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Chasing a Starlight

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Far away
This ship has taken me far away
Far away from the memories
Of the people who care if I live or die

Starlight
I will be chasing a starlight
Until the end of my life
I don't know if it's worth it anymore

 


 

Lance shoves another spoon of food-goo into his mouth and swallows without chewing. Slowly but surely, he’s getting tired to feed of meals that are fit for a baby. Coran explained that the goo carries all the nutrients that are necessary for the daily needs of an adult, but Lance really wonders if that also accounts for a human body.

His face is resting in his hands and he tries chewing the gooey substance. It feels nasty and squishy between his teeth. Lance stares at the opposite wall and sighs when he swallows. It would be great if the dining hall at least had a window, so he has something to stare at instead of a boring gray wall.

His mind wanders to the wide windows of the observation deck. But today the thought doesn’t lift his mood. Usually, the sea of stars and planets cheers him up. He’s always loved the vastness of space.

Now he can only think of the all-devouring darkness that surrounds them.  The calming peace of space became a suffocation force to Lance, and he hates it.

“So, do you think this Swap-moon will be dangerous,” Hunk asks, wringing his hands when he looks at Coran. It’s the third time he asked this evening, and slowly everyone is losing their patience.

“It’s a black-market, so it won’t be a pleasant day trip,” Coran explains from his place behind Allura’s seat.  “You can’t trust those Unilu, so be careful! They might want to trade the lenses for your firstborn child!”

“Huh, a human-stone child hybrid. I guess you could get a ton of teludav lenses for that,” Pidge teases with a grin.

“For the last time, Shay is not my girlfriend!” Hunk says, but the flush on his cheeks tells a different story.

Usually, Lance would immediately butt in and tease Hunk, but today he can’t find the strength to do so. He’s glad that no one comments on his lack of jokes because slowly he’s running out of excuses. He doesn’t think he can keep up the facade any longer.

Lance stares into his bowl and stirs the rest of the green substance, turning it into an unappetizing liquid.

“Well, I guess we should turn in early tonight, we’ll arrive at the planet tomorrow morning,” Shiro says with an authority that doesn’t leave any room to protest. Or so Lance thought.

“I think I’m gonna hit the training deck for a bit,” Keith says, and Lance glances up when Keith puts his hands on the table to push his chair back.

“I’m going to prepare some test to run tomorrow, since I’ll be staying in the castle,” Allura huffs and glares at Coran from the corner of her eyes. Apparently, she’s not too keen to stay put while everyone gets to go out.

“Fine, I guess I can’t force you to sleep,” Shiro sighs. “But no sneaking out together again you hear me?”

Shiro grins, and Keith rolls his eyes with a groan, pushing himself up from his seat.

Pidge cackles and holds her stomach, when Allura stares at Shiro in surprise. Suddenly, her face flushes in a soft pink. “We won’t!”

The clatter of Lance’s spoon falling into his now empty bowl is loud enough for everyone to turn their heads.

It takes a second for Lance to realize that everyone is looking at him, and he hurriedly forces a grin to his lips.

“Well, I don’t know about you guys, but I’m dead tired,” he laughs and pushes his chair backwards with a loud screech.

“Imma go get my beauty sleep,” he says and turns without waiting for an answer. “Night!”

Lance rushes out of the dining hall with a wave of his hand, and he’s distantly aware that Hunk calls after him, “Hey what about your dishes!”. But he doesn’t turn around.

He presses a hand to his stomach as soon as he’s out of sight and tries to hold down the bile that’s daring to rush up his throat.

This sucks. This whole day sucked.

At least they get another night’s rest before they reach the swap-moon tomorrow morning.

It’s not exactly a lie that Lance is tired, but that’s not the reason he had to leave as soon as possible. He just couldn’t be in a room with Keith and Allura any longer than necessary. Not after this day. Not when his stomach dropped from a stupid joke, leaving him feeling nauseous.

He rushes to his room and throws himself onto his bed, burying his face in the soft pillow. He hopes that he can suffocate these feelings if he stays like this long enough.

This day already started like shit, and it got worse with every passing minute.

They woke up when they reached Taujeer only to find out that both Keith and the princess were missing. And everything went downhill from the moment Lance heard that Keith and Allura sneaked out together.

The thought that Keith and Allura were out there alone together left an uneasy feeling in his stomach. Not only because he was worried about the two of them, but also because Keith chose to go with the princess.

Lance tried to voice his concern hidden behind a joke, hoping that someone would tell him that he’s an idiot, when he asked if they were sitting in a tree. He didn’t get any response though and when he heard about Keith and Allura’s plan he wasn’t any smarter.

He remembers that Pidge tried to explain it to him, but he didn’t have the patience to listen to her. Lance knew it was stupid, but he couldn’t shake the anxiousness. He told himself that it was nothing. However, slowly but surely the uneasy feeling in his stomach clawed its way up into his chest and nestled heavy around his heart.

It was going to be fine. He just had to focus on the mission. Yeah, they didn’t even pay him any attention when he asked if the princess was “with” Keith, but that didn’t have to mean anything.

Except that it did mean something.

And it hit Lance in the face when they were back at the castle. The relief about the fact that everyone was safe was quickly overridden with the panic bubbling up in Lance’s stomach.

Keith and Allura stood side by side, closer than necessary, and Keith explained how they were sorry, how they just wanted to help. He talked about them as an item, and it was like a punch to the gut.

That was the moment Lance knew he had to hide the ugly feeling seizing his throat. He had to act normal. He knew he could do that, at least for a while.

The smile on his face felt rigid and fake, but it was there. He even flirted with Allura, promising her something sparkly to keep his face. Somehow, he made it through dinner, but now he’s on the end of his rope.

Lance groans into his sheets, loathing himself and his stupid feelings. He sits up, grabs the pillow and flings it against the other side of his room. It hits the wall with a thud, and Lance blinks in confusion when a surprised squeak sounds from the corner of his room.

Two of the space mice are sitting next to the air vent, the red and the smaller blue one, which is hiding its trembling form behind the other.

“Oh! Sorry, guys,” Lance says and raises his hand in an apologetic gesture. “I didn’t see you there.”

The mice hesitate for another second, but then they climb up to the bed. Lance crosses his legs and smiles when the mice hop onto his knee.

It’s not unusual for them to come to his room. Usually they cling to Allura’s side but from time to time they pay him a visit. It started when Lance fed them his goo after he woke up from the healing pod. At first, he felt weird talking to some alien mice, but soon he realized that they could understand what he said.

His most regular visitors are the red and the blue one -Chuchule and Chulatt as Allura told him – and slowly it became a habit of Lance’s to talk to them. It feels good to have listeners who don’t judge him when he vents about his day, about practice, about his teammates. But he also started talking about his family, about his homesickness.

Of course, the mice can’t hug him or find comforting words, but this is still better than burdening the team with his stupid worries.

“Really, I don’t understand it,” Lance says now and runs a hand through his hair with a sigh. “Why did Keith go with the princess? There was no need for that!”

The mice look up at him with wide eyes and Lance shakes his head. “Why am I asking you, there’s no way you’d know.” His hands fall to his lap. “It’s just … why would Zarkon track Keith? Why would he think that? There’s just no reason at all! So, why did he really leave the castle with the princess?”

Lance tries to swallow down the lump that’s forming in his throat, but he can’t help the way his voice cracks. He already knows the answer.

“The only reason is that he wanted to be with Allura. That – that he couldn’t let her go by herself. That he chose her … over us. Over me.”

The last words come out wobbly and Lance rubs a hand over his mouth, when his lips start trembling. He can see it again – Allura and Keith side by side.

“Fuck,” Lance forces out and he can’t hold down the sob that’s ripping from his throat.

He tries to hide his face in his hands, but nothing can stop the hot tears that are starting to drip down his cheeks.

“Why am I so pathetic,” he laughs, but it comes out watery and he hiccups when he furiously tries to wipe away the tears with the heel of his hand.

“I mean how could I possibly compare to Allura. She’s beautiful and strong and a princess, and I’m just … a boy from Cuba. I’m just Lance.”

The tears drip down from Lance’s chin, and he sees how they form dark spots on the fabric of his jeans.

He sniffles and send the mice a wavering smile. “But you know what’s the worst part of this?”

The small blue mouse, Chulatt, lifts its paw and pats Lance’s leg in a gesture that almost seems reassuring.

“I really thought that there was something between us,” Lance says, and he feels how his mouth twitches into a pained expression. He hates this feeling, and he wants to stop it, but he doesn’t have any control over it anymore.

“I was so happy.” Lance’s voice trembles and he presses his hands into his eyes, burying his fingers painfully into his hair. “I thought … I really thought that we were getting closer. That the small touches and smiles meant something.”

Lance’s chest feels too tight and he can’t breathe. He can no longer hide the pain from the words that are breaking out of him without his consent now.

“How could I be so stupid,” he cries, and the trembling whine that leaves him sends a hot jolt of embarrassment down into his gut. “I’m so ashamed.”

The sobs are painfully constricting his throat, and every intake of breath hurts, but the words are still tumbling out of his mouth.

“I really though he liked me too.”

His voice breaks and then everything is too much.

Lance leans forward and a loud, drawn out guttural sound rips from the back of his throat. His elbows are pressing into his stomach with how tightly he curls into himself, and he cries like a child.

He’s alone in space. So far away from his family.
And the boy he loves is in a relationship with someone else.

Lance mouth hangs open, his nose is running, and he doesn’t even try to stifle his cries anymore.

He feels like the biggest idiot in the universe. Because for a while he really thought that his dreams could be real. His chest tightens when he remembers how just yesterday Keith choose to sit next to him with a soft smile on his face. Lance remembers how his face grew hot and Keith smiled wider, making his heart flutter nervously in his chest. And now he feels so ashamed for the tiny spark of hope that constantly grew with time – only to be extinguished with one harsh blow.

His stomach hurts from the violent sobs rippling through him, and he retches pathetically when his body is at its limit. His chest twitches when he tries to gasp for air.

Lance knows that he’s a paladin, a defender of the universe. He knows that those feelings don’t have room in this castle.

Lance’s face is pressed to his knees and he hears the worried squeak of the mice who tumbled down from his legs. He can feel their little paws on his hair, and that doesn’t stop the tears from falling, but Lance finally manages to take in one stuttered breath.

He will be fine tomorrow.

Tomorrow, he will bury these feelings deep inside of himself and put a smile on his face. He knows that he can do that.

But not tonight.

Tonight, he allows himself to be hurt. He allows his heart to ache, allows himself to choke the loud and ugly sobs into his hands.

Tonight, he’s just a boy with a broken heart.

 


 

Allura sits on the floor and plays with the end of the braid that is sticking from her head in an odd angle. The mice did a great job of entertaining her with a dinner show and some other “road games” Hunk told her about. She’s not sure that they got all the rules right, but they were having fun.

However, it’s been a while since the paladins left the castle to explore the swap-moon, and Shiro is still in the hanger bonding with the black lion. It’s a weird concept when you’re out in space fighting a war but – Allura has to admit that she’s bored.

She sighs and look up to the rope where Plachu is still trying to teach Platt how to do a backflip without landing on his stomach.

“I really hope everyone is okay,” Allura says and looks down at Chulatt who is sitting on her shoe. The blue mouse looks up to her with questioning eyes.

“Those Unilu are nasty creatures,” she groans and scrunches up her nose. “I’m scared that they’ll get in trouble. Hunk and Pidge will be fine, and Keith too if he’s not running around with Lance.”

Chuchule, who is sitting on her shoulder, squeaks in amused agreement, and Allura raises a hand to pat him with her index finger.

“Speaking of Lance,” she starts and now her eyebrows knit together in confusion. “He’s been acting strange ever since we had dinner last night.”

Allura doesn’t miss the knowing look Chuchule and Chulatt exchange as soon as the words are out, and she drops the hand that was supporting her chin.

“What? Do you guys know something?”

Chulatt ducks his head and sends another weary glance and Chuchule.

“You guys definitely know something!” Allura exclaims and sits up from her hunched over position. Chuchule squeaks in surprise and jumps down to sit next to his partner.

Allura can’t help the excited grin that’s spreading on her lips. “Come on guys, I know he talks to you. Tell me what it is!”

She leans forward in childish excitement. Allura knows that she has a bad habit of being noisy, but she can’t help her curiosity.

Chulatt looks at Chuchule and cheeps to ask him what he thinks. The red mouse looks at Allura who is bouncing her legs, but turns back to his mate to imply that it’s not their place to tell this.

Allura groans. “Are you betraying me now? Are you closer with Lance than with me! We spend ten thousand years in the same pod!”

She dramatically throws her hands in the air, but she immediately freezes when she catches on to the meaning of Chulatt’s quiet squeaks, saying that maybe this issue is serious enough for Allura to hear.

“Mice.”

There’s not a hint of playfulness left in Allura’s voice when she speaks. “If this is of any concern to the paladin’s well-being you have to tell me.”

“Now,” she adds with a stern look, when Chuchule still seems unsure of what to do, and both mice flinch.

It’s Chulatt who hesitantly speaks up. And Allura stares at him for a second, before the meaning of his words sink in.

The two mice on the rope scream and tumble down in shock, when Allura abruptly leaps to her feet.

“Lance thinks Keith and I are WHAT?!”

Chapter Text

 

The cold water splashes onto Lance’s face, and he watches how the droplets run down his cheeks. He looks like shit. Well, crying through most of the night tends to do those things to your face. He sighs and reaches for the scrub he made out of fermented food-goo.

“Just because I’m heartbroken doesn’t mean I can’t look fabulous,” he whispers to himself and rubs the green substance into his cheeks with a little more vigor. He gets the grime off his face, but he can’t scrub away the dark circles under his eyes.

He washes his face, applies moisturizer, and stares at his reflection in the mirror. He looks a little paler than usual, but he can work with that. Everyone on this ship is a little tired after all.

Lance takes a deep breath and puts a wide grin to his face.

“Good enough.”

He makes his way into the control room where the rest of the team is already assembled.

Coran explains again what they have to look out for and presents them their … fashionable disguises. Shiro and Allura will both stay at the castle, and Lance hates himself for the short rush of relief when he hears that he at least won’t have to see Keith and Allura together today.

Overall, he’s doing a great job. He even makes some jokes at appropriate moments. Except that he can’t bring himself to look at Keith.

Keith is standing next to him and his arm bumps into Lance’s when he scoots closer to look at the clothes Coran presents them. Lance can’t help the way he flinches away from the touch.

“Wow, and you say have a horrible fashion sense,” Keith says, turning around with a grin. Their eyes meet, and Lance’s stomach decides to rush to the ground. He swallows and realizes that he takes a second too long to answer because Keith starts to pull his eyebrows together in confusion.

“Yeah,” Lance says and laughs. It’s too loud and so painfully forced that panic seizes Lance’s chest.

“I’ll ready the pod,” Coran chimes in, and Lance quickly grabs a random set of clothes before he turns around.

“Shotgun!” he calls and rushes to follow Coran out of the room.

Okay, so maybe he isn’t doing that great of a job.

Lance bickers with Hunk about shotgun etiquette and decides that it’s a good plan to keep a little bit more distance for the time being.

 


 

As it turns out, the dangerous swap moon is actually nothing more than a mall. A space mall to be correct. Usually, Lance would go out to find some actual skin care products, but he ends up helping Pidge. It’s cute to see her so excited about a videogame, so Lance does everything in his power to gather enough money for it.

He forgets everything else while diving through a fountain to steal money. Not only his worries, but also the mission they initially received. However, the honest laugh that breaks out of him when they flee from the scene of the crime is worth it. And so is Pidge’s reaction when they finally buy the game console.

Pidge turns around with a wide grin, the videogame pressed to her chest.

“Thanks Lance!”

Suddenly, there’s a vivid image of his little sister flashing before Lance’s eyes, and for a second it catches him off guard. When he reaches out to ruffle Pidge’s hair in affection, a fond smile finds its way onto his lips. Although his heart still aches a little at the familiarity of this gesture.

“No problem, Pidgeon,” he laughs when Pidge swats at his hand with a pout. “But maybe now we should do the thing we came here for. You know. Look for these lenses.”

There’s a teasing smile on his lips, and Pidge rolls her eyes. However, the next thing Lance knows is that Hunk and Keith are running past them, screaming something about the mall cop chasing them.

Lance is sure that the rapid escape on the back of an actual cow that follows this, will forever be one of the craziest experiences he’ll ever have in his life.  

 


 

The wound on Lance’s forehead is pulsing in sync with his heartbeat, and Lance rips the bandage off with a groan. His mama always said that it’s good to let air on a wound. Well it’s only a bump, but it still hurts like a bitch.

Coran gave him some light altean painkillers, but Lance didn’t take them yet. Somehow, he welcomes the pain that is distracting him from any other thoughts.

The only one who took their mission serious was Coran, and luckily, he could find some teludav lenses. He ran a quick check on the castle and explained everything while Hunk patched Lance up.

Even though they spend a day doing nonsense at the mall, they ended up with a ton of new information. Shiro had some kind of mental fight with Zarkon and managed to weaken his connection to the black lion.

Which couldn’t have happened with a better timing. Apparently, the castle needs a complete reboot before the newly installed lenses can reach the desired energy level.

“We will be vulnerable for the duration of the reboot, so we need to be careful,” Allura explained. “The castle will be offline for a few vargas, so we need a safe location before we initiate the shutdown.”

After a bit of research, they found a nearby planet with a metallic storm surrounding it that would provide a decent shelter.

Lance quickly did the math and realized that it will take them about two days to get there, without being able to jump there via wormhole.

Enough time for Lance to sort through his feelings and get a grip.

Or to just lie on his bed, stare at the ceiling, and wallow in self-pity.

Lance throws his arm over his eyes and sighs. He decided that he was done with crying. After all, he did enough of that last night, and the wrinkles under his eyes are already bad enough as it is.

A soft knock on the door startles him out of his thoughts. Lance doesn’t respond, hoping that whoever it is will leave.

Maybe it’s Pidge who wants her headphones back.

“Lance? Are you there?”

Lance immediately sits up. That was the last voice he expected to hear, and his heart leaps into his throat.

He swallows thickly before answering.

“Yeah. Come in.”

The door whooshes open the moment Lance swings his legs over the side of his bed, and Allura enters his room.

“Hello, princess,” Lance greets her in a sing-song voice. “How do I deserve the honor of your presence in my humble quarters?”, he asks with the usual flirtatious smile on his lips.

Allura frowns, but doesn’t comment on it. Her eyes lock with Lance’s, and there’s determination in her gaze when she speaks.

“We need to talk.”

The words are like a heavy blanket settling over the room, and Lance feels how the playful smile vanishes from his lips.

“Is this about Kaltenecker? I swear he won’t be a bother,” Lance starts with a weak laughter, but Allura cuts him off.

“Lance, please stop. The mice told me everything.”

Lance’s stomach swoops down, and he can feel how all the color drains from his face. The panic that swallows him whole must be obvious because Allura’s face twist into a horrified expression.

She rushes forward and sits down next to Lance before he can even say anything. Her hand is a warm and steady presence on the small of his back. Lance didn’t even notice that he’s swaying in his seat. His ears are ringing, but he still hears her soothing voice.

“It’s okay, Lance,” she whispers.

Lance’s first instinct is to recoil from her touch, but he can’t bring himself to do it. The second instinct that slowly settles in is the need to deny that this is really happening.

“Allura, I don’t know what they told you, but it’s not true.”

Lance tries to laugh, but his voice breaks and his chin trembles. When he sees the look in Allura’s eyes, he knows that there’s no way she’ll believe him.

“Lance,” she starts, but Lance doesn’t want to hear it.

“I’m okay,” he croaks and lifts a hand. “Really, I promise I’ll be okay.”

The desperation in his voice is mortifying, and Lance blinks a few times to get rid of the tears that are burning in his eyes.

Allura reaches forward and clasps Lance’s hand between hers.

“Lance, listen to me.” Lance’s eyes immediately snap up to hers when he hears the firm tone in her voice. She speaks slowly but certain. “I don’t know where you got the idea, but there’s nothing between me and Keith.”

Lance looks at her with wide eyes, but her words need a second to sink in.

“What?”

“Keith and I are not together, and I don’t have any romantic feelings for him.”

There’s a short silence where Lance is just staring at her.

The laugh that suddenly bubbles out of Lance’s mouth surprises them both. Allura is looking at him in plane confusion, but soon enough the laugh turns into a hiccup, and then Lance is crying for the second time this week.

“Oh, man this is so embarrassing,” he laughs between sobs, but the tears of relief are still streaming down his face.

Allura chuckles, and then she reaches up, wiping Lance’s cheek with her thumb. 

