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The New Romantics

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It was normal to be cranky after an especially exhausting battle. It was normal to want to be alone. But Lance was one of the few among them whose spirits remained up and playful, a comforting routine after the adrenaline and sorrows of a battle, no matter how often the others swore to dislike it. Though this time, Lance didn’t say anything as they got back to the castle. After their latest battle to keep the planet Veyrataz out of Galran hands, he simply went to his room and shut himself in.

“Is he okay?” Pidge asked.

“Probably tired from the fight,” Shiro said. “It was exhausting. For all of us.”

“Well, I’m starving,” Hunk said. “So you’ll know where to find me.”

Allura looked at them, the beauty in her face that was there when they first found her weathered down by battles and near-death experiences. She had tired lines along her chocolate skin and her shoulders slumped whenever she wasn’t in battle or in front of other races. “We should all rest. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Good work, Paladins. You’ve come a long way.” She gave them a hard, look, her eyes bright with tired pride, a thin smile on her lips. She left and Shiro turned to Keith.

“She’s right. We need to rest.” Keith nodded, not really answering. “I’m serious, Keith. Don’t go tire yourself out. If we fight again tomorrow, you need to be at your best.”

“Alright, alright,” he mumbled. “Goodnight.” Shiro kept his eyes on him until he left. Keith obeyed, despite every bone in his body telling him to go and train, to go and fight until he was swifter, stronger, better.

Instead, he went into his room and forced himself to sleep.

The next morning, with the others at breakfast, he realized something was wrong. It was Lance. He wasn’t yapping like he normally did. He wasn’t joking, talking through space goo, filling the time with constant chattering. He was just sitting there, stuffing his face angrily, his hand fisted on the table like he was aggravated.

Keith glanced at Shiro who was sharing a concerned look with Allura. Coran and Hunk spoke, but not enough to fill the void of Lance’s voice.

Later, as they were training, Lance was sloppy and kept getting knocked down, even by Pidge who was half his height.

“Lance, what is your deal?” Keith snapped when he watched him go down again.

“Stay out of it,” he bit back. Keith blinked in surprise, the scowled and walked over to him. “Get away from me.”

“Focus.”

You focus!”

I am!” Keith shouted. “Look, if you don’t focus, we can’t form Voltron. And if we can’t form Voltron, we can’t fight. Which means we’re dead. I’m not dying because you can’t keep your head clear enough to take this seriously.”

“Don’t you go blaming me,” he snapped. “Everyone knows your impulsive temper is what screws us up most when we fight.” Keith shoved him back and Lance lunged forward to push him back. Keith easily sidestepped him. “You wanna go, Mullet Head?” he hissed.

“Bring it on, Sharpshooter,” he snarled, taking a combat stance, ignoring Pidge and Hunk’s groans of exasperation and Shiro telling them to cool it. Lance surged forward, and though Keith could easily evade him, he was dying to get a hold of him, to pin him down until he tapped out, his stupid ego deflated and his lesson learned.

They rolled on the floor, struggling, ignoring Shiro’s barking commands that they get up and calm down. Keith grunted and panted as he struggled to use Lance’s weight and height against him. Lane cursed and shoved him away, scrambling to get away.

“What, done already? You didn’t even land a hit,” Keith taunted.

“Shut up,” he growled, pulling his legs up, breathing heavily. “I don’t have to play your stupid games, Mullet.”

“You’re the one that started it!” Lance ran his hands through his hair and scowled, but he didn’t move. He looked flushed and Keith wasn’t sure what to do now that he hadn’t even talked back.

“Let’s go ahead and end for today,” Shiro said, noticing Lance’s submission to silence. Keith started to leave with the others, but Shiro’s metal arm stopped him. “Not you. You and Lance need to fix whatever this is because with both of you against each other we really won’t ever be able to form Voltron.”

“What this is my fault?” Keith asked incredulously.

Shiro frowned and looked at Lance. “No. But we’re a team. We’ve only got each other out here, and we can’t be going at each other’s necks like this. So figure something out.” He pointed to Lance and walked away, leaving them alone in the training room.

Keith crossed his arms and shut his eyes in frustration. He wanted to just walk away. But he didn’t want to disappoint Shiro. Instead, he turned and started for Lance.

A few steps forward, Lance jutted an arm out, fixing him with an icy blue gaze. “You stay right there. Ten feet away.”

“Don’t be ridiculous.”

“I’m serious.” Keith rolled his eyes and stared at him from across the mat. “What? You want to say we’re gonna be best friends now? For the sake of the team?”

“Why would I ever do that to myself?” he snarled. “Jesus, Lance. You’re obnoxious, you don’t take anything serious, and quite frankly, you’re so annoying, that even if you hadn’t pegged me for a rival the second we even spoke, I’m sure I still wouldn’t like you.” Lance was staring at him with a furrow in his eyebrows, chest heaving. His lips were parted and his gaze shifted, as though Keith’s words had actually hurt them. And maybe they had. It was never good to be told you were annoying. Despite Keith’s frustration, he couldn’t help but feel guilt at his own words as he looked at Lance’s expression. He sighed and took a step closer, stopping when Lance locked him in place with an icy look. “I’m sorry, I didn’t… mean all that. Look, I know I have a temper. I know I don’t understand your sense of humor. I know I’m hard to work with. I don’t particularly like social interaction, sue me!” He took another step forward and when Lance didn’t protest, he took a few more, cutting the space between them in half. “But we are teammates. For better or for worse. We fight together. I protect you, you protect me, that’s how it works. You blather off at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, I roll my eyes at your stupid jokes. We fight it out in training and come together when we have to defend the universe.”

“What’s that supposed to make us?”

“I don’t know. Frenemies?” Keith shrugged.

“Frenemies,” he repeated. Keith shrugged. “Friend and enemy. How do I know when you’re which?” He shrugged again.

Lance scoffed, and Keith scooted closer, making him curl into himself more. “Right now, I’m your friend.” He sat and crossed his arms over his knees. “What’s been bugging you?” Lance cast him a sideways glance. “You haven’t just been snippy with me. You’ve been like that with everyone. Quieter and isolated. It’s weird.” Lance looked away, burying his face in his hands. “Come on I’m trying here, what’s going on?”

He took a breath and looked at Keith. “How do I know you won’t laugh at me when you go back to being my enemy?”

“I have morals,” Keith retorted indignantly. “I won’t. Just let me be a friend right now.”

Lance bit his lip, his chest heaving a little more heavily. “Keith. I’m a teenage boy. In space. With only two Altean aliens, three guys, and a girl prodigy. I haven’t been around a girl my age in so long.”

Keith furrowed his eyebrows, looking at Lance, looking at the wall as if it may have an answer, then back at Lance. “Oh… kay?” he said uncertainly. “So… you miss people?”

“No. I mean, yeah, but that’s not what I mean. I….” He turned red, his eyes fluttering closed and he inched away from Keith. “I’ll rephrase: I’m a hormonal teenage boy with the same six people around me that are off limits.”

Lance was looking at him with pained blue eyes, begging him to understand. With the way he was breathing, pressing himself closer to the wall, his hands fumbling over his face like he was trying to cool down, and the way he’d practically breathed out the last half of his sentence, it began to click. “O-Oh,” he said, realization dawning over him. “You’re… frustrated… in… y’know. That way.”

Lance flopped onto the ground, and growled in frustration. “Yes! And it’s driving me nuts! I mean I’ve even started to look at Hunk and Shiro and even you in that way. Fighting and training together doesn’t help with all the heavy breathing and sweaty bodies pressed together, and oh my God,” he panted. He shook his head. “I’m scared to get too close to anyone. I feel like I’ll do something stupid just because my hormones are making me skittish, reckless, and stupid.”

“Looking at us in what way?” Lance scowled at him from under his arm before hiding himself again. “What? I don’t get it dude, help me out.”

“Like… attracted to you guys. I’m just so desperate at this point it’s pathetic.”

“So… you’re into guys now?”

Lance sat up, resting on his elbows. “I flirt with aliens, you really think gender matters to me out here? Yes, attracted, okay? Don’t let it go to your mullet head.” He flopped back down and Keith snickered. “Oh, what like you never checked Shiro’s abs out? Or Hunk’s bicep when he’s lifting stuff? Or me?”

“No, actually,” Keith answered honestly, keeping his voice leveled so Lance wouldn’t think he was laughing. “I never really thought about it, I guess. But I see what you mean. It is lonely up here. Do you not… you know.” He gestured with his hand. “Do it for yourself?”

“Of course, I have. But it’s not good enough anymore. And it’s not… I don’t know. I stop before I want to, like an automatic reaction. I can’t keep going, if that makes sense?” Keith shrugged not entirely sure. “I’m actually going to give you credit for how you’re handling this, Mullet.”

“I’m a good friend when I have to be,” he said. “I mean… I wish I had a solution for you, but I really don’t.”

“Just… just keep your distance, okay?” he asked. “The last thing I need is to be all hot and bothered over you.”

“I guess it does explain your lack of focus,” Keith said. “Wait so… you’re telling me you’re into me now? Physically at least?” Lance glared at him, letting out a long breath through his nose. “What! I’m intrigued.”

“I might strangle you.” Keith smirked and raised an inquisitive eyebrow. Lance huffed and shrugged. “Yeah, okay? You’re pretty hot despite that horrible haircut. Congratulations.”

Keith allowed himself a smug smile before shrugging and getting up “Alright, come on. Let’s show everyone we’ve made up.”

“I think I’m just going to go take a shower, actually. I need to cool down.” Keith nodded, biting back a teasing retort, and left the training room. He found everyone in their own stations; Hunk in the kitchen, experimenting with space goo brownies; Pidge with the tech, still looking for clues on her family; Allura and Coran in some private office, dealing with galactical problems; and Shiro in his room, probably trying to catch up on rest.

He sat in down in the meeting room and laid back, trying to keep his mind occupied. After talking to Lance, he began wondering. He’d been so focused on solely training, on wondering about his genetics, on being better for the Voltron team, that he hadn’t paid much attention to hormones.

He mulled over what Lance had said. About Hunk. About Shiro. Heck, even Allura was enticing in her regal way. Coran was more of a grandpa and Pidge of course was like a sister, so they were safe from his curious mind. But he could see how Lance could get all flustered by the thoughts. Keith couldn’t say he hadn’t craved some sort of contact, since long before he was flung into space.

He'd grown up with Shiro as his older brother, his mentor. So Keith couldn’t say he could see himself going to him for any kind of sexual relief, but he had to admit Lance had a point when it came to Shiro’s abs. Keith mused over Hunk and could sort of see what Lance liked. They guy had muscles, but was such a soft giant in Keith’s eyes, that he sort of saw Hunk as more of a cuddle buddy type of person than someone he could imagine being in bed with. Besides, he didn’t know Hunk all that well, so maybe that was a factor.

His mind moved on to Lance. And he had to admit, when he first saw Lance that first day of classes, he had thought he was attractive. Bright blue eyes and dark, caramel skin with a cocky smirk to match? Of course, Keith had been intrigued. But then Lance opened his big mouth and he’d gone from a solid eight to a three. Of course… now, after all the training, Lance had beefed up a bit. He had muscles and his hair had grown out of that awful buzzcut he originally had. Lance had gone from an eight to a three, back up to a nine (because Keith couldn’t overlook the bad flirting and cheesy one liners so that still docked him). And if it was just to get some hormones to calm down, Keith had to admit he wouldn’t mind experimenting with Lance a bit.

In fact, he mused over that concept a bit. He’d heard Lance’s grunts and panting breaths before…. If he thought hard enough he could imagine them in a different context. It made Keith’s skin warm and he bit his lip as he thought of his expression earlier, a little less frustrated and a little more pleasured.

The idea was becoming more and more enticing as he thought of it.

Suddenly the intercom came on making Allura’s voice echo throughout the castle. “Paladins, meeting in the dining room quickly.” Keith groaned and stood, shuffling to the dining room where the others started to come in after. Lance came in last, looking just agitated as before and seeing him after imagining him made Keith a little nervous. Then Lance caught Keith’s eyes only to look away quickly, staying furthest away from the others.

Allura smiled at them and clasped her hands together. “Great news, Paladins! We’ve been invited to a feast on Veyrataz in our honor after our last battle! We’re getting a night off.” She pushed her hair out of her face and seemed to relax. “Our hosts have offered us a grand party and I simply couldn’t say no. So get your gear on and get ready for a rewarding banquet!”

“Sweet! A break from the space goop,” Hunk said. Pidge high-fived him and they left to get their suits on. Lance took a deep breath, muttering under his breath before leaving, casting one more look at Keith as he did.

The banquet really was grand. There were a variety of wonderful smelling foods along the tables, and several aliens dancing. They were a slender species with two set of arms and tentacles for legs. Still, they had an angular grace to them as they danced and laughed, thanking the Paladins by inviting them to join in.

Somewhere among cheers and laughter, Keith noticed Lance slinking toward Allura. He followed with his eyes and watched as Lance mumbled something with his head ducked down before leaving the festivities.

Keith walked over to Allura and asked, “Where’s Lance? One of the alien girls is looking for him; I know he’d be excited for that.”

She frowned and shook her head. “He said he wasn’t feeling well. He preferred to go back to the Castle and rest.”

Keith nodded and bit his lip. “Do you think he should be alone?”

Allura furrowed her eyebrows and looked away. “Honestly Keith, I’m not sure. He’s been so strange lately it worries me.”

“I can go check on him, if you want? Keep an eye on him.”

She raised an eyebrow and smiled. “Looks like Shiro forcing you two to talk things out really helped. If you don’t mind missing the party, be my guest. Make sure he’s okay.”

Keith nodded and slipped out of the castle.

He returned to the Castleship and got out of his gear before going to find Lance. One he was in comfortable clothes, he found Lance tossing and turning on the couch, his hands pressed against his face in agitation. “Tell me you’re not doing what I think you’re doing,” Keith joked.

Lance sat up and scowled. He was wearing a muscle shirt and shorts, just about as naked as he could before completely stripping down. “I’m not,” he grumbled. “Like I said, that’s not satisfying anymore. What are you doing here?”

“I noticed you bolt, so I wanted to be sure you were okay.” Lance snorted. Keith sat beside him, and Lance tensed. “I was thinking about what you said. I think it makes sense. Don’t feel bad about it.” Lance raised an eyebrow. “I’m serious. I never really paid attention, because I’ve been focused on training and whatnot. But yeah. It’s lonely out here. I don’t blame you for wanting to be close to someone. Actually, I thought about it, you know what it’d be like with Shiro or Hunk or you and-”

“Stop talking,” he breathed, his voice tight. “Please.”

“What’d I say?” he asked in shock.

Lance was rigid, his breaths heavy. “It’s… what it sounds like you’re saying. It’s making me nervous.”

“But I didn’t… Lance, are you okay?” He put a hand on his shoulder and Lance jumped slightly. “Lance?”

“Don’t move,” he whispered. “Don’t move if you don’t want me to do something stupid.”

Keith’s eyebrows went up and he froze. He gulped and suddenly felt nervous himself.

Lance was breathing heavily, eyes shut and lips parted, occasionally taken between his teeth in a way that made Keith want to try it too. He gulped and wondered what Lance would say about Keith earlier thoughts.

Keith slid his hand to Lance’s neck making him let out a shaking sigh. “You’re warm,” he whispered. Lance gulped, seemingly debating between scooting closer to Keith or pulling away. So Keith scooted closer, his own breaths uncertain. “I think I thought of a way I could help,” he whispered softly.

“What are you- what are you saying?” Lance choked out. His head tilted slightly, urging Keith’s palm to rest on his cheek.

“Well, I’ve never… you know, done anything. But… who knows how long we’ll be up here.” He shrugged, running his thumb over Lance’s cheekbone.

“You’ve never done anything? At all?”

Keith rolled his eyes and pulled away. “Well, it’s not like people are jumping to go out with me, Lance. Even before we were launched out here in Blue.”

Lance shifted forward and bit his lip. “Well, they’re not jumping for me either,” he murmured. “I mean, all the alien girls I’ve flirted with, and how many have I ever brought back? How many have I ever gone to stay with?” Keith knew the answer was none. As much as Lance flirted and played coy, he was just as celibate as him. “Do you even like guys?” he whispered.

Keith shrugged and looked at him. “I never really considered it until you mentioned it. And… like I said, I thought about what it would be like with the other guys and you.”

“And?” Lance asked in a voice that wasn’t even loud enough to be a whisper. But that didn’t matter because he was so close.

With a shrug, Keith said, “I think I preferred you over them. I kind of… want to know what it’s like too, and… I guess if it helps you calm down, there’s no harm done?”

“We do this, there’s no going back, Keith. No normality. No usual bantering. We won’t be the same.” Keith licked his lips and nodded. “What… wait. What’s this going to mean with us? What, we start dating because we’re both just too lonely and hormonal?”

Keith grimaced, pulling away again and shook his head. “No. No, we’re not…. I don’t want to date you, Lance. We fight too much, that wouldn’t be good. And it’s like you said- a physical attraction, that’s it. It’s just… two teenaged guys exploring their sexualities…. And if we ever get back to Earth, then we can pretend nothing happened.” Lance looked at him dubiously. “Frenemies with benefits?”

Lance smiled at that. “Frenemies with benefits,” he mused. “Has a nice ring.” Keith raised an eyebrow and smirked. “Okay,” he whispered. “Um. You do know most friends with benefits deals end up with someone feeling something for the other and a lot of feelings getting hurt?”

“What, you think you’ll fall in love with me or something?” Lance grimaced, and Keith smirked. “It won’t happen. We’re not compatible like that. We’re not friends; we’re frenemies.”

Lance nodded and took a breath. “Good point. Okay.” He shifted and reached out to push a strand of hair away from Keith’s face. Keith raised an eyebrow. “I just… I haven’t… been kissed in a long time, so….” Keith nodded felt himself tense up as Lance’s hands cupped his face. “This won’t be weird, right?”

“Only if we make it weird,” Keith grumbled.

Lance nodded and leaned in close enough so Keith could feel shuddering, warm breaths against his mouth. “So… just….” Keith wasn’t sure what he was going to say. He just knew that they were leaning into each other and suddenly they were kissing.

It was strange, having someone’s lips on his.

And yet, the thought went away when he heard the throaty moan that hummed against between their lips. Keith pulled back slightly, his lips brushing Lance’s. “This is weird, right?” Lance asked. Keith gulped and chuckled nervously. “Maybe… we just need to get used to kissing right now?”

Keith nodded and cleared his throat. “Okay. So. Uh. I mean… is there something specific you like?”

“Neck kisses,” he replied almost instantly. Keith raised his eyebrows. “Ah, I mean… okay, um…. This is gonna sound cheesy, but… I kind of really like hearing someone moan. Like, knowing I’m making them feel good. That’s a general thing.”

“Figures,” Keith mumbled. Before Lance could ask what he meant, he leaned in again, pressing his lips against Lance’s. He shifted, throwing one leg over Lance, keeping his new Cuban sex toy firmly between his thighs. Lance’s hands rested against his hips, his long, thin fingers settled firmly, splayed across his back. He felt the slight pressure of his fingers as Lance pulled him closer as he leaned back to lay on the couch, bringing Keith onto him.

“You can open your mouth a little more, weirdo,” Lance mumbled. Keith blushed and bit him slightly as retribution. “Kinky,” Lance chuckled. Keith pulled himself up, hovering over him with a frustrated huff. “Can I ask you something? Am I your first kiss?”

“No,” he answered. “My first kiss was at the Garrison during Byron Kelley’s dorm party. I got drunk and made out with Alicia Roux. Then… a different party, I made out with her brother…s.” Lance’s eyebrows shot up and he started laughing, much to Keith’s annoyance.

“Then why are you so bad at it right now?” he asked between laughter. “Ah, no offense.” Keith felt his cheeks heat up and he pushed away, ready to get off of Lance. “No, no, no, come back!” he insisted, pulling Keith back with surprising strength. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for that to sound mean.”

Keith rolled his eyes and clenched his jaw. “I was drunk at those parties. They were senior officers and I was a private cadet.” Lance’s smile faded. “I mean, they were just like… a couple years older. I was sixteen, so…. Besides, now I’m kissing you. I was ready to kick your ass earlier, and now we’re… making out. I’m a little hesitant.”

“Oh so you’re holding back?” Lance asked with a chuckle. Keith narrowed his eyes, but his annoyance turned into surprise as Lance leaned up and took his lip between his teeth. “Show me what you got, Kogane. No holding back.” And then Lance was crashing their lips together again, with no reserve, no hesitance.

A warm tongue prodded his lip and Keith gasped softly, parting his lips. He sucked against Lance’s bottom lip and shifted to intertwine their legs. He pushed his tongue into Lance’s mouth, earning a groan from him. Lance’s hands started roaming his back, and Keith didn’t pay them much mind until they were palming at his ass.

The feeling made him gasp against Lance’s lips, suddenly hungry for more. He pulled back and kissed the corner of Lance’s lips, along the jawbone up to the curve of his jaw to suck on his earlobe- which made Lance let out a particularly loud gasp- and slowly down the side of his neck. Soft kisses, with enough tongue to taste him without leaving any trails, enough sucking to tease him without marking.

“You’re good at that,” Lance breathed through a nervous chuckle. He moaned softly and Keith lifted himself up over him. Lance reached up and ran his thumb over Keith’s bottom lip. Without saying anything, he pulled Keith by the neck until they were kissing again, their lips slowly getting accustomed to the other’s. Lance’s fingers threaded through Keith’s hair tugging, and Keith half moaned, half groaned into Lance’s mouth. His mouth fell open and Lance took his chance to bite Keith’s lower lip and suck until it was swollen.

He licked it apologetically and smiled before pulling Keith into a proper kiss again, never losing his grip on his hair.

Keith’s hips grinded down and Lance bucked his up, whimpering between them. The size of the bulge Keith felt against his own made him nervous in the most exotically enticing way.

Suddenly, they heard distant laughter and footsteps. They sat up, eyes wide, and wiped their red lips, flattened their tousled hair, scrambling to sit on opposite sides of the couch before Pidge walked in, talking animatedly to Allura.

“Oh hey, they haven’t killed each other yet,” she said. “That’s a win.”

“Funny,” Lance mumbled.

“Haven’t you heard? We’re friends now,” Keith said flatly. “What happened to the party?”

“Pidge insisted on making sure you weren’t tormenting each other further. And I thought I might take back some bandages. Hunk decided to play with one of our hosts and it didn’t go well. He’s fine though,” Allura said. “Ready, Pidge?”

“Yep,” Pidge answered, pushing her glasses up. “Don’t kill each other, guys. Think of your lions.” They rolled their eyes at her and the two girls left, their steps receding until it was silent again.

Within seconds, Lance was pushing against Keith, lips finding his, until they were back to their original rhythm. “Rooms- better- private-let’s?” Lance breathed through kisses.

“Uh-huh,” Keith nodded, standing, pulling Lance along, never breaking their kiss. He hated that he was a full head taller, but Lance made up for it by pulling Keith up so his legs wrapped around his torso.

“You’re light,” he noted.

“Shush,” Keith said, digging his fingers into Lance’s shoulders, kissing him harder, supporting himself with arms and legs to push his groin against Lance.

Lance bit his lip, his eyes dilating, looking at Keith hungrily as they staggered to the room closest to them- Keith’s. The door hummed open and shut as they stumbled in, bumping against the wall. Lance’s lips were at his neck and Keith was feeling things he never had before.

The swirl of his tongue, the graze of his teeth, it made it hard for Keith to breathe. There was a warmth building in his stomach, an ache rushing to his groin, heat spreading through every nerve, alight to every touch Lance placed on him. The feeling of Lance’s mouth sucking against his neck made his knees weak, and he couldn’t bother to be embarrassed by the heavy breaths and moans he let out, feeling like butterfly wings against Lance’s ear.

“Keith?” he breathed, pulling back slightly. Keith fought the urge to pull him back to finish what he’d been doing and instead scrunched his eyebrows in question. “I know we said we wouldn’t do it all tonight but… God, can we do something? I’m dying over here.”

Keith gulped and tried to catch his breath, flicking his hair out of his face. “What… do you want to do?” he asked. “I guess… hand jobs don’t seem too bad?” He could feel his cheeks turning bright red at his own words. He prayed Lance would be too overwhelmed to care for eloquence.

Lance shook his head. “Hand jobs don’t cut it for me anymore, remember?”

“Your own hand,” Keith reminded. “Someone else’s could be different.” Lance shrugged not seeming entirely convinced. “Well…. The next step up is… a… blowjob.”

Something in Lance’s face melted. It was a subtle change, and yet it overcame his features, his eyes soft yet hungry, his breaths ragged and needy. “I don’t want you to do anything you’re not comfortable with. We just started this.”

“I said I’d help. I’d do it some time, right?” Keith took a shaking breath and unhooked his legs from around Lance’s waist. He gently pushed him back, eyes locked on each other, indigo blue into sky blue. “Tell me if something I do doesn’t feel right, okay?” Lance nodded mutely.

Hesitantly, Keith pressed his lips against Lance’s, trailing his way over to the hollow of his throat, hoping that his tongue made Lance feel as good as Keith did a few moments ago. Keith slid his hands under the hem of the muscle shirt, his fingers ghosting over Lance’s warm olive skin. As he kissed and bit onto Lance’s neck, he slid his shaky hands down to the waistline of Lance’s shorts. Dipping his fingers beneath one by one, he slowly drew them down, allowing himself to slowly drop onto his knees, peppering Lance with kissed the entire way.

A small whimper echoed around the room as the shorts pooled at Lance’s feet and Keith looked up at Lance from under long, curved, full eyelashes, his sore, red lips parted and looking ever so plump. And those eyes. Those violet blue eyes that looked up at him so sweetly, so uncertainly, and so determined. Lance was aching.

Keith put a hand against the bulge in Lance’s briefs, rubbing, figuring he should just do what he would’ve liked to have done to himself. Do the things that would feel good if they were done to him.

He continued to palm Lance through the cloth, and leaned forward to press kisses against his thigh, which was scorching hot from all the need that had accumulated. He bit gently and Lance’s knees buckled. It was funny to think that Keith was having this effect on Lance.

Keith ran his hands up Lance’s legs and looked up at him. “Sit on the bed. You’ll end up falling if you stay standing.” Hastily, Lance shuffled to the bed and plopped down. Keith smiled and leaned over him, kissing him gently before returning to his knees, slipping his fingers beneath the briefs to tug them away.

He bit his lip as Lance’s bulge was freed and tried to hide the gulp. He wasn’t sure he could do this. He didn’t feel much seeing it. There was no need for it, no attraction to it, no… no nothing. It was just a body part Keith knew because he had his own. Granted, Lance’s was hard at the moment, veins bulging, and visibly thicker than Keith’s. And that just made him more nervous.

“You don’t have to,” Lance said softly. “Neither of us has… done this sort of stuff, much less with another guy. It’s okay.”

He leaned forward as if to pull his shorts back up, but Keith reached out and pinned his hands down by the wrist aggressively. “Shut up,” he growled. “I want to. I just need a moment,” Lance was about to protest again, so Keith grabbed ahold of his stupid fucking penis, turning the words into a desperate mewl.

His blue eyes rolled into the back of his head as Keith moved his hand up and down, his lips parted forming an “Oh,” sound mixed among quick, short yelps. The reaction was more than Keith had expected to receive especially after the awkwardness of their first kiss. Keith gulped one more time before leaning forward and kissing the slit lightly, rewarded with a whimper. Lance was so warm. Pulsing in his hand.

Keith ran his tongue from the base to the tip experimentally, before opening his mouth wide enough to take him in. He circled his lips, careful not to let his teeth brush against Lance. He bobbed his head forward and back rhythmically, hearing erratic breaths above him.

The heavy weight in his mouth was hot and a strange mix of soft and hard. The taste salty, musty but not necessarily bad….

“Oh f-fuck,” Lance breathed. “Look at me, Keith. Please look at me.” Keith complied, looking up at him with a serene look as he pulled back completely, letting only his tongue flick against the slit. Lance looked absolutely broken. His face contorted. His eyebrows were furrowed, his eyes went from screwing shut to looking desperately at Keith, his breaths quick and shallow as his teeth dug into his lip to keep from crying out. There was a vein bulging at his neck from the effort it took him to stay quiet.

Keith began to take him in again, slowly, hoping to take all if not most of Lance into his mouth. But as he moved, Lance’s hips bucked, resulting in a gag reflex that stung Keith’s eyes. He placed his hands on Lance’s hips and shoved him firmly down against the mattress.

“No you don’t,” he growled, glaring up at Lance. “If I’m down here, I’m handling the pace. I’m in charge right now, Sharpshooter.” Lance gulped and whimpered. “You buck your hips again, I stop. And I don’t think you want me to leave you like this.” Lance shook his head, his face contorted in pain. “That’s a good boy,” he whispered, lowering his lips to press against Lance’s erection. He slid his mouth down agonizingly slow, careful to not trigger his gag reflex.

Lance was dying to buck his hips. To grab a fistful of Keith’s hair and push his hips up against his mouth until Lance couldn’t do anything but come undone.

What Keith couldn’t fit into his mouth, he grabbed with his hand and pumped. Lance wasn’t bothering with staying quiet. It was like he couldn’t. His gasps and moans, and unfinished pleas for more, faster bouncing around the room, music to Keith’s ears. Keith pulled back again with a slick pop, a trail of saliva and pre-come connecting his lips to Lance’s throbbing cock.

Lance’s hands were in fists, curled around he covers, his upper arms shaking. “Keith, please faster. I can’t- I can’t.” He threw his head back as Keith took him in again and let out a strangled cry. Keith finally saw the appeal of being down there, on his knees, pleasing someone else.

Making them fall apart at your hands was like having immeasurable power. It made him wanted and important. It made him eager to make Lance squirm and scream. He knew that even if Lance bucked, he wouldn’t stop. Not when he was unravelling like this. Not when Keith was the one making him beg and gasp for breath. He was drunk on the power he had over Lance at that moment, and he wanted to revel in it, smug because he had Lance obeying his command without a single rebuttal.

He sucked in his cheeks and Lance let out a long, shaking whine. Keith had gotten used to the warm saltiness in his mouth, so he wasn’t so hesitant to suck and swirl his tongue, experimenting freely to find new ways to make Lance plead. Lance seemed to be digging himself into the covers, being so careful not to buck into Keith’s mouth. He was being so good, and Keith wanted to reward him for it.

He sucked and moved a little faster, licking up the length before encasing him again, faster, and faster until Lance was filling the room with desperate sounds, doing everything he could not to move. Keith could feel the tip at the back of his throat, and he fought off a gag, turning it into a moan. He dug his fingers into Lance’s thighs, making him cry out again.

Lance’s hand burrowed into Keith’s hair, tugging the roots harshly, desperately without pulling him away, and the feeling made Keith moan again.

“Keith- oh God- get off, I’m gonna-  Ah, fuck.” Lance pulled Keith away by his hair and bucked his hips into the air, moaning loudly as he reached his climax, the warm, white slickness coating Keith’s chin and his shirt. “Shit. Sorry,” he breathed, still shaking as he fell back against the bed. “Oh fuck,” he cried, breathing harshly.

While he wasn’t looking, Keith darted his tongue out to taste the come on his chin, surprised when it wasn’t a horrible taste. He looked at shirt and grimaced at the stains, but he didn’t say anything until Lance pulled himself up on shaking arms.

“You were… amazing at that.”

Keith hummed. “I think you were just that frustrated.”

Lance shook his head and pulled his shorts up before pulling Keith onto him. “I’m serious.” He pressed a kiss to the hollow of Keith’s throat and used his thumb to wipe away the rest of the mess. “Sorry.” Keith shrugged. Slowly, hesitantly, Lance pulled him closer by his chin. “Can I?” Keith nodded, and Lance kissed him. His tongue darted forward and Keith melted into him, reveling in the feeling of being wanted. “Mm, tastes interesting.” Keith grimaced and apologized, but Lance laughed. “After what you did to me, you really shouldn’t be apologizing.” He took Keith’s bottom lip between his teeth and looked at him with soft blue eyes.

Without another word, he turned Keith, pulling him between his legs into a sitting position. He kissed his neck and bit down as Keith squirmed and covered his mouth to silence his breaths. Lance dipped his hands into his jeans and Keith gasped. “What are you doing?”

“Returning the favor. You’ve never had a hand job have you?” Keith shook his head, relaxing into the feeling of Lance’s long, slender fingers palming him. “I’ve got it,” he smiled. He bit down on his earlobe and Keith yelped softly, pressing his back into Lance’s chest. His hands came to wrap behind Lance’s neck, fingers digging into his skin as Lance shimmied Keith’s pants off. He lowered his boxers and Keith heard Lance’s shaking breath at his ear as saw Keith’s upright erection inches away from his hand.

“I should make you beg for it like you did to me,” Lance murmured, making Keith bite his lip. “But you’re lucky I’m a nice guy.” He wrapped his hand around Keith, pumping slowly. Keith squirmed and moaned, a soft husky sound as he pressed closer against Lance. He tilted his head, looking up at him, his open mouth leaving warm breaths against Lance’s face. He pushed his hand into his hair, fingers raking down his neck, grasping for leverage. “Tell me what you want,” Lance growled into his ear.

“Faster,” he breathed. Lance nodded and complied, rewarded with the gasping moans that vibrated in Keith’s throat. His fingers dug into Lance’s skin, and Lance dipped down to bite on his neck, sucking the skin as he moved his hand a little faster and ran his thumb over the tip. Keith yelped and chuckled nervously. “Again.”

Lance bit down against whatever parts of Keith’s skin he could, sometimes leaving bruise-like marks against his pale skin, sometimes just the imprint of his teeth. But Keith wasn’t complaining, and Lance loved the way Keith molded to him, breathing quickly and holding onto him like his life depending on it.

“Don’t stop. Don’t-don’t stop,” he commanded. Lance’s arm was starting to burn with the speed. But with Keith coming undone, he couldn’t stop. He didn’t want to. He ignored the burn in his muscle as he tightened his grip a little without hurting him and pumped faster, bit harder, pulled him closer. “Oh, o-oh, fuck yes,” he panted, arching his back. Lance had a clear view of his face and the bright, rosy blush that had dusted his cheeks, the way his violet eyes screwed shut, the perfect O shape of his mouth. “Lance- I’m-I’m, oh.

Warmth spread into Lance’s hand as Keith shivered, relaxing into him again, catching his breath. He turned his head away like he was embarrassed to look at Lance. Lance placed his clean hand into his hair and scratched gently. He brought the hand coated in Keith’s release and marveled at the substance on his hand. Slowly, he put it to his lips and hummed. It was almost sweet. But still rather salty.

“We really won’t be able to go back to normal,” Keith murmured, still not looking at him.

Lance stop running his hands through his hair. “Do you regret it?”

Keith took a breath and rolled his head to look at Lance. “No.”

“Cool. Me neither.” He pressed his lips against Keith’s temple softly. “We can stop if you ever get uncomfortable. If either of us do.” Keith nodded and settled against him as Lance helped him pull his boxers and pants back on.

“Should we set boundaries or rules or something?” Keith questioned. “I mean, is this supposed to stay a secret? Are there things we really shouldn’t do or say? And is this a nightly thing or? What are we doing, Lance?”

“I…. I don’t know. It’s clear we don’t like each other that way. We’re just physically into each other. It’s the with benefits part, right?” Keith shrugged and nodded. “So… I guess we’ll figure out what we’re doing and how often as we go. And I mean, it’s not a huge deal. If someone finds out, oh well. Though I guess it’d be kind of hot to hide it.” Keith scoffed and hit Lance’s forehead. “Okay, okay. How about… we have to get to our own rooms after we’re done just to kind of keep the distance. Keep suspicion away. Can’t allude to this when we’re with everyone else. And no teasing outside of the room.” Keith nodded. “Should we have a special knock?”

“Special knock? What are we a treehouse club?” Keith scoffed, shifting away to face him. Lance rolled his eyes and shook his head, taking Keith’s hand and interlocking their fingers. “What about this?” he questioned softly, gesturing to their hands. “Isn’t that stuff couples do? Cuddling and hand-holding and all those other little things?”

“Um. Yeah. It’s just… I guess it’s a way to know we’re not just using each other as meat sticks. If you don’t want to, we can make that a rule too.” He shrugged. In response Keith simply held onto Lance’s hand a little harder. “Cool,” he whispered. “I should get back to my room before the others come back.” Keith nodded and shifted away as Lance stood. He leaned back over, smiling at Keith with that stupid smug look on his face. “Does this mean you think I’m hot too?”

“Lance, I swear to-”

Without warning, Lance reached down and pulled him by his chin into a kiss. Then he pulled back, leaving Keith breathless and dizzy. “See you tomorrow, Mullet,” he murmured. He pecked his lips one more time and left. Keith ran a hand through his hair and changed his clothes before getting into bed and reliving the memories of the new sensations he’d felt with Lance that night.

Chapter Text

The next morning, Keith was almost afraid to leave his room. How in the universe was he supposed to look at Lance in the eye knowing what they did? How was he supposed to act nonchalant in front of everyone else knowing what they did, knowing that Lance knew what they did?

He pushed his hair away from his face and pulled on his jacket, not knowing if there was any evidence of last night since Lance seemed to have no qualms in acting like a goddamn vampire. If so, the jacket would have them covered. He walked out, feeling his legs shake and his heart pound through his chest from the anxiety. He reminded himself to keep his expression blank so no one would wonder if something was up.

When he got into the dining room, he saw the others eating, of course Lance was already there, laughing at something Hunk said.

“Morning, sunshine,” Shiro teased. Keith rolled his eyes and caught Lance’s brief glance. Within that millisecond, he felt his face warm.

“Any chance today would be another off day?” Lance asked.

“There’s training,” Allura answered. “I can’t exactly predict when enemies will attack or a planet will need our help.” Lance shrugged and scarfed down more space goo.

“Fine, but you all better be ready, because I’m way more focused now. I’ll kick all your butts into the next wormhole.” He chopped at the air and Keith had to roll his eyes at his childishness.

“You’re in a better mood,” Pidge noticed. “Did you end up meeting the alien girl that was looking for you?”

“Uh. No?” Lance answered questioningly. “I wasn’t aware of an alien girl.” He shrugged. “Better rested, I guess. Either way, you’re all going down.”

I already did last night, Keith thought to himself. Then he choked on his breakfast at his own thoughts. He tried to keep the blush in his face under control as he looked around nervously. “Sorry,” he said composing himself. “Just couldn’t fathom the idea in my head.” Lance crossed his arms, narrowing his eyebrows at him.

“Regardless,” Shiro interrupted what he figured would blow to a full on fight. “It’s not individual training we should get. We need to train as Voltron. We’ve come too close too many times. We have to work together better.”

“Well, maybe if certain people didn’t argue over everything so much,” Pidge mumbled. Keith and Lance glared at her but didn’t say anything. Shiro shook his head and pinched the bridge of his nose.

After breakfast, they were all ushered out to the field with their lions. Keith was petting Red’s paw, eyeing his teammates as they spread around the field. She kneeled down, allowing Keith to get into his pilot’s seat. He put on his helmet and heard Shiro’s usual pep talk about teamwork.

“Ready team?” The consenting grunts from everyone filled the comms. “Alright. Form Voltron,” he commanded. It had become second nature. The seat slid, jerking Keith back as his lion reformed, tucking her legs and neck in until she connected to the side of the black lion.

“Good kitty,” he praised her. She purred softly, and Keith prepared his bayard, waiting for the next test Allura would throw at them. A few moments later, drones were marching out, bigger in size than their usual training ones. Some of them had miniature ships of their own, with shooters on the outside.

“Keith, sword!” Shiro shouted. “No shield this time.” Keith narrowed his eyebrows and twisted his bayard, the sound of metal scraping told him the sword had grown in Voltron’s hand. “Remember, we have to work together! No surprise moves.”

The first hit came out of nowhere. The paladins flew back, the motion jerking them forward unapologetically as Voltron was knocked off its feet. They stood and began fighting back, taking hits from drones with shooters and wiping out many of those on their feet.

“Are there usually this many?” Hunk yelped, grunting in exertion as he struggled to push forward.

“I think Allura’s trying to push us. These hits are worse. These are damaging the lions,” Pidge said.

Another blast came, and Keith fended it off with his sword, but the force still made Voltron slide back, digging its feet into the dirt.

“Balance, guys!” Shiro shouted. “Hunk, Lance, you okay?”

“Peachy,” Lance breathed. “Something’s up with Blue. Her controls aren’t working.”

“What do you mean?” Pidge asked.

“Watch it!” Keith shouted, swinging the sword again to knock a drone down from its ship as it flew toward them. Shiro had rotated the body causing the entire robot to lose its balance and fall back. Keith shouted as the jolt made him hit his head against the edge of the seat. A headache began to spread from the base of skull upwards in tendrils. “They’re gaining,” he panted.

“You okay?” Lance breathed.

“Fine,” he growled. “What happened to your lion?”

“Incoming!” Hunk shouted. The entire robot rattled and the gasps and groans of his teammates echoed in his helmet. “What the heck is going on?”

“We have to split. We’re sitting ducks,” Pidge said. “Especially if Blue is malfunctioning.” Heavy breaths filled the helmet. “Shiro?”

“Yeah. Split before we get another hit. Cover Lance while he tries to get control of his lion.”

“Yes, we’re all aware that Blue is down, leave her alone!” Lance snapped. Keith rolled his eyes and tried to ignore the headache spreading through his skull.

Voltron began to split, the lions shaking themselves out as they prepared for single combat. Hunk’s lion was taking most of the hits, the sturdy armor keeping him and the others safe. Hunk used his lion’s disk launcher while Pidge fought off the drones on the ground.

“Keith, help Pidge. I got Lance,” Shiro commanded.

Keith grunted in response, sending Red over to attack. She was quick, easily breaking through the ranks. “Shiro, they’re not stopping,” Keith grunted as another wave of drones came. “What the hell is Allura doing?”

“Blue!” Keith froze as he heard a loud crash in the headset and Shiro’s angry shouts as he fought off more drones. “Oh heck no,” he heard Lance growl.

“What’s going on?” Keith asked, putting Red into flight to help Hunk with the flying drones.

“Lance, get back in your lion! You can’t fight them on your own!”

“They’re breaking through and hurting Blue!” he shouted. “Come on!”

“What’s he doing?” Pidge shouted.

“Fighting them off,” Shiro answered. “I have to get to Allura. I don’t think she’s the one sending these through. This is too much.”

“Go, we’ve got this,” Pidge answered as her lion wiped out ten more drones that tried shooting at Keith.

“Yeah, but uh… hurry back?” Hunk added nervously. “Keith, watch out!”

Another blast hit Keith, bring Red crashing to the ground. Shiro’s lion flew off while Keith shook along with his lion rolling across the ground. She got up again, the lack of energy and strength in her clear in Keith’s mind. “Come on, girl, you can do this. Don’t give up now.” Blue was taking a lot of hits. Keith could see the smoke rising from her. Lance was on the ground shooting as many drones as he could. “Come on, kitty, we have to get Blue away.” She pounced forward, grabbing Blue by the tail.

“What are you doing?” Lance shrieked.

“Saving your lion!” he snapped back. “Come on, girl.” Red dragged Blue away from the mess, pulling her to safety. “Let’s go fight some robots. Stay distanced.”

More waves of drones came through, and the paladins were all tired. They could barely catch their breaths or see enough of the drones to stop surprise attacks.

Then all of a sudden, each drone stopped and fell to the ground. Lance fell to his knees, panting heavily. The other lions laid onto the ground, and Keith slumped in his seat feeling tired and sore. Pidge’s voice broke through the silence. “We have to get back to the castle. I’ll check the lions’ damages.”

“Hunk, think you can take Blue with you?”

“Got it,” he answered.

“Lance get into a lion so we can get back. Keith is closest.”

A few moments later, Keith opened the passage for Lance to come into the lion. “What happened to you?” Lance asked. Keith wasn’t sure what he meant, but he was tired and had a splitting headache. “Whoa, hey Mullet look at me,” he said, surging forward to balance him and tilting Keith’s face up.

“What’s going on Lance?” Pidge asked.

“Keith doesn’t look too good,” he answered. “I don’t know if he’ll be able to fly us out of here.”

“Red can’t fly,” he mumbled. “Something’s up with… her booster.” Lance frowned and unbuckled him. “What are you doing?”

“Being your friend,” he answered. “You trust me?” Keith frowned at him, but his head hurt so badly, he was even getting nauseous. “I’ll pilot Red.” Keith wanted to object. Red was his lion. But he could barely think. He sat back where Lance had placed him on the floor. “I’ll try not to jostle too much.” Lance buckled himself in and Keith was vaguely aware of him talking to Red.

He shut his eyes, feeling the lion move beneath him. He was so tired.

When Keith woke up, Shiro and Allura were over him, looking at him worriedly. “Finally. What the heck happened out there?” Shiro asked.

Keith groaned and shook his head, unsure.

“Our system was overridden. I have no idea how, but Pidge is looking into it,” Allura said, those tired lines returning to her face. “She’ll work on Red and Blue later to get them running again, but right now the safety of the castle is at stake.”

“Keith, how’s your head?”

“Fine,” he muttered. “I’m tired. What time is it?”

“You’ve been out for about a day. We were worried, but you were breathing just fine. We put you in the healing pod for a bit. Lance said you blacked out on the way back.”

“Where’s everyone else?”

Shiro waved a hand. “Hunk is making food for Lance. He was shaken up and battered too, but his injuries were minor. He’s doing fine. Pidge is still reconfiguring the system.” Keith sighed and relaxed against the cot. “You okay?”

“I want to go to my room. I want my bed,” he muttered. “I think I can get up.”

“You should eat something too,” Allura said. “I’ll tell Hunk to separate some food for you and take it.” Keith nodded and stood shakily, waving Shiro away when he tried to help.

He managed to get to his room before plopping down tiredly on the bed. He felt himself drift to sleep again.

He woke when he heard a strange patterned knock. “Come in,” he called. The door hissed open and Lance walked in holding a bowl of something. “Hey.”

“Nice to see you’re awake.” Keith hummed and sat up. “Hunk put something together, it smells pretty good.” He walked over to the bed and gestured. “You mind?”

Keith shrugged and took the bowl, sniffing at it. He was starving, which may have been why the smell made his mouth water so much.

“What happened to your head?” Keith asked, noting a few butterfly closure strips along a gash on his forehead.

“Drones got me. It wasn’t deep though. Still a pity huh? My face is too pretty for this.” Keith snorted and rolled his eyes, eating his strange food. “I wanted to thank you,” Lance said as Keith finished. “For keeping Blue safe.”

“You would’ve done the same.”

Lance nodded and took the bowl away. “Yeah, of course. But still.” He reached forward pushing his hair back. Keith sighed against the touch, feeling his body heat spike. “Maybe I could… show you how grateful I am?” He leaned forward, on all fours as Keith kept his eyes steady on him. “It could help you feel better?” Keith bit his lip and shifted. “You in the mood for it… or should I come back?”

“Stay,” he said immediately, making Lance smile smugly. “Shut up,” he murmured. Lance chuckled and leaned forward, his lips warm against Keith’s neck. Keith tilted his head, letting his eyes flutter shut. He hadn’t realized how much he’d craved physical touch. Lance’s kisses were soft and gentle, like he was worried to hurt Keith further. “I’m not made of glass,” he growled. He could feel Lance’s smile spread against his throat.

“I know, babe.” Keith furrowed his eyebrows. He hadn’t realized pet names were part of the deal. Still, the husky way it slipped from Lance’s mouth along with the way his tongue worked against the most sensitive parts of his throat made him shrug it off. He didn’t want to kill the mood right now.

Lance’s long legs bent on either side of him as his hands tangled themselves into Keith’s hair and tugged. Keith groaned and gripped Lance’s hips, pulling him closer.

As Lance nibbled and sucked at his neck, Lance began to roll his hips, grinding into Keith until their bulges were rubbing together, sending little waves of shock through them. Keith’s breaths came hot and fast as Lance’s hands tightened around his hair. The pace of his hips varied, sometimes going just as fast as Keith wanted then slowing before Keith could reach his peak. He slowed to a teasing pace, and Keith held onto Lance’s hips, grunting as he moved Lance’s hips faster, his own bucking up to meet Lance.

When his arms couldn’t keep up the pace, he stopped, breathing heavily. “So needy,” Lance teased softly. He ran his tongue up his neck, bit gently on his earlobe making Keith gasp, and kissed his way to Keith’s lips. “Don’t worry, baby I’ll make you feel good.”

As Lance pressed their lips together, Keith moaned into his mouth. “Don’t tease me,” he begged through the kiss.

Lance took Keith’s bottom lip between his teeth and pulled away gently. His eyes were sparkling and dark, filled with lust and mischief. The look alone sent shivers down Keith’s spine.

Lance shifted down slowly, his hands going to Keith’s sweats. He hadn’t recalled wearing sweats, but he really didn’t want to think about that right now. “Up,” he commanded. Keith lifted his hips and Lance pulled down his boxers and his sweats with one pull. “Tell me if you want me to stop,” he whispered as he leaned down.

Keith’s mouth parted to let out a small gasp as his eyes widened. Lance kissed his thigh, cupping his balls in one hand as he trailed toward the base. Keith squirmed and moaned through clenched teeth as Lance’s tongue ran up his length, encased him as he brought his lips in tight.

“Ah, fuck,” he moaned, arching his back and throwing his head back against the wall. Lance moved up and down, somehow taking in all of Keith. He could feel his tip hit the back of Lance’s throat with the most beautiful feeling coursing through him, elating him. Lance gagged, but didn’t pull away. Instead, he held onto him, his long fingers digging into the skin of Keith’s ass. He was bringing him in. Keith moaned unabashedly as Lance swallowed him whole, the warmth of his mouth making him twitch and pulse. “Yes, Lance, fuck that feels good.”

Lance pulled up and took a deep breath. Keith looked down at him, at the cocky smile and the watery blue eyes. He caught a tear with his thumb before it fell, making Lance’s eyelashes glisten. “I’m okay,” he assured. He flicked his tongue against Keith’s slit and Keith bucked his hips, letting out a whining mewl. “Louder, Keith. Louder.”

“Lance,” he moaned. With a sly smile, Lance leaned forward again, swallowing Keith again.

He began to bob his head quickly, so quickly that Keith felt white hot fire sear through his veins, explosions erupt at every nerve ending, and couldn’t even move further into him. He panted heavily, his chest rising and falling as he covered the screams trying to rip out of his throat. He felt half-thought pleas forming in his brain, but they wouldn’t have made sense. Lance was sucking him off quickly, so deep he was gagging as he lowered his mouth onto Keith. Lance pulled away to catch his breath, and each time, he flicked his tongue out to send more shivers through his body, extracting more desperate gasps from Keith. Then, he’d lower himself again, his tongue sliding against the length, his cheeks cupping him in warmth.

Keith felt his body coil tightly, ready to spring, ready to burst, ready to just let go and let the waves of euphoria wash over him. But before he could reach that, Lance pulled away, gasping for air, his lashes glistening around his pretty blue eyes. He gulped and smiled lazily at Keith who could barely form a coherent thought.

Lance encouraged him to turn around gently, pulling him a little lower onto the bed. His hands splayed over the back of Keith’s thighs, pulling them up slightly.

“What are you-?” Keith questioned. He felt Lance’s tongue probe against his entrance and he arched his back, his mouth falling open. “O-oh,” he moaned. Lance sucked at the skin, pushed his tongue forward, warming him and Keith could only squirm as he spread his legs farther.

“This okay?” he whispered. Keith nodded, whimpering his vocal approval as he buried his face into his pillow, ignoring the embarrassment of having his ass in the air.

With that, Lance buried himself deeper into Keith, making Keith yelp. Lance’s arms snaked around his thighs, hands gripping and releasing the soft flesh as he lapped at Keith’s ass. Keith gripped one of his arms desperately, nails raking into the olive skin as he pushed back a little into Lance’s face.

His tongue was working wonders, massaging into Keith, spreading jolts of pleasure through him. The arm that wasn’t in Keith’s death grip unhooked itself as Lance pulled away. He planted little kisses to Keith’s thigh and suddenly Lance’s finger was pressing against Keith’s throbbing entrance. Keith gasped and jerked up, looking back at Lance in astonishment.

“Can I?” he murmured, kissing along Keith’s lower back. “I’ll try to make it good. If it hurts, I’ll stop.” Slowly, Keith nodded and relaxed into the bed. Lance pressed his finger in again, going slowly. It felt so strange. It didn’t belong. Lance was biting into his ass enough for it to making Keith wince, but not enough to hurt. Keith took a deep breath, trying to relax further.

Lance’s finger pulled out and pushed in again, the only pleasure coming from how intimate it was. Keith was still breathing heavily, but he wasn’t coiled up so tensely. And then he felt the next finger. He bit down on his lip at the discomfort, gritting his teeth at the stretch until it stung.

He pitched forward away from Lance’s fingers and shook his head, his face burning in embarrassment. “Nope. No, that can’t be right. Uh-uh.”

“Too dry,” Lance noted. “We’ll need something else for that then.”

Keith grumbled and turned back around with his rear feeling sore from Lance’s bites. “Somehow, I don’t think saliva was ever supposed to be enough for that.”

“Hey, I’m new at this,” Lance snapped. As Keith began to respond, Lance reached his hand out and wrapped it around Keith’s cock, cutting him off effectively. Once he’d stimulated him back into a full erection, he leaned forward and let his lips ghost over his chest, over his collar bone. “Heard of hot spots?” he asked.

“Huh?” Keith breathed.

Lance stopped jacking him off, much to Keith’s disdain. His hands spread out over his abdomen, sliding his fingers around his waist and pulling back to push his hands up onto his chest. “Hot spots. Like points on your body that turn you on when you get touched there.”

Keith wondered if maybe his entire body was a hotspot because Lance only had to touch his face to make his body heat spike. “What about them?”

Lance settled over him comfortably, making Keith wince because he was naked and Lance, on the other hand, definitely wasn’t. “Can I try finding yours?” He let his tongue lick along Keith’s lower lip, making him sigh.

“Mmkay,” he answered.

Lance smiled and sat up, helping Keith get his boxers back on and stripping his sweats away completely along with his shirt. Then he had Keith lay down on the bed, face down.

“Relax,” he told him. Keith tried to loosen his shoulders. “I just wanna make you feel good, Keith.”

“Yeah,” Keith breathed, feeling Lance’s fingers trace softly down his spine. “Okay.”

Lance hummed and shuffled down, kissing the back of his thigh gently before reaching the back of his knee. Keith laughed into his arms and squirmed.

“That tickles,” he said, muffled.

Lance didn’t respond, but his mouth moved away from behind Keith’s knee. Keith was still chuckling a bit when he felt Lance bite down on the back of his thigh, just under his ass. He jerked forward and gasped, biting his lip. “Did that tickle?” Lance asked.

Keith shook his head then moaned when Lance bit down on the back of the other thigh. His fingers kneaded into Keith’s ass as he swirled his tongue and grazed his teeth along the curve.

“You have a nice butt, babe.”

Keith groaned and kicked at him. “Shut the fuck up.”

“It’s a compliment!” Lance said. He slid his hands under the fabric of the briefs and squeezed, making Keith burrow his head further into the pillow. His hands got rougher, taking handfuls of him and mouthing at his skin.

And yes, Keith quite enjoyed it. He enjoyed the roughness, the slight burn of hickeys being sucked into such an intimate part of his body.

“I think I’m obsessed,” Lance breathed as Keith rocked into the mattress.

“Okay, shut up, move on. Find the next one.”

Lance laughed and pulled himself up. “Yes, sir.” Keith felt hot breath spread along his lower back, making him shiver. Again, Lance began to graze his teeth along his skin.

He’s a fucking vampire, I swear, Keith thought to himself. Lance’s tongue ran up spine and Keith hummed contentedly. Gentle fingers pushed the hair at the nape of his neck aside. Warm lips latched to his skin as his hand ran up his back.

“Feels nice,” he breathed. “Not… a turn on, but… good.”

“Noted,” Lance whispered against his neck. “Can you turn around for me?” Keith nodded and started to turn. One of Lance’s hands cradled his head. “Easy,” he whispered.

“I’m fine.” In all honesty, Keith had forgotten why he was in bed to begin with. Lance nodded and shuffled down again. He grabbed Keith’s foot, and Keith immediately pulled away. “You put your fucking mouth on my feet, and I will strangle you,” he hissed.

Lance let him go and laughed. “Okay then,” he laughed. “No foot fetish. I’ll start up here then.” Lance leaned over on hands and knees and ran his tongue along Keith’s lower abdomen, over the line of his briefs.

Keith’s eyes fluttered shut and he bit his lip as Lance pressed feather-light kisses to his skin. His chest rose and fell quickly, but he wouldn’t let himself make a sound. Lance traced kisses along his stomach, letting his hands roam around his body. “Lance,” Keith breathed.

“Yeah?” Keith didn’t respond. He just hummed. Lance placed his kisses higher and higher until he was flicking his tongue over Keith’s nipple.

“A-ah!” Keith arched up into the touch, his hands anchoring themselves into the comforter. Lance wrapped his lips in around the nub, tongue swirling as he sucked. Soft breaths slipped through Keith’s lips, his leg unconsciously sliding up and over Lance’s body to keep him close. “That’s one,” he breathed before gritting his teeth and groaning as Lance very gently bit and tugged. “Oh fuck, Lance,” Keith managed to groan through grit teeth.

Lance smiled and placed a kiss in the center of his chest as he shifted his attention to the other nipple. One hand cradled Keith’s head and the other played with the nipple he wasn’t mouthing at. Keith bit his lip harshly as he bucked his hips up against Lance.

“You’re so responsive,” Lance murmured. Keith glanced down at his chest and found his blue eyes peeking up at him mischievously like some kind of male siren, enticing and heated and sensual.

Using his elbow, Lance perched himself up and with his free hand, he grabbed Keith’s. He placed it against his own face, nuzzling into Keith’s palm. “Could you… please?”

“What?” Keith asked.

Lance shut his eyes and furrowed his eyebrows, rocking his hips down. “Touch me. Just… like this, nothing… too much.”

“Oh. Yeah, yeah, I can… yeah.” Keith placed his hands against Lance’s cheeks hesitantly.

“You can touch me anywhere,” Lance assured softly, dipping his head to kiss the inside of Keith’s wrist. Keith gasped and bit his lip, making Lance arch an eyebrow. “Hm,” he mused.

He grabbed Keith’s hand and placed his lips near the pulse, sucking gently. Keith shut his eyes and let his mouth fall open as he clenched and unclenched his fist. Lance’s teeth skimmed the skin and Keith groaned.

Lance smirked and placed Keith’s hand back on his own cheek. “I think you have a vampire kink, baby.”

“Works out well with you then,” Keith bit back. “Since you seem to be one.” Lance laughed and bit Keith’s thumb playfully before licking it apologetically.

He leaned down and skimmed his nose along Keith’s jaw. “You wish,” he said, the hot breath from his words brushing against the side of his throat, making Keith tilt his head and offer himself up silently. Lance kissed him softly there, one hand returning to stroke his chest.

As Lance began to suck and graze his teeth against the skin that had become more sensitive than usual under the work of his tongue, his hands slid toward Keith’s back. His hands were gentle as they slid lower, until he was slipping under Keith’s briefs.

When Lance bit down on Keith’s neck, Keith let out a startled, aroused cry and dug his nails into the skin of Lance’s back. Lance began to palm at his ass again, and Keith simply wrapped his legs around him, rocking against him, overwhelmed.

He could hear Lance’s low, heavy breaths in his ear. He could hear how they stuttered when Keith rocked against him particularly hard. His own moans and panting breaths were slipping through a mouth he couldn’t keep closed with the way Lance was mouthing at his neck and grinding into him and palming at him and tangling his fingers in Keith’s hair.

It was so much, and still not enough. Not enough like it had been with Lance’ s mouth or hand around him, that instant gratification at the pleasure that coursed through him. This was subtler. Tantalizing. So close to what it would be like to have sex with Lance, and yet it wasn’t, and they weren’t touching their dicks, and they wanted to, but that meant stopping what they were doing now, and even though it wasn’t enough, it was close, and…. Keith didn’t want to stop.

He was squirming under Lance, jutting his hips up without any particular rhythm and feeling lightheaded by the sound of Lance’s grunts and whines as well as the heat and weight of Lance on top of him.

Keith pulled at Lance’s face until he was able to find his lips and kissed him harshly, breathing heavily through his nose. “Lance,” he moaned against his lips. “A-Almost… fuck.”

Lance tugged on his lip and rolled his hips in a way that made Keith’s eyes roll back. “Come on, baby,” Lance encouraged. “Let go for me.” His hand slid from his rear to his front, not quite stroking his cock, but teasing him along the base, still grinding against him. Keith let out a pitiful whine he would later deny, and Lance bit his lip like he was in agony. “Fuck, come on, Keith. Let me see you finish.”

He rocked faster, it was almost painful, but the release was so close, Keith didn’t care.

Then suddenly every nerve ending Keith had was on fire then doused with ice and it left him shivering and weak and muddled. He couldn’t hear anything, and his eyes were screwed shut so tightly he saw spots when he opened them. The pounding in his ears faded and he was aware of Lance placing soft kisses on his cheek and stroking his hair back as he murmured compliments about how good he looked when he finished.

When Keith caught his breath, Lance pulled himself up and looked at him nervously. “Was that okay?”

“Uh-huh,” Keith said, nodding. He groaned and swallowed, looking up at the ceiling. “Fuck. Yeah. That was… wow.”

Lance laughed, and Keith was pretty sure it was nervous laughter. “I’ll… help you clean up and get dressed. Where do you put your boxers?”

Keith forced the fuzziness out of his mind and gestured as he sat up, wincing at the stickiness in his briefs that made it uncomfortable to move.

Lance came back with different briefs and the clothes he’d discarded on the floor. Keith pulled on his shirt before Lance helped him take off his underwear and did his best to clean up before handing over the rest of his clothes.

“Do friends with benefits usually help the other get dressed after the benefits?” Keith asked, pulling his sweats all the way up.

Lance snorted and shook his head. “Uh… probably not, but…. I don’t know I came to help you feel better, and I’m scared I made you worse.”

Keith hummed and shook his head. “I just had a bad headache.”

“You had a concussion,” Lance said blatantly. Keith rolled his eyes. “You feel okay?”

“I’m fine. I’m… a lot better now.” Lance smiled and blushed, looking away. “Hey, what about…. You?” Lance raised an eyebrow. Keith gestured to his pants. “You didn’t finish.”

Lance looked down and laughed. “Ah, that’s cool. I’d have to change if I had, so… I can take care of that myself later.”

Keith bit his lip and nodded. He stared at the covers then cleared his throat. “So… you’re calling me baby now?”

Lance laughed and covered his face. Keith leaned forward and raised an eyebrow. “Ah. Um. Well,” Lance chuckled nervously. “I…. I don’t really like dirty talk. I didn’t want to be calling you a slut or a whore, and just calling you Keith every time felt a little… weird. Baby was the most harmless name I could think of, so…. But I can, you know, not do that if you want.”

Keith shrugged and shut his eyes tiredly. “I don’t mind it,” he mumbled.

Lance pressed a kiss against his forehead and ran his hand through his sweaty hair. “I should go take that bowl back to the kitchen.”

Keith’s eyes flew open and he stared at Lance. “Oh my God, do you think anyone heard?” he whispered. “I forgot everyone else was here.”

“That’s… a very good question. I don’t think so. Everyone’s busy. We’re fine. But I should go.” He bumped their noses together. “Get some rest. I’ll see you later.”

Keith nodded and pulled his covers over himself, biting back a smirk as Lance left with one last bashful smile.

Chapter Text

A few days had passed since the system override. The lions were in better condition, and the crew was lucky enough to go without an attack for the time they were in repair.

Most of the nights- practically every night- called for Keith and Lance to be in one or the other’s rooms, experimenting more.

One night, with Lance’s guidance, Keith had decided it was his turn to find the hotspots. He was a little hesitant with the free reign over Lance’s body, but then Lance clued him in to certain places of his body, encouraged him when it felt nice. Keith kind of loved how he felt when he made Lance fall apart. It was so satisfying to know he could do that. That Lance was giving Keith that power.

Another night, after they’d both come down from the highs of blowjobs, Keith was experimenting with letting his hands roam over Lance’s body because that was something Lance really liked while Lance peppered his neck with kisses and small nibbles. Until suddenly, Lance pulled away and stared at Keith curiously.

“W-what?” Keith snapped, feeling uncomfortable under that gaze if they weren’t in the middle of getting each other off.

Lance shrugged and sat back, fiddling with Keith’s hand. “I was thinking, we don’t really talk about the stuff we would wanna experiment with.” Keith raised an eyebrow. “Well, like… okay, you’ve watched porn right?”

“I’m not letting you film us,” he said flatly.

Lance groaned and threw his hands up in exasperation. “No! That’s not what I meant! I just mean, you know, there’s a bunch of categories for different kinks. And I mean, I think my kink is biting-”

“You think?”

“But we might have more, and you must have your own that we can sort of bring in, you know. Or just stuff you’d wanna try.”

“Like what?” he asked.

Lance thought for a moment and shrugged. “Like… being tied up or tying someone up. Gagging is a thing. Asphyxiation, I think.” Keith’s eyes widened. “It’s not like, violent!” he assured. “Look, there’s always boundaries, you know. A signal, or a word to stop if it’s too much. It’s more of like a rush, I think? I’ve never tried it, but it sounded cool.”

Keith narrowed his eyes. “You’re not choking me, you psycho.”

Lance huffed and narrowed his eyes. “Okay, first of all who said I would be doing the choking? And second, I thought this whole friends with benefits deal was to experiment. To figure out stuff we like and don’t like. You keep shutting down ideas because you won’t even try them, but you might like them.” Keith rolled his eyes. “There’s… a knife kink.” Keith furrowed his eyebrows. “You know, if you’re into it. Using a knife to make someone submit. Running it over their skin.” Lance leaned in closer. “Having all control over the situation, making them tremble under you. Marking their skin with the smallest nick, watching them squirm for more, for you.” Keith let out a soft breath, his cheeks heated, and a rush of blood going to his groin as Lance bit his lip.

Then suddenly Lance leaned away and laughed. “But no way in hell am I letting you press a blade to my skin.”

Keith scoffed. “Wha- Lance! Then why did you even bring it up, you asshole?”

Lance snorted and looked down at Keith’s groin where a slight bulge rose in the fabric of his sleepwear. “I knew you had a thing for control. You like being in charge.” Keith shrugged and shifted to hide the obvious excitement Lance had elicited. “Come on. That’s what this deal is for. We’ll try things I want to try to see if we like them, and we’ll try things you want to try.”

“For someone who had no sexual experience before this, you know a lot,” Keith noted.

Lance sighed and blushed. “I… I watched a fair share of porn. I thought it could teach me or something, just in case. So I wouldn’t be a total loser my first time having sex. But, porn doesn’t really serve as an educational thing.”

Keith laughed a bit at that and shook his head. Then he huffed. “Fine. We’ll experiment with some of that stuff. But… nothing too weird okay? I heard some guy at the Garrison liked peeing on girls and that’s just-”

“Ew, no. Urine is off the table.” Keith nodded in agreement. Lance smiled and leaned back into Keith’s neck, kissing him and biting gently on his earlobe. “So… anything you want to try tonight?”

Keith shrugged. “You choose.”

Lance bit his lip. “I don’t think you’ll like it…. But… I kind of want to try something with like…. Uh… well, sort of like-”

“Jesus, Lance spit it out,” Keith said impatiently.

“Face-fucking,” Lance blurted.

Keith stared at him. “Face… fucking…?”

Lance turned red and started using his hands to talk. “It’s not like our faces smothering each other or anything, it’s just like when you give a blow job and you just let the person go as fast as they want, you know? Like, you make me stay still when you give me a blowjob, but I kind of want to try it with you staying still, but I know you might not want to because it means you have to be submissive, which you don’t like doing, so-”

“Alright, alright!” Keith said, covering Lance’s mouth with his hand. His mouth was still a little sore from the blowjob he’d given Lance when he first came into his room. “Are you… sure you wanna do that?”

Lance nodded. “I really wanna see what it’d be like.”

Keith hesitated, every instinct telling him to say no because he didn’t want to give Lance any control over him. But he had also been intrigued by the concept of the knife thing, and… they were supposed to experiment anyway. Lance had said if it was too much, they could have a sign or a word to stop.

“Okay…. And if I really don’t like it…?” he asked.

Lance thought for a moment. “Um, then you can grab my wrists. Since you can’t talk.” Keith nodded. “So… yeah?”

“Yeah. Yeah, sure, let’s try that. And if I don’t like it, I’ll grab your wrists so you can stop.” Keith bit his lip and took a deep breath. “So… here on the bed, or…?”

“Oh!” Lance got up and grabbed a pillow putting it near the wall. He went over and pulled Keith up from the bed. “You’re sure this is okay?” Keith nodded. “Okay. Okay.”

“You’re not turned on,” Keith noted as he started to get on his knees.

“I- Shit.” Lance pulled Keith back up. “Well, it’s just. I’m nervous. I don’t want you to hate it, and I don’t know you’re so fucking stoic about all of this, so I can’t really-”

Keith cut him off with a kiss, pulling him in closer and pulling at the hair at the nape of Lance’s neck. Lance hissed and kissed Keith back harshly, cradling his head with his hands. Keith pulled away and leaned down to kiss his neck, then lower to the hollow of his throat where he knew Lance loved to be touched. Surely enough as Keith swirled his tongue there, Lance let out a breathy moan. Keith slid his hands under Lance’s shirt, and traced up his torso with light fingers.

Lance looked at Keith and bit his lip, breathing heavily as Keith continued to make goosebumps rise on his skin while teasing Lance with a near-kiss.

“Keith,” Lance whispered.

“Yes?”

There was no verbal response. Just Lance leaning forward to kiss him. Keith was always a little thrown when Lance kissed him. Because his kisses varied. Keith could handle the heated ones with Lance’s tongue demanding to taste every inch of his mouth, with his teeth biting down to practically claim his lips. Keith could handle the playful ones Lance gave him to help him ease up when they did things. And he could handle the softer ones meant to turn him on slowly.

But he never really knew what to do with these. These unexpected kisses that were too soft to be meant for much more than just physical contact. That slowly built up to be a little more intense, but never enough to unleash anything animalistic.

They always confused him a bit, but he was starting to figure out that Lance was a very touchy, affectionate person. Even in a friends-with-benefits deal, he liked the subtler touches, the softer kisses. Lance seemed to thrive off those, whereas Keith enjoyed the touches and kisses that held no reserves. It was like Lance was living out a fantasy of maybes through this deal, and Keith couldn’t bring himself to reject it because… well, it was nice. The soft touches, the playful fingers, the gentle kisses, they were things Keith might not manage to experience with someone in a real relationship, so he didn’t want them to stop. Even if they meant nothing. Even if they were only meant to satiate a want without ever being fully satisfying.

“I don’t want you to be uncomfortable,” Lance said, pulling back, bumping their noses together.

“I can handle it,” Keith insisted. “Come on, before you lose your chance.” He knelt down, pressing a kiss to Lance navel, unbuttoning his jeans. While not fully hard, Lance was definitely getting turned on now. Keith rubbed him through his boxers, pressing kisses to his thighs.

He glanced up and saw Lance looking down at him with his lip between his teeth, his eyes focused on Keith completely.

His hand grabbed Keith’s chin and tilted his face up, and Keith resisted the urge to yank away by habit. He reminded himself that this was for Lance. An experiment. And besides, his fellow paladin still seemed nervous and worried he’d upset Keith, which was actually really nice. It was… kind of Lance to worry about Keith.

“It’s okay,” Keith said, forcing himself to relax in Lance’s hands.

Lance nodded and let his thumb run across Keith’s bottom lip, moaning softly as Keith rubbed him a little more. With his free hand, he pulled his boxers down. He grabbed Keith’s hand and had him wrap around his cock, stroking him to a full erection, while keeping his face tilted up. He shoved his thumb into Keith’s mouth and rocked his hips slowly into his hand.

Lance pushed his head beck to the wall. “Stay there so you don’t hit your head,” he said. Keith bit down slightly on Lance’s thumb and nodded. “Don’t move.” Keith’s eyes fluttered shut and open. “Hands behind your back.”

“What, why-”

Lance pulled his thumb out and gripped Keith’s jaw to keep him from talking. “I said, don’t move.” Keith stared at him, surprised by the control he saw in his eyes. He slowly relaxed and blinked up at Lance lazily. “Hands behind your back. Unless you need to grab my wrists so I can stop, keep them there.”

Keith put his hands behind his back and maintained eye contact with Lance, a slight smile on his lips. He had to admit, it was pretty… arousing to see Lance giving orders. Keith wasn’t sure how he felt about receiving them, but… it was an experiment still in progress.

“Open.” Lance tugged at Keith’s jaw until his mouth fell open. “Stay against the wall.” Keith took a deep breath.

Then Lance pushed forward, slipping into Keith’s mouth and moaning. He was heavy, hot, and familiar. Keith wrapped his lips around him and grunted softly at the intrusion as Lance pushed in further without giving Keith a few strokes to get used to it.

Lance’s speed built up quickly, until he was forcing himself into Keith’s mouth, triggering his gag reflex, and using one hand to force his mouth to fall open a little wider. It was a strain for Keith, and he was struggling to catch his breath with how quickly Lance was literally fucking his mouth. He was embarrassed by the sound that came from his throat, from his need to breathe, from the ridiculous amount of saliva dribbling from his lips.

He was two seconds away from pulling his hands from his back and grabbing Lance’s wrists. He’d actually moved them and started to reach when one of Lance’s hands grabbed a fistful of his hair to tilt his head back, making Keith moan as his eyes rolled back. He looked at Lance’s face, the bliss on it, the admiration, and he put his hands behind his back again.

He understood now why Lance had him keep his head against the wall. Keith could feel the tears prickling at his eyes. The image of Lance above him became fuzzy, and Keith fell slack, realizing he was meant to just take what Lance gave him and prove he could handle it.

The hand that had been pulling at his jaw went to his cheek, and a thumb brushed away the stray tears that managed to fall down his face. “Fuck, baby, you’re doing so good. So good,” Lance grunted, pulling tighter on the roots of Keith’s hair. “You’re okay, right?”

Keith blinked and sucked his cheeks in, making Lance’s thrusts stutter.

“Can I go faster?” Keith pulled forward, taking Lance into his mouth as much as he could, but Lance shoved him back against the wall. Keith winced at the thump, but it hadn’t hurt. “Don’t pull forward, I don’t want to hurt you.”

Lance pulled back, falling from Keith’s mouth slickly. Keith breathed heavily, his mouth sore and empty. “I can take it. You can go faster. I won’t move.” He looked up at Lance and opened his mouth, going against every instinct and becoming completely compliant. He could fucking handle it.

After a second of staring down at Keith, Lance guided his cock back into Keith’s mouth and Keith’s eyes closed as he resumed the quick pace he had earlier. He could feel Lance hitting the back of his throat harshly, and he tried to loosen his throat to bring him in deeper.

Suddenly Lance was slamming into him at a brutal pace, and Keith could only let his body become loose. Every other thrust Keith’s nose was being shoved into a pubic bone and the scent of musk made him dizzy and… oddly turned on.

“Fuck, Keith. Fuck, fuck,” Lance panted above him. “Open your eyes, baby. Let me see those eyes.” Keith opened his eyes and looked up at Lance, blinking slowly. Lance planted his feet on either side of Keith and braced himself against the wall with one hand. The other remained in his hair, pushing his head back, keeping it against the wall. “O-oh, ah, fuck,” Lance breathed. “You’re doing so fucking well, Keith, so loose for me. Your mouth is so warm, so- oh fu-uck!” Keith could barely hear the praise. He was dizzy and all he could really process was the hot, heavy weight in his mouth, the contradicting texture of soft and hard, the taste of salty precome and sweat.

Lance thrust harder, faster and Keith choked, but he didn’t move. Then all of a sudden, there was a warmth shooting into his mouth, and Lance was pulling away, making Keith shut his eyes as the rest of Lance’s orgasm coursed through him. Come splattered on his face, but he was able to breathe now.

He collapsed against the wall, loosening the muscles of his arms and gasping.

“Fuck, shit, Keith? Keith!” Lance knelt down and put his hands on either side of his face. “Keith, baby, you okay?”

Keith smiled and nodded. “I’m okay,” he croaked with a raspy voice. His mouth hurt, and his throat felt funny, but he was okay. He wasn’t hurting. “Tired.”

Lance pulled his boxers and sweats up, then he knelt back down and pulled Keith up. “Come on. Let’s get you on the bed.” Keith sat down and Lance sat beside him, running his hands through Keith’s hair as he wiped his face with a shirt. “Uh, here. I had some water from training earlier.” He handed Keith a bottle, and when Keith just grabbed it, Lance opened it and put it to his lips. “Shit, I’m so sorry, Keith.”

“Why?”

“I…. I think I pushed you too hard, I-”

Keith shook his head. “Uh-uh. Just tired. Just my jaw hurts.”

“I’m sorry.” Lance leaned in and pressed several kisses to his jawline. “I’m sorry, Keith.”

“D’you like it? Being in charge?”

Lance snorted and looked at Keith. “Y-yeah. You did a good job at that. Thank you for trying it out with me.”

