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what are you waiting for?

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He let out a troubled sigh, staring down at the near empty pill bottle on his lap. He'd been lucky, really, to have had them on him in the first place but it seems as though his luck had run out. There were a measly two pills left, and after that he was screwed. Of course, he could try alien suppressants and see how that worked for him but his sensibility won over in the end. Lance wasn't stupid, and as much as he craved to keep this going he knew it wasn't worth risking his life for. Not when we're waging a war, anyway, he thought with a hum. He drew his legs up and curled in on himself, wondering where this would lead him. How would the others react? Would they be angry or hurt? He prayed to whatever God there may be that they at least didn't pity him, that was the last thing he needed right now.

Stupid pills, he brooded, feeling the panic rising in his throat. What if he was kicked off the team? How would it change things between them? How was he even supposed to tell them, for Christ's sake? He couldn't exactly just pop in, announce he was an omega, and go about his merry way. Drawing in a deep breath, he forced himself to relax. The sound of running water helped, and the smell of fresh greenery did too. The castle garden was lovely, and although all of the plants were Altean in nature, they reminded him of home. His home, anyway. The soft blue lights that flooded the chambers took away from it a bit, not at all like the bright yellow sun he'd grown up with, but it was better than nothing. They'd all come to find little nooks like this in the castle, places that they never really talked about but would always go to to reminisce or be homesick. Out of mutual understanding and respect, they never really bothered anyone if they were off on their own like this, not unless it was an emergency anyway. Snapping him out of his pensive mood, his comm crackled to life with a bit of static.

"Lance, you there?" it was Shiro.

"10-4, oh, fearless leader." He joked back, willing his voice to have no hint of melancholy.

"Training starts in 5." The alpha scoffed back. He'd never really been one to be overly enthused about training, but right now it sounded like just the thing he needed to get his mind off of things.

"Alright, be there as soon as I can, I've gotta change into my armor so I might be a minute." He shot back.

"No worries, over and out." Shiro replied cooly, teasing towards the end. They didn't really talk like that over the comms, but at some point Lance had started using what little terms he knew and one thing led to another and now it was sort of a teamwide inside joke, spare for Allura and Coran of course, who had no idea what they were going on about. He brushed his thumb over the top of the pill bottle, before screwing it open and popping one into his mouth; he swallowed the tiny white capsule dry, too stressed to bother getting something to take it with first. Closing the lid, he placed the bottle into the pocket of his jacket before rising and making his way to the locker room.

----------

"Glad you decided to join us." Keith hollered as Lance strode in. It wasn't aggressive though, they'd all but gotten over their (one-sided) rivalry, but still liked to poke fun at one another now and again. The blue paladin offered him a dazzling white smile.

"Hey man, beauty like this takes time." Lance shot his hands up, pretending to be offended. Keith merely rolled his eyes. He made his way over to stand beside the other three paladins. Before them stood Shiro and Allura, patiently waiting for their attention. He rested his gaze on them, eager to get started and let out some pent up tension.

"Today we're doing something a little bit different than usual. Since you've all been working so hard on hand to hand combat, we decided today we'd focus mostly on team building, utilizing a training technique commonly practiced on Earth," Allura began, beaming at them with a bright smile. She'd grown to be really proud of them all, and the work they'd accomplished since landing on Arus what seemed like a forever ago.

"The objective will be to break past the ranks of the training bots and enter their camp to retrieve this marker," She held up a glowing red lantern, a prop they used often when training. "However, I've programmed the bots to also try and invade your own camp, meaning some of you will need to stay back to defend your own marker." She continued, gesturing to another lantern, this one blue in color.

"It's basically Capture The Flag except with more spears and less flags." Shiro shrugged.

"Dude, I used to love that game as a kid!" Lance exclaimed.

"We've totally got this." Hunk agreed, a widened grin plastered across his face.

"I'm glad to see you all so excited, I'll leave you five to prepare a strategy, and once you're ready you can head on in." The princess said cheerfully, "Your camp will be stationed right those doors, but it's up to you to find the enemy's camp. Good luck, and have fun!" She added, walking off to the control room where she could observe and intervene, if necessary. As soon as she was gone, Shiro swooped in.

