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Stars Shine Only in the Sky

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Two-thousand-nine-hundred-and-fifty-seven. The number of bricks between his cell and the cell across the corridor came to an annoyingly uneven quantity. At least the bars had the common decency to be even on each side of the door. Even the chain links around his neck and limbs had 10 to 20 links each. Keith snarled his agitation. He didn’t care about the number so much as the fact it kept his mind occupied and not focused on how absolutely fucked he was.

He bought himself a one-way ticket to the slave planet Dema, and there would be no one stupid enough in the universe who would care to change it. For thousands of the nameless and homeless, Dema was the last place they’d call home. Granted, Keith’s choices landed him in the barred cell, so his situation wasn’t nearly as sympathetic as some, but he didn’t believe he deserved a lifetime of subjection because he tried to take a tiny trinket from an Altean diplomat.

Alteans had money to spare, and a diplomat to Tralgnar wouldn’t notice a missing gem. The pompous nobles paraded riches around like mere baubles when just one of those polished rocks could feed Keith for a month. Not that he had been starving. Keith took good care of himself, all things considered, but a month without stealing. A month where he could focus on something other than where to loot his next meal was worth the risk, or so he thought.

The Galra weren’t a down and out race, for the most part. Galra, like Alteans, had wealth. Unless you happened to be a parentless half breed like Keith. A societal cast off. He didn’t know what blood all mixed inside him. His most obvious features; purple skin, feline like hair, long fangs, and pointed ears were indisputably Galra. He had a small stature, however, and compact muscles. True Galra, male and female, towered over him, though Keith hadn’t been bothered by it. His size became an advantage. Full Galra had brutish strength, and if you were caught by one, it would be game over in no time. However, they had to catch you. Keith had Galran strength, but it spread through his body, giving him lithe muscles made of coiled tension. In short, Keith was fast. Four well aimed hits could topple an opponent in the time one Galra sentry could get a single hit in. Keith had no doubts the only reason he still breathed had been due to such an advantage.

“Doesn’t do me any good now.” Keith chided himself as he hung from his limbs, bound to a moss-growing wall. His underground cell was dank and windowless. Speed wouldn’t rescue him here.

Keith messed up. He messed up big. All because of a pretty face. The diplomat had been younger than he expected. Chest length thick white hair and skin a gold dusted shimmering brown, sharp featured with a slender nose and a pair of wide cerulean eyes. Keith had never seen a young Altean up close before, and he wondered if they were all beautiful. Old ones he’d met were distinguished with faces set in frowns but with notes of well used laugh lines. All of them handsome, but he’d never call them beautiful, not like the young godling he came across the day he condemned himself. He wanted to say something then, something to catch his attention, but before the words left him, he had been jumped, and the next thing he knew he was here. Hungry, cold, and fucked.

Lance looked around the small moss-covered stone hallway with a curl of his lip and a scrunch of his nose. It smelled like wet fur and mud and a little bit of excrement. He really did not have to guess why; it smelled as unsightly as it looked. He followed the guard down a narrow staircase, being extra careful not to touch anything. It was bad enough he was already going to have to dispose of his boots when he returned to his suite. He didn’t need to send for a new uniform as well. And it took all his willpower to keep his mouth shut, though he wondered if it would be better to breathe that way so he wouldn’t have to take in any more of that nauseating smell.

“Here.” The guard held a torch by the bars of one of the cells. Lance stepped to his side and looked in at the thief. His men had told him it was a Galra that was caught, though he had only seen the hooded figure briefly before he was taken down. There was no way that tiny, lean thing was a Galra, or at least not a full one. He looked to be shorter than Lance, with a waist that could probably be the envy of even the most svelte of Altean women. Pointed ears and skin the tell-tale purple of the race, but it was smeared with dirt and grime, and Lance bit his tongue to keep from recoiling from the sight. But even by the limited torchlight, there was something about the man. Those eyes, like the most pristine amethysts able to reflect even the dullest light. Captivating. Soulful. Pained. Lance could have easily just turned and walked away, but those eyes…

“Release him.”

“What?”

“You heard me.” Lance crossed his arms and frowned, glancing at the guard. “The crime was committed against me, and he didn’t actually get to steal anything, though the attempt was made. As such, I am invoking my right of claim over him, as my diplomatic standing allows me.”

“But he’s already been set for the next ship—”

“Did you not hear me?” Now Lance turned his entire body towards the guard, his arms still crossed, but the expression on his face darkened. His soft voice was firm, and much louder than it had been moments before. “Or do I have to speak with your superiors about your insolence? Release him from this cell, hand his chains and his key to me, and be done with it.”

“A…Ah. Yes sir!” The guard hastily unlocked the cell and walked towards the prisoner, grabbing the chain in one hand as he unlocked it from the wall. “To your feet.” He barked.

Keith’s nose scrunched, catching a new scent. He recognized it over the grime, mildew, and excrement. Like a fresh breeze after storm. Fresh, pleasant, and he’d be hard pressed to forget it. He lifted his head, seeing the very face that landed him here.

Under those Altean eyes, Keith grew defiant and refused to stand. The guard didn’t appear to want to play along and forced the tiny Galra to his feet. He jerked with a choked breath as his chains all but dropped into the diplomat’s soft, white gloved hands. The slime straining the pure cloth caused a smirk with a hint of satisfaction to curl one lip. Knowing they were sullied with the same filth he lived in put a spring in his step.

“Faster! Move it!” A shove to Keith’s back tossed him off balance, sending him into the pretty Altean. He would have crashed head first into him if not for the abrupt yank from chain around his neck. The force lifted and gagged him as he hung a foot off the ground, his head level to Galran guard’s shoulder.

“Gentle. He belongs to me now, and I do hate when my possessions are broken.” Lance’s voice was calm as he started to walk, holding the chain with a tight grip, and tugging only enough to encourage the half-Galran man to move. “Come. You have a rather large debt to pay off.” There was a certain gruff demeanor he had to play as long as the guard was watching.

Keith followed with a glare over his shoulder at the guard, making a point to remember his face until that sweet scent pulled him forward as well as any chain might.

“I’m not a possession.” Keith hissed under his breath, ears pressing to the side of his head, but he complied with the diplomat’s lead. Right now the Altean and him had a common goal. They both wanted to get as far away from this dump as they could. So, he’d play nice.

Lance’s ears twitched at the grumbling, but he said nothing as they ascended the stairs and made their way through the dungeon halls. When they stepped out into the open air, he breathed a sigh of relief as though the greenish light could purify the experience of being in such a dingy place. He glanced at his charge before turning to the guard. “Have the warden send the necessary paperwork to me. I am taking this one back for a bath.” His nose wrinkled.

The guard simply nodded and went back into the building.

Once he was gone, Lance turned to the smaller man and leveled his gaze on him. “Don’t struggle. Don’t say anything vile. Just follow me.”

“Didn’t know Alteans dealt in slaves.” Keith quipped before thinning his lips to silence them, his ears still back and angled low.

Lance snorted in reply and walked towards the diplomatic district. He ignored the scoffs and stares of the other officials even as he led the man into his residence. His guards arched a brow, but said nothing, though there was a squeal from one of the servants. “He needs a bath.” Lance said to her as he turned towards the half-Galran and unlocked his chains. “Go with her. Get clean. Put some fresh clothes on, and we’ll talk about all of this.”

Keith gave a dry chuckle as he turned his back on the Altean to nod at the servant. “I do believe I offend his delicate sensibilities.” She rolled her eyes and pulled Keith along as unamused by the Galra’s humor as her ability to tolerate his scent.

“Oh yeah, we’re gonna be friends. I can tell.” Keith folded his hands behind his neck and followed.

After the invasive, demeaning, and over all unpleasant ordeal, Keith sat in the penthouse’s greeting room looking dejected and sour, dressed in a restrictive Altean uniform, he decided they would never be friends. A man could only forgive so much; two flowery scented baths, one aggressive fur bristling shower, pull and tear session with his hair until it it became face framing mesh of layers void of snarls and split ends, and an unapologetic sweep up of the pile of black and magenta hair, Keith drew a line. No one cared and the torture continued by placing his wiry frame into the stiffest most constrictive outfit he’d ever worn.

With a fang bearing snarl Keith shoved off the glass table where he sat , using a defiant claw to pop each golden button down his torso until the mauve lined cape-tailed vest laid crumpled on the floor. Rolling his shoulders, Keith settled into a new ease. Wearing only the soft billowed olive colored under tunic, he was allowed to breathe. The open sleeves were short and the armholes reached all the way down to the gray silk sash around his waist.

“At least put that on the chair if you’re not going to wear it.” Lance bent over to pick the clothing up off the floor, shaking his head with a tsk before placing it on the back of the chair. It was as good a distraction as any, since he hadn’t actually thought that the dingy man he brought home from the prison could be so attractive. Of course, he smelled better, but his exotic looks caused a slight pang in Lance’s chest. His hair was much healthier looking now, the black and magenta threads blending nicely. His skin looked incredibly soft, and perfectly offset those haunting eyes. His ears had the slightest tuft of fur, coated like a cat’s might be, and Lance wondered if they were just as soft. And his lips, though curled a bit in a snarl, looked entirely too kissable.

“What’s your name?” He did his best to keep his voice calm and even.

“Keith.” The Galra kept his head turned toward the window. If he knew Lance entered the room door, he didn’t turn to acknowledge him. Instead, Keith watched the city light up from the 20th-floor window.

The Tralgnarian capital would never be known for its beauty, its people, or its architecture. The planet dealt in industry. An Industrial Age frozen in histographic smoke stacks and toxic waste. The Galra did what they could to preserve a high production planet, but the damage had been done. There was little more to do than wait until the terrain choked and breathed its last.

Keith found beauty in observing the final death throes. Beyond the inches of paned glass, fumes crystallized and hovered above the buildings, their toxic light raining down in bilious greens and yellows, while an hour’s old solar flare still stretched and branched through the clouds long after its creator forfeited to the night.

Keith had a love hate relationship with this city, and right now it served as the perfect distraction. When most people heard his name they scoffed or laughed at it, yet it was all he had of who he was, so he wore it with pride. Let them laugh. They didn’t matter.

“Keith.” Lance said the name quietly as he watched the smaller man stare out the window. Normally he kept the curtains closed, since the dismal look of the city was so different from the bright colors of his home on Altea. “So was it your mother who was Galran? Not your father, certainly? You don’t have the build of a typical Galran male.” He continued to watch Keith’s back. “And so you’re discriminated against. That much is clear. You hadn’t actually stolen anything, and yet they treated you worse than if you had.”

One eyebrow quirked up, and Keith turned his head to follow the motion of his eyes as he regarded the Altean. Striking. Keith finally understood the meaning of the word. Remarkable, staggering, something so profound and incredible it takes the air from your lungs, like a punch to the gut. As it had been in the motorcade, Keith couldn’t look away. Standing before the diplomat harkened to standing before a brown dwarf star. Fire and potential burned behind those bright eyes, and his dark supple skin bared delicate blue racial markings. The Altean stood before him extruding a casual confidence earned only by trial and error, while surrounded by corona of pure silver hair, landing in long waves of spun moonlight . Every wonder of the universe trapped within a single pampered body.

“It’s the way it is. I keep to myself so it doesn’t bother me until it does. I’m a half breed when it matters to the Galra, and I’m half-Galra when it matters to everyone else.”

“Hm. Sounds lonely.” Lance watched him for another moment before he nodded to himself. “Well, you obviously had to resort to stealing because of the way they treat you here, and I obviously can’t leave you alone now. As long as we’re on this planet, you have to stay with me, or they’ll drag you right back to prison and ship you off.” His lips pursed slightly. The last thing he wanted to happen was to have Keith sent away. He was too feisty and too beautiful for that. “So, Keith, to answer your previous musing, technically, yes you are my possession, but no, we do not deal in slaves. I have no intention of keeping you as a slave. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth to say I have to own you, but I do. Here. And once we’re off this planet, I can take you back with me, or I can drop you off somewhere else, but you are free. You’re just….limited, right now.”

“Solid logic.” Keith sighed. He couldn’t argue. If recognized without the Altean by his side, it would be straight to the slave planet. He knew what happened to people like him in a place like Dema. Keith could hold his own, but he had his limitations and Tralgnar tested them to the brink as it was.

If the Altean was a man of his word, he’d be a free ticket off this planet, and he could get a fresh start someplace else. He looked him over, making no attempts to hide the appraisal. “So I suppose I should be grateful. Is that what you’re getting at?” Keith turned, watching the way the other’s eyes moved along him as if the Galra had already granted his permission.

“How grateful do you want me to be?” The Galran stepped closer, no stranger to lust. Keith knew the look well enough. It was often mixed with disgust or some level of personal distain when he caught it on others who stared at him. This one though, he was a hard read. A pink tongue flicked out to gloss full indigo lips. Beyond playing innocent, cat and mouse wasn’t his style, and Keith had done far worse for far less.

“Well, no. That wasn’t what I was getting at, but I certainly won’t reject any gratitude you wish to show me.” Lance smirked, just a slight quirking of his lips, as he watched Keith step towards him. Each move the slightly smaller man made sent his eyes to a different place on his body. His hips, which swayed just slightly in that way that was meant to entice someone. His neck, which looked longer and smoother the more Lance looked, and he just wanted to run his tongue along the purple flesh there. Finally, those lips that still looked entirely kissable, especially when that pink tongue peeked out and wet them. Lance found himself wondering just how good the half-Galran would taste. “Though I do have one request. I wish to know how you ended up being so careless as to get caught? You don’t seem clumsy, and you certainly don’t seem stupid. So tell me, Keith. What made you hesitate?”

“You want to know?” Keith moved into his space, and with bold liberty, he trailed the back of his fingers under the light blue eye lines. “This face. I’d never seen a young Altean before.” His clawed thumb dared to brush right over the marking as it came back. He dragged the newly manicured nail to the tan-pink lips, pressing only hard enough to dimple the pliant skin.

Lance stood perfectly still and calm, not bothered by the touches to his face. And when Keith pressed his lips, he let his tongue flick out to touch the tip of that finger. “No?” His voice was soft even as one of his arms moved around Keith, his hand resting on the flat of his back as he pulled the smaller man against his chest, relishing the warmth their bodies shared. “And so seeing my face made you hesitate? Am I that ugly?”

“And now you’re fishing for a compliment? You know you’re not.” A puff of air escaped Keith when brought flush against the broad chest of the diplomat. He leaned in, tempted to lick after the tongue that tasted him, but he held himself in check, and let the action simmer behind his eyes. “Or does MiLord get off on hearing how pretty he is?” A cool smirk snaked over Keith’s lips, sliding his hands over masculine line of his shoulders.

“Yes. I know I’m not, but that doesn’t mean you think I’m not.” Lance kept his hand against Keith’s back and lifted the other to tuck some of that black hair behind one of his ears, stroking the soft fur there. “And my name is Lance,” he whispered. “That’s what I want to hear you say when I get you off.”

“Nn. Lance.” Keith tried the name out on honey coated lips as his head tilted toward his hand. Lance went in for the kill when he stroked over the velutinous shell of Keith’s long slender ear. Keith didn’t know if it was a trait Galra possessed or one of the many suspicious others hidden inside his DNA, but the slow touch revealed a unique sensitivity.

“Would you like that, Keith?” Lance whispered and leaned in, letting his lips brush against that softly furred ear. The hand at his back moved, sliding to his side to touch the flesh exposed by the open side of the tunic. “Is that why you were distracted by me? Because you find me attractive?”

Fluttering eyes drifted shut. The gentle caresses of a man of leisure had a maddening effect on Keith. Lance’s spoiled, uncalloused fingers grazed Keith’s scrubbed skin, still raw from the bath. His touch was soft, coaxing in a way Keith didn’t know how to handle. In the past he knew only the hard pressing of fevered, hurried lovers. People who wanted fast and easy relief. The way Lance caressed him now was as alien to Keith as the sweet mint and raspberry scent of his breath.

“Should I take that as a yes?” Lance’s voice barely a whisper, his tongue sliding along the edge of Keith’s velvet ear. His fingers slid to his back again, but this time he touched flesh instead of the fabric of the tunic, the caress soft, almost feather-light. Each little movement meant to drive the other man mad with pleasure.

A soft mewl replied to Lance’s question as his ear perked forward with the rush of his blood and the dark violet flush on both his cheeks.

Lance smirked, sliding his fingers up Keith’s spine, his other hand gently gripping the smaller man’s chin and forcing his head up a bit to look at him. “Say it.” He searched those violet eyes for the desire that he was sure could be found in his own.

“Nn!” Keith struggled with no level of commitment, and his eyes opened, dark and hungry as they stared Lance down. “Yes.”

“And so, you were caught because you were attracted to me.” Lance brushed Keith’s lower lip with his thumb. “Poor thing. I should make it up to you, shouldn’t I?” He leaned in, watching his lips. “Would you like that, Keith?”

“Poor? Thing?” Keith’s eyes narrowed. He bunched the collar of the Altean’s shirt up in his fist and pulled him closer so they were sharing one breath. Heated eyes glared into Lance’s then down to the pursed lips which had been ready to take his own, and Keith knew he had his opening to provide his one rule. He bit him on the lip. Not hard, but enough to spike the vulnerable flesh with a sharp pain.

“Strike one.” He licked over the sensitive pert flesh, but never took the opportunity for entry. “Kissing on the mouth is hereby revoked, Lord Diplomat. And will remain so, until further notice.” He dropped Lance’s collar, smoothing the wrinkles he creased into the fabric. “Don’t ever look down on me.” The growl in his throat eased to a to controlled low rumble. “Understood?”

Lance didn’t know what he was expecting, but it certainly wasn’t being bit in anger. He dropped his hand from where it had been holding Keith’s chin, and he winced at the spike of pain that now caused the flesh of his lip to throb and redden. “If I look down at you, it’s because you’re shorter than me.” He normally would have grinned at the remark, but he couldn’t, not after the bite, even if Keith had followed it with a lick. “But that is the only way. You assume I’m pitying you. I don’t pity you. I was offering to give you the body you are so clearly attracted to, but if you don’t want it, that’s fine.” He pulled his head back and let his arms fall to his sides.

Keith strengthened his hold on Lance in case he had any plans to walk away from him. “No. I want it. I don’t like being toyed with.” He took Lance’s hand and placed one finger at his lips. “Around here you either fuck or you don’t. We don’t dance around it like Altean lords appear to. That’s the one rule. I won’t kiss you or anyone. So now it’s your turn.” Keith slid his tongue up the finger’s edge. “Fuck or not?” He dragged the digit between his teeth, wrapping his tongue around it as he held it steady, moving his mouth down so Lance got a pretty damn good idea what the half-breed could be doing right now.

Lance watched Keith with darkening eyes. “Well, I am not the type of person to have sex with someone who doesn’t want it. And biting me made it seem like you didn’t want it, so I needed to hear you say it.” He lifted his other hand and rested it on his hip, pulling Keith even closer before that hand slid to his backside and squeezed. “And now that we agree, we should have fun with it hm?”

The squeak coming from the Galra’s mouth both startled and confused Keith as his lips dropped Lance’s finger, and he mourned the loss of his hand against his flesh. He pressed closer to Lance, his leg lifting up to curl around him. “Let’s have fun then, Altean.” Keith kissed along his sharp jaw, moaning into it as the sweet taste of him overpowered his senses. Never in all his life had he experienced something so clean and fresh.

“Only if you say my name, Keith.” Lance murmured and squeezed his backside once more, but then he grinned and dragged that hand along the curve of his bum and over the thigh that was pressed against his waist. He held that leg there as he pushed his hips forward a bit.

“Lan-ah!” Keith whimpered. He tried to do what Lance asked, he couldn’t help it. His words got cut off by the other rutting against him. The press of him was hot, demanding. Keith knew the game changed with his decree. Sex would not be about emotion. The here and now would consist of desire. They were going to use each other, and their attraction only made it a win-win for both of them. He leaned his body back to accommodate the urgent push tried to grind back against it with his own.

Lance grinded against Keith a bit more before he pulled himself back with a smug grin on his face. “What was that, Keith? What were you trying to say?” He let go of the smaller man’s thigh and he took his hand, pulling him towards the door that led out of the sitting room.

Feeling light headed and bit dizzy, Keith followed Lance with a confused expression on his face. “W-where are we going?” He looked around himself and blinked at the bed in the center of the room, his eyes wide. It was the biggest bed he’d ever seen! The size of five maybe six cots down in the shelter and topped with more pillows than any one person would have a need for. Keith didn’t even know they made round ones! What would be the point of that?

He walked past Lance, his hand slipping from his, and he wasted no time crawling into the bed, his face nuzzling the soft material as he stretched himself against it, tunneling into the lavishness of it all.

Lance blinked and watched Keith bounce on the bed and nuzzle the pillows like some sort of oversized cat. “Oh? You like it hm?” He stood at the foot of the bed and watched him, his lips curling up even as he unbuckled his belt and started to remove his shirt. “Then do you want to feel what it’s like to do it on such a nice, soft bed?”

“And get it dirty? That’s okay?” Keith sat up, static making stands of hair stand on end. He crawled across the bed to Lance, helping him get the shirt off then dancing his fingers over the blue swirling marks stretching from his shoulders and down his flat chest and taut stomach. Each line set in a graceful contrast to Lance’s skin.

“Well, even if it looks like it’s made for it, doesn’t it seem wrong to dirty it just because you want to?” Keith nuzzled his lips against Lance’s stomach, kissing around his navel as his fingers hooked into the waist of his undergarment.

“Sheets and blankets can, and will, be cleaned, Keith.” Lance lifted his hand to slide his fingers through that black hair, and he groaned softly at the feeling of Keith’s lips against his heating flesh. “And I’m sure you won’t mind it getting dirty when you’re feeling really good.”

“Pretty conceited, aren’t you?” Keith licked down a line, spreading open the sides of his pants and dragging his underwear down. The Atlean’s hard sex sprang to life and would have enticed a laugh from the prisoner if not for the awe it inspired.

“Oh.” Keith whispered, getting his questioned answered. “I suppose you have a right to be.”

“Is it conceited of me to know things?” Lance’s words became breathy as his heat was exposed to Keith’s view, but he slid his finger over the shell of one of Keith’s soft ears. “What do you think? Do you think you’ll mind me giving you pleasure with this?” He shifted to step out of the pants and underwear that pooled at his ankles, and he slid the finger at Keith’s ear down his jaw and under his chin, tilting it up so he could find the half-Galra’s amethyst eyes.

“Nnmg… Lance…” Keith nearly purred with the delicate touch and the commanding tilt of his chin. “No.” He whispered. “Will you let me pleasure you first?” The smells in the room were getting heavy, the mingling of Galran and Altean musk made for an intoxicating concoction of desire.

“Let me.” Keith urged, moistening his lips before he nuzzled the inside of Lance’s palm, allowing his hand to drag back as Keith pushed his head forward. First his nose nuzzled the edge of the tip, then his lips, marveling at the Altean lines following down the member’s sides. Briefly he wondered what the marks do or if they added some kind of evolutionary mating benefit, but it didn’t matter to him. Mating is not what two males did. Without further hesitation, he took Lance into his mouth, starting shallow, indigo lips wrapping in a tight seal over the head.

Lance didn’t even bother trying to suppress the moan that escaped when he felt Keith’s mouth surround him. He rested both hands on his head, his fingers twisting into his hair. “Nnn. Your mouth feels so good.” He could feel his own desire growing with each movement of Keith’s head, with each press of his tongue. The heat coiled up in his abdomen, and he gripped his hair a little tighter. “Ah!”

Keith drew the tip of his tongue against the heated vein underneath as he made slow deliberate bobs of his head, his hand curling over what his mouth couldn’t fit. When he found a smooth gliding rhythm, he turned his eyes upward, watching Lance’s face as his fangs grazed the delicate flesh.

“Ah!” Lance hissed slightly at the feel of teeth against his most sensitive skin, and he gripped Keith’s hair a little tighter, but he was careful not to yank. “Keith…Ah…don’t bite me again… especially not there” His pleas were soft, whimpering words, and he looked down at the other man with the first few shimmering signs of tears in his eyes.

Keith blinked and pulled his head away, his brow furrowed up as he got to his knees in an instant. “Hey. Hey. I’m sorry. Whatever I did. I’m sorry.” Keith swallowed the lump behind his throat, the flush leaving his cheeks in a pale rush. “I’ll stop. I’ll stop. I’m sorry! Did they get you? There’s just no room, and…” Those ears started to droop, one weighting down a little more than the other.

“N…No.” Lance panted, trembling fingers touching Keith’s cheeks. “It felt so good. Amazing…so good.” He looked down at him, those tears still shimmering in his eyes. “I was just startled. I’ve never had anyone with fangs before…and you bit me earlier, and…” His eyes darkened as he spoke, and he felt a shiver travel down his spine. “I’m sorry for upsetting you…” Those fingers brushed over Keith’s lips. “Please don’t stop. Just don’t bite me. I want to be able to make you feel just as good as you’re making me feel.” And as if to prove his point, he glanced down at his own heat, sheened with Keith’s saliva and twitching in anticipation.

“Okay.” Keith relaxed, nuzzling his face into his hand. “I’ve never seen an Altean cry while I was doing this before, so I didn’t know but if you’re okay—” He kissed his palm then his wrist before he lowered back down, lathing the underside with his tongue before taking him back into his mouth, this time with his free hand giving gentle attention to the softer area below the rock hard member.

That pleasurable warmth that had been settling in his lower abdomen changed. It grew hotter and heaver. He gripped Keith’s hair a little tighter than before, and any remnants of tears instantly dried up. He pushed his hips forward a bit, not in any real attempt to push himself further into Keith’s mouth, since he didn’t want to choke him, but in a sense of urgency. He was going to claim Keith. Hard. Fast. All day and night if he had to. He was going to erase any memory of any other Altean Keith may have had. Good. Bad. All of them. Keith was his now. It didn’t matter if he promised him his freedom. He wouldn’t take that back, but there was nothing that said he couldn’t give him such amazing sex that the smaller man wouldn’t want to leave his side.

“Mmph!” Keith whimpered around him his back bowing down as he tried to take more of the Altean into his mouth, but he grew hotter and bigger to the point his brow winced with the stress to his jaw. The spice of pain urged the half-breed on and a low vibrating purring sound started in the back of his throat and traveled through the hot-pressing sex deep in his mouth.

Lance grunted and let out a loud groan, his orgasm starting as soon as those vibrations went through his heat. He closed his eyes as the feeling washed over him and he did his best to keep his hips from moving too much as his pleasure subsided. “Mmm…”

“Nn.” Keith swallowed all he could and licked his lips of what he couldn’t. The viscous liquid smearing over the stripe on his cheek as he pumped the remaining pleasure from him.

“Am I worth every gac?” The Galra continued to purr as he nosed the side of Lance’s heat, nibbling and licking until it stood at full length again.

Lance reached down and swiped some of the mess from Keith’s cheek. “You were before you did any of that.” He slid that finger over Keith’s lips. The sound of his purring was almost too much to listen to and not throw him down on the bed, but he would behave. “But you’re not fully undressed yet, and that’s a little disappointing.”

“Your Altean clothes are strange. Your servant dressed me and I’m not sure how to take them off.” Keith admitted with a childlike frustration puffing out one cheek. “It’d be less annoying if you helped.” He licked the captured cum from Lance’s fingers before he stood up on his knees and turned around lifting his hair off his neck to show the first of many clasps holding the tunic together.

“You had no problem helping me get my pants off.” Lance smirked and reached forward, slowly undoing each clasp that held the tunic on. As he did so, he leaned down and placed soft butterfly kisses down his newly exposed back until every clasp was undone.

Like opening leaves, the green fabric unfurled, exposing the soft purple flesh to Lance’s gaze. A dark line of deep purple traveling the length of Keith’s spine, branching off into wrapping arches around his shoulders, stomach hips, and presumably lower. All the lines seemed to have a purpose, a map to drag the eyes to erotic curves, narrow hips, and then disappearing down the front of his pants.

“Mm…you opened them.” Keith sighed, his head lulling to his shoulder. “What are you doing?”

“Hm? I suppose that’s true.” Lance slowly slid his tongue up that darker line, though he noticed another one. Thinner, lighter, some sort of scar. He shrugged it off for the moment and kept licking until he got to his shoulder, kissing there as his hands pushed the tunic down off his arms. His fingertips barely touched his skin as he did so. “Undressing you. Isn’t it obvious?” He whispered as his lips found his neck, and he smirked, causing the still swollen flesh to press against Keith’s skin. He could feel some of the scratches from the iron shackles that had been there only this morning.

“Ah ah!” Keith gasped, a tremble starting in his body getting stronger with each gentle kiss and dusting of a touch. Lance’s tongue stung and ran hot over his injured skin. The sensations of pleasure and gentle pain mixing and confusing in his head making his body force Keith’s hips to try and roll back against Lance.

Lance let the tunic pool at Keith’s bent knees, knowing the other man would slide out of the clothing eventually, especially now as he unclasped his pants. Though instead of pushing those down, he slid his hand inside the front, soft touches continuing as his fingers slipped downwards and found the source of Keith’s heat.

“Fuck!” Keith arched his head back over Lance’s shoulder, his hands reaching back and gripping his hips, desperate for anything to hold on to. He needed something to ground him out of the floating space Lance was insistent on keeping him in.

“We will. Be patient” Lance licked the back of Keith’s ear and pressed his own hips forward a bit as his fingers traced that hard heat. “You should push your pants down the rest of the way though, so I can make you feel even better than this.”

With a hurried rush, Keith freed himself of the confining cloth, hissing as cold conditioned air greeted his hot aching flesh. Keith rested back unwilling move away from Lance’s hands and body, afraid to lose the delicate contact he gave him. “T-there. Can you now?”

“I think you should lay back.” Lance nuzzled his lips against Keith’s ear again as he pulled his hand back from his heat. “So I can get a better look at you. You’ve seen all of me, so it’s only fair.” He grinned and licked that ear, his hands now sliding over Keith’s hips.

“Aha..” Keith’s ear wiggled and twitched as Lance continue to attack that unguarded weakness. “B..but…okay. No take backs though.” He’d been prepared to argue, but a gentle nudging forced his mouth shut as he crawled forward, the prominent mounds of his ass in the air until he found a comfortable place to lay among the pillows. Turning and sinking back, Keith gazed up at Lance, arms raised by his head as if he were to be appraised.

“That’s it.” Lance crawled onto the bed and let his eyes roam over Keith’s body. There was another scar, much like the one on his back, but the one on his torso was larger and thicker. He said nothing as he ran a finger over it, brows furrowing. It looked like something had gone through Keith, though luckily not fatally. He would have asked about it, but now was not the time, and so he forced his eyes away from that lighter skin and continued to take the sight in.

While he only had the one dark stripe down his back, his chest and thighs were banded with the darker skin. Several coiled around his thighs and hips, and one seemed to trace his ribcage. He smirked a little as he leaned down to lick one of those stripes, starting at his inner thigh and teasing his soft flesh with his tongue. The bath had done the man some good, as the oils had made his skin pliable, and he smirked with each shift or gasp he elicited from Keith. His hands slid up and pushed open Keith’s legs when his tongue reached his hip, and he placed a soft kiss there before sitting up to take the rest of him in. His chest heaved with his breaths and pants, and seemed to accentuate his tight muscles and dark peaks, the nubs standing hard either from the chill in the air or the anticipation of what would come next.

Lance obliged, leaning down to take one of those buds in his mouth, rolling it gently between his teeth. The hands at Keith’s thighs slid up towards his heat.

“Aah!!” Keith’s one hand shot for Lance’s hair the other pulled at the pillow under his head. “Shit!” This wasn’t supposed to feel this good. Lance somehow understood how to perfectly manipulate his body. If he wanted him to shift left, he did it. If he wanted him to lift his hips, he did it with the most subtle of nonverbal commands.

“Such a vulgar little mouth you have.” Lance let his fingers dance over Keith’s heat as he settled his body over him. “Too bad you won’t let me keep it occupied.” He pressed himself against one of the man’s thighs so he could feel that he was also still aroused and ready to go.

“Nnm... I suspect you won’t like it as much, if it wasn’t so… v…vulgar.” Keith’s groan cut itself off as he arched into Lance’s thigh. The hot thick swell exciting the young Galra into another soft purr.

“Oh, you think so?” Lance asked with an arch of his brow, his hand curling around Keith’s heat. “I suppose that’s true. I do like your voice. It’s sexy. So let me hear more of it.”

“AH-ah! More then. Touch me more, and I’ll give you any sound you want!”

“Well I’m certainly not going to touch you less.” Lance chuckled as he moved his hand, pumping Keith and adjusting his pace with each squirm of his hips.

“Mhm! Lance! Good! So good!” Lance stuck Keith as the type who needed affirmation. He liked hearing his name and being told he was pretty. So, a vocal bedmate would seem necessary. Keith had no qualms about stroking anything Lance needed stroked, including his ego. He didn’t care for the quiet types anyway.

“Lance…” Keith keened with a thrust of his hips.

“That’s it.” Hearing Keith moan his name like that only enhanced his desire. He leaned down and brushed his lips over Keith’s jaw, murmuring as he continued to move his hand over him. “Enjoy it. Enjoy me.”

“I-I.. ah!” The smaller man tossed his head back as he climaxed, unable to handle the firm grip of the Altean’s cosseted hands. Thick blue semen spread over his quivering stomach.

Lance pulled his hand back once Keith’s orgasm finished and that smaller body sank back into the bed. “Hm?” He had never actually been intimate with a Galra before, so seeing the blue stain those perfect violet abs did something to Lance that he couldn’t explain. His eyes darkened, and his sex twitched and started to drip his own need down his length. He leaned over Keith and licked at his jaw.

“Mm..” Keith sprawled back in the luxury of a soft bed and a half sated body. “What is your desire of me now?” He purred, licking his lips as he lifted his lower body before Lance could respond. Keith had experience, but it’d be a stretch to say he slept around. He’d had relationships and, a time or two, did things he hadn’t been proud of out of desperation. For his history he’d never say he needed sex. He needed food, shelter, but not sex. Sex felt great, and with the right partner, amazing. Something about Lance, the way his body moved or the way he treated him called out his softer instincts and yet teased the more carnal parts of him. An old familiar itch started to rise in him.

“That’s rather obvious isn’t it? What we both want.” Lance slid off the bed and walked to a small table by the entrance to the bathroom. Several jars of lotions and oils rested on the flat surface, and Lance spent some time looking at each one, lifting the tops, basking in their scents, and also allowing Keith to have a nice long look at his back before he chose one and came back to the bed. It was one of his best medicinal oils, and with it came a soft tinge of vanilla and lavender. “Unless you would rather we stop?”

“You really do want to spoil me.” Keith leaned up and nestled his head into his neck with an appreciative purr. “Beautiful and kind. I lucked out robbing you.”

When Lance settled back between his legs, Keith’s ears perked in curiosity as he checked out the jar.

“I want to spoil both of us.” Lance poured some of the contents of the bottle into his palm before putting the container on the small nightstand. He used the oil to coat his fingers, but also himself, leaning over him with a grin. “You wanted me to do this, didn’t you? And I want to do it. So we both lucked out.”

“Still conceited. Originally I wanted that.” Keith smirked, pointing to a small ivory trinket sitting on the vanity, abandoned and forgotten. Treated as ‘just a thing’ yet the catalyst controlling the last few days of Keith’s life and everything after.

“And you don’t fit in my pocket.” Keith flashed a genuine smile up to Lance as he leaned his shoulders back against the pillows. His hands burying inside the plush mountain to hide the way they gripped at anything they could. The itch inside of him had become a burn, a hunger he ignored for weeks. He closed it out, focusing on the oil in Lance’s hand, watching the way he spread it over himself. Keith licked his lips, his own sex twitching to full prominence against his stomach. His nose wiggled at the scent of the salve, it was calming but did little ease the mounting tension.

“I prefer to think of it as honest. And if you still want that trinket, it’s yours.” Lance watched Keith’s face as he slid his hand beneath him and pressed one oiled finger into him. “You can still stop me if you’d like. Just say the word.” His eyes darkened as he looked over Keith, licking his own lips when the smaller man arched towards him.

“Nn.” Keith bit his lip and shook his head. “I’m okay. You don’t have to be this slow with me.” Even as he spoke his body twitched and tightened around Lance’s finger trying to pull him in and push him out at the same time. “Gods… why would I stop now?”

“Do you think I’m doing it like this because I feel like I have to? Maybe I’m doing it because I want to treasure all of your reactions.” Lance moved his finger carefully, watching the way Keith’s eyes seemed to darken with every slow movement. “And I want you to enjoy me to the point where you wonder how you ever went without me.” He smirked and added the second finger after several more moments of using the first.

“That sounds a bit twisted.” Keith arched, panting into the pillows as his head turned to the side, with only a few thrusts of his fingers, the Galra came to a breaking point. He rode his hips against the intrusion. Pulling a piece of bedding down, he licked at it before biting into the lace frill. The burn spread wider through his body.

“Pl..please Lance!”

“Oh? Impatient? All right.” Lance pulled his fingers out of Keith and shifted himself so he could lift those smaller hips and line himself up. “I suppose it’s only fair if I give you what you want.” And so he carefully pushed himself into the half-Galra, his eyes closing slightly as that tight heat surrounded him. “Mmm, Keith, you feel amazing.”

“Fuuuck!” Keith arched as he swore and gripped the pillow harder between his teeth. Muscled thighs and coiled legs wrapped around Lance, wanting him deeper until the Altean had nothing more to push inside. “Nmmph!”

Lance buried himself in Keith at his urging, his fingers pressing into his hips as he waited until both of them had gotten used to the feeling of Lance being inside him. And once he was sure Keith was ready, he began to move, slow, deep thrusts at first, his darkened eyes locking on Keith’s. The heat that surrounded him was more than he had ever felt before, and he knew he would have to convince Keith to be his.

“La-lance!” Keith whimpered his teeth clenched around the frill until a toss of his head forced him away from its limited security and exposed the long slender slope of his purple neck, larynx bouncing as he took in swallows of air. Lance stretched and filled him so tightly, he didn’t understand how he man could move with those even thrusts, but like everything the Altean did, there was a level of grace and control to the most bodily of acts

“Nnn. You feel so good.” Lance moaned, and as pleasure filled him, so did warmth. The lines that traced down his chest and back almost seemed to glow as his body tried to share that warmth with Keith. And as his more sensitive parts began to feel that new heat, his hips started to move a little faster. “Ah!”

Keith was melting. At first the heat scared him, the warmth spreading from his deepest places but Lance’s voice, his panting steady breaths eased him. “What is.. ah!” Keith whimpered again, the sensation spread to the lotion inside as if activated and made to tingle with each of Lance’s thrusts.

“I’m going… I’m going to melt!” Keith mewled without complaint, his tongue slipping from his mouth as he started to pant. The burn he’d been holding onto snapped and spread like wild fire through him, singeing every last follicle. “AH!”

“AH! Harder… more… Nnng!” Sweat broke out on his smooth purple skin, his layered locks sticking to his neck. His eyes, losing the iris, began to glow a soft golden light. Quintessence. As soon as the Altean started to glow he was exuding quintessence and the Galra inside Keith started to feed.

“Good. Melt.” Lance closed his eyes and moaned as he continued to push himself into Keith, his hips moving a little faster and somewhat harder. Not enough to potentially hurt the other man, though Lance suspected he could have just gone at it, and Keith would have been fine. But for the first time, at least, he wanted to maintain some semblance of control so Keith would become addicted to him. He wanted him. He would get him. “Ah!” His eyes snapped open and he found himself staring into those glowing golden orbs. “W…What…AH!”

“Ah! AH!” Keith arched his shoulders back and pressed them into the same pillows his hands tried to pull down. He couldn’t think, couldn’t articulate anything more other than a whimper or a beg from quivering swollen lips. Sound left him. The buzzing of his body was all he heard, as if the lube and the heat inside had come alive and joined with the rush of his blood and deluge of essence pouring into his body. Losing himself.

Golden eyes stared up at the penthouse ceiling. Silver flakes etched into the navy painted arch work, each one looking like a star in the night sky. Keith didn’t remember the stars. He might have seen them once, but the Tralgnarian city polluted the night sky with unending light. The capital city never slept, no one had the time to gaze up, and Keith had always stared straight ahead, waiting to dodge the next obstacle.

Somehow, as his body rocked against the bed, he came back to himself, hearing his own lewd cries bounce back at him as if it was the voice of someone else. The voice of a man completely taken in by pleasure and in a gluttonous plea, begged for more. Even in the sober logical reaches of his brain, the sensations leaked through, like water pooling under a door. Keith knew what would happen if he turned the knob and let it in. He’d drown, sucked away by the undertow and torn limb by limb by the riptide. His fingers trembled, and his breathing quickened as he heard their moans mingle together.

Each thrust made Lance fall more and more into the sensations of pleasure. He hadn’t ever felt it this intensely before, and for the feeling to be this amplified with a Galran lover no less. Not that he had actually ever wanted to be with a Galran, of course, but Keith was still half, and Lance wanted, no, he needed to possess him so utterly that Keith would never want to be away from him.

Each little whimper that passed those lips, each little bead of sweat that trickled down his jawline, only drove Lance to push harder, faster, deeper. Never losing himself, but also completely giving in to everything. “Ah! Keith!” He moaned the smaller man’s name, his eyes half closing as he tried to focus on the golden ones that stared back up at him. And with every seeming flash of Keith’s eyes, he could feel the heat surge along the lines on his body, rushing to that point buried deep within the smaller man.

The door broke down. At first it splintered and cracked before shattering and rushing toward him in a wave of uninhibited desire and pleasure. Keith’s body convulsed and drew into Lance, getting him deeper and holding him still as he rode out the whirlpool. He tightened and pulsed around the invading sex, draining the diplomat of every last drop he could stain him with, his voice broken and horse from the chorus of names and desperate cries.

Keith’s body tightening around him sent a surge of heat that threatened to consume Lance. His fire had been stoked from smoldering embers into a full-blown inferno, and his hips twitched as he emptied himself into the smaller man. He heard Keith’s moans and cries through the white-hot pleasure that enveloped him, and each little whimper made Lance want to experience it a thousand times over.

Keith’s legs fell from Lance’s waist and laid akimbo on the bed. His muscles still twitching and flexing while he waded through each aftershock. They kept coming like ripples on the surface of a still lake. Every troubled ring making Keith’s inner cavern grasp the Altean. Both knowing there was no reproductive need for such an action, the greedy body below Lance merely wanted his mark. His scent. While his own smeared between their stomachs, blue mixing with sweat and staining Lance’s perfect toffee skin. The light dying from his eyes, returning them to gem stone amethyst.

The light that emanated from Lance’s Altean lines slowly faded, pulsing as they dimmed, like a heartbeat as it steadied itself after an adrenaline rush. But the warmth was still there, and only started to dissipate once Lance pulled himself out of the trembling man beneath him. “Nnn.” He already missed the heat of Keith’s embrace, and he looked down at him, smiling and watching the gold give way to violet, like the brightest star sinking below the horizon and leaving nothing but twilight.

“Eeng.” Keith whimpered when he was left empty, eyes screwing shut against the flush of cold air surrounding him.

Without hesitation, Lance laid at Keith’s side and wrapped his arms around him, pulling him into his chest and pressing his face into his hair as he tried to wait for his body to settle and recover. “Keith….Are you okay? Did I hurt you?”

“Wha?” Sleepy eyes forced themselves open and stared into the graceful Altean face, his nose practically touching his chin. “No.” Keith whispered, his voice raw. “I’m okay…”

“Good.” Lance kept his voice soft as he shimmied and got the blankets over them. “You’re amazing, you know. That felt incredible.”

“Oh? How is that?” Keith rolled to lay on his stomach, his head pillowed by his arms as he looked up at Lance. A tantalizingly kissable bare purple shoulder peeking out from the covers. Despite what had transpired, there was still an allure about the half-breed. A gentle salacious seduction in the way his lashes fluttered, the way his body moved with each breath, even how his ears came to a lazy droop beside his head. The uncalculated innocence of it would be enough to bring any man to his knees, and yet here he was laying peacefully in Lance’s bed in a rented room at some nameless high-end hotel.

Lance lifted a hand and pushed a stray lock of hair back behind Keith’s ear, then let those fingertips slide down his jaw. “Well the sex was amazing, for starters. I can’t ever remember a time when I felt that good.” He slowly moved his fingers down the side of Keith’s neck. “Your warmth completely captivated me. I’ve never…well you felt it right? I was glowing and warm. That’s definitely never happened before.” Those feather-light touches made it to that peeking shoulder. “And I’ve never wanted to keep someone in my arms afterwards. I don’t want to let you go.”

Keith moved to Lance’s touch. First with a tilt of his head, then a push of his shoulder. No one had treated him gently after sex, and this felt like Lance was paying homage. “I- I fed,” Keith cuddled down into the blankets, his eyes peeking out from the cover. “ You started radiating quintessence. I tried to fight it… but.”

“Wait, what? You…ate? From me?” Lance looked down at the now lump and the two large, mystified eyes that looked up at him from under the blanket. “What does that even mean? I mean, I didn’t feel anything bad, but…Is that why I felt warm?”

“I’m Galra. We thrive on quintessence. I’m only half so I can’t just absorb it through the natural life stream. I take it. I hadn’t in a long time, but Alteans… I forgot how connected your race is to it.” Too tired to hide the hurt, Keith’s eyes flickered away from Lance.

Lance blinked and tilted his head to the side. “Why do you look upset by that? I’m not angry or anything. I’ve just never had it happen before. It didn’t hurt. It doesn’t bother me. If you need it, then I will give it to you as long as it doesn’t kill me.” He sighed and held him a little closer. “And maybe after we leave this planet. I want to take you home with me so you don’t have to worry about it.”

Keith lifted himself to elbows and blinked. “I’d never need enough to kill you.” Keith studied Lance’s face and he knew he was dealing with something he hoped to avoid. A hopeless romantic.

“You don’t know me.” Keith sighed and bowed his head. He’d been tossed around and forgotten by too many people. He wanted to believe in them, but he couldn’t trust them. The same sentiment went to Lance. He wanted to believe him so much it hurt in his chest and Keith knew Lance was being honest with him. However, honesty now never meant honesty later. People would promise you the moon and the stars just after you shattered their world.

“Get to know me. You have 30 quintant, or whatever, to realize I’m not so special. Most figure it out in less.”

Lance’s normally confident expression faltered, and he looked at Keith, his eyes misting, the vulnerability obvious until he steeled himself and settled back a bit more against the pillows. “Even if you decide you don’t want to spend any more time with me. Even if you decide you’d rather just be acquaintances, and you don’t want to get intimate again, that doesn’t mean I can’t still want to take you home. Where it’s safe, and warm, and you won’t be thrown in a prison or sent to a slave planet.” He sighed and turned his head to the side, closing his eyes. “Maybe I’m not good for much. Maybe the only asset I actually have is that quintessence. But I can at least give you a chance to start over somewhere better than here.”

Keith’s brow furrowed up. “It’s not about you.” This guy really had an ego on him and it was delicate as crystal. “We’ll just see what happens. There’s no harm in that.”

“Says the person who’s already made up his mind about how I should think about you.”

Keith sat up more, arching his brow higher. “That you don’t know me? Yeah. You don’t. I haven’t made my mind up about anything. I just said to get to know me before you promise things to me. Because I haven’t made my mind up. I don’t move that fast.”

Lance opened his eyes again and turned his head back to Keith. “I haven’t made you any promises other than saying your life is your own, and you’re free to do whatever you want with it once I get you off this planet. Even now you’re free for that, you just have to stay by my side to keep from getting sent away.” He shook his head a little and sighed. “Yeah, okay, we had sex. And you probably think I’m going to treat you like everyone else has treated you, and that’s fair. But if you want me to get to know you, then please stop comparing me to everyone else you’ve encountered, and please don’t tell me how you think I’m going to feel.”

Keith balked back at those words, his eyes wide and his lips moving to come back at him with something biting and angry, but Lance was right. The whole time they’d been together he’d done nothing but compare Lance to everyone else. Even if the comparisons ended up landing Lance in a favorable light, it was unfair. So he sighed. His getting on his knees, his hands in front of him on the bed kneading the bed sheets anxiously. “You’re right.”

Lance watched Keith for a moment. He hadn’t meant for them to get into some deep discussion his post-amazing-sex brain wasn’t ready to have. So instead of making any sort of comeback or retort, he managed a slight smile “We’re both right. Now…” He pulled Keith back down into his arms and pulled the blankets over them again. “Stay here. It’s cold, and you’re letting the warmth out.” He nuzzled his face into that mop of black and magenta hair. “See? Isn’t this way better?”

Keith’s eyes remained wide until he found himself nuzzled into the warm tan chest. “It is…” A low soft rumble started in Keith’s throat without his consent. The sound spreading a calming vibration down the whole of his body. He figured it was strange to be comforted by your own sounds, but he wouldn’t question it. Instead he curled his arms around Lance, fitting himself against him in a tight yet comfortable crush.

When Keith’s arms came around him and he started to purr, the tension left Lance’s body, and he nuzzled into him a bit more. “Mmm. See? Being warm is good. And I didn’t know you were a cat.”

“Shut-it.” Keith kissed a marking by his lips before laying his head back down and settling into the luxury and warmth Lance provided. “Or I’ll sleep in a different room.”

“There isn’t another room I’d let you sleep in. They’re all shared. So, Keith, let’s get to know each other.” Lance whispered. “With sex or without, though preferably with because we both enjoyed it, we can learn, and grow, and make a decision together, hm?”

“Hmn.” Keith’s reply came has a breath, Lance calling him back from the brink of sleep.

Lance shook his head. “Never mind. Just rest.”

“No. No. I heard. Yeah.” Keith yawned and sighed out the words. “Sex. Good. Sure.”

A smile came to Lance’s lips, and he had to hold in the chuckle, since Keith was on the verge of sleep. He held him a little closer and closed his eyes, settling in with him.

Chapter Text

Lance stepped out of the elevator and took slow steps towards his suite doors. He carried a small box in his arms, which was pretty heavy despite its small size. He wanted to get Keith some more comfortable clothes, since the half-Galran always seemed so displeased in the Altean garb the servants kept giving to him. So he picked up something the shop-keep said seemed to work better for a Galran. Tighter, but also less restrictive at the same time. Lance wasn’t really sure how that could possibly work, but he had seen Keith’s agility as he worked out on the balcony courtyard the other day, so what could it hurt?

And as he neared the door, he heard sounds he wasn’t expecting to hear. Laughter? That wasn’t Keith’s voice though, so who? Another few steps closer. Coran’s. Of course. The quirky man had taken a shining to Keith, and seemed to feel responsible for the smaller man’s plight. At the very least, Coran was someone Lance trusted, and so any tension that had built in his shoulders and back released.

At least until he opened the door and walked into the main room.

Keith was sprawled on the floor, holding a set of cards in his hand and smirking at Coran, who was half-laughing half-sobbing, sitting in his chair in just his ridiculous long underwear. Lance’s blood ran cold, and he half frowned. “What’s going on here?”

Keith had a uniform top draped over his shoulders with long white boots, gloves, and a few decorative metals sitting in a pile behind him. “I’m about two turns away from winning a mustache! That’s what’s going on!” Bright violet eyes glittered up at Lance, filled with impish mirth. Keith made himself at home in only a few days.

If Keith expected Lance’s expression to mirror that mirth, he certainly would have been disappointed. “Why are you picking on Coran? He’s horrible at card games. Or any kind of gambling in general.” He sighed and stepped past the two of them, shaking his head. “Give him back his clothes.”

Coran stood up, tears in his eyes. “You saved me! I haven’t seen card playing like since I rounded up a gang of Maciplain Xelrix. They are sly ones.” His eyes narrowed with thoughtful suspicion toward Keith but without malice.

“Maybe that’s what Keith is? A Xelrix. Hmm. No. No. He doesn’t have enough heads and no self-respecting Xelrixian would ever have only two eyes.” Keith hid his laughter behind a fan of metallic cards.

Lance shifted the box he was carrying and tucked it under his arm before waved his hand a little. He snorted slightly and walked towards the bathroom. “Just clean up and put your clothes back on, Coran. I didn’t need to walk into this after a long day.”

Coran blinked, the weight of whatever cloud Lance brought in squishing the levity of the room. “Y-yes my lord.” He gave Keith a worried glance and received a passive shrug in return.

Keith locked the door behind Coran, and exhaled with dramatic flair, the press of his new task he became burdened with squeezed the air from his lungs. Lance’s foul mood annoyed him as much as it was oppressive. People who could charm a room also had an innate gift for controlling its atmosphere. Shitty mood meant shitty atmosphere.

Leaning himself with casual ease against the bathroom doorway, he polished his nails against his shirt. Though to call such a thing a doorway would be a misrepresentation of doorways. Rich people liked to be surrounded by comfort and reminders that they were rich even while they went about their bodily cleanses.

What Keith leaned against was more of an archway, the moldings of pure white stone were smoothed down to a glittering polish. The walls had decadent hues of beige, deep maroon, and grey marble. Veins of silver and gold reached through them like antique cracks. On the vanity sat mirrors and devices for a number of hygienic tasks, some of which seemed obvious, while others Keith could barely guess at. Name plates of lotions, ointments, and powders of every flower and spice Keith could think of lined up in a rows beside bronzite buttons. With just a push Keith could smell like an apothecary’s storage room.

“Rough day?” Keith leveled his attention on the back of Lance’s head.

Lance’s back was to the door when Keith walked into the bathroom. He was already running some water, half leaned over the tub with his hand in the stream to check the temperature. “Yeah.” He didn’t mean to sound as curt, or as tired, as he did, and he said nothing else as he straightened himself up and started unbuttoning his uniform.

A high arch curved Keith’s brow as the Galra clicked his tongue. “So what got your undies in a bunch?” He fell into the role he was paid for like slipping into a pair of new gloves, smooth, flexible, and conforming to the wearer’s will. Keith didn’t mind. Something about Lance made the fit feel slinky. Sexy.

He molded his body against Lance’s back, his hands sliding over the expanse, making sure Lance could feel his claws, but just so. “Should I relieve you of these My Lord?”

“Oh? Like you were about to relieve Coran of his?” Lance snorted. “That was definitely the last thing I wanted to see when I walked in the door.” Despite his foul mood, he did try to relax when Keith’s hands slid over his back, but he couldn’t do it. He just remained tight and tense as he undid the last of the buttons.

“Are you jealous?” Keith purred into Lance’s shoulder as he slipped his arms around his waist. “Coran is the only person I know who can lose at strip poker and end up in more clothing than he started.”

“Is that what it is? I don’t like it.” Lance muttered as he unbuckled his pants. Even if Keith was trying to be sexy, talking about Coran killed any potential that had. “What if he was better at cards than he is?”

Keith chuckled, low and sensual, the tight press of their bodies sending the vibration to penetrate through Lance’s back. “I only play with odds I can win.”

Lance pouted, though he didn’t turn his head, even if those vibrations were starting to affect him. “So you knew you’d win, and Coran would have to take his clothes off? Isn’t that bad too?”

“He was only entertaining me. There’s no harm in that.” Keith moved his fingers inside Lance’s top and brought it down over his shoulders and arms, tips lingering and brushing against bronze flesh. “Do you want me to just stare at the wall all day?”

“Well no, but I don’t want you making another man get naked either.” Lance shifted for him as he pulled his top down, and in doing so he shimmied out of his pants.

“Did he look naked to you? The only man I’ve made naked today, appears to be you.” A glossy purple nail dragged down the swirl of a racial line. He wondered for a few days now if the colored skin was more sensitive than the rest. Lance seemed to like it when Keith paid special attention to them, but Lance liked anything ending in, suggesting of, or having to do with, sex.

“Would he have been if I took longer at the shops than I did?” Lance finally looked over his shoulder at Keith and pouted. “I even bought you a present, but…”

Slender fur tufted ears perked. “A present?” Keith couldn’t help being materialistic. When raised on the street, everything had a value and that value meant food.

Lance nodded to the white box wrapped with blue ribbon sitting on the vanity by the sink. “There, if you still want it.” He stepped out of Keith’s arms and out of the rest of his clothing, turning off the water and opening a few bottles, pouring some citrus-scented bath oil and bubbling soap into the tub. He watched the small bubbles form and rise up from the surface of the water, and when he was satisfied, he slowly sank into it, groaning as the warm water surrounded him and started to ease the tension in his body.

Keith’s empty arms fell to his slides as he stared at the box. It appeared harmless and plain. One of his ears perked and twitched as he stared it. He’d never been given a present before. It certainly was a nice box.

“It’s nice.” Keith stepped toward the ivory container. He could tell it was expensive. The polished gloss of the surface reflected the room’s lights. “It’s very square. And um smooth?” Was it a lock box? Something he could put valuables inside and stash away. It had to be what it was! With a hidden lock or maybe a passcode. Keith could appreciate a practical gift like this one.

Lance turned his head and looked at Keith, his eyes widening. “What are you talking about? You haven’t even opened it yet.” Wait. Did Keith think he just brought him a box as a present? It wasn’t even anything fancy. It was just a box, tied with a ribbon to keep it closed. Nothing special. “The woman at the shop gave me the box because I said it was a gift for someone important. That’s all that is. If you want to see what your present actually is, you should open it.”

Keith’s ears twitched, and an embarrassed flush spread across his face in a fever of deep violet. “Oh. Sorry.” He shrunk a little without ever seeing Lance’s gaze on him, he could feel it burning into the back of his skull. Lance couldn’t hear the touch of ridicule in his tone. He probably didn’t even realize it was there in the first place. A person who had everything couldn’t understand the ones who had nothing. The poor didn’t give presents in boxes with ribbons. Who could afford such things? Gifts of food were typical but never wrapped, and those kinds of things were reserved only for the ones who had someone to give to and receive gifts from.

With a cough and clearing of his throat, he tugged the string on the ribbon and lifted the lid on the box. His ears twitched again as he stared down at the contents. Clothing? He touched it with tender fingers as if the fabric could turn to smoke. High quality. Well made with strong elastic stitching. Breathable, and it appeared fitted but not constrictive.

“For me?” Keith asked as his stroked over a seam. Red. His favorite color.

“Yes.” Lance sank more into the water. “I said as much right? I know you don’t like the clothes they keep making you wear, so…” He glanced over at him, ears twitching slightly with a bit of nervous anticipation. He never cared if someone liked a present before, and now his stomach twisted in knots. “Is it bad?”

Keith closed his eyes and placed the box back down on the vanity before he turned to regard the man sitting in the bath. He said nothing, stepping over the edge with a feline grace, not caring he was still fully dressed. He crawled across the pond sized bath over to Lance, silent and predatory before he straddled over his hips and settled down against him.

In silence he leaned forward, his hands braced against Lance’s chest, and their lips just centimeters apart, feeling and tasting each other’s breath. Keith bent his head down, dusting his bottom lip against Lance’s chin before his head dipped lower, kissing across his jaw to his throat. “Thank you.”

Lance opened his mouth to say something when Keith just climbed into the bath with him, fully clothed, but he wasn’t able to get any sound out beyond a squeak when the half-Galra straddled him and started to kiss his jaw and neck. He was only a little disappointed that there was no kiss to his lips.

He shifted slightly under him as his body reacted immediately to Keith’s attentions, and his hands moved to tug the wet shirt off the smaller man. “Y—you’re welcome. But this has to be uncomfortable for you.”

“Don’t worry about it. I have something else to wear.” Keith traced a blue line with the tip of his tongue, stopping to swirl and take up a few drops. The water tasted sweet and smelled of a blossoming tree. “Do Alteans often marinate themselves? Or were you hoping I’d want to eat you?” Keith plunged his body lower, his back end coming out of the water as his head continued the downward path. The sodden weight of his clothing forced the fabric to mold around the perfect around spheres of his ass. His purple flesh shading the white cloth a taunting lilac.

“I…was just hoping to relax. With you being this sexy, that’s impossible.” Lance moaned and slid his hand down Keith’s back, grabbing the bottom of the shirt and pulling it up as wet fingers trailed up his spine. “Off…”

“You want to relax?” Keith glanced up from where his tongue circled a brown budding peak. “I can help with that.” He stood up on his knees, slopping his shirt over his head dropping it to the floor. Trails of dripping water ran in rivers over his skin, softer now thanks to a weeks’ worth of indulgent Altean baths.

“A massage?” A pull was all it took to get the water-logged pants to slip off his waist, and even if the movement should have been awkward, Keith made it all appear as part of a routine. He pressed forward. His hips lifting up as he maneuvered his legs to push the pants down his thighs and his calves, He leaned up, his chin nearly touching Lance’s but his head tilted away to keep his lips a safe teasing distance away. Then with one last shift of his body, his foot dropped the clothing to the floor, leaving him naked and sprawled over the Altean Lord.

“I did, but this…is the opposite of relax.” Lance’s eyes darkened with each of Keith’s movements, and the heat that flushed his cheeks traveled throughout his body. He lifted his hand to Keith’s waist, pulling him closer. “It doesn’t look like you want me to relax either.”

“You think so?” Keith purred with Lance’s touch. “You fall asleep pretty fast after a round or two with me, Altean.” He cupped some water in his hand and brought it up to drip over Lance’s chest, only to be cleaned away by a rough pink tongue.

“Oh? So you want to knock me out in the bath? Do you want to drown me? That’s not very nice.” Lance watched Keith before he slid his fingertips from his waist and up his side. “You fall asleep just as quickly, you know.”

“I’m not the one complaining right now.” Keith grinned, running a hand through his dark hair, using the water to slick it back and away from his face, giving Lance his first clear look into his half-breed eyes.

“Who’s complaining?” Lance looked up at him and arched a brow. His eyes widened a little when Keith gave him an unobstructed view of his face, and he almost lost himself in those deep purple eyes. But he shook his head a bit and pushed his hips up so Keith could feel his heat against his thigh. “This is the opposite of complaining.”

Keith glanced down then back up at Lance’s face as he chuckled. “Actions do speak louder than words.” He lowered his hand, watching his partner’s face as he gently pressed Lance’s sex against his leg and started to rub it, capturing it between his thigh and palm.

“Nn. Do they?” Lance couldn’t stop the groan when Keith provided that friction, and his hand slid back down the smaller man’s side again. “And what are they saying?”

“That you want me. That you want to be someplace warm and tight.” Keith kissed to Lance’s neck, nipping the marking there as he purred softly. “You want to feed me.”

“Oh? All that from this?” Lance tilted his head to the side and closed his eyes at the nip. His fingers slid over Keith’s hip, and he moved his hand around to his backside, gripping it and pulling him closer. “You want me to feed you? Are you planning on biting me again, then?”

“I could.” The delicate needle-fine tip of a fang pressed against the line Keith gave special attention to. “If you’re curious…” He spread two fingers over the hot sex pressing against him and started to move them slowly up and down the length.

Lance’s eyes slowly opened, and he moved enough to look at the imp in his lap. “Does it hurt?” He whispered, eyes darkened with lust as he pushed his hips towards that generous hand. Keith’s purple skin seemed to shine and reflect the dim light in the bathroom, giving him a sort of ethereal glow, even though angelic was the last word to describe him at the moment. Lance squeezed his partner’s bottom and watched his face, searching for any hint of the effect he had over him.

“Nn. I don’t know. I’ve never been bitten before. But if I will it, I bet I can make it feel good.” Keith’s lips moved wet and hot over Lance’s neck, hunger and desire deepened his voice to a soft low rumble, accented by the soft purr resonating through his lithe frame. The purr getting louder and steadily more prevalent as Lance’s soft hands gripped and needed his supple flesh. The attention sent tingles between his legs, knowing just how close to his opening those slender digits were.

“Oh? So you’ve never bitten others either then? You don’t know if it’ll hurt me?” Lance slipped his fingers between those pliant cheeks and teased Keith’s opening a bit, not pushing the tips inside, not yet. “Then I shouldn’t let you do it hm?” He murmured, his voice dripping with the desire he had pressed against Keith’s thigh. “You wouldn’t want to hurt me, right?”

“Aah!” Keith gasped, his fingers threading into Lance’s hair, gripping the threads and about to jerk his head back, but he staved himself from baring his neck, fingers echoing the trembling in his body and he swallowed back his hunger to focus only on Lance’s touch. “I don’t want to hurt you. I’ve never been bitten. I don’t know many like me, and I’ve only bitten others in defense. I don’t know how they felt.”

“Then don’t hurt me.” Lance couldn’t help his jealousy this time. It didn’t matter if Keith only bit others in defense. It meant he bit them, and he potentially made it feel good, even if he wasn’t sure. So maybe as a little teasing punishment, he slipped a wet finger into Keith and smirked. “Don’t do anything that will go against what you want.” He whispered and looked up at him, eyes the color of the deepest oceans. The way Keith trembled against him was so endearing, Lance wanted nothing more than to make him his over and over.

Claws scraped against the back of Lance’s head as Keith’s fingers tightened reflexively with the tease of intrusion. He moved his hips against his hand, riding himself on the press of his finger as he ground his leg down on Lance’s imprisoned heat. Water worked well enough for now, to open Keith up, but he’d need more than that to fit the whole of the Altean inside. “Use the oil… get me ready for you…”

“I can’t reach it from here. Get it for me, and I’ll give you all of me.” Lance pulled his hand back, having only meant to tease Keith a little, but he knew with the resistance it must have been unpleasant. “I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I’ll give you everything.”

Keith nodded his head and grudgingly let go of Lance as he sat up to reach the vanity and bring back a bottle of bathing oil. “This should work.” Keith didn’t really know, but from the way the fluid moved in the decanter, he figured it would do the job well enough. He tilted the bottle up then down, watching as the honey colored liquid moved about in the crystal casing. A laugh, chiming off the walls like the crystal in his hand, came from him as he shook his head. He wondered if the person who so painstakingly chiseled this object had any idea what they were about to do with it.

Keith sat back down, his back flattened against Lance’s chest, as his head settled in the crook of his shoulder. He lifted one leg to curl over the outside of the bath while the other spread to the outside of Lance’s hips, making sure he was open for the Altean.

“It was too tempting to bite you.” Keith explained their new position in a whisper after handing the oil to Lance. He stared down his own body, and a mewl escaped him at the sight of Lance’s sex now between his legs, pressed up against the base of his own. The dark Altean lined flesh hot and straining against his dark purple ribbed heat. The similarities and differences in their shapes was a curiosity as much as it was a turn on, and Keith couldn’t help it as his hips moved to put pressure on the taller man’s desire.

Lance whimpered when Keith pulled himself away from him enough to get one of the bottles, but hearing that pleasant, chiming laugh made the separation worth it. Lance loved Keith’s laugh. It was like a fresh breeze on a hot day, and it made him feel all sorts of adoration for the smaller man.

And he looked at him with that warm feeling, but when he settled back down, any heat that started to dissipate came back with force. Lance let out a shuddering breath when the half-Galran rested back against him, the curves of his backside pressing against his already twitching sex. And with the rock of those tantalizing hips, Lance felt the pressure build up. He needed to keep himself in check, or he would have just pulled Keith down on him.

“Is that so?” He managed, taking the oil from Keith and using it to coat his fingers. He looked over Keith’s shoulder, letting his lips press against the flesh as he looked down at their bodies, trying to decide the best way to make him writhe in pleasure. And while it would be tempting to rub Keith’s sex with his arm, he knew that wasn’t practical. At least not like this. So he lowered his hand between them and pressed a coated finger back inside him. “Then I should tempt you with something else.”

“Mmph!” Keith licked his lips and crooned as Lance entered back inside, the oil making him slick and slip in with ease. “Lance…” His arm curled back to catch his partner’s hair, kneading and pulling his head down to his neck.

“Yes?” Lance’s lips brushed against Keith’s skin as he moved his finger, smirking a little at how eagerly Keith’s body seemed to move with each push of the digit.

“My ear.” Keith whimpered. “Bite it…” A dazed groan came from the Galra, and his ear drooped down in offering.

“Oh? Weren’t you going to be the one biting me?” But Lance did as he was asked, tugging slightly on that velvet ear, being gentle with his teeth, not that his were sharp like his companion’s fangs were.

“AH!” Keith’s hips thrust up then down hard against the intruding finger, squeezing as he rode out the delicious wave of the pleasure traveling from his head to his groin. His sex twitching and wet with the first signs of impending climax.

Lance watched the way Keith’s body moved and arched. “That good? Should I do it again?” This time Lance tugged his ear with his teeth as he pushed a second finger into him.

“Fuck!” Keith cried out, his hips bucking as Lance simultaneously attacked his body from both sides while finding his sweet spot. Deep blue fluid shot out from his sex and streaked in watery lines on his half submerged body.

“Is that what you want?” Lance continued to move his fingers even as Keith came down from his orgasm. He smirked a little at the way the evidence of his pleasure gave the bubbles an aquatic tint. “The idea of me fucking you really seems to turn you on.”

“Nng..” Keith whimpered in response. Not sure when he lost control of the situation, but not caring he had.

“Is that a no?” Lance grinned and pulled his fingers from Keith, licking the back of his ear. “You don’t want me to fuck you? You don’t like the idea?”

“Mm?” Keith turned his head so his lips nuzzled Lance’s jaw as he spoke. “Mm.. Please fuck me.”

Lance pressed himself against Keith, rubbing a little and teasing him, but not quite pushing in yet. “Should I? Hm. I wonder.” He rubbed again, his hands coming down to rest on his hips and hold him steady. It was too tempting to tease Keith, but he couldn’t be that mean. And so he pulled him down on his waiting heat, groaning when the tight warmth surrounded him.

Keith arched as he trained his body to take Lance in, thankful for the preparation despite having to adjust himself to fit all of man in. “Nnn.” He purred, his body vibrating down even the point they were connected. “Feels so good…” Keith sucked at Lance’s neck in needy, open mouth kisses, each one punctuated by the sound of a wet taste of his skin. He didn’t want to move yet, he wanted to bask in the sensation of being filled so completely by a partner who treasured him to the point of endearment. “What do I feel like?” He asked, his muscles quivering around Lance, trying to provide as much sensation as he could before the first thrust.

No matter how many times they did this, there were still new sensations. Lance never expected Keith’s purr to vibrate him all the way to his core. He almost lost control right then and there, but he gripped Keith’s hips harder and grunted. “Amazing. You feel amazing. You’re so tight.” He moaned and tilted his head to the side, trying to give Keith even more access to his neck as his hips began to move. “Ah…”

“Ah.. after you.. I’m not so sure.” Keith worked his hips down. Nice and slow at first before the two bodies found a rhythm.

“Nn. You like how big I am?” Lance grunted. “But, I’m the one in you. You’re squeezing me like you never want to let me go, so I don’t think…you need to worry about it.” He panted and moved his hips.

“AH!” Keith arched his body up into a sitting position, pulling his leg back inside the bath and resting his hands on Lance’s knees. “Still, so.. damn.. cocky.. AH!” He gasped, breathless as his rolled his stomach to maneuver around the hot shaft while giving Lance a nice full view of his back side. He started move.

“It looks you like how cocky I am.” Lance moaned and slid one hand up Keith’s back. He watched the way the water dripped from his hair and down his spine, and he leaned in to lick up one of the stray drops, moaning against his skin. “Nnn.”

“Aha!” Keith squeezed Lance’s legs and he rode him harder, his mind starting go blank as his own hand wrapped around his sex to pump with each push of their bodies, getting faster and faster. Water splashed around them, sending fruit scented waves to the floor.

“Ah… Ah Keith.” Lance started to lose control of his hips. The feel of his body slamming down against him, the water rolling and splashing around him, the heat from the bath getting to his head, seeing Keith touching himself. All of it. Every splash of water on the floor. Every puff of citrus scent. It was too much, and he bucked up, crying out as he came.

Keith, already at his limit, couldn’t last beyond the sensation of the Altean swelling inside of him as he came, pushing his seed to the farthest reaches. For the second time, Keith came with trembling orgasm. A cry stopping in his throat, muting past his lips to become nothing more than a broken sob. He slumped boneless against Lance’s chest, panting while his body convulsed in uncontrolled waves of heat and pleasure.

Somehow Lance had enough willpower to pull out of Keith once they finished. His arms wrapped around him, and he pressed his face into his damp hair, still panting. “You’re amazing.” He managed, basking in the warmth that seemed to radiate from the smaller man’s body. “But…I’m definitely not relaxed you know.” And as if to prove his point, he pressed his hardened sex against his backside again. “You only excited me more.”

“A-again?” Keith panted, still trying to come down from his high but his body kept him elevated, wanting more no matter how his tired limbs protested.

“Yes.” Lance kissed the back of Keith’s neck and turned the other man on his lap so he could look at him. “Again. Again until neither of us can anymore.” He leaned in for a moment as if he was going to kiss him, but then he slipped out from under Keith and carefully got out of the bath, helping Keith stand only long enough to pull him up in his arms and carry him to the long counter by the sink. It was close, and it was different enough that his eyes darkened even more at the idea of thrusting into Keith as he sat on it. And so he set him down, pushing his legs open and lining up. “You wanted me to fuck you, didn’t you?”

Keith nodded, still dazed, but his entrance twitched in anticipation to welcome Lance back inside. Loose arms wrapped around Lance’s shoulders in a vain attempt to hold himself up. “I want that. Give it to me.”

“With pleasure.” Lance wasted no time in thrusting in and moving his hips, his fingers pressing into Keith’s thighs as he held his legs open. He was already so worked up, he knew he wouldn’t last long.

“Lance!” Keith cried out, tears pearling in his eyes at the sudden intrusion. It didn’t hurt, nothing Lance did ever hurt. It lingered on the edge of something dangerous and thrilling and Keith couldn’t get enough of it. He heard of sexual compatibility before, what they had went beyond that. Lance was knowingly creating an addiction for the Galra. “Lance! Lance!”

“That’s it, Keith. Call out my name. Beg me for it.” Lance set a quick pace from the start, grunting with every thrust. Each one pushing Keith’s body on the counter, back to the mirror, and his eyes darkened. He could see himself giving it to his partner, and that only made him want to thrust faster and harder. “Nnn.”

“Lance!!” Unable to hold himself up any longer, Keith fell back on the counter, his arms strewn above his head with little space to do more than claw at the marble wall. Hunger, hot and heavy, snapped the now familiar coil inside the young thief. The sounds of their bodies and their voices echoing off the wall and back to his sensitive ears took all remaining senses from Keith. Golden eyes glittered and flashed behind black bangs as his fingers ditched the abused wall moldings and slid over his own lips. His tongue flicking out to taste and suck at them as those eyes watched and waited for Lance to offer up the sweetest drug the Altean could give him.

Lance had never seen anything so sexy before in his life. Keith, looking at him with such hunger, licking his own fingers, it made him moan. His body reacted to the glow of Keith’s eyes with a glow of his own, his lines shining and pulsing with each meeting of their hips. “Take it, Keith.” He practically growled out the words as his body slammed into Keith’s.

Slowly, Keith came forward, sitting up again despite the pure exhaustion which showed on his body moments before. “Thank you.” He purred as he leaned down to lick over one of the glowing lines on Lance’s neck. “Aah… nnn.” The purring got deeper, a thick pleased sound of a feeding cat. He drank in the quintessence from Lance’s body. The power became a physical weight under Keith’s lips. Blue light coated his tongue, stained his lips, and dripped from the corner of his mouth. “Hnn…”

“Fuck.” The feeling of being pulled from, even if it wasn’t painful or dangerous, was too exhilarating. Each little tug and lick made Lance groan and cry out, his hips moving as quickly as his body was willing to go. Fingers pressed into the soft flesh of Keith’s thighs with almost bruising strength. He couldn’t help it. He needed to give Keith more.

“More. Altean.” Keith keened, sucking at Lance’s neck and feeling the heat of life fill his body. Every part of him thrilled and burned with each draught until he forcefully jerked his head away, liquid light running in rivers from his lips and down his neck. Keith cried out with one last shattering orgasm, mouth open for the calling of Lance’s name.

He couldn’t hold it back anymore. Lance lost it when Keith did, crying out as he hit his peak as well. His head tilted back, his eyes staring up at the ceiling as his body trembled and emptied itself into Keith.

Keith sunk his head down against Lance’s shoulder, nuzzling the still hot flesh, his claws tracing over his spine until reaching the back of his neck. “You’re so good to me…” He purred, licking once more at the dimming line.

Lance practically fell out of Keith as his body started to recover from both the feeding and the orgasm. His lines died down, and the glow vanished as he panted and groaned with the attentions to his back and neck. “Nnn… Am I?”

“Mm-hmm.” Keith purred kissing up his neck to his jaw and around to his lips where he stopped just a hair’s breath away from them. “Are you relaxed now?”

“Yeah…Well, exhausted more than anything.” Lance looked at Keith and let his lower lip stick out when he was denied that kiss yet again. “How are you?”

“I feel…” He licked his lips as if he just tasted the sweetest dessert and wanted to savor every last bit. “Amazing. Full, like I could sleep for a week.” Keith wrinkled his when he winked at Lance. “Or until you need me again tomorrow night.”

“Or tomorrow morning?” Lance grinned and pulled Keith off the bathroom counter and into his arms. “I always sleep better with you, you know.” He whispered as he settled the man on his feet, but didn’t let him go in case he couldn’t hold himself up.

“Good thing, because you don’t have another bed, and I’d hate for you to sleep on the floor.” Keith grinned over his shoulder, using Lance’s arms to hold himself steady as they walked.

Lance laughed and kept contact with Keith even after crawling onto the bed with him. “The floor isn’t good for my body. I’ll play around on it with you, but sleeping on a hard surface wouldn’t be too pleasant.”

“Well then, aren’t you lucky I happen to enjoy getting held?” Keith pressed back against Lance, his eyes closing.

“Incredibly.” Lance murmured and shimmied under the covers with him, pressing his face into his hair. “And you’re lucky I enjoy holding you.”

“Mm…” Keith didn’t think he’d ever be the type to ‘cuddle’ after sex, but there was something to Lance. Something truly tender and warm. The way his arms wrapped around him and the way his breath moved through his hair. It calmed Keith, made him feel like his life before this was a nightmare and this is where he belonged.

“Hmm. Hey Lance?”

Lance nuzzled himself more into Keith and held him close, but not oppressively so. Keith was the perfect fit for his arms. Like they were meant to be like this, and it only made his heart ache. Keith only liked him for sex, and because he was guaranteed freedom. He didn’t want any more than that. He made that clear the first night. But Lance…Well, he would just suffer in silence. “Yes, Keith?” He whispered.

“Can I still keep the box?”

Lance snorted as he tried to contain the laugh that wanted to escape at the question. He looked down at the tuft of hair on his shoulder. “Of course you can.” Keith really was a cat, wasn’t he?

Chapter Text

Keith stretched his legs out across Lance’s bed. He was bored. Bored of being bored. Bored to the point where finding something to do became monumental. His arrangement with Lance came with a set of rules, each one made the Galra more twitchy than the last. ‘Don’t leave the apartment.’ ‘Don’t answer the door for anyone but Coran and the staff.’ ‘Don’t be seen without Lance.’ Keith understood why the Altean restricted him. One false move, one chance of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and the thief was on his way to Dema.

Keith couldn’t shake the feeling he traded one prison cell for another. Though the arrangement wasn’t all bad. He enjoyed spending time with Lance, the Altean was actually a good time and not just for sex. Lance talked to him. He maintained an interest in him. He listened to Keith’s stories and knew how to prod the stoic Galra to get him to talk. Sometimes what Keith had to say made the diplomat laugh, other times he became jealous and broody. Those moments amused Keith. He peppered his information with a balance to garner either reaction. Lance’s laugh had a contagious note which spread and warmed Keith from the inside. Though his smoldering jealous eyes. The thief shivered. Feral and dark, they spoke volumes of the secrets under Lance’s beautiful and perfect smile.

Keith knew Lance wanted more from him. He rebuffed his attempts with gentle whispers and heated distractions. He liked him too much to hurt him. He liked him too much to be straightforward and say ‘no’. At some point, in the last few movements, Lance had turned Keith into a coward.

Lance might not have known how their relationship would go, but Keith sure as hell did. Lance was male. Keith was male. On the surface no one cared what one did in private. However, Lance’s love life couldn’t be private. His relationships weren’t his to own. They were political and high profile. As the king’s nephew, Lance became breeding stock(Keith’s words) for the betterment of family lines(Lance’s words).

Even if Lance hadn’t been in a position where linage mattered, Keith had a low class bearing. No parents and Galra. No, half Galra and whatever else. The best Keith could hope for would to be some kind of trophy while Lance had his progeny with, whoever.

Galra don’t share. Half of the universe’s bloodiest battles speak to the very concept.

The Altean royal line had a progressive history and might not care. Hell, even the Galra Emperor had broken taboo and married an Altean. No one opposed, but the smears and whispers still reached Keith’s ears. However, Zarkon was an emperor, a hero, and his wife was one of the most brilliant Alchemists Altea had to offer. Their abilities and classes were things Keith would never have. He couldn’t provide Lance a form of value above the waist.

“Aragh!” Keith tossed a pillow across the room. He screamed the thoughts out of his head. He had to get out of there! He had to do something! Anything!

He jerked himself out of the bed and made a march straight out to the balcony. His fist slammed a button on the eroded metallic green caprice colored siding. A whirring hummed through the air, matching with the vibration under his feet. From the wall, a glowing blue seam stretched down from the roof top. The glowing light pulled a platform which hovered politely at Keith’s feet. He rolled his eyes. Heaven forbid the rich even escape a building under their own power.

Keith stood upon the platform and allowed it to propel him forward.

He hopped onto the roof, and the flat open surface stretched for a whole city block. From his rushed entrance he knew the location of hotel to be set on a city plaza. Shops and fake gardens lined the bottom to give an illusion of tranquility. Perhaps it helped. Perhaps for brief seconds, while starting at jewelry or fashion trends, the well to do could forget they stood upon a dying planet. The advance green house effect made the heat oppressive, making it impossible for Keith forget. Though, up here, he’d admit it was better.

Keith’s muscles, over joyed with concept of open space, released a spike of endorphins. He wanted to yell, scream, run or fight! Anything to get his energy out.

He’d been cooped up. His bones itched, and his skin twitched. He walked to the roof’s edge and chewed his bottom lip. If Keith stayed to the roof tops no one would catch him, and technically he won’t be seen on the ‘street’.

Keith scanned for an aerial pathway until smog hindered his line of sight. His heart started to pound as he ran to the other side of the roof, the oppressive heat weighing him down but adding fuel to the excitement in his limbs. He crouched and gauged the distances, synapses firing with every possible scenario and judging strength and timing.

He dashed, jumping just before the ledge and falling with calculated control. He managed to grip a cord in his hand, spin and use the centripetal force to pop over to the following roof.

Keith laughed as he took to the air, going roof top to roof top, running across ledges and making wide birthing flips into the air.

After a few minutes he landed in a dilapidated section of town. Keith heard them referred to as the Diable Pits. A name derived from the waste fields on Diabazaal. Keith didn’t think it was that bad. As long as you didn’t mind sleeping in inches of soot, keeping rodents from eating your toes and having a daily reminder the city flushes its sulfur ventilation pipes at mid-day, then you could survive.

Food, if not stolen, rotted in a day. Water, tasted and was toxic, and the rain hurt. Survival was daily life in The Pits.

Keith wrapped his arm around his stomach, feeling the sting of guilt bubble in his gut as his eyes found a familiar mixed pup sitting at the opening of an alley.

“Reznil.” Keith whispered. The tiny purple furred head looked up at him, large ears twitching. Keith had always found those bat shaped ears amusing. They perked with every emotion the child expressed. Today they dropped forward. Keith didn’t have to ask why. A figure was missing at his side. His mother had failing health. There was no secret among the outcasts the woman was dying. Keith should never have come here.

He lowered to one knee before the boy, his hand scruffing his hair. Empathy never went much further in The Pits but Keith never could let things go.

“Hey,” He started as he tried to stand up, but a small hand gripped his wrist.

“She wants to see you.”

“You were waiting for me?!” Keith jerked his hand back but couldn’t move at full strength for fear of hurting the child.

Keith sniffed the air and snarled. His eyes narrowing to fine glinting shards into the alley. Leaving the hotel was a very bad idea.

“The pampered mutt decided to come home.” A graveled voiced stepped from the dark, but the shadows lingered around slender shoulders as one would wear a cloak.

“Kala.” Keith growled as the figure came forward. Back in her youth she could have had anything she desired. Men, women, and everything in between flocked to her if to be acknowledged. The beauty of her youth now a ghostly mirage on her face. But she refused to let go. Tight form fitting body armor adorned every part of her in deep maroons and blacks. It highlighted breasts which were once her proudest feature, now a glaring reminder of her age.

Keith bared his fangs, fur bristling as Reznil ran forward and wrapped around her slender leg. A wrinkled hand played in the boy’s hair and Keith’s eyes narrowed, remembering that not long ago he latched onto those legs.

“No way to greet me, child. I brought you a job. One which will set us both up for life. Although,” she stepped into Keith a hiss escaping both their lips as she placed a hand over his chest.

“You appear to be well taken care of.” Her claws raked over the red vest of his top. “So soft. So lovely. You were always my favorite. I can appreciate beauty even in a half blood like you.”

“Right.” Keith stepped back regretting wearing the clothing Lance gave him. “Don’t do me any favors. And you’re right. I don’t need a job. I’m good.”

“This one though, is perfect for you.” The back of her nails traced down the side of Keith’s face. “And half done.”

“Not interested.”

“Oh I think you are. You’ve always had an interest in politics.” Kala purred.

Keith blinked, arching a brow stopping midway through a defiant turn.

“Interested now?”

“I’m listening.”

-----

Keith slipped down to the penthouse floor and back into the window. He turned every thermostat to the lowest setting before he showered his day away. He used a few skin oils and soaps to erase the stench of Kala’s perfume

The oils worked their magic, leaving his skin and hair soft and pliant. Exactly how Lance liked it. Keith frowned. Lance never forced demands on him. Lance liked to see Keith healthy and spoiled. He seemed to like the extra weight he’d put on since living with him. He enjoyed the knowing most of his new girth settled firmly his ass.

Lance wanted to take care of Keith, and Keith was here for Lance. It was a good arrangement. But for now he indulged himself for himself. He loved this air conditioned apartment. He loved the feel of Lance’s slightly oversized tunic as he threw it over his head and he cuddled down into the soft silk and the scent wafting up which was uniquely Lance.

Keith burrowed into the blankets, hugging the silk and furs around his body with a contented, blissful sigh until he drifted off to sleep. Maybe he could erase the whole day the same way he erased Kala’s stench from his body.

Lance held a small piece of paper in his hand as he took slow steps towards the bedroom. The emergency escape track had been used. The security keeper on the bottom floor looked at Lance with such disdain when he handed him the report. Access time. Weight. Window access again later. He clucked his tongue. Of course Keith had probably been getting stir crazy, and he wasn’t allowed to just waltz out of the building, but using the emergency escape? Really? Did he think Lance wouldn’t find out? Did he care?

He shook his head as he nudged the bedroom door open. Keith hadn’t been anywhere else in the penthouse, so he had to be either in there or in the bathroom. The cold blast of air that smacked him in the face when he opened the door answered that question. Another shake of his head and Lance stepped inside, closing the door behind him as he moved towards the bed. Keith was nuzzled into a nest of blankets like an oversized cat. Was that his tunic he was wearing? Lance felt the heat surge in his body as he sat on the edge of the bed beside Keith, watching the way he buried himself more into the blankets with the weight shift. He put the small piece of paper down and watched him for a moment. Each little nuzzle, each little twitch of his ear only made Keith more endearing.

Lance felt something for the smaller man. He definitely dropped hints, but he couldn’t, no, he wouldn’t voice it. It would have put unnecessary pressure on Keith. But there was more here for him than just lust. He wasn’t entirely sure how deep his feelings ran, but he had them. And every time Keith denied him a kiss, he felt those feelings intensify, but he also felt a surge of something else. Not quite anger, not disappointment, but something. However, it did neither of them any good to dwell on it, so he just smiled as always, and made sure that Keith knew he was wanted and appreciated.

But what about him? Was he wanted? Keith was always so into their time together, but the more time they spent together, the more Lance was sure that Keith would leave him when the Quintant was up. The thought caused a darkness to well up inside him. He needed to keep Keith with him. He needed Keith to want to stay with him. He wasn’t sure he knew how to do that, since it didn’t seem like his usual charm was working. But there was one thing he could give Keith that no one else could, and as he looked down at the peaceful sleeper, his lips curved into a smirk, and his eyes darkened.

He lowered his hand to those soft purple lips, letting his fingertip brush against them until they parted. When they did, Lance allowed his quintessence to flow from him, the lines on his body glowing as it left him.

“Nnm…” Keith moaned, liquid warmth curled into his mouth like solid smoke. Sweet. Savory. Thick and refreshing. Delicate. Every craving a person could have rolled into one swallow. A tendril reached through his body twisting along his muscles and healing an ache he didn’t know existed, but filling him with a new one. A burning hunger.

Keith’s lips closed around the finger in his mouth, licking and sucking at the digit. Wanting more. Needing more. Dazed golden eyes fluttered open and stared up longingly at the young godling who offered him the forbidden ambrosia.

“That’s it, pet.” Lance whispered, looking down at his kitten with half-lidded eyes. Each little lick and suckle sent jolts of pleasure through him, and so he gave him more. “You seem like you had a long day. You must be hungry.”

“Mm-hmm.” Delicate whimper mixed into a purr as Keith took in what Lance offered him. His body heating up from the quintessence pooling inside, despite the chill of the room. Frayed nerves buzzed and tingled as they fused with new life.

“Lance…” Even half aware, Keith remembered himself enough to turn his lips into the palm of Lance’s hand in a tender greeting before going back to the generous feeding.

“Such a good kitten.” Lance fed Keith a moment longer before he gently pulled his hand back and allowed the last swirls of the essence to drip from his fingers. He shivered a little when their connection was severed, but the heat remained with him. “Does that feel better?”

“Nmph!” Keith reached his neck up to take those last precious drops, one dripping from the corner of his mouth to roll a blue trail of light down his cheek. “Yeah…” he shuddered.

“Good. I want you to feel good.” Lance leaned over him, the lines on his skin no longer glowing. “And it looks like you feel really good.” He wiped that glowing line off his cheek and his chin as it dripped down.

“You’re home late,” Keith pouted, licking the last bit of nectar from Lance’s thumb. He didn’t have the ability to put up any walls with a body filled with freely given quintessence. His body hummed with a warm intoxicated high.

“I’m sorry. Something came up and held me in the meeting much longer than I would have liked.” Lance brushed his thumb over Keith’s lower lip. “Though it seems you were very busy in my absence.”

“Hm…” Keith offered only a sheepish smile in defense. “That obvious?”

“A bit. It’s cold in here, and you’re wearing my clothes. The security report helped, too.” Lance nodded towards the little slip of paper, then shook his head. “You must have been bored, hm?” He slid that thumb down his jaw. “I’m sorry I kept you waiting.”

“Mm..” Keith arched his head back, his eyes half lidded as his drowsy purr started up again. “You’re a big important diplomat. I can wait.”

“But it was never my intention to make my kitten wait.” Lance’s fingers trailed down the tender flesh of Keith’s neck. “But I will make it up to you.”

“Oh?” Keith sighed while his hips rolled. He’d never been this worked up so fast. His lower half arched and his legs spread under the blanket. The motion obvious in the outline of his knees spreading under the blankets and an inquisitive hand inching its way down.

“Would you like that, Keith?” Lance whispered as his fingers slid down his skin and traced the neckline of that borrowed tunic. He watched the movements under the blanket, his lips curling into a grin. “Or would you like to show me what you’re doing?”

Keith’s ears twitched with the soft whisper of his name. “You can’t tell?”

“Well, you’re hiding it under the blanket. Don’t you want to show me?” He leaned closer and licked the velvet of his ear. “I want to see it.” Lance’s voice was nothing more than a shuddering breath of a whisper.

“Ah nnng!” Keith gasped, his breath catching as the sound of pure pleasure escaped him, his ears trembling as the Galra shrunk his neck into his shoulders, unsure what to do but not wanting it to stop. When caught off guard, Keith’s body was too honest. Too uncontrolled. Too sensitive.

“Is that a yes?” Lance licked that ear again, gently biting it, his hands moving to pull the blanket away from the other man. “You want to show me, don’t you?”

“I… I…” Keith turned his head into the pillow. His eyes glassing over with each pang of Lance’s teeth. Distracted, he could only gasp when the Altean took his cover away. The cold air kissed his skin, perking his nipples and sent goose bumps down his inner thigh.

Lance watched the way Keith’s body moved as he was slowly exposed to the air. Sure, he was wearing Lance’s tunic, but it shifted and rode up his thighs, leaving very little to the imagination. “Hm?” What is it?” He smirked and sat back a little to watch him.

“Lance.” Keith whispered, licking his lips as he arched his own body into the downward slide of his hand. “Here. It’s here…” He couldn’t keep the beg out of his voice. “I don’t want to wait. It’s already like this…”

Keith wrapped his hand around his sex, moving it in with a tight grip just enough to add the spice of pain without it hurting. He layered it all the other sensations blocking his mind. The onslaught of bliss and torment taking him away from The Pits. The quintessence fogged his mind in the most wonderful way. Why did he leave? He should just stay here. Safe. Warm. Protected from anything out there. Salvation.

Lance’s eyes moved down Keith’s body, watching him pleasure himself. Watching the way his body writhed and arched with each sensation, though at times it looked like his grip was a bit too tight. But after a moment he looked back up at Keith’s face and smiled. Those delicate lips parted as he panted out a breath. A faint blush painting those soft cheeks. He was beautiful. More beautiful than Lance knew how to express. “How does it feel?”

“Like… your eyes… your eyes feel like they… AH!” Keith arched his back, biting hard on his lower lip before he realized no one but Lance could hear him scream, and he finished out the moan with a cry.

The way Lance looked at him. Delicate poised features staring at him with hunger and pride. The feral desire in those blue eyes made Keith want to succumb. “Like they … own me…”

“Oh?” Lance’s fingers moved down Keith’s arm, light touches stopping at the wrist that was moving as the half-Galran worked himself over. “And…do you like feeling like that? Do you want me to own you?” Those moans were driving him crazy, but he would not take away from Keith’s pleasure.

“Mnm..mm…” Keith whimpered, unable to lie under that gaze while still feeling his life force pump through and feed every last cell, joining him to Lance in the most intimate way another being could.

Keith wanted to fight it. He wanted to snarl and growl at the helplessness, but he wanted more to sink into the lovely and pure essence rolling though his limbs. He allowed the roots to plant him on that plush bed and with Lance’s cherub face staring down at him, how could he do anything else but give in?

“La..lance!” Keith cried as he came, his free hand reaching for Altean’s arm but clawing into the bed at the last second.

“I’ll take that as a yes.” Lance chuckled as Keith orgasmed and moved against the bed. His fingers slid down to touch the hand still around Keith. “You’re so sexy.” He leaned over the smaller man and was about to place a soft kiss to his lips before he remembered their deal, and so he lifted himself a little without making that contact. “The sexiest.”

“Hmm…” Keith’s glazed eyes focused on those lips while licking his own. They came in close, he could smell the sweetness on his breath. A whimper escaped him and his neck leaned up. He wondered what Lance’s lips tasted like. He wondered if they were as soft as the rest of him. Were they like the surgery citrus scented lip scrub in the bathroom? Or would they taste like some savory dinner Lance had before coming home?

“Lance..” He voice was distant. Hungry. He leaned up, his eyes starting to close as he tilted his head to take the Altean’s lips.

Wait. Was Keith serious? Lance saw him lean up, but he quickly put his fingers in the way to intercept Keith’s lips. He was just pleasure drunk. He was feeling it in the moment. It wasn’t what he really wanted, was it? “Not yet, Kitten. Not until you really want to give me your lips, hm?” He managed a little smile. He absolutely wanted it, but he wanted Keith to want it too. Clearheaded, sober Keith. “And when you’re truly ready to kiss me, I will give all of myself to you.”

“All?” Keith whispered, nuzzling Lance’s fingers with his nose and forced his cheek into his palm.

“All.” Lance smiled and cupped Keith’s cheek. “Because if you’re ready to kiss me, you’re giving yourself to me, hm?” He brushed his thumb over Keith’s lower lip.