Keith nodded. “Mhm. Told you I could do it.” Lance laughed and shuffled over to sit beside Keith, pulling him into an awkward half embrace.

“Want me to take you to your room?” Keith nodded.

It was weird. He didn’t feel dizzy anymore. But he felt small. He felt tired and… feeble. Part of him was still expecting a command. He felt fuzzy and out of place. Lance led him to his room and Keith bit his lip as Lance stood at the door.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Lance asked, with worry in every word as his eyes looked Keith over.

“Yeah. Just… I feel a little off, I think. But I’ll be okay.” Lance frowned. “Really, I’m okay. And it’s not your fault.”

“Can I at least help you fall asleep? I’ll feel better knowing you were able to sleep.” Keith rolled his eyes, but part of him was kind of grateful. He needed to feel a little more human. And maybe Lance’s little thing with touches would help.

Sure enough, Keith fell asleep with the feeling of Lance’s hands gently sliding through his hair and soft murmurs of a lullaby in Spanish. The fuzzy feeling went away. He felt a little more like himself. And when he woke up alone, he felt normal.

Over the next few nights, Keith discovered that praising Lance actually made Lance more eager, made him a little easier to turn on. He liked being told when he was doing a good job, and he particularly loved making Keith moan his name. They also discovered that Keith liked having his hair pulled, because he knew it meant he was doing something good and it made all of his body’s nerves go on high alert. And while Lance obviously loved biting Keith anywhere he could, Keith discovered that he liked being bitten. Though they tried their best not to have any evidence of their nightly endeavors on any place of their body that the others could see.

As for kinks, Lance brought in a pair of Altean prisoner cuffs and asked Keith to tie him to the posts of the bed. That night, Keith discovered how much he liked bondage, which… he hadn’t really expected to like. He was still hesitant to let Lance try it on him ever since that weird feeling that came from the face-fucking.

Outside of their rooms, it was almost comical how it seemed nothing had changed. They argued, they snapped at each other, Lance’s sarcastic comments and Keith’s condescending remarks continued. Never enough to truly upset the other, but enough to where it seemed like nothing had changed.

It wasn’t hard to keep it up. Lance was still childish and annoying and frustrating. And Keith was still aggressive and impulsive and short-tempered. They were still completely incompatible as people.

During another grueling team building exercise, it didn’t take long for Keith and Lance to start bickering again.

“Can’t you stop being an idiot for two seconds?” Keith snapped after their focus had been disrupted by one of Lance’s signature mega-burps. “Don’t you take anything seriously? We could die out here, you know?”

“Jeez, relax,” he muttered. “You know, maybe you’d stop being so uptight if you just stopped being such a freaking workaholic all the time!”

“This is not a time to be goofing off!” he shouted back.

“Alright that’s enough, you two,” Shiro said tiredly. “I thought you were past this.”

“We would be, if he stopped being so immature,” Keith spat, glaring at Lance. It still astonished him that he could fall apart at his hands in the late hours of the night but feel such burning frustration with him in daylight.

“Yeah, we’re only friends in battle,” Lance added, crossing his arms.

“This isn’t getting us anywhere,” Hunk said. “We’ve been at this for hours. I’m starving, and now I can’t concentrate. Can we just take a break?” Shiro sighed and nodded, waving a tired hand in defeat. Hunk and Shiro walked away, but Pidge kept staring at Lance and Keith.

They hadn’t noticed, Keith busy checking his dagger and Lance checking the beds of his nails. Until she said, “If only you two could agree with each other during training as much as you do at night.”

Keith and Lance’s heads snapped up, but Pidge was already walking away, shoulders shaking as she laughed. “Whoa, hey!” Keith called, both of them racing towards her. Lance reached out, blocking her exit, and Keith turned her around. “What’d you say?” he asked, his cheeks red.

“What do you know?” Lance asked, his voice much more serious than he had been a few moments ago.

“More than I’d like,” she admitted, looking up at them over the rim of her glasses. She crossed her arms and smirked. “What, you think this place has sound proof walls? Come on. You’re just lucky Hunk’s a heavy sleeper and everyone else’s rooms are farther away. Meanwhile, I’m trapped between both of you.” She fixed her glasses to set further up her nose and shrugged. “So what? You two secretly dating?”

“Ugh, God no,” Keith muttered.

“As if,” Lance said at the same time, both of them glaring at the other. “Space is lonely, that’s all.” He frowned and shoved his hands in his jacket pockets. “Sorry if we kept you up.”

“I started sleeping in my lion three nights ago,” she said flatly. “Don’t worry I’ll be looking into soundproof technology, especially knowing you two plan on keeping this up.” She shuddered and shook her head. “Do you guys even have stuff to safely- oh, God, I don’t even wanna ask. But seriously. If you can mess around at night, you should at least be able to stop arguing when we train.” She turned away with both of them looking after her.

“I guess she’s right about that,” Keith mumbled, gritting his teeth.

“Yeah, but you’re still too obnoxiously uptight for it to go that way,” Lance said as he walked away. Keith resisted the urge to knock him to the ground, and settled for shoving him as they left the training room.

Later that day, Allura had them go out to explore the planet they were currently seeking refuge in. After the lions had gone down and the system had to get re-hacked by Pidge, Allura had settled them on a different planet each day in hopes that they wouldn’t get tracked.

And each time, they were sent to explore, in case they found anything valuable or useful, or even edible. The five of them walked along the gel-like terrain, translucent and transparent with each step they took.

“Trippy,” Hunk muttered, lifting his foot and setting it down several times on the same spot as he watched the glow of the color-changing ground.

The inhabitants of the planet were large, more similar to the humans than most races. They were twice their size, their skin rubbery and aqua-green with swirls of glowing purple and pink. They had wings like dragonflies and webbing between their toes and long fingers. Aside from that, their features were mostly human-like. Eyes varied in color, full lips, normal teeth with slightly longer canines, ears at the sides of their head. The males had a set of disturbing bony spikes along their shoulders, the females had long, thin tails, and those which weren’t necessarily either or had vertical stripe of gold up their torsos and neither spikes nor tails.

They were a magnificent, gentle species. They’d welcomed the Paladins and Alteans without hesitation. The empress’ daughter had volunteered to help guide them through the land, and she took them through the brush and vines of the terrain with ease. Everything was so large, the Paladins felt like ants in comparison. The empress’ daughter, who went by the name Zirai’ia was shorter than most due to not only her age but her genetics. She was only about a foot taller than the tallest paladin, and it was a little more comforting to be with her as they sought out the grounds.

“So, how old are you?” Lance asked. Keith nearly hit him upside the head. You never ask a girl that, even Keith knew it.

“Only a hundred and eighty-three flaxins,” she answered. The paladins looked at each other uncertainly. “I’ve almost reached the age of full maturity. On my two-hundredth flaxin, my mother will have a ceremony where I will finally receive my marks.”

“So like a sweet-sixteen,” Keith reasoned. “Age of womanhood, whatnot.”

“Or a quinceanera,” Lance added.

“Or a bat mitzvah,” Pidge included.

“What happens after the marks?” Hunk asked.

“A mating ceremony,” she answered easily. “So I can marry. It’s three days long.”

“A three day mating ceremony?” Lance asked, his voice hitching. “Sounds… tiring.”

“What’s the average age your people reach here?” Shiro asked, avoiding the mating ritual topic.

“Physical forms last up to nine hundred flaxins. In some cases up to a thousand. But the spirit lasts forever. We go on to form different aspects of our planet. That’s why everything glows. It’s alight with the life of all our ancestors.”

Hunk gulped and felt his stomach churn as he stepped forward and another translucent haze of orange beamed up. “That’s… disturbing,” he mumbled. Lance elbowed him.

“Don’t insult the lady,” he hissed. “So, are your people allowed to mate outside of your species?” He flashed a toothy smile and Keith nearly gagged. He really wasn’t sure how he’d never suspected him of being interested in all genders if he could hit on someone with webbed fingers and rubbery green skin. Still it was kind of strange that Keith had never seen him hit on a male alien.

“We’ve never had the need to,” she answered. “Our pure lineage is very important for our survival. For instance, if our people mated with yours, imagine how small and deformed the children would be. No webbing, no color, no attractiveness for future mating.” She continued to walk and Keith snorted as he walked past a dumbstruck Lance.

“Should I write down your time of death?” he joked.

Lance shoved him back, causing Keith to lose his balance and he reached out to take hold of Lance’s jacket- only he had no jacket, he had his suit. His fingers hooked around his wrist as he fell back and the momentum had him rolling down a hill, thick overgrowth and large rocks jamming into him with each tumble.

When he finally stopped rolling, he tried to take a breath, only to get it knocked out of him when Lance crashed on top of him.

“You idiot!” he snarled.

“Aw, baby don’t be like that,” Lance groaned as he pulled himself up.

Keith shoved him back and scowled. “Not the time.”

“I wasn’t trying to push you down a hill!” Lance stood, and Keith pulled himself up, holding onto his arm.

“You two okay?” they heard Shiro call down.

“We’re good!” Lance called back. “Come on, if we grip the vines, we can haul ourselves back up to them.” It wasn’t that they’d fallen far. It was a steep slope, but short. The plants that grew there were slick and glossy, which made it hard to climb back without support. Lance gripped a vine and tugged, happy to find that it was sturdy. “Mullet, this is one of those times where we have to be friends.” He held out his hand and Keith took it grudgingly. “Okay I’ll help you get to the next vine, then you grab it and help me get to the one after. Yeah?”

“Let’s do it,” he sighed. Lance kept a firm grip on him, pulling him up then holding his weight as he moved up to get the next vine. Then it was Keith’s turn to hold on to Lance until he managed to climb high enough to reach the next.

Finally, they made it to their friends. Shiro helped Keith up while Hunk helped Lance. “So you have to be in trouble to work together?” Shiro questioned. “Are either of you hurt?”

They shook their heads and Lance blurted, “Yo, Princess, why didn’t you help us?”

“I would’ve but that one told me not to,” she said, gesturing at Shiro. Keith and Lance glared at him, but he didn’t even bother to pretend to be ashamed. “Come on,” she urged, continuing to walk and show them the world she was from.

Once the tour was over, having found nothing that would help in an attack against Galra, Keith was tired and sweaty after walking around with his suit the whole time, so when he got back, he went to take a long, hot shower.

He sat in the stall, letting the water relax his muscles, vaguely wondering if this would be what the rest of his life consisted of.

Would he never get to see the colors of the carnivals back on Earth? He’d never go to Moscow. Or Florence, Italy. He’d never seen the blue seas of Greece or the grandeur of the Great Wall of China. Granted, he had never really wanted to much before. But the option was there. And there was no one else like him in the rest of the universe. No one human. Everything was foreign and new, and Keith missed the comfort of familiarity. He missed the comfort of things he knew.

The warmth of the sun, the cold touch of rain, the smells of barbecue or popcorn, movies, stupid tabloid media about what chaos the Kardashians or Brangelina were causing this time. Out here, he knew nothing. He was out of the loop. He missed music. What new music was out now? What new singers? What concerts had been touring?

The water had run cold, and Keith hadn’t noticed until he heard the swish of the door to the communal showers opened. For a second, he thought it might be Lance, and that he’d try to convince Keith to allow a frisk in the showers for the rush of possibly getting caught.

Instead, he heard Shiro call his name. “You in here, Keith? No one’s seen you for a while.”

“Yeah. Yeah, I’m in here. Sorry, I…. I was falling asleep,” he lied. He nearly facepalmed. Who the heck falls asleep standing in a shower?

“Right,” Shiro said. Keith shut off the water, his body’s tension returning once the cold had tightened his muscles. He wrapped a towel around himself and walked out, shaking his hair like a dog. “You okay?”

“Yeah. Fine.”

“You don’t look fine. You look… tired. Sad.”

“Shiro, I’m fine. I’m naked here, so can you stop interrogating me and let me go to my room and sleep?” Shiro sighed and tired lines seemed to tighten his face.

“Yeah. Sorry.” Keith started walking away, and Shiro called after him, “You know you can talk to me, Keith. Right?”

Keith stopped for a second and sighed. “Yeah. Thanks.” Talking isn’t enough though, he thought. He continued to his room and leaned against the door as he sighed again. He had a hand over his eyes, trying to shake the homesick feeling that had overwhelmed and depressed him.

“Rough day?”

His eyes flew open and he staggered back against the door. “Jesus, Lance, what the heck are you doing? Trying to give me a heart attack?” he hissed. “What are you doing in my room?”

“That’s a stupid question,” Lance answered, lounging comfortably on the bed. “Seriously though, what’s with the face?”

“Nothing,” he sighed. He walked over to his small closet to get clothes, but he felt Lance’s hand wrap around his wrist and pull him back.

“Hey man. You know, I know we’re messing around and we don’t get along much outside of battle, but… there’s times that call for friendship too. Like this. Like you looking upset and….” He glanced at his wrist and spread his fingers out more. “Being so cold, I’m actually a little worried. What is it?”

“Nothing that talking can fix, Lance.” Lance kept staring at him, waiting, unfazed by Keith’s angry glare. Finally he looked away and shrugged. “I’m just homesick. Being out in space… it’s great, and I know that’s what I went to the Garrison for in the first place, but….”

“In the Garrison there was a chance to go back,” Lance finished.

Keith looked up at him and gulped. “Yeah,” he breathed. “We’re so far from Earth, not even the ships at the Garrison could have made it out here. What if we never go back? What if we die out here, in battle or by old age or asphyxiation if you hit the wrong button or venture out too far?” The memory of being sucked into space before Red deemed him worthy of being her pilot resurfaced. The gut pulling feeling of defeat, fear and acceptance of death, of endless floating until everything would go black with no one to even know where to find him.

Instead of answering, or reassuring him, Lance cocked his head and asked, “What do you miss?”

Keith bit his lip and thought for a moment. “I miss thunderstorms. I miss sunny days when I’d go running until I was drenched in sweat.”

“I miss decent food. Pizza and wings and soda,” Lance added.

“Or going to the movies or the carnival,” Keith mused.

“How about pets? I had a dog back home… with my family.” Lance smiled sadly.

“I miss music,” Keith said weakly, knowing that Lance had a bigger right to be homesick. He had no family. But Lance did. A large family that had been waiting for him. Keith wondered what they told them when he went missing.

“Music?” Lance repeated. “Well, you can make that anywhere,” he said. He took his hands and moved them back and forth in a sort of middle-school dance move. “You're just too good to be true. I can't take my eyes off you. You'd be like heaven to touch. I wanna hold you so much.” Keith looked away, rolling his eyes as Lance sang. Lance pulled Keith with him, swaying side to side as he provided his own instrumental in an off pitch, raspy voice. “Ta-na, ta-na, nan a-na-na ta-na-na ta-na, na-ah!”

“Lance, stop,” Keith laughed, feeling his cheeks heat up as Lance pulled him closer.

I love you baby! And if it's quite all right, I need you baby to warm the lonely nights. I love you baby, trust in me when I say-” Lance sang happily. “Oh, pretty baby!”

“Lance!” Keith stumbled after him, laughing as Lance continued to pull him and sing playfully. He was aware that he was still in just a towel, but Lance seemed unfazed. Then he switched to another song, this one in Spanish, the crisp, fast words falling from his lips naturally in his enticing native tongue.

“Come on, you have to move your feet!” he chided playfully.

“I said I missed music, not dancing,” Keith answered, smiling at him.

He rolled his eyes then started singing, of all things, that cheesy British boyband song. “Baby you light up my world like nobody else!” Keith burst into laughter as Lance continued to provide music against his will. “The way that you flip that mullet gets me overwhelmed!” Keith couldn’t handle the pain in his stomach at the cheesiness of it all, and he threw his pillow at Lance.

Lance reached out and grabbed his arm, pulling him in. “You’re an idiot,” Keith said good-naturedly.

“Well, it made you smile.” His own smile faltered, and he ran his hand up Keith’s arm. “You’re cold.”

“You’re warm,” he answered softly.

Lance placed his other hand on his chin, tilting Keith’s face up to him. He leaned down, and stopped as their noses brushed. “You mind?” Keith shook his head almost imperceptibly, and Lance leaned down, pressing his warm, almost hot, lips against Keith’s cold ones.

His hands snaked around Keith’s bare torso, leaving goosebumps in their wake, trails of warmth that spread through him. Keith gasped against his lips as his fingers dug into the small of his back, pulling him closer.

“Guess what?” he murmured. Keith hummed. “Pidge said she managed to set up the soundproof walls through the castle.”

“Oh,” he said weakly. Lance smiled against him and bit his lip. He was aware of the bulge rising under his towel. He was not okay with being the only one this vulnerable at the moment, so he pulled away and raised an eyebrow. Lance’s cocky smirk never faltered and Keith tugged his shirt up, disregarding it haphazardly on the floor. He unbuttoned his jeans, not bothering to be slow.

He wanted Lance as exposed as he was.

Lance kicked off his jeans, pressing kisses to Keith’s jawline. Once his jeans were discarded, he slipped his warm, long fingers under the towel where Keith had tucked it into place. “Can I?”

“You gonna ask before everything we do?”

“Hey, consent is important,” he said. Keith rolled his eyes and dropped his towel. It fell to their feet and Lance gulped. “Oh man,” he groaned, his voice hungry, deep, low. His hands pawed at Keith, urging him closer, and the bare skin contact sent flares through Keith’s body.

They’d done a few things, but being actually completely naked wasn’t one of them. There had always been some piece of clothing on them still.

“Hey, um. Pidge also gave me this.” Lance dug in his pocket and pulled out a bottle of some kind of gel. “She said, and I quote, ‘please don’t hurt yourselves, you hormonal idiots.’” Keith would’ve laughed if he wasn’t so utterly embarrassed about getting supplies from a fucking fourteen year old.

“How did she even-? What the hell?”

Lance shrugged. “She just showed up with it when she told me about the soundproofing.” Keith grumbled and hid his face in his hands. Lance laughed and pulled his hands away. “She already knew what we’re doing,” he said.

Keith cleared his throat and bit his lip. “So… that’s… for sex, right? We’re… gonna do that? Tonight?” Large hands squeezed his bottom and Keith pinched Lance’s arm. “Lance!”

“Well, I mean… if you want to. If not, we can wait. But I mean, we have a way to do it now, without it hurting.”

Keith stared at the bottle and contemplated. Lance nuzzled his neck and kissed along his jawline. “Can I… top?” Keith asked. Lance pulled back and frowned.

“Aw, I called that.”

When did you call that?” Lance opened his mouth but didn’t say anything. “You can top the next time,” he said.

“Well, why can’t I top now, and you top next time?” Keith narrowed his eyes. “Alright, let’s rock-paper-scissor this.” Keith sighed and shook his head. “Hey, what is it?” Lance tilted Keith’s face up to him.

“I just… I don’t wanna feel weird again.” Lance furrowed his eyebrows. “If I bottom, I might feel like that again.”

“What are you talking about?”

Keith really wanted his towel back. Lance was close, focused on his face, his hands near Keith’s waist. But Keith still felt way too exposed. He scowled and crossed his arms. “Just… when we did that thing with face-fucking, I felt kind of off afterwards and it took a while to go away.”

“Off?” Lance questioned, looking worried.

Keith clenched his teeth, frustrated that he couldn’t explain it right, that he couldn’t put into words exactly what was wrong because he wasn’t hurt but he didn’t like the feeling either. “Just… weird. And I don’t want to feel like that the first time we do this.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

Keith hesitated and looked at Lance. “I don’t know. I was hurt. I just felt funny. Slow, and fuzzy.”

Lance hummed and bit his lip. “Was it kind of like… like you thought I’d still try telling you what to do?” Keith nodded. “Sort of weak? Like not tired weak, but… like not in charge. Submissive?” Keith shrugged. “Sometimes I feel like that too,” he said. “Whenever you tell me what to do and stuff. But then I just ask you to hold me or like when we tried the handcuff thing and you kept kissing my wrists. Did you feel better when I was helping you fall asleep?”

“Yeah,” he said, recalling the feeling of his fingers in his hair.

“I think you were still in a submissive mindset. And you don’t really like being submissive.” Lance ran his hands through Keith’s hair. “But being a bottom doesn’t mean you’re submissive. You could totally dominate. They’re called power-bottoms.”

Keith stared at Lance in silence for a moment, looking at him like he’d grown a second head. “How do you know this shit?” he exclaimed. Lance smirked. “Alright, fine. Let’s play for it.”

It took a few tries because Keith kept providing his choice of rock, paper, or scissors when Lance said “scissors,” but Lance always did it on the next beat. Finally when Lance explained that they’d choose on the beat he said, “go” for, they were able to get in synch.

Keith won, and Lance muttered something about cheating, but Keith shut him up with another kiss. He pushed him onto the bed and said, “Stop being a sore loser.”

Lance looked like he was going to challenge him so Keith covered his mouth and leaned down over him to pepper his chest with kisses, biting gently at each of Lance’s nipples. Lance’s hands settled on his thighs, caressing him slowly. He heard a whine that vibrated through his hand and smiled to himself, swirling his tongue as Lance squirmed and his grip tightened around Keith’s thighs.

He uncovered Lance’s mouth, sliding his hand down lightly, slowly, trailing every dip and curve of Lance’s warm body. Until he reached the familiar bulge begging to be freed from his briefs. He wrapped his hand around him, pumping his hand excruciatingly slow.

“You want me to stop?” he murmured against his throat.

Lance shook his head rapidly, moaning out, “No, no, don’t stop.” His hips bucked up into Keith’s hand, and although Keith usually refused him any self-indulgence, he figured he would let it slide this time. “We’re really doing this, huh?” Lance breathed shakily.

Keith ran his thumb over the head, making Lance bite his lip. “If you want to. It’s the next thing, and… our walls are soundproofed now.”

Lance took a deep breath, pressing further into the mattress. “I do, I want to, but….” Keith stopped, moving his hand away. And although Lance had been panting in approval, he seemed to relax more when Keith did. He wondered if not being able to top was really making Lance this uncomfortable and if they should just not do this after all.

“I… I kind of want to build up to it. It’s my first time, with a guy no less, and… I don’t want to just jump into fucking.”

“So… like going slow and being romantic,” Keith murmured, understanding the blush in his olive cheeks. He understood that in Lance. He was a guy run greatly by emotions, and there was value to things he did. Something this intimate… it deserved a little more care, even if the emotions weren’t exactly there. They could pretend. “Okay, yeah,” he said softly. “How then?”

Lance hesitated, linking his fingers behind his neck, pulling him down for a small kiss. Keith didn’t even have a chance to close his eyes before Lance had pulled away. “Come here,” he said, sitting up slightly. He pulled the covers out from under them, pulling it over Keith’s body as he held himself up. “Nice and toasty,” he whispered. He pulled Keith down into a kiss again, this time slower.

His lips pressed warmly against Keith’s, the pressure gentle as his lips encased Keith’s lower. It was a sweet kind of kiss. The kind that confused Keith even though the only thing currently separating them was Lance’s boxers.

Keith wanted to let Lance set his own pace, so he refrained from pushing his tongue to part his lips. His arms wrapped around him, his hands sliding into Keith’s hair in a sort of affectionate tousle.

It was a little strange. Keith didn’t really feel those type of affectionate, sweet things for Lance. So far, it had all been lust in the bedrooms. He didn’t know how to pretend it wasn’t. He still didn’t see Lance as more than a battle partner, a friend, a nuisance at times.

He wondered if Lance did see him as more. If maybe that was why he gave those confusing kisses and danced to make Keith smile and why he wanted this to be romantic. He wondered if this would all be a horrible idea, having sex with someone who liked you when you didn’t like them.

He pulled away and furrowed his eyebrows. He forced himself to open his eyes, to look at the expression on Lance’s face. At the moment it was inquisitive. His head tilted as he raised an eyebrow. Keith gulped, feeling his face go red. “I’m not trying to boost my ego or anything,” he breathed. “But… this… the whole being gentle and sweet and romantic… I mean….” He sighed and rolled over onto his side, facing Lance, painfully aware of how naked he was beneath the bedsheet. “Is this supposed to mean something?” he asked.

“Like what?” Lance asked, sincerely confused. “What do you mean?”

Keith bit his lip and shrugged. “You want it to be affectionate and… I don’t know I guess more intimate than just a hook up, you know? So…. I mean, is it supposed to mean something between… us? Do you want it to?”

“I still don’t understand what you’re asking. What do you want sex to mean?”

Keith wasn’t sure how to explain it, so he took a breath and tried to put it as blatantly as possible. “Look, you seem to be really good at this romance thing, and you want to be romantic with me even though it’s a friends-with-benefits thing, and you know, you mentioned that people usually start having… feelings so I just don’t want to do this if you have feelings and I don’t because that would be really… shitty for you….”

Lance stared at him for a moment before bursting out in laughter. “Oh! No, no, no. Keith, I…. No. It’s not that I want it to be special or significant between us specifically. I don’t like you in that way. I just….” He shrugged. “I’ve thought of my first time. Granted, I always thought I’d be with a girl, but… I never really imagined the roughness, the obscenity. It was always more of a gentle kind of thing. Something that told my girl she was special, not just a one night stand. It’s the first time I go this far, I don’t want it to be rough. It’s like… being able to play out a fantasy. I want to still be able to say my first time was… gentle and affectionate, even if there were no feelings. It’s like… the little cuddles after the stuff we usually do. They don’t mean anything, they just… make you feel… not so dirty, you know?”

Keith frowned and looked away. “Does this make you feel dirty?”

“No,” he answered immediately. “Because you’re not using me, and I’m not using you. Not really. We’re friends, outside of this. We’re not just each other’s sex dolls. That’s why I sort of want it to be like this.” Keith took a breath, suddenly feeling under pressure. “Hey, it’s okay. Just be… slow and gentle. I won’t take it the wrong way.” He smiled and placed a hand on his chin again, pulling Keith into a kiss.

Keith melted into him, the fear of giving Lance the wrong idea or hurting his feelings dissolving. Laying side by side felt a little better. It kept Keith from being focused on raising his body up over him. Lance’s fingers splayed along his jawbone and neck, his hips pushing closer to him. He made soft contented sighs that encouraged Keith to wrap his arms around his torso. Warm, long legs tangled with his own and pulled him nearer, the kiss soft, sweet, comforting even.

Finally, Lance parted his lips, his tongue running lightly against Keith’s lips. Keith immediately pushed forward, practically demanding access to Lance’s mouth. Lance chuckled against him, his hand stroking Keith’s face. “Easy, tiger,” he whispered. Keith held back and followed Lance as the kiss built. It was too slow for someone as impatient as Keith, but if he was being allowed to top, he knew accommodating to Lance would be necessary.

He bit down gently on Lance’s lip, grazing his teeth, and Lance pulled Keith over him. While their hard-ons had gone down in the time they talked and slowed down, Keith could feel the warmth rushing to his groin again as he rubbed against Lance. He groaned softly, lifting his head. Lance placed small open-mouthed kisses to his jaw, and Keith bit back moan. 

He dipped down to kiss Lance’s throat, placing sloppy kisses lower, and lower. He returned to the sensitive nubs and swirled his tongue, sucking, reminding himself to be gentle. Lance’s hands never left him. From his neck to his face to his hair as Keith shuffled lower and lower.

He placed his kisses along Lance’s warm, dark skin, following the subtle curves of what training was forming into a six-pack, slowly but surely. He allowed himself gentle bites that drew soft, husky moans from Lance. His chest was heaving as he tried to keep a grip on himself. Keith ran his tongue from Lance’s bellybutton to the place right where his briefs were beginning to grow tight.

Instead of touching him, Keith skipped the entire clothed area and pressed his lips against the inside of Lance’s thigh.

A soft, surprised, “Ah!” escaped Lance’s lips as he jerked up. Keith heard his soft, nervous laugh, intermingled with moans. Keith brushed his teeth along the hot skin, warm breath sending goosebumps to spread down Lance’s long legs. Then he bit down, and again, Lance jerked up and made a louder gasping sound. Keith splayed his fingers along his hips, curling around the fabric of his briefs. “Keith,” he breathed. “I know I said slow, but this is overdoing it, don’t you think?”

Keith smirked and placed a kiss against his other thigh. “I’ve got you, baby,” he whispered. Lance’s breath came out shakily, and Keith pulled his briefs lower, lower, lower, until he was upright and tugging them completely off. Lance shivered, the warmth of the covers gone.

Keith gripped the covers, pulling them over himself until they were over his head and against Lance’s chest. In the dark, Keith ran his hand over Lance’s groin, but was disappointed to find he was only half-hard. He pulled his hand away and leaned forward, brushing his lips along the base, breathing warm air against him. Lance shuddered and Keith noticed his legs spread a little wider.

Still, he refused to acknowledge Lance’s dick if it wasn’t nice and hard for him. Instead, he ran his tongue down to his thigh, hands gripping his hips. Lance had been the only one to do this yet, so Keith wasn’t sure what to expect.

He ran his tongue up Lance’s thigh and down to his hole. He could hear Lance’s muffled whimpers, but he knew he wasn’t fully hard yet. Then the image of Lance thrashing under him, moaning his name without bothering to stay quiet because the walls were fucking soundproof now… it made his own cock twitch. All he wanted was to make Lance feel good until he was screaming.

With that goal in mind, he didn’t even hesitate before he pushed his tongue into Lance’s entrance. Lance’s hips jerked and Keith worked his tongue in circles around him, prodding gently at the entrance. He pushed Lance’s legs so his feet were on the mattress. Using his hands, he spread his cheeks, squeezing gently. He was able to push his tongue through, feeling the muscle clench around him.

It should have been disgusting… but God, it wasn’t in the least. Not with Lance moaning his name the way he was. His hands raked through his hair, pulling gently, but Keith didn’t want gentle. He wanted Lance to thrash, and pull his hair because he was close, to buck his hips and bring Keith in deeper with no reserve. He wanted more.

He sucked gently and heard a strangled cry from above him. Leaving his hole, he kissed the smooth curve of his cheeks and bit gently. Lance was still too quiet. Keith pushed his hands over the smooth skin of his torso lightly, caressing him. He heard Lance sigh and felt him squirm. Then Keith raked his fingers down and Lance bucked up, shoving the blanket down as he spread his legs. With a smile, Keith shifted forward, letting out a warm breath against Lance’s member, happy to see it fully erected.

“Keith,” he choked. “Please. Please,” he sounded desperate, and it was a beautiful sound in Keith’s ears. It was music.

Indulging him, Keith kissed along the length until he reached the head, running his tongue over the slit slowly, tasting the sweet, salty taste of Lance. Lance’s legs tensed, his hands gripped Keith’s hair a little tighter.

Without any warning or build-up, Keith opened his mouth and took him in as far as he could and then some. His eyes watered, and he tried to push a little further down, because dammit, if Lance could push himself further after Keith’s dick hit the back of his throat, then so could Keith.

With his mouth completely around Lance, fighting off his gag reflex, he pushed his tongue along the warm, veiny side, feeling the pulse with his tongue. There was a hard yank of his hair and he moaned, pulling up a little. Sucking his cheeks in, Keith lowered himself down again, shutting his eyes. He wanted to see Lance.

He wanted to see the expression on his face, the way his eyes would be screwed shut, his head thrown back against the pillow, his mouth a perfect circle as he gasped and tried to quiet himself by biting his own lip. But he was under covers, and he was going to focus on making him feel good.

He pushed his tongue against him, struggling to attempt and swallow the amount of saliva that had built in his mouth. The movement made Lance groan. His thighs pushed together, pushing against Keith’s face, begging him not to pull away. Keith pulled up and flipped his hair out of his face. He fumbled with the covers until he could see Lance.

Keith had no idea the sight of himself with drool dribbling down his lips, tousled hair, and lidded eyes would make Lance whimper and curse under his breath as he tightened his thighs around him. Keith wrapped his hand around him, surprised to find his entire shaft was wet, hot, and so fucking hard.

“You okay, baby?” he asked, his voice raspy from exhaustion and having overworked his mouth.

Lance nodded and his long fingers fumbled around his face until he was able to pull Keith closer and kiss him. Keith kissed him, taking his cues from Lance as he pumped his hand. He followed the trail of saliva and pre-come lower and lower until he found it had dripped down over his hole and onto the bed.

“I’ll deny I said it if you ever tell anyone, but you’re fucking hot when you’re like this.” Lance moaned and looked at him with bright blue eyes and eyebrows furrowed in want. Keith leaned down, biting his neck as his finger swirled around the rim of his entrance. He listened to Lance’s gasps come faster as Keith teased him. Just as they began to slow, Keith pushed a finger in with surprising ease. Lance gasped and his hand went to the nape of Keith’s neck, his legs wrapped around him, aiding himself in his attempts to lift his hips up against Keith’s finger.

“H-here,” Lance said, giving the bottle of clear gel to Keith with a shaky hand.

Keith nodded and uncapped it, putting a bit on his fingers. He found that a little went a long way, slicking up the entirety of Lance’s ass with what little he had planned to experiment with.

He pushed in two fingers slowly, Lance’s breaths turning shallow as his hands gripped to Keith desperately. He pushed to his first joint. He paused, letting Lance get accustomed to it. He pushed to the next joint, paused, then slid his fingers in down to the knuckle. The lube definitely made it easier, but considering how tight the fit for his fingers was, Keith knew he’d have to work him open more.

He licked and sucked at Lance’s throat, trailing his way up to his lips, swallowing his panting breaths.

“Keith,” he whined.

Keith pushed his fingers in a little rougher and spread them, pushing against the muscle that clenched, begging Keith’s fingers to push in harder, deeper. Lance jerked and pulled hard at the hair at the nape of his neck. Keith growled and arched back, getting a grip on himself before looking down at Lance, flustered and red faced, a coat of sweat glistening on his collar bone.

Sweet, holy fuck.

Without a word of warning, he pushed a third finger in and Lance moaned softly, trying to pull Keith into a kiss, but Keith wanted to see his face. He wanted to see those sounds tear out of his throat, wanted to watch as his chest heaved with his gasps and his face contorted into a look of desperation.

Keith shifted and was startled by the sound of Lance letting out a hoarse, needy shout, his hands wrapping around Keith’s arms as his eyes rolled back. “There,” he breathed. “Right there.” He pushed himself down onto Keith’s fingers.

He was entranced by the way Lance shuddered beneath him, licking his lips and letting his head fall to one side as he closed his eyes, rocking his hips, fucking himself on Keith’s fingers. His soft pants filling the room, the sound sending white hot jolts through Keith’s body.

He leaned down, kissing Lance’s neck roughly, biting, sucking, moaning against him.

Lance was whimpering. “K-Keith, a-ah. More, more,” he pleaded. “Please, baby I- augh!- want-”

Keith cut him off, pressing his lips to his as he thrust his fingers in deep in time with Lance rocking his hips down. “Me?” he breathed. “You want me?” Lance nodded wrapping his arm around Keith’s shoulder. Keith pulled his fingers out, lifting himself up with one hand, pulling Lance’s thigh up with the other. He aligned himself, fighting the instinct in him to just thrust forward and lose himself.

He kissed Lance gently, lips pressed against his jawline. “You’re sure? You want this? You’re okay with this?”

Lance chuckled and cupped his face. “You gonna ask every time?”

Keith smirked and licked his lips. “You’re the one that said consent was important.”

Lance smiled at him and nodded. “Yes, I’m sure,” he whispered.

Their eyes remained locked together as Keith smile faded and he pressed forward slowly. He wasn’t in far, but my God it was amazing. The pressure around his cock, the warmth. Lance was biting down on his shoulder, Keith’s nails dug into his thigh as he thrust himself in completely. Lance let out a muffled yelp and Keith felt a ripple go through his body.

“A-ah, slow,” Lance whispered.

He pulled back and thrust in again, gasping in Lance’s ear. He was overwhelmed, he wanted more, he needed more. He was completely lost in the feeling of Lance clenching around him, legs spread for him, biting down on him like he needed this as much as Keith.

He hadn’t been aware of it, but it wasn’t long before he was pounding into Lance, quickly and relentlessly blind and deaf to everything except the amazing feeling coursing through him with each thrust.

Suddenly, he felt hands pushing him back, and his mind cleared enough to hear Lance’s soft whimpers, to realize his legs weren’t spread but trying to press together and push Keith away. That the sounds he was muffling in his shoulder weren’t screams of pleasure but sounds of pain and breaths asking him to, “Stop, stop, Keith, it hurts, stop.”

Guilt washed over him as he pulled out and caught his breath looking down at Lance worriedly. His eyes were watery, but he wasn’t crying. If he had, Keith didn’t think he could forgive himself. His cheeks were flushed and he was looking at Keith with a strange look.

“Did I hurt you?” he asked, his voice lower than he expected.

Lance gulped and shut his eyes. “It just… it stings a bit. I….” He sighed and put his hands on either side of Keith’s face. “Just don’t be so rough….”

Keith gulped and leaned down peppering him with kisses. “I’m sorry,” he murmured after each gentle kiss. “I’m so sorry. I’m sorry, I know you wanted this to be gentle, I’m sorry.”

Lance wrapped his arms around him and caressed his back sweetly. “It’s okay, baby. Just go slower.” Keith nodded and pushed forward again slowly, tense as he reminded himself not to go fast. He rolled his hips into him slowly until he felt Lance jerk and moan, his legs spreading so Keith had better access.

Keith pulled out just as slowly and then back in, the blanket that was thrown carelessly over them sticking to him because of the sweat. He was careful to only rock his hips against Lance, the rest of him carefully still as he kissed him slowly, gently. He’d do better. He’d make him feel good.

He pulled Lance’s thigh higher and this time, just before he was down to the base, Lance gasped and threw his head back. “Fuck,” he moaned.

Keith pushed in until he was completely buried in him, and Lance let out a desperate mewl, his legs wrapping around Keith to keep him in. “There?” Keith asked. Lance nodded. “Okay baby, I’ve got it,” he murmured.

He pulled one of Lance’s arms away, interlocking their fingers, and kissing his hand before pressing it against the mattress. He thrust against him at a steady, slow pace, gritting his teeth with the effort it took to not start ramming into him again.

“F-faster, baby, oh God,” Lance moaned, using the heels of his feet to pull Keith into him faster. “I’m okay, Keith, just- ah!”

Keith pushed into him faster and wrapped a hand around the back of Lance’s sweaty neck, pulling him up into a kiss. Lance couldn’t stop gasping and hissing through clenched teeth. Keith wanted more. But he held back, because he couldn’t bear to see the pained look on Lance’s face again. Not when he could see this one, overcome with pleasure and something peaceful and needy all at once.

Suddenly, Keith was resting on the balls of his feet, holding Lance against him as Lance’s long legs bent on either side. His arms wrapped around Keith, burrowing his face in his neck. He was strong, and Keith could feel the flex of his biceps as he clung to him. Now the speed was up to Lance.

He lifted and lowered himself onto Keith struggling to find a proper position for his legs that would give him better control. Keith wrapped an arm around his torso and his other hand slid into the locks of his hair. His body was slick against him, both covered in sweat. “It’s okay, it’s okay,” Keith murmured as Lance whimpered, rolling his hips to find that perfect spot. “I’ve got you,” he promised.

Suddenly Lance bit down on Keith’s neck, and Keith raked his hand down his smooth, dark back, gripping him tighter. Lance started pushing himself down quicker, wrapping himself around Keith tighter, his moans vibrating against Keith’s neck. Lance’s teeth bit down on his shoulder, and Keith threw his head back, wanting to be covered in his bitemarks and kisses. He was only aware of Lance as his desperate gasps turned into soft screams of pleasure and the way he arched his back as Keith raked his nails down his back and held on to a fistful of his hair.

Lance’s arms unhooked themselves and he grasped Keith’s face between his large, warm hands, pulling back enough to look at him. There was something in his eyes and Keith wasn’t sure what it was, but he couldn’t focus enough to figure it out. His mind was hazy, overwhelmed with primal desire for Lance. To hear him scream as he was pushed over the edge, to see him fall back in exhaustion.

Suddenly, Lance’s forehead was against his, his breaths warm against Keith’s face. Lance nudged their noses together, raking his fingers through Keith’s hair. “Touch me,” he whispered. “I’m so close, Keith, please.”

Keith nodded, and he started to lower his head, but Lance lifted his chin. “No. Look at me, okay?” Keith was too overwhelmed to argue. He kept his eyes locked on Lance as he wrapped his hand around his shaft, and pumped, lifting his hips to meet with Lance’s as he pushed down. His hands remained on Keith’s face, his eyes fluttering shut and open as he moved faster, moaned louder.

Keith leaned into him, kissing him holding onto him with a single arm wrapped around him. “You feel so good, Lance, you’re doing so well. Don’t hold back, baby, I want to hear you. I want to hear you.” The thrusts were sloppy, arrhythmic, and all the while, Lance wasn’t holding back.

Unable to help himself, Keith thrust up, bringing himself onto his knees. Lance’s legs wrapped around him until he was pressed against the bed again and Keith was pounding into him, running his thumb over the slit of his dick, a steady leak of pre come smearing onto Keith’s hand.

“Fuck,” he gasped, still not letting go of his face. “Keith, I’m- fuck I’m gonna- harder, harder, there- oh. Oh.” Keith felt his body shake, felt him clench around him, felt the warmth shooting between their torsos… heard his unrestrained shout as he arched his back and yanked Keith’s hair.

A few more relentless thrusts later with Lance holding onto him the way he was, clenching and pulling him in the way he was, and Keith was coming too. He realized belatedly he should’ve pulled out, and he did, but the thick, white substance was still coating him. Keith tried to lift himself, But Lance had his arms wrapped around him, refusing to let him move.

His chest was heaving, and he pulled Keith up to kiss him lazily, tiredly, sweetly. He was still shivering, and Keith kept his eyes on him as he pulled the covers over them. They were a mess, but it didn’t matter. Keith could only lay against his shoulder, tilting his head enough to kiss his throat. His grasp had relented, and Lance’s fingers intertwined with Keith’s.

“I don’t know if I can walk,” Lance chuckled. He winced as he shifted. “Everything hurts.”

“I’m sorry. You can stay,” he answered, his voice hoarse. “This can be an exception. It was our first time.” Lance nodded and kissed his forehead, relaxing as he wrapped an arm around Keith and turned over, holding him nearer.

“Go to sleep,” Lance chided, his own eyes heavy. He started weakly singing a soft song that Keith had never heard before, but it was enough to soothe him to the point of sleep.

Chapter Text

When Keith opened his eyes, Lance was gone. It took him a moment to remember what had happened the night before and he wasn’t sure how he felt about it now that he was alone. He understood what Lance meant about cuddles to cushion the subconscious thought of feeling dirty.

Several lines had been crossed, and Keith was well aware there was absolutely no going back at this point. Maybe before they may have been able to laugh it off or pretend nothing had happened. But not anymore. Keith groaned and willed himself to go back to sleep, but he was also aware of how physically dirty he was since he’d simply fallen asleep the night before instead of cleaning up.

Scrunching his nose, he wrapped a towel around his waist and went to the showers. It was still early, and Keith knew he was the only one awake. As he showered, he wondered how he was supposed to look at Lance like nothing had happened. It had to become awkward. Keith had never been one to have a close relationship with anyone, emotionally or physically. He was close to Shiro, but even then he had his walls up. Now this physical thing with Lance which had put them both in vulnerable, exposed positions with each other in every sense of the word…. It was too bizarre.

It’d been vulnerable. It’d been open. And Keith didn’t do openness or vulnerability. Once he was done showering, he went back to his room, smelling the sweetness of whatever Hunk had concocted for that morning. He dressed quickly, throwing on jeans and a black shirt before racing down to breakfast.

He’d been starving, and was so overcome with the urge to eat he’d completely forgotten his apprehension until he found himself sitting across from Lance. Even Lance seemed a little awkward, eyes flitting along the table as he babbled on and on half about one thing, half about another.

Hunk managed to shut him up by forcing a spoonful of food down his throat.

“Pidge, you seem rather chipper this morning,” Allura noted after Lance had busied his mouth with food instead of words.

“Well, after sleeping in Green for a while, I missed my bed.”

“Why were you sleeping in your lion?” Shiro asked.

[[MORE]]

Lance had stopped eating. Keith clenched his jaw, careful to keep a poker face. For a half second, Lance locked eyes with Keith and they both turned to look at Pidge. The look on her face let them know that she hadn’t caught onto her slip up until Shiro pointed it out, but she recovered quickly. “I’ve just been tinkering with her system. I stay there late, so I just fall asleep there.” Lance turned back to his food and Keith ran a hand through his hair tiredly.

“Hey, Pidge, maybe you can help me out my lion. I’m thinking a special mini fridge to keep sandwiches, you know? In case I get hungry.” The others looked at Hunk in exasperation. “No?”

“Anyway… With our systems up and running, we may not need to leave this planet just yet,” Allura said. “However if the Galra are following us, we may want to be on the move.”

“In the meantime, we’re going to figure out how the Galra were able to infiltrate the system,” Coran said.

“What does that mean for us? More exploring?” Hunk asked.

“No. We should rest for a bit. I’m going to see if I can help Coran bring the castle defenses back up while Pidge and Allura make sure the systems can’t be overridden again,” Shiro said.

Keith hadn’t really been paying attention until everyone started bustling around. He rushed to finish his breakfast and figure out what he was supposed to do. Before he could berate himself for not paying attention, a pair of hands settled on his arms, stopping him in his tracks.

He blinked rapidly, confused until he saw Lance. He looked serious. Worried. “Are you mad at me?” he blurted.

Keith frowned and furrowed his eyebrows. “What? No? Why would I be?”

He shrugged, gripping the sleeves of his jacket. “For last night. Or for leaving. I don’t know.” He ran a hand through his hair and sighed. “I don’t know. Last night just…. Felt like a major shift.”

A relieved sigh escaped Keith’s lips. He nodded and crossed his arms. “I think I know what you mean.” He frowned and managed to meet his eyes. He didn’t feel embarrassed like he thought he would. He felt a little exposed, but Lance wasn’t a person to exploit that. At least, Keith didn’t think he was. “I’m not mad. Just… not sure how we’re supposed to act like nothing happened when… so much did, I guess?” He ran a hand through his hair and shrugged. “You okay?”

The corner of Lance’s mouth quirked up. “I’m okay,” he answered. “So… we’re good?”

Keith nodded. “We’re good.”

He stuffed his hands in his jacket pockets and tilted his head. “Since we’re left to our own devices, you want to hang out?” Keith raised an eyebrow and Lance rolled his eyes. “Yesterday, when you were upset…. I guess I sort of realized that even though we’re friends- some days, of course- I don’t really know a lot about you.”

Keith immediately felt his defenses go up. He shook his head and turned away, walking down the hall. “No, no, no. I don’t do heart-to-heart talks, Lance. I don’t talk about my feelings or thoughts, okay?”

He could hear Lance’s steps behind him, and with his long legs, it wasn’t long before he was in front of Keith, stopping him again. “I’m not saying I want you to tell me your deep, dark secrets. I’m saying… I don’t know. Things like, what’s your favorite color, or your favorite hobby, those kinds of things.”

Keith looked at him suspiciously. “Are you asking me on a date? Because I don’t do those either, Lance, and this was supposed-”

No!” he groaned in exasperation. “Just… never mind,” he sighed. He shrugged, and lowered his eyes. “See you at training.” He turned away and something about the tone of his voice made Keith feel a sharp tug of regret in his stomach.

The closer Lance got to the end of the hall, the more insistent the feeling felt, until he managed to call his name. Lance turned, and Keith let his head fall back, staring at the ceiling. “Fine. But just because I have nothing better to do.”

He walked toward him and noticed the victorious smirk on his face. “Whatever you say, Mullet,” he chuckled. Keith decided to pretend he hadn’t heard him and followed him until they got to the lion hangar. Lance sat at the paw of his lion and Keith sat beside his own. It gave them a good five feet of space between them. Lance raised an eyebrow and snorted. “I don’t bite, Keith.”

“Um, yeah you do,” he pointed out. Lance’s eyes went wide, his cheeks flaming red under olive skin before he burst into laughter, with Keith following shortly after.

“Yeah, I guess you’re right,” he chuckled. “You know what I meant.”

Keith shrugged and leaned back against Red. “Black. And drawing,” he said. It was silent and he looked over at Lance who was staring at him in confusion. “My favorite color and hobby,” he explained.

The smile that spread on Lance’s face reminded Keith of a child’s smile on Christmas morning. “Really? I mean, I guess I could’ve guessed on the black. But drawing?”

“Any art, I guess,” he admitted. “I like seeing my hand smeared in pencil lead or charcoal or pastels. I like bringing a blank paper to life with a few lines or a few colors. Making something out of nothing. Even when I was little and I’d go to the beach, I’d sit in the sand and make stuff. Not sandcastles like kids usually do, but… faces, people coming out of the sand, hands, things like that.” He chuckled and looked at his hands. “I miss doing that. Sculpting, sketching, coloring. I was trying to get a hang of watercolors and acrylics, but I never really managed to get far.”

“I don’t think I’d ever have pegged you for an artist. Artists are so serene, so calm, so patient. You’re the opposite. Red can attest to that!”

Keith snorted and shook his head. “Are you kidding? Trust me, artists are not calm. It’s always, What fucking color am I looking for? Where the fuck is my pen? Fuck the other eye, fuck it. Fuck shading! Screw this stupid crick in my neck I’ve been working on this for hours! And many, many more f-bombs and anger.” Lance was laughing so hard, he was doubled over. He could imagine Keith in those exact scenarios. “As for patient? Well, drawing is the only time when I’m not really aware of time. There’s nowhere I have to be, nothing I’m rushing for. It’s my time to just… be. I guess.” Lance hummed and looked at Keith with the remnants of a smile on his face. “What about you?”

“My favorite color is lilac. Like the sky at sunrise. My favorite hobby?” He shrugged. “I don’t know. A little of everything I guess. I liked helping my mom cook, or playing tag with my siblings. I never really had a passion, you know? Until I got to the Garrison, at least. Then, being a pilot was all I ever wanted to do. That’s why I hated you so much when you were there. It came so naturally to you and I was working my butt off to be the best at something for once.”

Keith raised an eyebrow. “‘Hated?’” he questioned.

Blue eyes flickered to him guiltily. “Envied? I don’t know. Very strong negative feelings,” he laughed. Keith laughed along with him, ducking his head.

There was a part of him that wanted to know how that hate or envy went away. If it was past tense, surely it was gone, right? What replaced it? Friendship? After the last few weeks… Keith doubted the term friendship even applied to them. He didn’t think it ever could again.

It was quiet for a moment as Keith lost himself in his thoughts. Being at the Garrison felt like years ago. He remembered caring so much about the stupid school. Now it just seemed so insignificant, such a miniscule problem compared to the things happening now.

He very vaguely remembered Lance in his time there. He remembered seeing him around the corridors, tall and lanky, always sticking out like a sore thumb because of it. He never really thought much of him. Keith never thought much of anyone. No one else really mattered at the Garrison. It was strange to think of those times. Those days when Lance was a nameless familiar face, then fast-forwarding to being a sort of coworker in defending the galaxy with his annoying bravado, and fast-forwarding once more to Keith squirming at his touch, his name falling from his lips like a desperate prayer.

He ran his hand through his hair, yanking at the roots to ground himself to reality again.

Suddenly, Lance’s uncharacteristically soft, vulnerable voice broke through his frustration. “What do you think they told my family?” Keith looked over at him, surprised to see his face clear of any emotion whatsoever. Stoic expressions were not a Lance thing. They were a Keith thing. And it looked wrong on Lance. When a few seconds passed without a response, Lance’s eyes flickered to Keith. “I don’t know if they think I’m missing, or ran away, or… dead. I don’t know what I’d rather have them think.” His voice was so flat, so empty, it terrified Keith.

He had no idea how to offer comfort for someone so full of emotions like Lance. He didn’t know what to do if Lance started crying or if he begged Keith for consolation. That was something Shiro did. Something Hunk could do for Lance. Even Pidge could be better at this than Keith.

“I’m sorry,” he sighed, lowering his head and hiding his face. Keith frowned, not understanding why Lance apologized when Keith was the one who didn’t even acknowledge him. “I just… thinking about tag and cooking just made me remember other things with my family. And I have this really painful pressure in my chest now, and I don’t want to cry because that won’t do anything, but I can’t help it, my throat hurts and I-”

His voice was breaking. It was weak. It was pained. And it was so unlike Lance, that Keith couldn’t handle it. And that was why he did the only thing he knew how to do when it came to Lance- he kissed him.

He heard the thud of Lance’s back against Blue, felt the shock and hesitation on his lips. “Don’t cry,” he pleaded against his lips. “Don’t cry.” He kissed him again, his lips familiar though still hesitant.

Then Keith felt his hands on his shoulders, pushing him back gently. He pulled away and looked at Lance worriedly. They’d never kissed outside of their rooms since their first kiss. It was like an unspoken rule. His blue eyes stared at him in shock and confusion, but he didn’t seem upset. “What are you doing?” he whispered.

Keith gulped and stared back at him. “Um, well… I didn’t know what to do…,” he mumbled. “I don’t know what to say to make you feel better, I’m not good at those things.”

Lance furrowed his eyebrows and gave him a small smile. “So you kissed me instead?” Keith frowned and sat back, pressed against Red, a bright blush dusting his cheeks. He crossed his arms and stared at the ground. A few moments later, Lance shuffled closer to him. “I appreciate the attempt,” he said with an honest smile. “As for how to comfort me, it’s like this.” Lance scooted next to him and pulled Keith’s arms away from his chest and around himself. Keith shifted as Lance placed his head on his shoulder and pulled Keith’s arms in tighter. “This is a hug.”

“I know that,” Keith grumbled. But he wrapped his arms tighter around him. “But does it even help?”

Lance shrugged. “I can still be sad. But I don’t feel so lonely anymore. It’s just… comforting.” Keith hummed and leaned his cheek against the crown of Lance’s head. “And even if I cry, it’s not like it’s your fault.”

“No, but you’re Lance. You joke around and you laugh too loud and you smile like you slept with a hanger in your mouth. You don’t cry.”

“Everyone cries,” he answered softly. “You don’t go kissing everyone who cries, do you?” Keith groaned and shoved him away, but he was delighted to hear Lance’s familiar laugh. “I’m kidding,” he chuckled. He pressed his shoulder against Keith’s and let his head rest against Red.

Keith bit his lip and sighed. “I’m not good with people,” he muttered.

“You can learn,” Lance suggested. “There’s comfort in listening to me. Thank you for that.”

Keith held out his fist. “Frenemies.” Lance smirked and touched his knuckles to Keith’s. “When I’m overwhelmed, I train. It gives me something to focus on, you know? Moving, sore muscles, it… it’s distracting. You want to try that? We could team up against the training sequences.”

Lance tilted his head. “Hm. Worth a shot. Come on.” He stood and hauled Keith up. They walked out of the hangar and to the training room in comfortable silence. Once they were there, Lance walked around, claiming to stretch, but it looked more like he was trying to imitate a ninja. Keith couldn’t help but smirk at the sight. What a goof.

“Initiate level two training sequence,” he said, pulling his hair up. Lance grabbed his bayard just as the first droid ran at them. It was simple on his own. It was even easier with Lance and his long range weapon. “Initiate level four training sequence,” Keith called.

Four different robots rose from the floor and started for them. “Oh, quiznak,” Lance muttered. In the time it took him to take out the one farthest away, Keith had unarmed the one closest, and used it to lift himself and kick it back enough. Lance shot it mid-air and Keith ran his sword through the last one. “Sweet,” Lance said, perking up. “Next level, next level!”

Keith rolled his eyes, but smiled. He continued to the next level, which took longer but was just as simple. It wasn’t until they reached level nine that they both seemed to get their challenge. Keith’s arm was extended, his sword menacing the faceless droids. Lance had his focus completely on his energy blaster, one eye closed the other zeroed in on a target.

“Watch your left,” Keith called as he lunged forward, wiping a droid legs out from under it. He stepped back right as another druid brought down a sword, where he’d been standing. A blue blast shot it back and Keith looked at Lance.

“Got your back, baby,” he smirked. Keith smiled and returned to the fighting.

It felt like he knew Lance’s next move as his own. They moved like it was a choreographed dance, a murderous, lethal dance as each robot fell. Keith found himself managing backflips before Lance shot his weapon for a final blow, and they finished back to back as each robot remained demolished.

Just as Keith was about to call for the next level, they heard a whistle. “Whoa. You guys were… awesome,” Hunk said. They turned, surprised to see the other paladins near the entrance. “Shiro heard fighting and then we all sort of-” He moved his hands in a grouping gesture. “Flocked. You guys… were awesome.”

“You already said that, big guy,” Lance said with a cocky smile. “But thanks. Just to show why I’m the sharpshooter of the group.” He stretched and tilted his head. “We training as a group or something?”

“We weren’t planning to. Like Hunk said, I heard fighting, and I found you guys. You seemed too concentrated for me to step in,” Shiro said.

“Well, good call, because I need a break,” Lance huffed, dropping to the floor. “I’m all sweaty and gross.”

“Boo-hoo, princess,” Keith said with a roll of his eyes. “End training sequence.” He sat beside Lance and looked over at the others. “I haven’t gotten past level nine before. So this was pretty fun.”

“I’m glad to see you two are working together more,” Shiro said, giving Keith a proud smile.

Keith managed a small one back. Then Hunk yelped, “Lance what happened to you?”

Keith looked over where Lance had taken off his shirt and flopped onto his stomach. His back was covered in long, bright red welts that rose like ridges along his back. “Keith!” Pidge yelled.

“What are you yelling at me for? I didn’t do that!” he shouted back. “Lance what happened?”

Lance sat up and grabbed his shirt, but he wasn’t putting it on. “Nothing I just woke up like that, I’m fine.”

“You don’t just wake up with scratch marks, Lance,” Hunk said.

Shiro turned him around and the Paladins grimaced. “They’re not scratch marks. They’re claw marks.”

“Those weren’t there- uh, before. Were they?” Keith asked. He’d touched Lance all over last night and he hadn’t felt anything but an expanse of smooth, warm skin. There had been no blemishes or scrapes. He was soft. He was always soft.

Pidge cleared her throat and pushed her glasses up her nose. “Maybe I can inspect it a bit, figure out the cause. Come on, Lance.” Keith watched as he followed Pidge pulling his shirt back on.

“You guys don’t think the castle is haunted again right?”

Keith and Shiro shared a look. “Don’t be ridiculous, Hunk. The castle isn’t haunted and it never was.” Hunk didn’t look too comforted by Keith’s words. Shiro shook his head and walked away. Keith followed and Hunk scampered after them.

The image of the marks on Lance’s back were etched into his brain. What could have happened between last night and this morning for those to have appeared on him?

A few ticks later, Keith heard a knock on his door. “Yeah?” It slid open and Lance walked in, looking slightly guilty. “Did Pidge figure out?”

“She didn’t need to. I know how I got them.” Keith frowned. “Dude. It was you. You did that.”

He shook his head, scoffing. “No way. Those are claw marks; I barely have any nails, much less claws.”

Lance gulped and stuffed his hands in his pocket. “I have to tell you something,” he said. “But just stay calm okay?” Keith crossed his arms and frowned. “Yesterday… well, last night when we… you know really got into it…. You sort of… changed.” He raised an eyebrow. “Like… when I had to slow you down.” His cheeks turned red as he spoke, obviously nervous.

“What do you mean changed?” he asked.

“Into… something with… claws. You know?” Keith stared at him, not wanting to believe what he was insinuating. “You’re not fully human, you know?” He shook head and backed away, feeling his stomach drop. Lance noticed the change immediately, his expression falling as Keith started struggling to breathe. “Hey, no, no, no, no, look at me, Keith. It’s okay, it’s okay. Calm down, listen. It’s okay, you’re still you. You’re still Keith, okay?”

“No. No. Get out. Go away, Lance.”

Lance cupped his face and pressed their foreheads together, shaking his. “Don’t do this, baby. It doesn’t matter.”

“What do you mean it doesn’t matter? I grew claws! Jesus what else happened to me?” he shouted. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I didn’t want you freaking out like you are now! So what you turned sort of Galra, I don’t care.”

Keith shoved him back. “Are you that desperate for a fuck, Lance? Willing to stick your dick wherever you can?”

His lips parted and his eyebrows furrowed, like Keith had hurt his feelings. But he was the one turning into a half breed alien, and Lance was the one who kept it from him because Keith was in the middle of fucking him for the first time, and of course you didn’t care what was fucking you so long as you got fucked. Lance was not the one that should be upset. He didn’t have that right.

“Well, when you decide to stop being an asshole, we can talk about this,” Lance spat before turning away to leave.

Keith watched him leave and stared at his hands. He’d actually changed? How had he not noticed it? How could he not have felt it? Had he been so wrapped up in Lance, in sex, that he didn’t even realize his body was changing?

Frustrated, he fell to his bed and pulled the covers over himself. They smelled like Lance. And sweat. And sex. It wasn’t very pleasant, but Keith didn’t want to get up and wash them or change them, so he tried to focus on the smell of Lance.

Being part Galra was one thing. And it had taken a long time to accept it. To not feel unwanted and disgusting. Now he was looking like one? With claws? What else? Yellow eyes, furry ears, purple skin, fangs? Would he stay that way one day? Why had he changed? Why with Lance, why at that moment?

He laid in the bed unable to sleep. It was too early anyway. Breakfast, talking with Lance, training. It couldn’t have lasted more than a few hours. Time was more difficult in space.

**

“Did you talk to him?” Pidge asked as Lance flopped onto the couch. “I’ll take that as a yes. Did it go well?” Lance glared at her and she cleared her throat. “I’ll take that as a no. What happened?”

“Exactly what I said would happen. He flipped out. That’s why I didn’t want to tell him!”

“He would’ve found out either way,” she reminded. Lance frowned and hung his head off the side of the couch. “What?”

“I think he thinks I’m using him.”

“Aren’t you using each other?”

“Not like that,” he protested. He thought of the fear and betrayal in Keith’s eyes when Lance told him. “He thinks the only reason I don’t care about the Galra thing was because of what we were doing. He doesn’t believe that I wouldn’t care anyway.” She grimaced and leaned her cheek on her fist. “I’m sorry you’re the only one I can talk to about this you’re the only one who knows.”

“You could just tell the others. I doubt they’d really care.” Lance shook his head. “Give him time to cool down. You know him. It’ll blow over.”

“Yeah,” he mused, looking at the ceiling.

**

Later that night, Keith only left his room to eat dinner and left as soon as he was done to go to bed. He tossed and turned unable to sleep. He thought it might be the smell, so he dumped the covers in the closet and pulled his jacket over himself instead. But even so, he couldn’t bring himself to fall asleep. Something felt wrong. Off.

He didn’t feel overheated or anxious like Lance had before. It wasn’t that kind of uneasiness. It was different it was… sadder. Like he’d forgotten something he just didn’t know what.

He wasn’t sure how long he’d been tossing around, but once the frustration made him stand, he realized Lance hadn’t stopped by his room. Was he giving him space? Keith could barely remember what he’d told him. Lance was a patient person, but even he had to have a breaking point and Keith must have reached it for him.

Thinking about Lance made Keith feel worse. Guilty and jittery. He wanted to see him. Wanted to know why he hadn’t said anything, why Keith couldn’t remember a single instance of disgust on his face, only soft and desperate kisses and touches.

And he wanted to know why he never came back.

He stepped out of his room and walked over to Lance’s, hesitating, walking back and forth trying to swallow his pride. Then finally he knocked. There was no answer. It occurred to Keith that maybe, just maybe, it was the middle of the night and he was asleep. Still, he tried one more time, knocking a little harder. “Lance?” he called. His voice echoed in the hall. He wondered if he would even hear it if the walls were soundproof.

Just as he decided he should walk away, the door swished open and Lance tilted his head, his eyebrows furrowed. He wasn’t smiling. “Yeah?”

Keith crossed his arms and kept his face passive. “You never apologized for keeping it a secret.”

Lance stared at him for a few seconds before shutting his eyes. “Are you kidding me right now? You say the things you said, lock yourself away like some damsel in distress all day, ignore me, and that’s the first thing you say?” He opened his eyes and clenched his jaw. “Goodnight, Keith.”

“No, wait,” he growled, putting his hand on the door. “You didn’t come back. That's… my point. You left and you didn’t try talking to me again.”

“I told you, when you were ready to talk we would.” He leaned against the doorframe, staring at Keith with icy eyes. “Besides. I wanted you to see that you’re not some meat stick. Or something to just put my dick in. I was planning on not going to your room at all until you realized that I really don’t care about this Galra thing.”

“Why? Why don’t you?”

Lance frowned and shook his head. “It’s late Keith. We can talk tomorrow.”

He began shutting the door again, and again Keith put his hand against it, forcing it to slide back open. “Stop closing this thing on me!” he snapped. Lance’s eyes widened and Keith averted his gaze. “I… I can’t sleep. I feel weird I feel… sort of sad, but not. It’s not sexual, I know that. It’s just… I think you’re the only one who can help.”

“What are you talking about?” Keith shrugged, not really knowing what he wanted or what he was asking for.

“I just-I.” He groaned and let himself fall forward, thumping against Lance’s chest. He gripped his shirt lightly in his hands, his forehead dipped into the crook of his shoulder. Then Lance put his arms around him and Keith relaxed a little more.

“Oh. You’re lonely.” Keith grumbled incoherently causing Lance to laugh. “It’s okay, Keith. Craving affection is fine, isn’t that something close to what you said when I had my problem?” Keith shrugged. “Come on,” he murmured.

He pulled him into the room and tugged him against his chest, tilting so Keith was at his mercy when it came to falling against the bed. His long arms were wrapped tight around Keith, warm and comforting. Like the hugs.

After a few moments of silence, Keith murmured, “You really don’t care?”

Lance shifted behind him, his hand running up his arm and back down. “I don’t. Why don’t you believe me?” Keith shrugged. Lance nudged him and pulled him around so they were face to face. “So your skin changes color and you get claws. Honestly the scratching was kind of hot.” Keith rolled his eyes and when he focused on Lance again, that dorky, wide smile was back. “It doesn’t mean you’re not still my Keith.” His lips parted and he stared at Lance. My Keith. “The very same Keith who’s my friend, my rival, who bickers with me and pretends to hate my jokes and makes me shiver just by running a hand down my chest. Purple or not, it’s still you, Keith.”

Keith furrowed his eyebrows and leaned forward brushing their noses together.

“Oh are we doing your method of comfort now?” Lance teased. Keith scowled and shoved him away, turning so his back was to him. “Aw, no, no, no, I was kidding come on,” he laughed. “Turn back around, come on.”

“Goodnight.”

“Ke-eith,” he whined. “Come on, baby. You know you want to.” He leaned into his ear and started singing, “You want to hu-ug me, you want to ki-iss me, you think I’m se-xy.” Keith burst into laughter and turned to face him. “Kiss me,” he sing-songed.

“No,” Keith yawned. Lance grunted and Keith shook his head. “I’m not kissing you, I’m tir-”

Suddenly a pair of warm lips pressed against his, Lance’s tongue darted out against his lips and Keith didn’t bother fighting it. He kissed him back and pressed against him. Slowly, Keith shifted over him, never letting their lips part. Lance’s fingers thread through his hair, pulling him in closer, his mouth working expertly against Keith’s. He only hoped Lance’s enjoyed the kisses as much as he did. Keith bit down on his lower lip and pulled back slightly, keeping Lance’s plump, swollen lip between his teeth.

“My way is better,” he whispered, letting go of his lip. Lance’s hands moved up and down his sides lightly. His eyes were bright, mischievous, and playful. Keith licked his lips and frowned as he looked at Lance. “I’m… sorry for what I said. I didn’t mean it.”

Lance’s smiled faded and he leaned up, pressing his lips to Keith’s softly. “I know,” he whispered. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you.”

“When did you notice it?” he asked, falling to his side. “How much did I change?”

Lance caressed his face. “You had purple here,” he murmured as he ran his fingers lightly across his cheeks and down his throat. “All the way here,” he continued, slipping his hand under the fabric of his shirt to stroke his shoulder. He leaned forward, planting warm kisses against Keith. “The claws. Your ears were a little pointy. That’s all. I noticed it when we first… went all the way. And it gradually increased as we went. It went away when you fell asleep.” His hand cupped his cheek again. “But I was focused on your eyes. Your eyes never changed.” Keith bit his lip and leaned into him.

He shut his eyes as Lance held him close. Keith’s hands went to the nape of his neck to play with the hair there, lulling himself to sleep while twirling Lance’s hair around his forefinger.

When Keith woke up, it took him a moment to remember he wasn’t in his room. He looked over and found Lance beside him, face smothered into the pillow, hands stuffed comfortably beneath it. His mouth was open, his long lashes fanning out. He looked small. Like a little kid. Keith could almost imagine Lance when he was ten or so. He looked peaceful. Suddenly, it hit Keith that he’d spent the night with Lance.

He jerked up in the bed, snatching the covers away from Lance rapidly. Lance grumbled and opened his eyes tiredly. “Wha-happen?” he mumbled.

“I… I think I spent the night. I… I can’t tell what time it is, but-”

“So?” Lance yawned.

“It was a rule!” he protested. Lance shrugged. “Lance, come on.”

“Keith, technically we didn’t do anything, so I don’t think it counts. Look everyone’s still asleep, so you have two choices: either come back to bed or go back to your room. I won’t be upset, I understand. But I’m very sleepy.” He turned his head and shut his eyes.

Keith hesitated, watching Lance breathe for a few seconds before walking over to him. He pulled the covers over him again and smiled at the sight of his sleeping form. He leaned forward, kissing his temple. “See you later, Sharpshooter,” he whispered. He stood and left the room, biting his lip as he walked back.

He and Lance were at a strange point. He wasn’t sure what that point was, but he didn’t mind not knowing.

Chapter Text

It had been about a week.

A week in which there had been three battles, one which left Pidge and Coran busy on rebooting the castle defenses, and they’d moved to different planets twice before staying afloat among the stars. A week of heavy make-outs, wandering hands, and too many nights stopping before ever getting anywhere. Keith was terrified of getting too worked up and having his body change again. He didn’t want to do that no matter how many times Lance had assured him he didn’t care that his skin turned purple.

Sometimes he wished he’d never offered to help Lance. He wished he’d never touched him, tasted him, held him. Because now, it was all he wanted. It was driving him crazy not to be able to, all because he was afraid of himself.

Especially now. Now with Lance’s hot breath at his ear as he took his earlobe between his teeth and pressed his thumb up into the bottom of Keith’s chin to tilt his face. Keith was squirming beneath him and spreading his legs if only to make Lance press closer. His fingers were warm as they slipped under Keith’s shirt, sliding up and causing his breaths to come in soft pants. His hand hooked into his jeans, undoing the button and sliding down the zipper.

Keith moved his hand from the nape of Lance’s neck to his wrist. “Lance, not tonight,” he whispered.

“Sorry. Sorry,” he sighed pulling back. He smiled down at Keith and kissed his lips softly. “You’re killing me, you know that?”

Keith bit his lip and cupped Lance’s face. “I’m sorry. I’m just really tired. I overdid it training again.” Lance hummed and kissed his neck, sucking gently. “Stay?” Keith breathed, fighting the urge to arch his back.

“Of course,” he answered, laying on his side beside Keith. He rested his head on Keith’s shoulder while Keith ran his fingers through his hair. It was getting longer, curling at the ends. Keith liked twirling the ends around his fingers.

It wasn’t until he heard a gasp and soft sobs that Keith realized he’d fallen asleep. He opened his eyes and found Lance sitting up, hands interlocked at the nape of his neck as he took quivering breaths. Keith heard him sniffling, and he sat up, placing a soft hand at his back.

“Lance? What happened?” he asked in soft, hoarse voice.

He shook his head and wiped his face. “Nothing. It was just a nightmare. I’m okay.”

“Lance,” he said, sitting up and placing a hand on his cheek. It was cold and wet with tears. “What happened?”

He shook his head and leaned into Keith. “My family,” he whimpered. “I lost them. And I couldn’t find you or Hunk or Pidge or Shiro or Coran. I was alone. And when I found you, none of you could see me. My family was gone, and I couldn’t remember my mom’s face. I was alone, Keith, I was all alone.” He’d begun shaking and Keith held him tighter.

“You’re not alone, Lance. I’m right here. It was a nightmare, it wasn’t real, okay?” He grabbed Lance’s hands and brought them up to his face. “I’m right here with you. It’s okay.” Lance nodded taking a shuddering breath. Keith thought back to the day they’d sat by their lions. He hated to see Lance cry, but he knew it only made him human. He sighed and wrapped his arm around Lance, hugging him tightly, rocking him back and forth.

But instead of helping him, Lance seemed to cry harder. Keith would have let go if Lance’s hands hadn’t tightened their grip on him. “I miss them so much, Keith,” he sobbed into Keith’s chest. “My mom’s probably been going to church every day to pray for me. My youngest sister- God what would they have told her? I want to go home, I just want to go home.” He shook almost violently, and even Keith felt like a knot had formed in his throat. Lance’s pain was almost tangible. “I want to go home,” he sobbed. “I want the sun and the rain and Veradero Beach and garlic knots. I want to wrestle with my brothers and let my sisters cut my hair because they’re bored. I want to hug my mom a-a-and-” His sobs cut off his words and Keith held him tighter, shushing him gently.

“I know, I know,” he murmured. “Breathe.” Keith continued to rock him, running his fingers through his hair. He hummed a slow song he remembered from back on Earth, though he couldn’t remember the words. He just hummed the melody softly.

Slowly, his breathing relaxed and Keith laid him down, pulling him into his arms. He burrowed Lance against his shoulder, murmuring, “I know. It’s okay. I’m here. It’s okay.” He didn’t fall asleep until Lance had stop shaking and his breaths slowed enough for Keith to be certain he was asleep.

The next morning, he woke up to Lance curling into him, shifting as he gripped the fabric of Keith’s shirt. “Keith,” he whispered. He hummed in response, opening his eyes. “I’m sorry I panicked last night.”

“Why are you apologizing?”

“It was a stupid dream and I freaked out and I know I overreacted, but I-” Keith put a hand over his mouth to stop him. He kissed his forehead soothingly and tangled their legs together. For once, Lance was cold.

It was a little strange. Lance was so full of smiles, jokes, and loudness. Yet Keith had been with him at moments when his smile was missing, when the jokes were over, when it was almost too quiet. But he knew this was just as much a part of Lance as everything else.

“Stop undermining your pain, Lance. It’s not stupid.” Lance wrapped his arms tighter around Keith. “You hungry? I think I smell food.”

“Uh-huh,” he nodded into Keith’s shirt. It was too tempting to lay there and fall back asleep with Lance enveloping him completely. Lance shifted up, level with Keith and took his chin in his hands. “But I want a kiss first.” Keith smirked and leaned into him.

At first their kisses had been a little awkward, a little clumsy, and very uncertain. There was an appeal in the intimacy, but Keith believed that kissing could get boring quickly. Now, they were so used to each other, and Keith couldn’t get enough of them. They were just so perfect, without too much or too little and Keith never wanted them to end.

“Thank you for last night,” he whispered against his lips. “I know how weirded out you get when people cry a-”

Keith covered his mouth gently and frowned. “What did I just tell you?” Lance lowered his gaze. “Don’t thank me for…. For being your friend when you needed me.” Lance looked back at him and took a breath, moving his hand from his mouth.

“Okay,” he whispered, leaning in to kiss him. Keith sighed against his lips, furrowing his eyebrows as he fell into the rhythm of the kiss. He inhaled sharply at the feeling of Lance sucking harshly on his lower lip.

He hadn’t even realized when he’d turned to straddle Lance until Lance placed his hands on the back of Keith’s thighs, slipping under the shorts he’d worn to sleep. Keith gasped and pulled away, taking a moment to catch his breath and be sure there was no change in his body again.

“Mm, morning breath,” he teased to play it off. “I’m hungry. Let’s get breakfast.” He stood and Lance stared at the ceiling in confusion before sitting up. “See you at the table,” he said, leaning in to peck his lips. A question formed on Lance’s mouth, but Keith was out of the door before he could ask.

He shook off the tension and went to the table where everyone was already seated and eating. “You’re up late,” Pidge noted with a smirk.

“If you’re awake before me, I must be,” he answered giving her an exasperated look. He didn’t pay much attention to the conversation around him, thinking more about the pain and desperation in Lance’s voice as he yearned for home. For his family.

Did Hunk and Pidge have nightmares too? Did they wake up sobbing in the middle of the night? The idea tugged at Keith’s heart.

He’d lost most of his family, and he did want to find them. It had never been a real problem for him though. He never had enough of an emotional attachment to miss anything or anyone. He missed the possibility. The idea.

And yet, they’d been all around the universe, had managed portals to galaxies lightyears away from each other. Didn’t that mean they could revisit Earth too?

“So, I’ve been thinking,” he interrupted as he poked at his food. “We visit all these planets and go through a bunch of wormholes. Why haven’t we ever gone back to Earth? At least to visit. Then Lance and Hunk and Pidge could tell their families they’re alive.”

An awkward silence had settled over the table and Keith looked up to see Allura with a worried look on her face. Shiro cleared his throat and spoke up. “I’ve brought it up to the princess before. But… there’s a slight concern about how distracting it could be if we return to Earth before we can fully destroy the Galra Empire.”

