There's nothing in the dark, empty universe that Keith wants more than one of Lance's sweaters.
His jacket is so small, and breezy, built more for protection against the harsh desert sun than to block his body's attempts to heat up the entire expanse of space.
It's far from wool woven into familiar patterns, each stitch building on the ones before, locking in the warmth so he can feel it down to his bones. It's nothing like the stunning comfort that with each passing day more and more of the ship's inhabitants seem to find themselves encased in.
It has nothing to do with a physical embodiment of the proof of the blue paladin's affection.
Not at all.
He doesn't even notice that Allura's has cabling woven in a pattern of climbing plaits up her sides in bright blue.
It's not like he sees the work that went into knitting the word 'Gremlin' into the front of Pidge's sweater.
And he's definitely never walked into Lance's room to find him surrounded by yarn and needles, working on making his next handmade garment.
Even if it was, it's no surprise then that he's the only one who doesn't seem to have it.
Rivalries aren't exactly built for friendship and whatever Keith's heart does when he catches Lance's eye.
He picks up his bayard and heads to the training deck.
It keeps him warm for a little while.
The ship is freezing. Keith seems to spend his whole life shivering.
He can't tell if the jealousy has just left him cold and bitter, or if Coran turned down the heating now that everyone spends their lives encased in wool.
Well, everyone except him and Lance at least.
But Lance has his big jacket, and the smile on his face whenever he sees his friends wearing their sweaters radiates heat like the sun.
Keith has to remind himself to stay back.
He hopes. He tells himself it's only a matter of time. They had a bonding moment. They're basically, almost, possibly, friends.
The day Lance presents Hunk with a tiny Yellow Lion figure Keith gives up hope.
"Nothing but the best for my bestie."
"Lance, buddy, thank you so much. This is so cute! And detailed! It must have taken you so long."
"We're in space my man, I had some time."
As Hunk throws his arms around Lance, he meets Keith's eyes for half a second. Even through Hunk's grin, he can see the pity brewing.
Keith forces himself to meet his eyes with a smile.
He crosses his arms. Won't let himself rub his arms for warmth.
When even his blanket can no longer warm him up, he admits defeat.
He picks the best of a bad lot.
The easier option.
He wants to say less embarrassing, but really it's not. Lance is a good enough person to probably not laugh in the face of the person he's rejecting, but he'll definitely do so in the face of his rival admitting his admiration for a skill only he possesses.
At least this way he'll actually get one of the things he wants.
When Keith shows up at his door unannounced Lance shoves the tiny figurine of Green he's currently working on under his pillow and stretches his hands above his head as if he was just taking a nap.
By the time he glances up at the Red Paladin with a lazy grin Keith has already styled his jealousy back into a neutral mask.
"Keithy boy! What can I do for you today?"
"Oh um," he curses himself, because he'd known exactly what he was going to say before Lance looked at him like that, "Coran found some more Altean wool he asked me to bring you."
He holds the bag out between them like a peace offering, and at the Blue Paladin's excitement lets himself move forward and pitch onto the end of the bed.
Lance smiles up at him as he grabs the bag and Keith's heart almost stops.
Then his arms are searching into it, pulling balls of different colours and textures onto his mattress with a never ending monologue of all the projects it will be perfect for.
Keith steels himself as the pile of greens and blues and yellows and purples grows around them. He clutches the smaller bag still in his hands more tightly as Lance remains distracted, pushing away the thoughts that tell him it's not worth it and that he should just hide this bag under his bed and forget the whole thing ever happened.
When Lance is almost done he takes his chance and draws a shaky breath.
"He also found a few extra balls of red yarn as well. I figured you wouldn't need it so I was wondering if you have time if you wouldn't mind…"
Blue eyes turn up to his and he can feel his face heating up and his tongue start to rebel against his voice box but he forces it to shakily continue.
"Teaching me to … knit with it?"
Lance is silent for a few minutes and Keith's mind is screaming ABORT at an ever increasing rate.
He shifts back as the Blue Paladin shifts ever so slightly forward.
