.

“I knew I smelled pepperoni and stress!” Redwing said happily, opening the door and stepping into the room, collapsing into one of the other chairs like he belonged there.

“What are you even doing here? It’s a Saturday.”

“What are you doing here? It’s a Saturday,” Redwing mimicked right back as he scooted closer, snagging a piece of pizza from the box. Keelio couldn’t find it in himself to complain, he was far too tired.

“I’ve got that test on Tuesday, I’ve been in here all day. I haven’t seen sunshine in years,” Keelio said with a slight lament. Redwing shrugged.

“It’s raining anyway,” he said around a mouthful of cheese and sauce. “What are we studying?”

“We?” Keelio asked with a slowly building sense of dread. It wasn’t that he begrudged Redwing himself, rather, that he was absolutely positive he wouldn’t get anything else done with the talkative, easily-distracted man in the room with him.

“Of course!” Redwing exclaimed. “I’m here to be your sunshine! How in the world you’ve managed this long without me is absolutely beyond comprehension. But not to worry, I’m here now.”

“Thank goodness,” Keelio said flatly.

“I’m going to pretend that sounded as excited as it should have,” Redwing said as he picked up the closest notebook, looking over Keelio’s scribbled notes and problems. Because Keelio had been there all day long, there was a perfect arc on the table formed by his laptop, textbook, notes, and texts that was centered around his seat, everything within easy reach. Redwing, still working on that slice of stolen pizza, slowly went over all of Keelio’s materials. At one point he even wheeled Keelio’s chair out of the way, much to his indignation. At least he put him back when he was done.

“Well,” Redwing announced, reaching for another slice, “this is all just as boring as I expected it to be. Looks like you’ve gotten a good bit done, though.” He took up the checklist Keelio had made for himself detailing all of the concepts that they’d gone over since the last testing, checking off the ones that he felt confident with and adding various symbols next to others depending on what he felt he needed to work on. “This doesn’t make sense, but looks very impressive,” Redwing said. Keelio huffed, taking it back from him.

“Leave my stuff alone. Are you just here to bother me? Seriously, don’t you have anything else to do?”

“Nope! Now come on, if you work while you eat you’ll have positive memories associated with math. That’s the most depressing thing I’ve ever said, actually.” Keelio blinked hugely at him as Redwing pushed his chair right next to Keelio’s, pulling the pizza box into his lap but making sure that it was still easily accessible to both of them. “Explain to me what you’re working on right now. It’s scientifically proven that you understand things better if you try and teach it to someone else.”

“I’ve never heard of that,” Keelio said a little doubtfully, eyeing Redwing. Was he...really just being helpful?

“When will you learn that I’m always right?” Redwing asked dramatically. “Now come on, teach me nerd math that I’ll never use again.”

“First of all everyone needs to know math,” Keelio began, unable to help rising to that bait. He’d never been able to resist misunderstandings of his work. And Redwing, of course, knew that.

xXx

Keelio was fucked. He knew it, he knew that this was going to be fucked but even he hadn’t realized just how badly. He was going to completely fail. He was going to fail the test and then he was going to fail the course and then he was going to fail out of university and then he’d have wasted so many years and so much money and for what? For nothing. So he could slink away a complete failure and everyone would know that he couldn’t even manage to be successful at the one thing he’d thought he was good at.

Keelio pressed his forehead to his knees, just trying to breathe. He felt like he was going to throw up. His chest hurt. Was he having a heart attack? Did he finally stress so much that his body gave up on him?

There was a brief sense of someone settling on the bench next to him and Keelio tensed before he heard them speak.

“Geez, Kee, are you sick? Cause you really shouldn’t be here if you are, it’s really rude to get other people sick. What about that one chick always wearing the face mask? You might actually kill her,” Redwing was saying. Oh fuck? Was Keelio sick? Did he look sick? Maybe he was, maybe he really was going to kill his classmate. He started shaking, eyes burning as tears welled up. “Whoa, hey, are you okay?” Redwing asked, and he sounded so genuinely concerned that Keelio was briefly taken aback. Keelio nodded, though it was a touch jerky. There was a long pause and then Keelio felt a gentle hand rubbing up and down his back.

“So this morning I got up and I was super hungry this morning, right? But I maybe haven’t gone grocery shopping in a while so I was stuck with cereal, which is absolutely not the way a man like me starts his day, but whatever, right? So I pour my sad bowl of coco puffs and open the fridge and no milk. Except I’ve already gotten the cereal out and I’m still hungry.” Keelio had absolutely no idea what the hell Redwing was talking about, but he found his breath slowing, evening, as he listened to Redwing’s apparently very tragic morning. Never once did Redwing’s hand slow. “So here’s my logic, what’s a mocha? It’s just a chocolate coffee, right?” Keelio couldn’t help his small snort at that. “I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that. Anyway, I wait for my coffee to cool off a bit and I don’t put any creamer or sugar in it and I have coffee cereal, because that’s basically just a mocha stew.”

