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Accidental Alien Baby Acquisition and Its Accidental Consequences

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Keith jumped off the cliff.

 

He jumped off the cliff without his jetpack, which was currently back on the Castle being repaired. He flung himself out into the deep, dark abyss with no way of saving himself from a messy, splattered end.

 

Lance might have cussed in three different languages — English, Spanish, Bi-Boh — before he launched himself after Keith, but he wasn’t aware of what his mouth was spitting out.

 

All he recognized was the all-consuming panic coursing through his veins. This feeling was sadly, irritatingly familiar because the Red and Black Paladin/Blade of Marmora Keith pulled this kind of shit all the damn time. The entirety of Team Voltron had told him how much this was just not cool, Keith, fucking stop it, lecturing him on the value of his life. Twice. Three times, actually, if one included that day Shiro had basically cried into Keith’s chest when the idiot had taken a freaking spiked mace to the head in Shiro’s place.

 

Lance was so damn tired of this.

 

Lance, what the f—” Keith gasped out as Lance snatched him around the middle, and then powered his jetpack, using maximum thrust to haul them both out from the swirling pitch-black clouds. Keith had something in his arms, but Lance was more focused (and annoyed) by the indignation in Keith’s tone.

 

“What the fuck is right, you ridiculous asshole!” he snapped. “What the fuck were you thinking?”

 

“That I had a damn grappling hook? She was going to die!” Keith yelled back, and Lance finally glanced down at Keith’s arms — the bundle moved, a little noise emerging that sounded distinctly familiar to Lance, as a guy who’d grown up in a huge family.

 

“Keith, I think you’re holding a baby!”

 

“You didn’t see? Some person just … just flung her over the cliff. How could you miss that?”

 

“Because I was …” Lance frantically rewound the last few minutes, right before Keith jumped like a moron. A little ways from Keith, there’d been these two giant birds, and they’d sort of looked like feathered versions of the velociraptors from Jurassic Park; Lance had been wondering if maybe they could be ridden, because Lance had always wanted to ride a velociraptor …

 

“I was paying attention to the extremely important speech the governor—”

 

“You mean the King?”

 

“Right, that dude, who was saying very important—”

 

“Talking about the latest successful crop yield?”

 

Yes, Keith, damn it, if there’s no food, then everyone starves to death, and we have no allies for Voltron, okay?” Lance landed back on the edge of the flowery meadow, such a stark contrast to the ominous canyon mere metres away. Seriously, no fence? No warning sign? This seemed incredibly ill-advised, and Lance would absolutely bring it up at the next alliance negotiation meeting.

 

Shiro and Allura rushed over, closely followed by Hunk, Pidge, and Coran. Keith cradled the grey bundle to his chest, a tiny six-fingered hand waving out, the skin a shade of lavender that Lance hadn’t seen around the planet Yil’Syluwe.

 

A Syluwen who’d been running towards them now screeched to a halt, her face twisted up in shock.

 

“Keith!” Shiro’s tone said it all, encompassing all of Lance’s frustration and ire.

 

“I know, but I swear, this wasn’t … She’s so little, Shiro, I couldn’t just …” Keith leaned forward, stretching out his arms just enough for the swaddled bundle to be revealed.

 

An unbearably small baby blinked up at them.

 

Her (Lance just went with Keith’s assumption) face scrunched up in discomfort. She had similar facial features to the Syluwens — long thin nose, small pert lips, wide humanoid eyes with iris and pupil of nearly the same colour (in this baby’s case, slightly different shades of a dark green), surrounded by green the same shade as that of her pupil. But unlike the rest of her people, her skin wasn’t blue or brown, or anything in-between — she was a lovely lilac colour, her infant-fine hair an oddly recognizable dark purple, and instead of flat ears, hers stuck out, rather pointedly …

 

“She … she looks like she’s part Galra,” Allura said quietly, taking a step closer to Keith, shielding the baby from the curious onlookers at her back … Except for that one Syluwen woman, whose expression had gone from shocked to fearful.

 

“Princess, you must take the child from here.” She also blocked the infant away from prying eyes, her hands shaking at her sides.

 

Lance stepped in closer to Keith and the baby without thinking twice, his bayard in hand, though not transformed … yet. “Why, what’s wrong?”

 

“The Galra ruled over us with an iron fist,” she whispered quickly, “and they did not tolerate their soldiers … intermingling with the populace. But a few did so. If the union resulted in a child, neither side took kindly to it. In the months since you helped us overthrow them, the law against Galra half-breeds continues to be upheld.”

 

“What is the punishment?” Shiro asked as softly as possible, guiding their group away from the crowd.

 

Coran ran interference, loudly redirecting attention his way. Hunk went over to help, lifting a few kids up onto his shoulders, making airplane noises as he raced around. Obvious, but helpful — the vast majority of the crowd was focused on the stage, and the few who had been watching their little drama were now completely taken in by Hunk and Coran, ignoring their group huddle.

 

“The Galra Empire would execute the non-Galra parent, banish the other, and the child would … disappear. We suspect the children were sold to pirates or the like.” She spoke all of this matter-of-factly, but her expression was lined in pain.

 

Lance had to swallow down bile, close his eyes to keep from feeling the full measure of her agony — every time he had doubts about fighting this war, a tragedy like this would bring him right back around to opposing the Galra with everything he had.

 

Their informant leaned in closer, speaking even more rapidly, “Since the Galra are gone, the Syluwen Court has ruled that the remaining parent be imprisoned for several deca-phoebs, and the child be banished — I believe that they are still being sold to pirates or other mercenaries. Even after the sentence is served, having a half-breed child carries a lifelong stigma.”

 

“So that was on purpose,” Keith said, his voice breaking over the last few words. He had covered the baby up as the Syluwen woman spoke.

 

Pidge split off from them to stand guard, in case anyone else approached, her fists clenching hard, her face pale.

 

Lance felt his eyes filling with tears as a soft, tired sound broke out from the blankets. He reached out, resting a hand ever so lightly over the bundle, whispering, “Shhh, chiquilla, shhh.

 

Keith’s face went from heartbreak to anger in those moments. “How could they do this?”

 

“Perhaps the parent felt there was no other choice. Perhaps the parentage of the child wasn’t known until … It’s also possible a family member or close friend interceded, tried to spare the mother or father a prison sentence.” She shrugged helplessly, lifting a trembling hand to press gingerly over the baby in her swaddling. “There are many tragedies like these. Too many. There’s no place for these children, no one who would take them in. And so …”

 

Lance kept his hand over the shifting bunch of blankets, and he blinked back the dampness in his eyes. No, this was not acceptable. “Right, I take it back, Keith. Your insane cliff dive? Totally heroic and only a little bit stupid.” Keith managed a half-smile at that, though he still looked caught between rage and sadness.

 

“The child is coming with us,” Allura added on firmly. Lance had forgotten she was there, she’d been so silent. Now he glanced up to see the sparking fury in her gem-like eyes. “Keith, Lance, and Pidge — you head back to the Castle, whilst Shiro and I make excuses for you. Pidge, take point ahead of Keith, Lance, use those eyes of yours …”

 

“I got it. No one is going to be getting the drop on us.” Lance’s bayard formed into a pair of pistols with scope attachments. “No one is getting that baby.”

 

“I’ll send Coran to follow behind you in a few tics, he can check on her general health in the medical wing.” Allura glanced around them, and then faced the Syluwen. “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name.”

 

She bowed. “It’s Yuthi, Princess.”

 

“Yuthi, I’m going to ask for your help, and I completely understand if—”

 

“I will, I will help,” Yuthi cut in, her eyes wide. “I work as a teacher in the crèche. My children are all so young, and we had a few who had little brothers or sisters …” Syluwens didn’t cry the way humans did. Instead, their eyes would dim, the brightness of the colour growing dull — while the orbs did appear to gleam with added moisture, no tears fell. “What can I do?”

 

“You can act as a guide, and help them deflect any questions. You can say they are depositing a few samples into the Castle. Pidge, I’m sure you can add on to that tale if necessary.” Allura inhaled deeply, assuming a regal pose. “Now, off you go — the faster you get on the ship, the better. Head straight to the medical bay, Coran will meet you there. Go.

 

All four of them took off immediately, as fast a walk as they could manage without drawing attention. Inevitably, a few Syluwens waved or shouted to them, but Yuthi managed to keep them from approaching by calling out, “Sorry, official Voltron business — time-sensitive scientific samples must be delivered to the Castle!

 

One Syluwen took it upon himself to accompany them, claiming to be a professor at a local university — Pidge kept the man engaged, and when he expressed curiosity as to what Keith was carrying, she expertly redirected him by showing off some of her latest projects on her tablet. She sent him away with a few blueprints, which he rushed off to study.

 

They reached the Castle with no further interruptions; Lance breathed a sigh of relief, his bayard reforming and then disappearing as the Castle ramp closed up behind them. Keith darted ahead to the med bay.

 

“Dude, slow down!” Lance yelled, rushing after him. “Dangerous part is over!”

 

“Lance, she was thrown off a cliff!” Keith growled out. Lance hadn’t ever seen Keith so protective. “Who knows if anything … What if …”

 

“She’s moving around and fussing, so she’s not in dire straits, most likely,” Pidge said, pushing her glasses up her nose as they entered the medical bay.

 

Keith unwrapped the baby from her blanket prison — she blinked at the bright lights, making discomfited noises. She did look okay, just … unhappy.

 

They knew how to work the scanning equipment, and Pidge could read Altean well enough to interpret some of what was being said. “Uh, she seems okay? Coran’s going to have to see this, but nothing’s jumping out or flashing red, so …” The baby chose that moment to let out a cry, her face scrunching up. “Yeah, wow, definitely need Coran.”

 

Lance leaned over the tiny baby, tickling her belly, cooing at her. “All right, princesa, we’re gonna make sure you’re all good, and then we’ll feed you. Change your diapers. A bath, doesn’t a bath sound like fun?” He was speaking in a higher pitched voice, but not annoyingly high, he hoped. He didn’t descend into baby talk — Lance spoke to the kid like she was fully capable of understanding him; even if she couldn’t get the words, the tone and meaning would get across. Kids, even babies, weren’t as dumb as people liked to think.

 

She actually quieted down for a moment to listen, but the crying started up again when Lance stopped.

 

Keith nudged him. “Keep talking.”

 

That was an easy request to meet. Lance chattered non-stop until Coran arrived, and by the time the elder Altean bustled into the room, the little baby was a cooing, giddy mess — she drooled and grabbed at Lance’s hand with sticky fingers, and she smelled a little suspect, but there weren’t any screams, which Lance would take as a win.

 

“Ah, perfect! I see you’ve already finished the cursory scans,” Coran said, his smile genuine, though he seemed a little worn out, a little older than he normally appeared. “If you could just keep her happy while I administer a few more thorough tests …”

 

Lance had to back off a few times to give Coran room, and in those few moments, he watched Keith. This was … pretty interesting. He didn’t think he’d ever seen Keith behave this way around kids, and they’d encountered a fair few on their missions. Keith wasn’t exactly … He seemed okay with older kids — the ones who could walk, talk, and ask him questions about his Lion, about being a Paladin. Keith spoke to children much like Lance did — he treated them like reasonable beings, though Keith was less silly, more serious.

 

But he tended to freeze up around the teeny, tiny children who couldn’t talk, could barely walk, and just wanted cuddly affection or to play with his hair.

 

Keith didn’t do hugs easily, not unless he knew the person, and knew them well. It had taken him and Lance more than a year to get that close, but now Lance knew that if he wanted a hug from the prickliest Paladin, he could absolutely get one. (Granted, he tended to ask Hunk for hugs because, well, Hunk gave the best hugs. And everyone knew it. Keith probably went to Hunk for hugs, too, at this point.)

 

So, Keith being so immediately protective, cuddly, and comfortable with this baby was … strange. Maybe it was pure adrenaline? Maybe once that wore off, Keith would go back to widening his eyes and frantically gesturing at someone, anyone, to take the kid away?

 

“And, quick as a Noorish frisquet, we are all done!” Coran announced, waving his hands high in the air, which garnered him a sweet, happy shriek.

 

The little baby was now laid out on the table, entirely nude except for a loose cloth around her lower bits. She grabbed at her four-toed feet, blowing a raspberry at Coran. Lance had to hold back a squeal because cute. Alien and weird — her feet actually sort of looked like paws? And her pointy ears had a bit of purple fuzz on them? And she was maybe half the size of a human baby? But she was adorable. How could someone just … throw her away?

 

“We have ourselves a female, roughly one movement old, of prime health,” Coran told them. Pidge began taking notes while listening to Coran, and jotting down the results displayed on the screens that Coran had brought up as he went along with his examination. “As her appearance suggests, fifty percent of her genetic code is Galra. Genetic variety makes for truly spectacular combinations, and an extra robust immune system, in her case. Well done, my girl!”

 

Coran offered her his hand; she grabbed it and began chewing on a finger with her gums.

 

Lance couldn’t resist it any longer — he pressed in closer, running his fingers through that feather soft hair.

 

“So … what’s the plan?” Pidge asked, her brow furrowing as she kept jotting things down onto her tablet.

 

Yuthi had been silent since they entered the Castle; she chose this moment to finally say, “You could speak out against this heinous law, but I’m afraid that wouldn’t change the immediate reality for this little one.”

 

“Laws take time to go into effect, yes, but there must already be a system in place to protect children,” Coran insisted, frowning.

 

“If there is, I haven’t heard of it,” Yuthi said apologetically. “These little ones look so different, it’s nearly impossible to conceal them anywhere. I would hide her, if I could, but I couldn’t be sure that my neighbours wouldn’t report me for it, and what kind of life could she have? Her very existence is illegal.”

 

Lance could feel his back tensing up, his skin crawling with the idea of sending this little girl back out there to … to be abandoned again, or … or sold. The Galra Empire obviously didn’t have a monopoly on evil, and Lance couldn’t imagine the Voltron Alliance accepting a planet that could commit such monstrous acts against children. He trusted Allura and Shiro to make the right call and say what needed to be said, but he would definitely have words for any Syluwen who dared question their decision.

 

If there was one thing Lance simply would not stand for, it was people being assholes to kids.

 

“We will not continue discussions for alliance until we’ve made a statement about this,” Allura affirmed resolutely. Lance turned to see her and the others striding into the medical wing. “We will denounce this horrific practise at Court tomorrow, and Keith, if you … If you wouldn’t mind joining me …”

 

Keith nodded without hesitation. “I will. I’ll say whatever you need me to say.”

 

“Words from your own heart would be best,” Allura said with a smile. Then her face grew serious again. “But for more pressing concerns … Yuthi, there is truly nowhere for these children?”

 

“Nowhere safe,” Yuthi confirmed.

 

“Then she stays here,” Keith said, shocking Lance with his vehemence. “She stays here until we … figure something out.”

 

Shiro was smiling at Keith, his eyes bright, and Hunk seemed ready to hug him, but held back, since everything about Keith’s stance screamed tension. He was straight-backed and unbending. Lance was … impressed. And a little mad at himself for not being as quick to suggest it.

 

“If we don’t find a home for her, we’ll need to have a serious talk about this, Keith. It might not be viable to keep her on board.” Shiro held up his hands as Keith bristled. “We’re at war, and we’re constantly on the front line. This isn’t as simple as doing one good deed. There’s a whole host of complications that come with her …”

 

“We’re not there yet,” Allura cut in before Keith could go off. “She is staying with us for now. We’ll work on a statement to make before the Syluwen Court, and when we receive their response … We’ll know where we stand.” She paused, a small, gleeful expression flitting across her face. “But this Castle is very large, and … I wouldn’t be sorry to have more occupants. More … family.”

 

As if she knew they were talking about her, their little guest let out a happy squeal.

 

Lance picked her up, feeling a floating, glowing sensation in his chest when her eyes rested on him, her hands outstretched, patting his nose and his forehead as he held her before his face. “You, princesa, are going to be a member of this family whether we find you another home or not. Eh, querida? How does that sound? Oh, we need a name, guys!”

 

“A Syluwen name would make sense,” Allura suggested, turning to Yuthi.

 

She had her hands clasped, looking at Lance with a soft, grateful expression. “I don’t think it would be right for Yil’Syluwen to lay any claim to this child. Is there a Galra name you think appropriate?”

 

“Hm, we could name her after Thace?” Keith moved to Lance’s side, pressing his shoulder against Lance’s so he could reach out and run his own fingers through the baby’s fine hair.

 

Lance scrunched up his nose. “Maybe as a middle name, but, uh, she doesn’t look like a Thace to me?”

 

Keith rolled his eyes. “Fine, what would you say she looks like?”

 

That was a lot of pressure. What if this ended up being the name she carried her whole life? What if Lance came up with something that doomed her to endless mockery … But then again, she was half-Galra. Pain was a given. Even Keith, who didn’t look Galra, faced crap here and there when people found out. And Lance had seen folks on many worlds turn away from the Blade of Marmora, even though they had sacrificed more than anyone for this war effort …

 

Soldiers willing to lay down their lives, ridiculed but still fighting. A name from his lessons on Cuban history flashed in his mind’s eye.

 

Adela. She … she was a soldier, way, way back in the eighteen hundreds? She wanted to fight, even though no one would let her. She was kickass and smart — she helped heal the wounded between battles, and she was promoted to freaking captain. So … Adela Thace?”

 

“That’s a strange name,” Allura said, but she was still smiling. “I like it. It’s beautifully peculiar. And I appreciate the history.”

 

“She is lucky, to bear the name of two honourable soldiers,” Shiro agreed.

 

“It’s not bad,” Keith spoke after a lengthy pause. “It … matches. So, good job, Lance.”

 

Lance passed the newly christened Adela to Keith. “Then introduce yourself properly. You’re the one who saved her life, dude. In fact, I think that means she gets your last name.”

 

“Adela Thace Kogane?” Keith seemed pretty gobsmacked by the idea. “I … I don’t know that …”

 

“Oh, no, I think Lance has it right,” Hunk chimed in, clapping eagerly. “Congrats, Keith! Man, this is just … Pidge, are you documenting everything?”

 

“You better believe it — look at Keith! Holding a baby, without trying to throw the baby at us? It’s been a day for all kinds of miracles.” Pidge held up her tablet, clearly taking a multitude of pictures.

 

Lance posed over Keith’s shoulder as the mullet-headed guy stared at Adela, still looking rather shocked; Lance flashed a peace sign, and then put his hand on Keith’s upper back. “C’mon, man.”

 

Keith opened and closed his mouth a few times before stuttering out, “Hi … Adela. You … okay with that? That being your name?”

 

She made a soft noise, swiping at his nose and kicking with her paw-like feet.

 

“Okay. We’ll negotiate the last name when … when we figure the rest of this out.” Keith passed the baby back to Lance, his ease and protectiveness seemingly spent. He was back to awkwardness and panic. It was … kind of endearing, though Lance couldn’t say why.

 

“In that case, I suggest we find our guest a meal, and put her down for the night in … Well, who volunteers?” Allura glanced around at each of them in turn.

 

“I think we need two people, in case something goes … wrong,” Lance suggested. “I’m pretty good with babies — got nieces, nephews, and plenty of young cousins. Hunk, too.”

 

“Yeah, Lance and I can watch her tonight. One of us will come get you, Coran, if anything weird happens. Yuthi, can you give us a rundown on Syluwen kids?”

 

“Oh, of course! Though, with Adela being only half, this may not all apply?”

 

“But we need the information regardless,” Coran said, nodding at Pidge. “Would you mind taking notes as we discuss the particulars?”

 

“Oh, this is all fascinating to me. ‘Infinite diversity in infinite combinations’ and all that.”

 

“Holy crap, you Vulcan nerd,” Lance groaned.

 

“Lance, you actually got the reference,” Pidge pointed out, raising one eyebrow at him.

 

Lance stuck out his tongue, thus winning the argument before it could begin. (Also, it was totally cool being well versed in all things connected to one of the coolest space captains to ever captain in space: Captain James. T. Kirk. Vulcans were totally nerdy, though, full stop.)

 

By the time the boring scientific lecture had ended, baby Adela had been fed some heavily watered down formula, been burped (which sounded more like high-pitched whistling?), bathed, wrapped up in a fresh cloth diaper, and then been placed in a small basket filled with soft blankets and pillows. Lance and Hunk had claimed an observation deck with huge couches for the three of them to sleep in …

 

And eventually found themselves accompanied by Coran, Allura, and Keith, who was the last to arrive, clutching his pillow and freezing in the doorway when everyone swung around to stare at him.

 

“What?” Keith groused, refusing to meet anyone’s eyes. “This is … new. And weird. And she’s so … tiny.”

 

Lance mimed zipping his lips, though it was difficult with how hard he was grinning.

 

Their impromptu sleepover actually involved a fair amount of sleeping. Adela, apparently, had been done for a while; she crashed almost as soon as they put her down in her blanket nest. And they all followed not long after — they’d learned to sleep whenever and wherever they could, since there were no guarantees of sleep, ever, in this war.

 

What felt like hours later, Lance’s eyes popped open for no discernible reason. Then he felt warmth against his side that hadn’t been there earlier …

 

Hunk was on the other side of the baby’s bed, snoring away. Lance had made himself a cushion bed near the bassinet, one hand outstretched, spread over Adela’s tiny tummy — and he’d woken up in that same position. The others were splayed out on couches or the floor.

 

However, clearly, at some point Keith had woken up and squeezed himself between Lance and Adela’s makeshift crib, careful not to disturb Lance at all. He sat with his knees up to his chin, his arms wrapped around his legs. With his back to Lance, he couldn’t quite tell what Keith was staring at, but he had no doubt his gaze was fixed on the baby.

 

Lance didn’t think Keith would give her up easily. And this was one fight Lance would happily fight with Keith, not against.

 

The small breaths he could feel beneath his palm … He’d give a whole lot to keep this baby girl breathing, and just as much to preserve that light, airy feeling in his chest. It felt important. Precious. He didn’t want it to disappear … and he knew it was tied to this little girl sleeping in their midst.

 

******

 

 

Chapter Text

******

 

It wasn’t that Lance expected this talk to go swimmingly.

 

They were coming down hard on a legal practise that had essentially cemented prejudice against the Galra to the very foundations of Yil’Syluwen culture. Considering the atrocities the Galra Empire had inflicted on the Syluwens, Lance sympathized with their anger and fear against their former oppressors. He knew this would be a tense, at times explosive, conversation.

 

This did not mean that he was in any way cool with how they treated kids like Keith — in fact, he was very much not freaking at all okay with it.

 

His fury aside, Shiro didn’t have to drag Lance out of that meeting — he totally wouldn’t have stabbed that pretentious, hateful pissant of an earl in the face …

 

“Except that you had your sword pressed against his nose, Lance,” Shiro said dryly. He let go of Lance’s arm once they’d reached an empty hallway; they were far enough from the Syluwen Court that they couldn’t hear the outraged rumbles of various royal pricks.

 

“So? At worst he would’ve had a nose-job, and he had plenty of nose to spare,” Lance grumbled meanly.

 

Shiro sighed, but Lance caught that slight uptick of his mouth.

 

He grinned at the Black Paladin, winking as he said, “Dude, next time give me an extra two secs, then get all huffy and drag me out. Plausible deniability and all that, totally valid excuse.”

 

That got him a snort, which gave Lance an excuse to laugh a little, to feel mildly better about the wholly messed up planet. He pressed his back against the wall, sliding down to rest cross-legged on the stone tiles, sighing as he forced himself to relax.

 

“You weren’t the only one who wanted to throw punches,” Shiro admitted, taking a seat next to Lance on the cold floor. “Especially after Keith stood up there and …” His jaw visibly clenched. “He risked his life to save them. They threw banquets for us, for him, and now they call him a half-breed monster to his face. My hero kid brother who’s been through hell and back, and they have no damn right to—”

 

The words cut off abruptly. A wearied breath released shortly after that, the back of Shiro’s head colliding softly with the wall.

 

Lance had been staring, eyes widening as Shiro picked up steam. A minute or two of silence passed before Lance ventured cautiously to speak. “If you wanna talk about it some more, um, go ahead? You did a really good job of keeping yourself all noble and professional in there. Seriously, I think you’re entitled to more rage, if you want to let loose?”

 

“No, not really,” Shiro said at length.

 

Lance wasn’t sure if that meant Shiro had no anger left to vent, or if the older man was suggesting that he didn’t deserve to express any kind of rage.

 

In either case, Lance had something to say, but Shiro didn’t give him a chance. “What I want is for this entire debacle to be over. There isn’t much we can do to unravel centuries of well-founded hatred, even if it’s being directed at the guiltless.” When he sighed again, his exhaustion weighed his breath, pulling his shoulders down.

 

Lance let Shiro have another few minutes of peace. His words, when he next spoke, were chock-full of cheer. “So, excited to be a space uncle?”

 

A coughing burst of laughter, with Shiro jumping a little, as if surprised by his own amusement. He quieted soon enough, though he smiled broadly at Lance. “I … am not as opposed to that as I was yesterday, I admit. Listening to these people talk about her and Keith with so much pointless hatred … But raising Adela is going to be both complicated and dangerous, so we need to have plans in place for all kinds of scenarios. It’s going to have to be a joint effort by all of us. Probably you and Coran most of all.”

 

That wasn’t an inaccurate assessment based on the events of the last two days. Coran’s medical expertise had saved their butts when it came to Adela’s eccentricities (apparently, Syluwens couldn’t break down certain carbs, and nearly all Galra were mildly allergic to dairy-based protein? Keith had been oddly gratified to discover why he’d hated milk all of his life). Lance knew enough about babies to keep Adela entertained, to easily put her down for naps … But, on the other hand, Keith had been surprisingly helpful, too.

 

“I think you’re not giving your bro enough credit.” Lance stretched his legs out, tapping his toes together absently. “Adela loves yanking on his hair, for one — it calms her down like, instantly. She seems to really like his heartbeat for another, it’s like …” Lance pictured Adela resting in Keith’s arms just that morning at breakfast, her tiny head burrowing into his chest, fingers clinging tightly to his black shirt. “It’s like she knows that he saved her? Or maybe like their Galra genes click with each other’s? Who knows? But they’ve got a special connection, and it’s kind of precious.”

 

Shiro tilted his head, a softer smile lighting up his face as he readjusted his position, one knee rising, his metal arm resting on it. “You know, Keith’s always been a solitary person. And I know you guys think he dislikes socializing, which … isn’t entirely wrong, but it’s mostly because he’s very selective about who he opens up to.” Shiro arched an eyebrow Lance’s way. “And he doesn’t cope well when people go out of their way to antagonize him.”

 

“Hey, we — I’ve mostly gotten over that!” Lance pouted. Then paused. “Huh. He was pretty controlled at court, wasn’t he? Even when they started being the worst people ever to him.”

 

“I gave him a talk before we headed out this morning. He knew what was at stake.” That side-eye Lance got was not at all subtle. “Clearly I should’ve given you a pep talk, too. My mistake.”

 

“Pfft, I am the epitome of self-control … Usually.” He let Shiro stare at him incredulously for a beat. “Right, yeah, I’m a total ‘seize the moment’ kind of human, but, but I don’t normally go off like that, we all know this! Mullets exempted, I can keep it on the down low. This won’t happen again. Or, well, I’ll try …” Lance amended. His blood simmered at the thought of sitting through more meetings with the Yil’Syluwen Royal Court and their jackass-ery attitudes towards Keith and babies like Adela.

 

Shiro bumped Lance’s shoulder with his. “Hey, you and Keith have done your parts. So if you two want to stick to the Castle for these last few days, that’s fine with me. Keith defended himself articulately and calmly. I’m proud of him. And I’m proud of you for standing up for him in the way he couldn’t.”

 

Lance blinked rapidly. “Um, weren’t you just giving me a whole ‘don’t chop off noses belonging to pricks’ lecture?”

 

“Yeah, avoid that when possible,” Shiro said with a grin. “But otherwise, don’t stop being a good person.”

 

Lance ducked his head, tried to hide his flushed cheeks by hunching his shoulders, but Shiro leaned in a little closer, making it a lost cause. Lance cleared his throat. “Uh, are you sure about us not being here tomorrow? Seems best to present a united front on this.”

 

“We did that today, and you’ve both put in your time. You made your opinions known, and I think Allura and I can take it from here. Would you be good with Adela on your own? You and Keith?”

 

“Oh, yeah, sure.” Lance had no clue if this was true, but nothing had gone drastically wrong in the last forty some odd hours, so it was a decent assumption that he and Keith could handle babysitting for a day.

 

“Then take some time off, bond with the baby.” Shiro inhaled deeply before standing up. He extended a hand to Lance, pulling him to his feet effortlessly (like, seriously, Lance had to expend no effort, because Shiro was freakishly strong). “I think I saw Yuthi out by the front of the palace. Keep her company until we’re done.”

 

Lance saluted Shiro and wandered out towards the front gates of the palace yard. For all that a monarchy seemed rather old-fashioned, the Syluwen palace wasn’t opulent at all. Rather, it was entirely functional. All the members of the Court lived within its walls in modest suites, and the King or Queen was chosen from amongst the poorest districts on the planet every ten deca-phoebs. All former monarchs either became members of the Court or simply retired to a chosen profession.

 

But Court was comprised of the oldest generations. They were set in their ways, their prejudices ran deep, and Lance doubted that even Allura’s best application of diplomacy could budge them.

 

Now that he thought about it … He was relieved. He didn’t want to be stuck in that high-ceiling chamber with them for another day. He couldn’t stand to hear the booming echoes of their slurs and hatred for a second longer than necessary. With both him and Keith out of the way, maybe things stood a chance of changing, if only ever so slightly, for the better.

 

And spending the day with a cute baby was a total plus.

 

*******

 

“Adela, princesa, preciosa mía, por favor,” Lance begged, on his knees, as Adela wailed at an even higher pitch. It wasn’t particularly loud, but it was heart-breaking, and Lance was actually choking back tears, because she seemed like she was in pain, and he couldn’t figure out why. “Oh, tell me what’s wrong. Point or something!”

 

He stumbled to his feet, paced back and forth, cursing Keith inside his head — the Red Paladin had bolted to comm Coran, and he hadn’t returned to the med bay in what felt like forever. Lance was going to lose his mind because it had been two hours since the crying started, and if they couldn’t get a handle on this, then Lance was just going to have to cut his own heart out. A willing sacrifice to get this little girl to stop crying for two seconds.

 

“Coran says that …” Keith rushed back into the room, his hair a mess, his eyes huge in his face. “We've missed something Galra related, maybe? He says that Yuthi didn’t have any explanation for this, so it has to be connected to … What are you doing?!”

 

Lance shoved Adela into Keith, and she quieted slightly, but the pitiful cries were never ceasing, even as Keith awkwardly bounced her in his arms. Lance scrambled to the screens he’d opened while Keith had been gone, hitting buttons until he found Coran’s notes on Galra infants. He skimmed them again, frantic, and his eyes caught on an image — he’d ignored it initially, thinking it was a picture of a mom breast-feeding her kid, which obviously neither Keith nor Lance could do, but upon closer inspection … He read the caption beneath the photo and crowed triumphantly.

 

Ah-hah! Keith! Take off your shirt.”

 

What? Why?

 

“Because I freaking said so, and trust me, this might work, holy crow, dude, how are you fighting me right now?”

 

Keith’s mouth opened, snapped shut part way through Lance’s diatribe, and then he let out a harsh noise. “Take her, then!”

 

Lance held Adela close once more, pressing a few kisses to her downy head, murmuring nonsense in English and Spanish, as Keith threw his jacket onto a table, followed by his black t-shirt. He stood, arms crossed, scowling, awaiting instructions.

 

“The gloves need to come off, too, man,” Lance said over Adela’s screaming. “C’mon!”

 

Keith glared as he ripped off his fingerless gloves, and then Lance was crowding into his space, passing Adela to him. “Okay, so, that thing she does, where I thought she was listening to your heartbeat? Turns out that’s not what she’s doing, or, um, that’s not all she’s doing. She’s scenting you. Apparently, Galra babies have an instinctual need to scent out their parents. It’s what makes them feel … safe. At home? But their sense of smell is still developing, so they need skin-to-skin contact …”

 

Those dark eyes widened as Lance blurted out his explanation. Keith's shocked gaze flicked down to Adela, who kept crying, but also rubbing her face all over the left side of Keith’s chest. She seemed the tiniest bit calmer.

 

“Man, this was probably building up since we found her,” Lance said, feeling horrible. “She probably felt so strange and uncomfortable, and you were as close as she could get to something familiar, but with your clothes on, she was only getting like, faint hints of safety.”

 

Keith sat down on a nearby gurney, his hands all but concealing Adela from sight (she was so freaking small). “I … get what you’re saying, but I can’t … She thinks I’m her home? We’ve had her for two days.

 

“Two and a half,” Lance corrected, his hands itching to stroke that feathery hair on Adela’s head. But she had grown so quiet; the only sounds escaping her were tiny hiccups, little high wheezing breaths, and the odd sniffle. If she fell asleep, that would be fantastic, and he was not about to disturb her.

 

“I know. But she was basically only a day old when you found her. You’ve held her more than any of us, I think.”

 

“You’ve taken naps with her!” Keith protested — softly, very softly.

 

“Okay, but when she’s awake, she mostly wants you.

 

Lance wasn’t jealous. Well, maybe a smidge, but not enough to mess with this. Whatever was best for Adela, that’s what he wanted. She was way too small to fend for herself, to communicate her needs, so they had to take guesses. And if she needed to sniff out Keith’s unique part-Galra, mostly-human musk, then so be it. Lance would deliver.

 

Keith didn’t seem to have much to say now. He focused all his attention on Adela and her clinging hands. She hadn’t moved in several minutes except to flex her fingers. She smacked her lips sleepily, her eyelids falling shut. Keith visibly held his breath.

 

“C’mon, let’s go back to the observation deck,” Lance whispered.

 

They walked achingly slowly — Keith doing everything in his power not to jostle Adela, and Lance matching his pace.

 

As Keith settled himself on a couch, Lance fussed about the room, the same observation deck from Adela’s first night. The pillow and cushions remained strewn about the floor, and Lance did his best to organize them neatly (quietly), for the sake of giving his hands something to do.

 

“Lance,” Keith whispered uncertainly. “Um …”

 

Lance turned, a cushion in each hand, to see Keith staring at him wide-eyed. He jerked his head down towards Adela. Lance couldn’t tell what, exactly, had the other guy freaking out, so he walked over, tossing the cushions onto an empty couch nearby. He sat down next to Keith, one arm over the back of the couch as he leaned in close.

 

Adela was completely asleep. She’d curled up her tiny form, knees nearly at her chest, with one hand splayed out over Keith’s heart. Her other fist was clenched beneath her chin.

 

It was painfully adorable, but in no way alarming.

 

“Lance, listen — wait, no, you can’t hear it, right. Put your hand on her back,” Keith murmured. “And take my pulse. Same time.”

 

“Okay, what? Dude, I don’t wanna kick off another three hours of crying,” Lance muttered in reply. But he stretched out a hand all the same. Keith shifted his own hand further down Adela’s back, allowing Lance enough space to rest three fingers there. Tentatively, he slid his other hand until his fingers brushed against Keith’s free wrist. He held it gingerly, two fingers pressed against Keith’s pulse point.

 

At first, he had no clue what Keith was having a subdued fit about, but then …

 

“Oh.” Lance’s eyes grew huge. “How long—”

 

“I noticed it a minute or so ago. I wasn’t sure, but now I can hear it. We’re perfectly in sync.”

 

“Yeah,” Lance breathed out. “Wow.”

 

Keith inhaled and exhaled steadily; he obviously didn’t want to wake up Adela any more than Lance did. Lance held onto his wrist — Adela and Keith were like one being, their hearts a singular rhythm against Lance’s hands.

 

“You feel okay?” Lance asked near silently; he’d closed the distance between himself and Keith even further, his lips nearly brushing the messy mullet on Keith’s head.

 

Keith turned, bringing them nose to nose in a highly disconcerting way. Lance didn’t need to know that Keith had a few faint freckles on his cheekbones, or that his eyes contained actual violet flecks. Lance didn’t rear back, but he did tilt his head just slightly away.

 

“I don’t know,” Keith said, surprisingly honest. Or maybe not so surprisingly. Keith might be full of bravado on the battlefield, but off it, he could be fairly open about his thoughts and feelings (though perhaps not his past). He was brutally honest, though not so much when (as Shiro had helpfully pointed out), someone went out of his or her way to antagonize him.

 

“Okay.” Lance studied his expression — Keith still looked mildly uncomfortable and worried. “You panicking a little? Do you need to head back to the medical wing?”

 

They were both silent; Lance patiently (or at least not incredibly impatiently) waiting for Keith’s answer, and Keith taking his time with his words.

 

“She thinks I’m her dad,” Keith said at last, a tremble to his voice. “I can’t be anyone’s dad.”

 

“Sometimes people don’t get a say, man.” His medical grip on Keith’s wrist now turned into a comforting grasp. “It isn’t like we had much of a choice when it came to this whole Paladin gig.”

 

“We could’ve walked away,” Keith offered, just to be contrary.

 

Lance gave that statement the snort of derision it deserved. “Right. Just hung back on the Castle while the entire universe went to hell, Earth included. Just stood around and let the Galra Empire have the Lions. Hey, Zarkon, no hard feelings, bro, they’re all yours!”

 

Keith shh’ed him, but Adela’s heartbeat remained unified to his, and she stayed perfectly conked out. Lance raised an eyebrow, staring down at the little girl Keith cradled so protectively.

 

“Yeah, well, speaking of the war …” Keith sighed, lifting his gaze out to the stars.

 

“That’s gonna be a whole thing to figure out,” Lance conceded. “But you’re not alone. You’ve got everyone on this Castle to lend a hand.”

 

“We can’t afford to be this distracted—”

 

“We will figure it out,” Lance said firmly. “Shiro’s fully on board, and I’m sure everyone else is, too.” And if they weren’t, he would convince them.

 

Lance couldn’t let Adela go now. He still had his hand on her tiny back. He tried to imagine handing her off to a stranger …

 

Someone had thrown this kid off a cliff. Keith had risked his life to save her. She’d cooed happily when Lance lay down with her for a nap, and she loved to grab at his nose, to snatch his lips as he spoke nonsense to her. Her beautiful dark forest eyes tracked everyone in a room, locking onto Keith as if he held all the answers to every question in the known universe. Lance had said those two had a special bond when he’d spoken with Shiro yesterday, and now it was more obvious than ever — their hearts were literally beating as one. How could they rip her away from all that?

 

Keith lifted his hand (the hand that Lance had been loosely grasping for way too long — he let go immediately, casually), and rested it over Adela’s finely haired head. Lance now became all too aware of the way their fingers overlapped on Adela’s back … What in the hell was this fresh mess?

 

But if Keith wasn’t drawing attention to it, then Lance wasn’t going to — whatever this weirdness was, it wasn’t infecting Keith, obviously. Just Lance, as usual.

 

“I don’t think it’s as easy as you make it sound,” Keith said, narrowing his eyes.

 

Lance grinned. “It never is, but we can hope.”

 

Keith snorted, and then froze, glancing quickly down at Adela. They both breathed a sigh of relief when she didn’t move … Until Coran came strolling in, announcing loudly, “Well, hello there!”

 

Adela jerked, her eyes opening, her head too heavy for her to lift, though she made a noble effort. Lance reeled back, ready for the screams …Which didn’t ring out. Adela blinked sleepily, then made a happy gurgle.

 

“Ah, yes, hello to you as well, my dear!” Coran came around to sit on the table across from them, his face flushed, his smile a little too wide.

 

“Busy day with the Court, huh?” Lance said dryly.

 

He could have sworn that glint in Coran’s eyes was vaguely murderous, but his tone remained jovial as he said, “Oh yes, it was quite invigorating. And we came through it with something rather special. Though I’d like to wait for the others to catch up.”

 

Adela blurted out a sound not unlike a laugh — she was way too young for that, right? She couldn’t even hold a smile yet? Lance wished he’d paid more attention to his nieces and nephews when they were growing up. Then again, human babies may have a drastically different development process when compared to half-Syluwen, half-Galra infants.

 

“Hey, Shiro and Allura are right behind … Oh. Um. Keith, you okay, man?” Both of Hunk’s eyebrows shot up as he stared pointedly at Keith’s bare chest.

 

Keith flushed all the way down … Which wasn’t all that interesting, so why, why couldn’t Lance look away? A moment later, Lance found himself staring at his lap, feeling his own face heat up due to second-hand embarrassment.

 

Keith carefully handed Adela off to Coran, who happily played with the little girl. Then, entirely less than careful, Keith searched for his shirt … which they had left back in the medical lab. Lance yanked off his own green jacket without even thinking, tossing it in Keith’s face.

 

The Red Paladin shot him a grateful look and jammed his arms into the sleeves. He yanked the zipper up, though not quite all the way, as he accepted Adela back from Coran and let her nose at the piece of his chest that was uncovered …

 

Keith sat on a couch, his bare skin hidden from view by Lance’s jacket and the baby in his arms. The image burned into Lance’s mind, and he had to swallow down a strange noise that clawed up his throat.

 

Lance decided that he might be going temporarily insane. It was some kind of space sickness that was making him feel this way. He recognized these feelings, they weren’t new to him, but having them directed at Keith? No. No way. Nope. Not happening.

 

“Ah, she’s scenting you!” Coran said, explaining while Lance had a minor meltdown and Keith went mute due to embarrassment. “Excellent, this makes things so much simpler! Really, I’m so happy for you, my boy.”

 

“Scenting?” Hunk pursed his lips pensively. “Huh. Yeah, that does make sense. Congrats, dude. Hey, Adela!” Hunk sat down on Keith’s other side, waving a large hand in Adela’s face. She immediately turned her head, reaching for it, and then gnawing on his finger. Hunk giggled delightedly.

 

Soon, Pidge, Shiro, and Allura had entered the room, all of them taking up various tired sprawls, though not before giving their own greetings to Adela (and Shiro arched a confused eyebrow towards Lance’s jacket on Keith, then to Lance, and no, he was not ready to speak yet, so he just shrugged and stared determinedly at the little girl).

 

“Now that we are all here, I would like to announce a change in the Yil’Syluwen laws that will go into effect,” Coran began pompously, “not as soon as we’d like, but before the end of this deca-phoeb. The first and most immediate change — no parents of a half-Galra child shall face imprisonment, nor shall the child be taken from them.”

 

“Yes!” Lance found his voice, cheering with one fist raised. “But what about the ones already in jail?”

 

“They shall be released, though it will take time to process them, as many were also charged with minor treason, espionage, and the like,” Allura said, sounding angry, though mostly weary. “And there will still be a fine imposed until the end of the deca-phoeb. While the children will not be taken, they will not be permitted in schools with so-called ‘regular younglings’ until the following deca-phoeb.”

 

“Well, that’s bullshit,” Keith said bluntly.

 

“We can’t cure a millennia of bigotry in a few quintants, Keith,” Allura said, her eyes closing for a moment. “Though, yes, it’s quiznaking awful.”

 

“One thing we did manage to kick off today was the addition of half-Galra children to the Syluwen’s Children Aid Services. In other words, they can be taken in by childless parents, and even adopted,” Coran said proudly. “And while the prejudice may prevent these children from finding homes right away, consider that you have people like Yuthi in the population …”

 

“Speaking of Yuthi.” Allura sat up, her hands reaching behind her back to yank out a flat tablet. “She, ah, took the liberty of filing paperwork on our behalf. It was a historic motion, you see, and we wanted to ensure it was legal and binding, so we led by example …” She grinned, her eyes shining. “Congratulations to you both.”

 

Lance accepted the tablet with numb fingers, somehow knowing and yet still gobsmacked, as he stared down at it.

 

“Yuthi didn’t consult us on this — she was acting behind the scenes while we argued on the Court floor,” Shiro said quickly, though he was also smiling widely. “We knew she’d be putting forward the first formal adoption, but we didn’t think about names until …”

 

“I mean, she saw you and Keith with her, and the way Lance nearly stabbed someone on Keith and Adela’s behalf …” Pidge pushed her glasses up her nose. “A perfectly natural conclusion.”

 

“Yes, perfectly natural,” Shiro echoed with a knowing wink at his younger brother that Lance did not appreciate.

 

Keith choked as he leaned over Lance’s shoulder, (too close, now this was all too close), reading with his eyes bigger than Lance had ever seen them.  He could relate to the shock. Again, he knew deep down, as Allura spoke, what he’d see … And yet …

 

There, in formal (translated) writing was Keith’s full name and his own, listed as official parents and guardians for one Adela Thace Kogane-McClain.

 

******

 

 

Chapter Text

******

 

Keith had a father for precisely nine years, eight months, and one week of his life.

 

His dad had been a good man — and he’d always cared for Keith as if his son were the centre of his universe. But the elder Kogane had also been stubborn to a fault, extremely paranoid about doctors (which made sense in hindsight), and incapable of admitting failure or error.

 

In no way did Keith’s nine odd years of experience with a parental figure qualify him for the responsibility of raising this tiny sentient life, who blinked up at him with huge eyes each morning.

 

Adela cooed as he held her against his chest; he positioned her high enough to bury her nose in his neck, for her warm breaths to tickle his skin. This had become his daily ritual — five days could be enough time to create one — and he found it calming … Even though his exhausted brain would usually start spiralling once Adela had fully woken up and recharged her “scenting batteries.”

 

Keith fell back slowly on his bed, Adela releasing a squeak as her world shifted. Keith kept his feet on the ground, and just drifted … Lightly dozing to keep his mind from picking apart his lack of parenting know-how, and also because he wasn’t doing much sleeping at night anymore.

 

He didn’t know how long he’d been lying there, eyes half closed, occasionally fluttering open to stare at the ceiling, but the knocking must have been going on for a while, based on how loud and insistent it rang out.

 

“Yeah?” Keith called.

 

“Dude, you’re late for breakfast!” Lance yelled back.

 

Keith frowned, turning his head slightly to stare at the door. Things were strange between him and Lance. There was a change he could neither describe nor fully comprehend … Not anything like their rivalry, and yet not much like their hard-earned camaraderie.