“And that’d make you happy?” Keith’s soft airy voice drew thin as he kissed and sucked over the finger at his lips letting Lance pull it down, showing perfectly white fanged teeth. In other Galra this trait was one of aggression and, if bared, one of territory. Keith’s tiny white fangs were perfectly shaped, suited for gentle playful nips and tender feedings. They’d never be flashed at Lance in anger. They’d never harm Lance or be used on him in any way he didn’t wish.

“Should I tell you?” Lance’s eyes darkened at the attention Keith was paying him. “Should I put that pressure on you? I am happy now. You make me happy now. So do not let my feelings or my happiness drive you to do something you don’t necessarily want. If you choose not to, I will still be happy. And if you choose to, I will continue to be happy.”

“You talk too much.” Keith lifted his arms to wrap around Lance’s shoulders his claws playing with the tiny hairs just at the line. “You’re too good of a person… even when you’re wicked and feed me quintessence while I sleep. You wanted me that badly today?” Keith purred as he moved those claws to scratch just behind the Altean’s ears. “I like good men.”

“I always want you that badly, though I don’t want you to like good men, I want you to like me.” Lance groaned and closed his eyes, his arms wrapping around Keith to hold him a little closer. “It’s why I enjoy giving you my quintessence. I am sharing myself with you as much as I can in the moment, and I want you to like it.” He paused, shaking his head before he continued, “I have other things I want to share, but I can’t find the words for yet. Just know that when I do, I’ll tell you.”

The Altean diplomat. Kill him.

Keith gasped, the flash of gnarled teeth streaked his vision and stale perfume permeated his nose. Lean muscled arms quickly tightened around Lance as Keith buried his face into his neck, gorging himself on Lance’s sweet refreshing scent of open fields and breaking waves. “Fill me with you.” Keith trembled as the words came out. “Fill me with you so I can’t think of anything.”

He tried not to be startled at the way Keith seemed to try to pull himself into him. He tried not to be concerned at the trembling he felt against him. Something happened on his little excursion, didn’t it? It was why Keith smelled like Lance usually did. Why he had been wearing his tunic? He sighed and held him closer. “I will do anything for you.” He whispered into that velvety ear, nuzzling the flesh before kissing once. “I will give you everything, Keith.” He started to lay the other man back on the bed, his own body moving with him.

“Please.” Keith’s eyes narrowed, beyond the sight of the young diplomat.

“You will kill him with a Galra blade, you will be seen when you leave his place. Should you fail and he arrives at the council meeting tomorrow phase two will go under way. This opportunity is too sweet to not take advantage of.”

“Lance?” Keith shook his head. “You got the wrong guy. He’s a goofball. But he’s a good guy. There’s no reason for me to-”

“A good guy, bad guy, it doesn’t matter. A job is a job and this is a good job. Let the Galra and Alteans sort out the rest. Besides, a good guy doesn’t buy a sex slave off the street.”

“I’m not-“

“Still naïve.” A claw scraped over Keith’s scar. “Remember how I found you. Pierced to a wall, blood beautifully dripping from your mouth. You never let The Pits win again after that. Twice in one day I got to relive such a memory.”

“What?” Keith snarled, his scar growing hot.

“Secrets. Secrets.”

“I’ve never-”

“It doesn’t matter little mutt.” Kala waved her hand with an aloof air.“ It’s either going to be you or someone else. Tensions are high between the two races. If we don’t strike now, someone else will along the way. People like your little prince don’t survive wars. But if you don’t desire the job, I’m sure someone more blood thirsty or cruel could do it for you.”

“I’ll do it.”

“Are you suuure?” Kala purred.

“Yes. Kala. I’ll do it. Back off for now, and I’ll see it get done. He will be the least of your worries.”

“You have always been such an obedient boy. I’ll tell you what you need to know. But first…”

Keith’s eyes snapped opened, feeling those crawls scratch and tear at his clothes. Destroying the first and only gift he’d ever gotten. Lance’s gift. Lance’s kindness. Lance’s warmth. She wanted to take it away from him. She was going to tear it to shreds the same way she did the tunic he’d worn and leave only scraps.

“Lance.” Keith all but sobbed into his neck. He had to protect him. Keep him close. “Please… I need you.”

“Woah.” Lance rubbed Keith’s back and pressed his face into his hair. Yes. There was definitely a lot more here than he was saying, but Lance also knew not to pry. Keith would talk to him when he was ready, and right now he didn’t want to talk, he wanted comfort. “I will take care of you.” He whispered and kissed that ear again, pressing his body against him as he peeled off his own clothes. “I will give you everything you need.” He kissed along Keith’s jaw once the smaller man moved enough to allow it, and he used those kisses as a distraction while he reached for the oil by the bed and slicked his fingers.

Lance moved his kisses to Keith’s neck next, licking the tender flesh there and pushing one finger into him. “Just don’t let me go.”

Keith whimpered at the first intrusion, his body too tense to allow it passage without forcing out a few shaking breaths. A virgin mistake.

“Lance…” Tears glistened to the corner of Keith’s eyes. With his walls gone, he felt too vulnerable to Lance’s kindness. His mind still lost in memory and adrift in an intoxicated haze, he could only do as his Altean partner guided him, too unsure of himself to play the siren Lance had come to know.

Lance winced a little at the resistance, but he did his best to keep his finger moving as gently as possible. “I’m sorry, did I hurt you?” He leaned in and nuzzled Keith’s cheek, his lips brushing just under his eye as though to catch any unfallen tears. “It’s okay, Keith. You can relax. I will make sure you feel good.”

A small meek nod followed Lance’s words. “Please.” Keith laid back on the mound of pillows looking smaller than he’d ever been. He stared up at Lance’s face, moving his fingers to trace just under the marking below his eye. So perfect. So beautiful. So pure. Lance could wash it all away. The tan godling baptizing the foul street urchin within the tide of his saving grace.

Lance pushed his second finger into him, nuzzling the hand at his cheek before he turned his head and kissed his palm. “Keith….” He smiled against his hand and looked down at him as his fingers continued to stretch him. Keith had never been this needy before, and Lance’s concern grew, but he would do anything to give his little kitten what he needed.

“Ah…” Lewd cries didn’t leave the Galra’s lips. Instead he gifted Lance with soft mewls and sincere whimpers as he allowed himself to be remade. Shaped into something made perfect for the silver haired Altean. “I’m yours.” Came the small admission. Keith would hate himself in the morning for being so pathetic but for now he just wanted to feel cared for.

“Then we’re even.” Lance whispered as he pulled his hand back and shifted his body to line up. “I’ve been yours.” His smile remained on his lips even as he inched himself into the smaller man. Keith had no idea what he was doing to Lance, did he? How each of those small mewls and gentle words only ignited the fire in his chest. He would do his best to show him everything.

“S..slowly.” Keith sighed, letting Lance fill him. “I want to feel everything.”

“All right. Anything for you.” Lance rested his hands on Keith’s hips and began to move, slowly, just as requested, his eyes darkening as he looked down at Keith. Each movement making those feelings in his chest more intense.

“Ah! Lance!” A purr rose up from Keith. Warm and filled with something Keith didn’t want to name but allowed himself to indulge as it washed through him. The sound came as a slow comforting vibration, not the forced or sexually driven rapid thrum of lust.

This was it. Lance was so unsure of the depth of his feelings before he came in here this evening, but with each slow thrust, he realized that this was definitely it. Keith was the only one who ever or would ever make him feel this. There was no way he could continue without Keith, and so he held him closer, refusing to let go.

“Lance…” Keith mewled, not in a plea or a desperate beg, but in praise. “You feel so good. You make me …. Mng…so good…” Keith’s continued with broken breaths.

“You make me even better than good.” Lance whispered, watching Keith through half-lidded eyes now as the feelings threatened to overwhelm him. His body shuddered as the pleasure built with each of their rocking movements..

“Mm.” Keith’s body arched, raising to meet Lance’s as he quivered. His climax did not bring with it hot white flashes or violent jerks of his hips. It came as a slow build, a long lingering note of pleasure as he rode upon a gentle guiding wave until he laid within the tender embrace of silken sheets and down pillows.

Lance had no intention of holding out after that, not that he could. The moment Keith orgasmed around him, Lance felt it. The pleasure. The warmth. It was all coming together as he kept himself from making any sudden movements. He simply held Keith and moaned his name as he succumbed to his own climax.

Keith held him close, his legs wrapping around Lance’s slender waist, cradling him until he gave the young Galra all he could.

Once Lance finished and pulled out, he looked down at Keith and watched him for a moment. The Galran was still trembling slightly, and Lance wasn’t entirely sure it was because they just made love. No. Keith needed comfort. He needed it before, and while he seemed less desperate for it, he still needed it now. So Lance moved them, rolling so that he was the one laying on the bed, so Keith could lay on top of him and wrap around him however he needed.

Keith shifted willingly as Lance moved him, nuzzling his head into his chest as they settled into another position. He curled on top of the bigger Altean. Naked, sweat sheened bodies pressed skin and against skin, gravity holding them in place as they came down from the soothing high they found themselves in.

Keith took Lance’s hand, folding his fingers between them, staring at their crossing flesh. Purple intertwined with warm sepia, bold contrasts melting together in a tender grip. He noted the polish on Lance’s nails with a bemused smirk at the vain little quirk.

Keith’s purr died down to a soft note of contentment while his thumb played circles over the knuckle of Lance’s index finger.

Lance felt the warmth come back to his chest with Keith’s soft actions. He wrapped his free arm around the smaller man and held him closer as he watched the way the half-Galran looked at their folded fingers. He smiled and pressed his lips into that black mop of hair, closing his eyes. “Thank you.”

“Shouldn’t that be the other way around?” Eyes the shade of a violet nebula turned up to Lance with just as many wonders with in as the sky has stars.

“Am I stopping you from thanking me, too?” Lance arched a brow, though he smiled when those amethysts looked at him almost innocently.

“No. I guess you’re not.” Keith chuckled. “Thank you.” He turned his head back to their locked fingers and sighed. “Did you mean it? What you said before? ‘You’re not keeping anything from me?’ And ‘You’ll tell me everything?’ Did you really mean all of that?”

“Of course I did.” Lance’s fingers twitched, and he held Keith’s hand a little tighter, but not in any way to constrict him. “Sometimes things can’t all be said immediately because it’s not the right time, but that doesn’t mean I’m keeping things from you. It means I have to work out what I want to say and how.” He smiled a little. “So I will tell you everything when I’m ready to voice it and when you’re ready to hear it.”

“Can I do that too?”

“Of course you can.” Lance lifted his other hand to touch one of Keith’s drooped ears. “Is there something you want to tell me, but you’re not sure how?”

Keith leaned his ear into Lance’s hand. “Yes.”

“That’s ok. Take your time okay?” Lance continued to stoke Keith’s ear.

“I went back to the Pits today. While you were gone.” Keith lowered his eyes.

“Oh?” Lance kept up with the gentle touches. “Is that why you’re so upset?”

“Nnm hmm.” Keith’s head moved as Lance’s hand moved across his ear. “I ran into someone I didn’t want to see. I’m not hurt, but…” Keith glanced to a pile of clothing in the center of the room before turning back to their hands. His anchor. “The present you got me, they ruined it.”

Lance glanced over at the pile of shredded clothing. He hadn’t noticed it when he came in, but he was admittedly distracted. He knew he had to be careful with his words here. If he made a big deal about it, Keith would be more upset. If he said it wasn’t a big deal, or was too flippant about it, Keith would be more upset. “I’m so sorry that happened.” He murmured and continued to stroke his ear. “I know you really liked those clothes. They were your first present, right?” He let his fingers move down his jaw. “It’s okay to be upset. I would be upset too. I am a little upset because someone ruined something you cared about and made you sad.” He lifted Keith’s chin a little. “I have that meeting tomorrow, but the next day there is nothing on my schedule. Why don’t we go to the market and get you another set of clothing?”

Keith turned his head however Lance’s fingers demanded, stretching his neck out and exposing his chin as the Altean lifted it. “There’s more. But I’m not ready for that.” Keith couldn’t tell him the rest yet, or what his part is supposed to be in it. Lance was predicable, for the most part, but Keith didn’t know how he’d react to ‘him’.

“The market?” Keith cocked his head. Talgnar had a few different markets which specialized in particular items or people. Clothing of all types of style, dress, and make. Jewelry, weapons, travel, ships, motorcrafts, anything could be obtained in the markets or swap moons, but Talgnar had an artery in the universal underbelly. Organs, slaves, rarities all at a value and everyone knew a guy who knew a guy. Keith avoided those markets when he could. He figured Lance had meant the ‘other market’. The one below this hotel, in the plaza perhaps. “You want me with you? I’d be seen. People will assume things.”

Lance nodded. “I don’t want you away from me anymore, especially if someone upsets or tries to hurt you. And I don’t care what people assume. I have no issue being seen with you. You’re important to me.”

“It only bothers you, if I’m hurt?” Keith felt the tingle in his cheeks, and he was unable to meet Lance’s eyes.

“Of course it does. Do I seem like the kind of guy that would be okay with you being hurt and upset?” Lance rubbed Keith’s back a little. “I don’t want anyone making you feel badly in any way.”

“Why do you care so much?” Keith really wanted to ask why he himself cared so much, but the words didn’t leave his mouth. “I-you bought me. I’m not even a full Galra so it’s not like you can gloat or show me off and get any accolades for it. Half-Galra are not rare.” The Galra, known for their xenophobia, had a strange habit of creating half-bloods. Keith chalked it up to their territorial and aggressive behavior.

“I didn’t buy you, I rescued you from that prison using my rights as a diplomat. No money was involved. I don’t own you. You’re restricted right now because of the law, but you weren’t bought.” Lance shook his head and kept smoothing his hair. “And I can gloat and show off because you’re beautiful, though I don’t really feel the need to flaunt it as long as you’re by my side.”

“You’re … you… think that?”

“Yes.” Lance’s brows furrowed. “Don’t believe me? What can I do to prove it?”

Keith shook his head. “No. Sorry. I’m not looking to be praised or anything. I’m just… I dunno. I’m not acting like myself.”

“You’re shaken from the experience you had today. It’s okay. You’re here now, and you’re unhurt, so it’s okay to seek comfort isn’t it?”

“You spoil me… I’m getting used to it. What happened today shouldn’t have shaken me.”

“Am I doing too much?” Lance’s brows furrowed again. “Perhaps it’s my fault then? If so, I’m sorry. I never wanted you to feel weaker or scared because of me.”

“I’m not scared. I just … I’m feeling different. It’s not bad, is it?” Keith turned his head back up to Lance, his large eyes searching for something he couldn’t name.

“You made it sound like it is.” Lance’s cheeks puffed out a bit. “I don’t think treating you well and taking care of you is bad…”

“Is it okay for me to enjoy it?”

“Yes, just because someone else doesn’t like it doesn’t mean you can’t like it, right?” Lance lifted a hand to push some of Keith’s hair out of his face.

“Nnn.” Keith turned his head to the gentle touch, his eyes closing, then opening with a dark playful glimmer. “Is that what you were doing to wake me up? Treating me well? Seemed a bit devious.”

“Yeah? Should I apologize for it?” Lance’s slight pout shifted into a grin. “I’m not sorry about it.” It didn’t look like Keith was sorry about it either. Not with those darkening eyes.

“You caught me off guard. I didn’t know Alteans could be so… shrewd.” Keith nuzzled his lips against one of the sky blue lines crossing Lance’s chest.

“Well, they usually aren’t, I guess. But I am. I will do just about anything to get what I want.” Lance’s eyes darkened at those tender nuzzles, and he touched Keith’s hair. “And right now you’re all I want.”

“So you’re different?” Keith spread his legs over Lance’s thigh. “Whatever it takes to get me?” He flashed a wolffish grin.

“Mmm, I said as much, and I meant it.” Lance murmured. “It’s pretty obvious I am not what most Alteans are. Don’t you think I’m different?”

“You know what you want and you go for it until you get it. I can respect that.” Keith lavished a budding peak with tiny kisses and a playful nibble. “You’re different. There’s something off about you. Something dangerous. More dangerous than anything out there.”

Keith’s eyes glittered as he continued his gentle abuse of Lance’s sensitive skin. “Before meeting you, all I wanted was to survive and I did whatever I had to. Now, I want other things.” He swirled his rougher tongue around the hard nub, with a pleased grin at his handy work.

“Oh? And what are those other things?” Lance did his best to keep his voice even, though Keith’s tongue was warming his body again. He focused on Keith’s actions more than his words, and his body arched just slightly towards Keith’s mouth.

“Chocolate. Wine. Hot baths. Soaking. Sleeping in. Warm blankets.” Keith noticed Lance didn’t defend any of his accusations.

“Hm? Is that all? And which of those do you want now?” Lance arched a brow. He knew, but he wanted to hear it.

“Hmmm sex.”

Lance laughed, a soft chime of a laugh. He enjoyed hearing Keith be so honest. “Oh? But that wasn’t on your list.”

“A given.” Keith smirked. He liked Lance’s laugh, and he continued to kiss up his chest over his collar and across his jaw until he looking down at him, eyes locked together and close enough to feel warm and sweet breath against his indigo lips.

“Oh, well who am I to deny you what you want?” Lance looked up at him and smiled, his hands sliding down Keith’s back, fingers dancing lightly over that now soft skin. He should pick up some more oils. Keith always felt good, but he felt so much better now with proper attention being paid to such tender but tough flesh. Even his scars held their own hint of allure, though Lance knew the cause behind them was anything but pleasant.

“I… “ Keith panted while his touch played at the edge of Lance’s jaw, right where his ears connected.

“Hm?” Lance tilted his head a little, but he did not tear his eyes from the violet orbs that were still locked on him. His hands slid over the curve of Keith’s backside. “What is it?”

“Hmmmm.” Keith’s eyes danced between the deep sapphires before settling on the warm tan lips. A purr came low and warm from his throat with soft puffed vibrations of air against Lance’s lips. Keith shifted as he brought his hand up to allow his claw to glide just under the lower pout if his lips. He slipped his body up and sank himself back down on the Altean’s full length.

Keith lowered down and moaned into his ear. “Stay with me tomorrow.” He sighed.

Keith’s actions certainly changed the languishing touches to something more urgent. Lance’s body arched up to meet Keith’s when the smaller man pushed himself down on him. “Don’t want to be away from me?” Lance’s hands rested on Keith’s hips, rubbing the taut flesh as he trembled slightly beneath him, his body trying to process the pleasure it was experiencing for the second time today. “You must really want me.” He grunted when he felt himself fill Keith completely.

“You shouldn’t be around anyone but me.” Keith rode him with deliberate rocking grinds, massaging Lance from the inside with squeezing muscles.

Lance slid manicured nails up Keith’s chest, eyes darkening at the light scratches he left in their wake. Nothing permanent or painful, but just enough to show Keith he was his. “If I could avoid going to that meeting, I would. Why don’t you come with me?” He moaned at his movements, trying to let Keith control the pacing, but it was getting difficult to keep himself from rolling his hips with each of Keith’s grinds.

“Not a bad idea.” Keith purred as he scooped Lance’s hand up to his lips, to suck at his fingers. “Yeah. I… can join up with you later. Ah!” His pink tongue slipped between his knuckles.

“Okay… Then you should.” Lance let his hand fall back to Keith’s hip rubbing it a little as his own hips started to move faster, but then he slid his palm down one of his thighs and squeezed. “I would like that.”

“Ah!” The pressure against his thigh tipped Keith’s already sensitive body to the breaking point. Thoughts and words ceased as he came again, only from Lance’s thrusts.

Keith’s body arched in a way that reminded Lance of some sort of ethereal being. The embodiment of pleasure. And when his muscles squeezed Lance as he climaxed, Lance wanted nothing more that to take his lips and completely claim him. Instead, he settled for licking his jaw and moaning into it as he came too. This time allowing his hips to thrust up wildly as he emptied himself into his lover.

“Hmm.” Keith keened, pulling off the Altean to lay over him again. Delicious tremors shook his vaguely smaller frame until the tension eased out of him. Boneless, he settled against Lance. Twilight blending in dawn as their bodies melted together. “Amazing…”

“You are.” Lance panted and placed a kiss to the top of his head. “Always amazing.” He closed his eyes, not bothered that his own hair, soaked with sweat, was sticking to his forehead if it wasn’t sticking up. His arms came around the smaller man and held him closer. Vanity could wait when he was filled with such warmth.

“Always? I don’t know about, but we fit together so well.” Keith whispered, exhaustion taking a firm hold on the young Galra.

“I think you’re always amazing.” Lance whispered, shifting his body beneath Keith’s so they could both lay more comfortably.

“Like I said. You’re a weird one, Altean.”

“You wouldn’t like me if I wasn’t.”

Chapter Text

Lance wasn't sure how long Keith was going to sleep in. He knew the half-Galran didn't completely fall asleep when they settled down for the night. He knew Keith faked it until Lance finally couldn't stay awake anymore. There was something wrong, and Keith wasn't ready to tell him, so he probably thought it was better to just end their conversation and just feign sleep as long as possible.

Lance would be lying if he said he didn't hate it. He understood, but he hated it.

But what could he do? Keith was upset the night before. Lance told him it was okay to hold onto things until he was ready to tell him. So he couldn't be a hypocrite and complain about it. That wouldn't do either of them any good. And bugging Keith about it wasn’t going to be helpful either. It’d likely make Keith close up even more than he had. But he couldn’t let himself dwell on it. Instead he just reluctantly slipped out of bed and prepared himself for his important meeting today.

Important, for reasons he knew he couldn't divulge when Keith asked him not to go, or even when he said he’d meet up with him later. But again, he could tell him when it was over, right? Lance sighed as he looked at his reflection in the mirror. Today was not a day for pleasantries. Today was a day of a particular type of business. Instead of the pristine white suit, Lance pulled on a black uniform, trimmed with silver and blue. He ran his fingers through his hair and fluffed it a bit. There would be no ornamental coronets or earrings today. This business didn't need the insult of opulence.

With another sigh, Lance pulled on a pair of white gloves as he exited the bathroom. Keith was still curled up in a blissful sleep, innocently unaware of his own exposure. Lance smiled a little at that peaceful form before he leaned down and placed a soft kiss to his cheek. "Keep sleeping," he whispered, "I'll be back soon." The diplomat straightened himself up before he left as quietly as possible. Maybe he should have waited for Keith to wake up and respond, but as much as he wanted to take Keith with him to keep him safe, he also knew leaving without telling him where he was going was for the best. Keith still had trauma from yesterday. He didn’t need to add to it by going to a very unpleasant meeting with Lance.

Lance pressed his fingers into his cheeks on the ride over to the meeting place. He knew he wouldn't be able to blend in, but he could at least prevent himself from standing out too much, and as such, he made sure to use the plain carriage. The one the servants usually took to the market. When it stopped just outside the alley leading to the tavern, he pressed his cheeks once more, trying to clear himself of any sort of positive expression. Smiles would not do at a time like this. Not when dealing with the men he was about to deal with.

He took slow, calculated steps into the building, saying nothing even as several patrons looked at him and stared, or arched their brows. One woman's mouth opened, but she said nothing, so he said nothing and walked past the tables of patrons and to a door in the back. It swung open and a large Galran man stared at him with a snarl before he took a step aside and let him in. It took all of Lance’s concentration not to make a snide remark as he walked through the doorway.

Lance continued to say nothing even as he sat down at the small table. The Galran sat next to his companion, another of his race. One large, one smaller. Both seeming to watch Lance more intently than he would have liked. But he expected that. Things were never pleasant when dealing with the men who were deeply invested in the black market. But these were also the best kind of men to deal with when doing unpleasant business. He had some information to dig up, and so these men would give it to him, whether they wanted to or not. He waited several more moments before he shook his head and returned their scowls. "This isn't going to be a waste of my time, is it?"

“That depends on you, Altean.” The bigger of the two said, his arms folded across his chest. “What are you hoping to accomplish. Your predecessor was weak and got himself…” He rubbed his chin looking for the words.

“Permanently displaced.” Replied his smaller, less interested partner, who had yet to regard the Altean. He was older than the other, with scruff around his chin, a scar over his left eye and a strange bite shaped curve missing from one of his wide leathery ears.

“That has nothing to do with me and wasting my time, now does it?” Lance arched a brow at the smaller of the two. “I can just as easily leave, and I’m sure you don’t want me to do something about your implication. So come up with something to tell me about the business we were discussing in our correspondence.” He sat back in his chair a bit, trying to make himself appear relaxed.

“You wanted to meet with us.” The bigger Galra reminded him. “Look we have a few trade items and a route we need through Altean territory. You have the diplomatic connections that can guarantee the continued shipping of the items. Your predecessor started to get anxious.” A thick hand twisted in the air and gestured to Lance. “He doesn’t seem to be the anxious type, does he Bordo?”

“It doesn’t matter.” Spoke the smaller. “I want everything to continue as it has been, with discretion.”

“Yes, I wanted to meet with you because you would not send me all the information I requested, so I assumed that was an in-person sort of request. Do you have it today, or am I wasting my time?” Lance looked at the two of them with a rather bored expression. “Your cargo? How can you expect me to guarantee what my predecessor did without knowing anything?”

“Mysteries are exciting like that.” A low smooth voice followed the gliding slide of the door and the room went silent. A slender figure drifted into the makeshift conference room. They moved with purpose but not urgency. A soft flowering scent wafted over the stale liquor and curling smoke as if they never existed. A skin tight a black body suit captured every curve and toned muscle and the svelte yet undeniably male form. The suit, fringed with blue and sashed with the same colors, draped in fabric knotted at his hip to hang down past his knees.

The Galra remained silent as the small creature sauntered to the Altean. His long fingers walked across the back of the chairs, lingering with a tease against the backs of Bordo and Gorvan’s. He drew their attention and their eyes burned into the bared skin as the man straddled over Lance’s lap, setting glass of wine in his hand.

“I’m sorry that took me so long, but I couldn’t have the swill they serve here touch your lips.” Keith whispered as his claws caressed Lance’s sharp jaw. Long lashes fluttered up as his ears chimed with the weight of two ear cuffs, sliver and embroidered with flowers leading down into fine chains. Eight to be exact. Eight chains dropping to hook around Keith’s neck. Every joint marked with a sapphire gem the same shade as Lance’s house.

The chains gathered and braided into a shimmer leash as it dangles freely down the wide-open V of his back. “Good afternoon General Bordo, Commander Gorvan.”

By some miracle, Lance managed not to show his surprise when Keith walked through that door, adorned like a courtesan of his house. He frowned as Keith moved behind the two men, and given the looks they were giving Keith, and the way the half-Galran seemed to move more seductively around them made it clear that Keith may already know one or both of them in the way that caused Lance’s jealousy to flare.

When Keith sat on his lap, his hand rested on the exposed flesh of Keith’s back, fingers teasing the braided chain there. His eyes focused and caught Keith’s, a deeper frown setting on his lips. There was no reason for Keith to go out of his way to this extent, especially not for a glass of wine. So it only confirmed his suspicions as far as he was concerned.

“I see.” He said quietly, keeping his hand on the half-Galran’s back before he turned to the others again. “Are you going to answer me?”

“You wish to continue discussions with him here?” Gorvan asked barely containing his agitation. His eyes venture and glared back at Lance. The insult of bringing the half-Galra to the table kindled the Commander’s rage.

Keith laid his head on Lance’s shoulder. “Pay me no mind.” He pressed in closer to Lance, lidded eyes looked boredly on the men before he turned his face into the Altean’s tan neck. “Tell the General to focus else where. I’m not the reason for the meeting.”

“Bordo?” Gorvan looked to his partner, noting the hunger in his eyes that trailed after the dark hand tracing the young half-blood’s back.

“Will there be more surprises?” Bordo asked, studying the liquid creature on Lance’s lap.

“That depends on you now doesn’t it?” Lance turned his gaze towards the smaller of the two Galra and he arched a brow. “If you’re too distracted, you’re welcome to leave. My companion is not the focus of our conversation. Your answer to my question is.” He pulled Keith a little closer on his lap and hissed quietly into his ear. “I hope you have a good reason for coming in here and turning them on so much.”

“I’m saving your life.” Keith hissed back. “And dressed like an idiot. Why the fuck do you have something like this at the hotel?” Their voices were low whispers not reaching beyond their own ears.

“I think it will be fine.” Gorvan stated, leaning back more relaxed. “We appear to have common interests. Our cargo is as precious to us as your halfling is to you.”

Keith murmured against Lance’s neck. “Trafficking. Galra officers. Dirty soldiers…” his voice came at a purr. “The route is between Dema and Daibazaal. But on the outside of federated space.”

“Saving my life? By making them want to take you from me?” The Altean murmured, a little indignant, but he turned that emotion toward the two across the table. “That’s not an answer.” Lance snorted and twisted his fingers in that braided cord to let Keith know he heard him, though his frown was enough indication of his displeasure. “Or perhaps it’s so unsavory that you won’t say it.”

“Unsavory? We merely deal in what’s needed.”

“Slave trade. Trafficking. The one staring at me.” Keith made a gesture to nibble at Lance’s ear talking loud enough to be heard only by Lance. “Bordo, him and I go back, and he made sure I wouldn’t forget him.”

Lance’s expression darkened at Keith’s words. He slid his hand over the exposed skin of his back both for comfort and for indication of possession. But he was still looking at the other Galran men, so his frown deepened as a means of reacting to their words, though Keith’s made him angry. “What’s needed? How vague. Trafficking is it then? There’s no other reason to be so dodgy. I cannot work with anyone who deals in slavery.” His hand rested flat against Keith’s scar, and he scowled more. “This is a waste of my time.”

“And what do you call having a Galran slave? Your predecessor had no problems indulging himself. You have that much in common.” Bordo spat. “I know where that half-blood came from.”

Keith chuckled. “He called me a slave. Can you imagine?” He nibbled over Lance’s jaw. “And I’ve been recognized.”

Lance laughed a little, but it was a shallow laugh, his eyes narrowing. “How dare you call my companion a slave.” His hand slid up Keith’s back as he sneered at the other men. “But I see you confirmed my suspicions. You should leave before I decide to punish you for dealing in trafficking.”

“What?” The larger of the two Galra sneered, one fist clenching. “That wasn’t the deal.”

“And there isn’t any deal. You’ve hidden important information from me, and now you think I’m just going to let you do as you please?” Lance shook his head. “No.”

“I don’t want to let them go.” Keith purred, he suppressed the shiver Lance’s tone sent down his spine. “They were coming to kill you. Just like the one before.”

“Oh? Is that so, kitten? And shall I give them to you?” Lance kept his gaze on the two Galra, who were growing increasingly agitated.

“Can I have them? I owe Bordo.” The air around Keith darkened.

“Yes, pet.” Lance practically growled the words out. “I leave it to your judgment.” He pulled his hand from Keith’s back.

“Owe?” The larger Galra asked, eyeing his partner.

“What has it been Bordo? Three deca-phoeb? Four?” Keith turned in Lance’s lap. He wanted to see the Galras' faces the moment realization took hold. They were not getting their hands on his Altean.

“Bought me. Tried to murder me. Pinned me to a wall.” The flighty intoxicating allure melted into a hungry chill. “Oh yeah, I owe you.”

“What is the meaning of this?! We had a parlay!” Gorvan stood up and glared down at the tiny half breed who stepped up from Lance’s body. The silken movements drew the eyes to every erotic point, but each seductive curve or graceful sway was edged on poison.

“Hm. We did, but then you hid vital knowledge from me, and I called off the deal, so we don’t.” Lance grinned at the two of them, though his eyes narrowed at Bordo. “And I won’t work with you, ever. Not now that I know what you’ve done.”

“Besides, the parlay was with him.” Keith smirked as he drew a dagger from his hip. “Not me. The diplomat for Altea retains his morals. I on the other hand…” His smirk grew, fangs bared as his pupils pinned.

Keith darted forward with preternatural speed, his hand grabbing Gorvan‘s face, and slamming his head back against the wall, while using his body to push Bordo back. One black and blue clad leg bent and lifted to the wall trapping the smaller of the Galra between Keith’s thigh and his unconscious partner.

“Hey Bordo…” Keith hissed pressing a blade to that thick purple neck. “Surprised?”

Lance watched the scene unfold, the glass of wine from earlier still in his hand. “The sooner you finish, the sooner I can do my job, and we can get out of here.” He put the glass down and stood. “It’s going to be a rather lengthy report, since I have to report not only my predecessor’s murder, but my own attempted one, as well as the deserved deaths of these two…well whatever.”

“Kill?” Bordo stared up at Keith, trembling at the cold slits of his eyes. Concentrated hatred sharpened them to amethyst daggers.

“How’s it feel?” Keith taunted. “Exciting isn’t it? Thrilling to have your life in someone’s hands? Such a fragile little thing.” He recited. “Remember those words? I do.”

Lance shook his head and kept his gaze on Keith. “Don’t take too long, kitten.”

“Victory or death, right?” Keith sneered, his nose pressing closer to Bordo’s hair. “One of those is not going to happen for you.”

Bordo trembled, his eyes wide. “What are you?”

“Beg.”

Bordo looked up at Keith. “What?”

“Beg.”

“I will no-“ Keith slammed the Galra’s head against the wall.

“Beg!” He snarled.

“I’m sorry! I’m sorry! Please! I don’t want to die! Please!” The creature started to sob. “Please! I beg you! I beg you!”

Keith smirked, it was insidious and cruel as he pulled the blade across Bordo’s neck.

“You said!”

“I just said to beg.” Keith pushed his knife down and the man screamed until Keith butted his skull with the end of the blade letting him slump unconscious to floor. Blood spilling in a thick inky flood, but not a drop getting on the youth.

Lance arched a brow, but otherwise made no move. He hadn’t expected Keith to be so cruel, but he found himself staring, enthralled. There was something terrifying about Keith in that moment, but as much as he felt that rush of adrenaline, he also felt arousal. He wanted to take Keith right here, but that would not do. “And that one? Is he still alive?”

Keith turned away, a dark shadow over his face. “I have no reason to kill that one.”

“Hm. That’s fine. I’ll handle it.” Lance walked to Keith and slid a hand down his back. “Wait in the carriage for me.”

“Handle it?” Keith pressed himself to Lance’s side with a tilt of his head. The shroud lifting.

“We cannot leave two bodies here.” Lance leaned in and nuzzled his lips against Keith’s ear. “I will handle it. Wait for me, hm?” He licked the soft velvet.

“Nng…” Keith’s ear twitched. He felt compelled to obey the Altean rather than ask further questions.

“Okay.” Damn those sensitive ears. He stepped out of the room and allowed a large Altean man to guide him to the carriage. He sunk into the seat and waited, strumming his fingers against the base of the window.

Lance entered the carriage only a short time later, peeling his white gloves off and handing them to the Altean who had escorted Keith. The man nodded once and shut the door to the carriage. “You know,” Lance began. “If I had known he was the one, I never would have agreed to the meeting.”

“Had you not agreed to the meeting, I couldn’t have ended it.” Keith warily watched Lance’s gloves, before his eyes drifted up to that perfectly brown face. He had watched Keith kill, then without batting an eye, disposed of the evidence. “What are you?”

Lance watched Keith watch him. “I don’t know what sort of thing you’re thinking, but I am just a diplomat. Of course, that means different things to different people. My job is almost always sitting in boring meetings and talking policy. Once in a great while, I am asked to investigate something. And then it is up to my discretion to deal with it. In this case…” He nodded to the tavern out the window. “It was my predecessor’s untimely death. Generally, I don’t have to do anything, but since, as you said, they were going to harm me as well…” He shrugged. “Does that bother you?”

Keith shook his head. “Nah, I was raised by monsters. So, I’m not bothered by those things.” He closed his eyes and smiled as he leaned his head back. “Besides, I’ve learned that jealous little godlings are far more dangerous. They have ambition. It’s better to be on their good side.”

“So you won’t be scared of me?” Lance lifted a hand to touch his cheek, the contact of his fingers light for now. “Are you as turned on by me as I am by you?”

Dark eyes fluttered open and stared at Lance’s face. A face he memorized and continued to find pieces he adored. Lance enjoyed the sunlight. He saw tiny little freckles spread over cheeks that no amount of aftercare could ever take away, and Keith preferred it that way. “Depends. How turned on are you?”

“Very.” Lance’s fingers traced his jaw. “You saved my life, you know. And you were so sexy doing it.” His eyes darkened as his fingers moved to his neck.

“Nn.” Keith sighed, tilting his head. “Did you really need my help?” A small pink tongue flicked over Keith’s lips. “Just don’t expect me to wear this outfit again.”

“Yes. I did need your help.” Lance’s fingers slid down his neck. “I wouldn’t have had confirmation they did those horrible things if it wasn’t for you. And you took care of one and knocked the other out. All I did was get rid of them.” He leaned in a little. “But it’s a shame. You look extra sexy in this.” His other hand slid down his back. “I like it.”

“Of course you do. I’m dressed like an Altean prostitute.” Keith did have a way with words. “Why do you even have this?” He arched a brow and shivered as Lance’s fingers tranced down his exposed spine.

“I was going to ask you to wear it for me one night, honestly.” Lance’s fingers slid down to the bottom of that exposed expanse of flesh, and they dipped inside the material.

“Oh?” Keith pressed up, Lance’s hand forcing the young Galra into his lap. “You like me looking like this?” He sighed, the suit left little for Lance to imagine. A pull or a tug would expose the round perfect orbs of his ass.

“Yes, very much, And I do like that I didn’t have to ask.” Lance smirked, leaning in to nuzzle his neck as his hand slipped inside the garment. The clothing highlighted a very specific part of Keith, and he was going to relish in it.

“Mmn...” Keith groaned rolling his hips up Lance’s lap. “Groping me in public? Pretty bold, Altean.” Keith licked Lance’s jaw.

Lance pushed his hips up a bit. “Technically we’re hidden from view.” His lips brushed against Keith’s neck. “Do you want me to grope you in public?” His hand slid over the curve of Keith’s backside and squeezed.

A gasp Keith couldn’t fight escaped his lips. Heat, molten and searing pooled between his legs where their bodies connected. “A…ah!”

“Is that a yes, Keith? Do you want everyone to know you’re mine?” Lance cooed as he licked his jaw and squeezed his ass again.

“Y-you’d do that?” Keith bit down on the corner of Lance’s collar to swallow another moan.

“If that’s what you wanted me to do, and if it would keep you with me.” Lance grinned against Keith’s jaw.

Keith purred against Lance’s neck. “Anything to get what you want.” Keith repeated their conversation from the night before. “I don’t know who is spoiling who, my Altean.” Keith nibbled his jaw, unaware of the words slipping from his own lips.

“I think we’re both spoiling each other. And I’m okay with that, aren’t you?” Lance murmured and gripped him again. “You get someone as charming and gorgeous as me, and I get someone as devastatingly sexy as you.”

“Devastatingly? How does that look?”

“Like I need you, now.” Lance pushed his hips up.

Keith nuzzled his neck. “Mm I can feel it.” He groaned as he ground his hips into him, his eyes dilating to full round pupils. His head turned and caught the glance of a woman on the street, and his body flushed, hardening against Lance’s stomach. “Can they really see us?”

“If you leave the curtain open they can.” Lance grinned and pressed closer. “That turns you on, doesn’t it? That’s why you brought it up before too. You want someone to see us.”

“N…no…” Keith tried to maintain a level of decency. Though his body answered honestly as his hips rode against Lance, the thought of another person catching them… A high lord from Altea and his pampered half breed. The look on their faces if they saw Lance’s lips and tongue trail his neck, nibble his ears. Keith didn’t want to be caught, but the risk of it…

“If others saw someone like me with someone like you… be harder on you than it would be on me. It wouldn’t me be they’d want.” Keith trailed his tongue long Lance’s ear. The chains adorning his own chiming and dusting their cold metal against Lance’s neck.

“I don’t care what anyone else wants.” Lance murmured and held him closer. “I care what you want and what I want, and that’s it.” He pushed his hips up a bit. “And I want you.”

“I still haven’t figured that part out.” Keith turned his head to maneuver Lance’s advances, manipulating the carriage’s movements to grind their hips together. “Are you going to do it here? Or do we wait?”

Lance groaned and gently mopped Keith’s jaw. “We have to wait, we’ll be home in a few moments. That’s not nearly enough time to please you.”

“I’m not complicated.” Keith shivered.

“Oh? You think you’re easy?” Lance’s hand moved from Keith’s backside and slid in front of him. “Only for me, I hope?”

“You tell me,” Keith nosed Lance’s shoulder, his jaw clenching as he bit the previously abused collar of his black shirt. “Are you trying hard right now?”

“Well, I am hard. I don’t really have to try to get like that around you.” Lance grinned and kissed his jaw and neck. “Do I have to try to get you hard?”

Keith groaned as Lance’s assault on his neck became more and more relentless. Every slow press and open mouth kiss devoured his pulse, immobilizing the young thief. His eyes remained barely open and his jaw hung slack. His body moved with the massage of Lance’s groping hands trapping his faintly smaller body between them. “Can you feel it. What you do to me?”

The carriage stopped, jerking Keith’s crotch into Lance’s hand. A cry pulled past his fangs, pleasure lacing with delicate pain. Coming back from a salacious arch, he caught eyes of an Altean man outside the window. He saw them. He could hear him. Now he watched the way Keith moved on the Altean. The rocking wave of his trapped body, ears dipped low in pleasure. No other explanation existed for what the young Altean witnessed, and Keith smirked. His clawed fingers audaciously running up through the noble official’s hair, holding his mouth to his flesh as he let out a moan. Lance was right. Keith liked being seen with Lance. “Can I cum?” He whispered sucking at Lance’s ear.

“Oh?” Lance smirked. Keith was really turned on by others seeing him. He glanced at his valet through the window, his smirk widened into a grin at the look on the man’s face. Brows arched, eyes wide, mouth open as if he were about to say something though the words must have been caught in his throat because the only sound came from Keith’s. Lance chuckled and grabbed Keith’s chin. “Even though you avoided my questions by asking your own, even though you’re turned on by someone else, when have I ever stopped you from feeling pleasure? If you want to cum, then you don’t need my permission, do you?”

Dark eyes found Lance’s when his head was forced back to him “Lance…” his face fully flushed, the gaze in his eyes was dark and dilated.

“Did you change your mind?” Lance leaned in, still holding Keith’s chin before he licked one of Keith’s ears and tugged the lobe with his teeth. “Didn’t you want to cum?”

“Ngn!” Keith cried out his legs squeezing Lance’s thighs has he came in his hand, melting into his lover. His ear throbbed deliciously. Each pulse matching the soft purr leaving his throat.

“I don’t like being watched, but you… seeing me with you…” A very faint golden glow filled Keith’s eyes.

“Well I can accept it in that case, but only because you were grinding against me.” Lance leaned in and pressed a very gentle kiss to Keith’s neck. “Let’s go upstairs, hm?”

“Are you going to carry me, Altean?” Keith purred.

“Would you be okay with that? I doubt it.” Lance smirked and slowly pulled himself away from Keith.

Keith whimpered, missing Lance’s warmth when his basking was cut short. “I need a dobosh or two.”

“All right.” Lance held his hand to him. “Though I want to hold onto you and glare at everyone who looks at you.”

“They won’t be looking at me.” Keith whispered, taking the offered hand.

“They will be. The valet already is.” Lance chuckled.

“Because I’m with you.” The edges of Keith’s lips curled up in a smile. “Once we go out there like this. There’s no going back for you.” The last time Lance brought Keith through the hotel doors, they had the cover of night and Keith’s filth to hide him. Right now, especially in the clothes he wore, hiding would not be an option.

“There was never any going back for me, Keith.” Lance lifted his other hand, pushing a stray strand of hair out of Keith’s face, the touch oddly tender considering the aroused state of both of their bodies. “Only going forward, with you, if you’ll stay with me.”

Had it always been that simple for Lance? Was it Keith who’d spent too much time over thinking everything? “All right. How do you want to do this?”

Lance nodded and stepped out of the carriage, still holding Keith’s hand. And as he helped the smaller man out, he smiled a bit, though the darkness in his eyes never faded. “Walk with me, not behind me.”

“I’ll stay close.” Keith whispered. “I’ll watch your back.” He stepped in beside Lance, and the air about him turned with the hardening of his eyes. He ignored the stares. He paid no mind to the whispers. He’d take Lance for his word. These people didn’t matter. Keith’s hand tightened into the Altean’s grip. If Lance was going to march forward, then Keith would be the dagger and shield at his side.

Lance frowned a little when Keith said those words, though he relaxed when the man walked beside him instead of behind him. He said nothing though, and just held his hand even as they entered the elevator.

Keith pressed his body up to lanky one at his side, moving his hands over the darker uncharacteristic fabric of his suit. “If I’m here, I can protect you.” He whispered unapologetically. “You’ve made some enemies out there.”

“I know, but I don’t care about them. I care about you.” Lance half leaned against him and glanced at him out of the corner of his eye. “Though…how did you know where I went anyway? You found me relatively quickly, and I didn’t tell anyone else where I was going.” He stepped out of the elevator when the doors opened, and he waited for Keith to walk with him.

Keith froze, his eyes widening for a second. In his rush out of the hotel he hadn’t thought the rest of his plan through. He only wanted to get to Lance before the others could. “I…” He cleared his throat, a nervous hand grabbing his elbow as he stood in the open living space of Lance’s duplex suite. “I was supposed to do that last night.”

“Do what?” Lance walked through the suite and to the bedroom. He opened the door and looked at him. He knew what Keith meant by that. Those men were going to kill him, and if Keith was supposed to do that last night, well, that was a problem. But he wanted to hear it directly from Keith.

Keith’s eyes stared toward the floor. “Last night, remember how I told you I went home. I ran into someone I didn’t want to see. Kala. She runs things in The Pits. She finds us jobs, we get them done. We get fed. She saved me when Bordo left me for dead. I’ve been in her debt since.”

“She told me about the job out on you. She knew I was staying with you. That I was sleeping with you. She said if it wasn’t me, it would be someone else. Someone who wouldn’t be ‘clean’ about it.” Keith rubbed his arm now, his feet shifting. He was stalling. This wasn’t like him. But very little of ‘him’ seemed to in his actions today.

“My job was to kill you last night, and if not those two were going to take you down at the meeting.” He cut right to it, ears folding back against his head with the sound of silver chimes.

Lance watched Keith. He watched the way the smaller man shifted, the discomfort and shame obvious. He knew. There was no way going back to that place had been anything positive, not with the way Keith was behaving last night. The way he trembled. This was what he couldn’t tell him, and he probably wouldn’t have told him if Lance didn’t ask. He lifted a hand to his forehead and rubbed it as though he could clear the tension that suddenly came to him. “I see.” He knew he had no right to be angry. He would be a hypocrite if he told Keith it was okay to take his time with things and then got angry with him for doing so. But he didn’t think Keith was supposed to kill him, and he was hurt. He wasn’t sure what to think. And so he took steps towards the balcony doors. “I need to take a moment and collect myself before I decide what to do or say about this.” He opened them and looked over his shoulder. “Don’t leave.” With that he stepped out onto the balcony and closed the doors behind him.

Keith jumped with the slide and click of the door. He didn’t have the heart to argue about Tralgnarian air pollution and how going ‘outside’ wouldn’t be the best idea but if Lance needed to step away it wasn’t like Keith could blame him. “Yeah. Sure.” He replied to no one.

Keith fingered the hem of the costume he wore allowing shame to color cheeks. He felt like a side show attraction in this get up. It screamed “STARE AT ME”. It begged for attention. It epitomized everything Keith hated. He felt like an idiot. The show was over. Time for the actors to shed their personas. Time to go back to being ‘Keith.’ He wasn’t much better at the role, but he was a hell of a lot better at being Keith than being a high-end street whore. He rubbed his temple. Half the planet will be talking about about the Galra one of Altea’s most eligible bachelors brought up to his hotel room. Keith’s outfit making the conclusions indefensible.

He walked to the bedroom and peeled the clothing from his body, unhooking each cuff and chain as he went. He put on another of Lance’s tunics. A dark navy blue. It billowed and whispered about his frame, so Keith cinched it around his waist with a stolen silver sash from the courtesan outfit.

Keith took a moment to find his figure in holomirror. The 360 degree view unsettled him. He still didn’t know the man who staring back: Pampered skin, soft feather fluffed hair, and eyes shimmering to match the luxury of cupid bow lips.

Being with Lance, feeding from Lance, being cared for by Lance changed him. He knew it could happen, but he was not aware it had happened.

“There’s no going back.” The snarling cornered desperate creature who wanted to survive above all else, died three movements ago. Keith closed his eyes and shook his head before coming back to living room to wait. He sat down on the couch, his knees holding his elbows as his hands held his forehead.

He only needed a few minutes, but Lance was very aware of each of the movements Keith made inside. He watched him through the windows, not directly, but he saw enough to know. If Keith wanted to, he could have come out here and pushed Lance over the railing. He could have left. He could have done anything, but what he actually did spoke volumes. Keith chose to change, and into one of Lance’s tunics no less. His body language was more of a dejected lover than anything else, and the way those soft ears drooped? Lance couldn’t take it anymore.

He opened the door and stepped back inside. The air was definitely better in here, not just because of the pollution out there, but because being around Keith made everything better. Keith could have killed him last night, but he embraced him instead. He could have let him die this afternoon, but he saved him. Lance trusted him, and he wanted to make sure Keith knew it. “Keith…” he sat down next to him and rested a hand on his shoulder. “Thank you for telling me.”

Keith turned his face up to Lance, his brows furrowed, ears dropping more. “I should have said something sooner. I was going to, but if I had then I would have had to hunt them down separately. This way…” Keith shook his head. He didn’t want to make more excuses for his choices. Lance knew why he did it. “I just need you to be okay.”

“It’s okay, Keith. I’m not angry with you. You did what you thought was best” Lance gently rubbed Keith’s shoulder and smiled a little. “I’m ok. You saved me. I’m just sorry that I reacted in a way that upset you this much.” He watched Keith’s face for a moment before he spoke again. “I trust you.” And he meant it.

“Lance.” Gemstone eyes danced between Lance’s brilliant sapphires as Keith touched the hand against his shoulder bringing it up to cup his own cheek. “How could I let anything happen to you? All that time you spend with lotions and creams would be wasted if I let even a scar get on this skin.”

“Oh, that’s it? You think I’m too pretty to get hurt?” Lance chuckled and gently patted Keith’s cheek before he stroked the soft skin there. “Well, thank you for protecting my good looks.” He searched Keith’s face for any lingering emotion before he brushed his thumb over his lower lip. “Is there anything else you want to tell me? You didn’t kill me, so now what? You’re not biding your time, so are you openly defying the orders you were given?”

“No one orders me.” Keith whispered, his eyes lidding as Lance’s touch parted his lips. The warmth from the carriage kindled again, it didn’t blaze into the inferno, but a gentle rolling smolder. He had the time and the fortitude to sift through his emotions as they bubbled up. Tenderness, kindness, loyalty, adoration, friendship, and…

The taste of citrus sugar scrub invaded his mouth. Soft pliant lips rubbed together as a sigh came from the back of Keith’s throat. By the time the young half blood figured out his own body’s treachery, it was too late. He couldn’t pull away. He couldn’t run from this. The taste and the feel of Lance’s lips had been more than he’d fantasized.

Lance would be lying if he said he wasn’t completely surprised by Keith’s kiss. He was trying to soothe and comfort the man, not seduce him, not this time. But here he was, his hand still at Keith’s cheek, fingers trembling slightly at the press of Keith’s soft lips against his own. His eyes widened momentarily before the started to close, and he returned the half-Galran’s kiss. There was no way he could come back from this. He was Keith’s, utterly and completely.

“Nmm.” Keith murmured between their lips, leaning his head back against the arm of the couch. He didn’t know if he guided Lance over him or if he had been leaned back. Whatever happen, Lance’s taste got stronger and his lips were so soft, more so then the skin of cheeks, his neck, or thighs. Keith balled his fingers up in Lance’s shirt. He wanted more but unsure how to navigate these new waters.

Lance broke their contact, but he didn’t pull away, his lips still so close to Keith’s that their breath mingled. He searched the amethysts before him for any sign of displeasure, but all he saw was trust, and was that adoration? Some emotion he couldn’t quite pinpoint without Keith’s words to back it up. But he smiled, and he took Keith’s lips again as he slid his hand from his cheek, his fingers sliding down his neck before that hand moved around his back. The other slid under his bent knees and he pulled him up into his arms. The couch was no place for this. “Don’t let go of me.” He whispered as he carried Keith to the bedroom.

Keith gasped but didn’t stop kissing him, not even to curse Lance’s strange Altean strength. Lance laid him back on the bed. Setting him into the cushions and pillows as a jeweler sets a gem on velvet.

“You’ve never done this before,” Lance whispered, but the tone was more in relief than anything else. He certainly wasn’t mocking his partner. “That’s why you wouldn’t let me kiss you that first night, isn’t it?” He lifted a hand to stroke one of Keith’s ears now that they had both settled on the bed. “But now you’ve given this to me, and I’m not going to ever want to stop.” He kissed him again, but this time he coaxed Keith’s lips open so he could fully taste his mouth.

Keith had an indignant response ready before Lance kissed it away. Pressing between indigo lips and sliding his slick tongue over Keith’s urging him, teaching him how to twist it around and taste the other’s mouth. They took turns, one dominating the other. Each time Keith found himself enmeshed in Lance’s taste, now beyond store bought balms and more into the natural savanna of his flavor. Keith knew the taste. Light. Sweet. A lavender frosting of the smoothest delicatessen. The very same as Lance’s quintessence, but stronger. Concentrated. Unique to only Lance. Evidence of a pampered youth and gilded life. Intoxicating. Keith moaned.

Lance shuddered when Keith moaned into his mouth like that. He shifted their bodies, so he was pressed more against him as he explored his mouth. Soft, warm, inviting. Lance wanted more. He needed more. But he broke the kiss to give Keith some time to breathe. That, and he was sure his own heart might burst out of his chest if he didn’t give it a break. “Keith,” he whispered as he panted against the smaller man’s lips. He needed to calm himself. He needed to pull himself from the edge of that cliff. This wasn’t the time for hot, passionate touches and fevered kisses. This needed to be something else. They both needed it to be something else. He smiled and placed a quick peck to Keith’s lips before he sat up. “I should change for bed.”

“Are you sure that’s what you want?” Keith’s breathy voice surprised him as he laid among the silken sheets, violet eyes finding purchase on Lance’s perfect dark profile. He reached over and drew line down the center of his back. The diplomat could ask for anything and the thief would give him everything.

“I want you. I want to keep kissing you. I want to pleasure you.” Lance looked over his shoulder as he walked to his wardrobe and started peeling off the black cloth. “But I don’t think sex is what either of us need right now.” He wasn’t bothered by his own nakedness as he changed from that dark uniform into one of his nightshirts. In that moment he heard the slight purr coming from Keith. It warmed him to hear it more than he thought it could. He pulled the soft blue fabric over his head before turning to look at the companion he left on his bed. “You need me to assure you, don’t you? And I need you to comfort me.” He stepped towards the bed and smiled. Keith was all he needed.

“And that’s not sex?” Keith asked as he sat up on his elbows. “But in the carriage we…” he trailed off catching the edge of his lip with his fang and worried it. “How do I comfort you?”

“Let me hold you.” Lance sat on the edge of the bed when Keith moved, and he reached a hand up to touch one of his cheeks, the gesture softer than before. “Tell me whatever you need or want to tell me. Just don’t go.”

“How much do you want to know?” Keith nosed his head into Lance’s palm, forcing attention to the back of his ear as he laid his head on Lance’s lap. His arms tucked under him. “I don’t know where to start with anything. I’m not really used to it. So if you want to know something, you can ask.”

Lance’s hand dropped, and he played with the hair at the top of Keith’s head. “I want to know everything, but I won’t push you to say something that makes you unsure or uncomfortable. But I will not be angry with you. I am not even really upset. I just…I guess I just don’t understand why you agreed to do that if you weren’t going to.”

“A double agent.” Keith sighed in contentment. “I can control what happens to you. Eventually she’ll put it together. But more will come for you. I agreed to do what had to get done. Nothing more.”

“So you made it even more dangerous for yourself, didn’t you?” Lance frowned as he looked down at the side of Keith’s face. He pulled his hand from his hair and slid one finger along the line of Keith’s jaw. “You mean to say more will come for you now too. You’re not incompetent, so it’s not like you failed to kill me and accidentally killed those two instead.” He sighed and shook his head, though he wasn’t sure how he felt about all this. All he knew is that it was impossible to be angry at a cat that curled up in your lap, even if they had done something incredibly stupid. Even if you should be angry. A purr, a nuzzle, a flick of a velveted ear were enough to disarm any ill feeling.

Keith’s purr got louder with the gentle touches, his face turning up so only those reflective eyes could be seen in the dark. “I’m not sure it’s that simple. Kala knew who Bordo was. She knew what he did and has done to others. I doubt she shed any tears for him. If anything, she led him to me. As far as everything else, I’ll protect you.”

“And who’s going to protect you?” Lance smiled and touched his cheek just under one of those glowing eyes. “Come back to Altea with me.”

“Altea? Me?” Keith knew the offer had been there since day one and he’d lightly considered, but now the weight of it thickened the air. Keith sat up, his back leaning against Lance’s side.

“I’m not really ‘Altea’ material. But…” Keith thought about it. This planet was dying. It wasn’t a matter of years at this point. Most of the ‘well to do’ had already been escorted off the surface and brought to either their home planets or refugee moons in the quadrant. Keith had nowhere to go. He had no offers, only an idiot would say no and mean it. Only an idiot would say no for the sake of someone else.

Keith was an idiot. “No. I can’t do that to you. You have a life back there. A life that doesn’t involve me. You can go home and pretend this was all just a dream.” Keith sighed. “Is what I want to say. Sounds more heroic than ‘yeah. Bring me with so I can screw up your life even more.’” Keith glanced over his shoulder offering Lance a nervous unsure expression.

“And,” Keith blushed. “If I’m not there with you, I’ll go crazy worrying about who is.”

“Who’s going to protect me if you’re not with me?” Lance watched him move with that hint of insecurity and smiled. “And since when have you thought such stupid things? You’re definitely not screwing up my life. Not even close.” He pressed a kiss to one of Keith’s shoulders. “You’ve seen me before, haven’t you? How bored and miserable I was? And now look at me? I’ve never been happier. I need you, Keith. You make me feel safe. You make me feel things I’ve never felt before. Plus, you kissed me. There’s no way I can let you go now.”

“Honestly? I hadn’t seen you until the day I tried to steal from you. You didn’t seem all that bored. More startled that I’d gotten that far.” Keith’s smirked turned cocky. “Got through you defenses pretty easily actually.” He leaned up. “You’re right. I couldn’t leave you with people incapable of protecting you from a robbery in broad daylight.” He pursed his lips. “Okay yeah they caught me, but you distracted me… with.. well with you.”

Lance chuckled. “Oh is that it? Well I was absolutely bored before you tried to steal from me. And you’re right. I need someone competent. I need you.” He wrapped his arms around Keith and held him for a moment before he settled back on the bed and pulled the smaller man with him. “I’ll give you anything.”

“Anything, huh? That’s pretty broad.” Keith purred into Lance’s chest, chin settled on his sternum as he memorized the features of his face.

“I mean it though.” Lance held Keith a little closer, as though he could absorb some of his warmth. One hand slowly rubbing up and down Keith’s back, the other lifting to smooth some of the hair that out behind his ear.

Keith soft rumbling breath tickledLance’s neck. “What if I asked for something ridiculous?”

“Give me an example of ridiculous?” Lance’s voice remained even, tough he gasped a little at the sensation against his neck.

“A star.”

“Hm.” Lance smiled and lifted Keith’s chin, looking into those purple gems. He could have said something corny like the stars were already in Keith’s eyes, but instead he just leaned in and kissed him. “I may not be able to harness one for you, but I can give you something that might remind you of them.”

Keith kissed him back, nuzzling his lips. He could get to like this ‘kissing thing’. “So, challenge accepted?”

“I will find you something, yes.” Lance smiled and kissed him again, murmuring against his lips. “I promise.”

“A game then?” Keith grinned. “If you win, then I will do anything you ask. One thing. Physical. Mental. Or sexual.”

“Oh? I’m going to get you a star, and you’re going to do one thing for me?” Lance chuckled and held him a little closer. “Or do you only play games you’ll win? Didn’t you say that to me when I caught you stripping poor Coran?”

“We can’t all have the wealth of Altean royalty. I can’t promise you anything I can’t fit in my pocket.” Keith grinned. “All I have is what you see so that’s all I can give. So it’s what I offer.” He kissed Lance again then moved his lips back down his jaw and neck. “Not good enough?”

“It’s the best offer.” Lance’s eyes began to close when Keith’s kisses moved to his jaw, and he tilted his head for those soft lips. “You’re all I want.”

“And you’ll do anything to get what you want, right?” Keith’s eyes started to shut. “Mmm.”

“Yes.” Lance held Keith just a little closer. “I will.”

Something else murmured out of Keith’s lips but the young Galra was already asleep before the words finished leaving his mouth.

Lance’s sleep wasn’t far behind, and so he kept hold of Keith even as he let himself drift.

Chapter Text

Keith groaned against the streak of light cutting over his face. Weary eyes fluttered open and glared at one narrow strip of clear class down the otherwise tinted center window wall. “They haven’t fixed it yet.” Keith’s voice came out more cross than he meant for it, but the malfunctioning section of phase glass made it impossible for him to go back to sleep. Once a movement Talgnar’s binary suns rose together over the horizon of skyscrapers, making visibility in the morning next to impossible. No one sane left their homes during the Dual Rise. The heat would be intolerable, and if you could survive that, well more power to you. The radiation would get you in the end.

Warnings and advisory notifications played in continual loops across the city’s communications systems telling all citizens and guests to stay indoors until Dexler-1 set. The transition took about four vargas with only non-gogs being dumb enough to be outdoors. Keith snarled his lip.

Keith hated the non-gogs. Mindless slaves or ‘reformed’ criminals. Pretty words were given to the concept of stripping another creature of their soul. His body rumbled with a low growl. The hypocrisy alone drove Keith crazy. The Alteans spoke against slave trades and made impassionate pleas with other planets to give up their crude systems of ownership, yet the non-gogs were an Altean experiment. If ever Keith had a reason to hate a race of people non-gogs certainly gave him one.

Keith turned his head into the dark narrow back facing him and nuzzled between pronounced shoulder blades. He probably had the last decent person in the universe with him in his bed. Lance believed in his job. He believed in what he was doing. He believed he could make the universe better and root out the evil from the inside. He’d be shit at infiltration. Lance’s very aura gave him away. So he did the next best thing. He stood on the outside and corralled it. He maintained an eye upon the world within and if anything, or anyone, got out of hand, he put an end to it by any means necessary.

Keith leaned in, perhaps being up with the suns didn’t have to be all bad. He lifted himself up on his elbow and stared at the perfect caramel skin. So soft, too soft, a scar anywhere on Lance’s perfect body would be a crime. Keith dragged the back of his nails down leanly muscled shoulders to the narrow dip of his waist and flattened out over his thigh.

“Good morning.” He whispered, knowing he wasn’t speaking loud enough to wake anyone, and leaned down. He traced a marking to the center of his back, then over his shoulder blades, where his tongue and lips praised each divot of definition and every moving tendon until he was leaving open mouth kisses against the small of Lance’s back.

Even though Keith’s whisper was too soft to wake Lance, the intention was obviously there with those touches and kisses. Shivers traveled up and down Lance’s spine as he did his best to keep himself from moving. He didn’t want to be away from that attention in any way. When the hand at his thigh twitched and seemed to be moving forward, he let out a hitched gasp and his eyes opened. “Morning.” He murmured, turning his head a little to try to see his lover over his shoulder. “You’re up early.”

“Mmnmm… figured I’d help myself to a bit of breakfast.” Keith teased as he lifted his head to lay in the perfect curve of Lance’s turned hip, his arm looping around to rest his hand flat on the other’s stomach.

“Oh, is that it? You just want to eat? I feel so used.” Lance pouted and shook his head a little, but his hand rested on the one on his stomach as if he could absorb more warmth from the gesture.

“Hmm… yeah. You’re quite a feast for the eyes.” Keith stuck his tongue out between his fangs. The one-liner worthy of his partner. He liked making Lance smile. He couldn’t do it for many people, but with Lance, a smile from him lit up the room and it moved something inside the young Galra. It made his chest tighten and his stomach flip, and Keith loved the feeling. The sensation became his proof and made him feel more alive than a hundred thefts or missions. He purred, knowing full well where the vibrations were going.

“Oh?” Lance chuckled and patted Keith’s hand. The other man was just so cute when he said corny little things like that, and it made Lance fall deeper with him. The purring sent another shiver down his spine. “You can feast on me if you’d like, but then I’d have to eat breakfast alone.”

“That would be sad.” Keith nuzzled Lance’s hip and forced his head under his arm. It had been sitting there doing nothing, might as well put the useless limb to work.

“It would be. And being sad would be terrible.” Lance smiled a little at the way Keith cozied up to him like a kitten looking for warmth. He really did act like one in almost every way. “Today should be a happy day, hm? I have you, you have me. We can spend time together. We will get you some new clothes.”

“You bought me some already. Do I need more?” Keith looked up at him with a pout. “Shouldn’t you have other things to worry—” Keith’s eyes widened, and he sat up, his eyes frantic as they darted around the room. While gripping his chest, his ears folded tight against his head. Both felt like they were tearing open with the unified voice of countless screams.

The pain that shot through his head felt like a thousand hot needles piercing his skin. Lance groaned and curled in on himself as his hands lifted to cover his ears as though that would stop the anguish he heard. But it was quick, and it was over almost as instantaneously as it came on, He panted a bit as the pain and the ringing in his ears subsided. He turned onto his back and reached up for Keith. “Did you feel it?”

The Galra nodded his head, nuzzling Lance’s hand before he curled in on him. They knew it was happening. They all got the warning for nearby planets to accept refugees. The Galra royal line was dead. Lance received the notification to head back to Altea for a state funeral, and now the Galra homeworld was no more. Destroyed by the very power meant to protect it. Voltron. Keith shivered. Even the name sent chills down his spine. Weapons to promote peace. Weapons to incite compliance. A weapon to create an entire universe of unwitting non-gogs.

‘A creation of hope’ Keith scoffed when he heard it back when he first was told of Voltron. It had already been all but legend by the time he was born. Kids would play ‘Lions’ in the street. Cries for turns of playing Alfor or Trigel echoed down alleyways. Keith worried more about dinner. He’d found hope and fear to be two very similar things. Hope existed only within the fear of the alternative.

“What happens now?” Keith whispered, his brows furrowed as he studied Lance’s face.

Lance knew the notice for the funeral was just the beginning, but he didn’t expect it to move this drastically this quickly. What was his uncle thinking? This had to be his doing, right? There was no other explanation. He sighed and shook his head, pulling Keith into his arms. “Now, we just accelerate the plans to leave. The sooner, the better.” He nuzzled his face into Keith’s hair and closed his eyes. “You will come with me, won’t you?”

“I promised you already.” Keith settled into Lance. Since getting the summons, the Altean always held Keith a little tighter and for a little longer. “I’ll be with you.” His lips caress Lance’s temple to soothe any residual pain. “How are you?”

“Numb.” Lance leaned into the comfort Keith was providing. “But you make it better.” The feel of Keith’s lips against his skin, of his shape in his arms, was more than he could have hoped for in that moment. “Are you hurt?”

“I’m okay. I picked up on your residual pain.” Purple fingers traced the Altean markings. “I can probably feel you anywhere by now. I’ve taken so much of your quintessence.”

“Good. Then you can find me if you lose me.” Lance focused on the way Keith traced the lines on his skin, but then he shook his head and lifted his chin, forcing Keith to look at him. “Keith…” he placed a feather-light kiss to his lips, but as he did, the markings started to glow.

Thick arched brows darted up, and Keith, in his shock, began to pull away. However, the same second Lance’s life energy flowed into his mouth. His body became pliant, ears dropping lazily. “Mmm.” Glowing eyes becoming dreamy hooded shimmers of gold as his mouth became greedier.

Lance only gave Keith a taste, the glow fading as quickly as it appeared, but he kept kissing him, relishing in the way Keith melted against him. His hands slid down the half-Galran’s back, stopping when they got to the top curve of his backside.

“Mmmph.” A soft complaint whimpered from Keith’s lips but continued to kiss the other man.

“I can’t spoil you too much, now can I?” Lance kissed Keith once more, licking those purple lips before he pulled back.

“Why stop now?” Keith nuzzled Lance’s cheek. He clung to the lighter conversation, neither of them wishing to dwell on what happened. Keith wanted to hold on to their dream a little longer.

“Because all I’ll do is spoil you once we get to Altea.” Lance closed his eyes and held him closer, breathing in Keith’s scent.

“Until then? You’ll starve me?” Keith’s lower lip stuck out in a well-practiced pout. “My Altean is cruel.”

“Of course not.” Lance nipped at that pout and tugged the lip with his teeth. “Is it really not enough for you to be satisfied? Do you not enjoy the little tastes I give you? You only want more?” Now it was his turn to pout.

Keith hopped up on his haunches, still straddling Lance’s hips but hoisted above him, the purr in his throat lowered into a playful growl. “I always want more.” He threw himself back down on Lance with pounce pinning the man down with a defiant grin.

“Do you?” Lance laughed a little when Keith pressed him into the bed with that surprising strength. Not that Lance was surprised anymore of course, but everyone else seemed to be when they discovered such a small man had so much power in his limbs. “So you’re really never satisfied?”

“If by satisfied that means I’m done, how could I be done?” Keith started to move his hands down the underside of Lance’s arms, looking for a sweet spot.

Lance looked up at Keith, but he did not move with those touches. He would not give the man any reason to gloat just yet. But he did grin up at him. “Well no, it doesn’t mean done, but my ego will be crushed if I’m not satisfying you.”

“Oh? Maybe your ego could use a little deflating.” The growl rumbled in Keith’s throat. “See how long you can hold me down?”

“Hm, you think so? Is that why you’re holding me down?” But Lance grinned and leaned up, pursing his lips. “Should I struggle? I really like the view.”

Keith leaned his perch forward. “What does the view look like?”

Lance leaned up a little more. “Like twilight, with soft skin and kissable lips.” He started to sink back again, but with one swift movement, he flipped their bodies, and Keith was beneath him, and Lance pressed between his legs.

Even as his eyes widened, Keith laughed. A full, fang-bearing laugh. Hard enough so he had to curl up on his side and hold his stomach, twisting his hips to do so. “And what do you want to do with these kissable lips and soft skin?”

Lance pulled back, so Keith could curl up better. He loved hearing all the sounds the half-Galran made, but that full laugh was in a category of its own. It chimed in his ears, causing them to twitch a bit, and sending warmth all throughout his body. He watched Keith enjoy himself, and he felt like everything could only get better from here, as long as he had this man at his side. “Hm, I wonder.” He teased, leaning down to nuzzle his cheek.

“Are you still numb, Altean?” Keith turned his eyes to see the young diplomat. “Or can you feel again?” He knew, outside of his intimate knowledge of Altean biology, Keith could feel Lance. He had selflessly given so much of himself to the halfling, Keith felt their homeworld die the way Lance did. Lance wasn’t a mere Altean. He was of the highest pedigree. Alfor’s only beloved nephew. He had royal blood. Lance had a unique tie to quintessence and had tethered Keith along with him.

“I feel you.” Lance kept his eyes locked on Keith, and he relaxed a little against him. “All I want to feel is you.” He closed his eyes and focused on the warmth emanating from the man beneath him. Each beat of Keith’s heart sent a pulse of comfort through Lance. They were connected in a way he wasn’t sure he could explain, but he knew Keith felt it too.

Keith gently twisted his fingers into the end of Lance’s hair, noting the soft burnt honey stands mingled inside the silver threads. “You’re beautiful.” He whispered as if the words just fell from his lips. “Every time I stare at you I find something more alluring than the last.”

“Oh, you think so? Then all my effort is worth it.” Lance cooed and opened his eyes again, blinking back the thin film of tears as that last bit of numbness subsided.

“Hey, what’s this?” Keith leaned in to kiss under his eyes. “You’d be beautiful to me no matter what you looked like. Did you know I can see your freckles?” Keith kissed over the nearly invisible dots. “I love them.” He whispered as he kissed over his nose and to the other cheek.

“Oh, can you? I haven’t been as diligent with my skin care since you’ve been here, but if you like it, then I don’t mind.” Lance lifted a hand and slid a finger over one of Keith’s ears, smiling at the way it flicked with the gentle pressure.

“No?” Keith purred and perked his ears forward, knowing how much his partner enjoyed touching them.

“No. If you like it, I like it.” Lance leaned down and nuzzled his ear.

“L-lance…” Keith shivered. “You know what that does to me.”

“Then you want me to stop?” Lance let his breath move over the soft hairs on his ear. “Or do you want more?”

Keith’s ear twitched, his eyes starting to close. “Do you have anything to do today?”

“No. Not if I get to spend the day with you.” Lance grinned and kissed him.

“A-all day? With me?” Keith kissed him back, keeping it sweet and slow, exactly how Lance taught him.

“Yes. That’s what I want if you want it too.” Lance licked at Keith’s lips, encouraging him to keep kissing him like that. Like he needed him and didn’t want to be without him.

“Mmm.” Keith continued to kiss Lance, following his lead. “I want to. But, I want to know if there’s something you want. Something you’d like me to do for you? Before you argue... I just want to know what you want.”

“You. And before you tell me that’s the easy answer, that’s the honest answer. I want you. All of you.” Lance kissed Keith before he lifted himself a little to look down at his oddly innocent face. “I want to keep you in my arms and never let you go.”

“That is the easy answer.” Keith pouted. “I’m going with you to Altea, right? You made that promise the first night you brought me home. So, I want to know if there’s something my Altean wants. I’ll do anything.”

“Just because it’s happening doesn’t mean I don’t want it.” Lance kissed Keith’s pout and nipped his lower lip playfully. “But I also want you to keep kissing me. Hold me close. Run your fingers through my hair. Don’t leave me.”

“You like this?” Keith smiled, eyes glittering, excited by the bit of information Lance gave him. He lifted his claws to comb through the pampered locks. “Tell me more.”

“Yes, I do.” Lance half moaned his reply and tilted his head towards Keith’s hands. “Keep kissing me first.” He leaned down, but slowly so Keith’s fingers didn’t leave his hair.

“Okay, okay. Spoiled prince.” Keith chucked as he cupped the back of Lance’s head and pulled him down for another kiss, kneading his hair. “Mmm.”

Lance’s lips eagerly took Keith’s, but he kept it calm, gentle. He wanted Keith to enjoy this but not feel any pressure to take it further. No, not yet anyway. They needed more time like this, like last night, just enjoying each other without getting right into it. “Thank you, kitten.”

Keith trilled a little to the tender nickname. At first, he didn’t argue against the literal pet name, but he had been here for a reason. He was Lance’s entertainment, bought and paid for. It hadn’t felt like that for a while. Now the name warmed him. A silly thing, Keith knew. But it was true. “Anything for my Altean.” He continued to explore the caverns of his mouth. When he felt himself getting too hot, he pulled away with a whimper to allow his body to cool down before leaning up for more.

Lance sank into the warmth Keith was giving him, though when that next kiss got too heated and Keith pulled away, he gently pressed a finger to purple lips and smiled. “I will definitely get too worked up if you kiss me like that again,” he whispered. He liked this. He liked everything Keith was and would be. He wanted to cherish every moment, but he also wanted to spoil him and pamper him and make him feel loved. “I promised you I would treat you to anything you wanted, didn’t I?”

“You’ve given me a lot.” Keith kissed over his sharp jaw. “I have a closet worth of clothing.” The Galra grinned wickedly. “Unless there’s something you want to see me in.”

“I mean, you know what I like to see you in, or not in.” Lance returned Keith’s wicked grin. “But this is beyond buying you stuff. If you want to go out and see something, or if you want to stay in.”

“Stay in. There’s nothing out there that compares to anything I see right here.” Keith dusted his finger under Lance’s eye.

Lance closed his eyes and smiled. “Oh yeah? You like how the room looks that much?”

“With you in front of me, I can see a whole world.” Keith nuzzled his nose into Lance’s, his purr starting up and ruffling his breath.

“Oh? If I’m in front of you, how can you see anything? I’m taller than you.” Lance grinned and opened his eyes. “Though I guess I am your world now? Is that what you were trying to imply? Who knew you got so romantic? I like it.”

“And sometimes I kind of hate you.” Keith rolled his eyes followed by a roll out of the bed. He stretched his arms high above, accenting every fine line and toned muscle of his back. His scar looked softer, less striking against the dark purple flesh.

Lance pouted when Keith rolled out from under him and hopped off the bed. He flopped himself down face first into the pillows, though he turned his head to the side to watch the way the other man seemed to move as fluidly as a stream of water, and his eyes lingered on the scar for a moment before he huffed. “Cold.”

“Is it? Should I turn up the heat?” Keith looked over his shoulder, sliding his hands down the back of his body knowing Lance’s eyes would follow, stopping just at the soft roundness of his ass. Another of Lance’s favorite Keith parts.

Lance grunted as his eyes lingered on the swell of Keith’s backside before he looked up at his face. “That won’t help.”

“What will help?” Keith teased.

“You getting back in the bed with me.” Lance puffed his cheeks out.

“You could always get in the shower with me.” Keith stepped toward the bathroom but stopped in the center of the room. “You haven’t done that with me yet.”

“The shower? No, but you want to do that instead of being lazy in the bath?” Lance slid out of the bed and stretched his arms behind his back as he walked up to Keith and leaned in, kissing his shoulder. He just wanted to touch him in any way possible.

“Hmmm.” Keith leaned his head to the side, his cheek pressed against Lance’s. “And miss the chance to see you under the spray, getting even sexier? That would be a crime.”

“Hm, I guess if you’re going to keep flattering me, you’re going to make my ego worse.” Lance kissed that smooth shoulder again, wrapping his arms around Keith’s waist and holding him close. “Though you definitely look better when you’re wet than I do.”

“Oh? Coming from you, Altean? I’d say you’re delusional.” Keith held Lance’s dark hands against the silk and steel structure of his stomach.

“How can I be delusional? You are the sexiest.” He kissed his neck. “The most beautiful.” A kiss on the shoulder. “Warmest.” He slid his hands down his stomach. “Best.” His fingers traced his love-lines. “Lover I could ever find. All of that is true, not a delusion.”

Keith’s cheeks flushed a deep violet. “Wow, to think all you had to do to find me was walk into a dark damp dingy cell. Then pick a stranger off the wall and decided he was cute enough to fuck.” He purred and swayed his hips.

“Hmm.” Keith sighed, leaning the length of his body back into Lance. “Oh! That reminds me. I need to pick up something before we go. Back home...”

“I didn’t want a stranger. I wanted you. I obviously went for you and no one else.” Lance’s fingers stopped what they were doing before he rested them flat on Keith’s hips, drumming gently against the flesh. “Oh. Are you going back -there-?”

“Not exactly but close. I stashed a few things I don’t want to leave behind.”

“And I can’t go with you?” Lance sighed and dropped his hands. He knew the answer. He knew Keith wouldn’t even entertain the thought. “All right, but be quick. I don’t want them bothering you again.”

Keith’s ears drooped when Lance’s hands did. “I can go now Dex has set. I’ll go and get back and we can continue where we left off.” Keith nosed into Lance’s cheek with a soft purr. “Can you let me go for a varga? I won’t be spotted.”

Lance nodded and pushed some of Keith’s hair out of his face. “A varga is still too long, but I guess I’ll have to accept it. Hurry back to me.” He twisted one of those ebony strands between his fingers before he let go.

Keith kissed him, “You think there’s something that could keep me away?” Keith washed and dressed quickly before kissing that soft pampered cheek again. “I’ll be back. Count the ticks.”

Keith grinned, a cocky self-satisfied grin as he back stepped toward the balcony. Then, with a wink and showboating flip he disappeared off the railing.

Less than a varga passed, and Keith had hopped up to the rooftops, folding a small pouch into his belt and held his hand over his stomach, feeling over the tiny lump on his skin.

“All right, he better appreciate this,” Keith grumbled with no real bite in his voice. Adjusting the small pack on his shoulder, he walked down the center maintenance bridge, when an image of a heavily armored large Galra male flared up on the tallest structure and on the flat side of all surrounding structures in the city. The booming gravel voice of the supposedly dead emperor rattled Keith off the thin plank. With a yelp, he fell and gripped the board tightly as he stared into the glowing malicious eyes of the undead creature.

“My fellow Galra…King Alfor of Altea has destroyed our planet…”

Keith hung frozen as the lich declared war on the universe. He pulled himself up to the ledge and perched watching The Pits’ as the half-bloods on the ground found their confusion melting away. These aimless broken creatures suddenly found a purpose. A reason. They could be recognized by the nation who shunned them. Keith quickly and quietly hopped down an ally, already hearing the cries of revolution in the street.

“Quiznak…”

 

“But he’s not back yet!” Lance paced around the main room of the penthouse, wringing his hands until they threatened to crack and bleed. The announcement had just echoed throughout the city. It instantly became too dangerous for Lance and his entourage to remain. The shuttle had already been loaded with most of their belongings as they prepared to head back for the funeral, but now the luxury of time left them.

“You know we have to go!” Coran grabbed Lance’s arm and yanked on it. “There’s no time!”

“But Keith said he’d be back!”

“There’s no way he can get back now. Not with the chaos in the streets. I don’t want to leave him here either, but you are in more danger the longer you wait.” Coran yanked again, this time pulling Lance towards the emergency exit. The valets already pushed as much furniture in front of the doors as they could. Anything to slow down any potential attackers. At most, it would buy them a few dobashes.

Lance slumped. Coran was right, but he also trusted Keith. Keith would hurry back, so if he could just wait…

He yelped as his larger valet hoisted him over his shoulder and hopped out onto the emergency platform. Even if he wasn’t so surprised and had time to struggle, he would have been dropped to the ground below, and Lance didn’t want to be paste on the sidewalk. But that didn’t mean he wouldn’t yell and curse the entire way to the shuttle, though he wasn’t sure if his voice was louder than the general din crying for blood.

Keith raced over the rooftops, twisting through ropes and pipes, avoiding the lower streets whenever possible. Chaos came at a gentle trickle at first. A few fights here, looting there, a broken window. But as Keith came down into the station square, he saw nothing remaining of civilized people. The broken body of a non-gog sat in the street, eyes alert but unaware of its oncoming fate. Keith tried to swing down, but a hover cruiser crashed into the body completing what a mob had started. Keith shut his eyes and looked away.

Talgnar became a city in full revolution. Alteans getting ushered in herded lines remained grouped together by families to prevent separation once they found safety inside the partial shields. Keith watched helplessly as everything from blasters to rocks slammed against them. The impact igniting a hexagonal grid standing about five meters high just outside the spaceport’s main grounds. The barrier was a band-aid, which would be ripped away as the angry seeping infection of rage continued to fester and was left to pump through the city, poisening and killing all it touched. Soon it would be here. At the very heart, it wanted to kill.

Keith swung around and landed on the center grounds, he rolled to his feet and raced through the pruned and manicured hedges, toward the line of terrified Alteans. “Lance!” He yelled, looking at the masses. “Lance!” A rough jerk on the scruff of his neck lifted Keith off his feet.

“Hey, get your quiznaking hands off me!” Keith cursed at the large Altean.

“You don’t belong here Galra.”

“You don’t understand! I need to get in there!” Keith squirmed against him. “Lance. I’m with Lance.”

“Lance?”

“The diplomatic envoy!”

“I know who he is! You’re with him?”

“You’re…”

“Yes. I’m that guy!”

The guard scoffed. “Doesn’t matter who you are. You’re not getting past me.”

“You sure about that?” Keith’s ears pressed back against his head.

“Yes.”

Keith sighed and closed his eyes. He didn’t want to do this. In a tick, his legs came out and hooked around the back of the Altean’s knees and he pulled him in, forcing him down on his face. With a pounce, the smaller Galra leaped from his chest, pushing his hand down against the Altean’s face and bolted into the station, kicking through two other oncoming guards.

“LANCE!” Keith screamed as he came through the docking ports. He spotted the shuttle with Lance’s house crest. It started to move.

“Quiznak!” Keith raced forward, pushing past everyone on the platforms. He watched with a sinking heart as the shuttle pulled through the gates the bay doors starting to shut behind it. “Lance…”

 

Lance’s cursing didn’t stop until he was shoved into his cabin, and the door slammed behind him. He was safe. He was going to make it home, but he was miserably alone. He sank into the chair by the window, rested his head against it, and closed his eyes. He would never get over this. He pressed his head a little more forcefully against the window, but he couldn’t even really feel the pressure of the surface against his skin. He was numb, and as he watched the shuttle pull away, that numbness started to spread throughout his body.

“Papers. Please.” The soft voice of the attendant came through the private doors, backlit by the thick green clouds of the Tralgrian atmosphere before breaking into the perfect dark pitch of space.

Lance kept his forehead against the window and stared out at the planet as it grew smaller and smaller, completely fading from view as the shuttle began its jump. “…my attendant has everything.” He felt the tears sliding down his cheeks, pain pushing through the growing numbness in his chest.

“That tall fellow? He sent me in here to you. There was an incident while taking off, so he’s indisposed. If you have your identification pad we can get a few more things sorted out. Everything is a mess back on the planet, and it’s only going to get worse. Word came through, there was a massive explosion just as we took off.” The valet insisted and pushed a purple hand out to him.

Lance slumped and forced himself away from the window, but his eyes remained downcast. He ignored the drops falling from his chin as he reached down for a bag thrown haphazardly on the floor by his feet. That must have been dumped in here when he was. Trembling hands opened it, and he pulled the pad out, sticking his arm towards the valet. “Here…” He grimaced at how sullen his voice sounded, but he knew there was no helping it.

“Hey, you okay? Lose a pet or something?” He dared to step further into the room, touching the hand reaching out to him with the pad. “There’s a child a few rooms ahead of you crying because of a lost cat.”

“Or something…” Lance only managed a nod, and his hand started to tremble so much, he almost dropped the pad. “I’m not okay. Please just check this and leave.”

“You must have loved it very much. Tell me about it? Sometimes talking helps. It helped the kid. Was it cute?”

“Please check this and leave,” Lance repeated as he kept his arm extended, though it seemed to wobble as though the insignificant weight of the device was too much.

He took the pad and clicked his tongue. “It says, two passengers. I only see one. Keith? No last name… strange first name. Are they here? Using the restroom?” The valet started to press a few buttons on his pad. “Can you describe him? I’ll send out a message to the crew to let them know he’s okay.”

Lance was about to snap. He lifted a hand to his head and tugged on his own hair in frustration, letting out what almost sounded like a growl. He whipped his head up, heated words on the tip of his tongue, but they died as soon as he saw the man’s face. His eyes widened, and the tears that had started to dry in his anger now came back, falling faster than before. “H-how?” He dropped the identification pad and lifted shaking hands to those beautiful violet cheeks. “I…Keith I thought…” he choked out his own words.

“Luck. Good and bad.” Keith hissed at the first touch, his hair falling over half his face. “Your driver threw me a line at the last minute. I managed to pull myself on board. But the g-force and the heat got me pretty good.” Keith turned his hands up showing burnt, torn flesh of his palms.

“Made a mess of me a little.” Keith turned his head, showing the burn down his cheek, the flesh blistered swelling his eye shut. “Sorry.”

Lance pulled his hands back when Keith hissed like that, and he stared at him, lips quivering as he tried to hold back a sob. He took Keith’s hands. gently kissing those palms and closing his eyes. His markings glowed and filled the cabin with a soft blue light. He kissed each of those injuries and focused his quintessence into them. “I…thought I’d never see you again, but here you are, though…wasn’t that a bit cruel? Couldn’t you see how distraught I was? Why didn’t you just tell me it was you?”

“I wanted to surprise you. I guess I suck at surprises. Though I also might have hit my head a little hard against the floor of the cargo hold.” Keith shivered as Lance funneled his power into him, the shift in his body slipping the oversized valet uniform to the side. “If- if you’re going to do that… I need to lay down.”

Lance shook his head and pulled Keith onto his lap, his tears mixing with the quintessence as he tried to heal the wounds with his life. “I’m definitely surprised.” He half-sobbed and nuzzled that burned cheek as gently as he could, trying to heal that as well.

“Lance.” Keith’s brows furrowed up as he leaned his head back against his shoulder, the flush darkening his cheeks as his pain ebbed away. “I promised you right? I’d find any way back to you. I…” Keith swallowed, fear taking a second to close his throat, but the heat of those tears dripping against his neck eased it away. “I… I couldn’t leave you. I… I love you too much to be without you.”

Lance’s body shook as the sobs took over and he kept kissing Keith’s palms, feeling the skin healing beneath his lips and against his cheek. It didn’t matter that Keith’s back was to Lance’s chest and their arms were awkward. It didn’t matter that he could barely contain himself. All that mattered was that Keith was here with him. “I…idiot. I was supposed to say it first. I love you. I’ve been in love with you for a while. I won’t, I can’t love anyone but you.”

“I had to give you something.” Keith couldn’t stop the low rumble in his chest. Even if he was hurt, even through the sharp tingles of healing flesh, Lance felt good.

“Since your quintessence flowed into mine. Since your heart changed the beat of mine. Since you healed every part of me, and not just the scars on my skin… but…” A groan of pleasure broke his words apart as Lance’s life energy started to pool in his stomach, no longer having damaged flesh to cure. The warm intoxicating buzz of it took over.

“You never had to give me anything, but now that you have, I’m never letting you go.” Lance turned his lips from Keith’s hands to kiss his neck. “I won’t let you leave me. I almost lost you once. Never again.”

The lightest whimper escaped indigo lips. “I won’t.” Soft, freshly healed fingers pressed between the dark tan ones of his lover. “I crawled up the ass of damn shuttle to get here. I don’t think I’m going anywhere else any time soon. You should have seen it. Though… I think your driver needs a promotion.”

“Then I’ll give him one, since he helped you get back to me. Well, that and he saw you in the carriage that day, and I don’t want anyone else seeing you that sexy.” Lance kept his face against Keith’s neck, his lips pressing into the skin. “I’ve never been so scared in my entire life.”

“I’m sorry.” Keith turned his head up to Lance, eyes dancing between his. “I scared you. I never wanted to do that. I thought of you back home, dealing with all those stuffy nobles. I couldn’t have that. My Altean needs more than that to really shine the way he’s meant to.”

“Your Altean needs only you.” Lance looked down at Keith before he turned the Half-Galra in his arms, so he could see him better. He wanted to take in every little detail. The way Keith’s eyelashes seemed to make his eyes even wider and fuller of wonder than they were. The slight curve to his nose, which made it entirely too cute for such a stern face. He pressed his own nose to the tip of Keith’s.

“My Altean has already given me the most beautiful star in the universe.” Keith leaned up and kissed him, longingly desperately, as if it was their last first kiss. He put everything he was into it and everything he wanted to be.

He couldn’t prevent the whimper that escaped his lips during the kiss. “I did?” He whispered and took his lips again, using it as a distraction to lay Keith back on the couch by the window. He needed to feel him.

Keith smiled as the couch came up under him, and he felt the fine magenta hairs tickle under his neck as it pillowed him. “Mmmnm. I thought they could only shine in the sky, but I can hold one in my hand.” He stroked Lance’s cheek.

“Seriously that’s the second romantic thing you said to me today. You’re outdoing me, not that I’m complaining.” Lance let his weight settle a bit on Keith, and he kissed him again, his head tilting into that hand. “If you really think of me as your star, then you must know you’re my reason to shine.”

“See?” Keith chuckled. “You love that sappy stuff, and I’d rather see you smile than cry.”

“What if I cry because I’m so happy?” Lance’s lips curved up into a sight smile for Keith’s sake. The tears once again slid down his cheeks. “I love you. I would be shattered if you hadn’t made it here. You saw it starting, didn’t you? I was such a mess. They wouldn’t let me wait any longer, and I could feel myself breaking with every moment. But…” he took one of Keith’s hands and placed it over his chest. “I’m mended and full now because you’re here, and you love me.”

“If you waited any longer, things could have been so much worse.” Keith danced his fingers over Lance’s chest. “Like I’d let you leave without me. You’re hopeless without me.”

“I am hopeless, aren’t I? I was miserable. I never would have been able to live without you.” Lance kept Keith’s hand over his heart even as he kissed him. “I love you.”

Keith kissed him back and sighed into his mouth. “I love you too. You’re beautiful.” He laid back, failing to keep the awe out of his expression as he stared up at the man with the stars and the infinite universe as his backdrop.

“Am I?” Lance slid his hand down Keith’s chest and smiled a little. He looked even smaller in the oversized valet uniform, and it just made him even cuter. “Keith…” he leaned down and kissed him, fingers deftly unfastening his pants, but taking his time in pulling them down.

“Oh… you really do love compliments.” Keith flushed. “I ran all the way here. I’m sweaty…” His ears dipped the slight way they always did as blood started to rush to other parts of his body.

“But you smell good.” Lance nuzzled one of Keith’s pink cheeks with his lips, his hands pushing those pants down as far as he could without pulling away. “I don’t mind if you’re sweaty. You’ll be sweatier soon enough.” He kissed him once before sitting up, so he could completely remove the pants.

Keith slipped his legs open as Lance pulled the pants easily from his slender legs. “This…” his hands disappeared into the sleeves of the uniform. “He’ll want this back…”

“Then we should give it back.” Lance slid his hands up Keith’s stomach and pulled the top up with it. He tossed it into the same pile as the pants. “But then we’ll have to find something else for you hm? Can’t have anyone else seeing you like this.”

“So you don’t want me naked the rest of the trip?” Keith moved his hand down to cover his navel, though a glimmer of something caught the light of their cabin between his fingers. His skin tender and a little pink.

“I do want you naked the whole trip.” Lance grinned and kissed him, warming up with way Keith looked at him. “I think I will keep you naked.” He sat up again and removed his own top. “I will stay naked with you.”

“If someone comes in here to check on you?” Keith licked lips, eyes following the line of Lance’s abs.

“The only one who would come is Coran. The rest of them are terrified of me right now.” Lance peeled off the rest of his clothing and leaned over him, his fingers dancing over the ones Keith had on his stomach, smiling at the shimmering jewelry between slender purple digits. “Did you pick this up while you were out?” He knew the answer, though, since Keith’s skin was still reddened from the act. He just wanted to hear what his lover had to say about it. The piercing was beautiful, a small chain of opalescent stones the colors of Lance’s house. It stirred something in him. A primal sense of desire and jealousy.

“I saw how you got when I wore your colors. I don’t want to wear something like that again.” Keith puffed his cheeks out. “I…got this instead.”

“Oh? You don’t even want to wear it for me in private?” Lance nuzzled and then kissed each of those puffed cheeks. “I guess this is an acceptable replacement.” He slid his fingers around his navel. “You’re so sexy.”

“I’ll do anything in private.” Keith shrugged. “But this is something I can have with me. I took the stones out of that statue.” Keith’s smile turned into a smirk. “Successful heist.”

Lance blinked a little and sat back up. “What?” He touched the largest stone and his brows furrowed, as he concentrated on not moving it too much and agitating the freshly pierced skin. “I would have given it to you if you asked. You didn’t have to sneak around. Though, this is a nice surprise. As long as you don’t show it off to anyone but me.”

“It’s only for you. I made that choice. I haven’t been with anyone but you since the day you found me. I don’t belong to anyone, but I’m yours…” Keith’s gesture was bold, presumptuous, but the choice he made for himself.

Lance took one of Keith’s hands and brought it to his lips, kissing his fingertips before he pressed his lips to his palm. “And I am yours. I will make a formal declaration to my uncle when we return. I don’t need any ceremonies or anything like that, but I want everyone to know I’m yours. I just need you. I want only you. You are my companion in life and love, and no one will change that.”

“That far?” Keith flushed again, remembering what he just went through to get here. A formal declaration didn’t seem that momentous. “I can’t give you kids, but we can try.” Keith’s eyes glittered with impish delight.

Lance laughed against Keith’s palm, and the moment of mirth broke some of the tension and insecurity Lance was still carrying on his shoulders. His body relaxed, and he pressed down against Keith. “I don’t know about trying for children, but I want to make love to you.” He whispered, placing a feather-light kiss on Keith’s lips.

“Kind of what I was implying. Pretty sure I’m not one of those races. But I’m willing to find out.” Keith teased as he curled his arm around him.