Keith frowned and glared at Shiro. “I think we’ve all come to understand that we can’t back down from our places as paladins. I don’t see why we can’t go back to Earth at least long enough to tell people we’re alive. Do you have any idea how worried Pidge’s mom could be? After Kerberos?” Pidge gasped and Shiro narrowed his eyes. “Or Hunk’s family, you think they’re not going nuts looking for him? Or Lance? All of his younger siblings wondering what happened to their big brother?”

“Keith,” Shiro interrupted. “This is-”

“No, he’s right,” Pidge said. “I need my mom to know I’m not missing. I need to tell her I’m close to finding Matt. I…. I’m putting her through the same thing all over again. She has to know we’re alive, Shiro.”

“We’re going back to Earth?” Lance’s voice echoed from where he stood in the entrance, blue eyes wide and bright with hope. “Really?”

“We’re lightyears away-” Coran said. Then he looked at Lance again and his face softened. “I suppose I could see what I can do.”

“Coran,” the princess began to protest.

Something roiled in Keith, making a chill go through him. “No! You don’t get to keep them from seeing their families just because you’ve lost yours!” Keith snapped clenching his hands into fists against the table. Allura’s eyes widened, and Shiro stood. Keith glared at him, hating the fact that he was so quick to defend Allura. “Shiro, you know that if she had a chance to see her family, her people, she wouldn’t even think twice about danger or traps or anything! We’ve almost died so many times, they deserve a chance to see their families!” Keith didn’t usually yell at Shiro. It was enough to shock everyone into silence.

Shiro’s angry look softened as he looked at Keith’s determined expression. He huffed and grit his teeth. “We’re paladins. We can’t stay there. We have a job to do out here. If we go back-”

“We’ll come back to form Voltron, that’s fine,” Hunk said breathlessly. “I’ll get to see my parents again?” Hunk’s broken voice seemed to be what brought Shiro to his knees.

“Yeah. Yeah, we’ll set a course for Earth. Pidge-”

“On it,” she answered, taking a last spoonful of food before racing out of her seat. Before she made it past the entrance, she backtracked and wrapped her arms around Keith. “Thank you,” she breathed. Keith blushed, not sure what to do with the affection, but she was gone before he could react.

Hunk stood, pacing, beginning to list off things he could bring with him, places he would take pictures of to hang in his room, how he’d show his dad his lion, and jumped with so much excitement, he’d forgotten his breakfast. Allura stood and left wordlessly while Coran left to join Pidge. Shiro gave Hunk a smile and looked at Keith with what might have been disappointment. It stung, but Keith didn’t care. It was worth it to see Lance’s eyes brim with hope, Hunk’s joy, Pidge’s excitement.

Shiro left. Hunk went to tell his lion and regroup with Pidge. Keith was left sitting at the table shoving down the guilt he felt for what he’d said to Allura, for how he’d spoken to Shiro. Then he felt a hand on his shoulder. “This was your idea?” Lance whispered. Keith looked at him and shrugged.

Lance pulled him out of his seat and engulfed him in a hug strong enough to knock the air out of him. Keith opened his eyes and saw tears streaming down Lance’s face. “Why are you crying?” he asked in alarm.

Lance opened his eyes, the tears having made his eyes impossibly bluer. “Thank you. Thank you so much.” Keith wrapped his arms around Lance’s torso as Lance pulled him in again. “I’m going to see if Pidge needs any help.” He walked away, a bounce in his step, and Keith found himself smiling fondly after him.

When he turned to grab his plate of food, he noticed scratches etched into the table like scrapes on a CD. He stared at the jagged lines, counting five on each side of his plate. He placed his hand in a fist on the table over them, his fingers aligned with the marks. When Keith looked at his hand, however, he found the same bitten down, weak nails he’d always had. He tried to ignore the panic rising in his chest.

Left alone, Keith went to the training room and pulled his hair up before starting the training sequence. He’d left off on level seven, so when it restarted, it picked up there. Keith didn’t have his weapon, so he was relying on his own agility and strength. The metal was hard on his skin as he fought, making his way to a table covered in an assortment of weapons. Hand to hand combat wasn’t that simple when he was on his own against several robots.

He hadn’t kept track of time. He was hellbent on reaching the tenth level on his own, repeating level nine over and over, until he was sweaty, tired, and covered in bruises and scrapes. He growled as he stumbled back up and commanded, “Again!”

The robots rose, not a bit of energy drained from them like Keith. And then-

“End training sequence.” Keith frowned and saw Lance walking toward him.

“What the heck?”

“You missed lunch.” Keith frowned and caught his breath. “How long have you been in here? You look exhausted.” Keith shrugged and dropped the crappy sword he’d used to defend himself on the table of weapons. “Come take a break,” he said, stepping closer to Keith.

“I don’t need one. I just need to get to level ten.”

Lance rolled his eyes and grabbed one of the daggers on the table. “Why not fight someone who doesn’t have a programmed array of movement?” Keith raised an eyebrow as Lance waved his dagger. “I’ve been dying to beat you in combat.”

Keith smirked and shrugged. “Bring it on, Sharpshooter.” Lance smiled mischievously and Keith found himself dodging his hits with a little more effort than he’d expected.

He managed to make Lance lose his balance long enough to make him lose his grip on the daggers and he pushed him down onto the mat, hands pinning his wrists down as he looked down at him. “Cheater.”

Keith scoffed and let go of him. “How? I beat you fair and s-”

Suddenly he was flipped over and Lance had him pinned down, dagger at his throat. “War isn’t fair,” he reminded. Keith stared at him with wide eyes. Lance smiled cheekily, tossing the dagger aside before leaning down to kiss him. “You’re cute when you’re scared.”

“I wasn’t scared,” he breathed against his lips. “I was surprised.” Lance hummed and kissed him again. Keith brought his hands into his hair and pulled him in closer biting his lip.

Suddenly, Lance rocked his hips down, making him gasp. “Everyone’s busy. Why don’t we go to my room?” Keith tried to shake his head, but Lance grinded his hips against him harder and it was too difficult to think. “It’s been a while, baby.”

“I know,” he groaned, hands sliding down to grip his hips. “Lance.” He hummed again, biting gently at his neck as he moved against him. Keith could feel the bulge in Lance’s pants against his leg and it took everything in him to push him off. “Stop, stop, stop,” he breathed. He sat up and tried to calm himself down.

He looked up and saw hurt dawn on Lance’s face. His jaw clenched and he took a deep breath. “Did… I do something wrong? Do you not want to anymore?”

“Lance, no, don’t…. it’s not that I don’t want to.” Lance rolled his eyes and stood up, making Keith scramble behind him, gripping his arm to stop him. “Lance, please,” he begged. “Listen to me. It’s not you-”

“If you pull that ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ bullcrap, I swear to God, Keith.”

“But it is, Lance,” he insisted, pulling him in closer, hands wrapped tightly around his arms. “I can’t… I don’t know if…. What if I…?” He sighed and bit his lip, fighting the urge to yank Lance’s clothes away and give in to every urge he’d suppressed. “Lance.”

It was quiet for the moment it took Keith to compose himself. Then Lance tilted his face up and furrowed his eyebrows. “You’re afraid about going all Galra aren’t you?” Keith gulped and took a breath. “It’s okay, Keith. I don’t mind it. I’m not disgusted or afraid-”

“But I am,” he breathed. He stepped back and looked away. “What if I don’t turn back? What if I lose control and go fully Galra?”

“Lose control?” Lance repeated. “Keith, this isn’t some Hulk mutation shit. Your appearance changes into what your genes hold. But the rest of you is the same.” He stepped forward tentatively. “Still Keith, remember?” He reached for his hand and pressed his fingertips to his full, plump lips, encasing the tips of his fingers in warmth, sending electric waves through Keith’s body. “You will still be Keith. I won’t and never will be afraid of you. And you’ll change back just like you did before.” He kissed a different finger after each sentence. “You said you wanted to help me, right? So help me,” he whispered, biting down on his fingers. Keith moaned and bit his lip as he watched.

When the hell had Lance become so ridiculously irresistible?

He pulled away and looked down at the floor. “No. I’m sorry.” He turned before Lance could tempt him further and dashed into the showers. He let the heat of the water relax his muscles, arms wrapped around himself as though that could keep him together.

He wasn’t sure how long he’d been in the shower when he heard another showerhead start. He shook his thoughts away and tried to hurry to get out of there before he ran into whoever else was showering a few stalls over.

He managed to finish and get to his room quickly yanking on a pair of shorts before lazily toweling his hair dry. He laid back in his bed and stared at the ceiling trying to will away this new urge he’d awakened after his first encounter with Lance.

Then he heard a knock on the door. “Yeah?” he called. It slid open and Lance walked in, smelling of something soft and sweet. His hair was wet.

“Hey,” he said with a small smile. “Can I sit?” Keith nodded and scooted over. Lance sat and leaned back against the wall. Then, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry if I was pressuring you into doing something. I didn’t mean to. I thought you just… genuinely needed me to tell you it was okay, that I wanted…. Look, it’s okay if you don’t want to anymore. Just tell me.”

“But I do,” he whispered, looking at him with a pained expression. “I want to, Lance. I’m just… scared.” Lance leaned against him and sighed. “I didn’t feel pressured. I just hate that I don’t trust myself enough to do this right with you. I…. It took so long for me to realize I was hurting you last time. And then to see your back all scratched up and to know it was because of me….”

Lance sat up straight and cocked his head. “Relax,” he murmured. “I can wait.” Keith hummed and played with the hem of his shorts. Lance chuckled and tugged gently on a lock of hair that had fallen in his face. “You’re so tense. Here, come here,” he said, pulling himself up on his knees. He tugged Keith so his back was to him and placed his hands on his shoulders. “I’ll behave,” he promised, placing his chin on Keith’s head. Then he started massaging the tension away, making Keith loll his head forward.

Long, warm fingers pressed into him, making him bite his lip as he felt goosebumps rise on his skin. Lance was humming absentmindedly, and Keith felt like he was building more tension rather than releasing it. Lance’s finger pressed further into his muscles, sliding down his back to press in the dib of his shoulder blades.

He was completely positive he moaned.

His breaths came fast as Lance’s fingers stopped. “Am I… making this worse?” he asked guiltily.

He began to pull away, but Keith gripped his hands and pulled him closer until he could feel his torso on his back. “Don’t,” he whispered in a rasp.

“Keith,” he murmured. “I don’t want to make you do something you don’t want to….”

Keith pressed back against him, pulling Lance’s hands down his torso. “I want to,” he murmured, tilting his head back against him. “I want you, Lance.” He leaned his face toward Lance, sloppily reaching for him to pull him into a kiss. “I don’t want to keep holding back, Lance, please,” he whined when Lance pulled back.

 He stood and paced back and forth while Keith remained flustered on the bed, eyes following him hungrily. “Keith, you’re just… really hormonal right now. I know you. I know you’re still freaked about the Galra thing, and I don’t want to do this with you if you’re scared.” He stopped in front of Keith who was glaring at him angrily. Who was he to say what Keith wanted?

“I’m not scared,” he protested.

Lance groaned as Keith’s fingers dipped under his sweats and pulled him nearer. “You’re making it so hard to say no,” he gasped. He gripped Keith’s wrist and took a breath. He moved Keith’s hands to his face and shut his eyes. Keith watched him with interest waiting to see what he would do next. He was disappointed when he simply leaned down and pressed a chaste kiss to his forehead. “Not until you’re sure.”

“I am-

Lance tilted his head up and narrowed his eyes. “Can you promise me that? Can you look me in the eyes and say with a hundred percent honesty that you’re not scared?” Keith stared at him silently, part of him wanting to nod if only to get some relief. But this was Lance. And no matter where they stood, there was something about him that made it impossible to try and lie to him. “I didn’t think so. I created a monster,” he chuckled. “Look, why don’t we walk around a bit so you can calm down then ask Hunk to make us cookies?”

“Why are you so…? Ugh,” Keith grumbled as he stood. Lance gave him a cheesy smile as he pulled on a shirt and followed him out of the room.

Before they could make it down the hall, they ran into Shiro and staggered back.

“Oh, hey Lance,” he greeted. “Keith, I was actually about to go look for you.”

The first thing Keith could think was that it was a good thing Lance had decided to be responsible and not hormonal. “Why?” he asked feeling like a schoolchild being sent to the principal’s.

“To talk,” he said. He glanced at Lance and Keith had to resist the urge to grab his hand and make him stay.

Instead, he cleared his throat and gave a slight nod. “I’ll be with Hunk. See you around, Mullet.”

He walked away with a lazy gait and Keith’s eyes followed, not wanting to look at Shiro. “So you and Lance became friends.”

“Frenemies,” he corrected. “Friends sometimes, rivals other times.” He shrugged.

“Well if that works,” Shiro answered. Keith wouldn’t look at him yet. “We have to talk about this morning, Keith.” He rolled his eyes and crossed his arms. Shiro was like an older brother to him, which was great when he needed encouragement. But then there were moments like these where Keith felt like a reprimanded ten-year-old. He was an adult, and Shiro shouldn’t be able to still make him feel like a kid. “Keith, what you said to Allura-”

Stop defending her,” he hissed. He met his eyes and scowled. “Look, I get it. She’s a princess, she lost her people, her home. We got chucked into space and left behind the rest of the human race, left behind our homes.” Shiro raised an eyebrow at him and Keith let out a frustrated sigh. “That shack wasn’t much. But it’s the only home I had.”

“I get it, Keith. You and the others have suffered. Allura has too. But you can’t compare your pains. And you can’t throw them in her face-”

“You really think Allura wouldn’t do anything she could to find more Alteans? We have a chance. We can go back. Why not let us do what we can?”

“You are,” he reminded. “Pidge and Coran and Hunk have been trying to find the coordinates and manage a wormhole strong enough jump that distance. But you could’ve said it nicer. You could’ve asked nicer, you could’ve-”

“Oh you mean the way she asked us so nicely to be paladins and risk our lives for the universe? Noted.” He turned away and Shiro called after him, but Keith didn’t want to listen. He was tired. He hated fighting with Shiro, but Keith had a right to be frustrated. He didn’t really mind being a paladin. It gave him a purpose.  It felt right. He was a pilot like he always wanted to be.

But no one ever asked if that’s what he wanted. And Allura had forced them to train vigorously, despite the fact that most of them were just teenagers who had still been training and learning. She praised them, sure. But she rarely ever thanked them.

He made it to the kitchen where Hunk was mixing batter while Lance sat on a counter, swinging his legs. When Keith walked in, Lance smiled, but it fell into a frown at the sight of his expression. “You okay, man?” he asked. Hunk glanced over at him and furrowed his eyebrows.

“We’ll make it to Earth soon. We found the coordinates. Now Pidge is just helping Coran build up power. I came to make fuel foods. Want some batter?” He held out a spoon and Keith took it with a slight twitch of his lips. Hunk glanced at Lance, who hopped off the counter and stepped toward Keith.

“Want to talk about it?” Keith shrugged and Lance held up a finger toward Hunk who nodded. Lance took him out of the kitchen and pulled him aside, hand on his shoulder. “Hey. You okay?”

Keith tried to form words that would express his frustration. His frustration with Shiro, with Allura, with the guilt he was beginning to feel despite believing his anger was justified. But it only came out in angry half-words and grunts.

Until finally, he leaned against Lance, hands in fists on his chest, forehead resting on his shoulder. He smelled nice. He felt warm. Lance’s arms came up around him and Keith understood how a hug could help even if it didn’t fix everything. “Hey, it’s alright. I guess Shiro got upset about this morning?” Keith nodded, still too angry to speak. “Well,” he said softly. “If you’re still too angry, come hang out with me and Hunk. Relax a little bit. Then we can figure out this Shiro and Allura thing.”

Keith pulled away and hesitated. He liked Hunk, he was pretty great, but they weren’t that close. Hunk was Lance and Pidge’s closest friend. He and Keith were more like… co-workers. But he didn’t want to be alone, and he definitely didn’t want to see Shiro or Allura if he walked around. So he nodded and Lance put his hands on his shoulders to push him into the room.

“Hunk, my man, we have a guinea pig now! Time for some recipe experiments!” Lance announced.

“Sweet!” Hunk slid a plate over to Keith. The cookies were golden with bits of blue. “Try them. They taste better than they look.” Keith raised and eyebrow. The batter tasted fine, so he didn’t see why the cookies didn’t. “Come on, cookies help in hard times.”

Keith took the cookie and bit it. His eyes widened and he took another bigger bite. “Mm, what do you mean?” he asked with a full mouth.

“You know, like anytime something crappy happens or you feel upset, you make cookies and eat them with ice cream,” Hunk said. Keith frowned and looked at Lance.

“Yep. It’s like a tradition. Then you get older and it becomes more of strip clubs and bars but hey,” Lance shrugged. “Any time there’s a break up, a fight, a broken heart, a sad movie, anything at all. You eat comfort food and hang out with friends who make you feel better.” Lance chuckled and leaned against the counter, grabbing a cookie. “Remember that time the girl at the Garrison turned me down?”

Behind them, a voice said, “Oh God, you wouldn’t stop moping for two weeks! Each time you saw her you’d go right into this shut down mode.”

“Hey, I was really into her and she shot me down hard.” He covered his face and groaned. “I can’t even think about that without feeling ridiculously stupid.” He shot up and smirked, shooting his signature finger guns at Pidge as she walked around to sit on the counter. “But hey, she shot down a defender of the universe, so I bet she feels stupid now!”

“What was her name?” Hunk asked.

“Caroline,” Lance answered. “She had the pretty long blonde hair and these huge green eyes really nice California tan, about two inches shorter than me.” Keith raised an eyebrow and nibbled on his cookie.

Even when he was at the Garrison, he didn’t really know many other people that well. He wasn’t sure he knew who Lance was talking about, and he felt like an outsider as he listened to them reminisce.

“Yep. Which is weird because it doesn’t seem your type, Lance.” Lance tilted his head and raised an eyebrow. “I dunno, I feel like your type is more dark hair, light skin, Asian.”

“Asian?” Hunk asked. Keith felt his neck heat up and he fixed Pidge with an angry look. “What’s with the racial cut off, Pidge?”

Keith discreetly threw a half cookie in her direction. Pidge yelped as she dodged the cookie and scowled at him. Lance looked red and he stuck his tongue out at her. “Come on. Lance? Have a type? He flirts with aliens all through the universe. I don’t think he’s very picky.”

“Yeah I guess aliens are his type too,” Pidge answered with a smirk. Keith fixed her with a glare and returned to his cookie.

“Aw, Lance is just full of love and affection, aren’t you, bud?” Hunk said ruffling Lance’s hair.

Lance narrowed his eyes as Hunk turned to get another cookie sheet. He looked at Pidge and nodded, some silent agreement happening between the two. Then Pidge lunged forward, taking the cookie dough bowl and her and Lance were running out. Keith froze, but Lance went back and hauled him by his arm. “Go, go, go!” he shouted, shoving Keith ahead of him.

“Wh- Guys!” Hunk called after them. “That is not cool! I was making these for you!”

“What are we doing?” Keith yelled frantically as Hunk raced after them.

“We’re having fun, Mullet!” Lance answered. “Keep running!”

“Which way, which way?” Pidge heaved. Keith nudged her toward a middle hallway, suddenly filled with excitement as they ran off with cookie dough. It was so juvenile, so unnecessary, but it was so fun. Keith didn’t really understand it, but he couldn’t stop the laughter that bubbled in him as they ran down hallways with Hunk shouting after them about the rules of the kitchen and how they were horrible people.

Suddenly Lance stopped, causing the other two to skid against the floor. “What are you doing?” Pidge whisper-shouted.

Lance looked back put his hands on either side of Keith’s face, with the most serious look on his face. “Protect the cookie dough. Protect Pidge. I’ll distract him.” Then he ran off, leaving Keith flustered with the shock of his warm hands on his face and his blue eyes wide and so, so close.

Then Pidge tugged on his jacket and they kept running while Lance went another way, laughing his ass off. “Come on, Lover Boy,” she said as they hurried down a hallway.

“Lover Boy?” he yelped. She ignored him and they kept running. “Pidge, you’ve got it all wrong. There’s nothing serious between me and Lance,” he said, gasping for breath as they took a break.

She raised an eyebrow and ate some of the cookie dough before offering it to him. “You could’ve fooled me. You sounded a little bitter back there when you mentioned him flirting with other species.”

Keith furrowed his eyebrows and scoffed. “No I didn’t. I was angry at you for trying to blow our secret.”

She snorted and shrugged. “If you say so, dude.” Her eyes widened and she grabbed his wrist. “Oh no, he’s coming. Quick, go that way!” They ran down the hall only to find Hunk blocking them with a faux evil laugh. “Other way, other way!” Keith stumbled over his feet to go the other way, eyes on Hunk. “Keith wait!” she shouted.

But before he could process anything, arms were locked around Keith and a familiar sweet scent filled his nose. Lance.

“You traitor!” Pidge yelled, holding the batter close.

“What! He promised me extra cookies and a side of cookie dough.” He looked at Keith and smiled cheekily. “Hey. Not so fast now, huh?” Keith narrowed his eyes and struggled against him.

Hunk had managed to scoop Pidge up, but she kept the bowl far away. “Argh! Curse my short legs!” she growled.

While Pidge was distracting Hunk, Keith turned in Lance’s arms and gave him a quick peck which made his arms loosen enough for Keith to tickle his sides before breaking free. “Pidge, I’m open!” he said as Lance cowered back overcome with giggles. Pidge tossed the bowl and Keith had barely managed to catch it before it fell to the floor. Then he started running, feeling the giddiness of laughter overcome him again.

Before he knew it, Hunk had caught up to him and was able to wretch the bowl from his hands, holding up high. “I am victorious! And no cookie for Keith and Pidge. Come on, Lance, my true loyal friend. To the kitchen!”

They were all winded and out of breath, mostly giggling and chuckling as they stumbled back to the kitchen. Keith was flushed with the warmth he was used to feeling after long hours of training. He also had a stomachache; he had been laughing so much. It was a good kind of ache though.

As they caught their breath and Hunk continued to bake them cookies because he was a saint, Lance turned to Keith and punched his dug his finger into his chest. “You’re a dirty cheater, Mullet! That was such a dirty, cheating move!”

Keith knew he was talking about the kiss as well as the tickling. But he rolled his eyes and jammed his finger into his chest. “Me? You’re the one that switched teams!”

“Here, have a cookie and shut up,” Hunk said, placing a plate of freshly baked cookies in front of them.

Keith realized suddenly that his mood had been the best it had been in a while. He wasn’t upset, and had even almost forgotten why he’d been upset in the first place.

Somewhere between fits of laughter and jokes told through mouthfuls of cookie, the sound of someone clearing their throat interrupted. Keith grit his teeth fighting back the guilt when he saw Allura standing at the entrance to the kitchen with Shiro behind her.

“Allura! Hey,” Hunk greeted. “I made cookies. Do you want one?”

She gave him a timid smile and shook her head. “Thank you, Hunk, but I’m fine. I was just looking for you all. I thought you might like to know that Coran was able to gather enough energy for a portal jump. We should be able to make it to Earth in about three or four quintents.” She smiled, but the furrow in her eyebrows showed her unease. Keith didn’t want to look at her. Didn’t want to see how Shiro must be looking at him.

“That’s great,” Pidge said. “Thanks, Allura!” Allura nodded, hesitating and looking at the paladins before leaving awkwardly.

It became quiet and Keith glared at the table. “If any of you tell me I need to go apologize-”

“Hey, no one said anything,” Lance said. “Come on, okay, so embarrassing stories! This one time I was in my dad’s pickup, right?” Lance went off on a tangent for his story and Keith was grateful for the break in tension.

He stayed with his fellow paladins for the rest of the night, listening to their stories and laughing with them as they joked around. He found himself becoming part of new inside jokes and smiling until his cheeks hurt. It was one of the best times he’s had in his life.

Then they realized it was late, and they were all tired and anxious to go to sleep. Hunk was the first to reach his room. Then Pidge. Then Lance. Keith hesitated, uncertain of whether he would be invited in or not.

“Um, sorry about the kiss earlier-”

“Why sorry?” he interrupted. Keith shrugged. Lance glanced down the hallway before turning back to Keith, cupping his face with one hand. He pressed his lips to Keith’s, sliding his tongue along his lower lip, and pulled away smiling. “Don’t apologize. I like kissing you.”

Keith gulped and took a deep breath. “Okay.” He tilted his head forward just a tiny bit, too afraid to make the move. And Lance’s cocky smile never faltered, his eyebrows going up in a mock question. Keith grit his teeth and leaned forward completely, pulling Lance in by the nape of his neck. “Then I guess I should be saying you’re welcome instead.” Lance looked dazed and flustered.

He bit his lip and pressed their foreheads together. Keith kept his eyes on him, despite Lance’s closing. Then Lance whispered, “Can I talk to you, actually? Now that it’s just us two and everyone’s asleep?” Keith gulped and felt his stomach churn. He’d always hated that question.

“Um, sure,” he said. He followed Lance into the room and sat down at his bed. “What’s going on?”

Lance shook his head and sat behind him, wrapping his arms around him. Keith just felt more and more anxious and jittery. Lance’s chin rested on his shoulder as he sighed and shook his head. “Nothing big, okay? Relax.” Keith did not. “I don’t want to upset you,” he murmured. “But… Hunk sort of explained what happened this morning.”

“Lance,” Keith growled.

“Listen,” he insisted. “I think… maybe you should apologize.” Keith grit his teeth and moved away so Lance had to support his own stupid head. “Keith, I know you were upset, and you had every right, okay? We all know how Allura can get when it comes to Voltron, but-”

“I’m not apologizing.”

“Keith, you hurt her feelings. You had a point yes, but while we have the chance to go back home, Allura’s home is gone and-”

“And she’s been taking that out on us, Lance.” He stood, crossing his arms as he stared at Lance. “The only reason she never wanted us to visit Earth is because she’s scared we’ll stay instead of coming back to Voltron. It’s selfish, she’s being selfish-”

“But she has a point. Remember when we all wanted to go back? And you were the only one who said we had to stay and fight-”

“I have nothing to go back to, of course I’m willing to fight! Then she found out I’m part Galra and suddenly that didn’t even matter.”

“I thought she apologized?”

Keith groaned and ran his hands through his hair. “That’s not the point, Lance!”

“Isn’t it?” he snapped, standing up to face him. “You’re upset about this Galra thing, and it’s been upsetting you since I told you it happened.” Keith rolled his eyes and scoffed. “At least Allura got over herself and apologized.”

Keith’s eyes widened, his eyebrows narrowed, and he grit his teeth as his lip curled. “Jesus, you sound like Shiro, completely ready to be her stupid lapdog, and you know what? Go right ahead. It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for, right? You just suck up to her because of some stupid crush you’ve had on her ever since we got on this stupid castle-”

“Keith, stop it!” Lance shouted. “None of that- I mean-” He groaned and sighed. “That was uncalled for,” he said in a low voice. Keith swallowed and clenched his teeth. He hadn’t denied it.

Suddenly, he wondered how different things would be if it had been Allura who had cared enough to find out what was bothering Lance. If it had been Allura who eventually caved and offered to help. It would be Allura falling asleep with him, cradled in his arms. It would be Allura moaning his name, Allura gasping into kisses. And he was certain Lance wouldn’t want to hide being with Allura.

A strange lurch in his stomach made him have to swallow hard, suddenly feeling small and inferior. Hadn’t he been the one who convinced the others to go back to what Lance misses so much? But Lance was still, and always would be fawning over the Altean princess of nothing.

“But it’s true,” he spat as Lance looked at him expectantly. His face fell and Keith rolled his eyes. “Goodnight, Lance.” He turned away and left the room, not bothering to wait when Lance called his name, asked him to come back.

He shut himself in his room, but the bed was bigger than he remembered, and it smelled like Lance’s stupid colognes and soaps and other gunk he used in his stupid beauty routine. Keith scowled and left his room, deciding to take a page from Pidge’s book.

He reached the hangar and climbed into Red’s cockpit, feeling more at ease and more at home in the space on his own. There a small inquisitive hum, but Keith assured his lion everything was fine. He curled up under the control board, using his jacket as a pillow as he tried to clear his head.

His dreams were infiltrated with images of blonde, green-eyed girls, dark skinned girls with angled features and exotic marks, tear-filled blue eyes, purple hands with long claws, and disappointed expressions.

Chapter Text

Waking up in Red was strange after so many nights waking up in a shared bed. It was so stupid. It had been a few weeks and already Keith could tell he was starting to rely on Lance’s company. This was why he hated getting close to people. You began to need them and that’s when they disappeared.

Keith sat up and sighed in frustration. It hadn’t been a peaceful night. It was cold, and the ground made his back and neck crick. He’d spent the night waking up then falling asleep before he could get too frustrated. He had been so tired.

He stumbled out of the cockpit and left the hangar, wondering if he was tired enough to fall asleep on his own bed without missing Lance. As he turned a corner, he saw Lance walking toward him, surprise on his face when he saw Keith. He fought every urge that made him want to hurry back to Red. Instead, he kept walking, determined to make it to his room.

About a second after brushing shoulders with Lance, he heard him say, “Um, Keith?” He stopped out of reaction rather than conscious thought. “You know, when friends fight they get angry for a while but then they talk about it. And they stop fighting.” Keith managed a glare over his shoulder before continuing to his room. Not even five seconds after he’d gone into his room, he heard a knock. “Keith?” Even though Keith didn’t answer, the door slid open anyway. Lance stepped in and looked at him with a worried furrow in his eyebrows.

“I didn’t let you in.”

“That’s not new,” he answered. “You never do. You run off as soon as it gets too close.”

“Excuse me?” he snarled.

Lance sighed and rubbed his neck. “Look, I get that you’re a reserved person, but you can’t just disappear when things get too… I don’t know confrontational? You’re doing it with Shiro and Allura and… last night you did that with me.” Keith crossed his arms and grit his teeth. He had no idea what Lance was talking about and he was certain Lance didn’t either. “You even do that with yourself.”

“What the hell are you talking about?” Lance sighed and stepped closer, making Keith tense.

“You’re afraid of Shiro reprimanding you over how you talked to Allura, you’re afraid to apologize to Allura, you ran off on me before I could finish talking to you because you’re scared to be wrong, and you’re terrified of yourself so you don’t try to figure out this Galra thing, you just try to ignore it, but you push everyone away too, and that’s not- that’s not how friendship works!”

“You don’t know anything about me, Lance, you-”

“Because you don’t let me!” he shouted. Keith’s eyes widened and he stepped away from Lance. “Keith, I’m not asking you to apologize to Allura because of some school-boy crush I had on her. I’m not sucking up to her. I just… wanted you to be the bigger person. Even if she doesn’t really apologize or something, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t either. And I know it’s killing you that Shiro is upset with you; apologizing to Allura would only fix that.” He sat on the bed and ran a hand through his hair, staring at the floor. Keith kept his eyes on him, trying to process the words. “Then you called me a lapdog and….” Keith felt guilt wash over him like a fucking tsunami wave.

He inched closer and sat beside him. “I didn’t mean that,” he whispered. “I was just angry. It felt like everyone was taking her side and I thought you’d be on mine because you want to see your family-”

A warm hand settled over his, and Keith cut off abruptly. “I’m so thankful that you spoke up and managed to get her to agree to let us go home. But I wasn’t taking a side.” Keith clenched his jaw and nodded. “Where did you go last night? I tried to find you to sort it out, but you weren’t in here.”

“I slept in my lion. I figured I wouldn’t… feel too lonely there.” Lance didn’t answer. Keith took a breath and pulled himself up onto the bed, legs folded in front of him. “Every time I got really close to someone before, they’d disappear,” he murmured. Lance looked at him and turned to face him, one leg bent as though he were sitting, the other draped over the edge. “My mom left me, my dad… I don’t know what happened to him. After that I thought it would happen with everyone so I tried not to care about relationships. But people always slipped in anyway.” He looked up, finding Lance’s eyes focused on him. “I met Shiro when I was still training and he started helping me out. He didn’t seem to care that I was awkward or temperamental. He became someone I saw as my older brother. He helped me, he taught me, he let me be me. And then… Kerberos happened.” Keith frowned and leaned his cheek against his knee. “He was gone. Another person I cared about just… disappeared.

“It’s just easier to push people away, Lance. To make sure there’s no reason for me to get hurt again because I’m tired. I’m tired of thinking someone will be different only to have them taken away from me.”

Suddenly, a hand slipped into his. “I’m not going anywhere, buddy. You’re stuck with me.”

“You can’t promise that,” Keith murmured. Lance sighed and his other hand came up to rest on his cheek. Instead of pulling away, Keith pressed further into the touch.

He felt the dip of the bed as Lance crept closer, felt the warmth of his breath before he felt his lips pressed against him. Keith shut his eyes and leaned into the kiss, simple and chaste, and yet still intimate. “Can I try?” he whispered. Keith licked his lips and opened his eyes to look into Lance’s.

He smiled and kissed him again, pulling him along as Keith laid back on the bed. “Lance?” He hummed. “I don’t want to be scared.”

“It’s okay,” he assured. “Just don’t push me away all the time-”

Keith chuckled and covered his mouth. “That’s not what I mean.” He took his hand and brought it to his mouth. “I meant I don’t want to be scared of myself.” Lance’s cheeks reddened and he burrowed his face in Keith’s neck.

“Right now?” he mumbled. Keith shrugged, pulling his face up again. “What if someone comes looking for us?”

“Then we should hurry?”

Lance chuckled and bit his lip. He leaned down, breathing in Keith’s scent. “I don’t want to hurry,” he whispered. “I want to take my time. I want to do it slowly, kiss every inch of you, make you squirm and scream without being scared of someone interrupting us.”

“Lance, you can’t say those things then expect me to just go about the day like a normal person.” Lance laughed and rolled over, hauling Keith onto him, placing random kisses along his cheek and neck. “Please,” he breathed. He knew he should be humiliated by the way he begged, but he didn’t. He knew Lance wouldn’t hold it against him.

“You don’t know what that tone does to me,” he groaned. He found Keith’s lips and kissed him, sucking his lower lip and pushing his tongue into Keith’s open mouth, making him moan. “Are you sure?” Keith nodded, lifting himself to sit up and strip off his shirt. Lance’s hands slid up his torso to his chest, hands laid over his shoulders, fingers splayed over his throat. Keith sighed and let his head fall back. “You drive me crazy, you know that?”

Keith raised his eyebrow and grabbed Lance’s wrists. “Show me.”

Lance’s eyes widened and Keith felt his back hit the bed in the blink of an eye. He gasped as Lance’s lips fell to his neck and kissed him. He clawed at Lance’s shirt, trying to push it away. Lance obliged, removing his shirt as he straddled Keith.

He rocked his hips and Keith groaned, pushing his own hips up to meet Lance. His wide hands caressed Keith’s chest in patterns as he grinded against him. “Do you trust me?” Keith nodded, pulling him down into a kiss.

“You have to tell me this time,” he breathed. “You’ll tell me if I change?” Lance smiled kindly and nodded, kissing him softly.

“I will. I promise.” He sat up and kicked off his pants before pulling off Keith’s, giving him an encouraging smile. Keith kept his eyes on him, breaths hollowing as his skin was exposed. Lance placed his fingers at Keith’s lips. “Open,” he said softly. Keith did, taking Lance’s fingers into his mouth. Lance pushed his fingers in, nearly gagging Keith, but not quite. Keith gasped as he let his teeth graze the pads of his fingers, shuddered as Lance pulled his hand out with a string of saliva connecting his fingers to Keith’s mouth.

He couldn’t mull over the grossness of it because Lance’s hand was pushing up through the leg of his boxers and his fingers pressing against his ass. He gasped and arched his back, gripping Lance’s shoulders.

“You okay?” Keith nodded and relaxed himself. Lance’s finger prodded gently at him, slipping in. It stung a bit, but he didn’t want to say anything. He bit his lip and waited as Lance began to slide his finger in and out. He leaned in to kiss Keith, his other arm bent at the elbow to keep himself up.

Keith spread his leg further, easing the sting he felt. Keith fumbled around the space between the bed frame and the mattress where they’d left the lube the last time they used it. When he finally felt his fingers brush against it, he pulled it out and handing it to Lance, shutting his eyes to focus on Lance’s movements.

As Lance slid another finger in slowly, pushing in and out inch by inch, Keith slipped his hand under his briefs and wrapped his hand around Lance’s length. He was warm and Keith heard his breath shudder as he began to pump his hand. Lance leaned into him and Keith whimpered as his fingers brushed that perfect spot that made him see stars.

“I missed you,” he breathed. Keith bit his lip and gasped. His fingers moved in him deftly, his lips worked at his throat between murmurs. “I love the sounds you make, baby. I’ll make you feel good.” Keith moaned loudly, wrapping his arms around Lance, and burrowed his face in his shoulder.

“Please,” he whispered.

Lance kissed down his throat, down his chest, down his stomach, letting his teeth graze slowly. Keith shut his eyes and tilted his head back, sucking in a harsh breath. Lance’s hands slowly slipped under the waistband of his boxers, pulling them down his legs. Keith helped by bending his legs and kicking them off. Lance held up his leg kissing his thigh and running his tongue along the inside.

“Tell me what you what you want,” he said, breath hot against his leg. “Tell me what you’re begging me for.”

“Fuck me. I want you to fuck me. I want you to help me not be afraid.”

Lance smiled and cocked an eyebrow as he grabbed Keith’s shaft in his hand. “You want me to go straight to that, baby? You don’t want any build up?” Keith blushed and bit his lip, reluctant to say what he wanted. His entire body was throbbing and his heart was pounding. “You don’t wanna talk?” Keith whimpered and Lance leaned down to kiss him. “You want me to blow you?” Keith’s breaths came in heavy pants. “Or finger you?” Keith bit Lance’s lip and moaned. “Do you want me to jack you off?” Keith gulped and manage a nearly imperceptible shake of his head. “Oh, I know what you want.” He bit his earlobe and pressed a hand against his throat. “You want me to eat you out. You want me to taste every inch of you, to lick you up until you’re throbbing and wet and can’t manage a single word. You want me to bury my face in you until you’re yanking at my hair because you can’t take it, but you won’t want me to stop. Isn’t that what you want?”

“Yes, yes, yes, yes,” he breathed rapidly, feeling warm all over. “Yes Lance, th-that’s what I want.”

“Say it.” Keith whimpered and tried to shove Lance’s shoulders down. “Say it, Keith.” He looked up at Lance, but there was no smugness in his expression. Only lust and affection. “I need you to say it. Tell me what you want. I’ll do it.”

Keith swallowed and kissed him, taking a deep breath. “I want you to eat me out. Please.” Lance nodded, kissing him deeply for a long time before he scrambled down.

He pulled Keith’s legs up and over his shoulders. He spread Keith open with his hands and ducked down. The second he felt Lance’s tongue press against him, Keith arched his back, curled his toes, and cried out. He covered his mouth, taking deep breaths as Lance pushed his tongue into him. He bit down hard on his lip as Lance pushed his face further in, like he was desperate to taste him, like he needed this as much as Keith. Lance pulled back, chuckling when Keith stifled a whine. Almost immediately, Lance was back down shoving his face deep into Keith.

Keith reached down and tangled his fingers into his hair, into those long, brown curls he always tugged on before falling asleep. He felt Lance’s fingers press into him, making space for his mouth, pushing against the spot he loved most. It didn’t sting anymore. Lance was working him open and Keith could only gasp for breath and moan as he twisted his hands into the covers, head lifting from the pillow and falling back as his nerve endings sparked sporadically.

“Fuck, fuck, Lance, fuck,” he panted. “God, yes, yes, yes.” He was so fucking close to sobbing with how good he felt at that moment. Lance sat up and wiped his mouth, panting for breath.

“Jesus Christ, Keith,” he growled. “You’re so fucking perfect.” He leaned up and pulled off his briefs. The he positioned himself at his entrance, turning red. Keith wondered how he could feel embarrassed about anything after what he’d just done. It was… kind of adorable.

He smiled up at him and cupped his face. “You’re a doofus,” he chuckled, pulling him into a kiss. He spread his legs, wrapping them lightly around him. “A very sweet doofus.” Lance chuckled and bumped their noses together.

“Tell me if I should stop,” he murmured, pushing in slowly. Keith nodded and his mouth fell open as he felt Lance’s girth push into him. He could hardly catch his breath, but he wanted more. Lance was so gentle, so careful. And Keith wanted him not to be. He wanted him to rock into him hard and fast, wanted his teeth to graze and mark him, wanted his hands at his throat, at his arms, at his legs pressing dark bruises into his skin.

But he wasn’t doing any of that. He was placing feather light touches with one hand up his side, pushing into him so slowly as to not hurt him, giving him soft kisses that were so gentle it made Keith blush more. He felt guilty thinking to the day they first had sex. Keith hadn’t been gentle with him, hadn’t been able to control himself until Lance was pushing him away.

“Keith, are you okay?” Lance asked gently, pulling away. Keith wrapped his legs around him, stopping him.

“I’m fine. I’m just… thinking. Our first time. I was….”

Lance pushed his hair back and kissed him gently. “You were perfect, Keith. It’s okay.” He slowly pushed into him again and groaned against his lips. Don’t think about that now, baby. Trust me.” Keith bit his lip and nodded, wrapping his arms around Lance. His skin was soft, the remnants of the scars from his back the only thing that interrupted the smooth expanse of his back. “You okay?” Keith nodded and hid his face in Lance’s shoulder.

He slid his hands down his back, until he reached the curve of his ass. He dug his fingers into the skin, and heard Lance let out a long, low groan. Keith kissed his neck, trying to stifle his moans as Lance thrust into him, slowly picking up his pace.

The sound of his heavy breaths against his ear and the feeling of fullness in him made a ripple of sparks course through his body. Lance pulled himself up to kiss him his eyebrows furrowed in want. He moved his hips faster and Keith pushed himself up, trying to take in more of him, their moaning grunts filling the room along with the sound of bare skin slapping together. The frame of the bed began to thud against the wall and the springs on the bed creaked with their rhythm.

Lance slowed down and caught his breath, sliding out of Keith. He looked at Keith and blinked rapidly before smiling. He leaned down, brushing his lips against his cheek. “Your skin looks nice when it’s purple,” he said softly. Keith gasped and looked at his hands, but they looked the same. “It’s barely starting, baby. It’s just your cheeks and neck.” Lance nuzzled up beside him, intertwining their legs.

Keith took in a shaking breath, reminding himself not to be scared. He pulled himself onto Lance and kissed him. “You think it’s nice?”

“It suits you. Like your eyes.” Lance caressed his cheek and smiled at him. “It makes me feel special. I’m the only one you seem to do that with. I’m the only one who knows what you look like.” Keith put his legs on either side of him and sat up, tilting his head. “And it’s beautiful. You’re beautiful.”

“Beautiful?” Lance nodded and slid his finger down Keith’s chest. He could see how a guy could be beautiful. Lance was. With his tanned, smooth skin, the angular shape of his face, the sharp set of his jaw, his plump lips, and of course… those incredibly blue eyes, so soft in shape and resplendent, looking at Keith like he was the only thing that mattered. It was strange that he hadn’t seen it before.

He licked his lips and shifted, placing himself over Lance’s length. He lowered himself down, shutting his eyes as the pleasure overwhelmed him. He put his hands on Lance’s torso and hefted himself up again and again until he had Lance panting for breath and the bed had begun creaking again.

“A-ah, fuck,” Lance groaned. “Just like that, baby.” He placed his hands at Keith’s hips and moved them to a pace he liked when Keith was too tired to keep moving himself. Keith laid against him as Lance thrust up into him. He bit down on Keith’s shoulder, making Keith cry out and smile. “Don’t hold back, Keith. It’s okay.”

Keith opened his eyes and pushed himself up, noticing the purple hue that had begun to spread down his arms. “Harder,” he breathed. Lance nodded, eyes lidded and pushed up into him with more force, making Keith gasp as he tilted his head back. “F-fuck, Lance. There, oh God.” He looked down and found that claws had replaced his nails, pointed and sharp like a dog’s. He gasped and pulled his hands back.

But Lance grabbed them and intertwined their fingers before kissing his knuckles. “It’s okay, baby.” Keith gulped and pulled off of him. Lance furrowed his eyebrows but brought Keith in to lay beside him. He caught his breath and leaned into his cheek. “Are you tired?”

Keith shook his head and looked up at the ceiling. “I’m just trying to wrap my head around this. It’s strange to me.”

Lance sighed and kissed his temple gently. “I know. I’m so sorry I didn’t tell you the first time.” Keith shook his head and rubbed his nose against his neck. “That tickles,” he laughed. Keith smiled and turned Lance to face him, kissing him deeply.

Keith tugged at his side and pulled Lance back over him. “You like for me to tell you what I want,” he whispered. He kissed him lightly and looked at him mischievously. “I want you to fuck me hard and fast. I want you to bite me and mark me with fingerprints an-”

Lance leaned down and cut him off with a heated kiss. “You’ve got it, Samurai.” He pushed Keith’s hands up over his head and pushed into him slowly. Before Keith could complain, Lance pulled out and thrust back in hard, starting at a quick and merciless pace. Keith let out a strangled moan, panting as Lance gripped his wrists hard enough for it to hurt. He leaned into Keith’s exposed neck and bit down hard, making Keith yelp and tighten his legs around Lance.

Suddenly the thrusts became sloppy and erratic. Keith bit his lip, extending and clenching his hands. He began to spew out curses as Lance fucked him, bit him, kissed him. Suddenly, Lance slowed and managed to control his breaths. He kissed him tenderly and Keith furrowed his eyebrows, looking at him in disappointed confusion. “I told you I wanted to take my time,” he murmured. He resumed his movement, slower, deeper, drawing out low moans from Keith and caused a faint blush to dust his cheeks. He reached down and wrapped his hand around Keith’s member.

He moved slowly still, making Keith squirm and gasp, tearing the covers with his claws as he fisted the bed. His thumb brushed over the tip, sticky and moist with the pre-come that had dribbled over. Along with the fullness of Lance pushing deep into him, it was enough to send Keith overboard, making him spill onto his own stomach as he shook and whined, gripping Lance’s shoulders.

Throughout his orgasm, Lance was still thrusting into him, faster now, which only extended Keith’s high. He was oversensitive but it was so amazing, he couldn’t bring himself to complain. Lance pulled himself out and grit his teeth, collapsing against Keith as his own orgasm overcame him.

Lance groaned, trying to catch his breath as he laid beside Keith, kissing him along his cheekbone. “Are you falling asleep?” he whispered.

Keith hummed and laid against his shoulder. He hadn’t slept well the night before. He’d been cold and uncomfortable, and after having sex with Lance after so long, he felt warm and sleepy and cozy. He shut his eyes and leaned in closer, drifting off to sleep before really realizing it.

Lance glanced at him and noticed his slow breaths, the way his mouth fell open slightly like it always did when he fell asleep. He smiled and caressed his face lightly so he wouldn’t disturb him. He watched as the purple tint slowly faded away from his skin. He traced the deep purple marks he’d left on his neck and collar.

Lance felt a tug in his gut and he felt like ice water had been dunked over him.

He wasn’t supposed to be feeling like this. He shouldn’t have missed him last night when he was gone. He shouldn’t have felt so calm and… happy just because he had Keith in his arms. He wasn’t supposed to feel breathless after every kiss, wasn’t supposed to feel jittery being next to him. His heart wasn’t supposed to be pounding right now….

Oh shit.

***

 Keith woke up to an empty bed. He wasn’t sure what time it was. He found his clothes folded neatly at the foot of the bed and shivered slightly, wrapping the blankets around himself. He looked at his hands and found they had returned to normal. No claws. No purple.

He sighed and stood up, putting on his clothes. He felt gross and sticky, but he’d slept in the clothes from the day before anyway. He was due for a shower. He still didn’t feel like he had the energy to get out of bed though, so he laid back down. The pillow smelled like Lance’s shampoo. It gave Keith an urge to run his fingers through his hair. He yawned and burrowed his face into the pillow, pulling the covers tighter over himself.

Where was Lance? What time was it? Why hadn’t he woken him up?

Keith was very confused, and it only made him lazier. Too many questions to bother getting up.

As he curled into himself, he noticed the faint purple bruises on his wrist. They wrapped around his forearm like bracelets embedded in his skin. They didn’t hurt, but they reminded Keith of the way he’d spent his morning. He bit his lip and hid his face in the pillow, feeling a mixture of embarrassment and giddiness.

He couldn’t fall back asleep. He managed to haul himself out of bed and grabbed some spare clothes before dashing into the showers. When he left, he found the others tinkering with the system in the control room. Lance was leaning over, making faces at Pidge as she mapped out some coordinates.

“What are you guys doing?” Keith asked. Lance lost his balance and his hand slipped from where he was balancing himself, causing him to topple to the floor.

“I’m good, I’m good,” he groaned pulling himself up. Keith furrowed his eyebrows and smiled at him. He was such a goof. “Hey, Keith. Buddy. What’s up?”

Keith raised an eyebrow. Buddy? “Nothing really, I guess. What’s going on here?”

“I’m figuring out the absolute coordinates for the castle ship to reach earth. We’re using a few wormholes in case any Galra are trying to follow. We don’t want to lead them to Earth.” She bit her lip and slid her finger across the holographic screens a few times. “We should be there tomorrow night if things go well. The following morning at the latest.”

“Which is awesome!” Lance said. “Anyways, I’m gonna find Hunk, tell him the big news.” Lance dashed out, thudding into the doorframe with his shoulder as he left.

Keith frowned and tried not to feel uneasy about his behavior. He turned to Pidge, but before he could say anything, he noticed the smirk on her face. “What?”

“So, are you guys dating yet, or?”

He sighed and shook his head. “I told you it’s not like that.”

She raised an eyebrow. “Really? At all?” Keith nodded. “I don’t get it. You guys are like… joined at the hip now. Even when you poke fun at each other, it’s playful, not angry. And you’re both always smiling at each other-”

“No we don’t. Just yesterday we got into an argument.” He crossed his arms, hating the way he could feel his cheeks heating up.

Pidge only rolled her eyes. “Yeah, couples fight, Keith.” He grit his teeth and rolled his eyes. “It won’t be long before one of you is fawning over the other, mark my words.”

“You and Hunk are always goofing off and playing around, poking fun at each other too.”

She snorted and looked at him. “Yeah, but we don’t blush with each other or leave a turtleneck of hickeys on the other.” Keith lifted his hands to cover his neck and scowled. The fifteen-year-old howled with laughter and shook her head. “Oh man. Just, you know, give me the pleasure of saying I told you so when I’m right.”

“Whatever,” Keith mumbled.

He began to walk away, covering his neck still. He knew his jacket would hide most of them, but he also knew he wouldn’t be able to hide any near the front. He was such an idiot, why would he have asked Lance to mark him like that?

“Do you want help covering those up?” he heard Pidge ask with a kinder voice. Keith glanced back at her hesitating, before giving in and nodding. She smiled and stood, shutting down the holographs. “Come on,” she said, hooking her arm with his. Keith followed as she led him to her room.

It was surprisingly messy. There were papers scattered everywhere, clothes in a heap in one corner, and pieces of wires and metal scattered along one end. He sat down on the bed when she pointed while Pidge rummaged through her things and returned with what looked like makeup.

“You have make up?” he asked.

She narrowed her eyes and blushed slightly. “Yeah, so?”

“Um, nothing. Where did you even get that?”

“I strayed a bit when we stopped at the Space Mall.” She shrugged and turned the makeup in her hand. “I’m not really sure how to use it, and it always feels gunky. But sometimes I just want to feel a little… I don’t pretty, I guess?” She blushed further and looked away, shaking her head. “It’s stupid, I mean-”

“No it’s not,” Keith interrupted. “Based on what Lance tells me, most teen girls are experimenting with makeup and clothes styles and rebelling on their moms. And they deal with crushes and heartbreaks and listen to that one country singer who always sings about her boyfriends.”

“Taylor Swift?” she offered. Keith nodded.

“Meanwhile you… you’ve been dealing with lots of stuff. Passing for a boy in the Garrison, fighting in a war. I don’t think it’s stupid that you wanted something to tether you to normality.” He really wished his fellow paladins would stop undermining their struggles and worries. He looked at Pidge and smiled. “And Pidge? You are very pretty.”

Pidge smiled and ducked her head. “Thanks, Keith. That’s sweet of you. Now, let me cover those up for you.” She opened the makeup and tilted his head up. After a few minutes of dabbing some type of creamy makeup and powdery makeup along his neck, Pidge sat back and sighed. “Man, I don’t even wanna know how you got those.” Keith blushed and rolled his eyes.

“I’m gonna go find Lance. Thanks, Pidge.” She nodded and waved as he left her room. Keith started in the kitchen. He usually found Lance with Hunk there, but neither of the two were there. He went to the hangar and found it empty. He checked the common room, but only Hunk was there, fiddling with something. Keith didn’t want to interrupt. He went down to the training room and heard the sounds of fighting.

He knew those overdramatic karate sounds. Lance. But before he could speak, he heard him say, “Allura, give him a break. He’s not good at socializing.”

“I’m not angry,” the princess responded.

“Could’ve- yikes!- fooled me,” he grunted. “You know him.” He heard the fumble of bodies, but he didn’t want to look. He wanted to know what was being said about him. “You noticed it when you first met him. He’s a hothead. He’s impulsive and reckless and says things without thinking them through!” Keith frowned and stepped back. Was that what Lance thought of him?

“Yes, but that doesn’t excuse him. He hasn’t even tried to apologize.” Allura grunted and Keith took the risk of peeking around the door. He found a shirtless Lance holding Allura down against a mat, splayed over her. “You’re heavy.”

“That’s rude,” Lance muttered. “Anyway, I know he hasn’t, but like I said he’s not good at social cues. You have to talk him through things.”

Allura kicked her leg up, hooking them around his waist to Lance aside and straddled him, pinning his arms down. Something flared in Keith, making his anger magnify. He just wasn’t sure if it was directed at Allura or at Lance.

“Why are you defending him? I thought he was your rival.” Lance looked like he was about to speak, but Allura sat back and huffed. “Then again, I haven’t seen you two argue in a long time. You look like good friends now.” She shifted again, and Keith saw Lance’s face tighten. “What-”

“Allura, I need you to stop moving your hips. It’s causing very uncomfortable bodily reactions.”

“What?”

“Let’s just say you’re activating my particle barri-”

Lance! Oh! Sorry!” She scrambled off, blushing as she pulled herself up to stand.

“It’s fine,” Lance answered, sitting up with a chuckle. His head came and Keith caught his eyes. “Keith!”

It was an automatic reaction for Keith to scowl and step back. He’d forgotten why he was even looking for Lance. He turned away, though he heard Lance call for him to wait. He didn’t know where he was planning to go. He always went to the training room, but that was evidently occupied. He realized that he didn’t really have anywhere to go. Shiro was still upset with him, and he wasn’t close to anyone else besides Lance. And he didn’t feel like talking to Lance.

Still, he could only stand in the hallway wondering where he could go until Lance caught up to him. He was sweaty, breathless, and his back and arms were covered in fresh claw marks. He wrapped his hand around Keith’s wrist, but Keith pulled away and crossed his arms.

“Please don’t be upset. It’s not what it looked like, I promise. We were just training. We both want to get better at hand-to ha-”

“I know,” he snapped.

“Then why-?”

“Sorry, do you want to talk me through this social interaction? Is my hotheadedness getting in the way?” He stepped back and looked away from Lance. “I don’t need you to defend me. I don’t need you to talk me through things like I’m a toddler. And I don’t need you with your whining and hormones coming to me anymore. I don’t need your pity or your friendship. I don’t need you.” Keith walked away without sparing a glance back and went to his room.

Frustrated, hurt, and angry, he yanked off the covers and the pillowcase before going to the weird laundry room the ship had. Like the pool, it was upside down and weird to fumble with. But Keith wanted the memories and the smell of Lance off of his things.

So what if he got angry easily? Was it his fault that people annoyed him easily? It wasn’t his fault that he hadn’t grown up in this giant family like Lance. It wasn’t his fault that he’d been left alone so often and had learned the hard way to count on himself. He hated that when he finally opened himself up and gave himself a chance at friendship, it had blown right back up in his face. This was why he didn’t like to get close to people. They always let him down. Lance saw him as a child who he had to teach.

There was a part of Keith that felt stupid and exposed. After everything they’d done, this was the root of their relationship. He wasn’t sure why the disappointment was so crushing.

***

Lance returned to the training room to get his shirt. Allura was looking at him with confusion and worry. “Is everything all right?”

Lance sat on the floor and stared at his hands. I don’t need you.

“Lance?” Allura kneeled down and tilted his face up. “What is it? What happened?”

“Nothing,” he croaked. “Just… usual banter.” She frowned and looked at him with her bright eyes, waiting and expectant. It was strange. He used to squirm under her gaze. He used to feel nervous and played it off with faux confidence until he’d made a fool of himself. Now, he just felt tired. He wanted her to stop looking at him because he didn’t want anyone seeing him this upset.

“Is there something you’re not telling me?” she asked gently. Lance looked at her and furrowed his eyebrows. She sighed and sat beside him. “We’ve all noticed that you and Keith have become significantly closer. I can’t help but wonder if there’s something more than friendship between you two.”

Lance didn’t even have the energy to blush at that. He just shook his head and took a breath. “No. Nothing more. I don’t even think we’re friends anymore.”

***

Dinner was awkward. Lance was withdrawn and quiet again, and Keith wouldn’t look at Shiro or Allura, much less Lance. The tension was palpable, but Keith did his best to pretend he couldn’t tell. He just wanted to finish his food and go to bed. All day he’d been buzzing with energy from pent up anger. It left him feeling restless, and he hoped that if he could fall asleep, he’d be able to ignore it.

“Well, I have some good news,” Pidge said. “We should be on Earth soon. I had the coordinates to each of our homes.” Keith grimaced when he realized… he had nowhere to go back on Earth. There was nothing for him at the shack anymore. And he had no one to go to, no way to find anyone. He’d fought for this trip and he wasn’t even going to benefit at all. “We just have to be back within 12 hours. To keep the Galra from following us.”

“That’s marvelous news,” Allura said. “It’s a good thing you thought of this, Keith. It’s apparent you all need it.” Keith glanced up at her with a confused grimace and looked back down.

“Okay, this isn’t working. We need to address the elephant in the room,” Shiro said. “What’s going on?”

“What’s an elephant?” Coran asked.

“Large animal back on Earth,” Hunk said. “But the phrase is meant to say we need to talk about the obvious tension happening.” Coran nodded and looked back at his food as though he too would rather continue ignoring it.

“There’s no tension,” Lance said. “I’m just tired. I was training a lot.”

“Right. Keith?”

Keith looked up and shrugged, looking back down. There was too much running through his head. Allura. Shiro. Lance and the things he’d said. The return trip to Earth. The things he’d said to Lance. If he was honest it was taking everything in him not to blow up in a fit of rage. “I’m going to bed.” He stood up and left the dining hall.

When he got to his room, he remembered he’d taken his things to get washed. Once he went to set them to dry, he disappeared into the hangar again and sat in Red’s cockpit. After a few moments left alone with his thoughts, he heard someone come into the lion with him. He wasn’t sure why Red had let them in.

When he glanced over his shoulder, he saw Shiro.

“If you’re here to berate me again, you can save it. I’ve had about enough of that.”

Shiro came around and stood in front of him. “What’s going on?” he asked. Keith stared at him without responding. “You have to talk to me, Keith. You have to tell me what’s going on so I can help.”

“I don’t want help. I don’t need it.” Shiro pursed his lips and sighed.

“Is this about Lance?” Keith raised an eyebrow. “About going home?”

“It doesn’t matter, Shiro. I’m fine.”

Shiro nodded and leaned against the control panel. “Well, Lance isn’t.”

“Why would I care?”

“Because I know you two have become friends or frenemies, whatever you want to call it.” Keith rolled his eyes scoffed. “Coran pulled him aside and he started having an existential crisis.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Wondering what the point is, claiming he’s useless, not needed. That he always messes up.” Keith felt like an icy hand had gripped his heart and squeezed. “He was really upset. Hunk and Pidge took him to calm down, but….” He shrugged.

Keith wasn’t sure what to say. He knew it had been his fault. He had been the one to tell him he wasn’t needed. But he didn’t think it would affect Lance like this. And what about all the things that Lance had said about him?

Shiro was still waiting, looking at Keith patiently. Finally, Keith caved, because it felt like Shiro wasn’t so angry with him anymore, and he didn’t have anyone else. “I heard him talking to Allura. Telling her that I was reckless and that I had to be talked through social interactions. He made me sound like a little kid or something. He made me sound stupid and that not what you say about someone you have- uh. A friendship with,” he mumbled, feeling his cheeks redden. Jesus Christ, they’d had sex that very morning, how the hell had the mood changed so much?

“Why would he say things like that to Allura? It doesn’t sound like Lance.”

Keith sighed and turned in the seat so he could lean his head on the back of it. “He was telling her to cut me some slack over… well over what happened when I yelled at her. Not to be hard on me for it.”

“I don’t think he meant to make you sound like a little kid, Keith. I think he was just explaining why you are how you are.” Keith grit his teeth, waiting. “You’re used to being alone. You’re not good at socializing, and that’s okay. You’ve been learning to be more open with us now. Remember when I had to calm you down for yelling at Pidge?”

“You said that wasn’t how a team works.”

“Right. But you weren’t used to being part of a team. Pidge told me you guys were hanging out earlier. She said you were a sweet guy underneath the broody exterior.” Keith rolled his eyes. What a little punk. “You’re learning what it is to have friends. I know you’re scared to let people in, Keith. But you can’t close yourself off forever.”

“I tried, and it just blew up in my face,” he blurted before he could stop himself. Shiro furrowed his eyebrows, and he sighed. “I tried to open up with Lance. I didn’t even realize I was doing it. Then I just hear him talking about me like that and…. It made me feel stupid for trying.” Shiro didn’t respond for a while, but Keith didn’t want to look up. He knew he was blushing, something he found himself doing each time he talked about Lance.

“So you’re just going to give up? People fight and argue all the time, Keith. That doesn’t mean you cut them out of your life.” Keith looked at him and took a deep breath. “Talk to him. Get his side too.” Keith grumbled. That was easier said than done especially after the way Keith had snapped at him. “Don’t sleep in here. It’s bad for your back.”

“If you say so.” Shiro smiled and tousled his hair before leaving. Keith sighed and stared at the controls for a while. How was he supposed to do this? There was a small comforting purr echoing in his head, and Keith smiled. “Thanks, Red.”

He stood up and left the hangar, walking slowly toward the hallway that had both their rooms. His stomach felt like it was being electrocuted, and not in that way that made him see stars when he spent the night fooling around with Lance. He stopped at his door and knocked lightly.

“Who is it?” he heard Hunk call.

“It’s me… um Keith.”

There was a silence and Keith debated walking away. He felt like he was about to get rejected and he didn’t want to deal with the onslaught of emotions that would come with that. Before he could step away, the door slid open and he saw Pidge standing in an oversized shirt and basketball shorts. “Hey. What’s up?”

“Um, well I wanted to talk to Lance….”

Pidge looked over at the two boys on the bed and raised an eyebrow. “Yeah, sure. I’ll be back.” Lance stood and walked out of the room. Keith already felt like he was unwanted. Lance didn’t talk, he just looked at Keith with apprehension.

Keith took a breath and sighed, trying to maintain eye contact. “I… I didn’t mean what I said. About not needing you or your friendship. I was angry and… when I overheard what you were saying, I felt stupid. I thought you thought I was stupid.”

“Why didn’t you just talk to me?” Keith gulped and didn’t answer. He wasn’t sure. He knew that would’ve been the sensible thing to do. “I didn’t mean to make you think that. When I told her that, I meant… you’re still learning how to act around us. Like when you didn’t know how to comfort me and I told you to just hug me.” Keith nodded, still not sure what to say. “I just didn’t want Allura to be mad at you anymore, and I didn’t know how to explain without… explaining what you and I were doing.”

“I’m sorry. I just…. I got angry and I felt… I don’t know, betrayed?”

“Why would you-”

“I don’t know, I just did,” he sighed. “I just got defensive.”

“So you started pushing me away.”

Keith crossed his arms and looked up at Lance with a shrug. “It’s easier that way.”

Lance lowered his gaze and softly asked, “What does that mean then? For you and me.” Keith stayed quiet. He didn’t know what to answer. Was it supposed to mean something? What did Lance want it to mean? What Lance want Keith to want it to mean? Was there a right answer? “Do you want to stop being friends?” The idea made Keith’s stomach drop. He couldn’t fathom that. Not after everything they knew about each other. He shook his head. “Are you just saying that so we can keep the…. The with-benefits part?”

Keith looked at him in shock and stepped back. “What? No! Jesus, Lance, I-” He sighed and ran his hand through his hair. “That’s actually part of why I felt so stupid and….” He groaned, frustrated that he couldn’t figure out what he felt. “I think… I’d prefer to stop… the with-benefits part. And just be friends. Not because I don’t like it, but because… I think it’s interfering with us being normal friends.” Surprisingly, he heard laughter. He looked up in surprise and saw Lance laughing so sincerely, his eyes glistened and a dimple showed up on one cheek. “What?”

Lance laughed and wrapped his arms around Keith, who froze and sputtered in response. “I’m just happy that it’s not the sex stuff that makes you want to stick around me.”

“Jeez, Lance, you think I’m that shallow?”

“Shut up, and hug me back, Mullet.” Keith sputtered and managed to get his limbs to work. Lance pulled away and Keith looked at him in confusion. Lance held out his hand like he wanted a handshake and said, “From here on out we’re friends. Just friends.”

He stared at his hand as though it would bite him if he took it. Being friends meant opening up. It meant being vulnerable. It meant taking a chance. It meant he wasn’t supposed to push him away. Being just friends meant no more sleeping next to Lance for warmth or comfort. It meant no more kisses when he felt shitty. It meant no more secret nights spent at each other’s rooms.

Being friends meant someone wanted him around.

Slowly, Keith slid his hand into Lance’s and smiled. “Friends.”

Chapter Text

The following day, the crew had come to the unanimous decision to postpone their landing until morning. If they could only stay for 12 hours, they wanted it to be daylight. Hunk, Pidge, and Lance were too hyped up and excited to sleep, switching between nervousness and impatience and restlessness.

Keith watched, feeling happy for his fellow paladins in a strange, detached manner. He wanted to feel that way too, but he had nowhere to go. No one to go back to.

The three of them started for the lounge, hoping to goof off until they were too tired until morning came. Lance asked Keith if he was joining, but Keith felt he would only bring them down. He assured Lance he’d be fine and to go on anyway.

Lance seemed hesitant, but eventually turned away to join his friends. Meanwhile, Keith went to find Allura.

She was in the control room, fidgeting with a holographic tablet as she sat cross-legged on the floor and the mice did her hair. He cleared his throat nervously and she looked up with bright eyes. “Oh, hello, Keith. How are you doing?”

“I’m okay,” he mumbled. “I uh….” He stepped forward and sat across from her. “I wanted to say I was sorry for how I spoke to you the other day.” Allura’s expression softened. “I know it was out of line. I was just very overwhelmed I guess.”

“I understand. I’m sorry too. Shiro spoke with me afterwards; I was wrong to try to keep you from your home for my benefit. Lance spoke with me too. About how communication isn’t your strong suit.” Keith grimaced and shrugged. He really wished that wasn’t what he was known for. But he was the loner of the group. The guy with a bad temper and shitty communication skills. “Are you still angry with him?”

“With… Lance?” She nodded, and Keith shook his head. “No, we talked yesterday. We’re okay now.” She nodded and smiled.

“It’s strange. He’s usually always flirting with me, but yesterday during training he didn’t try at all. Come to think of it, he hasn’t in a long time. Quite a relief, honestly.” Keith looked at her with surprise and oddly enough, felt himself blush. He shrugged and looked back down, earning a chuckle from Allura. “Where will you be going when we get to Earth?”

Ah, the dreaded question. Keith frowned and sighed. “I’m not really sure. There’s nowhere for me to go. I’m sure the Garrison probably searched my shack already. It’s probably closed off. And I don’t know where my family is, or where to start looking.”

“I don’t mean to be rude, but… if that’s the case, why did you advocate for going to Earth so passionately?”

Keith looked at her and furrowed his eyebrows. “I… I knew the others needed it. I knew Lance needed it.” He gulped and shrugged. Everything was about Lance lately. “I guess I could just stay on the ship. Or…. Look around for a while.”

“Why don’t you ask one of the other paladins if you can join them?”

Keith smiled and shook his head. “They’re reuniting with their families. I don’t want to intrude on something like that. It’s okay. Really.” He stood and ran his hands through his hair. “I’m going to go get some sleep. I think I’m the only one of them who can.” He chuckled awkwardly and waved before turning away.

Sleeping without Lance was doable, but it wasn’t comfortable. Sleeping on his own like this, he sometimes felt like he’d never left his little shack. He wasn’t sure why sleeping next to Lance was so soothing. Even if Lance wasn’t cuddling him against his chest, Keith just felt better having him close. Which made no sense, because when he was asleep he couldn’t even tell Lance was there.

It was a very strange feeling.

Eventually, Keith managed to fall asleep. He woke up when he felt the slight shudder of the ship landing.

***

Hunk, Lance, and Pidge were all bustling around to look like they hadn’t slept on the floor in their clothes. Keith watched with amusement as they ran back and forth, torn between running out to feel the morning sun and doing what they had to in order to look safe and healthy for their families.

Lance was the first one done, surprisingly. He noticed Keith watching Hunk and Pidge bustling around and sat beside him. “Are you going back to your shack?” he asked. Keith shook his head. “Well… what are you going to do when we go out there?”

“I don’t know. Go to the mall, maybe? Figure out what’s new on Earth.” He shrugged.

Lance looked at him for a long time, and Keith felt like closing in on himself. Then Lance wrapped an arm around him and said, “Well, you’re coming to my house. I know it won’t be a problem. We’re a big family, and trust me, my mom will stuff you full of food.” Keith started to object, but Lance covered Keith’s face with his hand. “Shush. It’s decided.”

Keith moved his hand away and scoffed. “Lance this is your reunion with your family. I have no place there.”

Lance frowned and crossed his arms. “Well, you’re my friend, right?” Keith nodded. “And you’ve saved my butt plenty of times. I’m sure my mom would love to thank you.” He hesitated, but Lance gripped his shoulder and smiled. “Keith, I mean it. It’s thanks to you I get to go home anyway.”

“Okay,” he gave in. “I’ll go with you. But you’re going to have to translate a lot.” Lance laughed and nodded, making Keith feel a weird tug in his gut.

***

Each paladin got into a pod set with coordinates for their home. They were given watches with the amount of time they had left. Keith got in with Lance and sat nervously as the pod shot forward on autopilot. Lance looked nervous, and Keith noticed his hands were shaking.

“How many siblings do you have?” he asked.

Lance looked up, blinking in surprise. “Three. Two sisters then a brother. It’s been, what? Two years since we became paladins? Maria is probably 17. Rebecca is 12 unless her birthday hasn’t passed. And Tito is eight now.” Lance smiled. “I wonder if my aunt is still living with them. She’s probably 21 now. She’s like the older sister I never wanted. She had little boy before I left, so he’s probably two. Little Nicolas.”

Keith smiled and nodded. “They’re going to be really happy to see you, Lance.” His blue eyes flitted towards him and sparkled, and Keith looked away, checking the grid on the pod. Two more minutes before landing.

Neither of them spoke for that time. They felt the pod land and it opened, giving them their first breath of fresh, Earthly air in years. It made Keith lightheaded, and he noticed Lance had shut his eyes and stood shakily. Keith followed him out and saw a small house with short wooden planks around it. There was a wide expanse of land before the next house’s fence. A dog was running in the lawn directly in front of them, running around with a little boy who was whirling a stick like a sword. There was a smaller boy wobbling behind him, squatting down to yank grass up.

Lance walked forward slowly, and Keith stayed behind him watching with interest. He put a hand against the gate entrance and the little boys came to a stop. The dog started barking, scratching up the fence, trying to get to Lance. “Hi, Renegade,” he chuckled.

Mami!” The little boy ran back into the house screaming for his mom. “Mami! Es Lance! Mami! Mira!”

Lance opened the gate and smiled at the toddler that was staring at him with a runny nose and a faced smeared with dirt.

The door opened, and Keith looked up to see a woman with wild, curly hair pulled up in a bun. She had on a floral shirt and faded jeans, mostly covered by a bright green apron. Her eyes were as blue as Lance’s, and wide with shock. Behind her, the little boy from before was peeking from around her hip.

“Mami?” Lance whispered. Keith looked at him, tears running down his cheek. “Mamita,” he called. “It’s me, Mami. It’s Lance.” He walked closer and she crumbled to her knees, eyes locked on Lance.

But when he moved to help her up, she started screaming, and pushing him away. “Demonio! Demonio! Maldito espíritu, déjame en paz! Deja mi niño descansar!”

Lance knelt down and grabbed her arms as she hit him, shaking his head. “No, Mami. Soy yo, Mami. I’m okay. It’s me. Remember when I fell on the porch and lost my tooth? And when I went running in the field and got stung by a wasp? Or when I broke my arm on the tire swing?”

She let out a sob and stopped trying to hit him. “Eres tu, mi niño? Is it really you?” Lance nodded and she wrapped her arms around him, sobbing so hard Keith had to look away.

Some twisted part of him wished there were someone out there who would cry like that for him. He wished there were someone out there who missed him and mourned him. He looked back and found Lance wiping his mom’s tears away, kissing her cheek as he cried.

“Where have you been? What happened to you? I thought you were dead.” Her voice broke and she began sobbing again at the end of that sentence. Lance hugged her and nodded, whispering in Spanish.

Keith watched as two girls ran toward the door, looking confused and afraid. They saw Keith first and he couldn’t help but start at how similar they looked to Lance. They had long brown hair, but it wasn’t as curly as their mothers. The only difference Keith could immediately note was their heights and the fact that one of them had their hair in a side braid while the other had it loose.

“Lance?” the taller one gasped. Lance pulled away from his mom and looked at the two girls which Keith assumed were his sisters. “Dios mio,” she whispered.

“Maria! Becca!” He stood, keeping one hand in his mother’s as his sisters tackled him into a hug. “Tito! Come here, little man!” Keith took a deep breath and stepped back feeling like an intruder.

They kept covering Lance in kisses and tears and exclaiming in Spanish. Finally, Lance stood, with puffy eyes and a tear-streaked face. He waved Keith over with a wide smile. “This is Keith. He’s my friend, he’s….” Lance sniffed and shrugged. “It’s a long story. But we’re kind of like soldiers in space. And he’s saved me a lot of times. It’s thanks to him we were allowed to visit.”

“Visit?” his mother questioned.

Lance’s expression sobered and nodded. “We can only be here for twelve hours. And we have to go back to keep you all out of danger. Please, trust me, I’m okay. I’m a pilot and I’m fighting to keep a bunch of planets and solar systems safe!”

“Twelve hours,” she repeated. “Then we’d better start celebrating, shouldn’t we. And you, muchachito. Thank you.” She wrapped her arms around Keith and he gasped, uncertainly wrapping his arms around her. Keith understood why Lance missed these hugs so much. “Come in, both of you. Nico, vente, mi amor, Mami will be home soon!” The toddler waddled over to the door and Lance’s mom lifted him into her arms. “Oh, look at you, you’re all messy. Come on in, boys, I’ll make you some breakfast.”

She wiped at her eyes and walked in. Lance looked at Keith with so much joy, it made Keith smile. “I told you,” he said. Keith rolled his eyes and followed him in.

It was a quaint little house. There was a small living room with a television set up around the walls. The kitchen was immediately next to it with a dining room on the opposite side. A hallway led to a few doors, which Keith assumed were the rooms and bathrooms. There was a small glass table beside one of the couches that had a professional picture that showed Lance in his Garrision uniform. Beside it was a picture of Lance with his family standing in front of the Garrison on moving day. There was a religious candle lit behind the pictures and Keith furrowed his eyebrows.

“So what is space like?” Becca asked, sitting beside Lance.

“You’re a pilot? What does your ship look like?” Maria asked, sitting cross legged on the floor with Tito in her arms.

“Do you shoot aliens?” Tito asked.

Lance laughed and started telling them the story of how they came upon the blue lion, how they reached the castle of lions, and the battles against Zarkon. He told them about Pidge and Hunk and Shiro, then Allura and Coran. Keith noticed he didn’t fawn over Allura when he spoke about her and, if he was honest, he felt a little relieved.

In the kitchen, Keith could hear and smell something being made, sizzling, smelling of spices and making his mouth water. He hadn’t had real food in a long time. He also heard Lance’s mom singing in the kitchen as she cooked and held Nicolas on one hip.

Just as she had begun to set out plates, the door opened and another woman with wild frizzy curls came in with a sigh and bags of groceries. “Carajo, los tomates estaban- Maria santisima!” she shrieked when she saw Lance, dropping her bags. “Lance! C-co-cu-cua-d-donde?” She stammered, and it only made it harder for Keith to understand.

Lance stood and smiled. “Hi, Nanis,” he whispered.

She shrieked and started jumping before engulfing Lance into a hug and crying into his shoulder. A variety of words were spoken, over each other, in English and Spanish, so Keith just watched and decided he understood enough by the expressions on their faces.

“This is Keith. He’s my friend.”

She raised an eyebrow. “Keith? You mean the Keith?” Lance paled and he gave her a pointed look. “What, you’re friends now? How did that happen?”

