Lance glanced down at the text from Shiro on his phone, Can’t wait. See you soon.
He knew it wasn’t really Shiro, but it was as close as he was going to get. He had tried for years to get over this stupid crush. He watched Shiro marry Keith — he was in the wedding party for fuck's sake. And still, that little bit of his heart ached watching the man he always loved marry someone else.
So, when he passed by that little shop to see the streak of white hair, he paused.
This wasn’t Keith’s Shiro with all white hair. This was the Shiro he fell for during all those long months on the castle ship. The one who guided him through the pain of Blue rejecting him and Red being his new lion, and every time Red decided to test him.
This was his Shiro that spent hours training with him and helping him be the second in command. This was the Shiro that listened to him talk about home and family.
Well, at least it looked like his Shiro. Only, this time there wouldn’t be a Keith to come back and steal all his attention.
Tonight, Shiro was Lance’s. Just Lance’s.
Hopefully, tonight would be enough.
His phone buzzed to remind him that he had an hour left before the date. The shop owner had him down from eight pm until noon tomorrow. Lance had already prepared himself — the spa day had cost almost as much as the rental (not that it mattered, the non-disclosure agreement paid well enough that he could have bought the Android outright… but he wanted to still be able to look his friends in the eye… and owning a bot of one of them was maybe just a little too creepy).
He had been exfoliated, moisturized, and waxed within an inch of his life. He already put in the plug — a simple black one with two small bulges that he had custom made with onyx color gems in the base. He could feel the ball inside the plug moving around, gently shifting the second bulge against his prostate.
Lance threw on the outfit he picked and fussed over his hair one last time, turning this way and that in the mirror. He was struck by how different he looked now. Usually, he gave it no thought, after all, he had aged with this body. However, something about going on a date with the spitting image of his teenage crush made his own reflection feel surreal.
On the other hand, it was probably better this way. He was no longer some lanky teen who hadn’t a clue what he was doing. No, he was a veteran, a diplomat, a prime time personality. His hair had grown out, and the parade of stylists had given him subtle highlights and taught him how to create that careless sexy look. He wore tailored clothes that showed off his figure and the lean muscle he’d gained in his early twenties. He actually had to shave now.
He was an adult, but he felt as nervous as the teen he’d long ago left behind.
His stomach churned, and he took a few deep breaths to calm himself. There was no need to be so freaked out. Everything was set up to be perfect. Besides, it was just an android. It would be programmed to do everything right and to think Lance did everything right too. Nodding to himself, Lance made his way out of the hotel room.
He was a long way from home, but that suited his plans for tonight. He didn’t need anyone knowing what he was doing. Besides, the shop he’d contacted was far off planet. Since he was doing some intergalactic talk shows at the moment, it worked as a great cover.
The trip was full of doubts, but he did his best to shove them to the side. His life was far past the point of logic, and besides, he couldn’t keep creeping on Shiro. The too-long glances at his ass were going to get him caught soon.
It didn’t matter that he was most of the way in love with Shiro, the man was happily married to Keith. Not to mention everyone in Team Voltron were his best friends, his space family, all of them devoted to each other. If Lance fucked things up and ruined his friendship with Shiro and Keith, everyone else would abandon him as well. He was the weak link that needed them, not the other way around.
So he was out of excuses. Something had to be done to get over this crush and move on.
Lance made his way to the restaurant and saw the shop owner sitting outside, playing a game on some device, one of his four purple arms scratching his head. He was a tall, bulky guy that looked half Galra, but seemed peaceable enough. Lance supposed that was needed when in the business of sales.
The shopkeeper looked up as Lance approached and put on the customer service smile. “Hello again!”
Lance blushed. “Hi, sir.”
“I think I’ve reminded you before — it’s just Ethan. And stop blushing! You ordered a talking sex doll from me, so we’re long past formalities.”
Lance pulled a face at Ethan who was laughing at his bashfulness.
