Eyes fluttering open, Keith took in the scene surrounding him. He didn’t remember how he got here but apparently he had been taken to a hospital. At least, that’s what he assumed. The last time he had been in a hospital room, his father was the one lying in the bed. Keith frowned at the thought.
This one was plain, lacking personality aside from the worried expression his mother displayed and -- wait, was that Kolivan ? Keith stirred in the lumpy bed, attempting to prop himself up carefully. He winced and let out a pained grown.
“Keith, you’re awake,” Krolia sighed in relief. She rushed over to his bedside, pulling up a chair to sit in. She took hold of his hand, gently caressing his knuckles in a motherly way. It made Keith feel safe, protected. It made Keith think about what could’ve been. He wondered what would have happened if she hadn’t left all those years ago. If things had been different. Would he have become accustomed to this type of maternal care? Would this be something he’d always known?
“I was starting to worry that I’d lost you again.”
“That kid’s tough. I told you he’d be fine,” Kolivan crossed his arms over his chest as if in disbelief that he doubted her. She turned behind herself and shot him a now is not the time look. He just chuckled, raising his hands in the air in mock-surrender.
Keith smiled faintly.
“We promised we’d never leave each other again,” the young adult reminded his mother. “I’m just holding up my end of the deal.”
A silence loomed over the three of them.
“So, uh, what happened? How did I get here? Where are the others?” Everything was a blur. Krolia exchanged a look with Kolivan. Keith’s brow furrowed. “And are you two- “
“No!” Krolia and Kolivan said in unison.
“I just brought him here with me as he’s a good...” She seemed to be looking for the right word to describe whatever the relationship between the two of them was. “Friend.”
Keith raised an eyebrow but decided not to question further.
“Anyway, to answer your other questions, you and your friends kind of, er, passed out after that battle,” explained Krolia, “So we took you back here to the Garrison.” Huh. So this was the Garrison’s infirmary.
“Is the team okay?” Keith figured they must be if he was in good shape, but he couldn’t be too sure. If the years he spent in space taught him anything, it was that anything’s possible.
“Don’t worry, you guys suffered some minor injuries but other than that, you and your friends are all perfectly fine,” assured Kolivan. “By the way, how’s your head feeling?”
Keith instinctively brought his hands up to his head. His eyes widened in surprise. Yup, a bandage was wrapped around it, and somehow he hadn’t realized until now. Curious, his hands roamed to other parts of his face. He discovered little else besides the wrap for his head injury. A few scratches, but other than that, nothing. Well, there was that scar on his cheek from his fight with clone Shiro, but that wasn’t anything new.
He shrugged. “I mean, I feel fine, honestly.”
“That’s good, I’m glad.”
Then another thought occurred to him. “Is Shiro okay?” He wouldn’t know what to do with himself if something happened to his brother figure and mentor. Oh, god, how would he explain to Adam that his fiance-
Krolia smiled. “Shiro’s fine, too. He’s with that boyfriend of his, giving a speech right now.” Keith let out a breath he didn’t realize he was holding. Thank God. “If it’s okay with you I let them take that wolf of yours back to their place, at least until you’d woken up and gotten better.”
Keith looked up at his mom and gave a small chuckle. “Of course that’s okay with me.” Just then something else came to mind. “Okay, so when will I be released? And...can I visit my friends?”
He thought about each of his fellow paladins. Hunk, Allura, Pidge, and....
He cringed thinking about the Cuban boy. He had no idea what was going on between them anymore. Prior to him leaving for the Blade of Marmora it seemed like a pretty good friendship was starting to form between them, possibly something more if one squinted. But something shifted when Keith returned. Looking back on the events of the past few weeks, he knew that maybe a lot of that was his fault. His eyes cast down. He really hoped Lance didn’t hate him now. He had to apologize and make things right.
“Well, the doctor told us once you woke up to let you rest, but you should be good to go by tomorrow.”
“Attention, Altean pod. Calling the Altean pod, please identify yourself,” A familiar voice sounded through his comm in the Altean ship Keith had managed to snag with the help of his mom (Wow, that was still weird to say), an Altean girl named Romelle whom they just met (long story), and his new pet cosmic wolf (another long story).
Keith’s eyes lit up at his brother’s voice. Shiro.
“It’s Keith,” He announced.
Shiro’s face appeared on Keith’s screen. His eyes were wide in shock. “K-Keith. It’s you.”