They both blushed and Keith looked down at the floor. “Um, well, fighting wars makes you closer, I guess,” he mumbled. “Hi,” he waved.

“Well, I want to hear about this war,” Nanis said. “And I smell food! Maria, Becca help me pick this up.”

***

Within the span of an hour, more uncles and aunts and Lance’s father had all arrived at the small house. There had been a lot of crying and a lot of Spanish spoken too quickly for Keith to keep up. Lance kept him at his side, sometimes to back up his claims on the war and his ability to pilot a lion and shooting his bayard.

Keith wasn’t sure what to feel. He felt like a boyfriend coming home to meet the family each time Lance introduced him. But they were just friends. Keith was only here because he had no family to return to.

Somewhere nearing that hour Keith felt too overwhelmed and took refuge inside the house, looking for the bathroom to calm down. He stayed there long enough for his heart rate to return to normal and for the silence to calm his brain.

When he gathered the courage to leave the bathroom, he ran into Maria, Nanis, and one of the cousins, Elena. They were smiling at him, giving each other sly glances. “So,” Nanis began, “since when are you and Lance friends?”

The truth was, Keith wasn’t sure. He wasn’t sure when his relationship with Lance had gone from two people who disliked each other to comrades to two guys who messed around to… actual friends. Who messed around. Then stopped to be just friends. Of course, he couldn’t tell these girls that.

“Um, a while, I guess. It’s hard to tell time up there.”

“But I thought you hated each other,” Maria said. Nanis elbowed her hard and she winced, smacking her arm. “That’s what Lance said, anyway.”

Keith gulped and tried to figure out what to say when Elena blurted, “So do you have like an alien girlfriend up there? Or one of the pala- what is it?”

“Paladins. Uh, no,” he answered. “No girlfriend.”

“Then what are those?” she giggled. Keith furrowed his eyebrows as she gestured to his neck. He backtracked into the bathroom to check his reflection and his stomach dropped.

Goddammit, Lance.

His neck was still littered in hickeys and bite marks from their last endeavor, and while Pidge had helped him hide it before, there was nothing covering them now. “Um, bruises. Training.” The girls giggled and Keith gulped, feeling his face heat up.

Oye, metiches, leave him alone.” The girls looked over at Becca who was standing with her arms crossed down the hall. “Keith, come on. Ignore them.” She grabbed his arm and hauled him away. Normally Keith didn’t like that, but he was too grateful to really show discomfort. “I know it’s a lot of people. And most of them are as nosy as those girls.” She rolled her eyes and shook her head. “Lance is out playing with Tito and Nicolas. You can hang out with me in here for a bit, if you want. I was just reading.”

Keith nodded and sat down on the edge of the bed, looking around. There weren’t many posters up. There were a few lights that hung across the walls and pictures hanging from transparent string. Journals were scattered on a desk, and a large stuffed bunny was propped up against one corner. Keith’s eyes were drawn to a guitar that rested on the floor in an open case.

“You play guitar?”

“Yeah. I’m taking classes, so I’m not that good.”

Keith nodded and gestured. “May I?” She nodded and Keith picked the guitar up gingerly, feeling the vaguely familiar strings under his fingers. He strummed each string one by one and smiled as the sound echoed.

“Do you play?”

Keith shook his head. “I did a long time ago. I don’t think I remember much.” He strummed the guitar in the chords he remembered, switched to plucking and cursed under his breath when he stumbled or ruined the rhythm. “I only ever really kept one song in my head. My dad really liked it, so… I guess that’s why.”

“Which one?”

“Um, Only Hope. I’m not sure if-”

She reached out and Keith handed the guitar to her. She began strumming the guitar and began singing a familiar tune in a different language. She was singing in Spanish. Keith smiled and nodded, enjoying the elegant, foreign way the words strung together in Spanish. “It was one of the first I learned,” she said with a smile. “I saw a movie with it, and I wanted to learn it.” She handed it back to him and gestured. “Try again. I’ll help you.”

Keith nodded and tried to play again, his mind slightly refreshed. His fingers still slipped now and then, but he still began to murmur the beginning of the song softly. He chuckled when he messed up, but Becca just encouraged him to keep going. By the time he was singing the chorus the second time, his fingers had recalled the movements and played by memory. His voice grew stronger and Becca swayed with a smile as she listened.

When he finished the song he heard a soft breath behind him that made him jump. He turned and saw Lance leaning against the door with a smile on his face. Keith felt his face heat up faster than normal. “You never told me you played guitar.”

“I don’t. I only know the one song. And your sister had to remind me. I’m not-”

“Keith, relax,” he chuckled. “I liked it. I had no idea you could sing.” Keith cleared his throat and gave the guitar back. “You wanna eat? My godfather made some fajita.”

Keith nodded and gave the guitar back to Becca. “Thank you.” She nodded and smiled as he followed Lance out. Before they left the hallway, Lance’s hand gripped Keith’s wrist, making his stomach flip as he pulled him back. “W-What?”

Lance tilted his head and smiled. “You okay? You seem kind of freaked.”

“Just… a lot of people,” he muttered. There was a beat of silence and disappointment settled over Keith, but he wasn’t sure why. “Also.” Keith punched him hard in the arm.

“Ow! What the hell?”

“Your family is asking if I have a girlfriend because of these.” He gestured to his neck.

Lance had the decency to blush, but he rolled his eyes. “Okay first off, you literally asked for that,” he whispered. “Second, just say you do, it’s not like they’d know… it was me.” Keith scoffed and hit his stomach lightly. “Whatever, come on, I’m hungry.”

They both left and went to join the rest of Lance’s family where they were eating. The family was talking in Spanish again so Keith busied himself with picking apart his food and eating it, watching as Lance’s expression changed and shifted. He wasn’t sure what they were talking about, but he knew it was making Lance slightly uncomfortable. He saw it in the tension of his limbs, in the set of his jaw. Vaguely he wondered when he’d come to know Lance well enough to understand subtle body language.

Keith finished his food, and he went to throw away the paper plate he’d been served on. Lance’s mom was in the kitchen, talking to Tito. Tito looked like a clone of Lance, with smoother edges and stubby fingers. It was chilling, really. “Hi, mijo,” Mrs. McClain greeted. “Did you like the food?”

“Yeah. Yes. It was very good, thank you.” He smiled and looked at Tito who was looking at him curiously. He had his stick in hand, and Keith pointed. “Is that your sword?” Tito nodded slowly. “I have a sword too. Not with me, though. It’s on the ship.”

Tito looked at his mother, and she translated for him. His eyes widened and Keith couldn’t help but smile. “Keith, would you like to help me frost the cake?”

“I-I’m not much of a baker, really. I’ll be in your way-”

“The worst you could do is smear the crumbs. It’s all going to be eaten anyway. Come.” She gestured him over and pushed a bowl of homemade frosting toward him. “Three swipes. Like this.” She grabbed a spatula and smeared the frosting on one edge of the cake, swiping back and forth. “Try it.”

Keith chuckled nervously and took the spatula from her. He followed her actions, though his result was sloppier than hers. Still she smiled and nodded her head, encouraging him. “I’ve never frosted a cake,” he mumbled.

She laughed softly and ruffled his hair affectionately, making him freeze. He swallowed and continued to frost. She was looking for something in the cupboards and Tito was watching him. When he managed to finish, he put the spatula down and stepped back.

She clapped and smiled, before placing a few orange colored star shaped sprinkles. “His favorite color,” she said. “He used to love watching the sun go down because the sky became dark orange.” She began placing candles in an array on the cake. When she caught Keith confused expression, she said, “We missed his last birthday. When he turned 17. We might miss his next one, too. I figured we should celebrate now.”

She was smiling, but her voice was shaking. Her eyes were watery, and although Keith felt uncomfortable, he also wanted to help. Lance’s mom was kind and seeing her cry just didn’t feel right. Still he didn’t know what to do.

He cleared his throat and said the first thing that came to mind. “I thought his favorite color was lilac?” She frowned and tilted her head. “I-I don’t know why, I just thought…. Um.”

Como tus ojos,” she murmured. He furrowed his eyebrows and she smiled. “Ah, like when he was little,” she chuckled. “He always went back and forth.” She waved the concept away and finished placing the candles.

“So his birthday is coming up?” She nodded and Keith bit his lip. “Do you mind if I take a picture of you and Tito?” He pulled out the space phone Pidge made for them all and gestured to it.

“Oh, I look horrible, I…. Ah, one second.” She took her hair down from her bun and pulled it over her shoulder as she kneeled down to wrap her arms around Tito. Tito held out his stick and smiled widely.

Keith smiled and counted until he managed to snap a few pictures. Just enough for what he needed. “Thanks. I’ll be back in a bit.” He smiled and left to find Becca. She was still in her room, scrolling through her computer. “Hey, Becca?”

She turned to him and shut her laptop. “Hi. Everything okay?”

He nodded and waved his phone. “Do you mind if I get a quick picture? I’m trying to do this thing, and…. If it’s okay, I mean.”

She tilted her head and nodded. “Yeah, sure. Do I just sit and smile?” Keith nodded and she walked over to the edge of her bed, crossed her legs, and smiled. Keith snapped a few pictures and nodded. “What are you doing with those?”

“It’s just something I thought of to help Lance with being homesick.”

She frowned, but before she could answer, Keith waved and hurried off to find Maria, Nico, and Nanis. He found Nanis with Nico and Elena playing with the dog, Renegade. Keith managed a few pictures including the dog and left to find Maria. She was helping serve food and managed to get away for a bit to smile into Keith’s camera.

“What is this for?”

“Just something I’m hoping to-”

Lance!” Keith jumped and turned in time to see a girl running smack into Lance, toppling him over.

He turned to Maria and asked, “Another cousin?”

She rolled her eyes and shook her head. “No, that’s Rosa. Lance’s sort-of girlfriend. They used to date in middle school, but she’d just tug him around like an idiot. I always told him she was no good.” She scrunched her nose like there was a bad smell. “Someone must have told her he’s back.”

Keith looked back and saw Lance standing, hands on Rosa’s shoulders as she cried and smiled up at him. Before he could turn back to Maria, he saw Rosa take Lance’s face in his hands and kiss him. Something twisted uncomfortably in him.

That feeling got worse when a few family members hooted and Lance was kissing her back.

Keith cleared his throat and turned away. “Um, thanks. I….” He trailed off and walked away, reaching the bathroom and shutting himself in again. He sat on the floor trying to figure out why the hell he was so upset.

He and Lance were friends. Just friends. Keith had watched him flirt with countless aliens and felt nothing. Why was this any different?

Whatever the reason, Keith didn’t want to be around to watch the girl cling to Lance’s arm the entire time. He pulled his phone out again and managed to get a signal to connect to Pidge. After a bit, a video popped up and he saw Pidge with her hands out, sitting next to her mom.

“Keith? What’s up?” she asked. “Whoa, you okay?”

“Uh, yeah,” he breathed. He gulped and tried to figure out a way to phrase his question.

Pidge shifted and neared the camera. “Keith, are you okay? What happened?”

He took a breath and looked away. “I don’t mean to intrude, but… do you think I could go stay with you?” She furrowed her eyebrows and tilted her head. Keith sighed. “Everyone’s talking Spanish here, and there’s a lot of people, so I’m freaking out.”

She furrowed her eyebrows and nodded. “Yeah, sure. I think I can get my pod to get you. It can probably get there in ten minutes.”

Keith nodded and smiled. “Thanks, Pidge.”

He hung up and left the bathroom. He paced for a few seconds and went back out to the party. He was slightly frustrated at the sight of Lance with his arm around Rosa, laughing with family members. As they poked fun at him, Rosa would cuddle into his neck, and something possessive would wash over Keith.

Finally, he saw the pod land next to the one he and Lance had come in about three hours earlier. The sight of it spooked a few family members, and it managed to make Lance pry himself away from Rosa. He went up to Keith and tugged on his arm.

“Do you know why that thing is here? Is that like a sign? Do we have to get back early?”

“No,” he answered, pulling away. He grabbed his jacket. “It’s for me. I don’t want to intrude on you and your family, and I don’t really get half of what they’re saying, so…. I’ll just stay with her for the rest of the time. It’s cool.”

“Keith.” He groaned and looked at him. “Wh-what do you mean? I mean I thought-” He reached for Keith’s hand then pulled away at the last second. Keith nearly shoved him away just to get to the stupid pod. “You don’t have to go, Keith.”

“I’ll be fine. Really. Besides-”

Amor, que pasa? Que es esa cosa? Y el, quién es?” Rosa sidled up next to Lance and Keith bit back an actual growl.

“Besides, it looks like you have all the company you need.” Lance frowned but didn’t say anything. “I should go.”

“Keith, are you leaving already?” He turned to see Lance’s mom coming up to him. She noticed Rosa, and her face tightened. It seemed Maria wasn’t the only one who didn’t like her. “Mijo, why don’t you take some food? Come.” She pulled him away and took him back to the kitchen. “That stupid girl. I can’t believe que tuvo las agallas de venir aqui. All those times my boy cried over her, and now-”

“Mami?” She stopped talking and wrapped a few plates in aluminum. “Tell Keith he doesn’t have to leave. He won’t believe me.”

She put her hand on her hip and looked at him. “If he’s uncomfortable, then he can go. But you’re welcome back anytime, mijo, really.” She smiled at him and wrapped him into a hug. “Oh, I can’t thank you enough for bringing my boy back. You stay safe out there, you hear me?”

Keith gulped down the knot in his throat. “Yes ma’am.”

She let go and kissed his cheek. She handed him a few plates and smiled. Then she turned to Lance. “You and me are going to talk later.” He blinked in surprise, but Keith just started for the door again.

Before he could leave though, he heard a voice calling after him. He turned and saw Becca rushing towards him. “Wait!” She pushed a strand of hair away from her face and held something out. “It’s an iPod. I uploaded a bunch of different music, because I wasn’t sure which you’d like. Only Hope is on there too. And, you know, today’s hits. Lance told me you missed music up there, so I thought… I don’t know.”

“O-oh.” He took the iPod and smiled. “Thank you. This is great.” He smiled and tucked it into his jacket pocket.

“Keith, really, you don’t have to go,” Lance insisted.

Keith shook his head and punched him lightly on the arm. “It’s fine. I’ll see you back on the castle. Enjoy your family.” He turned away and climbed into the pod. He took one more look at Lance as he stood in the doorway and pressed Launch when he saw Rosa go up to him.

He had no idea what that feeling was, but he hated it. And he kind of hated Rosa too.

***

Being at Pidge’s house was a lot more comfortable. It was just her and her mom who immediately took a liking to Keith. The woman looked like she’d gotten no sleep in a year, and frankly, Keith couldn’t blame her. Especially if she thought she’d lost her entire family.

Now, Mrs. Holt had her hair up in curlers and her nails were glistening, as were Pidge’s. Pidge had some weird foam separators between her toes which were also glistening in a bright yellow color with black polka dots. She even had makeup on her face, which Keith figured was done by her mom.

“Well, don’t you look pretty,” Keith said as he followed her to her room to help her bring down a few boxes of things she thought she could use up on the ship.

“No teasing,” she muttered.

“I wasn’t!”

She huffed and handed him a box. “So you ever gonna tell me the real reason you wanted to ditch Lance? Another lover’s quarrel?”

“We’re just friends. For real this time. And there was no real reason. I told you-”

“Keith, I managed to sneak into the Garrison as a boy and decoded Galran talk about Voltron. I can see through your bullshit easily.” Keith huffed and she put another box over the one he had. “What happened?”

He shrugged and hefted the boxes. “I don’t know, okay? Some girl who used to date him came and started kissing him, and I got annoyed and… I wanted to leave. I didn’t belong there.” She looked at him with a raised eyebrow.

She put a hand on her hip and tilted her head. “Did you get this twisted feeling in your stomach? Your chest felt like it was pressing in?” Keith frowned and nodded slowly. “Couldn’t breathe, really sad but really pissed at the same time?” This time, before he could nod, she smirked. “Keith, that’s jealousy. I told you one of you was going to fall for the other.”

“What are you talking about?”

She shook her head and gestured to the stairs. “I’m talking about the fact that you see this girl all over Lance and you felt all these shitty emotions, and it’s because you like Lance and feel jealous.” She pointed to the couch. “Set them there.” Keith did and frowned as he processed what Pidge said. “Come on, I have something for you.” He followed her to another room and looked around at the bookcases and piles of books that littered the floor. “You obviously need to figure out how to deal with and understand your own emotions. I think reading could help you with that.”

“I’m not sure if that’s an insult.” Pidge snorted and went around, pulling out a few books here and there until she had four piles of books that reached her height. “Um.”

“Pick one to read now. The rest will go in the pod.” Keith sighed and grabbed one at random. Pidge helped him carry the rest to the pod.

When they got back, Pidge sat with her mom as she sorted through the boxes and Keith sat down in a different chair, reading his book and listening to the iPod Becca gave him.

Chapter Text

Reaching the castle again that night was emotionally draining for everyone. No one wanted to leave their family, but they knew they had a job to do. It was easier now that their families knew they were alive at least. Shiro and Allura helped Keith lug his new books to his room, and Keith couldn’t help but read as he walked with a stack of books under his arms.

He had randomly grabbed a book called We Are the Ants, and he was enraptured. He’d already read the poetry book he’d first grabbed which left him with chills. And he was still listening to the music from his iPod.

While the others had gone to bed, Keith stayed in his room, reading his book until he heard a knock at the door. “Come in!” he shouted.

The door slid open and he looked over to see Lance coming into his room. His eyes skimmed the room and his eyebrows went up in shock. “Whoa.”

“Pidge let me borrow some books.”

Lance nodded and walked over to the bed. “May I?” Keith nodded and pulled his legs in to give him space. “Um, Becca forgot to give you this. For when the iPod runs out.” He handed over a charger and then held up a plastic bag Keith hadn’t noticed. “Also, Maria and my mom wanted to give you this. I told them you like drawing and….” He handed the bag over.

Frowning, Keith looked in and gasped. He began pulling out the items one by one. Erasers, charcoal pencils, regular pencils, colored pencils, pastels, two sketchbooks, and a pack of brush pens. “How did they…? Why?”

Lance smiled and shrugged. “We have our ways. My mom really liked you. She wanted you to have a way to calm down. You said you feel better when you draw.” Keith nodded and smiled as he looked at his new supplies. He was already itching to start with the pastels. He was ready to see the smear of colors on his fingers until a page came alive with bursts of blues and reds and purples. Before he could get them out of their packaging though, Lance nudged his leg lightly to get his attention. Keith looked at him, finding a solemn expression on his face. “Keith, I-I’m sorry if that girl being there made you upset. I didn’t know-”

“That girl? You mean Rosa?” Lance blinked in surprise and Keith rolled his eyes. “Maria told me who she was.”

Lance sighed and nodded. “Yeah. The only one who ever liked her was Papa. I don’t even know why I ever liked her. She’s so shallow.” Keith snorted and Lance looked at him. “What?”

Keith shook his head and crossed his arms. “A girl finally refuses to leave your side and you don’t like her? You know that kiss suggested otherwise.” He shrugged. “But I guess you can kiss someone without liking them. We used to do that all the time.” He couldn’t help the blush that filled his cheeks, so he busied himself with unwrapping his art supplies.

It was quiet for a while, and Keith realized he was desperately hoping Lance would just lean forward and kiss him again. He wanted to hear him say that he didn’t like Rosa, but he did like him and that kissing him was different. He wanted Lance to take him by surprise and just kiss him like he’d read about in his book, wanted to feel what the poems described.

But Lance didn’t move. Because Lance didn’t like him. And they were just friends, and that was supposed to be enough.

“Can I stay with you?” he heard Lance whisper. He looked up to see his eyes pooling with tears. “I just… really miss my mom and I know the deal was coming back, but… I wish I’d stayed. I won’t bother you. I’ll just watch you draw. I could really use a friend right now.”

Keith fought back the urge to caress his cheek and nodded. He scooted over for Lance and set down his new things under the bed, keeping a sketchbook and the pastels with him as he scooted against the wall.

As he placed a pastel against the page, he felt a slight pressure against his shoulder and felt Lance’s hair tickle his face. “Is this okay?” Lance asked with a sniff. Keith hummed in affirmation and Lance settled against him more comfortably. Keith took a breath and ignored the speed of his heart and the rush coursing through his veins.

Who knew a crush could be so similar to the adrenaline he felt during a battle?

Keith leaned his head against the crown of Lance’s head and began to bring his page to life.

By the time he’d smeared, blended, and accented everything he needed, his hands were coated in different colors. He’d simply created the view of space with blues and purples and black, sprinkled it with stars, and smeared ion beams and purple canon blasters across the page. It was soothing and disturbing at the same time.

A tan hand turned his own over and Keith caught his breath as slender fingers trace his. “You have art hands,” Lance whispered sleepily. “It suits you.”

Keith managed a chuckle and curled his fingers, only barely holding Lance’s where they rested on his palm. “Go to sleep. You sound tired.” He pulled the blanket up on him, a sign to tell him he was welcome to stay the night. Lance shuffled down and turned onto his side, eyes shut. “Goodnight,” Keith whispered.

His eyes fluttered open, bright blue meeting Keith’s and sending a shock through him. “Night, Mullet.”

As soon as Lance’s breathing evened out, Keith turned to a new page and cleared his hands as best he could on his shirt. Then he picked out light blues, soft pinks, white, and soft yellows before beginning to fill the page.

As he drew, he thought of Lance’s eyes. Of how bright and full of life they could be when he was happy. How cold and determined they were when he was fighting. How icy and chilling and distant they could be when he was angry. How welcoming they were when he smiled, while being intimidating the second he scowled.

He had never thought of how ambiguous blue could be before.

Keith was nodding off in his sitting position as he blended his colors, so he managed to set his art aside before plopping down and pressing himself against the wall and succumbing to sleep.

He wasn’t sure how long he’d been asleep when he was awoken by the soft touch of warm fingers against his face. He opened his eyes and made out Lance’s shadow, his eyes bright in the darkness of the room. He scooted closer and Keith shivered as his thigh pressed between his legs and up against his crotch.

“Why are you so far away from me?” Lance whispered into his ears.

“What are you doing?” Keith stammered.

He didn’t get a response as Lance’s lips pressed against his throat, sucking softly. Keith let himself relax and sighed as he exposed his neck a little more. Lance’s hand trailed down to his jeans and slipped his under after unbuttoning them. Keith gasped as Lance’s hand ghosted over his growing hard-on over his boxers and he gripped Lance’s shoulder.

“What happened to being just friends?” he gasped.

Lance smiled and pulled his hand back enough to stop touching him. “You want me to stop?” Keith jerked his hips forward, which was all the answer Lance needed. He slipped under his boxers and cupped him, making Keith whimper. “I want you to fuck me. Can you do that for me?” Keith nodded and gripped his face, kissing him almost ferally.

As he did, Keith was slipped out of his jeans and boxers, and Lance clambering onto him, hands roaming under his shirt. He felt the curve of Lance’s ass against the tip of his cock, and he gripped his hips stop him. “What are you doing? Don’t hurt yourself. I can-”

“I already spread myself for you,” Lance murmured against his lips. “Come on, Keith, I need you.” Keith nodded and Lance began seating himself down against him. He was leaking precome and it was smearing his shirt, but neither of them wanted to take the time to remove their shirts. He was warm and his entrance enveloped Keith so perfectly, Keith could hardly take it.

Lance began to rock himself, letting out little pants as he let his head fall back. Keith watched him and thrust his hips up to settle himself deep inside, moaning aloud with each sound of skin against skin. Lance had one hand on one of Keith’s thighs, fingernails digging deep into the flesh. His other was gripping the hem of Keith’s shirt as he bounced on him, face scrunched up in desperate need.

Keith pulled himself into a sitting position, pulling Lance along with him as he pressed against the wall. “You’re beautiful,” he breathed as Lance continued to fuck himself at his preferred pace. “So beautiful, Lance. Look at me.” His eyes opened to meet Keith’s and Keith couldn’t help himself from gripping his hipbones and fucking up into him mercilessly as Lance turned to mush against him.

He was so close, but it wasn’t enough. Lance was gasping and letting out mewls of pleasure as Keith thrust up and pulled him down. “H-harder,” he begged. “Fuck, Keith.” He wrapped his arms around Keith’s shoulders and kissed him. “Don’t let me go. Don’t let me go.” Keith shook his head and flipped him over, pushing his legs up as he slowed his pace. “Wanna be yours. All yours, Keith please.”

“Mine,” he growled. “You’re mine.” He pounded into him, making the bed springs creak and snap, the mattress thudded against the wall almost comically, but Keith didn’t care. Lance was screaming under him, begging for more, and Keith could only think that Lance was his and only his.

He pulled away and shuffled down to wrap his mouth around Lance’s cock. Before he could even push himself all the way down, Lance was releasing into him, catching him by surprise.

Keith sat up in bed, coughing almost violently. Beside him, Lance sat up and rubbed his eyes. “Keith? You okay?”

Keith waved away the question, trying to catch his breath, still reeling from the vividness of his dream and the things that had been said, and the fact that it was just a fucking dream. Lance touched his shoulder, and Keith gasped, curling into himself. He could feel his boner pressing against his leg in his jeans and groaned because not only could he do nothing to fix it, but even if he could it would be nothing compared to what his dream was like.

“Keith?”

“I’m fine,” he grumbled, voice hoarse. “Sorry I woke you.”

Lance was wincing at the light. Keith hadn’t turned them off when he fell asleep. “Do you want some water or something?”

“No, Lance, I’m okay,” he snapped. He sighed and rubbed his face. “I actually need to use the bathroom.” He slid to the edge of the bed and walked to the door so Lance couldn’t see the front of his jeans before he bolted.

He slammed the door shut in the bathroom stall and risked an inquisitive hello. It was the middle of the night, so he was certain no one was in here. He shimmied his jeans down, hating himself but needing a form of release, of satisfaction.

With memories of his dream, he managed to stifle his groans until he was panting into his hand, shivering slightly. He cleaned himself up and left the stall, splashing his face with water and staring at himself in the mirror. He took a breath and went back to his room.

Lance was gone.

His sketchbook was open and on the back of the cover page was a small note in Lance’s writing.

Thanks for letting me sleep here for a while. I’ll leave your bed to you for the rest of the night. ~Lance

Keith couldn’t help the disappointment he felt. He sat on the bed and gripped his hair. He didn’t know why he had to have fallen for Lance McClain, of all people. How was it that the same boy who had driven him nuts and pushed every button on him by being irritating was now the one giving Keith wet dreams, jitters, and making him blush?

Then suddenly it clicked.

Keith didn’t like him. He just thought he did. Because Lance kissed him, touched him, had sex with him, said the right things. But if he hadn’t? If they hadn’t simply become friends with benefits, would they be where they were? Would Keith still feel the things he felt?

His feelings were superficial. They had been concocted out of the misinterpretation of their actions. Just because Lance was a good kisser and had been the only one to touch him in such intimate ways didn’t mean he really cared for him. It didn’t mean they were compatible. It didn’t mean Keith really liked him. He just thought he did.

And if Lance had gone to Hunk? Or Shiro? Or… Allura? Lance would’ve been messing around with them, and Keith wouldn’t feel any of this. For crying out loud, Lance didn’t even like boys before his sexual frustration began, and Keith had never really liked anybody before he decided to experiment with Lance.

There was nothing solid. And there was no way that Keith would ever be able to bring himself to believe Lance if he miraculously liked him. Because none of it was real.

His feelings were just a stupid illusion. He had been so starved of touch and affection and Lance offered it, said the right things at the right time, and now….

Keith covered his eyes and jerked back when his hands came away wet. He’d been crying…. And now there was no stopping the sobs that began to rack his body.

***

The following day, Keith spent his time training. He was too angry to keep reading, to stressed to calm down enough to draw something unrelated to Lance, and he just wanted to let out his anger.

He returned the next day, and the next, and the next. Before he knew it, he had returned to the same spot he’d isolated himself in for the past week with as little interaction with the others as possible.

Lance had stopped by to see him, and Keith had to remind himself not to feel anything because it was all just a stupid trick of his mind.

“Are you gonna eat? Lunch is ready.”

“In a bit,” he answered, tying his hair back as he prepared for the next level.

“Well, do you wanna train together maybe? I’ve been working on-”

“It’s fine. I kind of need to work on individual combat.” He turned away and started the next sequence. Lance’s presence emphasized his frustration and bitterness, making it easier to get through the level and to the next. He turned back to see Lance waiting, looking uncomfortable. “You can go eat. I’ll be a while.”

“Are you mad at me?” Keith shook his head. No, this wasn’t Lance’s fault. This was his own. His mind got ahead of him. He had made his mistake. “Then what gives?”

Keith turned and crossed his arms. “What, now I can’t take a day for myself? Can’t train alone or be more than five feet away from you for longer than-”

“Don’t you go there with me, you know that’s not what I mean,” Lance growled, stepping forward. Keith stepped back, immediately scowling. “Ever since Rosa got to my party back home you’ve been acting weird. Angry or something, and I just want you to tell me why. I won’t get upset, just-”

“Lance, do you really think that much of yourself? What, you think seeing some girl kiss you bothered me enough to be angry with you?” Keith stepped forward, closing the space, keeping his hands clenched at his sides. “I’ve fucked you and had you begging for more, Lance. I’m sure that’s way more than Rosa ever did for you.” Lance’s lips parted, and his cheeks reddened. “Don’t flatter yourself and think I’m desperate for your attention. I’ve got more important things on my mind.” He turned away, and started the next level.

Then Lance turned him back around and shoved him. “Don’t tell me you’re not mad at me then start insulting me. I just wanted to know what was bothering you.”

“Right now, you,” Keith scowled. “Just leave me alone!”

“Why are you avoiding me? You think we haven’t noticed that you keep holing yourself up in here like a 13 year old going through a scene phase?” Keith scoffed and turned away again. Lance pulled him back and Keith gripped his wrist tightly.

“Let. Me. Go.”

But Lance wasn’t backing down. His eyes were icy, piercing. “Okay, if it’s not about Rosa, then what? We were doing fine until that day.”

Keith snatched himself free and glared at him. “Did you ever think that maybe this isn’t about you? Not everything is, Loverboy.” Lance winced, but kept his jaw set.

“You said you wouldn’t push me away anymore-”

“Oh my God, shut up!” Keith shouted, shoving him back. He was overwhelmed with memories and emotions and the fact that Lance wouldn’t go away wasn’t helping. “This isn’t about you! This has nothing to fucking do with you!”

“Okay, fine! Whatever the hell it is, just talk to me!”

Keith felt his limbs shaking and a wave of dizziness. “Stop acting like you’re my friend,” he growled. Lance stared at him in shock and anger. “You only needed me to get you off and that’s the only reason you gave a shit about me, and I don’t need you pretending to give a shit about me right now.”

“What the fuck are you talking about?” Lance shouted in exasperation. “You’re always doing this, we’re always going back and forth. It’s like you want to isolate yourself, like you want to play a victimized loner-”

Keith reacted without fully processing what he was doing until he’d done it. Lance curled into himself, holding his jaw. He looked back at Keith with so much anger, and Keith knew he should apologize, but he didn’t want to. He was angry. He was angry at Lance for doing this to him.

Lance looked like he was holding himself back using every bit of will he had, but Keith didn’t want that. He wanted Lance to hit him back, to make Keith hate him so these stupid made up feelings would go away.

“Keith. Don’t.” Keith glared at him, lip curled and jaw set. Lance looked at him with those piercing eyes and took a breath. “I’m sorry for what I said. Okay? But let’s…. Please, just tell me how I can help you.”

He stepped forward, looking him in the eyes, and smirked, giving him a scoff. “Why would I want your help? Better yet, why are you bothering trying to help? Do you really have such a sad need for everyone to like you that-”

All of a sudden, Lance lunged forward, gripping his shirt and slamming him against the wall. Keith felt his head hit the wall and bounce off, but he only clenched his teeth. “You don’t know anything!” he shouted, and Keith swore he heard his voice break.

Still, he didn’t want to stop. He had where he wanted him. Just needed Lance to hurt him a little more so Keith could convince himself he hated him. So Keith could forget the pillow talk, the smiles, the touches. He shoved him off. “You sure about that? I know that you were so fucking lonely that you resorted to making me fuck you so you could feel like someone gave a shit for once. I know that no one back home likes your little girlfriend but you’re so desperate for someone to want you, you keep her around.”

Lance pulled back and swung, hitting Keith square in the eye, screaming for him to shut up. “You’re the one who came up to me offering to help like some fucking prostitute! You’re the one that came to my room because you couldn’t sleep without me. At least I’m not so touch starved I can’t even handle-” Keith shut him up by tackling him down to the floor, trying to hit where he could despite the pain in his eye. He felt Lance knee his stomach, felt himself get slammed onto the ground as Lance clambered onto him trying to block his hits. His face felt numb. Lance’s nose was bleeding.

No more words were spoken as they struggled on the ground, fueled by anger and hurt and insecurities.

Suddenly Pidge was screaming at them. “What the hell are you two doing! Stop it! Keith! Lance, get off!”

“Stay out of this!” Keith growled.

They continued their fight like primitive creatures, calling out ruthless insults, not even caring about who was seeing or who heard what. Keith kicked out and tossed Lance back, Keith’s leg and Lance’s elbow hitting Pidge in the process.

The green paladin turned red and snarled. “That’s it.” She barged out and the next thing Keith knew she was back, and there was a blinding pain in his side as the two split apart and Pidge was holding her glowing green bayard. “What. The fuck. Is happening?”

“Nothing,” Lance muttered, wiping his nose. His eyes were red. Keith pressed a finger to his cheekbone and winced when a spark of pain spread. Pidge stared at them and frowned.

“Guys, seriously. I thought-”

“Jesus, just drop it, Pidge,” Keith snapped.

“Don’t talk to her like that!” Lance hissed back.

Pidge looked at them worriedly and shook her head. “You guys have never gotten this bad before. Even before you… became friends.”

Keith stood up and scowled at the ground. “We were never friends.”

He left without a glance back, but he heard Lance shout, “Fuck you, Keith!” in the most hateful, raspy voice he’d ever heard out of him.

Keith kept walking, shoving past Hunk and avoiding Shiro as he walked the halls until he got to his room. He shoved all his art under the bed and wrapped himself in covers. Only… the covers smelled like Lance. They had the scent of some exotic fruit detergent and the sweet smell of his cologne. It smelled like Earth too.

Keith held back stupid tears and gripped the covers between his hands. He swore he wasn’t trying to smell them. It was just the necessary gasps of breath as he tried to control the painful knot in his throat. Because Lance didn’t want him. Didn’t really like him. Because Lance would never lay in this bed with him again. Because Keith would never have someone’s arms wrapped around him in the middle of the night, or wake up with the weight of someone’s legs tangled with his own. Because there was no one to keep him warm at night anymore.

He wouldn’t cry. Not over Lance. Not over a feeling that wasn’t even real. But maybe a little self-indulgence would be okay. Nobody would know.

So he laid down, pulling the covers up to his face. He didn’t care that it was hot. He didn’t care that his face hurt and that his hands felt bruised and swollen. He just wanted to hold on to this scent. This scent that was so welcoming and comforting, so Lance. At least while he could.

He faded in and out of sleep for a while until there was a small knock at his door. Keith didn’t answer. He wasn’t sure if he was hoping it was or wasn’t Lance. The knock came again, more insistently.

“Look, I know you’re awake, Keith. Let me in.”

Pidge. Keith frowned, walking over to let the door slide open. Pidge stood looking up at him with a plate of cookies, a first aid kit, and a bag of frozen something. “What are you doing?”

“I brought you comfort food and stuff to fix your face, duh,” she said. “Can I come in?” Keith sighed and shrugged, shuffling back to the bed. “What’s all the stuff under your bed?”

“Some art stuff Mrs. McClain sent me.” Pidge’s eyebrows went up and she walked over to sit on the bed with Keith. “Here, have a cookie. Hunk got some ingredients from home, so they should taste even better than usual.” Keith realized he hadn’t eaten in a long time, and the smell of the cookies was mouth-watering.

He grabbed one and stuffed it in his mouth, stifling a moan. He decided cookies were his favorite food. Pidge opened her first-aid kit and as she tore a pack open, the smell of disinfecting alcohol hit him. She dabbed it lightly along his eye, cheek, lip, and the bridge of his nose. He hissed but she remained focused.

“So…. You want to tell me what happened?”

He sighed and munched on another cookie. “Just an argument that got out of hand.”

She rolled her eyes and pulled away. The wipe was covered in specks of dried, brown blood. “I thought I already told you that you can’t bullshit me, Keith. I know Lance. He’s not violent. He’s a lot of talk, but….” She placed the bag of frozen something which was actually just an ice pack and placed it on eyes. “I thought you guys settled on being friends.”

He scoffed and said, “Yeah, just because we slept together. He never wanted to be my friend before. Now just because… all of that happened….” He shook his head. “And I don’t like him. I just think I do- or I thought I did. I don’t know.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” she asked.

“If we hadn’t done what we did, I never would’ve started feeling these things. So these feelings can’t be real.”

She raised an eyebrow and bit her lip, trying to figure out how to phrase her next statement. “The thing is… you did do it. And the feelings did start. It’s like alternate dimensions. In one dimension, you guys didn’t and remained teammates that bicker and protect each other. In this one, you guys hooked up and ended up having feelings. That doesn’t make them fake.”

He pushed the ice pack away from his face and threw his arms up. “Yes, it does, Pidge! If he’d gone to Hunk or Shiro, then he would be acting all sweet and romantic with them, and I’d still be that annoying guy he wants to one-up.” Pidge winced and shook her head. “I should have never started feeling these things. And they’re just… influenced by him, they’re not even… natural!” He groaned and let his head fall, gripping his hair between his fingers.

Pidge tilted his head up and moved his hands. “Lemme see,” she said gently. She coated his wounds in anti-inflammatory ointment and placed a stitch band-aid on his nose and two on his cheek. “You know, he was crying when I went to see him,” she murmured.

Keith hated that his heart clenched at that. He leaned his head against the wall and felt the slight swell of his lip. “I want to hate him, Pidge. But even after beating the crap out of each other….”

“Feelings suck,” she said with a sigh. She ate a cookie and sat with her back against the wall. “I can tell you from experience that trying to ignore an emotion doesn’t make a difference. You gotta accept it. It’s easier to deal with life if you acknowledge it.”

“Experience?”

She shrugged. “It may be hard to believe, but I get crushes too, man.”

Granted, Keith had never considered Pidge having a love life. Maybe she had a boyfriend back home. Or girlfriend. Keith had never considered her sexuality either. Though, he supposed that was because she was so focused on finding Matt and getting things done. A love life seemed like the last thing on her mind.

“That makes sense,” he said. “Although, I’m not sure I can picture your type.”

Pidge laughed and shook her head. “Oh, like I could’ve ever pictured yours!” Keith stuck his tongue out at her. She smiled and blushed slightly. “I like guys that are smart and funny and honest and brave. Someone who can be your friend before wanting to be more. Trustworthy. Who gives great hugs and can nerd out with me and stay up with me when I’m hyper-focused on something. Then carries me to bed so I don’t get cricks in my neck.”

Keith furrowed his eyebrows and looked at Pidge’s face. She wasn’t looking at him, but she seemed lost in thought, her cheeks bright red. “That’s… specific.” She took a breath and turned away with a shrug. “Pidge, do you like Hunk?” She groaned and buried her face in her hands. “Look, I trusted you with my shitty feelings, it’s your turn.”

She looked at him and made a face before hiding it again. Then she nodded. “It just sucks, because I know him and Lance and Shiro all see me as the little sister, you know? I’m fifteen, I’m still a kid to all of you. It’s just two years! But I’m…. Well, me.”

“Is this what the makeup thing was about?” he asked.

“No. Not really. It wasn’t because of Hunk specifically, I just… wanted to look older. Not like… a twelve-year old boy.”

Keith smiled and felt a wave of sympathy towards her. “So… since when did you start liking him?”

She turned redder and bit her lip. “I don’t really know…. I guess countless nights sent together over equipment and graphs can do a number. And anytime I’m stressed he can make me laugh. I mean Lance does too, but I get more frustrated with him. They have different humor, and Hunk’s fits me more. I don’t know. Then he started lending me shirts to sleep in and… I was a goner.”

Keith smiled and nodded. “Feelings suck.”

She smiled and nodded. “Feelings suck.”

***

The following day, Keith was woken up to the sound of the castle alarm. He hurried out of bed and ran to the hangar, avoiding eye contact with anyone. Still, as he climbed into Red, he caught a glimpse of Lance before he put on his helmet.

His nose had a band-aid, his lip was cut and slightly swollen, and there was a square gauze taped to his temple. Keith felt his stomach flip as he got into the cockpit and started Red up.

“Alright team, we got a Galra attack on planet Arus again. There’s only one fleet, so we should be able to take them down quick,” Shiro said certainly.

“Uh, Shiro?” Pidge said as they reached the planet. “That looks like more than one fleet.”

“Oh no,” Hunk groaned. “Lance, on your right!” The blue lion dipped down and Hunk turned to blast away a Galra ship. “We’re spotted, we’ve been spotted guys.”

“It’s all right, nothing we can’t handle,” Shiro assured. “Let’s form Voltron and take these guys out. We have to keep the Arusians safe.”

“Let’s do it,” Pidge agreed. “Keith? Lance? You guys still with us?”

“Yep.”

“Yeah.”

There was a slight silence before Shiro said, “Alright then. Form Voltron.” The lions began their typical formation, but nothing happened. The lions weren’t coming together. “Why isn’t it working?”

“I think we all know why it’s not working,” Hunk muttered.

“Hunk, come on,” Pidge said.

“Well, we need to form Voltron if we want to take those fleets down, and obviously Keith is messing up the bonding!”

“Oh, what so it’s just my fault?” Keith snapped.

“Don’t yell at Hunk!” Lance shouted.

You don’t talk to me.”

Guys!” Shiro snapped. “Crap, watch out!” The lions fled in different directions as one of the fleets fired at them.

Keith heard Shiro shout in pain and panicked. “Shiro?”

“Keep them at bay. I’ll try to contact Allura and Coran,” he groaned. “Go! And stop fighting!”

“I hope you boys heard that,” Pidge said with annoyance. “Now let’s go.” Despite being the youngest, Keith couldn’t help but feel like she was the one keeping them in line at the moment.

Throughout the fight, Pidge was the one shouting orders, and the one who quickly shut down any attempts at a new argument. Shiro had gotten hurt with the blast his lion took since he took the blow of nearly the entire fleet while trying to get the others out of the way. Coran and Allura had brought up the castle ship and managed to fend off a few more fleets.

As much as Keith wanted to ignore and avoid Lance, he couldn’t help the instinct that came over when he saw a fleet get to close to the blue lion’s turned back. He immediately shot a fire beam then turned to throw another ship against two that were flying in with the lion’s jaw. He would be lying if he said he didn’t keep one eye on Lance for the rest of the fight.

Finally they were able to get back to the castle ship, each tired and jostled since the fight took much longer without Voltron. Once they were out of their suits, they met in the lounge. Shiro stood beside Allura with his arm in a sling. He’d dislocated his shoulder. Keith thought he could fix that in a healing pod, but simply chose not to for a guilt effect.

“What happened?” Allura demanded, looking each paladin in the eye. Keith and Lance were on opposite ends, with Pidge beside Keith and Hunk beside Lance. Pidge didn’t even seem fazed by the fact that she was next to Hunk. Keith had to ask her how she managed that.

“We struggled a bit,” Pidge finally said. “We were just distracted. Tired.”

“Pidge, don’t cover for h- them,” Hunk said.

“Oh, don’t think I don’t know something happened between these two,” she snapped, pointing a finger between Keith and Lance. “It’s all over your bruised faces. Call me crazy, but I thought your stupid little feud was past us. Now, why in the world did you two decide to rearrange each other’s faces?”

Shiro put a hand on her shoulder to calm her down. Coran was speechless, leaning against the wall. “I know you’ve all had your differences. But none of you have ever gone so far as to hurt each other,” he said. Keith clenched his jaw and risked a glance at Lance who was looking down at his hands. “What’s happening?”

“Keith’s the one who threw the first punch, ask him!” Hunk said. “We all know you’re the temperamental one, but this is too far even for you, Keith.”

“Don’t talk to me like you know me,” Keith answered, curling his lip. “You don’t know anything!”

“You need to stop talking to him like that,” Lance said, standing up. Keith stood up if only to minimize the amount he had to crane his neck.

“Oh, what don’t tell me he’s next?” Keith spat.

“Whoa! Okay,” Pidge said standing up.

“Stay out of it, Pidge,” they said at the same time.

Hunk stood up and shoved them each opposite ways. “We don’t need a reenactment, and you definitely need to leave Pidge alone unless you want her to taze you again.”

What?” Shiro asked.

Enough!” Allura shouted so loudly, all of them fell back into a seat. Shiro took a step away from her and Coran’s eyes widened. “You’re paladins! You’re not supposed to be acting like this! I understand you’re all young, but with this war going on, I’d expect much better out of all of you. All those bonding and training exercises-”

“You don’t understand, Allura,” Lance said tiredly. His voice shook, making Keith’s chest constrict. “You don’t have to get involved-”

“No, Lance, I think we do,” Shiro interrupted. “We’re not stupid. All of us know what’s been going on between you and Keith.” Keith stared at Shiro wide-eyed and with a deep blush on his cheeks. He glanced at Lance. For that moment their arguing and fighting was forgotten. They were just both embarrassed and panicked that their secret had obviously not been a secret.

“Welp, the cat’s out of the bag. I’m off to take a shower,” Pidge said awkwardly.

“Oh, no you don’t, Katie. Sit down. This is a team problem,” Shiro said. She huffed and plopped down.

Hunk shifted and crossed his arms. “Since when are their love lives a team problem? Sorry, buddy.”

“Whoa, love?”

“No one said anything about love.”

“It’s really not a team thing.”

“It wasn’t serious.”

Keith and Lance protested over each other, refusing to look at the other. Shiro sighed and rubbed his head with his Galra hand. “Guys, enough. No your romantic endeavors aren’t our business. Until they interfere with our jobs as defenders of the universe. And being unable to form Voltron because you two are angry with each other is not good.”

“Why don’t we start from the cause of the problem?” Coran said calmly. “What happened in the breakup?”

Keith hid his face and groaned as Lance huffed. “We were never dating!” A few confused looks between the Alteans and Shiro were exchanged. “There was no breakup!”

“Then why the hostility?” Allura asked in confusion, taking a seat at the other side of Lance. Keith felt a hot spark of anger but he snuffed it out. He peeked at Pidge and tried to mimic her tired expression.

“That, I don’t know.”

“Like I said, Keith threw the first punch. If you interrogate anyone, interrogate him,” Hunk said.

“Hunk, would you please stay out of it,” Pidge hissed, nudging him.

“Don’t tell me you’re taking his side. You’ve known Lance way longer than Keith and-”

“That’s not the point! Keith has a side too, and you’re just-”

“Oh, do tell me what the fuck his side is,” Lance said, leaning forward.

Keith sat straighter and touched Pidge’s arm. “Don’t you talk to her like that, you asshole,” he snapped.

I’m the asshole?” he shouted, standing up again.

Keith stood, but before he could respond, Pidge was between them, facing Lance. “Aren’t you the one who kept telling everyone to cut Keith some slack because communication isn’t his thing? What now just because he’s not communicating with you it pisses you off?” Hunk stood up and put himself between Pidge and Lance. Keith noticed her tense. “Hunk. Please. You have to at least admit that I have a point! I’m not taking sides, but Lance-”

“Pidge, you don’t get it. It’s more complicated than that. You’re too young to get it, but-”

Excuse me?” she breathed. Keith bit his lip and looked between them. Pidge scoffed and nodded, turning away and rushing out of the lounge. Keith glared at Hunk and followed after Pidge.

He heard her sniffling, and called out for her. But he wasn’t able to reach her until he’d reached the hangar where she was trying to get the green lion to open for her. She was crying, which was a sight Keith definitely never wanted to see. He hated seeing her so upset, especially knowing that the two people she was closest to were the two people she couldn’t be with.

He walked over to her, touched her shoulder, and suddenly she had her face buried in his shirt and her arms wrapped tightly around his waist. Keith sighed and wrapped his arms around her gently, feeling her shake.

“I told you. I’m just a kid.”

“He was just defending Lance,” Keith assured. “He doesn’t….” But he couldn’t finish what he was saying because he didn’t know Hunk. So instead, he hugged her a little tighter. “We’ll be okay.”

She sniffed and he heard a muffled, “Feelings suck,” in his shirt.

Keith chuckled and leaned down to rest his cheek on the crown of her head. “Feelings suck.”

Chapter Text

It was understatement to say that the entire team was split. Even Hunk and Pidge weren’t talking to each other. She’d kicked him out of the lab several times and Hunk spent most of his time experimenting in the kitchen. Keith spent his time in his room reading, drawing, and listening to music. He managed to make a few playlists but he tended to listen to his angry one more often. Shiro and Allura tried for more meetings but it got nowhere since none of the paladins would speak to each other and if they did, it ended up being Pidge and Keith pitted against Hunk and Lance.

Then one day, while he was drawing in the lounge, Coran came and sat beside him. He glanced at him, but didn’t say anything.

“What’s that?” he asked Keith.

Keith tilted his sketchbook. “I’m drawing Red as if she were a real lion.”

“May I see the other works?”

Keith handed his sketchbook over without thinking. Coran flipped to the first page. The galactic war. Keith remembered drawing that one with Lance leaning on his shoulder. Coran turned the page to the icy blue expanse of pastels. Keith had been thinking of Lance’s eyes.

Coran continued to flip through the pages and mused over each one. “You have a lot of emotions, don’t you?” Keith frowned and looked at him questioningly. “You can’t make art like this without having some deep emotional sense of understanding. And you’ve had plenty.”

“I guess.” Coran continued to turn the pages. “Are you going to ask me what Allura and Shiro have been?”

He shook his head and mused over the latest work in progress. “No. I don’t think you’d tell me. Although I think you need to ask yourself. The problem seems to be everyone else getting involved. And this isn’t about everyone else, is it?” Keith shook his head. “So figure it out for you. Not for the others, not for Lance. For you. If you can do that, things can be easier. Lance is someone who needs to talk to others to understand himself. You need to be alone. I will say this; you should never purposefully hurt someone you care about in whatever way you might. I at least ask you to apologize for the violence.”

Keith couldn’t refute that. He knew he was the one who threw the first punch.

“This is incredible work,” he said, returning the sketchbook. “Perhaps if you can be as honest with yourself as you are with your sketchbook, things can be a little easier.” He smiled and stood. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to soak in a nice Altean bath.”

Coran left, somehow affecting Keith more than Shiro, Allura, or Pidge could’ve.

Although, he had been honest with himself. He recognized these feelings, and recognized that they were fickle and simply a result of stupid choices. If that were true, then why hadn’t they gone away? It’d been another week since their little meeting that resulted in even more bickering. His bruises were lighter, his cuts were scarring, and still, Keith didn’t hate Lance. He still felt his heart clench around him. He still felt his chest constrict when he was near. He still missed him.

He needed someone who could see through the bullshit he couldn’t see himself. He needed Pidge.

He went to the control room where she tended to spend her time if she wasn’t in the hangar or the lab. When he got to the entrance, he heard Pidge talking in quick, angry bursts.

“-need your help, I can do it alone. Just get out. Why would you want to work with a kid anyway? Go do something else and leave me alone.”

“Pidge, you know I didn’t mean that.”

“Then why did you say it?” Keith really needed to stop eavesdropping. But he also wanted to know where this was going.

“I don’t know! I was just…. Look, I’ve known Lance for a long time. And I keep seeing him get hurt over these girls that don’t pay attention to him or just mess with him. Now, Keith is the one making him cry? It made me… mad that you were defending him when it’s his fault Lance is hurting so much. So I just wanted to say something to discredit you. And I know it was stupid, but I was thinking about Lance at the time. I didn’t think it bothered you so much.”

Keith shrunk into himself. This was why he wasn’t supposed to eavesdrop. Was Lance really hurting? Was he hurting like Keith was?

“You can be so stupid sometimes, Hunk,” Pidge muttered. “I know that I’m the youngest. And I know you all see me as the little sister-”

“No, wait, Pidge. That’s not true. You’re the smartest of us all, and you’re a paladin just like us. You’re… you’re one of my best friends. And I hate having you angry with me. Will you please forgive me? I miss spending time with you.”

Keith stepped away from the control room. It seemed things had worked out for Pidge. He turned away and started down a hallway, suddenly feeling lonelier. He noticed footsteps passing him and tensed. He could see Lance’s shoes. This wasn’t a first. They’d walked past each other without a word a few times already. And each time, Keith hoped he wouldn’t talk to him. And each time, his heart broke a little when he didn’t. It was very confusing.

Just like every other time, Lance walked past him without a word. Keith sped up his pace to get away quicker. And then he stopped. He turned around and called out before he could chicken out.

“Lance.” The taller figure at the end of the hallway came to an abrupt stop. Then it pitched forward before stopping again. He hadn’t meant to stop. He wanted to ignore Keith, but he’d been caught off guard. Keith took a few tentative steps forward while Lance remained with his back to him. “I know you’re angry with me. And you have every right to be. I said stupid and terrible things to you. I… hit you. And I’m sorry. I really am. I don’t expect you to forgive me, but I wanted you to know I regret it. And I wish I could explain why I did all of that-”

“Then explain.” Keith’s mouth snapped shut as Lance turned. “Why did you hit me? What did I do?”

Keith’s brows furrowed as the answer danced on his tongue. Instead, he shook his head and took a breath. “I’m so sorry.” He turned back around and went to the training room, hoping to clear his head a bit.

He started without warming up, finding the beginning levels enough of a warmup to bother. He tried to figure himself out. He tried to pinpoint the moment everything had decided to go to shit. But he had no answers.

As he continued to swing, hit, and kick, his mind wandered. What exactly was he even trying to answer? He’d never stopped to really ask himself anything.

He began to make a mental list as the training continued.

When did he start having legitimate (or illusionary- it was still unclear, but that would be another question) feelings for Lance? Before or after they’d…? Why was he always going in circles with Lance, wanting to be around him and wanting to cut himself off completely? How, why was Lance hurting if it was supposed to be a fling? A simple frenemies with benefits deal? Did Lance feel the things (also, what  were the things?) Keith felt? And if he did, was that good or bad for Keith? Was he angry that Lance had kissed Rosa? That question sparked an emotion that made him attack the next drone with a bit too much force, so he crossed it off his list. Yes, it made him mad, because he was feeling things, whatever they were. Next question…. What was he trying to accomplish in hurting Lance? Hating him? For what? Why didn’t he hate him if his face had the proof of angry punches from the same hands that had once caressed his face, his sides, the most sensitive parts of him?

And most importantly, what should he do now?

---

It took a long time before Keith managed to reach a conclusion, even if he couldn’t answer all of his own questions. He let his personal inhibitions down and ended up getting distracted, the wind knocked out of him by a hit he failed to block, and then a tired mess on the floor, yanking at his hair.

He went in search of Allura or Coran before finding the latter and asking him to get him in touch with Kolivan in the Blade of Marmora.

After a long, heated discussion with the leader, Keith asked Allura to call a meeting in the lounge. He stood tensely in a corner as the paladins came in. Pidge and Hunk seemed to be back to normal, and with Lance, it almost looked like the first time they’d met, when the trio were closest to each other, wary of Keith and idolizing Shiro.

“What’s up, Allura?” Lance asked, pointedly avoiding Keith’s gaze. That was fine.

“Actually,” she began, giving Keith a hesitant glance. “Keith asked for this meeting.” Pidge was the first to look at him suspiciously, and Keith almost saw the turning of gears in her head as she tried to figure out what he was doing. “Keith, go on.”

Keith cleared his throat and decided between going for the big punch or leading up to it.

“So, we’re all well aware of the problems we’ve been having as a team. I’ve been living up to my rep of being impulsive and reckless and short-tempered.” He kept his eyes narrowed, refusing to look at the ground. He had no doubts. He would not be talked out of this. And he was not afraid. “I’ve created a rift among us as paladins due to both my lack of social and communication skills. Not only between me and Lance, but even between Pidge and Lance and Hunk.”

“Is this an apology speech?” Shiro questioned.

He met his eyes and managed a small quirk of his lip. “Only partially. I am sorry. But I’ve been thinking and I’ve reached the conclusion that I need to… get to know myself better. I need to figure out how to understand my thoughts and emotions and the relationship I have with all of you. I keep feeling half distracted by wanting to know my past and being bitter about it, and… I need to figure it out. I also need distance so I can stop coming between your roles in Voltron.”

“Your?” Pidge echoed, but Keith ignored her.

“I… I talked to Kolivan from the Blade. And he’s agreed to train me and help me piece together what I can of my past.” He straightened his stance and clenched his jaw. “So I’m… leaving Voltron.”

What?” came a chorus of six voices and even mousy squeaks. But Lance was the one who had gotten to his feet and even taken a step toward him. “What are you talking about?” Pidge demanded. “You can’t just- You’re the one that said I couldn’t leave because this was bigger than me, than all of us.”

“And we came to the conclusion that we can’t force each other to be here. That a team doesn’t work like that, and I’ve already fucked this team up enough.”

“Keith, this was a two person problem,” Lance said, eyes blown wide. “It’s not your fault alone. I messed up too, that doesn’t mean you have to leave.”

“When did you talk to Kolivan?” Shiro demanded.

Keith sighed and rubbed his temple. “Keith, if you leave, then we really won’t ever get a chance to form Voltron again,” Allura said, touching his arm softly.

“Lance has piloted Red before. He can do it again.”

“That was an emergency,” Lance hissed. “And even if I did, I’m not leaving Blue.”

“Then find someone else! I’m not changing my mind. I need to do this. For me.”

“You’re being selfish,” Hunk said, crossing his arms. “You’re just thinking of yourself. You’re part of this team, and… and yeah people fight and they argue, but they work through it! You can’t just run off over a breakup.”

“It wasn’t a breakup!” Keith groaned. “Look, I’m going. I have to. I… I need to be honest with myself. And not try to just live up to what you guys expect from me. It’s more than this, but I’d rather keep it to myself.”

“When do you plan to leave?” It was the first time Coran spoke, and when Keith looked at him he felt guilty. Coran’s eyes were tired and sad, seeming to have aged those 10,000 years within the last ten minutes. He hadn’t told Coran what he was asking Kolivan. And it’s because of what Coran told him that he decided this in the first place.

He bit his lip and took a breath. “Tomorrow. He said he would come in a pod to get me.”

“Well then,” he nodded. “How about a final team dinner to see you off?”

Keith’s stomach clenched and he shook his head. “Thanks, Coran. I really should get packing though.” He let out a tired breath and turned away.

He made a few makeshift packs from the cloth they’d used to dress as space pirates when they went to the mall for the first time. When he packed what little clothes he had, he began packing the books and art supplies he was gifted.

Suddenly, his door slid open. He turned in confusion, his breaths coming to a halt when he saw Lance looking angry and tired at the same time. “I didn’t let you in-”

“What the hell is your problem?” Keith frowned and backed up against the wall. “What, you can’t even look at me so you just decide to run away?”

“You’re the one who isn’t talking to me, Lance.”

“Because I am tired of being the first to apologize! I don’t even know what to apologize for this time, because you don’t talk to me!” Keith sighed and let his head fall back. “But I didn’t want you to just run off. I don’t get it, Keith.” He stepped closer, his blue eyes searching his face almost frantically. “Why do you have to leave? We can fix this, we can….” Keith raised an eyebrow and held his gaze.

“We can what, Lance? Pretend nothing happened? Pretend we haven’t done what we’ve done?”

 Lance furrowed his eyebrows and stared at Keith. Then, “Why did you hit me?”

Keith winced and stared at the floor. “That’s… complicated.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know. I’m scared to say it out loud, I don’t know how to say it. It makes sense in my head but my words get all jumbled and….” He took a breath and met his eyes. “Coran said I need to be honest with myself before I’m honest with anyone else. And I can’t figure it all out in my head.”

He thought Lance would get angry and leave. He thought he’d tell him off for being selfish or for not knowing how to think. Instead, Lance bit his lip and seemed to think for a moment. Then he said, “Okay. Then just tell me what’s in your head, even if it’s jumbled. Please. Just… at least tell me… do you really think I only wanted to be your friend because of the stuff we did?” He met Lance’s eyes and gulped. He shrugged and lowered his gaze. “Because I promise that’s not true. It’s just… I got to know you a little more. When we’d train or hang out together and goof off. When we’d just talk into the night until one of us fell asleep. It was because of those things that I wanted- that I want to be your friend. Not the sex.” Keith didn’t respond. “Why did you hit me? I’ve made you angry before, but never enough for you to hit me.”

Keith’s lips parted and he let out a breath. “I wanted you to hit me back,” he croaked. “So I could hate you.”

“H-hate?”

Keith nodded. “But it didn’t work.”

“Why do you want to hate me?”

“So I don’t feel what I feel now!” He pushed Lance away, freeing himself from what was quickly becoming a trap between the wall and Lance. “I don’t know what to do with these feelings, and I don’t want to feel them. I never would’ve if…. I don’t even know when they started and I just….”

It was quiet. And then he heard movement and suddenly Lance’s warm hands were on his wrists, turning him back. “What feelings?” Keith stared at him, not wanting to answer because he wasn’t completely certain but… at the same time he was. “Keith.” His hands came to cup his face and Keith felt his heart hammer against his chest, craving the touch he’d missed so much without realizing it. “Do you… feel something for me?”

Keith felt the answer lodge in his throat. Saying it meant being vulnerable. It meant the feelings would be real even if they weren’t supposed to be. It meant-

It meant Lance was kissing him, letting his answer bubble up in a sigh too quiet to be heard. Lance’s hands came around his neck, tugging him closer. Keith slipped his hands into his hair, into those curls that had so often helped him fall asleep. He felt Lance step forward until he managed to press Keith against the wall, the tips of his fingers digging lightly into his skin, his thumbs at his jawline. It was like he was desperate to hold onto Keith, but wanted to be gentle because he didn’t want to hurt him in the slightest. It made the smallest whimper slip through Keith’s lips.

He leaned his forehead against Keith’s, close enough so they shared breaths and their lips touched if only barely. “I do too,” Lance said softly. Keith could hardly hear him over the rush in his head, the pounding of his heart. “I see you, and my heart picks up. And I get so happy when you smile at me. I’m fucking ecstatic when you laugh. I feel like I can take on the world each time you kiss me.”

“Lance-”

“Being away from you made me feel empty, and-”

“Lance, I can’t stay.” Lance pulled away and Keith forced himself to stay still instead of reaching for him. “I’m so confused with everything right now. I want to have time to figure myself out. And I can learn about my past and this part of me that I’m so terrified of by going with the Blade. I don’t even know if these feelings are real.”

“What do you mean real? Don’t… don’t you feel these things for me? Don’t you-”

Keith cupped his face, seeing his pain reflected in ocean blue eyes. “Lance, right now, all I know is… that it physically hurts to be around you. I’ve never felt these things before, and I don’t know if I can trust them because- Lance, please let me finish.” Lance had pulled away and sat on Keith’s bed. Keith knelt in front of him, taking his hands in his own.

Lance’s hands were dark, smooth, and slender. Long thin fingers, with smooth palms and long nailbeds. Keith’s were pale, calloused and scarred, wide instead of slender, his own fingers long but thicker with short nails. Seeing them intertwined was like trying to fathom themselves together. Weird. Awkward. Mismatched.

And yet they had been together, in some sense of the word. Their bodies had been intertwined, connected. They’d been so close there was no understanding of where one body ended and the other began.

“I’m just afraid that these feelings are in my head. That I concocted them because you’re the only one who’s seen me the way you have. I’m afraid that even if it’s not the case for me, it is for you. I mean you never even liked boys until now.” Keith let his head fall against their hands. “When I saw you with Rosa, I saw the reality. The life you’d been living before isolation came along. Even if these things are real, how can you know it’s real for you too?”

“Because I can feel it,” Lance insisted, nudging Keith’s chin so he’d look up at him. “Because it’s not in my head that I’m happy with you. It’s not in my head that I get nervous and jittery around you.” He leaned down slightly, looking Keith in the eyes. “With Rosa…. I can explain all of it. My family is really religious, and it sort of slapped me in the face when we went back. Everyone was expecting there to be a girl, and if I even tried saying there was a boy…. It’s hard enough being into the same sex. Add being Hispanic and religious to it?” Lance freed one hand and tugged on a strand of Keith’s hair. “My mom caught on, though. And she told me to be careful. Not to let you slip if you made me happy. She also said you were a huge step up from Rosa.” That managed to get a small chuckle out of Keith. “I knew you were upset over her.”

“You kissed her back.”

“My family was watching.” Keith hummed and laid his head on his lap. “Why does this feel like a breakup, Keith?”

Ignoring the question, Keith took a breath and gripped his hands tighter. “This is something I’ve actually thought through. I’m not being impulsive. I want to go. I want to train and I want to get in touch with the Galra part of me. And…. I want to see what happens to these feelings if I go away. I want to figure out if they are illusions. We both should.”

“Keith…”

“Have you ever heard the phrase ‘in love with the idea of love?’”

“Yeah, in that Twilight movie,” he scoffed. “Like the third one.”

Keith raised an eyebrow and smiled in exasperation. “I read it in a book. I just want to be sure I’m not being overwhelmed by the idea of something. That the things I feel are real and won’t just go away because we’re further from each other.”

Lance sighed and looked at Keith in defeat. “Nothing I say will change your mind will it?” Keith shook his head. “Stupid, stubborn Mullet.” Keith breathed a laugh through his nose and shook his head. “I missed that smile.” Keith bit his lip and couldn’t help the blush that rushed to his cheeks. “Hey,” he said with a lighter tone. “Isn’t this the position that started it all?”

Keith furrowed his eyebrows before realizing he was completely right. “Funny that it’s also how it’s ending.”

The joking smile faded. “Yeah. Funny.” Keith pulled himself up and sat beside him, resting his head on his shoulders. “I’ll take care of Red.”

Keith nodded and murmured a thanks into his shoulder. He took a tired breath and shut his eyes. “This is selfish of me, but…. Do you think you could stay with me one more night?”

Lance’s hand came up to caress his cheek. “For you, anything.”

A few hours later, Keith finished packing most of his books and Lance had taken the liberty of messing with his iPod. When Keith tried to see what he’d done, Lance smacked his hand and told him he wasn’t allowed to look until he was no longer on the castle ship.

Then they laid facing each other on the bed, a small distance between them. Lance’s thumb ran along Keith’s lip and Keith tried to memorize the angles of his face, the exact shade of blue in his eyes, the curve and swell of his lips. He was itching to draw it, but his stuff was packed up. Lance’s hand caressed up and down his arms slowly. It made Keith’s breaths hitch as he laid with him.

It wasn’t sexual. He didn’t feel dramatically turned on like he had before. It was intimate and sweet, and it made Keith miss him even though he was still touching him. Keith scooted closer and nuzzled into the crook of his arm and against his chest where he could hear his heartbeat. “Can you sing to me?”

Lance dipped down, pressing his lips into the unruly hair at his forehead and began to sing softly, his voice broken and off-key as he sang in Spanish. Despite the imperfection, Keith found it soothing and easily one of his favorite voices. He slipped his hand up to wrap around his shoulder, his fingers twirling the curls at the nape of his neck around and around until he fell asleep.

***

The next day,  Pidge walked out of her room at the same time Keith and Lance left his. She froze when she saw them, but when Lance opened his mouth, she lifted a hand to shut him up. “I really don’t wanna know.”

The three of them walked to the table where Hunk had laid out a nice breakfast. He gripped Keith’s shoulder and gave him a smile. “I’m sorry if I acted like a jerk before. It’s just….” Keith gave him a smile and nodded, saving him from having to explain himself.

Kolivan showed up shortly after breakfast. He waited patiently while Keith said his goodbyes again, surrounded by the paladins and Alteans and mice after Hunk called for a group hug.

“I’m really gonna miss you,” Pidge sniffed, her arms wrapping tighter around his waist.

“Yeah. Who am I gonna make fun of now?” Lance added. He was smiling, had long accepted Keith’s choice. But Keith saw it in his eyes- the pain and longing and sacrifice this really was for Lance.

Keith had never been one for so much physical contact. And when he’d craved it, it’d been sexual, or limited to Lance. Now? He understood what family was supposed to be.

“I’ll miss you guys too. Thank you for understanding.” He pulled away and managed a smile before turning away to follow Kolivan. As he walked down the hall, leaving the others in the control room, he heard footsteps running after them.

“Keith, wait!” He stopped as his brain registered Lance’s voice. He turned and saw him come to a sudden stop in front of him. He managed a pained smile and pulled him into a kiss, making Keith’s eyebrows go up while his eyes closed. He pulled away and pecked his lips lightly. “I wanted one last kiss.”

Keith let out a nervous chuckle and found his fingers curling around the fabric of Lance’s jacket. “Better make it memorable, then.” He pulled Lance into a deeper kiss, letting every confusing emotion fuel it until he couldn’t breathe. Because even if these feelings weren’t real, Lance was right; he still felt them. And kissing Lance made things like that not matter for a little bit.

He pulled away and squeezed his hand before leaving to board the pod Kolivan had brought.

As the pod shot off into space, Keith looked out the window and watched the castle ship get smaller and smaller until he couldn’t discern it from the stars. Then he remembered his iPod. He tugged it out from the pocket of his jacket and scrolled through the songs trying to figure out what Lance had done. He went back to the albums and then back to the playlists when he saw it.

And so the Moon fell for the Sun

He clicked it and found it filled with romantic songs. It varied from heartbroken to longing to sweet and Keith couldn’t help but smile as he scrolled through the list. He put the earphones in and began playing the songs, his mind filled with blue eyes and wide smiles and soft kisses.

Chapter Text

The castle felt oddly empty. Despite most of the team being in the castle, with Keith missing, things just didn’t feel right. It made Lance regret not talking to him even if he had been angry.

He had taken the liberty of sleeping in Keith’s room with the excuse of his bed being more comfortable. In reality, the room just still smelled like him.

Lance couldn’t help the suffocating fear of wondering what would happen if Keith went on a mission with the Blade and…. He could hardly even think it. The fear was still there, making it hard not to try and check on the Blade every hour. As it was, it’d only been a week since Keith had left.

Lance was still bonding with Red, getting used to her speed and trying not to feel guilty about leaving Blue. He also tried not to feel upset about the fact the Blue had let down her shield for Allura. It was a good thing. It meant they could try to form Voltron again. It was good.

What wasn’t good was the fact that the bonding exercises had to start from scratch and that their latest battle once again had to go without Voltron because they were still figuring out how to work together. It didn’t help that Lance’s mind was more focused on the approaching date when the team would be able to contact the Blade to see how Keith was.

He wondered if Keith had listened to the playlist yet. He wondered what he felt about it. He wondered if it made him smile, or if it made him miss Lance. He had no doubt that Keith was enjoying his training. He had no doubt that he was kicking ass. He was just worried about him going on missions.

If there was one thing Lance knew about Keith Kogane, it’s that he was an impulsive fighter with no regard for his own safety when it came to a team. While that had been fine in Voltron because Lance or Shiro could usually calm him down and help rationalize, he had no idea what that meant in the Blade. He knew the Galra, the bad Galra, had a motto of success or die trying. He wasn’t sure if that went for the Blade as well.

“Care for a slice of cake?” Hunk said, pulling him out of his thoughts. Lance jumped slightly and took the piece of cake being offered. “You gotta focus, buddy. Where’s your head?”

“I’m just worried. Here, we could protect each other. Watch out for each other. I don’t know how they’re treating him in the Blade.”

Hunk chuckled and pulled his legs up to sit cross-legged on the couch. “This is Keith we’re talking about, man. No matter how they’re treating him, Keith’s not one to back down or feel sorry for himself.” Lance grumbled and ate his cake. “You never specified, by the way. Is this… a long distance relationship thing now? Are you guys dating?”

Lance frowned and thought back to the day Keith told him he was leaving. To spending the night with him. Keith had fallen asleep first, and Lance had spent hours running his fingers through his hair, pulling him closer, kissing his forehead whenever he twitched or sighed in his sleep. Lance had been afraid to even fall asleep, knowing it meant he would be missing out on time with him. He thought to that last kiss, and the smile Keith had given him when he pulled away.

But he had been clear. Keith wanted space, time away from each other to test the legitimacy of what they felt. Lance had no doubt at all. He knew what he felt, and he knew how deep his affections ran. It didn’t matter to him how they’d sprouted, or how their relationship began. Lance also knew that Keith was different. While Lance had seen his parents create a beautiful picture of love and family and sincerity, and while he was far more in touch with his emotions, Keith had grown up differently. Keith had nothing to base himself off of. He’d said it himself- everyone he cared about had disappeared somehow. Lance couldn’t blame him for being afraid and confused with his emotions. He didn’t mind giving him space.

“We’re not dating,” he said. “We never really were.” Hunk scoffed and fixed his bandana. “What?”

“Nothing, I just…. I mean maybe it wasn’t ever official, but…. You two were definitely couple-y.”

Lance furrowed his eyebrows and crossed his arms. “That reminds me. You need to tell me when you figured it out.”

“Seriously?” Lance nodded. Hunk chuckled. “Remember that time we found you guys training? It was the same day we saw the claw marks on your back. Which you still haven’t explained.” Lance waved the comment away and nodded. “Well, me and Shiro overheard you calling Keith ‘baby.’ Which he shrugged off as a smartass, patronizing comment, but I know you. I mentioned it to Pidge and she confirmed it later that day.”

“That little-”

“I may be little, but I will still kick your ass, McClain,” they heard. Pidge walked in, sipping on space juice, seeming unamused. “Why am I being insulted?” She clambered into the space between the two boys, tilting herself so she was leaning against Lance while her legs were slung over Hunk’s knee.

“You told Hunk about me and Keith?”

“He figured it out himself. I was just glad someone besides me knew because I didn’t want to be the only one suffering your arguments and sexual endeavors.” Lance grimaced and pinched her, making her jump. “Asshole!” She scooted closer to Hunk, folding into the space at his side, much to his amusement.

“I didn’t even bug you that much about it.” She shrugged and sipped her juice. “What about the others. How did they figure it out?”

“Shiro sort of pieced it together the day you convinced Allura to take us back to Earth. He said he found you walking with him and he saw you both holding hands before you guys noticed him,” Hunk said. “I told him I’d been right when we saw you in the training room.”

“And Allura figured it out when Keith told her he didn’t know where he was going when we got to Earth. I think Coran saw something on the training room video camera,” Pidge said.

Lance choked and thought back, trying to remember if they’d done anything particularly… rated X in there. He couldn’t be sure, but something had to have happened if Coran found out, right?

“And they thought they were slick,” Pidge smirked.

“Still a little miffed at the fact that you didn’t tell me until you had a black eye, man.”

Lance managed to catch his breath and shook his head. “It wasn’t really supposed to…. I don’t know at what point it became more than messing around. Just… one day I realized I’d get nervous if he was around. That I looked forward to seeing him.” He shrugged. “It was sudden… but gradual at the same time.”

Pidge glanced up at Hunk with a knowing smirk. “How have you not realized by now that this isn’t a new thing, Lance?” He looked at her questioningly, sincerely confused. She shook her head and leaned forward. “Your little rivalry deal? Never really a rivalry thing. You’ve always had a crush on him.”

“Nuh-uh!”

“Dude, I distinctly remember one night in the Garrison when you said, ‘Why does Keith Kogane have to be so stupidly perfect.’ So, yeah now that Pidge mentions it, you’ve always sort of liked him.”

“You sound smug considering you’re the guy who still hasn’t realized he likes a certain alien girl whose name rhymes with…. Uh… well, Shay’s name rhymes with a lot, but you know what I mean.”

Pidge rolled her eyes and stood up. “Well, you’re boys. You can be so ridiculously blind sometimes.” She left without a glance back and Hunk frowned.

“That’s… her angry vibe, right?” Lance mumbled.

“Something like that,” Hunk answered. “She’ll probably either explain or get over it later. Anyways, you need to step your game up if you don’t want Shiro nagging you about responsibility and threatening you with not letting you see Keith when we do contact the Blade.”

Lance rolled his eyes, but couldn’t help but wonder if Shiro would actually prohibit him from those “conferences.”

***

“Again!” Keith called out.

“Perhaps a break-”

“No! Kolivan said I would be treated just like anyone else when I joined. So stop going easy on me, and let me train!”

Regris huffed and nodded, resuming a fight stance to challenge Keith again. “Plant your feet. Stay light so you can move quickly. Eyes everywhere.” A tail swept Keith’s feet out from under him, but he rolled and came up on his feet, forcing himself to focus more.

After a few more rounds against Regris, Keith finally agreed to taking a break and smiled at the praise he was given.

He was the smallest part-Galra on the Blade’s base, but the others had seen his agility, and there was no doubt in their minds that he was in fact a Galra. Keith wasn’t sure if he should be proud of that yet. There were still many things unanswered. He had no idea where his father had gone, why he’d left. No idea who his mom was and why she’d had him only to leave him.

So far, all he’d been doing was training.

And listening to his playlist on his breaks. And to fall asleep. He loved going through the songs and smiling as he thought of Lance creating the playlist. A lot of the songs talked about being in love, which made Keith a little nervous, but then again it’s not like songs could say “I really, really, really like you.” That was just awkward. So he supposed it was a necessary hyperbole. There was no way Lance could be in love. They didn’t know much about each other anyway. It was a simple marketing stunt in the songs, because love songs sold, not crushing songs, and…. And it didn’t really matter. The songs brought Keith a sense of serenity.