“Listen, I don’t judge. He’s yours for the night, now I can fuck off and you can fuck off, eh?”
Lance rubbed the back of his neck and chuckled a bit. “Yeah, sure… see ya tomorrow.”
With a companionable pat on the shoulder, Ethan sauntered off. Lance smoothed down his jacket, took a deep breath, and squared his shoulders. Now or never.
Lance entered the cozy, low lit restaurant and looked around. Finding “Shiro” wasn’t so difficult. He was at a table with his back to the door, surrounded by a handful of people asking for autographs. Lance snuck up behind them and was immediately spotted by a starry-eyed little girl who was excited to see not just one, but two, defenders of the universe now. Lance held a finger to his lips and winked at her.
The best part about not being on Earth was the lack of photographs. The rest of the universe preferred a hologram — you didn’t ever have to meet the person you wanted to wrap your arms around. Just save up enough credits and you’d get a nice 3d digital rendering of your choice. He shuddered at the thought of a picture of this getting back to Keith.
Black hair in an undercut with a single white forelock could be seen from Lance’s vantage point. One arm was in the old Galra style that most of the universe remembered from the Voltron Coalition tours. He was classic Shiro, the one Lance had fallen hard for. Even from behind, Shiro looked so young and strong, in the prime of his life. It was strangely nostalgic.
Sauntering over, Lance propped one hand on Shiro’s chair back and leaned against it, striking a pose and flashing his best smile. “I see my friend here is stealing all the attention.” The gathered crowd squealed at Lance’s charming act.
Then it happened. Shiro turned around and looked up at Lance with this soft, enraptured smile, as if seeing the other pilot was the best thing that had ever happened to him. That was a look that Lance had never thought to see directed at him. It tightened his chest to something achingly painful and ripped the breath from his lungs. It was everything he’d ever wanted.
For the first time since seeing the shop with the AIs, Lance questioned whether this date was actually going to cure him of this crush rather than make it worse.
“Lance,” Shiro breathed, eyes sparkling with excitement. It was enough to make Lance weak in the knees. His brain shut down. He had no idea what to say.
The world around them snapped back into focus when a waiter came by to shoo away the crowd, demanding that they give the paying customers their privacy. They groaned and mumbled as they walked away, and Lance spared them a polite smile and wave. The waiter promised to return soon for their order.
Sitting in the chair across from Shiro, Lance desperately tried to calm the rather vicious butterflies accosting his stomach. The plug inside of him shifted as he leaned back against the chair, and he struggled not to squirm. “H-hey, Shiro. Been a while.”
“You have no idea how happy I am to see your face,” Shiro said, features lit up with a strange mix of excitement and relief. The dating algorithms written into his programming were impressive.
“Me too,” Lance mumbled, his eyes darting everywhere. He was so nervous. His mind was at a full stop, having no idea what to say now that he was in the middle of the arranged date. The looks Shiro was giving Lance were too much for his poor heart to take.
The waiter returned for their drink order, both of them requesting to start out with water as they perused the menus. Lance would need a whole pitcher of water by the time the date was done. His throat felt painfully dry already.
Alone once more, menu propped in front of his face, Lance peeked up at Shiro to see the man doing the same thing. Heat rushed into Lance’s cheeks as he immediately broke eye contact. Had it always been so difficult to look Shiro in the eye?
“Is there anyone watching us?” Shiro asked in a whisper.
“What?” Lance looked back to find serious and hopeful eyes gazing back at him. “Uh, n-no.” Was he worried about being spied on by the fans? Sure, if they did anything weird, rumors could spread, but that happened all the time. Shiro could be confirmed as being back on Earth, so there would be no substance to them. “We’re totally safe.”
Shiro dropped his menu with a huge sigh of relief. “I’m so glad you found a way in. I didn’t know how to contact anyone for help, but I knew you guys would find a way to save me.”
There was a sinking feeling in Lance’s gut. This was certainly not part of a normal dating script. Perhaps when he was still a naive teenager, he would have convinced himself otherwise. That was no longer the case. He was better at assessing things now and sensing a problem that was brewing.
