Their hands touched and sparks flew. Fingers twitched, wrapped around fingers, squeezed to reaffirm their presence. Convey the fluttering in their chest and the heat that spread through their bodies.
A hesitant smile met with a questioning look as the Sun set in front of them over their quiet town as they sat in the bed of an old but trustworthy truck. The smile turned mischievous and goofy when the uncertainty melted into an exasperated roll of the eyes. They kissed and they held each other close as if any space between them was criminal. And when they released it was with fond looks and joy permeating their being.
A stolen evening before they shipped out.
A stolen kiss. A stolen touch. A stolen fuck.
As they laid in the back of the truck, a threadbare quilt thrown under them and a blanket meant for shielding furniture from scratches tucked in around them, they tried to ignore the inevitable morning. Tried to soak in as much time as they could.
“It’s not forever, ya know.” Lance was propped up on an elbow, head resting in his hand as the other played with Keith’s long hair. As much as he complained about it, he was sad to see it be shaved down into a proper military cut. It was almost as great a loss as his own hair being cropped even shorter.
Keith looked at him indulging. “It’s for a long enough.” He was the realist of the two. The pragmatic pessimist. “And who knows what we’ll see. What we’ll do.” His fingers trace Lance’s jaw and the boy leans into it. “We’ll change.” For the better or worse was left hanging between them.
Lance sighed and held Keith’s hand to his cheek. “We could go into the same service. We don’t have to split up just because of what ifs.” He pressed a kiss to his palm.
“You want to join NASA, Lance. The air force is perfect for you.” He sighed but didn’t miss the pout on his boyfriend’s lips. “And I’m following Shiro into the Navy. I want to be a SEAL like he was.” Keith pulled Lance down to him again to wipe that dower expression away with a gentle kiss.
“He’s still out there, Keith. I know that’s why you want to join the SEALs.” He wasn’t wrong but Keith didn’t need the reminder. He frowned and Lance pressed their foreheads together. “It’s ok. I just… I don’t understand why I can’t go with you.”
“You know why.”
Lance groaned and hung his head in resignation. “Yeah well… I think it’s stupid.”
Keith nodded. “It is but… I don’t want anything to get in the way of your future and having your boyfriend in the same branch, the same training, hell the same unit, isn’t a good idea. Not right now.” It stung but they had agreed it was best to part ways for a time. Less distractions and less chances for discrimination, especially if they stayed in long enough to see combat which both of them planned on.
So they had the summer. Then the Summer passed and now they just had this last night before reporting for basic training. They were pushing it driving to their favorite overlook but they were determined to grab every bit of time they had left before who knew how long. Maybe once they submitted to officer training. Or when Lance left the service for NASA. He would before long. Stay in the military for college, become a combat pilot, enter officer training, then retire to NASA’s space program. A clear cut path he’d been planning since his family went to watch a shuttle launch in Florida.
Keith’s path wasn’t as ambitious. He didn’t care for officer training but he did have an interest in the SEAL teams. He grew up with Shiro to look up to and his husband Adam. Adam was retired from the SEALs and instead taught at a community college while Shiro fought to keep them safe. Then he disappeared.
And that sealed Keith’s fate.
He’d follow in his footsteps even if it meant giving up the boy he loved. Because Shiro was out there still.
He had to be.
Lance kissed his neck and Keith shuddered a breath. “Stay with me, Kogane.” He smirked. “We only have fourteen hours until we gotta be at the airport and I intend on taking every second worshipping my beautiful boyfriend.”
Keith laughed and grabbed Lance to bring back in. “Get worshipping then, McClain.”
They see each other briefly during college.
Sometimes they even managed a night together.
When Lance ships out to Hawaii for a training exercise, Keith sneaks a two day vacation in the weekend after and they recline in beach chairs far away from the base.
Keith makes the Navy SEALs. Lance applied for officer training.
They’re never in the same city. They hold their breath at news involving the SEALs or Airforce praying it’s not the other’s unit that’s being reported on. Occasionally they call each other but even their phone calls drop off after the fourth voicemail chain. It hurts. Lance feels it like a vice around his heart and Keith has a nervous sort of energy from his disappointment.
