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Rivals-With-Benefits

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“You know what I hate?” Lance says to open conversation at dinner. “Other than Keith, of course.”

Allura looks at Lance over a spoonful of some kind of space pasta Hunk and Coran whipped up for the evening. Pidge groans.

A foot jams into his shin. “Ow--what--did you just kick me? What are you, twelve?”

“You deserved it.” Keith’s glare is full of enough venom to melt the skin off Lance’s face. They sit across the table from one another, which sucks ass because it means Lance has to look across at him all through dinner.

“Cut it out, guys,” Shiro warns. “We can’t be a team with you guys always at each other’s throats like this.”

Lance almost laughs out loud. If only Shiro knew what kind of at-each-other’s-throats he and Keith are without the rest of the team there as spectators. But that’s a little detail that they get to know, and no one else does.

“We still didn’t get to hear what Lance hates,” Hunk points out, and Lance smiles. Hunk always has his back.

“Well,” Lance begins, and feels another tap on his leg. He scowls at Keith and kicks back. “I hate that no planet other than Earth seems to have come up with the idea of carry-out boxes. Like, I had a great plate of--”

An ankle hooks around his own. He fights to free himself without missing a syllable.

“--steak and egg-stuff on that last planet, but I couldn’t eat all of it if I still wanted to save room for dessert.”

He makes eye contact with Keith, a silent knock it off that might also double as keep going. The red paladin raises an eyebrow.

“What is a carry-out box?” Coran asks at the same time as Hunk’s: “So what did you do?”

Lance leans back in his chair, which serves the double purpose of looking cool and giving him better leverage against Keith’s attacks. He swings his leg out and connects with Keith’s knee.

Keith winces, but sets his jaw.

So it’s to be a fight, then.

“A carry-out box allows you to take your food back to your flying space castle if you don’t finish it at the restaurant,” Lance explains. He sits back up and puts both his elbows on the table, separating his legs so that the next time Keith goes for a kick he’ll get nothing more than a chair leg. “And I did what any smart teenager would have done--I ate both anyway.”

Instead of slamming into anything, Keith’s foot swings up and rests lightly on the slice of chair between Lance’s legs. He’s taken his shoe off, Lance notices, as he feels the shape of Keith’s foot through his jeans. A blush rises to his cheeks, which makes two places that his body’s pumping extra blood into. Keith flexes his foot and Lance has to take a deep, steadying breath.

Keith’s lips curl into an evil grin. It’s so much harder to look at him now that he knows what that face looks like from above, hair slicked back with sweat and Lance’s dick in his mouth.

Okay. That’s not the right thing to think about when he’s trying to keep a straight face.

“That is a fascinating concept,” Allura muses. Lance had once expected that a princess would be a dainty eater, but now he knows better. She piles pasta on her spoon and hardly chews between bites. Alteans, Lance thinks, eat a lot. “But can’t your bodies just channel the food into your second stomach for digestion later?”

Keith’s toes curl against the taut fabric of Lance’s jeans. He fights a whimper.

“We only have one stomach, Princess,” Shiro says, and grins at the look of surprise on both of the Altean’s faces.

Pidge chuckles. “Unless you’re Hunk.”

Lance clamps his legs shut, trapping Keith’s foot between them so that maybe he’ll stop doing that.

“Pidge,” Shiro chides, but Hunk’s laughter shows he’s not offended.

It takes only seconds for Lance to realize his mistake. Now Keith wiggles against his inner thighs and his crotch. Lance tries to squirm away, putting a hand underneath the table to try to push off Keith’s foot. Then he has no choice but to scoot closer to the table so that no one can see what’s going on underneath it.

Shiro glances over at him. “You doing okay, Lance?” he asks.

Lance swallows. “What, who--me? I’m better than okay. In fact you could say I’m damn fine.”

He tries to layer his words with his usual silky tone, but at the last moment his voice breaks. His hand grips Keith’s ankle and anchors it to the chair, limiting his range of movement. But he still manages to do enough that Lance wants to reach over the table and rip Keith’s mullet out in more ways than one. There isn’t enough room in his jeans for this.

When he finally looks at Keith again, Lance realizes with contempt that he’s enjoying this. Underneath his usual done-with-this-shit exterior, there is a glimmer in his eyes and just a hint of a smirk. Lance wants nothing more than to bite that grin right off of him.

“You don’t look very fine,” Pidge says. They sound more suspicious than Lance is comfortable with, and he surrenders enough to send Keith a lightning-quick pleading glance.

Keith looks him dead in the eye and slams his foot against Lance’s erection.

Lance doubles forward and almost gets space pasta all over his face. “Fuck,” he moans.

The chair next to him slides back. Hunk puts a hand on his back. “Lance, are you okay?”

“No,” he grunts, and his mind races for an excuse. “I think… I think I’m gonna be sick.”

He pulls the hem of his shirt down and pushes away from the table, standing up and turning toward the door as fast as he can. He lets out a strangled “Don’t follow me!” as he escapes.

It feels like he’s walking through glue. His legs aren’t responding how he wants them to, and it takes all his focus to follow the path to Keith’s room. That way if anyone follows him, there will only be one person that finds him.

See? Lance is kind of a genius after all.

The entry code is familiar under his fingers now, and he slides inside before the door has opened completely. Lance throws off his shoes, sprawls across Keith’s bed, and unzips his pants. His hisses at the sensation of freedom, and reaches a hand into his boxers. Whether that asshole comes and joins him or not, he’s going to make sure that Keith has to clean up the sheets.

Barely a minute passes before Keith enters the room.

Lance’s anger resurfaces, enough so that he lets go of his dick and pushes himself onto his elbows. The tenting on his boxers leaves no question as to what he’s been doing. “You are such an ass,” Lance accuses. He knows what he must look like--hopes vaguely that Keith finds it hot--but he’s not ashamed.

Keith bites his lower lip. “What’s the matter? You still feeling sick? Food poisoning, was it?”

“I hate you.”

“The feeling’s mutual.” Keith hangs his jacket on a hook by the door. “But I’m better at it than you are.” He pulls the t-shirt over his head, exposing pale shoulders that Lance wants to leave all kinds of bruises on.

The throbbing between Lance’s legs redoubles. “You know what--fuck you, Keith.” His face burns and he’s breathing heavily, unable to take his eyes from the curves of Keith’s body.

Keith bends over and takes the hems of Lance’s jeans in his hands, giving them a sharp tug that leaves them around his knees. “You want to what?”

He kicks his pants the rest of the way off, making sure to hit Keith solidly in the chest. The other paladin falls backwards but catches himself on his hands--quiznak, the way the muscles in his arms move does no good for Lance’s mental health--with an oomph.

“Fuck. You.” Lance tears off his shirt and throws it across the room.

Keith clambers to his feet and puts himself right in front of Lance. His face is level with Keith’s belly button, no more than a few inches away. There’s definitely tenting in Keith’s pants.

“Go on, then,” Keith taunts, and thrusts his hips forward. Lance’s nose brushes the hair around Keith’s bellybutton, presses against the muscles of his abdomen. “Fuck me.”

Lance grabs Keith’s ass with both hands and pulls him closer, shoving his face into Keith’s stomach and letting his chin graze Keith’s cock. One hand gropes at his hair and the other slides across his neck and shoulders. Lance works his mouth against Keith’s navel.

“You can… you can do better than that,” says Keith.

Fed up, Lance moves his hands to Keith’s front and pulls apart the button and zipper of his pants. He pulls them down his legs, making as much contact with his skin as possible, and orders: “Take it off. All of it.”

Keith complies, removing his pants one leg at a time and then sliding down his boxers. They make a small pile next to his feet. He stands in front of Lance, naked and hard.

Lance’s breathing shallows, and he leans forward, taking Keith in his mouth. The feeling of a penis between his teeth is not one he thinks he’ll ever quite get used to, but it’s not unpleasant. He works his tongue around, and his lips. He puts his hands on Keith’s waist, thumbs nestled along his pelvis and tracing hurried circular patterns there. “God, you’re such…” Keith begins, pausing long enough to let out the kind of moan that makes Lance wake up sweating some nights. “You’re such an idiot.”

He answers by letting his teeth scrape harshly against Keith’s skin.

Keith gasps, and the movement of his hips changes pace, so Lance knows he’s close. He matches the new speed and keeps going, his saliva making the movement the perfect balance between sliding and friction.

When Keith climaxes, his previously rhythmic thrusts dissolve into something more like a jagged twitching. Lance works through it, swallowing what he has to with only a slight grimace. Keith crumbles as he finishes, first bending over Lance and then rolling off to one side, landing face up on the mattress beside him. A layer of sweat has formed on his skin, and the light shines off it as he pants, mouth open. His eyes droop, reveling in the post-orgasm euphoria.

Lance refuses to let him rest.

He flips over so that he’s on top of Keith, lifting one leg up so that he’s straddling him. He’s still wearing his underwear, but the feel of fabric on his cock as he grinds against Keith sets his head spinning. Keith curls his body up toward Lance--there are those abs again, músculos malditos--and takes his chin in both hands, kissing Lance roughly.

Lance threads his fingers into Keith’s mullet. The hands on his face disappear long enough to find his ass and lift him further onto his partner’s lap. Their dicks brush and Lance bites almost unintentionally on Keith’s lower lip.

“Alright, cadet,” Keith says into his mouth. “I think there might be one place you’re faster than me. I could make you cum without even trying.”

Keith reaches into Lance’s boxers and grabs his erect penis. The callouses on his palm work to Keith’s advantage, and Lance looks up at the ceiling with lips pressed into a hard line. But he can’t let a comment like that go unpunished.

He maneuvers away from Keith and stands, putting his hands on Keith’s shoulders and turning him over. He pushes him against the bed, face down onto the mattress. Shoves his tight boxers into Keith’s ass. Grinds mercilessly.

Keith takes fistfulls of fabric.

“Quite to the contrary,” Lance promises, “I”m going to take my sweet time.”

Keith breathes heavily. “At least use the fucking lube,” he says. Fishes it out from between the mattress and the wall and nearly throws it over his back at Lance. He’d been a bit uncertain about the product at first, considering it came from outer space--that had been an interesting shopping trip, to say the least--but soon came to realize that with all the aliens’ various appendages a good lubricant was essential.

Lance pulls his boxers off--finally--and wads them up in his hands, throwing them onto the bed where Keith can see them and know what’s coming. He applies the slimy substance with careful attention. “Fucking lube, indeed.”

“That stopped being funny after the first seven ti--aagh, dammit Lance.”

Lance teases the muscles around Keith's asshole with two of his fingers, feeling more than seeing them spasm. The other paladin is at his most sensitive now, still coming down from his climax. It didn't take many go-arounds with him for Lance to decide it’s his favorite time to fuck with Keith.

He loosens enough for Lance to get a few fingers inside, and--díos, he wishes Keith would stop making those noises--plays with him until he can’t stand it himself any longer. That will have to do.

The muscles of Keith’s anus are tight around Lance’s cock, and he thrusts in and out sharply. Drowns in the sensation. “Say my name,” he demands. His hands go to Keith’s pelvis for better leverage. “Say it again.”

Keith takes a deep breath. Pushes back against Lance. “What do you want?”

Lance realizes what he’s doing and doesn’t care. “Say my name.”

“Forgot what it was.” Keith makes a tiny noise with each pulse of Lance’s body into his. “Asshole?”

Keith.”

“No, that’s not it.” He licks his lips. “That’s my name.”

Their bodies slam against each other, the only sounds in Keith’s bedroom aside from their breathing. Lance’s vision swims.

“Oh--I remember now.”

Díos,” Lance swears. “Ayúdame.”

Keith’s breath hitches once before he says: “Cargo pilot.”

Lance cums.

Chapter Text

“Have you ever played Bloody Knuckles?” Lance asks one day. The two of them are--quite unusually--alone in the group lounge. Lance is sprawled across the couch, one leg thrown over the top and the other onto the floor, so his crotch is in plain view--not an unintentionally suggestive position. It’s been awhile since he and Keith have had sex, and he’s still not sure how to ask for it because he’s still not exactly sure what they’re doing.

Keith looks over at him. He’s reading something on a tablet. The team has been trying to learn Altean, and they all all seem to be picking up on it better than Lance. The characters hurt his head to look at for too long, so mostly he doesn’t try.

“What is Bloody Knuckles?” Keith doesn’t look amused.

“You make a fist, and then you, like, take turns punching the other person’s fist. Then you keep doing it harder until one person taps out ‘cause it hurts too much. The one who stays in the longest wins.” Lance mimes aggressively fist bumping himself.

Keith’s eyes widen. “Why the hell would I play that?”

“I dunno--it’s a thing that people do.” Lance shrugs. “Wanna play?”

“No!” Keith shrinks away and looks back at his tablet, seemingly finished with this conversation. “I’m not a fucking masochist.”

“I am,” Lance blurts before he can stop himself.

Keith’s head jolts up to look at Lance and the rest of his body stays frozen. “You’re… you’re a…”

“Masochist,” Lance finishes a little sheepishly. He can’t believe he’s having this conversation, but now that the topic has come up and he’s finally admitted it out loud, he finds that he’s half hard already. He wonders if Keith notices, though it would be fairly hard not to, considering Lance’s body arrangement.

“So you like…” Keith chokes a little. Lance takes a deep breath and goes all in.

“Pain. Denial.” He swallows a hard lump in his throat. “Ropes.”

Keith raises one eyebrow slightly. It does unfortunate things to Lance’s ability to breathe properly. “Do you have any ropes?”

Lance bites the corner of his lower lip as the heat between his legs intensifies. “I’m sure there’s some around.”

Suddenly, Keith is standing. “Be in my room in twenty minutes. And bring your lube because mine’s almost out.”

He walks away, leaving Lance nodding weakly behind him.

***

When the door to Keith’s room slides open, Lance sees a pile of ropes on his bed. There are at least four different kinds, and Lance wonders where in the castle he had to go to get them. One strand is in Keith’s hands as he practices a knot.

Lance has to swallow before he speaks. “Hey there.”

“Pick a rope,” Keith says flatly. “I didn’t know which kind you liked and I know at least some of them aren’t good for skin. So I brought a couple.”

“Uh…” Lance drops the bottle of lube on the bed and inspects the ropes. He rubs each of the cords through his fingers, finding one that’s suitably soft but not slippery enough that any knots will just fall apart. He tries to regulate his breathing. “This one.”

“We need a safeword, right?”

“Zarkon,” Lance says automatically, and Keith’s hands fall still.

“You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“There’s no other reason I’d shout his name during sex, so it’s a perfect safeword.”

Keith rolls his eyes. “I hate you so much right now.”

“Good.” He hands the rope over to Keith, who looks between it and Lance.

“Take off your shirt,” Keith commands. Lance does. Then he gestures for Lance to hold out his arms. Lance does.

Keith grabs one of his wrists and twists it hard enough to make Lance turn around. He grabs hold of his other hand from behind and forces his arms together. Lance lets out a helpless whimper. God, he never thought he’d be able to get into this headspace so quickly, but right now all he wants to do is exactly what Keith tells him to.

“Tell me if you’re losing any sensation in your limbs,” he says, already twisting the cord around Lance’s wrists. He suppresses a gasp at the sensation of its fibers over his skin. “Even a little. And we can play this one of two ways--either I ask you before I do anything, or I just do it and trust that if you’re not comfortable with something you’ll tell me. I need your consent if either of us are going to enjoy this.”

“Consent given,” Lance whines. His legs feel like jelly. “You don’t--you don’t need to ask me. I’ll use the safe word if I don’t like something.”

“That’s not too tight?” Keith asks as he finishes the wrist bindings. Lance wriggles his arms experimentally and finds the rope at the crossroads between comfort and restraint, exactly where pleasure lies.

“No, this is fine. Have you done this before?”

“Not in real life,” Keith admits. Lance attempts to turn around and face him, but Keith’s hands on his bindings keep him from moving. “But I know enough to get how it works. Now stop talking before I make you.”

“Dirty talk. I like it--”

Keith shoves him lightly toward the bed. Lance stumbles, and then laughs a little. But it catches in his throat when Keith’s hands push him forward onto the mattress. “No talking,” he hisses into Lance’s ear.

Lance nods.

When Lance has found his seat on the bed and turned back to face Keith, Keith shakes his head. “No, I don’t like that.” He pulls out Lance’s desk chair and gestures toward it. “Sit,” he orders. There’s another length of rope in his hands.

Lance is all too happy to comply.

Keith guides him roughly to his desk chair and pushes him down onto it so his arms are hung over the back. He disappears from Lance’s line of vision, so instead he looks at the closed door and lets sensation wash over him.

Rope. Wrapped around his wrists and--now, as Keith finishes another knot--upper arms. The ultra-sensitivity of his body wherever Keith’s hands have been on him. The heat in his face and his crotch, and how it collides with the goosebumps across his bare chest. His nipples are peaked and hard.

“You know your way around knots,” Lance muses. He might lose his coherence during sex sometimes, but he tries to keep suave while he can still form a full thought.

His head snaps up when there’s a harsh tug on his hair. Lance sees stars.

“What did I say about talking?” growls Keith. His chin is in Lance’s neck and he can feel his hot breath on his skin. Lance’s cock throbs painfully.

Lance tests his bindings. “Uh--don’t?”

Keith twists his fingers in Lance’s hair, making him cry out. “Don’t get smart with me.” He comes around the front of the chair, taking a moment to consider the sight of Lance with his arms crossed. Lance considers him right back.

Keith tilts his head to one side. There’s a flush in his cheeks, and somewhere between tying Lance’s wrists and his arms Keith has taken off his jacket. The muscle definition on his arms has become more pronounced since he and Lance started doing this, he notices with more than a little delight. Lance has mostly gotten skinnier, but that’s because he isn’t a fan of food goo. Keith doesn’t seem to mind, at least when they’re fucking.

“What, nothing to say this time?”

Lance bites his lip--seductively, he hopes--and shakes his head.

“Good.” Keith steps forward and lifts one leg over Lance, then the other so he’s straddling him, but doesn’t let his weight rest fully in Lance’s lap. Lance tries to grind up against him, digging his heels into the floor. Keith puts a hand on each of his thighs and pushes him back down onto the chair.

“Please,” Lance begs, head thrown back and struggling against Keith’s hold on him.

This time, Keith shuts him up with a kiss. It’s rough, open mouthed, and full of teeth. Clacking against his, probably not on purpose, and then biting on his lip. Tugging.

Lance surrenders an undignified moan and bucks under Keith’s iron tight grip on his thighs. Just when he thinks he’s about to draw blood on his lip, Keith pulls away. A string of saliva stretches and snaps between them. He makes the briefest eye contact--still checking for consent, so Lance nods breathlessly--and starts in on his neck.

Díos, Lance thinks because he knows Keith won’t let him say it out loud. No te merezco.

His world telescopes down to the sucking on his neck and the pressure on his thighs. Keith’s thumbs rest in the crease between his legs and pelvis, and he starts kneading them against his jeans. The fire that engulfs his entire body blazes hotter.

Just when he’s sure the sensation can’t overwhelm him any more than it already is, Keith grinds down directly onto his erection.

“Aaaugh!” Lance cries, back arching and arms straining against their ties. Keith doesn’t relent, letting more and more of his weight settle over Lance. His mouth continues on without a moment’s pause, so intense that Lance knows he’s going to have marks that his collar won’t hide but not caring because it feels so damn good.

Lance’s vision fades out, and he has to fight to stay sane. He can’t let Keith finish him with his pants still on, because it’s happened before and it’s embarrassing as hell. But he’s already so close--

Keith disappears so suddenly it’s like Lance has lost part of himself. “N-no…” he pleads. “Come back.”

His head is heavy but he pulls it up to see where Keith has gone. There isn’t time for his vision to clear before Keith pinches one of his nipples and twists. Lance yelps.

“You’re really bad at not talking,” Keith chides. “Which is a pity, because if you’re good for me, I’ll reward you.”

Lance swallows and says nothing. He watches Keith with eyes wide, unblinking.

Keith smiles. Winks at him. “Good boy,” he says.

He bites his lip and tries to regulate his breathing. Keith’s smirk is so goddamn hot, he thinks he might die. He sits back down on Lance’s lap. His fingers trace Lance’s jawline almost tenderly, and he leans in and presses his lips to the skin right next to where his thumb rests. Lance whimpers.

“You want to touch me, don’t you?” Keith teases. He starts a line of kisses along Lance’s neck, his collarbone. “You just can’t stand that I can do whatever I want to you, isn’t that right? That I can I can do something like—this?”

He drags his tongue across Lance’s nipple. Bites it. Lance gasps. Whines.

“And you can’t do anything about it?”

Lance grits his teeth and stares Keith down.

“Hmmm, I like this,” Keith says. Lance is tempted to say he agrees. “You’re all mine.”

His hands find the button to Lance’s jeans and undo it, still kissing Lance’s skin. He runs his tongue over the thin trail of hair at his waist, and as he pulls the zipper apart he dips lower. His chin brushes Lance’s dick through his boxers.

Lance’s foot kicks out reflexively at the touch, narrowly missing Keith. He pauses and scowls up at Lance, reaching for his knife and more rope. He cuts off two pieces and is about to tie Lance’s ankles to the chair when he thinks better of it and tugs Lance’s shoes off and pulls his jeans down his legs instead. Then his boxers, and suddenly Lance is completely naked, tied to a chair, and enjoying every moment of it so. Damn. Much.

His legs are forced apart so that his knees hook around the sides of the chair and sets to tying his ankles in place. Lance looks down at himself, pelvis turned upwards to accommodate for the positioning of his legs and dick so hard it presses against his abdomen, the tip leaking onto his skin.

Keith finishes his last knot and stands. He walks around the chair, squeezing Lance’s fingers to make sure they’re not cold from lack of circulation. Once he’s made the full circle, he pauses with eyes lidded and the faintest trace of a smile on his lips. “God, you’re even sexier tied up.”

Lance’s cock twitches in response, which Keith inevitably sees. His smile widens.

Keith leans his head side to side to crack his neck, and then grasps the hem of his shirt and pulls it over his head. He wads it up and tosses it onto the bed, then stretches his arms out in a way that Lance assumes is entirely for his benefit. It serves the dual purpose of accentuating the toned muscles in Keith’s arms and chest and reminding Lance of his own immobility. He can feel soreness creeping across his shoulders from being stretched behind him, but it’s still far from uncomfortable enough for him to stop enjoying it.

He watches, mouth dry, as Keith takes his time unbuttoning his pants and pushing them down to the ground. He has to shimmy a little to get out of them--a side effect of wearing skinny jeans that Lance takes a moment to thank God for--and when he extracts his feet from the holes he kicks them away to where Lance’s jeans are. He turns away from Lance to remove his briefs, bending over so that Lance gets full view of his ass. Then he straightens and walks over to his closet, retrieving a condom from a drawer inside. When he faces Lance again, he sees that Keith is just as hard as he is.

Keith peels open the foil packet and pulls out the condom, tossing the packaging away and reaching for the bottle of lube. He makes eye contact with Lance as he squeezes a drop into the tip and pinches it closed. Then he steps over to Lance and sits in his lap again, palming Lance’s erection with his free hand.

“Is this what you want?” he asks, voice low.

Lance whimpers as Keith rolls the condom onto Lance, stroking the air out of it so it fits snugly around him. Keith adds a little extra lube to it and rubs it around just long enough to make Lance shiver and his head drop forward. “Yes,” he breathes. “Keith, please--yes.”

A hand clamps on his chin and pulls his face back up. Keith’s eyes are bright and dark at the same time, black hair draped haphazardly across his forehead. He tsks like one of Lance’s teachers in middle school and leans in so his breath blows across Lance’s face. “That was a rhetorical question. For that, I’m going to make you watch.”

He almost asks watch what? before he catches himself.

Keith holds the lube between them and squirts some onto his fingers, rubbing it around until his skin is slick. Then his hand disappears behind him, his eyes close, and his breathing hitches.

Lance realizes what he’s doing.

Oh.

Watching Keith finger himself is the most exquisite form of torture. He can only see Keith’s face and the small motions of his arm, but he can tell by his expressions exactly what is happening. Part of him thinks this must be weird, and Keith must think it’s weird too because he’s literally watching Keith’s face as he puts his own fingers in his ass, but he’s so turned on by everything that’s happening to his body right now that all he can do is drown in his own desire.

He wants to be the one touching Keith. He wants to be the one to make his face twist like that, make his eyes close halfway and roll back into his head. Lance fights his bonds, tries to lean forward and kiss Keith’s parted lips and bite the soft skin of his collarbone but he can’t do anything more than watch. And Keith’s right. He hates it. But hell if it isn’t hot as fuck.

Keith puts his unoccupied hand on Lance’s shoulder and squeezes, fingernails digging into Lance’s flesh. He whines quietly and pushes to his feet, taking a step forward so Lance’s face almost touches him and he feels Keith’s cock on his chest. Lance dips his head forward to kiss the lines of Keith’s abdomen and just as his lips make contact he feels a hand wrap around his dick.

Lance moans into Keith’s skin.

Keith guides Lance inside him slowly. It’s agony to be unable to move on his own when all he wants to do is thrust up into Keith’s heat. Lance writhes and fights to no avail as Keith rides him.

Both of his hands are on Lance’s shoulders now, thumbs working into his collar bones while his lifts himself up and down, never allowing Lance fully inside him. It must be hard to hold himself up for so long, but Keith betrays none of it on his face. Instead, he bites his lip and grunts softly with every pulse of his hips.

When he finally puts himself entirely on Lance’s lap, they moan in unison. Keith doesn’t move, getting used to the sensation of Lance balls-deep inside him and Lance getting used to the sensation of how hot and slick and tight Keith is around his cock. Keith starts moving again ever so slightly and Lance is so close he feels like he’s going to burst.

Then Keith shoves two fingers in Lance’s mouth. He tastes like soap--not lube, though he would suck the fingers that had been in Keith’s ass if he were told to--and the edges of his fingernails scrape against Lance’s tongue as he sucks on them helplessly. He loves being touched so much, and it’s agony not to be able to touch back, so this little taste of control feels like bliss.

Keith’s other hand disappears from his shoulder and Lance opens his eyes long enough to see him working on his own erection. His knuckles rub against Lance’s stomach, and he moves both his hands in time with his hips.

Lance invites Keith’s fingers further into his mouth, so far he gags on them but doesn’t stop sucking. His feet curl against the chair legs and the ropes around his arms dig into his skin from being struggled against so much. Keith continues to ride him like he’s one of those bull-riding simulators, and he’s such a fucking expert that he might as well be wearing a cowboy hat and assless chaps.

The heat in his gut crests and spills out over the rest of his body, clenching his muscles and drawing an inhuman sound out of him that still somehow sounds like: “Keith!”

His partner finds his climax only moments later, and Lance feels instead of sees the short, hot bursts of cum on his stomach because Keith’s head has fallen onto his shoulder. His teeth dig into his skin to keep from crying out, and Lance wonders, not for the first time, why Keith tries so hard to keep himself quiet when he cums, because yelling feels so damn good.

Keith’s also always the one to recover first. He pulls himself carefully off of Lance, wincing a little as he does so. Lance whimpers as Keith removes his condom, ties it off, and throws it away. He unties the bonds on his wrists and arms first, and Lance stretches gratefully. He unknots one of his ankles while Keith does the other, and then stands when he does and pulls him into a tender kiss.

“That was amazing,” he whispers against Keith’s mouth. Keith nods, looking equally tired and blissful.

“Yeah,” Keith replies, looking a little paler than usual. “Yeah. Do you need anything? Are you feeling okay?”

“I should be asking you that,” Lance says. “You’re the one that just had a dick up your ass.”

Keith chuckles and brushes hair away from his face. He’s cute when he’s embarrassed, though Lance would walk over hot coals before he ever told him as much. “Well.”

He pretends to think for a moment. “How about we cuddle for a while, and then we can both take a hot shower?”

Keith looks at him, trying to find mocking in his tone, but then nods.

He leads Keith to the bed and pulls back the covers, climbing in and waiting for Keith to settle in beside him. He wraps his arms around Keith and breathes in the sweat on his neck, thinking that, yeah, he could get used to this.

And if he’s being honest, that thought scares him.

But Lance isn’t very good at being honest with himself.

***
"Outtakes and Aftercare"

I think I might make it habit of adding a little section of these to all of my chapters for a little post-smut entertainment. They'll rarely have much to do with the chapter itself, so if you're not in the mood you don't have to read it. I recommend you do, though.

___
Keith's actual thought process through this whole fic: "shit shit shit shit I hope I'm doing this right shit wow Lance is hot wow I'm really into this but also shit what if I mess up this is weird right shit shit shit"

___
They literally cannot take Zarkon seriously anymore. Like, hearing the name makes both of them giggle and when Shiro gives them The Look™ and asks what's so funny they get so quiet so fast that Coran thinks Lance is broken. Pidge just groans because somehow they've guessed already and are utterly disgusted. They all agree to never tell Shiro in order to protect Space Dad™'s innocence.

___
On the use of safewords:

They try the usual “green” means keep going, “yellow” means slow down, and “red” means stop. Unfortunately, those also happen to be the names of three of their lions and by this time their mind links are strong enough that they respond to any of the paladins’ calls.

Keith: *finishing off his first attempt at a body harness on Lance, looks askance at his partner before tying him to a post*

Lance: *already super turned on* Yes, yes. Green.

Green: *pops up in both their heads* You rang?

Pidge: *from down the hallway, screaming*

Lance: *screaming*

Keith: Oh no.
Pidge: you usED MY LION AS A SAFEWORD?

Lance: IT’S NOT OUR FAULT YOUR LION IS NAMED AFTER A TRAFFIC LIGHT!
___
You think they’d learn, but no.

Lance: *getting rough, accidentally elbows Keith where he’s injured from the last battle*

Keith: Aaugh, yellow!

Lance: Sorry, bro.

(Yellow: These two seem to be in distress. I will inform my paladin.)

Keith: Please never call me bro during sex again.

Lance: Right.

Hunk: *barrels through the door* DON’T WORRY BUDDY I’M HERE TO--*sees Keith face down, ass up, and Lance rearranging him so they can continue* I’m--uh--I’ve made a grave mistake.

Lance: *one hand covering his junk* I’m sorry you had to see this.

Keith: Think of how I feel.

Lance: *pats his butt gently*

Hunk: I need to find some bleach for my eyes.
___
They think it will be fine with Red, because that’s Keith’s lion. They’re very wrong.

Lance: *gagged and blindfolded because he thought he’d be into that* *kind of is but a new position makes it all go downhill* Red. Red!

Keith: *gets them off of his partner as fast as possible* Is that better?

Lance: Yeah. *an actual tear in his eye because he’s freaked out*

Keith: It’ll be okay. *arranging pillows so Lance is more comfortable*

Red: Hmm. This is weird.

Keith: Get out of my head!

Red: Why is he so squishy?

Lance: That’s rude.

Red: He said my name. Is that normal? He doesn’t look very happy. Maybe you should try it from behind.

Keith: I AM TRYING TO COMFORT MY BOYFRIEND STOP TELLING ME I’M DOING IT WRONG.

Red: That pillow should be a little to the left.

Keith: *aggravated moan* *moves pillow*

Lance: Aww, we’re boyfriends? *blushes*

Keith: Dude, my dick was just in your ass for two hours.

Lance: But we’re official now. That’s so cute.

Keith: *deadpan* You can’t walk, can you.

Lance: No. Carry me?

Keith: *heavy sigh* Always.

Lance: I love it when you cradle me in your arms.

Red: Humans are weird.

Keith: *to both of them* Why are you like this?

Chapter Text

The small group of paladins slumps on the couch, thoroughly exhausted and--if Lance is being honest--defeated.

Maybe they won this particular battle, but it’s all becoming too much. Day after day, week after week, they never get a break, not really. Sure, they’re not always out fighting, but it’s often enough that they haven’t had time to fully recover from the last before the next hits them. And that’s not to mention the diplomacy and other non-fighting obligations that fill up their time.

If only defending the universe left time for some good old R&R.

“Good work out there today,” Shiro tries, rubbing his hands together. He’s standing in front of them, doing his best camp counselor imitation. No one looks at him but Hunk, who can only offer a weary smile in return.

Lance zips a small section of his jacket up and down. The quiet sliding is the only sound for a few moments.

Shiro clears his throat. “Alright, guys. I know you’re tired. We all are. And it feels like no matter what good we do, Zarkon goes through and undoes it.”

Pidge hmmphs an agreement.

“But that’s not the case, you guys. We’re really making a difference out there.”

Lance drops his zipper and looks up at Shiro in exasperation. “Really? Because last time I checked, the universe isn’t much closer to being saved since we started doing this. It’s like we can’t do anything that matters.”

Shiro crosses the room to where Lance rests, bent forward and elbows on his knees. He puts a hand on Lance’s shoulder and leans down toward him. This close, Lance can see the gnarled scar tissue across his nose and cheeks with perfect clarity. He looks Lance in the eyes and says: “Lance. You matter.

Lance stiffens. He’s so shocked by the words, he doesn’t even make the joke about ‘doing things that matter’ and those things being him, and it’s right there. Really, he’s disappointed in himself.

But all he can stutter out is: “That’s really nice of you to say, Shiro, but…”

“No, no. Let me finish. You guys don’t get enough recognition, any of you.” Shiro stands to his full height and looks each of them in the eye. The determined set of his jaw worries Lance. “So I’m going to fix that. Right now.”

Shiro focuses in on Lance again. Really, he’s got to give the guy credit for trying, but getting such direct words of praise is awkward, especially with the other three paladins right there to smirk at him. Lance shifts uncomfortably and tries not to pay attention to Shiro right in front of his face.

His gaze meets Keith’s, and he sees the smallest hint of a grin there. Because Keith enjoys watching Lance suffer, apparently. But Lance refuses to give him that satisfaction, and looks stone-faced back at Shiro.

 “... and I am so proud of the work you’ve done, Lance. The improvements in your piloting and fighting skills continue to astound me. You are such a valuable member of team Voltron.”

Lance swallows.

“Are you done now?” he asks, his tone joking. “This is embarrassing as hell.”

Hunk punches his shoulder. “Just let it happen, man.”

They exchange a nod, and Shiro moves onto Hunk on Lance’s right. Lance sighs quietly with relief at being done with that. Shiro puts his arm on Hunk’s shoulder like he did with Lance, and doles out a string of heartfelt compliments. Hunk beams under the praise, and Pidge just shrugs it off, but looks lighter after Shiro finishes.

As much as Lance hates to admit it, Shiro is damn good at giving praise. Maybe he really was a camp counselor back in his early days.

And now the tables have turned, because Keith is last.

Until now, the two of them have been exchanging looks. After Lance silently told him to go to hell, they’d resumed their usual silent foreplay. Lance mostly wants to blow off steam from their battle today with Keith in one of their bedrooms, but the fact that Shiro’s holding them captive makes that hard.

The moment Keith realizes that Shiro is coming for him, it’s like someone’s pressed his pause button. He stops looking at Lance and stares straight ahead, his arms crossed and his lips pressed into a hard line.

“Keith,” Shiro says. “I’ve known you for so long. Since you were a boy, and--you’ve grown so much since then. You’re a man now, Keith.”

Lance watches Keith with interest. Color is creeping into his cheeks, the kind of red that Lance has become very familiar with. His breathing alternates between deep and shallow, and he fidgets exactly twice. Lance narrows his eyes.

“I am so glad you are part of team Voltron. I know it’s taken awhile for you to warm up to most of us, but now we can call each other family. And you are the best kind of family I could ask for. You are so, so important to me.”

The moment Shiro removes his arm from Keith’s shoulder, Keith stands bolt upright. “Great talk, Shiro. But I have things to do,” he says, already headed for the door. “So. Bye.”

No one says anything until the door is shut behind him.

“What’s his problem?” Pidge asks, twisting a section of their hair into a poor approximation of a braid.

Hunk shrugs and stands. “Some people don’t like compliments. I’d imagine that Keith feels pretty weird about them because he grew up mostly on his own.”

“Maybe I should go check on him.” Shiro looks at the door. “I didn’t mean to make anyone uncomfortable.”

Lance waves a lazy arm. “That ship sailed looong ago. But I’m sure it’s fine. He just likes having time to himself.”

Shiro chews on his lip, still unsure. “Okay.” He goes to a cabinet, pulls out a rag, and sits down at the table, polishing dirt out of his metal arm.

Satisfied that Shiro is thrown well enough off the trail, Lance sets his mind on this new and potentially useful piece of information about Keith. He’s sad that Keith probably won’t be up for any shenanigans tonight, but he can make himself be okay with that.

Besides. He has some investigating to do.

***

Lance starts it out simple.

A compliment here and there, to gauge how sensitive Keith is to these things. Even the slightest praise ends with a heavy blush on Keith’s cheeks, and suddenly Lance knows he has a weapon to use against him.

He takes every chance he can--outside of battles, of course, because the fate of the universe ranks ahead of Lance’s entertainment in terms of importance--to use his new power. As it turns out, Lance has just as much fun watching Keith suffer as he does Lance.

But eventually, Keith has had enough.

They’re sparring--Lance’s favorite kind of training because it’s close and sweaty and it hurts in all the right ways--and Lance is slinging compliments left and right. Keith is red in the face from exertion as much as anything else, but he’s better at fighting hand to hand than Lance is, so he’s still managing to keep the upper hand.

Shiro, Pidge, and Hunk are all teamed up against Allura--who, for the record, is creaming them--and Lance and Keith fight each other. They have, as Shiro put it, some unresolved tension between each other to relieve. And it’s true--Keith has been at Lance’s neck since the day Shiro praised the team members individually. And what can Lance say? He loves to get Keith all riled up.

A right hook clips Lance’s jaw.

“Nice one,” he says, dancing backwards. “You’re just so good at this.”

Keith yells. Not the fighting kind of yell--the angry, violent kind of yell.

The other group halts their sparring. “Is everything alright?” Shiro asks.

“I’m warning you, Lance,” Keith growls, his voice hard and commanding. “Cut. It. Out.”

Lance bites back a squeak. His arms stop working properly and all he can do is stare dumbly at his sparring partner. No, no. This is bad.

Keith is smiling.

“No, Shiro. Everything is just fine.”

They resume fighting.

Lance tries to pretend that nothing has happened. He probably deserves this, like some sort of Karma for fucking with Keith like this for nearly two weeks now. Still, he hasn’t had a chance to fuck Keith in any other way in the meantime, which has felt like torture enough.

But Lance happens to like pain.

His arms lift to guard his face, and he bounces lightly between his feet. He’s never sure why they focus so much on things like boxing and martial arts, because it’s unlikely that Zarkon is going to challenge them to any sort of clean, weaponless duel, but they practice anyway.

Keith lunges forward, leading with a jab that Lance can barely pat away and following with a cross, hook, and rear kick in rapid succession. His shin slams against Lance’s thigh hard enough that he’s going to have a bruise. He stumbles backward to regain his footing.

“You’re too slow,” Keith barks. “Paying too much attention to the wrong things.”

Lance can’t help himself. “I happen to think I’m paying just enough attention to the right things,” he teases, but his voice is quiet enough that no one else will hear. “For instance--that ponytail? Keith, you’ve outdone yourself today. I just want to yank it right out of your head--”

A leg sweep leaves Lance sprawling on the ground and Keith on top of him in an impressive tackle as they both go down. He holds himself above Lance like he’d doing a push-up. His hands are on Lance’s wrists, holding them above his head at an awkward angle that Lance likes more than he cares to admit.

As soon as he can catch a deep enough breath to speak, Lance does. “You’re really strong,” he says. “And that was a killer leg sweep. I didn’t see it coming at all.” He lowers his voice, makes it intimate. “You did so good just now.”

The space between their bodies is unbearable. Lance wants nothing more than to lift his hips off the ground and feel that delicious friction. His face must be as red as Keith’s by now, and the lights on the ceiling above him are too bright to be comfortable.

Keith’s grip on his wrists shifts, tightens. He presses Lance harder into the mat, just hard enough to hurt, and looks him right in the eyes. And then, ever so slightly, he dips his body lower to grind against Lance. “We have an audience,” he whispers. “Don’t be bad, or you’ll be punished.”

He pushes lightly to his feet and walks away, leaving Lance in a stunned stupor on the ground. He’s glad for his training shorts, because otherwise the full extent of his arousal would be blatantly obvious. At the moment, he can’t even think about standing up.

Coran kneels beside him, ready with water and a towel as always. “Here you go,” he chirps, pulling Lance into a sitting position. “That was an impressive takedown, Keith. Lance, you’ve got to be quicker than your opponent. Everyone has a weakness, and if you learn to exploit it, you can gain the upper hand.”

Lance’s eyes meet Keith’s from across the room. Keith raises one eyebrow as he fixes his ponytail. With his arms over his head, Lance sees a sliver of skin between his shirt and his shorts from the corner of his eye. They’re both sweating from the training, and all Lance can think of is how it would feel to rub his sweat against Keith’s.

“Thanks, Coran,” Lance says absently, accepting the water pouch from his outstretched hand. He takes a deep drink, but it doesn’t satisfy his thirst. “I think--I think I’m done for today. Allura? Is it alright if I go take a shower?”

The princess adjusts her chokehold on Shiro so that she can look over at Lance. Pidge and Hunk have already tapped out, and are sitting cross legged on the floor watching Allura’s and Shiro’s fight, water pouches clutched in their hands.

“What? Yes, we’re almost finished here anyway.”

With that, she twists her grip, making Shiro’s eyes bulge. He taps quickly on her arm, and she lets go of him, holding him up with one arm as he collapses. Allura has barely broken a sweat through the ordeal.

At one time, Lance would have found that irresistibly hot.

Now he has other irresistible things to think about.

Lance darts out of the training room without another word.

He’s still holding the water from Coran, and because every inch of his body is burning up he dumps it over his head. Lance is surprised it doesn’t evaporate on contact.

Footsteps behind him.

His pulse pounds between his ears as they walk, in silence, to Lance’s bedroom. As soon as they’re both inside, Lance spins to face Keith. Their lips crash together first, and then the rest of their bodies collide and their hands find hair and clothes and skin. God, Keith’s sweat feels just like he imagined, rough under his fingers where it’s dried and slick where it hasn’t.

“I’m really sick of what you’ve been doing. So--I’m going to punish you now,” Keith says against his mouth, hands finding Lance’s wrists and squeezing them. Then his hard face softens just a fraction, and he adds: “If that’s okay.”

Lance nods and wilts under the pressure of Keith’s grip. He pushes Lance away from him and toward the bed, eyes dark and determined. Lance perches on the edge of his mattress, letting his legs bounce with nervous energy.

“I still have the rope,” Lance offers. He has to concentrate to keep his voice steady, and he notes that Keith, too, is having a rough go of it. He wants this just as much as Lance does. “It’s in the closet. Left corner.”

Keith retrieves the rope and tosses it onto Lance’s pillow. He grabs the lubricant and a condom from the top drawer of Lance's dresser as well, and they land atop the pile and fall through the coils to the pillow beneath. His gloves are long-ago discarded from training, so Lance lets his eyes trace the glove-shaped tan line across his skin. It’s faint, but Lance has seen it enough times to know what to look for.

“If you want me to tie you up,” Keith says, surveying the room. “There are easier ways to get me to do it.”

He tears off his shirt and pauses to wipe lingering sweat from his brow with it. His already-tight pants are stretched and straining with the force of Keith’s erection. Lance licks his lips and swallows.

“Like, you know. Asking.”

Lance laughs a little. “But it’s so much more fun this way. And I like telling you how good you are at everything.”

Keith’s shirt falls to the ground with a suddenness that Lance doubts is intentional.

“Is that really okay?” Lance asks quietly, breaking his concentration on the curves of Keith’s body for a moment.

“Is what?”

“Asking you. To do… this.”

Keith looks at him, mouth held partially open. “Of course. Consent is key.”

He says the last words so there’s no mistaking that it’s the phrase they heard over and over again at the Garrison. The sex ed course was thorough to the point of being redundant, but Lance vastly prefers it to having had none.

“I know about consent,” Lance shoots back. He kicks off his shoes and socks and unbuttons his jeans, sliding them down his legs. Keith waits, a length of rope stretched between his hands. The glow from Lance’s overhead light catches in his sweat as it dries, hiding in the contours of his chest and arms and disappearing completely at the hem of his pants. “I was talking about… when I want to fuck you. Should we have some sort of signal or something?”

“Keep your boxers on for now.” Keith’s eyes skitter down Lance’s body and back up, coming to a rest just below his eyes. His shoulders are damp from pouring the water over himself, and Lance blames that for the shiver that runs through him. “A signal seems awfully complicated. I think a simple, ‘want to go have sex?’ would be fine. Or even, ‘hey, come tie me up for a while.’”

He pushes Lance further back onto the bed with open palms on his chest. The mattress bounces beneath him, and Keith moves his hands along Lance’s arms and down to his wrists.

“Can I at least make it a pun?” His control is breaking again now that there are hands restraining his and ropes sliding across his skin.

“If it helps you sleep at night.”

“I would much rather you help me sleep at night,” Lance trills, watching Keith wrap his wrists. The soft pressure of the rope increases as Keith makes his first knot. “Or even better, if you were the one keeping me awake.”

Keith flutters his fingers along the veins on the inside of Lance’s arm. More goosebumps appear, disappearing underneath his sleeves, just below his elbow. His arms rest on his thighs, making an “x” over his crotch. He tests the bonds slightly, and Keith raises his eyebrows. “Good?”

“Good. Really good,” Lance responds. He tilts his chin up and leans forward, asking silently for a kiss.

Keith complies.

The intensity is back--it never really left, just changed briefly--and Lance drags his teeth along Keith’s lower lip. He stretches out his bound hands and uses one thumb to trace the bulge in his pants. Keith presses closer to him, encouraged by his touch. Lance scoots farther back on the bed, allowing Keith to put up one knee and then both until he's almost in Lance’s lap. Keith wanders with his mouth as much as his hands, grabbing and pushing against Lance with the ferocity of a sexual tension that's been building for weeks finally being released.

Lance's arms are trapped between Keith's legs as much as they are by the rope, but he uses what dexterity he has left to massage one of Keith's inner thighs. Keith whines against the skin of Lance's neck, a faint buzzing that Lance considers one of his favorite sensations.

“You're phenomenal,” he says, palm finding the curve of Keith's ass and squeezing. “Favorite part of my day. The best, seeing you shirtless and sweaty and close enough to taste.”

Keith bites down into Lance's neck, a sure enough sign that, yes, he really likes Lance's words. But more than that, he can feel the change in Keith when he says them. Like with each word of praise he's being stroked by an invisible hand.

A hand clenches in the front of his shirt and tugs him forward and then back, hard enough that he falls against the mattress.

There is a hunger in Keith's eyes when Lance looks up at them.

“I forgot,” Keith hums. “I'm supposed to be punishing you.”

Lance savors the words, feeling their power in the husk of Keith's bedroom voice. He knows that it's not Keith trying to sound sexy--but something happens to his voice when it's just the two of them, and Lance loves it nearly as much as the taste of sweat on his tongue.

“If you have to,” Lance muses, reaching up to fiddle with the button on Keith's pants. “And you always punish me so well.”

He can't move his hands well enough to use both of them to undo it, but it he tries hard enough he might be able to get it with one.

Keith doesn't let him.

He slides away from the bed and unbutton and unzips them, wiggling out of them in the way that Lance doubts he will ever, ever get tired of. He sits back up just so he can watch. He doesn't remember Keith taking off his shoes, but he must have because they're in a pile by the door. He's still got his socks on, and Lance decides he likes the way Keith looks in only socks and underwear. It makes his skin look not darker, really, but at least more colored against the bleached white of his socks. His briefs are a fading black, with a thick gray elastic band. They’re okay, Lance thinks, but he likes them better when they’re on his floor.

“Shame these beds don’t have posts or something,” Keith says. “Nothing to tie you to.”

“Ever heard of a body harness?”

Keith doesn’t blink. “Want me to try one on you?”

Lance wants to melt into the mattress, but a body harness will do.

“Yes. Dear God, yes.”

“Just because I’m good at this doesn’t mean you need to worship me for it.”

Lance’s brain capacity is hindered enough that he takes a second to process the banter. By then, Keith already has more rope in his hands and is considering how best to tie Lance to himself.

“I’d worship the ground you walk on if that’s what it took to get our hands on me.”

Keith’s fingers tighten on the rope. “Oh?”

“You’re just…” Lance licks his lips, lets the electricity build in the air. “Worthy of being worshipped. Praised. Told all of the things that make you irresistible.”

There it is--the unmistakable reaction from Keith. The fabric of his underwear shifts as his dick twitches. Lance smiles. He may not be able to use his hands to please Keith, but he can certainly use his mouth.

In more ways than one.

Keith handles Lance in a manner that is somehow both rough and caring. He winds the rope around Lance’s chest, makes a knot beneath his ribs, and loops the rope over one shoulder, through the rope on his back, and then over his other shoulder so he can tie a second knot next to the first. It’s a simple body harness, but Lance wonders if Keith has been thinking about how to do this because there is no hesitation in his movements.

One last loop and knot secures Lance’s hands against his own chest. He thinks about what this would feel like if he weren’t wearing a shirt, and decides that a little rope burn might be worth it next time. “Good?”

“Stellar. Just like you.”

The blush on Keith’s cheeks spreads to his neck and partway down his chest.

“Are you going to keep doing that?” he asks through gritted teeth.

Lance fixes him with a winning smile. “Of course.”

Keith dips a thumb beneath the hem of Lance’s boxers, testing the elastic of the waistband. His skin sings everywhere Keith touches it.

His eyes lock with Keith’s as the other paladin sinks to his knees on the floor, taking Lance’s boxers with him.

Lance breathes slowly and almost steadily when Keith’s hands move to caress his length. He works him with practiced ease, on thumb flicking the head, slicked with precum, and the other pressing divots into his thigh. Lance struggles against his bonds, the rope scratching his skin and reddening his wrists. His nostrils flare as every attempt to keep his calm disintegrates and his breathing becomes ragged.

Keith ducks forward and wraps his lips around Lance’s cock.

He wants to sink back onto his elbows but with his arms trapped all he can do is throw his head back and fall onto the bed. “Keith, Keith, you’re good at this. So good. Just--augh--yes, just like that. I want you so bad right now. Yo mucho quiero tu cuerpo--sí, yes, please keep doing that--

There’s a small “pop” as Keith separates himself from Lance. Lance looks down the plane of his chest at him. He lets his legs--still free--curl around Keith’s shoulders to try to bring him back. Keith allows this, but instead of taking Lance’s dick in his mouth again, he goes lower, tracing a line with his tongue to Lance’s asshole. Lance jerks and cries out. This isn’t something they’ve done before, and somehow Lance predicts the quick glance Keith throws his way, asking for permission.

“Just like that,” he says again, and Keith continues. Lance clamps his legs down on Keith’s shoulders harder when he runs his tongue along the edges of Lance’s hole. “You’re lucky I’m a really clean kind of guy,” Lance manages, but his voice is choked. Keith slaps his thigh, telling him to shut up with his hand because his mouth is busy blowing Lance’s mind.

Keith works without any particular delicacy, rolling his tongue around the wrinkles until Lance squirms. He has a hand on each of Lance’s cheeks to spread them apart, and he squeezes and gropes them with the full strength of his grip. Lance wonders if it’s hard enough to leave bruises, but realizes his ass is going to be sore enough already that it won’t matter.

“Fuck,” Lance swears. “So fucking good. You’re so fucking good, I want to--”

Keith presses a finger inside Lance and he loses all ability to function. The next few minutes are a blur of tongue on his rim and fingers in his ass, and when Keith disappears Lance feels empty. He tries to keep his partner in one place with his legs, but Keith just grins and stands, one hand on each of Lance’s legs. Lance yelps as he slides forward and his wetted cock bounces against the hem of his shirt.

Still grinning, Keith twists and stretches his left hand out toward the pillow. He shuffles through the remaining rope and closes his fingers on the condom and lube. He lets Lance leave his legs on him while he drops his briefs and opens the packet. Lance does a sit-up, turning his body into a giant “v”. He watches Keith’s body with dazed, hungry eyes. While he’s focused on putting on the condom, head bent down and black hair falling in sweaty strings across his face, Lance plants a kiss on his temple. Keith pauses only long enough to kiss him back, full on the lips. Lance loves the way they feel, wet and swollen from use.

When two hands find Lance’s body again, he knows Keith is ready. He lays back down onto the bed and invites Keith along with his eyes because his hands can’t. Keith crawls on top of him, placing one hand against the mattress next to Lance’s head and using the other to guide his cock into Lance’s ass.

This is more of a stretch than Lance’s legs have done in a while, knees pressed into his chest and ankles hooked around Keith’s neck. His hamstrings burn from that as much as the general burn of being fucked.

Well, almost.

He cries out when he feels his dick push inside him. He is well primed and slicked with lube but still it feels like Keith is going to tear him apart. Keith looks in his eyes as he thrusts slowly at first, but then faster. He makes the slightest noise with each pulse, ever the quieter of the pair.

Lance doesn’t like being quiet.

Please, Keith, just like that. Fuck me like that. I just want you so bad yes--yes--why are you this fucking gorgeous? It’s not fair! With your soft hair and your dark eyes and your shoulders…”

Keith’s rhythm falters, and Lance feels his dick twitch inside him. The determined look on his face colors with deeper pleasure.

“Lance,” he breathes, finding his rhythm.

“And when you say my name,” Lance gasps. It took a long time for him to get him to say his name during sex, and it is still a rare luxury. “Every time you say it… it's like…” Lance cranes his neck upwards to kiss Keith on the neck, nibbling skin between his lips. Keith shudders.

He hits Lance at exactly the perfect place and Lance moans loud enough to fill the room. If the walls weren't so soundproof he would try to keep it down, but as it is he can make all the noise he wants. “Keith, there. Right there.”

Keith nods and adjusts his body so he can hit that spot with every thrust. Lance’s hands clench and unclench and his feet curl behind Keith’s neck. “Aaugh--too much--I’m gonna--”

There is a slight shift in the way Keith slams against him, and Lance thinks he can last longer now. He wants Keith to be first this time.

“I'm amazed,” Lance rambles, “by how amazing you are.”

“That doesn't make any sense.”

“Neither does how amazing you are.”

