They were twelve questions in, and Lance had painstakingly sat through only receiving two of them. Pidge and Hunk were smart enough not to pick him, and Keith had learned quickly that he'd take any dare from him. As it so happened, the idea of truth or dare was a very good and entertaining one, and was a decent way to pass the time when they were too wired to sleep, but no good questions were being asked, and Lance was dying. He was on his way out of this level of existence, writing in boredom, and Pidge made a insufferable show of lavishly thinking of a question for as long as she could. She called on Keith, who didn't even blink, seemingly growing bored himself, before replying.
"Who's your best friend on the ship?" Pidge asked, and Lance groaned off to the side, flopping backwards in his dramatics towards the question and only stopping to allow Pidge to tack on, "Shiro not included. He's the obvious answer."
"Uh, Lance probably." And the world seemed to still.
In all his time during the rough two years sailing through space in the defense of the known universe, Lance had never been so quickly stunned and silenced. Not when Allura flipped off Prince Lotor (she only even vaguely knew what the gesture meant, too!), not when the Black Lion had opened for Lance for the first time, not even when he'd seen Keith sob late into the night of Shiro's disappearance after Zarkon's defeat. Yet here he was, in a ring of truth or dare far too late at night considering they had training first thing in the morning and a planet to tour and visit immediately following. Here he was, completely silent, as Keith claimed he was his best friend aside from their fearless leader and fatherly figure.
Pidge and Hunk were not as particularly quieted, positively roaring with laughter at Lance's mortified face. When Keith noticed what they were laughing at, he spared a glance to his supposed best friend and winced, and Lance almost felt bad to not be able to calm his own features.
"What!?" He finally managed to squeak out, sitting up a little frantically and scooting a bit backwards, "We're rivals!"
Keith seemed to be completely confused, his eyebrows furrowing together deeply and nose scrunching a little as he watched Lance. "What, still?"
The Blue Paladin choked, standing and feeling his face heat up. "I-YES! What do you mean still?" They were definitely something, that was for sure, but he wasn't going to let himself get flustered with that thought process now of all times.
Pidge rolled backwards, practically shrieking while Hunk had the decency to have calmed himself down to small snorts and snickers. "Lance-" Hunk tried to begin, "Lance, you're not. You guys are, like, practically ma--"
"DON'T-" Lance roared, his face bright red and knowing exactly what Hunk was going to say, having heard the expression from his own best friend so many times before.
The Red Paladin was much more composed, watching the trio calmly and sighing quietly through his nose as he landed on Lance again. "I don't...really see what the problem here is."
"He's embarrassed!" The youngest of them wheezed in explanation, slapping Hunk's arm as they tried to sit up again. "Oh my god, Lance!"
"That we're friends?" The innocent hurt in Keith's voice had an edge to it, like most of him tended to, and Lance knew to backtrack even in his flustered state.
"NO! I--Not that!" He seethed, meeting Keith's glare and crossed arms as his walls started to close quickly, "I have to go! I'm going! Bye!" And Lance's long legs were already rushing out of the room in lengthy strides, practically running by the time he'd rounded out of the lounge room they'd been occupying. He moved until the new peal of Pidge's laughter had faded in his ears and the skin on his face felt much cooler, carrying himself to his own room and not even bothering with his stuffy bed as he flopped onto the floor and let out a loud and long groan to himself.
When did they become friends?
Well, years ago, he imagined.
Hearing the telltale signs of Keith returning to the room adjacent to Lance's own and the shuffling sound of something being knocked over, Lance groaned again, as loud as he could, and tried to smother himself in his own bedding while he pulled it onto the floor with him. It took a full two minutes, almost to the exact second had Lance been counting (and he definitely, absolutely was not), before Keith came through his door. They had learned each other passcodes at least over a year ago, only Pidge being able to evade them all instinctively picking each other's up as they grew more comfortable with one another, but times like these made Lance regret a lot of things. He wasn't even saying anything, just standing a foot past the threshold while the door closed behind him and huffing quietly.
Lance groaned again.
"What are you whining about?" Keith snapped, taking the bait as he always did, and Lance buried his face further in his sheets, feeling hot again. "Get off of the floor."
"Why did any of this happen?" Lance tried, though his voice was completely muffled.
The standing boy scoffed, taking two steps closer, and Lance could feel the annoyance in the air. "You're not going to do the 'why us why me' routine right now. I know you're not actually complaining about being a paladin." It was a fair dismissal, but Lance felt attacked at the notion that Keith wouldn't listen to another late-night "Why were we chosen for this?" monologue. He'd listened to countless others, even partaking in his own versions every once in a while, especially around the time of him discovering his heritage. Tonight shouldn't have been any different.
Except that it was. Because they were friends.
At the end of this train of thought, Lance couldn't decide which part he was having a problem with; the official friends announcement or the fact that they were in the first place. Feeling Keith's glare in the silence, he figured he'd better decide on one or the other, anyway.
"Why did any of this happen?" Lance repeated, rolling on the floor to give Keith room to sit as he always did next to him when he was having a mini-meltdown. He moved the sheets from his face finally to voice his question better, "Why did we have to be friends?"
Every part of him expected Keith to snap out some annoyed reply, or snark his indifference, but only silence came, and that was ten times more concerning towards their relationship. When Lance lifted his head, Keith was looking back towards the door tiredly.