"Alright, so here's what we're going to do," He started.

----------

"Lance, watch out!" Shiro called over to him, and he managed to narrowly dodge a flying spear. He swore under his breath before bouncing back up and shooting it in the chest, feeling a twinge of pride when it sunk to its knees and deactivated. They'd decided he and Shiro would be the ones to retrieve the marker, while the others stayed back to guard their own camp. Lance was quick, and Shiro was strong, which meshed together quite smoothly in a training sim like this. He charged forward, crumbling what was probably simulated grass beneath his boots. As he turned back to check in with Shiro, a fist struck him in the face, sending him falling to the floor. He heard Shiro yell, before jumping over his fallen teammate and punching through the bot with his hand, deactivating it instantaneously. Lance's vision swam as Shiro offered him a hand up. He wobbled a bit before everything seemed to even out, still, Shiro's worried gaze bore into him.

"You good?" He asked.

"Well, I got punched in the face but other than that, I'm great." Yeah, Lance was good. Shiro gave him a playful shove to the shoulder before moving ahead, Lance close behind. They neared the camp, slowing to a stop in the brush to discuss how to proceed. From where he was crouched, Lance could see the marker stationed on a platform in the center of the camp but much to his dismay about ten bots skulked around. Shiro grunted before turning to Lance.

"I'm thinking speed over skill, I'll follow suit and hold off what I can but you just focus on grabbing the marker, then the sim should end." Lance gave him a curt nod of agreement. This had been their plan all along, he just hoped he wouldn't let his team down. He took a deep breath to still the anxiety that chewed at his heart, before rising.

"Ready?" Shiro asked. Lance gave a grunt of agreement.

"Go." He murmured, as they crashed through the brush and down the slope, with Shiro safely behind him, Lance felt confident to shoot blindly into the crowd of bots, nicking them where he could as he charged forward. Behind him he heard Shiro wrestle away the bots that approached, just focused on keeping them a safe distance back. His muscles burned but it wasn't entirely unpleasant, as he broke into even more of a sprint, jumping onto the platform to grab the marker. Suddenly, he was pulled off his feet, a bot tugging at one of his boots and attempting to make him fall from the platform. He gave it a swift kick before rising back up, wasting no time in grabbing the marker and ending the game. With a mechanical whir, the bots deactivated and sank to their knees, as Allura's voice rang out over the intercom.

"Good work, Paladins, you did it! Feel free to change and then we can discuss your performance." She sounded pleased. Around them, the simulation deconstructed until they were left in a plain white chamber, not the seemingly wooded forest they'd been in the entire time. He hopped off the platform and offered Shiro his hand, who took it gladly as they pulled into a half hug.

"You did a good job." The alpha smiled warmly at him and Lance felt his face flush. He cast his gaze to the side in embarrassment before stuttering out a weak 'thanks'. When they pulled away, Lance stretched out, his face hurt a bit where he'd been hit but he was otherwise unscathed. They sauntered towards the exit, their teammates waiting dutifully for them. As they approached they were met with bright eyes and soft smiles.

"Great work guys." Pidge offered Lance a fist bump, which he accepted graciously.

"Did you see much action this way?" Shiro asked.

"We had to fight off a few bots but it wasn't too hard." Keith replied.

"You should've seen Hunk, he took down two bots with one blow!" Pidge added excitedly. Lance blew out a long whistle.

"Way to go, Hunk." He smirked.

"It was nothing really, I should be praising you, you were the one who got the marker." Hunk beamed back at him. Lance snorted.

"Shiro was the one who fought off the bots."

"I think we can all agree it was a team effort." Shiro said confidently, ending their awkward shuffle of compliments. It was at times like this Lance was especially grateful for his suppressants, they kept him from smelling his teammates' scents or being affected by their status. Even now, on the suppressants he found his face growing warm and his stomach alive with butterflies when Hunk complimented him or Allura hugged him all too tightly. He could just imagine his heart fluttering and cheeks tinging an unacceptable shade of pink when Shiro spoke so sternly, or when Keith was especially assertive or- No. Lance forced himself to focus on something else, anything else, otherwise he'd be riddled with anxiety and, some part of him, with excitement.