Keith's breath hitches and his eyes squeeze shut. “God, I hate you so much.”

“Bull shit,” Lance fires back, words jostled by Keith pushing into and out of him.

Keith doesn't respond, either because he can't or doesn't want to, and regardless it gives Lance the opportunity to continue his rant.

“And if anyone hates anyone here, it's me who hates you. I hate how good you are at everything.”

In. Out. In. Out.

“I hate that you're such a good pilot and most of the time you don't even brag about it. I hate how good you are with that sword and how hot you look when you use it--”

Faster.

In-out-in--and it hurts but Lance likes it and Keith’s face screams that he likes it in every way his mouth won't.

“And I hate how beautiful you are when I fuck you and when you fuck me, because no matter what we're doing you're always so--”

Keith is on the edge, biting his lip and moaning ever so slightly.

“--fucking--”

His head falls forward and his thrusts become desperate.

“--perfect.

“Lance!”

Keith shouts his name as he cums, falling onto Lance in a spent heap. He kisses Lance's neck and Lance continues to sing praise to him while he rides the high. His ears ring with the sound of his own name on Keith's lips. The stretch in his hamstrings hurts, and not how he likes it, but Lance waits for Keith to come down before he wriggles underneath him and taps his heels on Keith's back.

“Legs,” he says shortly, and Keith pushes quickly back onto his arms. Lance chases him up and places a kiss on his lips. “Perfect.”

Keith's eyes close in bliss.

A moment later, he pulls out slips his condom off. He ties it and throws it in the trash before turning back to Lance, whose feet are now back on the ground and whose penis is still very, very hard.

Keith licks his lips and goes down to his knees again, tugging Lance to the end of the bed with both hands. He picks up the lube from the ground and squeezes some onto his fingers. Lance whimpers as he slides them back into his raw ass. He uses his other hand to grab Lance's cock--earning a sharp gasp--and finds the head with his tongue. He licks around it before taking his dick into his mouth. Keith bobs up and down on his length, sucking and teasing. His fingers scissor inside Lance.

Lance wants to grab Keith's hair and yank but he can't and that's even more erotic and before he knows it Lance is climbing to the top of a plateau and ready to drop off of it.

His climax is utter fucking bliss.

Keith doesn't pause when Lance cums in his mouth, just swallows what he can and does his best not to choke. He withdraws his fingers slowly and then pulls away from Lance’s cock, using his sweat-soaked shirt to wipe his mouth. He silently unknots the body harness and then frees Lance’s wrists.

Keith helps Lance out of his shirt and lifts him the rest of the way onto the bed. He climbs in after, both of them needing to rest before they shower and go to dinner. Hopefully they won't be late, but if they are, the “I fell asleep” excuse has worked before and will work again.

For now, Lance just wants to think about how it feels to put his arms around Keith and breathe in his scent.

“Yeah,” he says. “Really fucking perfect.”

***

***

Outtakes and Aftercare

___

ohnoIthinkthisisstartingtohavesomesortofplotwhatamIgoingtodo

___

A lot of people have commented that they don’t really see Keith as a bottom, and the implied alternative to that is that people who don’t comment think that Keith would be a bottom. My take on it? They switch. Especially in the realm of fanfiction, where everything is open to interpretation, I don’t want to write it exclusively one way or another.

___

Just. Keith and Lance forgetting that they’re supposed to be keeping things secret and dropping things into conversation that they shouldn’t know if they aren’t together.

[during training]

Shiro: Hey, Keith, you should probably take a break.

Keith: Why?

Shiro: You look pretty red. I don’t want you overexerting yourself.

Lance: Nah, he’s fine. He can get a lot redder than that and keep going for a while.

Pidge: How do you know that?

Lance: *screaming*

 

Also

 

Pidge: [being suffocated by a Lance hug] Get off me, man! Why are you so clingy?

Keith: Pfft, that’s nothing. Dude is like a goddamn octopus when he sleeps.

Pidge: I wish you hadn’t told me that.

 

And more of Keith blushing a lot

 

Hunk: Hey Keith you look really red are you okay?

Lance, from across the room: That’s nothing. You wanna see red? Hey, Keith!

Keith: uh… what?

Lance: YOU LOOK REALLY PRETTY TODAY

Keith: *blushing furiously* Lance stop.

Lance: YOUR EYES ARE BEAUTIFUL.

Keith: I will destroy you.

Lance: Is that a promise or a threat? *winks*

Pidge: Please just get a room.

Coran: You humans are very strange about compliments. On Altea, words of praise are considered good and--

Hunk: Coran, uh… there’s no good way to tell you this… *whispers something to Coran*

Coran: Oh. Oh my. *stands up and leaves* *has to dodge Keith because his knife is out and he’s chasing Lance around the room*

Hunk: Food goo?

Pidge: Food goo.

___

Keith has to do some research on bondage but that’s hard in space.

 

Keith: So… do you have, like, a “mature” section here?

A Grizzled Alien Librarian: *deadpans* What is that.

Keith: You know, like for doing… for having… for mating.

A Grizzled Alien Librarian: The biology section is--

Keith: No, no, I mean for pleasure.

A Grizzled Alien Librarian: *still deadpans* We don’t keep the porn in this building. That’s down the street.

Keith: I don’t need anything to watch, I just want to learn how to--

A Grizzled Alien Librarian: The biology section is--

Keith: I JUST WANT TO BE ABLE TO TIE UP MY BOYFRIEND, OKAY?

A Grizzled Alien Librarian: ...

Keith: ...

A Grizzled Alien Librarian: …

A Grizzled Alien Librarian: Section 223B.

Keith: Thank you.

A Grizzled Alien Librarian: One more thing.

Keith: Yes?

A Grizzled Alien Librarian: *offended* Keep your voice down. This is a library.

Chapter Text

Lance is a flirt, that much is obvious.

Even Keith, who tries his hardest to ignore Lance whenever possible, notices just how much he flirts. At the Garrison, and when they first got out into space, it was just with girls—or, at least, the alien equivalent. But as their time as paladins lengthens, the sly compliments and over-eager touching expands to include… well, everyone. Including other men. Keith initially dismissed them as typical straight-boy bro-type compliments, the kind that sent all the wrong messages if you were a gay kid in middle school trying to figure out if there was anyone else in the world like you.

But… no, there’s no denying it now.

And the worst part? Lance has been flirting with Shiro.

Keith tries not to be irritated by it. He’s not jealous, of course. He determined long ago that the brief crush he had on Shiro was idolatry more than realistic, and has since come to consider him a brother closer than blood could have ever made them. But it gets underneath Keith’s skin to hear Lance slinging pick-up lines at Shiro and Allura both. Between the two of them, he barely has time to take a breath in between his attempts at flirting.

When he and Lance meet in the hallway by accident, he’s thinking about how differently Lance acts around the people who constantly reject him—and though Shiro and Allura are always nice about it, there’s no other word for it—than anyone who shows real interest in him. He still remembers how absurdly flustered he’d become when Nyma had feigned attraction to him. It might have been funny if it hadn’t almost lost them the blue lion.

 “Lance,” Keith says with a curt nod.

The other paladin narrows his eyes, still determined to believe that he and Keith are rivals. He’s wearing his jeans and baseball t-shirt, the fabric worn and soft from repeated wear. None of them have a change of clothes here in space. “Keith,” he spits back.

Keith sighs. He finds Lance tiring. “You headed to get some food?”

“None of your business.”

“I’m going to take that as a ‘yes.’”

Lance just shrugs as he presses the button for the door. It slides open with a quiet hiss, and Lance steps through with Keith following closely behind. He wants to get in, get some food, and get out of Lance’s presence as quickly as possible.

But then he slams bodily into Lance from behind. “What the hell?” he demands, and peers around Lance to see what stopped him two steps into the room.

There’s nothing amiss inside. Shiro and Allura stand by the faucet, both gulping down glasses of water in a clear post-training state. Sweat glistens on both their bare arms, and what clothing they have on sticks to their bodies like a second skin.

Lance stumbles when Keith runs into him. “Hey!” he protests, but steps out of the way. “Watch where you’re going.”

“Don’t stand in the middle of a doorway.”

Keith narrowly dodges a punch to the shoulder.

“Is everything alright?” Shiro asks, and runs a hand through his hair. The white tuft sticks up in odd directions.

“Yes,” Lance says, at the same time Keith says: “Sure.”

Shiro eyes them warily. It’s clear that he can sense the tension between Keith and Lance, but he doesn’t comment because that tension is a constant undertone between the two.

“How was training?” Keith asks. He watches Lance walk as quickly as he can to the refrigerator, pull out a plate of snacks—Hunk picked up some non-goo sustenance on their last planet—and duck out of the room. It’s all conspicuously fast, and lacks any of the witty compliments or innuendos he’s come to expect of Lance, so Keith determines to interrogate him about it later.

“Delightful,” Allura says, and takes another drink of her water. The marks on her cheeks glow bright with exertion. “Shiro is getting better at sparring.”

Keith bites his lip and grins at Shiro. It’s hard to believe that anyone could best Shiro at hand to hand combat, given the number of times he’s lost to him, but he knows that Allura is a force to be reckoned with.

“I might actually have fewer than twenty bruises tomorrow, which is definitely an improvement,” Shiro agrees, and he and Keith share a knowing look. It’s good, he thinks, that his brother has finally met his match on the sparring mat.

“Well, have fun with that,” Keith says, and turns to leave the common room. He’s forgotten about his quest to get food, because his mind is preoccupied with finding out what’s wrong with Lance.

Luckily for him, Lance is a loud enough person that Keith finds him even though the other paladin had a good head start. He’s leaning against one of the hallway pillars, lower back pressed into the metal and hunched forward with palms resting on his knees. The plate of snacks lies a few feet away, untouched. His breathing is heavy, like he just finished a run or he’s trying to calm himself down.

Lance looks up when he turns the corner. “Hey, Keith,” he manages.

Keith raises an eyebrow at him. “What the hell was that?”

“Nothing,” Lance says, but his tone is as cagey as his answer. “I just—uh—I’m claustrophobic is all.”

“That’s never been a problem before,” Keith points out. “But whatever. You do enough weird shit that I don’t even know why I bother to try and understand it.”

“Fine. Then leave me alone.”

“That’s not what I—I came to see if you were okay. Okay?” Keith realizes how stupid he sounds as soon as the words are out of his mouth. Lance is an adult, and a pain in the ass, and he can take care of himself.

But he doesn’t look okay. And as much as Keith wants to walk past him and let him deal with whatever this is on his own, something in his chest anchors him here to the floor. He almost groans.

“Just tell me what’s wrong. Are you sick? Injured?”

Lance chews on his lip and glares at Keith, clearly considering what to tell him. “I—they startled me is all. And then you ran into me. So. It’s fine. I’m fine.”

Keith’s eyebrow climbs higher up his forehead. ‘They… startled you? They were twenty feet from you. Drinking water.

Lance sighs and looks to the ceiling. “No. It’s—I wasn’t prepared to see them like that.”

“Like what?”

And then it hits him.

Oh.

Keith takes an involuntary step backwards. Lance holds his gaze for only a second, but breaks away as a dark blush creeps up his neck. Neither of them is equipped to discuss this kind of thing right now, much less with each other.

“In my defense,” Lance continues, hands splayed as if to play it off as a joke. “They were both very sweaty. And my blood sugar is probably low because I didn’t eat breakfast, and it’s been a really long time since last time I—”

“Wow,” Keith says before Lance can finish his sentence, though he wonders if he would have said it out loud. “I bet gym class was really hard for you.”

The blow lands. Lance’s mouth tightens and his fingers close into fists. “Fuck off,” he says. “I didn’t ask you to follow me.”

“And I wish I hadn’t.” Keith isn’t sure why, but the knowledge that Lance is attracted to—no, turned on by—the sight of Shiro and Allura covered in sweat makes his skin prickle and his stomach twist. “Just, fuckin’—keep it in your pants, okay? It was bad enough when you were hitting on Allura all the time, but now Shiro too, it’s just—it’s fucked up.”

He doesn’t even know what he’s saying, but Lance seems to. He straightens to his full height, and now the balled hands at his sides can’t be mistaken for anything other than fists. “You know, I didn’t peg you as a bi-phobic piece of shit, but I guess I was wrong.”

“Lance,” Keith says, but Lance plows on.

“So much for being able to be myself out in the middle of fucking space.” The hurt in his eyes is only mostly masked by rage. Keith feels his own anger rising up to meet it.

Lance.

“Is that why you got kicked out of the Garrison? You beat up all the gay kids? Are you going to fight me now?”

“Lance!”

What?

Keith groans and throws up his hands. “I’m gay, you absolute fucking idiot! But, yeah, I really do want to punch you right now.”

Lance blinks. “You are?”

“Yes! And I don’t give two shits that you’re bi; what I care about is that you’re an ass!”

Lance tackles him.

Despite his usually sharp reflexes, Keith is caught off guard. They tumble to the ground. One of Keith's elbows jams against the floor, and pain shoots up his arm. His body serves as a cushion for Lance’s, but with as bony as he is, Keith feels that collision, too. He hisses in pain and brings a knee up to Lance’s gut.

The other paladin yelps and the fist he’d aimed for Keith’s jaw loses force. Keith knocks it out of the way easily and slides both his palms to his opponent’s shoulders, pushing him away. A few seconds of grappling leaves him trapped under one of Keith’s legs. He presses his knee into the soft part of Lance’s stomach and watches with glee as his already-red face turns redder and his eyes bulge. His legs kick and rock his body back and forth, but Keith has him pinned. An open palm hits Keith’s face hard, accompanied by a yell. Keith feels a well of blood forming in his mouth and fights the urge to spit it in Lance’s face. He’s not fighting that dirty--

Lance’s fist closes in his hair and yanks.

Keith cries out as his whole head is pulled to one side. In his surprise, he almost lets Lance out from underneath him. He only manages to keep the man trapped by throwing his leg out and hooking it around Lance’s thigh. The grip in his hair tightens and tugs harder. Keith feels strands loosening from his scalp.

“Bastard,” Keith hisses, wishing that Lance’s hair was longer so that he could do the same.

Alright. Dirty fighting it is. But only because Lance started it.

Keith squeezes Lance’s leg in his own and pulls himself over to sit heavily atop his thighs, heat coursing through his body. Lance’s grip is solid enough that he won’t let go without some help, so Keith jabs pointed fingers into the sensitive skin of his armpit. The pain on his scalp lessens fractionally, and Keith takes his chance to pry at Lance’s fingers, twisting his wrist as he does so.

He pushes both of their hands down to the ground, the cool metal sharp against the heat of his fingers. Lance burns so hot that Keith feels like he’s sitting on a heater.

His and Lance’s free hands fight. Ideally, Keith would be able to trap both of his opponent’s hands, either with one of his own or underneath his legs, so that Keith could punch his pretty face. Repeatedly. But that’s not as easy as it sounds, because for as twiggy as Lance is, he has some strength and more than enough speed to make this difficult.

One of his knees slams into Keith’s back, but it does no more than jolt Keith forward. Lance has a little more room to maneuver his legs now that Keith is positioned above his crotch more than his thighs, but Keith still feels solid enough that he won’t be pushed off. The onslaught of kicks is annoying, though, so Keith wraps both his legs around the outside and underneath of Lance’s thighs, making it nearly impossible for him to move.

He focuses back on his opponent’s top half, still fighting against Keith’s grip. Lance’s free hand shoves into Keith’s face just as Keith claws at the other man’s throat. His nails scrape against skin hard enough to leave red marks behind. He lets his palm shift up to Lance’s face so that he can press his fingers into his eyes and obscure his vision, and Lance tries unsuccessfully to do the same.

The muscles of Lance’s abdomen and upper legs all tighten at once in a final, desperate attempt to escape. Keith is distracted enough by Lance’s hand on his face that he doesn’t have time to prepare, and the savage buck of Lance’s hips beneath him throws him off balance. He falls forward and only barely catches himself on his arms.

Or, rather, on one arm and on the other forearm, leaned right across Lance’s face.

Keith feels the peak of a nose just below his elbow, and the shifting of cheeks under his wrist. Then, just as he’s about to push himself off of the other paladin’s face--

A wetness. Teeth.

He jerks his arm back, not caring that it throws him farther off balance so that he’s practically lying on top of Lance. He still has one of his arms trapped, and he grabs at the other wrist and pins it between Lance’s chest and his.

“Did you just bite me?” he demands, breathing heavily.

And, shit. His face is so close to Lance’s that when he turns his head there’s barely three inches between them. He fixes Keith with a death glare. Keith stiffens as the thought rises unbidden to his mind that he’s actually really turned on by the sight of Lance, sweaty and breathless and so close to him.

So maybe he understands Lance’s reaction to Shiro and Allura more than he cares to admit. But he stands by his decisions.

“Maybe,” Lance retorts. The movement of his lips makes their fine layer of spit flash in the hallway light. Not that Keith is watching his lips, of course. He pulls his gaze back up to Lance’s eyes. “So what if I did?”

If Keith is this close to Lance for any longer, he’s going to do something he regrets. He shifts the weight of his hips to extract himself from Lance, not caring if it means he loses the fight because he needs to get out of here.

A small moan from Lance stops him cold.

Their eyes meet again, some sort of mutual mortification stopping either of them from moving because they both know what that noise was.

Lance tugs at his bottom lip with his teeth in a way that’s as nervous as it is suggestive. He clears his throat and says with falsified venom: “You better get the fuck out of my face before I make you!”

Keith doesn’t move. He tries not to focus on the pressure growing in his jeans. Fuck, what’s wrong with him?

“You really want me to do that?” he asks.

Lance raises a defiant eyebrow and shifts underneath him in a move that could either be trying to dislodge him, or to rub their bodies together. He bites his lip and says nothing. Both of his hands are still trapped by Keith’s, and it’s so fucking hot to have Lance beneath him that it’s almost easy for Keith to let himself lean forward and kiss him.

He makes sure that Lance has time to turn away. That if this is a bad decision--if Lance doesn’t want this--he can stop it before it happens.

But he doesn’t.

And it does.

If he had to describe their kiss in one word, he’d say it was desperate. It’s a rage-filled desperation, sure, because this is Lance and he can’t stand Lance, but it’s desperation nonetheless. It’s like all the tension in his body that has been building up since they left Earth suddenly has a way out. And now that the hole has been made, there’s no stopping it. It pours out of him in breathless kisses that are as much of a fight as anything he and Lance have ever done.

The other paladin lifts his head off the ground to deepen the kiss. His tongue darts out to run along the inside of Keith’s lip, and then farther into his mouth. Keith lets go of one of Lance’s wrists so that he can hold his jaw in place and return the attack.

A moan rumbles in Lance’s throat, so deep that Keith feels it against his chest. In this moment, he can feel everything about Lance, and he likes it. A lot more than he wants to.

Lance is skinny. There’s no nicer word for it. The ridges of his collar bones poke through his shirt, and Keith’s excitedly wandering hands roll across his ribs. Skinny guys have never been quite Keith’s type—he usually goes for muscle—but right now? He doesn’t care about that. The only thing he cares about is getting more of Lance: his touch and his smell and, dear god, even his sound.

Because Lance is a very loud kisser.

Keith really shouldn’t be surprised.

With every press of Keith’s tongue into his mouth, with every squeeze of his hand around some part of Lance’s body, the blue paladin makes a noise. A soft grunt when fingers brush his hip bone, a whine when his hand finds Keith’s hair and tangles into it, and a gasp when Keith pulls away from his mouth to dig toothy kisses into his neck and shoulder.

“Do you ever shut up?” Keith growls, so close to Lance’s skin that his own breath bounces back to him. His legs tighten around his opponent’s--partner’s?--hips and Lance gives a choked laugh. Then he grinds up between Keith’s legs and it’s Keith’s turn to react.

He won’t give the satisfaction of making any noise, though, so he bites down into Lance’s flesh instead, which elicits yet another moan.

“Who--who’s biting now?” he hums. Keith responds by sucking on the reddening bite mark.

Keith shifts so that instead of straddling Lance, their legs fit between each other like puzzle pieces. Lance gives an affirmative noise and his hands find Keith’s hips, encouraging them to grind against his leg harder and faster. With each scrape of fabric on fabric Keith’s arousal grows and holy crow, if he cums just from grinding on Lance he’ll never forgive himself.

But he wants to.

He really, really wants to.

Maybe if he can make Lance go first, it won’t be so bad. Lance probably looks hot when he orgasms, face scrunched up and coherence destroyed by the sensation. Yeah, that would be nice to watch.

Keith ruts deep against Lance’s thigh, making sure that with each thrust his inside leg moves across the bulge in Lance’s jeans. The effect is immediate; Lance’s mouth drops open, and his words come faster. He alternates between insults--in usual Lance fashion--and encouragements, both of which push Keith further into his own pleasure.

Lance’s hands slide away from Keith’s hips and onto his ass. The touch is surprising but not unpleasant, and when Lance squeezes one of his cheeks in each hand Keith surrenders a single, plaintive sound.

The grin on Lance’s face is stupidly wide and malicious, and Keith takes the only possible course of action by kissing it right off his face.

This kiss is the most desperate yet, on his and Lance’s parts both. Keith’s whole body is moving up and down with the motion of his hips and the rise and fall of Lance’s chest underneath him. It adds another element to their interaction, another level to the pleasure. Keith places his hands on Lance’s shoulders and moves his hips faster, in time with the pressing of his tongue against Lance’s.

He almost predicts the moment Lance cums.

The change in Lance’s movements, in his sounds, is small, but Keith is tuned in enough that he catches it. The muscles in his thighs tense and his grip on Keith’s ass tightens. His never-ending stream of noises stutters and falls over itself, and only resumes once the climax consumes him. At that point, his mouth disconnects from Keith’s so that he can cry out in a stream of words that sound something like “yes” and “díos” and maybe even “Keith”.

Keith brings his face away from Lance so that he can watch and he’s just as beautiful as Keith predicted. He maintains his rhythm on Lance’s thigh--because he’s close too, so close--and memorizes every detail of Lance’s face.

A deep flush colors his cheeks, and his eyes are squeezed so tightly shut that a line of wrinkles forms around his eyes and across his nose. His head curls back, exposing his neck and the red marks that Keith left there. Reddened lips peel back from his teeth into a wide-mouthed grimace that Keith would mistake for pain if he didn’t know better, and if he has to choose one thing about Lance that sends him over the edge, that’s it. Of all things, it’s his mouth.

Keith feels the spill of cum into his jeans.

All his attempts to maintain composure disintegrate. He jerks against Lance’s thigh and his own mouth opens in a soundless cry. His hands clench into fabric and flesh and his head droops forward, his energy soaring and draining all at once.

 “That was fun,” Lance breathes, voice raw. His hands are still on Keith’s ass, but instead of painful kneading, his thumbs trace small circles over his pockets. Keith shivers and rolls off of him. They lay next to each other, face up in the middle of the hallway, for a few seconds.

And then reality hits him. He just got off on someone’s leg like a fucking dog. And what’s worse, that someone is Lance.

Keith doesn’t want to be okay with this.

He pushes to his feet. “This doesn’t mean anything,” he growls. He wipes the front of his jeans, but avoids the wet patch that he refuses to admit is there.

Lance pushes up onto his elbows. “Whatever.”

“I mean it.”

“Yeah, I know.”

A silence stretches between them. Keith knows he should just walk away, but he doesn’t. He wants Lance to tell him to drop the fucking charade and kiss him again.

But he doesn’t.

Keith turns away and starts down the hallway toward his room.

“Next time I get to be on top,” Lance calls after him.

“Who said there’s going to be a next time?” Keith shoots back, and spares a glance over his shoulder. Lance is still on the floor, but he’s sitting up with his knees pulled to his chest and his head resting against the wall behind him.

And because he’s Lance, he aims a finger guns at Keith and says: “There’s always a next time when I’m involved.”

Keith hates to let him have the last word, but as much as he loathes himself for it, he knows Lance is right.

He turns the corner without looking back.

***

***

Outtakes and Aftercare

___

The Shallura Sandwich

Keith: Hey, Shiro, I have a favor to ask of you and Allura. It’s about Lance.

Shiro: *immediately concerned* Of course. Anything for a teammate.

Allura: What is it?

Keith: I need you to… I’ve been noticing… I think Lance is used to having a lot more people around, so if you two, as the leaders, could kind of--stand on either side of him? Like, just put him in between you two. Whenever possible. And he and Hunk always hug so I think you guys could do that sort of thing for him, too, like a three person hug. It would be good for him.

Shiro: Wow, Keith. It’s really great that you’re looking out for Lance like that.

Keith: Oh, it’s nothing. You know--anything for a teammate.

[fifteen minutes later, from down the hall]

Lance: *SCREAMING*

___

Lance: *walks into the room, freshly showered and in a change of clothes*

Hunk: Lance… why do you have on your “I just got laid face”?

Lance: *spluttering* wh-what? I don’t have an “I just got laid face”!

Hunk: You totally do. And that’s it.

Lance: No it’s not.

Hunk: Yes it is.

Lance: NO IT’S--

Hunk: Lance, I have been your best friend for years. I know your faces.

Lance: …

Hunk: …

Lance: I don’t want to talk about it.

Hunk: And that’s your “I’m lying and I really do want to talk about it” face.

Lance: What? I-I’m leaving. *storms out, very, very flustered*

Pidge: *has been eavesdropping from the couch* Hunk, you owe me $20.

Hunk: We’re in space! What good does twenty dollars do you?

Pidge: Pay up, buddy.

___

Keith: *is training to get his mind off Lance*

Keith: *is getting very into it, gets so worn out that he lays on the ground to recover*

Pidge: *emerging from the shadows* So, Lance, huh?

Keith: *jumps three feet in the air, nearly pees himself* PIDGE WHAT THE HELL HAVE YOU BEEN THERE THE WHOLE TIME???

Pidge: So, Lance, huh?

Keith: GET OUT

Chapter Text

“Keith, watch your left side!” Coran barks, and Keith shifts immediately to fix the gap in his guard. A flash of light hits his shield and the impact buzzes up his arms. Even though they aren’t designed to injure the trainees, the concentrated energy that the training room flings at them still manage to hurt.

He skitters sideways to avoid another blow, and drops to one knee. Sweat drips from his forehead.

“Take that, you lousy robot scum!” comes Lance’s voice from a few feet away. His blaster releases a volley of shots toward the simulation robot. “Pow! Don't like that now, do ya?”

Keith rolls his eyes and pushes back to his feet. He knocks a shot out of the air with the blade of his sword. Sweat trickles between his shoulder blades and dampens his clothes, making him itch all over.

“A little bit o’ Lance’ll set you straight. Hi-yaa!” He aims a kick at the center of the robot’s chest. There is nice power behind the blow, Keith notes, but he’s too slow, and the robot grabs his foot with one hand and jerks him off balance.

Lance hits the ground with a loud thud .

Focus , Lance,” Shiro chides, offering one hand to help him up and fending off blows from the robot with the other.

The blue paladin scrambles to his feet, red-faced under his helmet. “I did that on purpose--I’m letting it get cocky so that I can blindside it with some--”

“Quiznak, do you ever shut up? ” Keith growls, eyes never leaving the robot.

A shot from Hunk’s cannon dazes the robot long enough for Pidge and Keith to dart in and wreak havoc on its armor. The lights dim to show damage and weakness, and with each hack of his blade the glow fades.

“No, Keith , I do not ‘ever shut up’. Thanks for asking!”

The robot has recovered enough that Keith and Pidge have to duck out and let Hunk and Lance go to work on it again.

“It was a rhetorical question!” Keith yells back at him. He’s tired and in pain and just plain sick of Lance’s bullshit. And it doesn’t help that he can’t stop thinking about their hallway… encounter, since it happened. They haven’t talked about it. They both pretend like it didn’t happen, and somehow that makes it worse.

Does Lance think it was a mistake?

Keith doesn’t want it to have been.

Because dear god , it felt good. And maybe it was him and Lance only because neither of them had any other real options--Keith can list off the reasons why everyone else on team Voltron is off limits--and he’d thought Lance was, too, but the fact that Lance perpetuates some rivalry between doesn’t keep them from using each other’s bodies, does it? If they’re both willing--and Keith so is--then he and Lance could be--

Could be what?

Boyfriends? No. Lance would never go for that. Friends-with-benefits, then. But they’re hardly friends. They’re teammates at best, rivals at worst. So maybe that.

Keith can think of worse things than being rivals-with-benefits with Lance.

Like being forced to train with him in the room.

“Hunk, my man, I bet I can shoot one of this thing’s arms off faster than you can,” Lance suggests, hefting the blaster up against his shoulder.

“You’re on!” Hunk calls back.

Keith sees a dark spot on the robot’s armor and the opportunity is too perfect to resist. He surges forward and puts all his strength behind an upward stroke with his bayard.

The robot’s joint lets out a hideous crackle and detaches. It tumbles from the robot’s body and disappears into the floor with a mechanized hum. The rest of the robot disappears moments after, when Pidge slashes through its chest plate.

“I see you’re taking a page from my book,” they say slyly under Lance’s cry of indignation. Keith nods to the green paladin and retracts his bayard. Pidge does the same, and then the two fist bump.

He turns to Lance, who is still complaining.

“Looks like I win,” Keith says. “What were you betting for, again?”

Hunk laughs out loud while his cannon dissolves. “Good one, Keith.”

“What are you--don’t congratulate him!” Lance holds out his arms, one weighed down by his blaster. “He totally stole my shot! And if I hadn’t pulled back, I would have blown off your whole mullet, mullet-head!”

“Did you really just call me ‘mullet-head’?”

“Yes!” Lance’s blaster shrinks down to bayard size, and he advances on Keith. “You stupid mullet-head!”

Keith rolls his eyes and clenches his fists, feeling white hot anger surging to every part of his body. “You can’t even come up with good insults!”

Lance is in his personal space, yelling. “It’s not my fault you’re so--”

“Cut it out!” Shiro’s voice thunders between them, and Keith feels a cool metal arm on his chest, pushing him away from Lance. “This has gotten out of hand. Pidge, Hunk--you’re done for the day. I need to have a talk with these two.”

Coran rubs his mustache. “Ah yes, I know just the speech to whip these two into shape.”

“No, Coran, I think I need to talk to them on my own. And Allura might need an extra hand working on the thrusters by now.”

“I don’t have anything to say to him,” Keith grumbles.

“Well I’ve got something to say to you!”

“Of course you do! You never shut up!”

“Hey!” Shiro interrupts again. “Both of you. Sit. Now.

Keith obeys quietly, but Lance makes a point of flopping himself onto the training mat. Hunk and Pidge can’t get out fast enough. Coran follows them out the door, slumped and disappointed that his help isn’t needed.

Keith thinks he would prefer one of Coran’s stories to a talk from Shiro.

He’s on them the moment the door is closed. “Alright, fess up--what the hell is going on between you two?”

Next to him, Lance goes rigid and Keith knows they’re thinking of the same thing.

“Actually, no. I don’t care what it is, just fix it. Your usual bickering is annoying but we can deal with it, but this--whatever is making you guys fight this bad--you need to work it out. Because you’re destroying the team’s cohesion. If you keep this up, we won’t be able to form Voltron.”

He looks each of them in the eye, and the stern disappointment in his eyes hurts.

“And without Voltron, the universe is doomed.”

Keith’s stomach sinks.

“Just think about that, the next time you put your squabbles above teamwork. Hit the showers.”

Shiro turns on his heel and walks out without another word.

Lance whistles. “That man has no chill.”

“And you have the emotional maturity of a six year old.” Keith stands and crosses the room, picking up his jacket and shoes on the way by. He hears--of course he hears --Lance behind him.

“That may be so, but I have the body of a smokin’ hot nineteen year old.”

“That’s because you are--”

“Smokin’ hot? Oh, Keith, I didn’t know you thought so hi--”

Nineteen.

Keith can’t see Lance’s face, but he can imagine what it looks like. Lips pursed, ever ready to say something more. Eyebrows lowered as he tries to decipher Keith’s response. And eyes boring straight into Keith’s back, watching his every move.

He walks with an extra sway to his hips, just for Lance’s benefit.

When they reach the shower room, Keith finds a locker and a bench and sits, peeling his socks off. Instead of going into a different locker nook, Lance chooses to undress right next to Keith. He kicks off his socks and starts talking. Of course.

“Ooh, look at me I’m Keith ,” Lance says in a high-pitched voice. “My hairstyle died in the ‘80s and my number one skill is looking angry all the time. If I were a trope it would be the brooding YA love-interest because I’m quiet and angsty and spend the whole book acting like a total douche to the main character.”

Keith doesn’t look at Lance, just slides the training shorts down his legs. “Speaking of which, that Lance is so annoying. Ugh, I can’t stand him because he ruins my eternal-suffering vibe. But I’m really just jealous of Lance’s undeniable charm. Sometimes I lay awake at night and think of him--”

He throws his jeans into a locker and steadies himself on the door. If Lance doesn’t stop talking, he’s going to lose it, and it hasn’t even been ten minutes since Shiro’s scolding.

“--and when I think of him, I can’t help but reach underneath the sheets and touch myself because--”

Keith slams the locker door shut and whirls on Lance, hand finding the front of his shirt and making a fist in the fabric. Lance’s face reddens in surprise.

“Every time I jerk off,” he hisses, right up in Lance’s face, “I imagine your mouth wrapped around my cock and cum just by the thought of you shutting the fuck up.

He pushes Lance away and turns toward the showers, ripping his shirt up over his head as he goes. He tosses it behind him and even though he knows it doesn’t land anywhere near the lockers, he doesn’t care. Right now, all he cares about is the blissful silence of a stunned Lance.

Keith snags a towel from the shelves and finds a shower stall. He turns the water to hot and is just about to close the curtain when Lance’s voice breaks the peace.

“That wouldn’t get me to shut up, you know.”

He leans against the tiled wall opposite Keith’s shower stall, still fully clothed but for his socks.

Keith slings his towel over the curtain rod. “Oh?”

“I’m very loud all the time,” Lance continues. He’s lost some of the bravado of moments before, because their conversation--if it can be called that--has entered new territory. The shift in the air is undeniable, and Keith is very aware of how close to naked he is. Only his briefs are still on, and the spray of the shower water raises goosebumps on his back. Well, at least Keith lets himself believe that’s what causes them.

He crosses his arms over his bare chest. “Prove it.”

“What?” The breath stops in Lance’s throat and his eyes flick down to Keith’s crotch.

Keith swallows. “I said prove it.”

Their eyes meet and Keith’s heart jumps, afraid that he’s gone too far. Lance presses his lips together momentarily, but then he asks quietly, “Really?”

“Yeah. If you--if you want.” He knows that his desire is very apparent now, trying to free itself from his underwear. But he is as unsure of his footing here as Lance is. This thing between them is new for them both.

Lance cocks a lopsided grin. Licks his lips. “Hell yeah.”

He reaches behind his head and grabs the collar of his shirt, pulling it up and off of himself. Keith can’t help but watch as the sliver of tanned skin turns into his whole chest. He’s by no means as muscular as Shiro or Allura, but he’s not as much of a twig as Keith first thought. The suggestions of muscles lurk underneath his skin and the smallest hint of fat sits at his waist, accentuating the deep “v” that separates his hips and disappears into his jeans.

An appreciative “hmm” from Keith catches his attention.

His sly smile widens, and he gestures toward himself. “Like what you see?”

Keith’s answer is to close the distance between them and insert his fingers between Lance’s shorts and his skin. Soft brown hair tickles his fingers as they trail downward, and Lance’s muscles tighten under his touch.

Lance tries to help get his shorts off, but mostly ends up tripping over his own feet. His hands come down onto Keith’s bare shoulders to maintain his balance, but the squeeze he gives them has no practical purpose. In a few moments his shorts are kicked away, out of the reach of the shower water. Keith stands back upright and pulls Lance into the shower, closing the curtain behind them.

Water hits his back just as Lance’s mouth hits his, and then they’re both under the flow of water, kissing through the steam. Lance pushes him up against the tiled wall, hands trailing down his chest and then behind his back. Their chests and stomachs slide against each other, slickened by sweat and water. Lance moans into the touch.

Keith takes Lance’s lower lip between his teeth and bites, noting how Lance’s nails scrape against his skin as he does so. Then he reaches his tongue into the other man’s mouth and traces it along his teeth. Lance’s tongue fights his away and invades Keith’s mouth, probing and thrusting into him.

He withdraws. “You’re getting our underwear all wet,” he mutters against Keith, breath smelling like space goo and toothpaste.

“Shut up.”

Keith kisses him again, harder this time. Quiznak, now that he’s here he finally admits to himself how much he’s wanted this, how it’s felt like he and Lance started a sentence that begged to be finished. Feeling Lance’s body against his is utter bliss. Keith nudges Lance’s knees apart and slides his leg in between them, allowing himself a small sigh of pleasure as a thigh rubs against his erection.

Lance pulls away again and Keith freezes, afraid he’s done something wrong. The other paladin notices and quirks a smile. “Not that this isn’t great and all,” he says, and detaches one of his hands from behind Keith’s back. He brings it to the front and begins to play with the elastic band in his briefs. It’s a silent request. For a moment, the only noise is the drum of the shower water against the floor. “But I have something to prove.”

Keith nods.

The hand on his briefs stills with Lance’s thumb and forefinger pinching the fabric. As he lowers to his knees, Keith’s underwear goes with him.

Keith swallows and rests his head against the wall, grateful that the shower makes his skin slick instead of sticky as Lance’s hands rake back up his thighs. One set of long fingers wraps around the base of Keith’s dick, and then the inside of Keith’s eyelids explode with stars when he feels a pair of lips make contact with his skin.

Lance starts out slow, teasing. His tongue traces a circle around the tip of Keith’s shaft, licking at the precum. He inches his head forward, taking Keith farther into his mouth and then sliding back a little in a head bob that moves opposite of his pumping hand. He picks up the pace and soon his entire length is in Lance’s mouth, hot and wet and--

Shit. Still making noise.

It’s soft at first, little grunts with every dip of his head. But as he gets faster, the volume increases. The knot of desire low in Keith’s stomach tightens at each sound, and his dick aches from the want. Usually when he’s on his own, Keith takes his time, enjoying the process as much as the climax. But with Lance’s lips in a tight ring around his cock, his tongue working magic against his skin, Keith thinks it will be a miracle if he lasts more than two minutes.

But of course, Lance is doing that on purpose.

He squeezes Keith’s ass with one hand and uses the leverage to take his dick further into his mouth, and if it’s uncomfortable he gives no sign. He gropes Keith’s balls, his thighs, everything, and still those noises echo off the shower walls. Most of them are nonsense, but the occasional “mmhmm” or “yeah” rumbles from his throat as well.

Steam clings to both of them, beading and running down their bodies. Keith watches through bleary, slitted eyes as water rolls down Lance’s neck and makes a small pool at his collar bones. The overhead light dances across his skin.

Keith presses his lower back against the wall and leans forward, barely able to hold himself upright. He bites into his lip to keep from giving Lance the pleasure of hearing him shout and whine, though quiznak, he wants to. The sight and the sensation of Lance’s mouth on his cock and hands on his body is more than he can bear.

Lance looks up at Keith through lowered lids when he reaches out shaky hands to touch Lance’s hair and somehow get him closer, further, harder , and Keith feels the other paladin smile around him. He purrs then, throat practically vibrating and making Keith see stars. His hands curl into fists and the short strands of Lance’s hair slide out from between his fingers. His hips jerk of their own volition, thrusting into Lance’s mouth while his head continues to bob up and down his length.

He surrenders a single whimper.

Lance laughs.

Keith cums in his mouth.

His knees practically give out underneath him as he dissolves into pleasure. Lance moves his hands to Keith’s hips to keep him upright with only a slight break in the movement of his mouth. He practically sings into Keith’s cock as he works him through his orgasm.

Lance only stops when Keith slumps against the shower wall, utterly spent. He sits back on his knees with a triumphant grin, lips red and face dripping with water and sweat. “I was right,” he announces.

“What?” Keith pants. He reaches an arm down to grab hold of one of Lance’s, pulling him to his feet. He rests his nose in the crook of Lance’s neck, planting small kisses there.

“Not even sucking cock can shut me up,” he trills. Lance fits their bodies together, and Keith feels the press of Lance’s half hard dick into his hip.

Keith groans into his shoulder, remembering the cause of their argument.

“It wasn't very hard though. As fast as you came, I barely had to come up for air.”

“Oh, really?” Keith murmurs, feeling roaming hands explore the dips and curves of his chest and torso.

“Yeah. But I suppose you do have a reputation for being the fastest cadet at the academy, so I don’t know what I was expecting. Maybe a little more endurance.”

Keith squeezes his eyes shut and sighs.

Then he wedges a hand between Lance’s skin and the wet fabric of his boxers and wraps his fingers around his dick.

Lance’s hands stutter against his skin as he cries out, the sudden contact on his erection so intense that his whole body reacts. Keith pumps hard and fast, letting the warm water act as some form of lubricant in the absence of real stuff. He makes a mental note to find some, though that might be hard out here in space. But surely other advanced species in the galaxy need lube, too.

“Keith, Keith, dios, that’s--” Lance babbles, voice bouncing off the wall and directly into Keith’s ear. The other paladin’s forehead is resting on the tile and his chin is hooked around the back of Keith’s shoulder, so close that he can hear every whimper and hitch in his breath. One of his hands curls into Keith’s hair. “Please, please , keep--doing that. Dios--sí, sí. Fuck .”

Keith continues to jerk him off, kissing and biting at his neck and listening to the sounds of Lance’s bliss. He gets louder as he climbs higher, and his whole body writhes under Keith’s touch.

He lasts thirty seconds at best.

Cum squirts onto Keith’s belly and slides slowly downward, not enough underneath the stream of shower water to be washed away. Lance’s cries batter Keith’s eardrum, magnified by the humid air and the close walls of the shower. Keith can’t see his face because it’s pressed into the tile by his shoulder, and though he’s vaguely sad for that, he watches his back arch and muscles tighten as he orgasms instead. The boxers cling to his butt like a second skin.

Keith lets go of Lance’s dick once the jagged motion of his hips slows. He reaches around Lance to place a hand on either of his ass cheeks and squeeze, pulling their bodies together once more as he does so. He fights to maintain steady breathing as their dicks brush against each other.

“Funny,” Keith says, shivering despite the heat as Lance plays with his damp hair. “I would have expected a little more endurance .”

Lance tugs his hair and pulls away so that he can look into Keith’s face.

“Say what you need to to make yourself feel better,” he retorts, and kisses Keith on the mouth. They’re both exhausted from training and fucking, so this is the most tender they’ve had. Keith will never admit how much he likes it.

Suddenly, the water on his back is icy cold.

Keith gasps in shock and Lance dances away, cackling. He steals Keith’s towel from the curtain rod and rubs it through his hair. Keith growls an insult as he turns the water back to a normal heat and finishes showering. He hesitates only a moment before taking his soaked briefs off the rest of the way.

Lance hangs the towel over his shoulder and watches.

“You can’t be clean yet,” Keith points out, wiping away the remnants of cum from his front.

Lance shrugs. “Cleaner than my mind.” His eyes travel up and down Keith’s body.

“Get back here. You didn’t even use soap.”

“Look at you, caring about hygiene now.” Lance grins and peels the boxers from his legs, stepping back into the shower. He drops the towel on the floor outside.

Keith holds his hand underneath the soap dispenser and lets some drip into his palm. “Just because I don’t exfoliate three times a week doesn’t mean I don’t care about hygiene.”

“I resent that. It’s only once a week, maybe twice. Over-exfoliation is a real danger.”

“Shut up,” Keith says and rubs soap onto Lance’s chest.

Lance chuckles.

“Make me.”

***

***

Outtakes and Aftercare:

So this chapter was entirely inspired by this comic:  http://0-aredhel-0.tumblr.com/post/148713915856/wow-ok-keith-whatever

Chapter Text

Being in a healing pod, Keith thinks as soon as he’s out of one, is not an easily describable experience. Not like sleeping, exactly. The passage of time is more apparent in the pod, but all sensation and ability to form thought is leached away, focused instead on the healing of wounds.

And Keith was only in for a few hours. He can’t imagine days on the inside. He wonders if the cryo-freeze that Allura and Coran were under for ten thousand years is like the healing sequence. He thinks not--Allura seemed to have no idea how long it had been--but the idea unsettles his stomach.

Shiro is waiting for him when he gets out.

Keith tries not to notice that Lance isn’t.

“Feeling better?” Shiro asks. His arms are crossed in the dad-way that makes Keith dread what comes next.

“Yeah. The healing pod still works.” It doesn’t give him energy though. He wants to sleep for a week, and leans on Shiro’s arm for support as they make their way out of the pod room. Shiro’s lucky he’s so exhausted, because otherwise he would absolutely bolt.

Shiro doesn’t smile at his joke. That’s a bad sign.

“Keith, we need to talk.”

“It was a stupid mistake, Shiro,” Keith begins. “It’s not a big deal--”

“It’s not a stupid mistake when you have stress fractures in both your wrists, Keith. It’s not a stupid mistake when you’re in the training room for five hours, until long after exhibiting clinical signs of exhaustion. It’s not a stupid mistake. It’s dangerous, and I’m worried about you.”

Keith groans into Shiro’s shoulder. The black stretch fabric of his shirt is old and worn now from so much use. They’ll need to find new clothes soon. “I’ve been stressed, okay? This whole ‘Defenders of the Universe’ thing isn’t exactly good on the nerves. You know this is how I cope with things.”

Shiro sighs heavily. “I know it is. But you’ve got to take care of yourself, Keith.”

They take a left in the hallway, toward their rooms. Good. Keith needs a nap.

“It won’t happen again,” Keith grumbles. Sometimes he just gets carried away. Fixated on things, or stuck in doing them, or whatever. His mind and his body don’t always cooperate when his brain has too much going on. It’s not his fault.

For a few seconds, Shiro says nothing. “Allura and I think it’s best that you take a few days off from the training room.”

Keith stiffens and steps away from Shiro. His tiredness is gone in a flash. “Is that a friendly suggestion, or--”

“That’s an order, cadet. The rest of the week. You need to cool off.”

They stop at the door to Keith’s room. He types in the access code and mutters to Shiro as it opens: “I’ll see you at lunch.”

“Dinner, actually. You were in the pod more than half the day.”

“Right.” Keith flexes his wrists. They feel fine now.

The door shuts behind him and Keith punches the wall.

***

Keith hasn’t gone this long without training since… hell, he can’t even remember the last time. He tries to keep busy, he really does, but pushups in his room or meandering in the hallways is not the same as the openness of the training room or the desert. He feels trapped, and he hates it. The unrest boils within him and he just can’t set it free.

It’s bleeding into the rest of his life, and he loves and trusts Shiro but he knows it was wrong for him and Allura to block his access to the training room. He feels himself giving shorter responses, getting angrier faster, and he tries to stop himself but he can’t. He’s even being short with the mice, for God’s sake.

“Get away from me,” he hisses at the red one, flicking it away. It’s been trying to curl up in the crook of his elbow and take a nap for the last ten minutes. Normally he wouldn’t care, but he can’t sharpen his knife properly with it laying there. And his knife is getting dull.

The mouse skitters back, pale red hackles raised against his hand’s attack. It chirps angrily at him, and then they’re locked in a staring match.

“Go nap somewhere else,” he orders it. His knife provides a convenient deterrent, although he’s not quite angry enough yet to actually threaten the mouse with it. The tiny tattletale would probably tell Allura if he did.

The creature seems to consider his suggestion, narrowing its red eyes and squeaking a few times. Then it makes up its mind and clambers back up onto his sleeve.

“No!”

Keith shoves the mouse away, the blood hot in his face as he pushes to his feet and stalks off to find somewhere infested with fewer rodents to sharpen his knife.

Coran enters the deck just as he’s about to storm out.

“Keith!” he exclaims. “Is something the matter?”

“I was just--”

He can’t say he’s angry at a mouse for trying to nap on him. It’s the truth, but he can’t say it, because he knows how stupid it sounds. So he shoulders past Coran and finishes: “Nothing. I was just leaving.”

A hand closes around his arm.

“Have you ever tried meditation, my boy?”

Keith fights the urge to roll his eyes. He would feel less guilty about being angry at Coran than a mouse. “It’s not really my thing.”

“I didn’t used to appreciate it either, Keith, but once I learned the proper technique, I found it quite useful.” Coran fidgets with the end of his mustache and looks past Keith, like he’s remembering his journey to finding peace through meditation. “I would never be as calm as I am today without it!”

In a miraculous display of self-control, Keith makes no comment about how "calm" Coran is. He’s surprised he has it in him, given that he just yelled at a mouse. Coran claps his shoulder once and continues on into the common room. Keith continues down the hallway and mulls over his words. He’s desperate, really, so he might just give it a shot.

But he really just wants to sneak into the training room. Get a few rounds of sparring in with one of the training robots and get his stress out, you know? Because it’s not just the whole saving-the-universe thing that’s got him so worked up. As stupid as it is—and, trust him, it’s stupid—he’s also all over the place with this Lance thing, too.

Twice now, they’ve had very intimate encounters. They even got naked together. Lance sucked his goddamn dick. And they still haven’t talked about it, and Keith isn’t the kind of guy who’s big on talking but this is starting to get to him. It’s a different thing if you can find some random guy to hook up with and then never see again, because there’s the part about never seeing him again. Here in space, he sees Lance every day, and that’s weird as hell. He’s never done this kind of thing before, whatever this thing is. He doesn’t know how he feels about it.

Keith picks at the skin around his thumb. Bites it. His fingers are raw and sore from his worrying on them. He considers taking a shower--maybe even asking Lance to join him--but stops off at his room instead. Maybe he should give this meditation thing a shot.

He finds the center of his floor and sits cross legged. He rolls his shoulders, rests his arms on his legs, and closes his eyes. How is this supposed to work? Focus on breathing, probably, and let his mind wander for as long as it needs to before it finds someplace to rest, calm and empty. Ten breaths. Fifteen, twenty, fifty, so many Keith loses count and almost feels calm. He really thinks he’s getting somewhere when--

There’s knock on his door, and his calm is shattered.

His exhale turns into a growl. “Go away. I’m meditating,” he says. The sound won’t escape the room because of the Altean walls, but it’s more for him than for whoever’s on the outside anyway. If he ignores it, they’ll go away.

But then the knock comes again. And again. And Keith wants to punch whoever is on the other side. So he pushes to his feet and cracks his knuckles as the door slides open.

It’s Lance.

Yep. He really wants to punch Lance.

“I’m meditating. Go away.”

 “Well obviously you’re not,” says Lance. “Because you’re standing in front of me.”

Keith hits the button to close the door.

Lance’s foot juts out to stop it. “Hey!” he says. “Can I talk to you for a minute? Because I—ouch—shit! This door isn’t playing around. I’m—I think it’s trying to break me, so can I just--”

He considers letting the door crush Lance’s toes, but some of the meditation-induced calm must be lingering around because he presses the manual switch and slides the door an inch or so off of Lance’s foot. “What.”

“I just heard you were having a bad time and all, so I came by to see how you were doing.”

“I’m fine. Are we done here?”

Lance frowns at him. “Pidge was right. You are being an ass right now.”

“Pidge can go to hell.”

“You better watch your tone when you’re talking about our little green friend,” Lance warns, one accusatory finger pointed in Keith’s direction. He swats him away.

Keith isn’t going to smile. He isn’t. Because he’s in a bad mood.

So he turns away from the door and goes to sit on his floor again. He faces the wall, so that Lance will maybe get the hint and leave him alone.

But of course, he doesn’t.

So Keith cannot be held responsible for his actions when Lance’s hand falls on his shoulder. He’s been taut as a bowstring for days now, and Lance knows he’s in a bad mood, so this one’s all on him.

Keith throws Lance over his shoulder and onto the ground in front of him. He’s on Lance in a second, bending him in half and twisting his arm behind his back.

“What the fuck, Keith?” Lance yells, but his voice is smushed into his own knee.

“I told you to leave me alone,” he hisses.

“Technically,” wheedles Lance, “you didn’t. So this is unnecessary force.”

Keith twists his arm harder. “This is nothing, asshole.”

“Aww, we have pet names now? Que lindo.” Lance grins and grimaces simultaneously as Keith puts even more force behind his hold. “Ow, Keith—fuck, can you let up? It’s a bit much.”

He wriggles underneath Keith, trying to get out of his grip, and all in a second Keith realizes how close they are. His hands let go of Lance all on their own, and he pushes back from him.

“Look, I’ll leave if you want. I was really just coming to check on you.”

Keith’s mind is working in ways he wishes it wouldn’t. But his mind thinks to him, there’s more than one kind of exercise and after that it’s all over for him. He never stood a chance.

Lance is rubbing the strain out of his arm when Keith says “Don’t leave,” and then the guy gets all bright and stops massaging his joints.

“You’re throwing me through a loop here, my man,” Lance says, but he’s smiling and watching Keith with wide, attentive eyes. “But if you’re just going to beat up on me then I don’t know if I want to stay.”

“I’ll make it a fair fight.”

“With you? It’s never fair.”

Keith crosses to his door and flips the manual switch off. It slides the rest of the way closed, and then it’s the two of them in Keith’s room with the door shut and somehow that’s very different than with the door open.

Because now they’re alone. Really alone, in a way they couldn’t ever be alone in a hallway or a communal shower room. The chances of anyone walking in on them are zero, and as that idea really sinks in, Keith finds it very hard to keep his hands and his mouth off of Lance.

Okay. He’s got to get himself under control.

He takes a steadying breath and turns around to face Lance again, and somehow he’s already right in front of Keith. Their eyes meet.

“Yeah?” Lance breathes.

Heat pulses between Keith’s legs because fuck Lance is very close to him right now. He isn’t even touching him yet and this is the effect he has on him? Well, he’s fucked.

“Yeah,” he says.

And then they’re kissing.

Keith’s stress melts away from the moment his skin makes contact with Lance’s. His lips are as soft as he remembers, and his fingertips are raising goosebumps on Keith’s forearms. Keith pulls him close and deepens the kiss, pressing his tongue between Lance’s lips and feeling how wet and warm his mouth is. Fingers drag through his hair, grabbing it by the fistful and pressing his face closer to Lance’s. It only takes moments for their kiss to lose a lot of its finesse, but Keith doesn’t think either of them really care.