It made him want to tackle Lance into a kiss, it made him want to hug him and never let go. It made him wish he was there at night when he was falling asleep, humming softly like he used to. It made him miss Lance.

He couldn’t help but chuckle at the concept. If someone had told him three or four months ago that he would reach a point where he missed the blue paladin, Keith would’ve laughed or maybe punched the person in the face. And yet here he was.

“You should eat.” Keith glanced up at Kolivan. He couldn’t discern his emotions which freaked him out a bit.

“Yeah, in a bit.”

“You’ve trained for hours straight. Get food before you pass out.” Keith raised an eyebrow at him, but bit his tongue. Arguing with the Galra who allowed him to come wouldn’t be smart. “We’ve got a mission coming up, I need you at your best.”

“You’re letting me come?” Kolivan nodded and Keith straightened, making his way to the small dining hall the Blade had. He ate slowly, trying to get used to the change in food. They didn’t have Hunk here to make everything taste decent.

A file was placed beside him and Keith opened it cautiously. It had been translated into English for him. Something about the seize of a Sigma 3 quadrant. And their new target location. A base, the only one the Galra had left. That’s where they were going today.

Keith finished his food, and read over the file again. Then he changed into his Marmora suit and went into his assigned pod. He was with Regris and Kolivan. They didn’t speak as they launched. Keith busied himself with his playlist again.

“It would help if you weren’t obsessing over that device before your first mission,” Kolivan snapped. Keith looked at him and clenched his iPod.

“It helps me focus.” Kolivan hummed and Regris nudged his leg with his tail. Keith ignored them and continued to listen.

When they docked, Keith tucked his music away and followed them out onto the base, sneaking along the top floor to where there was a shuttle landing. Kolivan seemed uneasy. “We destroyed the Komar. How are the Galra still producing such vast amounts of quintessence?” He gave Regris an order to find the source, but Keith had his eyes on the Galra bringing in the ships. There was something different about this quintessence. Something Allura had said tried to make it to the forefront of his mind.

Then Kolivan was addressing him. “Get a reading on the shipment.” Keith nodded and started to leave when he felt a heavy hand on his arm. “Remember. This is purely intelligence gathering. Do not engage.” Keith scowled, thankful it was hidden behind his mask as he nodded.

He slinked between the halls, listening attentively for the sounds of Galra footsteps. He found a shipment and scanned it with a device he’d been given before boarding, connecting the information to Kolivan. Again, this form of quintessence seemed different. He’d seen Allura create it, had seen it’s power as pure and good. But something about this one, and its level of power…. It even disturbed Kolivan.

He processed the footsteps of a guard a second too late. Keith turned in time to throw his blade at a Galra guard, letting it sink deep in his chest plate, but couldn’t help the sinking feeling in his stomach when the guard’s gun went off anyway. Kolivan aborted the mission and Keith internally groaned, having just a few dobashes to get back. Knowing the Blade, it wouldn’t matter if Keith was back in the pod yet or not when the timer hit zero. They would leave.

He ran down the hall, prepared to come across more guards. He couldn’t help but think that if his sharpshooter were here, he’d have taken most of them down as they ran toward them. But Keith was alone, which meant showing he belonged where he was. He was quicker than them, and easily found their weak points in the metal armor. Keith was going off an adrenaline rush more than anything, moving before he really even knew he needed to. He’d slipped between the guards, slid beneath their weapons, and attacked before they could process where he’d gone.

He could almost hear Lance’s wolf whistles and praises. They had often distracted Keith in training before. But this was reality. And if Keith was caught, he’d never see Shiro, Lance, Pidge, or any of the others again. He ran despite the ache in his lungs and the burn in his thighs.

He made it to the pod where Kolivan stood, looking at a timer. “He’s not back?”

“He’s got thirty ticks.” Keith scowled. Of course Kolivan wouldn’t care. Of course he wouldn’t go to find Regris himself.

They had a mission, and Keith didn’t care what Kolivan’s motto was. He raced back out to find Regris. He hadn’t been far. But he was unconscious, with a couple of Galra guard closing in on him. Keith flung his dagger and used the momentum in his run to kick the other one against the wall, rendering it unconscious. He retrieved his knife and slung Regris across his shoulders. He was nearly twice his size, but Keith wasn’t leaving him behind. Not when he’d been the first one friendly enough to help Keith, the one who always helped him train. Not when he’d been the first to make Keith feel welcome in the Blade.

The door was shutting by the time Keith raced back. Even though part of him know Kolivan would’ve left without him, he couldn’t help the shock he felt actually seeing the pod prepare for takeoff. He tossed Regris in and collapsed to the floor, gasping for breath.

Kolivan activated something in Regris’ suit as Keith asked about his wellbeing. But Kolivan simply turned to him and growled, “You broke protocol.”

No thank you. No praise. No “are you alright?”

Keith had to bite his tongue again. “I had to.”

“You didn’t consider that something might have happened to you!” Keith’s eyes widened as he looked Kolivan in the eyes, mask gone. “That would’ve made two men down instead of one,” he added quickly. “This isn’t Voltron!” Keith tried not to wince at that.

He was well aware he wasn’t with Voltron anymore. He didn’t need reminders. “I went back to save the mission. Regris had the intel.” He pulled out the drive that Regris had taken with him. “Getting him, and it back on the ship was worth the risk.” He pushed it into Kolivan’s hand and walked to the opposite side, pulling his iPod out again and trying not to miss home.

At least he could bullshit his way out of trouble. Let Kolivan believe he’d only gone back for intel. He wouldn’t have carried Regris back on if that were true. He couldn’t just change his morals within a week. In his heart, he was still a paladin. And that meant saving those who needed it.

--

After returning to the Blade’s base, Keith went into his room and pulled his sketchbook and charcoal pencils out. He was working on something special, and when he needed to wind down, he liked to put his energy into this until he calmed down. A few moments later, he heard a knock and when he turned, Regris was standing in front of him.

“You’re a brave warrior, paladin.” Keith smiled, thankful that someone still saw him as a paladin. “I’d like to thank you for going back for me.” Before Keith could tell him it wasn’t a problem, Regris sighed and added, “But you must be more careful. Things like that will make Kolivan think you shouldn’t go on missions.”

“Seriously? What is the problem with wanting to save people-”

“You don’t understand, Keith,” Regris said softly. “Kolivan hasn’t always had the mindset of single sacrifice. He’s not a bad leader. He’s… simply seen plenty. Lost plenty.”

“Thace and Ulaz,” Keith remembered.

“To name a few. Just be careful, paladin.” Regris left and Keith sighed, sitting down to add a few more outlines.

Keith knew a thing or two about loss.

***

Back on the castle ship, the paladins were finding ways to form a coalition against Voltron. Which meant gong to different planets, giving speeches, and trying to form alliances. It hadn’t been much of a problem before, but now that they struggled to form Voltron, it wasn’t as convincing for others.

Everyone’s spirits were down. And Lance could tell he wasn’t the only one missing their Samurai. Pidge and Shiro were both quieter than usual. And as much as Hunk tried to talk to Pidge, she assured she was fine.

Lance found her studying a Galra security video on her computer, headphones over her ears, curled up on the couch in the lounge. He hopped over the back and plopped beside her, jostling her. She removed her headphones and raised an eyebrow. “What’s up Lancey-Lance?”

“Not funny. Blue shut me out before I could even explain what was happening.” She scoffed and smiled apologetically. “You’ve been sad.”

“So have you. Everyone has. Keith left, and we’re messing up the coalition alliances….”

He took a deep breath and nodded. “I guess I’m just curious as to… when you got so close to him.”

She looked up from her screen, the clacking of the keyboard coming to a stop. “There’s stuff I could talk to him about that I couldn’t with everyone else.”

“Why do I find that hard to believe?”

She scowled and shut her laptop. “Well it can’t be that much harder to believe than believing the fact that he liked making out with you.”

Lance stuck his tongue out at her. “Touché. It is hard to believe.”

Pidge blinked and blushed. “Oh, crap. Lance, I didn’t mean it like that, I-”

He laughed and waved his hand. “No, it’s cool. I get it. But I mean it. It was surreal when he told me. Hell, I find it hard to believe I fell for him. But shit happens. You fall when you least expect it.” Pidge snorted and nodded. “You’re agreeing.”

“Yep.”

“Do you like someone?”

“Nope.” She opened her computer again, clacking away.

Lance hummed and drummed his fingers on his thigh. “Can I ask your opinion on something?” She looked at him for a second. “You’re smart and analytical. You think through stuff.”

“I appreciate the compliments. What’s up?”

He bit his lip and thought back to what Keith said before. About his doubts. “Do you think it’s plausible that me and Keith only fell for each other because we’re stuck in space together? I mean… that’s what he thinks. He kept saying it was fake, or it wasn’t real. But… I mean, no one else has started crushing on each other here.”

Pidge took a deep breath and ran her finger over the hem of her shorts. “I mean… I guess it is a possibility. But like I said, you’ve always sort of liked him. I don’t think you would’ve agreed to this thing you guys had if you didn’t. Like, if Hunk had offered to help, would you have accepted?”

Lance pondered that and shook his head. “As handsome as he is, no I don’t think so. We’re too close.”

“Right. And if Allura had offered?”

Lance winced and waved his hand in a see-saw motion. “Granted, I’ve always thought she’s incredibly beautiful. I probably would’ve been tripping over myself if she’d offered.”

“Then you can see why Keith wanted the time apart to test the validity of everything.”

“Well, yeah, but it’s not like I’m still fawning over her. He changed that.”

“Because he had sex with you?”

“No! Because I got to know him and why he is the way he is and I liked how he played with my hair to fall asleep and how he always listened and didn’t let me feel bad for feeling bad and I liked making him laugh and I liked that he challenged me and didn’t just see me as a joke or something, you know?”

Pidge smiled at the deep blush that had permeated his dark skin. “Maybe you should tell him that too. But give him his space. Remember, this is the same guy who got abandoned by a Galra mother and who lost his dad and got kicked out of the Garrison and lived in a desert shack. Jesus, he needs therapy.” Lance rolled his eyes and nudged her. “Look, he’s not out there just because of you. He wants to understand his past. He’ll come back, eventually. And it’s not like we won’t see him. There’s going to be meetings and missions and video conferences.”

“I know. I just keep worrying that… something will happen to him and we won’t be there….”

Pidge sighed and nodded. “Believe me, I know the feeling. The more time passes, the more I fear I’ll be too late for Dad and Matt.”

Lance peeked around to her screen. “Is that what you’re doing?” She nodded and continued to type away, but Lance wasn’t sure what all she was writing.

“I’m so close. I know who I can talk to, and if it goes well and I get the info I need…. I might be able to find Matt.”

Lance frowned and stood up. “Yeah. Just… be careful Pidge. We can’t lose you too.”

She smirked and pulled her bayard out from a small pack she had beside her. “Don’t underestimate a girl looking for her family.”

“Anyone who underestimates you would be lucky to see another day,” he said. She lifted her chin and smiled a little wider. “Don’t leave without telling us, though.”

“No worries,” she said, waving him away as he left.

***

The next mission… hadn’t gone too well. Keith was still sitting in his room, remembering, staring wide-eyed at the floor.

Regris was gone.

Keith kept reliving those few seconds that seemed to elongate into hours in his mind. It was like rewatching a part of a movie frame by frame. Regris, begging for more time to override a decoy ship, Keith instinctively trying to go after him to pull him out, the hard yank on his uniform that pulled him away just as everything exploded, Keith screaming for Regris as he was dragged back.

And then he’d been left out in space. Floating weightlessly, with nothing to grab onto to haul himself back. His comm had gone out, he couldn’t even contact Kolivan. Keith had been certain his death would be slow. That he’d drift off forever until he was nothing but bones in a uniform. Then he’d managed to cling to the debris, found the stupid ship they’d arrived in, and started leapfrogging his way there only to get jostled and tossed around by the same debris.

When he’d finally made it onto the ship before it closed, he could only do his best to catch his breath and not scream at Kolivan who stared at him through his stupid Blade mask.

Keith couldn’t bring himself to move. Couldn’t bring himself to get the image of Regris out of his mind.

There was a part of his mind that recognized that Kolivan had saved him, despite his little mantra of every man for himself. Keith wanted to be grateful, he knew he should have been. But what about Regris?

There was a knock at his door and despite not answering, it opened. “How are your injuries?”

Keith winced slightly at the sound of Kolivan’s voice. “Fine.”

“You cannot mourn every death in a war. It will get you nowhere-”

“You don’t know the first thing about mourning,” Keith spat. He looked at him and stood up, hands clenched at his sides. “I could’ve pulled him back! We could have saved him, but you decided to run before even thinking of him!”

“You wouldn’t have been able to get him and yourself out alive, as it is I was barely able to keep you from being blown up along with him!”

“You get angry with me for wanting to save our team members, but by abandoning them you only lose more! How could you run the Blade like this-”

“I’ve had enough of your backtalk, Parius! You’re stubborn, insubordinate, and reckless. Until you learn to follow protocol, you are banned from future missions.”

“Who the hell is Parius?”

“What?”

“You called me Parius.”

“It doesn’t matter. Do you understand what I just said?” Keith clenched his jaw and stared at Kolivan. “Answer.”

“Yes,” he hissed. Kolivan nodded and left the room quickly. Keith screamed and threw his blade at the door in a fit. He felt frustration bubbling in his limbs. His hands shook as he found his pencils and sketchbook. He sat on his bed, ignoring the stinging in his eyes. He hadn’t known Regris long, but he had been kind when Keith needed it.

Despite the rest of his body feeling tense and angry, his hand managed to remain steadfast as he created the curves and lines of Regris’ face. Keith sketched silently for a long time, giving Regris a serious, determined expression, softened by the shading of his eyes, a slight quirk of his lip you could only see if you looked hard enough. When he was done, Keith stared at his work and took a deep breath.

I’m sorry I couldn’t save you, he thought. But now you’re immortal.

--

Later that night, Keith had gone to train with a different Galra. Apparently, this one was aware of how troublesome Keith could be, and she wasn’t taking anything less than excellent from him. Keith ended up bruised and beaten by the end of the session, unable to walk without feeling sore.

“You’re persistent. That’s good,” his new trainer said. Keith hummed. “Don’t overwork yourself, small one. You could be useful in missions. Just stop acting out against Kolivan.”

“I’m not. I’m just trying to do the right thing. I know this isn’t Voltron, I know it’s different here. But I don’t think it’s right to leave teammates behind because it’s risky to save them. With a war like this, we could use every man we’ve got-”

The Galra chuckled. Keith vaguely remembered her name beginning with an A or something. “I can see why Kolivan keeps you around instead of sending you back. You are very similar to his late son.”

“He had a son?”

She nodded as she walked beside him to get dinner. “Yes. Kolivan lost his wife on a mission during the earlier years of the Blade. But he had his son. He was a lot like you. Stubborn, eager to fight, to be better. Willing to die for the cause if it meant he was saving people. And as much as Kolivan told him war isn’t about being willing to die, but having the strength to live, he didn’t care. He went on as many missions as he could, broke protocol consistently.”

“Why didn’t they just ban him from missions like Kolivan did to me?”

She smirked and shook her head. “Because each mission was a success thanks to him. Blade members returned alive. He got in trouble, don’t doubt that. But he was needed on missions. I assume that’s why Kolivan chose a different route for you. To save you before you followed Parius’ footsteps.”

Keith frowned and felt a sense of guilt settle in his stomach. That was the name Kolivan had used earlier. “How did he die?” he asked.

The Galra woman sighed and nudged him along the line to get food. She waited until they were seated to explain. “He went on a mission with three other members. They wanted to steal the Red Lion from Zarkon’s ship before he acquired another one. The plan was for the Blade to locate each lion and form Voltron ourselves. The Red Lion’s location was the only one we were aware of.” Keith clenched his jaw. How was it that Parius had died on a group mission to do what Keith had gone alone to do?

“The guards found them, and the leader of the mission at the time called for a retreat. But Parius’ friend had been captured, and Parius refused to leave him behind. Had he listened and retreated, they could have come back missing only one Blade member. As it was, Parius stayed and fought. It was said that he was lethal and agile. So much so that he encouraged the others to ignore the command for retreat as well.”

Her face became grim and she took a deep breath. “The guards fell back. They thought they’d won. Then the explosives were thrown in. Only one Blade member of the six that went returned. Kolivan didn’t speak for- I believe you humans call it weeks. He’d lost everyone.

“Since then, he’s been adamant about it being every man for himself. The death of one over the death of many.” She looked at Keith and put a clawed hand over his. “If he’s hard on you, it’s because he doesn’t want history repeating itself.”

“I’m not his son,” Keith said.

“That’s not what matters.” She sighed and ruffled his hair. “Just be patient, Keith. Perhaps you can learn to follow orders by being here.” He scowled and she chuckled at his expense.

--

Keith did his best to “behave.” He didn’t mention Parius, but he didn’t apologize for his so-called insubordination. He simply remained passive around Kolivan and continued to train.

It wasn’t until after his training session with Astriaga- Keith had finally overheard someone calling his trainer- that Kolivan approached him some days later. He prepared himself for another lecture, for some weird little chore to test his obedience. Instead, Kolivan simply regarded him coolly.

“Would you like to join me in talking to your friends in Voltron? I have a scheduled video conference with them.” Keith couldn’t help but perk up. He hadn’t seen his friends, his family, in too long.

“Yes, of course!” he said. He swore Kolivan even smiled a bit.

“You can also get ten dobashes to speak to them privately when my conference is done.”

“Really?” Kolivan was being oddly generous. Keith wasn’t complaining, but… it was strange. “Thank you,” he reminded himself to say.

Without another word, Kolivan led him into a communication room where he brought up a holographic screen. He pressed a few buttons and Keith waited with bated breath. In a few seconds, the screen flickered and he saw the paladins and Alteans looking at the screen in anticipation.

As soon as the screen processed the images, Keith saw all of their faces brighten. He noticed Shiro relaxing, noticed the way Lance took a step forward, the way Coran’s moustache twitched, the way Pidge reached out to grab onto Hunk’s arm. He’d never seen a group of people so undeniably happy to see him. It made something lodge in his throat, but he couldn’t help smile affectionately at the screen.

Allura struggled to refocus on Kolivan, to regain her serious, business face. “Hello, Kolivan. Is there any news on the quintessence?”

Kolivan filled them in while Keith let his eyes wander to each of the others. Lance was trying to be discreet about waving at him. He kept biting his lip and shifting from foot to foot. It made something warm bloom in Keith’s chest. Pidge kept fiddling with her glasses, holding on to Hunk like he was the only thing keeping her from rapidly filling Keith in on everything he’s missed. He couldn’t help but smirk at her unconscious choice of anchor. Shiro’s eyes flitted from Kolivan and Allura to him, seemingly relieved that Keith was safe and doing well. Coran had crinkles in the corner of his eyes which Keith equivalated to a proud smile.

Once they had been briefed on the missions and Voltron’s attempt at a coalition, Allura let out a breath and smiled. “And how has Keith been doing in your ranks? He’s a skilled fighter.”

“That he is,” Kolivan agreed, much to Keith’s surprise. “We’re simply having a few… disciplinary issues.”

The others stifled scoffs and laughter. “That’s not new,” Shiro said, giving Keith a reprimanding look. Keith could only roll his eyes.

“I’ll leave you to talk. Ten dobashes,” he reminded Keith. He nodded and watched Kolivan leave.

“Seriously, dude? More discipline issues?” Hunk said, laughing.

“Whatever, I’ll get better,” Keith said. “I got banned from missions because of it, so….” He shrugged. “How have all of you been?”

“We miss you dearly,” Allura said with a smile.

“I miss you guys too,” Keith admitted.

“Keith, guess what?” Pidge said, lurching forward. “I found Matt! I found him! He’s sleeping right now, but he’s here! And he’s okay! I gave him a tour of the place and everything.”

“Are you serious?” Keith asked in surprise. She’d finally done it! She found her brother!

“She kicked some ass too, based on what I heard,” Hunk added. “Including Matt’s.” He laughed as Pidge nudged Hunk and rolled her eyes.

“We’re also working on getting other planets to join the coalition. Coran’s in charge of it,” Shiro said. “We’re working hard here. How has it been there?”

“A little tough,” Keith admitted. “But it’s nothing I can’t handle.”

Allura chuckled and nodded. “It was truly wonderful to hear you’re doing well, Keith. I’ve got to go help Coran with some preparations. Shiro, would you like to join?”

He smirked and nodded. “Behave!” he called back to Keith before leaving.

“Yeah, come on, Pidge, maybe Matt woke up,” Hunk said, tugging her arm.

“But I wanted to talk to Keith still.”

“Come with me and I’ll give you cookies.”

She groaned. “You know I’m weak for cookies!”

Keith chuckled and teased, “Yeah, Pidge. Don’t want to pass that opportunity up, do you?”

Pidge focused on Keith and stuck her tongue out at him, flipping him off. “Just wait till I get you in person, Kogane!” Keith laughed as she followed Hunk out, ducking her head to hide the blush.

He looked over at Lance and bit his lip. “Hey there.”

“Hey,” Lance said with a wide smile. “God, I miss you. Like, I know I’m talking to you, but….”

“Yeah, I know,” Keith nodded. “Oh, I’ve been listening to the playlist! I use it to calm down and go to sleep.”

“Really?” Lance’s face lit up. “Do you really like it?”

“I love it. Although, there’s a lot of Spanish songs on there. I get the mood from the rhythm and the melodies, but… I don’t understand them.”

Lance smirked and shrugged. “Guess you’ll just have to wait till you’re back for me to translate for you.” Keith rolled his eyes and smiled. “So…. Discipline issues. Same old Keith.” Keith tried to chuckle, but he couldn’t help the furrow of his eyebrows as he thought of the last mission he was on. “Hey, what’s wrong?”

He shook his head and looked at the screen to find those annoyingly beautiful eyes on him, bright and worried. “Nothing. It’s just… when I first got here, there was a Galra that was really nice to me and… we lost him on a mission. Kolivan has this stupid mantra about the death of one over the many. And then my new trainer said I basically remind Kolivan of his dead son, and I just….” He sighed and shrugged as a blush filled his cheeks. “I just really wish you were here.”

“Well,” Lance said, drawing the word out. “You could always… come home…?” Keith frowned and Lance managed a small chuckle. “Yeah, it was a long shot. I know…. You wanted space and time to figure out some stuff. Just… don’t let them mess with your head too much, okay? I want my mullet headed samurai back in one piece thank you very much.” Keith laughed and shook his head. “So, what’s your favorite song on the playlist. That you understand at least.”

He thought for a moment and smiled. “I really like the slower ones. I listen to The Devil’s Tears on repeat to go to sleep. Also, I have a bone to pick with you!” Lance blinked and Keith glared at him to get his point across. “There’s a song on there called Shorty? I am not that much shorter than you!”

Lance burst into laughter and covered his mouth. “Oh God, you mean the one in English and Spanish?” Keith nodded. “Well, you are still shorter.” Keith scowled and Lance only laughed more. “Well, really it’s the rest of the lyrics that make me think of you. Promise.” Keith rolled his eyes and finally let himself smile at him. “So I’m a little curious about something.”

“When aren’t you?”

Lance ignored him. “I asked Pidge when you guys got so close, and she said it was because she could talk to you about stuff she couldn’t talk to me and Hunk about.”

He shrugged. “I suppose that’s part of it.”

“What things?” he asked. “It’s killing me! Pidge used to tell me everything back at the Garrison! Well, aside from being a girl, but whatever.”

Keith chuckled and shook his head. “I’m not telling if she’s not. I mean, she helped me a lot whenever we’d argue and stuff. Goes both ways.” Lance groaned and huffed. “She’ll tell eventually.”

“Do I get a hint?” Keith smirked and shook his head. “Ugh. Okay. That’s fine. Anyway, are there any cute Galra there I should be wary of? Anyone gonna steal you away?”

Keith snorted and shook his head. “No, Lance. I think I’m the youngest here. And everyone’s super hyper-focused on Zarkon. I should be worried about you. With you guys going around for the coalition, there must be alien girls all over you.”

“Boys and girls,” Lance reminded. Then he frowned. “No. Actually, that hasn’t been going too well. Coran keeps slipping up, and I’m not sure if he’s okay. He swore he was gonna do better, but I mean…. I don’t know. I’m a little worried.”

Before Keith could answer, he heard Kolivan come back in. “Time’s up, Keith.”

“Okay, yeah, I just gotta say goodbye.” Kolivan huffed and left. “Maybe you should talk to him. It’s probably just really stressful.”

“Shiro said to give him one more chance before going and interrogating him. I just really hope he’s all right. You gotta go, huh?” Keith nodded. “Okay, well…. Stay safe, okay? If you go on a mission again and stuff, just… I know your instinct is to save the day, but….” He sighed and ran a hand through the curls on his head. It was longer than Keith remembered. “I keep freaking out about something happening to you on a mission.”

The door opened again, and Kolivan said, “Keith, log off already!”

“I’m going!” he snapped back. He rolled his eyes before returning to look at Lance. Keith smiled fondly at him and nodded. “I’ll be careful. I promise. Knock ‘em dead, Sharpshooter. You guys can do this.”

“I can’t wait to see you again.”

“Keith!”

“I heard you, Kolivan!” Keith said, waving him away. “I can’t either. But I do have to go if I don’t want my video chatting privileges taken away.” Lance snorted and gave him a two-fingered salute. “Stay safe, Lance. Bye.” Lance waved and Keith used every ounce of strength to shut the video off. “There, I’m off, relax!” Keith muttered turning to him.

“A simple rule, and you still ignore it.”

“I was saying goodbye!”

“Stop backtalking.”

Keith groaned and crossed his arms. “Whatever, I’m going to my room.”

Chapter Text

Everyone was crowded around the holographic screen. Keith was at the front, hand over his mouth as he tried to hide the blush.

“What in the galaxies do they think their doing?” one Blade said.

“There’s no way this is working.”

“Actually, it is. I got word from the head of Voltron and the princess that they’ve been gaining members for the coalition at an increasing rate,” Kolivan said. Keith tilted his head as he watched their little propaganda. “Keith? You look unsettled.”

“I’m fine,” he squeaked. He watched as Lance basked in the fucking attention he was getting, twirling and spinning between cloths of silk. He was… so… flexible….

“Keith?”

“Huh?”

Kolivan frowned. “I asked if this was typical behavior for the paladins.”

Keith gulped and let his eyes fall back to the screen, showing Lance’s signature smirk complete with a wink. Keith nearly passed out. “Um. No. I’ve… never seen him do that before…. I didn’t even know he could, what the fuck?” Keith stepped close watching in amazement as Lance held himself up with his legs. Keith had been between those legs, how had he not realized how fucking strong he was?

There was a snicker behind him, and Keith realized he’d moved forward so much, he could touch the particles of the screen if he reached out. “Looks like someone has a weak spot for the blue paladin.”

“He’s the red paladin,” Keith corrected fondly. “See, the red lion is behind him. He took my spot.”

“He is attractive,” one female voice said. Keith clenched his jaw. He was certain there must be hundreds of aliens throwing themselves at Lance’s feet if the thrown roses were anything to go by. The bottom of the screen splayed out the words “Loverboy Lance wants YOU to join the coalition!”

Loverboy. Keith chuckled. Of course.

“Okay, I think that’s enough distraction,” Kolivan said, shutting the holograph down. Keith noticed a slight trace of a smile though. “If the coalition truly is coming together, then the fall of Zarkon’s empire is closer than it seems. We must all be ready to fight at a moment’s notice.”

The others nodded and then dispersed, each slightly more reinvigorated and ready to train. Keith stayed behind with Kolivan. “Does that include me?” he asked flatly. He didn’t want to sound hopeful.

Kolivan looked at him and seemed to weigh the options in his mind before answering. “Yes, it includes you. Keith, you are easily one of the most skilled fighters here. But you lack-”

“Discipline, yeah, I know.”

Kolivan sighed. “If you could learn to follow instructions, then you would quickly rise to the top ranks. As it is, you are still young and-”

“Kolivan I’m not your-” Keith bit his tongue and sighed before trying again. “I’m not a child. I barely even had a childhood by human standards. All my life, I’ve been fighting and training. It’s what I’m good at, it’s when I feel like I know who I am.” He looked back at the space where the holographic screen was. “I know I’m not in Voltron anymore, but I still feel like a paladin. Relying on instinct is what’s made me a good fighter.”

“Perhaps that was the case with the paladins. But here, relying on instinct can take lives and cost us a mission.” Keith clenched his jaw and tried to reign in his frustration. Snapping at Kolivan wouldn’t get him anywhere. “No you are not a child. You’re not my son.” Keith looked at him, feeling guilty that he’d caught that. “But you are my responsibility.”

“I can take care of myself. I can do more if I go on more missions. I’m more useful.”

“We’ll see.” Keith sighed and rubbed the tips of his fingers together, counting to ten in his head. It was something Astriaga had taught him in training. “You’re dismissed.”

Keith nodded and walked out, waiting until he was far down the hallway before stifling a frustrated growl in his hands.

He’d completed his training for the day. There were no missions he was allowed to go on. He usually helped with attack plans before a group actually went, but Kolivan seemed to be waiting for something. Instead, Keith went to his room and tried to make the hologram screen tune to the performances Voltron was putting on.

He had to admit, they were ridiculous. He could see how uneasy the paladins were putting out this persona that made them so one-dimensional. But he also knew it was working. Aliens everywhere were eating it up, inspired and eager to join.

The hologram wasn’t cooperating, so Keith left it alone and turned to his sketchbook. He began to sketch out silhouettes of a limber figure with long limbs, elegantly draped between silk ribbons, smiling and even blushing as he recalled what he’d seen on the screen. He wondered when Lance had learned.

Did he take classes? Why? When? Was he younger? Was it for fun or because it was some weird dare? There was so much about Lance he had yet to learn. But he wanted to know. He was eager to hear Lance talk about his past, the good and the bad, everything that made him who he is now.

He vaguely wondered what the date was back on Earth. His gift for Lance was almost finished, and he wanted to be able to go back and see him when it was his birthday. He knew it would be soon, based on what his mom had said when they’d visited. But it was hard to tell the passing of time in space, so he had lost track of how long ago that had been.

A while later, he found Astriaga at the dining hall and sat beside her.

Usually, he didn’t talk during meals, so when he tapped her arm, Astriaga looked at him with a confused raised eyebrow. He looked back at his food, not really sure of why he felt so nervous. “Um, is there any way that I could figure out what the date from back home is?”

“Date?” she questioned.

“Yeah. How we measure time on Earth.”

“Well, we measure it too, but if it’s something specific you’re looking for, you could go to the Galra that translates your files. His name is Horrok, he’s sitting right over there.” She pointed over to a tall Galra who was basically vacuuming his food into his stomach.

Keith stood up and walked over to him, his shoulders back and his head held high. The best way to get taken serious as a half-Galra was to never be intimidated.

“Excuse me,” he said. Bright yellow eyes flickered up to him. “Are you the translator for my files?” Harrok nodded and stuffed his face with more food. “Could you help me figure out what the Earth date is?”

“What for?” he asked.

Keith clenched his jaw and shrugged. “Just to ease my mind, I guess.”

Harrock scoffed and checked something clipped to his wrist. “It’s just an estimate, but it’s around what you call Juh-lee two-zero.”

Keith frowned and almost questioned him before he realized what he meant. “Ah, okay. Thank you.” He turned away and left the dining hall. July twentieth. Eight more days.

That meant he had to convince Kolivan to let him see the team within the next week. He’d been doing as he was told. He’d even been better about taking orders and not talking back. He still disagreed and argued, but he usually stopped when Kolivan flashed him a particularly frustrated look with those creepy yellow eyes.

Maybe he’d get to see Lance for his birthday. Did Lance know it was coming up? Was he thinking about it, or was he too distracted? Would he even want to see Keith?

Keith decided those questions could be reserved for later. In the meantime, he needed permission. The idea was almost comical considering he’d been doing whatever he wanted without really “needing” permission for years now.  

Later that same day, Keith stopped by the main meeting room where Kolivan often planned out the missions. It was almost like an office for him; he spent most of his time in there messing with hologram screens and stolen maps and databases.

As Keith suspected, Kolivan was in there, sifting through files marked with Galra bases and soldiers from Zarkon’s side. Keith wondered if there were more undercover Blade members in Zarkon’s ranks to provide this information.

“Keith, what are you doing standing there?” Kolivan asked, making Keith jump and immediately stand at attention. Kolivan turned and tilted his head questioningly.

Keith regained his composure and took a deep breath. “Sir, I’d like to request a visit to the Voltron base. In the next eight quintants.”

Kolivan raised an eyebrow and crossed his arms. “Why so specific?”

Keith cleared his throat and shrugged, before deciding it would be best to just tell Kolivan what he wanted to know. “It’s one of the paladins’ birthdays. I just wanted to be there to celebrate it.” Kolivan looked a bit confused, so Keith added, “It’s what marks another year of life. On Earth we usually celebrate it for friends and family….”

Kolivan’s expression was unreadable as he moved to sit down on a chair. “Does this have anything to do with that blue paladin piloting the red lion you seem so fond of?” Keith gulped and felt his face redden. But before he could answer, Kolivan chuckled. “So it does. We’re in the midst of a war, Keith. Celebrations aren’t something we give time to. We have missions to infiltrate Galra bases and convince more planets to join us.”

Keith grit his teeth, giving a firm nod. The defeat lay heavy in his chest, and he turned away to go back to his room, or maybe to train. Training sounded like a good idea.

“I did not dismiss you,” Kolivan snapped.

Keith tensed but turned back around and began rubbing his fingers together to ground himself. He looked at Kolivan, not bothering to hide his frustration, but keeping his mouth shut.

“How long did you want to be there?”

Keith frowned. “Just for the day. I know I can’t stay long.”

Kolivan hummed and drummed his clawed fingers on the desk. “Very well,” he sighed. “You’ve been doing well in training. When you get back, you can go on the next mission we’ll be planning.” Keith couldn’t help the smile that spread on his face. “I’ll have a pod ship take you. You are to be back within the next 48 vargas, is that understood?”

Forty-eight…. That was nearly two days. Keith nodded quickly. “Yes, yes, sir. Understood.”

“In the meantime, you can help me plan out this next attack. It could use a fresh set of eyes.” Kolivan handed over a file and a map. Keith tried not to smile, but only barely managed to suppress it as he scooted closer and looked at the current battleplan.

And maybe it was in his head, but he was almost certain that Kolivan was smiling at him too.

***

It had been too long since Lance had seen Keith through the screen of a video feed. While he supposed it was good news that no information had to be gathered and traded, he wanted to find any excuse to get Allura to contact the Blade. They had to know about the Voltron shows. They should be asked if they wanted to be part of it too- a request which left Allura looking at him with one raised eyebrow, waiting for it to hit just how insensitive that particular idea would be. Or just to tell the blade how well Allura was doing in the blue lion.

Anything to see Keith’s face again.

Pidge, Hunk, and Matt were holed up somewhere encrypting- or decrypting?- some code, and Shiro was with Allura to figure out their current ranks and allies, while Coran was off in his room mumbling about the shows almost maniacally.

Coran was really starting to worry Lance. He wasn’t acting like himself. He’d always been the one telling them their worth as paladins, encouraging them that they were meant to be here, sometimes even more than Allura had. Now, he was making Hunk into a joke, and Shiro was being told to show off his muscles with a tight shirt, and Lance…. Lance was just the loverboy of the group. While Coran assured him it meant aliens everywhere would be falling at his feet, it didn’t feel right. Coran was the one who had caught on to the bickering, who had checked on Lance when he was so upset even Hunk’s cookies didn’t make him feel better. Keith even said Coran was the one who encouraged him to apologize and try to understand himself.

So having Coran become so focused on a single aspect of each of them… it hurt. It hurt Lance because Coran had been the one who provided a sort of parental comfort in his own weird way since they’d first formed Voltron.

“Hey, buddy, why so down?” Hunk asked as he passed him by in the hallway. He stopped and fell into step with him. “Still missing Keith?”

“I mean, yeah, but that’s not all it is,” he answered with a shrug. “Just thinking.” Hunk hummed and stayed quiet. “Doesn’t it bother you? That all you’re being seen as is farts and clumsiness when you’re just as smart as Pidge?”

Hunk frowned and let out a long breath. “Yeah. I didn’t think Coran saw me like that…. But hey, it’s getting people on our side, right?”

“That’s the thing, Coran never-. Coran’s acting weird. And I kind of don’t want to do these shows anymore.”

“We should talk to Shiro about that. I know Pidge is getting frustrated with the gibberish too. But let’s save that for another day. Guess what I found out?” Lance hummed inquisitively. “Tomorrow’s a special day.”

Lance frowned and looked at Hunk. “Is there some Altean holiday Allura told us about that I don’t remember?”

Hunk laughed and shook his head. “No, dude, it’s your birthday tomorrow!”

“O-oh. Oh!” He chuckled and ran a hand through his hair. “I totally forgot birthdays were a thing….”

“Well, you’re turning 18, and that’s a big deal. You’re officially gonna be an adult.” Lance grimaced, much to Hunk’s amusement. “Come on, we gotta celebrate that. Pidge is talking to Allura and Shiro now about it.”

Lance smiled and hugged his best friend appreciatively. “That’s insanely sweet of you both, but don’t stress too much, okay? It’s just another day.” Hunk grumbled and nudged Lance. “You know what sounds great? A movie night with my best friends.”

“I think Pidge and I can figure something out,” Hunk said, interlocking his fingers and pushing them outward. Lance grimaced at the sound of bones clicking. “Let me go find her.”

Hunk walked away and Lance made his way to the training room, pulling out the red bayard that now belonged to him. The gun was much more precise that his blue one had been, and if he was honest, it scared him how easily he’d gotten used to it. It was like an extension of him, and it was too easy to take Galra soldiers out with it.

Lance never thought he’d be someone who found it so easy to kill.

Of course, he didn’t. He just didn’t let himself think about it. If he kept it simple, it didn’t matter. The Galra they fought were bad, and they had to die or they’d kill more people. It was as simple as that.

Except it wasn’t. Because Lance remembered his abuelita’s and his mama’s teachings about God. It was wrong to kill, wrong to take life as if he were God. And then he’d start wondering if the Galra he killed had family. If there were kids, wives, husbands, brothers, sisters waiting for them to get back home. They truly believed they were on the right side of the war, and for them, Lance was the bad guy.

He never wanted to be the guy that could kill so easily. But it wasn’t easy. Each time, it took a little more out of Lance. He was just a kid.

He was supposed to be going to junior prom and trying to score a senior date and going to football games with Hunk. He was supposed to go to the movies every other Friday with his sisters and eat pizza with his friends and play soccer in the yard with his little brother and younger cousins.

He wasn’t supposed to be killing. He was supposed to be a kid. Not a murderer.

“You meditating or something?” Lance jumped and turned to see Matt looking at him curiously. “Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you.”

“It’s cool,” Lance answered. He needed to be snapped out of his thoughts. “Um, no. I just…. It’s not much of a challenge to go against a simulation with a gun.”

“So try a dagger or a sword,” Matt said, inspecting the weapons available for combat.

Lance smiled sadly and chuckled. “Ah, blades were more Keith’s thing. I always get blisters when I try fighting with them.”

“Aw, poor baby.” Lance glared at Matt, but he just laughed, looking annoyingly similar to Pidge when she teased him. “That’s kind of the point of weapons, you get blisters.”

Lance looked away and fiddled with the weapon in his own hand. His gun didn’t give him blisters. It didn’t give him reminders of what he could do with it. He could wash his hands and play video games and milk Kaltenecker without blisters reminding him of how deadly his hands could be.

“Alright, come on, you and me, let’s go.” Matt pressed a staff into his hands and twirled a similar one in his own hands. “I can’t bring myself to train with Pidge and I get nervous with Shiro and Allura.”

Lance laughed and blocked a hit with the wooden staff. “Nervous?”

Matt blushed and swiped at his legs, but Lance jumped and swung. “Yeah,” he answered, ducking. “Allura’s gorgeous, and Shiro is like, my idol. I can’t make a fool of myself in front of them.”

“What about Hunk?” Lance winced as the wood hit him hard on the side.

“Pidge told me he once body slammed a guard drone that was attacking her and sat on it. I’ve been scared to try him since.”

Lance laughed and crept closer, trying to get past Matt’s defense. They fought until they were both breathless and sweaty, Matt’s longer blond hair falling in his face and sticking to his forehead. Lance felt his hair curling against the nape of his neck like it always did when it was wet and after a particularly hard hit from the butt of the staff to his chest, he stopped the training.

“Okay, okay, you win. Ow.”

Matt laughed and put the staffs back. He pulled Lance up from where he laid sprawled on the floor.

Once Lance had showered, letting cold water keep him mind occupied, he returned to his room, only to be hauled out by Hunk and Pidge to the meeting room. Pidge had hardwired a device to pick up the waves of local showings, similar to the tech used to broadcast their shows, and Hunk had managed to bring together a makeshift projector, allowing the movie to look like a theater screen showing against the wall. Hunk had milkshakes and Pidge had blankets.

They laid across the floor with blankets and pillows, reminiscent of their sleep overs at the Garrison on weekends. They had no idea what the movie was about or what language it was in, but that didn’t stop them from filling in the dialogue for themselves, making voices for the characters and laughing at juvenile jokes.

This was what Lance was supposed to be doing.

--

The next day, Lance woke up and was surprised by his fellow paladins and a large cake that Hunk had managed to frost to look like the ocean. They were wearing party hats and Allura had a special sash for him.

Lance couldn’t help but smile widely as they wished him a happy birthday and hugged him tightly. Even Matt seemed genuinely excited for him despite only knowing each other for a couple weeks.

“Come on, birthday boy, you get to pick breakfast today!” Hunk said, nudging him toward the kitchen. Pidge had climbed onto Lance’s back and ruffled his hair.

“You guys have an extra hat, by any chance?”

Lance’s blood froze. He felt like ice water had been doused all over his body.

Keith!” Pidge shrieked, hopping off of Lance. Lance turned and saw the paladins rushing to greet and hug Keith as he smiled nervously.

“Dude, what are you doing here?” Hunk asked, smiling widely. “Why didn’t you tell us you were coming?”

“Well, I wanted it to be a surprise. I have two days before I have to get back, so….” His violet eyes came up, searching for Lance.

He was here. He was actually here in person, not in Blade attire, but in his normal black jeans and gray shirt. He was here for Lance.

He hadn’t really realized he’d moved until his arms were wrapping around Keith, his head ducked down between his shoulder and neck.

“Happy birthday, Lance,” Keith said.

Lance pulled away, smiling too widely for his own good, but he didn’t care. Keith was here and he was here for him. Friends or more than friends or some weird thing in between, he didn’t care. His entire space family was here with him now.

***

Being back in the castle of lions felt like coming home, which Keith had never really experienced until he had returned to the Garrison his second year. He’d never really thought of the castle as home, but when his friends greeted him- more importantly when he caught Lance’s blue eyes on him- he realized that’s exactly what the castle was. Home.

He was hanging out in the kitchen with Pidge rambling while Hunk cooked and Lance sat beside him, scrolling through the iPod Keith brought back with him.

“So I go to take a shower and come back and there’s a stranger in the castle,” someone said behind him. Keith turned and his eyes widened at the sight of a Pidge duplicate. Well, he was taller, his hair was lighter and maybe even a little longer, his face longer and squarer along the jaw, but everything else was Pidge. “Oh. Uh. Hi. I’m Matt.”

“I figured. You and Pidge look alike.” He stood and held out his hand. “I’m Keith.”

“Keith,” he repeated. Keith smiled and pulled his hand away. “Sorry I wasn’t here to welcome you. I was showering.”

Keith let out a laugh. “It’s cool.” He turned back to the table and saw Lance eyeing Matt cautiously. “What are you doing with that?” he asked.

“I’m looking at the songs you’ve listened to most,” he answered with a smirk. “I know your favorites, and they’re all in the playlist.”

Keith blushed and rolled his eyes. He sat back down and Matt sat on his other side.

“Alright, breakfast is just about ready. Pidge, can you get the plates?”

“On it,” she said.

Keith watched as Pidge moved about in sync with Hunk’s cooking and smirked. Pidge caught his smirk as she walked out to the main table and she flipped him off, much to Keith’s entertainment. They all moved back to the main table and Keith saw Coran coming in to join. He looked… strange, but Keith decided against commenting on it, even when Coran failed to acknowledge him.

As they ate breakfast, Keith realized just how much he missed this. He missed eating with his friends, eating good food, and talking about nothing the whole time. Shiro asked him about his time with the Blade, and Keith gave them a quick recap of working with Astriaga and Kolivan having help with some of the planning. But he quickly turned it back to them, not wanting to think of going back.

Later, they enjoyed cake and all gathered in the meeting room to watch something Pidge and Hunk put on. Keith wasn’t sure what it was, but he was next to Lance, and nothing else mattered much. He even managed not to think about the last time they’d all been gathered in the meeting room.

They day was coming to an end all too quickly, but the good thing was that Lance was a night owl. While the others went to sleep after a long day of celebrating with some strange Altean dance that reminded Keith of Irish folk dances, Lance insisted on going to see the stars by the window of the hangar. Keith felt nostalgic at the sight of the lions.

“You’re a pretty good dancer,” Lance noted.

“I had a good partner,” he said with a smile, looking at Lance. He’d hauled him from the wall Keith was leaning against, insisting that he had to dance too. Keith couldn’t say no to him when he looked so full of joy. “But Pidge and Matt, what the hell?” Lance laughed and nodded.

The Holt siblings had put everyone to shame, and even Allura was impressed by them. Pidge seemed so much happier now that she had her brother. Keith understood the feeling.

“Hey, I have a gift for you, by the way.” Lance’s eyes brightened and he smiled, making Keith’s heart do a little flip that was kind of annoying but Keith had lost the battle against his reactions to Lance a long time ago. “Come on, it’s in my room.”

“Oh really?” Lance asked, elongating his words suggestively.

Keith rolled his eyes and blushed, nudging him. “Not like that, get your head out of the gutter.” Lance laughed and stood to follow him. When they reached his room, Keith rummaged between his clothes where he’d carefully tucked his sketchbook in. He pulled it out and flipped to the page he needed, carefully tearing it out. “Close your eyes.”

Lance did, smirking. “If I open my eyes and see you in bunny lingerie I’m going to die, I hope you know that. Oh, or maybe handcuffs. Oh, oh wait, are the handcuffs going on me?”

“Okay, wow, you’re kinky and horny. Shut up for a sec, okay?” Lance grumbled and Keith just tried to ignore the blush in his cheeks as he remembered all the things they’d done in this room. “I know it was hard for you not to be home today. I saw how big those celebrations got at your place, and even we all showed you how much we care about you today…. I know you missed you family.”

Lance frowned and furrowed his eyebrows. “Keith, what are you doing?” he mumbled.

Keith slipped the drawing into a protective plastic he’d gotten from Pidge earlier that day and took Lance’s hands as he gave it to him. “It’s not ideal, but I wanted you to have your family with you here too,” he whispered. “Open your eyes.”

Lance did, looking troubled and confused. But he looked down at the paper in his hands, and he gasped, eyes fluttering in shock. “Keith….” His fingers grazed over the plastic, tracing the lines Keith had drawn. Tracing the outlines of the smiling faces of his mother, his father, his siblings, his aunt and cousin, even his dog. “How did you…?”

“I got some pictures of them when we went. I’ve been practicing them each in my book before finding a way to merge them all together in one, and-”

Lance cut him off by pulling him into a hug so tight, it was uncomfortable. “Thank you,” he breathed. Keith sighed in relief and hugged him back, feeling his heart hammering against his chest almost mockingly. “You have no idea how wonderful this is.”

“Happy birthday, Lance,” he said, hugging him a little tighter.

Lance pulled away and wiped at his eyes, keeping his tears from spilling out. He smiled nervously and looked back at his drawing. “Um, Keith?” Lance looked up and met his eyes, making it damn near impossible to look anywhere else. “Since it’s my birthday, can I ask for one more gift?”

Keith furrowed his eyebrows, confused. “What gift?”

Lance bit his lip and looked nervous. All the suave, cocky, flirting gone. Just awkward, nervous Lance. Then-

“A kiss?”

Keith took a sharp breath and let it out in a chuckling scoff. “Lance.” Blue eyes stayed on him, one eyebrow arched. Keith pretended he wasn’t blushing and looked at Lance suspiciously. “I’m pretty sure your birthday is over now. The dancing went on for a while.”

“It’s still my birthday until we fall asleep and wake back up.” Keith scoffed and looked at Lance with amusement. “It’s true. Back home birthday parties go on till morning.” He stepped closer and ducked down slightly to get Keith to look back up at him. “Just one kiss.”

Keith could feel his limbs trembling in anticipation. Every muscle in his body wanted to just surge forward and kiss Lance with as much fervor as he could muster. But he held back. “You’re a very greedy person,” he teased, closing the space between their bodies. He looked up at Lance.

“Is that a yes?” Lance breathed, a rosy blush blooming in his caramel cheeks.

Keith responded by pushing himself up onto his toes and pressing his lips against Lance’s gently, one hand at the nape of his neck. Lance responded immediately, the hand holding his drawing resting at Keith’s side and the other cupping his face as he parted his lips.

It took everything in Keith not to throw caution to the wind and just kiss him as desperately as he wanted. It was the softest kiss they’d ever shared and it still managed to make Keith melt in his arms. Lance’s fingertips were light, almost hesitant along his cheek as he opened his eyes, not wanting to pull back too much from Keith.

“You should go to sleep,” Keith murmured, their lips brushing.

“Not while you’re here. I’m not missing any of the time I have with you.”

“Lance.”

“I have to talk to you.” Keith grimaced at the words. They made his stomach churn. “Please?”

“About?”

“You and me. Us.” Keith sighed and looked at him tiredly. He pulled back and crossed his arms. “Just hear me out, okay? I know you’re scared that we just feel this way because of our little friends with benefits thing, but that’s not true. A lot of people do that, but they don’t end up liking the person.” Keith raised an eyebrow and sighed. “I know that I like you because…. Because I get excited when I get to see you. I get nervous when you’re close, and I just want to make you smile and laugh all the time. It’s not about your body or the sex, okay? It’s you. I like spending time with you, and yeah, maybe we started off in a weird way, but I don’t think it means what I feel isn’t real.”

“But you didn’t even like guys before you started feeling all pent up, Lance-”

“Maybe I did! Pidge and Hunk say I kept fawning over you and passing it off as jealousy back at the Garrison. And now that I think about it, there were times when I would watch novelas with my mom just to see the shirtless dudes fighting each other.” Keith had to laugh at that. Lance finally smiled and shrugged. “I told you. My family, my religion… it’s hard to wrap your head around the possibility of liking your same gender. I was cool with people who were gay, but I always thought it wasn’t me. But it is. It is me. I think everyone is beautiful in different ways. I had a crush on Allura, but then I got a crush on you. Or… I recognized my crush on you. Because you’re beautiful, Keith. Your eyes are like… a galaxy we haven’t been to yet. When you smile, your whole face lights up. And your laugh is the most wonderful sound I’ve ever had the honor to hear.”

Keith knew he was blushing. He was blushing so much his entire body was warm and his entire body was shaking.

“I know, for a fact that I like you, regardless of how this started. And I want to hold your hand and kiss your cheek when you don’t expect it. I want to cuddle with you when we watch whatever the fuck those movies are that Pidge pulls up. I want to hug you and I want to kiss you and tell you how wonderful you are and I want to hear you talk about the things you think about. I like you, Keith. A lot. And… when you’re ready… if you like me back… I would love to be your boyfriend.”

Keith’s mouth fell open and he gasped, staring at Lance in complete disbelief.

“I like being around you too. I like hearing you talk and joke and laugh. I like when you make me laugh and when you flirt with me because it’s so cheesy it works.” He laughed and crossed his arms. “But why didn’t I feel any of that before we messed around? If I was really supposed to like you without the sex, why-”

“Keith, there was more than sex,” Lance said almost desperately. “Remember the days we’d spend training, encouraging each other, being actual friends instead of rivals? The nights when we’d just talk about anything and you’d let me cry and just hug me? Those are the things that made us like each other. Not the sex.”

Keith’s lips parted as he realized Lance was right. It wasn’t the sex that had opened Keith’s eyes and caused the butterflies and the nervousness. It was everything he’d learned about Lance. It was the vulnerability they shared when they talked about their pasts and the relationship they built when they trained together. Things that would’ve or could’ve happened without sex.

Keith couldn’t help the laughter that bubbled from his chest or the tears that spilled from his eyes. “Oh my God. Oh my God.”

“Keith?”

“I thought I was… I thought…. But then I was gone and I…. I still missed you. And I didn’t want to sleep with you, I just… wanted you near me. And I was so scared…. Oh my God.”

“Um… I’m confused.”

Keith laughed and cupped Lance’s face between his hands. “I think I’d like being your boyfriend too,” he said.

Lance’s eyebrows went up and he took a shaky breath in. “You mean that? Are you sure? I don’t want to push you, I just-”

Keith shut him up with a kiss and didn’t even care that his face was sticky and cold from the tears. Lance kissed him back and for that moment, it was just them. Everything else existed but didn’t matter. Not when they were with each other, finally understanding where the hell they stood and what the hell they felt.

Keith pulled back and smiled up at him, nervous and happy and afraid all at once. It would be his first relationship. He’d be back with the Blade, and they were fighting a war, and it started off with a blow job months ago, but now it was clear and it was nice, and Keith had never realized how wonderful it could be to just hold someone close to you.

“You have some translating to do, by the way,” Keith whispered. “And also some explaining, because I saw that performance of you with the ribbons and-”

“Oh my God, you saw that?” Keith nodded, and Lance blushed. “Okay, let’s start with the translating. Which song?”

Keith hummed and pulled away to get his iPod. “This one. It’s the most different from the rest.”

Lance placed his drawing down carefully on the dresser that used to hold Keith clothes and then joined him on the bed. They sat side by side, sharing the earphones as Keith played the song. Lance smiled, and translated as the song went.

“Talking about you is like talking about the most beautiful poetry. It’s impossible because I’d never finish. It’s deciphering the most beautiful thing about life.” Keith gulped and blushed more than he thought possible as Lance looked him in the eyes and gave him a soft, sweet look that made Keith’s limbs turn to jelly. He continued to translate, and when Keith chose another song, he translated that one too.

Keith tried to soak in all the words, but he was getting sleepy, and in the end, they both fell asleep with the playlist looping in their ears until they shifted and the earphones fell out.

Chapter Text

The next morning, Keith didn’t want to open his eyes. He didn’t want to get out of bed and face the time slipping away. But when he did open his eyes, he was surprised to see Lance looking at him.

“Hey, sleepyhead.”

“Hi,” he whispered. “Did you sleep okay?”

Lance smiled and wrapped his arms around Keith, making him blush. “How long do I still get to keep you?” he grumbled in a croaky, sleepy voice. Keith sighed and took in the scent of his shirt. He felt silly and vulnerable, but… that was okay with the warmth of Lance’s arms around him.

It was almost too hot, but Keith didn’t want to pull away. He checked the watch on his wrist, giving him his countdown. “I still have until tomorrow morning. Kolivan gave me two days.”

“That was generous.” Lance sighed and snuggled against Keith’s side. They didn’t talk. They stayed in that space between sleep and wakefulness, trying their best to freeze time. “So have you gotten any closer to finding out about your parents?”

“Not really. Except I think Kolivan kind of acts like a dad. I think he does that with all the younger Blades though.” Lance snickered and tilted his head up to look at Keith with disbelief. “I’m serious! I feel like a kid or something. Then there’s my trainer and she’s like… I dunno she’s cool. She calms him down if he’s being too rough on me and gives me tips to stay on his good side. And she doesn’t go easy on me in training, but still makes me stop if I’ve been going too long.”

“Wow. Sounds like the Blades basically adopted you,” Lance mused. “What if… what if one of them is your parents? I mean your knife has the Blade symbol, and it’s obvious the Galra live a pretty long time.” Keith frowned and shook his head. “What? It’s possible.”

“Maybe in some crappy coming of age novel.” Keith chuckled. “I take that back, I actually really like the coming of age books Pidge lent me. But you get my point.”

Lance sat up and Keith had to smile fondly at the way the hair on one side of his head was matted to it stuck up haphazardly in short, curly spikes. His eyes were still puffy with sleep, and he looked so adorable, Keith just wanted to kiss him for a really long time. “Well, have you asked about your parents? They know you’re part Galra, so wouldn’t someone there know something?”

“I haven’t asked,” Keith said simply. “Everyone’s a little more focused on fighting and missions. Everyone’s been anxious since Lotor took over. The spies said there’s been a lot of tension between-”

Suddenly Lance leaned forward and kissed him, promptly shutting him up. Keith let out a muffled protest that turned into a chuckle when Lance just kept kissing him. Lance pulled back, and before Keith could even ask he said, “I don’t want to talk about the war. Not now.”

Keith’s smile faded and he nodded, running his fingers through Lance’s hair. “Okay.”

There was a knock at the door, and then Shiro’s voice. “Hey Keith, Hunk’s just about done making breakfast if you’re hungry.”

“Okay, I’ll be out in a bit,” he called back. There was no answer and Keith looked back up at Lance. “It’s not a secret this time, right?” he asked with a smile.

Lance grinned and kissed him. “Nope!” He took his hand and dragged him out of the room, laughing when Keith stumbled over his feet to keep up. They went to the dining hall, hand in hand.

It felt nice to reach the dining room and see the others still in their sleepwear, reaching over each other for the food scattered along the table. It felt normal. It felt like home. It felt so much more comforting than the way it was with the Blade where everyone was wearing either their mission uniform or their training uniform and everyone seemed serious and stoic.

He let Lance pull him to one end of the table so they sat across from Hunk, Pidge, and Matt.

Pidge yawned and raised an eyebrow. “Are you gonna make an announcement, or do we just infer from the hand-holding?”

Keith smiled nervously, but Lance was already talking. “Yes, it’s official, no it’s not a secret, and yes, really.”

Hunk snorted and nudged Pidge. “Remember when he kept swearing they were rivals? ‘Keith and Lance, neck and neck!’” he imitated.

She laughed and nodded. “Well, at least it’s no secret this time.”

“Wasn’t much of one before,” Shiro mumbled.

“Thanks for the encouragement, everyone.” Lance crossed his arms and looked over at Keith who just shrugged. They weren’t exactly wrong.

“Am I missing something?” Matt asked, chewing on his breakfast.

“Keith and Lance here were fuck buddies and failed to keep it from the rest of us, add some teen angst bullshit, some weird sort of break-up, and now they’re dating.”

Pidge!” Keith yelped. “Jeez, you know, you’re one to talk with the angst-”

Pidge aimed her spoon, filled with goop and narrowed her eyes, a playful dare in her eyes. “Keep talking, Mullet, and you’re gonna have an a la mode hairdo.”

“Hey, only I call him, Mullet,” Lance intervened. He looked over at Keith who just smirked. “Also, what’s that supposed to mean? Pidge has angst?”

Keith only laughed and then set to eating his food, receiving a flushed glare from Pidge that was more nervous than angry. Hunk frowned and poked her cheek. “She’s flustered! She’s keeping a secret!”

“Why are you keeping secrets, Pidgeon?” Matt asked, prodding her further. Keith raised an eyebrow at that. She hadn’t told her brother? Part of him wondered why she’d told him and not anyone else. Another part of him felt fondly honored. “Tell us!”

“A girl is entitled to secrets.” She scooped the last bit of food into her mouth and stood. “Especially if she can kick your butts.”

As she walked away, Lance called after her, “I can totally kick your butt before you kick mine, Pidge!” Keith rolled his eyes, biting his tongue.

“It really is nice to have this back,” Allura suddenly said fondly. “It was rather quiet without you here, Keith. It’s nice to see you all… acting like you usually did.”

Keith smiled at that, but it was more forced. Lance took his hand and squeezed softly. The gesture was oddly grounding. It even made his heart speed up. He couldn’t help the blush and the immediate reaction to cover his face.

About half an hour later, once everyone was done with their breakfast, Keith was helping take the plates over to the weird evolved Altean version of a dishwasher. Lance was taking a shower and probably catching up on the face mask routine he missed the night before.

Behind him, he heard an unfamiliar voice ask, “So you know something about my sister no one else does, huh?”

He jumped, and regained himself when he looked at Matt, comforted by the familiarity of his appearance. “Oh, uh…. No, I was just poking fun at her,” he said.

Matt smiled and helped him finish loading the dishes. “Nah. I know my sister. Even after about two years. She’s definitely keeping a secret.” He gave Keith another smile and a shrug. “It’s cool. I’m not gonna go all protective brother or anything.”

“It’s not that big a deal, really. Nothing serious,” he muttered, noting the slight pout of his lips and the somberness of his eyes. It was similar to the change in Lance’s face when he was upset. He didn’t know Matt very well, but Keith had gotten pretty good at picking up on Lance’s expressions and mood. Plus of the books he’s read, they all sort of describe it the same.

When Matt gave him a confused head tilt, Keith stuffed his hands in his pockets. “You seem kind of down about the whole secret thing. Does she usually not keep secrets from you?”

“No, she has. Yeah. I mean she’s a girl, she’s like almost ten years younger than me, she’s bound to.” Keith raised his eyebrows. Matt didn’t look Shiro’s age, but they did end up on the Kerberos mission together, so that made sense. “It just… I feel like I’m sort of out of place, I guess. I’m so proud of her, and she’s proven she’s got her stuff under control. But I see her playing video games with Lance, spending her time pouring over equations with Hunk, Shiro immediately kind of protecting her, and now you keeping secrets for her…. Everyone else picked up my jobs as the big brother while I was away.”

“That’s not true,” Keith said gently, noting the way Matt clenched his jaw. “You’re the one that grew up with her. You know her better than any of us. Believe me, she never forgot about her big brother. She was adamant about finding you and your father. When she told me she’d found you…. I’d never seen her so happy, Matt.”

Matt cleared his throat and nodded. “Yeah. Yeah, I know you’re right. I just… read into things too much, I guess. It was always a bad habit of mine- overanalyzing.” Keith smiled slightly. “She’s okay though?”

“Yeah. Like I said it’s not… a major secret.”

Matt nodded. “Cool. Cool.” And even Keith knew this was where the awkward shift came in. There wasn’t much to say. And Keith wasn’t all that great and engaging in a conversation. “Um, I guess I should find her then. Bonding stuff and whatnot.”

Keith chuckled and nodded, waving as Matt headed out.

--

A little later, Keith was sitting with the others in his room. It was weird to have so many people in his room. His was by far the least decorated, the walls bare even when he lived on the castle ship, so seeing Hunk and Pidge and Matt sprawled along the floor while Keith leaned against his bed and Lance hung off one end of it felt… oddly comforting. Like the things he’d seen in movies, and now he was experiencing it.

Pidge was fiddling with something on her computer and Hunk was peeking over her shoulder, making the occasional comment that she either rebutted or thought over and agreed with. Matt was talking with Lance about the latest level of some game they were playing and something called DC’s in them.

Keith was content just doodling on one of Pidge’s spare journals and listening to the interactions around him as Lance’s hand occasionally threaded through his hair.

He couldn’t help but glance at the countdown on his arm, watching as time dwindled. He felt so at home here. It was home. Things were good again at the castle. Hunk even had inside jokes with him! Pidge missed him. Matt was pretty cool to talk to. And Lance…. God, how was he supposed to walk away from this?

But there was a bigger picture. He hadn’t run off because of a misunderstood heartbreak. He’d gone to understand himself better too. That Galra part of him that scared him. And now that he was with the Blade, he saw that he served a better purpose there than with Voltron. He was needed there. Voltron had Lance now. And Lance was doing great based on what Allura had told him earlier that day.

Coran was off talking to Shiro about the next performance the group was supposed to do, but none of them seemed to care much for the “Voltron Show” so Keith didn’t bring it up. Lance still had some explaining to do, though.

“Keith, red or black?” Pidge asked suddenly.

“Red or black for what?”

“Which do you like more?”

“Do you just assume red because I was the red pilot?” he snorted.

She looked at him with an arched eyebrow. “I assumed because you had a red motor bike, a red jacket, and red boots.” Lance stifled his laughter in the mattress. “Red or black?”

Keith narrowed his eyes and muttered, “Black.” She nodded and returned to typing, huffing when Hunk pointed out a typo. “What are you doing?”

“I’m programming a holo-phone. But the code is frustrating because of the fact that we’re in space instead of Earth where it’s easy to route the information to cell towers.”

“The space between energy sources here is farther, which didn’t matter much for Pidge’s-”

“Which Lance stole.”

“-since we’re on the castle-ship, but for a series of holo-phones trying to connect over larger distances while also not interfering with any other tech out there in a smaller packaging is a little more frustrating. There’s more limitations even though it’s advanced tech,” Hunk said. Pidge opened her mouth to say something, but he rolled his eyes and said, “It’s an original prototype so it’s going to seem advanced but is actually very basic to quote Miss Genius here who downplays her skills.”

Matt scoffed at that. “Pidge undermining her skills? She never does that.”

“Agh, just let me do my thing. There will be plenty room for updates when I’m not on a timer.” She returned to her screen and Keith chuckled at the slight flush in her cheeks.

“What are you making a holo-phone for?” Lance asked.

“Because watching you mope around without hearing from Keith or constantly wondering when there will be another conference is physically painful. It’ll be worse now that you guys are actually dating.”

“You’re programming three of them,” Hunk noted.

She glanced at him then shrugged. “I’m making one for me too. And before you all tease me for it, I’m the one who was helping him out when the whole little lover’s feud was going and yes he’s the only one who knows that secret the rest of you will never get out of me.”

“Maybe I can get it out of Keith,” Lance said, giving Keith a suggestive smirk.

Ew,Pidge groaned.

“You doubt my loyalty, Lance,” he answered. “I got your back, Pidge.” She smiled gratefully and Keith couldn’t help but feel particularly special. It was really nice to be in on something no one else was. Besides, he still remembered the day Pidge had told him, and how she’d brought him food and helped him clean up his injuries and let him vent about Lance. It was nice to be understood instead of shut out like Hunk had done. But Keith couldn’t blame him either.

Lance groaned and rolled over onto his stomach. “Oh, come on! I don’t get it, if it’s not serious, why can’t we know? And if it is, then shouldn’t we know?”

“All I heard is that it’s not serious,” Matt interjected. “So it’s probably not a big deal.”

“Okay, but if it’s not, then why not just tell us?” Lance insisted.

“Well, maybe it’s about one of us,” Hunk said. “The only reason Pidge wouldn’t tell us something would be if it causes some kind of issue. Like when she hadn’t told us she was a girl. She kept it a secret until she felt it was best to say. She told Keith because he’s unaffected by it. She hasn’t told you or me because it probably has to do with us, and she knows we’d tell each other if she chose one to tell. Or it’s about both of us. Though that does make me wonder why she hasn’t told Matt.”

Matt whistled and laughed. “Wow, that’s a lot of deductive reasoning. When did you become a detective?”

Hunk shrugged. “I just know Pidge. And I have a theory as to why she won’t tell you, but I don’t know the relationship you two have well enough.”

Keith looked at Pidge who had remained quiet the entire time. She had a fond, amused smile on her face as stared at her computer, her fingers still.

“What’s that?” Matt asked. “I’ll tell you if it fits.”

Hunk shrugged again. “She’s embarrassed by whatever it is. It’s probably not something you tell siblings without risking teasing or reprimanding. Which then leads me to wonder why she told Keith who she has much less of a past with. Uh, no offense, buddy.”

Keith chuckled and shook his head.

“I mean, if it’s not serious and embarrassing, then yeah, teasing is a possibility,” Matt admitted. “You may be an awesome defender of the universe, Katie, but you’re still my little sis.”

She rolled her eyes and looked at Keith.

“We should make it our mission to figure out what she’s keeping from us,” Lance muttered.

Or,” Pidge interceded. “You could also respect my privacy.”

“An ideal choice if this were a serious secret. But if it’s not serious, then-”

Suddenly Matt gasped and stared at Pidge wide-eyed. A wild grin spread on his face and he looked at Lance and Hunk, back to Pidge, then burst into laughter.

“And he’s lost it,” Lance concluded.

“I figured it out,” he said triumphantly. Keith and Pidge both tensed. “Geez, relax, I’m not gonna tell. But I wanna know if I’m right. Pidge, is this like that time when we went to Disney with the Garcia’s and-”

Pidge tossed her computer aside and tackled her brother down. “Shut up! Shut up, be quiet!” Keith stared wide-eyed as did the other two, but Pidge just blushed furiously and muttered, “Yes, it is, now drop it!”

“I so saw this coming,” Matt snickered.

“Wha- aw, come on! I wanna know!” Lance whined.

“I wanna know what the Garcia-Disney thing is,” Keith wondered curiously.

Anyways,” Pidge said, scooping up her computer. “I gotta go run this in the lab. I’ll catch up at lunch. They should be done by dinner.”

“I’ll come with!” Hunk said, standing to follow. As Lance waved, Matt smiled widely and looked at Keith who could barely suppress his own smile. It sucked a bit that someone else knew, but at least Pidge had told Keith on her own instead of it being extracted from her.

Lance turned to Matt and joined him and Keith on the floor. “Alright, what gives?”

“You think I’d throw my sister under the bus?” Matt pointed out.

“It’s not serious! Come on!”

“He’s not good at secrets huh? That’s why Pidge won’t tell him.”

“I am too! Is it about me? Is it Hunk? Both of us? Is she trying to blackmail us?”

Matt laughed and stood up. “I have to go brief the other rebels. We have a meeting scheduled today, so. See you guys later.”

He left, and Lance batted his eyes at Keith. “Hey, baby,” he drawled.

“I’m not telling you,” Keith said with a smile. “Sorry, baby.” Lance pouted and Keith smiled and caressed his cheek. “What do you say we go train a bit?”

“Ooh, if you lose, you have to tell me-”

“Nope,” Keith answered, already standing and going to the door. Lance groaned, but followed after him. They reached the training deck and Keith turned to Lance. “So, one on one, or are we teaming up against the-” Lance cut him off and kissed him, his hands on either side of his face making Keith stagger. He pulled back and gave Keith a fond smile, his blue eyes skimming his face in a way that made Keith feel like he’d have fallen to his knees if Lance weren’t holding him up. He felt so weak in the best fucking way possible. “What was that?”

Lance shrugged and kissed him again, softer. “It’s just pretty cool to think I can do that whenever I want now. Because you’re my boyfriend. If that’s cool with you?”

Keith chuckled and raised an eyebrow. “You’re asking my permission to kiss me whenever you want?”

Lance nodded. “Consent is important.”

Keith blushed, remembering the last time Lance said that. “Yeah. It’s cool. Unless I’m in the middle of talking to someone, like Shiro or something.” Lance nodded and then kissed him again. “Lance,” he laughed. Lance kissed him again. “We’re sup-” Kiss. “-posed to-” Kiss. “be-” Kiss. “training!” More kisses.

“We’re always fighting stuff,” Lance muttered, peppering Keith’s face with feather light kisses. “You’re leaving tomorrow morning. I just want to be with you as much as possible until then.”

“Don’t think about tomorrow, Lance,” Keith said sadly. Lance pressed their foreheads together, and Keith noticed his hands were shaking. He opened his eyes and saw that Lance’s eyebrows were furrowed and his jaw was set so his lips pressed into a thin line. “Lance… what’s wrong?” he asked.

He felt stupid asking that. As if there wasn’t a perfectly good reason for Lance to be upset. Keith had left and now he was back, they were dating, and Keith was still going to leave again. As someone who was constantly being left, Keith couldn’t believe he was doing it to someone else. But he also didn’t want to be that guy that dropped everything to have it all revolve around their significant other. He was certain Lance wouldn’t ask him to do that.

“Lance? Don’t think about tomorrow,” he repeated hopelessly.

Lance shook his head and pulled back, running a hand through his hair. “That’s not it. I mean… a little, but it’s not something new to me. When I was little, I’d visit Havana where my grandparents lived every summer. But summers always ended. Just like your visit. I can handle seeing you off tomorrow, even if it’ll hurt.”

“Then what is it?” Keith asked, making a mental note to ask more about Lance’s childhood because he didn’t know much about his summers, and he thought Lance was from Varadero, and what kind of boyfriend was he, seriously.

Lance grabbed one of the guns one of the guns on the table. He turned and steadied his aim at something. Keith glanced over, not sure what he was seeing. A quick zip sounded through the silence and Keith saw that Lance had managed to shoot through the head of a beaten down sentry dummy in a pile of rubble.

Keith looked back at Lance, how worn out he looked. He’d gone from playful to solemn and… older almost in the span of a few minutes. It was freaking Keith out because he had no idea what was wrong or how to get Lance to tell him.

“That was a good shot,” he said, uncertainly.

Lance’s eyebrows furrowed together. Wrong thing to say.

“Lance, can you please tell me what-”

“I’m sev- eighteen. And I have no idea how many… living beings I’ve killed,” he mumbled. Keith’s lips parted in surprise. “I don’t even think when I’m out there, I just… do it. And I’m good at it. What does that say about me, Keith?”

Keith walked over to him and pulled the gun away from his hands, setting it carefully back on the table before turning to Lance. He cupped his face and looked him in the eyes, unsettled by the lack of playfulness in them. “It means you’re a survivor. This is a war, Lance. If it’s not them, it’s you.”

“They could have had families, people who wanted them back-”

“So do you,” Keith interrupted. “You’ve got parents, siblings, so many cousins I can’t even remember them all. They’re all waiting on you to come back home. And you’re out here risking yourself, knowing….” Keith swallowed, fighting the knot in his throat that came from the thought of Lance falling in combat. “Everyone else in this war is fighting knowing the same goes for them. You’re not a bad person, Lance. You’re one of the best people I’ve ever met.” Lance took a sharp breath and shook his head, not speaking.

But Keith knew Lance well enough to take a guess at what was going on in his head. Lance had a bad habit of putting himself down. A good habit of putting others before himself, but that was bad when it was because he didn’t deem himself good enough. Keith knew that Lance was asking himself what made him so special, why he got to live while so many around him died, sometimes at his hands.

Keith put his hand at the nape of his neck and gripped him hard, using his other hand to grasp his chin and tilt his head up. “Listen to me, Lance. You need to live, okay? You need to keep fighting and keep surviving because the universe needs you. Your family needs you. Your friends and your boyfriend need you.” Lance looked at him with troubled eyes and a pained expression. “I know that you want to save everyone, but you can’t do that. They’re on the opposite side of this war, and they’re coming after you. You are a good person, Lance, and no one is holding this against you. You’re gonna go home one day. And this will be behind you, and you’ll never have to pick up a gun again, but right now… I need you to not give up.”

Lance stared at him and a small smile began to tug at the corners of his lips. He lifted a hand and tugged gently on Keith’s earlobe. “You’re turning purple,” he murmured. Keith looked down self-consciously. He hadn’t done that in a while…. Like since he and Lance were… messing around. This was the first time he was aware of it happening outside of those particular circumstances. “It’s just messing with my head. And I don’t want to keep practicing being good at killing things.”

“You’re training to survive,” Keith reminded. “But okay. Let’s go do something else.”

“Want to see Red?” Keith nodded and followed him to the hangar. He smiled when he saw his old lion. “She’s pretty great. She’s gotten me out of tight spot a bunch of times. Blue’s always gonna be my girl, but… Red is fucking awesome.” Keith smiled and leaned against the giant paw, patting her affectionately. “Hey,” Lance said with a smirk. Keith raised an eyebrow. “Our first kiss outside of weird sexual tension was here.”

Keith smiled wider and nodded. “I remember.” Lance stepped closer and wrapped his arms around Keith. He hadn’t realized it, but it was exactly what Keith wanted, and he was glad Lance was so straightforward. “Could you tell me more about your summers in Cuba?”

“Why?” Lance chuckled.

Keith shrugged. “I wanna know you better. I don’t have a lot of memories of being a kid, and what I do remember isn’t very exciting.”

Lance chuckled and nodded. “Okay. But you have to tell me why you got kicked out of the Garrison.”

Keith smirked and nodded. Lance sealed their deal with a kiss that left Keith laughing and blushing. His whole body felt like it was gaining energy with each sweet thing Lance did, and he just wanted to burst and scream to the universe that he was with someone who wanted him.

“Alright, so first off, we came to America when I was just a baby. We lived in Florida for a long time, and when I was like, five, we started going to Cuba to visit my abuelita. Every summer we’d go, and my mom and dad wouldn’t stay because of work, but it was so fun. I got to run around and play a whole bunch, stuff I didn’t really do back home because… I mean it’s different you know?” Keith nodded, letting Lance play with their hands as he spoke, holding on to each word. “In Cuba, I could walk three blocks with my cousin without anyone freaking out and worrying. I could play soccer outside in the street and if we hurt ourselves, we brushed it off and got back up. Back home, I didn’t even like playing outside the apartment because I felt… weird. And once when I tried playing soccer with a neighbor, he scraped his knee and his mom made him stay in the rest of the day.” Lance rolled his eyes. “Anyway so some of my favorite stuff was when my abuelita and tia would make empanadas or tamales. Oh man, I had to wait until I was like thirteen to be allowed to actually help, but I loved watching them even before that. They always gave me a little piece of masa to play with so I could at least pretend I was actually doing something.”