“It’s okay,” she says and the warmth in her voice, makes Lance lean into the touch. They stay like this for a while. Lance can’t stop the tears from falling, but for the first time in two days he’s able to breathe again. He feels like a heavy weight was lifted from his chest. Later, he will probably be embarrassed about his emotional outbreak, but right now he couldn’t care less. He dwells in Allura’s comforting presence, and for the moment that’s everything he needs.

She patiently waits until his shoulders stop shaking, soothingly caressing his cheek with her thumb. Allura doesn’t speak up until Lance has regained some of his composure, and her hands falls to her lap when Lance dries the last tears with his sleeve.

“Sooooooo,” she starts and there’s a somewhat mischievous grin on her lips. “Keith, huh?”

“Oh, man,” Lance says and feels how heat flares to his cheeks.

The grin on Allura’s face gets wider with every second and Lance groans in defeat.

“Well, I guess there’s no point in hiding it anymore.” He runs a hand through his hair and averts his gaze when he mumbles, “Yeah. Keith.”

“Now that’s interesting,” Allura chuckles. There’s a playful glint in her eyes that Lance has never seen before. “Why didn’t you tell me!”

Lance leans back in surprise.

“Well, I thought that feelings like … that, are not very important when you’re fighting an intergalactic war.”

“Lance, you’re important to me. You all are. I want to know the things that are bothering you.” Allura lowers her gaze to her hands in her lap. “I know that this isn’t easy for any of you, but … I want you to feel at home here. I know lately things have been rough, but I want you to confide in me or your fellow paladins.”

Lance swallows around the lump in his throat when Allura looks up with a fond smile.

“It … it would be great to be able to talk from time to time,” Lance says, and then a small laugh tumbles out of his mouth. “Back on earth I always had sleepovers with my sisters and we would talk about these kinds of things.”

“You have sisters?” Allura asks and the genuine interest in her face brings a grin to Lance’s lips.

“Yeah, three.”

“Oh my, I didn’t know that!”

“Yeah … I miss them a lot,” Lance croaks and looks at his hands.

Suddenly, Allura claps her hands together, making Lance snap up his head again.

“Then let’s do that.”

“What?”

“Have a sleepover!” Allura exclaims. “We still have time until we reach the planet and … if I’m honest, a break doesn’t sound so bad. What do you think?”

Allura leans forward, looking at him expectantly, and Lance can’t help but snort.

“Sure, I’m in.”

“Great!” Allura exclaims and jumps up. “Let’s get Pidge and prepare everything!”

“Wait, Pidge is coming too?”

“Well if we’re having a sleepover with girl talk, Pidge needs to join us too,” Allura says. Lance pulls a face.

“Good luck with that.”

“Nonsense! Of course, she’ll join us!”

“I’m not so sure about that, but let’s try our luck,” Lance answers and gets up from his bed.

“Great, now wash your face, you look horrible.”

“Wow, thanks,” Lance laughs, but does as he’s told when Allura points in the direction of his bathroom with a stern look.

 


 

“Sure, why not.”

Pidge doesn’t look up from where she’s typing away at her laptop, so she doesn’t see how Lance’s mouth drops open.

“Excellent!” Allura chirps.

“Wait, wait, wait hold your jets,” Lance interrupts her with a raised hand. “Are you serious?”

Pidge looks up and shrugs.

“Why not, sounds fun.”

“I- wow, I didn’t expect you to join us.”

Pidge frowns in confusion, adjusting her glasses.

“Why wouldn’t I want to hang out with you?”

Lance opens his mouth, but he can’t come up with anything to say.

“Well that’s settled! Let’s get some snacks!” Allura chimes and twirls around. Lance looks after her with an amused smile.

“She’s really excited about this,” Pidge chuckles. “It’s kinda cute.”

“Paladins! Now!”

Lance and Pidge flinch at Allura’s harsh voice.

“Yes, princess!” they call in unison. Lance turns to Pidge with a lopsided grin.

“Still think she’s cute?”

“Shut up, Lance.”

 


 

In the end, Pidge and Lance are entrusted with the duty to organize some snacks while Allura prepares her room with “extras” as she called it.

Lance is rummaging through one of the cabinets in the kitchen, trying to find something edible.

“What are you doing?”

Lance flinches when someone speaks up right next to him, and his head hits the cupboard door with a loud clunk.

“Ouch!”

“Oh my god, sorry buddy! Are you okay?”

Lance turns around to Hunk’s concerned face.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Lance says and rubs the spot on top of his head. Two bumps in a day, that’s a new record.

Lance freezes for a second when he sees that Keith is leaning at the counter next to Pidge, arms crossed and an amused smile on his lips.

“Whatcha looking at, mullet,” Lance sneers.

A teasing smirk finds its way onto Keith’s face.

“I was just thinking that it’s no wonder your brain isn’t working properly when you hit your head all the time.”

“Shut up!” Lance retorts. “Y-Your brain isn’t working properly!”

Keith only snorts at that, and Lance should be pissed at him, but he can’t suppress the smile that’s tugging at his lips.

“So, what are you doing?” Hunk asks.

“I was looking for snacks,” Lance says and turns to Hunk with a pout.

“Oh! You should’ve said something if you’re hungry, man! I can cook something!”

“No, we need snacks, Hunk. We’re having a girl’s night,” Pidge says with a grin.

“Huh?!” Hunk exclaims.

“Girls … night?” Keith asks, and his confused face really shouldn’t be so adorable.

“Yeah, talking about our feelings, braiding hair, eating snacks, you know all the fun things,” Lance says with a wave of his hand.

“Oh man! That’s not fair! I want to come too!” Hunk whines dramatically, slumping against the table.

“Sorry, Hunk. Girls only.”

“But … you’re not a girl either,” Keith says, looking more confused than ever, and now the laugh bursts out of Lance after all.

“Well I’m special!” he answers with a wink. Keith stares at him for a second before his cheeks flush, and he turns away with a frown.

“Whatever,” he mumbles.

Lance can’t help the way his heart does an excited somersault at his reaction, but he gets distracted when Hunk walks up to Keith.

“Well!” Hunks says, flinging an arm around Keith’s shoulders. “If you’re having a girl’s night, Keith and I will have a boy’s night!”

Keith’s cheek gets squished into Hunk’s shoulder, when Hunk squeezes him close.

“Ummm … okay,” Keith says hesitantly, but it sounds more like a question than an answer. “We could … go to the training deck?”

“No!” Hunk screams and let’s go of Keith’s shoulder, while Lance and Pidge burst into laughter.

Hunk grumbles and glares at Keith, who’s still standing between them with a puzzled expression.

“Found something!” Pidge suddenly chimes in and holds up a bag of … something.

“What is that?” Lance asks with a raised eyebrow, eying the simple green bag suspiciously.

“Crackers? I think?” Pidge tries with a lopsided smile.

“Well, good enough, I guess,” Lance says with a shrug. “Let’s go, we shouldn’t keep the princess waiting.”

He flashes Hunk and Keith a shit-eating grin and waves when he and Pidge turn to leave the room.

“Good luck with training, while Pidge, Allura and I will get some well-deserved rest,” Lance chuckles. The last thing he hears is Hunk’s frustrated groan.

 


 

“Wow I still can’t believe you told Allura about your crush on Keith,” Pidge chuckles.

“Well it’s not like it was my decision,” Lance groans. “Because SOMEONE ratted me out.”

Chulatt, who is sitting on Pidge’s shoulder, flinches when Lance glares at him.

“Lance, you know that they were only trying to help.”

Lance turns his head to look up at Allura, who is sitting on top of her bed. She has her legs folded underneath her. Her nightgown rode up, leaving her bare legs exposed. Lance and Pidge are seated on the ground in front of her enormous bed. Lance already threw a tantrum when he discovered the difference between her and their quarters. But, well she’s a princess after all.

Lance snorts.

“It’s hard to take you serious with food goo in your face.”

Allura frowns at Lance and raises a hand to her cheek.

“Don’t touch it!”

Lance moves to swat her hand away, but Pidge pulls his hand back with a hiss.

“Don’t move!”

“Ugh!”

Lance turns back to Pidge, who has her tongue stuck out in concentration. His hand is lying on her knee, and she holds it steady with one of hers, while she paints his nails. From this angle Lance can’t really see what she’s doing, but he trusts her.

When Pidge and Lance came to Allura’s room with their sorry excuse of snacks, they were surprised to find that Allura had provided them with Altean make-up. It’s a liquid paint that can be used to decorate the body, as she explained. There were all kind of brushes and colors to choose from too, and Pidge decided to paint Lance’s nails. Lance, on the other hand, brought them his self-made goo face mask, that is now coating their faces.

“Does this really work?” Allura asks now, frowning as she looks up as if she could see the mask like this.

“Does this face lie?” Lance points at his face with a flourish of his unoccupied hand. When he sees how Pidge rolls her eyes, he juts out one of his legs to kick her knee. She only laughs at this, and Lance’s attention goes back to the tiny mouse on her shoulder.

“No, seriously. Sorry Chulatt, I’m not mad at you at all,” Lance says. “Actually, I’m glad you told Allura.” Chulatt squeaks, and runs down Pidge’s arm, over Lance’s legs, and up to his shoulder to nuzzle into his neck. Lance chuckles and pats Chulatt’s head with his finger.

“He says, ‘thank you’,” Allura translates. They both look after the mouse, when he jumps down to rush to the corner where Chuchule and the others are already sleeping.

“So, now almost everyone on this ship knows about your crush,” Pidge says, briefly interrupting her work when she flashes Lance a grin. “Except the boy in question.”

“Wait, you knew about his crush on Keith?” Allura asks. One of her legs drops to the ground when she leans forward in curiosity.

“It’s pretty obvious if you ask me. He already liked Keith back at the garrison.”

“Really?”

Lance’s cheeks grow hot under Allura’s amazed gaze, and he groans.

“Yeah, Keith triggered his gay crisis,” Pidge chuckles.

“Pidge!” Lance yelps, and now his cheeks are burning.

“Gay what?” Allura asks, her face scrunched up in a puzzled expression.

“He was pining so hard. He was a mess, always staring at Keith from afar.”

“Oh god, please stop,” Lance croaks, hiding his eyes behind his hand.

“I thought they didn’t like each other back then,” Allura asks, now barely sitting on the edge of her bed.

“Well they were rivals, but Lance still got it bad,” Pidge says with a frown. “He was trying to one-up Keith while crushing on him.”

“Can you please stop talking,” Lance whines, throwing his head back to look at the ceiling.

“But then Keith dropped out.” There’s a short pause. “It was weird, I really couldn’t tell if he was happy or sad about that.”

“Why?”

Lance closes his eyes for a second.

“I was only able to get into the fighter class because Keith dropped out.”

“Oh. I … I didn’t know that,” Allura says. The hint of pity in her voice makes Lance scrunch up his nose in discomfort.

“Yeah.”

“Well, while he was happy about that, his pining ass was sad that Keith was gone,” Pidge chuckles.

“Can we please stop talking about this,” Lance sighs. Apparently, Pidge has other plans.

“And what does he do when he sees Keith after months of crying when he was gone? He immediately picks a fight with him! Making him his ‘rival’,” Pidge teases and drops Lance’s hand to make quotation marks with her fingers.

“Just stop okay!” Lance exclaims, snapping his head down. “There was just no way that Keith would see me in any other way. He didn’t even remember who I was! What was I supposed to do? Say : Hey, by the way, you’re beautiful, and I knew you were the love of my life the moment I laid my eyes on you?!”

“Awwwww,” Allura coos, and clasps her hand. “Lance that’s so sweet!”

Lance only groans in response, hiding his face behind both of his hands. He hears the rustling of clothes, and then he feels how Allura slides down to sit next to him. Her hand is warm and soft on his arm.

“Lance,” her voice is a gentle whisper. “You should tell him. He knows who you are now. You mean a lot to him.”

Lance drops his hands, looking at the fond expression in Allura’s eyes.

“I’m not so sure about that,” he mumbles.

“What do you mean? Even I can tell that he has a weak spot for you,” Pidge says, reaching out to pull Lance’s hand back into her lap. Her hand is tiny but warm around his. Somehow, Lance feels safe enough to open up about his feelings.

“I’m … I don’t know. I think he might … like Allura?”

“Lance, I already said that there’s nothing between us.”

“Yeah, but just because you say that, it doesn’t mean that Keith thinks the same way.”

Allura furrows her eyebrows, but it’s Pidge, who speaks up. Lance is surprised that there’s not a hint of teasing in her voice.

“I really don’t think that’s the case, Lance. He’s always talking to you, training with you, sitting close to you. I don’t know, man. I think if there’s the possibility that Keith likes someone, it would definitely be you.”

Lance’s chest tightens, and for a second he’s overwhelmed with how much he’s longing for this to be true. He lets out a deep drawn sigh, slumping sideways to rest his head on Allura’s shoulder. A little bit of green goo lands on her night gown, but she doesn’t comment on it. Instead her hand finds a way into his hair. Lance closes his eyes and melts against her, when she runs her nails over his scalp.

“I don’t even know if he’s gay, or likes boys or whatever,” Lance finally mumbles.  

“Okay I’m confused. What is this “gay” you keep mentioning?” Allura asks, making Lance snort in amusement.

“Oh right,” Pidge says and pushes her glasses up with her index finger. “It’s what we call ‘sexuality’ on earth. It describes different kind of attractions to other people, both romantic and sexual. For example: Gay means that you’re attracted to the same gender, while heterosexual people are attracted to the opposite gender. But there are many different kinds of attractions.”

“Wow,” Allura says. There’s a short pause, and Lance can’t see her, but he’s sure that she’s making her adorable thinking face. “Humans are so weird.”

Pidge laughs out loud. “Well how is it on Altea?”

Lance is glad that Pidge doesn’t speak about Allura’s home in past tense.

“Gender isn’t exactly a thing we worry about,” Allura explains. “If we like someone we just tell them. Why do humans make it so complicated? I don’t get it.”

“Wow, that sounds lovely,” Lance exhales. “I wish it was this easy for me.”

“Just tell him then, it’s your choice to make,” Allura says, and Lance sits up.

“Don’t you think I want to tell Keith how I feel? Tell him how pretty and cool he is? Sometimes it’s so hard not to tell him when I see how badass he is. Especially while training. God, the training is killing me,” Lance gushes.

Heat flares to Lance’s cheeks when he sees the wide grins on the girls faces.

“Stop looking at me like that!” he barks. Pidge chuckles, reaching out to pull his other hand into her lap. “Man, you reaaaallly got it bad.”

Allura raises her hand to her mouth, giggling. “This is kind of weird to be honest.”

“What?” Lance asks, puzzled.

“To hear you talk about Keith like that, usually all you do is fight with him, and to hear you swoon over him is just  … weird.”

“Listen, he’s still my rival, and I will fight him with everything I have,” Lance says, stabbing his finger into Allura’s shoulder. “It’s not my fault that he just happens to be extremely cute at the same time.”

“Alright,” Allura laughs.

Lance huffs out a breath, and freezes when he sees his finger, pressed against Allura’s clothes.

“PIDGE!”

“What is it?” Pidge asks, amusement obvious in her voice.

“Really? Of all the colors, you could’ve chosen you take red?!” he yelps whirling around to her, when he sees the red color coating his nails.

“I think it suits you,” she cackles.

“I agree,” Allura giggles.

“I can’t believe you’re teaming up on me now,” Lance whines, dramatically putting a hand to his forehead.

“Soooo,” Pidge starts, “Should I do the other ones as well, or …?”

Lance pouts, and Allura pats his shoulder in sympathy.

“Yes, please,” he finally mumbles and averts his eyes. Pidge only hums, a small smile on her lips, when she goes back to work.

Allura raises to her knees and fishes a tablet from her bed. She wiggles in place until her back is resting against Lance’s side, her legs bent with the tablet in her lap.

“So!” she exclaims while starting the tablet. “Let’s choose a hairstyle for Pidge!”

Like this, Lance can comfortably look over her shoulder at the display, where Allura pulls up a ton of different altean hairstyles. She slides through them, and Lance laughs, making her show Pidge all the ugly ones. They probably won’t find anything that is manageable with Pidge’s short hair, but it’s fun.

Lance is happy. Last night he was alone in his room, miserable and heartbroken. Today, he’s having a sleepover with his space sisters, and right now it feels the closest to home he can get.

In the end, Pidge chooses a hairdo for Allura and tries to copy it, but she’s terrible at it. They laugh so hard over the ridiculous result that the dried space-goo face mask crumbles from their faces. A clear sign to wash it off.

“Ohhhhhh!” Pidge rubs her hands over her clear skin, her eyes wide open in awe. “My skin is soft like a baby butt!”

Lance puts his hands to his waist, when he sees Allura’s skin practically glowing too.

“I told you! This goo sucks as food, but it does a damn good job as a face-mask!”

He flashes Allura a wide grin. “And now, it’s time to work my magic on that disastrous hair of yours!”

Allura squeaks in delight and sits down on her bed, legs folded, and eagerly bouncing in her seat. Pidge steals the tablet and climbs on the bed, resting her head in Allura’s lap, when Lance takes his place behind the princess.

He hums, and gets to work.

His heart is filled with affection, when he listens to Pidge and Allura, who share stories about Coran’s and Hunk’s cooking fails. It’s the most relaxed they’ve been since …. Since the day they entered this castle and became the defenders of the universe.

It’s also the first time Lance hears Allura laugh this much, and really that’s a shame. He knows that they have a mission, a damn serious one at that, but he realizes that there are not enough moments like these. After all, they’re still only human. Well, at least most of the crew.

Lance is so occupied with braiding Allura’s hair that it takes him a moment before he notices the hushed voices coming from outside the room.

“This was your idea, Hunk. I can’t-“

“Jesus, just knock already.”

There’s a loud bang on the door, and Pidge drops her tablet to her stomach. She raises an eyebrow in confusion, but doesn’t move. Lance looks at Allura who shrugs, so Lance sighs and hops to his feet.

“Waitwaitwaitwait, I’m not ready! I need-,” says the voice on the other door, and when Lance hits the button to open it, Keith is standing in front of him.

His eyes are wide, and his face is flushed when he stops midsentence.

“Shit,” he says.

“Hello to you too,” Lance answers with a chuckle.

“Hi,” Keith tries again, and his eyes dart to Hunk who is just standing next to him with a grin. Keith is holding a plate in his hands, looking a little helpless. So, Lance glances at Hunk, raising his eyebrows in a silent question, but Hunk’s grin only spreads wider.

Keith’s eyes finally find Lance’s, and - maybe it’s just Lance’s imagination - but he swears that Keith is blushing.

“Ummm,” Keith voice breaks, and he has to clear his throat. “So, Hunk and I made these cookies.”

He awkwardly raises the plate and looks at Lance for a while, not saying anything. He flinches when Hunk elbows him in the side.

“Uh,” he startles. “We- we thought maybe you would … like some?”

Lance’s lips curve into a wide grin, and Keith’s breath audibly hitches in his throat.

“Sure, thanks!” Lance laughs, taking the plate out of Keith’s hands. Keith, however, is still frozen in place, staring at Lance’s face. After a few seconds, a giggle bubbles out of Lance’s mouth.

“Is there anything else you need?” Lance asks and that rouses Keith from his trance.

“N-No! That was everything, we – we’ll be going now!” Keith blabbers and turns, bumping face first into Hunk.

Lance snorts and sees how Keith flushes in a deeper shade of red when he hurries past Hunk. Lance waves Hunk goodbye, who hides his laugh behind a hand when he follows Keith down the hall.

Lance shuts the door and takes a deep breath. Then he leans his back against it and slides down with a high-pitched, drawn out squeal.

He puts the plate down and hides his face in his hands.

“Oh my god, why is he so adorable?” he wheezes, and his face is on fire. “How can he be so hot and  a helpless puppy at the same time?!”

“Wow, that was almost painful to watch,” Pidge deadpans, and Lance groans into his hands.

“Dude, please try to tell me again that he doesn’t have a crush on you because that was embarrassing.”

Lance’s heart feels like it will overflow with love, so he stifles another high-pitched sound into his hands. He slides them down to his mouth, so he can look at Allura when she speaks up.

“He only had eyes for you, I’m not sure he even realized that I was in the room,” she says with a teasing grin, and Lance drops to his side with a pathetic whimper.

“Oh Jesus, Keith killed him,” Pidge groans. Lance can’t wipe the grin from his face, and the little flame of hope in his chest, that was so painfully extinguished just yesterday, is burning stronger than ever.

“At least bring us the cookies before you die on the floor.”

 


 

Lance is lying on his back, staring at the ceiling in the middle of the night. The room is illuminated in a faint green light, so he can still make out some shapes. Pidge is already sound asleep, using his stomach as a pillow, and Allura is also breathing evenly, her head resting on his shoulder. Lance is tired, but the thoughts are running rampant in his head. A lot happened today, and he can’t seem to find any rest.

Allura stirs and slowly blinks her eyes open. She looks blearily at Lance for a second.