 

He stood up carefully, walking over to slam the keypad with one hand, Adela firmly cradled in the other. Lance startled, obviously having been leaning against the door.

 

The Blue Paladin recovered quickly, straightening up and yanking on his jacket. “Three minutes I’ve been knocking. You sleeping?”

 

“Kinda,” Keith said. Adela stretched a hand out towards Lance. He took it and kissed her palm lightly, but made no move to take her from Keith.

 

Which was another thing Keith had noticed — Lance didn’t interact with Adela nearly as much as he had just a few short days ago. He’d been doing his best to teach Keith the secrets of putting the baby down for a nap, and Keith couldn’t help but think it was so Lance would have even fewer reasons to hang out with Adela … and Keith.

 

He wasn’t stupid — a name on a birth certificate does not a father make. Keith had been having quietly mild panic attacks about this every morning since the certificate came to be. But Lance … Since when was Lance not about this raising a kid thing? Why? Had reality hit him harder than it had Keith?

 

“Let’s go before Hunk’s masterpieces get cold,” Lance said, turning away to walk down the hall, hands shoved in his jacket’s pockets. He glanced back over his shoulder. “I saved you a plate of waffles, and Hunk has some new mashed up concoction for Adela.”

 

“Oh good, let’s see if she keeps this one down,” Keith grumbled, though he had no real frustration directed towards Hunk or Adela — just the complicated circumstances he now found himself in.

 

Everyone had stepped up to help him, and Keith would never stop feeling grateful for the instant support. While they’d all been having serious discussions about how to deal with the war and Adela together, at no point did anyone suggest that Keith give her up. And even if he’d had his own thoughts about it — about Adela deserving a more experienced, less emotionally screwed-up dad … He could admit, at least to himself, that he really, really wanted to keep her.

 

“Oh, hey.” Keith paused in the doorway to the dining hall. “Good to see you, Yuthi.”

 

“Hello! The princess was kind enough to invite me early for your last day here,” the Syluwen woman said cheerfully. She’d been in high spirits since the new laws had passed.

 

Keith smiled at her, though he knew it probably didn’t look all that genuine considering that he had shadows around his eyes and his hair was a mess. Adela slept in two-hour intervals, waking up in need of formula or cuddle time. Allura, Coran, and Hunk had offered to take turns with her, but Keith insisted (stubbornly, Shiro would say) that he needed to deal with this on his own for the first few weeks. He didn’t feel … right, just passing her off. (He also maybe was hoping to guilt Lance into resuming his own patterns with Adela, but so far, Lance remained annoyingly distant.)

 

“There’s one last celebration for you all before you leave,” Yuthi was saying as Keith settled into his seat — Coran had fashioned a high chair for Adela, and now sat on her other side — Lance sat across from them, making Adela shriek happily as he made funny faces at her.

 

Keith tuned out most of the conversation, staring at the baby as she ate Hunk’s latest baby food invention. She seemed to be enjoying it, but she wasn’t a picky eater (yet). The true test would be in an hour or two, if it stayed down. Even if it did stay down, it might still re-emerge in other distinctly unpleasant ways (apparently alien babies also could fill their diapers with positively lethal food by-products).

 

“No way,” Lance burst out, suddenly and loudly. “Yuthi, you’re great and all, but Adela is not leaving this Castle for that.”

 

Keith blinked back into what was happening around him. “What?”

 

“Right, Keith?” Lance pointed at him with his fork, looking as serious and focused as he did during battle. “She stays here.”

 

“We’re all going to this event, Lance,” the princess said peaceably. “She’ll have the best protection in the universe.”

 

“I don’t care,” Lance said bluntly, his eyes narrowing. “There are only so many things we can defend her from. The risk is too big.”

 

“Wait, why do you want her along?” Keith asked Yuthi. “I saved her less than a week ago. Things haven’t changed that much on Yil’Syluwen.”

 

“No, but seeing you and Lance, together, raising this child—”

 

“—not together in the way you’re thinking,” Lance rushed to say. “But also, I’m not cool with using her like … some kind of symbolic representation of all the kids that’ve been …”

 

Keith nodded, cutting in, “We appreciate everything you’ve done, Yuthi, but it’s not safe.”

 

“I understand your reasons, but I would ask you to reconsider if only because so many on my world look to you all and see heroes.” Yuthi smiled at each of them in turn. “They see an ideal to aspire to. Particularly with you, Princess, and you, Shiro. And Lance has garnered a fairly large following—”

 

“Me? Why?” Lance demanded, still on the defensive.

 

“Really?” Even while irritated with Lance, Keith huffed out a laugh. “You flirt with everything that moves and throw yourself into the spotlight of every event, and you can’t figure out why people noticed you?”

 

Keith’s voice was so dry he got a sharp look from Shiro. But Keith and Lance had been solid friends for a long time — this kind of teasing had become far more good-natured. (Even if today he was more than a little resentful of Lance and his … everything.)

 

For some reason, Lance didn’t throw a sarcastic insult back (or fling any food). He just flushed a little and cleared his throat. “Right, yeah, my natural light shines for the good of all. Doesn’t mean people notice it all the time.”

 

“You’ve got yourself a decent fan club,” Hunk said happily. “Saw them a few times we went out this week. Expect to sign a few posters, buddy.”

 

“I do think Yuthi has a point,” Shiro said at last  — he’d been silent for most of this discussion. “We’ll be vigilant, and if you feel threatened at any point, we’ll cover your exit … But I think that this is a good way to make our point one last time. And for Adela to say goodbye to her birthplace, whether she’s fully aware of it or not.”

 

That last point struck Keith down to his core … She wouldn’t really know, would she, and maybe they could come back, if the war settled down, if things on Yil’Syluwen improved … But this place was a piece of her. Like his Galra mother, wherever she was, had a piece of Keith … He wanted to be able to tell Adela that he’d let her have this. He didn’t want her last experience with her Syluwen side to be the one that nearly took her life.

 

“Okay,” Keith said. “But we back out if we feel even vaguely unsafe.”

 

“What?” Lance slammed a hand down. “Keith—”

 

“I don’t care.” Keith may or may not be on the verge of snapping. Suddenly, his friendly teasing of Lance couldn’t hold. “Where have you been these last few days except for naps and meals? How much do you really care, Lance?”

 

“Keith,” Shiro barked.

 

Lance reeled back. “I care.” He sounded … meek. As suddenly as Keith’s temper had flared, it died down as if deprived of oxygen. Lance sighed, looking down at his hand. “I care, Keith. I promise.”

 

Silence.

 

Lance looked up, smiling at Adela and then staring intently into Keith’s eyes. A faint flush was back along his cheeks, but he seemed a little more … there, than he’d been of late. “If you want to do this, I got both your backs.”

 

******

 

Lance really hadn’t meant to make his issues so obvious. It wasn’t like he wanted to broadcast to the entire Castle, “Hey, check out my sudden and totally inconvenient crush on Keith! Oh, and my completely unnecessary freak out over a birth certificate with my name on it!”

 

The latter issue was probably what would jump into the minds of everyone on board this ship. No one would assume that Lance’s main problem was the fact that his brain was constantly cataloguing new and devastatingly attractive details about Keith.

 

Like the cautious softness when he held Adela. Like the gentleness of his battle-scarred hands as he soothed her cries. Those details had become special to Lance. More than special, actually, based on his mind’s descriptions (cautious softness? Battle-scarred gentleness? Gag-worthy cringe, all of it).

 

Ridiculous crush on Keith aside, there was also that part of Lance that couldn’t fully reconcile with being labelled a dad.

 

Maybe it was just a symbol to jumpstart a social movement to save kids … But it meant something to Keith. And Lance couldn’t help but panic every time Adela’s tiny hands reached for him. Because she did. Often. At the start of her life, Keith and Lance were the people she scented most often. Keith, with his Galra genes, carried the bulk of that, but Lance nearly as much, what with the naps and the silly times spent playing Airplane in the Castle halls …

 

Combined with these … feelings for Keith … It was too much at once, and he had no capacity to deal.

 

Until the reality of Adela, out there, vulnerable, on a planet of people who had thought her unworthy to breathe their air (a line that had been used on Keith at that thrice-damned Court) … Lance’s protective instincts surged up so quickly and intensely that he was floundering in the impossible-to-deny truth of it all — that kid was his. Maybe he couldn’t be a dad, but she was his family in one way or another.

 

He had to try. For her.

 

“Hey, are you, um, okay with her? And Red?” Lance spoke haltingly, his hands folded over his helmet.

 

They were going to fly over the Royal Court of Yil’Syluwen, and then land within the palace walls before they marched out to give one last big speech. Keith had Adela clutched in his arms. She hated the armour — had been fussing as soon as they’d all changed. Keith held her high enough so she could bury her face behind his ear (Lance worried she would smother herself in the mullet). It seemed to be just enough to placate her.

 

“Coran’s riding with me, and we’ve got a crib set up in the back,” Keith said coolly. “It’ll be fine.”

 

Lance winced. Keith had accepted his promise to help, but he was still a bit distant. Lance couldn’t blame him for that; Lance had been all in one second, gone the next. He’d been caught off guard by his own sudden, visceral fears, but he should’ve said something to Keith before pulling away to deal with his issues.

 

“Right. Well. If you need …” What could Lance offer here? “Um, I can take her, on the ride back?”

 

Keith held his gaze for a solid five seconds before he nodded. “Okay.” A touch warmer now, a little half-smile. “Sure. She should get to know Blue.”

 

“Hm, what are Blue and Red to her? Like … are they aunts? Grandmas?” Lance grinned up at Blue, who offered nothing other than her usual steady presence in the back of his mind.

 

“I’ll ask Red once we’re out of here,” Keith answered, smiling slightly wider. “Get going, Lance. The faster we get there …”

 

“The faster this can be over.” And Lance desperately wanted this to be over. “Got it, dude. See you there.” He reached out to run a couple of fingers over Adela’s head — as he did, his hand brushed along Keith’s jaw … A little rough. Did Keith shave? Or was his skin just that horrible? Lance would need to get him on some moisturizers because that just could not stand. If it was stubble, then Keith needed some better razors … Although stubble could be interesting …

 

“Yeah, no,” Lance said out loud to himself, immediately blushing when Keith stared at him in confusion. “Sorry, just, um, really not into this thing we’re doing. Gonna head out!”

 

He just barely resisted face-palming as soon as he spun on his heel — he could feel Blue’s amusement when he collapsed into his piloting chair. “Hey!” He pointed upwards at the ceiling. “Not cool! It’s just … gah, he drives me crazy. In the best way, but now is not the time.”

 

He shot out of the Castle ahead of the others, working out his frustration with a few fancy rolls and dives.

 

The crowds outside of the palace surged forth as the Lions broke through the pale blue clouds of Yil’Syluwen. It appeared as though the entire capital city had shown up for this final Voltron meet-and-greet. Keith and Lance were only sticking around for Allura’s speech and then heading back to the Castle — neither of them felt comfortable letting random people come up and shake their hands while Adela was with them.

 

After their flyover (during which Keith grumbled about his lack of barrell rolls, considering Adela was in Red with him), they all gathered in a small hall just inside the palace, behind the huge stage set up for this last appearance.

 

“I was hoping each of you could say a little something as you come out?” Allura asked. “I want to eat up a little more time, so that Lance and Keith can take a few extra minutes to prepare. But also … I very much want to emphasize our position on this issue. I want them to know that every single one of us believes firmly that all children, regardless of background, are worthy of love and protection.” She sounded resolute. Immovable.

 

Lance adored her, right down to his bones, and he was beyond grateful that his crush had faded so he could truly appreciate Allura as the kickass friend and ally that she was.

 

“Oh, I didn’t … like, think to prepare a speech or anything,” Hunk stuttered nervously, but his back straightened after a moment, his hand clapping down on Lance’s shoulder. “But I can, I can improvise. No way should pitching babies off a cliff be a thing we just let slide by. And that’s my niece they’re talking about.”

 

“I’m sure this will delight Yuthi.” Coran grinned. “And I have no trouble taking a stand once again on this issue. Those pretentious, bigoted lords and ladies need to be brought low once more, I feel.”

 

“No argument from me,” Shiro agreed, leaning in to check on Keith and Adela before ruffling Keith’s hair. Keith scowled at him, but he was smiling in short order, as Adela gurgled, her hands grasping the now dishevelled black locks. Shiro chuckled. “I don’t think I could stop Lance this time, though, if they say one more thing about Keith or Adela.”

 

“Oh, it’s our last day,” Allura said airily. “I completely understand if your patience is tapped.”

 

“I’m sorry, but was that permission to stab them in the face like I wanted to a few days ago?” Lance cupped a hand to his ear.

 

“No, but should it happen, I’m sure it would be an accident.” Allura frowned at him — and then gave a discreet little wink.

 

Lance loved her a whole lot, really and truly. All of them, in fact. He stared around at his space family, and quite abruptly, all his fears about Adela, about that birth certificate, about Keith … They melted away, if only for a moment. He had these amazing people at his back — terrifying as fatherhood seemed, he would never be alone in it.

 

“Hello again!” Yuthi called, having opened one of the massive double doors to stick her head in. “We’re just about ready to announce you, Princess.”

 

“And we are ready to be announced.” Allura walked over. “There’s just a small adjustment I’d like to explain …”

 

Thirty minutes later, Lance and Keith were on their own with Adela; the others had disappeared one by one over the course of this half hour, and now an awkward silence fell between them.

 

“Um,” Lance said after a couple of minutes, unable to cope with the way Keith had focused entirely on Adela to the exclusion of Lance. “I’m sorry about being … not there to help. I should’ve mentioned that first. I’m sorry, Keith.”

 

“Yeah, okay,” Keith said, actually glancing up at him. “It was a jerk move, Lance.”

 

“It was,” Lance agreed quickly. “If I ever get weird again, I’ll warn you ahead of time. I just had to … deal with some stuff. And I haven’t fully dealt with it, okay? But I promise to not let it interfere with … this anymore.” He waved at Adela, and then left his hand suspended in the air. “Hey, can I fix your hair?”

 

Keith’s eyebrows shot up, and Lance once again had to hold back on the urge to smack himself in the face. “Is it that bad?” Keith asked.

 

“Shiro messed it up a bit. To be clear, a mullet is always bad,” Lance said sternly, though he grinned around his words. “But it can be neater, at least.”

 

Keith shrugged one shoulder. “All right, go for it.”

 

Lance’s hand travelled back up, and he finger-combed through Keith’s unruly strands. His hair wasn’t perfectly soft, but the texture was … nice. His fingers snagged in a few knots, but they were easy to detangle. His face grew hotter and hotter, and there was no way to disguise the blush. Keith stared at him curiously throughout this process, and Lance did his best to avoid eye contact. But the intensity of that gaze drew him in eventually; as he finished up with Keith’s hair, he flicked his eyes over … And it was like every stupid rom com he’d ever privately cried to — their stares connected, locked, and neither of them seemed capable of looking away.

 

The rom coms had it wrong, though — this wasn’t romantic, it was mortifying, particularly considering how puzzled Keith looked at Lance’s absolutely humiliating behaviour.

 

It turned out to be worth the embarrassment.

 

If Lance hadn’t been idiotically staring into Keith’s eyes right then, he may have missed the flicker of movement just over Keith’s shoulder.

 

No one else was supposed to be in here.

 

Yet there were at least two people lurking behind the hallway’s pillars  … and they were clutching something in their hands …

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Lance grabbed Keith’s arm, yanking the Red Paladin behind him.

 

The threat must have been real enough, since Keith actually moved — he could have planted his feet, could have easily countered Lance’s strength with his own … But instead, he flowed into the movement, keeping Adela firmly against his chest and pivoting, so that no one could get a clear shot on her as his bayard flared to life in his other hand.

 

Lance already had his rifle out and pointed at one of … five Syluwens, each of them holding … a bucket? Buckets filled with … blue paint (at least Lance hoped it was paint, considering that Syluwen blood was the same shade of blue). They all looked poised to throw the buckets’ contents, but when Lance had targeted them with his bayard, finger on the trigger, they had frozen, eyes wide.

 

After a beat of staring at each other, Lance narrowed his eyes to slits, his anger all too obvious in his shaking voice, though his gun remained steady.

 

“Whatever you planned on throwing? It stays in those buckets.” Lance stared down the woman closest to him. “I won’t kill you, but trust me when I say that getting shot in the leg or the arm? Not fun. Not fun at all.”

 

Adela hadn’t made much noise throughout this ordeal, but right then, she had to be picking up on Keith’s mood (and maybe Lance’s as well? They had no idea how far out she could stretch her senses), as she let out a worried little whimper.

 

That sound set Lance’s jaw clenching, his teeth grinding as he bit back another, more violent warning.

 

Any minute now, they’d be called out for their own appearance and short speeches. He knew that these five folks weren’t a real danger — just disgruntled citizens who felt like their world may be under threat once again.

 

But Lance couldn’t let this go — couldn’t turn his back on a potential threat to Keith and Adela, no matter how relatively harmless it may appear.

 

“You’re an outsider,” the woman said to him, sounding almost apologetic, and her eyes imploring him to understand. “You cannot know what it was like with the Galra here. Decades of enslavement, of death and—”

 

“I’ve been fighting this war for years,” Lance interrupted her. “I’ve seen dozens of planets pushed to the brink of destruction. I’ve seen just as many completely annihilated.” He exhaled, flicking his gaze over to the other four Syluwens. “I don’t …” He tried to feel as calm as he sounded. “I don’t want to lessen your pain. I don’t want to make it seem like you haven’t been through hell.”

 

He had to stop again, glancing back at Keith quickly, who just nodded at him, still cradling Adela close, shielding her from view.

 

Lance turned back, having kept his peripheral vision on them for that brief moment. No one had moved. “But if you think that inflicting pain on someone who hasn’t done a thing to you. Or on someone who has done nothing but help you, is a way of healing? … Then you’re letting the Galra Empire invade not only your planet, but your minds.”

 

They blinked at him, confused and offended. The buckets had been forgotten, dangling at their sides. Lance lowered his gun, though he made sure to keep himself between them and Keith.

 

“Attacking innocents, assuming guilt for all members of an entire race or planet …” Lance glared at them, hoping to convey every ounce of his disdain and anger. “Considering yourself superior, morally or otherwise? Sounds pretty much like the Galra generals I go toe-to-toe with once a month. It’s just …”

 

He trailed off, frustrated that he lacked Allura and Shiro’s gift for inspirational speeches. But thankfully, he wasn’t alone — he was never alone.

 

“If you can’t find it in yourself to forgive babies for the sins of their fathers or mothers — parents they don’t even know, that they didn’t get to choose — then everything that Voltron did to save your planet? Was for nothing.”

 

It was Keith who said those words, his voice quiet but unwavering. Firm. But not a hint of anger, which was … amazing.

 

Lance turned back again to face him; he didn’t think there was any way he could disguise the pride on his face, and there may have been a touch of awe as well. Keith flicked his hard stare from the five Syluwens to Lance, and again, Lance couldn’t help but be drawn in.

 

So, maybe he lost his mind a bit. Maybe he thought this was a good way to punctuate those perfect words Keith had uttered. Whatever his reason (he would wrack his brains later, trying to understand why he just couldn’t help himself), all he knew was that one moment he was filled with such honour at being there, with Keith, as his friend, as a parent to that beautiful little girl … And then the next moment, he’d leaned in and pressed a soft, lingering kiss to Keith’s rough cheek.

 

The moment after that, the double doors swung open, revealing Princess Allura in all her full-armoured glory, her regal cape swirling in the breeze.

 

The five intruders startled, one of them dropping his bucket in shock, the blue paint splattering onto the floor, gradually oozing across the shiny mosaic patterns.

 

“I don’t think you two need to say anything else,” Allura said, her arms crossed. “Pidge had her eyes on you.” She tilted her head up and to the side — Lance followed the movement, spotting a blinking light. A camera.

 

“When—”

 

“Yuthi installed them for us before we arrived,” Allura explained. “Pidge and Hunk alternated keeping watch after we left you … When they appeared, and the threat seemed contained, Pidge made the decision to broadcast the proceedings to everyone outside.”

 

Lance shifted back a half step, blinking rapidly. “Holy crow. Um. Okay.”

 

Keith stepped in closer to Lance’s back. “Allura, that’s—”

 

“It was necessary. And it proved our point.” She stared up at the camera. “Still broadcasting now, in fact …”

 

Lance could hear the faint echo of Allura’s voice beyond the doors. Meaning that everyone in the town square (the whole city? The entire planet?) was watching this mess unfold. (Including Lance’s disaster of a kiss, what even, you idiot.)

 

“I don’t believe you would like to proceed as planned, considering this incident.” Allura waved dismissively at the silent five, who were now exuding shame and fear. “We remain your allies,” Allura spoke to the small group present, and likely the planet at large, “but we cannot continue to celebrate with you after this. Upon leaving, we are obligated to warn our fellow allies of your practises. There are many of mixed background amongst the Voltron Alliance. You have your own ships to maintain a defence against any resurgence of Galra in your sector, but you may find it difficult to find others within the Alliance willing to help you allay that burden.”

 

That verged on morally questionable, but Lance was so ready to be done with this day. All he’d accomplished was flying around in Blue and standing in this hallway for an hour or so, yet he was so done. They’d risked their lives to liberate this planet, and if these people still desperately wanted to hold on to their prejudices and thereby risk their own recently regained freedom? So be it. Lance was tired.

 

(Probably also because of all the mini-emotional breakdowns he’d had inside his own head — that was at least a week’s worth of angst, all jammed into a single morning.)

 

Lance, Keith, and Adela didn’t have a chance to see any other Syluwen other than Yuthi — the teacher had gained a significant position in the Civilian Parliament, representing all parentless children within her country. Lance felt those kids were in good hands.

 

Shiro grasped those hands before they left, telling Yuthi, “Allura left you with a direct line to the Castle. If ever you need us — whether it’s the Galra Empire, or it’s retractions on these new laws … You call us. We’ll come. We wouldn’t leave you to face it all alone, Allura just wanted to emphasize her point.”

 

Yuthi’s eyes shimmered. “Thank you. Truly. I’m sorry this ended up being painful for you” — here she nodded solemnly at Lance and Keith — “but I can’t help but be grateful that you came. To see the faces of those in the square … especially after Keith’s words. You’ve made an impact. One that will last, I hope, for generations to come.”

 

Lance and Keith each shook Yuthi’s hands, and Yuthi pressed two of her fingers to Adela’s back (the baby had fallen asleep by this point, though she seemed restless, fingers constantly reaching up to grab at Keith’s neck or hair even as she dosed).

 

They waved good-bye to Yuthi before the Castle ramp closed up, sealing them away from the troubles of Yil’Syluwen.

 

“Well, that’s that.” Allura exhaled, loud and long. “And now …” She smiled brightly, even though her eyes were sad. “Now, we gather up our family, such as it is, and we find a place to rest. And give you two a chance to … settle in.”

 

“Ah, yes, in fact, let the settling begin now!” Coran announced, ushering everyone but Lance and Keith down a hallway.

 

“I’ll be in my lab!” Pidge called, ducking under Coran’s arm to go the opposite way.

 

“Kitchen for me! Gonna prep us a wicked dense dinner. We deserve it after that.” Hunk shot Lance a significant look. That was his come find me, we need to talk stare, and it usually meant a fun, gossipy time, except that Lance wasn’t exactly ready to discuss what Hunk wanted to talk about.

 

Namely, that damn kiss.

 

“Lance?”

 

The others were gone so fast, Lance barely realized that it could only be Keith speaking to him now. He faced the other Paladin, bracing himself for what was sure to be an agonizing conversation about feelings he couldn’t even fully qualify … But all Keith did was smile and offer him a sleepy Adela.

 

“Do you mind taking her for a bit? I feel like I need a shower.”

 

“Yeah, man,” Lance agreed hastily. “I’ll put her down for a nap. I’ll be in my room, you can check on her there, if you want.”

 

“Sure,” Keith said before walking away.

 

That left just Lance and Adela. He took the path to his room at a slow pace, his mind buzzing about, tired but wired at the same time. Adela yawned in his ear as he pressed the button to open his door. He lay her down in the small bassinette Hunk had made for him. She immediately started fussing, so Lance stripped down to his shorts and a loose tank top, diving for her as soon as his underarmour hit the floor.

 

He reclined on his bed, Adela sniffing and mouthing at his collarbone. She needed Keith more often than not, but somehow she knew that nap times were all about Lance. She quieted after just a couple of minutes. Lance felt his eyelids tug, his breath evening, matching Adela’s (though not nearly as perfectly in sync as Adela and Keith could be).

 

Keith didn’t seem to want to have that conversation. Or maybe he didn’t even know there was a conversation to be had? Point being, Lance was off the hook, at least for today.

 

Keith’s cheek had been a bit coarse, but Lance’s lips tingled, recalling the sensation of that skin beneath his … Turns out he definitely didn’t mind the lack of softness that much.

 

“Hey, Adela?” Lance whispered sleepily. “Is it cool with you if I ask your dad out? Or is that just gonna mess up our whole joint parenting thing? ‘Cause I don’t think it’s worth risking your childhood, y’know? … Man, if you could give me a solid answer, that would be great …”

 

He was nearly out, Adela perfectly content in his arms. Lance had the vague realization, before he completely lost all sense of time and space, that Adela smelled a little bit like the air just after a thunderstorm on Earth. He smiled as he drifted off, soothed by the familiar scent …

 

******

 

Keith didn’t ask Lance about the kiss.

 

He had no idea how to ask. And really, what did it matter? Lance was really touchy-feely with Hunk and Pidge (when she let him), and even random strangers at times. Considering that he and Keith had finally become good friends in the last while, it stood to reason that Lance might feel comfortable enough to plant one on his cheek …

 

But even if his gut told him, no, there’s more to it, Adela already took up all available space in his head, and then some. While his instincts wanted to prompt a meltdown rooted in overanalysing Lance’s latest out-of-nowhere behaviour, that reaction had been contained by his fear for Adela. Even more overwhelming was his anger — rage — the kind that fuelled his need to protect her (and everyone close to him, but mostly the baby at present).

 

Lance had stepped in direct opposition of those five Syluwen protesters, and Keith could only watch, having been hampered by the baby in his arms. Despite still feeling the sting of Lance’s previous disappearing act, Keith had no doubt that Lance would’ve dropped those five threats in five precise shots had they made even one wrong move.

 

Lance had his back. Lance loved Adela fiercely, nearly as protectively as Keith. He was listed as Adela’s other parent, and maybe that didn’t mean anything unless they gave it meaning, but the baby seemed to know. If Keith wasn’t around at any given moment, then the only substitute Adela would accept was Lance.

 

After that debacle on Yil’Syluwen, they’d moved on to an uninhabited solar system, and there they’d stayed for the last two weeks.

 

Today, Allura had landed the Castle on a planet with breathable air and sprawling plains. A few massive trees dotted the horizon. There were small herds of grazing animals roaming lazily, not unlike cows as they munched on the blue-green grass.

 

“Picnic time!” Lance announced, so cheerful that it grated Keith’s nerves.

 

The sun had been up on this world for hours, but Keith had only been awake for maybe thirty minutes.

 

Adela had a fussy five nights in a row; throughout those five days, she only seemed to settle at breakfast. But while she quieted down by the time everyone was awake, she remained cranky throughout the day. Lance had mentioned more than once that her naps weren’t so restful as they had been at the start. Keith had tried giving Adela midnight (or three am?) snacks, but that would only placate her for about twenty minutes before she started whimpering again.

 

Lance had suggested this outing as a way of perhaps tiring her out, or maybe getting her some fresh air, I can’t imagine being cooped up on a ship is good for her. Keith had agreed, desperate for any solution — even allowing her hours of scenting time hadn’t done the trick.

 

During this struggle to figure out what was wrong with Adela, Lance had been painfully chipper, so over-the-top while trying to make up for his earlier bailout.

 

“Hey man,” Lance said, sounding worried.

 

Keith blinked, scowling, ready to tell Lance off for … something. But when his eyes focused, he realized that Lance had set up the blanket (not just any blanket, but a dirt-resistant, heated techno-magic Altean blanket), laid out the food, and placed Adela on her belly so she could practice lifting her head. Keith hadn’t even registered Lance taking Adela from his arms, he’d been so out of it.

 

“You wanna maybe catch some z’s while the princesa and I chill together?” Lance asked, his brow furrowed in concern.

 

Keith felt all the frustration drain out of him, leaving him with nothing but his exhaustion. “Yeah. Yeah, okay.”

 

He went down like a stone.

 

One second he’d been on his feet, staring down at Lance and Adela, and seemingly in the next second, he was drowsily opening his eyes, the bright sunlight better than any blanket (though being warmed by the Altean techno-magic thing on his other side was pretty fantastic). The grass beneath the blanket acted as adequate cushion, and while it was a bit disconcerting to not recall laying down and falling asleep, overall, he felt so much better after his however-long nap.

 

When he’d blinked away the blurriness from his vision, he startled a little to see the long slope of Lance’s nose from only a hand’s breadth away. He could feel Adela’s tiny fingers gripping the edge of his collar. He flicked his gaze down to see her other hand clinging just as tightly to Lance’s shirt.

 

Oh. Keith processed this information rather quickly considering his grogginess … The utter peace on Adela’s face; the way she seemed to be sleeping solidly at last; the fact that breakfast time (mealtimes in general) had been her quietest times — times when Lance and Keith were most often in the same vicinity, together, with her …

 

Apparently, he was going to have that talk with Lance after all.

 

And since he didn’t particularly feel like holding off on it, he waited only as long as it took for Lance to blearily blink open his blue eyes.

 

“I need to ask you about that kiss.”

 

Keith was fairly sure that if it had not been for his sleep heavy limbs and the tiny baby holding him hostage, Lance would’ve jumped into the air and bolted.

 

As it was, he only flinched minutely, visibly controlling himself but for the widening of his eyes and the sharp intake of breath. Keith let him have his time to regroup.

 

After a minute or so, Lance asked hoarsely, “Why? Why now?”

 

“Because I need to figure out how weird it would be to ask you to sleep with me.”

 

Lance actually convulsed, a choking sound emitting from his throat, followed by an unrestrained squeak. They both quickly looked down at Adela, who slept on obliviously, and then Lance let out a panicked, “Wha—

 

“Lance, Adela hasn’t been sleeping well for almost a week.  She naps for a bit with you, but only out of sheer exhaustion, right? And you, you’ve said she’s still restless even then …” Keith nodded at the quietly breathing baby. “Look at her now.”

 

Lance stared at Adela’s head before inching his gaze back up to Keith’s. He breathed deeply for a few seconds. “Okay. I see your point.”

 

“If we asked Allura, I’m sure she could move us into a room with a big bed,” Keith thought out loud. “But I get that it’s asking a lot of you—”

 

“How are you so chill about all this?” Lance erupted, his eyes still huge in his face.

 

“Because Adela needs this,” Keith replied shortly. He sighed, lifting a hand to rest over the baby’s torso, which earned him a pleased little purr. “She’s at her best when she’s with both of us. I think you need to start letting her scent you. I think we need to share a bed, at least for … however long this stage of her development is …” He’d have to speak with Coran, who was documenting everything about Adela, cross-referencing it with all the Castle databanks on Galra biology and what Yuthi had given them on Syluwen biology.

 

“So you’re asking me about the kiss …” Lance trailed off, his cheeks flushing.

 

“Because it obviously meant something to you,” Keith said, not missing the way Lance sagged, his eyelids closing briefly. “And if that something is going to mess with us raising Adela …”

 

“It won’t,” Lance said determinedly, eyes opening to stare straight into Keith’s. “Seriously, Keith, if you … if you don’t want to talk about it ever again, that’s fine with me.”

 

“That … doesn’t sound right.” Keith frowned. “So. It does mean something, or did …”

 

“Does,” Lance confirmed, the redness spreading down his neck. “It doesn’t need to be anything for you, obviously. I can’t make you feel something that you don’t. And I won’t let it disrupt anything for Adela.”

 

“I … huh.” Keith had to take several minutes to analyze this situation. If he took Adela out of the equation (just for a second), how would this revelation play out? “I … Um, don’t think it’s nothing on my end? If it were, I would be able to turn you down flat. But. I can’t.” That was … incredibly inconvenient. He couldn’t just date Lance. What if it all went wrong? What about this kid they were raising who had basically adopted them as her parents?

 

“Yeah, I can see all the same panicky thoughts that I had on your face,” Lance said with a deep sigh. “Okay. So, I’ve actually been thinking about this for these last couple of weeks. Here’s what I propose—“

 

“Too soon, Lance, we haven’t even gone on one date—”

 

“I hate that you have a sense of humour now, it’s terrible—

 

“Better than yours—”

 

“But my idea is this — we just … don’t date.”

 

Keith stared at him. “Okay. How is that an idea and not just a … letting things stay as they are?”

 

“We don’t let things stay as they are,” Lance said stubbornly, his jaw taking on a determined jut. “We … do what we feel like doing.”

 

“What we feel like doing? Like …”

 

“Yeah, so, um, if I feel like … kissing you, I’ll ask?” Lance smiled a little there, the flush returning with a vengeance. “Or if you wanna give kissing me a shot? We can hold hands, if we feel like it, or hug, or cuddle or …” He lifted his hand to wave in the air above their heads. “Whatever.”

 

“That’s … so what, we act married?”

 

“I didn’t say married, you said married,” Lance countered with a smirk, which softened very quickly into an embarrassed smile. “I’m just saying, we go with the flow, and if we ever wanna put a label on it, or try for more — or less — we just say so.”

 

Keith gaped at him for an uncomfortably long time, but Lance’s gaze never wavered.

 

“If I tell you to fuck off for a day?” Keith said at last.

 

Lance’s fingers rose to cover Adela’s ears. “I’d tell you to watch your damn mouth in front of our kid, but also, sure, take whatever time you need.”

 

“If I … want to make out for a bit?” Because the more he thought about it (the more he stared at Lance’s lips), the more he … kind of wanted to … a lot.

 

Lance grinned brightly. “We hand off Adela to Coran for a bit and go at it, my dude.”

 

Keith had to take a long while to consider this new, exciting (terrifying) proposition. He hadn’t actually thought of Lance that way except to absently register how good looking this unfortunately annoying cargo pilot was (and later on, how exceptionally handsome his friend was, but only in a … right, okay, maybe not as platonic as he originally thought). But he’d never seriously wanted to …

 

Now, they were co-parents, and Adela wanted them both. His entire life had become a level of insane he couldn’t even begin to fully process, not since Shiro had disappeared, and then retroactively when he figured out he was part-Galra.

 

“Okay.”

 

“Okay?” Lance squeaked again.

 

“Yeah,” Keith said slowly, a smile spreading across his face.

 

“Okay,” Lance said more firmly. “I … all right then.”

 

They both went silent, and then simultaneously grinned at each other.

 

A split second later, Keith made a face. “Shit” — Lance gasped, covering Adela’s ears again — “we’ll probably need to explain ourselves to the others.”

 

Lance mirrored his expression. “Ugh, yeah.” He went silent for a pensive moment. “Hey, we’re grown-ups, and we’re raising a kid. We so don’t need to justify ourselves.”

 

Keith rolled his eyes. “Sure, go on and try that argument with Shiro.”

 

“Hey, the guy is my hero, but this is my life, and my kid, and my …” He shrugged one shoulder. “Buddy who is my baby-daddy—”

 

“Never say that again. Ever.”

 

“So he can have his opinions, but at the end of the day …” Lance leaned in a little closer, to the point where Keith was nearly cross-eyed in watching him.

 

Then he kissed the tip of Keith’s nose, which crinkled up immediately.

 

But Keith was smiling again, and Lance actually chuckled a bit, and things were suddenly just so easy between them. Them and Adela … Maybe this wouldn’t be a total disaster.

 

******

 

 

Chapter Text

******

 

About a week into their new … thing, and Lance was convinced he had just plunged them into total disaster.

 

This thing differed from being friends. But also didn’t. The parenting remained their first priority, but this shift had added a whole new dimension — a level of intimacy that Lance simply hadn’t prepared himself for, even as he’d spent days coming up with this exact solution to his maybe-romantic tension. He’d been hoping that Keith could meet him halfway and they could slowly work things out together … But suddenly having the opportunity to kiss and touch and discuss feelings as much as he wanted … That reality smacked him in the face hard enough to send a fresh surge of panic throughout his entire body.

 

However, that panic combined with some unbelievable awesomeness, so that he often found himself alternating between giddy happiness and absolute terror.

 

The giddiness might have to do with all the cuddles he got now. So many. From Adela, from Keith, and sometimes both at once — usually at night, when he and Keith shared a bed, with Adela carefully placed between them, bracketed by a few pillows so they wouldn’t accidentally crush her.

 

Tonight, Lance reclined back on Keith’s pile of pillows, sighing happily as Keith passed him the baby, who gurgled in discomfort, though she did grip Lance’s shirt tightly once she was in his arms.

 

They’d wussed out on asking for a joint room when they got back from their picnic a week ago, so Lance had been sneaking into Keith’s room almost every night — and Adela had been sleeping better since. She still cried more than usual, though, and Coran had been running tests on her each morning.

 

She was better, but not great, and the crying was wearing them all down — it seemed like whenever they had fixed one problem, Adela threw another one (or three) their way. Lance adored her, but she was proving to be quite the challenge.

 

After handing Adela off, Keith crawled onto the bed, shoving at Lance so he could lie down against Lance’s side, pressed in close from shoulder to knees; Keith rested one hand on Adela’s back as he got comfortable. Lance could feel his soft, even breaths against his own neck — Keith had rested his head on a pillow right by Lance’s.

 

This was nice. Too nice for Lance to interrupt with his anxiety and insecurities, the latter of which had also reared their annoying, ugly heads after that magical picnic.

 

Fear had welled up instantly upon returning the Castle, making him shake his head when Keith had opened his mouth to ask about the joint room. (Right, so when Lance had suggested they had wussed out, it had mostly just been himself.) It was why he hadn’t dared to initiate any more contact, only reciprocating whenever Keith tugged on his hands or ran a hand through his hair.

 

And it was why he hadn’t kissed Keith, even though he really, really wanted to, with shocking amounts of want.

 

“I think I know why she was fussing today,” Keith said, speaking clearly, even though his eyes were at half-mast.

 

“Yeah?” Lance stroked a couple of fingers through Adela’s fine dark purple hair. He hoped she could grow it out long enough to braid. He’d missed doing that for his little cousins and his niece.

 

“I think it’s your turn to take your shirt off.”

 

Lance was sort of getting used to this new level of bluntness from Keith. He only froze for about two seconds before his brain made the connection.

 

“Wait, you actually think she wants to scent me?” Lance sounded about as doubtful as he felt. Keith had mentioned this before, but Lance had thought it was just his way of splitting the fatherly duties — he didn’t think Keith really believed Adela needed it from Lance as well. “Dude, I’m not a Galra, not even a little bit.”

 

“But I’m not enough for her anymore,” Keith pointed out. “I told you at the picnic that this might be a thing. You’ve been helping her sleep, so it stands to reason that your scent might work, too. Plus, the skin contact would probably help her anyway — remember Coran said she’s still pretty touch-starved.”

 

“Yeah …” Lance trailed off, frowning, his heart twisting.

 

For her to be this needy, to still be this desperate over a month into her stay on the Castle, Coran had suggested that no one must’ve consoled her or held her close for more than a few scattered minutes the entire first week of her life. Until that day on the cliff, when she’d been held just long enough to be cast away.

 

“So,” Keith said slowly, nudging Lance’s leg with his knee. “She needs more skin-to-skin contact, and maybe to scent someone else. And you’re the next most familiar person, obviously.”

 

Lance could see that logic. “I don’t know that it’ll work, but I guess there’s no harm in trying.”

 

Except, his panicky side came screeching to life, that you’ll be shirtless with Keith, you dumbass.

 

Keith had taken Adela off Lance’s chest, staring at him pointedly, one eyebrow raised. Lance sat up haltingly, reaching for the hem of his shirt and lifting it in a series of stuttering movements. He tossed the shirt over Keith’s head, and it landed on the chair by his desk.

 

“Score,” Lance said proudly, trying to distract himself for a few seconds.

 

Keith rolled his eyes, handing Adela back to him … and then taking off his shirt.

 

Lance squeaked.

 

He honest-to-goodness squeaked like a damn squeeze toy — the sound burst from him as though someone had a vice grip on his voice box. And why? He’d seen Keith topless before. Many, many times. They’d had to change in front of each other, they’d been swimming together, they’d had to have thorough and embarrassing decontamination showers …

 

“Lance,” Keith said, curling right back against him quickly. “Adela, look …”

 

He glanced down at his chest, and saw Adela (who had been shifting and making soft noises this whole time) was now burying her nose just beneath Lance’s collarbone, sniffing and snuggling contentedly. Silent.

 

“Well … okay.” Lance’s mouth pulled into a soft smile. “I guess …”

 

“I guess you’re more than just her dad on paper,” Keith said, sounding like he’d known it all along.  

 

Lance lifted his head, dropping it back to stare at the ceiling. “Man, that’s still weird. I mean, I’m here for it, I’m living it. But it’s still weird.”

 

“For me, too,” Keith said. Then he seemed to pause — Lance could see his mouth parted, but no sound emerging. It took him ten seconds, but he finally spoke, “Are you thinking about taking back our … thing?”

 

“You call it a ‘thing,’ too?” Lance asked, which really wasn’t the reply he was going for. “I mean, no, no, I don’t want to take it back.”

 

“It was your idea, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have second thoughts—”

 

“My second thoughts aren’t of the take it back variety,” Lance said, and then he decided, to hell with it, if Keith could be blunt, so could he. “It’s just that … this is also weird. Not in a bad way. But … are you sure about me?”

 

“I’m sure you can be a confusing moron,” Keith replied instantly, though he grinned sharply at Lance before easing back into a smile. “I’m sure about wanting to stick with you as close as you’ll let me. I kinda didn’t realize how close that was, to be honest. Sleeping with you has … opened my eyes. Ironically enough.”

 

“Um, yeah.” Lance cleared his throat, painfully aware of all the points of skin in contact, though the baby on his chest inhibited these thoughts from taking that awareness anywhere. “Yeah, roger that. It’s just the usual freak out. I’ll get over it. And I’m doing better now — I’m freaking out with you and Adela, instead of hiding and avoiding you like a total idiot. So, like, half-an-idiot is what I am.”

 

“Not an idiot. It’s a legit freak out.” Keith sucked in a breath before asking, “Can we start doing the things you mentioned? Can we … kiss? And stuff?”

 

Lance couldn’t believe his life and where it had led. “Yes? Just … give me some warning? And I’ll give you warning. Won’t just happen out of nowhere.”

 

“Great,” Keith said, and then he reclined back, staring at Adela with a quietly happy smile.

 

Lance gazed at him, mouth agape.

 

Silence ensued for several minutes before Lance let out a sharp (and far less squeaky) sound of indignation. “Great? That’s it? That’s all you have to say?”

 

“Well, yeah, thanks for clearing that up for me.” Keith kept right on smiling as if nothing was going on, and Lance, oh, no, he knew better. This asshole was pushing his buttons hard, like always.

 

“Hey, Keith,” Lance said shortly.

 

“Yeah, Lance?”

 

“Warning.” And then he leaned in and kissed him.

 

******

 

Keith might have planned this. He’d become more of a “plan guy” (Hunk’s words) since trading the leadership role back and forth with Shiro. Sometimes he came up with decent strategies even when Shiro was at the helm of Voltron. He knew said ideas were decent because Lance would back him up with minimal snark, and Shiro would listen to both of them silently, without interjecting more than a couple of questions.

 

Point being, when Keith realized that Adela may need more scenting time with her other parent figure, and that Lance had become pretty nervous about his and Keith’s changed relationship … Tonight was two birds, one stone.

 

He knew Lance wanted this. The idea had been his in the first place — he’d just gotten lost in his own head again. Keith recognized the signs now, and he appreciated that Lance didn’t just disappear this time — he was just a bit edgy about them touching. Keith figured with this much skin, touching would inevitably happen, if only by accident, and Lance wouldn’t be so skittish.

 

He definitely wasn’t skittish now.

 

Keith’s eyes had closed as soon as their lips grazed, so he missed the sight of Lance’s hand coming up — he felt it, though, gently cradling his jaw, his thumb stroking slowly across the beginnings of Keith’s stubble.

 

It shouldn’t surprise him even slightly that Lance was good at this, even with Adela asleep on his chest. He kept his actions measured, careful — so, so careful and mindful of the baby. His hand lingered on Keith’s face, then he dropped it down to rest on Keith’s collarbone.

 

That last point of contact sent a blush all across Keith’s skin, every bit of it visible if Lance cared to look. When Lance pulled away, the heat remained. Keith blinked open his eyes to see that blue gaze staring back at him with … something serious, something a little too much for Keith to parse out. Suddenly, he wasn’t so sure if this had been a good plan.

 

“Lance, look, I’m sorry if—”

 

“No, nope, no apologizing,” Lance said swiftly, tripping over his words. “Holy crap, do not say sorry for being so much braver than I am.”

 

“Who came up with this idea? Who kissed who first?” Keith pointed out. “And shut up, you’re a Paladin of Voltron.” His mind played Lance’s calm, grim voice, two years ago, faced with a no-win scenario: let’s go down swinging. “But even so, no one can be brave all the damn time, Lance.  We can pick up each other’s slack, right?”

 

“Yeah …” Lance said, his smile becoming a little less self-deprecating. He tilted his head, leaned in close once more, and Keith took the kiss offered.

 

Keith smiled when Lance pulled back again, and he knew that it might be one of his dorkier expressions, but he was actually feeling good. He hadn’t had any real expectations — he’d never been one for looking forward to the future, near or far, not since he was maybe nine years old …

 

Now, he couldn’t help a surge of hope in his chest, the notion rising up that this could work. Not only could it work, but it could also be … awesome. He flicked his gaze down to Lance’s smiling lips, considered taking more … But Adela was here, so more would have to wait.