“Maybe we should just enjoy each other before we worry about children hm?” Lance kissed Keith again, this time letting the contact linger, his hands resting on his hips.

“Mmm. Since when are you unable to catch a joke.” Keith nipped Lance’s lower lip. “I meant you can fuck me and fill me with as much of you as you want. To the point where if there’s even a one one-hundredth of a chance it could happen, I’d end up with your cute little Altean.” He continued to grin.

“It’s less fun when I have to spell it out though. Unless you want me to talk like that.”

“I know you were joking. I know what you meant.” Lance kissed the grin. “And I do like it when you talk like that. Look what it does to me.” He pressed his heat against Keith’s thigh. “But Keith, I meant it when I said I wanted to make love to you. I want to be slow and tender. I want you to feel all of me. I almost lost you, so I want to drown myself in you.” He kissed him again. “Please let me give you all of my love.”

“If we’re going to talk like this...” Keith squirmed his hips.

“Then we shouldn’t talk.” Lance kissed him and reached for the bag on the floor, fumbling for anything he could use to prepare Keith for him. And as his fingers found a container of salve, he kissed Keith again.

“You had some in your travel bag?” Keith arched a brow.

“I didn’t pack it. Coran or one of the valets must have done it.” Lance chuckled, shaking his head a little. “It’s just medicinal salve. It’s not specifically for that, but I won’t complain.” He coated a finger and lowered it to Keith’s opening. “Are you going to complain?”

“No.” Keith spread his thighs with a lift of his hips. The tilt of his body rolling the gem on his stomach.

Lance licked Keith’s lips as he pressed a finger into him. “Good.” No matter how many times he felt Keith’s warmth, it always felt like the most amazing sensation. And now that they admitted love, he felt even more.

“Nn.” Keith closed his eyes, blocking all sensations other than the press of Lance’s finger. So long and slender. “Lance…”

Lance kept his eyes locked on Keith’s face as he readied him. He smiled at the way Keith’s lips quivered with some of his movements, and the twitching of his ears was adorable. “Keith, how does it feel?”

“Like you.” Keith mewled. “Your fingers are so long…”

“Well, yes, but like me? Is that good that they’re long?” Lance kissed Keith’s jaw and licked down to his neck as his fingers finished preparing him. He pulled his hand back and smiled. “Ready?”

Keith nodded “Yeah.” The word curled off his tongue with the simple seduction of teasing breeze.

Lance kissed the slender column of Keith’s neck as he lifted the half-Galran’s hips and lined himself up. Oceanic eyes locked onto that soft face as he inched in, slowly, taking all of his lover and settling as deeply as he could before lifting one hand from Keith’s hips to take one of his hands, threading their fingers. “Keith, I love you.”

Keith clung to the delicate hand, careful as his claws squeezed against the first waves of sensation. He wondered if Lance had the barest idea what he did to him. Between the quintessence and near-daily indulgences of physical pleasure, Keith knew his shape. He knew how to move his muscles in ways to drive him mad. He knew how to slow him down or warn him with barely a shift of his hip. Likewise, Lance knew the limits of what Keith could handle. Keith had more feral needs than most Alteans. Bites, nips, squeezes, and tosses drove the half-blood crazy. However, gentle moments, sweet kisses and tender praising whispers melted him. Lance figured out what Keith needed when he needed it.

So when he held his hand, Keith turned his head and bit at a dark knuckle, and in the same breath he kissed and licked the skin.

“Amazing.” Lance murmured, his blood seeming to heat to as he watched Keith’s reactions and listened to the sounds that escaped his lips. He even felt the heat spike with the feeling of his teeth. He knew Keith wasn’t necessarily good at taking it slow and easy, but he knew that he would try. He put slight pressure on Keith’s hand and pressed his lips against his ear as he started to rock their bodies. “Keith…ah.”

“L-Lance…” Keith panted, his ear twitching against the hot breath blowing over the fine hairs.

Lance took the lobe of Keith’s ear between his teeth. Normally it would be a rough nip or tug, but this time it was careful. As though he just wanted to give him a little of what he preferred, since every movement of their bodies was slow and rhythmic.

Keith gasped, slow husky. He wanted to feel the sharp pangs of his lover’s teeth, but the tease of it was almost as good. “Lance…”

The temptation to get to it the way he always did was definitely there, but despite the quick beating of his heart, Lance held Keith’s hand with one hand and his hip with the other, never increasing his pace even as Keith moaned his name as though begging him for more.

Sweet desperate torture. Keith tossed his head back against the couch’s arm in uncaring if anyone in the shuttle heard him. Lance was slowly breaking him, and he was begging for it.

Lance cherished the power he had over Keith in the moment, but he did not abuse it. Instead, he brought Keith to different heights of pleasure. Each thrust, each caress of his hip and squeeze of his hand, each kiss. All of it was meant to make Keith feel as good as possible.

“I love you.” Keith whimpered as his thrust his chest out, breaking the kiss to moan but longing to have it back. “I need… I need…”

“What do you need?” Lance’s dark eyes focused on Keith’s neck since his head was tossed back. His hips pushed forward, and he held himself steady for a moment. “Tell me.”

“Inside. I need to feel it.”

“With pleasure.” Lance nuzzled Keith’s chin with his lips. “But kiss me first.”

Keith threw his available arm over his lover and pulled him down for a hungry whimpering kiss, taking his tongue deep into his mouth. He needed to get as much of his flavor as he could.

And at that moment, Lance came and moaned into Keith’s mouth, his hips thrusting harder just once as he emptied himself into his lover. His fingers pressed into Keith’s hip enough to darken the soft skin there.

Keith’s whole being froze as he gave back the pleasure given. Hot seed filled him and spread between their writhing bodies. When they came down from their high, Keith kept his fingers twined in Lance’s hair. “How long of a shuttle ride is this?” Every word ended in a kiss against the Altean’s jaw or chin, making their way to one of his pointed ears.

“Nnnn.” Lance groaned and arched against him when Keith paid loving attention to his ears. “A few more vargas.” He let go of his hand to slip his arm around him, holding his heated body against his own.

“Mmm. So a few more rounds?”

“Yes.” Lance grinned against his lips. “I mean I’m still in you, so there’s that.”

“You might really end up with a bastard Altean” Keith chuckled, kissing Lance again as his hips moved.

Lance shook his head and kissed him. “I already said…I’m making a formal declaration.” He moaned and moved his hips in time with Keith. “It wouldn’t be a bastard. You are mine. I am yours.” He nipped Keith’s lower lip and gently tugged on the soft flesh.

Keith moaned into his lover's mouth. He came again and again under Lance’s touch until he had nothing left as the half-blood fell into a near unconscious swoon.

Still straddling Lance’s lap, his cheek pressed against the Altean’s broad warm chest, Keith let the day take hold and he slept. Lance’s cape fanning over their naked bodies kept Keith’s modestly as Coran walked into their room back first.

“Look, Lance, I’ve failed you. I know how much Keith meant to you. I liked him too, the purple little scamp! If I can get back…”

Lance lazily lifted his head from Keith’s hair and grinned. “Good thing he’s more resourceful than you, Coran.” He kept his voice low as he held his sleeping lover. If their position and state of dress didn’t give their activities away, their sweat-damp hair and the bite marks on Lance’s shoulders would have been enough. He ignored Coran’s dropped jaw and continued. “When we return, I’ll be making a declaration. Can you prepare that for me?”

“How? When?! Why didn’t you tell me!?” Coran didn’t care what they’d been doing. He was an adult, not an idiot. He sat on the opposite seat, tears in his eyes. “Thank the ancients.” He controlled the volume of his voice when the tuff of midnight hair shifted.

“We were a little busy.” Lance shook his head and held Keith a little closer. “I thought my life was over, but then he was here.” He smiled at his retainer. “Will you help me? I’m sure my cousin will be easy to convince, but my uncle might be a little more difficult.”

“Yes, of course.” Coran shifted his eyes to the side. “I don’t want to trample over your moment, but it won’t be easy on him back on Altea.” He whispered. “King Alfor and the princess aside, the rest of them will see him only as a Galra. And you have the banquet first. I can get him dressed and prepare him for court but… Thanks to all this mess, I pray they see him as we do.”

“I know. Why do you think I want to make the declaration as soon as we land?” Lance sighed and pressed his cheek against the top of Keith’s head. “I love him, Coran, and I won’t let anyone hurt him or make him feel like he’s not good enough because he’s half Galra. He’s better than all of those who would treat him badly. He’s also better than all of those who wouldn’t treat him differently. He’s the best.”

Coran smiled tears returning to his eyes. “He defied everything just to be here. I’m betting he feels the same. Does he know who you are?”

“Well he went to that meeting with me last week, so he knows or assumes enough. And he can protect me better than anyone else.”

“I know. He’s pretty fast with those compact muscles. I imagine he isn’t going to care for the usual regalia of a royal family spouse?”

“Of course not. He’s too proud for that. He’s also his own person, not just my spouse. Is it possible to tailor one of the uniforms to fit him?” Lance shifted and pulled the cape more over Keith to keep him covered.

“Hmm?” Shimmering dark eyes fluttered drunk and heavy up at Lance. Coran covered his mouth and shrunk back into the corner of his seat.

“Did I wake you? Sorry, pet, go back to sleep.” Lance rubbed his hand in circles over his back. “Coran and I are just discussing our arrival. You have time to rest.” He placed a kiss on Keith’s forehead.

“Coran?” Keith barely got the name out before his shoulders slumped and he was back asleep.

“I can get something made for him before we land.” Coran started with a softer voice. “The documents as well, but umm does the young man have a title?”

“No. Come up with one. You’re better at that than I am.” Lance smiled a bit.

“Very well. Anything else, Young Lord?”

“Take the valet’s clothing back to him, and tell him I’ll thank him personally when we land.”

“Anything… for him to land in? Might be hard to sneak a naked Half-Galra off the ship.”

“We grabbed all the clothes, right? Just bring one of those bags.”

“Very well.” Coran stood up. “Anything else?” He chucked has Keith started to purr.

“No. Thank you, Coran.” Lance smiled at his attendant before he focused on the sleeping kitten in his arms, stroking his hair and watching the peace of his sleeping face.

“I’ll take my leave. I’m very happy for you, young lord.” Coran whispered over his shoulder as he left the group.

Chapter Text

Lance slumped in his chair, watching Coran fuss over Keith and make the last adjustments to his suit for the evening’s banquet—an event Lance would have loved to skip, and other different circumstances, he might have been able to, but with Zarkon’s declaration of war? There was no way he could get out of it now, especially since he had brought his half-Galran lover home. He trusted Keith with his life, but he knew not everyone would be as warm and welcoming to his companion. Of course, there would be old-timers who wouldn’t be as friendly towards Lance now as they were when he left. None of that bothered him, though he was sure Keith would blame himself for it all.

His eyes turned up to his lover’s face. The poor man was absolutely uncomfortable in the white Altean suit, though Coran was adjusting it to fit him more in the way he preferred. It wasn’t as stiff and tight as a regular suit might have been, but it wasn’t so loose that it would restrict Keith’s movement. The smaller man seemed to be more comfortable when his range of motion wasn’t hindered, and Lance hoped the whole spectacle tonight wouldn’t be too much for him. But the grumpy expression was not lost on Lance. Not with the way his eyes narrowed, and his lips curled downwards.

“Just for tonight.” He shook his head and managed a tight smile at Keith. He wanted the other man to know he wasn’t happy about this either. He would much rather stay home, hold Keith all night, and just be happy together. He didn’t want to go to this stupid banquet, not after the emotional day the two of them had. “At the very least, it’s free food and drink. I’ll be able to introduce you to my cousin and uncle. Then we can leave as quickly as possible, okay?” Anything to convince Keith, and himself, right?

“Yeah. No problem. I’ll charm the pants and skirts off everybody in that room.” Keith sighed, biting back a few curses. He didn’t care what people thought of him, but the he did care what they thought of Lance.

“Perhaps something more flowing? Something that …” Coran contemplated aloud before he shook his head. “It should be all right Viscount Keith.”

“How about just Keith?”

“Titles are important if you are rubbing shoulders with high society.” Coran waved his hand with a loft air.

Keith curled his lip at the title and gave Lance a pleading look. “I can go live on a nearby moon or something…”

Lance sighed and shook his head. “No.” He had a comment about charming everyone, but he bit it back, and instead he stood. “So you went through all that trouble to be with me, and you already want to leave?” He knew Keith wasn’t serious, but the comment still stung. “Fine. You don’t have to come.” He walked to the wardrobe and pulled out his own uniform, fingers clenching into the fabric. “I’ll make a good excuse for you, don’t worry.”

Keith winced and shared a look with Coran before the tall Altean left the room. “Don’t.” Keith stepped forward and turned Lance around to face him, catching a glimpse of himself in the mirror. The Galra looked pampered and feathered. His hair had been flipped back to curl up at the nape. Black and magenta side locks hung long and accented the sharpness of his jaw. His eyes caught something laying on the table. A cornet of typical Altean royalty but modified to look more like a collar. Keith cocked his head to the side with an ear quirking up in curiosity. The piece was pretty. Sapphire and crystal gems adorned each link with a softly glowing emblem of Lance’s house within the larger center stone.

“I don’t want to be the kind partner you need to make excuses for.” He replied in a slow distracted drawl as he pulled his attention back to Lance. He didn’t need to focus on expensive jewelry. The days of stealing and back street fighting were in the past.

“And I don’t want to force you to do uncomfortable things.” Lance sighed and took the converted necklace from the table, placing it in a box and tucking it into the inside of his jacket. “You’re clearly uncomfortable.” His brows furrowed, and he sighed. “So don’t come if you don’t want to.”

“You didn’t have a problem with that last night. I’m going to have a door handle shaped bruise for weeks! You’re lucky I’m flexible.” Keith’s ear twitched with the loving tease.

“You want me to be there. I’ll be there. I’ll bow and shake hands, eat with utensils, and leave the booze alone.”

For a moment, Lance’s eyes widened, and he stared at Keith. “You didn’t want it?” He did his best to keep the horror off his face, but he was sure he failed. Keith was joking with him, wasn’t he? And Lance didn’t pick up on it. Shame flushed his cheeks and he bowed his head a little. “I want you with me, but you don’t want to go. You clearly hate everything about this. The outfit, the title, the event. How can I make you do something you obviously hate?” He dropped his hands from Keith’s jaw. “And why would I want you to charm the pants and skirts off anyone? Are you looking for a new lover already?” His cheeks puffed out.

“It’s impossible to look when all I see is you.” Keith licked the tip Lance’s nose. “Of course I hate this. But it’s important I do it. It’s a small price to pay.”

“Okay.” Lance kept his cheeks puffed a bit, but his worries left him, well, mostly. He took Keith’s hands and looked down at him. “I suppose I should be more concerned about others looking at you instead. You’re so pretty.”

“Eh?!” Keith's ears twitched. “Where? Get rid of it!”

“How am I supposed to get rid of you?” Lance leaned down and kissed him. “I like how you look in every way. You could be all made up like this, you could be completely disheveled after sleep. It doesn’t matter. You always look amazing.”

“You...” Keith blushed, turning his head to the side. “Your quintessence did this.”

“No. It’s all you. All my quintessence does is heal your wounds and turn you on.” Lance nuzzled his jaw with his lips.

“I didn’t look like this before.” Keith shivered. “You should finish getting dressed.” Despite his words, Keith didn’t move other than to give Lance greater access to the column of his throat.

“You were always beautiful, and you’re right, I should.” Lance placed feather soft kisses to his cheek, his jaw, and then his lips before he stepped back and changed into his most formal uniform. He brushed off his pants and looked at him. “Ready?”

“As ready as I can be.” Keith gave Lance a lopsided grin. “How many Altean women will I have to fight off you?”

“None.” Lance grinned a little. “As soon as we walk in there, they’ll know.” He took one of Keith’s hands, bringing it to his lips and kissing it before letting it fall, though he didn’t let him go.

“So, no fighting?” Keith arched a brow.

“I’d prefer no fighting.” Lance tugged his hand a bit and led him out of the room. “You’re probably imagining all the women will be pissed that I chose you. But the truth is, I never had time for courtship, and anyone I knew, I only knew for a night.”

“We have that in common then.” Keith squeezed Lance’s hand as the doors opened. They were introduced through the booming voice of the cryer. Hundred sets of opalescent eyes focused on the pair. Deep in Keith’s gut, he wanted to crawl away, to find a shadow and wait it out. The Altean splendor surrounded them and the bright whites, blues, silvers, golds, pinks and soft pastels came at the half Galra in a flurry of lights, leaving him with no safe shadowy nook.

Then came the smells. Keith didn’t know how to describe them. It wasn’t the same as the toxic air back home, but oils, flowers, and sickeningly sweet manufactured perfumes forced a twitching of his nose. Altean’s appeared to be offended by their natural scent and went through the extra cost and effort to cover it up.

More food than Keith had seen in his entire life lined the outer wall. Plant-based and meat-based assortments next to continuous fountains of red wine. Keith fought the urge to curl into Lance, to bury his face in his shoulder to hide from the eyes and the smells, but he held strong and nodded his head with confidence. Lance owed him big.

Lance ignored the stares. He held Keith’s hand tightly, both for support and to offer it. A manufactured smile found its way to his lips as he descended the short staircase into the main hall. He had been to so many of these before, he had just grown used to the pomp and circumstance. But today, with someone he wanted to be with, he found it all so dreadful. Was it always this ridiculous? He glanced around the room and snorted at the opulence as he led Keith towards a small cluster of Alteans. Coran was already there, so at least there was one more friendly and familiar face for Keith.

“Lance!”

He paused, blinking as the small crowd parted and his cousin stood in the center, as lovely as she had always been, though her eyes bore into him like a mother about to scold her child.

“Allura.” He stopped in front of her, still holding Keith’s hand. “You look lovely as usual.”

“Oh stop it.” That disapproving look vanished, replaced with a warm smile as she embraced him. “I’m so glad you’re home. Father was dreadfully worried about you.” She pulled back enough to turn her attention to Keith. “And you must be Keith? Thank you for taming my rash cousin.”

“I-ah oh!.” Keith bowed. “He was fine. I mean he got me out of prison so—” Keith blinked as he saw the look of panic on Coran’s face. “I mean found me after a mission…or whatever.” Keith sighed and shrugged opting to bow. “I’m unfortunately the one who’s been tamed, Princess.” He took her hand and kissed the back of it because that’s what rich people did.

Lance groaned slightly at the quick glare Allura shot him, but he waved his hand a bit. “I’ll explain everything later.”

Allura smiled at Keith. “Oh, well, I’m glad to finally meet you. Lance sent such gushing praise of you in his correspondences that my father and I knew we had to see for ourselves. He’s never spoken highly of anyone else before.”

“And where is Uncle anyway?”

Allura snorted. “Probably getting lectured about that declaration. Again. Each council member has something different to say about it, though they’re all saying the exact same thing.”

Keith made a study of the room. His ears twitching and swiveling toward their conversation. He counted the exits and open windows. “And what is that, Princess?” Keith asked absently.

“They’re blaming him for everything that happened in the past movement.” Allura shook her head. “And yet at the same time praising him too. He should be here soon.”

Lance glanced at Keith before turning his eyes back to Allura. He knew he didn’t have to say anything to remind her to be careful of her words. They both knew why the old ones would praise her father for his actions. And that was a subject they didn’t need to address. He squeezed Keith’s hand and nodded to the tables of food off to the side. “Are you hungry? Should we get something?”

“Sure. Need anything?” Keith looked over his shoulder indicating he could make it there on his own. “I’m sure you two have a lot you need to discuss. I’m just in the way.”

Lance blinked, but he dropped his hand when Keith turned away from him and towards the tables. “Oh. No…I don’t.” He forced a tight smile to his lips.

“No?” Keith cocked his head, one ear hiking higher. He picked up on Lance’s distress but couldn’t place the reasoning. “It’s just food. I can get you at least that.”

Lance shook his head. “I know.” He knew Keith didn’t understand the real reason he wanted to go over there, so he just dropped it. It was easier, and it would keep the elders from bothering him too much. “Get whatever you want, that’s what it’s there for.”

Keith looked at Lance then back at the food then back at Lance. “O-kay?” Somehow Keith got himself into a damned if he did and damned if he didn’t situation, and his self-preservation skill told him just to stand still. “I can wait.” He rolled on the balls of his feet, drawing a few endeared reactions.

Lance shook his head and kept his hands at his side. His jaw tightened when some of the older council members started heading in their direction, the scowls on their faces clearly directed at Lance’s companion. He clenched his fists before he glanced at Coran.

“Ah!” Coran moved to Keith’s side and rested his hand on his shoulder. “I’ll show you what’s good and what to avoid.” He nudged Keith towards the tables.

Keith nodded his head and went along with the jovial attendant, but not without casting a wary glance over his shoulder at his lover.

Coran leaned over and spoke quietly into Keith’s ear. “They’re going to be stuck in that unpleasant situation for a while. Best to busy ourselves with more fun things.”

Lance stood next to Allura, allowing her to take his arm, her hand gripping his bicep, which she squeezed in silent communication. His other hand clenched into a fist, though he relaxed it and forced one of those mechanical smiles back to his lips as the old men stopped in front of them.

At first the conversation went much in the way Lance expected it to. The situation with Zarkon. The escalation of the of war, which planets had already been targeted. All of it dreadful and brutish, of course. Lance somehow kept a straight face when one of the councilmen started a tirade about the disgusting nature of the Galra. Another tried to bring that back around to Lance and blame him and his lover for the events that transpired. But he controlled his temper and kept up that manufactured smile.

“And aren’t you being reckless, bringing one of -them- here? He’s probably going to kill each and every one of us, and you led him straight to us.”

“My Lord, that’s inexcusably rude.” Allura squeezed Lance’s arm.

“Oh, of course you condone such behavior, Princess. You lack the knowledge and experience to know any better.”

“Excuse me?”

“Ah ah. What my lord obviously meant to say was that it’s no surprise that you support your cousin.” Another man shrugged. “Despite your positions, you two need more experience with other races in order to fully comprehend how serious this is.”

“Oh, but my lords. I do comprehend the seriousness of the situation. After all, I’m the one who fled for my life, hm? I’m the one who was the target of an assassination attempt not that long ago.” Lance smiled through all of it. “And the one you’re talking about? He is the one who stopped it. He is the one protecting me when the guards you appointed can’t. So if that’s reckless, so be it. But he is here with me, and he is staying with me.”

Keith stood at the bountiful table, trapped in his own misery. A misery made tolerable by Coran at his side. Though the red-headed Altean was eventually pulled into other affairs, leaving Keith alone with the roasted hide of some kind of flightless avian creature and endless glasses of wine. Not that wretched nunvill but real alcohol. The kind of drink that left Keith’s cheeks pink and his body buzzing.

“His ears are furry.” Keith twitched.

“He’s smaller than I expected.” A purple lip curled up.

“That’s the one the King’s nephew brought back? I’m not surprised. He always had a compulsion to do tasteless things.” Keith notched his head in agreement. Couldn’t argue there.

“He had his pick, and he chose a primitive species.” Keith heard a growl emanate from his chest. These people were trying to start something.

“Keith? Is that you?!” Keith’s ears perked and spun around.

“By the Stars of Oriande it is!” Keith turned his body and blinked until he found a middle-aged Altean with dark auburn curls and a closely cropped beard. “I never thought I’d see the day!” A red marked hand clapped on Keith’s shoulder.

“Lord Voral.” Keith smiled. “So you did manage to dig your way out of the slums.”

“So you’re the one everyone is making a fuss about?” Voral smacked Keith’s shoulder. “Of all the chances.”

“I guess.” Keith drank from an ornate glass. “At least someone is glad to see me here.”

“Glad? I’m ecstatic! You are causing a stir! Just the shake-up this stuffy court needs to brighten their marks.”

“I’m hoping to be forgettable.”

“Not even remotely. But I see you got your hand into picking one of the biggest pockets there are!” Voral teased, the fondness never leaving his eyes.

“It’s not exactly like that.” Keith sipped his wine.

“No?” A finger graced the edge of Keith’s collar, slow, tender as that of an exploratory lover. Keith’s ear twitched and he stepped away from the touch. He had nothing against Voral. In fact, he had enjoyed their time together. He viewed him as a good man. A good man who got lonely and sought comfort like anyone else. Back home Keith would have leaned into the touch, he would have pressed up close and allowed the Altean to woo him with pretty words and money. That wasn’t Keith anymore.

“No. Please forgive me. It was good seeing you. I’m glad you’re well. But I gotta go.”

“So soon?”

“Yeah, need some air.”

“I can-“

“No, I can find it. Kinda surrounded by it. Thank you.” Keith back stepped out of the banquet and through the doors they’d entered moments ago.

Keith held his arms as he walked down the empty halls. The lights had been dimmed to heard everyone toward the banquet. The effect cast an eerie teal glow over the steel and metal walkways. He thought he’d feel something, being inside the famous Castle of Lions, but the atmosphere felt crypt-like, and inside his emotions remained cold. He wanted to go back to Lance, but if he had to spend one more moment inside that room, he was sure he’d snap and give every one of those nobles exactly what they wanted. Instead he sighed and continued forward. The echoing of his shoes down the corridor his company.

He didn’t know how long he wandered, but he caught the scent of fresh air. He searched for it and came upon a giant archway leading out to a steel and chrome balcony. White curtains billowed in the breeze, beckoning Keith like a curling finger.

Keith stepped out and took his first real breath. The city below was a wonder of ivory and lights. Each glimmer mirroring a star in the sky with buildings gracefully sweeping through the streets to mimic stationary clouds.

The air smelled so fresh and sweet, and Keith smiled. He already knew this scent. It clung to Lance’s skin.

“Amazing isn’t it?” A low voice came from behind him. Keith turned with bristled hair.

“A-Alfor!? I mean King Alfor!” Keith stepped back.

“Oh please. I’m not your king any more than Zarkon was your emperor.” The king smiled warmly. “I’m just some jerk everyone pretends to listen to.” Keith arched a brow, but he wasn’t going to argue. Something about his expression must have expressed his agreement because the man laughed.

“Not even going to argue? Well enough.”

“Well you didn’t say anything that was wrong.” Keith shrugged earning, another laugh. He hopped up on the balcony, legs dangling in the air.

“I can see why he picked you. He always had a knack for finding hidden treasures.”

“Nah. I just happen to know how to breathe when the air is trying to suffocate you. I thought him how.” Keith smirked. He could feel Alfor’s eyes studying him.

“You’ll have to teach me that someday.” A warm smile reached up and brightened weary eyes.

“Maybe I will.”

“Uncle.” Lance stood one step out onto the balcony, looking as though he hadn’t slept in ages. His eyes were dull, and a frown seemed to be permanently etched on his lips. “So this is where you’ve been hiding.” He glanced over at Keith and arched a brow before he turned his attention back to the older man. “Allura is about to lose it on a bunch of cranky old men. Coran is holding her back, but he won’t be able to stop her for long.”

Alfor clapped Lance on the shoulder and squeezed. “Well, I better go back into the den of the wolves then. Thank you for fending them off as long as you could.” He glanced at Keith and smiled, nodding his head before he disappeared into the building.

Lance waited until he heard the footsteps fade before he looked at Keith again. The frown on his lips only deepened, and his eyes started to narrow at the slight flush on Keith’s cheeks. “It looks like you already found someone to replace me, but Voral? Really? And you’re drunk. It’s like you really do want to leave me.”

Keith sighed. “Just someone I met once.” He laid across the railing on his back, the breeze tossing his soft bangs as his arms folded behind his head. “I’m not drunk. Just relaxed.”

“You’re drunk, and that didn’t look like something an acquaintance would do.” Lance frowned and took a few steps towards him. “I thought I was the first who treated you well and made you feel good, but I suppose that isn’t true?” His lips twitched, and the frown remained. “What else have you hidden from me?”

“I only drank enough to stay calm. I didn’t want to embarrass you and give them what they wanted.” Keith turned his head toward the city. “Voral was kind enough. Not all of my customers had a pension for cruelty. I didn’t hate him, and I liked his money.” Keith shrugged. “Did you forget how you found me? Is it a problem now?”

“No, but I just spent the last who knows how long defending you, and yet you’ve got him hanging all over you and touching you…” Lance’s lower lip stuck out. “I don’t want to hear you liked it with anyone else. I don’t want to look over and see you getting that kind of attention from anyone else. Do you know how badly I wanted to tear myself away from everyone and go punch him for touching you like that?” His shoulders slumped, and he bowed his head. “I hated seeing it. And what if you decided to go with him? It would have broken me, and I would have killed him.”

Keith stuck an arm out and wrapped around Lance’s waist, pulling him in. “He knows what I was. And now he knows who I am and where he stands.”

Lance stopped just before the balcony and turned his body enough to lean down and rest his forehead against Keith’s shoulder. “You’re not very good at comforting me and restoring my confidence, are you?” One of his hands rested against one of Keith’s hips, and he sighed. “Especially when you won’t even lie to me and tell me you’ve only ever liked me. I know I’m selfish and possessive…you probably hate it when I get jealous, but I can’t help it. I want to hurt everyone who ever touched you…”

“You’re the only one I’ve loved.” Keith whispered into his hair. “The only one I’ve allowed to dress me up and show me off. The only one I took on a rocket for. The only one who makes me feel desire. Do those amount to anything? And I think your sexy when you’re jealous.”

Lance’s hands slid around Keith’s waist and he pulled himself closer, moving himself so the position was more comfortable for him without him having to climb on the railing too. “Yes, of course. I’m just being pouty because those stupid old men insulted me and insulted you. Allura tried to defend me and they insulted her too. And they just kept going on and on about how you’re going to betray me, and I looked over and that man was touching you. I was so angry…”

“People like them don’t rule us.” Keith shrugged. “We’ve always made our rules.”

Lance mumbled a bit when Keith shrugged, since it moved his head, but he just used it as an opportunity to press his face into Keith’s neck. “They should still shut up about stuff they don’t know. And they called me the ignorant one.” He sighed and nuzzled Keith’s neck. “Comfort me.”

Keith grinned closing his eyes. “Okay. But someone might hear how comforted you are.” He laid his head back against the railing again, to get a better look at Lance’s face as he opened them again.

Lance looked up at him, his eyes half closing. “Then they’ll all know to leave you alone.” He lifted one of his hands from Keith’s hips to touch his cheek. “I’m the only one allowed to touch you like this.”

Keith leaned to his hand, closing his eye and pressing a kiss, feather-light against the fingertips.

Lance smiled slightly at Keith’s actions, his fingers moving and dancing lightly over Keith’s soft, pink cheek. “Keith…”

“Hmmm.” Keith licked his lips. “Comforted?”

“Not nearly enough. I need more” Lance pouted at him. “Lots more. There’s a lot of hurt that needs comforting.”

“Out here. Like this?” Keith licked over his fingers, stretching his neck up to taste the salt of his palm, before he laid back on the large balcony a dramatic arm poised above his head, legs twisting about each other. “Is this what my lord wishes?”

Lance looked down at him and laughed, tears coming to his eyes. “Keith, I just wanted more kisses. There’s no way I’m going to fuck you here with my uncle and cousin around. And I’m especially not going to let Voral or anyone else see or hear you.”

Keith gasped. “You mean you didn’t want the whole room to hear, ‘Ah! Lance! Ah-ah please! Harder! More! Fuck me!” Keith lifted his hips and squirmed, urged on by Lance’s laugh. He got to his elbows and grinned. “Perhaps you’re right.” Keith tried to fight the wicked grin on his lips but gave in to it. “All those old men would die of heart attacks.”

“You can do that when we get home.” Lance laughed and pulled him up even more, so he could kiss him. “I’m the only one allowed to hear you like that. I don’t want to share you at all.”

Keith wrapped his arms around his shoulders to force Lance to hold him. “As you wish.”

“Kiss me.” Lance nipped at his lips and held him closer. “Kiss me until we’re both dizzy.”

Keith pulled Lance in, his hand gripping the hair at the back of his head and he forced their lips together in a heated sloppy crush of every urge he denied himself since stepping into the reception hall. He licked at the corner of Lance’s mouth as he pulled away. “I’m feeling pretty dizzy now, after that, and having a fake orgasm ten stories from the ground does that.” Keith nuzzled Lance’s nose and then leaned up for one more kiss.

He was barely able to catch his breath and focus on the words that Keith uttered after a kiss like that, and for a moment he just moved his lips against the soft ones of his lover before the fog cleared. “Oh? You’re dizzy now? Is that your way to tell me you don’t want to keep kissing me?” Lance pouted against his lips and started to pull himself up, though Keith’s hand was preventing him from moving his head too far.

“My way of trying to make you laugh.” Keith kissed him again. “I love your laugh.” Though his pout had an admirable quality. He kissed the protruding lip then pulled at it gently.

“Oh?” Lance half growled at the tug to his lip and he kissed Keith hotly, pulling him off the balcony and holding him in his arms. “You really want me to laugh? Let’s go home, but let’s walk through there looking as happy as we can.” He kissed him again. “And we can laugh at their disapproving looks.”

“Like this? Really?” Mischief glittered in Keith’s dark eyes. “Your Uncle?”

“Well I can carry you out like this.” Lance chuckled and kissed him. “But maybe it’s best not to give him or Coran a scare about my lack of decorum hm?” He set Keith down on his feet and kissed him again.

“Why stop now??” Keith smirked but found himself disappointed at the ground now below his feet.

Lance shook his head and laughed. “Well, I didn’t attack Voral when I wanted to, so I still have some. I can at least fake it while we go in there.” He spun Keith around and kissed him once before taking his hand. “I can look the part, can’t I?”

“Better than I can. Should we make a second first impression?” Keith grinned, flashing his fangs, ear perked.

“Absolutely.” Lance brought his hand up to his lips and kissed the back of it. “Let’s go.”

“Lead the way, my lord.” Keith poked Lance’s nose, if his hand was there anyway.

Lance smiled and held his hand, pulling him closer to his side as they reentered the room. He ignored the pointed stares of the older men, and he grinned when some of the women started whispering to each other. He kept his eyes forward. He didn’t need to see the disapproval on others’ faces. He didn’t need to get distracted by the lights that shimmered and seemed to make Keith look even more ethereal, though there’s nothing else he would rather look at. So he led Keith towards his uncle, his grin widening with each step. And when they stopped in front of him, he bowed his head before grinning more. “Uncle. Allow me to officially introduce you to my love, Keith. I hope you’ll accept my declaration of partnership.”

“I thought I made my opinion clear.” Alfor smiled and raised his glass. “In times like these I will gladly endorse the happiness of my people where ever they find it.”

Keith leaned against Lance and kissed the back of his hand curling it around his waist. “Well I’m already here and you can’t send me back.”

Coran leaned over to whisper to Allura, “I thought this was supposed to be done tomorrow? Why now?”

“Since my father accepted, now everyone has no choice but to accept Keith and treat him appropriately. Lance is rubbing it in all their faces.” Allura whispered back.

Lance laughed and held Keith closer to his side. “Thank you, Uncle.” He shot a glance over at Voral and smirked before he kissed the top of Keith’s head, holding him closer to his side for a moment before he let him go. “But the most important thing…” He pulled a box out of his uniform jacket, his eyes seeming to shine as he opened it and held up the necklace that was fashioned out of one of his coronets. He moved in front of Keith and smiled down at him. “And now that my uncle accepted, let’s make it official.” He clipped the necklace around Keith’s neck, his fingers grazing the skin and lingering before he pulled his hands back. The crest of his house seemed to glow against Keith’s skin. “There.”

Gasps moved in a wave around the room as the gathered crowd realized what Lance had done. Keith’s skin shivered with the touch, and the gentle glide of Lance’s fingers as he clasped the necklace around his throat. The simple alteration of the Altean headpiece allowed the decoration to be visible but prevented the irritation of Keith’s sensitive ears. Lance had put some serious thought into this and all Keith could do was stare at him.

“Oh? You’re speechless?” Lance whispered as he leaned in. His ears twitched as he heard the murmurs in the crowd, and Allura’s startled gasp only made him grin more. “Then you must really like it.” And without any more hesitation, he leaned down and kissed Keith in front of an entire room of snobs.

His senses returning to him, Keith smirked between their lips, pushing the kiss up and making it harder as he dipped Lance down. His arm around his waist and a smirk on his lips as he pulled away as the crowd rumbled in a mix of laughter and disdainful gasps.

Lance wrapped his arms around Keith’s neck, but couldn’t hold a straight face, and he laughed, half tossing his head back in his mirth. When he found his voice again, he slid his hand over the back of Keith’s neck and let his fingers slide into his hair. “How charming of you, Keith, sweeping me off my feet like that.”

“Told you I’d charm the pants off all Alteans who matter.” Keith grinned, letting Lance right himself.

“I’m the only one that matters.” Lance chuckled as he righted himself and kissed him again. “But not here hm? Well, at least not any more of this.”

“Oh thank goodness.” Allura smiled. “If it got any worse, who knows what we’d see.”

“Nothing for the eyes of a Princess, I’m sure.” Keith slipped his arm back around Lance, letting his nose nuzzle right into his neck. “Permission to take our leave, Alfor?”

The immediate group’s eyes widened at the casual use of the Kings name. Once again, a smile glittered in Alfor’s eyes as he nodded his head. “Very well.” He turned his head about the room. “Is that, purring? His he purring? Are you purring?” He asked his wife, then Lance and Keith with a perplexed brow.

Lance nudged Keith a little when the purring started, as if to indicate he didn’t really want anyone else hearing such a precious sound, though he knew there was nothing he could do about it. “He’s your uncle now, too, so just call him that.” He bowed his head to the others and grinned. “Allura, Uncle, we will see you later.” He started to tug Keith along with him. The faster he got them out of there, the better.

“See yea, Old Man.” Keith grinned running off with Lance, laughing as the doors closed behind them. He swore he heard Alfor’s voice one last time.

“Zarkon never purred.”

“Dear…”

“You know he’s going to bring that up next time he sees you.” Lance shook his head, holding Keith’s hand as he helped him enter their carriage. But as he climbed in himself, he offered his companion a smile. “I know we kind of came right here when we landed, so you haven’t seen my villa yet, but…” He leaned in and nuzzled his cheek. “Let’s go home. You can purr as much as you want there.”

“Well, this is going to sound lame but…” Keith nosed into Lance’s cheek, his fingers absently tracing the collar. “I’m already home.” He purred into the soft skin.

“You’re right, it does sound a little lame, but I like it a lot.” Lance turned and kissed his cheek, nuzzling it with his lips. “You are my home, too, you know, even if you’re purring for other men.”

“I can’t control it! It happens when I’m happy.” The pout on Keith’s lips reached ridiculous levels of indignation.

“I know that, but do I have to like that Voral heard it?” Lance nuzzled Keith’s pout with his lips before kissing him. “Maybe you just wanted to make me more jealous?”

“Why would I want that?” Keith’s ears twitched, and he stared over Lance’s shoulder, leaning into him to sit on his lap but place his head in the window. Trees rose out of the earth. Their waxen leaves catching the moonlight and glinting in shades of pink, blues, and deep green. The forest stretched out as far as Keith could see and overwhelming his toxic urban senses.

“I’ve never seen so much green…” He whispered in stupefied awe.

“You seem to like it when I’m jealous.” Lance muttered before the subject changed. He nuzzled Keith’s neck and pouted against the flesh. “It is a lot of green. Well, the good kind of green, not the polluted sky kind of green. The trees make everything feel cleaner. We can always go for a walk tomorrow. I can show you the gardens and the grounds.”

“Gardens?” Keith titled his head.

“There’s a large courtyard garden in the villa. I spend a lot of days out in the gazebo. It’s warm, and the flowers are pretty nice to look at.” Lance kept his lips against Keith’s neck as he spoke.

Keith canted further. “I don’t know what that is.”

“You don’t know what? What a garden is? It’s green. Lots of it. And a lot of other colors.” Lance smiled.

“Lakes too? Like actual lakes?”

“There is a lake in the forest. We have some fountains on the grounds though.” Lance smiled and held Keith closer. “Would you like to see it? The lake?”

“Yeah!” Keith’s back straightened to sit up on Lance’s lap. Even without the large eyes, the perked deep indigo ears would have betrayed Keith’s excitement. “I mean, if there’s time.” He cleared his throat.

“There’s definitely time. Don’t worry about that.” Lance rested his hand on Keith’s back as the carriage came to a halt. “We’re here.” He nodded out the window. Though they were parked just outside the door, it was easy to tell that the villa was more expansive than the penthouse on Tralgnar. Large white columns led to archways that partially shaded the path to the door. Flowering vines curled around and up each column, the closed buds giving hints of purples and magentas. “Ready?”

“Okay.” Keith swallowed and clutched Lance’s hand as he chewed his lip. “This. This is your home?”

“Yes. Well, it’s our home now.” Lance helped him out of the carriage and nodded to the large building in front of him, but then he turned his gaze up to the sky and nudged Keith. “And see how clear it is here?” He smiled, distant stars, unbothered by any foreign light, pierced the dark curtain of the sky with their glittering magnificence. “Maybe it’s too much to take in all at once?” He took a few steps towards the large double doors that led inside.

“I-I…” Keith walked forward, awe dropping his jaw as he appraised the dark canvass. “I’ve never seen anything like this before.” His eyes adjusted to the dark, and he was thrown back by the brilliance streaking over the sky. Gold, blue, red, millions of stars, planets and galaxies filled the infinite expanse. He felt small. Insignificant. Peaceful. “All of that. Going on up there. I wonder if anyone is staring back."

Lance’s lips twitched, but he shrugged. “Probably. I mean we’re looking up, so someone somewhere must be doing the same thing, right? He took Keith’s hand and looked at him. “Let’s go inside.”

“Inside?” Keith started forward but stopped short. “This?” He slipped his hand from Lance and stepped over to one of the buds hadn’t closed for the evening and he crouched to be level with a palm-sized pink flower. His finger reached out and with a gentle touch he stroked over a petal. “It’s soft. It smells like.” He leaned further in. “Like something from your bath.” He pulled his finger back as if afraid prolonged contact would ruin the delicate plant.

“Oh. That’s because we use those flowers to make the oils.” Lance let his hands drop to the side as he watched Keith, but then he stepped forward and carefully plucked the blossom the smaller man was admiring. “Here, take it.”

“You don’t hav--” Keith blinked at the flower in his hand, cradling it with a feather’s touch. “Will it die now?” One ear dropping forward.

“The plant will not die because I took a flower. A new one will sprout in its place soon. This will not last long, but there are ways to preserve it.” Lance stroked Keith’s drooped ear. “Don’t be sad.”

“I’m not sad.” Keith leaned his head to Lance’s hand, weak to his touch. “Do, do I look sad?”

“You did for a moment.” Lance leaned in and pressed his lips to Keith’s forehead. “I was wondering if you needed me to cheer you up.”

“Pretty stupid to get worked up over a flower.”

“Is it?” Lance kissed his nose and led him through the door. “So you don’t want me to cheer you up?”

“Hmm, maybe a bit more cheering up. It was a very pretty flower.” Keith stilled and gazed around the foyer. Twin staircases wrapped down to the center floor leading up to open hallways, with doors and archways three times the size needed for Altean height. White, sapphire, and silver lined the walls and floors with etchings and hanging tapestries in a variety of styles the street rat didn’t pretend to recognize. Sigils of Lance’s house showed in random locations through the space. Markings to show ownership and to claim territory to politely avoid confrontations from others of lesser or greater status. Even colors could be owned, as Keith observed. A claw etched over the centerpiece of Keith’s necklace as a hand pressed against his stomach searching for the small dent of his navel ring. Two months ago he would have scorned anyone who’d willingly allowed themselves to be branded, and here he was.

Lance led him through the opulent Hallway and up the left staircase. “Then I will do more than cheer you up.” Their footsteps echoed throughout the large marbled hallway that led from the center of the villa. They passed under one of the carved archways, and Lance pushed open the door at the end of the hallway. “This is our suite.” He led Keith into the sitting room, the echoing of their footfalls now muted by the blue and silver rug that almost filled the entire room. Plush, blue sofas rested against three of the four walls. Marbled end tables held lamps or vases of flowers from the garden. Blue and silver cushions rested in front of an unlit fireplace. Beyond the fireplace was another ornate door. “Here, or in the bedroom? Perhaps the bath?”

“I don’t know. I’ve never… the hotel was one thing. This… I’ve never—” Keith walked into the room, his large, dark pupils taking in all they could. He dragged his hand across the back of the couch and shivered. He’d never touched anything so soft. A purr rose up from the core of his body. “Is this real?”

“Yes. All of it is real. I know there’s way more here than there was in the hotel. So I’m sorry if it’s overwhelming.” Lance sat on the couch and looked at him, offering him a little smile. “But I wasn’t kidding when I said I would spoil you. Everything that’s mine is yours.”

“I get it, but…” Keith moved about the room, his fingers taking in the texture of the objects he passed. The table was glossy and polished, the wall had a stone deco feel, and Keith liked the scratchy roughness. The tempered glass windows, infused with alchemy, bubbled in tasteful imperfection. “How could anyone get used to this?” He knew Lance’s eyes watched him and the back of his neck grew hot. His posture changed in reply to show the slope of his hip.

“Then don’t get used to it. Be awed every time you walk into a room, so I can see how utterly charming you are. But for now, should I light the fire?” Lance’s eyes moved to the slight curve of Keith’s hip, and he licked his own lips.

The atmosphere shifted, and Keith relaxed. He knew this sensation. He recognized the thick air and the subtle scent of arousal. “Light a fire? An Altean doing something so primal?” Keith glanced over his shoulder. “Don’t you just snap your fingers and control the temperature of the room?” In time with his words, Keith snapped the shoulder hook on his top, letting curl back and down from his shoulder blade.

“But a fire is so much…cozier, and it’s sexy, isn’t it? But if you don’t want me to, I suppose that’s all right.” Lance lounged back on the couch, eyes lingering on that now bare shoulder.

The dance of muscle moving under velvet skin drew the eye as Keith pulled his arms from the confining top. “Are you telling me, that’s something you can actually do?”

“Light a fire? Yes. Heat you up? Yes. Make you sweat? Yes. I can do all of those things if you’d like me to.” Lance watched him and leaned forward.

“And how do you do that?” Keith slipped one striped thigh out of his pants, coming down to slow revealing bend as he removed the other.

Lance’s eyes darkened to a deep smolder, watching each movement of Keith’s thigh, and then the other as they were both exposed. “Do what?”

“Heat me up?” Keith allowed his Galran accent to thicken around the words he spoke. “Make me sweat.” He hooked his fingers back into the band of his under-cloth, pulling them halfway over the curve of his ass.

“Well, I certainly can’t do it if you’re that far away from me.” Lance’s gaze moved as Keith’s clothing did.

Keith pushed the last bit of clothing down and stepped from the puddle of cloth. He smirked knowing he had Lance’s line of sight captured by his fingers. He dropped his hand and dragged his finger up the side of his leg and around his hip. “Do want to come to me? Or should I come to you?” He turned, the gems around his neck and over his stomach catching the light as he faced his lover.

“Well, aren’t you supposed to be the one comforting me after all of that before? Or did you forget?” Lance’s lower lip stuck out and he looked up at his face. “Don’t tease me anymore.”

“I wonder which of us is spoiled.” Keith chuckled. “I thought you enjoyed games.” He sauntered over to Lance, his touch now gracing across each stone of the collar around his neck. His walk slow with exaggerated rolls of his hips, coming to a stop between Lance’s legs. “You come home and become so serious.”

“I do like games, but I don’t like waiting to play them.” Lance reached up and slid his hand over Keith’s hip when stopped. “Do you think you spoil me?” He leaned forward and grinned. “Or is that what you plan to do?”

“I think you’re spoiled plenty.” Keith motioned around the room and dragged the back of his claws down the side of one soft cheek.

Lance pulled him close enough that he could rest his forehead against Keith’s stomach, though he didn’t allow the contact just yet. “I suppose that’s true, and I never claimed otherwise, but do you spoil me?”

“I’m wearing all the evidence you should need for that.” Keith’s nails carded through Lance’s hair.

“I suppose that’s also true” Lance slid a finger over the small chain against Keith’s stomach. He turned his head up towards his lover. “But right now you’ve gotten me all worked up from that tease. Kiss me.”

Keith hooked his finger under Lance’s chin. “Simple enough.” He purred, ears twitching forward. “What else should I do?” Keith pressed in closer, getting his knee up on the couch and between his legs. “Maybe you should teach me some Altean things.”

“Hm. That depends on how well you kiss me.” Lance slid his hand down his back, the tips of his fingers stopping at the small dip just above the gentle swell of his backside. “And what sort of Altean things do you want to learn?”

“Anything you want.” Keith pressed the length of his body closer to Lance, making sure to drag his thigh against the building heat between his legs. He took his mouth before a sound of protest could escape and he devoured the hot cavern as he forced Lance’s head back with a gentle pull of his hair.

Before Lance could say anything, he was lost to Keith’s kiss. His eyes started to close, and he dropped his hand from Keith’s back and started to fumble at the clasps of own uniform top. “Nn…”

“Good enough, Altean?” Keith stroked Lance’s jaw as he broke the kiss, licking himself from his lips.

Lance let his uniform fall open as he leaned forward to try to catch Keith’s lips again. “More.”

“More?” Keith purred and kissed him again, this time forcefully tugging the top of Lance’s shirt down to the bend of his elbows, binding his arms to his sides. He ears perked forward as he studied the sight. Dark sapphire eyes, flushed brown skin, and short ragged breaths, Keith was wrecking him and enjoying every second of it. “How much can you handle?”

Lance hissed slightly when he couldn’t move his arms with the way Keith pushed his top down, but he looked at him, lips curving upward. “I can handle you, if you’ll let me.” He leaned up again and tasted Keith’s lips. “All of you.”

“All of me?” Keith’s laugh came out low, but not mocking as he straightened his back, still petting Lance’s jaw. “How would you handle me?”

“Unbind my arms and I’ll show you.” Keith’s laugh warmed Lance in ways he couldn’t quite express with words, and he squirmed and pulled at the top keeping his arms at his sides. “While you’re at it, help me with the rest.”

“Are you in a position to give orders?” Keith grinned. “Does my Altean not like being bound?” As he spoke he dragged his hands down well-toned arms. “I suppose I can release you.” He teased with a curling lick at the tip of Lance’s nose.

“You are spoiled.” Keith tossed the shirt aside and made quick work of his pants where they joined a similar fate as his top. Grinning he rolled a finger over one perking nipple, not willing to give Lance the upper hand. At least, not yet.

Lance’s muscles seemed to jump with each of Keith’s touches, and he settled back with no complaints once he was freed from his clothing. “I never said I didn’t like it. I just wouldn’t have been able to handle you if I couldn’t move my hands.” He suppressed a shudder as Keith teased him, and he looked up at the other man. A glint came to his eye as his hands both moved around to Keith’s ass and gripped it. “And I know you like this.”

Keith leaned forward, his knees to either side of Lance’s hips. The position hid the quiver running through him as those large hands gripped the flanks of his backside, squeezing soft plaint flesh and pulling the smaller man closer. “I’m not hard to read.”

Fire burned in the half blood’s eyes, ignited by the flush on his cheeks and rushing into a full plum colored bloom over his cheeks. He leaned down, pressing their foreheads together, their lips close enough to share heated breaths. “Tell me what you want.” His claw gently dimpled Lance’s lip as he pulled it down.

Lance’s eyes began to close at Keith’s proximity, and his hands squeezed once more as he pulled the half-Galran’s body against his, though he was careful not to press his heat into the flesh of Keith’s thigh more than was necessary for him to feel the warmth that surged through his body. “I want you.” He whispered, pulling his head away from Keith’s only enough to free his lips before he was close again, crushing their mouths together with a half-moan.

Keith finished his moan as he pulled his head back, fire meeting determination as their gazes clashed. The arch of Lance’s brow, the focus in his eyes, the need for him burning into his leg. Lance belonged to him. Keith knew it. Lance knew it. Everyone at the banquet knew it. This silver and burnt honey haired godling with perfect flesh and sea-colored eyes belonged to him. A thought passed through his eyes. One he never dared to dwell on for longer than a second until now.

“Lance,” Keith whispered and twisted his neck to nibble across the shell of his ear, his tongue twisting over the blunt tip. “I want something.”

Lance’s eyes closed, and his head tilted as Keith paid special attention to his ear, the action causing a jolt of pleasure to shoot through his body, and his sex twitched against Keith’s thigh. “Nn…What is it?”

The warm coil of heat in Keith’s stomach sparked, making his muscles jump and his throat start to close as the words tried to leave his mouth. Outside of passionate pleas and manipulative begs, Keith had never asked a partner for anything more than what they freely gave him. As a creature purchased for their pleasure, he had no right to ask for anything on his own. Lance was different. Lance never treated him like the others. Not since their first night, and even that had been something unlike anything Keith experienced before. All he had to do was ask.

His lips moved again, “I want…” Keith swallowed the words down again. To speak it would acknowledge themselves as equals. To ask it would be for Lance to lower himself to a station unbecoming of him. Keith didn’t know what would happen if he clipped those wings and brought his heavenly creature further down to where the demons dwelled.

“Hm?” Lance didn’t bother hiding his confusion when he opened his eyes and looked at his lover. Moments before he made a declaration. He wanted something, but now he didn’t seem to have the confidence to say what it was. “What is it, kitten?” He lifted one hand from its comfortable position against Keith’s backside and stroked one of those velveteen ears. “Tell me. You never ask for anything, so I will do my best to grant you what you wish.”

“Really?” Keith leaned toward his hand, the coil getting hotter and melting lower in his gut. “You won’t get mad?”

“What? Of course I won’t get mad.” Lance slid a finger over his ear. “Tell me.”

“I want to know what it feels like.” Keith’s eyes opened half way. “Your mouth. On me. I want to know.”

Whatever Lance was expecting, it certainly wasn’t that. The request was so simple, and yet it carried so much weight. If Keith was afraid to ask, then he must have thought something was wrong it with, but that could only be because no one had ever done that for him before, right? Lance’s eyes darkened at the thought and he leaned in to kiss him. “Yes, I will gladly do that for you.”

Keith blinked into the kiss, not sure what answer he thought Lance would give him. He instantly wished he could undo it, so he back peddled his words. “You don’t have to. Not right now. What we do is good for me.” He nosed Lance’s cheek. “You like this.” His thigh moved to press his need.

“I…nnn. I know I don’t have to. I want to.” Lance kissed him again. “Let me show you. Let me give you what you want.”

“You want to?” Keith lifted away to peer into Lance’s eyes. The scrutiny obvious even as lust filled wake of his amethysts orbs.

“I do.” Lance offered Keith his warmest and most sincere smile. “You never ask for anything, and I don’t want to deny you this.”

With Lance’s smile, Keith caved. “Okay.” A long awkward silence filled the space until Keith spoke again. “What do I do?”

Lance nudged Keith off his lap. “Lay back and get comfortable.” He tapped that purple nose. “Let me take care of you.”

“O-okay.” Keith laid back, his motions jerky and hesitant until he found his head back against a pillow staring back at Lance. The bigger man leaned over him causing Keith’s heart threatening to gallop away and to take his breath with it.

“I-should I shower or something first?” Keith twisted to the side in a rare display of modesty. The virginal insecurity telling Lance more than enough about his lover’s sex life until now.

“Keith…” Lance smiled and slid his hands over his lover’s thighs, pushing them so he couldn’t turn away from him anymore. “You don’t need to shower. Just try to relax. I will treat you the way you deserve to be treated.” The fact that Keith was so nervous caused a little pride to swell in his chest. Lance was about to have another of his firsts, and that calmed the jealousy that constantly surged inside him. It still made him hate everyone who ever had Keith, but he could get over that a bit. At least he could try. “Hold onto me if you need to,” he whispered against Keith’s lips before those kisses progressed down his chin and neck.

“I don’t... it’s…” Keith flattened his hips at Lance’s gentle urging. “This isn’t really comforting you.” He whimpered out, his earlier bravado evaporating in a cloud uncertainty. Though with each hot soft kiss Lance placed over his skin, Keith relaxed further into the couch. The metal spring turning tighter inside, then slacking as Lance found a particular spot and released the tension mounting in his taut muscles.

“It is comforting me.” Lance murmured against Keith’s flesh as he placed open-mouthed kisses down his chest and over his stomach. His tongue flicked out to circle his navel and trace the jewel there. “I’m very comforted knowing that I’m the only one to do this for you.” His hands slid up his thighs and pushed them open more as he settled himself between them. “That no one else has pleasured you like this.” He slid one finger up Keith’s length, teasing him just slightly as he shifted to lower himself more.

“Ng!” Keith arched, then settled back into the garden scented couch. His mind started to wander, his eyes drifting shut as Lance messaged his flesh with his perfect lips and practiced tongue. His hesitation melted away and he started to long to feel those attentions on over his sex. The same tongue that often twisted expertly in with his own and left him breathless and dizzy would be moving over the hottest part of him. Another tiny cry escaped him, and Keith’s hips thrust up. His need already aching as his imagination got the better of him.

“This is how you make me feel.” Lance kissed down Keith’s lower abdomen, smirking as he got closer to Keith’s sex. “You really like it, don’t you?”

“Un.” Goosebumps moving in a wave caused a tingle and a squeak to raise from his throat and cut his agreement down to a simple syllable.

“That’s a yes, right?” Lance looked up at Keith as best he could without lifting his head.

“Yes. I couldn’t finish… Don’t stop… please?” Keith begged from behind nail nibbled fingers.

“All right.” Lance licked down one of Keith’s love-lines towards his heat.

Instinct drove Keith’s hand into Lance’s hair, gripping the fine locks until his back arched from the cushion. “AH!”

Lance dropped lower and slid his tongue up along the length of Keith’s heat and over his tip, licking up the first precious drop of precum.

“W-wai- LANCE!” Keith pulled at Lance’s hair and his own in a sudden fist full of blissful agony.

Lance was only encouraged by Keith’s actions and sounds as he took Keith into his mouth, his hands holding the half-Galran’s thighs open, so he wouldn’t crush his head.

Keith’s jaw clenched, fangs bared as keened out another note of pleasure. Lance’s mouth encased him in heat; lips held tight providing a wet friction unlike anything Keith had ever experienced.

Lance took more of Keith in, his tongue pressing against hot flesh as he pushed his head down. His eyes half closed, and he groaned around his lover to add a little vibration, hoping to nudge Keith closer to the edge. He was already so worked up already.

“Fuck!” Keith’s spine went ridged and both hands lowered, gripping Lance’s ears to pull him down more against him.

“Mmph!” The slight spike of pain that surged in his ears caused Lance to whimper around Keith, but he took in as much as he could, fingers pressing into the soft meat of Keith’s thighs.

With one last tug of warning, the burning coil snapped, his muscles spasmed and quivered as his body let loose all the heat it built up. His eyes dilated, breath panting, and his heart about to burst his ears, thrumming with enough force a shiver echoed every pump. He sank into the couch, one leg slipping to the floor, thighs spread wide, the other curled and resting over Lance’s lower back.

Lance took all of Keith’s warmth in, feeling it fill him and not pulling back until Keith was done. When he was, he lifted his head and grinned up at him. “You enjoyed it, didn’t you?” Although the answer was obvious, Lance wanted to hear Keith’s voice.

“Nmn.” Keith’s voice was rough and used. Had he used it that much? He couldn’t remember. “I…” He hugged the other’s head gently against his stomach with a lazy purr.

“You must have if you’re acting like this.” Lance chuckled and placed a soft kiss to the skin beneath him.

“Amazing…” Keith stared down at his lover, catching his eyes. “I didn’t… I should have warned you. I’m sorry.”

Lance chuckled. “You don’t have to apologize for your orgasm, you know. Your enjoyment was worth the slight surprise.”

Keith danced his fingers over Lance’s lips. A smile, drunk, and lazy curving the edges of his own. “My Altean.”

“Yes, yours.” Lance kissed those fingers and smiled against them. “The only one for you hm?”

“Only and always.” Keith whispered, touching the collar on his neck.

Lance smiled and shimmied up, looking down at his face. One of his hands lifted to stroke Keith’s cheek. “Don’t ever leave me.”

“Never. I’ll always be beside you.” Keith captured his hand and kissed from his palm up to his finger tips.

“Good. You are my everything.” Lance shivered with those kisses. “I’ve only ever done that for you, so you’ve had my first too.”

Keith blushed darker, leaning up to kiss him, blinking at the taste of himself on Lance’s lips. “You’d lower yourself to that degree for me.”

“The only lowering I did was down your body. That’s not something you need to consider as low or beneath anyone. You are my partner, and it’s my pleasure to do that for you.” Lance nipped Keith’s lower lip.

Another shiver ran through the young Galra’s body. “It was so hot and warm… your tongue. It’s so nnmm...” Keith moaned as his hips arched up.

“And its only for you.” Lance grinned and licked at his lips. “Whenever you want it.”

“And now, Altean, what can I do for you?” Keith licked back and kissed him before he snuffled his cheek and jaw.

“Come to bed with me, my kitten.” Lance’s eyes half closed. “I want to hold you in our bed for our first night home, together as partners.”

“Are you going to carry me in there too?” Keith twirled his fingers in the back of Lance’s hair.

“Only if you want me to.” Lance chuckled and kissed him before he sat up. “But if that’s too much, I won’t.”

“I’m the one getting carried. Why would it be too much?” Keith hung from Lance’s shoulders.

Lance lifted him from the couch and grinned, supporting his full weight as though it was nothing. “So you won’t complain this time?”

“I’ll let you lay me down in our bed.” Keith continued giving those purr-puffed nuzzles to Lance’s skin.

“Oh you’ll let me hm?” Lance took slow steps through the large door that led to the bedroom after nudging it open with his foot. A large, four poster canopy bed took up the majority of the far wall. It was covered with pillows, just like the bed in the hotel, only somehow even more lavish. There were so many that several of them had rolled off the bed onto the floor. On the left side of the room, large billowing curtains covered huge arching windows and the door to the balcony. The right side had a large fireplace, even larger than the one in the sitting room. Plush carpeting and pillows in front of it. Lance stepped towards the bed and grinned. “Is this room okay for you?”

“I’ll look at it in the morning.” Keith kissed him again. “You’re all I see.”

“I suppose I can accept that.” Lance grinned and set him down on the bed, returning his kiss.

Keith allowed Lance to settle down as he cradled him between his thighs. “I can spend every night like this.”

“Then we should.” Lance pressed closer and kissed him. “I can’t say I’d be against it.”

Chapter Text

Warning: This one strays a little. These aren’t exactly the boys we know.

Keith rolled on the balls of his feet, arms gripped behind his back. Dressed from head to toe in obsidian cloth, he cut a stunning figure against the mid-morning sky of the open terrace. With his hands hidden, his claws remained out of sight. He learned pheobs ago; the less threatening he appeared, the more likely Lance’s guests were to act naturally. Keith honed his demeanor to change depending on the persona Lance needed to put forward.

Keeping in line with a universal constant, every society walked a precarious line between good and evil. Light and dark. One could not exist without the other, but both needed to be controlled less one becomes too strong. Like in the case of the Galra. A Deca-phoeb had passed since Zarkon waged war, and planet after planet fell to his rule. Keith shivered against the chill up his spine. If a hero like Zarkon could fall so deep into the depths of depravity, anyone could.

The reason the Alteans appeared to be so calm was due to their own dark lord. King Alfor was the public heroic face of the Alteans. He controlled the light. Meanwhile, Lance dealt into the dark. He could not stop vile deeds from happening, but they could be regulated. An organized evil.

Lance’s charm and honest nature got him as many friends as it did enemies. He policed the activities, gauged the harm caused to society, and made sure to deal out harsh punishments to those who violated his personal morality.

Keith monitored Lance’s meetings and neutralized situations when they got out of hand. He played his roles according to Lance’s needs. Keith could be ruthless and cruel to the wicked, or charming and sweet for the merciful. He’d been the clinging sultry lover to put the others off guard or the stern-faced bodyguard. He waited for his lover to signal his need and Keith would play the part.

Lance sat at the desk, white-gloved hands folded in front of him as he looked at the Altean who sat on the other side of the desk. He kept his gaze locked on the man, who grew more nervous the longer Lance stared at him. He waited for a few more ticks before he sat back in his chair and unfolded his hands. “So, you mean to tell me we’ve been providing income to slavers even after they killed the former boss deca-phoebs ago?” He arched one brow, and that seemed to be enough to make the man recoil.

“N-no, it’s not…” The man’s eyes drifted over to Keith, and he audibly swallowed, sweat forming on his brow.

“It is. Danir. It absolutely is.” Lance rested his hands flat on the desk and stood, leaning forward and curling his lip. “You knew and failed to report this information to me, which put me in considerable danger last deca-phoeb. How much did they pay you?”

“No! My Lord! It wasn’t that! I didn’t know.”

“So you didn’t do a thorough job?” Lance shook his head and clicked his tongue. He tossed a pad down in front of him. “So this isn’t your report? With your name on it? Signed and dated before I left? But deleted from our archives the next quintant?”

The man paled and sputtered for words, but he was silenced by a shake of Lance’s head. “Have I introduced you to my companion?” Lance glanced over at Keith and motioned for him to step closer. “He’s not happy that you tried to get me killed.”

Keith took his cue and stepped close to Lance’s side, hip jutting out against the chair’s arm. Cold cat-slit eyes narrowed. “Yes, My Lord.” He purred the title low and sweet while slipping his fingers into Lance’s hair. The intimacy meant to put the other man off.

“What should we do with this one him? He is the reason I was targeted.” Lance rested a hand on Keith’s hip.

“So he’s the one who put the hit on you through Kala?” Keith studied Danir for a reaction. “And employed Bordo to do the same?” Keith licked his lips, his tongue slicking over a bared fang.

“I didn’t!” Danir yelped and fell out of his chair. “I didn’t put any hit on you!”

“But you heard about it.” Lance pointed to the line in the report. “And then failed to notify me because they paid you off. That’s the same as ordering it, isn’t it?” He tilted his head just slightly in Keith’s direction as if encouraging him to keep playing with his hair. The man sitting across from him was seemingly more bothered by their closeness than Lance’s anger. So he would play that card up just a bit more.

Keith grinned slow and sensuous. He stroked a claw down the edge of Lance’s jaw. “That’s a problem, and it upsets me, my Lord.”

“It is a problem. I don’t like when my kitten is upset.” Lance’s grin matched Keith’s. “What should I do to remedy that?” His eyes narrowed at Danir. “What will you do to remedy that?”

Danir scooted back on the floor, eyes wide. “Anything! I’ll do anything!”

“Anything?” Keith purred out. “We can’t trust a lying traitor.” He swayed out of Lance’s hold and leaned over the cowering Altean. He took hold of the man’s sharp jaw “Remove the tongue and they can’t lie.” A claw tapped Danir’s trembling lip.

“But that’s not how things are done here. Unless my Lord wishes…”

“No. Too messy.” Lance stood and walked around the desk. He looked down at Danir and smirked. “But perhaps a more visible reminder where his loyalty should be hm? Your wife does love your handsome face doesn’t she?”

Danir paled and tried to pull away from Keith, but he backed into a table. “M-my Lord, please... she she doesn’t know what my job is. If I—”

“Oh, well that’s good. It would be a shame if I had to go after her too.”

Keith’s ear flattened back. “A family and you do this kind of business?”

Lance rested a hand on Keith’s head and stroked one of his ears. “Now now. Danir’s job is based here. He’s never actually in danger, unless he betrays me and takes a bribe to ignore intelligence. His wife and…newborn son, right?” He smirked when the scared man nodded. “Are safe and under my protection. Even though our friend here made a big, big mistake.”

Keith pressed his body back against him, the bristled fur smoothing down at Lance’s gentle command. “He did.” Keith’s eyes glinted down at the captive. “He’s terrified. I can feel it in his quintessence.” He groaned, licking his lips as hunger filled his eyes. Danir’s fear spiced the air. The smell teased his senses. It was sweet, like raw meat with a hint of sour mingled within. The Galra’s mouth watered and his fangs grew longer. “There it is.” Came the low growl, red lines illuminated on the Altean’s flesh. Sweet temptation. Keith fought to hold himself in check. The only quintessence Keith would feed upon stood behind him, watching his every move. However, the resolution did not prevent the air around Keith from becoming predatory as his body leaned forward again, hands gliding up the outside of Danir’s thighs.

“Your quintessence is spoiled. Impure. Tainted.” Keith watch with growing hunger the essence rose up in red wisping vapors, his fingers twirled inside one bringing luminescence so all in the room could see it.

Danir yelped again and tried to get away from Keith, but he was transfixed. “I…I…”

Lance slid his fingers into Keith’s hair. He could just calm the other man’s hunger with quintessence of his own, but this wasn’t the time nor the place for it. “Let’s not make a mess in my office hm? He’s so scared he’s about to soil himself.” He slid his fingers down to the back of Keith’s neck and rubbed there a little. “And I’m a kind and generous man. Let’s give him the chance to make it up to me hm?”

Keith backed away, unaware he’d pulled himself onto Danir’s lap, he slunk himself to the ground and kneeled before Lance, his nose nuzzling into the tall Altean’s hip in apology. “As you wish.”

“We’ll start by breaking his hands.” Lance stroked Keith’s hair, though his frown had deepened the moment Keith had placed himself in Danir’s lap. “And If he can still think about betraying me, then we’ll send him to the ones who bribed him, since he is so easily bought.”

Danir let out a half sob half cry. “Never! I was wrong! I’m sorry! I’ll never do it again, please!”

“And that’s why we’ll break your hands. Consider it your promise hm?” Lance cupped Danir’s chin in his hand. “You won’t be able to hold your son for a while. That’s punishment enough hm?” He glanced at Keith. “Make sure they’ll heal properly.”

Keith blinked his ear twitched as he accepted the command. Danir got off easy considering the level of his crime. This man was involved in the enslavement, deaths, and abuse of countless souls. Sure, he might not have known exactly what he was doing, his greed blinded him. Luckily for him, Lance had issues hurting those with families. Danir wouldn’t be used to send a message, at least not today.

Keith pushed the flap the Altean’s vest into his mouth and with a flick of a purple wrist, a cry filled the room. “Shhh.. shhhh.” Keith stroked the soft red hair. “Ride it out...” Keith growled as he backed to Lance’s hip. “Remember, I can do that to any bone. Head to toe.”

“Both hands, pet.” Lance kept his eyes on the other man. He would not be moved by the tears that slid down Danir’s cheeks. “He will comply. He will not stray again.”

“Both. Forgive me.” Keith did as commanded, his ear pressing back against the sobbing cry. “You’re being pretty nice considering what he tried to have done to you.” He glanced at Lance, then fit his body up against him.

“I’m doing it for his child, not him.” Lance waved his hand and the valet came in and hoisted Danir out of the office. Once the door shut, he wrapped his arms around Keith and smiled. “Thank you for taking care of me, though I’m not super pleased you sat in his lap.”

Keith winced. “I couldn’t help it. It was like he was pushing it out to me. I didn’t take any though.” He leaned into Lance’s chest. “I only want yours. I’d never take from anyone else. Besides, I don’t think the people Kala sends would be that filling anyway.”

“Well, that’s a relief at least. I would hate to have to punish you for being sexy with someone else.” Lance smiled and tapped his nose, but the mood shifted a little, and he sighed. “I’m sorry I ask you to do such difficult things.”

“It keeps you safe. I don’t mind.” Keith curled in inhaling his soft gentle scent as he nosed a sky blue Altean marking. “Danir should be the last on the list. According to the recent communication from Kala. I don’t know how many more of those I’ll be getting. Zarkon’s taken over the quadrant.”

“Well, it’s been a while, and you’ve already done so much with the information you did receive.” Lance smiled as he held him closer. “We’ll just play it by ear. And if I have to hurt people to get information we need, I will. I don’t take pleasure in doing it, but as you know, my job is very, very important, and if I’m safe, I can keep my uncle from having to do the things that he shouldn’t have to do.”

“Mmm.” Keith started to leave open mouth kisses over the mark, trying to pull the lavender frosting scent from it. “These are not good people. I know that. They’ve hurt others and will keep doing it unless you stop them.”

“Mmm, we will stop them.” Lance tilted his head a little and closed his eyes. “But for now, I think we can stop for the quintanthm?”

“I want to go to the garden.” Keith purred. “I need some air. It’s sweltering in here.”

“Then we go to the garden.” Lance kissed him and grinned. He stroked a finger over one of Keith’s cheeks and watched the way his eyes seemed to flash with the touch. So it was soon, hm? Galra had this mating period, and while Lance didn’t understand it, Keith had told him about it. When it hit, he would be easily distracted, and a lot more sensitive to touch. And so Lance tested it, dragging that finger down along his jaw. “Let’s go hm?”

Twilight eyes drifted shut as Keith turned to the touch. His skin tingled since waking up and while he did his best to fight the urges down, a simple touch from his spouse burned his resistance to ashes.

“Then what are we waiting for?” Keith sighed, his words barely more than a curling whisper in Lance’s ears.

Keith pulled Lance behind him, walking out the main garden terrace. He stopped, inhaling the cool breeze coming up from the mountain pass and through his hair. The snow cap kissed air danced over fine fur around pointed ears, making them twitch with ticklish delight. He closed his eyes and allowed the Altean sun to heat his skin as he breathed in the perfumed air of the flower garden.

Lance smiled as he watched Keith perk up as soon as they were outside in the warm sun. So maybe the period hadn’t begun just yet, but it was definitely soon. But for now, he really enjoyed watching Keith when they were out like this. His lover thrived in the rays of light. The flowers seemed to rejuvenate his spirits. It didn’t matter how stuffy things got inside, just a few moments out here and watching Keith made all of his worries fade. “You are amazing.”

“Huh?” Keith turned and blinked. “You think so?” The dark outfit stood in stark contrast surrounded by the vivid colors of the flowers and blossoming trees. In the daylight they cast a rainbow over the ground with some appearing iridescent and fragile as crystal. He loved his new home. He still couldn’t believe he wasn’t in a dream.

“We should sleep out here tonight.” Keith slung his arms around Lance’s shoulders, his claws carding through his hair. Keith knew how to get what he wanted.

“Out here? Or do you want to go down by the lake?” Lance cooed at the attention and lifted a hand to push some of his hair out of his face.

“By the fountain. In the gazebo where I can see the stars.” Keith chased Lance’s fingers with a kiss. “There’s no moon tonight. Those vines surrounding the spot, they’re Moonray blossoms. Did you know that?”

“All right.” Lance rested his hands on Keith’s waist and smiled. “Moonray flowers? Those are the mating flowers aren’t they? The ones you told me about?”

“You remember.” Keith left several tiny kisses along his cheek and jaw. “They are all over this place, but there’s a high concentration over there. Did you know they only bloom when there’s no moon?”

“Is that so? I had no idea.” Lance tilted his head and grinned. “But that’s a good thing right? Or you’d be a mess.”

“I have a mate. So it’s a good thing.” Keith stroked his hand against his side of his neck, his fingers dipping below the collar.

“Yeah, you do. You enjoy that as much as I do.” Lance’s hands rubbed Keith’s sides as he leaned in.

“Nnn.” Came a soft pleased purr. “I don’t hide that.” Keith groaned when Lance found that tiny sweet spot at the dip of his hip.

“No, you don’t, and I like it that way.” Lance’s fingers drummed against Keith’s hips. He leaned in and kissed him. “Shall I make sure to tell all the servants to stay away from the garden tonight then?”

“That would be a good idea. Maybe, they should take the night off. I’m feeling hungry. I want my Altean all to myself.” Keith licked at Lance’s ear.

“Yes.” Lance licked his lips and groaned a little. “Let me prepare for the night, and I will make sure we’re alone.”

“Good. I wouldn’t want anyone’s eyes on me but yours.” Keith lifted his head up, his eyes held something dark, ancient, and primal. “As long as I don’t scare you away. I don’t know what will happen to me.”

“You can’t scare me, Keith. I love you too much.” Lance lifted a hand and slid a finger along his jaw. “I’m not leaving you. Ever.”

“Promise?” Keith sighed feeling his flesh warm already. “I nearly took from the Altean before, all my willpower was needed to back off. You might not be scared, but I’m a bit concerned.”

“Yeah, I know. And I’m not angry about it, though I would have killed him if you did. So…perhaps I should restrain you?” Lance pulled his hand back and kissed him. “Can you hold on a little longer?”

“I can manage.” Keith shivered. “Do you think you could restrain me?” He teased.

“I can if I need to, but I do need to send everyone else away.” Lance kissed that smirk, licking his lower lip before he stepped back. “Wait for me. This shouldn’t take too long.” He kissed him again before he slipped into the house.

Keith let his touch linger on Lance’s body until he was out of reach and watched him disappear into the house. After a full deca-phoebe he still had the ability to make Keith’s heart and stomach twist in giddy agony. He sighed, rolling his eyes at the ridiculousness of it all. Stoic. Cold. Ruthless. That is who he was supposed to be. Not some childish love-sick kit. “Quiznack.”

-----

Keith finished evening how he always did. He completed a rounding list of probationary offenders. People with ‘special interest’ and whom Keith personally monitored. The list consisted of chem dealers, slavers, and threats holding positions in Altean nobility. One, in particular, garnered Keith’s attention. Yularu. The aged Altean with a gray bushy beard and cold flat eyes who kept close to Voral. He was known for his dealings in the biological chem trade and for being the grandfather the Hoktril. He provided the first component: Visrel. An injectable medication designed to create a suggestible state.

Keith’s ears folded back against his head as he rubbed the bridge of his nose. Alteans were so messed up. He honestly believed he’d managed to find the last decent one of them.

Lance could be cold when his job required it, but only if he knew what he was doing was good and could save lives. Lance was kind, sweet, loving, and gentle. He could also be rough and demanding if the situation called for it. Keith dragged a finger over his lips feeling the ghost of their last kiss.

“That’s enough of this.” Keith clicked off the ledger. Twilight was coming, and he couldn’t focus on his work anymore.

A varga later Keith stood at the gazebo, preparations completed. Thick bed like padding covered the foundation, with pillows strewn about in a display of decadent luxury. Vines twisted up ivory columns leaving only hints of the stone below.

Keith nibbled his lip, with the sun setting behind him. He knew what was coming, every Galra knew about it, he had just never been around to bear witness.

The sunset, and the Moonrays opened from their buds. Silver-blue petals lit up the garden in a mimicked lunar flare. Keith shed his house robe, leaving him dressed in only Lance’s necklace and a soft olive tunic. The cloth being little more than a bedsheet. The weight falling around him and exposing the finer points of his body as it sunk into his form. He got down on his knees and crawled over the makeshift bed. He closed his eyes, laying himself back, as a breeze grazed over his skin.

The wind carried the first hints of Moonray pollen, and Keith inhaled their soft scent. Lance said they were a gift from the Galra to the kingdom upon Alfor’s marriage. The Alteans fell in love with the flower unaware of the meaning.

On a moonless night when Galra senses peaked and ancient mating rituals began, the flowers’ pollen heightened desire and intoxicated even the most genetically distant Galra.

Keith’s muscles went lose and his body melted to the bed, dilated eyes stared out toward the house, dark, lidded, and waiting.

Lance was very displeased with the amount of time it took to get everyone to leave. He wanted to see the sunset with Keith. He wanted to hold him as the colors of the sky changed. Instead, he was stuck inside fussing about. Why wouldn’t everyone just listen? He was giving them a night off? Why couldn’t they just accept what he was saying? Why did the maid have to argue? Why did the valet have to insist he’d just stay in the coach house? His shoulders slumped, and he pounded his fist against the frame to the door that led out into the garden. He bowed his head for a moment and tried to calm the slight rage that had started to boil in the pit of his stomach.

After a few ticks, he sighed and stepped out to the garden, trying to keep the scowl off his face, though the more the stars shone in the sky, no longer outdone by the moon, the more annoyed he felt himself becoming. His fists clenched at his sides, so he took slow steps along the garden paths. This was supposed to be a night he looked forward to. He wanted to be able to treat Keith right, but others had to get in the way. Others had to delay him. And now who knows how long Keith had been enjoying the night without him.

And as he neared the gazebo, and saw the glow of the flowers, some of that anger flared, but then melted when he caught glimpse of Keith sprawled out on the pillowed floor of the gazebo. “Oh? What’s this?” He stopped just outside the gazebo and looked down at him, watching the way he writhed. If only he could have been here sooner. He felt the familiar sting in his chest as he thought about what could have happened if he had been any later and someone else was still here. He clenched his fists again and locked his gaze on his lover.

The timber of Lance’s voice sent a tremble down Keith’s spine, and his hips lifted as a hand slipped over his exposed chest. “Yours.” Pollen dusted the bed and Half-Galra’s purple flesh in an illustrious glimmer and rubbed deeper into his skin as Keith moved in sensual writhes.

“You got this turned on without me?” Lance arched a brow as he shouldered off his jacket, still standing outside of the gazebo. “That’s not very fair is it?” Again, the thought of someone else being here first stabbed into his mind, but he shook it off and looked at Keith’s exposed and shimmering skin.

“Blame the guy who planted the garden.” Keith sucked at his lower lip. Steady hands moved overexposed skin, slipping over Keith’s collarbone bringing attention to the long smooth slope of his neck and thumbing over his pulse.

“Hm? My parents planted these flowers before I was born.” Lance moved and knelt on the cushions. “So the flowers turned you on?” He leaned over him a little but remained far enough away that he could see every little squirm Keith made.

“I explained before.” Keith moved his hands under the layers of his tunic but couldn’t hide the path they’d taken. The impressions moved up and down the inner thighs of his spreading legs. ”I’m coming into season so this… Feels so good.” He purred, his ears drooped lazily.

“I’m kind of jealous. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you this turned on before, and I know it’s not because of me.” Lance crawled over him and looked down at him, though his eyes followed the path of Keith’s hands. “Should I be concerned?”

“I’ve never had a partner, so I’ve never experienced this. Imagine how I’ll be with you.” Keith drew his hand over Lance’s chest.

Lance rested his hand on Keith’s before he leaned over him. “What does it feel like?” He slid his hand down along Keith’s arm and to his shoulder. “Does it feel better when I touch you?”

Keith mewled, Lance’s hands raking fire over his skin. “Feels like every part of me, every cell, every hair on my body needs you. I ache all over, but your touch soothes it and makes it worse. Like I’m going mad and I don’t care.”

“Then you should have more of it.” Lance slid his hand down Keith’s chest before pulling it back and peeling off his own top.

“Lance…” Keith moaned his lover’s name as he arched his back over a pillow, reaching up to help, but his hands shook too much to do anything more than fumble.

“That’s what you want, isn’t it?” Lance grinned as he removed his pants, too. “And you need me to give it to you?”

“It’s more, nng… than that.” Keith groaned as he lifted his hips and pushed himself up to grind against his lover, eyes flashing gold. He gripped what he could with his hands.

Lance took both of Keith’s hands and held them as he leaned down and kissed him. “You need more than me? But all I have to give you is me. Does that mean you want someone else, too?” He arched a brow down at him.

“Only if there’s two of you.” Keith groaned as golden eyes focused back at Lance. “I want a mate. I want you.” The half-blood arched to Lance and crushed their lips before pulling back with an almost bruising bite. “Don’t be delicate with me. Give in to what you want.”

“I want you. I want all of you.” Lance’s lips moved against Keith’s jaw as he reached for the lotion he brought. “But I won’t hurt you. I’m not capable of that even if you asked me to do it.”

Keith turned and caught his mouth again, pulling his tongue in and opening his senses up to Lance, feeling for him along the line of quintessence which bound them. “Take it.”

Lance moaned into the kiss and tore at the clothing that covered Keith, even if it didn’t leave much to the imagination. “Nnn.”

“Do you understand now?” Keith whispered as he nipped Lance’s ear. “Do you feel it?”

“A little.” Lance groaned at the spiked pleasure and coated his fingers. “Help me feel more.”

“Feel anything you wish. All you have to do is take it.” Keith sucked at the very tip of Lance’s pointed ear. “Take it.” Keith’s voice came as a husky hiss.

Lance pushed his fingers into Keith at the attention to his ear. “Take….it….?” He grunted, his eyes darkening.

Keith arched as his nails dragged up Lance’s back, still careful not to mark the gilded skin. “The same way you give your life force to me but taking some back.”

“I…” Lance pressed closer to Keith as he worked him with his fingers. The part of him that Keith spoke to surged, trying to overwhelm the rest of him. “I…will it hurt you? Can’t you give it to me?”

Keith leaned up and kissed him, “Lance, shut up and trust me.”

“I do.” Lance bit Keith’s lower lip, and he pulled his hand back. “I do… Nnn.”

“Then take a little of you back and feel me through it.”

Lance nodded and rested his hands on Keith’s hips. He lined himself up and slowly pushed himself into his lover, focusing on the connection that bound them. He knew how to give his quintessence to Keith, but could he just pull it back? Was it that easy? He looked down at Keith’s face, brows furrowing a little even as his markings began to glow.

“Ah!” Keith gasped, his toes curling up as he clung tighter to his lover. He could see the pool of his life force lift around them and join the glittering pollen. Keith basked in Lance’s essence. He let it coalesce then, with a kiss, pushed it back into him in a mist heavy breath. The infinite loop now complete, he took as he gave. His body worked Lance in slow tight grinds he twinned their legs together, locking the Altean close.

He didn’t expect it to feel like an actual push. But as Lance opened himself up to Keith, and Keith took his mouth, he felt that familiar tug and then that push from Keith’s kiss. It enveloped him completely, surrounding him like a warm embrace and pushing into every fiber of his being. His lines brightened, and he rocked his hips to push deeper into the smaller man.

Keith pulled away, golden eyes gentle as his fingers caressed the corners of Lance’s mouth. “Do you feel me now?”

Lance managed a nod, turning his head enough to lick one of those purple digits. “Yes.” His eyes darkened, and he took Keith’s finger into his mouth.

“Nng.” Keith whimpered as he rolled his fingers in and out of that warm cavern. “Do you understand?”

“I do.” Lance nipped that finger and pulled his head back. He continued to move his hips, trying to keep as steady of a rhythm as he could.

“What does it feel like?” Keith slid his hands down Lance’s arms. His claws leaving fading pink marks.

“Like… you’re wrapped around me.” Lance kissed him and moaned into it, hips slowing. “And in me.”

“Ah! Don’t stop…” Keith nestled his face into Lance’s shoulder. “You know what I need.” He groaned twisting his hips.

Lance didn’t stop, but he kept his hips moving slowly. He moaned and held Keith closer, pressing his cheek against his hair. “A…Ah!”

The mewl from Keith’s lips echoed through the garden. His whole back arching from the bed as he came with a broken pitched moan. “La-ance!!”

Lance came with him, head tilting back as he cried out. His fingers pressed into Keith’s hips as he rode out the last of the waves of pleasure until he settled down against him.

Tangled limbs. Sweat soaked skin. Panting breaths. Gently soothing strokes of wandering hands. These were Keith’s world. Each touch, every shaking nerve, down to the lingering tingles locking his toes in a tight curl. “Lance.” Keith purred as his limbs became jelly and fell to the bed.

“Keith…” Lance didn’t remove himself from his lover, but he didn’t start moving again either. As he caught his breath, he laid against Keith and nuzzled his cheek with his lips. “I love you.” He absorbed some of Keith’s warmth, though he had plenty of his own to give. He didn’t even know how to describe how complete he felt in this moment, but he would never let that feeling go.

“Nn?” Keith whimpered. “How does Galra lust feel?” He licked at Lance’s lip before he nipped and sank back into the pillows, thighs spread, arms bent above him, with thick hair caught up in sweaty curls against his neck. He became the image of sensual contentment.

“Warm.” Lance pouted after the nip and he held Keith as close as he could, his hips starting their slow grind again. “Like I want more of it.”

“Warm? That’s all?” Keith gasped as Lance moved.

“Hot. Tight.” Lance grunted and pushed deeper.

“That’s how my body feels.” Keith’s muscles gripped against the intrusion. “What did you feel from me?”

“You…feel that way.” Lance pressed his fingers into Keith’s hips and grunted. “Like you’re giving me everything I need.”

“Ah!” Keith let out a groan, his head turning to the side to nip at his own claws. Squeaking as Lance bottomed out inside him. His arms flung out and twisted inside the pillows as his chest thrust forward.

Lance bowed his head as he tried to push himself as deeply into Keith as possible. His breath came out in panting groans, and his body trembled. They were more connected now than they ever were before, and it was almost too much. Too much and not enough at the same time. So he thrust a bit harder, too, trying to take as much of Keith as he could.

“Lance!” Keith cried his lover’s name over and over until his voice became a shattered keen. A tendril inside of him snapped, springing back from Lance to coil inside himself like a folding ribbon. He let the essence go, and something else wound around his body. His thoughts came slow and thick in syrup haze of feral pleasure.

“I love you.” The words left Keith in a dreamy haze with no thought just instinct driving them out. His neck burned.

“Don’t stop loving me.” Lance pressed his forehead into Keith’s shoulder and whimpered once their connection was cut.

“Nothing could make me stop.” Keith soothed into Lance’s ear.

Lance lifted his head and looked at him, tears springing to his eyes as the empty feeling grew, but he would not let them fall. “Then don’t stop. Don’t ever stop. I know I won’t.” He whispered and kissed Keith with everything he had. He needed that warmth back.

“Mm…” Keith purred louder into his mouth, heavy eyes glittering in the glow of the moonrays. “You already have me with you.” Silent moans parted Keith’s lips time and again as Lance drove into his sweet spot over and over.

“I know, but you’re stuck with me.” Lance pushed a little harder, his lines glowing faintly again as his quintessence reached out for Keith. “Nnn.” It was spilling out of him, but also flowing back as well. As though it wanted to complete the loop over and over again.

“Ah!” The glow in Keith’s eyes brightened. “Lance!” His breath quickened to short desperate gasps as a sky-blue aura of light surrounded him, mixing with the dust and glow of the flowers. His claws dug deep into the mattress as he jerked them back, tearing ruts through the fabric.

Lance wasn’t sure he could contain it much longer. The heat between them was so intense, he felt it throughout his entire body. One hand gripped Keith’s hip with bruising force while the other slid up his chest, fingers grazing the bottom of the collar that shone against his skin. “Fuck!”

“Do it!” Keith gasped, baring his neck submissively to his lover. The burn bore down into his spine sending a flame spreading through his body.

Lance ran his fingers over the collar and neck, touching that delicate skin. His eyes darkened, and he leaned down to kiss him.

“Do it. Please. Lance!” Keith nearly cried in with his plea, crystals forming at the edge of his eyes.

“Do…do what?” Lance moaned against his mouth.

“Bite… let me feel it!” Keith’s own claws reached up to pull at the collar.

“I’ve never…” But Lance nuzzled Keith’s neck, pushing the collar out of the way and let his teeth drag against the skin. Is this what Keith meant before about a spike a Galra felt when giving themselves completely to their lover? “But I don’t want to hurt you…” He murmured against Keith’s reddening neck.

Keith whimpered desperately. “It won’t hurt. It will feel good. I wouldn’t let you hurt me. T-there’s a spot…” A trembling finger reached just above where Lance’s lips ghosted against the edge of his nape. “T-there.”

“As long as it won’t hurt you…” Lance’s mouth moved to that spot and he moaned against it before he kissed there and bit into his flesh, groaning when his teeth pressed into the skin. He felt Keith’s body go ridged below him as soon as he did, and he almost lost it at the way Keith’s muscles squeezed him. He moaned and clutched at his hips. So this is what he meant. A spot that brought the utmost pleasure. A sign of trust, and Keith gave that to Lance.

“AH!” Keith arched his eyes flashing brighter as he climaxed with a short cut off cry. He melted back, holding Lance’s head to his neck as the rest of him hung limply at his bite, swooning and helpless.

Lance grunted and pushed his hips wildly as he tasted Keith. He thrust through Keith’s climax, not yet hitting his own, but his body didn’t stop. How could it? It felt amazing.

“Aa-ah… Lance…” Keith sighed, leaving his weight to be bared by Lance. His eyes finding their normal color of twilight with a drunken groan.

Lance pulled his head back and looked down at Keith with black eyes, his hips kept bucking, and he did his best to hold him steady, even as his body started to lose control.

“Mm!” Keith turned his eyes slowly up to Lance, his body rocking with each thrust. “Lance…”

“Keith….” Lance moved and curled his hand around Keith’s heat and moved it along with his hips.

The smaller man whimpered. He knew his body had nothing left to give. The well of his seed spent with no time to recover, but he still reeled from his climax, the fire quelled and tamed by the man moving over him but not snuffed out. Embers roiled, dim and hot.

“Nnn. Tell me how you feel, Keith.” Lance licked his own lips as he watched the way his partner rolled beneath him. He sped up the movements of his hips and hands. He wasn’t sure if he was pleasuring his lover or tormenting him at this point, but the heat inside him didn’t care.

“I d..I..I just…” Keith gasped unable to speak, tears in his eyes as he arched again, his hips jerking reflexively as a dry climax washed over him.

Lance arched and finally released, unable to control his body’s movement, and unable to hold back.

Keith curled up into Lance clutching his body to him as he took all of Lance gave him. “Lance.” He whimpered his voice bordering on feeble.

Lance pulled himself out of Keith as soon as his hips emptied the last traces of his pleasure. Sweat coated his forehead and hairline, and he panted as he lowered his body to the mattress next to Keith.

“Are you-” Keith stole a breath. “-okay?” He still laid on his back.

“Yeah… yeah I’m okay. I’m just spent…” Lance panted and looked at him, curling on his side to face him.

“Yeah? Me too.” Keith shifted with a wince as he stretched the skin on his neck. He could already feel the ache in his hips.

“I hurt you…” Lance lifted two fingers to the mark on his neck and he focused on healing there, though there wasn’t much quintessence left in him to give. “I’m sorry.”

“No.” Keith grabbed Lance’s hand and pulled it away. “Don’t.”

“No…?” Confusion crossed Lance’s face. “Did I do something wrong?”

“It’s your mark. I want it there. It will heal.” Keith brought his hand to his lips and kissed over his fingers. “Remember what I told you? All Galra have a spot on the side of their neck. It’s more prominent in females, but they all have it. It’s like a pressure point. It’s a bundle of nerves, that leave a Galra helpless and in a state of bliss when aggravated.”

“O..oh. So it really didn’t hurt you?” Lance’s brows furrowed, and he curled closer to him. Keith had explained it to him before, but it wasn’t something he really understood until now. “It felt that good? I mean I know you came, but…it really made you unable to do much of anything when I did that. You’re okay, right? Really okay?”

“The most intimate thing a Galra has to give a mate is trust. I don’t know how else to explain it to you. I don’t know if Altean’s have anything similar. Alteans have jewelry? I guess?”

“It’s okay if you can’t explain. I just want to make sure I didn’t hurt you.” Lance kissed his cheek. “And for us, it’s our life. I’ve given you that so many times. You’re the only one for me, so I’m really happy you gave me your trust in return.”

“Yeah. Well,” Keith grunted while trying to move. “You’ve now had Galra sex. And both parties survived. Congratulations.”

“Good. I would be devastated if either of us didn’t.” Lance nuzzled and curled against him as much as he could without crushing him. “Thank you for being so good to me.”

“You’re just realizing that now?” Keith grinned. “You’d never have this much fun with a stuffy Altean lover. You’re too… not Alteany…ish…. Alteanish?”

“Not…what? Then again, I suppose that’s true, but I’ve also never had another lover. You’re the only one.” Lance chuckled and tapped his nose.

“Yeah, keep it that way.” Keith nipped after his fingers. “And now you know how it feels to be me. I got you addicted.”

“It feels like that every time?” Lance slid a finger over his lips. “No wonder you like it so much.”

Keith licked his finger. “You don’t?”

“It feels different to give than it does to take.” Lance smiled a little. “It feels good in a different way. Like I’m sharing every bit of myself with you.”

“We are talking about quintessence, right?” Keith arched a brow.

“Yes? What did you think we were talking about?” Lance blinked down at him. “How does it feel for you?”

“Just checking.” Keith pursed his lips in thought. “I feel completely open to you. Like I’m giving myself to you. And your life force is so pure.” Keith shivered. “It’s amazing. It buzzes all over my body, and I can feel it shock my whole being into life. It revitalizes me.”

“Yeah? Even though I’m really not a good person, and I do bad things?” Lance pulled Keith into his arms and pressed his lips against his temple. “We really are one now, aren’t we?”