They stumble, somehow, and fall onto the bed. It jars them apart and Keith actually hears himself say “oof” out loud as they hit the mattress. Lance laughs at him, of course, and then Keith shoves him, of course, and then they’re wrestling. Of course. It’s a nice segue into the more involved touching Keith really, really hopes they’re about to get into.

“Hey!” Lance says when Keith shoves his head to the side, tries to twist his arm into another lock. But Lance is nothing if not a wily bastard and he wriggles free. Then he’s all flailing limbs and it may not be a reformed style of wrestling, but it’s effective. Keith fights to pin down his arms, all the while finding a balance between not paying too much attention to where their bodies touch and paying enough attention to let the electricity in the air sizzle.

Lance’s thigh hooks around his and pulls him close, just close enough to catch one of his lips between his teeth and then duck away. It’s a flurry of legs and arms and more than a few childish giggles, and then they’re both breathing hard and Lance is above Keith but also wedged between his legs and Keith is as happy as he’s been in days. This, right here, is uncomplicated. He doesn’t have to think about any of that other stuff right now.

“I always knew you were a bottom,” Lance says between breaths, flippant.

Keith feels himself go red, but narrows his eyes and shoves Lance’s elbow out from underneath him. He takes advantage of Lance’s surprise and flips both of them over. Now he’s leaning over Lance on the bed, one of his wrists in each of his hands.

He says, right against Lance’s ear: “But you look so pretty on your back.”

Lance stiffens--all of him, and Keith knows because he’s more than a little bit on top of him--and tries to crank out a witty response. But he never gets that far because their mouths are together again and this time there’s no space between the rest of their bodies. Lance’s lips part in a small whimper as Keith traps his bottom lip between both of his and sucks on it. He lets his teeth tease against Lance’s flesh until his mouth opens wider.

“Mmm,” Lance says, but Keith feels it more than hears it. His hands have left Lance’s wrists in favor of roaming all over his body. He pushes up his shirt, exposing his the warms skin of his stomach. They reposition so that one of Keith’s legs sandwiches between Lance’s and now they find a kind of rhythm between their bodies while they kiss.

Lance’s hands are on him, too, on his legs, his hips, his ass, and Keith can’t stop thinking about how nimble and strong Lance’s hands are and how good it feels to have those fingers on his skin. The touch, taste, sight, smell, sound of Lance—all of him—is so damn good. He’s so ready to let the world outside of the two of them, together, melt away.

A moan travels between their lips when he bites Lance’s lip. It gets louder when he wedges his hand between Lance’s back and the mattress and pulls their bodies even closer together. Lance sits up—and then Keith is half-kneeling, half- in Lance’s lap—and clenches the hem of Keith’s shirt in his hands. Keith barely has time to raise his arms over his head before Lance has torn his shirt off and attacked his neck.

Keith lets his head fall back as teeth drag against his collarbone. He rests his hands on Lance’s shoulders and Lance ghosts fingers over his nipples, drawing them into small peaks. Keith picks up his leg and moves it so he’s straddling Lance. He rolls his hips forward into Lance’s and they shudder in unison. Keith feels the press of Lance’s erection into his own and if his breathing wasn’t already heavy, it sure is now.

“You too—” Keith grunts out, and Lance nods and pulls away from him for long enough to rip off his own shirt.

Keith pushes him down onto the bed, and then they’re kissing again, grinding against each other. Their hands go everywhere, hungry and persistent and feeding ever more heat into Keith’s boner, which is making itself very apparent now.

“Ahh,” groans Lance. He breaks contact with Keith’s skin, panting. “Jeans—jeans off.”

A moment is spent in catching his breath. “Yeah,” Keith replies. He scoots back off of Lance, legs weaker than he cares to admit, and hastily unzips his jeans as Lance does the same. The man is a master at quick undressing—the implications of which Keith does his best not to consider—and he’s already pantsless by the time Keith has his own halfway down his thighs. They’re tight, and he has to wiggle a little bit to get out of them.

He stops when his pants are at his ankles and looks over at Lance. Redness gathers in his cheeks. “Are you watching me?

Lance jerks like he’s been caught doing something he’s not supposed to, and Keith’s not sure if he has. There’s something… nice, about the idea of Lance’s eyes on him. The other paladin hesitates for a moment before meeting his gaze, and then flicks it away.

Surprise turns into embarrassment, and then a blush floods Lance’s face as well. “Fuck you!”

Keith kicks the pants off his ankles. “Fine!” he half-yells.

 “What?” Lance frowns. He’s gone back to watching Keith, who returns the favor.

He crosses his arms. Leans forward and issues the challenge: “Fuck me.”

“Um.”

It looks like Lance’s mouth has gone dry.

But the front of his boxers is anything but.

Keith allows a small smile and he straightens back to his full height. “How about that? I finally got you to shut up.”

He turns toward his dresser on the other side of the room, glad that he made a certain--uh--shopping trip on the last planet they set down on. He didn’t want to make assumptions about what he and Lance might get up to, but he figured it was better to have them and not use them. There’s a bottle of lube and a box of condoms, both of which the shopkeeper assured Keith were perfectly safe and effective for all species.

He’s just wrapped a hand around the drawer knob when a body presses close behind him and a palm strokes the front of his briefs. Lance’s breath is hot on his neck, leaning down over him to place a kiss against his ear. His hips grind into Keith’s ass and make his hands falter as they rifle through the drawer.

“Hnn--calm down, Lance. I haven’t even gotten out the fucking lube yet.”

“Oh, you have fucking lube?”

Keith almost coughs. “Please never say that again.”

“Fucking lube,” Lance repeats into his ear, voice low and sultry. “How’d you manage to find that all the way out here?”

“Long story.” He retrieves the supplies and nudges Lance backward with his body. The other man rubs against him one more time before they go back over to the bed. “Anything I should know about before we do this? STIs?”

“No. You?”

“No.”

Lance might have been about to say something else, but Keith stops the words in his throat with another kiss, his hand around the back of his neck. His mouth parts and their tongues meet, fighting for the advantage in their kiss.

Keith lets himself be pushed down toward the bed, feeling the slight give of the mattress as he puts his weight on it. Keith turns himself to lay lengthwise on the bed, his pillow just below his propped elbows. Lance crawls on after him and makes a line down Keith’s chest and stomach with his mouth, raising goosebumps as he goes.

He pauses at the elastic waistband of Keith’s briefs, and looks up at him across the plane of his chest. Keith isn’t sure why, but there’s something really sexy about Lance hovering over his underwear, asking for consent as silently as he never does anything.

Keith shuffles a little bit on his elbows, inadvertently shifting his crotch. Lance’s eyes gravitate toward his cock as it moves, which makes all kinds of heat shoot through Keith’s entire body. “Well, go on then,” he says. He’s doing his best to sound nonchalant, like Lance’s blowjob in the shower isn’t practically the only thing he’s thought about for the last week. His dick throbs with anticipation and that makes it even more sensitive when Lance slides down his underwear and licks up his erection from base to tip.

He can’t keep down the breathy moan it draws out of him. Lance’s eyebrows shoot up, and he swirls his tongue around Keith’s dick once more before saying: “Oh, you like that, huh?”

Uh, yeah. He really fucking likes it. So much he kind of thinks that if he was given the choice between sparring practice after a week of forced in activity and this, he’d definitely choose this. But the look on Lance’s face—kind of hopeful, but mostly smug—hardens Keith’s resolve to never admit it. So he shrugs instead and says: “‘S’okay.”

Lance scowls. “Oh yeah?”

“Meh.”

“When I’m done with you,” he threatens. “You won’t even be able to think about sex without thinking of me. That’s how good I’m about to give it to you.”

“Hmm… That’s a lot of talking, Lance, and not much doing.” Keith moves his hips again so his dick bounces in front of Lance’s face.

He takes Keith into his mouth with a growl, his competitive tendencies out in full force. Keith fights to keep his breathing steady because good god is Lance good at blow jobs. He has full control of his mouth and puts it to use, working himself around Keith’s dick with confidence and hell if Keith isn’t enjoying every second of it.

Keith has to lower himself flat onto his back from his elbows when Lance traces a lube-slicked finger over his hole. Lance’s lips form a smirk around his cock, so Keith folds his arms beneath his head like he’s just lounging on his bed, doing nothing, instead of getting the best blowjob of his goddamn life. “Is that all you’ve got?” he asks, sounding bored. But he can’t hold back how his hips jerk when Lance slides a finger inside of him. His legs burn from trying to hold himself still.

God. This is so much better than doing it on his own. To be able just to relish in the sensation of being touched is pure heaven. But he has an act to keep up, so he can’t show Lance how good he is. In some ways, it’s obvious—mainly the stiff and leaking state of his penis—so Keith hopes that’s enough to keep Lance going. He’s treading a thin line.

Lance takes his time stretching Keith out, making sure he’s good and ready for his cock. A plea hangs on the tip of Keith’s tongue—just fuck me already—but he catches it in his teeth, refuses to let it past his lips. Keith removes one of his arms from behind his head and finds a fistful of blanket, and looks up at the ceiling. Lance scissors his fingers, and Keith clenches the blanket harder. His whole cock vibrates as Lance starts to hum over the sound of his blowjob.

He runs the flat of his tongue up Keith’s shaft one more time before detaching himself and sitting back, clearly satisfied that Keith is prepped. Keith takes a long look at him through half-lidded eyes, appreciating how his lips have reddened with use and his boxers are tight with excitement. “Well?” Lance purrs.

Keith shrugs. “Eh.” Ignoring just how much his legs feel like jelly, he slides his brief the rest of the way off and gives Lance a look that says now you.

As Lance stands and maneuvers gracelessly out of his boxers, Keith pushes himself into a sitting position. He grabs the bottle of lube and a condom from where they rest at the bottom of the bed and tears open the condom package. Then he squeezes some lube onto his fingers. “C’mere,” he says, just in case Lance is getting discouraged by Keith’s refusal to admit that Lance is good at this.

Lance obeys, and Keith pulls him close. He curls his fingers around Lance’s dick and smooths some lube onto it. When he rolls the condom on, Lance practically dissolves into the touch. “I don’t know how you do it man,” Lance says in an unsteady voice. “Stay so quiet, I mean. Because—fffuck—it feels good.”

Keith licks his lips. “Maybe I’m just good at his,” he taunts, giving the cock in his hand a bit more of a massage than necessary to make sure the condom is in place. Because, yeah, it’s rewarding and really hot to get a reaction out of his partner. He almost feels bad for denying Lance that, but he’s just biding his time.

“Fuck you,” Lance says automatically.

Keith grins and lays back onto his elbows. He bends one knee up and the other out to show himself to Lance. To show him he’s ready. “I’m still waiting for that.”

Lance scowls. “Asshole,” he mumbles.

“Yep, that’s where you stick it,” Keith says in a bored voice. He even goes so far as to examine his nails.

“Only you,” Lance says. He’s lining himself up, ghosting his finger’s over Keith’s opening. “Only you could be this much of a dick right now.” The tip of his penis brushes against his hole and he feels his whole body clench. Fuck. “When you’ve been thirsting after my cock, for—how long now? It probably keeps you up at night, how much you want me. How much you—”

“Shut up and fuck me already,” orders Keith.

And Lance does.

Keith can’t help it. When Lance enters him, his back arches and he lets out a choked sound. He may be well prepped, and Lance isn’t uncomfortably large, but just the sensation of being filled like this is a shock. No unpleasant by any means—in fact, it’s fucking amazing—but still a shock.

“That’s what you want, huh?” Lance teases, his voice strained. He rocks back and forth, moving slowly so that Keith can adjust to the feeling of having someone else’s rock hard boner inside him. His hands find their places, one on Keith’s hip and the other on the mattress next to his head. He looks into Keith’s eyes as they find their rhythm together, a kind of bliss making his whole face light up. Keith grits his teeth and fights down the pleasure that wants to creep up into his own expression. “You want me to fuck you just like this.”

He says nothing, just watches Lance while he repositions his legs for a better angle. He’s not fully inside of Keith yet, just a few inches, but he can’t seem to help but grunt with every thrust. Lance keeps chewing on his lips, licking them, when he’s not speaking, and his breathing is low and shallow. He wants to reach up and run his fingers over that mouth, feel the softness of those lips against his callouses, and he’s about to give up, give in, when—

Keith has been caught staring.

Lance’s lips pull back into a grin. “Yeah, that’s what I thought. You’re all aboard the Lance train. And I’ve got a special treat for you, Keith.” He sinks all the way in with no particular tenderness, and it’s all Keith can do not to gasp. Lance’s grin is so triumphant and smug that Keith wants to rip it right off of him. “A room with a view.”

Keith redoubles his focus on their game and forces any expression from his face. He looks down between their bodies, at Lance’s hips moving in and out of him and feeling so damn good that he might lose it at any moment, and purses his lips in disappointment.

“Honestly? I expected more.”

It’s an outright lie. This is better than anything he’s ever done with a guy before.

Lance’s thighs slam onto Keith with a smack, and he fights down a groan.

“Fuck you!” Lance says for the third time.

Keith cracks a smile. He feels his cheeks bouncing with the force of Lance’s thrusts. “You’re trying to.”

A look of determination like Keith’s never seen settles in on Lance’s face. His eyes narrow and his lips tighten, and even though he can’t seem to stop making noises they come from lower in his throat, more intense.

He pounds into Keith. It seems almost impossible how much power his twiggy legs have in them, but Keith is seeing stars. And because he can’t stop the physical jerk of his body when Lance hits him in exactly the right spot, Lance knows just where to aim. And for all that Keith is the superior pilot, Lance is the better marksman. He always hits his target.

The hand at Keith’s hip moves to his cock. Lance jerks him off and drills into him both at the same time and it’s all too much so finally—fucking finally—Keith gives in.

He throws his head back and cries out. God, he can hardly breathe. He takes fistfulls of the blankets and digs his heels into the mattress, pushing onto Lance’s cock because it feels so good that he just wants more, more, more of it. Lance leans down and drags his teeth the exposed skin of his neck, and then kisses him through the moans and whimpers that he can’t bear to hold back anymore. The heat in his gut is so intense now that it might burn a hole right through him, and he kisses Lance back and thinks that he never thought he’d be doing this with Lance but he’s so, so glad he is.

When he cums, it’s like his whole body short circuits. The orgasm travels all the way down to his fingers and toes, making them tingle even as he loses all control of his body. Lance keeps going because he’s lost in chasing his own pleasure now, but he falters and shouts out a broken “fuck!” when he hits his climax.

Once they’re both finished, they lay together on the bed. Or really, Lance lays on Keith who lays on the bed, at least until Lance rolls off to one side. Their chests heave, and Keith feels the bruises forming along his shoulders and collar bones from Lance’s teeth. He wonders briefly how long it will take for him to be able to walk properly again. With as hard as they went, probably a few days.

Maybe even some time in a healing pod.

Laughter bubbles up in Keith’s throat as he remembers how he got here and, yeah, he’s a lot less stressed now. Sex endorphins will do that to a guy. He might even get his first full night’s sleep in a week.

“What are you laughing about?” demands Lance. He turns his head to look into Keith’s eyes, and then down at his lips. A kiss presses against his lips before he can respond. Keith can’t help himself, so he brings a thumb up to stroke Lance’s jaw and kiss him again. He tastes good, Keith thinks, and he doesn’t know if he’s ever thought that about someone he’s kissed. But Lance, he tastes good. Kind of like toothpaste, but mostly like Lance, and Keith likes that a lot.

Keith chuckles again. “Just that sex is an excellent form of stress reduction,” he admits. It feels weird to say it out loud, the sex part. It makes him admit that he just had sex with Lance, and that he really fucking enjoyed it. And he wants to do it again.

He draws a finger through the sticky mess on his stomach and reaches toward his nightstand for something to wipe the pair of them off with. They’ll need a shower, that’s for sure, but maybe he can save his shirt from the wash. He finds the rag he uses to polish his knife and considers that good enough, so he scrapes the cum off of his stomach first and then Lance’s. And then he takes the condom off of Lance and is halfway through tying it off when Lance says: “Wait.”

“What?” He stops what he’s doing. If Lance wants to keep this for some reason, it might be a deal-breaker for him.

“You just said that sex was an excellent form of stress reduction.”

“Oh,” Keith says. He finishes tying off the condom and throws it in the trash. “I did say that, yes.”

Lance stands up and reaches for his jeans, a wide grin on his face. “You just said that sex was excellent.”

“I said that—”

“You did! And it was! Ha!” Lance jumps a little to get the jeans up his legs, and he hasn’t bothered with his underwear so his dick bounces around while he does it. Keith tries not to stare, and then he has to try harder not to stare once his jeans are zipped because Lance is, somehow, really sexy with his pants sitting low on his waist and his chest bare. “I’m a sex machine and you like it.”

Keith rolls his eyes. He throws Lance’s shirt at him. “Fuck you,” he says with a wicked smile.

Lance catches his shirt and slides it on with practiced ease. He presses the button to open Keith’s door and looks back at Keith. Then he fucking winks.

And he says as he walks out the door: “Maybe next time.”

***

***

Outtakes and Aftercare

___

Coran: Keith, my boy! You look so much better! Did you try meditation like I suggested?

Keith: Uh, yeah. I tried it.

Coran: Brilliant! I’m glad to see how much it helped. I’m always proud when I can pass along my knowledge to the youth.

Keith: *sweating* Oh, yep. Uh huh. It was definitely the meditation.

Coran: I think Number Five would benefit from the meditative arts as well. Very… stressed, that one. But I think it would be best coming from a fellow paladin. Could I trouble you to talk to Pidge about your experience with meditation? Really get into the details, you know.

Keith: NO! Uh—I mean—no /problem/. No problem, Coran. I’d love to. Okay, well, I have to go now. Goodbye forever.

 

And then, later:

Keith: Coran wants to you try meditation. It’s supposed to help you sleep better.

Pidge: And why are you the one telling me about this?

Keith: Because I tried meditation. And it worked great. The best. Yep.

Pidge: And what about Lance?

Keith: *choking* What about him?

Pidge, with a knowing glare: Did /he/ try meditating too?

Keith: I don’t know. Haven’t talked to him.

Pidge: Right.

Keith: Okay, well, I have to go now. Goodbye forever.

Chapter Text

Lance is tired.

Is it completely his fault? Probably. But does he care? No, not really.

It’s not even the sex he wants—but let’s be clear that he still really wants the sex—as much as the time with Keith. They’re at each other’s doors more nights than not, asking to spend the night, and they never end up getting much sleep. But Lance doesn’t mind. He’ll take any excuse to spend time with Keith.

Because, god dammit, Lance has gone and developed feelings for the guy.

And it sucks, because Keith is just in it to be fuckbuddies and Lance feels both used and desperate for more at the same time. So he goes back. And he’ll keep going back because he’s too much of a coward to ever tell Keith in a non-antagonizing way that he loves his smile and wants to be the person who makes him smile like that, and how his whole body gets flushed when he works out but it’s nothing in comparison the shade of red he turns when he gets a compliment and it’s so fucking cute that Lance can hardly stand it.

If he’s being honest, it was never just about the sex. But at this point he’s not quite up to being honest with himself. Mostly because--just to bring this full circle--Lance is tired. Worn out. Exhausted. And, yes, more than a little sore.

And the last thing he wants to be doing when he’s tired is cleaning cryopods. Lance isn’t sure if it’s good or bad that Keith—the source of his metaphorical headache—is the one stuck in here with him..

Lance hits his towel against the glass a few times, making a rhythmic snapping noise until Keith turns around. That’s a pity. Lance likes to stare at his ass, you know. Appreciate the curve of it through his jeans.

“Are you going to clean, or just be annoying?” ventures Keith. He’s gotten just as little sleep as Lance has, but the guy rarely sleeps anyway so he’s testy but functional.

“I’m cleaning!” Lance protests. It’s a lie, of course; he’s cleaned maybe one pod to Keith’s three. In his defense, he hasn’t had the greatest experiences with these things. Forgive him if he’s less than motivated to get back inside one to scrub it free of magical space slime.

Keith says nothing. Just turns back around and leans over to scrub at thigh-level.

Lance stops pretending to clean because there’s no way in hell Keith isn’t doing that on purpose. He drops his rag unceremoniously on the floor and tiptoes up behind Keith. Lets his hand hover above Keith’s waist.

“You held out longer than I thought you would,” Keith teases without looking back at him.

Lance feels his cheeks redden and hooks one of his fingers through Keith’s belt loop. Tugs a little. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“In that case--” Keith straightens, shifting his weight forward and stretching up to wipe at part of the glass above his head “--neither do I.”

The challenge snaps all of Lance’s senses to attention and makes the air between them sizzle with electricity. Lance decides he needs both hands for this, and turns his focus to grazing his fingertips from Keith’s waistband to his armpits. The shudder that follows his touch is the best kind of encouragement.

Lance leans in to press his lips close to Keith’s ear as he smooths his hands over his shoulders. His jacket is long ago discarded and he’s managed to work up a light sweat from scrubbing the cryopods, so the fabric sticks to Keith’s skin but Lance’s hands slide over it.

“What if, instead of cleaning these--”

“You weren’t cleaning them anyway.”

“--we have some real bonding time.”

Keith ignores him. He reaches out to one side to clean a new part of the glass. Lance follows the movement of his body exactly, maximizing the contact between the two of them. He grinds a little, just to make sure Keith can feel the hard-on through his jeans. The man smirks a little and his breathing quickens, but he doesn’t stop cleaning.

Good.

Lance snakes his hands around to Keith’s front, enjoying the feel of his chest under his fingers. He teases at the hem of his jeans, dipping his thumbs between them and his skin, relishing in the body heat. Lance buries his head in the crook of Keith’s shoulder and--instead of focusing on how good and familiar Keith smells--and pulls the shirt collar aside with his teeth. Then he makes a line of kisses up across his neck toward his jaw. Keith moans quietly.

He’s gotten much better about letting Lance know when he enjoys something. Verbally, and not. They’re in sync now, so much so that he can almost predict how much longer Keith will pretend to clean the cryopods.

Just a bit longer.

Lance rolls his hips forward and moves his palms down Keith’s arms, curling his fingers around his wrists. His partner’s face is hot and flushed and his expression alternates between a grin and that half-dazed look of arousal that sends shivers down Lance’s spine.

He lets Keith scrub a few circles onto the glass with his own hands following the motion. Hopefully the other man doesn’t read too much into the almost-hug he’s put him in, Lance’s chin resting on his shoulder to watch the progression of their linked arms.

Keith’s hand slows and then stops, and he turns his head toward Lance. His lips brush his cheek and ear, and then they pause there for just a moment. Lance’s arms around Keith, Keith’s nose pressing into his hair. It feels so tender, so real, that it hurts.

Lance drags himself from the fantasy.

He pulls Keith’s arms away from the surface of the cryopod and tries to bend them in toward his chest. Keith almost laughs as he easily takes control--only because Lance lets him, of course--and spins around in his grip so that they’re facing each other. There’s inches between them, centimeters. Lance feels them all like miles and wants nothing more than to make them disappear.

“You’re really cute up close, you know that?” Lance twists his words into a tease, but studies every bit of Keith’s face as it reddens just as he knew it would.

Keith scowls at him, eyes narrowing and mouth pressing into a thin line. He leans in a little--so close that all Lance would have to do is twitch and they’d be kissing--and then suddenly his hands are the ones around Lance’s wrists, and he sidesteps Lance and pulls the pair of them into a one hundred eighty degree turn.

The edge of the cryopod entrance lines up with Lance’s spine as Keith presses him against it, raising their hands above them and pinning them to the glass. Lance fights to keep his breathing even under the sensation of his hands restrained over his head and the intensity of Keith’s eyes on him.

He fails.

Air stutters out between his lips with a quiet moan. He arches his back forward to be closer to Keith, the need to be closer to him overpowering any conscious thought, and then Keith sandwiches Lance’s body against the glass. One of his knees presses in between Lance’s legs. The heat exchanged between them is nothing short of searing.

Keith hovers in front of him, their lips nearly touching. Both of them are breathing hard, but not from exertion. Anticipation, that’s what it is. Keith’s eyes dart from one of Lance’s to the other, like he’s looking for something. Or maybe he’s just teasing.

The pressure builds between them until Lance can’t take it anymore.

He thought that putting his lips against Keith’s would feel like release, but if anything it only opens up the floodgates of his desire. Their mouths and their bodies move together like a dance, every move countered smooth and ready. How is it, Lance wonders, that they can know each other so well but somehow know nothing at all?

Keith lets go of his arms and lays a hand on either side of Lance’s face, deepening the kiss. Lance holds onto the other man’s hips and rolls forward into them so hard it makes him see stars.

One of his hands finds the front of Keith’s jeans and he thinks in the same moment, should we really do this out here, in the open? and oh, hell yes.

Cleaning cryopods blows, so he may as well too.

A groan escapes Keith’s throat as Lance’s fingers release the button on his jeans. He can get it most of the way without looking, but at the last second he has to detach himself from Keith’s lips and pay more attention to his hands. Keith puts a hand on the glass behind Lance to steady himself and runs the other through his hair. He’s gone so red that he might rival his jacket in color. Lance smirks and looks into Keith’s eyes one last time for confirmation. Receives it, and adjusts his footing to more properly drop to his knees.

That’s the moment it all goes horribly wrong.

Lance isn’t sure what exactly his shoe slips on, but it’s probably the lip of the cryopod’s platform. Unthinking, his hands reach out to grab onto anything that could stabilize him, and find the front of Keith’s shirt.

That does little more than pull Keith down with him.

They trip backward, into the cryopod. One of Keith’s arms slams against entryway with a thunk and he cries out in pain as a hissing fills the chamber. Lance’s head hits the back wall hard and he loses the ability to hold himself up, but with both of them inside the cryopod there isn’t enough room to fall to the ground. His body rests limply against the glass as dread fills the pit of his stomach.

He doesn’t have time to ask if Keith remembered to turn off the pod before the coldness overtakes them both.

***

***

Outtakes and Aftercare

___

~Two hours later

Pidge: *walks into pod room* Keith? Lance? You should have been done cleaning these things an hour ago--Hello?

Room: *is silent*

Pidge: *sees one cryopod retracted while the others are still up* I swear to god…

Pidge: *raises pod*

Pidge: *sees Lance and Keith frozen inside, hair mussed and Keith’s pants unbuttoned* Wow. Okay, guys. You’re making it really hard for us to pretend we don’t know about you two. But whatever. You know what? I’m a good person. I’m only going to take /one/ blackmail photo.

Pidge: *snaps picture* *pulls out a sticky note and pen*

Pidge: *writes, in a perfect imitation of Coran’s handwriting*Always remember to turn off the automatic freeze when cleaning pods! -C

Pidge, to their frozen companions: You guys are idiots. *presses release button*

Pidge: *walks away, shaking their head*

Chapter Text

Lance directs Blue into the hangar with the ease of way too much practice. That, or Blue is as eager as he is to get back into the castleship as he is and is helping him out.

He chooses to believe the former.

Though he wouldn’t blame the lion if that were the case. That mission was one hell of an ordeal, and Lance is more than ready to forget about it entirely. He never liked dealing with salespeople on Earth, so he should have guessed that it would be worse in space. Everything is worse in space.

Okay, maybe not worse. Just… more. More frustrating, more dire, more precarious, more everything. And it’s really wearing Lance down.

Metal paws clank down onto the hangar floor, settling into the castle’s artificial gravity. Lance shifts a little in his seat as the lion powers down. He gives a cursory look to the control board, sees that nothing is on fire, and decides that’s good enough. Hunk and Coran will be doing their weekly maintenance on the lions tomorrow, anyway, and Blue always tells him if there’s something that needs immediate attention.

But right now? Lance is ready for a nap .

He clambers down the ramp in Blue’s mouth. The only sound in the hangar is the clanging of his boots and his own humming. It’s tuneless, made up of all the melodies he’s forgetting after spending so much time in the musicless void of space.

Dios. It’s been so long since he’s heard real music.

Another sound echoing off the walls catches Lance’s attention. Footsteps, slow and rhythmic. The footsteps of everyone on the ship are familiar now, but Lance still can’t distinguish all of them with certainty. Probably it’s Shiro, come to check in on him after that disaster of a mission.

Lance isn’t sure if he can deal with that right now, so he does what any brave paladin of Voltron, defender of the universe would do.

He hides.

Lance turns into a doorway on his right, opting for the exit that--yes--is less fun than a zipline to the bottom level of the castle, but is also more convenient at the moment. The elevator is barely large enough to fit one person and feels more like a laundry chute than an elevator with how fast it goes, but it will have to do.

He careens down--across? He’s never sure in space--the castleship’s spire and is almost thankful for the empty stomach a day haggling with space auctioneers earned him, because otherwise he might have vomited. As it is, he’s only lightheaded and very aware of how hungry he is. His stomach is doing its best to growl over his humming.

The elevator slows to a stop at an only slightly less-than-jarring speed, and Lance steps gratefully out of it. He doesn’t spend much time on the bottom level of the castle--despite the advanced Altean technology, it’s always slightly colder in rooms adjacent to the outside, and Lance doesn’t like the cold--so it takes a moment to orient himself.

He crosses the foyer to the staircase and climbs it, feeling kind of regal despite himself because, hey, it’s a staircase in a literal castle . And one that’s owned by a princess at that. Lance continues his humming as he runs his hand along the railing. He takes his time on the stairs, because it’s not so often that he gets to be alone.

“What song is that?”

Lance screeches and drops immediately into a fighting stance. But it’s Keith coming around the corner of the hallway, so he lowers his arms and scowls. “What the hell are you doing down here, Keith?”

Keith is in his normal clothes, and standing next to him in full paladin armor is as strange as always. It’s one thing when they’re all wearing funny space suits, and another entirely when there are street clothes to compare them to. He feels ridiculous, and embarrassed, so suffice it to say that seeing Keith isn’t improving his mood.

“Would you believe me if I said it was just a sad coincidence?”

Lance glares at him as they start walking. “No.”

“I had a hunch,” Keith admits. He picks at the edges of his gloves. “You never come to the meeting room when you get back from missions. Shiro said he’d just meet you in your hangar--”

“I knew it was him!”

“--so you couldn’t slip away, but I know about the back exit. Figured you’d come down here to try to sneak by everyone.”

“Oh.” Lance deflates. His steps slow to a stop. “So you’re here to drag me back up for a debriefing. Great.”

Keith pauses a few feet away and turns around to face him. His looks… hesitant.

Then he sighs heavily. “Not if I never found you down here.”

“What do you mean?” Lance bites his lip.

“The others don’t have to know you came down this way. It’ll buy you some time to yourself.”

Lance looks at him hard, searching Keith’s face for the sign that this is a joke or something. Because this isn’t like Keith, is it? Does he bend rules when they don’t work for him, and do what he wants instead?

Oh. Right. Yeah, he does.

But he doesn’t do this kind of thing for Lance .

“Uh--thank you,” Lance says. “Really. I’ll--I’ll owe you one, I guess.”

“I guess you will.”

Lance wishes Keith wouldn’t look at him like that. It does… things, to his ability to focus. And not even in a sex way. His stomach fills with butterflies around the man, for fuck’s sake, and if that’s not some middle school kind of bullshit, he doesn’t know what is. Nevermind that he sees the man naked regularly, in a variety of very lewd positions. The tingling in his fingers and toes and the skipping of his heart have decided--without even asking him--that they’re going to play it like this.

Which, for the record, is rude as hell.

Lance clears his throat and realizes that he’s been looking at Keith for almost too long. “Right. So--um. I’m going to go take a nap now.”

When he tries to step around the other paladin, Keith puts a hand up to stop him. And because he’s an idiot who apparently likes to suffer, Lance doesn’t halt quite quick enough to avoid his chest making contact with Keith’s palm. Neither of them pulls away.

“You don’t want to go to your room,” Keith says. He closes his hand into a fist and hikes a thumb over his shoulder, breaking their touch. “Hunk’s there to make you go to your debriefing.”

Lance groans. “I would literally sleep on the training room floor --”

“Allura.”

“What?”

“Allura’s there.”

“The lounge?”

“Pidge.”

“The kitchen?”

“Coran.”

Shit .” Lance slumps against the wall, defeated. “Is there anywhere in this castle I can go without being forced to go debrief? I really can’t relive my hellish day right now. I’m sorry.”

Keith huffs out a breath through his nose. “Come with me.”

He brushes past Lance, back toward the stairway. Lance follows him down and across, and halfway there he realizes they’re going to another of the elevators. Keith pushes the button to open the door and steps inside, fitting himself against the wall. “Get in,” he orders.

Lance does.

The elevator feels even smaller with two people. Even if Lance wanted to leave space between their bodies, he can’t. There just isn’t room. So instead he’s standing stock-still, his face only inches from Keith’s and their chests even closer, not looking Keith in the eyes.

Instead, he notices how all of the hems in Keith’s jacket are fraying and his hair’s longer than it used to be. Altean technology might be phenomenal for eliminating facial hair, but no one’s allowed it near the rest of their head yet. Lance doesn’t fancy being bald any more than he fancies the drop in his stomach that has nothing to do with the elevator accelerating and everything to do with the hand that flies to his waist as it does.

The ride is over almost as soon as it starts. Keith’s hand disappears from Lance’s body the moment they’ve steadied themselves. When did this kind of physical contact become so awkward? It’s not as if they haven’t touched each other before.

Everywhere. Sometimes with their tongues.

Okay. Not a good thing to think about while they’re both crammed into a tiny elevator.

The door slides open behind Lance and he lets himself nearly fall backward out of it. Cramped spaces, he can deal with them. But it doesn’t mean he wants to spend any more time in them than he has to, especially with Keith.

Lance turns around and finds--as he knew he would--the red lion’s hangar. The giant robot sits, seemingly without life, in the center of the room. But Lance knows better. Red has come to life to save Keith’s ass far too many times for him to think any differently.

“We can wait here as long as you need.” Keith’s voice is quiet, but it bounces around the mostly-empty space and hits Lance right in the chest.

Lance’s eyes follow Keith’s back as he walks in front of him, toward Red. “For real?”

“Yeah,” Keith replies. “We all need a break sometimes. And if what I heard over the coms is any indication, you need one right now.”

There it is again, in his chest.

A dozen questions rest on Lance’s tongue. Why is Keith being so nice to him? How did he know where Lance would be? Is he going to stay here with him? Would he please just hold Lance in his arms?

But none of those come out of his mouth. Instead, he says, “How’s Red?”

Keith glances over to the lion, then takes the few necessary paces to close the gap between them. He rests a hand on one of her metal legs. “She’s good. We’ve been training together a lot.”

“Hmm.” Lance steps closer to the giant robot, half-expecting her to growl or hiss at him. “Blue and I are tight, for sure, but she never has to come save me because I got ejected into space.”

Keith turns his head to glare at Lance, one eye partially obscured by hair. Lance swallows the urge to brush it out of the way. He’s just tired, that’s all. If he were fully awake, it wouldn’t be this hard to deny his feelings.

Except that his drooping eyelids and heavy limbs are gone, replaced by the quiet tug in his gut that always appears whenever Keith is around.

“What, no witty comeback?” Lance continues, pushing through the mess of emotions roiling within him.

Keith’s mouth opens slightly but then closes, and he shakes his head like he’s pulling himself from a distraction. “Didn’t want to justify that with a response.”

Now it’s Lance’s turn to scowl. “Forget I said anything.”

“If only I could,” Keith shoots back, and then--ah, yes--they’re back into familiar territory. A smile turns up the corners of the red paladin’s mouth. “But with as much as you talk, I’d almost be worried if you stopped.”

Lance groans. “I don’t know where you got the idea that I talk all the time, because I barely talk more than anyone else--”

A clanging from near the hangar’s entrance interrupts Lance’s words.

Lance’s eyes meet Keith’s. “What was that?”

“I don’t know.”

“Someone’s coming.” Lance looks around the hangar desperately. “What if they find us up here? What’ll they think?

“Follow me.”

Keith grabs Lance’s wrist and yanks him to the far side of Red’s leg. He starts climbing, and tosses open the hatch in his lion’s head. Lance follows him inside.

Trying not to feel awkward in the cockpit of someone else’s lion, Lance sets his helmet down and leans against a wall free of buttons or levers. If he were at full Lance capacity, he’d sit in the pilot’s chair, but as it is, he lets Keith have it. Temperamental as the red lion is, that’s probably a good idea.

“Anyone out there?” Lance asks.

“No,” Keith replies after a moment’s pause, no doubt listening and watching through the lion’s senses. “But we’re hidden in here in case anyone does show up. You can take a nap or something if you want.”

Lance looks around the cramped space of the cockpit. “Not many good places to nap in here. Not that I don’t love metal floors and all, but they’re not good for my neck, you know?”

Keith is almost sheepish as he steps aside and gestures toward the pilot’s chair. “You can rest in my seat if you want. I don’t think Red will mind. Isn’t that right?”

To her credit, the lion doesn’t spit them out at the mere suggestion. Lance take it as affirmation.

“Uh, thanks. Do you mind if I take off my armor?”

Maybe Lance imagines it, but Keith reddens slightly. “No. Whatever makes it more comfortable.”

As carefully as he can, Lance takes off the outer layer of his armor--boots, shin and thigh pads, chest plate, arm coverings--until he’s in just his black bodysuit. He leaves it piled near his helmet, and stretches a little bit to enjoy the new mobility. Well, maybe a little bit to show off as well.

He maneuvers around Keith--still very careful not to touch him--and sits gingerly in the pilot’s chair. The cockpit as a whole is slightly smaller than in the blue lion, but the chair itself is the same size. Not any more comfortable, though, and even if Lance still wanted to take a nap, he’s not sure if he could.

Now it’s Keith’s turn to lean awkwardly against the wall. After a few moments, he slides down so he’s sitting, arms crossed and not looking at Lance.

“I’m really not tired anymore,” Lance says.

Keith raises his eyebrows. “Great. So I just did all that for nothing.”

The cockpit shudders and shifts with enough force to throw Lance from the chair completely. He cries out as he hits the floor hard. The sounds of other things clattering around makes Lance think that either Keith hoards space junk in here, or Red needs some serious repairs.

“Cool it, will you?” Keith says, and at first Lance thinks he’s being spoken to. Then another movement--almost like a nod--shakes the cockpit, and Keith hits his fist on the floor to make the lion stop as a few things fall from an overhead compartment, narrowly missing Lance. “Stay out of my business. I can handle it.”

Silence.

“Is she mad that I was in your chair?” Lance asks, propping himself up on his elbows. He almost regrets not leaving his armor on, because that fall hurt.

Keith turns to him, biting his lip. “No, not really. It’s just--um--does Blue ever think she knows what’s best for you and try to make you do something you really shouldn’t?”

“Not really,” Lance says after a moment of thought. It’s not a total lie--Blue never tries to make him do anything, but he can sense her disapproval when it comes to how he denies his feelings for Keith.

“Oh. Well. Red does.”

“What’s she trying to make you do?”

Keith blanches and looks away. “Nothing.”

“Fine, don’t tell me.” Lance pushes himself back onto his haunches and looks around the cabin. There’s a few fist-sized rocks from different planets, a broken Galra blaster, and a pair of bracelets that look oddly familiar on the floor. “What is all this stuff, anyway?”

The red paladin turns his head back towards Lance and then glances at the items that have fallen out of his storage. He swallows. “Souvenirs.”

Lance picks up one of the rocks and rolls it over toward Keith. Then he reaches for the bracelets, and as his fingers close around them he recognizes them. He drops them and pulls his hand away in shock.

“You kept these?”

Keith looks up from the space rock and goes even paler. “Uh--maybe. Yeah.”

“You keep the keys, too?” Lance looks at the handcuffs warily. He remembers being stuck in those, tied to a tree for hours waiting for rescue.

“Duh.”

His mind is working in ways he wishes it wouldn’t. “Good.”

“Do you think I should have given them to Allura or something, in case we have prisoners?”

He raises an eyebrow at Keith, prodding at the handcuffs with one finger. “The castle probably has what it needs for prisoners. Have you ever wondered if there's a dungeon?”

“I get the sense that cryopods and airlocks are this castle’s version of a dungeon.”

“Bummer.” Lance picks up the handcuffs and brandishes them at Keith. “What if I locked you up in these right now?”

“I would never trust you again,” Keith deadpans, examining the rock in his hand. He glances in Lance’s direction. “And besides, you’re the one that’s into that.”

He says the words so casually , as if he doesn’t know they send a pang right into Lance’s gut. Dios, he can’t just say things like that. It’s not fair for him to bring that up.

And it’s completely beside the point that Lance was thinking the same thing.

“You enjoy it at least a little,” he counters. “I know you practice your knots.”

Keith’s eyes dart over to him again, no doubt taking in the fact that Lance still has the cuffs in his hands. “Don’t have to tie knots with handcuffs.”

Lance slides the cuffs across the floor towards him. “No, you don’t.”

Their eyes meet across the cockpit, dimly lit with a reddish glow. Lance’s heart is pumping hard in his chest and his mouth is dry, and he hopes that Keith is feeling the same.

“The others still don’t know where we are.” Lance watches Keith pick the handcuffs up off the floor and swallows. “If we go to your room they’ll find us.”

“Here is fine.”

Keith pushes to his feet and Lance follows suit. Their eyes stay locked as Lance starts toward him. His fingers are already tingling with excitement as he crosses the cockpit and puts a hand to the back of Keith’s neck, pulling him in for a kiss. The cuffs fall from Keith’s hands onto the pilot’s chair as his arms wrap around Lance.

Their lips meet with familiar urgency, and Lance sighs into the touch. The heat in his gut sputters and roars because it knows exactly what comes next. One of Keith’s hands clutches the small of Lance’s back and brings him closer so that their bodies touch, sliding against each other as their kiss deepens. The space suit dulls the sensation only slightly, but regardless Lance is ready to have it off. He starts the process by nudging Keith’s jacket down off his shoulders, then pushes his hands between his t-shirt and skin.

Keith hmm s--a delightful sound that Lance still wishes he heard more of--and raises his arms so the shirt can be pulled up over his head. Lance runs his hands over his chest and back and kisses his neck and collarbone. He feels Keith’s fingers at the back of his neck, fumbling for the zipper on his suit. Then there’s the quiet zing of it being tugged downward, and the cool air hits Lance’s shoulders.

He brings his hands away from Keith’s body long enough to roll the suit down off his arms. The top half hangs at his waist, because it takes a bit of maneuvering to get it the rest of the way off. Lance leaves it there for a few moments while he leans in for another kiss. His hands find Keith’s hair and knot in it, and the sharp intake of breath Keith gives him is all the encouragement he needs.

The other man pushes off the wall, forcing Lance to step backward until the pilot’s chair hits the back of his thighs. He almost falls backward, but Keith catches the pair of them with an outstretched hand on the seat.

“Mmm, so strong,” Lance laughs into Keith’s neck before nipping at his ear. He can practically feel Keith rolling his eyes.

Keith pulls them both upright, one hand gripped firmly on Lance’s shoulder. He lets it trail down his arm and onto his wrist, prying Lance’s hand away from the front of his pants. Lance pulls back from his work at his partner’s neck. “¿No lo deseas?” he asks.

But a sly smile tips up the corners of Keith’s mouth, and he looks at Lance through lowered eyelids with an intensity that goes straight to his dick. Keith doesn’t say anything, but his grip tightens around Lance’s wrist and then suddenly cool metal joins his hand and Lance thinks--

Oh. The handcuffs. He’d almost forgotten.

“Space cop,” Lance chuckles. His legs are weak. “Sexy.”

“You’re an idiot.” Keith guides Lance’s hands in front of him and snaps the other cuff in place. He tests them, the glowing chain stretching maybe a foot before it snaps taut. He’s not sure what setting Nyma had them on to go all the way around a tree, but he doesn’t care. His focus is more on the shirtless man in front of him.

“Yeah, but you like me,” he teases, pressing his lips against Keith’s so he doesn’t have to see whatever face he pulls in response. Lance wants to enjoy himself right now, not get sucked back to reality where he and Keith are no more than fuckbuddies.

Keith kisses him back hard, tongue pressing into his mouth and hands tight around his forearms. Then he separates himself from Lance and lifts their arms up between them. “Hmm. But where to put you?”

Lance brings his arms higher and then down over Keith’s shoulders, kissing him again. The heat builds between them as Lance rolls his body against Keith’s, the space suit drooping ever lower around his waist. Keith grabs the fabric of it and starts to tug it down.

“You know I go commando in this thing sometimes, right?” Lance whispers against his mouth and grinds forward.

“Good,” Keith grumbles back, and shoves the suit down his thighs. He ducks out from underneath Lance’s arms to pull them the rest of the way down, and Lance uses his shoulders for balance as he releases one foot from the suit-leg and then the other.

As Keith stands, he runs his hands up along Lance’s legs, and gives his cock a squeeze as he draws fully upright.

“Ff- fuck , Keith,” Lance gasps, cuffed hands clamping around Keith’s wrist and burying his head in the other man’s shoulder.

“Go to the chair,” Keith orders, and Lance’s belly tightens. “Put your arms over the headrest. Face away from me.”

He does as he’s told, turning around and lifting his arms so that the chain on the handcuffs slips behind the headrest and he grips the shoulders of the chair with his hands. He puts one foot on the seat of the chair and leaves the other on the floor behind him, which is slightly better than both on the floor but his ass is still jutting back at Keith.

“Yeah, I like that,” says Keith, and Lance turns his head to face him. The sight of him a handful of feet away, arms crossed over his bare chest and jeans tight and low around his hips sends a pang through him. “I like that a lot.”

He steps forwards and trails his hands up the outside of Lance’s legs, pressing the front of his jeans against his bare ass. Lance shivers and lets his head drop forward against his chest. He catches a glimpse of his dick, hard enough to rest flat up against his belly.

“Shit,” Lance groans. “We don’t have any lube here. Or condoms.”

Keith laughs. “Speak for yourself.”

His footsteps bounce off the walls of the cockpit as he rummages around behind Lance. “You keep that stuff in your lion?”

“I picked some up during the last supply run and haven’t moved it to my room yet. But--” his footsteps bring him closer again, “--I might have to leave some in here from now on, just in case.”

A condom and a small bottle of lube fall to the seat below Lance, right next to his foot. His body burns with desire, and it’s all he can do to keep from begging his partner to hurry up and fuck him already. He looks to Keith beside him, cheeks flushed as he pulls the gloves off his hands.

“N-no, keep them on,” Lance says quietly, and Keith’s eyes meet his.

“Maybe next time,” he replies, and finishes removing them. Lance tries not to be disappointed. “When there’s a sink nearby to wash them in afterwards. Don’t give me that pouty face.”

“I’m not pouting.”

Keith kisses him quickly, like the tease that he is. “Yeah, definitely pouting.”

“Just take off your damn pants already.”

The other paladin chuckles as he unbuttons his jeans, pulls down the zipper, and shimmies out of his pants. He doesn’t even bother removing his underwear separately, so Lance has the full pleasure of watching Keith’s penis wiggle with the movement.

It shouldn’t be as cute as it is, but Lance isn’t in charge of that.

“God, you’re so hot,” Lance says. “Kiss me.”

“Last I checked, you’re the one that’s handcuffed to a chair.” Keith’s face is completely red now, and maybe he’s even a little flustered. “I don’t think you’re the one that gets to give orders here.”

Their lips meet, and Lance leans to the side to get closer to Keith. The tug of the handcuffs against his wrists, keeping them in place while he strains to move, adds a buzz of electricity to Keith’s touch. The other man puts one arm on Lance’s bicep and the other around his waist, digging his fingers into the crease between his hip and raised leg. Lance moans into Keith’s mouth as his knuckles graze his erection.

Keith smiles and moves to stand behind Lance, trailing kisses down his neck and over his shoulders. He reaches underneath Lance’s arm for the bottle of lube, and Lance fights to steady his breathing as he pops the top open and squirts some onto his fingers.

“Let’s try something new this time,” drawls Keith. His fingers start between Lance’s legs and trace a line up to his hole, drawing a shudder from him. “You don’t get to cum until I say you can. How does that sound?”

Lance moans as Keith makes a circle with his finger and presses it gently inside of him. “Keith,” he breathes. “Hnnn, Keith. Please.”

His finger goes deeper, and then he’s placing another in next to it, stretching him out tantalizingly slow. Lance’s muscles tighten and relax and his legs shiver with the exertion of staying upright.

“You look good like this,” Keith says, and places a kiss between his shoulder blades. Lance closes his eyes and melts into the touch and the sound of his voice. The other man rests his forehead on Lance’s back as he continues his work. The fingers inside Lance’s ass spread and tease and threaten to make him unravel. “Really good.”

He aches. Díos, he aches. To feel Keith inside him, filling every inch of him with hot pleasure, he needs it. He needs him.

“Fuck,” Lance whines, and his hips jerk. “Fuck me.”

Keith removes his fingers from Lance’s ass and snatches the condom from the chair. Lance cranes his neck to turn around and watch, but Keith uses a hand to face his head forward again. “No peeking.”

Lance waits in hazy silence for Keith to put the condom on, switching his legs so that the other one is on the chair now, his knee and shin resting on the seat. He leans forward enough that he can rest his forehead on the headrest, but when Keith’s fingers brush the skin at his hip, Lance’s body stiffens and he pushes himself back toward the touch.

“So eager,” Keith chides. His cock bobs against the inside of Lance’s thigh, and he pulses forward and back between his legs. “But don’t forget the rule.”

Keith’s knuckles rub against his butt cheeks as he takes his own cock in his hands and moves the tip to line up with Lance’s aching hole. Lance pushes back into him a little farther, feeling the pull of the cuffs against his wrists. He’s so anxious for Keith just fuck him already that any shred of dignity he may have had is waiting quietly in a corner somewhere far away.

“Not until I say so,” Keith hisses, and enters him.

Lance cries out, his back arching and his whole body clenching. Keith starts it out slow, rhythmic ins and outs that give Lance time to adjust to Keith’s girth. He listens to the sound of Keith’s breathing, loud and harsh enough that it could almost be mistaken for a whimper. Keith thrusts up into Lance and Lance sinks down onto him, desperate for Keith to fill every inch of him with hot pleasure.

Keith wraps an arm around Lance’s middle, bringing their bodies together and pushing further inside of him. He picks up the pace, moving harder and faster. Lance moans nonsense, hips stuttering and arms shaking. A lube-slicked hand wraps around Lance’s cock and starts to jack him off.

“Fuck, Keith,” Lance begs, his voice a hoarse whisper. The heat between his legs is spreading out into his whole body, trying to find an escape, but he can’t let it. “Please. I need to.”

“Not yet,” Keith growls, even as he hits Lance’s prostate and makes him see stars. He shouts again, fighting the orgasm with everything he has. He breathes in and out and pushes it down but he’s losing, losing, losing.

“I’m so close. Dios, dios, no puedo-- Keith --”

“Not yet.

Lance bites down a wail and tries not to think of Keith’s hand curled around his dick, pumping the goddamn life out of him, or the lewd sound of Keith’s thighs slapping against his ass as he slams into him, over and over and over and oh god he can’t keep this up any longer. “ Please.”

Keith fingernails dig into his stomach and Lance knows he’s about to--

“Okay.”

Not a second later, Lance throws his head back and cum spurts up his chest and onto the chair in front of him. Keith’s pace falters, a low whine escaping from him because of course he timed it perfectly so they would orgasm at the same time.

Lance’s fists clench and his head falls against the chair, his arms trying to pull in toward his chest but stopped by the cuffs around his wrists. He lets out a silent scream, cumming so hard that he can’t even make a sound.

Eventually, Keith’s hips slow to a stop and the two men fall heavily forward onto the chair, gasping for breath. He kisses the back of Lance’s neck, massaging his thighs and stroking his dick. Lance moans quietly.

“You were so good for me,” Keith mumbles into his skin. Lance shivers.

He pulls out slowly, leaving Lance sore and empty. There’s the sound of him removing and tying off the condom, and then Keith is lifting Lance’s arms off the back of the chair and wiping off his seat with a paper towel. He should be surprised that Keith has those in his lion, but really he’s not.

Keith taps the key against one of the cuffs, and the light dims as they crack open. Lance slides them off his wrists and tosses them onto the floor, gratefully rolling out his wrists and straightening his back.

“How’re you feeling?” Keith asks. He’s crumpled the paper towel into a ball with the condom inside, probably to be thrown away later.

Lance hums. “Fantastic,” he says, even though he’s unsteady on his feet. “You?”

“Great.” He hooks an arm around Lance’s waist and tugs them down into the chair together. Lance laughs and turns himself to the side to pull Keith in for a kiss.

“Mmm, yeah, I like that.” He wraps his arms around Keith’s shoulders and kisses him lazily for a while, still buzzing from his orgasm. He could probably go again--scratch that, he wants to go again--but if they’re gone for too long the others will start to get worried.

It’s time for him to go face his debriefing with Shiro.

Keith kisses back with a tenderness that hurts.

Well, maybe it can wait for a little while longer.

***

***

Outtakes and Aftercare

___

*a few hours later*

Lance: I’m sorry if it was weird that we banged in your lion. Like, I hope she wasn’t offended or anything.

Keith: I don’t think Red minded.

Lance: For real? Why’s that?

Keith: *with a sigh* It was her idea.

___

*Pidge and Keith in the lounge*

Pidge, nonchalantly: Convenient that you and Lance disappeared at the same time today.

Keith: *takes a bite of space cereal* I don’t know what you’re talking about. I was cleaning cryopods when Lance got back.

Pidge: *looks Keith dead in the eye* So long as you don’t forget to turn off the automatic freeze.

Keith: *spits out space cereal*

Chapter Text

Keith can’t stop replaying the moment in his head. Or--moments, really. Twenty or so seconds of pure hell, and then the minutes, hours, afterwards of anxiety and guilt and worry.

Because it was his fault.

Totally and completely his own reckless fault, and he should have been the one to get hurt, not Lance. But that idiot--that beautiful fucking idiot --had taken the shot for him.

He will be fine, Keith knows it. The cryopods always spit them back out with nothing but the hint of a scar and their own memories of the pain. But Keith can’t stop thinking about it--the way Lance’s body hit the ground, how he cried out in agony as Pidge dragged him out of the line of fire while the others finished off the soldiers. How he’d been sweating and crying and begging for it to stop while they waited for Allura and Coran to land and rush him to a cryopod. How he’d had the nerve to ask if the rest of them were okay when he had a hole in his stomach the size of Keith’s fist. How the pain falling out of his face once the cryopod pulled him under had been the most beautiful thing Keith has ever seen.