“Can’t sleep?”, she whispers, her voice rough and tired.

“Just thinking,” Lance replies just as quietly.

Allura hums and snuggles closer. Lance thinks that she must’ve gone back to sleep, when she speaks up again.

“I really think you should tell him,” she whispers. “I mean, it’s your decision to make, but I want you to know that I support you.”

Lance chuckles quietly. “I really thought you would be against this.”

“Why would I?”

“Because we’re the defenders of the universe,” Lance breathes in a dramatic voice. “I thought there’d be no place for things like this.”

Allura is quiet for a second.

“I probably should think this way, to be honest,” she finally says, and it catches Lance off guard. “But … we all risk our lives every day. I guess … I just don’t want you to regret anything.”

Her voice dies down at the end of the sentence, and Lance swallows around the lump in his throat.

He tilts his head and presses a kiss to her head.

“Thank you,” he mumbles into her hair, and he feels how her fingers clench around the fabric of his shirt.

There’s no need for more words between them and after a while, Allura’s breath evens out again, signalizing that she fell asleep.

All this time Lance felt lonely on this ship, and when he finally falls asleep, he wishes that he’d realized sooner that he was surrounded by his family all along.

Chapter Text

“Jesus, will you stop pouting already?” Keith groans.

“I still can’t believe you had a boy’s night without me,” Shiro mumbles and stuffs another spoon of food-goo into his mouth.

“Shiro, you fell asleep the moment your ass hit the sofa, I think you really needed the rest.”

Keith only gets an unintelligible grumble in response, and a smile creeps onto Lance’s face. Shiro is indeed pouting.

“Don’t worry. You only missed the most amazing cookies ever,” Lance taunts.

Keith whips around to glare at him when Shiro groans in despair.

“Well, Keith and Hunk made them especially for our girl’s night, so you wouldn’t have gotten any anyway,” Lance adds quickly, a teasing smirk directed at Keith. A blush tints Keith’s cheek, and he turns away to stare at his food-goo instead.

“Actually, I put some away for later,” Hunk chimes in, and Shiro has never looked more touched, eyes swimming with tears, making everyone at the table burst into laughter.

It’s a peaceful breakfast with teasing and banter, and Lance couldn’t be any happier. Earlier, Allura had wiggled her eyebrows when Keith naturally chose to sit next to him. The giddy happiness that raised in his chest at that had been impossible to fight.

“So, it’s all thanks to me that you get to see this beauty,” Lance says now, putting his fingers under his chin to present his pristine face.

“I never thought that food-goo would work wonders on the skin, but it’s the truth,” Allura adds, rubbing a finger over her cheek. Coran furrows his eyebrows.

“I can’t believe you’re abusing food for this nonsense.”

“As the defenders of the universe we have to be presentable and beautiful at any times!” Lance exclaims, and Allura and Pidge nod affirmatively. A grin finds its way to his lips. His space sisters have his back.

“Well, maybe you shouldn’t have goo on your face all the time.” There’s a shit-eating grin on Hunk’s face that makes Lance raise his eyebrows in confusion.

“What do you mean?”

“There’s goo on your face, dude.”

Lance groans, and vigorously rubs his cheeks with the back of his hand.

“It’s still there.”

“Ugh!”

Hunk laughs, shaking his head resignedly.

“Keith, can you help him, please?”

“Huh?”

“He clearly can’t do this himself. Come on! Lend him a hand!”

Lance doesn’t miss the way Hunk’s eyes glint mischievously, and heat raises to his cheeks.

“I can do it by myself!” Lance snaps, turning to Keith with a glare as he rubs his hand all over his mouth. A small laugh tumbles out of Keith’s mouth, and his whole face lightens up when he looks at Lance.

“It’s still there.”

Keith raises his hand, making Lance flinch back in surprise.

“Don’t be stubborn.” Keith’s voice is stern, but his eyes melt into an expression so full of fondness that Lance stops breathing. The brush of Keith’s thumb against Lance’s cheek is unexpectedly gentle, and for a moment Lance panics that Keith can feel how hot his face is. Then he remembers that he probably already looks like a tomato.

Keith’s gaze shifts to his thumb, and then he raises it to his lips to lick off the green blob. The garbled high-pitched sound that leaves Lance makes Keith look up in confusion. He blinks twice, and then averts his eyes, raising a fist to his mouth while audibly clearing his throat. Lance’s heart is stumbling dangerously in his chest, and he’s still staring at Keith in disbelief.

“Oh my god, get a room.” Pidge’s annoyed voice rips Lance out of his state of shock. But the playful grin he finds on her face betrays her words, and Allura’s knowing smirk doesn’t help either.

“Well, at least now Lance is red and not green.” Hunk chuckles, trying to hide it behind his hands.

“Shut up!” Lance shrieks. Keith snorts in amusement and goes back to eating his breakfast. Lance, however, doesn’t miss the pleased smile that is playing on Keith’s lips for the rest of the meal.

And that is the moment Lance decides he can’t go on like this any longer. The hopeful thumping of his heart is almost painful. He has to know if there’s an actual chance that Keith could like him back. And he knows that there’s no other way than to ask.

 


 

But then again, it wouldn’t be too bad to talk to someone else first, right? To someone who knows Keith better than anyone else. Because simply going up to the boy he’s been pining for forever is just too big of a hurdle to take at once.

“Hey, Red.”

Lance raises a hand in greeting when he walks up to the giant lion robot. The one who answers him though is Blue who greets him with a faint purr.

“Hello, beautiful.” Lance smiles at his loyal partner in crime. “Today, I’m here to talk to your friend if that’s okay.”

Blue sends him a cheerful response, making Lance giggle before he shifts his attention to the smaller lion in front of him. He swallows once, expression serious, and hesitantly raises a hand to the particle barrier that’s shielding her. A faint electric spark buzzes through him when his fingers touch the surface.

“Hey, pretty lady. Will you let me in?”

Lance only manages an uncertain lopsided grin, heart beating fast in anticipation. Suddenly, the barrier dissolves, and Lance stumbles a step back when Red’s yellow eyes light up almost immediately.

“Woah, hello there,” Lance greets her, now a confident smile plastered to his face. He can’t help the surge of pride swelling in his chest. In a bout of overflowing enthusiasm, Lance decides to climb up to her paw. Which turns out to be more difficult than expected.

An exhausted sigh leaves Lance when he finally settles against her and spreads out his legs in front of him. His head falls back to the metal with a loud clonk and he winces. Surprisingly, Red’s surface feels warmer than Blue’s.

“I figured it’d be okay to talk to you,” Lance whispers. After breakfast, he had walked to the hangar before he even knew what he was doing. Maybe he was looking for Blue’s comforting presence, but in an impulse, he decided to talk to Red instead.

Lance snorts at his own stupidity as he exhaustedly rubs the crease between his eyebrows. “I’m so stupid, there’s no way you can help me with this.”

His hands fall to his lap in resignation. “I just … I dunno maybe I just need to sort out my thoughts, and you … you seem to understand Keith better than anyone else.” He pauses. “Well, there’s still Shiro, but there’s no way I’ll talk to him about my crush. He already has enough on his plate as it is,” Lance sighs.

He sits in silence for a few seconds, leaning comfortably against Red. “I … I really like him a lot.” Lance’s voice is nothing but a hoarse croak. “And I just … I want him to like me back, but …” Lance closes his eyes. “The chances of that are really slim, huh?”

He tries to laugh, but it comes out wobbly. “Everyone is telling me to just talk to him, but-“

Lance jolts up ramrod straight with a shriek when a deep fierce growl sends a shock through his whole body. The force of it makes his hair stand on end, and a violent tremble wrecks his frame.

 “What the actual fuck,” he curses and whips around to look at Red whose eyes are glowing down at him.

“Was that you?!”

Another growl rumbles through Lance, and this time he’s a little bit more prepared. It still makes him shiver with its intensity. A surprised laugh tumbles out of his mouth.

“Oh wow, this is so weird.”

The hot rush vibrating through his body is completely different from the soothing, calm purrs Blue sends him via their connection, and Lance wonders if it’s always this intense for Keith too.

Wait.

“I’m talking to you through my mind!” Lance laughs, grabbing his head in disbelief.

 “Oh my god is that even possible?! I mean it has to because I’m doing it right now!”

Lance giggles, giddy with excitement, but then he scrunches up his face.

“But I couldn’t understand you.”

Lance tilts his head back. “What were you trying to tell me?”

When he doesn’t get a response, Lance pouts in annoyance. Apparently, it’s not that easy to communicate with a lion that isn’t his. He folds his arms, absentmindedly rubbing his mouth with one hand, as he ponders just what Red was trying to say.

“Hmmm, let’s see … what did I say before she reacted,” he mumbles, tapping his lips with his index finger. He gasps when the realization hits him.

“That everyone wants me to talk to Keith!” he exclaims, pointing a finger up in Red’s face. The fierce growl that Red sends him as an answer is even louder than the ones before that, and it almost makes Lance’s legs buckle when the buzz rushes through his body.

“Hah! I got it!” Lance laughs and victoriously pumps his fists into the air. But then he freezes.

“Wait.”

His hand falls to his side.

“Do you also want to tell me that I should talk to him?”

This time Red obviously purrs, and the sensation spreads warmly in Lance’s chest. He throws his head back and groans. “Why does everyone want me to talk to him?!”

“Talk to whom?”

Lance yelps in surprise, turning around only to see Keith standing next to Red’s paw. Keith’s eyebrows are scrunched up in confusion, and his head is tilted back to look up at Lance.

“What are you doing up there?”

“Nothing!” Lance croaks hurriedly which makes Keith cock his eyebrow disbelievingly.

“Are you talking to Red?” Keith looks from Lance’s face to Red’s. A playful smirk spreads on his lips when his eyes dart back to Lance.

“You accuse me of stealing your lion, and now I find you talking to mine?” Keith chuckles.

Lance opens his mouth, but suddenly Keith’s appearance hits him full force, leaving him incapable of finding a suitable answer.

Keith’s hair is slightly wet from the shower he must’ve just taken. He’s wearing his usual black V-neck that clings to his skin - and that is the recurrent trigger of Lance’s countless daydreams. New, however, are the black sweatpants that are sitting low on his hips, exposing a sliver of pale skin.

“Wh-What are you wearing?” Lance asks, feeling how even his ears heat up at the sight. Why does he have to flush with his whole body? Keith’s gaze shifts down to his clothes.

“Oh these? I stole them from Shiro.”

Lance can’t help the small sting of jealousy in his heart, but it dissolves when Keith looks at him with a grin.

“Red isn’t really my color.”

Lance blinks a few times, and then he snorts. “Did you just make a joke?”

Keith only shrugs, but can’t hide the pleased little smirk on his face. Lance is still chuckling when Keith steps forward to put a hand to Red’s paw.

“What dirty things did he tell you, huh?” Keith asks, and closes his eyes, waiting for Red’s answer. Lance can’t help but think that he’s adorable.

But then Lance realizes just what Keith asked. His stomach rushes to the ground, and panic swells in his chest. Lance quickly shoots a glance at Red, silently pleading that she won’t tell Keith anything he said earlier.

His heart is thundering in his chest. Do giant space lions even have a sense of privacy? Lance’s head is spinning, and it’s getting harder to breath with every passing second. He’s about to faint when Keith finally opens his eyes to look up at him.

“Huh.”

“Wh-what?” Lance sneers, but he can’t hide his trembling voice.

“She says it’s a secret.”

Lance didn’t even realize he was holding his breath, but it rushes out of him in one long sight. His relief his so obvious that Keith glares at him.

“Are you teaming up on me now? Maybe I should bond with Blue if the two of you get along this well,” Keith taunts.

“No!” Lance screams and flinches, when Red whines anxiously as well. Blue instantly answers Red’s call with a purr, trying to calm her down. Suddenly, Keith laughs, and the sound draws Lance’s attention back to the beautiful boy below him.

“Don’t worry, you’re my kitty,” Keith says fondly, patting Red’s paw, and Lance is about to swoon then and there. Seeing this soft side of Keith is too much for his weak heart. And those sweatpants. Damn those sweatpants.

“So, do you plan to stay up there forever?”

Lance jolts when Keith tilts his head back to look at him. Shit, he’s been staring.

“No!” Lance spits, glaring at Keith and awkwardly squats to climb down from Red’s paw. He really tries to be as graceful as possible, but apparently Red has other ideas. An undignified screech leaves Lance when Red jostles him. Lance screws his eyes shut, ready for the painful impact, but instead he falls against something warm and solid.

“Uff,” Keith says, air rushing out of his lungs, and when Lance lifts his head he looks right into a pair of dark grey eyes. Lance can feel how the blush rushes to his face and down his neck in an instant, coloring him in a crimson red.

“Be careful,” Keith hisses, and this close Lance can feel his breath as he speaks. Lance’s heart leaps into his throat, and his voice is way too high when he answers.

“Red pushed me!”

Keith furrows his eyebrows. “Why would she do that?”

Keith raises his head to look at Red, and now that his eyes are no longer holding Lance captive, Lance notices that Keith’s hands are on his hips. Heat seeps into his body from the places Keith is touching, and suddenly he realizes that his own hands are spread out on Keith’s chest. His broad and firm chest.

Lance is pretty sure that he’s about to swoon into Keith’s arms.

He lifts his gaze, and his eyes lock with Keith’s. It only lasts for a second though because Keith’s attention shifts down to Lance’s hands on his chest. His lips twitch into a smile, and the amused glint in Keith’s eyes when he looks up at Lance again is enough to make Lance fall in love all over again.

“Nice color.”

The confusion must be obvious on Lance’s face because the grin on Keith’s face grows wider.

“Your nails.”

Lance looks down and sees the bright red color against the black fabric of Keith’s shirt. A groan leaves him, and now his face must be steaming with heat. Way to be sneaky about his crush. He completely forgot about that. Well, Lance was lucky enough that Keith noticed them this late.

“Thanks,” he croaks, not daring to look up again. He’s sure that his face will betray him any second now. Lance’s heart is beating heavy against his ribcage, and his stomach is a nervous tingling mess.

But then he thinks: Fuck it.

Lance can’t help the way his fingers nervously dig into Keith’s shirt, and he swallows before he lifts his head.

Their eyes lock again, and now they’re so close that Lance can hear how Keith quietly sucks in a breath. His eyes flicker down to Lance’s lips for the split of a second, and that’s enough to make Lance’s stomach erupt into a thousand butterflies. Keith’s fingers twitch nervously, making Lance’s clothes shift against his skin with the motion. And before Lance can overthink his decision, he leans in.

But the moment he moves, Keith suddenly stumbles backwards, quickly raising his hands from Lance’s hips as if he burned himself.

“S-sorry!” Keith stutters, eyes wide and panicked. Lance is frozen for a second, then his hands fall to his side. He awkwardly clears his throat.

 “Yeah, no. Uhm, it’s fine. I mean. No problem.” He stumbles over his words, gaze flickering up to Keith, but not daring to meet his eyes again.  Keith seems just as shaken by whatever just happened, rubbing his neck in embarrassment.

“Ummm, I’m … gonna go,” Keith says, pointing over his shoulder with a thumb. Lance nods.

“Yeah, I’m also going to … uhh… do something.”

“Okay.”

Keith hesitates, and for a second Lance thinks he’s going to say something, but then he turns around and hurries out of the room.

Once the door closes behind Keith, Lance sinks against Red’s paw once again with a loud moan.

“What the hell, was that?!”

Lance rubs a hand over his face when embarrassment washes over him.

“Good god, this is a mess,” he groans. His heart is still racing in his chest. Keith was so close. Lance squeals when he remembers the way Keith had looked at his lips. The feel of his hands on his hips.

“God, I can’t survive this any longer,” Lance whines when the overflowing feelings threat to crush his heart.

“I really do have to tell him, don’t I?”

He sighs in defeat, when both Red and Blue send him an affirmative grumble. There’s no way two ancient lion robots can be wrong about that.

 


 

Lance doesn’t get another chance to talk to Keith that day (also he’s pretty sure he wouldn’t have been able to survive another encounter), and before he knows it, it’s the final day of their break. And it already starts like shit with Allura’s stern voice blaring through the coms of the castle.

They assemble at the control room, most of them still in their PJ’s. Except for Allura and Shiro – and Keith as Lance notices. He’s probably already been awake. Lance wonders if Keith even changed out of his clothes at all, and he pulls a face when he thinks about sleeping in those tight jeans.

He’d rather imagine Keith all soft and sleepy, his legs bare, only clad in a pair of black tight boxershor-

“As I was saying.” Allura raises her voice, sending Lance a sharp glare. He immediately straightens his back, ignoring the way Hunk giggles next to him. “We will arrive at the planet in a few vargas, and then we’ll be initiating the shutdown. As I already explained, we’ll be unable to use the castles defenses, so stay on guard.”

“I doubt that anyone followed us here. My tracker isn’t showing any Galra signals nearby,” Pidge explains, adjusting her glasses.

“Well, it won’t hurt to stay alert,” Shiro says now, drawing their attention. “But there’s another thing we’d like to discuss.”

He makes a significant pause, looking at every single one of them before his gaze shifts to Allura. She has her arms crossed and pointedly avoids looking at him. Shiro seems unfazed though and continues his speech. “The princess and I decided that we’ll head to the Blade of Mamora after repairing the teludav.”

Keith takes a step forward at that.

“Really?”

Lance raises his eyebrows at the excited tone in Keith’s voice and only turns his head back when Allura speaks up.

“Frankly speaking, I don’t like this idea at all. But- ,” she hesitates and sighs. “Shiro thinks it’s worth a try, and I trust him.”

A satisfied smile plays on Shiro’s lips. “Then that’s settled. Go get some rest before we arrive.”

Then he turns to talk to Keith who stepped forward. So, Lance turns around to Hunk and Pidge, stretching his arms over his head with a groan.

“Man, did they really have to wake us up this early?”

Hunk stabs his finger into Lance’s exposed stomach, making Lance screech in surprise. “Stop!”

“You should stop whining, it’s a blessing we got a break in the first place,” Pidge says, eyes already glued to a small device in her hands.

“Yeah, yeah I get it,” Lance sighs with a dismissive wave of his hand. “I just wanted to sleep in once. Why do we have to get up just because Allura doesn’t seem to sleep? That’s just unfair!”

“Dude, that’s just how it is,” Hunk says as he yawns. “Anyway, we can go back to sleep now.”

“You know that I can’t sleep once I’m up!” Lance whines, crossing his arms with a huff. “You gotta entertain me.”

“Nope, ask Keith,” Hunk says and grins when he sees the look on Lance’s face.

“Why would I do that?!” Lance hisses quietly, leaning in so only Hunk can hear him. The grin on Hunk’s face gets wider. “I don’t know, why would you?”

“Stop that!” Lance whispers and slaps Hunk’s arm. Lance turns around to look at Keith, but the sight in front of him makes his shoulders slump in surprise. Keith and Shiro are standing next to each other, and Shiro is quietly talking. Keith has his arms crossed, and he looks somewhat annoyed.

Keith averts his eyes when Shiro stops talking, and his answer is loud enough that even Lance hears it. “Shiro, I’m okay.  Just a little tired.”

Lance turns around when Keith passes him.

“Hey, everything’s okay?”

He’s just as surprised as Keith about the worried tone in his voice. Keith stops in his tracks. “Yeah, I’m fine,” he says, and Lance only nods in response.

“Well!” Hunk suddenly chimes in. “I think I will hang out with my buddy Keith.”

He steps forward slinging an arm around Keith’s neck with a shit eating grin. Keith blinks in surprise but doesn’t shake Hunk off which makes Lance raise an eyebrow in confusion.

“Since when are you two so close?” he asks, crossing his arms.

“Keith and I had a bonding moment. Right?” Hunk asks cheerfully, turning to look at Keith. A small and shy smile finds its way onto Keith’s lips, and Lance drops his arms.

“Wait, wait, wait! I thought that was our thing.”

For a second Hunk and Keith are staring at him. Then Hunk starts grinning like a madman, and Keith cheeks dust in a pretty pink.

“Our thing?” Keith asks quietly. His question almost gets swallowed by Hunk’s booming voice.

“Oho? I didn’t know you two had a thing.” And when Hunk wiggles with his eyebrows, Lance feels how his cheeks start burning.

“Sh-Shut up!” Lance yelps, clenching his fists at his sides. “Y-You go and bond! I will hang out with Shiro!” Lance makes a sharp turn to stomp over to where Shiro is, ignoring the giggling behind his back and his ears burning hot in embarrassment. Why did he say that? Apparently, he’s lost all control over his emotions – and his mouth. Lance sighs when he stops next to Shiro and Allura.

“What are you doing?” Lance asks, but it comes out as an exhausted sigh.

“Ummm, Allura and I are going over strategies?” Shiro answers, looking confused and apologetic at the same time when Lance groans in distress.

“UGH! Didn’t you tell us to rest?”