Keith smiled, his heart fluttering at the light in Lance’s eyes as he recalled. Eventually, they sat down facing each other. Lance let go of his hands now and then to gesture, speaking with his hands, his entire body really. Keith sometimes lost track of names without faces to match to them, but Lance didn’t seem to mind repeating himself (unlike Keith who absolutely hated repeating something more than once).

Lance had a gift. He painted pictures with his words that left Keith itching for his art supplies. He wanted to draw the beach they would take a family trip to each summer that Lance talked about. He wanted to draw the bike Lance loved so much which he got for his birthday when he turned ten. He wanted to draw the little home based store that sold them sweets and sodas. He wanted to draw the trees and the houses Lance described from the times he climbed to the roof with his grandfather and sat there until he was able to see the stars in the sky. More than he could ever see from American cities.

Keith felt like he could almost taste each dish Lance reminisced. He could feel each injury Lance described from the sprained wrist he got climbing a tree to the broken nose he got after getting in a fight with some kid from the next street over. They’d been fighting over Lance being an actual Cuban or a white boy with dark skin. Lance used different words, of which Keith only recognized “gringo.” But when Keith asked for the translation, Lance said it basically translated to describe a person who looked Hispanic but acted white or stereotypically American. Lance had won, but the disappointment on his abuelita’s face and the way he remembered Becca crying because she was so scared Lance was going to get himself killed in a fight hadn’t let him feel proud of defending his heritage.

Keith found himself wishing he could experience all of these things with Lance. He wished they’d been friends before, that Lance would’ve talked to him or gone to say hi each time he came back. He wished he could’ve been there for Lance when he was sixteen and had gotten upset that he couldn’t go back to Cuba that summer because he had Garrison training and would start classes right away.

“I’m gonna take you there one day,” Lance promised, intertwining their fingers. “I don’t knowhow my family there will feel about… us, but….” He shrugged. “They make a lot of jokes with sexuality. We have gay neighbors and whatever, but the slurs are more common. Like, they become nicknames and sort of lose the sting, but still… it sucks. But I want you to see it. I want you to try the garlic knots, and I want you to see how pretty it is there, how fucking incredible the beach is.”

“I look forward to going. And it’s okay, I understand. We don’t have to tell everyone. You know your family best, so.” Lance smiled and nodded, leaning forward to kiss him. “What was that for?” Keith smiled against his lips.

Lance shrugged. “I just really like you and it drives me kinda nuts.” Keith smiled and leaned in to kiss him, but Lance leaned back. “Mm, nope. Your turn. You gottan hold up your end.”

Keith sighed and pulled back, letting Lance return to playing with his hands. “Did Iverson ever explain why he had to start using an eyepatch?”

“No, he just sort of said not to- wait. No. No.” Keith raised an eyebrow as Lance stared at him dumbfounded. “Explain.”

Keith laughed and grimaced. “Okay. So… I heard about Kerberos. And at first I was sort of a zombie. I couldn’t… picture life without Shiro around helping me make something of myself. He was my mentor, he’s the one who came to my school and suggested the Garrison. I figured I had nothing to lose and he sort of took me under his wing. I was in a really bad place. I was tired of people leaving without saying goodbye or… I was just tired of being left alone. They had that ceremony for Commander Holt, Matt, and Shiro. I went, but… his body wasn’t even there. I couldn’t bring myself to believe it. Then I heard a rumor that some kid broke into the system and found out it was a cover up. I was grasping at straws by then. I went to see Iverson in his office and I asked about that. He told me not to worry about it, that he was sorry for my loss, that he had a counselor I could go see. But he wouldn’t look at me. He didn’t even bother sounding worried or sorry and it pissed me off.”

“Iverson is a dick,” Lance muttered.

Keith nodded. “I uh… I pinned him to the wall to make him look at me.” Lance’s jaw fell open. “He said he’d let that slide because I was the top of the class and he understood I was dealing with Shiro’s death, but I had to let him go. I did, eventually, because I knew Shiro would be upset if I fucked up the opportunity to keep attending there. Then when I was about to leave, he said something about, ‘Don’t pay attention to rumors, there’s no cover up. What do you care about Shiro anyway, you’re not family.’”

“Oh shit.

Keith nodded and clenched his fist, still feeling angry. “I just… lost it. The next thing I knew I had him on the floor, there was blood on one hand, and the other was at his throat. I was told I’d thrown the first thing I grabbed at him, which is why his eye got fucked up…. Iverson had this plaque award thing and I flung that at him, punched him, tripped him, and…. Yeah. The guards had to pull me off and an hour later, I was getting thrown out of the place. But I knew he was lying about Kerberos.”

“That’s… whoa.”

“I know,” Keith said, ducking his head. “It was bad, and I probably took it way too far. But…. Shiro is my family. Even if he’s not blood. He’s the only family I had that stayed, that I can remember caring, I just…. To have someone make it seem insignificant, and-”

“Hey, hey, hey,” Lance interrupted, tilting Keith’s head up. “Sh, calm down. I get it. I know how important family is. And I know it’s not always blood that makes a family.” Keith nodded and let Lance pull him into his arms, soothing him. “Damn. I can’t believe you fucked up Iverson’s eye. Son of a bitch had it coming for that stunt. Man, we were all intertwined before we even knew it.”

Keith hummed and let his hands thread with Lance’s. “And now we’re here,” Keith said. Lance kissed his cheek and hugged him tighter. This definitely sprouted from more than some stupid friends with benefits deal.

Chapter Text

(If you have songs I can add play to a playlist for this fic please let me know!!)

The New Romantics Playlist Here

And So the Moon Fell for the Sun Here

Sweet Sun the Moon is Yours Playlist Here (an in-progress playlist from Keith to Lance)


 

The vargas were dwindling quickly. Keith tried his best not to look at his watch until he went to bed, but it was difficult. Lance seemed to be trying to fit in an entire month’s worth of dating into the few hours of the evening they had left and well into the night. Keith didn’t blame him if not for the fact that he noticed Lance wasn’t going through his usual face mask routine and shower.

“I can spare a day,” he insisted.

“And then complain for a week about the effects it has on you. Go, I can manage for an hour while you do that,” Keith answered. “It’s okay.”

Lance hesitated, but Keith just gave him his products and nudged him to the bathroom. “I’ll be really quick.”

“You can take your time. I’ll be here.”

Lance frowned, but he eventually went into the showers and Keith knew he wouldn’t see him for at least an hour. He went back to the dining hall where Shiro and Allura were in deep discussion with an oddly disgruntled Coran, so he walked right back out and went toward the training deck.

Part of the way there though, he ran into Pidge who was tinkering with her computer as she walked. “Where’s your other half?” she asked, not even looking up. “I only see one of you in my peripheral vision.”

Keith wasn’t sure what to make of the fact that he and Lance were starting to be seen as a package, but he shrugged it off for the time being. “He’s showering. What are you doing?”

“Finishing up the phones. Wanna come with me to the lab and keep me company?”

“Where’s your other h-”

“I dare you to finish that sentence,” she said, finally looking over at Keith. She raised an eyebrow, and Keith laughed, raising his hands in surrender. “Anyway, he’s with Matt in the kitchen.”

He nodded and walked with her to the lab, peering over her shoulder at the incomprehensible code she was dealing with. “Am I gonna get to know what the Garcia-Disney thing was?”

He noticed the tip of her ears turn red. She huffed and hefted the computer to her other arm. “Long story short, I had a huge crush on a family friend when I was six. And I decided to realize it when we sat next to each other on Splash Mountain… then I… sort of kissed him when we got off… then he threw up.”

Keith covered his mouth to stifle his snorting laughter because he knew it wasn’t what Pidge needed. “You had your first kiss when you were six?” he asked, struggling to keep a straight face.

She sighed and rolled her eyes. “No, not like… it was like those cute Hallmark cards you see, a really quick peck, it doesn’t count. But… yeah and he just threw up because he’d eaten before the ride and we were really small. But I knew Matt knew as soon as he said Garcia’s. He loves bringing it up.” She looked at him and scoffed. “Oh God, dude, just laugh, you look constipated!”

Keith couldn’t help but burst out in laughter at that. He laughed until they reached the lab. His stomach hurt and his eyes were watery, but he couldn’t help it when he imagined a tiny Pidge kissing a tiny boy who threw up right after.

Once he finally managed to stop, he looked at Pidge as she slid a few things on a holographic screen before deciding to ask, “Why did you tell me about Hunk?”

She froze and looked at him. “What do you mean?”

“I mean… you didn’t have to. And Hunk’s right, we’re not really that close. But you still told me. Why?”

She furrowed her eyebrows like she had never really thought about that before. Then she kept sliding and poking things, her face shining with the sky blue light from the hologram she was focused on. “I just… felt like I could trust you. And that you’d understand. I knew you wouldn’t laugh at me for it. I needed to tell someone and… I felt safe. It helped that you were venting to me before too.”

Keith felt something warm bloom in his chest before giving Pidge a smile. “Oh. Well… Cool. I feel safe around you too.” She smirked and raised an eyebrow at him, almost teasingly. “Sorry! I’m not good at emotional conversations!”

She chuckled and nodded. “It’s okay. I get it.”

***

Lance was towel-drying his hair as he walked. He could feel a few spare droplets of water sliding down his leg, making his shirt stick to his torso. He could still feel the water dripping from his hair and down his shirt. He hadn’t even put on his slippers.

Suddenly, he was smashing into a solid mass and falling back on his ass.

“Oh! Sorry, bud.” A hand pulled him up, and moved his towel. Lance blinked and looked at Hunk. “You okay?”

“Yeah, no worries.”

Hunk frowned and gestured up and down at Lance’s body. “What gives? You’re not even dry y- Oh. You’re getting back to Keith.”

Lance blushed and nodded. “Yeah. I just don’t want to miss any time with him. And I know he’s an introvert and likes being alone sometimes, but I just… he’s always been alone, you know? He should have someone with him even if we’re not doing anything and sitting on different sides of the room. At least, I think so. I don’t know. Plus I’ll miss him a lot.”

Hunk chuckled and nodded. “Yeah, I get it, Lance. Here, let me help.” He put the towel back over Lance’s head and then shook him, making Lance yelp and laugh. “Get into better PJs, those don’t look comfortable.”

“Yeah, I’m gonna. Do you know where Keith is, by any chance?”

Hunk shook his head. “I haven’t seen him, I was with Matt. I was actually looking for Pidge. She’s not in her room, so she’s probably in the lab. I’ll keep an eye out for Keith too.”

“Thanks, big guy.” Lance smiled and went to his room to put up his towel and change into dryer clothes before going to check if Keith was in his own room.

When there was no answer, he decided to check the training room. Finding it empty, he started for the lion’s hangar, figuring Keith might have been with Red for a while. But as he walked, he heard Keith call his name and turned to see him walking next to Hunk.

“Hey, Hunk said you were looking for me. You’re out of the shower earlier than usual.”

Lance shrugged and smiled. “Efficiency.”

“I’m gonna get back to Pidge. See you guys tomorrow morning,” Hunk said, waving before heading back the way he came.

Lance noticed Keith looking slightly put off before turning to walk next to him down the hall back to the room. Their hands swung, uncertain of what to do before Lance decided to just take Keith’s hand. He saw Keith blink rapidly before looking at their interlocked hands and slowly tightening his grip as well.

“What?” Lance asked him. Keith looked at him and raised an eyebrow. “You’re thinking about something and it’s bugging you.”

“No it’s not,” he answered. Lance simply looked at him, letting Keith lead them. Keith looked at him then huffed. “I just… think Hunk doesn’t really like me much. I mean, yeah we were pilots for the lions and stuff, but I think… once we fought he just… I dunno.”

“Why do you think that?” Lance asked, unable to fathom Hunk not liking Keith as a person.

He’d seen Hunk dislike people. He didn’t like Jake Kowalski their first year at the Garrison because he always teased Emma Fejeran for being overweight. He hadn’t liked Tom Cruise after some research because of the weird obsession one of his sisters had with him. And he hadn’t liked Rolo when they’d first met, obviously with good reason before he and Nyma redeemed themselves. And yeah, he’d gotten mad at Keith when they had their little spat, but it wasn’t like Hunk didn’t like Keith. He was just defending Lance.

Keith shrugged and opened the door to Lance’s room. “We don’t talk that much. And just now, he was walking me over but he wasn’t saying anything. Like he didn’t want to talk to me, but had something to say that he never did get to say. Like that thing in the books where the best friend is like, ‘if you hurt my friend I’m going to beat you up’ kind of thing and it was just making me really nervous.”

Lance frowned before he realized what Hunk had actually been trying to do. He laughed and hugged Keith tightly, kissing his cheek and making Keith’s entire face turn red. “Mullet, he wasn’t trying to intimidate you or shut you out. I told him I didn’t want you to have to be alone anymore even if you weren’t talking or doing anything. Like… just have someone around because you’ve had your share of being alone. I think he was just keeping that in mind. But if you’d rather have your own space, I’ll just tell him not to worry.”

For a while Keith didn’t say anything. He just looked at Lance curiously, his purple eyes almost gray in the washed out lights of the room. “You don’t want me to be alone? Like… ever?”

He let go of Keith and stepped back, blushing slightly. “That’s not what I mean,” he said with a chuckled, trying to get his thoughts together. “It’s just… you’ve been on your own for a long time. And you don’t have to be anymore. Not with us. So even if you’re just sitting in a corner reading or drawing or polishing your dagger, I just… thought it’d be nice to have someone near. I… really hate the idea of you being alone, but if you’d rather that, just let me know and I can back off.”

Again, Keith didn’t answer, but he reached out and touched Lance’s cheek with the tip of his fingers. There was something in his eyes. He was thinking of something, but he wasn’t voicing it. Lance stayed quiet, looking at Keith questioningly but waiting for him to want to speak.

There was a slight upward twitch at the corners of Keith’s lips. Then he whispered, “You’re beautiful, Lance.”

Lance felt short of breath and turned into Keith’s palm to hide his face. “Why?” he said with an awkward laugh.

When he looked back at Keith, he was just smiling fondly at Lance. Suddenly, it hit Lance that Keith was leaving in the morning, and something heavy settled in his stomach. He placed his hand over Keith’s and used his other to pull him closer, nudging their noses together before his lips settled over Keith’s.

It was a light, gentle kiss, somehow making Lance’s heart beat faster than the times they’d kissed like they were ravenous for the other.

I don’t want you to go. Please don’t go.

“Lance? What is it?”

He opened his eyes and managed a tense smile. “What’s what? I’m okay.” Keith looked unconvinced, so Lance kissed him one more time and asked, “Are you sleeping in that? It seems uncomfortable.”

“Uh… I mean I can. I already put my stuff in the pod so I’m not rushing tomorrow.”

Lance turned away to undo his bed and hide his disappointment. “Well, you can wear something of mine if you want.” Keith hummed and Lance sat on the bed. Keith turned back, holding a sweatshirt and pajama bottoms Lance had gotten at the space mall. “That sweater is really soft. Good choice.”

Keith bit his lip and hesitated. “Could you… turn around?”

Lance’s eyebrows went up. He’d already seen Keith naked, and in very compromising positions. It seemed redundant for him to want Lance to turn away to change into clothes when he’d just be in his boxers.

“Uh, sure,” he said, turning away to face the wall and shutting his eyes. “Just let me know when.”

Not even a full two minutes later, Keith said, “I’m good now.” Lance turned to see him folding his clothes, looking comfortable in Lance’s own. He walked over to sit next to Lance and gave him a nervous little smile. “Thanks.”

Lance furrowed his eyebrows and tugged on a strand of Keith’s raven hair. “You okay?”

Keith nodded and began to rub the pads of his fingers together. “Yeah. Just… lots of stuff. Leaving tomorrow. This dating thing.”

“Well, what’s wrong with the dating thing?” Again, Keith stayed quiet and pensive, not really looking at Lance. “Keith, you gotta be able to talk to me. That’s kind of how this works.”

For a few moments, Keith just breathed and seemed to be testing words in his head. It made Lance nervous, but he tried not to show it or rush Keith. Then finally he said, “I just don’t know how fast this is supposed to go. I mean… we’ve had sex before, so are we supposed to keep doing that now that we’re dating? And how does… ‘us’ work with me being with the Blade of Marmora?”

“Oh. Well… we don’t have to keep having sex. I mean, when we were it was just for fun. Now it’s different. Is that why you wanted me to look away when you changed?” Keith nodded and looked away. He was glaring at the floor like he was angry, but Lance knew it was just his way of dealing with embarrassment. “That’s okay, Keith,” he said with a light chuckle. “I wouldn’t want us to do that right away either. I wasn’t expecting that tonight.”

“Then what do we do tonight?”

Lance shrugged and took his hand. “What we did all those other nights we spent together without having sex. Let’s just stay awake as long as we can until you have to go.” Keith smiled and looked down at their hands. “Yeah?”

“Yeah,” he agreed. Then Keith scrambled beside him to take the spot by the wall. Suddenly, he felt Lance’s hands tugging him until he was laying down. He laughed as Lance wrapped his arms around him and settled comfortable over him, using Keith’s stomach as a pillow. “What are you doing?” he laughed, squirming at Lance’s touch because his fingers were tickling his sides.

“Cuddling, genius. Stop moving!”

“It tickles!” Keith curled his body in as Lance pulled himself up and gave him a fond look. “You’re a goof.”

“I’m your boyfriend.”

The words made Keith’s cheeks turn red and a funny little feeling burst in his chest. “Same difference,” he whispered, running his hand through Lance’s hair. It was starting to become cute little ringlets that framed his face, and Keith wondered how much longer Lance would want it to grow. He couldn’t quite see how Lance would look with a head full of curls.

“What are you thinking?” Lance asked, tilting his head curiously.

Keith shook his head. He was thinking a lot. He was thinking about how beautiful Lance was. How wonderful he was. How it was incredible that Keith had go so long without feeling the things he was feeling now. Back on Earth, he’d known that a relationship like theirs was… sufficiently controversial. Hell, Lance had kissed some girl back home just to keep face around his family.

But laying there, with Lance looking at him the way he was, he couldn’t help but wonder how could this be wrong? How could feeling so much for someone be considered bad to anyone when it was the best feeling Keith had ever known?

But saying that aloud, saying exactly how much he felt for Lance to Lance…. That would be more vulnerable than he was ready to be. He didn’t want to say it because he knew that if he did, that much more of himself would be put in Lance’s hands.

“Nothing,” he answered with a smile. Lance hummed and shifted to lay beside Keith.

 “You sure?”

Keith smiled and nodded, sleepily blinking. “I’m sure.”

Lance touched his cheek and nudged his nose with his own. “Don’t fall asleep, Mullet.”

Keith opened his eyes and smiled. “Mm. ‘m not. Just resting my eyes.” He shut them again and sighed as he felt Lance’s fingers trace his cheekbone.

“Liar,” Lance said softly. Keith opened his eyes and smiled sleepily at him. Lance kissed his forehead and wrapped his arms around Keith. “Such a sleepy liar.”

Keith felt himself drift in and out of consciousness, trying to cling to the feeling of being near Lance.

But eventually, he succumbed to sleep, and with it came a series of nightmares. The worst part of it was that Keith was somehow aware that he was dreaming, that nothing was real. Still, he was unable to change what happened or wake up without getting to the worst of everything.

It started with a recurring nightmare that Keith had suffered through ever since he was little. A dream of being left in a house, looking desperately for the source of unknown voices and trying to leave only to end up back inside the house. He was trapped and alone and afraid, and no matter how often he dreamed the same thing, it never lost the touch of sheer panic and horror it woke in Keith.

And then it was a war. A war with lions and battleships and exploding planets tossing Keith around. He’d watched everyone he knew getting slaughtered before his eyes, screaming for Shiro, Pidge and Hunk. And every time he tried to run for them, his legs would weigh down like they were made of lead. The swing of his swords became weak as they reached their targets and frustration rose in Keith.

But when he watched Lance getting shot down, watched Shiro get torn to pieces, he felt an agonized scream rip from his throat.

And then he woke up, gasping for breath as he curled into himself. Lance’s arm was loosely draped over his side. Keith was sweaty and had tears streaking his face, but he’d been quiet. No screaming, no thrashing. Just paralyzed.

He took a moment to catch his breath and then slowly worked Lance’s arm away. He shifted to get off the bed, making the bed dip and causing Lance to wake.

“Wha’ happen?” he grumbled.

“Nothing, go back to sleep. I’m just going to the bathroom,” Keith whispered, low enough to make sure his voice didn’t betray him.

Lance mumbled then shifted and fell back asleep. Keith tiptoed out of the room and took a shaky breath. The castle lights were dimmed for the night, and it was quiet except for the humming of the castle. He walked, feeling the cold floor beneath his feet as he took each step, trying to clear the images from his head. Everything would be fine. They’d made it this far. They would all survive and make it back home.

Still, Keith couldn’t shake the feeling that he needed to be careful… prepare for the worst…. Prepare to be left alone.

“Hello?”

He froze when he heard the inquisitive voice and turned, looking back at the kitchen. He hadn’t realized there was a light on. He tiptoed back and saw Hunk sipping on space juice.

“Hey. What are you…?”

“I could ask you the same,” Hunk answered with a smile, offering another juice packet. “You okay? Your eyes are red.”

Keith walked in and took the juice gratefully. “Yeah. Just… nightmares.”

Hunk nodded in understanding. “Those suck. When I was little and my sister or I had nightmares, my mom would bake us chocolate fudge brownies. They were so fluffy and good. Her secret was adding Jell-O mix.”

Keith smiled and briefly wondered what it might have been like to grow up with that. With his parents tucking him in each night, his mother making brownies and cookies for him when he was sad or had nightmares. To have had a sibling.

He remembered his first nightmare and shook the thoughts away.

“If you want, I could make some. They might settle you.” Keith frowned and raised an eyebrow. “Brownies, I mean.”

“Oh! Oh. I mean… isn’t that going to keep you up?” Keith asked.

Hunk shrugged. “Nah. I’m up because Pidge barely went to bed and I was keeping her company in the lab. I don’t mind baking. Plus if there’s any left over, you can take them with you when you go back to the Blades.”

Keith smiled and nodded. “That’s really nice. Thanks, Hunk.”

Hunk smiled and turned to grab ingredients. He set them out and set to mixing and measuring and whisking. Keith watched with fascination. He seemed to have everything memorized, and he worked fast. It was incredible to Hunk in action in the kitchen because he seemed so at peace, so focused.

Before long, the batter was put into the weird little over the castle had and Hunk sat down next to Keith. “And now, we wait,” he said with a smile. “Did you… want to talk about the nightmares?”

“No, not really,” Keith said. Hunk nodded and leaned against the counter quietly. “So… you’re not gonna interrogate me about Pidge’s secret?”

Hunk looked back over at him and laughed. “Oh, nah. Pidge will tell us eventually. Besides, growing up with my sister, I was kind of used to keeping secrets and having them kept from me. I mean, I’m curious for sure, but… if it’s not serious, I’m not worried.”

Keith nodded and hummed. “You seem to have her figured out like the back of your hand.”

Full-hearted laughter filled the kitchen and Keith jumped in his seat. “Oh God, no. Pidge is a very intricate person with lots of layers. There’s way more to her than I could ever hope to get to know. I mean, she’s my closest friend besides Lance, so I’d like to say I do know her pretty well, but… there’s way more to her that I still don’t know. Every time I learn something new about her, there’s a million other new things attached to it.”

Keith smirked and wondered what Pidge would think of that. He chuckled and shrugged, allowing the silence to settle for a while. Then, against his better judgement, Keith asked, “Do you think you’d ever see her as more than a friend?”

Hunk started choking on his juice. Keith cringed and hesitated to pat his back. “H-huh?” he asked.

“Well, I just…. I don’t know. You guys get along so well, I just figured it was a possibility that one of you would start liking the other. I mean, we’ve been up here for a long time. The whole reason Lance and I even started this whole thing was the isolation of people. And me and him are together now. I’m pretty sure there’s something going between Shiro and Allura. Coran is too old for you. Matt is an option, I guess, but you’re closer to Pidge, so….” He shrugged. “But I mean, you do have a thing for Shay, so…. I guess that was a stupid question.”

Hunk still looked at him like he had his head upside down. Then took a breath and ran a hand through his hair. “Uh. I mean, I never really… considered it a possibility. Um, I mean, Shay is beautiful, yeah, but.. I haven’t seen her in a long time. With Pidge, it’s just always come natural, so I guess I never thought of pursuing more. That’s never really… worked out in my favor.” Keith hummed and nodded. “I guess it is possible,” he mused. Keith raised an eyebrow and worked to hide his smile. “But, you know. Anyways.”

Keith laughed and shook his head. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to put you on the spot. I was just curious. Pidge lent me some books and a really big trope is best friends becoming a couple, so…. Sorry.”

“It’s cool,” Hunk said with a nervous smile. “So, you and Lance finally made it official, huh? What changed your mind?”

“Lance,” he answered honestly. “I… am used to people sort of ditching after a while for some reason. And with Lance having hated me so much before, I just figured it was mostly horniness speaking when he kept saying he wanted to be with me. It just didn’t make sense to me for someone to want… to be with me? Especially since I’m awkward with emotions and whatnot. But I’ve gotten better! It’s helped with you guys and Lance. But, anyways, he just… pointed out that there was a lot more to us than the ‘with benefits’ part of the friendship that made us get attached.”

Hunk smiled and nodded, checking the brownies and sitting back down. “Yeah, I’m not gonna lie, that came as a shock at first.”

“At first?”

“Yeah,” he scoffed. “I mean, Lance was always competing with you, and I figured at first he was just really trying to be better than you. So finding out you guys were… you know, doing it, I was really confused. But then it sort of made sense. He admired you, wanted to be as good as you. He put you on a pedestal. He’s always liked you, he just… never knew what it was and passed it off as a rivalry. Otherwise, do you really think he’d have been so desperately horny as to start that friends with benefits thing with you as a rival?” Keith scoffed and bit his lip, acknowledging the logic in that. “I think you guys balance each other out well.”

Keith smiled at that and looked at his hands. “Thanks. That’s… comforting to hear. I thought you didn’t like me.”

“What? Why?”

Keith sighed and shrugged. “Because of the whole fight we all had. I know I hurt Lance a lot, and I know you were really angry about it, and we’ve never been close, so I figured there was no reason for you to like me and plenty for you not to.”

At that, Hunk sighed and scratched his head. Keith looked at him uncomfortably. He’d made a point, and Hunk seemed to recognize that.

“I didn’t like you at that time,” he said carefully. “Just because... well Lance has been my best friend for a long time. Longer than Pidge. I’ve seen him get his heart broken… countless times. More than he deserves. Lance falls fast, but he falls deep, and a lot of people didn’t appreciate that. I’ve seen the toll each unrequited crush has on him. Like I said, at first I was really confused when I found out about you two, but I figured, hey here’s someone who’s taking him serious for once.”

“And then I went and gave him a black eye,” Keith deadpanned.

Hunk winced, standing to check the brownies. He must have deemed them thoroughly cooked because he took them out and started cutting them, making precise, even horizontal and vertical lines. “I think what bothered me was the fact that you tried to erase everything you guys had. Pretend it meant nothing. That really hurt Lance.” Keith furrowed his eyebrows in confusion. “He said that after the fight you’d said you were never friends.”

Keith’s face burned in humiliation and he rubbed his face. “I didn’t mean that. I just said what I knew would hurt. I was so sure that we’d fooled ourselves into feeling something romantic, and I just… wanted something to happen so I could hate him and make myself realize it wasn’t real. I never even thought that Lance might have felt something for me or that he’d… end up crying for me.”

Hunk sighed and looked at Keith with an expression that Keith wasn’t sure what to do with. Like he’d understood Keith, but he was still siding with Lance on the matter. Which made sense, Keith supposed. “Like I said. Lance falls hard. When he falls for someone, he falls wholeheartedly. Rejection hurts. He felt like you were trying to erase him, and maybe you were for the sake of protecting yourself, and I get that…. But I mean, that’s why I was so angry with you. I hate seeing Lance like that. When he first told me about the kiss before you’d left, I was really skeptical, and then he said you guys weren’t even dating and decided to have time apart, and I was even more skeptical. I thought you might be playing with his feelings or something.”

“N-no, of course not, I-”

Hunk place a hot brownie on a napkin in front of him. “I know. I was just very suspicious, looking out for Lance. But he was happy, so I didn’t say anything. So when you guys actually started dating… I saw how happy Lance got. How happy you looked. And with what you told me, it makes more sense, I think. You both deal with your emotions differently, and it clashes with the other’s. But you’re both just as wrapped up in each other. So don’t think I don’t like you.”

Keith hummed and nodded, chewing his brownie slowly. It was ridiculously delicious and Keith was fighting off a moan to continue the conversation. “You’re just protective.” Hunk nodded. “Is this when you give me that speech about not hurting him?”

Hunk laughed and split a brownie, letting it air out before popping one half into his mouth. “What, you mean the ‘if you hurt my best friend, I punch you in the face’?” Keith nodded. Hunk shook his head and ate the other half. “Nah. First of all, I think Pidge can be way more intimidating than me, so if you got that speech, it’d be from her. Second, I don’t think you need that speech. You and Lance will figure it out, now that all the complicated stuff is over.”

Keith mulled over that as he ate his brownie, then another. He finished his juice then yawned loudly, apologizing with a nervous chuckle. “Thanks, Hunk. For the brownies, and for talking, and everything.”

Hunk smiled. “Anytime, Keith.”

“So we’re cool?”

Hunk wrapped him up in a bear hug that Keith hadn’t been expecting. “Of course, man! We’re family. You may be with the Blades, but… you’re a paladin at heart. You should get back to bed if you want to rest enough for tomorrow, though.”

Keith laughed and nodded. “Yeah, I probably should. You too. I didn’t think anyone stayed up later than Pidge.”

Hunk snorted and shrugged. “I’ll wrap these up for you. Goodnight.”

“G’night, Hunk. See you in the morning.” He waved and made his way back to Lance’s room, feeling lighter than when he’d left it. The chocolate had definitely improved his mood, easing his discomfort from the nightmares, and he felt a little more… complete knowing that Hunk really did care, and it wasn’t because Lance had told him to, or because he was pretending.

He slipped back into the room and tiptoed over to the bed where Lance had already spread out across the mattress. Keith chuckled and began nudging him, moving his limbs to make a space for himself. Lance was such a heavy sleeper sometimes.

Eventually, Lance picked his head up to figure out why he was being moved and Keith whispered, “Give me space, you dork.”

Lance grumbled and moved over. Keith laid down, and immediately, Lance scooped him into his arms, imprisoning him in the warmth. Keith only smiled and leaned into him, feeling the rise and fall of his chest.

He turned and tilted his head to get a shadowed glimpse of his face, feeling a wave of affection at the sight of his slightly open, smushed to one side mouth and squished cheek against the pillow. He couldn’t help but think of how he looked the day he cried for his family. Keith couldn’t believe that Lance had cried for him, and yet, he did believe it. He hated seeing Lance cry, and he hated knowing he’d caused Lance to cry even if it had been a separate misunderstanding.

He pressed a hand to his cheek and whispered, “I’m so sorry, Lance. I’m so, so sorry.” He kissed him lightly on unresponsive lips and silently vowed to never again purposely hurt him.

***

For a long time, Lance didn’t want to open his eyes, even though he was awake. He felt Keith start to get up, but he reached out blindly and held him, muttering a feeble, “No, not yet.”

Keith sighed and hugged him back, indulging him for a while before saying, “I gotta get up, Lance. I want to eat before I go, and if I’m late Kolivan won’t let me come back if it’s not for missions or intel.”

Lance clenched his jaw and held him tighter. I don’t want you to go. He thought it. He didn’t say it. He couldn’t bring himself to. He didn’t want to make Keith feel bad for going back. Lance knew it was something Keith needed to do.

So he steeled himself and slowly let go. “Morning,” he whispered. Keith smiled and kissed him gently before getting up. He started to grab the clothes he’d worn yesterday before he changed into Lance’s when Lance said, “You can keep those if you want. You need more sweaters in your life.”

Keith rolled his eyes, but smiled. “Very funny, asshole. Come on, get up. Let’s get breakfast.”

Lance nodded and got up, following Keith out the door. He started fussing with Keith’s hair, trying to tame it from the tousled mess it had become. Pidge walked out of her room and fell into step with them as they walked.

“Should I ask how you guys spent the night?” she asked.

Lance and Keith laughed. “Slept soundly, thanks for asking, Pidge.”

Keith nodded and nudged her. “I also have something to tell you later.”

Lance’s curiosity peaked. “Is this about The Secret?” Pidge and Keith stared at him blankly and he groaned. “I’m going to die without knowing what this is about, aren’t I?”

“Oh, I don’t know about that,” Keith said with a shrug.

That resulted in Pidge stopping directly in front of Keith with wide eyes. “What?” Keith laughed and stepped around her. “Keith Kogane, what did you do?” she exclaimed after them. When Keith didn’t answer, she jumped onto his back, and Lance stepped back in confusion. They started babbling, Keith was mostly laughing while Pidge was trying to extract information.

Meanwhile, Lance felt more confused than ever. “Well, it smells like Hunk made French toast, so, I’m just gonna go ahead and beat you both to the table.”

Pidge perked up and stopped attacking. “French toast? That’s my favorite!” She smiled and hopped off of Keith, racing to the table.

Keith laughed and fell back in step with Lance, their hands doing that funny little dance, uncertain of whether they should hold hands or not, brushing up close enough that it was evident they wanted to. But Lance wanted to see what Keith would do if he didn’t grab his hand first.

After a while, Keith’s smile faltered, and he looked down at their hands, trying to be discreet. Finally, Lance decided to have mercy on him. “If you want to hold my hand, you can,” he said.

Keith blushed but finally interlocked their fingers, giving Lance an eyeroll for the cocky smile that had spread on his face.

They reached the table and seated themselves, missing Matt and Coran still. Eventually, as everyone started getting their food, they both came in and started eating. Lance noticed Coran looked a little more eccentric than usual, which worried him, but he knew Shiro and Allura were supposed to talk to him about the Voltron Shows, so he hoped that it had been mostly resolved. Still, the bags under his eyes made Lance uneasy. He’d seen a similar look like that around the streets of his neighborhood, mostly worn by drug addicts. But there was no way Coran had come in contact with any earth related drug.

Suddenly, a beeping sound pulled Lance from his worries. He looked over and saw Keith looking at that stupid countdown on his wrist.

“Oh, shit.”

“What is it?” Shiro asked.

“Nothing. It’s just, I should probably get going if I don’t want to cut it too close and risk Kolivan getting upset.” He was careful not to look at Lance as he stood.

“I’ll wrap those up for you with the brownies,” Hunk said.

“Brownies? When did you make those?” Allura asked.

“Last night,” Hunk said simply. “I was talking with Keith for a while.”

Lance looked at Keith questioningly, but he was just giving Hunk a grateful smile. Lance noticed Pidge staring at Keith suspiciously, though he wasn’t sure why. Hunk disappeared into the kitchen with Keith and Lance got up to walk Keith to the hangar where the pod he’d come in was at. Pidge stood and left to go elsewhere, and the others began to get up to say their goodbyes too. Keith came back with a couple of containers of food and snacks, giving the others a tense smile as he walked over to the hangar.

Once he’d gotten the food in the pod and set the coordinates, he came back out to say goodbye. He started with Shiro, hugging him tightly and rolling his eyes at Shiro’s comments on his discipline. But he smiled and nodded, promising he’d “behave.” Then he said goodbye to Allura who also hugged him tightly. It was funny that a handful of months ago, that might’ve made Lance a little jealous.

He said goodbye to Matt, then Coran, and Hunk. Something must have happened during their talk the night before, because they both seemed way more at ease with each other.

Just as Keith turned to Lance, Pidge came running towards them and skidding to a halt in front of Keith. “Okay, okay, this one is yours,” she said, handing Keith a black hologram phone. “This one is yours,” she said, handing a blue one to Lance. “And I have one too, so. Yeah, they work like video phones or just audio, however you prefer. The signal should be good because I gave them really wide breadth, but if it’s funky I can fix it and send it over. It also works for messages, but those might not always go through. Since there’s just three right now, we’re all connected and it shouldn’t be hard to contact each other. If there were more, it’d get a little more complicated, but yeah. So… like… you know, call us once in a while, outside of professional video conferences.”

Keith laughed and nodded. “You got it, Pidge.”

She nodded and then hesitated before wrapping her arms around him. “I’ll miss you. Come back soon.” She muttered.

Keith hugged her back and then let her go when she pulled back. The group stepped away a bit, giving Lance and Keith their space without having to leave.

For a while, they just stared at each other. Lance couldn’t speak past the stupid knot in his throat, and Keith didn’t seem to know what to say.

Finally, Lance took a breath and swallowed hard. “Let me know when you get to the base. Be careful. Please.”

“I will,” Keith assured.

Lance nodded and clenched his jaws, feeling tears prick his eyes. “I’m gonna miss you,” he said, his voice catching at the end.

“I’m not leaving forever. I’ll come back, I promise.”

Lance chuckled and nodded, trying not to blink all the way because if he did, he knew the tears would fall, and there was no stopping them once they started. “Yeah, no, I know. But just…. I’ll miss you.”

“I’m going to miss you too, Lance.” A hand rested on his cheek and Lance met violet eyes, struggling to keep his composure. “Don’t cry,” Keith whispered.

“I’m not,” Lance answered, his voice just as soft so his voice wouldn’t crack.

Keith smiled sadly. “Liar.”

Lance managed a humorless chuckle.

It wasn’t so much sadness over being away from his boyfriend. Lance could handle distance, and he could handle not seeing Keith every day. It was more the threat of death that loomed over them each day that drove him nuts.

Sure, he could say see you later right now, but with their jobs, who was to say this wasn’t the last he’d see Keith? The last chance he had to hug him, kiss him, to feel his hand in his own. Yes, Lance was used to saying goodbye and splitting ways, he’d done it several times with his Cuban relatives, but it was never easy. He could never get the thought of something happening, making that time the last time Lance would have a chance to see someone. Now, with this war, and with Keith being such an instinctive, fierce, stubborn fighter, he knew that possibility went up by a lot. Of course he knew it went both ways, and he could very well be the one getting hurt on a mission, but… he wasn’t as scared for himself as he was for the people he cared about.

And the idea of losing Keith, of being so far from him during a dangerous time like this was what threatened to knock Lance to his knees and cause sobs to rack his body.

So instead of making a witty remark, Lance leaned forward and kissed him, shutting his eyes and letting a few tears that had welled in his eyes to streak down his face against his will.

He pulled back, holding Keith’s face in his hands and sighing as Keith thumbed away the streaks of water. “Please be careful. I need you to come back to me, Samurai. You understand?”

Keith smiled and kissed him again, nodding. “I will be. You be careful too. I need someone to come back to, Sharpshooter.”

Lance smiled and furrowed his eyebrows, fighting a new onslaught of tears. “Go. I don’t want you to get in trouble.” Keith nodded and hugged him one more time before getting into the pod and taking off. Lance stared at the spot for a while, jumping slightly when a hand rested on his shoulder. He glanced over to see Shiro looking at him sympathetically.

“You okay, Lance?”

He sniffed and nodded, smiling widely. “Yeah. Yeah, I’m good. But… I’m not that hungry anymore, so… I’m just gonna head back to my room for a bit.”

“Of course. Let us know if you need anything,” Allura said, giving him an encouraging smile.

Lance nodded and left the hangar.

Pidge and Hunk shared a look. “We probably shouldn’t leave him all alone,” Pidge said. And she was walking after Lance with Hunk a half step behind her.

Back in his room, Lance laid down and laid over Keith’s side of the bed, staring at the drawing he’d made of his family. He was always left speechless at Keith’s talent. It was incredible how he’d gotten miniscule details and managed to shade everything to look realistic, to look like there’s actually light in the drawing.

A few moments later, there was a knock on his door and he stood up to see Pidge and Hunk waiting at his door. They both gave him sad, knowing smiles, and just like that, he was crying and being wrapped in a double hug.

***

When the pod landed, Keith left his things in his room and then made a beeline to report to Kolivan.

He seemed surprised to see Keith back already. “You have half a varga to be back. I expected you to be back at the last second,” he said.

“I didn’t want to risk cutting it that close,” Keith answered honestly.

Kolivan smiled and nodded, looking proud which, oddly, felt pretty good for Keith. “So, how did you enjoy your time back with team Voltron?”

Keith took a moment to answer. “I enjoyed it very much. It felt nice to be with them and… it was fun.”

“And the blue- or rather red- paladin’s birthday? Was he pleased to see you?” Keith blushed and nodded. Kolivan arched an eyebrow, yellow eyes gleaming. “Will he be a distraction for you?”

“No, sir. I’ll be focused.”

Kolivan nodded and stood to stand in front of Keith. “Very well. Go meet with Astriaga to pick back up on your training. We have a mission tonight, and you’re part of it.”

Keith nodded and left quickly, stopping at his room to start a video chat. When Lance didn’t answer, he phoned Pidge, whose face popped up in 3D pixels like a projection. “Hey!” she said, with a large grin. “Miss us already?”

“You know it,” he answered with a snort. “I just wanted to let you guys know I’m back. I called Lance, but he didn’t answer.”

“He’s taking a power nap. I’m in his room. Hunk went to bake some cookies for when he woke up. Everything okay over there?”

Keith nodded and ran a hand through his hair. “Yeah, it is. I actually have to go train right now for a mission we’re going on tonight, but I’ll be sure to call Lance tonight. Then you, because I still have that thing to tell you.”

She narrowed her eyes and hummed. “It’s very concerning, you should know. Especially after Hunk said you guys had a talk.” Keith laughed, and Pidge rolled her eyes. “I swear to God, if you threw me under the bus, I will go out there and strangle you!”

“I didn’t!” he laughed. “But seriously, I have to go. Tell Lance I’ll call later, please?”

“You got it. Be careful!” He nodded then ended the call, watching the bright pixels disappear. He put the phone carefully under his pillow then went out find Astriaga in hopes of distracting himself enough from missing his family.

Chapter Text

Over the course of the next few weeks, Keith video messaged Lance every night. He would video message Pidge along with him or after Lance, depending on whether Pidge was hanging out with Lance or not. The calls always made Keith lose sleep as he caught up and delved into the jokes and conversations his friends made.

Eventually, Kolivan seemed to catch on to Keith’s lack of sleep. One night, while Keith was talking to Lance about his training that day, his door opened without warning, making him jump and the hologram of Lance tumbled to the floor.

“So this is what’s been keeping you up,” Kolivan said, eyeing the device on the floor. Keith was frozen on his bed. “I thought you said it wouldn’t be a distraction,” he said lowly.

Keith scrambled off the bed, his eyes on Kolivan. “Uh, Lance, I’ll have to call you back.”

“You okay?”

Keith winced and nodded. “Yeah, explain later, gotta go, bye!” He shut the call off and held his phone tightly. “Kolivan-”

“I don’t want to hear it,” he said gruffly. “You’ve been slacking in your training. And it’s because you’re staying up with that device. Where did you even get that? Do I need to confiscate-”

“No!” Keith pleaded, holding his phone to his chest. “No, no, please. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to get distracted, but it’s the only way I can contact my friends without waiting for five minutes after a business call. Please, just… I’ll go to sleep earlier and refocus. I’ll use this better. Just don’t take it away.”

Kolivan narrowed his eyes and stepped forward, looking down at Keith. “If it continues to be a problem, it will be taken away. No calling back tonight. You need to sleep.”

Part of Keith, the one that had gotten him kicked out of the Garrison and skyrocketed him to robotic lions and earned him the position of being the red pilot, wanted to scream you can’t boss me around outside of missions, I’m perfectly fine being in charge of myself like I’ve been the past decade! But the other half of him, the logical one that knew he would be devastated if he was sent back before finding the information he needed and if his connection to Lance was taken away, knew the smart thing to do was to agree.

“Okay, I’ll go to bed. I’m sorry,” he muttered. Kolivan huffed before walking back out, and Keith sent Lance a text quickly explaining what happened in hopes of it reaching him.

He fell asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow, not having realized he was so tired.

The next day, he woke up and made an extra effort to stay focused. He knew Kolivan and Astriaga would be watching him, and he knew he had to do better. The days had become a simple routine of meals and training with the occasional excursion for a mission. Keith was working to get enough trust to start going on solo missions, and he knew he could prove himself with his piloting skills.

The past few missions, Keith had been in charge of flying smaller battle ships to get to a location, and his agility in flight made him valuable for the Blades. The end of the Galra empire was close, and Keith could feel it in his bones. With the Voltron team recruiting with their weird little show, which had since been cancelled, and the joining rebel forces, the numbers against the Galra were turning the odds in their favor.

After talking to a calmer- but still frustrated- Kolivan, Keith managed to bargain for an hour of video calling a night so long as there was no mission the next day. That bothered Keith, figuring he’d want to assure Lance he’d be okay the most on those nights, but he didn’t argue for fear of losing the hour he managed to snag.

But that night, as Keith was explaining the new deal to Lance, something in his face changed. It was miniscule, and it was a miracle Keith could even tell with the pixilation, but Pidge had given it some pretty good quality.

“What?” he asked Lance.

Lance shrugged and ran a hand through what had become short, tousled curls around his head. “Nothing. I’m just…. Don’t you think they have you on a pretty tight leash over there?”

Keith furrowed his eyebrows and scoffed. “I’m not a dog, Lance. And no, I’m just finding loopholes. I have to stay on Kolivan’s good side if I want to get what I’m here for.”

“Which is what, exactly?” Lance asked with a raised eyebrow.

“Information on my heritage. You know that. Information about myself.”

A muscle in Lance’s jaw jumped. “Have you figured anything out so far? Because it sounds like you’ve just been training and going on missions and being bossed around by someone who has no right to boss you around and treat you like a kid.”

Keith sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Lance, you don’t know what it’s like here. Stop that. Kolivan is looking out for me, and he was right. I was staying up really late and it was interfering with the training.”

Lance scoffed and rolled his eyes. “What the hell are they doing to you? You’re never this submissive.” Keith glared at Lance and he shrugged. “Well, I’m just saying it’s not like Kolivan is your dad to be giving you a fucking curfew.”

“Maybe not, but he’s the closest I’ve got to a parental figure, Lance,” Keith snapped, realizing the truth in his words as he said them. He’d always made a point about not being Kolivan’s son, but it was true; Kolivan was the most parental-like figure Keith had ever had. Shiro had always been more of a sibling with his age, and no other adults ever really took him under their wing or bothered to push him to grow the way Kolivan did. And yes, Kolivan sometimes frustrated Keith, but having someone else bash him didn’t feel right. Not after all Kolivan had done for him. “We can’t all grow up with big ass families.”

Lance’s expression fell. “You know that’s not how I meant it,” he muttered.

Keith sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “Look, I get an hour a night. Take it or leave it. I can call Pidge if you wanna pout.”

“Don’t be an ass,” Lance grumbled. He put his head in his hands and huffed. “I didn’t mean to start arguing with you. I just miss you, and I wish I knew when you were coming back to stay. We’re already galaxies apart, and now our time is restricted?” Keith sighed and Lance peeked back up at him. “I’m sorry.”

At times like these, Keith wished the hologram wasn’t a single bright blue color. He wished he could see the colors of Lance, the blue of his eyes, the mocha color of his skin, the cinnamon freckles that dusted his body.

“It’s okay. Figures our first fight is over this distance thing.”

Lance chuckled humorlessly and shook his head. “I’m just on a short fuse,” he whispered.

“What’s wrong?”

He looked up and bit his lip. “Coran apparently decided to use some weird freaking space drug bug to get good ideas for Voltron promos. That’s why the Voltron show came up, and that’s why he’d been acting so fucking weird. He almost killed us because of it during one show, but we managed to keep that from airing everywhere.” Keith’s eyes widened. “And he said he did it because he felt bad that he kept messing up, and I just… I’m worried about him. I know how it feels to think you’re just… there, you know?”

“Have you talked to him?” Keith asked.

“Briefly. He said he needed rest. I might sit with him tomorrow though. I feel responsible, you know? For not letting him know we appreciate him, for being too hard on him, I don’t know.” Keith gave him a reassuring smile, but Lance took a deep breath and kept going. “And now Shiro’s being weird, but I don’t think it’s a bug this time. He’s short-tempered and… I don’t know.”

“He’s probably stressed,” Keith offered.

“Maybe. I guess even he needs a break sometimes. I don’t know. Things just don’t feel right without you here, I-” He stopped and rubbed his face. Keith wished he could take his hands, press a comforting kiss to his cheek, something. “I know you need to be with the Blade right now. I know you need this, I know it’s for you, and I get that. And you deserve answers. I just can’t help but feel like something’s missing all the time. I’m being selfish wishing you could be here still.”

Keith smiled fondly and sighed. “I think you have a right to be a little selfish. Just know that I’m trying my best. And I will go home, eventually. But I can’t start rushing things just because we’re dating.”

“Yeah, I know,” Lance said, pretending to whine, but there was a smile on his face. “So, we’re getting really close to ending this war. With Lotor being banished and the coalition… I think we might win.” Keith nodded in agreement, tilting his head curiously. “I started thinking about going home. And… introducing you properly to my family.”

“What?” Keith asked, caught completely off-guard. Earth was the last thing on his mind at that moment.

“Yeah. Last time was… really messy with Rosa and everything. But I’d do it right this time. First to Nanis and Mom and Papa, but yeah. Then, I started thinking about our first date. A real one.” Keith felt his cheeks go red and now felt glad that these pixels were a single color. “I thought I could take you to my favorite pizza joint. It’s family run. And then we could go to the beach and watch the sunset. Then just drive around to see the city.”

Keith chuckled and bit his lip. “That sounds like a lot of fun. I can’t wait.”

“Geez, don’t sound too excited.”

“No, I mean it!” Keith exclaimed. He ran a hand through his hair and took a breath. “I really do. I want to be a normal… young adult with a boyfriend already. The novelty has worn off on being a space warrior.” Lance laughed at that which made Keith’s chest constrict and a fuzzy feeling spread through him, making him giddy.

They talked for their allotted time before signing off and Keith went to bed. At some point, he woke up to the sound of the door, but it was just Kolivan seemingly checking on him. Keith grumbled and turned to his side, falling back to sleep. He woke up again shortly after to the sound of the door and the feeling of a heavier blanket being placed over him.

***

After all the promotion with the shows, it seemed only natural to celebrate the success of the joining of nations and planets and whatnot. For the last few days, celebrations were seemingly all they had to do. Most of the Galra were focused on finding Lotor, and the times that a fleet was sent for them, they were easy to take down, especially with the rebels and the back up of nearby planets.

It was the fourth planet they were going to just to celebrate with the residing kingdom. Everyone was getting ready, and Lance was tempted to send Keith a picture of himself in his suit, but he wasn’t sure it would send or if Keith would get in trouble for the use of the phone outside of the hour he’d been allowed.

He went to the meeting room to wait, because he knew if he kept fussing over his appearance, he’d end being the last one ready. Besides, he wasn’t looking to impress anyone to the point where he needed to spend hours looking like a lover boy anymore.

Coran was there already, in his usual clothes. Except now he had a nice sash and coat that were a deep blue. Most importantly, his eyes were kind and bright again instead of crazed and empty.

“Hey, Coran,” Lance greeted.

“Ah, look at you my boy. Very nice.”

Lance looked at his suit and shrugged. “Thanks. The mice helped me find it in one of the wardrobes.”

“One of the finest suits we had,” Coran said with a nod. “Have you heard from Keith?”

“Yeah, actually. We talked a bit last night. He’s doing well over there.” Coran smiled at that and started smoothing out his own suit. Lance hesitated, but he took a breath and reminded himself that Coran needed someone. “Coran?” An inquisitive hum. “Are you okay? After the whole worm thing, I mean.”

“Oh. Of course! Why wouldn’t I be? The bug’s out of my brain, the team is in good shape, and we’ve got our allies!” Coran beamed at Lance, but Lance wasn’t buying it.

He shifted and sat next to Coran. “Well… I guess just the fact that you felt you needed the bug… is what worries me.” Lance looked at Coran whose smile was starting to waver. “You know… we really appreciate everything you do for us, Coran. And I’m sorry that you thought you needed some magic pill bug to be useful.”

Coran sighed and put a hand on Lance’s shoulder. “I’m sorry for all the things I said when that thing was in my brain. But I’m better now. Scout’s honor!” Lance chuckled and shook his head. He debated a moment before hugging Coran tightly, much to the older man’s surprise. “Oh! Alright then,” he chuckled. He hugged Lance back and at first just gave him a few awkward pats on his back. But then for a moment, he really hugged him back, seemingly grateful for his reassurance.

Then they heard footsteps and pulled away. Lance turned to see Hunk and Shiro coming in with their own fancy, Altean suits. Hunk’s was a light blue, and Shiro’s was a nice lilac color. Both had gold accents. Matt came in shortly after them in a maroon suit that wasn’t quite as fancy as the one the paladins were wearing.

“I haven’t worn a suit in a very long time,” Hunk muttered, awkwardly stretching to get accustomed to the restraints of a suit. Matt helped him with his tie and tried to loosen the belt clip around the middle for him.

Then Allura and Pidge came in, both in sleek gowns. Allura’s was a darker purple, and Pidge’s was a strong turquoise color that made her eyes look more green than the amber- hazel they were. Pidge’s dress had folds in the fabric that glittered with the slightest movement and the hem was embroidered with Altean symbols. Allura’s dress had white lace along the sleeves and a corset-type of snug fit along her waist. It fell in waves and had a small train trailing behind her with juniberry flowers sewn into the fabric in a lighter purple.

Lance let out a wolf whistle, which made Pidge blush and Allura roll her eyes. “You ladies look great,” he complimented.

“Thank you, Lance,” Allura said with a smile. “Are we all ready? Timeliness is important after all.”

Of course, beneath their current outfits, they were wearing their black body suits just in case. The lions carried the rest of the armor for them to change into at a moment’s notice. Meanwhile, Coran steered the castle ship toward the latest party planet.

It was a planet with humanoid people all of which held a purplish tint to their skin. Their four eyes varied in colors more than any human colors, and their teeth changed between one row of flat to two rows of pointed, overlapping teeth. They had long limbs which made their bodies look disproportionate, but Lance figured maybe they thought humans had limbs that were too short.

They called the Naweia and the planet was called Dorpana, which kind of made Lance want to laugh.

Once they landed and got off the castle ship, though, Lance had to admit, the Naweia knew how to throw a party. There was music, sung in a language Lance didn’t know, but it was captivating. There was an endless array of food arranged like a buffet that made his stomach rumble. There were little circular lanterns strung up carefully and decorations all over the strange street-like sections they had. Despite the gathering taking up what Lance would call several blocks, there was a sense of unity among the people, a palpable sense of joy and wonder.

Before they could venture far, they were whisked away to the palace, which was far more modest than Lance had expected. They were ushered in and introduced to the queen of the Naweia- Matobi. She was beautiful, regal. Her features were sharp and every movement seemed calculated. Her eyes were a striking yellow-gold color. Beside her was her daughter Klamestra, who resembled the queen greatly, but with softer features.

The paladins bowed before them. Shiro thanked the queen for inviting them, thanked her for her alliance, and in return, Queen Matobi ordered for the utmost hospitality. Then she told them all to enjoy the festivities.

Suddenly, Lance felt like he was at a middle school dance again, not knowing the dances to the music being played, not knowing how to go and talk to the other people there, and staying with his own group of friends.

Pidge kept muttering about the dress, twisting the fabric around and lifting the hem up to keep from stepping on it. “I haven’t worn a dress in a long time, and I hate gowns,” she muttered. “Allura said it wasn’t an occasion for a shorter dress though.”

“Well, at least you won’t be dancing in it,” Lance said with a shrug. “Unless you want to, I mean. Hunk and I are happy to be your dance partners.”

She snorted and twisted her dress again, making a face.

“You look taller,” Hunk noted.

“Because of these demonic things,” she said, pulling her dress up to show her foot encased in silver straps and a needle-point heel. “I’ve never worn these, and I never want to again.” She put her dress back down and took small steps towards a chair to slump into. “I miss dresses but I never liked these type. This thing feels heavy.”

“Maybe if you eat a bit, you’ll feel better,” Hunk suggested. “Or if you just get your mind off the dress.” She mulled it over and nodded, starting to stand. “No, it’s okay, I can bring you something. Those heels don’t look fun.”

She chuckled and shrugged. “Thanks, Hunk.”

Hunk walked off to raid the tables of food and Lance looked back at Pidge. “Did Keith tell you about that hour a night thing?” She raised an eyebrow and Lance started explaining the little rule Kolivan had set for Keith.

“That’s… well, that sucks. All those hours are gonna be spent on you!” Lance rolled his eyes and she kicked his shin lightly. “Come on, you know it.”

Lance stuck his tongue out at her and sighed. “It just really sucks that most of our relationship has been with us on different sides of the universe, you know? We had like one and a half days together as a couple, and it’s been weeks since then. Maybe more than a month.”

“Yeah, well, that’s life as a defender of the universe,” she said with a sympathetic smile. Hunk came back with a plate of food for her, one for Lance, and one for himself. It was a wonder that he had managed to balance that while weaving through the crowd. Pidge thanked him and turned back to Lance. “Don’t worry, this will be over soon and we’ll all get to go home and be normal.”

“I don’t know if that’s true,” Hunk said. “We’re not exactly normal anymore, are we? We can’t just go back and pretend we haven’t gone through the stuff we have.”

“No,” Pidge agreed softly. “But we’ll get out lives back. We just gotta get through this.”

Lance poked at his food and shook his head. “That’s what everyone says, but how long have we been saying it? It’s almost over, we’re gonna go home, just fight a little longer. And then something new comes up and we’re starting all over.”

Hunk put a hand one his shoulder and squeezed. “Hey. We’re celebrating right now. We’re taking a break from battles and having fun, okay? Chin up, buddy.” Lance gave him a weak smile and nodded. “So am I the only one noticing the funky chicken dance they’re doing over there?”

Pidge and Lance looked over to where Hunk pointed to see a few of the Naweia swaying in a circle with two in the middle, like some kind of dance off. Except their movements were mirrored and awkward and somehow they still managed to seamlessly trade out with someone else.

“That’s… interesting,” Pidge said. “It looks like a ritual.”

“Are we being sacrificed?” Lance whispered.

“Guys,” a chiding voice brought them back to their food. Shiro was standing over them, giving them a reprimanding look. “It’s not nice to make fun of the hosts.” Lance resisted rolling his eyes. “The princess is going to be of age soon, so they took this party as an opportunity to find her suitors. Those dances are how they impress her.”

“So it’s… like a mating ritual?” Pidge asked. Shiro just chuckled. Matt and Allura joined them a moment later and they watched, enraptured by the strange dances.

“I think she’ll choose that one,” Allura said, pointing out a dancer who seemed to take part in the center of the circle more often than the others.

“That’s a girl, right?” Matt questioned. “She has the long hair most males have here, but she has that double ear thing the girls have. And look at her clothes.”

Matt was right. In the Naweia people, the men seemed to be the ones sporting longer hair, while the females had shorter lengths. But the women’s ears had two spikes while the men had none. And the one dancing seemed to be dressed in a way that would show off their torso while dancing, with heavy necklaces hanging from their neck and swaying with each movement.

“Are they allowed to marry the same gender?” Lance asked.

“Oh yes,” Allura assured. “Many of the rulers here have been coupled women. It’s not uncommon to see couples like that. It’s why I was very confused when you and Keith started sneaking around.” Lance blushed and decided to ignore that comment.

Suddenly, Coran walked over and ushered them to finish eating. “The Queen says she wants to present us in the main court. So the Naweia have a proper chance to thank you and to see the paladins in person,” he told Allura.

The paladins hurried to stuff whatever food they could in their mouth before going off to find the queen. Pidge used Hunk and Lance to balance herself and walk a little better without slowing or teetering. Matt walked with Coran as he led the way.

Pidge’s hand tightened on Lance’s arm. “I really hope we don’t have to walk around and do stuff when she presents us,” she whispered. “My feet are already killing me.”

“Take the heels off,” Hunk suggested.

“That would make the dress drag,” she said, like it was obvious. Which it was, but it was better than dealing with heels. Or at least Lance figured it would be. “I can make it, I just need to get used to it.” She grimaced as they finally made it to the throne the queen was sitting at to look out at the festivities.

Matt fell back as Coran went to announce the team’s presence. He stood with the paladins and looked out at the crowd. “What’s it like to be celebrities, guys?” he asked with a teasing smile. Lance chuckled and watched as Queen Matobi and Princess Klamestra stepped forward and called for attention. Matt nudged Lance and he expected some other witty remark, but that dissipated at the serious expression on Matt’s face.

Lance followed his gaze and saw a few of the Naweia purposefully making their way through the crowd. One in particular seemed to be fiddling with something under a cloak. While Matt got the others’ attentions, Lance watched as the cloak-fiddler took out something that resembled a gun, except it had an arrow point sticking out from its barrel.

As soon as Lance saw it being aimed, he shouted a warning and rushed forward to tackle the princess and queen to the ground. He heard something zip by his ear and only later felt the painful sting of the arrow nicking his ear.

Meanwhile, an angry cry had erupted from the crowd. Many had stepped away in fear, rushing to get to safety, but the Nawei that Matt had pointed out were fighting. They seemed to be trying to get to the royalty, so Lance helped them up and ushered them into their castle. Guards came and recruited the queen and princess to safety.

Back at the court, Pidge had managed to impale one heel into the Nawei man that had charged at her with a whip and she had him pinned to the ground. Hunk had torn the back of his suit when he tackled another Nawei man who was struggling in his arms. Shiro and Matt were holding back two female Naweia and ridding them of their weapons. Allura had another female Nawei at her feet with her knee digging into the stranger’s back.

The crowd started whispering, shouting in a native language, but Lance wasn’t sure if it was at the paladins or not. Another set of guards came and took the attackers, allowing for the paladins to inspect the damage done to their suits and dresses.

“Well, that heel came in handy,” Pidge sighed.

“Throwing it like a boomerang, yeah,” Hunk said.

Pidge nudged him and scoffed. “Zip it, I slowed him down didn’t I?”

“What the hell was that?” Matt asked. “Why attack their own sovereigns?”

Shiro frowned and looked at the castle. “I’m not sure. But it might be best if we wait and see what’s going on. Leaving would give the wrong impression. Coran, do you think you could go in and see what information they can give us?” He nodded and went into the castle.

“We should… stay together and in a less public spot,” Allura suggested. “The people seem uneasy with us.”

“You’d think they’d thank us for saving their leaders,” Lance muttered, following Allura to a different spot. He winced as he touched his ear with the tips of his fingers. They came away wet with blood. Pidge tried to help him clean it, but it stung, and his entire ear felt hot.

Lance had no idea how long it was until Coran came back. When he did, he looked distressed. “Apparently the attack was made by one of the princess’ old lovers. One of the arrested ones confessed it was an attempt to kidnap her so she wouldn’t choose a suitor.” The paladins shared uneasy looks. “And also….” Coran sighed and avoided eye contact. “It seems the princess has decided on taking a paladin for a partner….”

“What?” Allura asked. “Who?”

Finally Coran’s eyes flitted to Lance. The others stared at him, and maybe it was because of the nick in his ear, but it took Lance a second to realize what that meant. “Oh, no, no, no! I’m am happily taken, in case you forgot! If she wants a paladin, she can have Hunk! He’s a sweetheart!”

What?” Hunk and Pidge exclaimed at the same time. “Hunk has someone waiting on him on the Balmera, he can’t marry the princess,” Pidge said quickly. Hunk was red in the face and just kept shaking his head.

“Fine then, Shiro. Wrong space princess, but a space princess nonetheless!” Allura looked unamused, as did Shiro.

“I’m sorry, but it seems Princess Klamestra made her choice. And she’s not changing her mind.”

Lance looked around, waiting for someone to defend him, but everyone looked shocked and nervous. “I’m dating Keith! I can’t just- no! No, no, no!”

Coran walked over to him and tried to placate him with gentle hands on his shoulders. “Listen, she refuses to change her mind without meeting with you. So just go and try to talk her out of it.”

“And if she doesn’t change her mind?” Lance asked. Coran furrowed his eyebrows. “Perfect. And what happens if I just refuse the offer?”

“You can’t,” Shiro said. “If she doesn’t change her mind, you can’t refuse. It could jeopardize the alliance and the Naweia are powerful allies.”

Everyone looked at Shiro with impossibly more shock. Lance laughed humorlessly and glared at him. “I’m. Dating. Keith. You know Keith? The guy you basically mentored?”

Shiro scowled and stared Lance down. “I know,” he said. “But sometimes for war, sacrifices have to be made. Keith would get that. Now go meet with princess.”

Lance felt like strangling Shiro. He never would have thought Shiro to be someone to let something like this happen. Lance looked to his friends for help but they looked confused and speechless. Allura looked tired.

“Lance, just tell her you’re already with someone. She’ll get that,” Pidge said.

“We’ll wait for you, okay?” Hunk added.

With no other choice apparent, Lance followed Coran back to the castle numbly. A handful of months ago, he would’ve bent over backwards for this chance. He wouldn’t have hesitated to say yes to a space princess’ offer of marriage or mating or whatever. But he had someone. Someone he really liked, someone he worked hard to get to be with. He had Keith. And frankly, no space princess marriage was worth letting go of him.

Coran led him to the throne room, but a guard directed him elsewhere. They made their way down hallways and up a staircase until they reached another door. There, a handmaiden was waiting to escort Lance in. But Coran could go no further.

“Good luck, my boy,” he said, hugging him tightly before leaving.

Lance gulped and followed the handmaiden into the room where he was drawn a bath. She waited politely for him to wash and then tended to his ear. She gave him a set of soft clothes and escorted him through another hallway before coming to a stop in front of another door.

“Your suitor, your majesty,” she called out.

The door opened and Lance felt his mouth go dry at the sight of the princess in netted garments that looked very similar to lingerie. She dismissed the handmaiden and tugged Lance into her room. “I’m sure you’ve been told,” she said, stretching out on her bed. Lance tried to keep his eyes away from her, but she chided him for not making eye contact. “I’ve chosen you for a mate. The way you put yourself in danger to save my mother and myself showed a level of courage I could never hope to find elsewhere. And as a paladin of Voltron, I’m sure you’re the best candidate for it.”

Lance grimaced and sputtered out a thank you. “But princess, I-”

“Come sit.” He sighed and sat on the edge of the bed. “Are all humans this modest?” the princess asked, yanking him down to lay on the bed. “Don’t you know what I’m asking of you?”

“U-Uh, y-yes, but I’m not-”

“Oh, are you not well-endowed? No matter, we have some draughts for that-”

“That’s not it!” Lance said frantically. She smiled, seemingly relieved and started to straddle him. Lance lost his train of thought when she took off what little clothing she had on with a quick tug of the fabric over her head. “Oh God,” he muttered, shutting his eyes. “Could you… cover up?”

“Are you being chaste? No need for chastity anymore, paladin. We’re to be wed. It’s natural for this to happen the night I choose a mate,” she said, splaying herself over him.

Lance. Felt. Everything.

“Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God,” he rambled, hurrying to push her off and step away from her as quickly as possible. “I’m so, so sorry, Princess Klamestra. You’re beautiful, but I’m already with someone.”

“You have a mate?” she asked.

Lance stared at the wall instead of at her. “No. Not a mate, just-”

“Very well. Tell me who they are and bring them. I’ll challenge them to a duel at sunrise and the winner can have you for a mate.”

Lance let out a pained laugh and shook his head. “It’s not- that’s not- uh.” He looked around and saw a robe slung over a chair. He grabbed it and held it out in the direction of the bed, closing his eyes. “Here, put this on, and give me a chance to explain, please.”

There was a brief silence, and then the sound of feet. Suddenly the fabric was gone and the princess huffed. “Alright then, what is it?” she asked.

Lance opened his eyes, relieved to see her covered up. He sat beside her on the bed and took her hand. “Princess, I’m honored that you think I’m worthy of dueling over. But that’s not really how humans do things. I’m dating someone.”

“So you do have a mate.”

“No. It’s different. And we don’t really call it that…. Okay, so… the way it works is… you meet someone and get to know them and then you both decide to date. Which is like… emotional investment and… cuddles and going places together just to be together.” She furrowed her eyebrows and looked at the floor. “Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. And then you start over. But if it works… after a while, they, uh… well mate, I suppose. But we just call it having sex.” She nodded, but she still looked confused. “And then, after that if it keeps working out, you… live together and get married and start a family if you want. Or do something else, but they do it together.”

“And you… have one of these dates?”

Lance nodded and smiled. “His name is Keith. He’s also human. And I’m very happy with him, so I can’t accept your offer. But I mean no offense.”

The princess stayed quiet for a while and stared at him. “Here, we don’t get to know the Nawei we choose to mate. There is a ritual for them to show their skills, prove their worthiness, and then we choose them. We mate to make a pact. Then we marry. And the servants double as courtesans for both sides. Some of the queens and kings in the past have been happy, but never in the way you describe.”

“But what about the one who tried to kidnap you just now? I thought it was an ex-lover?”

She frowned and looked at Lance. “Yes. From my childhood. He was a very close friend and we thought we would be able to marry, but he lost the ritual from an early stage. My mother expects me to choose someone else.” Lance furrowed his eyebrows and looked at the princess sympathetically, squeezing her hand. “Could you tell me about him? This Keith? Tell me about how you decided on him. Will he be the one you make a family with?”

Lance choked mid-gasp and covered his mouth to try and calm himself down. “Um. That’s…. not… I….” He sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “We’re not that far yet. But… I can tell you about him. I’d be more than happy to.”

***

It had been a long day, and it wasn’t just because Keith had been trying to fix his sleep schedule. Astriaga had really worked him at training and even after training it seemed that Kolivan was keeping him busy. Keith occasionally checked his holo-phone for any text or missed call, but there wasn’t any. In a way it was a good thing because it meant nothing major was going on with the team. But at the same time, Keith really wished he could hear his friends’ voices to encourage him. Especially now that he was starting to feel particularly homesick.

Finally, Keith was dismissed for the day and he went to take a shower and then settled in his room. He pulled out his phone and called Lance, anxious to see his face. Except there was no answer. Keith tried again to no avail. Then he tried two more times. He was starting to panic, because Lance had never missed his call, much less four times in a row.

He called Pidge and felt his heart drop when she failed to answer too.

Just as he was going to go beg Kolivan to send back up, his phone rang with Pidge’s funny little computer icon. He answered and took a deep breath once he saw pixel-made Pidge in front of him.

“Jesus, are you guys trying to scare the hell out of me? Is everyone okay?”

“Uh, yeah, we’re… we’re all safe.”

Keith looked at her carefully. She had a nice shirt on that he’d never seen, off both shoulders, and a necklace. Her hair was different too, with some of it carefully braided back. “Why are you all dressed up?”

“We came to an alliance celebration,” she said.

“Is that why Lance wasn’t answering? Figures. Should I call back later? What time will you all be back at the castle?”

Pidge looked off to one side and started muttering, making faces. Keith frowned and narrowed his eyes. He was tired and confused and frustrated. He started to snap at Pidge before some more pixels flew up to form Hunk next to Pidge. “Hey, Keith,” he greeted.

He was also dressed elegantly. A nice suit with what looked like a sash and his hair was pulled back. Keith nodded. “Hey. What’s going on? Where’s Lance?”

Pidge and Hunk shared a look that made Keith’s stomach tie into knots. “There was a misunderstanding while we here,” she said. “A group tried to kidnap the princess and we fought them off and…. The she decided to take him for a mate.”

“What?”

“He’s in the castle meeting with her to try and get out of it. But… Shiro said that if he couldn’t, then… he’d have to accept the offer,” Hunk said solemnly.

Keith took a moment to process the words. “Shiro said that…?” he whispered. They nodded. Keith suddenly felt very alone.

Even with Lance trying to get out of the mating thing, he couldn’t help but wonder if a part of Lance didn’t want something like that. With Keith so far away, and with Shiro telling him to accept…. Would Lance have to go through with it?

“Keith, hey, listen, Lance is going to convince her to change her mind. He didn’t want to go in there,” Pidge said.

“Yeah. He kept refusing and offering the rest of us up. He looked terrified,” Hunk said. Keith wasn’t sure how that was supposed to make him feel better.

Pidge sighed and bit her lip. “Which is to say that he knows he has you and he wants to stay with you. He’s not going to let this get in the way.”

Keith nodded and tried to ignore the constriction of his chest and throat. “Um, well it sounds like you guys are busy, so…. Uh. I’ll call you later.”

“Keith, are-”

He shut off the call. He put his phone away and laid on his bed, staring at the ceiling.

An alien princess wanted Lance for a mate. Oddly enough, he didn’t feel the suffocating jealousy he had felt when he saw Rosa kiss Lance. He just felt defeated. But he really didn’t want to think about it in detail. He didn’t want to acknowledge the things running through his head, so instead he went through his art supplies and pulled out his charcoals.

He didn’t bother with careful, precise lines. He was too upset. Each stroke of his hand across the paper created dark lines, intense and sharp. Keith wasn’t entirely sure what he was drawing, but he just knew his hands had something to get out on paper.

Suddenly, the haphazard lines began to have a purpose. Keith’s breaths slowed as his movements did. He hunched over his paper and started to add some details, used his middle finger to shade, and then switched to his ring finger when he needed a lighter touch. Somewhere on the bed the holo-phone kept buzzing with incoming calls, but Keith ignored it.

He kept drawing until his paper had been brought to life with an elegant crown resting on a head of soft curls and eyes that he hadn’t been able to capture completely.

He sighed and looked at his hands, now stained with shimmering gray.

The door to his room opened. Kolivan usually came in to see if he was asleep or to remind him of time. But this time, he didn’t say anything for a while. Keith kept his eyes on his drawing and tried to ignore the voice in his head telling him that he’d lost Lance.

“No call today?”

Keith shook his head slightly. “I called. They’re busy. So no, I didn’t use my hour.”

He didn’t look at Kolivan, but he knew he was hesitating by the lack of a door closing. After a few more painfully silent seconds he said, “You can add it to your time tomorrow if you’d like, then.” Keith nodded and glance over, giving him an empty smile. Then he left, the door clicking shut softly.

Keith sighed and looked at his phone. The calls all came from Pidge. None from Lance. He vaguely wondered what the alien princess looked like. If she looked like Allura or Rosa or Nyma. Or if she was some new type of exotic beauty. He wondered what she would tell Lance to make him be her mate. He wondered how long it would take to convince Lance.

Frustrated, Keith put his art supplies away in a corner and crawled into his bed, pulling the covers over his head and letting a long groan into his pillow.

But he couldn’t fall asleep. He tossed and turned, trying to get comfortable, but unable to shut his mind up long enough to get the rest he needed. Finally, after what felt like hours, he felt himself beginning to succumb to sleep. But then he felt the phone vibrating out of nowhere and the sudden sound startled him awake again.

He was about to ignore the call again, but as he moved to silence it, he saw Lance’s name on the screen.

He sat up, wiping the sleep from his eyes and sighed. This was it, he supposed. Taking a breath, he answered and tried keeping his face passive.

“Hey, you’re awake,” Lance said, giving him a smile. The pixilation showed him from his chest up. Keith stared at the blue Lance that seemed to be wearing some weird fabric, comfortable sleeping shirt. Keith only knew it wasn’t Lance’s. “Pidge said you weren’t answering, so I got worried.”

“I was asleep,” was all he said. He gulped and looked away, staring at his covers instead of Lance. “I heard about the princess. Congratulations.”

“What are you talking about?”

That angered him. It was one thing to trade him in for a princess, and another to try and pretend it wasn’t happening especially when Keith already knew. He looked back at Lance and scoffed. “You’re her mate now, right? Shiro said not to refuse it, she’s an alien princess, and she chose you.”

“But I already have you,” Lance said softly. Keith felt his passive mask threaten to drop at the tone of his voice. “Keith, I got out of it. I’m not going to marry some space princess when I have a perfectly wonderful half-alien boyfriend already.” There was a brief pause before he added, “Wait. Did you… did you actually think I accepted her offer?”

He didn’t like the way Lance said that. Like Keith was ridiculous for expecting him to run off with a princess. “Why wouldn’t you?” he answered flatly.

“Because I want to be with you!”

“But you’re not even with me, Lance! You’re there, I’m here, we talk an hour a night. So yeah, why wouldn’t you go for the princess throwing herself at your feet?”

Lance stared at him in disbelief. He scoffed and ran his hand through his hair, muttering under his breath. “Do you not trust me or something?”

“What?”

Lance sighed and looked back at Keith. “Do you not trust me? Or why the hell would you ever think I’d just drop you for some random alien I don’t even know?” Keith stared at him, not sure how to voice what he felt, what he thought. Then Lance clenched his jaw and narrowed his eyes. “You don’t trust me.”

“I didn’t say that!” Keith protested.

“You didn’t have to.” Keith scoffed. “Say it then. Tell me that you trust me.”

“I do! I….” Keith sighed and rubbed his face. “I do trust you, it’s just….”

“It’s just…?  What?” Keith didn’t answer, forehead in his palm as his fingers gripped his hair.  He glared at the bed and clenched his jaws, begging for words to make sense of the mess in his head. “It’s just what, Keith?” Lance demanded.