“How long?” Hunk asks, fingers tapping along the glass. His armor is scuffed and dirty, and he looks tired enough to collapse. They all do.

Coran eyes the flitter across the vitals screen. “Hard to say. Anywhere from a few hours to two days.”

“Should someone stay with him?”

“It’s not necessary, of course, but it’s always nice for someone to be there when you come out of a cryosleep.” Coran twists a finger through his mustache. “Especially when you get the old sleep chamber knees, because then you have someone to lean on while you stretch out.”

Shiro bites his lip. “The rest of you should really get some sleep. It’s been a long day. I’ll stay with him first.”

“No, I will,” offers Allura. “I’ve slept the most recently, and the five of you were out fighting all day.”

No one moves to argue with her. The weight of exhaustion in the room is the only response.

“And besides,” she adds, an empty smile tugging at the corners of her mouth. “He’s the least likely to wake up and start flirting with me in the next few hours, so we all win.”

Keith searches for any kind of real malice in the princess’s words and finds none. If she ever truly wanted Lance to stop with the pickup lines or the waggling eyebrows, he knows that he would have, and he suspects that Allura knows it as well. But it’s become a game between the two of them more than anything.

He can’t even find it in himself to be jealous.

“I’ll be back in a few hours,” Pidge says to Allura. It’s an open secret that the smallest paladin can never sleep more than four hours at a time, no matter how long they’ve been awake.

“Thank you, Pidge.”

Shiro clears his throat. “We’ll debrief once everyone’s had some sleep.”

They disperse without another word.

Keith drags his tired body down the hallway, knowing already that he won’t be able to sleep. He can’t stop thinking about it, replaying the images in his head. Lance jumping in front of him. Lance on the ground. Lance smiling weakly at him--at Keith --with lips pulled tight in pain. Lance with a face of nothingness, so serene in the cryopod as the edges of his wound glowed with Altean energy that knit his skin back together.

They hadn’t even put him in a cryosuit. It would have taken too much time, and watching him in pain--none of them could bear it. So they just peeled away the ruined armor as quickly and carefully as they could, moving him to the pod in nothing more than his boxers. Even those had blood on them.

Keith types in the entry code to his room and walks inside, not bothering to turn on the light. He strips off his armor sprawls out on the bed, pulling the crumpled blankets up over himself. Still, his mind wanders.

The paladins get hurt all the time. Usually not this badly, but still--it’s part of the job. Save the universe, and you get beat up a few times in the process. Even Pidge, who’s barely fifteen, knows what it’s like for a blade slice through their skin, feel the punch of a plasma blast. They’re too young for this, all of them, but do they have a choice? No. They may hate it sometimes, may lay awake at night haunted by the memories of their pain, may even sometimes wonder if it wouldn’t be easier to just give up and let Zarkon win--but no matter what, they keep fighting. They go out there, win battles, lose other ones, tend to their wounds, and then do it all over again.

So why is it bothering Keith so much this time?

He tries to tell himself it’s because Lance sacrificed himself to save Keith from being hurt. Because it was Keith’s own rash, thoughtless decision making that had been about to get him hurt in the first place. And in a way, it is. But he wonders if there’s more.

Could Lance be in love with him?

He shuts the thought out as soon as it shoves its way into his head. That’s stupid--they’re teammates, and any one of them would sacrifice their lives for each other. Hell, if Keith is being nice to himself, he might let himself believe that Lance felt an extra obligation to save him because they’re fuckbuddies, but that he’s in love? Impossible.

Even still, the thought makes Keith’s heart pound in his chest and his ears ring. He hasn’t dared to let himself even think it. The man has made it more than clear that the only thing he wants from Keith is his dick and something to put his dick in, and Keith resigned himself to that fact months ago. And entertaining any idea other than that is even more dangerous than taking on the Galra army, because if he’s being honest with himself--

Keith is in love with Lance.

He pulls the pillow out from beneath his head and smothers his own face with it. God, how could he be so stupid as to fall in love with Lance? He’d have a better chance with Rolo the space pirate.

Is it bad of him to be using Lance like this? Would he feel betrayed to know that Keith has had feelings for him since before they even ended up in space together? That, even knowing this, Keith kissed him anyway? Let Lance kiss him ? Bared their most vulnerable selves to each other with the explicit condition that this was a matter of utility and nothing more--and had it all be a lie?

Keith groans.

But that sliver of hope wiggles its way deeper into his chest. Because it’s possible, isn’t it? Keith isn’t an unlikeable man. He’s not unattractive. And in those moments when it’s just the two of them and Lance tells him how hot he is, how good he is with his bayard, maybe it’s all because Lance knows it gets him off, but maybe--just maybe--he means it. He lets the weight of possibility press down on his chest, wallows in it for longer than he should.

It’s going to be a long night.

***

He doesn’t know how long he lays there, or what time it is when he sits up and throws his pillow and blankets aside. Shoves his legs into his jeans and drapes the blanket over his shoulders.

Keith knows what he has to do.

Part of him knows that choosing right now to confess his feelings is a bad idea--Lance probably won’t be out of the cryopod for a few hours at least, and if he waltzes into the room in the middle of the sleep cycle, he’s bound to be questioned by whichever member of team Voltron is there watching over the unconscious Lance.

But when he walks in--there’s no one there.

It strikes Keith as odd. Shouldn’t Allura be here? Or Pidge? Or is it later than that? They wouldn’t have left Lance without someone to watch over him--maybe a bathroom break.

Keith decides to wait.

He takes a seat on the the step below Lance’s pod, rubbing at the tiredness in his eyes and wrapping the blanket tighter around himself. He probably should have put on a shirt. His whole body feels heavy with sleep, though he isn’t sure at what point he finally drifted off. The hum of the pod working behind him rescues him from sitting in total silence, and he focuses on the small clicks of the mysterious technology.

When he turns around to look at Lance through the glass, his eyes are inevitably drawn to the wound in his side. The skin is completely healed now, leaving behind a starburst scar just below his ribs. It joins others there, mostly smaller than this one but present nonetheless. Keith has his own, tracing up his arms and legs and chest as a reminder of what he’s been through with every look in the mirror.

It won’t be long now until Lance is fully healed. A shock of panic makes Keith’s heart clench--is he really about to do this? He doesn’t even know what he’s going to say , and knowing him it will come out all kinds of wrong. Keith isn’t good with words. He prefers action.

Even as he thinks it, the hiss of the healing pod’s shutdown sequence fills the room and Keith begs for Pidge or Allura to come back and be the person there when Lance wakes up because he’s made a terrible mistake by being here.

But neither of them return, so it’s Keith that catches Lance as he tumbles out of the healing pod. He smells like stale air and dried sweat, and the dirt on his skin isn’t something the pod is meant to cleanse away. His bare arms clutch Keith as he tries not to collapse.

“Sleep chamber knees,” he mutters weakly.

Keith shifts his position to better support the mostly-naked man in his arms. “It’s okay. Take your time.”

“Yeah. Let’s sit.”

They lower slowly to the ground, and Keith half-expects Lance to scoot farther away from him but he doesn’t and that’s almost worse. He curls his body around Keith’s, shivering.

“Shit,” Keith says. “You’re cold.”

Lance nods into his shoulder. “Un poco.”

Keith looks to the vaulted ceiling, a carryover habit from back on Earth when he used to think there was something out there watching over him. Alright. He’s doing this.

He shifts one arm out from underneath Lance’s head and wraps the blanket around the both of them. Lance’s skin is icy cold on his, and Keith tries not to flinch. The other man snuggles closer to him. He really should have put on a shirt.

“Why’d you do it?” Keith asks.

It takes Lance long enough to respond that he’s almost sure he imagined speaking the words aloud. “Do what?”

“Take that shot for me. You didn’t have to do it.”

“Oh.” Lance turns his head to fit better in the crook of Keith’s neck. He’s still shivering. “I don’t know. It’s just what we do for each other, you know? We’re like space ranger… partners.”

Keith feels himself smirk. “Space ranger partners?”

“Hey, I get to come up with stupid names, okay? I saved your ass today. You see this?” Lance pulls the blanket away from himself and gestures at his new scar. “It’s my free pass to get away with whatever the hell I want with you for at least the next week . Got it?”

“Mmhmm.” Keith pulls the blanket back over them when he sees goosebumps prickle Lance’s stomach. His head falls back onto Keith’s shoulder. “Well, I guess space ranger partners isn’t that bad. I like it better than rivals with benefits.”

“Than what?”

“Oh. Uh--” He’d forgotten that they’ve never really talked about what they are or what they’re doing. He’s taken to using the term in his head, as a sort of reminder to himself of their situation. “It’s like friends with benefits, but, you know--since you always called us rivals back at the Garrison, I figured…”

“Is that what we are to you? Rivals with benefits?”

Keith shrugs, searching Lance’s words desperately for meaning. “Isn’t that what we are to you?

There’s half a second of silence. “I think I can walk now. Take me to my room?”

“Of course.” Keith wants to scream at the non-answer, but instead he helps Lance stand. The other paladin wraps an arm around his shoulder for support, and despite his nervousness Keith’s arm finds Lance’s waist. He readjusts the blanket so it covers them both while they walk.

“I’ve got a question for you, Keith,” Lance says.

Keith’s heart does a flip. “Yeah?”

“Why aren’t you wearing a shirt?”

“I just got out of bed!” Keith splutters.

Lance’s hand on his shoulder squeezes, and his other hand comes up to splay against Keith’s chest. “Not that I’m complaining.”

Keith swats his hand away. “Get your cold hands off me.”

“No, no,” Lance chides him. “I get to do anything to you, remember? That means my hands could be ice cubes, and I could still put them all over you if I wanted to.”

He feels the blush rising up his neck and hopes Lance doesn’t notice. “Listen, Lance, I really need to talk to you.”

The man glances over at him, his playful smile drooping a little. “What is it?”

They stop in front of Lance’s door, but neither of them moves to enter the code.

“Okay. So. I’m just going to say this, and when I’m done you can go into your room and I can go back to mine if that’s what you want.”

“Keith, just say it.” Lance’s fingers grip tightly onto the edge of the blanket.

“I--um. I like you, Lance.”

Lance blinks. “Okay.”

“No. Like. I like you.” The blood rises into his cheeks now, hot under his skin. He can’t hold Lance’s questioning gaze. “I would take you on a date. I would make out with you in the back seat of a car. I would--just--god, please say something because I sound like a fucking fourteen year-old.”

When he looks back at Lance, there’s a shit-eating grin on the man’s face. “You have a crush on me?”

“Fuck you,” Keith says automatically.

Somehow, Lance’s grin widens. “This is great news for me.”

He turns his body to face Keith’s and plants a kiss on his lips. The blanket falls off of Keith’s shoulder, but he doesn’t care because he’s busy kissing Lance.

“Because I like you, too,” Lance whispers against his lips.

Keith positively floats on the words, and he grabs hold of Lance and kisses him again, excitedly. Lance’s hands find Keith’s body, pressing him against his door. Heat flares deep in his gut, extending out far enough to make his fingers tingle.

Lance’s hands leave his skin long enough to press in the entry code, and then the door’s sliding open behind Keith and he’s backing into Lance’s room and pressing his mouth onto Lance’s jaw, his neck, his collarbone.

The light clicks on when they enter, brighter than in the hallways. Lance keeps Keith backing up until the backs of his legs hit the bed. He lowers easily down onto it, letting Lance crawl over him and continue their kissing. The blanket is somewhere on the floor behind them.

“Should we--” Keith says between breaths, eyelids fluttering as Lance drags his teeth over one of his nipples. “I don’t know, should we talk about this first?”

Lance pauses and looks up at him. “What’s there to talk about? I like you, you like me. So if I have your consent, I’m going to show you just how much I like you by fucking you until you can’t walk straight.”

The words make blood pound into Keith’s dick, thick and hot with desire. “Yeah, okay.”

“And then ,” Lance continues, reaching onto the shelf above Keith’s head for the lube and a condom, “I’m going to take you on a very nice date the next time we’re on a planet with a restaurant. Got it?”

Lance sits back on Keith’s legs, bloodstained boxers leaving no mistake as to how hard he is. Keith tries not to let his eyes linger on the dried blood--he's here now, safe and whole, so it’s nothing to dwell on--and instead runs his hands up Lance’s bare thighs, allowing one of his palms to rest over Lance’s dick. The other man closes his eyes and takes a deep breath.

“Díos, Keith.” He lays the condom and lube by Keith’s side and unbuttons his jeans, his forearms bumping against Keith’s as he tugs down the zipper. Keith bites back a whimper when Lance closes a hand around his dick and leans over to run his tongue up his chest.

Keith lifts his hips and shimmies out of his jeans and underwear, kicking them over the side of the bed. He fumbles for the elastic of Lance’s boxers, urging them down his legs and onto the ground with his clothes.

Their bodies collide not a moment later, Lance finding his mouth again and Keith pulling him as tightly against him as he can, fingers digging into his ass. Lance moans, a sound so familiar to Keith but now somehow more , and even though part of Keith feels like this must be a dream, Lance is here with him now and that’s all that matters.

They're both still sticky with post-battle sweat even though that was hours ago, but neither of them have showered. The distinctive smell of cryopod air hangs on Lance’s skin, mixing with old and new sweat and maybe Keith should find it unpleasant but really he doesn't. He bites Lance’s lower lip--earning a satisfied gasp from his partner--and breathes him in.

Keith’s skin sings wherever Lance touches it, raking his fingers down his arms, across his chest. He wraps his palm around Lance’s cock and massages it with his thumb. Lance shudders over him, eyes squeezing shut as he mutters something in Spanish that Keith doesn’t understand.

“You like that?” he teases. Lance pries his eyes open and gives Keith a withering look, one eyebrow raised and the other wrinkled over his eye. Keith resists the urge to kiss his eyebrows, because they’re so damn beautiful and expressive that he can hardly handle it.

Lance chews his lip, propped up on one elbow and tilted to the side. The muscles in his gut are tight against the sensation of Keith’s hand on his dick but he’s trying to seem unaffected. “What’re you looking at?” he asks, attempting a lighthearted tone even though his words are heavy with want.

Keith regards him through half-lidded eyes. “Just this really hot guy I like.”

The other paladin tries his hardest to bite down on his smile but fails miserably, and instead covers Keith’s mouth with his, flopping over so he’s wholly on top of Keith. The grin feels even better than it looked, Lance’s lips stretched across his teeth as he kisses Keith eagerly. He slides his hand out from underneath him and drags his fingers up Lance’s thighs. His erection presses against Keith’s own, sandwiched together by their stomachs.

“Fuck,” Keith breathes as Lance moves lower, first kissing down his neck, and then his chest, and finally he’s down between Keith’s legs, squeezing lube onto his fingers and ghosting them over Keith’s hole. His muscles tighten at the touch, threatening to lift his lower back off the bed entirely. “Dammit, Lance.”

The man chuckles and slides one finger into Keith’s ass, then two, stretching him out. “Relax, Keith,” he hums. His head is resting on his palm, one of Keith’s legs through the triangle made by his arm. His hair tickles Keith’s inner thigh. “You’re still too tight.”

Keith takes a deep breath and focuses on loosening up, but it’s hard with Lance’s hands on him. “It’s not that easy.”

“Oh, I know.” His fingers continue to massage the muscles of Keith’s asshole. “I’ve been where you are enough times. It’s hard when all you can think about is what it’s going to feel like to be fucked as thoroughly as I’m about to fuck you.”

Keith squeezes his eyes shut, unable to look at the lewd expression on Lance’s face. “ Lance, ” he warns.

“Much better,” his partner says, apparently satisfied with the prep, and pulls his fingers out to put the condom on. Keith pushes up onto his elbows and scoots back to rest his head and shoulders against the wall behind him while he waits. He already feels like jelly, measuring his breathing and biting the plea on his tongue for Lance to put his hands back on his body, to tell him that this is real and he likes Keith as much as Keith likes Lance.

The mattress sinks under the weight of Lance crawling up farther on the bed, lining himself up. One of his hands rests by Keith’s hip, and when he leans forward, cock brushing Keith’s skin, he’s close enough that Keith feels his breath on his neck. “You ready?” he whispers.

Keith nods, and even so he still gasps when Lance enters him.

“Fuck yeah,” Lance says. He rolls his hips forward, sinking deeper into Keith. A small moan escapes his throat, and he leans forward to press a sloppy kiss on Keith’s lips. “I think I like saving your ass.”

“Yeah?” Keith braces himself with one arm and uses the other to grab hold of Lance’s hair. His legs tingle from the feeling of having Lance balls deep inside him.

“Yeah.” As he finds his rhythm, Keith wraps his legs around Lance’s back and pulls him in closer. The thrusts grow harder and faster, pushing Keith up the wall until he’s almost sitting up. Sweat collects on Lance’s forehead. “Because when I save your ass, that means I can destroy it later.”

“Wow--augh, Lance, there. God, there.

Keith lets his head fall against the wall, trying his hardest not to moan with every breath as Lance fucks him. His cock feels ready to burst, and he can feel it leaking onto his chest with each slam of Lance’s hips. His hand clenches in Lance’s hair, pulling his head back. His back arches and Lance curls a hand around his dick, ready to finish him off.

Lance’s grunts and whimpers rise in pitch, and the humor drops out of his face. When Keith lets go of his hair--he can’t hold his arm up any longer--he leans forward and bites Keith’s shoulder. Keith’s fingers dig into Lance’s hip so hard he can feel himself making divots in the skin, even though his nails are bitten short.

It’s Lance who cums first, but it’s a close call. Keith’s favorite go arounds are the ones when the finish nearly at the same time, because watching Lance unravel while he’s high on his own euphoria is an incomparable thing. His hips stutter to a halt and his whole body clenches tight, a choked cry filling the room. Keith’s fingers slip in the sweat on Lance’s skin as his own orgasm hits, cum spilling onto his stomach. Lance drives into him a few more times, sloppily, until they’re both spent.

Keith sags against the wall and Lance lays on top of him, chin resting in the dip between his neck and collarbone. They take a few moments to wind down, letting the stars recede from their vision and their heartbeats return to normal.

“I like that,” Lance says. “I liked that a lot.”

Keith smiles weakly. “Me too.”

“Just like I like you.”

“Get off of me, dumbass.”

Lance laughs and lifts himself off Keith, removing and tying off his condom before throwing it away. He turns the light off on the way back to bed. “I need some sleep,” he says, and uses Keith’s long-ago discarded blanket to wipe him clean with before pulling back the covers and settling in bed. It takes some maneuvering, but eventually they’re both between the sheets. “You be the big spoon.”

Keith’s partner turns away from him, wiggling backwards until their bodies are pressed together. Keith puts his arm around Lance and rests his head in the crook of his neck, breathing in the smell of cryopod and sweat and sex.

“Lance?”

“Yeah?” His voice is heavy with sleep.

“Thanks, I guess.”

“Yeah, no problem.”

Keith sighs. “I only wish it had been real.”

Lance finds Keith’s hand with his own, intertwining their fingers. “Me too.”

***

The first thing Lance sees when he opens his eyes is the fog of his breath on the cryopod glass.

The second thing he sees is Pidge, smiling and nearly vibrating with happiness as they wait for him to tumble out of the pod.

He tries not to be disappointed that there’s no mullet waiting for him, no smile that’s poorly concealed as a frown, but as the weakness of being released from cryo-suspension sets into his knees, he knows it’s a lie to think the sinking in his stomach is from it, too.

But if Lance is being honest with himself?

He wants Keith to be there.

The fact that he’s not--well, he tells himself he shouldn’t be surprised. Shouldn’t be this hurt--it was stupid of him to think that taking that shot would change anything between them. It’s what teammates do for each other--Keith knows that. He’d never even think to look further into it.

Pidge catches him as he falls from the cryopod, deftly wrapping one of his arms around their shoulder and supporting as much of his weight as they can, though the height difference makes it awkward. “Come sit,” they say, guiding him to the stairs. “I have blankets for you. And tea.”

“Thanks,” he croaks out, forcing lightness into his voice.

Once he’s settled on the steps, blankets piled around him, Pidge springs back up in front of him. “I’m going to go get the others--Hunk promised to make breakfast as soon as you woke up, and everyone’s really excited to see you. You good?”

Lance nods. Clever as always, Pidge doesn’t miss the melancholy in his demeanor, but spares him an interrogation.

“I’ll be right back.”

They press the mug of tea into his hands and bound off, already shouting by the time the door closes behind them.

Lance sits alone and drinks his tea.

***

When Keith wakes up, he remembers it vividly enough that he almost-- almost --expects to be in a room that is not his own, with a body that is not his own lying next to him in bed. Almost expects to hear the quiet rise and fall of another’s chest as he breathes in and out in the depths of sleep, the smells of sweat and sex lingering in the air around them. Almost lets himself believe that last night was real, and that the heaviness that sits in his chest like a rock has crumbled, leaving behind a kind of contentment he hasn’t felt in years.

Almost.

Instead, he wakes up to the sound of someone’s voice in the halls, and an empty space beside him in his own bed. “He’s awake!” Pidge is yelling, palpable excitement in their voice. “Get up , you numbskulls! Lance is awake!”

The blanket is still draped over him, tangled around his legs from a night of restless sleep.

He puts the pillow over his head and tries to go back to sleep.

Chapter Text

“Hey, Hunk, Pidge--have you seen Lance?” Keith asks, dabbing the sweat off his forehead with a towel. He isn’t excited about being kicked out of the training room, but Shiro threatened to cut off his access entirely if he trained for more than two hours in a day.

Hunk looks up, halfway through wrapping his hands and wrists, and Pidge shrugs as they tuck the edges of a cutoff tshirt into their sports bra. “No, not since the meeting earlier today,” Hunk says. “He stayed behind when Allura and I came back to the ship. I think he might be hanging out with one of the Turnlok princes.”

Keith tries not to narrow his eyes at that. “Hanging out?”

“Something like that. He and Lance were flirting pretty hardcore after the princess turned him down,” Hunk says, smiling a little. “You know, I think a date might be good for him--he’s been pretty down since that last battle. A hit to the stomach really takes it out of you, I guess.”

“Keith, did you wipe off the machines when you were done with them? I don’t want to get your sweat all over me when I’m doing the obstacle courses.” Pidge is now wrapping up their own hands, conspicuously oblivious to Keith’s discomfort at Hunk’s words.

“Yeah, yeah, they’re clean,” Keith says absently. He presses the towel to his face to hide his frustration.

“And who knows,” Hunk continues. “If it goes well, the prince might just convince his mothers to sign onto our treaty.”

Pidge smiles wolfishly. “Never thought I’d say this, but I hope Lance gets some action tonight.”

“So he’s not here?” Keith demands, suddenly wishing he could go back to letting his frustrations out on the training drone.

The pair of them shake their heads. Pidge leans over one leg in a stretch. “No. Why’re you looking for him, anyway?”

“Just curious.” Keith ducks out of the training room doorway before it’s completely open, turning sideways to avoid scraping his shoulder on the door.

Pidge’s laughter follows him down the hallway until the door closes and cuts off their voice. If they hadn’t been one of his best friends, Keith might just find it in himself to be annoyed at them.

But he has someone else to be annoyed with right now.

Maybe it’s partially Keith’s fault that things got weird between him and Lance, but--he could hardly even look at the man once he got out of the healing pod without thinking about that dream. What would it be like, to actually tell him how he felt, and to hear him say it back? He can’t be blamed for needing a break. The universe ought to forgive Keith for wanting to avoid him for at least a while, but instead it’s gone and let Lance fucking move on from him in no more than a week. A date with a goddamned prince?

Yeah, that’s something Keith can be annoyed about.

Too antsy to go back to his room after a quick shower, Keith meanders through the hallways. There are few places in the castleship that he hasn’t explored in his wandering, much more varied than the expanse of a desert but still not quite open enough for his tastes. He likes being able to go in one direction until his legs hurt--and then having to turn around and walk all the way back. It calms him. Here in the ship, though--he has to twist and turn around so many hallways and stairwells that he’s more confused when he’s done walking than when he started.

Keith ends up in the main deck, and is surprised to find it empty. Usually Allura or Coran can be found here--to be honest, Keith isn’t sure how often Alteans sleep, or for how long--at least, if not another member of team Voltron helping them with something. It’s quiet and fairly dark, and Keith is ready enough to quit his wandering that he sits in his chair, facing the expanse of space outside the viewport. He’s counting his breaths and tapping out a mindless rhythm on his thigh when the notification pings up on Allura’s podium that Blue’s hangar door will be opening in 30 tics. So Lance is finally returning after almost five hours of doing who-knows-what with that prince.

It’s not jealousy , per se, that prompts Keith to push himself out of the chair and head towards the blue lion’s hangar, but it’s certainly something similar.

The two of them meet about twenty feet outside of the hangar. Keith had wondered if Lance would take the elevator again to avoid people--namely, Shiro or Allura for a debriefing--meeting him on the way back to his room, but decided this was the most likely. And he was right. Lance is making his way down the hallway with more of a bound in his step than Keith has seen in awhile. Hell, he’s even smiling, and there’s no one around for him to be wearing the grin for other than himself.

The smug bastard.

Keith has no right to be mad and he knows it--they were never exclusive, that’s for sure. They were never really anything, apparently, for as much attachment as Lance seems to have had. Keith may have no right to be mad, but he still is.

Lance notices Keith, and whis smile widens. “Keith!” he calls. “I just had the best time--”

He cuts off when he sees Keith’s sour expression, and his smile fades like he’s remembering something. “Do you need something?”

“Shiro and Allura want to see you on the bridge to debrief,” he lies. But it’s probably true, assuming the castle alerted the princess that a lion had returned, which it always does.

“Oh. I’ll be right there.”

The silence stretches between them, awkward now that they’ve spent nearly a week avoiding each other. Or at least Keith has been avoiding Lance, which does the world for the both of them.

“I’m just going to change out of my armor first.”

Keith wishes there was an invitation there, or even some kind of hint that he hasn’t just been hooking up with some random alien--sorry, some random alien prince --but none is there.

“Okay.”

He lets Lance brush by him and continue down the hall.

***

“Lance is gone again,” Pidge says. They don’t even look up from their tinkering when Keith walks into the lounge.

“Don’t you have, like, a workshop to do that in?”

Pidge shrugs, looking over to him now while they push the glasses up their nose. “Yeah, but the chances of you stopping by my workshop so I could tell you that Lance is on another date are so much lower than in the room where all the snacks live.”

Keith opens one of the cabinets. “Why would I care what Lance is doing?”

“I’m going to save your dignity and not answer that question.” Pidge turns back to their work. “But in case you were ‘just curious’--I figured I’d let you know.”

“Thanks,” Keith says drily. His hand closes around some kind of fruit that Coran has insisted on multiple occasions is not poisonous to humans. It hasn’t killed any of them yet, but maybe Keith will get lucky this time. “Well, good luck with your robot, then.”

“Good luck with your boyfriend.”

“He’s not--” Keith splutters. “You know what? Nevermind. I’m leaving now. I hope your robot short circuits and electrocutes you.”

Pidge grins into their tech. “Love you too, Keith.”

Keith may be irritated with Lance, but he can still muster the energy to play along. “Burn in hell, Pidge,” he shoots back as the door opens for him to exit the lounge.

The other paladin answers without missing a beat.

“I’ll see you there.”

Keith bites into the fruit and walks out.

This time, he’ll be waiting for Lance when he gets back. Four times now Lance has lingered on the planets they’ve visited, finding someone to spend his time with. Allura has said that it’s fine with her, so long as he’s ready to leave as soon as the castleship does. She’s gone so far as to say it’s good that Lance is connecting with the people of the universe. After the first time, when Lance ‘became such good friends’ with the Turnlok prince, the queens of council signed onto the alliance treaty right away, with the stipulation that the blue one come back and visit their son again. Coran is convinced of Lance’s incomparable diplomacy skills.

Keith’s stomach tightens. Diplomacy, indeed.

He waits outside the hangar doors while the blue lion docks, but only so he doesn’t get sucked into space. When the light on the airlock turns green, he walks in. Lance is just going down the ramp when he enters. He hates to admit it, but the man is practically glowing. Sure, some of it is the sweat that’s collected on his forehead underneath his helmet, but his footsteps are as light as they always are after these… forays.

Damnit. Keith should be the one who makes him glow like that.

“You have fun?” Keith asks, pushing away his jealousy and trying for a light tone.

“Yeah!” Lance says excitedly. Then he hesitates before speaking again. “Uh--does Allura want to see me in the bridge again?”

Keith shakes his head. “Probably, but that’s not why I came down here. I just wanted to see you.”

“I’m glad. We’ve barely talked in the last few weeks, and I--well, I was worried maybe you might be mad at me or something.”

There’s a question in his voice.

“I haven’t really been--uh--in the mood, recently. And because you apparently have been, I came to let you know that I’m fine now. More than fine. I’m ready to go back to--well, you know.”

Lance’s eyebrows pull together, amused. He hikes a thumb over his shoulder, toward his lion and the bay doors. “Is that what you think--?”

Keith looks away. All of his pretense is gone.

The other man gasps. “Keith Kogane, are you jealous? ” the mirth in Lance’s voice is plain. He unclasps his forearm guards and pulls off his gloves.

No matter how true it is, the accusation still rankles him. “The fuck I am,” he hisses.

Lance laughs. He walks by Keith, making for the exit. There’s a small changing room down the hall, complete with a chute to return their armor up to the main deck for its next use. He peels off his upper arm guards as he passes by. “You’re hot when you’re jealous.”

Keith fumes, but follows.

“Hold this,” Lance says, tossing his helmet over his shoulder. Keith catches it, but only barely. By the time he has a solid grip on it, Lance has already detached his thigh pads and is stowing them under his armpit with the arm guards. At this rate, he’ll be out of clothes by the time he gets to the changing room.

Not that Keith is complaining.

Lance leaves the door to the changing room open, giving Keith only a raised eyebrow when he doesn’t enter immediately after him. Keith leans in the doorway and watches Lance pull the chest armor up over his head, leaving him in only the black body suit and his boots. Keith’s mouth goes dry.

“Unzip me,” Lance commands, turning away from Keith. He’s forced to set the helmet in the return chute before he can reach for Lance’s zipper, and by that time he’s already toed off his boots. “The alien I met today had four hands--you know, like that guy who was on the prison ship with Shiro? But, like, much hotter.”

Keith takes a steadying breath. “And?”

Lance shrugs as Keith pulls the zipper down his back. “All I’m saying is that a guy could get up to a lot of mischief with someone who has four arms.” He rolls the suit off his arms and down his chest, shimmying a little to get it down his legs. Keith watches with a mix between irritation and desire playing in his stomach.

When he turns back to Keith, wearing nothing but socks and underwear, the amused smile is back and the first hint of arousal presses against the front of his wrinkled boxers. “Yeah. You’re really hot when you’re jealous. I like that.”

“What if I am jealous, huh?” He takes a step toward Lance, and reaches out his hand to brush Lance’s forearm. His skin prickles. “What would you do?”

Lance looks to him with half-lidded eyes. “Remind you just how much you have to be jealous of.” His thumb slides up underneath the hem of Keith’s shirt, making the muscles of his abdomen tighten. “And make you prove to me why I should keep coming back to you.”

Their eyes meet for half a second and then they're kissing. Keith clamps a hand on the small of Lance's back and pulls his body against his own, fingernails digging into his partner's skin. Usually he plays it rough for Lance's sake rather than much of his own enjoyment, but now his harshness is anything but forced.

He's going to make Lance his .

Keith pushes Lance against the inner wall of the changing room. The dull thud of his body hitting the wall is drowned out by the sounds of their kissing and a low moan from Lance. Keith smiles against his mouth, moving both of his hands to grasp Lance’s hip bones and hold them in place while he presses a knee between his legs and grinds onto him.

“Fuck,” Lance breathes. “I’ve missed this.”

“Missed it enough to go make a new ‘friend’ on every planet we land on?” Keith kisses down his neck, biting underneath his chin and at his ear.

Lance’s head falls back against the wall, but he shrugs his shoulders almost nonchalantly. “I do what I have to to get by.”

Keith bites his shoulder.

The chest against his arches forward as Lance cries out.

He sucks on the bite for a few seconds before licking the new mark, drawing a shaky breath from Lance, and then moves back up to his neck.

“Why are your clothes still on, hmm?” Lance drags his hands up Keith’s arms, clutching his sleeves of his t-shirt and lifting them in inquiry.

Keith mostly growls in response, but detaches himself long enough to tear the shirt up over his head. Lance holds him at arm's’ length for a second longer than Keith wants him to, half of a smile tugging at his mouth as he admires the look of him.

“You’re blushing,” Lance teases.

Keith focuses his gaze on the tenting in Lance’s boxers, but end up noticing the ghosts of the bloodstains left in them instead. He wonders if Lance is reminded of the injury every time he puts them on.

“I’m not blushing,” Keith argues, winding his hands around Lance’s grip and stroking a thumb on the new bruise blossoming on Lance’s shoulder. He shudders. “It’s just warm in here.”

Lance’s laugh is hoarse from arousal. “I told you you’re hot when you’re jealous.”

Okay. Now Keith is blushing. “Fuck, Lance. Just let me kiss you again.”

His next laugh dissolves into the kind of moan that Keith feels in the deepest part of his stomach. Blood pounds through his head and into his dick, and sweat is already forming on his skin. The changing room isn’t big enough for their combined body heat to dissipate.

They kiss with all of the pent up energy of weeks spent by each other’s sides but not together. Keith has missed this, too--there’s no end to the ache of worrying that Lance might never develop feelings for him outside of their established sexual attraction, but in the times when his hands are on lance, the roar in his ears drowns out that longing.

The urge from minutes ago resurfaces--Keith has to make Lance his .

Keith sinks to his knees.

The metal is cold through the fabric of his jeans, but Lance’s thighs are hot under his palms. When he meets Lance’s gaze, he sees that the other man’s pupils are dilated, and both of their breath comes in shallow gasps. Keith helps the boxers down Lance’s legs and leaves them at his feet.

He curls one hand around the base of Lance’s dick, and grabs a fistfull of ass with the other. Lance whimpers and his fingers find Keith’s hair. When he drags his tongue up Lance’s length, he whines Keith’s name.

Keith smiles as he takes Lance in his mouth.

He would try for some kind of delicacy, but a nuanced blow job would be lost on Lance at this point. Keith can’t find it in himself to take it slow, anyhow, so instead he focuses on aligning the swirls of his tongue with the pumps of his fist with the kneading of his fingers with the barely-contained thrusts of Lance’s hips. The salty-sweet taste of precum coats the back of his tongue. Lance runs his fingers through Keith’s hair again and again, and the sweat on his forehead keeps it slicked back.

And the look on Lance’s face when Keith looks up at him--well, it makes the urge to at least palm himself through his jeans almost unbearable. Lance alternates between pressing his head on the wall behind him, eyes squeezed shut and teeth gritted against the feel of Keith on his body, and leaning forward and watching Keith intently, mouth hanging open as he pants and whines for him. He’s so beautiful that Keith only wants to make him unravel.

Keith moves his hand from Lance’s ass to his inner thigh, stroking up the tender skin there and onto his balls, and then back to tease over his hole. One of the hands in Keith’s hair tugs his head back, and the other slams into the wall so that Lance can steady himself. “Fuck, Keith, fuck .”

His ass cheeks clench around Keith’s fingers, but he knows that without lube it would be no fun for either of them if he tried to press them inside. So instead he brushes over Lance’s hole for a few more seconds, and then finally gives in and puts his hand on himself. He squeezes his own erection through his jeans, groaning around Lance’s cock in his mouth. He’s so hard , and with every noise Lance makes, every glance at the gorgeous man above him, it feels like he gets harder.

Lance cums in his mouth in spurts, and his whole body tenses up as he lets out a pitiful, choked sound. His back arches off the wall, and both of his hands are in Keith’s hair again, grabbing it by the fistfull and holding his head in place as he shudders with pleasure. Keith works his tongue around Lance’s shaft still, and continues to palm himself because there’s nothing for him to grind against.

And fucking hell, he needs a release.

Images flash through his mind of turning Lance around and fucking into him until his ass is raw. Of leaving bruises and bite marks all over his skin, of making him beg for Keith, as if somehow any of that would make him well and truly Keith’s . As if any of that would stop him from hooking up with other people, make him love Keith.

But he can’t make Lance do anything.

That’s not how it works.

Once Lance’s orgasm has finished, Keith stands. Lance puts a hand on the back of his neck and brings him in for a kiss. “That was amazing,” Lance whispers to him, one arm wrapped lazily around his shoulder. “I’ve really missed this.”

His other hand closes over the front of Keith’s jeans.

“Let me get you off next.”

Keith pulls away and tries for a playful tone when he says, “Not this time--I have to keep you coming back for more, don’t I?”

Lance opens his mouth like he’s going to say something, but then changes course. He steps forward, dragging one of his hands up Keith’s chest and rubbing his nipple between two fingers. Keith fights a sigh of pleasure and steps further away.

“Keith,” Lance says. He glances between his eyes and the obvious bulge in Keith’s pants. “Did I do something wrong?”

Keith shakes his head. He picks his shirt up off the floor and forces a smile while in his head the thoughts continue, urging him to do things he knows he’d regret. “Next time.”

“Yeah, okay. Next time.” Lance collects his boxers from next to the wall and steps into them. As Keith is about to walk out of the changing room, he asks, “So is this how it’s going to be?”

Keith doesn’t ask what he means by that, just shrugs.

“It’s how it’s always been.”

***

*** 

Outtakes and Aftercare

___

Keith takes a cold shower after this because what the fuck just happened he didn’t think he was the jealous type and then… that

___

Poor Lance is really confused because on one hand Keith said more than four words to him for the first time in weeks and gave him a killer blow job, but also has no idea why he would just leave like that.

___ 

Lance: Sorry, but I can’t go to the banquet tonight.

Allura: Lance, this is a very serious diplomatic matter.

Lance: Yeah... I have a date with the king's son so I'm guessing that takes precedence. Don't worry. We'll get /real/ diplomatic.

Coran: Princess, I think if he refused this date it could seriously hinder the alliance. Who knows? This might help, he's... taking one for the team, as you say.

Lance: Oh I'll take one for the team, alright. *winks*

___

If you’re on the Galra!Keith train, consider this: he’s not just being jealous--he’s being territorial. Now, this isn’t of much consequence until they run into some more Galra, like at, say, the Blade of Marmora.

Lance: Hey, buddy, how’s it going? That’s a pretty cool sword thing you’ve got there.

Blade: *looking away, carefully leaves at least six feet of space between them* All is well, Paladin.

Lance: Um--do I smell bad or something? I swear I shower every day, my dude.

Blade: *now visibly uncomfortable* I will pass no comment on the scent of another’s mate, Paladin.

Lance: Another’s what now?

 

And, later on:

Lance: Help me, Shiro, all of these guys are treating me really weirdly. And they keep saying stuff about my being someone’s “mate”, and I don’t think they mean an Australian friend.

Shiro: *mostly just needs to sleep, give this poor man some rest* They could be talking about members of a ship’s crew. There are mates on ships. Yeah, I’m sure that’s what they mean.

Lance: I don’t think that’s what…

Shiro: I just wanted to be an astronaut. What did I do to deserve this.

___

When Hunk catches a glimpse of Lance’s hickey:

Hunk: Lance--are you okay?

Lance: What, yeah.

Hunk: That bruise looks like a bite mark!

Lance: Oh, uh, yeah. I got in a--a fight. Yeah. A fight. No big deal.

Hunk: You have no idea what kinds of germs alien creatures could be carrying. We should let Coran take a look at it.

Lance: No! It’s fine. It--uh--it wasn’t an alien.

Hunk: You mean it was a person?

Lance: *sweating* I have to go now.

___

Keith needs to sort out his feelings, and so he first goes to the person who probably somehow knows the most about what’s going on between him and Lance, tbqh:

Keith: *opens mouth*

Pidge: I don’t want to hear about your boy troubles, Keith. Go talk to our fearless leader instead.

Keith: Why would I want to talk to Allura about this?

Pidge: Well actually I was talking about Shiro, but you’ve got me there. She definitely outranks him. But seriously, go talk to your brother about this.

Keith: I don’t really want to bring Shiro into this--

Pidge: I’m fifteen. I want nothing to do with… *gestures to Keith* whatever this is.

Keith: Yeah. Okay. Shiro, right. I’ll go talk with him. *walks out*

Pidge: I just wanted to be an astronaut. What did I do to deserve this.

Chapter Text

Today’s target for the Voltron Alliance is a planet not far from the Balmera that Shay lives on. Naturally, Hunk asked to visit her, and to everyone’s surprise, Allura agreed to let him go. She looked at Lance when she said it, as if she knew that he’d be staying behind on the planet, anyway.

Before the small diplomacy troupe--Allura, Hunk, and Lance, as per usual--can leave the ship, Shiro pulls Lance aside.

“Lance, I want to check in with you before you go.”

“Yeah?” Lance turns off the com in his helmet when Shiro does the same. “But Hunk and Allura are waiting for me, so this needs to be quick.”

“Of course.” Shiro looks almost uncomfortable as he gathers himself to continue speaking. “Lance, I just want you to--I need to know that you’re--just, please, be safe out there.”

Lance feels his eyebrows knit together in confusion. “This is just the usual kind of diplomacy mission, right? Show off how awesome Voltron is, get them to sign the alliance treaty, all that? Or--did I miss something?”

Shiro runs his metal hand through his hair. It stands up in a mess of black and white. “This isn’t about the official meeting, Lance. It’s about your--ah--unofficial meetings.”

Lance sighs. “Keith came and talked to you, didn’t he?”

“No one is judging you, Lance.” Shiro’s tone is more fatherly than it should be for a man only seven years his senior. “You’re an adult, and you have the right to do whatever you want with other fully consenting adults. I just want--”

“How much did Keith tell you, exactly?”

“Just that he’s worried about what you’ve been up to. Lance, we don’t know what kinds of diseases these aliens could be carrying, or--for that matter--what about us could be dangerous to them. If you aren’t already, you need to be using protection.”

Lance bites down a bitter laugh. “Of fucking course.” But it’s not Shiro’s fault, not really, aside from the fact that he doesn’t trust Lance to make good choices. “I’m not an idiot, Shiro. I would never do something that stupid.”

The color drains from Shiro’s face. “I wasn’t trying to imply that you would.”

“Sure, whatever. I’m being safe, Shiro. Trust me.”

Shiro looks like he’s trying his hardest to believe him. “Alright, Lance. Good luck out there.”

“Thanks,” Lance says, but he doesn’t mean it.

***

The mission, of course, goes off without a hitch. Lance is mostly able to ignore his betrayal through the ordeal, and afterwards he finds a diplomat to let out his frustration with. He feels almost better by the time he’s back in the castle, on his way to the showers.

But then he runs into Keith in the hallway, and it all comes rushing back.

“You told Shiro about me?” he demands without thinking.

The accusation catches Keith off guard, and his steps stutter to a halt. “Come again?”

“You told. Shiro. That I’m out fucking random aliens on whatever planet we land on.” If Lance had something to slam against the wall, he would do it. But as it is, he only has an angry finger to point at Keith. “He practically gave me the fucking talk before I left today.”

“I didn’t…” Keith blanches. “Oh. Right.”

“What did you tell him, hmm? Lance can’t keep it in his pants, and that was fine with me right up until the point it wasn’t my pants he was in instead, so I decided to come narq on him? Real fucking mature, Keith.”

Keith steps in closer to him, his own anger stirring. Lance still has an inch or so on him, but that adds to the defiant look on his face more than anything. “What does it matter what I told him?”

“Because it’s no one’s goddamn business what I’m doing in my free time!” Lance throws his hands up in the air and turns away from Keith, putting space between them so he can think. “And why do you even care what I do? I’ve made it pretty clear that it has no effect on your using me as a booty call.”

The other man groans so passionately that Lance can feel his eyeroll. “Maybe I care about more than sex, Lance--not that you’d know anything about that.”

Lance whirls back to face Keith. “Take that back, you mother fucker ,” he snarls.

If Keith knew, if he only fucking knew what Lance thought about. He’d know that no matter how mad Keith is making him, he still wants to tell him more than anything that he wants more than this , more than sex .

But he doesn’t even trust him far enough to think he’d be faithful. Sure, they’ve never established the boundaries of their relationship, but--does Keith really think that Lance would hook up so casually with so many aliens?

Because, for the record, that’s not what he’s doing.

But like hell is he telling Keith that now.

“Leave me the fuck alone, Keith.”

Now the other man has realized he’s hit a nerve. “Lance, I didn’t mean to--”

“Well that’s the problem, isn’t it?” He can feel his blood pounding, his hands shaking. “You don’t mean any of it.”

Lance has to get out of here before he says something he regrets. As much extra space as there is in the hallway, he makes sure to slam his shoulder into Keith’s on the way by.

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” Keith yells after him.

Lance doesn’t answer.

***

He comes around later, when all the others have gone to bed. He doesn’t look into Lance’s eyes when he opens the door, or when he says, “I’m sorry, Lance.”

Lance crosses his arms. He’s wearing his boxers and a robe, but Keith is fully dressed. “You should be.”

“You were right when you said that it’s none of my business.” Keith takes a deep breath. “But when I think about you with someone else, it--it does things to me. And I’m sorry I took it out on you.”

“I told you you were jealous,” Lance says with a half smile. He’s throwing Keith a lifeline, and the man knows it. He steps in closer.

“Maybe a little.” He takes Lance’s chin in his hand and strokes a thumb over his cheek. “I’m sorry,” he says again.

Lance’s pulse flutters under the touch. “Make it up to me,” he whispers, and leans in to brush his lips against Keith’s.

Keith breathes out, eyes still partially closed. He enters the room when Lance steps aside to admit him, and lets the door close behind him. Lance turns to face him and rests their foreheads together. He inhales deeply, finding Keith’s familiar scent in the air.

“What do you want to do?”

And that’s the question, isn’t it? Because this could be the moment that he tells Keith the truth. Here, in the calm quiet of his room, with Keith so close to him that he can see the pores in his nose and the flecks of color in his gray eyes, he could tell Keith that he thinks he loves him.

Lance could tell him that he jumped in front of a Galra blaster for him because he thinks he loves him, and how when he woke up with Keith nowhere to be seen for hours , that was how he knew that Keith didn’t love him back. He could tell him that when that prince was flirting with him, he could really only think of Keith. He could say that when it came down to it, he and the prince simply talked to each other for an entire evening, and it felt so good to get all of the things off his chest that of course he found someone to talk to on the next planet, too. And the next one, and every planet since because he’s tired of holding it all in.

He could tell Keith how betrayed he feels that Keith would assume what he’s doing, and instead of asking him directly go to Shiro instead. How part of him wonders that maybe he brought this on himself, because he’s always flirting and making jokes and playing into harmful stereotypes about both his sexuality and his skin color, and how the rest of him knows that it’s stupid to think that because if these people really cared about him and took the time to know who he is , then they would stop to ask themselves ‘Is this really something that Lance would do?’ before believing it.

Keith trails a finger up the outside of Lance’s arm, raising goosebumps on his skin. He kisses Lance again, softly, catching Lance’s lower lip between both of his own. Then he moves across Lance’s jaw and nibbles on his ear while one hand continues to trace circles on Lance’s forearm and the other finds the front of his robe, grazing a nipple through the fabric.

Lance inhales sharply and raises his face toward the ceiling.

He could tell Keith so many things, but right now, in this moment, he is not brave.

So instead he says, “D’you still have your gloves on?”

“Yeah,” Keith chuckles, and the light touch of his fingers on Lance’s arm turns into the rough caress of fabric.

Lance hums. “Good.”

Keith’s hands untie his robe, exploring up his front and pressing into the small of his back. Lance is used to the callouses of Keith’s fingers--earned through a year in the desert and the constant fiddling with his knife--but with the gloves on it’s different.

For a moment, his body gets ahead of itself imagining how the fabric will feel wrapped around him, and he lets out an involuntary moan as his cock throbs. It doesn’t help that Keith has found his ass underneath his boxers and taken a handful of it. Lance stumbles toward him, pressing their bodies together and kissing skin until he finds Keith’s mouth. The other man’s head tilts back to give them the best angle, and Lance curls a hand in Keith’s hair.

The burning ferocity that normally charges their encounters is lacking--well, no, not lacking in any bad way, but it's just… it's changed somehow. His heart still pounds and his breath still rests shallowly in his lungs, but where skin touches skin the movement is slower, more deliberate.

It's almost tender.

Lance loves it rough, don't get him wrong. He likes to feel fingernails rake down his back and ropes dig into his skin. He likes to see Keith sweaty and leave the sheets tangled, and on occasion not even make it to the sheets in the first place. But he likes to mix it up too and this--we'll, this is certainly mixing it up.

Keith holds Lance tight against his body, nearly lifting him off his feet with the force of it. Lance reaches out a hand behind him to search for the wall, and finds it at an angle to his back.

His partner gets the idea and turns, following Lance to the wall and pressing him against it. He lets Keith slide a leg between both of his own, and then before he knows it Keith is nudging him upwards and Lance is wrapping his legs around his waist and hooking his ankles. He curls his head and shoulders down to deepen the kiss, and Keith squeezes Lance's ass because he knows--he knows --that he can't stop the moan from bubbling up his throat.

“Keith,” he breathes. Most of the sound disappears into the other man's mouth.

“Yeah?” There's a grin in his voice, though it's still so low it's almost a growl.

Lance rests his arms on Keith's shoulders and looks down at him, forehead to forehead. “I--” he says. Takes a breath and tries again. “I--”

Why can't he say it?

I love you.

Keith's eyes flick between each of his, waiting. Even so, he doesn't stop making little circles on the back of Lance's thigh with his thumb.

“Speechless? That's a first,” Keith muses.

Lance closes his eyes.

Say it say it say it say--

“I think we should take this over to the bed.”

Coward.

“Alright.”

The hands on him tighten as Keith leans away from the wall, taking all of Lance’s weight on his hips. Lance instinctively squeezes his legs and arms around Keith to keep from falling, and hides his face in the other man’s shoulder for the short walk to his bed.

They laugh a little as they figure out how to get from standing to not-standing, and in the end, Keith is sitting on the bed with Lance in his lap, a knee aside each of his hips. The robe has slipped from his shoulders and rests at his elbows, exposing most of his back and arms in addition to his chest, which has been bare practically since Keith entered the room.

“You look good like this,” Keith says, gloved hands tracing over his skin. Lance sighs into the touch and into the words. He leans in presses kisses into Lance’s neck and collarbone, teeth dragging in ways that he knows will leave marks. “Sexy.”

Lance pulls up the bottom of Keith’s shirt. “Why are your clothes still on?”

Keith cooperates long enough for Lance to pull the shirt up over his head. He takes a moment to run his hands up Keith’s chest and down his arms.

“You look good like this,” he parrots, delighting in the redness that finds its way into Keith’s cheeks. Then he leans forward and, in perfect time with a deep grind of his hips, whispers against Keith’s ear: “ Sexy.

Keith shudders, head ducking forward to hide his blush. Lance puts his hands along Keith’s jaw and pulls his face upwards, and then kisses Keith so hard that he lifts up onto his knees. A finger strokes up the front of his boxers and Lance melts against him.

“I want--” he says around Keith’s mouth, “--to fuck you.”

The sound in Keith’s throat makes it obvious how he feels about that. “Thought you wanted my gloves on.”

“Change of plans.” Lance entwines his fingers with Keith’s and adopts a bit of a playful tone. “Give me the gloves.”

Keith pulls back a little, so there are inches instead of centimeters between them.

“What, like you’ve never kept them on before?”

Silence is all the answer Lance needs.

“That's what I thought. And you’re making it up to me, remember?” he teases. “I want you to think of me whenever you leave them on.”

Lance watches hungrily as Keith pulls his gloves off and hands them to him. He slides them on and admires them for a moment, the fabric still warm from being on Keith’s hands. Then Lance turns them back on him, sliding his hands up Keith’s chest.

Keith inhales sharply, his head tilting back and mouth forming a silent oh .

“Feels good, doesn’t it?”

The other man only nods.

His hands find the front of Keith's jeans and make short work of the button and zipper. He reaches his hand in and wraps his palm around Keith's erection.

“Holy shit. ” Keith's head drops forward and all the muscles near his groin clench.

The man doesn’t talk a lot during sex. So when he does--Lance knows he’s doing something very right. If Keith weren't fully hard before, he certainly is now.

Especially with the gloves on, this can't go on for long without lube. But Lance savors it while he can, watching the sensation play across Keith's face as he works his hand around his cock.

Long before Keith is ready for him to let go, Lance climbs off of his lap and goes to the drawer where he keeps the condoms and lube. “You should probably wear one of these,” he says, holding up a condom for Keith to see. “Less chafing from the glove that way.”

Keith stares at him blankly for a few seconds, shirtless with his elbows on his knees and his dick halfway out of his pants where Lance left it.

“You okay?”

The other man blinks. “Yeah. Fuck. You just look so hot right now I can't even think.”

Lance looks down at himself--faded blue boxers, robe hanging open, and Keith’s gloves on his hands--and thinks that, yeah, he’s probably quite the sight right now. He can’t resist smiling a little. “Just put the condom on and stop staring,” he says, and tosses the packet to his partner.

Keith stands and shoves the jeans down his legs, shimmying a little, like he always does, and Lance watches, like he always does. He grabs himself through his boxers and moans quietly, leaning against the wall.

You stop staring,” Keith tells him, settling back on the bed to put his condom on.

In retaliation, Lance reaches inside his boxers while he watches, and--okay, yeah. The next hand job he gets from Keith is definitely going to include these gloves. Keith is halfway finished with the condom before Lance remembers that he needs one, too.

“Toss me the lube,” orders Keith, obviously impatient. Lance does so and then loses his robe and boxers on the way to the bed, where he sits and tears open the packet.

Lance bites his lip. “Getting yourself ready for me?”

Keith smirks and pops the cap back on the lube, squeezing some onto his fingers as he first climbs to his knees on the bed and then--turning away from Lance--goes face down and ass up. He glances back at Lance, head tilted to one side, and looks him in the eye as he reaches his hand back and presses a finger inside himself.

Lance’s mouth goes dry. He puts the condom on a little faster.