“How was it?” Keelio asked, his voice a little strained but still amused. Redwing hummed.

“Let me put it to you this way, we both know that I have never once had a bad idea, but I also definitely went shopping and got milk today.” Keelio laughed, rubbing at his face a bit before he finally sat up. Redwing was smiling at him but his eyes were flicking over him, making sure he was alright.

“You’re an idiot.”

“And yet you love me. So uh...rough morning?” Keelio hesitated and then leaned back, making Redwing move his hand.

“I just...it’s this test. If I do badly on this….”

“You won’t,” Redwing said, nearly a snort. “I helped you. But aside from that, you’ve been studying like crazy and you’re kind of ridiculously smart. If you end up failing this test not only will I give you a hundred dollars I’ll kick your professor’s ass because there’s obviously some sort of bullshit happening.” Keelio laughed shortly.

“Thanks, but maybe don’t beat up my professor.” Redwing shifted, taking his chin between two fingers and turning his face until Keelio was looking at him. He looked so serious.

“Kee, you’re the smartest guy I know. You’ve put so much time and effort into this, and absolutely no one deserves it more than you. But know that even if you don’t get a perfect score, it’s okay. I’m still going to walk you to class and annoy you and you’re still going to want my attention—”

“I never—” Keelio began, but Redwing held up a hand to stop him, eyes crinkling.

“Just trust me. I’m giving you my word that everything is going to be okay. Here, if you don’t believe me,” Redwing said, suddenly reaching behind himself to blindly dig around in his bag. After a moment he held something out in both hands and Keelio blinked, startled. It was a heart-shaped box. “This isn’t exactly the best timing, but take this. It’s good-luck chocolate,” Redwing told him with utter confidence. “You eat one and you get a lucky status for an hour.”

“Wow, just enough time for my test,” Keelio said with a small, amused smile as he took the box.

“What a coincidence, I guess it means you need to eat one right before,” Redwing grinned. “Then you’ll definitely get the best grade in the class.” The campus bell tower started chiming and both Redwing and Keelio jumped. Redwing’s eyes widened. “But we can’t if you’re late! Come on, we’ve got to go!” He bolted up and grabbed Keelio’s bag from the ground with one hand and Keelio’s free hand with the other, nearly sprinting to the engineering building and dragging Keelio behind him. They were both breathing hard when they got to the door of Keelio’s classroom and Redwing shoved his bag into his arms.

“Thank you, Redwing,” Keelio managed, completely breathless.

“Thank me later, go, go!” Redwing exclaimed. Keelio quickly skuttled into the classroom but gave one last look behind him as the door shut and saw Redwing grinning, giving him two thumbs up.

xXx

Keelio was one of the last people to finish, but he genuinely didn’t notice until he got up to turn in his paper and realized how empty the class was. He gave a thin smile to the harried GTA as he handed over his test packet and she marked off his name. He adjusted his backpack and popped another chocolate in his mouth as he walked out into the hall. Then paused.

“Hey! How did it go?” Redwing asked, quickly moving away from the wall that he’d been leaning against.

“Tell me you haven’t been waiting here since you go out of class?”

“Didn’t go to class, too busy sending you positive thoughts. Now come on, don’t leave me in suspense!” Redwing exclaimed. Keelio’s face lit up with a slow-burn grin that made Redwing helpless to do the same.

“I definitely passed, and I did great.”

“That’s awesome! Did you get an A, you think?” Redwing asked as the two of them started walking. Another first. Redwing had never walked him all the way to his class before, nor from it. But it didn’t feel odd at all. If anything, Keelio was glad to have him there. Keelio shrugged.

“No idea. I’m going to try and not focus on it too much.”

“I’m so proud,” Redwing said, and he was slipping firmly back into the teasing nature that had very briefly lifted in the way of his comfort. “How about we go out and grab some coffee to celebrate, huh? I’ll pay.” Keelio blinked.

“Wait, are you sure? Aren’t you meeting someone?” Redwing looked at him blankly.

“What are you talking about?”

“Those chocolates you gave me, they were for someone, right? It’s Valentine’s Day, I kind of assumed you’d want to be with whoever they were for.”

“Uh, yeah,” Redwing said with a short laugh. “Like I said, coffee?”