“I don’t know!” he shouted. “I just know that I called you a bunch of times and you didn’t answer and then I called Pidge, only for her to tell me that some alien princess made you go to her room and Shiro was telling you to go through with it, and….” He groaned and clenched his fists. “What the fuck was I supposed to think?”

“That I would get out of it. That I would want to stay with you. That I wouldn’t fucking cheat on you.”

Keith didn’t like the way Lance said that. He didn’t like that the more they talked, the more stupid he felt for feeling what he felt. He hated it, and it was starting to make him nauseous. “Don’t talk to me like that.”

“Like what?”

“Like I’m stupid for thinking-”

“Because it was stupid that you thought-”

“I don’t have to fucking listen to this-”

“Of course not, you never listen, you-”

“Don’t fucking pin this on me!”

Con una chingada! Stop yelling at me!”

Keith could feel the anger coursing through his veins, making his hands shake almost violently as he tried to keep from lashing out. He was struggling to catch his breath and he was close to saying everything and anything that would hurt Lance. So before he could do that, he swiped the screen and shut off the call.

A few seconds later, the phone started buzzing with Lance’s name on the screen again. Keith ignored it, stuffing the phone into the drawer of clothes and crawling back into bed. He just wanted to forget the entire conversation. He was happy he was wrong, but he didn’t need Lance making him feel bad for it.

Keith wasn’t sure how any of this happened. He wasn’t sure when Lance became such an important part of his life that he was losing sleep over him, screwing up his training over him. And for what? To argue and spend all of his time terrified that Lance would find someone new?

He wasn’t this person. He had spent all of his life perfectly fine on his own, and… he had no idea what to do now that he had someone else to think of. It gave him the same feeling he’d gotten back when Pidge had linked them together as one. Keith had managed a change to where he was no longer seen as one person, but as part of Lance, and vice versa.

It was even more terrifying because… Keith wasn’t sure what to do if that ever changed back.

***

For the next few days, Keith ignored the drawer where he’d left his phone and struggled to sleep. In turn, he also struggled on missions. He found himself struggling to focus during training, during meetings, and it was worse at night because he had nothing distracting him.

He was just constantly tired, and he wasn’t really sure where he stood with Lance anymore. He’d hung up mid-argument, and he hadn’t talked to him in days.

It would be simple to just call him and talk it out, but… for one, Keith wasn’t sure Lance would answer. For another, he wasn’t sure where to even start. He hadn’t let himself think through anything because he hated how it made him feel to remember his fears and Lance’s reactions to them.

As he sat down to eat his lunch, he felt a hand on his shoulder. “Kolivan wants to see you.”

It was Astriaga. Keith sighed and gathered his lunch to go meet with Kolivan. He had an idea about what the talk would be about.

Sure enough, when he went into the room, Kolivan looked at him, his yellow eyes unreadable, and said, “Your performance is significantly declining. Is there something distracting you?”

“No, sir,” he sighed. “I haven’t used my communication device. I haven’t broken any rules.” Kolivan regarded him quietly for a moment. “I’ll pull it together and focus more. I’m sorry.”

“Then what is upsetting you?” Keith looked at Kolivan and arched an eyebrow. “Very well, I understand if you don’t want to talk about it. But try and get your focus back to where you are. You’re a skilled fighter, and we need you at your best.”

Keith managed a small smile and nodded. “Right. Thank you. I will.”

Kolivan nodded and gestured to the door. “You’re excused.”

Keith stood up and left, returning to the lunch room to eat his food. He couldn’t help but replay the argument in his head over and over. His stomach churned with the idea that it was the last thing they’d said to each other. After these few days, Keith wondered why he hadn’t focused more on the fact that Lance had rejected an alien royal just for him.

But then, that was where everything stemmed from. Every worry and insecurity that he hadn’t wanted to acknowledge when he was looking at Lance came right back up and made him so uneasy he didn’t want to eat anymore.

That night, Keith pulled out his phone and found five missed calls from Lance from the same night of their argument, and eight missed calls from Pidge. Two each night since the argument. He called her back and was surprised when she picked up almost immediately.

“Keith! What the hell, man?” she shrieked before the pixels had even fully formed her. “Where the hell have you been? What the fuck happened?”

“Pidge, calm down, he won’t talk if you’re hysterical.” Pidge glared at something- or rather someone- Keith couldn’t see.

“He hasn’t answered in four days! And Lance has been really moody since their spat. What did you guys argue about?”

Keith sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “It was about the whole… mate-princess thing.”

“But he-”

“Turned her down, I know. It’s complicated….”

Pidge sighed and crossed her arms. “Then you need to talk it out. Without hanging up on each other. I don’t really know what’s going on, but you guys worked too hard to get to where you are now. Just talk it out, Keith.” Keith rolled his eyes put his head in his hands, not wanting to show the utter frustration this all caused. “Keith, dude… look I know it’s scary to be vulnerable, but you have to be okay with doing that sometimes. Especially with Lance, and especially when not talking is making problems that don’t have to be there.”

Keith hesitated and nodded. “Is Lance there? I mean, is he going to answer if I call?”

“I might be able to help with that,” Hunk offered. “Just give me five minutes.”

“Alright. I’ll call you again if it doesn’t work….” Pidge snorted and shook her head, muttering something about ‘you boys are idiots’ before she waved and hung up. Keith was left to mull over his own thoughts and tried to figure out what to even say to Lance. He knew he had to apologize. He just didn’t know what else to say, and that frustrated him.

He waited a while, staring at the clock on the holo-phone until the time Hunk had requested passed.

Then he phoned Lance. There was no answer and he tried to phone again. This time, before it could shut off, Lance picked up.

Except it wasn’t Lance.

“-said not to answer- oh goddammit, Hunk!”

“Hey, Keith,” Hunk said, waving as he appeared in front of Keith. Keith waved meagerly. “Lance, just talk it out. You can thank me later. Here you go, Keith.” He handed the phone over to Lance.

Lance materialized looking annoyed and serious. “The sound of a door shutting told Keith that Hunk had left. Lance’s eyes turned back to Keith. “So you hang up on me, ignore my calls, and disappear for four days.”

“I… I’m sorry.” Lance scoffed and shook his head. “Lance, I really am. I know it was shitty, but I knew I’d say stupid things if we kept yelling, and I….” He placed the phone on the bed and pulled his knees up to rest his head on them. “Lance, you’re the first relationship I’ve ever had. I didn’t really indulge in crushes before because you know I had other shit I had to deal with. I mean yeah, I looked at someone and thought, whoa, they’re attractive, but it never really became more than that. Until you. And I don’t… I don’t know how to do this.

“Okay, I know I’m distant, that I’m probably not as open and unguarded as you’d like me to be. I know… I’m probably not the best person to be in a relationship with. I know you think I’m fearless or something, but I’m terrified of getting too close to you even though I know I shouldn’t be and I know you don’t want me to be-”

“Keith,” Lance interjected.

Keith shook his head. “Just let me get this out before I second guess myself too much.” Lance sighed and nodded. “My point is… I do trust you. I trust you with my life, and that’s saying a lot. The thing is, I know there’s better options for you out there, better people to give you a better relationship. So it’s not that I think you won’t want to be faithful, but that you’ll realize….” Keith took a breath and tried to calm himself, rubbing the pads of his fingers together to keep himself grounded. “The people that were supposed to love me left me. And the people I’ve let in always leave. I’m… scared that you’ll leave too. And I don’t think that’s so stupid to think, you know? That you’ll realize you deserve better, that you can find someone who’s better off emotionally and probably even mentally. Which would be great for you, but… it would hurt me. Because I don’t want to lose you.” He looked at the hologram of Lance and his eyes widened at the sight of him crying. “Wha- no! Don’t cry! I wasn’t trying to make you feel bad, I-”

“Oh my God, you idiot,” Lance said with a teary-eyed laugh. “I’m not crying because you made me feel bad. I’m crying because I had no idea you thought about yourself like that. I always thought that… if anyone was better off with someone it was you. I just… I wish there was a way I could explain to you how much you mean to me, Keith. And yeah, I get that you’re distant and reserved. I don’t blame you for having your guard up. And I get it if it comes down sometimes then goes right back up.

“But when I was younger, my tia told me that everyone shows their… affection in different ways. I can’t be angry with you for not showing me that you like the way I want you to or as much as I want you to, because you’re doing it the way you know how to, and giving me as much as you can. Don’t think that I’m ever going to hold it against you that you have your fears, baby. It means a lot to me that you let me in to begin with, that you’re being vulnerable right now in telling me all of this. I just thought that you really thought I would be capable of hurting you.”

Keith shook his head. “No, that’s not what I thought, I swear.”

“I know,” Lance whispered, giving him a soft smile. He reached out, and Keith could almost imagine he was reaching for him. Keith reached out a hand to touch the hologram, and Lance sighed. “I wish I could be with you.”

“I do too,” Keith whispered. “I promise I’ll come home to you.”

Lance smiled. “And I’ll be here waiting.” Keith smiled at that. Lance took a breath and his smile faded slowly. “Keith.” The tone made him nervous, but Keith hummed in acknowledgement. “I’m not gonna leave you. You know that right?”

Keith let out a soft breath and stared at Lance, feeling his throat close up. He really wished he could wrap his arms around him at that moment. “Good,” he muttered. “Because you decided to become important to me and make me feel stuff, so…. You’re stuck with me.”

Lance laughed and nodded. “Perfect.”

For the next hour, Keith and Lance caught up on the last four days. He heard footsteps outside his door when he was close to an hour, and he expected Kolivan to come in and remind him about time. But he never came in, and the footsteps receded.

Somewhere during the conversation, Pidge and Hunk came back in and Pidge managed to set up a three way call so they weren’t all crowded in on Lance’s phone. Keith couldn’t help but feel warm at the sight of his friends in front of him, playfully bickering and laughing with him.

It was pretty terrifying to be vulnerable to someone, but with moments like these as a result of it, Keith figured it was worth the risk.

Chapter Text

One more celebration. One more and then it would be back to missions and meetings. Things were getting tense, and Lance found it kind of hard to really focus on having fun. Lotor was a fugitive now. As days went by without hearing from him or the Galra empire, the more intense things seemed. There was something being planned, and as much as Lance wanted to enjoy the chance to be a teenager, he couldn’t help but feel they should be attacking.

It was chilling to hear Zarkon talk about Lotor. To kill him on sight. Lance couldn’t imagine a father saying something like that about their son. It had physically pained him, and he almost felt sorry for Lotor if not for the fact that he was just as bad as Zarkon in his own subtle way.

The last celebration had been on Olkarion and it had been so fun to dance with the Olkari. It was incredible to see the unity that had been stitching the universe together. If Lance’s deductions were right, the next planet would be the Balmera.

Sure enough, Allura called a meeting and told them of the plans for landing on the Balmera for the final celebration. She also added that they had to be ready for any attacks and so on, especially after the incident from a month before with the princess.

“The Balmera?” Hunk repeated.

Lance smirked at the light blush on his cheeks. “Aw, Hunk’s nervous to see his girlfriend.”

“What? Shay’s not- she’s not- Shut up, Lance.” Lance snorted looked over at Pidge who was on Hunk’s other side. He’d meant to share a devious look with her, but she was occupied scrolling through something on her laptop. “Anyway, shouldn’t we be looking out for Lotor? At this point we have Lotor and Zarkon on us, and with them against each other too…. It just seems crazy that we’re spending the nights partying with our allies instead of making an actual battle plan.”

Allura smiled and shook her head. “You think too little of me, Hunk,” she said. “Each celebration has also included an invitation to each leader. With the Galra splitting up, and our coalition bigger than ever, with the Blade of Marmora helping, we have the upper hand. We can plan an attack and finally put a stop to Zarkon’s reign. The meeting among leaders will happen soon, and they’ll want to see Voltron. For now… let’s enjoy ourselves.”

“Is the Blade coming too?” Lance asked. “To the big, fancy meeting?”

Shiro snorted next to Lance. “Of course. I can’t promise they’ll bring Keith, but Kolivan has to be here. It might be a bit rocky what with the reputation the Galra have-”

“More reason to bring Keith!” Lance exclaimed. “He looks human and he was a paladin! They’ll trust him!”

Shiro chuckled, but he didn’t respond. They were dismissed shortly after, and Lance nudged Hunk as they walked. “So, what are you gonna tell Shay when you see her again?”

“I’m just… gonna greet her… like normal people do,” Hunk said uncertainly.

“What! No! Hunk, come on! You like her, you gotta let her know. Then we’ll both have alien significant others. Pidge can date that space robot she likes so much.” He expected a sarcastic remark from Pidge, but instead, he received a deadly glare that made him turn his attention back to Hunk. “But seriously. Give her a flower or something. You gotta tell her how much you miss her and stuff. Are you gonna dance with her?”

“I don’t know.”

Lance groaned. “Come on. You guys helped me and Keith, so now we gotta return the favor. Pidge and I will help you get her, pal. Right, Pidge?”

“Yeah, sure. Sorry, I gotta find Matt and finish this.” She shut her laptop and hurried down the hallway.

“What’s she working on?” Lance asked.

Hunk frowned. “I dunno. Coding?” He sighed and shrugged. “I’m not good with girls. Beside I rarely ever see Shay. I’m not gonna make a big deal out of it.”

Lance rolled his eyes and shook his head. “Hunk, buddy. If there’s a perfect girl for you out there, it’s Shay. Don’t let her slip.” Hunk hummed and shrugged. “Come on, train with me. I need to practice.”

For about an hour, Hunk and Lance were in the training room, alternating between hand to hand combat with each other and combat against the robots. When Lance trained with Keith, it was like fighting with extra hands and arms. Like he had another body and knew exactly what move the second body would make and how to move his own. With Hunk, training was smooth, but it was a little different. It wasn’t so much an extension of himself but rather a support. He knew he was safe, he knew he could move and trust that Hunk had his back.

It was an interesting dynamic, and Lance wondered how it would change if he fought with Pidge or Shiro at his side.

When they were too tired to continue, they started for the showers, but stopped when Matt ran into them.

“Hey! Hunk, I was looking for you. I was wondering if you could make some of those cookies you’re really good at.”

“You haven’t tried my cookies….”

“No…. You haven’t made them for me yet. But Pidge said they’re really good, so…. Or you could teach me how to. But I don’t know if I’m all that good at baking.”

Hunk shrugged and nodded. “I don’t mind making them and showing you how. I just gotta shower though-”

“But I kind of… I….” Matt sighed and wrung his hands together. “I sort of need the cookies now?” Hunk and Lance shared a confused look. “Pidge… needs them.”

“What’s wrong with Pidge?” Hunk asked, and Lance could feel his own worry spiking up along with Hunk.

Matt stared at them and bit his lip. “Nothing! Nothing serious. Um… girl stuff. Girl pains. Periods, and whatnot.”

Both of them relaxed. “Oh,” Hunk said. “Ah, she likes to eat peanut butter brownies during these days more than cookies. I’ll show you how to make them.”

Lance waved and went to go take a shower, looking forward to fresh brownies when he was done.

When he was refreshed and showered, he went to the kitchen, happy to see a plate of brownies sitting all alone on a table. He grabbed one and popped it into his mouth, wondering if Matt had already taken Pidge her comfort food. Lance went ahead and set up the projector they used on movie nights and grabbed a bunch of blankets to lay across the floor.

It must have been a particularly crappy period day if Pidge sent Matt to get her brownies. So he figured a movie night would do her well.

When he went to get her from her room though, he passed by the lab and saw her tinkering around in there. “Uh, hey?” Pidge looked up and waved. “How are you feeling?”

“Fine?” she answered, though it sounded like a question. “What’s up? Is the phone signal messing up again?”

“Ah, no,” Lance answered, pulling out said phone. A few more hours before Keith called him. “Did Matt bring you your brownies?”

“Yeah. But he went to meet with the rebels for some mission coming up. Did you want one?”

Lance shook his head and sat next to her, watching her scan an encryption on the holo-screen in front of her. “Do you need anything?” Pidge furrowed her eyebrows. “For your lady-days.”

Pidge looked even more confused. “What are you talking about? I’m not on my period. Are you making a joke about me being moody, because if you are, fuck you for that.”

“What? No! Matt said you needed brownies because you were… I mean, he asked for cookies actually, but when he said you were dealing with girl stuff, Hunk said you always like brownies best, but I guess Matt was lying so…. Wait, why was he lying? Why did you need cookies?”

Pidge looked surprised and somehow even more confused. But then she made her face passive, a trick Lance was certain she picked up from hanging out with Keith. “I don’t need cookies. I’m fine. Matt probably wanted some.” She turned back to her computer, mumbling under her breath as numbers and symbols sped past on the screen.

Uncertain, Lance just sat next to her and watched. After a while Hunk joined them, having been looking for them both. “What was with the projector and blankets in the meeting room?” he asked.

“I thought Pidge would want a movie night, but she’s very busy right now.” Pidge snorted and smiled at Lance. “Also, Matt lied. He wanted cookies, not Pidge.” Hunk laughed at that and shrugged. “Oh, dude! You should make something for the party tomorrow! Everyone’s weak for your cooking. You’ll win Shay’s heart for sure with that. You could make more brownies!”

Pidge tensed beside him, her keystrokes stopping. Hunk looked uneasy. “Brownies are Pidge’s thing,” he said.

Lance looked at her and she started typing again, a little quicker. “Oh, right. Well, you can still make something else. The best way to a person’s heart is through their stomach.” Hunk chuckled and shrugged. “Come on, Pidge, help me set Hunk up. Otherwise he’ll never make a move.”

“Yeah sure,” she muttered. Lance frowned and looked at her. She shut her laptop and tossed it aside. “I’m going to bed, I’m feeling kind of sick.” She stood up and started to leave but hesitated at the door and turned around. “You can make her the brownies if you want,” she said. Then she left.

Lance stared after her then looked back at Hunk. “I’m not making the brownies,” he said in response to Lance’s raised eyebrow. “You know, maybe we should all rest up for tomorrow. Isn’t Keith gonna call you soon?”

“Oh, yeah! Okay, I’ll see you tomorrow, bud. Good night!” He waved and started for his room. When he saw Pidge’s door, he couldn’t help but feel a little uneasy. Her mood had shifted quickly, and he wasn’t sure why much less how to help.

***

Everything hurt. The day had been particularly strenuous, and Keith just wanted to fall into his bed and fall asleep.

Right after calling Lance.

Kolivan had kept him a little longer to go over a new battle plan that was starting to take shape due to the severe lack of defenses the Galra were experiencing. There was something big about to happen, but Kolivan wasn’t divulging the details.

When Keith got to his room and pulled out his phone, he saw that he had a missed call from Pidge. A pang of guilt hit him. Despite having been given the phone by Pidge, and knowing that she wanted to talk to him sometimes too, every night was usually spent talking to Lance before bed. And he’d told them both not to call him; it was easier for him to call them whenever his time was free.

For Pidge to have called, something must have happened. Though he figured it wouldn’t be anything severe since it was only one missed call.

He called her back and settled on his bed, wondering what Pidge might’ve needed.

When her form came up in tiny, transparent, green cubes, she was stuffing her face with something and she looked distressed. “Um. Are you okay?”

She swallowed and ran a hand through her hair. “Do you think you could spare tonight with Lance and… help me out a bit?”

“What’s wrong?” Keith asked, immediately feeling worried.

“It’s not… bad. I just…. We go to the Balmera tomorrow. And I don’t really know how to deal with Hunk being with Shay because we haven’t been there since before I started feeling things and…. And Lance keeps trying to set him up, and I’m supposed to help, you know, I’m the best friend, and I….” She sighed and plopped her head into her hands. “Keith, I feel stupid.”

Keith smiled at her sympathetically and wished he could be there for her to lean on. “Don’t feel stupid, Pidge. Let me just tell Lance I can’t talk tonight and I’ll call you back, okay?” She nodded and waved as Keith hung up. Then he dialed Lance.

Before he could even say hello, before Lance could even fully form in tiny pixels, Keith heard him say, “Would it be crazy if Hunk and Pidge had a thing?”

“Uh. What?”

“Oh. Hey, baby, how’s your day?”

Keith snorted and shook his head. “The usual. And yours?” Lance hummed and nodded in agreement. “What… was with the question?”

Lance sighed and ruffled his own hair until it was in messy, recently showered tufts around his head. “Well, we’re supposed to go to the Balmera, and I was trying to find a way for Hunk to make a move because of Shay, you know? And I was trying to get some input from Pidge but she kept avoiding the topic. And she’d leave. But also Hunk… like he sort of… I don’t know, Matt said Pidge wanted cookies and then he lied and said she was on her period-” Keith nearly choked at that- “so Hunk was all, ‘Oh she likes brownies when she’s having those kind of days.’ So I’m wondering when he got to know her that well, because I know Pidge pretty well, but that just seems like a really intimate detail, like a boyfriend thing.”

“Like how I know you like being a little spoon when you’re having a rough day,” Keith interrupted.

Lance lit up. “Yeah! And well, I told him to make the brownies to woo Shay, but he said they were, quote unquote, ‘Pidge’s thing’ and then she left and gave him permission to make them, but he still wouldn’t, and I don’t know, I think… something’s up.”

“Oh, that’s what she was eating,” Keith mused. Lance frowned. “Uh, she called me. She said she wanted to know if I could give her my hour today.”

Lance froze so suddenly and so absolutely that Keith wondered if it was a lag in connection. But then-

You little shit!” Keith jerked back and narrowed his eyes. “She likes him, doesn’t she? That’s the big secret? That’s why Matt lied, that’s why she wants to talk to you even though she said she felt sick and was going to bed, and that’s why she wouldn’t tell us!” Keith stared at Lance and kept his mouth shut. “Oh my God.” Lance’s image began to move, particles floating in the air in front of Keith since it couldn’t focus on him.

Keith heard a knock, and then he heard a muffled response.

Then Lance said, “Pidge, let me in, please? I’ve got Keith. And I have questions.”

It took a while, but eventually, Keith heard Pidge’s voice a little clearer. “What?”

“Do you like Hunk?”

The particles became a whirlwind, and Keith rubbed his eyes as he waited for them to focus. Pidge’s image came up. “What did you tell him!” she shrieked.

“I didn’t say anything!” She scowled. “I haven’t even denied or confirmed the suspicions!”

Pidge stared at him, then looked at Lance. Then she grumbled, “Okay, come in.”

Again, they set up a three way call, and the particles had finally stopped moving, so Keith could see them both clearly. He did have to ask them to switch sides because the turn of their heads was confusing him, but once that was taken care of, it was like having a mini Pidge and mini Lance in front of him in green and blue.

“I just don’t get why you didn’t tell me to begin with. Did you think I wouldn’t keep your secret?” Lance asked.

“No, of course not. I know you could. It’s just… if I told you, it’d be something concrete. You’re close to him, and then I’d forever be the girl with a crush on Hunk. Every time we’re together, which is usually always, and… I didn’t want that. It’s easier to ignore if I don’t tell.”

“But you told me,” Keith said.

“I was going to burst if I didn’t say it at some point,” she said. “Because of moments like what’s gonna happen tomorrow.”

Lance buried his face in his hands. “Oh my God Shay. Oh my God, the things I was saying before. Pidge! I’m so sorry, I-”

“Lance, relax,” she said. “I’m not mad. I’d love to help him hook up with her, it just-”

Both Keith and Lance started protesting, exclaiming in confusion. “What?” Keith asked. “You want them to get together?” Pidge shrugged and nodded. “Pidge! But… he’s your guy. That’s like… me trying to get Lance to have dated Allura or Rosa.” Lance grimaced and made a disgruntled humming noise. “Hunk should be with you.”

“You can’t say who someone should be with. Just because I like him doesn’t mean I have the right to keep him from someone else. In this case someone he actually likes.”

Lance shook his head. “Pidge, but you two…. Man, I don’t know how I didn’t see it before, but you’d be so perfect together. He would be so happy with you, he already is!”

“Stop,” she said, closing her eyes. “Don’t do that. Don’t give me hope like that.”

“But Lance is right. I told you, I talked to him, and… he said it was possible-”

Guys,” she said with a forced light laugh. “It’s okay. He likes her. And Shay’s great! They’d be good together.” Her face sobered a bit. “I just don’t know how to deal with watching it happen.”

A hand disappeared from Lance’s screen and appeared on Pidge’s. “Well, now that I know… I can help with that. At least tomorrow.”

“I know it sucks, Pidge,” Keith added, recalling that horrible feeling he’d gotten when he saw Lance kissing Rosa. Even now, it stirred up poisonous emotions that made it hard to breathe. “But Matt will be there too. You’ll have them both to help you out.”

Lance nodded and squeezed her shoulder. “Yeah. Besides, he probably won’t actually make a move or anything. Why do you think I was insisting so much?” Pidge shrugged and rubbed her eyes. “What?”

“I’m just tired. I’m not ready for tomorrow. I don’t know how I’ll react. Yeah, I’m being brave now, totally cool with them getting together, but… what if when I see them together I just… break?”

Keith wished with all his heart that he could be there for Pidge the next day. But the Blade didn’t get invited to parties, and even so, Kolivan wouldn’t let him just disappear for tomorrow. Not with an important mission coming up.

There was no escaping the hurt that came from an unrequited crush. Although Pidge seemed to handle it better than he ever did. He still couldn’t believe Pidge wanted Hunk to be with Shay.

“I’ll be here for you, Pidge,” Lance promised.

“And I’ll be here to hear about it when you get back,” Keith added, a little lamely. But Lance and Pidge both smiled at him.

“Thanks, guys,” she answered softly. “I think I should get some rest now. Thanks for having my back.” Lance ruffled her hair which resulted in a playful shoulder punch from Pidge. She waved at Keith and her line cut off.

Lance’s line blurred a bit as he listened to the brief goodnight’s and then waited for Lance to get to his room. When he finally stabilized, Keith took a moment to just stare at him. It’d been a while since he had seen Lance in the flesh. Since he’d seen him in colors besides shades of transparent blue.

“What?” Lance asked gently.

The feelings he had made Keith feel uncertain. He didn’t want to say them aloud because he didn’t like having that level of emotion out on display for someone else, even if that someone else was Lance. But it had been so long since he felt those warm hands on his face, that he managed to bring himself to fight the mental resistance.

“I miss you. So much.”

Lance must not have been expecting such a straightforward, gentle answer. His eyebrows furrowed together in the middle and his lips parts as a soft smile played on his lips. “Oh,” he whispered. He chuckled and Keith wondered if he was blushing. “I miss you too. Like crazy.”

“There’s a mission coming up. Kolivan is making it out to seem like a big deal, so I don’t think he’d let me visit soon.”

Lance frowned and chewed on his bottom lip. “Well, Allura said she’s planning a meeting with all the leaders. That includes Kolivan. Do you think he’d bring you?”

“He hasn’t mentioned anything to me. And I feel like if I asked about it, he’d be sure not to let me. For distractions and whatnot.”

Lance huffed and leaned his head back. He trilled his lips then looked off to the side. “Can I say something kind of sappy?” he whispered. Keith nodded, fighting the urge to try and tilt Lance’s face towards him. Pixels didn’t respond to touch. “Ever since you left… it feels like something’s missing. Allura is dealing with all the coalition stuff with Shiro. Matt, Pidge, and Hunk are always grouped together working on tech stuff. And I’m here on my own. Without you. And I get that you have to be there, I get that you want to figure yourself out and all that. I just… can’t wait for you to come home and fill the hole you left in me.”

“Lance,” Keith said sadly. He never wanted his actions to have such a painful effect on anyone, much less someone he cared so much about.

“No, I… shit. I wasn’t trying to make you feel bad. I’m sorry. I just-”

“It’s okay,” Keith assured.

But it didn’t feel okay. There were no reassuring touches. No breaths against his face from soft whispers with sweet words. No color. No way to take his hand and hold it tight, trying to convey the things he still couldn’t put into words. And it left Keith feeling kind of empty.

***

Hanging up with Keith the night before felt bittersweet. While he’d seen a level of vulnerability he hadn’t seen in Keith before, there was also a lot of things he felt he needed to have him in person for. He wanted Keith to hold onto him when he talked about how out of place he was starting to feel. He wanted to pull Keith into his arms when he talked about how he missed them, how he was starting to feel homesick.

The truth of a painful space between them and the hollowness it left in both of them made them feel like they were at a standstill. No where to really go without being near each other, and not much to say without having the other within reach.

“You okay?”

Lance blinked and looked over at Hunk who was fixing his celebratory suit’s necktie. “Yeah. Just really miss Keith.”

Hunk nodded in understanding. “Well, maybe if you ask really nicely, Allura and Kolivan could let you visit?”

Lance sighed and shook his head. “I considered that. But what if you need to form Voltron while I’m gone? I pilot Red now. I can’t just drop that responsibility for a few days and pick it back up. Besides, Keith would kill me if he knew I ditched Red to see him.”

Hunk chuckled and shook his head. “You have a point. Well, maybe they’ll bring him to the meeting. You guys could have a little time to be together.” Lance shrugged. “We’re going to a party, smile a bit.” Lance plastered on a fake smile that made Hunk laugh. “Aw, c’mon.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. You’re in a great mood, huh?”

Hunk blushed slightly and grumbled, fiddling with one of his sleeves. “I don’t really know how it’ll feel seeing Shay after so long.”

Lance wanted to say something teasing, give him advice about how to be suave, but the idea of doing so made him feel guilty and traitorous. No matter how much Pidge insisted she was fine with Hunk getting the girl, he just couldn’t overlook one of his best friend’s feelings for the other’s.

“Well, today’s the day we find out,” he finally said.

Before landing on the Balmera, the paladins all met up together in the meeting room. This time, Allura was in her usual royal outfit, and Pidge was in a dress that went to her knees with a pair of shoes that had a smaller amount of heel. She looked a little off when she looked at Hunk and Lance, and she seemed to tense a bit when they sat down and Hunk naturally sat beside her.

It was normal. Lance always saw them together. So he wasn’t sure why Pidge was being so awkward now.

Although, it wasn’t just Pidge. Hunk seemed to be unable to stay still, which was usual for him when it came to his hands. Now, his entire body was fidgeting.

“Nice dress, Pidge,” Lance offered, trying to ease the tension that had never existed before between his best friends.

“Thanks,” she said with a slight smile.

Matt walked in and looked around. “Where’s everyone else?” he asked. The three of them shrugged. “Okay then. Hunk, buddy you okay? You seem a little anxious.”

“Is it that obvious?” he mumbled.

“Just a bit,” Pidge answered in a sigh. “Relax, Hunk. Shay’ll be happy to see you. Be sure to save her a dance.” Lance looked over at her, unable to fathom how she could say that without a single trace of malice in her voice. And while she had a smirk on her face, it didn’t reach her eyes. Matt sat beside her and subtly gave her shoulder a squeeze. “I’m gonna see what’s keeping Shiro and the Alteans.” She stood up and left, leaving the boys to share uncertain looks.

After a few moments of painful, awkward silence, they felt a slight shudder. “We landed already?” Lance asked.

Pidge came back a few moments later. “They were putting up barriers. The Galra have been trying to ambush again, so we should probably have our armor at hand just in case.” She plopped down and groaned. “Can we be normal for five minutes?”

“We’re at a party on an alien planet because we put on ice shows for aliens to win a galactic war. I think normal is very far away,” Hunk said. The two shared a look and broke into smiles.

Just like that, the uneasiness was gone. Meanwhile Lance just tried to keep his mouth shut because he wasn’t sure how he never realized how perfect the two could be together.

Soon enough, they were on the Balmera, which was literally glowing with festivities. Some Balmerans were creating a fun beat, and many of them were dancing or joyously welcoming the paladins. Lance kept his eyes sharp for Shay to see how Hunk received her, but also for how Pidge would manage with it.

Sure enough, shortly after a few formal greetings, Shay and her brother walked up to them. Hunk seemed to tense. Pidge was distracting herself with looking at the festivities. Lance wouldn’t have even noticed that she was anxious if he hadn’t known about the crush.

“Paladins, it’s so great to see you again!” Shay said happily, taking them each into a hug. Part of Lance expected Pidge to tense or grimace when she hugged her, but Pidge’s smile was genuine. Hunk’s hug seemed a little longer and when Shay pulled away, her hand stayed on his arm. “All of us can feel the end of Zarkon’s reign close at hand.”

“We hope that’s true, but we’ll have to keep fighting to the best of our abilities,” Allura said with a smile.

“Of course. The Balmera welcomes you, and I do hope you all enjoy the party.” She smiled, her yellow eyes shining. Then she turned away and continued greeting others.

Pidge nudged Hunk and made a face. Hunk furrowed his eyebrows. Pidge gave Lance an exasperated look, and he decided to step in. “Ask her to dance,” he told Hunk.

His best friend immediately turned red. “J-Just like that?”

“Well, she can’t read your mind,” Pidge said, crossing her arms. “She won’t say no.”

“Because I’m a paladin.”

“Because you’re Hunk,” she answered. Her eyes settled on him and Lance finally detected a bit of sadness. “Don’t miss your chance, Hunk. Dance with her at least once. I’m gonna get food.”

She patted Hunk’s arm and avoided Lance’s gaze as she went to a table where a few older Balmerans were serving food.

“It’s not that easy,” Hunk muttered. “You remember what it was like back at the Garrison. Girls don’t pay attention to me that way.”

“Oh, yes they do,” Lance said. He caught Hunk’s annoyed look and sighed. “Hunk, man, I’m with you on that, okay? I wasn’t exactly pulling ladies in as much as I say I did. But we’re… in space! There’s so many chances out here. And you don’t know what could happen. The perfect person could be right in front of you and you’d have no idea because you’re still thinking about what it was all like before.” And she was. Lance just didn’t know if it was Shay or Pidge. “Being a paladin has made all of us better,” Lance said. “It’s brought out great traits in all of us, it’s made us all kind of grow up a bit. We’re not the same little 16 year-olds we were back there.”

“I just don’t think I have that confidence, Lance.”

Lance nodded in understanding. “Yeah, I get that. Let’s take it a step at a time, yeah? Let’s get some food.”

***

Spies from the Galra base had come back. Zarkon was focused on finding and getting rid of Lotor. Of course, the black lion wasn’t far from his priorities. Ever since the battle he and Shiro had to see who had true claim of the black lion, Zarkon seemed more intent than ever to get it back under his control. He was frantic. If there was a time to strike, it was now. Because the empire was starting to crumble apart.

Lotor was all alone; he would be an easy threat to take away. Zarkon was so power-hungry and vengeful, he was starting to lose tactics. The coalition was several times larger than the empire. The spies even said the rest of the Galra were getting restless and nervous.

“Things are working in our favor,” Kolivan said. “In a few quintants, the Altean princess and the leader of the rest of the coalition will meet. We’ll plan an attack on the Galra Empire to finally put an end to this war.” The other Blade members shifted, uneasy and uncertain. “Until then, we stock our resources, we train, and we stay undercover.” He nodded and dismissed them. Then he said, “Keith, you stay with me.”

Keith backtracked and stood beside Kolivan. “Isn’t this good news? Everyone’s so tense.”

“It seems too simple,” Kolivan said. “Another spy mentioned that the witch is starting to grow interest in planet Naxzela.”

“Planet… what?”

“It’s Galra territory. There’s something important there if the witch has her eye on it. It would be safer for the coalition to claim it, to take it back. This close to the end, we can’t risk the Galra gaining an advantage.” Keith nodded and wondered why Kolivan had made him stay. “I’m sure the princess knows by now. It may be a key point in the battle planning meeting. Which I’d like you to go to with me.”

“Really?” Keith said, maybe a little too hopefully.

Kolivan looked at him and smiled slightly. “Yes. I’m sure having a human Blade member would ease some of the apprehension. I also knew that if I didn’t ask you to come with me, you’d spend the next week in a sullen, petty mood because you couldn’t see the red paladin.” Keith blushed profusely as his eyes widened, much to Kolivan’s amusement.

“I-I’m capable of remaining professional, sir.”

Kolivan arched an eyebrow. “Should I ask Astriaga to join me then?”

“No!” Keith grimaced as he shouted, but Kolivan only shook his head and smirked. “I… I want to go. Thank you.”

“You must remain focused when we go until I dismiss you for the recreational activities with your paladin friends.” Keith nodded, fighting back a chuckle at the double meaning that could’ve been behind recreational activities if he and Lance were at that stage. “That’s all. Be sure to meet Astriaga on time for your training today.”

“Yes, sir,” Keith answered, turning away. He hesitated at the door, thinking back to purple skin and claws. Originally, he’d thought they were brought on by the… recreational activities. But then he’d started turning purple during a simple conversation with Lance. He was here to find out more about himself and his family. The end of the war was near, and he hadn’t advanced. He wanted to go home, to fill that space he’d left behind in Lance.

He turned back around. “Kolivan?” The Galra turned to look at him questioningly. “There’s more half-Galrans out there, right?” He nodded. “Were any of them part human?”

Kolivan turned completely to face Keith and furrowed his eyebrows. “Humans have some… interesting tastes. I’m certain you wouldn’t be the first in the last ten thousand years since the formation of the Blade to be a Galra-human offspring.”

“But you haven’t met them?” Kolivan shook his head, making Keith sigh in defeat. “So there’s no information on half-breds like me…?”

Kolivan stepped forward and looked down at Keith curiously. “Why do you ask?”

Keith took a breath. “I… change sometimes. My skin starts turning purple and… I grow claws. Lance says my eyes stay the same. But I don’t understand why.” Kolivan frowned. “Do you… do you know who my mother was? Why she left? Where she is now? She could help me.”

Kolivan’s expression finally softened. “I’m sorry, Keith,” he said. “But I can’t say that I know who your mother was. We have several spies in several bases. Many have gone to Earth and many have returned. Some under other leaders. I don’t know who your mother is. But I can only assume she left to continue her mission.”

Keith nodded and ignored the sinking weight in his stomach. He had no answers, and no way to start getting answers. “Oh. Okay. Thank you, anyway.” He turned away and left to get to his room.

He was anxious. He had too much information, and at the same time, too little. He missed Lance. He was worried about Pidge. He wanted to see Shiro.

Frustrated, he took out his sketchbook and started to draw the base shapes of a bust. Then a few details- the general direction and shape of hair. A long jawline. A sharp nose. Downward, almond-shaped eyes with long lashes. Full lips, quirked up on one side.

Keith had seen Lance through a screen for so long, that he wanted to bring him to color in his sketchbook. It would be enough to distract him until he had to train. Enough to distract him from the dead end he felt he was at.

***

The party continued to go smoothly. Lance liked watching the Balmerans dance, because they were so graceful, so careful with the planet, and they made music with their steps. Rax had taken Pidge to dance, and she seemed to be having fun. Allura was learning the steps. Shiro was watching with an amused smile. Coran seemed to be the best dancer, and he seemed completely at ease among the Balmerans. Hunk had been eating, so Lance decided to keep him company.

“It’s so strange to see Pidge in a dress,” Lance mused, watching as the cloth spun around her. “I’m so used to her in her ‘boy’ clothes. But Matt said she used to always wear dresses.” Hunk hummed, and Lance looked over at him. “She looks pretty.”

“She looks happy,” he answered. “Shay’s not dancing.”

Lance frowned and looked around the crowd for Shay. She was sitting down with an elderly Balmeran, talking and laughing. Lance looked back at Pidge and the flush in her cheeks as she excused herself and thanked Rax for the dance.

Okay, so he was a little biased. Pidge was his best friend. And they were nerdy together all the time! It would be great for them to get together. Lance would’ve loved to see how that worked out. He would’ve loved to see Hunk and Pidge as ridiculously lovestruck as he felt that first day with Keith.

But Pidge was right. No one could tell Hunk who to like. And Hunk didn’t like Pidge. He liked Shay, and as a best friend, Lance’s responsibility was in supporting and helping Hunk.

“Go ask her to dance,” he said. “Tell her to teach you.”

Hunk sighed and ran his hand through his hair, making it messy. Honestly, it gave him a bit of an edge that Lance thought was pretty attractive. He reached over and fumbled with Hunk’s hair, despite the other pulling away. “What are you doing? Lance, what- hey! Stop it!”

“Everything okay?” They froze, and Lance looked over at Shay who seemed very concerned.

He left Hunk alone, and he messed with his own hair to fix it. “Yeah! Just thought there was a bug.” Shay looked confused then glanced over at Hunk. “Hunk was telling me that he wanted to learn the dance moves to the songs-”

“Oh, no, I-I’m not a dancer,” Hunk intervened. “Two left feet, it’s really not a good idea.”

Shay giggled and reached over to move a lock of Hunk’s hair back into place, making even Lance blush. “That’s okay! We can dance a slower song. Come on.” She held out her hand and Hunk, who looked completely enraptured, took it and followed her.

Lance watched Shay talk to one of the people helping with music, and shortly after a slower song began. The music was still light and joyous, but it was peaceful, soft. And Shay took Hunk’s hands and placed them on herself and got closer and they began to dance.

It was nice to see Hunk so blushy and… happy.

Lance looked away and suddenly wished Keith were here. He’d have loved to make him dance among the Balmerans. He could imagine how anxious and pouty he’d be, only to give Lance a timid smile when he thought no one was looking.

With his mind on Keith, he almost missed the sight of Pidge standing as still as a statue along the edges of the dancing. Her face was blank. Then her eyebrows furrowed, and Lance could see the smallest crack of emotion. But when her eyes flitted around and caught Lance’s sight on her, she blinked rapidly and turned away, walking quickly to the tables of food.

Immediately, Lance went to find her and saw her stuffing something that looked like bread and smelled sweet into her mouth. “’m fine,” she said, muffled by the food.

“Pidge.” She didn’t answer, and Lance caught her hand as she moved to stuff another piece of food into her mouth. “Stop eating your feelings,” he said softly, a small smile, so she would know it was a joke.

But she yanked away and dropped the food. “What am I supposed to say?” she hissed, ducking her head. “I have to be okay. It’s a stupid crush. I can’t be angry, because I care about him, I want him to be happy, I-” She clenched her fists and then sighed, loosening up. “I have to be okay because… he’s my best friend.”

Lance smiled and took a deep breath. “It doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to hurt.” She looked up at him, and Lance’s heart nearly broke seeing the tears that pooled in the bright amber. She wouldn’t let them fall. She just clenched her jaw and managed a meek smile. “Besides,” Lance said, a little more airily. “I was coming to see if you’d dance with me. My boyfriend is… unavailable right now.”

Pidge snorted and rubbed her face for a second. Then she smiled and accepted Lance’s outstretched hand.

Chapter Text

Please please please comment, friends! Comments mean a lot to me!!!!!

(If you have songs I can add play to a playlist for this fic please let me know!!)

The New Romantics Playlist Here

And So the Moon Fell for the Sun Here

Sweet Sun the Moon is Yours Playlist Here (an in-progress playlist from Keith to Lance)

 

Finally. It was finally time to prepare for takeoff. After pacing around anxiously for half a varga, Keith felt like he was going to lose his mind. But as soon as he was given the order to set the coordinates and make sure the pod ship was ready, he turned it on and made sure everything was running smoothly twice.

Kolivan walked in shortly after, talking with Astriaga and a few other Blades. Keith rubbed the tips of his fingers together, reminding himself to be patient. Rushing his boss was not going to be doing him any favors. And yet it seemed like the conversation was taking so long.

“Keith!” He turned toward the sound of his name. Astriaga was standing at parade rest and looking at him with one arched eyebrow. “Are you in such a rush, you can’t say goodbye to your trainer?”

Keith blushed and walked over sheepishly. “I’m sorry,” he said. He lowered his voice as Kolivan continued to talk with the other Blades. “I’m just excited.”

Astriaga smiled. “Yes, we all know it. Just remember you have a duty first. Don’t take advantage of being Kolivan’s favorite pupil.” Keith furrowed his eyebrows, disbelieving the statement. Still, it made something comforting settle in his chest. “Be careful. And remember to listen to Kolivan.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Keith said, resisting a roll of his eyes. “I can be professional and behave.”

Astriaga nodded and looked Keith over. Then suddenly she was hugging him tightly for just a second and then she was at attention. “Good luck on your trip.”

Keith smiled and nodded. Then he stayed behind Kolivan until he finished his instructions for the others and turned around.

“Everything is ready?” Keith nodded. “Everything is in order?” Keith nodded again. “Then we’re ready for takeoff.”

Keith bit his lip and took a deep breath to calm himself. He tried to remember that regardless of how early they arrived, he wouldn’t be able to get to Lance until the meeting was over anyway. It still didn’t stifle his excitement.

They were meeting on Olkarion, on the outskirts of the main city. Keith made sure to fly them steadily to the coordinates he was given and after what felt like a restless hour of travel, he saw the planet. They breached the atmosphere and Keith saw the lions before he saw the rest of the pods and ships used to get out here.

“Ease up,” Kolivan said, a warning in his voice.

Keith cleared his head and slowed down the speed of the pod. He focused completely on landing before he let himself look around anymore.

As the pod stilled and the doors opened, Kolivan stood and looked at Keith who remained rooted to his spot to keep from racing out. “Keith, remember that this is an important meeting for the Blades, for the universe. This meeting could be the first step in bring this war to an end, and you’re here for diplomacy and intel. I didn’t bring you so you could reunite with your friends. I brought you because you’re a good warrior. Understood?”

Keith hesitated, wondering if this meant he wouldn’t get a chance to really be with his family. Would he only be allowed a few minutes? But he didn’t want to be ungrateful, and Kolivan was right. There were bigger things than his romantic life that mattered right now. Like freeing countless planets from the grasps of an evil dictatorship.

“Yes, sir. I understand.” Kolivan nodded and regarded him for a moment. “After you, sir.”

Kolivan gave him a meager smile and walked out of the pod with Keith following after.

There were a lot of sounds around them. Different languages being shouted and spoken, conversations and what sounded like vendors making bargains. Once they broke through the many modes of transportation, Keith realized they were at an outdoor market. With so many alien leaders in one place, the Olkari must have figured they would make a profit.

He saw many types of aliens, from the cuddly little Arusians and Balmerans to the giant race he’d met on a glowing planet, to another race he didn’t know with purple skin, multiple eyes, and long limbs. Fascinating was an understatement. Keith couldn’t believe this many living things were out here, and he’d gone so many years without even the slightest idea.

“Keith. This way.” Kolivan gestured to a nearby building that looked like it was covered in moss and had pillars of tree bark spiraling up in tendrils. They entered and suddenly he was looking at state of the art technology. Glowing screens, circuit boards that looked color-coded, and luminescent electric currents whirled all around him. There was a long table in the center. A few of the leaders were already seated, feasting on finger foods. Keith might have too, but some of the food moved and it made his stomach turn.

Ryner walked in and seemed to be sifting through a series of documents. More people began to file in and Keith couldn’t help but scan each alien that walked in, wondering when it would be his friends.

“Hello, Kolivan.” Keith’s breath caught, and he turned to see Allura greeting Kolivan with a gentle smile. “Hello, Keith. It’s wonderful to see you. I’m glad you could both make it.” Her eyes twinkled, and Keith had to smile back.

“It’s great to see you too, Allura,” Keith said.

“The others will be coming in shortly-”

“Keith is to maintain a professional manner until told otherwise,” Kolivan said. “Please be sure to tell the red paladin as such.”

Allura chuckled and nodded. “Yes, it won’t be a problem. The paladins understand that this is a battle plan meeting. Though, I do want to thank you for bringing Keith. We’ve all missed him terribly.” Keith’s heart warmed at that and he smiled again.

“I miss you guys too,” he said softly.

Allura winked and then took a breath. “Very well. I supposed we should get started. I’ll see you later, Keith.”

She turned away and began discussing something with Ryner. A hush fell over the rest of the aliens and Keith looked up to see the other paladins coming in. His breath caught at the sight of Lance. His hair was shorter, and from this distance, it looked like he was a bit darker.

Sapphire eyes found him, and Keith felt everything else melt away. He smiled and Lance started for him, but Hunk held him back, whispering something in his ear. Lance’s smile faded momentarily, but he nodded. Then he waved at Keith with a shrug and soft smile.

Keith bit his lip mouthed a quick, “Hi” before he averted his eyes. He found his way back to them. To Pidge who kept looking in his direction and perking up when she saw him smiling at her. To Hunk who waved happily when he caught his eyes. To Shiro who looked proud of him. Every instinct was telling him to run toward them and hug them and never let them go.

But he didn’t. Because he had to stay professional. It was fucking killing him.

“Thank you all for coming,” Allura said, grabbing their attention. “As we all know, the coalition is bigger than ever, and it’s thanks to all of you. The Galra Empire is at its weakest. The spies the Blade of Marmora have sent in have been reporting back with plenty of information that could well put an end to this war and this reign. Kolivan, would you like to explain?”

Kolivan nodded and stood, giving Keith a pointed look to stand too. He did, and even though feeling everyone’s eyes on him made him feel like his entire body was beating along with his panicked heart, he tried to stay calm and listen.

Kolivan began to tell them about the weaknesses of the Galra, the fragility of some of the soldiers loyalty the more hairbrained Zarkon became. He told them about the distraction of Lotor and the loss of several valuable resources that came from each planet that had since joined the coalition. Then he told them about Naxzela and the witch’s interest in it.

“Naxzela was a planet formed by Altean terraforming technology. If we can secure it, we can use it as a defensive line. It must be why the witch wants it,” Allura said.

“We’ve been informed that it is serving as a military base,” Kolivan responded.

“If the witch is showing interest, doesn’t that mean we can’t just claim it? We’d have to fight for it,” Matt said. He was standing with the rebels. “She won’t let us just take it, especially now that they’re at their weakest.”

“Then we need a battle plan,” Hunk said. “Distractions, a defense, an attack. Back up.”

“That would require several teams working together with a series of cues and precise orders,” Pidge mused.

“Exactly. If we can have some fighters distracting Galran soldiers in one sector of the galaxy-”

“We can have another set keeping the witch’s guards busy by faking an attack on the main base-”

“Then back up to help distract those at the military base without them knowing Voltron is there-”

“And we get to make it into Naxzela, confiscate the weaponry, and set up defenses to claim it for the coalition!”

Keith smirked and looked over at Lance who was also smiling smugly at the pair. Matt was covering his mouth with his hand, but he also seemed amused.

“That was… a quick battle plan,” one of the other aliens noted.

“It’s a start,” someone else said. “Of course we still need the details. We need to know who is going to fight where, and how to cause the minimal amount of damage to our own fighters. What’s so important about one military base anyway? So much we’re being asked to risk our lives?”

Allura frowned. “That planet could be a weapon itself in the wrong hands. Without it, all planets behind it remain under Galran control with no hope of freedom. This is a war. Everyone here is risking their lives, and we all know it. I would like to have the minimal number of casualties and injuries, but I cannot promise it. I know I am asking for a lot. But we can’t risk giving the Galra an advantage at this point.”

There was a silence that filled the room. Keith glanced around and saw everyone shifting, whispering to co-advisors, looking at the paladins, at Kolivan, at Allura.

“We’re willing to fight,” Matt said, speaking up for the rebels. “We can provide the attack to lure the inhabitants out and give you guys an in.”

“We can take a sector of the soldiers to fight,” Ryner said. “Our technologies have advanced so much so, even the Galra won’t be able to know what’s coming.”

Keith looked at Kolivan and murmured, “We could take the attack on the main base with help from the spies. We take down Haggar’s guards, and we lure any other defenses away before they can hear about Voltron on Naxzela.”

“How many Blades?”

Keith thought it over for a second. “We should be fine with seven. Five to fight, two to keep a lookout and keep the pod ready for escape.” Kolivan nodded and jutted his chin out. Keith stood taller. “The Blade will take on the Galra’s main base.” He heard a sigh that he knew in his heart belonged to Lance.

“Perfect. Then everyone else who won’t be on the frontlines, be at the ready in case anyone needs back up,” Pidge said with a tone of finality and officiality that made Keith forget she was only fifteen. Everyone else nodded and Keith caught Matt looking at Pidge with so much pride it made him smile.

For the rest of the meeting, the more tedious details for the battle were planned out. Ryner would work with Pidge on communicators to cover all sectors. The rebels were taking stock of any weaponry that could help give them the upper hand. Every moment was calculated. And although no one said it, Keith felt like taking this planet would be a major step in getting through defenses to get rid of Zarkon once and for all.

By the end of the meeting, everyone had their respective roles. It was a guaranteed win. Meanwhile Keith was trying to figure out how to ask when he’d be able to go greet his friends.

But Kolivan stood and had Keith follow him out of the building. They walked out to the market and Keith tried not to show how agitated he felt. He bit his tongue and rubbed the tips of his fingers together, reminding himself of his place.

Kolivan turned to him. “You have all of the information we were given?” Keith nodded. “Can you provide it when we return to the Blade?” Keith felt himself deflate and nodded. “Very well. You can go see your friends now.”

“I-What? Really?” Kolivan nodded. “W-When do I get back to you?”

Kolivan chuckled and shook his head. “Don’t worry about that.” He gestured over to where the paladins were murmuring. “Go on, then.”

Keith smiled and laughed through the nervous relief he felt. He turned around and stumbled slightly, trying to remember how to even move.

Finally.

He started walking, then he started sprinting, until he was full on running towards his friends with a smile that hurt his cheeks. He came to a hesitant stop a few steps away from them. Pidge looked at him and broke into a smile with so much affection it almost made Keith want to cry.

She pushed past the others and ran towards him, hugging him tightly. Then another pair of large arms made him lose his breath and he heard Hunk’s laughter in his ear. Then the cool press of metal on his neck. Then the light, twinkling laugh of the princess behind him. Until he was enveloped in warmth from all of them and relieved laughs and half formed sentences. Hands touched his face and tousled his hair.

“We’re so happy you’re here!”

“I’ve been so excited to see you again!”

“I’m so proud of you, Keith.”

“How long do we have you for?”

Keith laughed and realized his eyes were filled with tears, which felt a little silly. He was so happy to be with them, so he shouldn’t be crying. But he was so overwhelmed, and he had never felt so much affection so quickly. It filled something in him he hadn’t realized he needed.

They all pulled back to give him space to talk.

Then Keith looked around for the one voice that had been missing.

Lance’s eyes were sparkling with tears, and he seemed frozen, afraid to move. Maybe afraid to be held back again or reprimanded. Pidge nudged Keith with a smirk.

“Well, what are you waiting for?” she said with a laugh.

Keith stepped forward and his movement seemed to trigger Lance’s. With one more step, they were in each other’s embrace and Keith just couldn’t believe he was actually holding him. He was there in the flesh, warm, filled with color, hugging him back just as tightly. Like they’d be taken away from each other if they didn’t keep a hold of the other with as much force as needed. Like the tighter they hugged, the more Keith breathed him in, and the more Lance leaned into him, the more certain they were they wouldn’t just disappear. They weren’t just pixels.

“God, I missed you so much,” Lance said with a broken voice in Keith’s ear.

Keith found it hard to speak through the knot in his throat, but he managed. “I missed you too. So much.” He risked pulling back to cup Lance’s face between his hands. He was heartbroken to see it streaked with tears. “No, don’t cry. Don’t cry,” Keith murmured.

Lance chuckled and leaned in to crash his lips against Keith’s.

And that something that had been filled with the hugs from his family began to overflow. Keith kept his hands on his face, in his hair, desperate to keep him close. The taste of him was new and familiar at the same time, and he was getting more and more lightheaded the more he felt Lance’s fingers pressing into him.

“Geez, guys, get a room maybe?”

Keith and Lance pulled apart at Hunk’s words and laughed as they pressed their foreheads together.

“Uh, guys? Keith’s… turning purple, right?” Pidge said.

Keith looked at his own hands saw the purple spreading slowly like a bruise along his skin. Lance tilted his face up and smiled as he said, “Yeah. Everything but the eyes.” Keith smiled sheepishly.

“Since, uh- since when do you turn purple, Keith?” Shiro asked.

Keith gulped nervously and shrugged. “I dunno. It just started happening randomly. I asked Kolivan about it, but he didn’t know either. But I’m okay!” he assured. “I’m really happy right now.” He looked at them each, grateful to see the shock and concern wearing away and becoming relief or simply affection. “I just… God, you guys are real. You’re here. I’m here. I miss you guys so much, you can’t even imagine…. Where’s Coran?”

“He’s in the market,” Allura said. “Ah, we made sure to tell him not to buy and brain bugs this time.”

“Lance! Lance!” They turned to the sound of a woman’s voice and Keith saw one of the multi-eyed, long-limbed, purple aliens walking towards them.

“Oh boy,” Pidge muttered.

Lance looked at Keith nervously, but smiled at the alien. She was wearing a long dress with what looked like heavy necklaces and a shawl made of glittering material. Large earrings dangled from extended earlobes.

“Princess Klamestra!” Lance greeted with a wave.

“Is this him? Is this the Keith you told me of?” she asked, looking Keith over with vibrant golden and sapphire eyes. “It is isn’t it? This is your dating partner!”

Lance chuckled and nodded. “Yes, Princess. This is Keith. Keith, this is Princess Klamestra.”

Keith furrowed his eyebrows but bowed slightly anyway. The princess giggled happily and caressed Lance’s face in a way that made Keith bristle. He felt a slight prick on the inside of his lip and ran his tongue across it. It wasn’t bleeding, but his canines felt longer and sharper. He cleared his throat and tried to ignore it as the alien turned back to Keith.

“I do apologize for any misunderstandings. But Lance has told me so much about you! Tell me, do you believe he will be the dating partner you mate and marry and have a family with?”

Keith felt his entire face go hot and behind him the other paladins were either snorting or choking on air. “Um. I-”

“No!” Lance yelped. “Princess, no, no, we’re not- it’s not- oh my God. Keith, I’m so sorry. Princess, things move very slowly for humans, okay? It’s… we can’t just decide to- um. We’re still really young, so we don’t know about all the future stuff, it’s just-”

“Oh! Oh, I see, I’m sorry,” she answered. She looked at Keith. “My apologies. I’m still learning the culture. I would like to say though, that you’ve chosen an excellent dating partner. You’re very lucky to have him.”

“Um. Thank you?” Keith answered. He looked at Lance who was blushing profusely. The princess nodded and caressed Lance’s face one last time before saying goodbye to the others and departing. “Uh, who was that?” Keith asked.

“That… would be the alien princess who tried to take me for a mate,” Lance muttered, looking at the ground.

“Ah.” Keith cleared his throat and reminded himself there was no need to be jealous. He and Lance had already talked about this. And she had been quite clear as well- Lance had told her all about Keith. Who he was for Keith. “Dating partner is an interesting choice of words.”

Lance looked at him and Keith smiled playfully. Lance let out a relieved chuckle and nodded. “Yeah the word boyfriend was confusing for her.”

“Well, that was awkward enough for the rest of my life,” Hunk said. “Why don’t we get some food and catch up?”

Keith and Lance interlocked their hands as the group shuffled towards the market, raucously making their way to each stand in search of food and ogling trinkets. Occasionally, Lance would press a kiss to his cheek or forehead, and Keith would blush and hold his hand tighter.

Part of Keith kept looking over his shoulder, wondering when Kolivan would tell him it was time to go back. He wanted to stay in the moment. To be with Lance and pay attention to Hunk and Pidge’s funny, if incomprehensible, stories about mishaps in the lab and be able to talk to Shiro about his progress without feeling like he would lose time with the others for it.

As Lance looked at some bracelets being sold, and Pidge and Hunk looked at some spare parts at a stand nearby, Allura approached him. Shiro was trying to get a bargainer to stop attempting to buy his arm, and he looked aggravated.

“Are you alright?” Allura asked. “You seem distraught.”

“Oh, no I’m okay. I just keep expecting Kolivan to tell me it’s time to go.”

Allura frowned. “He didn’t give you an allotted time?” Keith shook his head. “How strange. Either way, I’m sure he can contact you through the comm. No need to expect him to come up to you. Especially if he didn’t particularly give you a curfew.” She smiled and put a hand on his shoulder. “Enjoy yourself, Keith.”

He nodded and held onto Lance’s hand tighter as she turned away to help Shiro away from the bargainer.

Lance pulled on him gently and gestured. “What do you think?” Keith looked at the bracelets he was eyeing.

They were braided strips of vines that ended on a magnetic clip that glowed as the ends neared each other. The vendor showed that, when fully clipped, by pressing one of his fingers on one bracelet, the other would glow and vice versa. “You can program it to your touch here,” he said gesturing to the magnetic clip. “And to remove it, simply hold the clasp for five ticks.”

“How much?” Lance asked.

“For the paladins of Voltron… free.”

“What- no. No we can’t do that,” Keith said. “That’s…. Please, let us pay for them.”

The alien smiled and shrugged. “Very well.” He pulled out a folded piece of paper that when extended was a drawing of Voltron that looked incredibly good. The shading and the detail… Keith wanted to know what the paper material was that nothing smudged even when folded. He wanted to know what stationary was used because it had a charcoal effect but maintained precise lines and distinct edges for the most miniscule shading. “My daughter is a big fan. But I felt it might be dangerous to bring her here. Could you sign this? And considered the bracelets paid.”

Lance smiled and nodded. “Deal. Hunk, Pidge! Shiro, Allura!” He waved them over and they took turns signing. Lance looked at Keith expectantly. “Aren’t you going to sign?” Keith hesitated. “You’re an original paladin, babe. You always will be. Go on.”

Keith gave him a grateful smile and signed his name.

The vendor smiled and tucked the drawing back into his pockets with many thank you’s. Then he helped Keith and Lance program the bracelets and fit them to their wrists. He had them test it, and Keith smiled when he saw his bracelet light up as Lance touched his own. Keith then touched his bracelet and watched as Lance’s lit up slowly and brightly.

“These are amazing. Thank you.” Lance waved and took Keith’s hand again. “You think it works over big distances?”

“With Olkarion tech? Definitely.” Lance stopped him for a moment and kissed him lightly on the lips. “Is it weird that I can’t believe you’re real right now?”

Keith smiled and shook his head. “No. I feel the same. Like you might disappear if I look away for too long.” Keith stroked Lance’s faces kissed him. “Come on. I smell food, and I’m starving.”

Lance snorted, but he followed after him. They saw Hunk at another stand, staring idly at something else. They went up to him and Keith looked over to see what had caught his eye. But all he saw was Pidge at another stand.

“Hunk?”

“Huh?” Hunk blinked and furrowed his eyebrows. “What’s up?”

“What was up with you?” Lance asked curiously.

“Nothing. Nothing. Pidge was bargaining and she’s just… oddly good at it.”

Keith smiled and looked over where Pidge was talking to another vendor. She looked over and saw the three of them together and waved the vendor away before walking towards them. “Hey, what’s going on?”

“I wanted to find food. I can smell it, but I can’t find it,” Keith said.

“Oh, it’s over here,” Pidge said, waving them over. She led the way past a few stand until she reached a place where a few Olkari were shouting out prices and advertisements for food.

Surprisingly, everything smelled and looked so good, Keith was ready to eat just about anything they offered. Nothing moved, nothing looked like a weird space worm or mucky goo. And Keith was smelling spices he’d never smelled before.

“Alright, here’s the plan,” Hunk said. “Pidge, you go to that stand. Lance, that one over there. Keith, you go to this one, and I’ll go to the one over here. Then we regroup and share.”

“Perfect,” Pidge said with eyes already locked on her stand. “Meet back here, okay?” And then she was gone. Lance sprinted off to his stand, and Keith went to his. He peeked at what other people were getting and couldn’t seem to choose what he wanted to try.

He also remembered he didn’t have any money on him. He rushed off to where Lance was in line. “Do you have any currency? I have nothing.”

“Uh, yeah, here.” Lance fished out some coins from a little pouch. “Allura gave them to us. But I don’t think the food should cost more than three of those.” Keith nodded and started to walk away, but he felt Lance’s hand wrap around his wrist and pull him back. Lance kissed him on the mouth, chastely, but with force. Keith blinked and looked at him in confusion. “I missed you and you’re really cute.”

Keith couldn’t help the nervous laugh that bubbled from his throat, and Lance smiled wider, kissing his cheek. “You’re a sap, Sharpshooter.” Keith brushed his hand along his cheek and kissed him softly. He smiled a bit smugly seeing the blush in Lance’s cheek before he turned away and walked back to his stand.

Sure enough the food was only two of the coins, and Keith had asked for whatever the cook recommended. When he met back up with the others, they split and shared their food. After freaking out about how ridiculously good it was and how one of the items tasted suspiciously like barbecue chicken, they dove into conversation.

Keith missed the feeling of eating with one hand because his other was interlocked with Lance’s. He missed the feeling of Lance’s thumb rubbing up and down the side of his thumb and way his hand would tighten occasionally.

“So how were the celebrations? It seems unfair that the partying came in after I was gone,” Keith said, swirling his food.

“Oh, like you’re a party person,” Hunk said suspiciously.

Keith looked at Lance with a smirk, remembering what he’d told him about parties and the Roux siblings. “Parties can be fun. Anyway, how were they? Aside from the disaster that came from that one mating thing.”

“They were really fun,” Pidge said. “I wore some dresses, and Allura let me keep the ones I like. But they’re so fancy, I don’t really think I can wear them just to lounge around.”

“We didn’t even tell you about how Pidge took down an attacker with her heel,” Hunk said. Keith frowned, and Pidge waved the idea away. “No, seriously! She had on heels, and I remember she said they were bugging her because she wasn’t used to them, but when we were being presented there was an attack.”

“It was like a weird treason thing with the Naweia,” Lance added.

Hunk nodded and leaned in closer. “So we’re fighting these guys, trying to hold ‘em off, and I just hear something whizz past my head. I turn around and this guy was on the floor with Pidge’s heel at his head.” Keith snorted and looked at Pidge for affirmation.

“It wasn’t a big deal, I just hit him to slow him down,” she mumbled through a mouthful of food.

“Okay, but you freaking kept him down in a dress, then used your heel at his throat to keep him from moving. And he was twice your size! It was freaking awesome!” Hunk exclaimed. “I wish you could’ve seen it, it was so great!”

Keith laughed and looked at Pidge who was blushing and shoving food in her mouth. “That sounds like it was a really fun party. Who knew heels could be a weapon?”

“Every girl ever,” Pidge said.

“Man Pidge, when you get a boyfriend he’s gonna have so much fun with you,” Lance said. Keith looked at him with furrowed eyebrows, as did Pidge. “Well, he’s gonna have to be really cool to handle all of your awesomeness, and he’s never gonna be bored! He’s gonna consider himself the luckiest guy ever with a girl like you at his side.”

“Uh, yeah, I guess…?” she mumbled, looking down.

Keith frowned and looked over at Hunk who was also looking at his food. Then he looked at Lance who was also looking at Hunk, except Lance was biting back a smile. “I’ll bet a bunch of guys and even girls are gonna be all over you when this whole thing is over and we get to go home. But we have to approve of him first, right guys?”

Lance squeezed Keith’s hand. “Yeah! Definitely,” Keith answered, realizing what Lance was playing at. “We need to make sure he’s good enough for you.” Pidge stared at them both incredulously. “Hunk, are you up for interrogating Pidge’s future significant other?”

Pidge’s expression verged on threatening as Hunk looked up and nodded quickly. “Yeah! Yes. Of course.”

Pidge’s nostrils flared and she looked at Hunk. “Hey, Hunk can you get me one of those drinks they have over there? I’ll pay.”

Hunk glanced over and nodded. “Yeah, I got it, no worries.” He stood up and went to the stand that had the drinks Pidge pointed at. They looked like they glowed, and Keith was suddenly interested in what was in them, but then Pidge slammed her fist on the table between them, making him jump.

“What are you two doing!” she hissed.

“I didn’t do it, I was playing along!” Keith said immediately.

Lance rolled his eyes, whether at Keith’s fickleness, or at Pidge’s outburst. “He’s jealous! Of a nonexistent boyfriend, I might add.”

“Lance-”

“Pidge, he likes you! I don’t know why you don’t believe me, but it’s so obvious. He was just gushing about you-”

“Then let him realize it on his own. Not because you two are trying to force it out of him.” She sighed and when she spoke again, her voice sounded less angry. “Please, guys. I appreciate the attempts, but just leave it alone. This was why I didn’t want to say anything. Besides there’s more important things happening right now. Like this battle. And trying to find my dad.”

“Sorry, Pidge,” Keith offered.

Lance sighed and looked over at Hunk who was on his way back with two drinks. “Alright. I’ll back off.”

“Thank you,” she whispered.

Hunk sat back down and gave one of the drinks to Keith and Lance with two straws, then placed two in the cup between him and Pidge. “They had a two for one, and they’re pretty big, so I figured you two would share and Pidge would be kind enough to share with me.” He looked at Pidge and made a show of batting his eyes and smiling. “Is that okay?”

“Put the puppy eyes away, Hunk,” Pidge said with a laugh. “Yeah, it’s cool.”

Keith took a deep breath and looked at Lance. It was really incredible to him how well Pidge managed her emotions around Hunk.

Once they were done with food, they continued to walk around the stands a bit more. Keith heard his comm buzz and he felt his stomach drop.

“Keith?”

Keith pulled away from Lance and covered his other ear so he could hear. “Yes, sir?”

“Where are you?”

“In the market.”

“I’m returning to the pod. I’ll be going back to the Blades to begin preparations for the battle.”

Keith shut his eyes and steeled himself. He knew he’d have to go back. It was fine. “Yes, sir. I’ll be there in five-”

“Not you. You can stay.”

“Sir?” There was no way he heard that correctly.

On the comm, Kolivan chuckled briefly. “I do believe your day of birth is coming up shortly. And I’m sure you’d like some time with the paladins before this mission. So enjoy it. I will arrive to the Castle of Lions to pick you up tomorrow.”

Keith felt shocked. He couldn’t even think of what to say, and he had a strange urge to hug Kolivan in that moment. Finally he stammered out, “Th-thank you, s-sir. Thank you so much.” The comm buzzed again and Keith knew the connection was cut. He stood there for a moment feeling confused and relieved and… something else he couldn’t quite figure out.

He felt someone take his hand and he turned to see Lance smiling sadly. “Is it time for you to go back, Samurai?”

Keith shook his head and laughed. “He…. He said I could stay until tomorrow.” The change in Lance’s face was immediate. The shock, the excitement, the joy. Keith laughed again and kissed him a little too excitedly for the environment he was in, but he didn’t care. The last thing he’d expected was to be given the chance to stay with his family for a whole day and a half.

“Hey, what happened?” Hunk asked, going up to them with Pidge. “Allura’s calling us back to the lions so we can return to the castle.”

“Are you leaving, Keith?” Pidge asked.

“No, I’m actually… Kolivan said I could stay until tomorrow.” Pidge and Hunk’s excitement overlapped and Lance practically raced to get back to the lions with Keith in tow.

When they got back to Shiro and Allura, they had regrouped with Coran who greeted Keith with the same amount of zeal as the others. Keith told them about staying and the smiles they gave him only made Keith smile even more. His cheeks were hurting so much, but he couldn’t even try to stop smiling for a moment.

Keith boarded the red lion with Lance as they returned to the Castle of Lions. Keith settled for running his hands through Lance’s hair as he piloted. It still curled slightly at the ends, but the last Keith had seen him, there had been an actual curl to twist around his fingers. He kind of missed it.

“Who cut your hair?” he asked.

“Hunk,” he answered. “I don’t like when it gets too long, but I was scared of cutting it myself.” Keith nodded and let the brown locks slip between his fingers. “What do you want to do when we get to the ship?”

Keith thought about it and shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe get Hunk to make cookies? I want to talk to Shiro about the base and all. Oh, and I meant to ask about that little stunt you pulled back at the market with Hunk?”

Lance smirked. “I wanted to see how he’d react to the idea of Pidge dating someone. I know I wasn’t the only one who thought he looked a little off.” Keith hummed and thought about it. “I just don’t get why Pidge doesn’t see it. It’d help her, you know.”

“Well, she had a point in saying there were more pressing matters right now. I asked Hunk before if he would ever consider dating Pidge. He said it could be a possibility, but he’d never considered it because he’s so used to her, to being with her.”

“Exactly!” Lance said as he began a descent to land. “They’re practically dating and don’t even know it.”

“Pidge would kill you if you intervened.”

Lance grumbled at that. He didn’t say anything as they landed. Once the cockpit opened to let them out, Lance said, “But what if we just talk to Hunk, and not her?” Keith gave him a sideways glance. “Wha- You did it!”

“Yeah, but she was kind of annoyed about it. She doesn’t want to get her hopes up, and she doesn’t want us getting in between. Even if we’re trying to help.”

“But-”

Keith put a hand over his mouth and leaned in close, smiling at him. “Babe. Just leave it. Remember, she didn’t want this crush to be a thing with you guys.” Lance rolled his eyes. “Promise?” Lance nodded dramatically. “Okay.”

Keith pulled his hand away and Lance pulled him into a kiss. “Let’s go get you some cookies.” Keith snorted and took his hand as they rejoined the others and left the hangar.

It was a little strange being at the Castle. It felt like home. It was home. But he also felt like a guest in it. There were no boring pod-cleaning chores he was expected to do. The training deck wasn’t his space anymore, it was just a space. Even his room wasn’t really his because Lance had taken it when Keith had first left. It was home, but Keith felt like he was losing grip in it.

The smell of cookies wafted through, and he loved it. They were familiar. But he also knew Hunk wouldn’t have made them if it weren’t for the special occasion of Keith being there. Because now Keith going home was a cause for celebration, not a habit.

While it was nice to be so welcomed and surrounded by warmth and happiness… he also wished things could be normal. That when he talked to Shiro, he wasn’t filling him in on months’ worth of information or that Allura and Coran didn’t look at him with sentimental pride. And he hated that in every frantic movement urging him to look at this or look at that, every frantic story being told overlapped, didn’t have that underlying sense of a countdown. It felt like everyone was trying to fit in as much as they could to take advantage of Keith being… present. The rapt attention he received reminded him he wasn’t here to stay.

He just wanted a little normalcy. For it to be quiet and smooth. To walk around and see everyone at their own stations doing their own thing because they wanted to, not for him. Or not doing said things for the sake of being around him. While he appreciated it all because of course, it was proof that he was missed… he hated that it was also proof he had to be missed in the first place.

By the time he turned in for bed with Lance, he was in a confusing mood. Annoyed and sad and frustrated, but he felt like he shouldn’t have been. This was what he wanted for so long. He wanted to come home. Why was he twisting it in his mind now that he was?

“Keith? What’s wrong?”

Shit. He forgot how well Lance could read him when Keith thought he wasn’t looking. He shook his head and began to speak but Lance crossed his arms.

“Don’t sat it’s nothing. You’ve been… off ever since Hunk gave you the cookies. What’s going on?”

“I don’t really… know how to explain it. But I’m okay. I mean, I’m happy. I’m here with you in person again.” Lance regarded him for a moment and hummed. “Please stop looking at me like that.”

“I’m not-”

“Yes you are!” Keith snapped, pulling away from him. He had half a mind to go sleep on his own, but he couldn’t bear wasting a second with Lance. Not after missing him for so long.

Lance didn’t speak, but he didn’t move toward Keith either. After a moment, he said, “I don’t want to fight with you. You just got back-”

“No, do it,” Keith insisted. “Argue with me. Poke fun at me about my hair. Fight with me about something stupid, then go take a long shower, then come back and do something silly to make me laugh. Look at me like you always did before-”

“Whoa, Keith!” Lance grabbed him by the shoulders and frowned as he looked him in the eyes. “Baby, where is this coming from? What the hell are you talking about?”

Keith sighed and slumped forward, stooping to rest his forehead on Lance’s shoulder. “I don’t like… that it feels like a big deal that I’m here. Like I’m a guest, like everyone is just holding their breath waiting on me to leave again. I don’t like…,” he took a breath and looked at Lance, putting a hand on his cheek. “I don’t like that you look at me like you’re waiting to say goodbye again.”

Lance’s face softened and his eyes skimmed Keith’s face. “Oh.” Keith didn’t say anything. He just waited. “I-I….” Lance deflated and shook his head. “I can’t do that. I can’t look at you like I used to before. Because you’ve never mattered to me as much as you do now. Yes, it’s bittersweet that there’s a part of me that knows you’re leaving again, but… I try not to focus on that. I try to focus on all the happy stuff, like when you walked up to us and when we ate lunch together. I try to let it be enough to see how happy Pidge and Hunk are to see you. Or the look on your face when everyone goes to hug you.” Lance laughed and cupped his face. “I think it’s my favorite thing to see. You look so… overjoyed, so loved, so… beautiful.” Keith felt his cheeks heat up under the palms of Lance’s hands. “I know it sucks to feel like a visitor at home. That’s how I felt when I saw my family again. But you can’t let it screw up the time you have.”

Keith shut his eyes, focusing on the feeling of Lance’s thumb brushing back and forth along his cheek. “I don’t want to think about going back. I don’t want to feel like I have to make the very best of every second because… it feels exhausting.”

“Then don’t,” Lance said. “Just be here. With me. And we can stay quiet. We can do absolutely nothing. Just be with me, Keith.” He opened his eyes to meet the beautiful blue ones focused so earnestly on him. A slow smile spread on Lance’s face. “And yes, even though we’re dating, I still find your mullet absolutely horrifying.”

Keith let out a quick burst of laughter before it bubbled up and poured out of him. He laughed and laughed and laughed some more as he wrapped his arms around Lance.