“Yes. Completely.” Keith settled his head on Lance’s shoulder.

Lance grinned and twisted his fingers into his hair. “And now you really can never leave me. After this, I can’t live without you.”

“Nnm.” Keith sighed and kissed along his collarbone. “It’s too late to say stuff like that.”

“I am yours. In this, and any other lives we may have in any other realities.” Lance’s eyes closed with the kisses.

“Romantic. Are you sure you’re a dark lord?” Keith nuzzled into the crook of his neck.

“So I can’t be a romantic dark lord?” Lance chucked. “Does that mean you can’t be a cute warrior?”

“Cute doesn’t sound very fierce.” Keith pouted. “Hard to be intimidating when you’re cute.”

“But you are cute. Right now, you’re super cute.” Lance stroked his hair. “You’re not even remotely intimidating.”

“Not a very good bodyguard then.” Keith blushed as his purr started up involuntarily with the gentle strokes of his hair.

“Looks like you’re guarding my body pretty well.” Lance grinned, and his heart warmed at the sound of the purring.

“This body is very important to me.” Keith curled around Lance resting his chest against his to let the gentle rhythm to relax his lover.

“This body belongs to you.” Lance let his hand slide from Keith’s hair and rest on his back. His eyes closed, and he smiled.

“I know. Same for you.” Keith grinned as he relaxed into Lance’s scent.

Chapter Text

Lance stared down at the report in his hand for what must have been the hundredth time. A scowl set deeply on his lips, and his brows furrowed to the point he was sure his face would permanently be altered. He put the pad down on the desk and lifted his hand to his forehead, rubbing it a bit before he stood and walked to the window. He rested his hand on the glass and watched the subtle breeze that rustled the flowers in the garden. The clouds rolled through just as they always had. Slow, steady, white and fluffy. It was the perfect peaceful day.

With a sigh, he turned from the window and looked across the room. Since he wasn’t meeting with any of his informants, Keith lounged on one of the couches. Lance noted the concern in his lover’s eyes. There was no way Keith wouldn’t have noticed Lance didn’t read today’s report with the same indifference he usually did. Today’s report was nothing like the others.

“Keith…” He sat on the edge of the couch and reached a hand down to touch his cheek. “We must go speak with my uncle today. Now. As quickly as possible.”

Keith’s ears twitched, his fur had been standing on end since word of Zarkon’s warships entering their quadrant reached him. Every planet of every ally had either taken into the Galra empire or left in shambles. In a lot of cases, they suffered both.

Keith’s transmissions from Kala had stopped, and he was aware of the reasons why. The planet disappeared overnight.

Closer to home, the herd of scavengers around Alfor wanted blood for the blood lost. Galra for Altean. Zarkon’s subjects had turned on their allies so fast, Keith knew it was only a matter of time before fingers and eyes pointed at him. Lance and Alfor spoke on Keith’s behalf with a final plead from Allura, it bought them time. So here Keith sat, on the cusp of losing an intergalactic war and the possibility of Keith getting laid out on a slab for a non-cog procedure. For now, house arrest was the best he could hope for.

“You know what will happen to me the tick I step in those doors. Those quiznacking advisers won’t listen to reason.” Keith laid his head on Lance’s thigh. “They only see a Galra they can hang outside their doors.”

“We’re not going to the castle. Coran will bring him somewhere we can talk without you having to worry about those old men.” Lance shook his head and ran his fingers through Keith’s hair. “But I won’t go without you. I don’t feel safe if you’re away from me, and I don’t trust them not to come here when they hear I’m out. I don’t care what anyone else says. You are my partner, and they won’t take you from me.”

“I don’t feel safe anywhere but here.” Keith nuzzled Lance’s thigh before resting his chin above his knee. “Just promise you won’t let them put that thing in me. Shoot me first.” He didn’t fear much, but since stepping on Altean soil, Keith had one reacquiring nightmare.

“Then I will have Coran bring him here instead. It’s fine.” Lance smiled softly. “And you never have to worry about that. As long as I’m around, I will never let them do that to you. You’re too precious to me.”

Keith tried to hold himself in check, but his ears started to tremble. “Sorry.”

“Why are you sorry? Being afraid of a scary thing is totally normal.” Lance stroked one of Keith’s ears in an attempt to calm him.

“I can’t be one of those.” Keith wrapped his arms around Lance’s leg, hugging it tight. “What do you need with Alfor? Is it about that?” A slender finger pointed to Lance’s pad still laying on the table.

“You won’t be anyone but yourself.” Lance kept stroking Keith’s ear. “It is. You know they’ve been getting closer, right? They may be moving closer a lot faster than we thought.” Lance grimaced. “And chatter suggests Zarkon’s coming for the Voltron lions. That’s something I should tell him personally.”

“Well yeah. It’s the only thing that can stop him. I’d want to get them out of play too.” Keith sighed and sat up. “We should go. We can get to him faster than he can get to us.”

“All right.” Lance took his hand. “Don’t let me go.”

“I should say that to you. I won’t be nearly as cute with a spike in my brain.” Keith joked, but he couldn’t cover the tremor in his voice. He didn’t care if the whole planet hated him. He did care what they could do to him.

“I won’t let you go.” Lance stood and pulled Keith to his feet, kissing him to help calm him. “Trust me. Okay? I will do everything in my power to stay with you.”

“I trust you.” Keith kissed him back, eyes closing. He’d want for nothing his entire life if he could have Lance’s warm lips. His soft skin. His light sweet taste. “My Altean…”

Lance smiled against his lips and kissed him once more before he took his hand and led him to the carriage. “We will go in the back. No one will know we’re there except for my uncle and my cousin.”

“Your cousin? She hasn’t liked me lately.” Keith lowered his eyes and laid his head on Lance’s shoulder. The more vicious the Galra became the more Allura saw them in Keith. She’d become wary of him, waiting for the monster to show.

“Allura is scared. She doesn’t know how to put that aside. She doesn’t hate you. She likes you a lot, she’s just…clouded.” Lance wrapped an arm around Keith and held him close to his side as they rode towards the castle. “She doesn’t know you like I do.”

“It’s okay. I don’t blame her. I understand.” Keith folded his fingers into Lance’s. “They’re scared. The Galra are on their way and there’s no one to defend Altea.”

“Yeah. Which is why I don’t want it over the communication lines. I don’t want anyone else knowing yet.” Lance nodded and looked down at their hands. “My uncle will make the best decision, but he needs all the information he can get.”

Keith looked up at the side of Lance’s face and back down at their hands before he stared out at thed passing trees and greenery he came to love. Normally the sight filled him with calm, but now anxiety rose up in his gut and stabbed at the back of his throat. He shifted so he couldn’t see out the window, his head against his Lance’s chest.

Lance rested his chin against the top of Keith’s head, holding him as close as he could, not letting go until they made it to their destination. The smaller man’s anxiety seemed to be contagious. “Keith…” He kissed the top of his head and closed his eyes. “I love you.”

“I love you too.” Keith dragged his hand across Lance’s cheek and turned his head toward him. He spared himself a moment, memorizing his face. The claw of his thumb dimpling a thin tan lip. “You’re beautiful.”

“Keith…” Lance took his hand and smiled, kissing his fingers before he nudged him a bit. “The sooner we inform my uncle, the sooner we can go home, and you can stare at me all you want, okay?” And the sooner he could hold him since everything would be okay, right?

“Yeah. You’re right.” Keith laid his hand over his stomach, clutching where the knots twisted around each other.

Lance slid out of the carriage and took his hand, holding it as he led Keith through a back door. “Is something else bothering you that you’re not telling me?”

“I don’t know. This doesn’t feel right to me.” Keith turned his head up the sky as he followed beside Lance into the Castle of Lions. He hadn’t been within these metal walls since the night of the banquet. The night had been the last time Altea pretended their world wasn’t falling apart. The feud between kings became a punishment for everyone else.

“Young Lord and Viscount.” An older bearded Altean greeted the men at the interior doors “Please state your business at the castle.”

“We are here for my uncle. Otherwise, you don’t need to know.” Lance shook his head and snorted at the man, his eyes narrowing. He held Keith’s hand and tried to console him in any way he could, since he couldn’t exactly address him with the other man staring at them. “I suggest you move. We came to this door for a reason, and you’re wasting our time.” He stepped around the man with Keith and started down the hallway.

“Stop them.” The cold timber of the man’s voice forced complete obedience. The guards lowered their spears, crossing over each to block the hall.

Keith’s fur bristled, he knew better than to touch the alchemical spears, he’d get blasted across the room, but his hand reached out all the same. “What the-”

“You cannot go into that room. They are in the middle of a strategy meeting, and you plan to bring your Galra spy in with you?”

Keith snarled and clenched his fists at his side. “I’m not a spy.”

“Since you’ve been here, Zarkon has trapped us at every turn.”

“The war started before I got here, idiot. He’s been stopping you because idiots are in charge of your military, and you make it impossible for Alfor to do anything.”

“We have Volt-“

“You have nothing!?” Keith snapped. “You pompous Altean quiznacking prick. Voltron won’t save you. It won’t save any of us.”

“Keith, there’s no point in trying to reason with ignorance.” Lance’s eyes narrowed, and his lips curved downward. A low growl started in his throat, and he stepped right up to the spears. “You will let us pass. I don’t care what kind of meeting is going on in there. I outrank you by a mile, and I will not allow you to disrespect me or the Viscount in this manner.”

“No.” One of the guards leveled his eyes on Lance.

With a snort, Lance moved. The guard clearly didn’t expect the Altean noble to challenge him, and so he stared up at him from the floor, the spear he had used to threaten them before now pointed at his throat, the skin pierced only enough for a thin line of blood to drip down the dark flesh. “Do not speak to me in such a way ever again. I should kill you for that.” He kept the spear pressed against that throat as he glared at the others. “Back off, and leave the two of us alone, or I will push this all the way through him, and I won’t feel bad about it.”

When Lance moved so did the old man. In a spry slip of his arm, he held a syringe to the back of Keith’s neck freezing the Galra in place. “Did you think It would be that easy, young lord? One move and your snarling pet becomes everyone’s tamed kitten.”

“Yularu,” Keith growled the name as it came like venom to his lips.

Something in Lance snapped. His blood ran cold and he narrowed his eyes. “Let go of him now.” He held himself steady, and the guard beneath him trembled a little and cried out as another stream of blood slid along his neck. “NOW.”

“You’ll kill an innocent man?” The Altean pressed the needle into Keith’s skin but didn’t push in the plunger. Keith tensed, wide eyes finding Lance’s before his brow furrowed. “Go.” He whispered. “They’ll let you in without me. You’re wasting time here.”

“Already behaving. Voral spoke very highly of you. He was the most disappointed at the council’s decision to put you under house arrest rather than hand you over to us.”

Keith closed his eyes. “All races have their assholes. And perverts. If you wanted a taste that bad you should’ve just come out and say it.” A smirk curved his lips. “Then I’d have had an excuse to watch Lance tear you apart at a more leisurely pace than he’ll have time for now.”

Yularu jerked Keith roughly back against himself, growling into a folded back purple ear. “You dare threaten me?”

“Why not? You’re threatening me. Fair is fair and I’m the only thing separating you from him.” Keith nodded toward Lance, the movement slight.

Lance’s eyes narrowed as he watched the scene unfold, his lip curling at the mention of Voral, and what this whole thing seemed to really be about. “Oh. I see. So this isn’t about you not trusting him, hm?” He held the spear a little tighter and rested his foot on the guard laying prone on the floor, pressing his weight down on his chest a bit and causing the man to groan. “So you admit, then, that you’re the one attacking an innocent. You will let him go, or I will take immense pleasure in killing you.” He kept his eyes locked on the man and Keith, but they narrowed as a sadistic grin spread across his lips. He pulled the spear away from the prone guard’s throat, the man’s blood dripping in slow drops, splashing on the floor. “You only get one chance.”

“What’s it gonna be?” Keith locked eyes with Lance as he spoke to the Altean. He smelled his fear. The scent reeked and absorbed into him. The coiling stench had a lacing of insidious pleasure, and Keith knew. He wanted this. He wanted to hurt Keith, Lance, them. His hate raged so passionately, he would take them both down.

In a splice of a tick, pressure entered Keith’s neck. The Galra roared, whirling around he toppled the man down hard against the floor. He jerked the syringe out of his neck and stabbed the needle into the man’s, emptying the leftovers directly into his throat as Yularu sputtered.

“Son of a quiznacking whore!” Keith swore in a slip of several different languages each curse accented with another stab into the noble.

Lance’s eyes widened, and he dropped the spear, moving forward with a speed he wasn’t sure he was capable of. He pulled Keith off the man and held him close in his arms. “Did he put any of that in you?” He checked his neck with tears coming to his eyes. “I’m so sorry, Keith. I promised to protect you from this, and I failed miserably.” But aside from guilt, something else rolled in the pit of his stomach, and the glare he shot the two guards must have been enough because the one on the floor held the cut on his neck and scooted away. The other dropped his spear and put his hands up.

“I’m fine.” Keith wobbled into Lance as the adrenaline dissipated. “We need to get you to Alfor. You have to warn him. I’m still with you.” He straightened his back. “Come on.”

Lance nodded, but he grabbed one of the discarded spears and moved over the Altean that writhed on the floor, his eyes almost glazed over as he held the spear over him. “First, this. He hurt you. He can’t live.”

“What’s going on here?”

Lance whipped around, slamming the spear into the floor next to the man’s head. “Uncle!” He bowed his head. “Forgive me. We came to speak to you and we were attacked.”

Keith leaned back against the wall, his eyes focusing up at Alfor and he nodded his head in casual greeting.

“My blood. Attacked in my own castle?” Alfor stomped forward and looked down at the sputtering mess on the floor. The king cursed. “What happened?”

“Half a syringe of your Atlean ‘mind fuck cocktail’.” Keith whispered, watching as Alfor leaned down and pulled the empty vile from the Yularu’s neck.

“Half? It’s empty.”

“Yeah.” Keith closed his eyes.

“He…you…” Lance seemed to lose any semblance of control he had over his emotions and he clutched Keith. His hand trembled, and he sank against him, pressing his face into his hair as his body shook. “We shouldn’t have come…this is all my fault.”

Alfor ran a hand over his face before he sighed and looked at the two of them. “Do you feel any adverse effects?”

Keith waved his hand to dismiss the question. “There’s something more important you two need to discuss.” He laid his hand against the back of Lance’s head. “That needs to come first. Zarkon… Voltron… all of that.” He curled his knuckle and stroked it against the young lord’s cheek.

“Of…course.” Alfor frowned, but he rested his hand on Keith’s shoulder as he walked towards the door. “I am so sorry you were treated so brutishly.” He looked at the two guards before nodding to the man on the ground. “Get him out of here.”

Lance stood still and kept his arms around Keith even as the two guards dragged the third man away. It was only when they were gone that he lifted his head enough to follow Alfor into the room, though he would not let go of Keith the entire time.

Keith felt heavy. A part of him wanted to slip away, to give in. He could drift and allow the currents to guide him. He could shut down. Take a break. Allow others to think for him. Keith growled a curse and shook his head. Those weren’t his thoughts.

“Thankfully that serum is only phase one. It puts the subject in a suggestive state since the Hoktril needs to be applied to a willing mind. Ease yourself the effects will pass.” Alfor soothed gently.

“Fuck you.” Keith whispered. “And your shitty devices.”

“Not my choice. I would have done away with project deca-phoebs ago.”

“Some King.” Keith spat with gritted fangs. Defiance came at a painful price.

“If I see him again, I’ll kill him, or anyone else that touches Keith.” Lance murmured and pressed his face into Keith’s hair. “Should let them all die, but I’m a better person than that…” he said, trying to convince himself, at least. “Uncle…” Lance lifted his head once more and sighed. “Zarkon’s coming for Voltron.”

Alfor grimaced and watched the two of them. For a moment, anger flashed in his eyes, but it was quickly replaced. “You came to give me such important information and they did that to you.” He rested his hand on Lance’s shoulder and sighed. “Thank you. Both of you.” He walked towards the door. “I had a feeling he was coming for that, so I’ve already made preparations. You confirmed my suspicions, so I will handle it right now. But both of you should rest. Your usual room is waiting if you’d like it.”

Lance’s shoulders slumped, and he looked at Keith. “How do you feel? Should we just head home?”

“Going home. Staying here. It won’t matter.” Keith sighed watching his fingers slowly lose the will to move.

“It matters.” Lance grabbed his shoulders. “Keith look at me. You matter. Your opinion matters. I need you.”

Dull eyes drifted to Lance’s face. They were blank, flat, nothing of Keith’s usual vibrancy glimmer within.

“Take him to your carriage. I’ll have an antiserum waiting.” Alfor whispered. “Even it’s the last thing I do. I’ll stop Zarkon.”

“Okay. Thank you, Uncle.” Lance nodded and gathered Keith in his arms, carrying him to the carriage. He said nothing to his valet as he got Keith inside and held him in his lap, holding him as close as he could. “I failed you. The one thing I promised, and I couldn’t even stop it…” He closed his eyes and did his best to remain calm. This wasn’t supposed to happen. He shouldn’t have come here with Keith. He should have let him stay at the house. And now, he’d done the worst anyone could have ever done to him.

When he opened his eyes again, the valet was back with the antiserum. Lance took it and stared at the contents of the syringe before he pressed it into his own arm and pushed a little into himself. He wouldn’t risk hurting Keith again. After a moment, and no adverse effects, he injected the rest of the medicine into Keith and held him.

Keith’s eyebrow twitched and he hissed as the burn filled his veins. “Quiznack!” The color flooded back to his eyes with a snarl. “You Alteans are messed up, you know that?!” Keith laid his head bonelessly against Lance’s chest. “Relax. It wasn’t like they got the thing on me.” He sighed.

Lance’s whole body seemed to melt when Keith came back to himself. “I’m sorry.” He whispered, hiding his face once more.

“I’ve had worse.” Keith winced. “I can’t move.”

“Maybe we should stay here and take my Uncle’s offer and use my room?” Lance kept his face hidden.

“Where they can shove more of that crap in me?!” Keith turned his head into Lance’s chest. “I’d rather just be with you.”

“Okay.” Lance winced, but he knocked on the carriage wall, and it started to move. He kept his eyes downcast even as he pulled his face out of Keith’s hair. “I’m sorry. It was a stupid suggestion.”

“No. What you did saved those Lions… you saved the universe.” Keith kissed where he could. “You’re a hero.”

“Even if you say that, I shouldn’t have made you come with me.” Lance’s hands trembled against Keith’s back. “You were hurt because of me.” Lance blinked when the carriage shook a little. He looked out the window just in time to see one of the lions blasting out of the castle at high speed. “Looks like he was able to get them out…but…”

“I wouldn’t have let you leave without me.” Keith blinked as another Lion sped out in the castle. “I know. There’s nothing left to protect us.”

Lance nodded and clutched one of Keith’s hands. “Maybe we should prepare to leave? I can change my shape and we can hide somewhere.”

“Yeah. I’ll stick out like a sore thumb.” Keith closed his eyes. “We should hurry. I can already wiggle a toe and hold my head up. So, progress.”

Lance tried to smile at Keith’s quip, but he couldn’t. Instead, he nodded and knocked on the carriage wall again, signaling for them to go faster. “We can go anywhere you think is best.”

“Anywhere. Someplace far.”

Lance nodded, and when the carriage stopped, he carried Keith out of it and into the house. “You should rest a little. I’ll pack our things and bring them to the shuttle. And then I’ll come back for you.”

Another rumble shook the ground, but all Keith could manage was a slow nod. “Yeah.” When Keith felt the couch come under him, he saw a flash of purple fill the sky but couldn’t keep his eyes open.

Lance pressed a kiss to Keith’s lips. “I love you.” He touched his cheek before he leaped up and ran about the manor, shouting orders to the maids and valets. Everyone moved. Bags and trunks were thrown into the carriages, and as the purple darkened in the sky, Lance’s feeling of dread increased.

“If I’m not back in fifteen dobashes, get Keith into a carriage and get to the hangar.” Lance instructed his most trusted Valet, Calsef, handing him one of his cloaks. “Make sure he wears this and protect him with your life.”

The valet nodded and stood by the couch, remaining vigilant as Lance ran to one of the carriages and set towards the hangar. It took less than five dobashes to get there at full speed, and time was of the essence. The sky darkened more, and the ground shook. Lance bit back a curse as he arrived and practically threw himself into the hangar, shouting orders.

The shuttle was firing up. They could leave as soon as he brought Keith. But as he turned to get back to his carriage to fetch his lover, an explosion blasted into the far side of the hangar, and everything went black.

 

“Come on Viscount.” Keith groaned to the familiar voice of Lance’s valet.

“Calsef.” Keith whispered curling into the only arms he trusted outside of Lance. Calsef had been with the pair since day one. He saved Keith on the shuttle and had become a constant source of loyalty in the following deca-pheobs.

“We’re going to the Young Lord. It’s been Fifteen dobashes. He had very strict commands for me to take care of you.”

“Lance?” Keith’s eyes snapped open, and his reality came up to greet him in a hot flash across his face. The planet was getting scorched. Galra sentries swarmed through the fire reflected sky. The air, once fresh and clean, now smelled of toxic melting fumes. In the distance, he saw the smoke rising from the capital city, where nothing stood but flame billowing black clouds.

“Alfor, failed.”

“It would seem so. Alfor has fallen. Altea is next. We don’t have a lot of time. Lance is at the shuttle bay. We must hurry.”

Keith nodded and shifted himself in the seat next to Calsef the ride barely took three dobashes. Coming over the ridge a smoldering wreckage came into view. “Wait. This can’t be.” The Valet kicked the carriage into high gear with Keith slipping off the seat as soon as they were at a stop. His unsteady legs dragging behind him as he rushed into the ruins.

“Keith! Wait!” Keith ignored Calsef, trying to get his body to move faster.

“LANCE!” Keith saw the shuttle crushed under the weight of a wall, the particle barrier fizzing and snapping, their belongings scattered. “LANCE!” Bodies littered through the rubble. Crushed and broken, with blank eyes. Keith heard nothing other than the crackling of fire. The sky was silent, void of the Galra, and their warships left, meaning only one thing.

“LANCE!” Keith cried out again, tears falling unchecked. “Answer me! LANCE!” Keith stumbled, falling to his knees and hearing a crack under him. He lifted himself seeing the cracked ivory idol under him. The same trinket he tried to steal from Lance. The sentimental idiot brought it with. He clutched the statue to his chest. “L-lance, where are you?”

“Keith…” Lance’s voice was weak as he struggled to breathe under fallen debris. He couldn’t feel anything, but he heard a melodious voice, calling to him, telling him not to struggle. He tried to push whatever was on top of him off, but nothing responded. He tried to turn his head, but he couldn’t, his cheek pressed against the hard floor. There was smoke everywhere, and when he could see through dissipating plumes, fire. Fire and debris. Bodies. He closed his eyes. He could feel his energy waning. Nothing they could have done would have saved them from this.

“Lance!” Keith’s ear twitched, homing in on his lover’s voice. He turned his head, his body carrying him over to a caved-in section of the building “Cal! I found him! Get help!”

“Hey. Sleeping on the job. That’s not like you.” Keith sniffed, rubbing his eyes as he lowered himself to the floor, eyes focused on Lance’s face. He didn’t want to see his crushed body under the unforgiving stone, he didn’t want to see the growing pink puddle of blood. Keith already knew the scent, he’d already dragged his body through it to curl himself around Lance’s head. “Lance.” He stroked his fingers gently under his eyes, tracing a marking.

“Lance. Hey.” He smiled through his tears. “I’m here.” He kissed his forehead. “I made it.”

“You did…” Lance opened his eyes when he felt the pressure on his face. Tears slid down his cheeks, and his lips twitched. He never wanted to hurt Keith. He never wanted to leave him, and yet here he was, doing both of those things. “You made it, But…I…I’m sorry.” He coughed, and something dripped from the corner of his mouth. “I…”

“Shh. Shh.” Keith whispered softly. “Love.” He shook his head as his fingers wiped the pink foam from the corner of Lance’s mouth. “Look only at me. See only me.”

“Keith,” Calsef whispered. There was a deep finality in the attendant’s voice and Keith shook his head. Calsef saw the crushed lower body, he saw the rebar stabbing up, coated in Altean blood. Calsef knew just as assuredly as Keith knew.

“Go, Cal. If you think you can make it.” Keith whispered stroking Lance’s his hair as he leaned down to nuzzle his lips over his temple. “I’m staying by Lance.”

“Ke-“

“Go.” Keith cut him off and Cal sighed heavily with a nod before stepping away only to lounge back against a makeshift seat a couple yards away.

“My Altean has nothing but loyal idiots working for him.” Keith nosed against Lance’s ear as he carefully laid his head in his lap.

“I…I know.” Lance’s voice was even quieter than before. His vision blurred as his breaths came in short, gurgling gasps. “I love you.” He managed, his eyes closing. “Forgive me…for leaving you. I don’t want to.” He coughed again, his brows twisted as he started to seize up, tears sliding down his cheeks. “I love…” With a final breath, everything stopped.

Keith’s tears fell in a silent stream, thin arms holding Lance closer, to feel his breath blow over the fine fur of Keith’s ears one last time. They twitched, involuntarily like they had a hundred times before. As they had in the Tralgnarian bath. As they had on the escape shuttle. As they had on their first night as spouses in an Altean bed. As they had watching a hundred sunsets folded in his Altean’s arms.

“Don’t miss me too much,” Every memory brought a new rent and a new pain. He’d been gone for only minutes, but his soul wrenched and twisted in the void left behind. “I won’t be long.”

Keith stroked the bridge of Lance’s nose with his thumb, whispering soft hymns. The ground started to rumble, and the ivory statue rolled from the rocky perch Keith had tossed it. It cracked again, splitting in two.

Keith reached over as his thumb grazed over a small smooth object inside. He took it up in his hand, head cocking to the side. The figure crumbled away to join the dust caught in the wind.

“They’re here.” Cal whispered softly as Keith lifted his head.

Keith stared up into the sky as the garish purple warship filled the horizon, forcing his gaze down the barrel as energy sparked and coalesced within.

Keith closed his eyes, his thumb still stroking Lance’s nose. He turned his head back up craning it as far as it could go, and he smiled. There came a break in the clouds and glimmering down at him were two brightly colored stars. The red star burned with the most beautiful shade of crimson fire. The blue star calmed his tattered spirit, eased his heart with its soothing aqua glow. He hardly felt the heat of the Galra’s final blow and with less than a tick of pain the world was black.

“Get him out of there!” There was a pounding on glass and a quick, pulse-like beeping.

“Lance, Does he have it!?”

“Who cares right now! Just get him out! He’ll die!”

“Stats have stabilized.”

“Coran! Pull him out!!”

Keith groaned, his eyes fluttering weakly open. “C-coran?” Coran? Who was Coran? He knew a Coran. Keith shifted his arms then his legs. Armor? He was breathing manufactured air. His helmet completely down but his vision still unclear. Something hissed beside him and he heard the sound of plated glass shifting and lifting up.

Lance pushed forward and caught Keith’s body as he fell. His arms cradled the body to his chest, his eyes wide, frantic, searching the other paladin’s face. He ignored the wide-eyed stares of the others in the room, trembling fingers touching Keith’s cheek, unfazed by the phantom of coloration that was still there from his memories. He didn’t even seem to notice that Keith had changed. That he had changed. All he saw was his friend, his partner, half-conscious in his arms, pain etched in his features from the death he just felt, like the death that took Lance moments earlier. “Keith, buddy, it’s me.”

“Lance.” Keith’s eyes focused as his fingers lifted up to touch his cheek. His brow furrowed, confused. Memories shifting into place, his head killing him. But he knew this face. His fingers traced over those perfect rouge lips. “You’re alive.”

“Yeah… yeah and so are you.” Lance’s lips twitched as he managed a smile, though there was some emotion in his eyes he didn’t know how to express, especially not with Keith touching him like that. “We made it back.”

“Back?” Keith’s eyes went distant as his fingers danced against his jaw. He leaned up watching his lips.

“Did you get it?” The sharp urgency of Pidge’s tone cut the tension between the two men. “We can’t send you two in again.”

“What happened in there?” Hunk questioned, giving the men space.

Pidge. Hunk. Keith knew those names. Shiro. Allura. Coran. Voltron. Each name brought memories to the forefront as if released from a glass display cases. He stared into each face as every memory unlocked.

“Y… yeah. I got it.” Keith shook his head. “It was in the statue where Allura said it should be.” Keith lifted his hand to show a fist, but his black clawed fingers wouldn’t open up.

Lance would have done anything to keep Keith in his arms. But since that couldn’t happen, he kept his back to the others and set Keith down to sit on the floor with him. He touched his hand and looked at him, brows furrowed. “Hey, give it to me okay? You still need to recover from all that.”

“You…” Keith leaned forward when the Paladin moved, his gaze miles away as he nosed Lance cheek and neck. He basked in his scent, with a soft contented sigh. “You’re here. This is you.” His hand slacked and deposited the item into Lance’s palm as their lips found each other. “Nmm.”

There was a flash of memory. Of lips that always tasted and felt so good against his own. Lance’s fingers curled around the object in his hand as his lips responded to Keith’s kiss. In that moment, Lance didn’t care who saw.

The room echoed stunned silence. No one moved. No one breathed. No one sure of what they were watching.

Finally, Shiro stepped forward with a supporting hand on Allura’s shoulder. “Keith. Lance.” He knelt down by the two young paladins, reaching their side. “Do you two know where you are?” The question did not pertain to the propriety of their kiss. “Do you remember what happened?”

“You were gone for eight vargas.” Shiro answered the unasked question gently, studying Lance’s face then back down at Keith. The blue paladin seemed to have his wits about him. His waking up was slow and gradual. Keith’s had been jarring and traumatic. “Much longer for the two of you. It seems.

Shiro could look beyond Lance’s Altean features. He could focus on something other than Keith’s twitching fur lined ears. He couldn’t look past those eyes. Damaged pain filled eyes, holding on to a lifetime of memories.

For a moment, it was like Lance wasn’t even aware that anyone else had been there. He could only focus on the press of Keith’s lips. His warmth. His scent. His pain. It took Shiro’s voice to snap him out of the daze, though there was still a part of him that wanted nothing more than to keep kissing Keith, reassuring him that they were okay. But he couldn’t. He knew he couldn’t as soon as Shiro knelt at their side. And that hurt more than the metal piercing his body in his memories. It hurt more than those agonizing dobashes when he was slowly dying, holding on for one last glimpse of his lover before he let go.

Lance grimaced, but he nodded. He held the item Keith gave him in his hand, and he turned a little to look at Shiro. “Only eight vargas…” he sighed and kept himself curled over Keith. “Only such a short time for all of you…” There was real pain in his voice. Not even half a day for everyone else, but an entire lifetime for the two of them. How could they reconcile that? Everything had changed.

“Maybe we should get them out of here and back to their rooms?” Hunk took a hesitant step towards the three of them, though his eyes were still wide as he reeled from what he just saw moments ago. “They’re probably in no condition to do much of anything right now, and clearly now isn’t the time to talk.”

“A-agreed. Their memories will need time to resort themselves. We can’t risk rushing things.” Allura stared at Lance with wide eyes.

“Lance. Can you let Keith go?” Shiro whispered, his voice gentle and soothing. “I can carry him back to his room. You’re in no condition to.”

Keith whimpered, curling deeper into Lance.

Every muscle in his body tensed, and Lance held Keith just that much closer. “No…I…” Lance’s hands started to tremble, like he couldn’t let go of the man in his arms. “You…” He stared at Shiro, his eyes narrowing momentarily, something twisting in his stomach. “Don’t hurt him.”

“Lance, Shiro’s not going to hurt Keith,” Hunk sighed as he rested a hand on his shoulder. “Come on man, you know that.”

“Don’t hurt him.” Lance repeated, though he made no move to let Keith go just yet. He turned his head away from Shiro and looked past Hunk, his eyes finding Allura. “Allura…” His whole body seemed to tense more, if that was possible, but then he relaxed and held the gem out to her. “Take this.” Though his other arm remained around Keith.

“Y-yes. Thank you, Lance.” The princess flickered her eyes away and then back at him. “Both of you seemed to have retained some of your avatar’s appearance.”

“Well, some anomalies are expected when you play around with quantum mechanics, with or without the meteorite shard. We sent their consciousness through hoping they could bring something physical back. Considering what happened we’re lucky we got them back at all. It was a stupid risk.” Pidge sighed. Her large eyes looking five times larger behind her glasses.

“So it’s safe to say that they retained the memories of two other individuals, right Lance? Keith?” She studied both of them in turn.

“Y-yeah.” Keith lifted his head from Lance’s shoulder, the tingle of embarrassment flushing his cheeks. He moved away from his partner, but every breath revealed his body language wanting to do the opposite. “I’d say that was a safe bet.”

Lance’s ears drooped when Keith pulled away from him, but he did his best to keep the expression on his face from betraying the fact that he wanted to keep holding him. “Yes…”

Shiro folded his arm around Keith’s shoulder’s once the shorter man was standing on his own. His head canted to the side as two black ears folded back into the inky depths of Keith’s hair, before they perked up again and two violet orbs were staring wordlessly up at him with recognition. Shiro returned the expression with a smile filled with nothing but his usual warmth. “These changes, are they permanent?”

“That? I don’t know. Something like this has never been done before.” Pidge looked over a glowing pad in her hand. “But most likely, yes. There are bound to be some side effects.”

“Side effects?” Hunk implored.

“Headaches, nausea, bouts of disassociation, waking dreams. For all our technology, the human mind is still one of the hardest things to predict. My best guess is that they might have delusional breaks here and there as their minds heal and fill in any gaps.”

“So, we’re insane?” Keith dared a glance at the other paladin.

“I wouldn’t go that far. You just need to rest for now. This is uncharted territory. But we’ll get through it. We’re all here with you guys.” Pidge smiled. Keith found the expression comforting it relaxed him enough to allow Shiro to start guiding him from the room.

“You heard, Pidge. Both of you. Rest. Now. I’ll expect a full report when you’re feeling up to it.” Shiro commanded. “By both. I mean you too, Lance. Get out of here. We’ll talk later. You look like you want to pass out.”

“No, I…” Lance shook his head, but he didn’t really argue, even as Allura took his hand squeezed it. He looked at the back of Keith and Shiro’s heads and bit the inside of his lip. This was a mess, and his stomach churned more with every step he took. Sweat began to form on the back of his neck, and he was intensely aware of the hand that held his own.

Hunk shook his head a little. “I don’t think either of them is really aware of their appearance.
They’re too calm for that.” He clearly tried to whisper as they left the room, but his voice was as loud as normal.

They stopped at Keith’s room first. He was near the Captain’s chamber on the Atlas. Commander Holt figured it would be a good idea to have the Leader of Voltron and the Captain of the Atlas near each other, which had led to rather hilarious exchange between the Commander and Lance about the pilot of the Red Lion and where he belonged and how important he was to the safety of both the newly reminted Black paladin and the Captain. Keith’s eyes followed the back of Lance’s head as he and the princess strode by, the brown-haired man held securely in the Princess’ powerful arms. Keith’s heart twisted.

“Something wrong, Keith?” Shiro asked, seeing the frown on his friend’s face.

“N-no. Well yes… everything, but no.”

Lance stopped when he reached his door, looking at it for a long moment, lips twitching into a frown as he realized that, while his room was next to Keith’s, Keith’s door was closer to Shiro’s than it was to his. For a reason he knew but didn’t want to voice, that very thought made his blood boil. He stared at it for a few ticks before turning to look at Keith. He opened his mouth to say something, but with Shiro standing right there, and Allura squeezing his arm so tightly it was starting to go numb, he thought better of it and just went into his room, the princess following him in.

Keith bit his cheek against the pang in his chest as he watched that mane of silver hair disappear into Lance’s room. Shiro wasted no time pulling the smaller man through the sliding doors and pushing int he direction of his private bathroom. “This is a bit unnecessary, Shiro! I can wash myself!” He turned his head to the side hiding the blush on his cheeks.

“One, I’ going to baby you. It’s my right. I’ve earned it.” Shiro held up a second finger freezing Keith’s protest. “Two, I’m not going in there with you. I’m just not leaving until you clean yourself up and get some rest. Boundaries Keith.”

“Yeah, but-“

“Yeah but nothing. I know you. You’ll disobey doctor’s orders and end up on the training floor. In the lab, or library, doing everything but what you’re supposed to be doing. Unless I force you.” Shiro crossed his legs and folded his arms as he sat on the Paladin’s bed. “Go on.”

Keith sighed, resigned. He couldn’t deny Shiro any of his tiny victories. “Fine.”

“That’s better.”

Barely a tick went by before the scream alerted Shiro. “He found the ears.” The captain nodded. There was another growl of disbelief. “Found the markings.”

“You are quisnacking fucking kidding me?! Of all the damn things?!”

Shiro blinked bemusedly at the ongoing string of curses leaving Keith’s mouth from beyond the door.

“Everything okay?” Shiro ventured with just a pinch of reluctance.

“Y-yes! I’m fine.” He wasn’t Shiro knew that, but this ‘I’m fine’ had Keith’s pissed off tone to it rather than his injured tone. Rather than getting the young man worked up, Shiro opted for silence.

When Keith finished cleaning up he crawled I to his bed, a sigh covering the creaking of the mattress. “Happy now?”

“Very. Just yell if you need anything. Okay?” Shiro stood and even went so far as the pull the blanket up to Keith’s chin, making the young man’s embarrassment worse.

“I’ll come back in a while to check on both of you,”

“Okay. I get it. T-thanks.” Keith sighed, closing his eyes to the sound of the door shutting behind Shiro.

Alone in the dark, black nails sought out the chains and stones still fastened to his navel. He growled under his breath. Of the things that were painfully not Keith, this grotesque adornment reigned supreme. He wanted to rip it out and throw it across the room, but every time he tried Lance’s face flashed across the back of his lids.

“Damnit.” A quite zapping sound and a blink of light filled Keith’s room. He knew without looking where to reach and he smiled, feeling a familiar snout under his palm.

“Heya, boy. How did you know I needed you?”

-----

“So do you want to tell me what that was all about?” Allura spoke with enough control that Lance knew she was doing her best not to yell at him. Well, there was that and the scowl on her lips, the narrowed, eyes, the crossed arms.

“I don’t know.” Lance sat on his bed and looked at her. Anger, hurt, confusion. All things he never wanted to cause her to feel, and yet here they were. His hands rested in his lap and he stared down at them. The memories in his head were all jumbled. Before the mission. During the mission. Now. His feelings were a mess, and he knew he was the only one to blame for them. He sighed and kept his vision locked to the fingers that curled and twisted into themselves as he struggled to keep himself in check.

“So you have no intention of explaining why you kissed Keith back when he kissed you?”

Lance winced. There it was. He lifted his gaze to look at the princess, shame pinking his cheeks. “If I explained it, you wouldn’t accept it, or you’d be angrier than you are. I don’t…” He sighed when she arched a brow at him. “In those eight vargas we were in the machines, Keith and I lived an entire lifetime. One I don’t think I can easily brush off and forget. It’s confusing. It’s painful. And my brain and body aren’t ready to just toss it aside.” He lifted a hand to one of his now pointed ears.

“So you and Keith were…”

“Together, yes. For over a year.”

“And you still feel that way? Even though that wasn’t real?”

Lance winced. He knew Allura didn’t understand. How could she? Not even half a day ago the two of them were holding hands while they walked to the room for the mission. They had kissed dozens of times since Allura agreed to try a relationship out with him. And part of him wanted nothing more than to go back to that, but there was another part of him that couldn’t even stomach the idea. “I….feel a lot of things. I feel just about every emotion I can put a name to.” He shook his head. “It might not have been real to everyone else, but to me, everything that happened, I experienced.” He rested a hand on his stomach where he had been pierced moments before his death. The pain seemed to surge, even though he was whole and uninjured.

Allura’s eyes narrowed even more before she sighed and uncrossed her arms. “I’m being unfair. I know that. I’ve just never dealt with something like this before. I don’t know how to be supportive when I’m annoyed that you kissed someone else.”

“I’m sorry.”

“I know I should give you time to sort things out,” she continued, as though she hadn’t even heard Lance’s apology. She had. She just ignored it for now. “I know I should be fairer to you in this situation. You can’t help what happened to you in there, but…” She bit her lower lip and looked at him for too many ticks to be comfortable. “But I don’t think anything would have happened between you and Keith if the inclination wasn’t already there. So was it? Is it?”

“Allura.” Lance could feel a pit form in his stomach and a lump in his throat. “I can’t…”

“Lance, just tell me. I can handle it.” Allura walked towards him and gently rested a hand on that sandy hair. “I’ll likely be upset and angry, but I need to know.”

“I…liked him before. Before I met you.” Lance whispered and bowed his head. “I guess I just didn’t realize it, or I didn’t want to think about it because once I met you, I felt something for you too. And I guess that makes me horrible because you finally agreed to try things out with me, and here I am unable to give you what you deserve.”

“So you want to end this? For him?” Allura’s hand twitched, but she kept smoothing his hair gently, even if she could have easily yanked out a chunk of those strands.

“Yes, and no.” Lance looked up at her, ears droop, lower lip trembling. “In there…I was obviously an Altean, right?” He motioned to his face, then the downward tilt of his ears. “But I wasn’t just a normal person. I was your cousin. We grew up together. Like, brother and sister.”

“But I didn’t have anyone like that in my life.” Allura’s hand fell from his head and she stared down at him. “It’s because of that?”

“Most of it, yes. I can’t look at you the same way I could before. It feels off because those memories keep telling me we’re family. Best friends. But not lovers. And I’m not sure I can ignore that even if I’m given enough time to figure myself out.”

“I see.” Allura stepped away from him and backed towards the door. Her hand fumbled for the switch and she looked at Lance with tears shimmering in her eyes. “So this is it then?”

“Don’t forgive me if you don’t want to. I won’t blame you if you don’t. But I can’t hurt you like that. I can’t stay with you when I can’t see you in that way right now. I can’t lead you on if I don’t know if it’ll ever go back to that.”

“I…” Allura lifted a hand to wipe a tear from her cheek. “I know I should forgive you and be more understanding, but right now I can’t. I won’t let you off that easily. Maybe it’s good that you consider us family right now. But I don’t have those memories, so I don’t feel that way.”

“Allura….” Lance started to stand but stopped when she shook her head.

“Just give me some time to recover. Let me deal with this in my own way. I promise, I won’t make you do anything you don’t want to do. I’m just not ready to let go.” Her voice trembled a bit, but she left the room before Lance could even react.

With a sigh, Lance stared at the closed door, his gut twisting. He knew he couldn’t avoid hurting someone in this situation. If he didn’t hurt Allura, he’d hurt Keith. If he didn’t hurt Keith, he’d hurt Allura. No matter what one, or both of them would be hurt by what he did or said, and that’s what hurt the most. He fell back on the bed and sighed, staring up at the ceiling. Maybe some of this would resolve itself if he slept.

Chapter Text

Desert nights held a power over Keith unlike any place else in the universe. Lonely and cold with an infinite expanse, they captured the soul, motionless and timeless. The dry air slowed the ravages of passing days while the morning sun dried and preserved. Keith spent countless hours beyond the canyon’s ridge. He knew the note of every chirping insect and every croaking frog. He understood the rattling of the snakes, he could decipher the sideways dance the scorpion. He could tell the mood of the night by the distant howl of coyotes.

It was quieter now. The Galra, when they came, cared little about human life, much less those whom they governed. The lonely nights he loved now seemed too keen. The earth stuck in a mourning veil as the humans moved on. What choice did they have? Humans had to move on. Humans needed to move on. It’s how they knew how to thrive.

A young stupid race.

Keith sighed, closing his eyes from the thoughts. He’d taken to stopping them as soon as his mind didn’t feel like his own. He pictured a jar in his mind, almost like a swear jar, and for every renegade thought he deemed unlike himself, he placed it in that jar to be deciphered later. Shiro told him he’d go crazy if he worried that much so soon and only wanted him to rest, but Shiro had no idea how maddening the situation had been for Keith. He spent the better part of his life, risked his friends and the universe, to try and figure out exactly who he was. Now? Now he didn’t even know his own head.

He’d broken away from Shiro a mere varga before. He had given up on Shiro understanding him almost as soon as the first morning. He’d thought, of all people, Shiro would get it. He’d know what he was going through. He’d gone through something similar with his clone. Keith gritted his teeth against the memory. Shiro couldn’t comprehend; sure, he knew on the surface, but he couldn’t fully understand. It wasn’t just his mind which was fractured, his body had become alien to him. His own skin crawled with new sensations, new needs. His hunger had been different. His thirst different. His desires different.

No. Keith needed more than platitudes. Right now, he needed the solace of the desert. He needed the clean dry night air to clear the ache in his head as much as he needed it to salve his heart.

A tic or two had gone by and his ear twitched. His nose scrunched. A scent wafted and danced across the breeze, wrapping the young paladin in sweet honey and soft silken cream. If grace and beauty could be contained on such a fragile wisp of a smell, this would be the ghost left within the wake.

“Lance.”

“How did you know?” Lance had done his very best to silently trail Keith out here. He had planted every footstep carefully. He barely breathed. He didn’t want to alarm the man who came out here to be alone. But he really should have known that Keith would be able to sense him. Keith had always been good at that, and now with his heightened senses, he was probably even better at it. The fact that the smaller man didn’t bristle up as soon as he detected Lance was comfort enough.

And maybe Lance should have let him be. Maybe he should have just waited for Keith to come back inside, but he couldn’t let him be alone. He couldn’t watch Keith steal into the night. Not without him. Not when looking at those velvety ears that seemed to spend more time pointed downward than any other direction. Not when the pain in those amethyst gems resonated with each beat of his heart. Tightening more and more. Causing his whole body to feel numb every time he caught a glance of his…what? His friend? His leader? Partner? Lover? Could Lance call him that when Keith wasn’t with him? Did Keith want to just pretend it didn’t happen? He really hoped that wasn’t the case. Not when Keith kissed him as soon as he woke. But then again, Keith had still been in the haze of the mission. He hadn’t had extra moments to reorient himself as Lance had. So maybe he was trying to get away from it all?

But for Lance, there was nothing he wanted more than to be at his side. It had only been two days since they woke. Two days he wasn’t with Keith. Two long, cold, numbing days. His fingers twitched whenever Keith was in the room, wanting to reach out and grab him. His arms ached to hold Keith. But it didn’t happen. It felt like it wouldn’t happen. And so Lance followed him out here and watched him, listening to the sighs Keith probably didn’t know he was sighing. Each sad pitch in perfect harmony with the desperate cries of lonely insects. Each note begging for someone to listen. “Should I go back?”

“I don’t own the night.” Keith turned and pressed his back against the railing, his head bowed low, but his ears stood perked and attentive. “My nose.” Keith tapped the tiny upturned point.

“Your approach was perfect. The garlic knots Hunk made you for lunch, however…” A smirk played on the corner of Keith’s lips. For a moment he looked boyish and not the hardened soldier. Slender and deceptively toned arms wrapped around his waist. He didn’t need to fight off the cold. He spent nights out here as a child and a young man. He was as accustomed to the chill as an Islander is to humidity. He needed a barrier. He needed the protection. Not from Lance. The Cuban…Altean… whatever he was now, had been timid and meek. Keith didn’t dare breathe in his direction for fear of what it might do. Lance was gentle. Lance was kind. Lance was confused. They were both confused, but Keith had come to terms with his feelings for Lance long ago. Came to terms and killed them. Buried them deep down with everything else he had been too much of a coward to feel.

The protection was for Lance. Keith didn’t know how to control the monster inside of him. He didn’t know how to quell the dangerous hunger lurking just below the surface and making his fangs itch.

“You’re looking good though.” Keith stared down, fascinated by his toes as they wiggled in his boots, anything to keep himself from looking up. “I’ve heard your mom in your room a few times, she’s got you under a pretty strict thumb.”

“Yeah…though Allura made her promise to give me some time to recover, so she’s going to back off for a bit.” Lance watched the way Keith almost shrank back from him, and the knot that had been forming in his stomach tightened and twisted. “And you’ve barely left Shiro’s side.” His voice trembled only slightly before he forced himself to steady his nerves. He let his arms fall limp to his sides, though he clenched his fists. “But it’s too cold to be out here.”

“I’m fine.” Keith cocked his brow up, but his heart stopped, his body frozen as the vision standing before him stole the life from him. In a pull from his gut, every memory, every whimsical laugh, every gentle stroke of his cheek, every glancing thumb over a pouting lip, violently wretched itself to the surface. Standing there in the Voltron Garrison uniforms, dressed in regal blue with stiff starched shoulders, stood the Altean royal. Markings etched in deep caramel skin, auburn hair styled and tossed in perfect chaos. Keith’s fingers twitched, wanting to run through the threads, and he made no effort to hide it.

“Are you?” Fine? Keith was fine? Lance’s fists clenched so hard his nails cut into his palms. His lips twitched and curved downward. His ears drooped ever so slightly. “Then you didn’t need me to check on you.” He looked down at the ground, knowing that if he looked at the man in front of him, he would be too tempted to grab him and pull him into his arms. He would take him and his perfect face, and kissable lips, and soft hair, and he would run away with him, or at least try to.

“Easy. Lance,” Keith touched one of the clenched fists, unaware he’d moved in. “You’re breaking the skin.”

Lance’s head snapped up, and he looked at him. “I…am…” His heart pounded loudly in his ears. He focused on the face that was now significantly closer than his own. His eyes moved to Keith’s lips. So close.

“We should probably talk.” This scent, Keith rolled his lip between his teeth. One ear canted to the left.

“Talk…right.” Lance couldn’t tear his gaze from Keith’s lips even as he unclenched his fists and lifted his hand, gentle fingers stroking over his cheek.

“Lance.” Keith let his held breath out.

“I don’t want to talk right now.” Lance said, a finger over Keith’s lips.

Keith leaned forward, holding his hand to him. Did he always feel this soft? Or was this part of his mutation.

Lance couldn’t stop himself. He replaced his fingers with his lips, taking Keith’s mouth in a kiss that made it seem like it had been more than two days.

Keith melted, his legs folding in as his spine tingled up to the base of his scalp. Kissing Lance was like brushing silk over his lips. Silk scented with sweet cream and honey, with the barest hint of garlic. When he broke the kiss, his nose sided up to Lance’s. “It shouldn’t feel this good.”

“Why? Shouldn’t it feel good?” Lance whispered and brushed their lips together again. Just a simple touch, but it sent jolts of electricity through his body. The ache he felt for Keith faded the longer they were in contact. He rested one of his hands on Keith’s hip and pulled him a little closer. He breathed in the subtle scent of desert flowers that seemed to cling to him. Nothing overwhelmingly sweet or heady, but occasionally there was a sharp woody note. Not pungent, but a quick burst as though announcing its presence.

A dry wind brushed up and tossed the ends of Keith’s hair, the black locks danced and twisted around his jaw then tickled the sensitive fur inside his ears making them twitch. He pulled away, but not far enough to stop feeling Lance’s breath against his lips. Those eyes searched Lance’s out, the desert sky reflecting into the ocean hue of the Altean’s.

Lance looked at the way Keith seemed to look even more wispish now than he did moments ago. His hair seemed to float, and his eyes practically glowed with the moonlight. “Keith…” If Lance didn’t know better, he would think Keith came from the night blooms. A wild spirit trapped in a corporeal form.

“Something wrong?”

“Not now.” A smile came to Lance’s lips. How could anything be wrong when he was holding him? It didn’t matter if the world fell apart around them if they had each other, right?

“Lance, we have to talk.” Keith couldn’t take his eyes away from the perfect cupid bow of Lance’s mouth.

“I’m not stopping you from talking.” Lance leaned in, but he stopped mere millimeters from his face. “Talk to me…” He whispered, not in any attempt to seduce. Well, not really anyway.

“We’ve never really talked before, have we?” Keith said, licking his taste from his lips. “But I know you. I know intimate details about you. I know what happens if I kiss just behind your ear. I know what will happen if I let you lean me back against that wall. But… I don’t know you. Do I?”

Lance didn’t know how to keep his eyes from widening at Keith’s words. He also didn’t know how to keep the hurt from crossing his features. “What do you mean you don’t know me? Even if you forgot who I was while we were in the garrison, you mean to tell me you never paid any attention at all to anything after?” His shoulders slumped, his ears pointed as far downwards as they could. His eyes immediately found the ground and he tried to focus on anything other than the twisting in his chest. The hand he had on Keith’s hip slipped down, and he sighed.

Of course, Lance would twist his words around. Keith knew his delivery had not been great, but he didn’t mean to kick the poor man where it obviously hurt. “That’s not what I meant.” Keith leaned back with his elbows on the railing. He tried to think of a way to simplify his feelings. Lance wasn’t dumb, he’d never made it into the Garrison if he was. Lance was not a super brain, a walking calculator, a living schematic, or war machine. The greatest thing about Lance had been how very human he was. His humanity, his warmth and his kindness. Lance was charitable and trusting to everyone. Well to everyone but Keith. Since the day they officially met, Keith and Lance had been antagonistic.

Their rivalry had been a one side joke to Keith. He didn’t even have to bring in his ego to notice how many leagues ahead of Lance he was in almost everything. Keith didn’t have to play along. He didn’t have rise to the challenge. But he did. Every. Damn. Time. It made him feel normal. Made him feel like a kid. He had fun. Somewhere along the line Lance’s special attention started to mean more to Keith. He started to seek Lance out. He trusted him. Lance stabilized the angry part of him and talked sense to him. Lance became his voice of reason. His clarity.

“No,” Keith started, turning his face to the breeze. “I paid attention. I noticed. I’m talking about knowing you from the memories of the other you. I mean what do you like? What’s your favorite food? How’s your family doing? Is Veronica older or younger than you?”

“Oh.” Lance felt the tension leave his shoulders, and the twisting in his chest unwound itself. “That really worried me, you know.” He lifted his head and smiled at Keith. “All I ever really did was pay attention to you. But when it comes down to it, we never really had time to just sit down and talk, right? We were always fighting. But I don’t think I ever really meant to fight with you. I just wanted your attention.”

He watched the way the wind tussled Keith’s hair, some of the strands obscuring his eyes. He reached over and pushed some behind his ear and watched him. “I like music and games. My favorite food is anything my mother cooks. I think they’re doing okay from what I can tell. And I’m the youngest kid, even younger now because of that weird time thing, so—”

Keith’s cheeks tinted the softest shade of pink. “Yeah, those time jumps kind of mess a lot of things up, don’t they?” Keith’s ear flicked Lance’s hand. “But this is who we are now. I’m not the person you remember.”

“But you’re not the person you were before we went in there either. Just like I’m not the same.” Lance pulled his hand back and smiled at him, though his eyes started to water. “If you want that me, I can’t give it to you.”

“You know that’s not where I’m going with this.” Keith sighed and pressed his forehead against Lance’s shoulder. “I gave up on you… I took almost two years, but I gave up. Those other people. That other me. It’s more like those memories were crammed in my skull, and all those things I couldn’t have are now right here, but not because of me. ‘I’ didn’t do anything.” Keith pulled himself away from Lance’s warmth and turned to leaned over the railing, looking out into the desert.

“I’ve never even-” he started again. “I hadn’t even kissed anyone before, but I know all these other things.” Keith bent his body out and laid his head over folded arms.

“What?” Lance lifted a hand to reach out for him, but with the way the other paladin was leaning, Lance wouldn’t have been able to touch anything but his backside, so he dropped his hand to his side instead. “You gave up on me? What are you talking about?” He felt his stomach grow heavy and try to curl into itself. “I thought you couldn’t stand me. You thought I was an idiot.” His brows furrowed. “This…whole time?”

“Yeah. This whole time.” Keith side eyed over his shoulder. “When I heard about you and Allura, I was happy for you. You deserve someone amazing like her.”

“I don’t.” Lance sighed and bowed his head. “Don’t be happy for me for that. Be annoyed. Be jealous. Be anything other than happy. I don’t want you to cheer me on. I don’t want you to give up on me when I had no idea.” He moved then and stepped up behind Keith, wrapping his arms around his waist and pressing his forehead against the back of his shoulder. “That’s not fair.”

“Would it have made a difference?” Keith’s ear twitched. “We were too busy. This is the longest we’ve gone without a battle. We don’t have time for relationships…” Keith groaned with the press of Lance’s weight against his back. The heat he’d left now surrounded him, and he didn’t dare to stop the idle sound of pleasure the contact gave him. “We didn’t have time for moments like this.” He moved to nuzzle his nose into the top of his head, kissing the brown strands sticking to his lips. “I didn’t have enough time to stop and be jealous. Until we were drifting, and I lost it…”

“I don’t know what it would have done. I guess that doesn’t matter anymore. What matters is now.” Lance murmured into the back of Keith’s shoulder and pressed himself closer. He just wanted to mold himself against him. The contact felt better. “But now…now you won’t give up, will you? What can I do to convince you to stay with me?”

“Talk. See what happens.” The darker haired man whimpered. He stood straight, bringing Lance with him. The new position and their slight difference in height pushed Lance’s lips to his ear and Keith fell into the intimate touch with a shiver.

“Then we should go inside where it’s warmer.” Lance’s lips moved over the soft fur that lined Keith’s ear as he whispered. “Unless you want to cuddle out here for warmth.”

“I…” Keith mind went blank, those lips against his ear felt like pure bliss. It was every itch getting scratched at once, every pain getting soothed away. It was comfort. “I-” a rumble, low and soft, spread from Keith’s chest.

That sound was like the most calming music. Any pain, anxiety, and sadness Lance had seemed to melt away. He smiled a little and continued to nuzzle the soft fur. “Maybe both? Go inside and cuddle?”

“Do you really think it’d stop there?” Keith tilted his head. “Cuddling me is not on your mind.”

“I will control myself until you want me.” Lance whispered and pulled one of his hands back from his waist, though he kept the other around him. “You wanted to talk, so we’ll talk. I promise I won’t make you regret it.”

“You’re not who I’m worried about.” Keith captured the retreating hand and held his wrist to lips, whispering kisses along the sensitive skin. “Can you control me?”

“Do I need to?” Lance’s eyes darkened as quick jolts of pleasure moved from his wrist to other parts of his body. He watched Keith and licked his own lips.

Keith’s posture shifted, his shoulder slanting and his neck titling open. The posture was submissive, inviting, settling between predator and prey, never fully committing to either role.

“If you’re going to give me that kind of opening, should I take it?” Lance leaned in and allowed his tongue to taste the salt off Keith’s soft skin.

“My Altean…” Keith whispered, his clawed hand holding Lance’s head in place.

“Is that a yes, kitten?” Lance licked again, moving his tongue languidly, as if he didn’t want to sacrifice any taste.

“Take what you need. I’ve never stopped you.” Keith spoke distantly, sliding his hips back and falling into a familiar rhythm.

“I can’t take what I need you to give.” Lance pulled his head from Keith’s neck and looked at him. Light returned to his eyes, and he smiled, though his lips trembled with a hunger he had to push back. “You’d hate me if I did. I refuse to let that happen.”

“Lance, Keith.” Shiro’s low voice broke through the silence. “Pidge is ready for Keith in the lab to undergo some blood work.”

“Shiro?” Focus came back to Keith’s eyes as he found the larger man standing in the doorway. Shadowed by the hallway lights, his expression flat and unreadable.

“Yeah. It’s me Keith.” He spoke softly, in his usual smooth baritone. “Get to the lab, and I’ll be along shortly.”

“Blood work?” Lance’s head turned to look at Shiro, a frown coming to his lips as he stared at the larger man. He felt his blood run cold, but he did his best to control his expression. The last thing any of them needed was Lance to freak out. “The hell is that about? Should I go too?” His hand slid down Keith’s arm, and he curled his fingers, locking them with Keith’s.

“Nothing weird Lance. She wants a simple draw to compare to the baseline. Keith requested it.” Shiro said, folding his arms across his chest. “You need to accept that no one here is out to hurt you. Either of you. We’re your friends Lance.”

Lance snorted at Shiro’s half-accusation about his distrust and looked at Keith out of the corner of his eye, one brow lifting. “You did?” He didn’t wait for Keith’s answer before he let go of his hand and stepped away. “Well then, don’t let me keep you from the plans you already had.” He stepped away from Keith and pushed past Shiro to go back inside.

“Lance. You need to reign yourself in.” Shiro turned after Lance, but he was stopped by a slender firm hand on his shoulder. “Keith…”

“He needs to come around on his own. You can’t force it.” Keith watched Lance’s back. “I wanted the blood drawn, so it can run through the database of existing species. I also want to see how much of me has changed. I’m human, Galra, and whatever else.”

Lance’s expression darkened, and his voice lowered once he stepped into the building. “Reign myself in? Shiro, you only think you can speak to me that way because you don’t know anything.” He snorted and shrugged his shoulders. “Whatever. I won’t get in the way of whatever you had planned, Keith. Clearly I’m the only one out of the loop.” He continued down the hallway, walking away from the two of them, fists clenching.

“La-” Keith called out to the retreating Paladin but the door had slipped shut behind him leaving Shiro and Keith speechless.

“Keith. I think you two should stay away from each other.”

“Shiro!”

“Just for now. You both have a lot to sort out. Clear your heads. Figure yourselves out again.”

“I know. I just...when I’m near him I-”

“You don’t have to explain anything to me. You two have done nothing wrong, but you’re not you. And you both need to have a clear focused head for the battles that are coming.”

“We know. It’s just hard, right now.”

Lance stopped when the door shut behind him, and he punched the wall, resting his arm against it as he fought down the anger that had started bubbling up in his stomach. Why did Keith say he wanted to spend time with him if he already had plans? What if Lance hadn’t controlled himself? If Shiro had walked in on anything else, how many more accusations would he fling in Lance’s direction? How the hell did he know how Lance felt? If Shiro wasn’t out to hurt him like he claimed, why did he have such talent for it? And drawing blood? Needles? The very thought made Lance nauseous, and he gritted his teeth to hold it back. There was no way he was going to let Keith go through that alone, even if he requested it.

He grunted and turned around, pushing open the door again and staring at the two of them before he moved and grabbed Keith’s hand. “Pidge can get a sample later.” He mumbled and pulled Keith towards him. “I won’t let you ditch me that easily.” He could at least blame his irrational behavior on his jealousy.

“Lance!” Shiro yelled after him.

Keith stumbled behind Lance, shooting a look at Shiro before righting himself. The words transferred between them were clear. ‘I’ve got this.’

“Lance, settle down. I didn’t plan for anything. You came to me. I said I wanted to talk. I didn’t know Pidge would be ready.” Light fingers smoothed over the ones that gripped him, turning pale skin red.

“I can’t settle down.” Lance stopped pulling Keith once they were halfway down the hallway. His hand trembled a little as he held Keith’s almost desperately, but he loosened his grip, so he wasn’t hurting him. “Not when you’re being taken from me.”

“Lance, who is taking me?” Keith reached up and touched his cheek, stroking his thumb under his lip. “No one is taking me. Lance, come back to me. We’re at the Garrison. We’re far away from all of that.”

“I have to protect you. I won’t let them put needles in you. Not again.” Lance looked at Keith, his eyes wide, tear-filled, though several drops fell when Keith touched his cheeks. “I won’t let you go…I can’t.”

“Lance, look at me. Really look at me.” Keith held Lance’s cheeks. His heart twisted to near breaking. “That’s not us. We aren’t them. We are Paladins of Voltron. No one is going to drug me or take me away from you.”

Lance looked at Keith even as tears clouded his eyes. “I know that. I know…” he rested his hands over the ones on his cheeks. “I know…Pidge isn’t going to hurt you, but…” His fingers trembled. “I don’t know how to explain how it suddenly felt. Thinking about you being poked with a syringe…” His stomach twisted in knots, and he closed his eyes. “I was already so angry with Shiro, and then that memory hit me. I’m sorry.”

“They are our friends, Lance. They are our family.” Keith pulled the other man’s head down against his forehead. “I’m here with you, okay? I know it’s all messed up, but I’m still here. Remember who you are. Remember who I am.”

“I am. I know who we are. I know all of that.” Lance sighed. “But what I know and what I feel are not always the same.” He kept himself close to Keith and sighed. “I won’t stop you, but let me come with you at least? Let me see it’s okay even though I know it is?”

“I don’t know if it’s a good idea right now.” Keith worried his lower lip. A spark glinted in his eyes. “I have a better idea. Come with me.” He pulled Lance behind him. Excitement growing with each step, giving the battle-hardened Paladin a carefree spring in his walk. He brought Lance to his room, barren and void of any personal touches, save for a small collection of knives and blasters, meticulously organized by size. The knives were nothing new, but the blasters came as a bit of a shock, unless one knew Krolia.

Keith was a carbon copy of the Galra woman. Beautiful, fierce, and deadly on all counts. She was as skilled with a sword as she was with blasters, and after seeing his mother in action Keith knew something was missing from his skill set.

Before going into the alternate reality, Keith and Lance had come to a trade off in skills. Keith would teach Lance how to wield a sword and Lance would show Keith how to aim a gun. They never made it to their first lesson.

Keith gathered a few pillows and threw blankets at Lance. “Take these.”

Lance stumbled when he was pulled, but he caught the blankets, looking at Keith with shimmering eyes. “What…?” He held the items close to his chest, trying to control his hands enough to stop the trembling from earlier. It was easier to focus on hugging the fabric than it was to look at all the weapons around the room. Keith…was really lonely wasn’t he? He had nothing in here but necessary items, and for him, the weapons were necessary. He sighed and looked at him with a slight pout. “Keith…?”

“Do you trust me?” Keith smirked, an impish glint in his eyes mirroring the boy he’d been that faithful desert night. He was completely oblivious to the thoughts in Lance’s mind.

“Of course I do. I just don’t understand what you’re doing.” Lance felt heat come to his cheeks at the grin Keith flashed him. It eased some of the worry, but he inched closer to him anyway.

“I just thought of something you’d love.” Excitement rang in Keith’s voice as he packed up a few more things and hoisted a knapsack over his shoulder. His tongue poked out of his mouth as he went over a mental check list. “All right! Ready.”

There was something in the way Keith looked that made Lance’s heart beat faster in his chest. It could have been the sparkle in his eyes or the way he almost bounced as he spoke to him. Maybe it was the way he looked adorable with his tongue poking out of his mouth like that. “For what? What am I going to love?”

Keith grinned and put a finger to his lips, locking a secret away. “Follow me.”

Keith led Lance out of Atlas and through the Garrison. They didn’t go through the dorms, instead he led Lance through the faculty halls, down twisted corridors with a timeline etched in the masonry. Smooth fiberglass gave way to plaster and wood, then to brick and stone. Keith had heard the Garrison used to be a Military Science base before World War lll, and a lot of the old foundation still stood strong.

They were several feet below the earth now, inside a basement hold only found in nightmares. The atmosphere made Keith’s boyish sprightliness all the more endearing as he spun on his heels, his back pressed against an old cellar door as he waited for Lance.

Lance followed Keith, curiosity growing with every step. Well, curiosity and his creeped-out factor. His eyes widened the darker the hallways got. And when they made it to the basement, he could swear he was paler than he had ever been before. Was Keith taking him to some sort of murder dungeon or something? Why else was it so scary down here? When they stopped in front of the door, he blinked and tried to swallow down his anxiety. “Where is this?”

Keith shrugged. “I don’t know. I found it after I learned Shiro was dying.” He pressed his hand against the door. “It kind of became a place for me. Away from it all, ya know?”

Keith pushed the door open. Cobwebs tore and billowed as the room sucked in fresh air. His long ears swiveled then flicked in vain to rid themselves of webbing as they listened for anything out of place.

“No one’s been here since I thought Shiro died… the first time.”

“Oh? So why did you bring me here? And why does it feel like you’re taking me into a murder-dungeon?” Lance stepped into the room, nose twitching when a piece of cobweb landed on it. “You’re not going to lock me in here are you? Is there something you’re not telling me?”

“Thought about it.” Keith teased, pulling him into the room. “Wait here. Close your eyes. Actually, it’s pitch black down here so do whatever.”

Keith didn’t wait for Lance to obey him, instead he vanished, leaving Lance alone in the perceived center of a basement cell. There was a click and the rumble of generators. Lights flicked to life and cast the room in a warm blue glow. Above them the ceiling came alive as the trail of lights led into the base of a giant pool! The ceiling was made of glass and above them sat thousands, hundreds of thousands of gallons of water. Man-made coral structures stretched beyond the wall in prismatic colors. Tropical sea life of every kind floated lazily above them unaware or unbothered by the voyeurs below.

“We are under the marine biology pool.” Keith stepped up behind Lance again, resting his chin on his shoulder.

Lance went cold when Keith disappeared, but as soon as those lights came on, all of his trepidation left him. He relaxed his shoulders and looked at Keith out of the corner of his eye. The soft light filtering through the fish tank made his skin almost appear purple as it had when they were on the mission. Though as the light brightened, the color faded. “You were right. I do love this.” He murmured and shifted the blankets in his arms, still watching the smaller man. He hadn’t even looked up yet, but everything he wanted to see was right in front of him.

“Yeah?” Keith smiled then blinked, realizing something. “You haven’t looked around.” His ear flicked again with the webbing, batting the side of Lance’s face in the process.

“Sorry. I was distracted by you.” Lance smiled and tore his gaze from Keith to look around, though he didn’t move since he was enjoying the other man’s proximity. His eyes widened as he looked up at the schools of multicolored fish that swam in circles above them. The lights danced about them as the water moved in the tanks above their heads. “Wow…I didn’t know a place like this existed…”

“I’ve been wanting to take you here for a while.” Keith took the blankets from Lance and started to lay everything out on the floor. “Even before all of this,” he waved his hands to signify his ears and Lance’s marks. “As a friend… guess I don’t have to worry about that.”

“Yeah?” Lance looked at Keith again and smiled, helping him by setting up the pillows. “Well, even if it’s later than you wanted, thank you for bringing me here. It’s wonderful.”

“I don’t know how many people know this place, but until we leave with Atlas, it can be just ours.” Keith’s cheeks filled with color. “If you want.”

“I do want. Does this mean you’re going to take me up on my offer to cuddle?” Lance grinned, reaching over to touch one of Keith’s red cheeks.

“Yeah, I want to give you something,” Keith leaned into his hand.

Lance cupped Keith’s cheek and slid his thumb over his lower lip. “You already give me everything, even if you don’t realize it. I…”

Keith’s lips parted, and his ears canted low. “I haven’t done much. More damage than good. You and Allura. I feel like I’ve done something wrong to both of you.”

“The only one who did anything wrong is me.” Lance shook his head and leaned in. “I’m the one who’s causing others pain, but I’m selfish. I’m not going to let you go.”

“I want you to be selfish. I don’t want to be let go. I’m confused about a lot of things, and my head constantly hurts. But not when I’m with you. You make sense. You feel right. I don’t want to go back to how things were.”

“I don’t want to go back to that, not that I could.” Lance brushed Keith’s lip again. “We went through too much together that no one else understands.” He smiled and rested his forehead against Keith’s, his eyes closing as he just absorbed the other man’s warmth.

“Shiro thinks we should be apart for a bit to regain a sense of who we are.” Keith nosed in past Lance’s and his lips moved against the other’s warm flush cheek. The feel of his pampered skin thrilled him. He wanted to mark it, kiss it, make it is own. He nuzzled to the line under his cheek; a flash of hunger jolted down the paladin’s spine, and he felt the buzzing against his lips. His fangs itched.

“That’s a terrible idea.” Lance’s words were barely louder than a whisper as his breath pitched from the feather-light attention of Keith’s lips. They weren’t as soft as they were when they were on the mission, but Lance preferred the way they were now. This was Keith. This was what he wanted. “Keith, what do you think? Putting Shiro aside for a moment…” He pulled his head back only far enough to look into those violet gems that looked back at him.

“I don’t want to think. I want to shut down and just get carried away with you.” Keith slipped his hands around Lance’s chest, the black glossy nails flexing against the other’s jacket. “But we can’t shut down. We have a purpose bigger than us.” His claw hooked the emblem over Lance’s breast. “We need to stay grounded.”

“So you want to do what he says?” Lance looked down at the hand at his chest. He watched the way Keith’s fingers barely moved against the fabric, and he sighed, resting his own hand over his and holding it there. “I will do whatever you want me to do…Even if I don’t like it.”

“It’s not forever. Just a few days. We can manage that.” Keith folded his fingers into Lance’s. “Starting tomorrow.” He spoke as a man prolonging an addiction.

“I guess a few days isn’t so bad…” Lance nodded and settled back into the blankets, pulling Keith with him, his arms wrapping around that smaller frame. Keith had always been only a little shorter than him, but he was always so built. Now, all those muscles were compact into a shorter, thinner body. Keith had so much power, but now he fit perfectly into his arms. “Tomorrow,” he agreed with a slight puff of his cheeks.

“Until then?” Keith slipped his body comfortably between Lance’s legs and against his chest. His arms slipping around him in a lazy hook. Steady fingers found exposed skin and drew idle figure eights on the dip of his hip, his pinky finding purchase in the belt loop of his jeans.

“Until then I won’t let you go.” Lance pressed his lips to the top of Keith’s head, nose nuzzling the black mop. “And when I do have to let go, I’ll be miserable about it until I can pull you into my arms again.” One hand rested against Keith’s back and rubbed slow circles, trying to comfort both of them.

Keith couldn’t stop it. The low rumble started up again. It was undeniable now. He’d kept so many of his avatars quirks it was getting harder for him to figure out where he started and where the other side of him ended. “Looks like I kept that too…”

“Yeah.” Lance couldn’t keep the smile from his lips. Not when Keith’s purr relaxed him in some ways and excited him in others. “I like it though. As long as it’s for me. If anyone else makes you purr, I’m afraid of what I might do to them. I’m just that possessive.”

“Who else could make me… aside from Hunk’s cooking… you can’t hold that against me.” Keith joked as he turned in Lance’s arms. “He makes this Lava cake and uses a cheesecake fudge filling…”

“But then Hunk is making you purr, and I’ll be jealous and pouty,” Lance muttered, but there was no bite to his words. “But you just gave me valuable information, so I guess I’m satisfied for now.”

“Valuable information?” Keith’s head cocked to the side. “About lava cakes?”

“You like sweets.” Lance smirked and lifted a hand, so he could slide one finger over Keith’s cheek.

“Oh! Yeah, well I don’t hide it. Just we haven’t really had any around us. Dad and I did treat night every Friday. Oh and there used to be this fast food chain, it served the best greasiest burgers and fries. Dad would take me there to cheer me up.”

“He’d do this thing where he’d dip the fries into the shake. It was so weird! But it tasted good. Sweet and salty.”

Lance listened, making sure he took in every word Keith said. His fingers played in his hair, gently curling the strands. Keith was adorable when he opened up. His eyes seemed to light up, and he smiled with an almost childlike innocence. This is the kind of conversation he wished they had before. “I will make sure you get a good milkshake and some fries, then.” His hand smoothed the hair on the back of Keith’s head before his hand rested on his back. “And when this is all over, I’ll take you to Cuba. There’s this beach hut that makes the best food. The drinks there are amazing. Perfect for sitting in the sand and watching the ocean. What else did you do with your dad?”

“Fished, camped. He had a thing for space and looking at the stars. It was like he was always waiting for something. I guess I get it now.” Keith laid is head down, his eyes drifting shut. “Cuba sounds nice…”

Lance held Keith a little closer and made a silent promise. He would do his damned best to make sure Keith never had to wait for him. His eyes closed, and he nuzzled his lips into Keith’s ebony hair. If Keith was going to drift off, Lance wouldn’t be able to stay awake much longer. “It’ll be nicer with you there.”

“Hmm, to the left.” Keith whispered, nibbling a little on the collar of Lance’s shirt.

“Hm?” Lance shifted when he felt Keith’s lips so close to his neck. He pressed his face into the smaller man’s hair a bit more, the nuzzles slow and steady.

“You’ll put me to sleep…” Keith’s words were as soft breath, nearly drowned out by velvety rhythmic purr.

“If it means I get to hold you all night, I don’t mind.” Lance kissed the top of Keith’s head and whispered. “This is the only thing that feels right.”

-----

“Are you sure you should be up?” Shiro’s gentle voice seeped through the burning tight bricks of Keith’s walled up mind. The verbal mortar leaking through the cracks his meditation methods tried to seal up through breathing exercises.

“Yeah man, you don’t look good.” Hunk settled next to Keith, bending his head around to see his face from under his hood. “You look pale.”

“I’m always pale.”

“Hunk.” Shiro said, the warning palatable. He was being protective of Hunk. For all his efforts, Keith’s temper only gained a longer fuse, but the explosive tendencies were still there. “It’s a bad day.”

Keith almost scoffed at the words. A bad day. A bad day might have been stubbing a toe. A bad day might have been a trip to the infirmary after getting your arm sliced open by falling glass. A bad day might have been the day after spending the night curled over a toilet as everything you ever ate in the past year decided it wanted to expel itself from your body until only bile was left on your tongue.

Keith would give anything to be having a ‘bad day.’ His skin itched, down to his bones. His head split to all four sides and through his eyes. His ears picked up every piercing wail of the Atlas’s engine and every screeching beep of the computer systems. He couldn’t sleep. He didn’t eat. Food tasted like ash and sand in his mouth.

Two weeks had gone by since waking from the pod and every day since separating from Lance had been one step closer to a hellish finish line, and Keith didn’t want to know what was on the other side. He may have felt more like himself, but this body wouldn’t make the transition peacefully.

A paternal hand settled on Keith’s back. It was warm and kind, easily melting the agitation. Keith was thankful for Shiro. He’d moved into the older man’s room a few days ago under his insistence. When the black paladin had taken to sleep walking and night terrors, Shiro couldn’t let it go on. He may not have known the nightmares plaguing Keith, but he certainly knew the symptoms. Keith’s mind was digesting the traumas forced upon him from the ghost. The nights when he finally caught some sleep Keith woke in the middle of scream, not sure where he was or who he was with. One embarrassing night, he’d pressed himself upon Shiro. He didn’t know who the large man was, all he knew was power, strength, and the ability to protect. So, he made himself available to him. He propositioned him.

Shiro never said a disparaging or condemning word. He picked Keith up and placed him in a bath running the water cold to kill the heat inside. He spoke soothingly as both a mother and a father might as Keith fought back the tremors and regained a sense of who he was. Shiro simply smiled. He didn’t go through the details of what Keith had done or said. He spared his friend from any further embarrassment outside of a providing a nonplussed report. Shiro was a damn Saint.

By the authority granted him, Shiro took Lance and Keith off active duty. The action was nonverbal and understood since day one, but the Atlas captain made it official. The two were allowed to conduct drills and to take their respective Lions out as they saw fit, but their mental states were not allowed anywhere near the stress of a real battle.

Civilian clothing also became the norm. Keith opted for oversized hooded sweatshirts. It covered his head, hid his face, and those damn fur covered ears. They betrayed him at every moment. Stupid little lie detectors letting the world know every emotion and every thought that went through his mind. He glared up from the table as a familiar scent preceded a familiar face. A familiar gorgeous face. A face he hadn’t allowed himself to see since the night in the Garrison basement. Smooth caramel skin, tinted cheeks, and the tiniest flush of pink over tan lips. Biteable lips. Lips reminding him of perfect softness. Swollen and red, with the faintest part in them as he pants his name.

Another thought for the jar.

“Keith, you okay?”

“Huh?” Keith turned a bowed head to Shiro, pulling his hood tighter when he heard Allura’s perfect beautiful accented voice as she dragged Lance into the room, her arm hugged securely around him.

“You broke your fork.”

Lance hadn’t been paying much attention as Allura dragged him into the room. It was as though his body was on autopilot, allowing her to tug him wherever she wanted him to go. So he hadn’t pulled his gaze from the floor, watching the tiles so he didn’t have to look at anyone else. He didn’t want to look at anyone else, especially not Shiro or Keith. While Shiro thought it was best to keep Lance updated, he was always too quick to assure Lance that nothing was happening between them. That even though Keith was sleeping in his bed, it was nothing. That even though Keith had thrown himself at Shiro one night, intentional or not, nothing happened. Shiro was trying to protect Lance. He knew that. He understood. But it didn’t matter how logically he looked at it or tried to see where Shiro was coming from. It didn’t matter how many times Shiro rested his hand on his shoulder and spoke soothingly. All that mattered was that Shiro separated them. Keith wanted to be separated. And Lance was the one left to suffer alone.

At first, he started to feel heavier, as though every cell in his body grew denser and weighed more. His bones ached. His muscles burned. But Lance pushed through all of that for Keith’s sake. He tried to think of every good thing about Keith that he could. Every minute of suffering would be worth it in the end when he could finally be with Keith again. So Lance forced smiles to his lips when others spoke to him. He pushed out laughter when someone was trying to be funny. He did whatever he could to keep as optimistic as possible. And so when Shiro came to him, Lance knew the older man hoped he could handle it.

He couldn’t. He knew he should have brushed it off. He understood that Shiro didn’t see Keith like that. He was very aware that Keith didn’t do it intentionally. But none of that mattered. Lance found himself hating every word that came out of Shiro’s mouth, and the more he explained and tried to reassure Lance, the more Lance hated him. He tried to convince himself that it was just his other memories making him feel that way. He tried to focus on the fact that Shiro was trying to help him, not hurt him, but none of it worked. And that hatred grew and spread like a virus, infecting every part of him.

Lance refused to leave his room. He stopped showing up to drills. He stopped talking to everyone. He just sat in the darkness and wallowed in his hatred until it completely clouded his senses. He wouldn’t eat. He wouldn’t sleep. The aches in his body and the pain his chest started to fade as he grew numb. But the more he avoided people, the worse he felt, so when Allura started lecturing him about taking care of himself, he no longer cared enough to fight it. There was nothing left for him, so what did it matter if she dragged him out of the room and pushed him to sit at one of the tables? What did it matter if His hair was tussled and his clothing was a bit wrinkled? He just sat there, head bowed, eyes closed. He gritted his teeth every time he could hear Shiro’s voice, but he said or did nothing.

“If you’re going to be like this, why don’t you just go talk to him?” Allura’s finger pressed into Lance’s cheek as she spoke, practically huffing out the words. “You’re absolutely miserable like this, and I’m getting tired of having to force you to function like a normal person.”

“Then leave me alone.” Lance muttered.

“Oh stop it. Just talk to him…” She looked over at Keith and clicked her tongue. Hunk would be easy to distract, but Shiro was another issue entirely. Maybe she could just ask him to give them some time? Would he argue with her? She rested her hand on Lance’s shoulder and squeezed it. “If I get them away from him, will you talk to him?”

“I don’t know if I want to.”

“What if I threaten to tell your mother you’re not taking care of yourself? I’ve been able to keep her away for these past two weeks, but maybe I’ll stop?”

“Fine. I’ll talk to him.”

“Yes you will.” Allura squeezed his shoulder again before stepping towards the other table. “Shiro, I need you and Hunk for a moment. It’s rather important, and I won’t take no for an answer.”

Shiro stood up with a reluctant stiffness. The man was not a child, and he certainly wasn’t an idiot. He knew their encounter would happen when he brought Keith someplace public like the mess hall. He stood and patted the back of Keith’s head through the hood. “Just say the word, and I’ll come back.”

Keith’s back met with the chair as his fingers thrummed on the table. He sat alone, unprotected, and wilting under the gaze he knew was burning into him. Their eyes met, the fire washed through him like a heated tide and the Paladin sat, transfixed. Melted to the chair.

At first Lance avoided looking at Keith, but once he did, his gaze never left him. He stared for a moment before he stood from his seat and grabbed his plate. Anything to keep him grounded, even if he had no intention of eating anything. He took slow steps towards the other man, but he said nothing as he walked around the table and sat in the chair next to him. “Hey…” he choked out the word when he set his plate down, trying to hide the trembling of his hand.

Keith’s mouth moved but the words didn’t come out. His throat became dry and shriveled in on itself. Instead he nodded, trying not to breathe but the scent of the Altean bore into him. His pores burned, and his hair stood on end, waiting for lightning to strike.

So Keith really did want to avoid him, didn’t he? Lance’s fingers curled, and he quickly dropped his hands into his lap, under the cover of the table so he could clench his fists. “You eating?” Lance glanced at the food on the plate before looking back to Keith’s face. “It doesn’t really look like it.” He should get up. He should go. This wasn’t going to work. Allura should have just left him alone in his room.

Keith lowered his eyes and the rest of his body followed through. “I’m trying to.” He said.

“Are you?” Lance didn’t bother hiding the skepticism in his voice. He pulled one hand up from his lap and poked at the flood on his own plate. “If you say so….”

“There’s no taste.” Keith said. He accented the honesty of his words as he pushed the food around, creating a volcano of mashed potatoes, but then he caught something. A whiff on the air, something that made his eyes glisten over and his mouth water. Sweet honeyed cream. He could almost feel it in his mouth, thick and dripping off his chin and he pulled the scent to him, seeing the swirling blue particles with predatory eyes. He turned and faced Lance, his tongue curling over a fang to ease the growing throb.

“It’s not the food, is it?” Lance watched Keith as the hair on the back of his neck started to stand. A frown sat on his lips, and he refused to move from his seat. “Keith, I can feel you trying to pull at me.”

“I’m hungry Lance.” Keith swayed closer to the Altean, a groan on his lips dying before it had been given voice. He jerked back with a flash of violence, sitting straight in his chair, his lip caught tight in his teeth as a fang broke into the soft flesh. He focused on the sharp pain of it, and the taste of his own blood in his mouth. He couldn’t do that here. Feeding, even like this, was sacred. Two souls forming together and providing, becoming one. Leaving the other swooning and meek. The sensation was all the bliss of heaven, combined with the sinfulness of hell.

“Quiznack.” He swore, letting his abused skin free, instantly plumping swollen and red.

“Don’t hurt yourself.” Lance watched Keith’s movements. For a moment, it felt good knowing Keith needed him. That Keith was hungry for him. But there was a cynical part of his brain that tried to convince him that Keith would be fine if he took from anyone. Lance wasn’t special.

“Yeah. Thanks for the advice,” Keith snapped, as he stood up. Did Lance just come here to watch him suffer? Was he that bitter about giving him space? Keith didn’t like their situation any more than Lance did but they agreed on it. That night in the cellar, they came to an understanding. At least, Keith thought they had. “I’m going back to my room.” He brushed the blood from his lip. “Before Shiro sees this.”

“You mean his room.” Lance’s voice was soft, but it was laced with something more than simple bitterness. And when he looked up at Keith, he didn’t bother hiding the negative emotions that swirled inside him. A few days. This was only supposed to be a few days, and yet it was much longer than that, and Keith certainly was comfortable in Shiro’s bed wasn’t he? Lance narrowed his eyes at Keith as he slowly got to his own feet. “What don’t you want him to see? That you’re talking to me even though he wanted to take you away from me?”

“Watch it, Lance.” Keith warned. His ears pressed against the side of his head, hidden by the hood. Shiro was off limits. Lance could say and do anything he wanted. He could shout barbs at Keith from across the room or snark spite about any number of Keith’s follies, but Shiro was always off limits. Then it dawned on him. A slow realization that drained the warmth from his body and let everything settle like cold steel in his gut. There could be only one explanation for Lance’s cold bitter tone.

“He told you.” Keith took a step away from the table, his eyes narrowing where Shiro stood speaking to Allura then back at Lance. “Y-you know?”

Lance kept his voice down, if only because he refused to yell. But then again no one else needed to hear this. He didn’t tell anyone why he had been in such a mood lately, but he thought Shiro would have at least let Keith know he told Lance. Apparently not. That only made his bitterness swell. “The morning after it happened. He claimed it was better if I knew. That he wanted me to feel assured that nothing would happen between you two even though you sleep in his bed with him. Even though you threw yourself at him. Even though you would never tell me yourself.” Lance stepped around the table and stopped at Keith’s side, glancing at him out of the corner of his eye. “You don’t want him to see that you need my help, even though he’s the one you chose in the end, is that it?”

Keith’s head bowed low. He absorbed Lance’s words with silence. Strong straight shoulders curved down in a shifting slump. Hands laid open and defeated at his sides. Keith never had much. He never asked for anything. But he had his pride. It was only now he realized how fragile of a thing that actually was. Hot mortified tears burned his eyes and dripped to the floor. Humiliated. Embarrassed. Hurt beyond any words he could fathom. Not just by Lance. Shiro too. “Is that how it is?” He whispered so his voice wouldn’t crack.

Lance sighed. He went too far. He let his own pain cloud his judgment, and he was meaner to Keith than he intended to be, though he wasn’t sure he actually intended to be mean in the first place. Those tears broke him, and he carefully reached up and wiped them off Keith’s cheeks. “Not if you talk to me, Keith.” He whispered and stood in front of him, leaning in so their foreheads touched. “Do you know how much it hurt me to hear that? I know it was an accident, and you didn’t know what you were doing. I should be supporting you, not snapping at you. But he told me, and it shattered me. I was holding on, for you, and suddenly the floor was pulled out from under me, and I lost you.” He kept whispering, his hands still holding his cheeks.

Keith became mailable under Lance’s hands. Moving how he bade him, his cheeks hot and wet with unyielding tears. “Sounds like you two do plenty of talking already.” His voice was low and trembled with a knife’s edge of control. “So, my nightmares are hard on you. Shame. He figured telling you everything was the best choice for me. Hmn? Do you want to know Lance?” Keith hissed, a low growl in his throat. “Do you want to hear it? That way you can be the one to own it instead? Then maybe it will be easier for you to tolerate.”

Keith gripped Lance’s shirt, careful of his own claws despite how his body shook. He pressed Lance back against the wall and pushed him up off his feet. The gesture a reminder to the brown-haired man just who Keith was. A Paladin. A fighter. A trained blade. Stronger than him. Faster than him. A display of dominance and a claim on himself as his own territory. His eyes didn’t match. His eyes didn’t go along with the rage of his actions. No. Those were scared, wounded eyes. The eyes of a cornered creature looking for refuge and not finding it.

“Do you want to know how they touched him? Do you want to hear how they made him cry? Do you want to hear about the times he was taken for an idiot and gave what he had only to be given nothing?” He lowered his hand down and pressed it against the spot on Lance’s stomach where Keith’s figment bared a scar. “How it feels to have a been pinned to a wall and left to hang?”

Keith stepped away, letting Lance drop to his feet. “It’s all right here. I’ll tell you anything you want to know. Maybe you’ll like hearing it. Hmm? If you think it something worth being jealous over.” He leaned in then, his lips by Lance’s ear. “I feel it. As if it were me. Every part of it. Their lips, their hands, their bodies. Every. Single. One. Now tell me how jealous you are. Tell me how much you can’t stand it. And I’ll tell you what their breath smelled like, or about their calloused fingers. Take your pick, Lance.”

Lance remained quiet as he listened to Keith. He didn’t struggle as he was lifted and dropped again. He just let Keith have his moment, and he absorbed it all before he looked at him, eyes dulled in defeat, in pain. It didn’t matter of Keith looked at him with those scared eyes. His actions, his words, it let Lance know where exactly he stood, and it wasn’t with Keith. If he had the capacity to cry after that, he likely would have. Instead he shook his head and sighed. He would no longer tell Keith, or anyone, of his pain or his insecurities. If this was what was going to happen when he opened his mouth, he wouldn’t do it anymore. “You know I already know. You told me everything when we were in there.” His voice remained quiet, but he spoke slowly and steadily, mostly to keep his emotions down and keep himself from saying something he would regret more than he regretted everything right now. “Shiro barely talks to me. He just told me what he thought I should know. He told me not to worry. Guess he was wrong.”

It was clear Keith made his choice. Lance wasn’t the one he wanted. He wasn’t the one he needed. Shiro was the only one he trusted. Shiro was the one he sought out for comfort. Shiro was the only one for Keith. Lance swallowed back the lump that formed in his throat. He did his best to keep his body from trembling, but Keith had struck him so thoroughly that there was just nothing left. Keith didn’t want him. Keith had his own suffering, and the only one who could soothe him was the man watching them from the far side of the room. He should have known.

Lance adjusted his shirt now that Keith had let him go, but he still felt the phantom of Keith’s hand lifting him from his feet. This was the conclusion Keith came to after so much time apart. If this was what Keith wanted, Lance would give it to him. Without a word, he stepped right up to him and looked into his eyes. There was nothing left for him. He would push it down. He would just be what everyone else needed him to be, and in Keith’s case, it was a source of food. So he pressed his lips to Keith’s, the marks on his skin glowing as he forced him to take a mouthful of his quintessence. Not an amount that should have affected him, but just enough to satiate the hunger. He stepped back when it was done, the glow disappearing. “…Make sure you eat.” He whispered before stepping around him and walking towards the door.

“Mmph!” Keith struggled at first, before his eyes glazed over feeling Lance’s life force come over him, fill him, and burn away the ache of his hunger. Every cell came alive, and he felt each one’s awakening like a pleasured spark traveling through tissue, blood, and organ. He tasted the sweet liquid and he rolled it over his tongue, his body shivering with each draught he’d been given, and it was done.

Cold. Empty. Starving. He sunk to the floor, his legs unable to bare his weight, watching Lance retreat from him. He done something so intimate, had shown to the whole room, and now he left Keith exposed and vulnerable.

“Lance,” Keith whimpered, golden eyes glittering helplessly trying to hide inside the curtain of his hair.

The others in the room could only watch the display with horror, sympathy, and empathetic pain. Shiro appeared to be lost in his own pain, forced to watch but unable to move. Pidge whispered a regrettable sigh. “We did this to them.”

Allura started forward, but Hunk rested a hand on her shoulder and held her back, shaking his head. “We can’t interfere now. That’s the worst thing we could do.”

Lance stopped when he heard Keith call his name, and he looked over his shoulder at him. His lips curved into a smile wrought with pain. The tears that refused to form before now fell freely down his cheeks. He took one step back. Then another. In mere seconds he was on the floor with him, his hands coming up to his cheeks. “I…shouldn’t have done that in here.” His fingers trembled, and he bowed his head before his hands dropped and rested in his lap. “I keep messing up. I keep reacting the wrong way, and that’s not what you want or need. I’m sorry I hurt you. I’m sorry I made you so angry at me. I’m sorry I’m not better for you. I’m not patient. I’m not kind. I’m selfish. I’m jealous. I’m heartbroken. I’m terrified. And I took it all out on you. I’m sorry.”

“Take me out of here.” Keith said, clinging to Lance’s shirt. “I can’t look at them right now. Take me out of here, or I’ll have Cosmo do it for me and none of you will find me.” The threat was weak, childish, but Keith couldn’t be damned to care.

“As long as you don’t lift me against a wall again.” Lance whispered and helped him to his feet. He kept his eyes on the ground he led him out of the room.

“Get me to my Lion.” Keith demanded, hugging himself. “I won’t take it anywhere. I won’t fly it. But that’s where I’ll stay for now. Away from him and away from you.” His voice lost composure and wavered.

“Okay. Anything you need.” By some miracle Lance kept his voice steady when he answered Keith. He really didn’t know what he should have expected. He certainly knew he didn’t deserve anything. But it still tugged at his heart and twisted his gut, and he wallowed in that as he led Keith to the hangar.

Keith pushed away from Lance when he was close enough to the Black Lion. The mighty beast lowered down and opened its mouth to the Paladin without hesitation. The action seemed gentle, almost tender without the sound of gears to herald the action. Keith walked up into to Lion’s mouth, his arms wrapped around as though trying to hold in his gutted pride.

“I just want to be alone. I’m better that way. I can figure things out better with less … noise.” That’s what people were. Just noise. Annoying and distracting.

“If you need anything, my com will be on. I might not answer. So if you do use it make sure it’s worth it.” Keith looked so wrought out and stretched.

Lance let his arms drop to his sides the moment Keith stepped away from him. He wouldn’t burden the other paladin with any more of his feelings or problems. Not when it was so much noise. Not when it caused him to be bitter and lash out when he shouldn’t. Not when it meant Keith would be cruel to him, too. It was better for everyone if he swallowed it down and acted the fool as he always used to. That was what everyone wanted anyway, wasn’t it? Happy go lucky goofy Lance. Lance without problems, or insecurities. Lance who would just smile and crack jokes and be the punchline at everyone else’s expense. So when Keith spoke, he simply nodded and waited until the other man disappeared into the lion before he made his way back to his room, slinking inside and locking the door behind himself.