Keith saw the rest of the team give gasps and looks of disbelief. Which was understandable. Well, that was the reaction of most of them. Lance, former blue paladin, Keith’s former right hand man, and current red paladin of Voltron, said something rather.... Odd.
“D- Does he look bigger to you guys? He’s bigger, right?” Lance pointed at the black haired boy as he asked, jaw dropping and his eyes as wide as space itself.
Keith was taken aback. Lance was the only one to point that out. But how? He did age two years while in the quantum abyss, but he didn’t think it was really that noticeable -- not through a screen, anyway. Not that easily. Keith didn’t think Lance had even paid that much attention to him, and on top of that, they’ve been apart for months now, so how was able to discern that something was different about Keith?
A mix of emotions stirred in Keith, which he wasn’t sure what to make of. He chose to ignore it.
Keith told them he’d see them in a bit, then signed off.
“Is that the Lance boy that you’ve been telling us about?” Romelle teased.
Keith got defensive. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Besides, I told you guys about a lot of boys, so.”
“Oh, yeah! Like that Rolo guy, right?” Romelle inquired excitedly. For someone who just learned that her people were being murdered, she sure was peppy.
Rolo was just a small meaningless crush that formed because of course it did. He was attractive, and he was just. There. Flirting with him meant nothing. It was nothing compared to how he felt about a different boy.
Krolia gave him a knowing look. Before they had found Romelle in the quantum abyss, he and his mom were shown flashes of the past and future. He’d be lying if he said some of them didn’t include Lance, some he enjoyed while others made him uneasy. There was one, in particular, that Keith couldn’t shake from his memory.
In the vision, Keith seemed to be eavesdropping on Lance and Allura. When Keith watched himself listen to their conversation he wanted to be able to say that normally he doesn’t do things like that but then he remembered the times he spied on Shiro and Adam at the Garrison when they thought he wasn’t around. It’s how he found out that Shiro had been sick and that he was going on the Kerberos Mission.
Anyway, the vision seemed to take place in a room of some sort of building-- maybe a house? Keith wasn’t sure. He couldn’t make out what Lance and Allura were saying, but eventually their conversation ended with the two of them smiling at each other and hugging. For some reason the scene left a pang in Keith’s stomach.
What happened next was sort of blurry but the next clear scene he saw was Vision-Keith seeming to frown, about to walk away when he heard a voice call out to him.
“Keith?” Vision-Lance was now in front of him.
Vision-Keith looked everywhere except at the other boy. “Sorry, this place is so big I think I got lost,” he lied, sheepish.
Vision-Lance did not look convinced. “Were you spying on me?” he teased.
“What? No, of course not,” denied Vision-Keith.
“So you didn’t see me talking to-”
Vision Keith cut him off. “Are you two...?”
Vision-Lance quirked an eyebrow. “Are we what? Together?”
Keith didn’t get to see or hear what happens next. He knew it was a vision of the future because he can’t recall ever having a conversation like that with Lance before. That and the fact that it looked like it took place on Earth, which was a planet he hasn’t been on in years.
Keith was honestly just a confused mess, and he wished he hadn’t known what the future, or, parts of it, held. He supposed that’s why he kind of brushed off Lance when they landed on the landing deck of the castle of lions.
“I don’t have time for this, Lance,” he snapped, proceeding to explain that Lotor needed to be stopped.
He was too busy rehashing what happened during his and Krolia’s journey through the quantum abyss (he didn’t go too in depth with the visions) to notice that Lance had offered him a hug. He also didn’t notice the disappointment on the Cuban boy’s face when he didn’t indulge him.
Krolia and Kolivan had left in the late afternoon to get some rest. Krolia protested at first, but Keith saw the lines under her eyes. It looked like she hadn’t slept ever since he’d been admitted to the hospital however long ago. He felt guilty, so he gave them the directions to his shack in the desert as best he could off memory alone, since it was in the vicinity of the Garrison. They didn’t have to travel too far.
Before they left the two of them informed him that although Shiro was busy today, he promised he would visit Keith the following day before he was released from the hospital, so that was something to look forward to.
Now it was the middle of the night, and Keith was restless. He stared up at the ceiling. Rolling over in the creaky bed, he saw the digital clock on the bedside table read 0100 hours. He sighed.
“Why am I still awake?” He whispered to himself, but apparently not quiet enough.