It’s not forever. Lance’s words echo years down the line in both of their minds. But if it’s not, then why does it feel so final?
Lance’s heli is hit by hostile fire and it goes down in a mangle of blades and metal. His team drags him out unconscious and bleeding from the wreckage but they’re in enemy territory with no evac. Keith’s team is called in and his heart nearly stops at the familiar mop of slightly curled hair and tanned skin. He’s not their medic though so he slips forward and lays down covering fire as they carry Lance to the new heli. He tries not to look at the blood staining the rock below him. Tries to keep his head straight until he was called in. If he sat close to Lance during the ride, no one mentioned it. If he held his hand after Lance cracked open a glazed eye and saw him, croaking out a quiet Keith as his fingers twitched, he couldn’t be blamed for the tug in his throat or the burn behind his eyes.
Lance was on medical leave. Possibly medically discharged pending investigation. While it meant his combat career was likely over, NASA had an open spot for him.
Keith was back in the field the next day.
As Keith trained for blind drops and infiltration and rescue missions, Lance trained for space. His back was fucked but luckily the damage was mostly superficial. He’s home a lot more now. It’s a lonely home but a buddy from basic, Hunk is stationed nearby and Nyma, his fellow sniper from the Air Force, got into the habit of crashing in on Lance to keep him company. It was a welcome distraction.
He dates Nyma until she… well…
Not everyone makes it back from combat alive and well. She may not be dead but she’s hospital bound from a run in with a mine.
It hits hard.
Fuck it hits hard.
Then Keith goes missing.
The thing Lance misses most about Earth was the ever changing scenery. Things in space were stale. Stagnant. The view was the only thing that varied and as gorgeous as it was, he itched to stretch his legs in a park, smell the fresh air around him. Here it was all recycled air and data sheets. He was his team’s pilot so other than seldom needed repairs and space walks, he was left to his own devices.
Don’t get him wrong, space was fucking incredible. The stars stretched further than one could see and the planets looked awe inspiring from their distance. He got to see both the moon and Sun rise from their station. His camera was filled with pictures of them.
But now that he’d made it, he missed home.
That was until their station drifted off course, smacked by debri falling to the Earth’s gravitational pull. Lance did his best but it all happened so fast and suddenly they were drifting closer to Mars.
It’s here they discovered they weren’t alone.
The aliens acted quickly once the station came into view, quicker than any man-made shuttle. In minutes it went from hiding behind a planet to engulfing the station in some kind of ship bay. The scientists Shook in fear and excitement and Lance kept them behind him as he grabbed a flare gun and knife. It didn’t take the aliens long to pry open one of their hatches. God and they were big.
Purple with blank yellow eyes and permanent scowls etched into the lines on their faces. They wore armor, black and sleek, nothing Lance was familiar with. He kept the flare gun at his side ready to defend his team if it came down to it.
Not that it mattered in the end.
He managed to surprise one of them with a flare to the face but regretted it immediately as he was hit in the back of the neck and slammed to the ground. His team screamed, tried to plead with them. To make peace.
He wasn’t sure what happened after that.
Things got fuzzy.
They’re thrown them in the same cell. It has to be a cell. One door with a small window. Definitely a cell.
It’s a while before anything changes. They huddle together, marveling as scientists do about the discovery but also whispering in fear of what to expect. Lance isn’t the only one with a military background so he and Hunk settle down as protectors of their team. Pidge is terrified but she’s hiding behind a scowling mask. Her brother was on the same mission Shiro had been on when they disappeared. It was something they bonded over on their small station. James kept his chin up. As their de facto leader he had to stay steady for the others. Ryan and Nadia kept their arms around each other for comfort, only moving to welcome the others into their hug. Ina was what kept them grounded, memorizing everything she could and reciting facts and theories of their situation and how long it would take for Earth to catch onto their missing station.
Lance worried about Keith.
He’d lost his brother and now he’d lose Lance.