"Lance you still with us?" Keith gave him a soft shove.

"Sorry, what did you say?" Lance hoped his face hadn't given anything away.

"We were just saying that once we've conferred with Allura we were going to have a movie night, if you're up for it?" The waited for his response, eagerly. The idea of a pack cuddle pile was appealing, especially when he was so on edge about the oncoming weeks, but he knew he had to figure this out before it got the better of him - and his team.

"Sorry, but I'm going to have to pass." Their faces fell a bit, and Lance felt a twinge of guilt, but he knew this was important.

"Maybe next time?" Hunk asked, offering his best puppy dog face in return.

"Next time." Lance promised. And with that, they left.

----------

The consultation with Allura had gone well, she'd commended their teamwork and strategy but remarked that they all needed to work on keeping their wits about them and staying acutely aware of their surroundings, which Lance's punch to the face proved true. Overall though, she was pleased with their work and otherwise had no complaints to how they'd performed. They were now lounged in the closest thing they had to a living room, as they fussed over what to watch. Keith was happily snuggled up between Shiro and Allura, while Pidge was nestled into Shiro's other side and Allura was gratefully using Hunk as a pillow. Their legs were all tangled up beneath a blanket and they were half laying, half sitting but they were happy, and that was what mattered. Occassionally, Allura would remark if they scrolled by one of her favorites, which they'd normally end up going with, seeing as none of the others had any point of reference. There was a variety of all sorts of alien 'movies', if you could call them that. They varied in length and subject matter, but it was mostly just the feeling of cuddling up together and just being able to sit in peace for a while that they sought.

It was just an excuse to nap together, really, sometimes things got a bit handsy but that was normally when it became less of a movie night and more of a 'lets go to somewhere more private' night. As they laid there, Keith reminisced about how confused they'd been about their relationship when they began dating. Dating was a strong word really, it was mostly just months and months of mutual yet unspoken pining, lack of communication, and occasionally all too comfortable touchy-feely moments. In some way they sort of knew they'd become a pack sooner or later, with no contact to any other humans it was only a matter of time really. Pidge said it was normal for people who lived in close quarters like this, especially people who were put into high stress environments, to form pack bonds over time. It wasn't just hormones that brought them together, though. Keith and Shiro were sort of a thing beforehand and Allura really liked Shiro and Lance liked Allura and Shiro liked all of them and how could they not love Hunk or Pidge? It all sort of just blended together until they'd somehow found themselves in love. Things really heated up after Lance had been hurt though, it made them all realize how uncertain their futures were and how much they'd regret leaving their feelings unspoken. It was emotional and amazing yet also somehow terrible, Keith had never been one for that kind of thing anyway. He'd never imagined himself in a pack and yet somehow, here he was. He was happy, even if their touch sometimes caught him off guard. It was easier with Shiro, who knew what he would accept and what he wouldn't, but as time went on he found himself more and more open to embracing his pack mates. Now was one of those rare examples, and he couldn't help but notice how glad Shiro seemed when he'd nestled himself in the middle of the cuddle pile.

He knew Shiro worried about him a lot, worried that he was uncomfortable or unhappy and his concern wasn't misplaced, Keith didn't know how to be in a pack, to be in a relationship, he barely knew how to have a handle on his own hormones. All too often he'd snap at Lance or get too aggressive in training. But it was getting better, being in such a loving and attentive relationship helped a lot, he found his anger less and less prevalent the more he let them in. Still, something seemed to nag at his heart, like there was a puzzle piece misplaced.

"Does that sound good to you guys?" Shiro asked, finally settling on something to watch. Keith hummed in agreement, sinking further down into the couch and into his side. Shiro wrapped his arm around him as he settled down, pressing him closer and beginning to trace patterns in his skin. He breathed out a content sigh and he could practically feel Shiro smile softly at him.

"You seem tired, Keith." Allura noted. Her role in their pack had been uncertain at the start of this all, after being a space faring race for so long, Alteans were pretty compatible with most other species but they didn't have dynamics per se. She smelled slightly off, not bad, but for the most part she translated well as an Alpha and fit in almost seamlessly. There were times where she misread their scents or body language, but they were quick to forget about it. She wasn't as assertive as an Alpha, at least not in the same way, she had her own kind of take charge attitude and it didn't always make sense to them but they loved her, regardless of her dynamic or lack thereof.