“You know, some people are trying to get their beauty sleep tonight so they can look presentable when they return home tomorrow.” Oops . These walls were thinner than he suspected. He’d recognize that voice anywhere. And now it was coming through the wall from the room to the right of his.
“Lance?” Keith questioned, incredulous. How did he not know Lance’s room was next to his? He hadn’t heard him earlier...
The sleepy voice replied, bored, “That’s my name, don’t wear it out.”
Keith rolled his eyes, then closed them in another attempt to go to sleep, but to no avail. Probably ten minutes later he shifted in the bed, rolling around trying to get comfortable in case that was what’s wrong. Nothing he tried seemed to work. He sighed.
“Keith. Sleep. If I could throw my pillow at you through this wall, I would,” Lance threatened.
Keith snorted. “Trust me, I’m trying. I can’t. Got a lot on my mind.” Now that was an understatement. He kept thinking about what comes next. He had an inkling that another threat was on its way to kill them anytime soon. Maybe that was the paranoia talking, though. They’d been fighting a war for so long; it’s all he’s known for the past few years.
He also thought more about the visions he’d seen with his mom in the quantum abyss. The ones from the past were clear, which made sense since it already happened. It’s fixed. On the other hand, Keith saw the future as well -- blurry fragments, that is. It was like being shown random, scattered pieces of one huge puzzle but never receiving directions on how to solve it or what the end result was supposed to look like. And he wasn’t sure if the uncertainty was a good thing or a bad thing.
These thoughts had been in the back of his head for the past few weeks, but were still there, which might be why he’s been so on edge lately.
Keith assumed the other boy had gone to sleep until Lance spoke. “This is gonna sound weird, but seeing as I’m not having the best time falling asleep either, would you wanna come over here, or I could come to your room, or I don’t know...”
“Are you... inviting me for a cuddle? ”
“Uh. I mean, we can just keep each other company talking like this, if that’s better,” Lance corrects hurriedly.
Would Lance really sacrifice his beauty sleep because of his insomnia?
Keith considered his his options, which, admittedly, simply were to either stay put where he was, or take Lance up on his offer.
Pros of staying in this bed:
He wouldn’t have to get up (He wasn’t sure if he had the energy -- sue him.)
Although it didn’t hurt, his head could use all the support it could get. It would probably be best to just stay where he was with his head propped on his pillow.
He wouldn’t have to see Lance’s stupid face.
Cons of staying put:
Either way, he’d still have a hard time going to sleep
He’d be bored once Lance finally fell asleep (He counted on being the last one to get some shut-eye.)
H̶e̶ ̶w̶o̶u̶l̶d̶n̶'̶t̶ ̶g̶e̶t̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶s̶e̶e̶ ̶L̶a̶n̶c̶e̶'̶s̶ ̶s̶t̶u̶p̶i̶d̶ ̶f̶a̶c̶e̶
Screw it. It would be nice to have some company... and maybe some extra body heat, as well. What was there to lose? My pride, he thought. But before Keith knew it, he was on his way to Lance’s room. “I’m coming, hold on.” Keith chose to ignore the sudden headache he felt start to form as he walked out of his room and into Lance’s.
When he made it inside, he observed Lance scoot over in his bed to make some room for him. He reluctantly climbed in next to him. They ended up situating themselves so that there was an awkward space between the two of them. So much for cuddling.
“I’m sorry,” Keith said before he could stop himself.
“For everything, I guess?” He replied though it came out more like a question. “When I returned to the team, I kinda brushed you off. I realize I could’ve handled that better, nicer. And some other things I’ve said recently.... Weren’t very kind, either. I’ve been acting really shitty to you lately and that’s not cool. That’s not how a leader should treat his team. It’s not how friends treat friends.”
Lance let out a brief laugh. “Sorry, I’m not laughing at you or what you said, and it feels great to finally hear those words from someone, it’s just... If I’m being honest, you’re not the one I expected to apologize to me for something like that. But, hey, thanks for the apology. Means a lot, dude.” Keith heard Lance mumble something that sounded an awful lot like Other people can’t relate .
“I heard that, you know,” said Keith. “What do you mean?”
“It’s nothing.” It’s definitely not nothing .
“Lance, you know you can tell me anything, right?”
“Right, yeah, team leader and all.”
“And your friend,” Keith reminded him, “I’m also your friend. Remember that.”