 

“I’ll ask Allura about the room,” Lance said, withdrawing even further. He was staring up at the ceiling now, his brow furrowed. “Which I should’ve done from the start — should’ve let you do it that day of the picnic … Sneaking around isn’t really all that exciting, and I could really use more room to stretch.” He demonstrated the lack of space by attempting to sweep out an arm, hitting the wall immediately and elbowing Keith, albeit lightly.

 

Keith nudged him again with his knee. “You weren’t ready right then. That’s cool. We’ll ask together now. This is a two-person team, remember?”

 

“Right, co-parents. Dads. Dads who are kinda into each other.” Lance snorted, one hand coming up to cover his eyes as he groaned. “Keith, why is nothing about our lives normal? Like, even this, this normal dating stuff and family thing … even this we had to do in the most convoluted, ass-backwards—”

 

“Normal isn’t really a thing I ever got to experience.” Keith shrugged the shoulder pressed against Lance’s. “I … my dad …”

 

He could feel Lance’s gaze sharpen, his breath stuttering. Keith never spoke about his childhood, ever, except to Shiro a handful of times.

 

He sucked in a breath and steadily continued on, “My dad was a firefighter, and he worked odd hours, and never told me much about mom. He gave me a dagger to remember her by, and he liked to eat sardine-and-tomato-sauce sandwiches.” Keith huffed a short laugh when Lance couldn’t seem to hold back a disgusted noise. “Everyone’s got something in their life that’s … out there. Some people have many things, I guess.”

 

“And we’ve hit the jackpot on ‘out there’?” Lance asked rhetorically, a tease to his voice, but he’d slid one hand down between them, finding Keith’s and tangling their fingers together. He squeezed once, and Keith squeezed back.

 

“I mean, I think I did pretty solid on that jackpot,” Keith mused, giving Lance an arched eyebrow and a smirk — Lance’s signature move.

 

He was suddenly remembering some of the bullshit said to him by assholes at school and at the Garrison — that he was too screwed up to be around ‘normal’ people, let alone to have a family. That he wasn’t worth the time, that he wasn’t meant for anything other than a life behind bars … Shiro taught Keith otherwise, proving half of that crap wrong in becoming his family by choice. And now, here was Lance …

 

Who was gaping at him, looking shocked to the point of offense. “Did you just … Can you not? Holy crap, that was …” His cheeks had taken on a distinct pink tinge.

 

Keith laughed, and he couldn’t stop his own flush from taking over his face, but he grinned confidently all the same, as Lance spluttered. Within seconds, though, Lance was chuckling, smiling brightly at Keith while shaking his head.

 

“Man, I never thought I’d see the day where Keith Freaking Kogane used my own flirt game against me. And well. How dare you?”

 

Keith opened his mouth to issue a comeback — his brain worked frantically at trying to find a remark that would darken Lance’s blush — when a knock on his door had them both jumping slightly. Adela made an irritated sound, and then began to whimper.

 

Lance sat up, hushing her, as Shiro’s voice rang out, “Hey, Keith? I know it’s late, but we’ve just received some intel from the Blades, and I think you need to see it. Lance can take Adela, I’m sure.”

 

“Yeah, um,” Lance called, and Keith, who had been sitting up and reaching for his shirt, whipped his head around, both eyebrows up. Lance raised a single brow in return, and shrugged, still carefully consoling Adela. “No worries, Shiro, I’ve got it.”

 

Keith smothered a laugh as a long pause ensued on Shiro’s end. He grabbed his shirt and pressed the button to open his door. Shiro’s mouth parted wordlessly as his eyes immediately caught on Keith’s bare skin, swiftly covered by a shirt, and then Lance, sitting up in bed, Adela now gnawing on his collarbone. Lance waved, and Keith took in the scene from afar. It was … nice. Definitely a sight he could stand to see more.

 

“You guys go do what you gotta do.” Lance waved again with one hand. “Hey, Keith, if you see Allura, let her know we’ve got that thing to discuss in the morning?”

 

Shiro had recovered somewhat as Keith said, “Okay, just call me if she gets desperate.”

 

“Will do. Though I think we’ve established that you were right about this.” Lance nodded down at Adela, who had settled again, eyes closed, little hands grasping at Lance’s skin.

 

“Yeah,” Keith said with a smile. “See you later.”

 

“We’ll be here.” Lance winked as Keith stepped outside and shut the door behind him.

 

It wasn’t until they’d been walking for a minute or so that Shiro asked, “How long has that been going on?”

 

“Lance has been helping me get Adela to sleep through the night for a week now,” Keith said nonchalantly.

 

“Adela … and you?”

 

“Shiro, there’s literally a baby between us. Trust me, nothing is happening.”

 

Shiro hummed. “Hm. Can’t help but notice that you bring up the baby as the only obstacle. Not a lack of attraction or interest.”

 

“Right.” Keith stared at him, waiting for him to say it.

 

Shiro stared right back, his mouth twitching. “Do I need to give you a talk?”

 

“You already did when I was twelve, asshole. Also, I already have a kid.”

 

“Fair point.” Shiro smiled, though his eyes were dark with concern. “I know your worries have tripled in the last while, and I’m personally worried that trying for anything with Lance might be an unnecessary complication, but …”

 

“But …” Keith waited.

 

“You’re happy,” Shiro said simply. “It’s obvious that you’re happy, Keith. And considering that each day we survive out here is another tick against the odds … I want you to be as happy as you can be.”

 

Keith ducked his head, his hair falling into his eyes, attempting to disguise the overwhelming love he had for his brother, though he knew Shiro had to see right through him. “Thanks.”

 

“I will absolutely rain hell down upon you both if this interferes with our mission, though. Adela is an acceptable interference that we’re all prepared to help you with. Relationship drama? That stays on this ship, on your personal time.”

 

Keith had expected that lecture and just nodded. “Understood.” He and Lance had grown past their stupid rivalry, and even at their worst, they’d never let it compromise a mission seriously.

 

“Good.” Shiro wrapped an arm around his shoulders, bringing him in close. “So, that means you’re gonna come to me for relationship advice, right?”

 

“Yeah, no, I was thinking … Coran?”

 

Keith laughed when Shiro shoved him hard enough to nearly knock him down. They met with Allura in front of the bridge comm, and he felt a surge of gratitude when Shiro mentioned nothing about him and Lance.

 

This was going to be difficult, Keith had no doubt — Adela already had given them sleepless nights and panic attacks, and Keith only expected that to get worse. He and Lance had already tripped up during their first week sort-of-together, and he had no doubt that they would trip up again. But the softness of those kisses, the fond look in Lance’s eyes …

 

It wouldn’t be so bad, Keith thought before he fully focused on Kolivan’s report. It wouldn’t be so bad to screw up along the way, if he could count on those kisses to ease the worst days.

 

******

 

 

Chapter Text

******

 

Asking for a new room proved to be fairly anticlimactic. Sort of.

 

Breakfast had been mostly about Kolivan’s news from that night before and a few other miscellaneous mission reports, so they had forgotten to bring it up then. They’d had haphazard lunches all over the Castle, as Pidge and Hunk needed several hours to finish off one of their projects, and during that time, Adela had yet another vomit attack, which required an extensive bath for her, and Keith and Lance taking turns to clean themselves up. Allura and Shiro had another strategy session with Coran and Keith after that, but their evening, finally, was mostly free.

 

Lance waited until they were halfway through dinner, during a lull in the conversation, to say, “Keith and I need a new room. Together. A room for us and Adela.” He was proud of himself for how steady and casual he sounded. Like his heart wasn’t suddenly racing a mile a minute in his chest.

 

A pause from everyone for half a second.

 

Allura just nodded, and no one else even blinked as they continued munching through their meals.

 

“Of course!” The princess tapped her chin with one finger. “I do believe there’s a suite with a pair of beds and an adjoining powder room that we could easily convert into a nursery.”

 

Lance looked over at Keith, who shrugged and said, “Might be a bit of a tight fit when Adela needs both of us for scenting.” A good point. Lance nodded along, just as Keith added, “I’m getting used to your wheezing in my ear, too. In case you weren’t sure about that. It’s sort of … soothing. Like white noise.”

 

That brought Hunk’s gaze up from his plate. Pidge stopped eating at the same time. Coran was grinning broadly, and Shiro shot Keith something that might have been a wink. Keith ignored it, and Lance decided that he would follow Keith’s lead.

 

“Yeah,” Lance said pensively. “I’m pretty used to your overheated skin for my poor cold feet. Don’t know if I can go back to no human-Galra space heater in my bed.”

 

“I … oh. So … one bed, then?” Allura asked, her eyes flicking back and forth between the two of them, her smile growing by the second.

 

“Yep!” Lance popped the ‘p.’ “Makes the most sense.”

 

“Are you guys …” Hunk mushed his hands together messily, which had Lance wincing, tilting his head back to hide his blush, “… going full two dads on this, then?”

 

“Yep,” Keith said, mimicking Lance, his own smile smaller but unbearably adorable, at least from Lance’s perspective. A perspective that was changing every day and becoming distinctly Keith-biased.

 

“Oookay.” Hunk put down his fork and knife, crossing his arms. “Lance, I’m feeling a certain amount of best friend betrayal. How could you not tell me about this, buddy? Are you totally doing the husband life?”

 

“Hey, hey, ‘husbands’ is not the right label,” Lance protested. “It’s kinda new, Hunk, I swear — just figured it out like, a week ago? We’re not there yet.”

 

“Yet?” Pidge latched on to the last word, her eyebrows climbing up her forehead. “Hm, that’s rather promising. Man, you didn’t even rant once to us about this. I’m glad we were spared any moaning, like you did with Allura” — Lance groaned out loud, covering his eyes as both Keith and the princess snorted — “so thanks, I guess. But don’t feel the need to hold back now. Give us all your Keith feels. I feel like they would be hilarious.”

 

“Actually, could stand to hear a little less about you feeling up my little brother,” Shiro said dryly, ducking when Keith launched a dinner roll at his head. Coran snatched it out of the air before it could hit the floor.

 

Lance spluttered nonsense for a few seconds before he got his mouth under control and said, “Hey, no, not cool!”

 

“Yeah, Shiro.” Keith reclined in his chair, eyes narrowed. “Careful. I have no problem giving a play-by-play of last night, if—”

 

“Nothing happened! Or … well, nothing much …” Lance trailed off, feeling like this conversation had gotten wildly out of control. “Wow, you all suck. Except you, Allura. And Coran.”

 

“Well, thank you, my boy. Just so you know, I am fully qualified to perform several different bonding ceremonies, in case you and Keith ever do decide to toss your spoons together, as we say.”

 

Lance pointed at Coran and his mischievous smile with a spoon full of delectable casserole. “You, you’ve been moved to the bad list.”

 

Coran just laughed, tearing into the dinner roll that Keith had thrown towards Shiro. Other than a little more good-natured teasing, followed by a discussion about which new room would be best for the subunit within their Voltron family, no one else had anything to say in relation to Lance and Keith’s … thing.

 

Except Shiro.

 

Shiro cornered Lance after their meal, leading him silently into an empty corridor. Lance braced himself for some kind of shovel talk, but what he got instead was a clap on the shoulder and a fervent, “Thank you, Lance.”

 

“You’re welcome,” Lance replied automatically, then blinked rapidly. “Um, wait, why?”

 

Shiro leaned back against the wall opposite Lance, his gaze growing serious. “I don’t think you realize what this all means to Keith. Having Adela. Having you to help with her, and—”

 

“I don’t deserve thanks for that,” Lance was quick to say. “I kinda bailed for a bit. Totally dumb and selfish.”

 

“Anyone would need time to sort this kind of life-changing stuff out,” Shiro said reasonably. “Furthermore, you came back. Just like I knew you would. Both of you have been pushing forward, beyond what anyone could expect.” Shiro stopped for a moment, staring off in the distance. “Keith is … Family means a lot to him.”

 

Lance could imagine why. He’d never asked for details about Keith’s parents. He’d only just learned a bit about his father — the firefighter, the guy who liked weird sandwiches, and who treasured the dagger left behind by Keith’s mom. Until Keith had shared those details, Lance had only known that he’d lost his dad when he was nine or ten. And that his mom had disappeared when he’d been a baby. Shiro was Keith’s only family, in that Shiro took him under his wing and refused to budge, no matter how hard Keith pushed — he held his ground like any good brother would.

 

Now, Keith had a baby and a … person who he was raising the baby with. Instant family, different from what Keith had with Shiro and with the rest of their Voltron friends.

 

“I just want Adela to have the best life possible,” Lance said after a long silence from both of them. “And Keith knows what it’s like to be alone. He’s been coping with being part-Galra, just like Adela will one day. He’s gonna be great with her. He already is great. I’ll just be there to … lend a hand because no one should be pressured to be great one hundred percent of the time.”

 

“That’s reassuring to hear.” Shiro stood up straighter, reaching out for Lance’s shoulder again, this time grasping it firmly. “And we’re here, too. All of us want to help whenever you need us. Just keep up your professionalism when you’re in Paladin armour. Don’t let any personal conflicts colour your actions in the field. I said as much to Keith last night.”

 

Lance nodded again, and Shiro grinned, solemnity falling away. “Be patient with each other, okay? That’s all I ask. You’re both excellent at pushing each other’s buttons — you seemed to instinctually know what would hit hardest. It worked against you before. Use your knowledge of Keith for good now.”

 

That was an interesting take on their old relationship. Lance hadn’t ever considered the fact that he knew Keith that well … He hadn’t known much about Keith at all, just how to get under his skin. Just his innate talents as a fighter and a flyer, and his annoyance with pushy cargo pilots, and his brash, aggressive tactics in battle, and his literal interpretations of metaphors, and … Huh.

 

“Okay, that’s a thing, yes, I see it.” Lance cleared his throat, fighting hard to keep the blush down. “I got it, Shiro.”

 

“Good. Now … run along and find him. And I meant it, by the way,” Shiro said as he gently pushed him down the hall.

 

“Meant what?” Lance asked as he walked towards Keith’s room — his soon-to-be old room.

 

“I seriously don’t want to hear any play-by-plays of your … non-parent related antics. Keep it PG around my older brother ears, yeah?”

 

Lance choked out a sure, yeah, no worries before he took off at a sprint, Shiro’s laughter echoing after him.

 

Shaking off that bit of humiliation, he hurried to Keith’s bedroom, palming open the door to see Keith bent over Adela’s bassinette, his smile soft, his voice even softer as he quietly asked Adela seems like your dinner went down easy? Maybe you’re gonna teethe soon?

 

Lance found himself moving without thinking.

 

He wrapped his arms around Keith, having a brief moment of panic — should have asked, should have warned him — before Keith turned slightly in his impromptu embrace. His smile conveyed a different sort of affection, but no less sincere as he stared at Lance with his eyebrows raised.

 

“Shiro didn’t threaten you, did he?”

 

“No,” Lance said, taking a moment to catalogue the different flecks of colour in Keith’s dark eyes. “Just gave me a … a welcome to the family sort of chat.”

 

Keith made a face. “He is having way too much fun with this.”

 

“Hey, Keith?”

 

“Yeah?”

 

Warning.

 

Keith laughed into his mouth, and Lance was laughing, too, until they were caught up in their kiss, their hands seeking the back of each other’s shirts, clinging and pulling until they were pressed impossibly close.

 

A knock on the door, Adela’s shriek of welcome, and they separated … minutes later? Longer? They were a dishevelled mess, and Lance didn’t bother to hide it when he opened Keith’s door to Allura’s grinning face. He withstood the knowing looks with a helpless smile of his own as she led them to their new space.

 

The room had a large, maybe queen-sized bed, and a moderately sized bathroom of its own, with another door leading off to a giant walk-in closet  — they could easily convert that into a room for Adela. Lance spun in a circle, taking in the place that would be his home for the foreseeable future. His and Keith’s. A brief surge of panic was suppressed with a smile and a hug for the princess. Lance managed to push the anxiety even further down as Keith handed Adela to him so he could go back to his room to pack.

 

Adela stared up at him only for a second before she was tilting her head, curious about this new location.

 

“Yeah, sorry, we keep complicating things for you.” Lance sat on the bed, letting Adela sit on his thigh, holding her back against his stomach so she could stare around to her heart’s content. “But I swear this is it for the next long while. This is your home. Our home.”

 

The panic shrivelled up and disappeared altogether to make way for a soothing, rising bubble of contentment, edged by a sparkle of excitement for this future he wouldn’t have ever pictured for himself, but that he wouldn’t give up now for anything.

 

******

 

Adela must have been partially hibernating or accidentally sedated or something her first couple of months on the Castle. This was the only explanation Keith had for the relative ease of her transition, both to her new home on the Castle of Lions, and the first three weeks in her new room in Lance and Keith’s official suite.

 

The fourth week in their new home kicked off, and Adela began behaving exactly like every horror story of every Earth baby ever.

 

For Keith, it had actually been easy to pack his few belongings and move into a shared space with Lance; even getting Adela comfortable in her own cradle had been somewhat stress-free — a slow acclimation with half the night in their bed, the other half in hers, then every other night in her cradle. Finally, she went to sleep for the entire night in her own room after just an hour or so of post-dinner cuddling/scenting. Lance and Keith would leave her door open (until Pidge and Hunk finished designing their highly sophisticated baby monitor), and all that was left to deal with was their own … thing.

 

But that thing had been put on hold when Adela seemed to completely switch into chaos mode, a baffling series of tantrums and tears for no apparent reason.

 

“Oh, she’s just finally found her footing,” Coran said after the fifth night Lance and Keith had not slept due to wails. Coran patted Keith on the shoulder. “Welcome to parenthood, lad.”

 

Keith didn’t have the energy to scowl at that. He yawned, scrubbing at his watering eyes, and said to Coran, “Look, are you sure there’s nothing? We’ve only been sleeping when she goes down for a nap—”

 

“Naptime,” Lance dreamed aloud from beside Keith — they were supporting each other’s weight, every limb feeling three times heavier than normal. They were sacrificing their usual rest during naptime to come speak with Coran while Adela napped under Shiro’s watchful eye — they didn’t dare move her, didn’t dare risk waking her up from the only sleep she had in a day.

 

“We have to work this out before there’s some kind of … space … Voltron emergency … and …” He trailed off, blinking as he lost his train of thought. “Or something. Something that requires a fully functioning brain.” Which he didn’t have, not even a little. Just that morning he’d tried to scoop up his tea with a fork and nearly took a bite out of his mug.

 

“Parents all across the universe have faced such dilemmas since the beginning of time.” Coran gave them a sympathetic look, moving to grasp their shoulders in tandem. “I’m afraid there isn’t much anyone can do, boys.”

 

Lance leaned even more heavily against Keith. “Coran, we’re dead on our feet here. Maybe she’s got some weird undetectable space illness?”

 

“No, she’s healthier than I was at her age, and I was naturally immune to most viruses,” Coran said with an apologetic grin. He reached to pull Lance under his arm. “But listen here — bring her over to her Uncle Coran for the evening. Remember that you have a support system. Go get some rest.”

 

Keith gave a grateful sigh as Lance chattered out his thanks, running out of steam fairly quickly.

 

Once Adela had been handed off, they collapsed onto their shared bed, sleeping for an incredible, uninterrupted four hours before Coran knocked on their door, holding a crying Adela. She quieted the instant she was in Keith’s arms, burying her face in the low collar of his pyjama. Lance sleepily tangled his fingers in Adela’s hair once Keith returned to bed. He opened bleary blue eyes to look towards Coran, thanking him in a hoarse voice.

 

After an hour of half-awake drowsing, Lance sat up, and Keith passed Adela over for her bath time — they bathed her every other day, which Coran had recommended for the sake of sensitive Syluwen skin, and she loved it. It was a bit easier being alert now that they’d had a few hours reprieve from Adela’s cries.

 

Everyone started pitching in on a set schedule after that, though nights were still strictly Keith and Lance’s purview. They had their own daily naptime, some sparring and training, and some flight time with their Lions, while Allura, Shiro, Pidge, Coran, and Hunk all took turns babysitting.

 

Keith figured out (with a brain that was now lucid throughout most of the day), that Adela craved food at around three am every night. Lance pieced together that she needed a second scenting session perhaps an hour or two later.

 

But sometimes they would feed her, burp her, sing to her (Lance), let her rest on their bare chests, and play with her … And the cries would continue well past dawn, until she tired herself out.

 

“Maybe she’s colicky?” Lance suggested one night, after they’d been attempting to console her for an hour and a half without pause.

 

“What does that even mean?” Keith asked over a particularly high-pitched wail from the baby in his arms. He paced back and forth, exhaling gentle shushes into Adela’s dark purple hair, and trying to rub her tense back with three fingers. (He still couldn’t get over how small she was.)

 

“Um, I heard my mom and older sis say it a lot … Mostly I thought it meant just ‘extra annoying’ baby, but I think it has to do with gas build-up?” Lance stood up from his half-seated sprawl on the bed, joining Keith in attempting to hush Adela for the hundredth time.

 

“But we burp her after every meal and drink?” Keith spoke hesitantly. “Unless we’ve been doing that wrong?”

 

“I don’t think so?” Lance didn’t sound confident, and suddenly, his blue eyes were filled with tears. “God, what I … I’ve never wanted my mom more. Even just a two-minute phone call …” His voice broke, and he closed his mouth, jaw clenching and eyes shutting. Even so, a tear escaped.

 

Keith sat down next to him, his chest feeling tight as he watched Lance curling into himself, failing at hiding his pain. Lance reached for Adela with trembling hands, and Keith gave her up without hesitation, watching helplessly as Lance gathered her close, her head resting on his left cheek, hair dampening as more tears slid down his skin and onto hers. After several long seconds of considering his options, Keith settled for wrapping an arm around Lance’s shoulders, and Adela decided to cry right along with Lance.

 

“Sorry,” Lance said thickly a couple of minutes later. He lifted his head, blinking a few tears clear. “I’m being … Man, Keith, your mom … and your dad … Sorry, I don’t mean to be selfish. I actually had a family, I’m sorry.”

 

“That just means you know exactly what you’re missing. It’s a pain that has names and memories attached to it, and real feelings tangled in …” Keith couldn’t quite describe it from his perspective. He didn’t envy Lance that pain, but he could wish for all the warmth that came before it, that caused it to be so sharp and agonizing now. “Your mom … Every time you talk about her, you sound like you’re describing a superhero.”

 

“Because she is,” Lance said, slightly clearer in tone. “Ah, fuck.” He winced, glancing down at Adela. “I mean—” His glance turned into a stare, eyebrows rising. Adela was now whimpering, the cries subdued, and she lifted her little hands up to pat Lance’s nearest cheek, curling into the dampness. Lance stood up abruptly. “Keith, let’s go.”

 

“What—” Keith didn’t bother finishing his inquiry, moving instinctually after Lance, who walked into the bathroom, pressed the bright turquoise button for the shower, adjusted the temperature with swift flicks of his finger, and then lifted a leg to climb straight into the bathtub, standing beneath the pouring showerhead fully-clothed, with an also fully-clothed Adela.

 

“What are y—”

 

Adela started laughing.

 

Lance stood beneath the warm water, his thin Blue Paladin pyjamas instantly soaked, while Adela giggled merrily, her tears completely forgotten. Lance was blocking most of the water so the little girl didn’t inhale any, but the bits that made it past had her delighted.

 

“Huh.” Keith stood right by the tub, blinking. “That … was an idea. One that worked.”

 

“Right?” Lance stared down at Adela proudly. “You’re a sea creature at heart, baby girl.”

 

“What even—”

 

“I don’t know, Keith,” Lance said with a shrug. “I mean, I know she likes bath time, never kicks up a fuss about it, and we’d tried just about everything else, and I’m tired. I want to sleep. So. Here’s another option to get her happy before bed. One that’s pretty fine by me.”

 

“You probably could’ve demonstrated this without walking into a shower with your clothes on,” Keith couldn’t help but point out.

 

And now that Adela wasn’t upset, Keith found his eyes catching on the muscles outlined by the wet clothes — he’d been sharing a bed with Lance for a while, seen him shirtless (and pantless) multiple times, and yet … It took a significant amount of concentration to drag his eyes upwards to Lance’s face, but that was worse.

 

Lance’s eyes were red rimmed from crying, his nose a dark pink. But his gaze was lighter now that Adela was burbling happily in his arms, and his hair turned into a curling, darker brown mess as he tossed his head beneath the shower, sending a little more water onto Adela, who made giddy noises, hands reaching upwards to grasp at the droplets.

 

An awkward silence ensued, dragging on for several minutes as they watched Adela grow quieter and quieter until she relaxed.

 

Quite abruptly, Keith was hit over the head with the fact that he didn’t just have to stand there and watch and pine like a moron. Lance had given him full permission to touch and kiss pretty much whenever the mood struck.

 

“Lance,” Keith said, and he leaned in, one hand braced against the wall, the other tenderly holding Lance’s chin. Without stepping into the shower, only resting one knee against the lip of the tub, he turned Lance’s face towards his. Lance just smiled, not pulling away, laughing a little as Keith got a splash of water in his face, but then they were kissing, and it was fantastic, even as his upper half was drenched.

 

“I missed that these last few days,” Lance said quietly when they separated an untold amount of time later.

 

“Yeah,” Keith whispered. “Yeah, me too. Kinda just hit pause while we dealt with this.” He dropped his hand from Lance’s face to the top of Adela’s head. “And speaking of this—”

 

“Yeah,” Lance echoed. “Let’s get this little mermaid to bed.”

 

“Should we ask Coran about it tomorrow?” Keith asked.

 

He took Adela from Lance so he could strip down to his damp shorts, and then, blushing, duck into their room to quickly change. Keith didn’t need Lance to tell him to stay in the bathroom, and he gave it a few minutes before he followed.

 

“I think so?” Lance said once Keith was back in their bedroom. He took Adela back as Keith lost his shirt. His pants were only lightly splattered, but since Lance was in his shorts, Keith decided fair was fair.

 

The pants came off, and Lance grinned. “Hello, sailor.”

 

“Pretty sure we’ve slept like this more than once already.”

 

“Yeah, but I’m pretty sure it was while I was too stupid to do anything about it.” Lance winked as he walked over to Adela’s room.

 

She had been dozing this entire time, and once they lightly patted her down with a towel and put her in the crib, she curled up to sleep on her side, little fingers gripping her blankets. Keith remained hovering for a minute, Lance right beside him, as they both watched her remain still, breathing evenly.

 

They crawled into bed, sighing nearly simultaneously as they pulled their own blankets up and turned off the lights.

 

Keith turned on his side to face Lance, murmuring, “So what are you going to do about it, exactly?”

 

“Well, mostly just cuddle. I’m freaking exhausted.” Lance reeled Keith in with one arm around his waist, sliding one leg between Keith’s. Keith mirrored the position, though his hand quickly slid up to tangle in Lance’s still-damp hair. Lance sighed again. “Yeah. Sleep. Sleep is so damn awesome, dude.”

 

“Hm,” Keith concurred. “Yeah, I’d rather have the ‘how far do you want to take this’ conversation when we’re both wide awake.”

 

Lance’s eyes had been at half-mast, but they widened just then … And before Keith could tease him for it, Lance beat him to the punch with a self-deprecating laugh. “Holy crap, why am I even like this? We’re living in the same room and raising a kid. Keith, buddy, we can take this as far as you want. I think the only thing we need to talk about is the speed.”

 

“Raising a kid and living together doesn’t mean—”

 

“How many times are we going to have this discussion?” Lance’s tone was fond but also heavily sleep dazed — Keith would guess most of his filters were gone, and he considered it very likely Lance wouldn’t even remember this conversation. “I guess it’s my turn to say I’m into it. Green lights, all the way. But for now? Red light, ‘cause sleep.”

 

Keith wanted to talk more, as this felt important, but exhaustion kept tugging at his lids, sinking his limbs wonderfully into the mattress — he let it happen, but not before he brushed a kiss against Lance’s mouth one last time, and dropped his hand down to rest right over Lance’s steadily beating heart.

 

******

 

 

Chapter Text

******

 

“You guys aren’t as gross as I thought you’d be,” Pidge remarked as Lance sat on the floor of her lab.

 

Adela sprawled out on her back, rocking back and forth on the large, soft blanket covering a section of Pidge’s space. The tiny girl was struggling to flip over onto her belly, her little brow furrowed in concentration.

 

Lance cheered her on, taking a break to reply to Pidge. “What, me and my baby girl here? She’s plenty gross, trust me. Remember when she wasn’t keeping any food down? And changing her diapers changed me. Holy crap, alien baby poop is a whole experience. A life-changing one.”

 

Pidge abandoned her computer program, getting down on the floor next to Lance so she could nudge him with her shoulder. “I mean you and Keith, doofus.”

 

“Oh … yeah.” He grinned with a blush. “We’re still figuring stuff out? Keeping it behind closed doors is mostly because we’re still novices.”

 

“I don’t like the implication that once you get good at whatever, you’ll morph into a pair of exhibitionists.” Pidge tickled Adela’s belly, and the baby obliged her with a giggle. “I was just worried. It’s a bit much at once, right? You and Keith raising her … You’re not just doing this out of obligation?”

 

“You mean like … we’re both her dads on paper, so I’m just going along with the ready-made family?” Lance stared at Pidge. “No? I love Adela.” That might have been his first time saying that out loud. He glanced over at the baby, who seemed resigned to stay on her back and tug on the blankets beneath her. He grabbed onto a tiny hand, completely overtaken by how much adoration he could have for someone so very small and new. “I love her, and I want to help raise her. This stuff with Keith … it might have come about because of close proximity,” Lance admitted. “But not out of obligation. I promise.”

 

“I really want this to work,” Pidge said after a minute of playing silently with Adela. She wriggled her fingers, played keep away with them, let Adela capture them after a few seconds. Lance noticed that her hands, normally stained with either oil or grease or some mysterious substance, were spotless. She looked over at Lance from the corner of her eyes, keeping most of her focus on the baby. “I don’t want you to feel trapped. There’s already so much we don’t have control over, that we don’t have a choice in …”

 

“Pidge, hermana mía,” Lance said, reaching out to tug her in close. She allowed it, glancing up at him through her messy fringe. “I promise that I want this. All of it. Keith, Adela … they’re a choice that I didn’t feel forced to make. Well, I did have a minor freak-out after the fact, ‘cause I didn’t really think this whole thing through. Plus, deciding to be a parent is entirely different from actually being one, forever …”

 

Pidge poked him hard in the side, and Lance squeaked. She grinned. “Yeah, all right, you’re a typical first-time dad, and first-time husband, all at once.”

 

Lance blanched at the word husband. “Okay, cool it with the marriage talk. Keith and I are very much in the early stages. We haven’t even discussed … being official.”

 

The look Pidge gave him was probably the most unimpressed stare he’d gotten from her to date, and that was saying a lot. “Should I tell Shiro you’re banging his brother out of wedlock?”

 

“Pidge, I swear, I am not above murder in front of the baby. Also, Shiro is totally cool with this.” Shiro didn’t know specifics. Who knew what Keith told him, but Lance didn’t think Keith would spill all the details, and Shiro himself had said he didn’t particularly want any.

 

“Fine, I’ll stop. Mostly because … I think Adela needs a diaper change.” Pidge was making a face, scooting away from the now smelly baby.

 

Adela screeched, somewhat happily, probably because whatever poison was in her body was now out of it, and she felt very good about that.

 

Lance sighed, scooping her up and telling her, “Querida, you seriously need to come with a warning label. Maybe we’ll have Coran print one up, and we’ll stick it to the bottom of every outfit you have.”

 

Adela just burbled, patting his chest as he tucked her in close, waving good-bye to Pidge, and heading for his room. They had a neat little changing table in Adela’s room — with a strap that Hunk had retrofitted the first time Adela tried to roll off it. She hadn’t succeeded, still not capable of shifting herself that far, but neither Lance nor Keith wanted to wait for the moment when she could fling herself into the void.

 

Lance hummed as he changed her diaper, groaning out loud when Adela … didn’t quite finish emptying her intestines. For the first time since he’d been doing this, some of her poop landed on his bare skin, and he winced.

 

Then he gasped. Then he yelped.

 

“Holy shit, that burns!” He cussed a wild streak in Spanish, reaching for a nearby bottle of warm water, pouring it over his burning hand.

 

He stared at his skin, still feeling that searing pain, though slightly less so. He quickly finished up with Adela, now being extra careful as he disposed of her diaper and wipes in the convenient slot that lead to the Castle incinerator. Then he wrapped her up in a blanket and rushed to find Coran.

 

Lance reached the medical wing, and hit the comm in the wall, yelling, “Coran! I need you in the med wing now.”

 

He hadn’t realized that this would sound vaguely alarming to everyone else until Coran, Allura, Shiro, Keith, Hunk, and Pidge all ended up appearing at more or less the same time, some of them out of breath.

 

Keith looked frantic. “What, what’s wrong with Adela?”

 

The baby in question babbled excitedly at seeing Keith, stretching her tiny arms out to him. Keith grabbed her up, examining her with intense focus.

 

Lance just turned to Coran, sticking out his now free, injured hand. “So, she did this to me.”

 

Coran immediately rushed to his side, bending in close to his burned skin — the burns were uneven splotches, red, swelling, blisters already forming. Coran hissed in sympathy, then asked, “How on earth did she manage? She doesn’t spit some kind of acid, does she? Couldn’t be, that’s not common in either species … Neither has venomous saliva nor …”

 

“Well, I was changing her diaper and, ah, some of her … waste? Got on my hand.”

 

Keith had marched over to see the burns himself, his expression somewhat concerned, and as Lance explained, his eyebrows climbed higher and higher. “I’m sorry, what?”

 

“Dude, your kid has literally lethal poops?” Hunk stared at Lance incredulously. “Man, that is some shit luck.” He snorted to himself.

 

Pidge smothered a laugh with one hand, and then used her other hand to smack Hunk’s arm. “C’mon, Hunk, we shouldn’t be mean. Lance looks pretty down in the dumps.

 

“Wow, this is so hilarious,” Lance deadpanned. “Might I remind you that you’re all part of this family, and at some point, you will be changing diapers. Just saying.”

 

“I’ve avoided it so far.” Pidge rolled her eyes when Lance glared at her. “But when said avoidance fails, I was planning on designing special gloves for the occasion, and this just reinforces that idea,” Pidge said with a grimace. But soon after, her expression went pensive. "Hm, corrosive crap could be interesting ... and have some fascinating applications."

 

Hunk suddenly became excited. "Oh man, that's a thought ... We should absolutely design—"

 

"How about we don't weaponize any of my kid's bodily excretions?" Keith requested dryly, but with a hint of underlying firmness.

 

Both Pidge and Hunk raised their hands in surrender.

 

Shiro had been trying (and mostly succeeding) at holding back a smile; his expression grew serious as Coran bustled about, slathering Lance’s burns with a thick gel, and then gathering Adela up to submit her to yet more scans. Shiro put a hand on Lance’s shoulders. “I assume, since you’re not a total mess, that Adela is fine?”

 

“Oh yeah, this was just a regular day for her,” Lance said gratefully. “I’m the one who may have just taught her a whole bunch of words that my mamá would smack me for.”

 

“According to my notes on Syluwen development, she’s at least five phoebs from forming words of her own,” Coran informed them. “I believe you’re safe.”

 

Keith carefully gripped Lance’s wrist, taking a closer look at the burns. “I can’t believe we just noticed this. Why weren’t her diapers melting? Or the wipes we use?”

 

“It might have to do with the chemical compounds inherent in skin, particularly human skin?” Coran posited, stroking slowly through his mustache. “Hm. It may also have to do with her ever-changing diet. We have been experimenting frequently with her foods … I’ll be needing a sample next time you defecate, young lady.” He leaned in close, and Adela squealed, grabbing at the orange mustache. “Yes, I see you understand.”

 

He passed her back to Keith, who took her in one arm while still holding Lance’s wrist, gentle and reassuring. “So we keep her next dirty diaper.”

 

“Yes, please,” Coran said while distractedly typing up some notes.

 

Allura patted Lance on the back as Shiro pulled away to make faces at Adela. “Well, parenting is certainly a never-ceasing adventure.”

 

“I could do with a little less adventure,” Lance said fervently. “Boring would be great.”

 

Keith stared down at Adela. “Yeah, somehow, I don’t think that’s in the cards for us.”

 

Lance looked over at his … boyfriend? Partner? He studied the concerned lines appearing, and glanced down at the fingers carefully holding his wrist. Well, at least he had this, whatever label they chose, on his side. And of all the weirdness he’d expected from raising an alien baby, maybe poisonous poops weren’t too weird or awful to deal with?

 

However, Lance had a sneaking suspicion that this wasn’t all Adela had in store for them.

 

******

 

After the latest fiasco with Adela, Keith expected more strangeness to follow — and when it inevitably showed up, he told himself he would keep his cool. He would maintain a level head that Lance apparently didn’t possess at all. One of them had to be the calm parent.

 

His resolve lasted until Adela did what she always did — absolutely turn all of their expectations on their heads.

 

They’d solved the “acidic burning poop” problem by adjusting her diet. Again. (It turned out one of Hunk’s concoctions, combined with Adela’s biology, created some pretty lethal stuff.) And so with that issue laid to rest, Keith relaxed.

 

Which was a mistake.

 

During one of her baths — the easiest, best time of day for her — Keith had been distracted. He’d been washing her mostly on instinct, his mind drifting to Lance’s jaunty wink before he’d taken off for training with Shiro. The lingering kiss Lance had bestowed on him, and then the flush on his cheeks when Keith had yanked him back in for one more.

 

He was so lost in his thoughts that he nearly jumped out of his skin when Adela started shrieking like she was being murdered.

 

Keith’s efforts to maintain his calm lasted maybe thirty seconds.

 

At first, Keith thought the cries had something to do with the water, but Adela’s screeching remained constant whether he attempted to sooth her in the warm bath, or outside it in his arms against the bare skin of his throat and collar. In fact, there was the tiniest subtle shift to the screaming when she was in her small bathtub, nearly fully submerged — the smallest bit of comfort.

 

“Fuck, oh fuck, Adela …” Keith breathed out helplessly, completely disregarding the rules about swearing around the baby.

 

A lump caught in his throat as Adela continued weeping, begging wordlessly for him to stop whatever was hurting her, the shrieks subsiding only when she ran out of breath, exhaustion weighing her down. Keith picked her up and out of the bath one last time, and every muscle in her little body went taut, the high-pitched screaming resuming after her short break to suck in a lungful of air.

 

“Okay, okay, I’ve got you,” he pleaded into her hair. “We’re going to figure this out, we are, and I’m going to make this okay.”

 

Except that even as he spoke, Keith had every nightmare, every vague half-formed memory of babies dying inexplicably in their cribs back on Earth, every child since who he had seen die of starvation, or disease, or because some tiny infection slipped the notice of the war trauma doctors …

 

He bolted to the medical wing, clutching Adela as close and firmly as possible to keep her safe. Like Lance had done just a couple of short weeks ago, Keith slammed the button for the comm. “Coran! Med wing!” He could hear Adela’s cries echoing throughout the Castle as he yelled.

 

In almost the exact same order as last time, Coran came sprinting in after just a few seconds, closely followed by everyone else. Since Lance had been training, he was still wearing his armour, his bayard in one hand, the rifle fading in a bright flash of light as he rushed towards Keith.

 

“Oh my god, Adela, querida,” Lance babbled. As he spoke, she perked up, still crying, and reached for him, while clutching tightly to the collar of Keith’s black shirt. Lance crowded in close to them both, his sweaty hair against Keith’s messy strands as they bent their heads over their wailing child.

 

After just a couple of seconds, Coran muscled his way into their three-way embrace, and he carefully disentangled Adela from their arms.

 

Lance and Keith let it happen, though Keith felt something in him rear up and growl at the thought of this child, in pain and needing him, being torn away. But he swallowed loudly and clenched his hands into fists, keeping them determinedly at his side. It helped that he could feel Shiro at his back, and could see Pidge and Hunk gathering in around Lance. Allura stood by Coran, watching the screens popping with Adela’s stats and scans, her brow furrowing in concentration, and her teeth chewing viciously on her lower lip.

 

“Ah — ah! Well,” Coran said over Adela’s screams, sounding very relieved, which relaxed Keith ever so slightly. “This is interesting.

 

He lifted a small hypospray, gently turning Adela onto her side — he pressed it against her lower back, and within seconds, Adela’s cries tapered off into whimpers, and then seconds after that, quiet little hiccups.

 

Keith’s heartbeat no longer pounded in his ears, and he no longer felt like snatching Adela back into his arms. But he did reach over, putting a careful, trembling hand onto her belly. She sighed, her little hands grabbing at his fingers. Keith smiled faintly, letting out a long, slow breath.

 

Coran breathed out as well. “Seems like one of her Galra genes has kicked in full force. It’s giving our girl some trouble,” Coran spoke directly to Adela for that last bit, giving her a quick tickle around Keith’s hand. She giggled, albeit somewhat lethargically. “Here, have a look.” He pointed with his other hand at the nearest holographic screen.

 

Keith stepped in closer, Lance directly behind him now, one hand around Keith’s waist. Keith had a brief flash where he could clearly imagine the picture they presented — the very image of worried parents huddling in close over their potentially ill child. It was so … normal. So domestic. It gave his stomach a strange twist, though he couldn’t say why.

 

He blinked, and he was back, staring at an X-ray of Adela, and Coran jabbed a finger near the base of her imaged spine. Keith’s mouth dropped open. “Is that … a tail?” Keith blinked again. “I … what? Why now? What.”

 

“Not all Galra have tails,” Coran informed them. “But of those who do, they generally don’t grow them until a few weeks after birth — it’s not a pleasant process, based on our records. Not unlike, ah, teething? That’s the human word for teeth development, yes?”

 

“So you’re telling me that Adela’s spine is literally still growing? Outside of …” Lance stared, visibly flabbergasted. He plastered himself to Keith’s back, leaning in far over his shoulder to squint at the image of that bony, protruding nub on Adela’s spine that hadn’t been there just two weeks ago. “What in the … Why didn’t this happen in the womb? Us human kids have tails in utero, and, I mean, they fall off or get absorbed or something, but most of that freaky stuff happens, you know, when we’re all gross frogs and stuff …”

 

Coran and Allura both looked like they wanted to ask more questions — Allura was mouthing the word frogs and looking faintly disgusted.

 

Coran shrugged it off and said, “Because … that’s not how it works?” He raised an orange eyebrow. “Such is the developmental process of Galra. Just like how you are apparently amphibious in the womb, they grow tails outside of it. The universe is strange, wonderful, and disconcerting in highly varied ways.”

 

Their Altean mentor stared at them suspiciously for a moment, his narrowed eyes drifting downwards, as if they were hiding tails from him, and then he shrugged again. “Now Adela’s poor back and bottom are going to be horribly sore for nearly a phoeb, I would guess — after that, her tail will have emerged fully, and from that point on, it will simply grow at the same pace that she does. That is to say, much slower, proportional to her size, with little to no pain.”

 

Lance slumped fully onto Keith, heavy in all his armour. “Right. Okay. Whew.”

 

Keith let Adela play with his hand, glancing down at her before asking, “What do we do in the meantime? What did you give her?”

 

“It was a very mild pain reliever, though I’m afraid we can only give that to her once a movement?” Coran stroked his mustache as he thought out loud. “I think the most you can do is let her rest in warm water several times a day, and perhaps keep her lying on either her side or belly when she’s sleeping. And avoid touching the area where her tail is coming in as much as you can.”

 

“I can help you develop an even milder pain reliever,” Pidge suggested — Keith had forgotten the others were there — and she gave Lance and Keith a quick smile. “Hopefully it’ll be useful down the road when she inevitably starts carrying all the germs that little kids do.”

 

“And I think we need to give you guys a break,” Hunk said, reaching out to pat Lance’s back. “This is gonna be a rough month, and no way you should have to deal with that alone.”

 

“We’ll reintroduce the shifts,” Allura announced, looking as serious as she did in their war strategy meetings. “And we’ll exempt Coran and Pidge for now as they attempt to create a pain reliever for Adela.”

 

“I think it might be a good idea to schedule some vacation time for you two after this,” Shiro said with a relieved little grin. “I bet there will be no sleep for a while.”

 

“Assuming nothing pressing comes up for Voltron, we can definitely arrange a little get away for our two young fathers,” Allura said with a knowing little grin.

 

That smile seemed contagious, and there was something about the way everyone was looking at Lance and Keith together …

 

Keith glanced over at his blue-eyed partner, saw him staring with all fondness down at Adela, and a for moment, he was lost. Keith knew that he cared about Lance, knew that he was attracted to him, but he didn’t know where, exactly, all that was leading … He only knew where he wanted it to go. But could he want that into existence?

 

He shook his head, saying, “Look, we can’t go on break every time something happens with Adela. We’ve already been away too long, and we’ve been on light duty since—”

 

“Keith, the Galra Empire has been fairly quiet for phoebs,” Allura said firmly. “We shall take advantage of that for your sake, but trust me when I say that Shiro and I have not been idle, nor have any of the others. This has been a valuable reprieve, and a good time for reorganizing and fortifying our allies. It won’t be a detriment to the war effort, I promise.”

 

She spoke as though she had the last word on the subject, and, well, Keith figured that she did. And that she was probably right. Lance glanced at him now, one eyebrow arched. Keith arched one back and shrugged, but he also reached over to put a hand on Lance’s waist, a reflection of their earlier position.

 

“All right, I guess if you insist.”

 

“I do,” Allura said with a happy glint to her eyes. “Now, enjoy Adela while she’s calm, and find us when she’s no longer.”

 

“I think the nights will still have to be mostly yours, since our scents don’t do much to calm her down enough to sleep, or to keep her relaxed when she’s nervous,” Shiro said apologetically. “But we can help out during the day as much as possible.”

 

“Got it,” Lance said with a thumbs-up, and then he bent to pick up Adela, who seemed very sleepy now.

 

Keith worried a little over how powerful this mild pain reliever was, but all the monitoring programs were tracking her, and no alarms were blaring. He stared hard at each screen, even though he could only understand maybe a quarter of the information displayed, and then allowed Lance to lead him out of the medical wing.