After which no one saw Keith. It was if he’d become a ghost around the Garrison. Food went missing, video files of meetings were downloaded through a gateway into the Black Lion. His presence was felt but no one saw more than Cosmo at any given time. The Black Lion remained motionless. He didn’t give in to Shiro’s pleas and all com communication was turned off. All except one.

Nights carried on in this fashion for a little over ten days, until a soft voice broke through into Lance’s room, a beeping coming from his helmet and his wrist.

“Hey, Lance…”

“Yeah…?” The voice on the other end was quiet. Almost as though it was a ghost of a whisper. But Lance was there. He had been there for over ten days. Days of not leaving his room. Days of desperately hoping that Keith didn’t hate him after what happened in the dining hall. Days of losing that hope steadily until there was none left. But he focused his tone so that none of that would come out.

“I can’t keep going like this.”

Chapter Text

Lance laid on his bed and looked up at the ceiling. He wasn’t really sure how he felt about Keith’s admission. He couldn’t do what anymore? He was too scared to ask, but he also knew he had to ask, or he’d never know for sure. So he steeled himself and murmured into the com. “What….do you mean?”

“Be alone. Not talking to you.” The voice coming through was thinned and barely recognizable as Keith’s. Any other time he spoke, he had a power, a charm. A certain charisma the gifted always tend to have. He could compel by a timber. Enchant a room with a sigh. Everyone might not have liked Keith, but he had their attention. All of that was gone now.

“Oh.” Lance paused. He hadn’t been sure what to expect, but Keith’s answer made his heart sink back into its normal place in his chest instead of being tightly crammed in his throat, or at least that was how it felt when he said he couldn’t do it anymore. “What do you want to talk about?” He knew his voice came out a bit more timid than it should have, but he couldn’t take that back.

“I don’t know.” A pause followed by static. “I guess, how are you? That sounds really dumb… I really don’t know what to talk about. I--I miss you, Lance. I was too harsh I guess. I don’t know. Just talk to me. Please.” Sincerity softened the note of desperation in his words.

There was no point in hiding it. Lance sighed, and while his voice was quiet, it was sincere. “I miss you too. Are you eating? Are you taking care of yourself?”

“Trying to. The headaches are horrible though… you?”

“Same.” Lance’s voice got even quieter before he spoke again, almost as if he was scared to ask. “Are you…that kind of hungry?”

“Yeah. That hasn’t really stopped.” Rustling clothing disturbed the mic for a second. “It’s not like before. I think I can reign it in a little. Now that I’ve experienced it, I can fight it or something.”

“Oh. Okay. If you’re sure…”

“No. I’m not sure, but we know what happens when I take quintessence from you. I don’t think I’m ready for that. I should warn you. The effect on me is stronger than it was on him.”

“I know. I’m sorry I made you uncomfortable last week. I just—” Lance cut himself off with a sigh. Keith was right, the effect did seem to be stronger, for both of them. It just affected Lance in a different way.

“I know. Neither of us was thinking.” Another long silence. “I sorta said it before, but yeah. I’m sorry too. I was cruel. I didn’t mean to get like that. I just, I lost my temper, and I lashed out at you. It’s not an excuse. I know. I shouldn’t have laid my hands on you.”

“I deserved it. I was mean to you because I was thinking about my own pain instead of yours. And it’s not like you did as much as you could have done…” Lance’s voice wavered a little. “You don’t hate me, right?”

“No.” There wasn’t a breath of hesitation on the other line. “My feelings for you are the same as they were the night I took you down to the basement.” Keith’s voice was soft, gentle, as if it were meant to stroke Lance’s cheek. “I need to sort a lot of stuff out. Things, in my head and with this body are intense. I just can’t handle being in the same space. There’s too much messing with my head.”

“I feel like—” Keith’s voice stumbled, fighting for every word he spoke. “I feel like I’ll get carried away either one way or another. You know? I mean. It’s like, could I lose something of who I am? Do I just gain all of his life, and that’s it? I know Pidge explained all this. I know it’s a phase or whatever, and it will calm down, but what if something happens like before? What if I get too angry and hurt you? Or if I get like you know.” Innocence clung to Keith’s words. The words of a sheltered boy who avoided people for fear of being rejected. He knew little of relationships. The concept of sex or sexuality scarcely came up. Until Lance changed all of that. Gay or straight, Keith didn’t care. He just liked Lance. He admitted it to himself, held it close to his chest. The knowledge had been a precious stone. A shimmering gem of an emotion he didn’t know he’d been capable of. What would happen if he shared it? What would people do with something so little and fragile? People would do what they always did. They’d take away what he cared about. It happened with his mother, his father, and even Shiro. So, Keith took it with him and walked away from Voltron.

That was gone now, made into something else. Something Keith couldn’t describe. He had knowledge he didn’t want. He could hear voices in his head and feel hands on his body. Hands that were Lance’s yet not his Lance. They took some part of him away. A part of him he didn’t notice until it was gone.

“Keith…I…” The pause was longer than he intended as he tried to digest everything Keith was saying, but when Lance spoke again, he spoke with confidence, despite his voice being so quiet even moments before. “I love you. I’m not going to blame you for being scared. I don’t think you’ll hurt me, and I want to tell you that we’ll get through it together, but I know asking for anything only puts pressure on you. So instead I’ve been trying to be what you’ve asked me to be, even though I don’t know how to give you what you need, but I tried, I am trying. I hope you know that.”

“Wait, what?” Keith's voice pitched.

“What, what? That I don’t want to pressure you? I don’t know what you need?” Lance paused. “I love you? Is…that a problem?”

“And it’s me you love? You honestly mean me?” The stretched tone of Keith’s voice pulled even tighter.

“Yes. You. Keith. However you were, however you are, and however you will be, you’re the one.” Lance whispered. “I don’t know how to make you believe that…”

“Lance.” More silence followed by the sound of a bed shifting, “Me too. I love you too.” Keith had eluded to the sentiment he never let the words leave him. Now his voice came through clearer, his lips by the mic as if he’d hugged the helmet to his chest. “This is all I’ll need. It’s all I’ll ask of you.”

“You do? Okay…” There was some confusion in Lance’s voice. “Keith…What do you mean? What’s all you need?”

“You loving me, and this. Talking like this.” Keith spoke in a breath of timid air. “It helps more than I can tell you.”

“You don’t have to worry about that ever stopping, then.” It might have sounded like Lance was smiling with those words, but that feeling faded with the next question. “Are you still having nightmares?”

“Yes.” Keith admitted.

“I’m sorry. Is there anything I can do to help?”

“Talk. C-can we keep the comlink open tonight?”

“Yeah. Of course. I’ve kept it open for you this whole time, you know.”

“I know. Now I just really need to hear you.” There was another shuffle. “Talk to me.”

“Okay. What do you want to talk about?”

“Anything. Just talk to me.”

“Right, you said something like that before. Okay.” A pause before Lance tried to sound normal. “Hunk said he would be making cookies tomorrow, and he would make whatever kind I wanted. Is there a kind you want? You like chocolate, right?”

“White Chocolate Macadamia Nut.” A lighter happier voice quickly answered. “What’s your favorite?”

“Sugar cookies. My mom makes these good ones and sometimes puts fruit spread on them. They’re really good.”

“Yeah? Sounds weird.” Keith chuckled. “But I bet it tastes awesome. Your mom is a great cook. Probably why you and Hunk get along so well.”

“That’s probably why our moms get along so well.” There was a pause before Lance sounded a little quieter than before, and he spoke more hesitantly. “Keith? Can…I see you?”

“See me?” There came a hesitant contemplation. “Yeah. Here.” A click, a zap of sound, similar to the buzz of static. There distorted by the bend of his visor sat the visage of a man Lance hadn’t seen in ten long days. He looked different now- dressed in a casual black t-shirt and boxers, sitting with folded legs on the bed. Dark patches lined the under the edge of his eyes, his skin pale and looking cold to the touch. Those odd ears of his perked forward even as his head cocked to the side, curious. “Did it work?”

Lance followed suit and nodded when he could see the connection was made. “Yeah.” He positioned his helmet so he could project Keith’s image on the wall next to his pillow and record himself like that as well. Sure, Keith looked as tired as Lance felt, but he was still beautiful. “I…feel better. Thank you.” He didn’t care that his own hair was sticking up in several ways, since he hadn’t bothered to comb it, or that his ears were slightly drooped. He was just relieved to see Keith, and because of that relief, he would bite back a comment about Keith looking miserable. At least for now.

“Hey.” Rouge colored Keith’s cheek with a sudden flush. He studied the other man but never lingered in any one place for his staring to be considered impolite. He reached out with exploring fingertips, yet they stopped in midair and moved down along an unseen line. The action similar to how one may cup a cheek or stroke a jaw. Keith must have had Lance’s projection set up the same way Lance had his. “You haven’t been sleeping well either, have you?”

“No. Not really.” Lance ran his hand through his hair to try to straighten it out, but his cheeks pinked just slightly with the way Keith was looking at him and the way his hand seemed to be moving. Was it like he was trying to touch him? What did that mean? It made his heart flutter a bit. “But maybe I can now that I see you.”

Keith chuckled again. “I bet you say that to all the holograms.” He unraveled his legs and shifted to lay down on his side, staring at the wall with the hull of the Black Lion projected behind him. The hollow space emptier than the Paladin’s room on the Atlas. Black ink spun hair pillowed Keith’s cheek as he sunk into the bedding.

“The only one I want to say that to is you, so until you let me say it in person, this is good enough.” Lance’s lips twitched into a half-smile as he looked at Keith’s image. He tried to focus on the beautiful face in front of him, so he didn’t have to think about the emptiness behind the other paladin. He didn’t want to think about how isolated Keith might have felt because it would only make the distance between them harder. As it was, he wanted nothing more than to run to him and hold him, but that wasn’t what Keith wanted or needed.

“For now.” Keith said. He kept his voice soft, leaving the emotion out it, but for a moment his eyes gave up the violet luster and changed to a dull bluish gray. Strange how he hated his ears for being giving him away, when Keith was often the easiest paladin to read. His eyes expressed more in a glimmer of light than most people’s faces did in a bout of laughter or break down of sobs.

“If you keep using those pickup lines though might be later than sooner.” A smile curved Keith’s lips but never made it past them.

Lance watched Keith’s expression. The smile was there, and the words seemed sincere, if not a tad flirtatious, but Keith didn’t seem to mean them. Not when the mirth didn’t show in his eyes. Lance weighed on the idea of calling him out on it, but with how listless the other man looked, he decided against it. And while Keith was never good at hiding his emotions, Lance was. At least he was much better at it than Keith was. So he smiled, a goofy kind of smile that invited others to be more comfortable around him. “Is that so?”

Keith’s fist bunched against the wall and the top of his head bent down to touch it, crushing the tuff of black hair. “I’m sorry. I can’t. I tried. I miss you. But I’m afraid of what will happen if I see you. Even this. Something like a projection against a wall is almost too much, but I don’t want to let it go.” Slowly he turned his head up, tears misting and staining his eyes red. “I’m sorry for … I’m sorry for being like this.”

“Why are you sorry?” Lance whispered and watched him. As much as he hated to see Keith on the verge of tears, at least he was showing Lance his real emotions instead of hiding them, so Lance repaid him in kind. The smile faded, his eyes moving from Keith’s image to a blank spot on the wall. He was tired, lonely, in pain, so many things he knew he had no right to feel. All that mattered was that Keith was healing. “Do you want me to turn away so I can’t see you? Would that be better for you?”

“No,” Keith’s voice cracked. “Don’t. Stay. Talk to me. For the first time in days, my brain doesn’t feel like it’s trying to leak out of my ears. Seeing you and hearing you makes me feel better, even if I seem like a crazy person.” A soft syllable of a laugh escaped him. “A super crazy person.”

“I don’t think you’re a crazy person. Not at all.” Lance felt his shoulders tense up and then relax with that quick laugh, and he lifted his hand to touch the image in front of him as though he was touching Keith’s cheek. “I won’t leave. I wouldn’t ever leave. I’m glad you’re feeling better. I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t making it worse.”

Keith shook his head. “I just need more time. I’m always making you wait.”

“You’re worth it.” Lance slowly pulled his hand back and settled into his bed a little more.

Keith smiled with closed eyes. He didn’t know when they shuttered, but he lacked the strength to hold them open. “Thank you.” He whispered, his face coming to rest in an expression of sleep. His jaw slackened, forehead and brow relaxed, and it was then he wasn’t Keith; A man just out of boyhood with full cherub lips and a narrowing jawline. Still so young. They all were. A fact erased during war, until faced with the sight of an expression lost to a peaceful and needed slumber.

Lance wasn’t sure how long he spent watching Keith’s face. It was like looking at the purest angel, no tension at all in his features. He smiled and traced the curve of Keith’s lips as though he could actually touch him, and as he did he started to hum a soft lullaby until he too fell asleep.

Over the next few nights, Lance kept the line open for Keith, talking to him, looking at him, fussing over how pale he seemed to be getting. He soothed the other paladin through the headaches, and he did everything he could to bring Keith some comfort. But he also avoided letting Keith know that he wasn’t actually leaving his room, or that he was also having intense migraines. Keith needed to heal and recover. He didn’t need to be burdened with Lance’s problems too.

“Hey Lance?” Keith’s voice came over the com behind the crunch of an apple and flop onto the bed. The image of him looked better than it had. A line of muscle forming along his arms and legs owed to a rigorous workout routine. Pushups every morning, followed by sit-ups, and lunges. He used objects around the Lion as makeshift weights to tone the muscle he had. Keith’s comfort in his body depended solely on its ability to move. He had speed but lacked strength.

“I’m looking over the meeting rosters, you haven’t been attending?” Another bite crunched as Keith dragged his finger down the memo tablet in his hand.

There was silence, well, just in that Lance wasn’t speaking. There was a sigh and the sound of rustling before he finally answered and allowed the video to connect. “Well, no. But you knew that if you looked at the rosters.” His voice was quiet as it had been these past few nights, and his eyes focused on anything but the paladin projected against the wall.

“So, do you know that they synced the stone up to the Balmara crystals in the Atlas? It can now support the MFEs and work as a power station for Voltron. All while allowing the creation of wormholes. Shiro can also sense the MFE ships like we can our Lions. Maybe not exactly the same, but close. That’s amazing.” Keith sat up, folding his bare legs over each other. Then leaned his body forward. The position didn’t look wholly comfortable, but he did it with fluid ease.

Lance simply nodded, finally lifting his eyes to the image of Keith, though he dropped them again. If he looked at him too long, the ache in his chest would grow, and he wasn’t sure he could handle that at this moment. But he didn’t want Keith to read into the action, though, so he covered it by laying in his bed and getting the covers up over him. His eyes closing. “Yeah…I know.” He wasn’t sure how to talk about this sort of thing, especially not when Keith was clearly more into it than Lance was.

Silence stretched between them. There were often bouts of dead air, though Keith didn’t mind it. He never found it awkward. He didn’t believe in the need to constantly fill the air with needless words or prattling. The sound of Lance’s breathing, the small shuffle of blankets, even the padding of naked feet against a metal floor comforted Keith far more than any forced conversation. Stretched over his legs and laying his chest flat on the bed, Keith continued to read over his notes. He didn’t mind the silence, but tonight something had been on his mind. He struggled with how to approach the topic, but with a sigh he set the touchpad down and flopped on his side, his heat scarred cheek facing Lance. “Lance, can I ask you something?”

“Hm? What is it?” Lance opened one eye and glanced at him, biting the inside of his lip when he saw that scar. Whenever he saw it, he just wanted to press up to Keith and lick along it as though that could heal it with his quintessence like he could on their mission. But that was a different reality entirely, and his body and his life-force were different. Though that didn’t take away from his desire to taste Keith’s flesh. The ache in his chest grew, but this time he didn’t look away from Keith. He just looked at his face, tried to read his expression, though that was difficult to do when he was laying down like this with only one eye open.

“Why did you volunteer to come. On the mission. It was risky. There were no guarantees. Pidge said we’d be betting all our odds on just being pulled toward the stone, much less finding each other. It was kind of doomed to fail, but you still volunteered to go with me. No, you insisted with a heap of bravado.” Violet eyes turned to the other Paladin, their spark seeming duller with each passing day but still vibrant enough to light up his projection.

Lance opened his other eye and watched Keith for a moment before he sighed and rolled onto his side, so he could look at him better. “I’m supposed to be your right-hand man, right…? How could I let you go in there and risk all that alone? There was no way that was happening.” That was the main part of it. He really couldn’t tell Keith that the idea of him potentially leaving them again was too much to bear, right?

Those eyes widened, “You didn’t want me to be alone?”

“Of course I didn’t.” Why was Keith looking at him like that? Did he expect some other answer? Lance’s forehead wrinkled as his brows knit.

“You allowed all this,” Keith waved a hand down his body and motioned toward Lance’s for emphasis. “You ended up dying in there, in the worst possible way, just because of you didn’t want me alone?” Expressive ears drooped, and a clawed hand reached to touch the wall as if he could feel the warmth of Lance’s cheek below his fingertips. Then he brought his body up tight against the visage. Nuzzling the cold steel as a cat nudges a stroking hand.

Lance wasn’t sure what Keith was doing at first, but when he seemed to be nuzzling the wall, the worry on his own brow vanished. “Yeah that part sucked. Well, most of it sucked, but the part when I was with you made the rest of it worth it.” He half closed his eyes as though he could feel the way Keith’s cheek nuzzled against his own, even if there was nothing there.

“Thank you.” Keith whispered, and a soft rumble of a purr came through the link as turned his head up, ears still curved down with a flush on his cheeks. It wasn’t a full-blown blush, but a delicate pinking of pale skin. Skin that had become almost too pale, making him look too fragile, despite knowing the truth.

“Don’t thank me for that.” Lance looked at the way Keith’s cheeks almost seemed to glow with the contrast of the pink on his porcelain skin. He looked better but more fragile at the same time. “I’m just glad it worked out, even if we came back all sorts of messed up. It could have been way worse.” His hand moved to his torso where he had been pierced when the shuttle bay exploded. He would take the scar there over actual death anytime.

“I don’t regret it.” Keith said under his purr. “Despite all this other stuff and my messed up … well my messed up everything. I don’t regret my time with you. I’m happy you were there. I’m happy it was you.” His throat moved with an audible swallow. “I want you to know that.”

“Keith…I….” Lance sighed and looked down. “The only part I regret is dying and making you cry.” He murmured and closed his eyes again. “I’m sorry.”

Keith shook his head, hair tossing over his features. “We didn’t have control over any of that.” His face contorted then, finding an expression between confession and discomfort. Keith laid his head against the pillow and curled his knees up into his arms. Cosmo whined in perceived empathy as he nestled into his hip.

“Even so…” Lance opened his eyes to look at him again, but when he saw Keith’s positioning, his chest grew tight and he curled up more in his bed. “Keith?”

“Hmm?” He asked, his voice soft as if unwilling to break the gentle quiet.

“You’ll tell me if anything’s really wrong, right?”

“There’s a lot of things pretty wrong.” Keith’s eyes screwed shut, his hand crushing down in a fist. The second sign of the first wave of migraines. “But there are a few things that are going right.”

“I meant beyond what I already know. Beyond the headaches.” Lance’s brows furrowed. He could feel his own migraine coming on, but he knew he should soothe Keith’s. The other paladin seemed to have it worse, so he closed his eyes and started to sing the lullaby he always sang when he woke up due to Keith’s restlessness coming through the com. Anything to calm the other man.

Keith started, his eyes flashing to Lance before the softest smile curved generous lips. He knew this song. The gentle perfectly accented timbre of Lance’s voice echoed in the hollow space and laid upon Keith. The warm weight of it surrounding him and blocking out the sharpest edges of his pain. He knew this feeling: a memory of silenced nightmares and a sweet honeyed lyric. “You… you do this for me a lot.”

The melody faded as Lance looked at Keith. “It helps you sleep, and you seem to like it, so I like doing it.”

The flush got darker on Keith’s cheeks and his expression a bit shyer, mixed with a subtle adoration. “Is there, something I can do for you? Something you like?” His brow pulled up, realizing how his words came out, but he didn’t bother to correct them.

There were so many things Lance wanted to say, but every single one of them went against what Keith said he needed from him, so he simply smiled and shook his head. “If you want to do something for me, just…work on healing so you can be with me again when you’re ready.” That wasn’t anything different than what Keith already knew Lance wanted, so he figured that kind of response should have been fine.

“You’re--” Keith paused, being careful with his words. “You’ve been so…good to me. I just keep putting more burdens on you. You don’t deserve that.” Keith’s fingers reached to Lance’s hands.

“Keith…” If Lance could have reached out and touched the ones that extended out to him, he would have. Instead he just shook his head a little. “I don’t think of it as a burden…”

“But it is. You’ve done everything I’ve asked, and I just keep asking you for more. You don’t say much of anything about anything. Mostly agree with me or do what I say.” Guilt weighed Keith’s eyes down. “If you’re still mad at me, I get it. I do. I was going to tell you what happened with Shiro. I was just trying to figure it out.” Keith turned his head into his pillow, so only his canted ears revealed his inner thoughts. “I didn’t know where I was when I woke up that night. I thought it was some hotel room and in the dark Shiro was the same size and shape as…someone else.”

Keith struggled, his voice broken and muffled but pushed through. “Shiro was stern. And kind. Like you’d expect and just put me in a bath to cool my head. He’d never do anything to hurt me. He’d never think to touch me like that. He just told me to think of you. Like he knew.” One eye peeked above the curve of the pillow, his brow furrowed tight, his ears hanging as low as they could go.

Lance looked at Keith’s image and watched the way his face gave away his confusion and pain. He reached up as though he could touch that wrinkled brow, though the only contact he made was with the wall. “I know that. I know it wasn’t your fault or his fault. I do.” He closed his eyes, his ears drooping just a little. “I shouldn’t have said anything then, but I was too lost in my own pain to see yours, and I was wrong. But I’m not still mad. If I was, I don’t think I’d be as accommodating. I’m not that good of a person.” He did his best to focus on the man projected on the wall and not the gnawing anger that started to form in his stomach. There was one person he could think of that was the same shape and size as Shiro, and it wasn’t his Altean self. Beyond that, he didn’t want to hear about Shiro, but he knew Keith needed to talk about it.

“He was better to me than he had to be.” Keith sighed. “So are you. You’re allowed your pain. I’m not making this easy for you.”

“Even so, I shouldn’t have let my emotions cloud my judgment as much as they did. I should have waited for you to tell me on your own, even if I already knew. That wasn’t fair to you.”

“It’s not fair to you either.” Keith said. “Look, I’m not so out of touch with my emotions that I can’t have meaningful conversations. I know how I come off. I know what other people say and think of me. But… it’s not just about me Lance.” His fingers touched the ghost of Lance’s lips.

Lance watched Keith’s face, though he kept his thoughts unvoiced. It was all about Keith. The other paladin made that perfectly clear that day in the cafeteria. His isolation in the black lion solidified that. But Lance wouldn’t argue. He wouldn’t say anything. Instead he just managed a ghost of a smile. “I’ll be fine.”

“It hurts you too. Just like it hurts me to see you swallow your problems down. Like you always do. Lance…” During their conversation Keith curled up to the wall as if any second Lance’s arms could reach around him.

“I don’t want to hurt you. Not again.” Lance whispered and sighed, lifting his hand to rub at his own forehead. “That…The way you yelled at me that day, it really made me stop and think about what’s most important to me right now. And the answer is you. You’re the most important. So you need to heal. You need to figure yourself out. I will wait as long as it takes, even if I hate that what was supposed to be a few days has now become almost a month.” He pulled that hand back from his forehead and rested it against the wall as if he could ruffle Keith’s hair.

“But I shouldn’t have--” Keith cut himself off and nodded his head. “Then can I be selfish and ask for one more thing?” He caught his lower lip between his teeth.

“Yes, of course.” Lance’s eyes moved to Keith’s lips, but then he lifted his eyes to Keith’s once more. “What is it?”

“Will you sing for me again?” Keith continued to worry that lip until just the edge of it remained captured by a fang.

“Yes.” Lance looked at him for a moment longer before he closed his eyes and started to sing. This wasn’t the same lullaby he had been using to lull Keith into a peaceful sleep the past few nights. It was a slow song. One filled with love and devotion. Even if he wasn’t sure Keith would understand the words, he could at least feel the emotion in it.

“Mm..” Keith’s lips quirked up on their edges, his ears twisting toward Lance’s soft voice. He didn’t speak after that. The necessity didn’t exist. Words could’ve only taken away from the moment, dulled the vibrancy of their gentle intimacy. A low purr rose from the Galra’s chest, Keith had little control over such things. The vibration never lifted to anything louder than a decibel of a breath, afraid of drowning out Lance’s voice. They stayed in this comfort until the rumble died down to slow even breathing.

Lance lowered his voice once he was sure Keith fell asleep, but he sang for a few minutes longer, letting the sound fade out so he could listen to the sounds of Keith’s rest. The earlier purring and then soft breathing was more relaxing than he expected it to be, though he wasn’t sure why he thought it wouldn’t be. He relaxed a little and settled down, closing his eyes, thankful that things seemed to be going so much better than they had been before. He let himself drift off, focusing on the feeling of relief and not the migraine that still needled his brain. Things went black quickly as he fell into a deeper slumber than usual.

So it was a bit of a shock when Lance was startled awake by a loud pounding on his door. “Lance! Open up!” Hunk sounded so frantic, Lance practically fell out of bed to open it.

What he saw made his heart stop. Hunk was cradling Keith in his arms, his foot poised to kick the door again if he needed. Keith was unconscious, paler than he had been the night before, and there was a bruise forming on his cheek. “What happened?” There was no Lance wouldn’t have noticed that last night, right? And he was so asleep that he didn’t even hear Keith get up and leave.

Hunk pushed past him and set Keith down on Lance’s bed. “I found him on the floor of the training room. I think he had a seizure or something, and I didn’t know what to do!” He paced a little back and forth once Keith was settled on the bed. His arms flailed a bit with every step, and it took all of Lance’s willpower not to shout at his best friend and tell him to stop.

Lance sat on the edge of the bed and gently pushed some of Keith’s hair off his forehead. There was more sweat there than there should have been. Keith usually didn’t sweat enough for it to drip down his hairline like this, right? He seemed much more controlled than that. Did it have to do with his new body? Lance sighed and tore his gaze away to look at Hunk. “Did you tell anyone else?”

“No. I came right here. I thought it would be better to bring him to you instead of telling Shiro. I didn’t think Keith would want to get yelled at.”

“Good. Don’t worry the others until we know what actually happened.” Lance sighed. “I’ll take care of him, but can you get us some food for him in the meantime?” His fingers smoothed the hair by Keith’s ear. It was the only way he could keep his hand steady. He moved those fingers to the back of his head, checking for any more wounds. It didn’t feel like there were any, so Keith must have only hit his face. “If anyone asks, just tell them I’m hungry.”

Hunk nodded and ran out of the room, half yelping as he almost crashed into the wall opposite the door.

“Keith…” Lance sighed and moved his fingers from his hair, so he could stroke his bruised cheek, being careful of the tender flesh. “You push yourself too much.”

Black ears twitched, and his body shuddered before his eyes weakly fluttered open. Those eyes shone like unpolished gems, dull and lacking the spark which usually blazed within.

“L-Lance…” Keith spoke, but the words were pushed out by light exhale with no force behind them.

Lance shook his head and rested his hand on his cheek. “Shhh. Don’t talk if you’re too worn out okay?” He carefully touched the bruise again, but he didn’t put any pressure on it. “You need my quintessence, don’t you? I’ll give you some okay? Just nod if that’s acceptable.” He figured he might be pushing it if he asked, but if Keith was really in bad shape, he shouldn’t deny him. Not that he really was denying him, and it was more like Keith was denying himself. Either way, he wanted to help him, and this was the only way he knew how.

Keith closed his eyes and dragged a dry tongue over chapped lips, nodding with a faint tilt of his head.

Lance closed his eyes and allowed his warmth to pool at his fingers. He stroked Keith’s cheek enough to heal the bruise there, and then he gave just a little more. Anything that would bring color to his cheeks and some light to his eyes, though he was very careful not to brush his fingers over his lips. He could control the amount he gave Keith if he only touched his cheek for now. “Here,” he whispered.

Keith groaned, long and soft. The sound of pleasure combined with the euphoria of absolute bliss. He turned his head toward the light and licked as a kitten would for a taste of his owner’s last meal from extended fingertips. He was so hungry.

Lance only gave him another small taste before he pulled his fingers back and allowed his body to settle. There was a light throbbing in the back of his neck, and he didn’t want to push it too much. “Do you feel better? What happened?”

“More?” Keith asked, nuzzling after those fingers, his hand sliding over Lance’s thigh. His body hummed with the power trickling through him. Bits of his strength returned, and his constant pains and aches dulled to near nonexistence.

“Keith…” Lance rested his hand on the one on his thigh. “You’re only asking for more because it feels good. When the haze clears, you’ll be angry at me if I give in.” He pulled Keith’s hand off him and held it. “And I won’t do anything that will make you angry. Not when you asked for space. Hunk brought you here because he was freaking out, so talk to me. Tell me what happened? Were you pushing yourself too hard?”

“But I’m here now.” Keith whimpered and started to kiss over the knuckles he held. Lance was really there. So close. So warm. So soft and hard in all the right places. “I haven’t felt good in a long time. I was being stubborn and stupid.” His tongue slipped from pale pink lips to delve between Lance’s fingers. “So close and so warm.” He vocalized his thoughts.

“And I’m going to be stubborn and stupid now.” Lance watched Keith kiss his knuckles and lick between his fingers, but he controlled himself, even though he wanted nothing more than to give Keith what he wanted. The attention sent jolts of pleasure throughout his body, and he almost trembled a little as he forced himself to concentrate. “Keith.” He pulled his hand back and gently grabbed his chin, trying to force him to meet his gaze. “Answer my questions.”

Something dark and primal swirled inside the paladin’s eyes, his pupils blown out as he met the other man’s gaze. “I was working out. Getting a feel for how this body moves.”

Keith lowered his hand to lift his shirt up. The muscles were certainly more visible and defined than they had been, but the hard lines of his old body had been softened by the new. The enticing curves and hard steel of a dancer. Graceful arches mixing with deep grooves sleeping under a satin blanket of delicate skin. Built for speed, control, and agility, but they were not built for power. “Working on a few things I lost.” This was something he could control, while everything else had become chaos. Training his body again required focus and clearing his mind. Both eased his growing hunger and growing anxiety.

Lance purposely kept his eyes locked on Keith’s face while he talked, even if he wanted to look down at his exposed stomach. He didn’t allow his eyes to drift until Keith had finished, and he arched a brow when he saw that all too familiar piercing dangling from his navel. He smiled a little at the sight, though it caused the heat in the pit of his stomach to flare and move through this body. Something about the way the gem glistened in the dim light, or how it drew attention to the soft lines of Keith’s abs made his instincts try to push to the surface. “I see…” His voice dropped to a whisper and he kept holding Keith’s chin to keep from touching that toned stomach. “And you had a seizure? That’s what Hunk said he thought happened…”

Keith’s expression darkened, brows drawn, and lips thinned. “I-I don’t know. I remember looking at my bayard as if… I don’t know how to describe it. I knew it, but I didn’t. Then I just felt like my head was going to float off my body while the rest of me felt like led. Then I fell and shook… Hunk found me stuck his fingers in my mouth, and I bit down… then I was here. Is he okay? I didn’t mean to bite him. I think he was protecting my tongue, or he said something about it. It’s fuzzy.”

Lance sighed and let go of his chin. “That sounds like it’s possible. Hunk seemed more worried about you than anything else, so I’m sure he’s fine.” He rested his hand on Keith’s cheek and frowned slightly. “Will you promise me something?”

“Hmm?” Keith turned his head to lay against Lance’s thigh.

“If you’re going to push yourself and go down there again, take Hunk or Pidge with you?” Lance rested his hand on Keith’s head. “For me?”

“All right. Anything else?” Keith wrapped his arms around Lance’s waist. “You got bigger.” An ear twitched in annoyance, yet tender fingers slipped inside Lance’s shirt to move in slow patterns over his skin. “That’s unfair.”

“No. Nothing else.” Lance looked down at him, his cheeks flushing at the attention. He was already feeling good from before, and if Keith kept this up, he might lose control. “I…haven’t gotten any bigger, Keith…”

“Are you sure?” Keith lifted his head up to meet Lance’s eyes, his own glittering mischievously.

“Yes, I’m sure.” Lance looked down at him and cracked a little smile. He rested a hand on his head. “Let’s get you back to the lion hm?”

“Mnmph… it’s better here.” Keith sighed, nosing Lance’s hip. He knew better though. He knew what would happen if he stayed. He shouldn’t be making this so hard for Lance, but truth was, he wanted to stay. He wanted to feel all those things his other self had been allowed to feel. He wanted a connection with Lance. His body needed it, his heart ached for it, and his soul cried for the taste of him. A taste of something more than just the rations Lance gave him. He didn’t want to be tide over. He wanted to be a glutton. He wanted to drown himself in the sweet ambrosia only the other Paladin could provide. But there came a nagging voice in the back of his head. The nagging sober logical voice. The one who denied himself so many things. The one who took over when Keith wanted to give in to everything. The one who always won in the end.

“Not yet though. Not yet.” Keith sat up, his hair curtaining his face in thick midnight waves.

Lance pushed that hair out of Keith’s face to give him a clearer view. “You have no idea how much you’re tempting me, do you?” His fingers trembled slightly against Keith’s cheek.

Keith turned his head up, the expression shy and unsure with a delicate flush just under those violet eyes, the light of Lance’s quintessence dancing inside bringing a trace of life back to each facet.

“I really want to spend the rest of the day pleasuring you and making you happy, but we both know that’s not what we should be doing right now.” His fingers traced the edge of Keith’s jaw, his eyes getting lost in the purple galaxies that stared at him. “No matter how badly I want you…”

“When you talk like that… my body---” Keith leaned into his hand. His touch felt so good like it could heal every injustice and every wound inflicted on him.

“You’ll be angry if I give in…” Lance whispered and pulled his hand away, standing from the bed and looking down at him. His eyes were dark, but he forced himself to take a few deep breaths before he spoke again. “Let me take you back okay?”

“I’m really that difficult, aren’t I?” Keith stood up, his legs not wanting to carry his weight at first, but he found his footing.

Lance held his hand out to him. “I don’t think you’re difficult at all. I think I don’t want to mess things up with you again. I want you to come to me when you’re really ready, not just when your brain thinks you are because I fed you to heal you.”

Keith folded his fingers into Lance’s hand, staring at the crossing of dark and pale skin and he squeezed. “I don’t deserve you. Then or now.”

“That’s not even remotely true. You’re totally coming down to my level to be with me.” Lance smiled a little and lifted Keith’s hand to his lips, kissing the fingers before he lowered them again and started to lead him to the door.

“Down to your level?” Keith contemplated the idea as he followed Lance back to the hanger. “There are levels to this whole thing?”

“No. I just mean you’re more than I deserve.” Lance kept holding his hand even as they stopped in front of the black lion. He turned his head a little to look at Keith, taking the sight of him in before they separated again. “I’m the one who doesn’t deserve someone as amazing as you. That’s all.”

“What are you talking about? Look at you… you’re amazing.” Keith shrugged his shoulders. “I mean, your skin’s soft, your hair is soft. You’re built well. Your eyes are really blue, and your lips are like… well they’re soft too. I don’t know who put it in your head that you have to live up to someone or something, but you should shut them up. You know, I’ve heard people talk about their awakening. You know those moments when they realize what they like. Men, women, or both, or none or whatever. I’ve never had one. I never paid any attention to anyone. I never felt that sudden rush.” Keith stepped closer to Lance, the scent of his shampoo mixed with the sweet perfume of his spiced musk. “I was okay with that, until I met you.” His hand, slender and warm cupped the blue paladin’s cheek, his thumb rubbing just at the corner of his mouth.

“You were my moment. My ‘awakening’.” Lance was pulled down with the ease of a thought and he was met with the soft dusting of rose-tinted lips. “Lance is the perfect Lance. And that’s the Lance I like.” Keith took a step back, his hands folding behind himself in a restraint. “So don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Because in my eyes no one can ever be you. It’s unfair to everyone else.”

Lance couldn’t stop the blush from darkening his cheeks. His fingers came up to touch his own lips after that kiss, and even though his fingers trembled a bit as he did so, warmth spread throughout his body. Keith had no idea what he was doing to Lance, did he? He looked at the smaller man, eyes locking onto that perfectly innocent and yet oddly devilish face before he dropped his fingers from his lips. With a step forward, he pulled Keith into his arms, pressing his lips into his hair and speaking quietly. “See? That’s why I say I don’t deserve you. Do you know how happy that makes me? For you to think so highly of me is more than I could ever ask for.” He closed his eyes and tried to hold Keith a little closer, as though he could merge the two of them together.

“But it’s true.” Keith curled into those arms, slipping his face into his neck. “I don’t have to think that hard. And it’s not just looks, Lance. You’re amazing in other ways too. You keep this team together. You make them laugh and without you… I don’t know where any of us would be.”

“I don’t really do anything, but I’m really happy you think that way, Keith.” Lance nuzzled his hair and rubbed his back a little. “And thank you.”

“I should go, before I don’t let you leave.” Keith gave a subtle moan, and with no small effort he pulled himself away from Lance, walking backward toward the Lion's mouth. “Should I call you? I’ll leave my comlink open.”

“Yes. Always yes.” Lance didn’t take his eyes off Keith even as he entered the lion. “I’ll be there when you do.”

“Yeah. Right. I know.” Keith continued to walk backward. Then, the head of Voltron, the renowned member of the elite Blade of Mamora, the best pilot of his generation, stumbled over his own two feet catching himself on one of the lion’s fangs. His face flushed and with a quick wave he skirted inside. The maw closing tight behind him.

Lance lingered for several moments after Keith disappeared, but he quickly returned to his room, passing Hunk in the hallway and stopping only long enough to check on him and grab the food he brought for Keith before disappearing back into his sanctuary and settling on the bed. He switched on the com and settled down. Keith was nowhere in the frame, but he could hear the sound of water running.

A humming filled the room, distorted by the digital feedback as the door slipped open. Steam billowed into the frame followed by Keith. His pale skin reddened by the water’s temperature, hair dripping heavy down his shoulders leading to rivets running down his chest and to the small of his back. Where they pooled and collected in the tantalizing dip before leaving their watery trails down the perfect curve of his ass. He walked around the room, clueless to the show he performed as he hummed a wordless tune to himself.

Lance’s eyes widened as soon as the camera picked up Keith’s form. He was naked. Completely naked and wet. No towel. Nothing. Water making his skin shimmer in the light of the room. Faint lines curled around his torso and Lance found his eyes following them down to his lower abdomen. He hadn’t noticed them before, but he was also very distracted by Keith’s belly ring. Now, the faint stripes were almost all he could see. Almost. His eyes dropped lower, and his cheeks darkened. He opened his mouth to say something. He should make it known that Keith was giving him a show, but the only sound that came out was a squeak.

“Hmmnmn…mmnnmhmmm…” Keith leaned toward the mirror, checking his teeth as he flicked his tongue across his fang, unaware of the eyes following him across the room. The old rock tune transformed into a melodious acapella with Keith’s shy voice softening the rougher tones and became clearer the closer moved to his bed.

“K-Keith!” Lance finally managed to get a word out. He knew he should have turned his head away from the screen, but he couldn’t do it. He couldn’t tear his eyes from that perfect, godlike body. He couldn’t convince himself to be a better person than who he was. “I…I…”

“Oh! Hey!” A smile brightening Keith’s face as he heard Lance over his com. “You made it back pretty fast. Oh! Did you-did you hear me singing?” He sat on the edge of the bed, the camera now getting a full view of both flushed cheeks. “I’m sorry…”

Lance’s hands were firmly in his lap as he stared at the other paladin. “No…that’s not…You…Video…I saw…I see….” He whimpered out the words.

“Hm?” Keith looked over his shoulder and the realization dawned. An audible squawk escaped him as he scrambled to hide behind the bed. “Quiznack! LANCE!” Keith vanished off frame. “Shitshitshit!” The string of embarrassed curses silenced after a moment and a black tuff of hair peaked above the bed, following by two drooped ears before a pair of wide eyes. “You saw…?”

“Everything.” Lance lifted his hands from his lap and hid his face in them now that Keith had broken his line of sight with his perfectly sexy body. “I…I’m sorry! I should have looked away, but I couldn’t. You’re amazing.”

“Amazing?” Keith rested his chin on the mattress, his cheek puffed out to one side. “You know…” He started, an impish glint sparkling in his eyes. “Fair is fair.”

Chapter Text

“Fair is fair?” Lance peeked out through his fingers, though he was only looking at Keith’s face at this point. He managed a little nod. “You’re right.” He whispered, and even though the heat in his face now spread to his neck and ears, he started pulling off his shirt. This was what Keith wanted right? Though he hadn’t been working out, so he wasn’t as toned as he used to be. Then again, his stomach didn’t seem to get too soft no matter how much Hunk made him eat, and he wondered if that had to do with the changes his body went through after their mission.

Keith’s jaw dropped. “Wait, seriously!? No! Lance you don’t…” His swallow moved around a sudden lump. “have to…” Conviction fell off from the words.

The more Lance undressed, the weaker Keith’s protest became. He’d been taken in by smooth dark skin, perfectly shaped dips and valleys of defined muscles. His eyes dragged over the flexing tight mounds of bending arms as Lance moved to get the shirt off. He tossed his hair to sort out any stray locks and Keith heard himself groan. He knew the velvet touch of that skin, knew the flavor of each divot, and knew the sounds each action would elicit.

“You… you’re…Lance… I’m…” Keith shifted his hips against the floor.

“I am Lance, yes.” There was a grin that spread across his lips as Lance tossed his shirt aside and reached for his pants. “If you want me to stop, I will, but you’re looking at me like you can’t wait for me to do the rest of it.” He watched the way Keith’s cheeks flushed and his ears drooped. The way his lips parted after he licked them as if there was a hunger that couldn’t be satiated with just his eyes. He knew that look. Keith looked at him the same way he looked at Keith that day they both tried to use the Altean pool years ago. Of course, Lance hid it a lot better, mostly because he hid his intrigue and embarrassment with snark.

“I’m not!” Keith tossed his head down, his bangs covering his eyes, but it only lasted a second before those curious purple pools lifted from the veil of black. “I… well…yeah. I mean…look at you.” His lip rolled in his teeth, and slowly his hand reached up to touch the wall reflecting Lance back. Keith crawled back onto the bed, laying himself down, maneuvering the sheets to keep his modesty. His hair fanned out like spilled ink on the pillow. Might as well be honest. “Fair… is fair…”

Lance was only more driven once he saw Keith’s hungered expression. The way he bit his lower lip. The way his eyes started to move as they looked down every inch of his body. All of it only made him feel sexier, and it sent heat down to the bit of flesh Keith clearly wanted to see. He slowly inched his pants down his hips, his boxer-briefs only accentuating his own arousal. “Well. You’re covered now, so should I leave these on?” He dropped his pants to the floor and stretched out on the bed. “Or should I show you everything?”

“Everything.” Keith whispered, his voice thick and sticking in the back of his throat. His own hand sliding down to tease at the edge of the sheet. His fingers gracing just under the fabric, purposely tormenting himself. “Lance, do you—” Keith paused, switching his tactic. “What happens when you remember them?”

“You really want to know?” Lance shifted and shimmied out of his underwear, allowing his heat to spring to full attention for Keith’s viewing pleasure. He made no move to hide his arousal, especially since it seemed to be turning Keith on even more, if the half-lidded expression was anything to go by. “I touch myself, since I don’t want anyone else but you.” His eyes moved to where Keith’s fingers were moving under the sheet and he smirked. “Fair is fair.”

Fire burned on Keith’s cheeks and his brows furrowed at the request. He didn’t look away, he took in all Lance gave him and suddenly the heat spilled from his face and flowed over his body, pooling hot and heavy in his gut.

“Lance, I…” Keith swallowed, the sound audible with a shaken exhale of breath, he gripped the sheet between his fingers and folded it back. His erection pressed hard and full against his thigh, darkening under Lance’s scrutiny.

“Looks like we’re having the same problem.” Lance couldn’t help himself as he reached out for Keith’s projected image, fingers moving against the wall right where his stomach was. What he wouldn’t give to run to Keith in that moment and make the other paladin his. “I would take care of it for you if I could, but we’ll have to settle for doing it together. Are you okay with that?” He licked his own lips as his eyes darkened. Something inside him was clawing its way out. Some deep-seated desire that he had been holding back this past month.

As if pulled by an unseen force, Keith titled his head upward, led by his chin, eyes locking with Lance. “Do you remember what it felt like?” he whispered, moving closer to the wall, closer to Lance.

“Yes.” Lance whispered. “But it’s like a ghost of a memory. A touch that’s not there but feels so real.” His other hand slid down his own chest towards his aching heat. “And when I do this to myself, it’s not you, and it’s not enough, but I try to imagine.” His eyes half closed, though he refused to tear his gaze from Keith.

Keith moved his hand down as Lance’s moved down his own body, mirroring the man’s touch as if he could feel it himself, wanting to feel it himself. He pinched a perking pink nipple, and a squeak pushed out of his throat just before his head recoiled back into his shoulders. “I think about it. I feel it. The heat of it. Your hand around me, your…” Shifting like sand through his fingers, Keith’s resolve slipped away. He became someone else. Someone he didn’t know, but someone his new life wanted him to be. “Your thrust inside me.” No, that wasn’t right. Keith had never felt Lance. He didn’t know how his Lance tasted. He didn’t know how his Lance sounded on the cusp of pleasure.

“Fuck, Keith…” Lance’s words left his mouth as shuddering breaths. He knew Keith struggled with the memories of that time and his current self, so Lance wanted to make it easier on him. “You imagine it…don’t you?” His fingers found his own heat and curled around it. “I…would give it to you in a heartbeat. I would give you everything.” He panted a bit, his hand moving slowly. “I would make you cry out and beg me for more if you’d let me. You are everything I’ve ever wanted and all I need.” His eyes opened a little more, so he could focus on the smaller man’s movements. “I dream about being inside you. Feeling your warmth around me…” He almost whispered the last words.

“Lance.” Keith grit his teeth as his head sunk low. He didn’t need to think. He didn’t need to remember anything. He didn’t have to know about Lance or himself outside of this moment. This one desperate moment. He pushed away the mental clutter and let his eyes find his partner. God, Lance was beautiful. The blush on his skin was like seeing a sunset paint a desert canyon. With oasis colored eyes staring back at him, deep and fathomless. Rough, mindless hand gripped his sex. He moved, slowly at first, but it wasn’t enough. It couldn’t be enough. He ached. Damn, did he ache. He could hear Lance’s pants. He could almost feel his moans vibrate against his skin. And his words wrapped around his mind and cloaked it in blanket of pure lust. He didn’t realize he’d been doing it until he felt the press of his own finger against his lips, still sweet from his honey and oatmeal scented soap. He pulled the digit in, his tongue lewd and guiltless as it lavished his skin before he sucked it between his teeth. “Nnmm…”

Lance’s heat twitched in his hand as he watched Keith’s finger move between his lips like that. He moaned, imagining what it would have felt like to feel that wet, hot mouth wrapped around his sex. His hand moved faster, and he arched himself up a little. “Fuck…Fuck, Keith, you’re driving me crazy.”

“Mmm!” Keith’s back bowed up, rigid and stiff. A second finger pushing between his lips, his head tilted back to accept them as his hand moved faster, matching the pants from Lance and driven on by those eyes watching him. Wanting him. “MNG!!” His hips thrust up and a sound came from Keith’s throat, guttural and edged with a premortal lust. Hot ribbions of cum arched into the air and landed in thick strings across Keith’s stomach, thatching against his tan stripes.

It was too much. Lance’s own orgasm jolted through his body, his hips thrusting himself into his hand as though it was something else, emptying his pleasure in hot bursts. He moaned, the syllable of Keith’s name lost somewhere in the sound of pleasure that escaped his throat. When the feeling calmed, and he came down from the high, his eyes tried to focus on the image of the other paladin. Darkened eyes found flushed cheeks, parted lips, fingers still pressing against them as though inviting him in. He leaned forward a bit as though he could reach out for the other man. “Keith…”

“Mm?” Pale fingers slipped from Keith’s lips as a lazy pleasure rocked through his body. He dragged the wet fingers down his jaw and neck, imagining a tongue taking up the sweat of his skin and sinking lower on his still helplessly quivering body. He smeared through the mess on his stomach with a sluggish speed, spreading it over himself as his thighs and hips trembled, aching to wrap around a body that wasn’t there. He mewled a sound of disappointment and those eyes quickly found Lance. So dark. So hungry.

A low sound, almost a growl, escaped Lance’s throat and he rested his hand on the projection of Keith, right at one of his thighs, as though he could slide his hand up and touch something infinitely more intimate. “You’re…going to tempt me so much, and it’s going to be difficult to stop myself from running to you.” As it was, he could already feel the heat pooling in his lap again. Seeing Keith smear his seed like that was only making it harder.

“What would you do?” Keith asked, his voice husky and low as his eyes boldly dragged down Lance’s body, taking in the paladin’s afterglow. In the morning he’d be embarrassed by the question. He’d reprimand himself then. Right now, he wanted to hear Lance’s voice edged on to the breaking point. He wanted to hear the longing and know it was ‘him’ the blue paladin wanted and not chasing a ghost.

“Make you mine…” Lance whispered, his hand trembling against the wall. He pressed his fingers into the cold metal as though that could keep him grounded. “Make you see that it was always you. Even before. Even if I didn’t know it.”

“What if I’m already yours?” Keith asked, swallowing a few more breaths to calm his heart.

“Are you? Then I’d just make extra sure of it.” Lance closed his eyes for a moment, trying to focus on anything but the naked body projected in front of him. He needed to calm down and control himself, or he really would run to the hangar. “Keith…I’m losing my resolve. All I want to do is hold you.”

“Damnit Lance,” Keith cursed without bite to the words. “I’m not strong enough to resist that right now.” Keith’s mental facilities started to come back to him. The heat dissipated and replaced with a crawling cold. A cold he never knew before. At least, never had a name for. Lonely. His arms came up to hug himself, trying to hold in what remained of that precious heat. “I need you.”

“I…Keith…I won’t be able to stop myself if I go to you.” Lance kept his hand pressed against the wall. “Tomorrow…can I see you?”

“Tomorrow?” Keith’s head picked up, an ear quirked to the side. “Yeah. Tomorrow would be okay. Where?”

“Breakfast?” Lance shifted and grabbed his underwear, yanking them on with a slight hiss when the fabric rubbed against his hot flesh. “I don’t know if I can wait much longer than that.”

“So, like a date?” Keith vetted the word with a skeptical tongue.

“Yeah, our first one.” Lance smiled just a little. “Is that okay?”

“You know,” Keith started, a smirk on his lips as he laid his head back down. “We’re doing this ass backwards.”

“Not completely. Technically we haven’t had sex yet.” Lance moved and cleaned up his bed, a smile curving his lips. “You know, that was the most Keith thing you’ve said in a while.”

“Oh?” A thick eye brow arched. “What qualifies as a ‘Keith thing’?”

“The snark.” Lance chuckled. “I like it.”

“Snark.” Keith couldn’t argue, but he didn’t have to pretend to like it, and his mild displeasure came in the smallest out of his lower lip. “Hmph. So, where is this date going to be? In the cafeteria?”

Lance chuckled. “More of you is showing now. So it’s working hm?” He settled down in his now-clean bed. “Is that where you want breakfast?”

“No. I want to go someplace else. Some place quiet.” Keith’s eyes brightened with the speed of a thought. “Tomorrow. I’ll meet you in the cafeteria. We can have breakfast there, but you have to leave Lunch for me. I want to go home. If it’s still standing, anyway.”

“Then that’s what we’ll do.” Lance smiled. “We can take Red.” He watched the way Keith’s eyes sparkled, and he smiled even more, knowing Keith was happy. It was more than enough for him. “Just us.”

“Back to where we started.” Keith blushed a little a smile to match Lance’s curled his lips.

“How romantic of you.” Lance reached up and touched the wall again, stroking the image of his cheek.

“Hmn?” Keith blinked a few times, pulling his thicker blanket up to his chin as he watched Lance. “Is it?”

“It is, and I really like it.” Lance chuckled. “So tomorrow. We’ll have our romantic date.”

“Y-yeah.” Keith stuttered, still hung up on the ‘romantic’ part of tomorrow. He didn’t mean for it to seem that way, it was just something he wanted to do. Though the gesture made Lance happy, so he wouldn’t argue his intent. “Okay. Tomorrow.”

“I’ll leave the link open as usual.” Lance’s voice dropped as he started to fade into the beginnings of sleep. “Just make sure you’re aware when your camera is on hm?” He was tired, but there was a bit of mirth in his voice. He obviously didn’t mind seeing Keith fresh from the shower, and now that they had done something so intimate together, there really was no problem.

“Oh? Cause you seemed so upset.” Keith chuckled.

“Well I wouldn’t mind a show on purpose instead of by accident.” Lance shook his head. “Goodnight, Keith.”

“Goodnight.” Keith turned his head up, the smile on his lips looking more like a lopsided grin with cheek smooshed up against the pillow.

A murmur was all that escaped Lance’s lips before he fell into a rather deep sleep. So deep, that he almost wasn’t aware of where he was when his eyes opened in the morning, and all he could see was the smooth expanse of Keith’s bare back. He reached out and touched the wall, almost feeling the warmth Keith would have been radiating instead of the cool metal that actually met his fingertips. He watched the other man for a moment, his lips curling into the slightest of smiles before he slowly crept out of bed and went into the bathroom. Rather than give Keith a show and potentially delay their date, Lance shut the door and cleaned up as quietly as possible. Keith didn’t sleep as much as he should, so Lance wasn’t going to disturb him.

It’s why he left a note (“see you for breakfast <3”) propped up against the wall so the camera would pick it up. It’s why he carefully crept out of his room and barely breathed until the door shut behind him. Then he let out a large puff of air as he slowly headed towards the mess hall. He hadn’t left his room in weeks, well, except for taking Keith to the lion after his seizure, and he really wasn’t sure what would happen the moment someone saw him.

Of course, when he finally made it out of the corridor and stepped through the doors to the mess hall, he blinked to see that only a few people had shuffled in. Some with coffee. Some with their heads on the tables. None of them Shiro, or any of the other paladins, or their families. Lance let out a sigh of relief as he picked the smallest table against one of the walls. At least then he and Keith could potentially eat in peace.

His luck could only last for so long. Shiro ushered into the room, his face drawn and his eyes staring listlessly down at the hovering orange lit terminal on his arm. An aqua haired cadet danced over, forcing a thin lipped smiled from the Captain and handed him another pad. Shiro read it over and quickly signed, much to her delight as she squealed her thanks. A leave request most likely.

When she left, a shadow returned to the square featured man. He looked less somehow. Like a man who lost something important. His golden eyes did a quick scan of the cafeteria and froze on Lance. Several emotions came forth in rapid succession. Relief, anger, regret, joy, and an oppressive loneliness. Funny how people described that kind of expression. No one wore it the same, but the weight it bore down on someone had an unmistakable pressure. He stood there staring at Lance, conflicted before his shoulders slumped and he sat alone at a long table.

Lance felt the eyes on him before he even turned to see Shiro sit at a long table. He pressed his fingers into the fabric of his pants as he glanced over at the older man. He had never actually seen anyone age so much in such a short time, though Shiro still had that handsome face. It was his eyes, and guilt immediately washed over the younger man. He hadn’t exactly been the nicest to Shiro when they last talked. He let his jealousy get the best of him, even though he knew he shouldn’t have. But now it felt like a weight crushing him.

He hesitated, but he stood. Keith wasn’t here yet. And it’s not like he would mind if they ate with Shiro, right? But how could Lance leave him alone when he just looked so…lost? “Hey…” He stopped at the chair across from his former idol, his lips barely twitching upward. “Can I sit here?”

“I don’t own the ship.” Shiro blinked. “I am the ship.” He tried at his usual banter, but it fell flat against the summer warmth of his usual smile. “You’re looking better.” A floating hand waved to the chair across from him.

Lance shook his head at Shiro’s dad-level joke and sat. “Your jokes haven’t gotten better…” His lips curved up a bit more before he shook his head. “Hey, so…I’m sorry. About all that stuff before. I shouldn’t have been so cold to you when you were just trying to help me. I know you didn’t deserve it, so I’m sorry.” Maybe it would bring the mood down, but Lance needed to at least say that much. And maybe, just maybe, things could get better from here, right?

Shiro shrugged his should, his face solemn. “You care about him a lot, don’t you?” Like Keith, Shiro cut to the chase.

“Yeah. I love him, Shiro.” Lance looked at him, brows furrowing at the expression on his face. Was it insensitive to say so when Shiro lost someone he loved? When Shiro seemed so lonely? But Lance couldn’t lie about his feelings for Keith.

“He’s strong and proud. Don’t ever forget that.” Shiro supplied with a paternal fondness. “But he’s sensitive and easily hurt. So don’t hurt him. He won’t come to me so freely anymore, so I can’t derail him. But you never needed me for that in the first place.”

“I won’t. I won’t make him regret it.” Lance looked at Shiro, his eyes locking onto the older man’s. “I might upset him or make him cry. We might fight. But at the end of the day I will always love him.”

“Cry? I’ve never seen him cry.” Shiro pondered the visual for a moment before he shook his head. “How is he? Are you both doing okay? Eating alright? I know he’s been keeping up on everything. Pidge told me he’s been going through the meeting logs and watching the videos.”

“If he’s not eating, he isn’t telling me about it.” Lance shook his head and sat back in his chair. “But he seems like he’s doing better. I know he’s sleeping better…”

Shiro didn’t ask questions. He didn’t need to know further details of their relationship. Overall it didn’t matter. Two adults could do whatever they wanted, particularly within the privacy of their own relationships. Shiro only had to step in if it felt like it was impeding their mission. Which brought him to the next point of contention. He didn’t want to bring it up. He didn’t want to ask. If these boys had been anyone else, he’d give them all the time in the world. But they didn’t have that. Keith and Lance didn’t have that luxury. Neither did Shiro. He’d been covering for the two paladins for weeks. If they had been any other soldiers, Shiro could have written the whole thing off as a medical leave. But there was one Voltron and a very select group of people would ever be allowed to bear the title of Paladin. Shiro sighed deeply.

“How much more time do you two need?” He phrased the question as open as possible. Let him worry about the wannabe generals breathing down his neck. Shiro was the Captain of the Atlas, they couldn’t court martial him or the Paladins, but duty was duty.

Lance stiffened at the question. He knew what Shiro was getting at. Their light duty was only supposed to be a week or so. Not almost this entire month. His nose wrinkled, and he sighed. “I…don’t know how much longer Keith needs. I’ve been doing everything for him…he was the one who was having the worse reactions…”

“So Keith is getting everything he needs, for now. What about you?” Shiro canted his head and made effort to hide the concern. “Keith told me a lot of about what happened on the mission. About you and him. I wasn’t surprised. You’ve been following him since you were kids.” He chuckled as he took a sip of coffee, watching Lance over the rim. “But, Keith has a way of monopolizing attention. It’s nothing he tries to do, not even anything he asks for. It’s just part of who he is. Even if he’s a sullen figure in the corner of the room, he somehow steals the attention of every other person there. That type of charisma is dangerous. You lose sight of yourself rather easily, when all you can think about is the other person. Adam said I was like that, but I’m far more selfish than Keith.”

“I don’t know what you mean by that…” Lance waved his hand a little and tried to play off the bit about his following Keith so much as a child. “But you know as well as I do that Keith was way worse off. He was the one having the nightmares, right?” His lips thinned, as that wasn’t really a topic he wanted to discuss any further. “He’s the one struggling with reconciling his mission self and his actual self.” Lance had no other way of saying that he wasn’t worrying about himself until Keith was fine. He also wasn’t going to tell him about Keith’s seizure in the training hall. So he just shrugged a little. “So ask him when he comes.”

“Wait, what do you mean, ‘reconciling’ himself?” Shiro asked, concern renewing in the amber of his eyes.

“That’s what Pidge was talking about right? The memories from then clashing with the memories from now. That’s why he was having the nightmares. He’s not having them anymore, so just ask him how he is when he gets here.” Lance shrugged again. He didn’t know how, or even really want to try to explain it to Shiro. Not when it was Keith’s choice to really go into it.

“He won’t even talk to me.” Shiro leaned back in his chair his thumb stroking a curved handle of his cup. “Chases me across the universe twice and this is what it takes for him to drop me?”

“Who’s dropping who?” Keith’s familiar voice upset the captain, and the larger man gave a satisfying gasp as he sat up. Keith smirked, happy with the result of his surprise appearance, and he grinned wider as Shiro stared in bewildered awe at the dark-haired youth.

“I was pissed off at you. I didn’t hate you.” He continued.

“Keith-I…” Shiro stuttered to find words through the guilt of getting caught in the middle of discussing the very man who stood before him. Keith looked better than he had the last time he saw him. His body filled out more, his skin was a healthier shade of pale, but he still seemed wraithish. Fragmented. He appeared as if a breeze could break what he rebuilt. Shiro shook the thought away. This was Keith. His Keith. The strongest most resilient man he’d ever met. A Galra armada couldn’t take him down and neither would this.

The older man stood up and gripped the Paladin in a hug, squeezing the air from him and lifting him as if he were no more than a child. “Forget it. I’m glad you’re back.”

“Ahem.” Lance made no move to get up from the chair, but he wasn’t about to sit there and watch Shiro squeeze the life out of Keith. “Do you mind not crushing him with your weird floaty arm?” He would cover his jealousy and mild annoyance with humor. He didn’t need either of them to know how he felt, or how stupid it was of him to feel that way.

“Sorry.” Shiro set Keith down and ruffled up his hair. “I’m happy to see you’re doing better.”

Keith smiled. “Yeah. I am. I’m getting there.”

“Take the time you need.”

“Don’t lie.” Keith sat across from Lance, not meeting the other paladin in the eye. “You don’t have the time to give us that much.”

Shiro squeezed Keith’s shoulder. Always the practical one. “Still…”

“It’s not going to be easy, but we should be ready to go for that mission over the Atlantic coast.” Keith tapped his finger on the table. “We can quickly hit those Galra holdouts. In and out. It would be a good easy one to get us back into the swing of things.”

“Keith.” Shiro hated the way Keith talked about war as if he were sitting behind a desk pushing papers. These guys didn’t have much of a childhood, and now here they were, veterans at the ages of twenty-one and nineteen. Adults really failed them. Particularly Keith. In and out of foster homes until Shiro found him at the age of twelve. Physically healthy but mentally neglected for who knows how long. Just another ‘problem case’. He’d been written off and abandoned by a system meant to protect him.

“What? Don’t stare at me like that?” Keith scooted a bit away from Shiro.

“Like what?”

“Like you’re two steps away sobbing on me. Look, I’m fine. I’m alive, and so is Lance.”

Lance’s lower lip stuck out and his cheeks puffed when Keith sat across from him and wouldn’t look at him. He drummed his fingers on the table for a moment before he pushed himself to his feet. With this kind of conversation, Lance just assumed there was going to be a change of plans. But rather than say anything about that, he just murmured a soft “Yeah, I’m alive, and I’ll get the food,” and headed to the counter.

“W-wait! Lance…” Keith started to get up but stopped, canting his head over to Shiro.

“Go with him. Just promise we can talk later.”

“Yeah. I promise.” Keith nodded, giving Shiro all he needed to confirm their reconciliation.

Keith caught up to Lance at the vendor stall. “Hey.” The unruly mess of a layered black waves remained bowed, still not meeting Lance’s eyes. He had yet to run a comb through his hair, but Keith was one of those lucky bastards who didn’t have to try. He didn’t have a skin regime, he didn’t use special oils or lotions, he barely washed his hair with anything more than basic shampoo. Though he made it look cool. He made a mullet look cool. He was just one of those people. Everything appeared effortless, yet Lance had seen him struggle with the most mundane tasks and a hug from almost anyone nearly left him broken.

“I was coming back, you didn’t have to leave Shiro…” Lance shook his head and glanced at Keith out of the corner of his eye. The other paladin still wouldn’t look at him, so he sighed. “What is it?” He wasn’t sure he wanted to know, but he also knew if he didn’t ask, Keith wouldn’t tell him. He wasn’t going to risk more secrets between them.

“What’s what?” Keith asked grabbing his plate, ears turned a little off to the side.

“The reason you won’t look at me?” Lance turned to face him once he got his plate. “Was last night too much?

“Too much?” The question forced Keith’s head up against his better judgement. The older man knew exactly what would happen if he stared into the face of the man he jerked off with the night before, and he felt it happening. Like a match catching on fire, Keith flared red. His pale skin hiding nothing from Lance’s gaze. The same gaze had dragged over his arched body, openly devoured every naked inch of him, and left the sensation of a thousand gentle hands stoking a fire inside of him and bringing forward every salacious sound Keith knew how to make.

The very same gaze on him now. In the middle of the cafeteria as Keith tried not to crush a juice pouch in his tightening hand.

Lance watched the red creep up Keith’s neck and color his entire face. He arched a brow at the slight drooping to the other man’s ears, but he figured that was more out of embarrassment than anything else. “Yes, I see it was.” He shook his head a little and took Keith’s plate from him before he could drop it, and he started to walk back to that small table he had been at before Shiro walked in.

Keith followed the taller man and sat beside him. Had he done something wrong already? “Am I doing something weird?” He asked, running his claw against the edge of his tray, smoothing the fraying plastic seam, watching with muted fascination as the thin fibers curled up under the scrape of his nail.

“No, but I didn’t want you to drop your plate on the floor and stand there dumbfounded.” Lance sat and set Keith’s plate down on the tray in front of him. He looked at him with a steady gaze.

“Oh? Alright. So… About last night?” Keith worried his lip. “I don’t regret it.” Better to get to the point then continue with awkward conversation.

“I would hope not. I mean, you probably wouldn’t have shown up here if you did, right?” Lance smiled a bit as he continued to watch him.

“And sorry I slept in so late. I wanted to meet you earlier.”

“You don’t have to apologize. You needed the sleep, didn’t you?” Lance kept smiling. If he could just set Keith at ease, he would feel better too.

“I guess. But it was strange, waking up alone.” Keith said. Since they started to their commlink relationship, they rarely woke up alone. Keith grew accustomed to Lance’s constant sounds. His shuffling, or gentle breathing. ‘Sounds of presences’ Keith named them. Even if they didn’t speak, he knew Lance was there. “It was cold.” He whispered the last part, no point in a façade of nonchalance. Lance knew Keith better than that.

“Oh…” Lance’s smile faltered before he reached out and touched one of Keith’s hands. “I’m sorry. I just didn’t want to wake you. You looked so cute while you slept.” Was Keith upset with him? Should he have stayed? Some guilt started to settle in his stomach.

“I wouldn’t know.” Keith’s ears flicked, as they often did when something Lance said or did landed favorably.

“Well, I would. And you did.” Lance grinned and kept his hand on Keith’s. “I also enjoyed seeing how nice you look when you sleep naked.” He dropped his voice to a whisper for that last word.

“Lance!” Keith yelped, ears perked forward before they drooped the faintest amount. He reigned his voice in, ducking his head against the annoyed stares of the others in the cafeteria drawn to them thanks to his outburst. “I was too tired to get my clothes. Okay? I hadn’t even laid them out before I realized you could see me.”

“I liked it. I think you should do it more often, though only when I can hold you.” Lance patted Keith’s hand and grinned. “So no one else can see it if they walk in on you.”

“And who would be dumb enough to walk into my room?” Keith arched a brow. Lance was annoyingly proud of himself and having too much fun at Keith’s expense.

“I don’t know, but it’s not something I want to risk.” Lance kept grinning even as he started poking at his breakfast. “Can you blame me? You’re really good looking.”

“Good looking or not, not everyone wants to see a grown man naked.” Keith licked a trail of syrup for his finger, his ear flicking as the sappy sweet taste danced on his tongue. When was the last time he’d had real maple syrup?

“But some people want to see you naked.” Lance watched his tongue and arched a brow, trying to distract himself from the way Keith’s actions were forming images in his head. “Are you trying to seduce me, Keith?”

“Yeah that would be you. And you.” Keith rolled his eyes. “No. I’m trying to get the syrup before it drips to the table.” A smirk grew quickly and sparked in those eyes. “Oh, are you that easily seduced?”

“There are definitely more people than me, and when it comes to you, yes. I am. Very easily.” Lance leaned in a little and dropping his voice. “Especially when you’re showing me what your tongue can do.”

Flashes and echoes of moans forced the red uniformed paladin to freeze, his eyes bashfully lowering to the floor, embarrassed.

“Maybe I went too far?” Lance chuckled and leaned back again, eating the rest of his breakfast if only to keep his mind from drifting back to Keith’s tongue.

“Why do you keep saying that?” Keith asked, his eyes focusing back on own food.

“I keep embarrassing you.”

“Well, how are you so calm? Like last night didn’t do anything to you? Pisses me off. You just walk in here like it doesn’t do anything, and I can barely look you in the eye.” Keith pouted and slumped his back against the chair. He wasn’t really pissed off, just annoyed this relationship was already appearing to be unbalanced. Intimacy didn’t scare Keith. He didn’t care if someone saw him leaning on Lance or holding his hand. Those external things didn’t matter to him. If other people were bothered, eyes have lids for a reason, or they could fuck off. Keith’s problem stemmed from not being used to physical closeness. Having a warm body at your side, a kind hug, and a tender touch brought out emotions in the young man he’d been ready to disregard for the better part of his short life. He learned quickly how to trust his instincts. Group homes taught a child that. If you don’t put faith in anyone, it won’t hurt when they let you down. Shiro spent years trying to repair the damage done to his charge, and it took him nearly half a decade, finding his mother, and a giant space robot for Keith to put himself together and learn how to accept and trust what people gave him. Now that he allowed himself to feel, he didn’t know how to compartmentalize any of it. Compounded with everything else involved with their previous mission into the Alternate Reality, adjustment seemed impossible.

“I’ve had plenty of time to practice appearing calm about a lot of things, even when I’m not.” Lance shook his head. Maybe Lance didn’t have the kind of life Keith did, but he had learned pretty early that most people don’t care about your feelings. It’s easier to brush them off and laugh rather than make people uncomfortable. Being away from his family for so long only solidified that for him, and now he was just used to passing everything off with a joke. And even if he forced himself to remain calm, at least he knew he could be honest with Keith. He could tell him things. He could honestly flirt. It helped that Keith’s reactions were the cutest things he had ever seen. “And I’m not calm. All I can think about is doing it again, but this time being the one to do it for you instead of watching you.” He leaned forward, but not too far since Keith slumped back. “And seeing you lick your syrup up like that made it a little hard for me…”

“Made what hard?” Keith cocked his head then blinked, his eyes dropping down to Lance’s crotch, seeing the stiffness in his pants. “Oh.”

“And if you keep looking at it, it’s going to get harder, and it’s going to be difficult not to want to pull you somewhere and have my way with you.” Lance murmured, his eyes still locked on that almost angelic face, even if Keith’s gaze was pointed downward.

“Where would you take me?” Keith asked.

“The closest unoccupied room.” Lance licked his lips and continued to watch him. “But that wouldn’t be good for either of us, would it? I wouldn’t be able to stop myself.”

Keith watched Lance’s tongue as it slicked over pink tinted skin, leaving a gloss in its wake. He had soft kissable lips. Such beautiful glistening lips. “Huh?” He started as he leaned forward.

Lance leaned forward a bit too. “So you want me to take you away from here and find an empty room and have my way with you?” He stopped just short of Keith’s lips. He wanted nothing more than to kiss him, but Keith probably wouldn’t like that in public. At least not again. Last time everyone stared at them in shock. Of course, they had just come out of the life pods after dying on a mission, and both their bodies and minds had changed. “Didn’t you tell Shiro we were ready for a mission? Shouldn’t we do that?”

“That mission isn’t planned for a week.” Keith slipped his hand up Lance’s leg, rolling to the outer thigh. Warmth and steel-worked power met the pressure of his touch. Lance had the body of an earth-bound god. Toned, lean, and he could build muscle quickly to adapt to any prolonged environment or task. Keith worked for every damn inch of definition he had. Lance could laze about for a week and eat nothing but junk and still look like he went to the gym every day. Keith on the other hand had his mother’s build. For a Galra she was sleek and small, that translated over to Keith. It took a lot of drills to get the twenty-one-year-old body he had when he met up with the group, and then in a day he’d lost half his progress. He was now some in-between awkward little thing with furry ears.

“Oh…?” Lance’s body shifted in his chair, so he could get as close to Keith as the table would allow. “You made it sound like it was today. Remember, I haven’t been to the meetings, and I haven’t read any of the reports. I’m not good like you.” He rested his hand on the one on his thigh, keeping it pressed against him.

“I know.” Keith grinned. “Deviant.”

“But you like me as I am, so what does that say about you?” Lance grinned.

“Maybe I want to do something bad.”

“So…I should take you out of here? If you want to do something bad?” Lance slid Keith’s hand a little higher up on his thigh. “Though it would be very, very good.”

“I have a plan already.” Keith turned his hand up to hold Lance’s, watching his dark claws grace over the other’s knuckles.

“Oh yeah?” Lance held his hand and looked down at their intertwined fingers. “A different plan than the one before?”

“No, still the same plan I’ve always had.” Keith tightened his hold to reassure Lance. “It’s important that we do this.”

“Then let’s go.” Lance lifted Keith’s hand to his lips and kissed the back of it, slowly standing as he did so.

Keith stood up, amazed at the lack of attention they were getting. Though he had to wonder what kind of ego he had to assume of any of these people, with their own lives, and their own stories, would care one bit about two random people in the corner of a cafeteria. Yes, they were the paladins of Voltron, but the celebrity wore off rather quickly. Voltron was just one piece of this galactic puzzle, and everyone here played their part.

“I’ll meet you at Red. I still need to gather a few things.”

“Okay…Is there anything you need me to get? You don’t want me to come with you?” Lance was hesitant to let Keith’s hand go. He wouldn’t say that it was because he couldn’t bear it after not really being with him for so long.

“I don’t need anything else. Just some food, so we can go together. I already got everything else in Red.” Keith grinned. “It pays to know a teleporting wolf.”

“Oh…?” Lance pouted just slightly. “You went into red without me?” He felt a long-forgotten tug in his chest. One he had only felt once before, when he went into Keith’s room that night to give up his spot in Voltron. That feeling of being so easily replaced. “…How?”

“Teleporting. Wolf. I just said that. Like Red would just let me in? She’s your Lion.” Keith stepped though the double swinging doors and into the kitchen. He nodded once to the middle-aged man behind the counter. “But that doesn’t mean I don’t have my ways.”

“That isn’t…” Lance shook his head and watched him, his hand falling to his side when Keith let go and stepped through those doors. “Nevermind.” He shoved his hands into his pockets and followed him.

“What?” Keith turned wide eyes up at Lance. Had he done something he shouldn’t have? He’d been in Red since they switched Lions. Several times in fact. Granted none of them were without Lance. “Did I over step?”

When Keith looked at Lance with those almost doe-like eyes, Lance’s own dropped to the floor. He couldn’t look at that innocent expression without feeling guilty for even remotely entertaining the thought that he wasn’t important. So he just sighed. “I…don’t know?” It was better to be honest about his confusion wasn’t it? “Did you? Is that what it is?”

“That’s why I’m asking?” One of Keith’s ears cocked up, the other hitching down, adding to the already bewildered expression. “You’d left, and I thought I’d get a couple things packed as long as I was in the hanger. But umm, I guess…” He packed a loaf of bread into a bag, knowing full well Lance hadn’t paid attention to anything Keith was doing, or grabbing off the shelves and counter tops. “I won’t do that again. Sorry.”

“No. That’s not…” Lance’s brows furrowed and shook his head. “Nevermind. It’s stupid of me to be confused about something like that. I guess it just caught me off guard because you never did that without me before.” He shook his head once more as if to clear the feeling before he smiled at Keith. “Should I just meet you there, then?”

“I thought, you wanted to come with me?” Keith shouldered his pack then reached his hand up touch Lance’s forehead with the back. “Are you okay? You’re not making a lot of sense.”

“I think so.” Lance looked at him, not totally sure when the other paladin had gotten that close, but he wouldn’t allow himself to be startled. “Sorry. I think I confused myself. I do want to come with you.”

Concern furrowed Keith’s brow as he stepped in pressing his cheek to Lance’s, taking in his scent now that he had the freedom to be so close. “If you’re not feeling well, you can tell me. All of this can wait.”

“I’m not sick or anything, Keith.” Lance’s eyes started to close at his proximity. “We…should go to the hangar before we end up giving everyone a show.”

“Let them watch if they don’t want to look away.” Keith smiled, noting the chef had already left the kitchen. He pressed Lance back against the steel table, his hands trapping him on either side. “Though they’d have to be really eager to look though that tiny window.” The kitchen had two porthole sized windows on the doors leading to the cafeteria.

Lance’s eyes opened wide when he was pressed back against that hard surface. “Keith…You keep tempting me.” He rested his hands on Keith’s slender hips and arched a brow. “The kitchen is not a place to play.” Though he had to admit he was already feeling a lot better. That slight despair he felt earlier was already receding.

“I had to do something to bring you back.” Keith whispered. “You seemed lost.” He nudged his leg between Lance’s, as he nuzzled his nose into his jaw. “So I wanted you to find me.” That scent was getting to him. The heady smell of warm honey, sweet cream, and ocean air. Savory, sugary, and salty. Keith’s mouth started to water, and his eyes drifted down Lance’s chest then further to where his leg pressed in before he leisurely brought them back up to his face. “Are you here now?”

“I never left…” Lance’s voice was more of a groan than anything else. His fingers pressed into Keith’s hips and he leaned forward, his tongue flicking out to taste the other man’s soft lips. The sugary sweetness of the syrup still lingered, and Lance wanted more. “But we…can’t do this here.”

“Are you sure about that?” Tender claws stroked Lance’s cheek as a purr lifted from Keith’s chest. He knew Lance was right. Though he also knew it wasn’t a matter of ‘can’t’ because Keith was certain they could, but it was a matter of ‘shouldn’t.’ Heated foreplay in public kitchen was not a polite thing to do, but Keith found it hard to pull away.

“Hunk would kill me if I dirtied a kitchen…” Lance whispered as he took Keith’s mouth, no longer able to stop himself. No longer caring if anyone saw, or if they could get in trouble for doing this in here. All he wanted to do was taste Keith, to feel Keith, to know that Keith was his.

Keith lifted himself on his toes, the power of Lance’s kiss pulling him up by invisible strings. Each cord knotted to a secret part of him like a puppeteer’s marionette. He turned his head and parted his lips to give back what Lance gave, tongues twisting and winding around each other as his fingers did the same within Lance’s hair. He delved into the short brown locks, tugging at his scalp, trying to take all he could.

Lance’s hands slid from Keith’s hips to hold the curve of his ass, squeezing as he held him as close as possible with the restriction of the table and their clothing. “Nnn.” He managed after their kiss, his eyes darkening to a shade of midnight. “Keith…”

“Doesn’t seem like you’re thinking about Hunk right now?” Keith pushed Lance back on the table. Urged on by the firm grip on his back side, he crawled on top of him into a straddle, eyes lidded and predatory as they looked to devour Lance’s kiss one more time.

“Nnn.” Lance moaned and pushed his hips up to press against Keith as he responded to the kiss. His hands squeezed that soft flesh again, and he grunted. Feeling Keith press down on him like that was one of the most amazing things. It felt even better than what they did last night, and too much more of it would cause Lance to lose the last semblance of control he had. “N…No. But we have to. We have to…go…”

Keith moaned, Lance’s hold was tight and commanding, thrilling Keith and adding to the growing hardness between his legs. He didn’t know being around Lance for only a few minutes had the power to leave the man so unhinged. “Lance… I…”

A loud clang caused the hair on Keith’s ears and on the back of his neck to stand straight up as the paladin darted off the table into a crouch on the floor. In seconds he had his dagger out, and like a viper’s hood, he rounded his shoulders, cat eyes narrowed. A can of pie filling rolled across the floor where their food bag dropped. “Damnit…”

Lance couldn’t stop the laughter that erupted from his lips. He had jumped about seven feet, or at least it felt like it, when that clang echoed through the kitchen. And Keith’s stance only made the situation even funnier. Who was going to attack them here? But Keith being so protective, being so ready, was as comforting as it was scary. “See? Hunk’s mad! He’s even got the food scolding us.” He lifted a hand to pat one of his own cheeks as though that would dissipate the heat of Keith’s kiss.

“Yeah.” Keith slumped to the floor, his hand clutching his chest as he sheathed his dagger. “Don’t remember that in the registry of paladin abilities. But I know a sign when I see one.” He hopped up to his feet and held his hand out, smirking at Lance. “Lead the way to your Lion then.”

Lance wiped the mirthful tears from his eyes before he took Keith’s hand. “Don’t forget your bag.” He winked and waited for Keith to pick it up before he led him out of the kitchen and towards the hangar.

Chapter Text

Lance looked up at the still figure of the Red Lion. He hadn’t been in here in what felt like forever, and he was a little worried the lion would be angry at him for being so neglectful. His hand clutched Keith’s as he tried to think of something, anything, he could say to make everything okay, but before he could open his mouth to get a word out, the impressive maw of the mech opened as the head lowered itself to the ground.

Lance looked at Keith again before leading the other paladin into Red, his fingers twitching a little as he hesitantly let go of his hand and slid into the pilot’s chair. “Hey…Red.” He murmured, resting his hands on the controls as the HUD came into view. “Please be nice to me. I’m sorry for being lame and not taking you out in a while. I’ve been a mess, but I missed you, and I’m back.” He glanced over his shoulder at Keith and offered him a nervous smile. He could feel his heart pumping hard in his chest. What if Red decided to mess with him? To let him in and then just not work? He wouldn’t know what to do.

“I’m sure she won’t hold it against you, too badly.” Keith squeezed Lance’s shoulder as he surveyed the cockpit. Lance made this space his own. Lucky charms and toys to fidget with littered the area. Keith always figured Lance had an attention issue, his random thoughts and hyper fit somewhere on the spectrum. These knickknacks were his way of self-medicating. They all had their vices. Including Keith.

“Wait-” He cut off his own thoughts as he spied a familiar article of clothing. “Is that?” He cocked his head and stepped over to an empty pocket. A pair of black flinger-less gloves hung from under a globe-sized weight. “Are these my gloves?” Keith’s mouth pursed to the side with an arched brow as he leaned over Lance to get a better look.

Lance’s face instantly turned about seven shades of red as he tried to cough and play it off. “W…Well you left them behind! And I know how much you liked them!” He practically squeaked as he guided Red out of the hangar and took off. It felt amazing being in control of his lion again, but his embarrassment at being found out dampened his euphoria. It was probably for the best, since he could at least concentrate a little on piloting. If Red would even let him do anything.

Keith’s smirk was slow and pleased. “Is that a fact? Then why haven’t you given them to me yet?” Keith slipped his body around Lance like a snake coiling over its prey. Red didn’t need Lance to fly over the desert, and the older paladin was sure she wouldn’t argue if her former pilot had a bit of fun. He put a glove on one hand and grabbed the wrist between his teeth, pulling it down. “When were you going to give them back?” He wiggled his fingers, the black claws looking like a gothic manicure as he fanned them out.

“We…We were busy! And…” Lance’s blush extended to his ears and down his neck. “I…a lot of things happened, but I was going to give them to you! I just…I forgot, and…” He gulped audibly, growing warm just about everywhere. The heat most obvious in his face, which was now one solid shade of deep crimson.

“Mmmhmm.” Keith pulled on the other glove before slipping his hands up Lance’s arms, scooting them under the sleeves of his uniform. “You can keep them if you want.”

“I was really going to give them to you!” Lance couldn’t suppress the shiver at Keith’s predatory gestures. The arousal that had finally settled from their earlier interactions now started to grow again, and he whimpered as he pressed against the cloth of his underwear. “Keith…I…need to concentrate.” He knew he didn’t. Red was already on her course. She could handle it. But Lance was losing his control.

“Oh?” Keith purred, his lips close enough to share a breath, “I suppose I should get off, then?” Keith didn’t know what came over him. The little kitten from their memories taking over wouldn’t behave like this. That guy was less shrewd and far less forceful. Keith didn’t know the other being clawing to the surface. He admitted, only to himself, he liked it. Maybe this is who he was? Maybe after all the repression, and allowing himself to feel, this licentious sexual being had been laying in wait.

Though he wasn’t sure if Keith meant the double entendre, Lance squeaked out his words. “Do…you want to get off?” He needed to regain as much control of himself as he could, so he took one hand off the controls and rested it on one of Keith’s thighs. “I can help you with that…” Even if Keith didn’t mean it, Lance would play on those words, so he leaned up and took Keith’s lips with his own. This was okay wasn’t it? Keith didn’t seem to be ashamed of how he was behaving, so this was what he wanted, right? Lance hoped so even as he pulled back from the kiss and let his tongue slide over Keith’s lower lip.

Tingles. Delicious, sweet tingles drove down Keith’s spine. “Mm.” He murmured between their lips as his hands slipped into Lance’s sleeves and up his arms until they met too much resistance.

“You know, these uniforms…” Keith whispered between kisses, allowing a growl to blend with the kitten sweet purr of his voice. “I really like them.” Strong hands massaged flexing biceps as Keith kept his face just close enough to catch Lance’s moans.

“Me too.” Lance managed between intakes of air before he kissed Keith again, the hand on his thigh squeezing gently. He wasn’t sure if he was trying to keep himself grounded or if he was trying to make Keith pull himself a little closer. “I…would like them better if they were off, though.”

“Oh yeah? Right here?” Keith lifted a finger to play with the buttons of Lance’s uniform. His smirk grew more smug as his fingers walked their way between the buttons to touch the thin under shirt.

“I would like that.” Lance whispered a little and groaned, shivering with the soft touch of Keith’s fingers. “But I don’t think Red would…”

“Red was Alfor’s. I’m willing to bet we’re not the first.” Keith smirked, sly and knowing. “But, we’re almost there.” Keith turned in Lance’s lap, letting the blue Paladin pilot through his landing, but not without nestling his back against the other’s chest. Happily purring his contentment.

Lance was about to protest, but then Keith settled on his lap and behaved himself, well as far as just nuzzling back against him. That, he could handle. That meant he could once again focus on what he was doing as he landed Red and shut everything down. “Imp.” He murmured into the back of Keith’s ear before licking over the velvety flesh.

“You’re just mad cause you liked it.” Keith titled his head, offering more of his neck and ear to Lance, his skin alive with pleasant jolts. “Besides, I think you’re the one who did this to me.”

“How did I do this to you?” Lance whispered. “You’re the one who climbed on me.” But he wasn’t complaining at all.

“Since last night, it’s been distracting me.” Keith didn’t move, not yet, not when Lance was perfect and warm. “I imagined what you would feel like.”

“Oh yeah? And what did you imagine I’d feel like?” Lance kept his voice soft as he nuzzled Keith’s ear. “Or should we talk about that elsewhere?”

“Elsewhere.” Keith had a plan. None of this would be worth anything if he didn’t stick to it. “You can wait, right?” He turned his head and got his lips just under Lance’s jaw.

“I’ve already waited this long,” Lance moaned out the words as Keith’s soft lips brushed against his skin. “A little longer won’t hurt.”

“You sure? You seem ready to pop.” Keith grinned. Seeing Lance this way had an effect on Keith he didn’t expect. It was egotistical. It was vain. But he felt desired. Wanted. Sexy. He wanted Lance to stare at him. He wanted his compliments. He wanted Lance to find him alluring. He wanted to do things to keep his focus. “Mi Cielo.” Keith tilted his head back and nipped the lobe of one of those Altean ears.

“I am ready to pop.” Lance’s voice pitched at Keith’s words and the nip to his ear. “You’re trying to make me pop, aren’t you?” He slid his hand down Keith’s back, his eyes half closing. “Any more and I won’t be able to walk.”

“Maybe. I like it.” Keith admitted, perhaps with the hope of Lance explaining it to him or telling him it wasn’t strange. Keith was curious and approaching this whole concept as if it were a battle to be won. In the back of his mind he understood more than he let on. His other self had memories on top of memories on seduction and how to manipulate through sex. The alternate Keith used sex as a tactical weapon and a means to survive. So Keith refused to dive into his memories for answers.

“You like making me so hard that I’m unable to walk?” Lance pouted a little and held him closer. He wasn’t sure if Keith was doing it on purpose, or if he was actually innocent to the seduction he was performing. Either way, Lance was incredibly intrigued, and he needed to calm himself or they wouldn’t be getting out of Red any time soon. “Or do you just like the turning me on part, even if that’s a side-effect?”

“Turning you on. I like that.” A flush darkened Keith’s cheeks. “Though not walking is a problem.”

“So pause long enough for us to get inside and then you can keep turning me on.” Lance kissed one of those red cheeks.

“That means letting you go?” Elven feline ears dropped. Keith had several things he hated about his new body, but he was getting used to them. Except his traitorous ears.

“It means taking my hand and helping me up, not letting me go.” Lance nuzzled one of those droopy ears. “That’s not so bad is it?”

“No. I guess.” Keith’s eyes lidded with a sigh as he titled his ear toward Lance’s warm lips, a soft broken start to a purr bubbling up in his chest. He could sit here all day and let Lance play with his ears. Maybe they weren’t so bad.

“See? That’s better isn’t it?” Lance whispered and pulled his hand from Keith’s back only to take the smaller paladin’s gloved one. “Let’s get the bags and go inside okay? Then I’ll play with your ears again.” He chuckled. He loved Keith’s ears, and if he could soothe some of the disdain Keith had for them, maybe it would help him feel even better about their bodily changes.

“Y-Yeah.” Keith shook the haze from his mind and stood up, pulling Lance and the bags along with him. Anything to hide the pout from missing Lance’s attention.

Lance held onto Keith’s hand, so they didn’t have to let go of each other. He took one of the bags with his other arm, so Keith wasn’t carrying everything alone. “Lead the way.” He smiled as Red’s maw opened to the ground below.

“Wait.” Keith jerking Lance’s hand back against his chest. “One more thing...”

Lance blinked and turned to look at him. “What is it?” Was something wrong? Did Keith forget something? Lance bit the inside of his lip and waited.

“Kiss me.” Keith whispered. “Kiss me as if tomorrow could take you away. As if stepping on that ground could change everything you feel about me.”

Lance’s brows furrowed at the thought of losing Keith. He already lost him, and he refused to let it happen again. So he shook his head a little and let go of his hands only to cup his cheeks. “I won’t. Instead, I’ll kiss you like you’re my life. Like you’re my everything, and I refuse to let you go.” He leaned in and kissed him with a passion that surprised even him.

“Mmm.” Keith inhaled a gasp through his nose as if Lance was taking the very air out of him. He didn’t expect that level of intensity, and he crooned to the feeling Lance’s hands on his face. His own hands kneaded the chest of Lance’s uniform in time with the rumblings of his pleased purr.

“See? Isn’t that better?” Lance whispered when the kiss broke, but he didn’t let go of Keith’s cheeks. He could feel the warmth in his skin and it comforted him more than he knew how to express. “I won’t lose you again, Kit… Keith. I won’t leave you.” He hid a wince at his slip, smiling to play it off.

“I’d never let you go.” Keith nosed into Lance’s cheek, a soft sigh escaping him before he stepped back twisting his fingers into Lance’s as they made their way out of the lion’s mouth and into the door of his humble shack. He made no notice he heard the start of Lance’s nickname. Truth was Keith wasn’t sure how he felt about it. That name was for ‘him’. He shook off the thought he had other things to focus on.

His eyes glanced to the side, where piles of sand and dirt still outlined the foundations of a home. If Keith closed his eyes, he could still see it. A simple two-story house, with a sparse yard and a tire swing out front. Picturesque and lonely in a romantic sense. He saw his mother’s memories of how they made this their home. His mom changing her mission to stay with those she loved while protecting the blue lion. The one Keith was destined to find with Lance and the others. Keith squeezed the paladin’s hand.

“Over there was the house.” Keith started his rare bout of reminiscing. He didn’t talk about his past much, but when the urge struck, it often came as a geyser. “The kitchen sat on the northside, my room was on the second floor right above it. Pops would cook bacon in the morning to wake me up, knowing the smell would go right up to my room.”

Lance tightened his hold on Keith’s hand as he listened, trying to comfort and support him as best as he could without really knowing how to empathize with the other man. He remained quiet for a few moments before he smiled. “Sounds like an awesome dad.” He gave Keith’s hand a quick squeeze. He felt a little guilt knowing his own dad was back on the Atlas when Keith wouldn’t see his again.

“One time, I ran down the stairs so fast I tripped and smacked my face against the banister. Broke my nose. In two spots. Here and here.” Keith touched the fine edge of his nose, but his fingers stopped. He wouldn’t find the bump in his cartilage. This intermixed body erased those marks, and he couldn’t help it as his lip curled up in a snarl.

Lance wasn’t sure what to make of Keith’s expression, but he seemed displeased, so he just leaned in and kissed the tip of his nose. “That sounds like a normal kid thing, doesn’t it?” He smiled when he pulled back, trying to make sure Keith knew he was here, and he could keep talking as much as he wanted to.

Keith gasped at the attention and studied the face suddenly in front of him. He marveled at how the sun brought out those freckles and his eyes danced over them as if connecting the dots. “I guess. It was pretty normal.” He moved his lips to continue, then he bit the far edge of them, his ear tilting to the side as if offering a radar for his thoughts. He thought better of something and lowered his head. “Come on, let’s set our stuff inside.”

Keith shouldered open the door, age forcing the lock to stick, and the gust of memories coming at him quailed him into Lance’s chest. He saw his father listening to the radio waiting for any clue his mother would return. He saw Shiro laying on the scavenged futon by the window. Hunk slept on his back on the floor, as Pidge crowded into him, using his teddy bear stomach as pillow, and Lance sat against the far wall, arms folded and watching Keith and Shiro. Keith’s head lulled against Shiro’s dangled arm. He knew then, the thoughts racing through Lance’s mind. Keith was a student. Shiro a teacher. Keith was kicked out for disciplinary issues after Shiro was announced MIA. Keith admitting to being pulled to Shiro by an unnamed force. Their relationship wasn’t normal. Never had been. It led to a lot of assumptions, but Keith never cared. Shiro saved him. Shiro had faith in him. Shiro gave him what no one else would. A chance. Keith promised to never let him down, and the second Shiro vanished Keith ruined all of it. He punched Iverson in the face and dropped out. Guilt bound Keith to Shiro as much as any sense of loyalty. Keith now had a second chance to prove to Shiro, and to everyone else, that he was worth… well, something.

Keith swallowed hard. The first few forced steps got him inside. He blinked at Hunk’s cup, still sitting on the table, covered in a layer of dust and sand.

Lance hesitated before he followed Keith inside, his fingers still curled with the other paladin’s. The last time he had been there, it was one hell of a night. Not one he necessarily looked back on with much fondness, but also not one he totally hated. Everything had changed that night. Everything Lance thought he had known up until that point was different. And now he looked around the small shack, his eyes moving over each board and dusty piece of furniture. He left behind so much that night, and he masked his fear and anxiety with excitement, boasting, and a rivalry that never existed.

It was also the night his old crush on Keith had effectively died when he saw how close the other boy was to Shiro. That familiar pang of jealousy poked into his heart. If only he could have told himself then it wasn’t like that. Maybe then he wouldn’t have thrown himself at Allura. Maybe then he wouldn’t have forced out snarky comments at Keith. Maybe… He shook his head. This wasn’t the time. “Why…did you want to come here?”

“To remind myself,” Keith righted a chair off the floor, “who I am.” He looked down at his hands flexing to see the claws and then the pinkish ivory skin. “This is where I’m from. This is where I grew up. When I was fighting with the Blades, I almost forgot all of this. I was running away from it. ‘That’s not me.’ I told myself. ‘This is me.’ But that’s not completely right either.”