“Well, I’m here now,” Lance said, his lips feeling numb. If he could get Shiro talking, he could figure out what exactly was wrong. Was there something corrupted in the coding or…
"You have no idea what they've made us do. What they've made me do." Shiro looked so haunted, his eyes intense and imploring. It was hard to remember that he wasn’t real. That he was just a machine — an android.
“We've all tried to escape,” Shiro continued, voice quiet and clear. “But this thing they put in our necks stop us.” He rubbed at something on the back of his neck, fingers trembling the barest amount. “They keep calling us androids, but that's not right!”
Lance’s ears were ringing.
Shiro had a hopeful smile on his face as he spoke the next words, like they were the only things bringing him comfort. “But you know that already. It's why you're here."
Lance didn't know that. He didn't know anything other than the fact that he was starting to feel incredibly sick. He told himself to say something in the tense silence, but he couldn’t force anything out. His head was a mess. What do you say to that?
Not-Shiro was starting to look worried at Lance’s continued lack of response. His fingers picked at the menu in a nervous habit Lance had never seen Shiro do. Taking a sharp breath, Not-Shiro started babbling.
"I... I think the others are clones. Or... or maybe I'm a clone, too?” He swallowed hard, looking down at the table, eyes going unfocused. “I have memories, but they're scattered. I don't know what to think anymore."
“What do you remember?” Lance heard himself ask before he’d even really thought about it. His voice sounded like he felt: scared.
Desperate eye's locked onto Lance. "There's not another Shiro out there, is there? It's just me. Just... us..."
Lance should’ve said something. He couldn't. He couldn't even wipe off the look of growing horror and panic spreading across his face. Not-Shiro noticed and the hope and happiness that burned too intensely upon first seeing Lance began to flicker and fade. The truth didn’t have to be spoken to be known.
"Oh…” Shiro’s voice sounded so suddenly small. “There is… Are… Are you sure?”
Lance nodded in a mechanical way. “We know for a fact.”
Shiro swallowed hard and looked down at his lap. "Am I really just an uppity android with too many memories, then? Are you... Are you going to take me back and—” Shiro choked off before taking a deep breath and valiantly finishing, "—and have me fixed?"
The waiter suddenly appeared at their table with water glasses. "May I recommend some wine with your meal—"
"Strongest stuff you have," Lance replied. "The whole bottle." He handed the menus back over. “To go.”
The waiter looked taken aback, but he didn’t argue, just spun around and went to fulfill the request. Not-Shiro looked panicked, his breathing kicking up a notch. “Please, don’t tell the shopkeeper. I’ll be good. I won’t say anything more. I—”
Lance reached across the table and grabbed Shiro’s trembling hand. “Listen to me, we’re going to figure this out. I promise. Nobody’s doing anything to you without your consent, okay?”
“But what if I am just an uppity android?” Shiro asked in a pained whisper that felt like a bullet to Lance’s chest.
“It doesn’t matter. If you’re scared, I’ll find a way to help. I don’t care who or... or what you are, understand?”
Not-Shiro nodded as he tried to put on a brave face, as if everything he had once believed hadn’t just crumbled around him. “I trust you.”
“I won’t let you down.”
The waiter came over with the wine contained in a fancy bag. Lance handed over a lot of what passed for cash on this planet and told him to keep the change. Wrapping one arm around Shiro’s, they left, heading for the shop Not-Shiro had come from to clear everything up. Lance took a long, long pull from the bottle of wine to steady his nerves, he was going to need it.
Lance cursed and threw his phone at the bed. The shop had been closed, the owner nowhere in sight. The business line went to voicemail. There was an emergency line, but that would just send a tech out to reset the “android” which had sent Not-Shiro into a panic. They ended up back at Lance’s very nice, very romantic suite he’d booked for the night while Lance continued to attempt contacting the shop owner.