 

Keith paused before exiting, turning to all of them, “Thanks. Especially you, Coran, I don’t know how we would survive this without you.”

 

“There is no thanks required between family,” Coran said easily, but his eyes were deep and there was a well of sadness there that Keith couldn’t even begin to touch on. “You go on and enjoy your temporary reprieve.”

 

And Keith did just that, curled up on his bed, with Adela between him and Lance.

 

Lance had stripped down to his shorts and a tank, an Altean book on his lap that he half-read, half-improvised, while Keith felt himself drifting away, the adrenaline completely flushed from his system, and the perfect lullaby — Lance’s soft voice, Adela’s content babbling — sending him off for at least one good, short rest.

******

 

Chapter Text

******

 

Lance had been operating on automatic for a while now, feeling like he barely had a choice in anything happening around him or to him. He’d been freaking out quietly (and not so quietly) at each revelation about Adela, about his feelings for Keith, about life as he knew it totally turning on its head once again.

 

Being on vacation with Keith, roughly four months into his fatherhood journey, away in this quiet, lonely, gold and sapphire forest, turned out to be profoundly therapeutic. This safe haven gave his brain breathing room to fully process everything that had happened.

 

For the first time in a long while, he felt like he was finally on solid ground — and not just in the literal sense, although that did also help.

 

“Hey,” Keith murmured.

 

Lance looked away from the sunrise that seemed to turn the whole forest into a glittering ocean, tinged in gold. He leaned back in the window seat, lifting one leg and bracing an arm on it as Keith sat up slowly, the sheets falling away from his bare skin.

 

“You look like a freaking romance novel cover,” Lance blurted out. He groaned the instant the last word fell from his mouth, two hands slapping over his face, though he absolutely he could not miss the bewildered look Keith gave him.

 

“Okay. Good morning, Lance. You look like a damn pin-up. You couldn’t have put on a shirt?”

 

His hands fell away so he could glance at his own naked skin, caught in the golden light spilling into their room, and his long legs on full display thanks to his shorts. Well. He maybe preened a little, which got an amused snort out of Keith.

 

“You’re up way too early,” Keith said in a scratchy voice, stretching his arms up above his head. “It’s a vacation, man.”

 

“That’s pretty rich coming from you.” Lanced pressed back against the warm window, arching an eyebrow Keith’s way. “You got both of us up to spar our first morning here.”

 

“Just once, to screw with you,” Keith confessed with a grin. “You may have noticed that I haven’t bothered since.”

 

Lance huffed out a laugh, unfolding himself into a standing position. He didn’t miss the way Keith dragged his gaze slowly down his form …

 

“I … wanted to have a talk,” Lance said, his brain finally coming fully online. There had been a temporary derailment in his train of thought at the sight of a too-pretty-to-be-real Keith, all drowsy and sleep-soft. But Lance had been up since before dawn for a reason.

 

Keith stared at him with mild concern now, but Lance was quick to reassure him. “It’s nothing bad, promise.”

 

“All right … just, gimmie a bit to wash up,” Keith said after a lengthy pause.

 

Lance nodded with an easy smile. Keith’s time in the bathroom (spacious, but not ludicrously so — though they could both fit in the bathtub nicely) gave Lance another fifteen minutes or so to plan out his words.

 

These past four days had been spectacular. They had spent them sleeping in (except for that one morning) until their bodies naturally woke them up (though sometimes they had jerked awake, imagining Adela’s cries — but it was easy enough to fall back asleep when they remembered she was safe on the Castle with everyone else).

 

After glorious sleep, they would have a simple brunch of fresh fruits, cheese, and warm bread. The rest of their days were spent doing a combination of things — sometimes they would swim in the nearby lake, or venture out for hikes in the peaceful woods. One day, they’d managed to play a rousing two-hour game of beach volleyball with a strange blue rubber sphere and a fallen tree as their “net.”

 

In the evening, Lance would cook up a hearty dinner, either stew or a casserole, followed up by a dense velvety dessert that was like ice cream, but far richer. They would settle in to watch some ridiculous movie off a list that Coran had compiled specifically for their trip. This usually resulted in them making out roughly ten minutes into the over-dramatic Altean “classics,” and they would call it a night not long after that. Sometimes they made out a little more in bed, but Lance was happy to just quietly cuddle into sleep.

 

Adela had done more for Lance’s appreciation of sleep than nearly two years of being a Paladin had.

 

Point being, Lance was stupidly happy, and now, on the fifth day of their quiet getaway, he wanted to put that happiness into words.

 

Lance got dressed shortly after he heard the shower stop running. He once again took up his seat at the window, wide awake and hoping. His heart sped up excitedly once Keith emerged with his black hair loose and dripping, a cautious little smile on his face when he saw Lance again. Keith had donned a dark red T-shirt (with a now damp collar), and a comfortable pair of black pants, his feet bare.

 

For whatever reason, Lance really liked this look; comfy Keith was one whom he’d grown very attached to in these last couple of days.

 

Keith walked over to Lance’s perch on the cushioned sill, sitting across from him — their feet brushed one another’s as Keith brought his legs up.

 

“So …” Keith began, watching Lance intently.

 

Lance was nervous, but also … not. He was sure more than anything else. He took in a deep breath. “I’m really happy. With you, I mean.”

 

That got a startled half-smile out of Keith. “That’s … good. Me too. With you.”

 

“Great. Good.” Lance stretched his legs out a tad, resting his feet nearly on top of Keith’s. “What about Adela? Are you happy with her?”

 

“Of course,” Keith said instantly. His arms had been loosely crossed, but now they rested on his knees, his head tilting in question. “I’m … It was really fast. I was so sure I couldn’t do this — not with the war, and not with …” He trailed off, gesturing at himself, which had Lance frowning and nudging him pointedly with a toe. Keith nudged him back, rolling his eyes fondly. “I know, shut up.” His expression grew pensive. “I couldn’t say what made her mine. She just was, and I can’t imagine life without her.”

 

“Yeah, it was fast for me, too, though I had my doubts at the start.” Lance stretched his arms out, resting his hands over Keith’s on his knees. “Sometimes I feel like we jumped into this without looking. Not to say I would take any of it back. But shouldn’t we be bigger messes about it all? And shouldn’t we plan this out now that we’ve got sort of a handle on it?”

 

“You’re talking like we’re perfectly chill and capable parents. Three weeks ago I lost it over Adela’s tail coming in,” Keith reminded him dryly.

 

Lance grinned. “Well, between that and the lethal diaper bombs, I’d say we’re pretty damn close to experts, right?” He gripped Keith’s hands tightly. “I’m not sure how to say this, even though I’ve been practising in my head for this entire vacation, and a billion times over in the last hour … So, um, here goes … I want to make this more … permanent.”

 

Keith blinked. “Lance, we’re sharing parenting duties for a kid. That’s at least eighteen years of permanence already. More even.”

 

“Right. And I’m so there for that.” Lance struggled up onto his knees, sliding a little on the slippery cushions, so he could lean in close over Keith, pulling one of Keith’s hands to his chest. “But I don’t want to ‘share’ her or whatever. I want us to be her dads. I want us to be a family in every way possible. I want Adela to call me ‘papi’ and you ‘daddy.’ I want us to be boyfriends, at least, and maybe later, down the line … I want to call you something more permanent.

 

Keith’s eyes had been growing wider and wider the more Lance spoke. By the end of his ramble, Lance’s knees were going numb, and his thighs were trembling.

 

He might have said a little more than he’d planned, but he’d meant every word.

 

Keith used his free hand to push himself up onto his own knees. He glanced down at the hand Lance had pressed to his heart. Lance still had his two hands wrapped around Keith’s one; while staring straight into Lance’s eyes, Keith raised them to his mouth, pressing a lingering kiss to one and then the other.

 

“You’re not supposed to be this romantic,” Lance whined breathlessly. He couldn’t take his eyes off the sight of Keith with his lips pressed tenderly against Lance’s fingers.

 

“This isn’t anything compared to that speech you just gave.” Keith lowered their hands. His chest pushed out on a deep inhale, and on the exhale he said, “Yes. To all of that.”

 

Lance stared without blinking until his eyelashes fluttered. “You’re sure?”

 

“Lance. You incredibly annoying, gorgeous jackass. I want to wake up to your stupid face every day. I want you to teach Adela Spanish — even the swear words, when she’s older — and I want her to call you ‘papa’ and me ‘dad.’ And I swear I’m going to beat you to a proposal unless this counts? It can count if you want.”

 

“Oh, fuck you, no. I better get sky writing and candles and a whole meal of garlic knots and croquetas, and oh my god, how did we get here so fast?”

 

“Don’t know. I was thinking this might be more, but I couldn’t see what kind of more, and now …” Keith pulled Lance in closer by wrapping both arms around his waist. “Don’t care how it happened, just that it did.”

 

“Fair, yeah, me too.” Lance threw his arms over Keith’s shoulders and yanked him in for a voracious kiss. They nearly tumbled to the floor as Lance’s thighs finally gave out.

 

Keith snorted, dropping one foot to the ground so he could catch Lance before he toppled over completely and brought both of them down.

 

“You good?” Keith asked, grinning and flushed, his still-damp hair a mess from Lance’s fingers, and his eyes beautifully bright in the sunlight.

 

“Fantastic, actually,” Lance said, unable to feel embarrassment at present. He stood up on legs not wholly capable of supporting his weight; he latched onto Keith, staggering over to the bed with him in tow so they could both collapse onto it.

 

“Speaking of romance …” Keith said slowly. He braced himself up on one elbow, propping his head on that hand. “The chances of us getting much alone time on the Castle …” His gaze dropped down Lance’s body, one eyebrow arching when he pulled that stare back up to Lance’s face, asking a very obvious though silent question.

 

Lance stared at him incredulously. “Dude.”

 

“What? I’m just being honest and accurate.”

 

“Wow, you’ve now gone to negative points in your romance stats. Which is fine, that’s exactly how it should be. You’re the fighter, I’m the lover, and all is right in the universe—”

 

“Lance,” Keith cut in, smiling a little self-consciously. “We don’t have to do anything. We’ve been having an awesome time—”

 

“Keith, holy crap, no, wait,” Lance took his turn to interrupt, flapping a hand in Keith’s face to silence him. “I’m a mess because I want to so, so badly — get over here, we only have another five days left, and that’s assuming there’s no massive universal emergency, or a smaller but just as devastating parenting disaster.”

 

Keith had been laughing, and he kept right on laughing as he fell onto Lance, kissing him silent. Lance had to force himself to stop smiling so as to better kiss him back. He whined wordlessly when Keith pulled away.

 

“I …” Keith gazed down at Lance, completely serious, an intense look that sent Lance’s heart into double-time, which Keith could no doubt feel against his own chest. “I love you.”

 

Lance’s brain didn’t give him a chance. “We’re every gross rom com cliché ever,” Lance replied with equal solemnity, getting a knee in the stomach for his lack of filter. “Ow. And … I love you so much for it.”

 

“This … It’s like a whirlwind. It still feels like a whirlwind, holy fuck.” Keith collapsed fully onto Lance, pinning him under his considerable weight. Lance adored him. “But it’s real, and I don’t care, it’s ours.”

 

“I love you,” Lance said again, helplessly. “And I’m gonna raise a kid or a dozen with you, and I’m also not going to stop babbling until you shut me up with—”

 

“Got it, yes, sir,” Keith said, and Lance moaned.

 

“Let’s save the more advanced kinks for later, holy crap, just—”

 

“Later, okay,” Keith said, a touch of nerves finally showing in his eyes, shaking throughout his voice. “I’ll just … try to  … do this without screwing up? I’m not sure—”

 

“I’m gonna say it again. I love you. So screw up all you want, I’m sure I’ll mess up, too, virgin that I am, so let’s just be two stupid twenty year olds in love, okay?” Lance’s hands were splayed out on Keith’s back, pressing down so there was no space whatsoever between them.

 

“You’re not twenty just yet—”

 

“Damn it, Keith, enough with the snarking, just make love to me, geez.”

 

They may or may not have cracked up for a solid five minutes after that, nearly crying in their mirth. It was Keith who ended their hysterics by pressing a kiss to Lance’s neck, sliding his lips up achingly slow. Lance had stopped laughing completely by the time Keith made it back to his mouth, and their kisses escalated into something more, quickly — they didn’t take it slow, not at first, just using their hands and mouths in the ways they already were familiar with, and letting passion carry them away.

 

But after that, and after a short half hour nap, Lance took the lead for a bit, carefully peeling off the rest of their clothes and letting the sounds Keith made guide him … They fumbled a lot, made each other laugh or groan in embarrassment, but it didn’t take more than a couple of tries to find their rhythm …

 

And for the next five days, they barely explored the forest or the lake. They ate mostly in bed, showered randomly throughout the day and rarely bothered with clothes afterwards. They did go outside a couple more times, but … Well, Lance had some very fond memories of that lake now, and of one particular tree in the forest with very smooth bark, which his back had appreciated.

 

But for all their newfound closeness and pleasure, Lance’s actual favourite memory was of a morning (or all the mornings) where he woke up with Keith in his arms or just within reach, his hair spread across a pillow, his mouth parted, face completely relaxed, warm and at peace, and just … there. A bruise on his neck. A small trail of them down his chest. Skin paler than Lance’s, perfect and scarred.

 

Lance could huddle beneath the covers in their private little universe and just marvel at him on this morning (and all the mornings). At Keith Kogane, his boyfriend and maybe-possibly-most-definitely his almost-fiancé, and the father of their alien kid, Adela Thace Kogane-McClain — a last name they would all share soon.

 

******

 

 

Chapter Text

******

 

Seven Months Since The Adoption

 

While the war against the Galra Empire was often unpredictable, they managed to develop a rhythm now that they had a tiny baby depending on them.

 

Lance could hardly believe it had only been seven months of pure, unadulterated terror and joy since Adela had become part of their lives. On that exact seven month anniversary, Lance had sent Yuthi a long, gushing message, nearly crying out his gratitude for her spur of the moment decision to put his and Keith’s name on that guardianship certificate. He could not imagine life without Adela at this point, even in the middle of this constant fight for their lives (and for the rest of the universe, which had somehow become more vital knowing that Adela was part of it).

 

Keith and Lance had only been back to full Paladin duties in the last three months — the Galra Empire’s conveniently timed withdrawal ended rather spectacularly eleven weeks ago.

 

The Invasion of Borallind had been devastating.

 

Voltron had won, but only barely. The Borallind system’s population had been cut down by nearly a third — some of those had been captured in battle or enslaved, so a sliver of hope remained, but the vast majority had been harvested for their quintessence or killed in action.

 

Keith had been plagued by nightmares ever since, when he could get his brain to shut up and let him rest. If he wasn’t lashing out at vivid memories when he did manage to close his eyes and drift off, then more often, he was kept awake by Lance’s cries, his hands reaching out for the people they’d failed to save.

 

Adela had been their saviour. She’d had a rough time adjusting to the fact that they couldn’t be with her at nearly all hours of the day any longer, but even with the unpredictability of battle, she’d learned that they would always come back to her. She was too small to entirely grasp time passing, but she no longer cried desperately when they left her with Coran, or Allura, or Matt Holt, who had left the rebels to join their team as a liaison between the two groups (three if they counted the Blades).

 

He also was a pretty decent babysitter, since he didn’t mind looking after Adela, relished it even, as a well-earned break from the frontlines.

 

“Hey, guys, I got a small update on your girl!” Matt said cheerfully over the vid comms.

 

They were a week out from the Castle, exhausted after three sequential space battles that had been immediately followed by a huge party on Deltrix V. Lance, normally all about that party life, had danced for approximately one hour before demanding that Keith come to the Blue Lion with him so they could catch a nap together. Which turned into seven hours of sleep. Keith regretted nothing about that choice, though Allura had (gently) scolded them over abandoning diplomatic duties.

 

“What’s going on?” Keith asked, leaning forward in his pilot’s chair.

 

“Yeah, everything okay?” chimed in Lance, his concerned face appearing at the corner of Keith’s viewscreen.

 

“Oh, nothing, just that she managed to stand up on her own.” Matt sounded positively giddy. “Zero help from me!” He turned his tablet camera towards Adela.

 

Keith couldn’t hold back a wide smile. She was definitely standing, two of her hands fisted in the blankets of Keith and Lance’s bed for support. She could probably see Keith and Lance’s faces split-screened on Matt’s tablet, as she let out a happy shriek, giggling and bouncing her knees.

 

“Ay, princesa, look at you!” Lance gushed. “Mira que fuerza tienes! You need to show us in person when we get back.”

 

“I bet you’re gonna be running next,” Keith said, not as effusive as Lance, but Adela burbled happily at him nonetheless, which had him grinning. “You are going to give us grey hairs soon enough.”

 

“Hush your mouth, dear. You know I am forever young,” Lance announced regally.

 

When Keith glanced towards his lower screen, Lance winked teasingly at him.

 

“Hey, no flirting while in the Lions!” Hunk ordered them. “You swore you’d keep it offline!”

 

“That wasn’t even flirting! Not even a little!” Lance whined.

 

“Don’t care, don’t do it. We all know where that was heading.” Pidge sided with Hunk, giving an audible shudder. “No one wants a repeat of the Sathurs Prime Incident.”

 

We thought we were on a private channel!” Lance erupted, though Keith could see his face was glowing red — probably not unlike his own.

 

And while Keith felt a lot of things about the Sathurs Prime Incident (namely humiliation and horror) what he didn’t feel was regret. He may or may not replay it in his mind often — Lance’s voice murmuring shockingly wonderful things across the distance, yet also directly into his ear via the helmet comms. When they were off on separate missions, or when one of them stayed behind on the Castle ... On those lonely nights, Keith savoured the memory of Lance’s choked off whimpers when he’d regained enough brain power to turn the tables on the Blue Paladin …

 

However, the humiliation and horror of the memory lay in the fact that neither Keith nor Lance had realized that they’d only muted their fellow Paladins, and had not engaged the private chat. Their mistake became apparent when Pidge had hacked through their Lions and screamed at them to stop, shit, mercy, stop, ah, my ears, my hearing receptors. Hunk and Shiro had been singing loudly in attempts to drown them out.

 

Keith suspected the Lions might have been amusing themselves during their rather boring rotation of Sathurs Prime; Pidge hadn’t been able to mute Red and Blue’s comms in return, and thus had resorted to hacking and openly embarrassing Keith and Lance … If robot-space Lions could smugly purr …

 

“Could we please not bring up that god-awful memory while my adorable niece is showing off her bipedal abilities?” Shiro gave a long sigh as he appeared on Keith’s screen. Then he grinned. “Adela, wait till your Uncle Shiro gets you up on the jungle gym. Me and Uncle Matt can teach you all kinds of acrobatics.”

 

“I know what you’re doing, Shiro,” Keith said warningly. “You are not setting me up like this.”

 

“Setting you up? More like bringing you up. People think I’m your dad, and I feel like if you had a few grey hairs to match mine, we’re back to being brothers,” Shiro said far, far too cheerfully by half. “And most of those grey hairs are your doing anyway, so consider it some fair reciprocity.”

 

“Fuck you,” Keith said with all the younger sibling attitude he could muster, though he felt his lips twitch at Shiro’s answering laughter.

 

Adela hadn’t just been a positive influence on Lance and Keith — she’d brought out a joyful, teasing side to Shiro that Keith hadn’t seen in years.

 

“How goes the mission, guys?” Matt asked, still off camera. Adela bounced again, gurgling her own nonsense words. “Any chance you know when you’re heading back here?”

 

“We’re just fulfilling a promise to keep an eye on this sector for a couple of quintants before leaving.” Shiro leaned back in his chair. “Should be wrapping up soon. Allura has been overseeing their talks with other members in the alliance. There was some bad blood between them, even though they rode in to each other’s rescue.”

 

“You mean the raging party afterwards didn’t help?” Matt sounded amused. “Wartime allies who get drunk together—”

 

“Have lots of regrets the next morning,” Lance finished off with a waggle of his eyebrows. “I heard that Deltrix V’s Premier had, ah, a delightful evening with not one, not two, but three of Crassos IV’s governors. Also, there may have been an incident involving Thronil III’s blessed fountain … Huh, actually, I think there’s crossover involving the Premier’s shenanigans and that sacred fountain …”

 

“Where did you even hear that?” Keith questioned with a yawn breaking up his words — he flicked his eyes to his scans, seeing nothing of interest. “We were in bed by nine.

 

“Before we headed out this morning, a few of the kitchen staff loaded me up on gossip. They were very impressed by my romantic gesture of breakfast in bed for you. So, I got the deets.”

 

Keith arched an eyebrow at Lance’s screen. “I hope that gossip didn’t come at a cost, like giving them details on our—

 

“Damn it, Keith,” Pidge groaned out in tandem with Hunk’s disgusted noises.

 

At the same time, Lance said, “No, no way. I just showed them many, many pictures of our perfectly adorable daughter.”

 

“Oh, well, that’s cool,” Hunk said. “And pretty cute. You gotta break it to Sylvio and Nadia that they’ve been knocked out of first place.”

 

“Yeah, they’ll be mortally offended. But they’ll be great older cousins — they’re gonna love her, I know it.” Lance’s smile softened, twisting a touch wistfully.

 

“I’m going to let you guys be,” Matt said after a moment of silence.

 

Lance sniffed, trying to hide it, and Hunk murmured apologetically to his best friend. Keith lifted a hand to Lance’s screen to draw his attention, though he was at a loss for words. He settled for a soft smile and dipping his head as if to say I’m sorry you’re missing them, but I’m here, for whatever that’s worth. Lance seemed to understand — he smiled back, and no tears escaped from his shining eyes.

 

Matt had flipped the tablet so they could see his grinning face again, his hair pulled back in its usual ponytail. Adela had a thing for latching onto lengthy locks of hair any chance she got, and she would not let go once she had a decent grip. Keith, Allura, and Matt had learned to use ponytails as a defensive measure against those seeking baby fingers.

 

Matt tossed his bangs out of the way as he said, “Coran and I have this all under control. See you in a quintant!”

 

The transmission cut out, and they were once again left in soundless space.

 

“You know what?” Shiro said abruptly. “Pidge’s long range scanners haven’t picked up on anything, and I doubt they will in the next day. Go back to Adela, you two. You deserve to be there for one of her firsts.”

 

“Shiro, are you sure that’s—”

 

“Keith, this is my mission lead,” Shiro chastised him lightly. “I’ve taken the risks into account. We have a whole fleet at our backs, and you wouldn’t be too far to help if anything does get picked up. Go see your daughter.”

 

“Thanks, Shiro,” Lance said thickly. “C’mon, mullet. Let’s bounce.”

 

When they were back on the Castle, sitting on the floor of their bedroom as Adela showed off her standing skills, her little tail providing necessary balancing help, Keith admitted to himself that this was far superior to waiting out in nothingness for an attack that likely wasn’t coming.

 

Adela’s chubby little legs gave out eventually, and Lance let her fall that short distance to the floor. Keith had to stop himself from reaching out; Lance had informed Keith that it was very important that Adela be allowed to fall, and for them to not make a big deal out of it.

 

Once her diapered behind hit the ground, she flinched, her face scrunching up, but before she could cry out, Lance swooped in to tickle her and say, “Good job, querida! You were standing for a solid two doboshes! Totally set a new record, like the superhero you are!”

 

After Lance’s bright grins and happy words, Adela seemed to decide that falling didn’t matter much in the face of that loving enthusiasm. Keith slid in closer, running a hand over her hair.

 

“You’re learning way too fast, Adela,” he told her with a smile. “We’re gonna get you trained up and ready to counter anything your annoying Uncle Shiro tries to teach you. We’ll see who gives out the grey hairs.”

 

“Please do not use our daughter in your sibling rivalry,” Lance said, though he playfully nudged Keith with his shoulder. “Or, you know, let me contribute.”

 

“You’re going to help me against your greatest idol and mentor?” Keith raised an eyebrow, picking Adela up and letting her chew on his fingers with hard gums — the teething was going to start soon.

 

“Shiro has been way too smug about this. Like it was his idea or something.” Lance waved his hands around to illustrate his point. “Also, we need to learn to present a united front for Adela—”

 

“You’re just dying to break out the pranks again, aren’t you.”

 

So much. Please let me. I feel like being a dad has made me too boring. Those folks on Deltrix were cooing over Adela, and suddenly I was my dad, bragging about his grandkids, and I just … Keith, help me stay young.”

 

“Don’t you want to grow old with me?” Keith asked, and found himself meaning it — he had himself a little internal panic attack. They had discussed this already, had spent five days celebrating an almost-engagement, but he absolutely wanted to give Lance the whole romantic evening proposal he deserved, and this definitely wasn’t the time.

 

“… Yes, you know that I do,” Lance said, equally seriously, and then he saved Keith by leaning in to steal a quick kiss. “So, are we gonna prank the hell out of your brother or not?”

 

“Sure,” Keith agreed readily. “But maybe not right away. I kind of wanna soften him up so we can ask for another vacation really soon.” He glanced down at Adela, who was inflicting a bit of pain with her hard gums. “Maybe after she’s done teething.”

 

“Oh, yeah, good point.” Lance bent down to kiss Adela’s head. He raised his head and grabbed Keith for another swift, passionate kiss. “Hey, what are the chances that Matt might like to watch Adela for, um, an hour or so?”

 

“Just an hour?” Keith asked, raising both eyebrows.

 

“Two hours,” Lance amended, grinning happily.

 

“Pretty sure Matt would steal her from us if he could.”

 

Oh, wait, I have a better idea than pranking Shiro,” Lance said out of nowhere. “Let’s set him up with Matt. Then they could have their own alien kids, and we can laugh at Shiro and his parenting screw-ups.”

 

“That … would involve a lot of steps.” Keith stared at him. “And you came up with that while thinking about—”

 

“Ah, no. Total bolt from the blue, I swear,” Lance said. “But a good idea, right?”

 

“Lance, go give Adela to Matt before you say something else to kill the mood.”

 

“Gotcha.” He stole one last kiss, picked up Adela carefully, and walked quickly out of the room.

 

While he was gone, Keith went to his side of their wardrobe, carefully removing the small black sack hidden in his Red Lion robe, which he never wore. He tipped the rings into his palm, staring at the platinum bands, reinforced with a special Olkari compound, malleable once put on, and with no other decoration but a faint inlaid line of deep red for Lance, and dark blue for Keith … He studied them again, knowing they were perfect, and putting them back in their hiding place.

 

Next time they had a string of days to themselves, Keith would give Lance every romantic gesture he could think of. It wouldn’t be perfect, since Keith knew he’d be all kinds of awkward with it … But he also knew for a fact that Lance would love him regardless. And that’s why Keith could hardly wait to ask him to wear one of these rings. To let Keith have that last name attached to his own, and vice versa, so that Adela wouldn’t be the only Kogane-McClain.

 

What a damn romantic Lance had turned him into.

 

Keith would be highly annoyed if he wasn’t so damn in love.

 

******

 

 

Chapter Text

******

 

Nine Months Since the Adoption

 

The last time they’d had Adela at a public event, they’d nearly had paint thrown on them in a protest against Adela’s (and Keith’s) Galra heritage. On that day, Lance had been ready to fire a few “warning” shots into kneecaps, even while frightened by his name on that official adoption certificate, right next to Keith’s. Less than a week into forming this little family, and Lance had been willing to commit violence on behalf of that little girl (and Keith).

 

Now, nearly nine months later, Lance was in love with Keith, proud to call himself Adela’s dad, yet still freaking terrified at the idea of having Adela at any kind of public anything.

 

“It’s a gathering of our closest, most trusted allies,” Allura reassured him. “It’s not even a formal event. More like a coincidental overlap of leaves and vacations.”

 

“Ryner and Kolivan happen to be in the same sector with nothing pressing to do,” Shiro said. “It was too good to pass up.”

 

Shiro held Adela against his chest, letting her chew on his metal fingers. Her teething had been going well (better than her tail growing had, though it still cut into their sleep time drastically), and she’d put on a little more weight. She was still much smaller than a human baby would be at her age, though her tail had largely finished emerging, and everything about her seemed proportional. Her downy dark purple hair had recently grown out into long, soft curls.

 

At present, Adela’s Syluwen eyes were tracking the conversation avidly, even as she went to town gnawing on Shiro’s metal fingers. Her little lavender tail poked out of her diaper, half curled around Shiro’s arm.

 

Damn, Lance’s kid was cute. He didn’t want her near anyone who might harm her. But Ryner and Kolivan were good people … “Who else?”

 

Shiro began rattling off the guest list. “We’ve got Marllinu and Geogra coming in for the Borallind system, and a few of Matt’s rebel crew—”

 

Adela made a sound at Matt’s name, glancing up at Shiro with wide dark green eyes; her irises seemed to expand, taking up more of the slightly lighter forest green sclera. (Lance had been reading extensively from Coran’s notes on both Galra and Yil’Syluwen biology and how they presented in Adela; he knew that her eyesight leaned more towards her Syluwen side — pretty sharp, though not so great at long distance, yet fabulous in the water).

 

Shiro grinned down at Adela. “I know! Your favourite babysitter has been too busy to watch you for a while, but I promise he’ll be back soon.”

 

Lance couldn’t help the smile when Adela made a vaguely disgruntled noise, as though Shiro had failed her somehow. Then Shiro did something with his Galra arm — clicked a few servos and opened a few panels at random — and Adela grabbed at it with both hands, curious and excited. She once again tried to shove the metal digits into her mouth to sooth her aching gums. Shiro was instantly forgiven, it seemed.

 

“Kolivan will probably bring a few Blades, and that’s … a lot of people,” Keith said, but he didn’t sound nearly as worried as Lance felt. “Can they all afford to be away from their posts?” Ah, of course, Keith was in leader mode.

 

“We all need R and R at some point,” Shiro said firmly. “And some of us won’t take it unless forced.”

 

“I cannot even begin to process the irony that is you saying those words,” Keith said with a massive eye roll.

 

For two solo children who became siblings relatively late in their childhood/teen years, Keith and Shiro sure had the more annoying aspects down pat. Shiro flipped Keith off over Adela’s head, and Keith stuck out his tongue, which Adela pointed at, dropping Shiro’s fingers so she could imitate her dad.

 

Lance smacked Keith on the shoulder. “Dude, she does not need to be picking up on that kind of crap already!”

 

“Hey, her first word is going to be either 'fuck' or 'coño,' thanks to you—”

 

“Holy shit, Keith —I mean, crap, don’t swear in front of her—” Lance groaned. “You know what? I never used to curse this much. What has fatherhood done to me?”

 

“Made you some kind of overly paranoid, drop-dead tired disaster of a human?” Keith said immediately. “I know this because I can relate.”

 

“Well, fuck us, right?” Lance said with an unapologetic grin, just as Shiro covered both of Adela’s tiny pointed ears, a pair of metal fingers on one side, and two of his human fingers on the other.

 

“So, corrupting my niece aside, you two okay?”

 

“With the party, you mean?” Lance stared at Adela, who was adorably shaking her head in an attempt to dislodge Shiro’s hands.

 

Shiro let her win after a few moments, and rewarded her with a small dollop of Hunk’s mashed potatoes, which she smashed into her face happily, licking it from her own fingers. Wonderful. Hunk hadn’t made the whole meal Adela-proof, which meant that she would likely puke that up later, or leave Keith and Lance a horrific surprise in her diaper.

 

“When she throws that up, you’re on bath duty,” Keith said to Shiro sternly. “And … we can handle a party. This party.”

 

“I guess …” Lance replied slowly, still not one hundred percent convinced. He stood up, walking around the table to Shiro. Adela stuck her arms up as soon as she thought she could reach. Shiro suddenly stretched his own arms, holding her above his head. She screamed out of sheer delight.

 

“She’s definitely got some of your daredevil genes, Keith,” Shiro said with satisfaction as he passed her over to Lance.

 

“Adelita, we’re gonna have to teach you a healthy fear of heights,” Lance told her seriously once he had her comfortably settled in the crook of one arm.

 

Adela responded by blowing a raspberry at him.

 

His entire space family broke into peals of laughter — except Keith, who glared at Shiro as if this had been his doing.

 

Pidge winked at Lance as he glanced her way — ah, so Shiro wasn’t to blame for this latest learned skill. Good to know. Lance smiled and winked back.

 

“She’ll be safe,” Allura said after they’d all calmed down. “I give you my word.”

 

Keith and Lance exchanged looks.

 

Lance knew he’d have to get over this fear at some point. Their lives as Paladins wouldn’t permit anything else. Adela had adapted fairly well to being left with her various extended family members whenever both Keith and Lance were needed out in the universe, which was promising; the reality was that she would be exposed to other people more often as she got older, as they went on and on with this war.

 

“Okay,” Lance said finally. “If Keith says we can handle a party, then no guessing about it. We’ll be there with bells on.”

 

“Ah, traditional human attire involves musical instruments?” Coran asked curiously.

 

“It’s just an old Earth saying,” Shiro explained. “Though there was that stupid fashion craze in the 2090s?”

 

“Holy crow, yes!” Hunk had been in and out of the kitchen this entire meal, keeping an eye on dessert, he’d said. Now he sat down and gesticulated wildly. “The little jingle bells on everything! Every movie and show from that decade had, like, annoying ringing in the background of every scene.”

 

“Hey, Die Hard XX came out in 2096, and it was awesome thanks to the bells!” Lance said indignantly. “The pants with the jingle bell explosives that finally blew up the villain? Classic. Iconic, even.”

 

“Of course, of course you would love that movie. Totally in line with your two hour dissertation over the narrative genius of Bond films one hundred through one hundred eighteen.” Keith sighed long-sufferingly.

 

“It’s a crime that they were never nominated for anything!” Lance would not back down on these points. Those movies were masterpieces. “And Die Hard XX isn’t as good, but it’s definitely in my top thirty!”

 

Keith stared at him in mild horror. “You know, I’m kind of rethinking letting you raise our kid.”

 

Our,” Lance countered smugly, bouncing Adela in his arms. “So, no, you’re not.”

 

“You’re the worst.” Keith’s small, fond smile completely belied his words.

 

“Love you, too, sweetheart.” Lance blew a kiss with an exaggerated flutter of fingers, and then took one of Adela’s tiny hands and had her do the same. “Send daddy a kiss! There you go, good job!”

 

“Hey, ease up on the flirting — Sathurs Prime! You’ve hit my limit,” Pidge announced.

 

Lance immediately flushed red — geez, when would they stop bringing that up! It wasn’t his fault the comms hadn’t been on private! Keith had a theory that the Lions had been messing with them. Lance definitely had picked up on waves of amusement from Blue at the time, and thus found it easy to believe. Their Lions had been strangely jovial of late, ever since Adela had become part of the family … Lance occasionally wondered if magical space-cat robots could be aunts or grandmas …

 

“Change of subject! You all need to try my special twist on croquembouche.” Hunk pushed away from the table as Pidge started gathering up the dinner dishes.

 

“Wait, I think it’s my night for clean-up,” Keith protested.

 

“Sure. Except that Adela’s teething has been destroying your sleep, and last time you put the dirty plates in the cabinets and the clean ones to wash.” Pidge stared at him for a beat. “Or did I just imagine you systematically destroying Hunk’s kitchen?”

 

Lance stared at Keith. “Wow. When did you realize you’d messed up?”

 

Keith let out a long breath. “When the dishwasher was full of clean plates, and I was confused because I hadn’t started the cycle yet.”

 

“That’s both hilarious and sad,” Hunk said, leaning over to pat Keith’s shoulder. “Extra dessert for you.”

 

Pidge passed by Lance with her hands full of dirty dishes, and as she did so, she leaned in to nuzzle Adela’s nose. “I don’t blame you for anything, Del. You’re cool. Teeth suck, right? Would be way more efficient to just have feeding tubes or smoothies every day. No teeth required.”

 

“You blaspheme!” Hunk cried out.

 

Adela clapped a saliva covered hand onto Pidge’s face, and it showed how much Pidge loved her niece that she didn’t even flinch.  Pidge just grinned up at Lance, who stuck his tongue out at her. He knew that Pidge was happy for him and Keith — she smiled at them often, and teasing was her way of saying, “Good job on getting your shit together.”

 

He was in the middle of a war, way too far from home, but this, this was worth a lot of the pain. Adela was worth everything. And now that he was thinking about Adela, and that party …

 

“You know what?” Lance held Adela up over his head, inspiring yet more happy, high-pitched sounds from her. “I just realized that this is a prime opportunity to make you the cutest party outfit!” He brought Adela back down and winked at Keith. “And maybe we can all match.”

 

Allura perked up, and Coran slapped his hand on the table. “That sounds marvellous! I’m sure we have plenty of Altean frocks in storage that we can adjust for you!”

 

“Oh, please let me help!” Allura said with a mischievous little smile of her own.

 

“I take it back.” Keith stared at Lance with no small amount of terror. “No parties for Adela, ever.”

 

Lance, who had already envisioned several different rocking outfits for all three of them, just cackled gleefully. Adela let out a string of giggles, followed up by blowing another raspberry, this one directed at Keith.

 

******

 

Keith stared at the clothes laid out on his bed with a certain amount of trepidation.

 

He knew Lance had been ridiculously excited these past couple of weeks, as he schemed with Allura and Coran. The Blue Paladin took special delight in pinning Keith down for “measurements,” which Keith was certain they didn’t need, considering that the Castle had outfitted them all with armour perfectly … But he didn’t exactly fight hard against Lance’s wandering hands.

 

The end results were a simple deep maroon tunic paired with slim-fitting black leather pants and knee-high boots. There was a matching hair ribbon, and a leather belt with a sheath for his Blade of Marmora dagger. Beginning at the collar and sprawling down the left side of his tunic were embroidered patterns, reaching the bottom hem in beautifully subtle gold and silver thread, along with a hint of royal blue … Keith smiled to himself at that, his fingers tracing over those cresting waves of threads in particular.

 

The colour was all too similar to the rings he had hidden within his Red Lion robe, and a brief burst of panic had him wondering if Lance had seen them.

 

But Lance had been so busy helping Allura and Coran plan this party, and constructing his, Keith’s, and Adela’s outfits … Between Voltron missions, Lance was hardly seen. Keith and Adela had been mostly left alone, as he saw Lance pretty much only for bed time, and for those all too brief “measuring” sessions. He likely had no idea, still. Well, some idea, since they had discussed making things permanent, even if they’d skirted around the label for it.

 

But Keith wanted the label. Even being highly suspicious of Lance’s plans for the evening, (particularly once he’d whisked Adela way to dress in secret), Keith still felt that bottomless well of affection for the kind, brave, funny, loving moron Keith wanted to tie to himself forever.

 

He carefully began dressing; the clothes were all comfortable, but the tunic was a single layer of rather airy material, and so he felt a little exposed. He pulled his hair back with a discreet black tie, and then wrapped the ribbon around that; he took a little extra time to tuck the more stubborn strands away.

 

He had just settled the leather belt and his dagger around his waist when a rhythmic tapping heralded Lance’s return. That and the sing-song announcement, “We’re here to pick up our gorgeous date. Right, Adela?” A stream of happy wordless chatter followed.

 

Keith was already smiling before he opened the door, but after it slid away to reveal Lance and Adela, he froze in place.

 

Lance wore an outfit not unlike Keith’s, but … tighter. And … those boots. They were of a more supple leather than Keith’s, and went up past his knees, almost to his mid-thigh. The rest of his  (long, long) legs were encased in a far slimmer-fitting version of the pants Keith wore. His ivory tunic was significantly more form-fitting as well, though it was somehow also … flowy? The embroidery was a match to Keith’s, though in place of dark blue thread, he had a rich maroon. On top of it, he had a velvety-looking coat of a midnight blue, open and falling just past the tops of those damn boots …

 

Keith was ashamed to admit it, but it took him a full minute to see Adela, who was dressed in a puffy black dress with red and blue sparkles all over. Her tail poked out amidst the ruffles, and she had a small flower crown of sparkling deep red and blue blooms.

 

When Keith could finally bring himself to look into Lance’s face, it was with an involuntary noise of despair; Lance’s blue eyes stood out remarkably thanks to the thick, black eyeliner surrounding them. And there was a faint hint of gloss on those smooth pink lips.

 

“Hey, now, you …” Lance was talking (had he been talking this entire time?). “You … Well, you know what, fuck it. Keith, you look fucking hot as hell, holy shit.”

 

Adela clapped her hands, seemingly cheering on her dad’s foul mouth.

 

Keith grinned, uncaring right then about the corruption of their kid, because thank god he wasn’t alone in this. “You’re every prince charming fantasy I’ve ever had, but in the flesh. So … yeah.”

 

“You have many of those royal day dreams?” Lance asked, his cheeks flushed, eyes wide, and breath hitching — Keith recognized his own dazed lust reflected back at him, and even wearing this thin tunic, he could feel a fine sheen of sweat emerging on his skin.

 

“Not a single one, until I opened this door,” Keith admitted. “Now I think I have at least a couple dozen.”

 

“Oh, speaking of—” Lance held up something in his free hand. “I forgot to leave out your coat.”

 

Keith accepted the jacket, made of the same velvet-like material as Lance’s, though Keith's was in a glimmering black, with a silver inner lining. He shrugged it on, and realized that it was short, just barely meeting the bottom of his ribs, like his favourite red biker jacket. He felt his grin grow wider when the jacket settled perfectly on his shoulders. Lance reached out with one hand to smooth out the lapels.

 

“Well then … that’s …” Lance huffed out an annoyed breath. “Ah, fuck me, this is ridiculous.”

 

“That would be featured in several of those fantasies, yeah,” Keith said, as Lance laughed a little, his hand still resting on Keith’s chest. Keith snagged it and brushed his lips across the back, relishing the way Lance gasped softly. Keith looked up at him with a knowing stare and let go of his hand. “Maybe let’s not talk about this around Adela anymore, though.”

 

Lance made a face, glancing down at their daughter, who beamed back at him, totally and thankfully oblivious. Keith felt a modicum of guilt in his gut for all the flirting and cussed-filled banter, but Lance’s entire look had temporarily destroyed most of his filters and common sense.

 

“Sorry, Adela.” Lance nuzzled her cheek, mindful of the flower crown. “We’ll save it for when you’re a teenager and it horrifies you into obedience.”

 

Keith … hadn’t really thought too much about that indistinct future, when Adela was grown. It was rather ironic, considering that engagement rings were sitting pretty in his wardrobe. He’d considered said future only in a distant, abstract sense, and the few details he could pinpoint were Lance and Adela … but not what shape they’d take.

 

Keith reached out and took Adela from Lance. “Go stare at yourself in the mirror one last time. I know you want to double-check that you’re as hot as I just said you are.”

 

“I mean, when you phrase it like that, it makes me sound so arrogant,” Lance said with a pout, though he brushed a kiss over Keith’s cheek as he passed by.

 

“Well, if the prince charming boots fit …”

 

“That’s not how that goes!”

 

Lance also took a few minutes to fuss over Keith and Adela’s attire and hair before he pronounced them read-ay to par-tay.

 

They walked down to the Castle entrance hall together, entering through the double doors at the top of the stairs into the “casual” celebration that had just kicked off. Keith stared down into the crowd — somehow, it didn’t seem as small as it was supposed to be …

 

He spotted Kolivan and several of his Blades, Ryner and her assistants, Matt and his original rebel crew … Marllinu and Geogra from Borallind, who waved up at them excitedly, their wide cat’s eyes widening even further when they saw Adela. Rolo and Nyma had managed to make it, and Nyma shot Lance a teasing wink, and … so did Rolo, which had Keith tensing ever so slightly, until he realized Rolo’s wink was meant for him. There was the now infamous Premier of Deltrix V, Deotheras, and he had his arms wrapped around two governors from Crassos IV, Lady Golla and Sir Krillos. He spotted Queen Go’ora of Kator, who had taken a particular shine to Hunk, and was currently taking notes as Hunk chattered away about his latest recipes, most likely.

 

“Huh,” Lance said. “I guess a few more people RSVP’d at the last second.”

 

Every person here was someone who they trusted, who they had fought alongside, and who had proven their commitment to the cause … But Keith still felt himself clutching Adela that much closer, turning her slightly away from the curious eyes upon her.

 

Lance seemed to instinctually understand, and he put an arm around Keith’s waist as they went down the stairs, standing so that he also partially shielded Adela.

 

They made a point to go to Kolivan first, as they often did at any diplomatic or post-battle meeting. They had all been made aware of their allies’ wariness and at times blatant bigotry towards the Blade of Marmora; Allura had instructed them to make sure that they always paid obvious respect to Kolivan and his soldiers before anyone else. It drove the point home that the Blades had been fighting this war for longer than any of them, and their contributions were not to be dismissed or looked down upon.

 

Adela stared up at Kolivan curiously, her little hands clutching Keith’s tunic collar very tightly.

 

“Greetings,” Kolivan said with a slight bow, which Lance and Keith returned at a steeper incline. When the Blade leader straightened, he smiled at Adela with the gentlest expression Keith had ever seen on his face. “And hello to you, young one.”

 

Adela looked up at him, and then stuck out a hand, reaching for Kolivan’s long braid. Kolivan didn’t flinch back at all as Adela snagged the white hair and tried to put it in her mouth.

 

Lance reached over and pulled it away. “No, princesa, that’s not for eating, we’ve been through this.”

 

Adela made a disappointed noise, tried one more time before Lance pushed gently down on her hand. She gave up and settled for simply tugging on it. Kolivan carried on as normal, even as Adela leaned out further from Keith’s arm to get both hands on his braid.

 

“I’m glad to meet her at last,” Kolivan said. “It is most kind of you, to take her in.”

 

“We couldn’t leave her behind once she was here, with us.” Keith had been bracing himself for a lecture from the elder Blade — he’d known all the risks in having Adela with them on the Castle, and a few more had become apparent in the past few months. Not only that, but he’d been well aware of the selfishness he may be accused of — that he’d made this decision based on his own needs instead of Adela’s … But Kolivan either didn’t wish to express these thoughts or he simply didn’t have them.