“Lance this is important,” Allura chimes in with a serious expression that suddenly melts into a smirk. “Why don’t you go hang out with Keith?”

Lance bristles, flustered. “Y-You know what! Nevermind! I’m gonna go find Pidge!”

Shiro opens his mouth, eyebrows furrowed in confusion, but Lance raises a hand to shut him up, turning on his heel to leave. However, he still sees how Shiro turns to Allura, who only shakes her head and smiles at his question. At least Allura isn’t spreading his (not so secret) secrets.

 


 

As it turns out, Pidge is busy. Like always. She’s working on a new mobile device that will help guard the castle or something. Lance is too annoyed to actually listen to her. So, in the end – he goes to look for Keith and Hunk after all. Lance hears them before he sees them. Well, to be correct he hears Hunk screeching.

“Time out!”

“There’s no time out in an attack, Hunk!”

Keith grunts, and Hunk shrieks again. Now Lance is close enough to hear the crash of weapons, and when he turns the corner to the training room he sees the source of it. Keith is charging at Hunk with his bayard, pushing him backwards with the force of his swings. Hunk has his shoulders drawn up, arms close to his chest, and he’s holding a staff that looks like the one the gladiator uses. Hunk is doing his best to parry Keith’s attacks, but Lance can tell that he’s terrified.

Lance chuckles and leans against the doorframe. Well, it must be pretty scary to have Keith charge at you with everything he has … and also sexy as fuck. But maybe that’s just Lance biased opinion. He loves to watch Keith train. Loves how he pulls his hair up into a ponytail, loves his concentrated, sweaty face. Heat blooms in the pit of Lance’s stomach when he watches how Keith’s biceps flex with every strike of his sword.

Woah, this is not the right time or place to get stupidly aroused. Also, it’s not fair when he sees how much Hunk is struggling.

“Hey Hunk!” Lance calls. Keith only glances in his direction for a second, but Hunk turns his head, yelping when Keith uses his distraction for a really harsh blow. “Do the move!” Lance shouts, cupping a hand around his mouth. Hunk looks at Keith, and Lance mirrors the grin that’s spreading on Hunk’s face.

Keith charges in again, not faced by their conversation at all, when Hunk suddenly drops his weapon, dugs under Keith’s bayard and grabs his waist. A high-pitched yelp leaves Keith when Hunk simply lifts him, throwing him over his shoulder like he weights nothing.

Lance doubles over in laughter as he sees the surprised expression on Keith’s face.

“Hah! Guess, you didn’t expect tha - UFF!” The triumphed grin vanishes from Hunk’s lips when Keith manages to kick him in the stomach while wiggling out of his grasp. Keith lands on all fours like a cat.

“Hunk, buddy, you okay?” Lance asks, wiping his eyes with the back of his hand, still giggling.

“Ughh, been better, actually,” Hunk says, rubbing his stomach with a wince. Keith gets up from the floor, wiping his hands.

“Great job. You got me by surprise,” Keith says now, patting Hunk’s shoulder. “Well I guess, someone helped.” Lance only grins at the sharp glare Keith sends his way.

“Thanks, but … why do we have to do this again?” Hunk asks as Keith picks up the staff to place it in his hands.

“You could use some lessons in hand-to-hand-combat,” Keith says. “Also, I had to bake cookies with you, so this time we do what I want.” Keith turns around to face Hunk, lowering his hips, bayard in his hands, ready to charge at Hunk any second now – and Lance is ready to swoon all over him again. Why is Keith so hot when he fights?

“Well, I was trying to help. I’m pretty sure you just want to see me fail,” Hunk whines but gets into position again.

“How does baking help me?” Keith asks, scrunching up his nose.

“You can’t impress your crush with fighting skill alone, Keith! You have to be thoughtful too!”

Hunk!” Keith’s weapon clatters to the floor, and his face bursts into a bright red.

Oh my God! I’m sorry!” Hunk shrieks, dropping his weapon too as he slaps both hands onto his mouth. His gaze shifts to Lance.

And Lance is frozen.

The gears in his head are turning, and then the meaning of Hunk’s words hit him full force.

“Wait. Keith has a crush on someone?”

Keith’s face goes even redder, and his shoulders are shaking as he clenches his fists.

No!” he yells, voice wavering dangerously.

“Someone in this castle?” Lance asks, and now he can feel how his heart starts racing.

“Wi- Will you shut up!” Keith spits out, and then he’s picking up his bayard from the floor.

“Keith, I- ,” Hunk starts, taking a step forward, hands raised in a soothing manner.

“It’s fine, Hunk. We’re done talking about this,” Keith says, turning away. “I’m gonna go take a nap,” he mumbles when he rushes past Lance, gaze lowered. He’s out of the room before Lance can even turn his head.

Lance is frozen in place for a few seconds.

“What the hell just happened?!” Lance finally shrieks, turning to Hunk whose eyebrows are still furrowed in worry. Lance’s mind is running a mile a minute, but it seems like his heart is trying to win this race.

“Oh man, I really fucked up,” Hunk mumbles.

“Keith has a crush on someone? And he told you?”

Hunk rubs the back of his neck and pulls a face. “Lance, drop it.”

“No! Hunk?” Lance knows it’s not fair, but he can’t help the pleading tone in his voice. Hunk sighs, bending down to pick up his weapon.

“Lance,” he says when he puts it away. “I won’t spill the beans. It’s bad enough that I slipped up just now.”

Lance’s shoulders slump, and he defeatedly stumbles sideways into the doorframe. Suddenly, there’s a warm hand on his shoulder. When Lance lifts his head, he’s met with a fond gaze and a squeeze to his shoulder.

“Just give him time, I’m sure he’ll open up eventually.”

Lance knows that Hunk’s words are supposed to be comforting, but an ice-cold fear engulfs Lance’s stomach.

“That’s exactly what I’m scared of,” Lance mumbles, lowering his gaze as he wraps an arm around his middle.

Hunk only pats his shoulder, and Lance knows that he won’t say anything more. It’s the right thing to do, but Lance can’t help but feel betrayed. Hunk knows that Lance likes Keith. Well, they haven’t really talked about it since they came to the castle, but he has to know.

“I’m gonna go and see what Pidge is doing,” Hunk says and pauses. “Are you gonna be okay?”

Lance doesn’t look up but nods. Hunk squeezes his shoulder once more, and then he’s gone. Lance sighs, tilting his head back against the wall.

Keith has a crush on someone. Now, he knows for sure. But … who is it? Lance’s chest tightens painfully, and he raises a hand to clench his shirt above his heart. How is it possible to feel physical pain from feelings?

Pidge said that if Keith had a crush on someone, it would be Lance. Lance closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. His feelings are like a wavering flame, constantly threatened to be extinguished, but still burning with hope. Lance is so confused his head is spinning.

“This is so fucked up,” he breathes, and runs a hand over his face. There are so many things he should be worried about, their upcoming mission, the galra … but everything he can think about is Keith’s panicked face when Lance heard he has a crush.

What does it mean? Does Keith not trust him enough to tell him? Can’t he tell Lance because he’s crushing on Lance? Is there even a possibility that Keith could like him? How possible is it for Keith to even like boys?

Lance groans into his hands when all these questions only kindle the panic in his stomach. In the end, there are only two options for him. Either he waits until Keith tells him himself, or … he has to ask.

The thought alone is enough to make him want to run as far away as possible. Keith was so flustered just now there’s no way he would tell Lance. Even if Lance managed to ask casually. But just imagining Keith telling him that he has a crush on someone else is –

There’s a sharp sting in Lance’s heart that makes him groan. He wouldn’t be able to survive that.

So, the only possibly solution is to do what he planned to do from the start. Before Allura and Pidge fueled the hope in him. He’s going to bury these feelings for now. All they do is distract and confuse him. Lance has always been good at hiding his insecurities. This isn’t any different. At least that’s what he’s desperately trying to tell himself.

 


 

His resolve gets tested when they reach the planet, and Allura calls all of them to the control room.

“Where’s Keith?”

Lance looks around as Shiro asks and notes that Keith is in fact missing.

“He said he wanted to take a nap earlier. Maybe he didn’t hear the announcement?” Hunk suggests, but the worried expression on his face says that he doesn’t really believe it himself. Lance stomach swoops. This isn’t because of what happened earlier, is it?

“Lance will you go and look for him?”

“I’m … not sure it’s a good idea for me to go,” Lance says hesitantly.

“Lance. That wasn’t a question.” Shiro’s voice doesn’t leave any room for arguments and Lance flinches. The fact that Keith is missing seems to have Shiro worried as well. Keith is never even late, and for him to not show up at all is really weird. But why would Shiro want Lance to go of all people? Isn’t he the closest to Keith?

Lance closes his eyes. Just earlier he decided to bury his feelings, but right now exactly those are keeping him from just doing as he’s told. There’s no use in questioning Shiro’s decision.

“Alright,” he says shortly, and hurries out of the door before someone else can comment on it.

 

 Lance quickly makes his way to their quarters, and knocks on Keith’s door without hesitating.

“Keith? You there?”

There’s silence on the other side of the door, and worry starts gnawing at Lance’s stomach. He’s raising his fist, ready to knock again, when he hears a muffled voice.

What is it?”

And Keith sounds annoyed. How can he sound annoyed when Lance just came to get him because Keith couldn’t be bothered to join them? Lance bristles with anger and hits the button to open Keith’s door. He has a snarky insult ready on his lips, but it dies when he sees Keith.

He looks awful.

Keith is sitting on his bed; his blankets are dropped to the ground. He looks paler than usual and his bangs are sticking to his sweaty forehead. His head snaps up when Lance enters, and now Lance can see red-rimmed eyes glaring at him.

“What do you want,” Keith snaps, and the fury in his voice makes Lance take a step back in surprise. But then he frowns.

“Wow, no need to yell at me. Shiro send me to get you. Everyone is already at the control room.”

Keith groans. “Fine. I’ll be there in a sec.”

Lance turns to leave but hesitates when he sees how Keith runs a hand through his hair.

“Hey, man… are you okay?” Lance asks, carefully lowering his voice.

“Just leave, okay?” Keith hisses, hiding his eyes behind his hand.

Okay! Geez, I was just trying to help.”

Lance raises his hands and turns around.

“Wait.”

Lance stops in his tracks, turning around to see Keith with his eyes still hidden behind his hand. When Keith doesn’t speak up again, Lance raises his eyebrows, ready to ask what he wants.

“I’m sorry,” Keith says so quietly that Lance almost doesn’t hear it. “I didn’t mean to yell at you.”

Keith drops his hand and looks up at Lance with a remorseful expression. Lance shoulders slump when he sees it, and he sighs. He crosses the distance between them and sits down on the bed next to Keith.

“Nightmare?”

Keith looks at him in surprise, but hangs his head when he nods reluctantly. Lance hums in response, shifting his weight back onto his hands. “We all have those from time to time.” Lance can’t count how often he woke up at night, drenched in sweat. He just never thought that Keith would be affected by them as well.

“Yeah, I guess … I’m just worried,” Keith mumbles which makes Lance sit up and take notice.

“About what?” Lance lowers his voice to a whisper. He feels like he will mess this up if he makes a wrong move now.

Keith sighs again, running a hand through his hair again, messing it up even more. He looks adorable with his hair sticking up like that, but it’s not the right moment to think about this.

“It’s stupid.”

“Keith,” Lance starts, waiting for Keith to look at him. “It’s not stupid if it worries you. You can tell me.”

“If you want, I mean,” he quickly adds.

Keith holds his gaze for a really long second which has Lance almost squirming on his seat.

“I’m worried about the Blade of Mamora,” Keith finally says, and Lance didn’t know what he expected, but it sure wasn’t this.

“Why? You seemed pretty excited earlier?”

“Yeah, I think they could be important allies, but …” He hesitates. “Allura doesn’t think so.”

“Yeah, well she didn’t really seem to approve, but she agreed to go there, sooo … what’s the problem?”

Keith pinches the bridge of his nose, closing his eyes.

“I’m just worried that she won’t even give them a chance. And I mean it’s her right to feel that way, and we don’t know if they’ll help us, but I at least want to try.“

Keith sighs, and Lance waits until he speaks up again.

“When I was alone with Allura, I … I said some things about the Galra. That I don’t think all of them are necessarily bad, and she got mad. I guess I’m just … worried that she’ll hate me.”

Lance furrows his eyebrows in confusion. “Dude, Allura would never hate you for that. Shiro also believes that the Blade will help us, I don’t think you’re in the wrong here.”

“I mean of course it’s not easy for her,” Lance adds. “But hating you? No way, man. Why would you think that?”

Keith doesn’t say anything to that, and Lance watches him closely, seeing how Keith swallows - once, twice. His voice sounds throaty when he speaks again.

“Actually, there’s … there’s more to it than this … about Allura … and me, but I’m- “ Keith stops abruptly, and Lance can see that he’s torn.

And Lance can’t help the way he tenses; he can’t help the way his stomach twists into a tight knot; he can’t help the way his heart hurts so much he wants to scream. But at the same time, he can’t bring himself to ask Keith to continue. Not when the usually so confident Keith looks this miserable.

“Look,” Lance says, clearing his throat because his voice sounds a little wobbly. “You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to. Really, I get it. Just … I’m sure it will be okay. We’re a team after all. Maybe Allura just needs more time, but I’m sure that … whatever it is you’re worried about will turn out okay in the end.”

Right. This is more important than his stupid crush. Keith is his teammate – his friend – and Lance wants him to know that he’ll always be there to support him. No matter what.

Lance smiles at Keith who is finally looking at him again. “Just now that you can always come talk to me if anything’s bothering you, okay?”

Keith looks at him for a second, and then the softest smile Lance has ever seen finds its way onto Keith’s face, reaching all the way up to his eyes. If Lance wasn’t in love with him already, he’d be gone for sure by now.

“Thanks,” Keith whispers, and then he has the audacity to look flustered, and it’s too much for Lance’s poor heart. He leaps up from his seat a little too quickly.

“Well! Then we should really go, or Shiro will kill us,” he laughs and sees how Keith grimaces at that.

“Yeah, I can’t believe I slept through the announcement,” he mumbles, getting up from his bed as well.

“Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us, too.” Lance grins, pointing at himself, and the heavy weight on his chest lifts a little when Keith snorts at that.

“Let’s go, you idiot.”


 

Lance is glad that no one comments on Keith’s delay or asks him what happened. Allura just smiles at them and turns around to nod at Coran. However, Lance doesn’t miss how Shiro pats Keith’s shoulder before turning to Coran as well.

“Hey, is everything okay?”

It’s Hunk who slides to Lance’s side, cupping his hand around his mouth to whisper into Lance’s ear. Lance flashes him a smile and nods. Hunk eyes him suspiciously for a second, but then shrugs, turning forward as well.

Lance’s shoulder sag. Honestly, it’s not easy to keep his face straight with the undeniable fear gnawing away at his stomach. Keith is sending him so many mixed signals, he doesn’t have a clue what to think anymore. And the comments from everyone else aren’t helping him either. Lance is just confused and tired.

“Okay, we’ll be shutting down the castle now,” Coran says, typing away at a display in front of him. “We won’t be able to use the particle barrier or anything else for that matter. Basically, the castle will be dead for the next seven vargas.”

“Seven?!” Hunk asks, voice shrill with worry.

“Yes, but there’s no need to worry. Pidge made sure to keep track of the Galra positions. We should be save here,” Shiro adds, nodding towards Pidge who adjusts her glasses, looking smug.

“Shouldn’t we at least suit up or something? I mean we have our bayards, but ...”

Hunk wrings his hands, and Pidge rolls her eyes at him. “Don’t be such a baby.”

“Initiating, shut-down!” Coran raises his arm and dramatically smashes the button.

Nothing happens.

“Ummm… Coran?” Pidge asks.

“It takes a while! Be patient!” Coran bristles and sure enough the lights of the castle start fading with a decreasing sound. Lance expected to be left in complete darkness, but apparently Alteans also have emergency lighting. Everything’s illuminated in a soft blue hue and he can barely make out his own hand in front of his eyes.

“Soooo…. Now what?” Lance asks and sways back and forth on his feet. 

“We wait?” Keith says.

“Great,” Lance sighs. And then everyone is spreading in the room, getting comfortable. Shiro sends Hunk a fond look as he huddles close to Allura and him. Lance can’t blame him, it’s the safest place to be. Coran sits down next to Pidge whose face is illuminated by the small device she’s holding in her hand.

And Keith - Keith is standing so close to Lance that his arm brushes Lance’s. It doesn’t seem like he wants to move from his side anytime soon which makes Lance’s heart do a silly little somersault in his chest.

Keith is only wearing his shirt, but apparently, he didn’t forget to take his bayard with him. He’s holding it ready in his hand, and now Lance is reminded that he should pick up his own as well. He left it here in the control room when he went to get Keith earlier.

Lance turns around to his seat to get it and to his surprise Keith follows him, leaning against his seat when Lance plops down into it.

“You know … you could sit down in your own seat?” Lance suggests. Keith only shrugs.

“I’m good.”

Lance really doesn’t know what to make of this, but he isn’t going to complain.

He leans back into his seat, getting comfortable for a long wait. Keith just quietly stays by his side and all Lance can hear is the hushed conversation from Coran and Pidge.

They stay like that for what feels like an eternity, and Lance stifles a yawn. He’s lazily twirling his bayard around his finger. Lance shoots Keith a look from the corner of his eyes. And, yep, sure enough he’s still there, arms crossed and looking into the distance.

Lance is about to speak up when a loud voice cuts through the silence.

“Um, guys?!”

Lance immediately straightens up when he hears the urgent tone of Pidge’s voice.

“We have company.”

What?” Allura rushes to her side in an instant. “How could this happen?!”

Lance leaps up from his seat, and Keith is right at his side when he hurries to join the rest of the group.

“Wh-What’s going on?” Hunk asks, wringing his hands, looking from Allura to Pidge.

“Shit,” Pidge curses under her breath and types away at the device.

“Pidge,” Shiro says, voice calm but stern. “Explain.”

Pidge’s voice is trembling, and she’s not looking up.

“I- I built this mobile device that links to cameras I placed at the entrances of the castle. It alarms me if anything moves and it just picked up on something.”

“Are you sure?”

“Positive.” Pidge looks up and nods. And this is the moment panic starts seizing Lance’s throat.

“H-Hold up, I thought you checked the Galra signals?” he says, and he hates how his voice wavers. Keith moves closer to Lance’s side.

“I did, but the problem is that our visitors aren’t Galra.”

“What?!”

Pidge flips the device in her hands, so everyone can see the photo the security camera took. It shows an alien with four arms.

“Space pirates.”

Chapter Text

“How did they even find us?!” Hunk asks, voice shrill with panic.

“Oh no.”

Everyone turns around as Coran speaks up, his face worryingly pale.

“The … the swap shop in the space mall. They must’ve followed us from there,” Coran says and his gaze shifts to Allura with a remorseful expression. “I should’ve been more careful. Damn those Unilu!”

“I thought they were harmless?! Didn’t you say they were harmless?!” Hunk urges. Coran runs a hand over his face.

“If you bargain fair and square yes, but … I might have tricked him. He didn’t know how valuable the lenses were.” Coran pauses. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay, Coran. You did what you had to,” Shiro says, putting a reassuring hand on his shoulder.

“Yeah, it’s fine,” Lance adds with a smile that is supposed to be casual, but he can’t quite pull it off.

“Pidge, can you tell us their exact location?” Keith asks with a stern expression. It’s weird but this nature of Keith calms Lance. He knows that Keith can be a hothead, but he always goes straight to the important parts without beating around the bush.

Pidge shakes her head. “No, I can only tell you where they got into the castle.” She pulls up a map and shows them the side entrance.

“Man, they must have quite the equipment if they managed to slice through that door,” Hunk wonders, rubbing his chin as he leans over the display. It seems like he snapped out of his panic. Lance is always amazed how quickly he can switch if things get serious.

“Okay, we don’t know where they are, and how many of them are already in the castle. This won’t be easy team, so I need you to focus,” Shiro states, eyes locking with every single one of them.

Lance straightens up and nods along with the rest of them.

“We’ll patrol through the castle. We need to cover every hall. However, I don’t think it would be a smart move to split up. We don’t know how strong our enemies are, and we don’t know what they want.”

Shiro turns to look at Keith. “Keith. You, Pidge and I will be the vanguard. We’ll pull them in for close combat.”

“Yes, sir!”

“Hunk, I want you to stay a few feet back. We’ll be guarding the front, but we need someone who can act fast if someone attacks us from the back.”

“Alright,” Hunk answers with a sharp nod.

“Lance, I’ll need you to guard our back. We don’t know from where they’ll be coming at us. You’ve got the sharpest eyes, I trust you to spot enemies as soon as possible.”