“I can’t reach him,” Lance sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “We’ll have to wait on him to come to pick you up tomorrow—”
“Are you sending me back?” Not-Shiro sat on the deep red love seat, back stock straight, face a mixture of too many emotions for Lance to handle.
“No, of course not! I promise you, I’m not.” Lance walked over and placed his hands on Shiro’s shoulders. “I just want to get to the bottom of this. I’m going to figure this out. I’ll get you and everyone else out of there. Promise.”
Shiro picked at his nails and nodded, looking like he wanted to believe Lance but was too wary to do so. Everything about it was so different, so un-Shiro-like. An android would have been programmed to act like the videos, right? All suave confidence and perfect smiles. That wasn’t the Shiro sitting in front of Lance. Not by a long shot.
“I believe you,” Lance said as he moved to sit beside Not-Shiro. “I don’t think you’re an android. Even if you are, you’re way too advanced to be—Guh!” He choked off the moment his weight dropped onto his ass.
The plug had long ago been forgotten, but after so many hours of distraction and pacing, it was starting to chafe and the subtle press to his prostate was becoming a bit too sensitive. The slight shuffling of the ball was more noticeable than it had any right to be. Worst of all, it reminded him of exactly what he had originally planned for the evening. He was no different than anyone else that had rented and used Not-Shiro previously.
It made him sick.
Worried eyes locked onto his, making him swallow hard around his guilt. His eyes darted around the room in search of the now half-empty wine bottle. The alcohol would likely do him no favors at the moment, but how else was he to handle himself?
“It’s nothing,” Lance promised. “Have you seen the wine?”
A hand pushed against his chest, forcing Lance to lean back against the couch. The plug dug into him, the ball shifted, his hole stretched uncomfortably. He took a sharp breath and winced. Shiro’s eyes were keen and saw right through Lance’s poor attempts to cover his actions.
“How long have you been wearing it?” Shiro asked.
Lance blushed to the roots of his hair. “Wearing what?” he squeaked.
“You ordered me for a reason, when you didn’t know.” There was an odd look in Shiro’s eyes, something between sadness, resignation, and guilt. “And I… I ruined your night.”
“No! No, no, no.” Lance shook his head hard. “It was stupid of me. I’m at fault. All me. You did nothing wrong. The upside is I get to save you, right? Loverboy Lance gets to be Lance the Hero this time!” He was babbling. Quiznak, when was the last time he’d caught himself babbling? He felt like a kid again.
“Anyways…” Lance rubbed his damp palms against his pants. “I’m going to pop into the bathroom for a minute—”
“I can take care of it.” Shiro looked serious. Totally serious. Serious enough to put his hand out and slide it along Lance’s side, and oh my, Shiro’s hand was so hot, and oh it felt better than he’d ever dreamed and—
“Wait!” Lance put some distance between them with a double-armed shove. “You don’t have to do that!”
A little line grew between Shiro’s eyebrows as he tilted his head at Lance. “Why not?”
“Because I’m not going to take advantage of you!”
It was Shiro’s turn to blush. He looked down at Lance’s hands over his pecs before taking them in his own and lowering them. One hand rough and warm, the other smooth and cold. “I know you won’t,” Shiro said, voice quiet. “Most of the people that buy a night with me are just looking for some mindless fantasy.”
Me, too, Lance thought, but his tongue felt too thick to say it.
“But you know me. Or, I should say, you know Shiro .” He looked contemplative as he admitted to himself that he truly wasn’t who he thought he was. “So I guess I’m asking what your reason was. I know you have to have one.”
Lance really didn’t want to say it, but he at least owed the person he’d almost hurt the truth. “I… I fell for Shiro pretty hard.” Lance’s face heated up and his gut churned. He watched his hands, waiting for the moment that Not-Shiro pulled away. “I knew I didn’t have a chance. I knew he was in love with Keith. I’m happy for them, really, I am, but…”
Startled, Lance looked up at Not-Shiro’s stunned face. “Uhhh… Yeah. They, uh, got married.”