Keith rose his eyebrow at the boy.
“You know that weird game show we were forced into participating in?” Lance started. Keith hummed. “Well... I don’t know how good your memory of it is,” Trust me, I remember everything about it perfectly , “but the host, Bob, or- or what ever, kept calling me the ‘dumb one,’ which, like, shouldn’t mean anything. I mean, I don’t even know the guy, and he doesn’t know me. Why should I care what he says, right?”
“But, like, I’d been called dumb, and have been made fun of so many times before that. By Pidge, mostly. And Hunk. And, like, I know they’re just teasing, but man, Keith, it doesn’t make it hurt any less,” confessed Lance, “And the fact that they keep doing it.... What if they’re right? I’m not a genius like Pidge or super smart with machines like Hunk or a fucking prodigy like you so I must be stupid, right?”
Keith gaped at that. He could not believe what he was hearing. How long had Lance felt this way?
“How long have you felt this way, Lance?” Keith asked aloud.
“I’m not exactly sure when it started, I just know it got worse when...”
“When you... left.” He spat out the word ‘ left ’ as if it left a bitter taste in his mouth.
“I know, I know, you had to leave, I get it,” Lance reassured him, “and I’m, like super glad you did. I mean, you finally found your mom and you have a new pet wolf -- honestly, he seems like any other pet dog, if you ask me, but anyway. God damn it, I’m rambling now. Uh, what I mean to say is that things just didn’t feel the same without you? I.. I guess I missed you. Or something. think that’s why I was so confused when I saw you turn around the opposite direction when we were trying to escape that one Galra prison. I was scared that- that I- er, I mean we would lose you again.”
You could never lose me. You’ve had me in your grip for the past few years or so, even if you don’t remember that moment. I’m afraid you’re stuck with me, Lance.
Keith doubted this wonderful boy had even so much as thought about him while he was gone, especially if one vision of the future that he saw was set in stone.
Out loud Keith whispered, “I missed you, too. And for what it’s worth, you’re not dumb. You’re actually one of the smartest people I know.”
After some silence, Lance spoke up again. “Hey, Keith?”
Keith furrowed his eyebrows. “What?”
“Well... my family visited me earlier, you know, because of-” Keith hummed to let him know he understood what he meant. “And they mentioned something about throwing a homecoming party, ya know, to like, celebrate me returning home.”
“I may have dropped out of school but I know what homecoming means,” said Keith sarcastically.
“Wh- d-did you just make a jo-” Lance spluttered, “You know what? Nevermind, this is more important. Keith, you should stop by, a-at the party, you know, if you want...”
Keith smiled. “I’d love to.”
The two boys continued talking their heads off about random stuff-- somehow they went from talking about their favorite colors (blue and red, go figure) to finding out that they’re both not straight (Lance was bi and Keith was gay, and they both took this new news about the other rather well)-- until they both succumbed to sleep.
Keith’s first thought when he woke up in the morning was this: Fuck.
Because it was very much the next day and he was very much still in Lance’s (hospital) bed and presumably they had very much drifted toward each other last night so much that they ended up cuddling in their sleep. Presumably. He totally didn’t get all that from seeing their legs tangled up in each other and Lance’s head resting on Keith’s chest.
He poked his shoulder. “Lance.”
Lance just whined, nestling further into Keith. Cute.
“Lance. I need to get up,” Keith chided with a chuckle, “I don’t think I’m allowed in he-”
Just then the door opened.
It was probably the nurse. “Oh my God, I am so sorry, nurse, uhh-” Keith directed his attention at the person standing in the doorway hoping to get the nurse’s name from their name tag.... Except it wasn’t a nurse at all.
“Oh, thank God. I’ve been looking all over for you, Keith. When I saw that your room was empty, I was starting to get worried,” his brother sighed. “But I guess there’s nothing to worry about. Take good care of that one, would you, Lance?”
“No promises,” Lance said groggily.
“Shiro!” Keith was flustered.
“Wait, this isn’t a dream?” questioned Lance, sheepish now.
“I swear it’s not what it looks like!” avowed Keith.
Shiro only chortled.
Keith cleared his throat. “So, uh, I’m just gonna...” He quickly got up from his position in Lance’s bed, detangling himself from the boy. Once he was standing he turned to Shiro. “Can I, uh, talk to you for a second?” He glanced over at Lance before adding, “In private?”