 

But he did seem reluctant about something. He reached over to put a hand on Keith’s shoulder. “Take an evening and enjoy. You make a handsome family.” He nodded at Lance, who nodded back with a grin, though he also seemed to have picked up on the unspoken tension that had suddenly come to be. “And if you have any questions about Galra upbringing, please, don’t hesitate to reach out. I’ll leave my personal comm channel with Shiro.”

 

“Oh.” Keith blinked, suddenly recalling that they didn’t have to rely solely on Coran’s medical texts — they had Galra allies. “Right. Thank you.”

 

Kolivan and the Blades moved on, allowing Ryner to come over and play with Adela, who took a shine to the Olkari woman instantly, particularly when she presented Adela with a batch of toys that could alter shape depending on Adela’s volume and tone, teaching her how to modulate. Ryner also gave them a toy computer that would recite words to her in their voices, along with a small little hover plane she could lean on to walk, and that would speed up or slow down depending on her level of exhaustion. Keith and Lance thanked Ryner profusely, letting Adela play with one of her smaller new toys, which saved the next round of friends from having their hair or clothing gnawed on.

 

Rolo and Nyma found Keith and Lance at the refreshment table later on. Rolo was incredibly good with Adela. He even taught Keith an interesting little massage that used mostly her legs, bicycling them to get her to burp, and it had the added benefit of stretching those swiftly growing muscles. It had Keith wondering where and how Rolo had learned this trick, but the bittersweet edge to his smile as Adela giggled kept Keith’s mouth shut.

 

No one rushed to meet them — everyone waited to bump into them naturally, or gave them several minutes’ break after one conversation before approaching them to officially meet Adela.

 

The party truly was just a friendly excuse to dress up and just … be.

 

Eventually, Keith found himself relaxing to a point where he actually let Coran take Adela off his hands, swinging her around in a dance as Allura cued up some soft music. Adela’s peals of laughter had everyone around them smiling. Lance, who had seemed slightly tense watching her pulled further away from them, also finally relaxed, even as Rolo took a turn spinning Adela, letting her chew on his fingers as he rocked her on the dance floor.

 

Lance nudged Keith from his seat next to him. “Hey. Did you wanna take a spin? No pressure.”

 

Keith stood up, smoothing down his tunic and coat, both of which definitely had a few drool spots and teeth imprints. “You know what? Yeah.”

 

He offered Lance his hand, and Lance, looking genuinely surprised, took it.

 

Keith pulled him onto their impromptu dance floor, and everyone joined in, either on their own or in couples — Allura and Nyma were laughing in each other’s arms. Ryner was teaching a Blade an Olkari traditional dance, and Deotheras rocked back on his heels, watching his two mates spin each other with a broad grin on his own face. Keith let Lance take the lead, since his own dancing was limited to swaying in a circle; Lance didn’t seem to want to do much more than that, holding one of Keith’s hands aloft in his right one, as his left rested firmly on the small of Keith’s back.

 

“You know, I think Adela has made this night way better than it could have been, if we’d kept her hidden in our room,” Lance murmured to Keith.

 

Keith nodded, an obstinate lock of hair finally escaping his ponytail. He tilted his head to keep it out of his eyes as he said, “Yeah. It’s been … nice.”

 

Lance tugged him in a little closer. “And … I think we can have her around other people, people we trust. When she gets a little older, we can even … let her out and about. Maybe.”

 

“On planets we know are safe, and with us right there with her,” Keith added.

 

“No duh,” Lance said with a smile. “Until she starts talking back. I don’t want to make her feel like she has no freedom.”

 

“When she can learn to defend herself, maybe we’ll think about other stuff.” Keith could picture Adela in the training room, rolling on mats, learning to take a fall. Giggling when Lance faked taking punches from her in true over-dramatic fashion. Cheering whenever Keith or Lance got one-up on each other in demonstrations …

 

“I think we’ve got a chance at really giving her a good life,” Lance told Keith seriously. “And I think it’s gonna be good for all of us.” He looked towards Shiro, who now had his niece held tightly between him and … Matt? Huh. Keith smiled as Matt pressed a kiss to Adela’s soft hair, smiling up at Shiro, who used his Galra arm to tug him in close.

 

“Yeah,” Lance breathed out, his lips brushing against Keith’s forehead for a moment. “Good for everyone.”

 

Keith thought about the rings in his wardrobe, and decided he didn’t want to wait any longer. But he wanted to give Lance his big, epic proposal, he wanted to give him all the romance he could. Perhaps at a party, dressed like princes and ready to raise their princess … But Keith didn’t necessarily want to share that memory with everyone else, like he was sharing this one.

 

But very, very soon, he’d give Lance another detail of their future, and things would start to take shape in ways that made everything around them as magical and bright as this night had been.

 

******

 

 

Chapter Text

******

 

One Year Since the Adoption

 

Lance didn’t really keep track of time anymore, of the days since he’d snuck out of the Garrison to chase that crashed spaceship, and then to run after that impossible-to-mistake mullet.

 

At the beginning, right when it sank in that he couldn’t go home, not until this war was over and won, Lance had kept a tally of each night away from his family, away from his oceans and rains. Eventually, time became somewhat tricky what with quintants not quite adding up to Earth days. Wormholes broke time on a regular basis. And it was hard to remember to keep the tally going after a near-death experience or twelve.

 

Point being, somewhere around the end of their first year in space, Lance had lost count.

 

Now he mostly glanced at the Castle calendar with a very narrowed focus — did they have a diplomatic event scheduled? A meeting with Ryner or Kolivan? A summit for everyone in the Voltron Alliance? Was it his turn to clean the medical wing or to take over dishwashing duty?

 

He’d noted Adela’s birthday as the day they’d been listed as her parents on Yil’Syluwen. They hadn’t had a chance to celebrate it, as it had been battle after rescue mission after Blade operation for months now … But honestly, she was too little to care, and it would’ve been mostly for Lance, as Keith didn’t really consider birthdays a big deal either. Nevertheless, Lance had promised his princess that they’d have a big blowout for her second birthday next year.

 

But, apparently, there had been one other event he should’ve been keeping track of — his and Keith’s anniversary.

 

“You want to do something special? Holy crap, has it been a year already?” Lance looked up from Adela’s stroll around their room. “That’s a thing that’s happening? Um, when exactly is it happening?” He kept Adela in his peripheral vision as he tried to add up the days.

 

Their little girl rarely fell anymore. She could balance without the support of her little Olkari ship, take the world at a sprint, even, all while giggling and shrieking her joy. Lance always kept an eye on her regardless — and so, he’d missed parts of his and Keith’s conversation until the word “anniversary” registered in his brain.

 

“Next month it’ll have been one year since the picnic where this ‘thing’ started,” Keith said, looking nonchalant about it, while Lance was feeling like the worst boyfriend ever. “I figured we could go somewhere. Maybe back to our vacation planet … to the cabin on the lake?”

 

That sounded incredible. Especially since, for the last three weeks, Lance and Keith had taken on way too many solo missions, so that Adela would have one parent with her more often than not. This had come on the tail end of months containing ceaseless battles and other Voltron duties. Adela loved Matt, Coran, and Allura, but she missed her dads a noticeable amount, to the point where it was affecting her health. So, Shiro had helped them come up with a compromise, i.e. taking turns on solo missions, but that meant Lance and Keith rarely saw each other for more than a day at a time.

 

“Allura said we could have maybe five days to ourselves.” Keith followed behind Adela, which she took as a challenge to speed up. She grabbed her favourite plushie, previously abandoned on the floor, and hugged the little teddy-looking thing close as she took off. (This teddy creature was apparently native to a Galran colony? Kolivan had given it to them for Adela, and she adored it above all other toys). She ran while clinging tightly to one stuffed paw.

 

“Five days,” Lance said dreamily, drifting away from Adela’s defiant yells.

 

He could picture it now. He had plenty of fond memories to draw from. It hadn’t been a full year since they’d had that vacation, but he was ready for another.

 

Adela’s bipedal successes were an exhaustive terror for everyone — the minute she got tall enough to reach the door buttons, life as they knew it would be over.

 

However, what he and Keith had been stressing about most was her lack of words — Coran (and Kolivan) insisted that this was entirely normal for Galra children. They tended to have very fast physical development in the early years, and communication skills would likely develop just as quickly, but at a later time. Adela’s physicality was definitely impressive — Shiro said she was taking to her jungle gym (a work in progress by Coran and Hunk) like she’d been born on it.

 

Then again, she could take after her Syluwen side more, meaning that she should’ve been talking months ago, but Lance chose to focus on the more positive aspects of her growth. Right now she could run and climb like she was actually Keith’s biological daughter, and thus would likely be kicking Lance’s ass by the time she was twelve.

 

Aside from both the worrisome and the happy achievements that their daughter kept surprising them with, Lance’s nights were often restless.

 

On the eve of battle, he’d wake up multiple times, shivering through waking nightmares. The night after unexpected skirmishes, his mind would latch onto the battles they didn’t win, the people they couldn’t save … And while sharing their bed was becoming a rarity, Lance had been woken up more than a few times by Keith’s own shivers, his own inability to just let his mind rest …

 

A break after these last few months of non-stop universe defending … would be nice, to put it mildly.

 

“Shiro is going to take a week off after we get back, and then Pidge and Matt, and then Hunk is gonna go to the Balmera—”

 

“Wait, Shiro and Matt aren’t taking off together?” Lance asked, confused.

 

Keith grimaced. “No, because Shiro’s pulling the ‘superior officer’ card, saying they can’t … He says he’d feel like he was taking advantage of a lower ranking soldier.”

 

“But … Matt belongs to the rebels?” Lance dropped to his knees, scooping his girl up before she ran face first into a wall at Mach seven. She wacked him with her teddy bear and laughed as he blew a raspberry into her neck. “He’s not part of the Garrison chain of command, if that even matters out here. Which it doesn’t.”

 

“He’s just being an idiot,” Keith said decisively. “And Matt will give him all the logical reasons as to why he’s being an idiot. Hopefully, Shiro will get his head out of his ass before Matt’s summoned away again.”

 

Or maybe, Shiro was feeling like he couldn’t indulge in any distractions, in happiness for himself, because he had to shoulder the burden of command, as Keith rarely took on Black Paladin duties anymore. It wasn’t unlike Lance nearly destroying what he and Keith had before it began, and even just after; he’d been afraid of complications, certain that he was unworthy, that he was going to mess it up — mess up Keith and Adela. Lance could empathize with Shiro, with the myriad of reasons he had to be so cautious.

 

Keith sighed, raking both hands through his hair. “I know. I know what you’re thinking. And you’re right, it isn’t as simple as I make it sound. Shiro has plenty of valid reasons to be afraid of starting something with Matt, but he’s definitely using this war and my kid as a reason to keep himself … unhappy. And I hate it.” He glared up at Lance through his messy fringe. “I don’t know how I’m suddenly the emotionally capable one between the two of you.”

 

“Okay, wow, uncalled for. Also, unfairly accurate.” Lance sat down on the window seat, letting Adela stand on his thighs so she could gape at the stars.

 

If they let her play around on one of the observation decks, she could stare for hours out towards the various stars, nebulas, and planets. She seemed to have the same space bug that had bit all of her family — parents and uncles and aunts alike. Lance dreaded the day she asked to become a pilot or explorer, or worse … a Paladin. But he left that future nightmare alone and focused back on the present.

 

“Are you going to talk to Shiro about this?”

 

“Maybe you should?” Keith suggested. “I think you get him, too. And you can relate to his issues about Matt. To holding back because your mind is throwing up all kinds of fears and doubts in the way of your own happiness.”

 

“Damn, that was downright eloquent of you, querido.” Lance kissed the side of Adela’s head as she let out a particularly loud and happy shriek — a shooting star had just gone by, and that had clearly made Adela’s night. “But … yeah, you’re right. I might try.”

 

Keith dropped down onto the window seat, just far enough that Adela had to take a few halting steps to reach him. He wrapped her up in his arms once she did, hardly blinking at the way she slammed her head into his chin in her enthusiasm.

 

“Hey,” Keith said, smiling over Adela’s waves. “I love you.”

 

Lance kicked him in the leg. “Showing off how emotionally competent you are? Jerk.”

 

Keith’s smile morphed into a grin. “Hear that, Adela? Your papa loves me, too.”

 

So much, Lance thought, staring at them both, at the way Keith held Adela close and inhaled deeply of her hair. He’d been away from her for days, and before that, Lance had been gone for three. And he’d been separated from Keith for nearly three weeks. Far too long.

 

I love you so damn much. And if I still wasn’t such a coward, I’d freaking take those rings I have in my armour locker out right now, and make you mine, forever.

 

******

 

Two days away from their special vacation, Adela got sick.

 

Not sick like she did when they were figuring out her diet. Not like when they realized she was touch-starved, or when she began teething.

 

No, Lance figured that this was a good old-fashioned space flu — fever, vomiting, coughing, and general, overwhelming misery.

 

She wheezed after coughing, and then cried after wheezing. She vomited anything they gave her that wasn’t water, and even that they could only give her so much. Lance’s heart had been perpetually aching since her fever kicked off, and it only worsened with each hoarse little cry of hers. He would give anything to take away the pain, to take it upon himself.

 

From the first day they’d taken Adela in, stretching into his present, Lance’s understanding and empathy for his parents grew (and the longing for them, god, he missed them so fucking much).

 

Currently, Keith stayed under the shower spray with Adela’s shivering form. The tepid stream of water kept her from burning too hotly. Through his haze of exhaustion, Lance noted that Adela had finally reached the size of an average Earth infant, albeit one with a tail.

 

“Lemme know what you’re ready to switch,” Lance said, sitting between the bathtub and their toilet, back against the cool metal wall. His shirt stuck to him, his pyjama pants soaked at the knees. His toes curled, futilely seeking comfort from the smooth, metal floor.

 

They’d been up for twenty-two hours straight, which they’d done before (and for longer), both as dads and as Paladins, but this had been twenty-two hours of non-stop tears, phlegm, and vomit. Coupled with bone-deep worry and exhaustion, Lance’s stomach twisted up as if he were the one expelling his own body weight in fluids. Or, he could be catching the space-flu, too.

 

“Might be ready to swap out in a bit,” Keith said at length. “She’s been coughing a little less. Still feels too warm.”

 

“Hm,” Lance said, reaching out to put a hand on Adela’s head. Even before he touched her hair, he could feel the waves of fever heat coming off her.

 

“Fuck,” he muttered.

 

“Yeah.” Keith exhaled audibly and slowly. “Not great.”

 

A soft knock jerked them both upright.

 

Coran stood in the doorway between their bathroom and bedroom, his smile small, his gaze concerned. “How’s our girl?” he asked quietly.

 

“Still feverish,” Lance replied, his voice cracking.

 

“We’ve got a match, finally, in the database. And it only took eighteen vargas,” the older man said with a rueful expression. “I’m sorry, boys.”

 

“Eh, the Castle has a record of every disease ever encountered by the Alteans, across multiple species, and I know Pidge has been updating it.” Lance lifted one hand in a weak wave. “I get why it took so long.”

 

“What does she have?” Keith asked, readjusting Adela as her body was wracked with another bout of coughing. The weak cries kicked off shortly afterwards. Lance instinctively put a hand on her back, and she calmed after a few seconds.

 

“I won’t bother with its name, as it is thirty syllables of nonsense. But it’s a highly specific variant of the flu, as you call it, and it seems to attack Galra-hybrids more often than not.”

 

Lance flicked his gaze over to Keith. “Well, shit.”

 

“I feel … not great, but not sick,” Keith assured him. “Anything we can do that we haven’t been trying already?”

 

“Yes.” Coran held up a small vial of glinting green liquid, and a syringe they’d used to spray a few liquified vitamins into Adela’s mouth, months ago, to aid in her growth. “We can give her this. It’s a concoction that soothes the worst of the symptoms. She’ll be able to sleep, hopefully, if she’s not coughing or vomiting so often. With sleep and plenty of water, this should all be over in another two quintants, three at most.”

 

Lance breathed out a sigh of relief, in unison with his partner. He sat up straighter, gratefully taking the medicine from Coran. “What about Keith? Is there anything we can do to keep him from getting it?”

 

“We can only hope that his immune system will fight it off,” Coran said apologetically. “That being said, it wouldn’t be more than a day’s worth of suffering for him — this illness strikes the very young and the very elderly hardest.”

 

Coran turned out to be accurate in his assessment of both Adela and Keith.

 

Within forty-eight hours, Adela slowly got better; Keith slowly got sick, but he improved drastically on the third and final day of Adela’s flu.

 

Lance honestly didn’t expect to have their vacation, especially since Adela was incredibly needy in her recovery, but Keith told Lance they could — and should — still go.

 

“I talked to Shiro,” Keith explained, “and we’re going to share our vacation time, kind of.”

 

“How?” Lance asked.

 

Adela had just gone down for her nap after two hours of cuddling/scenting time. Lance was eager for a nap himself, but first he needed to understand how they could possibly head out for a strictly scheduled vacation they were already technically a day into.

 

“Matt,” Keith answered simply.

 

Lance stared. “But, I thought Shiro had put the brakes on that?”

 

“I told you that Matt would use logic to get to Shiro. He’s agreed to vacation together with us on Thriashia. He and Matt would be in another cabin. They’d take Adela for the first half of our combined time off, and we’d take her back for the second half.” Keith’s nose wrinkled. “I think Matt’s implication is that if Shiro is so worried about compromising his leadership of Voltron, then they can just be together during the down times?”

 

Lance processed all this new information for a minute as he took a seat on their bed, resting against the pillows braced on the headboard. He blinked several times in rapid succession as it all finally clicked. “Are you saying that Matt got Shiro to agree to a friends with benefits thing?”

 

Keith’s horrified expression was beyond precious. Lance rolled onto his side as he cracked up.

 

Keith scrunched up his eyes, shaking his head violently. “Holy shit.” He scrubbed at his face. “No wonder Shiro couldn’t look me in the eye while he explained.”

 

“It’s not that I think there’s anything wrong with finding comfort during this crappy war,” Lance went on, ignoring Keith’s shudders (he and Shiro were such kid brothers sometimes). Lance tapped his chin pensively. “Man, guess I don’t need to have a talk with our fearless leader after all … I really can’t picture Shiro—”

 

“We are not picturing Shiro doing anything!” Keith interrupted in almost a whine.

 

“Dude, c’mon, quit acting like such a baby. Accept that your older brother has sex.” Lance kept right on laughing, even while Keith crawled onto the bed and attempted to smother him with pillows.

 

“Traumatizing news aside,” Keith said after they’d wrestled for a few minutes, now even more exhausted, and Keith’s voice taking on a distinct rasp. “Do you … wanna go?”

 

“If we’re bringing Adela? Absolutely,” Lance said. “Knowing she’ll be nearby with Shiro and Matt, instead of back here on the Castle … And then we’ll have her back for a few days, without having to worry about missions … Yeah, I’m down for all of that.”

 

Keith’s grin was too beautiful. Lance had to kiss him.

 

They became too drowsy to stay awake after just a few minutes of making out — Lance made a point to set an alarm, so they could get up to have dinner and pack for their vacation, yes, finally.

 

Lance had to find a way to sneak those rings from his armour locker to his bags. Because being back in that cabin, in the same place where they’d finally committed to some kind of permanence for this … It was too perfect an opportunity to pass up. Their anniversary was in two days, and he could come up with something amazing for Keith by then.

 

He was just about to close his eyes, one arm thrown over Keith’s waist, when he heard Adela make a noise over the monitoring system.

 

Keith sighed. “I’ll—”

 

“Nope, you stay right there.” Lance brushed a kiss against his forehead. “I can hear that you’re still a bit wheezy. Rest.”

 

Lance unfolded himself from his curled up position beneath the blankets, yawning and struggling to keep his eyes open. Keith, thankfully, stayed in bed, his own eyes fluttering shut once more.

 

Adela wasn’t fully awake herself, but she did stretch her little hands out to Lance. When he reached down to rest a hand on her stomach, she grasped at it, sighing happily. She just wanted the connection — Lance understood needing more of that, particularly after being sick and not understanding why such terribleness existed. His heart hurt again — something awful had happened, and every cry had been her way of asking them to make it stop, and they couldn’t. They could just be there for her.

 

He knew, on some level, that Adela obviously wouldn’t hate or resent them for this; she felt how much they loved her, and she still wanted them near. But Lance still felt the weight of her cries around his neck, a failure he’d carry until he learned, just like she was learning, that he couldn’t stop everything bad that would inevitably come her way.

 

She was settling back down, her little hands just resting on the back of Lance’s. She murmured a few nonsense words, and then …

 

Da …

 

Lance leaned in abruptly, causing her to wake up a little more. He whispered, trying to keep from shouting, “Say again, princesa?”

 

She tapped him on the chin. More nonsense words, and then, very distinctly, a pause, followed by, “Da.

 

Lance whipped around, debating frantically whether to shout for Keith, or let Adela sleep, let Keith — but he didn’t need to make that decision, apparently, because Keith had just skidded through the door, his eyes huge, his hair a disaster. He walked in, and Adela woke up just that little bit more to wave her hands at him, her gestures more excited when he was in view over her crib.

 

She beamed up at him and said, “Da.

 

“We … are gonna have to teach her ‘papa’ or this is going to get really confusing,” Lance said faintly. He may have been crying. It had been an exhaustive few days, his defences were down, and his daughter had just called him dad.

 

Keith swallowed audibly, his hand coming down to stroke through her hair. “Yeah, Adela, that’s me. That’s us.”

 

She nodded, sleepy once more, and she said, “Da,” again, in an almost self-satisfied way, before she finally dropped off.

 

Keith and Lance must have stood there for five minutes without moving, until Lance turned to Keith, whispering, “I think my first word was pasta. This is way better.”

 

“Mine was ‘ippo,” Keith said, sounding dazed. “Yeah. Way better.” He reached up, wiping at a stray tear on Lance’s face. “We really need to sleep.”

 

“Yeah,” Lance said, capturing that hand with his free one.

 

Their fingers entwined, their hands dropping between them as they turned to stare down at their sleeping daughter. They stood there in silent awe until she woke up, ready for dinner, greeting them with a smile, and a double round of Da. Because she knew that they were her fathers.

 

Sweaty, tired, and still wearing clothes covered in various bodily fluids from both his partner and his kid, Lance had never been happier.

 

******

 

 

Chapter Text

******

 

Keith had never slept as well as he did that first night of vacation.

 

The actual day of their anniversary was spent travelling — first by wormhole with the Castle, then via a small ship to Thriashia’s surface. The last few hours of daylight involved situating Adela with Shiro and Matt — she’d cried, called out Da! Da! to Lance and Keith both. But Matt had her fairly calm by the time Lance and Keith were closing the door to Shiro and Matt’s little cabin getaway.

 

They took a speeder through a short, woodland path, ending up at the backdoor of their own cabin — a place Keith kept thinking of as theirs and theirs alone at this point, even though they’d only visited this planet once before.

 

They ate a deliciously pre-prepared meal that had been laid out for them on the dining room table — the Thriashians who ran this retreat were extremely grateful to Voltron’s paladins, and they showed their gratitude in such wonderfully kind ways. After their early dinner, they found themselves yawning and seeking out their bed.

 

They slept for twelve hours straight, waking shortly after the sun had risen on the morning after their anniversary.

 

Maybe Keith would be a day late with his planned proposal, but he wasn’t overly concerned about that — he wouldn’t trade a single minute of the sleep they’d got. Heaven must be a solidly comfortable bed and Lance breathing a soft rhythm at his side.

 

Lance woke him up with feather-light kisses against his neck. He trailed his lips down towards the centre of Keith’s chest as Keith shifted, half-asleep still, though he was already smiling.

 

“I didn’t get dessert last night,” Lance murmured into his collarbone. “I think you’ll do.”

 

Keith snorted, fully aware now. “People who use such cheesy lines don’t deserve dessert.”

 

“I feel like that’s a pot-kettle thing, you charmer.” He could feel Lance’s pout against his neck now, and the way it swiftly transformed into a smile. His hand was snaking down beneath the covers, long fingers seeking and finding. “I also feel like you’re all talk, hm?”

 

Keith was very, very tempted to arch his back in surrender, giving in to that calloused grip — but he had a plan, and a key part of that plan involved not spending the entire day in bed.

 

He whipped the covers off, laughing when Lance screeched at the sudden impact of cold dawn air on bed-warm skin.

 

“C’mon, we’ve got plenty of time for that later. I’ve got something I want to show you.”

 

He grabbed Lance’s arms and dragged him off the mattress. Once Lance stopped whining and got his feet under him to support his own weight, Keith managed to propel him into the bathroom. He flicked the lights on, and watched as Lance blinked in confusion … until he spotted the bright turquoise bottles on the counter.

 

Keith had unpacked these last night, after Lance had taken his turn in the bathroom. It wouldn’t have been a big deal if Lance had seen them early, but it was nice to kick off the day with Lance looking so sweetly surprised.

 

“Are you kidding me? When did you get a hold of these?” Lance snatched up one bottle, reading the universal language on it with wide eyes.

 

“I hit up the space mall on the way back from a solo mission,” Keith said with a grin, happily absorbing every bit of Lance’s delight.

 

Lance had discovered Jerari’s Perfection for Hair via Allura’s collection of products; she’d received it as a gift from one of their many diplomatic envoys, and Lance swore up and down that it was some kind of magical concoction. It did, Keith noted, leave his hair significantly softer and shinier after use. Then Allura had presented Lance with a bottle of Jerari’s Skin Perfecter, and Lance had been glowing, nearly literally, after that one.

 

But once Allura’s supply had run out, they’d been hard-pressed to find them again … A random trip to the space mall revealed a tiny kiosk that sold these turquoise bottles at an exorbitant price. Even Coran couldn’t bargain the little old lady down, and so Coran had bought only two bottles, and Lance had graciously insisted that Allura keep them both for herself.

 

“Did you clean out your savings to buy these?” Lance asked warily, but he was clutching the products to his chest as if they were Adela.

 

“Nah. I traded a few signed pictures of, um, me, and gave her a quick fly around in Red.” The less said about that experience, the better. The little elderly alien had claimed to be a fighter pilot, back in my day, youngling! Let me show you how it’s done! Red had almost ejected her into space after the fifth time she’d tried to snatch the controls from Keith.

 

Holy. Crap. You sacrificed your honour and personal space for me?” Lance crushed Keith against him, the bottles poking uncomfortably as Lance attempted to kiss Keith breathless. Which he did, causing that temptation to surge up hotly in Keith’s veins.

 

“Go shower,” Keith said, after gently pushing Lance back a few steps. “Take as much time as you want.” He took one large step away, so that Lance was no longer in arm’s reach.

 

“No way, you … You gotta come with,” Lance insisted, his eyes at half-mast, his mouth red. “You deserve some royal treatment.”

 

Keith really had to fight against the pull that was Lance, so beautifully happy and eager. He cleared his throat, his gaze darting away from the enticing sight. “Tomorrow. Tonight, even. For now, just enjoy yourself.” Keith risked a glance, smirking as Lance pouted playfully again.

 

“All right, fine,” Lance said with a sigh. “But I’ll absolutely be picturing you while I—”

 

“Lance!” Keith coughed out a weary laugh, shaking his head.

 

“—wash my hair and cleanse my skin.” Lance winked, and then pointedly shut the door in Keith’s face.

 

“Jerk,” Keith muttered, hopelessly in love.

 

He set off towards the lone dock at the lake, knowing he had roughly an hour to set the rest of his plans into motion, if Lance decided to complete even just half of his old hair and skincare regimen.

 

******

 

When Lance emerged from the bathroom, enveloped in a cloud of steam, feeling better than he had in months, it was to the sight of Keith, sweaty and downright filthy. He had smears of dirt across his forehead, his hair sticking to his face and neck, his clothing wet from the thighs down, and his hands positively coated in muck.

 

“Wha—you know what, no, I don’t what to know until after you’ve had a shower.” Lance stepped out of the bathroom and gestured with both arms and a stern expression. “Get to it, Texas.”

 

Keith didn’t even argue, grinning mischievously as he reached for Lance. “Oh, so I guess you don’t want me to—”

 

“Back, you beast!” Lance shrieked, but he was laughing by the last word, right along with Keith. And he would’ve joined Keith in the bathtub, swamp thing coating and all …

 

But Lance had plans he had to implement.

 

Keith’s disaster turned out to be quite serendipitous. Lance now had plenty of time to break out all the ingredients he’d ordered a few days back, having them delivered to the cabin’s freezing unit and pantry just before they’d taken off from the Castle on their smaller ship.

 

He began whipping up a brunch buffet fit for a king. Or, more importantly, fit for the man Lance intended to propose to today.

 

He was a little out of practice in the kitchen, but these were all recipes he’d learned at his parents’ hips, refreshed with Hunk’s help in adapting them to the alien foods. While Keith had been away on missions and Lance was alone with Adela, Hunk had been teaching Lance a few other Earth recipes Keith might like, based on what he did and didn’t eat of Hunk’s cooking.

 

Lance made several passable croquetas, then scrambled together “eggs” and “bacon.” He dug up the croissants that Hunk had been kind enough to make for him and was heating them up when Keith appeared, squeaky clean, and rubbing a bright red cloth into his wet hair.

 

“Hey!” Lance said brightly. “Eat up, dude! There’s more coming! I tried to mix your favourite flavours into some old family recipes, and some new ones, too. I know you’ve never really had one favourite home-cooked meal, so … Maybe we can find something in these for you to claim?”

 

Keith sat down on a stool at the kitchen island as Lance kept buzzing about, cooking up a storm. His dark grey eyes were watching closely, widening as the smells wafted up stronger and stronger. There were more than five full plates of food, and a few more on the way when Lance slowed down.

 

“I …” Lance tried to resist getting too sentimental right then (should save that for later) … But, screw it, he wanted Keith to feel special today, and he could up the ante tonight (he would be upping it, if all went to plan). “I wanted to show you some of the stuff I ate growing up, too. This is all a mix of recipes from home, and some stuff from your neck of the woods … I want you to have something you really, really enjoy so that when you meet my family, you’ll have something that’s yours, that my mom and dad can spoil you with. And they will be spoiling you, that’s just how it goes. They always seem to like our significant others better than their own kids.”

 

Lance smiled tentatively, and Keith, who had been silent for most of this, stared at him with such tenderness …

 

Lance knew that expression very well — it made him want to run and grab his rings right now. But he had to stick with his plan. He’d joked with Keith about not accepting any proposal that wasn’t romantic to the nth degree, but he honestly wouldn’t have cared if Keith had just tossed out his proposal before a training deck session, or after Adela had spit up all over them both …

 

That being said, Lance loved the idea of giving Keith all the romanticism he deserved — and every bit of family love and connection that Keith didn’t have after his father passed away. Maybe even before, when he’d been raised without knowing who his mother was, and why she’d left him.

 

Keith stood up on the rungs of the stool, leaning over the kitchen island to grab Lance’s shirt collar and yank him down into a kiss, passionate but brief.

 

“You’re going to give Hunk some serious competition,” Keith said, settling back down onto his seat and lifting a croqueta from a nearby plate.

 

“Actually, Hunk helped me figure out most of these, and those croissants are his. There’s been a lot of experimenting these last few months.”

 

Keith bit into the croqueta and made a noise of satisfaction — high-pitched and adorable.

 

He asked Lance about each dish before he tried it; how it compared to its Earth counterpart, and how Lance would eat it at home. He wanted to know more about Lance’s parents, his siblings, and sometimes he’d ask questions he already knew the answers to, but he sat there, smiling as if he was hearing the anecdotes for the first time.

 

Their brunch sprawled into lunchtime. Keith gave Lance a hand with the dishes (which ended up involving lots of splashing, and even more kissing). Once they were done, he passed Lance one of the miraculously absorbent drying cloths, and asked, “Did you want to see what I was working on this morning?”

 

“Right, yeah! Need to know what the hell turned you into a swamp monster,” Lance said excitedly. “Um, as long as we don’t need to get that muddy.”

 

“Only if you make any more references to Shiro and Matt’s—”

 

“Hey now, I’m not the one bringing it up,” Lance pointed out, and then flashed an evil smirk as he poked a finger into Keith’s chest. “But I will restrain myself from making the obvious innuendo.”

 

“And that’s your first and only warning.” Keith snatched that finger away from his chest, but then he carefully folded their fingers together, using his grip on Lance’s hand to tug him outside into the brightly sunny day.

 

Keith pulled him along the lake’s edge, picking his way through reeds and flowers, pausing to pick one bright blue and gold bloom. He turned to face Lance and carefully tuck it behind his ear.

 

Lance might have swooned. It was unfair how good Keith had become at this whole romance thing. Keith was good at all the things, but especially at loving Lance. And Lance held not the smallest bit of resentment for that, unlike their rivalry of years back — no, he was just awed and grateful.

 

“We’re here,” Keith said, clutching Lance’s hand tightly. “I saw it last time, abandoned, and when I messaged the owners, they said they wouldn’t mind if I cleaned it up.”

 

Lance stared at the boat — only large enough to fit three people, a bit scratched up but a marvellously deep green colour, with cushioned seats and room to recline … And decorated with bunches of fresh wild flowers at the bow. He noticed a few blankets and a basket stacked inside.

 

“It’s mostly just drinks in there,” Keith said, looking uncommonly nervous. “I figured we could push out towards that other beach we saw? We can swim for as long as you want, too.”

 

Simply perfect. Lance stared at the carefully presented gift of time and energy, the blue and pink flowers (Keith probably had looked for red, and been unable to find it).

 

“You made me a love-boat.”

 

Keith groaned, but he huffed a little laugh afterwards. “Yeah, I did.”

 

“You’re getting laid today,” Lance informed him.

 

“Wasn’t that pretty much already guaranteed, based on this morning? And if it wasn’t, well, after all that food, you’re getting laid.” Keith squeezed his hand, relaxing from his nervousness. As if there had ever been a chance that Lance wouldn’t have found this so damn perfectly romantic and sweet. And then Keith had to make it worse (better), by saying softly, “I don’t need a reward, though. Just seeing you this happy is enough.”

 

Fuck. Lance stared at him despairingly, and then clenched his jaw. Just you wait until after dinner, you jackass, he thought as Keith helped him into the boat. I’m gonna blow your mind.

 

Lance let go of his competitive spirit as Keith piloted the boat. The engine was near silent, so all Lance could hear was the water parting beneath them, the wind in the trees, the odd call of a woodland creature. Only ten or so minutes into the unhurried ride, he fell asleep.

 

Keith woke him up once they reached the distant opposite shore — the one they hadn’t had time to explore on their last vacation. A gentle hand on his shoulder, then a careful few strokes through his hair. Lance came awake in stages, blossoming beneath the tender attentions.

 

Lance had the distinct impression that Keith had been watching him doze for a while. He didn’t mind; he always felt safe beneath Keith’s watchful eye. If Lance’s sniper eyes were otherwise distracted, he knew he had his back covered — nothing could get past Keith.

 

They spent their afternoon swimming, and then exploring the forest as they dried off. During their leisurely walk, they discovered a huge nest, filled with bright coloured birds, their feathers an iridescent green, shot through with bursts of gold and white. Each bird was about the size of Lance’s fist, clearly babies, though not freshly hatched.

 

But it was the sound they made that had captured Lance and Keith’s attention — a sweet, low hum, melodic, complex, each tune clearly conveying a different message …

 

He and Keith sat hidden for half an hour, just listening to the chorus amidst the rustling leaves and creaking woods.

 

When they finally decided to walk back to the boat, Lance took Keith’s hand, holding him in place for a moment. Keith turned to look at him, head tilted in question.

 

Lance tangled their fingers, tugging a little. “After dinner, can we just … be together? In our room? Not sure if you had plans for a movie or something—”

 

“No, that’s perfect. Yeah.” Keith smiled at him, kissing the answering smile on Lance’s face.

 

******

 

Dinner turned out to be pretty easy, considering there had been no way to finish all the food Lance had made for brunch. They sat down at the dining room table with a mish-mash of leftovers piled high on two plates — Lance made a face as Keith mushed a few of his selections together into a paste.

 

Keith rolled his eyes at Lance’s dramatic expressions, and then made a point to shove a spoon full of scrambled eggs, jam, and gravy straight into his mouth. He stared Lance down defiantly as he chewed.

 

“I am tempted to revoke my guarantee of getting laid,” Lance said with clear disgust, as he wrapped a chunk of fake-bacon around a cube of melon-like fruit.

 

Keith pointed with his fork. “And that’s totally acceptable?”

 

“I used to do this all the time at home — it’s a family thing, and more importantly, a tasty thing,” Lance said loftily.

 

And then he offered a piece to Keith, his fingers hovering just a few inches away from Keith’s mouth.

 

Keith narrowed his eyes. Lance arched an eyebrow.  

 

Lance was so obviously baiting him … But Keith had never been able to turn away from any challenge Lance issued.

 

Keith reached out, wrapping his fingers around Lance’s wrist, pulling his hand in close. Lance’s eyelids fluttered when Keith sucked the fruit and bacon into his mouth, lips and tongue brushing against the tips of Lance’s fingers. Keith had no idea when he’d learned to be this … seductive, but if pressed, he’d probably blame Lance.

 

“… So?” Lance asked, one-upping Keith by sliding those same fingers back into his own mouth to lick them clean of fruit juice.

 

Keith stared. Yeah, Lance was definitely at fault for any and all sexually related antics Keith had picked up in the last year.

 

“Not bad,” Keith said slowly, pitching his voice lower.

 

Lance’s eyes darkened.

 

Before Keith had registered any movement, their plates (mostly empty) were shoved towards the unused end of the table, one clattering to the floor, as Lance jumped up. Simultaneously, Keith yanked at his shirt, kissing him ferociously for a few seconds, and then shoving him flat on his back, the sound of that move reverberating throughout the cabin.

 

A fleeting thought occurred to Keith as he was frantically divesting Lance of his clothes (while Lance returned the favour with equal fervour) — this was their last time doing this as boyfriends. After this, they’d go upstairs, and Keith would get the rings out of his bag, get down on one knee …

 

He was grinning like a fool, he knew, but it was okay, because Lance was grinning just as ridiculously back up at him.

 

“Hey.” Lance cradled his face in one hand, with his shirt comically clinging to just that arm. “Keith. Thanks for everything.” His soft expression faded into a darkly teasing one. “But especially for this very special dessert—”

 

“Shut up and let me devour you,” Keith said before Lance could break out into a never-ceasing ramble of horrible jokes.

 

Lance mimed zipping his lips, laughing when Keith tickled his sides a little in retaliation.

 

And then Keith made good on his words.

 

A short while later, Keith collapsed on top of Lance, their sweaty skin sticking them to each other, their chests heaving. Lance shifted beneath Keith slightly, his torso squeaking across the smooth table top.

 

Keith snorted, and Lance jabbed at him with a bony knee. They spent a couple more minutes catching their breath before Keith finally peeled himself off Lance, sliding to one side, staring up at the ceiling.

 

“We’re gonna need to disinfect this table,” he said hoarsely.

 

“Oh yeah.” Lance lifted a limp hand. “But tomorrow.”

 

“Hm.” Keith sat up, squinting about the room to see where most of his clothes had ended up. The answer was everywhere.

 

Lance whistled as Keith wandered naked around the dining room, gathering everything up into a pile. He stared down at the rumpled clothes, then up at Lance. “Shower?”

 

“Mm-mm,” Lance hummed.

 

Keith helped him climb down onto his shaky legs, and to dump their dirty plates into the automatic cleaner — no fun times splashing around now, they were exhausted. And Keith had plans that he needed to finish seeing through.

 

Their combined shower was relatively quick, though Lance did take a little extra time to wash Keith’s hair with his Jerari’s special blend. Keith didn’t really care what his hair looked like, but he couldn’t deny that it felt amazing during and after Lance’s loving care.

 

When they were done, he split off, his back to Lance so he could rummage through his bag for his pyjamas … But also, for his rings. Specially designed by Coran, and crafted by Hunk.

 

He put his PJs on and tucked the rings discreetly into a pocket. It shouldn’t be this nerve-wracking. They’d already promised forever to each other. What was Keith freaking out over, exactly? That Lance had changed his mind? That Lance maybe didn’t want this particular label? It didn’t make sense with everything he’d learned about Lance, everything he’d come to know and love.

 

He heard Lance fumbling around, and so Keith took those spare moments to breathe in deeply.

 

“Keith?” The way Lance said his name was so soft. So warm.

 

There wasn’t anything to fear from that voice.

 

Keith inhaled one last fortifying breath, and then turned to face his future.

 

******

 

“I have an anniversary gift for you.” Lance held the package tightly. His palms were sweaty. He hoped like hell he wasn’t leaving fingerprint smears over his carefully wrapped parcel.

 

“I … kind of have one for you, too,” Keith said, his smile unbearably fond as he looked down at Lance’s present.

 

“Hey, what? You mean the priceless hair and skincare miracles, plus the disgustingly romantic love-boat ride, weren’t everything?” Lance might’ve actually been sulking, but he knew Keith would just find it cute. “Dude. Save stuff for future anniversaries, maybe?”

 

“Just giving you something to aspire to.” Keith laughed when Lance couldn’t resist sticking his tongue out. “Hey, listen here, Loverboy Lance, the massive brunch spread this morning was almost too much romance for us. As that dining room table can testify.”

 

“In a court of law, for all the heinous things we did on it,” Lance said solemnly. Then he smirked. “I think this will totally top that, though … Can, um, can I go first?”

 

“Sure,” Keith said simply, and he walked over to the window seat.

 

Lance had a pleasant flash of déjà vu as he sat down next to him. He breathed in deeply and then passed him the long, thin gift, wrapped in a subtly glimmering grey and purple paper. (Did he pick it because the colours reminded him of Keith’s eyes? Probably, but he wasn’t about to mention that out loud.)

 

Keith opened it with painstaking care, gradually revealing the blade — intricately carved with the Hiragana for Kogane on the hilt.

 

“I know that your dad was Korean. That you have a Japanese last name because your great-grandfather was adopted by a Japanese general during the Third World War … um, I think?”

 

Keith nodded wordlessly.

 

“Right, yeah, the one that I never paid attention to in history class, sorry. But, the point is that I know your dad was super proud of your great-granddad Kogane …” Lance took a breath. “I figured, since you have your mom’s dagger, you deserve to have something connected to your dad.”

 

Lance had heard the story by now, of how Keith had lost his father. Many of his father’s things had been sold by the time Keith gained his emancipation — he’d needed to pay for a lawyer, and the insurance money mostly went to keeping up his father’s land. When he’d returned to the shack, he’d still had his dad’s clothes, old furniture — thankfully, the majority of the stuff that carried sentimental value. But he hadn’t seen it in years, since they’d left Earth. Lance had seen clearly how Keith missed that connection to his dad, in a different way than Lance missed his own family, but no less visceral.

 

Keith had been staring at this blade without blinking. When Lance finally came to the end of his ramble, Keith lifted his gaze to meet Lance’s nervous one.

 

“How …” He flipped the dagger in his hands, visibly marvelling at the balance, the feel of it in his grip — Lance had used many of Keith’s most-used weapons as models for that hilt, and he was so relieved it seemed to be of equal (maybe even better) quality. Keith took in a few shaking breaths before speaking again, “This isn’t Galran at all. Or Altean. How did you do this?”

 

“I had help. I’m not secretly a swordsmith.” Lance smiled, aching to pull Keith into his arms, but knowing that Keith wasn’t ready for contact just yet. “I drew this really horrible rough design. Pidge has managed to pick up signals from Earth, old ones, and she’s been downloading it all. Found some written Japanese mixed in there … Hunk and Coran helped me tweak the final look so it was actually, you know, functional. It took a few tries … The metals are all based on what we would have back home …”

 

The dagger was going to be a birthday present, but it ended up taking far longer to create. Hunk had helped him finish it up just a month or so ago.

 

“This is too much, Lance,” Keith said, voice cracking. “How are you this much, all the time? It’s stressful enough for me taking care of Adela and Shiro. You take care of Adela, me, and you love everyone so much—” Keith broke off, making a frustrated sound. He put the dagger down carefully, and reached over to grasp both of Lance’s hands.

 

“Maybe you can teach me, how to do that,” Keith asked with a slight stutter, openly wincing a little at his awkwardness. But he didn’t need to feel awkward — Lance loved him for it. Keith stared over at his new dagger as he said, “You deserve to have someone loving you as much as you love everyone else.”

 

And Lance loved him for that — for giving Lance way more credit than he deserved. One day, Lance might even fully believe all those amazing things Keith said. One thing Keith had in spades was honesty. He was bluntly truthful more often than not, and especially so with the people he cared about, though he attempted to pair a little tenderness with his verity in those cases.

 

“Keith …” Lance tugged both those hands up to his chest, then to his mouth, kissing the backs of them before pressing them against his heart. “You’re already there, querido. You’re everything good in my life, you and Adela. But you love so damn fiercely, with every bit of you, that sometimes I think you gotta leave a little behind for yourself.”

 

Keith would gladly die for anyone in their family, and that terrified Lance as much as it awed him. It was humbling, and he would work every day to be worthy of that much love. And to give Keith as many reasons as he could to keep on living, whether they were connected to Lance or not.

 

The ring box burned against his thigh, in his pants’ pocket, but Keith had something to give him now, so Lance took in a deep breath and let go of his hands.

 

“Your turn for another gift, right?” Lance waved a hand. “Go on, you show-off.” He softened his teasing with a loving smile.

 

“I think that you’ll like it, even if you’ve stolen my thunder,” Keith said, but his eyes were gleaming. “I want to spend a lifetime showing you that I’m clearly the better romantic.”

 

“No, no, we’re not having this fight again—”

 

“Lance, real talk? You’re strong, and beautiful, and smart, and I’d be honoured to lose to you, if it were a real competition.” Keith grinned, and Lance snapped his mouth shut.

 

Then the knowing grin faltered, but that gleam in his eyes remained.

 

Keith inhaled and spoke in a calm voice that Lance recognized as his I’m actually kind of panicking right now but damned if I’ll let you see that tone. “I’m going to raise our daughter with you. Maybe a few more kids? I’m going to work at making you stupidly happy, and keeping you safe and healthy, and maybe I won’t be able to do all those at once, all the time, but I trust you to help me pick up the slack.”