“But he’s a kid!”
“Well, not anymore. They’ve gone through a lot together.” They all had, though it had certainly brought Keith and Shiro closer than ever.
Not-Shiro shook his head in disbelief. “But he’s like my little brother!”
Lance couldn’t help it. He snorted. “Keith called them brothers once and Shiro was upset about it for years. Bro-zoned.”
Shiro collapsed back against the couch. “I can’t imagine it.”
Something a little too excited fluttered in Lance’s chest, but he squashed it. “Well, that just proves that you two are different people, ya know? Not exact copies. And that’s the point. You deserve to live your own life.”
Not-Shiro hummed and ran his thumb along the back of Lance’s hand. “It still feels strange to think of myself as someone else. I’m still who I am because of Shiro’s memories.”
What did you say to that? It was a complex situation and Lance was nowhere near capable of handling it. “Well, you can still be whoever you want. Besides, I think you’re already a nicer guy than Shiro.” Lance grinned, hoping it would make the man feel better.
Not-Shiro gave Lance a wry smile. “Now you’re just being nice.” They paused for a moment in awkward silence, both of them wondering how they were going to possibly handle things from now on. “Maybe I should have a different name.”
“Oh?” Lance smiled encouragingly. “Yeah, I think that’s a good idea.” After all, he couldn’t keep calling him Not-Shiro forever.
“I was thinking… I was thinking it’d be nice to be called Takashi.”
Lance blinked. He had assumed that Not-Shiro would choose something not so close to the original. “You sure?”
“Yeah…” A hint of pink crept into those perfect cheeks. “For better or worse, who Shiro was defines me, but I — he — was always able to relax and be someone other than the military officer when while simply Takashi. I think I’d like to discover who I am that way.”
“Alright.” Lance squeezed the large hands in his own. “Then it’s nice to meet you, Takashi.”
That statement was met with a large grin. “You, too, Lance.”
That shy, slightly blushing face smiling at Lance was doing things to him. He needed to take a moment to himself and recover. He really needed the plug out of his ass. “Okay, well, I’ll be right back and then we can think about food and sleeping arrangements and—”
“Is it because I’m not Shiro?”
“What?” Lance gaped at Takashi’s sad and concerned look.
“Is that why you don’t want to be with me?”
“What? No! That’s not— I mean— You are— Wait! Why are you pushing this in the first place? You don’t want to be forced to have sex with some stranger anyways, right?”
“You’re not a stranger,” Takashi said, and damn him for looking so earnest about it. “You’re someone who knows me and wanted me, even after all these years. You weren’t looking for some twisted sense of superiority or a moment in the spotlight. You wanted a private date, just you and me, talking and having fun. I… Ever since I ended up at that shop… I’ve never had that.”
That didn’t help Lance at all. Takashi wanted to be with Lance only because he’d never experienced someone being truly kind or had someone talk to him like an actual human being. Nobody had ever gone above and beyond to help him and fix the situation— no one had even tried, probably. That would just mean Lance was taking advantage of a hurt and vulnerable person if he did anything.
“You don’t owe me anything for that,” Lance said, voice soft and careful. “Don’t worry about it.”
Takashi shook his head. “It isn’t about that. I just… Wouldn’t you be lonely, too? In my shoes?”
Lance was always lonely. He never said that out loud, not to anyone. He constantly felt a step away from losing everyone around him. He had to make new friends, new connections, constantly to replace the ones that would leave. Lance was just the friend on the side, not the person you grew close to.
In a way, Takashi likely knew what that felt like. Always wanted for someone else’s image and never for himself. A shadow who watches his life play out as an inactive participant, never having a chance to be his own self.
They were two lonely souls astray in the universe.
Takashi leaned forward and Lance didn’t stop it. He should have. The guilt and self-loathing would eat him up later, but he was physically incapable of stopping Takashi from leaning in. It was like the perfect cheat code. Takashi knew who Lance was and wanted him anyways. Already acquainted strangers who were desperate to touch each other.