His brother nodded. “‘Course.”
“Okay, so first of all, there’s nothing going on between Lance and me,” Keith claimed once they made it to his room.
“You sound disappointed about that fact,” Shiro pointed out.
Keith huffed. “Yeah, well, there’s nothing I can do about that, so.”
“What makes you say that?”
He gave the older boy a pointed look. “It’s obvious he likes Allura, and there’s a good chance she likes him back. Who am I to get in the way of that?”
“As former leader slash black paladin slash head of Voltron, I’ve had the opportunity to observe each and every one of you, so let me give you an outsider’s perspective. I think a lot of what you said were just assumptions.”
Keith again thought back to the vision he saw on the space whale of Allura and Lance. “Believe me, I have a good reason for assuming.”
Shiro put his hands up in surrender. “Look, all I’m saying is don’t give up before you’ve even tried. Talk to him.” Shiro cleared his throat. “So, uh, other than that, how are you feeling, bud?”
“Fine,” Keith mumbled, “My head doesn’t hurt at all, so.”
“Keith, that’s great!” Shiro grinned. “I think there’s a good chance you and the others will all be able to go home today.”
Keith nodded. “Yeah, Lance mentioned something about his family throwing a ’homecoming’ party for him later,” he recalled, “Said I was invited...”
“Oh, yeah, I’d heard about that,” said Shiro. “You gonna go?”
Keith shrugged. “I dunno...”
“Let me rephrase that. You should go.”
Keith looked at him. “You’re gonna keep bugging me about this until I agree to go, aren’t you?”
Keith groaned. “Ugh, fine, I’ll go but not because you told me to.”
Keith got released from the hospital around noon that day. Shiro said he needed to discuss something with Iverson, but he’d see him later at the party. He even added that Keith should probably go to the meeting too since he’s the leader of Voltron now, but since he was just in the hospital, he was given some leeway just this once.
As he started heading out the door, Keith called out to Krolia, “Mom, are you sure you don’t wanna come to the party?”
“Yeah, sweetie, you have fun with your friends,” she encouraged him. “I’ll be fine. I just don’t have the energy for a party.” She laughs. “Besides, there’s something else I’ve been meaning to do here on earth that I haven’t gotten the chance to yet.”
Keith nodded. He had a feeling he knew what she meant by that. Keith hadn’t visited his father since he was a preteen. Maybe he’ll stop by after the party or tomorrow.
Once outside he had a choice to make: either go to Lance’s using his motorbike or Kosmo. He sighed. When he saw the puppy dog eyes along with the wolf’s head tilted ever so slightly, Keith knew his answer.
Keith held onto Kosmo with his eyes closed. He was still learning how this whole teleporting thing worked, but from his limited experience all he had to do was close his eyes, imagine the place or person he wanted to go to, and he’d be there in no time. So, that’s exactly what he did. Eyes closed, his thoughts were consumed by one word: Lance.
When he opened his eyes he scanned the area around him and came to one conclusion. He realized that Kosmo had brought him inside Lance’s house instead of outside his front door. He face-palmed.
“Keith? Oh, wow, I didn’t even hear you come in!” Veronica said in surprise. Okay, good. A familiar face.
He rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly. “Yeah, sorry, uh...” His eyes drifted to the cosmic wolf sitting at his feet.
Veronica’s eyes widened. “Oh, you brought your dog!”
“Is that... okay?”
She laughed. “Of course it is, don’t even worry about it. Just don’t let mi mamá find out I let you bring him into the house.”
Keith’s eyes widened. “Oh, shit, where should I-”
She chuckled. “Follow me.”
“Oohh, Ronnie, who’s that?” A boy Keith didn’t recognize asked as she led him to the backyard, wiggling his eyebrows suggestively. He had shaggy hair and was rather lanky, similar to Lance’s body type but not quite.
She rolled her eyes in response. “For one, this is Keith and second of all, regardless, I’m a raging lesbian, you know this.”
“You don’t mean Keith as in Lance’s Keith, do you?” The words ‘Lance’s Keith’ sent a shiver down Keith’s spine. Now that was a new one. Another boy came up from behind the first boy. This one had his hair slicked back a little. Keith guessed he had some hair spray in but he could hardly tell. Although he had a T shirt and jeans on, Keith hypothesized that he was actually pretty built.