He’s two fingers in by the time Lance is finished, breathing heavily against the blanket and pushing back onto his fingers with the barely-contained urgency of someone who is all too eager to be fucked.

And Lance is all too eager to comply.

“Déjame,” he says, collecting the lube from beside Keith.

With a quiet whine, Keith pulls his fingers out and wipes them on the blanket. Halfway through the motion, it turns into a clenched fist as Lance slides his fingers into his asshole. It doesn't take long for him to be stretched enough to take him.

Lance places his knees on the inside of Keith's calves, aligning his front with the other man's backside. He drags his cock up between Keith's legs, feeling his thighs on either side.

“Hell yeah,” he says, enjoying the sensation.

Keith leans back into him, the command silent but clear-- hurry up.

Lance politely ignores him.

He grips Keith's hip and grinds against him again, then leans back a little to rub the head of his dick around the outside of Keith’s hole. Only when Keith literally growls at him does he quit teasing.

Lance has found his rhythm by the time he remembers that he has the gloves on. He leans forward onto all fours before lifting one hand back up to grab onto Keith’s dick. The slapping of thighs on ass is drowned out momentarily by Keith’s moan. His arms draw in close, bunching up the blankets around him as his back arches and his eyes screw shut. Lance can feel the heat in his own gut flaring, focusing, and building in intensity until finally--

He comes with Keith’s name on his lips, spilling out through his gritted teeth with the kind of head-fuzziness that comes with a really fucking good orgasm.

“Keith,” Lance whimpers again, breathless, hips still pounding as he chases the feeling.

And then, so quietly that Lance isn’t sure he hears it, Keith whines back, “ Lance.

His body clenches as the climax takes him, the only sound the choked-off breath from a mouth that opens in a silent cry. He may not make much noise, but damn it all to hell if he’s not the most beautiful man Lance has ever seen.

“You think I’m hot,” Lance says smugly once he’s pulled out and thrown away both of their condoms. He’s not ready to take the gloves off just yet.

Keith rolls over onto his back and gives him a withering look. “I thought we established that a long time ago.”

He settles back in next to Keith, climbing over the other man to be between him and the wall. “Yeah, but like--I’m pretty sure you’ve never said it out loud.”

“Bullshit. I’m sure I have.”

Lance runs his hands over Keith’s skin. “No, I definitely would remember it if you had.”

Keith shivers. “Well, now I have. I think you’re hot. Satisfied?”

“Hmm.” Lance shakes his head. “Never.”

There’s a moment of silence. Keith looks up at him. “You didn’t sleep with any of those aliens, did you?”

“No.” He answers the next question before it can be asked--he doesn’t have to tell the whole truth, that way. “But--like I said--you’re really hot when you’re jealous. Couldn’t resist.”

Keith sighs. “I'm sorry that I assumed anything. And--and that I told Shiro about it. I really didn't mean for him to come talk to you.”

“Yeah, I figured.” He's not sure he's ready to accept the apology yet. But still-- “Stay the night. I'll be the big spoon.”

The other man's brow furrows, as if Lance has said something strange. But the look is gone as soon as it appears.

“Alright.”

Keith pulls the blanket back, tugging it out from beneath Lance, and leaves it folded at the foot of the bed. Then he climbs beneath the sheet, holding it up for Lance to do the same.

Once they're settled, Lance speaks again.

“Keith?”

“Yeah?”

Lance wraps his arms around Keith's torso and nuzzles into his neck. “Will you turn the light off?”

He laughs, picking at the fabric that still clings to Lance's wrists. “Only if you give me my gloves back.”

Lance thinks on that for a moment--

And then he turns the light off himself.

***

***

Outtakes and Aftercare

___

For those of you who thought I forgot about Lance “keep your gloves on” McClain--you were very, very wrong.

___

Okay, but what did Keith actually say when he talked to Shiro? 

Keith: *hesitantly* Shiro I need to tell you something and you have to swear not to ask any questions.

Shiro: Why would I do that?

Keith: You're already failing.

Shiro: Right, sorry. Go on.

Keith: Okay. So. Um. I--

Shiro: Oh my god, you're pregnant.

Keith: Shiro what the hell I don't even have a womb

Shiro: *laughing* Sorry, sorry, you just looked so serious I couldn't resist. Little bro, I already know why you're here.

Keith: Uh… you do?

Shiro: Yes. And can I just say, I’m honored that you’ve /finally/ decided to come talk to me about boys.

Keith: First Pidge and now you--am I, like, wearing a sign or something?

Shiro: A brother’s intuition. And Pidge is… uncanny when it comes to knowing other people’s business. Now fess up, kiddo.

Keith: I am an /adult/.

Shiro:

Keith: Fine. *tells him everything*

Keith: But you have to swear on your /life/ that you won’t tell Lance how I feel.

Shiro: *sweating* He won’t suspect a thing.

___

Lance’s forays onto alien planets are based entirely off of this tumblr post:

http://ironinkpen.tumblr.com/post/161566261437/

Because it’s a beautiful post and I want that for him, but also I apparently can’t avoid writing angst/mutual pining so here we are almost 8,000 words later ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

___

Pidge: You’re not really having sex with all those aliens are you

Lance: Of course not

Pidge: I will never understand you.

Lance: says the person who chugged a Red Bull laced with three 5 Hour Energies. You should have /died/.

Pidge: At least my motivations were clear

___

Now imagine, if you will, that one of the aliens that Lance befriends happens to run into another intergalactic traveller determined to take down the Galra…

Alien diplomat: You remind me of another that I met. A paladin of Voltron, he was, and very chatty. Is that a trait of your species?

Traveller: *looking tired but determined, as if they’ve been fighting just to survive for longer than anyone should have to do* Excuse me?

Alien diplomat: Not a quintant ago, two of your kind visited our planet and asked our leaders to sign onto their alliance--not unlike what your party did today, though they were not so secretive about their actions. Tell me, are you allied with Voltron or another resistance entirely?

Traveller: Back up. Are you saying that /humans/ came to this planet?

Alien diplomat: They were humans, yes, and an Altean was their leader. Three other humans pilot the Voltron lions as well. You are a human too, yes? What do you call yourself?

Traveller: My name is Matt. Now tell me more about this “Voltron” you keep mentioning.

Chapter Text

While Shiro is missing, Lance learns two things about Keith.

Firstly, Keith obsesses over things.

He kind of knew that already. Most of the time it’s in small things, like how his knife always has to be razor sharp or how he won’t stop practicing a new fighting move until it’s perfect. But when it comes to looking for their lost teammate, he obsesses so much that he stops taking care of himself. He goes days without showering, his eating patterns are erratic, and even Pidge says he isn’t getting enough sleep. Lance tries his best to look after him, leaving food and checking in and reminding him to bathe, but it gets harder and harder with time.

Because the second thing is that when Keith is grieving, he gets mean.

Lance shrugs it off at first, tells himself it’s fine. He rationalizes that Keith is hurting, that he shouldn’t take it personally, that there was no way he could really mean the things he says. People have said worse things to him, and he has a thick skin.

But after too long… he’ll admit it. It hurts. There’s no way it wouldn’t, given some of the things Keith says to him.

So, no. When Shiro returns, no matter how badly he wants things to go back to normal, they can’t. Now that Keith doesn’t need someone to take care of him, Lance can avoid him with a clean conscience.

And avoid him he does.

Keith notices, of course. Lance doesn’t care. When Keith walks into a room and duty doesn’t demand he stay, Lance leaves. When Keith tries to talk to him, Lance shrugs him off with Keith’s own words turned against him, because of course Lance can’t forget any of it. The words sit in his mind and push out all else until they’re all he has left to think about.

Some thick skin he has.

“Hunk, do you think I’m annoying?” Lance asks.

“That’s a loaded question,” his friend responds. He looks up at Lance, who sits on the table of Hunk’s workroom with crossed legs and markedly less enthusiasm than usual. “Hand me the wrench. No, the small one.”

“You still have to answer it.”

Hunk uses the wrench to turn what’s probably a bolt--or whatever a wrench is meant to turn--and the machine he’s working on makes a satisfied hum. Then he sets down the tool and looks squarely at Lance. “Of course I think you’re annoying. But-- hey, look at me--that’s not a bad thing. You keep me going when I’m feeling down, you know? Like, being in the endless void of space isn’t so bad because you’re out here with me.”

Lance can’t hold his gaze. “Thanks, man.”

“What's wrong, Lance? You only ask me that when something’s bothering you.”

“Can you go back to working on your machine or something? I don’t want this to seem like a big deal.”

He watches Hunk’s eyebrows lower from the corner or his eye. “Now that you’ve said that, I’m starting to think this is a big deal.”

“It’s not!” Lance assures him. They both know it’s a lie. “Just… it helps me think to watch you work on stuff. I need something else to focus on.”

Hunk nods and reaches for a probe like the one they lost in the interdimensional portal. Its control panel is exposed, and Hunk starts fiddling with it using a small screwdriver. “Now talk,” he orders.

“I’m just… I don’t know. It’s hard to talk about it without explaining the whole thing, and I--I don’t know if--”

Hunk pauses and looks up at him. “It has to do with Keith, doesn’t it.?”

“Yeah.” Lance presses his lips together. “How’d you guess?”

“I knew that your Uncle Lance instincts could only go so far--we were all trying to look out for Keith with Shiro gone, but you were on another level. And I’m sure you noticed, he’s not very nice when he’s upset.”

“That’s what’s bothering me,” Lance confirms. “I know it sounds lame, but--he hurt my feelings. And I don’t even think he realizes it.”

Lance keeps his eyes on the quick, sure movements of Hunk’s hands as he talks. “But if I told him about it, I’d have to tell thim that--tell him how much I care about him. How much he means to me.”

“And why is that a bad thing?”

He says it so casually that Lance answers without thinking.

“Because then he’d know I’m in love with him.”

Hunk purses his lips, but, because he’s a good friend, he doesn’t stop working on the probe. “And why is that a bad thing?”

Lance is still blinking through the fact that he just admitted his feelings out loud, if not to who he thought he would. He thinks--not for the first time--that he doesn’t deserve Hunk as a friend, because he took Lance’s words completely in stride, without so much as a fumbled twist of his wrench.

“Because he doesn’t love me back,” Lance answers, feeling the hurt leech into his voice at the admission. Well, he’s all in now. “And we’ve been hooking up since before we freed the Balmera.”

That, at least, gets him a raised eyebrow. “Like-- hooking up?”

“Yeah.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah.”

“And let me guess. The arrangement is ‘no feelings allowed.’”

It occurs to Lance that they’ve never really talked about it, but Keith’s stance is clear enough, regardless. “Pretty much.”

“And even though he was a total ass to you while Shiro was missing, you still feel that way about him?”

Lance nods. It hadn’t even crossed his mind that his love for Keith might have faltered in the last months.

Hunk glances over at him to confirm the movement. “Wow. You’ve got it bad, buddy.”

With a groan, Lance buries his head in his hands. “This isn’t helping!”

“Sorry, sorry.” Hunk lays a hand on his knee after wiping it free of grease. “I know you’re upset and all, but just give me a minute to be happy that my best friend is in love.”

“In love with a fucking moron,” Lance protests. “And it doesn’t do me any good, because he doesn’t feel the same way. Which means you should be wallowing with me, not giving me that gross starry-eyed look. This isn’t a good thing.”

Hunk tries his best to school his expression back to indifference. “If you say so. Look, man, it’s not up to me to tell you how Keith feels--he’s the only one that can do that. So until you’ve talked with him about this, the most I can do is pat your shoulder and tell you it’ll all work out in the end.”

“I wouldn’t be so afraid to tell him how I feel if I didn’t have to see him every day--or if we weren’t trying to save the universe together. We just started being able to form Voltron again. I don’t want to fuck it up by weirding out my booty call with my feelings.”

“Please never refer to Keith as your booty call ever again.”

“Would you rather I call him my fuckbuddy?”

“No. Nope. Booty call is fine.” Hunk has, by now, stopped pretending he’s working on the robot. He looks to it mournfully, like he misses the simplicity of it compared to all of Lance’s problems. “Have you talked to Shiro about any of this?”

Lance pulls away, giving him an appalled look. “No. The man was just lost in space for three months--I’m not about to tell him I’ve been banging his little brother.”

“See, Lance, there are some things I don’t want to visualize, and when you say things like that it becomes very hard not to.”

He tries not to grin at Hunk’s pained expression. “You never seemed to mind when I was gettin’ it on with the ladies at the Garrison.”

Hunk shakes his head. “I didn’t know them. It’s different with Keith-- I have to see him everyday too, you know? And I meant before Shiro disappeared.”

“Oh.” Lance thinks back. “Yeah, he still thought I’d hooked up with at least eight aliens at that point, so I wasn’t really in the mood to talk to him.”

A thought strikes him.

“Is Shiro going to get his lion back from Keith now?”

Hunk frowns. “I don’t know. Would that mean that you and Keith go back to Red and Blue?”

“I couldn’t kick Allura out of the blue lion. She’s already such a good pilot,” he says, opening and closing one of the buttons on his jacket now that he doesn’t have Hunk’s fiddling to occupy him. “I think--I think that I need to go talk to Keith.”

Lance pushes himself off the workbench. His feet are pins and needles from being stuck under his legs for so long. Hunk turns back to his work, obviously not sure he wants to ask what it is he’s going to talk to Keith about. “Good luck,” is all he says.

“Thanks,” Lance replies. “And--thank you for listening to me. I’ve missed being able to talk to you.”

His friend grins wide. “Anytime.”

***

“Oh, and Lance?”

Lance turns around, hoping for even a hint of--of something. He doesn’t know what.

“Leave the math to Pidge.”

What the hell is that supposed to mean?

***

It might have been better if the lions rejected Lance, because then if he told Keith the truth it wouldn’t affect the team dynamic. But now he’s stuck again, unwilling to endanger the universe with his petty romantic troubles.

But either way it isn’t up to Lance, and the lions think it is better to leave Shiro behind and keep the others where they are. Truth be told, Lance likes Red quite a lot--though he misses Blue--so despite it all he’s glad to still be part of Voltron.

He also really wants to kick Lotor’s ass.

“If we’re ever in the same room, I’m going to punch him,” Lance says.

Keith raises an eyebrow, a juice pouch held in his hand. “Yeah?”

“In the throat. That way he can’t use his fucking Animal Planet -narrator voice anymore.”

Pidge spits out a laugh and falls backward onto the couch. “You’re right! That’s exactly what he sounds like!”

Once their body makes contact with the cushion, they wince. Lance probably wouldn’t have noticed, except that it cuts off their laugh.

“You okay?” he asks.

The other paladin rights themself and waves him off. “Bruised rib. One of Lotor’s cronies got in a good kick, but I’ll be fine.”

“Do you want to use a cryopod for a while?” Keith’s voice is concerned in the I-don’t-know-how-to-take-care-of-another-person kind of way, and Lance understands why. Pidge is the youngest in their team by far and everyone is fiercely protective of them, but Keith has been a loner for most of his life.

“I once rode my bike into a moving car, spent the night in the hospital, and then stopped taking the pain pills after two days,” Pidge says dismissively, but there’s an edge to their voice. “I think I’ll be fine.”

Keith’s “You did what? ” comes at the same time as Lance’s “Let me see.”

Pidge automatically pulls their arms into their chest, legs lifting off the ground a little in a defensive position. “I’m fine, really.”

“Pidge.” Lance puts all of his big brother authority behind the word. He’s had to deal with enough hurt, stubborn teenagers to know that Pidge is not, in fact, fine. “You don’t have to prove how tough you are--we already know you’re the baddest bitch of us all. Let me see.”

For an instant longer, they look like they’re going to resist. But then they uncurl and slowly roll up the side of their sweatshirt, revealing a bruise that starts below their ribcage and disappears underneath their binder. It’s a nasty mess of purple and brown, dark enough that Lance hisses out a curse.

“Mierda, Pidge. Why’re you wearing a binder over that? It must hurt like hell.”

They let their shirt fall back down and shrug.

“You can’t fight like that,” Keith cuts in. “We need everyone at full health at all times.”

“Full health? Is this a videogame?” Pidge asks.

“I’m being serious, Pidge.”

Most of the time, when his teammate is making snarky comments or doing nerd stuff faster than his brain can comprehend, Lance forgets that Pidge is pretty much still a kid. It’s times like this when he remembers.

“Aye aye, commander Keith,” they say, saluting tiredly as they push off the couch. “Cryopod it is.”

“We’ll walk you down,” Lance supplies, because Keith really sucks at the whole being comforting thing. “And I’ll make sure there’s tea ready for you when you get out.”

Pidge offers him a half smile. “Thanks.”

They walk as a trio down to the med bay, and Keith and Lance wait in patient silence outside while Pidge changes into a cryosuit. Lance listens for the telltale whir of a pod ejecting from the floor to go back inside.

It’s odd, but somehow Pidge has chosen exactly the pod that Lance and Keith got frozen in together.

“Tell Hunk to wait until I’m back out to start on the drone,” Pidge says as they step into the pod. The cryosuit betrays just how small they are. “The wiring is very sensitive.”

“Will do,” Lance says.

Keith stands a few feet behind Lance, arms crossed. “Feel better, Pidge.”

“I’ll see you in an hour,” Pidge says. Lance enters the healing sequence into the pod, and a hissing fills the room as the pod closes over the other paladin. “Don’t have too much fun while I’m out.”

Pidge’s eyes close and the smug grin drops out of their face.

“Little shit,” Lance says, shaking his head as he turns away. “C’mon, Keith. Let’s go see about making some tea.”

Keith falls into step beside him. “You’re good at that.”

“Making tea?”

“No--taking care of people.” Keith puts his hands in the pockets of his jeans. He left his jacket in the lounge, and Lance can see the lines of muscle in his bare arms. “You just, like, always know what to do.”

“Yeah, well. I’ve had a lot of practice.”

There’s a short silence. Lance doesn’t care to be the one that breaks it.

“I--I’m sorry. For all that stuff I said to you when you were just trying to help. None of it was true.”

Lance sighs. “You still really hurt me, Keith. And it’ll take me awhile to get over that.”

“I can live with that,” Keith says. “Because it means you’ll forgive me eventually.”

The stutter of Lance’s heart does him no good, so he squashes it down. “I just want things to go back to how they were.”

Keith glances over at him, trying to read Lance’s expression.

Another short pause, and then--

“You mean like this?” he says, and reaches out to grab Lance’s wrist, stopping him midstep. Then he lays a palm on Lance’s cheek and kisses him.

Lance’s hand goes automatically to Keith’s hip and pulls him closer. Keith smiles against his mouth and wraps his arms around Lance’s shoulders.

“Yeah,” Lance says. “Like that.”

He kisses Keith again, harder this time, pushing him back until his body touches the wall. He bites Keith’s lip playfully and then uses the small gasp he gets in response as a chance to press his tongue into his mouth. Keith tilts his head up and lets the kiss deepen. One of his hands comes up to grasp at the short hair on Lance’s head, the other still wrapped like a vice over his shoulder, keeping them close.

Lance lets his hands travel underneath the hem of Keith’s shirt, exploring the smoothness of his stomach and chest. When his thumb brushes Keith’s nipple, the man shudders and pulls away long enough to say, “We shouldn’t be doing this in the hallway.”

“Afraid someone will see?” Lance teases, his forehead resting against Keith’s. They’re already breathing heavy, both of them. “Commander Keith wouldn’t want anyone thinking he’s unprofessional.”

“Fuck off,” he says, smiling a little.

“Yes sir, ” Lance purrs, and traces a finger down Keith’s arm.

The other man closes his eyes and rolls his hips forward into Lance’s crotch. He feels the press of Keith’s arousal through his jeans, matching his own heat, and grinds down onto it. Keith’s grip around his shoulder tightens. Lance kisses him roughly, and only after a few minutes do they actually make it out of the hallway and into the nearest room.

It’s a conference room, probably, because there’s a long table down the center with chairs on either side. “Clothes off,” Keith orders, though both of them are already halfway out of their shirts. It’s for Lance’s benefit that he says it, because he’s picked up on the hints; Lance wants to be told what to do.

“You still keep a condom in the inner pocket?” Keith asks, shirt off and jeans unbuttoned as he bends to retrieve Lance’s jacket from the floor. “I left mine upstairs.”

“Yeah. Left side. There’s some lube, too.” Lance kicks off his shoes and slides his jeans and boxers down his legs.

Keith rolls up Lance’s jacket and sets it on the table once he’s found the condom and two small packets of lubricant. Lance leans against the wall to watch Keith shimmy out of his jeans. He’s gone three months without seeing that--three months too long.

He takes a step toward Lance, eyelids lowered.

His gloves are still on.

Lance’s mouth goes dry. “So you didn’t forget.”

Keith puts a hand behind Lance’s neck and steps closer so their bodies touch, chests grazing with each breath. Their dicks slide against each other and Lance feels his vision fizzle in and out.

“Never,” Keith says. “Now kiss me.”

Lance does.

He grabs a fistfull of Keith’s ass and tugs him closer, pressing a knee in between both of the other man’s legs. The kiss is open and sloppy, punctuated by Lance’s barely-contained moans and Keith’s breathy gasps. Keith moves along his jaw and tugs his earlobe with his teeth. Their hands roam, finding every place on each other’s body they can from a standing position.

When they pull apart, Lance is fighting for breath and Keith’s hand is wrapped around both their cocks, massaging them together. Keith rests his head against Lance’s collarbone, focusing on his work between them.

“Fuck me,” Lance says, eyes to the ceiling.

Keith lets go of their members and lays his hand on Lance’s hip instead. He doesn’t look up, just says between kisses on his skin, “We only have one condom. Can’t use the glove without putting one on you--the thing chafes like a bitch.”

Lance chuckles. “I’m sure you’d know.”

A set of stubby fingernails digs into his ass. Lance feels his eyelids flutter as he hisses out a breath.

Keith lifts his head to look at Lance. “Well?”

“Hmm?” He blinks.

The other man sighs and rests his arms around Lance’s shoulders again. “One condom. Who do we put it on?”

“We already know we’re both clean,” Lance says. Then he adds, quickly, “And I don’t mind a bit of a mess afterwards.”

Keith gives him a wary look.

“I also don’t mind the chafing, if you aren’t comfortable going without.”

“You’ll mind the chafing tomorrow.”

Lance bites his bottom lip to keep it from turning into a pout. He didn’t expect Keith to get hung up on not using a condom, but he doesn’t want to coerce him into anything.

“It’s fine,” Keith decides, the certainty hardening his tone. His face is so close to Lance’s that he can feel the puff of air from his nose as he exhales, see the specks of color in his dark eyes. But even so, Lance can never really tell what he’s thinking.

He takes an extra second to confirm that it is, in fact, fine, before letting out a low, “Yeah booiii.” He also swats Keith’s ass as he walks away to fetch the condom, but that’s mostly in retaliation for the eye roll the ‘yeah boi’ earns him.

While Keith is faced away to tear open the packaging, Lance comes up behind him and puts his chin over his shoulder and his hand on his cock. He strokes it slowly, running his thumb over the tip and grinning when Keith leans back into his chest, eyes screwed shut in pleasure.

“You’re going to feel good,” Lance tells him, kissing along his chin toward his mouth. “You always do.”

He uses his other hand to turn Keith’s head toward him, and while they kiss Lance continues to work on his partner’s erection until it’s stiff and hot.

“Lance,” Keith warns, but it comes out as more of a whimper. Lance grins as he moves his hand to a less sensitive location. “Get on the table.”

Lance pivots and hops the extra inch or so it takes to get his butt on the table, letting his legs dangle as he waits for direction. Keith picks the condom back up and finishes unwrapping it before he rolls it onto Lance’s dick for him. Then he tugs Lance toward the edge of the table and kneels in front of him, letting Lance put his legs over his shoulders. Lance puts a hand on the table behind him to brace himself as Keith makes a line of kisses up his inner thigh to his asshole.

The other man’s tongue flicks out, warm and wet against Lance’s skin. His own eagerness ramps up by a factor of ten and he runs a shaky hand through his hair. Keith has a firm grip on the back one thigh, spreading him apart while he uses a mix of lube and tongue and spit and fingers to get him ready. For his part, Lance does his best not to crush Keith’s head between his legs or fall backwards onto the table because his arms gave out.

Satisfied with Lance’s preparedness, Keith ducks out from underneath him and stands. “Lay down--you can use your jacket as a pillow if you need.”

Lance complies, taking the roll of fabric from the other man when it’s handed to him and positioning it under his neck as he settles onto the cool tabletop. Keith climbs up and positions himself between Lance’s legs, sitting back on his own thighs as he uses one hand to rub the remaining lube onto his cock. Then he leans forward, gesturing for Lance to hook his legs around Keith’s hips as he places a hand by Lance’s chest and coaxes his lower back off the table.

It only takes a few seconds of maneuvering for Lance to feel the hard press of Keith’s erection against his entrance, feel it slip inside him. His back arches off the table and Keith follows him, lifting up onto his knees and pressing deeper in. Lance’s legs tighten around his hips to keep from falling back to the table even as his bare shoulders stick to its surface. He’s glad to have the jacket under his head.

“Díos,” he swears as Keith starts to pulse in and out. “Fuck.”

Keith steadies himself above Lance on the table with one hand and pumps his cock with the other. The feel of the glove is only barely diminished by the condom, and paired with the sensation of Keith inside him, Lance already knows he isn’t going to last long. The heat gathers in his gut and leaves goosebumps on the bare skin of his chest and arms and makes the edges of his vision go fuzzy. He squeezes his eyes shut and puts a hand to his face, reaching out blindly with the other for Keith and finding he can only reach a few strands of hair but not his skin, not like he wants to.

“Keith,” he whines. His eyes slit open to find the other man watching him intently, lips pressed together. He pounds into Lance, but the only indication of his mounting pleasure is how his breaths come more raggedly, his rhythm faster and faster.

“D’you want me,” Keith says, though it’s clear the words are hard for him, “to pull out?”

Lance shakes his head vigorously. His orgasm is rising fast. “I want--I want you .”

All the muscles in his body clench at once, pulling the end of his last word into an open-mouthed groan as he cums. His lower back arches so high off the table that Keith runs out of room for his hand between his own body and Lance’s. He lets go of Lance’s dick and straightens up to his knees. Gloved hands grab his hips and the extra leverage lets Keith drive into him deeper and faster, and at some point Lance feels the spill of cum inside him.

It's weird, he'll admit it, and it'll probably fuck up his excretory system for a while, but it's not unpleasant. And besides, that's not really what he's thinking about at the moment. He’s still lost in the post-orgasm euphoria, his fingers and toes tingling and his head spinning.

When Keith is spent, he lowers Lance back onto the table and lays face down with half of his body on Lance’s, half on the table next to him. Keith’s face is close enough that Lance can kiss his forehead. They’re both breathing hard.

Lance plays lazily with Keith’s hair. “That was good,” he says. “But I think I’m going to have to go take a shower and a shit.”

His partner’s face reddens. “Sorry.”

“Don’t apologize.” Lance focuses his gaze on the strands of hair between his fingers instead of looking into Keith’s eyes. “I missed you, you know.”

Keith tilts his head up toward him. “I didn’t go anywhere.”

“Not physically,” Lance says. It’s hard to put it into words. “But you were distant.”

“I know.”

Something lingers in the space between them. It’s so soft, so quiet, that it almost feels like an ‘I love you.’

“Keith, are we friends?” Lance asks suddenly.

“Of course we are.” No hesitation.

“Okay.”

There it is again, that lingering.

It’s weird, but just hearing Keith say that they’re friends makes him feel better. Makes him think that even if Keith doesn’t love him he might be okay with that just as long as, no matter what, they’re still friends. Makes him think that maybe that’s what love is, in a way. Just wanting to be near someone.

Just wanting to linger.

***

***

Outtakes and Aftercare

___

You’re all entitled to your opinions and whatnot but I fucking loved season 3

___

Cryopod: *opens*

Pidge: *steps out*

Pidge: Those assholes forgot about my tea.

___

Shameless as I am, I made a reference in this chapter to my Pidge-centric story on AO3. It’s a quick read and maybe my personal favorite of all the pieces I’ve written for Voltron, so if you’re at all interested in the story of Pidge’s shenanigans in going from Katie to Pidge… please go read my story “Left Behind” because it would literally send me through the roof with happiness.

___

Concept: Lance is now paladin of the red lion and Red knows exactly how Keith feels about Lance, and because she has saved that idiot’s life several times and just wants him to be happy, she does everything a semi-sentient lion can do to get them together.

 

Red: *in vague lion-ey communication* You and I have a lot in common

Lance: Yeah?

Red: We’ve both got style.

Lance: True.

Red: We have very good aim.

Lance: Yeah we do.

Red: We both love Keith.

Lance: Y--what? wHO TOLD YOU THAT

 

A lot of Keith’s stuff somehow ends up in the red lion. Neither of them knows how or why.

 

Red: *never turns off the audio or visual feed between Red and Black*

 

Lance: *thinks about Keith while piloting Red*

Red: *plays the Altean equivalent of “Careless Whisper”*

Lance: What the fuck is happening

___

At some point, probably…

 

Hunk: It’s not up to us to interfere and tell them how they feel about each other.

Pidge: They forgot me in a /cryopod/.

Hunk: That’s unrelated.

Pidge: We both know it wasn’t. This is getting out of hand--someone has to tell them.

Hunk: No.

Pidge: I’m going to tell them.

Hunk: Don’t you /dare/.

Chapter Text

Lance sits on his bed, knee bouncing while he waits for the static on his wrist screen to resolve into an image. Normally it doesn’t take this long for the signal to patch through once Keith accepts his call, so they must be far away from each other. Lance doesn’t like thinking about that.

Keith’s face fades into the empty space in front of him and Lance has to fight down a smile. “You looked really stupid just standing there next to Kolivan during that meeting,” he says. “Like some random-ass sentry robot up there on that screen. You couldn’t even say hi to us?”

“I was being professional ,” Keith protests, returning Lance’s grin. He must be off duty and back in his barracks now; his head is resting against a dark purple wall, and he’s taken his armor off by the looks of it. His bare shoulders, covered in new scars and new muscles, keep drawing Lance’s eyes. “Guards aren’t supposed to say hi.”

Lance taps a finger against his jaw. “Hmm. You’d think they’d get someone taller to stand guard for the leader of the Blade.”

Keith’s jaw drops. “You’re lucky I’m three galaxies away, because otherwise you’d be in for a real ass-kicking for that,” he growls.

A pang, right in Lance’s chest. “Come back here and I’ll show you an ass-kicking,” he says, trying to sound flirty but mostly just hoping it doesn’t sound needy. It’s been months since he’s seen Keith in person. For the most part they’ve been too busy for Lance to get too caught up in missing him, but it’s moments like this when his feelings take his heart and run with it.

Keith shrugs.“Kolivan’s always on my back about how I let my emotions get in the way of my work. I have to prove to him that I can be professional.”

“Yeah, well Kolivan’s got a stick up his butt, so--”

“You can’t say shit like that! I have roommates!”

His view of Keith shakes as Keith frantically tries to cover the speaker on his communicator. Lance catches a glimpse of Keith’s bare chest, pants low on his hips and legs crossed beneath him on his cot. Lance’s laugh turns into a cough as his throat goes dry.

“Are any of them in right now?” he asks.

Keith sets the communicator down on the mattress in front of him and leans out from his bed, looking first across the room and then above him. Lance watches with the kind of rapt attention that would have gotten him straight A’s in school if it had been applied it to his homework. God, but he’s hopeless, isn’t he?

“No,” Keith tells him. He picks up the communicator and holds it up to his face again. “But they could have been. So watch what you’re--”

“Kolivan has seven toes!” Lance shouts into his microphone. “And his braid isn’t even real--it’s a clip on !”

Keith stifles a laugh. “Be nice to my boss,” he chides. “He does really important work. He has the entire Blade to lead.”

“Yeah, but it would be nice if he gave you more than two vargas off every movement. I barely get to talk to you.”

“I know.” Keith sighs heavily.

To be fair, Lance is glad he gets to talk to Keith at all. Before their last big battle with Zarkon, the last time he talked to him was before Keith joined up with the Blades full time. And after that battle--he’s grateful now every time Keith picks up his calls. He refuses to talk about what happened and Lance is just glad that he’s still alive so he doesn’t bring it up. But some nights it keeps him awake, thinking of how Keith was so willing to die.

“So the mission today went well?” Keith asks.

“Yeah. Yeah, it went great. Shiro and Allura are meeting with Lotor again right now. I don’t trust that guy one bit.”

Keith frowns. “He’s been giving is good intel.”

“And every piece of information he’s given us gets us to do things that are just as good for him as they are for us,” Lance says. “It’s just--he came around to our side so fast. Between one quintant and the next, he went from trying to kill us to trying to be all buddy-buddy? I don’t buy it.”

“You have a point. What does Shiro think?”

Now it’s Lance’s turn to frown. “That’s the weirdest part. Shiro seems totally on board with it all.”

“If Shiro trusts him, I trust him,” Keith says.

Lance waves him off. “This isn’t the Blade--we’re allowed to have opinions, and I don’t trust the guy. But, hey--can we talk about something other than work?”

“What, do you have something else going on in your life than saving the universe?”

“Well, no,” Lance admits. “Everything’s pretty much the same here. Matt comes by a lot and hangs out with Pidge. Hunk stress-bakes enough food to feed pretty much every refugee on Olkari. I’ve been training a lot more.”

Keith quirks an eyebrow. “You have?”

“Yeah. I’m really getting the hang of the sniper-mod on my bayard.”

“You are the sharpshooter.”

Lance presses his lips together. “You know, I’m trying to decide if you’re hotter in your Blade armor or out of it.”

Keith drops his communicator.

While he’s fumbling for it, Lance continues. “Because on one hand, that armor makes your ass look great, but on the other hand, your shoulders --”

“Lance!” Keith hisses. He’s finally managed to pick the communicator back up and has it pointed toward his face again. Lance can see the blush across his nose and cheeks, even in the dim image of his wrist screen.

“I’m just telling it like it is,” he says. “And it’s fucking torture that you’re so far away.”

Keith bites his lip. “Hey, you’re not the only one getting a raw deal out of this.”

“Aww, Keith. That almost sounded like a compliment.”

“I was clearly talking about Kalteneker,” Keith deadpans. “I’m sure she misses me.”

“Coran’s her favorite now,” Lance says sadly. “There’s no loyalty left in the universe.”

They both start laughing, and Lance wonders when it became this easy to talk to Keith. Is it thousands of lightyears between them, keeping the yearning in Lance’s gut from jumping up into his throat?

“You look good in armor, don’t get me wrong,” Keith says. He isn’t looking at his communicator. “But I think my favorite is you in jeans. Just the jeans, nothing else.”

Lance groans and throws his head back against the wall. Now he’s blushing, he’s sure of it, and his heart rate has picked up to twice its usual speed. “Oh my god, you can’t just say things like that,” he says. “Not when you’re so far away.”

Keith thinks for a moment. “And a little bit of rope to keep you in place. That looks really good.”

“Not. Fair. ” Lance shifts his legs, suddenly uncomfortable in the tight fabric of his paladin armor. Against his better judgement, Lance lets his free hand rest over his crotch, massaging the bulge there.

His view of Keith shudders for a moment as Keith switches his communicator to the other hand. “I hate having roommates,” he says. “I never know when one of them could come back, so I can’t--well. You know.”

“You can’t what?” Lance prods. He detaches the wrist screen from his armor and holds it in his palm.

When Keith doesn’t answer, Lance stands up and moves to place the communicator on his desk. He begins to unclip his armor. “I don’t have a roommate,” he says. “So I can pretty much do whatever I want.”

Keith huffs out a jealous sigh.

“What are the chances of one of your roommates coming back in the next fifteen minutes?”

“Um… Andok is on patrol tonight, Blitz has been on a mission for three quintants, and Terra is usually out late at strategy meetings. So not high.” He pauses, swallowing heavily. “Lance?”

“How about,” Lance says, tossing his shin guards on the heap with the rest of his plating before he reaches for the zipper at his neck, “a little phone sex?”

“I don’t think it qualifies as phone sex if I can see you,” Keith counters, but his eyes are already flicking up and down Lance’s body as he peels off his suit.

“I can turn off the visual if you want,” Lance teases. He leaves the suit hanging around his waist and reaches up toward the ceiling in a stretch. He grabs his wrists above his head and leans to one side and then the other.

“No, no, that’s okay,” Keith says. There’s a quiet hitch in his breath. “I wasn’t complaining.”

“Good. Let me see you.”

Keith pulls the communicator farther from his face and angles it slightly downward so that Lance can see his bare chest in its entirety. Lance’s palm finds his crotch again, still trapped in his space suit. “Fuck, Keith. You’re so goddamn sexy.”

Lance watches as Keith’s hand goes to his own crotch. His breathy sigh crackles through the speakers on Lance’s wrist screen.

“You still go commando in that thing?” Keith asks.

“Yep,” Lance says, popping the ‘p’. He bends down, out of view of the wrist screen, as he removes the rest of his suit and leaves it in a heap on his floor. When he straightens back up, he turns around and repeats his stretches for Keith to see. Then he rolls his hips a few times and runs his hands down his chest like the male strippers in movies do.

The look on Keith’s face when he turns back around is enough to get Lance from half-hard to a full on boner. Lance picks his communicator up off of his desk and moves to his bed again. He places the wrist screen near his hip, so Keith can see both his cock and his face. He leans against his wall, one knee up and the other bent out to the side, almost touching the communicator.

Lance takes his dick in his hand and starts massaging the head. “Let me see you ,” he says again, and this time Keith gets it.

Keith reverses the view on his communicator and sets it on his chest so that what Lance can see rises and falls with each breath. But that’s not what Lance is paying attention to, because Keith hands have found his pants and are unbuttoning, unzipping, reaching into his underwear, and freeing his erection. Keith’s already hard, too.

“Fuck yeah,” Lance breathes. “I miss that little guy.”

“Never call my dick ‘that little guy’ again,” says Keith. Lance can’t see his face, but the thought of his expression makes him smile.

“I miss having that little guy in my mouth,” he purrs, spreading precum over his cock and starting to move his hand up and down the shaft. “You just taste so good.”

Keith whimpers so quietly that Lance almost misses it. But the effect of his words is clear enough. “Lance,” he says. His hand moves just barely off rhythm with Lance’s.

“Let me see your face, too,” Lance asks. “Switch the view and put it off to one side, like--yeah, like that. Fuck, just like that. I want to see your face when you’re thinking of me like that.”

“I like to see your face when I’m fucking you,” Keith muses. His voice doesn’t stray above a whisper, perhaps because he’s worried someone elsewhere in the barracks will hear him. “How your eyes go half-closed and you can’t keep your mouth shut.”

“What about when I pull your hair?” prompts Lance. Keith’s free hand reaches up and catches in his own hair, the other still pumping his erection. His eyes squeeze shut and he bites his lip. “Yeah, that’s the one.”

Keith looks into his eyes through their screens. “You’re so good, Lance. So good for me, look at you.”

Lance fights to keep his breathing steady but his hand is going fast now, the heat beginning in the deepest part of his gut. “Keith,” he breathes. “Why the fuck’re you so far away. I want to kiss you and fuck you and fuckin’ just be with you.”

Keith hmmms along but by this point Lance knows he’s beyond being able to talk well. But that’s okay--he didn’t want a response, anyway. He pumps his fist and watches in his wrist screen as Keith does the same, and at some point the heat in his gut builds so high is spills out of him, squeezing all of the muscles in his body and making light dance across his vision. Lance regains his sight just soon enough to see Keith’s body clench and his back arch off his bed, cum shooting up onto his chest. His hand slows, and then he lets go of himself and both of them rest next to each other, galaxies apart.

“That was great,” Keith says. He runs a hand through his hair. “Oh, man, I didn’t think that--well, it’s still not as good as the real thing, but--well. You know. Still better than on my own.”

Lance bites back a smile. “You have a way with words, truly.” He leans forward and picks the wrist screen up off the bed. “I really miss you, Keith,” he says.

Keith brings the communicator up to his face again. “I miss you, too.” He bites his lip and takes a big breath. “Lance, I--”

There’s a beep followed by a sliding noise, and Keith’s expression turns to one of horror. “Shit, someone’s back--I’ve got to go--”

The feed cuts off almost before Keith has finished his words, and the staticky gray projection retreats into Lance’s communicator. He tries to shove down the disappointment in his chest.

“Love you, too,” he says to his empty bedroom.

***

***

 

Chapter Text

Keith is nursing more bruises than he cares to count after his first official mission with the Blades. With Shiro back to lead Voltron once again, Keith felt it was time for him to push Kolivan to allow him on real missions. Surprisingly, he’d agreed. Keith knew then how desperate the Blade was for new operatives; their numbers, always low, had taken a great hit since they allied with Voltron.

Even with the black lion still refusing to let Shiro back in to pilot her, Keith took the first mission he was assigned without hesitation. Surely, he thought, nothing too terrible could happen while he was gone. And this time, at least, he was right.

When his transport pod docks at the castleship, there are no alarms blaring and no fleet of Galra ships trying to shoot it apart, so he decides that the others can go a few hours before seeing him. He needs to take a hot shower to soothe his aching muscles, and some time alone after his mission will be more than welcome.

But Keith doesn’t make it that far.

Of course he doesn’t make it that far.

And the worst part? He can’t even pretend he’s upset about it.

His chest tightens when the bay door opens to reveal Lance walking toward him, hands in his jean pockets and jacket pushed up to his elbows. When Lance breaks into a smile, it hurts his chest even more.

“Thought I’d find you here,” he says casually. “I tried to convince Pidge to come with me and throw Hunk’s latest cookie attempt at you, but they didn’t go for it. So I’m your welcome party.”

He throws out jazz hands, still walking toward Keith.

“I was only gone for a day,” he says. He slaps Lance’s jazz hands away when he gets close enough.

Lance shoves his hands back into his pockets. “We’re in space,” he says, leaning against the wall as Keith finishes securing the pod. “There are no days. Only quintants.”

“Well, I was only gone for a quintant, then.” He presses the last clamp into place and steps away from the pod, nodding back toward the bay doors so Lance knows he’s finished. They fall into step beside each other.

The door slides open and they step out into the hallway. “Anything interesting happen while I was gone?” Keith asks.

Lance purses his lips for a moment, thinking. “No, nada. Unless you count Shiro breaking his own record for most consecutive push-ups.”

“Nope.”

“Then literally nothing interesting happened.”

Their footsteps echo through the empty hallway.

“How was the mission?” Lance asks.

Keith sighs, eyes bouncing from one ceiling light to another. “Classified.”

“Hmm. Looks like you got beat up, though. You’re limping, and not in the just-got-fucked kind of way. And there’s a bruise on your neck.” He pokes it, making Keith wince and pull away.

Suddenly self conscious, he focuses all his energy on walking normally, despite the protest of his knees. “The bruise isn’t from my mission,” he deadpans.

“It isn’t? Then what...” A moment of silence, and then-- “Keith Kogane, did you just make a joke?

Keith shrugs. “Maybe.”

Lance’s claps a hand on his armor-clad shoulder. “Here I was, worried that you’d had a hard time out there, maybe be in need of some cheering up, but then-- this. I’m clearly not needed.”

“Hey,” Keith chides. “It’s nice that you came to see me.”

“Do you have a head injury, too?” prods Lance. “First you crack a joke, and now you’re getting sentimental. It’s just not normal.”

“Whatever.”

Keith has already been called out for acting weird, so he goes all in and wraps an arm around Lance’s shoulder. He’s shorter than Lance, so it’s a bit awkward, but to his credit, Lance doesn’t duck away or push his arm off. He looks startled for half a second before his arm finds Keith’s waist, almost like it’s a natural reaction.

His chest is tight again.

“So what did you have planned to cheer me up?” Keith asks. He isn’t used to walking while attached to someone, so it takes a bit of focus, but no more than it had to stop his limp.

“I wasn’t really sure, to be honest,” says Lance. “I’m more of an on-the-fly kind of guy. Is this really the armor you have to wear on missions?”

Keith looks down at himself. “Yeah,” he says. “Why?”

“It just looks… I don’t know. It doesn’t look like real armor.” He flicks Keith’s chest plate. It isn’t glowing with Galra purple light anymore, now that he’s left the field and has no need for its combat features.

“Of course it looks like real armor,” Keith insists. “It’s durable and flexible, and when the combat mode is engaged, it absorbs up to--”

“Yeah, yeah,” Lance says, waving off his explanation. “I get that it’s real armor, and I’m glad it’s keeping you safe and all, but like--does it really have to look like that ?”

Keith frowns and looks over at Lance, whose eyes are looking up and down his body and successfully ratcheting up his self-consciousness by a factor of ten. He only vaguely recognizes that they’re not headed in the direction of the showers, but of their living quarters. “Like what?”

Lance sighs heavily, and rubs his face with the hand that isn’t wrapped around Keith’s waist. “It’s skin-tight,” he says. “And it’s got that corny-ass hood, not to mention the color scheme…”

“Lance?”

“I hate to tell you this, Keith, but it looks like the kind of armor someone in a porno would wear.”

“W-what?” Keith sputters. He almost pulls his arm away from Lance’s shoulder in surprise, but he stops himself.

“A high-budget porno!” Lance amends. “But still.”

Keith blinks a few times, trying to comprehend the words he’s hearing. “But isn’t the point of porn that no one is wearing clothes? My entire body is covered!”

Lance bites his lip and tilts his head side to side, considering. “Covered, yes. Concealed? Hell no.”

The heat in Keith’s cheeks is almost unbearable, and he knows that Lance can tell how hard he’s blushing. But a quick glance up at him reveals a surprising fact.

Lance is blushing too.

Keith has to hide a smile. “This can’t be porn armor,” he says, as though this is a normal conversation topic. “It’s too hard to take off.”

Pfft--” Lance chokes on abrupt laughter. He presses his face into Keith’s neck to stifle it. “It can’t be that bad.”

The smile tugs harder at Keith’s lips, but he doesn’t bother to contain it now because Lance can’t see, anyway. “Oh, it can. Trust me. I don’t think the Galra know what a zipper is.”

“That would explain why Zarkon is in such a bad mood all the time,” Lance agrees, straightening to his full height once again. “He’s probably had the same wedgie for ten thousand years.”

The two of them share a shit-eating grin, and it hits Keith so hard that it knocks the wind out of him, how much he loves Lance. And it’s the worst time for the thought to occur, because instead of the lightness from joking around, a weight settles in his stomach. They may be friends, and they may be fuckbuddies, but they’re nothing more. Lance has made that abundantly clear.

Lance’s smile drops off just after Keith’s does. “Is everything okay?” he asks, his voice filled with concern.

“Yeah.” Keith shakes his head, scrambling for an excuse that’s not an outright lie. “It’s just--I saw some stuff on my mission, you know. It’s the kind of shit it’s hard to forget.”

“Ay, cariño,” Lance says, his eyebrows knitted together. “I’m so sorry.”

Keith shrugs. “It’s not your fault.”

Lance squeezes Keith’s hand over his shoulder, then laces together their fingers together. They walk in silence for a few minutes, until they make it to Keith’s door.

“Do you want to be alone?” Lance asks, typing in the code to his room.

“No,” Keith says. The door opens but neither of them go inside. He looks into Lance’s eyes and immediately wishes he hadn’t. “I want you,” he whispers.

His partner’s eyebrows raise, asking the silent question.

Keith answers it with with a kiss.

He pulls Lance close with the arm over his shoulder, pressing their bodies together. Lance does the same, and if there was ever any space between them it’s gone now. Caught up in the familiarity of Lance’s body, Keith can nearly forget his mess of emotions.

His kiss is urgent, tugging at Lance’s lips and prying them open. He takes his arm from Lance’s shoulder and finds his hips instead, so that he can push him up against the wall beside his door, which has already slid closed again. Lance’s hands explore his body over his suit, finding all the places where he’s protected only by tough fabric instead of hard plating. Keith winces when he finds one of his bruises.

Lance pulls back. “Are you hurt?”

“Just soreness and bruises,” Keith assures him. “Nothing major.”

He goes in for another kiss, but Lance stops him. “Let’s go in. I’ll take care of you.”

While Keith is puzzling over which take-care-of he means, Lance enters the code to Keith’s room again and leads him inside by the hand. The door closes and Lance faces him.

“How do I get this armor off you?” he asks quietly. They’re close again, enough so that Keith has to focus very hard to make a coherent answer.

“There are some clasps in the back, beneath the hood. That’s a good place to start.”

Lance nudges Keith to turn around, and he does, already getting started with the series of fastenings at his forearms. He much prefers the construction of their paladin armor, which involves a full bodysuit with separate plates of armor. This, on the other hand, is all attached, and that makes it a bitch to get on and off.

By the time Lance is done with his back, Keith had finished with his arms. He tugs the fabric covering his fingertips, eventually convincing it to let him go. Lance helps to get the armor down off his shoulders, his fingers tracing over the bruises on his skin and making Keith shiver. He forgets his armor entirely when Lance presses his lips to Keith’s neck.

“I thought this armor was supposed to protect you?” Lance mutters. His hands have resumed their roaming.

“It does,” Keith says. “Better bruises than blaster holes.”

Lance chuckles wryly. “You can say that again.”

The memory flashes through Keith’s head--Lance on the ground with a hole in his side, moaning in pain. Lance unconscious in a cryopod, bloodstains on his underwear as his skin stitched itself back together. “Oh, Lance, I didn’t--”

“It’s okay,” Lance assures him, but Keith can’t see his face. “I’m fine now. But, damn. Maybe the Blade will give us some tech for a few upgrades.”

“Combine their shock absorption with our zippers, and it’ll be the best armor in the universe.”

Lance tugs helplessly at his armor, now stuck around Keith’s hips. “Díos, I wish this stupid thing had a zipper.”

“Me too. There’s a buckle, right--yeah, right there.”

“You wear underwear under this suit?”

“Yeah.”

“A damn shame.” A hand squeezes Keith’s ass before Lance peels the suit off of his body a few more precious inches. “How do we get the legs off?”

“More buckles,” he says, and Lance groans. Keith starts to bend down to work on them, but Lance grabs his shoulder and steers him toward the bed instead.

“No, let me,” he says, gently urging Keith to sit. His hands, warm against the skin of Keith’s shoulders, hold him with more tenderness than Keith thought he was capable of. The mattress sinks underneath him. Lance sheds his jacket and kneels, attention focused on the latticework of clasps and buckles keeping his boots in place. Keith sits and watches him, grinning when Lance sighs with frustration.

“I told you,” says Keith.

Lance’s eyes flick up to him. His fingers continue to work on the buckles absently. “Told me what?”

“My suit takes too long to take off. It would never be good in porn.” Keith leans back on his arms, looking down at Lance.

“Nah, what could possibly be sexier than this?” he replies sarcastically, undoing a few more clasps angrily. “Just--” another clasp “a few--” and another “more--” he undoes the final clasp on Keith’s left leg and gives a triumphant tug. But the boot remains stuck around his ankle. “What? Why isn’t it coming off?” he whines.

Keith lifts his leg and releases one final buckle underneath his calf. Then he starts on his other leg, and this time Lance doesn’t protest.

“Ughhh,” says Lance. Keith is faster with the buckles than he is, but that’s purely from practice. “I just want to put my hands on you, and this stupid freaking suit is being a real cockblock right now.”

Keith's fingers fumble and he has to redouble his focus.

“I would hate it if it weren’t so goddamn hot,” Lance continues.

Keith abandons the buckles and pulls Lance’s chin up to kiss him. Lance surrenders a noise of surprise but then returns the kiss, one hand rubbing Keith’s thigh. When Keith tries to pull him up onto the bed, Lance shakes his head and pats his leg. “I’m almost done,” he mumbles. “I will not be defeated by a suit of armor.”

“Fine,” Keith concedes. They work quickly to finish freeing his legs, and once all the buckles are undone, Lance grabs the bottom of Keith’s boots and pulls. The force of it nearly yanks Keith off the bed, and he falls backward, laughing. Lance continues to fight with the armor, until it’s down off his ass, his thighs, his knees, and finally his feet.

“Finally.” Lance stands with a grin and shakes his fist in triumph. Keith watches him fondly, chewing on his lip. Then they’re kissing again, Lance climbing on top of him on the bed and their hands all over each other. Keith makes quick work of the button and zipper on Lance’s jeans, and they break long enough for Lance to throw his shirt off. Their bare chests meet, each of their pulses jumping out to greet the other.

Keith pulls up one knee to rest between Lance’s legs, and Lance moans as he grinds down onto him. Soft denim squeezes around his thigh. “Take your jeans off,” Keith says between kisses. He hooks a finger in one of his belt loops, but lets his hand fall away when Lance crawls off the bed to properly discard his pants.

“Come to the edge,” Lance beckons, grabbing hold of Keith’s knees and steering him so that his legs hang off the side. “Forward, more.” He’s not even pretending to keep his hands to himself anymore--they slide up Keith’s thighs, skitter up his briefs and onto his chest. “Good,” he purrs, once Keith is perched right at the edge of his mattress, Lance standing between his legs.

Lance bends and kisses him again with an urgency to match Keith’s own. He moves away from Keith’s lips and kisses along his jaw, then down his neck and chest. His teeth tease at Keith’s nipple as he slowly sinks to his knees. He snaps the elastic in Keith’s underwear and smirks up at him, but doesn’t pull them off. Instead, Lance strokes his erection with a knuckle over his briefs. Keith closes his eyes and lets the sensation fill him.

“That feel good?” coaxes Lance, and Keith can only nod. He bites down on his lip when Lance frees his cock from the confines of his underwear and runs his thumb over the head. Then the flat of his tongue traces his length and Keith is forced back onto his elbows with the strength of his desire.

But, hell--it’s nothing compared to the feeling of Lance’s mouth closing around him.

His world spirals down to the lips and the tongue and the hands on his skin. Blood pumps into his erection so fast he’s almost lightheaded, or maybe that’s just a side effect of how fucking good Lance is with his mouth. He moves up and down and swirls his tongue and does everything that he knows Keith likes. His body shakes with the effort of keeping himself still.

Lance separates from him and licks his lips. “Want me to finish you like this?” he asks, one hand continuing to massage his cock.

Keith drags himself up from the depths of his pleasure to answer. “No,” he says, breathless. He reaches out to stroke Lance’s face. “I want you inside me.”