Lance can’t help the proud smirk on his face at the praise, and he salutes when Shiro looks at him with a firm gaze. “You can count on me!”

“Then I will join Hunk.”

Everyone turns their head in surprise as Allura speaks up.

“You- what?” Hunk stutters, eyes wide as he looks at her.

“Princess, I don’t think that’s-,” Shiro starts, but Allura cuts him off.

“This is my castle, and I will defend it.”

Shiro’s mouth closes at the certain tone in her voice. Lance blinks in surprise when Allura swings out her hand towards her leg – and Lance only now notices that she’s the only one dressed up in her fighting suit – and materializes a staff.

“Ready, whenever you are.” There’s a grim smirk on her lips, and a laugh tumbles out of Lance’s mouth.

“Man, you’re always good for a surprise,” he chuckles, and Allura’s face softens a bit.

“Alright team,” Shiro speaks up again. “Let’s kick some ass.”

 


 

The castle has never been so scary. Not even when Lance was literally convinced that it was haunted. There’s something incredibly eerie about the dimly lit halls. And knowing that an unknown number of space pirates are creeping through the castle doesn’t really ease Lance’s nerves.

However, that doesn’t mean that Lance lets down his guard. His eyes are moving constantly, and he turns his head around every few seconds. Shiro entrusted him with being the eyes of the group, so he would be damned if he let anything slip his attention.

Everyone is on edge as they slowly make their way through the halls. Keith, Shiro and Pidge are far in front of Lance, but he can still see the tension in Keith’s shoulders. Lance doesn’t know why, but seeing everyone in their casual clothes with their drawn bayards makes him feel like they’re more vulnerable. He inwardly curses himself for letting his guard down even though they knew they’d be unprotected for a long time. He was so occupied with thinking about Keith that he didn’t even-

Watch out!

Shiro’s voice cuts through the silence. Lance tenses and raises his gun, immediately aiming at the figure that’s darting down the floor, charging at Pidge at full speed.

Pidge crosses her arms, bracing for the impact, but Keith is already at her side, pushing the alien back with full force.

And in a matter of seconds the hall in front of Lance turns into chaos.

The pirates come charging at them in bigger numbers now. Lance shifts his aim to every new figure appearing in the narrow hallway. Three, five, he counts at least six. And they’re all heavily armed with blades. Four blades– one for every arm.

And they’re quick. Too quick for Lance to aim while he’s standing. Shiro, Pidge and Keith have their hands full at once, and the hallway is so crammed that Lance can’t make a shot without running the risk of hitting one of them. He curses when he sees how one of the pirates swings his sword, and Pidge yells as the blade scrapes her shoulder.

Shiro is immediately at her side, twisting his body, slicing the enemy down in one swift move.

The blast from Hunk’s bayard echoes through the halls the moment one of the aliens makes it past the first group. Allura storms forward, swinging her staff against the enemy’s legs, making him tumble down.

And Lance makes a decision.

He drops to the floor, propped up on one knee to steady the gun in his hands. There’s no use in rushing into this mess in front of him, so he decides to stay back and take out enemies from here.

Lance takes in a deep breath. His heart is thundering in his chest, and his limps are tingling with restlessness. He needs to calm down, or he’ll mess this up. Lance closes his eyes for a second, taking in another steady breath.

His fingers aren’t shaking anymore once he opens his eyes again. Lance’s gaze and his gun barrel follow one pirate as he pushes past Keith and assaults Allura. His bayard jerks back against his shoulder, and Lance watches the pirate crumble to the floor. A hard smirk finds its way onto his lips as he aims for another once. He’s got this.

Keith and Shiro are doing their best to fend off the majority of the aliens, but Pidge is having a hard time. She’s in a disadvantage because she can’t move freely. Lance watches how Keith twists around in an impossible move, swinging out his legs, taking the alien down with a round-house kick, only to turn around and slice through another one with a sharp fling of his sword. Yeah, no need to worry about Pidge, Keith got her back.

Lance’s observation only takes a millisecond so he focuses on Allura and Hunk again, who are struggling with the two Unilu that somehow made it past Shiro. Allura is holding up fine, but Lance’s shoulder tense when he sees how Hunk is being pushed against the wall as he tries to fend off the pirate in front of him. Hunk doesn’t have time to aim at all, and he flinches every time he parries one of the four swords going down at him.

It’s a flurry of limps and Lance can’t find an opening.

And then the alien ducks down, swinging hard at Hunk’s bayard from below –

And it flies out of Hunk’s hands.

Lance watches in horror as it clatters to the floor, Hunk’s eyes going wide in shock, mouth parting in surprise.

The alien darts forward.

Swords slicing through the air.

Hunk! Do the move!”

Lance doesn’t even realize he’s yelling until the words are out of his mouth.

And this time Hunk doesn’t hesitate.

He bends his knees, lowers his upper-body below the swords – and grabs the alien by the hips.

Hunk lifts him up -  and before that guy even realizes what happens to him – Hunk slams his body into the floor with a strained shout.

The alien doesn’t move again.

Lance lets out a shuddered breath he didn’t realize he was holding, when Hunk hurries to pick up his weapon. Hunk immediately charges forward, attacking the aliens in front where Keith, Pidge and Shiro are still struggling.

Lance’s eyes dart to Allura who is still fighting that one pirate. His hands tense when he sees how much she’s sweating, arms trembling as she deflects every harsh blow. Lance takes in a deep breath, his eyes narrowing in on that alien’s movements – and then he hears Keith’s scream.

Lance can’t help the way his eyes automatically flicker towards him – Keith’s face is furious as he wipes blood from the cut on his cheek - and that one second of distraction is all it takes for Allura to lose balance and stumble back into the wall.

Lance curses as he takes aim at the alien again, but his attention wavers when he hears Keith’s voice echoing through the halls again – loud and panicked.

Allura!”

Lance can’t believe how his heart squeezes painfully at that. Self-disgust raises in his throat like hot bile as he desperately tries to find an opening to shoot. He sees how Keith whips around to dart towards her, but Lance keeps his focus on the alien that is pushing Allura up against the wall -  until he catches a movement from the corner of his eye.

And Lance realizes that he made a mistake.

When he yelled earlier.

Because he broke the most important rule for a Sharp Shooter.

Never draw attention towards your position.

Lance turns his head, but it’s too late - the leg connects with his ribs, sending him flying through the hall.

His back crashes into the wall – and Lance gasps for air.

The pirate is immediately on him again, grabbing him by the collar. Lance hears how the fabric of his shirt tears. He can taste blood in his mouth, and he tries to take in another breath, but the alien crashes his back into the wall again, his hands now tightening around Lance’s throat.

Lance is choking, desperately clawing his nails into the strong hands holding him up.

His vision starts to swim, and there’s a deafening ringing sounds in his ears. His grip is getting weaker, his heart stumbling wildly in his chest.

He can’t die here.

His friends need him.

Lance tightens his grip again.

He musters every strength he has to raise both of his legs – and oh god that’s not good, he thinks as excruciating pain flares up in his side – and stems them against the alien’s chest to kick him off.

He manages to catch him off guard – and thank god Lance’s legs are so strong – because the alien stumbles a few steps backwards. Lance coughs, hands instantly flying to his neck. His eyes are swimming in tears as a breath rattles through his beat-up throat, but Lance dives forward to get his bayard that lies discarded on the floor.

He sees how the alien surges forward, and Lance twists around while falling to the ground and shoots.

The blast hits the alien square in the chest, but Lance doesn’t see how he falls.

Pain shoots up through his body as his already wounded side crashes into the ground, and Lance yells as he curls up on his side. He presses his face into the cold floor but wills himself to open one eye to look at his opponent.

The alien is lying on the floor.

Not moving.

Lance groans – in relief and pain. He wants to stay like this, face-first on the floor, but he doesn’t have that luxury. He struggles to push his upper-body up, bracing himself on his forearms as he lifts his head.

The hallway is empty.

Well, not quite.

His friends are standing, but all the aliens are scattered on the floor.

Lance sighs in relief as he sees how Hunk is frantically patting Pidge’s body to look for injuries. She already looks annoyed, so she seems to be okay.

Then Lance’s eyes dart to Allura. Shiro has one hand on her shoulder, but she’s brushing him off gently. Keith is also standing next to them, still breathing heavy, hair plastered to his sweaty forehead.

It seems like no one noticed him yet, so Lance raises to his feet as quickly as possible. He doesn’t want to be the only one lying uselessly and defeated on the floor. They don’t have to know how much he was struggling with just one enemy while they were fighting a whole army.

Lance winces as he carefully prods at his side. Well, that will make one hell of a bruise.

“Hey, Lance! You okay, man?” Hunk asks worriedly as Lance makes his way towards them.

“I’m okay,” Lance rasps and grimaces at the sound of his voice.

“Whoa, what happened?” Pidge asks, eyebrows shooting up in surprise.

“Eh, just got choked a little,” Lance croaks with a dismissive wave of his hand. Hunk’s eyes widen in shock, but then something catches his attention and he turns his head.

Lance follows his gaze and freezes.

Keith is walking straight towards him in a fierce stride - and he doesn’t look happy at all.

Lance squeaks when Keith’s hands fist into the collar of his shirt, pulling him against his chest.

What were you doing out there?!

“I- What?”

“Allura was in trouble! We needed you!”

Lance blinks in surprise, taking in the furious glint of Keith’s eyes. Then he feels hot anger surging up from his stomach. He grabs Keith’s hand and yanks it from his shirt.

“Well, excuse you, but I was having some trouble too!”

“It’s your duty as the Sharp Shooter to look out for us!” Keith snaps. Lance leans in as he retorts.

“Don’t you think I know that! That pirate sneaked up on me! There was nothing I could do!”

Tears spring to Lance’s eyes as he stifles a sharp cough into the crook of his elbow.

“Keith, calm down.” Shiro’s voice cuts through the air.

“He’s right. I’m fine,” Allura adds as she steps up to Shiro’s side. Keith eyes her for a second, then his gaze shifts to Lance. His expression is a mix of emotions Lance can’t quite decipher. Keith takes a step back and crosses his arms.

“Fine.”

Lance rubs a hand over his throat and averts his gaze. He knew perfectly well that he fucked up. He was distracted for the split of a second and then things went downhill.

“Is everyone okay?” Shiro speaks up again. And everyone mumbles that they’re more or less okay. Pidge and Keith both have a few small cuts, and Allura looks exhausted, but no one was seriously injured.

Lance, however, feels like shit. But he isn’t going to speak up – not after messing up this badly. He’s just tired. A good night’s rest and he’s going to be as good as new. Maybe his voice will sound hoarse for a few days though, he thinks as he carefully clears his throat.

“Okay, let’s clean this up and get those pirates out of the castle,” Shiro says, glaring at the knocked-out aliens on the floor. Lance wants to groan, but stifles it in the last second. Just this and he can rest.

 


 

Except for the fact that Shiro has other plans.

“We should patrol the halls for the rest of the shut-down at least.”

“I agree,” Allura adds with a firm nod. “We don’t know how many of these dirty pirates got into the castle, it’s quite possible that some of them escaped our attention.”

Every protest Lance had, vanishes at her words. She’s right. There’s no way they know for sure that this were all of them.

“I’ll go get the thing I build, so we’ll know if there are any movements at the entrances,” Pidge says.

“Good idea. Hunk go with her.”

Hunk nods, sends Lance a quick worried glance that Lance deflects with a (hopefully) reassuring smile, and leaves with Pidge.

“Okay, I’ll wait here until the two of them get back,” Shiro continues. “Allura, I want you to rest here for a minute. I know I can’t stop you from going, but I want you to take a quick breather.”

Allura, who was about to protest, clothes her mouth and nods – not without rolling her eyes though.

“Keith, Lance, you take the west wing.”

A swell of panic rushes into Lance’s stomach.

“But-“

“No, Lance, I don’t want to hear it. Go.”

Lance lets out a sharp breath and glances at Keith who wipes the cut on his cheeks with a thumb and then his gaze shifts to Lance’s.

“Let’s go,” he says and turns on his heels without waiting for Lance.

Great.

 


 

Their patrol goes as well as Lance expected. There’s a deafening silence between them as they wander through the empty halls. Lance doesn’t know how much time has passed, but it’s long enough to be incredibly uncomfortable.

Although Lance has to say that he’s thankful for the break because he’s sure that talking wouldn’t be good for his throat right now. Every time he swallows he can almost feel the hands on his neck again, pressing into his skin with too much force.

He was doing better after the fight but then … it got worse. He still can’t breathe properly. Every deep inhale sends pain through his rib cage, and he started breathing shallowly. Lance feels a little out of it, and there’s a thin film of sweat coating his forehead. That’s not enough reason to worry though. He’s just exhausted. No need to complain.

Instead, Lance should probably apologize. He did mess up after all. But … he’s also too much of a bullhead to admit that out loud. Keith wasn’t even worried about him after all. It’s not like he got attacked on purpose.

“Hey.”

Lance almost shrieks when Keith suddenly speaks up next to him.

Jesus, are you trying to kill me?” Lance asks – and yeah, his voice still sounds weird. He has a hand pressed to his chest to calm his stuttering heart.

“I’m sorry.”

“Nah, it’s fine. Glad you’re talking to me.”

“No. I mean sorry for snapping at you back then.”

“Oh.”

Lance studies Keith’s face in surprise. His face is dirty; dried blood smeared over his cheek. Lance wants to reach out to wipe it away.

He sighs, closes his eyes, and then a breathy chuckle leaves his lips.

“Nah, it’s okay, man. I deserved that.”

Keith’s eyes dart up at that.

“I really didn’t notice that guy sneaking up on me before it was too late. That really wasn’t my best move,” Lance admits, scrunching up his nose.

It still hurts when Keith affirms that with a nod.

“Yeah, but you didn’t do it on purpose. That guy … really beat you up, huh?”

Lance laughs, and then stifles another cough into his elbow.

“Yeah, my throat is a mess.”

Keith grimaces. “Yeah I hear that … Sorry for not noticing that earlier.”

Lance only chuckles lowly this time.

“You’re apologizing quite often lately,” Lance teases, ready for a snarky or even flustered retort, but Keith presses his lips into a thin line instead.

“Yeah, I’m … I’m not at my best myself lately.” Keith voice drops to a whisper, and he averts his eyes again, hands clutching his elbows in a vice. Lance reaches out and puts a hand on Keith’s shoulder.

Dark grey eyes lock with his, and Lance almost forgets the reassuring words that he has ready on his lips.

“We talked about this earlier, Keith. My offer still stands.”

A soft smile finds its way onto Lance’s lips that Keith slowly mimics. Suddenly, Lance feels how a shiver wrecks Keith’s body and he blinks in surprise.

“Dude,” he laughs. “Are you cold?”

Although it’s still dark in the halls, Lance sees the way Keith’s cheeks flush in a soft pink.

“M-Maybe.”

Wow, Keith shouldn’t be allowed to be this cute. Lance is sure that his heart just melted.

“Serves you right for not bringing your jacket,” Lance teases. Keith glares at him.

“I didn’t really have time to think about that! Who would’ve thought that the castle gets this cold without power anyway!”

Lance snorts and lifts his hand from Keith’s shoulder.

“Do you want my jacket?”

Keith’s mouth falls open, his shoulder sagging in surprise.

“I- what?”

“I’m asking if you want my jacket.”

“I heard that, I’m just – Aren’t you cold?”

“Nah, I’m pretty hot actually,” Lance answers and it isn’t a lie. To be honest he thinks it’s pretty warm in the halls.

Keith furrows his eyebrows uncertainly.

“Lance, I swear to god, if this is one of your stupid pick-up lines. I’ll-“

“Do you want it or not?” Lance interrupts him, before Keith can finish his sentence.

Keith eyes him suspiciously for a second.

“Okay.”

Lance grins but holds back the taunt sitting on the tip of his tongue. Instead, he moves his shoulder back to shrug out of his jacket – and flinches violently.

A searing pain shoots down his side and Lance freezes in the middle of his movements, air leaving his lungs in a pained wince. The pain cramps up his chest, and he’s struggling to take in another breath, heart beating fearfully fast.

“Lance? Are you okay?”

Keith’s voice sounds muffled and worried as he takes a step forward, so Lance hurriedly contains his expression. And finally, he’s getting air back into his lungs.

“Yeah, I’m good. I’m good!” he assures, shrugging out of his jacket, a little bit more careful this time. That sure was … something. Maybe the kick earlier was harder than he thought. Lance shakes it off, maybe he just moved in a weird way.

He hands his jacket over, and Keith hesitates only a second before he slips it on.

Lance would have never thought that - after everything that happened today - seeing Keith in his jacket would hit him the hardest.

He looks tiny. The sleeves are covering almost all of his hands and Keith has the audacity to look flustered when Lance catches him snuggling deeper into the jacket. Lance’s heart is about to leap out of his throat.

“We should probably keep going,” Keith suddenly says after clearing his throat.

“Um. Y-Yeah,” Lance stutters, turning around to face the empty hallway. The wild heartbeat in his chest isn’t making breathing any easier for him.

 


 

They walk quietly after that for a while, focusing on the task at hand. It’s different though because this time the silence isn’t threatening to suffocate Lance.

Although, about now he feels like that’s what’s happening to him.

Lance was trying his best to ignore it, but the pain in his side is pulsing through his body in frequent waves now, making it harder and harder to breathe. And maybe – just maybe – Lance’s injury is worse than he initially thought. He started feeling dizzy a while ago, and he had to wipe the sweat from his forehead a few times now. If Keith had noticed something, he didn’t mention it.

Even if Lance decides to say something now, there’s no way that would help him. Because the castle is all out of power. And that means that the healing pods are down as well.

Just a little bit longer.

Lance has to endure it just a little while longer.

Just focus on putting one foot in front of the other.

Lance startles when a hand wraps around his wrist. He looks down to see Keith’s fingers digging into his skin. Lance’s eyes dart up to Keith’s face, and he’s surprised by the sight that presents itself in front of him.

Keith’s cheeks are bright red and his lips are quivering, but there’s a burning determination in his eyes that makes Lance’s breath hitch.

“Lance.”

Lance’s stomach lurches downwards, nervousness spreading through his body like a wildfire.

“There’s something I want to ask you.”

Oh god, why is this happening now, Lance thinks, and his head is spinning. He can’t breathe and all he can hear is the erratic beating of his heart. His mind feels like it’s swimming and Keith’s face is shifting in and out of focus. This isn’t good at all.

He doesn’t know what Keith wants to tell him – to ask him – but right now he feels like he’s about to lose consciousness. Keith’s opens his mouth again and Lance wants to know what he has to say, but he can’t breathe and everything hurts and –

Suddenly the castle’s system flares to life with a loud whirring sound, making both of them flinch in surprise. Keith looks up at the flickering lights and squints at the brightness of them.

“We’re online already?”

Lance can’t answer. He presses the hand that Keith was holding only seconds ago against his chest, holding it tight with his other hand. What was Keith about to ask? He can’t think straight, and he flinches when Keith’s gaze lands on his face again.

“You – Hey, are you sure you’re okay?”

Keith furrows his eyebrows as he takes in Lance’s appearance. And if Lance looks as bad as he feels there’s absolutely no way Keith will believe his words.

“Y-Yeah, just exhausted.”

“Lance, don’t lie to m-“

“Keith, Lance!” Hunk’s voice echoes through the halls, effectively cutting Keith off.

Lance looks over Keith’s shoulder to see Hunk, Pidge, Shiro and Allura rushing towards them. He didn’t even realize that they were close to the command center where they usually meet up after a mission. Actually, he didn’t focus on his surroundings at all in the last thirty minutes.  

Lance doesn’t hear a thing the others say when they arrive. Everything’s sounds muffled. He only hears his own shallow breathing too loud in his ears. All he can focus on is the pain pulsating in his side. And – okay maybe he really should say something because he feels like he’ll pass out any second now.

Suddenly, Hunk is at his side and Lance sees the wide grin on his face.

“You lend Keith your jacket, huh? Nice job,” Hunk teases, and then he nudges Lance’s side with his elbow.

Lance doesn’t know what happens next.

His vision turns white and all he knows is pain.

Unbearable pain engulfing his whole body.

Someone is screaming, his throat hurts.

The cold floor is pressing into his cheeks, and slowly the world comes back to him, in a flurry of voices.

Lance? Lance!

“Hunk, what happened?”

“I- I don’t know. I just- I nudged him and he just crumbled!”

Lance groans and blinks his eyes open, but the world tilts before his eyes. He can hear Hunk sobbing.

“Hunk, move. Lance? Lance, can you hear me?”

Keith.

Lance tries to open his eyes again, but Keith’s face is a blurry mess.

Then he feels hands ghosting over his stomach, and suddenly his skin is exposed to the air.

Oh my god.”

“Shit.”

Lance’s gaze shifts down his body, and he tries to blink the dizziness away enough to understand what’s going on.