"It was a stupid idea you really don't have to-"
"Wait, you want to learn how to knit?" Lance asks with half a laugh, "You know that it's not an extreme sport right? You can't use knives as the needles…"
"Yeah I know that!" Keith can't help but growl, "look it's fine. It was a stupid idea, just forget it."
"No no no!" Lance is throwing out his arms and Keith sits transfixed.
"I'll teach you! What do you want to make? Are your gloves wearing out or something?"
Keith's head has half a mind to simply nod in agreement, but he knows he'll never work out how to do it by himself, and he's already come this far.
"I was thinking I could make a sweater once I'm good enough."
Just flat out halts in his tracks so thoroughly that he looks more like a glitch in the matrix than someone in shock.
"You don't have to if you don't want to"
"I just thought the ones you made looked nice and warm is all."
Suddenly he's a flurry of movement, screaming off the bed and over to his cupboard so fast that for half a second Keith thinks he's going to bolt.
He's pulled something out of the top drawer, and then he's back, pushing the gift at Keith like an offering.
Keith picks up a pile of the very red wool he just said Lance didn't need, the right ear of the Red Lion poking out from near the folds.
He holds his breath because this can't be real, but when he steels himself and lets the folds out with a flick of his wrist, he's looking at seven different colours of yarn wound around to create the Red Lion standing proud centre stage.
His breath catches.
He doesn't hate you he doesn't hate you he doesn't
Lance hasn't sat down again, and he's shifting back and forwards on his heels as if he really might bolt, so when Keith turns to smile at him he doesn't even try to hide the fact that Lance lights up his universe.
The Cuban boy's cheeks heat up, which only gets worse when Keith thanks him.
He tries to brush it off. Keith almost growls, thinking Lance isn't taking his thanks seriously, and tries to both press on and put on the sweater at the same time.
As he's shifting it his hands he sees the black yarn on the inside and pauses. There's a patch of red yarn as well that looks like English, but he can't see it well enough to read.
He starts to pull it inside-out even as Lance reaches out an arm to stop him.
The interior is black, cables running up the sides in a Celtic knot even as they're overpowered by the bright red text centre stage.
His heart stops and doubles in speed in one painful jolt.
He definitely doesn't hate you he definitely doesn't hate you he definitely doesn't
"You made me a sweater," Keith starts, and when Lance doesn't speak, continues his train of thought, "and you think I'm 'Hot Stuff'?"
Lance buries his face in his hands and groans. Keith is pretty sure he hears some mumbles about a joke, but at least half of his attention is simply trying to resist the urge to press the wool to his nose and inhale the lingering sweet scent.
"We'd only been in space a few weeks" is the only justification the boy in front of him seems to give, but when Keith's silent for a few moment Lance continues, "and I missed my Abuela and wanted to knit something to remind me of her. I don't know, it was late, it seemed funny at the time, because we were rivals and I thought you'd hate it and I'd laugh at you or something."
Keith snorts. When Lance looks over at to him his cheeks are stained red, but a smile is tugging at his lips even as he wrings his hands.
"And then I kept making it and the weeks passed and it wasn't really funny anymore and I wasn't hoping you'd hate it. I was kind of hoping you'd-"
He cuts himself off with a wince.
"It doesn't matter," Lance laughs, but curls into himself, "anyway, I started working on Hunk's jumper, and then everyone else's. I was never going to give you that one, so I made the one with red. And then one night I was feeling sentimental or something and you'd looked so cold that day that I had the bright idea to sew them together and make it reversible. So then I couldn't give you either."
Keith stares at him for a moment.
"I love it," he finally decides on.
He wants to etch the way Lance smiles onto his mind so he can see it whenever he closes his eyes.
It gives him the courage to continue.
"And I'm pretty keen on the boy who gave it to me too."
Lance's eyes widen, and his face heats up as his smile softens.
He's leaning up against the headboard of his crush's bed, wrapped in not one but two layers of wool, proof of Lance's affection, as the boy of his dreams curls up beside him, hand in his, head on his shoulder.