At the words, Lance melts visibly. “Fuck.” he says. "That's so hot." His mouth hangs open slightly, lips bright pink. Keith runs his thumb over Lance’s bottom lip.“You sure?”

“Yeah,” Keith breathes. “Condoms in the drawer.”

“I know,” Lance sings as he pushes to his feet. “I’ve done this before, believe it or not.”

Keith chuckles and watches Lance cross to the closet. His boner shows clearly through his boxers, proving the accuracy of the word "tenting".

“You should invest in, like, a side table,” Lance says. He rifles through the top drawer in Keith’s closet, which is mostly filled with souvenirs from space because he has no belongings with him from Earth. “Because I don’t like having to come all the way over here when you’re still over there.”

He flings a condom across the room at Keith like a frisbee, and then another one when it veers off course and lands on the floor at the foot of the bed. Keith catches the second out of the air and lays it aside his leg, then stands up, kicks off his underwear, and closes the distance between the two of them. His legs are wobbly, sure, but he agrees that it sucks that Lance is not within two inches of his body.

Keith takes the bottle of lube from Lance’s hand and places it atop the set of drawers. He pulls Lance into another long kiss, his hands sliding up and down Lance’s body as he rolls onto him so their dicks slide against each other through Lance’s boxers, which are for some reason still on. Lance whimpers and his fingers dig into Keith’s ass.

“As glad as I am that you can’t keep your hands off me,” Lance says, “I have something to take care of over on the bed. And his name starts with a ‘K’.”

Lance lets Keith lead him back over to the bed. They have to double back because the lube lays forgotten on the dresser, but eventually Keith’s back hits the mattress again and Lance is humming quietly. He uncaps the tube and rubs a bead of lubricant between his fingers.

Keith once again loses himself in the feeling of Lance on his body, in his body.

“You look good like this, cariño,” Lance croons as he inserts another finger. Keith’s lower back lifts off the bed, and he takes a fistfull of blanket.

“What--what does that mean?” he asks. “That name. Cariño.

Lance chews his lip. “I don’t remember saying you could ask questions.”

Keith can’t stop the chuckle that escapes him. “Oh, so you’re a dom now?”

“I could be!” Lance slaps Keith’s thigh indignantly with his free hand. “And I don’t think you’re in a very good position to be making comments like that right now.”

As if to prove his point, Lance pairs the work of his fingers in Keith’s ass with a gentle stroke of his hand up his cock. Keith can’t stop the gasp that rises in his throat. Damn, but Lance is a talented man.

“That’s what I thought.”

Lance retreats from Keith, tearing open the condom that lays by Keith’s hips. The bed is tall enough that Lance can stand next to it and have his hips aligned with Keith’s on the mattress. Or close enough, at least. Keith’s legs hang off the edge of the bed, grazing the floor. He watches, probably at half his usual alertness, as Lance drops his boxers to the floor and rolls the condom onto his penis. He’s humming again.

“You’re in a good mood,” Keith observes, his voice dreamy.

Lance quirks an eyebrow. “I have good reason to be. You ready?”

Keith shuts his eyes and nods, preparing himself mentally as best he can. But, as always, he can never quite be prepared for how it feels for Lance’s cock to find the outside of his hole, to press against the sensitive skin, and then--

Of their own volition, Keith’s knees pull toward his body as Lance enters him. His arms try to do the same, but he already has fistfulls of fabric to hold onto. A noiseless cry prys his jaw open and his feet hover above the ground by the tautness of his leg muscles. Lance presses further in, slowly, his own sounds of pleasure muted around the ringing in Keith’s ears. His hands wrap around Keith’s ankles and hold his legs up and open as he starts to thrust into Keith with more force.

“Fuck,” Lance whines. “Fuck yeah.”

Keith responds, “Hnnn.”

The other man’s grip on his ankles is tight but not unpleasantly so, and makes a good anchor to keep him in place. Keith releases one hand’s hold on the blanket and finds his cock with it, rubbing himself in time with the movement of Lance’s hips. A heat, desperate and elusive, is already building in his gut.

Lance shifts his position and drives into him faster, clearly chasing a heat of his own by now. Keith’s vision blurs with the pounding of Lance’s cock inside him, the slapping of their thighs hitting each other. He focuses in on the sound of Lance breathing, of the whine that’s maybe his and maybe Keith’s that accompanies each thrust. It’s too much--it’s all too much.

His muscles seize with the orgasm, legs fighting against the hands that restrain him. In the back of his incoherent mind, he thinks he might understand why Lance enjoys the sensation. But he cares more about the pleasure that wracks his whole body at this particular moment, so the thought is fleeting. Cum spurts onto his stomach.

Lance finishes not long after him. His grip on Keith’s ankles falters and he curls forward, body shaking visibly. “Oh,” he moans. His breathing resumes after a few long moments, and he pulls out. Keith watches him remove his condom, then accepts the nearest pair of underwear to wipe off his stomach with. Lance tumbles onto the bed next to him, and they tangle together as they kiss again, gently.

“That was good,” Lance says into the crook of Keith’s neck once they’ve slowed to a stop.

Keith traces circles onto Lance’s back with his fingertips. “Yeah.”

“Now roll over so I can give you a massage. Your shoulders are tight as fuck.”

He cracks a smile as he lays on his chest, arms wrapped around his pillow. “Are you any good at giving massages?” he asks.

“The very best.”

Lance straddles his legs and digs his thumbs into the muscles of Keith’s back. He hasn’t had many massages in his life, but he has to admit it feels good for someone to work through the knots in his muscles. And, after a few minutes, a different kind of good.

“Think you might be up for more?” Keith ventures, but he’s sure he knows the answer.

A chuckle, and then Lance’s mouth is at his ear and his hands have taken on a new pattern across his skin.

“I might be.”

***

Outtakes and Aftercare

___

The most unbelievable part of this chapter was the height of Keith's bed in the castleship, because we know those things are like knee-height at best. But, hey, creative license I guess.

___

We’re back in season 3~4, so Pidge hasn’t found Matt yet but they’re hot on the trail. And that’s /mostly/ why they weren’t in Keith’s welcoming party.

Lance: Keith is back--should we go meet him? I'm thinking we throw cookies at him.

Pidge, not looking up: Yep.

Lance: That’s not really an answer.

Pidge: Okay.

Lance: You aren’t listening to me at all, are you.

Pidge: I think I got a new lead on my brother. You go check on your boyfriend.

Lance: He’s not my--what would give you--

Pidge: *looks up* Just go.

___

The Next Day

Coran, who saw Keith hobbling to the showers post-sex: Keith, I worry that the Blade of Marmora is pushing you too hard. I’ve never seen you so dishevelled after a mission as you were yesterday evening.

Keith, turning red: Don’t worry about it.

Coran: I know that you take pride in being a Blade, but your duty as the pilot of the black lion is--

Keith: I mean it, Coran. That was my fault, not the Blade’s.

Lance: At least not the blade you’re thinking of. *winks at Keith*

Coran: I don’t understand.

Keith: I was TrAIniNG after I got back! Training. With my sword. Because that’s what I do. Yep.

Coran: You humans are very peculiar.

___

Later

Keith: Hey, Hunk, I have a question to ask you.

Hunk: Yeah, buddy?

Keith: Do you know what “cariño” means?

Hunk: It’s like “sweetheart” or “honey”, basically. Lance’s parents said it to each other all the time when I visited them. What makes you ask?

Keith: Uh--it was something Lance said a while back. I can’t even remember who he was talking to, but I just remembered it today and I was curious so I--thanks. For telling me. Bye.

Hunk: Okay, bye.

Keith: *quietly, to himself* Fuck.

Keith: I have to leave Voltron.

Chapter Text

“You need to buy three crates of Jakkuninan salt crystals,” Allura tells him. “And don’t let the traders convince you to pay any more than 200 GAC for them, either. Then send Coran the coordinates for pick-up.”

“Copy that,” Keith says. He picks his helmet up off a nearby crate and stows it under his arm. Allura continues her work at the transponder just outside their ship, eyes darting back and forth and hands dancing across the display. Keith is almost certain that Alteans have multiple consciousnesses because Allura’s processing speed and multitasking skills are inhuman. It doesn’t even seem to be slowing her down to hold a conversation with Keith.

“Take Lance with you, and be back at the ship at two vargas before sunset. We need to help load supplies onto the cargo ships going out to the refugee bases.”

“Copy that,” he says again, and wipes the sweat off his brow. Either it’s summer on this planet, or they’re in a desert. Or both. “But--Princess--I really think this is a mission I can carry out on my own. Lance will be more help to you and Hunk on the diplomatic team. You’ve said it yourself--Lance has a way with people.”

“None of us should be alone on this planet before the alliance treaty is signed, Keith,” Allura reasons with him. She even gives him enough of her attention to look him in the eye. “There are many who may wish to sabotage the alliance with Voltron, so until the treaty is signed--”

“I know, I know,” Keith grumbles. “We’re targets and we need to protect each other. Coran gave me the speech earlier. I’ll take Lance with me.”

Allura smiles at him. “And he is a talented haggler, so he is likely to get a very good price for you on the salt crystals.”

Keith shrugs. The two of them exchange a businesslike nod and Keith turns away from Allura, eyes already searching the cluster of refugees, resistance fighters, and paladins for Lance.

He’s easy to spot, at least. He is, after all, the only person wearing blue paladin armor. Keith pushes through the crowd and puts a hand on his forearm. “We have an errand to run for Allura,” he says.

He raises his eyebrows. “Okay. Just a sec.”

Keith waits while Lance finishes up his conversation with a six-legged purple creature, and notices with only a little jealousy how reluctant the creature seems to surrender him to Keith. A way with people, indeed. Lance seems to make friends wherever he goes. He tries not to think that he’s just another person that Lance met and is being nice to out of necessity.

Because that doesn’t make sense.

Cariño.

Would he have meant it jokingly? As a meaningless filler word to say during sex? No matter how Keith’s brain tries to wind itself around the word, he can’t make head or tail of it. And every time it latches onto the idea that Lance might--well-- like him, a knot the size of his fist rises up in his chest and he can’t breathe. He never thought himself one for anxiety, but, damn. His feelings for Lance came with it as a package deal.

“What’s the errand?” Lance asks, falling easily into step beside him. They leave the landing pad and enter the throng of the marketplace, weaving through the shoppers with little effort. Most of them make way for the paladins of Voltron. There are only a handful of wary looks, which Keith counts as a good sign. The afternoon heat pounds down on them, and Keith wishes their paladin armor was more breathable.

“She wants us to purchase 3 crates of Jakkunian salt crystals from a vendor in this market, and then send the location to Coran for pick-up,” he parrots.

“Jacuzzi salt. Got it.”

“No, Jakku--

“I know what you said, Keith.” Lance smiles mischievously over at him, and even goes so far as to wink at him. “Did she give you a price?”

“No more than 200 GAC.”

Lance nods. “Sounds good. Let me do the talking?”

“Please,” Keith agrees.

They scan the stalls as they walk, and about ten minutes out from the landing pad they find a mineral vendor. Keith lingers a step behind Lance, feeling like a bodyguard, while the other man approaches the stall.

“Excuse me,” Lance says. The tech in their armor automatically translates his words into whatever tongue the alien at the counter speaks; Keith can hear the words as an overlay on his actual speech, which comes through Keith’s com feed. They cut off the constant stream with the rest of the team--though they can still make calls to the others if need be--but left open the channel between the two of them for just this reason.

“What can I do for you?” says the vendor. They have at least seven eyes, all of which are darting around except for the one that remains fixed on Lance.

“I couldn’t help but notice your display of Ardon root. I’ve been around the galaxy and I’ve never seen color that rich…”

And so he goes on, weilding a kind of charm that Keith had never known possible until he’d met Lance. He goes through a few rounds of compliments on the inventory and presentation of the wares before he asks about the Jakkunian salt crystals. His pronunciation, Keith recognizes with a smirk, is flawless. The vendor seems poised to sell him anything he wants.

Less than a minute of haggling later, Lance is making the GAC transfer and uploading the vendor’s information to Coran at the castleship. Keith can’t hide how impressed he is as they walk away--Allura thought they would need hours for this? It’s hardly been thirty minutes.

“We could go back to the ship now,” Keith says. “But Allura didn’t say we had to be back until two vargas before sundown. So we’ve got time to kill if you want.”

“I’m starving,” Lance says. “Let’s find somewhere for lunch.”

Keith raises his eyebrows. “You could at least have pretended you needed more convincing to abandon your role as a defender of the universe.”

“The universe can wait a few hours.” Lance waves his hand. “I saw a place a couple blocks back that looks like it has killer barbecue. You like barbecue?”

“What’s that?”

Lance frowns at him. “Barbecue. You know. When you put food on your barbecue, and you--wait, no, that doesn’t help. You’ve really never--?”

“No.”

“Seriously?”

“Lance, I have no idea what you’re talking about right now. It’s a kind of food? From Earth?”

“Yes!” The other man looks utterly lost. He spreads his hands, searching for words to help him explain the concept of ‘barbecue’ to Keith, who pastes on his most innocent-looking expression. “I can’t believe…”

Lance trails off, and the bewilderment on his face slides into betrayal as Keith breaks into a fit of laughter.

“Of course I know what barbecue is!” Keith chuckles, arms wrapped around himself in laughter. “I grew up in Texas!

“Oh, I hate you so much right now.”

“You should have--should have seen the look on your face.” Keith switches to a mocking tone: “You’ve never had barbecue?”

Lance punches his shoulder. “Piece of shit.”

“Gullible asshole.” Keith hits him back. He’s aware--too aware--of the space between them. Not even enough room to fully extend his arm. He blinks the thought away. “Barbecue is delicious. Let’s get some.”

“Fuck yeah,” Lance says. “But you’re still a piece of shit for pulling a joke like that. You know, I was trying to be nice because of the whole--wait. Holy shit . Keith--was the ‘Voltron’ thing a joke too?”

They start walking back the way they came, at half their usual pace. It’s a stroll, practically, not a walk. He has to fight down the ball of anxiety that’s tugging on his insides, because he and Lance are  together. It’s so goddamn stupid--he’s fought giant robots, survived the trials of Marmora, and watched people die , but the simple fact that he’s walking half-pace with the man he’s already been having sex with for months has him breaking into a cold sweat. Stupid as hell.

Keith shakes his head. “I’m pretty sure Voltron isn’t a joke. We, like, literally fly the lions and have been stuck in space for the last god-knows how long, so that would be kinda hard to fake.”

“No, I mean the cheer. The I say ‘Vol-’, you say ‘-tron’ one.”

Keith looks at him sidelong. “Oh, that. No, your cheer’s just bad. It makes no sense--just say the whole word and then you’re done.”

There’s a moment of silence. Lance seems to be battling something out in his head. “See, man, now I don’t know if you’re fucking with me. You’re just too good at deadpanning.”

Keith only shrugs. Lance groans and throws out his hands dramatically, but they’re both chuckling now. The two of them slip between awkward and comfortable easily and without reason--the anxiety of minutes before is forgotten and he and Lance stroll along, making jokes and hitting each other as an excuse for physical contact.

“Here’s the place,” Lance says, just as the smell hits Keith. His mouth waters so hard his jaw aches, because it smells so goddamn good.

A row of tables sits outside, mostly filled, but behind them is the restaurant proper. The door isn’t really a door, more like a benevolent force field, and he and Lance walk straight through. Inside, the air is cool and fragrant, and though he can’t feel it much through his armor, his face appreciates the change in temperature. It’s a lounge of some sort, sporting a bar complete with a sizzling grill and a whole wall of drinks.

They take a seat at the grill, which somehow isn’t radiating heat like the grills on Earth, even though the food is very clearly cooking on its surface. Four-armed aliens move and scrape the food around with an impressive level of skill, seemingly oblivious to the patrons watching them. No, Keith realizes as he watches them for a while longer; their work is a performance, and were it not for Lance to attract his attention like a magnet, he could lose himself watching them.

A screen pops up to take their orders while they peruse the menu.

Lance whispers to him how many GACs he has leftover from their salt purchase, and scrolls Keith’s menu down to the more expensive end for him.

“I’m not sure we should be using Voltron’s money for lunch--”

“If Allura or Shiro throw too much of a fit, I’ll just pay them back,” Lance interrupts, eyes scanning the menu.

“With what money?” Keith asks. He has to admit, the descriptions of the more expensive food makes his mouth water.

“While you’ve been off doing unpaid labor for the Blade,” Lance says, “I’ve been earning hard cash in my time off from saving the universe.”

“Yeah?” Keith says, curious. “What’ve you been doing?”

Lance shrugs, and taps a few items on his screen to add them to his order. “Odd jobs, mostly. Hunk may be the mechanical genius, but I can get by pretty well without him. You’d be surprised how intuitive a lot of the machines in the galaxy are. I’m also good for some heavy lifting, babysitting, intimidating bullies--all that jazz.”

Keith raises his eyebrows. “Kids pay you to scare away the kids that are mean to them?”

“Well, that I do out of the goodness of my heart. I get paid for the other stuff.” Lance, apparently impatient that Keith is taking so long to choose his meal, reaches over and selects a few items at random.

Keith swats him away before he hits the submit button, and makes his own choices. “But what have you been planning to do with the money? It’s not like we get a lot of time off.”

“You never know,” Lance says mysteriously. “And I like to be prepared.”

Keith doesn’t ask prepared for what, because he knows he won’t get an answer, or, if he does, it won’t be one he wants to hear. “So what’d you order?” he asks instead.

Lance joyfully tells him everything that he ordered, and then Keith does the same. While they wait for their food, they share stories with each other about their lives back on Earth. Mostly, they recount stories from before the Garrison, but some come from after they met.

“I remember our first piloting test,” Lance says, his hands wrapped around a glass of something that isn’t quite water. “You know, our first time in the solo simulator?”

“Yeah.”

“I had just had this huge fight with my dad. He was angry that I went so far away from home for school, and he thought I was just joining the military by going to the Garrison, so why didn’t I just go into basic training closer to home like my cousins. And I told myself, if you prove that you can be one of the best pilots in the class, maybe he’ll accept it.” Lance stares into his glass. “Maybe he’ll be proud of you.”

Keith frowns. “Lance, I didn’t know…”

“Oh, it’s okay,” he says, waving Keith off. Instead of looking at Keith, he’s watching the workers flip and scrape food on the grill in front of them. “That’s not the point of the story. I was so nervous and worked up about it that I bombed the test and had to spend the next four years making my way back up the ranks. But you--you did the simulation right after me, and when you were finished and Iverson told you that you made top marks, you played it cool and all, but I could tell how excited you were. And I was out of my mind jealous--I thought, there’s a guy whose dad is proud of him. So that was the day I decided we were rivals, I guess.”

A complicated kind of feeling knots Keith’s stomach at that. They’d been young back then, maybe fourteen or fifteen. Most kids their age went to high school, but the Galaxy Garrison had an elite program that trained cadets from high school through graduate degree. Getting into the program meant a fast track into outer space--that was how Shiro and Matt had ended up in space only in their mid-twenties. It blows Keith’s mind that he’s here now, unfathomably far from Earth, when he had--formally--still been years from setting foot in a real spacecraft.

But back then, he’d been young, and he’d cared too much about what people thought of him, including the cute boy in his piloting class. When he’d gotten out of the simulator, he saw that very boy sitting dejectedly off to one side. So instead of pumping his fist in the air at his top marks, he’d just nodded to avoid making the boy from Cuba feel any worse. It had the convenient side effect of establishing him as “the cool guy” among the cadets, but he hadn’t even been thinking about that at the time.

He doesn’t tell any of this to Lance. “Are we still rivals?” he asks instead, but as soon as it’s out of his mouth he realizes these words aren’t any safer.

Lance smiles with half of his mouth. “Duh,” he says. “But, like, the fun kind.”

Keith considers the words. “I can deal with that.”

“You don’t have a choice,” Lance says, and scoots sideways on the bench so he can shove Keith with his shoulder.

He shoves back. “Is that a challenge?”

The answer is clearly yes, because the shove each other back and forth a few more times, and Keith almost thinks they’re about to settle with their shoulders pressed stubbornly together when their food slides down the bar to rest in front of them.

Seemingly distracted, Lance pulls away from him, but not so that they’re as far apart as they were before. The few inches between their shoulders feels to Keith like it’s magnetized, electrified, whatever. Everything he can think of to describe two surfaces that want to touch.

Luckily for the paladins from Earth, sporks and chopsticks seem to be relatively universal. Keith picks up his spork and stabs into some of his food. To his best approximation, it’s like a plate of fried potatoes and meat bathed in barbecue sauce. The first bite confirms that it is deliciousFF, but that it tastes nothing like barbecue.

“Hmm,” he says. He spears another piece and holds it out to Lance. “Taste this one. It’s good.”

He expects Lance to take the spork from him or pull it off with his chopsticks to eat, but instead he takes his bite directly from the spork in Keith’s outstretched hand. Surprised, Keith blinks a few times to keep from staring at Lance as he chews. He convinces himself that the heat in his cheeks is from the grill in front of them.

“Mmm. Damn, you’re right. That’s good,” Lance says, and then plucks a piece of his own food and wiggles it in front of Keith’s face. “Try it.”

Feeling supremely awkward, Keith leans toward the food and bites. And it’s good. Really good. But he can’t focus on that when Lance is watching him with such intensity that it might just melt off his face. “It’s good,” he says once he’s finished chewing.

They don’t really keep their food separate, but rather share all of their dishes. Lance will reach across in front of Keith for a marinated vegetable, and Keith will duck under his arm and take some grilled meat. The food is so delicious that their conversation drops mostly off while they eat. Keith is okay with that, because as much as he’s enjoying the food, being this near to Lance--not just physically, but emotionally--is doing strange but not unpredictable things to him. The feeling builds the entire time they eat.

“What time is it?” Lance asks as their plates are cleared away.

“Time for you to get a watch,” Keith shoots back, but only because Pidge has said it to Lance so often that the rest of the team has learned to do the same. Lance looks at him like he’s been betrayed. “Don’t give me that. We’ve still got, like, an hour. Or--a varga, I guess. But basically an hour.”

Lance purses his lips, considering. As soon as the payment processes, they stand. “We ready?” he asks.

“Let’s hit the bathroom first,” Keith says. “I have to pee.”

“Alright.”

They weave together through the lounge to the bathroom at the back. It, of course, doesn’t look like any bathroom he’s used to: the toilet looks much more versatile than any on earth, with an adjustable height and bowl size to accommodate patrons of all species. The sink is less of a sink and more of a shallow pool of light pink liquid that glows an only slightly off-putting purple, and it all seems unnecessarily spacious for a bathroom. There’s even a chair in one corner, and the whole room is immaculate.

Keith stares for a second, worried he might have the wrong room. But, no, it still gives off that bathroom vibe that all bathrooms do. It’s just convenient for him that most aliens seem to be taught better manners than humans.

“Hey, Lance,” Keith says, “Check this place out.”

He grabs Lance’s forearm and drags him through the doorway.

“Woah,” Lance agrees. “This is nice as hell.”

Keith slides the lock on the door home. His hands find Lance’s waist and he presses up against him from behind. He kisses the exposed skin at Lance’s neck, above his bodysuit.

“Oh?” comes Lance’s surprised--and interested--voice. “What’s this?”

Keith kisses his neck again and says into his skin: “We’ve got time, if you’re interested.”

He feels Lance shudder as Keith palms him over his bodysuit. “You sly dog. You didn’t even really have to pee, did you?”

“You got me.”

Lance leans into Keith’s touch, involuntary noises emanating from low in his chest. Their armor clacks together, reminding them of the layers between their skin. Lance releases the clasp at his forearms, and Keith helps him pull the chestpiece over his head. Keith runs his fingers along the seams of his bodysuit, up Lance’s sides and to his shoulders before tugging down the zipper at the center of his back.

A soft, desperate exhale drips out of Lance’s open mouth as Keith slides his hands into Lance’s bodysuit, snaking around to his front. He teases at Lance’s nipples with his thumbs, takes some of the skin at Lance’s neck between his teeth. Blood pounds into his dick with each breath, each moment that his hands are on Lance, a man so beautiful in body and mind that he would give his life for him without a second thought.

Then the thought hits him again, like a blaster shot to the chest:

Cariño .

No, he can’t be thinking about being with Lance, not in that way. He’s let himself get too close already, too wrapped up in the fantasy that Lance could ever actually have feelings for him. Him. Keith Kogane, the Garrison dropout. The failing leader of Voltron. The guy who can’t help but fall in love more with Lance every time he even looks at him, and if that isn’t pathetic, then he doesn’t know what is.

He shoves the thought away violently and redoubles his focus on the here and now, because in front of him is Lance . Lance, whose face is a deep blush and who’s panting with desire. Lance doesn’t seem to have noticed his inner turmoil, just complies when Keith strips the sleeves from his arms and lets the bodysuit fall to his waist. The skin on his back is a warm brown mostly unmarred by scarring, and Keith runs his fingertips up his spine. Lance turns around and holds Keith’s head in place while he kisses him deeply. Keith anchors himself to Lance by hands at his waist and thumbs digging into his hip bones.

Neither of them hold back. They’re filled with a hunger that their dinner couldn’t satisfy, and they find a taste of their desire in every roaming hand, every clash of their mouths against each other, every muttered “hnnn” and “oh” shared between them in this random alien bathroom. Keith pushes himself harder out of his mind and into his body so he can stop thinking about Lance. Maybe--just maybe--he’ll be to make himself see Lance the way Lance sees him. Just a body to be used for his own enjoyment.

Keith kisses across Lance’s jaw and down his neck, not caring that his teeth will leave a trail of bruises in their wake. Lance moans; this is his thing, after all. Pain and pleasure wrapped together in one. He takes it as a chance to let out some of his frustration with Lance, letting himself get rough as he holds Lance against the wall and kisses him, kisses him, kisses him.

At some point, Keith’s chestpiece, gloves, and armguards join Lance’s on the floor, but his bodysuit remains zipped. It’s the only thing holding his body together because it feels like he’s going to melt. He pushes Lance’s suit down past his hips until his thigh armor stops it from going farther. It’s always hit or miss as to whether Lance will be wearing his underwear with the suit or not, and today the faded blue fabric bunches around his legs with the slick bodysuit.

Lance sighs as Keith draws a teasing hand up his cock. “Keith,” he whispers, eyes most of the way closed. Keith watches his jaw clamp down on a moan as he strokes his thumb over the head. “Mmm-- fuck --m’so glad we stopped for food.”

Keith bites down his grin and switches his grip to a full-on palm of Lance’s erection. “Me too,” he says just before kissing Lance and pressing their bodies together again. Lance’s hands stutter up his back and squeeze his shoulders tightly before they find his jaw again. He holds Keith’s face in place as he gasps, interrupting their kiss. Then their foreheads rest together, both of them breathing hard.

Their eyes meet in the pale light of the bathroom. “Hey there,” Lance says, and smiles half of a smile.

Keith responds, “Hey.” He glances down at the space between them, where he’s having trouble getting the right angle for this hand job. Lance doesn’t seem to mind, but that’s not quite the making-him- lose -his-mind that Keith is going for.

“How’s it goin’,” Lance continues, voice impressively steady and belied by the intermittent shudder of his legs. He pecks Keith’s lips with his own. His hands have moved away from the sides of Keith’s face and into his hair, alternately sliding through his hair and knotting in it. When Keith doesn’t say anything, Lance continues: “That good, huh?”

“Fuck it,” Keith groans. “Turn around, I can’t get a good hold on--on you.”

Lance doesn’t move. “I think you’re doing just fine.” He continues to play with Keith’s hair.

Keith grabs hold of his hips and physically turns his partner to face the wall. Lance reluctantly takes his hands out of Keith’s hair and braces one elbow on the wall in front of him. His sharp intake of breath and the way his back presses into Keith’s front tells him that, yes, this is better. The penis in his hand is hard and hot, and Keith’s erection pushes against his suit and into the bare skin of Lance’s ass. He yearns to pull down his own suit and fuck Lance senseless, but this isn’t the place. Instead, he contents himself with the feel of Lance in his arms and the knowledge that he’ll be next.

Their bodies are pressed together like they’re trying to fuse into a single person, every piece of Lance fitting perfectly into every piece of Keith. Lance grabs his jaw and turns his head to kiss him. It’s a wet and sloppy kiss and Keith relishes in every moment of it. Lance’s hand tangles in his hair and their mouths crash together and their bodies move against each other like standing still would make them explode. Lance whimpers into Keith’s mouth, lets out a deep breath. “Dios, Keith. Fuck, cariño, te deseo,” he says between kisses, his words passing through Keith’s lips just as quickly as they do his own.

Despite his better judgement, Keith lets himself fall back into the fantasy where Lance is saying this words to him as something other than mid-sex word vomit. Keith “hmm”s in response and continues kiss and jack Lance off. With his free hand, he massages Lance’s inner thighs, his chest, his nipples, every place he can reach.

The whine that builds low in Lance’s chest tells Keith that Lance is close. His kisses get sloppier and his words even less coherent. It’s a begging kind of whine, almost. A please-don’t-stop whine, and his fingers tighten into a fist in Keith’s hair. He can feel Lance’s muscles just start to tighten when--

A high-pitched beeping fills the room and Keith jumps back from Lance in surprise, hand already reaching for his bayard. Lance falls against the wall and turns around to put his back to it, suit still around his thighs but trying his best to be ready for a fight. It’s a real testament to what they’ve been through in the last year, that this is their reaction.

Half a second later, Keith realizes it’s the communicator in his helmet, telling him he has an incoming message. He glances at Lance, who looks wrecked and is still completely hard, and accepts the transmission.

The voice is Kolivan’s. “Kogane, we have a new lead on the quintessence supply line. A transport will be at your ship in twelve dobash for a reconnaissance mission. Do not be late.”

“Shit,” Keith swears, and hastily starts to throw his armor back on.

“Where are you going?” Lance asks.

Keith focuses on sliding his armguards into place instead of looking at Lance. “I have a mission for the Blade. I have to go.”

“You’re just--leaving?” The incredulity in Lance’s voice forces him to look up. Lance has not moved to put any of his clothes back on. He hasn’t moved at all, really. “Not to be that guy, but, are you really just going to leave me like this?”

Lance gestures at himself. Keith’s mouth dries when he takes the sight in, Lance sprawled against the wall and so eager for Keith to return to him. He clears his throat. “I don’t have a choice. You heard the transmission--twelve dobash. That’s barely enough time to get back to the ship, and I still have to get my armor.”

“Can’t you just, like, take a pass on this one?” Lance asks as Keith settles the chestpiece on his body. “And not even for me, dude. We’re still technically on-duty for Voltron and shit.”

“It’s not like that,” he growls. “I can’t just skip a mission. I have loyalty to the Blade.”

“You should have loyalty to Voltron!” Lance cries. Now he’s shoving his arms back into his bodysuit, boner seemingly forgotten but still painfully obviously through his clothes. His own feels much the same, but with each breath his desire fades into anger and anticipation.

“I am loyal to Voltron. But I have a mission for the Blade and I have to go.” Keith jams his helmet on, but doesn’t push past Lance to get to the door.

“You just got back from a mission with them! Damn it, Keith. You always do this, and it’s damn near gotten all of us killed. We need you in the black lion and you can’t keep abandoning us.”

“I didn’t ask to pilot the black lion!” Keith explodes. Lance is now fumbling with the zipper on his back, but Keith doesn’t offer to help. “I never even wanted to! And I suck at leading Voltron, so just get out of my way so I can go.”

“Is that what you think?” Lance demands. “That you’re a bad leader? Keith, don’t be stupid! You just aren’t used to it yet. If you didn’t keep avoiding it you’d get better.”

Move,” orders Keith.

Lance steps fully in front of the doorway, one arm out to catch hold of Keith’s shoulder. “Look at me,” he says. “Keith, hey, look at me. You’re a valuable part of team Voltron. We all want you to succeed. We want--we want you to stay.”

It’s not the same as if Lance had told him that he wants Keith to stay. He doesn’t know if he would have done anything differently if he had, but as it is he shrugs out from underneath Lance’s hand and shoves him aside. He disengages the lock on the door and opens it.

“I have a mission,” he says as calmly as he can. “I’m sorry, but I have to go.”

Lance catches the door, holds it open, and says to him: “Fine. Just--come back to me in one piece, okay? You’d be pretty hard to replace.”

Keith refuses to read into that or into the defeat in his voice. “Keep the team together while I’m gone.”

“I always do. Good luck, Keith.”

“Goodbye, Lance.”

The worst part is that he means it.

***

Three quintants later, Keith hears that Voltron has been caught in a desperate battle with the Galra to protect a caravan of refugees on their way to Olkari. By the time he extracts himself from his reconnaissance mission to help, the battle is over.

And Shiro has reclaimed his position as the pilot of the black lion and Voltron’s leader.

It’s almost too convenient that he’s offered a place on an extended, undercover mission with the Blade to root out information on the quintessence supply line. He accepts immediately; it’s for the best.

He takes a moment to calm his nerves before he enters the bridge. The rest of the team is there waiting for him, probably battle-weary and upset with him for bailing once again. He hasn’t spoken with any of them--hasn’t spoken with Lance--since his hasty departure. So needless to say, he isn’t looking forward to this.

What he doesn’t expect is just how upset with him they look. As the doors slide open and he walks in, all he sees are scowls and crossed arms.

“I heard what happened,” he begins. His voice is unsteady. “I’m sorry I wasn’t there to help.”

Allura barely lets him finish. “You keep saying you’re sorry, but your actions say otherwise. Do you realize that your absence put the team in jeopardy?”

Keith opens his mouth to apologize again, but Lance cuts him off. “And not just the team, the refugees as well!”

“Matter of fact, the entire quadrant was in danger,” Pidge finishes.

“This is not the way I wanted this to happen,” Keith says solemnly, hardly able to look any of them in the eye. “But if there’s a brightside to any of this, it’s that Shiro was able to reestablish his bond with the black lion. He can finally be the leader I was unable to be. I’m not meant to pilot the black lion.”

Allura frowns. “Is that why you’ve been pulling away from us?”

“Yeah. I suppose that’s part of it,” Keith admits.

“Part of it?” asks Hunk. “What’s the other part?”

Keith’s eyes flick to Lance but, finding that Lance’s eyes are focused directly on him, settle on the floor instead. He can’t admit to the team that he can’t stand to be around Lance anymore, not with his feelings ripping a hole through him every time they’re in the same room.

“The Blades have been making real headway tracking the source of this new quintessence,” he says instead. He drags his gaze up to the rest of the team, but they won’t look at him. “They’ve been able to piece together a large network of hidden supply lines that have been transporting it for who knows how long. And there’s good reason to believe it could lead us directly to Lotor.”

No one says anything. They still won’t meet his eyes.

“A mission is being planned to infiltrate the supply line. It could take weeks, maybe months to pull off, but… if there is a chance…” now everyone looks up at him. “We have… I have to take it. I need to be on that mission.”

And they let him go.

***

Outtakes and Aftercare

___

Haha these idiots went on a date and they didn’t even realize it

___

The dialogue from the last part of this chapter is taken directly from season 4 episode 1, “Code of Honor”.  It was just too suspicious how long Keith paused before only quasi-answering Hunk’s question about “what the other part” of his pulling away from the team was. So I filled in the gaps on my own.

___

I was hoping to have this finished before s6 came out but I completely forgot that there would be a trailer and, my dudes, I am /pumped/ for the new season because Keith will finally be back with the team ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

___

So, at this point, most of the team knows about Keith and Lance. Pidge has pretty much guessed, Lance confided in Hunk, and Keith confided in Shiro. But just because it’s an open secret doesn’t mean it isn’t a secret, so it’s kind of a touchy topic around the ship after Keith leaves.

Hunk, holding a tray of cookies: Hey, bud. How’re you doing?

Lance: Who, me? I’m fine. Why wouldn’t I be fine?

Hunk: You’ve been sitting on this couch without moving for the last twelve hours. Something’s up.

Lance: It’s nothing. I’m tired, is all.

Hunk, stacking cookies in Lance’s lap in hopes that he’ll eat at least one: It’s Keith, isn’t it? You miss him.

Lance: Of course I miss him. He was part of the team and now we have no idea if he’s even alive.

Hunk: You know that isn’t what I meant.

Lance: It doesn’t matter. He left, so clearly I’m not as important to him as I thought. It’s probably my fault, anyway.

Hunk: Why?

Lance, now with at least fifteen cookies in his lap: It’s stupid. I started using a Cuban pet name for him, and it probably freaked him out because he wants nothing to do with me like that.

Hunk: What pet name?

Lance: Cariño.

Hunk: Oh. I see. *to himself* So that’s why Keith asked me what that meant.

Lance: Anyway, I’m fine, and--would you stop putting food on me?

Hunk: Hmm.. nope. No can do, Lanceroo. You gotta eat your way out of this one.

Lance, shoving cookies in his mouth: I do what I have to to survive.

___

Pidge: *knocks on Lance’s door* Open up! I need a sparring partner.

Lance: Noooooooo.

Pidge: Stop moping about your boyfriend being gone and GET OUT HERE.

Lance: He’s nOT MY--

Pidge: THEN STOP MOPING AND COME HIT THINGS WITH SWORDS

Lance: FINE

Chapter Text

While he’s kissing Keith like the man is oxygen and he’s been drowning, one thought won’t unstick itself from Lance’s mind.

It’s been two years for him.

Hands on the back of his neck, the front of his chest. At some point, their chest plates disappeared and he can’t be bothered to wonder where they landed. It’s warm out on this planet, even at night. So with their space suits peeled down to their hips, there’s nothing between their skin but sizzling heat and the unspoken question--

Have you been thinking of me the whole time?

It’s not a boner killer, for the record. He thought that maybe it would be, so this is a nice surprise. Almost as nice as Keith’s mumble of approval when Lance jumps up and hooks his ankles together around his waist. He lays his arms over Keith’s shoulders and kisses him even harder, which he wasn’t sure would be possible. But it’s been a long time for him, too, so he manages.

But it hasn’t been two years for Lance.

It has for Keith.

And he’s here. He’s kissing Lance like no time at all has passed.

Lance balances on Keith’s hips and nudges the fabric down a little lower. He feels Keith’s hard-on beneath the coarse fabric and his mouth actually starts watering. He’s that ready to be fucking Keith again.

“Your hair,” Keith says as his fingers slide over his head. His voice is low, like it’s only for Lance. “Does it have gel in it? It’s… crunchy.”

Lance half laughs, half groans. “It’s not gel,” he hedges. He plays with Keith’s underwear to hopefully distract him and looks at him through his eyelashes.

“Oh?”

“But I would really rather not explain right now. I have other things I want to do. You, for instance, I would very much like to be doing right now.”

“No, no, I want to know,” says Keith. There’s a playful light in his eyes, and a grin tilts up the corners of his mouth. He may be older now, but he’s still the same Keith that Lance has spent so much time trying not to fall in love with. “Tell me.”

***

Of all the things he didn’t expect to happen while riding through space in a giant metal cat, it’s this.

Kaltenecker has been gnawing on Lance’s hair.

It started as a harmless licking that tickled his ears and made his hair stand up in odd places; cowlicks in the most literal sense. But as their slow and tedious trek across the galaxy toward Earth stretched on, Kaltenecker is surely missing the feel of grass on her tongue and cud between her teeth. All of them—including Kaltenecker, Pidge’s trash fuzzies, and Keith’s cosmic wolf—have been eating nothing but the space goo Hunk packed, and Lance understands why she’s been anxious to chew on something else. But that doesn’t mean he likes it.

It’s not as if there’s anywhere else for her to go, though. His cockpit isn’t spacious, especially with his other belongings crowded in with him and the cow. So he keeps his helmet on more often than not, but when its constant pressure makes his head ache, he slips it off and lets it rest on his knee.

It’s only moments before he feels her breath on his neck. It’s warm and wet, like all breath is, but cows have lungs much larger than a human’s so each of her breaths seems like a long-suffering sigh against his skin. She nuzzles his ear, sniffs it, and then the licking starts up again.

Lance swats her away halfheartedly, eyes trained out the viewport in front of him even though there is nothing to see except the endlessness of space and the rest of the ships in their sad caravan. “Kaltenecker, no,” he says. “Leave me alone, girl.”

She ignores him.

Lick, lick, lick, munch.

“Hey!” Lance jerks away, feeling the yank of hair being pulled from his scalp. His next swat is more forceful, with both hands. Red will stay steady on course for as long as it takes for him to convince Kaltenecker that he isn’t food. “Bad cow!”

He shakes his finger in her face and gives her his most impressive scowl.

“Everything alright, Lance?” comes Hunk’s voice over the coms.

“Oh,” Lance says, startled. “Yeah. Sorry. Kaltenecker’s just trying to eat me.”

He hadn’t realized the channel with Hunk was open. And maybe it wasn’t; the lions have been acting strangely since their time in the rift.

“She’s what?”

“She thinks my hair is made out of hay, and honestly, I’m offended. My little brother is the blond one.”

“Is he really blond, though? I thought that was just the sun that made his hair lighter.”

It’s weird, talking about his family, now that he’s so close to maybe seeing them again. They haven’t discussed whether they’ll visit their homes when they get the castle plans from Captain Holt. Lance thinks that no matter what they decide, he’s visiting home. If the Holts get to meet back up again, so does Lance’s family. He has been in space for too long. It’s been too long since he’s seen them. He can’t possibly get within one lightyear of them and not go home.

“I guess you’re right. But either way, my hair isn’t stringy enough to look like hay. I think she’s just desper—ow!”

He pushes the cow’s head away again. He’s sure to have bruises.

Hunk’s laugh crackles through the feed as Lance chides her: “Kaltenecker, no!”

“How long has it been since you let her out last?” Hunk asks.

“A few hours,” admits Lance. “And she didn’t go.” His lion still smells vaguely like pee, because even though she’s a smart cow, Kaltenecker is not spaceship-trained. He cleaned it up as best he could, but there isn’t exactly a mop handy to make it easier. Since then, he’s made sure to stop off at every breathable planet to let her wander around and do her business. He likes to think that at least a few species have been intrigued more than upset by the introduction of cow pies to their soil.

“I’ll let you know when I see a good place to stop,” Hunk says.

“Thanks, buddy.”

Their com link clicks off, and he’s alone with Kaltenecker in his lion again. He glares at her as he settles his palms back on the controls. “No funny business,” he chides her, knowing full well that it will be a matter of minutes before she thinks he looks like a snack again.

He looks into the cow’s eyes for a few moments. She stares back at him, as much as cows are capable of staring, and sighs deeply.

“Me too, Kaltenecker. Me too.”

Four months without seeing Keith. Four months of not knowing if he was dead or alive, and then he comes back somehow two full years older. And there’s barely enough time for them to say hello before all hell breaks loose and they all almost die. Shiro, apparently, was dead, and now Lotor is dead, and somehow all the Alteans aren’t dead.

It’s confusing as hell.

Oh, and Keith has a teleporting space dog.

“Do you think he’s too old for me now?” Lance asks Kaltenecker.

She doesn’t answer him.

“I mean, like--do you think he’s too mature for me?” Lance taps his fingers on top of the helmet at his knee. “He always was more adult out of the two of us, anyway, because of foster care and living on his own and stuff. He probably looks at me now and thinks I’m just some embarrassing mistake from his past, you know? Like, I’m that ex you see two years later and wonder what you ever saw in them in the first place. He’s over me, and I still feel like…”

Kaltenecker exhales into his face. Her breath smells terrible.

“Yeah,” he says. “Like that. And you know what’s really fucked up? I really like Allura, too. Lotor was a total piece of shit—and for the record, I never trusted him—but what I saw between her and him… I don’t know. I want what Allura thought that was. And Keith was gone for so long and maybe it’s shitty of me to have gone and developed for feelings for someone else, too, but I always liked Allura, you know? It’s just more like I un-paused my feelings for her, I guess.”

Lance looks out into space, at the nothingness that is somehow also everything.

“But I don’t know if that’s any better. And considering Lotor broke her heart by enslaving her people and trying to kill all of us… it’s going to be a while before she’s ready for romance again. And like I said, there’s this whole thing about Keith being back now, so I’m kind of just fucked all over on this one, girl. At least I have you and Hunk, huh?”

Kaltenecker blinks and licks her own nose.

“You’re right. I have Pidge, too. And Shiro, once he stops crying over his white hair.”

He thinks for a moment.

“You’d think he’d be more upset about his arm.”

***

They stop in a seemingly uninhabited but breathable planet for the night. Considering the entirety of their possessions are inside the lions, it doesn’t take them very long to unload. That their party includes two people Lance barely knows--Keith’s mom and an Altean named Romelle, both of whom probably shouldn’t exist--kind of weirds him out, but he’s doing his best to be cool about it.

“We’ll stay here for as long as we need,” Shiro says, but he looks lost without being able to clap his hands together in a leaderly way. His one good arm just kind of swings around aimlessly. “We’ll rest up, and then keep pushing forward.”

“We should have a fire to keep away wildlife,” Romelle suggests. Lance studies her for a few seconds; they haven’t really had a chance to get to know each other yet, what with the whole business of fighting for their lives.

“She’s right,” Keith says. “We don’t know what could be out here.”

“Coran and I will make some food,” says Hunk. He’s already scanning the sparse foliage around them. They set down on an open expanse of ground to prevent any sneak attacks. “We’ll forage for some berries and small game. We need to make sure we’re rationing our food goo, anyway.”

“I’ll configure the lions’ sensors to warn us if anything comes near,” Pidge adds. “Maybe I can get them to make a giant force field around us.”

Lance melts into the background, feeling useless because all he has to offer is a cow who’s developing a taste for humans.

“Great ideas, everyone. Let’s get to work.”

“We should send out two teams for firewood,” Allura says. “So that we don’t have to go out more than once. I will go with Krolia, and Romelle can go with Keith.”

Romelle grimaces. “I don’t mean to be any trouble,” she says. “But I don’t want to stray too far from the camp. I... I’ve had bad experiences, is all.”

“I’ll go,” Lance says, maybe too quickly. He wants to feel helpful, and it’s only an afterthought that his volunteering means he gets to spend time alone with Keith. That’s what he tells himself, at least.

“Alright,” Shiro says. “Romelle, you and I can stay here and set up camp. We all have our missions; let’s meet up back here in three hours.”

They all nod their assent and split apart to complete their assignments. Pidge heads toward the green lion, Hunk and Coran start hunting through nearby foliage, and the two sets of firewood gatherers head toward a wooded area in the distance. By the time they reach the edge of the woods, their pairs are nearly half a mile apart and Lance and Keith haven’t said a word to each other. Keith’s space wolf weaves in and around the two of them, nose the ground in a constant investigation.

“So,” Lance says. He kicks his boots in the dirt and drags his hand along a tree. “I’m glad you’re not dead.”

Keith scoffs. “Thanks. I’m glad you’re not dead, too.”

“I gave it the old college try, though. But Allura only let me be dead for, like, two minutes. Kind of rude of her, when you think about it.”

“She what?”

“Brought me back to life.”

“You died?”

Lance shrugs. “I mean, only briefly. And it’s not like I remember being dead.”

Keith’s eyes are so wide that Lance can see the whites all around his irises. He’d be lying if he said that his reaction isn’t amusing. It’s like a litmus test for how much he still cares about Lance, and he’s pleased at the results.

“I can’t believe you.”

“Hey, Shiro’s been dead for, like, a year, so…”

“Fucking hell, Lance.” Keith runs a hand through his hair. Lance doesn’t know why the guy is so upset all of a sudden. “This is serious. You can’t just make a joke about it.”

They’ve stopped walking, and stopped pretending that they’re collecting firewood. Keith faces him and looks him right in the eye.

Lance laughs uncomfortably. “Making jokes is what I do, man. And I’m fine now, I swear. Really, I’ve been through worse.”

“That doesn’t make it any better.”

“We’re in space, Keith, and we’re fighting a war. Shit’s bound to happen. God knows we’ve all been through hell. You included. So I don’t really want to talk about it right now.”

His gaze locks with Keith’s, and for a few seconds it’s a standoff.

“Okay.”

Lance bends over and picks up a branch from the ground. “Hey, Keith.”

“What?”

“Got wood?”

Keith surrenders a small grin, but it’s enough to make Lance’s heart glow like the sun.

“You’re such an idiot.”

Lance throws the stick at him. The wolf catches it out of the air and runs off with it.

“I’m glad you’re back, Keith.”

Keith lobs the nearest stick at Lance. “Glad to be back. The fun of living on a giant space whale has an expiration date, that’s for sure. Oh, and I guess it’s nice to see you all again.”

Lance darts around a tree and laughs his way to Keith, grabbing his arms and wrestling him up against a tree. Keith has every chance to push him away, but he doesn’t take any of them, and instead fights until he has Lance’s back to the tree instead. His hands seem as eager to be on Lance as Lance’s do him.

They pause, close to each other. Lance is breathing hard, and it’s only kind of because of the wrestling. “I missed you,” Keith breathes.

His heart does a goddamn backflip.

“You’re just upset because you haven’t gotten any for two years.”

"Hey!"

Lance pecks Keith’s cheek and ducks out from between him and the tree. He darts away, putting a few feet and a big tree trunk between them. He pops out from behind it to see the look on Keith’s face and add: “You probably couldn’t even get yourself off, either, because your mom was there. Sad.”

Keith weighs his response options and finally settles on, “It was a big whale.”

“Damn, Keith! Was your space dog ever there?”

“He’s a wolf.”

“Whatever. Was he?”

“I’m not going to answer that.”

Lance rests himself against a tree so that he can laugh properly, hands on his knees and tears collecting in his eyes. Keith comes over and shoves him, and Lance stumbles away, still laughing. “I’m just—I’m just imagining you jerking off, and then—and then this wolf just teleports in to check on you, and it’s just—”

Keith shoves him again, and Lance falls against another tree, laughing uncontrollably.

“It’s not that funny.”

“It kind of is.” Lance fights to get control of his laughter, and wipes his eyes with the back of his glove. “God, you must be horny as hell.”

“I’ve had other things to think about.”

“That’s not a ‘no’.”

Keith says nothing.

“Two whole years,” Lance muses, standing upright and waltzing back over to Keith. He runs his fingers along the other man’s jaw and marvels at how the line of it has become harder, more defined. How everything about his body is harder, but still him. Keith leans into his touch. “Look, I know it’s been a long time for you, but—I wanted to apologize. For how we left things.”

“I’m the one who should be apologizing,” Keith says. His hands settle around Lance’s waist, and his dark eyes flash gold. “You were just trying to help, and I did what I always do; I ran away. It wasn’t fair to you. I've had a lot of time to think it through.”

“But, hey—you did find your mom, and a whole colony of Alteans, so I think it turned out for the best.”

“Yeah, I guess.”

“So… are we good?”

“Yeah. I think so.”

There are so many questions that Lance wants to ask. But the only thing he says is, “So… can I kiss you?”

Keith’s eyes flash down to Lance’s lips, and he breathes out, “Yeah.”

***

“So, basically,” Lance finishes. He hasn’t climbed off Keith, but Keith doesn’t seem to mind. They’re leaning against a tree trunk together, and the whole time Lance was trying to explain how his hair got so messed up, Keith has been tracing designs onto Lance’s skin and covering him in goosebumps in the warm night air. “My cow is trying to eat me. Now can we get back to what we were doing?”

Keith’s cheeks are pink with laughter, and his eyes are shining, and Lance wants nothing more than to kiss him, and then—the best part of all of this—he does. It’s a quick kiss, nothing more than pressing his lips to Keith’s, but it fills him with warmth and happiness he’d almost forgotten existed. His hands on either side of Lance’s cheeks are calloused but gentle, and his lips part and welcome Lance to him.

“I missed that cow a lot,” Keith breathes between kisses, still chuckling. Lance would have a witty comeback, but he’s getting too distracted by the firm lines of Keith’s newfound muscles, and by the fact that he has license to touch them as much as he pleases. He delights in how Keith’s breathing changes as Lance caresses him. Payback’s a bitch, as they say.

“Well, she didn’t miss you. She’s a cow, so she mostly cares about eating.”

“Ouch.”

“It’s the truth.”

“That doesn’t mean you have to say it.” His words are only half-formed, because Lance has started subtly grinding against Keith, sitting low on his hips so that their cocks rub together through their space suits.

He runs his hands down Keith’s chest. “Let me make it up to you.”

Keith nods.

Lance unhooks his ankles and slides down Keith’s legs so his feet are on the ground again. He kisses Keith, deeply, and lets his hands go on autopilot to wherever gets the most response out of Keith. Part of Keith growing up—or being stranded on a space whale for two years, without the touch of another man—seems to be that he’s less afraid of revealing his pleasure to Lance. He sighs and even moans at Lance’s touch, which is the best kind of encouragement.

He kisses his way across Keith’s jaw, down his neck, and onto his chest, pausing every few inches to give his skin special attention. Keith’s fingers dig through the cow-saliva crust in his hair and find enough to make a fist. Lance hmms along when Keith shifts underneath him, hips pressing forward toward Lance in the most carnal of pleas. He catches one of Keith’s nipples between his teeth, and sucks on it while he draws his palm up the inside of his leg. His own erection is pounding, and he feels Keith shiver when he finds his.

Keith moans as Lance massages the front of his suit. Lance trails his lips back up to Keith’s ear, and whispers to him, “You’ve been waiting a long time for this, haven’t you?”

His answer is a hand that takes a fistful of his ass, and Keith chewing on his lip in what is perhaps the sexiest way possible.

“I want to hear you say it,” Lance says. He nibbles Keith’s earlobe and keeps rubbing his erection. “I want to hear you say you wanted me the whole time.”

“Fuck, Lance,” Keith groans. He’s so fucking hard under Lance’s palm. It’s a real effort to resist his desire to tear the suit down Keith’s legs and finally get his mouth on Keith’s cock.

“Did you?”

Keith nods. He’s positively writhing now, eyes squeezed shut. “Yes. Fuck, yes.”

“Yes what?”

“I wanted you. I’ve wanted you for two fucking years, Lance. I want you now.”

He says it with such conviction that Lance can almost believe it’s true, and not just sex-brain making Keith say whatever is necessary for Lance to get him off.