So when Takashi’s lips pressed against his, Lance moaned and opened his mouth. It was gentle and exploratory, like Takashi had never had a chance to just do things at his own pace before. He probably hadn’t. Lance just sat where he was and let Takashi do as he pleased, soaking up the feeling of warmth and care.
“Please,” Takashi whispered against Lance’s lips. “Please like me, too.”
Lance was going to hell. “I do.”
Then his arms were around Takashi’s neck and those big hands were wrapped around his waist. It was a dream come true and a nightmare come to life all at once, and Lance was happily drowning in it.
They devolved into grasping hands and needy moans. There were clothes flying, and a constant reminder of the plug in Lance’s ass every time he moved. His head spun before he realized Takashi had pulled them up off the loveseat. Lance wrapped his legs around the solid waist as he shoved his tongue into Takashi's mouth.
Movement. Warm hands. Heavy breaths. Lance’s back hit something soft. Shit. They were on the bed. This was progressing too fast. He should do something about it. Except his libido decided that “do something” translated to “wrap your hand around that dick” and oh wow that’s a nice dick…
“Lance,” Shiro moaned.
Wait. Lance’s eyes popped open but that moment of disorientation didn’t pass when inches away from Shiro’s face and a white tuft of hair. Pulling up his free hand, he slapped it on top of Takashi’s head, covering the white and leaving only the black. It sort of helped. At the very least, he looked more like Shiro the Teacher rather than Shiro the Paladin— Keith's husband.
Lance had a one-way, express ticket to hell.
Something odd flickered across Takashi’s eyes. “It’s okay.” He reached up and pulled Lance’s hand off his head. “You can think of me as Shiro if you want it.”
“What? No! I wasn’t— That’s not— No.”
“Lance, until a few hours ago, even I thought I was Shiro. We can just pretend. Just for tonight.”
“Don’t say ‘but’ when your hand is still on my dick.”
Lance blushed. He couldn’t help it. Shiro’s voice had just said the word dick in his presence. “I feel like you’re a masochist.”
Takashi smirked and leaned forward again, his lips moving along Lance’s when he spoke. “Maybe.”
Sex with Takashi was like an out of body experience. Hands and lips, breath and body heat, moans and whimpers, they were all surreal. Lance about came off the bed when the plug was carefully pulled out of him and tossed to the side. He trembled when more lube was pressed inside of him. He begged for it in a nonsensical stream of profanity, but Takashi understood what he wanted, what he needed.
Takashi was gentle and intimate. He looked at Lance like at any moment reality would shatter and the whole experience would be some kind of strange dream. Lance could relate to that feeling. So they held to an unspoken agreement — make it last.
Slow, gentle thrusts, soft kisses, and exploratory fingers was what their world narrowed to. They held each other and whispered soothing platitudes and promises that everything would be alright. They lost themselves in distracting pleasure where it was easy to pretend that nothing else mattered but their connection at the moment.
It was unlike anything Lance had experienced before, and his climax was intense and soothing all at once. It made no sense, but he felt closer to Takashi than he had to anyone in a long, long time.
Afterward, they held each other close, desperately clinging to one another like it could all be ripped away in a moment.
“Thank you,” Takashi murmured.
“Ditto,” Lance whispered. Truly, his crush on Shiro might have actually been broken after everything that had happened. In its place was an intense need to protect Takashi and the others with everything at Lance’s disposal. Deep down, Lance knew that was likely just a distraction from his deeper issues, but he was good at ignoring little facts like that.
“Don’t leave me,” Takashi said, arms squeezing Lance tight.
“I won’t. Promise.”
Sleep came for Lance eventually and just before it did, he heard Takashi mumble, “Do you think I should dye my hair? Make myself… me?”
“Mmhmm, ‘s a good idea.”
A nose nuzzled into Lance’s hair. “Thank you…”