"I am, I didn't sleep well last night." He replied.

"How come?" Pidge asked, concern lacing her voice as she looked up from the trinket she'd been fiddling with. He pushed himself up so that he could be more clearly understood, much to Shiro's dismay. He's such a dork, Keith thought, lovingly.

"Worried about Lance." He spoke hesitantly, as his love for Shiro melted away to unease at Lance's recent behavior. Lance had always been... distant in their relationship, but he always insisted it was just because he'd never really been in a relationship before, and that he was just trying to work things out. Recently though he'd seemed flightly, a bit anxious, it wasn't super noticeable but Keith was pretty hyper vigilant when it came to his mates. Allura reached out to grab his hand, rubbing soothing circles into it.

"Not this again?" She sounded sad, she knew Keith had a tendency to worry about his place in their relationship. Worry that Lance didn't want to be with them, that they didn't really love him. Trademark paranoia of a conspiracy theorist, he mused.

"No, not in the usual way. He's just seemed... fidgety lately. I don't really know how to describe it." He found himself stumbling over his own words, lacking all the confidence an Alpha should have, but somehow Keith couldn't find it in himself to care.

"He might just be homesick, he spent an awful long time in the Garden today." Pidge pointed out.

"Maybe, but it seems like it's making him even more distant than usual." They all knew that Lance's flirtatious exterior was just that, an exterior. He didn't seem unhappy in their relationship, nor shy, just inexperienced? None of them knew how to explain it and while Keith constantly found himself fretting over the idea that he'd felt forced into a relationship he didn't want to be in, the others had made him promise that they would let Lance come to them with his issues in his own time. 'Forcing him to talk to us might only make him more withdrawn.' Keith sighed as he remembered their words. At the time he bit back the argument that they were his pack, and that he should be talking to them, whether he particularly wanted to or not, but now it seemed all too poignant.

"I'm just worried that he's unhappy or upset." He added. He was met with uneasy murmurs of agreement.

"Dude, I've known Lance for a while, he can tend to bottle up his emotions but once he works things out he always bounces back." Hunk had a bit of force in his voice, willing Keith to believe him, maybe even willing him to believe himself. It set off Keith's temper though, and he struggled to reign it in.

"That's the problem though, he shouldn't have to bottle anything in. We're a pack, and I know Lance cares about us but half the time it seems like he keeps us at arms length." Keith shot back, a bit more force in his voice than he'd intended. If he was a very different person, Hunk might've taken it as a challenge, but seeing as easygoing as he was, he merely backed down and regarded the other alpha's words thoughtfully. It made him feel better, that he was being listened to.

"You're not wrong," Shiro said thoughtfully, quiet, somehow, "I'd hoped giving him time would let him come to terms with everything and become able to talk to us, like you have, but it's just..." he trailed off.

"I'd say normal for you guys to be worried like this, since you're alphas and Lance and I are betas, it's instinct or whatever, but he doesn't even tell me anything. I figured he might just be hesitant or intimidated or whatever by your guys' scent but I'm becoming less and less convinced that's what's bothering him." Pidge spoke up, looking a bit crestfallen that she was unable to bond with Lance over their mutual dynamic. Not that they weren't close, they were all pretty damn close. Close enough to be in a pack, anyway. And they knew Lance loved them. He'd lay with Shiro on nights he couldn't sleep, plagued by nightmares that felt all too real, he helped Hunk cook, failing most of the time but still, trying, making an effort. He let Keith vent and vent until the red paladin found himself crying and sometimes even after that, he danced with Allura and somehow always, always found a way to make Pidge smile. He was invaluable to them. But it seemed like he didn't even notice.

"If things don't change soon, for the better, then we can talk to him about it." Shiro said, willing his voice to calm his mates.

"Why not now?" Keith growled impatiently.

"Because I can't help but feel it won't be long before this all comes to a head, and we'll be there for him when it does." Shiro said assuredly, not at all threatened by Keith's hardened demeanor or agitated scent.

How right Shiro was.