 

Keith stood up, discreetly wiping away a tear, and Lance abruptly realized that his own face was wet. When had he started crying? He raised a few fingers to wipe at his cheeks, and then froze when Keith got down on one knee, lifting a hand … flicking open a box with two rings inside it.

 

“I know we’re already a family, but can I … Can I call you mine? And you can call me yours?” Keith chewed on his lower lip before a peaceful smile took over his features. “Will you marry me?”

 

Lance’s heart stopped, then began anew.

 

He slid down off the couch, kneeling in front of Keith. He was so happy, so over the moon and wildly giddy, that he didn’t care in any way, shape, or form that Keith had asked first.

 

Lance grasped at Keith’s hand, the one holding the ring box; he stared at the beautiful silver rings with deep red and blue inlays respectively, and with his other hand, he pulled out a carved wooden box. He flicked it open in front of Keith’s face.

 

Two sparkling platinum rings had Keith blinking in dazed surprise.

 

Lance had decided on engravings along the outside (because what was the point of engravings you could only see if you took the rings off?); he’d chosen the date they said “I love you” on this very spot, the date they adopted Adela officially, even if they weren’t together then, and the date they rescued Shiro. The three major catalysts, in Lance’s eyes, that lead them to this point.

 

Keith probably couldn’t read the inscriptions completely in this dim light (or maybe he could, Galra eyesight and all). Lance would happily explain them to him as soon as he could. As soon as he’d taken his turn.

 

“I’m fine with you beating me to the proposal, but you gotta say ‘yes’ to me first, then,” Lance said with a tremulous smile. “Marry me, mullet?”

 

Keith broke into laughter, tears pouring down his face as he choked out, “This isn’t even that funny, but holy crap, this is just … so us, holy crap. When else were we going to propose? It was too good a chance to miss, of course you would—”

 

“When did you get your rings?” Lance demanded, giggling a little.

 

“A few months ago. I asked Hunk and Coran—”

 

“I did too!” Lance squeaked disbelievingly. “Holy shit, I think we got played. Or they’re solid bros who didn’t want to spoil our separate plans. Can’t decide.”

 

Keith stared at the rings in Lance’s hands, lifting a finger to turn them in their soft cushion so he could read the full engraving. “You … put Adela’s birthday on here, and …” He trailed off, cheeks burning, eyes bright with fresh tears. Then, “I think Hunk did something to these. He put little divots in mine, said it was a ‘design choice’ and look—”

 

“He said the same thing about the mini-studs on the edges of mine—” Lance cut himself off as he glanced between the two sets of rings, the brilliance of the crafting hitting him. “They lock together.

 

Keith grinned. “Yes.”

 

“He’s such a genius, but he could have told us somehow—”

 

“No, Lance,” Keith interrupted with a sigh, still grinning. “I mean yes.

 

Lance blinked. Keith prompted him with a raised eyebrow. “Do you remember what you asked earlier? Yes. And as for my question, I can repeat it again—”

 

Yes!” Lance burst out. “Yes, I will marry you, you jackass.”

 

Keith kissed the words out of his mouth. A solid two minutes later, Keith pulled away to say, “I think my rings are the base? I mean, maybe they can be the engagement rings, and yours—”

 

“We’ll save them for the wedding day.” Lance closed the lid on his box and tucked it away in his pocket for now. He promptly stuck out his left hand. “King me, Kogane.”

 

Keith rolled his eyes, but he was laughing again, loud and delighted. He plucked the red ring out of its holder and gently slid it onto Lance’s finger. Lance felt a pleasant shiver down his spine as the ring settled perfectly into place, a soothing chill against his overheated skin.

 

“Now you,” Lance insisted, taking the box from Keith, and waiting somewhat impatiently for him to lift up his left hand.

 

However, after he had that hand in his tender grip, Lance slid the ring on achingly slow. Once it rested at the base of Keith’s finger, Lance couldn’t seem to let go, staring at his own hand grasping Keith’s, with his fingers cradling the engagement ring he’d just put on Keith Kogane.

 

“Hey.”

 

Lance looked up. He might have been crying a little (again); he genuinely never believed he’d get a chance at something like this. He’d flirted relentlessly at the start, with Allura and pretty much anyone, any nice-looking alien who crossed his path … But several battles later, nearly losing Shiro, Keith, the Castle, his Lion … All the near misses and death had whittled Lance’s hopes for the future down to just making it out alive and making it back to Earth.

 

Everything else had been relegated to the realm of fantasy.

 

Keith smiled lovingly at him, and Lance was lost. How could this actually be real?

 

“Thank you,” Keith said, his voice trembling with such joy that Lance could hear it, feel it. “You don’t know how … stupidly happy I am right now.”

 

“I think I can guess,” Lance said, pulling him up and over to the bed. “About as happy as I am. Astronomically happy. Universe-ending happiness. No one will ever be this happy — we should donate some of this happiness to every soul, it’s clearly too much for just us.”

 

Keith laughed at Lance’s ridiculousness, and kissed him before they collapsed onto the covers. Nothing more came of that — they wrapped their arms around each other when the small distance became too great, lulled into a peaceful rest by the smooth, cool press of their rings against their shared warmth.

 

******

 

 

Chapter Text

 

******

 

Two Years Since the Adoption

 

“Pa! Look!” Adela held up her clean bowl, clearly proud of her accomplishment.

 

“Awesome,” Lance said with a smile.

 

He leaned back casually, as if he hadn’t been sitting there for two hours, since the end of lunch, listening to Adela throw a tantrum because she didn’t want to eat her potato salad. “You better thank your Tío Hunk for that amazing meal. He made it especially for you and your tummy.”

 

At two years old, Adela had cottoned on to the fact that she couldn’t eat exactly the same foods as everyone in her family. She didn’t particularly care about dairy-based meals, as Keith didn’t eat them either. But when she watched them all eat anything gluten-related, she immediately became jealous and cranky.

 

Today, Hunk had made some epic garlic knots for Lance and pizza rolls for Keith (with fake cheese), as an anniversary gift. Adela had looked down at her potato salad and demanded that her dads share. “You have to share. You and da said sharing is nice an’ ‘portant.”

 

His daughter was too clever by half. Lance blamed Pidge.

 

At the moment, Adela was nodding solemnly at Lance, as if the lesson had sunk in. Lance had no doubt that they’d be having this battle again in a week’s time. Or tomorrow.

 

Adela wiggled in her high chair, restless, and then froze. She squealed, “Da! Da, I finished! See! I’m good!”

 

“I know you’re good, Adi. I’m glad you were well-behaved and finished your food.” Keith’s hand came down onto Lance’s shoulder, and then his lips were pressing against Lance’s temple. “Thanks for sticking with her.” Keith walked past Lance to liberate Adela from her chair. “Shiro and I really couldn’t miss that call. Kolivan had been out of contact for too long.”

 

“Yeah, no problem,” Lance said, standing up and stretching.

 

He picked up his tablet, tucking it under his arm (he’d been reading up on battle reports … for maybe twenty minutes; then he’d just been playing Altean computer games). Adela babbled some more at Keith, as Lance walked over to steal a kiss of his own from his fiancé.

 

His daughter reached up to tug on his collar. “Me next.”

 

Lance laughed as he bent down to kiss Adela’s forehead. “Con todo mi amor, princesa.”

 

“Papi, Tío Hunk?” Adela reminded him. She blinked those big green eyes, flicking her tail once, twice, impatient. She grabbed at her long braid of violet hair to put it in her mouth, but Keith tugged it away.

 

“You can go find your uncle in his lab,” Keith said, putting her down. “Make sure you knock first!”

 

He shouted the last bit as Adela took off — those Galra genes had her physically leagues ahead of any toddler Lance had ever encountered.

 

Lance sighed, shoulders drooping, once their daughter was out of sight. “I don’t think she wound down for more than a few seconds at a time, until she finally ate.”

 

“Your ears must be ringing,” Keith said ruefully, rubbing his sagging shoulders, and then reaching up to massage just behind Lance’s ears.

 

That was so damn good. Lance hummed his approval. “Wasn’t the worst tantrum ever, but in the top ten for endurance, I think.”

 

Keith huffed out a small laugh, and then just let them bask in the silence. Lance found himself mimicking the rhythm of Keith’s breaths, particularly his slow, lengthy exhales.

 

After a couple of minutes, Keith’s hands fell to Lance’s waist, wrapping him up in a loose hug as he said, “It’s going to be a thing for another couple of years, at least. Coran says we’re doing right by her, especially when it comes to her health. She has to learn what she can and can’t eat. And what she has to eat.”

 

Adela needed carb and protein-heavy meals to keep up with her Galra metabolism, but unfortunately for her, her Syluwen side was mildly allergic to gluten-based carbs. Tubers, and other starch-based vegetables, were a decent substitute, but Adela wasn’t overly fond of them. And that dislike tripled when she saw everyone else eating Hunk’s tasty cakes and pastas.

 

Lance opened his mouth to say … something, but suddenly, he found himself distracted — namely, by his eyes taking in Keith’s appearance as a whole.

 

Keith’s hair was braided, like his daughter’s, with the tail dangling over one shoulder. He was wearing his favourite shirt — Lance’s favourite on Keith — a soft dark red T-shirt with a V-neck that showed off his collarbone. He also had on his new leather jacket, and stylish navy blue almost-jeans.

 

“What’s the occasion?” Lance asked, pleased but confused. “I thought we weren’t doing anything for our anniversary this year?”

 

“I’ll tell you after your shower. Slip on something comfortable, nice, but don’t overdo it. Just … feel good.”

 

Lance narrowed his eyes in suspicion. “I swear, if you said we weren’t doing anything just so you could out-romance me, again, I’m cutting you off until our next anniversary. No, worse, until we go back to Earth and get married, whenever the hell that is.

 

Keith smirked. “I know an empty threat when I hear one, Lance.” His smug expression faded into a nervous yet sweet smile. “This is … something special, that I didn’t think was going to happen. And now it is, and it just so happens to fall on this day. It was too good to pass up.”

 

That was cryptic, which was odd, since Keith wasn’t one for being deliberately vague. Lance chewed on his lower lip as he tried to piece it together based on those hints … then decided that it didn’t matter.

 

“All right, cariño. I trust you.”

 

Keith grinned, pulling him in by the back of the neck for a sweet, passionate kiss. If it weren’t for the fact that Keith clearly had plans for them (and that everyone had threatened various acts of sabotage if Lance and Keith ever tried to “defile any public area”), Lance would’ve shoved Keith onto that table right then and there.

 

They’d had one week with no battles, no urgent Voltron business of any kind, and only a couple of meetings or intel sessions. However, parenting was still a twenty-four-seven job, Paladins or not, so there had been no time or energy for anything other than sleep. Lance had grown accustomed to being with Keith without much “fun” times by now, and it didn’t really affect him … Until Keith did something like this to remind him what he was missing out on.

 

“Go,” Keith said, separating them with visible reluctance, though his eyes were crinkled happily at the corners. “Meet me on the bridge in one hour.”

 

Lance did as he was requested, after one last lingering press to Keith’s mouth.

 

He used his Jerari products (down to the last few drops now), and dressed himself in some new threads — both he and Keith had grown taller and broader, particularly when compared to the Garrison cadets they had been just a few short years before. Lance noticed that Keith had closed the small height gap between them, so that they now stood at an equal stature, though Lance’s shoulders remained slightly wider.

 

Their closets had also grown in that they were quite varied; many outfits had been gifts from the various people they’d saved, representations of those cultures. Others had been purchased at swap-meets or flea markets, and a couple had been made by tailors who were kind enough to replicate Earth styles and materials.

 

Lance chose his own pair of denim-like pants, a few shades lighter than Keith’s. He threw on a shirt that made Keith’s hands and mouth gravitate towards his neck — an almost off-the-shoulder sweater of a rich, cream colour, and so very soft. He layered a hunter green jacket on top, slim fitting, and rolled the sleeves to just below his elbows, and then he rolled the sweater sleeves up over that. He had ten minutes to spare, so he decided on a light touch of eyeliner.

 

He didn’t bother taming his hair beyond a quick swipe with his fingers and some water — Keith liked the tousled look, and Lance thought it complemented his “pretty yet casual” style at the moment.

 

When he reached the bridge, he saw everyone standing near the vidcomm, their heads swivelling to the door when Lance passed the threshold.

 

Hunk had Adela in his arms, and she was dressed in a simple blue dress, bright red shoes, and sparkling red bow at the end of her braid. (It had become a thing for all their friends to gift Adela blue/red clothing items; Keith didn’t care, but Lance was determined to vary his daughter’s wardrobe.)

 

Keith had been talking with Kolivan on the main screen, and that conversation paused as Keith turned to smile broadly at Lance.

 

“Before I explain, you can say no to this,” Keith spoke quickly, wringing his hands. “But I just had to try … and I wanted you here—”

 

Keith rarely rambled. This was freaking Lance out a little. Shiro put a hand on Keith’s shoulder, which silenced him, and then Shiro pulled back when Lance walked over. He moved back to Matt, who linked their arms and winked happily towards Lance.

 

The first thing Lance did was tangle his and Keith’s fingers together. After that, he spoke as gently as he could, despite his own confusion. “Hey, hey man, it’s going to be fine, whatever it is.” Lance squeezed Keith’s hands, and Keith squeezed back. Lance couldn’t help the grin when their rings audibly clicked.

 

He watched as his fiancé took in a deep breath. “Lance, I know that you and Kolivan were trying to track down my mom.”

 

Lance’s smile dropped into an expression of shock. Then it was his turn to ramble. “I swear, I was going to tell you if we got any hint of her! Even if … she wasn’t alive, I would’ve told you straightaway. It’s just that we’ve been hitting dead ends everywhere, she’s been undercover so long, and getting to her without blowing said cover was really delicate work, and—”

 

“Lance,” Keith cut in, his lips tugging upwards. “Kolivan found her.”

 

Lance froze mid-word. “What? What? Really?!”

 

Kolivan cleared his throat, causing all eyes to land on him. “Yes, we have. And we managed to make contact several quintants ago. We had to keep communications to a minimum, with only short, coded messages, but she has found a secure block of three vargas to comm with us. They begin in a few doboshes—”

 

“And I wanted her to meet you. You and Adela.” Keith’s nervousness completely melted away. “I don’t know when she’ll have another window like this, or when she’ll complete her mission. So. I figured … we could just get married. Now. Right here.”

 

Lance let out a soft, breathy little sound. Several seconds passed. Keith raised one eyebrow, then the other, chewing on his lower lip as he waited.

 

Lance grinned. He held up his hand, flashing his engagement ring. “What, did you think after this last year I’d change my mind? Yeah, I’ll marry you here and now. I would’ve married you ten seconds after you proposed if you’d suggested it and there’d been someone there to officiate.”

 

“I will be performing the binding, as your clan leader … of sorts,” Kolivan said, his stern countenance cracking with the faintest of smiles. “It shall be a Galran ceremony, according to the traditions first begun on Daibazaal.”

 

“And then, I figured,” Keith said, his own grin barely contained, “on Earth, we could get married again, with your family, and Allura can be our … judge, captain, whatever.” He reached over to squeeze Lance’s hand — the one with the ring. “Are you sure?”

 

“Yes, mullet, I’m more than sure,” Lance replied giddily. “Holy crap, get your mom on the line, and let’s do this!”

 

Kolivan dropped his head down, clearly focusing on his keystrokes as he reached out to Keith’s mom. Keith’s mom. Lance could hardly wait, even as his stomach twisted into knots on Keith’s behalf.

 

“Green Paladin, is all secure?” Kolivan asked without looking up.

 

Lance glanced over to see Pidge at her bridge station, typing in a mad frenzy. “Almost … got it!”

 

A second later, Kolivan’s screen split, and on the left-hand side stood a Galran woman, clearly only part Galra herself … Keith’s mother.

 

The resemblance between the two was strong. Even though she had purple skin and hair, dark violet eyes set in yellow … The shape of her face, the tilt of her nose and mouth, the way her gaze zeroed in on Keith … They were so freakishly alike, Lance could already tell that Keith had inherited at least some (if not all) of his intensity from his mother.

 

Keith released one of Lance’s hands, while the other held on to Lance tighter than before.

 

He stared at his mother, and she stared back.

 

No one dared breathe.

 

Then, after an indeterminate amount of time, she spoke, her voice perfectly level. “Hello, Keith.”

 

“Hi … Krolia,” Keith said with the faintest stutter.

 

Lance didn’t dare interrupt, but a part of him wanted to usher everyone out of the room — wanted to leave Keith alone with his mom, let them try and find a thread of connection. But Keith wanted to get married, and his mom only had three hours to talk …

 

“I see you’ve grown, though not much.” Krolia smiled here, and Lance couldn’t help but smile himself — that was definitely all Keith right there. Both the attitude and the way her face lit up. “Your father warned me this might happen. He said he was an anomaly in his family. Most of his relatives had been quite short.”

 

“Hey, I’m average height for a human,” Keith said defensively. “And I’m still growing! Dad, he … he always said that I was too big for my britches, but that maybe one day my size would catch up with my attitude.”

 

Lance could hear the undercurrent of pain, thrumming with love for his dad. He strengthened his hold on Keith. Lance felt that particular (and familiar) sharp pang — the reminder that he couldn’t take this old hurt from Keith, that it made up part of who Keith was … But all the same, Lance wished he could do something, anything, to make it hurt just a little less.

 

Krolia’s smile didn’t fade, but her eyes took on a sheen that Lance knew all too well. “One of his many human phrases. I think that one means you were too boastful, considering your size or abilities? I hope you’ve grown into those boasts, Keith.”

 

“He has,” Lance found himself saying. He cringed back when Krolia’s intense gaze fell on him. Keith pulled him in closer, and right, they were about to get married. Lance straightened and held back the strange urge to bow. “Your son, he’s pretty much the best fighter we have, and the best pilot. The only one who could stand up to him is Shiro, who leads Voltron out in the field.”

 

“Lance has the best eyes you’ll ever need on a battlefield,” Keith said, nearly over Lance’s last words. “His sharpshooting skills are … incredible.”

 

Krolia laughed then, her eyes bright, the sheen gone. “It’s good to meet you as well, Lance. I can see Keith has chosen wisely. And I thank you … for loving my son.” At last, a crack in her tone.

 

Kolivan had told Lance that Krolia hadn’t left Earth by choice. Keith’s relationship with his mother was yet another casualty of this war.

 

Lance looked at Keith, at those dark eyes that raptly met his, as he said, “I can’t accept thanks for something that’s as necessary to me as breathing, ma’am. But you’re welcome.”

 

A soft kiss was brushed against his temple, after which Keith turned to face the others. He gestured at Shiro. “Krolia, this is Takashi Shirogane. I’m sure you’ve heard of him, the Black Paladin of Voltron. He … he helped raise me a few years after dad … And he got me into the Garrison. He’s the reason why I’m here, now. And not in jail, which is definitely where I was heading.”

 

“Then I owe you a great debt, Captain Shirogane. One that the universe at large also owes you.” Krolia gave him a deep nod, one hand to her chest.

 

Shiro, as expected, shook his head and said, “This isn’t a matter of debts or owing. We do the best that we can, given our circumstances. There are times when you have no choice but to fight. And that’s what this war is for Voltron. For all of us.”

 

Damn, but Shiro could be such a hero sometimes — Lance was so glad he had someone like Matt to keep him grounded, and keep him from burning out. The rest of them had tried, but Shiro was too stubborn by half, and his nobility could be crippling at times.

 

Keith nudged Shiro in the side, grinning at his mom. “He’s going to be standing in for dad, if that’s … okay?”

 

“Yes, of course,” Krolia said immediately.

 

Coran and Hunk were standing for Lance, and introductions were made in a rather quick and casual manner, considering the situation. Allura and Krolia actually conversed for ten minutes on a few war-related issues, but with jokes and a peculiar sort of camaraderie that Lance couldn’t understand, but he loved seeing it all the same.

 

Hunk came forward, and in his arms he held Adela. “Uh, maybe you guys wanna do the honours?” Hunk passed Adela over to Lance, who tilted her so Krolia could have a good view.

 

Keith reached to give Adela his free hand, which she clutched to her chest. “See my dress, da?”

 

“Yes, I do. You look very nice. Hey, can I introduce you to someone?”

 

Krolia’s eyes were widening. Ah. Kolivan might not have mentioned this to her. Lance rather appreciated that. It was good, to see her so surprised in the best way.

 

“Krolia, this … is your grand-daughter.” Keith gestured to the screen, smiling down at Adela. “Hey, Adela? That’s your grandma. She’s … my mother.”

 

Adela tilted her head one way, then the other, staring at Krolia. Then she stared at Keith. Then back again. She pursed her lips. “G’ma?”

 

“Grandma,” Lance enunciated. “Or abuela, if that’s easier. She’s Keith mom. Like how me and Keith are your dads? Krolia is Keith’s.”

 

Adela nodded after a second. “Gan’ma. Hi.” She waved shyly.

 

Krolia waved back, and that was definitely a tear she quickly swiped away. “Hello. I look forward to seeing you in person someday, Adela.” She looked over at Lance and Keith. “I expect this is a long story?”

 

Keith shook his head. “Not too long, actually, but I … would rather not tell it in front of Adela.”

 

Kolivan took the reins of their get-together by clearing his throat. “I think it’s best if we proceed with the ceremony, yes?

 

Krolia clasped her hands together, and her smile widened. “I agree. “ It seemed to take time for her to stop staring at Adela. She inhaled deeply. “Are you both ready?”

 

Lance gave Adela back to Hunk. “For a year now. Let’s do this.”

 

With a broad smile, Kolivan straightened up even further and began, “Beneath these stars we proclaim two beings are here to be joined. They are the pride of their clans, and they seek permission to begin their own. Is this permission granted?”

 

Krolia spoke first, “Upon my honour, permission is granted.”

 

Shiro grinned and said, “With great pride, permission is granted.”

 

Coran blew his nose loudly on a handkerchief before tearfully saying, “With hope, permission is granted.”

 

“With all my love,” Hunk said quietly, “permission is granted.”

 

Kolivan didn’t seem to know what to do with these proclamations, but then he just chuckled, and said, “The permissions are given. Now we ask the two — are you ready to claim each other?”

 

“Yes,” Lance and Keith said in unison.

 

Adela clapped, and Hunk hushed her, though he did so with a laugh and a raspberry against her cheek.

 

“What will your clan name be?” Kolivan asked, and he sounded genuinely curious.

 

“Kogane-McClain,” Keith said swiftly.

 

Lance’s cheeks were hurting from the smiling. “That your final answer?” They’d been having this debate for months, sometimes sniping over the exact order of their names, but mostly jokingly.

 

“Yeah.” Keith reeled him in closer. “Sounds best.”

 

“Kogane-McClain, do you two pledge to join as clan, a union that cannot be broken, even at life’s passing?”

 

“I do,” Lance said, and the words nearly caught in his throat — the joy, it was overwhelming, and he might have been crying, but who cared? He was marrying Keith.

 

Keith seemed to be knocked back by Lance’s words. His gaze was so fixed on Lance’s that Lance could clearly see exactly when the shock wore off, the precise moment when those gorgeous grey-purple eyes crinkled at the corners with the force of Keith’s smile.

 

“I do,” Keith said, and they were just winging this Galra ceremony, but it seemed that they were on the right track, because Kolivan didn’t correct them, or stop at all.

 

The Galra commander just bowed a little and said, “The clan Kogane-McClain is recognized, and their name shall be writ in the books. Should the original two be separated, the name shall live on in their child, Adela, and all other descendants who come forth.” Here Kolivan did pause, his smile rueful, “We haven’t had a union with a descendant to list in deca-phoebs. I’m honoured to be part of it.”

 

Lance inhaled, refusing to wipe away his tears (and grateful for the waterproof eyeliner). “Is it … is it done?”

 

“Almost,” Kolivan said softly, and then he spoke with authority, “You are now the clan Kogane-McClain. While your honour was born within your birth clans, it is now solely yours to protect. We send you forth unto the stars.”

 

“Hey, we’ve already got that star stuff down pat, huh? Guess we were always meant to be,” Lance said brightly, and then he laughed when Keith yanked him in for a hug.

 

“So, we have this thing … on Earth …” Hunk said haltingly, looking towards Kolivan.

 

“By all means, the rite has concluded.” Kolivan waved at them to continue.

 

“You may now kiss the groom!” Hunk announced with all pomp and circumstance.

 

Adela’s clapping began anew, and everyone joined in as Keith pulled back from the hug to kiss Lance, their smiles and tears making it a little difficult, but so very perfect all the same.

 

They were piled on from all sides by their friends — their family. Adela was placed in Keith’s arms, and she seemed extremely happy, even though she had no real idea as to what had just taken place.

 

Keith told Lance, after Shiro had nearly crushed them both in an embrace, “I figured we’d save the locking rings for Earth. When we get married in front of your family.”

 

“That … would be nice, yeah,” Lance said, a corner of his mind crying out for his mother. Even with the bone-deep joy, those bits of him that still clung to Varadero and its sandy shores, they gave a bittersweet edge to his happiness. “But I’m still calling you my husband.”

 

“Sure, Mr. Kogane-McClain,” Keith agreed without hesitation.

 

Lance shivered. “Holy crap, that is a thing, huh.”

 

“No paperwork up here,” Keith said with a smile. “But as soon as we land on Earth—” Keith stopped and turned to his mother, his expression regretful. “I’m sorry, Krolia, I didn’t mean to—”

 

“This mission will end. This war will end. I have every faith in you, son,” Krolia said instantly. “And if you’ll allow me … I wouldn’t mind seeing your Earth ceremony. Meeting Lance’s family.”

 

“Yes,” Lance said straightaway. “We would love to have you. And, husband mine,” Lance couldn’t help the amount of glee injected into those words, “my first act as your husband will be to leave you to spend the next couple of hours with your mom.”

 

“But, Lance,” Keith started, his expression torn.

 

“No, querido. We don’t know when she’ll have another chance, and you two have so, so much to talk about.” Lance took Adela back from him, and she went with a disappointed pout. “Besides, it’ll give us time to plan a wicked reception. Go on, do what you need to.”

 

Keith kissed him again, this time lingering. No one objected, and Lance figured they would be getting a free pass on all kinds of PDA for the next little while, thanks to it being their wedding day, holy crap, that actually happened.

 

“You’ve made a good argument,” Keith said afterwards. He pecked his lips once more. “I’ll be joining you in a couple of hours.” He smiled softly at Lance, putting a hand on Adela’s stomach as he said, “I love you.”

 

Lance nearly swooned. “I love you, too. Now, go, bond with your mom.” Lance turned to Krolia, and gave her the bow he hadn’t given her earlier. “Thank you for the gift of your son.”

 

Krolia bowed back. “I had little to do with the fine man he has become. But thank you, Paladin Kogane-McClain.” She gave a small wave to Adela. “I’ll see you again soon, little one.”

 

“Bye!” Adela waved with both hands, and they all, Keith excepted, finally turned to leave.

 

Lance turned to look over his shoulder. Kolivan had left the feed, though his window remained open — no doubt he had to monitor the frequency, but he’d stepped aside to allow Keith and Krolia some semblance of privacy.

 

Keith was standing there, playing with the ring on his finger, his smile still bright as he began chattering to his mother, “Well, we found Adela on Yil’Syluwen. Um, or, at least, I did. There was this cliff—”

 

The doors slid shut, and Lance was swept into a sideways hug by Coran, who kissed the top of his head. “How goes, Lance Kogane-McClain?”

 

“I have no idea,” Lance said honestly. “That was a whirlwind and a half, but it was a damn good one. I just can’t … I need food. Let’s get that party started. I’m married, everyone!” Lance had begun to follow them all to the kitchen, but froze just a moment after speaking. “Fuck me, I’m married.

 

“Food, Tío Hunk! Fuck!” Adela said cheerfully into the silence.

 

Everyone turned as one to stare at him and his daughter.

 

It was Matt who cracked up first. The quiet ruptured as every single person joined in. Shiro was practically crying.

 

“Listen, I’m gonna need all of you to keep this hush-hush, or Keith is going to divorce me,” Lance said frantically.

 

“Buddy, it’s forever, you and him. He won’t divorce you,” Hunk said kindly. “He might kick your ass, though.”

 

Might.” Pidge snorted. “Definitely.”

 

Lance groaned and hiked Adela further up in his arms, preparing to explain why, exactly, that was a no-no word. The last thing he wanted was to spend his wedding day fending off an impromptu sparring match with his … husband.

 

It turned out that he needn’t have worried. Adela didn’t say anything objectionable the rest of the evening. Keith returned from his call with red eyes, but a beaming smile. He swooped into the kitchen and immediately tracked Lance down for a thorough, nearly obscene kiss, and all anyone did was cheer and mock them good-naturedly.

 

Matt and Shiro happily took Adela for the night, at which point Keith dragged Lance to their room (truthfully, there wasn't much actual dragging, as Lance ran at nearly the same pace alongside him).

 

Keith proceeded to work hard at making Lance say all kinds of objectionable things in both English and Spanish. Their favourite words, the ones that Lance needed no motivation to say at all, were the breathless, eager, love you so much, you’re mine, my husband, love you always.

 

******

 

 

Chapter Text

******

 

Four Years Since Adela’s Adoption

 

The war didn’t end so much as change forms.

 

The definitive battle against Haggar (or Honerva, as she later wanted to be called) and Zarkon was, as Lance summarized afterwards, a complete clusterfuck. Strategy went out the window nearly instantly, as Lotor and his Galra rebels showed up to engage the empire’s forces, ignore Voltron, and usurp the throne. Voltron’s allies scrambled to stay alive while also attacking the main Galra fleet, and trying to avoid Lotor’s ships, that seemed to attack indiscriminately.

 

Their frantic scrabbling for survival nearly cost them Shiro’s other flesh arm, Keith’s left leg, and Lance’s left eye. As it stood, they each bore rather spectacular scars in the aftermath; Keith’s left upper thigh had twisting, knotted marks wrapping all the way around, and Lance bore a deep, jagged pink line that began just above his eyebrow and sliced right through to his cheekbone.

 

The last battle did cost them Rolo and Nyma. Half of Matt’s original rebel crew. The Blades held the line to prevent greater loss of life, though as a result, their numbers were reduced by half, and the survivors all now had scars and lost limbs to show for it. Hunk ended up in a healing coma that lasted two months. He had split off from Voltron to dock with the Castle — Coran, Matt, and Allura had been nearly overwhelmed by Zarkon’s forces on board, and Hunk defended Adela to what was almost his last breath.

 

Lance’s devastation at Hunk’s injuries could not be measured — he’d tried to take off towards the Castle, but both he and Keith had been pinned down …

 

As he recalled the frantic, screaming rush of that disastrous confrontation, Keith breathed out, staring at the Olkari home world coming into view from the Castle observation deck.

 

Now, the war had shrunk and splintered into a dozen different, smaller battles.

 

The universe still had to contend with the dregs of the Galra Empire who sought to destroy anything in their path. Lotor had settled into peaceful rule of the remaining Galra colonies, but a small faction had split off from him to seek their revenge on those remaining Zarkon loyalists. Rebel groups from more than a dozen different galaxies had united to hunt all Galra — Blade, Zarkon loyalist, loyal to Lotor, it didn’t matter which to them. Adding to that were the civil wars on various planets as populations squared off against their own friends and families — those who they considered complicit in their subjugation and near genocide.

 

Nevertheless, the universe was, at large, far more free than it had been beneath the Galra Empire … A complete ceasefire would have to wait a bit longer, it seemed.

 

Yet Keith still didn’t want to attend this Peace and Reconciliation Summit, and he definitely didn’t want his daughter there, amongst thousands of different allies and soldiers, with Keith unable to ascertain threats, which there surely would be …

 

“Dad! DAD!” Adela bolted into the observation deck, leaping over the couches smoothly and colliding with Keith’s legs at a dead sprint. She curled herself around them, her tail wrapping twice about Keith’s ankle. His little girl looked up at him with huge, huge green eyes. “He’s gonna space me!”

 

Keith crossed his arms, staring down at her with a vaguely unimpressed look. “Who, exactly?”

 

“Tío Matt!” she squealed.

 

“What did you do to deserve a spacing?” Keith asked, raising an eyebrow. “Matt spoils you rotten, so it must have been spectacularly against the rules.”

 

Adela furrowed her brow, her lips pursing pensively, and her gaze shifted downwards guiltily. Keith held back a knowing smile, though it took a significant amount of effort.

 

“Ah-hah!” Matt cried, rushing through the doorway and pointing directly at Adela, who squealed again and scaled up Keith’s legs. “Keith, I am afraid that we’ll need to space your kid,” Matt said gravely as he walked further into the room. “Hand her over.”

 

Adela clung to the back of Keith’s shirt, her tail now having curled around one of his arms.

 

“What did she take or break?” Keith asked Matt.

 

“Katie’s prototype Rover Jr. and my remote blaster ring.” Matt had been joking about the spacing, obviously, but his expression was serious. Those were not toys. Adela should know better.

 

“Adela,” Keith said, glancing over his shoulder. “If you don’t return Matt and Pidge’s experiments, there will be no dessert for the next week. For a start.”

 

“And I might not space you, but there will definitely be less fun next time I’m babysitting you,” Matt added, his teasing tone dropping entirely.

 

“Aunt Pidge said I could play!” Adela defended herself, climbing until she was hanging over Keith’s shoulder.

 

“With Rover VI, not Rover Jr., who is weaponized. And you know better than to touch anything else in that lab, Adi.” Matt had both hands on his hips, his head shaking in disappointment.

 

Adela turned her wide-eyed stare towards Keith once more, who also shook his head. “Your uncle is right. I think this means that not only are you not getting dessert for a week, but also your lab access is revoked until … I decide you can handle yourself in there.”

 

Adela squinted as she processed his words, but once the meaning was absorbed, she let out a shocked gasp. “But, but, daddy—”

 

“No,” Keith said sternly. Though he didn’t raise his voice, Adela went silent immediately. He reached over his back and grabbed her, pulling her completely into his arms. “Give the ring back to Matt.”

 

Adela’s lower lip trembled, but she did as she was told; she reached into one pocket of her bright blue pants and handed over the small, potentially explosive ring. Matt ruffled her hair as he took it back, sliding it onto his finger, and then held out his hand again.

 

“And the Rover.” Keith jostled Adela slightly.

 

Her frown deepened, and she pulled the little Rover from her other pocket, placing it in Matt’s palm with shaky fingers. Matt took the robot and pressed a kiss to her forehead.

 

“We can still hang out, kid. Just not in the labs,” Matt said softly.

 

Adela swiped angrily at one escaping tear. She then glared up at Keith. Matt gave Keith a sympathetic smile as he turned to leave, just as Adela began fighting against Keith’s grip.

 

Her short ponytail whipped back and forth as she wrestled to be free. “Put me down! I’m gonna tell papi!”

 

“Good luck,” Keith said dryly, and he let her drop.

 

Adela landed perfectly, her reflexes beyond amazing when compared to a human four year old, and nearly fully developed for a Galra child. She stomped her foot and growled a little.

 

Keith remained unmoved. “Your pa is way stricter than I am, Adi.”

 

“You speak truly,” Lance said loudly, strolling in with his hands shoved deep in the pockets of his loose, open sweater. “So, Adelita, guess what your Tía Pidge told me?”

 

Their daughter clutched her light green tunic in two little fists, yanking at it moodily. More than likely, Adela knew she had already lost this fight. This would result in either a tantrum or begging, or both.

 

“Well, one good thing came out of this, Keith. Really proud of you for not being a total pushover.” Lance winked at him before levelling Adela with a cool stare. “You know that those labs were special places that you shouldn’t have been allowed in as a child. We made an exception because you were so well-behaved, but we told you that if you ever messed with anything that your uncles and aunt didn’t give you permission to touch—”

 

“But they weren’t dangerous!” Adela burst out. “They weren’t even on or—”

 

“I don’t care, chiquitita. You’re done with labs until you’re older.” Lance didn’t flinch as Adela started crying noisily. “Yeah, it sucks, but it’s not forever. Get it all out now, and then head over to your Tía Allura. She’s going to help you get dressed for our party today.”

 

Adela didn’t even wait to stop sobbing — she just marched right past Lance, breaking into a run once she hit the doorway. They both watched her go, and seemed to exhale wearily at the same time, Lance smiling at their perfectly in unison parental exhaustion.

 

“Seriously, querido, thanks,” Lance said, walking over to him, wrapping an arm around his waist once he was close enough. “I really appreciate you taking a firm hand on this.”

 

They’d had a fair few fights about Keith’s inability to say “no” to their kid. Lance had been amused (and grateful) at Keith’s laidback attitude to Adela’s occasional swear word (the first time she’d said “fuck” in front of him had Lance diving behind a couch to hide, and Keith laughing uproariously for several minutes). However, Lance’s amusement faded once he realized that Keith would let Adela get away with almost anything after a single supplicating puppy-eyed stare.

 

But while Keith tended to fold on many (most) little things, and a handful of big things, he had no problem putting his foot down when it came to Adela’s safety … Though, until today, he had been too lenient when it came to her hijinks in the labs.

 

“Don’t give me too much credit. I think I’m running on a shorter fuse today,” Keith admitted.

 

“Ah, yeah, I get that.” Lance squeezed his hip, drawing him in closer. “But it’ll be fine. And what I mean by ‘fine’ is that whatever disaster inevitably occurs, we can handle it. We always have.”

 

Keith appreciated that reminder. His paranoia buzzed beneath his skin, anxiety taking apart every conceivable avenue of attack and pointing out the ways in which it could all go horribly wrong. Lance didn’t let him dwell too long in that dark place; he whispered soft, teasing words in his ear, and followed them up with a kiss to his neck in that one spot that sent shivers down his spine.

 

The distraction worked, even though they couldn’t indulge in that closeness — they had to rush off to shower, change, and meet for a debriefing before heading to the planet surface. Yet Keith didn’t pull away. Instead, he wrapped his arms around Lance and tilted his head back; they could spare twenty minutes, maybe even a half hour …

 

They managed to make it on time, though only just.

 

Later that day, Lance brushed his lips against the faint bruise he’d left behind on that one spot.

 

They stood together, just inside of Olkari’s main government building, about to walk out into the beautiful, sprawling garden that currently held thousands of their allies, both old and new.

  

He and Lance were dressed in Keith’s favourite of their fancy outfits — the ones from Adela’s first public party three years back. They’d had to adjust them here and there, Keith adding a belt for a more convenient place to hang his Blade and his bayard. Keith’s hair hung in a much longer braid now; Lance had pierced his ears once Adela had gotten past her “grab anything dangling” phase, so he wore his favourite mismatched earrings — a small, jewelled hoop in one ear, and a silver feather in the other. But slight alterations hadn’t changed Keith’s fondness for these get-ups, and all the good memories attached to them.

 

Adela was currently wrapped up in her Aunt Allura’s arms, decidedly avoiding both of her parents. She noticed Keith watching her and then kicked a little so Allura would let her down. She rushed off in Matt’s general direction, disappearing into the crowd.

 

“How long is that going to last?” Keith wondered out loud.

 

“Until she misses her daddy and wants extra special Galra-hybrid cuddles,” Lance replied, carefully tucking one stubborn lock of Keith’s hair behind his ear almost absent-mindedly. His sharp eyes tracked their daughter. “So by bedtime, at the latest.”

 

Keith’s weakness when it came to Adela stemmed from an old fear of his; he simply could not bear the idea of her anger and disappointment directed at him. Especially if he was due to leave for a mission, or even just tucking her into bed for the night …

 

Keith couldn’t remember the last words he’d spoken to his father, but he knew that they’d been casual, dismissive even. He would not leave his daughter to carry that kind of burden, if ever …

 

With Lance, anger was easier to come by and let go. No matter how much they argued, he knew that Lance fully accepted all of Keith’s flaws and hang-ups. Even in the midst of a rough patch, Keith always made certain that Lance had no doubts as to how much Keith loved him for all of his faults and broken bits in return.

 

Adela would learn, someday, and she’d get older, stronger, wiser … Maybe when that happened, Keith would finally grow out of this particular anxiety.

 

“We’re good, Keith,” Lance murmured into his ear. “We’ve got this.”

 

Keith kissed him by way of reply, confirmation, and adoration. And then he took his hand and walked out into the masses. He still wasn’t one to enjoy these kinds of events, but Lance made them bearable, even a little fun with his wild flirtations and sweeping dances. Keith could battle the constant thrum in his veins by watching Lance in his element. But tonight, for whatever reason, he couldn’t quite banish those fears completely.

 

When the armed Galra Freedom and Unification Fighters set off their bomb, a few dozen guerrilla warriors pouring into the garden from the cloud of smoke and ash …

 

Keith might have been ever so slightly relieved to be able to whip out his bayard and get to work.

 

That relief ended with one scream.

 

Adela!” Lance cried out.

 

Their daughter either didn’t hear him or didn’t want to hear him. She had her short dagger in hand; Keith saw her burst forth from amongst an angrily bristling group of attendees. Who had let her bring that with her? Where had she been keeping it? But what did it matter now?

 

His daughter was running full-tilt at an armed, giant Galra soldier.

 

The gruff trooper had been taking aim at Allura, who was caught fighting three of his comrades. Before he could fire, Adela raked her blade down his calf.

 

As he stabbed at one of his attackers with only half his focus, Keith indulged a surge of gratitude for Shiro and Matt — Adela’s combat training had paid off. Lance had fought hard against her starting so young, but her physical prowess, the rate at which she was maturing, finally had him bending to Keith’s side of the matter. (Lance had tried to join in on the sparring, but he’d had a tough time seeing Adela in that training room where they’d learned to survive a bloody war, and Keith understood all too well, all too soon; his own playful fantasies of teaching Adela to fight were lost the first time she gripped a blade in her chubby little fist. Shiro and Matt had taken over her lessons then.)

 

Most of the guests were soldiers in their own right — first class fighter pilots, generals, admirals, or spies. Even if some were a little the worse for the various intoxicant beverages, the GFUF forces couldn’t have picked a stupider time and place.

 

Adela hadn’t been the only one with a weapon hidden amongst her fancy clothes.

 

Allura lashed out with a whip — not the blue bayard Lance currently had, but a devastating weapon all the same, modelled after her preferred bayard form. It struck one of Adela’s would-be attackers, and Adela rolled back as that Galra toppled. His daughter spun to find another target, but her eyes … Keith knew she was searching for him, or for Lance, but she was too afraid to call out, to draw attention to them or to herself.

 

Keith reached her before she could dash off, but another fighter collided with him before he could pick her up.

 

“Filth!” the grizzled soldier spat as his claws sank into Keith’s sword arm. “You and her both. Better off dead. Should’ve never been born.”

 

Keith didn’t bother replying — his sword bayard changed hands, easy as breathing, and sliced into the man’s thigh, right where a major artery lived. And then again, at another equally lethal location right beneath his arm. Keith had become an expert at Galra anatomy by this point, due in part to the war, and also because of Adela. As soon as the man dropped, Keith unleashed his Blade of Marmora dagger, now dual-wielding for maximum lethality.

 

“Kill the mutts!” shouted the man who had to be the leader. Said lead asshole was locked in combat with Matt and his two close friends from the rebels.

 

Matt made short work of him with a blaster rifle to the forehead, but his dying order sent the remaining Galra purists after Keith and Adela.

 

Two GFUF soldiers died before they’d taken more than half a step, shot clean through the backs of their heads.

 

Keith traced the angle of the shots, and grinned fiercely when he met Lance’s murderous expression. The Blue Paladin had scaled a nearby tree and perched on the highest branches, his bayard in sniper rifle form.

 

Adela darted forward, bridging the distance between her and Keith at last. He felt her crash into his legs, and he immediately swooped down to pick her up.

 

“If I need to drop you, you run to Allura or Shiro,” he ordered her, his mouth pressing briefly to her forehead. “Do not try to help. Keep your dagger out, but don’t attack. Just run.

 

Lance fired at another GFUF soldier, whose body crashed down just a few feet away, but several others were closing in fast. Once they reached Keith, in the next five or so ticks, he knew Lance wouldn’t be able to shoot any longer — not with them so close to Keith and now Adela. Seven seconds later, Keith was engaged in one-armed combat with three different soldiers.

 

“Keith!” Shiro slid in, his Galra arm glowing; he’d destroyed one of Keith’s attackers, but Keith still had to duck a nearly deadly blow from another, shielding Adela with a lightning-fast spin.

 

Another sparkle of a blade, in his periphery vision, aimed straight for Adela. He dropped her, and she landed solidly on her feet. She used her supernaturally impressive reflexes to scurry through the legs of the Galra trying to murder her. She didn’t stop, she didn’t look back, and Keith was so damn proud.

 

He stabbed towards the woman who had just tried to deal his daughter a fatal blow, catching her with a slice across her back. Not fatal. Not what she deserved. She fell to her knees, howling in outrage, whirling around to glare at him malevolently with burning yellow eyes.

 

“I die by my own noble Galra hand, you wretched abomination!” She followed up that slur by dragging her own claws across her neck.

 

Adela shrieked.

 

Keith slipped on the blood pool spreading from the now dead soldier as he spun around. Now he faced another huge Galra fighter; he was covered in burn scars, and gripping Keith’s daughter in his burly arms.

 

The bastard tightened his hold, a pistol shoved up against Adela’s head as she gasped for air. His teeth gleamed as he grimaced. “Hold your fire! She dies if you attack!”

 

Keith whipped his head back towards Lance, who sat frozen in the tree. His posture slumped. Keith knew what that meant; Lance could probably make the shot before this asshole killed their daughter, but he couldn’t be one hundred percent absolutely certain that the man’s finger wouldn’t twitch in his death throes …

 

Keith lowered his swords — his Blade and his bayard both. He felt Shiro press in closer to him, his Galra arm no longer glowing.

 

Silence took hold, emanating outwards until it felt like everyone in the garden focused on their small corner. On Lance and Keith’s tiny child.