Keith has never been so warm.
They talk for hours.
Everything they'd held back.
Everything they'd never thought the other would want or care to hear.
Keith's mind is fuzzy with happiness when Lance looks up at him with a grin.
"So do you still want to learn to knit, or was that just a way to get close to me?" he asks, wiggling his eyebrows and laughing softly.
In the past Lance's laughter would cause Keith to lean back, to raise his hackles. It was the signifier of a fight.
But now the gentle teasing draws him forwards, eases a chuckle from his lips. Keith leans more firmly against Lance's side and gazes down at their joined hands.
Keith looks for a moment at the neat, balanced stitches now covering his arms. Ones absent from Lance's own.
"I still want to learn," he finally decides.
Lance smiles at him and all but vanishes. Keith immediately misses the warmth down his side, and is about to voice that "it doesn't have to be now", but then Lance is back. Slotting right back into place, as if this is something they've been doing for years.
"Knitting a square is a good place to start. Once we have enough we can sew them together and make a blanket."
Unbidden, Keith can see them huddled under a blanket, watching the stars or talking softly. Keeping each other warm in the coldness of space. Or he can see his entire family in the control room, reassuring each other through the long, lonely nights away from their home planets. A big, knitted blanket across all their knees.
Lance offers Keith a pair of needles and a ball of blue wool, another pair and a ball of red yarn in his other hand.
"We're knitting in each other's colours?" Keith accepts with a smile.
"How romantic right?" More eyebrow wiggling.
"I'm just surprised you're happy for people to see my work and think it's yours."
Lance squawks. Suddenly he's leaning over Keith trying to get the ball of blue yarn back from him, as Keith leans back and holds it out of his reach. Keith leans forward and pecks him on the nose. Lance laughs.
"Fine, fine," Lance says with a groan as he flops back, his grin contradicting his tone, "but you have to promise to do your best work. No slacking off to make me look bad."
It's been months, the blanket is finished and they've started working on a second for the control room, amidst training together and playing video games with Pidge and saving the universe and Keith is at Lance's door unannounced with another bag in his arms.
"Sweet! Did the next batch finish synthesizing?" the Blue Paladin asks, on the balls of his feet as he drags Keith over to the bed after a peck on the lips in welcome.
"Not quite. I have something for you…"
Lance's eyes light up and he goes straight for the bag, but Keith tugs it away and points to the bed.
He sulks, but listens, getting himself comfy on the mattress before looking up expectantly.
Keith pulls out folds of wool and hands it to his boyfriend with a shy grin.
Lance gasps, taking the bundle into gentle arms.
"How did you have time to make this?" he asks.
The ribbing around the neck and arm holes is wonky, and the cabling he tried up the sides is the simplest pattern to use and he still doesn't think he got it right, but Lance looks at the garment with such reverence that his heart can't help but soar.
"You know, just between training and missions and stuff," he tries to pass it off like it's no big deal, as if every precious free second over the last few months wasn't spent labouring over the thing.
Lance doesn't respond, his gaze still drawn downward. He rubs a finger over the stitches of the arm in almost reverence before he unfolds it and holds it high. Every second, every stitch is suddenly worth it. Worth it and then some.
Lance lets out a snort, and flips it around, so Keith can see where he stitched 'Ice Cold' in shaky letters in the middle of the chest. Lance pokes his head out from behind the jumper. His grin is unmoveable and his eyes remain soft.
"Is this because I'm the opposite of 'Hot Stuff'?" he teases, sticking out his tongue.
Keith's cheeks burn and Lance smirks at him.
"No, it's because you're cooler than being cool" Keith replies, and watches red invade Lance's face up to his ears.
"Keith!" he all but screeches, and Keith can't keep his laugh contained.
He gets tackled to the bed by a figure wearing a bright blue sweater, and leans into the kiss.
"I really do like it, thank you," Lance says after they've pulled away.
"I really like you," Keith replies, smiling up at the boy who, despite all the planets they visit, no one can seem to beat.
Lance goes, if possible, even redder.
Keith chuckles at him.