Chapter Text

Lance shut his door softly, his heart hammered in his chest as he took out the pill bottle that had been sitting heavily in the pocket of his jacket the entire time they conferred with Allura. The training sim had done a good job at allowing him to relieve some stress, but its effects had only lasted so long, and now he felt like he was going to be sick over how anxious he was. Not to mention that he could practically feel the others staring at him the entire meeting. He'd done a pretty poor job at acting like nothing was wrong, and it showed in how he seemed to lack his usual charm and upbeat attitude. Thankfully, Hunk at least didn't seem to notice. Back at the Garrison he'd been like this before, distant and quiet when something was troubling him, and Hunk was very considerate in giving him time to work things out on his own. But how could we work this out? In two weeks, he'd start slipping back into old habits, doing things betas would never do, and God he couldn't handle the idea of facing his pack mates like that; needy and shameful. With a hum he flopped onto his bed and stared at the ceiling.

He didn't hate omegas, and he didn't hate himself for being one. They'd made a lot of great strides towards equality in the past few decades, and they were no longer just seen as caretakers and homemakers. If anything, he'd always felt like being an omega quite suited him. Not even the suppressants could remove his naturally mothering nature, the way he tended to his packmates when they were hurt or upset. What he did take issue with was being seen as desirable solely because he was an omega. He didn't want people to like him or find him interesting or appealing just because of his dynamic, he wanted them to like him because he was Lance. Or being seen as a burden or like he needed to be taken care of, like he was some kind of weakling. He was fine on his own, surely being a paladin of Voltron proved that? And being an omega at war? They may have made great strides in equality on Earth but considering the general state of the universe he was doubtful they'd be as forgiving. Not to mention that even on Earth it would be less than standard to have an omega fighting on the front lines, flinging himself into dangerous situation after dangerous situation; risking his life on a daily basis. And he didn't even know how his packmates felt about omegas! It had never really come up in discussion, why would it? They thought he was a beta.

And then there was that, too. The lying. He adored his packmates, and he wanted to grow even closer with them, but he knew he couldn't do that like this. He was grateful, now, that they'd decided to take things slow. They didn't sleep in the same room yet, spare for when Shiro had especially bad nightmares, they'd yet to get past the making out phase, and the discussion of mating bites and bonding to one another hadn't come up yet, either. Not that Lance hadn't fantasized about such things, of course. The suppressants may have made him appear like a beta but deep down nothing could make him forget what he really was, who he really was.

You're not doing this, he thought stubbornly, pushing himself up into a sitting position. You're not going to sit here and pity yourself all night. If he was doing the math right, he'd have about two to three weeks before his suppressants started wearing off, making him act more and more like an omega. Luckily it'd take a bit of time to cycle out of his system, but past that he had no idea how long it'd be before he went into heat. Ugh. There was that to think about, too. How could he fight the Galra if he had to spend a week every month leaking slick and whining for someone to alleviate that awful sort of ache that came along with it? He'd had a few heats before, but it didn't take him long to figure out how much he disliked them. The idea of spending them with someone, or rather, someones that he loved was all too appealing, but on his own? Terrible. Before his fourth heat could roll around he'd demanded his parents get him on suppressants because he could not keep that up. He felt an odd mixture of stress and anticipation pool in his belly as he imagined what his pack mates would smell like. How their voices would affect them. One thing he vehemently disliked about being on dynamic blockers was the fact that he couldn't smell anyone. He'd had to become very good at reading body language to be able to play off like he was a beta all this time. But still, he deeply regretted not knowing what his mates smelled like. He cast such thoughts aside with a shiver, as they dangerously bordered on something a bit more sensual than he'd intended.

So, three weeks at most to get his shit together. He could do that, right? Don't have any other option he grimaced. He wanted nothing more than to curl up with Hunk or lay across Shiro's lap right now, just to have someone to comfort him. But that wasn't an option, and besides he doubted he even deserved their sympathy when he'd been so dishonest to begin with. When everything came crashing down he prayed that they wouldn't blame themselves. It wasn't their fault, really. Focus, Lance he forced himself to come up with something, anything, to do about this. How to bide time or keep his secret just that, a secret.