"We're all best friends, Lance. That's most of the reason we can form Voltron so effortlessly, even when we're pissed at each other." Keith sighed, flexing his fingers in his lap.
"But why am I your best best friend?" It was so childish and unnecessary of a question, considering how both of them should have been well asleep by then, but Lance couldn't resist the almost whisper of a question from leaving him.
Keith only shrugged slowly, punctuating the motion with another sigh. "I guess you're not. Forget it." His face looked redder, and the lankier boy almost groaned aloud again at how pissed his companion must be at this whole thing to be turning different shades.
Companion wasn't right. Best friend wasn't right.
"I mean," Lance cleared his throat, still a little quiet as he sat up and balled up different sections of the sheets to distract himself, "I didn't think you...I don't want to turn this into another self-pity montage because I know you hate that," Keith's squint suddenly turning towards him confirmed his sentence, and he continued, "But I'm, like, nothing to you outside of Voltron."
"We have already talked about this." Keith articulated, and Lance could see him clearly trying to not grow as frustrated as he was. His glare was vicious, but Lance knew it was at his demons much more than it was at himself. "It doesn't matter if I didn't recognize you before Voltron. You're important to me beyond the right leg now."
Lance swallowed and sighed at the same time, pausing at the strange sensation as soon as he was done. "I wanted to be important to you, though. Then I hated you because I wasn't. Now we're best friends?" He hadn't meant the last segment of his recapping to come out as a question, nor had he really meant to say what he said at all, but it was there, lingering in the open now, and Keith looked absolutely confused.
"You hated me for my scores."
"I hated you for your looks."
"You know I don't like girls?" Now Keith sounded like he was questioning, frustration melting away to make room for the entirety of his cluelessness.
"I--" And Lance wasn't sure how to continue, grasping at air with one hand while his other fisted the sheets sporadically. "I had a crush on you." And now they were best friends. And now he was ruining it.
"Oh." Keith said immediately, seizing up and staring with wide eyes as soon as the realization hit him completely. He looked pretty terrifying, eyebrows furrowed and mouth partly open, like someone had struck him and was about to receive the entirety of his raged retaliation. Instead, he took a full minute and a half (if you counted, like Lance wasn't) before schooling his features into a poorly masked scowl. "Had?"
The Blue Paladin's heart felt like it was going to somersault out of his chest, heat slapping onto his face faster than he could take a breath. He shoved the sheets off of him, feeling stuffy again, and cleared his throat instead of answering while he looked away.
"Lance." Keith beckoned, voice coming out a little strangled as he stared at the averted gaze.
"Keith." He returned, eyes downcast and feeling sharp with embarrassed tears. He was nailing this don't-deal-with-your-space-feelings thing. Two solid years he had built up a decent relationship with his begrudging school crush. Two full years it took before he finally said the one thing that could simultaneously ruin the highest defense of the universe and any chances he had at being as casually close to Keith as he could be.
Keith's half gloved hand was on his knee, forcing his eyes away from the floor to watch the contact. "Why would you think I would reject you?" They both knew the answer, and Keith's voice was far from soft, though there was no malice.
Lance swallowed again. "Why wouldn't you? You don't--You never seemed like you..." His sharp eyes felt wetter than ever, and he moved his hands to cover his face in case some stray tears did dare to tread out. "And you didn't even know me." He continued as if he had finished a sentence in the first place, "Why would I assume you would reciprocate?"
Small but calloused hands wound around Lance's wrists, pulling his hands down as Keith ducked a little to catch his gaze. "I have never seen you look at any male alien in the same way you look at every other kind." His tone was defensive, though his eyes were tender while they stared at one another, "Hunk said you were bisexual but-"
"I was only looking at one guy." Lance couldn't resist the opportunity to cut him off, lips quirking despite his wet eyes as Keith's face spread crimson.
"This is so stupid." Keith muttered finally, leaning forward with obvious intent towards Lance's face. He paused only a fraction of an inch from the other's lips as Lance pulled away a little.
"You don't have to."
And Keith growled, "I know." before kissing him hard.
It was messy and decidedly inexperienced of a kiss, but it left both of them breathless, a little pathetically considering it had only been twenty-four seconds. In the breathy silence, Keith spoke first.
"I'm in love with you."
Despite being the one to have half-confessed first, Lance was practically rigid with shock, mirroring Keith's earlier pose as his eyes widened and mouth fell slack. "That's...a lot." He uttered against every will of his own.
Keith glared. "You just told me you've had a crush on me since the Garrison." He hissed, dropping Lance's wrists and crossing his arms. His face was still red and flushed, and his foot twitched as if he was ready to bolt. He probably was.
When his glare flicked to the door again evasively, Lance finally whispered, "I love you, too." As their eyes met again, he spoke louder. "Oh my god, we're in love."
The angrier of the two allowed his eyebrows to raise fractionally, softening as he watched Lance calm. "We're totally in love with each other." Lance reiterated, sitting straighter, "Holy shit?"
"Holy shit." Keith allowed him.
"This is the best day of my space life." He said seriously, leaning forward to grab Keith's shoulders and tug him closer until their noses touched again.
"Not your whole life?" Gloved hands skirted Lance's sides as they invaded one another's breathing once more.
"It's tied with the day I was born. Can't trump my existence, sorry." Then they kissed again, just as messy as their first but much softer. Another followed, and another before Lance stopped to laugh, them both dissolving into giggles as they got closer. "I love you. You're my best friend, too. Holy shit, this is awesome."