Keith knit his brows together. “W-what do you mean by--”
Veronica gave Keith a pleading look then turned back to the other boys. “Yes, he’s that Keith.”
“Oh, shit,” the first boy said.
“So you’re the one our brother used to talk about all the time when he would visit home during holidays during your Garrison days?”
“I’m Luis, by the way.”
“O-oh, nice to meet you...” Keith stammered. “Speaking of Lance, do you know where he is?”
Luis smirked. “Why do you wanna know?”
Veronica rolled her eyes. “Leave him alone, geez. And Lance is either in the kitchen or his room.”
“We just walked past the kitchen on our way here,” she explained, “It’s to the right when you walk back in. And his room is upstairs, second door on the left.”
Keith nodded. “It was, um, nice to meet you guys...”
He checked the kitchen first. The only people he saw there were Coran and Romelle, who were engaged in an interesting conversation with two middle aged humans, who Keith could only infer were Lance’s parents. From parts of their discussion that Keith heard, they seemed to be comparing Altean customs to Cuban traditions. In another room he found Hunk and Pidge playing a video game with two younger children, whome Keith could assume were Lance's neice and nephew or something. They were laughing and yelling profanities at each other-- the clean versions, like "fudge" for "fuck" and so on for the sake of the children present. Keith smiled at the scene
As Keith wandered through the house he noticed how homey it felt. Family pictures scattered across every wall. In one doorway there were markings in what looked like sharpie that looked like they were measuring something. Looking closer, he realized it was marking heights. Lance, Veronica, Luis, and Marco’s names staggered beside each other, the names getting closer to the top of the doorway to symbolize each sibling growing taller. Keith frowned when he realized that Lance’s name stopped being listed after a while. He knew it was because of the whole Voltron and going missing thing, but it still.
He made it upstairs, and was going to go inside Lance’s room, or at least knock to let him know he was there, when he heard voices. He stopped in his tracks when he realized that the voices belonged to Lance and Allura.
“...You’re the best, princess,” beamed Lance. Keith could practically hear his smile he must be wearing right now.
“Lance, seriously, you’re too sweet,” she giggled.
“Hey, I’m just being honest,” he defended.
“C’mere, you goof.” Next thing Keith knew, Lance and Allura were hugging. The weird feeling in his gut he felt when he saw this the first time in the quantum abyss returned. He turned away with a scowl. So it was real, huh?
“I should probably go back downstairs,” Allura told him.
“Oh! Yeah, no, go ahead, I’ll follow behind shortly. I just need to think.”
Keith pressed his back against the wall in an attempt to hide himself as she left the room to go down the spiral staircase. Keith frowned as he soon remembered what would eventually happen. Oh, great. Maybe if he quickly fled downstairs, too, he wouldn’t have to face Lance or the next part of what he saw in the vision.
As he started to walk away, however, he heard a voice. Of course, it was Lance.
He stopped in his tracks. “Oh, uh, hi,” he rubbed his own arm awkwardly. “Sorry, this place is just so big I think I got lost,” he lied the way he had in the vision.
Lance put a hand on his hip, his eyebrows furrowed. “Were you spying on me?”
“What? No, of course not,” denied Keith.
He looked at him suspiciously. “So you didn’t see me talking to-?”
Keith knew what was supposed to happen next. He considered not even asking, to save himself the pain of rejection, but his curiosity outweighed his self-preservation instincts for once. He interjected, “Are you two...?”
Lance looked taken aback. “Are we what? Together?”
Keith nodded sheepishly.
Lance was incredulous, and looked like he was about to laugh. “Far from it, actually.”
Keith’s eyebrows knit together. “But you like her, don’t you?”
Lance shrugged. “I mean, you’re not wrong.” Keith’s eyes were trained on the ground. He knew it. “But-” But? Keith looked back up at the other boy. “But recently I’ve realized that while I’ve been crushing on Allura, there was also someone else that I’d been getting feelings for. I also realized that whatever I felt for Allura, I felt for the other person tenfold.”
“So when you were talking to her just now...?”
“I told her we were better off as friends,” he clarified.
Keith looked at him curiously. “So do I get to know who this new crush is?”
“You know what? Sure,” Lance agreed. “But you have to guess.”
“Do I get anything if I get it right?”
Lance shrugged. “We’ll see.”
Keith narrowed his eyes at him. “Alright, is it Romelle?”