 

“The kinds of monsters who could murder an innocent … You deserve no mercy.” This came from somewhere behind Keith, and before he could react, he heard Allura’s booming command voice speak again, “HOLD!” Someone may have been attempting what Lance wouldn’t.

 

“Good call, princess,” said the Galra fighter, his lips curling in a cruel smile. “Me and my friends will be leaving, and not one of you will be following. Not while we have this” — his arm tightened, and Adela coughed out a wheeze, tears pouring down her face — “with us.”

 

Keith’s swords shook, the visceral, nearly irresistible need for violence destroying just about all rational thought. Except for the terror. The heart-rending horror that stayed his hands because he would not risk his little girl’s life with one of his signature reckless moves.

 

This nameless fighter took one step back. Then another. One of his comrades joined him in the retreat. Followed by two more. Others were joining him, sneering at the Voltron Alliance members who snapped and cursed at them, though they didn’t dare move and risk Adela’s life.

 

“This was your plan? Walk into a celebration of veterans from the war against your empire, including the Paladins of Voltron, and kill as many as possible?” Kolivan spoke now, materializing at Keith’s other side. “Has the empire not only lost the war, but also all basic sense of strategic intelligence?”

 

“Working pretty well, isn’t it?” the soldier said, though his eyes narrowed, and his lips formed a scowl. “We don’t need much to rebuild. Just one solid blow to your morale. A Paladin … or this creature.”

 

“That answers my question,” Kolivan said neutrally. “You’re better off dead so you can shame us no longer.”

 

No signal given, no other words said — the soldier’s eyes widened.

 

A blade had thrust through his throat.

 

Blood poured forth as it was withdrawn, at the same time as a hand reached out and plucked the gun from his twitching grasp.

 

Before the shock had even worn off, Keith had surged forward, catching Adela. She’d sobbed, squirmed, and slipped from her captor’s dying grip. He held her impossibly close, tight enough to hurt, no doubt, but all she did was dig her little hands into his shoulders, her nose buried in his neck like she’d done so often as a baby.

 

Keith looked over his daughter’s head to see his mother standing over the corpse, expression grimly satisfied.

 

The other soldiers were being held at knife and gunpoint by members of the Blades of Marmora, all in a kind of armour Keith had never seen before. Considering the way they’d just appeared, he would bet it was the latest stealth gear engineered by Olkari and Blade scientists (likely based on the designs Pidge, Matt, Coran, and Hunk had been working on for years).

 

“Is this why you’ve been radio silent for three months? Hunting these assholes down?” Keith asked his mom, his heart pounding frantically; it would take time for the adrenaline to dissipate, for his paranoia to withdraw back into nightmares.

 

“In part,” Krolia said, cryptic as always. Her spy façade collapsed completely when Adela whipped around as best she could in Keith’s arms, shouting Ga’mma in a voice that sounded partially excited and partially terrified.

 

“Hello, Adi.” Krolia stepped in closer, and Adela reached out with one hand, though she kept herself firmly pressed against Keith’s chest.

 

“Oh, fuck, that was … Coño, dame mi hija, Keith,” Lance erupted from the crowd surrounding them.

 

Adela shrieked out Papi! She leapt from Keith’s arms to Lance’s, though she turned her head once she landed, sticking one hand out so that Keith would know to stay close. He had no problem acquiescing to that wordless plea.

 

Lance buried his face in Adela’s hair just as she did the same to his neck. They stood like that for several minutes.

 

By this point, Allura had begun rounding up troops, asking them to shackle the remnants of the GFUF forces, and others retreated to either take to the skies or the woods in search of more who may have slipped away. Their family tableau was respectfully left in peace.

 

“I have decided to cut this mission rather short,” Krolia admitted to Keith, her hand coming to rest on his shoulder, squeezing gently as her gaze roved all over him, clearly looking for injuries. “I thought you would be heading back to Earth in the next few months. I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss it. I would like … to see your father’s resting place. I’d like to see his favourite spots again. With you.”

 

Keith swallowed. “Yeah. We were planning to head back after two more missions. We’ve found a major hideout we think belongs to the True Knights. And we’ve got a lead on Lady Tribekkun’s conspirators.”

 

“Once those are dealt with, we might have some breathing room,” Lance said, kissing the top of their daughter’s head. “Shiro, Coran, and Matt have been training up the Voltron Beta forces, and they’re looking to be pretty badass.”

 

“Even with major conflicts taken care of, we wouldn’t feel right leaving the universe entirely without a force to call on,” Shiro informed Krolia. “We were going to announce that tonight, but …” He sighed, rubbing the back of his neck. “Well. Such is life with us. Never goes to plan.”

 

“Hey, save the doom and gloom when we haven’t just kicked all kinds of ass,” Matt said, swirling in to exchange a handshake with Krolia, his grin bright, though a cut on his forehead bled steadily. “Nice to you again, Krolia.”

 

“You as well, Matthew,” she replied with a slight eye roll, but a fond tilt to her lips.

 

Shiro grabbed Matt’s hand, dragging him back, using his free hand to lightly hold Matt’s chin for a moment before letting go and saying, “At least you didn’t get any blood on the shirt. Since it’s one of mine, you thief.”

 

“You mean it’s mine and my favourite since ownership has been transferred,” Matt said loftily. “We made an agreement about any clothes that you leave on the floor of my bedroom—”

 

“Nope!” Keith said loudly, reaching out with both hands to cover Adela’s ears. “No, that’s not a thing happening in front of me, or in front of my kid. Could you old guys please take your gross flirting elsewhere?”

 

“Sure thing, dad,” Shiro mocked. Matt stuck out his tongue.

 

Keith made sure Adela’s face was turned away before he gave them both the finger.

 

Krolia was laughing, and even Lance had cracked a genuine smile. Keith was still buzzed, but the knots in his chest began to loosen. Mostly, all he wanted was to breathe in and out, with Lance pressed close to his side and Adela in his arms. He settled for wrapping an arm around Lance’s waist to tug both him and Adela in close.

 

“I can’t wait for you to meet your other abuela, Adelita,” Lance murmured into his daughter’s hair. “Not to mention it’ll be our longest vacation yet.”

 

Five or six months, Keith thought, not sure if he could even handle that much time away from the battlefield. But the prospect of just being with his family, without any pressure or concerns that weren’t Adela’s nutritional issues or her tantrums … That filled him with a surprising amount of yearning.

 

They’d heard reports — the Galra had just breeched the Milky Way when they called all forces back to face Voltron and its allies in that final battle. As far as the Voltron Alliance knew, Earth was none the wiser. Keith had very real fears about what they’d be facing when they arrived, but Ryner and Allura had assured them that they would take all precautions. It was time to bring the humans into the Alliance, considering that Earthlings had been the face of the resistance for so many years.

 

“It’ll be great,” Lance said firmly, likely knowing exactly in what direction Keith’s mind had drifted off. “It will be more than great … It’ll be home.”

 

“Home,” Keith said, “is wherever you and Adela are.”

 

Lance blinked quickly, that familiar gleam brightening his eyes. “You are the worst romantic.”

 

“I learned from the best,” Keith reminded him, and gladly accepted both Lance’s kiss and the ensuing teasing Shiro launched his way.

 

Adela sighed contentedly against Lance’s chest, unwilling to be parted from them, even though she whined in tune to Shiro’s joking when they didn’t pull back from their kissing right away.

 

Maybe Keith didn’t have Lance’s optimism — he would expect the worst, like the terror and near-tragedy of tonight. But at the end of all this, he did have Lance. He had his family. That would always be enough to outlast and overcome anything the universe decided to throw his way.

 

******

 

 

Chapter Text

******

 

Four Years and Nine Months Since the Adoption

 

“It’s really blue, papá,” Adela said, pressing her nose against the glass. “So much water!”

 

“Yeah, I wasn’t kidding about that, princesa,” Lance said. “But I know you’re up for the challenge of swimming through all the oceans. We’ll get started as soon as we can.”

 

He’d tried to sound light, casual, but Keith heard that tremble. Adela likely didn’t pick up on the shaky anxiety in her father, whereas Keith knew Lance had been tossing and turning in his sleep ever since they’d sent Matt ahead to alert Earth of their existence.

 

He leaned into Lance’s side, grateful that they opted for comfortable civilian clothing for their first day back. Keith tangled their fingers together, looking towards Adela with a smile. “There’s more than just water. I promise to take you where I grew up. There’s no water for hundreds of miles.”

 

She glanced back at him with wide eyes, and then resumed staring through the observation room window, the fingers of her hands spreading out as she pressed harder — as if she could phase right through it and fly to Earth on her own.

 

They’d sent Matt to Earth just over two weeks ago, along with Sam Holt, and a massive amount of data/ physical evidence relating to Voltron, the Galra, and the war. It was a risky move, and it took nearly fifteen days for Matt to send them confirmation that all was well. During those fifteen days, everyone had been waiting on pins and needles to hear that the two Holts hadn’t been court martialled or quarantined for an eternity. When the Castle had finally received a message to head home, they’d barely wasted in any time before using a wormhole to bring the Castle and several of their allies’ ships directly over the blue planet.

 

“You can land on Garrison territory,” Matt had said. “They’ll make sure to keep the media and military eyes away.”

 

“Thanks, Matt,” Shiro said, his voice heavy with relief, and his eyes tracing Matt’s image on the screen over and over again. “How’s the weather?”

 

Matt’s smile quirked a bit. “Grey, but fair winds.” In other words, ‘all clear, but stay wary.’

 

Keith didn’t blame Shiro for that bit of paranoia. He’d been about to use one of their wartime codes himself, just to be sure. Keith had already planned to be as cautious as possible; he didn’t think the Garrison would detain them, but they would definitely try to get as much out of them as they could …

 

Shiro exhaled. “Right. Okay. Be seeing you soon.”

 

“Counting the seconds …” Matt said softly. He winked when Keith groaned loudly. “Hey, I meant literally, since they need everything timed exactly for the purposes of discretion.”

 

“You’re way, way worse with Lance,” Shiro pointed out, tugging on Keith’s braided hair. “Way worse. Gag worthy.”

 

Matt snorted. “Oh, I feel like, in Lance’s absence, I need to insert the obvious innuendo, as it—”

 

“Ugh, no!”

 

“Please, don’t.”

 

Keith and Shiro spoke simultaneously; Keith took it one step further by rolling his eyes, and clawing at one side of his own face.

 

Matt saluted them jovially. “Roger that. Innuendos on lockdown. For now … Get down here, Takashi.”

 

Keith hated that he recognized the particular cadence to Matt’s voice. He punched Shiro in the shoulder when the transmission blinked out.

 

“Ow,” Shiro complained. “Watch it, jerk.”

 

“Matt’s not here, so take his lumps.” Keith weaved away from Shiro’s return jab, but he wasn’t quite fast enough to miss the second one. He rubbed his shoulder, but he was still smirking — he’d definitely clocked Shiro harder.

 

“I feel it’s pretty unjust being punished for my boyfriend’s crime, especially when you consider that, one,” he listed off on his metal fingers, “I’m already suffering without him around. And two, as we’ve previously established, you and Lance are way more gross.”

 

“Hey, Ace,” Keith said into Lance’s ear, mentally giving the memory of Shiro the finger, as he squeezed Lance’s hand. “You know your family wants to see you. Matt said they were beyond happy, they were basically on their knees thanking him for bringing word. They’ll understand—”

 

“How could they understand, though?” Lance said swiftly, loud enough to draw a concerned stare from their daughter.

 

“They … won’t get it all,” Keith admitted, immediately flashing to the nightmares, the justified paranoia, the quiet that stretched for hours when neither of them could (or would) dissect the pain out loud. “But they love you, and they’re getting you back. If my dad …” He felt more than saw Lance’s head turn towards him. “I would forgive him anything. I would deal with any consequence, hold him up for the rest of my life if it meant having him here.”

 

He kept his voice steady, kept the words distant from the memories they conjured.

 

Lance blinked at him, visibly processing, and also tightening his hold on Keith’s hand. After a minute or so, he kissed Keith’s ear, and just breathed with him for another minute.

 

Adela had shifted over at some point, wrapping her arms around one of Lance’s knees and one of Keith’s. She didn’t say anything other than a tiny, inquisitive murmur of, “Papá?”

 

Lance reached down to rest a hand on her head. “Hey, Adelita. It’s fine. It’ll be fine.”

 

Keith felt those words, warm and confident, wrapping around all three of them. He’d have to believe it for Lance’s sake, and Lance would do the same for him. Because even if the worst happened, they would be fine again, at some point in the future. They’d become adept at picking up each other’s broken pieces.

 

They landed, the Castle opened its doors to Earth, and every single Paladin gasped as the familiar air of home filled their lungs for the first time in nearly six years.

 

The Garrison had brought out everyone, it seemed. Every single soldier, scientist, and technician. They stood outside their buildings, others gathered a respectable distance away. No one made a sound at first, though soon enough, buzzing arose as they whispered and pointed towards the Defenders of the Universe.

 

Adela wrapped herself around Keith’s leg, while Keith took Lance’s hand. Lance pressed in closer to a silently weeping Hunk, who put his arms around Pidge, who snatched up Shiro’s forearm, who wrapped his arm around the princess. Coran had his hand on Lance and Shiro’s backs, nearly encompassing them all.  They stood silently for a time.

 

And then they finally walked down the ramp, inhaling sharply as earth crunched beneath their feet.

 

The Garrison officials rushed to greet them.

 

Things weren’t fine to start, but they’d expected that much, thanks to Matt.

 

While no one was court martialled or quarantined, there were endless interrogations and tests. Coran and Allura had come down with them, as the friendliest (and closest to human-looking) of their allies, but for all of Allura’s diplomatic skills and Coran’s natural cheer, even they were worn down by the end of their nearly sixteen hours of ceaseless speaking.

 

And at the end of that sixteen hours, weapons were unleashed.

 

Two specific events led to that dramatic moment.

 

The first incident occurred at the tail end of hour five, when one of the doctors made a motion towards Adela.

 

She’d been standing plastered either at Keith or Lance’s side, but they were in the process of being led to yet another room with another legion of Garrison officials waiting to ask them about either Galra empire strategic formations or guerrilla tactics on unhospitable worlds. Throughout this entire day, they’d been accompanied by a dozen soldiers, almost as many scientists, and several doctors; Adela had been leaning out just far enough for someone to get in-between her and her fathers.

 

A person in the crowd said, “Wait, the little … girl, she can’t—”

 

And that’s when one of the medical staff said, “Oh, while you’re speaking with the Generals, this would be a good time to perhaps take the little one to the labs.”

 

They tried to put a hand on her shoulder or grab her arm, but Adela had been scared by all the tall humans in uniforms, even the kind ones, and she lashed out with a claw. The medic yelped, Keith closed his fingers around his bayard, Lance grabbed Adela and held her close, and suddenly orders and screams were filling the hallway.

 

“Maybe you missed our introductions,” Shiro’s voice resonated over the cacophony, silencing everyone without effort. “But this is Adela Kogane-McClain. The daughter of our Red and Blue Paladins. She has been medically vetted in almost every conceivable manner, and she is of no danger to any of you.

 

A doctor seemed to want to interject, but Keith growled and she snapped her mouth closed as Shiro continued to speak, pointedly addressing those in white lab coats. “We completely understand that you’d want to confirm Coran’s medical findings. But you will do so with the consent of her parents. And you will perform these tests under their supervision and Coran’s. Katie Holt is also very knowledgeable when it comes to Adela’s biology.”

 

Keith had deferred to Shiro’s leadership there, but a couple fraught hours in the medical ward later, Keith and Lance were both within a hair of snapping.

 

The second incident fed off the first, and looking back on it, Keith realized that said snapping was inevitable.

 

They all sat at a large table, nearing midnight at this point, with the Garrison’s chief leaders, for one last debrief before they could go back to the Castle for rest.

 

“We do apologize for this lengthy series of interviews and medical tests,” General Jeong said, her hands folded in front of her. “We simply wished to address specific points of the debrief Captain Holt, and Commander Holt, provided. We decided to separate out specific themes, have those of certain expertise handle their respective set of questions. We’d hoped that the Research and Medical division would wait until said military strategy interviews were concluded” — here she gave a pointed glare to General Antonelli, head of that division — “but they considered their tests of utmost importance, therefore your rest periods were dominated by those … I am sorry.”

 

“We expected a more friendly welcome,” Allura said sharply, though not yet angry. “But we do understand the need to be thorough.”

 

Heads bowed at her words — it seemed that the Princess had fully gained their trust and respect.

 

“In regard to that thoroughness …” General Antonelli said with an eye cast at Keith … and Adela. “While you have submitted your adopted daughter for certain tests, we have a few more that would be incredibly helpful. For her and for you, Paladin Kogane.”

 

“Kogane-McClain,” Keith corrected instantly. “And no.”

 

“No?”

 

“You heard him,” Lance said, and out of the corner of Keith’s eye, he could see Lance gripping his bayard as tightly as Keith was holding his blade of Marmora dagger. “Coran and Pidge have given you a terabyte’s worth of exams and images and analysis for our daughter. We knew that would be an issue. If you want some of Keith’s medical records …”

 

Keith looked towards Coran. “You can have whatever he thinks is necessary.”

 

Coran nodded, his usual smile replaced by a rather stern expression. “Yes, I’ll be sure to give them a … general overview.” It said a lot about the situation when Coran seemed to be visibly, obviously fed up.

 

“With your return, you are considered part of the Garrison, Paladin Kogane-McClain,” General Antonelli persisted, his gaze never shifting from Keith and Adela. “We can order you, and claim the alien for—”

 

Allura slammed her hand on the table at the same time that Lance shot up, stepping partially in front of Keith. Adela had been sitting half-asleep in Keith’s lap, and she startled, clutching Keith’s jacket, burying her face in his chest.

 

The princess rose to her feet as well, and her eyes were practically glowing with her anger. “The Paladins of Voltron are under no one’s command other than the Black Paladin and mine. Even then, most decisions are made together, as a unit. Your Garrison no longer has any authority over these five. I would argue that even Captain Matt Holt isn’t yours any longer, considering that he is a highly decorated Commander of the Rebel Legions. We did not fight a universal war to be treated as solely as information sources and specimens. We will now retire to our stronghold. We will return tomorrow morning for the last of your inquiries and examinations. Then these war heroes will be reuniting with their families.”

 

Allura’s statement had every general in the room nodding as one, eyes wide. General Antonelli recoiled back in his chair, though Keith could see just enough around Lance — see his frustration in the flex of his jaw and the narrowing of his eyes.

 

Then Lance leaned forward, his voice as cold as when he’d been addressing their worst enemies.

 

“You try and come after my family, General, and you won’t ever see the shot coming.” Lance unleashed his bayard — first in rifle form, then as a sniper rifle. He kept it pointed at the ground, but the threat was clear.

 

Everyone but the Voltron team jumped back from the table in that moment, their hands on weapons, but no one drew them, most of them seemingly awed by Lance’s display. The Garrison hadn’t seen them in full armour, in fully weaponized combat-readiness. Keith made a note to have a demonstration sooner rather than later. Planning that helped keep him from doing or saying anything overly risky; he didn’t trust himself to keep the need for blood at bay right then, so he concentrated on holding Adela close and letting Lance take point.

 

General Antonelli opened his mouth, but Lance cut him off, his smile frightening. “You know the Galra had a nickname for me, General. My buddies call me Ace or Sharpshooter, but you know what the nine-foot tall, four-hundred pound, blood-thirsty conquerors of the universe called me?” Lance’s grip twitched towards the trigger on his sniper rifle. “Voltron’s Assassin.

 

He switched the bayard back to its neutral form and reached for Keith’s shoulder. His hand was shaking.

 

Allura let Lance have the last word, though she made sure to level an intense stare at everyone as they all stood up to leave. Keith wordlessly passed Adela to Lance once they’d left the room, and Lance clutched her close, his sharp eyes scanning for threats as they left. The soldiers in the hallway saluted them as they passed, blissfully unaware of what had just happened.

 

Keith turned to see the generals all clustering together by the door to the giant meeting room, staring after them, some slack jawed.

 

He noted that General Antonelli stood somewhat separated from the rest. Keith waited until his family had gone a little further ahead of him, and then he unleashed his Blade of Marmora dagger.

 

He didn’t raise it or point it. Just let it sit comfortably in his grip, as he stared for one last, lingering moment at the generals. They had all flinched as one when the Blade appeared, but Antonelli looked pale as a ghost — as the ghost he would be if he didn’t take Lance’s (and now Keith’s) warning to heart.

 

Keith walked away after three beats of his pounding heart, shoving his dagger back in its sheath and retaking his spot at Lance’s side.

 

“So …” Matt joined them as they left the Garrison building, immediately linking arms with Shiro. “I take it that went … not so great.”

 

Shiro untangled his arm from Matt’s, but only so he could wrap that arm around his waist, reeling him in closer. “Understatement.”

 

“I thought we’d managed to bring them around,” Matt said, his frustration coming across in both his voice and face. “But … damn it.” Matt’s hands formed into fists, one resting on Shiro’s hip. “Assholes.”

 

“I don’t know why I expected any different,” Keith said bitterly. “These are the same jerks who declared Kerberos a failure due to pilot error.

 

Lance seemed to shrug off his rage and disappointment as they ascended the ramp to the Castle. He held Adela close, who had her head buried in his throat, and said, “I’m ready for sleep. Today has been way too long.”

 

“Tomorrow will be longer, but for them,” Allura stated, some sort of dark promise layered thick into her words. “For now, yes, all of you rest. Please. Don’t worry about what the day will bring. I already have plans for a message to these … officials.”

 

For all his own anger and resentment, Keith found it relatively easy to follow Allura’s advice. He and Lance put Adela to sleep in her small bedroom, what had been her former nursery. (They’d started discussing giving her a larger room no longer connected to theirs, but neither Keith nor Lance was fully committed to that just yet.)

 

Adela grasped Keith’s hand before he and Lance could leave. He waited, as she stared up at him without blinking for several moments.

 

“Am I … Is there something wrong that …” Adela stopped, and then started again, far more certain. “They think there’s something bad about me, but there isn’t.”

 

Keith felt a rush of love that he could barely control. He dropped down to his knees next to Adela’s bed, gathering her up in his arms. “Exactly. You are exactly right, Adi. They’re reacting out of fear, and nothing else. It has nothing to do with you.”

 

“Kiddo, you are beautifully unique, and that’s gonna be either really cool or really scary for people,” Lance said quietly, sitting down on the edge of her bed, his hand resting on one of Adela’s little legs. “Your dad is right. Just … remember how much we love you. Remember that, and you’ll be fine. We’re never wrong, right?”

 

Adela pulled away from Keith, making a face. “I mean, papá, there was that time when you thought Tío Hunk’s special glue was oatmeal, and—”

 

“You know, maybe you could be a good daughter, and pretend that I’m never wrong. Yeah?” He tickled her, and she shrieked with laughter, though she also kept stubbornly shaking her head.

 

Keith adored them both to the point of pain, but it was a wound he happily reopened, again and again. Eventually, Adela calmed down enough to sleepily wave them out of her room. They took turns pressing kisses to her head, and then dropped into their own bed heavily.

 

“Tomorrow, I shoot them,” Lance murmured into Keith’s shoulder. “I don’t even care. Let Allura and Shiro be the reasonable ones. That’s my kid.”

 

“I’ll help you hide the bodies,” Keith agreed, though he was already fading fast.

 

He didn’t think anyone would dare approach them (or Adela) after what happened tonight … Even so, he entertained himself envisioning the full force of Voltron descending upon their heads, and thus fell asleep with a smile.

 

******

 

The next day, Lance and Keith woke up late — around mid-morning — to the sight of several Olkari ships, Kolivan’s main vessel, as well as two dozen other scattered rebel fighters landing around the Castle.

 

Keith raised an eyebrow as Lance came to stand next to him by their window. “You think this is a clear enough message?”

 

“I think Allura is fully prepared to blast the living hell out of the Garrison,” Lance said, sounding somewhat terrified, but mostly proud.

 

A few seconds later, Pidge was pounding on their door. “Hey, don’t be naked, I’m overriding the lock!”

 

“Coño, Pidge!” Lance shoved his legs into a pair of discarded jeans, whereas Keith stood stubbornly half-naked in his shorts and nothing else.

 

Pidge burst into their room not five seconds later, just as Lance zipped up his pants. She glared at Keith, pointing, “I gave you fair warning!”

 

“You’re not supposed to use your powers, unless it’s an emergency,” Keith countered, crossing his arms over his bare chest. “Is it an emergency?”

 

Pidge’s expression turned somewhat bemused as she lifted her hands, gesturing to all the ships outside. “Matt punched one of the generals, Allura called down the Olkari, and everyone else, and we’ve kinda sorta taken over the Galaxy Garrison?”

 

Keith’s arms dropped to his sides. He stared at her, gobsmacked, and … didn’t even know where to start with that. “What … where was Shiro in all this?”

 

“Shiro would be why Matt punched General Asshole. The bastard used a highly powerful, localized EMP pulse to disable Shiro’s Galra arm, painfully, at the meeting this morning—”

 

“They had another meeting already—” Lance started, but Keith cut him off by moving swiftly for the door, already imagining his own fist flying into that fucking bastard’s face.

 

“Hey!” Lance skidded over, sliding in front of Keith just before he made it out into the hallway. Keith scowled, but Lance just raised his hands, palms facing Keith. “I’m with you, querido. But, you will be far more imposing with clothes on.

 

Keith threw on the first pants and shirt his hands touched. The jeans were a ripped black pair of his, the loose grey T-shirt belonging to Lance. He jammed his sockless feet into his big, black boots, and considered himself done. Lance dressed a little more precisely, wordlessly yanking on Keith’s abandoned maroon shirt, but taking the time to grab a nice pair of grey pants and socks, as well as his own heavy boots and a light jacket that resembled a blazer.

 

“It’s all been mostly dealt with,” Pidge was saying as Lance rapidly pulled on the clothes. “Allura is still in the process of tearing the Garrison a new one, and after last night, you’ve earned tickets to that show. Hunk is going to stay here and watch Adela.”

 

Pidge stood to one side, letting them dart past her before taking point and leading them towards the main event.

 

They muscled their way past guards who didn’t stand aside fast enough, and whipped by allies of the Voltron Alliance who littered the Garrison corridors, calling out to Lance, Keith, and Pidge as they swiftly passed. Keith gave a few nods and half-waves as he marched after their Green Paladin; the “show” had been largely concluded by the time they arrived.

 

“—we’ll have Commander Holt taking charge of the research and analysis division. He will be hand-picking which Garrison scientists—”

 

Pidge pushed open the door, and Keith and Lance strode in as if they belonged.

 

“Oh, excellent, you’ve had a good night’s rest,” Allura kept talking, completely at ease.

 

Keith noted a distinct lack of General Antonelli and a few others who had given him a bad feeling … Allura worked fast, and Keith really shouldn’t be this impressed after years at her side … But he was pretty damn impressed.

 

The princess gestured at the empty chairs. “I’ll need you and Shiro to begin organizing the various combat training taskforces. The Blades will be your partners in that. Lance, you’ll be shared between those units, and also our diplomatic core—”

 

The whirlwind that was the Princess of Altea in full Battle Strategy Mode didn’t end until late afternoon, when the various political and military leaders of Earth arrived. At that point, most of the Garrison had been amalgamated into the Voltron Alliance; Shiro and Allura stood at the head of the Garrison welcoming committee, completely unshaken by the show of strength some of the nations decided to bring forth.

 

Keith had been tense the entire day, even as the princess carefully stitched together a stronger alliance than he could have ever imagined. Lance’s capacity for stillness, as their sniper, had been clearly implemented — Keith could imagine his husband’s mind racing the entire time they’d been at that meeting, but not a single bit of it showed on Lance’s face or in his movements.

 

Shiro reappeared as they were all leaving the Garrison, Matt at his side. Matt looked to be fairly relaxed, even though the knuckles of one hand were distinctly bruised. Keith gave Matt an approving smile, and then looked Shiro up and down to make sure there was no permanent harm done. Shiro waved at him with his Galra arm, a rather serene smile on his face, and Keith felt one knot of tension loosening. The rest eased up as more of his Voltron family congregated by them, and the princess smiled, waving towards the Castle and the Lions.

 

“Go home,” Allura said as the sky darkened. Hunk had brought Adela out of the Castle to see the stars. The princess smiled at them both once they reached the Yellow Paladin and the little girl, pressing her fingers against Adela’s cheek. “All of you. Go to your families. You’ve been kept away long enough.”

 

“My family is here,” Pidge said with a satisfied, giddy smile. “Mom is finally being allowed on base.”

 

“I’ve got no one else,” Shiro admitted. Matt jabbed him in the stomach with an elbow, Pidge scoffed loudly and with great offense, while Shiro laughed. “I meant that I have the Holts, and Keith, obviously, so no need to leave. But the rest of you …”

 

“I’ve gotta head to Hawaii.” Hunk squeezed Adela, nuzzling her cheek and pretending to take a bite. “Snack for the road!” Adela acted like she wanted to bat him away, but she was giggling the entire time. Hunk grinned, tilting his head. “Allura, can we—”

 

“Those are your Lions.” Allura smiled broadly, that slightly vindictive edge making a return. “The Garrison did not want them free to roam the Earth, but considering that we are announcing your heroism to the world … Go on, and show your families. There will be various Alliance ships and frequencies monitoring for your safety. You will each have an escort.  Yes, of course, take your Lion.

 

Hunk whooped, handing Adela to Lance, kissing both her and his best friend on the forehead, before taking off.

 

Keith saw his mother approaching from one of the Blade ships, Kolivan splitting off from her to head into the Garrison with Coran and a few rebel soldiers. Krolia smiled as she came near, her eyes on her granddaughter. She bent to give Adela a kiss on the head, and then put her hand on Keith’s shoulder.

 

“The princess gave me a debrief this morning. I am so sorry, Keith. But I want you to go now, and leave the rest of this … mess to us. We can handle a few frightened humans.” She reached over to place her other hand on Lance’s arm. “Forget yesterday, and concentrate on today.” She squeezed both of them and then took off after Kolivan.

 

Shiro popped in right next to Keith, who immediately grabbed onto him, grateful to have him nearby.

 

“Shiro,” Keith said, holding Shiro’s human forearm, “I’m heading over with Lance—”

 

“Yeah, I know.” Shiro ruffled his fringe, which Keith accepted without protest — it had been another long day. “Try not to embarrass yourself, it reflects badly on me.

 

Keith rolled his eyes. “Thanks, bro. Real supportive.”

 

“They already love you, Keith,” Shiro told him, changing tracks instantly. “You love their son, and you’re bringing them an adorable grandchild. Trust me. You’re golden.”

 

Lance had been silent this entire time, holding Adela close, and Keith could feel the anxiety in his husband rising once more. “Yeah, we are.” Keith watched Lance’s eyes focus, losing their glazed, distant stare.

 

He smiled, even though he couldn’t (or wouldn’t) hide the worry in that beloved blue gaze. “It’s finally time, huh?”

 

Adela cheered. “I get another grandma! And a grandpa!”

 

“Yeah,” Lance agreed with his daughter and husband both. “Yeah, it’s time.”

 

******

 

 

Chapter Text

******

 

Lance didn’t know how to knock on his front door.

 

He’d decided against the ostentatious move of flying over here in his Lion, and instead borrowed a car, keeping it hovering just around the corner from his home. Adela impatiently bounced around in the back, while Keith gave him all the time in the world to find his courage.

 

“But, dad—” Adela whined.

 

“Adela, be patient, please. Your father needs some silence to think.” Keith gave Adela a stern stare, but he softened it by tugging lightly on her braid and smiling afterwards.

 

Their daughter quieted, and Lance thought, first thing, need to explain who she is. His family must know about Voltron by now — the Garrison had released a statement to the press, and Matt and Sam had given all their families a (very) truncated summary of the past few years. But Matt hadn’t mentioned Lance being married or having a kid, by design. Lance had wanted that to be on his terms.

 

But how could he not prioritize giving them his version of the whole Voltron tale? Maybe that had to be first? Or maybe …

 

Maybe he had to start with the apology. Begging forgiveness for leaving. For years of thinking he was dead.

 

He sucked in a breath, opening his eyes to look towards Keith and Adela. “All right. Let’s go.”

 

Keith nodded, his face impassive. Lance studied him for a moment. Keith had his hair pulled back in a neat ponytail, but as usual, a few locks escaped to frame his face. His thin black shirt was freshly ironed, and his favourite red jacket, adjusted several times over for his taller, muscular frame, sat perfectly on his shoulders. The jeans were new — Matt had done them all the wonderful favour of grabbing a few pairs; both Lance and Keith had missed denim fiercely, having worn their old pairs of jeans down to nothing.

 

Keith looked casual yet devastating. The single wedding band gleamed on his left hand, complementing the one on Lance’s.

 

Stunning looks aside, what Lance appreciated most about Keith in that second was the fathomless love in his eyes. Steady, constant. Lance could’ve told Keith to turn this car around, and Keith would. He’d debate and argue and cajole if he thought Lance was wrong, but he’d do him the courtesy of listening all the same.

 

Lance leaned in, ignoring Adela’s whine as he kissed Keith. A soft press that lingered until his heart eased up its frantic pace, if only a little.

 

Keith stroked through Lance’s hair once as they pulled away simultaneously. “Okay. I’ll get Adela.”

 

The walk to Lance’s home was only three minutes. Lance counted the seconds until they reached the bottom steps of the porch. He stared up at the pale blue paint, the green and white shutters, the small jungle of flowers in their various coloured pots. So little had changed — and he wasn’t sure if he would notice if anything had. His memories had faded over the years. But a few bright spots had lingered …

 

It was a Saturday. His mom would be home — she liked to stay in on the weekends. Hated the crowds that congregated in the parks, libraries, beaches, and malls.

 

With heavy steps, Lance made his way forward. He rested the flat of his hand against the screen door, pressing his palm to the wood beneath. Felt Keith place a hand against his back.

 

His fingers complied at last, forming a fist. He lifted it. And knocked. Once. Twice.

 

The wooden door was yanked open.

 

He expected to see his mom. Instead, he saw Veronica.

 

She had the same shoulder-length cut to her hair, but that might be a new scar, on the edge of her jaw.

 

They stared at each other through the screen.

 

An eternity later, Veronica ripped it open with enough force to nearly tear it from its hinges, and wrenched him against her, her arms impossibly strong and tight around him. He gripped back just as hard. She was in her Garrison uniform — she’d been transferred to another base in South America, Matt had said. Lance hadn’t thought she’d be home. Hadn’t expected to see anyone other than his parents …

 

But then Luis rounded the hallway, scrubbing at his eyes, fresh from an afternoon nap (his older brother always crashed after lunch, still did, he hadn’t changed, Lance hadn’t forgotten it all), asking sleepily, “Ronnie, who’s—”

 

His eyes went huge as he spotted Lance, who waved weakly with one hand, the other still gripping onto Veronica’s jacket.

 

Luis ran, and Veronica let go, visibly reluctant, eyes shining, stepping back just as Luis reached him, hauling Lance up and off the ground, choking out, “Lancito. Ay, hermanito mío, ay dios bendiga. ”

 

The tears didn’t come, not yet, but Lance squeezed his eyes shut, and held onto Luis’s neck, so glad that this hug hadn’t altered at all over the years either — that Luis remained larger than life and just as sweet and protective. Part of the reason why Lance had instantly loved Hunk was because he’d reminded him so much of his older brother.

 

Which would be when Lance’s other elder brother, Marco, appeared at the top of the stairs, and he all but fell from there as he raced down, colliding into Veronica, who shoved him reflexively. Marco squeezed in alongside Luis to embrace Lance from another angle, his hand reaching up to shakily stroke through Lance’s hair. “You … Lance, you’re …” His voice broke over a sob, and he cried into Lance’s hair.

 

Luis let go just long enough to yell over his shoulder, “Mamá! Papá! Es Lancito!” His gaze stayed fixed on Lance, the awe in those dark eyes almost too much to bear. But Lance couldn’t look away either, any more than he could voluntarily disentangle himself from Marco.

 

Thundering steps from upstairs, and down came his father. Marco stepped back, out of respect for their dad, wiping at his tears as he went.

 

Their dad, Lance’s papá, whose tired blue eyes were gleaming, his weathered hands shaking as they reached for him — the smell of coffee and that old cologne …

 

The tears caught up to Lance at last.

 

He couldn’t help the way he crumpled to the floor. Marco reached for him, but somehow, his father was there first. He didn’t stop Lance from hitting the floor, just cushioned his fall with an embrace that felt bigger than Luis and Veronica and Marco combined, even though Lance and his dad were roughly the same height … Maybe? Lance had no idea, but it felt like his dad was an all-encompassing safe place to burrow into. So he did, and he cried out as his father buried his face in Lance’s hair, shaking from his own sobs.

 

He had no idea happiness could hurt this much.

 

And then another pair of arms encircled him, with an aroma of earth from their garden, and his mom, his mamá.

 

“Mami,” he said hoarsely, unable to open his eyes even though he desperately yearned to see her face. He turned his head into her neck instinctively, and she had a hand in his hair, her own voice thick with tears but steady.

 

“Ay, mi niño, mirate, chiquillo.” She kissed his temple, and pressed her cheek to the top of his head. This hug, this was the one he’d physically ached for all these years.

 

“I tried …” Lance’s words cracked and spilled tears all over both his parents. He couldn’t stop. “I wanted … but the war, mamá, we couldn’t … I’m so sorry, lo siento, mami, papi, lo siento, dios, por favor, no—”

 

“Shhh,” his mother said against his head, rocking him in her arms. “No, no, don’t apologize for being the man I hoped you’d be. Never be sorry for the right thing.”

 

Lance didn’t have it in him to cry any harder, but if he had, that benediction from his mother would have done it. He quieted at last, though it was a halting, hiccupping process that left him thoroughly exhausted. Eventually, his eyes opened, swollen and red. He reared back in a dizzying motion, swiping beneath his nose with his sleeve.

 

“Rachel is out with Lisa and the kids,” Luis said after a long silence during which Lance’s sobs tapered off. He blinked up at his older brother, who smiled tremulously at him. Lance did wish for his big sister Rachel, for Lisa and Sylvio and Nadia, and for his grandparents … Luis must’ve read the question in his eyes, because he added, “Grandma and grandpa are over at Tía Rosita’s.”

 

“We’ll call them later,” his mom said, gathering Lance in away from his father, and then standing, dragging him up with her.

 

He finally looked into her eyes, at the wrinkles that had grown more pronounced, the heavier streaks of grey in her auburn hair. She smiled up at him, cradling his face between two hands. One of her fingers traced feather-light over his scar, his eyelid fluttering in reflex. She brushed against the small silver hoop in one ear, the stud in the other. Another scar that trailed down his neck. Lance swallowed.

 

“I can’t believe how beautiful you are, chiquillo,” she said, another tear escaping. “I want you to tell me everything, I want you to give me all the wonderful, terrible stories. But first … Tell me, who are these two?”

 

Lance froze, glancing back at Keith and Adela, who had been standing awkwardly on the porch this entire time. He could feel everyone else’s eyes flick over to them as well, Luis letting out a rumbling noise of confusion, Marco’s jaw dropping as he took in Adela, Veronica’s eyes narrowing as she scrutinized both Keith and his daughter with her unchanged laser focus.

 

“Lance, that’s another Paladin, right?” Luis asked, swiping at his tears to better stare towards Keith and Adela.

 

Lance breathed out slowly, a different sort of fear clutching at his heart. He carefully separated from his parents, his siblings, and reached out with a trembling hand. When Keith grasped it, he squeezed tightly enough to whiten his scarred knuckles, for Lance to feel the outline of all his sword callouses. Adela had been quiet for too long, her head hidden in Keith’s neck. Lance smiled at them both, holding Keith’s gaze for several moments.

 

“Right,” Keith breathed out. He let go of Lance’s hand, a bit of colour restored to his face as he straightened his shoulders and said to Lance’s family. “I’m Keith, the Red Paladin—”

 

“Sometimes Black Paladin,” Lance couldn’t help interject with pride.

 

“—of Voltron,” Keith finished with a quick, fond eye roll at Lance. “And, um, this little one is Adela. Say hi, Adi.”

 

Their daughter just barely lifted her head, all her previous energy gone when faced with the various members of her extended family for the first time. Lance had done his best to describe each of them, to tell her all the best stories from his childhood, but even so, she seemed taken aback. Maybe she’d been unprepared to meet them all at once.

 

Lance thought perhaps Keith was going through something similar.

 

He tugged them both in a little closer, fighting a tickling in his throat as he said, as clearly as he could, “This is Keith Kogane-McClain. My husband. And our daughter, Adela Thace.”

 

His mother stumbled, reaching to snag her own husband’s shirt and yank as if to say, look, look, which was highly unnecessary, because Lance’s dad had gone slack jawed and wide-eyed. Not unlike Lance’s big brothers and sister, who seemed to have gone totally speechless in their shock.

 

“C’mon, guys,” Lance said weakly. “I come back from the dead as a cool space knight who rides in a gigantic magical robot lion, and this is what blows your minds?”

 

Adela peeked again, one of her not-so-tiny-yet-still-small hands reaching for Lance, her voice soft but clearly audible in the stunned silence. “Papá? Are these really my abuelos?”

 

“Yeah, Adelita, they are,” Lance said, just as his mother burst with, “Ay dios, Lancito, puede ser?”

 

“Si, mamá.” He held out his arms, and Adela leapt into them automatically, taking a moment to inhale deeply against his neck, a habit he didn’t think she would ever fully break. “Tienes otra nieta. Y un yerno.” Lance made a face. “Ugh, never liked that word for some reason.”

 

“Mijo,” she said, and she wasn’t speaking to Lance. Her eyes were tear-filled, the trails on her cheeks drying as she smiled warmly at Keith. “Please, this is … a lot, for all of us, but don’t think that we’re in any way less than overjoyed to meet you.”

 

Keith waved one hand tentatively. “Lance said that you would be, but, um, yeah. It’s nice to finally put faces to the stories.”

 

“Holy crap, Lancito,” Marco burst out. “Isn’t this the Keith Kogane?”

 

“Keith McMullet-Face Kogane,” Veronica confirmed, while Lance groaned and hid his face in his daughter’s hair (at which point she giggled and relaxed a fraction). “And that’s … well, Adela, hi, can I ask …” Veronica seemed to be fighting her scientist instincts, and Lance stuck out his tongue at her, refusing to indulge her right this minute … And then he marvelled at how easy it was to slip right back into the role of pesky little brother.

 

Adela looked up at Veronica, cocking her head, and her tail curled up, swaying in a dissonant rhythm as she took in all the stares at last.

 

“This is getting ridiculous,” Luis said with an eye roll exactly like Lance’s. “Come on, let’s get inside and actually sit down in the living room. Keith, welcome home, hermano. Adelita, you are safe here, I promise.”

 

His parents seemed to click back into their usual hospitality roles right then — Lance’s dad offering food and snacks, hustling towards the kitchen, as his mother steered Lance directly towards a couch, shoving him down, and then grabbing Keith up in a firm hug before pushing him in next to Lance. In about three minutes, they were all together, food sitting relatively untouched on the side tables, as everyone crowded in as close to them as possible.

 

Lance started from the beginning, from seeing Shiro’s ship crash at the Garrison, because where else could he possibly start?

 

He fast-forwarded through most of the battles, as he could visibly see the horror his family was experiencing on his behalf, and jumped right into the story of how Keith and Adela first came into contact … Which, in hindsight, wasn’t much better.

 

“Off a cliff?!” His mother shouted, her rage palpable.

 

“What cliff?” came a holler from the front door, and a moment later, Lance was staring at his other older sister, Rachel, his sister-in-law, Lisa, and his nephew and niece, Sylvio and Nadia.

 

Within a moment of seeing each other, Rachel attempted to tackle him, spotted Adela at the last second, and screeched as Adela made a spectacular leap away to avoid being crushed, the little girl landing on top of Luis, who instinctually cradled her close. Lisa exerted only slightly more caution, skidding in to embrace Lance from behind, just as Sylvio and Nadia, both of them in tears, came sliding in to clutch at the only other available bit of Lance — his legs, one for each.

 

There was another, far more abbreviated re-telling of his journey here. Keith pressed in close to his side, though he did not reach to wrap an arm around him or anything else resembling their usual level of PDA.

 

Lance then re-started the tale of Keith and Adela, this time with his niece and nephew staring up at him from the floor in awe, Rachel and Lisa perched on armrests on either side of Lance and Keith.

 

Everyone seemed to cycle through disgust at the bigotry, shock at the various hijinks involving Adela’s development, and finally adoration at the happier bits. Adela actually seemed fine in Luis’s arms, especially as her grandmother would periodically reach out to stroke over her hair, or squeeze her little hand gently in her larger one. Adela basked in the attention, and stared around at everyone with wide eyes, scanning their faces and grinning broadly every single time someone met her gaze with a reassuring smile.

 

While Lance spoke, he took in his family. His mother and father looking older after nearly six years gone … Weathered, with more lines on their faces each time they frowned or smiled. His siblings, with longer or shorter hair, with a few extra scars and with occasional tears springing up in their eyes. Sylvio and Nadia were so big — they’d been in preschool and kindergarten when he’d left …

 

By the time Lance finished telling everything he could think of as immediately relevant (with a few quiet insertions from Keith), it was late at night. All the snacks were gone, and everybody seemed to reel back, as if his words had been carried along a strong gust of wind.

 

“Matt Holt told us some of it,” Veronica said after lengthy minutes had passed. “And then I read a few reports … But that didn’t mean much. Sparse on details.” She let loose a shaky breath. “We never really thought you were… gone. But after a year, two years …”

 

“Hey, it’s okay if you believed the worst,” Lance said, leaning out to grab her wrist. “It’s totally fine. Five plus years? Holy crap, you don’t know how many worst case scenarios I processed in that time. Anything could’ve happened to you guys while I was gone.”