His eyes land on his exposed torso. There’s a huge black bruise covering almost all of his side.

“Oh,” he breathes out.

Then his head falls back and darkness swallows him whole.  

Chapter Text

The world swims before Lance’s eyes as he slowly blinks them open. All he can see is a blurry green surface, so he quickly squeezes his eyes shut again with a groan. A loud whooshing sound fills his ears, and the next thing Lance knows is that he’s falling forward.

“Uff,” someone grunts, and Lance limply bumps into a strong chest. A bone-deep cold sits heavy in his limbs, and Lance wouldn’t be able to hold himself up even if he wanted to. He knows this numbing cold.

The healing pod.

A violent shiver runs through his body, when warm arms wrap themselves around him, pulling him into a gentle but firm embrace.

“Hey, kiddo. You okay?”

Shiro.

“I- I guess,” Lance mumbles. It doesn’t come out right because his teeth won’t stop chattering. Big hands rub down his arms, making Lance tremble and snuggle deeper into the embrace.

“Here, let me help you,” Shiro says and carefully guides Lance to sit on the stairs in front of the pods.

“Thanks,” Lance murmurs, raising his shoulders and crossing his arms in front of his chest as he shivers again. Shiro is already at his side though, wrapping an arm around his shoulder, pulling him into his side. Lance relaxes and melts into the warm touch.

Shiro stays like this; silent but absentmindedly running a hand up and down Lance’s arm to provide him with much needed body heat. Warmth slowly seeps into Lance’s skin, and finally he can feel his fingers again.

“God, I hate the healing pods,” Lance hisses between clenched teeth as he shudders one more time.

“Well, then it would be a good idea to stop getting hurt,” Shiro jokes, but Lance can hear the serious intention behind his words.

Lance swallows. His stomach is already in knots and the guilt is forming a big lump in his throat. Lance is exhausted, but he knows that he deserves the lecture that he’s about to get. So he takes a deep breath before he opens his mouth.

“Sooo…. What happened?”

“You mean after you passed out because you thought it would be a smart move to keep quiet about your injury?”

Lance winces and pulls a face. There he goes.

“Yeah, right. That happened. Wild, huh?” Lance tries to brush it off, but flinches when he hears Shiro’s sharp voice.

“Lance. You had two broken ribs.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah. Oh.”

Shiro takes in a deep breath. God, he’s angry, Lance thinks, and he subconsciously raises his shoulders to get ready for the impact.

What he gets though, is an exhausted sigh that makes him look up in confusion.

“Care to tell me why you didn’t say anything?”

It really shouldn’t surprise Lance anymore, but the gentleness in Shiro’s voice makes Lance’s heart squeeze painfully in his chest. He can’t stand to look into those caring eyes, so he averts his gaze.

“I… I didn’t think it was that bad at first.”

Shiro opens his mouth, but Lance keeps talking.

“I swear I wanted to say something when it got worse, but when I decided to do that … it was too late.”

Lance swallows around the lump in his throat, fingers painfully digging into the skin of his arms as guilt washes over him. His voice is barely a whisper when he speaks up again.

“I really messed up and I didn’t – I didn’t want to be a bother.”

Lance’s voice breaks, and he raises one hand to his face, trying to stop the tears that are burning hot in his eyes.

“I’m sorry.”

Embarrassment jolts down into Lance’s stomach as a sob slips out between his lips. Suddenly, Shiro’s hand slides up into Lance’s hair, and he pulls him closer. Lance can feel Shiro’s breath ghosting over his skin when he talks.

“It’s fine. You’re okay, that’s all that matters.”

Lance can no longer fight the choked hiccup, and he quickly presses his face into Shiro’s neck to stifle the sound.

“There, There.” Shiro chuckles and gently rubs his fingers over Lance’s nape.

“I-“, Lance starts, his voice strained as he tries to suppress another sob. His throat is burning with the effort so he swallows, before trying again.

“L- Lately, I’ve- I’ve been a little out of it,” Lance admits.

“Yeah, I noticed,” Shiro whispers, amusement clear in his voice.

“Guess, I wasn’t as sneaky as I though, huh?”

Lance leans back, quickly rubbing the back of his hand over his eyes. Shiro drops his arm, but it’s still resting comfortably around Lance’s waist. Lance sniffles and grimaces, which results in a soft chuckle from Shiro.

“God. Sorry, I’m a mess,” Lance laughs, but his voice still sounds raspy. Well, at least not as bad as yesterday. His fingers instinctually raise to his throat at the memory of being choked.

“You really scared us back then,” Shiro sighs and Lance’s eyes shift up to his worried face only to avert his gaze in shame a second later.

“I’m sorry,” Lance mumbles.

“I told you, it’s fine. Just … don’t do it again.”

“I promise.”

“Good.”

Lance looks up again and he’s greeted with soft eyes and a gentle smile. He still can’t shake the guilt sitting deep in his stomach so he presses his lips into a thin line.

“I really should’ve been more careful, I know that. I was distracted for a second and-“

“Lance, it’s okay. No one got hurt … well, except for you.”

“Still, I wasn’t – Shiro someone could have gotten hurt just because I was—I wasn’t--”

The rest of the sentence gets stuck in his throat, and Lance drops his head in defeat.

“I’m sorry, too,” Shiro sighs and pauses. “I noticed that you were uneasy about something. I didn’t want to confront you though. I was hoping that you would come talk to me if you needed to.”

Lance flinches at that. He must have been really obvious after all.

“Also, I thought Allura was already on the case,” Shiro chuckles softly.

Lance grimaces.

“Yeah, she did try to help me, but …”

Lance groans, and covers his face with his hands. “This is so stupid. I don’t want to burden you with this.”

“I’m sure it’s not. I can tell that you’re having a hard time, and I’m offering to help.”

Shiro’s hand is a comforting presence on Lance’s back.

“You don’t have to confide in me though. I just want you to know that you can always count on me.”

This time it’s affection that’s choking Lance up, making it hard to breath. He stays quiet for a while, trying to swallow down his overwhelming feelings. Shiro gives him room to sort out his thoughts and Lance couldn’t be more thankful.

How likely was it for him to find people like this in space? People who genuinely care for him like he’s their own family. All of them took his stupid worries serious, offered support and comfort. And here he is, messing everything up. He can’t go on like this any longer.

“Hey, Shiro,” Lance starts quietly, voice hoarse.

“Yeah?”

“Do you … Do you know if Keith has a crush on someone?”

Lance’s heart is beating hard in his chest, and he doesn’t dare to look at Shiro. Nervousness raises in his stomach when Shiro takes a second too long to answer.

“Is this what this is about?”

Lance only gives him a tight nod as a response, not trusting his voice.

“I guess … it’s pretty obvious if you ask me.”

Lance’s stomach drops, and his eyes flutter close as he takes in a deep breath, stealing himself for his next question.

“Is it Allura?”

Shiro barks out a loud laugh that startles Lance into an upright position.

“Oh my god, I’m sorry,” Shiro apologizes, clamping a hand over his mouth. Lance just stares at him with wide eyes.

“Wh-What’s so funny?” he asks, still dumbfounded by this unusual reaction.

“Uhhh,” Shiro starts. “I guess this is something you should ask him yourself?”

Lance groans and his shoulders slump. “Yeah, that’s the same advice I got from everyone else.”

“Look. It’s not my place to tell you about these things. And Keith is … I know that he’s dealing with something right now. I don’t know what it is, but I know that he needs room to come to terms with his feelings before he opens up to anyone.”

Shiro sighs and he sounds exhausted. “I was hoping that he would talk to you about it, actually.”

“Why me?” Lance asks, turning his head to look at Shiro. A soft smile tugs at the corners of Shiro’s mouth.

“It’s just a feeling I got.”

“Why would Keith talk to me? He doesn’t even like me,” Lance mumbles, fingers tightening their grip on his arms.

“That’s not true and you know that. Keith isn’t good at showing his feelings, but he cares about you.”

Lance presses his lips into a thin line.

“Sometimes he does need a little push though,” Shiro adds with a grin. “So, maybe you should listen to everyone’s advice and talk to him.”

Lance’s eyes find Shiro’s and he sees a steady confidence directed at him. He wants to ask what he should say. What he should do if he makes everything worse. Shiro squeezes his shoulder.

“You’ll be okay.”

The question dies on his tongue. What could be worse than this? Lance is a mess. He can’t go on like this. He needs to know. Yeah, maybe his heart will be broken. But maybe… maybe everyone is right after all. Maybe Keith does care about him. Maybe Lance read the signs right and he could be with Keith.

The thought makes his heart jump, a quick surge of happiness bubbling up in his chest. Maybe he could feel like this all the time.

Lance’s gaze twitches towards the door as he hears a shuffling sound from the hall. He flinches when Shiro pats his back a little too hard.

“Oh, and you didn’t hear this from me, but … how do you think you got to the healing pods?”

Lance only stares at him in confusion when a wide and mischievous grin spreads on Shiro’s lips.

“Keith carried you here. He wouldn’t even let any of us touch you. He practically hissed at me when I stepped too close. Man, I think I never saw him that angry.” Shiro chuckles, and then he pulls Lance up by his arm before Lance can even process what he just heard.

 “Wait, what?” he asks, but his question gets drowned by a loud shout.

“Lance!”

And the next instant Lance is being pulled into a strong embrace. “Oh man! You’re okay! I thought I killed you!”

Hunk pushes him back, holding him at arm’s length to look at him.

“He was a sobbing mess, crying that he killed you by nudging your side,” Pidge explains with a roll of her eyes, but Lance sees the way her eyebrows are knitted in worry as she looks at him.

“I’m sorry,” Lance says with an apologetic smile.

“It’s okay, we’re just happy you’re safe.” Allura shows up at his other side, a gentle smile on her lips. Lance knows that she probably sent Shiro to talk to him. He looks at her, hoping she can read the silent thank-you in his gaze. Her eyes turn soft, and she brushes a strand of hair out of his forehead.

“You were lucky that the castle powered up at the right moment,” Coran sighs, his arms crossed in front of his chest, while he shakes his head. Lance wants to reply, but then a figure at the door catches his attention.

Keith.

The sight of him makes Lance’s breath hitch in his throat. His heart skips a beat and then starts beating harder and faster than ever.

Keith is standing in the doorway, an unreadable expression on his face.

And he’s still wearing Lance’s jacket.

Lance swallows when their eyes meet and suddenly it feels like they’re alone in the room. The tension is almost unbearable as he waits for Keith to say something. To do something. Anything.

Lance’s heart lurches into his throat when Keith suddenly starts walking towards him in brisk steps, lips pressed into a thin line, expression tight.

Lance can’t take his eyes off him. His mouth drops open, ready for another apology, but Keith doesn’t stop in front of him. Instead Keith raises his hand, balls it into a fist and throws a hard punch at Lance’s shoulder.

Lance yelps in pain, clutching his shoulder.

Ow! What the fuck, dude?!”

He almost chokes when Keith grabs his collar, pulling him down so they’re at eye-level.

“Don’t you ever do that again, you hear me?”

There’s venom dripping from Keith’s voice, and his expression is furious, but up-close Lance sees that his eyes are suspiciously wet. Lance swallows once, and he can feel Keith’s knuckles graze the skin of his throat. 

“Okay,” he croaks.

“Good,” Keith spits out, and yanks his hand away.

Lance almost stumbles, and he subconsciously raises a hand to rub his throat. Man, he sure isn’t getting a break.

“Oh geez, now you did it. Keith is crying,” Hunk says. He shrieks when Keith whips around to glare at him.

“I am not crying.”

“Okay, Okay! No one is crying!” Shiro interjects before Hunk can get himself killed.

A snort leaves Lance’s lips, and everyone turns to look at him when he starts giggling. He raises a hand to wipe at his eyes that are burning yet again.

“Thank you,” he chuckles and maybe he sounds a little congested, but right now he doesn’t care. Pidge scoffs and nudges his arm with her fist. “Glad, you’re okay, idiot.”

Lance laughs. “I’m fine. Although I wish those damn pods weren’t so cold,” he hisses as he rubs his hands over his arms again.

“Well, then maybe you should stop –,” Hunk starts, but Lance interrupts him.

“I know, I know! Shiro already lectured me. I don’t need to hear it again!”

“Good,” Allura states, arms crossed in front of her chest, but there’s a fond smile on her lips.

Suddenly, something bumps into Lance’s chest and he looks down in confusion. What he sees is his jacket pressed to his chest. He looks up to see Keith holding it up with one arm, face turned to the side.

“Here, you can have this back,” Keith’s says, voice still sharp, but Lance sees the soft flush on his cheeks.

“Thanks,” Lance whispers, embarrassed as he slips his jacket on. It’s still warm from Keith’s body heat. Lance snuggles deeper into it, even putting up the hood, and suddenly he finds himself engulfed by Keith’s scent.

Warmth blooms in the pit of his stomach, making his face heat up in an instant. Lance quickly zips up his jacket to hide behind the collar, struggling to suppress a squeal. He takes a deep breath and his heart flutters nervously in his chest.

 “Wow, that’s so ga-“

Pidge, Shiro interrupts her, and Lance hides his smile in the collar of his jacket. His heart is threatening to overflow with love and when he looks up he catches Keith sneaking a shy glance at him. Lance’s smile gets so wide, his cheeks start hurting.

Maybe happiness is closer than he thought after all.

 


 

Lance’s back hits the mattress, and the air rushes out of him in a long sigh. He didn’t bother changing out of his clothes, so he turns his head to bury his face in the fabric of his hood. He raises his hand to press it closer to his nose and inhales. A tingle rushes through his stomach and now he does squeal into it, kicking his legs like a giddy school girl in love.

He flops around, spreading his arms to his side and stares at the ceiling. He still can’t believe that Keith wore his jacket for the whole time.

Apparently, he was also next to the healing pod for the whole day, until Shiro send him away to go get some food. At least, that’s what Pidge told him when everyone was distracted. A wide grin spreads on Lance’s lips and he squeaks again, rolling onto his side.

He was in the pod for the rest of the night and the whole day, only waking up in the evening. And Keith spent almost all this time right next to him. Wearing his jacket. Worrying about him.

Lance’s heart skips a beat and he presses his hand against his chest, feeling the rapid beat against his palm. Keith carried him too.

Lance closes his eyes, trying to imagine it.

Was he carelessly slung over one shoulder? No, he was injured Keith wouldn’t do that. A Piggyback ride? That would’ve been difficult with Lance being unconscious. Which means …Lance’s eyes snap open.

“Holy shit,” he wheezes. “He carried me bridal style.”

Lance whines and presses his hands to his burning cheeks. “God, why was I unconscious?! No, thank god I was unconscious. That would’ve knocked me out anyway.”

Lance groans and curls into himself. The signs are all there, but he’s still hesitant to let hope back into his heart.

“It’s not like I’m reading all of this wrong, am I?” he whispers to himself. “I mean… everyone else saw it too.”

But what if he is wrong? Dread seizes his chest at the possibility, and he grimaces in pain, pressing his face into the hood and –

Keith’s scent is right there - sending a nervous flutter trough his stomach. A surprised laugh leaves Lance’s mouth when Keith’s presence wraps itself around him like a comforting blanket.

No.

He can’t be that wrong.

It’s just like the thing Hunk always said when he was doubting himself back at the garrison. What was it again …

Lance startles when someone knocks on his door.

 “Hey, it’s me. Can I come in?”

A wide smile spreads on Lance’s lips. Speaking of the devil.

“Sure, buddy.”

Lance swings his legs over the side of his bed, a grin plastered to his face when the door whooshes open. Hunk is standing in front of it, eyebrows knitted in worry and a bowl in his hand. He’s already wearing his yellow PJs as well.

“Hey, Lance. I just wanted to see if you need anything,” he says, stepping into the room. “And I brought you some goo, in case you’re hungry.”

It’s probably the first time Lance’s stomach reacts with a loud grumble as he sees the flabby green substance. Hunk blinks a few times and then throws his head back with a laugh, making Lance press his hand to his stomach with a sheepish grin.

“Guess my hunch was right,” Hunk chuckles and hands Lance the bowl. Lance quickly shoves the spoon into his mouth and moans around it.

“You,” Lance says around the goo, “are a blessing to the world.”

Hunk snorts and the mattress dips as he lowers himself to sit next to Lance.

“Just trying to keep you alive.”

“Thanks, big guy.”

Lance claps Hunk’s shoulder with his free hand and continues to shovel food into his mouth. He was so distracted by his thoughts that he didn’t realize how hungry he was. Thank god, he has a friend like Hunk.

“But man, you really scared me back then, “ Hunk suddenly says, rubbing his neck with one hand. “I really thought I killed you.”

Lance snorts, food-goo almost spilling out of his mouth.

“Sure, you are strong, but not strong enough to break my ribs.”

Lance knows that he said the wrong thing the moment the words left his mouth. Hunk’s arm limply drops into his lap.

“I should’ve realized something was wrong,” Hunk says and the brittle sound of his voice is alarming. “I mean you got choked and I just-“

Hunk’s voice breaks and Lance quickly places the bowl on the ground, hurriedly swallowing the food.

“Woah, Hunk, buddy! It’s not your fault!” Lance reassures, putting a hand on Hunk’s arm where he can feel the violent tremor running through him.

“I should’ve stopped you!” Hunk hides his face in his hands and raises his shoulders, accidently brushing Lance’s hand off.

“Look, Hunk. That whole thing was entirely my fault,” Lance declares, voice steady and clear which makes Hunk look up at him. “I was distracted, got hurt and was too proud to admit it.”

Lance puts a hand on Hunk’s back. “Also,” he starts and a crooked smile finds its way to his lips. “Broken ribs fucking hurt. Definitely won’t be doing that again.”

Hunk snorts in surprise, mouth twitching into a smile. “You’re an idiot,” he laughs and sniffles. Lance’s lips crack into a wider smile.

“Yeah, I know. Shiro already dragged me over the coals.”

“The whole mission was a mess, to be honest,” Hunk admits with a sigh. “I also wouldn’t have made it if you didn’t call out to me back then. Thanks, by the way.” He sends Lance an apologizing smile.

“Nah, it’s fine. That’s my job after all,” Lance says, patting Hunk’s back.

“Really though. It was stupid to have you guard the back all by yourself.”

Lance’s stomach drops, and he feels how his face falls. Hunk hurriedly raises his hands. “No! I mean it’s dangerous for you to be unguarded when you snipe!”

“Oh,” Lance says, shoulders slumping in relief when the smile returns to his lips. “We didn’t really have a choice, did we? I would’ve been fine if I wasn’t …”

Lance’s voice dies, and he averts his gaze. He sees how Hunk leans forward from the corner of his eyes.

“Wasn’t … what?” Hunk asks, voice carefully lowered.

“Distracted.”

“Distracted … by what?”

Lance closes his eyes, taking in a deep breath.

“Keith getting hurt.”

Lance’s nails bite into his palms when he clenches his fists.

“Keith calling out for Allura,” he chokes out, throat painfully seizing up.

“Oh.”

Lance’s stomach churns at the silence of being judged by his best friend. Then there’s a big hand right between his shoulder blades.

“I haven’t been a very good friend lately, huh?” Hunk sighs.

Lance’s head whips up at that.

What?

“I didn’t realize you felt this way at all. I’m a horrible friend.”

Lance looks at Hunk with wide eyes when his words slowly sink in.

“What are you saying, man! It’s not your job to look out for me,” Lance says, chuckling despite himself.

“Sometimes I feel it is,” Hunk sighs, rubbing Lance’s back with an expression that looks almost heartbroken.

“Sorry for being so messed up,” Lance snorts bitterly and Hunk grimaces.

“That’s not what I was trying to say.”

“I know, I know,” Lance laughs, waving it aside. “Allura, Pidge and now Shiro already tried their hands at helping me. And-” Lance pauses. “You were busy helping out Keith anyway.”

Lance doesn’t miss the way Hunk flinches at that. “Lance, I’m-“

“No, Hunk. It’s fine. Keith needs a friend just like anybody else. I’m just glad he got the best one.”

He grins at Hunk, but he can’t quite pull it off. The worried crease between Hunk’s eyebrows remains.

“That doesn’t mean that I’m no longer there for you, you know that, right?”

“I know,” Lance answers. “I’m a lost cause anyway. Don’t worry man.”

“Nonsense,” Hunk states, a serious scowl on his face that surprises Lance. “You’re just overthinking things. Like you always do.”

Lance pulls a face at that. He wants to argue, but Hunk is right. “I guess… I do. You know I can’t help it.”

“Remember what I always told you back at the garrison?”

Lance knits his eyebrows together. That’s what he was trying to recall earlier. Hunk answers before he has time to think about it.

“Always trust your gut, it knows what your head hasn’t figured out yet.”

Lance’s lips split into a smile.

“Right.”

“And?” Hunk urges.

“Huh?”

“What is your gut telling you?”