“Oh.” Lance’s hands dropped to his side when Keith moved away and grabbed the chair. He looked around the shack again, letting out a puff of air, though he wasn’t really sure why, before looking at Keith again. He could see the conflict in his eyes. The slightly furrowed brow that somehow made him look even more endearing. And those ears started to droop, but then twitched. He was confused. Of course he was. How could he not be in this situation? Keith was the one who wanted to be his old self without any of the new, and yet he had more of the new that visibly stuck with him than Lance did. “Keith…” He reached out and touched his hands. “Who do you want to be?”

“Me.” Keith stared down at their hands. “I wasn’t perfect. My life was never simple, but it was still my life. Those experiences made me who I was, and I fought to find that person worthy enough to come back to all of you. But it’s also those experiences that…” Keith clenched his fist.

“You know, when you challenged me and fought with me, every other word out of your mouth felt like it was created just to antagonize me? I still had fun. For the first time someone treated me like a kid. I didn’t have to be anything else. I wanted adults to respect me and listen to me, but you, god you infuriated me! But it was fun. It drew me closer to you.” Keith rubbed the back of his head. “To all of you really. You didn’t notice but as soon as you started in on me the others got closer. Pidge and Hunk… even Allura. They weren’t afraid of me.”

“How could anyone be afraid of you, though?” Lance shook his head. “You always looked angry or annoyed, but you weren’t scary. Or at least none of us ever really thought so. Anyone who does is stupid.” He bit his lower lip as he tried to think of what else to say, not sure if he would make Keith feel better or worse. “You know, Keith, it’s okay not to know who you are all the time. It’s okay to be confused and unsure. I’m like that a lot, actually. I mean…” He paused, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath. “I felt so useless so often that I wanted to quit. I felt like I brought you all down more often than not. So that day I went to your room, I was really ready to step down for you and Shiro. You would have accomplished so much more without me than with me. And sometimes I still believe that, no matter what anyone tells me. I just don’t argue because the me I see and the me others see are still both me. And that’s ok.”

He shrugged. “I don’t know what I am, or who I am all the time. I don’t know if I’ll ever know. But I know who I want to be. And I know that if I don’t make it there tomorrow, or next week, or next year, that’s still okay. You don’t have to rush to regain what you think you lost, Keith, because you never lost it. It’s just hiding for a little bit. It’s there.” He lifted his hand and rested it on Keith’s chest. “You’ll find it again. You’ll figure it out. You just have to let yourself know it’s okay to take your time.”

“Lance.” Keith picked up the hand at his chest. His eyes stung, but he didn’t let the emotions release beyond that. “You always know what to say.” Keith kissed each individual finger. “You constantly impress all of us. You have all the abilities to be a great leader. It’s why Red chose you so easily. You didn’t need to get blown out into space for it recognize what we all saw.” Finally, he kissed the back of Lance’s hand in a princely manner. “Without you the team would fall apart.”

“This.” Keith motioned around the building. “This is more… I don’t know… more of a good bye… I guess.”

“Tell me about it. Why do you think you want to say goodbye?” Lance leaned in and rested his forehead against Keith’s, his voice lowering. “Do you feel like you have to? Is this part of figuring out who you are?” He kept the focus on Keith. He didn’t say all of those things to make Keith feel the need to compliment him or try to comfort him. He just wanted Keith to know it was okay to be unsure. So he appreciated the words, but he didn’t address them. He wouldn’t yet, anyway. Not when Keith needed his support.

Keith’s breath trembled with the affectionate press. “I’m not that lonely kid any more.” The words came out without any thought. Just honest emotion as Lance crowded into his space. “Only ghosts live here now. I’m from here, but…” Keith closed his eyes and smiled. “It’s only a part of me, and I want to share all of who I am with you.” He spoke with broken words. This wasn’t part of his plan, but it felt like the right thing to say. “This can be our place now.”

“All right.” Lance placed a soft kiss on Keith’s lips and smiled a little. “Then maybe it’s not about saying goodbye. It’s about taking something that was and turning it into something that is.” He kept smiling as he looked around the small shack. “Taking bits and pieces of everything and fitting them together so the puzzle shows a complete picture.”

“Eh?” Keith blinked, ears pitched forward. “I… hadn’t thought of it like that.” He rubbed the back of his neck. If he had to be honest, he was caught up in the moment. “Honestly. I just wanted to be alone with you without interruption. The rest of this. Just kinda happened…”

“Well, you’re alone with me, without interruption. You can ask anything of, me and I’ll give it to you.” Lance kept smiling as he gave him another gentle kiss.

Keith let the kiss linger, his head tilting up to chase after Lance’s lips. “I don’t know.” He whispered. “I just wanted this.”

“Then have this as much and as long as you want.” Lance kissed him again and again.

“L-lance. Lance. Lanc...” Keith tried to get out his name between the kisses, but he was coaxed into silence by those gentle lips and sweet breath, so he gave in to it. It felt good. Keith could feel good right? He could allow someone else to help him feel good?

“Keith…” Lance whispered when he stopped his kisses only so the two of them could catch their breath.

“You’re good at that.” Keith purred again, nuzzling his nose into Lance’s neck.

“Only because I’m kissing you.” Lance grinned and pressed his lips against his temple. He nuzzled a bit and closed his eyes. “Because the only one I ever want to kiss is you.”

“What else?” Keith whispered, his breath soft and teasing the fine hairs.

“What else do I want to kiss, or what else do I want to do to you?” Lance smirked against his temple and kissed there.

“Both.” Keith titled his head up. His hand sliding from his shoulder to the back of Lance’s neck where his nails could gently massage through his hair.

“Well…” Lance moaned out the syllable and dropped his voice to barely a whisper. “I want to kiss all over your body. I like your lips the best, but I want to taste your skin, everywhere. And while you’re sinking into that pleasure, I want to slide my hands up your thighs, my fingers barely touching so you get those shivers of pleasure all through your body.” He smirked. “Do you want to know more?”

“I… what?” Keith’s mouth went dry, and a warmth flooded his body, pushing his heart up to his throat to swallow his response. He started to go slack in Lance’s arms, trusting the newly Altean man to hold him.

“Do you want to hear more?” Another whisper, but this time Lance moved to lick one of Keith’s ears. “About what I’d do to you?”

The ear flicked, and Keith’s lips parted to keep up with his quickening breath. “T-tell me.”

“About how I’d slowly push your legs open, so I could slide between them, my lips trailing down your chest.” Lance whispered. “My hands sliding closer to the part of you that would be aching for me as my lips and tongue tease you. Just barely there touches. At first anyway. Just little brushes of my fingertips to drive you crazy. Then, a slow trailing of my fingers, feeling you quiver beneath my touch.”

“Lance…” Dark eyes watched Lance’s lips at they moved. “I…” Ears drooped a little more, his face flushing, his body getting warmer the more Lance’s words teased explicit images to the forefront. Each rasped action left a phantom touch. Keith stepped in closer, letting him feel what he did to him, and he watched his face as the growing hardness between Keith’s legs made itself known against Lance’s thigh.

“You want me to do all those things and more, don’t you?” Lance slid his hand down Keith’s back and rested it on the bottom curve of his ass, holding him as close as he could without crushing him. “It feels like you do.”

“I do. But not yet.” Keith kissed along Lance’s jaw. “Where would we do it?” He moved his head so his eyes could motion around the room. “This place is covered in dust. I don’t think that’s the kind of dirty thought you have.”

“Nnn. That is a problem.” Lance groaned as his head tilted, those kisses sending little jolts up and down his spine. “Does that mean we’ll just have to try to wait until we get back?”

“No.” Keith nuzzled discreetly trying to take in Lance’s scent. “We clean this place up a little. Have lunch. Clean up a little more. Have dinner, watch the sunset, then keep each other warm during the night, and head back in the morning.”

Lance blinked, but then he smiled and held him, just breathing in the mild scent of the desert. “I really like the sound of that. Though, let’s not clean so much that we’re too tired to keep each other warm, hm?”

“It’s a small place. Not much to clean. But the night is long and cold.” Keith pulled away slowly, coyishly biting his lower lip as he dragged his finger across Lance’s jaw to the sharp point of his chin, then tapped his lips with a wink. He turned, and his ears flickered as his face flushed dark crimson now hidden from Lance’s view. Why did he just do that? Sure it worked in movies to get a guy going, but Keith wasn’t exactly one of those types, he was just ‘doing’ something… something what? Playful? Flirty? Is that how people flirt? Is that how he flirted? He felt so stupid! His ears ticked with every thought going through his head and he quickly pulled his hood up.

Lance watched Keith’s ears go crazy before he hid them, and he chuckled. “You’re too cute sometimes.” He moved and hugged Keith from behind, resting his chin on the top of his head. “You’ve seen my nightly regimen. Do you think I could just clean and not be super thorough? You’ll have to stop me to keep me from tiring myself out. Otherwise this place will shine.” If he could just distract Keith from whatever was making him twitchy, maybe he would pull the hood back down so Lance could nuzzle one of those cute little ears. He couldn’t tell Keith it was his favorite thing to do to him so far, not while Keith still seemed to dislike them.

Keith’s thoughts settled to a slow calmed crawl with the press of Lance against his back. He tilted his head back far enough to see Lance’s face, the hood falling back. “You only have to be thorough with me.” Keith blinked. What did that even mean? “I… well… I mean… there’s a shower in back. Is... what… I think I meant?”

“Oh? You want me to be thorough with you? I will then.” Lance chuckled and brushed his lips against one of those exposed ears. “But you’re right, we should clean this place up.” He made no move to take his arms from around Keith, though.

“I’m not horrible at this am I?” Keith laid his hands on the ones around his midsection, failing to stifle whimper at the caress of Lance’s lips. “I really have no idea what I’m doing.”

“I don’t think you’re bad at anything. I think I’m both enamored by how cute you are and turned on by how sexy you are, and you’re exactly what’s good for me” Lance kissed the top of Keith’s head.

“See? You just say things like that and it works.” Keith’s ears flicked, and he tried to muffle the purr, but it rumbled up, echoing through Lance’s chest.

“I had a lot of time by myself to think about a lot of things.” Lance relaxed a little at the slight vibration against his chest. “I’m glad it works, though. I wouldn’t know what to say if it didn’t.” He lowered his head and pressed his face into Keith’s neck, kissing it once. “I would just have to try to prove how I feel.”

“You spent time thinking about what you’d say to me?” Keith groaned, fitting his body back against Lance, letting a narrow knee slip between his legs. “Lance.” He mewled with a bow of his neck in offering to Lance.

Lance’s leg moved just a bit to rub against Keith. “Yeah, is that a bad thing? I think about you a lot…In a lot of ways.” He murmured and licked his way up to Keith’s jaw.

“Ah!” Keith gasped, his hands shooting back to grip Lance’s hips, pulling him closer. His heat pressed into Keith’s body doubling his own. Sweat beaded up on the edges of his hair line. “Like this. You think about things like this a lot?”

“All the time.” Lance whispered and lowered his hands to grab the ones on his hips, holding them there as his leg moved a little more. “For…a long time now. A very long time.” He whispered and licked the back of one of Keith’s ears.

“Lance.” The name dripped thick and sweet from Keith’s lips, dropping his tone as his ears fell lower. His body going into a natural roll, seeking out the hard grinding parts of Lance’s.

“So you’re really turned on aren’t you?” Lance whispered and licked that ear again. “Me too.” One of his hands let go of Keith’s to rest on the other paladin’s stomach. “Really turned on.”

“I-I am.” Keith admitted. “But it’s too soon. I have a plan.” Grudgingly, and with visible effort, Keith slipped away from Lance. He regained what he could of his composure and leaned over into one of the bags he brought in.

Lance whimpered when Keith pulled away from him. He kept his gaze on Keith’s backside, licking his lips. “I’ll do my best to behave then.”

“Just a little longer, okay?” Keith turned at his hip, handing Lance a bottle of solution and a rag. He got down on his knees once relieved of the products and carefully placed two round disks on the floor.

Lance took the items from Keith, his gaze continuing to linger on the other man’s backside for far longer than was necessary. “Yeah, I can do that.”

“Aside from the obvious, what else crosses your mind?” Keith pressed a button on both the spheres and they hovered into life. A rainbow of interlaid lights trailed across the outer edge. They spoke to each to each other in coded blips then got to work, beeping in the tone of some childhood melody Keith never learned while leaving streaks of immaculately clean flooring in their wake.

“All kinds of things. Simple things like conversations or dates. Intense things like that and what we did last night.” Lance’s voice trailed off as he watched the little disks clean the floor.

Keith stopped and twisted an ear up about to respond when a dull thunking sound filled the small space. Keith blinked a few times and cocked his head to the side, tracing the sound of a little robot conking its head against a baseboard. “Pidge did say they weren’t perfect.”

Keith leaned down and picked the palm sized object up in his hands. Glowing eyes blinked up behind expressive metal eyebrows. Tiny feet popped out to dance on Keith’s hand, making the man chuckle. “Hey lil’ guy. Let’s try this direction for a while.” Keith placed it back on the ground and turned it. Its feet sucked back inside of its body and with a beeping trill the bot sped away.

Keith stayed, leaned on his haunches and watched the little creature get to work. “It’s not bad. I think about you a lot too.”

Lance watched the little robot when Keith put it down. His lips twitched a bit, brows furrowing. When did Keith get these from Pidge? Had he been seeing the others even though he had been shutting himself away from Lance? He shook his head to clear the thought because he knew he was being a bit ridiculous. He had been avoiding Shiro, right? And he only went to the training room when it was empty, right? So Lance was feeling off for nothing, wasn’t he?

“Oh. You do?” Maybe if he focused on the conversation it would be better.

“Of course.” Keith smiled, watching the bot learn and avoid the wall during its next pass. His ears perked in fond amusement.

Lance shook his head. Keith was obviously a bit distracted. He probably didn’t intend to sound like he was brushing Lance off, but Lance couldn’t help feeling that Keith was.

He looked down at the cleaner and rag in his hand and just walked to the window, saying nothing else as he cleaned it.

Keith closed his eyes, the smile on his lips knowing and warm. “I think about wether or not you’ll still like me if I do this or that. I think about if you compare me to other people, and if I match up to anything you wanted. I think about what I would do if I ever lost you. And knowing I couldn’t recover from that. I think about how soft your lips are, if your fingers will get calloused if I train you with sword.”

“Unless you leave me, you don’t have to worry about me not liking you. And you’re not going to lose me. If anything, I’m going to be the one left when you realize how much better you can do without me.” Lance glanced over his shoulder at Keith. “So for both our sakes, don’t think about anyone else.”

“Life span of a Galra is far greater than a human or Altean.” Keith bowed his head lower. “You’ll leave me first.”

“Then it’s a good thing you’re not a full Galra, isn’t it?” Lance walked over to him and rested his hand on his shoulder. “Keith, we’ll figure it out.” He squeezed lightly.

“Lotor was Ten-thousand years old, and that’s without freezing himself.” Keith closed his eyes and leaned his cheek down against the hand on his shoulder. He wished he hadn’t said anything, but Keith had it ingrained in his personality to figure out how each person he met could inevitably leave him.

“We’ll just have to find a way to make sure the two of us have lifespans that are connected.” Lance moved his hand to stroke Keith’s cheek. “Focus on who we are now, so we can love, laugh, and be happy. And we will worry about all that sad stuff later.”

“Have you met me?” Keith nuzzled into Lance’s palm, kissing the pad of it before mouthing against his wrist.

“I’d rather you think about the good things with me instead of worrying about something that isn’t going to happen for a while, if it happens at all. I’m way too stubborn to let you outlive me.” Lance watched Keith’s mouth and suppressed a shiver.

“It’s not a competition.” Keith chuckled, but somehow managed to scoot himself in close enough to rest his forehead against Lance’s stomach. “But if that’s what it takes…”

Lance moved his hand to rest it on Keith’s head, his fingers sliding into his hair, stroking the soft strands in an attempt to comfort him. “I’m here. I’m not going anywhere.”

“I know.” Keith purred. The sound came about almost regularly when he was around Lance. The slightest provocation, the slightest note of happiness the purring started. He cuddled in closer to Lance’s warm, nuzzling his stomach with a nose then a cheek.

Lance continued to play with Keith’s hair. He liked the purring, and with Keith’s forehead against his stomach, the sound sent a shiver down his spine. “Good. Now, maybe you should get off the floor?”

“I love you.” Keith whispered kissing his hip and looking up at him to meet his eyes as he kneeled on the floor in front of him. For a second a less than wholesome thought passed behind those eyes, but the half Galra blinked it away and stood up. “I’ll start on this side. And we’ll meet in the middle?”

For a moment, Lance thought Keith was going to do something else while he was down on his knees, nuzzling so close to his lap, but when the other man stood, he shook away the thought and smiled. “Why do we have to separate?” He took one of Keith’s hands and kissed the back of it, grinning. “If we do it together, we’ll accomplish just as much, and it’ll be way more fun.”

“Think we can manage without me sticking my tongue down your throat?” Keith smirked with another wicked glint in his eye.

“Do you think I would complain if you did that?” Lance grinned.

“No, but no work would get done.” Keith snickered.

Lance chuckled. “Then you should behave, shouldn’t you?” He handed him a rag.

“You’re telling me to behave. Well…” Taking the rag, Keith laughed as he went to work over a table, rolling his eyes because he knew exactly where Lance’s eyes were drifting on his body.

Lance moved right up behind him and leaned over his back, reaching a spot Keith hadn’t cleaned yet. “You’re not behaving if you’re doing that on purpose.” He smirked and pressed himself closer.

“Yes, I’m leaning over so I can clean something that’s lower than me. It’s very much on purpose.” Keith pressed his hips up. “I can’t control where your eyes go though.”

“You absolutely can control where my eyes go because you know where they would go.” Lance whispered into his ear as he finished with that far spot and stepped back.

“You like my ass. That’s pretty obvious.”

“That’s not the only thing I like.” Lance shook his head and started cleaning off the couch.

“Oh?” Keith feigned innocence. “There’s a list?” He moved to the bookshelves, covering his mouth in the dust cloud.

Lance shrugged. “Every single part of you, so it’s not so much of a list as much as everything.” He chuckled as he got the dust out of the cushions and cleaned up around the couch, his nose wrinkling to prevent a sneeze.

“You should let it out.” Keith laughed. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard your sneeze. I bet it’s cute.” He teased.

“And you still haven’t…Ah…” Lance wrinkled his nose as much as he could before he just pressed his face into his arm to stop the tickling in his nose.

“They say holding it causes wrinkles.” Keith went back to the shelf, stepping around one of the busy bots.

“What? No! That’s not a real thing? Is it?” Lance lifted a hand and started smoothing out his skin around his nose. “I’m too young and attractive for wrinkles.”

“Dunno.” Keith shrugged and turned to him, his ears popping straight his eyes wide. “Oh! I can see it.” He stepped into Lance, his face filled with mock concern. “It’s right here! His fingers trailed over nonexistent crow’s foot. “I know a cure.”

Panic filled Lance’s eyes as he looked at Keith. “W-what?” His ears drooped only slightly, and his lips trembled. “How?” Curse his vanity. He knew he was being a little ridiculous, but he wanted to remain as attractive to Keith as long as possible.

“Kisses from a boyfriend who loves you.” Keith flushed with the words, but he knew Lance was a sap for this kind of thing. It derailed his plans a little, but to get one of those blinding smiles out of Lance was worth it, and Keith really needed to see it. Kisses, sweet and tender were placed on the corner of each eyebrow, followed by a kiss to the edges of Lance’s mouth.

Lance’s eyes started to close with each of those kisses. “K-Keith…you didn’t have to scare me just to kiss me.” But he was much more relaxed now than he had been a moment ago. He could feel the tension leaving his face with each press of Keith’s lips.

“Was I too subtle?” Keith asked, his lower lip protruding.

“What?” Lance blinked, but then his brain registered the other man’s earlier words, and his eyes widened. “Wait…you want to officially be my boyfriend?” He brightened and lifted Keith and spun him around once before kissing him as he set him down. “You really do?”

“Isn’t that the natural progression?” Keith laughed, amazed by that freakish Altean strength. Keith wasn’t light. He was 5 feet and nine inches of solid muscle, but Lance hoisted him as if he were child. It made Keith’s heart flutter. “We’ve kissed, said I love you, put on ‘a show’ for each other, and now we are on a date.”

“Well I’m not complaining, but putting a label on our relationship doesn’t seem to be your thing.” Lance smiled and nuzzled his lips against Keith’s cheek at the laugh. It made him feel even lighter than before, like the sound was made by the purest crystal chiming in a subtle breeze. “Do you want it because you want it or because you want to make me happy?”

“Both. I want to make you happy, since you denied me the sneeze.” Keith curled into those strong arms. They felt protective and safe, rare emotions for him to express or admit. “I mean it feels weird to say. Boyfriend, lover, partner, significant other, non-hetero life mate. But that’s okay. Weird suits us.”

“I don’t think it’s weird, but I’m also more into that kind of thing than you are.” Lance smiled and kissed Keith’s nose. “I’m sure you’ll hear my sneeze at some point. Then you don’t have to be pouty about me denying you something.” He chuckled and nuzzled into his hair. “Now that you’re my boyfriend.”

“So now that it’s official. We should celebrate by continuing to clean up our shack.” Keith touched his nose to the tip of Lance’s.

“Not how I would celebrate, but okay.” Lance nodded carefully, since their noses were touching, and he gave him one more quick kiss before they parted enough to finish cleaning the small shack. It wasn’t difficult work, but it was a little tedious, and after another hour and a half, the place was spotless, and both of them were half sprawled out on the blanket Keith had laid out on the floor for lunch. Lance turned his head to look at Keith, a smile on his lips. He was full of delicious food, he was happy just spending time with Keith, and he was sure the two of them could do anything now that they were together again.

“You’re staring.” Keith smiled. “See something you like?” A brow lifted with his side glance.

“You.” Lance kept his gaze on him even as he shifted and rolled to his side, so he could see him better. “Everything about you.” Even when Keith had smears of dirt on his cheeks, he still looked like the most beautiful person Lance had ever seen. And he was tempted to reach out to clean some of the smudge off the other man, but he kept his hands to himself.

“Even if I’m covered in dust and dirt?” Keith turned on his hip to rest his head on an arm.

“Well, that just means we should shower together, doesn’t it?” Lance grinned at him. There was even a little smear on the tip of Keith’s nose. “I like that, too.”

“Like it as much as you want, it won’t taste good.” Keith laid back in the blanket, his arms reaching above his head as he stretched his whole body out. No longer protected by his uniform, the under shirt dragged up, exposing his priced stomach to a ray of window filtered sunlight.

“Well, unless you got dirt and dust in your mouth, I’m sure you taste fine.” Lance rolled over him and slid his hand down to that exposed tummy, his lips curving into a grin. “It looks like most of it is on your cheeks anyway.”

“I might’ve. I know it’s in my…” Keith gasped, not expecting to have Lance suddenly on top of him. “Lungs.” He breathed out, his stomach muscles jumping with excited twitches to Lance’s touch.

“Then we should definitely shower.” Lance’s fingers slid up under Keith’s shirt. “Then we can clear it all out, so you taste good everywhere.” He leaned down, almost kissing him, but stopping just short of his lips.

Keith’s tightened his lips with a swallow, his eyes locked on Lance’s face. Light mahogany skin, tan lips stained with just a touch of rose. His lashes were short but thick, and his nose narrowed to a point. Lance was sharp featured. Prominent high cheekbones, sharp jaw, and a widow’s peak hiding just under the fringes of his bangs. Lance was beautiful and his new Altean traits only highlighted what already existed. The sky-blue markings under his eyes brought the cerulean flecks to greater prominence making them glimmer like an ocean’s first sunrise after a storm.

“Sure.” Keith said when he remembered to breathe again.

“Are you okay?” Keith had been staring at him for what felt like an eternity, though Lance only felt that way because the longer he stared, the more he got lost in the violet of Keith’s eyes. It was like looking into the most beautiful galaxies, completely losing oneself in the beauty of distant stars. He lifted one of his hands to touch Keith’s cheek, smiling at the softness of his skin, his touch gentle as if he was afraid even a gentle press would bruise him.

“No. I-I think my heart is trying to escape.”

“Oh.” Lance pulled himself off Keith and sat up, brows furrowing. “That can’t be good, can it? Maybe I’m too close to you?”

“Is that what it is?” Keith laid where Lance left him, feeling the ghost of Lance’s hand against is skin, just below a peak.

“Well, if your heart escapes, how are you going to keep loving me or feeling my love?” Lance smiled a little and held his hand out to him. “Why don’t we just get up and shower now? Then I’ll make sure your heart stays put so you can love me.”

“Something like that,” Keith stood up with Lance’s assistance. “Goes deeper than my heart, it’s all of me.”

Lance held Keith’s hand and smiled. “Oh is it? Well then I feel all sorts of loved.” He leaned over and kissed him. “Thank you.”

“You don’t have to thank me for the truth.” Keith blushed a little and squeezed Lance’s hand.

“I want to.” Lance smiled and kept holding his hand as he walked out to the shower. “I’m overjoyed, you know. And I want to make sure I let you know so you’ll see just how happy you make me.”

“I know.” An ear flicked while Keith’s cheeks pinked more “maybe we should shower separately, because… well …”

“Oh.” Lance slowly let go of his hand. “If that’s what you want, then I won’t deny you.” He did his best to hide his disappointment.

“I know you won’t. You never do.” Keith bowed his head and brought Lance’s hand up to his lips. He kissed each knuckle in turn, then mouthed over the back of it. “I’m weak and getting weaker. If you go in there with me, I won’t be as good as you. I won’t stop myself.”

“Only one of us thinks that’s a problem, you know.” Lance shook his head and stepped back, though he let his hand linger in Keith’s for a moment before finally drawing it away. “I’ll go back inside.”

Keith gave a deep tiered sigh. “It’s not a problem. It’s timing.” He turned toward the shower. Maybe after all their flirting and teasing, he was being a prude. Did he need all the romance or special treatment he planned for tonight? Did they need the wine he snuck out of the kitchen or the scented candles? Lance was a romantic, yet Keith appeared to be the only one trying for romance. Was he scared? Yes. Was he nervous? Yes. Was he afraid of the demons lurking in the back of his mind and the memories that would come forward if Lance did something Keith wasn’t ready for? Yes and yes. Was he stalling? Yes…

“We can both go in.” Keith swallowed, stepping toward the rustic stall, pulling his shirt over head.

“No, Keith. It’s okay.” Lance shook his head and turned it, so he wouldn’t watch the way Keith was undressing. Something was obviously wrong, and while Keith wouldn’t say it, the slight slump of his shoulders and the drooping of his ears gave Lance enough clues that he knew to back off. “I’ll be inside. Take your time, and when you’re done, I will clean myself up.” He took another step back. “Don’t worry about anything, okay?”

“Lance,” Keith held his elbows. “I’m not screwing up, am I?”

“No, of course not.” Lance shook his head. “Not in the slightest. Don’t worry. The sooner you clean up, the sooner I can clean up, and the sooner we can make out or something.” He grinned at the last bit before stepping back into the shack.

“A kiss. Before you leave?” Keith turned his head over his bare shoulder. “Just so I know it’s okay.”

Lance paused in the doorway, but he nodded, walking back up to Keith and smushing his cheeks in his hands a bit awkwardly with the way Keith’s head was turned. He planted a kiss on his lips, licking them as he pulled away. “It’s okay.”

Keith nodded his head, his hand lifting to keep Lance’s on his cheek for a moment longer. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome, though you were right. There’s definitely dust in your mouth.” Lance grinned and kissed him once more before finally pulling away and returning to the shack.

Chapter Text

Keith showered, using the body wash and shampoo he grabbed on his way to the cafeteria. The luxury of high-end toiletries were not a high priority for the garrison to stock, but Keith managed to find a simple soap to toe the line between his preferences and Lance’s. A cinnamon honey spice. He ignored the fact he was obviously not the target market for this brand, but he didn’t care. Tonight was for Lance.

Keith sank back into the spray, rubbing his shoulders and kneading his fingers into sore muscles. He moaned with unbidden bliss. The open-air shower and dry desert air felt like a much needed escape from the cold humming of machines and ships. He could live the rest of his life out here and not miss a thing, despite the misconception he was an adrenaline junkie. Keith loved to be lazy. He loved sleep. He loved peace and quiet and taking pictures. But he needed to help others and make a difference. Like his father did. “Hope you’re proud Pops.” He whispered softly.

Lance turned his head towards the sound of Keith’s moan. His eyes darkened when he realized he could see everything from the window of the shack. Should he tell Keith when the other paladin came inside? Or should he let him discover it for himself when he washed up? A slight smirk came to Lance’s lips as he decided on the latter, his eyes traveling down Keith’s wet back. He licked his lips and imagined what it would be like to lick up those drops of water as they slid down his skin. Maybe it was a little weird for him to be watching the other man like that, but after last night, he didn’t think Keith would mind.

Once he finished washing and drying Keith threw on new clothes. He wore nothing extravagant, simple black skinny jeans and a wine-colored button-down shirt. Simple for sure; however, on Keith the outfit looked anything but plain. The shirt hung lose over his waist and pulled just enough at his chest to highlight the definitions of his shoulders and pecs. He lifted his mop of back hair from his neck and into a thin string tie, something he’d found lying around the shack.

Done dressing, he wrung his hands together and paced the outside room, the weathered deck creaking under foot. He kept moving his lips as an actor rehearsing lines, before he stole himself, walked into the shack, and with a determined hard voice proclaimed. “It’s open. When you’re done, meet me out front.” Keith’s cheeks pinked. “Umm please.” He knew Lance could read him, but it didn’t matter.

Lance made sure it didn’t look obvious that he had been watching Keith the whole time, though he was sure his cheeks were flushed. So he casually stretched and made a show of looking him over. “You look amazing, you know,” he murmured as he took in the way the clothing clung to the other paladin’s smaller, but definitely more toned body. “I won’t take too long, and then I will meet you out there.” He stepped past Keith and pressed his lips to one of those pink cheeks before he went out to the shower, stretching as he undressed himself. With a smirk on his lips, he hummed as he stepped into the water and ran his hands through his hair. The sound should be enough to get Keith’s attention for at least a moment, right?

Keith’s fingers graced the spot where the heat of Lance’s lips lingered. He closed his eyes and shook the sensation away. Such a chaste kiss had no business making him feel like some love-struck teen.

He busied himself by picking up getting wine and glasses out of his back. When he heard Lance’s soft hum, his ears swiveled and twitched happily along with the song until Keith had turned. There Lance stood, in the middle of the desert like a god damn child of Poseidon himself. Water glistening like dripping diamonds, his wet hair shining like dark molten amber, and his skin was birthed of the smoothest walnut colored marble.

Keith lost his grip on a wine flute. The small shake filled with the chime of shattering glass. “Shit!”

Beep!

Whizzz!

Boop! Beep!

Keith danced his feet around his little robot buddy while it picked up the glass in seconds to leave Keith mortified by his own perversions. He rubbed his hand over his face, shook it off, picked up a recently cleaned scotch glass, and headed out the front door.

Lance chuckled when he heard the glass shatter and the sounds of a happy robot cleaning up. He resumed his humming as he finished washing away the day’s dirt. He no longer felt the need to purposely turn one way or another so Keith could see his best assets. Now he could just wash up, and if Keith was still watching, more power to him. When he finished, he toweled off and threw on his uniform from earlier. He hadn’t packed anything extra like Keith had, and now he was sort of regretting it. Not that the uniform was uncomfortable, he just felt foolish.

But he shrugged it off as he made sure the water was stopped and stepped back into the shack. He smiled a little as he headed out front and looked for Keith. When his eyes found him, the smile widened. The other man was sitting on a rock that seemed more like a giant chair than any sort of natural earth formation. As he rounded the back of it, he chuckled. Wine, nice touch. And the two different glasses in his hands only made Lance grin. “Something wrong?” He sat next to him. He knew. Keith had to know he knew. So he just smirked and admired how adorable Keith looked when he seemed slightly embarrassed. As if the perfectly pale skin wasn’t alluring enough, the faint splash of pink on his cheeks only enticed Lance more.

“Nothing!” Keith squeaked then cleared his throat to deepen his voice back to its usual timbre. “How was your shower?”

“As wet as yours was.” Lance chuckled and inched a little closer to him. He really wanted to just lick Keith’s cheek and make him squeak like that again, but he would behave, at least for now.

“Right. Because water.” Keith rubbed the back of his neck, his brow lifting. He moved his lips to talk however no words came out. Instead the older paladin sighed, ears dropping for just a second until they perked. “I brought two bottles. I didn’t know what you’d like.” He waved his hand over to the black bottles. One of them had a blue tint to the glass and read Celeste Crianza, a Spanish red wine. The other was a sweet German Riesling. Keith took a gamble and grabbed what he thought might be good. No one in their right mind would think the brash soldier had a taste for wine, but he did remember Adam liking the Celeste, he saw a few bottles around Shiro’s apartment from time to time.

Lance blinked when the joke fell flat, but he smiled at how eager Keith was about this. “The red.” He murmured and reached a hand up to touch Keith’s cheek. “You’re making me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. You’re adorable.” He leaned in and kissed him. “Thank you.” He whispered the words against his lips and let the touch linger.

“Mmn...” Keith couldn’t stop the soft mewl as their lips connected or the way he leaned after Lance when he pulled away. “I don’t know what I’m doing, I just know you like this kind of stuff, and you’ve done so much—” Keith cut himself off, remembering himself. “Here.” He poured their wines, red for Lance in the flute and the Riesling in a scotch-glass for himself. With a deep breath and an inelegant swig from the cup he came around the front of the rock, the sun setting behind him.

“Pidge told us once that a sunset isn’t anything amazing. That a thousand of them happen every day.” Even through the nervous wavering, Keith’s voice held a rehearsed tone. “But I believe each one is different and unique like the star that creates them.” He folded down to one knee, setting his glass down on the rock and taking Lance’s hand. His own trembling and sweating.

“Just like a thousand lost little planets drifting aimlessly out there, I was lost. I didn’t have direction or a home. Until you. You became my star. My sun.” His cheeks flared, this sounded so much better in his head! But he didn’t come this far to lose his nerve now. He’d been waiting all day to do this for Lance, and he was going to keep going no matter how stupid he felt.

“You keep me warm, you give me another reason to get up in the morning. You guide me through the darkness and give me hope for every new day. I’m continually pulled in by you, and I never want to be without that gentle force. So, I know I said it before, but umm Lance will you officially go out with me? I’ll do whatever you need. Introduce myself to your parents. Go on dates. You can kiss… well hug me in public. We don’t have to hide or be discreet. Let the world know you shine down on me.”

Lance’s heart beat faster the longer Keith spoke. He could feel the heat rising up his neck and over his cheeks even though he hadn’t even taken a sip of the wine. Was he going to propose to him? Is that why he got down on one knee? Was that why he was saying all of the kinds of things Lance always wanted to hear? Was that why Keith’s hand was a little trembly and sweaty when he took Lance’s own? Could he tell that Lance’s hand was doing the same thing? He was practically holding his breath as Keith finished his speech, and he let it out as soon as that question came.

No, not a proposal, but something that probably embarrassed Keith just as much to say. Something he clearly rehearsed several times, so he would get it right. “Aren’t we already going out if I’m your boyfriend?” But he smiled and nodded a little. “I mean yes. Obviously yes. Unequivocally yes.” He squeezed Keith’s hand and pulled him up, kissing him. Once. Twice. Half a dozen times. “You big romantic sap. Yes.” Another kiss. And another. “Though I’m probably going to kiss you in public. I won’t apologize for that. I want to show everyone how lucky I am.”

“I mean. Yeah. I said that. I knew it was stupid. I’m sorry. I just thought—” a little fang came out and nibbled at Keith’s bottom lip. Suddenly he was on Lance’s lap getting a shower of sweet kisses on every part of his mouth he could spare between breaths. “You do a lot for me. I wanted to do something for you.”

“You already do a lot for me, but you’ve just done more for me than you’ll ever know.” Lance whispered against Keith’s lips. “You’ve given me everything.” His heart was full to the point of overflowing, so he kissed Keith again and again.

This time Keith kissed back, offering a tilt of his neck and a hand cupping the back of Lance’s head, keeping him close. Keith indulged himself in the kisses, taking particular enjoyment in making the last one linger to taste their last meal mixing with remnants of the wine.

“Mm.” Lance let out a slight moan before he broke the kiss for air, though he would have kept kissing him if he could. “You’re amazing.” He smiled and pressed his nose against Keith’s. “Thank you.”

“I just wanted everything to be right.” Keith kissed Lance again, still dizzy from the last “I won’t push you away anymore.” He promised as his fingers played idlily with the hem of Lance’s shirt.

“Keith…” Lance smiled and kissed him back before he licked at the other man’s lips. “Are you sure? You know you can still stop me if I ever do something you’re not ready for, right?” But the thought of being more intimate with Keith made his heart beat a bit faster in his chest, and he could feel the heat spreading throughout this body.

“I know.” Keith slid his hands up, touching Lance’s skin just above his pants. The flush on his cheeks darkened when a stray fingertip found the edge of a bellybutton. “But I won’t know unless I try. I want to be with you. I want only memories of you.”

He could see Keith getting a bit more turned on by the thought of them being together, but Lance wondered if there was still some of that conflict behind those amethysts that gazed at him. Lance lifted his hand to Keith’s cheek, his thumb brushing over his lower lip. He knew this wasn’t the time to remind him that no one else had touched him like this. Not that Lance had touched him either. He knew Keith hated those memories. He made that clear a month ago. He wanted nothing to do with them even if there were some residual physical effects left over from the mission. And so Lance kept his mouth shut and just watched Keith’s face for a moment, his finger still slowly moving over that slightly pouty lip. “Are you sure?”

“Yes.” Keith kissed the thumb then along his palm. He didn’t want to linger on this part of the conversation. He knew Lance wanted to make sure Keith understood what he was asking. Keith did, more than Lance gave him credit for. Ever since waking up in the pod, Keith had been plagued by nightmares, cold sweats, and waking dreams through choices that were not his own. No, that wasn’t right. Keith knew it was his consciousness inside that other body. Keith, if he had to think about it logically, understood he had been in control the whole time. They weren’t separate entities. They weren’t unique souls. That Altean lord and Galra street rat were the same people who sat upon this rock. Circumstance created the choices Keith had to make back then and gave birth to the terrors in Keith’s heart now. Lance had no clue the depths of it or how it scarred him now. If Lance knew, if the other Keith had ever gone into detail with the Altean, that Lance would have made Zarkon’s rage nothing more than a tantrum. “Give me memories of ‘us’.”

Lance knew what he meant with that simple request. To anyone else, that would be a joyous statement about being together and making new memories. It would be about loving each other in the moment. But that’s not what Keith meant. He wanted to erase his memories of his time in that other version of themselves. And Lance knew that it included the few good memories along with all the bad. It twisted in his gut. It made bile rise in his throat, but he forced it down, just as he had been forcing it down all month. He couldn’t talk to Keith about it, not yet. Not while the negative feelings still swirled in the other man. Lance couldn’t tell him that he didn’t want to forget the time they had together. He didn’t want to forget any of it, though he knew the Altean him led a much different live than the Galra Keith did. So he didn’t blame him. He kept biting his tongue and keeping it inside. He kept hiding that he wanted to be that better version of himself.

Lance could feel the way it tugged at his head. The headaches, the sleepless nights, the nausea. He kept all of it from Keith. He knew it was wrong. He knew he should have opened up about it when they first started talking on the com, but he was also too afraid. He was terrified that Keith wouldn’t want to be with him at all, since he had already isolated himself from him. So he pushed it further and further down. Even now, he just nodded and rested his forehead against Keith’s, pulling his hand back from his cheek and lip. “Okay.” This was fine.

“I love you.” Keith whispered as he bent his head in for a kiss. “Only you.”

Lance closed his eyes and kissed him back, whispering against his lips. “I know, Keith.” As long as Keith loved him, Lance would do anything. He could do at least that much.

“You know…” Keith noticed the shift in Lance. Not in his words or his kiss. The change was something as subtle as a shade in his eyes. The smiles never quite reached beyond his lips. Maybe with this, Keith could change those overcast blue eyes back to the summer sky they were meant to be. “The best part about this, is going to be waking up naked beside you and seeing your dorky face sound asleep with a cute smile right here.” Keith teased with a kiss.

“I absolutely do not smile in my sleep, but you know you can wake next to me every morning when you move into my room, right?” Lance kissed him back and managed a little smile against Keith’s lips. There was no way he could hold anything against him when he was so cute. Not that he could hold anything against him anyway. “But for now…” Another kiss, and he pulled the smaller man a little closer. For now, he would try. He would make sure Keith felt all the love Lance could give him.

Keith made the kiss hotter. Granting Lance the last permission he’d need as he pushed his tongue into Lance’s mouth. Soft moans rumbling into purrs at the back of his throat. Lance tasted so good. A newly familiar need in Keith rose up.

There was something in that kiss that felt new but also familiar. A tug. A pull he had only experienced twice in this body, but one he was intimately acquainted with as an Altean. Lance only pulled back long enough to look down at Keith. Was that feeling showing in the other man’s eyes? He couldn’t quite tell, so he leaned in to kiss him, but he stopped just shy of his lips. “Are you hungry?”

“What kind of hungry are you asking?” Keith licked at Lance’s lips with the tip of his tongue.

“You know what kind.” The blue markings under Lance’s eyes began to glow. “Or do you want to wait for this?”

Keith’s eyes reflected with the light of Lance’s quintessence. His body pulled at it as naturally as he drew air into his lungs. The life force teased every sense he had. He tasted the honey creamed flavor on his tongue, felt the buzz in his skin, smelled the air around him fill with a sugar sweet scent, saw waves of blue light rise from Lance’s body, and heard the hum around him like tiny crystals bells. “I…” he whispered, pupils growing large and dark.

“I don’t want to hurt you.” Lance murmured, watching Keith’s reaction. That wasn’t what he intended, but he should have realized even the tiniest hint of the quintessence would have been too much. He sighed a little as the lines dimmed. “But I also don’t want to make it so you only want to touch me because you feel good from this.” He could feel Keith’s pull on him grow stronger, and he would happily give himself to him. “But a little won’t do that much to you, will it? Then…I can help you erase what you want to erase?”

“I w-want to wait.” Keith struggled to get the words out. He was starving, he didn’t know how much until Lance held the precious font before him. His lips trembled, and his eyes screwed shut to block out the urgent need his instincts told him he had. “I don’t want to be impaired.”

“All right.” The glow died completely, and Lance smiled apologetically at Keith. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have…I just…”

“It’s okay. I understand.” Keith laid his head on Lance’s shoulder, panting out his inner battle. “I’m different when I feed. Looser.” Perhaps he could have chosen a better word, but no matter his misgivings, he knew it was apt.

“That’s true, but that wasn’t what I was thinking.” Lance’s hand slid down Keith’s back and over the curve of his ass. “I was thinking…it heals you, and I don’t want it to hurt if we go all the way tonight. I want to make sure you only feel good things with me…You want memories of us, and I don’t want you to remember it hurting, just feeling good.”

“La-lance?” Keith flushed, his voice cracking. Before a shadow of a smirk twitched his lips. They had no secrets about their preferences. Keith enjoyed being cared for and pampered, knowing he could take control whenever he needed to. Lance liked to provide. Liked to feel and watch every move and squirm he could elicit. Knowing how their encounter would go, did not prevent Keith from teasing Lance a little for his presumption. “Who said I’ll be the one hurting?” He leaned forward, the smirk becoming wolfish.

“What? I just said…wait, are you planning on reaching up and strangling me while we do it?” Lance blinked a little and arched a brow. Keith was teasing, right? He had to be if he was grinning up at him like that, right? “You…want to switch?”

“Strangling? Eh?” Keith blinked. His face contorting into confused shock. “Y..you’re into that kind of thing? I mean I’d try it. I guess. If it’s you. But…switching? Don’t we actually have to do something before we switch something?” Maybe Keith had been the one presuming.

“What? No. It was a joke. A joke. Like how you would hurt me if we did it…I guess I was assuming how it would go.” Lance shook his head and pressed his face into his shoulder to stifle the laugh. “I knew what you were implying, so I made a bad joke. Sorry.”

“So, you’re not into that?” Keith relaxed back and slumped into Lance’s hold. “Oh, good. I don’t think I could do that to you. The strangling thing. The other thing, maybe. If you want.” Keith really didn’t get jokes sometimes did he?

“No. Not that it’s bad if other people are.” Lance fumbled over his words. “But I’m not. No. Nope.” He shook his head and held Keith a little closer. “But if you wanted to do the other thing…I would be okay with it. I want to make you happy.”

“You do,” Keith asked scooting up so Lance’s chin was in line with his chest. “And you will.” He kissed over the hair line at Lance’s temple. “Do what feels right in the moment. I want to be spoiled by you.” The paladin’s cheeks flared up to match the color of his armor. He’d never uttered a more embarrassing sentence in all his life, but he didn’t shy away.

“Then…” Lance looked up at him and smiled a little. “I will spoil you. I…want to make sure I treat you right.” He shifted so he could pull his uniform top off, uncaring that it might seem a little fast. But he folded it up and moved their bodies, so Keith could lay back on the blanket sprawled over the large rock. He used his folded-up top as a pillow, cushioning Keith’s head as he finally settled him back. “Is this okay?”

“Lance.” Keith blushed, his breath quickening with Lance suddenly over him. The pace, the small hint of desire mixing with tenderness and audacity. He almost forgot how sexy Lance was when he took charge. “Wow.” The setting sun igniting a glimmer in his eyes.

Lance smiled at the way the dimming light only made Keith’s skin seem to brighten, as though he absorbed the light from the moon and reflected it back. He was a sprite, shining like a beacon of hope in the darkest forest. Lance leaned down and pressed a gentle kiss to waiting lips, whispering. “Is that a yes?”

“Yes.” Keith spoke in a breath, his legs opening to cradle Lance at his hip. Mesmerized he watched the breeze toss his bangs. Such a simple thing, and it captivated him.

Lance’s smile remained on his lips as one of his hands rested on the outside of Keith’s thigh, sliding up and over his hip. “How do you feel?” Maybe at another time he would have been slightly bothered that he was shirtless and in the open air. Though the air was warm, the breeze was enough to send a slight chill down his spine. Maybe it was anticipation. Maybe it was anxiety. Either way, he wasn’t warm enough yet, and he needed to remedy that, so he focused on Keith, the way his hips seemed to shift slightly and press his body even closer to him.

“I’m nervous.” Keith admitted with lowered eyes before focusing back to Lance’s face. “You?” Gentle hands stroked over tan cheeks and slid down the slope of his neck before gracing over the plains of his chest. Touch. Keith loved to touch. Knowing a person was physically there.

“Super nervous.” Lance nuzzled Keith’s hands when he could before he arched a little into his touch. Each little movement of those fingers warming his skin. “But I’m with you, so I’m okay.”

Keith danced his nails up and around Lance’s narrow shoulders and laced them behind his back. Leveraging himself up, he pulled Lance down, meeting his lips half way. “I trust you.” He whispered between them and kissed him again then sank slowly back into the blue of the uniform under his head.

Something about seeing that dark hair fan out over his uniform top drove Lance crazy. The kiss helped, but the image of Keith laying beneath him, looking up at him with such trust was almost too much. Lance leaned down and kissed him again, keeping it soft even as his hands moved down Keith’s clothed chest and stomach.

“I like that look.” Keith purred, noting the hunger growing in Lance’s expression. The look smoldered on the man. Keith had a sense of sudden self-awareness. Lance made him feel desired and sexy. He knew it before, but now it was real, tangible. Keith liked it. Being the care of someone he loved, who loved him, he could do this. He showed Lance as much as he started to pop open each button down the front of his shirt. One by one.

Lance almost moaned just from the sight of Keith undressing himself like that. It sent his brain into overload, and his eyes darkened with each pop of a button. His own hand moved to unfasten Keith’s pants, and he tried to focus on what they were doing and not how quickly his heart beat.

“Slow down.” Keith placed his hands over Lance’s once his shirt shifted open, exposing white skin, lined by taunting Galra markings, pink perking nipples, and the stupid little trinket he couldn’t throw away. “We have all night. I’m not going anywhere.” Keith walked his fingers up Lance’s arm. “Let’s take our time, okay?”

“I can’t help it. I just want to start showing you how much I need you.” Lance looked a little embarrassed and stopped, not that he could have done anything with Keith holding his hands like that. And even when Keith wasn’t holding his hands, it was like his arms froze, not wanting to move away from that gentle touch. His cheeks pinked, and he couldn’t keep his eyes from following that now-exposed trail of porcelain skin.

“I know you need me.” Keith’s fingers reached the edge of Lance’s cheek, he stroked the pampered skin. The touch was tender, intimate, uncharacteristic of the paladin, but a natural gesture all the same. “I need you too.”

Lance’s eyes closed, and he managed a nod. “I…I know.” He let himself be lulled by the soft touches.

“Do you?” Keith tapped Lance’s nose.

Lance nodded again and forced himself to calm down before he opened his eyes and looked at him. “Well, you said it, didn’t you?”

“It’d sound sexier if you say it.” Keith traced the edge of his ear with little nibbling bites.

“That you need me? But I like hearing you say it.” Lance groaned and tilted his head for him.

“Mmm.” Keith dusted the very tip of Lance’s ear with a feather’s touch. “I already said I need you. But I want to hear you tell me I need you. So I know you have no doubts.”

“I know you need me, Keith.” Lance kept his head tilted and watched his lover’s face. “But I’d rather have you show me you need me than me tell you that you need me.” He lifted a hand to touch one of Keith’s slightly pinked cheeks. “Will you show me? How badly do you need me?”

“Show you?” Keith turned his head and nipped the pad of Lance’s thumb. “Should I… do what I did last night?”

“No…Don’t do that when I’m right here.” Lance’s eyes darkened, and he leaned down to press his lips against Keith’s cheek, his whispering barely more than a shuddering breath. “Hold me. Let me love you. Make all those cute, sexy noises you make when you’re feeling good.”

“What kind of sounds are those?” The flush on Keith’s cheeks started to paint down his neck and over his chest, where a pink peak stood erect but still partly hidden by his shirt.

“The best sounds.” Lance’s lips moved along his jaw, leaving soft little kisses as he did so. “And every single one makes me more excited to be with you. I can’t help it.” He rested one hand on his stomach and slid his fingers under the waist of his pants.

“Ah.” Keith shifted and whimpered with the chill of Lance’s fingers against the warmth of his lower abs. His sharp intake of breath caused the gem on his stomach to jump.

“See? That whimper.” Lance whispered against Keith’s jaw and slid one finger further into his pants, keeping his touch feather-light. “The more you make those sounds, the more I know you need me.”

“How could anyone be silent while being touched like this?” Keith twisted his waist, turning his face into Lance’s shirt, his breath fogging up the Voltron emblem with each increased pant.

“I don’t care about anyone else. I won’t touch anyone else. Only you.” Lance took Keith’s chin with his other hand and turned his head, looking down at him. He kissed his jaw, his cheek, and finally his lips before he smirked. “And I don’t want anyone else hearing you, either.”

A shiver and a breath left his lips just as they were taken by Lance’s gentle kisses. “No one out here for miles to hear what you make me do.”

“Good.” Lance kissed him again, this one a bit hungrier than the ones before it. “You’re mine. I won’t share you.”

“I belong to you.” Keith groaned, chasing the kiss. “Show me you’re mine.” Heat blazed in Keith’s eyes. “No Jenny, Jessica, Rachel, Nyma,” Keith hesitated as though trying to stop the next words out of his mouth, but each name gave rise to a new level of jealousy in him. “Allura.”

Lance felt a new heat inside him when Keith looked at him that way. Raw emotion. Jealousy he never saw before. It made the heat in Lance’s pants grow, and he pressed himself against Keith, so the other man could feel him through his clothing. “I’m yours. You’re the only one who’s ever made me like this.” He leaned over him but stopped short of kissing him. “No one makes me feel the way you do. So I’ll show you. As many times as you want me to.” Lance kissed him again and reached for his pants once more. “I’ll pace myself, so trust me to please you. I won’t rush this,” he whispered as his fingers moved to unbutton Keith’s jeans.

Keith licked between Lance’s teeth, taking his lower lip between his teeth and nipped. His semi-hard sex straining in the confines of his black briefs.

Lance pushed Keith’s pants down past his knees, pulling back to pull them all the way, and as he tossed them aside, he undid his own pants and kicked them next to Keith’s. “Fair is fair,” he quipped with a grin, the strain in his underwear matching the one of his lover.

Keith turned his head in a slow appraisal of the man leaning over him. “Lance.” He’d forgotten strength wasn’t the only Altean gift Lance had been blessed with.

“Are you thinking I was smaller than this before?” Lance arched a brow when Keith’s gaze was very obviously lingering on certain areas of his body. He knew he was teasing with the question, the implication on a specific, hardened, part of his body, but he wanted to tease Keith for his staring. “I did work out, you know, you just hadn’t seen me in a while.” And while they had gotten intimate through the com the night before, the video was nothing compared to real life. The same was true for Keith. Each defined muscle looked even sexier in person. Lance slid one hand up along one of those perfectly toned thighs and smirked. “Or are you just hoping I’m bigger?”

“You’re perfect.” Keith’s legs twitched and rolled open to the side, his stomach jumped and muscles flexed anticipation laced tension. “I’m just hoping I don’t disappoint you.”

“You could never disappoint me, Keith.” Lance whispered and kissed those tender lips as his fingers slid up the other man’s thighs. “I grow more infatuated with you every day. I love you more every moment. There’s no way you could ever be anything other than perfect for me.”

Keith’s breath hitched, and the cooling air of the new born night did little to quell the rising heat in his skin.

Twilight darkened the sky and the wispy arms of the Milky Way faded into view. Somewhere, Keith heard the nocturnal beasts starting to rise and chirp. Their calls downing the tiny gasps Lance’s touches forced from Keith’s swollen lips.

Lance stopped just short of the bottom of Keith’s underwear, his fingers teasing the elastic bands around his thighs. He sat up a little, looking down at the other man and watching the way his body made subtle movements. The way his chest rose and fell with his breath. The way his lips trembled. “What do you want?”

“Huh?” Keith blinked, straightening his neck. “You.” He answered the question as straight forward as he could. “Though keep talking to me. Let me hear you. I don’t care what you say, I need your voice.” ‘So I always know it’s you.’ Keith kept the last fear to himself. Lance did not know everything of his plaguing nightmares, but he knew enough.

“Then I will do my best for you.” Lance’s lips twitched into a smile before he leaned down and kissed him. “And if I seem to be losing it because you feel amazing, bring me back and get me to talk.” He slid the tips of his fingers under the elastic bands and touched the softest flesh of Keith’s thighs.

Keith couldn’t explain it, he could be asked a thousand times and never have the answer for the stinging in his eyes or the thin tears threatening to blind him. There would never be a simple answer other than Lance breaking every last wall he had. Every emotional crutch Keith depended on, now laid in tatters. Lance was too good. Too kind. Too patient. Too sexy.

“I-m’m!” Keith’s legs twitched at his touch and excited ripples made his heart flutter and his sex stand to full awareness. The tip, hot and wet, peeking over the edge of his waist band.

Lance’s eyes darkened at the lust-ridden sight below him. The way Keith’s arousal strained against his underwear and poked out of the top did something to Lance that he couldn’t explain. So he pulled his hands from the bottom elastics and moved them to that waist, carefully pulling it down to free Keith’s heat from the confines of the cloth. “You’re so sexy.” He whispered and leaned down to kiss him.

Keith’s arms moved, his hands poised to cover himself, but he stopped, his fists clenched in the air, halfway down to his sex. Instead he splayed fingers out over his stomach. With a few deep breaths his anxiety melted away and he relaxed. Keith trusted Lance and displayed the sentiment by sliding those hands back up his body to lay open by his head. Leaving the dark-haired man vulnerable and defenseless.

“Hold my arms if you feel the need to hold something.” Lance saw Keith’s movements, though his eyes were focused on his task. He wanted to offer him as much comfort as he could as he pushed Keith’s underwear down enough, so the other man could kick them off, and he looked down at Keith, his eyes lingering over the newly exposed flesh. “I’ll take good care of you, okay?” One finger slid over the tip of his sex, a smirk curling his lips.

Jolts jerked Keith’s hips up from the blanket and his cry of started pleasure echoed over the valley. Without thought, his arms darted down to grip Lance’s hands.

“That’s it. Hold me.” Lance kept his voice soft, soothing, as he trailed his finger down Keith’s length. He wanted him to get used to these soft touches before he did any more.

Lance was driving him crazy. One finger, only one touch drawing a line down his organ. The fleshed swelled and the heat grew and weighed against his lower stomach. “Lance…”

“Is something wrong?” Did Keith know how much Lance was trying to behave? How he was trying to do anything that meant he wasn’t rushing Keith? “Do…you not like it?”

“No,” Keith whimpered. “I like it. I don’t know how much I can take though. You barely touched me... and…” He hissed, a knot twisted and wrapped in his gut, the fibers rubbing against frayed nerves.

“But isn’t that okay?” Lance slid his finger back up. “Don’t you want to show me how good it feels? Don’t you want to let yourself feel good, so we can make these memories together?” Lance smiled down at him and curled his hand around the heated flesh. “Cum if you need to, Keith. It’s okay.” He started to move his hand a little, adding slight friction to his movements.

Keith arched his back, and with a growl he pulled Lance down with him. Tongues pushing back on each other, careful fangs. “Ah!” Inexperience thrust his up in uneven jerks. He tried to think, he tried to focus on anything other than the feeling for four tight hot fingers pumping his sex, or the thumb swirling over the red swollen head, smearing himself with his precum. Lance, getting dirtied by him. Sweet handsome Lance soiled by his excitement. “Fuck!” Fangs bared and eyes squeezed shut. “Lance! I want it! Make me feel it.” He mewled the words. “Please…”

Lance went with it, grunting a little into the kiss and moving his hand even faster in response to the movement of Keith’s hips. “I’ll make sure you feel it. So show me you do, Keith.” His eyes remained locked on those pools of twilight that looked up at him. “Show me how badly you need me.” He kept the pace of his hand steady, but he added a little more pressure to his grip. Not too much, but enough to make Keith squirm more than he already was.

“Aha!” The weight of Lance against him, the obvious scent of his lover’s arousal, and the pinned sensation he felt against the unforgiving resistance of the rock sent Keith into a blinding flurry of pleasure. Molten iron coiled and sprang from the man’s loins, spilling over Lance’s hand as he continued to work him through the orgasm. His seed mixing with sweat to ease the friction as his hips lifted and jerked again and again.

When awareness seeped back, or teased on the edges of his mind, he laid limp against the blanket. His muscles contacting in twitched and aftershocks. His palms stung, and his claws throbbed. “Nm.” At some point in his frenzy he’d let go of Lance and slapped his hands down against the stone. He raked his claws to rake across unrelenting rocky surface to save the tender skin of Lance’s back and arms from his blind pleasure.

“Are you okay?” Lance watched Keith writhe beneath him when the orgasm came over him. He reached his free hand down to touch one of his hands, as though he could soothe the pain he must have felt after digging into the rock. “Would it be better if we went inside? So we can go onto the couch? Would that be better for you?” He didn’t necessarily want to go. He wanted to make love to Keith out here in the clean, open air, with the moon rising above them and the stars twinkling as if they didn’t have a care in the world. But he also wanted to make sure Keith didn’t feel any pain, or at least any pain he could prevent.

“I’m okay.” Keith whispered flexing his fingers. “It’s not bad.” He turned his palm up, so he could hold Lance’s. “I lost control and panicked.” He saw the scratches in the sandstone and winced. “I don’t want to hurt you.”

Lance nodded and held his hand, bringing it up to his lips and kissing his fingers. “I wouldn’t be upset if you accidentally hurt me for that reason. I will heal. Just don’t hurt yourself. I want you to feel good. I want you to enjoy this and enjoy me.” He kissed each digit again.

Keith watched with dark fascinated eyes as tan lips kissed pale fingers. “I want to hold you, and I’m afraid to…” A thin tear traced down the edge of his eye, getting lost in the ebony tresses.

“Don’t be afraid to hold me, Keith.” Lance whispered against his fingers before he trailed his kisses down to the center of his palm. “Never be afraid to hold me.” He reached up with his other hand and wiped away that stray tear. “Is this too much? What can I do to make you feel better?”

Keith curled his arm around Lance’s shoulder as he braced himself up on his elbow. He pushed his hand against the back of Lance’s neck, bringing their foreheads together, nuzzling down to where his lips muffled against his shoulder. “Love me. No matter what I look like. No matter who I am. Just love me. Please.”

Lance moved as Keith wanted him to, one arm looping around him to hold him closer, though he rested his other hand on the smaller man’s hips to steady himself. “Keith, I already do. I love you. I’ve loved you for longer than I know how to admit, and I will never stop loving you” He kissed him, licking at his lips before whispering. “Only you.”

“Promise? Don’t let me ever hurt you. I want you to feel good too. I want you to enjoy me.” Keith licked Lance’s taste from his lips as his body shifted to fit his slender hips more easily into Lance’s hands.

Lance’s brows furrowed “Even if you scratch me, it won’t hurt me, okay? I promise I’ll feel good. Don’t worry about that.” He slowly pulled himself back enough to look down at the man beneath him. Maybe Keith had no idea what he was doing to him. Maybe he was just going with what he felt. But Lance was trying, maybe too hard, to make sure this was all about Keith. About giving him what he wanted, a way to erase those other memories, a way to feel more comfortable with himself. He looked at the little gem that rested on Keith’s stomach, and he bit the inside of his lip. The last thing Keith wanted was a reminder of their time, but then he kept things like this. His finger ran along the skin next to the jewel, the touch almost ghosting against his flesh. “How can I make you feel good?”

“Lance,” Keith ignored the twitching jumps of his stomach, he ignored the quickening of his heart as he the ocean storm of Lance’s eyes studied every tremor and quake. The gaze was merciless, crashing over him in a wave scrutiny. Lance was looking for something. A signal. As if any second Keith could break. The older man didn’t blame Lance for that. Despite being recklessly straightforward, conflicting emotions and head spaces often made it harder on those he was straightforward with. “You’re so good.” He traced his thumb under Lance’s kissed bruised lips. “So good it hurts you.”

“You want to protect me from everything. Them. You. Myself.” Keith continued. “I won’t shatter. I won’t break. If I can’t handle something, I’ll tell you to stop. I know you will. I trust you. So trust me a little. This is your first time too, right? We can take it slow.” A hesitant hand reached for Lance’s face, growing bolder and closing the distance. “Touching,” his nails drew light lines down Lance’s neck to circle a brown peak. “Kissing.” He leaned up and his tongue followed the trail his fingers made. “Playing.” He nipped gently at the nub before he sucked at it. “We can figure it out at our pace. Fair is fair.” He offered a shy smile while delivering their latest motto. “Don’t get hurt for me. Don’t let me hurt you, and I’ll do the same for you.”

“Your pace is my pace. You can’t hurt me. You won’t.” Lance whispered, doing his best to keep his breathing even despite Keith’s mouth on some of his more sensitive flesh. Keith wasn’t supposed to call him out on any of that. He wasn’t supposed to know Lance was doing his best to be so good for him. He wasn’t supposed to tell him not to hurt. But he read Lance like a book, and shame colored his cheeks. “And I know all that, I do.” He moved his eyes from Keith’s perfectly toned stomach, up his chest, and to his face. His eyes focused on Keith’s, and his lower lip stuck out just a bit. “But I need you to tell me how to make you feel good. I need you to guide me with what you want. I can’t rely on myself for this. Yeah, it’s my first time, but I know what to do. I know how to do it.” He let his fingers dance over the jewel on Keith’s stomach before the moved down and traced a line from his navel to his heat, though he didn’t touch him yet. “But I don’t know what you like or what makes you feel best.”

Keith bent up his back to suck at the pouting lip before he settled into the uniform pillow and giving in to Lance’s sweet nerve twisting touches.

“I don’t know what I could tell you.” Keith closed his eyes and fought down the memory of heated flesh and gripping hands, and for a second his brow furrowed until he forced his eyes to snap open.

“I like what you did before. I like the way you touched me in the cabin. Or in the Red Lion. I like being kissed by you and touched.” Keith swallowed then gave Lance an apologetic smile like a little boy fessing to a known secret. “My ears. They… umm… they feel good too.”

“Yeah? So all of that was okay?” Lance’s shoulders relaxed, and he dropped the pout in favor of a slight smile. “I really like your ears you know. They’re so cute, and I like the little sounds you make when I do this.” He nuzzled one of those soft appendages with his lips.

“Hmmmng!” Keith crunched his body in as even the dark skin of his inner ears took on a rouge hue. They trembled with a droop followed by the sweetest softest purr.

Lance let his tongue slide out along the edge of that ear. “See? Such a sexy sound.” He whispered, his hands lifting only enough to get his own underwear off. Since he was so focused on Keith, he hadn’t finished undressing, but now was as good a time as any, right? Plus, he wanted Keith to feel his heat press against his thigh. “Keith…”

“Lance,” Keith groaned his name, the hot hardened sex against his chilled leg sent his mind racing. He wanted this. He needed this. And the smell of Lance’s musk combining with his own in the dry desert air gave Keith the final bold push. “Can I touch you?” He moved his hand down.

“Yes.” Lance didn’t mean for the syllable to come out as a throaty moan, but the thought of Keith’s fingers on him made him feel better than he anticipated. “Please…” In that moment, he didn’t care if he sounded desperate. He wanted it more than anything he could imagine wanting before.

Keith lowered his hand between Lance’s stomach and erection. With the flat of his palm he rubbed the swollen member into his flesh, the ivory skin of Keith’s thigh cradling and grinding back up with only the faintest resistance.

“Fuck, Keith.” The contrast of the softer skin of Keith’s thigh and the hardened palm of his hand sent jolts throughout Lance’s body. He tried to push himself more into the friction of his lover’s movements, but he could feel his legs growing weaker the more the pleasure built.

“You can do it on me.” Keith whispered as he watched Lance start to lose control. “I want you to.” Hunger deepened the maple smooth richness of his voice.

“Nnn. I will. I…” Lance bowed his head as his breath sped up. “Soon…Ah…” He knew Keith wanted to keep hearing his voice, so he was doing the best he could, even as his hand trembled and grabbed the outside of the thigh he was rubbing against.

Keith gasped with the sudden squeezing grip to his thigh. The delicious spike of pain, the sight of Lance’s shoulders flexing, sweat running down his jaw, the flush on his cheeks, the low groans of building lust, made Keith’s imagination run wild. He pictured Lance moving inside of him, pushing through his muscled walls, getting deeper and going faster until- “Lance…” a slip of a whimper escaped him.

Keith didn’t know when it happened, but the tip of his finger pressed against the tight muscle ring. His entrance fluttered and twitched against his curious exploration.

Lance wasn’t sure what was happening, but he could guess. Keith moved beneath him, and Lance watched his eyes darken and start to close. He watched the way his lips parted, and suddenly he felt that leg rubbing against his heat a bit harder. He couldn’t form any coherent words as he twitched and spilled his seed over Keith’s thigh and hand. The only sound that came from his mouth was a shuddering groan as his fingers pressed into Keith’s thigh with the last moment of his orgasm.

Keith lifted heavy lidded eyes to focus on Lance. His smile tender as he slid his hand off the still twitching sex and into the mess it left against his skin. Both his hands now moved through it spreading Lance’s mark over him, as any Galra mate would. He trilled a giddy little laugh.

When the haze cleared, and Lance could focus on Keith’s face instead of the tremors that had been rocking through his body, he looked down at the man below him. “What exactly did you do? All of a sudden you seemed to get a lot hotter.”

“Imagined you inside me.” Keith admitted with sheepish smile. “So, I was curious.” He arched his back enough to show one slick coated finger once more pressing against himself. “Here.”

“Oh, is that what it was? I didn’t realize you had that active of an imagination.” Lance looked down at where Keith had smeared the evidence of his pleasure, and his eyes widened when Keith lowered one finger and showed him. “That was it? No wonder the way you rubbed against me was pretty intense.”

Keith followed Lance’s eyes. “Was it?” He nibbled his lip. “Am I… is that weird?”

Lance shook his head a little and rested his hand on one of Keith’s for a moment. “No. Not if that turned you on even more.” He leaned over him and allowed his hand to move down between Keith’s legs. “You know it’ll feel better if I do it, don’t you?”

“Yeah?” Keith dropped his hand, letting Lance take over. “Watching you, was amazing. I wanted to know what it would feel like.” Keith kept talking even through his embarrassment.

“Then should I show you what it’ll feel like?” Lance’s finger pressed against Keith’s opening, but he didn’t push it in. Not yet. “I will happily do that for you, if you want it.”

“Think it will hurt?” Keith’s brows furrowed. He knew the logistics, but his body didn’t know Lance. Hell, his body didn’t know sex and remained practically untouched by even by him.

Was that Keith’s way of saying no? Lance simply nodded and pulled his hand back, sitting up as though he just wanted a clearer view of Keith. “A bit. More than a bit. I don’t know. I’ve never actually done that.” He sighed and rested his hands on his own lap, his gaze dropping. “I don’t want to hurt you.”

“So you never got curious?” Keith shifted his eyes away then shook his head. “Either way, I trust you.” He spread his legs further apart, an arm resting over his forehead to shadow his blush. “I want this.”

It may have seemed silly, but hearing Keith actually say the words was all Lance really needed. He could fake confidence in this all he wanted, but at the end of the day, he was terrified that Keith was only curious, or only trying to appease him. He could put on a show of bravado and do his best to seduce the other man, but if he didn’t say those words, Lance wouldn’t know it was okay to believe it. “Of course I was curious. How do you think I know how to do it?” He whispered, “Did you bring any lotion or anything I can use?” He kept his worry off his face, or at least he hoped Keith would be distracted enough by Lance’s hands sliding up his open thighs that he wouldn’t notice.

“Lotion?” Keith blinked sitting up on his elbows, eyes wide. “No. I wasn’t…” His ears twitched then perked. “Oh! In Red! I saw some! Can we use that?”

“Yeah. I just didn’t want to move away from you, but I guess one of us has to get it.” Lance reached for his underwear and climbed off the rock, tugging it on. “Wait for me?”

“I’ll wait.” Keith laid up against the rock, laying his head back against the uniform. The desert plain stretching into canyons behind him. He shut his eyes and breathed in a deep breath. The night air danced over his skin, teasing the fine hairs over his stomach, legs and arms, reminding Keith how naked and exposed he was. He grew excited. He’d never felt so much anticipation in all his life. He was excited and scared. Cold and warm. Vulnerable and protected. The sensations mixed together in a heady brew and as the wind continued to toy with him and his own fingers joined the gliding caress.

Nothing would prepare Lance for the sight of his desperate lover. Fingers still moving between his legs teasing but never touching as precum glistening against Keith’s sex. When he saw Lance standing stock still between him and the lion, he reached out to him with his other hand, like a siren calling for her sea born lover. Skin glowing like pearls in the moonlight.

Lance’s chest heaved as he panted. Though painful, he ran to Red in just his underwear and came back to Keith as quickly as he could. There was no way he could have been ready to see what Keith was showing him, and the ache of his sex hardening in his underwear was almost too much to bear. He could barely move, and he almost dropped the lotion at his feet, but he somehow held onto it. Even though his legs trembled. Even though his wide eyes stared at the way Keith was beckoning him. Even though his heat rubbed painfully against the cloth of his underwear with each slow, almost torturous step he took. “K…Keith. Are you trying to kill me?” He wasn’t sure how he closed the gap between them, or when he took his boyfriend’s hand, but he barely finished the question before he was taking Keith’s mouth in a heated kiss.

“You seem plenty alive to me.” Keith murmured with a drunken smile on his lips. Lance’s kiss was scorching. The Paladin of fire seared his way like a comet across the sky in into the very depths of Keith’s core. The heat bubbled and built, joining the existing pressure.

“Barely.” Lance murmured against his lips and kissed him again, hastily getting his underwear back off. “And in a little pain. Make me feel better.”

Keith helped toss the cloth aside, to join the forgotten pile of his clothes. “How should I ease you?” He kissed him again and again as his hands wandered the expanse of Lance’s back feeling the faint lines of the scar he knew to be there.

“Keep kissing me.” Lance grunted when Keith’s fingers moved over the more tender flesh of his back, but it wasn’t a painful feeling. Weird, tingly, but good in a way. And soon he was uncapping the bottle of lotion and looking down at him. “Don’t stop kissing me.”

“I’d be crazy to.” Keith kissed him again, opening his mouth to be taken until he drove them both back into Lance’s. Passion stoked a purring growl, and his touches became pleasured kneads against the taller paladin’s shoulders. Yet he remained conscious of his claws.

“Mmm.” Lance shifted their bodies and pushed Keith’s legs open as he kept kissing him. “Good.” Another kiss, then a third, and he slid a hand underneath his lover and teased his opening. No pressure, not yet. Just a slight touch to make him aware. “You want me, right?”

“Yes.” Keith gasped, pressing his cheek into the jacket. He twitched with the press that finger. Lance had a thing for breaking Keith, of that the half-Galra had no doubt. He teased and taunted him. He continued asking Keith to say embarrassing things. “I want you. Every part of me wants you.” He moaned, forcing his voice out.

“Then you should have me.” Lance pulled that finger back and coated it with the lotion. “You should have all of me. I’m yours.” He pushed the tip of his finger inside Keith, slowly, gently, doing his best to keep it from hurting too much. “I’ll give you everything.”

Keith mewled then bit down on the corner of the uniform’s collar, a fang bared as he arched his neck. He fought down the flashes that threatened him. He focused on Lance. Lance’s gentle touch. Lance’s sweet voice. Lance’s comforting scent. His body eased, releasing the tension, allowing the collar to slip from his teeth. The fabric now being nuzzled with little kitten licks. His purr coming back to time with his encouraging knead on Lance’s back. He completely gave himself over. Deep amethyst eyes searched for Lance’s and locked on, seeing only him. No monsters lived here. No men trying to hurt him or take advantage of him. No struggle for survival. Only love and devotion. Only Lance.

“That’s it, Keith, look at me.” Lance murmured as he started to move his finger in him. He needed Keith to relax a little more. He could see the way he went from nervous and tense to a little calmer, the change obvious in his facial expressions and the way his eyes seemed to grow clearer. He was afraid at first, maybe of Lance, maybe not of Lance, but then he wasn’t. Then he was cute, and calmer, and those pale cheeks pinked with each of Lance’s movements. “Though, if you want to keep your mouth busy, there are plenty of things I can give you.” He grinned, but it was only for a moment before the concentration came back to his face and he watched every subtle twitch of Keith’s lips and the narrowing of his eyes when his finger moved a little quicker than before. “Tell me if it’s good, or bad, or if you need me to stop. Just focus on me.” He needed Keith to keep trusting him. He needed to erase the last remnants of Keith’s anxiety if possible.

Keith reached for Lance’s hand and folding his fingers into his. “You’re good. I’m okay.” He squeezed. “You love me. Mmmn… this feels so good.” He said with a lick of his lips.

“I do love you.” Lance held Keith’s hand with his free one, though he lowered them against Keith’s hip, so he could use some of his weight to keep the smaller man steady as he added a second finger inside him. “I love you more than anything. I…I think I always have.”

“I—” The intrusion of the second finger broke Keith’s voice. How were his fingers so incredibly long!? The pressure built up and he could feel his body tightening. “Lance, I need you!” He moaned, his voice honeyed by lust-filled pleas as his inner walls twitched against the intruding digits.

“I know, Keith. And I need you. And I will give us what we need as soon as you’re ready to take me. You need to try to relax just a little.” Lance whispered and leaned down to lick at Keith’s lips. His own sex twitched in anticipation as he continued to move those fingers, slow, gentle, but somehow also with an urgency he didn’t even know he felt.

“Lance, please…” Keith tighten his hand. “I’m hot…”

Lance kept hold of his hand as he pulled his fingers out of him. “You are hot. So very hot.” He leaned in for another lick at his lower lip before he kissed him, taking the moment to push Keith’s legs open and slide between them. “The hottest.”

“La..nce…” Keith straightened his head. Those ears drooped low making the fiercest paladin look desperate and pleading. The ache inside would kill him. A delirium already started to take hold.

“I won’t let go of your hand, but hold onto me with your other arm okay?” Lance lifted Keith’s hips with his free hand, since the other was still holding Keith’s and using that as leverage. He pressed his tip against Keith’s opening and watched the other man’s face. “Hold onto me. Breathe. Try to relax. I’ll take care of you.” If he didn’t know it was because Keith was feeling good, those drooped ears would have given Lance too much guilt to continue.

“Relax?” Keith chuckled, though is sounded more like another whimper. “Easy for you to say.” He tried for a touch of levity as he eyed the part of Lance poised and ready to pierce into him, making Keith his by the laws governed by instinct and nature. Human and Galra, often at war inside of him, cried out in unison for this one moment. Sex, mating, bonding, unifying, whatever pretty or lewd words that were attached the act, all parts of him wanted this. He breathed out, slow and even as he hooked his arm around Lance’s shoulders and nodded. “I’m ready.”

“That’s why I said try.” Lance waited until he felt those fingers against his skin, but once Keith was holding him, he inched himself inside. Slow, steady, trying to let the other man get used to him. He closed one eye as Keith squeezed him, and he let out a puffed gasp. “Breathe, Keith…Nnn.” So hot. So tight. He could have cum just from that, but he wanted to hold out for his lover.

“Eng!” Keith gasped and whimpered in a voice sounding detached from his own. Yes, it hurt, but not in the way he was expecting. The pain had been a slow dissipating burn as his body adjusted and accepted Lance.

When Lance moved, Keith arched his head against the unforgiving stone. Toes flexed at the press of entry now curled in tight. No dream or memory could prepare him for the intensity of Lance’s desire or the power of the moment. Keith became removed from his mind and more connected to his physical. He didn’t need to think. Just feel. Just breath. Just sink. The primal side pushed down reason, and Keith let go with carnal moan. His hips squirmed with wan sybaritic lust, trying to screw himself down on the ravaging heat.

Lance’s fingers pressed into Keith’s hips as he did his best to keep his thrusting slow and steady. There was no need to rush, though his imagination could never have prepared him for the heat that surged through his body as Keith’s muscles tightened around him. He wouldn’t last long, but he would do his best to make sure Keith felt something good. “A..Ah. Fuck, Keith, I’m…” Keith moving with him only made the pressure build. Lance panted as he tried to make sure Keith felt as good as he did.

“I know.” Keith pulled Lance down. His lips by ear, kissing with blind privilege where he could. “Me too. Together, okay?”

Those words were all it took. Lance came with a bucking of his hips, but he didn’t pull himself out of Keith, even as he struggled to catch his breath. “N…Sorry…I…”

“Lance!” Keith balled his fist against Lance’s back. His face pressed into his shoulder as the intensity of the moment dug his nails into his hand and shoulder. Hot fluid shot between their bodies as his virginal nerves caved the sensation of Lance releasing into him.

The way Keith’s muscles and hips moved with his orgasm was enough to get Lance going again. He tried to move his hips a little, the pleasure raw and hot as it once again surged through him. His eyes darkened as he looked down at the other paladin, lips parted as he panted out a breath. “Keith…Nnn…” He was losing it, and part of him didn’t care.

“We… I… it’s…” Keith whimpered. “You’re still..” Keith couldn’t think, he couldn’t talk, all he felt was heat. Pleasure that could not be defined. Pleasure that had been denied for too long. His hips jerked and kept moving with grinds and pulsing reverberations.

Lance let go of Keith’s hand to better hold his other hip. He dragged his lips down Keith’s jaw and over his neck, placing soft kisses along that slender column as he moved his hips faster and a little more desperately than before. A lifetime of memories, a year’s worth of sex with such an amazing creature still wasn’t enough for the raw pleasure that shot through his body as he buried himself deep into Keith. “A..Ah!” This was real. This was everything he ever wanted. He would never be able to let Keith go.

The kisses to his neck started to intoxicate Keith’s mind. They blurred his reason and any sensibility threatening to come back. “I’m yours.” Keith whispered against Lance’s sweat salted flesh. “I knew the second I woke up. I knew the moment I kissed you in the kitchen. Even if I didn’t know anything else, I knew that. I love you.” Keith pressed his hand to the back of Lance’s head, holding him against his shoulder as he nuzzled and kissed along his ears then sloping down to his collar. He groaned, crossing an Altean mark. His lips buzzed but he continued to move on kissing back up a spot he knew to be one of Lance’s many weaknesses and nuzzled the lobe of his ear before nipping. “You feel so good. Quiznack! I want you.”

“You have me.” Lance managed, continuing to rock their bodies together, even though he now tucked his face into Keith’s neck and licked at the sensitive skin beneath his lips. His breath hitched when Keith’s lips moved over his markings, but he did this best to keep himself in check. “You’ve always had me. You’ll never be able to get rid of me. Not now.” He groaned and tried to push himself in deeper. He wanted as much of Keith as he could get. “Did you know when you kissed me…in front of everyone? That’s when I knew…” Lance managed to moan out the words, and he lifted his head a bit, so he could look down at Keith, tears coming to his eyes as he tried to appreciate the ethereal form beneath him. Keith’s skin practically glowed under the light of the moon, giving him an almost incandescent look. His eyes were dark enough to feel as though they could pull Lance in and never let him go. How did he end up with someone so perfect? “I love you.” He managed between grunts and pants. Lance couldn’t contain his emotions any longer, and they spilled down his cheeks in thin streams. “So…so much.”

“Ah!” Soft deep thick moans dripped like molasses from kiss bruised lips. Echoes of tiny begs were half aware utterances of a man teetering on a precipice. Something gnawed inside him. An itch, a need seeded into the very makings of his DNA. “Feed me…” He kneed. “While making me yours, let me have you.”

Even if Lance was thinking clearly rather than being in the midst of such intense pleasure, there was no way he would have been able to deny Keith’s request. His eyes darkened as the markings on his body began to glow. The soft blue light illuminated the pale flesh that squirmed beneath him, and in that moment, Lance kissed Keith, pushing his life force into him.

The effects of the exchange happened with the first draught the Galra took from his lover. Branching new life in him, the quintessence stretched through his veins, reaching and filling every part of him. Swallow after swallow came as if the power were tangible and thick, coating Keith’s throat. When he pulled away, a slip of a feline like tongue licked light from glutenous lips, eyes glittering with the flame of a thousand golden torches.

Lance’s eyes lost focus as his hips moved and Keith pulled the quintessence from him. He could feel the pull reach deep, and he moaned with each thrust. “Ah…!”

Keith moved his body however Lance desired, helping him reach the secret part of him, which made all other pleasure but the quintessence seem dull. Again and again Lance’s aim was sure, pushing out moans and lewd cries. He came again and somewhere in his mind he knew he cried out. He knew from the rawness in his throat, and the notion of Lance’s name forming on his lips.

“Keith, I need you…Nnn. Please never stop loving me.” Lance whispered, desperation lacing his voice, and he kissed him again, pushing as much quintessence into Keith as his body would allow. As he pulled back, and his lines lost their azure glow, his hips bucked as he lost himself in the euphoria once more.

When it finished, and their bodies quietly sank together in a tangle of limbs and sweat, Keith continued to purr. His tiny gift for the man who’d given him his life. “Never again, in any lifetime.”

Keith nosed his hair, taking up his scent and letting it fill his lungs so every part of him would be touched upon by Lance. An ocean just before dawn and freshly made cream with a roll of honey- that was the taste of Lance. The memory came unhindered of lingering lavender and delicate meadows and just as quickly it washed away, diluted within the throng of new ambiences. That wasn’t his Lance. His Lance was loud. The center point of every room and the spark of joy in any conversation. He’d crash into your life like a wave beating upon a shore until the perfect nook had been carved away where he, and only he, could sit.

Lance’s arms rested loosely around Keith as he nuzzled into his hair. The quick rise and fall of his chest was slowing down as he started to catch his breath, but the sweat that still clung to his hairline was just another reminder of how much he lost himself in Keith. “Do you know I can’t live without you?” He whispered and closed his eyes. Keith had no idea just how much he captivated Lance, did he? That his allure was only enhanced by his strength and brash behavior? That even though he expected Keith to get tired of him, he still wanted to cling to him and make him smile and laugh. That even when he was yelling at Lance, there was something about it that pulled him in further.

“I know.” Keith said as he allowed the embrace to encase him, his purr echoing in both their chests. “And that was my first time. Imagine what I can learn to do.” Keith said, eyes shimmering and every facet alight with Lance’s life force flowing inside him. His skin glowed with a renewed pallor, his hair glossy and full, and even the fur of his ears gained a sleek raven shine.

“As long as you learn with me.” Lance murmured, sweat making his hair cling to his face and ears. Keith looked healthier, and while he was pleased to see it, it set off a slight twinge of annoyance in the back of his head. If only Keith had let him close earlier, even if they didn’t have sex. He could have helped him, but Lance knew not to push it. Instead, his eyes closed, and he nestled against Keith, as though trying to absorb some of the other paladin’s warmth. “Only me.”

Keith leaned up and licked at Lance’s ear and hair before he nestled deeper into it. They basked for a while under the stars, kissing and holding each other until the first shiver of the desert night traveled up Keith’s exposed back. “We should go inside. I’m warm now, but it’s going to get really cold out here pretty quick.”

Lance grunted, but he still had enough energy to pick Keith up and cradle him in his arms, walking back into the shack and groaning as he settled him down on the couch. “I’ll…get the blankets.” And almost like he was in on autopilot, he walked back outside again, groggily, lazily, coming back only a moment later with the blanket and their clothing, laying half on Keith as he pulled the cloth over them. “Better?”

“I could’ve walked.” Keith pulled Lance in with a tight snuggling hug, loving the weight of him on his chest.

“I would be a shitty boyfriend if I let you walk after that.” Lance groaned into Keith’s shoulder and closing his eyes. “I don’t want to be a shitty boyfriend. I want to be a good boyfriend.”

“You’re doing a good job so far.” Keith cuddled in tighter, using his purr to set them at ease. “I’m the difficult one.”

“Nnn. It’s not that you’re difficult.” Lance tried to curl himself in closer. “You’re just stubborn.” He pressed his lips against Keith’s shoulder as he spoke. “But…it’s one of the cute things about you.”

“You’re the only one allowed to call me that.” Keith pouted, kissing Lance’s hair while he deepened the tone and slowed the rhythm of his purr.

“Good. No one else is allowed to flirt with you or call you cute.” Lance nuzzled. “Well, if my mom calls you cute, and she will, you can’t get mad.” The purr started to lull him, his voice dropping off with that last word.

“Why would--” Lance’s soft breathing cut Keith off with smile. His fingers continued to stroke and curled into his chestnut hair, fluffing the strands. “Good night Lance.” He whispered with one more kiss to the paladin’s temple.

Chapter Text

“All right! Paladins sound off.” Keith’s voice came loud and clear over the intercom, his stern face flashing up on the Lions’ HUDs.

“Blue is in position.”

“Green has all systems good to go!”

“Ditto.”

“Hunk…”

“Right. Sorry, Keith! Serious hero mode. Ahem. Yellow is a-go!”

“Red is ready to roll!”

“Black is in position, Lions are ready.”

Spread over the north Atlantic eastern seaboard, the Paladins had a mission to flush out the last few Galra strongholds. The missions were simple, the half-starved and desperate Galra soldiers had been abandoned by their empire with little more than barbarian style raids left as a tactic to feed themselves.

Nothing could ever be simple. Unlike the other dens, this base had fortifications. Surveillance observed the clinical dissection of downed ships being harvested for parts. Engines, wings, crystals, and whole vehicles were dragged into their lair. Harvesting tech like so many ants. Now, they housed enough fire power to hold the whole of Old New York ransom. So, naturally caution was to be expected. They publicly classified the issue as a ‘Voltron’ problem. The MFE fighters were good. Fantastic even, but the fighters had no designs for stealth.

 

“We go in loud and proud!” James had exclaimed with a chummy fist punching Keith’s back. The gesture earned the taller man a a good natured eye roll from the paladin. Keith liked James. He tried hard, fought well, cared about his team, and he had good instincts. No matter their beginning, Keith appreciated the solider he became. Lance on the other hand? Well, Lance became amusing to observe whenever the other pretty boy showed his face. Keith didn’t toy with Lance’s jealousy and did everything he could to squash it, but Lance was Lance. He had chosen James to be his rival and Keith could little about it. Being extra cold to a fellow fighter because your boyfriend took issue with him didn’t get jobs done.

For now, Keith’s focus was on the task at hand. The mission was simple. Go in. Blow shit up. Take prisoners. Don’t sweat any lost Galra lives. Keith snarled a bit at the last bit. The jackass who wrote the itinerary obviously didn’t know their audience. Keith made a mental note to enlighten the author. Voltron would do this without a single wasted life.

“Do you see anything?” Lance squinted as he read, or tried to read, his HUD. The lines were wavy, and the readings were blurry. Blinking only seemed to make it worse, and the more he tried to focus on it, the worse he felt. It didn’t help that he had been agitated since starting the mission, a twinge forming in the back of his head the more he thought about Keith being too friendly with James. Of course Keith didn’t see that the other man was flirting with him. So of COURSE he let it happen without comment. And that just pissed Lance off more. But he couldn’t dwell on it. Not when the anger was starting to seethe, and the HUD was just a wash of color. He would just have to rely on the others. Maybe they wouldn’t notice or question it.

“I’m getting readings by the old harbor. About a dozen heat signals. They look like they’re in a group.” Hunk reported. “But there’s no way that’s all of them, right?” He always had a way of sounding hesitant even when he was absolutely sure of what he was saying.

“Not according to the reports. There should be a rather large cell now that they have more weaponry.” Allura chimed in with her normal matter-of-fact tone. “Even if they don’t have the numbers, they certainly have the destruction power."

“They’re scared, and they’re cornered which makes them dangerous.” Keith’s fingers danced over the front dash, calculations flying up on his screen and instantly being shared with the others. “Here are the last recorded movements.”

“That’s the same tactic The Garrison used during the first wave of Galra occupation.” Pidge pushed her glasses up. “They’re using the World War Three bunker system. However, it was deactivated and abandoned after the Climate event washed out the seaboard. Those tunnels can’t be habitable.”

“Well lets be sure to tell them that.” Keith countered. “Lance go investigate, but don’t get too close. They don’t know we’re here yet, and I’d like to have as few casualties as possible.” Normally Keith would have sent Pidge forward, but their cover was thick and Red had the speed to get back to them if anything happened.

“Got it.” Lance broke off from the group, moving as close to the area as possible while still being obscured from the ground by the clouds. His brows furrowed as the pain in his head increased, but he managed to scan the area. At the very least, he could see the changes in the landscape and the colors on the data readings. He might not have been able to read the findings, but he knew what those darker spots meant. “Looks like there are some cave ins, so they’re limited to this area.” He boxed a part of the images and sent the data over. “There looks like a lot of them.”

“If that’s what we can see…” Keith murmured to himself.

“Does that mean there’s more underground? Like a lot more?” Hunk asked.

“Looking over the topography there was recent seismic activity in the area.” Pidge said.

“So, the rest of them are trapped down there?” Asked Keith.

“I’m picking up several more active signatures down below. There’s hundreds of life forms down there.” Came a nonplussed reply.

“And they’re not all Galra.” Allura whispered.

“Hostages?” Keith grit his teeth.

“Galra soldiers and Earth civilians. Keith, what do you want to do?” Allura’s concerned tone took precedence over the jabber.

“Maybe we should see if we can get everyone who’s trapped out, Galra or not?” Hunk asked with a half sigh. “I mean, maybe it won’t be like they’ll shoot at us right away or something?”

“Is that even possible?” Lance edged a little closer to the area, but kept himself from rushing in. “Is there any way we can access those tunnels?”

Silence filled the lines for a moment. “Hunk. I’m gonna need you for this one, buddy. I need you to dig your lion down and create an escape leading into the forest. Pidge You’re going with him in case he gets into any trouble, use your roots to stabilize the passage if need be. Lance, Allura and myself will distract the Galra on the surface.”

“Got it.”

Lance watched the yellow and green blurs of their lions move away before he swooped down and immediately drew the Galra’s attention. Not that it was difficult, since he was already so close. He tried to find the ground weapons, but there were too many soldiers near them at the moment, and he couldn’t quite tell the difference between the Galra blurs and the weapon blurs for him to shoot without casualty. “I’d say they’re pretty distracted!” He swooped overhead.

“What, did you razzle or dazzle them?” Keith grinned as he took off in black, hearing Allura’s chuckle in his ear.

Lance snorted a reply, biting back his retort as he tried to draw fire and lure the soldiers away from the launchers. “C’mon Red,” he murmured, “help me out here.” It was taking all of his concentration to keep from dipping too low or turning right into enemy fire.

Black swooped down, the tail of the largest lion slicing through cannons without setting down. “Avoid ground fire. We don’t want to cause another cave in!” Keith shouted as Allura flew high catching a stray fighter in Blue’s mouth.

“Roger that!”

“Ah. Fuck!” Lance hissed as pain pitched in his head and Red almost slammed into the ground, but he pulled up at the last second, barely scraping the tops of a few trees. He bit his lip to cut off a string of curses.

“Lance!” Allura’s voice sounded more panicked than it probably should have. “What happened?”

“Nothing. Nothing. I slipped.” Lance lied through gritted teeth, brows knit as the pain kept throbbing in the back of his head. Looking at his HUD made it worse, but he couldn’t not look at it either.

“Lance!” Keith gritted, absorbing a hit in the smaller Lion’s stead. “I need you to stay focused! Allura, watch your six! Cannon fire!”

“I. Am. Focused.” Lance practically growled as he dipped low to the ground and knocked over the cannon and the soldiers near it, though he was careful not to crush any of them.

“They’re clustering! Guys! I’m going to lead them up. Take them out as they thin down the line.” Keith grunted thrusting the controls forward to swoop down, then up in a ninety-degree climb. His Lion could handle the drag and while the geforce pressed him into the seat, most of the slapped together Frankensteinesque sentinels trembled to pieces behind him. Those who didn’t, fell into a line.

Red and Blue took out fighters one by one, cutting them down and tossing them into the bay as Keith continued to go higher, his body shaking as the earth desperately tried to pull him back. “Just a little more.”

With each movement of Red, and each enemy he took out, Lance’s migraine got worse. His stomach churned, and he gripped the controls until he was sure he would break his own fingers. But he couldn’t hold it. His vision completely blackened, and he slumped forward in his seat. Red hit the ground hard and slid, knocking over trees and crashing through a small cluster of Galran soldiers before it ripped right through a building they were using to store ammunition. The resulting explosion shook the earth, threatening to collapse the barracks beneath them.

“What just happened?” Hunk called, worry evident in his voice. “We got down to these guys, but everything started shaking! What is going on up there? Lance? Allura? Keith?”

Lance’s com was silent, and Allura’s only response was a loud scream.

“Lance is down!” Keith shouted into the com. “Continue your evacuation!” He snarled and drove his lion through the fighters surrounding Allura. Broken sentinel pieces in all directions.

“Allura! GET LANCE AND GO!” He shouted. “I got the rest of this.”

“I can’t just-”

“He a sitting duck down there! GO!” Keith’s tone didn’t allow any room for Allura to argue. She might be a princess, but out here Keith was in charge. He watched the blue lion fly down toward red, claws gripping metal jointed shoulders, and thrusters picking up to support the added weight.

“Hunk, we have to hurry. Keith can’t do that alone!” Pidge shouted.

“I’m working on it!”

Allura gritted her teeth. “Please, Blue…” Her hands gripped the controls until her knuckles threatened to pop. She managed to drag Red far enough from that building before another explosion caused Blue to lose her grip on Red. “No!” She shouted and dove back down there. “Come on, Lance. Wake up!”

But Lance was out, and Red was still dark.

Allura cursed in a rather unladylike manner and concentrated. This had happened before. She searched for Lance’s life force and sighed. Lance was just out cold, this time. Not dead or near-dead. That was a relief at least. But she had no time to think about it as she pulled again.

“We’re coming!” Hunk shouted. “We got everyone out, and those Galra are safely tied up…very tied up to a bunch of trees. There’s no way they’re going to get loose any time soon.”

“Well I only left their faces uncovered.” Pidge chimed in.

“I can’t move him much more. There are too many down here!” Allura’s frantic voice cracked a bit as she called out to the others.

“I got it!” Yellow swooped down and took over for Blue, pulling Red. “Go help Keith!”