 

“Of fuc—freaking course you would worry about us while you were fighting a universal war in space,” Marco said with what could have been his usual brand of older sibling ribbing, but the gleam in his gaze gave him away. “Lance, you idiot.”

 

“Ay, no empiezen,” his mother scolded lightly, reaching over to pluck Adela from Luis’s lap. She stared down at her granddaughter, at her entirely green eyes, at her lavender skin, darker violet hair, pointy ears peeking through, and that curving tail. She looked at the neatly trimmed claws, and then held them up to kiss them. “You’re my little miracle, Adelita. I think you saved your papá. I think you saved both of them.

 

Lance’s heart swelled several sizes, and Keith took in a shaky breath of his own. His hand finally reached out to grab Lance’s, their rings clicking, which seemed to draw the gaze of half his family.

 

“You really did get married in space,” Rachel said, sounding both wistful and envious. “What was that even like?”

 

“Well, um, we did a Galra ceremony because … Oh. Yeah.” He glanced towards Keith — he’d carefully talked around Keith’s family, completely unsure if this particular detail was his to disclose. Keith shrugged and then looked out at his in-laws.

 

“I’m part Galra,” he said bluntly. “And I wanted a Galra ceremony so my mom could … feel part of it. She got to see it, even if she wasn’t physically there. And I felt like Adela and I needed to keep in touch with our heritage, so …”

 

“Holy shit, Lance,” Luis said, earning himself a smack across the back of his head from his mother, which had him wincing, though he still grinned teasingly. “You freaking married an alien? Way to get the full experience, hermanito.”

 

“A hot alien,” Lisa amended, earning a glare from her husband which she ignored by winking at Lance.

 

“No, no, we’re not starting this,” Lance said, waving both his hands. “Also, we have a second set of rings, that interlock with these ones … We wanted to have a second wedding, here. On Earth. With all of you. And Keith’s mom. Because she’s here as well. And Kolivan. And Allura. And everyone else, pretty much.” Lance stared at his parents, at his siblings. “They’re my family, too. They’re just as important to me as you all are. And I want you all to be there and celebrate with us.”

 

Lance hadn’t thought he had anymore tears to shed, but they sprung up in his eyes regardless, and then Keith was there, holding him close, and his niece and nephew buried their faces in his knees as they started crying. His mother moved faster than anyone else, closely followed by Rachel, who sat on the armrest nearest to him. Keith ended up at the centre of the family dogpile alongside Lance, and Adela had somehow taken up a perch on Veronica’s shoulders, her tail curled around Ronnie’s upper arm.

 

After the latest round of welcome home sobbing, Lance’s mom ordered some pizza (which caught both Lance and Keith crying, this time out of pure happiness), and his dad cooked up a storm of food that Adela could actually enjoy (rivalling Hunk’s culinary talents). They stayed up long into the night, telling random anecdotes from their time in space, and wedding planning in-between bites of delectable melted cheese; Adela nearly snuck a slice, but Veronica’s eagle eyes prevented that disaster, at which point Sylvio and Nadia took Adela down to the basement to play, and Lance just … basked.

 

Keith had been mostly quiet, but then Marco tentatively asked about the Blade dagger Keith kept strapped to his belt, and Keith unleashed it to its full length, shocking everyone and then blushing as they all broke into applause. From that point on, Marco insisted that Keith demonstrate some moves, and eventually, Lance shoved Keith out into the yard so they could spar, which somehow morphed into a midnight futbol match, and really, Lance had never been this happy. It tied with his (first) wedding day.

 

Perhaps the only thing that beat this was the joy of Adela, his daughter.

 

His mother had been right.

 

This little girl, fumbling with the ball, unknowingly (or uncaringly) clutching it with her hands to score goals … She’d saved Lance and Keith from the darker aspects of war that had still left marks, though perhaps not so many as would have been without her. She’d brought them together, which Lance would thank her for until she couldn’t stand to hear it anymore. She’d been the kind of miracle Lance never imagined, never thought he’d deserve …

 

He’d throw himself into that Blue Lion all over again, not change a damn thing, if it meant having this moment, for all time — with his husband grinning beneath his sweaty fringe, his daughter laughing, and his entire Earth family (his grandparents appeared at midnight, having been summoned by their daughter), safe and whole, and, at last, united with the Kogane-McClain clan.

 

******

 

 

Chapter Text

******

 

Epilogue

 

Fourteen Years Since Adela’s Adoption

 

Adela had one arm through her dad’s old red jacket when she noticed a loose seam.

 

She winced, then sighed, shrugging the cropped coat off. She crawled under her bed, digging out her sewing kit.

 

There were more efficient, high-tech ways of fixing up clothes, but she’d learned how to sew from her bisabuela and abuela; the process was full of soothing nostalgia. Plus, she had a wicked patch to add to the riot of colourful thread and patches already covering the old jacket — this time, it was a jagged, stylized Blade of Marmora symbol in swirling blues and greens. A fabulous combination of both her heritages.

 

“Adi!” called her father, a split second before he was knocking on her door … and then walking in at the same time.

 

“Papá!” Adela barked (not whined, because she did not whine, no matter what her parents said). “C’mon, we’ve talked about this!”

 

“Oh, I’m sorry, I wasn’t aware you started paying rent since the last time.” His deep blue eyes widened in total innocence, causing the scar that bisected his eyebrow straight down to his cheek to expand as well. “Excuse me, reina de la casa, my most humble apologies.”

 

“Just a pause. Like, two seconds for me to say ‘not naked’ is all I ask!” Adela went back to her sewing so he couldn’t see her annoyance and interpret it as insubordination. She didn’t want to fight with him today. “That’s all, papi.”

 

A beat. “That’s fair.” He spoke slowly, regretfully, and she glanced up through her bangs to see him looking a little ashamed. He smiled at her, tilting his head, that old silver feather earring sliding against his skin. “Lo siento, mija. I just … have trouble with the whole teenager thing, still. I’m used to bursting in here at the drop of a hat, and you being excited to see me. I’m getting there. Promise.”

 

Adela’s heart gave a violent twinge — she’d been fighting with her papá so much these last few months, and the blame fell on both their shoulders equally; it was just hard to remember that in the heat of the moment.

 

“Yeah, well, pre-teen me was a total nightmare, and absolutely needed to be checked,” Adela conceded. She hated fighting with her dads, and made a conscious decision (for the hundredth time), to try and think before she spoke. “Lo siento también.”

 

Her father stepped further into her room, leaning against the wall by her door. He nodded towards the fraying seam to which she was affixing her latest patch. “Ah, I see you’re defacing your dad’s favourite biker jacket.” He sounded wistful. “I gotta say, that’s a vast improvement on that cropped disaster, whatever your dad might think. And fourteen-year-old you looks like a bigger badass than he did at sixteen with his mullet and his hoverbike. Way to show him up.”

 

“I think dad looked pretty good with the mullet,” Adela reflexively defended, this argument as old as she was, even older. She snapped the thread with her teeth and shook out the jacket. “And I know you thought he looked good, otherwise why would you have married him?”

 

Blue eyes widened again, this time in mock abhorrence, a hand rising to his chest. “Are you implying I married Keith for his mullet? Holy crap. That is offensive on so many levels, child of mine. You have no idea. If it weren’t for those arms, and dat ass—”

 

“Papi, por favor, do not,” Adela pleaded as she flicked her hair out of the collar. She was grateful to the shaved sides her Tía Lisa had given her; she couldn’t stand having so much hair all over, though, in true contrary fashion, she did like long hair as a rule. Which was why she kept a messy mop of curls on top, and one cascade of waves on her left side, the hair above her right shaved side kept relatively short.

 

Her papá gave her a thumbs up. “Fantastic, as usual, querida. You good to take the Three Caballeros out?”

 

“Yeah,” she said with a deep, put-upon sigh. She adored her younger siblings, but they were forces of nature, they were energy-suckers, they were walking, talking bombs just waiting for the worst possible time to go off. “Did you give them the ‘listen to Adela or she has my permission to kill you dead’ lecture?”

 

“Absolutely, except less death, and more ‘you will never eat your Tío Hunk’s cooking or play any one of your Tía Pidge’s or Tío Matt’s games,’” he recited, an evil grin spawning on his face.

 

Adela gave him an impressed look, feeling distinctly better about this outing. “Wow. That was way more cruel than I expected.”

 

“Princesa, you know I’m the mean one,” he said proudly. “Your dad is just gonna say ‘be good, don’t die,’ and when they inevitably blow something up, he’ll cave at the first lip wobble.”

 

Adela didn’t defend her dad this time — her papá was totally right about him being a pushover. She grabbed her bag, heaving it over her shoulder. “Okay, so, how long is my penance?”

 

“Just two hours,” he said, pulling her in under his arm so they could walk out together.

 

Their house had wide airy hallways, and big windows, though not floor to ceiling, since her parents had a thing about privacy. Which was justified, considering the media attention hadn’t died down much, even if it had been years since they’d settled into this (relatively) quiet family life.

 

Two hours,” Adela repeated sternly, raising a purple eyebrow and flicking her tail rather pointedly. “Two hours, and you’ll be decent when we get back.”

 

Her father held up a hand, once again looking vaguely ashamed. “I know, querida, I know. Trust me, that was a traumatic moment for me, too.”

 

“Somehow I don’t think it was nearly as bad for you as it was for me,” Adela said darkly.

 

“This … is very true.”

 

“Adi, at some point, you’ve got to retire the jacket. It’s going to fall into pieces you can’t patch up,” her other dad said from the kitchen, watching with a fond smile as his husband and eldest daughter entered.

 

Adela grinned at her dad, and as much as she scoffed at his waist-length hair, she loved that thick braid; she’d never stopped playing with it, and even now, her dad let her brush it and style it any which way she wanted.

 

Her papá drifted away from her side to stand next to his husband, brushing a stray lock away from his face and kissing him on the cheek. They were prepping their anniversary dinner, and it was Adela’s job to keep the kiddos away from home for at least two hours so they could enjoy it in peace.

 

It was the one thing they asked from their kids on this day. They used to go away on trips, spend a week or two on a remote planet …

 

But three years ago, while her parents were on one such trip, the last dregs of Galra Freedom and Unification Fighters managed to smuggle themselves down to Earth.

 

Adela only had vague memories of when she’d been four years old, and the GFUF had invaded a diplomatic party on Olkarion. She barely recalled them attacking her, briefly holding her hostage before her Uncle Kolivan and her Grandma Krolia had intervened.

 

But the GFUF’s last attempt on her family’s life, just three years back … Adela could see it all with crystal clear clarity …

 

The way they’d nearly killed her Uncle Matt — he’d managed to hold off seven of them for an impressively long while before he’d been overwhelmed at last. They’d stabbed him several times over right before her, leaving him unconscious; Adela had been convinced that Matt had died as the monsters took her and her siblings hostage.

 

The GFUF had been obsessed with killing her family, specifically her part-Galra dad, herself, and her then-new baby brother, also part Galra. However, they’d taken her human brother and sister as well, for “maximum damage to morale” … Those days with the Galra purists had been the worst of her life. Adela bore a straight lined scar, bisecting her belly perfectly, from the blow she’d taken for her baby brother on that final day, just before they’d been rescued.

 

Her parents had never gone away for more than a day trip since. If they were summoned for a special mission, they brought the entire family, kept them safe on the Castle with her Aunt Allura and Uncle Coran.

 

If Adela could swing it today, she’d keep the kids out three hours. She joked and made faces at her parents’ affections and flirtations, but they deserved to be happy. Maybe one day she could convince them to take real vacations again … She turned away as her dad slipped an arm around her father’s waist.

 

“Adi! Adi!” her youngest sibling cried out from her dad’s side. She hadn’t noticed him — Regris was almost five years old and so tiny. He darted out from behind the kitchen island, and reached her side in less than a second, his tiny clawed hands digging into her ripped jeans. “We’re goin’ to the mu’sem!”

 

“The science centre,” she corrected, smiling down at him, melting at those big, silver eyes.

 

Regris was half-Galra, half-Pikions — a species that had been completely eradicated by the Galra Empire. Grandma Krolia had found him on one of her last missions for the Blades. A miracle baby, being protected by a rebel force who’d been left alone on the ruins of Pikion; they’d learned about the war being over from her, and they’d asked her to take the little, nameless baby to a better home.

 

She remembered fighting her dads over this boy — she already had two other siblings, three would be too much. Never had she been more glad that she’d lost a fight. Regris was the sweetest, and least troublesome kid … Though that wasn’t saying much. Especially when he was paired up with his older siblings.

 

“Man, is that Paladin exhibit still on?” complained Guille as he wandered in from the backyard, wiping at his deep brown skin, which was coated in sweat. His eyes, dark and shrewd, narrowed at Adela. “’Cause that’ll be weird. And people will so know who we are.”

 

“They’ll definitely notice if you head out while stinking this much,” Adela said with an eye roll.

 

Her ten-year-old brother stuck out his tongue at her. Those grass stains on his shorts meant that he’d probably been kicking the futbol around outside, meaning that Soojin had to be still out there, since she was determined to become the lead striker for the Cuban national team. Guillermo liked futbol, but he didn’t live for it like Soojin did. Guille and Soojin were only one year apart, but Guille had the attitude of someone twice his age, and Soojin, despite being nine years old, scurried around the house like she had never stopped being a toddler terror.

 

Guille, Soojin, and Regris had all become a unified destructive force in the last couple of years, and Adela was already considering summoning her Uncle Shiro in as back-up. He was the only one the Triple Terrors obeyed without question (aside from Aunt Allura, who was currently not on the planet).

 

“We’re heading out in twenty minutes. Go shower, get changed, and I’ll pack some of your favourite s'mores Pop-Tarts as a snack.” Adela made a face as she said that last bit, but smiled when Guille took off, shouting, “Be back in ten!”

 

Her papá disengaged from her dad’s neck (Adela had been pointedly looking away, but she, unfortunately, had excellent hearing), to walk over to the backyard’s sliding door and call out, “Soojin! Get your butt in here, chiquilla!”

 

A ball came hurtling at him, and he blocked it with a quick headbutt. Soojin hollered, “Gooooooooool!” Then she came streaking in, even more filthy and sweaty than Guille. Her papá grabbed her up and began walking to the bathroom. Soojin wrestled him half-heartedly. “No, papi, I don’t want to!”

 

“Your sister is taking you to the science centre, and you’re going to have a great time. But cleanliness first.”

 

Adela sat on a kitchen stool, watching her dad parse out ingredients for a salad, chopping with rapid precision. Without looking up, he asked, “Are you sure you’re okay with this?”

 

“Yes, dad,” she said without hesitation. “I like the science centre. It’s cool. And papi threatened them well enough, I think. It’ll be fine.”

 

“Well, you deserve a reward for this — I’ll take the Triple Threats out next Saturday and you can have the swimming pool entirely to yourself, yeah?” Now he did look up, his dark eyes keenly observing her. She stared back, unflinching. After a solid five seconds, he relaxed a bit, and gave her a crooked little grin. “You keep defacing my favourite jacket, kid.”

 

“I keep improving it, you mean,” she said loftily, tugging it high up onto her shoulders. “And I’m not gonna forget that promise for all day, by myself swim times. You better keep your word, or I’ll add a few super offensive patches to my masterpiece.”

 

Her dad laughed at her, tossing a cherry tomato her way, which she caught in her mouth. She got to work making a bunch of snacks for her and her siblings. She was tempted to leave out the disgusting s’mores Pop-Tarts, but they would be a valuable bribery tool for good behaviour.

 

Her father dropped them off at the science centre not half an hour later, abusing his access to Aunt Pidge’s latest hoverspeeder prototype. It helped that the Paladins had entirely separate air traffic lanes they could use at their leisure.

 

Adela pretended not to notice the way he lingered by the front entrance long after she’d entered it with her siblings. Her parents were a work-in-progress, and they’d get back to normal, eventually … maybe.

 

She kept her brothers and sister away from the massive Paladin exposition to start; when they’d thoroughly abused every other interactive exhibit, she stopped by the gift shop first, decking them out in various hats and sunglasses, before they went into The Voltron Paladins, Defenders of the Universe area.

 

Her siblings were smart enough to keep their mouths shut around the crowds — Adela had to keep Regris in her arms, periodically hushing him if he whispered a little too loudly about Tío Hunk! Uncle Shiro! Auntie ‘Lura! They laughed along with everyone else at Uncle Coran’s over-the-top recorded narration in certain parts, and played happily with the other children in the Lion Slides.

 

There were a few other alien kids around; the Voltron Alliance had brought many other species to Earth, so Adela and Regris blended in fairly well.

 

Even so, Adela could feel stares that lingered outside of the usual curiosity — she wouldn’t do or say anything unless those stares turned into action, although her spine tingled and her instincts told her to run and hide.

 

At about the three hour mark, she gathered her younger siblings up and ushered them out to the front again. While it was fairly easy to mix with these masses, Adela’s senses were heightened.

 

Even if she had drastically changed her style (and also grown to be just a head shorter than her dads), she had been the first visible alien to gain Earth citizenship (followed by her Aunt Allura, Uncle Coran, and various Blades). Her dad had been considered a citizen of Earth from the start (though there had been some … protests, surrounding him and his Galra heritage). The entire process, along with all things Voltron, made her family prime fodder for the media.

 

But her dads, and her Earth relatives, had been adamant that Adela and her siblings live as freely as possible. Her extended family insisted that they attend public schools, join clubs or sports’ teams … But her dads …. They had a hard time accepting certain things, particularly after the kidnapping. They’d instilled a paranoia in Adela that she was grateful for on most days … On the bad days, she fought her fathers tooth and nail for breathing space.

 

Today wasn’t a bad day, even if she felt uncomfortable beneath these myriad stares.

 

She waited on her Uncle Shiro and Uncle Matt to come pick them up. That hadn’t been the original plan — Adela was supposed to take public transit, but then her father had texted her, informing her that she’d be given a ride home from her uncles, since they were “in the neighbourhood.” They’re on their way to Tía Pidge’s place nearby, no big deal, just wait five minutes. Adela had rolled her eyes, but she didn’t comment with anything other than Yeah, okay.

 

Barely two minutes after she’d texted her father, Adela caught sight of a flash … just out of the corner of her eye.

 

It most definitely wasn’t the bright white flash of a camera. That lingering silver sparkle of high-definition holo-tech was one she knew well, thanks in part to her genius aunts and uncles, and also due to her life in the spotlight. These cloaking devices were incredibly expensive and rather rare; not many folks would own that kind of camouflage tech. And fewer still would bring it out just for a touristy trip to the local science centre.

 

She made an active effort to track this person. Her eyes could pick up on more than the average human.

 

Second flash. There. One of her hands snuck to her back, holding her dagger by the hilt — a dagger she’d carefully snuck past all the detectors, thanks to tech designed by those aforementioned brilliant aunts and uncles.

 

“Excuse me, I don’t mean to pry, but … aren’t you … The Paladins’ Daughter?” A woman with light brown skin and large dark eyes approached, though she stopped a respectful metre or so away. She had two small children hidden partially behind her long, flowing skirt, their own gazes both shy and awed.

 

Adela could practically hear the capital letters in the woman’s question. She sighed, releasing her hold on the dagger, though she kept part of her attention focused on the area with the tell-tale shimmer.

 

“You know, I’m not the only Paladin kid. Uncle Shiro has twins, and Tío Hunk and Aunt Shay have three …” She trailed off, seeing the mother and her two kids looking awed by all the names Adela was dropping so casually.

 

“Our sister was actually with them on the Castle of Lions during the war!” Guille said proudly, though he made a point to step in closer to Adela; he had one hand deep in his hoodie pocket, no doubt clutching one of Aunt Pidge’s prototypes — she’d devised miniature flash bombs and ball-bearing traps for all the little kids.

 

Regris inched in close as well, as did Soojin. They each took hold of Adela’s belt, gripping tightly onto the empty holsters hanging from it. Adela put a hand on each of their heads, comforting them, she hoped.

 

“I don’t mean to make you uncomfortable! We can leave, if you need us to?” She paused, and when Adela just cocked her head slightly, the woman rushed on to continue. “I just wanted to express, well, my gratitude. It can’t begin to repay what your fathers did for all of us, but if I didn’t say thank you when I had the chance, even if you’re not … Well. I just had to say it.” She stopped herself, looking distinctly flustered.

 

Adela’s annoyance died down enough to loosen her muscles and lower her guard. Guille picked up on that immediately, grinning at the two small girls the woman had with her. Regris stayed close, but Soojin took her cue from Guillermo and waved energetically at the kids.

 

“We’ll be leaving you now,” the lady said, smiling apologetically, her light brown cheeks taking on a distinct flush. She took a step back with her two daughters. “I’m sorry—”

 

“No, no,” Adela called out abruptly. She reached out to grab the woman’s hand in an awkward shake. “I’m sorry, Miss, um …”

 

“Padma,” she supplied. “Just Padma is fine.” She readjusted her grip to be slightly more comfortable, shaking Adela’s hand firmly twice. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Adela.”

 

“Padma,” Adela amended. “I’ll pass on your thanks to my dads. And my aunts. And uncles.”

 

Suddenly, the woman frowned and lunged — it took Adela a second to react, having relaxed in the face of Padma’s sincerity.

 

It took another second for Adela to whip her knife away from the kind mother, and instead brandish it towards the creep with the camera — the man who’d been partially concealed with holo-tech had suddenly appeared far, far too close to Adela and her younger siblings. Judging by the guilty look on his face, he’d been about to do … something not good.

 

Adela swiftly realized that Padma had lunged to yank Guille and Soojin away from this unexpectedly looming stranger; Regris had been cowering behind Adela’s legs, but now his little claws were out and swiping at their would-be attacker.

 

The crowd of visitors entering, leaving, or lingering around the entrance to the science centre had all frozen in place; no longer were people pretending not to know her and her siblings. If people hadn’t noticed Adela before, or were at least politely averting their gazes, they definitely made it clear that they were staring now.

 

She flushed angrily, tugging Regris over to his siblings and the older woman — she trusted Padma, considering how quickly her maternal reflexes had moved her to action. Adela’s Galra ears picked up on a few muttered phrases from the multitude — “Paladins …” “Their kids …” “Galra …” — and there was no mistaking the hints of fear or awe in some of the voices.

 

“I wasn’t going to—” the man started to say, and then he yelped when Regris swiped at him again, just missing his calves. The guy stumbled back. “I … my editor … exclusives on the Paladins or their families … I just wanted a close-up picture …”

 

“Oh, a paparazzi,” Padma said with barely concealed disgust. “Adela, you should call your parents. I’ll stay here until they arrive.”

 

“No, it’s okay, my uncles, they’ll be here any minute.” Adela glared at the man. “You should step off now.”

 

The guy had the nerve to flash his camera in her face. He seemed to be emboldened now that Adela no longer had her knife raised, and now that Regris was being restrained by his older siblings.

 

Padma had her arms in front of Guille and Soojin, who in turn were gripping Regris, but the mother made a motion all the same. “Hey! These are underaged children! Back off!”

 

Her voice carried, and soon the man was levelled with looks from all sides, many of them distinctly unkind. A few jerks were filming this encounter, though, and not everyone viewed Adela as a kid. She joked (and fought) with her parents over that same issue — not wanting to be treated like a child — but right now, with this asshole in front of her, smirking, filming, and other people in the crowd shamelessly doing the same …

 

She felt small and helpless.

 

Adela couldn’t hurt them, that would just prove the worst of the anti-alien pricks right, especially since no one here had attempted to directly harm her … She kept her back straight and did her best to form a wall (with Padma), blocking her siblings from view.

 

“You’re in a public place,” the man defended himself. “It’s no different than the CCTV cameras.”

 

“Except that only officials can access those records,” Padma said angrily. “Stop trying to justify the exploitation of children.

 

“Who even are you?” He glared at her, and then towards Adela, his eyes narrowed in frustration. “What the hell do you care? She and the tiny one aren’t even human.

 

Adela’s heart froze in her chest.

 

The Galra purists hated her for the same reason, although on the flip side. There had been attempts to get her put in labs — her and her dad — and it got worse for a bit, when Regris arrived. Eventually, her parents and the Garrison Altean Alliance had put that threat to rest, but Adela always had those days captive with the GFUF in her head. That near death experience had framed her views on the universe, and maybe this guy wasn’t anywhere near that dangerous, but maybe he was, and she couldn’t do anything unless he attacked first …

 

While she quietly panicked, a few of the aliens in the crowd bristled at the blatant bigotry, and Adela felt a shift in their audience — a few of the humans dropped their phones from filming positions, while others shifted their cameras to the guy alone.

 

Hey asshole, maybe figure out that you’re outnumbered?”

 

“My mom is a Sr’unkair who fought on the front lines, bastard, saving your hide!”

 

“Get the fuck out, dude, no one’s gonna save your bigoted ass!”

 

“Oooh, you’re fucked now!”

 

The last statement was met by cheers and applause as the masses parted — and there, striding forth with purpose and a vague aura of menace, came Takashi Shirogane and Matthew Holt, a Paladin and a Rebel Commander of highest distinction.

 

“Hey there, Bryan Lee of Stamford, Connecticut,” her Uncle Matt said cheerfully, his hands shoved deep into his flight jacket pockets. “You’re live on twenty different streaming sites, dude.”

 

Lee flinched hard, just as her Uncle Shiro moved in front of both her and Padma. His shoulders broad, biceps on clear display due to obvious tension (and controlled fury), and a hand hovering over a concealed weapon — likely his bayard.

 

“I have the authority to arrest you, confiscate any and all technological devices on your person, as well as recommend maximum sentences should you be convicted of invasion of privacy and the violation of the statues that protect minors,” Shiro said in a deceptively mild tone, clearly heard in the sudden silence. “I will forgo the first and the third option if you hand over everything right now and leave.”

 

“As it is, we’re adding your name to a watchlist,” Matt said, his arm around Adela’s shoulders. She sunk into the embrace gratefully, just barely resisting burying her face in his neck. She didn’t want to say she had favourites amongst her uncles and aunts, but her Uncle Matt … he came close to making her feel as safe as her fathers could. “You’re pretty screwed for life now, particularly when my sister gets in on this, if she’s not already.”

 

“You, you can’t just, this isn’t rightLee spluttered.

 

“Well, I’ve never had much luck controlling Pidge,” Shiro said neutrally. “But I might be able to keep my brother and brother-in-law from doing to you what they did to the Galra Freedom and Unification Fighters … Though my ability to restrain them lessens if you resist right now.”

 

A collective wince and a few strained chuckles came from the crowd — Adela’s kidnapping had been well-documented in the aftermath … Her dads hadn’t been quiet or restrained in their retaliation. Adela raised her hands to her mouth, pressing against her lips to hold back a brief bout of nausea.

 

Bryan Lee of Stamford, Connecticut seemed to finally accept defeat; Adela couldn’t quite see what happened, but her Uncle Shiro unleashed his bayard. The gasps and cries had Lee bolting out past the crowd. A smattering of applause and jeering followed his ungainly exit, and Adela breathed out loudly against her hands.

 

“Hey, you good, Adi?” Uncle Matt asked softly, his arm jostling her a little.

 

She looked up at him from beneath her eyelashes. “Now I am. Feel a bit stupid and pathetic, though.”

 

A large, metal hand grasped her wrists, pulling her hands down away from her face gently. She raised her eyes to meet her Uncle Shiro’s gaze; he was everything kind in the universe, but she could still see traces of anger in his frame. He smiled down at her, tugging on her red jacket.

 

“You look good, Adi. You guys had a good time?” He directed this question to her siblings, who found their voices again, chattering about everything they’d seen in the science centre, everything they’d touched or tasted. They shook off the encounter easily, and Adela envied them.

 

Regris darted out to grab at Uncle Shiro’s calves, wordlessly demanding an up, which Shiro granted without hesitation.

 

Her uncles were both patiently ignoring any remaining cameras aimed at them, gathering up Adela and the rest as they ushered them towards their car. Adela lost a bit of time there — they paused once or twice, maybe, on the way to the vehicle, and she dimly recalled her uncles speaking to a couple of bystanders. She came back to herself when the hovercar doors slammed shut.

 

“Where are the twins?” Adela asked once they were strapped in.

 

Her Uncle Matt glanced at her in the rear-view mirror as he pulled out of the parking lot (a few people had followed, taking more footage, but Adela felt immune now, with her uncles there to shield her). “Kira is at my dad’s place, and Ulaz is crashing at his best friend’s house.”

 

Adela nodded, clutching Regris and Soojin’s hands in her own. Guille was in the backseat by himself, suspiciously silent, which had her glancing at him often. He smiled at her, but he was clearly lost in thought. Perhaps this had bothered him more than she initially thought, which had Adela feeling all kinds of guilty yet again.

 

“Are we … Do our dads …” Adela trailed off, annoyed with herself and inexplicably exhausted.

 

“I’ve been sending them messages,” her Uncle Shiro said from the passenger’s seat, turning to half face her. “They know. They knew before we got there.”

 

“And they didn’t show up because—”

 

“I said I would handle it,” Shiro said with a grin. “And that I wouldn’t curb your Aunt Pidge in the slightest.”

 

“Well, okay then.” Adela didn’t know if Bryan Lee deserved the hell Pidge could unleash, but she found herself not caring. “Are you taking us home?”

 

“That was the other part of the deal,” Matt said as he kicked up the acceleration — Guille, Soojin, and Regris all cheered as they were pushed further back into their seats. “We get you home in less than ten minutes, or Keith summons the Lions.”

 

Adela wanted to roll her eyes, but honestly, that would’ve been pretty cool. She so rarely got to see the Lions now that she was older. Voltron was called upon maybe twice a year, at most, and the Lions a touch more frequently, though not all at once. It would’ve been incredibly satisfying to see Bryan Lee of Stamford trying to be intimidating in the face of the Lions who could squash him by accident, let alone what they could do on purpose.

 

“How are they?” Adela asked. “My dads?” She started recognizing the outline of the neighbourhoods below.

 

“They’re … calm,” Shiro said after a moment. He looked back at her, his mouth quirked crookedly. “About as calm as they can be.”

 

“Man, I don’t want to be locked up forever like last time,” Guillermo said from the back seat, his tone sullen, but when Adela glanced over at him, his expression was distinctly worried. “Dad and pa were just … getting back to normal, maybe.”

 

“This wasn’t anything like that,” Matt said firmly. Shiro’s arm had come up to rest on Matt’s neck, a nervous tick Adela recognized from whenever anyone alluded to the encounter with GFUF … After Adela and the kids had been taken, Shiro had been the one to find Matt, soaked in blood and nearly dead. Adela stared at Shiro’s fingers, at Matt, who was alive and well, and reassuring them. “Your dads are fine. They’re pissed off more than anything else. And we’ll be there to talk sense into them, don’t worry.”

 

Adela trusted her family, she did, and so she tried to push away all her doubts and selfish panic over being forced into confinement, and her childish desire to just have her dads happy and perfect and painless.

 

While she’d only spent the first five or so years of her life on the Castle of Lions, she sometimes had vague recollections of the war. Mostly, it manifested in the yearning to just be with her parents; there had been times where she’d desperately wanted them and they’d just been gone. Her Uncle Matt had done so much for her, she knew, and she probably felt most comfortable with him and maybe Uncle Coran out of all her extended family. But nothing replaced the sensation of being cuddled by both of her dads, safe and sound.

 

Despite that instinctual need battering away at her self-control, she let her younger siblings dart out ahead of her when they landed. Her parents had already swung open the front door, bent down to scoop up the kids. Her dad had Guille wrapped up tightly, while her father had snatched up Regris and Soojin. Regris managed grasp onto her dad’s braid, forcing her parents to stay close, not that she thought they would separate at all, not even for a moment.

 

Her Uncle Matt held her hand, and her Uncle Shiro put a supportive hand at her back as they approached. She could hear Regris rattling off his version of what had happened.

 

“—and Adi did this whole cool back off bad guy thing, but he was still being mean, and then, then Uncle Matt and Shiro came and nearly cut his head off.

 

“I mean,” Matt said in a higher pitch, a little panicked as her parents’ eyes narrowed, “that wasn’t exactly the tone we were going for …”

 

“That was a mild implication at best,” Shiro tried to explain, while Adela bit her lip to hide a smile.

 

Her dad watched her with that dark, grey-purple gaze that seemed to know before she ever opened her mouth. “Hey, Adelita, I heard you did a fantastic job protecting the little ones.”

 

“She did!” Guille said immediately. “And that dude wasn’t the only jerk. So many people didn’t do anything, except for that cool lady—”

 

“Padma!” Adela blurted out. “Oh fuck, we just rushed out of there, shit, and we didn’t—”

 

“I took care of it,” said Shiro, at the same time that her papá called out, “Language, princesa!”

 

“We have her contact information,” Matt told her. “You … spaced out a bit, towards the end there, but no worries, that woman was kind enough to understand. We’ll invite her and her kids over for brunch or something.”

 

“Right, everyone, inside,” her father ordered, his blue eyes concentrating on Adela. “We’ve got plenty of leftovers, and there’s dessert on the way. Hunk figured he’d swing by—”

 

The kids cheered and rushed to the dinner table, where said leftovers were piled high on various plates, steaming. Her uncles moved to join the little ones, and that left Adela alone in the living room with her parents, both of whom were looking at her with such love, such worry, that she crumpled.

 

Adela had been holding it together since that Lee jerk had shown up, and so she thought she could keep holding out until she got to her room … Instead, Adela broke down and cried right then and there, like she was five years old again.

 

But her parents had her, her dad clutching her tightly while her father murmured nonsense in Spanish, combing his fingers through her hair, pressed against her side. At some point they ended up on the couch, and she switched over, burying her face in her father’s neck. Their scents combined relaxed the primal fear in her, and all that remained was the shame.

 

“Hey, none of that now, kiddo,” her father’s voice rumbled. “I know you. You’ve got the hero complex in spades. You did good, preciosa. You were amazing. It’s all right to be scared.”

 

“He was just a fucking paparazzi,” she growled through tears. Not a single reprimand followed her swearing. “He shouldn’t have been … He shouldn’t have gotten that close, I should’ve stopped him. And it shouldn’t have been … This is stupid, I shouldn’t …”

 

“There is no such thing as ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ when it comes to this,” her dad murmured, taking a turn running his hands through her hair. “You feel what you feel, Adi. It just is. You’ve got experience with people being more than they seem — you’ve had to deal with threats from all kinds. You weren’t wrong to be scared. And this is a natural reaction to the shock wearing off. It’s fine, you’re fine.”

 

She cried harder into her father’s chest, seeking her dad’s hand without looking and holding it up against her chest. Her parents practically enveloped her on the sofa, and finally, she stopped caring about her appearance, about her supposed independence and power. She needed this right now.

 

“You’re fourteen years old,” her papá said into her ear. “You’re a kid, still. This isn’t the kind of crap any child should be dealing with, and at no point do I want you to feel ashamed of it. When you’ve calmed down some, just remember that it’s all on that asshole, and you did what you could. Which was be amazing. As usual.”

 

“You could’ve ripped his throat out,” her dad said abruptly, and she heard her father groaning a damn it, Keith, seriously, which had her snorting a little. “I know you’ve got the strength and skill. But you didn’t. You realized he wasn’t that kind of a threat. But that meant he had you at a disadvantage because you knew he was weaker. It fucking pisses me off that you were trapped by him and by others who were … But you kept your siblings safe, and yourself safe. That’s all we need.”

 

“Should’ve just left, or yelled, or—”

 

“You’re safe.” Her father’s hold tightened. “Listen to your dad. Except when he’s telling you to rip throats out, freaking hell, Keith.” She could feel her dad shrug, likely totally unrepentant, and she laughed even as her father clucked in disapproval. “Take however long you need to breathe, my girl. We’re here. It’s all good.”

 

They sat in silence for a while, and then Adela asked, “Is Tío Hunk bringing dessert, or is he bringing dessert?”

 

Her father chuckled. “What do you think?”

 

“I think you’re going to have to keep Regris from diving headfirst into it.” Adela untangled herself from her parents, though she didn’t feel like standing just yet.

 

Her dads left her alone, each pressing a kiss to the top of her head as they stood up to join the ruckus in the dining room. Adela wasn’t especially hungry, but even in her darkest moods she couldn’t quite resist the lure of Uncle Hunk’s Quintuple Layer Ice Cream Cake Extravaganza with Volcano Hot Fudge. Also, her Uncle Hunk’s hugs were the best hugs, second only to her dads.

 

She passed the night laughing with her uncles and siblings, cheering when her Aunt Allura and Aunt Pidge video-called to check in, and to instigate a who can eat the leftovers fastest and not throw-up contest (well, Aunt Pidge dared them all, and Aunt Allura decided to be the judge). It was a good time for everyone, and Adela found it easy to distract herself from the events of the day.

 

And then everyone left, her family went to bed …

 

Adela had nothing to fear from the dark.

 

Three years ago, she and her siblings had been snatched in broad daylight. They’d been kept in a painfully bright room, allowing no opportunity for sleeping or sneaking. Her nightmares tended to contain blazing white glows and stark, impossibly well-lit monsters.

 

Yet the shadows taunted her all the same; every nightmare she’d ever had beckoned to her from within those areas that her eyesight couldn’t quite penetrate. Even the stupid, unreal beasts from her childhood had weight and pressure in that moment.

 

Eventually, when her heart seemed about to burst from fear, she flung herself out of bed, forcing her frozen muscles into action against their will. She nearly tore something with how swiftly and viciously she wrenched her bedroom door open.

 

She crept down the dimly lit hallway towards her parents’ room, not intending to disturb them … Just to peek in. Just seeing them would be enough. She could already hear their voices — they weren’t sleeping either, which reassured her a little.

 

As she leaned against the door, she heard her father say, “It’s gonna be another year before I let them go anywhere without us.”

 

“Lance, we can’t do that to them. Especially Adela,” replied her dad, his voice terse. “Do you think it’ll ever stop? The attention? The potential threats?”

 

There was a pause, and then her father sighed at length. “No. Not really. I figured that, one day, it might ease up. But even that was wishful thinking on my part.”

 

“It’s fucking infuriating” — Adela had to stifle a gasp at the rage in her dad’s words — “that we can’t just destroy everyone who dares threaten our kids. Almost wish we were at war again, taking down those fuckers who went after Adela …”

 

“Careful,” her father said, and Adela hadn’t heard that tone since … since the war? Since they’d been kidnapped? “You know my range is still over a kilometre, and I’ve got fewer scruples than you.”

 

Another beat, maybe some rustling blankets, followed by a chuckle and her dad speaking dryly, “That would shock the public, even though I think it’s on public record somewhere that you technically have a higher kill count than I do.”

 

“Not public record, thanks to Allura and Krolia, but definitely on file at the Garrison,” her father countered breezily, while Adela stood outside their room, more shocked than she should be considering that she’d seen, first-hand, how lethal her parents could be, particularly when provoked.

 

“One day …” her father said wistfully. “Fuck, what I wouldn’t give for just one day of no fucking consequences. I would tear Senator Craigson a new asshole. Him and those bastards at Lab Five with their anti-alien bullshit. And I should’ve shot Hiroshi through the eye when I had the chance.”

 

“That’s one name on my list,” her dad agreed with extreme menace. “Next would be Gloria Sandhurst — that monster deserved life for what she did to you.”

 

Adela had never heard that name before. Or “Hiroshi.” It dawned on her that both her fathers were still keeping secrets … But right then, she couldn’t find it in her to bring up that old argument. She’d been driven out of her bed by fear, and she still had a steady thrum of it pounding through her veins.

 

Before they could continue talking about things Adela wasn’t supposed to know (maybe she’d be furious later, and perhaps she’d be interrogating her Uncle Matt and pestering Uncle Hunk until they gave her the full stories behind those names), Adela knocked on the door.

 

A brief silence, then, “All right, which kid is this?” called out her father.

 

“Your favourite,” Adela said with a small smile.

 

“Yeah, that doesn’t narrow it down,” her dad replied, sounding amused.

 

Adela pushed the door open, keeping the knob in hand as she walked in. “You’re such a liar, dad.”

 

They were dressed in ratty sweats and shirts, their favourite comfort wear, not unlike Adela’s own oversized cotton gym shorts and sleeveless shirt that said Mornings Are For Extra Sleep.

 

“I’m a terrible liar, yeah,” her dad said, flicking his long braid over his shoulder with one hand. “Sometimes you guys do manage to eke out ahead of one another. Case in point, the last time you walked in on us, you were definitely not the favourite.”

 

Both Adela and her father groaned loudly, Adela taking it one step further by clapping a hand over her eyes in traumatic recollection of what she’d seen.

 

“Dad, no,” she whined.

 

“We should probably go back to the old warning system,” her papá mused out loud. “If only for the kiddos’ sakes.”

 

“Hey, Lance, warning,” her dad replied, laughter in his voice as he very loudly smacked a kiss onto her father, which had her groaning behind closed and covered eyes. Her dads just laughed.

 

When she dropped her hand, eyelids fluttering open, she saw that her parents had made a significant gap for her between them, which her father was patting obviously.

 

It had been a long, long time since she’d invaded their space like this, and she approached their bed hesitantly. When she got within arm’s reach of her father, he yanked her across the remaining distance. She squeaked and flailed, landing in a haphazard pile of limbs, scowling as her father cackled and her dad let out a few chuckles.

 

“You’re the worst,” Adela grumbled once she’d settled in more comfortably, deliberately resting on top of the blankets. She didn’t need to burrow into the bed like she was four.

 

Her father flashed a thumbs up, his scarred deep blue eye winking at her. “Yep, as parents, our job is to be the worst thing that ever happens to you.” He put his arm around her shoulders as he pressed a loud, smacking kiss to her forehead.

 

“I’m too old for this,” Adela tried, even as she snuggled into her father and grabbed up her dad’s hand to pull over her like a blanket. Her fingers sought the combined two-banded ring, twirling it around his finger like she used to when she was little. It seemed she just couldn’t break these habits, she despaired. Adela muttered, “Way too old.”

 

“Bullshit,” said her dad. “You and your siblings could be forty years old, and if you wanted or needed to be held by your dads, then that’s exactly what we’ll do.”

 

“Así es,” said her father firmly. “Sos mi vida, princesa, siempre. Nunca lo dudes.”

 

“Sí, papá,” she murmured, closing her eyes just for a moment to bask in the secure warmth.

 

She woke up groggy, disoriented, and overheated. Her legs were numb, feeling incredibly heavy … She blinked open her eyes, and in the grey morning, her sight adjusted quickly, allowing her to see Guillermo sprawled out, and Soojin splayed out below him all across the bottom width of the bed. She flicked her gaze over to Regris with his face buried in their father’s neck, her father blissfully snoring away.

 

When she cast her eyes over to her right, she saw her dad already awake, watching her with a tired smile. Dark circles beneath those grey-purple eyes indicated he may not have rested as well as the rest of their family. Adela’s heart hurt to see it, so she gave him the most sincere, affectionate smile she could muster.

 

“Hey kiddo,” he whispered in his hoarse morning voice.

 

“Hey dad.” She turned a little further into him, her nose catching on the sleeve of his T-shirt. “Sorry for invading. And for bringing the hoards with me, I guess.”

 

“Never need to apologize for this.” He lifted an arm, and Adela snuggled in as best she could with her legs pinned. “We’re your parents, this is just … what we do. We love you. It’s not a burden. It’s not a question. It just … is.”

 

“Perfectly said.” Her father cracked open one eye, then the other. He glanced down at Regris. “Keith, your kids have invaded our bed.”

 

My kids are pretty good at the sneaking, aren’t they?” her dad said proudly. “I don’t think I even heard Soojin.”

 

“Aw hell, it’s my turn to cook breakfast.” Her father stared balefully at his children, Adela included. She stuck out her tongue, and she could see her dad mirroring the gesture out of the corner of her eye.

 

“Okay!” shouted her father, causing Adela to reel back with a loud groan; Guille elbowed her in the thigh as he jerked up, and Regris shrieked in shock. Their father grabbed Regris by the waist and threw him over his broad shoulder. “All children report to the kitchen for a semi-nutritional meal.”

 

Adela took it upon herself to snatch up Guillermo, and her dad carried Soojin, who slept through the uproar until she was deposited onto a chair at the kitchen island.

 

Today, Adela wasn’t afraid — today, she was covertly dropping ice down her siblings’ backs, and pushing her father away when he tried to do the same to her. She was ducking a volley of toast, and stealing bacon from any available plate. This morning was all about keeping her family close, and ignoring everything beyond the front door.

 

This, for all its complications, all its past pains, and present heartaches, this was the most important thing in her life. It had been all that mattered since the day a reckless, hot-headed Red Paladin had jumped off a cliff, followed by a caring, freaked-out Blue Paladin.

 

She watched her dad wipe a piece of scrambled egg from the corner of her father’s mouth. Adela made disgusted noises, along with her sister and brothers, as their fathers kissed over their disaster of a breakfast table …

 

And she felt, for this brief moment, amongst all those confusing growing pains and the reminders of childhood wants and fears, a perfectly incandescent peace.

 

“It’s your turn to clean up, Adi,” her dad reminded her, his hand clutching her father’s between their plates.

 

“I’ll help!” Guille volunteered, eying the spray nozzle on the sink with covetous eyes, as he did every weekend morning.

 

“Me too!” called Soojin, already vaulting over her brother.

 

“I don’t wanna get wet!” screeched Regris.

 

Adela laughed as her dad tried to stop Guille and Soojin from spraying down the entire kitchen, as her father heroically cradled Regris close, taking the brunt of the spray to his back. Her dad nearly slipped in a puddle, and Soojin let loose a war cry as she tried to wrestle the spray nozzle away from Guille. The phone rang shrilly, and Adela ducked beneath a random stream of water as she pushed the button for a video call, grinning when she saw her abuelos and her Tía Ronnie pop up on the screen, informing Adela that they were on their way, and for god’s sake, Lance, Keith, how does this happen every damn Saturday?

 

This, loving and living with this family, was just like falling of that cliff, she imagined, except she knew that there would always be someone to catch her. And even better, she had her Holts and Uncle Hunk to build her a jetpack so she, in turn, could catch any one of these people she loved so very much.

 

******

Fin

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