Lance looked horrified. “I mean, she’s beautiful and sweet and funny, but nah. She’s..... Not what my type is at the moment.”
Keith frowned, thinking back to all the people Lance flirted with in the past. Most were girls, and specifically he had flirted with Nyma a while back, which would’ve made Romelle an obvious contender given the fact that she was basically Nyma’s Altean-sona. But if she wasn’t his type then did that mean Lance’s current crush was a... boy?
“Wait, is it that one Garrison cadet?” Keith questioned.
“Who, James? Ew, no, I can’t stand that guy. Plus he was a dick to you back in school,” Lance cringed. "I like to think I'm not that much of an asshole, man."
“I can’t believe you remember that,” admitted Keith. “Also, I meant Kinkade.”
Lance’s eyes widened. “Oh! Him! He’s hot and a sweetheart, like, if I didn’t already like this one person I’d definitely go for him, but still, no. It’s not him. You’re getting warmer, though.”
“This is not how I expected this conversation to go,” muttered Keith.
“What? You were expecting to have this conversation in general though?” Lance inquired. “Do you know something that I don’t?”
Shit. “Uh, well, not this part of the conversation, in particular...”
Keith motioned to inside Lance’s room and Lance seemed to get the hint. He led the two of them inside and they both sat down on the edge of Lance’s blue plaid bed.
Keith took a deep breath. “You know the quantum abyss thing I went to for, like, two years?”
Lance just nodded, “What does this have to do with anything?”
Keith continued, “Well, I told you that I saw visions there, right?” Lance nodded again. “Well... one of the visions was basically our conversation just now, up until me asking you if you and Allura were together.” Keith furrowed his eyebrows. “It’s been running through my mind for a while, which is another reason why I’ve been acting so strange lately, brushing you off one minute and having you as the first person I look to on the battlefield the next minute.”
“That doesn’t make sense. Why would a stupid vision of such a petty thing affect you that much?”
Keith sighed. Here it comes. “The vision cut off at me asking if you two were together, so for the longest time I’d been stressing about what your answer was going to be. I kind of assumed you were going to say yes, and I don’t know what I’d do with myself if you did.
“The truth is I’ve liked you, like really liked you ever since our bonding moment, which I’m still kinda iffy on whether or not you actually remember it. Part of me still thinks you’re lying about the whole not remembering it thing,” He accused jokingly. “Maybe it started before then, when you were still adamant about this so-called rivalry between us, but I guess ever since the bonding moment I noticed you more-- I noticed how you’re always the one picking people up when they’re down, hell I’d experienced it firsthand when I first started piloting the black lion. Y-you’re my stability, Lance. So... when I saw that vision on the space whale... I was convinced it was a sign that I should just try to get over you because what’s the point if you were just gonna end up with Allura, y’know?”
I can’t believe I just said all of that.
Lance’s expression was hard to read. “Here are some new hints to who my crush is.”
Back to this now? Okay then. He looked at him suspiciously. “Alright, i’ll bite.”
Lance studied him. “He’s smart and brave... and he’s the team leader and he’s part Galra, so I think he’s, like. The future.”
Wait. That’s precisely what he said during the game show to describe--
Lance beamed. “Ding, ding, ding, we have a winner!”
“You, Lance McClain, have a crush on... me.”
Lance nodded in confirmation. “Yes, I, Lance McClain,” He held up his hand like a boy scout making a pledge, “have a ridiculously huge crush on you. I don’t think I fully realized that that’s what it was until recently,” he admitted, “I just know that out of everyone on the team, you’re the one I trust most. I admit I started the conversation, but you were there for me when I felt lost.
“You made me feel like I had a place on the team again, which might be why I felt... strange when you were gone. I mean I pretty much told you this during our mini sleepover at the hospital, but yeah. Wh-when you came back all these emotions came rushing into me all at once, but there was one clear message among them all: I didn’t want to go through what I felt when you were gone ever again.”
Keith didn’t know what to say. The rest of his body seemed to work better than his mouth, though, because he was moving closer and closer to the other boy, so that they were barely inches apart.
“I’ve decided what my prize for guessing right can be,” Keith breathed.
Lance pulled away. “Hey, that’s cheating! I had to help you!”
Keith laughed. “Okay, but it’s not like I called a lifeline. You gave me hints out of your own free will, that’s not my fault.”