“No. We don’t have to.” The green lion stopped over the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the mighty lion pulling it’s hunches down below as she sat in an awed, mystified form of horror. The area was silent sans the gore and carnage crackling. “Th-they’re gone.”

“What? They escaped?” Allura asked.

“No. Destroyed.” Pidge whispered in a breath of awe.

“All of it? They were hundreds just a second ago. Keith! Where’s Keith!?”

“The Black Lion is fully functional. Keith, come in.” Pidge swallowed. She knew Keith was good. Frighteningly good, but the callous massacre she witnessed boarded on inhuman. Keith had been only waiting for the all clear from Hunk and the remaining Galra soldiers knew his wrath. Wings of swift merciless destruction reeked havoc on the battle field. Fire, smoke, and debris rained from the sky, parting as Keith stepped through, his lion looking more like a hound of hell than the Black Lion of Voltron.

“Black reporting in.” Keith’s voice was dull, distant. “No enemy survivors. Gather up the people from down below, take them to the city. We’re done here.”

“R…Right. I’ll take Lance back.” Hunk murmured as he moved to pull Red back with him. “Keith, man, are you okay?” He didn’t bother hiding the concern in his voice.

“I’m fine. Get everyone to safety. I’ll meet the rest of you back at the Atlas.”

“Yeah…” Hunk’s voice trailed off. Yellow moved and carried Red the entire way back. And when they arrived, he jumped out to pull Lance out of the cockpit.

“What happened down there?” Shiro followed Hunk as he carried Lance towards the infirmary, his brow furrowed.

“Ask Keith when he gets back.” Hunk shook his head.

Shiro didn’t have to wait long. Keith’s lion roared into the hanger, lowering its head to let the paladin out. He still wasn’t used to seeing the former student stepping out of the black lion’s mouth. His charge stood tall, proud, like he’d been born for this very thing. His baring, his stature, they way he surveyed the condition of his teammates. No one would question the boy’s place. Keith became everything Shiro knew he would be. The revelation swelled a sense of pride in him. Also with it came a feeling of longing. He missed flying with everyone. He missed being part of the action. With the Atlas he had his own crew and his own amazing ship, but a paladin was a paladin.

“Keith. You okay?” He walked toward Keith, his Altean hand resting on his shoulder.

“Yeah.” Keith scanned the hanger again. “Lance. Where is he?”

“The infirmary.”

“Why?” Keith lifted his head, forcing calm in his voice. “Was he hurt? What happened?”

“That’s what I would like to know.”

“Nothing. One second we were fighting, and the next he was down. No one hit him.” Keith started walking faster.

“Do you think it’s-” Shiro cut himself off.

“I don’t know, he didn’t complain of any issues.” Keith rubbed the bridge of his nose. “I’m gonna go see him.” Keith stepped beyond Shiro, leaving the Atlas captain to stare blankly at his back.

Keith hated the medical ward. He hated it when he was little, he hated it when he was in school, he hated it now. The cold isolating beeping, the smell of disinfectant, the creepy faceless and nameless medical staff walking around with their faces in their pads, he hated every part of it.

A nurse showed him to where Lance laid out. He assured Keith Lance’s vitals were normal and his skin had a decent color. They had full faith in a speedy recovery.

“We just need him to rest.” One nurse said and Keith brushed him off as he sat down on the chair beside Lance. A frown deep set on his features, until a large exhale melted his posture down to where his head laid upon the bed.

“I agreed to this too soon.”

“I’m fine.” Lance whispered, though his eyes were still closed. “I’m sorry I messed everything up.” He turned his head towards Keith and opened his eyes, looking at him for a long moment before he spoke again. “Are you okay?” He tried to ignore the beeping and the humming of the machines around him, but each high-pitched sound was like a nail being driven into his brain. He tried to keep from wincing, but he knew there was no way his face remained neutral. He also knew Keith was about the snap at him, so it was like a double wince.

“Would you-” Keith snapped his mouth shut. He didn’t need to lose his temper. “The hostages are safe, the base is gone. Everyone made it back. I’m fine. So, stop worrying about me. I’m not the one in the hospital bed.”

“Yeah…but that was you wasn’t it?” Lance slowly sat up and kept his eyes on Keith, his fingers twisting into the sheets. “That destroyed the base? The nurses were talking about it. So are you okay?” He needed to focus on something other than the ringing in his head.

“You and Allura did a lot of it. I focused on the cleanup. They kept coming Lance. Like hornets out of a hive. So I took care of it.” Keith kept his eyes turned away as he sat up. “I’m fine. Lance, what happened out there?”

Lance’s brows furrowed. Keith couldn’t or wouldn’t look at him. Whichever one it was, it made his chest tighten, and he clutched the sheets even tighter, twisting them around his fingers. He knew no witty reply or joking answer would work in this situation. Not if Keith was pissed off at him. Even if Lance could tell he wasn’t totally fine, there was no way Keith was going to allow him to ask, so he sighed and bowed his head. “I…blacked out.”

“Blacked out?” Keith repeated as if the words didn’t make sense together. “How come?” Deep purple eyes peered sidelong at Lance’s face. “Be honest with me. Please.”

“I had a migraine. A really bad one. It felt like someone was pushing needles into my head, and I couldn’t see anything but blurs of color….and then I blacked out.” Lance sighed and looked at him with eyes slightly rimmed with tears. “It hurts, Keith…”

“I..” Keith’s snapped his head up. “It hurts? Like right now?” Without a thought, his hands pressed against Lance’s temples, anger forgotten. “Did you hit something?! Should I get the doctor?” Keith bent his knees toward the door but didn’t let go of Lance.

Lance closed his eyes and leaned against Keith’s hands. They were a little cold, and they felt so good against his skin. “No. I didn’t hit anything.” He whispered. “My head hurts. It’s the migraine. The beeping and the light in here…it’s hurting it more...” He left the rest of it unvoiced. He couldn’t tell Keith it was because he hadn’t slept much even though he was giving him quintessence to help him feel better. That they increased in intensity the more he didn’t sleep. “I…can I get out of here?”

“All right, where can I take you?” Keith hoisted Lance’s arm around his shoulder. “Say the word.”

“Any room that doesn’t have constant bright lights and beeping machines…” Lance leaned against Keith a little, the contact making him slightly giddy and easing some of his pain, as If just touching was enough to heal him. “Our room?”

“Got it.” Keith glanced around the room, “Come’ere boy.” In a flash, Kosmo appeared next to the paladins. Keith’s loyal friend never out of earshot. The elder paladin turned Lance’s face into his neck to shield his eyes. “Hold on.” Another flash and the three vanished, reappearing in their joined room. The lights off, no monitors, and no other humans.

“Here.” Keith nuzzled his nose into Lance’s temple. He planted a dozen little kisses along his hair line. “Better?”

“Woah…” Lance’s eyes crossed momentarily at his disorientation, but once things settled, he relaxed, some of the tension leaving his shoulders. “Thank you.” He couldn’t stop himself from nuzzling into Keith’s neck. “And I’m sorry.” The darkness in the room, and the serious lack of beeping, helped ease his head, and the needles slowed.

“Careful. Lay back.” Keith slowly guided Lance down to the bed before he sat against the wall himself, letting his hand rest over Lance’s forehead with Kosmo laying his snout on the mattress with a tiny whine.

“Not tonight boy.” Keith chided the wolf gently. He got a disgruntled ‘burf’ in response but Kosmo prodded off to a rarely used dog bed.

“Let me use your lap.” Lance murmured and looked up at him. “I’ll feel a lot better that way.” His lips twitched a bit as he attempted a flirtatious grin.

“It’s there.” Keith said, thankful to the darkness of room for hiding his blush.

Lance moved and rested his head on Keith’s lap, still looking up at him as best he could without the light. He settled and tried to relax. Being so close to Keith definitely helped. “Thank you.”

“Yeah, well you won’t let me do anything else.” Keith sighed, his hand resting on Lance’s forehead his thumb absently stroking over the bridge of his nose.

“What do you mean? Did you ask to do something else?” Lance’s voice was a little quieter as he closed his eyes, trying to focus on the gentleness of Keith’s touches. “If you didn’t want me to do this, you could have said no, but I’m glad you said yes. It feels really good to be this close to you.”

“Lance, stop. Please, you don’t have to trust me, but don’t treat me like an idiot.” Keith combed his fingers through his hair. “You know what I mean. Every day since getting out of that stupid pod it’s been like this. Everything revolves around me. I’m the fragile one. I’m the broken one. I’m the one who needs the attention. I’m the sick one. Every selfish whim, every stupid desire; you just hand it over to me.” A long pause filled the gap between his words.

“Shiro did this too, back before all this. He acted like I was too young and too compromised to understand. Then he was gone.”

Lance’s brows furrowed, and he slowly opened his eyes. Keith’s hands in his hair felt good, but he felt awful. Did Keith really think that’s what it was? That he thought those bad things? “That’s not even remotely it, you know.” He whispered and watched his face, not that he could see the other man’s expression with the lights off, but he was still drawn in to those violet eyes, which seemed to reflect even the slightest hint of light. “It’s because I can’t handle it.” He sighed and lifted a hand to touch the other man’s cheek. “I don’t think you’re an idiot. I don’t think you’re too fragile or broken. I don’t think you’re sick. I never thought that. I just…” Shame flushed his cheeks. “I just…was afraid to anger you again. I was afraid of driving you away. So I decided that I would take care of you until you stopped having nightmares and your body felt better.”

Keith’s ears fell from his hair, a nibble to his lower lip breaking his frown. “At what cost, Lance? What has taking care of me, done to you?”

Lance’s hand fell from Keith’s cheek at the question, and he shook his head only slightly, given the position and the state of his migraine, though the dark room and the soothing touches in his hair made it feel a bit better. “Taking care of you has made me happier.” Lance murmured. It was true. “The headaches…I’ve been having them the whole time. That’s not because of you. I just didn’t tell you. I didn’t want to worry you. I didn’t want you to distance yourself from me and yell at me again.”

“So, you suffered in silence, because of me.” Keith’s head bowed, and his shoulders trembled. He wanted to scream, cry, yell, and curse. The urges jammed in his throat allowing for nothing more than a stuttering sigh. More silence followed. He had to stay calm. Lance would not allow for another opening like this if Keith didn’t keep to his part of the deal. Lance tortured himself behind a veil of smiles. Keith knew the headaches. He knew the pain Lance spoke of. The kind which splits your skull in two. He hadn’t had them since Lance started feeding him quintessence. Though they both knew the act merely placed a salve on a wound.

“We can talk about whatever you need to talk about. I won’t hide from you.” Keith started. “Would it be easier if I went first?”

“I didn’t suffer in silence because of you. I made the conscious choice to protect myself. It was selfish of me. It was easier for me to hide everything and focus on you. I know it wasn’t the right thing to do, but I did it anyway, and I’m sorry.” Lance could feel Keith’s trembling, and he lifted his hand again, this time reaching for the hand that was still in his hair. “Is it easier for you to go first? I will tell you everything you want to know, too.” He knew he needed to be honest. At this point, Keith wasn’t likely to forgive him if he kept holding it all in. Maybe he would be angry. Maybe Lance could deal with that if it meant Keith would forgive him.

“Yeah, maybe.” Keith leaned his head back against the wall. “I told you before, I see things sometimes. Memories. Things he… things I did.” A loud breath echoed in the room. “I hate it. Knowing that side of me. Knowing how close it is. When Shiro vanished and I got kicked out, I was alone. Actually alone. I’d never felt like that before. Even at the home there were people paid to feed me, cloth me. You know, typical stuff. A loose cannon seventeen-year-old drop out isn’t something anyone wants to invite into their home. I also had my pride. I did what I could to survive. I could hunt and cook but times were tough. I got odd jobs here and there for money: I helped build houses, field work, and escorted people around the city. I was still just a kid tough. Small for my age.” Keith chuckled. Some Galra he turned out to be. “I got some unwanted attention. One of my escort jobs, the guy got the wrong idea. I tried to clear things up. He became insistent. You know the type. They just flash money around and suddenly everything is theirs for the taking. I was hungry, and admittedly lonely. The guy said all the right things like he had me marked. I considered it.” Keith screwed his eyes tight. “Damn it Lance, I honestly considered it. I said no. I ended up having to fight. It was a lucky win, but it could have gone very differently. In that other reality I said yes. I became manipulative. I took advantage of others to get what I wanted. I became something different than me, but I was still very much … me.”

Lance listened patiently and curled his fingers against the hand he held at his hair. He remained quiet, not wanting to interrupt Keith, but he tried to comfort him in his own way. Whatever feelings he had about Keith’s story didn’t matter. Right now, always, Keith mattered, and he didn’t need Lance’s opinions about any of it.

“I didn’t want to live that life. Yet…” Keith opened his eyes and stared at the ceiling, his hand squeezing Lance’s. “I know we took control in different ways. We fought for survival. I don’t hate him for that. I just hate the legacy on repeat in my head. I know his self-loathing. I know he hated every second. I know it was all just to survive and ‘get the job done’. People were cruel, Lance. Sure, to him it ‘a fact of life’ but combined with my perspective? God Lance, I can’t tell you how angry it makes me. I never wanted to kill people before. I have. We all have. I never enjoyed it or thought ‘you deserve it’. Those Galra today, it’s all I thought after you went down. I-they… I wasn’t in control.”

Lance slowly pulled Keith’s hand from his head, but he never let go of it, even as he sat up carefully and leaned forward, pressing his lips against Keith’s jaw, then his cheek. “Keith…” He whispered and kept his lips against that softer flesh. “Having darker thoughts like that doesn’t make you a bad person, and it’s not going to change who you are.” He closed his eyes and kept whispering. “No matter what, my feelings for you won’t change. I love you. I love everything about you, even the parts you dislike and hide away.” Even if he hated knowing Keith could have gone down a different path, Lance had to remember that he didn’t, and he needed to remember that even the other ‘him’ that did was still someone the other Lance loved with all his heart.

Keith turned for each of those kisses. “This isn’t how this conversation was supposed to go.” Lance was coddling him again, being so sweet and kind, making Keith want to pull his hair out in frustration. “This isn’t about me. I just wanted to explain why I’m… why I get scared to let that part in. He was ruthless, Lance. His thoughts, his actions… until he met you.”

“I know, but I want you to keep telling me, so let me comfort you in the meantime.” Lance’s lips barely moved against his cheek. “Keep talking. For me. Let me in. Help me understand, so I can be better for you.”

“You’re already-” Keith cut himself off and continued. “And I know, it was me. That person. No matter how much I try to lie to myself. I was that guy. I still am. He’s here.” He tapped his temple then flattened his hand against his chest. “I’m coping. Trying to anyway. You make it easier. This whole time, you’re the one keeping me sane. Through my nightmares or just getting through a bad day. It’s you.”

“And I will always be here. I won’t go anywhere.” Lance looped his arms around Keith and pulled him down with him, so they could lay on the bed together. “I like helping you. It makes me feel loved and important. It makes me feel like I can be somebody worth something. So please don’t push me away. I know you’re struggling to reconcile those things, but it’s ok. And don’t worry about me doing too much or sacrificing myself or any of that. I want to do this… I need to do this.”

Loving fingers traced the line of Lance’s lips. “You’re worth everything.” A purr lifted from Keith’s core. He couldn’t help it. Lance being so close made the sound come unbidden. He kissed him once, then twice, his fingers now playing with the Altean’s ears with nothing in mind other than to need soothe him. “How’s your head?”

“It hurts less because you’re taking good care of me.” Lance cooed and smiled as he leaned in for another kiss. “Being around you makes me feel better. Every time.”

“Your turn,” Keith whispered. “to let me in.”

“Will you promise not to get mad? Will you understand that if it upsets you, that’s what I wanted to avoid?” Lance looked at him, eyes searching his face now that they were a little more adjusted to the darkness of the room. He couldn’t totally make out Keith’s features, but he was comforted by his presence and the faint glimmer in his eyes. “Will you remember that I love you?”

“I promise.” Keith stroked Lance’s hair. “Trust me.”

Lance nodded and groaned softly with the touches in his hair. “I do trust you.” He let out a slight sigh. “I’ve been having the headaches the whole time but being with you made them better. When…You wanted us to spend some time apart, I thought it would be okay because it was only a few days. It didn’t hurt that badly at first. But then those few days became a whole week, and it just felt like someone was constantly smashing me in the back of the head.” He shook his head a little and watched him, his ears twitching slightly as he tried to calm the slight knot forming in his stomach. “And then Shiro told me…what happened. And I felt so hurt. I felt like my entire chest was caving in on itself. Not because I wanted to feel that way, but because there’s a part of me now that can’t lose you, and in that moment, I thought I did. I thought that was it. You weren’t coming to me. You were going to stay away, and I couldn’t cope with that. I allowed that feeling to overwhelm me, which is why I was a dick when we were in the cafeteria that time.”

Keith continued his gentle ministrations. “I know that hurt you. I didn’t want any of that to go down the way it did.” Keith explained his side of the situation a thousand times already. Lance knew why Keith had to do what he did, and he just swallowed his feelings about it down. “Go on.” He urged.

“I know that now. But I just passed it off as jealousy because you were so angry with me for it.” He sighed. “But it wasn’t jealousy. It was something else. I wanted…to hurt Shiro for being the one there. I wanted to hurt anyone who even looked at you. It’s a part of that other me. The one who killed and enjoyed it. The one who would destroy anyone with the snap of a finger.” He swallowed and sighed. “It’s the only part I didn’t like about that other version of me. I…wanted to accept everything else. I wanted to be that better, smarter, more liked version of myself. The one you loved so much. The one who made you happy. Or at least I thought I made you happy. So when you got angry at me that day, and you made it very clear that you didn’t want to have anything to do with those memories…” He bit his lower lip and closed his eyes. “It felt like…the only me you wanted was the old me. I forced myself to be the old me, so you wouldn’t leave me. I didn’t say anything because I was terrified you would reject me. And if that happened, I don’t know what I would have done.”

“Lance.” Keith leaned up and kissed Lance’s forehead. “Don’t force yourself to be anything other than who you are. The past, the present, the future. Who ever you are. That’s who I want. You can’t go around hurting everyone who looks at me funny, no more than I can do that to you. But we can talk about it. Take it out in other ways.”

“But it’s not anyone, just certain people.” Lance curled closer to him. “It’s not Shiro anymore. I realized almost immediately that it wasn’t right.” There was a slight growl to his voice with the next sentence. “James, though. Every time he touches you, I just want to…” He clenched his free hand and forced himself to calm the darkness that was starting to bubble inside of him. “But you don’t like when I’m like that.” He managed. “I can’t be like that…”

“W-well…” Keith started, a sheepish smile on his face. “That’s not, completely true. I don’t hate it when you get like that. I mean… I… It’s… kinda… sexy.” Keith swallowed. He didn’t expect Lance’s blatant admission to affect him, but the words tugged a frayed string inside him. The more Lance spoke and unraveled the hidden core, the more Keith understood a deeper primal part of himself.

“Oh.” Lance didn’t mean to sound as dumbfounded as he did, but when his brain fully comprehended Keith’s words and what he meant earlier about taking it out in other ways, Lance’s cheeks flared. “Yeah? You think so? You think it’s sexy that I want to beat the shit out of James every time he flirts with you? It’s not like I hate the guy, but fuck. It’s constant. And you’re mine.”

“Yeah… well, it’s not bad to see how much someone wants you. I don’t want you to hurt anyone! And you can’t! But umm, it makes me feel…” Keith coughed around his embarrassment.

“I’m the only one allowed to want you.” Lance muttered and kissed his cheek. “And I would show you that right now if I felt better.”

Keith suppressed a shiver, which birthed into a shuttered breath. “Don’t worry. It’s not your fault your boyfriend’s warped.”

“I quite like you, and I don’t think you’re warped.” Lance chuckled lightly before wincing. “When I’m better I will show you how much I like you, and how much I like that you get turned on by the idea of me being so possessive.”

“For now, you should rest. I’ll be right here when you wake up.” Keith kissed his hair.

“You want me to tell you everything though, don’t you? Shouldn’t I do that before I rest?” Lance sighed and turned his head up towards him.

“I do, but only if you’re up to it. I could have lost you today.” Keith held him tighter. “I want to know, but I don’t want to push.”

“Red wouldn’t have let that happen.” Lance held him closer. “And I may not be able to sleep anyway. I haven’t really been able to since the night you took me to that aquarium.”

“What?” Keith balked back and met Lance’s eyes.

“I mean I sleep a little, maybe? I don’t know. I don’t really sleep well enough for me to count it as sleep. I would be up every hour or so.” Lance murmured. “When we were talking through the coms, I would pretend to fall asleep, so you would sleep, and then I would watch you. When you looked like you were having a nightmare, I would sing quietly to soothe you. So…it wasn’t all bad.”

“That’s been a month, Lance.” Keith’s earlier mirth died down to a lamenting exhale. “A month like this…” He ran a hand over his face, his ears pressing back against his head before falling. “A whole month…”

“And you would have been upset if I told you sooner. You wouldn’t have let me help you. I wasn’t going to allow that to happen. You were physically ill, Keith. I couldn’t stand it. I wanted to help. I needed to help. And this past week, I’ve rested a little more each night because you’re with me.” Lance reached up to gently stroke one of those ears once he noticed their shadowy outline moved.

“Lance.” The velvet ear twitched but didn’t lift. “I was right there! I was beside you and I… you…” Keith felt a pain rise up like a fire in chest, smoke choking his throat and stinging his eyes. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I…” Keith held his face against Lance’s shoulder. “I’m so sorry. All that time. I’m horrible. I.. don’t deserve you. I…” His voice cracked, and a sob finally came, breaking his voice.

“Horrible? No. Of course you’re not.” Lance shifted so he could pull Keith closer, resting the smaller man’s head against his chest as he idly stroked his hair. It hurt so much to hear Keith break like that, and it was all his fault. He needed to fix this. “I’m the one who should be apologizing for not telling you. I purposely hid it. I purposely pretended to be asleep. I kept giving you quintessence to heal you even though I needed more rest first. All of that is on me. Not you. You have done so much more than me than you think. You came back to me. You sleep in my arms now. I’m healing because of that. And now…” He nuzzled his hair. “Now that I know you won’t reject me, I can get better.”

“The quintessence too?” Keith clutched Lance’s shirt, the whole of his body trembling as he sobbed. “I took so much! I didn’t know!” It was an excuse. He should have known. He should have seen the signs of it. But he didn’t. He kept taking and taking and getting better while making Lance… an icicle of realization shot down his spine. Nightmare images of shrunken Alteans in rows and rows of glowing canisters. Their quintessence drained away leaning husks. Then he saw Lance. Flesh clinging to bone, vacant cloudy eyes transfixed to nothing. Bile rose in his throat, his hand coming to his mouth to keep it down. “I was killing you.”

“Keith, no. You weren’t killing me. I don’t know how you jumped to that conclusion but there’s no way you could do that. I would never have let you take too much, so how could you be killing me? Besides, I gave it to you. I made you take it from me. You were in physical pain. I was just tired. It’s okay.” Lance sighed and kept stroking his hair. “Healing you made me feel better. It really did. It’s something I needed to do for you. Please…”

“But.. Lance…” Keith sniffed and looked up at Lance. The tears making his eyes shimmer even in the dark, his cheeks flush as his lower lip trembled with hopeless quivers.

Lance offered him a soft smile and cupped his cheek, wiping away some of those tears with his thumb. “Your taking from me never hurt me, Keith. It will never hurt me. All it can do is make me happy and make me feel good, okay? So if you need it, don’t hide it or deny it. I need you to need me. It’ll help me work out my issues in my head. And it’ll make me feel better, okay?”

Keith continued to whimper into the arms holding him. “I need you. I always need you. You can’t leave me. Not you. Not because of this.” The paladin crumbled, sobbing like a child into his neck. “I’ll be better. I’m so sorry.”

“I’m not going to leave you, Keith.” Lance held him and rubbed his back, whispering into his ear. “I love you, Keith, and there’s nothing you need to do to be better or anything because you’re already the best.” Something about the way Keith sobbed into his neck was both twisting Lance’s heart in his chest and sending warmth through his body. The migraine was down to a very dull throb in the back of his head. “I am too selfish to let you go.”

Keith coughed trying to fight the tears. He had never gotten used to crying. His pain came out in other ways. So now the flood gates opened, he couldn’t get them closed again. “It’s okay. Be selfish.”

Lance gently pulled Keith’s head away from his neck, and he looked down at him with a little smile. “I will.” He leaned in and kissed his cheeks, licking away those tears and moaning a little when he tasted the salt on his tongue. “I won’t let you leave me.”

Presenting his cheeks to Lance, Keith let him clean his tear stained and flushed face. “Don’t wait so long. Tell me what you need. I’ll get it. If you don’t want to work another day in your life tell me, I’ll work twice as hard. If you don’t know if you love me anymore? Tell me… and I’ll love double, or something.”

“I won’t hide anything from you anymore, but you have to promise me you won’t stop me from giving you what you need. And you’ll never have to worry about doing any of those things because I won’t leave you, and I won’t do anything without you.” Lance whispered and finished licking his tears, dragging his lips to Keith’s and kissing him gently. “I know that I will love you more and more with each day. I can’t let go of you, so I won’t ever stop working with you. Even when all this is done, you’re stuck with me.”

“And if I die, I’ll haunt you.” Keith sniffled. It was a joke but the level of sincerity in the comment made it sound more like a boyish threat.

“I wouldn’t mind you haunting me, but I really mind you dying, so let’s try to prevent that okay?” Lance kissed him again and whispered. “Keith, can I ask you something?”

“Yeah?” He replied with a nuzzle of Lance’s nose.

“You…don’t like it when I call you kitten, right?” Lance looked at him with a slight pout. “But do you know why I do?”

“I never said that. But yeah. Why? I never bothered to ask on the mission.”

“You don’t have to say it. It was obvious. The one time I slipped, you seemed incredibly unhappy about it.” Lance nuzzled his cheek and smiled. “I wouldn’t have had an answer for you on the mission. It just felt right to call you that, but… before everything. Hm. Even before we switched lions, I saw you sleeping once, and you were curled up, kind of like a kitten. And I just always thought of you that way.”

One black ear quirked and pulled Keith’s eyebrow to an arch. “I reminded you of a kitten? Me? How?”

“I could have sworn you would have purred if you could have, but you were pretty much curled up, your head was turned the way a little kitten’s does when it’s having a good dream. You just… You were adorable.” Lance kissed his cheek. “And now you have kitten ears, so I guess it was always true.”

“Eh? But I’m part of the big mean universe conquering Galra. These are conqueror ears.” Keith wiggled with them for emphasis.

“Yes yes of course.” Lance said without any conviction. “The most fearsome kitten in the entire universe.” He chuckled and kissed him.

“I’m a quiznacking space ninja! I mean… come on!” He growled and yanked at the collar of Lance’s shirt between his teeth. “Damn space elf…”

“Oh yes. Of course.” Lance held him a little closer, and he would have enjoyed that tug of his collar, but his eyes started to droop. “But you’re my ninja space kitten.” He spoke quieter than before. Maybe it was the stress of the day. Maybe it was the relief he felt getting everything out in the open. Whatever it was, he was actually tired, exhausted even, and he knew he couldn’t keep himself awake much longer.

Keith blinked as he watched Lance’s face settle into a sleepy peace, and his urge to fight, even if he was just playing, died down with it. “Okay. I’ll be your kitten.” He curled in, settling his weight carefully on top of him and his low gentle purr filled the room. “Rest for now.”

“Nnn. Thank you, kitten.” Lance whispered before he let sleep take hold of him, his body relaxing with the weight of Keith on top of him.

Chapter Text

The weight that had been comforting Lance in his sleep lifted, and the sound of the bathroom door hissing closed caused the man to slowly open his eyes. The room was still dark. Keith must have been extremely careful not to wake him, and because everything was turned off, Lance couldn’t tell what time it was or how long he had been asleep.

But he slept. He slept better and longer than he could remember sleeping in a month, and his body ached as though it wasn’t used to taking the time to recover his energy. He heard the shower turn on, and he pouted a little. Was Keith going to leave him in bed like this? Could Lance even get up to join him? He slowly sat up, and every bone in his back seemed to crack or pop. Nope. He was not getting up yet. With a sigh, he flopped back onto the bed and waited. Well, he closed his eyes and waited. Ten minutes? Twenty? He couldn’t tell, but the shower turned off, the door opened and closed again, and the weight on the bed shifted once more.

Lance curled towards that body and looped one arm around him. He nuzzled his nose into Keith’s still damp hair. Lance had toned down his routine once they boarded the Atlas, but the smell of his coconut shampoo mixing with Keith’s slightly musky desert scent sent tingles down Lance’s spine. The light purr that started at his nuzzling only helped. “Keith…” Lance whispered and opened his eyes once more, lifting himself enough to look down at him. “is that my shirt?” He smiled. The collar was a little too big for the smaller man, and as his eyes traveled down, it was clear Keith wasn’t wearing anything else but that shirt. Warmth spread through his whole body. Seeing his sexy boyfriend, freshly showered, purring, and looking even sexier in his shirt, was doing things to Lance he knew he needed to control but didn’t care to in the moment. “Are you trying to seduce me?”

“It’s only trying if I’m not succeeding.” Keith might not have been actively trying to do anything aside from wash up and put on clean clothes, but he smelled the shift in Lance. Calm restfulness turned quickly to desire. The Altean man wanted him, and who was he to deny anything Lance wanted?

“Well, I’m always seduced by you, but if you’re actively trying to turn me on, I’m not going to complain.” Lance smiled and pushed a damp strand of ebony out of Keith’s face, his fingers following the edge of his cheek and along his jaw. “You look really good in that shirt. Really really good.”

“Well,” Keith purred low and sweet. “What are you going to do about it?” He turned his head with the grace of Lance’s fingers until his chin was tilted up toward Lance’s face. The curve of his lips embedding into a smug foundation. Lance’s continuous praises started to yield an ego inside the Galra.

“I’m conflicted about what I should do, so you’ll have to help me.” Lance leaned down and brushed his lips against Keith’s jaw, his tongue slipping out to taste his freshly cleaned skin. “Do I leave it on and show you how much I like seeing you like this, or do I take it off and have my way with you?”

“Well, that depends.” Well-muscled thighs slipped around Lance’s waist. “How are you feeling today?” Keith’s slender but strong hands slipped up Lance’s waist, claws pressing in with only enough force to be felt. He maneuvered their bodies with practiced ease, slipping under Lance to cradle him between his legs and arms, caging the man in steel coated in ivory flesh.

“So much better. I slept. It felt like forever, but how long was it? What time is it? I don’t remember waking up at all. That’s a good sign isn’t it?” Lance smiled and rested one hand down on Keith’s thigh, slowly sliding it up. He felt comforted by the way Keith’s leg moved in response to his touch. “I want to thank you for fixing my head.”

Keith lulled his thigh open, exposing the vulnerable skin as his heart jumped to his throat. “It’s been a day. You needed to sleep. But I think it’s 3am, Earth Time. Are you hungry?”

“A whole day? Well, I’m only hungry for you.” Lance grinned. Even he thought that line was too cheesy, and he puffed out a slight laugh before he leaned down and kissed him. “I’m wide awake, so help me wear myself out so I can sleep again.”

“Oh?” Keith grinned, his eyes lidding. Lance was adorable when he flirted like this. So, he closed his knees against him forcing Lance’s hips to wiggle as he swayed them back and forth. “Well then. What should I do? What could you possibly be implying?” Keith tapped his chin in contrived innocents.

“Nnn. You know what I’m implying.” Lance pressed himself as close as Keith’s legs would allow, the hand on his thigh sliding up even higher. “I want you. Please, Keith.” He murmured and looked down at him. “I…told you everything earlier, right? Now I want to give you all of me.”

Keith’s ears flicked. “Well what choice do I have?” Keith leaned up and licked at Lance’s nose. “When you say it like that, it’s too cute to ignore. Like a puppy.” He grinned. Being flirty. Tender Teasing. Soft giggles in the bedroom. Lance brought an unknown side out of Keith, and the paladin would be remised if he said he didn’t enjoy it.

“Nn…You have every choice, Keith…” Lance smiled, though his eyes crossed at that lick. “I won’t do anything you don’t want me to do, you know that. Even…even if I really want it. Even if I want it so badly I might pop. If you stop me, I’ll stop.”

“I can’t imagine anything you’d do to me that I wouldn’t want.” Keith lowered his arms down and pulled up on his stolen shirt to expose the gem on his stomach. “Even this is still here, only because you obviously like it.”

“I do like it. I like a lot of things. Your ears. Your purr. This...” Lance groaned and rested his hand on Keith’s, though one finger moved to touch the jewel that dangled from his navel. “But can I have both? On, then off. I have a lot of energy to use and give you.”

“Oh!” Keith squeaked, his eyes startled before they narrowed down to match the arrogant turn of his lips. “So we’re not leaving this room for a while.” He wrapped his arms around his lover, carding his fingers through his hair.

“Well, it’s only three, right? Breakfast isn’t until six.” Lance smirked and settled his weight on him, kissing him with a moan at the attention of Keith’s fingers in his hair. “That gives us enough time for lots of sex and a little sleep, doesn’t it?”

“It does.” Keith snuggled his nose in. “Mm, are you that addicted already? Or do you like that stupid piercing that much?” He chuckled.

“I’ve been addicted since you kissed me the moment we got out of the pods. Though the piercing is nice. Even if it was in there, you did it for me. To be mine. How could I not be turned on by that?” Lance chuckled and kissed him again. “How am I supposed to be able to keep my cool knowing that I’m the one you picked over everyone else?”

“Everyone else? There wasn’t exactly a line out the door.” Keith whispered lifting his hips rub his naked sex against the front of Lance’s shorts. “How about a game? I’ll give you a kiss for everyone you name and tell you how you’re better.”

“You’ll have to kiss me for the next five hours at least, you know. And you’ll be inflating my ego. Are you sure you want that?” Lance grinned and shifted, pulling his own pants and underwear down so Keith’s heat rubbed against his flesh.

Keith chuckled and ruffled up Lance’s hair before laying his arms above his head, stretching himself out below the dark-skinned man. “Well then, I guess that makes you pretty damn special.” The purr came again in his voice as his tongue flicked over Lance’s lips with a languid curl.

Lance once again rested his hand on Keith’s thigh, though this time he slid his fingers up to touch the base of his sex. “Does it? How special?” He smirked and kept the touch light, almost teasingly so.

“How?” Keith settled his head back, his eyes starting to close. Lance enjoyed pampering him. Giving touches which teased and elicited the lewdest sounds Keith ever made. Lance made him aware of a lot of things Keith never thought himself capable of. Keith liked sex. He liked the heat of Lance’s body pressed against him. The feel of him pushing inside, stretching his body to his whim, all of it made Keith go mad. But nothing got to the man more than Lance’s voice, lips by his ear, breath hot, as he told him what he was going to do, or what he was doing. Keith didn’t know what lust was until he knew that low rumble in his ear, whispering lascivious promises. “You know what I like, and I never had to tell you.”

“Does that upset you that I could figure it out pretty quickly?” Lance knew what Keith was doing. They only had sex a handful of times since their date a week ago, but Keith always got a little more into it whenever Lance spoke to him about the pleasures he would provide. He slid one finger along Keith’s length and grinned. “Should I tell you about how I want to make you quiver beneath me?” That finger rubbed Keith’s tip, smearing the drop of precum that had formed. “How I want to slowly push inside you and rock our bodies together?” He slid that finger down the other side of his heat. “How I want you to arch back and moan my name louder and louder with each thrust of my hips?”

“L-lance.” Keith’s voice broke, afraid to interrupt his lover and cut him off. His sex twitched and grew hot and red against his stomach. Rapid breaths making his member quiver along with the dancing gem. “More. Please.” Keith, in turn, had no problems exploiting one of Lance’s weaknesses. A gentle claw traced one of the altean tribal markings and dragged an edge down the center of his chest. “You want to give me more, right?”

“I always want to give you more, Keith…” Lance moaned out the words and wrapped his fingers around his sex, moving them slowly. “I want to give you all of it, even if you were supposed to be telling me how special I am.”

“AH!” Keith gasped, feeling Lance’s hand wrap around him. Incasing him in his hand was like being draped in silk. Keith thanked every god he could think of for Lance’s tireless self-pampering. “I told you. You know me. You’ve always treated me like…” Keith stopped. Lance never treated Keith like everyone else. At first, he was antagonistic and fought with him, but at the same time the fighting, the banter, and everything else became his security. Keith remembered being so bored. Nothing impressed him. He’d lived through too much to be bothered. A world of gray. Lance disrupted that monochrome world with his flirts, irrational comebacks, inane challenges, his laugh, his smile, each one living a ripple of color. “You’ve always just... been you.”

“And it’s me you want, isn’t it, Keith?” Lance kept his movements slow, a smirk coming to his lips. “Tell me.” Two could play at this game, and Lance did say he would get Keith to cry out for him.

“Yes! No! Wait... ah!” Keith groaned, his hips moving to pump himself with Lance’s touch. “I meant…you being who you are… is what…” Keith arched his back, growling in his throat. Screw it. He could tell him later.

“Ye…yes. I want to feel it. I want you to touch me and keep touching me. Deeper, and deeper until every part of me knows your feel. I want… nnm… Lance!” Keith pulled Lance down so his name could be moaned hot and sweet into his ear like warm honey dripping from wanting lips.

“Nnn. Then I will give it to you. Slow and gentle, hard and fast. Any way you want it. Every way you want it.” Lance groaned and pressed his own heat against Keith’s thigh as he kept pumping his lover. Every sound Keith made only intensified the warmth in his own body. “I’ll make you feel so much pleasure you won’t know what to do with yourself. And it will be me doing it.”

“La..lance!” Keith cried out, the coil binding tighter and tighter in gut. Torture and bliss sending his spine to convulse up, offering his body to the bigger man, and he didn’t try to fight it. “Make me cum, Lance. I want you to make me cum.”

“I’m not stopping you. You can cum whenever you want.” Lance smirked and kept pumping Keith, a little faster, a little slower, but all with enough friction to keep the half-Galra’s hips squirming beneath him. “Show me, Keith. Cum for me.”

“I-Ah! Lance! AH!” A trigger’s release and Keith’s body snapped forward, hot blue tinted semen crossing his stomach, smearing into the stone and silver ring. “En…”

Lance chuckled a little, though his eyes darkened as soon as that color stained their skin and the bottom of Keith’s borrowed shirt. “Fuck, that was…” Lance groaned and leaned in, taking Keith’s mouth in a hot, almost desperate kiss.

“Mmph! Mmm” Keith groaned, tongues contending over space. He lost with a gasp when Lance pressed his hands into his hips with sweetly demanding force. “I want it Lance. Please.” He managed to beg when given the chance to breathe.

“Nnn.” Lance grunted and fumbled for the salve he had by the bed, still kissing Keith as he shifted his body and lifted the other paladin’s hips. “I’ll give it to you.” He nipped Keith’s lower lip as he pushed a coated finger into him. “I’ll give you all of it. Everything you want.” He murmured and looked down at his lover, feeling his desire grow the more he got lost in the lust in Keith’s eyes.

A leg hooked over Lance’s shoulder as Keith’s body shifted and moved to accommodate the hurried motion. His hands fisting into the bed with an up thrusted chest.

Lance turned his head and licked the leg by his head, his finger moving in Keith a bit hurriedly as he inserted a second one. “Nnn. You’re so sexy.”

“I need you, Kqu’Ma.” Keith mewled. His body arching up again, squeezing intruding fingers and pulling them deeper, his cheeks flaring with the endearment. Keith was horrible with nicknames. The only ones he’d ever been given where made up by Lance, from Mullet to Kitten. So, in his finite wisdom, he researched and asked Shiro (a conversation he didn’t want to relive. Ever. Again.). Nothing felt right coming out of his mouth, or comfortable. Nicknames or pet names just didn’t fit Keith, but Shiro said something like that from Keith would have Lance falling over himself. So he picked a name he remembered his mother calling his father when he glimpsed Krolia’s memories. An obscure Galra word. One only he would know the meaning of. He opened one eye assess the damage.

Any confidence Lance had in this. Any drive or control of the situation was immediately lost with that nickname. His cheeks flared, and his eyes darkened. “O..Oh?” Two simple syllables. He never even considered that Keith might come up with a pet name for him. It totally wasn’t in Keith’s character. And yet here he was, calling Lance something that could make him shiver and shudder in ways he didn’t know possible. And it was Galran, so it meant Keith had put a lot of thought into a nickname like that. Plus the word was also something Keith clearly thought Lance wouldn’t understand. He probably figured Lance would just assume it was a term of endearment with the way he whispered it. But Lance had a lifetime of linguistic knowledge he didn’t have before their AR Mission. He had a full understanding of Galran language, or at least the language from ten thousand years ago. “Fuck, Keith. That was so sexy.” He murmured and pulled his fingers back. He grabbed Keith’s hips, holding himself steady. “Kqu’Ma melEnthic vinet.” He smirked and pressed just his tip against him, though he didn’t press in.

Keith’s leg hooked harder around Lance, pulling the man down as he pulled up, reminding the tall paladin of his inherent flexibility. Then he froze. Lance spoke Galra? His face flushed crimson. “No way. How did you…” He kissed him, hard letting it mute his embarrassment. He held Lance in position as he kissed him, taking everything he could into his mouth praying his lover was too close to see.

Lance’s fingers pressed into Keith’s hips as he kissed him back, pushing into him in that moment. There was no way he could hold out after that. Keith’s cheeks had turned so red when Lance murmured that soft phrase, and it was clear he was trying to distract Lance from how embarrassed he was. Lance wasn’t going to let him have his way, though. So even as he pushed himself in, he smirked. “How do I know?” His smirk widened. “Victory or death…you won my heart, so now without you I will perish...” He kissed Keith once again, but that smirk never left his lips. “Did you forget that I would understand that, Kitten?”

“Damn it, Lance! You weren’t supposed to – AH!” Fangs gritted down as Keith hissed in a gasp. He never felt ready for Lance’s size, though it hadn’t hurt since the first day. Now Lance was something he knew. His inner walls memorized how to move around the length penetrating him, how to make sure they got the most out of their union. “It’s good…”

“Only good? That won’t do.” Lance pushed his hips at a faster pace, grunting as he felt himself push as deeply as he could into Keith. His head rested against the leg over his shoulder as he moaned and tried to concentrate on pleasing his lover.

Keith whimpered, sucking his lower lip between his teeth and biting down. The sensation jolting his spine and joining with the blissful buzz numbing his body from everything that wasn’t connected to Lance. He only smelled Lance. He only heard Lance. He only felt Lance. He only saw Lance. He only tasted Lance. “Mmn! LANCE!”

Lance did his best to keep his hips from going wild, but Keith’s movements against him and the expression on his face were too much. He grunted and gripped his hips even harder. “Ah! Fuck! Keith!”

“YES!” That small sweet pain gave his pleasure the edge he needed, and his hips thrust up from the bed as he came to a thundering crescendo. “LA———nce…”

Lance let go the instant he felt Keith tighten around him. “Ah!” He arched back as he emptied himself into him, moaning brokenly.

“Nnmg…” Keith purred. His leg moved with a lazy fluidity to wrap around Lance’s midsection and bring him in closer. “Damn.”

As a result, Lance remained inside Keith even as he came down from his high. His eyes remained dark as he looked at him. “Y-Yeah.” He managed before he couldn’t help it and his hips moved slowly again.

“Wai…nng..” Keith tensed at the first few thrusts before he melted back, legs slipping wide against the bed, while his arms took Lance’s shoulders. Keith tugged him down to feel their bodies against each other as he moved.

“S..Sorry. I…” Lance moaned and shifted enough, trying to tug the shirt off Keith even though he kept moving. “You feel amazing…Nnn. I can’t help it.”

“It’s all for you.” Keith moaned with claws gently scraping Lance’s back.

“Then help me get this off.” Lance grunted at the feel against those claws barely scraping over his scarred skin, and he kept tugging at the shirt, though his hips never stopped.

Keith chuckled, helping to shimmy the shirt up. Midnight strands slipped down in a cascade of silk to rest upon the pillow. The second his face came free from the collar he leaned up to continue the heated kisses.

Lance grinned when Keith’s ears wiggled at their newfound freedom, even though they had only been confined as long as his head had been in the shirt. It was adorable, but he didn’t dwell on it as he moaned into the kisses and held Keith closer. He kept his movements slow and gentle for now, though the temptation to speed up was growing by the moment. “Nnn. I love you.”

“Eng… Lance…” Keith whimpered, the shirt twisted in their hurried movements and bound his wrists above his head as he tried to move his hips for Lance. “My. Arms.” He panted.

Lance continued to move, his eyes searching Keith’s face even as he kept kissing him over and over again. “Should I untangle them?” But seeing Keith stuck like that made Lance’s hips move a little faster.

“Mm... ng!” Lance pushed a new sound from the man with every thrust. Keith stopped caring about propriety about thirty seconds into the first time in this bed. These walls had proven to be soundproof. No one could hear the noises Lance made him make. No one would know the lewdness of his cries as he begged Lance to keep going. “Ah! Ha...harder Lance…”

“God…Keith.” How was Lance supposed to control himself when his boyfriend was making the sexiest noises and moving his body against him like that? He moaned and pushed a little harder, his fingers pressing into Keith’s hips as he tried to bring the smaller man to the peak of his pleasure. “Ah…Shit. Keith, you’re…”

“Hm?” Keith groaned his shoulders pressing back into the bed as his hips pushed up to bow his back and grind himself harder down on Lance. Dark claws gripped the shirt holding his hands as spikes of pleasure came at him, harder and faster. “What am I?”

“Mine” Lance managed as he stared down at him, watching the warmth spread over Keith’s cheeks, darkening them even as he kept rocking against him. “Mine… All of you.” He leaned down and took his mouth, moaning into the kiss.

“Ah!” In a squeeze of flexing muscle, Keith’s legs wrapped around Lance with his final push, locking the taller man inside of him as Keith rode out his orgasm, twitching and convulsing against the heat impaled inside. “LANCE!”

Lance lost it as soon as Keith’s body tightened and twitched around him. He grunted as he emptied himself into the half-Galran again, his eyes half closing as he tried to focus on the beautiful man’s face. “KEITH!” He didn’t know his voice had gotten that loud, but he could barely hear it over the sound of Keith’s voice echoing in his head.

Keith swung his bound arms around Lance’s neck, pulling him close as their manic thrusts slowed to an exhausted grind and tender kisses, helping each other ride out the intensity of release. When it settled, Keith clawed his fingers through Lance's hair, combing out the sweat-soaked snares. “Mmm…” He purred through a few kisses. “Good morning.”

“Morning.” Lance mumbled against Keith’s lips as he pulled himself out of him. “How…are you so sexy? I don’t deserve you.” His chest continued to heave as he tried to catch his breath, but he refused to move away from the body that held him, not that he could yet with Keith’s arms bound and holding him close.

“I was just laying here.” Keith dismissed the compliment. “A little help though?” He pulled at his bound arms. “This was not on purpose.” He felt the need to clarify.

Lance chuckled and moved out of Keith’s hold, sitting up so he could free him from his shirt. “You were just there, fresh out of a shower where you used the soap I got for you, wearing nothing but my shirt. I’d say you did it intentionally to seduce me.” He smirked, leaned back down on him, and kissed him.

“And now I have to shower again.” Keith teased kissing him back. “Oh?” He pulled his arms down and rubbed his wrists. An oblong fabric burn marred his skin. Absolutely nothing hurt, but his pale flesh had a way of compounding any irritation. Bruises and kiss marks highlighted Lance’s favorites parts down the length of his body; nipples, neck, hips, thighs, and suspicious finger sized bruises on his ass. Keith felt more like a leopard than a kitten.

“Not yet you don’t.” Lance looked down at Keith and smiled. One finger slid down his neck and chest, connecting each of the little kiss marks he left, though some of them were fading more than others. He would have to reapply them later. “First, you need to let me do something.” He slid his fingers up and to those red wrists, the marks on his face glowing only just slightly as he healed the bruises there. “The rest can stay since they’ll be hidden, but I’d never hear the end of it from Shiro if he saw these. He’d think I did it on purpose.” He grinned.

“You assume Shiro’s mind is as perverted as yours.” Keith grinned cheekily, trying to cover the swoon touching upon the edge of his consciousness thanks to Lance’s quintessence. He failed when his tongue rolled over his lower lip, dragging it in for a tender nibble.

Damn him for making it feel so good. Keith thought.

“You assume it’s not.” Lance pulled his fingers back as the glow disappeared. “He’s way worse.” He chuckled and kissed him, licking the lip Keith was just nibbling.

“How?” Keith arched an incredulous brow, pushing Lance up a little. “Shiro? Our Shiro? Shiro Shiro? Nah, the guy is as righteous as they come. No way. Wait… how would you even know?” The brow turned incriminating.

“Have you seen him with Curtis all week? Those looks they exchanged were not the product of something innocent.” Lance countered with a grin. “And why else would he have given me the dad speech if he didn’t think something was going on?”

“I- what? Who? Curtis? That Curtis?!” Keith tried to keep his eyes from bulging out of his head. “Dad… speech?” Keith cocked his neck one ear perking up.

“Yes, that Curtis. And he absolutely gave me ‘the make sure you don’t hurt Keith, or I’ll hurt you’ kind of speech.” Lance chuckled and nuzzled his cheek.

“How could you hurt me?” Keith sighed, melting into the gentle attention with a purr.

“I don’t know, but he is very protective of you. I don’t blame him. I don’t think he thinks I will. I think he just felt obligated to do it.” Lance whispered as he kept nuzzling his cheek. “Though now I have a feeling he’s going to yell at me for crashing Red…”

“That’s not his problem.” Keith licked Lance’s nose. “You’re my problem. And I’ve already scolded you. Thoroughly.”

“I’m your problem, hm?” Lance grinned. “A big problem then? Since you gave me a thorough scolding. Or should I become a bigger problem?”

“Hmmm a sizable problem, and a pain in my ass.” Keith laughed unable to hold the stern expression.

“But you enjoy it. And I enjoy hearing you laugh like this.” Lance smiled and gently ran a finger along Keith’s jaw. When he laughed, his eyes seemed to light up, and it filled Lance with the most pleasant feeling. “Thank you.”

“Well, I like being with you.” Keith purred and lifted his head on the pillow. “You make me laugh. Does it sound weird or something?”

“Of course it doesn’t sound weird. I love hearing you laugh.” Lance kissed him. “And purr. Those sounds give me the warm fuzzies and make me love you even more that I do. They also keep the migraine away.”

Keith blushed. “Oh, well I mean it can’t be just that. I mean you slept and all… but umm you’re welcome.”

“I slept because of you. I’m healing because of you.” Lance smiled and kissed him again and again. “You’ve accepted me, imperfect, struggling, insecure. You’ll keep me no matter what I am and who I want to be. I needed to hear that.”

“What else can I do? I love you.” The reply came out simple and honest. For Keith, there were no other options. He loved Lance. If Lance was on a journey into the bowels of hell, he’d have Keith by his side either trying to talk him out of it or charging in beside him, and that’s what love meant for the young man. Unconditional. He didn’t have to like everything, but he’d always love every part of Lance, down to the last aggravatingly cute freckle on his nose.

“I am very lucky then. I would be worried what you’d do to me if you didn’t love me.” Lance smiled and tapped Keith’s lips. “So you’re not allowed to stop.” For the first time in a long time, Lance felt more secure about himself, about the things he was doing, and it was all because of Keith’s affection.

“Impossible.” Warm lips kissed Lance’s finger with a mischievous trilling purr. “I’m addicted to you.”

“Yeah? You are hm? Then that means you won’t look for anyone else.” Lance grinned, tracing Keith’s lips. “And I won’t have to hurt anyone for stealing you from me because I’m addicted to you too.”

“Like I’m so easily swayed.” Keith closed his eyes, still riding out the quintessence. “Mm. No one makes me feel the way you do.” He said with the authority of one having no doubts despite his lack of experience.

“Damn right no one does.” Lance grunted and sat up “I’m the only one for you.”

“Of course, Kqu’Ma.” Keith flushed knowing he’d never use such a nickname outside of their most intimate moments. “My one and only space elf.”

“Now now, Kitten. If you call me that, I’m going to get turned on again. I’m not sure either of us has the energy for another go right now.” Lance chuckled and kissed one of Keith’s blushing cheeks.

“I- my mother used it on my father. I wanted to try it with you. Shiro thought you might like the idea. It’s just a short version of what you said ‘Kqu’Ma melEnthic vinet’.” Keith repeated in flawless, if not soft, Galran and cut off his confession. Lance would know Keith tried, right? He’d understand his boyfriend’s struggle to compensate for what he lacked when it came to relationships. He wanted to make Lance happy.

“Is that so?” Lance shook his head, his lips starting to curve downward, but then he kissed him. “It’s definitely okay, but keep it for moments like this okay? Just between us. I’m not super thrilled that Shiro heard it before you said it to me, but I’ll get over it. Maybe. If you make it up to me.” Another kiss. “And now don’t let anyone else hear how sexy you sound when you say it.”

“I can’t barely say it even to you! How can I possibly say it around anyone else?” Keith placed his hands over his face. “It might kill me.”

“Ah, but you said it to Shiro.” Lance couldn’t even fake anger when looked down at Keith. He chuckled and ruffled his hair, since his lover was hiding his face, still clearly embarrassed by the whole ordeal. “I’m overwhelmingly happy that you tried so hard to find something like that for me, even though you asked someone else first, and even if you thought I wouldn’t understand it.” He shook his head and ruffled Keith’s hair again. “You’ll definitely have to make it up to me, you know.”

“I’ll make it up to you.” Keith pouted at the slight accusation. “Shiro’s the only person I could go to. I mean, I just wanted to do something. I don’t really know what I’m doing with all this. But I like when I make you smile. I don’t do that for people often and… I...” Keith swallowed, lowering his hands. “I just wanted to.”

“I can accept that if you don’t say it to anyone else again. Don’t do those things for people. Do them for me.” Lance smiled down at him and gently traced the line of his jaw once those hands were out of the way. “Though knowing you tried that hard for me, even if it’s embarrassing, just makes me fall more in love with you.” He grinned as his fingers tilted Keith’s chin up just a bit. “That was very sexy, and now all I want to do is make love to you over and over again until we both pass out for the entire day, but I can’t really do that, can I?”

Keith gave Lance a gentle nudge. “No. I have a meeting. You get a pass, but the head of Voltron has to be there.”

“Can I go with you?” Lance’s lower lip stuck out, though he stretched his arms above his head. “I don’t want to be alone.”

“Do you feel up to it? You did crash a Lion yesterday.” Keith’s brow arched.

“To be fair, I blacked out before the crash, so gravity crashed Red, not me.” Lance kept pouting, his arms slowly falling to the side. “I really don’t want to be alone, Keith…”

“I’m not telling you no.” Keith kissed the corner of Lance’s mouth. “If you feel up to it you can come.”

“If I felt up to having sex with you twice after waking up, I can handle sitting in a chair for a meeting.” Lance kissed Keith back before he slid off the bed.

“Did you just compare sex with me to a council meeting?” Keith sat up against his hip, the sheets falling from his torso.

“No. One is significantly more physically demanding.” Lance grinned. “Especially with you crying out ‘Harder Lance!’” He chuckled.

A pillow flew toward Lance’s face, “Lance! I take it back!” Keith got out of bed in teasing huff as he stepped around him and into the bathroom.

“You can’t” Lance let the pillow hit him, hopped up, and took Keith’s hand as he passed him, getting up and pulling him into his arms. “Now that I know you like it a little rough, you’re in trouble.” He grinned and kissed him, letting him go before stepping into the bathroom.

“Empty threats.” Keith rolled his eyes as he followed him, shaking the flush of from Lance’s contact. “You should be focused on what’s in store for us now. We’ll be leaving soon with the Atlas. Are you going to be able to stay on mission while we’re up there?” Keith turned on the water. “Or will you be day dreaming about this?” He grinned, stepping into the water.

“I can stay on mission. Don’t you have any faith in me?” Lance remained outside of the shower and pouted at Keith again, though he looked him over quite obviously. “Do I need to daydream about it when I can see it every day? The real thing is always better.”

“You tell me, Lover-boy.” Keith teased with a flirty wink.

Lance kept pouting. “Keith…” He shook his head and got into the shower with him. “Maybe you’re the one who should be worried about staying on mission.”

“Eh?” Keith blinked and lowered his eyes, catching the subtle change in Lance’s tone. “Are you talking about the Galra base?”

“What? No. I was talking about you being too daydreamy about me…Isn’t that what you were going with when you asked me that?” Lance wrapped his arms around Keith from behind, nuzzling into his hair. “I was teasing you back. Sorry. I didn’t mean to hit a nerve.”

“Oh… sorry… I…” Keith bowed his head, his arms folding over Lance’s. “Though, the point still stands, doesn’t it… they’re going to ask about that today. That wasn’t me. That couldn’t have been me. I’m not like that. Am I?”

“Let them ask. Blame it on me.” He nuzzled Keith’s shoulder and kissed it once. “If I hadn’t blacked out, it wouldn’t have happened.”

“That’s not completely true. What does it say about my stability?” Keith leaned against his lover, soaking up his gentleness. “I’m half of what came here to destroy them. I’ve heard it in the hallways. I ignore it for the most part, but… I know what they think. It’s Allura all over again, but I don’t see them coming around any time soon.”

“Then stay with me. Don’t go to any of their meetings alone. Don’t walk without me in the hallway, and when I hear them talk shit about the things they know nothing about, I’ll pop them one. Then I can be the unstable one.” Lance kissed Keith’s shoulder again. “I may not be able to protect you in some ways, but I can definitely do that for you."

“Lance.” Keith sighed. “That’s not you. You’re good guy Lance. Everybody’s friend.” He leaned his head against his cheek. “Don’t hurt people because of me. No matter how much you want to. I just have to prove myself.”

“You don’t have to prove yourself. You’ve done that a thousand times, and anyone else who makes you think you have to keep doing that is an asshole.” Lance frowned. “Didn’t you tell me last night that I should be who I want to be? Well I want to be the Lance that punches idiots for being assholes to my boyfriend.”

Keith couldn’t help it. A laugh snorted out of his nose then his mouth. “And if they out rank you?”

“None of them outrank me. I’m an Altean Prince. I’m a Paladin of Voltron. We’re not beholden to the Garrison for ranks. The only one who outranks me is you.” There was a haughty tone to Lance’s voice, and he wasn’t sure if it was intentional or not.

“Altean… what?” Keith blinked, sputtering water. “Does that count here?” One ear cocked up, a new quirk Keith developed while thinking, and the tip ticked with the rapidity of his thoughts. “Does that make me an Altean concubine? Ah! Before you answer, I will not wear that outfit.”

“Shame. You’d look amazing in it. Just thinking about it makes me warm.” Lance chuckled and nuzzled his cheek. “I say it counts. So I don’t give a damn about rank or any of that. Not if it means people are disrespecting the best paladin there is.”

“O-okay I get it.” Keith groaned. “And I-I’ll wear one time. In a low-lit room. But that’s it.” When did he become such a push over?

“I’d have to find one for that to be possible.” Lance smirked and nuzzled his neck. “But if it’s too low lit, I won’t see it. And if I can’t see it, I won’t get as turned on. Then I can’t treat you the way you should be treated.”

“Nnmm.” Keith arched into Lance, feeling a new heat start to simmer in his gut. “If you find one. And it has to be the male version, I’ll wear it. One time. In a somewhat lit room.”

“You can’t take that back.” Lance nuzzled and kissed Keith’s neck before pulling his head back. “The male one is even more revealing.”

“Yeah sure. First find one, then I’ll worry about the details.” Keith finished washing up, combing his fingers back into his hair. He took a rare moment of vanity to marvel at the lack of snarls. Something to be said for Lance’s taste in beauty products.

“Oh, I’m going to find one.” Lance chuckled and kissed his shoulder once more before he finally paid attention to washing himself. “But you promised. So you can’t change your mind.” He stepped out of the shower and grabbed a towel, wrapping it around his waist before holding a second one out for Keith.

Keith reached for it, then stopped, Shiro’s advice in his ears. ‘It’s the little things.’ Keith knew what Lance would want to do, so he stepped in and leveled his ears forward, a blush on his cheeks as he avoided eye contact.

Lance smiled and gently toweled Keith’s hair. “You know, I could get used to pampering you like this,” he whispered as he finished up and draped the towel around Keith’s shoulders.

“What? Pampering me because you’re a hopeless romantic, and I got your number.” Keith smirked.

“Well that, and just being with you doing simple things like this. I feel amazing this morning. I am ready to face the day because I’m with you.”

“Oh! That. Well that’s because my new Galra abilities come with special healing magic.” Keith nodded his head. “I wiggle my ear and twitch me nose, and any Altean within 20 yards of me gets healed of all ailments. Special trick I learned on the back of a space-time whale.”

“Then you’re not allowed to be within 20 yards of any other Altean.” Lance shook his head and stepped out of the bathroom. “So unfair. I try to be sweet on you and you go and say that.” He mumbled as he walked to the closet to get his uniform.

“Ookay, don’t joke about fake magical boyfriend healing powers. I’ll put that on the list.” Keith walked behind him and smoothed Lance’s uniform out over his shoulders, pulling carefully at the edges to relax any wrinkles.

“Sorry.” Lance glanced over his shoulder at him. “I’m…not good at keeping the jealousy down yet. So when you said any Altean…” He looked embarrassed by it, and shame flushed his cheeks. “My brain just went off into this dark place.”

“You do know that Coran is the only other male Altean within this galaxy, right?” Keith arched a brow. “I don’t go for older guys,” Keith paused. “Any more… When I was a kid, I had a crush on Shiro. I’m pretty sure everyone on had a crush on him. It wasn’t anything overwhelming, and it didn’t spark anything. I just thought he was cool. Then I thought he was a dork, and the rest is how it is.”

“You didn’t specify. Allura’s here too you know.” Lance shook his head. “I told you. I get these feelings and I can’t help it.” He turned and wrapped his arms around Keith. He tensed, but then he shook his head. “I had a crush on Shiro too, and then you came to the Garrison….”

Keith blinked, then chuckled. “Like I said. Everyone had a crush on Shiro. Lance, I’ve been around the most beautiful creatures in all of the universe. Every gender and type you could possibly imagine, and despite all that I’ve only fallen for one person, and I’m pretty sure you know how this story ends.”

“…Are you saying I’m not the most beautiful creature you’ve ever encountered?” Lance arched a brow. “You wouldn’t tell me you fell for me even though I’m ugly, would you? And here I am admitting I had a crush on you when we were younger. I’m hurt.”

“You make them look subpar. They didn’t even get my attention.” He kissed the corner of Lance’s mouth, ears perked forward with a tiny trill in throat with each kiss.

“Ok good. I wouldn’t really want to be jealous of everyone else in existence.” Lance kissed Keith once and smiled a little. “You should finish getting ready for this big meeting.”

Keith cocked his head suddenly, ears dropping. “Dude.” His voice bordered between annoyed and distressed.

“Eh? What is it? What’s wrong?” Lance rested a hand on Keith’s head. One finger stroked one of those drooped ears.

Keith nuzzled his head under Lance’s hand until he curled his way into his chest. “It’s only 430… the meeting isn’t until 0800.”

“Then why did you let me get dressed?” Lance held him and nuzzled his hair. “Why don’t we take Kosmo for a walk and get breakfast then?”

“I forgot what time it was.” Keith sighed. “We can. Though he kinda just walks himself when he wants.” Kosmo stretched in his bed before giving them a disinterested look and buried his snout under his paw. “That answers that question.”

“Aww I thought it would have been a cute family date.” Lance pouted.

Keith’s ears flicked. “W-we can go.”

“Even if it’s just us?” Lance perked up and smiled.

“Yeah, that’d be fine.”

Lance was all smiles as he kissed Keith. “Thank you.”

“Hm?” Keith murmured after the first set of kisses. He pulled away to finished getting dressed. With his hair tied up and away from his neck with the cord he’d found in the shack.

Lance’s eyes moved to that exposed neck, and he walked up behind him, leaning down to kiss there. “If you keep showing me delicious parts of you, we won’t be leaving.”

“Hm?” Keith smiled, knowing damn well what Lance was referring to. Lance had a tiny praise for every part of the older paladin’s body. His legs ‘perfect’. His neck ‘delicious’. His ass ‘god’s gift’. His eyes ‘filled with more galaxies than were in the sky’, his thighs ‘beautiful’. His hair ‘soft’ and so on. Keith was starting to think that maybe every moving part of him had been created to Lance’s preference. Or Lance got warped by his developing ‘Keith’ fetish. Either way, Lance never hid his attraction to Keith, and it was starting to make him strangely aware of himself. He cared how he looked. He wanted to get praises. He felt good when Lance noticed something, even if it was stupid or inane. Praises from Lance made him feel something other than uncertainty, and he found himself not minding his new body as much as he once did.

Lance wrapped his arms around him and nuzzled. “I love everything about you.” He kissed his neck again before nuzzling one of his soft ears and whispering into the velvet flesh. “My perfect Keith.” He could stay here all day and just hold him. In fact, there was nothing he wanted more. He wanted to hold Keith, make love to him, sing his praises all day. He just knew neither of them could allow that to happen when there was so much else going on. “I would do anything for you, Kitten.”

“You’re a sap.” Keith chuckled through his heated cheeks. “Let’s get some air before we never leave at all.”

“Only for you.” Lance grinned and stepped back, but he took Keith’s hand. Since it was so early, the only ones walking around the corridors were those on the twilight shift. Lance could have sworn he heard Hunk’s snoring through the soundproofing when they passed his room, but he chalked that up to his active imagination. His hand held Keith’s a little tighter as they walked in relative silence. Neither of them was very good at small talk, even as they both sat in a corner of the mess hall for breakfast. Though Lance did laugh a little at the perplexed look on Keith’s face when Lance’s plate had about four times as much food on it than Keith’s did. “I’m really hungry.” He mumbled between bites. Now that he was feeling better, he was practically ravenous. All those weeks of not sleeping, all those times he gave Keith quintessence. His body wanted as much energy as he could fit in his stomach. Even if it did give him a bit of a tummy ache as they walked to the board room and stopped just outside the door. One hand rested on his belly as though he was trying to calm some nerves and not keep the pain at bay. “Ready?”

Keith wrung his hands out and touched the handle. “No, but when has that ever stopped us?”

Keith pushed the door, swearing the oak double door was heavier now than it ever had been in the past. He stopped, his hand resting on the flat surface, feeling a tingle on the back of his neck. His ears swiveled like sonar and homed in on a figure down the hallway. “I guess we’re going to be a bit late?”

“It’s not eight yet.” Lance blinked and rested his hand on Keith’s shoulder, looking in the direction he was. “And if we are, then Shiro would be too, wouldn’t he?” He nodded to the larger man.

“He would be if he didn’t already have a list of grievances because of the actions of two rogue paladins.”

“Rogue?” Keith blinked, not ready to face down work mode Shiro. Dad/brother mode Shiro was easy to talk to, but the Shiro who would have to answer to his higher-ups for the actions of a few reckless kids (hero status or not) was not.

“Yeah, the Blue Paladin just happens to disappear from the medical ward? You blow me off, and I have a thousand questions and no one willing to answer them.” Shiro folded his arms with an expression of exasperated concern.

“I didn’t disappear.” Lance snorted and shook his head. “The nurse said I needed rest, so I went where I could rest. There was no way that was happening with all that beeping and those bright lights.”

“Yeah, that’s what I told them when they came to me in a panic.” Shiro sighed and placed a hand on Keith's shoulder. “Are you both okay?”

Keith patted Shiro’s hand. “I’m okay. Lance and I are working through.”

“I’m okay.” Lance smiled at Shiro’s skeptical look. “Really. I am. I ate a ton this morning. Keith looked disgusted with me. He’ll probably dump me if I do it again.”

“I doubt that. Not with the way he gives you those doe eyes.” Shiro smirked. “I doubt he cared. As long as you’re healthy.”

Lance shook his head a little and shrugged the conversation off with a little smile. He looked at Keith and tried to keep that smile. “We should go sit.”

Keith blushed and pouted. “I do not have doe eyes.”

“Yeah, ya do.” Shiro teased as they both turned to follow Lance into the room. Keith found his place toward the front the table, the heat of his embarrassment tinting even the skin of his inner ear. He folded his ears back, at least he could hide that much.

Lance ended up across from Keith, though he would have much rather sit next to him. So he smiled at him and otherwise kept his mouth shut.

The meeting, like most, droned on. Stuffy stiff-shirted officers telling Keith how to do his job. Normally Keith didn’t mind them when it was Commander Holt or Shiro talking, but when anyone else came to the front and tried to explain the need for stronger regulations on Voltron, Keith tuned them out. Allura and Shiro spoke on their behalf if they didn’t listen, and Iverson did his part.

Not that it would matter. The crew already knew what would transpire if anyone tried to take Voltron away. They had discussed the possibility in-depth and they rendezvous on Olkarion.

“And as for the matter of the Galra base. The rescued survivors are being treated by our medical staff and placed in temporary housing.”

Keith’s ear swiveled, his attention perked, but they settled back a little in trepidation. He waited for the shoe to drop. He waited for someone to yell at him or to bring up the monstrous attacks he made on the base. Nothing prepared him for what he saw. The screen behind the officer showed a demon of a creature on the battlefield. The setting sun bleeding the yellow of Black’s eyes to a sickly red as he tore through the base. The Commander spoke on about tactics and battle readiness, and he could hear Shiro staying something in a stern voice, but all Keith saw was the monster on a rampage. Those who fled he didn’t chase, but those who stayed… Keith’s throat started closing.

“Do we need to watch this?” Lance arched a brow, speaking loud enough to drown out the low volume of the video. He watched the way Keith’s whole demeanor changed. He went from looking incredibly bored to looking afraid, or almost disgusted with what he saw. So Lance cleared his throat and did his best to cause a distraction. “Did you rescue Galra too or just the humans that Pidge and Hunk pulled from the tunnels? Are you even going to ask about my crash? What about the destruction of the whole place that I caused when I slid into that ammunition store? You all have nothing to say about any of that? The explosion I caused was way worse than whatever you’re trying to show here. This is a waste of time.”

“Lance…” Allura started, but there was something in the Blue Paladin’s eyes that made her sit back and go quiet.

Lance’s hands rested flat on the table if only to keep his fists from clenching. “Do you really need to show this? The base is destroyed. We get it. Either yell at us and be done with it or come up with a damn good reason why you’re showing this. Unless you just want to gloat because you hate Galra that much, and you enjoy seeing this.”

“Lance, that’s enough.”

“No Shiro, it’s not enough. I’m tired of being treated like Voltron is here only for their convenience, as though we’re only worth using if we’re getting rid of Galra. We’re worth more than that, and you know it. We have done more for this planet than we can even put into words, and none of that matters as long as we kill Galra. None of these meetings ever show any footage of us doing anything good. Forget saving refugees. Forget stopping collapsing buildings from causing casualties. Forget any of it. We all know Pidge takes video of everything we do, so why is it only stuff like this that is showcased? I’m done with it. I’m done with listening to everyone else talk about what we are and what we do like they know. They don’t. None of you know.” He glared at a few of the older gentlemen. “And if you think you do, you’re more than welcome to try to take Red out for a flight. His ears perked. “Or maybe you would like to go on a mission where you have to live and suffer through a whole different life and then die violently just to bring back something that may help us win?”

When there was no real reply other than a few murmurs about his insolence and some uncomfortable shifts of weight, Lance hit his hands against the table once. “No? I didn’t think so. So stop treating us like we’re only a weapon. Leave Keith alone. Stop harassing Allura. Realize that Shiro is not our babysitter. Start trying to work with us instead of use us. Start looking at all of our accomplishments instead of just cherry-picking what you like to see.”

Keith meanwhile stared blankly at Lance. He never heard him snap before. He heard him scream, squeal, and spazz but never snap, he moved his mouth to speak but the Commander cut him off.

“You should mind your tongue. You’re under Garrison protection.”

“No.” Keith looked up from Lance. “The Garrison is under our protection. Shiro flies the Atlas. We fly Voltron. What is it you do?” Keith’s voice gained strength as he went. “Allura controls the wormholes that bring our allies here. Allies we saved. Galra we saved and who fought by our side. My mother. The Blade of Marmora.”

“Are you asking for punishment for what you did on that base? If you want it so badly, I can have you court marshaled. Give you a dishonorable discharge.” The Commander sneered. Keith heard Shiro scoff, but he didn’t say anything. Instead he waved his hand for Lance to continue.

“And there’s you proving my point. You don’t respect any of us. You only care about how you look or how the Garrison looks.” Lance snorted. “Why is it so hard for you to treat us like we’re worth more to you than a weapon you don’t even know how to use? We spent years fighting the Galra, saving planets. Helping those in need. We don’t need to be treated like our only purpose is to do your bidding.” He sat back in his chair and crossed his arms. “You expect us to just listen to you, but all you want to do is make sure we fall in line.”

The Commander slammed his hands on the table and stood, anger creasing his brow. “You come in here and speak to me like this, and you want respect?” He half snarled the words, but when Lance only looked back at him without saying anything, he glanced at Allura, then Keith, before finally resting his eyes on Shiro. “Is this how your men behave, Captain?”

Shiro sighed and shook his head. “With all due respect sir, the paladins are not ‘my men.’” He shot a look at Lance. “And I don’t know where that came from. Lance has never spoken to anyone that way before. At least not that I’ve witnessed.”

“So it’s just my privilege to be treated with such disrespect?” The man looked pointedly at Lance.

“No,” Lance muttered. “I want you to understand who and what we are. I want you to acknowledge what we do when it’s not something like this.” He waved to the video as it ended. “I want to be assured that you rescued the surviving Galra, too. I want you to stop treating Keith like he doesn’t know anything, stop treating Shiro like he’s only our keeper. Stop treating Allura like an inconvenience, or Hunk and Pidge like they’re nothing. I want you to stop acting like we serve you. We want to work with you. This is our home too. We want to protect it and help it rebuild after everything. But if you keep treating us like we’re just your secret weapon, if you’re so hell-bent on destroying Galra simply because they’re Galra, you won’t have us at all.”

“With all due respect, sir.” Keith mirrored Shiro’s tone. “The paladins are under my instruction. Lance is speaking out of concern for his ranking officer. Which would be me. I also have already received a dishonorable discharge.” Sharp eyes landed on Iverson, who smirked, picking up on where Keith was going with this line of dialogue.

“That’s true, sir.” Iverson picked up for Keith. “The cadet here was kicked out of The Garrison for disciplinary issues. He has never been reinstated. Therefore, he is a civilian. He does not have to abide by the Garrison command structure. Nor do those who are serving under him. They are out of our jurisdiction. And on top of that, they are here of their own volition.”

“So technically speaking, we are envoys of the Coalition.” Piped in Pidge. “Under the command of Allura, first princess of Altea.”

“Which brings me to our current concern. The captive Galra soldiers. To make sure they are treated per Garrison POW protocols.” Keith did his best to keep the haughty tone out of his voice, but he did wink at Pidge, who beamed her toothy grin back at him.

Lance exchanged half a glance with Allura before he straightened up a bit in his chair, though his arms remained crossed, and the frown seemed like a permanent fixture on his face.

“Those protocols were designed for Earthbound conflict, we do not have to abide by convention for intergalactic threats.” The Commander stated, with his nose upturned. Keith noticed Shiro’s lip curl and he felt James’ posture stiffen behind him. No one liked this guy, but he naturally outranked everyone in the room. Keith felt eyes on him, or should he say one eye. He turned to Iverson, who frowned as if shared the thoughts going through Keith’s head.

“Yes Sir.” Keith started slow, choosing his words. “But being that those articles and protocols are systems we have in place, it only seems rational to rely on them for unforeseen instances. The Geneva Convention was designed for the protection of all Prisoners of War, and to not abide by even its most basic guidelines is in violation of basic human rights and decency.”

“These aliens are not human.” The man countered.

“No. But we are.”

“Some more than others. How do we know you don’t have other interests?” The Commander baited. Keith ignored it.

“We are human. We won our freedom from the Galra, and we hope to secure peace in the universe. This is the first step. Galra soldiers have a code of very strict honor. They were following the orders of their high commander and ended getting trapped here-”

“And you took the rest of them out. Are they not also your people?”

“I-I… yes-” Keith looked off to the side. “But-”

“Commander,” Hunk spoke up now. “I know Keith better than most people in this room. He fought only to survive and to save us. He did not injure a single surrendering Galra.”

“Extenuating circumstances aside. If you are going to treat all non-humans in such a way, what would that say to our allies?” Allura was frowning now. “To me. To the other Alteans here. To the Blade of Mamora. The countless other races that came to Earth to help reestablish universal cooperation? The Galra are not an evil race despite the actions that they’ve taken.” She watched the Commander with pursed lips. “As Keith stated, they follow their commander’s word without question. You claim to hate them so much, and yet you want us to fall into line the way they fell to Zarkon. Or am I misunderstanding?”

“And the Galra aren’t even our enemy anymore. Those were desperate soldiers doing the only thing they knew how to do.” Lance shook his head. “The Galra Empire is gone. Zarkon is dead. Lotor is dead. The only one left to worry about isn’t even Galra.” He glanced at Allura, then Keith, before shaking his head. “We didn’t all risk our lives for you to sit here and break down everything Allura worked so hard to build with the coalition. We’re trying to bring peace to the universe. None of us can afford to foster hate.”

“As you can see, Sir. Those with experience and knowledge of the enemy have spoken. The Princess has more reason to hate the Galra than anyone at this table, but she speaks of mercy. Admiral Sanda would have done the same. I believe –” Shiro blinked once, his words stumbling over the sound of a soft rumbling coming from his left. When he found the source, he furrowed his brow and continued talking with his attention back on the Commander. “For now, I believe it’s time we should adjourn. We need to sort through more of the details, and if there’s a reason to create a new rule of convention then it should be addressed at the next meeting. Until then we treat the prisoners as we would any other.”

Lance blinked at the low rumble, and his brow arched as his gaze found Keith. The bright amethyst eyes of his lover locked on him, seemingly with adoration and maybe a little desire? He shifted in his chair and tapped the top of the table gently as though that could get Keith’s attention enough to at least try to stop.

“What’s that noise?” James was looking around the room from his position against the wall.

Lance opened his mouth to tell him to ignore it when Hunk laughed a little. “Sorry. All this serious talk made me hungry!” He patted his stomach. “Shiro’s right. We should all talk about this later when we’re not all agitated and exhausted.”

Hunk, being a natural host, escorted the group from the room. The rumble stopped, and Keith sunk lower in his chair, hiding behind a thick mop of black bangs.

When the room emptied, Only Lance, Keith, and Shiro were left.

“You…” Shiro turned in his chair. “That was you?”

“I well. I have a thing.” Keith’s face flushed.

“We all have ‘a thing’, that wasn’t a ‘thing’.”

“I umm, it’s a carryover. From the pod.” Keith explained.

“I get that. You seem to have been getting a few carryovers from that, and they’re not all superficial.” Shiro sighed. “So, you purr now?”

“I guess. Not all the time! I don’t really control it.”

“I mean, that’s my fault.” Lance stood and walked around the table, stopping behind Keith and resting his hand on his shoulder. “Just pretend you didn’t hear it.”

“Your fault?” Shiro’s eyebrow raised with an indiscernible expression. “Is there anything else I need to pretend I don’t know?” He did pretend not to notice Keith’s head tilting into Lance’s arm. “Vital information that you two should share with me?”

“Well he only purrs because of me. So yes, that’s my fault isn’t it?” Lance lifted a hand to gently stroke Keith’s hair. “Is there anything else you think you should pretend to not know?” His gaze fixed pointedly on Shiro, and while there was no malice in his look, it was clear he had something very specific in mind. Whether Shiro caught it was an entirely different issue.

Shiro watched Keith nearly melt into Lance’s touch. The image was sweet. He never had Keith pegged as the ‘melting type’, but it showed they had a lot more in common than he thought. “As long as you’re both careful, it’s not my place. There is one thing, Coran brought it to my attention when he placed the type of Galra Keith resembled.” Shiro didn’t want to use the exact words Coran had. Coran had been reading from a memory, and he’d never intend to call Keith parasitic. “Those Galra have particular needs in order to thrive. Coran said they are an ancient bloodline that died out soon after the war due to the quintessence resources being finite.” Shiro stood up, his hands resting on the back of his chair. “Knowing that, is there anything more either of you want to tell me?”

Lance continued to stroke Keith’s hair, keeping his gaze steady on Shiro as he listened. “Did he?” It wasn’t hard to guess what Shiro was asking about. Keith did need Lance’s quintessence at times, but the pull between the two of them wasn’t nearly as strong when he was a full-blooded Altean and Keith was full Galra. “Keith?”

“I need quintessence.” Keith whispered. “Not in that universal Zarkon obsession way.” He assured as if he could read Shiro’s thoughts. “Without it, I become weak. I get sick.”

“Keith that sounds like –”

“It’s not exactly like that. More like how a vampire needs blood.” Keith shrugged. He figured he might as well call a spade a spade in this case. “My body creates its own quintessence just like everyone else, but it needs a catalyst occasionally.” He turned his face into Lance’s arm, looking up at the half-Altean. “Altean quintessence works the best.”

“So you can take from anything?” Shiro ventured with a wary look at Lance.

“Technically, he can take from anyone. But the moment he takes from anyone else, I can no longer give him any.” Lance gently slid his fingers into Keith’s hair, more to comfort himself than his lover. “But that’s not because I’m a jerk, or I’d be denying him out of jealousy or anything. My body will no longer allow him to draw from me if he draws from another.” He shook his head a little and rested his free hand on Keith’s shoulder, squeezing it gently. “In there, he needed it every few days. A week was pretty much the longest he could before it started affecting him. It’s not nearly that severe here. Probably because he’s half human.”

“And if it gets to that point? What happens?”

“My body stops creating quintessence. I have seizures. Blackouts.” Keith closed his eyes, remembering Hunk in the training room.

“Keith. Lance. Don’t you think you should have told me this?”

“We were still trying to figure ourselves out. We still are.” Keith said.

“Are you feeding from Lance now?”

Keith paused and took a deep breath. “I am.”

“Is that what happened yesterday on the base?” Shiro pressed with caution.

“Part of it. Probably. I got carried away.”

“You’ve been saying that a lot lately.” Shiro used his best brother tone.

“I-I know. I can work on it. I-”

“Keith.” Shiro cut the younger man off startling him with the warmth in his voice. “You don’t need to give me excuses. Or reasons. I know you two will figure this out. I have faith in that. I just want to make sure you know that either of you can come to me, if you need to. My door has always been open for you both. And, on a personal matter...” Shiro’s floating hand flicked Keith’s nose as his other own ruffled Lance’s hair. “I just want to make sure you’re both going to be okay. I can’t lose anything else important to me, and that means the both of you.”

Lance wanted to interject at one point, but he decided it was better to remain quiet while the two of them had their back and forth. Or at the very least, it was better if Keith got his self-blame out before Lance spoke up. Plus, it would have been weird if he said anything while Shiro was ruffling his hair like that. “Shiro…” He shook his head a little and looked at the bigger man. “We’re going to be okay. I’ll see to it. But we’ll be fine, especially since Keith did not get carried away when he took my quintessence. What happened yesterday didn’t have anything to do with him taking quintessence from me or taking too much or any of that. That was because I wasn’t taking care of myself. I’m taking care of myself now. I slept. I ate. It’ll be fine. I was the one who caused my own blackout. And I won’t hear any argument to the contrary. Got it?”

Shiro looked at the two of them. “All right. But promise me you’ll both talk to me when you think you need to. There’s really no need to be so stubborn around me, and I know I’d worry a lot less about both of you if I know what’s going on.”

“You already know too much because Keith went to talk to you.” Lance snorted, but a slight smile curved his lips. “I can do that. We can both do that, right Keith?”

“Yeah. We can.” Keith agreed, lifting his hand to cover the one on his shoulder. “Thank you, Shiro.”

“You don’t have to thank me.” Shiro smiled and shook his head. “I’m going to head out, I’ll see you both later.” When Shiro took his leave, Keith slumped in his chair.

“That was embarrassing… first the purring and then he asks about that?” Keith rubbed his nose.

“Well, it’s better that he asked us than someone else, right?” Lance chuckled and leaned down to press a kiss to the top of his head. “You know, I’m supposed to be the only one who hears that…”

Keith titled his head back. “I don’t always control it. It just happens. You were being pretty cool.” He leaned his head up to nuzzle his forehead against Lance’s chin.

“Well, I know that. But I don’t know why it would have happened this time. I didn’t feel pretty cool. I felt pretty angry. Is that what made me cool?” Lance chuckled. “Come on, we should go back to our room.”

“So, you’re not mad?” Keith pushed away from the table and stood up.

“Not at you, no. Though I’m not super thrilled that James heard it.” Lance’s lower lip stuck out, but he took Keith’s hand. “But you didn’t do it on purpose, and you’re not trying to seduce him, so I’m not mad.”

“You know, not every guy on this base is out to date me.” Keith chuckled, putting his other hand in his pocket.

“They might if you keep purring around them. You’ll end up turning too many people on, and I’ll have to make sure you know you’re mine.” Lance smirked and pushed Keith against the table, one leg pressing between his and rubbing a bit. “I’m certainly turned on.” His smirk widened. “Purr for me more, Kitten.”

Keith’s arms darted back to brace his hands against the table. His eyes wide before they lidded with the slow grind of Lance’s thigh. “Lance…” he whispered, but his tone was far from discouraging. “Make me.”

“Oooh. Aren’t we feisty today?” Lance smirked and kissed him, licking along his lower lip to get Keith to part them so he could take his mouth. He continued to rub with his leg. “Is that all you want me to make you do? Or is there something else?”

“Today?” Keith grinned. “Someone hasn’t been paying attention.” He purred and nipped at Lance’s lip as he broke the kiss, the smirk on his lips adding a glint to his eyes. “What could we do? In here? On this table?” Those eyes darkened, pupils slitting for a second before dilating.

“Well, I already made you purr, so…” Lance grinned and licked at his jaw. “I should lock the door, hm?”

“Really? Here? Where everyone…” Keith’s flush grew, and he looked sheepishly at the door. “Do it.”

“Gladly.” Lance only left Keith long enough to lock the door before he returned to him, taking his mouth and pressing against him once more.

Chapter Text

Keith watched the glowing nebula shift and pulse. With his head resting against the window, he focused on the ship’s easy hum. His ears pressed back against his head as the colors shifted and rolled with the turmoil of heated gas clouds fighting for dominance. He breathed in deep and exhaled. He almost lost them. Pidge’s small hand grasping so hard to his own only to slip away and melt into the floor like everyone else. Lance, Hunk, and Allura, all gone, leaving him alone in Honerva’s mind scape. A hellish void made of obsidian floors and blood red skies. The wash of relief he felt when they appeared nearly carried him off until the bone chilling terror of Allura, their Allura, torturing Zarkon grounded him. He was stuck motionless. He hadn’t been the Zarkon they knew. This person was different. This was a Zarkon who didn’t know. A Zarkon who was as pure as any of them. The look in the Galra’s eyes as the realization of his deeds sunk in, along with the screams, will haunt Keith until his last breath.

Keith wound his arms about his waist; anxious, irritated. The smell of the ship was all wrong. Ever since Allura freed that ‘thing,’ her scent was wrong. His body gave him an awareness for strong quintessence, as any predator knew where to find prey. He should have agreed with Lance when he spoke out against this. He should have put his foot down when Allura wanted to use the thing’s power, but they didn’t have time for debates. Keith knew, in his heart, Allura was right. Following the entity to Honerva proved to be the fastest way to get answers, but the cost… Allura was strong, but the universe didn’t care. Strength was nothing if fate decided your purpose. Keith’s heart clenched. He wanted Lance, though he’d never pull him away from Allura’s bedside. Good guy Lance. He felt guilty for dumping her, but they recovered well. So well that Keith found himself actually feeling jealous. The two of them were closer than ever. Maybe Allura figured she had another Altean to bond with. Well, another Altean who wasn’t trying to kill her any way… someone who knew a similar Altea to her own.

Keith slipped down the window and turned his nose so it smushed against the glass. He hit a new low. Jealous of a friend laid up in a hospital bed. When did he get so pathetic?

“You look so dejected.” Lance had been watching Keith for a moment before he stepped up behind the smaller man, his hand resting on his head. He looked down at him and tried to force a smile to his lips, but he couldn’t. Not with the situation as it was. Not with all their suffering, their pain. Not while he watched Allura change and twist in a way he never would have expected. How could he? How could any of them?

“Are you okay?” He looked at the drooped figure of his lover, his fingers stroking the ebony strands that fell around his downcast ears. He knew the answer, but he asked anyway.

Keith didn’t say a word. He curled his body into Lance, for the first time thankful for his smaller frame. He could hide here. Lance’s chest was warm, and his heartbeat more calming than the Atlas’ vibrations.

“That’s a no then.” Lance wrapped his arms around Keith and held him, resting his chin on top of his head and looking out at the nebula Keith had been looking at moments before. He knew Keith would say something when he was ready to, so for now he just held him quietly.

“You were all gone.” Came that soft whisper after a time. “All of you.”

Lance sighed and rubbed Keith’s back, pressing his lips against the top of that dark mop. “I know. I’m so sorry.” Tears stung his eyes, but he blinked them back and focused on the man in his arms.

“I can’t… I can’t be alone.” Keith clutched the front of Lance’s suit. His fingers hooked into the edges and jerked him closer, locking him against his chest. He breathed in his scent, assuring himself he was there.

“How is she?” Keith asked after settling his nerves more.

Lance murmured and kissed the top of his head once more. “She’s still asleep. Coran is in there now. And I’m here with you, so you won’t be alone, okay?” He held Keith as close as he could without crushing the small body in his arms.

“I’m sure she’ll be okay. She’ll pull through. She’s one of us. She has to.” Keith straightened his back. “How are you?”

“I’m as okay as someone can be in this situation.” Lance shook his head and looked down at him. “I’m more worried about you than I am about me.”

“That doesn’t seem right.” Keith tapped Lance’s cheek before he leaned his back against the window. “I just had a moment. I’m fine. Allura is the one who needs people right now. I- I’m probably faring better than most.”

“She’s not alone. You were.” Lance dropped his arms when Keith moved back against the window, and he looked off to the side. “And…maybe I just need to be with you right now.” His lips thinned, and his brow furrowed. “Maybe I can’t look at my cousin like that. Maybe I need hugs.”

In less than a tick, Keith had his arms squeezing Lance. He crushed their bodies together as tightly as he dared. “I promise she’ll be okay.”

“It’s okay if you don’t make that promise you know.” Lance whispered, his voice trembling as he held Keith as closely as he could, trying to absorb some of the smaller man’s warmth. “Just love me if she ends up not being okay.”

“I’ll love you no matter what.” Keith kissed his cheek then his neck and back to his jaw. “I’ll take your armor off. Hard to hold you with all this in the way.”

“Out here?” Lance closed his eyes at the kisses. “Keith…” He wasn’t sure what was in his voice, but to his own ears, it sounded like he was letting out something more like desperation than sadness.

“Back in our room.” Keith tapped Lance on the forehead. He wasn’t looking for sex or any type of comfort in that sense. Keith wanted to be held and to hold someone. He had a need to feel warmth aside from his own. Honerva’s chilly embrace still lingered. He saw it again, the cruel glint in Allura’s eyes, and Keith couldn’t help but wonder what path he currently led them down.

“Oh yeah. Right,” Lance murmured almost distractedly, as though he had already forgotten what they were talking about. However, he took Keith’s hand and started pulling him towards the room. “Can we put on the virtual window?” He just really wanted to hold Keith and see something familiar. The beach. The desert. Anything bright and comforting. He didn’t need anything other than that.

“Did Pidge get it working?” Keith followed, then walked beside Lance. “We can set it to Varadero.” His smile beamed. “Your brother taught you how to surf there, right?”

“Yeah. She did.” Lance nodded and clutched Keith’s hand a bit tighter. “And yeah…he did.” He could feel the tears stinging his eyes again. He wanted to be as hopeful about the outcome of what was happening to Allura as much as Keith at least pretended to be, but he knew better. There was something seriously wrong with her, and once she woke up…who knew what would happen.

Arriving in their room, Keith settled Lance down on the bed. “Relax.” He whispered and pushed a button by the headboard, the steel interior of the room vanished, replaced by a real time (as close as they could get) 360-degree image of the Cuban beach. It was quiet, and the moon hung bright, filling the room in a silver blue glow. Waves beat against the shore in a gentle crashing thrum.

Lance sank from the bed to the floor as soon as the colors and lights filled the room. The woosh of the waves, the chirping and calling of the sea birds echoing in the night, the way the palm leaves sounded as the nonexistent wind rustled them, it was almost too much, and his tears slid freely down his cheeks.

“Hey,” Keith combed Lance’s hair back from his forehead. “I’ll get you back there.” He knelt behind him, snapping his armor off. Gentle arms found their way around the taller paladin’s shoulders. A hum of music came from Keith’s throat until his shy voice braved the journey to his lips, delivering an ancient song with the tenderness of a lullaby.

The boy I used to know

But there, is a light

In the dark, and I feel its warmth

In my hands, and my heart

Keith never sang in earshot of anyone. In the shower he let out a note or two, but it would die with the presence of anyone else, particularly Lance. He saved himself the embarrassment of hurting his vocally trained partner’s ears. Though tonight the song came from him as he swayed the man, cooing the words to his hair wishing to ease him.

That soft, slightly trembling voice eased Lance, and it wrapped him in a comfort he didn’t know he was craving. He had never really heard Keith sing before, and he wondered why that was. He sounded good. Better than most people, but there was some nervousness laced in there. Almost like he didn’t trust himself to carry the tune properly or something. But for Lance, in this moment, it was nice. Gentle, soft, a little unsure, but even that was endearing. It was enough to keep him from breaking into full sobs even as his throat felt like it could close up at any moment.

So he turned in his arms, looking at his lover’s face as that warmth he felt from him seemed to wrap around him like a security blanket. “I…” He choked on a sob and wrapped his arms around Keith, pressing his face into his shoulder. He trembled a little and closed his eyes, just trying to take in as much of that comfort and ease as he could. “I will be okay as long as I have you. I can’t lose you. I will do everything I can to make sure I don’t leave you. I…”

“Wherever you go. I’ll follow.” Keith whispered, kissing the top of his head. “When we get back, I’ll talk to your parents, and I’ll get their blessing then I’ll spend the rest my life completing every dream you’ve ever had. But we will start by doing it the right way. Properly. I know how important that stuff is to you.”

Lance sniffled and pulled his head back. “Are…you proposing to me?” The tears fell faster, but for the first time in what felt like days, his lips curled up instead of down. “Keith…”

“I umm.. yeah. I guess… I mean not until I get permission but… Yeah. I’d like to. If that’s okay with you.” Keith rubbed the back of his neck. He’d been thinking about this for weeks, but the words came out so naturally now.

“Of course it’s okay.” Lance whispered and cupped Keith’s cheeks in his hands before he kissed him. “More than okay.” Another kiss. “And they’ll give you permission, so yes.” He smiled a little again and kissed him a third time. He could feel his heart pounding, and the sound of his blood rushing almost drowned out the serene ambiance of the virtual beach. “And you did it on a beach under the moonlight, too. You romantic sap.” He let out a puff of a laugh before he settled against him. “Thank you.”

Keith blushed and held Lance. “Only because you like this stuff. I’m okay with screwing in the Garrison kitchen. If you remember. But…” Keith kissed one of those elvish ears. “I’d learn to write poems if I thought it would make you smile.”

“Almost everything you do makes me smile.” Lance’s ear twitched at the kiss, and he kept his weight against him. “Thank you for that. We don’t have to do anything fancy or weird. I’m so happy you even think of me like this.” He whispered and curled up a bit. “I love you.”

“Lance,” Keith’s lower lip trembled, and his eyes squinted to fight the sting of threatening tears. He didn’t want them to fall, he knew once they did, they wouldn’t stop. “I-” He swallowed, his voice breaking, and he hid his face against Lance’s shoulder as his arms tightened. “If I’d lost you today…” He flashed back to himself kneeling helplessly in the witch’s mindscape. Alone.