He figured his best bet was to just keep up the act as long as he good. If he could be strong and resist submitting to his instincts he could keep playing off like he was a beta. And so long as he could play off like he was just really sick whenever his first heat rolled around, he could buy himself at least a month to try to figure out an alternative source of suppressants, specifically ones that wouldn't have weird side effects. Yes, he could do this. He could only hope that his pack wouldn't catch on that something was up. And then there's that, Lance groaned mentally. He was sick with guilt when he saw how their faces fell earlier, or how they'd react when he'd go on week long stress binges like this, staying distant and keeping them all shut out. He really didn't want this but it was to keep him, and them, safe. Still, he knew he had to make it up to them and start acting more like his normal self if things were only going to get worse. So with a sigh, he wiped away any tears that may have fallen and peeled himself off his bed to set out to find his mates.

----------

He'd found Pidge and Hunk still in the lounge, the movie night apparently having ended. He'd been sulking in his room, then, for what must have been at least an hour. Who was he, Keith? As he approached they regarded him uneasily, worried gazes boring into him like knives, but they relaxed when he gave them a familiar grin.

"Sorry for bailing on you earlier, had some stuff to do." He shrugged, wishing that his eyes weren't as red and puffy as the last time he'd checked.

"No worries man, down for making a pillow fort?" His eyes had a playful light to them, one that somehow made the icy anxiety that gripped at his heart seemingly melt away in one fowl swoop. He loved Hunk. He was so caring and sweet and he really didn't deserve any of them, did he? He'd gotten so lucky to be where he was and he repaid them with lies and deceit. His shoulders slumped a bit at the thought, but he was quick to bounce back. Besides, they had a pillow fort to make.

"Shiro and Allura are cooking tonight, by the way so uh, just a heads up." Hunk stiffened as he spoke. Oh, joy as much as he loved them, they were terrible cooks, and empty bellies made for angry hearts, or so his great aunt used to tell him anyway. He joined Pidge and Hunk in rearrange the cushions of the couch-like piece that resided in the lounge, doing their best to follow some sort of structure so that it could stand on its own. They hummed and made small talk about the days events as they worked, bumping hips and just being glad to be together. In the end, their fort was really just a bunch of pillows and blankets stacked around them, but damn it it was the best fort in the entire Galaxy. Probably the only fort but that was besides the point. And it was then that Keith strolled in. He nudged the other two with his elbows.

"What are you doing here?" He said in a gruff voice, doing his best to mimic a southern accent.

"Heading to the kitchen?" The alpha seemed confused.

"Not this way you aint. 'Less you wanna deal with us." He grinned. Keith blinked, seemingly unaware of whatever the hell it was they were up to. Admittedly, Pidge and Hunk weren't entirely clued in yet either but Lance had a vision, and that vision just so happened to coincide with his love for messing with Keith.

"We're space bandits, it's our new thing. Y'know in case the whole Voltron thing falls through." He shrugged.

"That sounds illegal." He said accusingly. Lance snickered.

"Ain't no laws in space Keith. Just bandits and people who get mugged by bandits." Lance said in an absolute terrible southern accent. Keith scoffed and crossed his arms, looking over the three ragtag 'space bandits', seemingly unimpressed.

"Is that your best attempt at a texan accent?" In spite of his somber appearance, he couldn't keep the amusement out of his voice any longer.

"Nah, not a texan accent, a space texan accent." Lance snorted, as if it were obvious. Much to his delight, Keith's shoulders loosened a bit as he let out a scoff. He'd grown more and more used to relaxing around his pack mates, but that didn't mean there still weren't days where he could come off as bitter or cold, so lo and behold Lance took it upon himself to try to keep the red paladin in good spirits, a surprising twist from their former rivalry, which Keith still wouldn't admit was a thing. Somehow, Lance managed to blame his mullet for this.

"I'm a space texan and I don't talk like that." He chuckled softly, rolling his eyes.

"You're a texan who's in space, Lance is talking about space texas. Two completely different things." Pidge chimed in, a mischievous glint in her eye. The alpha stiffened and muttered something under his breath. She could finally see what Lance was getting at with this and was all too willing to play along. It wasn't often anymore that they just got to mess around like this, and she knew how imperative it was to cherish moments like these, and to make the best of them. Besides, it was really fun to mess with Keith.