“The magic words,” Lance purrs. He slides his hand up from Keith’s bulge and presses his fingers between fabric and skin, peeling the suit down his hips to his thighs. Keith hisses out a breath as his cock springs free, and Lance wastes no time lowering himself to his knees.

Lance wraps his palm around the base and licks Keith’s penis all the way up to the tip. He tastes like sweat and arousal, a salty mix that makes Lance’s brain go haywire. He swirls his tongue around the head a few times before taking Keith into his mouth.

The weight of his cock settles onto Lance’s tongue, and he welcomes it. He wants this to be the best goddamn blow job of Keith’s life if he’s been waiting two full years for it. Lance bobs his head along Keith’s length, lets Keith fill his mouth with pulsing heat. He pulls off and runs his hand up the shaft, tracing his thumb over the slit, and Keith whines his name.

“You like that?” Lance teases, licking precum off his finger. He looks up at Keith through his eyelashes and takes Keith in his mouth again.

Keith nods. “L-Lance,” he stutters, fighting to make coherent words. “Fuck me.”

Lance’s stomach drops out from underneath him like an avalanche. He uses his hand to keep working on Keith’s dick while he says, “Like, actually?”

“Yeah,” Keith says breathlessly.

“But we don’t have any lube or anything.”

“I don’t care. Use spit. Just—fuck—fuck me.”

Keith’s hands find Lance’s and slow them to a stop over his rock-hard erection. He looks ready to cum any second, and with a real show of control he pries Lance away and pulls him to his feet. He rolls down Lance’s suit until it catches on his thigh guards. Lance is ready to melt already, and when Keith’s hand wraps around his cock it sends bolts of lightning all the way to his fingertips. Lance kisses him full on the mouth as Keith pumps his cock.

When they pull apart, Lance nudges for him to turn around. Keith rests his forearms on the tree trunk, leaning forward onto them. Lance spits on his fingers and spreads Keith’s cheeks apart before he ghosts his fingers over his hole.

Keith chokes on a moan and pushes back onto Lance’s fingers.

“You gonna last long enough for me to even put it in?” he asks. He circles Keith’s hole a few times before pressing a finger inside. Keith is so hot and tight around him that Lance nearly drowns in his own anticipation. “So good, Keith. You’re so good for me.”

He works Keith open one knuckle at a time, but as fast as he can manage.

“Fuck me,” Keith says again, his voice completely wrecked. “Fuck me hard. I’ve been waiting so goddamn long for you.”

Lance decides that will have to be good enough. He smooths spit onto his cock before he lines it up with Keith’s asshole and places the tip at his entrance, applying just a hint of pressure. Keith presses back onto him just as Lance presses forward, and they moan in unison.

“Keith,” Lance keens. “Dios, Keith. I want you so bad.”

“Then take me.”

Lance braces his hands on Keith’s hips and fucks into him. He doesn’t bother going slow—doesn’t think he’s capable of slow right now—and with a little more spit to keep things slick, he pounds into Keith. It’s a lot of grunting and moaning and whimpering and all around the best feeling Lance has had in months.

“Fuck, Keith. You’re even better than I remember,” he croons. His hips are moving entirely of their own volition now, and Keith is shamelessly fucking himself onto Lance, too. The sound of their thighs slapping together hangs in the air with their gasping breaths.

“You—you too,” Keith says with a hoarse laugh, and then his lips pull back from his teeth in a silent cry. “There. God, right there.”

Lance takes his cue and doubles down his thrusts, anchoring Keith’s hips in place so he hits the same spot. Keith’s muscles clench under his fingers, around his cock, and then Keith cries out and his back arches and cum spurts onto the base of the tree in front of him.

Feeling Keith orgasm around him makes Lance see stars, but he’s not there yet, not quite. He lets out a stream of nonsense words as his body starts to lose control of itself, all of his energy focusing on the white-hot burn in the pit of his stomach.

“Come on, Lance,” Keith breathes, reaching behind him to find Lance’s face and tilt it toward his own. They share a sloppy kiss, and then Keith says: “Cum for me, beautiful.”

Lance waits until the last second before he pulls out and aims himself at the ground. The orgasm seizes his muscles and holds them captive, threatening to pull him down to the ground with the force of it.

When he comes back to his senses, he realizes he’s hugging Keith from behind, chin aside his neck, and they’re both panting and smiling. “That,” Keith grins, “Was worth the wait.”

Lance kisses his neck, slides his hand between Keith’s thighs. He delights in the soft growl that escapes Keith’s throat at his touch. In this moment, the passion between them is uncomplicated. It’s like the rest of the world—no, the universe—doesn’t exist, and their history together is nothing more than a haze. It’s just Lance and Keith, lost in each other.

Something brushes against Lance’s leg, and he squeals and bounces back. “What the--”

It’s the cosmic wolf, sniffing his shin guards. He looks askance at him before deciding to investigate Keith instead.

Keith pulls his space suit back up onto his hips and reaches down to pat his head. “Thanks for giving us some time to ourselves,” he says, and the wolf licks his hand. “See? I told you Lance isn’t so bad.”

Lance quickly covers himself. He watches the wolf. “How… how… aware is that thing?”

“He’s not going to tell on you,” Keith laughs. “And he’s smart, but only for an animal. You’ve got nothing to worry about.”

“Okay.” He scowls at the wolf, upset at him for having ruined their moment. He gets the hint and licks Keith’s hand once more before bounding off into the woods again. Once he’s gone, Lance closes the distance between him and Keith, and kisses him. “Can we go again?”

Keith returns the kiss, and Lance leans him back against the tree. He would gladly fuck Keith all day. His cock is already getting back in the game, ready for round two, and he follows its lead and deepens the kiss.

“Lance,” Keith says, and turns his head away. “Not now. We have an assignment.”

He wants to kiss the words away, to cover himself in Keith’s body again, but—no, he needs to respect Keith’s request. So instead of kissing him more, he leans onto him and feels his warmth. “I missed you,” he says. “Not just the sex.”

Keith traces circles onto Lance’s back. “Yeah.”

It’s the kind of answer that could mean ten different things, but he doesn’t pull away from Lance, doesn’t tell him to keep his feelings to himself. Deep down, he knows that Keith would never do that, because no matter what they’re still friends and teammates, and, yeah, maybe even in the ‘lovers’ category instead of just fuckbuddies. But he has time to think through all that later.

“The sex is good, though.”

“Yeah,” Keith agrees. “Really good.”

“I’ve gotta say, I think I have a thing for older men.”

Keith groans. “Shut up, I’m not that much older than you now.”

“Just keep telling yourself that, old man.”

Lance dodges Keith’s offended shove, and threads his arms back into the sleeves of his space suit. He dances around through the trees as he reaches around himself to tug the zipper up his back, and Keith is trying to dress himself again as fast as he can, too, so he can chase Lance through the forest. Their laughter fills the trees, and Lance thinks that, yeah, things are going to be okay.

They might get around to collecting firewood, eventually.

***

Outtakes and Aftercare

___

Who else is still screaming about San Diego Comic Con? Because I sure as hell am. I can’t believe Shiro is our canon tired gay space dad. I’m just… so happy. So very happy. And if y’all have any Shadam/Adashi fic requests, send them over, my dudes.

___

Shiro and Romelle, setting up camp:

Romelle: *looking at Kaltenecker* What… is that?

Shiro: Kaltenecker.

Romelle: What is the purpose of a Kaltenecker? Is it some kind of sentry animal?

Shiro: Uh… no, not really. Lance got her at a mall, and we couldn’t just leave her behind.

Romelle: I see. So it provides companionship?

Kaltenecker: *looks at Romelle, starts peeing*

Romelle: Oh my!

Shiro: *tiredly* Really? Right in the middle of camp?

Kaltenecker: *pees forcefully*

___

Allura and Krolia make two trips for firewood because they know that Keith and Lance are going to come back with, like, three sticks. They are correct.

___

Keith and Lance walk back together and Pidge immediately holds out their hand to Hunk.

Pidge: You owe me ten bucks.

Hunk: What?

Pidge: I bet you ten bucks that they wouldn’t last an hour. And I was right.

Hunk: I did not agree to that bet.

Pidge: Ten bucks.

Hunk: I don’t have ten bucks. We’re in space.

Pidge, pushing their glasses up their nose: I’ll put it on your tab.

Hunk: You scare me sometimes. I want you to know that.

Chapter Text

It’s kind of a surreal feeling to wake up with Keith beside him, laying stretched out in bed with no fear of being called out to fight at any moment. And Lance has got to admit, it’s the kind of thing he could get used to.

He glances at the shaded window to search for sunrise peeking through the edges of the blinds but finds nothing. So it’s early, then, and he’s probably had no more than a few hours of sleep. He and Keith were up pretty late last night, that’s for sure. A night off is even more rare than it was in space, so they get all the hours out of it they can. But Earth has something that space didn’t, and that’s sex stores that are actually for humans. Which means that Lance brought a little more with him last night than just the lube and, well. Need he say more?

Keith’s body is still next to him, so he must still be asleep. If he’d been awake, surely he would have left by now. Lance rolls over from his back to his side and scoots closer to Keith, the sheets sliding over his bare legs and chest. Given the opportunity to spoon Keith, he will always take it, but he moves slowly so as not to wake him up.

He’s just gotten his arm over Keith’s side when he grunts. “Hey,” he says tiredly.

“Didn’t mean to wake you,” Lance whispers, his voice crackly with sleep.

“Wasn’t asleep,” Keith says. He wriggles himself closer against Lance, and the warmth of him seeps into Lance’s body to match the warmth growing in his chest. He stayed.

“Earth beds are a lot more comfortable than I remember,” Lance says. He never used to think of himself as the kind of guy that didn’t sleep in, but here he is with probably three hours of sleep, and his eyes aren’t heavy in the slightest. The room may be warm and dark, but it smells like him and Keith and sex, so, no, sleep isn’t his top priority right now.

“Sleeping in the lions wasn’t exactly a luxury hotel,” Keith says wryly. “So comparatively, this feels pretty good.”

Lance shrugs, the sheets tickling his skin. “Yeah, but even back in the Castle. I don’t know. I didn’t always sleep as great as I have been since we got back.”

“Stress,” Keith says. He stretches his arms above his head and then pillows the back of his neck on his hands. “It fucks with your sleep schedule.”

Lance turns to face him and lays an arm over his body. He’s tempted to bring a knee up onto his stomach, too, but decides that can wait. “You stressed right now?”

Keith takes a minute to think on the question. “No, not really. Considering everything we’ve been through, I should be sleeping like I’m in a coma.”

“But…” Lance prompts.

“But I don’t know.” Keith traces one of his fingers along Lance’s back. It sends shivers up his spine. “I guess reconstruction and refugee triage is stressing me out.”

“So you didn’t sleep well?”

“It’s nothing new.”

“But you don’t sound convinced that that’s the reason.”

Keith breathes out slowly through his nose, and it ruffles Lance’s hair. “It might be that--no, no. It’s stupid.”

“It’s not stupid if it’s stressing you out.”

“You can’t laugh.”

“At you? I would never.”

Keith’s gentle stroking turns into a lighthearted smack against his shoulder blades. “Now you’re just being an ass.”

“And a damn fine ass at that,” Lance shoots back without a moment’s hesitation. He feels Keith’s chuckle pass through his chest and into Lance’s. Lance turns his head to look up at Keith, though in the dark it’s hard to see him. The other man’s eyes catch the low light like a trap, and it glitters within his gaze. Lance assures him, “I won’t laugh.”

Keith grunts and says, “I think that James guy still hates me.”

And because it’s the least Keith-like thing he’s ever heard, Lance fails to stop his snort of laughter.

“You promised!” Keith pushes Lance off him and turns to face away from him. “Fucking asshole.”

“I’m sorry! I’m sorry. I just--I didn’t expect that.” Lance presses his body against Keith’s and leaves a line of kisses across his shoulder. “You just aren’t usually the kind of guy to care about shit like that. What makes you think he hates you?”

“He just keeps glaring at me when we’re on debris-clearing shifts in the city. And he never talks to me. We’ve been back on Earth for months and I swear he’s said like five words in my direction that weren’t strictly work-related.”

Lance has to try really, really hard not to laugh again. “Yeah, I don’t know what that’s like at all.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It sounds to me like he’s acting like you.”

He may not be able to see Keith’s frown, but it’s so strong he can sense it. Lance snuggles in closer to Keith.

“I don’t like that he’s three years older than us now,” Lance continues. “Or, well. Three years older than me. He’s only got one on you.”

Keith doesn’t say anything.

“He’s probably just weirded out because he’s still in love with you, and you disappeared for four years and came back as this badass space warrior with a giant robot,” Lance says. He finds Keith’s nipple and ghosts his thumb over it. “Like, in a contest? That fancy airplane that made him hot shit around the Garrison would lose, and it’s like when you compare dick size in the locker room and he thought his was big but it looks like a fucking micropenis in comparison to yours.”

Keith stiffens. “What?”

“You never did that?” Lance does his best to focus on the conversation at hand instead of how good Keith’s taut body feels against his.

“No, I don’t--not the locker room thing. James was always such an ass. He can’t have been in--in love with me.”

Lance snorts. “It was pretty obvious. The classic case of repressed feelings being channeled into bad behavior. Like how boys get away with teasing girls because it means they have a crush on them. But, you know, gay.”

He conveniently forgets to mention that his contrived rivalry with Keith was born of the same confusion of feelings.

“That’s fucked up.”

“Uh, yeah. But still. He had it bad. Clearly.”

“But I punched him!”

“And he probably jerked off to that fact for the next week.”

Keith shifts against him, but Lance isn’t sure that it’s because he’s uncomfortable with the topic of conversation. It has to be at least a little flattering. Lance fits his chin into the crook of his shoulder. Keith says, “Oh. No, that doesn’t make any sense. I never got a gay vibe from him.”

Lance pffts. “I sure did.”

“Whatever. Your gaydar is shit, Lance. You couldn’t even tell I was gay until I was two seconds away from making out with you.”

Lance laughs at the memory. “You got me there.”

A moment of silence passes between them, and Lance lets his hand move lower on Keith’s chest. But not too low, not yet.

“Although, to be fair, that’s kind of how I knew with him, too.”

Keith flips over to face him with speed that probably comes from his Galra side more than his human side. It startles Lance enough that he pulls his hands away from Keith for a few seconds. With their faces inches from each other, Keith says, “What?”

Lance chews on his lip. “Griffin was actually almost the first guy I did it with.”

“He what?

“It was a confusing time in my life,” Lance says more flippantly than he feels. He goes back to smoothing his fingers over Keith’s skin. “I was still coming to terms with the fact that I liked more than just girls. We met up a couple times, just to figure shit out, but he never wanted to go all the way. I think he thought that if we fucked it would make it real that he was into guys, and he wasn’t ready to accept it yet.”

“Jesus, Lance. I had no idea.”

Lance decides he doesn’t want to think too hard about those couple months.

“We were, like, seventeen. And it was probably better that we didn’t, because it wouldn’t have meant anything.”

“That matters to you?”

“Yeah.”

They’re close enough that Lance can see Keith’s eyes flicking between both of his own. “Who was your first?” Keith asks in a quiet voice.

Lance purses his lips. “Boy or girl?”

“Either. Both.”

“Jenny Shaybon. And… you.”

Keith’s breathing catches for a second so short Lance thinks he might have imagined it. “Really?”

“Yeah.”

Keith is quiet for long enough that Lance worries he’s connecting the dots and that the next words out of his mouth will be to ask whether their first time together mean anything to him. And Lance isn’t prepared to answer that question.

But instead he says, “Then how the hell did you get so good at blow jobs?”

Lance laughs because he’s so relieved. “It’s a gift.”

“I’ll say.”

Heat rises in Lance’s cheeks, and the quiet desire that’s been resting in his gut wakes up. “What about you? Who was your first?”

Keith shakes his head. “I don’t remember his name.”

“Oh.”

“It’s not, like, a sad thing. I just wanted to get it over with. The whole virginity thing.”

“Okay, but you saying that makes it sound sad.”

“It’s really not.”

“Whatever you say.” Lance nudges Keith with his knee, and the other man lifts one of his legs so that Lance can rest his knee between his thighs. He puts a little more purpose behind the wandering of his touch. “Were you top or bottom?”

“We’re done talking about this, Lance.”

“So bottom, then?”

“Fuck off.”

Lance slides his knee up a little further between Keith’s legs and trails his hand down his side, to the smooth curve of his ass. He gives it a little squeeze and doesn’t remove his hand.

“Griffin’s okay nowadays, but of all the MFE pilots he’s, like, third on the list. But to be honest, I’d bang any of them. They are some damn fine specimens.”

Instead of catching him off guard, Keith’s barely-audible growl makes Lance smile. He’s so predictable.

“I bet Griffin would still go for me. Pick up where we left off, you know. He was a pretty good kisser. And I could help him forget he ever had feelings for you.”

Lance looks right into Keith’s eyes on his last words, issuing a challenge that he knows won’t be refused.

One second, they’re not kissing, and the next, they are. There’s no trace of tiredness in Keith’s touch, only a jealousy so fierce that it lights Lance up from his fingers to his toes. Keith’s hands are hungry against his skin, rough and possessive. Lance meets him with the same force, digging his fingernails into Keith’s flesh and grunting when he pulls their lower bodies together.

Keith rolls on top of Lance and kisses down his neck, all tooth and nail in exactly the way Lance likes best. Their Garrison uniforms have high collars, so Keith is free to leave marks anywhere he likes.

Lance knots one of his hands in Keith’s hair at the same time as his other finds Keith’s inner thigh. He imagines the bruises he left there last night, of the matching ones on his own legs. He thinks about how, even though they play and pretend otherwise, they both know that they’re marked for each other. Maybe it took being launched into space and stuck together for a couple years, but now that there are options, Lance still doesn’t want anyone else.

“Think of how I feel, hmm?” Lance says. Keith, as usual, isn’t in the mood for talking. But he’s putting his mouth to good use, slowly creeping lower and lower down Lance’s body. He takes the covers with him, exposing Lance to the darkness around them. “You’re the leader of Voltron. It’s not just Griffin. Everyone wants you. Everyone’s been throwing themselves at you since the fighting stopped. You could have had any of them.”

Keith is nearly between Lance’s legs now. He smooths his hands over Lance’s thigh, testing the sensitivity of his skin. He murmurs into Lance’s bellybutton: “I don’t want any of them.”

Lance’s heartrate goes into double time, but that might be from how close Keith is to his cock. He might not be touching him there yet, but he’s everywhere else and that makes his ache grow. It’s getting more difficult by the second to keep his thoughts coherent.

“You don’t?”

The barest trace of sunrise elbows its way into the room, hardening the line of Keith’s silhouette into something that looks like Keith instead of just another person. He hopes it’s never anyone but Keith, but even so he thinks that he’s braver about saying what he feels in the dark.

“Do you?” Keith’s voice is light, but Lance can hear the curiosity—the worry?—along the edges. His lips are along his inner thigh now, tasting him. Lance takes a deep breath to steel himself for the teeth that come next, and when he feels the familiar bite he squeezes his eyes shut and lets his hand drift down toward his yet-untouched, half-hard dick.

Keith swats his hand away a second before he can touch himself.

Lance whines wordlessly but takes back his arm. “No one else knows me well enough to do that,” he says. “To do what I like, even when I don’t like it.”

“Hmm,” says Keith, apparently accepting that as an answer. He looks up into Lance’s eyes for a second and then looks away, maybe thinking the same thing about words in the dark. “You want to try the toys?”

It takes Lance a second to process the abrupt subject change, but when he does his stomach falls out his spine and his toes go cold with anticipation. “Uh, yeah. Where’d they end up? And don’t—don’t we need to clean them first?”

Keith rolls off to one side and pulls open one of the drawers in his nightstand. “I cleaned them after you went to sleep.”

“Cool, thanks.” Lance props himself up on his elbows and squints so he can watch Keith rifling through the drawer. “Wait--I let you be the big spoon, and you abandoned me?”

“I wasn’t tired.”

“I think that’s an insult. I really thought I wore you out last night.”

Keith looks over at him. He’s backlit from the window so Lance can’t see his face. “Oh, last night was great. These things?” he holds up the fruits of his drawer-searching efforts. “Will blow your fucking mind.”

He crawls back over to Lance and kisses him. When he pulls back, Lance tries to follow him but Keith holds him down. “And I guess you were okay, too.”

“Asshole,” Lance says. Keith laughs and runs his empty hand down Lance’s chest. He stops just before he gets to Lance’s dick, his palm massaging around the base and convincing more blood to rush to the area. His cock twitches and tries to curve up against his stomach, but he’s not hard enough yet.

Lance bends his knees when Keith climbs back between his legs, one pointing up to the ceiling and the other out to the side, so he has complete access to Lance’s body. He thinks about how long it took for him to really be comfortable presenting himself so fully for Keith and not feeling a trace of self-consciousness. He doesn’t want to start over with another person.

There’s enough light now that color seeps into the room, catching in the scar across Keith’s face and the angles of his body. Lance watches him squeeze lube onto his fingers and spread it over the thin ring of silicone in his palm. “Let me know if it’s too tight, okay?” Keith says before he grips Lance’s penis and starts rubbing up and down along his length.

Lance lets out a shuddering breath. Dios, finally. “Mmhmm. Yep. I’ll do that. You can count on me to—holy shit.”

In all honesty, Lance had expected the cock ring to feel a little like a condom when it was put on, but he had it all kinds of wrong. It’s just small enough that he can feel it restricting the blood flow from his penis, intensifying the throb in his groin. Keith smirks while he rolls it on, like it’s vindication for the shit Lance gave him the night before for actually whimpering when Lance did it to him. He stretches the ring over Lance’s balls and settles it into place as the base of his dick.

“That okay?” Keith asks.

“Fucking amazing,” Lance answers.

“Just wait.”

Lance’s mouth goes dry and his pulse flutters and all he can think to do is tell Keith, “Kiss me again.”

And Keith does.

They get distracted like that for a while, Keith on top of Lance and Lance’s hands all over Keith and their mouths moving likes parts of a machine that were made with the specific purpose of fitting together. Keith grinds down onto Lance’s arousal with his own, and it’s pure and utter bliss.

“You ready?” Keith asks, and he doesn’t have to say for what.

“Hell yeah,” says Lance, even though he would also be okay with kissing Keith forever.

Keith retreats to the end of the bed again, and there’s the pop of the lube cap opening and then closing a moment later. It’s barely light enough for Lance to see Keith’s fingers just before they touch his entrance.

Lance chews on his lip and swallows his moans while Keith circles his fingers and applies pressure. He inserts one finger, and then two when Lance is ready. Keith always takes his time opening him up, and it drives Lance mad because in almost every other walk of life Keith is not a patient man. But in the bedroom, Lance has learned that he likes to take his sweet time.

His fingers disappear, leaving Lance empty. His cock throbs under the pressure of the ring and he wants so badly to touch himself but he knows he can’t. So he runs a hand through his hair and prepares for—

Keith lays the butt plug at Lance’s entrance and slowly presses it inside. It’s angled up, toward his belly, and Lance feels it enter him, not big at first but slowly getting wider. Then it tapers and sits inside him, the flared base anchoring it in place. Lance feels filled in a way that’s different than he’s used to, and in combination with the cock ring, he’s ready to admit that Keith was right, and his mind is blown.

But then? Oh, then. Then Keith starts sucking his dick.

“Oh my fucking god,” Lance whines. “Fuck.” He makes a fist in his own hair and drags his hands down his face and thanks God and also Jesus that Keith exists. And he’s his.

If it weren’t for the cock ring to keep him from cumming, Lance think Keith would have finished him off by now. But instead he’s just rock hard and aching all over with desire.

Keith runs the flat of his tongue up Lance’s length. “Can I fuck you?” he asks.

Lance nods so fast he gives himself whiplash. “Yeah. Sí. Yes. Yeah.”

Keith pulls away from him to prepare himself, and Lance pushes off of the pillow and gestures for Keith to hand the supplies to him. The plug shifts pleasurably inside him. “Let me,” he says, and Keith gives him the lube and a condom. Lance sets them aside momentarily, and with Keith on his knees and Lance crouched in front of him, he takes Keith into his mouth. He steadies him with a hand on his ass—and also, just because he likes Keith’s ass—and works Keith around in his mouth. It doesn’t take long for Keith to get hard, or for his fingers to thread into Lance’s hair and tug. Lance turns his head so Keith’s cock presses on the inside of his cheek, and hums while he looks up at Keith.

The other man’s eyes are half-shut, but it almost looks like they’re glowing. And he’s watching Lance with a barely-restrained hunger that makes the muscles in Lance’s belly tighten. He pulls off of Keith and pumps him with one hand while he searches the sheets for the condom. Unwrapping it and putting it on Keith is second nature to him at this point. He opens the bottle of lube and squeezes out a liberal amount, then tosses the bottle aside and rubs the lube onto Keith’s dick. The sheets are already dirty, so he wipes the remaining lube from his hand onto them as he leans back. He crosses his arms on the pillow above his head to tell Keith without asking that he wants to be held down. “¿Me deseas?” he asks in his most seductive voice.

He doesn’t say anything, but the fire in his eyes is all the answer Lance needs.

Keith fumbles for purchase along the edge of the butt plug, making Lance squirm, and then pulls it out. He asks in a rough voice, “You still good?”

“Just put it in, Kogane.”

With one hand, Keith aligns his cock with Lance’s entrance, and with the other he secures Lance’s wrists in place. He pushes in slowly and Lance grimaces against the pain of being stretched. “Oh, fuck,” he says. Keith’s grip is tight on his wrists. “Fuck me.”

Keith pulls all the way out and then pushes in again, quicker this time. Through his own slitted eyes, Lance sees his teeth gnawing on his lower lip in a clear attempt to keep himself from crying out.

Lance digs his heels into the mattress and meets the thrust of Keith’s hips with his own, and it’s enough to tear a moan from between his teeth. He smirks and says to Keith, “Now that’s more like it.”

“You’re such a shit,” Keith gripes, somehow scowling and grinning at the same time. His hips move with clear intention, not fast but not slow. The familiar heat is building in Lance’s gut, but the cock ring keeps it at bay.

“You could make me stop talking,” Lance suggests.

He regards Lance through narrowed eyes, and then lets go of his wrists and pulls out.

“Well that’s not what I meant,” Lance says, jutting out his lip in dissatisfaction. Aside from no longer having Keith’s cock in his ass, Lance feels weirdly empty without Keith’s hands touching him, and he desperately wants to remedy that. He reaches up to Keith with his newly-freed hands, imploring Keith to come back.

He grabs Lance by the waist and says, “Turn over, idiot.”

Lance raises an eyebrow. “I like where this is going.”

Keith rolls lithely off the bed and snatches an article of clothing off the floor, which certainly piques Lance’s interest. His cock hangs heavy and eager as he switches from his back to his knees, facing the wall, and he twists around to see what Keith has.

It’s Lance’s necktie from their press conference yesterday. Keith holds it in his hands like a rope and Lance can’t stop himself from saying, “Hell, yeah.”

Keith takes Lance’s wrists and crosses the tie over them, making a messy knot that will hold but probably doesn’t look very pretty. Then he uses the flat of his palm to press Lance down onto the mattress, his face against the pillow and knees bent under him in a way that he swears is some kind of yoga position. The smell of his own shampoo fills his nostrils and he turns his head to the side. Keith leans in and bites the tender skin of Lance’s ass, making him cry out.

It takes almost no prompting for Lance to push his ass up high into the air so that it’s level with Keith’s dick. “Alright, hurry it up,” he taunts, but the edge of desire in his voice leaks through. His tied hands rest on his lower back and he clenches and loosens his fists to let go of some of the tension. “Come on, Keith. Fuck me.”

“You want this?” Keith asks, and slides himself between Lance’s thighs. His cock brushes Lance’s, and Lance whimpers into the pillow.

Yes,” Lance breathes. He can’t stop the racing of his heart and the spiraling of his vision as the bedroom lightens with the sunrise. Keith stops only to apply a bit more lube, and then he’s pushing into Lance again, filling him until his thighs are pressed against Lance’s skin and they’re both gasping. Lance repeats, “Yes.”

Keith’s fingers knot in his hair and press his head down onto the pillow while simultaneously pulling at his scalp. He starts out slow, but it feels like only seconds before the tantric slapping of skin on skin fills the room. Lance bounces himself back onto Keith, trying to get as much of him inside as possible.

“Lance,” Keith grunts. “Oh my god.”

“Fuckin’ yeah,” Lance agrees, but he doesn’t think his words sound like anything. Keith smacks his ass and pushes his head down into the pillow harder. His thrusts are hard and fast and Lance knows he would have come ages ago if it weren’t for the cock ring. It’s like his desire is climbing mount fucking Everest and he keeps thinking that the summit is just ahead, but when he gets there, there’s still more mountain.

But Keith finds the top of his mountain just fine.

His whole body curls over Lance as he climaxes, and he shouts something incoherent in a voice robbed of its strength. Lance feels fingernails digging into his skin, hair being tugged out of his skull, and most of all the feeling of Keith inside him and all around him.

When he finishes, he rolls off Lance and tosses his condom into the trash. He takes only a second to catch his breath before he’s back on him, fingers ghosting over his skin and reminding Lance that he has yet to feel that relief.

“You know what my favorite part of this thing is?” Keith asks. His voice is cracked, like it still hasn’t found its way back to his lips after his orgasm.

Lance is just about to ask what “thing” he means when he feels the cool silicone press inside him again. He bites his lip and feels his muscles clench involuntarily around the foreign object.

In an equally broken voice, Lance says, “What’s your favorite part?”

“This.”

And then Keith turns the vibrator on.

Shit,” Lance curses, and he can’t stop the physical jerk of his body under the new sensation. The knot around his wrists holds his arms in place but not the rest of him, and it’s only Keith who keeps him from falling sideways. His arms are strong around Lance’s chest as he pulls him back up to his knees, and then his fingers are strong around Lance’s cock as he pumps his hand up and down the length. Lance can barely find the presence of mind to say “I forgot it did that” before whiteness clouds out his vision and his awareness of the outside world disappears completely.

Keith holds Lance in place as tremors wrack his body. The orgasm comes in waves that crest over his body like boiling water. His muscles spasm, his breathing halts in his chest, and through it all he can barely feel Keith kissing his neck and leaving bite marks in his wake. Lance arches his neck back with no conscious decision to do so, and Keith licks the sweat off his skin.

Lance doesn’t know how long it is before his soul returns to his body, but he lets Keith lower him down onto the mattress. He doesn’t, however, let him unwrap his arms from around Lance’s body. His sturdy warmth is everything Lance’s exhausted body needs right now.

The cock ring comes off easier than it went on, but Lance leaves the now-silent butt plug in because it seems like too much of a hassle to move enough to take it out. “Fuck,” Lance says.

“Yeah,” Keith agrees.

“That was… fuck.”

“I told you it was.”

“You sure did.”

Keith kisses Lance’s neck and shoulder again, and Lance strokes his fingers along Keith’s forearm.

“Please tell me we never have to leave this bed again.”

“Not for another few hours, at least,” Keith chuckles.

Lance groans. “Good enough.”

Silence settles between them, and Lance is drifting back toward sleep when Keith’s voice breaks through the tired haze. “Hey Lance?”

“Yeah?”

“I’m glad I was your first.”

A goofy kind of grin tugs at Lance’s lips. “So am I,” he says. He pulls Keith’s arms tighter around him, but not because he’s cold. The room is filled with their heat and the warmth of the rising sun, and Lance lets himself get lost in the bliss of it.

Yeah. He could get used to this.

Chapter Text

“Hey, Kogane, wait up a sec.”

Keith blinks and looks over his shoulder at the sound of his name. His mouth hardens into a thin line when he recognizes the MFE pilot, James Griffin. “What do you want?” he asks, trying to keep the wariness out of his voice.

He tells himself the apprehension is because Griffin has been less-than-friendly to him, and not because of what Lance told him about the guy a couple weeks ago. But it’s hard, because now Keith has been reconsidering every interaction he’s ever had with Griffin, and he has to admit, it’s a pretty convincing interpretation of events.

The least believable part is that Griffin would be into him. If Lance, who Keith has been banging for, technically, several years at this point, still doesn’t have feelings for him, it just doesn’t seem plausible that James, who he barely knows him, would.

Griffin takes a few quick steps to catch up with Keith, and then they walk alongside each other toward the mess hall. They’re both sweaty and hungry from a full morning of clean up and reconstruction work, and Keith notices more than he wishes he did that James has, in his usual fashion, taken off his shirt and wrapped it around his waist. He’s got a different body than Lance, more compact muscle than lean strength, but he’s still hot. That is, until Keith looks at his face. And his hair. Keith isn’t sure how he gets it to stick up like that, and at this point he’s too afraid to ask.

“Do you have plans tonight?” Griffin asks.

Keith frowns.

“I’m up for a promotion soon,” he continues. “And seeing as you’re the legendary pilot of the Black Lion I thought you could give me some leadership pointers.”

“You’re already the head MFE pilot. Doesn’t seem like you need my help.”

Keith pays half-attention to the man walking beside him, and the rest to his surroundings. The rest of their work team walks in twos and threes, chatting easily like they do every day. There are a few who walk alone, and one of them is usually Keith. He wishes one of them was Keith today, too.

“It’s different. Come on, man. Help me out on this one?”

“I’m busy.”

“I know how ‘busy’ you are, Kogane. You can spare me the evening.”

He swallows the growl in his throat. “Step one is not to insult the people you want favors from.”

Griffin chuckles and reaches his arms up into the air in a stretch. The muscles across his chest slide beneath his skin, midday sunlight reflecting of his sweat-shined skin. He’s not subtle, but he makes it work. The shirt wrapped around his waist hangs precariously, like it could come untied at any moment and fall to the ground.

“See, that’s the kind of thing I need to learn if I’m going to be any kind of captain one day. You could really help me out, Kogane. I’ll meet you in the staff lounge at eight.”

***

There’s no one else in the lounge when Keith walks in, so he almost walks back out. It’s stupid, anyway. Why on Earth would he want to spend more time than he has to with James Griffin?

But before he can change his mind, Griffin comes through the door. “Sorry I’m late,” he says. “I was grabbing us some coffee. Did you know there’s a real coffee shop in town again? Just gotta walk past all the debris piles to get to it.”

“They take real money?”

“No. Ration cards, like everything else. But it still feels like it used to, you know. Before all…” Griffin gestures expansively, as if his arms could encompass all of the last few years. “Before all of this. Here, it’s pretty good.”

Griffin sets a cup down in front of him, steam swirling out from the lid.

“I don’t like coffee,” Keith says.

“Neither do I,” says Griffin, and takes a drink. “So what’s rule number two for being a great leader?”

“Don’t be late,” Keith deadpans.

“Alright, cool—oh. I get it.” Griffin pulls out a chair and gestures with his coffee mug for Keith to sit. He does. “My bad, Kogane. I’ll do better next time.”

“Bold of you to assume there’ll be a next time.”

 He grins, teeth showing, as he sits down across from Keith. “I guess it is. Now tell me how to be a better leader.”

***

Hunk stands behind the bench, ready to spot Keith for his lift. Clanging weights echo out across the big room, overfilled with people because the Garrison is the only place in the surrounding area with functioning equipment. “So you and Griffin have been hanging out a lot,” he says.

Keith maneuvers the bar off the rack and holds it above his chest. “Don’t play diplomat with me. I see right through all your tricks.”

Hunk grins. “Is there something I need to be playing diplomat about? Hey, all the way down.”

“Ugh,” Keith groans, and lets his next rep sink a little further, until the bar touches his chest. His muscles burn from being reminded of what he’s doing to them, but it clears his head. It’s just him and the bar. “Better?”

“Better,” Hunk agrees. “But I still want an explanation.”

“I’ve been teaching him to be a better leader. He’s up for captain.”

“He must have a lot to learn with as much time as the two of you have been spending together in the last couple of weeks.”

“Well, he’s still the asshole he used to be, so yeah.”

“Hmmm,” Hunk says.

“It’s not like that,” argues Keith.

“And why not?” Hunk hedges. Keith’s mind is too distracted by keeping a heavy-ass chunk of metal from crushing him to consider the hesitancy in his friend’s voice, why he sounds a different kind of interested in Keith’s relationship with Griffin than if he were just curious.

“Because…” Keith trails off, letting it seem like he’s putting effort into his lift instead of fighting to find words. He can’t exactly say he won’t commit to anything with Griffin because he’s still holding onto some stupid hope that Lance will confess that he’s held deep-seated feelings for him since this whole mess started. Both because it would mean revealing what exactly that mess is to Hunk, and also because it would mean admitting it to himself. And he’s not ready to do that yet. “It’s too weird. I knew him in elementary school.”

“That the only reason?”

Keith doesn’t answer.

“One more, buddy. You got this. Go all the way down.”

He grunts into the last rep of the bench press, and then reracks the bar with a clang. “Yeah,” he says when he sits up. Keith wipes sweat off his forehead and uncaps his water bottle. “That’s the only reason.”

“Alright,” Hunk says, and it’s clear he doesn’t believe him.

***

Fridays are their short days on reconstruction. They get out after lunch, and Keith is planning what he’ll do with his free evening—something along the lines of working on his bike, going for an extended run out in the desert, or reading up on the news now that lines of communication are back up across the planet—when James Griffin catches him at the dish return in the mess hall.

“Hey, hotshot,” Griffin says. On the days they’re out doing clean-up, which is all of them, Griffin keeps the hair atop his head in a short ponytail, and a thin headband keeps the loose ends from falling into his eyes. Keith’s own hair is long enough now that he can pull all of it out of his eyes, but he remembers when he used to have to do the same thing. At least his shirt is back on now that they’ve cooled down after the morning’s work. “You got plans this evening?”

“I was just making some,” Keith tells him.

“Cancel them. You’re my plus-one for my pinning ceremony tonight.”

Keith raises his eyebrows. “Is that so?”

“Hell yeah, it is. I hope your formalwear is clean.”

His mind flashes briefly back to the last time he wore his suit and tie, and how it ended up on the floor, right next to Lance’s. “So you made captain?”

“Yeah,” Griffin says, his eyes glittering with excitement. “All four of the original MFE pilots did. It’s mostly going to be humanitarian missions, we hope. You know, delivering aid to people who are isolated from resources, but I’m okay with that. We’ve all seen enough war to last us a lifetime, don’t you think?”

“Congratulations on the promotion, Griffin. You should be proud.”

Griffin claps his shoulder and says, “I owe you a big thanks for this one.”

Keith notices how his hand lingers on his shoulder for longer than necessary, but he doesn’t shrug out of the touch. “Drinks at the reception are on you, then?”

“Sure are,” Griffin agrees, and they both laugh. The city’s limited supply of alcohol won’t be wasted on a mere pinning ceremony, but it’s a nice thought. “So I’ll see you later, Kogane? Meet at my place around six?”

Keith nods. “I’ll be there.”

Griffin makes a finger guns and jogs off to join the other MFE pilots, who’ve all finished their lunches by now and are leaving the mess hall. They wait for him, standing in a circle of three and casting furtive looks in Keith’s directions until Griffin catches up with them. Keith narrows his eyes at their backs before shaking his head and turning away.

He stops to refill his water bottle at the fountain, and finds Lance there, doing the same.

“Hey, what’s up?” Keith says, taking in the familiar sight of him. Lance’s reconstruction crew works in a different part of the city than Keith’s, so he doesn’t see him often except at meals. Lance’s shoulders and chest have filled out in a way they never did while they were in space; it’s a side effect of the manual labor, he supposes, because all of them have done their fair share of bulking up in the last few months. His skin is darker than it used to be, too, from so many hours out in the sun, and to Keith it looks like he’s glowing constantly. Every time the thought hits him that Lance is beautiful, it feels like a new thought. But he thinks it every time he sees Lance.

“Not much,” replies Lance with a grin. The sweat in his hair has dried to a salty stiffness, making it stick up at all angles and adding a wildness to his expression that Keith can’t help but smile back at. “What’re you up to?”

“About to head back home. I have some reading to catch up on.”

“You want to come over tonight?” Lance asks. He leans against the wall while he waits for Keith to fill his water bottle. “I’m gonna have the apartment to myself for once. We could watch some movies, and I’ll make you dinner. You can even bring Kosmo if you want.”

Keith has to catch the “yes” that rises so automatically to his lips before it can make it out. “Actually, I’m busy tonight,” he says instead.

“No problem.” Lance shrugs and unscrews the lid from his water bottle, then holds it out for the fountain to fill. There’s a carefully-masked disappointment in his voice. “Not a problem at all. But, uh—I’ll be around, if you want to come by. You don’t have to worry about it being too late. I have a thing earlier tonight with Veronica, anyway, but after that I’m free.”

“Yeah,” Keith says. Something like guilt presses on his chest. “I’ll let you know.”

Lance rests one hand on Keith’s forearm, his thumb settling in the crook of his elbow. “It’s been too long since we’ve hung out, man. Don’t be a stranger.”

“Sure.”

It looks like Lance wants to say something else, but he says nothing more, and instead they both nod awkwardly and part ways. Keith has to focus really hard on steadying his breathing as he walks out to where his bike waits for him. The pressure of guilt and uncertainty balloon inside him, threatening to crush his lungs. It makes him angry, because it shouldn’t feel like cheating to agree to go to a pinning ceremony with another man, but it does.

He shoves the feeling down and goes home.

***

The ceremony is a bigger event than Keith expected, with nearly twenty officers receiving a pin of some sort. Keith recognizes most of them. Like Griffin told him, all of the MFE pilots are there, in addition to some of the other central figures in the fight against the Galra. Lance’s sister is among them, and a quick scan of the crowd reveals Veronica’s full family, including Lance. Keith doesn’t know how to act once he sees him, but Lance isn’t looking in his direction, and hasn’t been all night. He might not even know he’s here, and Keith pushes down the temptation to keep it that way.

After the ceremony, light refreshments are served in the mess hall, but there’s not a single bottle of champagne or wine in sight, just as he’d expected. Keith grabs two cookies from the table and makes his way back over to Griffin. “Congrats, Captain,” he says, and hands one to him. Griffin holds it up and they tap the pastries together like champagne glasses.

“Thanks,” James replies, and Keith can tell he’s trying to be professional despite the excitement hidden underneath his expression. “It’s an honor to serve my people.”

Keith rolls his eyes. “Just admit you like the shiny metal.”

Griffin nods and taps the new pin on his chest. “It’s really shiny.”

“You know, I was really hoping they’d have something other than water,” Keith says as he chews on his cookie.

“There’s coffee,” Griffin suggests.

“I don’t like coffee,” Keith reminds him.

“Doesn’t mean they aren’t serving it.”

Keith shrugs. He looks out across the room, at the groups conversing and congratulating, all either in worn civilian clothes or crisp Garrison uniforms. Lance’s family encircles Veronica, patting her on the back and smiling. He doesn’t know if, with her promotion, she’ll be relocated now, because there are places all over the world that are much worse off than the handful of cities surrounding the Galaxy Garrison. Keith fully expects that one day he’ll be shipped out to a different part of the planet to help with the recovery efforts. He wonders if he wants that.

“Hey, so this isn’t really my kind of scene,” Griffin says. He brushes the crumbs off his hands and hikes a thumb over his shoulder. “If you want, we could head back to my place for a while. Not to brag or anything, but I did get my hands on a few beers.”

Keith glances back to James. “How?”

He waves a hand. “That’s not important. So, you game?”

“Yeah, that sounds good.”

They walk close to each other out to Griffin’s quarters. They bump shoulders a few times, and Keith feels the butterflies in his stomach that have grown unfamiliar to him. He and Lance are so comfortable how they are, even if that comfort is fleeting. They can’t be permanent, Keith knows that. They’ve only been placeholders for their real future.

And, he thinks, maybe it’s time for him to move on.

Griffin’s quarters are on the Garrison grounds, of course. It’s a much shorter trek than to Keith’s cabin, and most of it is through quiet hallways. “You still in the cadet bunks?” Keith asks.

“Nah,” says Griffin. “Most of the cadet rooms are being used by refugees whose homes aren’t rebuilt yet. I’m sharing one of the officer’s quarters with Leifsdottir, Rizavi, and Kinkade.”

“They really made sure you guys got comfortable around each other, didn’t they?”

“Didn’t seem right for anyone to get a lot of space to themselves when so many people have nothing. You had to share quarters with all the paladins of Voltron, didn’t you?”

Keith laughs. “We had an entire castle to ourselves. I could have had a whole floor if I wanted it.”

He thinks of how a lot of his nights were spent sharing a bed, but not for lack of space.

Griffin’s eyebrows migrate high up his forehead. “I thought you were flying through space in your lions.”

“For part of it,” Keith explains. “Right towards the end. For the rest of the time we had the Castle of the Lions. That’s the—uh—giant space castle that got compressed into a marble.”

“Woah,” James says. He laces his fingers behind his head as they walk, pulling up the bottom of his uniform jacket to reveal the plain white shirt underneath. His belt doesn’t match the uniform, brown instead of black, but it’s been hidden up until now.

“I did have to share when I was with the Blade of Marmora, though. When I was in training with them, I had three roommates.”

“I bet that sucked.”

Keith’s mind flashes back to his video calls with Lance. How, most of the time, there was no privacy to them, and how the one time he was alone in his room on a call with Lance, the privacy hadn’t lasted quite long enough.

“It really did.”

“But how come you’re, like, my age, when the rest of the paladins lost three years somewhere? Lance and Hunk barely look twenty-one, and I’d be surprised if Pidge is eighteen.”

“Space whale,” Keith says. “I spent two years in a wormhole on a space whale and it lasted three months for the rest of them.”

“Woah,” Griffin says again. “I can’t believe all that stuff happened to you. And I’ve never even been off the planet. It’s just… really fucking wild, you know?”

“Yeah.”

James stops at a door in the hallway that looks like any other, and swipes his ID in front of the scanner. The lock clicks, and he holds the door open for Keith to walk inside.

“So that means you’re technically younger than me, doesn’t it?” Griffin asks.

“Technically,” Keith agrees, but he puts enough bite behind his word to warn James from making any further comment.

“Alright, alright,” Griffin laughs. He shrugs off his uniform jacket and hangs it on a hook just inside the door. His tank top is tucked into his pants, leaving Keith with an easy view of all his angles, but nothing he doesn’t see out on work crew every day. “I was just checking.”

He gestures for Keith to have a seat on his couch as he crosses to the fridge and pulls out two cans of beer. Keith hangs up the jacket of his uniform, too, revealing his standard black t-shirt underneath. He takes a seat on one end of the couch, and rests his arm over the back to track James’s progress into the kitchenette and back.

“The others are going to a party after the reception,” James says. “They won’t be back for a few hours.”

Keith nods. “Were you supposed to be at that party?”

“Only a little.” Griffin shrugs.

He sits next to Keith, instead of taking a spot on the other lounge chair, or even the far end of the couch. Keith accepts the beer from him and he’s just about to pop the tab on it when James says: “Hold up for just a sec. We need to talk while I know you’re completely sober.”

He looks over to Griffin, and when he makes eye contact, his stomach twists. All this shit about kind of, maybe, having a crush on someone? He’d forgotten what it felt like. Or, at least, he’d forgotten what it felt like to have hope that the guy liked him back.

Griffin shifts in a little closer to Keith and looks him directly in the eye. Keith meets his gaze and twists his shoulders so he’s facing James straight on.

“I like you, Kogane,” Griffin says, with an uncharacteristic kind of uncertainty in his tone. His voice is quiet, intimate, even, and if his face weren’t inches from Keith’s, he might not be able to hear him. “And I think you like me, too. So… how ‘bout it?”

He doesn’t have to say what ‘it’ is, because it’s clear from the way his eyes dart down to Keith’s lip just as he bites his own. He’s grinning, just a little bit, and the overhead light in the apartment glints in his eye.

A feeling that maybe isn’t quite what he should be feeling in this situation catches in Keith’s throat. Because it feels nice, okay? A guy actually telling Keith he likes him. So what if they aren’t from the mouth of who he wants them to be? He knows he’ll never hear Lance say them. And here James Griffin is, right in front of him, telling Keith that he likes him, and Keith probably likes him back.

So Keith kisses him.

And he only feels a little bit guilty for it.

Griffin’s mouth isn’t quite a soft as Lance’s, and seeing as he hasn’t felt any other lips against his in a long time, it catches him a little off guard. Not a second passes before Griffin’s hand is at the back of his neck, pulling him further into the kiss. All his hesitancy is gone, and the sureness in his touch flows into Keith and he meets Griffin’s certainty with his own. The sealed beer cans roll out of their hands and onto the floor, because they’re drinking in each other instead.

Keith runs his fingers through James’s hair, longer than Lance’s, and makes a fist in it. James groans and kneads his thumb into one of Keith’s hips. It’s all the affirmation Keith needs for him to push Griffin back into the couch and crawl onto his lap. He lets his knees rest on either side of the other man’s thighs and his hands on either side of his face.

“Oh,” Griffin says into Keith’s mouth.

“What?” Keith asks.

“I guess I’m just—” he starts with a tiny laugh. “I’m usually the one that does that. I didn’t expect for you to—”

Awkwardness bubbles up between them. “I can move,” Keith says. He strokes Griffin’s jaw with his thumb, trying to keep the moment going.

“No, no, this is fine,” James assures him. He settles his hands on Keith’s hips. “This is great.”

And then they’re kissing again.

It takes Keith a few tries to get the right angle to his head in order for his lips to fit against Griffin’s, but from that point on there are only a few more moments of awkwardness. An arm that’s in an unexpected place, a drag of teeth that doesn’t elicit quite the right sound, and a few extra seconds to settle back into their kiss; none of them are big things, but each of them remind Keith that he doesn’t know this man. At least not yet. But he’s still having a good time.

“Can I take your shirt off?” Griffin asks.

Keith answers by pulling the shirt over his head and tossing it to the side. James grins and lays his palms flat over Keith’s chest. “I’ve been waiting to see this for a loooong time,” he says, and leans in to kiss his collarbones. Keith shivers at the brush of lips across his skin, and rolls his hips forward onto James. The man hums and whispers: “You really don’t talk a lot for this, do you?”

He tugs a little at Griffin’s shirt, freeing it from his waistline. “Don’t need to.”

Griffin gets the idea, and leans forward just enough for Keith to lift the shirt off of him. He sighs at the sensation of skin on skin, and neither of them sees the need to do much talking for the next few minutes.

Keith is in the middle of kissing Griffin’s jaw when there’s a knock on the door.

“Hey, James!” says a woman’s voice from the hallway. “Why aren’t you at Sandler’s party? You feeling okay?”

“Shit,” Griffin hisses. “It’s Veronica.”

Keith straightens and becomes very aware that he’s sitting in someone’s lap. He glances between James and the door.

“You could pretend you aren’t here,” Keith suggests.

“I told the others I’d be back here. If I’m not, they’ll just get worried, and come inside.”

“Then answer the door,” he says, and rolls off Griffin’s lap. He throws his shirt at him, and hastily pulls his own back over his head. Griffin puts his shirt on as fast as he can on the way to the door.

“Hey, V,” he says as he cracks it open. He lays a forearm on the doorframe to prevent her from coming in, but Keith can just barely see her, standing in the hallway in her uniform, from his seat on the couch. It’s not necessarily a secret that Keith is here, but he knows that moving will only draw attention to himself, no matter how little she can see through the doorway. So he stays where he is. “What’s up?”

“I came to check in on you and make sure you’re okay. You don’t usually flake on us like this.”

“Oh, right,” Griffin says. “I’m fine. I just—uh—didn’t really feel like going out tonight. Oh, hey, Lance.”

Keith freezes, his heart pounding in his chest.

“Hey, Griffin,” says Lance’s voice from the hall. Of course, of course he’s with his sister. Keith doesn’t move a muscle, but strains his eyes to see if Lance is visible through the sliver that James has the door open.

“Thanks for checking in on me, though. But I’m fine, really. Go have fun at Sandler’s.”

“You’re acting weird. Are you—oooh…”

Veronica’s eyes meet Keith’s and a knowing smile creeps across her face. Keith considers launching himself out of her view, but that would only look worse.

Griffin realizes Keith’s been spotted a second too late. He puts his body in the way of the door, but by that time, Lance has already nudged his sister out of the way for a look at who’s inside.

“Alright!” Griffin says loudly. “It’s time for you to go. Thanks for stopping by. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

He might be saying more, but Keith isn’t paying attention. Half a second, maybe less. But that’s all it took for the recognition to light Lance’s eyes. For surprise to lift his eyebrows. For understanding to purse his lips.

The door closes, but Keith has never felt so dirty.

“Sorry about that,” says James. “I guess I didn’t come up with a convincing enough excuse for not going to that party.”

Keith is all too aware of how his shirt sits on his shoulders, askew from how quickly he put it on. His hair is mussed and he’s almost sure his face is red, and his heartbeat is still pounding in his ears with adrenaline. It’s obvious what he’s been up to.

“I have to go.”

He stands and snatches his jacket off the hook by the door.

“Keith, wait—”

“This was a bad idea. I’m sorry.”

With his hand on the doorknob, Keith takes a deep breath. If he leaves too quickly, Lance and Veronica will still be in the hall.

“Keith, hey, hey, what’s wrong?” Griffin asks, and it sounds like he’s talking to a scared animal. He takes a cautious step toward Keith, hands out. “Did I do something?”

“No,” he growls, fighting down the rising panic in his throat. “It’s me. I’m not—I’m not ready for this.”

Not caring if the others are still in the hallway, Keith wrenches the door open and rushes down the hall. He’s never wanted to be alone as much as he does right now.

Griffin doesn’t try to follow him, and he doesn’t run into Lance and Veronica on his way out to his bike. He takes one wrong turn trying to get out of the building and has to backtrack, but he meets no one else in the halls.

He shoves his arms into his jacket but doesn’t button it and then climbs onto his hoverbike. The rotors whir and the dust underneath sprays out in all directions, and the bike slides a little as it pushes off the ground. He speeds through the open gate and out into the desert.

The sun sets late in the height of summer, so it’s barely touching the horizon at Keith’s left as he rides. The wind whips in his hair and throws sand onto his face, stinging his skin and making him squint. He goes far past his shack, cruising along the base of the cliffs and zigzagging through the rocky outcroppings. His bike growls at the sharp turns and high speeds, drowning out even his thoughts with its heavy vibrations.