Lance stares at Hunk for a second, then he looks down as he presses a hand to his stomach.

He thinks about Keith.

About the way Keith looks at him – eyes determined and sharp, but also unexpectedly soft and worried at times. The shy glances directed at him, the small but beautiful smile that lights up Keith’s face when their eyes meet. The sound of an honest laugh bubbling out of his mouth whenever Lance says something stupid or funny. The way Keith always chooses to sit or stand close to him; hands and shoulders brushing occasionally. The way Keith stumbles over his words when he’s flustered.

The way he had looked in Lance’s jacket. The expression on his face when he had grabbed Lance’s wrist – cheeks flushed, eyes steady - ready to tell him something. Something important.

Lance’s heart is racing and a warm sensation spreads in his stomach.

“It’s telling me that I’m head over heels in love with Keith,” Lance whispers, and then looks up into Hunk’s grinning face. “And that maybe he feels the same way,” Lance adds, face heating up in embarrassment.

Hunk pats his back so hard that Lance sputters in surprise.

“There! See? You already have your answer! Just trust your gut and you’ll be fine!”

“Yeah,” Lance whispers, a shy smile spreading on his lips. “I – I want to sort out this mess in my head. I guess … I really do have to talk to Keith if I want to do that.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Hunk chuckles.

Lance sighs, rubbing a hand over his eyes. “Man, that’s going to suck.”

“You can do it, buddy. I believe in you,” Hunk says and then he wraps an arm around Lance to pull him into a hug as he laughs.

Lance presses his face into the fabric of Hunk’s shirt, hands reaching up to clutch his shoulders.

“Thanks,” he croaks.

“Don’t mention it.”

They stay like that for a minute. Hunk is right. They were all right. There’s no use in dancing around this any longer. He has to talk to Keith. But the thought alone makes his heart stutter in his chest, panic immediately flooding his body.

“Soooo,” Hunk says. “Do you need a cuddle buddy tonight?”

“God, yes,” Lance groans, and he more feels than hears Hunk’s laugh.

“Though so.”

“Hunk, no matter what happens, I want you to know that I’ll always love you the most,” Lance sighs.

“Yeah, yeah,” Hunk chuckles. “Let’s get you ready for bed.”

Lance carefully shrugs out of his jacket, and neatly folds it before putting it on a chair. He changes into his pajamas and then he’s being tucked into bed by Hunk, wrapped into a warm embrace.

“Good?” Hunk asks.

A content sigh leaves Lance’s lips. “Perfect.”

He snuggles further into the blankets. Right now, this feels like the safest place in the universe. There’s no need to be nervous after all. How could anything possibly go wrong with friends like this?

 


 

Lance has never been this nervous in his entire life. He takes a deep breath, but it doesn’t ease the painful knot sitting in his stomach. He’s standing in front of the training room, and Lance is sure that he’s only seconds away from having a heart attack.

Technically, they should be on their way to the Blade of Mamora by now. But after that pirate attack Shiro decided to give them another day to rest. As it turned out the pirates really were after the lenses. Shiro squeezed that information out of them while Lance was unconscious. So Allura and Shiro decided that there was no immediate threat.

Lance hadn’t missed the pointed look Shiro send him when he said that they could use another day to relax and “sort out their thoughts”.

Lance’s heart races in his chest. He knows that it’s his last chance to do this. And he wants to. He really does. But his whole body is signalizing him to run as fast as he can. It takes all of his willpower to root his feet to the ground.

Lance closes his eyes and takes in another deep breath. He’s got this. He can make it. He needs to. He doesn’t want to rush into their next mission when his feelings are this messed up.

Although, there’s no guarantee that he will feel any better after getting his answer. Lance almost flinches at the pain that immediately seizes his heart.

No.

Lance decided to do this. He will not give up before he even tried. He will give this tiny flame of hope in his chest a chance. And to do that he needs to take the first step.

So, Lance raises his head, squares his shoulders, and opens the door to the training deck.

The moment his eyes land on Keith, Lance realizes that it was a stupid idea to do this here. Keith’s hair is up in a tiny ponytail and he’s aggressively lashing out at the training bot.

Lance’s stomach erupts into a thousand butterflies at the sight of him. It looks like Keith just started training because he’s not even sweating or out of breath, but Lance is still too weak for him. The nervousness hits him full force again as he watches Keith move, and he’s sure that he will bolt if he doesn’t make a move soon.

Okay now or never.

“Hey, mullet. Didn’t Shiro tell us to take a break?” Lance asks with a teasing smirk. “You know people usually use that time to - I don’t know - relax or something,” he adds because apparently, he can’t shut up when he’s nervous.

Keith glances at him for a millisecond without turning his head. “I am relaxing,” he answers, but doesn’t stop his movements.

Lance scoffs and crosses his arms. “Doesn’t look like it.”

Keith only grunts in annoyance as he dodges the next swing from the bot.

“I mean everyone has different ways to release stress or tension or whatever, I guess,” Lance says, stepping further into the room, and the door closes behind him with a soft whoosh. “Hunk bakes, which is great for the whole team. And Pidge does the same as usual, but sometimes she listens to music while typing when she tries to relax, but I don’t really see how that’s-“

Keith groans loud enough to interrupt Lance’s rambling.

“I’m trying to concentrate,” Keith hisses between clenched teeth.

Lance swallows and nervously wrings his hands. Well, this isn’t going too good.

“Uh, y-yeah. I’ll shut up in a second, there’s just something I wanted to know,” Lance rambles, and his voice is so wobbly it’s embarrassing.

Keith, however, doesn’t seem to notice.

Lance, what do you want?!” Keith snaps, making Lance flinch.

“Do you like Allura?” Lance blurts out.

The words are out there before Lance even has a chance to think. His heart is beating hard in his throat once he realizes he really said that.

“Stop training sequence.”

The bot disappears and Keith lowers his weapon. He turns around, and when Lance looks into those dark eyes he’s sure that he’s about to throw up. His heart is beating so hard that his chest hurts.

“What?”

Keith’s voice sounds calm, but Lance still flinches. His hands are shaking. There’s no turning back now.

“I- I was wondering if you … have a crush on Allura.”

Keith is still looking at him, and Lance can’t read his expression at all. He doesn’t look surprised or angry or annoyed and he isn’t answering and okay, Lance is slowly freaking out.

“How did you even get that idea?”

Lance blinks in surprise when he finally deciphers the look of sheer confusion on Keith’s face.

“I – I don’t know? You … ran away with her after all.”

Keith furrows his brows at that.

“I didn’t run away with her, because I wanted to. I was just trying to figure out how Zarkon kept finding us.”

“Well, how should I know?!” Lance bristles. “Also, it’s not that unlikely. I mean Allura is beautiful and all,” Lance says, voice dropping into an embarrassed whisper.

“Lance. You do realize I don’t even like girls, right?”

Lance stares at Keith and blinks.

“You- what?”

“You heard me,” Keith states, crossing his arms in front of his chest. His lips are pressed together and he’s pointedly averting his gaze.

Lance’s arms drop uselessly to his side and he can’t take his eyes off Keith.

“So, you don’t like her?”

“No, I don’t,” Keith re-emphasize.

“Huh,” Lace says.

And then he’s laughing. He can’t stop it from bubbling out of his mouth as relief unties the knot in his stomach.

“Oh man, I can’t believe this,” Lance chuckles, rubbing a hand over his eyes.

“Yeah. Well, glad you’re happy. So, you’re free to go get her or whatever. Just let me train.”

Lance lowers his hand in surprise. Keith is still not looking at him, but his shoulders are raised in tension.

“Wait, what?”

“I don’t like her, so you can go and confess. That’s what you wanted to hear, isn’t it?”

“Wait, hold up, hold up,” Lance says, raising his hands to make Keith stop talking. “I don’t like Allura.”

Keith’s arms go slack and he turns to look at Lance, his face an unguarded expression of surprise.

“Huh?”

“Is that what you wanted to ask me during the shut-down?” Lance wonders, and he doesn’t know where he gets the confidence, but he takes a step forward.

Keith, however, leans back. He’s holding onto his elbows with so much force that his knuckles go white.

“M-Maybe,” Keith mumbles, gaze flickering away from Lance’s face. “You always flirt with her, so naturally I thought that you’d like her.”

“Well, I don’t.”

Keith eyes find Lance’s and Lance sees something in them that he knows far too well: The reluctant spark of hope.

Then Keith’s eyebrows furrow.

“Wait. If you don’t like Allura … then why did you want to know if I do?”

Lance’s heart nearly jumps out of his chest, and he stumbles a step backwards. If the heat raising to his cheeks is any indication at all, Lance’s face took on the color of a tomato.

“I- I was just curious,” he blurts out and laughs too loud and awkward. “Hunk mentioned something like that after all!”

Keith looks at him with wide eyes, and Lance can see how realization dawns on Keith’s face.

He has to get out of here. Now.

“A-Anyway, I’ll let you train now!”

Lance turns around, already cursing himself, when he abruptly comes to a halt by a hard tug to his wrist.

“Wait.”

Lance closes his eyes and swallows. His heartbeat is vibrating through his whole body, and he feels dizzy. Neither of them moves, but Keith’s grip is tight and it doesn’t seem like he’ll let go anytime soon. So, Lance takes in a deep breath, and slowly turns around.

He has never seen Keith like this. His expression is unsure – vulnerable - and his eyes are roaming over Lance’s face. Lance feels like he should say something, but his throat is tight and his mouth dry. Keith’s eyes finally settle on his.

And something in them changes.

He loosens his grip on Lance’s wrist, but doesn’t let go of it. Instead Keith closes his eyes, inhales deeply and breathes out through his mouth.

 “Okay.”

With that Keith opens his eyes, and Lance’s stomach drops.

“Hunk told me to be straightforward with you so I’ll just say it.”

Keith’s gaze doesn’t waver and his fingers squeeze down on Lance’s wrist.

“I like you.”

Lance’s lips part on a silent gasp.

“Not as a friend … Romantically.”

Lance can’t breathe. He can’t move. He can’t think.

“I’m … You don’t have to say anything. I just wanted to tell you.”

Keith’s fingers slip from Lance’s wrist and now Lance feels that Keith’s hand is trembling.

“In fact, forget I said anything at all,” Keith adds, and now he’s averting his gaze.

Move.

Lance surges forward and grabs Keith’s hand with both of his.

“I like you too!”

They both flinch at his loud shout and then they’re staring at each other. Lance’s whole face is burning in embarrassment, his heart trying to escape his ribcage. Keith’s face flushes red in an instant and it’s the most beautiful thing Lance has ever witnessed.

“I - really?” Keith asks breathlessly.

Lance nods violently, wrapping his hands tighter around Keith’s.

“So, it’s mutual,” Keith states, eyes still wide in disbelief.

“Yeah,” Lance whispers, “You really like me?”

The flush on Keith’s cheeks turns a deeper shade of red, but there’s an unshakable confidence in his eyes.

“I do.”

 “Wow,” Lance laughs.

“Wow, indeed,” Keith chuckles, returning the squeeze of his fingers.

“Is this really happening right now because I feel like I’m dreaming,” Lance blurts out, and his stomach flips when Keith laughs at that.

“I can assure you that it’s real because I feel like I’ll throw up from all this nervousness.”

“You were nervous?”

“I just confessed out of nowhere. I thought I would die,” Keith deadpans, making Lance snort in return.

Keith’s lips curve into a soft smile and Lance’s breath hitches in his throat. Suddenly, his chest feels like it can no longer contain the love that is filling his heart to the brim. Lance has to avert his eyes, and he looks down at their joined hands. He hesitates for a second, but then intertwines their fingers.

“Soooo,” Lance says after a second. “What now?”

“Honestly? I didn’t even think I would get this far.”

A laugh bursts out of Lance as he lifts his head. “Are you serious?”

“Dead serious,” Keith replies, but his lips crack into a smile.

Lance chuckles. “That’s kinda cute.”

And now Keith’s expression turns into a frown.

“Don’t call me cute.”

Lance feels how a smirk tugs at the corner of his mouth, and he can’t help the way it grows wider when he sees the annoyed look on Keith’s face.

“But you are cute.”

“I’m not.”

 “You’re extremely cute.”

“Stop it,” Keith growls warningly, showing his teeth. And Lance has to admit that’s most certainly not cute but unfairly sexy. However, it won’t stop Lance from teasing him.

“I can’t stop, because you’re adorable.

“Oh, yeah?! Is this adorable too?” Keith snaps, reaches up to place a firm hand on the back of Lance’s neck and pulls him in with a harsh tug. Lance stumbles forward, his chest bumping into Keith’s and –

Keith is kissing him.

Lance feels how soft lips move against his, warm and slightly wet. Heat erupts in the pit of Lance’s stomach and a surprised gasp escapes him. Keith eagerly devours it with a groan, pushing harder into the kiss.

Lance’s head is spinning. He doesn’t know what he’s supposed to do, so he’s desperately holding onto Keith’s arm for support.

And then he’s suddenly being pushed away.

Keith is staring at him with wide eyes, cheeks impossible red and chest heaving.

“Oh my god, why did I do that?!”

“Wha- You’re asking me?!” Lance shrieks, heart pounding in his chest.

“I kissed you!”

“I know!”

“On the mouth!”

Lance can feel how he flushes even deeper, knowing fair well that by now his whole face and neck are blotched in red.

“I know! Will you stop talking!” he squeals.

“I can’t!” Keith says, voice breaking.

“Then I’ll-“, Lance starts, clutches Keith’s shoulders and presses his lips to Keith’s. It’s only a short peck and he almost misses, but when he leans back Keith’s face is so red Lance thinks he might faint.

Now you kissed me!”

“I was trying to shut you up! Now, we’re even!”

“This isn’t helping!” Keith yells and he looks so embarrassed and helpless that Lance starts laughing. And soon enough he hears how Keith snorts and then he’s laughing along with him.

“Why are we so stupid?” Lance asks between laughter, wiping away the tears spilling from his eyes.

“Talk for yourself,” Keith replies, a wide smile glued to his lips.

“You’re the one who kissed me and then freaked out about it.”

 “You were panicking just as much!” Keith hisses, but reaches out to grab Lance’s hand.

“Nope,” Lance answer, popping the p, “You should’ve seen your face after the kiss.”

“Well did you see yours? Because I’ve never seen anyone get this red!”

“I-I was just surprised!” Lance stutters.

“You’re an idiot.”

“I’m not!”

“You are,” Keith says and looks down at their hands with furrowed brows. “I can’t believe you thought I liked Allura,” he adds, voice lowered to a whisper.

Lance freezes at the abrupt change of topic, and he can’t help the way his fingers tense.

“I mean how could you think that,” Keith starts, squeezing Lance’s hand. “When the only one I had eyes for was you.”

Lance’s mouth parts in surprise, heart skipping almost painfully in his chest. Keith is still looking down, playing with Lance’s fingers, and biting his lips in embarrassment.

There’s a big lump in Lance’s throat and he swallows.

He can’t possibly put into words how he feels. Explain the lightness he feels after almost being crushed by the weight of his insecurities. He wants to tell Keith what it means to him. Wants to share this feeling that is overflowing in his chest.

“Thanks,” Lance croaks, making Keith lift his gaze. “For telling me that you like me.”

Keith gaze softens, lips curving into a fond smile that makes Lance’s heart soar.

“Thanks for liking me back,” Keith whispers.

“I can’t believe we like each other,” Lance whispers back in awe, pulling their hands up to press them against his chest. He knows that Keith must feel his rapid heartbeat against the back of his hand, but he doesn’t care. He wants Keith to know.

“Yeah,” Keith replies, looking down between them. “I was- there was a lot going on, and I didn’t think it was the right time to-“ Keith waves with his free hand and lets the rest of the sentence hang in the air between them.

“Confess to your teammate in the middle of an intergalactic war?”

“Yeah, that,” Keith snorts and looks up into Lance’s eyes. They look at each other, and Lance sees that a strand of hair escaped Keith’s ponytail. Lance swallows and he reaches out to tug it behind Keith’s ear. He’s always wanted to do that.

He expects Keith to get embarrassed or annoyed, but he’s shocked to see the fond look in Keith’s eyes turn into fear.

“Actually, there’s something I-,” Keith starts, but he cuts himself off by pressing his lips together. They’re standing so close that Lance can feel how Keith’s whole body goes rigid.

“Hey,” he says and waits until Keith’s eyes find his again. “You don’t have to tell me now.”

Keith’s lips part in surprise, but Lance won’t let him talk. “I know there’s something going on with you.” A small smile spreads on his face. “You’re not exactly good at hiding your feelings. Although you did a good job with hiding your crush on me,” he adds with a chuckle.

“Shiro says something different,” Keith mumbles and Lance laughs. “You’re just dense,” Keith continues. “Hunk figured it out in an instant when we were hanging out.” Keith stares into the air. “It was scary.”

Lance chuckles. “Well, seems like Hunk was the person who encouraged both of us to get this right, then.”

“You talked to him about it?” Keith asks, eyes widening in surprise.

“Yeah, to him. And Allura. And Pidge. And Shiro.” Keith eyes grow wider with every second. “Oh and the mice too.”

“You- what?” Keith snorts.

“Oh! I forgot Red! She really pushed me back then by the way!”

Keith laughs. “Oh my god, that’s what you were doing?”

“Hey, I was desperate,” Lance says, nudging Keith’s chest with their still jointed hands.

“I didn’t realize you were worrying so much,” Keith admits, rubbing a thumb over Lance’s knuckles. “You should’ve told me.”

Lance snorts. “That I was heartbroken because I thought you liked Allura? Not really the thing you’d tell the person in question.”

Something funny happens with Keith’s expression and Lance can tell that he’s about to apologize or something stupid like that.

“Well, I don’t have to worry about it anymore now that we’re boyfriends,” he quickly adds.

“Boyfriends?” Keith croaks.

“Well, yeah?” Lance asks. “I mean, unless you-“

“No! I – that’s fine by me.”

“Great,” Lance says and grins.

“Great,” Keith answers and returns the grin.

They grin at each other like happy idiots in love until Lance’s stomach growls so loud that they both look down in surprise.

Keith looks up and raises an eyebrow in question.

“Um, so… should we go grab something to eat?” Lance says, and rubs the back of his neck in embarrassment. He won’t admit that he was so nervous the whole morning that he didn’t manage to eat anything.

“Sure,” Keith snorts, but he doesn’t move.

“Ummm,” Lance starts and raises their hands. “Should we-“

“Huh? Oh! Y-Yeah!”

Keith pulls his hand back and clears his throat. Lance giggles. Seeing Keith so openly flustered around him is making him feel giddy. Not that he’s any better. Actually, he would have loved to keep holding hands, but maybe that would be a bit too much to ask for. 

“Maybe we should really take a break after lunch,” Lance suggest when they walk out of the training deck. “You know, actually relax. Take a nap. Oh! Maybe take a dip in the pool!”

They walk side by side, so close that their shoulders keep brushing. Keith scoffs. “You know how that ended last time.”

“True,” Lance laughs, and the back of his hand touches Keith’s. “I would take the risk of trying it again though. Who knows when we’ll have time to do something like that again.”

He doesn’t mean for it to sound so gloomy, but the reality of that statement hits him out of nowhere.

Suddenly, Keith’s fingers slip between his, and he pulls Lance’s hand closer.

“You know what?” Keith says and throws him a grin. “Let’s do that.”

Lance’s heart skips a beat and then his lips spread into a wide smile. It seems like his body can barely contain the happiness inside of him.

And in this moment, he knows that - whatever the future may hold for him – he will be fine.

With Keith by his side.

Chapter Text

Lance wipes the condensation from the bathroom mirror and looks at his reflection. His cheeks are slightly red and his hair is a wet mess. The air in the room is humid and warm. Lance likes to take hot long showers, but it’s been a while since he had the time to do that.

A lot happened since the day Keith confessed to him and they became official. The first thing was to find out his boyfriend is an alien. Well, at least Part Galra. Which quickly resolved the big secret Keith had kept from them.

It wasn’t a big deal for Lance though, it took him only a minute to accept it. Keith is Keith no matter what, and he decided to do everything in his power to make Keith realize that too. As it turned out Keith’s worries concerning Allura were not as farfetched as Lance had believed. But they worked it out.

And after that it was non-stop action. They defeated Zarkon, lost Shiro, switched lions, Lotor showed up, they finally got Shiro back and are now working to form a new coalition – so they barely got a break. And if they did, they used it to plan their next move or get some much-needed sleep. Lotor is always one step ahead of them and they can’t seem to catch a break.

Between all of this it’s hard to get some time in for other things.

Lance leans forward and pulls at his eyes to inspect the dark bruises and ugly wrinkles under them. A deep sigh leaves his lips. There’s only so much cosmetics can do. He can’t moisturize his exhaustion away. 