"Yeah, what the short one said." He beamed, grinning down at his fellow beta. Nope, nevermind, Lance was on his own.

"Lance!" She groaned, glaring up at him as if she were offended. His eyes were bright with a wicked glint.

"Space bandits don't lie, Pidge," He tutted, "It's okay to admit you're vertically challenged."

"Is it okay to admit you're a big nerd?" She growled, shoving his shoulder jokingly. They were like this often, laughing and joking and being oddly touchy in spite of Pidge's general disinterest in human contact and Lances own personal vices. Still, it made the alphas happy and happy alphas meant a happy pack, so he was all too eager to mess around with Pidge. Especially since it kept her mind off of her family, besides he and Pidge were beta bros, at least so everyone thought. He felt bad about lying in general, but especially when it came to lying to Pidge, seeing as the little gremlin somehow wormed her way into his heart and now resided there comfortably. Safe to say, he had a soft spot for the green paladin.

"Hey, I'm the coolest guy you've ever met." He retorted.

"Dude, we live with Shiro." Pidge pointed out easily. Damn it, Lance knew he was beat.

"Shit man, you're right. Okay, second coolest then?" He may not be able to beat Shiro's six feet of beauty, brawn, and smooth charisma, but he had his own sort of swagger, surely?

"Dude, we live with Allura." This was going downhill fast.

"Well I-"

"Guys, guys, space bandits don't fight each other, we fight people we wanna mug." Hunk pointed out, forcing the two apart gently. He wasn't wrong, besides they'd set out to mess with Keith not get into an argument about how cool Lance was or wasn't. They loosened their stances, ready to move past their 'argument'. With a content smile Hunk drew them up into a hug that looked most definitely overbearing but hey, who could say no to Hunk?

"Right, well, if you guys are finished can I-" Keith was cut off by Lance dropping to the floor and pointing his finger in the alpha's face playfully, smirking in a way that made Keith's stomach alive with the unease of young love.

"Not so fast, pardner. Either you're with us or you're against us." He said teasingly.

"Can I be a space bandit then?"

"I'd say yes but it's against space bandit law to have a mullet." Keith let out a huff and narrowed his eyes, annoyed that this was being brought up again. Lance liked to poke fun at his mess of a haircut whenever he could. Still though, when Keith pulled it up into a ponytail during training he couldn't help but feel himself go weak in the knees, probably looking like a lovestruck puppy. In truth, he liked Keith's long hair, he just wished it was styled ever so slightly different when it was down. But then again, beggars can't be choosers.

"That's a stupid law. Space bandits shouldn't even have laws." He grumbled.

"We're bandits, not heathens, Keith." Lance said indignantly, seemingly appalled that Keith would insinuate that it was ever okay to have a mullet. The alpha narrowed his eyes, and some part of him wanted to put Lance in his place, kiss that stupid smirk right off his face until Lance didn't even have it in him to say his own name. He forcefully calmed himself, now wasn't the time for such fantasies, he knew how important it was for time like this. It was the job of the lower ranking pack members to alleviate tension and make play within the pack, a job which Lance took rather seriously.

"Well I'm not cutting my hair for your silly game." He snapped, probably sounding a bit harsher than intended. He wasn't really that upset, moreso just upset in himself that he couldn't act upon his more carnal desires, not yet anyway. He knew that everyone, no matter their dynamic, deserved respect and space if they so wanted it, but the alpha in him couldn't help but burn with desire when he saw the blue paladin bite his lip ever so or strut around particularly graceful.

"Great, so we can rob you then." Lance's eyes lit up. Keith's eyes widened as he took a step back.

"Guys, don't." He warned. Suddenly, Shiro burst in the room, capturing their attention.

"Dinner is ready, I think? Allura and I did our best." His tone sounded more like a question than a statement, not at all possessing his usual confidence. He and Allura had been trying and for the most part, failing, to learn how to cook. But they were insistent that it wasn't fair to make Hunk do all the hard work.