But Keith was missing as well.
Was this their end? Keith and Lance, forever fighting against their happiness for their careers only to drop off the face of the Earth separate and alone?
If he got back, if Keith was found, Lance would give up everything to be with him.
Without his love to share it with, what was the point of living his dreams?
If he got back.
If he survived.
The aliens come to them before they slept. They won’t answer their questions, instead grabbing Nadia by her hair and dragging her out as she screamed and kicked and cussed up a storm. Lance and Hunk tried to get between her and the guard but they weren’t strong enough. They weren’t fast enough.
Ina cries. It’s the first time she’s shown more than a small hint of emotion. James holds her and Ryan holds him.
Lance is the next one they take. Nadia was returned to them shaking but physically fine. He didn’t get a chance to find out what they did to her before he was taken. He didn’t scream or cry or try to negotiate. His time in the Air Force prepared him for capture. Instead he followed subdued and tracked their movements, memorizing the layout and the way back to the cell.
“Put the male specimen in the pod on the left.” A gutteral female voice had him looking up in surprise to see a woman? Holding a tablet in one hand with her other pointing towards a… cryopod looking set up. He wasn’t expecting to hear English and he can’t deny that it threw him for a loop. They threw him into the pod but it didn’t close like he expected. It stayed open as wires and electrodes were attached to him. A slight tingle went through his body as he waited for the interrogation, followed by a chime to his left as his readings popped up on the display. It’s a few minutes more before he gains the attention of what he can only assume is the ship’s doctor of sorts. Her blank yellow eyes scrutinize him.
“Very good. The last subject was squirmy and loud. I appreciate your quiet.” A cruel grin split her lips as she studied his readouts. “Such a primitive species you are. It’s no wonder we couldn’t find your planet except by chance. Nothing remarkable aside from your endurance. The female lasted much longer than we expected and I’m sure you’ll be the same.”
She messed with some of the wires and an IV looking bag that was dripping into his veins from one of the many tubes surrounding him. “I don’t expect anything important really. It seems your people are made up of multiple governing bodies rather than just one, so the possibility of getting anything useful is low.” She frowned and for a second Lance thought she looked disappointed. “But we can get information on your species at least. One female; one male.”
“Now then. Let’s see how long you last.”
Hunk holds him tight against his chest in the cold cell as shudders wrack Lance’s body, a side effect from the treatment he’d been giving. They’d asked Nadia and him what had happened but he could barely stutter out an answer he was trembling so hard, teeth chattering as if he were cold. Nadia was much the same though her shivering had stopped some hour or two ago. They held hands as they were cradled by their friends.
It was a long time before the team was visited again.
This time the opening of their cell door was preceded by sounds of fighting in the hallway and a splitting alarm tearing through the room. The crew squeezed themselves against the back of the cell, Hunk and Lance once again attempting to form a barrier over their friends, not sure what to expect.
There was a clatter and a scream in the hallway before being viciously cut short. The silence rang tense with anticipation and fear.
The door slid open.
But it wasn’t those large purple aliens that greeted them. No it was a human looking figure in a weirdly futuristic space suit that looked to double as armor. They had a blade in one hand and a sword in the other, head covered in a helmet that obscured their face and their voice. Even through the ringing in his ears, Lance could make out a barked order to follow the space man. James beat him to asking who the fuck the man (woman? Person?) was and why they thought they’d trust them.
The helmet visor studied them for what felt like forever, long enough for Lance to feel his limbs grow heavy and need to lean on Hunk to keep his position. A loud sigh left the figure. A hand raised, a finger tapped the visor, and the visor disintegrated.
Lance’s gasp was audible. It turned into a choked sob as his mask broke and stumbled to his feet only to fling his arms around the man.
Keith caught him easily and held him so tightly it almost hurt. He breathed in the scent of his boyfriend’s sweat soaked hair as they held each other, the whole universe slipping away until it was just the two of them.
A cleared throat broke through to them and Lance remembered their audience. He didn’t even feel ashamed.