Lance had really hoped that things would calm down with Shiro back at the castle, but it brought another set of difficulties with them. Things they still have to work through somehow. A small smile finds its way to his lips. Keith really got better at reassuring him over time. He can only imagine how Keith would have reacted to his insecurities if they weren’t a couple.

But when Lance came to him to talk about the lions, Keith assured him that he was important to the team. That no one could possibly replace Lance as his right-hand man and pilot of the red lion. Affection bubbles up in Lance’s chest and he giggles.

Between fighting Lotor, and dealing with Shiro’s loss they didn’t really have much time for intimacies. Rushed kisses between missions, desperate hugs after another close call, sleepless nights spend talking in hushed voices, lying exhaustedly in each other’s embrace.

But now they are forced to sit still. There’s no use in rushing into the next fight when they don’t know what Lotor is planning. Coran just revealed the true history behind the first paladins and left them with new information to consider.

Lance looks at his reflection and takes a deep breath.

“Okay.”

He turns around, quickly rubs himself dry with a towel and slips into his bathrobe before he can change his mind. He tightens the ribbon around his waist with a harsh pull and hits the button to open the door to his room. His heart is already beating way too fast in his chest, but it almost lurches out of his throat when he sees Keith.

Keith who is relaxing in the only chair in the room. Keith who frowns at the tablet in his hands. Keith who is only wearing a pair of sweats, no shirt but those stupid gloves.

Lance swallows when he takes in the sight of those arms; defined muscles under pale skin. His broad chest, so comfortable to sleep on. Lance chuckles when he sees the soft squish of Keith’s stomach because he’s sitting comfortably slouched in the chair.

A smile spreads on Lance’s face, so he quickly crosses the last distance between them and snatches the tablet out of Keith’s hands.

“Hey! I was reading that!”

“Nope! Enough work for today,” Lance says as he places the tablet on the small table next to him.

“But I was trying to-“

“No, buts!”

Lance sends Keith an annoyed look that its met with a frown. “You know it’s just as important to take breaks while we can,” he adds and Keith huffs in defeat.

“Yeah, I know. It’s just that this information we got can help us wit – Oh,” Keith stops mid-sentence, when Lance places his hands on Keith’s shoulders, pushes him back against the wall, and straddles his lap.

“What did you want to say?” Lance asks, lips quirked into a teasing smile when he feels two warm hands fall to his hips.

“Nothing,” Keith croaks, his cheeks already colored in a soft blush that makes Lance’s heart stumble nervously in his chest.

“Yeah, thought so,” Lance chuckles and then he reaches out to brush a strand of hair out of Keith’s forehead. Keith immediately leans into the touch.

“That’s not fair,” he mumbles, but presses his lips to Lance’s palm.

“I just want us to take the time we get to relax,” Lance sighs. His eyes fall to the large scar on Keith’s right shoulder. A lump forms in his throat when he leans down to press a quick kiss to the marked skin. “I mean … we don’t know what’ll happen next,” he whispers as he leans back, his eyes finding Keith’s.

Those dark grey eyes are a mix of emotions, worry, understanding and affection. Keith raises his hands to both side of Lance’s face. “Alright,” he whispers and then he’s pulling Lance down towards him.

Lance’s eyes flutter close with the first careful brush of soft lips against his, and his whole body relaxes into the touch. It feels like it’s been forever since Keith kissed him. And it probably has.

A soft hum escapes him when Keith’s hands slide easily into his hair, pulling him closer. Lance’s fingers dig into the skin on Keith’s shoulders and warmth blooms in the pit of his stomach when he hesitantly opens his lips.

They didn’t have much time to kiss like this. Slowly and passionate. So, the first flick of Keith’s tongue against his has Lance shivering, breathing a pleased sound into his mouth. And when Keith pushes forward, one hand grabbing Lance’s thigh to pull him closer, Lance openly moans into the kiss.

Keith kisses like he fights. A burning passion that devours everything in his way. He’s eager – but he’s not rushing anything. He’s taking Lance apart slowly, piece by piece. Licking into his mouth almost languorously, sliding his lips against Lance’s, soft and wet – and then there’s suddenly the sharp sting of teeth digging into Lance’s lower lip that has his heart skip a beat and heat rushing right between his legs.

Speaking of which – Keith’s hand slowly traveling up his thigh sends nervous tingles up his spine. The smooth leather of the glove sliding over his bare skin makes him swallow. Lance squirms, unconsciously shifting even closer and when Keith breathes a low moan into his mouth Lance knows that he can feel how much this is already affecting him.

Heat shoots into his cheeks, but he doesn’t inch away, and it seems like Keith wouldn’t let him anyway because his hand is traveling further up, under the bathrobe – grabbing his hips and –

Keith flinches away from the kiss and stares at Lance with wide eyes. He’s still so close that Lance can feel his breath ghosting over his skin when Keith talks.

“You,” he croaks and clears his voice. “You’re not wearing anything underneath this.”

Lance swallows. “Yeah.”

“Don’t you… want to get dressed,” Keith whispers. His gaze flickers down to Lance’s mouth when Lance licks his lips.

“Keith.”

“Hm?”

Keith’s eyes dart back up.

“I did it on purpose.”

“Oh.”

Lance’s heart is beating so hard in his chest that he’s sure Keith can hear it - or feel it. His cheeks are burning and he just knows that the blush is probably already bleeding into his chest. He flinches when Keith’s finger twitch against his bare skin and nervousness makes Lance’s stomach feel like a tingling mess.

“Um…. Can you…please say something?” he chuckles.

“I-,” Keith swallows audibly. “I really don’t know what to say.”

Lance groans and presses his forehead against Keith’s. “Then do something.”

“O-oh. Alright, okay, I’m- um,” Keith stutters, and Lance can’t fight the endeared laugh that’s leaving him.

“Can I touch you?” Keith asks, voice lowered to a whisper. Lance sees the deep flush on his face, the way his pupils are blown wide and dark.

“Yes,” he breathes against Keith’s mouth, and then Keith is pushing forward again, slotting their lips together with more urgency than before. Lance wraps his arms around Keith’s neck and holds onto him for dear life when he feels how both of Keith’s hands slip under the soft fabric of his bathrobe.

Lance shivers violently when Keith slides his hands up his sides; slowly and careful with trembling fingers. Lance’s heart is beating so fast that he can feel it vibrating through his whole body.

“Is this okay?” Keith asks, separating their lips to press a kiss to the side of Lance’s jaw. His voice is shaking and Lance is glad that he seems to be just as nervous about this whole thing. Lance squeezes his eyes shut and nods tightly, not trusting his voice because-

Ah!”

Heat flares to Lance’s cheeks when a sound involuntarily rips from his lips as Keith’s fingers brush past his ribcage and over his sensitive chest. He freezes, and so do Keith’s hands on his skin.

Oh man. Lance keeps his eyes shut tightly, embarrassment spreading down into his stomach.

“I’m – I’m sorry,” Lance croaks, almost wincing at his own voice that sounds so breathless already. He swallows. “I’m- I’m kinda um, well vocal when I’m-“

He doesn’t get to finish his sentence because Keith leans forward and presses his lips against Lance’s in an open-mouthed kiss. Their teeth clack together and Lance keens in surprise, high-pitched and squeaky, but Keith’s fingers are digging into his sides and then Keith moans low and throaty and Lance is positively burning.

“I guess, that means you don’t mind,” he wheezes when Keith gives him room to breathe again. Keith only groans in response. “Idiot.”

“Wh- there’s no need to call me a-ah!”

Lance almost bites his tongue when Keith’s thumb brushes over his nipple and he shivers, arousal spiking hot in the pit of his stomach. And oh god he’s so hard already. Lance feels how his face grows even hotter, when Keith teases him in rubbing circles. Lance raises one hand to press it against his lips when another loud moan threatens to spill out of his mouth.

“Don’t,” Keith whispers, swiftly brushing Lance’s hand aside to place a kiss to his lips. “Let me hear you.” His breath is hot and labored against Lance’s mouth and a high whine escapes Lance.

“That’s so embarrassing,” Lance cries and now he can’t stop the needy sounds dropping from his lips.

“I like it, “ Keith says, and then he’s eagerly swallowing Lance’s next moan with another passionate kiss. It’s sloppy and uncoordinated, too much teeth and tongue, but Lance doesn’t care, not when Keith so clearly wants him. Not when he shifts closer and arousal spreads through his hips like a wildfire when he feels Keith pressed against him, clearly hard and just as worked up as him. A choked whine leaves Keith’s lips and Lance feels his fingers twitch on his bare skin.

Lance is sure he looks like a mess already. He’s probably red all the way down to his chest, and the ribbon around his waist is barely keeping the bathrobe in place. Actually, his chest is already revealed for the most part. Keith’s hands are trembling when they slide up all the way to Lance’s shoulders. And then Keith separates their lips, leaning back so he can look into Lance’s eyes.

“Can I-?” he asks, not finishing his sentence, instead he’s sliding his fingers under the hem of the robe – and swallows.

Lance’s heart is beating so fast and he’s starting to feel dizzy. His mouth is dry and he has to wet his lips before he answers. “Yeah,” he croaks.

“Okay.”

Lance squeezes his eyes shut and his nails bite into the skin of Keith’s arms, when he feels how Keith carefully slips his fingers under the hem of the robe, over his shoulders, and then the silky fabric is gliding down Lance’s arms in a smooth slide.

It catches in the crook of his arms, pooling around his waist, but the ribbon becomes undone and leaves him completely exposed and very much naked in Keith’s lap. Lance keeps his eyes shut but he can feel how much his arms are trembling.

Fuck,” Keith moans and Lance’s eyelids flutter open in surprise.

Keith is staring at him and Lance can’t help the way his body reacts to that knowledge. Keith licks his lips, but his gaze is still cast downwards. “You’re beautiful,” Keith whispers and Lance whines so loud that embarrassment jolts down his spine.

“Oh god, please stop staring!” he cries and tries to hide his face behind his hands, but Keith catches them before he has the chance.

“I can’t, I’m sorry. It’s just – You’re beautiful.

“Shut up!” Lance squeaks and tries to move away, hide himself, anything to make Keith stop looking at him like that. He feels exposed, open, vulnerable, and then Keith’s hands are a hot presence on his hips, making him jump in surprise.

“So… um… what now?” Keith asks. Lance blinks at him a few times.

“Are you serious right now?” he asks and he can’t help but laugh.

“Wh- I never did this before, okay?!” Keith says, blush high on his cheeks as he scowls.

“Neither have I!” Lance laughs, tears prickling at the corner of his eyes and suddenly he’s not that scared anymore.

“O-Okay! Then I’m going to touch you, now!” Keith says, a frown on his face as he looks down and -okay, Lance is still incredibly nervous, heart lurching into his throat as the laugh dies on his tongue. He holds his breath and his fingers grab onto Keith with more force again.

“Wait, hold up,” Keith suddenly says, lifting his right hand to his mouth. And then he bites into the hem of his glove and pulls it off his hand.

“Oh god, I hate you so much,” Lance moans and squirms in Keith’s lap when arousal settles too hot in the pit of his stomach.

“What did I do now?” Keith asks, as he drops his glove on the ground, but then his eyes dart down between them and his mouth drops open. “Oh.”

“Just touch me already,” Lance moans, wrapping his arms around Keith’s neck that feels hot under his touch.

“Y-Yeah, all right. Let me just. Umm- isn’t the angle kind of weird, I’m-“ Keith stutters and Lance groans, distressed and embarrassed.

Keith, just do something, please!”

“Okay!”

Lance squeals when there are suddenly two hands on his hips and then he’s being lifted. He instantly wraps his legs around Keith’s waist and a rich moan rips from his lips when he’s pressed flush against Keith.

Fuck,” Keith hisses and the next thing Lance knows is that he’s ungracefully dropped to the mattress and Keith is tumbling down above him.

“Shit, sorry,” Keith says, propping himself up on his elbows with a flushed and worried face. Lance blinks up at him in confusion, and then he throws his head back and laughs.

“Oh my god,” he wheezes. “We can’t do anything right, can we?”

He hears how Keith chuckles and then a kiss is pressed to the corner of his lips. “I dunno I think we’re doing a pretty great job for our first time.”

“You think so?” Lance asks, still chuckling.

“Yeah.” Keith leans back with a smile on his lips that is so affectionate that Lance’s heart skips a beat.

“Come here, you idiot,” he whispers and leans up to pull Keith down for a kiss. Keith hums into it and it’s just a soft press of lips against each other, warm breath puffing against wet lips. Lance tries to reach up to slide his hands into Keith’s hair, but he doesn’t get far before his arms are constricted by the bathrobe that is still awkwardly wrapped around him.

“Wait,” he says and Keith leans back while Lance lifts his hips and shimmies until he finally pulls the robe away underneath him.

“Oh man this is so unsexy,” Lance groans.

“You’re naked and hard in front of me. That’s sexy enough for me.”

Lance looks up into Keith’s face and a choked sound leaves his lips.

“Well,” he squeaks, and his voice breaks. “I think it’s unfair that I’m naked and you’re not.”

“Oh,” Keith breathes and his face goes bright red. He clears his throat. “Um, yeah. Okay.”

Lance’s heart almost lurches out of his throat when Keith lifts himself up to pull at the hem of his sweats. Lance really didn’t think this through. A trail of black hair reveals itself at the pull of Keith’s hands, and a surge of arousal shivers right between Lance’s legs at the sight.

Keith’s eyes twitch up and when he sees Lance looking at him he flinches, looking absolutely flustered - and then he’s losing balance, a loud curse leaving his lips as he falls to the side.

They’re lying face to face, staring at each other – and then Keith is laughing along with Lance.

“Oh my god, this is such a mess,” Keith groans and pushes his hair out of his face.

“Yeah,” Lance says and scoots closer. “But a good mess,” he adds and leans in to kiss Keith. He’s been so nervous when he stepped into this room, but seeing Keith so flustered and overwhelmed reassures him. His heart is still beating loud and hard in his chest though, and nervousness makes his stomach churn.

“I guess, it works like this too,” he breathes against Keith wet lips. And then he reaches forward and slips his hand inside Keith’s pants. Keith jerks up into his hand the moment Lance’s fingers touch him, and Lance moans at the strangled groan leaving Keith’s lips.

Lance,” Keith voice is hoarse, trembling as his fingers grab Lance’s forearm. Lance swallows thickly, mouth too dry to speak. Keith has his eyes screwed shut, eyebrows knitted together. His mouth is open as he pants, and he twitches when Lance starts to move his hand in careful slides.

Keith is hot, hard and already so wet in his hand that Lance knows he won’t last long. His own hand is trembling and he has no idea what he’s doing, but Keith shivers and pushes his hips forward so it can’t be that bad.

Lance is still staring at Keith’s flushed face, and a loud moan leaves him when Keith opens his eyes. They are so dark, and Lance sees something in them he’s never seen before: Desire.

Suddenly Keith shifts closer which has Lance falter in his movement. Lance feels a warm hand at the small of his back that makes him shiver violently – and then Keith pushes. Their hips align and the sound that leaves Lance’s lips when he feels Keith pressed flush against himself, hard and wet and twitching, is so loud and needy that embarrassment flushes his whole body.

Fuck,” Keith breathes and then he’s kissing Lance, muffling the loud moan that leave Lance’s mouth when Keith wraps a hand around both of them. Lance tries to hold on to something, anything, and his nails bite into Keith’s hips. Which isn’t making anything easier, because he can feel the way Keith moves, how he grinds his hips forward to get more friction.

At this point Lance gives up on trying to stifle his sounds. Moans and cries drip freely from his lips and right into Keith’s mouth who swallows all of them eagerly. The heat and pressure behind Lance’s stomach increases in an embarrassingly fast rate, and he can feel how his muscles twitch.

His face is burning when he opens his mouth to tell Keith, but all that he manages is an embarrassingly high-pitched keen. Keith groans, and twists his wrist in a way that has Lance see stars. He jerks forward as another rich moan leaves him, and he hears how Keith curses. And then Keith is doing it again, and again, finding a steady rhythm and Lance feels how much he’s leaking over Keith’s hand.

K-Keith, I’m- ,“ he starts but his voice sounds so wrecked that he can’t finish his sentence. He squeezes his eyes shut, and his toes curl, and he’s so close. Just a little more and-

Lance curls forward when he comes and stifles a loud whine into the crook of Keith’s neck. His heart is beating heavy and his chest is heaving, and then he hears how Keith moans, low and quiet, his hips stuttering forward. And the breathy sound that leaves Keith as he comes is probably the hottest thing Lance has ever heard in his life.

They lie like this, curled up in each other, legs tangled together and the only sound that fills the room is their frantic breathing. Lance leans back and stares at Keith in awe, his face is flushed red and his hair is sticking to his forehead.

“Wow,” Lance breathes.

“Y-yeah,” Keith answers, sounding breathless, but a small shy smile plays on his lips.

Lance knows that he should be embarrassed about what just happened – and he is because the sounds he made will haunt him for a while – but Keith is warm and soft in his arms and he couldn’t care less. He wants to reach out to brush the hair out of Keith’s face but Keith winces when Lance loosens the grip on his hips.

They both look down and see deep red scratch marks on his pale skin.

“What the fuck?” Keith wheezes and Lance feels how heat shoots into his cheeks yet again.

“Oh my god, I’m so sorry,” he yelps as Keith presses a finger to the wound and hisses in pain.

Keith only chuckles as he turns around. “It’s okay.”

His head flops down on the pillow and then his lips curve into a mischievous smirk. “I was that good, huh?”

“You- Wh- Shut up!” Lance shrieks and slaps Keith’s bare arm which makes Keith laugh as he raises his shoulder to block the attack.

“Jesus,” Lance breathes when he falls forward and presses his face against Keith’s chest.

“I think we did a pretty good job after all,” he says and feels a laugh rumble through Keith. Lance smiles and presses a kiss to the soft skin of Keith’s chest. Long fingers find their way into Lance’s hair and he lifts his head to look at Keith.

Keith’s hair is a mess, he’s sweaty and his cheeks are still blotched red, but he’s never been more beautiful than in this moment.

“Hey,” Lance whispers.

“Hm?” Keith hums, a lazy smile on his lips, eyelids dangerously lowered.

“You know how much I love you, right?”

Lance feels how Keith’s fingers freeze in surprise for a second. Keith’s sleepy expression shifts into a soft and affectionate look that makes Lance’s breath hitch in his throat.

“Yeah, I know.”

Lance shifts until he can curl his arms tightly around Keith, pressing against him which makes Keith chuckle. He wraps his arms around Lance and pulls him up until they’re resting face to face in a warm embrace.

Lance closes his eyes as he feels Keith’s calm breath against his lips. He wants to stay like this forever; wrapped in Keith’s presence, leaning on his chest where he can feel the steady beat of his heart. Lance has yearned for this for so long and now that he’s finally here, he swears to never let Keith go again. No matter what happens.

“We should probably get up,” Keith sighs after a while.

Lance groans desperately and nuzzles his face against Keith’s jaw. He doesn’t want to leave just yet. Did Shiro schedule another meeting?

“I don’t wanna.”

Keith raises his arm and slaps Lance’s head which makes him yelp in surprise.

“Well we’re gross and I really want to shower, so get up.”

“Oh, right,” Lance says and blinks up into Keith’s face.

“Idiot,” Keith says, but his voice is too fond for an insult like that.

Lance groans and stretches his arms above his head, almost hitting Keith in the face.

“You have to carry me.”

“What?” Keith chuckles when he lifts himself onto his elbows.

“I’m too tired to walk.”

“Well, I’m tired, too. Why don’t you carry me?”

“You’re clearly stronger than me,” Lance says and wiggles his eyebrows. “You tossed me onto the bed like I weight nothing.”

Keith opens his mouth and closes it again, a beautiful flush dusting over his cheeks. Lance chuckles and leans forward. “That was hot.”

Lance, I swear to god,” Keith groans.

“What is it, mullet?”

“Stop it,” Keith hisses and glares down at him.

“Or what?” Lance asks and then he squeaks in surprise, when Keith pushes him back into the mattress. The mischievous smile on his lips makes Lance’s stomach flutter nervously, but then he sees the dangerous glint in Keith’s eyes.

“I will tickle you.”

“What?” Lance squawks and then he’s laughing when Keith leans down, his hair already tickling Lance’s face. “How old are you?” he asks while laughing and Keith chuckles as he presses a kiss to the corner of Lance’s mouth.

Happiness bubbles up in Lance’s chest. He’s never thought he’d see the day where Keith feels so comfortable around him. Goofing around with him, showing him everything, trusting him, not only in battle but with his feelings too. 

Lance reaches up and pulls Keith down, pressing their foreheads together.

“Never leave me,” Lance breathes against Keith’s mouth, and he feels how Keith’s lips curve into a smile.

“Never,” Keith whispers and seals the promise with a kiss so soft and sweet that it leaves no room for any doubt.