When his bike gets too hot from use, Keith parks it and starts running instead. His uniform dress shoes aren’t made for running and they rub and chafe so hard that blisters form and then pop on his feet. It doesn’t matter. He doesn’t pay attention to them, because they don’t hurt any worse than the thick knot of regret in his stomach.

He only feels better when, sometime long into his run, he stumbles to the nearest scraggly bush and pukes in it. Then he lays down on the cracked desert soil with the stars glinting into view above him.

Keith closes his eyes and lets sleep take him.

***

Shiro finds him early the next morning.

Keith wakes to a gentle nudge to the ribs from a boot, and a bemused, “Rough night?”

He groans and pries open his eyes just in time for Kosmo to lick his face. “Fuck,” he groans, and pushes the space wolf away.

“I’ll take that as a yes. Come on, Keith. Let’s get you home.”

Thankfully, Shiro doesn’t ask any questions about why he spent the night laying in the desert, still wearing his full dress uniform and with his hoverbike parked at least two miles away. He just helps Keith to his feet and leads him to his own cruiser. He hands Keith a bottle of water and pilots in silence. Shiro’s cruiser has a windshield and a passenger seat but isn’t fully enclosed, so there wouldn’t be much use in talking, anyway. The roar of the desert passing by them comforts Keith a little, and Kosmo keeps trying to lick the dust off of him.

When they get to Keith’s cabin and the sound dies away, Keith mumbles, “How’d you find me?”

He’s shivering, because as hot as the desert gets in the day, it gets even colder at night and Keith knows he never should have spent a whole night out there. He doesn’t climb out of the cruiser.

“Kosmo teleported into my room this morning and led me out here. Do you want to talk about it?”

“No. Not yet.”

“Okay. You shower and eat, and then we’ll go back out for your bike.”

“Thanks,” Keith says. Shiro takes a patient seat on his couch while Keith retreats into his room, hobbling a little from his sore feet and aching muscles, and brings a change of clothes with him into the bathroom. He gives the water a few minutes to heat up, and then spends the better part of ten minutes just letting it stream over his head and down his back. When he’s finished, he towels off and gets dressed in a maroon t-shirt and jeans.

Shiro has a sandwich ready for each of them when he exits back into the main room. He hands one to Keith and they both sit back on the couch. Kosmo is happily munching on some leftovers Shiro put out for him.

“I think I fucked up, Shiro,” Keith says. “Really bad.”

“Why is that?”

“Because—it’s that I—” Keith cuts off with a growl. He takes a bite of his sandwich and swallows without chewing. “I went over to Griffin’s after the pinning ceremony last night, and we were kissing and then Lance and Veronica showed up, and I—Lance—I’m pretty sure he knew what we were doing.”

Shiro chews thoughtfully for a few seconds. After he swallows, he says, “Why is it bad that he knows you kissed Griffin?”

Keith glares at him. Shiro already knows the answer; he’s just asking the question to make Keith say it out loud. “Because Lance and I haven’t talked about whether we’re exclusive now that we’re back on Earth. And it feels like I was cheating on him.”

Shiro waits for him to say more.

“And I feel like absolute shit for it. But can you really even cheat if you’re just friends-with-benefits with a guy? Like, the whole point of it is that there’s no strings attached. And if he wanted it any other way, he should have said something.”

“Why is he the one that needed to say it?” Shiro asks.

Keith frowns. “What do you mean?”

“Why couldn’t you say something, if you weren’t sure? Isn’t that part of what a relationship is, even if it’s just friends-with-benefits?”

“I didn’t know I was going to kiss Griffin.”

Shiro pffts and takes another bite. “Really, Keith. Why didn’t you talk about it with Lance as soon as you knew Griffin was interested in you?”

Keith says nothing.

“Why was Lance supposed to be the one that brought up the boundaries of your relationship?”

“Because,” Keith answers quietly. He hates himself for saying the words out loud. “I thought that if he said something first, it might mean he had feelings for me.”

Shiro fixes him with a sympathetic look. “Why are you so afraid of telling Lance how you feel, Keith? He’s not a mean person. He wouldn’t laugh at you or cut you out of his life.”

“I know that. I know,” Keith insists. He throws his sandwich down onto the coffee table and runs a hand through his damp hair. His hands clench into fists and he has to stand up and pace. The sudden movement catches his wolf’s attention, but he doesn’t come investigate. “But I just… don’t want anything to change. I don’t want to lose what I have with him.”

“So then why did you kiss someone else?”

Keith kicks a discarded sweatshirt. “Because.”

Shiro waits, and then says, “Because what?”

“I’m done talking about this.”

“Answer the question, Keith. Why did you kiss someone else when you still have feelings for Lance, and you’re so afraid of telling him about it?”

“I said I’m done talking about this,” Keith warns, not looking at Shiro.

“We’re not done,” Shiro says, and his voice brooks no argument. “Why, Keith?”

“No.”

Keith.

“Because I don’t want to be in love with him anymore!” Keith shouts, flinging his arms out and looking at his brother. “I thought that if I kissed someone else, I would get over him. I thought that I was only in love with him because when we were in space I didn’t have any other option, and that if I found someone else, someone who actually liked me, I could move on.”

Shiro sighs, but it’s a breath of empathy and love. He wears a grim expression.

Tears crowd Keith’s eyelids. His lower lip trembles, and he wants nothing more than for none of this to be happening. He goes back to the couch and curls up next to Shiro. The other man puts his arm around him and pulls him in close.

Keith says into his chest, “And I was wrong.”

***

It isn’t until five days later that Keith sees Lance again. He and James have work crew together every day, so he sees him, but they don’t talk anymore. Keith is thankful for that. He hasn’t let himself dwell on what Griffin may think of him now; it doesn’t matter.

What matters is the look that Lance gives him when he opens the door to his and Hunk’s apartment. “Keith, hi!” he says with a smile, but it doesn’t reach his eyes. He steps aside and motions Keith through the door.

“Hey,” Keith says, jarred. He doesn’t know what he expected from Lance, but it isn’t this. Lance doesn’t say anything else, so neither does Keith as they cross into the living room. Like the MFE pilots, the officers living at the Garrison are crammed double-capacity into their quarters. To the best of Keith’s knowledge, Lance and Hunk share this place with two mechanical engineers who used to be younger than them, but are now their age.

When they first made it back to Earth, there was the question of whether the two of them would move back in with their families like Pidge did. But both of their families live in the refugee camps that are slowly turning back into towns, and there wasn’t room to take their sons in, so they were kept on Garrison grounds instead; they’re all technically officers now, anyway. Hunk has told Keith during their weekly workouts that, as much as he loves his family and takes every chance he can to spend time with them, he’s glad to be living in a place he’s somewhat in charge of.

The apartment is the size of Keith’s cabin, maybe, with an extra bedroom and a bathroom that’s more than an afterthought. It would be spacious for two people, but Lance has explained to him how cramped it is with four. The living room joins onto the kitchen, which has an oven, a stove, a sink and some cabinets. The counter space is limited, and Hunk has every inch of it covered with cutting boards, bowls, and partially-prepared foods. He’s stirring a salad when Keith enters.

“Glad you could make it!” Hunk says, and sets down the bowl. He picks up some kind of pastry from a pan on the table and shoves it in Keith’s hand. “Here, have a lemon bar.”

“You didn’t give me much choice,” Keith replies, and accepts the food. Hunk had invited all of team Voltron over to share a meal, because, as he insisted, just because they weren’t all stuck in space together didn’t mean he didn’t like them anymore. “Besides, I would never miss your cooking.”

He scouts the room for an open seat as he takes a bite of the lemon bar.

Pidge and Allura are already here, talking about some new symbiotic technology that Pidge has been developing, and eating lemon bars directly from the pan.

Lance sits in one of the two remaining empty seats at the table—the one that isn’t next to him—and cuts out a large lemon bar to eat. He doesn’t look at Keith, but not in any obvious sort of way. It could almost be mistaken as unintentional, if he didn’t know any better. There’s an odd kind of nothingness on his face, which worries Keith. Whatever he’s really feeling must be so strong he refuses to let it out.

Shiro arrives next with Coran in tow, and Shay following along behind them quietly. Hunk’s face brightens exponentially the moment he sees her, assuring her wholeheartedly that she isn’t intruding into their group, and he brings her into the kitchenette to show her what he’s doing. Keith shoves down a balloon of envy in his throat.

Coran easily inserts himself into the conversation as he sits next to Allura, and Shiro sits on the couch because there are no more chairs at the table. He glances from Keith to Lance, and then back to Keith, a question in his eyes. Keith shrugs, and Shiro frowns at him. It’s a full conversation underneath Coran’s words.

“Lance, my boy,” says Coran. “You’re so quiet tonight. Is something wrong?”

Lance blinks, and in a fraction of a second the nothingness is replaced with a gracious smile. “Just thinking about the treaty with Andok,” he lies perfectly. “I wish we’d gotten them to accept an open trading port; it would have made getting aid to Fardür so much easier.”

Coran nods gravely, but Pidge and Allura both have raised eyebrows. They don’t believe for a second that Lance is that torn up about a failed trade deal.

“Keep your head up, that’s what I say,” says Coran. “Mostly I’ve said it while scavenging for medicinal fungus in the caves of Zimmel, because a poisonous moss hangs from the cave ceiling and you’ve got to look up so you don’t run into it, but I’ll say it now as well. There will be more chances to do good in the world, dear boy. More chances indeed.”

Lance presses his lips into a thin line and nods. “I know, Coran.”

When conversation moves back away from him, Lance pushes out his chair from the table and quietly exits the apartment. He says something to Hunk as he heads out, and Hunk nods and waves him a goodbye, followed by a, “Casserole will be out in ten minutes,” but nothing else.

It takes Keith all of thirty seconds to decide to follow him. He exchanges a nod with Shiro as he stands, and no one asks him where he’s going as he heads for the door.

The hallway is empty in either direction, and on instinct Keith goes to the left. A few hallways down, he finds Lance sitting alone at a table in the instructors’ lounge, head in his hands and breathing hard enough that Keith sees his chest expand and contract from twenty feet away. Lance looks up at the sound of his footsteps. The nothingness is back, but it looks more fragile than before.

Keith enters the lounge through the open doorway. “Hey, Lance,” he says, nerves already prickling up his arms.

“Hey.” Lance gestures to the seat across from him, then crosses his arms over his chest. He’s wearing khaki pants and a thin blue sweater with a white t-shirt underneath. They’ve been back on Earth for months, but Keith still really isn’t used to seeing him in anything other than his paladin armor or one pair of Earth clothes. He likes it best when Lance wears blue, but it feels like it isn’t his place to appreciate Lance’s beauty right now.

“I…” Keith begins, but doesn’t know where to go from there.

“You were kissing him,” Lance says in a flat voice. “Weren’t you.”

Keith nods. “Yeah.”

From the corner of his eye, he sees Lance bite down hard on his lower lip. The tension reads in his shoulders like a book, how hard he’s trying to contain himself. Keith has no idea why. If he’s mad, then he should just be mad.

“Is that… something you have been doing a lot of?”

He’s trying, Keith can tell, to keep a neutral tone. Not to make it an accusation. He’s trying so hard, but Keith still hears it in his voice and it raises the hair on the back of his neck.

“You don’t have to say it like that,” he growls.

“I’m not saying it like anything,” Lance argues. “I’m just asking if you’ve been kissing a lot of other people.”

“No.”

“A lot of one person, then.” His arms are still crossed, and Keith can see the veins of his wrist pulsing. He stares straight at Keith, unmoving.

“You can say his name, you know.”

“Well, when were you planning on saying it? Because it sure would have been nice to know that you were with someone else before I had to see it for myself. I thought I meant more to you than that, Keith.”

Keith clenches his fist beneath the table. “It wasn’t like that.”

“It wasn’t like what, Keith? Because I am dying to know. I’ve been in the dark this whole time, and it’s really fucked up of you to keep me there. Don’t you realize there are real safety concerns for me in this? What if you’d done something else with him—and hell, maybe you already have—did you use protection? Do you know when the last time he was tested was? What the results were?”

“We didn’t—I would’ve—no, it wasn’t like any of that. I just thought that—” he cuts off angrily.

Lance scoffs. “You thought that you would only have to tell me you were fooling around with someone else if it got serious?”

The worst part of this is that Lance is kind of right, but Keith feels like he’s been backed into a corner and his instincts are screaming at him to fight his way out.

“No, it’s that—things obviously weren’t going anywhere with you,” he tries to explain, “so I—”

“Is that so?”

“What?”

“Things were going nowhere between us?”

“Well, yeah, so I—”

“So you found someone else to bang? And you didn’t even have the decency to break it off with me first?”

Keith places his fists on the table and stares down at them. “If you’re not going to let me talk, I can just go.

Lance rolls his eyes so hard that Keith can feel it. He doesn’t even have to look at him to know he’s doing it. Keith’s face and neck are hot with shame and defiance and he’s questioning why he even followed Lance out here in the first place, if he was just going to argue and make assumptions the whole time.

“Then talk,” Lance grinds out through his teeth, and the heavy silence that stretches between them is burning with intensity. The lights above them hum, at half power for the night. The empty instructors’ lounge feels grim and foreboding in the semi-darkness.

“I didn’t know it was going to happen,” Keith says, and it’s mostly the truth. “I got caught up in the moment, and—all we did was kiss. And that night after the ceremony, that was the only time. I left right after you did.”

“But you knew he liked you. I told you he liked you,” continues Lance. He’s back to trying to keep his anger in check, but it’s like a dog straining at the leash. “And you still jumped at the opportunity to—to what? Teach him how to ‘be a better leader’? Anyone half as sharp as you could have seen through that.”

“I know that I made a mistake, Lance. You don’t have to rub it in.”

“It wasn’t just one mistake. You kept seeing him, Keith, even though you knew what he wanted. You made that mistake over and over, and when the time came that you either kissed him or you didn’t, it would have been your fault that you got that far with him anyway. And I saw you on that couch. You’d had a lot of opportunity to tell him no.”

Lance is only saying things that Keith already knows, and Keith hates him for it. He hates that every word out of his mouth feels like acid pouring in his stomach and that he’s the one who handed Lance the pitcher.

Even though his insides are disintegrating, he says, “I’m sorry, Lance. I didn’t realize this meant so much to you.”

“Yeah, I figured that part out,” Lance spits, and runs a hand through his hair. The fabric over one of his wrists is stretched, so it slides up and down his forearm when he moves his hand, but the other stays in place, pushed halfway up to his elbow. It’s impossible to look him in the eye, so this is what Keith notices. “Keith, I can’t do this anymore. Any of it. I thought I could… I don’t know. But I’m done. Whatever this—this thing is that we’ve been playing at? It’s finished.”

“Lance—” Keith chokes off the word, and surprise makes his arm shoot out toward Lance, as if catching hold of him could make him stay. But he stops himself when Lance jerks back from his outstretched hand, his expression tight.

“No, Keith. Don’t.” Now Lance avoids his gaze, his eyes red with withheld tears. He sniffs once and stands, straightening his sweater. Keith wants to stand, too, but he’s trapped under the weight of Lance’s words.

He watches helplessly as Lance walks out of the room.

Numbness creeps through Keith’s body, starting with his fingers and toes and working its way toward his middle, where his heart stutters and his lungs are forgetting how to make him breathe. His chest aches and his eyes burn and his jaw quivers, but Keith can’t move. He sits at the table, alone, until the motion-lights time out and he’s sitting in total darkness, and then he sits there some more.

Four days later, when he’s offered a relocation to a different part of the planet, he takes it. Allura agrees to look after Kosmo while he’s gone, and after that there’s nothing to keep him here.

There’s one thing Keith has always been good at, and that’s running away.

 ***

Two Years Later

Keith taps his foot anxiously, waiting for his transport shuttle. It’s been a long flight back, and the city looks so different, even from the sky, than it did when he last saw it. There are so many new buildings and parks that it looks almost back to normal. Now, in the distance, he can see it reaching up toward the sky, a proud emblem for the resilience of humanity.

The airport itself is still a bare-bones affair, with a command office and a series of landing strips, and a covered waiting area for passengers. But it’s still too soon to be focused on luxury over functionality, he supposes, and he’s lucky that there was a commercial airline that would carry him so close to home. There are still a lot of places on Earth unreachable by anything but ground vehicle and private aircraft.

He checks his watch, and finds it’s only been two minutes since he last checked. And his transport isn’t even late yet. He adjusts the strap on his back and tugs at a loose string on his uniform.

A ground-surfing hovercraft rumbles to a stop in front of the overhang. Keith waits a few seconds, to see if any of the other handful of people waiting here recognize the vehicle, and then he stands. The door on the pilot’s side opens, and a second later, a short, brown-haired person walks around to his side.

Keith blinks. “Pidge?” he asks.

A shit-eating grin spreads across his friend’s face. “The one and only.”

Pidge holds out their arms to Keith, and he barely hesitates before he steps into the hug. Their embrace is tight, filled with warmth and familiarity, and they bury their head into Keith’s chest. When they pull apart, Keith says, “God, you look so grown up.”

“Fuck off,” Pidge groans, but they’re still grinning. They’re wearing a Garrison uniform, the lapel decorated with pins of rank and valor, and even through the thick fabric, their muscle and confidence is plain to see. Their hair is cut short at the sides, but long enough on top to be pulled into a tight bun, and the angles of their face are sharper with age. Keith blinks a few times to reconcile this vision of Pidge with the scrawny teenager he once knew. The glasses, at least, are the same. “I could say the same for you. That hair makes you look like you’re forty.”

Keith reaches up instinctively to run a hand through his hair. “It does not.”

“It kind of does. Let’s get your bags loaded up.” They take one of Keith’s bags from his hands and toss it into the back of their hovercraft. The desert heat settles over Keith like a blanket as soon as he steps out from underneath the awning. But it’s a dry heat, so he welcomes it.

“It’s practical,” Keith says to defend himself. “I had other things to care about than my hair.”

Pidge scoffs and holds open the hatch until he tosses in his other luggage. He doesn’t have much, because of how much he’s moved around in the two years, but he appreciates the help.

During the ride, Keith watches the desert fly by out the window on his right. Pidge keeps up easy chatter, filling him in on the redevelopment of the city, new technology integration, and how many families of refugees have been reunited. Keith nods along and asks questions when appropriate, but his attention is pulled away by the hardening ball of anticipation in his gut.

“You’re glum,” Pidge says eventually. “What’s going on with you?”

Keith shakes his head.

“Does it have to do with what you saw out there?” Pidge asks.

“A little,” Keith says. “We got lucky here. Some of the cities, Pidge, they’re… totally gone. And they just don’t have the resources to rebuild. As many people have died out there from sickness and starvation as did in the fighting.”

Pidge nods in solemn agreement. The craft slows as they pull it into a wide turn. “Should we coordinate with the cities more to send out transports and bring people in who need help?”

“Most of them don’t want to leave their homes. Send them resources and supplies, to help them become self-sufficient. It will also be less taxing on the urban centers in the long run.”

“Alright. I’ll see what we’ve been doing to help them, and what we be doing better.”

A few seconds pass by, and then Pidge says, “But that’s not all that’s bothering you, is it?”

“No.” Keith shrugs. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been back here.”

“We cleaned up your cabin and hooked the water back up a couple days ago,” offers Pidge. “We haven’t forgotten you.”

“Who’s we?”

“Me and Matt and Shiro and Shiro’s new man.”

Keith raises an eyebrow. “His new man?”

“Yeah. He’s pretty cool. His name’s Giancarlo.”

“I am both shocked and offended that he hasn’t told me about this guy yet.”

“You’ll meet him soon. Allura and Coran are out in space somewhere, building the alliance. Romelle and Kosmo are with them. Hunk and Lance are both gone more than they’re here, nowadays. If I’d wanted to travel more, I should have gone into diplomacy.”

“Around Earth, or with other planets?”

“Earth, mostly. We’ve got a lot to rebuild here before we can really look outward, I think.”

Keith nods. He tugs again at the loose string on his sleeve.

“Lance isn’t here right now, if that’s what you’re wondering.” Pidge glances sidelong at him, their lips pursed while they wait for a response.

“Thanks,” Keith says, dually grateful that he didn’t have to ask on his own, and frustrated at his own transparency.

“And he’s not seeing anyone.”

Keith lets the rumble of the hovercraft be his answer.

“Have you talked with him at all?”

He shakes his head.

“If you’re sticking around here for a while, you can’t avoid him for very long.”

“I know,” Keith admits.

“He won’t talk about it, you know. Even to Hunk. He’s that pissed about… whatever happened between the two of you.”

Keith works his jaw.

Pidge waits a few seconds, then says, “I guess you’re not going to talk about it, either. Fine. It’s not like I’ve known both of you for at least six years, and hold a considerable amount of third party knowledge concerning you. I’m clearly not—”

“Third party knowledge?”

“—an important enough figure in your life to warrant—”

“Pidge, what do you mean by third party knowledge?”

“—a discussion about matters you consider central to your life—”

Pidge.

“I read your files and did deep internet searches of all of you, Keith. What did you expect? You’ve known me for just as long as I’ve known you.”

Keith narrows his eyes at Pidge. They’re right, but that doesn’t mean he likes it.

“We all know that you two were together, you know,” Pidge says, drumming their fingers on the steering wheel. “I know that you tried to keep it secret and all, but you sucked at it. What I can’t figure out, is why you didn’t want to tell any of us in the first place. We wouldn’t have cared that you two were dating. It’s not like—”

“We weren’t dating,” Keith interrupts, wondering how much longer this drive can possibly go on.

Pidge glances over to him, back at the road, and then at him again. “You… weren’t?”

“No,” Keith says. “That was the problem.”

His friend is silent for a long moment. The desert rumbles by beneath the cruiser while they mull over the new information. “No, that doesn’t make sense. You were always sneaking around, and I—I found you two in a cryopod with your—”

“We were friends with benefits, Pidge.”

“Oh.”

“No feelings allowed.”

“Oh.”

“Not dating.”

Oh.” Pidge stares wide-eyed out the front windshield, as if something in their brain is either shifting or breaking. “Damn, that makes so much more sense. And it explains why Hunk and Shiro were both so tight-lipped about it.”

Keith bites down a question. Now isn’t the time to derail Pidge on a conversation about their research methods.

“But you caught feelings, didn’t you?” Pidge asks solemnly.

“I think that much is obvious,” says Keith.

Pidge glances over at him again, their lips parted in anticipation for saying something more. But when they speak, the words don’t match their expression. “So what happened?”

“I’m still not going to talk to you about this.”

“Damn it. I really thought I had you there.” Pidge snaps their fingers like a cartoon villain and makes a sudden turn in the cruiser. In moments, they’re outside the city and halfway to Keith’s cabin.

“Wait, did you—”

“Yes, I was stalling, you idiot. But you’re no good to me if you’re not going to divulge any secrets, so I want you out of my car.”

Keith grins a little despite himself, and his lips pull back farther when his home comes into focus ahead of them.

“We’re doing dinner at Shiro’s tonight,” Pidge says as they hum to a stop in front of Keith’s place. “To welcome you back. I’ll send you his address.”

Pidge helps Keith bring his stuff inside, and then they’re gone.

Keith takes a deep breath and absorbs the sight of his cabin around him.

Maybe it will be good to be home.

***

Keith settles in over the next few weeks with little incident. There isn’t much ad hoc reconstruction work anymore, now that the rubble is cleared out of the city, and all the manual labor is skilled construction, so he finds himself without something to do more often than not. It’s a change of pace to be sitting idle in his cabin, when for the past few years his every day has been hard at work to rebuild a decimated planet.

He doesn’t suppose the planet is much less decimated now than it was then, in terms of everything. Even with all the work that he and all the others have been doing, he knows it will take more than his own lifetime to right all the wrongs, all the destruction and suppression, that have been done over the past ten thousand years. But that won’t stop him from trying.

Shiro invites him over for dinner on some nondescript Saturday. He opens the door and invites him in, saying that food’s about an hour from being done but to make himself at home. Keith accepts a beer from the fridge and pries the cap off with a calloused thumb.

“We have a bottle opener, you know,” Shiro says, one eyebrow raised.

“Don’t need one.”

“And you don’t have to prove you’re tough.”

“Ha ha,” says Keith. He takes a sip of the beer and nods at the taste. It’s first beer he’s had in a long time. Then he asks, “Did you invite me over because you think it’s sad that I’m alone in my cabin?”

Absently, he rearranges the spices in his brother’s cabinet and judges what he keeps on hand. Giancarlo is at the stove, stirring chopped onions into some sort of stew, and Shiro is leaned against the counter watching him.

“Did you show up so early because you’re sad and alone in your cabin?” Shiro shoots back.

“You said dinner would be ready at around six. I’m within my rights in wanting to see you, asshole.”

“It’s five PM.”

“That’s close to six.” He takes another sip of beer.

“Then I’m within my rights in wanting to see you, too. We just wanted you over for dinner. That’s all.”

Keith rolls his eyes. “Sure you did.”

“You were right,” Giancarlo cuts in. “He is very suspicious.”

“I usually have reason to be,” Keith says. He and Shiro make a few faces at each other and Giancarlo smiles and rolls his eyes at them.

“Have you been keeping busy since you’ve been back?” Shiro asks.

“Not really,” says Keith. “It’s been nice.”

Shiro nods. “How long do you think that’ll last?”

“Maybe a few more days,” Keith says with a shrug. “But when I get bored, I’m sure I’ll find something.”

“They’d take you back at the Garrison in a heartbeat.”

“I’ll ask around.”

Eventually, Keith gets Shiro and Giancarlo to explain how they met. It’s a cute story, and by the end of it Giancarlo is blushing and Shiro is biting down a smile and Keith feels simultaneously happy for and deeply envious of them both. He hasn’t had much time—or desire, really—to meet anyone in the past two years, but even so there are some nights when the loneliness swallows him.

“I’m going to have another beer,” Giancarlo says, standing up from the couch. “Anyone else want one?”

“Sure,” Keith agrees. His head is just a bit lighter than usual, and it’s a good enough feeling that he’s interested in keeping it that way. He and Shiro both stand, too, following Giancarlo into the kitchen. The floor plan of their apartment is open, so the living room and kitchen are mostly the same room and it’s a short walk between them.

There’s a knock at the door, and Shiro says, “I’ll get it,” while his boyfriend opens the fridge and pulls out two more beers. He pops their caps off with the bottle opener before he hands one to Keith.

“Thanks,” Keith says.

Keith looks up from his beer at the sound of the door closing, and his heart stops cold.

Because Lance, of all people, is standing in Shiro’s kitchen.

It takes Keith, admittedly, a full half a second to recognize him. He has facial hair now, a trimmed beard and mustache that softens his sharp chin and frames his face, and the set of his shoulders speaks to his years in a way that a calendar never could. There’s a calmness to him that Keith is unfamiliar with, but maybe at this point he’s unfamiliar with all of Lance. It has, after all, been a long time since they’ve been in the same room. On the same continent, even. It’s a feat that they’ve even been on the same planet.

Keith can tell exactly the moment that Lance realizes it’s him. There’s a visible freeze on his motion for an instant, and then he picks back up with his conversation with Shiro as if nothing happened. He greets Giancarlo as he passes through the kitchen into the living room.

“I didn’t know you were back,” ventures Lance, taking a seat on the couch. Keith finds his way back to his chair, opposite the couch, and pretends not to notice the silent conversation Shiro is having with Giancarlo at the threshold between the kitchen and living room.

“I could say the same for you,” Keith says. “Pidge told me you’d still be out for a while.”

Lance chuckles. “They were right. I was expecting to be gone until Tuesday, but when I woke up this morning, they put me on a plane, and here I am. Hunk doesn’t even know I’m back yet, and I live with him.” Lance rests one of his arms across the back of the couch and crosses one ankle over his knee. It’s a casual position, for sure, and one so striking in the level of comfort it displays. Keith wonders if it’s real, or if he’s feeling as torn up inside at the sight of Keith as Keith is at the sight of him.

“How’d you end up over here tonight?”

“Shiro asked me over when I saw him at the Garrison,” Lance explains. “Didn’t say why.”

Keith narrows his eyes and looks over to Shiro, who is conspicuously cleaning dishes out of his drying rack and paying very close attention to their conversation. Giancarlo watches them with undisguised amusement.

“Funny,” Keith says. “Same thing happened to me.”

Dishes clink into place in Shiro’s cabinet, set down by a carefully-controlled hovering arm, but he stays silent. The damned, meddling older brother.

They’re called in for dinner soon after that, and they all make polite conversation while they eat. Once they’re finished, Shiro puts Keith and Lance on clean-up duty in the kitchen while he and Giancarlo make themselves busy in the living room. It’s not much privacy, but elbow deep in soapy water is where Keith finds his courage.

“You look really good, Lance,” he says, in the most genuine way that he can.

Lance snaps the lid onto a container of leftover stew. “Thanks, Keith. You too.”

Keith rinses off a plate and lays it in the dish rack. “I’ve watched some of your speeches. The ones they broadcast. They’re—you’re really good. A real leader.”

“I’ve always been good at talking,” replies Lance, not accepting the compliment. “I guess—I don’t really know what you’ve been doing the past few years. You’re not exactly a public figure these days.”

“Yeah, I do that on purpose,” Keith agrees. “It’s mostly been on-the-ground work. Fixing stuff and teaching people survival skills.”

Lance brushes past Keith to get to the refrigerator, their bodies touching for just a moment. It’s a small kitchen, so Keith shouldn’t be surprised, and yet his breath catches and a glass slips a little in his grip.

“Sounds like hard work. Real work,” Lance says with a shake of his head. “Sometimes I feel like diplomacy is all playing nice and making appearances. I don’t ever know if what I’m doing is doing any good.”

Keith swallows a knot in his throat. “Eight months ago, you brokered a deal between two provisional governments in South America. It was a trade agreement. Each of them had something the other needed. I was there, and after the agreement was signed, the sick and wounded on one side got medical treatment, and the other side got enough food for everyone to actually eat for the first time in months. I watched hope come back to every one of them.”

The refrigerator door shuts with a schick.

“Really?”

“It was you who made that happen. And there was a time I was in North Asia—part of what used to be Russia—trying to rebuild homes with insulation in time for winter. It didn’t look good for the town I was in, because without planes to move supplies into the mountains, they didn’t have enough. It was going to be a long, cold winter in overcrowded, underheated housing.” Keith sets the last plate in the dishrack and shakes water from his hands. He reaches for a towel and focuses on wiping away all the moisture from his skin while he speaks. “But then a whole caravan of allies came up and helped us build. They were sent by the newly consolidated leadership at the nearest population center. It was the blue paladin of Voltron that helped them get organized and send out assistance in time, they said. They asked me if I’d ever had the chance to meet any of the paladins.”

“They didn’t know who you—?”

“I told them I had. That I once knew the pilot of the red lion, in fact. And that he is as amazing as everyone says. That I was lucky to have ever had him in my life.”

He looks to Lance on his last words. He’s leaning on the counter, watching Keith with startled intensity. His mouth hangs ever so slightly open, and in those moments, he looks young again. All the years he’s known Lance, washed away in an instant. Standing in front of him is the sharp-chinned teenager who teased and goaded him at first, but eventually caressed him and made him fall in love. And it hits Keith like a punch to the gut. Knocks all the air out of him and makes him take hold of the counter’s edge for support.

“Keith, I…” Lance says in a small voice, eyelids fluttering.

“I made a lot of mistakes, Lance. Too many of them. And you don’t ever have to forgive me for what I did to you, but I’ve had a lot of time to think about it over the last two years, and I think I owe you a real explanation.”

Lance nods.

“But I—can we talk somewhere else? I know for a fact that Shiro likes to eavesdrop.”

From the other side of the living room, around the corner, Shiro sighs loudly. “Fine. Giancarlo and I wanted the apartment back to ourselves, anyway.”

Keith and Lance exchange a look—a smile, even—and then Keith grabs his jacket and they head for the door.

“Thanks for having us over,” Lance says to the empty living room.

“You’re welcome!” the living room says back in a bright voice. Then Giancarlo, more quietly but still loud enough that Keith catches his words, “You were right. I can’t believe that worked.”

Keith scoffs and closes the door behind him and Lance.

The hallway of the apartment building is dimly lit. “There’s a park at the back of the building,” Lance says. “And it’s a nice night.”

“Sounds good.”

Two sets of stairs later, they’re outside.

The city is quieter than it used to be, and less crowded. Keith tries not to think of the implications of that, and instead focuses on the cool night air on his face and in his lungs. There are a few lamps and benches in the small park, but he and Lance don’t sit. They walk around the perimeter of the park and their shadows stretch and shrink between each streetlamp.

“I don’t know where to start, Lance,” Keith says.

Lance is quiet.

“I was in love with you,” he continues, and shocks himself with how easily he says it. Two, three, four years ago, it would have felt like vomiting up knives to let those words out of his mouth. But now the admission is cool and detached, though he still can’t look at Lance when he says it. “And I was terrified of that. It was like, I’d broken the rule we set for each other—the one rule—and if you knew about it you’d be gone forever. So that’s why I—Lance?”

He realizes belatedly that Lance isn’t keeping pace with him anymore. Keith glances over his shoulder and sees Lance a few steps behind him, stopped dead in his tracks.

“What is it?”

Lance drags one hand down his face and groans. “Fuck.”

“Lance?”

“God fucking dammit.”

“Lance, what’s wrong?”

“Turns out we’re both the biggest idiots in entire goddamn universe,” Lance says with an acrid tone. “Are you seriously telling me right now that you had feelings for me?”

Keith’s gut turns. He doesn’t like where this is going. “That is what I said.”

“The whole time?”

“I didn’t want to make things awkward between us, seeing as we were stuck together.”

Lance lets out the biggest, longest groan Keith thinks he’s ever heard. “I’m such and idiot. You’re such an idiot. We’re both idiots.

He’s standing in front of a streetlight, so Keith can’t see his face very well. Deep and deeper shadows obscure Lance’s expression, but his body vibrates with frustration. Lance kicks his feet on the sidewalk and runs his hands through his hair. He exhales yet another, “fuck.

Keith, meanwhile, is floored. He has no idea what is happening. He’s just confessed to Lance that he had—has?—feelings for him, and now the man is swearing and calling them both idiots. He takes a cautious step toward Lance. “What are you talking about?” he asks.

“I’m talking about how all of this—” Lance gestures frantically between Keith and himself “—could have all been avoided if we’d just had a goddamn conversation at any point in the last five years.”

“I’m so sorry I didn’t tell you earlier,” Keith says, his fingertips prickling with nervous energy. He might have expected Lance to be awkward, or embarrassed, about this, but—angry? “I know I should have, but I didn’t want this—” now Keith gestures between the two of them “—to happen. Especially not when we had no way to avoid each other if it… got bad. I j—”

“No, Keith. Keith, Keith, my man.” Lance takes the few remaining steps to close the distance between them. It puts his face in the light. Then he lays his hands heavily on Keith’s shoulders and stares into his eyes. “Don’t apologize. I did the same thing.”

The tiniest smile catches at the corner of Lance’s mouth. He’s looking at Keith expectantly, like it’s his turn to say something, but everything in Keith’s brain has ground to a creaking halt.

“What,” he deadpans. “I… don’t…”

“I did the same thing!” Lance repeats excitedly. Keith watches his eyes dart back and forth between his own, and thinks about how this is the closest they’ve been in over two years. Their bodies have not come in contact with one another for just as long, and thanks to Keith’s jacket, they still haven’t been skin to skin. It’s distracting, to say the least, to wonder if Lance is as warm as he remembers. Plus, Lance isn’t making any sense.

“Did… what?”

“But then why would you let Griffin make out with you?” Lance says, and Keith gets the sense that it’s mostly to himself. Keith just happens to be standing there. “Or had you… moved on, by then? Are you seeing someone now?”

Lance takes a quick step backwards and pulls back his hands. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to be in your personal space. I just got excited.”

“Lance, I still have no idea what you’re saying.”

“I’m saying,” he says, “that I’m in love with you, too. Or—at least—I was. Not that I still expect you to be—you know—because of the whole—you know. Griffin.”

Keith stumbles back as Lance’s words hit him full force.

“Are you doing okay there, buddy?” Lance asks after a few seconds. Keith doesn’t want to know what he must look like for Lance to ask him that.

“You… liked me too?”

“Yeah. See? We’re both idiots.” Lance is still trying to keep down a smile. But he doesn’t step closer to Keith again.

“But… I never knew.”

Lance scoffs. “Because you’re dense as a brick. I was pretty damn obvious about it.”

“What?” Keith demands. “That’s not true. You weren’t obvious about anything except when you wanted to have sex.” He points to himself. “I was the obvious one.”

“No you weren’t! You’re the most stone-faced guy I’ve ever met! The biggest compliment I ever got out of you was, ‘you give good dick’.”

Keith rolls his eyes but his heart is beating out of his chest. His head is spinning and he worries that at any moment his legs are going to fall out from underneath him. “I can think of five times off the top of my head that I was trying to get you to figure it out,” he argues. “But that’s not what’s important here.”

Lance swallows. “You’re right. It’s not.”

“I’m sorry for what I did,” Keith says again. “Knowing that you had feelings for me back then… I can’t imagine what it must have been like for you. I’m sorry.”

“I forgive you,” Lance says quietly. “We both clearly had a lot on our minds.”

Suddenly—or maybe not so suddenly—the distance between them is too much. Keith steps forward as if being pulled by an invisible rope. He and Lance are just feet apart and it feels like an entire galaxy.

“Can we start over?” Keith asks. “Do you think that’s still a possibility for us?”

“Yeah,” Lance says. His smile is back, stretching his lips across his teeth. “I think we could do that.”

Lance reaches out a hand, palm up, and looks at Keith with a question in his eyes. Keith looks between Lance’s hand and his face, breathless at the tenderness he finds there.

Then he puts his hand in Lance’s and laces their fingers together.

***

At first, to keep from falling into any of their old patterns, and focus on really, actually, communicating with one another, they put an informal ban on having sex. It kind of sucks—no, it really sucks—but Keith is so insanely happy to have Lance back in his life that it doesn’t matter.

“Your hair looks good like that,” Lance says, flicking Keith’s low ponytail as he maneuvers around him in the kitchen. They’re in Keith’s cabin, hanging out after dinner with team Voltron. It’s the first time all of them have been in the same city in two years, but it was shockingly easy to be around them all again. Whatever belonging Keith used to think was missing fills his chest with satisfaction. He doesn’t know how long it’s been since he’s felt so content.

“You think? Pidge is trying to convince me to cut it off.” Keith opens his fridge and pulls out the mostly-empty tub of ice cream he’s been eating out of most nights.

“No!” Lance cries and spins around. “Don’t you dare listen to that little gremlin! They’re just mad that your hair is prettier than theirs.”

Keith grins. “They said I look like Sasquatch with a ponytail.”

“You’re too twink-ish to be Sasquatch.”

“Ouch.”

“Am I wrong?” Lance hands him a spoon and keeps another for himself.

“No comment.”

They find a seat on Keith’s couch and Keith pries open the lid of the ice cream. They eat straight from the container and make short work of the remnants inside.

“You going to keep the facial hair?” Keith asks, rubbing his knuckles along Lance’s neatly trimmed beard. He pulls his knees up from the floor and leans on his boyfriend’s shoulder.

“Probably. Do you like it?”

“Yeah,” Keith says. “It’s fun to kiss.”

Lance presses his lips together to keep down a smile. Keith looks up at him and raises his eyebrows.

“It makes you look like an otter, though.”

“Nuh-uh,” Lance protests. “I can’t be an otter because I’m not gay.”

“That’s just incorrect. You don’t get bi immunity.”

“I don’t even have chest hair. Can’t be an otter.”

“Not even a little?”

“That’s not the point here, Keith. I—”

Keith shuts him up with a kiss. It’s soft and closed-mouthed, but it sends lightning bolts through his body. His beard tickles Keith’s face and he tastes like ice cream. Their lips cling together from the stickiness when he pulls back a few inches. “Fine,” Keith says. “You can be whatever you want.”

Lance considers him with half-lidded eyes. Then he says, in the most serious tone Keith thinks he’s ever heard, “Then I’ll be yours.”

Keith’s breath hitches. “Lance,” he says, full of a certainty he didn’t realize he had. “I’ve decided something.”

“Oh?” Lance says with raised eyebrows.

“I’m in love with you. It’s doesn’t matter if I’m still in love with you from before or if I’m in love with you again, but I mean it. I love you, Lance.”

Moisture wells at the corners of Lance’s eyes and he bites down hard on his lip. “Keith, you gotta warn me before you say shit like that,” he says, and sniffles. “I wasn’t prepared, and now you—you’re making me cry. Which is rude.”

Keith tries not to smile.

“But I forgive you,” Lance continues. “Because I love you, too.”

Suddenly, he understands the tears in Lance’s eyes. Five words have never sounded so beautiful to Keith as they do in that moment.

“And for the record? This is definitely a still in love with you kind of thing from me. Even when I hated you, I was in love with you.”

They look into each other’s eyes for a few moments, and then they’re kissing. Lance’s hands are on either side of his face and Keith’s are on his shoulders, pulling them as close together as they can possibly get. Keith climbs onto his lap without a break in their contact. They fit together so seamlessly, like two parts of the same machine. Everywhere Keith needs Lance to be, he is, and it’s utter bliss.

Sure, they’ve kissed each other in the past few weeks. Made out, even, no shirts and horizontal. But never more than that, even when they both wanted it. It’s been like something has hovered between them, keeping them from going any further than that, and Keith didn’t know what it was until now. “I love you,” Keith says onto Lance’s skin. He nips at Lance’s ear and whispers again, “I love you.”

Lance shivers and settles his hands on Keith’s hips. “I love you,” he says back, equal parts giddy and breathless. His thumbs dip beneath the hem of Keith’s shirt. Warmth floods his insides, and that warmth quickly becomes heat. He kisses down the side of Lance’s neck to his collarbone, and lets himself push Lance’s shirt up onto his chest, exposing dark honey skin that’s ghosted with old scars. The fading desert sunlight angles through the window and illuminates those reminders of everything they’ve been through. Keith kisses every one of them, and Lance’s hmmm, deep in his chest, vibrates against Keith’s mouth as he does so.

He laces his fingers in Lance’s and drags them up the wall, holding his hands there while they continue to kiss with newfound urgency. Keith settles harder into Lance’s lap, pressing down on him to be certain that Lance’s desire is as hot as his own. He can’t stop his own quiet whimper at the sensation, though, and Lance smiles into their kiss.

“Care to take this to the bedroom?” Lance purrs. His breath is warm and smells of ice cream. Being this close to him, Keith thinks, is worth trading everything for.

“Are we having sex if we do?”

“That was the implication.”

“Hell yeah.”

Keith rolls off of Lance’s lap and takes him by the hand to lead him down the short hallway to his bedroom. His sheets and blanket are neatly tucked in at the edges, and his heart jumps with excitement with the knowledge of how thoroughly they’ll be messed up by the time he and Lance are finished. It’s a small bed, not made for two, but Keith knows from long-ago experience that they can make it work.

But before they get there, Keith presses Lance against the wall and himself against Lance, kissing him again. His jeans on Lance’s, his shirt on Lance’s, his skin on Lance’s. Everything is Keith and Lance, together. It hits him again that this is being in love. He’s in love, and it’s the best thing he’s ever felt.

He pulls Lance’s shirt over his head and quickly follows it with his own, tossing them both to the side without looking at where they land. One of his thumbs circles Lance’s nipple and the other palm massages the inside of his leg, and Lance’s melts under his touch. He whines a quiet, “Keith,” and his knees give slightly.

“When was the last time you got laid?” Keith asks.

Lance waits until they break from another long kiss before he answers. “Whenever the last time we fucked was.”

Keith nods as he unbuckles Lance’s belt and unzips his jeans. “Same here,” he says. Then he reaches into Lance’s pants and delights and how sharply he gasps when Keith takes hold of him. “Sucked, didn’t it?”

“Mmhmm,” Lance agrees, apparently unable to form a full word. His eyes are squeezed shut but his hands find Keith’s hair just fine, tugging the elastic out so he can take it by the fistful. “Fuck,” he whimpers as Keith strokes his length. Keith had forgotten just how sexy it is to hear him whine like this, and it’s doing all kinds of things to his own ability to form coherent thoughts.

They kiss again, wet and sloppy, while Keith works Lance to a throbbing hardness. A fine layer of sweat coats Lance’s skin, and when his neck arches back Keith licks it off the line of his jaw, just where his beard ends.

“Keith, if you keep—I’m gonna—”

“Alright,” Keith says, and pulls his hand away. Lance slumps against the wall, breathing hard, and Keith kisses him again. “I love you,” he adds.

Lance grins up at him, expression half-dazed and half-filled with fire. “I love you,” Lance says back, and Keith’s heart flutters. He unbuttons his pants as he crosses to the bed, and pushes them with his underwear down his legs and off his ankles before he sits, facing Lance.

“You coming over here?” he asks.

Lance kicks off his pants and walks over to join Keith. “Don’t mind if I do.”

His hands slide down Keith’s arms and he leans down to kiss him. Keith reaches up to cup his face in his palms, and soon they’re lying entwined on the mattress, with nothing between their bodies for the first time in years. Keith’s whole body buzzes with electricity, and half his thoughts are devoted to relishing in how beautifully familiar, how beautifully right this feels. The other half is concerned with how beautiful Lance is.

And that becomes more of a seventy-five twenty-five situation when Lance slides down his chest and takes his cock in his mouth. There are few things more beautiful—or more erotic—than Lance looking up at him while he sucks him off.

Keith lets out a hiss of air and takes fistfuls of blanket. He watches Lance bob up and down, his mouth a tight ring around him. The only light in the room comes from the setting sun through the window, washing everything in orange and gold. He isn’t sure if the haze in the room is from the light, or his own bliss making it impossible for him to see anything clearly.

And then it occurs to Keith that he can actually say what he’s thinking to Lance. There’s no more hiding things from him, because this is real. Lance really likes him.

No, Lance loves him.

“You’re beautiful, you know that?” Keith mumbles. He brushes some of the hair from Lance’s forehead.

Lance pulls off and rubs Keith’s dick with his palm instead. “You think so?”

“Yeah.”

“So are you. I could look at you forever.”

Keith grits his teeth as a sensation washes over him, and Lance catches on and slows down a little. They can’t be done yet.

He reaches into the nightstand by his bed and pulls a condom out from the top drawer. Lance watches his hand with one eyebrow raised. “You want to top or bottom?” he asks, and kisses the inside of Keith’s thigh with just a little bit of teeth involved.

Keith shudders. He catches Lance’s chin in his fingers. When Lance is looking into his eyes, he whispers, “Ride me.”

Lance’s eyes go wide and his mouth opens into a small “o.” Then a smile stretches his lips over his teeth. “Yeah, I can make that happen,” he says in a flirtatious tone. He plucks the condom from Keith’s fingers and tears open the packet, and then rolls the condom onto him with practiced efficiency. “You got any lube?”

“Mmhmm.” Keith grabs the small bottle from the nightstand as well. He squeezes some onto his fingers and sits up. Lance lets his legs hang open, waiting, and whimpers when Keith presses inside him. Keith takes the opportunity to kiss him again, feeling Lance’s moans against his mouth.

“Okay,” Lance says in a half-gone voice. “That’s enough.”

Keith nods and settles back onto his elbows. Lance shuffles forward on his knees, then grabs Keith’s cock and lays it against his own entrance. “You ready?” he teases.

“Only if you are.”

And then Lance sinks down onto Keith.

“Oh, fuck,” Keith says, at the same time that Lance says, “Shit.”

Lance takes him all the way in until he’s sitting on Keith’s thighs. He’s hot and tight around Keith. “I forgot how good you feel inside me,” Lance croons. He starts rolling his hips forward and back. “So fucking good. Holy shit.”

Keith lays his hands at Lance’s hips and encourages him to move faster. His thumbs dig into the crease of his thigh. He grits his teeth and moans through them. “Lance,” he says. “Fuck. You’re so fucking hot. I love you so much.”

“You’re just saying that because you’re balls deep,” chides Lance. Then he adds vertical motion to the roll of his hips and making Keith see stars.

“Not true,” Keith argues, fighting against the urge to drive his hips up as Lance comes down onto him. “But that part is a bonus.”

Lance laughs—a breathy chuckle more than anything—and stops holding anything back. Keith watches helplessly as Lance rides him hard and fast, hands tangled in his own hair as he bounces up and down on Keith’s cock. Keith loses himself in watching Lance, the slim curve of his shoulders and chest and how the light glints off the layer of sweat on his skin.

And it’s Lance. It’s always been Lance, Keith thinks. Lance is the boy he watched grow into a man. And he’s the only man Keith has been in love with for the past five, six, seven years—and how could it have possibly been that long? Time means nothing when Lance is here, with him. Forever stretches out in front of him, and it looks as bright as the sunset on Lance’s skin.

Suddenly, Lance’s nose is at his neck. His beard tickles Keith’s throat. “Where you at, hotshot?” he asks. He’s back to rolling slowly forward and back onto Keith’s length. His palms roam tenderly over Keith’s chest.

“I’m just thinking about you,” Keith says, and pulls him into another kiss.

“Why would you do that,” says Lance as he grinds particularly hard onto his cock, “When I’m right here?”

Keith lets the heat of his arousal drown out his thoughts again. He flattens his feet on the mattress and thrusts up into Lance just as he comes down, and in moments Lance is holding himself still while Keith takes the lead. His grunts turn into groans turn into whines, and maybe he’s saying Keith’s name but maybe it’s not meant to be anything coherent.

When even that isn’t enough, Keith flips them over so Lance’s back hits the mattress and he’s on top. He barely takes a few seconds to spread more lube on his dick and then he’s pushing inside Lance again, driving into him with quick snaps of his hips. His hair falls down between, a little bit in both of their mouths but that’s a side effect of having long hair that they’ve both gotten used to in the last few weeks. And he couldn’t care less at this exact moment, because Lance is right in front of him and all around him.

Lance cries out. “Dios, Keith. Fuck. Fuck me, god.” His knees are on either side of Keith’s hips and his ankles are hooked together around his legs, lower back curved so Keith has just the right angle. He pumps Lance’s cock with his fist and leaves teeth marks all across his collarbones and chest and then all at once every muscle in Lance’s body is squeezed tight and hot, wet cum is spurting onto Keith’s hand.

His back arches up onto Keith’s chest and the sound he makes is nothing short of divine. It’s the kind of thing Keith could devote his life to making happen as much as possible. Lance shudders and writhes through his orgasm, pulling Keith closer onto his body and whispering hoarsely in Spanish that Keith can’t understand. When he’s back in his own mind enough to switch back to English, his words are focused and purposeful.

“I want you to come for me, cariño,” he says, anchoring his feet back on the mattress to stabilize himself against Keith’s thrusts. “You’re almost there, I can feel it.”

He slides his hands down Keith’s backs and grabs his ass, urging him on. Heat, dark and deep, gathers in the pit of Keith’s stomach and he moans into Lance’s neck. Lance nips his ear and rumbles, “I’m yours, Keith. Now show me that you’re mine. I want you.”

Keith nods frantically and chases the climax that lingers just out of his reach. He repositions so one of Lance’s legs is between his knees and the other is over his thigh. He grips Lance’s hips in his hands and picks up speed again.

“Yes, yes, yes,” Keith whines, his thighs slapping against Lance’s skin. “Lance, yes, fuck, yes.”

The tightness starts at the very center of him and spreads over his entire body, claiming every inch of him and blackening his vision with the force of it. Keith throws his head back in a silent cry as the orgasm takes hold, and when he’s spent he falls forward onto Lance’s warm chest. The sun is gone now, and only a faint glow from the horizon gives Keith the light to see his partner’s face.

What he finds there is utter bliss. Lance’s dark, half-lidded eyes meet his own and they kiss again, slowly, for long enough that Keith forgets where he ends and Lance begins. Eventually, they just lay tangled up in each other as the desert stars cast a colorless light over them. Keith traces lazy circles onto Lance’s chest with his thumb.

“I missed this,” Lance says. He tucks a strand of hair behind Keith’s ear. “I missed you.”

“Me too.”

“You were gone for so long,” he continues. “I thought you might never come back.”

“I didn’t know if I would, either,” Keith says.

“Are you going to leave again?”

“What?”

“Are you going to go back to what you were doing before?”

Keith frowns. It hadn’t occurred to him that he might take another reconstruction mission, but apparently it’s been something weighing on Lance’s mind. “No, Lance. I won’t do that.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay.”

“I’m not going to leave you again, Lance.” He wraps his arms protectively around Lance. “Not ever.”

Lance buries his face into Keith’s neck. “Good. I like having you around.”

“You’re not so bad, either,” Keith chuckles.

“I love you,” Lance says.

Then Keith says, “I love you.”

And they fall asleep in each other’s arms.

***

Outtakes and Aftercare

___

When they told the team they were actually dating this time

Pidge: /Finally/, you big idiots.

Hunk: Pidge, be nice.

Pidge: No! We’ve been putting up with their bullshit for /years/! I’m allowed to be pissed that it took them so long to finally get together.

Allura, to Coran: Human courtship is so strange.

Coran: Indeed it is, Princess.

Pidge: It’s not usually this weird. These two are just big. Fucking. Idiots.

Hunk: Pidge, really. This is a happy time for them. Can’t you at least be a little happy for them, too? Shiro, back me up on this one.

Shiro: No, I’m with Pidge here.

Romelle: I thought those two were already together?

Allura: It’s a long story.

Romelle: Oh! Would anyone care to explain it to me?

Everyone, simultaneously: No.

___

Pidge: Hunk, you owe me fifty bucks.

Hunk: But we didn’t even bet on anything!

Pidge: When Keith left you said you it was finally over and I said fifty bucks on them getting back together. Pay up, buddy.

Hunk, pulling out his wallet: You still scare me.

___

Keith will eventually run in to Griffin again but they’re both adults so they end up as friends and attend each other’s weddings when the get married.

___

Because ofc Keith and Lance get married. It’s probably not for another year or two, but Keith cries when they say “I do” and so does Lance and the entire rest of the universe because it’s basically the royal wedding when two paladins get married to each other so /everyone/ is watching.

There is an official version of their love story, suitable for the public to hear, and there is the version that they tell to each other that night when they’re alone.

But no matter how the story goes, one part is inevitable and that part is

the end.