Keith handed him off to Hunk as the big guy stood and came forward with a friendly smile. “Not the greatest spot to have a tearful reunion. Maybe after you get us off of this ship?” Lance laughs but accepts Hunk’s help standing. The others were on their feet as well with Nadia between James and Kinkade.
Keith reactivated his visor with a nod. “Right. We’ve got a ship waiting close by. Stay close and don’t wander off.”
The ship turned out to be some weird lion shaped mech with matching colors to Keith’s suit and it wasn’t the only one. Once the crew shoved in and surrounded the cockpit they saw two open communication windows, one bathed in purple with a larger man in the same armor as Keith aside from it being black and white and the other of a large ship’s command deck looking down at a woman and a man both with pointed ears. After everything that had happened in the twenty four hour period, Lance wasn’t about to question.
James however didn’t feel the same way and blurted out asking what the hell.
Keith stifled an aggravated response, instead mumbling that they’d get all their questions answered once they were safe.
If the Galra’s ship was massive and the Lion was shocking, the ship they called The Castle of Lions was awe inspiring. It was all opulent white and glowing blue lights. Accents of silver here and there and an overall atmosphere of importance. Lance felt small walking through the halls behind Keith towards what he called the cryo-room, their version of a medical office. Hunk kept him close but even he was looking around with wide eyes. The only sound other than their echoing footsteps were Nadia’s frequent questions and James’s grunts in response to Keith’s to the matter answers.
Lance’s heart squeezed in his chest. His love was so close he could reach out and touch him. All business but seemingly more relaxed than Lance had ever seen him. He was Right There.
His hand rose.
“Kieth. How’s our guests?”
The question broke the moment and Lance was snapped back to reality, eyes darting from the now stationary Keith (a small smile playing on his lips. How long had it been since Lance had seen that look of adoration from his highschool
Sweetheart?) to the impressive man in black and white standing next to the entrance of the cryo-room. It took another second to place his face.
“Seem to be in good shape. Maybe two in need of a pod for a few hours but no injuries.”
The man nodded. “Coran’s got them ready.” The he looked to their little group and his gaze fixed on Pidge with a soft look. “Hey Katie.”
Pidge’s eyes were wide behind her glasses. She looked pale, like she’d seen a ghost. “Shiro?”
Everything slammed into place as Lance’s head shot towards the man. He was older, scared with a shock of white in his hair, but looking at him now it was unmistakable. Keith’s foster brother stood there in all of his glory looking as if he’d never gone missing, like his presence here had no significance.
Lance merely gaped at his idol as Pidge all but threw herself into his arms. Keith’s smile had grown watching them and even James had shut up for a second at this revelation. Shiro hugged her close as she buried herself in his chest.
“Everyone said you were dead. Everyone! But I knew it wasn’t true. You’re too good for that.” Pidge’s rambling only cut off when realization struck her and she shoved Shiro back determination clear in her eyes. “My brother? Matt? And my father? Where are they? Are they here? With you?” Vulnerability drowned her words and Lance hoped for her as he took looked to Shiro’s kind face.
His smile dimmed but it didn’t drop. “It’s ok, Katie. Matt’s fine. So is Sam.” Pidge visibly deflated. “Matt’s with the rebellion right now, fighting the Galra, the aliens that captured you all. And Sam’s in a pod headed to Earth now that the Galra ship’s been taken care of. They’re both safe.”
Tears fell down her cheeks even as she snorted and rolled her eyes. “Couldn’t even wait to see me off, huh? Of course Matt’s doing something stupid like fighting in an alien war or whatever.”
Lance felt his heart beat whole for the first time in years.
After a stint in the cryopod where Lance and Nadia had to be assured it wouldn’t be like the Galra’s torture pods and the rest of their crew was given quarters and as much information as Shiro and Keith could give, the group met Allura and Coran, the last of their race and the heart of what they called Voltron. Lance earned himself a loud smack and disgruntled huff when he fell out into Allura’s arms and dazedly flirted with her.
Keith had the audacity to laugh.