Lance pulled Keith into his lap and held him as close as he could, his face pressed into his hair as he gently rubbed his back and murmured. “I know. You need hugs too.” He kept his voice soft. “You were really scared. You still are. But I’m here, Kitten. And you’re here. And when this is over, we’ll be together. We’ll get married, and have a house somewhere, or a ship and go on adventures together. And we’ll adopt children and give Kosmo some pet siblings.” He chuckled slightly. “But we’ll be us. You and me. Space Elf and Kitten.”

Keith laughed, one of those sob laughs as Lance ranted on. “Sounds like a horrible comic book. Two though… I’d like two kids. Maybe three?” Keith did love kids. A fact which shocked a fair amount of people.

“Then we will have two, maybe three. You like them, don’t you? You’ve always been so good with my niece and nephew.” That was the most Lance would say on that for now. Keith almost killed him with cuteness the first time Lance caught him playing with the kids, but that was a conversation for another day. He was sure Keith being cute with their own children would actually be the death of him. With a little nuzzle, he rubbed Keith’s back more. “And we’ll be happy. And even if things get messy or scary, we’ll have each other.”

“Today,” Keith swallowed hard and tried again. “Today, I was terrified. I’m dependent on you. I need you in my life. If you were gone…” Keith shook his head. “I-I couldn’t handle it.”

“I know.” Lance’s arms tightened marginally. “I couldn’t get back to you, and I was starting to go mad when I had to fight Alfor. I mean he’s my uncle! But he’s not. But it was making me so angry because I was stuck there. I was so desperate to escape. To find you. To assure you I was okay, to be assured you were okay. I…” He shook his head. “But it worked out, and while my heart still clenches up at the memory, you’re here. You’re in my arms. And I feel everything getting better.”

“Seeing Zarkon. The one who flew the black lion, the one who betrayed everyone. Even as I watched Allura torture him, I wanted to stop her, but if that had been me, if I had betrayed everyone relying on me…” Keith curled tighter into those long arms his lips dusting over a marking on Lance’s neck.

“I know.” Lance whispered, a shiver passing through him at that kiss. “But you aren’t like him. And I’m certainly not going to taint your mind, no matter how dark my thoughts get.”

“If you fell, I’d catch you. Every time.” Keith swore with a nuzzle of an Altean ear.

“You already do. I fall for you every day, and you catch me every time.” Lance smiled a little. “And I will do the same for you. I will protect you the best I can.”

“You do.” Strong pale fingers folded into tan slender ones, threading together as Keith lifted his legs, sighing with the warmth surrounding him.

“Glad you think so.” Lance looked down at their intertwined hands. “So don’t be afraid to ask me if you need something. You’re never going to inconvenience me. So ask. Curl to me when you need to. I like to feel needed, too.”

“I need you.” Keith turned his head up to him, twilight skies meeting the ocean waves as their eyes locked.

“You have me, Keith. For now, and for as long as you want.” He leaned in and pressed his lips to Keith’s forehead. “In any way you want me.”

“Make love to me.” Keith blushed, saying the words so simply. He had been getting flashes lately, deep intimate caresses in a field of white blossoms and a bond created reaching into each others’ souls. He longed to feel a connection as deep as he felt under the full Altean moon.

“I would never deny you that.” Lance kissed him and smiled against his lips. “As much as you want.”

“Do you remember white flowers?” Keith spoke in a soft tenor, indulging his rare moment of reminiscing about the mission. The more he healed from the scars, the more he opened about the memories they shared.

“Vividly.” Lance nuzzled his lips against one of Keith’s ears. “Especially what they did to you that night.” His eyes darkened at the memory of Keith’s body arching beneath his, the golden dust of the pollen giving his lavender skin a purple glow.

“I never felt more connected to you than that night.” Keith’s body tingled, basking in the memory of pure sensation. Lance’s touch, his taste, the way he moved with him, twisting their limbs around each other until he couldn’t tell where he stopped and where Lance began. They took of each other’s life force. Keith giving everything he’d taken, completing the circle. Completing ‘them’. “I want that with you.”

“Then I will make sure you have it with me.” Lance kissed him and smiled against his lips. “I will give it all to you. Everything.” He kissed him again and let his eyes start to close, as though he could channel the feelings from that night, though he knew there was something special about the ambiance at the time. It was something he couldn’t recreate. Not yet. Not now. But he would find a way.

“You feel up to it?” Keith studied Lance’s face. “I know all of this has been hard on us… I’m okay with just holding you if you’re not ready.” Keith leaned into Lance, listening to the waves. “This is perfect.”

“I mean I’m always ready to make love to you, you know. Especially since you proposed to me. Plus, we can make love on the beach and not get sand in weird places.” Lance chuckled and kissed him, pressing himself closer to Keith.

“Mmmhmm.” Keith purred. The low rumble a pleasant surprise to the half-Galra. He couldn’t remember the last time he allowed himself the simple comfort of, well, comfort.

Lance felt his heart speed up as the vibrations from Keith’s purring spread through his chest. Normally he would get aroused, but since Keith hadn’t purred in a while, the quickening of his pulse was more of excitement and relief than anything sexual. “Keith…”

“Hm?” Keith turned to him with lidded eyes, ears drooping.

“You’re so cute.” Lance whispered with a smile, keeping his arms around his lover. “Why don’t you sleep?”

“If I sleep, I can’t experience this.” Keith shifted to nuzzle his face into his neck. “I’m comforting you…”

“And you’re doing an amazing job,” Lance whispered and closed his eyes. “Just being with you is comforting to me, so if you’re tired, and you can sleep, then sleep.”

“So I don’t suck at this? Hunk said he can tell I’m trying. But I don’t hug him like this.”

“Well you better not hug Hunk like this. I don’t want to have to fight my best friend.” Lance chuckled and patted Keith’s back lightly. “You don’t suck at this at all.”

“He squishes when he hugs.”

“That’s ok. Just don’t hug him like this.” Lance pouted and pressed his face into Keith’s hair. “These hugs are for me and only me.”

The purring got louder and faster. “Did you learn how make the white chocolate lava cake?”

“I did. Well, I watched Hunk make one and took a lot of notes. I thought it would be better if we made the first one together.” Lance lifted a hand and traced the edge of one of Keith’s ears.

“Nng!” Keith’s ear flicked. Lance knew what he was doing; they’d been together too often for him not to know the sensitivity of his ears. He’d been exhausted since getting back. Bringing him back to his earlier request. He wanted love. He wanted Lance. He wanted to feed. The dull weight inside kept him dragging along. Keith knew it was more than just physical exhaustion, but he tried to hold out. Now, with their closeness mixing with the slow simmering heat, he knew he could ask. “I’m hungry, Lance.”

“Then you should eat. You’ve been holding back, haven’t you?” Lance let his finger trail along Keith’s jaw, stopping at his chin and lifting it enough to look down in those endless pools of violet. “Kiss me.”

“You’ll stop me from taking too much?” Keith breathed against moist lips.

“Yes. You won’t be able to take too much.” Lance dropped his hand from Keith’s chin. He leaned in and pressed his lips to the half-Galra’s.

“Mm.” Keith groaned with blissful contentment, their mouths crushed together. He pulled at Lance’s quintessence. A tickling buzz of sensation asking permission to take.

Lance allowed himself to let go. The lines on his cheeks glowed, and he moaned softly against the other paladin’s lips, letting him pull from him as needed.

Gold flecks ignited like a sunrise in his eyes. A rush darkened Keith’s rosy cheek as he drank Lance in, his throat bobbing thirstily with each deep draught.

Lance’s fingers slid into the hair at the back of Keith’s neck. He held him there a little while longer, letting him take what Lance could afford to give. “Nnn, Kitten.” With a gentle tug of that hair, the lines glow faded, and he pulled Keith’s head up. “There. That’s enough.”

Keith leaned after Lance, chasing the warm light pulled away from his wanting mouth. He hated the separation as much as he loved the connection. Cold. Lonely. Empty. His tether to Lance torn away. He whimpered.

Every time Lance gave Keith quintessence, the other man always seemed so sad when he had to stop. It caused the guilt to settle in his stomach, and each time he just wanted to give him more and more to keep the sadness at bay. But he knew better. They both did. And the whimpering or desolate expression never lasted long, so Lance had to steel himself against those sounds. “Keith…” He cupped one of his cheeks in his hands and brushed his thumb just under his eye as if the action could ease any of those negative feelings that showed on the smaller man’s face.

Keith fell against Lance’s hand. He took a moment to gather himself. He focused on power flowing inside, joining his cells, flowing into lungs and strengthening his heart. The beat becoming one with Lance’s gentle strum. “I love you.” He said as he always did, then laid his head against Lance’s neck, kissing and tasting the salt of his flesh. Keith rocked against him, kneading at thighs still wrapped in their flexible under armor while his hands moved up.

“I love you too.” Lance whispered and let his eyes close, allowing Keith to do whatever he needed to feel the love that he clearly felt. He dropped his hand from his cheek when the man moved, and he rested his hands against his hips, letting out a pitched gasp at the pressure against his thighs. “More than anything.”

“Hmm I know. You couldn’t do this for me if you didn’t.” Keith purred. With his anxiety over their separation all but forgotten, what remained was his need to be close to Lance. Keith’s dark eyes fluttered, and burned into Lance, glinting when his hand started to palm him through his suit.

Lance moaned and pushed his hips forward, trying to press himself against his hand despite the restriction of the suit. “Well, then luckily for both of us that I love you with my entire heart and soul.” He leaned in and placed what was supposed to be a gentle kiss to his lips but came as something more desperate.

“Lance…” Keith pleaded with just a name then crawled up on Lance’s lap.

“Have me, Kitten.” Lance slid a hand down his back. “As much as you want.”

Keith sat up and turned to press his back against Lance’s chest while lifting his hair off his neck. “Take it off?”

Lance’s eyes darkened, and he reached for the zipper, slowly pulling it down and exposing the pale flesh to the dim moonlight that came from the virtual beach. A soft silver light almost making Keith’s skin glow. And as he lowered the zipper more, he placed a kiss to the back of his neck.

“Lance…” Keith bent his body forward, moaning with each touch of Lance’s gilded lips. The tight confines suit, along with Keith rubbing the perfectly endowed curves of his ass into him, left very little to the imagination.

Lance moaned and pressed himself against Keith’s backside as he pulled the cloth over his shoulders and kissed one of them, his fingers sliding down his arms as he continued to remove the garment. “So sexy…”

“I-”

ALERT

ALERT

Keith fell back against Lance’s shoulder with a low growl. “I hate my life.”

Lance groaned and tilted his head back as he let out several quiet curses. “Well there goes that.” He muttered and helped Keith to his feet, fixing his clothing and looking at him. “We’ll have to continue this later.”

“I’m still…” Keith gave Lance a side long look. Those flecks in his eyes still glowed with Lance’s stolen life force, cheeks remained flushed, and his ears pressed back in blatant annoyance. So, he did the only thing he could, he pieced his armor on one disgruntled clip at a time. Whatever robeast that was out there was going to wish he’d never been created.

“Me too, but what can we do? If we’re late, we’ll never hear the end of it.” Lance snapped on his armor and sighed, taking Keith’s hand. “Think of the most unsexy thing you can, if that will help.” He whispered, pulling the other man out of the room.

“But I can smell you.” Keith pressed against Lance’s back as they rode the lift up. He didn’t stop the purr coming up as his nestled his head against his shoulder plate.

“I know. I can’t help that, but as soon as we’re done with whatever this is, I’ll fuck you until we pass out, okay? You just have to hold on for me.” Lance glanced at him and smiled just a bit. “Stay at my side until we’re in the lions…”

Keith groaned and leaned deeper into Lance. “Why do you talk like that when you know what it does to me?” Curious fingers traced under Lance’s armor. “You over me, pressing me into our bed…” Keith inhaled sharply but as soon as those doors opened, he stepped away, putting his helmet on with a turn and click. No one else but Lance had the privilege to see Keith post feeding, and while he couldn’t hide the effects it left on him physically, he could behave like a rational adult.

Lance was about to reply, but Keith was already out of the lift and halfway to Shiro. So he kept his mouth shut and followed him, ignoring Shiro’s arched brow and Pidge’s knowing smirk.

Keith sided up to Shiro while giving Hunk and Pidge a welcoming nod. “What’s happening?” Keith looked over the screens and arched a brow.

“We received an urgent distress signal.” Commented Veronica.

“We were in the area and decided to check it out.” In space terms ‘In the area’ normally means a few light years. The speed of their travel, even without wormholes, was still a hard concept for Keith to grasp. A few years ago, it took months for them to get to their outer solar system, now that was the equivalent of getting out of bed.

“And?” Keith pushed, trying to hide his irritation at the clipped report.

“It’s old. We’re still trying to figure out the Atlas’ sensors, but this radio wave is ancient.” Shiro finished.

“This is a region of highly ionized gas. A radio signal, while unlikely—though that doesn’t really seem to matter much these days, could technically be bouncing around between ionized clouds forever and never dissipate into space.” Pidge stood up on her toes and looked over Veronica’s shoulder.

“So like space tennis.” Provided James with a raised finger, genuinely proud of himself. Keith chuckled.

Lance crossed his arms and snorted, his eyes narrowing marginally in Keith’s direction before he looked back at the screens, trying to focus on the important, science-sounding words being said, and not Keith’s laugh at James.

“So a false alarm?” Keith folded his arms over his chest.

“For the most part.” Shiro nodded. “But we’re going to explore the region anyway. We’re waiting on Allura to wake up and sitting around isn’t getting anything done.”

“Allura’s not going to be waking up any time soon…” Lance’s brows furrowed as he looked at the screen. He was sure he had seen this planet before, his face pressed against a shuttle window as he watched a planet get destroyed. A moment when he thought he had no reason to live. He clenched his fist at his sides and remained quiet.

“I know, which is why we might as well-” Shiro trailed off, noticing a sudden shift in Keith’s posture. He tensed. His shoulders arching as he backpaddled a single step. “Keith?”

Keith swallowed, but his throat didn’t move beyond the tremor rising up, stemming from a cold claw hooking into his stomach. He knew this star system. The claw started to scratch its way up his spine, cutting grooves into his vertebrae with subzero talons. Each slow crawling scratch getting closer to his rapidly pounding heart. He tried to squeak out Lance’s name.

He was still staring at the planet on the screen, a familiar rock starting to weigh down in his stomach, but Lance’s head snapped to the side when he heard the alarm in Shiro’s voice. Keith was clutching his chest, doubled over and trembling. He moved immediately to his side, his hand on his back as he tried to soothe his boyfriend. “Keith?” He rubbed Keith’s back as though that would calm the other man enough to help him catch his breath despite the armor. “Talk to me, Keith.”

“T-t-Tralgnar…” Keith’s voice shook against his will.

“I know. I know. But Keith, we’re here, we’re safe” Lance kept rubbing his back. He tried his best to focus on comforting Keith instead of letting himself dwell on the fear and heartbreak that seemed to lace Keith’s voice “Look at me, see? We’re okay.”

“It… should be gone. Destroyed. We... it...” Keith lifted his head as a large dead planet loomed on the screen. Each detail coming into dreaded focus, the absent atmosphere allowing them a clear view into the pox-marked surface. Dried river valleys, reaching mountain ranges, and vast bottomless strip mines covered the topography. Keith knew this Tralgnar was not the same one he lived on. This planet belongs to the reality they lived in, but the similarities had been enough.

“I know.” Lance whispered and wrapped his arm around Keith to steady him. “But look at me, not at the screen.” He glanced over at Shiro before focusing attention on Keith once more.

Keith couldn’t tear his eyes away, and when Shiro killed the screen, he jumped up, almost cracking his helmet against Lance’s chin. “I have to go down there!”

“Why?” Lance kept his voice soft as he turned Keith to look at him, as though Keith hadn’t almost just knocked him out with that sudden jump. “Why do you have to go down there? And do you think I’m going to let you go alone?”

“I-I just...” Keith growled through his mask, his teeth chattering and gritted at the same time. “I have to. I need to see it.”

Hunk stepped forward, hand up as though bracing for an attack. “Keith. Man, this won’t be the same.”

“It’s close enough!” He snapped at the larger paladin then winced, calming his voice. “I have to Hunk.” His tone carried a controlled apology.

Lance kept as neutral of an expression on his face as Keith spoke to Hunk. He concealed his worry and his frustration, and he simply sighed. “I’ll take him down there. We’ll take Red. He’s going to go whether we want him to or not, even if he won’t give any of us a reason.” He grunted and took Keith’s hand and held it tightly, more to keep the other paladin from storming off. “Shiro, I’ll keep my com open okay? Call me if there’s any reason we need to come back.”

“Is that going to be a good idea?” Shiro dared, standing straighter. He didn’t shy away from putting authority in his voice. “If something happens, we don’t have the ability to use Voltron and with Allura out-”

“I’ll be with Lance.” Keith pulled out of Lance’s grip but kept his hand on his arm. “If anything happens Red will get us back.”

“The distress signal was distorted by age. We only picked it up because of the sensitive tech built into the Altas.” Veronica stepped over from her station and eyed her baby brother. “You aren’t going to find anything down there but ruins and dust.”

“Maybe that’s what he needs to see.” Hunk stated softly. The bridge went silent as Hunk continued talking. “Look, we forced these guys to take on a burden. They got that stone thing, and because of them we’ve done so much and saved so many lives. Shiro, Lance, Allura, and Keith… everyone has suffered losses. I can’t imagine how Keith feels, but I know he feels like he’s lost himself.”

“Hunk-” Keith started to whisper.

“No no no. Listen. Keith you give everyone everything you can. You risk so much. You think we don’t notice but I do. You back away from what you really want so someone else can be happy. And you know, it’s not right.” Hunk turned to their former leader. “Shiro, I know it’s risky but if Keith can get anything back that he lost or even gain something from this. Let him go. Pidge and I can be on standby.”

Lance looked at his sister before his head turned a little. He listened to the conversation without so much as a twitch of his lips. The hand that had been holding Keith’s until he pulled it away remained limp at his side. “You don’t need to be on standby.” He said after a long pause.

“But Lance…” Veronica started but stopped when Lance turned to face her.

“There’s nothing down there but ruins and dust, Right?” Lance kept his voice steady. He refused to betray how he really felt about all this. How it wasn’t the best idea. How Keith being so vague was affecting him. How easily Hunk was able to read Keith when he himself struggled with that at times. He shook his head and started to walk away from them. “The sooner we go, the sooner we can get back.” There was a layer of ice in his voice that almost made him wince, but he pushed it off.

“All right. Go. But be careful.” Shiro sighed, closing his eyes. He didn’t like this any more than Lance did. Keith told Shiro about their mission and judging from his clenched jaw Keith didn’t spare Shiro the details.

“Thank you.” Keith retreated beside Lance and squeezed his fingers when he took his hand. “Let’s go.”

Lance held Keith’s hand as he led him to the hangar. He kept quiet as Red’s head lowered and the maw opened to let them in. He could practically see Keith’s ears twitching through the helmet like he was incredibly stressed and spooked, so he pulled the smaller man into his lap and set off for the planet. Though part of it was to calm the anger welling up inside of him.

What should have been an atmosphere with an eerie green glow was now just a void. Nothing. And as Red flew closer to the surface, he could see broken shells of buildings. There was no pop of color, no signs that this had once been a place full of any kind of life. Grays, browns, dull, bronzed greens. Nothing stood out. Nothing moved, and when he landed, the dirt and dust that was kicked up swirled around Red’s paws from the impact before falling back to the ground. “Keith…”

“How is any of this still standing?” Keith whispered, jerking his helmet off his head. The confinement was suffocating him. He crawled off Lance’s lap. His ears pressed against his head and dipped down as he pressed his hand to the monitor. Red set them down in the center of the city. Keith’s eyes focused on the horizon, bouncing with the skyline he knew so well. Smokestacks still reached into the empty black space, no longer outlined by emerald lightning and toxic clouds. Most of them were broken now, blasted to pieces by ten thousand years of neglect, but one stood tall, proud with monumental status.

“There’s nothing here to knock it down or erode it.” Lance watched the back of Keith’s head, ignoring the gnawing feeling in his gut. “We shouldn’t stay too long…”

“Open the hatch.” Keith glared at his helmet as though offended, but picked it up.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea.” Lance made no move to do anything just yet.

“Why? There’s nothing out there.” Keith countered.

“That’s what I’m worried about.” Lance sighed and watched him. “There’s nothing there, but look at how it’s impacting you. What if going out there is worse?”

“What are you saying? How am I impacted?” Icy claws clutched Keith’s heart, threatening the very warmth inside him. As if Lance could even begin to understand. He had the life he wanted. He had power, wealth, and born into royalty. Keith? What did Keith have? His lip snarled up.

Lance watched the way Keith seemed to curl into himself a bit, so he rested his hand on the other man’s back and sighed. “Look at how this is affecting you. You’re pulling away from me, you’re agitated and anxious. Did I do anything to make you feel badly? I’m here supporting you, but you seem angry with me.”

“What the hell are you talking about!” Keith barked but stopped as if his whole body froze over. Lance was right. Bitterness, anger, and so much hate. Feelings Keith dealt with long ago burned hot under the surface of his skin. They turned his stomach, placing a sour taste in his mouth. “Lance, I…” The helmet dropped from his hand with a clack on the floor. “I’m sorry.” Those thoughts hadn’t been Keith’s. Keith never blamed Lance for anything. He had no more control over their fated mission than Keith did.

“You’re right. I need to calm down.” These feelings, they were from ‘him’. “How? How are you so calm?”

“I’m calm because you’re not. Because you need me to be stable for you.” Lance took his helmet off and carefully pulled Keith back onto his lap. He shook his head a bit as he held him close. “You need me to be your rock. To support you. You’re trembling, so you need me to be stable for you.” He rested his forehead against Keith’s shoulder and sighed. “But just because I seem calm doesn’t mean I am. I’m terrified, you know. But you don’t need that right now. You don’t need to worry about me because you’ve got so much more at stake here.”

“You…” Keith closed his eyes and exhaled looking at his hands until they became steady. “I need to see this place. I need to because he needs to.” Keith breathed out a long calming breath. “He’s held on to so much pain from this place. I feel it because he felt it.” Keith laid his head against the side of Lance’s, letting the warmth of his cheek thaw the burning chill inside of him. “He gave me you. I need to give him this. No matter how much it hurts.” And god did it hurt. “I know it’s not the real place, but the feelings it creates… it doesn’t matter. To him it’s real.”

“Keith…” Lance closed his eyes and took a deep breath before he carefully lifted his head enough to rest his chin on Keith’s shoulder. He could feel tears stinging his eyes. All their healing. All their work. And this is what was happening now? It was as though none of it happened. Like they were back at the beginning, and it twisted inside of him. “You...” But he bit back his comment and sighed again. “…If that’s what you want.”

Keith swallowed and took his time with his next words. “I need this closure, Lance. Those things that happened here. I have to face them, or I’ll be like this the rest of my life. His memories…” Keith closed his eyes and turned his head, knowing what Lance wanted to hear. “O-our memories have so much anger and hate inside of them. It’s overpowering sometimes and if I don’t face them, I’m going to be stuck fighting his rage my whole life. I don’t want that, Lance. I do so much fighting. I’m always fighting. Eventually, I’m going to lose.”

Lance swallowed down the darkness that rose in his throat at those words, and he held him a little closer. “All right.” He had concerns, of course. What if this meant Keith wouldn’t be himself anymore? What if this was more damaging than helpful? What if Keith resented him for all of this and decided it would be better to leave him? Voicing any of it wouldn’t do Keith any good, so he just nodded.

Keith studied Lance again, those eyes boring into him, stealing his secrets as if he had no business having them in the first place. “I know you’re just going along with this. I know you don’t agree with anything I’m doing. If I wouldn’t kill you for trying, you’d tie me up and throw me in the cargo hold and fly me off as far away from this planet as you could take me. I know because if this was reversed, I’d be thinking and feeling the same way.” Keith had to defuse this situation, he needed to lighten the oppressing atmosphere. “It’s not all bad. Being here. Look.” Keith pointed, and Red’s monitor froze from its constant flicking of city streets, sensing her former paladins request and granting it. “Do you know that cross section?”

There was no point in retorting Keith’s words. The way Keith voiced it wasn’t quite what Lance was feeling or thinking, but it was close enough for him to just grunt in admission. He looked at the screen, his nose scrunching as he tried to place the ruined streets and dilapidated shells of what were once tall buildings. “Is that where the guards caught you?” His arms remained around him, and he kept his chin on Keith’s shoulders. How was this ‘not all bad’? But the question never passed his lips. He already knew how Keith would answer it.

“Yes. When I saw you, my world stopped, and my life changed.” Keith moved his hand and the image shifted to a lower building built into the ground.

Lance felt his insides settling, so he closed his eyes and gave Keith a gentle squeeze. “You know, I felt that way when I saw you in the prison. I hadn’t really gotten a good look at you until then. I just wanted to see who was bold enough to try what you did.” He carefully nuzzled Keith’s shoulder.

“I was covered in fifth! How could you tell?!”

“Your eyes. They seemed to bore right into me, and since that moment, I was yours.”

“I’ve always had these eyes.” Keith turned on Lance’s lap, wrapping his arms around his shoulders so he fit like a backward backpack.

“I know. They’re what got me when we were kids, too.” Lance looked at him and touched one of his cheeks just under his eye.

The sigh Lance’s touch triggered whispered of longing. Golden light sparked like glittering embers in his irises. “And that night, when you took me out of there…”

“I never felt so complete before, even if I wasn’t allowed to kiss you.” Lance slowly moved his finger down to Keith’s jaw. “But otherwise it was perfect.”

“You can kiss me all you want, now.” Keith teased, easing into the new flow of their conversation. “What did you see then, versus what you see now?” Behind him the dead alien streets clicked by as the Red Lion’s feed continued to flash satellite and street view images on the screen behind them.

Lance pulled his hand back for a moment before he reached up and touched a strand of his feather-like hair. “Then, you had a lot of anger and resentment, but behind all that was desperation, hope, and something else I couldn’t quite pinpoint. You wanted to be loved but were too afraid to let yourself love. You wanted to be held, touched, praised, but you refused to open up. Something about that contradiction pulled me in. Now? Now it’s those same needs and desires, but there’s something more. You’re not mistrusting or afraid of me. You’re a bit more possessive, though you do your best not to show it. You look at me like someone who would do anything to stay by my side. And you let me kiss you.” He leaned in and kissed him.

Keith kissed Lance back, closing his eyes allowing the respite until he broke them apart. “Would the man standing before you, ever turn his back on you?” A grin curved his lips, cocky and self-assured.

“Hmmm?” Lance leaned towards Keith’s lips when he pulled them away. “Why would you want to do that?” He asked, cheeks flushed, eyes starting to darken. “Though you’re sitting on me, not standing before me.” He needed that momentary lightness. Something to take his mind off the dread he still felt in the pit of his stomach.

Keith traced Lance’s lips with a trailing claw before pressing in and pulling the bottom lip down. “You are afraid I would. I’m asking you… if you ever think I could.”

“I…don’t think you could, or would, even if I’m afraid of it.” Lance whispered. “Just like I don’t think you’d leave me for someone else, though that is my biggest fear.”

“Kqu’Ma,” The Galra purred. “My greatest fear is that I’m going to open my eyes and find myself in another pod, and you’ll be standing outside of it, looking in, never having been with me in the first place.” Keith carded his fingers in Lance’s hair. “That out in the infinite universes, there’s a place where you don’t want me. A reality where we never met. A place you could never love me back. A reality where you didn’t get into that pod. I’m afraid… that there’s a version of me out there that never learned your touch. I’m afraid of waking up in it…” Keith kissed Lance’s forehead.

Lance closed his eyes. “Those places might exist, but those are not our places. There may be thousands of realities where you never love me, but you do here. Now. And I love you. That’s all I need. You don’t have to worry about any of those things. Though I honestly can’t imagine a me that doesn’t love you.”

Keith continued to comb his fingers back into soft burn honey hair. “And I will protect this with everything I have. I want to protect us. It’s selfish, and I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but I know that today I have to do everything I can. Even if it means marching out there in to that hellscape to kill the last of my demons…”

“But you…” Lance bit his lower lip as he tried to formulate his thoughts. “I won’t let you do that alone, you know? I can’t.”

 

“I’m not asking you to let me do it alone.” A finger dragged over the under edge of Lance’s ear. “I’ve never asked to do this alone. I can’t do this without you.”

“No? You sure seemed like you would have if I didn’t speak up earlier.” Lance’s ear twitched at the touch. He held Keith a little closer in his lap and pressed his forehead against the other man’s. “And what if something goes wrong out there? Will you listen to me if I try to take you back?”

“All right, but you have to give me two chances. You’re as protective as me as I am of you. So knee jerk actions aren’t allowed.” Keith purred, trying to ease Lance, despite the shaking he felt only moments before.

“Two?” Lance sighed and slid his hand up his back, trying to find some comfort in their closeness and Keith’s purring. “Keith, I…”

“Hm?” Keith figured he was asking too much. He knew Lance would want to run out of here at the slightest sign of complication, but Keith had to see this through to the end.

“But once it’s two, you’ll come with me, right? You won’t fight me. You won’t get angry with me?” Lance rested his hand on the back of Keith’s head, his fingers threading between the strands. “And, even if it’s not two, will you trust me enough to at least listen if I think it’s really bad?”

“You have my word. I will go. You have permission to drag me out kicking and screaming if you have to.” Keith’s purr increased in volume with Lance’s fingers curling in his hair. He stayed like this for a few long ticks. Those eyes turning serious when he lifted from Lance’s chest. “But we should go, now.”

“All right. Will you at least hold my hand?” Lance pulled his fingers from Keith’s hair and looked at him, a slight pout pushing out his lower lip.

Keith darted in and stole a quick kiss before popping in helmet on and getting off Lance’s lap. He held his hand out with wiggling fingers. “Here. Take it. I won’t let go.”

Lance pulled his helmet on after that kiss and took Keith’s hand. He squeezed it gently before leading him out of Red and onto the dusty ground. His eyes narrowed as they adjusted to the unfiltered light from distant stars above, and he looked around at the scattered ruins of buildings. He felt a pang of something unpleasant as his eyes looked for something familiar.

Chapter Text

Atmosphere…Toxic

Soil pH balance … 3

Radiation… 8sv

Keith’s helmet lit up with caution signs, buzzers, alarms, and every environmental warning able to flash.

“No place like home.” Keith grunted with his typical dry sarcasm as he silenced the alarms. “Ever so humble.” His last words hung on a grunt as he dragged their bodies over the remains of a fallen apartment complex, with one hand around the clawed foot of a gargoyle, and the other firmly around Lance’s hand.

He settled to catch his breath leaning against the broad stone flank of the decorative beast. The three eyed creature stared up into the sky, no longer able to take vigil of the street buried below the building from which he grew.

Keith’s slender fingers stroked over the monster’s nose, and gave it a solid tap on the head. “A bit of a fixer upper though.”

Lance frowned at the red warnings in his HUD, and he snorted a bit with Keith’s quip. The sarcasm wasn’t enough to distract him completely from the flashing words that only indicated how dangerous coming to this planet had been. But he could at least play along for Keith’s sake.. “Yeah, well, at least the air pollution isn’t bad?” He shook his head and clenched his free fist at his side as he stood next to Keith and tried to keep his breathing as even as possible, though his lungs struggled to suck in air. “What do you want to look at? We don’t have much time.”

“The Pits.” Keith whispered scanning the dystopian streets. His eyes didn’t see the ruins or shelled out homes. He saw a thriving metropolis, choking itself in its greed. He smelled the venders serving up street flavored delicacies to curious tourists with easy-to-pick pockets. He heard children laughing and crying in the streets shouting out the names of their favorite Paladins. He knew each vivid detail, and the muscle memory of his urban life rushed back to him, forcing him to side step hurdles which hadn’t existed in ten thousand years.

Lance walked, not completely following in Keith’s footsteps since he didn’t step over things that weren’t there. A step to the side, a longer stride or a shorter one. He wasn’t sure why the other man moved so strangely, but the atmospheric warnings and levels hadn’t changed on his HUD, so he wasn’t sure what was really going on. He let Keith lead him as far as he needed to. He had never actually been to The Pits beyond a shady meeting or two, so he relied entirely on the other man.

“Lance,” Pidge’s voice piped over his com. “We’re on a private communication link. I’m syncing you to Keith’s vitals.” A line image of Keith vitals showed on Lance’s visor. “What’s going on down there? His heart rate is rising fast.” Keith’s body temperature ran in the red, not horribly alarming. Lance had intimate knowledge of Keith being a living furnace. However, his heart rate was nearing 150, jumping rapidly to 160 where it evened out.

In front of him Keith squeezed his fingers. “We’re here.” His heart rate spiked then dropped.

Was that why Keith was walking oddly? Lance watched another fluctuation in Keith’s heart rate, and he rested his free hand on Keith’s back. “I’m with you, no need to be so anxious.” He said, making sure Keith’s breath didn’t quicken. “Pidge, it’s ok. I’ll call you if something goes wrong.” He murmured before he focused his gaze on the other man. “What do you need to see?” He ignored the rubble and crumbling walls that surrounded him and just focused on his lover.

Wild eyes danced around the broken-down cityscape seeing laundry, cables, smoke stacks, and signs of life Lance couldn’t fathom. This person standing at these crossroads morphed into a being other than the strapping young Black Paladin. A submissive slouch set into Keith’s shoulders, he moved in closer to Lance and suddenly there stood the Galra street rat. The fanged grimace on his lips, the narrowed expression, and jaded eyes did not belong to the Keith Lance lifted out of the pod.

“Altean,” Keith whispered, “There. Bordo.” He pulled Lance in closer as he pointed his finger out toward a single story building.

Lance stumbled when Keith tugged on him, biting his lip to keep from saying anything about the change in his demeanor. He was moving differently, slouching when Keith normally stood proud. The hand that clutched his no longer crushed his fingers in a vice grip, but more like the hold of someone just trying to get his attention. This was Keith, but it also wasn’t Keith, and Lance felt his heart sink. “…What?” Bile rose in his throat, but he forced it down. He knew voicing his worries wouldn’t accomplish anything, so he just looked in the direction the other man pointed.

“Here…” Keith stopped at the doorway, the place was dark, frozen in time with some graffiti painted on the walls. The dark recesses remaining untouched by the sun’s bleaching rays. Warped glass littered the floor alongside stone and metal tables.

The ground shook, and in the distance an echo of falling buildings rumbled down the streets, causing glass and furniture to rattle. “Guys, the integrity of the planet is falling apart. The structure of this planter is as fragile as shale. The presence of the red lion offset some kind of balance, you need to get out of there.” The smaller paladin didn’t take notice of Pidge’s warning and ventured further.

Keith’s boots crunched underfoot, echoing like shattering glass and in time to the rapid beats of his stressed heart. The crashing notes getting faster and louder down a narrow corridor until they came to a squat door. He reached out and pressed his fingertips against the planks. The wood, petrified by age, gave way with a audible creak. A 7x9 room sat beyond. The back wall now a hill of rubble with a view into the alley.

“It started here, with Bordo. Not even a lock on the door. Anyone could have come in at any time. Anyone could have saved me.” Over all the broken stone and cracked walls, Keith’s fingers found one round shaped divot in the mortar. “I was right here.”

Lance looked at what seemed to be the only building still standing, despite how ruined some of the walls looked. He clenched his free hand into a fist when Keith stepped to that doorway and peered inside. He winced at Pidge’s words, but he knew he couldn’t respond. Not when Keith was already inside, pulling him through the dilapidated hallway. He tried to squeeze Keith’s hand and stop him, but he was afraid to use his new Altean strength and hurt him. He grunted when there was another beep from Keith, telling them they needed to move, but he could see Keith wasn’t going to listen, so he whispered a soft “I know, I’m trying, Pidge” before he shut up again. He knew he wasn’t truly trying. If he wanted to, he could have picked Keith up and run back to Red with only the pounding of Keith’s fists on his armor and helmet. But he promised Keith. Two warnings.

This was too dangerous, but he followed him, listening to his words, his eyes narrowing at the chip in the wall. He felt that far off darkness start to swell in his chest, and his fist only clenched harder until the armor creaked. “Keith. We can’t stay here.” Warning one.

Keith froze, the only acknowledgment he gave to Lance’s concern. “You care about him a lot, you want to protect him… He hates me you know. Keeps me buried and hidden away. He’s afraid of me, of allowing me fully in. Everyone is always trying to protect him or save him. Why didn’t anyone protect me, Lance?” Keith’s fingers traced the outer edge of the divot.

Him. Not me. Him. Lance felt ice spread through his body. Following his blood and clutching his heart, squeezing it in a vice grip. His fingers slacked in Keith’s hand, though he didn’t let go. Of course, if Keith did, Lance’s arm would just fall limply to the side. His heart beat should have been loud, thunderous in his ears, but it was almost as if he couldn’t feel it. Couldn’t feel anything. Eyes dulled as they watched the smaller man in front of him. Forced breathing. Forced, calm, controlled breathing. He channeled a feeling he knew he shouldn’t let take over. A detachment. Something his alternate self relied on time and time again. “I don’t know.” His voice lacked intonation. He spoke like someone watching this whole scene from a distance. Passive. Cold. “People are selfish and cruel and look out for their own interests.”

“Is that what you’re saying about him, Altean? Or is that what you’re saying about me? Or them?” The red helmet turned to Lance. “You?”

“You asked a question. I answered it to the best of my knowledge.” Lance looked at him, almost tried to see through him to see that mark on the wall. His lips were trembling when he didn’t speak, and tears wet his cheeks, but he paid them no mind.

“Are you happy with me shuttered away?” Keith closed his eyes and squeezed his palm shut. “So, I don’t exist. I never existed. The boy here, never deserved anything more than dying against this wall, like a pinned insect? Is that what you want?”

“No. And if you’re asking me those questions, and if you truly believe those ideas sound like things I would want…that any version of me would want…you don’t know me. You haven’t been listening to me at all.” Lance turned his head to this side.

“I was never here, not against this wall. I was in another world. Different from this, but the same. The boy here. This boy… never made it off this wall until they tossed away the corpse. In comparison I suppose I was lucky.”

“I think things like that. Lucky me. I’m glad I’m not him. He was weak so he died. Your Keith would never have ended up here in the first place. That’s why he resents me. That’s why I’m torn away from him and kept out of reach. I don’t blame him. I’m him but a broken part of him. A fragment left on the jeweler’s floor for the sake of sculpting the perfect gem.”

Lance grimaced and slowly turned his head to look back at the other paladin. Not paladin. Whatever was happening here. The ice continued to chill his heart all while those tears kept sliding down his cheeks. “I don’t know what you want me to say to any of this.”

“What do you want to say?”

“I don’t know…” Lance shook his head and sighed. He really wasn’t sure what he should say, or what he could bring himself to say. Could he explain how this was making him feel without coming off accusatory? Could he talk about how Keith’s earlier words hurt him without making the other man get angrier with him than he already seemed to be. He looked at Keith and frowned. “And I don’t know what I can say to you right now. If I tell you this upsets me, are you going to think it’s because I want you to disappear and leave the perfect you behind? If I try to comfort you, are you going to say it’s fake? I knew coming here wouldn’t be a good idea. This just makes me think I was right.”

“He wants to make you happy. He knows you’d be sad if I wasn’t here. Because you accepted the other part of you without resistance. While he pushed me away and wished I’d go away. But he opened up to me for you. For him. He didn’t want to be afraid of the memories you shared. But…” Keith’s heart rate jumped, flashing red on Lance’s screen but dying down. “He can’t handle those darker parts of me. The parts you accepted so willingly… but he is here, aware. He’s alert, and he wants to help me. God.” Keith laughed. “How do you put up with such a ‘hero’ all the damn time? The fucked up thing, is that he knows! He knows I can see all of this! He knows this would bring me out! He let… me… see… everything…”

“Then rely on me for those darker parts. I’m not happy if he…you…are in pain, you know. I went to be helpful. I want to be relied on.” Lance sighed and looked at Keith. “And what do you see? This isn’t that place even though it looks like it, right? So talk to me. Tell me what’s happening because I don’t understand.”

“I see pain. I see the start of a life I never wanted because I couldn’t give up living. I see that stinking Galra face and every Galra after… what they did. What they’ve done.” His heart raged faster and faster.

Lance shook his head and rested his free hand on Keith’s shoulder. “None of that is here now. Look at me, then look again.”

Keith jumped and lifted his eyes staring at Lance, trying to figure him out. “What am I supposed to see?”

“I want you to try to look at the present, and the future, without getting lost in the past. So look at me.” Lance squeezed Keith’s hand and kept the other on his shoulder. “There are parts of me that were your past. Focus on that if you must, but I’m your now, and I’m your future, right? We’re going to get married. We’re going to be together forever. So look at me.”

“I’m always looking at you. Then and now.” Keith slumped his back against the wall. “I’ve always loved you, and I’ve always seen only you. You’ve been the only one to ever reach for me. Ask for me… get upset when he denies me. What if, I just stay here… I’m the one you want. I’m the one who got you to notice him. That was this side of me in that hotel room, and in that flowerbed.”

“That’s a cruel question and you know it. You already know the answer. You already know what I’m going to say because it’s what I’ve been saying the whole time. and yet you still asked.” Lance didn’t let go of the hand he was holding, but he dropped his other hand from Keith’s shoulder. “There is no you or him. You’re both one in the same. And if you’re going to make me choose between these sides of you, then are you going to accept only one side of me? Are you going to want me to separate and be either me or him?”

“Your choice wasn’t difficult. You had it easy.” Keith spat with a dose of venom. “You just accepted everything. This… this guy? This righteous, idiot. He’s out there slamming himself into planets, joining renegade Galra all for the sake of you. And them. Even all this!? This… isn’t about me. Being here. It’s about you. What he wants to do for you.” Keith shook his head. “He’s an idiot. A sweet, caring moron. Who doesn’t deserve what I’ve done to him.”

“What…?” Something flashed in Lance’s eyes. Some familiar feeling he felt earlier, but squashed down. Now it bubbled to the surface, twisting his expression from one of mild sadness to something much darker. Much angrier. “Don’t fuck around with me right now. I had it easy, so you did some stupid fucking shit for my sake?” He clenched his free fist and squeezed Keith’s hand a little tighter than before, but not enough to hurt him. “This is for MY sake? I didn’t want this! I told you flat out that I didn’t want this. And yet….” He felt his body shaking with that feeling as it started to consume him.

The morose tone settling in on Keith evaporated the second Lance’s voice, hot and angry, burned it away. “Then what do you want Lance? Do you even understand the man you’re in love with? Do you understand how much it tore him apart when he saw what I made him do to that Galra base? You want both, you want us.. you want him to be me and for me to him and for us to just come together. But you don’t get it. He’s been telling you since day one.” The ground rumbled again forcing Keith off his feet and to the floor, laying against it and tilting his head up at Lance, still clutching his hand.

“You … I see you. I see your past, and I see you now. And the future terrifies me. How much of him are you willing to lose if he lets me in. Will you counter my hate for a species I’m part of? I hate the Galra. I’ve always hated the Galra. I enjoyed my work from Kala because I got to kill those bastards. I enjoyed working for you because most of those people were Galra or associated with Galra. I have no love for anyone part of what killed the only thing… I’ve ever loved. Watching you die. Watching them swarm in their ships like locusts. I even laughed when Allura tortured Zarkon.”

Lance’s hand went slack in Keith’s as he took the verbal beating. Quiet. Staring down at the man and not even reacting when the ground shook and the smaller man sank to the ground. He held himself steady, the frown remaining on his lips as that darkness spread inside of him. “So, this is my fault then?” He spoke, his voice still laced with anger, but there was a level of resignation there. Like there was a part of him that just couldn’t listen to this anymore. “In one breath, you cut me down. I don’t understand. I’m the one who hasn’t been listening. I’m the reason for all of this. The decisions of the past. This decision now. In the next, you claim to see me. But you don’t see me. If this is how you feel. If this choice is something you want to put on me, you’ve never seen me.” He shook his head and closed his eyes. “You threaten me with losing something, but what are you willing to lose because of all this? Because if you’re going to take what I love away from me, what’s going to stop me from retaliating?”

“I wasn’t threatening.” Keith sighed. “A threat is something I can control.” His voice came over the com so small. “That’s why we’re here. Right? To face those demons. To quell the darker emotions that scare him.” Keith closed his eyes and turned his head to the sided. “Fuck.” Keith grit his teeth. “I hate this room. I fucking hate this room!” He slammed his fist down, and his bayard warped in his hand. “I hate this place! I HATE THIS ROOM!” He cried with raw pain and started to fire the giant blaster, made to be even larger because of the rage roiling inside, and he kept clicking the trigger until nothing remained of the four walls or the tavern beyond. Nothing but smoldering rock and trembling child in the armor of a man as he struggled to hold himself.

Lance opened his eyes again when Keith started to yell, but he didn’t flinch when several blasts whizzed past him and destroyed the wall behind him. “Is it working?” His voice was soft. Any earlier anger seeming to have completely disappeared. Once again, hot tears slid down his cheeks as he watched Keith with a mix of emotions. “Is this what you wanted? Are you facing your demons and quelling your darker emotions?” He shook his head and crouched to the ground when Keith was done with his fit. He carefully rested his hand on the one that held the blaster, and he looked at him. “We should go back to Red. This is too much.”

Keith gasped with a sharp inhale, slumping forward more as his hand dug into the dirt at his feet, the blaster vanishing. The sobs were broken gasps as the man cried, trembling and grasping for each precocious inhale. “H-how do I make it stop Lance?”

“I don’t know.” Lance kept a hold of both of Keith’s hands. “I don’t know how to help you. I don’t know what to say that won’t anger or upset you. What can I possibly do that will make this better and not worse?” He rested his helmet against Keith’s and sighed. “I’m scared, Keith. It feels like I’m losing you, and it seems like there’s nothing I can do to stop that. So tell me what you need from me. Tell me what I can do. Please.”

Keith shook his head. “I don’t know. You were right.” The paladin started to sound more like himself, but there was an air of fatality in his voice. “This was a bad idea. This wasn’t what I wanted. I thought that if we saw it. I thought that if I was placed at the epicenter of the nightmares… It’d make a difference. Now? Now I’m just tired.”

Lance helped Keith to his feet, though he kept holding his hands. “Even if this part was a bad idea, maybe…” He bit his lip. “Maybe it needed to happen. I haven’t seen you freak out like that at all since this started. Maybe you needed to get it out.” He looked at him. “Maybe there’s still more to do. We both learned things about ourselves and each other today. We need to learn how to reconcile them. So what else do you think we should do before we go back?”

Keith didn’t want to stand up. He wanted to sit where he was, he didn’t have the will to move his legs or the desire to do much more than to go where Lance placed him. “Nothing got resolved. Nothing changed. I just…” Keith slipped one hand from Lance’s grip and walked to the lone pillar of rock, his free hand pressing against it as he saw Red standing motionless against the skyline. “I don’t feel anything. Just… tired. Is this what it means to break? After everything? Some long dead Galra sentry still has that kind of power… to just take everything from me? Again and again.”

“What power? It hasn’t taken everything from you, right? I’m still here.” Lance moved closer to him and rested his hand on Keith’s shoulder. “Keith, what is it you wanted to do or see down here? What were you hoping for? I’ll do my best to make it happen, but I need you to tell me.” He looked at the pillar Keith was touching. The little dig in the rock was still there. The spot he came to see. “I know…you don’t tell me a lot of things, but at least tell me this.”

“To find peace. To forgive myself. To forgive the horrible things I allowed to happen and the horrible things I allowed myself to do to others. Lance. I know you’re right. I know him, me, us, they… it’s all the same. We’ve talked about this enough times for you to know I know that, and I told you there are parts. Darker parts of him, I scared to let in. I’m scared to lose myself to them. You say you’ll support me, and I should rely on you, and I understand that too.” Keith sighed long and deep. “But it’s not that simple. I’m always the broken child. You always place me back together. But there a piece here, a piece missing and no matter what I do, I can’t find a place for it.”

“Maybe it’s not that simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.” Lance shook his head and hugged Keith from behind as well as he could with their armor and helmets preventing too much close contact. “And I know…there’s a part of you that resents me for being so accepting of all of this, but…I accepted the part of me that scares me the most because I knew at the very least I would have you, and you would keep loving me. Maybe that’s too simple, and maybe you can’t think in the same way. But that’s ok. Just…” He sighed and looked at the pillar. “What if you see it…? What if you need to see it. So you can let it go? So you can forgive yourself?”

Keith leaned his weight into the arms holding him. “I know you’d accept me. You’d follow me down to hell if I asked. I was creating my own walls to protect myself from admitting I can do those things. The sex aside. The way I used people. The way I would have used you if you hadn’t saved me. What could I see here? This place is dead. Everything here is dead. And…” Keith trailed his hand lower against the stone. “No one saved this one.” Keith’s fingers gently moved over the hole. The empty chill from the ship now crawling its way from his chest to grip his lungs. “Can feel it. Where Bordo pushed in here, and Kala appeared over there.” He pointed. “But in this reality, she never came.” Keith knew this truth as readily as he could breathe. He vibrated with it. A life associated to his own ended in the spot he stood. Not an alternate reality. Not a past life, but a life he supplemented. The owner of the life he supplemented in another realm’s distance past.

“You’re the one who saved me, you know.” Lance murmured and held Keith as best he could, still clutching one of his hands as though he was afraid he’d disappear. “Keith, I…Tell me. We’ll figure it out together.”

“How could we see it?”

“I don’t know. Maybe Pidge could help?”

“Pidge?” Keith cocked his head.

There was a long silence. “I know what you’re getting at Lance.” Pidge spoke through Lance’s com. “It’s impossible. Time is also a factor. Is what I’d like to say, but on Olkarion I saw what the planet wanted me to see. They’re ghosts though. Images of a past we can’t change. The planet is dead. There’s nothing there to pull from, but Keith sharing a connection might work as a conduit.”

“As a conduit?” Lance’s brows furrowed.

“Lance. You’re Altean.” Pidge whispered.

“But I’m not full Altean. Can I really use Keith as a conduit to show him what he wants to see?”

Keith watched Lance, his hand slipping around to rest on his. “It’s okay. Don’t put yourself at risk for this.”

Lance held Keith and squeezed his hand. “I will do it for you, but I don’t know what it will do. I don’t know how to. But I can try.”

Like Keith had any clue. He looked around himself. They sat in piles for petrified rubbish. This whole planet was nothing but trash, barely suited for the bowels of a passing weblumb. A poison. Better to let it drift, dead and cold than allow to be part of any universal building block. Keith didn’t want this place or anything about it to have any power over him. He wanted immunity against it. Vaccines are often made by pushing a dead virus into the body, so it learned how to fight against something it doesn’t grasp, but if it came at the expense of Lance’s wellbeing? The cost was too high.

“We should head back. This, isn’t what I wanted.” Keith shook his head, tugging Lance back in the direction of Red.

“I said I would do it.” Lance remained still, his hand clutching Keith’s as he looked at the spot on the wall. “You need it don’t you?” He focused, trying to concentrate on the mark left by the blade. He wasn’t sure how he would draw from the planet, and he had no idea how Allura channeled her energy to do it, but he could try, right?

The marks on his cheeks started to glow, the blue luminescence seeming to spread into his eyes as he closed them. Focus. Planet. Life. “Tell us your story…” he whispered, as though he could coax the dead to life.

“Lance, there’s nothing to pull from-“ Keith gasped, falling to his knees, an arm wrapping around his waist as his life force was dragged out of him, his predator eyes watched it as it came up from him in transparent coils. The quintessence he took from Lance now glowed a dark indigo, tainted by Keith’s aura. The vines lifted and spun in a pinwheel of light. Exploding in an iridescent rainbow of colors, pulsating with the beat of Keith’s heart. The spindly arms danced around Lance then wrapped him in a translucent cocoon.

A hulking figure came to life, leaning over the wall. He turned and stalked out of the room, pausing in front of Lance. Keith didn’t have to look at his face to know the words he spoke.

“Victory or Death. I hastened you to the only outcome people like you deserve.” Keith spoke it in time with Bordo’s lips.

There now, pinned to the wall, was a Half-Galran youth, barely out of adolescence. Keith stepped back as if he wanted to give the figure space. A cough, soundless to their ears, still had Keith feeling the rattle in his chest. Torn clothes, probably the best he could afford laid in shreds and hid no secrets. The unfortunate soul agreed to do business with a monster and a monster he was. Brodo did what he wanted then cut a sweet life short. Keith hadn’t seen it coming. He had no reason to. He willingly gave himself over, the soldier had no reason to hurt him. He never expected this. To be treated as meaningless trash. Garbage. Used and dumped.

Keith moaned in frustration as the visage flickered. He craned his neck around to what would have been the back of the room before Keith blasted it away. “Kala would have come from here.” She didn’t come. This boy had no one.

Lance opened his eyes, which continued to glow with the energy flowing from him and into the dead planet. He squeezed Keith’s hand and diverted some of it back to the half-Galran, in an attempt to replenish what was lost. But he focused on that image, and crystalline tears fell from his eyes, staining his cheeks with that same ethereal blue glow. “Poor thing…” He managed, his voice barely audible. “Poor thing. Rest now.” His free hand reached out to the image, which flickered the closer his fingers came to it. The waif was smaller than Keith, with shorter ears and lighter skin. There were only faint similarities to his lover and this image before him, but Lance still felt like he needed to comfort that sad visage. “I’m here.”

The image seemed to sink back with Lance’s touch. A calm entering the boy even though they both knew it was impossible. all the same the boy reacted, his eyes focusing up at Lance. Keith held his breath, though all he wanted to do was sob.

Lance watched the boy. He could almost feel that ethereal stare, though there was nothing malicious in that gaze. Just sadness, understanding, and maybe a little spark of hope. “I’m here, it’s okay.” He whispered before movement in the corner of his vision caught his eye.

The phantom door to the room slammed open, and an Altean boy ran into the room, eyes wide, and was instantly at the Galran boy’s side. Lance couldn’t hear what he was saying, but there was comfort there. It soothed him. “Is that…?” He glanced at Keith.

“I…” This is what would have happened to him had Kala not found him. The boy who never knew a shred of kindness or an ounce of peace until… Keith turned his head up to Lance. Then looked back at the two young men. The Altean was frantic. Scolding and crying as his hands franticly moved around the pole. Behind him another Altean, homely, yet laden with maternal charm came down to the boy, tears in her eyes as they started to work. The Galra didn’t take his eyes from the Altean. He was a slender thing. Obviously not born to riches, but better off than the Galra. He had short spiked up pale hair and bright green eyes. There was no doubt who that boy was. “That, how did… you? What did you do?”

“I don’t know.” Lance whispered as his brows furrowed. His eyes continued to glow as the Galra boy was freed from his confinement, and the Altean picked him up in his arms. “I didn’t…I didn’t think I could do that.”

“Did you?” Keith stood up. Eyes wide. “You. Always. It’s always you. Be it here. Or on the street, or at The Garrison. You’re always…” Keith crawled curled his arms around Lance, never feeling more aware of the distance their armor put between them. “Every life. Every timeline. If a part of me is suffering, and when hope is about to leave me, you come out of nowhere and…”

Lance’s eyes started to close, and he sank against Keith a little as the Altean boy carried the Galra out of the room and the image disappeared. The glow faded, and he sank in Keith’s arms, breath coming in shallow gasps. The tears kept flowing down his cheeks, but they lost the shimmer of his quintessence. The hand clutching Keith’s slackened, though his fingers were still curled as if he would rather die than let go. “I…I did it…I…”

“How, did you do it?” The air still held weight, but the miasma changed. Keith breathed in, his arms wrapping tighter around the waist of his lover, holding tight to his hand. Never in their fevered and rocky relationship had Keith wanted to find a private place for them as badly as he did now. He wanted to feel Lance’s skin. He wanted to press close and take all of him that he could and give it back only to receive it again ten-fold. He wanted to tear the armor aside and leave it abandoned in some dusty corner as Keith showed Lance with his body how much he ached for him. How much needed him. How much he loved him. Lance had no idea what he’d been doing when he took his quintessence from Keith, then pushed it back into his unexpecting Galra body. He bound himself to Keith. He tethered their lifeforce together and used that bond to reach out and save a child who was already doomed. A child deeply linked to Keith on plane science or magic couldn’t fully comprehend.

“I’m not really sure.” Lance somehow got the words out between breaths. The weight of Keith against him felt better, and it seemed to ease his lungs somehow, but he couldn’t open his eyes, nor could he stop the tears. His hands twitched, desperate to turn in his arms and hold him, but his body wouldn’t move. “I...I just wanted to make it better. I thought if someone saved him, then you would heal more, and…”

“You did. You were amazing.” Keith would be showering Lance’s sweet face with kisses if not for their helmets. As it was, he pressed their foreheads together and cupped the back of his neck, sending a string of his quintessence through the line Lance left open. Feel me. His heart rate calmed, and the chill ebbed away as Lance’s lifeforce sprang up in glorious shades of blue and reds. “There’s one more place I want to go. Can you walk, now?”

Warmth spread through him, and the lines on Lance’s face glowed brightly for a moment before they dimmed to nothing. “I can try.” He couldn’t help the moan that escaped his mouth when he spoke, and he forced his eyes open and tried to focus on Keith. “Don’t let me go?”

“I won’t. Not now. Not ever.” Keith shouldered Lance’s arm and hoisted the taller man up. “It’s not far. If it’s the same place.” A pang shot through the older paladin, causing him to falter. A familiar old sting forcing him to do the last thing he wanted. “We need to sever the link, Kqu’Ma. It’s getting dangerous for you to be connected to me.”

“Don’t be stupid.” Lance murmured and leaned against him, too tired for there to be any bite to his voice. “I refuse. That won’t happen. Stop talking like that.” He grimaced and glanced at Keith, brows furrowed. “Don’t tell me you won’t let me go in one breath and then try to get rid of me the next. You’ll give me a complex.”

“Eh? No! I mean…because of what happened.” Keith fumbled. “I’m hungry.” The pout on Keith’s lips audible through their com. “And you don’t have any quintessence left to spare.”

“You can’t pull from me right now anyway, so don’t worry about it.” Lance shook his head and relaxed a bit against him as they moved a bit. “But if you would feel better about it, I won’t stop you.”

“I can’t?” Keith contemplated, and went against his better judgement. “Okay. I’ll keep it open.” The two made their way through the ally, Keith baring most of the weight of Lance’s body against him, ignoring the burning hunger in his own gut for the power Lance and the planet took from him. “Just a little more.”

After a few more turns and a few more earthquakes, Keith stopped in front a narrow crack in the wall about the same height and width of a young adult male.

“In there.” Keith nodded his head. “Home.”

“I’m sorry.” Lance whispered. He could feel Keith’s hunger through their link, but even if he wanted to give him more, he couldn’t. So he did his best to move on his own without leaning too much on him. When they stopped in front of the wall, he squinted as though he could imagine the building, but nothing came. “I’ll follow.” He slowly pulled himself from Keith to allow the smaller man to go first.

Keith grunted a soft confirmation. “Don’t let go of my hand.” He walked through the crack, squeezing Lance’s hand and pulling him tight behind him as he stood up with barely enough room for his own height. “The ceiling is low.”

They stared around the room, a mat laid upon the floor. Preserved for eternity how the boy had left it. To Keith, he might has well have walked out the door few hours ago if not for the layers of soot. A small box sat to the left of the mat. “I kept it to the right.” Keith whispered, with a pull on Lance’s arm to move with him. He knelt, pushing the box aside to find an indent the size of a shoe box. He bent his wrist back and with a puff of air from his suit, a tiny door revealed itself. “It’s really here.”

Lance half stumbled after him, but managed to keep steady, crouching to keep from hitting his head. “What is it?” He looked at the indent and blinked. “What’s down there?”

Keith didn’t answer right away. Instead he lifted the latch and used a pin shaped tool in his suit to pop a lock open, and from inside he pulled out a box, small enough to fit into his hand. It was made of stone with decorative lines etched along the edges. “Lucxiete.” He breathed. The top popped open, and four small ruby gems glittered against the ambient light of their suits along with a black metal hilt of an unfinished blade. “This isn’t like the one I had here. Mine wasn’t made from this.” His hand went to his stomach pressing the stones there against his skin. Where he had silver and stolen sapphire, this boy had luxciete and ruby.

“I don’t understand.” Lance’s brows furrowed as he looked at the box, trying to peek inside, barely able to see the glint of the rubies from his awkward angle. “Should we take that back with us? How is it even still here?”

“Who would come here to take it?” Keith replied. “No one would search a place like this for anything of value. The atmosphere is gone, nothing to cause decay or rot outside of space.” Keith didn’t want to think about what else would be trapped inside these hovels in near perfect preservation.

“We can go.” Keith stored the hilt in his suit. “We need to get you back and into bed.”

“Do you feel better? I’ll be fine if this helped you in some way. As long as you’re okay. If you’re not…” Lance shook his head and looked at him.

“I will be. There’s a lot to process. Right now, what I need is to get you back to your lio-.” The ground rumbled and Keith’s head tossed rapidly right to left. His vitals lurched I go to red as building lifted in a geological wave.

A crack formed and snaked across the floor, dividing the paladins. The whole building shifted, pitching Lance’s half up while dropping Keith down. The inertia of motion jerked Keith back, and Lance’s fingers slipped from his grasp. “Lance!” He cried out and kept falling further and further down. Debris swallowed him up in a gaping maw of stone. Instinct forced him to shield his head as he was tossed forward then slammed against the rock face of what was now a sink hole. He acted as fast as he could, starting up his jet pack to avoid a bone liquifying crash into the ground. Instead he bounced and rolled, until a jutting mound of rock caught is decent.

Lance tried to grab Keith’s hand as soon as the ground moved and pulled Keith away, but he couldn’t grip him in time, and he ended up grasping at the air. “Keith!!!!” He yelled and collapsed on the edge of the newly formed chasm, staring down, arm still outstretched, trying to see the other paladin, but all he could see was darkness. “Keith!!!”

“Hey…” Keith’s voice came through broken static. “You.. you okay? I’m alright. Sort of.”

“Keith!” Lance pushed up on weary arms and got to his feet. “It looks like it’s too far down for me to jump after you.” He started to walk along the edge of the chasm, the collapse having torn the remains of the buildings away. “I’m coming to get you though. Are you hurt?”

“I’m trapped, my leg isn’t moving. But.. I’m okay. Be safe.” Keith sounded breathy and pained. On Lance’s screen he saw the line of Keith’s heart dip low and rise high awhile reading 174 beats a minute. Adrenaline and pain the main factors in the steep rise. Red alerts over the outline of his left leg, showing a skeletal infrastructure with a fracture through his fibula.

“What?” Lance checked the readings and he could feel his own heart rate increase. Sweat formed on his brow as he searched for a way down. “I’m coming, Keith. Don’t move.” He found an area where the edge of the hole seemed to angle downward, so he carefully started to descend, his fingers pressing against the rock wall to keep himself steady.

“I don’t think you have to worry about that.” The ground rumbled again. “I’m not what’s moving… This area is unstable. Please be careful.”

“Then I have to worry about it!” Lance slipped but managed to catch himself as he continued to descend the thin path, though it seemed to stop about half way, and he had to carefully scale a ledge to get to a wider foothold. “I’m coming as quickly as I can.” Sweat soaked his hairline and he panted a bit, but he made it to the bottom of the chasm, checking the readings on the helmet to see if it could help him locate Keith.

“Lance, for what it’s worth. I’m sorry I got us into this, but I’m happy you came with me.”

“Don’t do that right now. Just hang tight. I think I’m almost there.” The light on Lance’s helmet came on, and he looked around that level of the chasm. He couldn’t quite locate Keith yet, since his scanners didn’t seem to be picking up any heat signatures. “Where are you? What does it look like?”

“There’s rock. More rock… wait! Oh rock. I think I’m under rocks.” Keith groaned with a painful shift. “Okay I deserved that.” Came a hiss. “Still… I’m sorry. You were right. About everything…”

Lance huffed out a groan. “Not helping.” He muttered and kept moving along the wall. “Can you see any light or anything?” He purposely ignored the apology. He had more important things to worry about than Keith’s guilt. Not when the other paladin was trapped and injured. “I’m trying to find you, but my scanners aren’t picking up anything.”

“The radiation might be interfering-Wha? Shit! LAN-” Another rumble cut Keith’s com off, hurtling another building to the ground. Keith’s heart rate flatlined with a long, piercing alarm.

Lance froze at the way Keith’s voice cut off and then the long, piercing sound that followed. The monitors registering Keith’s heartrate flashed before the line flattened out. “Keith…?” His chest felt tight and cold. He clutched his hand against it and panted as everything seemed to curl into itself. “KEITH!!!!!” A burst of adrenaline filled him and he broke into a run. He didn’t care if there we rocks falling around him as he sprinted along the chasm. He didn’t care that his lungs burned even as his helmet tried to control his breathing. Keith wasn’t responding. Keith’s heart stopped. Keith was… He let out a guttural scream as he kept running in the direction of that rumble.

From under the rubble a red clad hand gripped Lance’s ankle. “I’m right here… So.. sorry…” Keith’s familiar shape dragged itself from the slabs of concreate. He spoke through the intercom on his helmet rather than their link. It was distorted and fritzed in and out. He pulled with the last heave of his body, only to flatten himself on the ground by Lance’s feet. He panted, and a dented crack sparked on the side of his helm where most of their sensors were seated.

“I’m sorry…” He flopped himself on his back. “I moved…”

Lance jumped and almost fell flat on his face, his eyes wide, tears streaming down his cheeks. “K..Keith?” Trembling hands touched his helmet as he looked at the cracks, brows furrowing. Any more damage and it would have let some of this poisonous air in. And as he tried to look at the rest of him through his tears, his eyes moved down to Keith’s main injury. His leg was clearly broken, bent in a way that was completely unnatural, though the armor was holding it in place. But that had to cause Keith so much pain, and Lance could barely stammer out a coherent sentence as his hands trembled. He shouldn’t try to set it, right? That would only hurt him more. “Your leg. You’re… O..Oh fuck. Oh thank everything good and holy in every world. I thought… I thought.” He panted, his own monitors beeping as the adrenaline faded and his panic started to increase. In the distance, Red roared.

“Hey- it’s okay. I’m all right. It’s just my leg.” Keith wrapped his arms around Lance’s waist. “We need to get back… this place is coming a part.”

There was another rumble and Lance kept panting, clutching at Keith as best as his trembling hands would allow him. “You…It said you…” He struggled to catch his breath even as Red broke through the uppermost layer of rock and landed in front of them, head bowed, mouth opened. Lance somehow mustered the strength to pick Keith up, stumbling with the rumbling as he got Keith into Red, the jaw closing as the lion blasted out of there with only moments to spare as the wall of the chasm started collapsing. “You were…you were…”

“I’m right here.” As soon as they were in the cockpit Keith tossed his helmet aside and did the same for Lance, brining their faces together with sweet gentle kisses. His clawed fingers holding fast around Lance’s ears so he couldn’t pull away. “I exhausted you. And then.. this… Lance I’m so sorry..”

“Stop…stop saying sorry. Stop…” Lance managed, gasping for air once his helmet was off, and the tears only flowed faster down his cheeks even with those kisses. “Just…you’re hurt…I can’t help you, and…” The lines on his face flickered as though he was desperately trying to get his quintessence to listen to him, but nothing happened, and he sank back against the seat.

“Lance!” Keith yelled, his hands covering the lines on his cheeks as if he could keep the quintessence in. “You can’t heal me like this!” He squished Lance’s cheeks and pressed their foreheads together just hard enough for an attention getting impact. “If I see you attempt it one more time. I swear to god…. I’ll tell your sister what you talk about in your sleep.”

Lance didn’t even have the energy to chuckle at the threat, he just looked at Keith with tear-reddened eyes and nodded as best he could with his face smushed and his forehead against Keith’s. “Okay” He sniffled, his eyes struggling to stay open, but he managed it. “Red. Let Keith control you if he needs to, but please get us back.” He whispered.

When Red arrived in the hanger, a group of anxious paladins waited to greet her. Keith and Lance’s communication had been severed less than half a varga ago, and the team dashed to their own lions in panic, until they saw Red paw her way to her station and settled her jaw against the floor, opening the way for assistance.

“Damn it.” Shiro cursed racing into the cockpit and seeing his friends curled against each other, looking broken and pale. Behind him the med team scurried into the room, pulling the paladins apart with no small effort.

“They’ll be okay, sir.” Said one earnest medic. “I’m seeing no serious injuries.”

“All right. See to it. Give them anything they need.” Shiro ran a hand through the white tufts of hair. People always joked about how stress and children gave parents gray hair. Shiro had a feeling he’d become the living proof.

-----

“Mm.” Blurry eyes fluttered open, and all around him he heard the all too familiar sounds of Altean modeled cryogenic pods. A buzzer sounded from someplace close by, and the window fogged for a second then opened with pop and click.

Keith slid to the floor unable to gather strength to his legs. “Hm? Lance?” His throat cracked with the raw scraping of his voice. “Shiro?” He looked around the room. Darkness and empty space surrounded him. He knew the room. It had been the same one he woke up in after the mission. Why would he be here again? His eyes blew open, and a sharp razor-edged blade twisted in his stomach. “L-lance? Shiro? Pidge! Hunk! Coran? Allura??” He yelled, his voice trembling as he thawed from as the pods cryogenic effects wore off. “Anybody?”

No answer.

“Lance!” Fear rose in a wave of cold and came with an undertow heated panic. He cried out louder as he stood on shaky legs, finding his strength. Had he been rational he would have acknowledged the dull throb of newly fused bone. He didn’t feel anything outside of growing anxiety. Could that all have been another place? A dream of a life? Had that been all part of the trans-reality mission?

No no no no nononononononono… “No!” He hobbled his way to the door with sluggish results. He used furniture to propel him further until he all but forced his body to obey him as he raced through the Atlas and back to the living quarters. The dim lights telling him it was ‘night shift’ and non-essential staff had settled in their rooms.

Keith stopped at Lance’s door, almost hitting it with his face. It hadn’t opened for him. The door had always opened for him. “Lance!” He yelled pounding a fist against it. “Damnit! LANCE!”

Lance groaned at the pounding on the door, his head throbbing with each hit. It was like someone knocking directly on his skull, and it only seemed to get louder when he pulled his pillow above him and tried to cover his ears to drown out the sound. He muttered something unintelligible into the mattress. Anything to make the pounding stop. The door beeped and hissed open, and Lance tried to let sleep take him once more now that the sound was gone.

“LANCE!” A weight crashed into Lance, arms squeezing with clutching claw tipped fingers. The body on top of him shook in unchecked fear and deep desperate sobs trying to force their way out of a throat too abused to do anything but whimper Lance’s name over and over.

Lance groaned again, though he didn’t seem affected by the added weight. “Keith…what the hell?” He managed, his voice groggy, muffled from the mattress, and slightly whiny. His brain felt like it was fogged up, so he just barely registered the sobs that shook the other man’s body. “What time is it? You’re supposed to be in healing…your leg was broken…”

“T-tell me… you love me… I.. Tell me?” Keith croaked out.

Lance sighed and pulled the pillow off his head, turning it just enough to look over his shoulder at Keith. “You woke me up just for that? Is that why you’re crying?” He somehow managed to hide his annoyance.

“Lance please!” Keith’s voice broke on the last syllable. Nothing came, no warmth. No arms around him. Keith knew he was being ridiculous. Pathetic. Weak. A damn mess. He didn’t blame Lance for not coddling him or even allowing a second to humor him. So Keith took a second. He was okay. Lance was here. Lance didn’t kick him out of his room and didn’t freak out on him for barging in. “I-I woke up. No one was there.” He took a swallow, getting his words out. Why did his throat hurt so much?

Keith pushed himself up and into a straddle on Lance’s hip, his arms holding himself with nervous hands rubbing his elbows. “I didn’t know what was going on. It... I thought… The last time I was in a pod, the only time I was in a pod- was when…” He didn’t finish it. He didn’t want to give it life when it felt too raw in his chest. He tried to pull himself together, but those ears trembled no matter how steady he tried to force his baring to be.

With a shake of his head, Lance rolled enough so that Keith was comfortably straddling his lap and not pressing his weight awkwardly into his hip. He reached up and touched one of his arms, brows furrowing. “No one was there because you weren’t supposed to wake up for…” He glanced over at the clock display on the wall. “Another hour at least.” He sighed. “Shiro was probably taking a quick break.” He carefully clutched the other man’s arm and tugged him down so he could hold him. “I don’t know what’s got you so scared, or why you think I don’t love you. Of course I love you, even if you’re an idiot and ran here when you need to recover more.” He watched Keith’s ears twitch and seem to droop at the same time.

Keith sank into his arms, curling in as small as he could against the warm of the Lance’s body and hid his face against his chest. He shook his head, balling a fist into Lance’s shirt.

Lance managed to pull the blanket up over Keith, holding him as close as he could, as though that would stop his shaking. “Idiot.” He lifted his chin and pressed his lips to one of those trembling ears. “You stressed yourself out…”

Woeful tear-filled eyes danced in the dim track lighting of the room. “We’re going to get married on the beach… and we’ll dance close together as the sun sets, and it will be small, with little bonfires, and your mom and Hunk will cook and…” Keith continued to search for his validation, he had to hear it.

“Yes.” Lance whispered as he continued to try to soothe Keith with those little ear nuzzles. “I don’t really understand what’s gotten into you, but you don’t have to worry about anything you’re worrying about.”

A slow ease started to settle into Keith. His shoulders relaxed, and his ears moved to Lance’s attention. “And-“ He blushed under his already flushed and wet cheeks. “I.. I’m your kitten?” He got the words out in a small voice as he nibbled on the edge of Lance’s shirt. His large eyes alarmingly beautiful as they shone like stain glass under the gloss of his tears.

“Yes, you’re my kitten.” Lance looked at him, exhaustion still present in his eyes. His ears drooped just slightly. “Even if you’re weird.” He lifted one of his hands to touch Keith’s cheek, stroking the tear-stained flesh. “Even if you woke me out of a really deep sleep.” He brushed his thumb over his lower lip. “My precious, needy kitten.”

The sobs quieted and Keith cooed into his touch. “I’m sorry… I can go.. I just…”

“Did I say you had to go?” Lance sighed and brushed away the last of those tears. “I just pulled the blanket over you, and I’m holding you. Why would I have you leave? I’m tired and cranky, but I’m not pushing you away. I need you to stay with me.”

“Sorry.” Keith whispered again with a soft hic of a sob in his voice even as he nuzzled his face into Lance’s palm. “I didn’t think. I…” That had been his excuse for a lot of things lately. Selfish and only thinking of himself. “I freaked out.”

“Don’t be sorry. It’s okay that you freaked out. It’s understandable. I’m not mad.” Lance pressed his lips to Keith’s forehead. “I am not fully equipped to give you the support you need right now, so all I can do is hold you okay?”

“Support I need?” Keith tilted his head. “I just need to feel you. You’re warm. You smell like the ocean, and sometimes like honey, or like cream, or all those things combined. You wouldn’t think it would all smell good, but it’s amazing and it’s you. And it’s perfect.” Keith laid his ear against Lance’s chest. “This... hearing this too. This is what I need.”

“I can’t say anything well enough to make you feel better. That’s what I meant.” Lance closed his eyes, and he moved the land from Keith’s cheek to the back of his head, playing with his hair. “But I love you. And I love how cute you are when you ramble.”

“I do feel better.” Keith’s ear flicked. “A thousand times better.” As if to prove his point a purr, low and sweet filled the room. “I don’t expect anything. You already give me everything and I love you.”

“You don’t have to expect anything, Keith.” Lance shook his head and continued to hold Keith close. He nuzzled his hair a little as the purr started. “But that doesn’t mean I won’t try to comfort you when you need it.”

“How mad do you think Shiro is?” Keith let out a long stutter of sigh, but as if releasing built up pressure, his breathing now evened out. timed with those purrs.

“Well, that depends on when he goes back and sees you’re gone.” Lance whispered a little and nuzzled a soft ear. “But he’ll see you came in here, so it’ll be fine, I’m sure.”

“He’ll be mad. But yeah. He’ll know I’m with you and safe. Because you’re here. You’re perfect. You’re beautiful and you’re real.” Keith trilled and turned his head for deeper nuzzles. “And you were amazing.”

“I’m here, and I’m definitely beautiful and real, but I’m not perfect or amazing. If I was, you wouldn’t have needed to go into the pod, and you wouldn’t have woken up scared.” Lance held Keith a little closer.

“Down there... what you did… I don’t know how to explain it. But seeing you and him and that other boy… I don’t know... something settled in me. I don’t feel exactly right, yet... but I feel like... I don’t know. Like I’m able to understand myself better.” Keith gladly allowed himself to be squeezed.

“I didn’t…Well at least at first I didn’t do anything other than get angry.” Lance shook his head and pressed his face into Keith’s hair. “But if you feel a little better, and you’re healing, I’m okay with it.”

“I am. It’s going to take time. And I’m going to suck sometimes, but I can do it. For you. But mostly for myself.” Keith rested his chin on Lance’s chest, watching his face as if he’d never seen another living breathing person before.

“Oh yeah? Well as long as you realize that you need to do this more for you than for me.” Lance looked at him with the slightest smile. “And I’ll probably suck sometimes, too, but that’s okay right?”

Gentle fingers traced the line of Lance’s jaw, up his lips and over the curve of his pointed nose. “Yes.”

“All right. And will you stay here and sleep with me since you still need to heal?” Lance’s eyes drifted close at the gentle attentions to his face.

“What if I’m afraid to fall asleep?” Keith stroked the back of his fingers down Lance’s hair line, his purr rumbling at a soothing timber.

“I mean, if it’s because you’re worried I won’t be here, you don’t need to think about that. I’m not going anywhere.” Lance’s eyes were still closed, but he leaned towards his hand.

Keith kissed over his chest with tender eyes focusing on Lance’s face, seeped in a love so deep he could never express it in words. “When we’re out of this, I’m going to make you the happiest husband in the world. I’ll take care of you, pamper you, never let you cry… well... I guess I can promise that, but I can at least try not to let you cry unless it’s the kind of good crying. I do that because of things you do. Way more than I thought I did. I don’t know if it’s this body or not, but it cries so easily. Yours didn’t change like that did you? Get all sensitive or anything? But. any way umm… I know I’m needy, and possessive and impulsive, grumpy, stubborn, I don’t always think before I act – and you can stop me at any time…”

“I know you’ll be the best husband because you’re mine.” There was a little chuckle in his voice before Lance spoke again. “I cry a lot too you know.” Lance smiled a little and opened his eyes to look at Keith. “I cried almost the whole time down there. I cry when we sleep. It’s not a bad thing to cry a lot.” He held him and closed his eyes again. “And I’m not going to argue with you on that last point. Though stopping you sometimes is impossible, you know?”

“You cry in your sleep?” Keith sat up with his arms crossed over Lance’s chest, his ears drooped, then ticked with a few passing thoughts. Crawling up his body he nuzzles his face into Lance’s temple to nose down to his cheek. “Then I’ll stay right here to catch those tears for you.”

“Keith, it’s okay. I’m not crying all the time because I’m sad. I mean even if I cry in my sleep, it’s because sometimes I’m so happy, I can’t hold it in.” Lance kissed his cheek when he was able to reach it.

“Kqu’Ma.” Keith replied with a gentle snuffle against his jaw.

“Yes, Kitten?” Lance nuzzled his cheek with his lips.

“We should sleep. You need your rest, and I feel like I haven’t slept in centuries.”

“I do, and you only feel that way because you left the pod early.” Lance nuzzled and settled back into the bed.

“Well I guess I’m a lousy sleeper when you’re not squishing me.”

“Oh? Then I guess I have to squish you more often.” Lance squeezed Keith lightly before his arms went a little slack and he murmured. “Nnn. Sleepy.”

Keith revved up his purr. “Sleep, Kqu’Ma.” He laid his head against his shoulder and his hand over Lance’s heart and yawned out a soft – “I’ll be here still in the morning.”

“So will I.” Lance murmured before he drifted off, arms loosely around Keith.

Chapter Text

Lance wasn’t sure how long he had been sleeping when he felt the fog lift from his brain. It was still very dark, based on the lack of light filtering through his eyelids. Not that it meant anything since the room was pitch black. Shiro made sure to turn off all the lights and sensors when he left him here. Plus, he wasn’t quite ready to open his eyes, so turning on the display and checking the clock was out of the question. He tried to move his body a little, but it was as though a weight was holding him down. His blanket wasn’t that heavy, was it? Was he that weak after his rest? Why were his arms wrapped around something…no someone.

Lance’s eyes snapped open, and he stared down at eye mop of dark hair that spread over his chest. Even as his eyes adjusted to the darkness in the room, he couldn’t believe what he was seeing or feeling. Why was Keith there? When did he come in? How did he get in if Shiro put the door on do not disturb to give Lance as much rest as possible?

One trembling hand lifted to touch that mop of hair. It was real and as soft as Keith’s hair had become since using Lance’s shampoo and conditioner. There was a little sigh at the contact that was definitely Keith’s sigh. But how?

Lance closed his eyes and tried to search his brain for any clues. When Red landed, medics pried Keith from his arms and woke him from his unconscious state because their bond was broken. Keith didn’t wake up, and the medics started to take him away despite Lance’s protests. He remembered Hunk stepping in and taking Keith into his arms. He remembered that settling his nerves because Hunk is his best friend, and he could trust him with Keith. He remembered Shiro putting an arm around him and dragging him out of the hangar. “We’ll watch him for you, Lance. You need sleep.” The older man half scolded him as he said it. Lance remembered snorting and begging Shiro to let him sleep in the same room as Keith. He couldn’t leave Keith alone. He needed to be there for him. But Shiro refused. Lance wouldn’t rest if he was in there. Shiro, Hunk, and Pidge would take turns watching Keith. Keith would be fine once his leg healed. There was no arguing, not when Shiro was right and Lance was too tired to be stubborn.

“I’ll put the door on do not disturb, but I’ll be able to open it, so I can bring Keith in here once he wakes up. Just sleep.” Shiro was gone. Lance passed out. Then there was noise. So much noise. The door opened. Weight. Crying. Keith.

Lance’s eyes snapped open as he remembered their conversation, and he felt a lump rise in his throat. He thought he was dreaming. His brain didn’t process most of that at the time, but seeing and feeling Keith curled up against him, clinging to him for dear life, brought it all back.

Lance felt like such an asshole. Of course, Keith woke up scared when he realized he was alone. He was afraid of that. Afraid that all of this was a dream and none of it was real. He was afraid that he would lose Lance, that he would realize he suffered everything alone, that maybe he dreamt the whole thing and Lance never went with him. And yet in his half-asleep state, Lance had no idea that was the reason his lover was sobbing on him. He didn’t even think of it. What an ass he was, not understanding the one thing he should have known.

He knew he should have argued with Shiro more. He should have insisted. If he was there, Keith wouldn’t have been scared. He wouldn’t have been alone. Lance would have sacrificed days of sleep to keep Keith from feeling that fear and pain.

“I’m so sorry,” he whispered as quietly as possible and held Keith a little closer, hoping the smaller man understood, even if he was still asleep.

“Mmm?” Came a sleep-heavy reply. In a syllable, Keith expressed his hours of uneasy sleep and a lifetime worth of exhaustion. When he looked up at Lance, his complexion remained pale and accentuated the red puffiness of his tear embattled eyes.

Lance winced a little. He didn’t mean to wake Keith up, and after seeing the other man was clearly sleep-deprived, he felt even worse. The red, puffy eyes only made the guilt increase. “I’m so sorry. I wasn’t…I didn’t realize.” He shook his head and held him as close as he could, hiding his face from the other man’s view. “I’m sorry.”

“Hm?” Keith yawned wide baring those tiny half human fangs. “I’m up. You’re up. So,” his ears flicked, and he tried to speak through another yawn. “What’s up?”

“I didn’t mean to wake you up,” Lance whispered and kept his arms around him. “I just…” He sighed and looked at him sadly. “I’m sorry I didn’t understand what you were trying to tell me before. I should have comforted you more, and I didn’t.”

“I wasn’t very coherent.” Keith snuffled his nose into Lance’s neck.

Lance lifted a hand and threaded his fingers through his hair. “But I should have known. You told me earlier. I knew…I knew you’d be afraid if you woke up without me there, but they wouldn’t let me sleep in there. Said it was going to be bad for both of us. I argued, but I should have argued more. I should have insisted more to Shiro, so you were never alone. I’m so sorry.”

“I’m okay. There’s no place to sleep in there but the pods. I was pathetic before. I panicked, and I couldn’t even feel your quintessence. It was like … I don’t know, like a cord in me snapped. Now?” Keith murmured behind Lance’s ear. “I can feel so much of you.” A sound indicative of a mewl escaped the Galra’s lips. “But I can’t touch you. Are you better?”

“Being afraid of something doesn’t make you pathetic…” Lance shook his head and held him, his eyes half closing at the proximity of Keith’s lips to his ear. “I…I wasn’t good to you. I’m sorry. My exhaustion isn’t a good reason for you to feel like any of your emotions are wrong or pathetic. There’s never a good reason for that.” The mewl set some of his guilt to rest and he squeezed Keith a little without hurting him. “When they pulled you out of my arms to put you in the pod, our connection was cut. If I could have kept myself tethered to you, I would have. But I slept, and my quintessence replenished itself as I did. You don’t need to worry about me.”

Keith nestled down, purring within Lance’s grip. “You’re squishing me.” The statement came as the furthest thing from a complaint.

“You’re so squishable.” Lance murmured and gave Keith another little squeeze, smiling at the mewl and increased purring that came from Keith at the little action. “And you seem to be more into being squished when you’re tired, so I’m going to take advantage of it.” His lips brushed against one of Keith’s twitching ears.

A soft puffed breath preluded a sigh, his ears flicked, and his head tilted to expose himself more to Lance’s caress. “It feels good.” He’d gorge himself on any attention the other paladin could give him.

“Then you should keep feeling good.” Lance held him and loosened his grip a little so he could idly rub one hand on his back. “I will do anything to make sure you feel good.” His lips brushed that ear again.

“I just need you.” Keith said with a shy nudge of his forehead against Lance’s cheek. “I can’t lose you.” He purred.

“You’re not going to lose me.” Lance soothed and continued to rub Keith’s back. “You’re stuck with me, even if you don’t want to be. You’re the one who proposed to me, and now you can’t take that back.” He nuzzled his lips into Keith’s hair and just tried to comfort him in every way possible.

“Take it back?! I’d do it right now if I could!” Keith turned his head to catch his lips with his own.

“Then let’s do it.” Lance whispered against Keith’s lips, smiling. “Shiro is a captain. Captains can officiate marriages for their crew, right?”

“Wait?” Keith balked. “Seriously?” He pushed himself up, straddling Lance’s waist. The open uniform falling loose around his shoulders. During the night he ditched the healing pod’s slate grey bodysuit and grabbed the closest article of clothing within reach, which happened to be Lance’s jacket.

“Well once you’re dressed.” Lance looked up at Keith and finished those words with a teasing smile. Though his eyes traveled down Keith’s exposed chest and rested on the black boxer briefs that left very little to the imagination.

“You’ll be happy about that?” Keith followed Lance’s eyes, becoming shy.

“Marrying you? Yeah. Shiro, or anyone else seeing you like this?” Lance motioned to Keith. “No, that’s just for me.” He smiled a little before he sat up and wrapped his arms around Keith. “It’d be like a movie. We elope, we finish our mission, and then we go home and have the ceremony and the party.”

“You are hopelessly romantic.” Keith relished the feel of Lance’s hands slipping around his back. Sloping down his bare skin then back up under the coat, making a shiver rise up his spine. Awareness came with the sensation. Awareness of their proximity, his nature, and his borderline starvation before even stepping foot on the damned planet. The hunger rose in him with such speed it tore gasp from his throat.

Keith’s fangs itched; his lips buzzed and tingled. He leaned forward and nuzzled his nose into one of those life-giving lines. He was sure a sound escaped him, but Keith couldn’t hear beyond the sweet hymns; Lance’s quintessence sang to his.

“Would you? Then let’s do it.” Lance whispered, his lips trembling with Keith’s attentions, feeling the slightest tug on his quintessence, but he controlled himself. Now wasn’t the time for that, was it? “We’ll wash up, put our uniforms on, and ask him.” His voice trembled.

“Yeah.” Keith moved his mouth against a marking, mouthing at it with a groan. “We should do that.” He didn’t move.

Lance’s breath hitched. The tug was a little stronger now. He needed to keep himself in check. “Y-Yeah.”

“Shower.” Keith dragged a fang across the flesh, trilling with an elated primal spike in him. So hungry.

“Keith….” Lance moaned and arched up a little towards his lover. “That’s not what you want right now is it? You want something else.” His words came out breathier than he intended, but he didn’t care.

“I’m hungry.” Keith admitted. “I need to wait. You’re not ready…”

“I’m recovered enough to help you, but if we do this, we have to wait a day to ask Shiro to marry us.” Lance rested a hand on one of Keith’s hips, fingers teasing the waistband of his underwear. “Can you wait a day? I’ll feed you.” His eyes started to close. “I’ll give you anything.”

“I can’t think enough to make that choice.”

“I won’t make the choice for you, Keith.” Lance whispered.

Keith let out a distressed whimper, so tired of making choices. He knew what the right thing was. He knew what he should do. Once morality got involved, Keith could only ever make the right choice. He closed his eyes. Lance wasn’t fully healed. Allura was laid up in bed, still in a coma. They didn’t have time, or the right, for any of this. He wasted time on that planet, and now they were going to spend more time appeasing his stupid body when there were other things they should be doing.

He pulled away from Lance, the distance making the hunger bubble in his stomach. “I’ll shower in the adjoining room.” He rolled his legs off the bed.

Lance sighed and dropped his hand from Keith’s waist as the other paladin turned away from him. He bowed his head. He messed up again, didn’t he? Keith was hungry. Lance was offering himself to him, but Keith didn’t want it. He looked down at his now empty lap and sighed, trying to stare at his fingers enough to keep his eyes dry. “Why are you leaving if you’re hungry?” He tried to keep his voice steady. Keith didn’t need to feel guilty for something when he didn’t do anything wrong. Lance was the one who messed up. Lance was always messing up. Doing the wrong thing. Saying the wrong thing. Asking the wrong questions. And he was probably about to ask the wrong questions now, but there was no way he was going to let Keith leave when he clearly needed to eat. “If you need it, why are you pulling away from me? Didn’t I say I’d give you anything? I don’t understand why you have to think about it. You’re hungry. You need my quintessence. I give it to you. We talked about this.” He lifted his head and reached out to take Keith’s wrist. “Is it because we’ll have to wait a day to talk to Shiro if you take from me? I only said that because I know how we both get when you feed. You wouldn’t want him seeing either of us like that, so…”

“You don’t sound like you think you’re strong enough to support what I need to take. This isn’t a pinprick kind of thing. Or a tease feeding. I’m hungry Lance. Starving.” Keith bit his lip. “You said that my need wasn’t as bad as it was before. I don’t need to feed as often because I’m half Galra. I didn’t correct you then because Shiro needed to hear what you were telling him.” Keith ran a hand over his face with a sigh.

“I was half Galra in there too. Just like here. The pain is just as bad, but I have restraint. The other me… didn’t.” Keith rubbed his arms and flopped back on the bed again.

“That planet took it out of me as it did you, but mine doesn’t grow back. ‘Recovered enough to feed you.’ I take from you, and I leave you up in the ward right where I put Allura. I can’t do that. I can’t make that choice. I already made you crash once…”

“Why didn’t you tell me that you need it as much when we talked about it? I’ve been unintentionally starving you this entire time?” Lance’s hand remained around Keith’s wrist for a moment before he slid it down and held Keith’s, folding his fingers with his. “When I said I recovered enough to help you. I meant it. Even if you’re starving. I can give you what you need.” He shook his head and pulled Keith back into his lap. “Remember what I told you down on the surface? You can’t take too much from me. You didn’t make me crash, remember? We talked about that, too.” He let go of Keith’s hand only to press his index finger gently into his cheek. “You can’t put me in a coma. You didn’t put Allura in the medical ward. You’re pretty strong Keith, but you’re not that strong. You’re not the villain you seem to think you are. Stop taking on all this responsibility and blame that isn’t yours.” He poked his cheek again. “So you’re going to eat. You’re going to get turned on. I’m going to get turned on. And we’re going to have some amazing sex.”

“L-Lance!” Keith squeaked, ears pressing back during the small tussle. They perked instantly forward when he found himself cradled and secure in Lance’s lap. He didn’t argue those points. He didn’t know why he said what he said in the first place, other than needing verbal validation. Keith knew he wasn’t a bad guy. He tried to do the right thing. He just needed Lance to tell him ‘this’ was okay. ‘They’ were okay. He nuzzled after his finger, kissing at the edge and whispered a soft ‘thank you.’ In the same breath a notion occurred to Keith. Often lost in his own thrill, he hadn’t thought about what Lance derived from Keith feeding. He knew he didn’t feel any pain but outside of that? Keith shamefully admitted he didn’t know

“You like this too, right?”

Lance smiled and nodded. “I do. I like feeling connected to you. Plus…” he took Keith’s hand and lowered it between them so Keith could feel his arousal beneath his pajamas, which had been fading, but sprang to life again once he pulled Keith back into his lap. “It does this to me.” He grinned. “So when you take my quintessence and get horny, i enjoy it even more.”

“Shit.” Keith hissed, grinding his nose into Lance’s. “You are so sexy.” He moved his hand, palming Lance through the loose trousers. Heat rushed to his face, and his ears fell in a telltale manner.

“And you want me.” Lance murmured, allowing the lines to glow. “Take it. Sate your hunger and seduce me, Keith.” He pushed himself up towards his hand. “Show me how much you want it. Let me see that you want me as much as I want you.”

“Y-yeah.” Keith moaned and leaned forward, tormenting himself by kissing the mark under Lance’s eye. A hum, delicious and harmonious buzzed through him. He tugged at it, but he didn’t drink. “Quiznack. I want it so bad… I don’t even know how I want to take it.”

“Then take it slowly. Cherish it. Like we’re making love instead of the fevered desperation we usually feel when we do this.” Lance whispered and looked at him, eyes seeming to take on the darkness of midnight. “I really…really need to feel you right now. And I want to help you while you help me.” He managed a little smile. “I want us to take our time so we’ll both be okay and clearheaded when we ask Shiro to marry us. So let me give you what you need, and give me what I need.”

“You… need me... like that?” Keith swallowed. He never heard Lance talk like before they even started. “You need to have sex with me?”

“Yes, but it’s more than that. I need you to love me. I need to feel you.” Lance looked a little sheepish. “Our connection got severed when we arrived, and I feel a little empty. I know we can’t maintain it all the time, but…I want it there when we get married. Is…that okay?”

“Mm.” Keith nuzzled down Lance’s jawline, excitement brewing and bubbling in his chest. “It hurt. When they pulled us apart.” Every inhale had a taste of Lance’s honeyed scent. “I need you too. I’m starving, but it’s not that. It’s…” Keith rubbed harder against the growing heat, dragging his hand along the shape of him. “You’re so hot for me already.” He kissed to Lance’s ear with a lick over the shell before nipping the pointed tip. “My Elf.”

“It did hurt, but I would suffer all sorts of pain if it meant you healed properly.” Lance groaned a little and pushed himself closer to Keith, though he arched and yelped at the nip to his ear. “Keith…ah…my Kitten. I need you.” Tears started to form in his eyes as he pulled his head back and looked at him. “Please, love.”

Keith purred at that need, so he obliged him while indulging himself. He lowered his lips down to one the thicker lines crossing Lance’s collar bone. Sweet warm life-giving honey filled his mouth and flowed thickly down his throat. “Mm.” He swooned, the taste better than a thousand white chocolate centers of any lava cake. He pressed his hips up, trapping his hand between their bodies and palmed Lance’s hardness as he fed, purring and kneading.

Lance didn’t even try to stop the moan that escaped his lips or the arch of his back when Keith pulled from him. His hips moved against Keith’s hand, and he felt that familiar ache in the pit of his stomach. The purring only made the sensation more intense, and his hands moved, one sliding down to grab Keith’s ass, then sliding across one of his thighs to where their heat was pooling together. “Ah!”

“Mm.” The purr got deeper as Keith fed. The vibrations mirrored the hum in his cells as he joined his life force to Lance’s and made it his own. He swallowed, deep long draughts until he pulled his head away with a forced arc