"You got lucky this time, Keith." Lance pouted, slinking into the kitchen. That should hold off their concern for a while, at least, He thought, they'd seemed pleased that he was acting more like himself than he had been the past week. Even Shiro, who had missed their space bandit getup, could notice how comfortable the atmosphere was, and it showed in his face. While he was by no means the only alpha in the pack, they all considered him the pack alpha, his assuredness and experience came in all too handy on more than one occasion. Lance could only hope he wouldn't blame himself when the truth came out. He wasn't going to submit to his nature without a fight, but he knew he couldn't keep up the charade forever. Be it in two weeks or two months, he couldn't hide from what he was.

----------

"Well, uh, this is considerably more edible than your previous attempt?" Hunk spoke gently, prodding the slop on his plate with his fork. It was supposed to be some kind of casserole but the taste. The taste. It made Lance shiver just thinking about it.

"I'm not sure what went wrong but something most definitely went very, very wrong." Shiro grimaced, wiping his face as he shoved his plate away. None of them had managed more than a bite or two and it was safe to say that he and Allura were more than a bit crestfallen. They were quick to be forgiven though, as the others merely brushed their apologies aside.

"So, do we have any space junk food or are we just going to go to bed hungry tonight?" Lance asked. It was at times like this he most missed the ease and availability of pizza delivery service. Apparently it was 'impractical' and 'farfetched' to have a space restaurant that delivered across the cosmos. And yet somehow it was completely practical for there to be a team of giant mecha lions that were considered the saviors of the universe. Did Altea even have lions?

"Well, we're dangerously low on supplies to begin with, might need to take a stop at the swap moon." Coran piped up. He'd been very gracious in offering them all alone time once their relationship had become more steady, but they still all ate dinner together most nights. Though, Lance suspected he was regretting not offering them space tonight, what with Shiro and Allura's failed attempt at food. But he had to admit that making a stop at the space mall sounded appealing. Maybe he could find some herbs or something that would lessen the effects of his omegan nature, just something to tide him over and give him more time to think before committing to a solid plan of action. He wouldn't take anything risky but he was pretty damn desperate to have just a bit more time being himself.

"I'm down." Lance said, perking up visibly.

"Me too, never know when you need more knives." Keith said nonchalantly, playing with the 'casserole' that sat uneaten on his plate.

"So it's settled then?" He asked, resting his sights on Shiro who deliberated over the prospect of going out this late. Well, late for them, timezones weren't really a thing in space but circadian sleep cycles were.

"Fine, but we should make it quick, just the essentials." He spoke sternly. Yikes, Lance thought with a frown. How was he supposed to slip away from the pack to go looking for weird space herbs? He'd just have to figure something out on the spot, make an excuse about needing to use the bathroom or something, and he'd need to be quick about it, too.

"I'll keep the castle stationed close by, just be careful and please, don't bring home a kaltenecker this time." Allura stood, shuffling all of the plates together to put them in the wash. Like most always she was right. About being cautious, at least. While Varkons attempts at 'defending' the space mall were humorous, it was still a Galra operated base. Better safe than sorry.

"Sure can do, still want something pink and sparkly?" He teased, rising from his seat and throwing his jacket on. She shot him a loving glare, shaking her head in amusement. The others shuffled about, Hunk, Pidge and Coran discussing what all they couldn't go without, Shiro and Allura cleaning up the mess they'd made and Keith staring uncomfortably long at Lance, an intense look in his eye that Lance just couldn't place. In spite of the whole space bandit ordeal, he could tell Keith was still suspicious of him. The others seemed to have dropped their concerns the moment he flashed them his signature white smile but it seemed like Keith would be more difficult to shake. With any luck, the alpha would drop it before they got to the space mall. He really didn't need Keith sticking to him like glue right now.

"To the space mall, then?" Hunk said excitedly, tearing Lance from his thoughts. The others murmured their agreement. He could only hope everything would go according to plan, his plan at least, and that he'd manage to slip away unnoticed. He felt a glimmer of doubt at the idea, it was admittedly a bit ridiculous. He didn't even know where to go to find what he was looking for. He'd figure it out though, he always did. He took a deep breath in and let a deep breath out, trying to calm himself. Shiro's voice stirred him from his daze.

"Are you coming?" He asked softly. Lance gave him a quick nod and with that, they headed to the hangar.