Of course that didn’t stop Lance from darting to his side and clinging to him as if he’d disappear at any second. Keith hesitated before resting his hands on his back. He whispered an apology so only Lance could hear and Lance held him tighter.
Eventually everyone settled into a circular couch set into the floor of what seemed to be a common room, Lance leaning on Keith’s shoulder with Hunk’s hand in his and Pidge leaning against his legs, James, Ryan, Ina, and Nadia huddled similarly on Hunk’s other side, with Shiro nearby and Allura and Coran standing before the tired group.
They talked about the Galra, the history of the war, their destroyed planet and the quest of Voltron to free the universe from the Empire’s grasp. Shiro talked about his team’s capture during a basic recon mission, the year in captivity and his assisted escape, Keith finding him as the target of his SEAL team’s mission and going against orders to grab him and run. Keith filled in their month in the desert until they found the first Lion and blasted off into space to find the Castle and awaken the Alteans.
They saved Sam. Made contact with Matt once they found out he wasn’t in prison anymore. Found all of the Lions and brought them to the castle one at a time to unlock the Black Lion and worked to find the other paladins.
Which is how they found their little group.
Keith was staring at Lance as he said this, convinced Lance was one of the pilots. Lance was staring right back trying to process what he’d learned. Not even two days ago he’d been unaware of life outside of Earth. Now he found there wasn’t just alien life but multiple different races, an entire Empire ruling over them all with a war being waged for freedom hinged on Robot Lions.
And possibly one of them.
He inhales sharply. “How do you know?”
Keith shrugged. Allura bit her lip. Coran was the one to answer. “That’s the thing, my boy, we don’t! Not for sure at least. We’ll have to present you to each of the lions and see if they’ve chosen you.” He tugged at his impeccable mustache smiling confidently. “But the princess is linked to the Lions in a unique way that guides her to her Paladins. If she says you’re a paladin, then you are. Princess?”
Allura smiled and stepped forward. “The lions we need pilots for are the Green Lion, smart and quick witted, the Yellow Lion, caring but strong, a grounding force for Voltron, and the Blue Lion, loyal and adaptive, the heart of the team.” She studied the group as they held their breath, scrutinizing each of them. “Pidge, Hunk, and Lance are what the Lions are telling me. The others, you’ll be allowed to test for it if you’d like, but they don’t make mistakes. If you’re not chosen, we can return you to Earth or you’re welcome to stay on and help with the Castle’s defenses. There are many positions open than just the Paladins of Voltron.”
Nadia looked ready to take her up right then and there but Ryan put a firm hand on her shoulder and James scooted forward to respond. “We’ll have to discuss our options. I think it’d be best if we went back to Earth, see if we can warn them, get everyone working towards a planetary defense system and assist Sam Holt.” He glanced at Lance and Hunk. “Not all of us are fighters.”
Shiro smiled. “Then let’s go down to the Lions, shall we?”
Lance shifted in the pilot’s chair of the Blue Lion as the cockpit hummed to life. He’d been chosen and was still processing it through adorning the Paladin armor to sitting in this chair as the bay doors opened to the endless expanse of space for a trial run. In the bottom corner he saw readouts for the other Lions, Hunk nervously fiddling with everything bathed in yellow, Pidge settling in with a smug smirk with green lights reflecting off of her glasses, Shiro looking serious but excited for their first run as a unit, and finally Keith. Happy and content with a secret smile on Lance knew.
“You ready, sharpshooter?” Keith’s comms were only tuned into Lance’s and Lance’s were the same.
Lance grinned back, his heart pounding and love soaring at finally getting to fight alongside Keith. Everything they’d been through, all of the missed nights, the periods of solitude, the training and desperate attempt to keep what they had going even as their careers split them in two directions, suddenly felt worth it.
That night in highschool overseeing their small town as they laid side by side and made promises they could never keep shone clear as day in his mind.
It’s not forever…
No, Lance. It wasn’t forever.
“As if I’ve been training for this moment all of my life, mullet.” He winked and Keith laughed.
Then Shiro gave the signal and the group was barreling into space, laughter on all of their lips.