Lance shoved him playfully, and Keith pushed back in the same manner. They play wrestled each other on Lance’s bed until Keith had Lance pinned on his back.
“Do I get my prize now?”
Lance just nodded, staring up at him as if he had the whole world in his hands.
Keith hesitated. “In case it wasn’t clear, I want to kiss you. C-can I?”
“ God , yes,” Lance swooned. “ Pleasekissmefuck .”
Once their lips connected, he was giddy, and his body felt like he was both on fire and drowning at the same time. Somehow Lance had flipped them over so that Lance was straddling Keith. And he didn’t mind one bit. It was everything he expected but also nothing like he could have ever imagined. Maybe it was the adrenaline talking but Lance’s lips made him feel like he could conquer the world-- no, the Universe . Every thought, every sentence, every word in Keith’s mind began and ended with Lance Lance Lance .
Eventually they had to stop for air. They pulled apart from each other, dazed. They lay on their sides, facing each other with their foreheads touching. Lance brought his hand to cup Keith’s face. Keith felt vulnerable especially as Lance began tracing the scar on his cheek, which he got from fighting Shiro’s clone. Eventually he grew used to the touch, closing his eyes briefly as Lance caressed his face.
“Tell me one thing no one knows about you,” murmured Lance as he continued tracing and running his thumb along his cheek.
Keith hummed, thinking about something good to share. “Well, this was a while ago but. Back when I piloted Red, I used to sing to myself to pass the time and keep prepared,” he admitted.
Lance stopped tracing. He looked at him softly and giggled. He wished he could've recorded that sound and replay it over and over again until the whole world knew about the beauty known as Lance McClain's giggles. “You... what?”
Keith blushed. “I’m serious! I made up my own theme song and everything!”
"Okay, well, now I'm gonna have to hear this song of yours, it's only fair," Lance reasoned.
"It's not that good, honestly, it's stupid," claimed Keith.
"I'll be the judge of that. Sing, my angel of music,” grinned Lance.
Keith rolled his eyes. “Alright, so it goes,” he cleared his throat, “I’m flyyyin’ in the red liiioon! You think you’re gonna get away, no, no, Keith’s coming to save the day!” Keith rubbed the back of his neck when he was done, all flustered. “I can’t believe I just told you this, oh my god.”
“You’re such a dork, wow,” Lance smiled fondly at him, then absentmindedly blurted, “God, I love you.” He froze, eyes widening when he realized what he just said.
“Y-you... love.. Me?” Keith’s brain short-circuited.
“Y-yes?” Lance answered, though it sounded more like a question. “Is- is it too soon to say that?”
Keith managed to snap himself out of the daze he was put in at the sound of those three words.
“Well if it’s too soon then I don’t care because I love you more,” Keith replied, smug.
Lance narrowed his eyes. “Don’t turn this into a competition, Mullet.”
“Why? Afraid you’ll lose?”
“Well, even if I lose, I’m still winning.”
Keith cocked his head to the side. “Oh yeah? How so?”
“Because either way,” Lance inched toward Keith, glancing down at his lips, “I have you right where I want you.”
“You’re right,” Keith conceded, “And I’m not going anywhere.”
Later that night, everyone gathered in the backyard for a toast. They were all sat at a huge table, the paladins and some alien colleagues on one side, and the McClain family on the other. Turns out Krolia was able to come after all, so she was seated in between Kolivan and Shiro, who had arrived to the party probably some time during Keith's talk with Lance. Keith would make some disgusted comment about 'couples and their PDA' when he saw Shiro do the classic yawn-and-throw-arm-around-partner move on Adam from where he was sitting, but Keith figured it would probably backfire on him given the fond looks being exchanged between Lance and he and also the fact that the two of them were playing footsie under the table.
Speaking of fond looks, either Keith was just seeing things or Allura and Romelle seemed to be smiling and looking away from each other shyly a lot just now. He wasn't the best at reading people, though, so maybe he'll have to ask Lance what he thought about that later.
"To the paladins!" Lance's mom cheered. "Welcome home!"
A chorus of Welcome home 's followed after. Kosmo howled.
For the longest time, when Keith tried to envision what "home" looked like, he had no clue how to do that. No place felt like home to him. But as he looked around him at his mom, at Shiro and Adam, at Coran, at the coalition, at his fellow paladins, at Lance .... he realized that maybe he finally understood what that word meant.
"Welcome home," he whispered to himself.