Lance hugged him back just as tightly and pressed chaste, innocent kisses against whatever skin his lips came across. It tickled, but Keith didn’t mind it. His hands felt sure and warm against the fabric of the shirt he borrowed. It felt nice.

Keith hadn’t realized how much he needed this. To be touched. Not even sexually, just… touched. Those hugs he’d received, those affectionate caresses when Allura and Pidge wanted to look him over and see if he’d been safe, to be sure he was in one piece. The playful punches Hunk gave him when they joked, or Shiro’s hand on his shoulder when they talked. He’d missed the touches. The Blades were so reserved, which Keith didn’t mind because he didn’t think he’d be comfortable with being touched or hugged by them, an exception being Astriaga.

But that hadn’t taken away the desire he’d repressed to be held or hugged by the people he loved. The people he knew.

And now it was Lance. And his touch had been missed the most. Keith felt safe in his hands in a slightly terrifying way. He’d missed the feeling of his lips, the gentleness of his fingers as they roamed for a place to settle, a place to caress.

“Please kiss me,” Keith breathed, running his hands along Lance’s arms. That was something else he missed. Being able to touch someone else.

Ruffling Pidge’s hair, hugging Shiro, playfully nudging Hunk when they laughed.

Touching Lance anywhere because he knew he could. Because he knew Lance would let him. He had free reign over roaming the burnt caramel skin covered in star maps and scars. His arm felt larger. When his hands ran down his chest and along his torso, his stomach felt harder. The body under his hands had changed, but it was still Lance’s. Still the body that would keep Keith warm that night.

“I would, but you seem distracted,” Lance said with a light chuckle.

Keith looked up from where his hands were skimming and smiled. “No, I’m not.” Lance hummed and leaned in, nudging Keith’s nose playfully. His tongue licked up his bottom lip for a brief second before his lips pressed against Keith’s.

Keith’s hands made their way up Lance’s broad back. Lance’s went to Keith’s hair. He could feel the breaths Lance took through his nose against his face. His body temperature rose the longer he kept himself pressed against Lance. He fell back into the routine of kissing Lance, something that he hadn’t truly had a chance of doing and enjoying for far too long, but it was so familiar he quickly found his pace again.

He was completely enraptured by Lance. By his heat, by his scent, by his touch, his taste, the sounds he made. Keith couldn’t think about anything else but how much he missed him, needed him, wanted him.

He dragged his nails down his back and heard Lance hiss between the kiss. “Mm. Claws, babe.” Keith opened his eyes and snatched back from Lance. He looked at his hands and sure enough, his arms were a lilac shade, and his fingernails had extended into claws. He looked at Lance, feeling confused and uncertain. “You can still scratch. Just a little softer,” Lance said with a joking laugh.

“I don’t get why this happens out of nowhere,” Keith muttered. He groaned and leaned into Lance. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah. Renegade used to scratch so much worse back home.” Keith wrinkled his nose at being compared to a dog. “Come on,” Lance murmured pulling him toward the bed.

Keith followed him, taking his side by the wall. Lance crawled in beside him and turned to face him, smiling. “What?” Keith asked.

Lance shrugged. “I like looking at you.” Keith blushed and felt a shiver course through his body. Lance licked his lips and kept his bottom lip between his teeth.

Keith propped himself up on his elbow and leaned over toward Lance. “Do me a favor. Stay very still.”

Before he could do anything, Lance tried to keep from laughing, but that only made half the laugh blow through his lips, succeeding only in splattering Keith’s face with spit. Keith pulled back with a disgusted groan, and Lance sat up. “I’m sorry! I’m so sorry! But oh my God, why are you quoting Twilight?”

Keith wiped his face with his shirt and looked at his boyfriend in exasperation. “What are you talking about?” he asked.

Lance kept laughing and arched an eyebrow. “The ‘stay very still’ thing?” Keith blinked. “Oh you really didn’t do it on purpose.”

“I haven’t seen that movie. But for someone who pokes fun at it, you seem to know a lot about it,” Keith muttered, recalling another time Lance mentioned a Twilight movie. Lance shrugged but kept smiling. Keith sat in front of him and huffed. “Alright. Just don’t fucking move, you dork.”

“That sounds more like you.”

Keith rolled his eyes. “No moving.” Lance pursed his lips to stop smiling and stared at Keith. Keith leaned forward and sat between Lance’s legs, his own splayed out on either side of him. He placed his hands on Lance’s face and ran his thumb along his cheekbones. Then he let his finger trace down along his jaw, noticing as well that the claws had gone away and the purple was receding down his knuckles. He ran a finger over his bottom lip, causing a shaky breath to slip and brush along his finger.

The entire time, Lance’s eyes stayed on him, watching him carefully. Keith wasn’t really sure why he needed this. He just knew he wanted to freeze Lance for a moment and cherish every miniscule detail from the sprinkled cinnamon freckles on his face to the exact angle in the arch of his eyebrows, to the most miniscule line that settled on his lips. Every part of him was being committed to memory and Keith thought about how to possibly draw it out and get it as perfect as possible.

He tugged lightly on the corners of Lance’s mouth. “Smile,” he whispered. Lance did. Keith poked the dimple that appeared on his cheek. He couldn’t help but smile himself.

Suddenly, Lance grabbed his hands and tilted his head. “What are you doing?”

“Committing you and the feeling of being with you to memory,” Keith answered. “I told you not to move.”

“I could never stay still for long,” Lance said with a shrug and a smirk. “Are you gonna kiss me yet?”

Keith chuckled and leaned in, kissing Lance again. He truly felt like he might never get tired of doing this. Of kissing him, tasting him. Lance shifted to lean back and Keith fumbled enough to move his legs from around Lance. He stayed on his knees as he leaned over Lance, kissing him still, soaking up the sounds of their breaths and their contented hums.

Lance kissed the corner of his mouth and began to trail kisses along his jaw until he moved to his neck. Keith’s eyes fluttered open and he saw the purple in his hand beginning to trail up his fingers again. He felt as the sheets his hands were buried in were tugged by his nails which grew into claws.

He could feel Lance’s tongue swirling against his neck and he sucked in a sharp breath. He stretched out his legs to lean into Lance a little more and felt Lance’s hips twitch up against him. Keith’s breaths stopped for a moment.

He had no idea if this was too fast. They’d been dating for a few months, but most of that time had been spent apart. Still, Keith was craving his touch even as he was being touched. He craved touching Lance even as he touched him. He wanted this, whatever this was. He wasn’t scared or nervous like before.

If Lance didn’t, Keith figured he would stop him, slow him down. So Keith continued to pant as Lance tugged at his hair and mouthed at his neck. He moved one leg to push Lance’s apart, felt him hesitate and plop his head back against the pillow.

“Is this okay?” Keith asked, freezing.

Lance looked up at him, blushing slightly. His legs parted beneath Keith, and he whispered, “Yeah.”

Keith pushed his thigh against Lance’s groin and heard him gasp. He could feel how stiff Lance was getting. He pushed his hips against Keith’s thigh and Keith leaned down to kiss the hollow of his throat. Lance moaned softly and dug his hand further into his hair.

“Tell me if you think it’s too fast,” Keith whispered, one hand settling on Lance’s side to move him against his own thigh.

“I’m okay,” Lance assured.

Keith looked down at him and bit his lip. It was unfair how beautiful Lance was. With his dark skin, and his brilliantly blue eyes, and those magnificent freckles. And he was beautiful even as he reacted to the friction against his groin. The furrow of his eyebrows and the way he bit his lip were driving Keith crazy.

One of Lance’s legs moved to settle both of Keith’s between him. Then he locked his legs around Keith and grinded against him, making Keith gasp and fall against Lance. It was the first time they were stimulated this much since they began dating.

Something about that fact made Keith nervous. Like this was supposed to be done differently this time. But his head was also muddled with the feeling of Lance’s movements against him, and he decided this was harmless. Maybe this was all they’d do tonight. That felt fine.

Lance’s lips found his again. Their kiss was a little sloppier, interrupted by a gasp or a moan or simply by the rocking movement of their bodies.

Keith was listening to every sound Lance made. That’s how he knew when it started to change into softer, uncertain whines.

He pulled himself up and looked at Lance. His eyes were shut, but his eyebrows were furrowed and his jaw kept clenching and unclenching. “What’s wrong, baby?” Keith whispered. “Should I stop?”

Lance shook his head vehemently. “No, please.”

“What’s wrong? Look at me,” Keith encouraged gently, nosing his cheek. Lance let out a soft shuddering breath and opened his eyes. Keith was frightened to see them swimming in tears. “Lance-”

“I’m okay,” he insisted. He laughed nervously and shrugged. “I really, really missed you. I hadn’t realized how much I needed you back. How much I needed you to touch me. How much I needed you with me.”

Keith caught a runaway tear sliding back to his hairline from the corner of his eye with his thumb. He nodded and kissed Lance lightly on the lips. “I know. I know. I missed you too. I needed you too. Fuck, I missed you so much.” Lance smiled and bit his lip. “Be here with me. There’s no tomorrow, no morning. Just us right now.”

“Okay,” Lance whispered. Then he leaned up and pressed his lips against Keith’s. He managed to worm his way over Keith, flipping their positions. He bit down on Keith’s shoulder and kissed him apologetically. One hand pushed under his shirt and Keith groaned with how close that was to touching where he needed to be touched.

Lance placed his kisses against Keith’s stomach and made his way as far up as the shirt would allow. “You’ve got more muscles,” Lance noted, promptly biting one of these new muscles and making Keith jerk up against him with a hiss. Lance straddled Keith and looked down at him, running his hand over his bare torso, the shirt bunched at the top of his chest. “Keith?” Keith hummed. “I don’t want to… have sex tonight. I feel like it would just be… out of desperation. I want us to take our time. I want to know you’ll still be here the next day.” Keith nodded, keeping his gaze on Lance above him. “Can I tell you something?”

“Of course. Anything,” Keith whispered.

Lance blushed more profusely than when they had been grinding against each other. He pulled the shirt back down and grabbed one of Keith’s hands. He sat down on one side of Keith, no longer straddling him.

Keith sat up slowly and scooted closer to him. “Lance? Are you okay?”

“Yeah! Yeah. I just….” Lance sighed and lifted his gaze to meet Keith’s. “Don’t freak out or anything. But… I think I’m starting to fall in love with you.”

Keith felt everything stop. His breaths, his heart, his brain, the universe. Everything stopped and when it started again, it all started three times faster. His heartbeat was obnoxious in his ears, and the rush of blood as his brain hurried to process what he’d been told made him dizzy, and the universe tilted and spun around him.

“K-Keith?”

Keith blinked and brought himself back, willing himself to ignore the pounding of his heart. “You’re… in love with me?”

Lance stammered and his hands started flailing around. “N-no, no, I didn’t…. Um. It’s not. Keith, I- shit. Shit.” He shut his eyes and spread his hands like he could lay everything out in front of him. “I don’t really know what it’s like to be in love. Everyone says it’s gonna hit me like a train, or that you just know. And I know we only just started dating, but…. I think I can be in love with you one day. I think I’m definitely on my way to being in love with you.”

Keith replayed the words in his head. I think I’m starting to fall in love with you. Lance hasn’t fallen in love yet. He’s starting to. He thinks he’s starting to. It’s a possibility for the future. A future with Keith in it. A future with Keith in it and still being with Lance.

“Keith, don’t freak out. You don’t have to agree or… be in the same place as me-”

“No, I’m not freaking out, I’m just processing it,” Keith said quickly.

He looked at Lance and thought about all of the laughter and the stories and the jokes. He thought of his smile and the way Keith had been someone to comfort him when he cried. He thought of their fights and the way they always called each other every night and how Lance could always figure out when something was wrong.

He thought of how much of an extension of himself Lance had become, how many new things Keith understood and experienced because of him every emotion he’d felt even if he couldn’t name it. There was no denying how much Keith missed him when he was away. How much it sucked to be away from him for so long. And that meant something. Even if Keith wasn’t sure about romantic love and being in love, he knew that Lance had become someone important for him.

“Lance, you… you’ve become one of the most important people in my life. The things I feel for you… sometimes they scare me because of how intensely I feel them, or just because it’s so new. I don’t know how love works. I know I love Shiro. He raised me, and… he’s my older brother basically. But that’s different from romantic love. I don’t think I’ve ever been good at understanding that. So I can’t tell you if I’m in the same place as you, or if I’m not there yet, or if maybe I’m already in love with you.

“What I can tell you,” he continued, holding Lance’s hands between his own and bringing them to his lips. “Is that I’m happy with you. I know I want you in my future, whatever it is. I know that you mean more to me than you can even imagine. I know that I want to be with you for a long time because I want to know where this goes. I know I want to fall in love with you. And I just really hope that’s enough right now.”

Lance smiled and pulled his hands away to cup Keith’s face. “Of course it is, cariño.” Lance kissed him and laughed, pulling him into his arms and nuzzling his face into Keith’s neck.

Keith smiled and ran his hand through Lance’s shorter hair, feeling a level of serenity with himself and with Lance he hadn’t really felt before. The idea of a future with Lance flourished in his mind.

A future where they didn’t have to be apart, where they wouldn’t be in the middle of a war. A future in which they’d go to the beach, to Lance’s hometown. Where they could maybe be normal young men trying their best to get through a mundane day on Earth. Or maybe it would be a future still plagued with war and battle and fighting. But it would be with Lance.

The very real possibility of any of that becoming a reality terrified and excited him. A future with Lance. A day when they would both be in love with each other and have no question about it.

Keith wanted that. He really, truly did.

 

Chapter Text

The creamy substance was cold on his face. Long fingers swept against his face in a patterned motion, and Keith clenched his eyes shut and scrunched up his nose.

He heard a soft laugh and felt warm lips on his. “ Mi corazon, stop making that face. You have to relax so I can spread it evenly.”

“It feels weird,” Keith muttered.

“Babe, you’ve had worse things on your face.”

Keith blushed, and he heard Pidge yelp, “Oh, that was unnecessary information!” Keith opened his eyes to glare at Lance who had the decency to look a little embarrassed. “Lance is this edible?”

“Uh, maybe? I never tried… why?”

“Because Hunk keeps sniffing it, and I think he’s two seconds away from tasting it.”

“I got this at an alien store at the Space Mall, so I’d be careful,” Lance said. He turned back to Keith and continued to smear the face cream. “You look cute in a ponytail.”

Stop,” Keith groaned, nearly hiding his face in his hands before Lance stopped him with a laugh. Lance gave him another kiss and Keith sighed happily. “Aren’t Allura and Shiro coming too?”

“Yeah, Allura said she was getting Coran, but Shiro said he had a headache and wanted to sleep it off,” Hunk answered. “Lance, this smells like… avocadoes and… cinnamon?”

Please don’t eat it,” Pidge said with a laugh.

Keith snorted and looked up at Lance as he tilted his face to smear the face cream on him. “You look cute in green,” he said. Lance’s face was perfectly done perfect circles around his eyes and a clean with line of face cream along the outline of his face, his own hair pushed back with a headband. Lance smirked at him and finished up, pulling back and admiring his work- or maybe admiring Keith- and wiped his hands clean.

Pidge had her hair pulled back in two little ponytails that stuck out with a few bobby pins holding back any stray hairs. Hunk’s bandana was doubling as a head band like Lance’s to keep his hair out of his face, but Pidge had also tied his hair back in to a mini-bun.

There were cookies and juice packs in the center and they were spread out along the floor of Keith’s old room which Lance had sort of taken over. He didn’t mind though. Soon, Allura and Coran joined them along with the mice. The mice helped Allura keep her hair back as Lance taught her how to use the cream, and Pidge braided Coran’s hair back as he listened to Lance and copied Allura.

It was a fun sight, really. One Keith never thought he’d be part of. And he could tell how much Lance enjoyed it too. How happy it made him to share something he liked with the others, to see them happy to be part of it. It was the only reason he agreed to getting a face mask. That and the fact that Lance insisted he didn’t need to do his routine since he didn’t want to lose time with Keith, but Keith knew how easily Lance would break out when he skipped his favorite routine. He used to get earfuls of it when they were just friends with benefits and Keith didn’t wait until after his routine.

Pidge had joined because she’d been in the hall when Lance went to go get the face cream and towels, and Hunk joined when Lance went looking for snacks.

After that, they decided it may as well be a group activity.

“Ooh, my face feels all tingly,” Coran said, scrunching his mouth so his moustache wiggled. Allura ate a cookie and laughed.

“How come we’ve never had giant sleepovers before?” Lance wondered.

“Sleepover?” Allura repeated.

“It’s a thing you do with friends. You hang out all together for a night and do fun stuff then all fall asleep in the same room. Hunk, Lance, and I would do it back at the Garrison,” Pidge answered.

“Yeah, and we tell secrets or embarrassing stories or give advice on stuff. In the Garrison, we’d talk about girls, but Pidge was still pretending to be a boy. Jeez, Pidge how’d you put up with us?”

Pidge snorted. “It was all fun and games until you suggested porn once.”

“You what?” Keith yelped.

Even under the face mask, Keith could tell Lance had turned red. “It was one time, and I was freaking out because I thought Samantha McKinney was into me! I felt weird watching alone.”

“So watching with Hunk and Pidge would’ve made it better?” Keith asked, stifling laughter. Allura questioned the porn and Pidge explained it, making both Alteans’ eyes blow wide.

“No! Yes? I don’t know, man, I was fifteen!”

“Why, why did you bring that up?” Hunk groaned, half laughing. “What happened at the sleepovers was supposed to stay at the sleepovers.”

“That just sounds kinky,” Pidge said with a snort. Hunk glared at her and threw a pillow at her face. She blocked it and threw it back. “Stop, you’ll mess up my face mask! Lance!”

“No smudging the face masks, they have to stay for fifteen minutes, stoppit!” He yanked the pillow and fixed them both with a placating finger. “ Be-have.”

Keith laughed and helped himself to snacks as Lance gestured everyone to huddle around in a circle. He sat back down beside Keith, and he had to fight the urge to nuzzle into Lance because of the gunk on his face.

“We don’t have to watch the porn, do we?” Allura asked.

“No!” the paladins exclaimed, in varying levels of embarrassment and amusement.

“Well, I don’t know what stories to tell,” Coran said. “I’ve told you all mostly everything about me.”

“Well, not everything,” Lance said with a smile. Keith raised an eyebrow, holding a slight idea of where this was going. “You’ve never told us if there was a Mrs. Coran.” Coran furrowed his eyebrows in question. “Well, I’ve never heard of you being in love with anyone. Everything you tell us is about the war or Zarkon or Alfor or raising Allura. Or your time as a cadet or some other.”

“Relationships. We’re gonna talk about relationships when you and Keith are the only couple here right now?” Pidge asked.

“Actually, yeah I’m kind of curious too, Coran,” Keith said softly. “And it doesn’t have to be about relationships, Pidge.” Keith looked at Coran and tilted his head. “So, has there ever been someone special?”

Coran smiled slightly and sighed. “Why yes, there has been. But we couldn’t be together for a number of reasons.” Keith heard Lance gasp softly. His hand searched for Keith’s and Keith took it, knowing Coran already had him hooked. Allura pulled her knees to her chest and rested her chin carefully over interlocked hands, listening. Hunk and Pidge gave in to curiosity and scooted a little closer.

Coran chuckled and shook his head. “We were two of the same. We worked well together. We complimented each other. But I was Alfor’s right hand. I was needed elsewhere. I had other duties that pulled me away.” Lance’s hand tightened in Keith’s, and Keith squeezed back, pressing his knee to Lance’s. “In our youth we were good friends. We were close, and everyone expected us to end up together with a family. But without the time needed for us, we never got a chance. We both had things to do and… before long, I wasn’t quite needed anymore.”

“What?” Hunk asked.

Coran smiled sadly.

“There was someone else,” Pidge whispered.

Coran nodded. “When you love someone, you put their happiness first. I believe that goes for any species. I knew I couldn’t be there for…. I couldn’t bring myself to try and change things. Not after the amount of time that had passed. And once the war began… well, that was a priority. I had to help raise Allura.” Coran looked at her and smiled a genuine smile. “I had to keep you safe, little one.” Allura smiled sadly. “But alas, no one has ever captured my heart the same way before or since. And I think that’s what I like to remember. It’s nicer to think of the happiness that comes from something than to think of the sadness that comes from what might have been.”

Keith longed to ask what made Coran know he was in love. What it felt like to see the person he loved with someone else. But he also didn’t want the others knowing his thoughts, his own insecurities. Even if he had just talked with Lance.

“How did you fall in love?” Allura asked. “Or rather, what made you fall in love with…?”

“Vediran,” Coran supplied. Keith wasn’t sure if that was a guy or a girl name, but somehow that didn’t seem like the most important part of the story. “Well. I suppose it’s what makes anyone fall in love. I was comfortable with Vediran. I felt like I was at peace when we were together. We could talk without talking, be whatever the other needed without question. Vediran knew me better than anyone. And I knew my Vediran better than anyone else. Love is easy with the right person,” he said. “And sometimes you don’t even realize it’s love until well into the emotion. Until one day you look at the person and think, ah yes. That makes sense. They make sense. It can be from one moment to the next, but it builds.”

Coran looked at the expressions on their faces. He laughed and shook his head. “Don’t look so sad, paladins! It’s truly wonderful, and they’re wonderful memories. Vediran will always stay a fond memory and close to my heart. But it’s no need for sadness.”

“But you… got hurt, didn’t you?” Hunk asked.

“Breakups suck,” Lance said. “But you take it so easily.”

“Well, Vediran made me experience love. It hurt not to have lived the rest of our lives together, of course. But without Vediran, I might not have ever known what it was like to love.” Coran turned to Allura. “Except maybe by seeing your parents. They were very much in love as well.” Allura giggled and sighed. “Have you all been in love?” Coran asked.

Keith figured that even Coran had his sadder moods, and this was his way of distracting from them. He wanted to think of the good times only, so to keep from more questions and more sadness, he was turning the conversation to them.

“Love’s a heavy word,” Pidge muttered.

“I don’t know what it would take to fall in love,” Allura mused, laying down to look up at the ceiling. “I’m not entirely sure what I’d look for.”

“I think just someone that fits with you, like Coran and Vediran,” Hunk said.

“Yes, precisely,” Coran agreed. “What would you look for in someone to fit with you?”

“Someone nice and pretty like Shay,” Pidge said with a teasing lilt. Keith and Lance shared a look but otherwise remained silent.

“Well, that’s not all,” Hunk protested. “I think having someone who likes how smart I am would be nice. Someone who’s also smart, and willing to challenge me. Like, in a personality way, I think.”

“What does that mean?” Lance asked.

“Well…. Look, I know I can be scared of a lot of things. I think it’d be cool to have someone who’s not afraid of so much. Someone a little more daring and stuff, who would in turn encourage me, I guess. And also intellectually challenge me. Because I think a relationship should have growth, so you gotta push each other, you know?”

“So Hunk wants someone smart, brave, daring, and encouraging,” Lance summed up.

“And pretty and nice,” Keith added.

“And well, of course someone who makes me feel comfortable. I think everyone wants that. Having someone who feels like home, who feels like someone you can go to for anything, someone that knows you better than anyone.” Hunk shrugged. “Isn’t that kind of universal?”

Coran made a sound, and Keith looked over at him to see him looking genuinely confused. “Well, if that’s what you want, I don’t think you’ve got to look very far. If anyone’s as smart and comfortable for your standards, then Numb-”

“Whoa, hey, I think the fifteen minutes are up!” Keith exclaimed, making a deal about getting up and hauling Lance up. “Doesn’t bad stuff happen if you keep this on too long?”

“Yup!” Lance agreed. “Come on guys! Allura, Coran, you have to keep them on a bit longer because you were last but come with!”

Everyone stood up and Keith noticed Pidge looking unsettled while Hunk looked confused. “Sleepovers are fun,” Allura said. “I feel closer to you all already.” Keith laughed a little at that.

As they made it to the bathrooms, Keith burst into laughter at the sight of all of them in green gunk in the mirrors, all of their hair in different forms of silly updos. He’d been looking at the others, but actually seeing himself, and the whole lot of them as a group just made him lose it completely. He couldn’t stop laughing, and eventually Pidge joined, then Allura and Coran, then Hunk and Lance.

It was honestly a sight he never in a million years would have fathomed a handful of months before. It was funny how quickly things changed. They took turns washing off their masks, if only to prolong time for Allura and Coran.

Pidge walked over to Keith after she washed off and gave him a smile. “Thanks for that. Things would’ve gotten really awkward really fast.”

“No worries, Pidge. If Hunk ever figures out what he may or may not feel for you or what you feel for him, it should be between you two. That’s what you want.”

She smiled and turned her attention to where Hunk was fumbling with his headband near Lance. “Need help?” she called. She and Keith walked over to them, but Lance was hurrying to get a towel to Allura and Coran as they finished washing off.

“I just tied it too tight and can’t get it to come undone,” he said, handing the bandana over to Pidge. “My face feels all fresh and tingly.” Keith laughed. “Hey, what do you think Coran was about to say? He said I didn’t have to look far but then he said numb and I don’t know how being numb relates to the conversation?”

“He was probably trying to say that you had Shay there already,” she said. “She’s pretty daring, right? She let you in against her brother’s wishes, helped you around, she’s smart because she had to survive. And she likes you.”

“Well, yeah, but….” Hunk frowned. “I don’t think Coran has ever actually met Shay. How would he know any of that?”

“Uh….” Pidge shrugged, looking to Keith for back up.

“Hey, I think the Alteans are done, let’s get back and finish those cookies,” he said. “Lance!” God, Lance was better at maneuvering his best friends, he just wanted Lance to help out with the fumbling romance that was sort of but not really there.

Allura kept touching her face and Lance looked smug as they each commented on the softness of their faces. They made their way back to Keith/Lance’s room and sprawled out on the floor again. Only instead of heavy topics like love and relationships, they decided to inform the Alteans about some more Earthly traditions.

Pidge started talking about Hanukah, Hunk told them about Christmas, Keith mentioned Halloween, and Lance brought up Valentine’s day. Despite the conversation, they were all exhausted from the meeting earlier that day, and it wasn’t long before the talking came to a lull. Allura stretched on the floor and yawned.

“I should get to my bed. Today was fun! I hope we can have a sleepover again soon. I’ll see you all in the morning.” She leaned over and nudged Coran awake. He snorted and pulled himself up from the floor, his orange hair all messy.

“Goodnight, paladins!” he said sleepily, following Allura out of the room.

Keith nuzzled closer into Lance and glanced over at Hunk who was sitting against the wall with Pidge’s head in his lap. He kept running his hand through her hair, which was the only reason they knew he wasn’t fully asleep. Before Keith could go to nudge them awake, Lance grabbed his arm and stopped him. He pulled out the holo-phone and snapped a picture before chuckling to himself and nodding at Keith.

“What are you gonna do with that?”

“I just wanted a picture of my best friends,” he said innocently.

“Pidge is gonna kill you,” he whispered. Lance rolled his eyes. Keith moved forward and nudged Hunk gently. “Hey, dude. You guys might wanna get into your beds. Floor isn’t all that cozy.”

Hunk squinted and looked around. “Did Coran and Allura already go?” Keith nodded. “Oh, okay. Hey, what time are you getting picked up tomorrow?” Keith shrugged. “Well, I’ll try and make a big breakfast before you do.”

“Thanks, Hunk,” he said with a smile. He started to reach for Pidge, but Hunk stopped him.

“No, don’t wake her. She’ll get cranky. I can carry her.” Keith smiled and nodded, backing off. Lance was already in the bed, curled up along the edge, but he opened his eyes to see Hunk carefully get up without jostling Pidge too much and then lean down to scoop her into his arms.

“Damn Keith, why don’t you do that for me? Hunk over here being prime boy-”

Keith threw one of the pillows on the floor at him and gave him a warning glare. “Shut up, you sleep like the dead it’s impossible to move you.” Lance grumbled and buried his face in the pillow.

Hunk chuckled and said goodnight before he slipped out of the room. Keith turned back to Lance with a raised eyebrow and Lance grinned sheepishly. “I slipped up because I’m sleepy.” Keith rolled his eyes and joined him on the bed, taking the spot near the wall. “Hey, you know your birthday’s coming up, right?”

“Kolivan mentioned it. It’s why he let me stay. That and… the big Naxzela mission is coming up.” It didn’t have to be said. Even though their plan felt foolproof, they didn’t know what the witch was capable of. Anything could go wrong. Saying it would only make the fear that much worse though, so instead Lance just wrapped an arm around Keith and curled into his chest.

Keith was tired, but he didn’t let himself fall asleep. He kept thinking about what Lance had said earlier that night. About the story Coran told them while they had their face masks. He kept thinking and kept trying to soak in the experience of holding Lance. Of holding his boyfriend.

It was strange not listening to music before bed. That had become a routine aside from video chatting, and now it was just… quiet. The sound of Lance’s slow breaths as he laid his head against Keith’s chest was something Keith easily preferred.

He began to run his hand through his hair, soft brown locks sliding between his fingers. Lance sighed and shifted, hugging Keith tighter and nuzzling closer. It made Keith’s heart soar that even in his sleep, Lance yearned for him. He couldn’t help but think he’d be the luckiest person in the universe if Lance fell in love with him.

With the hand that wasn’t sifting through his hair, Keith began to caress Lance’s face, smiling when Lance relaxed further into him at the touch. Keith began to sing a song under his breath, mostly whispering out the words in a rhythm than being able to hit the right notes with such soft singing. It was a song he’d heard on his iPod that wasn’t on the playlist Lance made for him. But it was a song that made him think of Lance, and now that he had him near, Keith couldn’t help but think of the song.

He kept sort-of singing until suddenly, Lance mumbled, “What song’s that?”

“I thought you were already asleep,” Keith whispered, blushing.

“I was starting to. But I keep waking up because I know you’re here. I heard you singing.” Lance pulled himself up and blinked sleepily at Keith. The action made Keith’s heart clench in adoration. God, Lance was so cute. “What song is it?”

“Just a song that reminds me of you,” Keith said, tilting Lance’s chin slightly before leaning in to kiss him. “Go to sleep. I’m right here.” Lance smiled and took a deep breath before his eyes shut. His breaths evened out and warmth encompassed all of Keith as he held him.

A year ago, Keith never would have thought he’d be in this position. Now, there was no other place he’d rather be.

--

The next morning, Keith woke up to Lance playing with his hand. “Morning,” he muttered, muffled by pillows and Lance’s shoulder.

Lance laughed and intertwined their hands. “Good morning, mi cielo. How’d you sleep?”

A knock on the door interrupted his answer. Hunk’s voice came through, “Are you guys decent? Can we come in?” We?

Lance invited Hunk in, and the door opened. Pidge came through first, followed by Hunk who was holding a large cake. Then everyone else came in, and Keith was suddenly very aware of his bedhead. “What are you guys doing?”

“Lance sent me a text about your birthday coming up, but with the battle around the corner, I thought we should take advantage of you being here to celebrate before you go,” Pidge said. “Happy early birthday!”

“No, Pidge, that’s not how it goes yet, we have to sing,” Hunk said. He turned to Shiro and the Alteans. “Ready guys?” Allura and Coran nodded excitedly, and Shiro just gave Keith an amused smile.

And then everyone was singing happy birthday for him with wide smiles. Keith felt his cheeks begin to ache from smiling so much, felt his smile begin to tremble from exertion. It was an incredible feeling. Pidge jumped over Lance’s legs to give Keith a proper hug, wishing him a happy birthday again. Lance kissed his cheek. Keith pulled himself up on his knees to properly hug Allura, Coran, and Shiro.

Hunk placed the cake in front of him and beamed. “Now make a wish and blow out the candle, buddy.” Keith chuckled and looked at the fire on the candle.

Keith didn’t really have birthday cakes and birthday wishes until he met Shiro. And by then, wishing on birthday candles felt stupid and silly. Now, as his friends and family looked at him with their loving smiles, it didn’t even matter that he was in a war or that he was still looking for his mom. He had so much already within these handful of people, and that was enough.

So as he looked back at his candle, he closed his eyes and thought,

I wish to remember this feeling for the rest of my life.

And then he blew out the candle. Cheers and applause surrounded him before he heard Coran cough anxiously. “My boy, you’re changing colors!”

“Yeah, apparently he does that,” Pidge said, helping Hunk balance the cake so they could cut it. “Are you really happy again?”

Keith nodded, but bit his tongue in pointing out that the first few times this happened, he wasn’t necessarily happy. Lance reached out to touch his ear and hummed. “You did that when you were talking with me the last time you came to see us. But you were frustrated, not happy.”

That’s right. The last time, he’d been trying to get Lance to realize how important his life was. He’d felt aggravated, trying to get the right words, but unsure if it was working.

“You’ve gotten angry before, and that doesn’t happen,” Shiro pointed out, taking a slice of cake before sitting on one edge of the bed. Keith shrugged and tried to hide his clawed hands. “Has it happened with the Blade?”

“Not that I know of. I don’t feel it, it just happens. Someone has to point it out.”

“Oh, maybe it’s like a soulmate thing,” Hunk mused. “Since it’s always happening around Lance.” Keith and Lance both blushed at that.

“It doesn’t matter,” Allura said. “Galra traits or not, he’s still Keith.” She smiled at him and he smiled back, grateful that it didn’t bother her the way it had when she’d found out he was part Galra. “Here, get a slice, it’s your cake,” she said, handing over a slice.

They all either sat on the floor or on the bed, everyone still in sleepwear. The cake was one of the best Keith had ever tasted. And for the first time since he got there, it didn’t feel like everyone was waiting on the moment Keith would have to go back. It felt… normal. It felt calm and peaceful.

But it wasn’t supposed to last forever. A little after they’d finished their cake, the castle communication systems turned on to alert of an incoming spaceship. Allura left to allow Kolivan to land in the hangar, and the others left the room to let Keith change into actual clothes. Lance waited, sitting on the edge of the bed, looking at his hands.

Once Keith got dressed, he went over to pull Lance up and gave him a smile. “Thanks for the birthday surprise, baby.”

Lance took a breath and gave him a wide smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes. “Of course. Last year to be a teen, that’s huge.” Keith scoffed and shook his head. “Hey. This Naxzela battle…. Promise me you’ll be careful.”

“I will be. We’re just a distraction. Voltron is the one that should be careful. You guys are gonna be at the target point.” Lance bit his lip and sighed. “Hey. It’ll be okay. We’ve got back up. We’re a step ahead. And when that’s over, we’ll be that much closer to finally taking down Zarkon. And we’ll get to go home to have that first date on the beach in Cuba, right?”

Lance smiled, this one a little more honest. “Yeah.” He leaned forward and kissed him lightly on the lips. “Can I just… do this thing my mom would do for me anytime I left home?” Keith furrowed his eyebrows and nodded. Lance placed his fingertips on his forehead, then the center of his chest, then each shoulder. Finally he pressed his finger lightly to Keith’s lips. “ Dios te cuide, mi gatito.”

Keith furrowed his eyebrows. “Babe, thank you, but… did you just call me a cat?” Lance laughed and shrugged, kissing his nose lightly.

“Come on, so you can get a chance to say bye to the others.” Keith frowned, not entirely sure how he felt about being called a kitten. Then again, with how often his nails turned into claws around him, he was surprised it hadn’t happened earlier. Though maybe wolf would’ve been a preferred term.

He shook his head, clearing his thoughts. That wasn’t really a priority at the moment. He followed Lance through the halls, their pace slowing the closer they got to the hangar.

Everyone was already there. Kolivan was eating a slice of cake, talking about some minor details in the Naxzela plan with Allura and Coran. Meanwhile, Keith began the dreaded goodbyes. He was getting swept up into hugs over and over with last minute remarks of-

“Be careful over there.” “We’re gonna miss you.” “We’ll see you soon!” “Don’t forget to call when you get back, okay?”

Until Shiro pulled him aside and brought him into a bone-crunching hug. “I’m really proud of you, Keith.”

Things with Shiro had started to feel a little distant, what with Keith being away. And he hadn’t realized how tense he felt around Shiro until that moment when the tension dissipated. Maybe it was because of the times Lance said he’d been upset or the day he told Lance to go through with a strange alien marriage. Keith never got a chance to talk to him about that or ask what happened. But he didn’t want to spend what little time he got with the paladins arguing with his brother.

At that moment though, Shiro was just Shiro. And Keith was glad he’d been making him proud. “Thanks, Shiro.” He hugged him back tightly, letting go once he saw Kolivan turning back to him.

“Are you ready?”

Honestly, no. “Just about. I’ll be on board in a sec.” Kolivan hummed but turned to the pod with a curt nod at the others. Keith turned to Lance and grabbed his hand. “I’ll see you soon, okay?”

“In all my blue pixelated glory,” he said in a small voice. He gave Keith a tense smile and nodded. He leaned forward and kissed him softly, before nudging him. “Go. Before Kolivan goes all ‘I-am-your-father’ on you.” Keith snorted and shook his head, pressing a last kiss to his cheek before going to the pod.

He refused to turn around. If he looked back and saw Pidge huddled close to Hunk for comfort or Lance’s sad blue eyes or Shiro’s worried furrow, he wouldn’t be able to keep walking forward. They had a mission, and Keith had to keep moving.

He felt tense the entire ride back to the Blade’s base. But before he parted ways with Kolivan, he turned to him and said, “Thank you, by the way. For letting me spend time with them.”

Kolivan smiled. “Everyone needs some time with family. Go train and be sure to rest up. We head out within six quintants.”

Keith nodded and went to the training deck. He stayed there, pushing himself until he couldn’t feel his limbs from the exertion. Then he went to take a shower and relax in his room, trying not to mull over the upcoming battle too much.

It wasn’t like this was their first. He and Lance had been in several battles together already. Together. Both as part of team Voltron, both always in the same place or often times. This was different. This wasn’t just the Blade or just Voltron. They were going to be fighting together while being in different sectors of a galaxy. Keith would be so… aware that Lance was out there. He’d be distracted, no matter how much he could say he won’t be.

It wasn’t that he underestimated the team. He knew them, he knew how strong they were, how powerful Voltron was, and this plan was well thought out with lots of reinforcements. But caring so much about people, about Lance, made his brain jump to different scenarios, many of which gave him a sudden urge to make Lance sit out. And Pidge. And Shiro. And Hunk. And Allura.

If he was honest… he was afraid.

--

He was tracing the Marmora symbol on his blade when the knock came at his door. Kolivan opened it with a grim expression, hardened now as he prepared for the battle. “Let’s go.”

Keith nodded, feeling his own body tense. He followed Kolivan to the landing strip for the pods battle spacecrafts. A handful of other Galra, including Astriaga were there.

“I know plans have changed considerably since our meeting, but this is a war, and we must be flexible. The Galra base has moved too close to Naxzela for us to create a believable diversion. Our plan now is to take control of the Zaiforge cannon and provide artillery support for Voltron and the rebels. Take down as many as possible and stay focused. There are several other fighters on standby in case the rebels or Voltron need help.” Keith clenched his jaw, reminding himself that Voltron would be fine. It was a quick job. “To your cruisers.” They nodded, left arms at a diagonal across their chest before splitting up and each getting into their respective aircraft, the sound of engines filling the small space.

Kolivan stepped forward and gestured to one of the fighter jets. “This one’s yours.” He regarded him for a second before saying, “Be careful and fight well.” Then Kolivan went to his own jet and started the engine. Keith climbed into his and took a deep breath.

He could do this. He was good at this. He was a fighter pilot. His hands wrapped around the controls, a feeling of power and certainty surging through him. Here, he knew what he had to do. The controls were part of him. They weren’t the red lion, but they were still familiar.

He stayed close to the other six jets, all of them flying in a tight formation. It wasn’t until they reached planet Senfama that they eased up, having to find a blind spot so they wouldn’t be spotted. They had to wait until they got confirmation from Voltron.

Pidge had been working with Ryner to establish an undetected communication system within the Blade, the rebels, Olkarion’s fleet, Voltron, and the leaders for anyone who was ready as backup.

“Blades in position,” Keith said.

“Rebels in position in twenty ticks,” Matt answered, his voice surprisingly clear through the head piece.

“We’re ready for the signal.” Ryner’s voice was calm. “Back ups are present. Has anyone heard from-”

“Voltron checkin’ in!” Keith felt his breath hitch at the sound of Lance’s voice.

“We’ll check back in when we’re closer to Naxzela,” Shiro said. “Everyone in position?”

Three affirmative responses. “Does all of Voltron have comm devices?” Matt asked. The five of them answered in confirmation. “Okay. Pidge? Be careful.”

“Always,” she answered, a fondness Keith had been lucky enough to have been on the receiving end of before lacing her voice. “You too, Matt. I saved your butt for a reason.” There was a chuckle through a few of the comms.

“We’re coming up on Naxzela,” Hunk said, bringing everyone back into their respective roles. “Blades, that’s your cue.”

“Got it,” Keith answered over Kolivan’s acknowledgement. The seven jets spread out and the second alarms started going off, so did their weapons. Keith could hear Matt calling the rebels into action. Heard Ryner setting the reinforcements up. The comms went out once Shiro let them all know they would be landing on Naxzela.

It was up to everyone to stay focused on their own battle, only communicating in case of an emergency. It was a rule set unanimously, everyone knowing that people would be distracted worrying about each other. Particularly Keith and Matt with every member of Voltron.

“Astriaga, Keith, Medris, and Velkra, get ready to land! Orjak, Prexum, stay in the air,” Kolivan commanded. A flurry of responses came as the four of them dipped out of formation, joining Kolivan..

Almost as soon as Keith was out of his fighter jet, his blade was glowing, elongating into a sword, its weight natural in his hands. His senses were heightened, aware of everything and narrowed to instinct.

The first set of sentries were easy enough to take down, done with a series of throwing his blade and managing a forceful kick to the one closest to him to tumble him back against the others. He sliced through another’s chest plate and impaled them against the ones still twitching until their circuits made them shake and go still.

Keith had always been freaked out by how sentient those robots were. He kept moving, feeling his heart rate spike when actual guards started coming out with their guns and blasters. He started running, hoping to be fast enough that they wouldn’t get a clear shot. Then he saw Astriaga running toward them with her own blade, slicing through their weapons at the speed of light. Once Keith joined her, they managed to get through the guards quickly and Astriaga looked over at him, her chest heaving.

“Stay focused, Keith,” she practically barked at him. She kept moving joining the rest as they went in and began spreading out through the hallways.

The corridor Keith took was full of guards and sentries and guns. He hid near the corner of the wall and huffed, letting the others know that the place was heavily surveillanced.

“Then we keep the fight where we have the advantage. We lure them out and attack,” Kolivan ordered. Keith peeked back around and saw that one guard was significantly closer to him. If he attacked one, the others would follow. Back outside where they had air support.

He lunged forward with an angry growl, bringing his blade down. It was met with metallic resistance and Keith could feel his arms quiver with the effort to keep the upper hand. He slid his sword against the guard’s and began to slash quickly, nimbly evading the attacks against him. He moved with quick agility and it frustrated the guard, made him sloppier.

But by then the other guards had noticed and were starting for Keith as well. He looked for a quick way to lure them out without it looking like he was running away, and in his distraction, the other’s blade managed to nick his arm. Keith cried out, but switched the sword to his other hand and fought with renewed vigor, adrenaline coursing through him from the pain of the wound. Just as the others started charging, Keith found an open spot in the guard’s defenses and lodged his sword there, muting out the sound of the impalement with that of the clanking armor coming for him.

He pulled his sword free and bolted, just barely missing one of the blasts from a gun. It made his heart hammer in his chest and he ran quicker. He could almost hear Lance later saying, “Dammit, Mullet, I told you to be careful!” whenever he saw the wound.

Focus, Keith chided himself. His sword shrunk down to a blade and despite not quite being outside, he turned, surprising the guards and used the knife to cause wounds harsh enough to incapacitate them. The blade dug into their thighs, swiped along what would be an artery on human anatomy, sliced clean through the muzzles of their guns.

“Keith, where are you?” he heard in his head piece.

“Kinda busy!” he reported back, flipping his blade up as he ducked from an attack and came back up just in time to catch the hilt, nicking his finger just barely from the grip too close to the blade. He snarled and shoved it between a guard’s shoulders, kicking him away and turning as a sword came down on him.

His reflexes stopped it just as the blade ghosted over his nose. His knife began to elongate into a sword again, giving him better leverage. Then his feet were swept out from under him and he fell back, certain they would have no mercy on him, despite there being a significantly less amount of guards.

But then purple blasts of heated light hit them and forced them back if not to their knees. Keith turned and saw Kolivan with Velkra, both shooting at the guards. Kolivan was shouting something in the head piece and Velkra was bleeding heavily from her side. Keith scrambled to his knees, ducking as he ran to join them.

There were very few opposing Galra left and it was easy to immobilize them. Keith followed Kolivan while Medris stayed watching over the tied up Galra. They went into a control room for the large cannon looming over a cliff, and Keith immediately took to the panel.

“Blades, any news on the cannon?” Shiro asked, the comms for Voltron coming back for a moment.

“Yep. Just took over. Ready when you are,” Keith answered setting the coordinates for the main battle the rebels were in.

“Great. We’re almost done here. I’ll contact when we’re good to go.” The comms went off again and Keith found that the Zaiforge canon had an insane length of range and power. It was no wonder they needed to take this thing to have a chance.

“Keith, we need back up!” he heard Matt shout. “Galra fleets are coming on strong!”

“Give me some coordinates.” A more feminine, robotic voice took over, calm but urgent. Keith locked the cannon in and fired. But just as the fight was getting even, the controls started shutting down. “What’s happening?”

“They must have shut it down remotely. We’re down,” Kolivan said. “At least the Galra can’t use it either.”

Keith cursed and informed Matt about the lack of artillery support now.

There was a pause and then Matt’s voice, frenzied and tired. “The Galra have wiped out a third of the rebel forces. We haven’t heard from the paladins. They’re on Naxzela, but they’re not responding. Their comms are still out. There’s some weird kind of energy field or something, but it doesn’t look natural. And the Galra base has a huge force shield.”

Keith stomach lurched as he ran out of the control room to the light of the jungle-like planet. “Shiro? Lance? Come in! Give us an update.” Nothing. “Lance! Pidge?” Still nothing. Panic seized him. If they realized they would be in trouble, they would’ve turned on their comms and contacted them. But if they were taken by surprise…. “Kolivan, something’s wrong.”

“What do you mean?”

“They’re not responding. I need transportation.” His eyes fell to the main cruiser Kolivan brought, about twice the size of the rest, loaded with an extra set of blasters. “That’ll work.”

“Keith,” Kolivan said with a warning.

“Without Voltron, there is no resistance. No coalition. I have to go.” Kolivan regarded him for a few moments. His lack of response gave Keith his green light, and he bounded of to get to the cruiser. As soon as his hands touched the control panel, he started flying as fast as the thing would take him across the galaxy to find his family. He reached Naxzela slower than he would have wanted, but quickly nonetheless.

A full on battle was spread across the stars, explosions and beams of deadly light disturbing what should have been peaceful silence in space. “I’m here,” he announced. “We should focused our attacks on the base.”

“Good to have you, Keith,” Matt answered.

“Guys, guys, it's a fucking bomb! The planet's a bomb!” Hunk shouted into the comm. Keith felt like ice water had just been dunked down his spine.

“What happened? Are you guys okay?”

“Yeah, Allura shut down the source long enough for us to escape, but it really drained her,” Pidge answered. “The planet has traces of hexamite. With the pressure the beams across the planet are creating by enhancing the gravitational pull, the planet is a giant bomb, and it'll wipe out anything and everything within ten solar systems!” She was talking so fast, Keith could barely register everything she was saying, but he got the main point. Bomb. Wide range. Death.

“We gotta get through that force field around the base. It's keeping the witch safe, and if we get through it, it'll break the hold she has on that source,” Keith said.

“Rebels are right behind you,” Matt said.

“Me too,” Coran chimed in. Keith had forgotten he was piloting the castle.

“No, Coran,” Allura said. “You need to get as many people as far from here as you can in case we can't these beams off. Take as many people as you can. We're counting on you.”

Keith could hear the hesitance. Coran swore to protect her, and she was sending him away. But there were so many lives at stake. Finally, his broken response came. “Yes, Princess.”

Meanwhile, Keith took the rebels around to shoot at the force field, causing no damage whatsoever.

“How much time have we got?” Keith growled through the comm.

“Based on what Hunk and Pidge said? Less than 20 minutes.” A ripple went through the strange force field around the planet, brightening for a moment before it shrunk into the planet more. “M-maybe less than that,” Matt said, his voice filled with dread.

No matter how many weapons attacked, there was no breach in the force field around the witch. The streams of fuchsia currents and electricity zapping from the base to what looked like the core of Naxzela remained strong.

“There's not enough time to get out of range,” Matt said helplessly. “We can't breach that shield.”

Keith stared, feeling his heart sink.

No. Not after everything. Not after all the work they did, not after all this time they've spent rallying forces and coming together. Not after Keith found a new family. There were too many innocent lives at stake. Too many people who had fought so hard, and if this thing went off all that work would have been for nothing.

His grip tightened around the steering handles. He switched the comm so it only connected with Matt. “Maybe not with our weapons.”

He surged forward, looping his cruiser to hot the force field head on. “Keith,  what are you doing?” Keith clenched his jaw. He couldn't let them die. All those planets. Coran, Allura, Hunk, Pidge, Shiro, Lance…. He couldn't let the people he loved die. “ Keith, don't do this!” Keith shut his eyes. The death of one over the death of many. He understood that now. If his life could save the others, then it was a small price. “ Keith!”

The darkness behind his eyelids brightened and he opened his eyes in confusion, only to see an explosion already bringing down the shield. Instinct made him dip down before his cruiser could become part of the destruction, his breaths heaving as he realized he was still alive.

“Keith? Keith!”

“I’m here,” he answered, his voice hoarse and uncertain. He switched the comm back to normal and heard Coran letting everyone know Naxzela was returning to normal. Sure enough, the planet’s eerie purple glow was gone. The beams had powered off.

“Good work, Keith,” Shiro praised.

“It… wasn’t me.” Keith steadied his ship and saw another hovering above and across from where he was. “There’s another ship… I’m not sure-”

Suddenly a soothing voice filled the comms. “Attention paladins of Voltron and rebel fighters. I know we’ve had our differences in the past, but… I think it’s time we had a discussion.” The voice sent a chill through Keith, his every instinct telling him not to trust it.

“Is that… Lotor?” Lance asked softly.

--

Everyone was to reconvene on the Castle of Lions. The arrival of Lotor, while appreciated, was met with evident apprehension. The only reason the rebels and Voltron didn’t immediately attack him was because he’d just saved various solar systems. Keith didn’t want to speak up. There was a part of him that felt indebted to Lotor now, despite never having laid eyes on him.

Everyone’s ships were stationed around the Castle, but everyone was mostly crowded onto the ship, murmuring around the wide table they usually ate at. Keith was standing beside Kolivan, his entire body tense. He was hugging himself tightly enough to make his muscles stiff, his jaw clenched so hard it was starting to hurt.

“Keith?” He looked up and saw the paladins filtering in. Lance was looking for him. Keith didn’t even ask Kolivan for permission. He just ran forward and collapsed into Lance’s arms. “Hey, now corazon. It’s alright. We’re okay. I’m here, I’m okay. Everything’s okay.” Except it wasn’t. Because had been so sure he would never again see Lance or Shiro or anyone else. He’d been ready, and now he was terrified. “Keith, baby, you’re shaking,” Lance said worriedly, pulling back to look him in the eyes. “We made it, baby, it’s okay.” He pulled him back in and hugged him tighter. Only then could Keith feel how severely his entire body was trembling.

“Keith.” Matt’s voice made dread tighten Keith’s throat, and he pulled away from Lance. “What-”

“Come with me,” Keith said, his voice small and broken. He yanked Matt away from the crowded room of aliens to the hallway. He turned to him with wide pleading eyes. “Please don’t say anything. They don’t need to know. Especially Lance.”

Matt narrowed his eyes. “You nearly sacrificed yourself, Keith! How can I not tell them that? What were you thinking?”

“I was thinking it was our last hope and I wanted everyone to survive. The Blades can replace me, but the universe needs Voltron. Pidge finally found you, Lance wants to go home, there were countless fleets there, was I supposed to let them die?”

Matt stared at him, a frenzied look in his eyes. “Keith, you can’t….” He sighed and crossed his arms. “You’re right, okay? If Lotor hadn’t showed up, maybe your… sacrificed would’ve saved us. But you have to tell the others-”

“For what? To panic them? To make them think I was being impulsive again?” Matt furrowed his eyebrows and sighed in defeat. “Please don’t tell them, Matt. I’m begging you.”

He stayed quiet for a long time before finally nodding. “Fine. Just… please don’t ever do something like that again.” Suddenly, he pulled Keith into a tight hug. “I’m glad you’re okay.”

Keith allowed himself to break a little in the embrace. Matt was the only one who knew what he’d planned to do. And the result of it had Keith panicked and shaken to his core. He was afraid to be alone, afraid to think about it, afraid of what could have happened. Try as he might, he couldn’t help the tears that fell down his face.

Now, his brain couldn’t stop being hyperaware. Of every touch, whether it was the warmth of Matt’s hug, longer than it should’ve been because he knew Keith needed it, or the feeling of his own clothes on his skin, his hair at his neck. Of every scent, and sound, and color, like he needed to appreciate it all right at that moment or else it would get taken from him.

Finally, Keith pulled away and tried to collect himself. “I’m alright. Thank you, Matt.” Matt only nodded solemnly. They went back into the dining room. Matt went off to join the rebels, some of whom were crying or had an expression of shock on their faces. Keith returned to Lance’s side, taking his hand and holding it tightly.

The rest of the paladins filed in, with Allura last. Shiro, Hunk, and Pidge went to greet Keith, each bringing him into a tight hug. They’d all felt like they needed to suddenly truly appreciate being alive. But Keith had been a split second away from a conscious decision…. It made him feel guilty and alone and even though everyone seemed relieved to be alive after the threat of a giant planetary bomb, he felt like he was suffocating. He felt like he was on a timer all of a sudden. He didn’t feel real.

Keith wrapped his arms around Lance, hoping to hide his expression by doing so. He knew Lance could read him like a book, and he didn’t want to explain. Pidge was hugging Matt tightly, pulling away to take his hand while Hunk took her other. Everyone needed something grounding them.

Allura went to the head of the table, and everyone moved so they were facing her.

“Lotor has been permitted into the Castle of Lions-” a flurry of discontented rebuttals began to fill the space, but she raised her voice to speak over them, “and is currently restricted to a small chamber without a way to leave unless I allow it. He is cuffed and has been stripped of any and all weapons.” The people quieted down and Allura looked at everyone with a tired expression. Coran was at her side, watching her carefully. “We must decide what to do with him. He claims he wants to help us, that Zarkon has done him as much wrong as he has any of us. That with a common enemy, we can work together and be stronger. However, it is difficult to trust someone who has caused so much havoc in such a short reign.”

It was quiet for a moment. “He did save us all from getting disintegrated. Maybe we could hear what he has to say.”

“Silver tongues are more numerous than genuine people. He could spin his words whichever way he’d like to convince us,” someone else said.

Dissent began among the aliens. “Why save us if he’s with Zarkon?” “He’s the emperor’s son! He can’t be trusted!” “He’s alone, he wouldn’t have done that if he didn’t mean what he said.”

Keith sighed and leaned further into Lance, feeling his hand rub his back soothingly. After more deliberation, plenty of back and forth debating and disagreement kept calm only by the Alteans insisting on civility, Pidge spoke up. She moved to the other end of the table where she could be seen by everyone without trying to speak over Allura.

“From what I’m understanding, many of us are curious about Lotor’s plans, but we don’t trust him enough to let him free. Right?” Many nodded in agreement. “Then why not keep him prisoner, under surveillance, and see what information he has. If it’s legitimate, it’ll help us, without letting him go. If he really wants to help us, he’d understand. If not, then he’s still caged up anyway.”

“That sounds like the best compromise,” Allura agreed, looking around. “We can do this for some time. Perhaps we can figure out what Lotor wants or if he has any ulterior motives. We will take every precaution necessary.” Everyone seemed to shift uneasily, but no one could think of anything better. Especially when they all knew it was because of Lotor they were still here and the freeing of every planet behind Naxzela had been successful because the witch had fled. “In the meantime, I think we all need time to recuperate and mourn. I thank you all for your cooperation and dedication. If we go on this way, we will see the end of Zarkon’s reign soon.”

With that, the others began to file out of the room. Kolivan stopped near Keith when he saw him, but Keith didn’t acknowledge him. He just stared straight ahead and remained with his arms around Lance.

“The Blades and I will remain near the Castle. We want to keep an eye on developments with Lotor.” Keith nodded. Kolivan stood there a moment longer, but Keith didn’t talk. Didn’t ask permission to stay, didn’t budge under the pressure of knowing he was supposed to go with Kolivan. And Kolivan didn’t tear Keith away. He simply regarded him a moment longer and left.

It wasn’t until it was only the paladins, Coran, and Keith left around the table that Hunk softly murmured he would make some food for everyone to eat and be able to collect themselves. Pidge collapsed into a chair and Shiro remained rigid with his head in his hands. Lance and Keith stayed huddled together near a wall. Coran and Allura were both stone-faced and exhausted.

When the smell of spices and the sound of sizzling food filled the air, a little light returned to the paladins. By the time Hunk was done cooking and came out with the platters of food, everyone seemed to have snapped out of their daze long enough to enjoy the food. Lotor had no way of leaving the small space they’d locked him in, so the others put him out of their mind for a while longer. Praises were given to Hunk and small talk was made, but it was all muffled in Keith’s ears.

He ate his food robotically, aware of how good it was, but unable to really process it because of how messy his head was. By the end of dinner, he was the only one still caught up in a daze. Pidge was helping Hunk clean up. Allura and Coran had gone to tell Lotor of their plans before turning in for the night, and Shiro had gone to bed, claiming he had a migraine.

Lance took Keith’s hand and led him to the room, sitting him down and touching his face gently. “ Mi cielo, say something.”

Keith met his cerulean eyes, reminiscent of a the sky in the early moments after sunrise began. Just like that, he was wrapped around him, holding him tightly, needing his warmth, needing to feel him breathing, needing to feel his heartbeat under his hands. “I thought I was going to lose you,” he whispered brokenly.

Lance hugged him back just as tightly, burrowing his face in the crook of his neck. “I know. I know, I was scared too. But we’re okay. I’m right here. And so are you. We’re with each other, and that’s what’s important right now.” He pulled back and tilted Keith’s face to him. “Can you be here with me, baby? Right here in this moment?”

Keith nodded, surging forward to kiss him. He needed it. Needed Lance. He kissed him without reserve, desperately needing to be aware of every little touch and every little breath.

“I’m here with you,” he whispered, gripping tightly to Lance’s shirt. “Can you… help me get this thing off?” He was still in his Marmora suit, and while it wasn’t uncomfortable, he wanted to feel Lance’s warmth on his own skin rather than through the nylon of a skin suit.

“Yeah.” He unzipped the suit and Keith pulled it from his body, stripping to his boxers. “You want a sweatshirt or something?” Keith nodded and Lance turned to grab one from his clothes stack before returning to Keith. He put it on quickly and pulled Lance toward him to lay on the bed.

Lance followed suit and laid with him, their lips immediately finding each other’s. Keith let his hands roam, trailing the length of Lance’s thigh, back up to feel the warm skin of his torso, then pulling back to touch his face instead, to run through his hair, missing the longer curls that had been there before he cut it. He wanted to feel every bit of skin, wanted to feel the radiating warmth, the smoothness.

He pulled himself over Lance, not breaking their kiss. Lance’s hands came to rest on his hips, just above the waistline of the boxers, under the sweatshirt.

“You said… that you wanted to wait until you knew I wouldn’t be gone the next day,” Keith whispered, panting heavily against Lance’s lips. He opened his eyes to find Lance’s vibrant eyes already on him, filled with affection. “With the stuff happening… I doubt I’ll leave tomorrow or even the next day.”

“Keith. You’re saying that because you thought we were going to… die tonight.” He tucked Keith’s hair back behind his ear. “It’s different now that we’re dating. I don’t want it to just be a fuck-”

“It won’t be,” Keith insisted. “It never will be if I’m with you. Never again.” He leaned in to kiss him, letting the anguish he’d been hiding coat his features. “Yes, I’m saying this now because of… everything that happened today. But isn’t that reasonable? I’ve always been afraid to lose you, but my head only connected that to losing you to Rosa or something.” Lance frowned. “Today I realized I could have lost you in a much more permanent way. And that terrified me, Lance.” His voice betrayed him, breaking before he could finish.

“No llores, mi vida,” Lance murmured, hands at his cheeks, waiting for the first tear to escape. “It scared me too. God Keith, I wish you could understand how much I care about you, how much I need you in my life now-”

“So show me. Be with me, right here, in this moment. Just you and me.” Keith chuckled and shook his head. “Sex or not, I just need to be able to….”

“I know. Me too.” He paused and looked at him with a fond smile. “The purple has been spreading and retreating ever since we sat down for dinner. What are you thinking?”

That I might not have gotten a chance to see you again if Lotor hadn't shown up. “Nothing. Just that I want to be with you.”

Lance pulled him into a kiss again, gentle at first until they were caught up in each other and suddenly acting on pure instinct to savor what they had of each other. Keith couldn’t even be embarrassed when the kiss got messy, a clash of teeth and tongue, biting and tugging and moaning. He could feel Lance’s hands tightening where they held him, digging into his skin.

The closeness had him overheating and he pulled away for a moment to pull the sweatshirt over his head, tossing it to the foot of the bed. Lance took the chance to sit up and turn them over, quickly working to paint Keith’s neck and chest in various hues of purple. Keith lt out a low breath and tugged on Lance’s shirt desperately. Lance hunched over, pulling the shirt off and meeting Keith’s lips as he flung it over the side of the bed.

“You’re still shaking, gatito.”

Keith shook his head. “I’ll be okay.” He wrapped his arms around him and kissed him until Lance’s lips were puffy, unable to tire from the taste of him. “I want you to top this time,” Keith whispered.

Lance froze, staring down at him in surprise. “Are you sure?” Keith nodded. He just needed to know Lance was there. Needed to feel him, needed to put all of him in his hands, because he was barely keeping himself together as it was. “Oh, Keith.” Lance kissed him softly, first on the lips, then pressing soft kisses to his cheeks, his eyes, his nose, his forehead, his neck. Everywhere.

Until Keith felt Lance rutting against him and he gasped softly, biting his lip as Lance licked up the side of his throat, teeth grazing. He was anxious, unsure of where he wanted his hands because he wanted them everywhere. Keith settled for running them over his back, careful of the claws that seemed indecisive, the purple hue of his skin spreading slowly down his arms.

Lance found his way back to his lips, pulling Keith up with a hand at the nape of his neck. “I'm so glad you're here,” Lance whispered. Keith hummed, allowing himself a smile. “You holding back, baby?”

“What do you mean?”

Lance stroked his face, running his hand lightly down Keith's chest. It made Keith shiver. “Your keeping the purple from spreading. You know I don't mind it.” He leaned down, skimming his lips down his chest. “Human or Galra, you're magnificent. And you're mine.”

“In this and every universe,” Keith whispered, feeling like he was baring his entire soul to Lance. Keith shut his eyes as Lance's hand ran down his torso while he met Keith with a kiss. When Lance pulled away, he was smiling a soft, angelic smile.

“There you are.” Keith didn't have to look at himself to know his skin was a soft lilac color, his nails now full length claws, his ears pointier with tufts of fluffy dark purple fur. But his eyes would still be the same. He could see the fondness in Lance's expression, and it made Keith feel safe.

They kissed again, and Keith mumbled incoherently, slotting his thigh between Lance's, making him moan aloud in surprise. “I'm losing my patience.”

Lance laughed and his hand slid down to palm over Keith's boxers. “What happened to patience yields focus?”

Please don't quote Shiro in this situation, oh my God.” Lance laughed again and buried his face into Keith's belly, his laughter making Keith laugh despite the way he bit playfully at the soft skin. “Lance!”

“I was missing your smile, corazon.” Keith hummed and ran his hands through Lance's hair. He smiled and shuffled lower, his fingertips teasing the waistband of his boxers as he ran his tongue down Keith's stomach.

Keith let out a shaky breath, arching into the touch impatiently. “ Lance.” Lance shushed him his fingers tracing lightly along his torso. It was such an innocent touch, but Keith was getting desperate, he was getting greedy. He didn't want to be touched softly, he wanted Lance gripping onto him like someone would take Keith away if he didnt. “C’mon, Lance. Please.”

Lance groaned, moving to remove Keith's boxers. “You don't know what that breathy tone does to me.” He hitched Keith's legs up, spreading them and running his hands along the back of his thighs. “Turn over for me, baby.”

Keith shuffled around to move, chiding Lance when he pinched his ass playfully. Lance stuck his tongue out and yanked at his ankles, so Keith collapsed face-down on the mattress. Long fingers squeezed the flesh of his thighs, running up and down them reverently until he finally reached up to his ass and palmed him greedily.

Keith had almost forgotten the obsession Lance had with his ass. Sure enough, Lance leaned over and bit down softly, making Keith tense as he grabbed a pillow to hoist himself up on. Keith had forgotten how much he enjoyed Lance's obsession with his ass.

His claws tipped into the pillow when he felt a tongue prodding at his entrance. Keith felt his limbs weaken and he melted into the sheets arching his back and trying to relieve his hard-on by rutting into the sheets. But Lance gripped his hips and pulled back to bite the flesh a little harder than usual. “No moving,” he chided.

Keith grunted and huffed. “Keep going.” Lance laughed and did as he was told, working his tongue a little more. Soft moans were being pulled from Keith, muffled by the pillow. Lance's hands kneaded his thighs, grasping handfuls of him before letting go and then doing it again.

He pulled back again and with a hoarse voice said, “Lube is between the bed and the bedframe. Hand it to me, please.” Keith fumbled blindly, still moaning and grunting into the pillow which was getting more and more torn by his claws. When his hands brushed along the cold cylindrical container, he pulled it free and looked over his shoulder to give it to Lance.

Lance grabbed it, eyes locking with Keith's, his mouth never stopping. Keith bit his lip and growled out a frustrated, “Fuck.”

He heard the cap come off and waited anxiously to feel the breach of a finger. Instead he felt a hand running up his spine. “Relax, kitten.”

“Keep calling me a kitten and I'm calling you a furry.” Lance laughed at that and pinched him again. “Ah- Lance!”

“Relax,” Lance said again. His voice got softer, the hand at Keith's back reassuring. “You sure you wanna do this? Is this okay?”

Keith let out a slow breath and relaxed his body. “Yeah. I'm sure. Are you?”

He felt a kiss against his lower back, affectionate and gentle. “Yes.” Then Keith felt the intrusion. It was a slow, patient process. Keith still couldn't get over how strange it felt at first. His current pleasure stemmed from the open mouthed kisses Lance was pressing to his back.

Lance pulled out and this time tried adding another finger, slower, moving more to stretch him properly. Keith breathed through his nose steadily. Lance was constantly whispering reassurances, telling Keith to relax.

It wasn't until his fingers began to move in and out smoothly that Keith relished in the feeling of them pushing in and out of him. And then crooked his fingers, barely brushing the bundle of sensitive nerves that had him moaning a little louder. He felt his face heat up and he pushed back, trying to stimulate himself further.

“Easy, tesoro. I'm getting there.” Keith groaned and panted as Lance spread his fingers, stretching him further. “The walls are still soundproof, Keith. Let me hear you.”

He pressed against his prostate a little more accurately and Keith lifted his head, feeling electricity course through his body. “Oh God. Lance, keep going.”

Lance came up on his knees, shifting. The poorly hidden bulge under his sweats pressed against Keith's was and he bit his lip, refraining from begging for Lance to hurry.

He wanted this. He wanted to cherish every second, every moment of Lance's touch. However slow Lance wanted to go, Keith wanted it too.

And then he was being stretched with three fingers, a slight discomfort in the way they pressed in. “More… lube,” Keith huffed.

Lance pulled away and added more lube, warming it between his fingers before pressing into Keith. Lance's long, thin fingers filled him just enough to tease for what Keith was waiting on.

He'd been moving so slowly, so deliberately, that when he flicked his wrist to push back in harder, Keith gasped and tore through the fluff of the pillow, pulling himself up onto his hands and knees. “Fuck, Lance.”

Lance did the same thing again, draping his body over Keith's, to press kisses to the back of his neck, biting gently at the muscles of his shoulder blades. “I'm so lucky to call you mine. So beautiful. So incredible. I can't believe it took me so long to see it.”

“L-Lance,” Keith murmured, trying to think through the haze of pleasure building in his stomach. Lance's mouth was hot on his skin and he felt every nerve become alert to the most miniscule touch. His cheeks reddened with Lance's soft, honest words. “Lemme turn around. Wanna look at you.”

Lance hummer and pulled his fingers away, helping Keith turn over and situating himself between his legs.

“You're so worked up, baby,” Lance noted, pushing his legs up. He pressed his fingers in slowly, resuming his pace.

“That's your fault,” Keith answered, taking a sharp breath and shutting his eyes as Lance thrust his hand in over and over, grazing that magical spot that had him chanting Lance's name desperately. The pleasure was so close, but not quite where it could be and it was driving Keith crazy. “Lance, you gotta… I'm getting too close- oh God.”

“That's the point. Lance pulled his hand free and wrapped it around Keith's length, moving excruciatingly slowly, and Keith yelped, whimpering as he was restrained from pushing his hips up into Lance's hand. “We haven't done this in a long time, I have no idea if I'll last long enough.” Keith could feel his throat drying with how much he was panting, his hands searching for Lance in the haze.

Lance leaned over and kissed him deeply, sucking his bottom lip hard enough for it to feel tingly when he pulled back. Keith was becoming frantic, had a half a mind to turn Lance over so he could strip him down and ride him as fast as he needed.

But when he tried, Lance ran his hand up his chest around his neck lightly. “Let me take care of you, baby.” Keith bit his lip, but stopped trying to shift their position.

“Lance, please, I'll be fine, just, come on, baby.”

“That's not fair, you know I can't say no when you get like this,” he answered, smiling as he pressed kisses to his chest. Lance pulled back getting rid of his pants and briefs to coat himself in lube,  adding a little more to Keith before he lined himself up and teased by pressing forward enough to stretch Keith, but not actually pushing into him.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck,” Keith growled. He wrapped his legs around Lance, using his heels to make Lance lean over him again. He grabbed his face and kissed him desperately, his tongue determined to memorized every part of Lance's mouth, teeth biting and tugging his lips. He pushed his hands into Lance's hair and tugged, trying to bring him in, but Lance wasn't budging.

“Hey, hey, look at me, baby.” Keith tried to catch his breath, looking up at Lance. “It's alright. I'm right here. Ready?” He nodded, looking Lance in the eyes. “Okay. Breathe.” Keith nodded again, taking a deep breath, shifting his legs.

Lance began to push in slowly, stretching him further in a way that felt too good to be painful. Keith moaned, his jaw falling open as Lance slowly filled him up. Keith dug his fingers into Lance's back, soft groans escaping his throat until he burrowed his face in the crook of Lance's neck.

“Oh fuck,” Lance murmured under his breath. “Fuck, Keith, you're… oh my God.” Keith bit down and Lance grunted over him. “Fangs, baby.”

“S-Sorry.” Lance shook his head and took a moment to still when he was fully sheathed inside of Keith. He pressed their foreheads together and licked at Keith's lips. A calm look in his ocean eyes steadied Keith. And then the ocean was spilling over, and Keith reached up to wipe his eyes. “Oh, Lance,” he breathed softly. “Kiss me.”

Lance surged forward, the kiss desperate and heated, and it was the first time Keith felt the weakness and terror Lance must have been holding back. He'd been putting up a front for Keith, and he was letting it down now. Keith wrapped his arms around him, pressing kisses to cheeks.

“I've got you, darling.”

Lance sniffed and smiled, nudging his nose against Keith's  cheek. “Darling? I like that.” Keith smiled and bit back a moan as he shifted slightly. Lance gasped and buried his face in Keith's neck. “God I missed you.”

“I missed you too,” Keith whispered. He touched his face and kissed him softly, his gasps swallowed by Lance's mouth when he started moving. The shock of being empty mad Keith whine, but Lance was already pushing back into him, without as much resistance, and Keith felt his breath hitch. He could feel everything, like everything was magnified. He wasn't sure if it was the near death or the conscious understanding they wanted each other, liked each other, they were together, but everything felt like more. His entire body was attuned to Lance's.

It wasn't just the physical pleasure that came from Lance's shallow thrusts, or the way the sound of his low grunts in his ear built the warmth in his body. It was the way his lips skimmed along any skin possible to remain close to Keith, the way it was almost unconscious because even without realizing it, he was drawn to Keith. It was the way he was so slow and careful and the look in his eyes, the way he smiled and his hand trembled as he threaded their fingers together. It was the way Keith felt safe and comfortable and certain despite being at his most vulnerable in that moment. That was what made everything so much more intense.

That's what made Keith's vision swim with unshed tears, made his heart pound with euphoria and the pleasure build higher.

He felt his hair sticking to his forehead, felt an almost unbearable heat at his back, and with Lance draped over him, his own body heat curling around him, Keith was panting for breath, but not wanting any of it to stop.

“Fuck, Keith,” Lance gasped. He pulled himself up, a rush of air welcomed between them, cooling their sweaty bodies. The change in angle made the next thrust leave Keith grasping for the sheets, tilting his head back as he cried out.

Lance pulled out and pushed back in slowly, Keith gasping for breath as he was filled. Keith looked up at Lance and marveled at the way his cinnamon skin glistened with a light sheen of sweat, the way his face flushed with exertion. He marveled at the saturated blue of his eyes, the way his puffy lower lip looked between his teeth and his abdomen muscles tightened with his movements.

He couldn't believe that someone so amazing, so beautiful, considerate, and smart and kind could be his boyfriend. Could make him feel the things he did with a smile or a look. He couldn't believe Lance was his.

And he couldn't believe he had been so close to never seeing him again.

He hadn't realized he was crying until he gasped for breath, not a sexual sound, but a broken one this time. It made Lance look at him and his eyes widened in panic.

“I'm okay, I'm okay,” Keith assured, tightening his legs around him.

Mi cielo, you're shaking again.” Keith shook his head, wrapping an arm around his torso to pull him closer. “We're okay, baby. I'm with you, and nothing's ever gonna change that.”

Hopelessly naive words, but Keith wanted to believe them nonetheless. “Just kiss me, darling.”

Lance nodded, pressing his lips against Keith's, scooping him into his arms, leaning on his elbows, and holding Keith together. Keith shut his eyes, overwhelmed by the pleasure of Lance's movement and the emotional turmoil in his chest. He couldn't stop the tears, simply letting Lance hold him tighter, letting his hips move faster, bringing them both to a breathless precipice.

“I'm… almost…. Ah- Lance.” Lance shifted his weight to hold himself up better as he sped up, his breaths fast and desperate. Keith's body coiled tight, overwhelmed in so many ways. “Lance, Lance, please , oh fuck, Lan-” he was practically sobbing at this point, reduced to incoherent rambling.

His orgasm washed over him so intensely, he couldn't think about anything but the burst of white hot shock and electric currents making his entire body shake. Lance pulled out and finished himself off in his hand before collapsing against Keith.  

He pulled himself up, his breaths shaky as he looked at Keith. A gentle hand wiped his cheeks and pushed his hair away from his forehead, lazy kisses pressed against his jawline.

Keith's brain was still hazy, barely able to register Lance whispering reassurances. “Still with me, Samurai?” he asked in a tired murmur.

“‘M here.”

“You okay?” Keith nodded. “Was it too much?”

Keith stayed quiet, running his hands through Lance's damp hair. “A little. But not because of you. Just….”

“Yeah. I know.” Lance shifted to lay beside Keith, still slightly draped over him, fingers hovering along Keith's collarbone. “Don't think about it too much, kitten.” Keith gave him a side glance and Lance smiled cheekily. Keith rolled his eyes and turned enough to curl into Lance. Lance tugged the blankets up over them, torn as they were. He leaned his head against Keith's shoulder and yawned, and Keith felt his body finally slow down. His heartbeat, his thoughts, the world around him even.

Then he heard Lance softly singing. “ You’re just too good to be true… can’t take my eyes off of you… you’d be like heaven to touch… ‘wanna hold you so much….” His voice was riddled with sleep, hoarse and slow. But it was soothing, and Keith felt a wave of serenity overcome him. Lance resorted to humming when he was too tired to use words, making the upbeat song a lullaby for Keith.

Lance was fast asleep, his bare body curled around Keith’s. Keith turned to look at him and smiled at how serene his face looked. Slack with sleep, slow breaths, lashes fanned out, and the most subtle pattern of freckles sprinkled along his nose and cheeks.

It was so strange how life unfolded. Keith had piloted a lion, had found out he was part alien, had been in a war and seen various planets and species of aliens. And through it all, what surprised him the most was finding that he could have such strong feelings for Lance, or rather the surprising part was that Lance reciprocated them. Still, in the end, it seemed to be what made the most sense. Like this thing between them had to exist in every possible dimension, every universe, every reality. They made sense together, and Keith couldn’t fathom a lifetime in which they didn’t find each other.

Keith looked at Lance again, taking a deep breath as he allowed the emotions flood his entire being.

Yeah, Keith thought as he looked at him. You make sense, darling.